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I am overweight, see what I am doing about it

I am not trying to scare you or scare myself but I am overweight.

I know it is rare for men to say they are overweight. Sure, I am a man but that does not excuse me from being honest. I am overweight.

Being overweight no longer means you are doing well financially or contented with life, as some communities think. Overweight is a matter of death and life.

Body weight isn’t just an issue with women.

Body weight is a real concern for anybody wishing to live healthily.

This is because overweight is the first warning sign that you are sliding into the danger zone of becoming obese.

How do you know you are overweight?

Overweight is a combination of two numbers. Most people just check their body mass (weight) and think that they are truly monitoring the parameter that determines their health. Checking body weight is good, but not entirely complete without taking into account body height and sometimes gender and age.

To know if the weight is posing risk to health, height and body weight are tabulated using a formula to give what is popularly known as BMI. BMI stands for body mass index.

Body mass index is calculated by diving the body weight in Kg by height in metres squared.

To tabulate BMI measure your body weight using a bathroom weighing scale and using a tape measure, take the height. From those two figures, divide body weight by the square of height in metres (100 cm make one metre).

So, what is my BMI

A normal or healthy BMI is between 18 – 24.9.

Anything below 18.4 means you are under weight.

BMI above 25 rings the bells sending warning signal as BMI between 25- 29.9 means you are overweight and anything above 30 classifies you as obese.

BMI- Joshua Arimi

My BMI as at Feb 2012

My body weight is 72.6 Kg and my height is 169 cm. From the calculation; my BMI as it stands now is 25.4.

You may say that this is just on the borderline. True, but it is a warning that my health is at risk

Why is being overweight a risk to health

More than 50 ailments or diseases are linked to being overweight ranging from breathing problems to circulatory disorders (heart attack, high blood pressure, heart failure), muscle and joint problems (arthritis), and digestive ailments (colon cancer, gastroesophageal reflux disease). Being overweight can interfere with sleep, make it difficult to keep up physically with children or friends as well as shorten life.

What is the way forward?

The parameter that influences BMI by the greatest magnitude is the body weight. So, if I can cut my body weight I will definitely bring my BMI down to normal.

The main way to bring down weight is not hitting the gym although it is important, it is negative calorie balance that leads to weight loss.

If you burn more calories than those consumed, you are guaranteed to lose weight. There are very few exceptions to this rule.

Gym helps to keep body physically fit not necessarily to lose weight. This is because if you burn less calories in the gym than you consume form foods, there is less likelihood of losing weight.

I take it a personal challenge to bring down by BMI to normal. Looking forward to this challenge.

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Donkey Milk- Health and Nutritional Benefits

The nutritional and therapeutic properties of human, cattle, goat, sheep, camel and horse milk is well known. However, the goodness of donkey is not well known.

Milk is considered as a complete food. Therefore, all sources of milk are attracting extra attention as such milk could offer benefits that are not yet well-known.

Donkeys have mainly been used as pack and ride animals in developing economies.

In late nineteenth century donkey milk gained a new perspective as it was used in feeding orphaned children in France.

Before that, in the Roman age, the donkey milk was used for nutrition and skin care.

The increase in Cow’s Milk protein allergy among children has led to search for alternatives. Researchers in Italy established that infants can tolerate the donkey better.

This brings good news to infants experiencing Cow’s milk protein allergy as donkey’s milk can used until when cow’s milk can be taken without any allergic complications.

Donkey’s milk is also highly palatability. This is advantageous since at young age, kids are known to reject non-palatable foods.

Milking Dairy Donkeys

Milking of donkeys is unique compared cattle and other dairy animals. It therefore requires special mechanisms.

There are dairy donkey farms in Europe, mainly in Italy, France, Spain, and Belgium. There are also dairy donkeys farms in the Xinjiang and Shanxi provinces of China, sharing the largest donkey stock worldwide with Ethiopia and Pakistan.

Milking of donkeys must be carried out in hygienic conditions to ensure no contamination.

A dairy donkey yields 350 (1.5 glasses) to 850 (3.5 glasses) ml of milk. This is very little amount compared to the amount a dairy cow can produce.

Composition of Donkey Milk

 

Selling point of donkey milk

Donkey milk  and its protein is scientifically shown to be palatable and not allergic to infants.

References:

Salimei E and Fantuz F. (2012). Equid milk for human consumption. Animal. International Dairy Journal. 30: 130-142.

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Review of my 2012 and outlook of 2013

The year 2012 was very eventful for me and my pet project; The Arimifoods.

