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Your Mouth, Your HealthStop and Reverse Aging
By Milan Somborac
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Milan Somborac, DDS
All right reserved.
Chapter OneOur Bodies: How We (and Everything Else) Are Built
Chemicals get an unfairly bad rap as strong and powerful substances that can hurt us. The fact is, everything that exists in our physical universe is made up of chemicals—from the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat to the earth itself and every living and nonliving thing on it.
In 1869, the Russian scientist Dmitri Mendeleev classified the fifty or so then-known basic chemical elements into a table in accordance to their properties (Strathern 2001). Much like the twenty-six-word alphabet can spell every word in the English language and these words can be combined to create everything from a crude joke to a Shakespearean play, so some one hundred naturally occurring elements in the modern version of Mendeleev's periodic table can be brought together to produce everything from cheap swill to great wine, from the acrid smell of bleach to the sweet aroma of a rose. The wine is contained in a glass made up of chemicals, the glass sits on a table composed of chemicals, the table and the glass have been scrubbed clean with bleach made of chemicals, the rose in the vase on the table is made of chemicals—and you and I who sip the wine and smell the rose are comprised of chemicals.
Just as the letters of the alphabet are organized differently within each Shakespearean play, chemicals are organized differently within each animate and inanimate object—but perhaps not as differently as you might expect. For instance, nearly 100 percent of a common type of seashell is composed of a chemical known as hydroxyapatite—the same material that makes up much of our bone, cartilage, and teeth. In fact, these seemingly disparate entities share enough elements in common that we can get a seashell to fuse to bone. Every day, orthopedic surgeons and dentists are using the principles underlying these similar compositional elements to replace worn-out hips and missing teeth (Bobbio 1973).
Building blocks that make up a human being are called proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water. All are made of chemicals. In different forms, they are also in charge of the body's many functions. The chemical combinations that are our primary source of energy are called carbohydrates.
Proteins and fats can also provide energy, in addition to being our bodies' building blocks. But this energy needs to be replenished. In addition, we need to compensate for wear and tear on the building blocks. Thus, we need to bring fuel and raw material into our bodies on an ongoing basis.
Collectively, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water are called nutrients. Our bodies use them up at different rates, and therefore, we need to replace them at the appropriate rates, in the proper quantities, and with healthful qualities. That's nutrition. Nutrition comes from diet—not the kind aimed at losing weight but the kind aimed at optimal health, which should be the norm. As I've noted, the final chapter of Your Mouth, Your Health includes a guide to healthy eating.
Weight-loss diets have deplorable long-term results. The failure rate is virtually 100 percent! The reason is that weight-loss diets have a beginning and an end. On the other hand, each individual can sustain his or her appropriate weight by regularly consuming the proper foods in the proper amounts balanced with proper exercise over the course of time.
Food engineering—that is, the alteration of real food to make debased food—is either the main cause or a significant contributing factor in the chronic diseases we discuss in this book. Food engineering is a major focus of Big Food activities. Let us take a closer look.
First, all real food, food as Mother Nature presents it to us—natural food—is health food. Keeping in mind that there are no unmitigated blessings, there is a long list of benefits we derive by controlling nature—controlling Mother Nature!—anathema to many, but read on.
When we first emerged as hominins in the Paleolithic Era some two million years ago, we began the process of controlling Mother Nature. We made the first stone knife and spear point, which improved our success in hunting. We continued to increase our control of Mother Nature through the use of fire, animal skin and plant clothing, shelter building, and so on.
The earliest truly major control of nature started with the first agricultural revolution (the Neolithic Revolution) about ten thousand years ago (Richards 2002). Expressed as a percentage of the two million years of hominin existence, the ten thousand-year period from then until now comes to 0.5 percent! Thus, for only 0.5 percent of our existence have we grown the plants we previously foraged, and bred and raised some of the animals we once hunted.
Foraging and hunting gave a low return on the invested effort. Bare survival was the best we could get. Even crude, basic agriculture was so efficient by comparison that only some needed to farm, allowing others to build cities; enact laws; and in general, build civilization.
Like all species do when food is plentiful, we increased our population size to the point of starvation for countless people. We were back to basic survival all over again. The control of nature again, this time through the methods of the Green Revolution in the middle of the twentieth century, saved (and is saving) many from hunger, malnutrition, and starvation.
The newly developed agricultural chemicals, plant breeding, and irrigation improvement—Green Revolution methods—allow global food production to keep pace with global population growth (Davies 2003). The father of the revolution, Norman Borlaug, received a Nobel Prize for his efforts.
