Thursday, June 28, 2007

"Foreign Molecules" in the Food Supply

Everyone knows something about nutrition. Most school kids will name "vitamins" as key to nutrition. Dieters know to count macronutrients like protein, carbohydrates, and fats. People who take supplements think about antioxidants and various phytonutrients associated with health and healing.

Unfortunately, our food supply has both natural molecules (nutrients as nature designed them) and synthetic molecules (designed by manufacturers to improve taste, shelf-life, etc. and also industrial molecules found as waste in our culinary water supplies).

According to a June/July 2007 Integrative Medicine journal article, by Dr. Jeffrey Bland, "What Role Has Nutrition Been Playing in Our Health? The Xenohormesis Connection" makes the case that epidemic increases in insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, shorter life spans, and fast food addictions are related. The word xenohormesis is derived from "xeno" (foreign) and "hormesis (control) and Bland argues that the food we're eating could be negatively altering cellular signaling. He writes:

"Thus, the 'foreign molecules' included in foods that have been developed over the past five decades may serve as substances that alter cellular signaling and produce a different effect in the body than substances that humans traditionally consumed before the advent of food processing."

Bland goes on to talk about nutrigenomics and redefining food as "information" that alters cellular function. Illegitimate cellular signaling created by foreign molecules in the body is tantamount to creating chronic stress at the cellular level, which may shift body phenotype to "suit a more conservative state that favors storage of energy and obesity." Bland talks about "stressed phenotypes" as being associated with alterations in immunity and increased inflammation, which lead to disease.

Treating obesity through limitation of calories without addressing inherent cellular signalling malfunction is a mistake according to research on xenohormesis.

Whenver, I hear the word "xeno," I think of the many conversations I've had with Dr. Rodier on the need to detoxify our increasing loads of xenoestrogens, synthetic substances that mimic or enhance the effect of estrogens, and which have been implicated in a variety of medical problems (breast cancer, prostate cancer, etc.). Xenoestrogens in foods and drinking water come from pesticide residues, phytoestrogens, etc. and disrupt the body's endocrine system.

Regardless of the kind of foreign molecules that end up in our diet or water supplies, the end result is often cellular stress and cellular signalling malfunctions.

Dr. Bland recommends more whole foods rich in antioxidants and other phytochemicals that protect cells from stress. To turn around decades of faulty cellular signaling, however, Dr. Bland recommends inclusion of nutritional products that contain "concentrates of selective kinase response modulators" for a more rapid improvement in the stress response.

Dr. Rodier concurs with a whole foods diet, but also emphasizes intensive detoxification programs when he starts to work with people with chronic conditions. Remember, his platform is that you have to take care of cell-to-cell communication by addressing cellular TOIL -- specifically toxicity, oxidation, inflammation, and lack of energy.

Detoxification addresses cellular TOIL from foreign molecules of all kinds (i.e., food colorings, preservatives, antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, and various other environmental pollutants).

Combine the advice and it's all about more whole foods, nutrition that normalizes cellular signaling, and detoxification. It's pretty straightforward, just not always so easy.

Monday, June 25, 2007

A Tale of "Resistant Starch" & What is Being Left Out

"Resistant starch" is one of the latest trendy ingredients in foods.

Resistant starch is naturally found in legumes, grains, and ripe bananas, as well as cold pasta and cold potatoes (more so in cold potatoes than hot potatoes), and is a kind of starch that is resistant to digestion by enzymes.

With fine particles and a bland taste, resistant starch has properties similar to fiber, and is being used to reduce calories and glycemic index of foods and is being tested for use in addressing condititions ranging from colon cancer to gallstones to hypocholesterolemia.

There's a commercial product called Hi-Maize that is being added increasingly to breads, cereals, and other processed foods to increase dietary fiber, promote weight management, improve intestinal function, improve glycemic management, etc.

There are plenty of good studies regarding resistant starch, but that's no surprise since adding fiber of any kind is usually a good thing and insoluble fibers have a long history of offering health benefits.

What prompted this blog note was a blurb recapping the Australian government's recommendation in the 1990s that all citizens consume more dietary fiber by eating more bread. A well-known story was recounted in a recent Nutrition Today article:

"A large baker in Australia was able to produce a white bread with Hi-maize resistant starch (from high-amylose corn) that contained more dietary fiber per slice than multigrain brown bread but retained the taste characteristics of the more popular white bread. This proved advantageous because people, especially children, had been unwilling to eat the multigrain and whole-meal breads. The white bread, called Wonder White, provided the first soft white bread high in dietary fiber in Australia...Within 20 weeks on the market, the bread captured 12% of the white bread market, and it continues to be a leading brand."

