Monday, March 12, 2012

Supercrooks Signing!


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Thursday, March 08, 2012

Experts Warn: This Popular Vitamin can Trigger Cancer


Story at-a-glance
  • According to a recent study, men taking 400 IU’s of vitamin E per day increase their risk of prostate cancer by 17 percent. However, what media reports fail to address is the fact that the vitamin E used is a synthetic, petrochemically-derived form of vitamin E that has known toxic effects
  • Beware that many tocopherols, the generic term for more than seven types of vitamin E, are extracted from genetically modified plants such as GM soy
  • Another recent study claims that dietary supplements are associated with an increased mortality in older women. However, this observational study, based on self-reported use of supplements over a 22-year period, contains many serious flaws and has been grossly misrepresented by conventional media
  • The timing of the media hype over these flawed studies conveniently coincide with the FDA’s plan to amend the definitions for new dietary ingredients (NDI's) and Senator Durbin’s proposed legislation, S.1310: Dietary Supplement Labeling Act of 2011, which treats vitamins as if they’re drugs

Over the past several of weeks, the media have gone wild over studies allegedly showing that vitamins have lethal consequences.

Again and again, journalists who are clueless about health have misled readers while catering to the interests of Big Pharma and their hired lackey, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Will Vitamin E Increase Risk of Prostate Cancer?

Back in 2009, the initial report of the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) found "no reduction in risk of prostate cancer with either selenium or vitamin E supplements but a statistically non-significant increase in prostate cancer risk with vitamin E."

Then came the recently released update, which allegedly shows that high doses—400 IU's a day or more—of vitamin E may increase your risk of prostate cancer by 17 percent.

According to CNN:

"Based on the results of this trial, [the researchers] suggested that men should have a serious conversation with their doctors about whether taking vitamin E supplements is a good idea."

However, there's a glaring problem with this finding, which has been completely overlooked by conventional media, and the researchers of the study itself.

For some reason, many fail to appreciate that there are usually major differences between natural nutrients and their synthetic counterparts.

They simply do not have the same biological effects, and this appears particularly true when it comes to vitamin E.

Synthetic Vitamin E is Problematic, so Why Did they Use it?

In this case, the vitamin E used was all rac-╬▒-tocopheryl acetate—a synthetic petrochemically-derived form of dl-alpha tocopherol, which has known toxic effects. has a listing of published research relating to the many ill health effects related to this compound. The Toxicology Data Network also lists numerous health problems related to synthetic vitamin E at various dosages.

Unfortunately, most studies investigating vitamins use synthetic versions. On the one hand this is good, as synthetic vitamins in general have overwhelmingly been shown to be largely harmless. However, studies such as this one—and the journalists reporting on the findings—can also do great disservice by failing to specify that the results pertain to petrochemically-derived vitamin E. The study says absolutely nothing about the health effects of natural vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol).Part of the problem with synthetic alpha tocopherol is that it depletes gamma tocopherol.

As explained in a recent article by Life Extension:

"In 1997, we announced that taking only the alpha tocopherol form of vitamin E displaces critically important gamma tocopherol in the body. By displacing gamma tocopherol, we feared that high doses of alpha tocopherol could increase cancer risks.

In fact, three years after Life Extension's first warning, the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health released the results of a huge study (10,456 men). The findings showed that men with the highest gamma tocopherol blood levels had a fivefold reduction in prostate cancer risk. This same study showed that selenium and alpha tocopherol also reduced prostate cancer risk but only when gamma tocopherol levels were high. Confirmatory studies document higher levels of gamma tocopherol to be strongly associated with reduced cancer risks.

While both alpha and gamma tocopherol are potent antioxidants, gamma tocopherol has a unique function. Because of its different chemical structure, gamma tocopherol scavenges reactive nitrogen species, which can damage proteins, lipids, and DNA.

… The fact that supplementation with isolated, synthetic alpha tocopherol depletes plasma gamma tocopherol levels means that the researchers who designed the SELECT trial created a biological catastrophe… The fact that higher prostate cancer rates were observed in the group overloaded with synthetic alpha tocopherol in the SELECT trial was predictable and expected based upon fundamental facts Life Extension understood more than a decade ago."

I believe Life Extension is correct in their evaluation of this study: it was designed to fail in order to protect the financial interests of the cancer industry, which thrives by providing very expensive toxic drugs, radiation, and surgery.

Did You Know? Some Vitamin E on Market May be Genetically Modified

Another risk factor of vitamin E supplements and foods fortified with vitamin E relates to the fact that it may be derived from genetically modified (GM) plants. The chemical name for vitamin E is "tocopherol." Tocopherol, which is the generic term for at least seven different types of vitamin E, are naturally formed in a variety of plants.

