CHEM 181x Notes Week 2: Micronutrients –Vitamins

Oooh, vitamins! Do we need vitamin supplements? What are vitamins? This is the post for you.

Vitamins are nutrients needed in small amount to prevent deficiency diseases. A balanced diet contains all the vitamins in the required amounts. Measurements are usually in international units (iu because I’m too lazy to figure out how to make the fancy u with a front tail.)

13 Vitamins: Fat soluble – A, D, E, and K. Water soluble – B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, B12, C.

Vitamins are often labeled by their chemical names on nutrition labels. It’s funny yet sad to see people freak out when, in fact, it’s just an essential vitamin. “Oh noes! It has ascorbic acid in it!” [Insert facepalm]

History of Vitamins

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) – In the 15-17th centuries, sailors developed scurvy while on long voyages. Jacques Cartier learned from the natives of New France to brew pine needle (a rich source of vitamin C). On long trips, cabbage or sauerkraut was often packed. James Lind, 1753, developed prevention of scurvy through proper food nutrition via a clinical trial of potion vs food administered to different groups of sailors. Lime was at first believed helped due to the acidity so sailors took diluted sulfuric acid but that didn’t seem to help. A preparation of lime juice was mixed with alcohol or covering the lime juice barrel with oil to prevent oxidation. One ounce of lime juice was prescribed on long voyages per day. Sailor nickname – limey. In 1927, Albert Szent-Gyorgyi isolated the active ingredient in lime juice – vitamin C and received a Nobel Prize in medicine.

Vitamin B1 (thiamine) – Beri-beri, translating to “I can’t, I can’” is a neurological disorder of the limbs. Christian Eijkman, 1880’s, noticed a common link between chickens with Beri-beri and people was the dietary changes from brown rice to white rice. A substance in the husk of brown rice proved essential in prevention of Beri-beri, even though brown rice doesn’t store as long as white rice. Eijkman received a Nobel Prize in 1929 and the active ingredient was isolated to be Vitamin B1 – thiamine, later in the 1930’s.

Vitamin D – With the Industrial Revolution of the 1850’s and movement from rural to urban areas for factory work, one saw the onset of Rickets in youth, caused by a lack of Vitamin D, which is produced from the influence of the sun on cholesterol in the skin surface. Also present in fish/cod oil.

Vitamin B3 (niacin) – Pellagra (rough skin) is a four D disease – dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia, death. In the 1920’s, Joseph Goldberger, connected the diet of mental institution patients, who were fed a poor diet of starchy foods, vs the staff, with better foods such as meats a vegetables, and the development of pellagra due to the poor diet. His clinical trial on inmates of a penitentiary – one group was fed foods high in protein, while the other was fed one low in protein. He also took puss from patients with pellagra and infected himself to show it was not contagious.

Vitamin B3 – niacin was later isolated to determine its benefits to prevent pellagra.

Vitamins are micronutrients because the quantities needed are measured in milligrams (mg) and micrograms. In the 1940’s, RDA developed as the recommended daily allowances to prevent deficiency diseases, usually in milligrams or micrograms. In terms of nutrients in food, grams are usually used. Most vitamins are amines, and thus the name vital amines became vitamins. Most vitamins can be gotten from a well-balanced diet.

“If you are taking a multivitamin supplement, there is no reason to stop, but if you are not taking one, there is no reason to start…” – Paul Coats, National Institute of Health.

A few vitamin supplements thought to be helpful/unhelpful:

Niacin (B3) – at high levels up to 1000mg, MAY help lower cholesterol but should only be taken under the close direction of a doctor. Some can have negative reactions to high amounts.

Folic Acid (B9) – 800 iu, is known to help prevent spina bifida, neural tube defect, in the first months of pregnancy. Flour has been fortified with folic acid to make sure women are getting enough even before they know they are pregnant because that is the most important time of all.

B Vitamins for Alzheimer’s? – The School Sisters of Notre Dame have given their brains to science after death to determine if a diet rich in folic acid is essential in prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease. Heart Disease and B6 and B12, studies show little difference. Same with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Antioxidant vitamins are C, A, E, and beta carotene. Oooh, that magical word – antioxidants.

Free radicals – reactive species with a single electron. Electrons like to be in pairs and so scavenge around to pick up an extra. Antioxidants help by donating an electron to a free radical to make a less reactive free radical and, therefore, less likely to cause damage. Free radicals can cause damage to our cells. Where to get antioxidants? Our food diet is best.

Vitamin C – Linus Pauling believed large orthomecular amounts (10,000+ mg) of vitamin C could cure and prevent cancer as well as the common cold – a contagious upper respiratory tract infection caused by over 200 different viruses, one being the rhinovirus. It may help alleviate symptoms but no, it is not a cure or preventative measure. Viruses cannot be treated with antibiotics because those are for bacterial infections. There is no causative relationship between cold weather and colds. They are more prevalent in winter because we spend more time indoors and in closer contact with other people. Cold remedies, including vitamin C, only make the cold more bearable, not curable. “If treated, it will last seven days. If left alone, it will last one week.”

Vitamin C might be of benefit as an antioxidant against oxidized LDL cholesterol (the ugly kind) as the body converts nitrates into carcinogenic nitrosamines and antioxidants help to block that, but orthomecular amounts would not be needed in this case. Sodium ascorbate (scientific name for vitamin C, did I catch you?) is occasionally used in hot dogs to counteract the nitrate preservatives.

Vitamin C has been proven beneficial in the prevention of bed sores as it forms collagen.

