Rethink Health - August 2009

News through the GoodHealthKeeping lens

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Silly Season Allegations

Lately there have been several attempts to discredit truths that seem self-evident to me. All they have really done is to discredit the judgement of the critics.

Last week both organic food and breast-feeding took their hits. 

We are told, yet again, that organic produce contains little or no more nutrient than chemically-produced items. That is probably true, though I would expect somewhat higher levels of trace minerals in foods grown on soils that had been managed organically for a considerable time. And there are obvious advantages to food that has less residue from chemical treatments applied during agriculture: try telling the residents of Corby how good chemical pollutants are for you!

What makes organic produce really different, however, is the vitality it displays, coupled with a more intricately worked out tissue structure. I remember explaining these values at least 15 years ago to an audience assembled in Bristol by the Soil Association. I showed examples of the results that can be obtained from certain technologies - Kirlian photography, circular chromatography and copper chloride crystallisation - in which organically grown items scored at least ten times better than the chemical equivalent, whose appearence and chemical composition were otherwise much more similar. My words seem to have fallen on deaf ears, but I still maintain that we need to pay much more attention to the physics of foods, and rely less on their chemistry.

The objections to breast feeding seemed to be based on its close association with good mothering. In other words, the apparent advantages of nursing one's own child are compounded with the other advantages of having a mother fit enough and motivated enough to do it. Take the good mother away, the objectors argue, and breast feeding may convey no independent advantage.

It must be the silly season for ideas like this to get noticed. Of course all children would be better off if their mothers were informed, loving, fit and positive about their motherhood. All families would be happier for stable and loving relations between two parents, both present, active and committed  family members. If we fail to accomplish this, all sorts of disadvantages follow. Exactly which problem is caused by what adverse circumstance is hardly the point - we will not succeed in reconstituting health by piecemeal dosing with this advantage or that. We have to let the family grow together again, in a community and economy that value and respect families. And for many, unfortunately, the woolly-minded political correctness of the past 15 years cannot be corrected. For them it is too late, however much politicians may dislike to hear it.

By the same token, children reared in food families will socialise and learn better, ultimately claiming places at good schools and universities, and winning the best jobs. Alan Milburn bemoans this, but there's nothing he can do about it except to start respecting "pushy" parents. Parents who do not promote the interests of their children cannot be replaced effectively by positive discrimination, state officials or social workers (but see our last item, below). Parents who do should not be blamed for the shortcomings of those who don't.

Eat up your Crusts...

Crisp bread makes you chew more, which is good for the shape of your face and the size of the passages within. But it turns out that crusts also contain a lot more of an anti-oxidant by-product of baking. Food anti-oxidants have already been shown to inhibit or reverse pre-cancerous changes in the bowel lining, and the pronyl-lysine of bread is one of these.

So that's one less chore to do. Don't trim your lunchbox sandwiches!

...and Grapefruit

Meanwhile, eat plenty of citrus fruit and lemons if you want to slim. They all contain Naringenin, apparently, which gives these fruits their bitterness and causes the liver to burn fat rather than store it. Other citrus fruits, such as oranges and mandarins, probably contain less since they are usually less bitter.

Social Enterprise

Pamela and I recently attended a presentation at Hill Holt Wood, a local training facility and environmental scheme. It was great to celebrate the achievements of youngsters who had been excluded from normal school but "come good" in the wholesome environment and shrewd handing available there. It was also good to witness the presentation of the first "Social Enterprise Mark" awarded in Lincolnshire. Local food marks are appearing in Newark, too, on businesses that source their produce locally.

Hill Holt Wood exemplifies a new approach to economic activity. It's neither government, nor business, nor charitable but incorporates elements of all the last two. Social enterprises value the human revenue and capital created by activity, rather than the mere monetary benefit. Their responsibility is to return the maximum human value to their shareholders, who are usually also the participants.

Good HealthKeeping was a social enterprise, before that term had been coined. You'll hear it used much more in future. If it bears out its promise, there's hope for us all.