Do Local Foods Actually Feed Us?

I often say that local and organic foods are more marketing ploys than foods which actually feed us. Most food that is grown, sold, and consumed in this country is neither locally-sourced nor organically-grown. I hope one day most food we eat will benefit from their standards, standards that promote health of people and the environment, standards with an eye towards humaneness, energy conservation, and sustainability. But it doesn’t look like that’s the current direction, at least regarding local:

Many things that are big consumer trends — such as local — don’t actually play out that way in the sales numbers.

For all the attention to local, more fruit is imported every year from far away. In other words, many of these movements are marketing initiatives more than practical supply chain changes.

What is also interesting is that in many cases, local farmer’s market, pick-your-own, home gardening etc., seem able to flourish without any impact on the sales through stores.

It is almost as if they are different industries. One is a type of food tourism, where you can enjoy the walk through the farmer’s market, and the other is the actual food provisions of the household.
Perishible Pundit, 14 October 2018

We are not feeding ourselves with local and organic food. On the contrary, most of our plant food is conventionally grown, either here or abroad. Most of our animal food comes from factory farms. (“Factory farms raise 99.9% of chickens for meat, 97% of laying hens, 99% of turkeys, 95% of pigs, and 78% of cattle currently sold in the United States.“)

“Local” and “organic” are emblems of the overclass.

“It Is Their Brokenness That Makes Them Beautiful”

Dr. Gottlieb is a practicing psychologist with more than 40 years of experience. He began his practice in 1969, but…

In 1979 Dan was in a near fatal automobile accident which left him paralyzed from the chest down. As expected, there were years of despair and depression. He experienced loss on top of loss as his wife left the marriage and passed away several years later. And in the ensuing years he mourned the loss of his sister and his parents. And for the last three decades, he has been observing life with what he calls “a curious mind and an open heart.” In doing so, he has learned valuable lessons about what it means to be human and how adversity can teach us how to live better and love better.

Researchers Gave Subjects A Drink Containing A “Safe”Amount Of BPA. The Result? Insulin Resistance.

Thermal paper receipts are a source of BPA exposure. (Credit: Chris Phan/flickr).
“The hormone-scrambling chemical [BPA] has been shown to leach out of the paper and penetrate the skin — especially in the presence of hand sanitizer or other skin care products.”

Virginia tipped me off to this a few weeks ago and I’ve been meaning to get it up. Because, haven’t I been saying this? Endocrine disruptors in the environment – in food, water, air, products we put on our bodies – are contributing to metabolic diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes, and not in a subtle way. It’s diet and exercise, sure. But it’s not that alone.

BPA Exposure In US-Approved Levels May Alter Insulin Response In Non-Diabetic Adults, Science Daily, 14 September 2018

In a first study of its kind study, researchers have found that a common chemical consumers are exposed to several times a day may be altering insulin release. Results of the study indicate that the Food and Drug Administration-approved ‘safe’ daily exposure amount of BPA may be enough to have implications for the development of Type 2 diabetes and other metabolic diseases.

In A Scientific First, Researchers Gave People BPA — And Saw A Link To Precursor Of Type 2 Diabetes , Environmental Health News, 13 September 2018

The authors say their findings … build on growing evidence that continued exposures over time to BPA — widely used in plastics, canned food linings and receipt paper — might increase a person’s risk of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

We’re living in an age where type 2 diabetes is rampant. Here is a signal of a new path to explore for what is causing it.

Landmark BPA Study Finds Troubling Health Effects At FDA’s ‘Safe’ Levels, Environmental Working Group, 14 September 2018

“These troubling findings should raise alarms at the Food and Drug Administration and ignite renewed efforts to drastically reduce all Americans’ exposure to BPA,” said Alexis Temkin, Ph.D., an EWG toxicologist. “It’s appalling that the FDA and other federal agencies continue to say current exposure levels to BPA are safe, and refuse to ban BPA from food and food packaging.”

In addition to diabetes and obesity, [BPA] has been linked to ADHD in children and breast cancer in laboratory animals.

