February 8, 2012
By Dr. Daniel Zagst
By 2012, most people understand the importance of including omega-3 fatty acids to their diets. Commonly found in fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids have countless benefits to a person’s health and complexion. From teens to the elderly, everyone can benefit from the wonders of omega-3 fatty acids, but what about pregnant moms and newborns? Recent research indicates that moms and fetuses need fish oils just as much as the rest of the population.
Pregnant women have been advised to consume omega-3 fatty acids in order to ensure proper development of the fetal neurological system. Even after birth, fish oil supplementation can improve the early development of a newborn’s brain, visual system, and motor function in women who breastfeed. These fish oils, most notably the fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is part of a group of omega-3s known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). The human brain is full of PUFAs that modulate inflammation and provide integrity to the neuronal network. By supplying a developing brain with plenty of PUFAs, a mother can support their child’s proper development. Along with benefits to the child, a pregnant mother that consumes fish oils can prevent pre-term labor, reduce the risk of pre-ecclampsia, and may even help in the prevention of post-pardum depression (PPD).
Another breakthrough in fish oil research shows that fish oil supplementation during pregnancy decreases the risk of a newborn developing eczema. In a study of 700 pregnant women, those who took fish oil supplements versus a placebo had a decreased incidence of infant eczema by three times. When DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) enter the cell membrane, they suppress inflammation that could potentially lead to various allergies and skin reactions that develop in early childhood. This study is ongoing as it plans to follow the children until age six to determine the extent of the lasting benefits.
September 28th, 2011
By: Angela Haupt
You are what you eat? Maybe not, but you do feel what you eat. Research suggests that certain foods affect mood—for better or worse. Dietary changes can trigger chemical and physiological changes within the brain that alter our behavior and emotions. “Most people understand the link between what they eat and their physical health,” says registered dietitian Elizabeth Somer, author of the 2010 book Eat Your Way to Happiness. “But the link between what you eat and your mood, your energy, how you sleep, and how well you think is much more immediate. What you eat or don’t eat for breakfast will have at least a subtle effect by mid-afternoon, and what you’re eating all day will have a huge impact today and down the road.”
Here’s a closer look at how your diet could be affecting your mood.
1. You don’t eat regularly. Food is fuel; skip a meal and you’ll feel tired and cranky. “It’s like trying to run a car without gas,” says registered dietitian Keri Gans, author of The Small Change Diet. When you go too long without eating, your blood sugar sinks and mood swings ensue. Aim for a meal or snack every four hours. Breakfast is particularly important—especially for children: Studies show it helps kids perform better and get into less trouble at school. And breakfast makes both kids and adults less prone to cravings and more likely to maintain a healthy weight. But remember: All morning meals aren’t equal. “We’re not talking about a doughnut and coffee here,” Somer says. She recommends high-fiber cereal with a handful of fruit, or a cup of oatmeal with some milk and berries.
2. You skimp on carbs. Carbohydrates have long been demonized, but your body needs carbs to produce serotonin—a feel-good brain chemical that elevates mood, suppresses appetite, and has a calming effect. Research suggests that low-carb dieters are more likely to feel tired, angry, depressed, and tense than those who get the recommended amount. The federal government advises that 45 to 65 percent of daily calories come from carbs, or 900 to 1,300 calories a day if you’re following a 2,000-calorie diet. Some carbs, however, outshine others. Only complex carbs—high in fiber and packed with whole grains—have a positive effect on mood, whereas simple carbs (think candy, cake, cookies, and other sugary choices) bring you down. Need a quick mood boost? Try an all-carb snack, like a couple cups of air-popped popcorn or half a whole-grain English muffin. “You’ll feel happier and more relaxed very quickly,” says Somer.
[Feeling Sad? Seven Instant Mood Boosters]
3. You fall short on omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s—found in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines—improve both memory and mood. Research suggests that low omega-3 levels are associated with depression, pessimism, and impulsivity. Indeed, depression rates are typically lowest in countries like Japan, where oily fish is a diet staple. Most experts recommend at least two servings of fatty fish per week; other sources include ground flaxseeds, walnuts, canola oil, and omega-3-fortified eggs. There’s also omega-3-fortified margarine, peanut butter, and granola bars.
