Tag Archive: nutrition

  1. June newsletter: the campaign against corn syrup

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    Taken from Kate’s newsletter – click here to subscribe.

    This month’s topic is something a little different. For a long time now I’ve been aware of corn syrup in our diet, but recently it’s hit the media in a big way, particularly after the documentary film, Food Inc. This deadly stuff is infiltrating its way into our foods and the only way to try and stop its production is to read food labels and avoid the obvious foods that contain it. There is a huge campaign in the U.S. and now murmurings in the U.K. to ban it completely, and I’m sure it can be done (perhaps not this week, but give it a few years of public demand and small miracles can happen!).

    We are told over and over again that fat is bad, fat makes people fat and butter should be banned. However it is sugar and refined foods that are one of the main causes of the obesity epidemic. What makes matters worse is that the corn (used to make the corn syrup) is subsidised by the U.S. government, so one could argue that they are causing the problem in the first place – how about that for getting your eyes open! Concentrating on exercise is all very well (and of course it is a vital component for shifting fat), but weight loss will only come if people stop eating addictive junk food. Those of you who saw Morgan Spurlock’s documentary Supersize Me may also remember how, about halfway through the challenge, he started craving the food that was making him ill, and it seemed by that stage he had become addicted. Being ‘addicted’ to food is a relatively new concept, but we now need to look at this seriously as one of the reasons why people eat too much of the wrong foods. What it is in the food that makes people continue to eat in this way? I call it the Hobnob theory. Why is it when you buy a packet of biscuits you have to eat the whole packet? What’s going on here? Is it just greed or is there something more sinister going on?

    So what is corn syrup?

    In the U.K., corn syrup or high-fructose corn syrup is also known as isoglucose, maize syrup, and glucose-fructose syrup. It includes any corn syrup groups that have undergone processing to convert glucose to fructose and then mixed with corn syrup (100% glucose) to produce sweetness.

    In the U.S. foods and products containing HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup) are typically using it as a sugar substitute and it is found in processed foods and beverages, soft drinks, yogurt, bread, biscuits, soups, salad dressing, and soup. This HFCS has replaced table sugar thanks to the U.S. government’s subsidy on corn and an import tariff on sugar from overseas. This has raised the price of sucrose so high that HFCS is extremely cost-efficient. Since the mid 1990s, the United States federal government has subsidized corn growers. The cheapness of the corn syrup is why you can get a large junk meal in the U.S. for 99 cents. It’s so cheap that it makes poorer families so much more vulnerable. You can barely get a couple of sticks of broccoli for 99 cents. As you can see, this is a ludicrous way to run a country. Fruit and vegetables should be cheap – not junk food – it makes no sense whatsoever. It makes me mad and hopefully it makes you mad as well!

    There is at present an internal argument going on – one side saying that this HFCS is contributing to obesity and the other side saying it’s no more harmful than regular sugar. Studies by The American Medical Association suggest “it appears unlikely that HFCS contributes more to obesity or other conditions than sucrose” but calls for further independent research on the subject. You will hear similar statements from the fizzy drinks industry (no surprise there then!), and remember if the U.S. government is subsidising HFCS – which essentially they are – how are they going to do the massive U-turn that is needed? The easiest way is not at all, just keep sending out statements that it doesn’t effect health when they know it does.

    Back to the Hobnob theory (or any other biscuit that contains HFCS…) Purposefully buy a product with glucose fructose syrup in – e.g. a packet of biscuits and eat a couple. Not everyone, but most people, will either have a steep rise in blood sugar (8 mmo/l or higher) or will have that ‘I need to eat the whole packet’ scenario. If you have either of those – welcome to the world of addictive corn syrup! Start your day with cornflakes and feel how starving you are three hours later (yes…cornflakes contain HFCS).

    Those who oppose HFCS call it as addictive as crack cocaine and heroin, and unless you checked labels you wouldn’t really notice it entering the food system. Unless you researched it yourself I suspect you wouldn’t even know what it was. In the UK, it is now being widely used instead of beet and cane sugar (sucrose), as it’s cheaper to produce and easier to blend into foodstuffs. It contains around the same number of calories as sugar, but it is thought that the body does not metabolise the syrup in the same way as sugar and that this can lead to weight gain.

    What foods contain high fructose corn syrup?

    Here are some products that contain HFCS or, as its called in the UK, glucose fructose syrup:

    Kellogg’s Cornflakes
    Kellogg’s All Bran
    Kellogg’s Rice Crispies
    Ocean Spray cranberry juice (a real shocker as so many women buy this to help with cystitis)
    Mullerice apple & Mullerice caramel
    Yoplait Petits Filous (marketed at children)
    Fromage Frais
    McVities HobNobs
    McVities Jaffa Cakes
    Carte D’Or ice cream
    Weightwatchers vanilla and fruit fromage frais (this is worrying as this is so called ‘diet’ food)
    Mr Kipling Bakewell slices
    Yop yoghurt strawberry

    Going round the supermarket the other day the number of products with this has risen greatly, and sadly there are just too many to list. Do particularly look out for it in yoghurts.

    Returning to the Hobnob theory, HFCS may trick the brain into thinking you need more food. Why so often is it hard to stop eating just one biscuit, how does a spoon of ice cream become a whole tub? So often I read that getting fat is down to personal responsibility and it is greed that makes people fat. What if that wasn’t necessarily always true – what if people were actually addicted to the very food that was making them ill? How do people get to be 40 stone?

    HFCS has been labelled ‘the Devil’s Candy’ and may trigger the growth of fat cells around the liver, heart and other vital organs and even cause diabetes and heart disease. The fructose part may be to blame for artificially boosting appetite and sending confused messages to our brains regarding our satiety. As you may be aware, when you eat sugar your body produces insulin, which tells the brain that we’ve had enough to eat and high insulin levels dampen appetite. However, fructose does not trigger as much insulin as regular sugar so the brain will get the message that you are not full up and want to keep on eating. Certainly previous studies have linked fructose with high blood levels of triglycerides (a fat which, in excess, can increase the risk of heart disease).

    A study at Colorado University in the U.S. looked at more than 4,500 people with no history of hypertension, and found that those who ate or drank more than 74 grams a day of fructose (the same as two-and-a-half sugary drinks) increased their risk of high blood pressure by up to 87 per cent.

    I’m confused? Does this mean we shouldn’t eat fruit?

    In moderation fruit is fine, particularly low GI fruits – but perhaps avoid huge bunches of grapes, and high amounts of bananas and dates etc. Also be careful not to drink too much fruit juice – it’s a concentrated form of fructose and can contain quite a few calories – dilute it half and half with water. Fruit sugar per se is not bad, it’s how it is changed and combined that is the problem.

    HFCS is cheap and also keeps foods moist, which boosts a product’s shelf life. It also helps to provide texture to food such as cereal bars and biscuits, making them chewy, and thickens up ice cream and yoghurt drinks. It’s not just used in obviously sweet foods – glucose fructose syrup is also found in lots of products you wouldn’t necessarily imagine contain it, such as cereal and batteries. Often it appears in product ingredients lists as ‘glucose-fructose syrup’, ‘high fructose corn syrup’, or ‘HFCS’, which is the name used by some manufacturers.

    Has it been proven to affect our metabolism?

    Scientists have indeed proved that HFCS can damage human metabolism and may well be fuelling the obesity crisis. Fructose, a sweetener derived from corn, can cause dangerous growths of fat cells around vital organs and is able to trigger the early stages of diabetes and heart disease. Fructose bypasses the digestive process that breaks down other forms of sugar. It arrives intact in the liver where it causes a variety of abnormal reactions, including the disruption of mechanisms that instruct the body whether to burn or store fat. Kimber Stanhope, a molecular biologist who led the study, says “This is the first evidence we have that fructose increases diabetes and heart disease independently from causing simple weight gain.” “We didn’t see any of these changes in the people eating glucose.”

