sustainable

The Nutrient Power of Beets

by Tammera J. Karr, PhD, BCHN, CNW, CGP

In my home, we had canned and pickled sugar beets with a side of greens. For me, the beet greens were (and sometimes still are) the only edible part of the plant, but many people love beets in all their forms.

The first significant benefit of beets is that they are vasodilators. This is because they contain nitric oxide, which acts on the blood vessels to widen them. Imagine your veins and your arteries becoming wider.

While that might sound a little scary, what it means is that blood and oxygen are more easily able to get around the body. This then means that you get more energy to the parts of the body that need it and beets area considered incredibly useful for athletes. Another benefit of nitric oxide is that it encourages blood flow to the brain. This is important because it can help to boost attention, memory, and mood.

Betalain red-colored pigments are found in other foods like the stems of chard and rhubarb, but the peel and flesh of beets offer an unusually high concentration. An estimated 10-15 percent of U.S. adults experience beeturia (a reddening of the urine) after consumption of beets in everyday amounts. While this phenomenon is not harmful, it may indicate problems with iron metabolism. Individuals with iron deficiency, iron excess, or particular issues with iron metabolism are much more likely to experience beeturia than individuals with healthy iron metabolism.

Beets have been shown to help lower the amount of glucose in the blood as a result of the soluble fiber called inulin.

A little history

Like many fresh vegetables, beetroot was first cultivated by the Romans. In the 19th-century, it gained significant commercial value when it was discovered that beets could be converted into sugar. The Amalgamated Sugar Company was founded in 1897 in Logan, Utah, and is now located in Boise, Idaho. The company markets its sugar under the White Satin brand. By the 1950s, White Satin sugar was in every grocery store in the Pacific Northwest.

Beets are in the same family as chard and spinach, and both the leaves and root can be eaten. The leaves have a bitter taste, whereas the round root is sweet. Beets come in a variety of colors, including white and creamy yellow.

How and What

Beets can be eaten raw, cooked, or pickled. Beets are exceptionally healthy, especially the greens, which are rich in calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C. Beetroots are an excellent source of folic acid and a splendid source of fiber, manganese, and potassium. Beets help the liver to detoxify harmful chemicals from the body. The greens can be cooked up and enjoyed in the same way as spinach. A unique source of phytonutrients called betalains are found in beets. Betanin and vulgaxanthin are the two best-studied betalains found in beets, and both have been shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support.

Inulin is a dietary fiber that may benefit gut health.

Inulin is a type of soluble fiber found in beets and is a fructan. Like other fructans, it is a prebiotic, meaning that it feeds the good bacteria in the gut. Fructans are chains of fructose molecules. The molecules link together in a way that the small intestine cannot break down. Instead, they travel to the lower gut, where they feed beneficial gut bacteria.

The gut bacteria convert inulin and other prebiotics into short-chain fatty acids, which nourish colon cells and provide various other health benefits. Plants containing inulin have been around for thousands of years, and some early humans consumed much more inulin than we do today.

The gut microbiota is the population of bacteria and other microbes that live in the gut. This community is highly complex and contains both good and bad bacteria. Having the right balance of bacteria is essential for keeping the gut healthy and protect the body from disease. Inulin can help promote this balance. Studies have shown that inulin can help stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria.

Increasing the amounts of healthful bacteria can help improve digestion, immunity, and overall health.

Here is to real foods that build our health.

Zinc

by Tammera J Karr, PhD, BCHN, CNW, CGP

So often we forget about the nutrients that have been around for decades. Zinc is one of those minerals that have a multifaceted nature. Forty years ago the essential nature of zinc and human health was first reported in the Middle East. It is required for cellular enzyme function, the formation of hormones, and it provides the immune system with a unique skill – zinc is used by the immune system to strengthen the T-helper cells. The current estimate is that over 2,000 transcription factors may be zinc-dependent.