Tocopherol can be produced either by chemical synthesis, or by extraction from:
  • Maize
  • Soy beans
  • Cotton seed
  • Rice
  • Wheat germ oil

The problem is that a large majority of these plants are now genetically modified—at least in the U.S. In Europe, foods and supplements containing GM-derived vitamin E must be labeled as such. The U.S. however, does not require genetically modified foods and products to be labeled, so there's no telling what you're getting. Unfortunately, verifying the non-GM status of tocopherols is particularly challenging as many companies that control the supply of vitamin E collect plant oils from commingled sources.

Are Dietary Supplements Risky for Older Women?

Another recent study is being reported as having found that dietary supplements are associated with an increased mortality in older women. However, this is yet another example of a flawed study being further misrepresented by poor journalism. First of all, this was an observational study based on self-reported use of supplements over a 22-year period—it was not a rigorous trial. Supplement use was reported three times, six years apart. Now, ask yourself, how accurately would your own recollection be of what supplements you've used over the past six years? Furthermore, the data collected was rather generic—there's no telling whether the supplements used were high- or low quality; synthetic or whole-food based, for example.

According to the Los Angeles Times:

"The research did not explore whether supplements contributed to the causes of death among the women ... [I]t could reflect the possibility that the women who took ... supplements were more likely to be sick from other causes and died from their underlying disease."

And there, in a nutshell, is the problem with the way this study is being reported in many places. That same Los Angeles Times article, for example, quotes a dietician arguing that the research "bolstered arguments against using supplements". Other articles have made similar claims.

But the study does no such thing.

It's quite possible that the people studied who were sick were trying to help themselves by taking supplements, and hence this group was biased towards being sicker. An almost identical study could be done associating frequency of visits to the doctor with increased risk of death. But you can bet that few in the media would jump the conclusion that doctor visits are deadly ... even though such a statement would not be entirely untrue.

Was the Data Manipulated with Preconceived Bias?

But there's more… Upon closer review, it seems the researchers went to great lengths massaging the data to reach their own preconceived conclusions. As explained in a recent article by Alliance for Natural Health:

"Dr. Robert Verkerk, our scientific director'[s]… analysis reveals, among many other interesting points, that all of the data was "adjusted" by the authors using methods of their own choice. If you look at the study itself, the first thing you see is an adjustment for "age and energy"… After this adjustment, vitamins C, B complex, E, D, as well as calcium, magnesium, selenium, and zinc all appear to add to years lived."

So, after that first adjustment, several supplements added to longevity. Next they "adjusted out" other lifestyle factors, which then resulted in most supplements contributing to earlier death. According to Robert Verkerk:

"It must be born in mind that this is an observational study where lifestyle factors, which are known to have a far greater influence on survival outcome than typical vitamin and mineral supplementation, have been 'adjusted out'. Before this data massage process has occurred, the findings are quite different, and appear to have been largely ignored by a mass media ever keen to find ways of damning supplements to appease their pharmaceutical industry advertisers...

This is what the study actually found before the data were adjusted... Supplement users were significantly (statistically) more likely than non-users to:

  • Be non-smokers
  • Be more educated (graduates)
  • Have lower risk of diabetes mellitus
  • Have a lower body mass index (BMI)
  • Have a lower mean hip-to-waist ratio
  • Be more physically active
  • Ingest fewer calories
  • Consume more protein
  • Consume less total fat
  • Consume more polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • Consume more fruit
  • Consume more vegetables
  • Consume more whole grain products

Frustratingly, the authors don't tell us how these supplement users fared over the years. However, we can assume it's quite likely that they did rather better than the non-users, and that's why the researchers have left us only with adjusted data that's meant to have removed the influence of these all-important lifestyle factors."

Interestingly enough, and quite tellingly, the authors did NOT make any adjustments for drug use, despite the fact that many drugs are highly toxic and may contribute to premature death. And many who are sick take both drugs and supplements in an effort to maintain health and treat their disease. As stated by Life Extension:

"[T]he authors admit they did not factor in the increased intake of dietary supplements that occur in response to the development of symptoms or diagnosis of serious disease. Stated differently: If a woman was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer and began ingesting 40 supplements daily, but died six months later, she would have been counted as being a heavy supplement user who died prematurely."

Smells Like a Ruse to Justify New FDA Safety Regulations...

If you ask me, the timing of these studies hitting the news couldn't possibly be more convenient. Last month, I wrote a couple of articles about the FDA's latest plan to effectively eliminate many commonly used supplements by amending the definitions for new dietary ingredients (NDI's) and retroactively applying them to products already on the market. You can read the FDA Draft Guidance on New Dietary Ingredients (NDI's) here. (A detailed analysis of the FDA Draft Guidance is also available.)

