Celiac and Fat-Soluble Vitamins

One of the things I've been thinking about lately is the possibility that intestinal damage due to gluten grains (primarily wheat) contributes to the diseases of civilization by inhibiting the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. If it were a contributing factor, we would expect to see a higher incidence of the common chronic diseases in newly-diagnosed celiac patients, who are often deficient in fat-soluble vitamins. We might also see a resolution of chronic disease in celiac patients who have been adhering faithfully to a long-term, gluten-free diet.

One thing that definitely associates with celiac disease is bone and tooth problems. Celiac patients often present with osteoporosis, osteopenia (thin bones), cavities or tooth enamel abnormalities (thanks Peter).

An Italian study showed that among 642 heart transplant candidates, 1.9% had anti-endomyosal antibodies (a feature of celiac), compared with 0.35% of controls. That's more than a 5-fold enrichment! The majority of those patients were presumably unaware of their celiac disease, so they were not eating a gluten-free diet.

Interestingly, celiac doesn't seem to cause obesity; to the contrary. That's one facet of modern health problems that it definitely does not cause.

The relationship between cancer and celiac disease is very interesting. The largest study I came across was conducted in Sweden using retrospective data from 12,000 celiac patients. They found that adult celiac patients have a higher overall risk of cancer, but that the extra risk disappears with age. The drop in cancer incidence may reflect dropping gluten following a celiac diagnosis. Here's another study showing that the elevated cancer risk occurs mostly in the first year after diagnosis, suggesting that eliminating gluten solves the problem. Interestingly, celiac patients have a greatly elevated risk of lymphoma, but a lower risk of breast cancer.

There's a very strong link between celiac and type I diabetes. In a large study, 1 in 8 type I diabetic children had celiac disease. This doesn't necessarily tell us much since celiac and type I diabetes are both autoimmune disorders.

One last study to add a nail to the coffin. Up to this point, all the studies I've mentioned have been purely observational, not able to establish a causal relationship. I came across a small study recently which examined the effect of a high-fiber diet on vitamin D metabolism in healthy (presumably non-celiac) adults. They broke the cohort up into two groups, and fed one group 20g of bran in addition to their normal diet. The other group got nothing extra. The bran-fed group had a vitamin D elimination half-life of 19.5 days, compared to 27.5 for the control group. In other words, for whatever reason, the group eating extra bran was burning through their vitamin D reserves 30% faster than the control group.

Unfortunately, the paper doesn't say what kind of bran it was, but it was probably wheat or oat (**Update- it's wheat bran**). This is important because it would determine if gluten was involved. Either way, it shows that something in grains can interfere with fat-soluble vitamin status, which is consistent with the staggering negative effect of refined wheat products on healthy non-industrialized cultures.

Add to this the possibility that many people may have some degree of gluten sensitivity, and you start to see a big problem. All together, the data are consistent with gluten grains interfering with fat-soluble vitamin status in a subset of people. As I discussed earlier, this could contribute to the diseases of civilization. These data don't
prove anything conclusively, but I do find them thought-provoking.

Thanks to Dudua for the CC photo

Show Sunday

Named after one village, but taking place in the field of another, our local show got under way yesterday. Ringed by ash and oak, the only buildings in view are an ironstone manor house and our church spire, everything else is a green quilt of Leicestershire pastureland under scudding clouds in a summer sky. For the last couple of weeks there's been sporadic activity in the field- a big marquee in pole position, sheep pens huddled in one corner, a show ring marked out in blue rope. And so now the scent of crushed grass, the heady smell of tractor oil and burger, the crackling of triple-horned loudspeakers. Smart gigs and dog carts swish round the ring as the battleship grey Fergusons, dark green Field Marshalls and startlingly blue Fordsons are revved up. Pocket money is distributed to the boys, the youngest immediately taking it upon himself to post his into the utterly inaccessible recesses of a brass tube on a fire tender.

Here is Unmitigated Local England, local people enjoying local pleasures- sheep tweeked and preened for the sheepwalk (one judging category reads: Three Threaves Mule or Masham), foxhounds snuffling for the biscuits in a huntsman's coat. A dachshund dressed-up as a bee looks nervously up at a policeman Alsatian, a polished Bentley convertible displays rosettes on the wing mirror and gingham-topped homemade jams jostle for sale next door to boxes of unmade jigsaws. And of course there's the refreshment tent, the beer not quite as local as we'd like, but it's here that we nod to neighbours in the beer queue, everyone bathed in that wonderfully diffused light that only white canvas under sunshine gives. Dogs are patted, gossip exchanged, gobstoppers and candy floss facepaint the boys. And on top of it all I manage to buy a first edition of Richard Mabey's Food for Free. So I'm very pleased with myself, but it does mean that it's dandelion leaves on toast for tea.

