The China Study: Part Four

Okay, so this is the long awaited final post about The China Study! Wahoo, only about a month late. I woke up this morning feeling like crap. I worked a half day at work because I needed to get a few things done and then I went home and slept all afternoon. I didn’t do my bike workout tonight. I hate missing workouts but with the 10 miler on Sunday it definitely makes sense to skip the workout and rest. Hopefully, I will kick this cold by Sunday!

Part IV: Why Haven’t You Heard This Before

The last section of the book talks mostly about the dirty business of science. Most people probably have the image of a nerdy scientist in a white lab coat and wire glasses with a flask in one hand and a pipette in another. What they don’t know is how dirty science is, especially when politics and publishing scientific articles comes into play. During my undergraduate years I spent all my summer vacations at various research labs conducting summer research projects. My first internship was after my freshmen year of college and it was spent at a local research center. At the end of 10 weeks we had to present our results (or lack of results and yes it does happen in science!) to anyone in the facility who wanted to watch (which was pretty much everyone). I was nervous as hell. I was presenting my research project in front of numerous well respected PhD people and their grad students. My presentation went without a hitch and I wasn’t asked any hard questions that I couldn’t answer on my own. However, one student presented his project and then was asked numerous very hard and technical questions by one particular principal investigator (the PhD scientists who run each of the labs). I later found out that this PI was in a “feud” with the PI that the student worked with. Science is full of petty stuff like that. Scientists have huge egos! Okay, now back to the book!

Chapter 13: Science-The Dark Side

In 1979 Campbell was asked to join the Public Nutrition Information Committee within the American Institute of Nutrition. During this time another committee was being formed within another organization at the prestigious National Academy of Science (NAS). It was well known by the scientific community that the internal NAS Food and Nutrition Board was heavily influenced by the meat, dairy, and egg industries. Many of its members served as consultants for the industries and thus there was a known, but not acknowledged conflict of interest. Now clearly if someone is making 10% of their income from the egg industry obviously they will not claim that eggs are bad but in fact eggs are great and we should all eat a dozen a day! Well, maybe not that much, but you get the picture. This is a really great chapter and one that I think everyone should read. In a nutshell (because I could go on for days about this topic), once politics and lobbyists enter the picture, good science sometimes is ignored. Is this right? Of course not! That’s why if you read an article claiming that eating hamburgers is going to make you healthy you should check who funded the study. Chances are it will be someone in the meat industry.

Chapter 14: Scientific Reductionism

Science has the tendency to break things into the minute parts, such as specific enzymes or molecules in a biochemical reaction in the brain, or which muscle fibers contract when you do a bicep curl, or which vitamins and minerals in your food is good for you. Campbell has shown through his research that there is a positive relationship between cancer and vitamin A, C, E, and some B vitamins. He has always claimed that vitamins should be obtained from whole nutritious foods and not through pills. However, once the vitamin and supplementation industry got a hold of his research they saw $$$$! Let’s make pills and claim they cure cancer! Yay!

Chapter 15: The “Science” of Industry

This chapter talks mainly about a point I made above about science being infiltrated by lobbyists and politics. Food companies make a lot of money. Kraft foods has revenues of about $30 billion a year. That’s a shit load of money. They may say they care about your health and giving you healthy options, but the bottom line is they want your money! However, with consumers starting to demand healthier options I think more companies are starting to rethink the idea. There are numerous very powerful lobbyist groups out there. Some of them include the National Dairy Council, American Meat Institute, and Florida Citrus Processors Association. These groups have A LOT of money and thus power so they have great marketing tools to make you buy their products. The National Dairy Council’s goal is use schools as a channel to young children and conduct and publicize research favorable to their industry.

Chapter 16: Government: Is It for the People?

I think you can probably answer that question correctly on your own. Again, this chapter talks mainly about the ties between various governmental committee members and industry. Campbell also states that nutrition is highly underfunded compared to other health topics such as cancer research, clinical research, and brain disorders. All those topics are important, but each also is affected by nutrition. Nutrition is a form of preventive medicine. Campbell has shown us that through his research. Perhaps we should invest more into it?

Chapter 17: Big Medicine: Whose Health Are They Protecting?

Campbell starts the chapter by asking “When is the last time that you went to the doctor and he or she told you what to eat or not to east?” It’s a very good question. Medicine, especially in America, is heavily driven by drugs. We have a pill to fix this. We have a pill to fix that. But guess what? We have food that can probably help you prevent that!

Chapter 18: Repeating Histories

This is Campbell’s last chapter in the book and uses it to connect his research findings to his personal life and family.

