During the holiday season, the cold and lack of sufficient sunlight are enough to weaken the body’s natural defenses against cold and flu. Luckily, experts say that consuming specific types of foods might increase our resistance to colds and seasonal pathogens. These cold fighting foods are rich in minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals that help repel invading microorganisms, strengthen our immune response, and reduce inflammation and cold associated symptoms.
Consuming raw, vegan foods (such as sesame and mustard seeds, celery, beans, almonds, cashews, whole grains, pumpkin and sunflower seeds and cocoa powder) may work wonders on human immunity due to their high zinc content. Continue reading →
MEXICO CITY – Using a vented stove instead of the traditional indoor open fires might improve respiratory health of women, according to a new study.
An estimated two billion people around the world rely on biomass fuel for cooking, typically over unvented indoor fires.
These indoor fires generate high levels of pollutants such as carbon monoxide, particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide.
One recent analysis put exposure to indoor biomass smoke among the world’s top ten environmental causes of mortality and morbidity.
The “Patsari” stove designed to address this problem has been found to reduce indoor air pollution concentrations by an average of 70 percent.
During the study, lead researcher Horacio Riojas-Rodrmguez, of the Instituto Nacional de Salud Pzblica, followed women in more than 500 households from Central Mexico, who had been randomized to receive the new Patsari stove.
The study showed that fewer than a third of women assigned to receive the Patsari stove reported “mainly” using it, and another 20 percent reported that they used it in conjunction with the open fire, and fully half reported mainly using the traditional open wood fire, despite having been assigned to the intervention group.
When the researchers analyzed those who used the Patsari stove versus those who did not, they found strong evidence that use of the Patsari stoves was associated with marked improvements in respiratory health.
“Over 12 months of follow-up, the use of the Patsari stove showed a protective effect on respiratory and other symptoms, and a trend to improve lung function that was comparable to smoking cessation,” said Riojas.
In fact, women using the Patsari stove had half the decline in a key measure of lung function-forced expiratory volume in one second, or FEV1-than women using open wood fires. Among those who used the Patsari stove, the loss was 31 ml over a year, versus the 62 ml over a year for the open fire users, a similar effect as what is seen in tobacco cessation.
“These findings each help support the notion that stove intervention programs in the developing world can improve health when the women adhere to the intervention,” wrote Luke Naeher, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Georgia, in an accompanying editorial.
He added that the study “helps to highlight both the tremendous potential of these programs in the developing world to improve health and the quality of life, and also the great need for continued research to help us understand how to best implement these programs.”
The study appears in American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
Here we examine the composition of vegetable oils and other animal fats in order to determine their usefulness and appropriateness in food preparation:
Duck and Goose Fat are semisolid at room temperature, containing about 35% saturated fat, 52% monounsaturated fat (including small amounts of antimicrobial palmitoleic acid) and about 13% polyunsaturated fat. The proportion of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids depends on what the birds have eaten. Duck and goose fat are quite stable and are highly prized in Europe for frying potatoes.
Chicken Fat is about 31% saturated, 49% monounsaturated (including moderate amounts of antimicrobial palmitoleic acid) and 20% polyunsaturated, most of which is omega-6 linoleic acid, although the amount of omega-3 can be raised by feeding chickens flax or fish meal, or allowing them to range free and eat insects. Although widely used for frying in kosher kitchens, it is inferior to duck and goose fat, which were traditionally preferred to chicken fat in Jewish cooking.
Lard or pork fat is about 40% saturated, 48% monounsaturated (including small amounts of antimicrobial palmitoleic acid) and 12% polyunsaturated. Like the fat of birds, the amount of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids will vary in lard according to what has been fed to the pigs. In the tropics, lard may also be a source of lauric acid if the pigs have eaten coconuts. Like duck and goose fat, lard is stable and a preferred fat for frying. It was widely used in America at the turn of the century.
It is a good source of vitamin D, especially in third-world countries where other animal foods are likely to be expensive. Some researchers believe that pork products should be avoided because they may contribute to cancer. Others suggest that only pork meat presents a problem and that pig fat in the form of lard is safe and healthy.
