All posts by Charith

Healing the World: Controlling the Prevalence of Diabetes through Improved Food Habits

Today, diabetes is a global epidemic that increasingly spreading throughout the world population at a quite a rapid pace. Statistically, in the clinical frame, from 1980 to 2014, the number of reported diabetes victims has gone up from 108 million to 422 million. Also, currently, it is considered as a leading cause for kidney failure, cardiovascular conditions, lower limb amputations, and stroke and also as the 8th primary cause of most deaths around the world. Here, it is important to identify what are the key modifiable contributing factors for this sudden deviation of human health towards this global crisis of sugar killing the world. Parallel to the increased level of physical inactivity, today’s poor dietary habits play a key role encouraging this epidemic. In fact, the global shift of pre-industrialization healthy forms of food system to modern processed and refined-grain-based food system has been identified as a key component of this unhealthy evolution. Today, the western-industrialized food system has pushed the global community from a healthy way of eating to a diet rich with mostly simple carbohydrates, and saturated and trans fats, where coupled with physical inactivity and other predisposing factors, can lead to diabetes.

In addition to increasing level of physical activity, importantly, minimizing processed foods, replacing simple carbohydrates-rich diet with complex carbohydrates and fibers would alleviate risk of developing diabetes. To begin, there are two types of diabetes, type1 and type 2, from which type 1 occurs due to an autoimmune response of the body where the beta cells in pancreas that produce insulin, which regulates blood glucose levels, are destroyed by own body and the type 2, which is the most common and focused herein, is due to either the decreased production of insulin or poor sensitivity of the cells’ insulin receptors that required to use insulin. Presently, the connection of poor dietary and lifestyle habits to the prevalence of diabetes is clearly identified by a clinical study conducted by focusing the Pima indigenous group of North America who possesses the highest recorded rate of type 2 diabetes prevalence within a single group. To start, colonialization destroyed and disrupted the healthy traditional food system of the Pima and Tohono O’odham Indians of southern Arizona by taking their lands and preventing access to resources as river/water necessary to continue their agriculture. Prior, they had built their diet around grown beans, cholla buds and wild meats. Then, they were enforced by their imposed poverty to start depending on refined flours and processed foods that the western colonizers provided them. Also, the community also moved from an physically active lifestyle to a sedentary one due to becoming workless without agriculture and traditional food gathering system. Consequently, this led the community to develop diabetes at a significantly a higher rate which continued throughout time. In a nutshell, simple carbohydrates as refined grains are rapidly broken down to simple sugars that create an instantaneous high concentration of blood glucose level which requires a quick and an increased release of regulatory hormones from the pancreas. Eventually, this prolonged over use of the pancreas can lead to inefficient production of insulin and other cellular-changes that wound lead to type 2 diabetes. Also, it has been found that unhealthy saturated fats and trans fats that found in processed foods also increase the risk of developing diabetes. On the other hand, complex carbohydrates as whole grain products which are also rich with dietary fibers act totally opposite. Complex carbohydrates plus the fibers in them cause gastric emptying relatives much slower and are broken down to simple sugars at a gentle pace that would not place a strain upon the pancreas. Also, it has been identified that, a diet that is high with complex carbohydrates will reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in both populations who are genetically prone and not to have diabetes. Furthermore, complex carbohydrates are also known to promote weight loss and control obesity which are also risk factors for diabetes. Back to the research, today, however, Pima population in Mexico has adapted a much healthier lifestyle and a food culture when compared to the Pima population in America who continues to live a much sedentary life and with poor food habits as mostly depending on processed foods. The Pima in Mexico grows and produces their own food and maintains an active lifestyle by engaging in more physical activities. Here, when compared these two groups who have almost identical genetic predisposition to type 2 diabetes, statistics reveals that there is a significant lowering of prevalence to diabetes in the Pima group from Mexico who relatively has a healthy eating and physical activity level which convinces that modifying diet and lifestyle is an effective solution to control this epidemic. Clearly, it is important to identify what are barriers and ways to break them to promote healthy eating habits in a global perspective.

