Friday, January 06, 2012

A few simple steps...

Tired of problems without solutions? Do you want to help, but don't know what to do? Are you frustrated by everyone blaming problems on the government or corporations without proposing answers?

I want to try the opposite. I would like to propose some simple changes you can make in your life. Then I'll explain how these simple changes can improve you, your community, and your world. Changing the world is daunting and near impossible, but making small changes in our daily lives is quite manageable.

Do you want to fight the power, to stick it to the man? Do you hope to change politics and economics? Are you trying to rebel against corporations? Are you tired of being sick and sick of being tired? Do you want to really improve the world for your children? Starting, any or all of these, is simple. As simple as:

  1. Buy local & organic...
  2. Cook your food...
  3. Find alternatives to driving...
The first step, buying local and organic food, probably means changing where you shop. For maximum effect, it means giving up the big-box retailers and switching to a smaller retailer or local market. Giving up the huge parking lot aught to be reason enough to change. Knowing your local grocers and farmers is fullfilling. It's a satisfying experience to feel like part of your community. And all the while you'll be avoiding industrial food. This means not giving your money to big corporations and not letting their chemicals make you sick. That in turn brings better health, both in the short and long terms. Obesity is far less an issue with real food as are problems from diabetes to depression and even cancer. Local & organic foods are good for the environment and reduce global warming and pollution. There's less oil used when you don't transport foods from around the world, and fewer chemicals get into our ground water, air, and into the food itself.

If you drink coffee then buying fair-trade organic coffee is the first place to start. Commercial coffee is one of the single most dangerous crops in the world. The pollution it causes, due to chemicals and treating, is staggering. Coffee is responsible for a lot of rainforest destruction and a lot of economic misery. The children of coffee farmers often die of malnutrition. Foreign corporations control how farmers farm, where planting just a few food crops, into the same precious soil, could save their families. Making different choices breaks the chain of corporate greed, hurts unjust governments, and improves the lives of farmers (and their children) around the world.

Cooking is a tradition most of us have lost. But thankfully not too long ago. There are probably still a few pots and pans hidden away in your kitchen. Learning to cook is easy and fun. It can bring families closer together, make meal times more social, and of course cooking all that wholesome locally grown organic food will make you healthier. What's the catch?

Sorry to say, for most of us, the catch to "cooking" means giving up fast food and canned drinks. This is harder for some than for others, but truly critical. Rainforest destruction, health issues with processed and frozen foods, corporate abuses, unfair marketing to children, constant cavities; all these can be avoided just by cooking your own food. And this will improve your happiness too. The preparation time, the family sharing, the connection it builds between you and your food, and the improved health that comes from eating real food; all these go into making you feel better and happier. And, the rebelious act of cooking your own food pulls control of your life out of the hands of others and gives it back to you. Cooking is so much more than changing food. It can change the world.

I grew up in a North American subburb where it felt like life didn't really begin until you could drive. Sure, as 15 year olds we would ride our bikes to the mall, but not as 17 year olds. As an adult, I recall leaving the office with coworkers to go for dinner, where 5 people got in 5 cars, drove across the road and parked. Clearly walking the short distance was preferable.

Your physical abilities are a "use it or loose it" proposition. Don't take little walks, and later you won't be able to. So start thinking of ways you can move your body. And start to bike, and use the bus. Chances are the buses in your locality go "downtown", to where the smaller (local) shops and business are. Take the bus to the farmers market and get to know the butcher, the baker, and the bus fare taker.

Use alternative transportation and you change the world. You change the need to import oil from war-torn regions far away. You change the controls that corporations and energy companies have over you. You pollute less, move your body more, spend some time outdoors and feel happier and healthier for these experiences. When you look at your daily routines, ask yourself which trips you could make better, but making them without the car.

Lower your stress, stop war, live longer, help children in poor countries, improve your heart and reduce your risk of cancer, reduce pollution to your drinking water and stop corporations from taking control of your life... the list goes on and on. There are lots and lots of problems in the world, and you can begin to fight many of them by making a few small changes at home. You benefit, I benefit, the whole world benefits when we all start working together.

So I invite you, I beg you, let's rebel. Let's start a new way of thinking and acting. Let us simply choose to eat better food, to cook what we eat, and to consider whether or not you need to drive. Once begun, these changes feedback on themselves. Feeling healthier makes you want better food and to move more. Eating better and moving more make you feel healthier. The cycle spreads outwards and helps others. And starting is as simple as: buy local and organic foods, cook them yourself, and find other ways to travel.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Beyond Capitalism

There are things in this world best not chosen by profit. I do not think the food that was most profitable for the food company is necessarily the best to eat. I would, instead, prefer the healthiest food I can afford. I do not believe that the care we should receive at a hospital is about the insurance cards (or credit cards) in a wallet. I believe we should all receive the same care. I do not feel that education will best benefit humanity if it is only shared with the richest. I feel education is a right we should all have access to.

Few people (in my personal discussions) argue these points. Education, representation, access to safe food and water; these are things in the western world we take for granted. But should we?

