This is the most widely used category of cosmetics, with products primarily composed of synthetic chemical ingredients. They may contain plant-based, animal-derived, fish oils, or mineral ingredients that have undergone chemical processes.
Long shelf life due to the inclusion of effective preservatives that inhibit microbial growth.
A wide range of functions and elements, easily obtainable through laboratory production.
Cost-effective raw materials.
In recent years, consumers' shift towards a healthier lifestyle has raised questions about the safety of cosmetic ingredients. New research has implicated some of these substances in causing severe health issues and even their association with carcinogenesis.
For example, aestheticians and hairdressers who regularly come into contact with cosmetics have been found to have 2 to 4 times more toxins in their bodies than women who use cosmetics on a daily basis. This is a result of the toxic substances present in cosmetics. It has been proven that every woman using cosmetics burdens her body with 2 kilograms of chemical substances per year. Some of these chemicals are particularly hazardous to the body. The following list includes some of the ingredients that have been accused of unwanted effects from time to time.
Parabens (mainly butyl & isobutyl paraben): Used as preservatives to extend product shelf life and prevent microbial growth. Parabens are estimated to be used in over 13,200 products (shampoos, soaps, creams, conditioners, sunscreens). They have been linked to allergic reactions and dermatitis, considered toxic in large doses, and are under investigation for their role in breast cancer development, as they have been found in biopsies of cancerous tumors. They may also affect hormonal balance in the body.
Petroleum-based or mineral oils (paraffin oil, petrolatum): They create a thin, membrane-like layer on the skin, hindering its ability to breathe, expel toxins, stay hydrated, and generate new healthy cells. Common reactions include blackheads, dehydration, photosensitivity (sensitivity to the sun, leading to pigmentation), and premature skin aging. They are widely used in cosmetics due to their low cost. Mineral oils like petroleum jelly (petrolatum) can cause problems in photosensitive skin, making it more vulnerable to UV radiation and hindering the natural functioning of the body, leading to skin dehydration.
Synthetic colors: They enhance the appearance of cosmetics, making them more visually appealing. They usually contain heavy metals, identified by their initials FD&C or D&C followed by a color and a number. Synthetic colors used to make cosmetics more attractive, as well as hair dyes, should be avoided as much as possible because they are associated with several forms of cancer. You will find them listed as FD&C or D&C, followed by a color or number. For example: FD&C Red No. 6 / D&C Green No. 6.
Synthetic Fragrances The words 'fragrance' and 'parfum' conceal dozens of chemical ingredients that are not listed on the product label. Their combination is responsible for headaches, dizziness, skin irritations, coughing, hyperpigmentation, and more. They may also contain phthalates, toxic substances that harm the kidneys and reduce fertility. Synthetic fragrances used in cosmetics can contain up to 200 different ingredients.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) can be synthetic or plant-based (from coconuts) depending on the company's philosophy. They are used to create foam in shampoos, shower gels, cleansers, and toothpaste. They can cause eye irritation, skin rashes, hair loss, dandruff, and allergies.
Aluminum Compounds (Aluminum Allantoinate, Aluminum Carbonate, Aluminum Chloride) A very common ingredient used in deodorants and antiperspirants. Aluminum compounds can literally stop the body's natural sweating process. They can shrink sweat glands and block pores.
Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) It is a synthetic ingredient (derived from petroleum) found in water-based creams, moisturizers, and cosmetics as an antioxidant. It is highly photosensitive and can cause severe irritation when exposed to the sun, as well as allergic skin reactions.
Acetone The well-known 'acetone' used as a solvent for nail polish is classified as a hazardous substance. It can cause dry mouth, dizziness, nausea, speech difficulties, and, in extreme cases, coma. It acts as a depressant of the central nervous system (CNS).
Ammonium Hydroxide Compounds Many ammonium hydroxide compounds are used in cosmetics. They are toxic and can trigger allergic reactions in many people. Prolonged exposure can lead to coughing, and respiratory distress resulting in pulmonary edema, which can be fatal.
Diethanolamine (DEA) Often used in cosmetics as a pH regulator. It is also used in many fatty acids to convert the acid into stearic acid salts, which are then used as a base in creams. DEA can cause allergic reactions, and eye & skin irritation. Prolonged use can be toxic.
Mercury Compounds Mercury compounds are easily absorbed through the skin via topical application and tend to accumulate in the body. They may cause allergic reactions, irritant dermatitis, or even neurotoxic events. The use of mercury compounds in cosmetics is limited to those used in the eye area, in concentrations not exceeding 65 parts per million (0.0065%) of calculated mercury as a metal, and provided that there is no other effective and safe preservative. All other cosmetics containing mercury are considered adulterated unless the quantity is less than 0.0001% of the total product.
Below are summarized the most common adverse effects of synthetic cosmetics that can be observed during their use:
Phototoxic or photoallergic dermatitis
Acne from cosmetics (cosmetic acne)
Exacerbation of skin conditions.