Oranges contain ~60 mg of ascorbic acid, whereas a green pepper contains 120 mg. (But who wants to drink green pepper juice when sick? Ew! Pass the OJ, please!)

Side effects may include diarrhea when taken in large amounts (as it is water soluble, which, one reason why North American’s pee is so expensive is that’s where the body sends the excess supplement it doesn’t need). It can also increase the absorption of iron (meaning those with hemochromatosis/iron overload should not take vitamin C supplements) and decrease the absorption of copper. It can also give false negatives for occult blood in the stool when testing for colon cancer.

Vitamin C is and can be used as a preservative, as it prevents the oxidization of foods, so any advertisements of a vitamin C supplement being preservative-free really are misleading. The only difference between natural and synthetic sources is price.

Vitamin A – essential for vision; retinoids; is fat-soluble, meaning it can accumulate in the liver; precursor is beta-carotene. A study with 18,000 subjects to determine if beta-carotene and vitamin A vs a placebo could be used as an antioxidant cancer preventative showed it increased the risk of cancer by 28%. This was confirmed with a second study of 29,000 subjects where lung cancer increased by 18%. There is a possibility that “beta-carotene may offer benefits only when consumed with other phytochemicals present in the diet.” So eat your carrots and spinach instead?

Vitamin A and the effects of aging on the skin – the sun causes premature aging by breaking down the collagen in the dermis layer. UVB is the burning rays of the sun that will give you sunburn and UVA is the tanning rays that break down the collagen in the skin. Both UVA and UVB cause burning, aging, and skin cancer. Retin-A compound may help wrinkles as it acts as an exfoliant and may even help treat acne. Accutane, isotretinoin, is also an acne treatment but can cause severe birth defects in utero.

Vitamin D – Rickets may be making a comeback because of 1) milk substitutes (esp. soy) without vitamin D, and 2) parental concern about sun exposure. Adults also need vitamin D for bone function. Infants need up to 400 iu, adults 600 iu, and aged 70 and up 800iu.

Vitamin D and (you guessed it) cancer – meta analysis and blind study may help prevent cancer, but still needs further confirmation so take with a grain of salt. Vitamin D might interfere with the multiplication of cancer cells. High amounts can lead to hypercalcemia, too much calcium deposit in the bone, but that is in amounts higher than 1,000 iu. Vitamin D may help reduce risk of multiple sclerosis, the hypothesis is because those living closer to the equator have a lower risk of MS as they are exposed to more sun and, therefore, their skin makes more vitamin D from cholesterol.

Vitamin E – a readily available vitamin, hardly ever deficient in it. Nicknamed the love vitamin as tocopherol translates to oil of fertility. In mice, a restriction of vitamin E made male mice impotent and female mice abort.

Vitamin E deficiency in premature babies is called hemolytic anemia.

In a study comparing vitamin E to a placebo, there was no difference with cardiovascular problems. In the next study comparing placebo to a heart medication, the heart medicine won out. However, a randomized study of 35,000 people showed an increase in prostate cancer when taking vitamin E.

Vitamins and questionable marketing approaches –

Biotin (B7) has been advertised for hair growth but humans are definitely not deficit in biotin and adding extra has no effect on hair growth.

Vitamin B17 (NOT a vitamin) –laetrile, a compound extracted from almond pits (I think he meant apricot pits) were touted to be a cancer cure but was banned due to being of no benefit. It was remarketed as vitamin B17, though it’s not even a vitamin. Steve McQueen, a heavy smoker and suffering from lung cancer, tried to treat himself with laetrile unsuccessfully.

Hair analysis – scam because there are no vitamins in hair and, though there are minerals, it is not an indication of the body being deficient in any. The professor sent in a student’s sample of hair and the results came back saying she was suffering from depression, endocrine disorder, hypoglycemia, osteoporosis, hypercalcemia, cancer, and impotence… So then they sent in a dog hair sample and received the same results. The vitamin suggestions also were insane amounts past the RDA.

I wish they would’ve covered blood microscopy as well. (Perhaps I’ll venture to the discussion board.) It’s where alternative practitioners look at your blood under a microscope to determine what diseases (esp. cancer) you have or what nutrients you lack in order to sell you supplements. It’s fraudulent as there is no scientific evidence backing it.

The best place to get all the vitamins you need comes from a well-balanced diet. You’ll get the added nutrients and they taste better than supplements.

Just after this lesson, I came across an interesting blog post – http://www.bestfoodfacts.org/food-for-thought/fortified-foods-. It asks, as so much of our food is fortified with vitamins, is it possible to overdose on fortified food? If taking supplements, yes, it could be possible, but just with fortified food? Highly unlikely. So really, if you are eating a well-balanced diet, supplementing is not necessary unless a doctor has highly suggests it.

Caution: Verbal diarrhea in progress, unorderly random nonsense ahead

I like to occasionally do what I call “verbal diarrhea”. Sounds gross but it’s quite cathartic. It’s where I just plop almost everything in my brain out for others to wade through, should they so choose. You should try it sometime. It’s less messy and you don’t have to light a candle afterwards… 😛

It’s as if there’s this unwritten rule that, if you believe in God, you mustn’t believe in science, and vice versa. Probably not completely true and sure, others like me exist but perhaps I’m just being oblivious today. I’m testing the waters in being vocal about my belief and trust in a higher being as well as enjoying swimming in the waters of science and sharing what I find on the entire beach. I can have my cake and eat it, too, ya know?