Zinc affects multiple aspects of the immune system. Zinc is crucial for the normal development and function of cells mediating innate immunity, neutrophils, and NK cells. Macrophages also are affected by zinc deficiency. The ability of zinc to function as an anti-oxidant and stabilize membranes suggests that it has a role in the prevention of free radical-induced injury during inflammatory processes.

The role of zinc in modulating oxidative stress has recently been recognized. Oxidative stress is an important contributing factor in several chronic human diseases, such as atherosclerosis and related vascular diseases, mutagenesis and cancer, neurodegeneration, immunologic disorders, and the aging process.

In studies of zinc deficiency, researchers found when zinc intake was insufficient it resulted in; decreased serum testosterone level, oligospermia, severe immune dysfunctions, hyperammonemia, neurosensory disorders, and decreased lean body mass. It appears that zinc deficiency is prevalent in the developing world and as many as two billion subjects may be growth retarded due to zinc deficiency. Besides growth retardation and immune dysfunctions, cognitive impairment due to zinc deficiency also has been reported recently. Our studies in the cell culture models showed that the activation of many zinc-dependent enzymes and transcription factors were adversely affected due to zinc deficiency.

For viruses to anchor to cells, we have to have a week immune system, which is a result of poor diet, sleep and heightened stress. Zinc is pivotal in the effectiveness of the anti-malarial drug function being used for COVID-19, and it is responsible for loss or off-taste and smell being reported by those who have recovered from COVID-19.

A lack of zinc can make a person more susceptible to disease and illness, along with increased risk for macular degeneration and infertility. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “zinc-deficient persons experience increased susceptibility to a variety of pathogens.”

According to the European Journal of Immunology, the human body needs zinc to activate T lymphocytes (T cells). T cells help the body in two ways: controlling and regulating immune responses and attacking infected or cancerous cells

Zinc is responsible for a number of functions in the human body, and it helps stimulate the activity of at least 100 different enzymes. Only a small intake of zinc is necessary to reap the benefits. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for zinc in the United States is 8 milligrams (mg) a day for women and 11 mg a day for men.

Vegetarians may require up to 50 percent more than the recommended intake of zinc because of the low bioavailability of zinc from plant-based foods.

Foods withOur Journey With Food Online Education Course the highest reported zinc content are:

raw oysters (Pacific),

beef, lean chuck roast

baked beans, canned

King Alaskan crab,

ground beef, lean

lobster

pork loin

wild rice

peas

yogurt, plain

pecans

peanuts

 

Zinc supplements are also available in the form of capsules and tablets. However, the tolerable upper limit for zinc is 40 milligrams for males and females over 18 years. It has been proven time and again that isolating certain nutrients in supplement form will not provide the same health benefits as consuming the nutrient from whole food. First, focus on obtaining your daily zinc requirement from foods, then use supplements as a backup if necessary.

To a Healthy Spring, Real Foods and Resiliency

 

Resourses

Prasad, Ananda S. “Zinc in human health: effect of zinc on immune cells.” Molecular medicine (Cambridge, Mass.) vol. 14,5-6 (2008): 353-7. doi:10.2119/2008-00033.Prasad

Putten On the Green

by Tammera J. Karr, PhD, BCHN, CGP, CNW

St. Patrick’s day and many other hallmark holidays may feel like frivolous events to celebrate – but it is during times of high stress and fear that the perfect prescription is a “Lightening of the Mood with a Wee Measure of Frivolous.” In truth, life goes on; most of us have deadlines, work, and responsibilities. Yet during quarantines, we may be working from home or navigating the prickly world of board spouses and kids. The weight of events is heavy, and silly celebrations lighten our feelings of isolation, fear, and boredom. It activates our immune responses and improves our brain chemistry.

You know where I’m going with this, my point is there is far more we can do during this pandemic then snip at each other, bing buy, be rude to grocery clerks or fellow shoppers, or post stupid toilet paper comments on Facebook. Now is when we call on our pioneer heritage and help those in our communities. Our combined know-how is stunning, and when there is a will, some humor and ingenuity amazing things blossom. Thank goodness we have a growing number of farmers’ markets, local butchers, and food sources. Being able to produce and procure local foods, resources, and more is what kept the 1918 Spanish Influenza outbreak from decimating so many rural communities.

