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Why Do Plant-Based Diets Help Rheumatoid Arthritis?

This is a video from Dr. Greger from about 5 years ago. His argument is biologically plausible and it’s something I learned in school, “molecular mimicry.” Mimicry is thought also to contribute to type 1 diabetes or what used to be called juvenile diabetes (a cow-milk protein). Seeing it again made me wonder if, since the coronavirus fits so well into a receptor on our cells (the ACE2 receptor), is it possible that it has a protein that our body would have a hard time distinguishing from self? Causing an autoimmune response against some specific organ or tissue? This may be far-fetched. But.

I’m not at all saying that eating a vegan diet has any impact on getting, suffering from, or dying of COVID-19. I’m just talking about mimicry.

Anyway, here’s Greger on rheumatoid arthritis, a disease that vegan diets do apparently have an impact on:

Transcript:

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic systemic autoimmune disease affecting millions, characterized by persistent pain and stiffness, and progressive joint destruction—particularly in the hands and feet, leading to crippling deformities. What can we do to prevent it and treat it?

In a famous 13-month long randomized controlled trial of plant-based diets for rheumatoid arthritis, patients were put on a vegan diet for three and a half months, and then switched to an egg-free lactovegetarian diet for the remainder of the study. Compared to the control group, who didn’t change their diet at all, the plant-based group had a significant improvement in morning stiffness within the first month, cutting the number of hours they suffered from joint stiffness in half. Pain dropped from five out of ten down to less than three out of ten. A drop in disability; they reported subjectively feeling better, significant improvement in their grip strength, fewer tender joints, less tenderness per joint, and less swelling, with the added benefit of losing about 13 pounds and keeping most of that weight off throughout the year. They also had a drop in inflammatory markers in their blood, sed rate, C-reactive protein, and white count. The question is why. What does diet have to do with inflammatory joint disease?

Well, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which your body attacks the lining of your own joints. Why would it do that? Well, there’s a different autoimmune disease called rheumatic fever, in which your body attacks your own heart. Again, why would your body do that? It appears to be a matter of friendly fire.

Rheumatic fever is caused by strep throat, which is caused by a bacteria that has a protein that looks an awful lot like a protein in our heart. So when our immune system attacks the strep bacteria, it also attacks our heart valves, triggering an autoimmune attack by “molecular mimicry.” The protein on the strep bacteria is mimicking a protein in our heart, so our body gets confused and attacks both. That’s why it’s critical to treat strep throat early to prevent our heart from getting caught in the crossfire.

So researchers thought maybe rheumatoid arthritis might be triggered by an infection as well. A clue to where to start looking was the fact that women seem to get rheumatoid arthritis three times more frequently than men. What type of infection do women get more than men? Urinary tract infections, so researchers started testing the urine of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers, and lo and behold found this bacteria called Proteus mirabilis. Not enough to cause symptoms of a UTI, but enough to trigger an immune response. And indeed, there’s a molecule in the bacteria that looks an awful lot like one of our own molecules in our joints, so anti-Proteus antibodies against the bacteria may inadvertently damage our own joint tissues, leading eventually to the joint destruction. Therefore, therapeutic interventions aimed at the removal of this bacteria from the bodies of patients, with consequent reduction of antibodies against the organism, should lead to a decrease in inflammation.

Well, as we saw before, urinary tract infections originate from the fecal flora; the bugs crawl up from the rectum into the bladder. And so, how might one change the bugs in one’s colon? By changing our diet. Some of the first studies over 20 years ago on trying to fundamentally shift people’s gut flora were done using raw vegan diets, figuring that’s about as fundamental a shift from the standard Western diet as there is. And indeed, within days one could significantly change someone’s gut flora. And you put rheumatoid arthritis sufferers on that kind of diet, and they experienced relief, and the greater improvements were linked to greater changes in their gut flora. But the diet was considered so intolerable that half the patients couldn’t take it and dropped out–perhaps because they were trying to feed people things like buckwheat-beetroot cutlets buttered with a spread made out of almonds and fermented cucumber juice.

