Sugar feeds cancer and addiction

Sugar feeds cancer cells. This is the key finding of a nine year research project published in Nature Communications. This article summarises the findings.

And today on Radio NZ Jesse Mulligan interviewed Robert Lustig about the various ways that we are addicted, and sugar is possibly the most ubiquitous addiction. Here is the interview. Robert Lustig’s new book, The Hacking of the American Mind discusses the influence of the food industry in promoting addiction.

He is down on dopamine. We seek a dopamine by feeding our addictions. He suggests we need more serotonin instead.

Robert Lustig promotes his four Cs to resist addictions and support our happiness.

CONNECT – face to face connections fuel our empathy and build community.

CONTRIBUTE – to friends, families, others and your communities.

COPE – exercise, practice mindfulness and get plenty of sleep.

COOK – real food and avoid processed food.

We feed sugar to our children. We continue to allow it to be promoted widely. This has to change!

 

Advertisements

Miraka milk showing the way

New Zealand has just been through a parliamentary election and elections breed dichotomies like still water breeds mosquitos. We saw the town/country, farmer/environmentalist, economic growth/environment dichotomies in play. If you are the champion of one side, dichotomous thinking encourages you to be the enemy of the other side.

One of the biggest issues was around water quality with the focus on dairy farming. Its clear that we have too many cows in many catchments. The negative impacts are outlined in this Greenpeace report. But does this mean we will see the slaughter of dairy cows as one politician wanting to fuel fear declared? (There is some irony in this, because all cows get slaughtered eventually – so the more you have, the more slaughter you get).

So can we break the dichotomy? Can we have fewer cows and still have profitable farms and a better environment? Part of the answer must lie in diversification.

Miraka Milk

Miraka is a Māori owned dairy processing business in the Mokai Valley in the central North Island. As a Māori business, principles of kaitiakitanga (guardians of the land) and tikanga guide the business. The factory is run on geothermal power and milk waste is processed through a giant worm farm. Miraka is one enterprise of the Tuaropaki Trust. In addition to dairying, the geothermal power is used to heat greenhouses and the trust has several other enterprises.

This September 2017 audio from Radio NZ features Kim Hill interviewing CEO Richard Wyeth.

Miraka has maintained good payouts to farmers and is driving up the value chain reducing the need for intensification. There is diversification in the parent trust, but individual dairy, horticulture and pastoral farming units appear to “stick to their knitting”, essentially monocultural.

Diversification

Simply reducing stocking rates may not be the answer. The Lincoln University demonstration farm has managed to reduce nitrate leaching by 30% by reducing stocking numbers, but extracting more production from the remaining cows.

We are in the early days of exploring diversifying income streams from the land. Where are those farmers that work the land to optimise returns by nurturing the diverse niches that the land inevitably provides – the lean steeper country, the riparian margins, the manuka groves and the totara remnants? Farm foresters utilise steeper country for tree planting. Riparian plantings that protect waterways from sediment runoff and capture some nutrients also offer the opportunity for crop diversification – notably, bananas in some Northland sites. Manuka groves supply income from honey and support bee populations for important pollination work. The Northland Totara Working Group is promoting the sustainable management of the totara groves that pepper Northland farms. One benefit is timber production. Examples abound – but where are those that integrate options in a way that optimises the health of the land and its ability to produce sustainably?

Posts that follow this one will hopefully surface examples of farms exemplifying income diversification and kaitiakitanga. Congratulations to Miraka for pointing the way.

 

 

 

Food policy from our election candidates

The Northland Food Policy Council is asked political candidates from the Far North, Rodney, Te Tai Tokerau and Whangarei electorates five questions. Their responses are published here. Please pass this link on through your networks.

film-test-parliament-grounds-panorama-2006-murray-hedwig-photo

Here are links to the candidates’ responses. Each electorate has its own webpage.

The questions

1: What do you think your role as an MP or potential MP is in our region’s food system?

2: Should NZ be protecting prime agricultural/horticultural land from urban sprawl? What’s your position on how best to do this?

3: The World Health Organisation recommends implementing a 20% tax on sugar-sweetened beverages as a measure of reducing childhood obesity. NZ has the third highest rate of childhood obesity in the OECD.  Are you in favour of a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages?

4: Do you support Local Councils having the power through the Resource Management Act to declare Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)/Genetic Engineering (GE) free growing zones in their regions?

5: How will you ensure that food system policy, such as the Food Act is scale-appropriate for small and medium scale farmers, growers and producers (e.g. on farm meat processing).

 

Local chocolate

The pending closure of the Cadbury factory in Dunedin is another step on the trajectory that big corporates take in the pursuit of their addiction to delivering dividends to shareholders. The closure is reputed to be part of Mondelez’s efficiency drives as it moves production from first world sites to lower wage countries.

Some foods are more local than others. In New Zealand chocolate probably will always require imported ingredients. But Dunedin’s Cadbury’s factory has been a southern icon The Dunedin Jaffa Race is a quirky annual event down the world’s steepest street. The 2017 event may be the last.

Locals responded to the news of the loss of their factory by launching a bid to contract Mondelez to keep making the Cadbury products in Dunedin raising almost $6 million. Mondelez was not prepared to extend the deadline for the bid, so now the group is investigating setting up its own chocolate factory.

While chocolate isn’t local and includes varying amounts of sugar, it is not a top priority to promote as a local food (although dark chocolate has its virtues). But there are degrees of localness. From an economic perspective it is preferable to purchase locally produced rather than imported chocolate.

The corporate addiction

Publicly listed corporations have the metabolism of a hummingbird, driven on frenetically by the imperative of generating dividends for shareholders. Shareholders typically aren’t interested in the sustainability of their investments and will shift their investment to a competitor if the numbers stack up. Mondelez’s stock has risen from a $US16.34 low in October 2012 to $44.90 in June this year. You would think that would be enough, but the voracious drive for profits spurs them on to curb expenses.

whittakers_dark_ghanaDo you care?

