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Is The Food Pyramid Killing Us? May 21, 2012

Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
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11 comments
diet, nutrition, food pyramid, heart disease, stroke, hypertension

Two groups of food pyramid promote leading causes of U.S. deaths

Hang in there with me for just a few minutes, folks.

The leading causes of U.S. deaths are heart disease, cancer, respiratory ailments and stroke. Right? In the vast majority of cases, these are attributed to poor nutrition, not genetics. What food groups do we as a nation consume the most? Meat and dairy. Consumption of which foods increases at the same rate as chronic disease and fatal illness? Meat and dairy. What are two of the main food groups the Food Pyramid encourages us to eat as part of our daily diet? Meat and dairy. Why would an agency of the federal government urge us to consume the two most unhealthy foods as part of each meal? (defended my 10-year old son).

Welcome to the Western diet, Western diseases and the cozy kinships within the USDA, a not unbiased agency which regulates and promotes their own interests. According to Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM),

The USDA’s statutory duty is to foster and assist in expanding uses in moving larger quantities of agricultural products throughout the private marketing system to consumers in the US and abroad. They compromise consumer health in favor of promoting specific food products.

The US spends more money on health care than any other developed nation, yet we have among the highest rates of preventable disease. Our convenient diets are nutritionally deficient, being high in fats, sugar, salt and animal proteins, as brilliantly researched by Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s famous 20-year China Study, and his subsequent work with the esteemed surgeon, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Forks Over Knives. Their independent and collaborative science illustrates that our bodies are engineered for optimum performance with plant-based nutrition.

For over a century, the USDA dietary guidelines have included meat and dairy as the primary sources of protein and calcium. A previous post, Calcium for Bone Health-Not What You Thought, details a direct correlation between animal-based calcium consumption and increased rates of osteoporosis.

The federal government is considering regulating our diets in an effort to tackle the obesity epidemic, especially in children, due to the amount of time spent and number of calories consumed during school hours. This is an appalling notion. There is obvious conflict mandating compliance with National School Lunch Program menus, and providing the very guidelines which promote obesity-related illnesses. Regular lunch entrees in my school district include corn dogs, breaded and fried chicken patties, breaded and fried chicken nuggets, fried mozzarella sticks, cheeseburgers and pizza. Always available: milk, ice cream, unhealthy snacks and drinks in vending machines. By contrast, a regular French school lunch in the town of Barjac, for example, consists of coleslaw, mussels mariniers, sautéed potatoes, and an organic, locally grown pear for dessert. Water and baguette are standard at every meal, of course. Karen LeBillon’s book, French Kids Eat Everything, details fundamental differences in their approach to school lunches. Menus are decided by regional school administrators and parents, there is no national food program, and there is a national ban on vending machines.

Each one of us is in control of our own health destiny. A plant-based diet not only prevents what’s killing us, but can reverse it. Dr. Esselstyn was shunned by the USDA after reporting his results, and the Food Pyramid still contains meat and dairy. In his TED talk, he explains our top killers are food-borne illnesses.

Your food choices are 100% up to you. What will you choose to eat today?

*           *           *

Forks Over Knives is streamable from Netflix. It just might save your life.

Related Posts:

My Picks: Top 10 Superfoods For Disease Prevention

Location, location, location! The High Cost of Living in a Food Desert

Trickery, Manipulation and $50: A Plan for School Cafeterias

The Kind Diet

SoulVeggie

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Good Grief May 14, 2012

Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
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3 comments

Love shines upon us

As much as we like to think it won’t happen to us, or decide not to dwell on what “could be,” try to live in and appreciate the present, at some point grief slams into us harder than any body blow. It’s a personal catastrophe that takes our breath away – for months or years. It rearranges our reality and we are alone. Each one of us must process this reality. The guidance of family, friends, therapists, religious mentors or self-help books reaches part of us, but we must do the work on our own. We must come to terms with the event and find a new route on our roadmap. A route we had not previously considered or ever wished to be on, could never have conceived of previously and leaving us blatantly unprepared. We must teach ourselves how get to somewhere that is not here. To pull ourselves out of despair.

Grief, of course, need not result from of a death. It may follow the end of any significant relationship or change in a major life circumstance. Divorce, chronic or terminal illness, infertility and miscarriage, job loss, or loss of freedom may lead you into the stages of grief.

What effect does this have on our own mortality? Does the stress of devastation and long-term panic increase our susceptibility to disease thereby shortening our lives? Are we consumed by our reality and our search for the new route to the extent that those who depend on us suffer? Do we try to be strong for our dependents while inside we continue to crumble? Do we even care about the future of the new route upon which we find ourselves? Would a hug help? I don’t know. Probably. I’m sure it depends on perceived realities, personal circumstances, coping ability, dependence on piety, previous experience, quality of relationships and mindset – different for us all.

