The Diabetes Industry – Laughing All the Way to the Bank

Of the UK population, we now have approximately 5% who have been diagnosed as diabetics, many more with pre-diabetic conditions and those who are as yet, undiagnosed. This includes both type 1 and type 2. Both types are growing exponentially and regardless of population increase. They are metabolic diseases.



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Novo Nordisk has set a long-term global target of providing quality diabetes care products (my emphasis) to 40 million people by 2020.”

“Providing” sounds so generous and altruistic doesn’t it? It’s meant to – we are supposed to believe in these qualities. The reality is that products are being sold all around the world, including to developing countries, where a large part of their diet comprises inexpensive carbohydrate foods. Since these countries are consuming the very foods that can bring about diabetes, it is a very profitable market.

Novo Nordisk is just one pharmaceutical company supplying insulin. Insulin and other diabetic drugs are needed by millions, so I am not dismissing them out of hand, but just pointing out that this is business. Diabetes is huge business so let’s look at this industry. Approximately 80% of diabetics are overweight or obese so I am going to include some of the “obesity industry” bullet-points in my list.

  • pharmaceutical companies make insulin and anti-diabetic drugs of several sorts. Insulin prescriptions cost £328 millions and Metformin (anti-diabetes drug) £81 millions
  • needles and syringes are needed
  • books about diabetes are written and sold
  • specialist nurses and doctors must be trained in diabetes and then salaried, therefore…
  • trainers are needed – and someone to train them!
  • bariatric surgeons to provide surgery for those who cannot lose weight. (This is currently being discussed for diabetics with a lower body-mass index than for those with obesity alone.)
  •  gastric-band manufacturers
  • manufacturers of bariatric beds, chairs, commodes, hoists and other equipment
  • “diabetic foods”
  • blood sugar monitors and a constant supply of “blood sticks”

 

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These points indicate the industry (and it is not an exhaustive list). These businesses would go out of business if there were no diabetics and obesity. The actual cost of diabetes is incredibly far-reaching. Since diabetics have much more chance of becoming ill due heart disorders, lower limb problems even amputations and blindness, or whether just from minor infections – diabetics have more absence days from work than healthy people. They cost the work-place money – 8.4 billion per year. )LINK) There is a government benefits cost too for those that can’t work. The fact is, diabetics usually die younger. Harsh I know, but true nonetheless. What about the NHS? Hospital beds and GP surgeries are full of diabetics, due to all the complications that can be encountered by suffering diabetes. A simple statement which costs billions.

“The cost of diabetes to the NHS is over £1.5m an hour or 10% of the NHS budget for England and Wales. This equates to over £25,000 being spent on diabetes every minute.”

This is a disease that is, in the main, both preventable and reversible. Why is the research funding not directed at causes and prevention instead of maintenance drugs and cures? You answer.

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Statistics are from diabetes.co.uk.

Diabetes Simplified

 The name Diabetes Mellitus has Latin and Ancient Greek origins. Roughly translated it means “sweetness (honey, actually) passing through”. A urine test will often show sugar is present in a new diabetic – the “sweetness passing through”.

 

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Diabetes comes about when the body is not able to control its blood sugar correctly, because it can’t control its insulin supply. Insulin is the hormone which metabolises blood sugar – glucose to be accurate, sending it to muscles for physical energy, storing some in the muscles and liver as glycogen, and when those reserves are full, it will turn it to fat and store it in adipose (fat) tissue.

In type 1 diabetics, the pancreas produces little or no insulin. The diagnosis is often made during puberty or adolescence. There are many theories about the cause of this type, but none that are definitive.  In type 2, the pancreas has had to produce more and more insulin in response to blood sugar, as the mechanisms becomes less sensitive (insulin sensitivity) to the same levels of blood glucose. This leaves glucose in the blood with nowhere to go – this is the state of hyperglycemia. As the disease progresses it is called “insulin resistance”. Unlike type 1, there are many known factors in type 2 diabetes which I will refer to later. There are some other causes of diabetes, but as these make up the minority, I will not discuss them here.

“Type 2 diabetes is now so common, it would be reasonable to say that in the western world, it is at epidemic proportions.”

Type 1 diabetes makes up around 10% of all cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes makes up almost all of the remaining 90% of all types. It used to be known “mild” (which it is most certainly not) or “late-onset” diabetes, because that is when it most often presented. Today however, diagnosis of type 2 is not uncommon in much younger people – even adolescents and children. This is not necessarily due to modern methods of diagnosis, as associated metabolic diseases are also increasing.

