the-south-asian.com August 2003
CHANGING TASTES OF MEDICAL RESEARCHERS
Isidore Domnick Mendis
A revolutionary change seems to be sweeping the mindset of a section of medical researchers who are now saying that eggs, red meat, butter and pure ghee may not be the taboo food that we’ve imagined them to be all these years.
Eggs, red meat, butter and pure ghee may not be the kind of villains that we’ve imagined them to be all these years.
A growing number of medical researchers are now of the view that eggs contain high quality protein. They have vitamins A and D and are rich in choline--an essential nutrient that plays a role in brain development and memory--and a source of carotenoids that reduce risk of cataracts and other age-related eye problems.
According to Dr. Ishi Khosla, chief nutritionist at Delhi’s Centre for Dietary Counselling and owner of the chain of Whole Foods chain retailing natural and organic foods, " Eggs are extremely beneficial to the human body. The egg yolk in particular has numerous nutrients like beta carotene, vitamin A, D & E besides minerals such as magnesium, zinc, copper and iodine."
A recent study by Dr. Donald McNamara, professor of nutrition at the University of Arizona in the US has advocated that eggs are vital and safe for heart patients with high blood cholesterol levels. The notable aspect of the study is its finding that people who ate more than one egg a day had no greater risk of heart disease than those eating less than one egg per week.
Says Prof. McNamara, " The research clearly indicates that consumption of eggs and increase in the level of cholesterol is perhaps related by co-incidence. There appears to be no significant rationale in the belief that eggs bring about heart disease."
A number of studies emanating from the West are now stating that red meat may not be such a bad thing after all. A seminal work by Dr. Michael H. Davidson of the Chicago Center for Clinical Research compared the impact of red meat on blood cholesterol levels. It found that a diet including 170 grams of lean red meat consumed five days a week may actually reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
" Our study is the largest and longest to provide evidence that the case against red meat has been misrepresented. A heart-healthy diet containing up to 170 grams of lean red meat lowered the risk of heart disease by positively impacting blood cholesterol levels," opines Dr Davidson. This may fly in the face of medical wisdom, but the change in mindset seems to be percolating down to India as well.
Dr. Khosla, who was formerly chief dietician at the Escorts Heart Institute adds, " Red meat is not toxic as researchers have traditionally stated. A majority of doctors still say that animal fat has direct relationship with heart disease. That’s not the case. In reality it is foods rich in carbohydrates and not just red meat which lead to cardiac problems."
However, the chief dietician at Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Rekha Sharma, swears by traditional medical viewpoints. She says those having a weak heart must keep away from foods rich in cholesterol such as red meat and eggs.
" Egg yolk is the primary agent responsible for the genesis of cholesterol in the heart. Daily consumption of eggs can put a person at risk of a heart attack. And red meat is a complete no-no for people above the age of 40 who have sedentary lifestyle or are obese or have a family history of cardiac problems," opines Sharma
An increasing body of modern medical research---rightly or wrongly---is fast trashing this conventional wisdom. Many newage researchers are even saying that not just red meat and eggs but even shell fish like prawns, crabs and shrimps may actually be good for humans. Medical opinion has long held that shell fish is a taboo for heart patients as its cholesterol content is very high.
As in the case of egg and meat, numerous studies are now indicating there is nothing wrong in consuming shell fish. " The benefits of Omega-3s—special type of polyunsaturated fatty acids known as the "good" fats---far outweigh the risk of the little cholesterol found in shell fish," opines Dr. Khosla.
Tea has also found favour with the modern medical fraternity. A recent study conducted by Unilever Research Laboratories by Dr. P. Quinlan and his team indicates a strong link between drinking tea and an increase in memory, alertness, reaction time and a positive result on other mental and physical attributes. Tea is being considered beneficial for the human body. It is a source of important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
A study by Dr D.K. Ganguly, Emeritus Scientist at the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research states : "Tea has been reported to possess strong anti-cancer activity against varied types of cancer. The inhibitory activity of tea is believed to be mainly due to the antioxidative and antiproliferative effects of polyphenolic compounds present in green and black tea."
Pure ghee, long on the banned list of most doctors because of the high amount of saturated fat, too is coming under the scanner of new research and here too conventional wisdom is being seriously questioned.
" True, an excess of pure ghee intake is clearly undesirable for adults due to its saturated fat and cholesterol content. However, this does not necessarily mean it is harmful when taken in moderation. In fact it may be even good for the body," opines Dr. Khosla.
Milk is high on the red alert list of modern age doctors. A section of medical researchers are saying this picture is far from true. Cow's or buffalo’s milk is not healthy for humans. In children it has been linked to a variety of diseases, including allergies, diarrhoea, colic and cramps in children. In adults, it is linked to heart disease, arthritis, autoimmune disease, allergies, and certain types of cancer such as leukemia and lymphoma.
According to Dr. Patrick Bishop, director of the California Academy of Food Research, " Next to sugar, milk is the largest contributor to food-induced illnesses. The high proportion of saturated fat in cow's milk can raise blood cholesterol, increase adherence of platelets and cause blocking of arteries."
In fact many research studies have shown that children with normal blood vessels are almost always primarily breast-fed, while children fed cow's milk or formulas based on cow's milk can have problem vessels.
However, according to research going on in many leading medical centers around the world, milk is definitely good for humans. But, it may not be the all-star drink that brings about images synonymous with health and goodness.
" What was good yesterday is rejected today. Perhaps what is being found good today will not find favour say, half a century later," says Dr. Khosla. So before you chuck out the milk from your refrigerator and start gorging on a diet of eggs and red meat cooked in desi ghee, it would be best to consult your doctor. He is still your best guide on what diet suits you and what doesn’t.
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