Time in nature, fresh air, and sunshine are also gifts from the Creator that help us stay healthy. There is a reason we have a spring cleaning bug. It motivates us to clear away the dust and throw open the sash, letting in light and air. Which medical staff learned in 1918 had an anti-viral activity. Clearing away the dust mites, lint and dander, helps our immune systems, at the same time keeping our hands busy.

When we “put on the green,” it isn’t just about the Irish. It is about new beginnings, spring, bursting forth new life, and those foods rich in nutrients that help us stay healthy. Even though we are still in the “hunger months” for fresh food production, there is a fantastic wealth of produce available in stores and markets. Albeit some of the bounty is due to our aversion to vegetables. The sooner we put the green on our plates, the faster we will pass through the current pandemic.

Current infectious disease models are projecting the coronavirus pandemic that may last well into 2020. If that model is accurate, then we have every reason to order garden seeds and become proactive in helping our neighbors. Our faith will and is being tested, can we practice the good works on our own without the audience? I hope so.

Taking back the control

As much as I see the uselessness of many of the precautions being mandated by state governments (ineffective face masks, wearing them improperly, hand sanitizers that damage immune systems, unnecessary closure of businesses, and general paranoia) I do believe in the potential for a fall rebound of COVID-19.

Please keep in mind this rebound virus will not be the same as what circulated in January and February, just as the virus present in May or June has two or more generations of adaptation to that found in China. Therefore any effective vaccine is very unlikely. Viruses are sneaky little bastards, changing and using our normal body systems to hide from the immune system. THAT IS WHY we should be doing everything we can to strengthen our immune systems. This is not done overnight by a magic pill with a prescription label.

Our best recourse is those tools provided by nature that viruses are unable to mutate or adapt or mutate beyond.

1. Clean all the processed foods out – go with local vegetables, fruits and meats. Now is not the time to be eating sugar or processed foods. As much as I love bread, the increase of carbohydrates that increase inflammation, congestion, and blood sugars should be limited. Bread even naturally fermented sourdough does little to improve our ability to fight off viral infections.

2. Get your hands dirty – yup our immune system depends on microorganisms- they make up 85% of our immune response. We are intimately connected to the wee bugs in our soil, water and air. Our pets and homes share a common microbiota with us, it is the wee bugs that act as our front line defense against infections. We keep our microbiome healthy with the inclusion of fresh vegetables, ancient grains, and fruits. When we are constantly wiping down surfaces with bleach, vinegar, and alcohol disinfectants we are also damaging the microbiome of our environment. If you are worried about getting the COVID-19 virus from fresh vegetables – STOP, as with bacteria if in doubt steam, saute, fry, blanch, boil or bake the vegetables and fruits.

3. Get plenty of quality sleep – cut your alcohol consumption as it interferes with sleep quality, and lowers immune function. Turn off the WiFi at night, put your phone on airplane mode, cover blue light indicators, go to bed at the same time to ensure normal sleep hormone levels, keep your bedroom 60 or lower for temperature.

4. Utilize nature’s antiviral foods and herbs – garlic, ginger, elderberry, blackberries, black and green tea, onion, thyme, oregano, nettle, citrus, goldenseal, olive leaf, free-range protein, natural fats,

5. Old school – high-quality silver solutions are still used for third-degree burns, viruses are not able to hide from quality silver. (Please buy from a reputable company like Designs for Health or Quick Silver, pretty much all of the brands found in health stores are useless.)

6. Time in nature, research supports the multitude of health benefits from time in nature. Nature immits negative ions that stimulate hormones that support immune function. From just sitting and meditating, enjoying the view or hiking a trail; time in nature stimulates digestion, detoxification, circulation, vitamin D synthesis, and endorphins.