This proposed mandate goes hand-in-hand with S.1310: Dietary Supplement Labeling Act of 2011, introduced at the end of June by U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D-Illinois). This legislation is, using the words of Byron J. Richards, "an alarming regulatory nightmare that is trying to treat vitamins as if they are drugs."

The open comment period on the FDA's proposed guidelines will expire on December 2nd, and I for one would not be the least surprised if the studies discussed above will be used as justification for driving through Durbin's legislation and the FDA's amended NDI definitions. After all, if they can sway public opinion once again into thinking that supplements can KILL you, then people will support the idea that we need to treat supplements like drugs and require them to undergo the same detailed and costly kind of testing.

This is ridiculous, as vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements have a tremendously safe track record. Meanwhile, drugs are known to cause well over 100,000 deaths per year when taken as prescribed, and two million more suffer serious side effects. For comparison, look at:

Statistics available from the U.S. National Poison Data System, which covers acute poisonings: In 2007, 1,597 people reportedly died from drugs. Meanwhile there was not one single fatality caused by a vitamin or dietary mineral supplement that year
CDC mortality data for 2005: Prescription drugs killed more than 33,500 people that year, second only to car accidents. That same year, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported 27 deaths that were associated with dietary supplements (one of which was reportedly due to Ephedra; the herbal supplement banned the year before for being too dangerous. In 2005, low-dose Ephedra was also subsequently banned).
Yet, Durbin and the FDA want you to think that they're just acting in your best interest. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Up to this point, the FDA has had to prove a supplement unsafe in order to take action against it, but now they want the supplement industry to prove the safety of what in many cases amount to food, before they can reach the market. Now, since dietary supplements are not patented drugs with outrageous profit margins, very few supplement makers will be able to afford the required safety studies, which could run in the tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars per ingredient. Furthermore, the manufacturer is not the only one that would have to seek approval—every distributor that wants to use the NDI would have to file a separate NDI application.

By adding this extremely costly testing and approval process, small and medium sized supplement companies will be eliminated, which in turn will drive up costs while at the same time reduce your access to historically safe nutritional products. The end result is that fewer people will use supplements to improve their health; driving them back into the extremely profitable fold of conventional medicine and drugs.

So, Will Your Supplements Kill You?

Vitamins and minerals are essential for life. However, never in the history of man has the human body ever needed synthetic chemicals. And therein lies the crux of the matter. Most studies evaluating the health effects of vitamins investigate the synthetic versions, which in many cases are more similar to drugs than they are to food. And secondly, studies can be manipulated in any number of ways to come up with an end result that serves a particular agenda. The two studies discussed above are perfect examples of both of these problems.

Making matters worse, the media conveniently and consistently fails to report on rebuttals explaining the technical and statistical reasons why a study is invalid.

Common sense however will tell you that you cannot kill yourself with nutrition, per se.

That said, it's certainly possible to go overboard with supplements and push your health in the wrong direction by creating nutritional imbalances. It's important to understand that taking mega-doses of vitamins or minerals over extended periods of time, especially synthetic ones, can have serious health consequences.

Ideally, you'll want to get the majority of the nutrients you need from your food, which means you have to eat whole, preferably organic foods—not processed foods fortified with synthetic vitamins and minerals! Depending on your health status, you would then evaluate whether or not you might need to take a supplement to help address a particular health problem or counter any particular deficiency in your diet.

Examples of supplements I believe most people can benefit from, simply because it's very difficult to get enough of them from your diet, include high-quality omega-3 and probiotics. If you cannot get sufficient amounts of sunshine and don't have access to a safe tanning bed then an oral vitamin D3 supplement would also be in order.

In conclusion, Michael Long, ND sums this whole issue up rather nicely:

"Even with totally irresponsible use, you would be hard pressed to be killed by your vitamins… In truth, studies are published every day showing the safety and health promoting effects of vitamins, especially when used responsibly (i.e. used for a specific purpose, after objective testing showed a deficiency), and according to the evidence.

If you want to focus on something that will actually kill you, open your medicine cabinet and look at the drugs that stare back at you. Close to 1 million people die in North America every year as a direct result of adverse effects from prescription drugs. The safety record of pharmaceutical drugs is not even comparable to vitamins."