Overall, I enjoyed this section of the book the best, probably because I have experienced some of what he talks about in these chapters first hand. I definitely think this information is important and interesting for people to read.

I definitely think this is a good book for people to read. I highly recommend it! It might be a little intense on some of the scientific research concepts but Campbell writes in a way that captivates the reader and is easy to understand. Now the real question, will I become a vegan? Not a 100%. I do strongly believe in a strong plant-based diet, but I do enjoy some dairy and meat at a minimum.

Note: This post is mainly my opinion on the book and the topics. I am not a nutrition expert so please take my opinions as just that. I encourage you all to do your own research and come up with your own conclusions on the book and your diet and lifestyles.

A Week in Review: Recipes

I’ve decided to try and do a weekly review of different recipes I make each week of the food I eat. My diet is mostly plant-based with eggs and some seafood. I enjoy meat, but in the recent years I have been eating less and less of it. With all the recent literature I’ve been reading on nutrition and diet I’ve discovered that I can eat a well-balanced, nutritious and healthy diet mostly by eating plant-based. Below are a few recipes that I have made this past week that I really enjoyed!

Orange Chocolate Shake

(Adapted from Gourmet Nutrition)

1 Orange (peeled and all white stuff removed)

1 cup Almond milk (I’m lactose intolerant, but you can use a low-fat milk or chocolate milk)

1 Scoop of Muscle Milk Chocolate Protein Powder

1 cup of Greek yogurt (you can use cottage cheese if you prefer)

1 tbsp ground flaxseed

1 cup ice

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend on high until mixture is smooth and creamy.

Cauliflower Soup

(Adapted from Simple Cauliflower Soup)

2 tbsp Coconut oil (or butter if you wish)

1 Onion, chopped

1 head of Cauliflower, broken into small florets

1 Potato, peeled and diced

2 cups Vegetable stock

2 cups Almond Milk (or regular milk)

salt and pepper to taste

Melt the coconut oil (or butter) over medium heat. Saute the onion in the oil for 5 minutes. Stir in the cauliflower and potato and saute for 5 more minutes. Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes or until all vegetables are tender. Blender the mixture in a blender so it is a creamy mixture. Add in the milk, stirring well to blend. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Zucchini Noodles w/Orzo

(From my favorite blog: http://trimarni.blogspot.com/2012/01/zucchini-noodles-w-orzo.html)

Mini sweet peppers

Onions

Artichoke hearts (canned, rinsed well)

Tofu (firm and cubed)

3 Zucchini (small or medium size)

Olive oil

Orzo

Greek yogurt

1. In large skillet, generously coat bottom of pan with olive oil and sautee peppers and onions on medium heat, tossing occasionally. Remove when veggies are golden and not brown.

2. Peel zucchini with peeler (cut off ends and toss away). You will need to press hard when peeling and you do not need to be perfect. When you get close to the center, you can thinly slice into “noodles” since it will be hard to peel.

3. In boiling water, place zucchini noodles and let cook for 5-8 minutes or until soft.

4. While zucchini is cooking, place orzo into boiling water (according to package) and let cook, stirring occasionally.

5. On same skillet as veggies, drizzle olive oil (or your choice of unsaturated oil) and grill tofu and artichokes until golden brown. Toss occasionally to cook evenly.

6. In shallow dish, place zucchini noodles (strained from water) and add veggies and tofu. Top with YOUR own serving size of orzo OR combine a little orzo into the mixture.

7. Top with greek yogurt and a dash of pepper. YUM!

I made this yesterday (without tofu) and it was YUMMY! I highly suggest it 🙂


Reader Beware: Misinformation on the Internet

Yesterday I came across an interesting article posted on one of the facebook page’s I follow. It was a post from a blog about canola oil. I read through the article at first and then thought “OMG, this stuff is bad. AND I cook with it! Ahhh…” Then I started to wonder where all this information came from. There is SOOO much misinformation out there on the internet, especially about diet and exercise. As a scientist, the first thing you are taught is where does your information come from. Information should come from respected peer-review journals and not Wikipedia (as much as we all love it!). You must also consider studies that might contradict other studies on the same topic and also how each study is funded if that information is available. Generally, information found in peer-review journals can be trusted, but on rare occasions there is fraud and misinformation. This has occurred in the case of Autism vs. vaccinations. An article published in 1998 in the journal Lancet by British gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield which links Autism to the MMR vaccine. However, what were not released in the initial article were his ties to a patent on a rival measles vaccine and how the study was funded. The article has seen been retracted and Wakefield faces serious charges on professional misconduct before the General Medical Council. Wakefield’s study was the catalyst to the Autism vs. vaccination debate, and research has shown over and over again that there is no clear link of vaccinations causing Austism(1).

