Saturday 31 May 2014

Don’t Be So Sour

Lemons are healthy foods because they contain fibre, micronutrients and an array of phytochemicals that may have particular health benefits. Lemons and other citrus are most well known for their high content of vitamin C. However, much of their activity against scurvy may actually come from the flavanones, particularly hesperidin, that they contain. Other flavanones that occur in lemons in far smaller amounts include eriocitrin, didymin, naringin, neoeriocitrin, neohesperidin and poncirin. Total flavanone content can be as high as 27 mg per 100 grams of lemons. The rind of lemons, as with most citrus, is rich in D-limonene, a terpene which may have anticancer effects, In particular, D-limonene may inhibit angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels required to form a stable tumour.

Friday 30 May 2014

Cooking with Oil

Fats are a diverse group of hydrocarbons and some are important in human nutrition. While fats are generally solid at room temperature, oils by contrast are liquid. Heating fats causes them to melt and become liquid and this can be seen during the cooking process when butter and lard both liquify upon heating. Cooking with oils is popular because it adds taste to the food and is an effective method of cooking.

Heating Oil

When oils are heated they change chemically. In particular heated oils become oxidised and go rancid. When we eat these oils the rancid oils enter out metabolic pathways and interfere with normal metabolic regulation. Rancid oxidised oils are a primary driver of disease because they cause inflammation and oxidative stress. Such oils are now thought to be drivers of diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease, and may also contribute to obesity.

Delicate Oils

Fatty acids can be saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. While saturated fatty acids have no double bonds, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acid have one and more than one double bond respectively. Some polyunsaturated fatty acids such as fish oils can have 5 or 6 double bonds. The amount of double bonds in relevant to cooking, because the more bonds that are present on the fatty acid, the more likely it is to become oxidised and go rancid.

Supermarket Oils

Most supermarket oils with the exception of extra virgin olive oil are deodorised and processed. During their extraction from the original seed, most of the vitamin E is extracted and sold, and the oil is deodorised by removing its phytonutrients to hide the original flavor. In this process the fatty acids become chemically altered through oxidation, and the end result is a disease causing oil. Cooking with such oils further oxidises the oil and creates a highly toxic food.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

By law extra virgin olive oil must be extracted only with a mechanical press. This means that heat is not used in the process and the original content of the olives are left in the oil. Extra virgin olive oil therefore contains phytonutrients and vitamin E and this gives it healthy properties. However, when you cook with extra virgin olive oil, the oil oxidises and this creates an oxidised and rancid product that is disease forming.

Saturated Fats

Saturated fats are much more stable that the monounsaturated fatty acids in extra virgin olive oil. This means that when you heat them less damage is done to the oils. Saturated fats are therefore better cooking oils than vegetable oils that are monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. However as with all fats, heating them causes oxidation and will ultimately create toxic products and so care should be taken when using saturated fatty acids as with all fats.

Water Is The Solution

The solution is to cook in water. Where possible boiling foods will provide massive health benefits by eliminating a source of toxins. However, water does not have to be used exclusively to be of benefit. Adding a tablespoon of water to cooking fats will reduce the maximum temperature available to the pan and reduce the oxidation of the oil. This can provide the flavour of cooking with fats but the health benefits of cooking with water.

Thursday 29 May 2014

Trouble Sleeping?

Sleep patterns are controlled by the hormone melatonin. In turn, melatonin is synthesised from serotonin, a metabolite of the amino acid L-tryptophan. Dietary sources of L-tryptophan increase plasma levels of the amino acid and cause increased uptake to the brain. In the brain the L-tryptophan is converted to serotonin and then to melatonin and this induces sleep. Foods high in L-tryptophan therefore stimulate sleep. Edam cheese is particularly good source of L-tryptophan and can improve sleep quality if eaten just before bed.

Wednesday 28 May 2014

Preformed GLA

Alpha linolenic acid (ALA) and linoleic acid (LA) are essential fatty acids in human nutrition. This means that they are required for health, but cannot be synthesised by humans. However, both of these fatty acids are synthesised by plants, and so plant foods are essential to our health. The essential fatty acids ALA and LA are required for health because they are synthesised into eicosanoids, hormones that regulate cell function.

Linoleic acid

Linoleic acid is converted in humans to gamma linolenic acid (GLA) and then to dihomo gamma linolenic acid (DGLA), which is in turn converted to the series 1 eiscodaoids. Series 1 eicosanoids are anti-inflammatory in nature. Because inflammation is now linked to the initiation and propagation of disease through the generation of free radicals, series 1 eicosanoids are considered to be preventive of disease.

Too Much of A Good Thing

So LA is necessary to form beneficial series 1 eicosanoids. However, too much LA causes DGLA to build up before it can be converted to the series 1 eicosanoids. When this happens, the DGLA is instead converted to arachidonic acid and then to the series 2 eicosanoids. Series 2 eicosanoids are pro-inflammatory and therefore can increase levels of disease through the production of free radicals. Too much LA is therefore detrimental to the health.

Alpha Linolenic Acid

Alpha linolenic acid is converted in humans to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). In turn, EPA is converted to the series 3 eicosanoids. The series 3 eicosanoids are neutral in their action possessing neither pro- or anti-inflammatory actions. However, because the synthesis of series 3 eicosanoids inhibits the synthesis of series 2 eicosanoids, the overall action of EPA and the series 3 eicosanoids is anti-inflammatory and therefore disease preventing.

The Western Diet

The Western diet is characterised by processed meat, refined grains and large amounts of vegetable and animals fat. The Western diet causes inflammation because the high concentrations of vegetable fats provide too much LA and this increases synthesis of arachidonic acid and the pro-inflammatory eicosanoids. In addition, the high content of animal fats provides preformed arachidonic acid and this further increases production of the pro-inflammatory eicosanoids.