Some people object to this modern control over Mother Nature, insisting that the food produced under this control is not as nutritionally valuable as food produced organically. However, the argument is flawed; its premise is simply not true. Organic food is as good as, but no better than, any other real food (Magkos, Arvaniti, and Zampelas 2003). Nutritionally, organic food production is similar to the farming methods that prevailed before the Green Revolution. No one will receive a Nobel Prize for suggesting that we go back to the way we were farming in the past—unless the prize foundation decides to open up a new category: marketing.
Let's examine a few basic premises. First, all food is health food until methods of food engineering degrade it. We'll discuss how food is engineered in greater detail later. For now, it's important to know that processing (refining) carbohydrates changes them from real food—health food, if you like—to debased food.
It's important to look at the difference between altering food in a minor way and altering it in a major way. When we cook an egg, we alter it from the way Mother Nature gave it to us. We process it. However, cooking alters the egg in a minor way; it coagulates the egg protein. Similarly, cooking meat coagulates its proteins. Coagulated protein is easier to digest. In both examples, we retain important nutrients.
However, when we process sugar cane or sugar beets to make table sugar (sucrose), we alter the cane or the beet in a major way. We keep the sugar and throw away over 90 percent of the cane and the beet! When we process grain to make white flour, we throw away 40 percent of what Mother Nature gave to us. In both cases, we throw away important nutrients (Temple and Burkitt 1993).
Second, sugar, white flour, and engineered fats are the main debased foods. It is nearly impossible to avoid processed carbohydrates and engineered fats today. While scientists might not have the same opinion on all the details, they universally agree on this point: the alteration of real food to make this debased food is either the main cause or a significant contributing factor in the chronic diseases discussed in this book.
Third, the evolutionary perspective plays a role in our food consumption. The introduction of debased foods into our lives is so recent that there is a major disconnect between our original design and our prevailing eating habits. Like all living species, we are wired to blend with the environment of our ancestors. Our genome is that of a lean hunter in a sparse land eating health food only—food as Mother Nature provides it. Debased food appeared only in the last 0.5 percent or less of our existence, and the misfit is serious.
Scientists know that this enormous change in our diet (together with our greatly reduced physical activity) is the main cause for the emergence of the chronic diseases we describe in this book, diseases that were rare in earlier times.
Coincidentally, maintaining good dietary habits over time also benefits mouth health and general health; hence, I have chosen the link between these as the subject of this book. My wish for you? Oris sana in corpore sano (a healthy mouth in a healthy body). Now let's explore together how to make that wish a reality.
1. All real food is health food. 2. Processing (refining) carbohydrates, an important aspect of food engineering, reduces them from real food to debased food. 3. Sugar and white flour (processed carbohydrates) and engineered fats are the main debased foods. 4. From an evolutionary perspective, the introduction of debased foods into our lives is so recent that there is a major inconsistency between our original design and our prevailing eating habits.
Chapter TwoCarbohydrates: The Misunderstood Energy
Potatoes are fattening and an apple a day keeps the doctor away; the two are common beliefs. In fact, except for their water content, both potatoes and apples are largely carbohydrates, and both are good for us, unless we alter (process or refine) them by peeling them, deep frying them in fat, smothering them in butter, dousing them in caramelized sugar, and so on. As I will show in the last chapter, potatoes, in fact, have a slight dietary edge over apples!
All fruits, vegetables, and grains are mainly carbohydrates and should make up over half of what we eat. They are loaded with vitamins and minerals; they are nutrient dense as opposed to energy dense. Energy dense is the scientist's way of saying fattening.
Endless myths surround carbohydrates because of their complex chemistry, but the only guide to eating we'll ever need only requires us to know two things about carbohydrates. One, all carbs come in just two types—simple and complex. The simple carbs are sugars, and the complex carbs are starches. Except for honey, which is a simple carb, all naturally occurring carbs are a mix of both the simple and the complex types. Two, simple carbs raise blood sugar quickly, and complex carbs raise blood sugar slowly. Quickly is bad; slowly is good. (For more details on carbs and blood sugar, see chapter 12, "The Deadly Quartet: Diabetes.")
