Our OSS Blog
Sometimes beliefs are converted into fact just by repetition. We constantly hear of people who want to avoid monosodium glutamate because of a fear of being struck by “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” Restaurants have taken to posting signs declaring “No MSG added” to pacify their customers. This in spite of the fact that numerous controlled double blind studies have failed to show the existence of the so-called Chinese Restaurant Sydrome. Let me give you a typical example. In an Australian study 70 volunteers, who didn’t know they were taking part in an MSG experiment, were given capsules that either contained MSG or some inert material. They then recorded their health status during the next few hours.
Some of the subjects reported weakness, warmth, tingling, nausea, headache, lightheadedness or gastric problems. But the frequency of these complaints was the same in the MSG and placebo groups. Most subjects reported no symptoms at all. So, at least according to this study, there was no evidence of Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.
What about studying people who claim to be affected by the problem?. That too has been done. When 61 people who identified themselves as being sensitive to MSG were given either 5 grams of it, or a placebo, 18 reacted to neither, and six to both. After eliminating these, 37 remained, of whom 15 had reacted to placebo and 22 to MSG. They were then retested with varying doses of MSG. It turned out that there was a slight increase in headaches and feelings of weakness in the MSG group but only when the dose was more than 2.5 grams.Read more
You've heard the expression that a rotten apple spoils the whole barrel. Wonder why? The ripening and subsequent rotting of an apple can be linked to its internal production of a gas called ethylene. As in other fruits, ethylene stimulates a large number of enzymatic processes which are in general responsible for ripening. An increase in concentration of this gas enhances tissue respiration (oxygen uptake) which leads to a slightly increased internal temperature. This then leads to a breakdown of chlorophyll and the synthesis of other pigments. The starch in the fruit is converted to simple sugars and at the same time the compound pectin, a component of fiber which cements cell walls together, begins to disintegrate, softening the tissue. A rotting apple can stimulate this process in other apples. Usually undesired, unless you want to ripen bananas. Put a green banana in a bag with a ripe, cut-up apple and watch it turn yellow. This ripening process can be carried out "commercially" as well; easily perishable produce such as bananas and tomatoes which must travel a long distance are often picked before they are ripe and are treated with ethylene gas on the way to their destination.Read more
Yes. If you like the taste and don’t mind unloading your wallet, drink it by all means. But if you are thinking of making coconut water a part of your life for some perceived health benefit or as the beverage to consume to replace your electrolytes after intense exercise, forget it. So what is coconut water and why the current enthusiasm about drinking it? First, let’s make clear that coconut water is not the same as coconut milk. Coconut water is the liquid found inside young coconuts while coconut milk is expressed from the flesh of the fruit. Unlike coconut milk it contains no fat and precious little of anything else save for a good dose of potassium. It is the potassium content that has propelled the hype elevating coconut water into a “super hydrating beverage.” True, prolonged intense exercise can require the replacement of electrolytes of which potassium is one. But so is sodium, of which there is not much in coconut water. And as for the vaunted energy effect, well, coconut water does have a small amount of sugar but not enough to have any significant impact on blood glucose. Some bottled or canned coconut waters have added sugar and added sodium but studies have found that nutrient amounts listed on the label can fall significantly short of what is actually in the beverage. In any case,for most people water is perfectly adequate as a rehydrating solution and serious athletes are better off using one of the scientifically designed beverages. Of course there are athletes who maintain that they perform better with coconut water but of course there are also athletes who say they perform better when they stick coloured tape on their body. Mind over matter.
Much of the buzz about coconut water is created by ingenious marketing. As the attacks on bottled water and soda pop mount, the industry is looking for new ways to fill its coffers. And they’re turning coconut milk into the new golden boy. Throw in phrases like “potassium-rich,” “all natural,” “fat-free,” “cholesterol free,”“naturally sweet” and “super-hydrating,” then go out and hire popstars like Rihanna to endorse the product and watch sales zoom! Even better if you have someone who appears to have scientific credibility pipe in on the product’s supposed benefits.Read more
Because my wife and I had a wonderful dog for nearly 9 years and since I give a lecture on human waste in our Environment course at McGill, I was most interested to see the article that is making quite a number of headlines around the world with the title “Dogs are sensitive to small variations of the Earth’s magnetic field”. It appears canines align themselves for defecation and urination aligned along the North-South axis. This directional positioning seems to be associated most strongly when the magnetic field conditions are said to be “stable”.
