Monday, July 16, 2012

Real Food Revolution- what YOU need to know and the gov't won't tell you!

My brain is filled to bursting! I can't even believe all that I've learned about nutrition in the week or so! In the Real Food Summit ( I've been attending the last week, as well as personal research and blog reading, I've come across some world-changing ideas. My head is practically on fire. I wish I could hold a press conference-- when you find something that seems so important -- life saving even!-- you just want to share that information with everyone!

I've opted to share just 3 key findings that really made me think. While nutrition information isn't necessarily the cornerstone of this blog, I think good health is a cornerstone of good homemaking and a real food approach is definitely something that June could approve of!

Three Revolutionary ideas:

1) Saturated fat consumption doesn't cause heart disease.
        There are NO studies that actually show a cause and effect between the two. However, one recent study actually shows that there is NO cause and effect link between saturated fat and heart disease! (Siri-Tarino PW, et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Jan. 13, 2010, epub)

2) Red meat, eggs and full fat dairy aren't bad for you-- they are actually GOOD for you.
        There is a caveat here-- it has to be the RIGHT kind of red meat and dairy. And no, I'm not talking about lean cuts or lowfat. I'm talking grass fed. Grass, pasture, you know nature?? Cows, sheep & other grazers are designed to..... graze. By feeding meat & dairy animals corn, soy and other grains, you are basically giving them McDonalds. That's right, grains are junk food for cows!! How can we expect the cows to be healthy (why do you think they need so many darn antibiotics...) and produce quality meats & dairy if we aren't feeding and caring for them as nature designed?

        To get the actual health benefits from eating meat & dairy, the cows must be allowed to eat their natural diet. The pH of a grass fed cow's stomach is substantially different than a grain fed one. The proper pH is necessary for the cow's stomach to convert the grasses to the healthy OMEGA-3 fatty acids we have heard so much about. Some of the known health benefits of omega-3s :

        In a grain fed cow, instead of omega-3's, you get omega-6's. Omega-6's aren't the bad guy here. But they compete with the omega 3's and prevent our bodies from getting the benefits that 3's provide. Historically, humans had a 1:1 ratio of 6's to 3's in their diet. Over the last 140 years or so, that ratio has skewed towards the omega-6's until today where the average ratio consumed is 15.1-16.7 to 1!!  Where are all these extra omega 6's coming from?? Grain fed beef & dairy is a big source! In a grass fed cow, the ratio of 6's to 3's is about 2 or 3:1  but in a grain fed cow, its 18-20:1! Another hidden source of omega-6's is processed vegetable oils. Vegetable oils are entirely (or almost entirely) made up of omega-6 fats with ratios from 5:1 (canola) up to 75:0 (safflower).

       The health benefits from a proper omega-6 to 3 ratio can NOT be emphasized enough. Lowering that ratio (by increasing seafood consumption, grass fed meats & dairy and decreasing consumption of grain fed meats, dairy and processed vegetable oils) is CRITICAL to improving one's health. A decreased ratio (5:1 or less) has been shown to: decrease the risk of breast cancer, suppress the inflammation in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis and decrease incidences of asthma AND a ratio of 4:1 or lower has show to have a 70% decrease in total mortality (Simopoulos AP, Biomed Parmacother, 2002 Oct 56(8): 365-79). That's right 70%. I'll take those odds all day long!!

        Besides the benefits from an omega 3 standpoint, grass fed meat, dairy & eggs are also high in something called CLA- conjugated lineoleic acid. This compound occurs at a 300-500% higher level in grass fed meats & dairy than grain fed.(T.R. Dhiman. 2001. Role of diet on CLA content of milk & meat. Journal of Animal Science. 79) CLA is a potent ANTICARCINOGENIC compound. It's unique properties were first noted in 1979 when mice (coated with a beef extract-weird but true!) were exposed to a strong carcinogen and then produced 20% fewer tumors (than the uncoated ones). This compound was later identified and confirmed as a potent anticarcinogen in study in 1987. Michael Pariza, the scientist who discovered CLA, later remarked that "few anticarcinogens, and certainly no other known fatty acids, are as effective as CLA in inhibiting carcinogenesis in these models" (Ha YL, Grimm NK, Pariza MV. 1987. Carcinogenesis 8(12) 1881-7) So one can conclude that properly raised meats, dairy & eggs can actually help prevent cancer.

