After watching ”Forks over Knifes” documentary I was inspired to write this article and share some information that will be interesting. I will start about subjects such as vitamins/antioxidants intake, vegetarian/vegan life style, and what is lent/fasting and why our ancestors practice it?
While walking on the streets you can see commercial slogans everywhere promoting their goods saying: “this product is enriched with vitamin C ” or “full of antioxidants.” People drinking and eating these products believe that they getting healthier and healthier. Well, vitamins and antioxidants are good for you BUT everything has its limits. I am not going for a long speech about antioxidants or vitamins’ good side but rather describe a couple of pathways in which your body operates and incorporates these compounds and side effects when you take too much of them. Primarily, the function of antioxidants is to fight the oxidants! Oxidants (in science literature they are called Free Radicals or FR) are small molecules or ions that have single unpaired electrons shell so they can react bind with and attract numerous enzymes, proteins, cell membranes, DNA, and other cellular compounds. Generally speaking they are noisy and curious neighbors. As an example, aging is thought to be linked to overproduction of FR and delayed protective mechanisms. FR could be molecules with Oxygen or Nitrogen, etc. Now, lets step into little bit of physiology. Your body is built in such a way so it responds to outside and inside stimulus via various receptors. Suppose you had a headache and you took a pill of Excedrin (acetaminophen), when the pill is digested and absorbed to your blood and travel to various organs, enzymes in the liver and blood tries to break down this drug into less (or more) reactive compound called metabolite. The body tries to get rid of unnatural compounds in the body because they can produce damage. Before the acetaminophen is broken down, it reacts with receptors on liver cells and other organs. These receptors stimulate signals down (towards cell nucleus) using various components such as phosphatase, ROS (reactive oxygenated species) and others that are reactive enough to produce the signal chain and stimulation of various proteins until the message reaches the DNA. The gene for the particular enzyme will become stimulated by the signals and become activated, therefore produce more enzymes that break down the xenobiotic (acetaminophen) faster. That is the theory but what about antioxidants and vitamins? Antioxidants can be endogenously made enzymes such as glutathione or thioredoxin and they are constantly present in every part of the body and react with FRs. When you take a long sunbath and your skin has been bombarded with UV light, it was also stimulating cellular receptors and DNA damage repair system that activated antioxidant genes so they can produce more, let’s say, glutathione that easily react with increased amount of FRs in your body and skin. On the other hand, your body produces FRs and need them in order to survive. Mitochondrial electrochemical gradient and proton motive force is one of the crucial elements in cellular respiration and regulation (growth, proliferation) and it produces and runs FR like a car runs on fuel. Mitochondria is located practically in very cell you have, so if you interfere with its function, then cancer will look like a joke to you. Body is self regulated and oversupply with anything leads to misbalance and toxicity.
Now let’s review some vitamins/antioxidants in detail. Vitamin E is a very useful compound but within limits. This vitamin is known for cellular protective functions and anti-cancer abilities, also it is a well known anti-inflammatory agent. It does it by blocking COX enzyme that stimulates production of arachidonic acid and sequentially inflammatory factors. Why do we need the inflammatory factors? If you cut yourself or any virus gets inside of your body, inflammatory factors are natural responses of approaching threat. Oversupply yourself with Vitamin E, you are shutting down your first response system!!! Another thing, reactive oxygenated species (ROS) are types of FRs that are involved in many cellular communication and signal transduction. Since this vitamin is also good antioxidant, in particular, in combination with other oversupplied vitamins, it shuts down ROS function between nuclear receptors and gene stimulation and voila, whatever gene was supposed to be activated due to external factor was not able to do it.
Vitamin C, a very important vitamin, in tissues accumulates as ascorbic acid which is very necessary for antioxidant functions, cellular stability and another thing (from scientific publication): “ actively take part in modulating cell signaling by acting at the level of REDOX sensitive molecular pathways and transcription factors” Vitamin C produces NAPDH oxidase inhibition. What is NAPDH oxidase? In normal physiological terms, it is a ROS generator that, as I mentioned, is required and necessary for cellular signaling and in healthy (normal) amounts can actually act as fighter against bacteria. Since bacteria is a biological organism, FRs can attack bacterial cellular membrane and cause its death. Therefore, by you drinking vitamin C, particularly, in powder that dissolve in water (1000 mg) every day, you not only will damage your liver (a natural filter), but you will suppress an important cellular signal component that I have described above. You don’t need to chug three “NAKED” juices and drink powder vitamin each day, eat an apple or a kiwi and you will supply yourself with practically all necessary nutritional antioxidants… . I repeat, consume these vitamin products with moderate amounts only when you need them. (Flu season, sunbathing, extreme stress…)
Let’s talk about vegan/vegetarian life style. Recent movie “Forks over Knives” provided interesting data and examples of people who converted to vegetarian/vegan life. However, the movie carries the message that portrays meat and milk based products as cancer initiators and destroyer of a “healthy human life” I am sorry, but this is a very incorrectly built statement. First of all, most people who converted to veganism/vegetarianism had a personal reason to do so. Some converted because they suffer from metabolic disease (diabetes), removal of gallbladder etc. Others because they knew someone who died from cancer or obesity, while others just tried to verify vegetarian style benefits and liked the outcome of being energetic and “feeling of well being”. The psychological effect is enormous! However, EXACT physiological and cellular mechanisms are briefly touched by so-called nutritionist and dietitians. Human body during its life time goes over multiple stages when some genes become activated while others suppressed, metabolic slow down