‘Pre-pandemic' H5N1 vaccine may help ward off disease

Officials in Europe approved a new vaccine recently that may offer some hope for preventing an influenza pandemic.

In May, the European Commission approved Prepandrix, a "pre-pandemic" vaccine, for marketing in the European Union. The GlaxoSmithKline vaccine is designed to be used in advance of a pandemic or just as it begins to prevent spread of the disease. Both Switzerland and the United States have ordered supplies of the vaccine, according to news reports.

"Pre-pandemic vaccination is an important strategy for addressing the current threat of a pandemic posed by H5N1," said Jean Stéphenne, president and general manager of GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals in a May news release.

The vaccine is based on the Vietnam flu strain, but reportedly produces an immune response against the H5N1 flu strain, which is of current global concern. If the H5N1 strain mutates or another strain becomes a pandemic, the vaccine may not be as protective, however.

As of June 18, the World Health Organization had reported 385 human cases of H5N1 infection from 15 countries, resulting in 243 deaths.

Get Ready Mailbag


Welcome to another installment of the Get Ready Mailbag, where we take time to answer questions sent our way by readers like you. Have a question you want answered? Send an e-mail to pandemicflu@apha.org today!

Q. Can I get bird flu from eating chicken or eggs?

A. No, not as long as they are handled correctly.

Bird flu -- also referred to as avian flu or H5N1 -- is an important health issue. Although no immediate threat of a bird flu pandemic exists in the United States, it is definitely important to plan ahead so you and your family are prepared. However, eating chicken and eggs aren’t something to worry about.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that as long as poultry and eggs are properly handled and cooked, they're still safe to eat. You can't catch bird flu if your food is cooked at a high enough temperature. To make sure your chicken is cooked all the way through, use a meat thermometer and ensure that the inside of your chicken is at least 165° F throughout.

And although it may be tempting to lick the bowl while baking, never eat raw eggs or food with raw egg ingredients like cookie dough or cake batter. Instead, be sure to thoroughly cook all dishes with raw eggs in them before eating them.

If you follow these simple precautions, you can have your poultry and eggs and eat them too!

Unexpected Alphabets No 2


There are three beautifully-lettered mileposts (there maybe more) that sit on what appear to be the extremities of the Stanford Hall estate in Leicestershire. The early eighteenth century orange brick house and stables are amongst the very best buildings in the county, perfectly placed at the centre of a green park. The village and church are over the border in Northamptonshire, and it is in this county near Clay Coton that the other two ironstone mileposts stand half hidden at the side of the lane at Stanford Mear. One, almost completely enveloped by the hedge, has a big ball finial on top, a feature that I assume once crowned all three. I just love them, as much for the lettercutting as anything. I can only assume that they were positioned as information posts for departing travellers, and can perhaps offer a rough timeframe to them by noting the inclusion of Rugby Station on the above post (which has destinations on three sides), situated on the north east corner of the estate below South Kilworth. The railway arrived in Rugby in 1839, but the hall would have been very well served by the Yelvertoft & Stanford Park station that appeared in the village in 1850. I admit the mileposts do look earlier, and 'Rugby Station 8' could have been added later, but, whatever the facts, seek them out soon before they disappear completely.

The Seat of Power

Have you ever wondered why the buttocks is one of the most attractive parts of the body on both sexes?

The shape of the buttocks comes mostly from the gluteal muscles (maximus and medius), superimposed by a layer of fat. The 'glutes' are some of the strongest muscles in the body, due to their large size and efficient leverage. Thrusting doesn't even come close to tapping into the glutes' tremendous power. What does? Heavy lifting. Sprints. Jumps. In short, some of the most functional full-body movements we perform as humans.

In any full-body movement, the hips are the central source of power. The strongest muscles surround the hips, and muscle strength diminishes progressively as you move further from them. A shapely buttocks is typically a strong buttocks, and a strong buttocks generally means a strong person. So if you want to decide at a glance whether a person is capable of sprinting and jumping after large prey, and then carrying it home, the buttocks is a good place to look.

The buttocks is also a storage area for fat. Humans tend to store a disproportionate amount of fat near their center of gravity: in the abdominal cavity, on the hips and on the buttocks. The right amount of fat indicates a healthy individual. A shapely buttocks is typically attached to someone who is strong and well-nourished. It's not so hard to imagine why we find it attractive.

