Tag Archives: Diet

Does it matter if I eat acid-forming foods? Not when you look at the research.

There is a widespread idea among health-seeking eaters that one ought to avoid meat, dairy and other “acid-forming foods” in favor of vegetables. The theory is that your body needs alkalizing foods or acid blood will leach minerals from your bones . Generally the effect is to get people to eat more vegetables, but after reading about this for 20 years I have to say that the evidence for the theory itself isn’t compelling.

First, what is an acid-forming food?  Lemon juice is acid but it stimulates the release of magnesium which alkalizes.  Vinegar (another acid) gets classified both ways, but it does function similarly to lemon juice.  The makers of alkaline water like Kangen believe that alkaline water makes the body alkaline.  Generally meat, dairy, sugars and some fruits are shown on the “acidifying” side while vegetables, good oils and most fruits (except blackberries) are shown as “alkalizing”.  Some of the foods on lists are backed by research from the 50s and 60s, while others are conjecture.  The problem is that the body has complicated feedback systems, food is eaten in groups and at different times of the day and constitutions differ.

A healthy stomach secretes gastric acid at a  pH of 1.5  to digest food, including meat, and that extreme acidity triggers the esophageal sphincter to shut.  The acid kills disease-bearing organisms and opens the sphincter at the bottom of the stomach to let the food get treated by bile, probiotic organisms and the intestines.  If you have reflux, you generally have too little acid, so the esophageal sphincter doesn’t close and the lesser acid bubbles up where it can cause harm. (Starting the meal with bitters can help your liver and stomach produce sufficient acid, but you may need to take betaine hydrochloride, especially if your gallbladder has been removed. )  So if your body is producing hydrochloric acid at an extremely low (acidic) pH of 1.5, how does eating beef with a less acidic pH of 5.5 hurt your body? And why would lemon juice with a pH of 2 be better than meat?

Diagram of alkaline Mucous layer in stomach wi...
Diagram of alkaline Mucous layer in stomach with mucosal defense mechanisms (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So is alkaline blood good for your health?  Well no.  First of all you need to keep your blood essentially neutral with the slightest alkalinity.  Second eating acid or alkaline food has very little effect on your blood pH because you automatically breathe deeper or pee more (but it does affect urinary pH).  And if it were an issue, why do alkaline conditions translate into disease? For instance, low-protein vegans with alkalizing diets tend to have alkaline UTIs.  Mercola believes that alkaline water is only safe for short term detoxification.  A study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry found that alkalosis (rising cellular pH) causes alkaline-induced cell death as a result of altering mitochondrial function.  Mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell and their dysfunction causes serious diseases like diabetes and Parkinson’s. Researcher Robert Gilles, who has studied tumor formation and acidity found that tumors make their own acidity even in an alkaline environment.  Scientists developing new anticancer agents that selectively kill tumor cells by interfering with the regulation of intracellular pH, have found that alkaline treatments do not have the desired effect – but strongly acidic treatments do. A  Swedish well water study found that drinking either significantly alkaline or acid water was undesirable, which suggests that drinking water with a pH between 6-8 is best.

Some old studies did show that eating a high meat diet could stimulate the release of calcium in the urine, but that effect stops after a few weeks (and the initial studies were only a week or two long.) Ten years ago a research group at Yale and the University of Connecticut under Dr. Karl Insogna began investigating the effect of dietary protein on bone health, believing that to be true.  Actually it proved that urinary calcium was not from bones, but caused by a more efficient calcium uptake in the gut from dietary protein.

The body has mechanisms to keep the pH (measure of acidity or alkalinity] within a very narrow neutral range of 7.38 and 7.42.  If your blood pH is 6 (slightly acid)  or 8 (slightly alkaline), you can sicken and die.  So your body has a variety of ways to buffer acidity or alkalinity.  The body regulates the acid/alkaline balance primarily through the amount of carbon dioxide ( CO2) exhaled in the lungs and the acidity of urine. If the blood pH drops too low and becomes acid, the body will compensate by increasing breathing, expelling CO2,  so fewer hydrogen ions are free and the pH will rise back to normal. For too much alkalinity the opposite occurs.   Any shifts in acid/alkaline balance in the blood are minor and transient.