The study:
Experimental BPA Exposure and Glucose-Stimulated Insulin Response in Adult Men and Women, Journal of the Endocrine Society, 12 September 2018

This study is an initial step toward investigation of an intriguing hypothesis that exposure to estrogenic chemicals such as BPA may contribute to insulin resistance by triggering an innate insulin resistance mechanism.

This was a study in humans, a first. They actually gave BPA to the subjects, which begins to cross the ethics line. It was placebo-controlled. And they used hardly any BPA:

… Subjects were orally administered a safe dose of BPA, which led to the same amount of BPA in their blood that customers might encounter by handling a cash register receipt.

The dose his team used — 0.05 milligrams of BPA per kilogram of body weight — is presumed safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

When your cells become resistant to the hormone insulin, your blood glucose goes up. That’s not good. Too much glucose in the blood leads to a slew of complications, evident first in the very small blood vessels of the eye (retinopathy), the kidney (nephropathy), and the fingers and toes (numbness and tingling).

In animal studies repeated BPA exposure resulted in insulin resistance.

An association between exposure to BPA and diabetes had been previously found in animal studies and epidemiological studies. However, the FDA and EPA “would not pay attention” to those studies, said Frederick vom Saal, a professor of biology at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and another co-author of the new study.

When you eat carbohydrates, your blood glucose will go up. It’s natural. But it should never go over, say, 300 mg/dl, and it should go back down in less than an hour. If it’s too high for too long, you likely have some degree of insulin resistance.

If a few cash register receipts can do this, imagine what all the BPA and other endocrine disruptors we’re exposed to in a day can do? Our grandparents were never exposed to these chemicals like we are. We’re guinea pigs.

Carbohydrates Increase Heat Production (Thermogenesis)

Pasta Primavera by Forks Over Knives

Did you ever eat a big bowl of pasta or rice before you went to bed and found yourself throwing off the covers later? That heat production is called thermogenesis and a new study adds to the body of evidence that carbs cause it:

Food Activates Brown Fat: How Brown Adipose Tissue Reacts To A Carbohydrate-Rich Meal, Science Daily, 29 August 2018

Brown fat burns fat for energy.
White fat stores energy as fat.

When we activate our brown fat, we burn more calories. That helps us maintain a healthy weight and also keeps us warm, because heat is given off as a byproduct of fat-burning.

It was known that exposure to cold temperatures activates brown fat:

“Studies showed that participants who spent hours in the cold chamber daily not only experienced an increase in the heat output of brown fat in the cold as they got used to the lower temperatures, but also an improvement in the control of blood sugar via insulin.”

This study found that eating a high-carbohydrate meal also activates brown fat:

“For the first time, it could be demonstrated that heat generation in brown adipose tissue could be activated by a [high-carbohydrate] test meal just as it would be by exposure to cold,” said [lead author] Klingenspor, summarizing the findings.

There’s also this:

“We now know that the activation of brown adipose tissue could be linked to a feeling of being full.”

So, a high-carb meal (compared to a low-carb meal) can result in:

  • More calories burned
  • More heat generated
  • Improvement in blood glucose
  • Improved satiety

You Can Reverse Type 2 Diabetes On A Plant-Based Diet. Here Are Studies That Back It Up.

Great article by Dr. Greger yesterday:

How to Reverse Type 2 Diabetes
Michael Greger M.D. FACLM on September 20th, 2018

All of the things he says here are true, including the title of his article, which, I know, many will ridicule. But he backs it all up. Here are the studies he referenced:

Reversal of type 2 diabetes: normalisation of beta cell function in association with decreased pancreas and liver triacylglycerol, Diabetologia, 2011

Normalisation of both beta cell function and hepatic insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetes was achieved by dietary energy restriction alone. This was associated with decreased pancreatic and liver triacylglycerol stores. The abnormalities underlying type 2 diabetes are reversible by reducing dietary energy intake.

Effects of the High Carbohydrate-Low Calorie Diet Upon Carbohydrate Tolerance in Diabetes Mellitus, Canadian Medical Association, Journal, 1935

Effect of rice diet on diabetes mellitus associated with vascular disease, Postgraduate Medicine, 1958

Here are some photos from Dr. Kempner’s rice diet, and some background. It was astonishing at the time. Still is.