There has been a lot of talk about sweetening agents lately. Sugar is everywhere, well hidden by the food industry. Therefore, it is necessary to understand what happens with the sweet taste that gives us pleasure, but unfortunately, many times leads us mathematically to diseases that can seriously threaten our health. I would like to emphasize that the mentioned sweetening agents are being examined here for their toxicity, whether they are natural or not, and for how high blood sugar peaks they may cause. These peaks, or in other words, abnormal fluctuations in our blood sugar levels, are the cause of unpleasant conditions and many diseases.
the Sugar of the Future
The leaves of Stevia are very sweet & calorie-free and do not raise blood sugar levels.
It is a plant from the chrysanthemum family primarily cultivated in Brazil and Paraguay. Its leaves, when chewed, have a very sweet taste with a hint of licorice. The plant yields an extract that is 300 times sweeter than sugar.
Inhabitants of the Southern Hemisphere have been using it for hundreds of years as a sweetener, food, and medicine due to its remarkable antidiabetic, antihypertensive, antiseptic, wound-healing, antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. It boosts the body's defenses and protects against viruses, viral cancers, DNA damage, and other health issues.
In the "civilized world," ten countries, including Japan, where it was first introduced as a sweetener in Coca-Cola, have been using Stevia for some time. However, in the United States, it is only accepted as a dietary supplement and not as an ingredient in foods and beverages. In Europe, after a challenging journey (for what reason?), Stevia is now approved and even cultivated in our country.
The accepted daily dose is 4 mg/kg of body weight, although larger quantities are also acceptable due to a significant safety margin. This limit applies to adults and children (excluding infants) and is equivalent to a Stevia extract consumption of 12 mg per kilogram of body weight. Thus, a person weighing 70 kilograms can consume 840 mg per day.
Additionally, Stevia has anti-aging effects on the skin, promotes oral hygiene, protects against Candida and canker sores, gum inflammation, and has a preventive effect against plaque and tooth decay. It can be used in sweets, chewing gum, toothpaste, beverages, chocolates, cosmetics, shampoos, and even pet food. It does not cause any blood sugar spikes.
In an experiment conducted in 2019 at the IN VITRO Medical Laboratories of Biopathology in Anavyssos, Attica, we examined glucose levels after consuming 75 grams of chocolate sweetened exclusively with Stevia, involving 12 volunteers, including myself and my colleagues at the laboratory. None of the 12 experienced blood sugar levels exceeding 113 mg/dl in the first 60 minutes (peak value), and by 90 minutes, blood glucose levels had already fallen to fasting levels. Impressive. Stevia does not cause blood sugar peaks.
Despite vehement reactions against Stevia from various sugar industry multinationals and other sweeteners, which have been proven to be carcinogenic substances, the international scientific community regards Stevia as the sugar of the future. After its approval as a sweetener by the EU, Stevia is now used in various foods and beverages, including chocolates, and it can withstand temperatures up to 200 degrees Celsius, making it suitable for cooking, unlike aspartame, which breaks down at just 30 degrees."
Sugar Unprocessed from Sugar Cane
of dark brown color, it is slightly moist, has a non-crystalline texture, and has an aroma reminiscent of liquorice.
Beware of the imitation sugar found in various cafes or even in supermarkets, which is actually sugar dyed with molasses or other coloring agents. You can find it in stores with organic products, and besides its dark brown color, it is slightly moist, has a non-crystalline texture, and an aroma reminiscent of licorice. Among the various types available in the market, the best brands are Mascobado, Panela, and Demerara. It's important to note, however, that this is still sucrose, like the sugar in our kitchen, but it has undergone less processing. Nevertheless, it still consists of one molecule of glucose and one of fructose, which requires caution regarding the peaks of these two substances. It's good to prefer it over white sugar but always in small quantities.
Thick and clear like honey, with a flavor that varies depending on the type (rice maltose, barley maltose, or other cereals) and often resembles the taste of caramel. Corn maltose is sweeter. Maltose is more natural than sugar, but it also has a high glycemic index. Maltose is also a disaccharide, composed of 2 glucose molecules linked together. This, in a considerable amount, will give us a blood sugar peak.
Found in the thick leaves of the Mexican agave cactus. It contains 95% fructose and has a very low glycemic index (20-25). Its taste is quite neutral, and it is slightly less sweet than maltose and sycamore syrup. It is suitable as a sweetener for beverages and sweets. The fact that it is almost entirely fructose makes it a sweetener to avoid because, as we have mentioned, fructose not only leads to high blood sugar peaks but also cannot be stored and is mostly converted into fat.
This is a product made from processing the juice of the Canadian sycamore tree. It contains minimal sucrose and has fewer calories than sugar (40 calories per tablespoon). Additionally, it contains trace elements such as copper, manganese, iron, and calcium. You can find it in stores specializing in organic products. It contains 68% sugar, so it should be used sparingly.
