Study Finds Food Additive Causes Symptoms In People With Ulcerative Colitis

Carrageenan is extracted from a type of seaweed called Irish moss, here being harvested in the Philippines.

That food additive is carrageenan. I saw this on Reijo Laatikainen’s Twitter feed:

A Randomized Trial Of The Effects Of The No-Carrageenan Diet On Ulcerative Colitis Disease Activity, Nutrition and Healthy Aging, Online 31 March 2017

BACKGROUND: Carrageenan is a very common food additive in Western diets, but predictably causes inflammation in thousands of cell-based and animal experiments.

OBJECTIVE: To assess the impact of carrageenan exposure on the interval to relapse in patients with ulcerative colitis in remission.

METHODS: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter, clinical trial was conducted to assess if patients with ulcerative colitis in remission would have a longer interval to relapse if they followed a diet with no carrageenan. All participants were instructed in the no-carrageenan diet and were randomized to either placebo capsules or carrageenan-containing capsules. The carrageenan in the capsules was less than the average daily carrageenan intake from the diet.

RESULTS: Twelve patients completed study questionnaires. Three patients who received carrageenan-containing capsules relapsed, and none of the patients who received placebo-containing capsules relapsed. Laboratory tests showed increases in Interleukin-6 and fecal calprotectin between the beginning and the end of study participation in the carrageenan-exposed group, but not in the placebo-group.

CONCLUSION: Carrageenan intake contributed to earlier relapse in patients with ulcerative colitis in remission. Restriction of dietary carrageenan may benefit patients with ulcerative colitis.

Carrageenan is extracted from seaweed and is used as a thickener. It’s in lots of foods: soy milk, yogurt, sauces, and vegan “meats” and “cheeses” for texture. People think because it’s natural that it’s benign. It isn’t. This study just looked at colitis (see below) but carrageenan is thought to contribute to many irritable bowel problems.

From Mayo Clinic:

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes long-lasting inflammation and ulcers (sores) in your digestive tract. Ulcerative colitis affects the innermost lining of your large intestine (colon) and rectum. Symptoms usually develop over time, rather than suddenly.

Some symptoms:

  • Diarrhea, often with blood or pus
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Rectal pain
  • Rectal bleeding — passing small amount of blood with stool
  • Urgency to defecate
  • Inability to defecate despite urgency
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • In children, failure to grow

Another Study Shows That Eating Red And Processed Meats Leads To Premature Death

The increased risks from red and processed meats may be based on their proinflammatory, pro-oxidative, or carcinogenic compounds, such as nitrosamines, iron, or saturated fatty acids. (The World Health Organization classified processed meat as Group 1, “carcinogenic to humans.”)

David sent this new study:

Food Groups And Risk Of All-Cause Mortality: A Systematic Review And Meta-Analysis Of Prospective Studies, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Online 26 April 2017

Objective: The aim of this meta-analysis was to synthesize the knowledge about the relation between intake of 12 major food groups, including whole grains, refined grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, eggs, dairy, fish, red meat, processed meat, and sugar-sweetened beverages, with risk of all-cause mortality.

Results: With increasing intake (for each daily serving) of whole grains (RR: 0.92; 95% CI: 0.89, 0.95), vegetables (RR: 0.96; 95% CI: 0.95, 0.98), fruits (RR: 0.94; 95% CI: 0.92, 0.97), nuts (RR: 0.76; 95% CI: 0.69, 0.84), and fish (RR: 0.93; 95% CI: 0.88, 0.98), the risk of all-cause mortality decreased; higher intake of red meat (RR: 1.10; 95% CI: 1.04, 1.18) and processed meat (RR: 1.23; 95% CI: 1.12, 1.36) was associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality in a linear dose-response meta-analysis. A clear indication of nonlinearity was seen for the relations between vegetables, fruits, nuts, and dairy and all-cause mortality.

Optimal consumption of risk-decreasing foods results in a 56% reduction of all-cause mortality, whereas consumption of risk-increasing foods is associated with a 2-fold increased risk of all-cause mortality.

It concluded:

In conclusion, an optimal intake of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and fish, as well as reduced consumption of red and processed meats and SSBs [sugar-sweetened beverages], can lead to an important decrease—by about 80%—in the relative risk of premature death when compared with intakes always from the highest risk category.

It reinforces the message that eating red or processed meat leads to an earlier death.

But I’ve grown wary of meta-analyses. They are only as good as the studies they include. This one included the PREDIMED study (the famous Mediterranean Diet study), which was awful. I wrote about it here:

That Mediterranean Diet Study From 2013, Why Are People Saying The Opposite?
Is The Mediterranean Diet Really All That?

So, for example, this new meta-analysis found that eating nuts was beneficial. Authors of the PREDIMED study report the following conflicts of interest: California Walnut Commission, International Nut and Dried Fruit Council. That gets buried in a meta-analysis.

While I’m talking about the Mediterranean diet … Everyone keeps saying how great it is. I don’t think it’s so great. PREDIMED, a big, famous, randomized control trial of the Mediterranean diet found:

The Mediterranean diet groups did not reduce risk for heart attack, death from cardiovascular causes, or death from any cause. “Only the comparisons of stroke risk reached statistical significance.”

The Mediterranean diet is full of processed oils, dairy fats, and animal foods. It shows benefit in spite of those ingredients because it also includes more vegetables than an American diet. Or, it did.

“Hunger” Is Big Business

First, let me draw your attention to this slick and expensive website: Feeding America

It has a ton of sponsors. Here are just a few: Monsanto, PepsiCo, Nestle, Walmart, Morgan Stanley, ConAgra, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Del Monte, Dean Foods, Cargill, Tyson, Unilever, Smithfield, Proctor & Gamble, Dannon … and on and on.

These companies are not involved in “feeding America” out of altruism. They get something back, something that feeds their bottom line. It is in their financial interest to maintain a hunger market in this country. I’m not kidding.

Here’s a screen shot from Feeding America:

You know why “hunger” touches every community in the US? Because big corporations have a stake in making it so. And they use photographs like these to keep the argument emotional. It’s despicable.

Also … People who are truly involved in feeding the hungry have grown dependent on these corporations. In a way, they’re dependent upon each other:

Big Hunger: The Unholy Alliance Between Corporate America And Anti-Hunger Groups, Andrew Fisher

Reliant on corporate donations of food and money, anti-hunger organizations have failed to hold business accountable for offshoring jobs, cutting benefits, exploiting workers and rural communities, and resisting wage increases. They have become part of a “hunger industrial complex” that seems as self-perpetuating as the more famous military-industrial complex.

Civil Eats interviewed the book’s author, Andrew Fisher:

To Solve Hunger, First Solve Poverty A new book about the business of hunger argues that food charities’ reliance on corporate donations makes solving hunger impossible.

And Fisher said this, which blew me away:

Steve Holt wrote a two-part series criticizing food banks for being in bed with corporations for Takepart.com extensively quoting me. [Here that is: Are Food Banks Selling Out to Corporate America?]. When the second part of the series didn’t run, I discovered that Feeding America went “ballistic” after reading the first article. They admitted that the critiques were true, but convinced the website to censor the second article.

So, that slick corporate-run website at the top of my post, “Feeding America” censored Holt’s and Fisher’s claims that corporations – like Walmart and Monsanto and Pepsi – are in bed with food pantries.

This next part gets me angry, because almost every time I go to the grocery store anymore, the check-out person asks me if I want to donate to some food bank or other anti-hunger charity. (This has become a thing!) Now, if I do, I’ll be thinking I’m contributing to low wages and worker exploitation:

By failing to organize around wages and jobs, and perpetuating dependency on free food and food stamps, the anti-hunger community contributes to economic insecurity.

Finally, I have to repost this comment that was under the Civil Eats article. It’s by a man, Alan Jennings, who has spent his life tackling inequality:

It is great to see someone shake up the charitable approach to fighting hunger in this wealthy nation of ours. It would be a lengthy piece for me to write a comprehensive response to the points made here in. But I am up to my eyeballs in fighting the battles that need to be fought to effectively address poverty in our midst and can’t spare as much time as would be needed. Unfortunately, when we have limited time we tend to be more strident. So, I’ve run the risk of offending some people and, while some need to be offended, the risk is to lose support for what we do. So, I will apologize up front for any hard feelings I might cause. Here goes.

First, the word “hunger” is an inappropriate term. The reality is that, while far too many people struggle to pay their bills, the incidence of “hunger” is pretty limited in America. By “hunger” I mean the pangs and the bloated belly that come with them.

What we do have is millions of people who, even when they work, simply cannot possibly pay the bills. What those of us who run food banks do is enable people to save money on food, thereby freeing up very limited dollars to pay their rent and other unavoidable expenses.

Hunger is a very charged word, and we need to be more careful with its use.

Second, emergency food assistance is charity. Charity is what society does when there is no justice. Charity is food assistance. Justice is a job that pays the bills. Charity is a homeless shelter. Justice is an affordable apartment that is safe.

Third, many well-meaning people support food pantries and food banks because those programs reinforce the notion that the failure of our marketplace is episodic, temporary and, all too often, the fault of the individual for not keeping their nose to the grindstone. They don’t want to believe that the marketplace doesn’t work as most of us would surmise by the fact that tens of millions of people can’t find shelter from the storm of a marketplace that seems to be getting meaner by the day.

I am grateful to each and every person who reaches out to serve others, regardless of their political views or situation in life. My preference would be helping each and every one of our donors to understand the deeper challenges of our society, its marketplace and the political environment that would have even a single American turning his or her back on their neighbors in need.

We should be working on raising the minimum wage to at least $12 an hour. We should be reducing the only housing subsidy entitlement in America (the mortgage interest deduction) and shift that lost revenue to real housing subsidies for those unable to work and those whose skills have so little value in our marketplace. We should join the rest of the civilized world by establishing a single-payer, universal health insurance entitlement. We should stop educational apartied that locks inequity into our system in favor of ensuring that every kid in America gets access to quality early childhood education and decent K-12 public education.

That, my friends, would enable us to shut down much of the anti-poverty and anti-hunger “industry.” That would be real success.

The organization I run, called the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley in Eastern Pennsylvania, could redirect the funding we use to sustain our Second Harvest Food Bank and our homeless shelter in favor of other programs we operate like those that help people start their own business, buy their own home or accumulate other kinds of critical household resources.

I have tried my best to avoid being publicly critical of some key organizations that do anti-hunger work, including one with which we are closely affiliated. I’m not dumb enough to offend the – pun intended – hand that feeds us. Too many people get paid to keep the system and its inequity in place. That aspect of the status quo should be upended.

Alan L. Jennings, Executive Director
Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley
Bethlehem PA

Here’s some background on Alan Jennings: After Decades Of Fighting For The Poor, Alan Jennings Now In A Fight For Himself. That article was written around June 2015. It included a short video which I’m having trouble embedding, but you can click his photo here and it will take you to it. It’s people like Alan Jennings that restores my faith in humanity.

Study: Exercise Improves Cognitive Function

This was a big meta-analysis, a study of about 39 previous studies. It included only randomized control trials (RCTs):

This study conducted the most comprehensive systematic review of RCTs in adults >50 years of age to date.

Here’s the pdf, no pay wall:

Exercise Interventions For Cognitive Function In Adults Older Than 50: A Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis, British Journal of Sports Medicine, Online 30 March 2017

It found (I know you won’t be surprised):

CONCLUSIONS: This meta-analysis showed that physical exercise interventions are effective at improving the cognitive function of older adults, regardless of baseline cognitive status. Interventions of aerobic, resistance training, multicomponent training and tai chi were similarly effective. The findings suggest that an exercise programme with components of both aerobic and resistance-type training, of at least moderate intensity and at least 45 min per session, on as many days of the week as possible, is beneficial to cognitive function in adults aged >50 years.

Even a bit of tai chi a couple times a week helped, which is good to know, since it gets harder to exercise as we age (says Dr Dean Burnett, lecturer in neuroscience and psychiatry at Cardiff University):

“It could lead to increased pressure for the 50-plus age group to exercise more in order to stay mentally healthy, which is good advice but also overlooks the fact that as we age it’s increasingly difficult to engage in physical activity, as our bodies are simply less capable of it,” he said.

Look how slow she moves. That in itself is a lesson. One more thing, see how she rounds out her lower back, before and after? This is classic lower back “stretch.”

By the way … Also in that BBC article:

As well as staying physically active, Dr David Reynolds, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, said it was equally important to look after our brains by staying mentally active, eating a balanced diet, drinking only in moderation and not smoking.

Honest question … How would you describe a “balanced diet?”

“Alarming Increase” In Prevalence Of Chronic Low Back Pain

Tiger Woods just had back surgery, his 4th:

“The surgery went well, and I’m optimistic this will relieve my back spasms and pain,” Woods said in a statement. “When healed, I look forward to getting back to a normal life, playing with my kids, competing in professional golf and living without the pain I have been battling so long.”

Maybe all that swinging contributed. But it made me wonder how many people suffer back pain. The study below kept coming up in my search. It’s a representative sample from North Carolina:

The Rising Prevalence Of Chronic Low Back Pain, JAMA Archives of Internal Medicine, February 2009

We found an alarming increase in the prevalence of chronic low back pain (LBP) from 1992 to 2006 in North Carolina, which occurred across all demographic subgroups.

The prevalence of chronic, impairing LBP rose significantly over the 14-year interval, from 3.9% in 1992 to 10.2% in 2006.

The proportion of individuals who sought care from a health care provider in the past year increased from 73.1% to 84.0%.

They also say:

Low back pain is the second most common cause of disability in US adults and a common reason for lost work days.

84% of people had enough pain that it sent them to a doctor. How many others had pain but dealt with at home with Advil? And once you’ve had one episode, the chances are really high that you’ll have another. (85% had another in their lifetime.)

These numbers are incredibly high. 84% equates to 10 out of 12 people. Most people you meet in a day have probably dealt with back pain. What do you think is behind it? The authors speculated but I’m curious what you think. (They did say it was not due to the population aging, or to increased reporting.)

If you suffer with back pain, how do you cope?

Modern-Day Hunter-Gatherers, Who Lead Physically Hard Lives, Burn Same Number Of Calories As More Sedentary Populations In US And Europe

Hadza hunter-gatherers spend hundreds of calories a day on activity yet burn the same total number of calories as city dwellers in the U.S. – Kudu Lodge

You think my title is fake, don’t you? It’s not. It’s what science is finding out. It surprises me too!

Herman Pontzer, an anthropologist at Hunter College, says that FitBits and other fitness trackers lie because they don’t take into account:

The Exercise Paradox, Scientific American, February 2017

The best way to track how many calories someone has burned is with the doubly labeled water method. When Pontzer used it on the Hadza, modern-day hunter-gatherers who lead physically hard lives, he found they burned the same calories as sedentary populations:

The Hadza looked like everyone else. Hadza men ate and burned about 2,600 calories a day, Hadza women about 1,900 calories a day — the same as adults in the U.S. or Europe. We looked at the data every way imaginable, accounting for effects of body size, fat percentage, age and sex. No difference.

It’s not just the Hadza:

  • Doubly labeled water studies among traditional farmers in Guatemala, the Gambia and Bolivia showed their energy expenditures were broadly similar to those of city dwellers.
  • Doubly labeled water studies among rural Nigerian women found no difference in energy expenditure between them and African-American women in Chicago, “despite large difference in activity levels.”
  • Data analyzed from 98 studies around the globe showed that populations coddled by the modern conveniences of the developed world have similar energy expenditures to those in less developed countries, with more physically demanding lives.

How is this possible?

How does the body adjust to higher activity levels to keep daily energy expenditure in check? … [One] possibility is that the body makes room for the cost of additional activity by reducing the calories spent on the many unseen tasks that take up most of our daily energy budget: the housekeeping work that our cells and organs do to keep us alive. … For example, exercise often reduces inflammatory activity that the immune system mounts as well as levels of reproductive hormones such as estrogen. In lab animals, increased daily exercise has no effect on daily energy expenditure but instead results in fewer ovulatory cycles and slower tissue repair.

So, we max out at something less than 3000 calories a day, no matter how hard we exercise. And we pay for hard exercise by diverting energy from things like tissue repair. That’s risky business, no?

Of course, exercise it important … for the heart, the brain, the immune system. It’s just not going to whittle away the pounds, not by itself. You must change diet:

If daily energy expenditure has not changed over the course of human history, the primary culprit in the modern obesity pandemic must be the calories consumed.

According to Pontzer, fitness trackers are only weakly related to metabolism.

On average, couch potatoes tended to spend about 200 fewer calories each day than people who were moderately active: the kind of folks who get some exercise during the week and make a point to take the stairs. But more important, energy expenditure plateaued at higher activity levels: people with the most intensely active daily lives burned the same number of calories each day as those with moderately active lives.

In this diagram, the graph on the left is what we assume, but the graph on the right is what has been measured. It’s probably more accurate. Total energy expenditure (TEE) increases with physical activity (PA) only at low activity levels. At higher activity levels, the body adapts by limiting energy spent on “other” (growth, tissue repair, hormone production), keeping TEE constrained:

In Constrained total energy expenditure models, the body adapts to increased physical activity by reducing energy spent on other physiological activity, maintaining total energy expenditure within a narrow range.

Constrained Total Energy Expenditure and Metabolic Adaptation to Physical Activity in Adult Humans, Cell, February 2016

Choline In Meat And Eggs May Play Role In Blood Clotting, Heart Attack Risk

Good food sources of choline are animal foods, especially eggs, poultry, seafood, and beef liver.

Just saw:
Nutrient In Meat And Eggs May Play Role In Blood Clotting, Heart Attack Risk, CBS News, 25 April 2017

Researchers found that when they gave 18 healthy volunteers choline supplements, it boosted their production of a chemical called TMAO.

That, in turn, increased their blood cells’ tendency to clot.

TMAO is short for trimethylamine N-oxide. It’s produced when gut bacteria digest choline and certain other substances.

Past studies have linked higher TMAO levels in the blood to heightened risks of blood clots, heart attack and stroke, said Dr. Stanley Hazen, the senior researcher on the new study.

These findings, he said, give the first direct evidence that choline revs up TMAO production in the human gut, which then makes platelets (a type of blood cell) more prone to sticking together.

Choline is found in a range of foods, but it’s most concentrated in animal products such as egg yolks, beef and chicken.

The amount of choline in 2 or 3 eggs (450 mg) increased their TMAO 10-fold in just a month.

Here’s the study:

Gut Microbe-Generated Trimethylamine N-Oxide From Dietary Choline Is Prothrombotic in Subjects, Circulation, 25 April 2017

Choline has three methyl groups attached to a nitrogen, so it provides the trimethylamine part of TMAO. According to Wikipedia, all you have to do is oxidize that trimethlyamine to create TMAO. That oxidation takes place in the liver. Carnitine in the diet can also provide that trimethylamine structure, but this study just looked at choline.

Choline is also found in plants, like broccoli, cauliflower, and other cruciferous vegetables; and in beans and whole grains. But plant sources contain much lesser amounts than animal sources.

There are several variables here: the ingestion of choline (or some other TMAO precursor like carnitine), the action of colonic bacteria, oxidation of TMA in the liver, and systemic action of TMAO. You can affect what’s going on by changing any of these variables. Not eating foods high in choline would reduce TMAO. But you also need a certain gut microbiome, a particular set of organisms that can metabolize choline. Vegan diets select against that set of organisms.

Organic? I Think It’s Better To Fix Conventional

Dr. Greger’s videos and writings subtly and sometimes not so subtly encourage people to eat organic:

What Are the Benefits of Organic?, Nutrition Facts, 25 April, 2017

Two questions:

  1. The USDA says that only about 1-2% of farmland is organic. Organic food is also more expensive. What do people eat who can’t access organic food? Is organic food just for the privileged?
  2. Just how organic is organic anyway?

I’ve said a lot about this over the years. I don’t think it’s a good idea to spend money and manpower maintaining two standards. It’s better to fix conventional agriculture. It wouldn’t be perfect but it would benefit more people. It wouldn’t create one class of food for the wealthy and another for everyone else.

I’ve also posted about the problems with organic, e.g. using manure from factory farms, manure that contains heavy metals, pesticides, and drugs; allowing synthetic, and unhealthy non-synthetic chemicals. The FDA was planning on testing food for glyphosate but put that project on hold last November.

“Organic” has become a marketing term, a sought-after label that allows producers to charge more for food that may not live up to consumers’ expectations. That will only act to erode the standard over time, which is already happening. You’ve got a problem when organic eggs can have over 3 times the EPA limit for glyphosate.