There are some things we may want done without a profit motive. Sometimes we easily agree that the right choice will simply cost more. As individuals we can make the choice to invest that little extra. But what about, as a society?

As a society we hold to ideals of profit and growth. They are inherent through our entire system. If something won't be profitable, it simply won't be done. If it won't make money, you won't find the resources to do it. This is where the problem is. Things, like education and health, have value beyond dollars. They pay back to all of society over time, but not in a neatly ammortizable and deterministic way.

My assertion is that we need to think beyond profit. We need to be able to account for the value of human-vitality and new-thoughts because we need to make choices that encourage a better future.

But for many people, the term "anti-capitalist" is heard as "communist". Communists and capitalists have had a century of war. Thus any doubt of capitalism, or the 'virtues' it instills, is a further attack in a long war. Indeed, any mention of "capitalism" seems to imply you are an outsider to it, and thus an immediate enemy.

This needs to change. We need to be able to use words meaningfully. If we want to discuss the future, then we have to discuss ideas beyond the present. We have to use words and phrases (like "beyond capitalism") to discuss what could come next. We need to be able to talk about ideas openly, without McCarthyism fears turning words to dust.

Something will follow today. The world of the future will be different from our world. Get over it. And then imagine what you might want that world to be.

The alternative is that other people will chose your future. Other people will see you as a source of profit for themselves, or a threat to their profits, and they will react accordingly. Shall we talk about a better future, one beyond profit motives? Or would you like to pretend that discussing capitalism makes me your enemy?

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Micronutrient Malnutrition

Say "malnutrition" and thoughts go straight to starving children in Africa; drought victims relying on bags of UNICEF rice. Children and adults with seriously caloric-deficient diets will eventually die. This is starvation.

Say "micronutrient malnutrition" and thoughts go straight to... what? The image I want you to think of is an obese westerner. With micronutrient malnutrition there has been no lack of calories, but micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, enzymes and more) have been in short supply. Such diets are also fatal, but instead of starvation, the result is chronic illness. Nutrition studies are now linking a lack of micronutrients to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular illnesses, and cancer.

Food is much more than simply carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. In addition to these macronutrients, we require minerals and vitamins in our food. Necessary micro-minerals include at least iron, cobalt, chromium, copper, iodine, manganese, selenium, zinc and molybdenum.

Vitamins are organic compounds that are essential for life. They include at least 13 different substances including retinol, thiamine, ascorbic acid, calciferol, riboflavin, tocopherol, cobalamins, phylloquinone, pantothenic acid, biotin, pyridoxine, niacin, and folic acid.

But obesity, cancer and adult-onset diabetes are modern ailments. If early humans could find enough folic acid and cobalt what has changed such that we do not? I believe there are two primary causes: modern food processing and industrial farming.

Processed food is an obvious problem. Strip away the wheat germ and you loose the vitamin E, tocopherol. Sure you can spray a synthetic vitamin E back into the flour, but this is far less bio-available (less able to be used by your body) than the tocopheral in the wheat germ. Now repeat this process for every ingredient of every food you eat and voila, most of the micronutrients are missing.

Other problems with food processing include heat damage. Enzymes are often destroyed with heating, such as when milk is pasteurized or homogenized. Nutrients can be oxidized, as when oils are converted to trans-fats simply through the heat of an extraction process.

Most foods are now "built" rather than cooked. Proteins are taken out of wheat flour but then put back in from soy beans. Cheeses are no longer fermented but simply thickened with the protein taken out of the bread flour. Scientists build foods like children build with blocks. The foods we like are soft, smooth, fluffy, sweet, but completely devoid of nutrition.

The solution to over-processed foods is simply to switch to eating whole foods. Cook your own food from basic, single ingredients and you won't have to worry about soya in your bread or wheat in your cheese.

The consequences of industrial farming are far harder to see, at first. In the long-term, however, the image of industrial farming is that of a desert; sandstorms and drought. We are only just beginning to appreciate the complexity of something as ubiquitous as soil. Or more precisely, what makes soil different from dirt.

Soil is a living ecosystem. Made up of dirt plus a large array of biomass, healthy soil is a complex balance of many forms of life, from plants to insects to fungi, molds, microbes, bacterials and more. With each harvest, nutrients are removed from this ecosystem. In order to maintain a balance, they must be replaced.

Modern farming practices replace nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Some fertilizers include other elements, but none replace the complex organic compounds that left with the last harvest. And the next crops suffer the loss. Fertilized plants will grow, but if they are missing important elements they end up weaker. Weaker plants are easier for pests to eat, so fertilized crops are more prone to pest invasions. More chemicals are called into use, neurotoxins and such, to eliminate the pests. But these chemicals kill almost all the insects. So the insects that feed on fungus are also killed and suddenly the fields are overrun with a new threat. Fungicides are called in and sprayed liberally. But that promotes an imbalanced ecosystem where some plants can flourish faster than others. We call those plants weeds, and spray even more poison onto our food and soil to stop them.

When you stop regenerating your soil, and so aggressively attack the life of its ecosystem, you kill it. And dead soil is simply dirt. Plants don't grow well. Rain washes it away. And eventually, even the rain will stop and there is nothing left but desert.