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Monday, March 05, 2012

Saturday, March 03, 2012

The "Antioxidant Superstar" Chinese People Eat Daily


Story at-a-glance
  • Virtually all mushrooms provide excellent nutrition, such as protein, vitamins and enzymes, and many have potent medicinal value
  • Mushrooms are excellent sources of antioxidants in general, such as polyphenols and selenium, but they also contain antioxidants that are unique to mushrooms, such as ergothioneine, which is now starting to be recognized as a 'master antioxidant'
  • Whole organic mushrooms and whole food-derived mushroom supplements offer potent immune-boosting benefits
  • Some supplements offer the added boon of including the mycelia of the mushroom—the thread-like vegetative part of the mushroom that branches through the soil—which research has shown to provide many additional health benefits

Steve Farrar has a Masters Degree in Horticulture from the Washington State University and has worked and studied mushrooms professionally for the last 30 years.

The first 20 years he spent growing them and working primarily with gourmet chefs, but in the past decade, he's started applying his expertise of mushrooms to health purposes.

According to Farrar, Americans consume about 900 million pounds of mushrooms a year, but 95 percent of that just one species: the common button mushroom and its relatives, the Crimini and the Portabello mushrooms.

In more recent years, mushrooms have received a lot of attention, both in gourmet cooking and in the pharmaceutical industry.

As you will soon learn, mushrooms are a largely untapped resource that can help increase your health and well-being.

The Unique Nutritional Properties of Mushrooms

"Mushrooms are defined as a fungus that forms a fleshy above-ground reproductive structure called the' mushroom fruit body,'" he explains.

Mushrooms should not be confused with mold and fungi however, which do not form fleshy fruit bodies. To learn more about the details of how mushrooms grow and propagate, please listen to the interview or read through the transcript. The common button mushroom, while not as 'interesting' as its more exotic cousins, is an excellent low-calorie food, especially for diabetics. It contains a number of valuable nutrients, including:
  • Protein
  • Enzymes
  • B vitamins (especially niacin)
  • Vitamin D2

However, Farrar's focus has been on growing various gourmet mushroom species, particularly the wood decaying mushroom species, which differ greatly from your average button mushroom in terms of biology, nutrition and medicinal value, as well as in the production and methodology of growing them.

"By virtue of them being primary decomposers, they have some unique nutritional and also health benefits to them," Farrar explains. "I tended to focus on species like Maitake, Shiitake, Enokitake, oyster mushrooms, brown beech mushrooms; mushrooms that people over the last 20 years were not really that familiar with."

The wood decaying mushrooms, which are preferred in Asia and parts of Europe, are quite different in terms of flavors and textures. They also tend to have valuable medicinal properties that differ from the button mushroom. And we've barely scratched the surface when it comes to understanding the value and importance of mushrooms as we've only classified about 10 percent of all available species.

"I'm continually humbled by my ignorance of what's going on in this incredible complex world of fungi," Farrar says. "It's just mind boggling. Even with the well-studied species, nearly every week they're finding a new bioactive component… Maybe it's a polysaccharide, maybe it's an enzyme, a protein, an antioxidant. They are continually finding new things that have profound effects when we consume them as a food or as a dietary supplement."

Mushrooms are "Superfoods"

According to Farrar, the effect mushrooms can have on human health is multifaceted, but they're most well-known for their immune-boosting properties. Long chain polysaccharides, particularly alpha- and beta glucan molecules, are primarily responsible for the mushrooms' beneficial effect on your immune system.

"They're host mediated responses, meaning that they are not going in like a pharmaceutical medicine and [like] a sledgehammer forcing your body in a particular way. They interact through your immune system itself by stimulating it and making it ready and efficient," he explains.

Mushrooms are excellent sources of antioxidants in general as they contain polyphenols and selenium, which are common in the plant world. But they also contain antioxidants that are unique to mushrooms. One such antioxidant is ergothioneine, which scientists are now beginning to recognize as a 'master antioxidant.' Interestingly, it's an amino acid that contains sulfur, and if you listened to my interview with Dr. Seneff on the highly underestimated importance of sulfur, you may recognize why this particular antioxidant may be of particular importance for human health, as many are severely deficient in sulfur.

"[I]t's one of the only antioxidants identified so far that our cells [use as] a transport system to actively take ergothioneine across the cell membrane into the cell, to the points of oxidative stress," Farrar explains. "It's a very significant antioxidant. It's probably eventually going to be called a vitamin… they barely even found ways to quantify it effectively. Mushrooms are an excellent source of this antioxidant. We can only get it from our diet. It's only produced by fungi and certainly soil inhabiting bacteria."

