If I weren’t a physician I offer wonder that I might’ve been a detective. I enjoy watching the Forensic Files enough that I’ve seen most episodes twice, some I’ve almost memorized. The investigative work is fascinating. Catching criminals with evidence like insect larvae, human and dog hair, blood splatter, handwriting, tire and shoe treads, a single carpet fiber, and so on. I prefer these programs over medical-type programs/serials for the same reason I had no interest in marrying a nurse. After spending all day in the office in a medical environment thought it might be a bit much listening to medical issues the remainder of the day.
But I always thought it interesting those murder cases in which one spouse, hoping to get a life insurance benefit, slyly puts small amounts of arsenic or thallium, over time, into the other’s food or drink, resulting in or mimicking a chronic illness, and the unawares spouse eventually dying. Presumably by “natural” or undiagnosable causes. Then the perpetrator hurriedly cremates the hapless victim hoping to destroy the evidence. But alas, some wise cracker in the UK made forensic history and figured out how to extract the presence of chemicals from cremated human ashes.
But not all of those exposed to the small amounts of arsenic die. Some get very ill, but end up living but with disabilities that make them probably wish they’d died. Mental deficiencies, and muscular deficiencies as well. A little toxin can cause illness, too much causes, literally, ‘grave’ illness. Pun intended. As you learn in medical school, dosing makes a difference. A little bit, not so much harmful; a lot, perhaps toxic. Everything can be a poison.
Along these same lines, but on the flip side of the coin, I remember a study back in the early 90s, during the “herb craze,” that was conducted by the Pharmacy School at Ole Miss. They collected and analyzed herbs sold in retail stores and vitamin shoppes in our state and the surrounding states. If my memory is accurate, it turned out that over 40% of what was sold had only insignificant and very small, sub-therapeutic, amounts of the real herb in the tablets and capsules. It was enough though to allow the maker to justify a claim a particular herb was effective for a particular condition while avoiding the expense of putting the therapeutic amount of herb into the tablet, making the profit margin more lucrative.
Everything's toxic if used to excess. Too much of a good, even healthy, thing can be pathological. Saw a middle-aged woman once, so obsessed with proper hydration, who drank so much water that she diluted her serum sodium and developed seizures. In another case, a recent college graduate, couldn’t get rid of a penile discharge. Multiple testing for STDs was negative. He finally rid himself of the discharge when I recommended he cease having multiple sexual encounters on a daily basis with his three “girlfriends.”
So, in light of a little is not so bad and much more can be harmful, I wrote in the last blog along these lines that we now have a popular new food product directed toward the healthy eater. It’s a non-meat product that has, by quiet admission by the manufacturer, minuscule amounts of a weed-killer (glyphosate) in it. In researching this last article on the Impossible Burger I was surprised to learn the company, Impossible Foods, Inc., has admitted that there is an “insignificant residue” of glyphosate in the genetically-engineered soy they use to make their meatless, veggie-burger. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Round-Up that kills the weeds in your driveway and patio cracks. I use it twice a month. Does a good job. How much, they won’t or don’t say, but it is a “residual”. A few years ago Monsanto said that 5.5 ppb (parts per billion) was “extreme;” while the EPA has placed the safe level of glyphosate in food at below 20 ppb. A study cited by Moms Across America reveals that 0.1 ppb glyphosate can mutate "over 4000 genes in rats and mice."
Toxins are harmful in two ways. One, they interrupt important and life-giving enzymatic and metabolic pathways. Cyanide for example blocks oxygen use in the cell. Two, they can alter genes and cause the cell to mutate, change, into something other than its normal self, perhaps a cancer cell. Maybe even, for all we know, cutting off a telomere, the end of a chromosome chain, and leaving the chromosome vulnerable to genetic change or deterioration. Thereby, shortening one’s life. Evidence shows that the longer the telomeres on the chromosomes the longer one lives. By the way, if you’re wondering how you might lengthen your telomeres, you can do so (it’s generally thought) by eating whole grains, vegetables, fruits, fish, nuts, and coffee. Animal products (meat, butter, cheese) shorten the telomeres because of their oxidative stress and end-products.
So, avoid processed foods. To the extent possible, stay with truly natural foods, especially those that come from the ground. (If it doesn’t come from the ground, put it down!) To the extent you’re able to favor plant foods at the expense of animal foods will determine going forward the cardiovascular events you will encounter. And if you’re in a bad relationship, you might want to think twice about letting your other fix your coffee or prepare your soup.
Happy plant-based eating!
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