Arimifoods website started in 2010 as an avenue to break-down complex scientific facts about food and nutrition to simple practical knowledge that consumers can understand.

As many of you have experienced, information about foods and nutrition offered in the media and other outlets leaves consumers confused.

As a qualified food scientist I took it as my responsibility to bridge the gap by providing credible and useful knowledge in controversial subjects in food and nutrition.

For those who do not know me very well, I hold a BSc degree, two MSc degree and a PhD degree in Food Science from University College Dublin, Ireland,

Since I was working as a Postdoctoral fellow at UCD, Dublin, Ireland from 2011, I tried my best to post an article every week. Most a times, I could not meet this target. But I strived to ensure that I posted an article atleast once a month.

Publishing for Daily Nation Kenya

While I was dividing my attention between supervising two PhD students and writing in my two blogs: www.arimifoods.com and www.joshuaarimi.com, I published for Daily Nation newspaper. The articles I published in Daily Nation in 2012 are:

  1. Why Kenyan athletes are so good
  2. With nature around us, who needs a gym?
  3. Ignore those alarmist reports, your microwave oven is safe

Half year calamity

As the year progressed, I was thrown into a sorrow and mourning mood after I lost the only  my beloved sister. May the Lord rest your soul in eternal peace my dear sister.

Sin city

I flew back to Ireland and put a brave face as I came to terms with what had befallen our family. The subsequent days were difficult but a two week escape to sin city (Las Vegas) granted me an opportunity to reflect and compose myself back to normality.

My experience of the sin city was not bad at all as I attended Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) conference and International Microwave Power Institute (IMPI) Conference. I left Nevada as a happy man as I scooped a certificate for emerging as a second best presenter in one of the conferences; The IMPI 2012 conference.

Relocating back to Kenya

The following three months from June 2012, were moments of epiphany as I was preparing to relocate to Kenya after 8 good years in the land of leprechauns.

University College Dublin offered me more than I anticipated. A MSc and a PhD degree. A guidance by the best of the experts in the area of Food Science.

Dublin city is small, but it offers a lot in terms of social scenes, pubs, touristic sites particularly the temple bar and many more.

Tears flowed as I bid goodbye to my friends and family of Dublin Central Mission (DCM).  Especially the young adults group, I will always remember you. May God keep you.

Come September 30th I relocated to Kenya and on 1st October was happily at home. I took up a job at Kenya Methodist University as a senior lecturer in the department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. I am based at the main campus in Meru.

Future of Arimi foods

I wish to bring to you some good news. I am converting the Arimifoods idea into a full-fledged consultancy firm. As you read this I have secured an office in Meru at EDFRI Green house next to Uchumi supermarket room G5.

To balance my day job with consultancy work, I will be available in the office after 6 PM every day. I will be happy if you can pay me a visit as from 5 th January 2013.

2013 Outlook

I am planning several activities this year. One of the key events will be to publish several concise books in key areas of food nutrition including:

 1. Nutritional cosmetics- what to eat to look beautiful.

2. Sports nutrition- What to eat before and after gym

3. Nutrition during expectancy

4. Nutrition and ageing- Use of nutrition to slow ageing

5. Link between nutrition and intelligence

The other activity, I am planning for 2013 is to offer regular public talks on food and nutrition. Soon I will release the calendar of the towns that I will visit in the course of the year.

You will like this; I will be the first to review food products sold in the Kenyan market and offer a professional opinion. Look forward to knowing your food !!!

Wishing you a happy 2013.

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Do you Know the Health Hazards of this type of Roofing

Asbestos roofing in a food industry

 

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Healthy drink- A misleading Vodka advert on Kenyan Tvs

Food adverts are intended to inform and entertain while increasing sales of the product.

Bad adverts do the opposite. They just entertain, misinform and sometimes mislead in order to increase sales. After watching such adverts you are left feeling cheated. I believe you know what kind of adverts I am talking about.

They convey something that seems to contradict tenets of truth. When you watch them again and again you come to realise how misleading they are. It is unclear how such misleading adverts are allowed to be aired.

For example there is an advert running on Kenyan TVs promoting a ‘Healthy Vodka’. The advert starts by subtly sending a message that unhealthy drinks kill and cause family breakdown. This is in reference to the local un-regulated and illegal spirits that are adulterated with poisonous chemicals. Such spirits and related alcoholic drinks have previously been implicated to cause impairments of organs leading to blindness and death. It is ok to call them unhealthy but those are just poisonous concoctions.  The term unhealthy seems misplaced in this reference.