Mediterranean Diet

The best way to reduce the inflammation caused by the Western diet is to stop eating one. Reducing vegetable oil consumption and animal fat intake can significantly reduce arachidonic acid levels and thus reduce inflammation and disease. Switching to a plant based diet such as the mediterranean diet can also provide ALA from green leafy vegetables and preformed EPA from fish to increase production of the beneficial series 3 eicosanoids.


Evening primrose oil and starflower oil are good sources of preformed GLA. Ingesting these oils can significantly reduce inflammation because it provides a source of GLA that can be synthesised to the anti-inflammatory series 1 eicosanoids. It is unclear why the GLA is not converted instead to arachidonic acid to produce pro-inflammatory series 2 eicosanoids, but supplementation with GLA even in the presence of high intakes of LA has a strong anti-inflammatory effect.

Tuesday 27 May 2014

Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes) originate from Asian countries where they have been used medicinally for centuries. Chinese medicine for example believes that eating the mushrooms increases the flow of Chi and improves general health. Nutritional research shows that shiitake mushrooms contain polysaccharides including lentinan as well as alpha and beta glucans, which may have immune boosting effects. Most of the evidence for the benefits of shiitake mushrooms comes from animal studies, but in humans too they have been shown to improve immunity. Shiitake mushrooms also possess anti-cancer effects. The chemicals responsible for protection are not fully characterised and it is believed that the mushrooms are a contain a cocktail of substances referred to as anti-tumour mycochemicals. Some of the polysaccharides may contribute to the anti-cancer effects. The mushrooms may also possess bioavailable antioxidant chemicals.

Monday 26 May 2014

Omega 3: Fish, plants or Algae?

Omega 3 fatty acids are cardioprotective. In particular regular consumption of omega 3 fatty acid may lower triglyceride levels. This is because omega 3 fatty acids can increase the oxidation of other fatty acids in the liver and this reduces the production of triglycerides. In addition, omega 3 fatty acids are converted to anti-inflammatory hormones called eicosanoids and this has a protective effect on arteries and inhibits platelet aggregation. However, controversy surrounds the best dietary source of omega 3 fatty acids.


Plants contain the omega 3 fatty acid alpha linolenic acid. This is the parent omega 3 fatty acid which is converted to other longer more unsaturated omega 3 fatty acids in the body, including eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid. In turn these fatty acids form a number of anti-inflammatory eicosanoid hormones. However, the alpha linolenic acid in plants is not well converted and alpha linolenic acid could be considered a poor source of omega 3 fatty acids.


Fish contain preformed eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid. This means that eating fish sidesteps the rate limiting step that inhibits the conversion of alpha linolenic acid to anti-inflammatory eicosanoids. Fish is therefore a better source of omega 3 fatty acids and has better anti-inflammatory effects than plants. However, fish accumulate toxins and pollutants, and larger fish such as swordfish and tuna can be particularly polluted. Farmed salmon also contain high amounts of toxins and is not recommended.

Fish Oil Capsules

Eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid are also available in fish oil capsules. Each capsule can supply a similar amount of omega 3 fatty acids as might be present in a large portion of fish. However, the toxins and pollutants in fish make their way into the capsules, unless special chemical processes are used to remove them. For this reason cheaper fish oil capsules are often no better than eating the fish from which the pill was extracted, and might therefore contain considerable pollution.

Smaller Fish

Bioaccumulation describes the gradual increases in concentration that occur for a substance as it moves up the food chain, particularly pollution. The animals at the top of the food chain are the most polluted and the ones at the bottom of the food chain the least polluted. Smaller fish such as mackerel, sardines (pilchards) and anchovies are a better of omega 3 fatty acids than larger fish because they are lower down the food chain and therefore have lower levels of pollutants.


Algae are small plants that synthesise their own preformed docosahexaenoic acid. This is the source of the docosahexaenoic acid that accumulates in fish (who eat the algae). Algae are now grown in tanks specifically for the purpose of making supplements containing docosahexaenoic acid. Because they are grown in tanks, their environment is controlled, and therefore they can be kept free of pollutants. Although at present expensive, this is probably the most effective source of omega 3 fatty acids, because it provides clean unpolluted performed docosahexaenoic acid. .

Sunday 25 May 2014

Cherry Wine

Drinking red wine is associated with protection from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Red wine is protective of cardiovascular disease because of the polyphenolic chemicals and ethanol it contains. The polyphenols in red wine, particularly resveratrol, are also anti-cancer agents. Wine can also be made from fruits other than grapes, and the chemical composition of the wine reflects the fruits that are used as a source of sugars during fermentation. Cherry wine contains a cocktail of chemicals that originate from the source cherries. Because cherries are rich in polyphenols such as anthocyanins, cherry wine may confer many of the same health benefits as traditional red wine made from grapes. Cherry wine will almost certainly prevent heart attacks because all alcoholic beverages are protective in this way if consumed regularly. 

Saturday 24 May 2014

The Red Meat Fallacy

We are told that red meat is bad for us because it gives us cardiovascular disease. We are also told that red meat is a cause of cancer. These memes are promulgated repeatedly ad nauseum by the mainstream medical establishment. and even amongst nutritionist this viewpoint is a widely held belief. But is red meat really a cause of disease? Or have people misunderstood the nutritional literature either intentionally or unintentionally? Is this more a case of people maintaining a belief by finding evidence to support their viewpoint rather than being objective about the data?

