Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Have a Cup of Joe, or Not

I wish I had clear and unambiguous advice for you when it comes to coffee.

As you will see, the data are mixed. After reviewing the following articles, you may get a sense that it is likely OK (I do,) if not abused. Coffee reminds me of alcohol. By now you must have been living on the Moon if you have not heard that alcohol is OK in moderation, that is, less than 12 oz of wine, 8 oz. of beer, and 2 oz. of hard liquor a day. Even elderly people may safely follow these recommendations (J. American Geriatric Society 2007;55:49.) In fact, consumed in moderation, alcohol reduces insulin resistance (J. Metabolism Clinical and Experimental 2005;54:306,) like coffee does (J. Metabolism Clinical and Experimental 2007;56:599.) Consequently, alcohol reduces the risk of heart problems by 38% (J. Family Practice News, April 1st, page 1.)

But, you will still hear about articles saying that coffee may worsen our risk of pre-diabetes (J. Annals Nutrition & Metabolism 2006;50:407.) Coffee also has been reported to increase insulin levels after a meal, but not the fasting levels of sugar. One researcher showed that sugar after meals may improve by 20 % if diabetics get off coffee altogether (J. Endocrinology Practice 2007;13:239.)

I feel the problem is drinking too much coffee, particularly if your liver does not detoxify it very well. Coffee in excess increases the risk of non fatal heart attacks, if the person has a slow CYP1A2 allele, or gene for detoxification, which impairs coffee metabolism in the liver (JAMA 2006;295:1135.)

Weak adrenal glands, perhaps from genetics, or too much trauma, emotional, and/or physical, also have a lot to say on how you handle coffee. People with a tendency to TOIL (Toxicity, oxidation, inflammation and less optimal mitochondrial function-see newsletter archive) in the cell membranes lining their esophagus, and stomach, may get symptoms of reflux, and even gastritis with too much coffee. I am one of them, so, I am forced to limit my coffee to one cup a day and with meals only. My dad woke up dead from a bleeding ulcer. I am afraid I inherited his poor tendency to molt the lining of my stomach, which is brand new every 36 hours.

Compounding the problem is the possibility of an addicting personality, which would make it very hard to stop at one or two cups a day, since caffeine has an addictive potential. Again, this is the same as alcohol. The American Medical Association recommends that you limit your alcohol intake to one, or two drinks a day, and don’t start drinking if you don’t drink now, since you don’t know how you will react when faced with the potential of developing an addiction. I would advice you to do the same with coffee. A moderate amount has been defined as less than 4 cups a day. This seems excessive to me, so, I limit myself to one cup a day, with meals, and never in the morning, or late at night.

Get yourself a cup of Joe, or not, and read the highlights of one of the best articles I have seen on coffee: “Is coffee a functional food?” (British J. Nutrition 2005;93:773.)

Coffee has a lot of antioxidants (flavonoids, phenolic compounds, theobromine, xanthine, nicotinic acid, trigonelline, quinolinic acid, tannic acid, pyrogallic acid, and hydroxycinnamic acids.) This is why it is the single most important source of antioxidants in the USA, which is really a reflection of how low the American diet is on fruits and veggies (Scranton University report, August 29th, 2005. Reuters News.) Coffee’s maximum antioxidant activity is found when it is roasted medium.

Other drinks have antioxidants, too. The most are found in green and black tea, then, in descending order, coffee, coca cola, red wine, carrot juice, apricot nectar, and white wine. Coke is on the list because they add teobromines, caffeine, and vitamins. Too bad they also add HFCS, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, colorings, and acid. More below.
  • Unfiltered Italian coffee raises glutathione levels (the strongest antioxidant.)
  • Coffee decreases the absorption of potassium, magnesium, and manganese
  • On the average, the average caffeine content is 58-259 mg/serving
  • Coffee is best decaffeinated through the supercritical CO2 method. Arabian coffee is 70% caffeine free. Ethopian Coffea arabica 94% caffeine free.
  • Coffee decreases early morning drive sleepiness for about 30 minutes, following no sleep, and 2 hrs after sleep restriction.
  • Coffee reduces breast cancer risk, except in obese women. It decreases liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis gall bladder stones, asthma, sugar levels after a meal, and it also decreases the risk of diabetes, and the risk of cardiovascular events.
  • Coffee increases body temperature, energy expenditure, testosterone, potency and sexual activity in elderly women.

