I cannot remember exactly when it was that working with my son on the restoration of our log cabin in the country was transformed from misery to mystical. Certainly not in the beginning, when we had to remove decades of decaying material from the interior of the 1840’s structure, practically indistinguishable from the trash itself. Nor was this transformation present during its relocation as we dug the basement in the rocky Missouri soil, seemingly either powder dry or muddy at any given time, and then hitting bedrock at four feet deep.
No, those were the days when we worked in an area so remote as to have no access to the airwaves for cellular communication, no electronic social media such as text messaging so basic for my teen son's survival.
In our isolation, we went through several stages of grief including anger and bargaining – I think we missed denial – until we settled on acceptance. By then my son learned that I was neither cruel and ignorant nor super-human. We discovered a curious new form of communication, not requiring electronic technology, or even words.
We communicated better with the distraction of the work – but it was the silence between us that spoke the loudest – a silence not of the awkward kind but the peaceful kind; an understanding reached between a loving father and son working in unison toward a common goal. I knew when he needed more nails, he knew when I needed help lifting a log. We both knew we needed each other.
Our simple tasks were noble with rhythm to it. The wood in the logs came to life with our heartbeats, our sweat, speaking truths.
I hope I shall never finish working on this log cabin; never stop the silent dialogue.
Saffron for Depression
According to ancient Greek mythology, Hermes and his friend Krokos were horse-playing and Hermes accidentally killed Krokos through a head injury, with three blood drops from his head falling on the top of a flower, creating three stigmata and naming this plant thereafter Krokos (Crocus). Thus the ancient and godly identification of this plant and saffron.
Saffron is the dried stigma (the top part in the center of a flower which receives the pollen and on which germination takes place) of the blue-purple flower Crocus sativus L., and it has a long history of use as a spice, coloring agent, and medicine. Due to how saffron is grown and harvested, saffron is considered one of the world’s most expensive spices (upwards of $11,000 per kg, requiring 450,000 hand-picked stigmas). Apart from its traditional value as a spice and coloring agent (originally for the Persian carpet industry), saffron has a long history of medicinal use spanning over 2,500 years.
This use of saffron in traditional medicine included for cramps, asthma, menstruation disorders, liver disease, and painful dysmenorrhoea, among many other uses. Evidence from recent in vitro and in vivo research indicates that saffron has potential anti-carcinogenic, anti-mutagenic, antioxidant, and memory-enhancing properties .
Administration of saffron 30 mg/day (15 mg twice daily) was found to be as effective as a leading medication for mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease (donepezil) in a placebo-controlled double bind for treatment in subjects of 55 years and older but with a better side effect profile. Although there are a growing number of non-human animal studies and theories why saffron could be neuroprotective for Alzheimer’s Disease and other neurodegenerative conditions, clinical studies are too few to make any tentative conclusions to date.
In two randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, saffron was effective for the treatment of mild to-moderate depression .
A systematic review of randomized control trials examining the effectiveness of saffron in mood disorders revealed a statistically significant effect on improved mood on subjects clinically diagnosed with depression; the dosing was typically 30 mg/ day.
In clinical studies, the use of saffron extract at doses of 20–30 mg/day twice daily for the treatment of mild to moderate depression has been compared with currently marketed antidepressants such as fluoxetine (20 mg/day twice daily) and imipramine (100 mg/day three times daily). So these comparative evaluations revealed that saffron was equally effective as chemically synthesized marketed pharmaceutics, in mild or moderate depression without causing the typical side effects of the artificial preparations.
Saffron may act in a manner similar to antidepressants to improve mood by inhibiting serotonin reuptake or there could be multiple pathways involving, for example, its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties.
Saffron contains in excess of 150 volatile and aroma-yielding compounds and many non-volatile active components, many of which are carotenoids . Safranal is the compound primarily responsible for saffron’s aroma. Safranal has shown to have anti-convulsant and anxiolytic effects as well as antidepressant properties
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
One randomized controlled trial examined the effects of saffron supplementation on premenstrual syndrome. It was found that found that women with regular menstrual cycles experiencing premenstrual syndrome who took 30 mg/d of saffron supplementation for eight weeks reported relief in premenstrual symptoms and depression levels compared to placebo. Remarkably, just the aroma alone – without otherwise any oral intake of saffron was itself found effective in relief of PMS symptoms in another placebo controlled double blind study, indicating effectiveness at very small does and the likely active component being Safranal.
