2000 calories..that’s what an average-sized man requires in one day. I found this interesting video and it helps explain why there is so much obesity around.
It doesn’t happen often, but when you’re one of the top restaurants in the world and your customers end up with food poisoning, that becomes a tsunami in the culinary world.
Given two stars by the Michelin Guide and voted byThe S Pellegrino and Acqua Panna World’s 50 Best Restaurants as the best restaurant in the world for three years running, the Noma restaurant in Denmark has been serving exotic dishes that include foraged Nordic ants, fermented grasshoppers, live shrimp and locally sourced carrots in malt soil at around 5,000 Danish krone (£580) for a 12-course set menu for two including appetisers, treats to finish, wine pairing and a tour of the kitchen to meet some of the 50 chefs.
Established in 2004,the name is a blend of the two Danish words “nordisk” (Nordic) and “mad” (food) and can only seat 40 diners on one sitting. Rumour has it that the wait-list is several months long.
The first sign of trouble started between 12 and 16 February when 63 customers who ate there developed fever, vomiting and diarrhoea. Danish health authorities have since traced the cause to a Norovirus infection, spread by an infected kitchen staff. They criticised the restaurant for not having running warm water for staff to wash their hands.
The Norovirus, which causes stomach flu and viral gastroenteritis, is spread by several ways:
- Consuming contaminated food or drinks.
- Touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus and then putting hands or fingers into your mouth.
- Having direct contact with another person who is infected e.g. sharing food or eating from the same utensils as someone who is ill.
- Aerosol spread (when vomiting disperses virus particles into the air).
The virus has been responsible for several outbreaks in the last few months, as in the UK during last winter and on several cruise ships, the last one being yesterday (see here).
Such outbreaks in restaurants are nothing new. 3 years ago, I wrote about a similar Norovirus outbreak at the famed Fat Duck restaurant in the UK, where 240 people fell sick and survived the ordeal.
So will the world’s best restaurant be forced to close its doors? Highly unlikely, as the Fat Duck has showed, as it still enjoys booming business. But will it retain its title for this year when results are announced next month? We shall see..
In what may be a trend of the future, Denmark has decided to impose a tax based on the amount of fats in a particular food. The basis behind this is apparently to make the population eat less fatty foods, in an attempt to increase the life expectancy of Danes.
How it works is that a surcharge(“Fat Tax“) is placed on foods high in saturated fat. Butter, milk, cheese, pizza, meat, oil and processed food will all be subject to the levy. The tax amounts to 16 kroner (about USD 3 ) per kilogram of saturated fat in a product.
“Higher fees on sugar, fat and tobacco is an important step on the way toward a higher average life expectancy in Denmark,” health minister Jakob Axel Nielsen said when he introduced the idea in 2009, because “saturated fats can cause cardiovascular disease and cancer.”
The idea isn’t that original really – last month, Hungary introduced a new tax popularly known as the “Hamburger Law,” but that only involves higher taxes on soft drinks, pastries, salty snacks and food flavorings.In the UK last year, news reports raised the possibility of inposing VAT (currently 17.5%) on foods high in fat(currently there is no VAT on foods).
My view on this is that, as far as foods are concerned, it is equally important to cut down on salt and sugar as well, so does that mean taxes need to be imposed on food in general? The other point is whether the sole objective of prolonging life alone is adequate when many agree quality of life is just as important.
The food pyramid traditionally epitomised what a person should be eating in order to be healthy. In recent months, the USDA (US Dept of Agriculture) announced it had scrapped the famous food pyramid and replaced it with a plate as a way of conceptualizing what one should be eating to be in good health.
In the beginning, first version of the food pyramid (above diagram) came out in 1992. With carbohydrates such as bread and spaghetti occupying a band along the base, it gave far less space to fruits and vegetables. It also suggested eating fats “sparingly,” which nutritional experts said ignored the benefits of foods with healthier forms of fat.