It improves mood, lowers risk of suicide, increases speed of processing information, and improves cognitive performance. Coffee induces better neurologic outcomes, ADD improvement, lower risk Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. It also improves the dopamine system, so that it is useful in alcohol and drug addiction. Cappuccino may be used to treat the dry mouth seen with tricyclic antidepressants.

But, problems may be seen after 4 cups a day: withdrawal syndrome, short sleep, increase in blood pressure, increase inflammation, and lower infant birth weight
Coffee decreases the oxidation of LDL lipids, AJCN 2007;86:604

[More evidence:
J. Archives Internal Medicine 2006;166:1190
Coffee reduces risk of cirrhosis, especially alcoholic cirrhosis
J. Diabetologia 2006;49:2618
Coffee reduces risk of mortality of heart disease in diabetics type II
J. Circulation 2006;13:2045
Coffee does not increase risk of heart disease]

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Diet Soda also Makes You Gain Weight - A Lesson in Sweeteners

Soda pop is truly an addiction in this country. Many will violently object to my use of the word “addiction,” which I take as proof I am barking up the right tree. The purveyors of this poison have convinced people that “diet pop,” sweetened with artificial molecules is not associated with weight gain. Well, they have been lying all along, a fact that has been discussed in many publications, but none as reputable as the recent article in the JAMA, May 14th, 2008, page 2137.

Will this article finally convince the public that these drinks are poisonous? I doubt it. In my experience, Americans have not hit rock bottom, yet, when it comes to addictions to processed food in general and “liquid candy” in particular.

The JAMA article highlights the disruption diet pop and the artificial sweeteners cause on our “thermostat” that regulated our metabolism in the brain, thus raising the risk of not only obesity but diabetes as well. Sadly, the study din not address another little problem compounding the disruption in our metabolism: cell membrane toxicity, oxidation, inflammation and less mitochondrial function (TOIL) that triggers insulin resistance.

So, even though diet soda pop has no calories, it still makes us obese and more prone to diabetes. So much for the “calories in = calories out dogma,” which I have addressed elsewhere.

But, soda pop, diet, regular or “zero” has many other problems as well; neurology issues and even osteoporosis have been associated with it. I will never forget the dental article that recommended drinking pop with a straw, since pop rots our teeth enamel….Great. Why not get a straw long enough that comes out the rear end?

If you study the history of artificial sweeteners you will get very angry; the producers of these poisons have fudged the data from day one, when aspartame was created. It turns out that in general, artificial sweeteners are derivatives of pesticides and other industrial chemicals: no wonder our cell membranes are TOILing.

If you have the time, check out the following chapter, which is part of my updated version of my book “Sweet Death,” soon to be published. Here is a teaser: Donald Rumsfeld, the former Bush cabinet member was the CEO of the company that came up with the concept of artificial sweeteners for the first time…

SWEETENERS = METHADONE

The amount of caloric sweeteners consumed per person per year in the United States has increased from 38 pounds in 1880, to 149 pounds, or 1 cup a day in 2005. This increase mirrors the increase in refined sugars, and our exploding epidemic of obesity and diabetes. Since so many people have bought into the lies perpetuated by the manufacturers, and marketers of artificial sweeteners, a quick overview of how we stumbled across these sweet poisons will help you see that using them is much like going from the frying pan to the fire. If you wish to read a more detailed account of this problem, read “Sweet deception,” by Dr. Mercola (Nelson books, 2006.)

You will see that these toxins contribute to our cell membranes’ toxicity, or TOILing, which compromise cell communication, increase IR, and affect our metabolism (“What role has nutrition been playing in our health? The xenohormesis connection,” J. Integrative Medicine 2007;6:22.) In other words, these sweeteners still contribute to obesity and IR by increasing TOIL and messing with our brain thermostat of energy handling (JAMA 2008;299:2137.)

Since artificial sweeteners are marketed to avoid “sugar,” and “lose weight,” the analogy of using the very toxic drug methadone to overcome an opioid addiction is not that far fetched.

Consider the source

Artificial sweeteners were discovered by accident. Take for instance, saccharin, the first sweetener we were lied about. Saccharin is a derivative of toluene, which is a clear liquid produced in the process of making gasoline from crude oil, and in making carbon residues from coal. Toluene is used in paints, paint thinners, fingernail polish, lacquers, adhesives, and rubber. Of course, it is very toxic. An accidental spill on the hand of its discoverer turned out to taste sweet, and the rest is history (J. Chemische Berichte 1879;12:469.)