What I find really misleading in this advert is to insinuate that drinking Vienna Vodka will lead to healthy family and healthy nation. The photo of a happy family together with healthy kids is what drives me crazy. Actually alcoholic drinks are known to cause marriage breakdown rather than unity. Heavy drinkers are known to be poor workers undermining the idea the advert is promoting of a healthy working nation.

The terms healthy and unhealthy are erroneously used in this advert. Healthy food or drink refers to food or a drink that maintains and in some way improves human health.

Healthy foods and drinks are also associated with low calories, low fat content and less risk of causing chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart problems.

Examples of healthy processed drinks include probiotic yoghurt and functional juices. These drinks have either micro-organisms or added nutrients that provides more than just nutrients. They offer extra benefits to health such as medicinal benefits.

Alcoholic drinks supply some nutrients to the body although in small amounts. By virtue of providing small amount of nutrients, it is not worthy to call them healthy drinks. This is because the nutrients they provide can be obtained from other foods in higher quality and in higher amounts.

It is true that moderate amounts of alcoholic drinks such as red wine are scientifically known to improve heart health mainly at old age. However, due to such benefit alcoholic drinks cannot be called healthy drink as they cause more detriment than good to health.

According to the definition of healthy drinks, alcoholic drinks cannot qualify as consumption of large amounts are known to cause chronic diseases such as liver complications and brain damage.

One gram of alcohol provides 7 kilo calories making any alcoholic drink a source of high amount of calories.

It is therefore misleading for a company to take advantage of the fact that Kenyans are informed on benefits of healthy foods to label an alcoholic drink healthy. What do you think?

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Outdoor Exercising Rewards Health more than Indoor Gym

Gyms are sprouting everywhere. Whether you want to lose weight, look curvy, tone up muscles or just for leisure; outdoor physical activities offer more health benefits that indoor gyms.

Sample this; pilots and airplane engineers claim that they recover from jetlag more rapidly when they exercise outdoors than indoors.

Walking, running or engaging in outdoor activity increases feeling of calmness and helps one to escape from the cares of life.

In fact, outdoor walking to and from the forest to fetch firewood, walking or running while looking after cattle and similar outdoor activities are credited for burning calories and leading to the absence of heart diseases among the rural Maasai community.

Physical inactivity, a leading risk of death

The importance of physical activity is acknowledged by World Health Organisation (WHO) which asserts that physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality, causing an estimated 3.2 million deaths annually.

Moreover, lack of physical activity is estimated to be the main contributor to approximately one in every four cases of breast and colon cancers, 27 percent of diabetes and approximately 30 percent of heart diseases burden.

The good news is that those who participate in any form of regular physical activity maintain a healthy body weight, have a lower rates of; coronary heart diseases, blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, colon, breast cancer and cases of depression. They also have lower risks of hip and vertebral fractures.

Recommended amount of exercise

The recommended amount of physical activity for children and youth aged between 5 and17 years is at least 60 minutes of moderate to high intensity physical activity daily.

Adults aged 18–64 years should do at least 30 minutes daily of moderate intensity physical activity for five days in a week or do at least 75 minutes of high intensity physical exercises in a week. In addition, muscle strengthening activities should be part of the exercises for at least 2 days in a week.

Older adults should do at least 150 minutes of physical activity throughout the week i.e. 30 minutes per day. This should include at least 2 days of muscle strengthening activities. More hours of physical activity beyond the commended periods offer additional health benefits.

Both outdoor and indoor physical activities are good for health. But, a work-out in natural environment is the real deal; it offers more in terms of health benefits.

Difference between physical activity and exercise

Physical activity is different from exercising in that it is any bodily movement produced by the muscles and uses energy; more often it leads to sweating. It includes exercising as well as other activities such as walking, doing household chores, gardening, swimming, cycling, hiking, dancing and many more.

Exercise, is a subcategory of physical activity that is planned, structured, repetitive with the aim of improving or maintaining one or more components of physical fitness.

The increased awareness of health benefits of physical activities has led to a rapid increase in the use of indoor gyms world wide. The gyms have been further popularised by TV programmes such as slim possible and the biggest loser.

A few years Ago there were no Gyms

Surprisingly, 50 years ago, gyms, health or fitness clubs as they are known today were few and exclusive. The word gym is a short word for gymnasium which is derived from Greek word gymnasion. Gymnasiums of ancient Greek were places where athletes trained for public competitions, and they did so naked!