But long before the fields turn to deserts and people starve from malnutrition, there is micronutrient malnutrition and sickness. The simple element iodine is a good example. Iodine is necessary in every human body and every plant cell. Every plant is a "good source" of iodine. Except, if the soil is iodine deficient, the plant will be too. Eat only nutritionally deficient plants and you will be iodine deficient also. So even if you skip the processed foods and go straight for the broccoli and lettuce, you can end up in trouble.

Would you believe that throughout North America the soils are chronically iodine deficient? The home of the Green Revolution (industrialized farming) has for decades added iodine to salt and bread products to replace what is known to be missing. We feed it to cattle to make up for what the crops didn't find in the soil. And iodine is just one example. Soils around the world are becoming deficient.

Thankfully, soil destruction has a simple solution. Organic, especially dynamic-organic, farming is the answer. Organic farming uses none of the chemicals that kill soil ecosystems. Pests are controlled through rotations of crop types which also strengthens the soil. A 30-year comparison of farming techniques was recently reported on. It concluded that organic techniques produce more food with more nutrition than industrial/chemical farming. This fact was largely due to the healthier organic soil supporting better yields in times of drought and pests.

Healthy soil, healthy plants, healthy people. Unhealthy soil, nutrient deficient plants, chronically sick people.

So far this is a pretty simple argument. Logical. So why is it new? Why haven't you already been told that obesity is a body is craving nutrition? There is a third contributing factor.

The average medical doctor spends 8-15 years studying medicine, and about 2.5 days studying nutrition. Nutrition, the science of it, isn't taught to doctors. So when they see obesity or diabetes they turn to their training. They prescribe a drug to treat symptoms, because they were never taught the root causes.

I believe our modern disease-care system (you can call it health care if you wish) has built an incredible momentum, in the wrong direction. Hippocrates, father of modern medical thinking, understood the connection between diet and exercise centuries ago. We can only hope that the findings of nutritional science will soon be brought back into medical science.

If these assertions are correct then the changes required to fix these problems are enormous. To convince medical science to give up the medicines and return to nutrition could take decades. Converting world-wide farming practices could take even longer. But the good news is you can make these changes for yourself, right now.

You and your family can choose healthy nutrition. It isn't simple, but once in the habit it is worth it. Health is an incredible reward. And if you remove a chronic illness at the same time, then you really will be amazed by how good you feel.

My hope is that, as more people discover the benefits of real food, our society will begin to accept micronutrient malnutirtion as a problem and will work to solve it. Meanwhile, I urge you to help yourself. For your own health.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

How to Support WikiLeaks and Julian Assange

Today I typed into my browser's URL. I didn't get there. Instead I ended up with a message saying," Sorry! This site is not currently available." That's an incredible shame, since I see WikiLeaks as a type of Robin Hood in our Information Society. How can a country (say, like the U.S.A.) declare itself democratic if information is kept from the people?

Thankfully Google is still on the ball; is still making the world a little more democratic. Search on "WikiLeaks mirror" and you get there. But for how long?

That question is my motivation for the following post. I am taking the contents (text only) of the WikiLeaks support page and reposting it here. The intent is that when you want to donate funds to support the cause, you'll still be able to.

Share a Wikileaks release with a friend. Spread our wallpapers. Donate to support vital infrastructure. If you believe democracy and transparency go hand in hand, now is the time to stand and say: "The world needs Wikileaks."

WikiLeaks brings truth to the world by publishing fact-based stories without fear or favor. You can help support our independent media by donating financially. Our organisation exists because of the work of many volunteers who have contributed thousands of hours to building WikiLeaks from the ground up. But we still need donations to pay for computers, expert programmers and other bills. You choose how much you can donate, we don't recommend any particular amount. Just do what you think is right.

There are four ways to donate:

  • Donate to Julian Assange Defence Fund
  • Online Transfer via Credit Card
  • Bank Transfer [option 1: everyone]
  • Bank Transfer [option 2: tax deductible in Germany]
  • Paypal via Wau Holland Foundation - (not working)
  • Postal Mail

    1. Julian Assange Defence Fund
    Please donate directly to the Julian Assange and other WikiLeaks Staff Defence Fund. These funds will be used exclusively for defence costs.
    To donate please do an electronic bank transfer (EFT) to:
    Account number: 91-765019-6
    IBAN:CH55 0900 0000 9176 5019 6
    Account name:Assange Julian Paul, Geneve
    Address::Swiss Post
    Engehaldenstrasse, 37
    Bern, Switzerland

    2. Online Transfer via Credit Card
    Using our friendly credit card processing partner Datacell Switzerland.

    3. Bank Transfer - Option 1: via Sunshine Press Productions ehf:
    Klapparhlid 30, 270 Mosfellsbaer, Iceland
    Landsbanki Islands Account number 0111-26-611010
    ACCOUNT/IBAN:IS97 0111 2661 1010 6110 1002 80