Of the UK population, we now have approximately 5% who have been diagnosed as diabetics and many more with pre-diabetic conditions and undiagnosed diabetes. This includes both type 1 and type 2. Both types are growing exponentially and regardless of population increase. These are metabolic diseases.

The signs and symptoms of diabetes are similar for both types;

  • excessive thirst
  •  polyuria (excessive urinating)
  •  minor infections and delayed healing
  •  Tiredness
  • sometimes weight-loss.

Often, diabetes isn’t diagnosed until something major occurs – heart attacks, strokes, eye-problems and severe infections.

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Type 2 diabetes is now so common, it would be reasonable to say that in the western world, it is at epidemic proportions. There are many possible factors and associations involved, which include;

  • a diet high in concentrated carbohydrate foods –bread, breakfast cereals, cakes, sweets, fizzy drinks etc.
  • vitamin D deficiency
  • intake of polyunsaturated vegetable fats – seed oils and margarine
  • family history of diabetes
  • lack of exercise
  • obesity is an association, being caused by the same metabolic problem as diabetes

The most important factors for preventing diabetes are essentially my Healthy Life guidelines. The chances of an adolescent  being diagnosed with type 1 would most certainly be reduced if all couples trying for a baby and the mother whilst pregnant, by following these guidelines. As well as adopting this lifestyle, people with type 2, or a pre-diabetic condition, need to reduce carbohydrates more and increase their intake of good fats.

Next time I will address the industry that diabetes has engendered.

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Cavemen Didn’t Run Marathons

Have you ever wondered why you don’t see many wild animals dashing about, needlessly expending energy?

If they are dashing about, it will probably be due to the need to flee from a predator or be a predator. There are a few exceptions – some animals are naturally active especially the young of any species, but then what do they do? Collapse in a heap and sleep it off!

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“An animal instinctively knows when the conditions are right to eat, sleep, excrete, procreate and even die.”

In nature it doesn’t make sense to expend energy needlessly. Nature’s aim is healthy life, procreation and survival and in this it is tunnel visioned. It has countless “tricks” which it uses to these ends. For example: we get hungry when nutrients are needed and we get tired when sleep is needed – it’s not rocket science! An animal instinctively knows when the conditions are right to eat, sleep, excrete, procreate and even die.

We, naturally, are above all that aren’t we? We are blessed with large brains and we feel the need to use them even if brain power is not required. So instead of relying on our instincts to guide us in natural functions, we resort to the findings of (often) dubious research. How mad is that? After all, we are animals too and have been evolving for millions of years. Nature’s tunnel vision it would seem, is extremely efficient or we wouldn’t be here.

During my career as a nurse, I used to meet people all the time who were suffering injuries sustained by over-exercising or just getting it wrong. Back problems are number one (since you need the strength in your back for virtually all vigorous activity) but also knee, ankle and hip injuries, on a regular basis. Our pursuit of fitness is not without hazards. Sadly, the sufferers of these self-inflicted injuries, often do not recover sufficiently to resume their former level of activity. This leads to frustration at best and depression at worst. There is a saying, “live fast, die young” and I suspect that this maybe true in many cases. What is most certainly incorrect, is the notion that you can just burn off the calories that you have eaten and that everything will be fine. It didn’t work for Sir Steve Redgrave, who carb-loaded all his active rowing life and it won’t work for you either. He became diabetic. What is important, is that you provide your body with the proper nutrients needed for its health and activity. Sadly, most people who exercise in this way are those that cut out the fat and increase the carbs. This is the quickest way to age yourself – facially and bodily.

It is not my intention to stop people doing that which they enjoy. It is merely to inject a note of caution and common sense. Constantly going for burn is dangerous. If you do this you are ignoring your body’s warning that it is under stress – and stress in any form on a regular basis, is not beneficial to good health. It starts up the “fight or flight” hormonal response, which physically damages us. This response is for the odd occasions (nowadays anyway) that we need to get ourselves out of danger. For our overall health, we do need to get our hearts racing sometimes, but possibly the best type of exercise is interval training – good if you really want/need to allot time for exercise.

“Activity is important; playing games (safely) is fine and going to the gym is fine provided you listen to the messages your body sends.”

file0001856731560Many people I met, would apologise for the fact that they hated gym work. They would expect me to tell them that they should be working out regularly so I told them to walk to the gym, then turn around and walk home again. Activity is important; playing games (safely) is fine, going to the gym is fine provided you listen to the messages your body sends. Did cavemen run marathons? Very doubtful! They most probably used stealth, cunning and team-work to catch their food – for the most part anyway. This type of activity is effectively fuelled by their low-carb diet. We are not so different now that we need a new set of rules!