    High-fructose corn syrup, or glucose-fructose syrup, is listed as an ingredient in many food and drink products in Britain, although it is virtually impossible for consumers to know the quantity and ratio of fructose used. Barry Popkin, professor of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina, and a US government adviser on health policy, said: “Historically, we never consumed much sugar. We’re not built to process it.” The Food and Drink Federation, a UK industry trade group, have said: “It makes no sense to highlight one single ingredient as a cause of obesity.”

    Whatever you choose to believe, this week a new report is expected to claim that about one in 10 children in England will be obese by 2015. Grim news indeed, and our genes cannot change that fast – something else is happening.

    Interesting facts

    Between 1967 and 2000 the consumption of HFCS increased by over 1000%, far exceeding the changes in intake of any other food group.

    HFCS represents over 40% of sweeteners added to foods and drinks.

    A conservative estimate of the daily consumption of HFCS in the US is 132 kcal, while the top 20% of consumers eating HFCS ingest 316 daily. The daily average is 318 kcal. Over a year, that would equate to 115,752 calories.

    The evidence for and against is conflicting, as with most studies, depending on who is doing the trial. However, if you look at the data (and I have done) on trends in obesity and HFCS availability the evidence to me seems overwhelming. Whilst not the only issue in the rise in obesity it can certainly be one of the major causes, and until more research is done, I would eat it in extreme moderation if at all. If you go to www.sweetsurprise.com you will see the case for but do remember why it is in foods – its subsidised and its cheap – I’ll let you make your own minds up.

    Drinks containing HFCS tend to have higher levels of reactive carbonyls, which are linked to tissue and cell damage that may lead to diabetes.

    Don’t forget the corn from which the HFCS is derived may be GM.

    Food and drink can be labelled natural and have HFCS in them – only foods labelled 100% organic can be assumed to be HFCS free, however even then HFCS may be in the food if it is not GM and grown organically – tricky!

    There is one small food chain in Seattle that no longer carries products containing HFCS.


    If you would like to get more involved join The Ban of High Fructose Corn Syrup on Facebook or Google about it, get talking about it with friends, and start reading. Do not be hoodwinked, this stuff is economically evil and damaging to your health.

    In-season recipe: Broad Beans

    I love broad beans simply boiled, buttered and served with the Sunday roast. They’re also wonderful when partnered with bacon or pancetta.

    Broad beans are thought to have originated in the Mediterranean. Archaeological findings at Iron Age and Bronze Age settlements in various parts of Europe show that they have been an important staple food for millennia. Today broad beans grow in temperate regions across the globe. They are known as fava beans in America where they haven’t reached the same level of popularity as in Europe. They are enjoyed across northern China and are crucial to Egyptian cuisine as a key ingredient in the national dish, Ful medames, and in falafels.

    Broad beans are a type of vetch with the Latin name Vicia faba. Vetches, which include peas and alfalfa, are nitrogen-fixing plants that enrich the soil in which they are planted. Commonly cultivated broad beans mainly fall into two classes. Longpod beans feature eight beans per pod and are more durable to different climatic conditions. Windsor varieties have four or five beans per pod and are considered by some to have a finer flavour.

    Broad beans are good sources of protein, fibre, vitamins A and C, potassium and iron. They also contain levodopa (L-dopa), a chemical the body uses to produce dopamine (the neurotransmitter associated with the brain’s reward and motivation system).

    Broad Bean Risotto


    450g broad beans, shelled
    3 tablespoon olive oil
    1 onion, peeled and chopped finely
    2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
    500g risotto rice
    1.7 litres hot vegetable Stock (or chicken stock if you prefer)
    1 tablespoon fresh thyme sprigs
    Salt and pepper
    Fresh parmesan shavings

    Gently heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a saucepan. Cook the onion until it has softened but do not let it brown. Add broad beans and the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes. Stir in the rice and continue to cook until the grains have become translucent and glossy. Turn the heat down and add the stock, one ladle at a time. All the liquid must be absorbed before adding more. Stir all of the time. This will take no less than 20-25 minutes. Add half the thyme with the last ladle of liquid. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Take the pan off the heat, cover and leave of stand. Serve hot on warmed plates and sprinkle with the last of the thyme and shavings of Parmesan. Serve with a delicious salad and garlic bread.

  2. Coeliac Awareness Week – 10th-16th May 2010

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    If you are in doubt, get tested and look out for the following symptoms:

    The symptoms can be subtle, and you may feel unwell for some time for no reason before the diagnosis is made. It used to be thought that coeliac disease affected about 1 in 1500 people. More accurate diagnosis through blood tests has shown that the condition affects up to 1 in 300 people in the United Kingdom, Europe and the USA. It is more common in some areas of the world, particularly on the west coast of Ireland, where 1 in every 100 people are thought to have coeliac disease. Coeliac disease can affect you at any age. It was thought to be more common in men, but probably occurs equally in men and women. One definite risk factor is a history of the condition in your family. Coeliac disease occurs in people who are genetically prone to it. If you have a parent, sibling or child with coeliac disease, you have a 10 per cent chance of also developing it. If you have an identical twin with coeliac disease, your chances increase to more than 70 per cent.

    Coeliac disease has many and varied symptoms, and symptoms in adults are different to those in children.

    Childhood symptoms

    In childhood symptoms do not appear until gluten-containing foods are introduced into the diet.

    • Poor appetite, irritability and a failure to gain weight are usually the first symptoms.
    • Pale, bulky stools that smell nasty.
    • Vomiting and diarrhoea, which can lead to a wrong diagnosis of gastroenteritis.
    • Swollen stomach.
    • Arm and leg muscles may become wasted and thin.

    Adult symptoms

    • weight loss with pale, offensive diarrhoea
    • constipation
    • abdominal bloating with wind.
    • extreme tiredness – which is a sign of anaemia
    • psychological problems like depression
    • bone pain and sometimes even fractures – which are due to thinning of the bones
    • ulcers in the mouth
    • a blistering, itchy skin rash mostly on the elbows and knees, called dermatitis herpetiformis.

    In one neurology clinic, several patients who, for no apparent reason, had difficulty walking and coordinating (ataxia) were tested for coeliac antibodies in the blood. A significant number were found to have coeliac disease, although many of them did not have any gut symptoms. Your doctor may also want to know whether you have lost weight or whether you have symptoms of anaemia (tiredness, exhaustion, pallor). The doctor may:

    • examine your abdomen
    • look for a blistering rash on your skin
    • check for mouth ulcers
    • Your doctor will check for anaemia, testing the levels of iron, folic acid and calcium in your blood

    Another blood test detects antibodies that are often found in coeliac disease. Several antibodies are linked to the condition, but the most specific is anti-endomysial antibody. If this is present in the blood, you are very likely to have coeliac disease.

    An endoscopy test is often used to diagnose coeliac disease. Your doctor should arrange this test at the endoscopy unit at your local hospital.

  3. Brainwashing through marketing

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    As I often do, I got into a long discussion the other evening about branding and marketing. What was clear on going through the foods most marketed is how the british breakfast has changed. Gone are the eggs on toast and more and more people are being targeted to eat sugary cereals. As I told one patient the other day, look at what is not being marketed and that is what you need to eat. When was the last time you saw an advert for scrambled eggs on toast? Well of course you never have as it’s near impossible to brand or market eggs.