Monsanto, well known for its lies and dirty-dealing in pesticides, was founded just to promote saccharin in 1901, with its main customer at the time some rinky-dink company called Coca Cola. Monsanto has gone on to include pesticides in the genetic code of many crops, so that about 60% of food produced in the USA has pesticides altering the genes of these foods. Remember that Monsanto developed pesticides from leftover nerve gas from World Wars I & II. The damage these poisons are causing to our metabolism will become more obvious in the next few pages. Suffice it to say that most governments and banks in Europe have voiced concerns about Monsanto’s dealings with what we now call “genetically modified organisms,” or GMOs.

In 1912, saccharin was banned, because of emerging data on side effects and health risks. But, saccharin was soon back in the market, because the World Wars in 1914, and 1939 created shortages of sugar. Any reservations about saccharin were swept under the carpet, dspite data showing an association with cancer in laboratory animals, especially bladder tumors (J. Food and Chemical Toxicology 1985;23:491.) Saccharin was allowed to remain on the market only because the public could not do without its sweet fix. This is why saccharin had a label warning people that it can cause cancer in animals. But, this label was removed in 2001.

Animal studies

The animal testing concept is a very curious thing. It is widely used to test and approve pharmaceutical products: But, it is dismissed by critics, when it comes to testing of potential toxins. What this double standard? Many feel that animal testing results are a very good approximation of the toxicity of chemicals humans are exposed to. What is good for the goose, is also good for Gus, and Gayle.

“In the absence of adequate data on humans, it is biologically possible and prudent to regard agents and mixtures for which there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals as if they presented a carcinogenic risk to humans” (International Agency for Research in Cancer, Supplement 1987.)

More sweet lies

Soon, other artificial sweeteners began to appear. Cyclamate was accidentally discovered in 1937 by a researcher working on fever-lowering drugs. The sweet byproduct of his work, cyclamate was also banned. Studies on rats and dogs showed that cyclamate caused testicular atrophy, and reduced sperm counts (same as other xenoestogens, like pesticides.) But, the main reason cyclamate was banned, was because its consumption would have exceeded the acceptable daily intake of 300 mg/day. Cyclamate was the main ingredient of Sweet’N Low®, which now is composed of saccharin and dextrose.

Alitame (Aclame™) was discovered in 1979. It is made from the amino acids l-aspartic and d-alanine. It appears safer than other sweetener to date, but it is closely related to aspartame, which has been associated with significant deceptive practices. Besides, alitame has not been tested in combination with other sweeteners. To this day, alitame has not been approved for use in the USA, although, it is being used in Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and China.

Acesulfame-K (Ace-K, Sunnett®) was also discovered by accident, while researchers worked in the production of fertilizers. It contains methylene chloride, which has been found to be a known carcinogen, as well as the reason for headaches, mental confusion, depression, liver problems, kidney problems, bronchitis, nausea, lack of balance, and visual disturbances in many people. But, these claims were found not to be significant enough by the FDA (BMJ1996;313;386.)

Neotame is aspartame plus 3-di-methyl-butyl. The latter is listed as one of the most toxic chemicals by the EPA. Yet, it was approved for general use in 2002, with the support of laboratory data produced by Monsanto. No independent laboratories have produced any data on neotame’s safety.

Like Sweet’N Low, other products are blends of artificial and natural sweeteners. They combine the artificial garbage described above, plus, sucralose, xylitol, and high fructose corn syrup. They are supposed to save you money, but they really don’t. They do hide the chemical after-taste of the artificial ingredients, and they do make it very convenient for marketers to come up with new products.

Artificial sweet politics: Aspartame

All the data discussed below appeared in the New York Times, February 12th, 2006 issue. Aspartame is best known as NutraSweet® and Equal®. It has been found to increase the risk of cancers like lymphomas and leukemias at quantities equivalent to 4-5 servings of diet soda in a 150-pound-person. The study was conducted by the European Ramazzini Foundation of Oncology and Environmental Sciences. They showed that the original studies by Searle Pharmaceutical, back in the 70’s, showing aspartame to be safe, were flawed (J. Biology Psychiatry 1993;34:13.) Donald Rumsfeld, former secretary of defense under G.W. Bush, was the CEO at the time.

Searle only tested 280-688 rats, which were not allowed to live more than two years. A new study tested 1,900 rats, and checked them for problems after 3 years, or the human equivalent of 53 years, which is when we start getting cancers. Searle was at the time also criticized by an FDA report stating that their studies were “poorly conceived, carelessly executed, or inaccurately analyzed or reported.” The FDA also cited a lack of training by the scientists analyzing tissue samples, a “substantial” loss of information because of tissue decomposition, and inadequate monitoring of feeding doses.

