GMO’s: Isn’t everything genetically modified?

According to Neil deGrasse Tyson this question has already been answered he states “I’m amazed at how much objection genetically modified foods are receiving from the public…people don’t fully understand it…and therefore reject it…what most people don’t know, and they should, is that practically every food you buy in a store for consumption by humans is genetically modified”. He finishes his argument by using examples of artificial selection (ie natural breeding methods) to conclude we have genetically modified everything around us. It’s ironic that he describes the public as having a lack of understanding, yet he seemed to be completely ignorant to the fact the examples he used in his argument, the seedless water melon, the horses, cows etc, are not transgenic organisms.

Traditional breeding methods like selective breeding was a term coined by Darwin as just another form of artificial selection[1]. Selective breeding, as Tyson pointed out, is responsible for the existence of most of our domesticated animals like cows, horses, dogs and cats, as well as some vegetables like some from the Brassica species and also some fruits like bananas for example. But these methods have been used for thousands of years and requires little more than breeding skills and patience. In fact the practice has been around so long that selective breeding of wild plants began around 10,000 years ago and the first selectively bred domesticated animal is said to be a descendant from its Gray Wolf ancestor dating 12,000 years old[2], a far cry from the modern methods of bioengineering, less than 50 years old. What makes this traditional form of “genetic modification” an area of no major ethical concern is that the shuffling of genes through selective breeding are done between the same species or at least between very closely related species. The methods and results are also not at all beyond the scopes of natural possibilities. In other words selective breeding could very well occur within the realms of nature on its own.

Modern genetic modification however is different in that it involves techniques used to produce organisms with new genetic traits they could never possess without human intervention and modern biotechnology. It’s the use of biotechnology to “cross the species barrier” creating organisms that could never exist in nature[3]. It’s the transfer of genes between completely non related, sexually incompatible species. Using the concept of horizontal gene transfer they are able to splice the genes from a donor organism and insert them genes into the genome of a target organism, so that the target organism can express the desired traits of the donor that are not naturally theirs. A radical example of a transgenic organism or GMO as a result of biotechnology would be the “spider-goat”[4]. A goat that produces web proteins in its milk due to spider genes embedded into its own genome to give it this trait. Biotechnology has also laid the path for many other bizarre products of genetic engineering, some of which just seem to be examples of our ever growing curiosity of what we can genetically manipulate, like glow in the dark cats[5].

Although both traditional and modern biotechnology methods, loosely speaking, achieve similar goals it’s inaccurate to proclaim they are the same thing. More accurately comparable to artificial selection would be natural selection, as even inferred by Darwin himself[6]. But then even with their similarities they have fundamentally different driving forces behind them and are not exhaustively comparable[7]. When referring to a transgenic organism, ie a genetically modified food, it pertains to an organism be it animal or plant, that has foreign gene components inserted into its genome with modern gene splicing techniques so it can express desired traits. The world health organisation defines genetically modified foods simply as “foods derived from organisms whose genetic material (DNA) has been modified in a way that does not occur naturally, e.g. through the introduction of a gene from a different organism”.

In an age where transgenic foods are dominating our food chain without public regard or consent, it’s doubly crucial that only accurate information is given to the public as to not mislead people or detract from well informed food choices. Unfortunately in this context, Mr Tyson is certainly guilty of this conviction and hopefully this articles sheds some light on the confusion he may have brought the public.

[1] https://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Artificial_selection.html

[2] http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/plaintexthistories.asp?historyid=ab57

[3] http://www.beep.ac.uk/content/374.0.html

[4] http://richannel.org/transgenic-spidergoat

[5] http://www.mnn.com/green-tech/research-innovations/photos/12-bizarre-examples-of-genetic-engineering/glow-in-the-dark

[6] https://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Artificial_selection.html

[7] http://books.google.es/books?id=faNIAKXQrwQC&pg=PA171&dq=natural+selection+similar+artificial+selection&hl=es&sa=X&ei=GogkVKmoD43lap7HgdgH&ved=0CCMQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=natural%20selection%20similar%20artificial%20selection&f=false

[8] [Jump up to:6.0 6.1 USA Today, “Washington state battles over genetically modified food”, October 8, 2013]

 

“Good” carbs vs “Bad” carbs

 

Introduction

For many people and particularly dieters, carbohydrates have had a sinister stigma attached to them for many years now. Their reputation has evolved from the understanding that they are a significant contributing factor in the cause of weight gain, as well as their association with promoting disease conditions. Because of this it has led to many misconceptions and fear of consuming Carbohydrates. In this article the differences between the generic terms of “good” carbs and “bad” carbs will be discussed using complex carbohydrates and simple sugars as prime examples will be discussed. In particular the physical states and physiological responses to both types will be discussed outlining key points for health and improving body composition.

