Interesting items from my inbox and elsewhere …
McDonald’s going more McNatural
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it at least twice: people who blame the country’s health problems on evil corporations who sell us processed foods (Morgan Spurlock comes to mind) have the economic equation backwards. We don’t buy what corporations produce. They produce what we’re willing to buy. Unlike governments, corporations can’t force you to buy a product or service you don’t want (unless they bribe government to apply the force). The key to getting big producers to sell higher quality food is to 1) demand it, and 2) refuse to buy processed junk.
In earlier posts, I noted that grocery stores like Kroger are selling more local and minimally-processed foods. Now McDonald’s is responding to slumping sales by going more McNatural, according to an article in The New York Times:
At an event Monday at its headquarters here, McDonald’s announced several changes to its ingredients, including eliminating artificial preservatives from some breakfast foods and Chicken McNuggets, its most popular food item, and removing high-fructose corn syrup from its buns.
Such changes, together with its decision in 2015 to buy only chicken raised without antibiotics used to treat humans, affect almost half of the food on McDonald’s menu, the company said.
The moves are the latest in a series by the company to address changing demands by consumers, who have pushed food companies and restaurants to provide more healthy options and fewer artificial ingredients. It is also an effort to play defense against numerous competitors who promote the quality and freshness of their foods.
Mike Andres, president of McDonald’s U.S.A., said that over the last few years, the company took a hard look at its foods and how they were prepared. The ingredients it was using, like artificial preservatives and high-fructose corn syrup, had good reasoning behind them — but consumers disliked them.
“Why take a position to defend them if consumers are saying they don’t want them?” Mr. Andres said on Monday.
Bingo. Despite what economic nincompoops think, corporations don’t control the market. Consumers do. Doesn’t matter how cleverly McDonald’s advertises foods full of preservatives if consumers don’t want preservatives in their food.
Jessica Foust, director of culinary innovation at McDonald’s, hosted a group of reporters in a test kitchen to show how some of the changes will work in practice.
On the table in front of her were the five ingredients that go into an Egg McMuffin: an English muffin, a large egg, a slice of Canadian bacon, McDonald’s proprietary American cheese and butter — no longer liquid margarine.
Real butter. In an Egg McMuffin. The Guy From CSPI is no doubt preparing his “heart attack on a muffin!” routine, but I think most people have wised up to his nonsense. They want butter, so they’re getting it.
By the way, I bought grass-fed burger patties at Costco this week. Here’s the ingredients list:
Grass-fed beef, organic onions, sea salt, organic garlic.
Notice that none of these positive developments required new laws or regulations from our overlords in the federal government … who are, of course, busy subsidizing corn to make sure corn-fed beef is still artificially cheap.
Why real food costs more
During my programming marathon, I attended an IT-department event at a local farm. This is a real farm, you understand, not a mini-farm like ours. These people have 350 acres and grow everything without pesticides or other chemicals. They also have a store and event venue on the premises.
I took the farm tour (one of several optional activities for the day) to get a sense of the operation. After showing us some of what they grow, the co-owner explained why farm-fresh produce tastes so much better: the produce you buy in grocery stores isn’t bred for flavor. It’s bred for color and resistance to bruising during shipping. Grocery-store tomatoes, for example, have skin that’s three times as thick as what these people grow on their farm. Real food often has blemishes. Their customers understand that and don’t care if a tomato is uniformly red and pristine.
Here are some shots from the store.
Some of the farm’s best customers are restaurants who cater to the real-food crowd, she explained. But the feds are making that more difficult. To protect the public, doncha know, the USDA is requiring producers to keep paperwork that can trace, say, a single tomato served in a restaurant to a single field on a single farm. If someone gets sick from that tomato, ya see, the USDA needs to run out and inspect that specific field.
All that record-keeping requires staff time, which costs money, which means higher prices. If you think this regulation is anything other than a behind-the-scenes move by large producers to place a huge financial burden on their smaller, real-food competitors, you have no idea how our political system works.
Here’s the co-owner of the farm showing one of the charts they keep to track what’s grown where. But that’s just the chart. The USDA-mandated paperwork itself runs to about 700 pages. Just how we want our local farmers to spend their time and resources: filling out government forms.
