Marks Daily Apple
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Mark's Daily Apple

2 Mar

Smarter Fuel?

Sara here, with some Big Moo musings for the girls. Dairy is one of those food debates that can go on ad infinitum, with plenty of good points on either side (much like vegetarianism). Raw vs. organic vs. regular vs. low-fat vs. full-fat…you get the idea.

Dairy is just not, um, a black and white issue. I have my theories. I can’t promise that my views aren’t slightly biased due to the existence of things like Humboldt Fog goat cheese (Ben Franklin said, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” I think you could easily switch “beer” for “cheese”.) But having experimented with different forms of veganism, vegetarianism and carniveatin’ over the years, and being interested in issues like osteoporosis, cellulite and fertility (what woman isn’t?), here are a few thoughts, subject to change and open to your criticism. Mark’s big on questioning what we think we know – so let’s have at it!

1. In a perfect world, we’d eat raw dairy.

We know raw dairy is theoretically healthier. For one thing, cows themselves can’t survive on pasteurized milk. In many parts of the world, people consume raw dairy (until recently it was next to impossible to get it here unless you happened to live on or near a farm). Many edgier health experts say raw dairy is the only kind we should eat, because it’s truly the way nature made it – full of living and beneficial bacteria and enzymes. Of course, there’s the concern about food borne illness; then again, our mechanized manufacturing standards are arguably a lot cleaner and safer than a century ago, when you had to worry about TB in your butter. (Here’s where the FDA says “Hell no it’s not safer! Pasteurize!”)

2. Go organic or, like, die.

Should we even bother eating dairy if it’s not raw, then? After all, about 3/5 of the world doesn’t even consume dairy and some cultures even consider dairy to be downright gross. We’ve all heard the phrase “cow’s milk is for baby cows.” And it’s true. We’re the only mammals that continue consuming milk after we’re weaned – the milk of another species, no less. It gets further complicated by genetics: evidently some Europeans adapted to dairy consumption around 7,000 years ago, but many people just can’t digest dairy.

So what does going organic do? Well, organic milk and cheese don’t come with antibiotics, chemicals, and added hormones. It’s also supposed to be more environmentally friendly, and I guess the cows are allegedly happier. Then again, I don’t know if any dairy cow is thrilled with being artificially inseminated in perpetuity just so I can have cheddar on my broccoli.

It gets further complicated: cows these days are fed mostly grain, a food that makes them nice and fat but isn’t so good for them – or us. Cows are meant to eat grasses, and not only does this make the cows feel better, it makes their milk taste better.

If you’re perfect, you’ll eat only grass-fed dairy. Make that grass-fed organic dairy. Make that grass-fed, organic, raw dairy. Actually, forget it – cow’s milk is for baby cows.

3. But the hormones!

Dairy does contain hormones which may or may not affect fertility. You might have seen the news circulating yesterday that women who ate ice cream and cream as opposed to lower-fat dairy were more fertile.

The reaction was no surprise: vegans and the not-milk crowd cited the hormones in milk as the cause. Health experts cautioned that no woman should rely on a pint of B&J’s as a fertility plan.

Until seeing some recent research, I’d been rather inclined to trust the hormone argument, but I’m not so sure. For one thing, hormones can be tough to measure accurately. For another, blaming certain health issues on hormones in milk is somewhat akin to debates about the mercury levels in some fish. Does dairy cause girls to develop early? Does mahi mahi cause autism? I just don’t think we can be that simplistic. (But that doesn’t mean such things aren’t very real factors in serious health issues.)

My personal theory about dairy, fat and fertility has to do with what I’ve learned about evolutionary biology (and Mark can tell you more about this than just about anyone).

Around the MDA, we’re just not afraid of fat. Fat serves an incredibly important function in our cells – even saturated fat isn’t the bad guy it’s made out to be. Though the FDA still recommends a low-fat dairy, high-grain diet, Mark believes this is nothing short of disastrous. For a refreshingly different – and incredibly logical – point of view, you should check out THINCS or simply run a Google search for the ever-brilliant rebel scientist Dr. Mary Enig (props, Mary).

Hormones in milk might affect female fertility and development; but given that this is incredibly difficult to determine, I think we should consider an idea that, to me, seems pretty darn obvious:

Fat is, nutritionally-speaking, very dense. Our bodies are designed for fat metabolism – far more than glucose. Fat is great for your brain, your skin, your level of nutrient absorption, and so on.

Doesn’t it make sense that a woman consuming adequate fat would send a signal to her body that it’s safe to reproduce? Women need between 10 and 15% more body fat than men. Fat distributed around the hips and buns is there for a reason – it’s rich in a balance of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fats. When a woman has a baby, the body relies on some of these fat stores. Ladies, you need a little junk in the trunk.

While I wouldn’t advocate eating ice cream for good reproductive health, I get really concerned when I see women avoiding full-fat dairy like it’s death in a glass. Fat is not only not a bad thing, it’s necessary – especially for women. Moreover, most low-fat dairy products simply replace the fat with sugar. I think you can make a pretty good case that low-fat dairy, being higher in sugar, is actually worse for packing on the fat than regular old fattening butter, milk and cream. Sugar does funny things to cells, especially fat cells. It makes them bigger, it attacks them, it wears them out. Natural fat (both Omega-6 and Omega-3), on the other hand, doesn’t do any of these things. So long as you don’t exceed your total calorie requirements, and the fat you consume isn’t refined or trans fat, you’re not doing yourself any favors by choosing low-fat dairy.