 Koulakiotis, N., Pittenauer, E., Halabalaki, M., Skaltsounis, L., Allmaier, G., & Tsarbopoulos, A. (2011). Isolation and Tandem Mass Spectometric Characterization of Selected Crocus sativus L. (Saffron) Bioactive Compounds.Planta Med Planta Medica, 77(12). doi:10.1055/s-0031-1282560
 Gohari, A., Saeidnia, S., & Mahmoodabadi, M. (2013). An overview on saffron, phytochemicals, and medicinal properties. Pharmacognosy Reviews Phcog Rev,7(1), 61. doi:10.4103/0973-7847.112850
 Srivastava, R., Ahmed, H., Dixit, R., D., & Saraf, S. (2010). Crocus sativus L.: A comprehensive review. Pharmacognosy Reviews, 4(8), 200. doi:10.4103/0973-7847.70919
 Kianbakht, S., & Ghazavi, A. (2011). Immunomodulatory Effects of Saffron: A Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Phytother. Res. Phytotherapy Research, 25(12), 1801-1805. doi:10.1002/ptr.3484
 Abdullaev, F., & Espinosa-Aguirre, J. (2004). Biomedical properties of saffron and its potential use in cancer therapy and chemoprevention trials. Cancer Detection and Prevention, 28(6), 426-432. doi:10.1016/j.cdp.2004.09.002
 Bathaie, S. Z., & Mousavi, S. Z. (2010). New Applications and Mechanisms of Action of Saffron and its Important Ingredients. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 50(8), 761-786. doi:10.1080/10408390902773003
 Akhondzadeh, S., Sabet, M. S., Harirchian, M. H., Togha, M., Cheraghmakani, H., Razeghi, S., . . . Moradi, A. (2010). ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Saffron in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease: A 16-week, randomized and placebo-controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, 35(5), 581-588. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2710.2009.01133.x
 Akhondzadeh, S., Tahmacebi-Pour, N., Noorbala, A., Amini, H., Fallah-Pour, H., Jamshidi, A., & Khani, M. (2005). Crocus sativus L. in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: A double-blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial.Phytother. Res. Phytotherapy Research, 19(2), 148-151. doi:10.1002/ptr.1647
 Moshiri, E., Basti, A. A., Noorbala, A., Jamshidi, A., Abbasi, S. H., & Akhondzadeh, S. (2006). Crocus sativus L. (petal) in the treatment of mild-to-moderate depression: A double-blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial.Phytomedicine, 13(9-10), 607-611. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2006.08.006
 Hausenblas, H. A., Heekin, K., Mutchie, H. L., & Anton, S. (2015). A systematic review of randomized controlled trials examining the effectiveness of saffron (Crocus sativus L.) on psychological and behavioral outcomes. Journal of Integrative Medicine, 13(4), 231-240. doi:10.1016/s2095-4964(15)60176-5
 Noorbala, A., Akhondzadeh, S., Tahmacebi-Pour, N., & Jamshidi, A. (2005). Hydro-alcoholic extract of Crocus sativus L. versus fluoxetine in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: A double-blind, randomized pilot trial. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 97(2), 281-284. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2004.11.004
 Akhondzadeh, S., Fallah-Pour, H., Afkham, K., Jamshidi, A., & Khalighi-Cigaroudi, F. (2004). Comparison of Crocus sativus L. and imipramine in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: A pilot double-blind randomized trial [ISRCTN45683816]. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine BMC Complement Altern Med, 4(1). doi:10.1186/1472-6882-4-12
 Hausenblas, H. A., Saha, D., Dubyak, P. J., & Anton, S. D. (2013). Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) and major depressive disorder: A meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Journal of Integrative Medicine, 11(6), 377-383. doi:10.3736/jintegrmed2013056
 Sampathu, S. R., Shivashankar, S., Lewis, Y. S., & Wood, A. B. (1984). Saffron ( Crocus Sativus Linn.) — Cultivation, processing, chemistry and standardization.C R C Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 20(2), 123-157. doi:10.1080/10408398409527386
 Hosseinzadeh, H., & Talebzadeh, F. (2005). Anticonvulsant evaluation of safranal and crocin from Crocus sativus in mice. Fitoterapia, 76(7-8), 722-724. doi:10.1016/j.fitote.2005.07.008