4. You neglect important nutrients. Getting too little iron can spell depression, fatigue, and inattention, research suggests. Iron-rich foods include red meat, egg yolks, dried fruit, beans, liver, and artichokes. Scientists have also found that insufficient thiamine can cause “introversion, inactivity, fatigue, decreased self-confidence, and a poorer mood,” according to a recent report published in the Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science. Thiamine abounds in cereal grains, pork, yeast, cauliflower, and eggs, and getting enough increases well-being, sociability, and your overall energy level. Equally important: folic acid, which helps fend off depression. Green veggies, oranges, grapefruit, nuts, sprouts, and whole-wheat bread are good sources.
[What to Eat to Feel Happier]
5. You eat too much fat. That bag of potato chips isn’t good for your waistline or your mood. Greasy choices—particularly those high in saturated fat—are linked to both depression and dementia. What’s more, a large, high-fat meal will almost instantly make you feel sluggish. “It takes a lot of work for our bodies to digest fat,” Gans says. “And since there’s more work going on, you’re obviously going to end up feeling tired.”
6. You chug without thinking. What you drink affects your spirits as much as what you eat. In moderate amounts, caffeine can enhance physical and mental performance, but too much can spur anxiety, nervousness, and mood swings. Stick to one or two cups daily to dodge the negative effects. “Coffee, for example, is a stimulant, and when it wears off, you’re going to feel a drop,” says registered dietitian Constance Brown-Riggs, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. “In terms of feeling better or having more energy, it’s far better to drink water as your primary beverage.” Another smart choice? Low-fat or skim milk. Dairy products contain lots of whey protein, which antidotes stress, improves mood, and enhances memory. One cup a day will induce a sense of well-being and relaxation. If you’re not a milk person, green tea—an antioxidant powerhouse—also fights depression. It contains theanine, an amino acid that helps combat stress.
September 13th, 2011
By: Marty Paule
Despite the proliferation of hemp products entering the green marketplace these days, there is still confusion among some consumers about the differences between industrial hemp and cannabis that’s grown for recreational and medicinal marijuana. Some of that confusion may result from the Controlled Substances Act of 1937 that fails to differentiate marijuana from industrial hemp in the ban of their cultivation. While some states have legalized growing industrial hemp varieties, farmers have been cowed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s opposition. A bill introduced in May 2011 would amend the CSA to exclude industrial hemp.
To understand the distinctions between cannabis grown for industrial hemp purposes versus that cultivated for marijuana requires a little botanical clarification. Within the cannabis genus there are three species: Cannabis indica, Cannabis sativa and Cannabis ruderalis. Over thousands of years of cultivation, these species have naturally hybridized and have been crossbred by humans for various purposes, resulting in hundreds of strains. Those strains bred for their seeds, oil and fiber contain infinitesimal quantities of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the main substance responsible for the euphoric effects of recreational and medicinal marijuana. Smoking industrial hemp varieties is more likely to result in a headache than a high.
Based on standards established under the UN Narcotics Convention, a number of cannabis strains have been developed that contain minimal quantities of THC, which is further reduced during industrial processing, so that the end product contains virtually no THC. Despite this, the DEA continues to oppose industrial hemp cultivation arguing that pot proponents are really seeking a “back-door” route to getting all forms of cannabis legalized. The agency, with some justification, argues that with thousands of hemp strains confusing the picture, enforcement of industrial-only hemp cultivation is problematic. In March 2003, the DEA issued rules permitting sale of products such as food, oil, paper and textiles that contain no THC whatsoever.
Meanwhile, industrial hemp is being grown in Europe, Australia and Canada where THC content is limited to 0.3%. In contrast, cannabis raised for recreational or medicinal pot typically contains at least 3% THC, with many of the new and most potent strains offering THC levels of 20% and more. In Canada, the government has issued a list of low-THC cannabis varieties that may be cultivated for industrial hemp. Proponents of cultivation in the U.S. counter the DEA’s arguments over enforcement difficulties, urging the U.S. to follow Canada’s example by establishing a list of permitted industrial hemp varieties.
Much of the world’s hemp production today caters to the increasing popularity of hemp oil that’s rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Hemp textiles and apparel are also enjoying a vogue, especially among green consumers concerned about the sustainability of the clothing they choose. Because hemp requires little or no commercial fertilizers or pesticides, it has become a textile of choice among eco-friendly shoppers.
In May 2011 H.R. 1831, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2011, which would amend the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp while distinguishing it from marijuana, was introduced. The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. Capitol Hill watchers don’t give the bill much of a chance — similar bills have died in committee in each of the last three congressional sessions.