    4. Bank Transfer - Option 2: via the not-for-profit Wau Holland Stiftung Foundation:
    This support is tax deductible in Germany
    Bank Account: 2772812-04
    IBAN: DE46 5204 0021 0277 2812 04
    Bank: Commerzbank Kassel
    German BLZ: 52040021
    Subject: WIKILEAKS / WHS Projekt 04

    5. PayPal via Wau Holland Foundation
    [Sorry, this option does not seem to work.]

    6. Via Postal Mail
    You can post a donation via good old fashion postal mail to:
    (or any suitable name likely to avoid interception in your country)
    BOX 4080
    Australia Post Office - University of Melbourne Branch
    Victoria 3052

  • Tuesday, May 25, 2010

    I Can Choose

    Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is now an ecology consultant. He is a partner in a venture capital project to use sea water to sequester carbon from power generation. As I watched his brief interview on TV, I thought "cool". He described how India and China were continuing to build new coal plants, and that Western coal-fired plants would continue to operate well into the future, thus carbon sequestering is vital technology and needs development.

    In my opinion, carbon sequestering is a problematic idea. Ideally we would use non-fossil fuels for our energy needs. However, given that the continued burning of fossil fuels is a certainty, trapping carbon is required.

    And then Tony said," You will never get people to stop driving their cars. You will never get consumers to stop consuming." At this, my heart sank.

    A great world leader has just said "technology is the only answer" because "people can't change." At least that's how I heard it. And I really must voice my opinion to the contrary. I think we must start talking now, about how to change ourselves and our society, so that our future is about both new energy technologies and new energy attitudes.

    Take, for example, bicycles and public transit as alternatives to cars. In North America I was a gas-guzzling lead-footed car guy. In Holland I love my bicycles! And I'm not the only one. Here, most of my expat friends walk or tram or ride, but don't drive.

    Check out this incredible video. It is the morning rush hour in downtown Utrecht, Netherlands.

    Isn't that beautiful? At that intersection 30,000 riders go past every day. That's 30,000 trips without a car! Bikes and buses have lanes and roads reserved just for them. And to quote the video's source, cycling in the Netherlands is THIRTY times safer than in the U.S.A.

    Is this a technology issue? Is bicycle technology in North America just not up to par? Is it a resource issue? Is Canada lacking in bike lanes because of a lack of space? Of course not.

    I think now is the time we must choose. We can choose to change. We can choose new attitudes and new ways. Or we can choose to depend on dinosaurs; and ultimately follow in their path.

    I hope all the best for Tony and his technology. I really do. But I really believe he's wrong about what people are capable of. At least, I hope he is.

    Thursday, February 25, 2010

    Advice for those already at the gym:

    Exercise information is easy to find but all too often, confusing. If you're a beginner, every men's or women's magazine offers routines of simple exercises to get you started. If you're a serious exercise enthusiast and looking to maximize your training there's plenty of info out there for you too. Indeed, I'm surprised by how many websites and magazine articles give advice that is only appropriate for well conditioned individuals. But what about the people in the middle?

    Look around your local gym. Those are the people in the middle. They've made the move from time on the couch to time exercising. They've made improvements to how they look and feel, and understand the benefits of exercise. But chances are they've also hit a plateau, using the same exercises they were taught when they joined. What does a no-longer-a-beginner do before they're an athlete?

    Two of my friends are in this position. Middle-aged, they're thinner and healthier than most. They exercise, but not routinely. Not couch potatoes, but not as fit as they desire either. With my friends in mind, I wondered what three exercise tips would I give to help them most?

    As it turns out, the list of three was right at the front of my mind. And contrary to most exercise articles out there, only one of my exercise tips is actually about an exercise.

    Squats and Deadlifts

    Firstly, do squats. They don't show you this on your first gym visit. If you've never exercised, squats will hurt you. Don't do them. But once you've spent a few months on the machines, it's time to leave them behind for the real exercises.

    Squats and deadlifts work the whole body. This is key. Working one part, then another, does NOT have the same effect as working the whole body.

    Squats can be done with the bar on your back, or held infront. Deadlifts start with the bar on the floor and involve generally the same set of muscles. Either exercise can be built up to include a press, such as you might see in the olympics. Ultimately, that's the way to go. But work towards it slowly.

    FYI, Smith machines, leg press machines and all the rest don't count. They don't put the same loads on your secondary muscles and supporting muscles. If you fear free weights, start with dumbbells instead of a barbell.

    Drink Milk

    Here's where my exercise advice stops being about exercise. This is because exercise (the actual activity at the gym) doesn't make you stronger. It is your body's reaction to the stress of exercise that makes your stronger (and leaner and healthier). So even more important than what exercises you do, is how you feed yourself. Start with milk.

    I have lots to say on diet and health. But where to start? I would start with whole milk. Drinking a litre a day of whole (unskimmed) milk melts fat off my body. I've exerperienced it many times and in various ways. I've heard a ton of anecdotal stories. I can't explain it and won't try. The more milk you drink the slimmer you probably are; all other factors being equal.

    (Conversely, the more diet colas you drink the fatter you likely are. Sorry, it's just my own experience and eyesight, but I believe it's true.)

