Monthly Archives: May 2011

Aspartame and other Artificial Sweeteners. Are these substances dangerous to us?

Sugar as a commodity has been a major factor in power control throughout the ages. If you do a history report on sugar, you’ll find it related to some of the greatest empires of the ancient world and is a staple ingredient in commercialized, industrialized business even before the industrial age. Like no other drug or substance in the world has sugar silently accosted our subconscious to the point where we believe in its necessity as a marker of quality of life and prestige. Sugar’s supply and demand were indirectly responsible for the African continent slave trade, the powerhouse international corporation East Indian Trading Company, and the rise and fall of ancient kingdoms. In a way, it was the first real drug whose importance equaled silk and spices in the colonial importation to Europe. Even Chinese emperors, known throughout the ages for their exclusionary cultural practices but leniency in trade matters, made official trips to India in the 7th century Indian subcontinent to obtain sources of this white gold.

In modern times, the natural sources of sugar have not dwindled, but the introduction of other types of “sugars” usually classified as artificial sweeteners has decreased the world need and monopoly of the sugar trade by creating sugar “substitutes” chemically made and most of them discovered by accident as leftovers of chemical reactions that were meant for anti-cancer, anti ulcer, or industrial components (see coal tar and saccharin). Most of these “artificial” sweeteners were found by some chemist who licked their fingers and made the assessment and by business gurus who saw how this could change world economics while lining their coffers. Indeed, the result of these “discoveries” have only led to new monopolies. Consider that Brazil is the highest producer of sugar in the worlds up to 28% of the world yield and 25% of the world’s exported sugar. In ancient times this would have been the foundation of a kingdom, yet Brazil is still lagging some 3rd World countries in GDP and leads in population poverty and mortality rates. It is a by product of the remnants of colonialism that makes clean water hard to come by for Fiji Islanders, African countries stripped of economic wealth without growth to show for it, and sugar now no longer the commodity giant it was in past ages.

One of the first artificial sweeteners created, saccharin, was a derivative of coal tar and it’s history is basically two scientists, one who became rich for marketing and the other forgotten except in patents. Since its creation there had been a technological rush to find a more suitable form (saccharin is not useful in baking and is not a stable crystalline nature like sucrose aka table sugar).

Aspartame is the result of years of chemical study and grants and research papers. Also known as Nutrasweet, it is in every diet drink, every packet of chewing gum, and found in little colored packets in diners across the US, When it was first created in a lab of G.D. Searle company the world of doctors thought they had finally found a no calorie sugar substitute (aspartame is not really no calorie, because it is 300 times sweeter than sugar less can be use so we say the calories are negligible). However, when researchers began using it to replace caloried sugar in diabetic patients many began developing signs of diabetes much faster than control groups. Dr. H.J. Roberts was the premiere diabetes researcher at the time and his findings are fantastically ignored by the FDA. His 1038 page research and Congressional testimony are hallmarks in the fight against aspartame.

If all that sounds a little outdated here is a recent study done. A 2005 study by the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio showed that increased weight gain and obesity were associated with increased use of diet soda in a population based study. The study did not establish whether increased weight gain leads to increased consumption of diet drinks or whether consumption of diet drinks could have an effect on weight gain.

But hell with statistics right? They may not be for everyone. Why is Aspartame so dangerous? The answer is not that aspartame itself is a dangerous chemical to the body. Quite the opposite, chemicals like glutamate and aspartic acid (one of the main amino acids in aspartame) cross brain and blood barriers because they are one of the many essential components in the production of certain amino acids. No the real danger lies in how they are situated together.

Table sugar (sucrose) is a crystalline structure with a fairly high temperature before it breaks down and denatures. The problem since the invention of saccharin is that these “artificial sweeteners” do not have the same bonding nature and so degrade at lower temperatures. For instance, aspartame will break down into its constituents and amino acids at 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Ask yourself what the normal body temperature of a healthy individual is. When the constituents are broken down, aspartame gives off 3 products: Aspartic acid (40%), a methyl ester (10%), and phenylalanine (50%). The normal amount of aspartic acid in our bodies at a given time is fractional when compared to amounts of aspartic acid recieved from the breakdown of aspartame in normal human consumption leading to an overabundance of excitatory chemicals that interact between the blood and brain barrier. Phenylalanine is a nuerotoxin, and those with phenylketonuria (an inability to break down phenylalanine) must avoid products containing phenylalanine at all costs. For normal people phenylalanine lowers the threshold for excitation which depletes serotonin levels. Low serotonin levels have been linked to manic depression, bi-polarism, and other psychiatric complaints.

