For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Home is Where the Central Cardio-pulmonary Organ Is, and see what else has been going on.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Glass ceiling?

I haven't been following US politics deliberately, but with my daily practice of going through the news every morning, I can't help but read at least a little. I don't envy those of you in the US, with having to choose between McCain and Obama. (Not that I feel much better about our own choices, should we find ourselves with an election this fall.)

McCain's choice of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, however caught my attention. She's pretty much the only US governor I can actually say I know anything about. I've read articles and interviews about her in my perusal of global warming stories. She came across, to me, as someone with a good head on her shoulders, and a strong backbone. With her to balance some of McCain's bandwagon hopping, I felt this was a great improvement.

Imagine my surprise, then, to read the headlines the next day. The very first general news site I visit had a headline describing Palin as an "Ex-beauty Queen." WTF??? What does that have to do with anything? The story didn't mention it again, it was only in the headline. Why was it there at all? Seriously - who cares?

Apparently, a lot of people. Silly me.

Before long, more stories cropped up, this time going on about her pro-life stance, and the fact that she's religious and goes to church regularly. Clearly, these articles were meant to somehow make her seem scary.

It was bad enough reading about all the woman that supposedly dream about Obama. My husband told me that, on one of his online martial arts groups, there's an active discussion over who the group's members would rather sleep with - Palin or Michelle Obama. Even otherwise sane commenters on blogs I visit regularly had people making comments about her attractiveness, as if it had any bearing on her ability to be VP of the US. As least they weren't crude about it, as in other places.

In various speeches, comments were made about cracking the glass ceiling for women. So long as crap like this goes on, we've got a long way to go. It's friggin' disgusting.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I'm a bit confused...

The news is still filled with stories about the meat recalls due to listeria, a very common bacteria. Maple Leaf Foods chose to recall all 200+ of their products, even though listeria was only found in 23 of them, and shut down the plant that the tainted meat had come from.

Fair enough.

Now, here's what I don't understand. I keep seeing things like polls asking questions along the lines of "will you stop eating meat" or comments from pretentious vegetarians saying "see - meat is dangerous, everyone should go veg, nya-nya-nya" and so on.

Why on earth would tainted products showing up in packaged deli meat be a reason to stop eating meat? For starters listeria is found all over the place, including fruits and veggies (especially organic ones, as they are more likely to use manure for fertilizer), soft cheeses, dairy products, seafood, water, soil, etc. So going vegetarian won't reduce the risk of contacting listeria. However, as far as I can tell, it's only the packaged meats - deli meats in particular - that are a problem. I stopped buying packaged deli meats years ago because I found they spoiled almost as soon as the package was opened (and no, it wasn't just Maple Leaf brand, but all brands). Once in a rare while, I'll buy some packaged bacon or maybe some sausage. The packaged meat I'd buy most frequently was hot dogs, and that's still a fairly rare treat, too. If I did buy deli meat, I got it at the deli. Not only was the meat fresher and I could get exactly how much I wanted, I found it a lot cheaper.

None of these things do I currently have in my home, by the way, and I haven't for quite some time. I buy fresh meat and freeze it at home, or sometimes already frozen meats. None of which is effected by the recall.

So why are so many people talking about cutting out meat completely because of this? I mean, if you want to go veg, go ahead, but don't delude yourself into thinking you'll be safe from listeria for it! Especially if you eat any of your fruits and veggies raw.

Monday, August 25, 2008

I never would have thought of this...

... but now that it's been brought up, it does make sense.

Wind farms are already known to be a danger to birds because they fly into the blades. Now we know that the drop in air pressure caused by the blades kill bats by causing the blood vessels in their lungs to burst!

Study find wind turbines can kill bats without touching them.

Canadian researchers have found wind turbines can kill bats without them actually flying into the blades.

Scientists at the University of Calgary have discovered that bats can die from a lowering in the air pressure close to the blades of the turbines which causes fatal damage to the bats' lungs. A similar condition is called the bends in humans and can occur during ascents and descents by divers and airline passengers.

"As a turbine blade goes around, it creates lift—like an airplane's wings—and there is a small zone of [dropping] pressure, maybe a meter or so in diameter, on the tips of the blades," explained Erin Baerwald, a doctoral candidate at the University of Calgary, in Alberta, who led the research.