    And lastly...

    Get Your Sleep!

    I know when someone has moved from beginner to serious exerciser when they talk about sleep. Sleep is critical, even more so than food or exercise. Consider 9 hours to be the target.

    The point of exercise is to stress your body, such that it then rebuilds itself, better than it was. This happens when you sleep. If you're going to the gym but not eating or sleeping properly then you're only doing your body harm.

    Most anyone needs 8 hours of sleep a night. (I undertand few of us actually get that.) A little exercise and your sleep need quickly rises to 9 hours or more. If you spent an hour in the gym and an hour on your bike, consider going to bed early and getting 10 hours, guilt free.

    And those are my exercise tips. Do full body exercises, eat well - starting with milk, and get your sleep. Try the three together and I bet you can get through any plateau. And I bet you feel better right away. Good luck.

    Tuesday, February 16, 2010

    The Cholesterol Controversy

    Atherosclerosis is better known as "hardening of the arteries". It involves a build-up of cholesterol laden plaque along the inside of your blood vessels. Atherosclerosis sometimes leads to bits of plaque rupturing into the blood stream, blocking blood flow, and causing a heart attack or stroke. These mechanisms, at their macroscopic level, are well understood. Post mortem, researchers can measure the plaque, find the rupture, find the clot, see the dead heart tissue, etc. But are you willing to believe that what causes atherosclerosis is not understood?

    Since the mid-eighties the "lipid hypothesis" of plaque formation has been more or less accepted as medical dogma. "It has been established beyond a reasonable doubt that lowering definitely elevated blood cholesterol levels (specifically, blood levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol) will reduce the risk of heart attacks caused by coronary heart disease." [1] Soon statin drugs became the norm to lower blood cholesterol levels and prevent heart attacks. The results were encouraging.

    In addition to drugs, research found that if all cholesterol and fats are cut from the diet then levels of cholesterol in the blood drop and fewer heart attacks occur in people who have already had a heart attack.

    Cholesterol is mainly found in saturated fats. Thus saturated fats are routinely singled out as dangerous for people to eat.

    The NIH website states," How does cholesterol cause heart disease? When there is too much cholesterol in your blood, it builds up in the walls of your arteries." [2] Simple. Perhaps too simple? Indeed, this theory is being questioned by small groups around the world.

    THINCS is The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics. They believe that "enormous human and financial resources have been wasted on the cholesterol campaign, [while] more promising research areas have been neglected." [3] They contend that there are numerous reasons to look at other theories for the cause of atherosclerosis and heart disease. Normal scientific practices involve dissent and discussion but THINCS thinks that the lipid-hypothesis is not open to the scrutiny or questioning that it should be.

    This unquestioning belief in the cholesterol campaign means researchers like Uffe Ravnskov, a Danish medical doctor, have difficulty getting published. "Dr Ravnskov has received the Skrabanek Award in 1999 from Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, for original contributions in the field of medical scepticism. He was also honoured with the Integrity In Science Award 2003 given by The Weston A. Price Foundation." [4] Infamous for his views against "The Cholesterol Myth" he is often quoted and often attacked around the 'net.

    Ravnskov states," No study of unselected individuals has found an association between the concentration of LDL or total cholesterol in the blood and the degree of atherosclerosis at autopsy." [5]

    But how can he say this? The secret is in the word "unselected". What it boils down to is quite simple. The connection between cholesterol and heart disease is clear. The causation is not. Studies have consistently shown that people with heart disease have cholesterol problems. This isn't refuted. But the connection between eating cholesterol and falling ill with heart disease is assumed by the current scientific consensus. What Ravnskov says is that if you look at healthy people and their cholesterol levels there is no statistical connection to their rates of heart disease.

    Most science is based on random studies, sampling as much of a population as possible. However the work on heart disease has centered on studying people who have it already, not on why other people don't have it.

    Amongst his many works, Ravnskov even has alternate theories that explain the cholesterol connection and the causation of atherosclerosis.

    Prior to general acceptance of the lipid hypothesis, researchers and doctors believed that plaque formation in the arteries was caused by infections in the body. Post mortem research showed direct correlations between arterial plaque build-up and long term sickness. People who had died after long illnesses had extensive plaque build-up and people who died after shorter illnesses had less plaque. [6]

    Ravnskov believes there are multiple reasons to look at infection as a cause or contributor to atherosclerosis and heart disease. He believes that cholesterol plays a role as a "non-specific immune response" within the body; that the cholesterol is a response to disease and not the cause.

    A study done jointly with Harvard researcher Kilmer McCully postulates how micro-organisms are surrounded and neutralized by lipoproteins (LDL cholesterol) within the blood. The invading particle, surrounded by lipoproteins, precipitates out of the blood and in healthy individuals is handled by the immune system. The theory goes that when the immune system is weak, the resulting LDL cholesterol concentrations become plaque which is unstable and prone to rupture. [7]

    It all boils down to a "weakened immune response" leads to heart disease. This is very different from "eating saturated fats" causes heart disease. Indeed, for some groups, like the Weston A. Price foundation, mentioned above, these statements are opposite to each other.