Thankfully, regular vegetarian and vegan diets work too, changing the intestinal flora and improving rheumatoid arthritis, but we didn’t specifically have confirmation that plant-based diets brought down anti-Proteus antibodies, until now. Those who responded to the plant-based diet showed a significant drop in anti-Proteus mirabilis antibodies compared to the control group. Maybe it just dropped immune responses across the board? No, antibody levels against other bugs remained the same, so the assumption is that the veg diet reduced urinary or gut levels of the bug.

A shift from an omnivorous to a vegetarian diet has a profound influence on the composition of the urine–for example, higher levels of lignans in the urine of those eating vegetarian. Up until now, it was just thought that lignans protected people eating more plant-based from getting cancer, but now we know lignans can also have antimicrobial properties as well, so may be helping to clear Proteus from the system. Either way, this suggests a new type of therapy for the management of rheumatoid arthritis. This new treatment includes anti-Proteus measures such as dietary manipulations in the forms of vegetarian diet.

Water: The Quality Is Going Down, The Price Is Going Up, And Millions In The US Are Going Without

Photo source: A great article written by Daniel Moss about this topic on Ensia.com

I learned several things from this article (and 2 others I cited):
Revealed: Millions Of Americans Can’t Afford Water As Bills Rise 80% In A Decade, The Guardian, 23 June 2020

Here are 4 of them:

1. Upwards of 15 million people, or one in 20 homes, had their water shut off in 2016. It’s even more today since the cost of water has gone up considerably since then.

As many as one in 20 homes are disconnected for unpaid bills annually, according to the only national study. No one knows how many eventually catch up on payments or have to learn to survive without water to flush the toilet, shower and cook.

Here in Philly…

In Philadelphia, advocates working in a predominantly low income black and brown neighbourhood in 2014 came across people who’d been without running water for decades – forced to use plastic bags for the toilet and bottled water to wash their hands. “It was widespread, and clearly a human rights issue.”

You would think that during a pandemic when people are being told to wash their hands frequently, that the government would intervene. Nope.

Nationwide, nobody knows how many Americans were without water at the start of the pandemic – nor how many were disconnected during. What is known is that financial aid to help families and utilities keep taps running was excluded from federal rescue packages.

2. The quality of water – everyone’s water – is going down and the price is going up, dramatically.

Nationwide, the rising cost of water has significantly outstripped the consumer price index over the past decade.

The reason? Federal neglect.

Federal funding for water systems has fallen by 77% in real terms since its peak in 1977 – leaving local utilities to raise the money that is needed to upgrade infrastructure, comply with safety standards for toxic contaminants like PFAS, lead and algae blooms, and adapt to extreme weather conditions like drought and floods linked to global heating.

High-cost low-quality water is a national issue… the federal government is clearly not playing the role it needs to play,” said Howard Neukrug, director of the water centre at the University of Pennsylvania and former head of Philadelphia’s water department.

“The bottom line is that assuming there’s no federal helicopter with $1tn, rates are going to go up dramatically to pay for infrastructure and quality issues,” he added.

3. Unbelievably, water, a basic human necessity, is becoming just another commodity to be bought and sold in the pursuit of wealth.

“Water should never be treated as commodity or a luxury for the benefit of the wealthy,” said water justice advocate Mary Grant from Food and Water Watch, reacting to the Guardian’s research.

The US is the only country in the industrialized world without a regulatory system – like Ofwat in the UK – responsible for monitoring rates and performance, according to Stephen Gasteyer, professor of sociology at Michigan State University. He said: “Water rates have gone up dramatically – mostly in places where people are also struggling with food, housing and other basic services. It’s a symptom of the inequalities and segregation problems we have in the US, where poor people are agglomerated in particular places and local governments are shouldered with the responsibility for raising revenue for services.”