In the 19th Century schools and colleges built gymnasiums for sports and physical education. In the subsequent years Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) established several gymnasiums for sports, games and physical exercise. In 1930s boxing gyms evolved followed by chains of fitness clubs that charged membership fees. In 1990s an explosion of gyms for the public use took place.

Science and benefits of outdoor physical activities

Experimental research has demonstrated that exposure to views of nature can improve peoples’ health and wellbeing by providing restoration from stress and mental fatigue. This has led to suggestions that performing physical activity outdoors may have additional benefits above and beyond those experienced following the same period of physical activity in an indoor environment.

In 1996 a study was carried out in Japan on airline pilots and engineers comparing the effects of indoor and outdoor activities in recovery from jet lag[1]. It was found out that outdoor exercise helped in recovery from jet lag and resynchronization of the circadian rhythm better than being active on a treadmill.

Those who go for an outdoor walk in a natural environment enjoy more, they are extra revitalised, have higher positive self-esteem, experience positive engagement, and they experience a decrease in feelings of frustration, worry, confusion, depression and tension than those who exercise indoors. This is according to very recent study carried out in 2010 by researchers from the university of Exter and Essex in United Kingdom[2].

Outdoor or “green” exercise affects health at three levels: by just viewing nature during a physical activity, by being in presence of nature while exercising and through active participation and involvement with nature.

In 2003, a study was carried out where participants were shown a video of natural settings and urban setting to evaluate calming effect. Those who were shown video of natural settings had lower mean heart rate and increased parasympathetic nervous system (“calming down”) compared to urban video group[3]. This is because natural environment reduces emotional and physiological arousal which makes subjects less spatially selective.

Two years later in 2005, a survey was conducted in eight European cities and found out that people who live in areas with high levels of greenery are 40 per cent less likely to be overweight or obese[4]. This is due to the fact that they are three times more likely to enjoy going out either for a walk, cycling or running compared to those who have to go to a gym.

Exercising while in presence of nature, reduces blood pressure and heart rate and as a consequence, exercises with equal intensity are experienced to be less tiring when performed outdoors than indoors.

In Sydney, Australia a study was carried out with adolescent boys to evaluate if outdoor physical activities can be used as a tool to prevent obesity. From the program, it was concluded that the physical education program with outdoor activities resulted in significantly better results in fitness, body composition, cardiovascular and muscular endurance, strength and flexibility than traditional indoor physical education.

Nature-related recreation activities on your own, with a friend or as a group bring joy and help to escape from the pressures and worries of everyday life. Those who have experienced stress at some stage in their life or tiredness after a long spell indoors, claim to feel relaxed and peaceful after a stroll in a green and natural environment.

In addition to health benefits, outdoor exercises especially when performed in the neighborhood, increases likelihood of people becoming familiar with each other and participating in local nature activities which increases the sense of pride in one’s community and strengthens urban neighborhoods.

Green gym

The apparent benefits of outdoor recreation activities have led to what is called ‘green gym’. Green gym is in two forms. The first category involves different forms of ordinary outdoor activities such as digging, tree planting, out door cleaning etc.

The other category involves establishment of ‘green gyms’ in recreation parks. These ‘green gyms’ are built on a similar design and fashion to the well-established outdoor children play centres. The difference is that, adults go to play in them.

Green gyms have been linked with improvements in social networking and feelings of connectivity and companionship, an increased appreciation of nature and improvements in self-esteem.

Blue gym

There is also a new trend emerging of what is called ‘blue gym’. Studies show that people rate water or images with water more restorative. Therefore blue gym involves engaging in physical activities near water mass such as a river, pool of water, sea or ocean. Blue gym activities range from mild activity associated with walks along rivers and coastline to swimming, sailing, kayaking, and surfing.

The other side of the coin

Not all outdoor physical activities lead to better health. For example, those who exercise in streets of busy and unpleasant urban centres are subject to an increased post-exercise fatigue and increased blood pressure.

Furthermore, numerous studies have linked environmental pollutants during outdoor activities to respiratory, cardiovascular, neurological and reproductive health problems[5].

The common pollutants are particulates, toxic gases and fumes, toxic metals, volatile organics, pesticides, radiation and bioaerosols. Particulates are solid or liquids in the air and include dust from soil and roads, vehicle exhaust fumes, emissions from combustion and industrial processes, construction and demolition dust. Toxic metals such as Lead, Mercury, Cadmium and arsenic can also be encountered in course of outdoor exercise in industrial estates.