A 2009 study in the journal Nature discusses the importance of ergothioneine, describing it as "an unusual sulfur-containing derivative of the amino acid, histidine," which appears to have a very specific role in protecting your DNA from oxidative damage. So, if Farrar's assertions that your body needs ergothioneine, which is fairly exclusive to mushrooms, to effectively transport ergothioneine into your cells, it's easy to see how mushrooms may be an important part of an optimal diet. If you don't like to eat them whole, you can also find them in supplement form, either as an extract or whole food supplement, which I'll discuss more in a moment.

The Immune Enhancing Effects of Mushrooms

According to Farrar, many of the immune benefits obtained from mushrooms are due to the glyconutrients (complex sugars) contained in the fruit body and the mycelia.

"The vital information that can be contained in these sugars is astounding," he says. "…The way they communicate is… through receptor sites on your cells. It's described as a lock and a key. There are receptor sites depending on the physical structure of the polysaccharides, the side branches, and the substitutions on it, [and] they will lock on to certain components of your immune system and activate it much like they would be activated by coming into contact with the bacteria.

It's very profound effects, and we don't fully understand them… But it's really these long chained polysaccharides (that are immense complex structures), a lot of times bound with proteins or amino acids or different side chains, that have the effect on your immune system."

From a practical standpoint, what this means is that you can effectively elicit a very broad-based immune response by consuming a variety of different mushrooms of different species. Most likely, this is exactly what our ancestors used to do, and by eating a diverse variety of foods within each food group, you're giving your body everything it needs, thereby optimizing your genetic expression.

How Mushrooms Helped Win a Kentucky Derby

Now, some may argue that you typically would not consume the mycelia of the mushroom—which is the thread-like vegetative part of the mushroom that branches through the soil—because if you were to pick it in the wild, you'd typically snap off the top (the fruit body and stem), leaving the rest in the ground. However, Farrar points out that there's compelling evidence indicating that the mycelia have very valuable health properties.

Studies involving thoroughbred race horses, for example, offer a glimpse into what benefits mushroom products that include the mycelia might harbor. Farrar tells the story of how, in 2007, they convinced an East Coast trainer to put all the horses in his stable on a mushroom blend product developed by Farrar and his team.

"It contained a lot of the Cordyceps species, which is widely recognized as a performance mushroom, enhancing energy production. It had a number of other species and it helped with muscle recovery after strenuous exercise.

Basically, the 2007 Kentucky Derby winner 'Street Sense' was a horse that was on our product. The owner and trainer attributed a lot of the success to that. Interestingly enough, part of that was the performance energy component… another part of it was basically a behavioral aspect. It was totally unexpected on our part. The trainer said that [when the horse was] given this blend of mushroom… it was [like] a different horse… racehorses tend to be very fidgety and very high strung and they can be distracted. It's very difficult to focus their attention. They said once they started along this regimen of a daily dose of this mycelial blend of mushrooms, its trainability and focus [improved]; it was a different animal.

So instead of a lethargic sort of calming effect, it was more like an alert focus... That combined with the performance aspects, the muscle recovery, and the energy generation, was enough to make a difference they thought. Since then they have been spokesman for our products."

Others have found the same effects giving Farrar's product to their pets. Owners of elderly dogs in particular have reported that their dogs start acting like puppies again when taking it.

Usage and Dosage Recommendations

When it comes to mushroom supplements, there are two primary types:
  • Mushroom concentrates or extracts—Most of these are so-called hot water extracts, where either the mushroom mycelia or fruit body is boiled for extended periods of time to extract the long chain polysaccharides. Farrar explains:
"What you get basically is a concentrated form of these beta glucans. But the enzymes, the proteins, the amino acids, the dietary fiber, mostly the antioxidants, are either denatured, destroyed, or simply discarded.

While you do get a very concentrated amount of these – generally, they also try to purify it to get them down to a minimum of variation [so] they can standardize it… Not to say that those aren't valuable products. In extreme cases of advanced cancer, tumors, all sorts of things, that is a very appropriate thing… Particularly as a complimentary therapy."
  • Whole food/Raw mushrooms—Consuming the mushrooms raw or using a whole food mushroom (powdered pill) product is generally a better alternative if you're reasonably healthy and looking to maintain optimal health, as they help maintain ideal function of your various systems as opposed to imparting a direct effect. Most of the knowledge about mushrooms come from ancient Chinese medicine where mushrooms are regarded as tonics. Tonics are considered to have non-specific beneficial effects across several systems of your body that do not decline over time.

If you choose to eat your mushrooms raw, make sure they are organically grown, as their flesh easily absorb air and soil contaminants. Likewise, you'll want to make sure any product you buy is certified organic for the same reason.

Furthermore, Farrar points out that whole mushrooms also provide healthful dietary fiber that act as "prebiotic platforms for the growth of probiotic organisms in your gut," which is very important for digestive health. This is yet another reason to opt for a whole food mushroom product.

