January 28, 2013

201 Winter Tomatoes [28 January 2013]

Tomatoes are the second most popular vegetable in the USA (and probably in Canada too) after lettuce. Tomatoes are also the vegetable we most like to complain about, at least during the winter. While they might look attractive, commercial tomatoes taste nothing like those picked fresh from our summer garden.

There are reasons for winter tomatoes’ lack of taste (and several reasons besides taste to avoid them). Most commercial table tomatoes for the USA winter market are grown in Florida. There they are picked while still hard and green and are later gassed with ethylene in the warehouse to ripen. So they look red and pretty, but the taste is unsatisfactory to say the least.

The problems with commercial winter tomatoes go far beyond taste. To withstand being shipped great distances they are bred for the hardiness of the fruit, not for its nutritional content. USDA tests show that modern tomatoes contain 30% less vitamin C, 30% less thiamin (B1), 19% less niacin (B3) and 62% less calcium than tomatoes tested in the 1960’s. (Actually I was surprised that their nutrient content was even this good.) One mineral that actually increased is sodium – by a whopping 1400%. Another reason, besides breeding, for the lower nutrient content is the low soil fertility in Florida which requires high amounts of chemical fertilizer. The problem with commercial fertilizer is that it contains only the macronutrients required to improve yield while ignoring trace minerals (like selenium) which improve the nutritional value but are invisible to shoppers and do not add to the price the farmer can get for his crop.

The other problem with Florida for growing tomatoes is the humidity which promotes fungal diseases and insect pests, all of which require very high amounts of more than 100 different pesticides, some of which remain on or in the fruit.

Vine-ripened locally grown greenhouse tomatoes should be somewhat better on several counts (besides tasting better) – natural ripening, lower use of pesticides, possibly more nutritious varieties, and possibly better micronutrient fertilization. Well worth the extra price, in my humble opinion.

Source: Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit, 2011, by investigative food journalist Barry Estabrook.

January 21, 2013

200 Exercise & Weight Loss [21 January 2013]

Traditional weight loss theory calls for reducing calories and increasing activity, i.e. exercising more. Sounds simple and logical but ask any dieter how it worked for them and you’ll likely hear “not very well” (but in stronger, possibly unprintable, phrasing).

Dr. Tien Tran Chanh (the developer of the Ideal Protein Diet) writes in his latest book “…Because It’s Your Life” that exercise will not make you lose weight but adds that it is still an important part of your weight management program. He estimates that you would have to walk 40 hours, swim 20 hours, or jog continuously for 16 hours to burn 2 lbs of fat. And that’s without eating anything extra! As we all have experienced, exercise makes us hungry, so this is a formula for frustration and failure. Our bodies are designed to keep us in homeostasis and will increase our appetite or reduce our metabolic rate in order to preserve our body’s fat reserves. Research [reported in “Weighing the Evidence on ExerciseNew York Times, 16 Apr 2010] has shown that the increase in appetite from exercise is stronger for women (I know, life’s just not fair!).

Where exercise is helpful is in keeping the weight off after you lose it. Dr Tran teaches that the body can’t be both catabolic (burning fat) and anabolic (building muscle) at the same time. He found that strenuous exercise during the weight loss phase leads to excess muscle loss. Instead, adding exercise – particularly resistance or muscle building exercise – after the goal weight has been achieved helps the dieter to keep the weight off. One type of exercise that is recommended for this is called “Slow Burn” popularized in the book “The Slow Burn Fitness Revolution”. Michael Eades, one of the book’s authors, explains [in a blog post] how strength training also improves cardiovascular fitness – it has more to do with the efficiency of getting oxygen into the muscle cells than with the heart and lungs themselves.

The more muscle you build, the more calories you can burn so staying slim and fit becomes much easier. And the best way to build muscle is with strength training.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

January 14, 2013

199 Obesity & Cancer [14 January 2013]

I have previously written about the role of obesity and insulin resistance in the development of diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease, but only touched on cancer. Recent research has shown a link between obesity and certain cancers that, like the other diseases, involves insulin resistance.

Obesity is known to lead to insulin resistance, where an adequate supply of insulin is unable to sufficiently lower blood sugar. In response the pancreas produces ever more insulin (and when that fails to lower glucose, medications may be prescribed to stimulate insulin production even further) leading to a condition called hyperinsulinism. It is this high level of insulin that is the culprit in the above mentioned conditions and likely in most cancer as well.

Insulin is a growth factor for the body signaling cells to multiply. It accomplishes this either directly or by increasing other growth factors like IGF (Insulin-like Growth Factor). Studies have previously shown that a high level of IGF increases risk for colon, postmenopausal breast, and some prostate cancers. Other cancers associated with obesity include pancreatic, kidney and endometrial. Diabetes itself is a strong risk factor for colon cancer, likely because of the associated hyperinsulinism. Estrogens stored in fat tissue may also be a factor for the breast cancer link.

Insulin resistance, and its accompanying hyperinsulinism, can be reduced by exercise and by eliminating simple carbs from your diet. A carefully controlled ketogenic diet (like Ideal Protein) is a more effective way to overcome insulin resistance and has the added benefit of losing fat safely and easily without hunger while maintaining muscle mass and energy levels.

Source: “Obesity, Insulin Resistance, and Cancer Risk” by E.L. Giovannucci, Cancer Prevention, Issue 5, Spring 2005

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

January 7, 2013

198 Stress & Inflammation [7 January 2013]

Chronic psychological stress has long been known or suspected to be a factor in almost every disease imaginable – from depression to autoimmune diseases, diabetes, infectious diseases, cardiovascular disease and cancer (see my column #44 Jan. 4, 2010) but no one knew exactly how. The effects of stress were usually attributed to dysfunction of the hypothalamic, pituitary and adrenal glands, but the specific hormonal changes causing disease were not known. A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last April suggests a likely model.

The study took 276 healthy adults, measured the levels of stress they had been exposed to, tested them for glucocorticoid receptor resistance (GCR), and then exposed them to a rhinovirus and recorded cold symptoms over 5 days. Those with recent stressful experiences showed GCR and also experienced the most cold symptoms. The study also found that subjects with GCR produced the most proinflammatory cytokines in response to the rhinovirus infection.

The significance of GCR is that it prevents the neurotransmitter cortisol (the “fight or flight” hormone) from carrying out its other role of controlling inflammation. A rhinovirus was used in the study because the symptoms of a cold are caused by the body’s inflammatory response to the virus, not by the virus itself. This effect was further shown by measuring the production of cytokines –chemical messengers that promote inflammation.

In summary, it has now been shown that chronic stress interferes with cortisol’s role in controlling inflammation. Runaway inflammation is then responsible for the development and progression of the many different diseases associated with stress.

Sources: Cohen S, et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2012 Apr 17; 109(16):5995-9; “How Stress Influences Disease: Study Reveals Inflammation as the Culprit” Science Daily, Apr 2, 2012

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.