04 January 2013

Since my wife is a therapist and a professor of psychology, I have the pleasure of learning from her the various developments in measuring brain performance using electronic imaging. It was no surprise when my “brain” picked up on research using imaging tests to show for the first time that fructose, which dominates the North American diet, can trigger brain changes that may lead to overeating.

What researchers found was after drinking a fructose beverage, the brain doesn't send the message of “being full” as it does when simple glucose is consumed. As most folks know, all sugars are not equal even though they may contain the same amount of calories. Instead they are metabolized differently in the body and have different nutritional values. Table sugar is sucrose, which is half fructose, half glucose. High-fructose corn syrup is 55 per cent fructose and 45 per cent glucose. Hmmm…our white sugar isn't that far removed from high-fructose corn syrup! What’s even more astounding is that brains scans showed that drinking glucose actually “turns off or suppresses the activity of areas of the brain that are critical for reward and desire for food,” said one study leader, Yale University endocrinologist Dr. Robert Sherwin. With fructose, “we don’t see those changes,” he said. “As a result, the desire to eat continues – it isn’t turned off.”

This got me thinking, what are the healthiest sweeteners with low fructose content? At first glance I thought of Agave, the plant that tequila is made from and most health food stores carry on their shelves. Even though they may stock agave sweeteners, it might be better to keep them out of your buggy entirely. Am I kidding you ask? Many agave nectars consist of 70 to 80 percent fructose which is more than what's found in high-fructose corn syrup! Let’s not stop there, as natural maple syrup may not be so good either. It is primarily comprised of sucrose (which is 43% fructose on average) and contains healthy amounts of potassium and calcium with trace amounts of amino compounds and vitamins. But do these features outweigh the fact that maple syrup has the same amount of calories per serving as white cane sugar and a whopping fructose content? Maple syrup also has a high glycemic index due to its concentrated nature after processing and may need to be reserved to your breakfast waffles once in a while (eating it with carbs exacerbates the glycemic index). So, if you’ve been adding agave to your smoothies, maple syrup to your pancakes and sugar to your coffee and what else is there, Stevia?

Actually yes, "We need to be off of sugar, but we need good alternatives, and stevia is the safest sweetener there is, period," says Donna Gates, co- author The Stevia Cookbook: Cooking with Nature's Calorie-Free Sweetener and here’s why. Stevia is the only all-natural, zero-calorie, zero-glycemic-index alternative to sugar and artificial sweeteners known at this time.  Stevia will not raise blood sugar or cause any increase in triglycerides or cholesterol. Unlike artificial sweeteners, it does not contain harmful chemicals. Just don’t use it for baking, as the results are less than satisfying so try honey or blackstrap molasses.

While honey does have higher fructose levels, it also contains a bounty of cancer-defending antioxidants, and local honey has been said to help alleviate allergy symptoms. Honey is not limited to your tea either. Use it to speed healing on burns, and as a natural antiseptic on cuts and scrapes. Honey also has a low glycemic index, so adding it to your tea or yogurt won't lead to energy-busting blood sugar drops later in the day. Although heavy on the calorie content, blackstrap molasses is rich in iron, potassium, and calcium, making it a healthier choice than nutritionally defunct artificial sweeteners or even regular refined sugar, despite the fact that blackstrap and refined sugar both come from sugar cane.

So there it is, fructose does alter brain function with regard to eating and the feeling of being full. However, all is not lost if you can’t have your processed white sugar or even the Agave promoted in health food stores. So remember, stevia, raw honey, and blackstrap molasses are incredible alternatives to sweeten up your life.

If you would like more information on the subject, you can check out my references below.

Berg, A., Perkins, T. & Isselhardt M. (2006). Sugar Profiles of Maple Syrup Grades. Proctor maple Research Center. The University of Vermont. Retrieved from: http://www.uvm.edu/~pmrc/sugarprof.pdf

Flourish. (2012). Fructose Vs. Xylitol Vs. Stevia: The Natural Sweetener Comparison. Flourish Natural Medicine. Retrieved from: http://flourishnm.com/blog/naturopath-sweetener-comparison

Marchione, M. (2 Jan 2013). Fructose can trigger brain changes that may lead to overeating, researchers find. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/fructose-can-trigger-brain-changes-that-may-lead-to-overeating-researchers-find/article6859647/?cmpid=rss1

Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association. (2013). Pure Ontario Maple Syrup. Retrieved from: http://www.ontariomaple.com/pages/pure_maple_syrup/

Zerbe, L. (2013). The 4 Best, and 3 Worst, Sweeteners to Have in Your Kitchen. Rodale. Retireve from: http://www.rodale.com/sweeteners?page=0,0