August 12th, 2011
By: Ethan A. Huff
Leave it to Monsanto to take a good thing and corrupt it for financial gain. According to a recent report in Forbes, the multinational biotechnology-slash-agriculture-manipulating monolith has developed a new genetically-modified (GM) soybean that artificially produces stearidonic acid, a type of omega-3 fatty acid — and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to approve the “frankenbean” sometime this year.
Monsanto appears to be introducing the omega-3 enhanced GM soybean oil, called Soymega or “stearidonic acid soybean oil” (SDA oil), at a craftily strategic time when much of the world is still reeling from the Fukushima Daiichi mega-disaster, which left ocean waters ridden with radioactive isotopes. And since omega-3s just happen to be most readily found in fatty ocean fish, the perpetual fear over radioactive and other poisons that may be lurking in such fish could drive many to embrace Monsanto’s fake fish oil instead.
According to an FDA letter responding to Monsanto’s request to have SDA oil approved for use as a food additive and acknowledged as being “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS), the FDA noted that Monsanto intends to use its omega-3-enhanced oil in a variety of food applications. These include baked goods, breakfast cereals, fish products, frozen dairy desserts, cheeses, grains and pastas, gravies, nuts, poultry, fruit juices, processed vegetable products, and soups — yes, basically every processed food product in existence.
Monsanto created its GM soybean oil by injecting two specific enzymes into soybean genes. One came from Primula juliae, a type of flower, and the other from Neurospora crass, a type of red mold that grows on bread. As a result, the beans produce SDA oil and gamma-linolenic acid, two compounds not normally found in soybeans.
In its original request letter, Monsanto claims that its company-funded trials prove that SDA oil is safe for animal and human consumption, and that “no toxicologically significant effects were observed.” However, the data does not specifically highlight the long-term effects of the oil in animals or in humans — it merely alleges that nothing bad was observed during the 16-week trial period, which is hardly enough reassurance that the product is undeniably safe for consumption.
Nevertheless, the FDA has already granted Soymega GRAS status, which means that the agency acknowledges Monsanto’s safety claims, and essentially has no problems with or objections to them. And if the FDA grants full approval for Soymega, you can expect to see it turning up in all sorts of consumer food products.
Have all the ocean disasters in recent years been a catalyst for forcing people over to artificial, patented varieties of omega-3s?
Between BP’s “Deepwater Horizon” oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, and the earthquake and tsunami that ravaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility in March 2011, many of the world’s oceans, and corresponding fish stocks, have been severely tainted. Add in perpetual mercury poisoning and other pollution that has been afflicting ocean life for many decades, and seafood appears less and less enticing as a safe and healthy source of omega-3s.
Enter Monsanto. By positing its omega-3 GM soybean variety as a safer, healthier alternative to natural seafood and sea-based fish oils, the company stands to gain an incredible amount of profit while ultimately steering public preference away from natural sources of omega-3s, and towards its own patented varieties of omega-3s.
The same Forbes article that announced the advent of Monsanto’s Soymega also mentions that sea-based fish oils can be contaminated with toxins, and also suggests that fish-derived omega-3s are responsible for depleting fish stocks and damaging the environment. Do you see where this is all going?
It is all too convenient that as omega-3s become more popular than ever, Monsanto, in conjunction with the FDA and the mainstream media, is coordinating a leveraged attack against natural sources of omega-3s in order to brainwash the public into accepting its “safer” variety. And by getting SDA oil laced throughout the food supply, the public will ultimately have little choice in avoiding it., and will probably just accept it as beneficial.
Monsanto is clearly dead set on capturing the omega-3 market through its new soybean oil. After all, soybean oil has become a staple in most American processed foods, and by “enriching” everything from breads and cereals to vegetable dishes and quick dinners with Soymega, the general public will be less prone to purchase fish for its health benefits. And the end result will be more control of the food supply handed over to Monsanto, and less availability of natural omega-3s on the market.
August 11th, 2011
By: Jonathan Benson
Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids is crucial for the development and maintenance of the brain and nervous system, especially in young children. And a new study published in the journal Pediatrics adds to this, having found that pregnant women who supplement with Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) during their pregnancies produce children that are much healthier and less prone to sickness than those born to women who do not supplement with, or otherwise consume enough, DHA.