Science is ever changing and full of theories and speculations that are proved or disproved over time by multiple brains being put together. But in my own humble opinion, science can neither prove nor disprove there is proof of a higher being. (Besides, the dude is smarter than us earthly humans, duh! He’s the master of hide and seek, putting clues out there to those who are paying attention and keep following along.) My faith is like a personal hypothesis. (Yes, Buddy the dinosaur, who, when the series wraps up, it will be because you ate your entire family because YOU’RE A T-REX and, by the way, is the Dinosaur Train a TARDIS? But I digress humorously,yes, an idea you can test). I test it daily and it’s still around, even after my floating around in science and medicine blogs and facebook groups.

There are times and places to keep the two separate. This blog is my territory so the two will likely mix occasionally along the road. I’m just warning you ahead of time. This is me. This is my blog. This is my turf. My only rule? Don’t come here to fling poo. I won’t clean it up. I’ll leave it for everyone to see you’re a stinky poo flinger.

Though I often wish to fit in somewhere and be accepted by others, I also am one to not always follow the crowd.  If the crowd isn’t going where I want to go, I’ll drift off in my own direction till I get lonely and hopefully find another group of people. And the cycle continues. I am coming to terms, finally after thirty years, that I like my individuality.

Why am I occasionally suspicious of large groups? Mr. Genius and I enjoy quoting Agent K of the movie Men in Black, “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it.” It’s the mob mentality. Not that I’m saying all groups of people are bad (groups can get things done, two heads can be better than one, etc.) but one must be careful what groups you follow and make sure you’re not giving up your own individuality. There sure are some crazy trains out there. Watch which ones you jump on and ride. Heck, this blog might even be one of those crazy trains! I don’t know where it’s going but don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Edited to add – estimated time of arrival of next Chem181x lessons will be as soon as I finish a couple more videos in between cleaning the bathrooms. I will warn you, though, it’s a foggy and rainy Monday.

Lesson 3: Scientific Research and Publishing

Lesson 3: Scientific Research and Publishing

Fact: facts change as our surroundings change. (The Half-Life of Facts by Samuel Arbesman)
1. Language of science has gone from Latin to German to English.
2. In 100 years, the planet has gone from 2 billion to now 7 billion.
3. In less than 50 years we have gone from earthbound to walking on the moon.

Urban legend – Popeye ate spinach for the high iron content. FALSE. The cartoons never mention Iron, but once mentions the importance of spinach for the vitamin A. “Spinach, Iron, and Popeye: Ironic lessons from biochemistry and history on the importance of healthy eating, healthy skepticism and adequate citation.” — Dr. Mike Sutton

As for Iron, a German chemist calculated iron content at 3.5 mg in a 100 gram serving. In reporting, a decimal went missing and it became 35 mg of Iron. Oops! What spinach is actually high in is vitamin A at 70%, though technically vitamin A is created by the body by converting a large amount of beta carotene (its color masked by chlorophyll) when spinach is processed by the body.

“Communal reinforcement is the process by which a claim becomes a strong belief, through repeated assertion by members of a community. The process is independent of whether the claim has been properly researched, or is supported by empirical data significant enough to warrant belief by reasonable people.” – Dr. Ben Goldacre. In other words, things get repeated over and over and spread even though they may not be completely true. Good ol’ gossip!

How do we get our information? Beware of “I heard that…” Sources of information include, in order of usefulness: TV, Radio, Internet, Texting, Magazines, Newspapers, Magazines, Lectures, Journals.

“Where do the “facts” in our texts come from?” The Nature of Scientific Research:
1. Simultaneous discovery happens
2. Credit/patent issues –
3. Ego issues – who was first?

Simultaneous discoveries happen but don’t always get equal credit. Two examples:

1) We all know about the Wright brothers and their manned flights in 1903. Samuel Langley was also an early pioneer in flight, with steam but no one aboard; Otto Lillienthal, in Germany with gliders; and Whitehead, who was undocumented except for eyewitness reports.

2) The discovery of the structure of DNA – more than just Watson and Crick were involved. Frederick Miescher, late 1800’s, pulled it out of pus wounds but due to some higher-ups, it was considered unimportant. Oswald Avery, 1944, expanded upon Miescher with noting the replicating capacity. His paper triggered further interest in the structure of DNA. Linus Pauling (quite a scientific giant in chemistry) published a paper but came out incorrect. Watson and Crick (young scientific nobodies) came along and got the structure right and beat Pauling to the punch. Rosalind Franklin’s contribution with x-ray crystallographic data showed Watson and Crick’s idea of the helical structure to be correct but did not receive credit until much later, and she could not be included on the Nobel Prize as she died at age 37 before it was awarded.

Scientific Peer-Reviewed Journals and the beginning Peer Review process details – Researcher submits a paper to a journal. Editor reads and sends it to two or three referees to judge the paper for appropriate credit given, typographical errors, facts leading to the correct conclusion, etc. and sends comments to the editor who passes on any suggestions back to the researcher, who rebuts or corrects the paper. After a few back and forth volleys, the editor will decided ultimately the good or bad fate of the paper. If rejected, the researcher may try another journal next until successful. (Mr. Genius knows all about this process and it will forever be a part of his career.)

Personal notes: Once the paper is published it is open for full peer review from fellow researchers who will try and replicate its findings, thereby proving or disproving the original paper. 1.8-1.9 million articles were published in 2012. i.e. a crap ton is published. Not all journals are created equal. There are good journals and bad journals. To determine the quality of a Journal, it is given an impact factor. Those with higher impact factors are deemed better than those with lower. These factors can be found online when wondering if an article you’ve found comes from a quality source.