So instead of believing everything I read in the article about Canola Oil, I decided to look it up. First I start with a basic Google search. The first couple of sites that pop up are from Wikipedia, the Canola Oil Council of Canada, and a snopes.com article about Canola Oil. Now, I love Wikipedia and I think it’s a great source to use at the beginning of your search for information, but it is not always reliable and accurate. You can get basic information from it, but you should always check the sources at the bottom of the page. Where do they come from? I decided to begin my research with the Canola Oil Council of Canada to get some basic information. Canola oil is made from the canola seed. Canola was bred naturally from its parent rapeseed in the early 1970s and has a different nutritional profile from the rapeseed. Scientists used traditional cross breeding methods to eliminate the undesirable components of rapeseed, namely the erucic acid and glucosinolate that have been linked to possible health concerns in laboratory animals(2). Now the blog post I read claims that canola oil is genetically modified. Cross breeding of plants is not genetically modifying a plant. Gregor Mendel cross bred pea plants in the 1800s and the study of genetics was born! Genetically modified foods have a piece of DNA inserted into its natural genetic sequence through methods called recombinant DNA. Now, the Canola Oil Council of Canada website has some great information about canola oil, but obviously they are going to be bias and probably won’t be sharing anything negative about canola oil. So we might question its accuracy. I then checked out the article on snopes.com. Snopes.com aims to either debunk or confirm rumors. The rumor of canola oil came from an email in 2001. Actually, much of the information in the email is the same as in the blog post I saw. Even some of the sentences are word for word so that definitely indicates a red flag (or at least for me). Snopes follows with information that they researched from fairly reliable sources, which they provide at the end of the article. Much of the information on snopes can be found on the Canola Oil Council of Canada website. The last step I took in researching is conducting a scholarly journal database search. You can do these through a library database (these might cost money) or through the Google Scholar search option. Both of these methods have its limitations in that you probably won’t have access to many journal articles because they cost money. Sometimes hundreds of dollars for a subscription! My database search didn’t turn up much information about the topic so it’s definitely debatable. There were a few potential articles but I could not access the full texts. Bummer!

So what is my conclusion? Personally, I think the blog article was rather bogus. Some information is probably accurate but the writer has no resources and when asked for her references she claims that they are at home in Canada. Hmm… sounds fishy to me. Some claims in her post are completely false. Mustard Gas is in fact not from the rapeseed plant, but is a chemical synthesized in the laboratory. It was given the name Mustard Gas because the impure form of it smells similar to mustard(3). Then the blog writer goes into the negatives of GMO foods. Honestly, I don’t know a whole lot about GMO foods and I think much of the science is still unknown. As time goes on I think we will know more about the health effects that GMO foods have on us. A good source of information can be found here: http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/gmfood/overview.php.

I recently finished reading The China Study and I should hopefully have my final review up by the end of the week. I’ve also been reading a great deal of nutrition and training articles in magazines and online. I’m amazed about the amount of contradictory and misinformation about nutrition and exercise out there, especially from people who have no qualifications! So what makes someone qualified? Generally, they will either have an advanced degree (MD, PhD, PT, MS, etc), license (by the state or by an official governing board), be certified by an association (NASM, ISSA, USAT, etc.) or a combination of the three. Anyone can claim to be a nutritionist, personal trainer, and/or coach and give advice. They may be right or they may be wrong. A nutritionist should have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in nutrition or dietary studies. They should have a strong background in the sciences and food and nutrition. Thirty-three states required nutritionists to be licensed as a registered dietitian (RD). This is very important. In order to obtain a license the RD must take a knowledge-based test(4). Chances are if they are an RD then they know their stuff. Some personal trainers obtain a college degree in exercise physiology and some just obtain an online certification through one of the personal training associations. Personally, I prefer someone with a college degree because they are more apt to know more about physiology and the science behind how your body works while exercising. Some people don’t care. I think it’s a personal preference. You should always pick someone that you trust and feel comfortable with.

And now you’re probably wondering if I’m qualified to tell you all this. Nope, I’m not and I will tell you that straight up. I did some research and also described my beliefs on the subject. Take whatever I say how you want. The real moral of the story is to educate yourself and don’t believe everything you read or hear. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to see their credentials and ask questions.

References

1. http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pbio.1000114
2. http://www.canolainfo.org/canola/index.php
3. http://www.bris.ac.uk/Depts/Chemistry/MOTM/mustard/mustard.htm
4. http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos077.htm