Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Olive oil: three brands are good

An article is circulating on the Internet titled something like Studies Uncover 14 Fake And 11 Real Olive Oil Brands (With 4-Step DIY Authenticity Test) or its variant. There are a few problems with this article.

  • The word "fake" is misused. Those olive oils not meeting the test requirements are not really fake, but mostly just do not have sufficient olive oil component in the blend.
  • The DIY authenticity test such as storing olive oil in the fridge to see if the oil solidifies is not reliable.
  • The biggest problem may be the brands not matching those in the ultimately quoted research article.

I'd like to focus on the last point. The above mentioned article lists these brands in the section "Who Were Keeping It Real?", i.e. not "fake" in the author's language

    Kirkland Organic
    Corto Olive
    California Olive Ranch
    Bariani Olive Oil
    Cobram Estate
    McEvoy Ranch Organic
    Olea Estates
and, at the bottom of the Web page, reveals the source, http://www.healthyfoodhouse.com/14-fake-olive-oil-companies-revealed-stop-buying-brands-now/, which in turn claims to be based on http://livetheorganicdream.com/fake-olive-oil-companies-revealed-stop-buying-these-brands-now/, which finally indicates the trustworthy research done at olivecenter.ucdavis.edu. That 2011 University of California at Davis article, titled Report: Evaluation of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Sold in California, does not list all the above 11 good brands. I checked each of them against the Report. Only three out of the 11 are truly listed as good brands. They are
    California Olive Ranch
    Cobram Estate
This is not too bad in the sense that we as non-specialists only need to memorize three names when we shop for olive oil at a grocery store.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Birth month and risk of disease

A Columbia University research on the data of 1.7 million patients in a New York hospital shows that 55 diseases are associated with birth month. Averaged on all the diseases, people born in October and November have the highest risk and those born in May have the lowest.

Breaking down to specific diseases: Born in March you have a higher risk of nine types of heart disease. Born in December, higher in reproductive diseases. Born in November, higher in respiratory and neurological diseases. See the bar graphs in the Washington Post article.

But the strength of correlation with birth month varies too. See the circle at the bottom of the Columbia University article where the distance of the dot from the center represents the strength of correlation. Thus, acute bronchiolitis is very strongly associated with a birth at the end of November, viral infection strongly associated with a birth in mid-November, ADHD somewhat associated with a birth at the beginning of November, and hypertension rather weakly with a birth month in mid-January.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Centipedes in TCM contributes to passing through blood-brain barrier

Chinese Central Television aired a video about a touching story. In 2009, a Henan-province doctor, Song Zhaopu, went to Hotan, Xinjiang, to treat young children suffering cerebral palsy, where the disease is widespread due to under-developed economy and people's lack of knowledge of health of newborn babies. In addition to massage or physical therapy and acupuncture, Dr. Song used the following TCM medicines in the treatment: 龟甲 (tortoise shell), 鳖甲 (turtle shell), 蜈蚣 (centipede), 党参 (codonopsis), 鸡内金 (membrane of chicken gizzard). The main ingredients are the first two. Codonopsis is for nourishing yin and promoting qi, and membrane of chicken gizzard is for improving digestion. What interests me is the centipede, which, according to Dr. Song, acts as the transport agent carrying the medications into the brain, because it can go through the blood-brain barrier (see the snippet near 3:10 of the third video page). This is apparently a TCM concept interpreted in the terminology of modern medical science and Dr. Song acknowledged that. If the centipede or the molecules in the blood as a result of it are capable of literally passing through the blood-brain barrier, it is a wonderful gift from mother nature because many other diseaes such as depression, dementia and Alzheimer can benefit from it. Due to the blood-brain barrier, delivering any medication to the brain is always a challenge, even though it's not the major obstacle. I did not find any research article studying the effect of dried centipedes in passing through the blood-brain barrier. But such research may be worth the effort.