Now, after 2 decades, the USDA has introduced the food-plate, because it felt that the pyramid was confusing (“people ate out of a plate, not a pyramid”). The new plate specifies: fruits and vegetables should make up half the diet, with vegetables taking up a majority of the half. Grains and proteins (meat and fish, for example) should occupy the other half, with grains taking up a majority of that half.
No sooner as the announcement of the food-plate came, critics such as the the Harvard School of Public Health condemned it as being too simple and not sufficient to educate the public to make the right choices. Enter the Healthy Eating Plate.
Basically, Harvard’s plate has more specifics:
- devote half the plate to fruit and vegetables, with more veggies than fruit. Potatoes are a no-no.
- adding “whole” to the grain section, recommending we NOT choose refined grains like white rice and white bread, all in favor of brown rice, whole-wheat bread and whole-grain pasta.
- adding “healthy’ to the “protein” part of the plate, which means opting for fish, poultry, beans and nuts, limiting red meat and avoiding bacon, cold cuts and processed meats entirely.
- recommending a glass of water, tea or coffee (with very little sugar) rather than a glass of milk.
Have Harvard got it right? Seems to me food, like fashion, is continually evolving, so should we follow the crowd and remain trendy?
You can download a copy of the new Harvard Healthy Eating Plate here.
Two decades ago it was widely known that ingesting this fruit juice with medications could cause dangerous side-effects, sometimes fatal. So, it is rather timely for me to refresh ourselves with this fact, especially when there are new reasons to avoid this fruit when combined with medications.
Grapefruit, a member of the Citrus family, has been shown to carry many health benefits: it is a rich source of Vitamin C and also contains bioflavonoids which have anti-cancer properties. However, when consumed with a large variety of medications, it has the ability to make the dosages taken, albeit correct, multiply to several times the usual amount in the bloodstream. Cases have been reported of a person on Lipitor or Cordarone dying due to an accumulation of this drug in the bloodstream.
The reason for this is that grapefruit gets metabolised in the liver by cytochrome P-450 3A4 enzyme , the same enzyme which also metabolises about half of the drugs consumed today. So when grapefruit keeps this enzyme busy, it is unable to metabolise drugs, causing its accumulation in the bloodstream. Depending on the drug, the person will experience a variety of side-effects due to the “overdose”.
The list of drugs which can be affected is numerous and includes anti-cholesterol medications as well as Viagra. See the list here.
Recently, it has also been discovered that consuming grape juice or even orange juice can affect the absorption of some drugs when taken by mouth, which is why I have always maintained that medications should be taken with just plain water. These drugs include popular ones like beta-blockers (like atenolol), antibiotics( like ciprofloxacin) and anti-cancer drugs (like etoposide). Read more here.
- Going, Going, Grapefruit! (maplewoodbootcamp.com)
Aficionados of the highly-textured marbled internationally renowned beef known as wagyu have better brace themselves for a steep rise in the already astronomical price of this delicacy.
More than 200,000 cows in Miyazaki, Japan (which supplies the prized cattle to nearby Kobe) were culled in the last week, all due to an outbreak of foot and mouth disease.(not to be confused with hand,foot and mouth disease which affects humans). This outbreak has forced Japan to stop its exports of wagyu to the rest of the world, with exports plunging from 77 tons in April to 9 tons in May this year. Of the foreign markets, only Hong Kong and Macau are still importing, but from designated slaughter-houses declared disease-free.
So if foot and mouth disease doesn’t generally affect humans, what’s the big deal? Well, economically, countries which have livestock, especially cattle, will be one of the first to put a trade ban to prevent spread of this highly infectious disease. The UK outbreak in 2007 was a clear example of what the EU was prepared to do. So the Japanese farmers are not spared too.. (see here).
So lovers of wagyu steak may now have to resort to that bred in countries like Australia and New Zealand…not quite the original stuff but quite close to it.