Honey is actually an animal product, so it cannot be included in a vegan diet. Bees, after collecting nectar from flowers and processing it with their saliva in their intestines, excrete it as honey. In nature, honey exists to nourish the queen bee and meet the needs of the hive. It contains fructose, maltose, glucose, vitamins, and trace elements, but as a food, it retains its nutritional value only when it is raw and minimally processed. Most commercially available honey is heated during processing, causing the sugars it contains to break down, enzymes with bacteriostatic properties to be destroyed, and its flavor to be altered. These are factors that should be taken into serious consideration. However, I've been informed by beekeepers that honey processing now follows the necessary standards. We consume it in moderation because it also contains fructose, glucose, and maltose, but it's preferred over sugar. Be cautious in supermarkets where honey is often adulterated with added sugar. Do not consume large quantities.
Fructose is the primary sugar (but not the only one) found in fruits and honey. It is best obtained through natural sources like fruits and vegetables. The fructose sold in white crystalline form, similar to sugar, is a product devoid of other substances such as water, vitamins, and minerals, and therefore lacks nutritional value. However, fructose, compared to sucrose, has the advantage of having a very low glycemic index. Nevertheless, overconsumption can disrupt our metabolism. It's essential to remember that fructose leads to a blood sugar peak 10 times higher than glucose and, since it cannot be stored as glycogen like glucose, is mostly converted into fat, making it advisable to avoid excessive consumption.
sweeteners to avoid
Aspartame is a sweetener created by Monsanto. It is a chemically synthesized sweetening agent (E951) that is 200 times sweeter than sugar.
Aspartame is a sweetener created by Monsanto. It is a chemically synthesized sweetening agent (E951) that is 200 times sweeter than sugar. It is used in dietary products such as soft drinks, candies, chewing gums, pharmaceutical syrups, and children's antibiotics. It can irritate the intestines, and its excessive use can lead to serious illnesses. (Soffriti, M., et al., "Aspartame induces lymphomas and leukemias in rats," European Journal of Oncology, vol. 10, no. 2, July 2005).
The B. Ramazzini Research Institute of the European Foundation of Oncology Research in Bologna conducted a study on rats with alarming results: "Aspartame is a carcinogenic agent capable of causing lymphomas and leukemias in female rats at doses acceptable in human diets. The data also revealed that there was no weight loss in the groups using aspartame compared to those that did not."
Aspartame, at a temperature of 30°C, produces 10% methanol, a toxic alcohol (common in "bombs" cocktails), which is then metabolized in the intestine into formaldehyde, a toxic and dangerous substance used in the paint industry, embalming techniques, and furniture manufacturing. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified formaldehyde with certainty as a substance that causes cancer in humans. It also causes severe damage to brain cells, with the risk of blindness.
Acesulfame Potassium is a chemical sweetening substance (E950). It is a potassium salt with a powerful sweetening effect that remains unchanged for many years (and that is certainly not a good thing). According to research on animals and human volunteers, acesulfame potassium undergoes no metabolism in the body, meaning it is not used by the organism and is excreted unchanged in urine. It is used as a sweetener in dietary products, especially for diabetics, soft drinks, and pharmaceuticals. Despite the fact that various organizations, such as the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Scientific Committee of the European Union (which unfortunately often succumbs to political influences), do not classify acesulfame potassium as toxic, this should not necessarily be reassuring. This substance is a chemically synthesized product unknown to our metabolic systems and immune systems. The side effects of this substance have not yet been recorded, but inevitably, they will be documented at some point. Until then, caution is advised.
Other sweetening substances that are not metabolized in our bodies include sucralose and cyclamic acid. The latter has not been approved by the FDA. Beware, as there are many soft drinks (all "light" and "zero" varieties) that contain such substances. It is best to avoid them.
Saccharin was discovered in 1879 by two researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, USA. It is the first artificial sweetening substance, 300 times sweeter than sugar, with a bitter and metallic aftertaste, which is mitigated by mixing it with aspartame. Saccharin is heat-resistant and inert. Already in the 1960s, after research studies, it was characterized as a carcinogen, and in 1977, its sale was prohibited in Canada. Despite contradictions regarding its side effects, it was the only available sweetening substance for diabetics, who protested strongly against its possible prohibition in the United States, ultimately prevailing over scientific research. Saccharin does not alter insulin levels and provides no energy to our bodies, but a diabetic who wants to "sweeten" things should not necessarily risk cancer!
In the VegAnic system, all sweetening substances are to be avoided. As we have seen, there are many alternative options to avoid white sugar and chemical sweeteners.
Sucralose is produced by chlorinating sugar, meaning it is a chlorocarbon. Note that chlorocarbons are mainly used as pesticides in chlorine, in many disinfectants, insecticides, and in pesticides suspected of being carcinogenic. Despite publications from international scientific institutes characterizing sucralose as a toxic sweetening substance, both the FDA (USA) and the EFSA (EU) have classified sucralose as a "safe" sweetening substance. What do you say? Sucralose reduces our intestinal flora by about 50%, as well as P-glycoprotein (P-gp), which reduces the bioavailability and thus the action of almost all the medicines we use to improve our health. It is used in soft drinks, sweets, and chewing gum, and is the sweetening substance in Diet Pepsi Cola.