We need to be active and rest when needed. Using controlled movement to limit damage and we should do some resistance work to encourage good supple muscles and joints and occasionally, get out of breath.

How do we do this? We walk the dog, dig the garden, wash the car, run for the bus, vacuum the house and have sex. Tough isn’t it?

Here is an article by Dr.John Briffa on walking versus running.

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The Life-Giving Sun

Well summer does seem to be here doesn’t it? One day of sun and a thunderstorm! It’s all good – nature needs both and frankly, so do we. The sun gives us huge amounts of vitamin D3 amongst other things.

I am still largely opposed taking supplements of vitamin D3. I have written many times about the problems with taking supplements and maintain my stance. Buying them is fraught because we don’t know how they have been made or whether they contain what they are supposed to contain and even if they do, whether it’s in the right form for humans to absorb! It is just too costly and complicated

We need the sun for our lives

Let’s take the benefits of the sun. Everyone knows that the sun makes vitamin D3 in our file000336228048(1)skins. Just think about that for a moment. Isn’t it absolutely astounding? This is just one example of how we are dependent upon our environment. (There are many others but I’ll save them for another time.) We need the sun for our lives – literally in every sense. We cannot survive without it and we become sick if deprived of it. We would not be here without the sun – and neither would anything else. It is vital that we appreciate and accept this fact. Our to-date evolution, over hundreds of thousands of years has depended upon the sun more than anything else. Most other factors in life have alternatives or can be foregone for a while.

..we have an epidemic of diseases associated with vitamin D deficiency

There is much evidence that certain diseases are more prevalent the further north in the hemisphere one looks. But we have lived in these places for many thousands of years and these diseases were not prevalent in our ancestors. “Modern” diseases are to be evidenced from remains that are less than 10,000 years old – giving grounds for the popular belief that these illnesses started during the time when we became farmers and had more permanent forms of shelter. Personally, I doubt that many of these illnesses were due to lack of sun exposure – we were very much outdoor people at this time. Their health change was more to do with their rapidly changing diet but as time continued, even more permanent buildings were constructed and much work was done indoors.

Even in the last couple of hundred years or so, we spent much time outside – walking (to get from one place to another, not necessarily for pleasure), farming, gardening and doing all those other necessary jobs that involve us stepping outside the house. Not anymore. Bringing it bang up to date, we travel to our place of work by car where we then enter an artificially lit, windowed building which allows no UVB light to enter. We travel home by car and spend the rest of the day inside. For many, the main source of UVB light is once a year on holiday. And then what do we do? Smother ourselves in sunscreen! We are in real trouble. Now, here in the northern hemisphere, we have an epidemic of diseases associated with vitamin D deficiency – and it is true – the further north you look, the more of these diseases you find.

How we obtained our vitamin D through pre-history

If you accept that we originated in Africa about 100,000 years ago and migrated northwards, you will also understand that at this time our skins were dark which protected us from the relentless equatorial sun whilst still allowing us to obtain the benefits. The northward journey took time – no jumping on Easyjet and arriving a few hours later! It possibly took thousands of years to inhabit the most northerly areas. Remember that at this time the Asia and Europe we know now, didn’t exist and the countries were merged making the migration easier.

As we very gradually moved northwards, our skins lightened. Why do think that was? In order that we could still benefit from the now much weaker and less reliable UVB rays from the sun! Our skins had to lighten in order to scavenge these less frequent rays at a much quicker rate than our African cousins – and the further north you live – the paler your skin will be and the faster you will get your dose of vitamin D! So, given that we need the same levels of vitamin D, the same amount can be obtained in just a few minutes if your recent ancestry is Scottish, a bit longer if you’re English but much longer if you are dark-skinned and living in Africa!

Vitamin D3 is not really a vitamin. It is a pre-steroid hormone and as such, can affect your DNA (unlike true vitamins). My take on this, is that many of the diseases that we label as genetic may in fact be acquired. Chronic vitamin D deficiency can be passed to our offspring. I have lots of reasons for believing this but one factor that I have come across many times when I am asking people about their health, is the “Welsh Tale” as I have named it. If someone has several generations of miners in their family, there is more risk of disease in that person. I’m sure you get the connection. Another scenario which is well documented is that of recent immigrants (within a few generations) to the northern hemisphere. It is this group of people who are the sickest in the western world – more diabetes, heart disease, obesity etc. Whilst there is a dietary factor, there is also a lack of vitamin D from the sun. Life is indoors and even if some time is spent in the sun, it is rarely enough for vitamin D to form. Each generation does seem to have lighter skin even if both parents are dark-skinned – nature knows what has to be done, but this takes time.