It might be argued that physical activity in gyms is a viable alternative to outdoor exercise especially for busy people or for those living in highly polluted environments. However, the failure to persevere with indoor exercise initiatives on a long-term basis is well recognised. For instance, almost half (40 – 50 percent) of individuals terminate gym membership within a year of joining. Therefore, for those who lack motivation to follow a strict gym routine, all is not lost; walking, running, cycling along streets is also good for health.

We are in the 21st Century where a wide range of jobs that previously required physical involvement are automated reducing physical activities to barely minimum. On the other hand to engage in physical exercises in a fitness club is abit expensive and viewed as a luxury by the majority. Physical activities are necessary component of a healthy lifestyle. It is therefore imperative that outdoor physical activities are considered, promoted and taken up as part of a balanced lifestyle. This is because they are cheaper, offers more health benefits and can be performed virtually anywhere. This is particularly the case in Kenya which enjoys warm weather throughout the year compared to temperate countries.

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References

1.         Shiota, M., M. Sudou, and M. Ohshima, Using outdoor exercise to decrease jet lag in airline crewmembers. Aviat Space Environ Med. 1996 Dec;67(12):1155-60.

2.         Thompson Coon, J., et al., Does Participating in Physical Activity in Outdoor Natural Environments Have a Greater Effect on Physical and Mental Wellbeing than Physical Activity Indoors? A Systematic Review. Environmental Science & Technology. 45(5): p. 1761-1772.

3.         Hartig, T., et al., Tracking restoration in natural and urban field settings. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 2003. 23(2): p. 109-123.

4.         Anne, E., M. Sally, and B. Xavier, Graffiti, greenery, and obesity in adults: secondary analysis of European cross sectional survey. 2005. p. 611-612.

5.         Curtis, L., et al., Adverse health effects of outdoor air pollutants. Environ Int. 2006 Aug;32(6):815-30.

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Organic Foods: Claim of high nutrients is a myth

It is a common confusing moment. You are standing in an isle of a grocery store contemplating either to buy that organic tomato that is double in price of a normal tomato. You are inclined to buy organic tomatoes because you have heard that organic foods are more nutritious than conventional counterparts. But the higher price of organic food is making you think twice. To buy or not to buy.

A thought biased towards organic food crosses your mind. Your friend told you that she only buys organic groceries because organic farming is good for environment.  You tell yourself that you care about your grandchildren’s welfare, so you take few steps towards the section displaying organic carrot. As you stretch your hand to select some and put in a plastic bag for weighing, you also remember that they are lower in artificial chemicals. This strengthens your resolution and you pick 6 organic carrots put them in a bag and convince yourself you are caring about your health as well as environment.

What if I tell you science does not support the claims that organic foods are more nutritious than conventional foods.

First of all, what is organic food? Any food labelled organic comes from crops and animals farmed for food without use of man-made chemicals.

Organic purist wants us to believe that organic foods are more nutritious than conventionally grown crops.  Initial scientific studies carried out in early 2000 suggested that organic foods were more nutritious that conventional foods.  For example, organically grown fruits and vegetables were shown to have more Vitamin C, iron, Magnesium and lower nitrates than conventional fruits and vegetables[1].  This spurred confidence among consumers and the growth of the organic food sky rocketed.

In late 2000, in particular 2009, was a very significant year for organic foods. It is in this year a study reviewing 50 years of research on organic foods dating from January 1959 to February 2008 threw cold water on the hype of nutritional benefits[2].

After scouring all that heap of data of over 50, 000 scientific articles the researchers from London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom concluded that there was no scientific evidence to suggest that organic foods are nutritionally superior to their counterparts[2, 3].

Out of the 13 nutrients that they reviewed which included vitamins and minerals, 10 of them were occurring in the same quantities in organic and conventional foods. It was only Phosphorous and Nitrogen that was higher in organic foods.

A more recent study funded by the real advocates of organic farming that is The International Centre for Research in Organic Food Systems (ICROFS) in Denmark found that there was no difference in micro nutrients in carrots, kales, apples and potatoes grown under normal and organic farming[4].  This study is very significant in that it was funded by a body that supports organic farming.

When the mineral content in eggs of hens reared under organic farming and those conventionally reared was compared, it was also found out that organic eggs had lower content of Zinc and Phosphorous compared to conventional eggs[5].