A grand jury investigation in Chicago looked into these irregularities, plus Searle’s “concealing of material facts, and making false statements in reports of animal studies conducted to establish the safety of the drug aldactone and the food additive aspartame.” However, the grand jury was never convened, because Mr. Skinner, then the US attorney for the Chicago area, left that low-paying position to work for a high-paying law firm representing Searle. Do you smell a rat going through a revolving door? ☺

The FDA didn’t give up. They continued to question the data from Searle, even pointing out that there was an increase in brain tumors, too. An FDA board of scientists recommended to withhold approval, but a review of Searle’s tumor slides by academicians paid by Searle showed that there were no problems with aspartame. In 1981, aspartame was dimmed safe by the FDA’s Mr. Hayes, who left the agency the year after to work for Burson-Masteller, the public agency handling Searle at the time.

Of a total of 166 studies on aspartame, 74 were financed by the industry. They cited no problems at all. Of the 92 independent studies, 84 identified adverse effects: “far too much to be a coincidence.” Yet, studies financed by the industry keep coming out that aspartame is not a problem (Annual Meeting American Association for Cancer Research, April 5th, 2006, Salt Lake Tribune.)

Most studies on aspartame only looked for tumors, without realizing that it is also a potent neurotoxin, and endocrine disrupter. This is why many psychiatrists see more depression, ADD, and panic disorders in people consuming aspartame, which is detoxified into formaldehyde in the body, a very toxic in itself. Do you want to be picked before you die? Eat aspartame. ☺

When you realize that 10% of the aspartame you consume becomes methanol, or wood alcohol, you may want to make some changes in your life. It turns out that one can of diet soda has 16 milligrams of methanol. The EPA has determined that this dangerous substance should not be consumed over 8 milligrams a day. Even at cold temperatures, methanol can also break down into formaldehyde, which may disrupt cellular function, and DNA (J. Seminars in Cancer Biology 1998;8:255.) The World Health Organization has determined that exposure to formaldehyde should not exceed 0.05 ppm (www.epa.gov.)

In addition to the lymphomas documented above, aspartame may cause headaches, depression, mental retardation (through PKU mechanism,) seizures, and visual disturbances. These symptoms have one thing in common: disturbance of the blood brain barrier, BBB. As noted elsewhere, cells shrivel up when they are TOILing, thereby causing leakiness of the tissues they compose. This is also seen in the brain, where toxins now may leak through the previously-thought impregnable BBB. Perhaps the most dramatic presentation of this problem is the often-documented phenomenon of inverted vision with aspartame. Some people have suffered from a total flipping of the visual field, so that they have the sensation of being upside down. Even more dramatic, is blindness itself (J. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology1978;45:201.)

Other documented side effects of aspartame include: genetic damage, fatigue, chest pain, dizziness, sleeping problems, burning skin, musculo-skeletal problems, gastrointestinal symptoms, nausea, palpitations, lack of concentration, infertilily, low birth weight, memory deficits, and dexterity impairment. All told, roughly one million people have experienced reactions to aspartame (FDA, April 20th, 1995.)

If you want to know more about aspartame, read “Aspartame disease: an ignored epidemic,” written by H. Roberts, M.D. (Sunshine Sentinel Press, 2001.)

What about Splenda®, and Equal®?

After all that data about aspartame, do you really believe that Splenda, and Equal are OK? If you do, I have some land in the Everglades I would like to sell you. ☺

Splenda and Equal are sucralose, a chlorinated artificial sugar derivative up to 600 times sweeter than sugar. It was also discovered by accident, while researchers were trying to come up with a new insecticide by using sulfuryl chloride. It took over 11 years of twisting the FDAs arm to get Splenda approved in 1998. There are only 6 published human studies on sucralose. The longest one was only 13 weeks, but Mc Neil, the makers of Splenda, reported an unpublished study lasting 6 months. All these studies focused on Splenda’s effects on diabetics, not the general population. In total, they involved 191 people, hardly a reassuring number.