    The hot topic food products discussed were probiotic yoghurts and drinks, cereals, fast food chains and so called beneficial margarines. There is a kind of brainwashing going on which people need to wake up to. Going to work on a sugar-based cereal will not fill you up, protein fills you up. Eating a snack bar mid morning will not make you lose weight because it is full of sugar, and will leave you starving. A probiotic yoghurt is so low in good bacteria that it will not magically make your IBS disappear. Apart from anything these products are expensive. A large bag of jumbo oats lasts twice as long as a packet of cereal.

    GPs are still shocked when I tell my patients that a scrape of organic butter will not kill you. Fat is not the enemy remember. During the recession the media kept banging on about the second world war which frankly I found quite irritating but diet-wise they had it spot on. Hardly any sugar was eaten and of course processed foods had barely got off the ground. Butter was eaten and exercise was taken.

    Just stop a minute when you are next shopping and ask yourself what is it that you are buying, and is it really good for your health or has someone told you it is so……

  4. How to successfully lose weight without dieting

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    Over the last twelve years, hundreds of people have come through my doors wanting to lose weight. I have listened to their stories of weight loss programmes, fad diets, shakes, weightwatchers, soup diets, lighterlife, slimming world, starving and binging. In the end it comes down to treating the individual in a way that looks at their particular lifestyle, health issues and metabolism. There are the lucky few that do lose a lot of weight on fad diets, but the majority pile it back on and the sense of failure only succeeds in worsening self esteem.

    Isn’t it better to completely forget the word diet, and go for a more upbeat phrase like “lifestyle change”. This implies you are in it for the long haul and more importantly, it has to be achieveable. You should never feel hungry or get cravings, your body should be well and vital. Your nutrient intake should be high and the quality of your food the best you can afford.

    Earlier this year a woman came to see me and started crying when she told me that her friend had lost 3 stone doing a shake diet and she hadn’t lost anything. She couldn’t maintain the 500 calorie a day programme, she felt ill and faint but more importantly she felt a failure. I assured her that it was a near impossible feat to live off that fewer calories when she had bad blood sugar control and a very stressful life. Nearly three months on, she has lost two stone with me and is amazed at how much food she is eating. Here’s what she has to say:

    “Since January Kate has asked me to eat five times a day combining protein with carbohydrate. I have never felt so full, but not in a bad way. She also put me on probiotics which has sorted out my bloating so my stomach feels flatter. What I have noticed apart from the weight loss and which I’m actually more pleased about is far greater energy and enthusiasm with life. I don’t get crashes in blood sugar any more, my headaches have cleared up and my whole attitude to food has changed. I was also really confused about food labelling and foods marketed for weight loss. Kate and I had an hysterical hour in Sainsburys as she took me around and really opened my eyes as to what to eat – it was a lot of fun and I learned so much. Whereas before it would be bottom of my list of priorities, I now go without other things so I can put my family’s health first. Our weekly food shop has completely changed. At first I was scared that it would cost so much more, but actually its about the same. As Kate told me when I saw her its a lifestyle change not something that lasts a couple of months and I’m so grateful that at last I have something that is achievable to do for not only myself but my family” .

  5. Nutrition myths debunked

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    Taken from this month’s newsletter, just out – to subscribe and receive the newsletter, click here.

    Scrambled eggs on toast1. A cooked breakfast is bad for you.
    Scrambled eggs on toast is a wonderful way to start the day rather than a sugary based cereal. Hold back on the fried bread and sausage though. A protein breakfast will leave you feeling fuller longer and keep your blood sugar levels stable until lunch and stop the urge to snack on sweet foods.

    2. Fat makes you fat/all fat is bad.
    This is the strongest held myth still talked about today. It’s a long-held nutrition myth that all fats are bad. But the fact is, we all need fat. It helps with the absorption of nutrients, nerve transmission, and helps to maintain cell membrane integrity. However, when consumed in excessive amounts, fats contribute to weight gain, heart disease and certain types of cancers. However not all fats are the same. Some fats can actually help promote good health. The key is to replace bad fats (saturated fats and trans fats) with good fats (monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats). It doesn’t make you fat either! When you eat fat, your body has to break it down into building blocks and then its absorbed. The fat you have in your body is not the same as  you eat. In fact, the fat naturally found in whole foods is fat you actually need for your body to function properly. Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) are a type of fat that you need to eat. This is why they are called essential. Your body cannot make them, so you must get them from food. Every cell in your body is partly made up of these EFA’s. To breathe, to have your heart beat, to run, walk, think, to make hormones, to remember anything, you need essential fatty acids. If you don’t have them in the food you eat, your body will not function properly, and the only place you can find them is in food that has naturally occurring fat e.g. oily fish, nuts and seeds etc. So if you try and cut fat out of your body, you will actually be causing harm and not really be doing anything to get rid of the fat already in your body.

    So if fat doesn’t make you fat – what does? The answer is sugar and refined carbohydrates. You have a relatively set amount of fat cells in your body. It is just a matter of how big those cells are. Sugar affects the size of your fat cells. This is because glucose is stored in your fat cells, and there is a “gate” that controls the movement of sugar in and out of your fat cells.  The key to this gate is insulin. Insulin is the key that opens the gate to the fat cells and allows excess glucose in the blood to go into the fat cells. So if you never eat anything that raises your blood sugar levels beyond normal, your body will not release insulin, and you will not get bigger fat cells. The body releases insulin to lower blood sugar levels that are too high. So sugar and refined carbohydrates are actually the largest contributing factor to why people are overweight. The ironic part of all of this, is that low fat foods usually have added sugar.

    Brown sugar3. Brown sugar is better than white sugar.
    The brown sugar sold in stores is usually white granulated sugar with added molasses. Even though it does contain minute amounts of minerals., you would need to eat a large portion of brown sugar every day to gain anything from these minimal amounts. Nutritionally I think unrefined brown sugar is better for cooking and eating as it does contain iron, chromium and minerals that are essential for health. Refined white sugar is the only “food” substance that has absolutely no nutrients in it whatsoever.

    4.  Avoid carbohydrate to lose weight.
    The key message that many low-carb diets convey is that carbohydrates promote insulin production, which in turn results in weight gain. Therefore by reducing carbohydrate intake, you can lose weight. Unfortunately, this is just another nutrition myth. Many low-carb diets actually do not provide sufficient carbohydrates to your body for daily maintenance. Therefore your body will begin to burn stored carbohydrates (glycogen) for energy. When your body starts burning glycogen, water is released. Therefore the drastic initial drop of weight at the beginning of a low-carb diet is mostly the water that you lose as a result of burning glycogen. The truth is that low-carb diets are also often calorie-restricted! Followers only eat an average of 1000 – 1400 calories daily, compared to an average intake of 1800 – 2200 calories for most people. To lose one pound a week, you only need to eat 500 fewer calories per day in your normal diet. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if you eat a high- or low-carb diet, you will lose weight if you decrease your caloric intake to less than needed to maintain your weight. However in my weight loss programme I do advise a higher ratio of protein to carbohydrate with every meal, with the emphasis on protein particularly for breakfast. So reduce carbohydrates a little when losing weight – do not cut them out totally.