Sunbathe!

To prevent vitamin D deficiency, we must sunbathe. It must be taken like medicine. If the sun is high in the sky and your shadow is shorter than you are tall, the UVB rays are reaching Earth. Depending on your skin colour, sunbathe as near to naked as possible for as long as it takes your skin to go pink. Not red. When this has been achieved, cover up, use sunscreen (try to find a non-toxic one or use coconut oil which offers a little protection) or go indoors.

Don’t use soap/shower gel for at least 24 hours as this will remove the skin oils that contain the vitamin D. Use just water on the main parts and maybe just a little soap where you feel you must. Moisturise your skin with something natural such as coconut oil. With this amount of sun exposure you can make up to 20,000 IU of vitamin D but your body will stop the manufacture when it has sufficient to deal with. This takes 24 – 48 hours – then you can go out and make some more! You won’t find this quantity in a supplement and indeed, if you took this amount, it would be harmful.

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Since the fat-soluble vitamins work together, make sure you get plenty of vitamins A and K2 as well. Cheese is a good source especially Brie and Gouda.

Vitamin D is just one reason why we need the sun but there are others. For example, there is evidence that we need it for energy – just like plants. Lots of people feel energised when in the sun. Also, UV light through our eyes regulates our Circadian rhythms, thus helping us sleep. There will be more evidence to come I feel quite sure. Here is another article about the effects the sun has on us.

I have written about it before, but for completeness, I will give you a run-down of the diseases that seem (research is showing) to be related to vitamin D deficiency: around twenty types of cancer; diabetes; depression; heart disease; bone abnormalities; auto-immune diseases; infections. More about vitamin D3 here.

This is one way to boost your health enormously – it’s all of the above and more – and you can do it for free! Now what are you doing here? Outside you go!

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Type 2 Diabetes – Could it Spell Doom For Us?

I doubt that there is a person in the Western World who doesn’t know at least one diabetic. Worldwide, there are around 250 million known cases and millions more undiagnosed.  Could it be the end of us?

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The circulatory system is the first to part of the body to be adversely affected by diabetes. If blood sugar is left unchecked or is not stable, the health of all organs in the body are at risk. Most commonly, the eyes, kidneys, heart and peripheral nerves are affected. If we can’t radically alter the pattern of this growing phenomenon – soon – I believe that the human species will fall into two subtypes – one that lives and reproduces and one that struggles with both of these. Let me explain.

Firstly, how does someone become a type 2 diabetic? There is a lot of science involved, some of which I don’t understand and no-one has all the answers – believe me I’ve looked. Remember too that just like me, all these people who expound on the topic are voicing an opinion or voicing their interpretation of research results. I am not a scientist but just try to see what is logical from our evolution. This offers us some reliable clues – some still open to interpretation of course, but generally history doesn’t change its mind as often as science does!

In Europe our ancestors existed through seasons, taking what food we could find from each one – and due to varying weather conditions, this would have been hit and miss. Spring: very little vegetation early in the year, but roots and shoots plus fish, birds and their eggs and animals. Summer: more vegetation, young birds, animals, fish, eggs and a few early fruits. Autumn: still some vegetation, roots, animals, birds and fish, more fruits (but remember these would have only been berries and a few small cherries), seeds and nuts. Winter: animals, birds and fish, nuts and seeds that had been stored from autumn, roots,  probably, probably insects and very few fresh leaves or other vegetation. Much of the year, they would have been living on their fat reserves – and the ketones produced from the breakdown of fat. This is the body’s preferred fuel and today this diet is called ketogenic.

In the views of many authorities, we have not changed much genetically in the last 10,000 years. In terms of nutrition, this diet would have sustained us – providing all nutrients necessary for existence and procreation. Therefore, I have no reason to believe that a diet far removed from this would be beneficial to us now. We got to this point in time because we became omnivorous, which to my way of thinking is nature’s way of protecting the species. (I should say here that when nature sees an advantage which aids the progression of a species, it can switch genes on and off to make use of this advantage. This is why we will continue to evolve – but very slowly.)

Our ancestral diet is relatively high fat (think duck, wild boar and organ meat which have a high fat content), medium protein and low carbohydrate. Diabetes was unheard of as we know it. People ate what they had to – not what they fancied!