The vast majority of scientific papers that are published are honest efforts to report the facts. “There is no sin in science more grievous than falsifying data. There is no accusation that can be made that is more serious than to be guilty of a sin.” Sadly, fraud makes the front page of the media when retractions are made. Retractions are not an everyday occurrence though two come easily to my own mind – Wakefield and Autism, and Seralini and GMO fed rats – but don’t get me started on those two doofuses!

Scientific papers in the area of food science – the media has a tendency of complicating, over-hyping, or misrepresenting situations when it comes to reporting research. (Frankly I’ve seen this too much and tend to be skeptical now of what I read and search after the actual paper or scientists who have begun blogging so as to help stop the spread of misinformation. One of my favorites (I have quite a few) to follow is the Science-Based Medicine blog (www.sciencebasedmedicine.org) which is made up of several contributing authors in their respective medical fields. Not everything they blog about, though, I completely will agree with but they’re still very knowledgeable at what they do.)

Dr. Ariel Fenster on research studies–

A) Observational (Epidemiological) Studies: Studies where the assignment of subjects is not controlled by the investigator.
1) Case control studies: Compare people with a specific condition (case) to   other people who are otherwise similar except for that condition (control). Retrospective (recall information from the past). (ex. 1950 study associating smoking with lung cancer.)
2) Cohort Study: Study of a group of people over a long period of time to determine which factors may be associated with the appearance of a specific condition. Prospective (follow and take notes from the start). (ex. EPIC (European Perspective Investigation into Cancer) Study – Involving 520,000 people in 10 European countries suggests that increased intake of fruits and vegetables has a minimal effect on overall cancer rates. Other studies, however, strongly show diets rich in fruits and vegetables have benefits in terms of heart disease.)

Correlation vs Causation: correlation means there is an association/link but does not prove causation. (Big example of correlation but NOT causation – Autism and vaccines. But that link just won’t DIEEEEEEE!)

B) Interventional Study: assignment of subjects is controlled by the investigator. Can be double blind, randomized, placebo controlled studies. (I participated in one once!)

Daniel 11-15, first interventional study! Daniel asked for the king to feed his servants nothing but vegetables and water and compare the servants to the young men eating royal food after several days.

Vitamin D and calcium supplementation with a randomized clinical trial (rct), double blinded with placebo (the gold standard of experiments) showed a 60% reduction in cancer incidents. The placebo response is a very real and important response. Double blind prevents the researcher from having any influence on one group over another.

C) Meta analysis: study of all published studies pooled together. (ex. Vitamin D meta analysis also showed a protective relationship between vitamin D and a lower risk of cancer (colon, breast, prostate, ovarian).

Overall: It’s important where we get our information. The internet is a vast sea of information and yet much is not even drinkable. I, personally, prefer mine to be science-based, evidence-based, and peer-reviewed when I can get it that way.

CHEM 181x Lesson Two: Perspectives – Health, History, Science, and Society

Dr. Harpp focuses on the history of food, its early scientific research, problems, and reforms. He first begins with representing the population of the world (~7 billion) down into 100 people. Out of these 100 humans, 17 would be illiterate, 16 would be malnourished, 21 obese, and 7 with a university education.

Orthorexia Nervosa: an UNHEALTHY OBSESSION in eating only the right foods. It is not in the DSM-V but I wouldn’t be surprised if it shows up in the next edition. (more info here – https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/orthorexia-nervosa)

“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. The main components of food are a handful of elements from the periodic table – carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and a few others. The emphasis throughout the course is to formulate a good and balanced diet, some things in more moderation than others, for weight control.

The “good old days” 100 years ago where not as idyllic as some young folk may think these days. Life expectancy was under 50, whereas it’s now reaching over 80. There was still dumpster diving for food, lack of varied nutrients in diets of the lower classes, and still the ever-present snake oil salesmen, etc. (Don’t forget it was also the era before the invention of vaccines to prevent such diseases as Polio, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Whopping Cough, etc.) Salt became iodized in the early 1900’s to treat goiters (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/goiter/basics/definition/con-20021266).

Plumpy Nut is a peanut-based, fat-based, protein-based paste food developed and given to children in third-world countries with not enough food supply to assist in malnourishment.

Functional foods: foods with added benefits such as vitamin D added to milk or omega-3 fatty acids added to milk. Some are more important than others.

Cultural food movements in North America – freeganism, rawesome food movement (mainly among Hollywood celebrities), insects as a food source (considered a source of protein to those not of a squeamish nature), vegetarian, veganism, omnivore, etc.

Short note on Google – it can be either your friend or foe. If a website is selling something on the side of providing information, oftentimes that is what is called a conflict of interest. (Doctors aren’t allowed to do that in their own office.) Look for references and check sources against other more reputable sources. Just reading one article or blog post does not equate a full understanding of the topic.
Food reforms: Plaster of Paris was once added to make bread heavier, thereby increasing the price. Along came the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 to help change such malpractices of food production from occurring and preventing public harm.

Food problems: it spoils, cannot always be distributed most effectively, and then there’s the destruction of pests to always contend with. Food may be plentiful but is it nutritious?

The comparison of two societies and the difference in what foods are consumed (determined by cultural as well as economic factors): The US eats more wheat, milk, and meat products, whereas India surpasses the US in the consumption of rice, corn, and legumes.