7. Turn off the news and Do Not Believe most of what you read, hear, or see. Now is when I’m seeing a big uptick in fake, incomplete, and poorly understood information. If you are healthy, doing the right things; “Falling Victim To Fear” will increase the risks of becoming ill. Fear suppresses our immune function.

8. Above all think ahead, plan, and be sensible.
Plan for the worst, hoping it never happens. Prayer, meditation, journaling, dance, sing, and laugh to improve immune function and brain chemistry.

Consider “putting on the green”; as a smile on your face, a song in your heart, and helping hands for those in your neighborhoods who are frightened, alone, isolated, and even hungry. Busy hands make for light hearts, so if you know an elder or disabled person is alone, drop off a jar or pot of soup, fresh bread, or bag of produce. Ask if you can weed their flower beds, trim bushes, chop firewood, or mow their lawn. Calling and checking in on friends and family, having actual conversations dose wonders. How about choirs sharing mucic as if they where caroling? All of this can be done from a safe distance. Rural communities have always come together during trying times and now is no different than 1918.

 

Putten on the Green Kale Sauté with Garlic and Lemon

1½ pounds (about 2 large bunches) kale*

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large cloves garlic, minced (use more if you wish)

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Juice from 2 fresh lemons

 

Tear kale leaves into bite-size pieces; place in a large colander; rinse well under cold water.

Fill a large pot with water. Add about ½ teaspoon salt and bring to a boil; add kale and cook for 4-6 minutes until crisp-tender. Drain well.

Heat olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat; add garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Add kale; season well with sea salt and black pepper. Cook, often stirring, until wilted and tender, 4-6 minutes.

Sprinkle with fresh lemon juice; toss to combine. Serve immediately.

*Collard or mustard greens work well also, blanch greens instead of boiling

The Power of Vitamin C & Essential Oils

Our Journey With Food Online Education Course

by Tammera J. Karr

The history of essential oils is intertwined with the history of herbal medicine; in most ancient cultures, people believed plants to be magical, and for thousands of years herbs were used as much for ritual as they were for medicine and food. In the modern world, science is exploring the medicinal value of many herbs, and plant extracts in efforts to locate new therapies for antibiotic-resistant conditions. There is a growing pharmacopeia of anti-inflammatory herbs additionally.

The Atlantic magazine highlighted the antimicrobial qualities of plant extracts and essential oils. The article notes that “various oils have also been shown to effectively treat a wide range of common health issues such as nausea and migraines, and a rapidly growing body of research is finding that they are powerful enough to kill human cancer cells of the breast, colon, mouth, skin, and more.”

I reflected and realized I had shared information on this topic during a superbug outbreak in 2015.

Just a little recap of an article from the Alliance for Natural Health – On April 14, 2015 – A New Tool for Antibiotic-Resistant Killer Bacteria: Essential Oils; What should you stock to protect yourself?
Drug-resistant tuberculosis—and antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” in general. These infect at least two million Americans each year and kill 23,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to Karl Rotthier, the chief executive of a Dutch-based pharmaceutical firm, antibiotics are making their way into rivers and waterways due to lax safety measures. Some of the drugs are flushed directly down the toilet, while others pass through the patients first—and it all ends up in the water supply. Too many drugs come from manufacturing waste.

 

There is a growing body of research supporting the natural antibiotic properties nutrients and herbs, here are just a few:

Silver, the world’s oldest known antibiotic. (still used in hospitals as silvadeane cream for burns and wound healing)

Vitamin D

Vitamin C may be effective in fighting antibiotic-resistant infections.

Where Tradition Meets ScienceAn article released February 13, 2020, from Orthomolecular Research on the use of vitamin C, Goes on to say – “Viral pneumonia is a dangerous condition with a poor clinical prognosis. For most viral infections, there is a lack of effective targeted antiviral drugs, and symptomatic supportive treatment is still the current main treatment. Vitamin C, has antioxidant properties. When sepsis happens, the cytokine surge caused by sepsis is activated, and neutrophils in the lungs accumulate in the lungs, destroying alveolar capillaries. Early clinical studies have shown that vitamin C can effectively prevent this process. In addition, vitamin C can help to eliminate alveolar fluid by preventing the activation and accumulation of neutrophils, and reducing alveolar epithelial water channel damage. At the same time, vitamin C can prevent the formation of neutrophil extracellular traps, which is a biological event of vascular injury caused by neutrophil activation. Most deaths from viruses are caused by pneumonia. Vitamin C has been known, for over 80 years, to benefit pneumonia patients greatly. In 1936 Gander and Niederberger found that vitamin C lowered fever and reduced pain in pneumonia patients”.