Cause And Effect

Observational studies confirm that meat eating is associated with an increased risk of both cancer and cardiovascular disease. However, an association does not prove a cause and effects. While such an association may suggest that meat is a cause of disease, it could also suggest that another unknown variable, associated with eating meat, or a particular type of meat, may be the actual causative factor. This is a major problem with observational type studies and one that is often completely misunderstood.

Processed Meat

It is known that processed meat is a cause of cancer. The science behind the mechanisms by which this happens in clear. Processed meat causes cancer because it contains nitrites and nitrates that are used to preserve the meat. In the gut, these are converted to carcinogenic nitrosamine compounds which act on the wall of the intestines and turn cells cancerous. This explains the increased risk of gut cancer with processed meats. However, no such effect is evident from fresh meat as nitrites and nitrates are not present. Including processed meats into any study investigating the health effects of meat therefore biases any results.


It is a fact that non-organic sources of meat contain high levels of hormones and other drugs, given to the animals to increase growth rates. Many of these chemicals are known to increase the risk of cancer because they increase the growth rate of cells and this can produce an internal milieu more akin to cancer formation. Because many of these chemicals are fat soluble they can accumulate in adipose tissue over time. Regular intakes of such poisoned meat can therefore cause disease, particularly cancer. These hormones can also be present in milk from conventionally farmed animals.

Omega 6 to Omega 3 Ratio

Conventional farming feeds cattle and other animals grain to increase growth rates and body weight. This fattens the animals and increases profit for the farmers. However, the feed they use increases the omega 6 concentrations within the meat to much higher levels than would normally be found. In contrast, grass fed animals accumulate omega 3 fatty acids in their meat because such fatty acids are naturally present in the grass As high intakes of omega 6 fatty acids and low intakes of omega 3 fatty acids are associated with disease of inflammation, this is another reason red meat can cause disease, particularly cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Western Diet

Another problem for those that claim that red meat is a cause of disease is that red meat eating is associated with a Western diet. It is very hard to pin the blame on the red meat when the diet of such individuals also contains a high number of proven disease causing compounds. For example, those that eat more red meat also eat more sugar, more trans fats and more refined carbohydrates. The fact that the Maasai eat almost nothing but red meat and full fat dairy product, yet have virtually no cancer or cardiovascular disease, is evidence enough that red meat is not a driver of disease.

Fresh Organic Grass Fed Meat

If nitrites, nitrates, a high omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acid ratio, hormones, chemicals and a Western diet are the cause of disease, it seems strange to blame red meat. Red meat devoid of these substances, and eaten as part of a traditional diet is not disease causing. In fact red meat is a necessary part of the human diet because it provides an absorbable form of iron and is a high quality protein. The truth is also that organic grass fed meat tastes better than conventionally farmed alternatives and it also makes far superior food. Switching to organic meat not only stops disease but also increases enjoyment of the diet and is therefore worth the extra cost.

Friday 23 May 2014

Lemon and Ginger Tea - Antioxidant Cocktail

Herbal teas are a good source of antioxidant phytonutrients. Ginger contains the antioxidant gingerol that may act as an anti-inflammatory. Lemon contains flavanones such as heperidin which has antioxidant properties. Adding a squeeze of fresh lemon can improve the taste and add further antioxidants. 

Thursday 22 May 2014

The Dietary Macronutrients And Energy

The main dietary macronutrients are fat, protein and carbohydrate. These macronutrients can all be used as a source of energy. Ethanol too is a macronutrient, and it too can be used as a source of energy. The use of macronutrients for energy is interesting because they all have slightly different absorption routes and are used in different ways under different circumstances by the body. Understanding these differences is important if health is to be maintained. The fact that fibre contributes significantly to the daily energy needs of humans is often misunderstood.


Carbohydrates contain roughly 3.75 kcal per gram and include sugars and polysaccharides. The carbohydrates are absorbed to the circulation where they are converted to either glucose for energy production or stored as glycogen in the liver and muscle. The belief that low fat foods do not make you fat because they contain no fat is absurd because glucose is also readily converted to fat and stored in adipose tissue in a process called de novo lipogenesis. Refining carbohydrates by removing their bran and germ layers increases their digestion rates and along with sugar refined carbohydrate is a primary driver of Western lifestyle disease and obesity.


Fat is a hugely diverse group of macronutrients that contain roughly 9 kcal per gram. The belief that fat makes you fat is not based on any real science but is a central meme of the media, diet industry and medical establishment. Long chain fatty acids are absorbed through the lymph system and processed in the liver for transport around the body on proteins. Medium and short chain fatty acids however are absorbed in the blood and processed directly in the liver to produce energy, and in this way resemble carbohydrates. Essential fatty acids cause weight loss because they are not stored, but used for energy or the manufacture of hormones.


Proteins contain about 4.1 kcal per gram, and are generally not used as a source of energy in the body unless intakes are high. Proteins contains amino acids, and the body uses these for important functions like making structural proteins and enzymes. Proteins are also nitrogenous, and the amino acids are used to construct and rebuild muscle tissue. Muscle tissue is actually a store of energy, and during times of starvation this tissue is broken down and converted to glucose for energy. High protein intakes increase satiety and reduce overall energy intake without the need to forcibly restrict calories and also preserve lean mass.


Alcohol, chemically called ethanol, provides roughly 7 kcal per gram. Alcohol is hugely misunderstood nutritionally, with most people considering it a cause of weight gain. However, the nutritional literature clearly shows a weight loss effect with regular alcohol consumption. Alcohol can cause weight loss because it upregulates oxidation of fatty acids in the liver. Alcohol also decreases intake of refined carbohydrates and sugar, both of which are drivers of weight gain. People who drink alcohol regularly eat more calories than those who don't, but they have lower body weights and fewer heart attacks.