An Apple contains –

1. Flavors. To name just a few – acetone (nail polish remover), formaldehyde (embalming fluid), methanol (wood alcohol), 2-propenol (rubbing alcohol), and other volatile materials. We are always consuming chemicals; just many are not harmful due to the miniscule concentrations involved. (The dose makes the poison – Paracelsus.) These chemicals (as seen in the picture I googled around for) combine and interact in such a complex manner as to make the apple taste distinctly like an apple. (As the 9th doctor would say, Facinating!)

2. Sugar – about 18 grams in one apple.

3. Water – when put through a vacuum desiccator, about 120 mL, or 85% of the apple is water. Watermelon, touted as having the most water, has 96% BUT radishes beat them by containing 98% water.

4. Fiber

Macronutrients – fat, protein, complex carbs, sugar. Fats are more easily stored by the body than carbohydrates.

Micronutrients – vitamins and minerals (to be presented later by Dr. Fenster).

Food for Thought

I have always loved science. It’s a broad and fascinating area. I’ve just never been very good at it to actually go get a degree in a scientific field. I mean, I love to learn science-y stuff but, compared to other subjects, I pick it up a little more slowly. I’ve also become more immersed in reading up on medical topics in the past four years so as to have something to talk about with Mr. Genius at the dinner table. Add to that, for the past couple of years, I have been learning more about nutrition since being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. (There, the cat’s out of the bag and frankly, m’dear, I don’t give a d**m about it. I.e. I’m NOT looking for sympathy. There are others worse off than me who need your help and understanding more. In fact, even Mr. Genius’s comps topic is Fibromyalgia so he’s learning a crap ton about it and will prove it in front of a committee that will grill him in the next few months.) Basically, what causes my fibro flare-ups is poor sleep hygiene. I’m a mom, that oughta explain it well enough. This may or may not also lead to some not so great nutritional habits because throwing in a frozen pizza during flare-ups is not a very smart move, but yeah.

So, enough of an intro. To leave room for the main reason of the post, we’ll just jump ahead now. I discovered an online course through edx.org called “CHEM 181x: Food for Thought” last year taught by three professors at McGill University all about the science and pseudoscience of nutrition. I came across it too late and was unable to catch up and finish on time. But good news! The guys are back again this year. My current idea is to take some notes (with some occasionally added personal commentary or extra stuff) and share them with those short on time but still interested. I love science. I love medicine. Mr. Genius has pressed me to share what I learn. So here goes, dusting off the cobwebs again! Let’s see if even I can keep up!

CHEM 181x: FOOD FOR THOUGHT with Professors Harpp, Schwarcz, and Fenster

“If you ate today, thank a farmer.”

Apples turn brown due to a chemical reaction when you take a bite. Enzymes are released that react with chemicals called polyphenols and produce a polymer that is brown in color. The arctic apple is a type of apple with recombinant DNA technology to prevent browning. It is currently still unavailable at this time.

“There are no magic solutions to nutrition. There is no single food that is going to deliver all the nutrients we need.”

Lesson 1:
Due to the Information Age, we have TOO MUCH overwhelming and confusing information. “The word “chemical’ has become synonymous with poison, toxin” when “the world, of course, is made up of chemicals.” “Something that is natural does not necessarily equate to safe, and synthetic certainly does not equal to danger.”

Miracle foods and their anticancer properties: Pomegranates contain aromatase inhibitors. Pouring pomegranate juice on breast cancer cells in a petri dish in a lab showed a slower rate of multiplying cancer cells BUT that does not translate quite as well into the real world, meaning drinking lots of pomegranate juice will not cure someone of breast cancer, like POM advertisers tried to do. This is called cherry-picking data. Petri dish results to not always translate so easily into human body results. Same with dried apricots which contain Beta-carotene, an antioxidant, and apricot pits, which contain Laetrile. Apricot pits also contain cyanide, which kills not only cancer cells, but ALL cells. Cyanide is a great antioxidant…NOT.

“In the world of science, what we do is go by the data. We go by the peer-reviewed scientific literature, not by hearsay, not by they say, and not by emotion.” “People want to be told that there’s this certain food that is going to produce only good things, and this component that is going to kill you. It doesn’t work like that. So our emphasis will be looking at overall diets, and yes, they can be good or bad.”

Hippocrates got a few things right, one being “Let thy food be thy medicine” and another being pigeon droppings being a cure for baldness. He was also the first to be correct about flax being good for digestion.

Flax seeds contain omega-3 fats, less than what is in fish but still second-best if necessary. They also contain lignans which have estrogen-like properties (phytoestrogens) which can be both good and bad, depending on the dose. In the case for flax seeds, the lignans seem to help reduce the risk of breast cancer (that is, if you eat 20 grams of ground flax seed to have any effect. Possibly doable but rather difficult). The soluble fiber of flax seeds helps reduce cholesterol while the insoluble fiber helps regulate our digestive system. Overall, flax seed = good for you.

Omega-3 eggs, an unnecessary middleman – the amount of flax seed fed to the chickens doesn’t come through to the egg and, in order to get enough omega-3 from eggs, one would need to eat a lot of eggs, thus putting you into the danger zone for cholesterol levels.

Oat bran helps lower cholesterol levels. Of course, the question is, to be beneficial, how much of it do you need to eat for it to impact levels? Answer: 3 grams of beta glucan, the soluble fiber in oat bran = 1 cup cooked oat bran, “not one of God’s gift to the palate”, or one and a half cups of oatmeal. Advertisers often stretch the truth. With Cheerios, one would need 5 servings to reach the daily amount of beta glucan BUT there’s the extra sugar to contend with.