Nutrients in foods can differ if crops are grown in different soil types or microclimates. Otherwise, either organic or conventional farming method does not by its own right influence the nutrients. For example if conventional crops are grown in a microclimate and soil with more minerals that soil used for organic, then conventional crops will have higher levels of those minerals.

It is possible that you buy organic food because they are lower in chemicals and not because they are more nutritious. Organic foods are lower in artificial chemicals. This is obvious since they are grown without use of artificial fertilizers or artificial chemicals. But this is not to say that organic foods are totally free from farm chemicals.

Infact four studies comparing the levels of chemicals in organic and conventional foods found out that organic foods contain approximately 15 per cent chemical residues while conventional foods contain around 60 percent. This means that if you buy 10 organic tomatoes two of them will have chemical residues while if you bought 10 ordinary tomatoes, six will be laced with chemicals[6].

 The presence of chemicals does not mean that either organic or conventional foods are dangerous.

What it means is that these chemicals can be detected under the recommended testing procedures. What these studies found out and which is important is that the levels of chemicals encountered in all the tested foods including conventional were below the set limits. Actually less than 10 percent of the set limit. This means that both the conventional and organic foods are safe for human consumption. Therefore no reason for alarm.

Countries with good regulatory systems strictly enforce the levels of farm chemicals found in foods ensuring conventional foods have chemicals that are below the set limits. In this case the food does not pose any health risk. When all the necessary control measures are taken, half of the chemicals found in authentic organic foods originate from long-banned persistent pesticides such as DDT and related compounds. The other half is as a result of ‘drift’ from conventional farms to organic farms.

Organic farmers use birds and good insects to eat bad insects. If pesticides and insecticides are used, they are derived from natural component of a plant or bacteria. It is therefore almost a crime to imagine that organic farmers can unscrupulous use artificial chemicals in their produce.

Assuming that the artificial chemicals found in organic foods are as a result of unavoidable contamination, it is beyond reasonable doubt that organic foods are lower in artificial chemicals. But when all farming procedures are followed correctly, conventional foods contain chemicals at levels that are below the set limits meaning that these foods are as good as organic foods.

Is organic food good for the environment?

Organic farming is considered to be good for the environment because the surface and underground water near the farms are not polluted by artificial chemicals. Organic farming also ensures that there is a not pesticide residue in the atmosphere to affect biodiversity.

Perhaps organic farming is good for the environment if it is only carried out in a small scale where the land is small and number crops or animals are few.

In a small farm it is possible to get enough manure from few animals to apply in the farm. It is also possible to control the weeds by mulching and tilling.

To generate adequate organic manure for large farms, more animals have to reared and more land has to be used for silage. That extra land for more animals and for growing the feed is presently not available. It would require clearing of forests and river banks to increase arable land. For example in Europe organic winter wheat yields only half of conventional wheat, that is 4 tonnes per acre compared to 8 tonnes per hectare for conventional wheat. To feed the Europe population organically, it will require additional 28 million hectares of farmland. This is equal to forest land in Germany, France and England combined.

The statistics is not better for organic milk. According to a report by UK department for environment, organic milk requires 80% more land to produce per unit volume than conventional milk. Organic chicken requires 25% more energy to produce that conventional chicken. Such high requirement of energy generates over 40 percent of greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide that conventional rearing[7].  The biggest shortcoming of organic farming is that there is lower production approximately 40% than conventional farming. This makes it very difficult to generate enough food to feed the world.

Currently, approximately 40 percent of Nitrogen used in farming comes from synthetic fertilisers. To replace this with manure it requires 8 billion additional cattle from the current 1.4 billion. The animals will require forage and space which all requires clearing of forests and rivers that we want to protect. If such large number of cattle is kept in a limited space it will lead to soil erosion.

Can organic food feed the world?

World population has increased six fold in the last century from just less than two billion to seven billion. The earth’s crust has not increased an inch to increase farming land. The percentage of this population that live in developed countries has more than enough food. Thanks to Nitrogen fertiliser and artificial chemicals. Developing countries that rely on traditional farming methods which does not use fertilisers or chemicals (ideal organic farming) complain of food insecurity!

Verdict:

Organic foods generally contain lower levels of artificial chemicals but they are not entirely free of chemicals. Conventional foods, although they contain chemicals, if they are farmed following recommended chemicals and fertilisers, the level of residual chemicals encountered in the eventual food is below the set limits. This makes the conventional food safe for human consumption. Both organic and conventional foods are comparable in terms of nutrients and flavour.

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References

1.             Worthington, V., Nutritional Quality of Organic Versus Conventional Fruits, Vegetables, and Grains. The

Journal of  Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 2001. 7(2): p. 161-173.

