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  • Cheesed off by isolationism

    20090116-roquefort-m.jpgJust as President Bush was 'deeply mourning' the death of Andrew Wyeth, his administration was being derided for one of its last balmy acts. A 300% tariff is being imposed on one particular French cheese. Whilst the rest escape with a mere 100% penalty in retailation for French refusal to accept US hormone-treated beef, only Roquefort rejoices in the distinction of being placed firmly beyond the reach of American consumers. Whether or not US goat's cheese makers are celebrating their new found commercial advantage is hard to say, but French farmers are telling a very different story. Last time they were punished in this way they burnt down a Mcdonalds. But a reprieve may be imminent. In the hope that he will wake up and smell the fromage, President Elect Obama has been sent a sample of the blue-veined product.

  • Pills that make you ill?


    Another health scare made front page news this week. A Danish study pooling 67 randomised trials with 232,550 participants concluding that taking "beta-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E significantly increased mortality". And taking vitamin C had "no significant benefit".

    The mass media attention is fuelled by our mistrust of 'nasty chemicals' which we forget are in natural foods as well as - in pure form - in test tubes.

    The BBC website reports that "After various factors were taken into account and a further 20 studies excluded, the researchers linked vitamin A supplements to a 16% increased risk of dying, beta-carotene to a 7% increased risk and vitamin E to a 4% increased risk." Scary stuff? Maybe, considering how many vitamins are both naturally present in and added to foods, including bread and cereals. How many realise synthetic vitamin A is added to cod liver oil pills, usually taken as a traditional 'natural' remedy?

    One blogger at least believes it is all lies, damn lies and statistics. Letters from a Tory reports that the studies used on average a dose of around 8 times the recommended amount for vitamin A, and other averages were also well above recommended amounts. 

    Does that make pills that deliver 100% of RDA 100% safe?  I still somehow doubt it, so I'll mostly be sticking to as much fruit and veg as possible, including my own list of so-called 'superfoods' which, whatever the exact merits of the claims made for them, just happen to be delicious:

    • Broccoli: rich in vitamins A and C and anti-cancer ingredients, reduces cholesterol and has anti-viral benefits*
    • Garlic: regulates blood pressure, anti-viral and good for the heart
    • Mushrooms: anti-viral
    • Spinach: high in beta-carotene, good for the eyes, bones and more*
    • Cooked tomatoes: anti-cancer properties, anti-inflammatory*
    • Watercress: anti-cancer properties
    • Turmeric: anti-inflammatory and anti-viral, resists Alzheimers
    • Ginger: anti-oxidant, anti-coagulant, promotes healing
    • Oily fish: anti-viral and good for the heart
    • Raw olive oil: anti-inflammatory and cholesterol lowering
    • Apples: cholesterol lowering, eliminate toxins*
    • Blueberries: over-hyped but taste good!*
    • Cranberries: good for the kidney
    • Grapefruit: anti-coagulant, and more
    • Kiwifruit: high in vitamin C, anti-oxidant, eye protecting*
    • Pineapple: anti-inflammatory
    • Pomegranate: good for the heart?
    • Strawberries: lower blood pressure, anti-ageing and good for the heart
    • Walnuts: anti-inflammatory and cholesterol lowering*
    • Green tea: anti-oxidant and makes you feel good
    • Dark chocolate: lowers blood pressure and makes you feel good
    • Red wine: lowers cholesterol and makes you feel good
    *I'm able to cut down on food miles by growing these at home.