This kind of thing is always so sad. Great. More fiber. But what about all the hundreds of little phytonutrients and antioxidants that are missing in white bread?! Not that I'm a big whole wheat fan (wheat can tend to make me sneeze), but I am a whole foods fan whenever possible.

When deciding what to eat, it's as important to pay as much attention to "what is being left out" as to what is being included.

Funny enough, it's the same thing with conversations. Just listen to all the presidential hopefuls and pay attention to "what is being left out" of each speech as well as what is being included. :-)

Friday, June 22, 2007

Dark Chocolate, French Vanilla & Bittersweet Notes

TGIF. "Thank God it's Friday," yes, indeed, but more importantly, "Thank God It's Finished" (as in the Constant Health protein powder is finally finished and ready to send off to manufacturing).

The final sample came in today (the usual UPS guy in brown was a UPS gal today, who showed up earlier than usual). I found a new source for helping with our flavoring. We liked their dark chocolate and French vanilla flavorings much better. Dr. Rodier, just back from a trip to Australia, showed up for our lunch meeting. He was game to be my final guinea pig and so we both tasted both flavors this afternoon. Dr. Rodier's assessment: "I would enjoy drinking this!" Yeah! High five!

Teri and Stephen and a few others who have helped us along the way will get the final preview samples. Meanwhile, I have pre-orders for dozens of cases already (this without asking for orders yet!). The big question now -- which flavor will sell better. We're ordering an initial run of 50% Dark Chocolate and 50% French Vanilla. Anyone want to place bets on which one will be the "favorite?"

Meanwhile, it's a bittersweet time as we go into production on Constant Health. My dad, whose illness last summer was the inspiration for the formula, is back in the hospital. The diagnosis is unclear, besides weight loss and malnutrition. I wish I could do more for him right now. I had Dr. Rodier visit him today and discuss the treatment plan with the chief resident on my dad's case. At least they are doing some reasonable nutritional intervention and this younger-generation doc was open to having Dr. Rodier consult on the nutritional front.

Alas, I'll always wonder if he would have been in better shape if I could have gotten him on this formula earlier (he hated the taste of the commercial product we tried to get him to drink and flat out refused to drink it more than a few times). Many of my readers have expressed their own emotional dilemmas in trying to help a family member navigate nutrition while dealing with an acute health crisis.

All I can say is "It's hard" and I wish I could do more.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Paradox of Choice

I was eating an early lunch today and clicked through to to check out the latest roster of speakers.

I had come across the site, which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, through my friend and neighbor, Kelly Moynahan (who was formerly with the Co-op). Kelly sent a link to a talk by Sir Ken Robinson on "Do schools kill creativity?"

I had seen this one before and clicked through to Barry Schwartz's talk on "The Paradox of Choice." I read his book a few years ago, enjoyed hearing him, and felt his talk was apropos given the taste tests we've done lately.

Schwartz argues that while more choices in life can be good (we all know about the upside of having more choices), more choices can also be bad (Schwartz wrote a book to demonstrate the downside of having too many choices).

He argues that more choice creates a kind of paralysis (for example, when employers offer more mutual fund choices in retirement plans, voluntary participation goes down, since more funds require more evaluation, so it's easier to put off a decision).

Second, once we've made a decision, the attractive features of the other choices haunt us, leading to dissatisfaction.

I've been haunted by the paradox of choice in finalizing the Constant Health formula. We've tweaked the flavoring and I have kept wondering what the real cost-benefit is for "keeping it simple" and getting on with it versus "making it better."

With the former mindset, I tell myself that "it's not dessert" and people will "doctor it up" in a variety of ways.

In the latter mindset, I worry about getting the taste "just right" to appeal to the greatest number of people. It's that satisfier/maximizer conundrum again.

Yesterday, however, was encouraging. We had four clinical practitioners try samples. They said our formula was "better" than what they are using today. They also asked, "when can we order some?"

Further, they always ask people to blend in some extra whey protein, which adds flavor and sweetness (and would mellow out the taste of our "concentrated nutrition" formula). All good, so far.

Interestingly enough, the vanilla flavor is a bigger hit with people out west, while Teri and Stephen and others preferred the chocolate flavor back east. We have a few more baggies of fine powder making their way to tasters in other parts of the country, so we'll see if this trend holds.