Author: VWheelock

53. The Nutritional Benefits of Milk and Milk Produced from Grass-fed Animals

Milk and milk products play an important role in the human diet. However the nutritional composition of cow’s milk can vary considerable depending on factors such breed, stage of lactation and diet of the animal. In order to increase the milk yields it has become the common practice to feed concentrates, based on grain products, and to some extent these have replaced the traditional grass products of hay and silage. However recent research indicates that this change in diet may have a detrimental impact on the content of some of the key nutrients for humans. Milk fat is a valuable source the Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) (Blog 15), Conjugated Linolenic Acid (CLA) (Blog 24) and vitamins (Blog 21). There are 2 families of EFAs, namely the omega-6s and the omega-6s. Ideally the ratio of omega-6:omega-3 should be close to 1 and no higher than 4. Unfortunately in the typical Western diet this value is usually in the range 15 to 30, which means that there is an excessive amount of omega-6s and an inadequate supply of omega-3s. A relatively high intake of CLAs is associated with various health benefits including a reduced incidence of cancers and heart disease. The fatty acid composition in beef produced with diets with varying amounts of grass and concentrates was studied in an investigation conducted in Ireland (1). The results (Table 1) show that...

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52. More about Salt

In my last post (Blog 51) I explained how the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has been re-evaluating the evidence on the relationship between salt and health. This was initiated because of growing doubts about the current recommendations to reduce the intake of salt and emerging concerns that a low salt intake may actually be damaging to health. I have now been looking at some of the relevant scientific papers and here is some of the information I have uncovered. Essentially the justification for the present advice to lower salt intake is that such a measure will result in a reduction in blood pressure (BP). Since it is accepted that BP is a risk factor for stroke and for cardiovascular diseases (CVD) generally the assumption is made that salt reduction will reduce the chances of developing these conditions. According to one review, a decrease of 3 gm salt/day would lower the systolic BP (SBP) by between 3.6 and 5.6 mm Hg and the diastolic BP (DBP) by between 1.9 and 3.2 mm Hg in hypertensive patients. For normotensive individuals the reductions were much smaller (1). However these values are critically dependent on the selection of the research results used to make the assessment. There is certainly not universal agreement that the intake of salt is a factor which has a major effect on the BP. For example, in the Scottish...

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51. Official Guidelines Revisited: Salt

In the UK the relationship between salt and health was considered by the official Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition in 2003 (1). This report confirmed earlier recommendations that the average intake for the adult population should be 6 gm/day of salt (sodium chloride) which is equivalent to 2.4 gm/day of sodium. This means men should be consuming 7 gm/day and women 5 gm/day. It is generally accepted that the average intake in the UK is 9 gm/day and so to achieve the recommendation would require a reduction of about one third. However a survey of people aged over 65 found that the average intake for men was 6.8 gm/day and for women 5.3 gm/day (2). The SACN report concluded that there is an association between the intake of salt and blood pressure and that a reduction in dietary salt intake would lower the blood pressure risk for the whole population. However it was recognised that the long-term effects on health and premature mortality were less certain. This approach has a number of limitations which include the following: An association does not demonstrate cause and effect The focus of attention has been on blood pressure which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. It has been assumed that any reduction represents an improvement in health which is not necessarily true. While it is probably beneficial for those who have raised...

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50. Reflections on the previous 49 Blogs

As this is Blog 50, I thought it would be instructive to look back over some of the earlier blogs and attempt to highlight some of the key message that have emerged. It is now over 30 years since official guidelines on diet were first issued by health professionals and usually endorsed by governments. Prior to this there were policies which were designed to ensure adequate intakes of the essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. The “new nutrition” which appeared in the late 1970s/early 1980s focussed on the major constituents in the food, particularly the fats and carbohydrates. These recommendations were initially formulated in the USA, primarily because of concern about heart disease, where the death rates were among the highest in the world. The World Health Organisation (WHO) took the lead from the USA with the result that very many national nutrition policies all over the world were essentially the same as in the USA. With respect to implementation, the emphasis has been on the advice to reduce the total fat and especially the saturated fat (SFA). Here in the UK between 1969 and 2000 the National Food Survey (NFS) shows that total fat consumption had fallen from 120 to 74 g/day. Over the same period the consumption of saturated fat (SFA) decreased from 56.7 to 29.2 g/day. (The NFS was discontinued in 2000). My own interest...

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49. Vitamin D and Cancer

In Blog 48 I explained how the brothers Cedric and Frank Garland identified the possible link between exposure to sunshine, which resulted in the formation of Vitamin D in the skin, and the incidence of colon cancer. Since then there have been many studies that confirm these ideas. William Grant conducted an ecological study of cancer mortality rates in different areas of the USA with respect to exposure of solar UV-B (1). He found that the mortality rates are correlated with the solar exposure for 13 cancers. For men these are cancer of the bladder, colon, oesophagus, , prostate, rectum, stomach and  non-Hodgkin lymphoma. For women these are cancer of the bladder, breast, colon, kidney, ovary, rectum, stomach, uterus and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. On the basis of these results he estimated that about 15,000 white and 700 black Americans died prematurely from cancer every year between 1970 and 1994 due to insufficient exposure to solar UV-B. Data collected from 47,800 men who participated in the Health Professionals’ Follow-Up Study were used to relate the level of serum 25(OH)Vitamin D to the incidence of cancer. Between 1986 and 2000 there were 4286 cases of cancer diagnosed (excluding organ-confined prostate cancer and non-melanoma skin cancer).Of these 2025 resulted in death. It was found that an increment of 25 nmol/L in the predicted level of the 25(OH)Vitamin D was associated with a reduction...

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