"Bats fly through this area, and their lungs expand, and the fine capillaries around the edges of the lungs burst," Baerwald said to the National Geographic.

Alberta wind farms prove deadly for bats.

Air pressure changes caused by wind farms are killing large numbers of bats, say biologists who are studying the tiny corpses falling out of the sky near turbines in southern Alberta.

They say the bats' lungs over-inflate as air pressure drops near the fast-spinning turbines bursting blood vessels and capillaries.

"Their lungs fill with fluid and they can no longer breathe," says Erin Baerwald, of the University of Calgary, lead author of a report on the bat deaths released Monday by the journal Current Biology.

What a horrible way to die. :-(

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Book Review: The Whole Soy Story Part two - the review

Part One here.

The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America’s Favorite Health Food
Author: Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN

Part Two

The book is highly detailed, somewhat technical, but very accessible to the layman. Dr. Daniel doesn’t dumb the subject down for readers, but simply explains what things are and what they do, clearly assuming the reader is intelligent enough to understand her descriptions and follow along. Throughout the book are also text boxes of extra information, ranging from research data and quotes to stories recounted by individuals describing things that happened to themselves or their children.

Reading this book has certainly been an eye opening experience. Several times, I’d find myself going from the book to my cupboards or fridge. I had always assumed that the soy sauce we used was fermented soy sauce – how else is soy sauce made? – only to discover that it wasn’t. We are not a soy eating family, yet we found that we’ve actually been eating quite a lot of products with soy or soy derivatives.

I was also greatly surprised at the many things associated with soy products. It was no surprise to learn that soy estrogens had negative effects on males, but the effects on both males and females of all ages was greater than I expected. To read about connections between soy and ADD/ADHD, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, both hyper- and hypo-thyroidism, precocious puberty in girls, disrupted sexual development in boys, and a long list of other health problems were frequent light bulb moments. I kept seeing parallels between what I was reading in The Whole Soy Story and information I was reading elsewhere.

Just as one example, there’s the “obesity epidemic.” There are all sorts of people lamenting how kids today are so fat, and it’s because they’re lazy, screen-addicted, junk food eating brats too slothful to get their butts outside to run around or play sports. Or, it’s because their parents are too stupid to feed them properly, and too inept to get their lazy kids off the couch and outside to play, driving them everywhere, etc. Never mind that study after study has shown that larger kids are no less active than thin kids, and that their diets are no different. A particular description of kids today that kept popping into my mind was of boys who are so fat, they have breasts. Meanwhile, I find myself reading of how soy estrogens affect children, including weight gain and the development of breasts in boys!

At this point, I want to add some personal parallels in our own lives. Dh has been struggling with his health for many years, though things are greatly improved with the treatment of his sleep apnea. Recently, however, he had been having an increase in troubles that led to him missing quite a lot of work and generally having a really hard time of things. As I was reading the book, I kept finding symptoms described that matched what my husband was going through. We are not a soy eating family, so a connection seemed far fetched, until we started looking more closely at ingredient lists and discovering just how much soy we have been unknowingly eating. My husband, meanwhile, went to the doctor who wrote him up for some very extensive blood work. When the results came in, one of the first things the doctor told my husband to do was cut out soy products. He then gave my husband a number of prescriptions to hopefully get his body functioning normally again. My husband developed an intolerance for dairy products late in life – somewhere around his early 30’s or so. Now it seems that he’s developed an intolerance for soy as well, even if it’s just in the form of additives to food.

After reading this book, I feel that even if soy were only half as destructive as the author claims, it should be banned as a food. I was especially alarmed by the effects of soy on infants, ranging from 9 month old baby girls going through puberty, to boys being born with deformities of the sexual organs.