Certainly, socioeconomic status is playing a significant role in determining ones’ food behavior. In fact, it plays different roles in multiple dimensions depending on specificity of each group or the community. For example, in most of the cases, communities with lower socioeconomic means they are either unable to afford quality foods or/and they do not have access to them, locally. But, in some financially deprived communities as in rural areas might have less prevalence to diabetes due to their increased physical activity level opposed to increased rates of diabetes in population with high income living in cities due to obesity related to urban sedentary lifestyle. Herein, the governments’ or the regulatory bodies’ should focus on identifying the groups in need and provide necessary financial and similar support to develop access to healthy foods to them. Then, lack of knowledge about nutritional facts related to prevention and control of diabetes is also another barrier. Therefore, it is important to deploy effective awareness campaigns on prevention of diabetes and developing effective health promotion through local health care professionals as dietitians and public health nurses. Also, people should be taught about advantageous of Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load in determining which foods are suitable to lower the risk of developing diabetes. To explain, glycemic index is how fast is the respective food will elevate the blood sugar level. It is valued between 0 to 100 and food with low value means that it will lower the risk of developing diabetes. However, food choices should be made in related glycemic load which is calculated taking both quantity and GI to consideration. Here, glycemic load below 10 is considered a low and safe level and 20 or above is a high. In addition, mega companies who sell unhealthy food products have developed creative marketing strategies to target children in order to sell their products. For example, how Mc Donald use toys as gift to encourage children to direct parents to by Happy Meals. So, governments should take necessary measures to control how these companies conduct children-focused marketing as mentioned manner.

In conclusion, the global diabetes epidemic that is at acceleration can be slowed down or may be reversed if we as a global community can work towards in adapting healthy eating and active life style. In this process, governments can play a significant role in developing health and consumer regulations that favors the encouragement and enforcement of healthy food habits within their communities.

References

California News Reel. (2008). Unnatural Causes : Bad Sugar, Presented by the National Minority Consortia.

Calvert, S.L. (2008)., Children as Consumers: Advertising and Marketing. The Future of Children, 18, 205-234.

De Munter JS, Hu FB, Spiegelman D, Franz M, van Dam RM. Whole Grain, Bran,and germ Intake and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: a Prospective Cohort Study and Systematic Review. PLoS Med. 2007; 4:e261.

Glycemic Index. Harvard T.H Chan: School of Public Health.http://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and conditions/ glycemic_index_and_glycemic_load_ for_100_foods

Mattei, J., Malik, V., Wedick, N. M., Hu, F. B., Spiegelman, D., Willett, W. C., & Campos, H. (2015). Reducing the global burden of type 2 diabetes by improving the quality of staple foods: The Global Nutrition and Epidemiologic Transition Initiative. Globalization & Health, 11(1), 1-20.d.Globalization & Health, 11(1), 1-20.

Simple Steps to Preventing Diabetes. Harvard T.H Chan: School of Public Health. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/diabetes-prevention/preventing-diabetes-full-story/#references

WHO, Global Report on Diabetes 2016. http://www.who.int/diabetes/global-report/en/

 

 

 

 

FARMAGEDDON (2011)

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“Farmageddon” by Kristin Canty which was released in 2011 is a documentary about difficulties and challenges faced by small family farmers who primarily sell raw milk, raw milk products, and natural organic food in USA. The targeted audience of this documentary is any person who is concerned about healthy natural food that are produced in small farms in USA. According to Canty, the government authorities believe that consuming raw milk has dangerous health risks. Further, she shows that these state officials are using highly unacceptable and unethical ways of investigation and interrogation by using threats and armed forces. Here, many farmers from different places who faced the problem are interviewed. They described how the officials came well prepared to take away their products, animals and to seal the equipment even before conducting a proper inspection for any substandard processes or illegal conducts. Not only that, Canty shows evidence of how these official invading farmers privacy and acting in an abusive manner when conducting inspection. For example, Jacky Straves mentioned how frightening it was for her and her family to face few men pointing gun towards them at her house while the officials were conducting an inspection. Her children were devastated even after the officials left. Throughout the documentary, Kristen Canty shows that even though small farmers actually do a service to the society by producing healthy food and, mainly row milk and other row milk products. They o through a tough time financially and psychologically as a result of the continuous harassments brought by the state officials who intend to stop their functioning and development. Furthermore, it reveals how certain rules upon the small farmers is increasing the manufacturing costs of their products and how it leads to increased prices of their products. For example, these farmers are not allowed to cure pork by themselves when making bacon. So, they have to cure their pork from a recognized facility which increase the production cost.