 Hosseinzadeh, H., Karimi, G., & Niapoor, M. (2004). Antidepressant Effect Of Crocus Sativus L. Stigma Extracts And Their Constituents, Crocin And Safranal, In Mice. Acta Hortic. Acta Horticulturae, (650), 435-445. doi:10.17660/actahortic.2004.650.54
 Agha-Hosseini, M., Kashani, L., Aleyaseen, A., Ghoreishi, A., Rahmanpour, H., Zarrinara, A., & Akhondzadeh, S. (2008). Crocus sativus L. (saffron) in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome: A double-blind, randomised and placebo-controlled trial. BJOG: Int J O & G BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 115(4), 515-519. doi:10.1111/j.1471-0528.2007.01652.x
 Fukui, H., Toyoshima, K., & Komaki, R. (2011). Psychological and neuroendocrinological effects of odor of saffron (Crocus sativus).Phytomedicine, 18(8-9), 726-730. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2010.11.013
The Biggest Health Issue is Neuropsychiatric not Cardiovascular
The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has created the world’s first and largest catalog of health-related data, the Global Health Data Exchange, producing an annual Global Burden of Disease Study (GBD). This figure is based on that data and appeared in a JAMA article April of 2018.
The impact that diseases have on one’s life can be illustrated by the years of life lost (abbreviated YLL) due to death by various diseases, shown on the above figure. This is calculated by multiplying the numbers of death at each age by the difference between that age and a reference life expectancy. To calibrate the ordinate, YLL for heart disease per year is 1651 per 100,000 people.
As expected, heart disease is the number one cause of years of life lost with lung cancer second. Less expected is road injuries as third, suicide fourth, cerebrovascular disease fifth, drug use sixth, and dementia seventh.
Note the last four categories of YLL are neuropsychiatric in nature (CVA is cerebrovascular Accidents such as strokes; note that even Rd injury - road injury - could have a significant suicidal or substance abuse element). Therefore, if they are aggregated as a single category,
the number one category of years of life lost is due to neuropsychiatric illness, not heart disease.
 Global Health Estimates 2015: Disease burden by Cause, Age, Sex, by Country and by Region, 2000-2015. Geneva, World Health Organization; 2016.
 Murray, C. J. (2013). The State of US Health, 1990-2010. Jama, 310(6), 591. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.13805.
 Murray CJ, Ezzati M, Flaxman AD, et al. GBD 2010: design, definitions, and metrics. Lancet. 2012;380(9859):2063-2066.
Vitamin D and Mood
Vitamin D is technically not a vitamin as one’s body can produce it – it just requires sunlight. No one is suggesting that sunlight is a vitamin per se. And only a relatively short span of radiation from the sun is involved, the so-called UVB of the ultraviolet spectrum. The intensity of UVB available depends on the weather, season, location on earth, and time of day; in the United States it maximizes between 10 am and 4 pm between April and October.
With moderate direct exposure to the summer sun (say 5 – 30 minutes twice a week), the body will make 10,000 to 20,000 IU. Sunscreen can effectively block UVB absorption; for an individual with frequent sun exposure (greater than twice per week), it might be prudent to place sunscreen after the first 10 – 15 minutes of sun exposure to avoid skin cancer but allow vitamin D production. As our bodies can store vitamin D, it is thought that sufficient exposure during spring, summer, and early fall should be sufficient to provide needed vitamin D during the winter months.
So this is another recent modification in our evolution – to stay indoors a lot more than our ancestors, decreasing our vitamin D production. The National Academies Institute of Medicine has no guidelines for vitamin D through sun exposure; they do have RDA but it is based on food intake.
The reaction of cholesterol (in the form of 7-dehydrocholesterol) in the skin with sunlight actually produces several fat-soluble related compounds, the most important being cholecalciferol, vitamin D3, and ergocalciferol, vitamin D2. The term “vitamin D” includes both of these compounds.