Yes, wheat sensitivity is real
As part of what I call the Save The Grains Campaign, we’ve seen several media articles claiming that negative reactions to wheat are all in people’s heads. It’s the nocebo effect from books like Wheat Belly, ya see. People expect to feel bad after eating wheat and so they do, celiac disease is actually rare, blah-blah-blah.
I first gave up bread and other wheat foods because I was cutting carbs to lose weight. That was before Wheat Belly, and I didn’t expect my gastric reflux, psoriasis, arthritis and mild asthma to go away, so there was no placebo effect. And yet they did go away. When re-introduced wheat as an N=1 experiment, the ailments came back. Lather, rinse, repeat. The connection was clear in my case. I had a celiac test, which came back negative. I later read in Wheat Belly that it’s not necessary to have full-blown celiac disease to experience negative reactions to modern wheat.
A study published in the journal Gut says likewise. Here’s part of the abstract:
Wheat gluten and related proteins can trigger an autoimmune enteropathy, known as coeliac disease, in people with genetic susceptibility. However, some individuals experience a range of symptoms in response to wheat ingestion, without the characteristic serological or histological evidence of coeliac disease. The aetiology and mechanism of these symptoms are unknown, and no biomarkers have been identified. We aimed to determine if sensitivity to wheat in the absence of coeliac disease is associated with systemic immune activation that may be linked to an enteropathy.
The researchers gathered people without celiac disease or a known wheat allergy, but who nonetheless said wheat gives them problems, as well as people with celiac and people with no complaints about wheat. Then the researchers ran various diagnostic tests. The results and conclusions are described in a Medline article online:
Gluten sensitivity appears to be a real medical problem, and not a figment of the popular imagination conjured up by the gluten-free craze, a new study contends.
Some people suffer changes within their bodies after eating gluten that are separate and distinct from those that accompany either celiac disease or wheat allergy, researchers report.
“We don’t know what is triggering this response, but this study is the first to show that there are clear biological changes in these individuals,” said senior researcher Armin Alaedini. He is an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University in New York City.
Not a figment of your gluten-free imagination. The effects are real.
The analysis of 80 patients with non-celiac wheat sensitivity found that these people experience an immune response to gluten that’s less focused and more wide-ranging than that found in celiac disease, Alaedini said. These patients were studied alongside 40 people with celiac disease and 40 healthy people in a “control” group.
People with non-celiac wheat sensitivity did not experience an autoimmune reaction. And, they didn’t have T-cells — a specific form of white blood cell — attacking living cells in the body, as occurs in celiac disease, Alaedini explained.
But people with non-celiac wheat sensitivity did show evidence of an acute and systemic immune activation that did not occur in celiac disease, accompanied by signs of cellular intestinal damage.
The results suggest that people with non-celiac wheat sensitivity suffer from a severe immune reaction because microbes and food particles can seep through their weakened intestinal barrier and into their bloodstream, the researchers explained.
Which is why I’ll still toss the muffin from my Egg McMuffin, even if the muffin is slathered with real butter. My issues with wheat are not in my head. They’re in my gut.
Former top doc in England stops taking statins … can we call it “stexit”?
Here are some quotes from an article in the U.K. Daily Mail:
The former head of NHS England has revealed he no longer takes statins over concerns about their ‘debilitating’ side effects.
Sir David Nicholson, who retired from his £210,000 a year role two years ago said he had stopped taking the anti-cholesterol drugs because of muscle pain.
Around 7 million Britons take the drugs – and around 7,000 lives a year are thought to be saved by the drugs.
And around a billion colorful eggs are thought to be delivered every spring by a magical bunny. I have more faith in the bunny at this point.
Sir David, who also has type 2 diabetes, said: ‘I was getting muscle and joint pain. It was getting worse and worse. It was mild to begin with and I kind of thought it was because I was getting old. I stopped taking them for a week and I got better.’
There has, however, been a fierce controversy over the side effects, with some doctors believing they have been under-reported.