Key factors when it comes to carbohydrates

  • choose low G.I carbohydrates
  • choose the ones highest in fibre
  • look for the ones rich in minerals, vitamins and if possible protein
  • go for natural and whole not refined and processed
  • refrain from over cooking and over boiling them
  • add protein or fat to your carbohydrates to lower its G.I rating

The dark side of carbohydrates

The reality is that in today’s society, lifestyle and dietary related diseases are on the rise with diabetes being the leading threat to human health along with heart disease. Right now more than 3.7 million UK people are suffering with type II diabetes. The ironic thing about this fact is that type II diabetes is a completely self inflicted condition caused by bad dietary habits, specifically from the excess consumption of refined carbohydrates. The sad thing about this is that type II diabetes is completely reversible if tackled early enough and yet unfortunately it is on the rise and is estimated to hit 5 million people by 2025 [1]. Our current high refined carb diet may have been encouraged by much earlier warnings about the increasing rate of ischemic heart disease caused by the high consumption of saturated fats at the time. The warnings encouraged a decrease in the intake of fats in favour for eating more complex carbohydrates [2]. This has resulted in mass confusion as many people today still believe the complex and simple carbohydrates term is an effective way to distinguish between “good” and “bad” carbohydrates. Unfortunately the truth is, excuse the pun, less simple and more complex then that.

Good or bad carbohydrate?

As I will explain in another article there is no good or bad carbohydrate per se, there can be a time and a place for both particularly for those participating in sports. But there are some key differences and reasons as to why one type is generally considered to be “bad” and one is considered to be “good” and I’d like to address the differences between the two.

Simple sugars, as the name implies, have simple chemical structures made of monosaccharides (single sugar units). Simple sugars like glucose for example are said to be “bad” as they are absorbed through the intestinal tract quickly promoting a hormonal response (releasing insulin) that causes weight gain, fatigue and sugar cravings. Complex carbohydrates due to their complex chemical structure as the name implies, is made up of a complex chain of disaccharides and polysaccharides, (two or more sugar units combined). Complex carbohydrates like the sugar lactose for example is a disaccharide its made of two sugar units glucose and galactose and is said to be “good” as they are absorbed and digested slowly. Very little insulin is released from complex carbs and the conventional understanding goes that complex carbs provide a slower release of energy from the food and they help improve fat burning. But why is insulin bad and how does it cause weight gain? Well this depends entirely on ones insulin sensitivity.

If your muscle cells are insulin sensitive at the time of consuming simple carbs the muscles are primed to absorb the glucose and convert it into its stored form, glycogen. If your not insulin sensitive when consuming simple carbs the path way for glucose storage in skeletal tissue is closed and the flood gate is open to fat cells. This is how and why people get fat from simple carbs like sugary sweets and this is why its best to consume complex carbs at times when insulin sensitivity is low.

The answer to the next question, how do you know whether your muscles are insulin sensitive or not, depends on many factors. Your insulin sensitivity will be higher if you are in an active state, a fasted state or if your glycogen levels are depleted. For example first thing in the morning and after an intense workout your insulin sensitivity will be higher so consuming simple carbs will actually help with recovery and will refill depleted muscle energy. On the contrary if you eat the same type of simple carbs late at night in an inactive and rested state, insulin sensitivity will be low which as mentioned will promote fat storage. Consistently high insulin levels (on top of causing weight gain, fatigue and sugar cravings) can eventually lead to insulin resistance and type II diabetes. So in conclusion the conventional understanding goes simple = fast digesting and complex = slow digesting. However relying solely on this simple and complex classification is not wholly accurate and can often be confusing and misleading and here’s why…

Simple doesn’t always mean fast digesting, complex doesnt always mean slow digesting

Fruits are considered sources of simple sugars and yet some types of fruit despite their simple chemical structure release their glucose slowly into the blood stream which keeps insulin levels low. This contradicts the simple = fast digesting mantra. Conversely waxy maize starch is a complex carbohydrate yet it digests so fat its comparable to glucose. Insulin and glucagon compete with each other, insulin is a storage hormone, glucagon breaks down energy stores, when you have high levels of circulating insulin your body is in storing mode and glucagon will be low therefore you are not in energy burning mode. Some fruits which are considered a simple sugar, don’t actually impact insulin dramatically because of the slow release of energy which of course equates to steadier sugar levels, reduced cravings and appetite, better mood and enhanced fat burning. This would be considered by many to be a positive hormonal response, if your health and body weight is of any concern. In fact fructose the simple sugar found in fruit despite it being simple has even shown to be useful in treating people with type II diabetes due to its slow digesting nature [3].