OTHER STRANGE-SOUNDING SUGARS WE SEE ON LABELS
Mannitol, Xylitol, and Sorbitol, contrary to what one might think considering their names, are natural substances found in fruits and the plant world. Note that they are extracted through chemical processes, but at least their molecule is recognizable by our bodies. So, we cannot compare them to aspartame and its ilk, which are definitely to be avoided!
Gerassimos Tsiolis, PhD in BiochemistryUniversity of Bologna, Italy
(Excerpt from my book "Glucose: Friend and Foe")
Glucose peaks are abnormal fluctuations in glucose levels that indicate the variability of blood sugar. We can also call them continuous spikes in blood sugar. High peaks can cause serious harm to our health. They depend on the consumption of all sugars, including those found in fruits and honey, or even in foods that are often unsuspected. Sugars are the 'enemies' of our body. However, we can get to know them better in order to consume them correctly, so as to keep the glycemic curve low, which is essential for our health.
Sugars are everywhere. We eat a lot of them, often without realizing it, putting our health at risk. For many years, we believed that measuring sugar was enough to show us the consequences of glycemia in our bodies. Today, however, we know that what seriously affects our health is the damage caused by glucose peaks. Regardless of whether someone is diabetic or not, peaks harm us all.
Sudden hunger and chronic fatigue are just a few of the mild and common symptoms. In more serious cases, they include cardiovascular problems, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer's.
In this book, we will explore numerous studies from universities and advice from scientists who study glycemia intensively. They will explain why glucose peaks and unstable glycemia are dangerous and how to regulate them without giving up the pleasure of our favorite foods, including sweets and carbohydrates.
What exactly triggers a glycemic peak? Let's have a little chemistry lesson. Don't worry; chemistry is the easiest subject of all, with no surprises. When you combine 2 or more molecules or compounds in a chemical reaction, you know the result precisely, and it's also the most fascinating subject because it explains the world, life, love, our love for glucose, and even death. The reason why most children today don't know chemistry, ask the teachers of Secondary Education. Only they know. However, the only ones who are not to blame are the children.
So, a little chemistry. Our cells, like those of plants and animals, need energy to live, and the primary source of this energy is glucose. We get glucose from foods in the form of 2 carbohydrates: starch and sugars.
These sugars, which include glucose, fructose, sucrose (1 molecule of glucose + 1 molecule of fructose), and lactose (1 molecule of glucose + 1 molecule of galactose), are called 'rapidly absorbed carbohydrates' or 'simple sugars.' We find them in many foods like fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. However, we also find them as artificial additives in many other foods, such as bread, soft drinks, and snacks. We even find them as sweeteners, and we must pay attention to those as well.
Foods containing natural sugars also contain dietary fibers, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that slow down the absorption of sugars and make us feel full. In contrast, so-called processed foods are designed to be tastier and more attractive to consumers but have minimal dietary fiber because it complicates the production process, both in packaging and freezing-thawing. I would say here that processed and over-processed foods, poor in dietary fiber and rich in sugars, are useless calories, dangerous, and not at all nutritious.
When we have a glucose test with a pathologist, they take our blood while fasting, and immediately afterward, we consume a glucose solution (containing 1 gram of glucose per kilogram of the individual's weight, not 75 grams for all individuals). After 60 minutes, they take our blood again, and once more after 60 minutes. This gives us 3 samples, which are sufficient to examine the glucose or sugar curve. There are curves that measure glucose levels at 30 minutes, as well as at 150 and 180 minutes, but these are done in special cases.
The purpose of the curve is to determine if we are diabetic, if we are in a prediabetic stage, or if we have normal glucose metabolism.
When we receive the test results and look at the curve, we will see that the highest value corresponds to the blood drawn at 60 minutes. This value is also known as the glucose peak, meaning the peak, the highest point on the curve.
Here, we see two glucose curves. The blue line shows the fluctuation in glucose levels of a diabetic individual, while the green line represents a non-diabetic individual. However, in both cases, glucose has peaked, albeit to different degrees.
An example of the glucose curve, where in one hour we have the peak and then it falls down.
In this book, we will call any glucose value after any meal (we will specify in many meals and breakfasts) that exceeds 30% of the fasting value, which we will now call the baseline value, a 'peak.' High peaks will be the glucose value that exceeds 60% of the baseline value.
EXAMPLE: We measure glucose levels in two individuals who are fasting. Both have a baseline value of 100 mg/dl. We give them each a bowl of cereal with milk, with portions measured to the gram. After 60 minutes, we take a new sample. We observe that one of them has a glucose measurement of 130 mg/dl, while the other has 160 mg/dl.
In the first individual, glucose has peaked (+30% from the baseline value), while in the second individual, it has a high peak (+60% from the baseline value). Both will experience the consequences of these peaks, with the second individual experiencing much worse consequences. We will see why below.
Glucose peaks are harmful to all of us, not just diabetics.
Gerassimos Tsiolis, PhD in BiochemistryUniversity of Bologna, Italy
The Need for Natural Cosmetics
Natural cosmetics are essentially a creation of the last two decades and appear to be gaining ground even in our country.