Then again, you may not be doing yourself any favors choosing dairy, period.

Thoughts, Apples?

2 Mar

Surgeon General’s Warning

The Sisson Spoof

Here’s what I want to know: why is it that alcohol and cigarettes must carry surgeon general’s health warnings, but obscenely deleterious foods don’t have to?

We’ve looked at the Cheesecake Factory’s one-pound slices of cake and Chili’s 2,700+ calorie onion. And it’s not just restaurants. Consider Pop Tarts and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. What if, instead of being allowed to (respectively) slap “good source of calcium” and “No hormones” on these products, these sugar slingers had to tell the truth:

Pop Tarts

Warning: This product contains high levels of sugar, artificial ingredients and refined fat which are known contributors to obesity, diabetes and, oh yeah, death.

Ben & Jerry’s

Warning: The pint you are about to ingest contains two days’ worth of fat and your entire day’s caloric requirements, because, let’s face it, no one eats just one-fourth of this little carton. We might love our cows, but we don’t give a flying fig if you get diabetes, which you probably will if you eat enough of these bad boys.

Straight Outta Compton with My RDA

Of course, I’m sure the Surgeon G. can come up with the appropriately-uninspiring medical terminology.

But seriously, I want to know: why do known contributors to obesity, diabetes and heart disease get to make health claims on their packaging? A bottle of wine would never have “Loaded with antioxidants!” plastered on its label (let’s hope). Cigarettes packs aren’t about to feature “Enhances mood and relieves tension” seals. These products do have benefits (why else do people enjoy them and often get addicted). But they also carry major, life-threatening risks.

How is a pint of ice cream different? How is a rectangular donut different? Just because they’re “food” doesn’t make it any less disingenuous to trumpet meaningless health claims. Humans can become addicted to food just as easily as beer and smokes. If you think the cumulative effect of years of eating junk is any different from the effects of excess alcohol or cigarettes, think again. Far more people die from food addiction than drinking and smoking.

But don’t worry – Pop Tarts provide 9 essential vitamins and minerals.

With 2% of your daily iron requirement, what's not to love?
1 Mar

And This Makes 300

Worker Bees’ Daily Bites

The peanut butter scandal continues, ice cream supposedly boosts fertility, and a half glass of wine a day is the fountain of youth. Oh, and the FDA has created a hurricane-like warning system for flu epidemics. But 9 out of 10 dentists agree, today’s roundup still beats yet another day of Britney’s bald head and Anna Nicole’s burial. (Come on, journalists! There are things going on in the world!)

So We Asked These Dudes

Wine is better than beer and drinking it makes you live a lot longer – or so claims a new study done on a bunch of old guys. Though the report is already flying around the web and may hit the evening news, don’t reach for that trendy modernist cube of pinot just yet. The study is not really a “study” (and we love the news source for pointing out the study’s problems in a handy-dandy blue sidebar – you must click below).

This study is yet another review of a collection of questionnaires. This one involves men – born about 100 years ago – who filled out seven questionnaires over the course of 40 years. While evidence does point to the antioxidant value of vino, today’s report is just scraping the barrel. No more wining.

Just like grandpa used to make...

Yep, It’s True

You can reduce your risk of heart disease by taking good care of your gums. Flossing is just as important as brushing – did you know that? Sure, it’s annoying and tedious and twanging your incisors like a harp gets old, but do it anyway.

Javiera de Aguirre photo

We Don’t Like These Numbers

3 out of 4 Americans are overweight. 1 out of 3 women die of heart disease. And 1 in 4 girls have HPV, the STD that causes cervical cancer. An ounce of prevention…

Yes, it’s true: HPV affects 1 in 4 teen girls.

Fish in a Barrel

We know we pick on the FDA a lot here at Mark’s Daily Apple. Mainly because it’s just too easy.

Today, the Feckless Death Administration has warned people not to consume raw milk. Why?

Well, in a seven-year span, exactly two people died from bad raw milk. Yes – two. No one should die from milk, but come on – more people die from drinking regular milk than that!

Raw milk has its dangers. It’s not pasteurized, so it has the potential to contain bacteria and viruses. But pasteurized milk is hardly nature’s perfect food. For one thing, calves die when fed pasteurized moo juice (all the precious enzymes and living bacteria are neutralized). For another, standard milk has other contaminants like pus, blood, chemicals, antibiotics and recombinant bovine hormone.

Mark gets concerned (make that livid) when the FDA scares people half out of their minds over relatively insignificant health threats. Which brings us to the next bone of contention.

The FDA has created a catastrophe warning system for epidemics similar to that oh-so-effective terror alert color system. It’s yet another beautiful, inspiring graphic from the folks who brought you Labelman.

Another brilliant graphic from the FDA
Arrow of death

What’s your pet nickname for the fabulous institution we call the FDA? Let us know, Apples.

Also, Sara will be bringing you a handy report on dairy, fat, fertility and cellulite – and how it all really does relate – in tomorrow’s edition of Smart Fuel. In the meantime, no, ice cream isn’t the new wonder fertility drug (bummer).

UPDATE: Oops – the arrow of death is from the CDC. But it’s still silly.

1 Mar

Is Research Meaningless?

Clickativity for health hacks.

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