Most people think fiber contains no energy, but this is not true. Fibre is just carbohydrate that is not digestible to human enzymes. In this respect most people assume it passes straight through the human gut providing bulk to the food and nothing more. However, fibre is metabolised in the same way in humans as in ruminant animals, in that our gut bacteria ferments to fibre to produce short chain fatty acids. These are absorbed into the circulation and used as a source of energy. In this way fibre can contribute significantly to the daily energy needs of humans.

Wednesday 21 May 2014

Darjeeling: More Than Just a Black Tea

darjeeling tea
Darjeeling tea is a good source of antioxidants. Like all black tea, Darjeeling is fermented and this process converts the polyphenolic catechins to thearubigins and theaflavins. This causes a loss of antioxidant potential. However, unlike other black teas, Darjeeling tea is only 90 % fermented, and so it retains more of its catechin content, giving it better antioxidant potential than most other black teas. The higher catechin and lower theaflavin and thearubigin content gives Darjeeling tea a lighter, greener colour, as well as a distinctive taste.

Atherosclerosis And Back Pain

Back pain is pretty common in Western nations. As people age deterioration in the discs of the spine cause the outer hard coating to disintegrate and this exposes the inner soft parts of the disc. The soft inner content can then spills over from its location within the vertebrae and this can impinge on surrounding nerves causing pain. In addition, nerve fibres can grow into the now softer disc resulting is further pain and discomfort.

Modern Medicine

The modern medical approach to back pain is often surgical in nature. However, studies show that surgery often makes no difference to the levels of back pain felt by patients. In fact in many cases the pain levels increase post-surgery. In addition, modern medicine suggests that those with back pain ‘take it easy’ and avoid exercise. However, this strategy has also been shown to be ineffective and current recommendations from studies suggest that exercise is beneficial.


It is surprising to many to learn that atherosclerosis does not just affect the arteries of the heart. Atherosclerosis, a condition that results in a thinning of the arteries and a loss of their elasticity, can also affect other areas of the body. In particular, atheroscerotic arteries are often found in the lumbar vertebrae. This atherosclerosis has been hypothesised to be a leading cause of back pain, because the diseased arteries cannot supply adequate blood to the discs of the vertebrae.

Diet And Nutrition

Atherosclerosis is a disease of the diet. A low quality diet such as the typical Western diet increases levels of oxidative stress in the body because it are devoid of meaningful levels of plant phytonutrients, the main source of antioxidants for humans. In addition, Western diets are low in omega-3 long chain fatty acids. This increases oxidative stress in the body and overtime this causes deterioration in the endothelial lining of the arteries.

Endothelial Dysfunction

Oxidative stress in the endothelial lining of the arteries depletes them of nitric oxide. This is because high levels of free radicals inhibits the enzyme that produces nitric oxide. Because nitric oxide is required for the relaxation of arteries, oxidative stress results in inelastic arteries that cannot respond correctly to blood flow with dilation. This causes damage to the lining of arteries and this ultimately result in the development of atherosclerosis.

Diet And Back Pain

A high quality diet can cause atherosclerosis to regress because it can reverse endothelial dysfunction. Many studies have shown that single servings of various plant food rich in antioxidants can improve flow mediated dilation and thus increase blood flow rates. Improving the diet is therefore pivotal if lower back degeneration is to be halted and reversed. A high quality diet will also reverse the blockages in the coronary arteries and thus prevent heart attacks.

Tuesday 20 May 2014

Why Being Fat Can Seriously Damage Your Health

Most people consider fat to be unsightly. However, more seriously, being overweight is associated with serious disease. In particular, the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer increases significantly if you are overweight. There are multiple reasons why being overweight is bad for you, and therefore multiple reasons why you should attempt to remain as lean as possible. Generally, the more fat you have, the higher your risk of death.

Fat Stores Toxins

Fat is a known store of vitamins and minerals. In this way when dietary intake falls, blood levels of micronutrients can be maintained through release from fat stores. However, many toxins such as polychlorinated biphenyl, dioxins, lindane and other pesticides and waste products are fat soluble and can also accumulate in fat tissue. The more fat you have the more toxins you store, and this increases the risk of disease significantly, particularly cancer.

Poor Diet

One of the most overlooked reasons why being overweight is associated with disease is because being overweight is caused by a low quality diet. Obesity and being overweight is therefore a marker for poor nutrition, which in turn is known to be a driver for disease. Poor diet is particularly likely to cause insulin resistance, which in turn causes the development of abdominal fat. This type of fat is particularly associated with poor health and disease.

Abdominal Fat

There are actually two type of adipose tissue. Deep abdominal fat and subcutaneous peripheral fat. While abdominal fat is found in the abdominal cavity and is sometimes referred to as belly fat, subcutaneous fat is found under the skin, usually around the arms and legs. Although unsightly, subcutaneous fat does not increase the risk of disease, whereas abdominal fat does. Exercise can rid the body of subcutaneous fat, but only dietary improvements can remove abdominal fat.


As we age the wear and tear on our joints becomes apparent. This is inevitable and although a healthy diet and exercise keeps joints younger for longer, the ageing process gradually causes deterioration in the ability of joints to heal themselves. This results in mild aches and pains, usually on waking. Being overweight greatly accelerate the rate that joint cartilage wears and as a result increases significantly the risk of suffering from serious joint pain in old age.

What You Can Do About It?

If you are overweight then you are at increased risk of disease. Losing weight, or more specifically losing fat, will decrease this risk. Most people make the mistake of dieting and undertaking exercise in order to lose weight, but this is a big mistake as neither causes weight loss. Instead, swapping to a high quality traditional diet has been shown to cause weight loss without the need for exercise or calorie counting.

