Posted by sustainable_hort on April 4, 2010 | No Comments
It seems that for decades the conventional agricultural community responded to organic claims with “ show me the scientific research.” That, in fact, was what led me back to Oregon State University many decades ago. I was growing food organically but did not feel I had my science in order. But, their response was valid in a sense. There was not recent research that could back it up. But, if one ventured back to before World War II, there was a body of work (see the earlier post titled Soil Health and Organic Fertilizers for a short list of key sources) that seemed to support organic agriculture strategies.
Time limits me to maybe one long article a week on this blog. But, as I do research for my writing, I come across many interesting and pertinent stories, articles, studies, and books. It is information I sense has a place on this blog. So, at least a few times a month, I will post “Show Me the Research” notes. As a visitor, this will help you identify the more in-depth pieces, from simpler informational pieces. Again, I want to thank everyone for their positive comments.
So, for the first “Show Me the Research.”
First, some more book recommendations. The first is the The Long Emergency, written by James Howard Kunstler. Though is was first published five years ago, its content and message remain topical, maybe even more so today. I first read it years ago, but recently found a used copy, bought it, and have been re-reading parts of it. It is not a diatribe against global warming, though it includes the topic as part of an overall discussion of our economy’s dangerous reliance on petroleum for much of our lifestyle, energy, food and industry. Kunstler clearly shows that petroleum is at the base of many products, and as the world economy moves to duplicate US and European models, it will become a limiting factor. His best-case scenario seems to be that everything will cost more, much more. The alternatives are less comfortable to imagine. Many other books cover some of the same ground, but none are as complete or so soundly based on solid research.
The other work is much newer. The End of Overeating by David A. Kessler, MD, jumps into the current discussion on diet with a slightly different approach. Kessler looks at how and why we eat, clearly showing how food manufacturers manipulate “sugar, fat and salt” to over stimulate our appetites. These “manipulations” work surprisingly well, leading us to both overeat and consume foods that are not as healthy. The dozens of books published on diet topics generally tell us what to eat, but don’t explain why it so difficult to control our eating. A fascinating work by the former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration who successfully fought the tobacco industry. Now, with this book, takes a lead role in giving us tools to change what Michael Pollen describes as “the catastrophe that is the modern American diet.” Read it and then eat.
• Herbicide Resistance Identified…The Nebraska Rural Radio Association reported that “Kansas State University (KSU) scientists have completed long-term evaluations of a limited number of independent kochia (Kochia scoparia) populations on privately-owned land in western Kansas that are now confirmed to be glyphosate (Round-Up)-resistant.”
In the western U.S. and Canada, Kochia, or “fireweed,” is often found in arid and semi-arid croplands, rangelands, pastures, and non-agricultural sites. Very adaptable, Kochia even grows on saline and alkaline soils. It a serious “weed” and control will now be more complex and expensive. This resistance developed naturally, possibly due to growers using lower rates that left a few tougher plants, not through genetic modification. But, it points to why there is concern about this happening as “Round-Up resistant” crops are planted. I am not saying that genetic modification is all bad, but this type of natural resistance seems to require science to study this closely. This type of manipulation could actually lead to faster development of resistance in the environment.
• Since I also co-own an organic produce farm, I like to see people eat more vegetables. Now more proof fresh, nutritional produce is important…worth more of your food dollar.
1) Carolyn Lister, research leader at the New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research told www.newkerala.com that while fruit has tended to attract the greatest attention and the ‘super food’ label, there is a body of clinical research underlining the significant health benefits of vegetables in both raw and cooked form, with broccoli along with the other brassicas, tomatoes, onions and other alliums proving to be the vegetables with the strongest scientific evidence behind them.
“This evidence varies from in vitro studies through to human feeding studies,” she claims. “Although there is considerable variation in the results of different studies…looking at the summation of results, there is quite strong evidence for benefits to human health of a number of vegetables.”
Lister is a key scientists with the Vital Vegetables program, working to develop vegetables with increased health benefits, using traditional breeding techniques.
This is similar to a new study by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham has released a study indicating that anti-oxidants – plant-based substances in foods such as broccoli, berries, tomatoes, spinach, carrots, grapes and garlic, are a key in preventing the flu.
“The recent outbreak of H1N1 influenza and the rapid spread of this strain across the world highlights the need to better understand how this virus damages the lungs and to find new treatments. Additionally, our research shows that anti-oxidants may prove beneficial in the treatment of flu,” said study co-author Sadis Matalon.
2) Other work shows “flavonols” might reduce women’s stroke risk. This has been reported by Dutch researchers in the Journal of Nutrition.
“We showed for the first time, to our knowledge, that flavonol intake was inversely associated with stroke incidence,” wrote the researchers. “We conclude that evidence is accumulating that flavonol intake is inversely related to different cardiovascular disease outcomes,” they added.
Despite reporting a potential risk reducing effect of compounds from tea, onions, apples, and broccoli the results should be “interpreted with caution.” The study followed over 110,000 people, noting higher consumption of flavonols, mostly tea in the Dutch population; and from tea, onions, apples, and broccoli in US studies, accounted for the reduction in stroke risk.
Flavonols are “flavonoids,” which also include anthocyanins (berries), isoflavones (soy), flavones (parsley and thyme), flavanones (citrus), flavonols (tea) and proanthocyanidins (berries, wine and chocolate.) Boy I like those last two! An editorial in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (July 2008, Vol. 88, pp. 12-13), echoed that statement, saying the “contribution of flavonones to a person’s antioxidant capacity was significant.”
• Finally, good news for those of us guys who are night people and require multiple cups of coffee to survive the morning.
A recent US study indicates that coffee may boost prostate health. It said “increased intake of coffee may reduce the risk of lethal and advanced prostate cancers by 60 per cent.” The study followed almost 50,000 men for over four years and found that males with the highest intake of coffee had significantly lower risks of aggressive prostrate cancer. The study is said to be the first study of its kind to look at both overall risk of prostate cancer and risk of localized, advanced and lethal disease.
“Coffee has effects on insulin and glucose metabolism as well as sex hormone levels, all of which play a role in prostate cancer. It was plausible that there may be an association between coffee and prostate cancer,” said Kathryn Wilson, PhD, from Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health. The researchers presented their findings at the American Association for Cancer Research Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference late last year.
Well…that’s enough for one reading. See you next week with the second “Show Me the Research.”
Tags:American diet, composting, David Kessler, farmers markets, garden trends, gardening, green practices, healthy eating, healthy food, home food production, James H. Kunstler, local food movement, MD, organic fertilizers, organic gardening, soil amendment, soil biology, soil health, The End of Overeating, The Long Emergency, Urban agriculture
Filed Under: Benefits of Plants, Books to Read, Info, Organic agriculture, Sustainable Horticulture