Very few foods in nature contain vitamin D, although some food products have vitamin D as an additive. To manufacture vitamin D industrially, 7-dehydrocholesterol, a substance typically obtained from fish liver,or lanolin extracted from shorn sheep wool, is exposed to UVB light, producing vitamin D3. Vitamin D cannot be manufactured directly; it requires the photochemical process.
To become biologically active, vitamin D has to undergo two transformative reactions, one in the liver, then another in the kidney.
Vitamin D deficiency to the extent of causing rickets or osteomalacia is rare in the developed world but what we might call vitamin-D insufficiency, a lower than ideal biologically active form of vitamin D, appears to be quite common, particularly in the elderly.
Vitamin D toxicity is also rare. There is a feedback loop associated with vitamin D production in the skin that lowers its production as adequate amounts are reached. This natural regulatory mechanism doesn’t apply to supplementation but for daily supplemental intake of 2,000 IU (about 50 micrograms) per day, there is very little risk of toxicity.
As vitamin D is fat soluble, it requires the presence of fat for absorption; some supplements encapsulate cholecalciferol, vitamin D3, with fat; otherwise often it is recommended to take with a meal containing some degree of fat.
We have learned relatively recently that vitamin D has a lot larger effect on the body than just calcium absorption; for example, it has to do with modulation of cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function, and reduction of inflammation. And mood states.
Vitamin D and psychiatric disorders
Vitamin D acts on receptors in a variety of regions in the brain such as the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, cingulate gyrus, thalamus, hypothalamus, and substantia nigra and as such can influence neurochemistry cognition, emotion, and behavior. Vitamin D deficiency in early life affects neuronal differentiation, and brain structure and function and appears to have some influence on disorders with a developmental basis, such as autistic spectrum disorder and schizophrenia ontogeny and brain structure and function.
The initial suggestion that vitamin D may be linked to clinical depression was based on the relation between low vitamin D and high prevalence of seasonal affective disorder (now considered to be a depressive disorder with seasonal pattern) in winter at high latitudes. One treatment modality for clinical depression with seasonal pattern is light therapy, although no ultra-violet light is used. Vitamin D insufficiency is not considered to be directly causative for this disorder.
However, vitamin D concentrations have been shown to be low in many patients suffering from mood disorders and have been associated with poor cognitive function . For example, data from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey were used to assess association between serum vitamin D and depression in 7,970 residents of the United States. In that study, the likelihood of having depression in persons with vitamin D deficiency was found to be significantly higher compared to those with vitamin D sufficiency.
One thorough systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies and randomized controlled trials was conducted and found that vitamin D insufficiency was strongly associated with clinical depression. Another systematic review and meta-analysis showed a statistically significant improvement in depression with Vitamin D supplements.
Use of vitamin D as adjunctive therapy, i.e. together with an antidepressant medication in patients with vitamin D insufficiency has shown to be superior to an antidepressant alone
This is another situation where recent changes in human lifestyle – here being indoors more than outdoors, can lead to a nutrient deficiency. Because it is so common to have a vitamin D insufficiency and the health consequences, specifically mood states, I recommend more time in the outdoors, including some limited time (say 10 minutes a day) with face and arms without sunscreen.
If you do not spend regular time in the sun, I do recommend a vitamin D3 supplement to be taken before, during, or directly after a meal. I think it wise to take these supplements during the winter months in any case.
Should you question whether or not you may be clinically depressed, professional assessment certainly is recommended as always; initial workup may include serum vitamin D levels (usually 25(OH)D is measured but various labs use different techniques resulting in varying “normal” level ranges).
A strict ethical vegan, however, faces a dilemma as the sources of vitamin D3 supplementation (and all “fortified products such as almond milk and tofu) are animal-based. Some literature supports vitamin D2 intake as sufficient, but good studies are too scarce to suggest this as the sole source for supplementation; vitamin D2 can be obtained from certain mushrooms set out in the sun for 10 minutes or so prior to consumption and there are supplements available from this source. It would appear that lifestyle emphasis on “fun in the sun” is indicated for vegans.