Dr. Usha Ramakrishnan, associate professor at Emory University’s Hubert Department of Global Health, and her team conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled trial on 1,100 pregnant women and 900 infants from Mexico. Some women received 400 milligrams (mg) of DHA, while others received a placebo, during the 18 to 22 weeks of gestation through childbirth.
After all the women eventually gave birth, children born to mothers in the DHA group experienced less overall sickness, and shorter duration of sickness. Some of the results are as follows:
-At one month of age, babies from the DHA group were 25 percent less likely to catch a cold or have a cough with phlegm or wheezing.
-At three months of age, babies from the DHA group experienced 14 percent less illness time than those from the placebo group.
-And at six months, DHA babies had less fevers, nasal secretions, breathing problems, and rashes than babies from the control group.
“This is a large scale, robust study that underscores the importance of good nutrition during pregnancy,” remarked Ramakrishnan. “Our findings indicate that pregnant women taking 400 mg of DHA are more likely to deliver healthier infants.”
The form of DHA used in the study was derived from algae, which is not necessarily an ideal form. In some cases, companies are actually using genetically-modified (GM) algae to create omega-3 oils. Monsanto is even working on gaining FDA approval for a GM soybean that artificially produces omega-3s, which is why it is important to know the source of your omega-3s before consuming them.
DHA, as well as the entire gamut of omega-3s that includes arachidonic acid (ARA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), can be found in natural foods like grass-fed meats, salmon, flax, and hemp. They can also be found from high-quality fish and cod liver oils, as well as salmon oil.
August 2nd, 2011
By: Genevra Pittman
Giving pregnant moms omega-3 fatty acid supplements might help prevent infection in their infants, suggests new research.
But the benefit of docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, wasn’t always obvious in the study of Mexican moms, and researchers say not all babies will necessarily be better off because of it.
With a boost in moms’ DHA, “there are not dramatic effects. What we did find, however, is a general trend toward benefit,” said study author Usha Ramakrishnan, of Emory University in Atlanta.
Fatty acids like DHA are found in the body’s disease-fighting cells. But studies that have looked at the effect of fatty acid supplements in kids or adults have shown “inconsistent effects” on the immune system, the authors explain in Pediatrics.
Whether giving pregnant women extra DHA could improve their infants’ immune systems has been even less clear.
To investigate that question, Ramakrishnan and her colleagues recruited more than 1,000 pregnant women — all four or five months along – who were receiving prenatal care at a hospital and several health clinics in Cuernavaca, Mexico.
Half the volunteers took two 200-milligram DHA supplements each day. The other half of the women, serving as a comparison group, took twice-daily placebo capsules containing a blend of corn and soy oils.
Women continued taking the supplements until they gave birth. Then, they brought their new babies back to the general hospital in Cuernavaca at one, three, and six months, and reported on the infants’ recent sickness symptoms.
At one month, babies of moms who had taken DHA had a trend toward fewer total cold symptoms than babies of moms who weren’t supplemented. About 38 percent of DHA group babies showed cold symptoms in the couple of weeks before that appointment, compared to 45 percent of placebo babies.
But the authors couldn’t rule out that the difference was due to chance.
At three and six months, there was no clear distinction between the two groups of babies with regard to cold symptoms. But in babies that did get sick, those whose moms had taken DHA had a shorter duration of some symptoms, such as fever and runny nose at the last visit.
In a couple of cases, babies of DHA moms had suffered symptoms for longer than comparison babies. For example, at the three-month visit, babies with colds had been stuffed up for an extra day in the DHA group, on average, according to their moms’ reports.
Ramakrishnan said that it generally seems safe to take DHA during pregnancy, at least in the doses her team examined. (At much higher doses, similar fatty acids have been linked to bleeding risks.) The 400-milligram daily dose is pretty typical of what would be in a prenatal vitamin or what moms could get in a couple of fish meals each week, she added.
Because of concerns about mercury exposure, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends pregnant women limit their fish intake to two meals per week, choosing fish and shellfish that are low in mercury, such as salmon and shrimp.
DHA supplements can be bought for about $25 to $50 for a six-month supply. Some studies have also linked omega-3 fatty acids to lower cholesterol and a smaller risk of heart disease.
So should all pregnant moms be taking DHA to give their infants an infection-fighting boost?
“I think it may be variable — not everybody may benefit,” Ramakrishnan said. When it comes to infants’ health, “It’s not going to be that magic bullet.”
