Wednesday, February 23, 2011


“Soy is making our kids gay”, or so says an article I read today on soy. The proof (although improperly applied) lies in truth, soy has large quantities of phytoestrogen. A protein compound similar enough to the human hormone estrogen that it binds to estrogen receptors, which in turn triggers increased estrogen production in the body.  It is true this happens in both men and women. But the application is far more complicated than a simple influx of estrogen turning us all into sobbing overly effeminate messes. In woman the consumption of soy and subsequent estrogen-palooza usually manifests in pre-menstrual and menstrual side effects. In doing so it can trigger the same growth hormones that are triggered in pre-menstrual cycles that store fat for the possible embryo plantation (this is why weight fluctuates during monthly cycles). In a nut shell it can cause: hot flashes, mood swings, depression, weight gain and chemical imbalances in woman. In men by way of increasing estrogen production in the body, sperm counts are lowered, and long term damage to the testes from a correlating decrease in free testosterone and dihydotestosterone can occur.  

What about Asian populations and their consumption of soy? Asian communities on a whole eat much less soy that we Americans are led to believe. On average about two tablespoons a day. If you are the type of person who eats fast food hamburgers you may be surprised to know that 40-80% of that meat burger is actually soy protein, and as most fast food burgers are at the very least a ¼ pound of “meat”, you are consuming about 8 TBL of soy.  And that’s just the hamburger its self, not to mention the bi produced from soy used as bread preservatives, diets foods, dried milks, imitations and non dairy creamers, margarine and vegetable oils, and of course any vegan meat substitutes. At the end of the day a majority of a person’s diet could consist of soy without them realizing it. Aside from the frightening realization that one could eat for a whole day and not know exactly what types of food they have consumed, there is also the fact that most people of European descent are allergic to soy.

Soy requires certain stomach enzymes and bacteria to properly break down the complicated protein complexes and be absorbed into the body. Just like the first European man that consumed cow milk got sick, so to the first Asian person probably got pretty ill after having eaten the first soy bean. Over a long stretch of time, stomach flora evolves and the ability to eat foods common in geographic diets increases. Due to common eating habits, culture plus a very long history of experimenting and perfecting fermentation methods, Asians have not only evolved to digest soy products they have also created methods of properly preparing the food source. American treatment of soy products and bi-products are not as perfect, combine that with a low likelihood of having gained the digestive flora necessary to process the food, we are in for a serious stomach ache (also bloating, IBS, and a myriad of other less pleasant digestive side effects).

So does soy really make a person gay. I seriously doubt it. Though it does increase estrogen production and cause some pretty harmful chemical side effects. Obviously I would suggest to stay away from fast food, a suggestion that really has no root in the soy problem, just don’t eat fast food you’ll thank me later. My main message and concern is for all my vegan and veg friends. Yes eating meat does have negative health implications, but so does soy. If you make the switch to a no meat diet don’t fill your life with soy burgers, tofu ribs, soy cheese sandwiches, or soy milk. If you really want to do yourself a favor regardless of the degree of meat eating you engage in, your protein and food consumption should always come from the least processed forms available.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ghrelin or Why You Crave That Junk Food

Ever wonder why sometimes you are perfectly happy eating healthy foods, and some days all you want to eat is a bag of cheetos and a box of brownies? The answer is ghrelin, and the fact that humans have mentally evolved much faster than we have biologically.

Ghrelin is a hormone produced by the hypothalamic glands where it stimulates the secretion of growth hormones in the anterior pituitary gland. It is a G-protein  coupled receptor, that is also produced by the cells lining the human stomach and the epsilon cells of the pancreas. In simple terms the cells that produce this hormone stimulate hunger and the production of growth hormones that in turn tells your brain you are hungry and tells your body to store and create fat mass.