The sited study can be seen at: http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v16n17.shtml

While these studies are not conclusive on the total value of nutrients during challenging health events, they do provide hope for many. The foundation of our health is directly tied into the foods we eat every day, and it is easy for many to add more of the traditional herbs, spices, and foods into their diet during the expected seasonal health challenges.

To Real Foods for Health.

 

Sources:

1.University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. (2015, September 16). Immune system may be pathway between nature and good health. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 19, 2020 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150916162120.htm

2.The antibacterial activity of oregano essential oil (Origanum heracleoticum L.) against clinical strains of Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. 2012:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23484421

3.Coriander essential oil and linalool – interactions with antibiotics against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria.2019 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30471142

4.Antibacterial activity of traditional spices against lower respiratory tract pathogens: combinatorial effects of Trachyspermum ammi essential oil with conventional antibiotics. 2018 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30187508

5.Inhibitory effect of Allium sativum and Zingiber officinale extracts on clinically important drug resistant pathogenic bacteria. 2012 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22540232

6. University of Melbourne. (2020, March 17). COVID-19: The immune system can fight back. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 27, 2020 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200317103815.htm

7. University of Virginia Health System. (2020, March 19). Understanding how COVID-19 affects children vital to slowing pandemic, doctors say. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 27, 2020 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200319125201.htm

8. Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center. (2020, March 23). ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers may increase the risk of severe COVID-19, paper suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 27, 2020 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200323101354.htm

9. University of Maryland School of Medicine. (2020, March 23). Anxious about COVID-19? Stress can have lasting impacts on sperm and future offspring: Study identifies biological mechanism by which stress alters sperm and impacts brain development in next generation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 27, 2020 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200323132410.htm

10. Stanford University. (2020, March 26). How to identify factors affecting COVID-19 transmission. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 27, 2020 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200326160759.htm

11. Stanford University. (2020, March 26). How to identify factors affecting COVID-19 transmission. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 27, 2020 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200326160759.htm

12. Semantic Scholar Free access to COCID-19 Research https://www.semanticscholar.org/feed/create?name=COVID-19&paperIds=4adf89030bb59f9cd97a55af21b419aad9045287%2C272c530d8b3a2daae3af01fa4a59b350f3a5398b%2Ca42902bc3f4d92b72f46775420be6569d19e3f73


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Lets Talk Plastic and Plastic

by Tammera J. Karr

The first synthetic polymer was invented in 1869 by John Wesley Hyatt as a substitute for ivory. By treating cellulose, derived from cotton fiber, with camphor (both naturally occurring substances), Hyatt discovered a plastic that could be crafted into a variety of shapes and made to imitate natural materials like tortoiseshell, horn, linen, and ivory.

In 1907 Leo Baekeland invented Bakelite, the first fully synthetic plastic, meaning it contained no molecules found in nature. Baekeland had been searching for a synthetic substitute for shellac, a natural electrical insulator, to meet the needs of the rapidly electrifying United States.

Plastics Come of Age

World War II necessitated a significant expansion of the plastics industry. Almost exclusively made from fossil fuels, the market was ripe for the development of (1935) rayon, nylon as synthetic silk, used during the war for parachutes, ropes, body armor, helmet liners, and more. Plexiglas provided an alternative to glass for aircraft windows. During World War II, plastic production in the United States increased by 300%.