High-carbohydrate, high-fiber diets for insulin-treated men with diabetes mellitus, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1979

These studies suggest that [high carbohydrate, high-fiber] diets may be the dietary therapy of choice for certain patients with the maturity-onset type of diabetes.

Usefulness of vegetarian and vegan diets for treating type 2 diabetes, Current Diabetes Reports, 2010

Significant benefits for diabetes prevention and management have been observed with vegetarian and especially vegan diets. This article reviews observational studies and intervention trials on such diets, and discusses their efficacy, nutritional adequacy, acceptability, and sustainability. Research to date has demonstrated that a low-fat, plant-based nutritional approach improves control of weight, glycemia, and cardiovascular risk. These studies have also shown that carefully planned vegan diets can be more nutritious than diets based on more conventional diet guidelines, with an acceptability that is comparable with that of other therapeutic regimens. Current intervention guidelines from professional organizations offer support for this approach. Vegetarian and vegan diets present potential advantages in managing type 2 diabetes that merit the attention of individuals with diabetes and their caregivers.

There you have it. Read his article if you’re concerned about diabetes, especially this part:

To be clear, we’re talking about diabetics who had had diabetes as long as 20 years, injecting 20 units of insulin a day, getting off insulin altogether in as few as 13 days, thanks to less than two weeks on a plant-based diet. Patient 15, for example, had injected 32 units of insulin while on the control diet, and then, 18 days later, none. Lower blood sugars on 32 units less insulin.

A diagnosis of type 2 diabetes is not a forever proposition. One thing Dr. Greger doesn’t mention though is that the diet he prescribes, one of mostly whole plant foods, is accessible primarily to upper classes, not so much to the elderly, the poor and low-income, the sick and disabled. Unfortunately, those groups suffer the highest prevalence burden for diabetes. It’s not that a head of broccoli or a bag of beans will put someone out, it’s the external costs to eating this way which I’ve spoken about fairly often on my blog.

Here’s a video of Dr. Greger in 2016 saying the same thing as his article:

I like what he says about moderation:

Moderate changes in diet can leave one with moderate blindness, moderate kidney failure, moderate amputations. Moderation in all things is not necessarily a good thing.

Disturbing Photos Of Our Dystopian Society

Several good examples here.

This one always gets me:

“This McDonald’s, somewhere on the east coast of the US, is sure to leave you shaking your head. Admitting that the 2017 solar eclipse was a ‘once in a lifetime’ spectacle, the note says that employees will only be given three minutes to enjoy it.”

In a similar vein:

More at the source.

It’s about capitalism. Right?

Dr. H. Gilbert Welch: “The More Tests You Do, The More Likely One Of Them Will Be Falsely Abnormal”

It’s that time of year, time to revist this sage advice:

H. Gilbert Welch (MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine at Dartmouth University, author of Less Medicine, More Health, and Overdiagnosed: Making People Sick In The Pursuit Of Health) says we’re testing too much … blood tests, colonoscopies, endoscopies, mammograms, ultrasounds, MRIs, CT scans, biopsies, gene tests. He says all this testing isn’t making us any healthier. To the contrary, by digging incessantly for some tiny abnormality – abnormalities that may never harm us, abnormalities that BigPharma and BigHospital and BigMedicalEstablishment can treat – it leaves consumers with unnecessary stress and undesirable side effects, not least of which is the pain in their wallet.

Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, started a firestorm with this tweet:

Comprehensive blood tests every 3 months. In a healthy person. Wow.

Charles Ornstein (CO), a senior editor for ProPublica, interviewed Dr. Welch about that tweet:

Mark Cuban’s Advice A ‘Recipe For Making All Of Us Sick,’ Expert Says, ProPublica, 6 April 2015

Some excerpts:

(CO) Is quarterly blood work for healthy people a good thing?

No. It’s not. This is potentially a recipe for making all of us sick.

(CO) Explain.