There were twelve authors on this paper from universities in the Czech Republic and Germany. Several thousand observations were made detailing the position of a variety of dogs while relieving themselves in an effort to decide if dogs indeed have a capacity to respond to the earth’s magnetic field. The authors justify this remarkable data collection exercise to see if they can prove that dogs indeed have “extraordinary homing ability”. The anecdotal literature is indeed filled with tales of abandoned dogs finding their way home under what seem like impossible climate and landscape conditions. So- what were the results?
I have read a great many scientific papers and some of them are filled with arcane language that one can become familiar with given enough time and effort and study. For me, this publication defies clear understanding. This sub-field is called “magnetobiology”. My field is chemistry and we do indeed have “sub-fields” but this one for me was a novelty. My problem with this research is that I was unable to extract any simple conclusions other than when the magnetic North-South axis was calm, dogs aligned with this direction rather well and if the field was not “stable” they aligned in a more random fashion.
Given that it appears that the earth’s magnetic field seems to be fluctuating in an inconsistent fashion most of the time and given that one needs rather specialized equipment to detect these fluctuations, the practical conclusions that can be extracted from this work seem remote at best.Read more
Ice is great in a beverage or on a skating rink but we don’t want it on our streets. How do we melt it? Potassium acetate, sodium chloride, calcium chloride, magnesium chloride or urea will do the job. They all interfere with the formation of ice crystals and can be used to melt ice. They do, however, differ in effectiveness, potential harm to the environment and cost.
Sodium chloride, or common salt, is cheap and can melt ice down to about -20C. At lower temperatures salt can be mixed with "beet juice" which is actually the molasses left behind when sugar is produced from sugar beets. Mixing salt with beet juice allows less salt to be used which results in a "greener" process since salt can damage soil and vegetation, contaminate surface and ground water and speed up the corrosion of concrete and metals. Corrosion of metals is a process whereby the metal react with oxygen. This requires the transfer of electrons among substances and such transfer is facilitated by the presence of ions, such as sodium and chloride. Substances that dissolve to form ions in solution are called electrolytes and speed up the rusting process. That’s why cars in Canada rust and those in Arizona do not. That is also why airplanes not in use are stored in the Arizona desert.
Not all electrolytes speed up corrosion to the same extent. Potassium acetate is much more environmentally friendly than salt but is twenty times more expensive. Calcium chloride melts snow and ice much faster than sodium chloride, is less corrosive but does damage vegetation and wildlife. It also costs more than salt. Magnesium chloride is also less corrosive, but works only down to -15C and costs five times more than salt. Urea is non-corrosive, does not damage vegetation but only melts ice down to -4C. There is yet another issue with salt.Read more
In 1993, a young Navajo woman arrived at an emergency room in New Mexico suffering from flu-like symptoms and shortness of breath. Despite such “minor” symptoms, she soon passed away. Ironically, this woman’s death would help scientists piece together the cause of the “1993 Four Corners” pulmonary illness outbreak.
The autopsy reports revealed that this young woman’s lungs were filled with fluid. In fact, her lungs were twice the normal weight expected for someone her size and age! But the cause of death remained a mystery. A month later, her fiancé ended up in the same emergency room with the same symptoms. He also died. Before long more than a dozen people died of the same illness. Physicians in the area notified the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), but no one had a solution to this mystery illness.
Many physicians and scientists worked on this case. Lung tissues were analyzed but it took time until virologists identified the virus responsible for the respiratory failures. This newly discovered viral infection was named Sin Nombre virus infection or Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS).