The demand for less chemically burdened products is steadily increasing, and the shift of consumers towards natural products is now a reality. According to a study conducted by the International Journal of Chemistry (source: www.ccsenet.org/ijc), among a group of individuals, 87% reported using cosmetics, 94% believe that synthetic cosmetics can cause side effects, while only 6% believe that natural cosmetics might cause side effects.
What Are Natural Cosmetics?
There is no internationally recognized method that clearly distinguishes natural cosmetics from others based on objective criteria. Efforts have been made only at the national level in various countries, and there is no specific community directive, although the European Commission has collaborated with Collipa to develop a definition for the most precise concept of what natural cosmetics are, expected to be published in the new Regulation of the European Commission on cosmetics.
However, it is generally accepted that natural cosmetics are products whose ingredients, especially active agents used to provide the desired cosmetic properties, have a natural origin. Natural cosmetics can include ingredients of plant origin (e.g., extracts, essential oils, active plant components, etc.), animal origin, marine origin, or mineral origin, with minimal and safest possible processing.
Based on their composition, they can be classified into two categories:
100% Natural Cosmetics: It is practically impossible to produce a product that is 100% natural, except for a few exceptions like body oils (which may contain essential oils) whose ingredients are 100% of natural origin.
Natural-Origin Cosmetics: Almost all natural cosmetics fall into this category. Their active ingredients are natural substances, but they may contain small amounts of synthetic substances. The percentage of natural substances in them, depending on who certifies them, usually ranges from 10-90%, but does not reach 100%.
However, natural ingredients used in cosmetics until 1996 included several of animal origin, such as collagen, elastin, placenta, which accounted for a significant portion of the ingredients of natural cosmetics at that time due to their proven high effectiveness.
After the 'mad cow crisis,' the use of these substances in cosmetics was prohibited by legislation. For this reason, many companies shifted their focus to plant-based substances, and the term 'plant-based cosmetics' appeared on their packaging, even though these products do not contain only plant-based ingredients. Despite the ban, there are still companies that provide products of animal origin, but they are considered 'purer' according to common consensus, even more so than plant-based products, such as bee-derived products (royal jelly, honey, pollen, propolis, wax).
Advantages of Natural Cosmetics
In the formulation of natural cosmetics, the principles of green chemistry are employed, combining the use of naturally sourced raw materials with environmentally friendly processes to protect consumers from unwanted effects.
Natural cosmetics, due to the many actions that natural ingredients can possess, have broad applications throughout the body, while synthetic cosmetics typically have targeted actions.
Natural cosmetics are generally associated with fewer adverse effects compared to synthetic ones.
They have a stronger appeal to consumers. It is argued that the human body is more receptive to ingredients of natural origin than to synthetic derivatives.
CARBOHYDRATES: SOURCE OF ENERGY
Carbohydrates, also known as sugars or saccharides, are widely prevalent in nature and constitute essential components of food, serving as a source of energy for the organism. They also play structural roles (e.g., starch, glycogen, cellulose) and contribute to flavour characteristics. Carbohydrates are synthesised in plants through the process of photosynthesis and are stored in the form of starch, while in animal organisms, they are stored as glycogen. The term 'carbohydrate' was initially coined because the compounds falling under this category corresponded to the general chemical formula Cx(H2O)x, meaning they originated from hydrated carbon, with hydrogen and oxygen present in the same ratio as in water.
The term 'carbohydrate' persists today even though known compounds such as acetic acid (C2H4O2) or lactic acid (C3H6O3) adhere to the general formula of carbohydrates without possessing their characteristic properties, just as other well-known carbohydrates do not conform to this formula. Thus, the designation 'carbohydrates' is a term for an entire class of compounds.
Carbohydrates are divided into the following groups:
a) Monosaccharides or simple sugars, which are the simplest members of carbohydrates and are not subject to hydrolysis (e.g., glucose, fructose).
b) Oligosaccharides, composed of a small number, typically from two to about ten, monosaccharide units.
c) Polysaccharides, composed of a large number of monosaccharide units, such as amylose, which contains 100-2000 units of the monosaccharide glucose in its molecule. The high-molecular-weight compounds of polysaccharides exhibit differences in their physical and chemical properties compared to the monosaccharides from which they are composed.
The most important polysaccharides in nature include starch (the storage material of plants), glycogen (the storage material of animals), and cellulose (a structural component and supportive material in plants).
GLUCOSE AS A SOURCE OF ENERGY
Glucose plays a central role in human metabolism as it participates in both glycolysis and fermentation processes, thus making it a valuable element for energy production. The choice of cells to utilise glucose or lipids and ketones (by-products of lipid metabolism in hepatic cells when blood glucose levels are low) as an energy source depends on both the specific functions performed by each cell in our organism and our dietary patterns. Nervous and brain cells prefer glucose and require a certain amount of it to function efficiently.
When the body receives a limited amount of carbohydrates from the diet, glycogen stores in the liver and muscles are quickly mobilised to meet this demand. Once these glycogen reserves start depleting, metabolism initiates a conservation program. All cells that do not have an immediate need for glucose reduce their consumption and, if necessary, cease it altogether. Glucose, which at the given moment becomes a rare and precious resource, is made available exclusively to those cells that have an absolute requirement for it, as they cannot survive without it, primarily the nervous cells.