Monday 19 May 2014

Bone Health: Acid Base Balance

Calcium is the nutrient most commonly associated with bone health. This is true for the scientist and layman alike. ‘Drink your milk and you will have strong bones’ they say. Of course this is true to a certain extent as calcium is required for the formation of bone tissue. However, although physiologically calcium is required as a structural component of bone, the ability of dietary calcium to affect bone health is limited unless intake is severely deficient.


Calcium has been extensively researched with respect to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a bone disease that mainly affects postmenopausal women. Pores appear in the bone and this causes the bones to become brittle and weaken. This then increases the risk of fracture. Theory would suggest that if bone is made of calcium, that dietary calcium would strengthen bone. However, increasing the calcium in the diet is not effective at treating or preventing osteoporosis.

A New Paradigm

Recently the mainstream scientific establishment has shifted its understanding of osteoporosis. It is now believed that the disease forms not from a deficiency of calcium, or a lack of weight bearing exercise, although both these things are needed for healthy bones. Instead the acidification of blood is thought to be responsible for the gradual erosion of the structural strength in the bone, leading ultimately to osteoporosis following the menopause.

Acid Base Balance

Normally the blood is kept within a narrow window around a neutral pH. If too much acid is produced by the body, the associated hydrogen ions must be removed to bring the pH back into normal limits. To do this the body has a number of buffering systems that are present in blood which can mop up the hydrogen ions and thus maintain normal pH. One of these buffers is the minerals in bone including calcium, that can be released to the blood to soak up hydrogen ions.

Western Diet (Again)

So what causes the acidification of the blood that leads to calcium leaching from bone? Well diets high in animals fats such as the Western diet are thought to be a primary cause. When certain proteins are digested, they release amino acids that can form acidic by-products. If the protein component in the diet is too high, and it is not balanced by alkali forming foods, then the blood becomes acidic and chronic leaching of the minerals from bone can occur.

Plant Foods (Again)

Plant foods are able to protect from the acidification of the blood. This is because the potassium, calcium and magnesium in the plant foods are metabolised to alkaline salts which enter the blood and act to raise pH. This spares the need for minerals to be leached from bones to prevent acidification of the blood, and thus is protective of osteoporosis. Diets high in plant foods are therefore protective of the acidifying nature of high protein diets and are protective of osteoporosis.

Sunday 18 May 2014

Cancer: The Seed and Soil Hypothesis

Cancer is a difficult disease to understand because science makes it so complex. However, there are ways to describe the development of cancer that do not require a PhD in oncology. It was the surgeon Stephen Paget who first described the development of cancer as analogous to that of a growing weed. Weeds are defined in horticulture as plants that encroach upon and inhibit the growth of other plants. If we consider weeds to be cancer cells and the other plants to be normal healthy cells the analogy is in fact brilliant.


Initiation is the first stage in the development of cancer. In this process a normal cell will lose the requirement to divide only a limited number of times, and so will become immortal. In addition, the normal apoptotic regulatory mechanisms that programme cell death are inhibited. Initiation is analogous to a seed landing in the soil. At this point there is no real problem as the weed is small and not fully formed, and may even go unnoticed. However, the weed in genetically programmed to invade the space of other plants just as a cancer cell is programmed to invade other tissues.


As the weed receives the nutrients it requires, it begins to grow and invade other parts of the garden. In the same way a cancer cell can only grow if it receives the nutrient it requires. In the case of cancer, new blood vessels must be formed to allow the cancer cells to divide and spread. This is accomplished by the release of growth factors that trigger the creation of new blood vessels to bring nutrients (angiogenesis). At the same time inflammation is created by the cancer cells to increase the susceptibility of the healthy tissue for invasion. Weeds use a similar strategy of rapid growth to out compete other plants for nutrients.


The final stage of cancer is the progression of cancer to other parts of the body (metastasis). This is akin to a weed producing seeds and spreading throughout the garden. However, unlike weeds, the original tumour will secrete substances that inhibit the growth of other tumours, leaving them at the micro tumour stage. This explains why once the original tumour is often surgically removed, other tumours rapidly form (because the inhibitors are removed from circulation). However, irrespective of this slight nuance, promotion ultimately results in the spread of cancer.

Effective Treatments

Once a cancer has reached the late stages it is very difficult to do anything to stop a rapid decline in health. However, catching a cancer in the initiation and promotion stages can be successful in preventing cancer. This is demonstrated by the statistics that show that Asians are just as likely to develop cancer as people in the West. However, the tumours in Asians often do not develop beyond the micro tumour stage and so the rates of cancer mortality are much lower. Something in the diet of the Asian men and women is protecting them for cancer.


The protection afforded to Asians comes from their diet. This is proven by the rise in cancer mortality of Asian men and women who adopt the Western diet. The Western diet is low in the substances found in more traditional diets that are protective of cancer. Those factors are plant phytochemicals such as found in soy, turmeric, ginger, cruciferous vegetables, garlic, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, green tea and red wine. In the case of Asian men and women, soy protects them from the promotion of micro tumours beyond the initiation stage of cancer.

Why is Nutrition Effective?

Nutrition is particularly effective at inhibiting the initiation and promotion of cancer because the substances in plants work in multiple ways. Some phytochemicals increase detoxification which reduces the risk of carcinogens forming cancer cells in the body. Some inhibit inflammation that is required for the spread of cancer. Some inhibit the formation of the blood vessels required by cancer cells to grow. Some boost the immune system allowing direct killing of cancer cells. Eating a mixed diet therefore provides multiple mechanisms to protect from cancer.