Although this viral infection was tagged as a new disease, the symptoms were well known to the Navajo people who had associated them with mice. Surprisingly, after trapping various types of rodents, researchers confirmed that this lethal Hantavirus emerged from mice and some rats.Read more
We've had loads of hype about noni juice, goji juice, acai juice...now get ready for the new kid on the block, buffaloberry juice. Buffaloberries which grew mostly in the western U.S. and are regarded as a treat by bears are already being anointed as the "superfood" of 2014. Why? Because a study in Food Science, a very reputable journal, found that the berries contain carotenoids and phenols, compounds with antioxidant properties. Well, hallelujah! All berries and fruits contain a slew of antioxidants so there is nothing special about buffaloberries, except that you've probably never heard of them. And that is great for marketing. Especially if you can throw in a tidbit about the berries being a longtime favourite of North American natives who are thought to have special insight into the healing properties of nature.Read more
Recently a number of people have forwarded me bits of wisdom emanating from Dr. Russel Blaylock, neurosurgeon. While at one time he may have been in possession of an acceptable brain, mental fog now seems to have set in.
I have long followed Dr. Blaylock’s rants against food additives, aluminum cookware, fluoridation and dental amalgam. A career in neurosurgery obviously does not confer expertise on these issues. But let’s dig a little deeper into the mind of this man, a mind filled with conspiracy theories. He opines that the social drug problem in the U.S. was created by the nefarious former Soviet Union “to weaken the resistance of western Society to Soviet invasion, undermine religion and make the youth unable to resist collectivism.” And, oh yes, the Soviets were also responsible for an epidemic of hepatitis, AIDS, venereal diseases and highly resistant tuberculosis.
According to Blaylock current attempts at health care reform in the U.S. are being masterminded by the self-chosen “Elite” (read President Obama, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and other such organizations) who want to establish a New World Order in which people judged to be a burden on the state, such as the infirm elderly and the disabled are to be removed from society either by positive or negative euthanasia. In Blaylock’s esteemed opinion, “this is really not that far away from the German National Socialist Party’s thinking.” In other words, Obama’s health care reforms have Nazi overtones, with plans to reduce the population of elderly who are bankrupting the social security system. “Knowing they cannot easily pass a euthanasia law or just have them rounded up and exterminated, they (the proponents of socialized medicine) use the medical care system to speed them along to their deaths.” Totalitarianism is coming, and “as the economy worsens, which they can engineer with their Federal Reserve friends, people will be more accepting of such things as euthanasia on the elderly and terminally ill, the insane, the feeble-minded and the chronically ill.”
Vaccines are also one of Blaylock’s many targets. He insinuates that the H1N1 virus may be the product of some pharmaceutical research project gone awry, or that it may even be a man-made virus purposely released by someone with the “Illuminati Depopulation Agenda.” Blaylock appears regularly on right-wing radio programs such as the “Alex Jones Show,” where the popular topics are climate change fraud and the erosion of civil liberties under President Obama. Read more
A little pump called the “Fizz Keeper” is available in kitchen supply stores to pressurize previously opened soft drink bottles and prevent loss of carbonation. The idea appears to make sense, but actually, the device does not work. Pumping the bottle can restore the pressure above the solution so the bottle feels hard, just like when it was purchased. But the manufacturers are unaware of Henry’s Law.William Henry was an English chemist (1775-1836) who noted that the solubility of a gas in a liquid is proportional to the pressure of the gas over the solution. Other gases above the solution do not matter. Consider a carbonated beverage. Before the bottle is sealed it is pressurized with a mixture of air and carbon dioxide. The partial pressure of the carbon dioxide is very high, far higher than atmospheric pressure, so that a great deal of carbon dioxide dissolves. Read more
Back in the early 70s, just as I was developing an interest in the chemistry of food, I came across a witty quote by Mark Twain. “Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.” Twain was likely reacting to the plethora of health fads that were rippling through the American landscape at the time. As evidenced by a passage in his classic work Tom Sawyer, he didn’t approve:
“Aunt Polly was a subscriber for all the “Health” periodicals and phrenological frauds; and the solemn ignorance they were inflated with was breath to her nostrils. All the “rot” they contained about what to eat, and what to drink, and how much exercise to take, and what frame of mind to keep one’s self in was all gospel to her, and she never observed that her health-journals of the current month customarily upset everything they had recommended the month before.”