Although this may be true, the way they produce milk, yogurt or even bottled vegetables look rather unsanitary. Though the farmers claim that their food are healthier as not being processed, that does not guarantee that their food is 100% clean or germ free. For example, the documentary showed some workers touch vegetables with bare hands and bottling them to sell to the public. To further illustrate, even though they constantly state that their raw milk is safe as the pasteurized, just applying an antiseptic product on the cows’ nipple prior to milking cannot guarantee that the produce is not contaminated until it becomes bottled. To conclude, “Farmageddon” is one sided documentary which supports the small farmers rather than documenting both sides of this crucial problem. The documenter leaves the doubt to the audience whether or not it is safe to consume their products and whether the government is really acting in a responsible manner in respect of assuring consumer safety.

Bitter Melon : A natural treatment to manage Diabetes

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As we all know, today, Diabetes is a major health problem throughout the world which has a tremendous negative impact on wellness of the global community. This chronic condition that creates an impaired blood glucose regulation in the body can lead to number of life threatening conditions as cardiovascular complications, kidney failures, blindness, and stroke. In fact, according to WHO, by the year 2012, it is considered as the 8th leading cause of death in the world. Therefore, the world is continuing to find effective pharmacological, non-pharmacological and dietary means of prevention and management of diabetes. While most of us are depending on pharmacological methods of diabetes management, number of people have looked at finding herbal or natural substitutes to control the progression of Diabetes.

Momordica Charantia or also known as Bitter Melon or bitter guard is one of the main edible natural fruit/vegetable that has hypoglycemic or the required medicinal properties to lower or balance the blood glucose levels. This tropical plant is mainly cultivated in Asia, South America, Africa and the Caribbean. Today, this is readily available to purchase around the world including North America. However, although its medicinal uses in Diabetes was acknowledged by the western world quite recently, it had been used as a medicine to manage symptoms related to poor blood glucose regulation (Diabetes) since several thousands of years back by the Ayurveda medicine in India as well as in some other parts of the Asia.

During the recent decades, the scientists have been able to identify 3 specific components that give the plant its hypoglycemic properties. Charantin, a chemical compound that has been proven to be able to lower blood glucose levels by acting quite similar to insulin. Then, it consists of a chemical molecule called Polypeptide-P, also known as insulin-p, which mimics the function of insulin in regulating blood glucose levels of the body. Further, scientists claim that it has another substance called Vicine that is also capable to lowering blood glucose levels. In addition, it has a substance which can help to relieve the symptom of excessive hunger related to diabetes by suppressing the satiety center of the brain which is responsible in creating appetite/hunger. To make this little clearer, let’s look at why managing appetite is important. Another important function of insulin is to regulate appetite. When one has diabetes, he/she either doesn’t have sufficient insulin or cells are less sensitive to insulin. In any case, if look at the whole picture: you have enough glucose in your blood, but, unable to efficiently take them into the cells because  due to diabetes. Then, the body misinterprets that it has low glucose levels in blood which leads to break down of fat/proteins to glucose + creating an unnecessary hunger to influence more food intake. Here all the misdirected processes lead to excessive blood glucose levels of the body and still the brain thinks that the body doesn’t have enough glucose. This is same as your car’s fuel level-sensor is dysfunctional and has a fuel block at the same time where you see in the display that your tank is empty and no matter how much you fill, it won’t respond or start. So, fixing the hunger is like fixing your fuel-capacity sensor to prevent over-pumping gas/food.

Usually, people make number of dishes out of this vegetable and consume as side dishes with the main. Also, some people simply make a juice off of the fruit and drinks it. Further, you are able to find powdered, and dried versions of this medicinal fruit. However, if you intend to replace or incorporate this with hypoglycemic drugs, it is important to talk to your physician before initiating consistent use.

 

References

Global report on diabetes. World Health Organization, Geneva, 2016.

Gene cloning and expression of a novel hypoglycaemic peptide from Momordica charantia.[J Sci Food Agric. 2011]

http://www.diabetes.co.uk/natural-therapies/bitter-melon.html

Research Journal of Medicinal Plants

http://docsdrive.com/pdfs/academicjournals/rjmp/2011/352-376.pdf

Wang BL, Zhang WJ, Zhao J, Wang FJ, Fan LQ, Wu YX, Hu ZB

J Sci Food Agric. 2011 Oct; 91(13):2443-8.

Rahman, Inavat U., et al. “Lower Hypoglycemic But Higher Antiatherogenic Effects of Bitter Melon Than Gilbenclamide In Type 2 Diabetic Patients.” Nutrition Journal. 14.1 (2015): 1-7. Academic Serach Complete. Web.3 Dec.2016.