 

As Wikipedia says:

The body’s acid–base balance is normally tightly regulated, keeping the arterial blood pH between 7.38 and 7.42.[1] Several buffering agents that reversibly bind hydrogen ions and impede any change in pH exist. Extracellular buffers include bicarbonate and ammonia, whereas proteins and phosphate act as intracellular buffers. The bicarbonate buffering system is especially key, as carbon dioxide (CO2) can be shifted through carbonic acid (H2CO3) to hydrogen ions and bicarbonate (HCO3) as shown below.[2]

rm H_2O+CO_2 leftrightarrow H_2CO_3 leftrightarrow H^++HCO_3^-

Acid–base imbalances that overcome the buffer system can be compensated in the short term by changing the rate of ventilation. This alters the concentration of carbon dioxide in the blood, shifting the above reaction according to Le Chatelier’s principle, which in turn alters the pH. For instance, if the blood pH drops too low (acidemia), the body will compensate by increasing breathing[3] thereby expelling CO2, and shifting the above reaction to the left such that less hydrogen ions are free; thus the pH will rise back to normal. For alkalemia, the opposite occurs.

The kidneys are slower to compensate, but renal physiology has several powerful mechanisms to control pH by the excretion of excess acid or base. In response to acidosis, tubular cells reabsorb more bicarbonate from the tubular fluid, collecting duct cells secrete more hydrogen and generate more bicarbonate, and ammoniagenesis leads to increased formation of the NH3 buffer. In responses to alkalosis, the kidney may excrete more bicarbonate by decreasing hydrogen ion secretion from the tubular epithelial cells, and lowering rates of glutamine metabolism and ammonium excretion.

So my conclusion is that moderation is key, where water should not be significantly far from neutral and food should have a balance of acidity and alkalinity.  Eat real food, organic pasture-raised meat, local fruits and vegetables and don’t sweat the pH.

I don’t endorse this chart, but it shows common beliefs about alkalizing foods.  It isn’t that simple:

See Also:

 

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H. Pylori Can Keep You Thin

This month’s Scientific American has an article on a subject close to my heart, “Your Inner Ecosystem.”  Only 10% of the DNA in our bodies is human.  In other articles I have advanced the idea that we are walking colonies of microbes, worms and fungi in a human superstructure, where ecological balance is the goal of health rather than purity.  That begs the question of which creatures might be pathogenic- I certainly don’t want ebola in my ecology. Not only doesn’t  it play well with my other creatures, but it is deadly.

Ebola is easy to classify.  However some organisms are difficult to classify.  Acidophilous is great in your gut, especially if you have difficulty assimilating nutrients but it can eat away at your teeth where you might prefer Streptococcus oralis.  There are benign E. coli strains, sold in Europe but not the USA as probiotics, which  tend to predominate in thin people while firmiciute bacteria like the Lactobaccili predominate in fat people and can make thin rats fat.  Even low level staph infections on the skin may crowd out nasty drug-resistant MRSA.

Heliobactor pylori is another example.  This bacteria increases acidity in the stomach, resulting in both the environment where it thrives and breakdown of food.  However in susceptible individuals, it causes ulcers.  When Dr. Martin Blaser, now professor of microbiology and internal medicine at NYU found H. pylori 25 years ago, he approached it as a simple pathogen causing ulcers- and with antibiotic treatment ulcer diagnoses have reduced by more than 50%.  But in 1998 he published research showing that in the vast majority of people H. pylori is beneficial, regulating the acidity of the stomach properly.  H. pylori was also linked to a reduction in adenocarcinomas.  In 2008 he found that H. pylori regulates ghrelin which tells your body to stop eating.  When ghrelin levels are high you become hungry.  After you eat -unless your H. pylori levels are low- ghrelin levels plummet.  In a study of 92 veterans treated with antibiotics to lower H. pylori for ulcers, gained weight in comparison to uninfected peers.  Lower H. pylori is also linked to higher diabetes rates.