While we ourselves have never been soy eaters, I know a lot of people who eat quite a lot of it. While fermented soy products such as miso and tempeh remain “safe” foods in my mind, at least in small amounts, I find myself wondering about my friends who eat soy products and how it might be affecting them. I know people who are vegetarian and vegan, both for health and for philosophical reasons, who eat a lot of soy. I know people who have issues with dairy who use soy to replace dairy products. Some eat soy simply because they can’t afford to buy a lot of meat, and soy is a cheap, supposedly healthy, source of protein. Mostly, though, the people I know who eat a lot of soy do so because they are trying to cut down on meat, and believe they are choosing a healthy alternative, or that they are being better for the environment by cutting back on meat and dairy, while meeting their protein needs through soy. If even the relatively small amounts of soy additives that we are eating can have such an effect on my husband, what might be happening to my friends and acquaintances that are eating so much more?

My biggest concern while reading this book is the effects of soy on children, infants and the developing foetus. I was also noting many correlations between the effects of soy on the body, and health problems that are being blamed on things such as growth hormones in beef, dairy products, high fructose corn syrup, plastics, etc. – claims that in-depth studies frequently do not substantiate. Many of the foods that would have these substances would also have soy additives. Could it be that the health problems being blamed on these substances are actually caused by soy? After reading this book, I strongly suspect this to be likely.

I should make a point of noting that not everything in the book is anti-soy. The author does mention several potentially beneficial chemicals in soy, as pharmaceutical products. These benefits would not be accessible through diet, as these potentially beneficial chemicals would have to be isolated from the many deleterious chemicals. If research results are controversial or ambivalent, she'll say as much, without automatically ruling against soy.

There are a few passing items in the book I didn’t necessarily agree with, such as comments about plastics, GM foods, etc., but these are so briefly mentioned in the book, there’s not as much to go on. In many other areas, the book confirms information, not necessarily soy-related, that I’ve encountered elsewhere. This book will probably not be popular with those who choose a meatless diet for philosophical reasons. While the author does not promote meat eating in any way, neither does she say "meat is bad," which matches the belief systems of a lot of people who eat a lot of soy as a meat alternative. The author does state that, because of their tendency to eat so many more soy products, vegans and vegetarians are at greater risk for soy-related damage, but she does not attack their dietary choices at all. Some may not see it that way. In fact, in an online search, the only review about this book that was negative (about six pages into my search) was written by an ‘ecology” website writer.

In conclusion, I would definitely recommend this book. More than that, I feel that the information in this book is important, and should be more common knowledge. As I mentioned before, even if the author were exaggerating the dangers of soy (which, based on the obvious amount of research that's been done and referenced, is not an issue), that would still make non-fermented soy something that shouldn’t even be in the food chain at all, and fermented soy only in very small amounts.

Back to Part One

Book Review: The Whole Soy Story Part One: an overview

My review of this book ended up being quite long, so I'm splitting it up into two parts. This post will be an overview of the book itself, with my opinions of it in the next post.

The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America’s Favorite Health Food
Author: Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN

Copyright 2005
Introduction by Sally Falon, President, The Weston A. Price Foundation

Before I start this review, I wanted to write a bit about what I knew – or thought I knew – about soy before I started reading this book.

First off, I knew that soy beans were toxic. This, in itself, is not that unusual. Plants need to protect and propogate themselves and, since they can’t get up and run away, they often do so chemically. The plants we eat are filled with chemical pesticides and potential toxins, including carcinogens. While these may be enough to protect them from insects, or their seeds from premature germination, etc., they are often harmless to humans. At least from a practical perspective; the amounts of cabbage or broccoli we’d have to eat for these chemicals to be ingested in harmful quantities are so great, we’d make ourselves sick just trying to eat that much. Other toxins are easily neutralized by cooking, while some require greater processing for them to be safe for human consumption. Some, of course, are simply poisonous to humans.

Soy is one of those plants that I knew required greater processing for safe human consumption. I knew that fermented soy products such as soy sauce were safe, even beneficial, for consumption. I also knew that soy products, such as tofu were, of concern as the processing wasn’t enough to render the product completely safe. Of particular concern to me were the phyto-estrogens. I was under the belief (which I now know to be wrong) that fermented soy products did not have the phyto-estrogens that non-fermented products, such as tofu, had. In looking at phyto-estrogens, I had already come to believe at non-fermented soy products should be avoided by males of all ages, and by pre-pubescent girls.

I was also aware that Asian cultures historically did not actually eat as much soy as has been claimed. I understood that, for the most part, tofu was basically poverty food, eaten when people had little choice. Even as tofu became more acceptable as a food, it still wasn’t eaten as much as we’ve been lead to believe - at least not until fairly recently.