GLUCOSE TRANSPORT IN HUMANS
In the human body, glucose dissolved in the blood, along with the blood itself, functions like a perfect hydraulic system. Cells have the capacity to 'draw in' glucose solution through specialized glucose transporters. This precise mechanism ensures a continuous supply of glucose to cells with high priority, even when blood glucose levels are low. Cells with lower priority for glucose are compelled to resort to secondary energy sources, such as lipids and ketones.
THE WISDOM OF OUR ORGANISM AND OUR OWN WISDOM
To adequately nourish cells with this life-critical substance, the body distributes glucose through the bloodstream. Our bodies are well-equipped to handle situations of glucose deficiency, signalling hunger as an indication of the need for glucose. However, the body is not as well-prepared for situations of excess, as occurs after a meal. In such cases, our bodies must release significant amounts of insulin, a hormone that facilitates the transport of glucose from the blood to cells, and does so rapidly. However, when cells are already saturated with glucose, high levels of glucose can damage their delicate structures. Consequently, cells attempt to find alternative means of utilising glucose, converting it into fat, a secure and passive form of energy storage. Elevated glucose levels and the subsequent insulin release leading to fat creation are the reasons why insulin is now considered the hormone associated with obesity.
Therefore, glucose not only provides energy and serves as the basis for the synthesis of various substances but also poses risks when present in high concentrations in the blood, potentially causing cellular damage and serious illnesses.
Several tissues and cells are exposed to risks associated with high blood glucose concentrations. These tissues are among the first to absorb glucose when needed, especially during episodes of elevated sugar levels. Specifically, the retina, neurons, and endothelial cells are the primary targets of prolonged hyperglycemia. If blood sugar levels remain consistently high, it can lead to chronic complications associated with diabetes, including retinopathy, nephropathy, and vascular damage. In more severe cases, complications may include blindness, neurological damage, limb amputations, cardiovascular diseases, and even cancer. Glucose, being a primary food source, is also exploited by cancer cells.
Thus, glucose offers a dual potential for energy release, either through glycolysis or fermentation. In our bodies, we have cells and tissues that extract the energy they require from fats and ketones. This is dictated by the fact that our bodies do not possess the capacity to store significant amounts of glucose. In humans, glycogen storage lasts only one to two days, even during periods of inactivity. In high-intensity athletic endeavors, our glycogen stores deplete in approximately 30 minutes.
FAT METABOLISM AS AN EMERGENCY ENERGY RESERVE
When glycogen stores are depleted, the only way to produce energy is through the metabolism of fats. The breakdown of fat stores primarily releases fatty acids. Only a small portion of fats, approximately 1/16, produces glycerol, which, in turn, can be converted into glucose. On the contrary, fatty acids are made available for either energy utilization or the formation of ketone bodies (acetoacetic acid, acetone, and beta-hydroxybutyric acid). These ketone bodies serve as an energy source for the brain and cardiac muscles. In situations of glucose deficiency, the brain can activate an energy-saving program that primarily relies on glucose, with the remaining energy coming from ketone compounds.
The Confusion of Concepts
During our university years in Bologna, an exceptional and challenging institution, known as the oldest university in Europe, we attended a seminar where an English Physical Education professor stated, 'Sugar is harmful and impairs performance.' We exchanged bewildered glances! How could sugar be harmful? Sugar provides energy; the brain 'burns glucose,' as do muscles. How could he claim such a thing? He must be crazy! We, the students, couldn't comprehend it. Not immediately, but over time, we came to understand...
Energy and vitality do not come from sugar, specifically sucrose, the white or dark refined crystalline powder we have in our kitchens and use as a sweetening agent in our coffee or tea. The energy that humans need is derived from carbohydrates, not sugar. Carbohydrates, whether simple or complex, constitute all plants, especially fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. When consumed sensibly, these carbohydrates have a beneficial impact. However, it is essential to clarify that just because carbohydrates are good, it does not mean that sugar is also beneficial!
Why Does Sugar Harm Us?
The final product of carbohydrate digestion, starting from starch, is glucose, a simple sugar that belongs chemically to the hexoses (six-carbon atoms). However, this simple sugar is beneficial when produced by the body itself, gradually, starting from complex sugars like starch. Fructose, another simple sugar, is found in fruits and vegetables. What happens if, on the contrary, we consume refined sugar? Problems arise!
Someone might argue that there is no difference since both sugar and natural complex sugars like starch ultimately yield glucose in the digestive process. This is true only if we consider digestion as an "in vitro" event, or a laboratory experiment where only the produced calories matter. However, if we refer to the "in vivo" mechanisms and observe the qualitative characteristics of our diet, we will understand that the absorption of refined sugar in the small intestine occurs too rapidly. The body does not tolerate sudden fluctuations in glucose levels (glycemic).