09 July 2012

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18 February 2011

Sustainable Christians

Sometimes I think the environmental problems we face tend to be, or could be, problems of Biblical proportion. So I decided to see what the Bible says about sustainability which actually starts in Genesis. In Gen. 1:28 God commands humans to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over every living thing.” Certainly, ALL countries have fulfilled the command of "be fruitful and multiply..and fill the earth" to the point where it has become a problem. However, its get worse. The Hebrew word which we translate as “subdue” is kabash. This word is primarily used in a military context, where a soldier subdues an adversary by stepping on his neck. And the Hebrew word which we translate as “dominion” is rada which means “tread down” or “trample.” Clearly, Gen. 1:28 does not support the argument that we need to be good stewards of God’s creation (Fuesler, 2010). Wow, are you serious?

Surprisingly, many Christians use the argument that the world exists to serve the needs of humankind. According to Gen. 1, we have been created in God’s image to subjugate and trample the earth, or, as some say: to “Drill baby! Drill!” We are now killing God’s creation. We are stepping on our own necks and on the necks of our children! Who cares about the environment...we're tasked with the salvation of others for eternal life and this world will soon pass away. Wait a minute, are these Christians reading their Bibles?

God also gave humans another command. According to Gen 2:15: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden to till it and keep it.” The Hebrew word which that we translate as “till” is avad. This word means “to work and serve.” Avad is used over 250 times in the OT, most often in connection with serving God. Here it’s used in the context of serving God by working the garden. It is, after all, God’s garden! The Hebrew word for “keep” is shamar which means “to guard” in the sense of preserving or protecting (Fuesler, 2010). .

It is very clear that we have fulfilled the mandate of Gen..1:28 to fill and subdue the earth, our primary vocation now is to serve God by guarding and preserving creation. It is, after all, God’s creation and we are all subject to it (Fuesler, 2010)! As humans we need to remember that we have no right over nature but have the utmost responsibility for the care and protection of it.

Fuesler, R. (2010). Fill and Subdue. Sermon at United Methodist Church. Atascadero, CA.

Steven Karst, Chattanooga

14 December 2010

Avoiding Green Marketing Myopia

Instead of looking at organizations that have made a commitment to environmental sustainability, I examined traditional organizations who have tried to market sustainable products. I addition, I found a trap, “Green Marketing Myopia,” a situation that many products and possibly organizations easily fall into. In a 1960 Harvard Business Review article, Harvard professor Theodore Levitt introduced the classic concept of “marketing myopia” to characterize businesses’ narrow vision on product features rather than consumer benefits. This meaning product oriented not customer oriented (Levitt, 1960).

Philips Corporation provides a valuable lesson on how to avoid the common pitfall of “green marketing myopia.” Philips called its original entry, Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulb, “EarthLight” to communicate the CFL environmental advantage. While noble, the benefit appealed to only the deepest green niche of consumers. The vast majority of consumers, however, will ask, “If I use ‘green’ products, what’s in it for me (Ottman, et. al., 2006)?” Phillips defined its business incorrectly. It thought it was in the “green” business when it actually was in the light bulb business. Instead of marketing them as green they could have marketed their long life and excellent energy savings. Toyota considered this when marketing it hybrid cars to the public.

Toyota recognized the ambiguity of the term “green” and discouraged its use in its marketing of its gas-electric hybrid cars. One proposed slogan, “Drive green, breathe blue” was dismissed in favor of specific claims about fuel efficiency, such as “Less gas in. Less gasses out (Farah, 2005).”

Green marketing must satisfy two objectives: improved environmental quality and customer satisfaction. Research indicates that many green products have failed because of green marketing myopia—marketers’ myopic focus on their products’ “greenness” over the broader expectations of consumers or other market players. To avoid green marketing myopia, marketers must fulfill consumer needs and interests beyond what is good for the environment. When consumers are convinced of the desirable “non-green” benefits of environmental products, they are more inclined to adopt them (Ottman, et. al., 2006).

Farah, S. (2005). “The Thin Green Line.” CMO Magazine. 1 December 2005.

Levitt, T. (1960). “Marketing Myopia,” Harvard Business Review 28, July-August (1960): 24–47. Reprint. Retrieved from http://www.casadogalo.com/marketingmyopia.pdf

Ottman, J. A., Stafford, E. R., Hartman, C. L. (June, 2006). Avoiding Green marketing Myopia: Ways to Improve Consumer Appeal for Environmentally Preferable Products. Environment. Volume 48, Number 5, pages 22—36. Heldref Publications. http://www.heldref.org/env.php

Steven Karst, Chattanooga