2.            Dangour, A.D., et al., Nutritional quality of organic foods: a systematic review. 2009.

3.            Dangour, A.D., et al., Nutrition-related health effects of organic foods: a systematic review. p. 203-210.

4.            Kristensen, M., et al., Effect of plant cultivation methods on content of major and trace elements in foodstuffs 

                and retention in rats. J. Sci. Food Agric. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 2008. 88(12): p.

2161-2172.

5.            Kucukyilmaz, K., et al., Effect of an organic and conventional rearing system on the mineral content of hen

                eggs. Food Chemistry. 132(2): p. 989-992.

6.            Winter, C.K. and S.F. Davis, Organic Foods. J Food Science Journal of Food Science, 2006. 71(9): p. R117-R124.

7.            Green, K., S. Manchester Business, and A. Great Britain. Dept. for Environment Food and Rural, Environmental

                  impacts of food production and consumption : a research report. 2006, Manchester; London: Manchester

Business School ; Defra.

 

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Rabbit meat- A healthy gem

Meat and meat products are associated with nutrients often considered negative to health including high fat content, high calorie content, high levels of saturated fats, cholesterol, sodium which are linked to cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, diabetes and obesity.

In the last decade, there has been increased interest in alternative meat sources that are considered to be healthier. Rabbit meat is one of them. Currently, China is the world’s leading producer (700K tonnes/year), Italy (230 K tonnes/year), Spain (74 K tonnes/year) and France (51 K tonnes/year).

Rabbit meat offers excellent nutritive and dietetic properties. It is high in protein (22%) and high levels of essential amino acids. Rabbit meat is also lean with average fat content of 8.8 grams of fat for every 100 grams of meat.

The other nutritive values of rabbit meat are shown below.

Cholesterol

Compared to beef, chicken and pork, rabbit meat has the lowest cholesterol levels.

 

 Vitamin B12

The recommended daily intake of Vitamin B12 is 2 micrograms. 100g of rabbit meat provides more than enough of Vitamin B12.

 Sodium

Reduced Sodium intake (sodium chloride) has recently been recommended to limit hypertension (high blood pressure). Processed meats with high sodium levels should ne reduced or avoided. Rabbit meat has very low sodium levels making it appropriate for hypertension diets.

 

 Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA)

Fatty acid composition of foods has considerable effect on diet/health relationship because different fatty acids affect blood fats differently. Saturated fatty acids are unwanted because they increase the bad cholesterol while polyunsaturated fatty acids are desirable as they decrease the bad cholesterol. Rabbit has high polyunsaturated fatty acids compared to other meat products.

Therefore compared to other meats, rabbit meat is a good alternative as it characterised by high levels of desirable nutrients such as protein, PUFA, essential amino acids and B vitamins.

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The best method to disinfect Kitchen sponges

I know, those kitchen sponges are nice to use when they are new and clean, but after a few washes they become soiled, dirty, smelly and sometimes sticky. At some point you have to dump them, but did you know you can disinfect them and re-use them?

It is known that cross contamination in a household kitchen is common and can result in food borne illnesses. Chopping boards, knives, kitchen towels and kitchen sponges are common sources of cross contamination. There are approximately 70 million cases of food borne illness due to cross contamination in America every year.

Since kitchen sponges are common sources of cross contamination they require special attention as they are often left wet, creating a conducive environment for the growth of bacteria, molds and yeast and as a result can act as a vehicle of germs between washings.

Kitchen chopping boards and kitchen surfaces can be contaminated with different bacteria such as Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella enteritidis, and Campylobacter jejuni. Using sponges to wipe them can transfer the bacteria to the sponges. Research has shown that these sponges can then transfer those bacteria to utensils including cooking pots and plates and eventually cause food borne illness.

A study of ten kitchens in the US showed that 33% and 67% of sponges tested positive for E. coli and fecal coliforms, respectively. It is therefore very important to limit the ability of kitchen sponges to transfers bacteria to other surfaces by disinfecting them effectively.

A study by Manan Sharma of Food Safety Laboratory of United States Department of Agriculture tested disinfection of sponges with a bleach (10%), lemon juice, microwave oven or dish washer.

In the study, kitchen sponges were soiled with minced meat slurry and the sponges were stored for 2 days at room temperature to allow the bacteria to grow. After 2 days the sponges were either treated with chemicals by dipping in half little of bleach (Sodium hypochlorite), lemon juice pH 2.9 or micro waved at full power in 1300 Watts microwave oven or cleaned in a dish washer without a detergent.