 Takeuchi A, Okano T, Sayamoto M, Sawamura S, Kobayashi T, Motosugi M, Yamakawa T; Okano; Sayamoto; Sawamura; Kobayashi; Motosugi; Yamakawa (1986). “Tissue distribution of 7-dehydrocholesterol, vitamin D3 and 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 in several species of fishes”. Journal of nutritional science and vitaminology. 32 (1): 13–22.
 Ross, A. C., Manson, J. E., Abrams, S. A., Aloia, J. F., Brannon, P. M., Clinton, S. K., . . . Shapses, S. A. (2011). The 2011 Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D: What Dietetics Practitioners Need to Know⁎⁎This article is a summary of the Institute of Medicine report entitled Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D (available at http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2010/Dietary-Reference-Intakes-for-Calcium-and-Vitamin-D.aspx) for dietetics practitioners; a similar summary for clinicians has also been published (Ross AC, Manson JE, Abrams SA, Aloia JF, Brannon PM, Clinton SK, Durazo-Arvizu RA, Gallagher JC, Gallo RL, Jones G, Kovacs CS, Mayne ST, Rosen CJ, Shapses SA. The 2011 report on Dietary Reference Intakes for calcium and vitamin D from the Institute of Medicine: What clinicians need to know. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011;96:53-58).Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 111(4), 524-527. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2011.01.004
 DRI – Dietary Reference Intakes – Calcium and Vitamin D20122 DRI – Dietary Reference Intakes – Calcium and Vitamin D . Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, , ISBN: 13‐978‐0‐309‐16394‐1. (2012). Nutrition & Food Science, 42(2), 131-131. doi:10.1108/nfs.2012.42.2.131.2
 Yue, W., Xiang, L., Zhang, Y., Ji, Y., & Li, X. (2014). Association of Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D with Symptoms of Depression After 6 Months in Stroke Patients. Neurochem Res Neurochemical Research, 39(11), 2218-2224. doi:10.1007/s11064-014-1423-y
 Eyles, D. W., Burne, T. H., & Mcgrath, J. J. (2013). Vitamin D, effects on brain development, adult brain function and the links between low levels of vitamin D and neuropsychiatric disease. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, 34(1), 47-64. doi:10.1016/j.yfrne.2012.07.001
 Gabbard, Glen O. Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders. 2 (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing. p. 1296.
 Stumpf WE, Privette TH: Light, vitamin D and psychiatry. Role of 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D3 (soltriol) in etiology and therapy of seasonal affective disorder and other mental processes. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 1989, 97:285–294.
 Wilkins, C. H., Sheline, Y. I., Roe, C. M., Birge, S. J., & Morris, J. C. (2006). Vitamin D Deficiency Is Associated With Low Mood and Worse Cognitive Performance in Older Adults. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 14(12), 1032-1040. doi:10.1097/01.jgp.0000240986.74642.7c
 Przybelski, R. J., & Binkley, N. C. (2007). Is vitamin D important for preserving cognition? A positive correlation of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration with cognitive function. Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, 460(2), 202-205. doi:10.1016/j.abb.2006.12.018
 Ganji, V., Milone, C., Cody, M. M., Mccarty, F., & Wang, Y. T. (2010). Serum vitamin D concentrations are related to depression in young adult US population: The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Int Arch Med International Archives of Medicine, 3(1), 29. doi:10.1186/1755-7682-3-29
 Anglin, R. E., Samaan, Z., Walter, S. D., & Mcdonald, S. D. (2013). Vitamin D deficiency and depression in adults: Systematic review and meta-analysis. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 202(2), 100-107. doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.111.106666
 Spedding, S. (2014). Vitamin D and Depression: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Comparing Studies with and without Biological Flaws. Nutrients, 6(4), 1501-1518. doi:10.3390/nu6041501
 Khoraminya, N., Tehrani-Doost, M., Jazayeri, S., Hosseini, A., & Djazayery, A. (2012). Therapeutic effects of vitamin D as adjunctive therapy to fluoxetine in patients with major depressive disorder. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 47(3), 271-275. doi:10.1177/0004867412465022
Whole Grains for the Whole Brain
Certain wild cereals, or grasses, contain edible components in their grain, botanically a type of fruit. Grains are small, hard, dry seeds, with or without attached hulls.