Gee, do ya think? According to studies conducted by statin-makers, side effects are rare. Meanwhile, nearly everyone I know who’s tried statins has experienced muscle and joint pain. As I recounted in a 2011 post, most professional athletes prescribed statins quit taking them – because they notice right away if their muscles are affected. They depend on those muscles for a living.
Instead of dishing out pills, Sir David said GPs should perhaps attempt to change a patient’s lifestyle – particularly diet and exercise.
Dern tootin’ they should. Now if only we could get doctors and government health agencies to stop thinking a healthy lifestyle means giving up meat and eggs and eating more hearthealthywholegrains!
Keto diet vs. cancer
Here are some quotes from another article in the U.K. Daily Mail:
A cancer patient told he had just months to live claims giving up carbohydrates has given him nearly two extra years of life.
Pablo Kelly, 27, was told the tumour in his brain was inoperable and chemotherapy was his only chance at survival.
But he decided to reject traditional treatments in favour of a specialist fat-heavy, carb-free diet.
Mr Kelly says he restricts his calories and fasts regularly – while his only source of carbohydrates comes from green vegetables. He does not eat processed foods, refined sugars, root vegetables, starch, breads, or grains. Two years later, he claims this is the reason he has outlived expectations.
Well, I don’t know if it’s necessary to give up root vegetables, but dumping processed foods, sugars and refined grains is the prescription I’d recommend for anyone, cancer or no cancer. After reading Dr. Jason Fung’s book The Obesity Code, I’m also on board with the fasting.
Now look at how the Wisdom of Crowds effect helped:
Mr Kelly, whose symptoms started with migraines which he chalked down to the summer heat, was eventually diagnosed with cancer in August 2014 at the age of 25. Due to the tumour’s position in Mr Kelly’s brain, he was told it is inoperable.
When doctors offered him radiotherapy and chemotherapy, he decided he didn’t like the idea of a diminished quality of life and opted for the ketogenic diet – which is not recommended by the NHS.
Of course not. A diet isn’t a drug.
‘The doctors said the only option they could give me was chemotherapy,’ he said. ‘I did research and I knew there were other options for me that could help. I was awake til 4am every night trying to find something that could cure it.’
He says it makes ‘total sense’ to him to cut the source of fuel to his brain tumour. ‘It works for epilepsy and diabetes so why should it not work with cancer,’ he said.
And that’s why I’m happy to be living in an age where we can do our own research on the internet and benefit from the Wisdom of Crowds instead of relying solely on what the doctor tells us.
Just a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down …
Remember that song from Mary Poppins? Apparently, our FDA considers it sound medical advice. Here are some quotes from an article in Natural News:
The serious issue of overmedicating kids could be about to take on a whole new dimension with the emergence of a new medication known as Adzenys. While kids are generally averse to taking medications, few will turn their noses up at a piece of candy. That is exactly what Adzenys is banking on with its underhanded and potentially dangerous new fruit-flavored amphetamine.
As you can see from the picture atop the article, the new drug looks like gummy bears. Well, why not? We’re now selling gummy-bear vitamins to adults. Because if there’s one message we need to get across to all Americans, it’s this: everything good for you should taste like candy!
Not that I’m saying ADHD drugs are good for you, of course. After reading the book Anatomy of an Epidemic a couple of years ago, I’d say the opposite is true of most psychiatric drugs.
The drug recently hit the market, and psychiatrists are voicing concerns that it could serve as another gateway to ADHD drug abuse. Perhaps not surprisingly, the extended-release amphetamine gained FDA approval in January for patients as young as six years old.
University of California San Diego Psychiatrist Dr. Alexander Papp is horrified by the concept, saying that prescribing the drug sanctions “an orally disintegrating amphetamine for kids by the morally disintegrating FDA.”
Oh, come on now. The FDA morally disintegrated a long time ago. So did the USDA. And the NIH. And the National Cholesterol Education Program.
But man, I’m looking forward to the day we put the feds in charge of our entire health system. Then they’ll suddenly all become altruists who only want to keep us healthy, and everything will be wunnerful, wunnerful. I can hear the press conferences already: “If you like your food, you can keep your food.”