    Based on the work of Dr. Price (DDS) early last century, the foundation (which Price did not start) has some radical and controversial ideas. A bit too radical for my personal tastes. But they summarize Dr. Price's research on native/natural diets and have, I think, two interesting points. First, the macro nutrient ratios (carbs, proteins, fats) consumed by pre-industrial societies varied widely. There is no magic ratio that is the "ideal" way to eat. Secondly, no natural diet was ever found that was free of saturated fats. [8]

    Saturated fats are actually biologically necessary. Even in vegetarian cultures, such as in India, traditional diets included saturated fats from coconuts, butter and other sources. On the opposite end of the scale, such as with the Inuit in the Arctic, meat-rich diets were so dense in nutrients and vitamins that almost no plant-based food needed to be consumed. In all these cases, not only did people intake high levels of saturated fat, but they also had relatively low rates of heart disease.

    Nutritionist and W. A. Price Foundation co-founder, Mary G. Enig (PhD), contends that initial connections between saturated fats and heart disease were based on flawed studies which used hydrogenated coconut oils. [9] Hydrogenation is a process of chemically changing fats, usually to make them thicker. Today we know that hydrogenation leads to chemicals called trans-fats.

    Natural animal fats (saturated fats) do not contain trans-fats. Cold-pressed vegetable oils such as olive oil (monounsaturated) and corn, sunflower and flax seed oils (polyunsaturated) also don't contain trans-fats. Canola oil, one of the 'heart-healthy alternatives', is a good example of a polyunsaturated oil because it contains no trans-fats. However polyunsaturated oils are unstable when heated. And heating is a part of the oil's extraction such that the canola oil you have at home can be up to 5% trans-fat, before you ever begin your cooking. [10]

    Heating saturated fats makes them melt. But it requires temperatures higher than those used to cook, to chemically transform them. Thus, a diet rich in natural sources of saturated fats does not have many trans-fats. (Processed sources of saturated fat, such as the fats in a fast food combo meal - burger and fries - are also very high in hydrogenated trans-fats.)

    It's all very confusing! Search on any of the references herein and you will see endless controversy and accusations of pseudoscience and flawed thinking from both sides. Does meat cause heart disease? Will a life of rice cakes and vegetable oil keep us healthy?

    I don't know, and probably not.

    In all my reading, the only constant I've seen is a series of comparisons between natural, whole foods, and processed foods. I think a lot of the research that has vilified saturated fats should actually be redone with an eye to isolating the effects of trans-fats. And I think that because of the multi-billion dollar annual investment in the lipid-hypothesis, that this research isn't going to be done. The only real conclusion I can draw is that whole, unprocessed foods, are significantly healthier for us than processed foods.

    I now go over every ingredients list, when I buy food. If I see "hydrogenated" or "partially-hydrogenated" vegetable oil or E443, I put it down. I've even put down "organic, whole-wheat" bread products that were baked with thickened oil. When I cook, I have started to use natural fats like butter (grass-fed) and coconut oil (cold-pressed virgin oil). These stay chemically stable, both on the stove and in the body, and make good taste wonderful.

    I believe our industrialized food manufacturing processes are harming us. I believe that choosing natural (whole, organic, home-cooked) foods is the only sane response to the insane group of theories we call "nutrition". And I believe that if we wait patiently, this situation will worsen instead of improve. As people the world-over switch to vegetable shortenings for 'heart health' more people die of heart disease.

    That said, I believe that every time I buy good food I'm voting for a change. Every time I cook a meal, rather than reheat a package, I'm telling the medical and scientific and agricultural communities that people want more research. And finally, I hope, that if enough of us follow this approach, that eventually the truths will be known.


    1. (1985). "Consensus conference. Lowering blood cholesterol to prevent heart disease". JAMA 253 (14): 2080–6. doi:10.1001/jama.253.14.2080. PMID 3974099




    5. Ravnskov U. "Is atherosclerosis caused by high cholesterol?" Q J Med 2002;95:397-403.

    6. Wiesel J. Die Erkrankungen arterieller Gefässe im Verlaufe akuter Infektionen. II Teil. Z Heilkunde 1906; 27:262-294.

    7. Uffe Ravnskov and Kilmer S. McCully. "Review and Hypothesis: Vulnerable Plaque Formation from Obstruction of Vasa Vasorum by Homocysteinylated and Oxidized Lipoprotein Aggregates Complexed with Microbial Remnants and LDL Autoantibodies" Annals of Clinical & Laboratory Science, vol. 39, no. 1, 2009 (link)



    10. (Note: this final reference is circular back to the work of Dr. Mary G. Enig from reference [9]. It is included as the place I first heard these ideas.)

    Sunday, February 07, 2010

    Butter and Bread

    I gave up butter so long ago I almost forget when. Almost. In truth it was about 10 years back when I made a lifestyle change including giving up bread, cola and more. Sick and tired in general, and disgusted with my ample computer-guy physique, I decided (realized) I had to make changes.