IMG_2645Now to diabetes; during our evolution we developed the ability to digest all the above macro-nutrients. The relatively low carbohydrate content supplied by vegetation, roots, nuts, seeds, fruit and an occasional (rather painful I expect!) foray into wild honey, needs the hormone insulin for metabolism.  All these foods contain sugars that must be broken down into their simplest form for absorption – glucose. This was undoubtedly a life-saver all those years ago, because insulin is the fat-storing hormone. It can change glucose to fat for storage. During summer and autumn, when there would be a reasonable amount of carbohydrate containing foods around, fat could be stored for winter energy when times were lean. Brilliant! The human body is so amazing!

Now think about what happens today. We eat what we want, not what we need. We eat bread, cereals, fruit, potatoes (a recent addition to our vegetables – around 400 years ago) and rice every day and most often three or more times a day – because the government says we should! Insulin will be in our bloodstreams almost constantly and if you are not expending energy then your muscles don’t require a glucose diversion and all glucose in the blood will be stored as fat. After a of time eating this way, the body becomes “insulin resistant” – more and more insulin is needed to provide the same function and it is this state that can contribute to, or maybe even cause, type 2 diabetes.

There are some other possible predisposing factors for type 2 diabetes too:
Low vitamin D levels
Poor gut health
High intake of polyunsaturated fats
Diabetes in your family
Heart disease in your family
Obesity (indicative not causative)
Inactivity
Corticosteroid drugs

So why do I think we’ll split into two sub-groups? Well, my theory is to do with the main effect of glucose imbalance – damage in the circulatory system. Unchecked glucose in the bloodstream leads to inflammation – and this is disease provoking. Due to roughening of the blood vessel walls, the body sends out the rescue team which tries to repair the damage. This ultimately compromises arterial blood flow by narrowing the lumen, thus reducing the flow to all organs. Now, younger and younger people are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes – even as young as teenagers. Diabetes can affect the artery supplying the groin. In men this can cause erectile dysfunction and production of sperm. In women it can cause poor blood flow via the umbilical cord to a growing foetus, making spontaneous miscarriage likely or the baby could be born with serious health problems.  These scenarios will lead to fewer viable pregnancies and therefore population decline. People who obtain all the nutrients – in the right proportions – for human existence will continue to thrive and produce healthy offspring. Please remember that this is my view and I have only my own observations to back me up. Something needs to be done about this situation but I suspect it will get far worse before it gets better. Sorry to be the harbinger of doom!

The advice I would give if you believe you are at risk is to go for a low-carbohydrate, natural, organic food diet. (Here are my health guidelines) Some nutritionists think it is a good idea to have your daily carb “fix” (if you need one) just once in the day, maybe breakfast or lunch time in order that you raise your insulin levels substantially, only once during the day. I think it is better to spread them over the day and get most of the carbohydrates from the most nutritious sources – nuts, seeds, root vegetables, fruits occasionally (and try to stick to berries and cherries). Leave cereals alone if you can or make them special occasions only.

file0001103320696By the way, animal fat is a definite must for diabetics and those with the risk factors, so go ahead with creamy (but not floury) sauces, pastured eggs, butter on your veg and the delicious fat and crackling from the organic roast pork!

This is a doctor’s view of the standard recommendations for diet, given to diabetics.

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Choices Choices…

What does “choice” mean to you? Every day we are faced with choices and we decide what to do based upon our experiences, knowledge, available time to contemplate a situation and our mood.

We make choices when driving – have we got sufficient stopping distance when the amber light shows or should we accelerate? Should we overtake the slow driver in front or sit tight? At what time is it safe to enter a round-about? In the main, it is experience that answers these questions but experience comes after we have passed our driving test and we have met these situations for real. Only then can we become safe, competent drivers making the right choices. In other words, we have to learn the basics before we can make safe judgements.

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How about your work? Were you given instruction prior to starting a new job? Did you have to get a degree in something in order to follow your career path? Did you then have to undertake further, more specific training? The point I am trying to make is that in order to make meaningful choices, we have firstly to be taught and then we gain experience. It applies to most things. You only once need to click on a dodgy email to find out what a computer virus is and how to recognize it!

“Illness for the large part is preventable

You have heard it before, but if you don’t have your health, you lose everything – your freedom, your job, your home possibly and ultimately, even your life. I know this sounds dramatic but as a nurse, I have seen this so very many times. Illness for the large part is preventable. I have felt sad and frustrated when patients are diagnosed with preventable conditions that are set to devastate lives. So what is your choice?

Most people “learn” about food by walking into a supermarket and selecting foods that they want not need. We are not altogether to blame for this. A supermarket layout is designed for their benefit, not yours. Your choice is being manipulated. So often I see mothers with children in the supermarket and the children are making the choices! Did you see an advert on the television last night that made you think “I must try that”?   Again, our choices are being manipulated.