Three animal studies lasted about two years, using about 200 rats, and a few dogs (J. Food and Chemical Toxicology 2000;38:s91.) Yet, McNeil claims that “more than 100 studies conducted over a 20 year period” have established the safety of Splenda. These data may be true, but, the studies are unpublished, and not available to the public. Furthermore, almost all those studies were conducted by McNeil. Do you still want to but my land? ☺

Despite clear evidence that chloride compounds are not safe, Splenda now is found in practically all processed foods. This has led to significant exposure, which now has been linked, in the short term, to agitation, seizures, hallucinations, respiratory problems, irregular heartbeat, cough, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, skin rashes, headaches, dizziness, paralysis of the face, tongue, and extremities, respiratory failure, ear, nose, and throat irritation, blurred vision, and pulmonary edema. Other than that, Splenda is very safe. ☺

In the long term, Splenda has been linked to the following problems in animals, mostly rats: lack of appetite, central nervous system disturbances, reduced growth rate, decreased red blood cells, shrunken thymus, decreased thyroid function, mineral losses, decreased urination, enlarged colon, enlarged liver and brain, shrunken ovaries, enlarged and calcified kidneys, increased adrenal cortical hemorrhaging, and increased cataracts.

Do you really want to continue eating this garbage?

Only 15% of Splenda is absorbed, leaving the rest to irritate your intestines. Irritable bowel syndrome, a problem that afflicts 25% of people, may well be caused, or aggravated by artificial sweeteners. Add all the refined sugar, the trans-hydrogenated fatty acids, the ibuprofen-like drugs, etc, and you got yourself a real irritable tummy.

Splenda is glucuronidated, or detoxified in the liver, which means it is fat soluble, thus contradicting McNeil’s claims that it is only water soluble. This is a major point in considering the safety of Splenda, which is described as eliminated by the gastrointestinal system “without side effects.” But, this has been shown to be false (J. Food and Chemical Toxicity 2000;38:s111.) Splenda is furthermore metabolized into 21 compounds, most of them chlorine-based, thus creating a very acidic environment (J. Food and Chemical Toxicology 2000;38:s1.) Can you imagine what these products are doing to our natural intestinal flora? In addition to that, these by-products have been shown to cause infertility, brain damage, liver toxicity, depletion of the antioxidant glutathione, genetic changes, and low birth weight in rats (J. Reproduction and Fertility 1978;52:153.)

Do you think that the 250,000+ toxins released into the air and water around the sucralose plant in McIntosh, Alabama may be affecting the people living close by? The neighbors think so.

A study on 18 pregnant rabbits showed disturbing results, which NcNeil blamed mostly on the effects of tube feeding. Most of the mommy rabbits aborted their fetuses, and showed significant gastrointestinal disturbances, Yet, NcNeil reported no effects whatsoever (J. Food and Chemical Toxicity 2002;38:s43.) If it is so safe in rabbits, why has Splenda not been tested in pregnant women? Do you think it is safe in children? An independent study on mice by Japanese researchers found significant damage to intestinal organs and induced DNA damage, concluding that more extensive studies should be undertaken (J. Mutation Research 2002;519:103.)

Don’t let the “ose” ending in sucralose fool you. This is not a natural sugar, as the makers of Splenda would like you to believe. The Sugar Association and the makers of Equal (Merisant) sued Mc Neil for making these false claims. In 2007, the suit was settled for an undisclosed amount (Salt Lake Tribune, May 12th, 2007.)

But, it is true that Mc Neil adds dextrose and maltodextrin, which are refined corn syrups in starch form. They do this to make the chemicals more palatable, affordable and easier to handle and bake with. The end result is a much more expensive sweetener. The bottom line is that Splenda is 99% sugar. So, it is a lie that Splenda has no calories, and it is “sugar-free.” You end up paying more for Splenda than you would have by buying straight sugar. Dr. Bernstein, author of “Diabetes Solutions” (Little Brown and Company, 2003) urges people not to consume Stevia, or any artificial sweeteners.

Poor Stevia…

This herb is very safe. Mother Nature does a better job. Stevia reduces IR, which means it helps at the cell level (J. Drug Chemistry Toxicity 1997;20:3.) This is why it lowers blood pressure (J. Clinical Therapeutics 2003;11:2797,) and reduces cavities. So, why are we not using it in processed foods? If you guessed that the artificial sweeteners have played dirty politics to keep it off the market, you are correct. Do you think that the American Herbal Products Association and Lipton are going to compete with the armies of lawyers, PR agents, and lobbyists on the payrolls of Pfizer, Monsanto, Johnson & Johnson, Abbot laboratories, and Hoechst? The former presented compelling evidence that Stevia has no safety issues in 1994, but the FDA turned down Stevia for consideration as a sweetener under GRAS status, which allows for grandfathering of old sweeteners and other supplements.