There are federal programmes to help low income households afford energy and telecoms bills, but nothing for water.

4. The United States is allowing people to go without, not just clean water, but ANY water, even though access to clean drinking water was declared a human right by the United Nations in 2010.

On 28 July 2010, through Resolution 64/292, the United Nations General Assembly explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realisation of all human rights. The Resolution calls upon States and international organisations to provide financial resources, help capacity-building and technology transfer to help countries, in particular developing countries, to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all.

What is happening to us?

COVID-19: We Really Have Given Up

And the rest of the world feels sorry for us.

In Countries Keeping The Coronavirus At Bay, Experts Watch U.S. Case Numbers With Alarm, Washington Post, 19 June 2020

US population: 328 million
EU population: 446 million

As coronavirus cases surge in the U.S. South and West, health experts in countries with falling case numbers are watching with a growing sense of alarm and disbelief, with many wondering why virus-stricken U.S. states continue to reopen and why the advice of scientists is often ignored.

“It really does feel like the U.S. has given up,” said Siouxsie Wiles, an infectious-diseases specialist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand — a country that has confirmed only three new cases over the past three weeks and where citizens have now largely returned to their pre-coronavirus routines.

“I can’t imagine what it must be like having to go to work knowing it’s unsafe,” Wiles said of the U.S.-wide economic reopening. “It’s hard to see how this ends. There are just going to be more and more people infected, and more and more deaths. It’s heartbreaking.”

Meanwhile, President Trump maintains that the United States will not shut down a second time, although a surge in cases has persuaded governors in some states, including Arizona, to back off their opposition to mandatory face coverings in public.

Commentators and experts in Europe, where cases have continued to decline, voiced concerns over the state of the U.S. response. A headline on the website of Germany’s public broadcaster read: “Has the U.S. given up its fight against coronavirus?” Switzerland’s conservative Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper concluded, “U.S. increasingly accepts rising covid-19 numbers.”

“The only thing one can say with certainty: There’s nothing surprising about this development,” a journalist wrote in the paper, referring to crowded U.S. beaches and pools during Memorial Day weekend in May.

Meanwhile, several U.S. states have reopened despite rising case numbers.

“I don’t understand that logic,” said Reinhard Busse, a health-care management professor at the Technical University of Berlin.

Lauterbach said that even though most Germans disapproved of Trump before the pandemic, even his staunchest critics in Germany were surprised by how even respected U.S. institutions, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, struggled to respond to the crisis.

The CDC, for instance, initially botched the rollout of test kits in the early stages of the outbreak.

“Like many other aspects of our country, the CDC’s ability to function well is being severely handicapped by the interference coming from the White House,” said Harvard epidemiologist Lipsitch. “All of us in public health very much hope that this is not a permanent condition of the CDC.”

Some observers fear the damage will be difficult to reverse. “I’ve always thought of the CDC as a reliable and trusted source of information,” said Wiles, the New Zealand specialist. “Not anymore.”

Remember, the CDC and the Surgeon General told us NOT to wear masks early on (changing their mind in April), saying masks were ineffective against reducing transmission and that they could, in fact, increase our risk of getting it because we didn’t know how to wear one.

Two things to add:

1. A study showed that 66% of people who tested positive for COVID but were asymptomatic had lung damage.
2. Antibody immunity may only last 2 or 3 months (which makes “immunity passports and possibly vaccines useless).

I feel sorry for us too.

Kenny Walton’s Hand-Blown Glass

Kenny Walton, Fine Hand-Blown Glass

I really like his work. Here’s a screen grab from his store. There are more there.