The biggest health concern is the 10% methyl ester. When broken down the methyl esters become methanol, then formaldehyde and formic acid. Formaldehyde is the chemical used to embalm corpses for dissection (any doctor who has worked in an anatomy lab can attest to it’s smell) and formic acid is the active substance in ant and bee stings. Both are toxic substances to the body and are mutagenic in certain animal studies. The methanol breakdown occurs in the eyes and may be a factor in diabetic symptoms of vision blindness and not solely due to blood glucose ratio.

Interesting fact. The FDA at first were not fully on board with G.D Searle’s research into aspartame. They actually intended to indict G.D Searle for fraud and faulty research regarding aspartame (they apparently found various problems with the research, record keeping, mis labeling, and miscontrolled subjects leading to disinformation in their research). However the CEO at time was a savvy guy named Don Rumsfeld. He made sure that the FDA approved aspartame while avoiding audit. When Searle was sold to Monsanto (who now currently owns the patent on aspartame and is its worldwide producer) Rumsfeld made, according to some sources, 12 million dollars (in 1984 money, which is (I’m told) a lot of money).

I will continue this subject later, because I have a lot to say about the subject, but my advice is to CEASE AND DESIST BUYING CONSUMING FOR YOUSELF OR YOUR CHILDREN ANY PRODUCT WITH ASPARTAME AS ONE OF THE INGREDIENTS INCLUDING: ALL DIET DRINKS, NUTRASWEET, MOST CHEWING GUMS (bubbalicious and old high fructose corn syrup gums like Big League Chew are safe), and ANY LOW CALORIE FOOD WITH SUGAR SUBSTITUTES.

Don’t be fooled, diet drinks lead to more weight gain and obesity.


Strength Training and Proper Squat techniques

I believe there is a dichotomy within the workout population, when it comes  to people in a workout gym like LA fitness. There has always been the weight lifters, cardio (fat-burners, usually on the treadmills) body builders, and strength training. If you ask people who adamantly belong to one of these groups you will see there is a big difference in the way they achieve their health fitness goals.

First off, the body builders. They mostly like to shape the muscle and fat in such a way as to have a good looking body. These people are seen working harder in the spring time so they can show off their beautiful aesthetic bodies in tight swim wear. I’m sure Narcissus, the Greek man who fell in love with his own reflection, would have something to say. Body Builders usually find that healthy medium between mass and reps that lead to a “cut” muscle.

This is definitely in contrast to those who want a muscle to gain in strength. For instance, if you want great pecs, then a weight bench is not the best exercise. Though pushing iron from a weight bench is a primary exercise for building pec muscles, they do not shape them as well as doing butterfly with free weights, in reality they build strength and the ability to push back the same weight they are pushing against gravity. Ask any football player, especially those on the offensive line, few of them have a herculean body, but they are asked to push against guys who may be in excess of 300 pounds and asked to push them in a certain direction, that takes strength.

Anybody who is in rehabilitation could probably care less if the muscle looks nice, as better function of that muscle is their main goal. The exercise shown below is made for strength training, not mass and muscle gain. If you are looking for the perfect thighs, then this is not the exercise for you, but if you have knee or hip problems and want to get stronger in order to better protect those joints then squat away.

Proper Squatting is taught in all gyms and still many of us get it wrong.

1) start off with no weight, just a bar for balance. Or Start with no bar with a stable chair behind you (in order to catch you if you lose balance).

2) Legs and knees should be slightly more askance than the shoulders, toes pointing forward, and pelvis straight and not rotated in any way.

3) Bending begins at the knees and hips, back straight and not over arched

4) Knees are never to extend beyond the line of the toes, and your center of gravity should be behind the knees and not right on top of them.

5) If you have a chair behind you bend your hips mainly until they reach about 90 degrees from the thighs. You should feel that you will lose your balance backwards, but that is what the chair is there for. Repeat and remember that it is not how many times you do it, but for how long. So slower is better.

6) Don’t cheat – it is easier if your upper torso leans forward to compensate the center of gravity. That is way too easy. keep the upper body from leaning forward.

Note: Do not do this on those squat machines that move only up and down. They are restrictive in their mechanics and can go against the normal body mechanics. Free weights are always better in my opinion because the extra balance needed to perform with free weights is an added bonus to fitness


Head Cheese? Good eating?