Enzymes are protein molecules composed of amino acids. They are biological catalysts and the body makes all the enzymes we need.

Preservatives are added to prevent toxic mold and fungi growth. They are heavily regulated, not just thrown in willy nilly. Humans even sweat preservatives; propionates, are a metabolic byproduct of eating fat.

The importance of correlation vs. causation and cherry-picking (biased choosing of data often based upon personally held beliefs) – The French have fewer heart attacks because they watch more Jerry Lewis movies. Wearing a skirt causes breast cancers. These are associations and rarely prove causation. (Personally added links – Spurious Correlations here http://www.tylervigen.com/, and http://kfolta.blogspot.com/2013/02/organic-food-causes-autism.html.)

Resveratrol is an antioxidant in red wine and may help reduce the risk of heart disease. Advertisers cherry-pick data and ignore the fact that alcohol is a carcinogen (a substance capable of causing cancer) and animal studies show the need for 100 bottles of red wine a day in order for resveratrol to be protective against heart disease. Not really useful after all, is it?

Science, when selectively reported on, leads one down a misleading garden path with suggestions of miracle fruits, vegetables, and superfoods that seem to change almost daily. What many will say are secrets are actually well-known facts about nutrition. Diet and exercise are no secret.

The obesity epidemic – the culprits are too much fat and/or sugar. One such bad boy is soda pop which contains a large pile of sugar dissolved in it (as to high fructose corn syrup vs. sugar, I’m going to personally put in a link to the skeptical raptor’s blog – http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php/high-fructose-corn-syrup-just-sugar/). But so does juice drinks, though you’ll also get vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants alongside the sugar so you’d be better off eating a piece of fruit rather than drinking juice. In the quiz, it is noted that the sugar content of juice is not added sugar but from the natural sugars contained in fruits. Yes, fruits contain natural sugars and sugar is sugar.

Another nutritional issue is how food is prepared. Barbequing produces not so great compounds like polycyclic hydrocarbons and as Prof Schwarz has said before, “if it tastes good, there must be some problem.” Every day bbq over charcoal = bad, but the occasional cookout = okay. A high intake of processed meats is linked to colorectal cancer but the dose is what makes the poison. Seriously, one hot dog will not doom you years down the road. Everything in moderation, some things more than others.

One thing to overindulge in is fruits and vegetables, reaching at least five to eight servings a day.

Supplements do not make up for deficiencies in diets. There is more than just vitamins in fruits and vegetables and which ones are the beneficial ones is hard to pinpoint. The jury is still out on most vitamin supplements. Supplementation, in my own personal opinion, should come from the produce section. It’s cheaper that way.

Exercise cannot be bottled. Dang it!

Living a chemical-free food life is impossible. Chemicals are the building blocks of life and the word “chemical is not synonymous with poison or toxin…they are not to be feared. They are not to be worshiped. They are to be understood.” More importantly than worrying about what’s in our food (a stupid first world problem) is that every 3 .5 seconds, someone starves to death because there isn’t enough food to feed every person in the world. Catch a fish, a man eats for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.

Is it ever really over?

Finally, a moment back here. And finally, the government shutdown has ended. Don’t start partying and rejoicing just yet though. I’m betting something come January. Nobody can seem to get along over there in D.C. and the money-burning and head-butting over budgets will forever continue. Will they ever get things under control? Eh, call me pessimistic Patty…

I’m exhausted today, have been for a whole week…scratch that…always been tired. I don’t really have much oomph to rant today but here are some old sayings to ponder:

The grass may be greener on the other side…but somebody is still mowing and fertilizing it. Another country may look like it’s doing better than us but pay closer attention. Is universal health care really working in Canada, Great Britain, and Australia? Ask my husband about what he saw when he was in Australia for two years. Do other countries really have better education programs and better test scores than the US? I’m rather leery of that Common Core crap that’s started hitting the fan just now. Sorry government, get your fingers out of education. You just keep screwing things up. No child left behind?

There is no such thing as a free lunch…somebody is always paying for it, whether they do it willingly or not. I will admit we were on WIC for about a year. I felt guilty for using the whole time. Yes, according to the government, we are below the poverty line and shouldn’t be able to subsist on our own means. But guess what? I quit taking WIC benefits and we’ve been doing just fine and dandy without the government’s help! Sure, I wish we could have more than just an antennae and Netflix (streaming only, no DVD delivery) for TV, I’d love a new cell phone (perhaps even that $30/month a data plan), perhaps going out for some fried chicken whenever the hankering hits. But we’ve cut things out of the budget so we can pay the more important bills and buy food with our own hard-earned money.

And lastly, the leaves always gather at the fence. Deadlines are deadlines. That compromise congress just made will only last until January when things will start up yet again. Move the fence and the leaves will just gather there yet again. Whether it involves a shutdown, whatever. Frankly m’dear, I don’t give a damn today. I’m just going to raid the cupboards for some chocolate. Now please excuse me as my presence is requested elsewhere.