I assume that this news is upsetting a number of Kiwis, but what will we do about it – probably very little. Look at the amount of supermarket shelf-space that Cadbury products occupy – I imagine that it will be the same next year, with nothing more than a blip in their sales.

I like Cadbury chocolate, but I won’t be buying any more of it. Stop rewarding people that make decisions like this and don’t buy their product. Vote with your dollars! Buy Whittakers – its a local brand. The cocoa is Fair Trade and dark chocolate has lots of health-giving polyphenols!

 

Out of the (water) closet

I have finished reading Gut: The Inside Story of our Body’s Most Under-rated Organ by Giulia Enders. It has challenged my identity. The microbes in me out-number my human cells ten times and I have about 100 trillion microbes in my gut! So am I a person, or a colony? Perhaps I should refer to myself (us) as “we”.

Given that I am out-numbered, how do these microbes influence my behaviour and my health? Rodents infected with the toxoplasmata protozoa lose their fears of cats. This is not a good for survival and Giulia Andrea reports that behaviour of humans infected with toxoplasmata changes too (we get the infection from cats). For example, the risk of being involved in a car accident is increased in infected people, especially in the early active stages of infection.

Screen Shot 2017-06-11 at 8.25.45 AM.png

Rodents infected with toxoplasmata lose their fear of cats (image from Nature)

My gut bacteria influence my mental and physical well-being and influence what I choose to eat. A recent Scientific American article confirms this.

Gut microbes have also been shown to influence diet and behavior as well as anxiety, depression, hypertension and a variety of other conditions.

Our relationship with our gut biome has evolved over millennia. These are common to all people, with some regional variations. For example, the micro biome of Japanese have   borrowed a gene from marine microorganisms to help breakdown seaweed. Giulia Enders suggests that if we had long enough, our micro biome would adapt to the highly processed foods of the Western diet. Allergies and food intolerances may be caused by our digestive system’s inability to process the foods we are eating. Michael Pollan states the solution succinctly “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants”.

To help us rehabilitate our digestion and repopulate the gut with a health-enhancing micro biome we have two options, probiotics and pre-biotics.

Probiotics

Most of us are familiar with these – typically fermented foods containing billions of beneficial bacteria. Common examples are yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha. Probiotic supplements are also available. These are great, but need to be frequently  consumed to maintain the benefits.

Prebiotics

These are foods that include residues that make the journey through to the lower gut to sustain beneficial micro-organisms. Dr Frank Jackson tapes about the benefits of probiotics in this video.

His website has a list of the top 11 prebiotic foods. They are listed here with their percentage of fibre (by weight).

  1. raw chicory root (65%)
  2. raw Jerusalem artichoke (31.5%)
  3. raw dandelion greens (24.5%)
  4. raw garlic (17.5%)
  5. raw leeks (11.7%)
  6. raw onion (8.6%)
  7. cooked onion ( 5%)
  8. raw asparagus (5%)
  9. raw wheat bran (5%)
  10. baked wheat flour (4.8%)
  11. raw banana (1%)

This brings us back to local food – food you can grow in your garden.

My digestive system is approximately 7 metres long. Sometimes I am more interested in pandering to the first 100 mm or so – the bit where I can taste the food, rather than the other 6.9 metres. Giulia Anders book teaches us to take more notice of the other end of our digestive system. Perhaps we need to talk more about our digestive systems. You won’t have to go too deep in your Facebook feed to find someone talking about food – maybe we should be less embarrassed about talking about digestive system output- but no selfies please :-).

 

 

 

Food evolution and health in Aotearoa, part three: Consumerism

The first post in this series explored colonisation, and the second explored industrialisation as formative forces in our food system. This post explores the impact of consumerism.

food evolution aotearoa

Consumerism

This video traces the origins of consumerism to the 18th century. It coincides with the emergence of the Industrial Revolution. It poses an interesting question: could we design a society where consumerism and high-mindedness are not polar opposites – might we have wealth and virtue, rather than the stark choice of consumerism or poverty?

Consumerism was supercharged after World War Two. Industrial capacity mushroomed to equip the war effort and all of that enterprise had to find new markets. Marketers aligned production systems with a rethinking of societal design, to optimise market opportunities. The industrial machine was at full steam and needed willing customers. Victor Lebow articulated a new creed of consumerism.

“Our enormously productive economy … demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction in consumption… We need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate.” (Victor Lebow, in the Journal of Retailing, 1955)

The marketers had new tools to shape the developing consumerist culture. Television offered unprecedented access for marketers into family homes.

“And television achieves three results to an extent no other advertising medium has ever approached. First, it creates a captive audience. Second, it submits that audience to the most intensive indoctrination. Third, it operates on the entire family. “(Victor Lebow, in the Journal of Retailing, 1955)

Another foundation of the consumerist culture were the concepts of planned obsolescence and perceived obsolescence as explained in this video (starting at 12 minutes 40 seconds).

Perhaps the purest expression of perceived obsolescence (so far) is the smart phone, with new models offing possibly a marginally larger screen or a flasher camera, generating shopping frenzy. What’s next?

Consumerism and food

At the heart of many of the problems we identify with food is its change of status from something for nourishment to a marketable commodity. The need for industrial food manufacturers to enable food to last on long journeys to market and in warehouses and on shop shelves has necessitated processing. Sugar and salt preserve. Pasteurisation slows down decomposition and dehydration and chemical additives extend shelf life.

Unlike industrialisation and colonisation consumerism appears to march on virtually uncontested. Victor Lebow and his like have shaped our behaviour more profoundly than he ever could have imagined.