What Happened When Scientists Put African Americans On An African Diet And Africans On An American Diet

In a study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh, 20 African Americans and 20 South Africans switched diets for two weeks. In this time, the Africans consumed traditional American food — meat and cheese high in fat content — while African Americans took on a traditional African diet — high in fiber and low in fat, with plenty of vegetables, beans, and cornmeal, with little meat.

After the exchange, researchers performed colonoscopies on both groups and found that those in the African diet group increased the production of butyrate, a fatty acid proven to protect against colon cancer. Members of the American diet group, on the other hand, developed changes in their gut that scientists say precede the development of cancerous cells.


What the American Diet says about its Culture

Reblogged from The Secular Jurist:

By Robert A. Vella

If we are what we eat, as the old adage proclaims, then what does the American diet say about its culture? Before delving into this, let’s state for the record that the U.S. is a large nation with many diverse regions and subcultures. What people eat in rural Georgia, for example, can be quite different from an affluent city such as San Francisco. However, there is a larger American culture which transcends these differences and its cuisine is unmistakably unique compared with the rest of the world.

Consider the burger, or its original moniker – the hamburger. The idea of a ground beef patty sandwiched in a bun is so ubiquitous that virtually all types of food establishments serve them. The manager of my local Chinese restaurant revealed once that he sold nearly as many burgers as he did specialty items. You can get burgers or burger-inspired facsimiles in just about every country on Earth. America’s fast-food chains made sure of that decades ago.

Initially, hamburgers were not much more than a simple beef-and-bread construct – a convenient and easy to eat lunchtime meal. They have evolved quite dramatically, however, since those turn-of-the-last-century days of American folklore. Today, the burger has become high artistry in the most renowned kitchens of the culinary industry; and, it also has become a fanatically popular vehicle for some of the worst examples of gastronomic bastardization ever conceived.

Have you ever consumed something like this (if you’re an American, you probably have – many, many times):

Grease Burger

Introducing the double-bacon, triple-patty, triple-cheese (processed American cheese, of course) grease burger with a butter-grilled sesame seed bun (mass-produced and loaded with sugar), slathered with mayonnaise and ketchup (more fat and sugar), served with greasy fries and a sugary soft drink. Calories: more than the average person requires in an entire day. Health benefits: great for enlarging waistlines and buttocks. Sodium content: nearly as much as a salt-lick. Taste: grotesque. What you’re getting: saturated and trans fats, salt, animal protein, processed sugar and starch. What you really need: whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruit, plant and animal proteins, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils, much less salt.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love burgers. I like fries. I even enjoy a soft drink on rare occasion. But, the way in which these items have been brought to excess and combined into a meal is nothing short of gluttonous in my opinion. No one should, nor needs to, eat like this. That far too many Americans do is testament to a culture which has lost touch with reality. When bigger is always better, when overindulgence is a source of pride, when unnecessary waste is inconsiderable, and when self-respect is subordinated to ego-gratification, there can be little doubt about the collective mental state of a people.

America is not declining, culturally and otherwise, because of its gluttony. Rather, it is this obsessive-compulsivity which is symptomatic of what’s ailing the nation. Fortunately, through the diligence of healthcare workers, educators, and nutritionists in government and the private sector, Americans’ eating habits are improving somewhat particularly for children (thanks to Michelle Obama and other political figures). Indicatively, sales for the fast-food giant McDonald’s have been declining in recent years. Although these informative efforts are certainly helping, the problem remains fundamentally cultural. Americans have a lot of soul-searching to do on a great many subjects.

Back to burgers. If you find yourself susceptible to eating the kind of unhealthy meals described above, here’s some suggestions:

  • Replace the mass-produced hamburger buns with whole grain breads.
  • Grind your own beef from whole cuts so you can control the amount of fat and eliminate the high-water content of the store-bought product which ruins the char necessary for a great burger.
  • Do not add butter, mayonnaise, or any other fat. Most properly ground beef is sufficiently fatty.
  • Use mustards and homemade barbeque sauces instead of ketchup to reduce sugar and improve tastiness.
  • Replace the fries with fresh vegetables or fruit. A lightly-dressed heirloom tomato, cucumber, and basil salad is a great substitution.
  • Avoid soft drinks. Drink water. If you want bubbles, try a sparkling water with fresh lemon.