Money, money, money…

Many business owners and entrepreneurs know the saying, “Ya gotta spend money to make money.” And while I agree, I can only agree to a certain extent. When I was in college, I was talked into selling Mary Kay cosmetics. It seemed like a good idea at the time; my own female genetics draw me to makeup like a moth to the flame. Trouble is, I got a little too close to the flame and managed to burned my wings. I blindly followed my director and put too much money into setting up an inventory. In fact, I already had one credit card to begin with and signed up for a second one through MK. Smart idea? Nope, nope, NOPE! But I was still young and learning about finances. The director lady said I needed a good-sized inventory in order to get started selling but what I really discovered later was, specifically with MK makeup, you should really start first with some clientele to buy from you, of which I had none and never managed to get much of. So, my inventory sat in my parent’s basement, collecting dust, as I tried to get friends and family to host parties where I could peddle the product. My support was few, therefore I failed. I also lost money I could’ve used for another semester of college, as well as saddled up with two credit cards I needed to pay off…on time or else.

Okay, I will confess I had a little help out of the hole I dug myself. (Yes, I take blame for my mistakes now. I blamed MK for a while and the director, but eventually came to terms that it was my own fault overall.) My parents paid off one credit card for me while I went and got a real job (i think that was the season of Taco Bell, yuck) to pay off the other one. My parents also helped me get my feet back to into school since I didn’t want to work fast food for the rest of my life.

In the end, I am forever indebted to them, even though they refuse to accept repayment and often leave behind money hidden in odd places after coming out to visit the grandkids. I try to spend that money a little more wisely nowadays. Thank you, ma and pops.

So, I briefly compared the US government to a big business yesterday (and their budget to a household budget, if you recall). It’s the same deal, there’s only so much money you can throw in before you’ve got to reevaluate if things aren’t working. Raise the debt ceiling? Should I have gotten another credit card amidst my mess so as to “help” me out? Of course not! Cut out some real unnecessary things? Yup. It sucks but it has to be done. I had no “fun money” while paying off my debt and going to school.

Here’s another thing I’m rather perturbed about. Why the hell are politicians getting paid so damned much?! How the freak can we get politicians’ salaries lowered?! I have a feeling those those fat cats are paid waaaay too much! Oh, they’ve worked their way up the ladder so they deserve such? They’re all still getting paid the big bucks during this government shutdown because they’re the ones “working” and are the “vital part” of the government. Oh and those “unnecessaries” who’ve been furloughed for the past week and still ongoing? It was voted upon and easily passed, and call me heartless if you so choose, but all those workers pretty much just got paid vacations. If they’re going to get paid in the end, then put them back to work! 

Why are these politicians in charge of their own salaries?! They vote and pass the stuff so as to raise their own pay! Perhaps we, the people, need to be the ones voting on that. WE, THE PEOPLE! Doing a good job? Sure you can have a raise and a pat on the back, perhaps a scratch behind the ear, too. Crappy job? No deal, get back to work, buttmunch, until you get voted out. Or, perhaps serving in the government should be strictly voluntary and free of payment? What, too revolutionary a tactic? What about minimum wage?

Oh now there’s another topic! Minimum wage. In all technicality, it should be called entry-level wage. But alas, I’ll have to leave that one for another day as Sesame Street is almost over and I have some dishes left in the sink to clean. We need some of those in order to eat lunch. Or maybe I should just buy new dishes and keep adding to the pile rather than cleaning up the messes…

In which I ask a lot of questions…

So, you’ve probably seen the post floating around the internet, mainly facebook, comparing the national budget with a household budget. Ya know, break it down and magnify by removing 8 zeros to see the problem in a much closer perspective? (I’ll find and link it later.) Well someone commented how you can’t compare the government debt problem to a household budget problem and there’s too many other tangents to consider. Oh really? Why not? I may not have an economics degree from some big university but I still have a basic understanding of some of this crap. In other words, my nose can often smell a poopy diaper from the other room.

The US government has a credit rating by three major credit agencies just like every average American has a credit score. They may be different companies but the fact remains we all have credit scores, and they’re kind of a big deal, ya know. So, what happens if you have no credit? It’s a little hard to get a loan; bigger the loan, more difficult to obtain. What happens if you have poor credit? I.e. you have credit cards/loans/etc but aren’t paying them off in the timely manner that is required of them. I.e.e. You aren’t fulfilling your side of the loan contract you agreed to. What is the bank going to do? Raise your interest rates, repossess items the loan is for (house, car, tv), prevent you from getting more loans. What happens if your interest rates go up? It gets even harder to pay those loans off. And pretty soon you’re floundering in a pool of mud that’s rather hard to get out and getting clean. Blah blah blah. Sucks, don’t it? That’s life, dearie.

The government gets loans from a lot of places, including other countries. Guess what? China apparently owns most of our debt (http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/moneymatters/ss/How-Much-US-Debt-Does-China-Own.htm). Some of you might be saying, “Ew, China?!” or “you’re linking to about.com?!” I’m on a tight schedule here with Sesame Street being only one hour long, okay? I’m a mom. Cut me a little slack here.

Getting back to the topic on hand – Last year was the first time the US got demoted from AAA status down to AA+ by one of the credit agencies that rates us, S&P (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_federal_government_credit-rating_downgrade). The two other dudes eventually decided to follow suit with their own ratings. Of course, Obama and many others pretty much said, “you can’t do that, you suck!” Sorry dude, but they can. Just because you’re the government doesn’t mean you don’t have to play by the same rules and regulations as us little guys. You don’t pay the bills, you loose your credit standing. Oh and the US rating can affect ours, too. Remember that teenager in my letter, getting a hold of daddy’s credit card? “What, I can’t just get what I want, whenever I want?!” Afraid so, deary. Daddy’s credit score has just been affected and something needs to be done.