The real benefits with the nutritional approach to cancer prevention therefore, is that the nutrients are known to act synergistically. Addition of a wide range of plant phytochemicals increases the anti-cancer effect significantly higher than would be expected by the sum of the individuals parts. For this to happen a wide variety of anti-cancer foods must be eaten regularly, allowing them to be in the tissues continuously to guard against the development of cancer. This means abandoning the Western diet and incorporating traditional diet patterns into daily life.

How To Kill A Weed

If we go back to the analogy of a weed, we can see the effectiveness of nutrition. Some nutrients tend the garden removing the seeds before the weeds can grow (detoxification). Some nutrients attack the roots of the weeds once they grow (inhibitors of angiogenesis). Some nutrients pluck the flower heads from the weeds before the seeds can spread (immune booster). And some weeds prepare the ground so that new seeds cannot germinate (anti-inflammatories). No weed could grow in a garden tended by such diligent gardening, and in the same way nutrition makes it incredibly hard for cancer to take root in the body.

Saturday 17 May 2014

Natural Inhibitors of Nuclear Factor-Kappa Beta

Cancer is a disease of inflammation. An environment of inflammation is required by cancer cells because in this way, the cancer cells are able to develop and grow into tumours. In fact, cancer cells propagate inflammation locally because this allows them to increase the susceptibility of the surrounding tissue for invasion. Without this inflammatory process cancer cells remain dormant and cannot develop beyond micro tumours.

Injury That Doesn’t Heal

The role of inflammation is so ingrained in the formation and spread of cancer that some have suggested that cancer originates from wounds that don’t heal. This explains the multiple origins of cancer that includes toxins, viruses, stress and poor nutrition. Associations between the location of previous injuries and cancers have been reported, suggesting that the inflammation resulting from the injury was propagated and resulted in the formation of cancer.

Inflammation And Cancer Survival

The role of inflammation in cancer development is also highlighted by the association between a patient’s inflammatory status and their survival expectations from cancer. High concentrations of C-reactive protein (a marker of systemic inflammation) in cancer patients blood is associated with a low survival chance, whereas low concentrations of C-reactive protein are associated with a high survival chance.

Nuclear Factor-Kappa Beta

The inflammation created by cancer cells to allow their development and metastasis is reliant to a large extent on the production and release of the pro-inflammatory cytokine, nuclear factor kappa beta (NFκβ). Most treatments that are effective against cancer are able to inhibit nuclear factor-kappa beta and in this way limit the development and spread of cancer. In particular, two natural substances known for their anticancer effects are nuclear factor-kappa beta inhibitors.

Catechins And Resveratrol

Catechins and resveratrol are known nuclear factor-kappa beta inhibitors. They can inhibit the inflammation produced by cancer cells and limit their progression and promotion. Both catechins and resveratrol are polyphenols that are found in commonly eaten foods. Catechins are found in high concentrations in green tea, with lower amounts in Darjeeling tea and apples. Resveratrol is a component of red wine, which is the only rich source of the polyphenol.

Red Wine And Green Tea

Both red wine and green tea are associated with protection from cancer. In particular the drinks appear to be particularly effective against cancers of the gut. This may relate to their ability to inhibit inflammation of the gut and thus prevent the development of tumours past their initial micro tumour stage. Drinking both red wine and green tea is highly recommended as their health effects are now well established in the nutritional literature.

Friday 16 May 2014

Tea Antioxidants

Tea drinking is associated with improved health. In particular, those who drink tea may reduce their risk of developing certain cancers (particularly of the gut), cardiovascular disease, dementia and obesity. The reason for the health effects of tea likely relates to the high concentrations of antioxidant phytochemicals it contains. However, not all tea is the same, and different types of tea have very different chemical compositions.

Camellia sinensis

All tea is made from the tea plant Camellia sinensis. The plant is grown in India and China as well as other Asian countries, and varieties differ depending on the region of growth. The Camellia sinensis plant is a rich source of catechin antioxidants, polyphenols belonging to the flavonoid class of phytochemicals. These antioxidants are thought to confer particular health benefits to man, although other components such as L-theanine also contribute significantly.

Black Tea

Black tea was created by the tea companies because shelf life is improved and this allowed the export of tea via long sea journeys. Black tea is formed by fermenting the leaves of the tea pant. This process allows the oxidation of the parent catechin molecules into theaflavin and thearubigin molecules through the action of polyphenol oxidase. Theaflavins and thearubigins give black tea its characteristic taste and colour.

Green Tea

Green tea is made by steaming the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant to deactivate the enzyme polyphenol oxidase. Because polyphenol oxidase is responsible for the breakdown of polyphenols to theaflavins and thearubigins, green tea maintains the high concentrations of catechins found in the parent plant material. Catechins are more potent antioxidants than either theaflavins or thearubigins and this may explain the greater health benefits of green tea.

Darjeeling Tea

Darjeeling tea is classified as a black tea that originates from the Darjeeling region of India. Although classified as a black tea because it has been through a fermentation process, the final product is actually only around 90 % fermented. This give it a much lighter greener colour than regular black tea as the concentrations of theflavins and thearubigins are lower. Darjeeling therefore has the highest catechin content of any black tea.

Which Tea To Drink?

The caffeine content of most teas is similar. But the levels of other phytochemicals in the tea tends to vary. Because the health benefits of the various components of tea are not fully understood, it makes sense to drink a variety of teas to ensure intakes of all the possible beneficial chemicals. Because Darjeeling tea contains the theaflavins and thearubigins of black tea as well as the catechins of green tea, drinking it regularly might confer the benefits of both types of tea.