Isn’t cheese at all. It is the cold cut version of the all the pieces of meat that come on a pig or cow’s head, including the ears, cheeks, head musculature and the collagen from the intramuscular fat on the head. Imagine a bologna slice with more layers, or a terrine suspended in aspic (aspic is kind of like a gelatin made from animal fats).

I’m sure it doesn’t sound appealing at all, but anyone who has ever eaten a good slice of bologna will not go back if they try head cheese and really not as daunting as people make it out to be.

Remember that cheek bone on any animal is one of the best pieces of lean meat. When we eat a whole steamed fish for a  chinese dinner (especially at a restaurant) the cheek meat, though small, is always the best morsel. When roasting pig, the cheek bone is the next to the skin as the best meat, I also like the ears.

We should embrace foods that other people frown upon and remember that the gastrointestinal system is an organ that is conditioned to function according to what it is being fed. Much like speech therapist say the (can’t remember the researcher who found this out) that a baby can speak any language that is taught or spoken, so can any food be liked or disliked. It is the matter of conditioning our mind to enjoy it and when the body has a chance to experience something repeatedly it will become familiar. Once familiar, a person may come to say he or she  likes or enjoys it. I’ll expound more on this in my next topic


Allergies, on the rise, why and what to do

Sneezing, coughing, skin rashes, watery eyes, stuffy nose, hay fever, eczema hives, food allergies, and allergies to wasp and bee stings, … These are symptoms of common allergies. It seems more and more people are getting these types of whether inheriting them from a parent or acquiring them later in life.

The allergic reactions are hypersensitive reactions of the body’s immune system to a substance that comes into contact with skin, inhaled or is ingested.

There is increasingly more and more evidence that the increase in allergies (especially acquired ones throuh the environment) may be the result of increasing contact and ingestion of those substances or lack of ingestion. For instance, wonder why people who drink too much milk as youngsters become lactose intolerant? In Asian lactose intolerance is common because milk and cheeses are not a part of the staple diet. So it would seem that coming into too much contact with one substance or coming into too little contact with a substance is responsible for shutting down the internal mechanisms neede to digest those products. This is also what happens when a lifelong vegetarian eats a hamburger for the first time. It is an alien substance to the body and subsequently the body does not know how to digest it. In a way you could say that the vegetarian has conditioned his body to not be able to digest meats properly (although they do not get anaphylactic shock, which could happen to some extreme cases of allergies like peanut or bee stings). In the scientific community these people are not recognized as allergic, but sensitive to, or intolerant of certain foods.

Peanut allergies is one of the most common allergies in the US. However, we are nthe only country that eats peanuts. The Rawalpindi region of Pakistan is a major producer and consumer of peanuts. Why then are peanut allergies unheard of there? The answer may be the way the oils in the peanuts are cooked.

Chinese love to eat peanuts and peanut allergies are not as common, they are usually boiled and salted and eaten as a beverage snack. Peanut consumption in the US is largely of the roasted, “take me out to the ball game” type. When you roast a peanut, the oils are denatured in a way that makes certain chemical substances within the peanut more resistant to digestion (by inhibiting trypsin, a protein cleaver). The substances protected Arah2 and Ara h1, these are the substances in peanuts that people are usually allergic to.

There is another theory floating around that says our contact with products made from peanuts can lead to higher intolerance and allergic reactions. Look at the long list of products that are made by peanuts and you will see that it is in everything from cosmetics and lotions to plastics, soap, and insecticides. If this theory holds true then we should see an increase in the corn related allergies as many plastics are now being made with corn byproducts becuase of cost effectiveness.

How do I find out if I am allergic. First thing to do is see adoctor about a scratch test. If this doesn’t solve the conundrum the next step is to eliminate all contact with the substance in question. This means not just the foods, but also the products made from them. Monitor your condition before and after the change in diet.

And never just eat one type of food. If everything you eat is corn based, then you may develop a corn allergy somewhere along the line. Also I heard of this guy who only ate pizza for every meal, he had become intolerant to pizza and his body would vomit after most meals. The body likes diversity, so never eat the same thing over and over and over again, you’re just asking for trouble.

Also if you find that you are allergic to corn then stay away from all bakeries becuase one of the main ingredients is almost always cornstarch.