It wasn’t long till plastic was everywhere and thousands of products were made of plastics. But by the mid-1960s American perceptions as plastics were no longer seen as unambiguously positive. Plastic debris in the oceans was first observed in the 1960s, and Americans were becoming increasingly aware of environmental problems.

Unlike natural fibers, fur, paper, and metal, plastics last in the environment forever, breaking down into micro-plastic beads that are ingested by birds, fish and animals. Current research is finding plastic particles incorporated into the flesh of marine life and land animals. The modern reality is our lives are heavily invested in plastics, computers, cell phones, carpeting, clothing, cars, planes, phone, electrical, water…… everything we need or do has plastic involved.

Unintended consequences to our health.

As I scanned through research articles on phthalates, the common form of plastics found in animals and humans. It became clear that the government and industry websites and reports were slanted to protect industry versus human health. Over and over I saw statements like “more research needs to be done, effects are unknown at this time, small studies” …. This all reads just like the cover-up reports before the effects of agent orange on veteran, and civilian health could no longer be denied.

Red flags started waving, especially after seeing studies recently released on phthalates linked to motor skill deficiencies. This study published in February 2019 and updated again in January 2020, says.

“The findings suggest that maternal exposure to phthalates in late pregnancy could have long-lasting adverse effects on motor function in children in later childhood, particularly in girls. There was also evidence that childhood exposure to phthalates may have more harmful effects on motor function in boys.

“Almost one-third of the children in our study had below or well-below average motor skills,” says senior author Pam Factor-Litvak, Ph.D., professor of Epidemiology at the Columbia Mailman School.”

Researchers from the Department of Genetic Medicine and Development at UNIGE Faculty of Medicine published their findings in 2019 on phthalates and gene expression. This research group out of Switzerland wrote the following statement:

“Phthalates, one of the most common endocrine disruptors, are commonly used by industry in many plastic products — toys, clothing, baby bottles or even medical equipment — as well as in cosmetics. Guidelines are beginning to be imposed to limit their use; their toxic effect on the endocrine system is worrying.

Indeed, the exposure of male fetuses to phthalates can have devastating consequences for the fertility of future individuals by modifying the regulatory elements of the expression of genes responsible for spermatogenesis. …… phthalate susceptibility depends largely on the genetic heritage of each individual. These results, to be discovered in PLOS One magazine, raise the question of individual vulnerability as well as that of the possible transmission to future generations of epigenetic changes that should normally be erased during fetal development”.

Other studies from 2015 and 2017 said:

“Early childhood exposures to specific phthalates were associated with depressed thyroid function in girls at age 3, …. Phthalates, a class of chemicals thought to disrupt the endocrine system, are widely used in consumer products from plastic toys to household building materials to shampoos”.

“Early exposure in the human womb to phthalates disrupts the masculinization of male genitals, according to a study presented at the Endocrine Society’s 97th annual meeting in San Diego”.

Ok, I think I have made my point here about the unintended consequences of plastics to our environment and human health.

To real food, and the products from nature that make life sustainable.

 

Sources

  1. Science Matters: The Case of Plastics: https://www.sciencehistory.org/the-history-and-future-of-plastics
  2. Joseph L. Nicholson and George R. Leighton, “Plastics Come of Age,” Harper’s Magazine, August 1942, p. 306.
  3. Microplastics in Seafood and the Implications for Human Health, 2018: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6132564/
  4. Arin A. Balalian, Robin M. Whyatt, Xinhua Liu, Beverly J. Insel, Virginia A. Rauh, Julie Herbstman, Pam Factor-Litvak. Prenatal and childhood exposure to phthalates and motor skills at age 11 years. Environmental Research, 2019; 171: 416 DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2019.01.046
  5. Ludwig Stenz, Rita Rahban, Julien Prados, Serge Nef, Ariane Paoloni-Giacobino. Genetic resistance to DEHP-induced transgenerational endocrine disruption. PLOS ONE, 2019; 14 (6): e0208371 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0208371
  6. Rachelle Morgenstern, Robin M. Whyatt, Beverly J. Insel, Antonia M. Calafat, Xinhua Liu, Virginia A. Rauh, Julie Herbstman, Gary Bradwin, Pam Factor-Litvak. Phthalates and thyroid function in preschool-age children: Sex-specific associations. Environment International, 2017; 106: 11 DOI: 10.1016/j.envint.2017.05.007