Real Food VIII: Ghee

All this talk about butter is making me hungry. Richard mentioned in the comments that he bought some ghee recently and has been enjoying it, so I thought I'd post a recipe. Ghee is the Hindi word for clarified butter. It's butter that has had everything removed but the fat. Rich in fat-soluble vitamins and lacking the sometimes problematic lactose and casein, ghee has rightfully been considered a health food in India since ancient times.

Another advantage of ghee is its high smoke point, which is higher than butter because it doesn't contain any protein or sugars. Consequently, food sauteed in ghee has a clean, rich taste.

The recipe is simple but touchy. I recommend using the best butter you can get your hands on. 100% grass-fed, unsalted cultured butter is the best.

Ingredient and materials
  • Butter (1 lb minimum)
  • Wide-mouth glass jars
  • Cheesecloth
  • Rubber bands
Recipe
  1. Place the butter in a saucepan and turn the heat to medium until it's melted.
  2. Once it begins to boil, turn the heat down to low. It's very important to calibrate the heat correctly. Typically, you will want the burner on its lowest setting. The idea is to evaporate the water without burning the oil. It should boil, but slowly.
  3. The melted butter starts out cloudy but gradually clears up as the water evaporates. At the same time, a crust will form on the surface of the ghee and the bottom of the pan. Keep the heat very low.
  4. Push a portion of the top crust to the side with a spoon to see inside of the saucepan. When the butter looks clear and bubbles only rise from the bottom every few seconds, it's done. You have to be very careful because once the water has evaporated, the fat heats up quickly and burns the crust. This gives the ghee an acrid flavor and color. Make sure to handle the pot cautiously, because hot oil can give severe burns.
  5. Allow the ghee to cool until it's warm but not hot. Place a piece of cheesecloth over the lid of your jar. Secure it with a rubber band. Pour the ghee through the cheesecloth, into the jar.
  6. Store ghee in the refrigerator or at room temperature. It keeps much longer than butter.
The picture above is of my last batch of ghee.

Meditation

Meditation is the single most effective tool I've ever found for cultivating calmness, positivity and self-acceptance. It's an ancient technique that's simple and free. In fact, it's so simple, I'm about to teach it to you in five minutes over the internet. I personally practice Zen meditation
several times a week, by myself and with a sitting group. Meditation is not fundamentally a religious practice, although it has been used by spiritual people in every major religion. Don't think you're patient enough for meditation? That's exactly why you should be doing it!


Let's start with posture. The main purpose of the meditation posture is to allow you to remain still for long periods of time without discomfort. I'll discuss two postures: cross-legged and kneeling. Before you elevate your mind though, you have to elevate your backside. Find something you can sit on- a firm cushion or a folded blanket will work well. Your pelvis should be at least four inches above the ground. Now cross your legs. Your knees should be lower than your pelvis. Adjust your posture until you can maintain a straight back without any muscle tension. You'll have to rotate the top of your pelvis forward slightly, curving your lower back in toward your stomach.

Now put your hands together so that your left fingers rest on top of your right ones, just above your lap. Your palms should face up. Now touch your thumbs lightly together. That's it! You are now sitting in a very nice meditation posture. It will get more comfortable over time as you adjust to it.

The kneeling posture is the same except you kneel and put the support under your pelvis, between your legs. Wooden 'seiza' benches work well for this, but are not necessary. Your pelvis should be at least six inches off the ground so that you don't hurt your knees. This is my preferred posture, but I'm admittedly in the minority.

Now that you know the posture, face a blank wall three or four feet away. You can also look at the floor (while keeping your head and neck straight) or anything else that isn't likely to capture your interest.

Try breathing 'into your stomach'. To do this, breathe using only your diaphragm, in such a way that it makes your stomach rise and fall rather than your chest. Breathe slowly and deliberatley, pausing after each exhale. Bring your full attention to the rise and fall of your stomach. That's it, you're meditating! Really. Don't get fancy: it's counterproductive to try to actively relax yourself or achieve some different mental state.

In Zen, we call meditation 'sitting'. We use such a simple word because that's all it is: paying full attention to the moment, while you sit. Just bring your attention to your breath. If your mind drifts, gently bring it back. Don't try to stifle your thoughts, just acknowledge them and come back to your breath. If you can't focus, that's normal.

Try this for 15 minutes at first. Every day is best, but do what you can. When you're more comfortable with the technique, increase your time to 30 minutes. Meditation is a practice that changes and ripens with time.