If we do learn about the food we are eating, how can you be sure that the information is sound? We are bombarded with so-called health programmes – people losing weight, embarrassing bodies, fat versus sugar and so on. These programmes are entertainment not education. By watching them we learn that vegetables are important to health and of course they are, but what we are not told is even more important. Vegetables may have been sprayed with toxic pesticides and the food may have been genetically modified which has known, serious long-term effects. The other little gem we all think we know is about calories. Calories in versus calories out = balance. So now we are searching for low calorie foods and this is stated on packaging making it easy for us. Another of our choices has been decided. Oh and of course, we must look for low-fat foods as fat is fattening. The reason the Western World has epidemics of obesity, type 2 diabetes and cancers is because we trust that the information given to us is correct. We weren’t let loose in a car in order to learn safe driving so why do we think that going to a supermarket will educate us in nutrition? In both cases, we are going to crash.

My advice is to learn. Read. Possibly the first thing to look for is vested interest. Are you going to learn about probiotics from yogurt makers? Do you hear vitamin information from breakfast cereal producers? Do you trust information about heart health from margarine manufacturers?  Will you learn about cholesterol from people who want you to lower yours? When these questions are asked, it sounds mad doesn’t it?

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I want you to learn about nutrition and health from people whose aim is education not profit and I am one of these! As a nurse I believe we all have a right to health and I want to share my knowledge so that we can all make informed choices – the way it should be.

A wonderful non-profit organization is the Weston A. Price Foundation. This site has a wealth of information from people who are well qualified and really care. It’s a great place to learn the basics of nutrition.

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Change4Better or Change4Worse?

No doubt you will have seen the government’s Change4Life campaign this year. It is a subject that the government tackle most years, the focus being slightly different each time. The website tells you how many have signed up, but of course, not how many have dropped out.

There is absolutely no doubt that the health of the nation has to be addressed, but it is sad that the supporters have had their two-penn’orth.  Have a look at the partners.  In amongst some well-intentioned organizations you will see, Pepsi, Danone, Mars, McCain and Unilever (Flora and many more brands). Some of these are billionaire multinational conglomerates. Why are they here? I could speculate but I think it is better if you do the thinking.

file000342738006The overall recommendations fall short of a healthy diet and the “swaps” are downright wrong. Being generous, there are degrees of “healthy diet”. No doubt the recommendations would improve the health of some, but why give false information? Far better we learn the truth about food from day one and frankly, saying that sugar-free fizzy drinks are better than their original counterparts is just wrong. This is literally swapping one range of illnesses for another. Not only is the sweetener aspartame (Canderel pink) dangerous to health, but sweetened foods and drinks can also lead to obesity and diabetes.

“Watch out for the hidden nasties!” is the catch-phrase that is used on the Change4Life website. But what about all these “nasties”? Artificial flavours, colours and preservatives abound. We should not be advocating changing sugary drinks for artificially sweetened drinks. We should be suggesting swaps that contribute to our health. Water (even fizzy water), tea, milk and fermented milk drinks give us true hydration and positive nutrition. (Even water contains minerals.) Here are the ingredients for Diet Pepsi:
Carbonated Water, Colour (Caramel E150d), Flavourings (including Caffeine), Phosphoric Acid, Sweeteners (Aspartame, Acesulfame K), Acidity Regulator (Sodium Citrate), Preservative (Potassium Sorbate), Citric Acid, Contains a source of Phenylalanine.
…and for water:
Water

And what about the low fat swaps? If you believe that we need to restrict saturated fat, you are likely to go along with these recommendations. The advice is to choose low-fat dairy products – semi-skimmed milk, low fat cheese and yogurts. When you do this, you lower the intake of saturated fat – and thus the all-important fat-soluble vitamins – but increase that of potentially toxic additives! This is a list of the ingredients for Shape (owned by Danone)low-fat mango yogurt:
Yogurt (Skimmed Milk, Skimmed Milk Concentrate, Milk Proteins, Yogurt Cultures), Water, Mango (6%), Fibre (Oligofructose), Stabilisers (Modified Maize Starch, Carrageenan), Sweeteners (Aspartame, Acesulfame K), Acidity Regulators (Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate), Flavouring, Colour (Paprika Extract).
…and for Total Greek yogurt:
Pasteurised Cows’ Milk, Milk Cream, Live Active Yoghurt Cultures
To me the swap should be to full fat natural yogurt – not a yogurt brimming with artificial ingredients.