Helicobacter Pylori, Stomach Biopsy, Giemsa Stain
Helicobacter Pylori, Stomach Biopsy, Giemsa Stain (Photo credit: euthman)

One of the curious things is that two or three generations ago something like 80% of children were hosts to H. pylori.  Now fewer than 6% of children have the appetite suppressing bacteria, perhaps because of broader-range antibiotics and the inclusion of antibiotics in meat production which could account for less exposure to seed the microbiota.  There is apparently preliminary information suggesting a second mechanism for this where antibiotics silence bacterial signalling for undifferentiated stem cells to make tissue other than fat.

The hygiene hypothesis also may affect the acquisition of H. pylori.  Water is cleaner.  Plant food trucked across the country may contain fewer live bacteria.  Increased C-section rates may prevent the transmission of a mother’s microbiota to the infant in the birth canal.  We have fewer commensal bacteria now altogether and H. pylori is a stunning example of the reduction of a bacteria that can help keep us thin.

However it appears that adding H. pylori may not be helpful once you are fat and possibly the age of acquisition is important.  In further experiments people who were obese and diabetic had higher levels of H. pylori.  Researchers think lowering H. pylori with antibiotics might help lower A1c levels in diabetics.   Is H. pylori exerting a U-shaped influence where too little and too much cause weight gain?  We don’t really know. In the human body with all its feedback loops, direct interventions work quite differently than in petri dishes.

Still, farmers have known for some time that adding antibiotics and increasing starchy feed is the best way to get animals fat for market.  When we do this to ourselves and our children, it should not surprise us if we get the same result.  While it is not a likely single cause of obesity and diabetes, its effect may be far from trivial.

Sources:

Your Inner Ecosystem: Jennifer Ackerman  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=ultimate-social-network-bacteria-protects-health

Endosymbiosis: Lynn Margulis http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/_0/history_24

Ecological and Evolutionary Forces Shaping Microbial Diversity in the Human Intestine http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0092867406001929

Gut Reaction: Environmental Effects on the Human Microbiota http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/picrender.fcgi?artid=2685866&blobtype=pdf

Immune Gene Evolution May Be Driven By Parasites http://www.dana.org/news/features/detail.aspx?id=22816

The Body Politic http://seedmagazine.com/content/print/the_body_politic/ (picture from this article.)

Gut Bacteria Do More Than Digest Food http://www.hhmi.org/bulletin/aug2010/features/gut_bacteria5.html

Swapping Germs:  Should fecal transplants become routine for debilitating diarrhea? Maryn McKenna  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=swapping-germs

See Also:

Our Symbionts, Ourselves

Chemicals and Obesity: What if if isn’t all your fault?

Why A Parasite Cleanse Can Make You Worse

Probiotics and Probiotic Foods

How to Make Miso


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What Does Research Say About the Health of Eating Meat?

Meat and Vegetables

We are badly in need of a study that compares good vegetarian to good meat-containing diets using quality foods, with high vegetable content and good quality fats in both diets. Too often vegetarians are compared to a standard American population, health-conscious vegans are compared to non-health conscious omnivores and studies on omnivores with low meat diets are extrapolated to suggest that a diet with no animal food altogether may be superior. The study should isolate the effects of gluten from other starchy foods and meats from fish. Continue reading What Does Research Say About the Health of Eating Meat?

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Sinusitis and Herbs

This is the time of year when we see a lot of sinusitis. There are several causes, and many things that can get rid of the condition.

sinusitis_bigIt helps to understand how sinuses work. The sinuses form a kind of cup that serves to lubricate our respiratory tract. Sinuses work like an overflowing teacup, filling with a thin liquid that moves up with the cillary action of small hair like cells and drips down your nose and throat, lubricating the tissue and providing mucus, potentially a designer antibiotic fluid that can fight off infection, prevent abrasion and protect tissues. The problem comes when the fluid is cooked down and is too thick to flow. This is considered pathological Phlegm in Chinese medicine. The problem isn’t usually that you make too much mucus, it is that the mucus has cooked down and exerts pressure on your sinuses, nasal tract and lungs. Continue reading Sinusitis and Herbs

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Fructose, Sugar, Poison and Obesity

The video by Robert Lustig of UCSF is extremely interesting, but wonky. If you work in health care or are dealing with blood sugar issues, I highly recommend listening.   I do anyway.  But here are the highlights for the rest of you:

  • We have a worldwide epidemic of obese six month olds.  Yes, 6 months.  So it isn’t all about more food in and less exercise out.Baby with juice
  • Americans now eat 141 pounds of sugar per year, 63 pounds of which is high fructose corn syrup and over half of which is fructose in all forms.
  • A calorie is not a calorie.  Some calories are nutritious, some are merely empty, some are poisonous.
  • If we are consuming 275 extra calories a day compared to 20 years  ago, it is because our regulatory hormones like leptin are not stopping us.  We had as much food available 50 years ago, but less obesity.  Something in us changed.
  • And it isn’t our fat consumption, which has dropped.  Fat dropped significantly after 1992 when the food pyramid was established, suggesting we increase our carbohydrate consumption.
  • Continue reading Fructose, Sugar, Poison and Obesity

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Ten Things About Being Fat

Joy Nash
Joy Nash of Fat Rant

As someone who has dealt with obesity since kindergarten, when they pulled me indoors from climbing trees all day, I have dealt with fat, diets and fat fallout all of my life.  I was on Metrecal shakes in the third grade, and at 16 my Italian doctor was shocked at the diet pills my US MD had prescribed since age 14.  Every kind of diet- low fat, low carb, low calorie, Weight Watchers, fad diets, macrobiotics, non diets,- lots of exercise, hypnosis, EFT, and positive imagery was tried.  I know all the supplements, the portion sizes, the caloric values, the allergens and the energetics of foods.  And like most fat people I have had the will power to lose weight many times over.  Continue reading Ten Things About Being Fat

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Acupuncture Helps Digestive Problems in Pregnancy

Today I ran into a former patient who had suffered hyperemesis, vomiting during her entire pregnancy.  She lives far away but came in because she was desperate for relief.  She thanked me and introduced her new son.  It was a reminder of how much help acupuncture can be during pregnancy.

by Lief Parsons
by Lief Parsons

Acupuncture is safe during pregnancy providing that certain traditional points are avoided (unless there is a very good reason like stopping a miscarriage.)  Since Chinese medicine was so well documented over the years, it was possible to categorize points that would help or hurt a pregnancy and these points are well known by licensed acupuncturists.

Here is a good article from CBS news:

Acupuncture helps pregnancy symptom

Updated on 09 June 2009

Source PA News

Acupuncture can help relieve the symptoms of indigestion in pregnancy, new research suggests. Continue reading Acupuncture Helps Digestive Problems in Pregnancy

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Which Came First, the Egg or Omega 3 Egg?

Many people think that eggs should not be eaten, based on the erroneous assumption that they might cause cholesterol.  Your body makes its cholesterol- even vegans get high cholesterol- and reducing carbohydrates that stimulate insulin will actually lower cholesterol better than not eating eggs.  This is why I suggest wild salmon and omega 3 eggs.  Read what Susan Allport has to say about the difference in nutrition between eggs from chickens who range freely and conventional eggs:

Of Chickens, Eggs, and Omega-3s

Eggs were once a much more healthful food. And they can be again.
by Susan Allport originally published Monday, December 17, 2007

Which came first: the egg or the omega-3 enriched egg?Chicken and egg

The omega-3 enriched egg, of course, since all eggs used to be full of omega-3s when the chickens that laid them foraged for a living, scratching and pecking in backyards and farms.

Continue reading Which Came First, the Egg or Omega 3 Egg?

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Sun Exposure Inadequate for Vitamin D

I have been recommending for some time now that people not rely upon sun for all levels of Vitamin D.  Sunshine is quite wonderful for you, despite what the dermatologists and cosmetic salespeople tell you, so long as you are sensible about exposure.  But as the story below tells you, it isn’t enough for your Vitamin D requirements.Sun

Most of us live far too north to get the proper light intensity  or the correct angle of the rays needed to produce Vitamin D.  Virtually all makeup and most skin creams have a SPF blocking free access to sunlight.  And very few of us are willing to foreswear soap for 48-72 hours after sun exposure in order to allow the Vitamin D conversion.  Our food no longer has much since animals are fed indoors on grain instead of growing grass and herbs.  And frankly the levels we need are too high without supplementation. Continue reading Sun Exposure Inadequate for Vitamin D

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The Energetics of Emotional Eating

I was listening to Jeffrey Yuen speak about how heat turns into  fire toxins unless the body damps it down, and it suddenly hit me why people with long term heating emotions might eat the way they do.