        These findings directly contradict a recent study (An Pan, PhD, et al, Red Meat Consumption & Mortality, JAMA, March 12, 2012, epub) that caused quite a stir when the main researchers concluded that there was an increase in mortality due to both cardiovascular disease and cancer from people who ate more red meat. Here's the thing though--all the red meat in question was from conventionally raised grain-fed beef. There was no distinction between a steak and a fast food burger. At the end of the study, even the researchers had this to say:  increased red meat consumption was correlated with a less active lifestyle, more likely to be current smokers, drink alcohol, have a higher BMI. It was also correlated with a greater energy input (calories) but lower intakes of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. So how in the world did they conclude it was the fault of RED MEAT!?!  I think my former high school science students could have done better. Shoot, I think my 5 year old could do better! And this is what they use to scare people away from meat!

3) You don't need to worry about mercury in seafood.
        For the last several years, there has been the concern of mercury (Hg) in seafood. The government has published recommendations that people not consume more than 1 or 2 servings a week. Simultaneously they've also recommended that we increase our omega-3's by eating fatty fish (like salmon). I personally have struggled with this paradox for the last few years. I'm so happy to find out that I really don't need to worry anymore!

       In the past, there were 2 main seafood eating studies published. One showed that an increase in consumption of seafood led to an increase of blood Hg levels and a negative effect on the children born to women in the study. The second showed increased eating of seafood led to no blood Hg and positive effects (health and IQ) on the children born to women in the study.

        The first study is the one that was used to recommend restrictions on seafood/fish consumption. The problem is that it doesn't take into account a second factor--- selenium (Se). Selenium is an element that is naturally occurring in most fish and seafood. Selenium actively binds to mercury. This blocks mercury's negative effects. The strength of this chemical bond is a matter of scientific fact (Look at the wikipedia footnotes for entry- Selenium). It is over 1 million times the strength of the next most attractive element that Hg can bind with (or therefore anything contained in our bodies or cells!).

          So getting back to why the women and children of the first study were so negatively affected by eating seafood and the second group was not - it has to do with the ratio of selenium to mercury. The women of the first study were consuming PILOT WHALE meat (which isn't even a fish, its a mammal) and shark meat. These just happen to be two of the very few seafood species that have a LOWER selenium than mercury ratio. Thus, excess mercury was present causing negative side effects to both women and children! In the second study, the people were eating more conventional fish & seafood. Therefore the Hg, while certainly present, was completely deactivated by its bonding with the natural selenium present in the fish, and the study participants had NO negative Hg side effects and multiple positive effects from eating increased seafood.

        In the works NOW is a study that is measuring the SeHBV (Selenium Health Benefit Value) which is the ratio of selenium (Se) to mercury (Hg) for all the major consumed fish/seafood species of the world. It will be completed in 2013 and hopefully become a part of seafood packaging so that consumers like ourselves can identify which foods will be safe (those with a 1:1 or better Se/Hg ratio) and those that are not (those with less than a 1:1 ratio of Se/Hg).

        A few preliminary studies looking at the Se/Hg ratio of wild caught fish off the Pacific near Hawaii took a fairly large sampling and found all of the fish had positive ratios EXCEPT mako shark & swordfish. And in 97% of the fish tested in the freshwaters of the western U.S. had a Se value HIGHER than the Hg value.  (Energy & Environmental Research Center, University of North Dakota (EERC). EERC Research Finds Mercury Levels in Freshwater and Ocean Fish Not as Harmful as Previously Thought. June 22, 2009)  So, unless you are into eating shark or whale, all of the seafood choices you can make are likely to be completely mercury safe! And eating higher amounts of seafood has been shown to have multiple health benefits for adults and children.

       The key to nutritional revolution is this: we are designed (by God or evolution) to function at optimal health with the resources that occur naturally on Earth. As a species, we are facing a worldwide (certainly countrywide at least) health crisis. Obesity. Type 2 Diabetes. Heart children!! We are poised to have the first generation whose children actually have less longevity than their parents. That alone should tell us that our current approach to health and nutrition is just plain WRONG!! The key to finding out where we went wrong requires us to analyze what we did in the past that was successful-- after all we made it this far as a species, right? So consider what your great, great, grandparents ate. Chances are, if you eat that too, you are likely to be in better health than your peers.
        I encourage anyone who has read this far to do their own research!! I heard some things and thought, "oh, that can't possibly be true". After extensive and varied research into these topics, I'm convinced. But not only the science backs these claims up. If you think about it-- I mean really think about it, you know that what we eat today-- low fat, low nutrient, chemically laden garbage--has little to no resemblance to the diet we ate historically that was so key in keeping our species successful.

What you can do today to dramatically reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease & cancer:
 1) cut out processed foods-- ditch all your foods that have ingredient lists that read more like a chemistry lab than nature.
2) replace conventionally produced meats, dairy and eggs with PASTURED ones.
3) change out processed high omega 6 vegetable oils with low omega 6 pastured butter, lard, tallow or coconut oil.

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