What I do know for us collectively, is that it sucks and it’s a long haul. Even your loved ones do not share your exact perceptions, experiences and depth of devastation. And try as they might, bless ‘em, even if they are similarly suffering, they are limited in their ability to feel what is like to be you, and you cannot fathom what they are going through. Perhaps you cannot even discuss it.

The only goodness in all of it is that you have a choice. You look at the values, attitudes, manner of your departed and, when you are able, embody those beautiful aspects of them in order for them to have continued life through you. I’m certainly not to that point yet, but at least I have a goal and that gives me something to work on and look forward to. It’s an unrealistic goal, and I know it, but that is okay. I may enjoy the journey in the meantime and achieve more than I would have otherwise.

Maybe there’s something in that person that you’d like to illuminate. I hope you find it and shine it all over the place.

* * *

I wrote this one year ago. Now it has been two years since my mother left this earth. I have re-read this from time to time to update it, but I still feel the same way. My mother remains in my thoughts throughout every day, and the goal remains.

Further Reading:

The Grief Recovery Institute

Tick Tock. Off Your Clock? May 3, 2012

Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
Tags: , ,
1 comment so far
Sleep patterns, circadian rhythms, disease clock

Circadian rhythms control acute health episodes

10 a.m. heart attacks? It’s no coincidence. Our internal body clocks are governed by circadian rhythms, where over a period of roughly 24 hours, our bodies generate physiological processes to determine periods of sleeping, eating, and much more.

Diurnal mammals experience clear patterns of brain wave activity, hormone production, and cell regeneration based on sunlight and temperature. This activity occurs in the hypothalamus, located just above the cross point of the optical nerves in the brain.

Whether you’re a “lark” or a “night owl,” your circadian rhythms have been genetically set since birth. They may vary slightly over the span of a lifetime, but we cannot change our chronotype. This makes working the night-shift very difficult for larks, and explains the real causes of jet lag. Melatonin, the hormone produced after darkness, causes drowsiness. When sunlight hits our eyelids in the morning, light-induced signals travel through the brain to turn off melatonin production.

Because [shift workers'] work schedules are at odds with powerful sleep-regulating cues like sunlight, they often become uncontrollably drowsy during work, and they may suffer insomnia or other problems when they try to sleep. Shift workers have an increased risk of heart problems, digestive disturbances, and emotional and mental problems, all of which may be related to their sleeping problems. The number and severity of workplace accidents also tend to increase during the night shift. Major industrial accidents attributed partly to errors made by fatigued night-shift workers include the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl nuclear power plant accidents. One study also found that medical interns working on the night shift are twice as likely as others to misinterpret hospital test records, which could endanger their patients. It may be possible to reduce shift-related fatigue by using bright lights in the workplace, minimizing shift changes, and taking scheduled naps. -NIH, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

People who suffer from sleep disorders attempt to offset their body clocks by light therapy or increasing melatonin in the form of drug therapy, with some temporary success.

The image indicates which acute disease states coincide with time of day. Many health conditions are regulated by these rhythms. For example, lung function is at its optimal level around 4 p.m. Conversely, it is at its weakest around 4 a.m., the time of day when most asthma attacks occur. Heart problems and strokes escalate during the time that our blood pressure is highest, generally between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Deaths from all causes generally occur around 6 a.m.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30% of all adult employed Americans get no more than 6 hours of sleep, when they really need 7-9 hours. Women sleeping 5 hours per night or less are three times more likely to suffer a heart attack.

6 “Good Sleep” Tips to Maintain Your Circadian Rhythms

  • Regulate the amount of sleep by setting a bedtime and wake time, allowing for the recommended 7-9 hours. Try to make it the same 7-9 hours each night.
  • Follow your mother’s advice and get in at least 2-3 of those hours before midnight.
  • Reduce intake of stimulants 4-6 hours before bedtime. That nightcap is likely to cause sleep disturbances, and choose decaf for your after-dinner coffee. Nicotine has a calming effect, but remember that it’s really a stimulant.
  • Keep the bedroom dark by installing light-blocking window shades. This allows for continuous production of melatonin during the sleep hours.
  • Relax before bedtime with a hot bath, light reading, aromatherapy, or whatever you find calming. Watching TV, having emotional discussions, and even a cluttered bedroom are likely to subconsciously invoke anxiety in that room over time.
  • Eat to sleep. Like turkey, milk contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid related to relaxation and restfulness. Other sleep-enhancing foods are shrimp, tuna, halibut, pumpkin, bananas, peaches, apricots, avocados, artichokes, asparagus, almonds and walnuts, oats and eggs.

Ready to get back on the clock now? Sweet dreams.

Related Study: Why the Circadian Rhythms Affect Health

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