In Chinese medicine, the seven emotions are considered causes of disease.  If you are feeling chronically stressed or anxious, it can cause a condition of internal heat in the body.   Heat can turn into fire, which can harass the heart, causing anger or mental illness, depending upon the situation.  Fire, if unaddressed, can turn to fire toxin, a truly toxic situation that can lead to abscesses, ulcerations and even cancers.

What does the body do to prevent this?  Fire can be cooled, but the human body lacks internal refrigeration.  So the more likely response is to dampen the fire with fluids.  Fluids in the body are generated primarily by food and drink.

And what kinds of foods do we look for when we eat emotionally?  Sweets, breads, chocolate, ice cream, perhaps with a glass of milk- all the foods that tend to generate dampness when consumed.  We rarely have cravings for bell peppers or mustard greens or shitake mushrooms when we are comfort_foodemotionally spent.

Continue reading The Energetics of Emotional Eating

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What is the Glycemic Index?

Carbs

Most people with blood sugar problems have noticed that carbohydrates raise blood sugar, often followed by a crash. The various low carbohydrate diets- Atkins, South Beach, Anti-Inflammation Diet, and even the Zone- do somewhat better at weight loss compared to a low calorie diet, but really excel at keeping blood sugar levels stable, lowering triglycerides, lowering blood insulin, and even cholesterol.

But not all carbs are created equal:  a baked Idaho potato with a sprinkle of salt will send your blood sugar spiraling more than an equal weight of even ice cream or table sugar. Continue reading What is the Glycemic Index?

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New Herb for Weight Loss

turmeric-rootTurmeric has been used as a major anti-inflammatory herb, and is considered a panacea herb in Ayurveda. Now research, both in vitro and in vivo, shows that it may have another benefit. The May, 2009 issue of the Journal of Nutrition reported the discovery of researchers at Tufts University in Boston that that mice given curcumin experienced a reduction in the formation of fat tissue and the blood vessels that feed it. Curcumin is the major polyphenol in the spice turmeric.

Continue reading New Herb for Weight Loss

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European Court declares Fluoridated Water A Drug.

Fluoridated water must be treated as a medicine, and cannot be used to prepare foods. That is the decision of the European Court of Justice, in a landmark case dealing with the classification and regulation of ‘functional drinks’ in member states of the European Community. (HLH Warenvertriebs and Orthica (Joined Cases C-211/03, C-299/03, C-316/03 and C-318/03) 9 June 2005)

What are the implications of this?  Tap water cannot be used in prepared foods of any kind, foods made with tap water cannot be imported either between European states or from the US.  Unless they do full medical testing on it as for any other drug or functional food.

I do note that the European countries seem to be ignoring the Court of Justice decision which was given a few years ago and only the anti-flouridation forces are making much of it.


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Health Myths about Hydration

woman-drinking-waterWe all need water.  Water helps hydrate our tissues and flushes our kidneys.  We are 85% water and we need to replace water lost through urine, stools, sweat and breathing.  Water even carries qi, via hydronium ions, so you want to drink enough if you are feeling lethargic.

But there are many myths about water consumption:

  • There is no evidence that we need eight 8 oz. glasses of water a day.  This myth started when the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council recommended approximately “1 milliliter of water for each calorie of food,” which would amount to roughly two to two-and-a-half quarts per day (64 to 80 ounces). Although in its next sentence, the Board stated “most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods,” that last sentence is virtually never quoted. Continue reading Health Myths about Hydration
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How Are We Conditioned To Eat So Much?

David Kessler, former FDA Commissioner under GW Bush and Clinton, explores why we are so driven by reward-driven eating that our control mechanisms have disappeared.  In his book, obese-with-bad-food-choicesThe End of Overeating:  Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite,  Kessler discusses how we biologically lay down neurological pathways that induce us to eat.  In recent decades  the food industry, in collusion with the advertising industry, and our own lifestyle changes have short-circuited the body’s self-regulating mechanisms, leaving many at the mercy of reward-driven eating.