    5. Nuts are fattening.
    Nuts can be quite “calorically dense” e.g. 15 cashews have 180 kilocalories! On top of that, it is very tough not to overeat these tasty snacks. If you can restrain yourself from overeating them, nuts can be a source of protein and a good snack food. It’s a nutrition myth that nut should be avoided. They are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats as well as plant sterols, all of which have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol. In 2003, the FDA approved a health claim for seven kinds of nuts stating that “scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces (45 grams) per day of most nuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.” Instead of simply adding nuts to your diet, the best approach is to eat them in replacement of foods high in saturated fats. If you are watching your weight you are probably avoiding nuts as they are high in fat – however nuts are high in protein, fibre, vitamins, selenium, other minerals and omega 3 oils. However, do avoid salted nuts and limit yourself to 8-10 nuts a day.

    6Water. Everyone should drink 8 glasses of water per day.
    You need to replace water lost through breathing, excrement and sweating each day – but that doesn’t necessarily total 64 ounces of water. It’s hard to measure the exact amount of water you have consumed daily in food and drink, but if your urine is pale yellow, you’re doing a good job. If it’s a darker yellow, drink more water. Daily requirements will vary according to your needs. Marathon runners will need more than sedentary workers and those of you taking medication may need more as well. The standard 1.5 litres is normal, but this will vary with the amounts of fruit and vegetables you eat and how active you are.

    7. Skipping meals can help lose weight.
    Many people think that by skipping a meal, they will be eating less food and therefore lose weight. As we now know, this is a nutrition myth. People who think skipping meals means weight loss do not understand how our bodies work. If you skip a meal, your body will think that you are in starvation mode and therefore slow down the metabolism to compensate. You then tend to overeat at the next meal. Often, skipping a meal and then eating too much at the next one means that you have a higher total caloric intake than if you just ate more frequently throughout the day. A better approach is to eat smaller frequent healthy meals and snacks to keep your blood sugar balanced.

    8. Red meat is bad for your health.
    I often hear people saying they avoid eating red meat. When I ask why they don’t, or even what they consider to be red meat, the answers vary dramatically. Many of my patients have studied the Eat Right for Your Blood Type and have discovered that they feel better when they eat red meat. However, it’s not right for everyone. Best avoided for those with gut problems, arthritis and high cholesterol or heart problems. If you do eat red meat choose lean cuts and try and by free range or organic. This does not include processed meat which should be avoided at all costs, but by all means enjoy a good roast lamb for Sunday lunch.

    9. Eat less food in hot weather.
    As the temperature outside rises your appetite may decrease. Even if you do not feel hungry you need to eat because you need as much energy to perspire and stay cool as you do to stay warm. If you do not find yourself eating so much in the summer months and lose a few pounds that’s fine but don’t forget to eat your quota of essential nutrients and remember to keep well hydrated. It’s key to keep an eye on your sodium and potassium levels in severe heat.

    10. Raw vegetables are better than cooked. Raw vegetables
    There is nothing wrong with raw vegetables but they are not always so nutritious as cooked. Some pulses such as red kidney beans contain a toxin which if not cooked can cause sickness and diarrhoea. Butter beans contain cyanide that could be dangerous if eaten raw. Some vegetables improve – cooking carrots or tomatoes helps to release carotenoids and lycopenes. However do remember when cooking vegetables to steam them and eat them al dente to retain as many of the nutrients as possible.

    11. Eating for two is necessary during pregnancy.
    Energy requirements vary among individuals. Unfortunately, the idea that pregnancy is an ice cream free-for-all is a nutrition myth. It is generally recommended that pregnant women increase their daily intake by 100 kcal in the first trimester and 300 kcal in the second and third trimesters. An extra snack before bedtime consisting of a fruit, a serving of milk or yogurt, and a few biscuits is often enough. A daily prenatal multivitamin supplement is often recommended during pregnancy, but not a daily bowl of ice cream! Trying to eat little and often whilst pregnant is also a good idea as it keeps blood sugar and energy levels stable.

    12. Brown grain products are whole grain products.
    Brown dyes and additives can give foods the deceiving appearance of whole grain. Read labels to be sure a food is whole grain. For example brown bread is not necessarily wholemeal bread it is often white bread died with caramel.

    13. Eating eggs will raise your cholesterol.
    This myth began because egg yolks have the most concentrated amount of cholesterol of any food. However, there’s not enough cholesterol there to pose health risks if eggs are eaten in moderation. Studies suggest that eating one egg per day will not raise cholesterol levels and that eggs are actually a great source of nutrients. Eggs contain Vitamin A,D, B12, niacin and protein and many are rich in omega 3 from the feed.

    14. Eating fibre causes problems if you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
    There are two kinds of fibre: soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fibre can cause problems in IBS sufferers; soluble fibre, however, is more easily absorbed by the body and helps prevent constipation for those with IBS. Soluble fibre is found in most grains, particularly porridge and psyllium husks are also a good source. For those with severe IBS, avoid bran cereals as they can be abrasive and make IBS worse. That can also be the case for a diet high in fruits and vegetables. Take it easy and see what works best for you.

    15. All alcohol is bad for you. Alcohol
    Again, moderation is key. Six ounces of wine and 12 ounces of beer are considered moderate amounts, and should not pose any adverse health effects to the average healthy adult. All alcohol is an anticoagulant and red wine also contains antioxidants, so drinking a small amount daily can be beneficial.

    16. Diet food is healthy food.
    Don’t get me started on this one! When you choose diet food you are probably not eating as well as you think. Calorie controlled ready meals are high in salt and sugar and the portions are tiny so they won’t fill you up. For example, some low fat biscuits contain more calories than regular varieties – that’s because the manufacturers have added more sugar to make them taste better – always check the label. When I do my home visits I’m always shocked at the amount of diet food in people’s cupboards and fridges. Stop choosing low fat and sugar free foods. Look at the back of the packet not at the front – that’s where you will see the real ingredients.

    17. Eating before bed makes you gain weight.
    Many diets recommend a carbohydrate curfew after 6pm. This limits the amount of calories you have a day and can also can give you a low blood sugar attack in the night as you would be going over 12 hours without food before breakfast. You will gain weight if you expend the calories you use in the day – when you eat them does not make the slightest bit of difference. However it’s not a good idea to go straight to bed after a heavy meal though.

    18. Diet drinks are healthy.
    Diet drinks may be low in calories but they are very acidic which can damage the tooth enamel. They also contain artificial sweeteners which can be toxic to the body. There is also evidence that the body responds to the sweeteners in the same way it does sugar, raising insulin levels and leaving you craving for more sweet food. Avoid them at all costs and choose juice, which can be diluted half and half with water.

    19. A vegetarian diet is healthier.
    A vegetarian diet can be extremely healthy if you are not relying heavily on cheese as your main protein source. Include pulses, tofu and nuts as well. Keep an eye on your iron and B12 levels as well.

    20. Eating any more than three meals a day will make me fat.
    Eating five smaller meals a day will keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day and balance your insulin levels Supplementsmaking it in fact easier to lose weight.

    21. Supplements are a waste of money.
    Not always. It’s important to get the right advice when choosing supplements. Some people need them and some don’t. It completely depends on your diet, lifestyle and overall health.

    22. Vitamin C stops a cold.
    Actually there is no research to back this up. Once you have the cold virus, you have it. Vitamin C can however boost your immune system on a general basis and you may catch fewer viruses but it can’t stop the virus itself.

  6. Latest newsletter: The outward signs of health problems, and personality types

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    Taken from this month’s newsletter, just out – to subscribe and receive the newsletter, click here.