Casssandra Syndrom and the modern healer

Cassandra was the most beautiful daughter of Priam, the king of Troy and eventual loser of the Trojan War. She was coveted by the god Apollo, being given the power of prophecy and was to wed him, but broke her vow. Thus the God Apollo cursed her to be correct in her prophecies, but never to be believed by her brethren. She warned of soldiers inside the Trojan horse and the fall of Troy, but events in history seem to happen whether the players know or not.

As a chiropactor, it seems like I fall prey to Cassandra’s syndrome whenever I try to tell someone something they don’t want to hear. For instance if I say drinking is affecting your health and social behavior, people don’t believe me. Or losing weight will lead to living a better quality of life, or that chiropractic can help your headache not just your back pain, it’s just not believed. What my patients really want is for me to guarantee that coming to see me will fix the problem when many times the problem arises from a decision they made or a lifestyle they are unwilling to change.

I am beginning to think that people do not believe other people based on common statistics or common knowledge. We all have our biases, but when someone expounds an idea that threatens something we hold dear (like alcoholism, or their dietary choices). well this, I think, is the real concept when someone says “blinded by love”. Our addictions for good or worse make us who we are today, and for some, losing the addiction means having to redefine ourselves. It took years for us to define who we are today, so we reason that redefinition will take an enormous amount of time and effort.

However, real life changing moments never take course days, months or years. A life changing moment is by definition a moment, a wild and raucous redefinition that takes place in spite of time and space, though it takes the perserverance of a lifetime and strength of will to break through to that one moment.

This is why I always say that if a person cries, then that person has not learned and will resume the degrading behavior as soon as you look the other way. The cry is just the emotional tool used to “get you off their back”. For a person to change, they must seek the will to do it. We can all help our loved ones to get to that point, but we can never push them through the door.

Cassandra is a tragic heroine in history, doomed to be right, but never listened to. This may sound like a depressing post, but I also wish to express the fact that Cassandra is a heroine because she, up until the end, tries to change men’s minds knowing full well she is cursed. And that may be the most encouraging portion of the tale, that though a man’s mind may be difficult to change and history predestined, it is honorable to try to change it and cowardly to just walk away.


Headaches and Neck Pain and chiropractic, of course

Have you ever fell asleep in a car only to wake an hour later rubbing your neck and shoulders and with a slight headache? Have you ever seen anyone sleeping in a moving car, but they seem to know how to hold their head upright?

I am going to address a certain subsection of headaches. This does not include headaches do to trauma, concussion, a systemic disorder or migraines. The rest are headaches I believe to be related to neck pain. Of course this is not to say that chiropractic cannot help other forms of headaches, but I’d like to address those which patients can easily help themselves in times of need.

This may be related to a previous injury like a car accident, but I would like to distinguish those from headaches that are from a concussion or tumor or other space occupying lesion. For instance, if your headache is caused by diabetes and low blood sugar level, that is a possible emergency case and is not covered by this post. However, if you had whiplash from an accident, slept wrong, working at a desk for too long, and feel pain in the neck, shoulders, and upper back muscles or joints, then this post may concern you.

Most headaches fall into one of these categories, but those that are most amenable to chiropractic are neck related which we term cervicogenic headaches. This is usually due to improper head positions that are held too long, making the musculature work overtime which becomes strained and relays the strain to adjacent muscles, until it finally reaches the muscles of the head and the base of the skull. In this are there are many nerve and arterial structures that are covered by muscles (ie occipital nerves). When blood and/or nerve supply is slightly cutoff, the brain recieves less than it’s normal share of blood and therefore oxygen, thus resulting in headaches, dizziness, other head and neck pains.

I find that these people benefit greatly from a chiropractic neck adjustment and a few sessions may be all that is needed to clear up the headache, but if you don’t have your chiropractor around then what to do? Mope in desperation? Here, a little knowledge can go along way.

The weight of the head in humans is much greater proportionately to the structures that hold it upright. Because of this fact, head position can greatly affect the muscles of the neck making them strain, this also causes compression of the joints. So if we reverse engineer the problem, then assuaging musculature can help decrease compression and give joint spaces more to work with. This relieves pressure on the joints, which over time can give relief to certain types of headaches.

Next time you have a headache, go see a chiropractor to help diagnose which type it is, but if your symptoms are closer to what I have described above you may try this stretch.

Scalene stretch

1) Sit up straight. Make sure the neck and upper back are as straight postural as you can get.