There was a time when people ate at home, at the table during prescribed mealtimes and were unlikely to eat on the street.  Now we pass outlets that stimulate our senses with neurologically exciting foods made of fat, sugar and salt, attractive presentation, pleasant odors (have you passed a Cinnabon lately?) and all of the emotional triggers associated with the food by advertising, and we biologically set ourselves up for triggering eating these foods.  Even if you do not succumb on day one of your diet, the neurological pathways are being laid down to entice you later.

Listen to an interview with Leonard Lopate at:

http://www.wnyc.org/shows/lopate/episodes/2009/04/27/segments/129905″>< Leonard Lopate Show>

And read the book:

http://astore.amazon.com/acupandherbby-20/detail/1605297852″




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Salt!

Salt is more than the simple white crystals that we used to find in the blue container with the girl and the umbrella. Sea salts, land salts, red and black salts all provide new salt experiences.

© by Karen S. Vaughan, MSTOM, L.Ac.

Nora Ephron wrote an amusing article in the NY Times recently complaining that salt is no longer on the tables or that lump salt, which she referred to as kosher or sea salt, is out and only sits in lumps on her food.

Sea salt is not the same as kosher salt. Kosher salt is salt in lumps, and is usually refined. Sea salt is unrefined and has more minerals, especially trace minerals in it. It can come in big lumps, as Ephron described, or in small crystals or powder. I am sure that expensive restaurants will use sea salt in large lumps because it seems trendier. Our taste for salt is really a taste for minerals, so just taking in sodium chloride misses the need for a broader spectrum of minerals. In fact if we just use plain sodium chloride, we may overconsume it because we are not getting the other minerals that a salt taste is a proxy for. Continue reading Salt!

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Coffee Beats Statins In Reducing Diabetes Inflammation

From Harvard:  a two years old trial found that  diabetic women who drank coffee had 10% less inflammation in their blood vessels,  shown by lower CRP levels than controls for each additional cup of coffee drunk per day.  These results are much better than the recent Crestor statin trial on CRP.   From other research, the likely antiiflammatory constituent is chlorogenic acid, also present in blueberries.coffee

Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Oct;84(4):888-93.

Coffee consumption and markers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction in healthy and diabetic women.

Lopez-Garcia E, van Dam RM, Qi L, Hu FB.

Department of Nutrition and Epidemiology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA,
USA. esther.lopez@uam.es

BACKGROUND: In several short-term studies, coffee consumption has been associated
with impairment of endothelial function. OBJECTIVE: The objective was to assess the relation coffee_beansbetween long-term caffeinated and decaffeinated filtered coffee consumption and markers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction.  … CONCLUSIONS: These results indicate that neither caffeinated nor decaffeinated filtered coffee has a detrimental effect on endothelial function. In contrast, the results suggest that coffee consumption is inversely associated with markers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction.

See Related Posts:

Coffee Herbs

November Herbal Blog Party on Morning Wake Up Beverages

Caffeine Halts Progression of Alzheimer’s

Simple Ways to Support Brain Function

Health Myths About Hydration

Fewer Serious or Lethal Prostate Cancers in Male Coffee Drinkers

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Butter is Good for Your Health

Butter has been eaten since Biblical times and even before:  In Mesopotamia, butter from goats and sheep has been eaten since 9000-8000 BC,  and cows were domesticated for such use a thousand years later.  The first reference to butter in written history was found on a 4,500-year-old limestone tablet illustrating how butter was made.  Although butter was part of the human diet for tens of thousands of years,  a series of misleading studies in the 1950s and 1960s vilified it. butter

At the turn of the 20th century, heart disease in America was so rare that medical students from all the New York City medical schools were summoned to see a heart attack.   By 1960, it was our number one killer. Yet during the same time period, butter consumption had decreased – from eighteen pounds per person per year, to four.   A researcher named Ancel Keys  first proposed that saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet were to blame for coronary heart disease  but numerous subsequent studies costing hundreds of millions of dollars, have failed to conclusively back up this claim. In fact a Medical Research Council survey showed that men eating butter ran half the risk of developing heart disease as those using margarine.
Continue reading Butter is Good for Your Health

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