Beef and Mutton Tallows are 50-55% saturated, about 40% monounsaturated and contain small amounts of the polyunsaturates, usually less than 3%. Suet, which is the fat from the cavity of the animal, is 70-80% saturated. Suet and tallow are very stable fats and can be used for frying. Traditional cultures valued these fats for their health benefits. They are a good source of antimicrobial palmitoleic acid.
Olive Oil contains 75% oleic acid, the stable monounsaturated fat, along with 13% saturated fat, 10% omega-6 linoleic acid and 2% omega-3 linolenic acid. The high percentage of oleic acid makes olive oil ideal for salads and for cooking at moderate temperatures. Extra virgin olive oil is also rich in antioxidants. It should be cloudy, indicating that it has not been filtered, and have a golden yellow color, indicating that it is made from fully ripened olives.
Olive oil has withstood the test of time; it is the safest vegetable oil you can use, but don’t overdo. The longer chain fatty acids found in olive oil are more likely to contribute to the buildup of body fat than the short- and medium-chain fatty acids found in butter, coconut oil or palm kernel oil.
Peanut Oil contains 48% oleic acid, 18% saturated fat and 34% omega-6 linoleic acid. Like olive oil, peanut oil is relatively stable and, therefore, appropriate for stir-frys on occasion. But the high percentage of omega-6 presents a potential danger, so use of peanut oil should be strictly limited.
Sesame Oil contains 42% oleic acid, 15% saturated fat, and 43% omega-6 linoleic acid. Sesame oil is similar in composition to peanut oil. It can be used for frying because it contains unique antioxidants that are not destroyed by heat. However, the high percentage of omega-6 militates against exclusive use.
Safflower, Corn, Sunflower, Soybean and Cottonseed Oils all contain over 50% omega-6 and, except for soybean oil, only minimal amounts of omega-3. Safflower oil contains almost 80% omega-6. Researchers are just beginning to discover the dangers of excess omega-6 oils in the diet, whether rancid or not.
Use of these oils should be strictly limited. They should never be consumed after they have been heated, as in cooking, frying or baking. High oleic safflower and sunflower oils, produced from hybrid plants, have a composition similar to olive oil, namely, high amounts of oleic acid and only small amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids and, thus, are more stable than traditional varieties. However, it is difficult to find truly cold-pressed versions of these oils.
Canola Oil contains 5% saturated fat, 57% oleic acid, 23% omega-6 and 10%-15% omega-3. The newest oil on the market, canola oil was developed from the rape seed, a member of the mustard family. Rape seed is unsuited to human consumption because it contains a very-long-chain fatty acid called erucic acid, which under some circumstances is associated with fibrotic heart lesions.
Canola oil was bred to contain little if any erucic acid and has drawn the attention of nutritionists because of its high oleic acid content. But there are some indications that canola oil presents dangers of its own. It has a high sulphur content and goes rancid easily. Baked goods made with canola oil develop mold very quickly. During the deodorizing process, the omega-3 fatty acids of processed canola oil are transformed into trans fatty acids, similar to those in margarine and possibly more dangerous.
A recent study indicates that “heart healthy” canola oil actually creates a deficiency of vitamin E, a vitamin required for a healthy cardiovascular system. Other studies indicate that even low-erucic-acid canola oil causes heart lesions, particularly when the diet is low in saturated fat.
Flax Seed Oil contains 9% saturated fatty acids, 18% oleic acid, 16% omega-6 and 57% omega-3. With its extremely high omega-3 content, flax seed oil provides a remedy for the omega-6/omega-3 imbalance so prevalent in America today. Not surprisingly, Scandinavian folk lore values flax seed oil as a health food. New extraction and bottling methods have minimized rancidity problems. It should always be kept refrigerated, never heated, and consumed in small amounts in salad dressings and spreads.
Tropical Oils are more saturated than other vegetable oils. Palm oil is about 50% saturated, with 41% oleic acid and about 9% linoleic acid. Coconut oil is 92% saturated with over two-thirds of the saturated fat in the form of medium-chain fatty acids (often called medium-chain triglycerides).