April 6th, 2011
By: Jonathan Benson
High consumption of foods naturally rich in omega-3 fatty acids helps to reduce the risk of developing obesity-related illnesses like heart disease and diabetes, says a new study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Even among obese populations, omega-3s demonstrably keep at bay inflammation and blood triglyceride levels, two markers of obesity-related illness.
Researchers from the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center in collaboration with the Center for Alaska Native Health Research at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, gathered data from a small Eskimo community living in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta region of southwest Alaska. Seventy percent of the 330-person group was overweight or obese, which is comparable to statistics in the lower 48 states. Yet the Eskimo group as a whole consumes roughly 20 times more omega-3s on a regular basis than the average American does.
“Because Yup’ik Eskimos have a traditional diet that includes large amounts of fatty fish and have a prevalence of overweight or obesity that is similar to that of the general US population, this offered a unique opportunity to study whether omega-3 fats change the association between obesity and chronic disease risk,” said Zeina Makhoul, PhD, lead study author.
Upon analysis, researchers noted significantly higher blood levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), two types of omega-3 fats, in the Eskimo group overall, as well as rates of type-2 diabetes that were less than half of what they are in the continental US. And even among obese individuals in the Eskimo group, blood triglyceride levels and C-reactive protein (CRP) levels were comparable to those found in normal-weight people, indicating that omega-3s offer health protective benefits for both thin and overweight individuals.
“Interestingly, we found that obese persons with high blood levels of omega-3 fats had triglyceride and CRP concentrations that did not differ from those of normal-weight persons,” said Makhoul. “It appeared that high intakes of omega-3-rich seafood protected Yup’ik Eskios from some of the harmful effects of obesity.”
April 5th, 2011
The Huffington Post
By: Craig Cooper
Debate over the health benefits and risks of flaxseed and omega-3 fatty acids, in particular alpha-linolenic acid (ALA- a form of omega-3 fatty acids), is ongoing and often contentious. People tend to become very defensive about their food choices, especially when they are making those choices because they are trying to prevent and/or treat a serious health problem, such as prostate cancer.
One controversy related to omega-3 fatty acids is whether ALA and flaxseed, which is a rich source of ALA, are beneficial or harmful to prostate health. According to medical oncologist and prostate cancer researcher Snuffy Myers, M.D., flaxseed and ALA, contrary to popular marketing, are not helpful for overall health nor for prostate health. Myers also states there is little to no evidence in the medical literature to support the use of flaxseed or flaxseed oil, that these products are hyped by marketers, and that people should turn to fish and fish oil as the best sources of omega-3 essential fatty acids. (1)
Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
Omega-3 essential fatty acids are so-named because the body needs them for overall health. However, because the body cannot manufacture them they must be acquired through diet and/or supplementation. This fact is also true for omega-6 essential fatty acids. One significant difference between these two types of essential fatty acids — and there are several differences — is that omega-6s are plentiful and even excessive in the Standard American Diet (yes, our “SAD” diet) while omega-3s tend to be deficient.
The three dietary omega-3s are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). In addition to flaxseed and flaxseed oil, ALA is found in soybeans and soybean oil, pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil, walnuts and walnut oil, and purslane. EPA and DHA are found in cold-water fish such as halibut, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, and tuna. These fish do not themselves produce EPA and DHA, but instead acquire it from the krill and algae they eat.
EPA and DHA are the omega-3s necessary for health. This does not mean ALA has no role in your well-being. However, ALA is much less active than EPA and DHA and is mostly limited to cardiovascular benefits, and even in this capacity it is less effective than the other two omega-3s. In fact, before ALA can be utilized by the body, it must be converted into EPA, which is then transformed into DHA. Because the conversion rate of ALA to EPA and DHA in men is very low — less than 4 percent of ALA is changed to EPA and less than 0.1 percent becomes DHA — it is clearly better to get omega-3s from sources that provide EPA and DHA rather than ALA. Young women experience a significantly higher conversion rate — 21 percent of ALA becomes EPA, and 5 to 9 percent of EPA is converted into DHA — because the conversion is supported by estrogen activity. (1)
Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil
Flaxseed is often touted as providing protection and relief from a number of ailments, although the validity of these claims has been questioned by some researchers. One group that examined the claims was from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Experts at Sloan-Kettering reviewed the available literature on flaxseed in human studies from nine databases, 20 additional journals, and various bibliographies. The reviewers found 13 categories in which flaxseed had been studied, including prostate cancer, constipation, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, breast cancer, cyclic breast pain, menopausal symptoms, diabetes, high blood pressure, lupus nephritis and HIV/AIDS. The reviewers concluded that nearly all the studies were of poor quality, and that “although flaxseed and flaxseed oil have several promising future uses, the available literature does not support recommendation for any condition at this time.” (Basch 2007)
When it comes to health impact, which one is worse, flaxseed or flaxseed oil? Although advocates of flaxseed and flaxseed oil might say the oil is the better deal because it delivers much greater amounts of ALA than does flaxseed, high levels of ALA also appear to increase the risk of advanced prostate cancer (see “Alpha-Linolenic Acid and Prostate Cancer” below).