The Dhamma Brothers

I saw a movie a few nights ago called 'The Dhamma Brothers'. It's about a meditation program at Donaldson correctional facility in Alabama, one of the most violent prisons in the country. Two Bhuddist teachers of Vipassana meditation led a 10-day silent retreat for a volunteer group of inmates. They got up at dawn and meditated for several hours each day. Some of the inmates went through an amazing transformation.

They were forced to confront and accept the horrible crimes they had committed. When you aren't allowed to talk for 10 days, and all you have are your thoughts to keep you company, it's hard to ignore your feelings. Many of them had breakdowns as they felt the full force of their own suffering for the first time.

At first, the warden was skeptical that the prisoners were just acting to get parole; "fake it 'til you make it". Then he started noticing major changes in the inmates' behavior. They became less violent and easier to deal with. Some of them left their gangs. Even after the program was discontinued thanks to an overzealous chaplain, many of the "Dhamma brothers" continued meditating on their own.

It's hard to doubt a grown man's sincerity when you see tears running down his cheeks. These men were hardened criminals, most of them serving life sentences for murder, who rediscovered perspective and humanity simply by spending focused time with themselves.


Meditation is a powerful tool. There are two types of knowledge: intellectual and visceral. You can read books until you're cross-eyed and you will never connect with the fundamental, animal, visceral side of living.
We like to think of ourselves as rational, conscious beings. It's reassuring to us. We're in control of our minds and therefore our lives. But that's more illusion than reality.

Neuroscience and meditation have shown us that the human mind is like a monkey riding an elephant. The monkey is our conscious and the elephant is our subconscious. The monkey can tell the elephant where to go, but ultimately the elephant is going to do what it wants. The monkey likes to be in charge however, so it retroactively decides it was the one that chose the direction.


To illustrate the point, imagine doing a simple algebra problem. Do you have to go over everything you ever learned about algebra in your head to solve that problem? No, your subconscious navigates the strata of accumulated knowledge and practically hands you the answer. What happens when you decide on an entree at a restaurant? Do you make a pro/con list for each item and weigh them accordingly? Or do you decide based on a feeling? Where does that feeling come from?


Meditation is plugging back into the vastness of human experience. It's acknowledging that your conscious, declarative mind is only a small slice of the pie.

Bedroom Shelves new ideas


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Bathroom Shelves

Find decorative and creative ideas for bathroom shelves and solve bathroom storage problems
Are you tired of leaving your toothpaste, makeup, soap, and everything else in the bathroom balanced precariously on the edge of the sink?

Do you get annoyed with the lack of useful shelving in your bathroom?


A lot of people overlook the need for extra bathroom shelves, and it always seems cluttered as a result.
Bathrooms are a central room in your home, and they need proper decorative shelves and storage shelves just like anywhere else. There are a lot of creative, decorative shelving solutions available to enhance your bathroom, giving it a more ordered look while providing you with not only extra storage space but also great ways to display vases, pretty bottles, bowls, figurines and other objects that will add beauty to your bathroom.



Most bathrooms aren't all that big, so when adding shelving to the bathroom you have to really measure carefully and whatever you do, don't overdo it. Just one bathroom shelf unit, or one set of bathroom wall shelves is usually as much as you can normally add to a bathroom. Even if you have more space to add glass bathroom shelves or other bathroom shelving, think twice. If you put in too much your bathroom will feel crowded and uncomfortable.
When considering bathroom shelves, think creatively about where to put them. We've found decorative bathroom shelves as well as bathroom storage shelves that are designed to fit into every nook and cranny of your bathroom. You can find shelves designed to fit above the toilet (but mounted on the floor, not the wall) as well as shelves for under the sink, around the mirror, and in the corners.

There are glass bathroom shelves, wood bathroom shelves, and also metal bathroom shelves to meet your taste, as well as your needs.

If you are interested in wall-mounted bathroom shelves, take into account the type of wall you have. If you have bathroom tiles on the wall, you must have the proper drill bits so you won't crack the tiles when you drill the holes.


Wood bathroom shelves are very nice, and certainly a step up from plastic ones. Take into account, however, that wood bathroom shelves need to be finished and sealed properly. Exposed wood in a humid area, like a bathroom with a steamy shower, will become moldy, and a health risk. Get shelves that are rated for bathroom use.