Of particular interest is lauric acid, found in large quantities in both coconut oil and in mother’s milk. This fatty acid has strong antifungal and antimicrobial properties. Coconut oil protects tropical populations from bacteria and fungus so prevalent in their food supply; as third-world nations in tropical areas have switched to polyunsaturated vegetable oils, the incidence of intestinal disorders and immune deficiency diseases has increased dramatically.
Because coconut oil contains lauric acid, it is often used in baby formulas. Palm kernel oil, used primarily in candy coatings, also contains high levels of lauric acid. These oils are extremely stable and can be kept at room temperature for many months without becoming rancid. Highly saturated tropical oils do not contribute to heart disease but have nourished healthy populations for millennia. It is a shame we do not use these oils for cooking and baking—the bad rap they have received is the result of intense lobbying by the domestic vegetable oil industry.
Red palm oil has a strong taste that most will find disagreeable—although it is used extensively throughout Africa—but clarified palm oil, which is tasteless and white in color, was formerly used as shortening and in the production of commercial French fries, while coconut oil was used in cookies, crackers and pastries. The saturated fat scare has forced manufacturers to abandon these safe and healthy oils in favor of hydrogenated soybean, corn, canola and cottonseed oils.
In summary, our choice of fats and oils is one of extreme importance. Most people, especially infants and growing children, benefit from more fat in the diet rather than less. But the fats we eat must be chosen with care.
Avoid all processed foods containing newfangled hydrogenated fats and polyunsaturated oils.
Instead, use traditional vegetable oils like extra virgin olive oil and small amounts of unrefined flax seed oil. Acquaint yourself with the merits of coconut oil for baking and with animal fats for occasional frying.
Eat egg yolks and other animal fats with the proteins to which they are attached. And, finally, use as much good quality butter as you like, with the happy assurance that it is a wholesome—indeed, an essential—food for you and your whole family.
Organic butter, extra virgin olive oil, and expeller-expressed flax oil in opaque containers are available in health food stores and gourmet markets.
WHO head backs role of traditional medicine in primary health care – Two Years Ago – So what happened?
BEIJING, Nov. 7, 2007 (Xinhua) — The role of traditional medicine in primary health care should be highlighted, MargaretChan, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), said hereon Friday.
Thirty years ago, the WHO Alma-Ata Declaration recognized the role of traditional medicine practitioners within the primary health care system at the community level, Chan said at the opening ceremony of the WHO Congress on Traditional Medicine. “As a result, the significance and use of traditional medicine has increased in the past three decades.”
For millions of people living in rural areas of developing countries, herbal medicines, traditional treatments and traditional practitioners were the main and sometimes the only source of health care, she said.
“This is care that is close to homes, accessible and affordable. In some systems of traditional medicine, such as traditional Chinese medicine, traditional practices are supported by wisdom and experience acquired over centuries,” she said.
Traditional medicine has been proven as cheap, effective and acceptable in many developing countries’ primary health care systems, Chan said.
She noted, however, that an undesirable trend had also occurred in affluent societies, in the popularity of treatments and remedies that complement orthodox medicine or sometimes serve as an alternative to conventional treatments.
In North America and Europe, traditional medicine has become a multi-billion-dollar industry that was expected to continue growing rapidly, Chan said.
“This is not the poor man’s alternative to conventional care; this trend has some dangers.”
Chan called for all WHO members to bring traditional and Western medicine together in highly effective ways in the primary health care system. She said the two systems need not clash.
The three-day congress, hosted by the Chinese Ministry of Health and the State Administration of Traditional Medicine, has drawn more than 1,100 participants from 80 countries and regions.
A legacy of the congress will be the “Beijing Declaration”, which is scheduled to be published on Nov. 8 after it is agreed on by participating WHO members
There is growing concern for everyone’s health and safety as the H1N1 virus (swine flu)
becomes more widespread. Swine flu is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A
influenza viruses that causes regular outbreaks in pigs. Normally, people are not
affected by swine flu, but human infections can happen and as we have seen recently,
H1N1 in particular is a unique combination of four different strains of
influenza, of which two strains are swine flu, one is an avian flu, and one is a human flu.