Because of this, Stevia/ Sucanat® may be used as a sweetener, if you added as a powder or pill, but it may not be used in the production of industrialized foods. If you want more information on how to use Stevia, including your cooking and baking, get “Stevia cookbook,” by Donna Gates and Dr. Ray Sahelian. Many countries use Stevia, most notably Japan, where the last 30 years of use have resulted in no reported side effects, since it is completely safe (“Stevia rebaudiana: Nature’s sweet secret,” Dr. Roberts, Vital Health Publishing, 1996.) They even use it in their version of Diet Coke™.

Healthier sweeteners, yes, but, and that is a BIG BUTT ☺

OK, you cannot lick the sugar addiction, so, you want safer sweeteners. They are available, BUTT, can you afford the extra calories? If you are really skinny, maybe you can get away with these unnecessary extra calories, BUTT, most of us cannot afford this luxury, since we struggle with genetic tendencies to IR as we age.

Raw organic honey has been shown to be quite safe, and it has many health benefits to boot. However, most of the honey available is neither raw, nor organic. To be considered raw, honey has to be guaranteed not to have been heated over 117F, which destroys a significant amount of micronutrients in honey. However, raw honey may be contaminated. This is why it must be avoided by pregnant, and nursing women, and infants under one year old. Immunocompromised people, the elderly, and those taking statin drugs should avoid raw honey, to lessen the risk of exposure to botulism. Only about a third of honey available in the USA is considered natural. The rest is likely produced by feeding bees high fructose corn syrup.

Date sugar is 85% sucrose. It has minerals, beta carotene, B vitamins, folic acid, and fiber. It does not dissolve very well, and you cannot bake with it. Most people use it by sprinkling it over recipes, or to sweeten a smoothie. Date sugar has been shown to help ADD children, because of its high concentration of the amino acid tryptophan, which has a calming affect. Date sugar and honey are less processed, thus preferable to the more refined ones discussed next, BUTT…

Barley malt is made from the sprouted grains of barley, and it contains mostly maltose. It is not very good for cooking, and it will spoil if not refrigerated. In the USA, barley malt is mostly camouflaged high fructose corn syrup. The FDA does not appear to care about this deception, because they believe HFCS is OK. Real barley malt is high in fiber, so it helps relieve constipation and irritable bowel syndrome.

Brown rice syrup comes from fermenting brown rice, which involves significant processing that loses many micronutrients. Brown rice syrup is mostly maltose, so, it is less sweet than sugar. It may be used in most recipes, but, it is hard to bake with.

Lo Han Kuo is the momordica fruit, which is in the same family as cucumbers, and melons. It has a licorice flavor, which is the main reason it is not used very much. It is up 250 times sweeter than sugar, without calories. It has been used in China as a cooling nutrient in many diseases, and it has a very good safety record.

Maple syrup is sap from maple trees. It has lots of trace minerals, and it is 90% sucrose. It should be refrigerated. Organic brands are more expensive, therefore better, since they avoid formaldehyde used in the processing of regular brands. Maple syrup may be used for baking.

Molasses are leftovers from sugar refining out of sugarcane and sugar beets. As such, they contain all the nutrients that the sugar industry discards to come up with the addicting sugar you crave. What a world we live in…Molasses are 50% sugar, and the other 50% is water, amino acids, and minerals. They are a very good source of the latter. The lighter molasses are, the more sugar they have.

Sucanat® comes from drying up the juice from sugarcane. So, it is much less processed, and it still has molasses in it. It is very expensive. Food companies use it to avoid labeling their products “sugar,” thus violating an FDA regulation. This is another deception, since it is as toxic and addicting as sugar. It may be used in baking, but it burns more readily.

Turbinado sugar is regular sugar with a small amount of molasses added to call it “natural.” Other products, like agave syrup, claim to be natural as well, but it is really high fructose inulin syrup, similar to HFCS, and just as toxic. The FDA is doing nothing about this garbage being sold as a healthy alternative, even in health food stores.

Fructo oligo saccharides, FOS, is a soluble fiber. Yet, that is not what you may be getting when you buy products with FOS, since it is often nothing but fructose. Another blow to truth in labeling. Fructose itself is natural, but it is often highly processed, and even replaced with outright HFCS in the refined products you buy.

