Sunday, May 21, 2017

Antibiotics in Poultry; Q Tips and Ear Injuries; Ways to Cook Rhubarb with Minimal Sweeteners

Antibiotics in Poultry
Here’s the latest from Marion Nestle, a former Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, She is currently a Professor of Sociology at NYU and Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell.  She writes a weekly column called Food Politics.

The International Poultry Council (IPC) will soon issue a statement advising the poultry industry to
  • Stop using antibiotics critical to human medicine to promote livestock growth and prevent disease,
  • Only use these drugs when prescribed by a veterinarian for treatment of disease,
  • Be transparent about the amount of antibiotics it uses and why.
The poultry industry routinely uses antibiotics in feed and water despite major efforts to stop this practice.
Government agencies concerned about increasing resistance to animal antibiotics have long wanted their use stopped or managed appropriately.
  • The FDA’s policy is to do what the IPC is now advising.
  • The CDC has long complained that widespread misuse of antibiotics promotes the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
  • The Union of Concerned Scientists has an excellent background paper on the topic.
  • Consumers Union also has an excellent position paper.
Trying to stop misuse of animal antibiotics has a long history. The animal agriculture industry has fought all attempts to curtain antibiotic use.
The following is an addition to Dr. Nestle’s writing.  You should know that the only way to be sure that antibiotics were not used on the eggs that become organic chickens is to find the words “no antibiotics” in addition to the organic label. 
Q Tips and Ear Injuries
According to a new study from the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, almost three dozen children end up in U.S. hospital emergency departments every day thanks to injuries that result from using cotton-tipped swabs to clean their ears. The injuries can range from minor to severe – about 30% of children were found to have something stuck in their ears, 25% were diagnosed with broken eardrums, and another 23% had injuries to the tissues of the ear canal. Bleeding and pain were common problems. These injuries happened at home, mainly to children under the age of 8.  "It highlights the misconception that adults and children need to clean the ear canal in the home setting," said senior author Dr. Kris Jatana, a pediatric ear, nose and throat surgeon. "While cotton-tipped applicators may seem harmless, there are certainly a lot of potential risks to using them to clean the ears”.  The number of emergency room visits for ear injuries in children has decreased somewhat in recent years, but the problem remains.
Recipes for cooking Rhubarb with Minimal Sweeteners
Last week I wrote a short article on the history of rhubarb’s travel from China to the west, and the plant’s medicinal properties.  You can find it on this blog.  I promised to publish any recipes from readers on ways to prepare rhubarb with minimal sweeteners.  Here are the replies (including mine). 
Vickisa -Take rhubarb stocks about eight and cut off the leaves and the bottoms and wash them and then cut them up into small chunks, add strawberries or cut up half or whatever you like put a little bit of vanilla in there and some maple syrup to taste or maple sugar to taste cook it down till it's a little bit soft but not smushed
Put it with yogurt and cottage cheese. I like Nancy's or Wallabies. You can add cereal; you can add some chocolate sauce; you can eat it on toast; you can eat it with cheese; you could just eat it anytime you want .

Sadja – cut rhubarb stalks into small pieces, add plenty of raisins and a cinnamon stick, cover with water and cook until the rhubarb pieces are soft.  Add honey and/or maple syrup to taste while the mixture is hot.   I found I could use less honey or maple syrup this way – previously I cooked the rhubarb in honey and used a lot more to keep the mixture moist.  The raisins add their own sweetness, and taste good in the final compote.

Barbara MacDonald  also sent in a recipe for a rhubarb cake from Jane Brody’s Good Food Book .  I can’t format it correctly for this column; leave me a message if you want to see it and I will send it to you.

Sadja Greenwood MD,MPH  


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Rhubarb – Its History and Uses

The Chinese were using rhubarb as a medicinal plant for thousands of years before its introduction to Europe.  It was found to be valuable because of its laxative properties.  The rhubarb root was also considered to have anti-cancer properties.  This article will be discussing the properties of the rhubarb stems, and not the root, which is not used in the west and little has been published about its safety.
Rhubarb was imported into Europe along the silk road, beginning in the 7th or 8th century; Later it started arriving via maritime routes or overland through Russia.  It was expensive in medieval Europe, more so than cinnamon, opium and saffron, Nevertheless it was poplar because of its laxative and purgative properties. Apothecaries in medieval times preferred the plants that came from Russia – Siberian rhubarb. 
In the United States, medicinal and culinary rhubarb was grown in the early 1700s.  Jefferson planted it at Monticello, and is quoted as saying that the leaves are excellent as spinach.  In this he was greatly mistaken – rhubarb leaves are extremely toxic, high in oxalic acid, and should never be eaten or given to animals. Put them in your compost.  I hope Jefferson did not encourage his slaves to eat them.People who have had urinary stones containing oxalic acid, calcium oxalate stones, should drink lots of water and avoid too much food high in oxalate, such as rhubarb, beets, okra, spinach, Swiss chard, nuts, tea,and chocolate.
On the positive side, rhubarb is high in vitamin K, which supports healthy bone growth and brain functioning.  It contains lutein, beneficial for the eyes, calcium, and many other vitamins and minerals.
Researchers are interested in substances in rhubarb that kill human leukemia cells and slow the growth of lung cancer cells in mouse models. 
Rhubarb is sour – cooks need to add sweetening to make it palatable for most people.  You can cook it with raisins and cinnamon, and add a bit of sugar or honey at the end to taste.  There are some good recipes on the web for rhubarb chutney.  If any readers have a good rhubarb recipe low in sugar, please leave me a message on this blog, and I will publish it next week. 
Sadja Greenwood MD, MPH  