There are no toxicities or resistance build-up associated with mushrooms, Farrar says. Your body will simply use what it needs and expel the rest. One of the most famous medicinal mushrooms is Reishi, revered as "the mushroom of immortality" by the Chinese, who typically take it every day.

"If you take a massive dose of these mycelial products, you're not going to overdose on them… You can't overdose," he says. "Typically when people start on these products, for the first seven to 10 days we recommend a double dose of it to load your system, and thereafter a moderate dose of one to a couple of grams a day. It's all that's needed.

When you're talking about the isolates of mushrooms, the active ingredients, you're talking about milligram dosages. If you're talking about the raw whole food, anywhere from one gram up to 30 grams for very severe cases of cancer cases. People are taking relatively massive doses of it and have had phenomenal effects."

Typically, one to two grams is enough for a tonic effect, taken on a daily basis. Farrar recommends taking the product on an empty (or nearly empty) stomach, but it can be taken with moderate amounts of food or liquids.

How to Identify a High Quality Product

In the interview, Farrar describes the techniques used within his industry to produce different kinds of mushroom products, so for more information, please listen to the interview in its entirety or read through the transcript.

One way involves a fermentation process, which can be used for both the fruit body and the mycelia. The cells walls are different in the mycelia compared to the fruit body; they're more easily digested, making it easier to reap the benefits from the bioactive compounds therein. The technique involves the use of oats, which may raise concerns about gluten content. However, Farrar allays such fears stating that gliadin cannot be detected in the final fermented product. So in its finished form, it's a gluten-free product.

In a nutshell, when evaluating mushroom supplements, the points of differentiation between products can be broken down to:
  • Isolates versus whole foods
  • Solid state fermentation versus submerged technology
  • The type of substrate (grain) used for the fermentation
  • Percentage of fruit body to mycelium
  • Conventionally grown versus organic
Solid state fermentation is superior to submerged technology when growing the mycelia. Particularly if you're looking for a complex matrix of nutrition and bioactive compounds.

So-called 'submerged fermentation' is typically used by companies focused on extracting particular isolates, and this accounts for up to 70 percent of the products on the market. It's a more 'drug-based' approach that can be beneficial for certain health ailments. However, for a more comprehensively beneficial effect, you'll want to look for a product using 'solid state fermentation,' which is based on the whole food approach where the final product contains more or most of the original compounds and co-factors.

Within the whole food approach, manufacturers may use a variety of different substrate grains for the fermentation process, such as oats, rye, rice, millet, or milo. Farrar tends to favor those using oats, as they tend to have better nutrition than those using rice.

As for the ratio of fruit body to mycelium, Farrar recommends opting for products that contain more of the mycelium. "There is more research directly with the mycelial stage of the mushroom, by far, than the fruit body stage," he explains. He also discusses several other reasons for opting for mycelium, such as:

  • The mycelia stage of the mushroom is easier to standardize and keep contained
  • Mushrooms grown to the fruit body stage for harvesting opens it up to environmental factors that can be more difficult to control, so there's more variation in the quality
  • Mushroom fruit bodies attract airborne contaminants, both biological and industrial, so there's greater risk for contamination
Last but certainly not least, you have the option of simply eating the mushrooms raw, or very lightly cooked. Excellent choices include maitake, shiitake, and king trumpet.

"They are so versatile. You can eat them in anything," Farrar says. "In the United States, our annual per capita consumption of mushrooms is about four pounds a year. In parts of China and Japan, it's 20, 25, 30 pounds! Even Canada has twice the consumption of mushrooms that we have. Mushrooms should be a bigger part of our diet."

Source: Video Transcript

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Thursday, March 01, 2012

Are You Eating This All-Time Favorite "Cancer-in-a-Can" Snack?


Story at-a-glance

  • Stackable chips oftentimes contain so little actual potato that they cannot, technically, be considered “potato chips”
  • One of the most hazardous ingredients in potato chips is not intentionally added, but rather is a byproduct of the processing. Acrylamide, a cancer-causing and potentially neurotoxic chemical, is created when carbohydrate-rich foods are cooked at high temperatures, whether baked, fried, roasted or toasted
  • According to a 2005 analysis, ALL potato chip products tested exceeded the legal limit of acrylamide by 39 to 910 times, and baked chip products oftentimes contain more acrylamide than their fried counterparts
  • There are more than 800 different heat-induced compounds, 52 of which are potential carcinogens. Three of the most well-known, aside from acrylamide, include Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs), Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), and Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs)
  • Ideally, you should consume foods that are raw or minimally processed to avoid these types of toxic byproducts of high-heat cooking and processing. The more raw food, the better, but strive to consume at least one-third of your food raw to protect your health

To understand the nature of Pringles and other stackable chips, forget the notion that they come from actual potatoes in any recognizable way.