Carbohydrates are one of the four macronutrients, along with proteins, lipids, and water. Together with the micronutrients vitamins and minerals, which we need in very small quantities, they comprise all the food we eat. Carbs are stored solar energy, and all living things need energy to function as living things. Reduced to the simple sugar glucose during metabolism, carbohydrates are our primary source of energy. Like fire, technology, and wine, a carbohydrate is a wonderful servant but a terrible master. Used as intended by Mother Nature, carbs make life possible—joys, sorrows, and all. Abused, as they so often are in the developed world, along with engineered fats, they are a major cause of all the chronic diseases of civilization we describe in this book. Dental decay shows up first, and predictably, several decades later, the other ailments—heart disease, diabetes, elevated blood fats, hypertension, excess weight, obesity, constipation, varicose veins, varicocele, hemorrhoids, diverticulitis—follow. Scientists are discovering links between the abuse of food and other diseases as well (Hujoel 2009).
So, how do we abuse carbohydrates? We do so by refining, which is a fancy word for processing, which is a fancy word for degrading.
For the past two hundred years or so, table sugar and white flour have been the primary offenders against Mother Nature. Processing (degrading) sugar beet or sugar cane removes about 90 percent of the beet or cane's nutrients to produce table sugar, and processing wheat removes most of its nutrients to get white flour. To make white flour, Big Food takes most of about twenty nutrients out of whole wheat. By requirement of law, the industry then puts four of the nutrients back into the flour (Hernot et al. 2008). Because of this reintroduction of the four nutrients, Big Food labels the flour "enriched" (Gunnarsdottir et al. 2009). As unbelievable as this sounds, it's absolutely true.
This processing contributes to dental decay and the other predictable, chronic diseases of civilization in two major ways. First, it removes fiber and micronutrients and, second, it concentrates the sugar. The second is, in part, a result of the first. Removing fiber leads to sugar concentration.
Big Food's record of crimes against sensible eating is long, but the removal of fiber and micronutrients in addition to the concentration of sugar, together with engineered fats, tops the list.
Sugar, an essential nutrient, is not the villain. Too much sugar is. The dosage makes the poison. That is true about anything we put in our mouth. The miracle drug, Aspirin, for instance, is the leading cause of poisoning among children. People have taken the vitamins essential for life in toxic doses leading to death. One-millionth of a gram of botulin toxin is fatal. Yet when the quantity is properly adjusted, the same substance treats a large number of muscle problems, wrinkles being the least important. It is not poison when administered in small enough quantities. The dosage makes the poison.
Real food sustains us. When it is converted to engineered food by refining it, it is the leading cause of the chronic diseases that kill us. No one would eat eighteen apples after dinner, but those eighteen apples have the sugar content of one piece of apple pie with a scoop of ice cream, a common enough way of ending dinner. Diffuse, sugar is an important part of the apple that keeps the doctor away. Concentrated, the same sugar is an important part of the apple pie that keeps the doctor busy (Kopp 2003, 2005, 2006) (Sarter, Campbell, and Fuhrman 2008).
Let us look at the diffuse/concentrated phenomenon in a typical hot dog:
Of a cucumber, 1 percent is sugar; 30 percent of pickle relish is sugar, most of it added. Of a tomato, 3 percent is sugar; 25 percent and more of ketchup is sugar, most of it added. Of mustard seed, 7 percent is sugar; 40 percent and more of many prepared mustards is sugar, most of it added. Of beef, pork, turkey, or chicken, 0 percent is sugar; up to 4 percent of the beef, pork, turkey, or chicken hot dog is sugar, all of it added.
The micronutrient level of the white flour hot dog bun, even when "enriched," is seriously diminished.
So a nutritionally ideal hot dog could have some sliced cucumber, some sliced tomato, a sprinkling of dry mustard, on top of a small wiener, in a whole wheat bun. That keeps the doctor away.
A commercially ideal hot dog has relish, ketchup, and prepared mustard, on top of a large wiener, in a white bun. That keeps the doctor busy.
Commercially ideal? Yes. Relish has a very long shelf life, as does ketchup, whereas cucumbers and tomatoes spoil quickly. Spoilage is a result of microorganisms "eating" nutritious foods. They are not interested in degraded foods.
White flour buns have a long shelf life. They don't get moldy in a few days. Molds, a life form, are too smart to settle on anything as devoid of nutritional value as a white fl our (refined grain) product. They'll go for whole grain products anytime. Should we be taking a lesson from these brainless organisms?
As a survival mechanism, we developed a preference for fats and sugars over millions of years. Through most of our existence, we needed the high energy provided by fats and the quick energy provided by sugars. Our preference for fats and sugars was as essential to continued existence during times of chronic food shortages as it is destructive today, in these times of food abundance.
Excerpted from Your Mouth, Your Health by Milan Somborac Copyright © 2010 by Milan Somborac, DDS. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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