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Diet Sodas – the Bad News

About one in three Americans drink a can of sweetened soda every day, which is – as you already know – a bad habit leading to weight gain and diabetes.  Many people have switched to diet soda, hoping to avoid these outcomes but still enjoy the taste of a sweet, cold, fizzy can of Coke, Pepsi. Mountain Dew, or Dr. Pepper.  You may be immune to pressure to buy these drinks, but they are ubiquitous and their marketing is pushed at teens and young adults. 
Research suggests that excess sugar, especially the fructose in sugary drinks, may damage the brain.  Data from the Framingham Heart Study found that frequent users of sugary beverages are more likely to have poorer memory, smaller overall brain volume, and a smaller hippocampus – an area of the brain important for leaning and memory.
A follow-up study found that people who drank a diet soda daily were almost three times as likely to develop stroke and dementia when compared to those who did not.  The researchers took age, smoking, diet quality and other factors into account, but acknowledged that they could not completely control for preexisting conditions like diabetes, which is a known risk factor for dementia.  They concluded tat it was somewhat surprising that diet soda consumption led to these outcomes.  While previous studies have linked diet soda intake with stroke risk, the link with dementia was not previously known. The studies did not differentiate between types of artificial sweeteners.  Scientists have put forth various hypotheses about how artificial sweeteners may cause harm, from transforming gut bacteria to altering the brain’s perception of ‘sweet’, but they conclude that more work is needed to figure out the underlying mechanisms.
  Sudha Seshadri, professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine, and senior author on the papers, wrote “these studies are not the be-all and end-all, but it looks like there is not very much of an upside to having sugary drinks, and substituting the sugar with artificial sweeteners doesn’t seem to help.  Maybe good old fashioned water is something we need to get used to.
The following is Greenwood  writing: You could also try unsweetened iced coffee or tea, or plain sparkling water with a slice of lemon or orange.  Plain carbonated water does not adversely affect your bones or teeth, and may improve swallowing problems in some people.
Sadja Greenwood, MD  back issues at

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Tea Can Help Prevent Dementia and Tooth Decay

According to a study from the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore, tea drinking reduces the risk of cognitive impairment in older persons by 50 per cent and as much as 86 per cent for those who are genetically at risk of Alzheimer's.

The longitudinal study, involving 957 Chinese seniors aged 55 years or older, found that regular consumption of tea lowers the risk of cognitive decline in the elderly by 50 per cent, while APOE e4 gene carriers, who are genetically at risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, may experience a reduction in cognitive impairment risk by as much as 86 per cent. The research team also discovered that the role of tea consumption on cognitive function is not limited to a particular type of tea -- so long as the tea is brewed from tea leaves, such as green, black or oolong tea.
"While the study was conducted on Chinese elderly, the results could apply to other races as well. Our findings have important implications for dementia prevention. Despite high quality drug trials, effective pharmacological therapy for neurocognitive disorders such as dementia remains elusive and current prevention strategies are far from satisfactory. Tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world. The data from our study suggests that a simple and inexpensive lifestyle measure such as daily tea drinking can reduce a person's risk of developing neurocognitive disorders in late life," explained the researchers. "Based on current knowledge, this long term benefit of tea consumption is due to the bioactive compounds in tea leaves, such as catechins, theaflavins, thearubigins and L-theanine. These compounds exhibit anti-inflammatory and antioxidant potential and other bioactive properties that may protect the brain from vascular damage and neurodegeneration. Our understanding of the detailed biological mechanisms is still very limited so we do need more research to find out definitive answers."

In this study, tea consumption information was collected from the participants, who were community-living elderly, from 2003 to 2005. At regular intervals of two years, these seniors were assessed on their cognitive function using standardized tools until 2010. Information on lifestyles, medical conditions, physical and social activities were also collected. Those potential confounding factors were carefully controlled in statistical models to ensure the robustness of the findings. The research team published their findings in the journal The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging in December 2016.

Future Research
The research team is planning to embark on further studies to better understand the impact of Asian diets on cognitive health in aging. They are also keen to investigate the effects of the bioactive compounds in tea and test them more rigorously through the assessment of their biological markers. They plan to conduct randomized, controlled  studies that assign participants into experimental groups or control groups to eliminate biased results.

Tea and Tooth Erosion
Today, the average size soft drink is 20 ounces and contains 17 teaspoons of sugar. More startling is that some citric acids found in fruit drinks are as erosive as hydrochloric or sulfuric acid.  These refined sugars and acids found in soda and citrus juice promote tooth erosion, which wears away the hard part of the teeth, or the enamel.
 According to a 2008 article in the journal General Dentistry, the peer-reviewed journal of the Academy of General Dentistry, the  drink to avoid tooth erosion is water or brewed tea,

Mohamed A. Bassiouny, DMD, BDS, MSc, PhD, the lead author of the study, compared green and black tea to soda and orange juice in terms of their short- and long-term erosive effect on human teeth. He found that the erosive effect of tea was similar to that of water, which has no erosive effect. And, when comparing green versus black, he discovered that green tea was superior over black due to its natural flavonoids (plant nutrients) and antioxidants. 

If you do drink tea, experts suggest avoiding additives such as milk, lemon, or sugar because they combine with tea's natural flavonoids and decrease the benefits. In addition, stay away from prepackaged iced teas because they contain citric acid and high amounts of sugars. It does not matter whether the tea is warm or cold—as long as it is home brewed without additives.

Sadja Greenwood, MD, MPH   back issues on this blog