If glycemic drops to 60 mg/dl, the nervous and hormonal systems react to prevent disturbances and cellular damage that could lead to seizures, hypoglycaemic coma, and death. Conversely, if glycemic reaches 600 mg/dl, there is a risk of death from hyperglycaemic coma. The body then activates mechanisms to prevent these dangers. What actually happens?
The pancreas intervenes by playing a peculiar role. In the center of this gland, the islets of Langerhans regulate blood glucose through the production of insulin and glucagon, two hormones with complementary functions. Glucagon is the hormone that increases blood glucose, while insulin decreases it through three different mechanisms:
Storing glucose in muscles for physical activity until replenishment.
Storing excess glucose in the liver as glycogen.
Transforming glucose molecules into fat.
If the increase in blood glucose is slow, the pancreatic response will be limited, and various mechanisms will come into play gradually. Conversely, if the increase is rapid, as in the case of refined sugar and some other high glycemic index foods, the response from the pancreas will be rapid and drastic. It will lead to a sharp increase in insulin, which necessarily floods the bloodstream in an explosive and forceful manner. The effects of this event will be a sudden decrease in blood glucose levels, with the consequent risk of hypoglycaemia, prompting the body to mobilise its sugar stores (glycogen). Thus, a vicious cycle is initiated where individuals constantly feel tired, leading to obesity and type II diabetes. If such a person stops consuming sweets for two weeks, they will immediately feel an increase in energy and significant relief in their body.
It's worth noting that among simple sugars (mainly glucose and fructose), fructose has a slower absorption rate, making it a better choice when obtained directly from fruits and vegetables rather than chemically processed sources.
Finally, the sugar we buy for our homes is a refined sweetener that comes from the processing of sugar beets or sugar cane. Its name is sucrose, and it's a plant-derived sugar that has become artificially processed. Furthermore, sucrose is a disaccharide (composed of one glucose and one fructose molecule) that exists in some plants and fruits but is never formed in the digestive process. Indeed, when we consume carbohydrates, we will eventually reach glucose through the breakdown of substances like dextrose and maltose from starch. Sucrose is never formed, but if introduced into the body, it will break down into glucose and fructose due to the enzyme sucrase.
However, a deficiency in this enzyme in the duodenum and the first part of the ileum, which is common in humans, allows a significant amount of undigested sucrose to pass through the small intestine. This can lead to fermentation and discomfort in the body. This condition can be referred to as sugar intolerance, and it generally goes unrecognised, mainly because few dietitians dare to completely prohibit their patients from consuming sugar-containing sweets. Nevertheless, a VegAnic dietitian would dare to do so because they possess deep knowledge of the metabolic and psychological consequences of sugar abuse and would suggest better alternatives as sweeteners.
Similar is the intolerance to lactose, as almost all of us have reduced levels of lactase, which breaks down lactose (milk sugar) into galactose and glucose. Thus, lactose reaches the colon to be metabolised by the intestinal flora, which is ill-equipped for this task, causing gas and toxic metabolites that irritate the intestinal mucosa, leading to diarrheas and abdominal discomfort, among other adverse conditions.
CARBOHYDRATE METABOLISM AND GLYCEMIC INDEX
Sugars constitute the primary source of energy for the entire organism, with glucose being the sole active substrate utilized by the brain. However, unlike muscles, the brain lacks the capacity to store glucose. Therefore, its function depends on a continuous and uninterrupted supply of sugars in the bloodstream. Deprivation of glucose for even a few minutes can result in cellular death in brain cells. To mitigate this, the body has a series of endocrine and exocrine glands involved in carbohydrate metabolism, including the salivary glands, pancreas, liver, and thyroid.
The carbohydrates we consume, including starch, first encounter salivary amylase in the mouth, which continues its action in the stomach. When food passes from the stomach to the duodenum, the pancreas secretes pancreatic amylase to refine digestion and convert complex carbohydrates (starch) into glucose, which can be absorbed in the small intestine. At this point, it is essential to discuss the glycemic index.
The glycemic index is a numerical representation of the speed at which blood glucose levels rise after consuming a specific food compared to the rate of increase caused by a reference food, conventionally set as glucose, with a value of 100. The higher the number, the faster blood glucose levels rise.
It is advisable to prefer foods with a low glycemic index (below 60) because a rapid increase in blood glucose levels (fast transport of sugars from the small intestine to the bloodstream) makes it more challenging for the pancreas to regulate insulin secretion. This, in turn, leads to increased difficulties in controlling body weight, cholesterol levels, electrolyte balance, and overall health.
Carbohydrates with a low glycemic index include fruits and vegetables, with some exceptions (such as carrots, potatoes, pumpkin, watermelon, cantaloupe, and grapes). Whole-grain cereals, legumes, and dried fruits also have a low glycemic index. Carbohydrates with a high glycemic index are sugary sweets, soft drinks, white bread, white pasta, and polished rice.
Of course, discussing the glycemic index without considering the glycemic load, or the quantity of carbohydrates consumed throughout the day, would be misleading. Excessive consumption of carbohydrates, even with a low glycemic index, still poses risks for weight gain and other health factors. However, it is easier to lose control when basing our diet on high glycemic index foods, which provide less satiety and nourishment.