    So much has changed. So much. And yet, surprisingly, today I'm looking forward to bread and butter. My belief in whole-foods has brought me full circle in terms of what I eat, and how.

    For lunch I intend to cook an omelet with bread and butter. If you believe the pseudo-nutrition taught the past few decades that meal sounds like," Cholesterol, saturated fat, carbs, and more saturated fats." And yet somehow I'm eating this way, loosing weight and feeling wonderfully healthy. 5kg in the last 3 months or just under a pound a week.

    What changed? The bike I ride regularly was bought in 1991. My oldest training logs go back to September 2000. (In five pages of YMCA 'Conditioning Program Cards' I only wrote the year once. Guess I wasn't expecting it to be so long term.) I took up karate about 17 months ago, when I quit smoking, and with it began regular stretching. But three months ago I made a choice (a realisation) and switched to unprocessed, whole foods.

    The results have been amazing! My energy level is up. My exercise rate has doubled to tripled because swollen and painful joints are a thing of the past. I can eat throughout the day and yet feel completely in control of my weight and well being. And I can have organic grass-fed butter on whole-wheat bread and it explodes in my mouth like a candy factory might. Although I can't eat a candy factory.

    The ironic part is that all this is unintended. I didn't make the switch for health reasons but instead for... political reasons, for lack of a better word. Food Inc. was my proverbial last straw. I realized I could vote with my money and express my ideas by supporting organic and avoiding factory-food. I changed because I was angry with socio-political-economic trends related to the sustainability of our food supply. But what I'm left with is not anger, but health and unexpected happiness.

    And now, a very strong craving for those eggs and that butter! Care to join me?


    Author's note: Sorry folks, I realized only after that I had already written this post before. But each month I'm becoming more sure of the results, and their cause. To the cause!

    Friday, January 08, 2010

    She Is Missed

    Christmas marks the turning of a new solar year. Three days after the solstice the days begin to lengthen. Light is brought back to us with the promise of warmth to follow. One week later, the Julian calendar marks the New Year. We all go out and celebrate the symbolic passing of old to new, ironically repeating an ageless cycle. Now, a week on from New Year's, is another symbolic date. And again it feels like more than just a date but a real time of change.

    It was a year ago today that my Mom passed away. January 8th, 2009 wasn't a time of light, but a time of darkness.

    I spent most of that day flying back to Canada to visit my sick mother. As the plane was taxiing into the gate I was suddenly overwhelmed with odd feelings. I became dizzy and extremely nauseous. For a number of minutes all I could do was pant and hold the air sickness bag. I wasn't air sick.

    The customs and baggage lines never felt longer. Cell phones don't work within Pearson airport. Something felt surreal. When I finally got to the transport desk, to catch my shuttle to the hospital, I got told I had a message from home.

    That whole experience was like having colour turned off. Like a cloud, so thick and black, parked over me. Daylight was almost night. And try as I have, a part of the nausea and a part of the darkness have remained. It's the place in my soul I used to feel my mother. The part that told me when it was her calling on the phone. That part that told me when she died.

    And yet today felt different. A year later and the thick dark cloud is slowly lifting. Like the long sloping line of a warm front, the horizon appears to be clear sky.

    Today isn't a colourful day. But it is bright. The world outside is entirely white. A thick fog last night fell onto the trees and buildings as a beautiful pure-white ice. My eyes see it as a symbolic start, a point where darkness begins to give room to light. Today marks my new year.

    Thursday, December 24, 2009

    Merry Christmas

    Merry Christmas, Season's Greetings, Prettige Kerstdagen, Feliz Natal!

    It's been a bitter-sweet year. At times I feel I'm exactly where I was last year. So much hasn't changed; yet nearly everything feels different. For example, a year ago I was feeling old. Very old. I had just quit smoking and started karate and while I didn't have a lot of breath in my lungs my muscles and bones ached and screamed.

    Now? Well, I've posted Fatboy Slim's "Old Pair of Jeans" because I'm happy to be wearing an old pair pulled from the very bottom of my wardrobe. I haven't even bothered trying them recently. But not only do they fit again, my belt is on a notch not seen in 2 years. All thanks to exercise, good food and new-found health.

    I have too many thoughts about "the year" to cover right now. Suffice it to say that, unlike this time last year, there's a lot I'm hopeful for. Changes have been a long time in coming, but feel just around the corner.

    May your New Year also bring positive changes. I wish you a Merry Christmas and all the best!

    Friday, December 04, 2009

    Funkalized plays live at OT301

    Funkalized tops the charts as my favourite live band in Amsterdam. Last night they played at a club called OT301 and I recorded a few snips of the groove. It hardly does the band justice.

    Thursday, December 03, 2009

    Food Meets Gym (or Food, Meats, Gym)

    The movie Food, Inc. marks what was a turning point for me. The movie, while very good, wasn't shocking nor did it tell me anything new. Instead it was like the straw that finally broke the camel's back. It was the first drop that overflowed the cup. What is shocking to me is how much I like the resulting ring on life's coffee-table.