Microwave oven beat all the other methods by killing over 90% of bacteria and dish washer killed 85% while bleach  and lemon juice killed only 5%.

On yeasts and molds, again, dishwasher and microwave emerged the winners by killing over 90 and 85 % respectively while the chemicals (bleach and lemon juice) killed only 5%.

Dishwasher was effective but it has a disadvantage in that it takes longer time, consumes more power and uses more water. Perhaps, a cheaper alternative to dishwasher is to sterilise the sponges by boiling them in water in a cooking pot.

It seems microwave oven emerges as the winner in disinfecting kitchen sponges because it is faster and uses less power. Next time you feel your kitchen sponge is a bit dirty, you know what to do, toss it in the microwave.

Arimi’s tip of the week:  Disinfect kitchen sponge in a dishwasher or in a microwave oven.

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Reference:

Manan S., Janet E., Cheryl M. (2009). Effective household disinfection methods of kitchen sponges. Food Control 20, 330-313

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Ink has not dried after I blogged about cancer-causing chemical in Coca Cola. You can read that article here. I am at it again, castigating another drink produced by Coca Cola company, this time, it is the sports drink, Powerade.

Powerade is a drink specifically manufactured with intention for use by athletes to rejuvenate and replenish lost water and electrolyte following a rigorous exercise or competition.

In the market today, powerade is not the only sports drink. There is a plethora of them including Lucozade by Glaxo-Smithkline and Gatorade by Pepsico.

These three sports drinks are marketed on the premise that they hydrate better than water. However, a thorough research carried out by Deborah Cohen and published in British Medical Journal in July 2012 paints a different picture.

A team of researchers at Oxford University analysed 431 performance claims in adverts for 104 sports drinks. Their findings were startling. Most of the claims although insinuated to be backed by concrete scientific data, were far cry from the truth; it was only GlaxoSmithKline that provided scientific data to back up their claims on Lucozade. But their data was wanting because only 3% of it was without bias and of high quality.

The meteoric rise in use of sports drinks lies in coupling of science with creative marketing. It is now common to see an array of coloured bottles of all sorts being offered to athletes particularly in football. All these are sports drinks.

Habit of sports drinks has permeated to common people. It is possible to see people sipping different types of sports drinks in the gym or while exercising outdoors. The use of these drinks has even penetrated into offices to give that much needed boost especially in the afternoon.

Sports drinks are marketed in such a way that they seem to be health or an essential kit for a team that is hungry to win. However, research shows that they are no better than water especially if used by common person.

It has been known that rigorous exercise can lead to death especially if the athletes drink a lot of fluid. This condition is called hyponatraemia. There have been 16 recorded deaths and 1600 people taken critically ill during a competitive marathon running due to a drop in their blood sodium levels. Companies that manufacture sports drinks capitalize on this to suggest that their products can help prevent hyponatraemia because they have sodium and other electrolytes. This has been widely debated and researched and it is agreed that the best way to avoid hyponatraemia during Marathon running or any other intense exercise is to avoid positive fluid balance. Therefore the real problem is not the type of drink but the volume.

The fact that these drinks are promoted by elite athletes but marketed to common person who exercise, on average, for two hours in a week is misleading. This is because most of research on their benefits is carried out using elite athletes and not ordinary people who rarely sustain high intensity exercises for long periods.

In normal circumstances people take drinks especially water to quench thirst. Therefore thirst is the key indicator of a need for a drink whether water or otherwise. However, sports drinks companies market these drinks with the idea that you need to hydrate before or after a sport and for you to successfully hydrate, their drinks is better than water.

Sure sports drinks have electrolytes and help to replenish those that are lost during a sport or exercise and they give a sudden boost of energy when taken. The sudden surge in energy is not a surprise because sports drinks are high in sugars. For example a 500 ml bottle of Lucozade contains 17.5 g of sugar while Powerade Ion4 has 19.6 g and Gatorade perform contains 30g. To put this in perspective, a teaspoon of sugar weighs 4 g. So Gatorade perform contains more than 7 tea spoons of sugar. Due to the high sugar content these drinks are a real concern especially when taken by children considering the effects of sugar on adding weight.

What do you think, are sports drinks really necessary? Leave a comment below.

Reference:

Deborah Cohen (2012). The truth about sports drinks. British Medical Journal, doi:10.1136/bmj.e4737(Published 18 July 2012),


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