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Insane Medicine – Bad food additives

There are a variety of food additives that are hard, if not impossible to avoid, that are placed into our processed food. They fall under the category of GRAS (“Generally recognized as safe”), where there is no review given by the FDA for use in human consumption. This broken system has bad potential to make you sick. Here are some of the problem additives, which is in no way exhaustive in it’s scope at this time:

  1. Potassium Bromate:
    Insane Medicine: Potassium bromate additive
    Insane Medicine: Potassium bromate additive – used to help dough rise in baking.

    It is possibly carcinogenic to humans, and it is banned un the U.K. It is placed in dough and is usually destroyed during baking, but if too much is added or the dough is under-cooked, some residue may be left over. It also is used in Malt barley production.

  2. Nitrates/Nitrite:
    Insane Medicine - Salami and hams are treated with nitrates and preservatives to have a long shelf life.
    Insane Medicine – Salami and hams are treated with nitrates and preservatives to have a long shelf life.

    Nitrates are used to preserve the texture and coloring of salami and hams, however, nitrates are associated with an increase risk of stomach cancer. Bacon, salami, hot dogs, and sausages all have nitrates added and react  with amines on the proteins of the meats to form nitrosamines. This is carcinogenic to humans.

  3. Propyl Paraben:
    Propyl paraben is an endocrine disruptor added to tortillas.
    Propyl paraben is an endocrine disruptor added to tortillas.

    Acting as a weak estrogen, this compound decreases sperm counts and testosterone levels in humans. It is used in tortillas and muffins as a preservative. The substance can also be found in beverages, dairy products, meat and vegetables which can be contaminated.

  4. Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA):
    BHA and BHT
    BHA and BHT

    Used as a preservative, for example in chips and preserved meat, BHA is an endocrine disruptor, affecting thyroid hormone and testosterone. It decreases growth in rats and has carcinogenic effects. It is GRAS per the FDA – “generally recognized as safe.”

  5. Butylated Hydroxytoluene: Also used as a preservative in food, this substance is an endocrine disruptor and may cause developmental and behavioral changes as does BHA. Motor skills nad coordination may be impaired by exposure to this preservative. It may cause cancer in lab animals.
  6. Propyl gallate: is used to preserve items that have soluble fats such as sausage.
    Insane medicine - Propyl Gallate - preservative in foods
    Insane medicine – Propyl Gallate – preservative in foods

    This substance is a preservative that may disrupt the endocrine system and in lab rats, has carcinogenic effect.  Propyl gallate is used to protect oils and fats in products from oxidation. It is used in foods, cosmetics, hair products, adhesives, and lubricants.

  7. Natural flavors? What are they – no one really knows. There may be flavor mixtures that have natural or artificial emulsifiers, solvents and preservatives that are not disclosed. These ‘natural flavors’ may contain synthetic compounds in them such as propylene glycol or BHA, or may be derived from genetically engineered products.
  8. Diacetyl: Used in popcorn flavoring, but it’s production has been associated with irreversible lung toxicity.
  9. Theobromine:
    Theobromine is an additive found in chocolate and bread, cereals, and sports drinks.
    Theobromine is an additive found in chocolate and bread, cereals, and sports drinks.

    Theobromine is an alkaloid found in chocolate that is used as a caffeine-type stimulant as it has caffeine-type effects on the body. This agent has endocrine and reproductive side effects and may be carcinogenic in large quantities. It is found in naturally occurring cocoa, tea plants, kola nuts,  and guarana berries.

How do you avoid these additives? The Environmental Working Group has a scoring system on items that may have these or other bad additives:  <EWG scoring system for additives.  < additives food scoring system.  < Top 10 additives that have bad effects.  < Database for generally recognized as safe.