Fruit juice concentrates are one of the best examples of deceiving labeling, and nothing is being done about it. They are nothing but sugar, and they are just as toxic as the worst refined products you find. The companies using them have done such a great job marketing these products, that I often find strong resistance from patients whose addiction to concentrated juices makes it hard to believe that they are not what they appear to be. These juices in crease IR (J. Nutrition 2007;137:2121.)

The IR is worsened by the lack of fiber in these juices, which makes the sugar in them more damaging, since fiber mitigates the high raise in sugar absorption from the intestines. These so-called natural juices are also pasteurized, which destroys the enzymes and micronutrients found in fruits. Worst of all, they increase obesity in children, particularly those below the poverty line, who love the sweet taste, and partake of these juices as a token, and misplaced effort to eat healthy (J. Pediatrics 2006;118:2066.)

Perhaps this will convince you: a half a cup of whole orange segments has 59 calories and 14 grams of carbs, whereas a half a cup of orange concentrate has 226 calories, and 54 grams of carbs. How will you feel when you watch those orange juice commercials, now?

Sugar alcohols (polyols) are a mixture of the two, yet, they are labeled “sugar-free,” despite having half the calories of sugar. Polyols are found in just about every product you buy, especially those chocolate bars trying to pass as a healthy alternatives. It is true that sugar alcohols are found in low levels in fruits and veggies, but in such company, they do not cause any problems. It is the highly processed polyols that are questionable, since they may raise fat levels in the blood, which may cause bloating, diarrhea, dehydration, malnutrition, and even an increase in tumor formation. There is only one polyol that appears to be good for us, and that is xylitol (see below.) It has been shown to be low in the glycemic index, which means it is low in sugar (J. Nutrition Research Review 2006;16:163.) More on the glycemic index below.

Another deceptive polyol is tagatose, or naturalose®. It tries to pass itself for natural fructose extracted from the heating of dairy. Yet another deception designed to facilitate your sugar addiction. The health claims are equally false, but the indigestion it may cause is very real. Just as phony are the natural, sugar-free claims of shugr™, which is nothing but a mixture of the some of the sweeteners described above. Perhaps the worst example of the marketing going on to maintain people’s addictions is senomyx®. It is a chemical that fools your taste buds into thinking that what you are eating is more sweet, and salty. Kraft, Nestle, Coca Cola and Campbell soups plan to use it. They will not be required to list senomyx on their labels by its name, since only a tiny amount is required to fool you, in more ways than one. ☺ Your only warning will be “artificial flavors.”

The BIG BOTTOM LINE

Not convinced, yet? Then, you are really addicted, aren’t you? Perhaps this will help you break away: artificial sweeteners in general increase the risk of cancer in humans by 30% if consumed over 1.7 grams/day (J. Annals of Oncology 2001;10:1460.)

Unfortunately, artificial sweeteners have an impact on our thermostat in the brain, and our cell membranes throughout the body. They perceive sweeteners as flat out sugar. Consequently, one may avoid calories by eating sweeteners, but not the hormonal messages we discussed above, and the cell membrane toxicity caused by these agents. In other words, artificial sweeteners do not correct the obesity problem: they make it worse. The resulting TOIling leads to IR, metabolic problems, hormonal dysfunction (thyroid, adrenals, etc,) poor brain-gut connection, hypothalamus, and pre frontal cortex dysfunction.

Artificial sweeteners are still interpreted as toxic agents, much like the refined sugars you are trying to replace. Yes, they do not have the calories you fear, but they also lack the micronutrients you need to avoid oxidation, inflammation, toxicity, and lack of E&I at the cellular level. Have you ever seen people losing weight white indulging on those items? As you will see below, toxins, like artificial sweeteners still cause people to gain weight: “the data clearly indicate that consuming a food sweetened with no-calorie saccharin can lead to greater body-weight gain that would consuming the same food sweetened with high-calorie sugar” (NSNBC.com, February 11th, 2008.)

Your consumption of sweeteners also tells me you are still in the throws of a sugar addiction. If you just quit sugar, in a few weeks your taste buds, and your thermostat will be functioning much better, so that you may taste the natural sugars in all foods. Then, consuming refined sugars is correctly perceived as too sweet, and too toxic. You will also fix your thermostat, and will then be able to “obey your hunger.” Please, believe me. Quitting sugar will make it so that fruits, legumes, and whole grain breads will be sweet enough to satisfy your sugar cravings. Truly, using sweeteners is much like using methadone to quit a narcotic addiction: it just prolongs the addiction.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Autism and Vaccines: Are We Being Objective?