    The outward signs of health problems

    As a complete unique individual you will have completely unique individual traits in not only your personality but also how you look. Starting with the eyes (often referred to as the windows of the soul) here are some symptoms that people suffer from and what they could (but not necessarily) mean:

    Glassy-eyed: too much adrenaline, exhaustion, prescription or recreational drug use
    Bloodshot: lack of vitamin B, tiredness, allergy, infection
    Itchy/dry: allergy, vitamin B deficiency or lack of tears (sjorgrens syndrome)
    Dark circles: tiredness, anaemia, parasites (often seen in children)
    Allergic shiners: usually seen in children – an allergy to a food or inhalant
    Photophobia: lack of vitamin B, migraine/headache sufferer
    Sunken eyes: dehydration/exhaustion
    Pallor under eyes: anaemia

    White spots on nail: calcium and/or zinc deficiency (often seen after an illness)
    Pitted nails: can indicate partial or total hair loss
    Ridges: vertical can indicate general poor health and horizontal can occur after severe

    Very slow: i.e. if under 50 bpm and little/no exercise done it can be braccycardia – a sign of hypothyroidism
    Fast/irregular pulse: heart conditions/anxiety

    Spots: there are many reasons for spots or acne. Usually where they are on the face can give a clue, e.g. around the chin and hairline is usually hormonal.
    Rashes: can indicate an allergy or fungal infection
    Dry and scaly: dehydrated, lack of vitamin A, lack of EFA’s (essential fatty acids)

    Skin colour:
    Lemon Yellow: lack of vitamin B12, pernicious anaemia
    White: anaemia, lack of zinc
    Orange: can indicate liver problems, jaundice
    Dark Pink/Red: high blood pressure/heart problems

    Athletes foot: fungal infection
    Easy bruising: can indicate a lack of vitamin C
    Dandruff: usually a fungal infection
    Psoriasis: stress, lack of EFA’s, allergy
    Eczema: stress, lack of EFA’s, allergy
    Vitiligo: autoimmune conditions/lack of PABA’s

    Cracked: lack of essential fatty acids or vitamin B
    Sores at the corners: lack of vitamin B3
    Dry: lack of EFA’s

    Dry mouth: dehydrated, medication or lack of saliva (sjorgrens syndrome)
    Ulcers on tongue: run down or allergy
    White coating round the gums: oral candida
    Bad breath: tooth decay or bad digestion

    Your personality

    Although there is no scientific basis whatsoever, I love the idea of the very old practice of humors. Ancient Greek philosophers such as Hippocrates (400 BC) and Galen (140/150 AD) classified four types of “humors” in people. Each type was believed to be due to an excess of one of four bodily fluids, corresponding to their character. The personalities were termed “humors”. All diseases and disabilities resulted from an excess or deficit of one of these four humors. The four humors were identified as black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood. Greeks and Romans, and the later Muslim and Western European medical establishments that adopted and adapted classical medical philosophy, believed that each of these humors would wax and wane in the body, depending on diet and activity. When a patient was suffering from a surplus or imbalance of one fluid, then his or her personality and physical health would be affected. This theory was closely related to the theory of the four elements: earth, fire, water and air – earth was predominantly present in the black bile, fire in the yellow bile, water in the phlegm, and all four elements were present in the blood. Theophrastus then developed a set of characters based on the humors. Those with too much blood were sanguine. Those with too much phlegm were phlegmatic. Those with too much yellow bile were choleric, and those with too much black bile were melancholic. Here are the general personality types of those humors:

    A person who is sanguine is generally light-hearted, fun loving, a people person, loves to entertain, spontaneous, and confident. However they can be arrogant, cocky, and indulgent. He/She can be day-dreamy and off-task to the point of not accomplishing anything and can be impulsive, possibly acting on whims in an unpredictable fashion. The humour of Sanguine was once commonly treated with leeches.

    A person who is choleric is a doer. They have a lot of ambition, energy, and passion, and try to instil it in others. They can dominate people of other temperaments, especially phlegmatic types. Many great charismatic military and political figures were cholerics. On the negative side, they are easily angered or bad-tempered.

    A person who is a thoughtful ponderer has a melancholic disposition. Often very kind and considerate, melancholics can be highly creative – as in poetry and art – but also can become overly pre-occupied with the tragedy and cruelty in the world, thus becoming depressed. A melancholic is also often a perfectionist, being very particular about what they want and how they want it in some cases. This often results in being dissatisfied with one’s own artistic or creative works and always pointing out to themselves what could and should be improved. They are often loners and most times choose to stay alone and reflect.

    While phlegmatic are generally self-content and kind, their shy personality can often inhibit enthusiasm in others and make themselves lazy and resistant to change. They are very consistent, relaxed, rational, curious, and observant, making them good administrators and diplomats. Like the sanguine personality, the phlegmatic has many friends. However the phlegmatic is more reliable and compassionate; these characteristics typically make the phlegmatic a more dependable friend.

    As I said, the humors have no scientifically proven basis, and are out of favour now. Like an astrology chart though, part of the thought process does have a sense of… something.

    Type A and B personalities

    If we bring things up to date slightly, our 21st century equivalent is the Type A and Type B personality, first suggested by Meyer Friedman, an American cardiologist, who noticed in the 1940s that the chairs in his waiting room got worn out from the edges. He hypothesized that his patients were driven, impatient people, who sat on the edge of their seats when waiting. They labelled these people “Type A” personalities. Type A personalities are workaholics, always busy, driven, somewhat impatient, and so on. Type B personalities, on the other hand are laid back and easy going. “Type A personality” has found its way into our general vocabulary.  Since its inception, the theory has been widely popularized and also widely criticised for its scientific shortcomings. It is thought to be that Type As tend to get more fatigue syndromes (the yuppie burn out so common in the ’80s and ’90s), and also heart disease, than Type Bs.

    Type A can be described as impatient, time-conscious, concerned about their status, highly competitive, ambitious, business-like, aggressive, having difficulty relaxing; and are sometimes disliked by individuals with Type B personalities for the way that they’re always rushing. They are often high-achieving workaholics who multi-task, drive themselves with deadlines, and are unhappy about delays. Because of these characteristics, Type A individuals are often described as “stress junkies.”

    Type B individuals, in contrast, are described as patient, relaxed, and easy-going, generally lacking any sense of urgency. Because of these characteristics, Type B individuals are often described as apathetic and disengaged.

    Whatever your personality, there are certain traits individual to you that make you unique. That is why for me no one is ever treated the same. It’s extraordinary how two people with two similar health problems have completely different symptoms, coping strategies and outlooks and that’s why I love my job so much! Again there is no scientific basis on constitutions but we use them in everyday language, i.e. he has the stomach of an ox. There are also certain types of people that are forever strong – Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill showed the same ‘never show weakness’ mentality. Churchill lived into his nineties and smoked and drank, and I look at people like the actress June Brown (Dot Cotton), 81 years old, who smokes and drinks and gets away with it whilst still working full time. For me these people have strong constitutions and good genes, but maybe its more simple than that – perhaps they have a more healthy way of coping with stress than others (more of that in another newsletter!).

  7. Dispatches on cereals, probiotics, and sugar

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    The wonderful Dispatches on Channel 4 last night put breakfast right under the spotlight. A much needed documentary into the marketing hype around breakfast cereals and probiotic drinks. As some of you are aware I drone on and on about the high sugar content in cereals and the lack of scientific research into probiotic drinks. Many of my patients have thought that sitting down to cereal each morning was a good thing, but the high sugar content even in adults can have a roller coaster effect on the blood sugar – and we don’t want that in children either. Always READ THE LABELS. Even the plainest looking cereals can be packed full of glucose-fructose syrup. A protein based breakfast like scrambled eggs on toast or good old fashioned oats, or fruit and live yoghurt is a good way to start the day. As for probiotic drinks, I think they are a total waste of money. Real probiotics and prebiotics come from a good diet, live yoghurt, garlic, onions, leeks etc and if you feel you need a supplement then see my newsletter/blog on what to buy. The probiotic drinks themselves have even more sugar in them, so many people are sitting down to a sugar based breakfast – if thats what you want – just have a bar of chocolate instead!!!