There is another advertisement that troubles me – for Cheese Strings. I don’t have huge issues with this product but there is a statement on screen, “Children should consume no more than a small matchbox size piece of cheese a day and low fat choices are more suitable.” I cannot find the origin of the statement and neither do Ifile0001486924909 agree with it.  As always, it is your whole diet which makes a difference to your health – for better or worse. Singling out one food like this is a very poor way to educate us about nutrition. For all the information this provides, as long as there is one matchbox sized piece of cheese in your child’s lunchbox, it would be fine to put in a bag of crisps, a chocolate biscuit and a bottle of pop. Full fat cheese is a wonderfully nutritious food and inexpensive too. Most children find it very palatable (the taste-buds doing their job) so it is a great addition to a lunch box. For a primary school child – a bread wrap with cheese and salad, a natural full fat yogurt with a little apple puree stirred in and a bottle of water makes a good nutritious and substantial lunch. Add a few squares of chocolate if you want as a treat – (NOT the whole bar!)

To promote healthy eating, Change4Life’s campaign encourages the change to low fat and artificially sweetened food and drinks, from their full-fat and sugary counterparts. This is not the right way. Changing to a diet of whole fresh foods is the right way. I normally advise organic food but small changes are easier to manage. One step at a time!

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Alzheimer’s – the Disease That Wrecks Lives

file000691888818Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia which is characterised by poor short term memory, irritability, confusion and sometimes aggression. The condition wrecks families and care homes are now bursting at the seams with residents suffering this condirion. Something must be done and whilst the news tells us that a drug maybe on the way, it is prevention that will ultimately have the most impact.

 

In AD the brain shrinks and it is unable to utilize the glucose it needs to function. Plaques of amyloid, a protein, are evident in the brain and this may be associated with a poor diet as AD is more often diagnosed in people who are obese.

There has been much speculation on the origins of the disease, but that aside, as it is becoming more prevalent – even in middle age, it would be safe to assume that our modern lives have something to do with this. So what in particular could be driving this increase?

1) There is conflicting evidence regarding aluminium. Our bodies do not require aluminium so it would seem a good idea to avoid it wherever possible.
2) Look at these facts:
- There is evidence that the brain makes its own insulin
- Obese people are more likely to be diagnosed with AD
- An anti-diabetic drug has been shown to help dementia

It would seem that this brain change has, at least to some degree, a dependence on sugar. Sugar promotes insulin in the blood and if an excess is taken in the diet (that is, all carbohydrates not just the white stuff) over a lifetime, insulin sensitivity results and obesity and diabetes follow. Maybe AD too.
3) Continuing on from the previous point, since the other fuels that our bodies can use are fat and ketones (a fat bi-product and one that can be used by the brain), it is essential that if we cut one fuel source then we must give our bodies another. Animal fats and coconut oil should be included in the diet.
4) The B vitamins have much to do with nerve function and the most important of these (due to its complex metabolism in the body) is vitamin B12.
5) Vitamin D deficiency is at epidemic proportions in the Western World. This study shows that it may contribute to AD.
6) Insufficient exercise maybe a causative factor, but it is unclear whether it is due to its balancing effect on blood sugar or the exercise itself that helps.

The above are the most plausible possible causes of AD but this is not an exhaustive list.

To me there is only one way to tackle Alzheimer’s Disease and that is to prevent it in the first place. Here are my recommendations:

  1. To avoid an excess of aluminium, use steel or glass cooking pots and opt for a deodorant rather than an antiperspirant – or just use soap and water.
  2. To keep blood sugar down and balanced, cut carbohydrate consumption. Foods to limit are sweet foods, bread, cereals and other foods made from grains.
  3. Including plenty of animal fats in the diet will provide a good source of fuel, fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins. Yellow butter, cream, egg yolks, fatty cuts of meat and oily fish (for Omega 3) will provide this. Coconut oil is also helpful in not just warding off AD but as a treatment for it.
  4. Shellfish and offal are good sources of vitamin B12 but many people nowadaysfile0001122917150 do not consume these foods on a regular basis. Experiment with pates, adding a little chopped liver to casseroles and Bolognese sauce or just frying with onions in plenty of butter. Folate and B12 work together so serve that liver with kale, sprouts or cabbage! Organic, pastured egg yolks are good for B12 too.
  5. Getting out in the sun and eating animal fats will supply your vitamin D.
  6. Even just frequent brisk walking will do for exercise, but find something you enjoy doing and you are more likely to stick with it.

I think it is possible to reverse AD to some degree with the measures above, but by employing them now, you dramatically lower your chances of developing it in the first place.