So, what to do about it now? Just keep raising the debt ceiling? NO. Just like a paring knife can’t cut up a watermelon, it’s time to take to the budget and government-run agencies with a figurative hack saw. My daughter was quite sad when I said we couldn’t feed every stray cat in the neighborhood. We just can’t afford it. I wish I could care for every person standing on the streets but I just can’t. Another blogger whose opinions have been floating about recently, posted a GIANT list of things being funded by the government and I must agree, there sure are a lot of stray cats on that list. Some who could possibly stand on their own two feet if privately funded rather than by the government.

Yes, it will hurt. Yes, people will loose jobs, especially in this time where jobs are in high demand. Ya know what? I don’t think I’d want to work for the government right now. You know how rats are the first to flee a sinking ship? Yup, if I was on the government ship, I’d jump right about now and find somewhere else to go pronto before everyone else does/has to, too. It’s cushy right now, you say? How much longer can this last?

If a business does a crappy job, it goes out of business and somebody else comes along to take over. What happens if the government goes out of business? Oh don’t think about that, you say! Why not? That couldn’t happen!? Is the government really invincible? It’s huge! It’s ginormous! Which will just make the fall even harder. Gravity is a lot more kind on my kids when they fall when compared to me and my fat butt.

Admit it, the US government has a budget problem. It CAN be compared to a household budget. And continuing throwing more money at it won’t help. But I’m just a mom. What do I know about budgeting?

Aside

It all started with writing a letter…

Forward – I titled this post “It all started with writing a letter…” but it keeps getting published as “aside”. I don’t know why. I don’t have time to fix it.

Like the digs? WordPress started me out with this “chateau” layout and I’m just going to flow with it for now because I have more important things to do that waste my time right now “cutesying” or “butching” up this new blog of mine. So much to say, so little time! Besides, it’s rather symbolic and can remind us of Louis XVI and what happened when he blew all the people’s money on parties and golfing. Oh, golfing didn’t exist back in 17th century France? Yeah, whatev.

So, time for me to jump in. See whether this mom sinks or swims in this dog-eat-cat poo political world we live in. Welcome to my blog. If you haven’t read the ‘about’ section, might I suggest that as well for some extracurricular entertainment?

It all started Thursday afternoon when I spent my afternoon nap time (i.e. kid #2 napped, I didn’t get to) writing a letter to the current president of the United States. Might as well start at the top and work my way down, right? After I had about a page typed up in Word, I went searching for the site to submit it electronically. (You know how paper letters are so last decade, right?) Once there, I found I was tied down to a comment box that could be filled with no longer than 2500 characters. What? No filibustering? Or, you don’t want to read my transcriptions of Tolstoy’s War and Peace (not that I’ve even read that) or “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” fill up the box? Man, did I have to take my written opinions to the chopping block to fit those constituents! (Politicians, take note.) And I did it all in less than two hours. That’s probably why it’s not my best but still, I try. Wanna read it? (Read that last sentence in a creepy, “wanna see a booger in the shape of Abe Lincoln?” voice.)

I had to do away with social niceties as well as the final period in order to squeeze so much in. I probably just should’ve written two letters or something. But even just one felt like a waste of time as it’s just peon interns who read his “fan mail” anyway and “file” it away.

Begin letter – “I won’t be surprised with just an automated “thank you” reply from a computer. I’m just a mom…but I have to speak up.

As the one who does most of the shopping/budgeting in this house, I can clearly see you are trying to buy filet mignon on a bread and pb budget, if even that. And then you’re thinking you can split that up equally amongst everyone. Like Jesus?

I see a lot of excessive government squandering of my tax dollars going on. For one, I see the welfare system blatantly misused nearly every time I go through a grocery line; someone with SNAP, buying brand-name foods when they could stretch that money with a cheaper generic brand. It’s like a teen with daddy’s credit card, blowing it on shoes rather than the cheese they were sent to the store for! And don’t get me started on those with shiny iPhones!

Yes, there are people in need and so the welfare system needs a serious overhaul. Education on budgeting would be highly beneficial. And I’m not suggesting just a paper brochure. Who am I kidding?! Congress needs education on budgeting! I’d love to buy Digiorno Pizza but it’s just not in my budget! We can‘t be like Oprah, “here’s a puppy for you, you and you! Everybody gets a puppy!”

Yes, you have worked hard to get where you are now but you have been a poor example during these economic trials. Aren’t we flaunting it a bit much? I wish I could take my kids on vacation more often, somewhere without leaky air mattresses. And golfing? Rubbing elbows with Hollywood? This brings to mind some historical political figures. Louis XVI? (Hello, NSA watchlist. I’m a mom!)

If you want to have/keep more public support, humble your image. Volunteer at a soup kitchen monthly. Rub elbows with veterans, who risked their lives for you and me. Be an example to your daughters. The Halloween candy they collect that mom just throws away after they pick out a few prized treats? (Read that in a magazine. That’s your neighbors’ money you’re throwing away!) Take it to children who don’t have similar opportunities.

Being in your current position, cameras constantly following, set a better example.  Passing laws and exempting yourself is not lawful. If the American people must live by the ACA law, so should you AND congress. You are not royalty. As a mom, it’s “do as I do, not as I say”. It’s hard not to sneak chocolate when my kids aren’t watching but if I say no sweets until after dinner, shouldn’t I also follow that rule? YES! Politicians, quit acting like toddlers! All of you” – End letter.

So there you go. I wrote a letter. I’ve started a blog. I’m messing around with opened cans of worms. My kids love to play with worms, why shouldn’t I? Comment at will, it’s back to the kitchen for me.