The Pringles Company (in an effort to avoid taxes levied against "luxury foods" like chips in the UK) once even argued that the potato content of their chips was so low that they are technically not even potato chips.

So if they're not made of potatoes, what are they exactly?

The process begins with a slurry of rice, wheat, corn, and potato flakes that are pressed into shape.

This dough-like substance is then rolled out into an ultra-thin sheet cut into chip-cookies by a machine.

According to io9:

"The chips move forward on a conveyor belt until they're pressed onto molds, which give them the curve that makes them fit into one another.

Those molds move through boiling oil ... Then they're blown dry, sprayed with powdered flavors, and at last, flipped onto a slower-moving conveyor belt in a way that allows them to stack.

From then on, it's into the cans ... and off towards the innocent mouths of the consumers."

I suspect nearly everyone reading this likely enjoys the taste of potato chips. However, they are clearly one of the most toxic processed foods you can eat—whether they're made from actual potato shavings or not.

Potato Chips are Loaded with Cancer-Causing Chemical

One of the most hazardous ingredients in potato chips is not intentionally added, but rather is a byproduct of the processing.

Acrylamide, a cancer-causing and potentially neurotoxic chemical, is created when carbohydrate-rich foods are cooked at high temperatures, whether baked, fried, roasted or toasted. Some of the worst offenders include potato chips and French fries, but many foods cooked or processed at temperatures above 212°F (100°C) may contain acrylamide. As a general rule, the chemical is formed when food is heated enough to produce a fairly dry and brown/yellow surface. Hence, it can be found in:
  • Potatoes: chips, French fries and other roasted or fried potato foods
  • Grains: bread crust, toast, crisp bread, roasted breakfast cereals and various processed snacks
  • Coffee; roasted coffee beans and ground coffee powder. Surprisingly, coffee substitutes based on chicory actually contains 2-3 times MORE acrylamide than real coffee

How Much Acrylamide are You Consuming?

The federal limit for acrylamide in drinking water is 0.5 parts per billion, or about 0.12 micrograms in an eight-ounce glass of water. However, a six-ounce serving of French fries can contain 60 micrograms of acrylamide, or about FIVE HUNDRED times over the allowable limit.

Similarly, potato chips are notoriously high in this dangerous chemical. So high, in fact, that in 2005 the state of California actually sued potato chip makers for failing to warn California consumers about the health risks of acrylamide in their products. A settlement was reached in 2008 when Frito-Lay and several other potato chip makers agreed to reduce the acrylamide levels in their chips to 275 parts per billion (ppb) by 2011, which is low enough to avoid needing a cancer warning label.

The 2005 report "How Potato Chips Stack Up: Levels of Cancer-Causing Acrylamide in Popular Brands of Potato Chips," issued by the California-based Environmental Law Foundation (ELF), spelled out the dangers of this popular snack. Their analysis found that all potato chip products tested exceeded the legal limit of acrylamide by a minimum of 39 times, and as much as 910 times! Some of the worst offenders at that time included:
  • Cape Cod Robust Russet: 910 times the legal limit of acrylamide
  • Kettle Chips (lightly salted): 505 times
  • Kettle Chips (honey dijon): 495 times

Beware: Baked Chips May Be WORSE than Fried!

If you think you can avoid the health risks of potato chips by choosing baked varieties, which are typically advertised as being "healthier," think again. Remember that acrylamide is formed not only when foods are fried or broiled, but also when they are baked. And according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) data on acrylamide levels in foods, baked chips may contain more than three times the level of acrylamide as regular chips!

Interestingly, the same trend holds true for other foods, too, which suggests that baking processed potatoes at high temperature may be one of the worst ways to cook them. For instance, according to the FDA's data, Ore Ida Golden Fries contained 107 ppb of acrylamide in the regular fried version and 1,098 when baked. So remember, ALL potato chips contain acrylamide, regardless of whether they are natural or not; baked or fried. Likewise, they will ALL influence your insulin levels in a very negative way.

Acrylamide is Not the Only Danger

Acrylamide is not the only dangerous genotoxic compound formed when food is heated to high temperatures.

A three-year long EU project, known as Heat-Generated Food Toxicants (HEATOX), whose findings were published at the end of 2007, found there are more than 800 heat-induced compounds, of which 52 are potential carcinogens. In addition to their finding that acrylamide does pose a public health threat, the HEATOX scientists also discovered that you're far less likely to ingest dangerous levels of the toxin when you eat home-cooked foods compared to industrially or restaurant-prepared foods.