Situated somewhere in Arizona, USA is a burger restaurant with a difference. Owned by a Dr Jon (non AMA registered), it features several burgers on its prescription menu which are served by ‘nurses’. The specialty of the house is the Quadruple Bypass Burger, all 8,000 calories of it. By the way, that’s three times the daily calorie requirements of an adult male..
Called the Heart Attack Grill, ‘Dr’ Jon can be seen grilling the burgers,white coat and stethoscope included. He has attracted his share of controversy, from picketing nurses to being called a ‘nutritional pornographer’. But he appears undeterred and has finished writing a book – The Heart Attack Grill Diet – where he promises to “eat,drink and smoke your way to better health”.
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..That’s the advice by the Queensland State government to their doctors who have been working on 30-80 hour non-stop shifts. This advice is contained in a 102-page Queensland Health Fatigue Risk Management System in response to a complaint that public hospital patients were dying because dangerously tired medics were being forced to work up to 80 hours without a break.(see the Reuter’s report)
The document recommends 400 milligrams of coffee (6 cups of coffee) as a fatigue fighter, so that the exhausted doctors can continue their duties. 600 milligrams? That’s enough to cause heart palpitations, raised blood pressure, dizziness, anxiety and hand tremors! Not to mention caffeine dependence and addiction.
The background for this astonishing strategy appears to be mainly due to Australia’s ailing public hospital system which is managed by state governments like Queensland, with federal government support. Gross inefficiencies and the rising cost of healthcare have led to insufficient funding and staff shortages. In a scenario similar to the US, urgent healthcare reform is on the cards and Kevin Rudd is seriously considering a federal government takeover.
Back to coffee..lets not forget its beneficial effects. Its a rich source of anti-oxidants like chlorogenic acid and melanoidins. It also helps to prevent diabetes,Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. The jury is still out on whether it causes heart disease although it is known to increase blood pressure. Read more about the health effects of coffee in my earlier posting “Losing Sleep Over Coffee”.
Thanks to Fidel for drawing attention to this news report.
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There are several friends of mine who would not travel abroad or even eat without having chilies by their side, almost to the point of, well.. an addiction! Well, that might be the right word, as it is well-known that the active ingredient of chilies, capsaicin, has been shown to stimulate the production of endorphins, the feel-good chemical produced by your own body in response to strenuous exercise, excitement, pain and orgasm.
This probably explains why people go bungee-jumping, jump off buildings in their parachutes and return for more. Endorphins mimic the ‘hard drugs’ like opiates in their ability to produce natural pain-relief and a sense of well-being, as well as being addictive – the difference being that endorphins are produced within our bodies. Well, this same effect is produced when consuming chilies, due to this production of endorphins. So much so, while Mexico has gained the dubious reputation as a source of clandestine drugs, it has always been known for exporting the legalised form- chilies!
There are many healthy benefits in consuming chilies:
- it prevents sinusistis and blocked noses
- it has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, useful in arthritis and nerve diseases
- capsaicin can fight cancer cells from the prostate
- capsaicin, according to a Duke University study, can can also help to kill the ulcer-causing bacteria, H. pylori
- chilies are high in antioxidant carotenes and flavonoids, and contain about twice the amount of vitamin C found in citrus fruits
Are there any unpleasant effects? Apart from watery eyes, a running-nose and stomach irritation, consuming chilies do cause an irritating cough, due to the capsaicin. See here for a possible cure to the cough.
For chili connoisseurs, many are aware of the Scoville Scale, measured as Scoville Heat Units (SHU) which determines how ‘hot’ different types of chilies are.For those friends of mine who claim to have conquered the bird-eye chili (phrik thai, chili padi), they would be amazed to know that it ranks under moderately hot only (see Thai peppers in above diagram). The real challenge is in trying the world’s hottest chili, Naga Jolokhia, which comes from India. Those who have tried it claim that it is too hot to be taken au naturel and recommend it be pickled in mustard oil and taking the oil, one drop at a time!
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