In contrast some types of complex carbohydrates, white rice for example, despite its complex chemical structure is broken down and absorbed quicker then some simple carbohydrates and would technically put them in the category of being a “bad” carbohydrate based on the negative hormonal response from the body. Basically because white rice considered a complex carbohydrate causes high amounts of insulin to be released which blunts glucagon production meaning no fat burning or burning any stored energy, energy spikes and crashes, sugar cravings and weight gain, all despite the fact it is complex which is considered “good”. This of course is why it causes what is considered to be a negative hormonal response.

So as you can see, it’s this inaccurate classification of carbohydrates that has led to a huge misconception about what’s healthy and what isn’t. This somewhere down the line has contributed to the huge increase in refined carbohydrates leading to a continuous flurry of health problems worldwide.

The glycemic index scale

So how can we tell what’s good or not? The glycemic index is a reliable and practical way of determining a good choice of carbohydrate, it’s very basic and easy to use and understand. The glycemic index was devised for people who were diabetic and trying to manage their blood sugar levels. The G.I index is a measurement based on a percentage of how quickly 50g of a carbohydrate enters the blood stream compared to glucose which enters the bloodstream almost instantly and has a GI rating of 100. So say a baked potato has a GI rating of 85 it means the baked potato digests and releases its glucose into the bloodstream nearly as fast as glucose, only 15% slower, or in other words 0.85x the speed glucose would enter the blood stream. Since low glycemic index (low G.I) carbs are digested slow and release their energy slowly they are better for keeping sugar levels steady and healthy therefore should be the prime choice of carbohydrates for those managing diabetes and especially for those trying to avoid it [4]. High glycemic carbs on the other hand are digested quickly and therefore release their energy too quick and are not considered good choices for our health among many other things such as energy levels and appetite [5].

High GI vs Low GIexamples of low vs high GI foods

Carbohydrates that digest quickly, like white rice for example will have a high glycemic index (high G.I) that promote the release of insulin from the pancreas to regulate the high amounts of sugar rapidly entering the blood. This fast acting regulatory endocrine system is important to us because the sugar in excess will actually poison the blood. However insulin is a double edged sword since insulin is a storage hormone and is directly responsible for the deposit of glucose into adipose tissue leading to weight gain. Further more repeated and chronic insulin responses from the continuous consumption of high GI carbohydrates will lead to decreased insulin sensitivity. When this happens insulin no longer has the same effects on glucose metabolism it once had. Similar to taking a drug continuously your body eventually becomes tolerant to it, consuming refined high GI carbohydrates day in day out is the same thing but in this case you become resistant to your bodies own natural mechanism of controlling its blood sugar via the release of insulin. The end result at the very least is insulin resistance and clinical diagnosis of type II diabetes [6]. Low GI diets have long shown in studies on obese subjects that not only do they improve insulin sensitivity but they also increase fat oxidation and reduce waist circumference compared to those on high GI diets [7].

That excludes other benefits such as increased and sustained energy release, improved mood, less cravings and decreased cholesterol etc. Carbohydrates are certainly not the enemy but I would say misunderstanding them most definitely is.

What to look for

There are obviously a few components when it comes to determining what sources of carbohydrate are the best to consume but they can be summed up by a few simple differences. You should always choose more natural wholesome sources of carbohydrates that are high in soluble or insoluble fibre and are rich in nutrients like vitamins and minerals. The more wholesome and less refined a carbohydrate is generally the better. Refining of a carbohydrate really makes no sense because its a process of stripping a once wholesome and natural food that was full of fibre and nutrients down essentially to nothing but starch. The reason this is done is mainly to increase shelf life which of course benefits the companies selling it, as refined fibre reduced carbohydrates are less susceptible to go off. Cooking carbohydrates also changes its digestibility and therefore can increase its G.I rating, so a baked potato would have a higher glycemic index compared to a raw one, the same applies to food when you boil it too. In contrast adding fat and/or protein to a meal containing carbohydrates will actually lower its G.I rating. This is why consuming protein with every meal is recommended for fat loss.