In defense of flaxseed (but not the oil), Dr. Myers notes there is “good evidence” that flaxseed can quickly reduce the severity of high blood pressure, and that it is also beneficial in reducing elevated blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. This quality is attributed to flaxseed’s high soluble fiber content. (1)
March 21st, 2011
By: Dr. Mercola
Many people interested in staying healthy have switched to agave as a safer “natural” sweetener. They want to avoid well documented dangerous sweeteners like HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) but are unaware that most agave is actually WORSE than HFCS.
This expose will offend many hard core natural health advocates because they have been convinced of the agave hype by companies that are promoting it.
Some have even criticized me for having “ulterior” motives. But nothing could be further from the truth. Although I do offer natural health products for sale on this site, I sell no competing products to agave.
Rather, I recommend other options such as stevia products. You can also use xylitol in small amounts or glucose which is sold as dextrose and can easily be purchased on Amazon for $1 per pound. I do not sell any of these products.
My only purpose for sharing this information is to help people understand the truth about health. In case you haven’t noticed, we have an epidemic of obesity in the US and it wasn’t until recently that my eyes opened up to the primary cause – - fructose.
I had similar epiphanies about omega-3 fats and vitamin D since I started this site, but this is the most major health appreciation I have had since I learned about vitamin D over five years ago. This is serious business and it is my intention to make the public fully aware of it and let you make your own choices.
Yes it is all about freedom of choice. It is hard to have freedom if you aren’t given the entire story, and up until now that has been the case with agave.
So Just What is Agave?
Blue agave is an exotic plant growing in the rich volcanic soil of Mexico under a hot tropical sun, boasting a stately flower stem that blooms only once in its lifetime. “Agave” literally means “noble.” It’s generally recognized as a superstar of the herbal remedy world, claiming to offer relief for indigestion, bowel irregularity, and skin wounds.
Ferment it, and you have Mexico’s favorite adult beverage — tequila.
Just the name “agave” conjures up images of romantic tropical excursions and mysterious shamanic medicine.
These are the mental images many agave “nectar” sellers want you to hold. They use agave’s royal pedigree to cover the truth that what they’re selling you is a bottle of high-fructose syrup, so highly processed and refined that it bears NO resemblance to the plant of its namesake.
Such a high fructose content isn’t typical of all agave products. “Depending on how the syrup is processed, it may or may not contain more fructose,” says Roger Clemens, a professor at USC and spokesman for the Institute of Food Technologists, whose research has focused on functional foods, food processing and nutrition.
Depending on the source and processing method used, agave syrup can, therefore, contain as little as 55% fructose, the same amount found in high-fructose corn syrup — in which case the syrup would offer no advantage.
What is the “Real” Truth about Agave?
If you knew the truth about what’s really in it, you’d be dumping it down the drain — and that would certainly be bad for sales.
Most agave “nectar” or agave “syrup” is nothing more than a laboratory-generated super-condensed fructose syrup, devoid of virtually all nutrient value, and offering you metabolic misfortune in its place.
Unfortunately, masterful marketing has resulted in the astronomical popularity of agave syrup among people who believe they are doing their health a favor by avoiding refined sugars like high fructose corn syrup, and dangerous artificial sweeteners.
And if you’re diabetic, you’ve been especially targeted and told this is simply the best thing for you since locally grown organic lettuce, that it’s “diabetic friendly,” has a “low glycemic index” and doesn’t spike your blood sugar.
While agave syrup does have a low-glycemic index, so does antifreeze — that doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
Most agave syrup has a higher fructose content than any commercial sweetener — ranging from 70 to 97 percent, depending on the brand, which is FAR HIGHER than high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which averages 55 percent.
This makes agave actually WORSE than HFCS.