Additionally, the HEATOX findings also suggest that although there are ways to decrease exposure to acrylamide, it cannot be eliminated completely.

According to their calculations, successful application of all presently known methods would reduce the acrylamide intake by 40 percent at the most—which makes me wonder whether chip manufacturers have really succeeded at this point in reducing acrylamide levels to within legal limits... There's no updated data as of yet, so there's no telling whether they've been able to comply with the 2005 settlement.

For more in-depth information about acrylamide, I recommend reading the online report Heat-generated Food Toxicants, Identification, Characterization and Risk Minimization. In general however, just remember that cooking food at high temperatures is ill advised. A few of the most well-known toxins created in high-temperature cooking include:
  • Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs): These form when meat is cooked at high temperatures, and they're also linked to cancer. In terms of HCA, the worst part of the meat is the blackened section, which is why you should always avoid charring your meat, and never eat blackened sections.
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs): When fat drips onto the heat source, causing excess smoke, and the smoke surrounds your food, it can transfer cancer-causing PAHs to the meat.
  • Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs): When food is cooked at high temperatures (including when it is pasteurized or sterilized), it increases the formation of AGEs in your food. When you eat the food, it transfers the AGEs into your body. AGEs build up in your body over time leading to oxidative stress, inflammation and an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease.

The Search for a "Healthful" Chip Continues...

Like a modern-day search for the Holy Grail, chip manufacturers keep searching for methods to improve the image of their health-harming but profitable snacks. For example, by the end of 2011, about half of Pepsi's Frito-Lay brand snacks will be reformulated with all-natural ingredients. The switch is part of PepsiCo's master plan to tap into the healthy foods market share. The Wall Street Journal recently reported the company hopes to boost their nutrition business from $10 billion to $30 billion by 2020.

The company will remove dietary hazards like monosodium glutamate (MSG), replacing it with natural seasonings, such as molasses and paprika. Artificial colors will be replaced with beet juice, purple cabbage and carrots. All in all, about different 60 snacks are scheduled to get an all-natural makeover.

This is certainly a good example of how consumer demand can alter the direction of food manufacturers in a positive way.

The reformulated chips may end up being less bad for you than the original formulations. However, chips will never be truly healthful. All-natural chips may be the lesser of two evils, but if consumed regularly, they will still push your health in the wrong direction... There's no getting away from the fact that modern plagues such as cancer, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes have a dietary component, and potato chips and French fries will always be a losing bet if you want to avoid becoming another disease statistic.

How to Avoid Heat-Induced Toxins in Your Diet

Ideally, you should consume foods that are raw or minimally processed to avoid these types of toxic byproducts—the more raw food, the better. My nutrition plan emphasizes the need for at least one-third of your foods to be consumed raw. Personally, I consume about 80 percent of my food raw, and I find it is one of the most important factors that help keep me healthy.

It may take you awhile to switch over to a less processed diet, but throwing out the most obvious culprits would be a great start.

These would include:
  • French fries and potato chips
  • All sodas (both regular and diet, as artificial sweeteners may be more problematic than fructose)
  • Doughnuts

Healthy Eating Made Easy

Aside from creating potentially toxic byproducts, cooking and processing also depletes the food of valuable micronutrients, which is another reason for eating as much raw food as possible. This includes protein sources such as eggs. Raw whole eggs from organic, pastured chickens are an incredible source of high-quality nutrients that many are deficient in. Raw milk is another good example of a food that is beneficial in its raw state but becomes harmful after it is pasteurized.

By opting for foods that will benefit your health, such as raw, preferably organic and/or locally-grown vegetables, organic grass-fed meats, healthy oils, raw dairy, nuts and seeds, you can change your health for the better. These are the foods that are truly natural, and quite easy to prepare once you get the hang of it.

For a step-by-step guide to make the transition to a healthier diet as simple and smooth as possible, simply follow the advice in my optimized nutrition plan.

Remember, eating fresh whole foods is the "secret" to getting healthier, losing weight and really enjoying your food. It's unfortunate that so many are under the mistaken belief that it's "next to impossible" to create a meal without processed foods. Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough tackle this issue head-on in their book Real Food Has Curves, which is a great starting point to "relearn" the basics of how to enjoy and prepare real food.

Once you get used to it, you'll find you can whip up a healthful meal from scratch in the same amount of time it would have taken you to drive down the street to pick up fast food. The main difference will be greater satisfaction, both physically and mentally, and perhaps even financially, as processed foods typically end up being more expensive than cooking from scratch.

Source: io9 October 21, 2001

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