Sunday, April 28, 2013

Tip #58: Make sure you know what you are eating

Not just apples
Today's TED Talk is the story of an ordinary mother whose child suffered an allergic reaction while having an ordinary breakfast. This mother, Robin O'Brien, is now being called the Erin Brokovitch of food, as she is on a mission to educate and empower consumers in the US about what corporations are doing to the food we are putting in our plates and into our bodies. Before being a full time mother, she used to actually work as a food industry analyst, but she has turned all that knowledge and energy into researching the impact of food in our health, particularly new ingredients, such as engineered milk proteins or modified corn or soybean seeds. She also has written a book about her experience, The Unhealthy Truth, and has created The Allergy Kids Foundation, whose mission is "to restore the health of our children and the integrity of our food supply."

I know that most of you already know about Genetically Modified Foods, and other artificial ingredients in most products sold in our supermarkets, but I still hope that you watch her talk, as it is powerful, full of interesting (and terrifying, I must add) information and quite inspiring.

(Here's the transcription of the talk into Spanish) 

Here are some of my takeaways from the talk:
  • Any product from the supermarket which comes in a box probably contains allergens.
  • In the US, if it hasn't been proven dangerous, then it is fine to eat. Thus, many countries around the world do not allow ingredients that are considered perfectly fine here. 
  • Our tax dollars are actually contributing to the protection of corporations that use genetically modified seeds which are patented.
  • Organic foods are much more expensive than regular food in part because there is additional regulations that organic farmers need to comply with. 
  • Companies like Kraft, Coca-Cola and Walmart use different recipes in different countries, always leaving the worst ingredients for the US, as the regulation is so lax here.
  • Our health care system is also impacted by these GMOs. Our bodies are not used to these synthetic new products and our health care system cannot take care of all the new numbers of ill people because of it.
  • We all have the power to change the world, even if it starts just by changing what we serve at our table.
And as she said on Twitter today:
All this reminds me of the newest book by Michael Pollan, Cooked, in which he tells us that in order to be healthier and probably happier we just need to go back to simply cooking what we eat. He mentions that corporations use the cheapest, lowest quality products they can find, and then add lots of unwanted ingredients that make us like their stuff by masking it. It's not so much a matter of eating one group of foods or another, but making sure we buy real ingredients, preferably organic if we are talking about produce, not from GMO crops, cooked at home from scratch, and try to enjoy that meal with those you love, in a slow way. I try to apply his rules about processed foods when I go shopping: don't buy anything with more than five ingredients, ingredients that you cannot pronounce or that your grandmother would not recognize.

Do you read the labels of the food you eat? Are you concerned about GMOs? Tell me what you think and, as always, thanks so much for reading.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Tip #57: Context is everything

Everything I have learned in my journey to health and happiness so far points into one direction: cells, alone, don't determine what will happen to us. Isolated events are not what can heal us, but connectedness is always necessary. This TED talk explores this notion as well. Mina Bissell is a Distinguished Scientist in the Life Sciences Division of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.The talk is actually very entertaining to watch, even if you are not that interested in cancer research, because it is one more example of how we do need to look at things from different points of view and her journey through that idea as a scientist is quite inspiring.

Most scientist, even still now, believe that a single cancer cell is sufficient to cause cancer. And maybe this is true. But I learned from Servan Schreiber that autopsies of people who die in accidents or other causes show that most of them had cancer cells in them, but those never became full blown disease.
In this talk talk, Dr. Bissell gives us several examples of how the context and architecture surrounding the cells will determine what happens to them, not the cell alone. For example, mammary gland cells of pregnant mice will get ready to produce milk, but if you transfer them to a Petri dish, this stops happening immediately. In the talk, she gives us some examples of cancer cells which also will behave differently according to the environment where they are placed, and if they are injected into an embryo, they do not grow, but stay suspended there, peacefully. 

I remember when I first I learned about Kris Carr, after my rather gloomy diagnosis, I thought "Wait, this lady has changed her life around 100%, has changed what she eats, what she does, what she thinks, even puts coffee in weird places in her body and she is not cured???" And she still not. It's been 10 years since her diagnosis and she is thriving but her metastases are still there, not moving, not growing, not gone, but still a part of her. I had to learn that it is not the cell itself, it is not cured / uncured. It is more like, "change your life ~ find what works for you ~ change the context" What happens next is a mystery, but it can be a beautiful one.

In this talk, Dr. Bissell at the end mentions these lines from the poem "Among the School Children" by Yates:
O body swayed to music,O brightening glance
How can we know the dancer from the dance?
I hope you enjoy this talk and remember that it does apply to everything in life, don't you think?

As always, thanks so much for reading.