Kitchen Wall Shelving

Adding On Wall Shelves and Storage In Your Kitchen

If you're interested in adding additional shelving into your kitchen, you can either mount more shelves on available wall space, or buy a floor-standing unit. If you want to add on wall-mounted shelves, you should take a lot of things into consideration before you begin drilling holes:

Location Of Shelves
This is really important. You don't want the shelves to get in the way of any kitchen appliances, doors, or windows. Also, if the shelves are mounted in that space can anyone (especially taller people) bump into them accidentally?
Accessibility

If you mount shelves in that location, will you be able to easily get whatever you plan on storing on the shelves? How often will you need the items that will go on these shelves, and how important are they?
Type Of Walls

This is important for knowing how to properly mount the shelves. If the walls are brick or concrete, no problem! However, plasterboard walls are weaker, and mounting shelves that will hold heavy (and breakable) kitchen dishes on them is trickier.
Closeness to Stove Top

Not only could mounting shelves above a stove be a potential fire hazard, it can also become a grease trap.
Shelf Material
Not all shelf materials are necessarily good in the kitchen. Stainless steel shelves are easier to clean, but not as nice to look at as real wood.


What material goes with the rest of the kitchen decor?

Once you've taken all these factors into account, you are ready to make some decisions regarding kitchen wall shelving.
For some great stainless steel shelves that won't cost you an arm and a leg, take a look at this kitchen wall system
which is fully adjustable, and it also provides hooks along the bottom for utensils.
If your looking for pantry shelving, it's important that it's light, flexible and strong. You don't want to be concerned, for example, that the shelves are not strong enough to hold a mixer or heavy food processor.

Kitchen Shelving

When The Shelves You Have Just Aren't Enough Space

You can double the size of your kitchen, and triple the amount of shelves you have, it still won't be enough. Kitchen shelves fill up, and there is no such thing as spare space in a kitchen. That's just the way it is.
A lot of kitchens that we've seen, even the larger ones, tend to have a lot of enclosed cabinetry, and not enough open shelf space. There might be enough shelves for the dishes,

but what about kitchen bookshelves for your cookbooks?

Not only do you need space for books, but also for microwaves,vases, displays, radios, wine bottles, and a whole lot more. This plus decorations is what turns a kitchen into a warm, friendly room that invites you and your family to spend more time in it.




Even people who don't cook a lot tend to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and it often becomes a warm, social area for interaction. In our home guests feel as comfortable in the kitchen as they do in our living room. By having open shelving strategically placed around the kitchen, we are able to display a nice collection of interesting bottles, all of our cookbooks, a few vases, and even some of our kid's art projects.

If you lack open kitchen shelf space, consider adding on either extra wall-mounted shelves, or choose from a wide variety of shelves and units that are designed specifically for the kitchen. These units come in a variety of designs, some with lots of open shelf space, some with drawers, and even some on wheels. They make handsome additions to any kitchen, and provide you with lots of extra space for holding books, artwork and more. Kitchen carts, buffets, sideboards, microwave stands and bakers racks are all designed to fit into available space in the kitchen, and provide you with additional surfaces for preparation, shelves for presentation and also drawers and baskets for storage purposes.


Wessex Interlude 3


Afficianados of John Schlesinger's 1967 film Far from the Madding Crowd will probably recognise this tower. One of my all time favourite buildings, Horton Tower was used as the scene of a particularly viscious cock fight involving Sergeant Troy, played by a moody Terence Stamp. But I wouldn't blame you if you only remembered it for Julie Christie as the wilful Bathsheba Everdene. Heavy sigh.

Horton was built by Humphrey Sturt in the 1760s, probably following the contemporary fad for having an observatory, but it was more likely to have been used as a viewpoint for watching the local foxhunt. But if you had the money and the land to put it on, wouldn't you build something like this just for the hell of it? Just to look out over the surrounding hills and woods. I had photographed the tower ten years ago or so, but always wanted to picture it against a more characterful sky, which did the right thing by boiling up over Dorset on Saturday. It can now take pride of place in a book I've planned for some time- Preposterous Erections, which is still being eyed nervously by my publisher because I won't budge on the title.

Preparing at home for pandemic flu: New guide shows the way


Today's guest blog entry is by Marty Fenstersheib, MD, MPH, health officer for the Santa Clara County Public Health Department, in San Jose, Calif.

As a public health leader, a good part of my job involves planning and preparing for public health emergencies. I find myself asking hypothetical questions like the proverbial "what if?"

What if pandemic influenza comes to our community? What if health care and other essential workers can't come to work? What if we gave them information to be better prepared at home? Would that help?

While pandemic flu made the headlines a few years back, news coverage and a sense of the threat has fizzled. That's a problem because I believe the threat is just as real today. So what if pandemic flu started causing illness in people?