This is a natural biological process and at the basic chemical levels this process is not only a necessary trigger as it is regulatory process. However, our lives have changed dramatically while our evolutionary progress has very little. We as a species have evolved very little since civilized societies of humans have swept the world. We have no need. As our brains have evolved and our cognitive processes have become more complex, we as a species no longer have to evolve to adapt to our environments, we now change our environments to suit our needs. So while we have become smarter our bodies have changed very little. One of the very earliest adaptation mechanisms animals have is the ability to sense food sources, whether it be sight, smell or other more complex triggers, animals can tell where the most calorie rich food sources can be found, and in nature this is found mostly as the flavor sweet, or in other animals in the form of fats. Humans are animals and we are evolutionarily predisposed to know where fat and sugar are and to crave them when our bodies trigger our brains for energy needs, enter ghrelin.

The problem really presents itself now that we have advanced enough to not have to depend on natural environments for our energy sources. We depend on grocery stores, and restaurants, and unfortunately due to a number to FDA laws, reductionist nutrition and capitalized food companies, we now have a plethora of high octane foods available in about every flavor you could hope for. The majority of our food sources have been reduced to the bare minimum, sugar. Whether it be potato chips with its fat, sugar and salt ingredients, or soda with its many sugar sources or even a fast food hamburger (fat and added sugar for flavor). We literally can’t help ourselves, these foods were designed for us, designed to be made of exactly what our bodies crave. However, due to our sedentary life styles (we no longer have to hunt and gather for livelihood), we aren’t burning the calories we take in. So while we are evolutionarily primed to crave the food available, biologically speaking we no longer need it.

The solution? I don’t have one for your. Your body is different, your biological and chemical needs are different from mine, and everyone else’s on the planet. But eating a good breakfast full of protein, fruits and/or veggies will help regulate your insulin and ghrelin levels throughout the day. Understanding what cravings really are also helps and listening to your body. If you haven’t eaten anything with protein for a few hours, don’t run out and eat junk food, or breads or protein bars (which are chock-a-block full of sugar), find yourself some fat in the form of a cheese snack, or a bit of chicken, or even whole wheat toast and peanut butter, nuts snacks or dried fruit. If are craving sugar try eating fruit or veggies and drinking lots of water. These cravings can easily be controlled, and by making the right eating decisions you will be controlling your body’s own hormone and insulin levels and avoiding any catastrophic problems down the road.

More Junk-Food Benny can be found here :

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Biological Vignettes

I have been writing a series of short essays on topics covered in my biology class for extra credit. They are pretty basic, but the research is good, so I thought maybe some of you may find them interesting.

The first is on telomeres which are essentially junk DNA that is added onto to helix ends to protect your DNA from getting lost during replication.

Aging is an inevitable truth, and the search to reverse this has been long and futile. But scientists are coming closer to understanding why. It seems our DNA has an expiration date. And once this is hit, coding sections are dropped, miscoding for proteins begin to occur and diseases begin to pop up more often, and people begin to show signs of serious age.

Human DNA is protected at each end of each chromosome with repeat non coding nucleic acids hundreds of codes long. As cells divide, so does DNA, and when it is replicated from the parent strand only one end is left whole, the 3’-5’ coding side which runs in the opposite direction needed for DNA polymerase, requires a primer to start each segment and ends up dropping the last set during replication. Due to this lagging strand drop, each time a cell replicated one half of the DNA is shortened. Once the telomeres have all been dropped off, DNA starts getting dropped in replications, errors begin to occur and cell, due to complex regulatory and trigger mechanisms destroy themselves.

The most rapid growth of the human body is during the stages of development, and luckily these cells are protected by enzymes called telomerase which bind the telomeres to DNA and protect the rapidly dividing cells of embryos. Many studies have focused on gene therapy putting telomerase in adults organisms, and while it has shown some minor results in reversing aging in lab mice. However higher levels of telomerase in adult humans have shown a significant link to cancer. And recent studies of sea birds have shown no tie to telomere length or telomerase concentration in the bird’s physical age.

Continued study of the connection to telomere length, telomerase concentration and aging in eukaryotic organisms will probably go on for decades before it is fully understood. Whether or not that means a cure for aging can be found is unknown, for now all that is known is that in humans there seems to be a connection between the two.

Source :