Indeed, there was health advice galore in the nineteenth century. Sylvester Graham urged people to eschew white flour, cooked vegetables and meat. Drinking water during a meal was verboten. If a vegetarian and a meat eater were shot and killed, Graham maintained, the body of the vegetable eater would take two to three times as long to become intolerably offensive from the process of putrefication. There is no record of Graham ever putting this to a test. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg followed in Graham’s footsteps, curing the rich and famous of diseases they never had with a regimen of vegetables, fruits, over baked bread and yogurt.
Horace Fletcher, the “Apostle of Correct Nutrition,” suggested that the secret of life lay in chewing food until the last hint of flavour disappeared, and Lydia Pinkham promoted her Vegetable Compound as just the thing for “female complaints and weaknesses.” Dr. James Salisbury claimed that heart disease, tumours, mental illness and tuberculosis were the result of vegetables and starchy foods producing poisonous substances in the digestive system. His solution was the “Salisbury steak,” essentially fried ground beef with onion and seasonings. According to the good doctor the steak was to be eaten eaten three times a day with lots of water. This would cleanse the digestive system and as a bonus, the high meat-low carbohydrate diet would lead to weight loss. Early shades of Atkins.
Little wonder that Mark Twain poked fun at these half-baked, contradictory fragments of advice with his suggestion to let the food fight it out once inside. That of course was pure whimsy, but foods really do duke it out, though not inside our bodies. Rather, it is in the scientific literature that dietary components vie for infamy or honour. And the biggest battles take place when the stakes are high, such as in the struggle against heart disease.
I’ve now been overlooking that battlefield for more than four decades. My bookshelves sag with dozens of books about the relationship between diet and heart disease ranging from the “China Study” in which Dr. T. Colin Campbell urges us to reduce blood cholesterol by eliminating all animal products to Dr. Malcolm Kendrick’s The Great Cholesterol Con and Dr. Ernest Curtis’ Cholesterol Delusion which claim that a high fat diet does not put a person at risk for coronary artery disease and that lowering the cholesterol level with diet or drugs will not prevent heart attacks. My filing cabinets continue to swell with the studies referenced in these books plus with numerous others. One would think that a definitive conclusion about the relationship between diet and heart disease could be arrived at by digging through all this material. Alas, it is possible to find reputable studies to either support or oppose the obsession with cholesterol.Read more
Sodium sulphite is not added for cleaning purposes, at least not as far as the laundry is concerned. It is added to protect the washing machine or dishwasher from corrosion. Iron reacts with oxygen to form ferric oxide which is better known as rust. This reaction proceeds more readily at high temperatures, as found in washing machines. Where does the oxygen come from? It is dissolved in water. The surface of water is in contact with air, so some oxygen can always dissolve. Oxygen also is a byproduct of photosynthesis which of course occurs as aquatic plants grow. The amount of oxygen that dissolves depends on the temperature (less dissolves as the temperature increases), the pressure (less dissolves at higher altitudes) and the amount of other substances already dissolved in the water (freshwater holds more oxygen than salt water).Read more
First a little background. Champagne is produced mainly from black grapes in the Champagne region of France. From the moment the Pinot noir grapes are pressed in the vineyard, where almost fanatical care is taken to ensure that not even a trace of black skin ends up in the white juice, to the moment the cork pops, champagne receives more care and attention than any other wine in the world.
Dom Perignon, a blind monk, got the ball rolling in the 18th century. He discovered that if a bottle of wine were tightly sealed before the fermentation was complete, the bubbles of carbon dioxide could not escape and an effervescent drink would be produced. His keen sense of smell, the result of his blindness, allowed him to maximize the flavor of the wine through judicious blending of different juices. To this day, champagne is produced by the methods initiated by Dom Perignon.
Now for the glasses.
A fascinating story is told by the guide on a tour of perhaps the most famous champagne house in the world.Read more
Just take the pills a few times a day and watch the pounds melt away. So goes the claim. Whoaaa. Time to reign in the galloping hyperboles.