“No fries,” you say? Sure, you can have fries. Just don’t eat them with burgers. That’s way too many calories. One time in Paris, a little cafe served me baked herbed chicken with superb French fries and a crisp garden salad. Along with a glass of great white wine, I was in heaven!

Check this out. A Daily Kos author compared a typical school lunch in the U.S. with those in other countries. Which would you prefer? My choice was Italy, but I’m a little biased. See:  How do these children’s school lunches from around the world compare to the United States?

DISCLAIMER: I, the author, am not a qualified medical professional, dietician, or expert in the field of human nutrition. The suggestions offered in this article should only be considered under the supervision of your doctor and/or healthcare provider.

The FDA is failing us: Will Obama even mention this?

Later On

Kimberly Kindy writes in the Washingon Post:

The explosion of new food additives coupled with an easing of oversight requirements is allowing manufacturers to avoid the scrutiny of the Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for ensuring the safety of chemicals streaming into the food supply.

And in hundreds of cases, the FDA doesn’t even know of the existence of new additives, which can include chemical preservatives, flavorings and thickening agents, records and interviews show.

“We simply do not have the information to vouch for the safety of many of these chemicals,” said Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for food.

The FDA has received thousands of consumer complaints about additives in recent years, saying certain substances seem to trigger asthmatic attacks, serious bouts of vomiting, intestinal-tract disorders and other health problems.

At a pace far faster than in previous years, companies are adding secret ingredients to…

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Organic Is Pricier, But Better

Photo courtesy of frenchatfams.wikispaces.com

Photo courtesy of frenchatfams.wikispaces.com

MSN has a video up about the debate over whether organic produce is healthier than conventional produce. The video cites studies done that compared the two and found that organic fruits and veggies have up to 70% more antioxidants than conventionally grown food. The studies also confirm that organic food doesn’t contain chemicals that conventional food is doused with, namely pesticides and cadmium, thus making organic healthier.

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Obamacare Update: affordable premiums, more competition, stabilized costs

Reblogged from The Secular Jurist:

By Robert A. Vella

Here’s the latest news on the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a Obamacare):

From The Washington PostFederal insurance exchange subsidies cut premiums by average of 76%, HHS reports

The 28-page report, by the Department of Health and Human Services, is the government’s first effort to gauge the affordability and availability of health plans under the Affordable Care Act, now that the first insurance sign-up period has ended.

* * * * *

The health officials said they have not yet analyzed the incomes of people who qualified for the subsidies. But overall, the report shows, the average monthly tax credit this year is $264. Without the federal help, the average premium chosen by people eligible for a tax credit would have been $346 per month, and the subsidy lowered the consumers’ premiums, on average, by 76 percent. The result is that four out of five people with subsidies are paying premiums of no more than $100 a month — although that does not include money they might need to spend for insurance deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs.

* * * * *

On average, the analysis found, people buying in the federal exchange had a choice of 47 health plans, offered by an average of five different insurance companies. The level of competition is slightly below what was found in late September, days before the federal insurance exchange opened, when HHS issued a report saying that the typical American would have a choice of 53 health plans from eight different insurance companies.

From Daily KosObamacare’s very good week

Chart showing surge of insurers joining exchanges in several states.


More insurers means, as Kaiser Family Foundation President Larry Levitt says, potentially lower premiums and thus lower costs overall—less the government is paying in subsidies, more consumer choice, and “marketing muscle” from big insurers that will help boost enrollments. More insurers being willing to enter the market helps prove another point which was reinforced this week—these are paying customers. If there was a huge problem with people paying their premiums, insurers would be staying away.

From The Huffington PostMillions Get Obamacare For $100 Or Less

Premiums are likely to rise for most consumers next year, as they typically have for decades. Health insurance companies already are submitting widely varying proposals for next year’s rates to state regulators. Some have requested hikes of 10 percent or more, while others aim to lower prices. Premiums for people who don’t get health insurance from their jobs rose an average of 10 percent a year prior to the Affordable Care Act, according to an analysis published by the Commonwealth Fund this month.

People who receive tax credits largely should be shielded from premium increases, however. The Affordable Care Act caps their monthly costs based on income, and uses tax credits to fill the gap between that cutoff and the price of the health insurance plan.