due to aging is not a news anymore. For example, if you give a relatively inexperienced pathology med student a biopsy (piece) of a newborn’s liver or kidney, he could mistakenly take over metastatic cancer that engulfs liver. Why? Because the molecular and cellular signaling during infant to puberty is extremely active. Genes that responsible for growth are activated and they run on programs that requires source of chemical compounds such as amino acids, vitamins, proteins that were naturally stored and proven to be working. Replacement for example milk products to soy milk will not necessary give “healthy” nutrition to a child, obviously he will not die from that but his neurological and physical growth might differentiate not only due to variation of genes he inherited from parents but by wrong content of active molecules. Chemical compounds differentiate not only by their structure but by their 3D arrangement. (stereoisomerism). The molecule can be similar structure but position of a hydrogen atom on left side instead of right side could make the whole structure active or inactive. It reminds me story of thalidomide drug during pregnancy and children born without hands. Google it, and you will be amazed. Proteins and milk products are necessary for children, you can’t deprive them from it. Since human is widely dispersed around various geographical zones their genetic variation stays the same but genetic stimulation (via cellular signals) is different. For example, many Asians are lactose intolerant but during infancy they nourished by milk until certain age and they can tolerate it. Nutritional intake changes as human go through late teen to early adulthood. Now is a perfect time to introduce some vegetarian aspects and slowly increase them every decade. As a body physiologically changes you might not need as much proteins as you required before (also, depends on you physical work). I am sure you getting into the idea, I can talk and talk about it but I save time of my patient reader and slowly move to last part of the article. Let me just note one thing: meat/milk intake and cancer relationship is so transparent and unclear that if anyone gives you an example of this matter please be cautious of whom you are dealing with.
Corinthians 11:29; “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself”
Fr thousands of years our ancestors followed traditions and religious principles that ruled on specific food intake. Idea of lent and fasting did not come out spontaneously and was not put to control people minds! It was done based on studies and observations of generations of people as well as the Creator’s thoughtful advice. Lent or Fasting is not only used for celebration of particular events. In Judaic-Christian tradition, lent is practiced for health benefits while fasting predominantly for faith benefits. In ancient Judea (Israel) Israelis had lent and fast periods spread between when crops, fruits and vegetable were grown and ready to harvest (remember, they did not have supermarkets) therefore Rabbis and elder leaders would not force people to fast when the crops have grown and ready for bread making. The fasting sometimes was implied due to specific events but they last for couple days. Concepts of specific food limitation or fasting are beneficial for the following reasons: application of limited stress on the body (cell strength), cleansing and dissolution of fat accumulation and disease cure/healing. When the nutritious supply suddenly stops (fasting), the physiological stress on every part of the body skyrockets. (Fasting includes food and water intake prohibition) When you deprive yourself water, dehydration of the body will take place. The amount of water excreted by feces, sweat and respiration could be up to a liter a day. After that body goes into emergency mode - breaks down fatty chains and lipid cells to produce water. Large amount of energy released when cell break down the fat molecule (feel of energetic for vegetarians comes from that idea too). The body burns fat, hydrocarbons, glucose and uses vitamins reserves to maintain homeostasis. Eventually, leading to decrease in physiologic action and speed. However, such burn up produces a “shake up” to the body by speeding up the metabolic processes, cellular workload and adaptation to the stress. Often, with fasting, increase in circulation of inflammation factors takes place. These factors initiate immune system start up. Short immunity boost is good for many reasons because the body actively searching for foreign viruses and organisms. During head traumas, water/food fasting is practiced to relieve pressure that build up when blood vessels in brain dilate inflow of water.
In our days in the middle east, a lenten tradition starts with drinking water/tea, eating olives and another crucial ingredient: Phoenix Dactylifera. It is a botanical name that hides a very well-known fruit, that you can buy anywhere in supermarket – date fruit. Since a Pharaohs times this fruit was agriculturally grown and used for many things. Date fruit has a lot of glucose and vitamins that can crunch hunger very fast, since sugar absorbed from intestine into the blood very fast. Satiated sensation last longer due to fiber/protein/metal components - perfect for lent. During a lent you avoid eating meat, egg, milk, fish, (obviously it depends on what lent you following) and it is especially hard if you live in north since cold weather effects the body differently than in dry and hot climate. That is why in every culture there are tricks and certain adaptations in lent preparations and fasting based on the geographical locations. Date fruits don’t grow in Finland but people who follow the religious (Christianity) traditions eat a lot of hot soup based products. Cold water absorbed faster in the stomach than the hot one (Now you understand why they ask to drink soda cold) and it gives you a need to drink more than you actually need.
The movie “Fork over the Knives” has many good thoughts and examples in proper nutrition, but it misses many crucial details that should not of taken out (or maybe they don’t fit). As I’ve discussed here, human physiology hides many enigmas such as cellular signaling and transport, chemistry of receptors and their relationships with various compounds, concentrations of endogenous (body made) compounds, genetical variation with age. Our ancestors had defined background that help them survive despite all odds. But here we are creating things as we go without even recognizing these crucial details. As the result we are here, staring in the screen and trying to figure out how to live next. Or we just looked in wrong direction all this time?
I think I stop on that note since there are so many things to write about but let my readers to add something in their comments
Pic 2 and 3 It’s mine