Thursday 15 May 2014

Traditional Diets For Health

The typical Western diet is now thought to be the cause of most Western disease. The risk of developing cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity and type 2 diabetes increases considerably if a Western diet is consumed. Most people assume that disease is a result of bad genes, bad luck or just the natural ageing process, but this is not true. Most disease is nutrition related, and what you put in your mouth has a massive impact on how your body can deal with stress and illness.

The Western Diet

The Western diet is a relatively recent phenomenon. Only since the agricultural and industrial revolutions has food been so readily available. As agricultural practices have improved and food ingredients become more widely available, food manufacturing has increased and with it the need for profit. The fact is, Western food is both addictive and profitable, and where there is demand there shall be supply. However, with these profits come disease, and with the disease comes death.

Traditional Diets

So what did people eat before the Western diet became popular in the twentieth century? Well most of the World ate the traditional foods associated with their region. Foods were generally locally grown, underwent minimal processing, and all cooking was done in the home at the point of consumption. There was therefore little need for long shelf lives, preservatives or packaging. As a result foods were eaten in season, and diets were based on foods available at the time.

The Mediterranean Diet

The regions of Southern Europe adjacent to the Mediterranean sea share a common traditional diet. Meat comes mainly from fresh fish or fowl, and whole grains are used to make the bread that is eaten as an accompaniment to the main foods often by dipping it in olive oil. Plant foods are common in the diet, and so too is red wine that is drunk liberally throughout the day. The Mediterranean diet is now well established as a healthy diet in the scientific literature.

The Okinawan Diet

Another well researched traditional diet is the Okinawan diet. This diet originates from the Ryukyu islands off the coast of Japan. The diet comprises of small amounts of fish, green and yellow vegetables including some legumes, and the main carbohydrate sources is the sweet potato. Unlike other Asian countries rice is not a staple food. The Okinawan population like those in the Sicily have large numbers of centenarians and disease and disability do not greatly affect the elderly.

The Eskimo and Massai Diets

Both the Eskimo and Massai diets are different to the Mediterranean and Okinawan diets in that they are based on meat and fat. In the case of the Eskimo diet, the meat and fat come mainly from fish and whale blubber. In contrast, the Massai eat mainly milk, along with the blood and meat of their sheep and goats. In common with the Mediterranean and Okinawan diets, both of these meat based diets are devoid of refined carbohydrates and sugar.

Sugar And Refined Carbohydrates

Traditional diets vary in their composition, but they are all associated with improved longevity and a decreased risk of disease. The common defining parameter that links all of these diets is the absence of sugar and refined carbohydrates. Refining carbohydrates is problematic because it causes blood sugar problems that drive disease. Switching to a traditional diet has been shown to reduce the risk of disease, even in those who have eaten Western foods most of their lives.

Wednesday 14 May 2014

Gut Health

The gut is actually an external surface of the body, and food within is still considered outside the body. Foods that do not cross the gut lining and enter circulation have therefore never entered the body. Many people assume that for foods to be beneficial they must be absorbed and circulate in the blood. However this is not true, as research has identified a number of foods that show beneficial effect within the lumen and structures of the gut itself.


Fibre is classified as the indigestible parts of the plant. Cellulose and lignins are common dietary fibres, and humans do not possess the enzymes necessary to digest them. However, bacteria do possess such enzymes and as such fibre is a source of food for colonic bacteria. These bacteria ferment fibre to short chain fatty acids. These fatty acids then lower the pH of the gut which inhibits the growth of pathogenic strains of Gram negative bacteria.


Most polyphenols found in plants are great antioxidants. However, most never make it into the body. This is because they are rapidly metabolised by enterocytes during absorption to phase II conjugates. However, evidence suggests that polyphenols in tea (catechins) and red wine (resveratrol) may not need absorbing to have benefits. In fact, they may inhibit oxidation of lipids in the gut thus reducing the absorption of toxic lipid peroxides.

Vitamin C

Processed meat is associated with gut cancer. This is likely because processed meat contains nitrates and nitrites. Both nitrites and nitrates can be converted to nitrosamine in the gut in the acidic environment of the stomach. However, vitamin C can inhibit this process because it is able to react chemically with the precursors of nitrosamine formation at a rate faster than allows the formation of nitrosamines. Vitamin C is therefore protective of gut cancer.


Live yoghurt contains Gram positive bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium. When consumed in yoghurt, these organisms can survive the journey through the stomach to the intestines. Here they grow and colonise the colon, where they outcompete Gram negative bacteria for food. Gram negative bacteria are damaging to to the health because they contain lipopolysaccharides on their outer coats which can be absorbed and act as toxins.


Glutamine is an amino acid that has some interesting gut properties. Glutamine is very poorly absorbed to the circulation because most of it is utilised as an energy supply by the gut cells during absorption. This is beneficial because the glutamine increases the energy available to the cells and increase growth rates. This means that glutamine can be used to increase the healing speed of the gut, and is used medicinally for this purpose.

Tuesday 13 May 2014

Beat Stress, Drink Tea

The colloquial definition of stress is the presence of a discomfort, be it physical or mental. Biologically, a stressor is something that causes the alteration of physiological parameters outside their normal range. The resulting stress reaction is the body’s attempt to return the parameters to the normal range. Physical stress is no longer a real problem for most people living in Western nations. Mental stress has replaced physical stress as a cause of disease and premature death.

Too Much Of A Good Thing

Stress is generally a good thing is small amounts because it causes adaptation and trains the body to improve. However, too much stress can overload the body’s ability to cope. When stressors are applied to the body, the brain signals the release of adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones are required to cause the breakdown of energy for the body and to provide reserves when times are hard. However, too much stress causes levels to increase and this can disrupt health.