  8. Keeping your immunity in peak condition and how to prevent getting ill in the first place

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    (From an article featured on my monthly newsletter – click here to sign up for regular updates)


    When we think about immunity we often forget about our gut. Seventy per cent of the body’s immune system is in the gut, so keeping it healthy is crucial. Let’s look firstly at probiotics. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria normally present in the digestive tract. They are vital for proper digestion and also perform a number of other useful functions such as preventing the overgrowth of yeast and other pathogens, and synthesizing vitamin K. The probiotics most often used as supplements are acidophilus and bifidobacteria. Cultured fermented foods also contain various types and amounts of beneficial bacterias. These foods include buttermilk, cheese, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, tempe and yoghurt. The digestive tract is known as the gut associated immune system. Incomplete digested foods can result in immune reactions like allergies. Whether you succumb to infections is also linked by your balance of gut flora. Probiotics produce substances which stop harmful bacteria growing. They are nature’s antibiotics. They keep E coli, enterobacteria, staphylococci, salmonella and campylobacter at bay and help prevent food poisoning. But they don’t just stop there – probiotics give pathogenic bacteria a hard time and boost your immune system so are useful in all types of disease from cancer to allergies.

    The two main types of good bacteria are acidophilus and bifidobacteria. Acidophilus has antifungal properties that help to reduce blood cholesterol levels, aid digestion and enhance the absorption of nutrients. The flora in a healthy gut should consist of at least 85 per cent lactobacilli and 15 percent coli form bacteria. However, the typical colon bacteria count is usually the reverse. This can result in gas, bloating intestinal and systemic toxicity, constipation and malabsorption of nutrients.

    Taking supplements help to combat all of these problems by reintroducing the intestinal flora for a healthier balance. There are many good acidophilus supplements available. Acidophilus products come in tablet, capsule and powered forms. Non dairy formulas are best for those who have dairy intolerance. Acidophilus can die at high temperatures. Keep it in a cood dry place, refrigerate it but don’t freeze it.

    Bifidobacteria aid in the synthesis of the B vitamins by creating healthy intestinal flora. These are the predominant organisms in the intestinal flora and establish a healthy environment for the manufacture of the B complex vitamins. When you take antibiotics, the friendly bacteria in your digestive tract are destroyed along with the harmful bacteria. Supplementing your diet can help you maintain a healthy intestinal flora. Unhealthy flora can result in the liberation of abnormally high levels of ammonia as protein containing foods are digested. This irritates the intestinal membranes and in addition the ammonia is absorbed in the blood stream and must be detoxified by the liver or it can cause nausea, a decrease in appetite, vomiting and other toxic reactions. By promoting the proper digestion of foods the friendly bacteria also aid in preventing digestive disorders such as constipation and gas as well as food allergies. If digestion is poor, the activity of intestinal bacteria on undigested food may lead to excessive production of the body chemical histamine which triggers allergic symptoms. So in the coming months if you feel your immunity is low, it is worth taking a daily probiotic supplement. As some of you know I’m not a fan of the probiotic drinks, as they are expensive and the levels of good bacteria in them are low. For those sensitive to dairy foods, they are not suitable and they contain sugar. Eating a diet high in probiotic foods will serve you just as well and these include: leeks, onions, garlic, shallots, asparagus, artichokes, fruit and vegetables and a high soluble fibre diet encourages the right bacteria.

    Vitamin D

    As the cold and flu season approaches, Vitamin D’s benefits on the immune system function are more important than ever. Medical research shows that maintaining high levels of Vitamin D is one of the best things people can do to help fight off colds and flu. It plays a major role in supporting immune function and is known to be an effective agent against inflammation, which is typically caused by flu and other respiratory viruses. By helping modulate the body’s response to respiratory viruses, it helps prevent dangerous and even fatal build up of fluid in the lungs. Though as yet there is no clinical evidence that supplemental Vitamin D can be considered a flu preventative or treatment, there is ample evidence that low levels of the vitamin are associated with higher incidence of a wide range of serious illnesses, including respiratory infections. In addition, numerous studies have shown that people with high levels of the vitamin appear to be less likely to contract flu and other respiratory viruses. Long recognised as important to bone health and strength, Vitamin D has recently been identified as crucial to almost all aspects of health. Deficiency has been recognised as a global health problem, and has been implicated as a factor in a host of illnesses and disorders including cancer, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. In addition, low levels of the vitamin have been associated with depression, chronic pain, birth defects, and periodontal disease. Because sun exposure is necessary to stimulate the body’s production of the vitamin, some researchers speculate that the indoor lifestyle and weaker UV rays of winter weather make the traditional cold and flu season even more of a challenge. There are relatively few dietary sources of the vitamin, so without adequate sun exposure deficiency is very common. The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies, responsible for establishing Recommended Dietary Allowances of various nutrients, set an RDA of 200 mgs of Vitamin D per day. That recommendation has been questioned as being insufficient, and in 2008 the American Association of Paediatrics announced a new recommendation that literally doubled the existing RDA to 400 IU per day. The AAP recommends that supplementation begin in the first two days after birth.

    Our bodies make natural antibiotics called anti microbial peptides and it is thought that vitamin D increases the production of these. Is it then just coincidence that there are fewer bugs around in the summer than in the winter? Children with rickets (lack of vitamin D) often have more infections. It was first thought that this was due to weakened bones but its more probably down to a lack of vitamin D. Vitamin D is found in fish liver oils, butter, cod liver oil, egg yolks, halibut, liver, milk, oats, salmon, sardines, sweet potatoes, tuna and vegetables oil. Vitamin D is also made by the body in response to the action of sunlight on the skin. Herbs that contain vitamin D include alfalfa, horsetail nettle and parsley. Any intestinal disorders and liver and gallbladder malfunctions can interfere with the absorption of vitamin D and also some cholesterol lowering drugs, antacids, mineral oils and steroid hormones can also interfere with the absorption. The message here is get out in the sunlight, particularly in winter, as much as possible.


    I could write a thesis on garlic – it’s my favourite natural food supplement. To me garlic is one of the most valuable foods on the planet. It has been used since biblical times and has a mention in the literature of the ancient Hebrews and Egyptians. The builders of the pyramids supposedly ate garlic daily for endurance and strength. It is a potent immune system stimulant and a natural antibiotic. Garlic contains an amino acid derivative called alliin. When converted to allicin, garlic has an antibiotic effect that exerts an antibacterial effect estimated to equivalent 1 percent of penicillin. Because of its antibiotic properties garlic was used to treat wounds and infection and to prevent gangrene during the first world war. There is also some evidence that it can destroy certain viruses. If you can’t cope with it raw, roasted and stir fried you can take Aged Kyolic Garlic from Quest. The versatility of garlic is amazing: it has antioxidant properties; the sulphur and hydrogen compounds in garlic are potent chelators of toxic heavy metals binding them so they can be excreted. These same compounds are effective protectors against oxidation and free radical damage. Garlic aids in the detoxification of peroxides such as hydrogen peroxide and helps to prevent fats from being oxidised and deposited in the tissues and arteries. Studies on aged garlic extract (AGE) have shown that the aging process boosts the antioxidant potential. AGE protects against DNA damage, keeps blood vessels healthy, and guards against radiation and sunlight damage. If you’re worried about garlic choose an odourless form, like AGE or try chewing parsley.