Insane Medicine – Eating and mood/memory

  • A diet high in uridine monophosphate (UMP), choline, and docosahexanoic acid (DHA – an omega-3 fatty acid) helps increase the brain’s ability to process information. These substances help the brain form more synapses, which are important in creating memories. These substances affect the transmission of messages in the brain which thereby improves cognition.
  • Choline is synthesized in the body and is found in nuts, meats, and eggs. DHA is found in flaxseed, eggs, and meat from grass-fed animals. Also trout, salmon, tuna, and sardines are high in DHA. UMP is created in your body but is also present in high amounts in beets.
  • Eating correctly affects your mood as well. For example, when you eat a heavy lunch, you tend to bee more relaxed and sleep. People who are hungry tend to move less and be more irritable, They will generally make poorer decisions as well. If you are moody, maybe you are eating incorrectly!
  • There is a link between magnesium intake and depression. The less magnesium in your diet, the greater the risk of depression. Magnesium is found in whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
  • Low intake of B12 and folate is also associated with depression. Folate is found in green leafy vegetables, legumes, and fortified cereals. B12 is found in meat.
  • Nutrients affect how neurotransmitters are made in the brain, and the composition of the meal affects which neurotransmitters are made and thus how you feel after eating.
  • Protein-rich meals have amino acids, including tyrosine, which is used to make dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. These neurotransmitters give you more alertness, energy,  and focusing-ability. Carbohydrate-laden meals supply glucose (as in processed food, white breads)  and trigger rapid insulin release in the body which causes tryptophan to be converted to serotonin in the brain. This results in calm feelings, relaxation , and pain relief. It has been shown that babies given sucrose pacifiers during medical procedures have much less pain, for example.
  • The problem with foods that have high amounts of  simple carbohydrates is that you get spikes and drops in your blood sugar. This can make you moody and shaky. Replace simple carbohydrates with complex ones found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Vitamin C (citrus fruits and dark vegetables) and the B vitamins are helpful in mood control. Monounsaturated fats (nuts, olive oil, canola oil), omega-3 fatty acids (fish), selenium (cereal grains and meat), and zinc (fish, soybeans, liver, spinach, and egg yolk) all have positive affects on mood states.
  • Alcohol and caffeine also have the ability to moderate mood. Caffeine causes increased alertness and energy, but it can cause jitteriness and anxiety in some. Moderate alcohol  intake (one to two drinks a day) promotes relaxation, but in excess, can produce depression.  Chocolate has a substance called phenylethylamine that elevates mood.

Insane Medicine: Cancer preventing diet considerations.

Recommendations from the Physicians committee for Responsible Medicine offer 6 dietary changes one can make to help prevent cancer:

  1. Decrease dairy products in men as each 35 gm taken in will increase prostate risk by 32%
  2. Decrease alcohol intake to decrease breast and colon cancer.
  3. Decrease red and processed meat as each daily serving increases risk of colorectal cancer by 21%.
  4. Avoid grilled and fried meats.
  5. Eat soy products such as tofu, edamame, and tempeh to decrease breast cancer risk
  6. Consume more fruits and vegetables.

Insane Medicine tidbit- exercise to fight arthritis pain!

  • Knee arthritis – osteoarthritis, is made worse by weight gain and physical activity. Losing weight with the addition of exercise results in better mobility and pain scores, thus a better quality of life.
  • Find a method of exercising that works best for you, especially aquatic exercising, which applies less stress on joints.
  • In the near future, stem cell treatments may become available to treat degenerative knee arthritis. These stem cells can come from many sources, including the mouth or bone marrow. Injections of these stem cells into the joint may help prevent osteoarthritis. Lets keep our fingers crossed that they work!

Niacin seems to be very unhelpful as a supplement for low HDL!

Niacin fails to improve coronary health
Niacin fails to improve coronary health
  • If you have been taking niacin to help your HDL, there is more and more evidence that it may be hurting you! Besides the red flushing it can cause if taken in large amounts that is needed to help increase HDL levels, it also can cause liver damage.
  • In the AIM-HIGH study in 2011, no benefits were found from Niacin supplementation, and in fact there were increased side effects, including bleeding risks.
  • In the HSP2-Thrive study, Niacin supplementation had no effect on major vascular events. There were bad side effects including a 32% increase in new-onset diabetes, and  a 55% worsened glucose control in diabetics taking the supplement. In fact, mortality risk increased by 9%
  • I think it’s time to throw out the Niacin supplements and not worry so much about an isolated HDL problem. Low HDL is probably a symptom of another lipid and metabolic problem.