Kenneth (Kenny) Ray Walton, born July 22, 1947 in Galion, Ohio, died December 31, 2019, in rural Avoca, Nebraska. Kenny grew up on a rural truck farm in Edison, Ohio. He graduated from Mt. Gilead High School in 1965. Kenny was drafted into the US Army in 1966 and served in the infantry and as a radio repairman in Viet Nam from 1967 to 1968, when he was honorably discharged. Kenny used his GI benefits for education at the Department of Art at Ohio State University 1970-76, and worked in the ceramics and glass areas, joining in at the beginnings of the Studio Glass Movement. He taught stained glass at art centers in Columbus, Ohio, blew glass at Columbus College of Art & Design from 1978-85, and worked with developmentally disabled adults for Franklin County and the State Institute for 10 years. Kenny moved to Nebraska in 1985 to build his own glass studio and develop his art business. Through 1990 to 2007, Kenny exhibited his hand-blown glass at the highest level of juried arts and craft fairs around the country and region, winning many awards. He had solo exhibitions of his glass in Nagoya, Japan, Ohio Craft Museum, and the Haydon Art Center in Lincoln. He received two Nebraska Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowships in 1994 & 1995, and a Mid-America Arts Alliance/National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1995. He lectured on his glass in Finland, Poland, Hawaii and throughout the Midwest.

He was drafted and went to Vietnam. It was a difficult time in this country, especially for young men who were forced to fight in a war they didn’t believe in. Many came home maimed. Kenny Walton came home and went to art school and created. I try to imagine what goes on in a mind that can produce such beauty.

The draft continued until 1973, “in January 1973 Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird announced that no further draft orders would be issued,” although men still had to register within 30 days of their 18th birthday. Do you think the draft will ever be reinstated? Should it be?

Thanks to Virginia.

Egg-Based Coating Being Studied For Use On Fresh Fruits And Vegetables

Egg-based Coating Preserves Fresh Produce, Eurekalert, 4 June 2020

The coating is all-natural and washes off with water.

If anyone is sensitive to the coating or has an egg allergy, they can easily eliminate it.

“If anyone is sensitive to the coating” it can be washed off. How cavalier!

Vegans are sensitive to the coating for reasons other than health or allergies or taste. Can the inhumane treatment of hens that produced those eggs be washed off? Can the industrialized farming of animals that is depleting our resources and damaging our environment be washed off? The act of rejecting eggs and other animal products is rooted in reducing support for these practices.

If there are “lots of eggs wasted,” one answer is to reduce that waste in the first place. You can do that by producing fewer eggs.

Ageism In The US: 42% Of All COVID-19 Deaths Have Taken Place In Nursing Homes

I just posted on the falsehood being perpetuated that older adults (they were referred to as “the elderly” which is a demeaning and ageist term) have the highest risk for vitamin D deficiency when the truth is that they have the lowest risk. It is just a small example of the prejudice older adults face. But a larger example? Prejudice, discrimination, marginalization, and apathy towards older adults in this country have led to disproportionately higher death rates from COVID-19 in long-term care homes.

No one should refer to COVID-19 as the Chinese flu or the Wuhan virus; however, it may be fitting to call it the Nursing Home Virus, at least in the US.

The Most Important Coronavirus Statistic: 42% Of U.S. Deaths Are From 0.6% Of The Population, Forbes, 26 May 2020

2.1 million Americans, representing 0.62% of the U.S. population, reside in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

As of May 22, in the 43 states that currently report such figures, an astounding 42% of all COVID-19 deaths have taken place in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

And 42% could be an undercount. States like New York exclude from their nursing home death tallies those who die in a hospital, even if they were originally infected in a long-term care facility. Outside of New York, more than half of all deaths from COVID-19 are of residents in long-term care facilities.

As you can see from the map, care homes account for:

81% of COVID-19 deaths in Minnesota
70% of COVID-19 deaths in Ohio
69% of COVID-19 deaths in Pennsylvania

This doesn’t have to happen. In Japan, where there is widespread respect for older adults and a sense of obligation to care for them, less than 10%, or “about 60 of Japan’s 624 coronavirus-related deaths as of May 10 were in care homes.”