Tea Fights Stress

Most people know the comfort that a cup of tea can provide. In fact sweet tea is often the first thing given to people who have experienced physical and mental trauma. The reason that tea in beneficial at decreasing stress is because it lowers levels of anxiety that can result from stressful situations. In this way tea has a calming effect. It is no coincidence that buddhist monks use green tea as a prelude to meditation because of its calming effects.


Tea contains caffeine and other methylxanthines that are stimulants. It is surprising then that it causes relaxation because coffee is known to increase anxiety levels. The reason that teat can calm the body is because it contains a compound called L-theanine. This amino acid has been shown to be absorbed from tea, where it enters the brain. Here it increases the output of alpha waves, the form of brain waves associated with relaxation.

Black Or Green, It Doesn’t Matter

Both black and green tea contain L-theanine. However, some evidence suggests that black tea contains more L-theanine than green tea. This doesn’t mean that black tea is better, because both contain enough L-theanine to increase alpha brain waves. If you do however choose black tea as a source of L-theanine, don’t add sugar. Sigar is a cause of obesity and should be avoided if optimum health is to be maintained.

Monday 12 May 2014

Magnesium For Bone Health

Bone health is important because the skeleton we inhabit is responsible for our shape, stature and posture. Deteriorations in the skeleton over time then cause serious debilitation and result in problems with movement and posture. Osteoporosis is probably the most well known bone disorder. Osteoporosis is characterised by a general weakening of the skeleton in later life, particularly in women, due to the development of pores in the bone.

Bone Minerals

When it comes to bone, calcium is the most extensively researched mineral and is often the mineral most people associate with strong bones. Milk for example is a good source of calcium and is associated with bone health. However, bone is a complex tissue made up of a number of minerals and calcium is just one. In this regard magnesium is often neglected when thinking of bone health. In fact, magnesium plays a major role in the health and maintenance of the skeleton.

Magnesium And Bone Structure

Magnesium is pivotal in the formation of healthy bone. Deficiency of magnesium in the diet causes the hydroxyapatite crystals in bone to increase in size and regularity and this weakens the bone considerably. In contrast, higher intakes of magnesium increase the density of bone because they cause the formation of small dense irregular crystals. Adequate dietary magnesium is therefore necessary for the correct structural arrangement in bone.

Magnesium Salts

Another interesting thing about magnesium is its ability to form magnesium salts in the blood. The salts are basic in pH and can act as buffers to acids. Acidic blood, a result of the typical Western diet, causes the release of minerals from bone in order to buffer the fall in pH. Over time this causes a decrease in the mineral density of the bone. Dietary magnesium prevents this because it spares the release of magnesium from bone, buffering the low pH and maintaining healthy bones.

Magnesium and Hormones

Magnesium is required as a cofactor in around 300 proteins in the body, including the hormones parathyroid hormone and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. Both of these hormones are involved in the regulation of calcium. In this regard magnesium plays an important role in calcium metabolism and may influence bone remodeling through secondary mechanisms. Parathyroid hormone and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D act to increase plasma concentrations of calcium.

How Much Magnesium?

Magnesium is a macromineral which is required in gram amounts. Equal amounts of calcium and magnesium, roughly one gram per day are required by healthy adults. Research suggests that the Western diet does not supply enough dietary magnesium for good healthy. Generally it is difficult to obtain enough magnesium for foods unless traditional diets are consumed. Supplements can boost levels and should be considered for those who cannot get enough magnesium from their diet.

Sunday 11 May 2014

Anthocyanins And Arteries

Anthocyanins are plant chemicals that belong to the flavonoid group of polyphenols. Anthocyanins are responsible for many of the red, blue and purple colours found in berries and petals. The main source of anthocyanins in the human diet is berries, and it is estimated that around 12 mg per day in Western nations are consumed daily. Anthocyanins are bioavailable, which means they are absorbed and enter circulation and then interact with human tissues.

Flavonoids And Cardiovascular Disease

The Zutphen Elderly Study was one of the first to report on an inverse association between flavonoid intake and cardiovascular risk. Since this time, more studies have corroborated the observation that those who eat more flavonoids are less likely to develop cardiovascular disease. Undoubtedly other flavonoids play a role in this association. However, a large part of this protective effect may be due to the consumption of anthocyanins.

High Density Lipoprotein

Anthocyanins have been studied in relation to their ability to raise levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL). Animal and human studies confirm that high intakes of anthocyanin rich fruit, and anthocyanin supplements, can both raise HDL levels. The HDL particle transports plasma cholesterol from the peripheral tissues to the liver for excretion. Therefore anthocyanins might be beneficial to cardiovascular disease through this lipoprotein modulating effect.

Endothelial Dysfunction

Systemic oxidative stress is now implicated as a cause of cardiovascular disease. This oxidative stress is thought to inhibit the synthesis of nitric oxide within the endothelial lining of arteries, and this prevents the normal dilation relaxation cycle that results from blood flow. As a result blood pressure increases because the elasticity of the arteries deteriorates. Because anthocyanins are effective antioxidants, they may prevent endothelial dysfunction and lower blood pressure.

Anthocyanins: How Much?

The average intake of anthocyanins may be less than 15 mg per day. This level is likely too low to provide protection from cardiovascular disease. Supplements are also a poor source of anthocyanins because far high quantities and a wider variety of anthocyanins can be obtained by eating berries. Eating a handful of berries every day would provide more that the current 12 mg per day intake and is likely enough to confer protective effects against cardiovascular disease.