The "active" ingredient is glucomannan is a form of dietary fiber that is extracted from the root of the konjac plant. Fiber, by definition, is any type of carbohydrate that cannot be digested and consequently cannot be absorbed into the bloodstream from the small intestine. It makes its way to the large intestine or colon, where bacteria may break it down into smaller components. Most of these, along with intact fiber are excreted. Glucomannan is made of glucose and mannose molecules joined together in long chains, but unlike digestible carbohydrates like starch, it is resistant to breakdown by our salivary or pancreatic enzymes. As a dose of indigestible glucomannan sits in the stomach or small bowel before passing on to the colon, it absorbs a great deal of water. This bulky mélange of water and fiber makes for a feeling of fullness and curbs the appetite. There have actually been a few short term studies indicating more efficient weight loss on a low calorie diet when it was combined with about 4 grams of glucomannan per day.Read more
Osteoporosis derives from the Greek meaning “porous bones. ” This disease causes porosity and brittleness of the bone due to the excessive loss of protein, mineral content and calcium. Osteoporosis is known to affect both men and women of all races, although Caucasian and Asian postmenopausal women are at highest risk for developing osteoporosis.
Generally, osteoporosis is known as the “silent disease” because there are no symptoms during the early stages of bone loss. But it is common for people to suffer from various fractures or broken bones before being diagnosed. Osteoporotic fractures occur in areas where healthy people would not normally suffer fractures. For example, these fragility fractures occur in the wrist, hip, rib and spinal column. It has been reported that fewer than 20% of fracture patients in Canada currently undergo diagnosis or adequate treatment for osteoporosis. Treatment and diagnosis are imperative for the well being of the patient since Osteoporosis Canada claims that 28% of women and 37% of men who suffer a hip fracture will die within the following year.
There are various treatments for osteoporosis but the most widely prescribed medications are bisphosphonates. Bisphosphonates are so named for the two phosphate groups (PO3) present in the molecule. Bisphosphonates require these phosphate groups in order to properly function as drugs. These drugs are responsible for preventing loss of bone mass.
Bones undergo a continuous process of remodeling. The remodeling cycle consists of bone resorption followed by bone formation. During bone resorption, specialized cells known as osteoclasts chew up bone material leading to bone loss. However, another set of specialized cells called osteoblasts are responsible for laying down bone material required for bone formation. The purpose of this continuous cycle is to ensure that bone architecture can be adjusted in order to accommodate mechanical needs as well as repair microdamages in bone matrix.
Now back to bisphosphonates. What is the mechanism of action for these drugs? Well, the skeleton takes up bisphosphonates preferentially during bone formation. Bisphosphonates become part of the newly formed bone since their chemical structure allows them to strongly bind to hydroxyapatite. Hydroxyapatite is a complex calcium phosphate mineral and element found in bone. Due to this strong interaction between the hydroxyapatite and bisphosphonates, the drugs can stay embedded in bone years withstanding numerous cycles of remodeling. In fact, it is common for patients to be exposed to its effects long after discontinuing this treatment.
Medical officer at FDA’s center for Drug Evaluation and Researcher, Dr. Marcea Whitaker warned, “Bisphosphonates have been proven very effective in protecting against bone fractures in clinical trials lasting three to four years. But it's still unknown whether the benefit lasts longer than that in decreasing the risk of fractures.” In addition, the FDA has ordered that a safety warning appear on the bisphosphonate label. Indeed, there seems to be an increased risk of unusual thighbone fractures, severe jawbone decay and esophageal cancer. Due to these associations, the FDA suggests that physicians should reconsider the length of time that this treatment is prescribed.
Prolia is another treatment for osteoporosis. The FDA approved this treatment in June 2010. But don’t be fooled, Prolia also goes by the name Xgeva! And yet, perhaps Prolia and Xgeva are better known by the generic name: denosunab. Prolia is a specific RANKL inhibitor. RANKL (receptor activator of nuclear factor kappa-B ligand) functions as a key factor for osteoclast differentiation and activation. This means that when Prolia targets and inhibits RANKL, osteoclasts will not be able to chew away bone material.
Prolia is administered as a single subcuntaneous injection every six months. FDA warns that Prolia can cause serious side effects. Read more