    Vitamin C

    Vitamin C is an antioxidant that is required for at least three metabolic functions in the body including; tissue growth, repair of adrenal gland function and healthy gums. It also aids in the production of anti stress hormones and interferon. Studies have shown that taking vitamin C can recede symptoms of asthma and it protects against the harmful effects of pollution, helps to prevent cancer, protects against infection and enhances immunity. Vitamin C increases the absorption of iron, so they are often taken together. As we are unable to make it ourselves, it must be obtained through the diet or in the form of a supplement. Alcohol, analgesics, antidepressants, oral contraceptives and steroids may reduce the levels of vitamin C in the body but smoking causes a serious depletion of this vitamin, more so than anything else. Be careful taking large amounts of ascorbic acid as this can lead to stomach irritation – trying taking non ascorbate acid e.g. magnesium or calcium ascorbate. I’ve never found personally or professionally that vitamin C stops a cold or flu but certainly it’s worth taking 1g daily in the flu and cold season to boost the immune system.


    One of the most important factors in preventing flu and colds is hygiene. Contrary to popular belief, viruses are not usually airborne. The two main ways they spread are: firstly, if someone who is infected sneezes or coughs and you come in contact with the virus in the air; and secondly, if you touch an object which may have the virus and you then touch your eyes, mouth or nose. I don’t want you all becoming OCD about hand washing(!) but washing your hands thoroughly can reduce your likelihood of catching viruses by a whopping 35%. It’s common for people to touch their nose, eyes and mouth. Most of these actions are sub-conscious, like licking your tongue for flipping pages of a book or a magazine. As soon as you feel an itch you immediately rub or scratch your eyes. Remember the virus can be anywhere – a door knob, a remote control, phones, computer keyboards, etc. All you need to do is keep washing your hands with soap and water frequently. And most importantly, stop touching your face. Try and wash your hands before handling food and eating, putting on contact lenses, going to the loo, blowing your nose, or coughing and sneezing, touching animals, handling rubbish, smoking, changing nappies and door handles, going into hospital or visiting sick or injured people.


    Otherwise known as purple coneflower, this herb has amazing properties. Cells are glued together with the help of hyaluronic acid. Bad bacteria like staphylococci and streptococci produce hyaluronidase which dissolves the “glue” allowing the bacteria to get in to the cell membrane. Echinacea has an active constituent with neutralises the hyaluronidase and stops the bacteria from spreading, leaving the white blood cells to deal with the infection locally. Cell membranes have receptor sites to which viruses attach themselves and each have molecules which block the receptor sites so that viruses cannot become attached. It will also increase the activity of the immune system by activating the coding of T cells. Generally it fights inflammation and bacterial and viral infection and stimulates certain white blood cells. Echinacea is good for the immune system, colic, colds, flu and infectious illnesses. It should not be taken for long periods of time with people with autoimmune disorders, and it’s best not to take it all year round, but now is an excellent time of year to start. Some of my patients swear by it and say they never get ill during the winter. You can buy it in a tincture in drops or in tablets. I prefer the tincture as it’s more potent.

    Before you get the flu, general symptoms of an impaired immune system include fatigue, repeated infections, inflammation, allergic reactions, oral thrush and slow wound healing. It is estimated that a healthy adult will catch on average two colds per year – people who have more colds and infections are likely to have some problem with their immune function.

  9. Bread – what is it we are actually eating?

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    (From an article featured on my monthly newsletter – click here to sign up for regular updates)

    http://farm1.static.flickr.com/121/307745952_aba643d082_m.jpgBread is part of the staple diet of millions of people – but what is it that we are now actually eating? Bread has been made since the dawn of civilisation – in fact, it can be argued that bread is the foundation stone of civilisation as we know it, and it still forms part of the staple diet of millions of people around the world. Every day thousands of children ask for their daily bread when reciting the Lord’s prayer. But what is it exactly that they’re actually praying for? If they knew then they may well have second thoughts.

    Lets start with some facts. Changes in bread making have been quite drastic over the last 40 years. In 1961 The Chorleywood Bread Process was created, which used chemical additives, intense energy and high quantities of yeast to produce the maximum amount of loaves in the shortest time. Mostly all bread in the UK is made by this method or one that uses similar additives.

    The trouble comes if dough is not allowed to ferment for several hours. Natural bacteria doesn’t then have a chance to destroy harmful elements in the dough and therefore make important nutrients available to the human body. There is also the addition of genetically modified enzymes, added to flour and dough to make loaves larger and more “squishy”, so they have a longer shelf life. Worryingly some recent research has suggested that transglutaminase, an enzyme used in baking and food manufacturing, may change the gliadin protein in wheat flour into a form that may be toxic to the human body. If you’re thinking going organic will solve this problem, think again as even organic loaves made the same way can contain this, and cause the same problem.

    We have bred wheat to produce high yields in intensive growing conditions with little regard for its nutritional quality. Modern varieties have 30-50 per cent fewer minerals than traditional ones. Fast roller milling separates grain into its constituent parts so effectively that white flour has up to 88 per cent less of a range of minerals and vitamins than whole wheat. A recent study showed that organic stone-ground flour had 50 per cent more magnesium and 46 per cent more zinc than chemically grown roller-milled flour. So, what about refined flour – why is it so bad? Modern roller milling is extremely efficient at stripping away the nutrient rich outer layers of wheat grains, leaving behind not much more than starch and gluten. Additionally, the heat generated by the process actually destroys some of the compounds. Compared to whole wheat, refined white flour is highly depleted. These are the average amount of vitamin loss: Vitamin E 93%, Vitamin B6 87% ,Vitamin B2 81% ,Vitamin B3 80%, Iron 70% and Calcium 56%.

    To clear up any confusion, white bread is no longer bleached – they stopped that in the late 1990’s. Soya flour is often added to whiten it. Wholemeal or wholegrain will guarantee you the benefit of grain, however a loaf labelled “brown bread,” could be white flour coloured with caramel. Again, check the labels.

    Ok, so hopefully now you can see that bread is not all it appears. What ingredients should be in a real loaf? Simply… flour, water, yeast and a little salt.

    Let’s have a look at what other lovelies are now being added:

    E481 (sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate), E472e (mono- and diacetyl tartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids), E920 (l-cysteine), E282 (calcium propionate), E220 (potassium sorbate), E300 (ascorbic acid), E260 (acetic acid). Soya flour, vegetable fat and dextrose are just some of the other things that you might find in industrial bread.

    Bread additives explained
    Calcium Propionate. This is used to inhibit mould growth in bread – meaning that the bread has a much longer shelf life. However as well as being toxic to mould, calcium propionate can also be toxic to humans; possible side effects include: migraines and headaches, stomach upsets, skin rashes, nasal congestion, depression, tiredness, irritability, restlessness and attention problems to name but a few.

    Mono-and diglycerides. These chemicals are known as emulsifiers and are found in a variety of baked goods. Basically they allow oily substances and watery ones to mix more efficiently and give the finished bread a smoother texture. Mono and diglycerides have the additional function of prolonging the life of bread by keeping it from becoming stale.

    Potassium bromate. When added to bread, this acts as a dough conditioner and strengthener. Under the proper baking conditions, this additive is completely used up and doesn’t pose a threat to health. In certain cases where the bread isn’t baked long enough or at the proper temperature, small amounts may remain in the bread. This is of some concern since potassium bromate is classified as a possible carcinogen and banned in Europe as a food additive. This is best avoided when possible.