It is important to understand that fructose does not increase insulin levels, which is not necessarily good as what it does do is radically increase insulin resistance, which is FAR more dangerous. You see, it’s okay for your insulin levels to rise, that is normal. You just don’t want these insulin levels to remain elevated, which is what insulin resistance causes.
That is why fasting insulin is such a powerful test, as it is a very powerful reflection of your insulin resistance.
In addition to insulin resistance, your risk of liver damage increases, along with triglycerides and a whole host of other health problems, as discussed in this CBC News video about the newly discovered dangers of high fructose corn syrup. The study discussed in this news report is about HFCS, however, it’s well worth remembering that agave contains MORE fructose than HFCS, and in all likelihood, it’s the FRUCTOSE that is causing these severe liver problems.
How Agave is Grown and Produced Proves it is Unnatural
Agaves grow primarily in Mexico, but you can also find them in the southern and western United States, as well as in South America. Agaves are not cacti, but succulents of the yucca family, more closely related to amaryllis and other lilies. Edible parts of the agave are the flowers, leaves, stalks and the sap.
A mature agave is 7 to 12 feet in diameter with leaves that are 5 to 8 feet tall — an impressive plant in stature, to be sure. There are over 100 species of agave, in a wide variety of sizes and colors.
Although the industry wants you to believe that agave nectar runs straight from the plant and into your jar, nothing could not be farther from the truth.
In spite of manufacturer’s claims, most agave “nectar” is not made from the sap of the yucca or agave plant but from its pineapple-like root bulb[i]. The root has a complex carbohydrate called inulin, which is made up of fructose molecules.
The process which many, if not most, agave producers use to convert this inulin into “nectar” is VERY similar to the process by which cornstarch is converted into HFCS1.
February 11th, 2011
By: Steven Reinberg
Children who eat three or more hamburgers a week may raise their odds for asthma and wheeze, a new study suggests.
However, eating the so-called “Mediterranean diet” — rich in fruits, vegetables and fish — could cut kids’ respiratory risk, the researchers say.
“Our results support previous reports that the adherence to a Mediterranean diet, which is characterized by a high intake of fruit, vegetables and fish and a low intake of meat, burger and fizzy drinks, may provide partial protection against asthma in childhood,” said lead researcher Dr. Gabriele Nagel, from the Institute of Epidemiology at Ulm University in Germany.
The report is published in the June 3 issue of Thorax.
For the study, Nagel’s team collected data on about 50,000 children from 20 rich and poor countries. Parents were asked about their children’s typical diet and whether they had asthma or not. In addition, almost 30,000 of the children were tested for allergies.
While diet did not appear to influence allergies, it was associated with the risk of asthma and wheeze, the researchers found.
Children in both rich and poorer countries who ate a lot of fruit had lower rates of wheeze.
Eating lots of fish seemed to protect children in rich countries, and a diet high in cooked green vegetables protected children in less developed countries from wheeze, Nagel’s group found.
Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidant vitamins and biologically active agents, and the omega 3 fatty acids prevalent in fish have anti-inflammatory properties, which might explain these findings, the researchers said.
“Overall, a Mediterranean diet was associated with a lower lifetime prevalence of asthma and wheeze,” Nagel said.
On the other hand, children who ate a lot of burgers had a higher lifetime prevalence of asthma and wheeze, the researchers found. The finding was especially true for allergy-free children from more affluent countries.
But the burger finding could be a marker for other lifestyle factors that could boost a child’s for asthma, the researchers note. Meat in general was not seen to increase the risk of wheeze, the study found.
Pulmonologist Dr. Michael Light, a professor of medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, agreed that diet can influence asthma.
“The data is fairly consistent that antioxidants and unsaturated fatty acids play a role in the big picture,” Light said. “This doesn’t mean if you change your diet today you are going to cure your asthma. All the study is saying is that one of the explanations for asthma is probably related to diet,” he said.
Echoing these findings, results of a study presented May 16 at the American Thoracic Society International Conference in New Orleans showed that fatty meals were linked to impaired lung function.
In that study, Australian researchers tested people with asthma before and after a high-fat meal or after a low-fat meal. They found that the high-fat meal increased inflammation and reduced lung function.
“If these results can be confirmed by further research, this suggests that strategies aimed at reducing dietary fat intake may be useful in managing asthma,” the study’s lead author, Lisa Wood, a lecturer in biomedical sciences and pharmacy at the Hunter Medical Research Institute in New Lambton, said at the time.