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B12 – The Finicky Vitamin

Along with the other B vitamins, B12 is responsible for releasing energy from food, healthy nerves, the formation of blood and other cells, mental health and much more. Deficiency at its worst causes pernicious anaemia, (possibly) contributing to Alzheimer’s disease, psychoses and heart disease. The symptoms that often present initially are mood swings, insomnia, lacking energy and tingling in the hands and feet.

1426234_63077721It is very easy to become vitamin B12 deficient today. Life is so very different to how it was one hundred or even fifty years ago when home cooking was all that was available and nothing as wasted. We are a “fast” society now and everything has to be pronto – many don’t cook anymore – preferring microwave meals. We eat on the hoof just to fill our stomachs quickly with scant regard for the food’s nutritional value or whether we will digest it properly. It is incredible to me that people complain about the cost of food whilst buying ready meals and takeaways and it will contribute to becoming B12 deficient in our modern times.

Even if you care about your health, it is possible to become deficient in this vitamin. Those who are vegetarian through choice could be at risk. Likewise those who are vegetarian or vegan for religious or other reasons often miss out on this essential nutrient.

Some illnesses prevent B12 being utilised. The reason I call this the “finicky” vitamin is due to its metabolism. Simply, a protein called “intrinsic factor” found in the stomach juices binds itself to B12 to allow absorption. Most foods are digested and absorbed during the long journey through the small intestine. Not B12 though! There is a small area between the small and large intestines reserved for just this purpose. Because of this rather complicated process, illnesses affecting the gut can disrupt it at all stages.

  • Fast foods; even if any B12 is present, they are consumed quickly with minimal mastication and washed down with a drink of some sort. If foods are not chewed thoroughly, they cannot be digested effectively in the stomach. When food is accompanied by large quantities of fluid, the stomach acid is diluted and therefore, the intrinsic factor will be also. This can lead to the use of…
  • Antacids, reflux and ulcer medicines; these lower the acidity in the stomach making the digestion of B12-containing proteins difficult to digest thereby preventing its release from the food.
  • Ageing; stomach acid naturally reduces as we age leading to a similar situation as above.
  • Gut disorders; people who suffer the diseases that cause ulceration of the gut lining and diarrhoea are at risk. This includes sufferers of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), celiac disease, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease (IBD).
  • Other drugs; diabetes medications, statins, birth control pills and antibiotics. There is a more comprehensive list and lots more information here.

So what can we do to maximise our chances of maintaining optimum levels of B12? It 736236_94991508would be far too easy for me to say that those people suffering from illnesses should seek to become well again (and some of the diseases I have named here are reversible) but nonetheless, action has to be taken one way or another! The best way to supplement B12 is by injection thus bypassing the complicated metabolic process. Or by sub-lingual drops. This is necessary for vegans too, as useful B12 is only present and available in animal foods. For vegetarians – kefir, organic cheeses and eggs are essential. The best sources for the rest of us are organic offal meats, shellfish as well as the above. To improve the uptake of B12 chew food thoroughly, don’t drink too much with meals so as not to dilute stomach acid and eat slowly. To stimulate stomach acid, eat fresh sauerkraut as a part of your meals, or a spoonful just a few minutes before a meal. Apple cider vinegar can be used too.

Above all, if you don’t or can’t cook please do something about it. The health of families starts in kitchens!

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Magnesium – The Vanishing Mineral

Concern about our magnesium levels is well-founded as this report shows. Magnesium is needed by all life and is one which is easily depleted in our soils, given current conventional agricultural methods.

Since magnesium is needed for life, the list of its uses is long. Here are some of them:
Help with stabilising blood sugar.
Blood pressure is optimised.
Bone formation and upkeep are enabled.
Energy levels are boosted.
The conditions that are associated with magnesium deficiency are fibromyalgia, heart disease, diabetes, migraines and many more.

SSo where do we get this mineral? Firstly, buy organic. The agricultural method ensures the soil is properly replenished, so that your food has balanced nutrients. The best foods for  magnesium are leafy greens, nuts and seeds, avocados, cocoa and chocolate that is high in cocoa solids. Not difficult is it? If you want an occasional quick and safe top-up, add 100g Epsom salts to your bath. (This is also a good way to help with a detox or to aid sleep.) There are many forms of magnesium, but these should be used under the guidance of a professional.

 As with most nutrients, magnesium doesn’t work alone. When one nutrient is taken in isolation either the benefits are not properly realised, or the body will just get rid of it as it cannot be put to good use. Food is the medicine (or seek help).

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