That is about the extent of what I knew about soy products before reading this books.

So, on to the review.

First, a bit about the author.

The author has a PhD in Nutritional Sciences and Anti-Aging Therapies from the Union institute and University in Cincinnati. She’s a certified clinical nutritionist, and “The Whole Nutritionist” (registered trademark). She has a site at The Whole Soy Story. The site includes free excerpts from the book.

An interview with Dr. Daniel is available here.

Another interview is here.

The author is very clear that she not only does not see soy food as a health food, but that she does not believe it to be safe at all. She proceeds to very thoroughly make her case throughout the book.

The book is divided into parts. They are: A Short History of Soy (three chapters), Types of Soy (nine chapters), Macronutrients in Soy (three chapters), Anti-nutrients in Soy (five chapters), Heavy Metals (three chapters), Soy Allergens: Shock of the New (two chapters), and Soy Estrogens: Hormone Havoc (five chapters). Each chapter is littered with reference numbers leading readers to the end notes. Here, we have 44 ½ pages of references in a tiny font – I was tempted to find a magnifying glass to make them easier to read! Most importantly, the references are quite detailed and useful, with each chapter having its own section. If you want to follow up any of her claims, it would be easy to find her sources yourself.

The author begins Part One with discussing the role soy played in Asian cultures, beginning with how it came to be included among
China’s “Five Sacred Grains” (soy is actually a legume, and was planted as a nitrogen-rich green manure to be tilled back into the soil, not eaten). It discusses the first fermented soy products (such as chiang in China, an early variant of the Japanese miso), and the development of tofu. Among the interesting details the author describes is how tofu (Meat without a Bone) was eaten the most by celibate, vegetarian Buddhist monks, as they recognized that tofu reduced libido. In chronicling soy’s introduction to the West, it was interesting to read that Henry Ford was a great supporter of soy products, industrially. He apparently believed soy plastics were the “material of the future” for everything from car bodies to refrigerators. He even made a public appearance wearing a suit made of soybean fibre cloth. A suit which turned out to be “itchy when dry, smelled like a wet dog when damp, and was so prone to ripping that he could not bend over or cross his legs.” Interestingly, several days after I finished reading this book, I was talking to a knitting friend who described her experience with soy fiber yarn. I’ve been tempted to try the yarns myself, but I’ve been looking to make items that will be worn, and I felt the texture was too scratchy for the purpose. After hearing her experience with the yarns, I’m glad I didn’t waste my money.

As the history of soy is chronicled, the author shows how soy products have come full circle, beginning with soy first being used in the East, imported to the West, Western usage far exceeding Eastern usage, and now being imported from the West, with Eastern usage of soy as a food increasing to levels today that it has never enjoyed in the past.

In Part Two, the author discusses original types of soy, the “Good Old Soys” (early fermented soy products) and the various incarnations of soy developed over the centuries and in modern times. This section is of particular interest when it comes to the differences in how soy products are procured today, vs. the old, time consuming methods of the past, and the use of things like solvents, high heat and pressure to shorten production time and separate compounds.

Part Three deals with proteins, fats and carbohydrates. The author explains why these macronutrients are important, how they are used by the body, and how soy sources of these macronutrients differ from those in other foods.

Part Four dives deeper into the anti-nutrients of soybeans, what the soy industry is doing to get around them, and how successful (or not) they’ve been. Here, the reader learns how the various chemicals in soy, such as protease inhibitors, phytates and saponins, affect the body.

Part Five deals with metals, with special attention to manganese, fluoride and aluminum toxicity. The author describes how soy chemicals often prevent the absorption of necessary trace minerals such as zinc, while enhancing absorption of other metals, and how those metals (or lack of them) affect our bodies. She particularly discusses in the effects between adults and infants or children.

Part Six discusses soy allergies, showing how those allergic to milk are more likely to develop allergies to soy – ironic, considering how soy is often given as an alternative to dairy for those who are allergic. She also discusses the difficulty in identifying products that contain soy, since it is often used as filler in foods like ground meats, or soy additives are found in so many products.