Some argue that from an evolutionary standpoint, grains are a relatively new addition to our diets and therefore should be excluded. Undoubtedly grains have existed for many millennia, but the problem with harvesting had been that first of all these grains must be separated from the inedible grasses, requiring some winnowing process. Secondly, the wild grains usually shatter when ripe, dispersing the seeds, making collection difficult. Then the tiny hard grains would have to be further processed to avail digestion. Thus, patches of such grains in the wild may not have been favored by hominids until at least primitive hand tools were used and present near sites of grain-containing grasses.
Nevertheless, grains were apparently consumed well before animal domestication 10,000 years ago. For example, a large amount of starch granules has been found on the surfaces of Middle Stone Age stone tools from Mozambique, showing that early Homo sapiens relied on grass seeds starting at least 105,000 years ago, including those of sorghum grasses. That’s more than 5000 generations ago.
Of course if one has celiac disease, gluten intolerance, a food allergy or sensitivity to grains, grains should be avoided.
Grains for brains (as well as other organs)
Whole grain includes dark bread, whole-grain breakfast cereal, popcorn, oats, bran, brown rice, bran, and many other examples.
Whole-grain foods contain fiber, vitamins, magnesium and other minerals, phenolic compounds and other phytonutrients, which may have favorable effects on health by lowering serum lipids and blood pressure, improving glucose levels, insulin metabolism and endothelial function, as well as alleviating oxidative stress and inflammation.
A meta-analysis of 15 cohort studies with nearly a half million participants revealed that whole grain intake was associated with a reduced risk of vascular disease.
There is an association between dietary whole grain intake and mortality; two large prospective studies of more than one hundred thousand participants indicated a significant life extension independent of other dietary and lifestyle factors.The effect was pronounced up to one-half serving per day after which there was a leveling off.
 Mercader, J. (2009), Mozambican Grass Seed Consumption During the Middle Stone Age, Science, 326.
 Anderson, J. W. (2003). Whole grains protect against atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 62(01), 135-142. doi:10.1079/pns2002222.
 Tang, G., Wang, D., Long, J., Yang, F., & Si, L. (2015). Meta-Analysis of the Association Between Whole Grain Intake and Coronary Heart Disease Risk. The American Journal of Cardiology, 115(5), 625-629.
 Wu, H., Flint, A. J., Qi, Q., Dam, R. M., Sampson, L. A., Rimm, E. B., . . . Sun, Q. (2015). Association Between Dietary Whole Grain Intake and Risk of Mortality.JAMA Internal Medicine JAMA Intern Med, 175(3), 373.
Why Meat is Bad
The World Health Organization (WHO) made headlines when it declared processed meat a "carcinogen" and unprocessed red meat as “probably carcinogenic” .
Red meat refers to unprocessed mammalian muscle meat— beef, veal, pork, lamb. Processed meat refers to meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation.
Meat processing can result in formation of known carcinogenic chemicals, including N-nitroso-compounds (NOC) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and heme iron.
Cooking improves the digestibility and palatability of meat, but can also produce known or suspected carcinogens, including heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAA) and PAH. High-temperature cooking by panfrying, grilling, or barbecuing generally produces the highest amounts of these chemicals .
In three intervention studies in human beings, changes in oxidative stress markers (either in urine, feces, or blood) were associated with consumption of red meat or processed meat . Oxidative stress can damage cells, proteins, and DNA, which can contribute to aging. It may also play a role in development of a range of health conditions, including diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s . Anti-oxidants abound in plants.
WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified consumption of red meat as “probably carcinogenic to humans”. In making this evaluation, they took into consideration all relevant data, including the substantial epidemiological data showing a positive association between consumption of red meat and colorectal cancer and the strong mechanistic evidence. Consumption of red meat was also positively associated with pancreatic and with prostate cancer.
Not just cancer
The more red meat you eat, the greater your risk of dying from one of eight diseases, according to a recent report . High red meat consumption increased the rate of dying from cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, infections, kidney disease and liver disease.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that 70 percent of food poisoning is caused by contaminated animal flesh. Foodborne diseases, such as E. Coli, Salmonella, and Campylobacter, cause an estimated 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year .