    Dextrose. Sometimes you’ll see dextrose on the ingredient list of a packaged bread. It is just another term for sugar. A small amount of sugar can be used when baking bread to provide fuel for the yeast that help the bread to rise.

    Sodium stearoyl lactate. This food additive helps to give the bread a lighter, more uniform texture. There doesn’t appear to be any significant health issues associated with its use although those with lactose intolerance, may find it exacerbates their symptoms.

    Partially hydrogenated oils. The other name for these undesirable food additives are trans fats. You’ve probably already heard about the health dangers of trans fats. If you see mention of any type of partially hydrogenated oil or fractionated oil on a bread ingredient label, steer clear of it.

    You may remember in a past newsletter about food labelling that I compared two packets of crisps and told you as a rule of thumb the lesser ingredients on the packet the better. This does not count when looking at the ingredients in bread. Due to an extraordinary labelling law the manufacturer does not legally have to declare that the following can also be added: phospholipase (can be pig or GM origin), fungal alpha amylase 9 (a known inhalant allergen), transglutaminase, xylanase, maltogenic amylase, hemicellulase, oxidase, peptidase and protease. I won’t bore you with what they are but wanted you to be aware that they can be in your loaf sitting in your bread bin as you read this!

    I think of myself as a rational human being(!), however if I eat bread with anti-mould agent in it, I feel like I’ve either been drugged or had to much alcohol and it takes about six hours to pass. You might like to ask yourself the question: is it the natural ingredients you are intolerant to – i.e. gluten, yeast etc., or is the additives? It doesn’t surprise me that people are riddled with symptoms when they eat “bad” bread because our poor bodies haven’t adapted to know how to digest this toxic loaf.

    So enough of the doom and gloom. What can you do to ensure that you are eating delicious “real” bread? Well, there are several options and it is quite possible to obtain bread without additives. Firstly try and use local bakeries – the bread is usually of better quality and you can chat with the baker and ask what is put in the loaf. If you don’t know how to, go on a bread making course and learn to make proper real bread. Get a bread making machine and use really good ingredients – after the initial cost of the machine, each loaf should cost about 50pence. After going out of fashion, bread making machines are back in vogue!. Obviously avoid breads that have the above ingredients where you can. You can buy additive free bread and slice it and freeze it, if you are concerned about it going off. Use companies that are still making bread in a real way. Try www.village-bakery.com or go to www.realbreadcampaign.org for more information. For those of you who are really interested in this topic, I’d recommended these great books:
    Bread Matters: The State of Modern Bread and a Definitive Guide to Baking Your Own by Andrew Whitley – or,
    Bread: River Cottage Handbook No. 3 by Daniel Stevens, if you are looking to make your own bread.

    Coeliac disease
    If you think you have a problem digesting bread and have vague symptoms, go and see your GP who can arrange a blood test. These will include tissues transglutaminase antibody (tTGA) and/or endomysial antibody (EMA). More often than not it will come back negative. Coeliac disease is not just a bit of bloating, it is actually classed as an autoimmune disease. Symptoms can include: bloating, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhoea, excessive wind, heartburn, indigestion, constipation, any combination of iron, vitamin B12 or folic acid deficiency, tiredness, headaches, weight loss (but not in all cases), recurrent mouth ulcers, hair loss (alopecia), skin rashes (dermatitis herpetiformis) joint or bone pain, neurological (nerve) problems such as ataxia, (poor muscle co-ordination), and neuropathy (numbness and tingling in the hands and feet). It is hard for GPs to diagnose as you can see the symptoms are varied and some quite common.

    “Coeliac disease affects 1 in 100 people in the UK however research suggests that only 1 in 8 of those affected have been diagnosed leaving 500,000 million people undiagnosed and at risk.” The Coeliac Society

    Dr Chris Steele, resident doctor of ITV’s This Morning and Ambassador for Coeliac UK said “I strongly support the need to raise awareness among the medical profession for diagnosing coeliac disease. It is often misunderstood and misdiagnosed. Working together we can help find the half million people in the UK who are undiagnosed and ensure they receive the best advice and assistance.”

    The average length of diagnosis is 13 years. Go to www.coeliac.org.uk for more help and information.

    If you are not coeliac that doesn’t mean you don’t have problems digesting grains. There are IgE allergy tests for rye, oats, barley, maize (corn) wheat etc. which can be most useful to eliminate any underlying allergy problem. Sadly, these are not usually available on the NHS. Before you do this though, check the loaf of bread in the bread bin. You might want to swap it and see if the symptoms go. There will be a bread out there that doesn’t cause symptoms. Rotate bread types – pita or flattened breads often have less yeast, or try rye, spelt, gluten free etc. and more often than not you will find a bread that does suit you. If you guts are in good shape, you should be able to eat bread twice a day. It’s not a good idea to start the day with a grain based cereal, then have a sandwich for lunch and then pasta in the evening – that may be too much. Keeping a food and symptom diary might help eliminate the problem. Bread is so useful it seems a shame to eliminate it totally from the diet.

    (From an article featured on my monthly newsletter – click here to sign up for regular updates)

  10. Coffee and nutrition – the facts

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    (From an article featured on my monthly newsletter – click here to sign up for regular updates)


    • Globally a third of our liquid consumption is coffee. So for every three glasses of water being ingested, one cup of coffee is being drunk.
    • 7 million tonnes of coffee will be produced by 2010.
    • Health benefits from coffee are contradictory. Although coffee does contain antioxidants it has a negative effect on some health problems: e.g. it can increase acid reflux and interfere with the absorption of iron. Research suggests that drinking caffeinated coffee can cause a temporary increase in the stiffening of arterial walls, so it should be avoided if you suffer from high blood pressure. It is not good to drink if you are suffering from mental health issues, anxiety and depression or get heart palpitations.
    • Over 1,000 chemicals have been reported in roasted coffee; more than half of those tested are rodent carcinogens (and if you are wondering, decaffeinated can be even worse!).

    White sugar is highly addictive and can cause mayhem with your blood sugar. Sugar has been implicated in aggressive behaviour, anxiety, hyperactivity and ADHD, depression, eating disorders, fatigue and PMS. It is the one food that has no nutritional value whatsoever and the one food I am constantly trying to get my clients off when they are losing weight (rather than fat!). Because it is refined it has been stripped of all its minerals. Unrefined sugar like black strap molasses is still sweet but it has food value as it is high in chromium, b vitamins and iron. So if you need something sweet choose unrefined products instead.

    We are now consuming 38 kilos of sugar per person on average per year and with it the nations health is declining fast. During the second world war and after with rationing we were averaging less than a kilo per year. The bottom line is that sugar sells and the more we eat the more we crave and have less room for slow release carbohydrates. If you go back to the dawn of time and analyse the diet of cavemen, it was 65% carbohydrate, 17% protein and 16% fat. Today the stats are very different at 28% carbohydrate, 20% sugar, 40% fat and 12 % protein,

    Avoiding the sugar ‘rollercoaster’ by learning how to control your blood sugar levels is a great way to lessen depression and raise energy levels. Cut back on highly refined and sugar rich foods which create a surge in blood sugar that gives a burst of energy which is then followed by an all time low in both mood and energy. Your brain needs a constant supply of sugar for energy and by eating foods that cause this rollercoaster effect you disrupt brain function and neurotransmitter balance which results in poor mood stability. By focusing on foods that release sugar slowly and consistently into the blood stream like complex carbohydrates and by eating protein with each meal and snack you can start to change and lift your mood.

    I’m not trying to be a killjoy and say never drink coffee or have white sugar, (I’m all for a little of what you fancy does you good) but just check in every now and again to see if you are over doing it and try and find natural highs from good foods.