Summary

  • choose low G.I carbohydrates
  • choose the ones highest in fibre
  • look for the ones rich in minerals, vitamins and if possible protein
  • go for natural and whole not refined and processed
  • refrain from over cooking and over boiling them
  • add protein or fat to your carbohydrates to lower its G.I rating

Conclusion

It’s clear from all of the evidence long term consumption of refined carbohydrates is a recipe for the decline in the future of human health. In summary as humans if we are to stay healthy, disease free and also wish to maintain a healthy weight, low G.I carbs should be the main source of carbohydrates for everyone looking to avoid insulin resistance, diabetes and especially for those who want to avoid unnecessary weight gain, feelings of fatigue and repeated sugar craving cycles. The long term consumption of high G.I carbs is a slippery slope and we must all work together to stay off for the good and the benefit of our future generations to come.

[1] http://www.diabetes.org.uk/documents/reports/nhs-health-check-lets-get-it-right-0912.pdf

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2869506/

[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2682989/

[4] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23705645

[5] http://www.diabetes.org.uk/Guide-to-diabetes/Managing-your-diabetes/Glycaemic-Index-GI/?gclid=CjwKEAjwxtKeBRDMzoeQmYn5uHcSJACGCF3D1mPlKw9KXkfkcUMg3zlXVwRxvMUnLj6wn_C3v3Zg-RoC8Tbw_wcB

[6] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19934403

[7] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3937245/

Are refined carbs that bad?

Carbs are a touchy subject and some people see certain carbs as a solid part of their natural diet. Unfortunately there is a lot of types of carbs that should be eliminated from every ones diet if we are to improve the health of humans. With regards to the refined type that have been processed and all the artificial foods for that matter, they can cause inflammation, diabetes, severe weight gain, digestive problems, intolerances, allergies which can all lead to an early death, all from a man made food we have been tricked by food industries into thinking is good.

Remember the old adverts on bread years and years ago promoting 6 slices of white bread as part of a balanced diet, well it was probably adverts like these that duped the nation into thinking its healthy, which of course years later resulted in an obesity and diabetes epidemic. Its now the type of food health professionals advise the nation to avoid based on the research we now have that didn’t exist then that shows that old fashioned perception of bread is a quick way to bad health.

Now we have a problem of extracting this old fashioned mentality from people. People that were brought up on it, like I was, believe its fine because they turned out ok. But the truth is It wasn’t good for us then because look at us now. Obesity has doubled since the time of them adverts and refined carb consumption has shot up. We have created a demand for Frankenstein food.

When you consume sugar (or refined carbs which mimic sugar) your organ, the pancreas, pumps out a hormone called insulin. This insulin is a storage hormone, its released when there is a sudden rush or excess sugar in the blood. Too much sugar in the blood is poisonous so your body releases this to save your life.

The negatives to this is that the body can pump out so much insulin to get rid of the sugar, it takes away more sugar out of your blood then it needs to which results in subnormal sugar levels equating to you making you feel tired irritable, sluggish, shakey and can even result in cold sweats from a condition brought on by extremely low sugar levels called hypoglycaemia. The insulin it releases can also become ineffective (diabetes). Anyone that eats refined carbs that act like sugar are setting themselves up for physical and mental fatigue and unstable mood levels and are risking the chance of pancreatic stress or diabetes, add that to a 5 year old child and the problem is magnified.

The sugar that is taken out of the blood stream by insulin is driven into your body fat by insulin so every time you consume white bread or sugary stuff, you are literally making your body store fat right there and then because the carbs from it are digested and enter the blood stream too quickly. The pancreas, an organ that pumps out this hormone insulin gets over worked when people consume to much fast digesting carbs (like most kids and adults do nowadays) its not normal for this organ to be called upon repeatedly for something it should be doing only once in a while to save your life.

When you keep eating these refined easy to digest low fibre carbs combined with hunger pangs that are brought on by these foods its easy to become overweight and your pancreas eventually gets tired and becomes dysfunctional, either not releasing any insulin (type 1 diabetes, which is mainly genetic and diagnosed early in children) or not releasing enough (type 2 diabetes aka adult onset diabetes) its very damaging to the pancreas to be pumping out that hormone insulin throughout the day, These non essential carbs are the cause of the state of our health as a population.

Problem is with today way of thinking is that people see certain junk foods: crisps, chocolate, refined carbs etc as normal food when in fact it is NOT food. Its NOT something our bodies were designed to digest on a daily basis but many people do and of course so many people are over weight and suffer disease more now then ever before.