    Since the movie I have changed some shopping habits. I'm simply buying more organic (biologisch) products and more whole foods and vegetables. And once home, I'm actually taking the time to cook proper meals with these great ingredients.

    A few weeks ago I also added an "indoor bicycle trainer" to my sports equipment. It clamps the back wheel and allows me to ride my bike at home. At the end of the summer my outdoor riding stopped. By mid-November I had gained 2 kg and I wasn't pleased.

    After three weeks I'm lighter by about 3 kg, and that's really nice. But there's much more going on than just weight loss!

    The part that surprises me is that I'm exercising at a much higher intensity level than I thought I could do. Years of exercise have taught me my limits. For example, exercise the day after a karate class just isn't possible. Or is it? Indeed, I've been cycling every day while also attending karate regularly and weight lifting. And I suspect it is the food that is making it all possible.

    Inflammation is normally the limiting factor, closely followed by pulled muscles. I've got some knee pain, some sore muscles, bad tendons; I'm not superman. But I know that I'm doing more than normal, and feeling less stress on my body.

    Exercise is its own reward. This I know. But I'm learning that good eating is also. My motivations were largely principle-driven but the rewards are touching me in other ways. I honestly didn't expect to feel healthier. I didn't expect how much better my food tastes. And I certainly didn't expect to be able to exercise more while seeing both improvements and weight loss.

    Is it partly mental, partly a placebo effect? Of course. That's the feedback mechanism. Small improvements in the body have big effects on health and happiness, which in turn motivates results and further small improvements.

    What it means to me is that I'm about to hop on my bike for a while. For later, I'm considering hitting the weights then the grocery store. And while shopping, I'll be choosing whole foods and organic sources. Such a simple difference and yet the results are worth much more than I originally imagined.

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    Who are you?

    It is one of the principle differences I notice between life in Europe and life in North America; in Europe, what you do for a living does not define "who you are". In North America it often does.

    I remember, long ago, being proudly told by a Dutchman that you can often find a millionaire, a working man, and a homeless man sitting at the bar together, drinking and talking as equals. My own experience backs this up and I remember when friends I had known for long time periods were surprised to find out I was an engineer. It had just never come up in the course of dozens of conversations. I'm also a "writer" and a "diver" and a "teacher" and these are just as likely to be discussed as the day-to-day activities that pay the bills.

    It is my experience in North America, when two strangers meet, that "what you do for a living" is almost certain to be amongst the first three questions discussed. In Holland the question instead is "where are you from?"

    Worse still, I remember a friend who completely defined herself by her job. And when, through no fault of hers, she was stricken with multiple layoffs over multiple years, it devastated her.

    I always felt that that was wrong. A part of who we are is what we do for money, but shouldn't we all strive to be so much more?

    If the bar conversation includes me saying," I've lived and worked in Amsterdam for a number of years now," then a Dutchman would ask," How long?" while a Canadian tourist would ask," What job?"

    Regardless, my standard answer is," Many jobs and many years," and the conversation moves on.

    And it was with this perspective, because of it, that I was beginning to feel guilty. For days now I've been excited and nervous over a perspective job. Overly so, I was thinking.

    I've always been proud of my career. But I've also know that "talking shop" can bore people to death. Anything beyond a 20 second description and people's faces glaze over. But if I am lucky enough to get this new job, I can imagine talking non-stop about work, work, work, work, work.

    And so the voice of balance speaks from the back of my thoughts. It reminds me that I can share my enthusiasm, but not to excess. Jargon and shop talk will always bore people outside the office. And too much enthusiasm, shared, can be unwelcome. But being enthusiastic about and motivated by your work is a great thing. I look forward to applying this energy at work, to work!

    And if the job comes to be, I look forward to celebrating by buying a round, and then asking my friends how their days went. For in the end, I would rather be the good friend who listened well, than the designer of X or Y. It frees up time for more interesting conversations, about who we really are.

    Saturday, November 07, 2009

    Food, Inc.

    At first I thought," This isn't really in line with my blog and it's purpose..." And then I realized it was. I care about my coffee and how that's made, as a past example. Well now a documentary shows ties between a lot of other issues I care about. My family is errupting in diabetes diagnoses, and I have no doubt as to why. Years ago I gave up, or at least dramatically reduced, a lot of the poisons I was ingesting. Diet Coke is completely gone from my life, as are the Nutrasweet headaches. But the truth of our food supply, and the consequences of it, go so far beyond all that.

    I almost posted yesterday about an interesting show on TV, which discussed how early humans evolved based on our food. That agriculture and hunting changed "society" is clear, but changes in diet also changed people physically and genetically. We aren't physically the same animal that first threw a rock at a beast. The show ended with a warning to "think" about what we eat, and what consequences it may have.

    Food, Inc. goes further. It shows, often graphically, the problems when food and farming are brought to an industrial scale. It shows what we aren't supposed to know; aren't supposed to think of. It conveys an important message, and I think everyone should take the time to see it.

    Sorry the size doesn't fit the blog format. There are 11 parts in total. I really do think it is worth the time to hear the message. I look forward to seeing this movie again, in the theatre, at the upcoming IDFA festival.