Ying, Zhu, et al. “Effect Of Superfine Grinding On Antidiabetic Activity Of Bitter Melon Powder.” International Journal Of Molecular Sciences 13.11 (2012): 14203-14218. Academic Search Complete. Web.3 Dec.2016.

 

Dan Barber: “How I fell love with a fish”

To introduce, the American Chef. Dan Barber is a renowned and an influential figure that attempts to promote the importance of a sustainable food-system to the global community. Apart from building his cooking around the idea of ‘knowing what we exactly eat and where they come from’, he writes and speaks to enforce directives to make a change in the irresponsible way we produce and consume food. In his TED talk “How I fell in love with a fish”, he focusses on enlightening the audience of the true possibility of revolutionizing today’s unsustainable agricultural system into the sustainable ecological system that had been proven to work through “two billion years of on-the-job experience” by the nature.

Here, Barber gets to his point by comparing two contrasting fish farming models, a one being the ideal for a better future and the other the opposite. First, he speaks of how the mass-consumption of fishes has depleted the fishes in the waters and that the rising of environmentally complicate fish farming as a solution for keep up the supply to the increasing demand. After speaking to his longtime fish supplier who is famous to farm fish in a sustainable manner based on the fact that being far away from the sea promoting less pollution and having a much lower feed conversion ratio, he finds that the 30% of the feed of the fish are derived from chicken. Here, with this revealed he become unconvinced that it can be considered as a sustainable farming system. On the other hand, he comes across a revolutionary mega fish farm in Southern Spain where they had allowed to establish an ecosystem that is self-sustained and needless to feed the fish from external means. There, fishes are depending on the algae, phytoplankton and live species that present within the system. Also, the efficiency of the farm is evaluated by the health of the birds that feed on fishes. According to Barber, this system is also able to purify the water by removing the pollutants through numerous bio-chemical processes. In his words, “The system is so healthy, it purifies the water. So, not just a farm that doesn’t feed its animals, not just a farm that measures its success by the health of its predators, but a farm that’s literally a water purification plant”. Finally, he draws our attention towards the importance of moving away from the agribusiness model and to working on ecological model where we can achieve a sustainable food production to cater food to the global community.

Certainly, as the speaker expects, an ecological model is definitely a sustainable way of agriculture as it is how the world had been until the industrial revolution, technological advancements, and emerge of profit-based mass food productions. Also, Barber notes that people need to find ways to create required conditions to produce their own food within the communities. Here, question arises whether it is really possible to transition from the current economically-dominant agribusiness model to a less profitable ecological model in a global environment built in capitalistic profit-based grounds. Further, do we have sufficient natural resources left within most of the communities to start building food production when looking at the immense industrialization and environmental destruction. Anyhow, if we can work as a global community in changing the way we look at food production as Barber reveals, we surely can hope for a better or a future.

Spinach Wada

 

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This is a delicious vegetarian snack which is so crunchy outside and flavorful inside. This can be served with coconut chutney for extra awesomeness.

Ingredients

  •  200g of split black gram
  •  Some curry leaves- chopped
  •  1 medium size onion
  •       1 tsp cumin seeds
  •  1 tsp of black pepper powder
  •  Hand full of spinach
  •       Some curry leaves
  •       1 small carrot- grated
  •  Salt to taste
  •  Cooking oil

Preparation

Soak split black gram in water for minimum 6 hours.

Method

Drain the split black gram that you soaked in water and grind it. Even though split black gram already have water, if you think they are too dry, you can add a tiny bit of water. It is important to keep in mind that if you add water before grinding, your dough will be ruined. Remove the dough from the grinder and add black pepper powder, chopped curry leaves and bit of salt. Now, mix those ingredients using your hand. Do not forget to either wear gloves or wash your hands thoroughly before mixing. Then, by using your hand, beat the mixture little by little for few minutes. To know if the dove is ready, you can take a small ball of your dough and put it in to a small container filled with water. If the dough is ready, it will float in the water container. If not beat the dough little bit more. Now, it’s the time for chopped onions, grated carrot and spinach . Add them to the mixture and mix well.

In a separate pan, heat some oil. Dip your hand in water and take some of your mixture. Make a small ball  and a small hole in the middle of the split gram ball using your thumb. Now, fry it. You can fry few at once. When the split gram balls turn to golden color, take them out and keep them on paper towels to drain excess oil.

Enjoy !