So should we be really surprised that obesity has doubled since the 1980’s? Is it surprising children as young as 5 are getting diseases like type 2 diabetes that would usually take an adult 40 years of bad eating to get? No of course not its cause and effect. Unhealthy eating is the cause and disease and death is the effect.

People that refuse to accept the facts and who continue to eat these processed artificially manufactured foods who have been drawn in to thinking its part of a natural diet who remain in absolute ignorance failing to provide optimal health for themselves. They just increase their risk of becoming another statistic in the long line of people yet to be diagnosed with a diet related disease. On top of that your ill health is of no concern to the industry selling them products who are likely more aware of its negative effects on your health then you are.

These foods will affect your energy your mood and your appetite in a negative way. The low fibre crap will bind to your stomach like glue in a drain pipe. Fibre is essential in our food for it to pass easily through out system, remove the fibre like they do in white bread and the waste sits in the stomach until fibre from real food helps to move it all along. More often then not it rots and stagnates in your gut which can cause belly aches and constipation. Any one who has children may be aware of the fact that some children have unhealthy appetites and don’t eat a lot. Well constipation causes a loss in appetite and low fibre refined carbs causes constipation, see the cycle? Fibre also prevents the accumulation of toxins and bacteria in the colon which reduces the risk of colon cancer. Eating more fibre will remove stale waste in the digestive system which is important for children.

The problem with refined foods is just that, they are refined. They have gone through harsh chemical and refining processes that removes and destroys the fibre and any vitamins. This leaves refined foods deficient in many vitamins and minerals. As a good example I’m going to hate on white bread, not because I hate white bread but because it was once a traditional stone baked family food that’s become a victim of todays commercial and industrial refining processes. It was once made using traditional hand made methods which involved keeping all of the essential minerals and fibre in tact but due to the modern demands large scale food productions have placed on it, it wasn’t a quick enough way to bang out them loafs so they could pull in them digits, so they lost traditional techniques and resorted to chemicals and refining.

White bread is a good example for this because its subject to harsh chemical bleaching to make it whiter yet people still consider this a staple part of our natural diet when it is not. We don’t really know what bread is or should taste like these days due to the slow increase in preservative and artificial methods. Here is a quote from Dr. Cantons website about the flour used in white bread “at the expense of consumer health, flour is treated with chemical bleach, similar to Clorox. The bleaching process leaves residues of toxic chlorinated hydrocarbons and dioxins. Methionine, an essential amino acid, reacts with bleaching chemicals to form methionine sulfoxine. That toxic residue causes nervousness and seizures in animals.” still think this is food? here’s more “Grain millers in the nineteenth century soon discovered that highly refined flour would keep without spoiling for prolonged periods, even before the days of chemical preservatives and refrigeration. It’s now clear refined flour is so depleted of essential vitamins and minerals that it will not support life.” but wait this ones golden “Experiments were reported in a major British medical journal, The Lancet, showing that dogs fed exclusively on white bread died of malnutrition within two months. Dogs similarly fed only bread made with stone-ground, whole-wheat flour lived indefinitely in good health.” dare I say any more? Is anyone starting to see my point?

We have all been deceived by food industries for years into thinking refined carbs are natural foods when really it is NOT a natural food. What makes this whole aspect worse, where my main concern lies and where I will continue to make a difference in, is that many parents are simply unaware of these facts and unknowingly feed their kids these refined foods on a DAILY basis. A child’s delicate growing biology should not exposed to these chemical foods despite how embedded your beliefs are that its “ok” or “iv been eating it for years and I’m fine” or “there’s nothing wrong with it” because there’s just nothing right with it!

Apart from acute constipation and digestive problems from refined foods they do slow and steady damage until one day you find out you have to live the rest of your life on strict diets and medication.

Here’s a simple and fun solution to avoiding preservatives and refining processes that you can involve the kids in…ready for it?

Make your own food! Its fun its easy its cheap and its healthy! there are countless healthy recipes on the net and I have a few to share myself so no harm in trying, the harms lies in not trying. Check out this site for some bread recipes… http://healthy.betterrecipes.com/healthybreadrecipes.html

Join the fight against obesity and disease with food education. Teach yourself and teach your children. Make them aware so they make their children aware so the future of human health is increasing not declining.

The benefits to high fibre foods are endless in contrast to the risks of non fibrous refined carbs. Small changes now can make a big difference now AND later.

So given the information and knowledge we now know about refined carbs are they all that bad? Well if your still in debate with yourself about that question I would probably stop eating all together, just to be safe.