Cannabis as Medicine: Not a Panacea but still Valuable

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Photo credit: ___ariel___

There are some very passionate supporters of weed out there.  It can cure cancer and relieve pain while freeing your mind.  You could be lead to believe that it is a cure all for nearly everything.  Its understandable that people are passionate about the topic when they do have very good and valid points in the face of a government that just doesn’t seem to get it.  The voice of support has to become louder and more impactful as the frustration mounts.  Believe me, the government gets it, but lobby groups have more power over rational discussion in American politics.  And cannabis certainly has a place in medicine, it just may not quite live up to the hyperbole…but it might.  We should have had a better idea of its medicinal value years ago, had those efforts not been hampered by the legal status of cannabis over the last century.  In this article, I’ll explore what the peer reviewed science currently has to say about the plant. Read the rest of this entry »

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Misguided Concerns Over Food Labeling

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Photo credit: CT Senate Democrats

Earlier this year Oklahoma State University released a summary of the results of an online survey polled from 1000 people in the US that tracks consumer concerns over food safety and regulation. From the polled sample, 82% supported mandatory labeling of food containing genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.  A real discredit to those fighting for GMO labeling was the finding that 85% also supported mandatory labeling of food containing DNA.  Strikingly, only 39% of respondents were in favor of a tax on sugared sodas, which is an issue that legitimately poses health risks to the US population as I covered in a previous article, and 55% support a ban on transfat, which also poses real health risks. Read the rest of this entry »

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Artificial Sweeteners – Aspartame (Equal, Sweet ‘N Low)

Artificial SweetenersIn a continuation of my coverage on artificial sweeteners, this post will be dedicated to one of the most controversial of them all: aspartame.  That’s because aspartame has been blamed for causing cancer and attributed to many other afflictions, which is evident in this chain email that circulated in 1998 during the early days of the internet.  In particular I remember the stories growing up, before I could even pronounce the word, that claimed aspartame causes cancer, and like many people, I automatically believed it was true.  I’ve dug through the scientific literature, there was a ton of it to look through…part of the reason it took so long for me to write this article.  Not surprisingly I’ve found that most of the claims are unsubstantiated by evidence, despite the fact that many of these studies are 20-30 years old – something that I do take issue with.  I did find some more recent compelling research, backed by a plausible mechanism on the potential neurotoxic effects of long-term aspartame consumption.  Those studies used large doses of aspartame, but were within the FDA acceptable daily intake limit, and I would urge you to read on for more context.  Aspartame may also have an affect on metabolic parameters related to diabetes and obesity, as well as composition of gut bacteria.  The evidence is conflicting, however, and many of these same issues are brought up surrounding other artificial sweeteners as well. Read the rest of this entry »

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Artificial Sweeteners – Sucralose (Splenda)

Artificial SweetenersArtificial sweeteners are sugar substitutes that provide no nutritional value and are made by chemical processes, rather than naturally occurring in the environment.  As such, there’s always a lot of negative attention directed toward artificial sweeteners and indeed, anything labeled as “artificial.”  I’ve decided to do a series of articles on artificial sweeteners to find out what claims are true and what isn’t, instead of doing one article with a bullet point list.  There’s just too much information to condense everything into one article and I like to include as much context as possible because most things are not black and white issues, and this topic is no exception.  So the first article in this series will concentrate on what science currently has to say about the most widely used artificial sweetener on the market: sucralose.

Sucralose (Splenda)

Surcalose, best known as the key ingredient in Splenda, is a non-nutritive sweetener 600 times sweeter than sugar by weight.  The molecule itself is produced by a series of chemical reactions, starting with sugar as a base, then, stripping away 3 hydroxyl groups from the original sugar molecule and replacing them with chlorine atoms.  The added chlorine atoms make sucralose sweeter than sugar while also preventing it from being metabolized by the body.  This means that sucralose is not used as an energy source by the body and is simply eliminated as a waste product. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Importance of Funding Basic Science Research

The Scholarly Kitchen

FASEB, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology runs an annual Stand Up For Science competition, and in 2013, the goal was to increase awareness of the value of US federal funding for biological and biomedical research.

The winning video is below, and it makes a compelling argument for the funding of basic science. So much of the science funding mindset has seemingly been influenced by Wall Street’s  “get rich quick” ethos. Businesses have been encouraged to forsake long term health and success in order to maximize this quarter’s profits to drive the stock price higher. Forget about the future, what about next week?

Similarly, science funding has increasingly moved toward requiring instant gratification, proof of immediate societal impact (and often financial impact), rather than planning for the long term. Much of what we are profiting from as a society now stems from the basic research funded…

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Hype and Potential Behind the Therapeutic Promises of Curcumin: From Alzheimer’s to Cystic Fibrosis

turmeric

Turmeric root contains biologically active curcumin.

Turmeric is a root belonging to the ginger family, and like ginger, is used prominently in oriental cuisines.  Owing its yellow color to a compound called curcumin, the root is probably best known as the spice used in curries.  Like its ginger cousin, turmeric has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years.  I’m not entirely sure how we know the timeline or how much truth is in that statement.  Nonetheless, I will parrot that as truth since we as humans often have this immutable faith in the supposed medicinal value of things we pull out of the ground.  As it turns out, there does appear to be some real potential medical applications, not with turmeric itself, but with curcumin.  Some of the claims are hype, some of them show a lot of promise with a little more research, and there may actually be some benefit in taking curcumin now.

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High Fructose Corn Syrup is Not Special in the Sugar Debate

high fructose corn syrup label

“I don’t have the time, desire or the need to check every label to see if it contains this one little ingredient.”

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has become the latest target in the war against the obesity epidemic.  The very fact that it exists because it is a highly processed corn product makes it ripe for sensationalized headlines like “5 Reasons High Fructose Corn Syrup Will Kill You.”  The name of the product itself makes it sound ominous.  So what is the truth?  Will HFCS kill you and, perhaps, more importantly, is it really anymore dangerous than the thing that it commonly replaces, table sugar?  The short answer is, no.  It is almost exactly the same as regular sugar and is no more harmful than sugar when consumed in amounts that are within or below the recommended dietary guidelines.

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