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Secrets of the pumpkin
Image by HealthGauge
Each year innocent pumpkins are needlessly carved into macabre jack o’lanterns and then lain to waste. But this needn’t be the case, as under their orange surface pumpkins hide a number of health benefits.
A pumpkin gourd is a plant of the family Cucurbitaceae and relative of the squash, cucumbers and melon. Its orange colour gives away a number of clues as to the types of nutritens hidden within. They include,
- Alpha and Beta Carotene: Carotene is what gives the pumpkin its orange colour. It also helps the body to generate Vitamin-A which supports a number of health aspects including vision, skin, the immune system and also acts as an antioxidant. Over-consumption however can result in orange skin or even more serious side effects.
- Lutein: It is believed that lutein may help the body to deal with absorbing blue light through the skin, and can protect the eyes from the the damaging free radicals it produces. Evidence has shown that those with a higher lutein intake are at a lower risk of conditions like cataracts in later life. In excessive amounts it can also result in a bronzing of the skin.
- Protein, magnesium, copper, zinc and fatty acids: All of these are contained in the pumpkin seed and have a number of positive health benefits whilst also serving as a tasty snack option.
- Phytochemicals: Research has shown that these chemicals can help to reduce cholesterol and glucose levels in the body and may also having the potential to affect diseases such as cancer, stroke or metabolic syndrome.
Pumpkins also provide an easily digested starchy carbohydrate. So this Halloween, rather than filling up on trick or treat candy, eat your jack o’lantern instead (minus the candle of course).
Image by Earthworm
This home made film by comedian Tom Naughton, tears down Spurlock’s Super Size me with some compelling observations about how the film played into people’s assumptions about fat people, the poor and the obesity epidemic, but what I actually got the film for was the excellent explanation of how insulin controls blood sugars and how the Lipid Hypothesis was never proven. This is how I educated Catherine about what I was learning. And why I thought it was worth buying the DVD to show others.
It makes easily accessible and entertaining, a lot of what I learned in Gary Taubes’ "Good Calories, Bad Calories" (He does reference the book and tell the whole Ancel Keyes story about how he fudged the data). There are animation sequences to show how insulin works to control blood sugars and how fat is stored and used. Interviews with doctors explain how cholesterol is a healing agent and used to repair tears in tissue and is not the cause of plaque leading to heart disease. Current science is revealing that inflammation from oxidation is the cause of disease (for which fat is protective).
The premise of the film riffs off Super Size me as Naughton sets out to prove that fast food does not make you fat and then spends a month eating it for every meal with before and after blood work and check-up. He eats mostly hamburgers, while saying no to fries and sodas. He points out that Spurlock went out of his way to overeat by supersizing every meal rather than just the nine incidents in the film, managing to eat 5000 calories a day. Naughton was denied access to Spurlock’s food log from the makers of Supersize Me and Spurlock. Naughton, himself, restricts his calorie intake to 2000.
In the end Naughton lost 12 lbs. He did impair his HDL which he says was due to the trans fat used in fast foods. He went on to improve his profile further by cutting out carbs entirely. It wasn’t his point to prove that fast foods were good for you, so he never returns to eating it again. It is also mentioned that Spurlock took four months to recover on his girlfriend’s vegan diet.
Naughton has his own pet peeves to put forth about how the Center For Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is an organization with a vegetarian agenda that promotes public policy to restrict fat using junk science while exaggerating public health dangers. It was the anti-smoking group that exposed them since they must both compete for the same funding.
In turn, Naughton reveals his own Libertarian, anti-government perspective when he emphasizes that government has no business regulating what he eats. He does make some connections between corporate food interests and their lobbying influence on government policy, specifically the weight loss industry and pharmaceuticals who stand to gain (pun intended) when people are fat.
The whole Spurlock and food police theme is overlong. Skip it and go directly to Part Two where the science is explained.
Extras include an interview with Sally Fallon, of the Weston Price Foundation, explaining how there was a conscious campaign created by the vegetable oil industry to promote the Lipid Hypothesis to demonize saturated fats in favor of their product. She explains how fat keeps blood sugars in normal range and provides vitamins and minerals not available in a vegetarian diet; animal fats are crucial for human health, she says.
A psychologist talks about why weight has very little to do with mortality rates; thin people have higher mortality rates. He speculates that thin bodies are a metaphor for self-control especially in a society that favors autonomy and individualistic self-direction; that we are in charge of our own life. Thus fat people are demonized for failing to control their life. Fat is protective, he says. Make people healthy not thin, he advises. Diets wreck people’s metabolism.
Also interesting story about modern dogs developing heart disease due to grain based dog chow. Grain is a bird food not a dog food. It is not mentioned that humans have the same digestive system as dogs, but does mention that rabbits were used to test Lipid Hypothesis because it was believed that dogs didn’t get heart disease. Rabbits don’t eat fats or meats so that’s why feeding them thus caused havoc on their system leading researchers to assume that the same would happen to us. Researchers seemed not to have figured out at the time that different animals have different digestive systems.
Not available in my library system, but you can Netflix it or buy it on e-bay for .