By now you have heard that some people, mostly mothers of autistic children, feel that vaccines may be the reason, or one of the reasons behind the epidemic of autism we are witnessing. You probably have also heard that just about all docs feel there is no causal relationship between autism and vaccines (American J. Medical Genetics 2007;143A:1397.)

Yet, there may be enough evidence to keep an open mind, particularly after today’s report that a former NIH director feels the data have not been analyzed objectively, so causation cannot be ruled out. She feels the economics of finding a relationship would be devastating, which is what keeps docs from being more aggressive about this issue (CBS News, May 12th, 2008.) I agree with her opinion.

Imagine what would happen if we were to unequivocally implicate vaccines; would moms stop vaccinating their children? Would the vaccines industry collapse under the weight of lawsuits? Not to justify a timid approach in looking for hard evidence, but the consequences of settling this issue in favor of observant moms are downright scary. While understandable, the continuous reticence to be painfully objective in examining the data cannot be justified any longer.
For one, it is not very scientific to categorically deny a relationship between vaccines and autism, since the examination of the data leaves much to be desired. Second, it seems that a lot of these children have been found to have dangerously high mercury levels (thimerosal is used as a preservative in vaccines,) despite reassurances that said neurotoxic heavy metal was reported to have been eliminated from vaccines. Third, moms’ observations that their kids seem to come down with autistic characteristics right after they get a battery of immunizations cannot be dismissed as merely wives tales. We have learned from past experiences that moms’ keen and loving opinions are not to be ignored offhand, particularly on the grounds of some shaky, intellectual theory that may well be heavily influenced by economic interests.

In my opinion, a middle-of-the-road approach makes the most sense; I feel that the problem cannot be solely the mercury, or some other toxic substance, or all our children would have autism. Rather, I feel that it is likely a genetically inherited inability to detoxify the mercury (or another toxic substance) that is at play. In other words, we are all exposed to mercury, but we see autism only in those children who cannot eliminate it effective, thus building up higher levels in their brains (“Risk of autism disorder in affected offspring of mothers with a glutathione S-Transferase P1 haplotype,” J. Archives Pediatric Adolescent Medicine 2007;161:356.)
This hypothesis would explain not only autism, but many other diseases. It is always a combination of nature and nurture, isn’t? To continue to insist on a clear answer between the two is not only unrealistic but unscientific. Such immature dichotomy only serves the special interests of those who would rather protect their gains, instead of serving the public.

The interplay of genes and the environment reminds me of a patient who felt I had belittled him while trying to answer his query that he felt picked on when he noticed that despite his excellent lifestyle, he was sicker than those who indulged in questionable health habits. My feeble analogy was not well received: when the wolf attacks a flock of sheep, he overtakes the weakest ones first. So it is with our lifestyles: bad habits catch up first in those who have a genetic tendency to a given disease, sometimes despite their best efforts to be healthy.

Inevitably, we have to ask why the incidence of autism is climbing. Some opine that it is merely a better recognition of the disorder. While this may be true, I feel that a more toxic environment and poor diets have contributed the most. Poor diets in children, who are addicted to processed foods, contribute to poor detoxification of pollutants like mercury. Remember the new field of nutragenomics, which makes clear that our diets significantly influence genetic manifestation: the better we eat, the better our genes are copied, which leads to better function in every organ, including detoxification on our intestines, liver, kidneys, lungs and skin.

What can we do about all this?

First, we need to be more supportive of mothers, whose intuitive observations often precede scientific validation.

Second, we need to continue our crusade for cleaner foods and environments.

Third, we need to muster the courage to objectively examine the data on vaccines and a possible link to autism.

Fourth, we need to find a more flexible approach to immunizing our children, rather than eliminating vaccines altogether. In my opinion, children who can be kept from daycare centers are likely to do well if they postpone vaccines until they are one year old, when their immune system is more developed. Then, they could get one vaccine at a time, instead of the powerful cocktails they now get, which, in my opinion, may easily overwhelm their nascent immunity.

I am sure these opinions are likely to upset just about everyone: those who propose eliminating vaccines and those who see nothing wrong with them will probably let me have it. I will not respond, since, just like attitudes about soy, vaccines have become imbued with religious-like fervor. I can only hope that cooler heads will prevail and that we will all be open to further research, for the sake of our children and their long-suffering parents.

For the record, I have a child who suffers from Asperger Syndrome (milder autistic-like problem) in my family.