Public health officials worry about having enough healthy workers –- doctors, nurses, police and fire personnel and many others -- required to take care of our basic medical and societal needs. We know a shortage of these workers is likely in any large-scale emergency.

Did you know that in California all public employees can be called to serve as disaster service workers? It's true. But even with this state law behind us, I don’t think everyone will report for duty right away. Some will be sick –- doctors and nurses don't have any special immunity. Others will be taking care of sick family members, which is a natural, reasonable and caring response.

In an effort to increase the number of public employees who will be ready to serve, we undertook an innovative project: the Home Care Guide: Providing Care at Home During Pandemic Flu.* The guide has easy-to-follow sections such as preparing your home and providing good care at home. This hands-on tool is helping our public employees get their own homes ready and their families taken care of so that they are better able to fulfill their responsibility as disaster service workers.

While we are working to make sure our local community is better prepared, we also hope the guide will be helpful to health care professionals, emergency workers and necessary service workers in communities throughout the United States.

The information in the guide can help you prepare as well. Download a copy or link to our full version by visiting our Web site. Spanish and Vietnamese translated versions of the guide will also be available in August. Use the information in the guide to protect your health, and the health of people you love.


*The Home Care Guide: Providing Care at Home During Pandemic Flu was developed as part of Santa Clara County’s Advanced Practice Center Program. Designated as an Advanced Practice Center by the National Association of County and City Health Officials, the Santa Clara County Public Health Department works to advance public health preparedness and develop “best practice” tools and resources to address preparedness challenges.

Wessex Interlude 2

Unmitigated England appears to be getting more and more curious. First it was the blue bricked ramps in the middle of fields that we now know are 'cattle drinkers' and then this isolated chimney in the middle of a field between Piddletrenthide and Plush in Dorset. Of course the first thoughts were for a subterranean home in the style of Bilbo Baggins' Hobbiton dwelling, with the front door perhaps hidden away in the woods. And then maybe a smokery of some kind, reminiscent as it is of the little brick structures with their terracotta chimneys out on the Dungeness peninsular. But who would smoke what, way out in a damp field far from any habitation. The only other explanation put forward is that it is an escape hatch for the build-up of marsh gas emanating from a water course (there's a tiny stream in front of it). It just seems so purposeful, with its stone base and truly magnificent orange chimney pot. The field was virtually inaccessible, but on moving around it on the lane I did notice a little shallow trough filled with water on the northern elevation. So the gas ventilator idea may have some credence. And on closer inspection the chimney does look very much like a section of drainage pipe. I stopped an old man on the road, a modern day Tranter Reuben off to Casterbridge I supposed, and asked him about it. He peered over the hedge, thought for a minute and then said "I ain't got a clue boy".

Vitamin K2, menatetrenone (MK-4)

Weston Price established the importance of the MK-4 isoform of vitamin K2 (hereafter, K2) with a series of interesting experiments. He showed in chickens that blood levels of calcium and phosphorus depended both on vitamin A and K2, and that the two had synergistic effects on mineral absorption. He also showed that chickens preferred eating butter that was rich in K2 over butter low in K2, even when the investigators couldn't distinguish between them. Young turkeys fed K2-containing butter oil along with cod liver oil (A and D) also grew at a much faster rate than turkeys fed cod liver oil alone.

He hypothesized that vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin K2 were synergistic and essential for proper growth and subsequent health. He particularly felt that the combination was important for proper mineral absorption and metabolism. He used a combination of high-vitamin cod liver oil and high-vitamin butter oil to heal cavities, reduce oral bacteria counts, and cure numerous other afflictions in his patients. He also showed that the healthy non-industrial groups he studied had a much higher intake of these fat-soluble, animal-derived vitamins than more modern cultures.

Price found an inverse correlation between the levels of K2 in butter and mortality from cardiovascular disease and pneumonia in a number of different regions. A recent study examined the relationship between K2 (MK-4 through 10) consumption and heart attack risk in 4,600 Dutch men. They found a strong inverse association between K2 consumption and heart attack mortality risk. Men with the highest K2 consumption had a whopping 51% lower risk of heart attack mortality and a 26% lower risk of death from all causes compared to men eating the least K2! Their sources of K2 MK-4 were eggs, meats and dairy. They obtained MK-5 through MK-10 from fermented foods and fish. The investigators found no association with K1, the form found in plants.

Perigord, France is the world's capital of foie gras, or fatty goose liver. Good news for the bon vivants: foie gras turns out to be the richest known source of K2. Perigord also has the lowest rate of cardiovascular mortality in France, a country already noted for its low CVD mortality.