Why Change isn’t Always for the Best

by Tammera J. Karr, PhD

How is it that for centuries our ancestors consumed large quantities of high-fat foods and never fell victim to the health challenges of contemporary generations? To answer this, we must look at the lifestyle, food and preparation methods commonly used by past generations. I have a small collection of antique cookbooks dating from 1886 up through current culinary times. It doesn’t take very long to see, previous generations consumed on the whole more vegetables, unrefined oils and fats, fresh meat, whole grains, and fewer daily calories than modern Americans. An actual person grew, harvested and prepared meals versus industrial assembly lines and robots, as is the case for almost every food found in a grocery store today. When we look back in time; it can shine a light on why we do certain things or when changes happened. By reflecting on past events, many that may not be as far distant as thought, the value of change for change sake may be questioned. One example is the use of glyphosate this one chemical, and its fellow family members became commonly available for agriculture in 1994.

Depending on where you lived fresh foods may have been delivered to your door each morning up through the 1960s, you went to the local butcher, baker, and grocer. The advent of Mega grocery stores like those common in the Pacific Northwest came on the scene much later. The move to commercially prepared foods and the ideology of “better living through science” are predominately a product of post World War II cultural and economic changes.

Prior to World War II, America was filled with farms, many of which blew away in the great depression. It would be wrong to say no chemicals were applied to crops in the 1920s and 1930s – cyanide and arsenic were used to control pests. By today’s standards on average America’s farmers applied over 1 billion pounds of pesticides accounting for the lions share of worldwide use. A Study published in 2009 reported – “As a consequence; it has been estimated that as many as 25 million agricultural workers worldwide experience unintentional pesticide poisonings each year. In a large prospective study of pesticide users in the United States, the Agricultural Health Study, it was estimated that 16% of the cohort had at least one pesticide poisoning or an unusually high pesticide exposure episode in their lifetime”. [1] Genetically engineered herbicide-tolerant crops now account for over 56 % of global glyphosate use. In the U.S., no pesticide has come remotely close to such intensive and widespread use. [2]

Following World War II, it would be almost four decades before Americans began relying on industrial foods. An unforeseen consequence of the depression were the changes in DNA from famine and food insecurity. Researchers today know the events of our grandparent’s life changed DNA for their children and grandchildren, which in some cases led to an increase in morbid obesity, type II diabetes, and heart disease. [3], [4] For those living in rural areas during the 1930-70s food security was better than for those in inner cities; the foods they consumed came from their own garden or local farms; they sometimes had periods of fasting or calorie reduction due to weather, income, and harvest. The terms “processed” and “organic” were unheard of; everything from condiments to the main course was made from scratch.

Lifestyle and environmental factors have also dramatically changed over time and with these changes comes increases in cancer, auto-immune, endocrine and cognitive illnesses. Every human in history must deal with some stress and trauma, but today we suffer from background stressors we may not even be fully aware of such as noise, electricity and artificial light. This in addition to our modern food preparation and farming practices contributes to the growing chronic health challenges we now face. So while I and all of you benefit from the changes that have occurred in science and, technology, it also behooves us to seriously consider the cost of change – the price may be higher then we want to pay.

 

To Traditional Food and Wisdom of Old

 

 

[1] Pesticides Use and Exposure Extensive Worldwide; 2009, Michael C.R. Alavanja, Dr.P.H. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2946087/

[2] Trends in glyphosate herbicide use in the United States and globally; 2016, Charles M. Benbrook – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5044953/

[3] Brown University. “Famine alters metabolism for successive generations.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 December 2016. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161212115737.htm

[4] Elsevier. “Trauma’s epigenetic fingerprint observed in children of Holocaust survivors.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 September 2016. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/09/160901102207.htm