The symptoms of H1N1 flu include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache,
chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting, as well.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warn that people may be able to infect others
beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 7 or more days after becoming
sick. That means that the flu is contagious before you even know you are sick, as well as
while you are sick.
Our bodies are under constant attack from microbes, allergens and environmental
conditions, and it is the job of our immune system to serve as our protector or buffer
against these elements. Given the recent flu outbreak and with allergy season upon us,
supporting your immune system is more important than ever if you want to stay healthy.
The best way to strengthen your immune system is with a comprehensive approach that
involves healthy lifestyle practices, stress management, regular exercise, a healthy diet,
and nutritional supplementation.
The skin is the body’s first line of defense. Since many viruses are airborne, avoiding
them completely may be impossible because germs, viruses and bacteria live on
surfaces for a short time and can enter the body through the mucus membranes in the
mouth, nose and eyes. This is why it is important to wash your hands before touching
your face. Good health habits alone can be natural ways to boost the immune system or
at least prevent the immune system from having to work so hard.
Viruses can survive for several hours on hands, tissues, or hard surfaces. A healthy
person can contract a virus by touching a contaminated surface and then touching his or
her own mouth or nose. Using an antibiotic soap may help prevent the spreading of
germs, but these soaps can also contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant
bacteria, so it is best to use them only when necessary. Continue reading →
In the developing world, the availability of many medical technologies is limited by cost, durability, and ease-of-use. This is especially true of expensive diagnostic devices, which are critical for detecting diseases that are endemic in developing countries. However, researchers are working to develop low-cost, user-friendly alternatives that could improve the ability of healthcare providers to diagnose a range of conditions.
Harvard researchers have developed an alternative microfluidic device that replaces standard silicon, glass, or plastic substrates with treated paper. Fluids flow through the microchannels in the paper device in the same way that they would in a standard chip. Researchers have used the device to test for glucose and protein in urine, but hope to adapt it for the possibility of testing blood samples for HIV/AIDS, dengue fever, or hepatitis. While a traditional microfluidic device costs between $10 and $1,000USD, the materials to create the paper devices, known as microPADS, cost only three cents. The design of the microPAD device allows for several tests to be conducted simultaneously, furthering the cost and resource savings.
To help better diagnose infectious diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis, researchers have developed a microscope that attaches to any cellular telephone with a camera feature. The device, known as a CellScope, is able to illuminate pathogens in a sample treated with fluorescent molecular “tags.” It is estimated that the production of first CellScopes will cost roughly $1,000 each, but with further developments the price could drop to just a few hundred dollars, including the cell phone. Not only can an individual use the microscope to view the pathogens, but they can also send an image to a healthcare facility for assistance making an appropriate diagnostic determination.
Efforts have also been made by scientists at the Burnet Institute to improve HIV-testing procedures. A prototype monitoring test has been designed for use in remote settings. The new test, which uses a finger-prick blood sample, allows individuals to determine their CD4+ T-cell count within 30 minutes. The CD4+ T-cells are critical for healthy immune system function and their levels are a deciding factor with regard to starting anti-retroviral therapy. Standard CD4 tests are often not available in the developing world due to their cost, the need for specialized equipment and trained personnel, and the long wait period to obtain test results.
Though these diagnostic technologies offer improvements in the developing world, as The Wall Street Journal reports, acceptance may be slower in the United States. Some researchers have found success when applying African healthcare models to rural areas of the U.S., and results using low-cost technologies originally conceived for use in the developing world may follow this trend. The use of innovative low-cost testing methods may also assist with telemedicine initiatives, as they allow healthcare providers to conduct necessary tests and provide better diagnostic information to consultants. Through discussion among global health experts – as allowed by telemedicine initiatives like iCons in Medicine – innovative diagnostic tools and other cost-saving measures may become more popular, and help to provide improved care worldwide.