Rats fed warfarin, a drug that inhibits K2 recycling, develop arterial calcification. Feeding the rats K2 completely inhibits this effect. Mice lacking matrix Gla protein (MGP), a vitamin K-dependent protein that guards against arterial calcification, develop heavily calcified aortas and die prematurely. So the link between K2 and cardiovascular disease is a very strong one.

Mammals can synthesize K2 MK-4 from K1 to some degree, so dietary K1 and other forms of vitamin K may contribute to K2 MK-4 status

The synergism Weston Price observed between vitamins A, D and K2 now has a solid mechanism. In a nutshell, vitamins A and D signal the production of some very important proteins, and K2 is required to activate them once they are made. Many of these proteins are involved in mineral metabolism, thus the effects Price saw in his experiments and observations in non-industrialized cultures. For example, osteocalcin is a protein that organizes calcium and phosphorus deposition in the bones and teeth. It's produced by cells in response to vitamins A and D, but requires K2 to perform its function. This suggests that the effects of vitamin D on bone health could be amplified greatly if it were administered along with K2. By itself, K2 is already highly protective against fractures in the elderly. It works out perfectly, since K2 also protects against vitamin D toxicity.

I'm not going to go through all the other data on K2 in detail, but suffice it to say it's very very important. I believe that K2 is a 'missing link' that explains many of our modern ills, just as Weston Price wrote. Here are a few more tidbits to whet your appetite: K2 may affect glucose control and insulin release (1, 2). It's concentrated in the brain, serving an as yet unknown function.

Hunter-gatherers didn't have multivitamins, they had nutrient-dense food. As long as you eat a natural diet containing some vegetables and some animal products, and lay off the processed grains, sugar and vegetable oil, the micronutrients will take care of themselves.

Vitamin K2, MK-4 is only found in animal products. The best sources known are grass-fed butter from cows eating rapidly growing grass, and foie gras. K2 tends to associate with beta-carotene in butter, so the darker the color, the more K2 it contains (also, the better it tastes). Fish eggs, other grass-fed dairy, shellfish, insects and other organ meats are also good sources. Chris Masterjohn compiled a list of food sources in his excellent article on the Weston Price foundation website. I highly recommend reading it if you want more detail. K2 MK-7 is found abundantly in natto, a type of fermented soybean, and it may be partially converted to MK-4.

Finally, you can also buy K2 supplements. The best one is butter oil, the very same stuff Price used to treat his patients. I have used this one personally, and I noticed positive effects on my skin overnight. Thorne research makes a synthetic liquid K2 MK-4 supplement that is easy to dose drop-wise to get natural amounts of it. Other K2 MK-4 supplements are much more concentrated than what you could get from food so I recommend avoiding them. I am generally against supplements, but I've ordered the Thorne product for a little self-experimentation. I want to see if it has the same effect on my skin as the butter oil (update- it does).

Wessex Interlude 1


Well, you see, it was like this. After depositing a goodly proportion of my family onto the docks at Southampton, I proceeded to spend the rest of the weekend at my pals' remote rural idyll in Darkest Dorset. I was told that for our Sunday lunch dessert, and as a treat for behaving myself, there would be rhubarb crumble with, wait for it, Bird's Custard. This was a nod to my O.B.E. (blogs passim: Old Brand Excess) where life is enriched by certain pantry staples. I refrained from asking to see the tricolour packaging, but as the moment drew near and I adjusted my serviette tucked into my shirt collar, Mrs. Pal appeared at the dining room door and quietly mumbled that she'd just realised that there was in fact no Bird's Custard in the Pal Pantry. A silence descended over the table, just the sound of a blackbird in the privet hedge coming in from the open window. "But I have got this!". The above receptacle was deposited in front of me. I can't remember the last time I had condensed milk, but I have to say it was a very evocative (and sinfully sweet) accompaniment to the delicious rhubarb. For the technically minded, the lighting rig was two Maglite torches held by my hosts, and the drip of milk echoing the printed version was entirely accidental. Honest.

Activator X

Activator X, the almost-mythical vitamin discovered and characterized by Weston Price, has been identified! For those of you who are familiar with Weston Price's book 'Nutrition and Physical Degeneration', you know what I'm talking about. For the rest of you, allow me to explain.

Weston Price was a dentist and scientist in the early part of the 20th century. Practicing dentistry in Cleveland, he was amazed at the poor state of his patients' teeth and the suffering it inflicted. At the time, dental health was even worse than it is today, with some children in their teens already being fitted for dentures. Being a religious man, he could not bring himself to believe that 'physical degeneration' was what God intended for mankind. He traveled throughout the world looking for cultures that did not have crooked teeth or dental decay, and that also exhibited general health and well-being. And he found them. A lot of them.