I guess the first thing to say is that we all harbor abnormalities, and increasingly our technologies are able to detect them–be they biochemical, be they structural. We can see things down to millimeters in size; we can measure things down to parts per billion; and we can sequence the whole genome. That’s 3 billion data points.

So there’s no shortage of biometric data that people could be collecting on themselves regularly, and by the way, there’s a huge financial interest in having people do that. The market of the well is a huge, huge market.

The problem is you’ll always be catching things out of what we would say is normal. This is anticipatory medicine at its worst, where you’re really focused on what could be going wrong in the future and you’re trying to pick up [a] signal.

The problem is there’s so much noise, because the human body is a living organism. Variation is the very essence of life. People will start reacting to this data. I also think it’s really important to label it what it is: data. To me it only becomes information to the extent that it accurately predicts something will happen in the future, and it only becomes useful knowledge – a higher level piece of information – if we can do something about it.

(CO) Cuban argues that any misdiagnoses and unnecessary treatment rests with the doctors, and not with patients owning their data. Do you agree?

I think there’s a misunderstanding that diagnosis is some super clear black-white kind of distinction, when in fact there are 1,000 shades of gray in between. The time you get into that gray is when you’re dealing with people who feel fine and have some detectable abnormality. That’s how we get into it in cancer screening. We’re looking for very early signs of disease. There’s going to be great pressure to react to those abnormalities.

It’s not fair to say the pathologists have misdiagnosed. Undoubtedly there is some misdiagnosis, but their standard for what constitutes cancer is the appearance of individual cells, and how they relate to one another – the architecture of the cells. That was a perfectly good standard when you were sending them cancers that you could feel, things the size of golf balls. But when you start sending them microscopic collections of cells, expecting them to make some prediction about the dynamics of that process and how that will interact with the host – that’s you – it’s understandably going to be fraught with uncertainly. It’s all going to be probabilistic.

(CO) Cuban makes a distinction between making a diagnosis, and collecting a series of data points to benchmark yourself.

The more tests you do, and this is only the statistical process, the more likely one of them will be falsely abnormal. And the more times you do it, the more chance that something will be falsely abnormal.

There will be great pressure to take actions and that’s how people will get hurt. It’s going to distract them from the more positive things that they can do now.

It gets down to what health is. What I’m worried about is allowing health to be defined as some set of biometric measurements. … Health is about more than a bunch of physical measurements. It’s about a state of mind and we have to be careful not to undermine that state of mind. Ironically, part of health is not being too focused on it. … Much better for people to develop good relationships, have good friends, be outside, eat well, find things that produce meaning in their lives.

I agree with Dr. Welch:

  1. The more tests you do, the more likely one of them will be falsely abnormal.
  2. Treating people who are well has become a huge market.
  3. Health is about more than biometric measurements.

From what I can tell, not a lot of people agree with Welch. People like to test themselves. As Paul Roberts writes in Impulse Society, we have become so inside ourselves, so self-focused and narcissistic that meticulous analysis of our every cell and secretion, every bit of bile, phlegm, feces, and blood, is all that matters.

But test-chasers are playing into the hands of businesses that are more interested in making money than in making sure people live to a ripe old age with all their faculties. How do they make money? The tests may be free (covered by insurance), but the treatments aren’t. Employers have been a key player in getting people onto the testing treadmill by requiring workers to have annual screenings, penalizing them if they don’t. It’s not because they care about their employees’ health, or at least not only. It’s because insurance companies offer employers plan discounts for getting people into the system. I mean, the more people you can test for cholesterol, the more statins you can sell.

109-Year-Old Alice Sommer: “Only When We Are So Old. Only! We Are Aware Of The Beauty Of Life.”

Here’s a clip from The Lady In Number 6: Music Saved My Life, a 2013 Oscar-winning documentary about Alice Herz Sommer (1903-2014) who, in 2013 was thought to be the world’s oldest pianist. She was also a Holocaust survivor. Here she describes her relationship with music, its beauty, it’s ability to give hope.

“Only when we are so old. Only! We are aware of the beauty of life.”
– Alice Herz Sommer

Beethoven Moonlight Sonata, Valentina Lisitsa:

Beethoven’s Pathetique, Daniel Barenboim: