How Can Everyone Eat 5 Servings Of Fruits And Vegetables If US Farmland Doesn’t Grow Enough?

I just finished saying we need to stop blaming people, individuals, for not eating better when their food environment doesn’t cooperate. Yesterday’s article in the Guardian backs me up:

Only One In 10 Americans Eat Enough Fruits And Vegetables, CDC Study Finds, The Guardian, 17 November 2017

Only 12% meet the daily fruit recommendation and 9% the vegetable recommendation, and people living in poverty have especially low rates.

Improving these rates is particularly challenging because just 2% of US farmland is devoted to growing fruits and vegetables, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Sarah Reinhardt, a nutritionist and food systems analyst at USC, said farmers would need to grow almost twice as much produce just for Americans to get the recommended amount of servings.

“The food industry is not exactly working with public health on this, there’s a multimillion-dollar industry working to get people to eat [processed foods],” Reinhardt said.

I have been saying this for years. I won’t stop saying it. If fruits and vegetables are not sold in your local grocer, or you cannot afford them, or you have no way of getting them home, or you have nowhere to store them, or you don’t cook anymore because of mental or physical limitations, then you won’t be eating many fruits and vegetables. We have to change the food landscape. People who blame individuals are just being elitist.

If You Develop Asthma From Breathing Polluted Air, Is It Your Fault?

India is experiencing some of the worst air pollution in the world right now.

Delhi doctors declare pollution emergency as smog chokes city, The Guardian, 7 November 2017

A 2015 study showed about half the Indian capital’s 4.4 million schoolchildren had compromised lung capacity and would never totally recover.

We don’t blame people for getting sick from breathing polluted air, but we blame them for getting sick from eating junk food. They make bad choices, we say. Right? No, I don’t see the difference between these two. In both, people are living in toxic environments. Just as air pollution is a public health emergency, so food pollution is a public health emergency.

It’s easy to see the link between air pollution and disease, less so the link between our food environment and disease. But everywhere (as with polluted air) there is junk food, food we are better off not eating – at schools, malls, restaurants, grocery stores, bodegas, street vendors, cafeterias, nursing homes. Marketing is so effective you almost cannot make it through a day without exposure to advertisements that exhort us to eat this stuff. There is peer pressure, family pressure, work pressure, social pressure. If there’s a function, there’s a cake. Am I right?

Look at this:

[Research published online July 2, 2012] by the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, found that people who consume fast food even once a week increase their risk of dying from coronary heart disease by 20 percent in comparison to people who avoid fast food. For people eating fast food two-three times each week, the risk increases by 50 percent, and the risk climbs to nearly 80 percent for people who consume fast food items four or more times each week.

Once a week! People call this moderation and say it has no health impact.

We are products of our environment. Some will have the choice to move away (literally and figuratively) from a toxic environment. Some won’t. The job of public health workers is to make the default choice the healthiest choice.

What Causes “Hard-To-Cook” Defect In Beans?

My split peas from this morning, after 2.5 hours. It was touch and go for a while but they finally broke down.

I have a hunch about what causes hard-to-cook defect in beans. What is that? Harold McGee, in his book, “Keys to Good Cooking” said:

Old seeds take longer to cook. If stored in hot and humid conditions, they develop the “hard-to-cook defect” and become impossible to soften.

Sometimes dried legumes never fully soften no matter how they’re cooked. This hard-to-cook defect develops when they’ve been grown in unusually hot and dry conditions, or stored for months in warm and humid conditions. There’s no remedy except to find a more reliable brand.

I realized this myself through trial and error. Several years ago I tried to make split pea soup. Several batches of split peas, purchased locally and online, failed to cook up into anything other than pebbles in water. The peas remained as hard and intact as when I began. I tried soaking (once for 24 hours), boiling for up to 7 hours, using/not using salt and baking soda, using different water sources. I even tried to salvage a pot of cooked peas by whizzing them with an immersion blender. It produced hard flakes in water, still not very edible.

I think when beans begin to germinate, they produce enzymes that protect the budding bean, that make it less likely to leak the starch that the bean will need to grow. So, anything that could initiate the germination process – exposure to warmth and humidity, soaking (yes, soaking!) – may produce hard-to-cook defect. That’s my hunch. I had some white beans (Great Northern) soften more easily when I didn’t soak them than when I soaked them overnight. Soaking lentils makes them harder to cook as well. I have nothing to back me up here; I haven’t even Googled it yet. Just putting it out there.

Intermittent Fasting Has Risks, Including Heart Damage And Muscle Loss

I’ve been researching the trend of intermittent fasting. I went into it with optimism, given the stories in the media and the devotion of some in the life-extension crowd. All was not fab. This study found that alternate day fasting (ADF) damages the heart muscle – decreases its size, decreases pump function, makes it “stiff”:

Chronic Alternate Day Fasting Results in Reduced Diastolic Compliance and Diminished Systolic Reserve in Rats, Journal of Cardiac Failure, October 2010

The six-month long alternate day fasting (ADF) diet resulted in a 9% reduction (p<0.01) of cardiomyocyte diameter and 3 fold increase in interstitial myocardial fibrosis. … Left atrial diameter was increased 16%, and the E/A in Doppler-measured mitral flow was reduced (p<0.01). Pressure-volume loop analyses revealed a “stiff” heart during diastole in ADF rats, while combined dobutamine and volume loading showed a significant reduction in LV diastolic compliance and a lack of increase in systolic pump function, indicating a diminished cardiac reserve.

Conclusion: Chronic ADF in rats results in development of diastolic dysfunction with diminished cardiac reserve. ADF is a novel and unique experimental model of diet-induced diastolic dysfunction. The deleterious effect of ADF in rats suggests that additional studies of ADF effects on cardiovascular functions in humans are warranted.

There are a few other things that go on which make this particular method of weight loss ill-advised for an older person or for someone who has diabetes, heart disease, dementia, or other chronic condition.

Raises Blood Glucose
When you eat, the body secretes insulin, an anabolic or building/storage hormone which enhances uptake of glucose into cells. Insulin lowers blood glucose. When you don’t eat, the body secretes insulin’s complement, glucagon, a catabolic or break-down hormone which releases glucose from cells. Glucagon increases blood glucose. For people with diabetes or insulin resistance, that increase in blood glucose while fasting is a problem, because levels can stay elevated. High blood glucose damages tissue, especially the small blood vessels in the eye and kidney. (If you’re testing: over 100 mg/dl designates prediabetes, over 126 mg/dl designates diabetes.)

Muscle Loss
When you fast, your body depletes its stores of carbohydrate for energy and burns more fat. But it also burns more protein, leading to muscle loss over time. I don’t know if this contributed to the heart damage in the study above, but you would expect heart muscle to be sacrificed during a fast.

Lowers Metabolism
When your body starts burning protein for energy, it enters a conservation mode which lowers metabolism. A lower metabolism can thwart weight loss in the long term. It can also make exercising difficult.

Strain on Kidneys
As your body breaks down protein for energy, it releases protein’s nitrogen which is removed from the body as urea via the kidney. In a healthy person, the kidney can keep up. Not so in an older person, or one with diabetes or kidney disease.

Many people lose their appetite as they age, whether from chronic disease, medication, depression, dementia or other mental health disorders. It becomes difficult to provide enough food and nutrients when meal times are restricted. Older people also experience problems with dentition, digestion, absorption, metabolism, and dehydration, any of which can compromise nutrition. For example, even people in their 50s can have decreased vitamin B12 status because of decreased absorption.

Given these risks, I think fasting is best left to the overnight period.

$85 For 5 Pounds Of Frozen Blueberries Delivered To Your Door

Here are some frozen blueberries, from Josh Pond, that cost $85 for 5 pounds, includes shipping:

They are being promoted by Oprah as part of her Holiday Favorite Things list:

My new definition of everyday luxury: a five-pound box of organic wild blueberries frozen within 24 hours of harvest from Josh Pond Farm in Maine. Add them to yogurt, pancakes, or salads, or turn them into sorbet, because (1) wild blueberries are sky-high in antioxidants and (2) they’re zero Weight Watchers points!
– Oprah

Who pays $17/pound to have blueberries delivered? Even upscale, organic, wild, frozen blueberries sold in grocery stores don’t cost this much. Where does their value come from? I’ve written about it. “Organic, wild, antioxidant-rich” have almost become brands, and status symbols at that. They are the new Veblen good:

Veblen goods are types of luxury goods for which the quantity demanded increases as the price increases, an apparent contradiction of the law of demand. Consumers actually prefer more of the good as its price rises, and the result is an upward sloping demand curve. For example, in the 1990s when “fashion” jeans became popular, one retailer found that he could sell more when he raised the price. Also functioning as positional goods, they include expensive wines, jewelry, fashion-designer handbags, and luxury cars which are in demand because of, rather than in spite of, the high prices asked for them. This makes them desirable as status symbols in the practices of conspicuous consumption and conspicuous leisure.

3/4 Cup Tomato Sauce Has Remarkable Effect On The Prostate

“Thirty-two patients with localized prostate [cancer]” were given three-quarters of a cup of canned tomato sauce every day “for 3 weeks…before their scheduled radical prostatectomy.” In their bloodstream, PSA levels dropped “by 17.5%.” … Also, free radical damage of the DNA in their white blood cells dropped by 21%.
Tomato Sauce Vs. Prostate Cancer

Study: Tomato Sauce Supplementation and Prostate Cancer: Lycopene Accumulation and Modulation of Biomarkers of Carcinogenesis, Experimental Biology and Medicine, 2002

Study: A Type Of Sugar In Beans (And Other Plants) Improves Immune Response

Eat beans.

In this study from the UK, galactooligosaccharides (GOSs) were found to improve the make-up of gut bacteria, improve immune response, and decrease inflammation:

Modulation Of The Fecal Microflora Profile And Immune Function By A Novel Trans-galactooligosaccharide Mixture (B-GOS) In Healthy Elderly Volunteers, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, November 2008

Background: Aging is associated with reduced numbers of beneficial colonic bifidobacteria and impaired immunity. Galactooligosaccharides (GOSs) stimulate the growth of bifidobacteria in younger adults, but little is known about their effects in the elderly and their immunomodulatory capacity.

Objective: We assessed the effect of a prebiotic GOS mixture (B-GOS) on immune function and fecal microflora composition in healthy elderly subjects.

Design: In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study, 44 elderly subjects were randomly assigned to receive either a placebo or the B-GOS treatment (5.5 g/d). Subjects consumed the treatments for 10 wk, and then went through a 4-wk washout period, before switching to the other treatment for the final 10 wk. Blood and fecal samples were collected at the beginning, middle (5 wk), and end of the test period. Predominant bacterial groups were quantified, and phagocytosis, natural killer (NK) cell activity, cytokine production, plasma cholesterol, and HDL cholesterol were measured.

Results: B-GOS significantly increased the numbers of beneficial bacteria, especially bifidobacteria, at the expense of less beneficial groups compared with the baseline and placebo. Significant increases in phagocytosis, NK cell activity, and the production of antiinflammatory cytokine interleukin-10 (IL-10) and significant reduction in the production of proinflammatory cytokines (IL-6, IL-1β, and tumor necrosis factor-α) were also observed. B-GOS exerted no effects on total cholesterol or HDL-cholesterol production, however.

Conclusions: B-GOS administration to healthy elderly persons resulted in positive effects on both the microflora composition and the immune response. Therefore, B-GOS may be a useful dietary candidate for the enhancement of gastrointestinal health and immune function in elderly persons.

Again, they used a galactooligosaccharide (GOS) supplement (see study in last post). I don’t know if you have to take this pill to get this benefit. But GOSs are found in foods all over the plant kingdom, especially in beans. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the reason studies like this get done is because they provide support and documentation for the marketing of a pill.

There was a lot of good reading in this study. Some bits:

  • “The intestinal microflora can be considered as an organ composed of a large diversity of bacterial cells that can perform different functions for the host.”
  • “The composition of the elderly intestinal microflora differs from that of younger adults.”
  • “The aging process also leads to a marked decline in immune function (immunosenescence), which can promote hyporesponsiveness to vaccination and a predisposition to infectious and noninfectious diseases.”
  • “Age-related changes in GIT [gastrointestinal tract] physiology and function, such as greater permeability of mucosal membrane, reduced transit times, and secretion of acids by the gastric mucosa, result in a significant change in the composition of the intestinal microflora, marked by a decline in bifidobacterial numbers and an increase in putatively detrimental populations such as clostridia and enterobacteria. These bacteriologic and other physiologic changes may result in increased putrefaction in the colon and greater susceptibility to disease.” Transit time is important. Don’t let things putrefy.
  • This appears to be a mechanism for how beneficial bacteria boost immunity: “Probiotic bacteria, such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, were shown in vivo to interact with mouse epithelial cells of the small intestine and be internalized with the use of distinct pathways into the epithelial cells of the large intestine by the follicle-associated epithelium cells (32). They make contact with underlying immune tissues, and, through these interactions, they were suggested to bring about strain-specific immunomodulation (33), such as differentially induced cytokine production by macrophages in a concentration-dependent manner.” … “Some prebiotics are also reported to bind to specific receptors on cells of the immune system, suggesting that a direct interaction between prebiotics and the host is feasible.”
  • “Probiotics were also shown to regulate the balance between necessary and excessive immune response.” So, beneficial bacteria balance pro- and anti-inflammatory responses.

The Longer We Eat Beans, The Less Gas We Produce?

People adapt to eating a diet high in beans, legumes, cruciferous vegetables, and other gas-producing foods. How? This recent study out of Spain shed some light:

Metabolic Adaptation Of Colonic Microbiota To Galactooligosaccharides: A Proof-Of-Concept-Study, Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, March 2017

BACKGROUND: Prebiotics have been shown to reduce abdominal symptoms in patients with functional gut disorders, despite that they are fermented by colonic bacteria and may induce gas-related symptoms.

METHODS: Healthy subjects (n = 20) were given a prebiotic (2.8 g/day HOST-G904, a galactooligosaccharide supplement) for 3 weeks. During 3-day periods immediately before, at the beginning and at the end of the administration subjects were put on a standard diet (low fibre diet supplemented with one portion of high fibre foods) and the following outcomes were measured: (i) number of daytime gas evacuations for 2 days by means of an event marker; (ii) volume of gas evacuated via a rectal tube during 4 h after a test meal; and (iii) microbiota composition by faecal Illumina MiSeq sequencing.

RESULTS: At the beginning of administration, HOST-G904 significantly increased the number of daily anal gas evacuations (18 ± 2 vs. 12 ± 1 pre-administration; P < 0.001) and the volume of gas evacuated after the test meal (236 ± 23 mL vs. 160 ± 17 mL pre-administration; P = 0.006). However, after 3 weeks of administration, these effects diminished (11 ± 2 daily evacuations, 169 ± 23 mL gas evacuation). At day 21, relative abundance of butyrate producers (Lachnospiraceae) correlated inversely with the volume of gas evacuated (r = -0.52; P = 0.02).

CONCLUSION:The availability of substrates induces an adaptation of the colonic microbiota activity in bacterial metabolism, which produces less gas and associated issues.

They used a rectal tube to measure volume of gas produced. And participants had a clicker to count gas events during the day. These were very motivated participants!

After 3 weeks of taking a supplement containing galactooligosaccharides* (GOS, a type of sugar found in foods all over the plant kingdom, not least of which are beans) these participants produced less gas and had less intestinal discomfort than when they started. The reason?

A decrease in anal gas evacuation after adaptation, that is, a decrease in net gas production, could be related to the proliferation of microorganisms using non-fermentative pathways to metabolise the substrates with less gas production and/or to the up-regulation of the gas-consuming activity.

Indeed, reduced gas production was related to the proliferation of methanogens that use H2 to reduce CO2 to CH4, reducing the volume of gas by 1:5.39 Conversely, individuals with low counts of methanogens and of some specific organic acid producers exhibited a poor adaptation at the end of the administration period.

What I get from this … Either we grow a population of bacteria that don’t produce as much gas, or that produce more methane gas instead of carbon dioxide gas (methane has less volume), or our bodies become more efficient at absorbing the gas from our intestines and we exhale it off, or a combination of these.

The charts in this study are something else. Just about every measurement returned to normal and even better-than-normal after 3 weeks of GOS administration: flatulence, distension, bloating, gut comfort, mood. Here’s one on gas production:

Here’s the thing… they took the supplement every day, which encouraged reconfiguring of gut flora. In the real world, people might not eat beans or other gas-producing foods every day. Some people avoid them as much as they can. So, when they do eat them, they have no adaptation to fall back on. They are like the people in this study at the beginning, always at the beginning.

* The GOS supplement used in this study came from lactose, a disaccharide made of glucose and galactose, found in milk. It has a beta, not alpha, linkage so Beano probably wouldn’t work on it. But it still fed colonic bacteria, as shown by gas production. This is a good place for me to say that you can get GOS from food, you don’t have to take a supplement. But then, biotech companies like HOST Therabiomics wouldn’t make money.