Finally, in Part Seven, the author discusses phyto-estrogens. More specifically, she discusses the effects of these estrogens on the thyroid, the reproductive system, and its role in cancer, both as potential cause and potential cure.

See part two for the rest of the review.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Catching up

The past while has been... interesting for us, so I haven't been posting much. Much of it has surrounded my husband's health. He's been missing a lot of work because of it. I'm duly impressed by the walk in clinic we've been using for him - he's given up trying to make appointments with our regular doctor, as they keep getting either postponed or canceled outright. The dr. wrote him up for a long list of blood tests. Because one of them had to be done in the morning, after a 12 hour fast, we didn't get him in for that until yesterday. Today, the clinic called us - the results were already in, and the dr. wanted to go over them with him! I couldn't believe how quickly this was done!

Turns out he's got all sorts of things going weird on him, and he came away with a bunch of prescriptions (ouch) and an admonition to avoid soy. This was interesting to find out, as we'd already started to cut soy out, based on some of my reading. I'll be doing a book review on that in the next few days, so I won't go into it now, but suffice to say, soy was already a suspect. The crazy thing is, we aren't soy eaters in the first place. The only soy product we ate in any quantity was soy sauce, which I tended to use a fair amount of in marinades. We've already cut that out, but any other soy we're ingesting is hidden soy. And you know what? It's in friggin' everywhere!

As for myself, I finally heard from our GP's office. I have an appointment to see a lung specialist, but not until Oct. 1st. Actually, I'm kind of happy with that. I was afraid they wouldn't be able to get me in for a lot longer. I have no idea what's going to be done to me, but I've been told it could take as long as 2 hours, and not to wear any fragrances. It'll be nice to finally get to the bottom of this cough of mine, and hopefully whatever they do to me will at least give us a direction to look. The weird thing is that it's just a cough. Test after test is coming back fine. According to them, I'm perfectly healthy. It should be interesting so see what the results of this new testing will be.

In the mean time, I'll hopefully be back to posting more regularly.

Friday, August 08, 2008

A human wall...

Just reading a bit of news before I have to get ready for work (first shift in over a month! Things *really* slowed down after grad. season ended). I felt this story deserved its own post.

Church members enter Canada, aiming to picket bus victim's funeral

I'm chuckling over their reaction to the negative response their getting from official sources.

However, Phelps-Roper said the reaction the group has raised from some police and public officials has her questioning whether the planned protest will go ahead.

"The question to my mind [is] whether or not we ought to get them the heck out of that country, because that's some crazy stuff when you've got your officials talking like they are in a back-alley brawl and not government officials who took an oath to obey the law and so forth."

Phelps-Roper said she would advise church members not to go ahead with the protest if there is a concern they might be arrested or harmed.

Aww... gee, I feel sooo sorry for them. *eyeroll*

I like this part...

A counter-protest against the church's picket plans was launched on the social networking site Facebook on Thursday.

More than 700 people have since joined the group; postings indicate they plan to form a "human wall" around the family to shield them from the church protest, if it takes place.

Winnipeg NDP MP Pat Martin said the group should be "sent packing," and should not try to show up in Winnipeg "for their own safety."

"We're not going to allow these people to compound the tragedy of the McLean family loss, and Canadians simply won't tolerate these lunatics disrupting what should be a respectful service," he told CBC News on Friday.

"Your freedom to swing your arm in the air ends when it touches the end of my nose," he added. "What these people were going to do was hurtful, harmful and disruptive to the peace, order and good government that we guarantee to our citizens, so they have no place in this country."

If I were still living in Winnipeg, I'd be part of that "human wall" too!

To the members of Westoboro Baptist Church - you are not welcome here and, as a country, we don't have to allow you into our country to spread your disgusting hatred. The group that made it through? Leave. Don't come back.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

How disgusting can anyone get? (updated)

PETA once again demonstrates what a sick, twisted bunch of idiots they are.

PETA tries to run ad comparing Manitoba beheading to animal rights abuses

Kudos to the paper for not running the ad.

Update: Speaking of sick and twisted, we've got the idiots from Westboro Baptist Church wanting to picket the funeral! These people call themselves Christians?!? They had to get creative to get a group across the border, after one group was turned away. Winnipegers won't stand for them. Makes me proud of my former home.