These cultures were all considered 'primitive' at the time, and were not subject to the lifestyles or food choices of the Western world. He documented, numerically and with photographs, the near-absence of dental cavities and crooked teeth in a number of different cultures throughout the world. He showed that like all animals, humans are healthy and robust when occupying the right ecological niche. Price had a deep respect for the nutritional knowledge these cultures curated.

He also documented the result when these same cultures were exposed to Western diets of white flour, sugar and other industrially processed foods: they developed rampant cavities, their children grew with crooked teeth due to narrow dental arches, as well as a number of other strikingly familiar health problems. I think it's worth mentioning that Price's findings were universally corroborated by doctors in contact with the same cultures at the time. They are also corroborated by the archaeological record. Many of his findings were published in respected peer-reviewed journals. 'Nutrition and Physical Degeneration' is required reading for anyone interested in the relationship between nutrition and health.

Naturally, Price wanted to understand what healthy diets had in common besides the absence of white flour and sugar. Having studied cultures as diverse as the carnivorous Inuit, the dairy-eating Masai and agricultural groups in the Andes, he realized that humans are capable of thriving on very diverse foods. However, he did find one thing in common: they all ate some amount of fat-soluble, animal-derived vitamins. Even the near-vegetarian groups ate insects or small animals that were rich in these vitamins. He looked for, but did not find, a single group that was entirely vegetarian and had the teeth and health of the groups he described in 'Nutrition and Physical Degeneration'.

There were three vitamins he found abundantly in the diets of healthy non-industrialized people: A, D, and an unknown substance he called 'activator X'. He considered them all to be synergistic and critical for proper mineral metabolism (tooth and bone formation and maintenance) and general health. He had a chemical test for activator X, but he didn't know its chemical structure and so it remained unidentified. He found activator X most abundantly in grass-fed butter (but not grain fed!), organ meats, shellfish, insects, and fish eggs. Many of these foods were fed preferentially to pregnant or reproductive-age women in the groups he studied.

Price used extracts from grass-fed butter (activator X), in combination with high-vitamin cod liver oil (A and D), to prevent and reverse dental cavities in many of his patients. 'Nutrition and Physical Degeneration' contains X-rays of case studies showing re-calcification of severe cavities using this combination.

After reading his book, I wasn't sure what to make of activator X. If it's so important, why hasn't it been identified in the 60+ years since he described it? I'm happy to say, it finally has. In the summer of 2007, Chris Masterjohn wrote an article for the Weston Price foundation website, in which he identified Weston Price's mystery vitamin: it's vitamin K2, specifically the MK-4 isoform (menatetrenone).

It occurs exactly where Weston Price described it, and research is beginning to find that it's also critical for mineral metabolism, bone and tooth formation and maintenance. Its function is synergistic with vitamins A and D. To illustrate the point, where do A, D and K2 MK-4 all occur together in nature? Eggs and milk, the very foods that are designed to feed a growing animal. This is true from sea urchins to humans, confirming the ubiquitous and critical role of these nutrients. K2 has not yet been recognized as such by the mainstream, but it is every bit as important to health as A and D. The scientific cutting edge is beginning to catch on, however, due to some very tantalizing studies.

In the next post, I'll go into more detail about K2, what the science is telling us and where to get it.


Foraging

A friend and I went hunting for morels today in the Wenatchee forest. There was only one on the entire mountain, but we managed to find it:


We also found two "spring kings": spring-fruiting boletus edulis, also known as porcini or cepe. Firm and nutty, without a trace of bugs:


Raw is my favorite way to eat a good spring king. Here's an older one that was 6" across. Too old for me so I left it for the amateurs:

Modern Bedding gallery

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Modern Bedding 2

The Reece duvet set creates a contemporary and luxurious ambiance in any bedroom setting. This glamorous 3 piece set includes a duvet cover and 2 shams.





The Camilla Natural duvet set creates a rich and glamorous look in any bed it adorns. This three piece set which includes a duvet cover and two pillow shams is made of sewn silk dupioni with a 300 thread count reverse consisting of thousands of yarn dyed threads woven into tonal stripes creating a luxurious look and feel.





Embrace Spring, and let Ayanna embrace you. Its artful patterned floral motif is inspired by the lush flora of Parisian gardens. But the Ayanna duvet doesn’t stop there. It’s citrus color palette breathes elegance and an air of retro-modern playfulness.






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