2) Turn head away from the side you want to stretch. So when trying to sttretch the left scalene turn your head toward the right.

3) Place your hand along the muscles immiediately above the collarbone of the side you want stretched. In the example above you would place your right hand on your left collarbone.

4) Without bending your neck laterally, extend the neck and head back while slightly massaging the collarbone muscles.

5) If this causes sharp pain and dizziness, please discontinue and see your doctor.

6) Lastly hold your breath for ten seconds while moving your eyes (in the examples above) to the upper right corner (it is not important that your eyes be open of close, but that you make an effort to look in that direction while holding your breath. When stretchin the right scalene the left hand will be above the collarbone and your eyes should look to the upper left.

7) exhale and relax at least 20 seconds before you repeat or move to the other side.

The reason for the eye movement is this: The eyes and the scalene share a common nerve, so when one structure experiences tension the other receives a sort of referred pain. Conversely when you relax the muscles of the of the lateral rectus (the muscle that makes the eyes go up and outward), you will further relax the scalene muscle.

Now those of you who know you anatomy may say, well isn’t the scalene made up of three muscles, the lateral, medial, and anterior. The answer is yes, but they tend to act as a group because of the shared origin points on the neck. Thus this exercise is usually good for all three, and remember we are trying to lengthen them to give the head and neck more room in order to foster a better head and neck position.

Additionally a good massage of the head muscle may provide great relief and remember that for these types of headaches, nothing bets a chiropractic adjustment.


Osama vs Obama

I have heard so many conspiracy theories regarding wether he is really dead or not, that I won’t comment on that but to say that the photos that I have seen are all doctored and I believe the US government will not release them unless they are forced by public opinion.

Let me first say personally that I didn’t feel like celebrating after I heard the news, and no one in the restuarant who saw the initial Obama press release was high fiving or celebrating. It is a joyless act, assasination, but with that said I would like to say this… That man deserved to die, not just for the controversial 911 bombing, but if only for the innocent people he’s killed in Africa in the form of American and British embassies.

I also have circumstantial evidence that his Al-Qaida group was indirectly responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing perpetuated by Timothy Mcveigh and Terry Nichols. I’ve read book asserting the fact that records show McVeigh and his partner going to parts of Afghanistan or Pakistan (can’t remember which, I think Afghanistan because this is right after the Mujahadeen defeat the Russians) to learn intricate bomb making skills and they may have even come face to face with bin Laden (although there is no proof of them meeting, I can however place bin Laden in the area at the time because it is about this time his assets are frozen in Algeria and he was vehemently being pursued due to his possible involvement with Ramsi Yousef and the first World Trade Bombing.

OKC bombing was the worst “domestic” terrorist attack and the worst terrorist act on American soil until 911.

Little known fact, Osama Bin Laden owned a company in Algeria which owned an overwhelming percentage of the worlds gum arabic. This product is used in lithography, ink type setting, newspapers, chewing gum, cosmetics, fireworks, carbonated beverages, postage stamp and envelope adhesives, watercolor paints, photography, and various pharmaceutical products. For those beginning scientists or mythbuster fanatics, gum arabic (along with surface area) may be one of the catalysts in your Diet Coke, Mentos eruption experiments.

Fact is if you purchased any of the products in the from 80’s or 90’s then some of your money was going to fund militant Islamic terrorist cells and guys like Carlos the Jackal.

Samuel Huntington, an author of many Social Science textbooks said, much of the confilct happening in the world is happening along lines where Muslim cultures come into contact with Christian values and culture. Some authors assert that Coca cola, and Mickey Mouse are products of the globablizing world economy and Muslim values wish to isolate their families, culture, and especially women from these products but are unable to.

For other instances of militant Islamic terrorism see: the movie Munich by Steven Spielberg (better yet check out the original mini-series starring Manolo from Scarface, it’s a great movie called “Sword of Gideon” and fairly accurate), documentary exists of the Nord-Ost Theatre hostage event that took place in Moscow 2002 (very powerful live footage in the doc show recordings from both the theatre occupants and the Chechen rebels, a disproportional amount of whom were women)

I do really hope that he is dead, but i don’t feel celebratory about it. And remember that Osama is like the old generation of terrorists, there is always a new generation of willing Islamic soldiers ready to take his place and we may yet see someone even more dangerous than bin Laden arise from the ashes of the Al-Qaida regime (I’m guessing from Lebanon, where the strongest of the Al-Qaida sub cells is still very active