If the majority of carbohydrates consumed are derived from cereals, legumes, and vegetables, the absorption of carbohydrates will be slower, resulting in a lower glycemic index.
Now, discussing carbohydrate metabolism, the primary source of energy, without addressing the topic of physical activity, would be incomplete and misleading. These two factors are closely interconnected.
The more sedentary one's lifestyle, the higher the chances of developing insulin resistance, leading to obesity and the development of dyslipidemia and various diseases. In fact, a sedentary lifestyle renders the muscles and liver less responsive to insulin, forcing them to convert excess glucose into fat to prevent prolonged high blood glucose levels, which poses a serious risk to our health.
Physical exercise is, therefore, the most effective means of combating insulin resistance and maintaining a muscular system capable of efficiently utilizing glucose. In essence, it is moderate physical exercise that promotes the harmonious interaction between the musculoskeletal and hormonal systems, helping us avoid serious health problems.
Gerassimos Tsiolis, PhD in BiochemistryUniversity of Bologna, Italy
Also known as multiple sclerosis (MS), it is a chronic, autoimmune, inflammatory, and neurodegenerative disease of the central nervous system (CNS). It is estimated that since 2008, 2.5 million individuals worldwide have been affected by the disease. It is commonly referred to as a disease of young adults, primarily affecting individuals between the ages of 25-35, with a higher prevalence in women. It constitutes the leading cause of disability today.
In 2008, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated the global median prevalence of multiple sclerosis to be 30 cases per 100,000 individuals. The prevalence varies significantly in different regions: a) regions with low prevalence (approximately 5 cases per 100,000 individuals in Central Asia), b) regions with high prevalence (Australia, Canada, the United States, and Europe with more than 60 cases per 100,000 individuals).
On a global scale, the average age of onset of the disease is 29 years (range: 25th to 32nd year of age). The disease initially presents with a relapsing-remitting form characterized by unpredictable acute episodes of neurological symptoms (relapses), followed by periods of remission during which there is partial or complete recovery of deficits incurred during the relapse. However, as the disease progresses, it results in permanent neurological impairments. Approximately 75% of patients will develop clinically definite multiple sclerosis within approximately 25 years, characterized by a gradual increase in disability during relapses, followed by worsening disability.
Multiple sclerosis is an inflammatory disorder in which the autoimmune response targeting myelin proteins in the CNS leads to the destruction of the myelin sheath surrounding neuronal axons. These autoimmune processes are mediated by self-reactive lymphocytes that become activated, proliferate, and mature in lymph nodes. Subsequently, these lymphocytes enter the bloodstream and cross the blood-brain barrier, causing localized inflammation, demyelination, gliosis, and axonal loss. These pathological changes, visualized as lesions in the Central Nervous System (CNS) on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), serve as hallmarks of the disease. The tissue damage resulting from inflammation occurs in the early stages of the disease and can, to some extent, be compensated by endogenous repair mechanisms, such as remyelination and axonal remodelling.
Nevertheless, as the disease worsens, these CNS repair processes begin to fail, leading to progressive, irreversible neurodegeneration and disability.
The destruction of the myelin sheath around axons at lesion sites can eventually result in axonal transection and disrupt nerve conduction. Repeated inflammatory episodes lead to cumulative axonal loss, which is associated with the onset of permanent disability. In the early stages of the disease, there is remyelination by oligodendrocyte progenitor cells, which produce myelin, thus contributing to a reduction in disease pathology. However, as plaque sclerosis progresses, remyelination decreases, possibly due to the depletion or inadequate production of precursor oligodendrocytes that can mature into remyelinating cells. This increased lesion burden leads to permanent tissue loss, as reflected in MRI scans.
The cumulative effect of these neurodegenerative changes is the progressive, irreversible atrophy of the brain, a common feature of all forms of multiple sclerosis. Brain volume is expected to decrease by approximately 0.5–1.35% per year. In comparison, this rate in healthy adults is around 0.1–0.4%.
Common symptoms include motor problems such as gait and balance issues, fatigue, optic neuritis with accompanying visual disturbances, urinary and bowel problems, and pain. The course of symptoms typically consists of two main stages: sudden exacerbation episodes lasting from a few days to months, referred to as relapses, followed either by improvement in 85% of cases or gradual worsening over time without periods of recovery in 10-15% of cases, or a combination of these two scenarios. Relapses are usually unpredictable. Viral infections such as the common cold, flu, and gastroenteritis can exacerbate the condition. Stress can also trigger a crisis. Pregnancy reduces the risk of relapse, but the risk increases after childbirth.
The causes of multiple sclerosis are unknown. It is believed to result from a combination of environmental and infectious factors, along with genetics. Various theories have been proposed, but none have been proven. The disease is more common in regions far from the equator, particularly in Northern Europe. Reduced exposure to sunlight leading to decreased vitamin D production has been suggested as an explanation for this geographic distribution. I will discuss the role of this essential vitamin later in this article.
It is not considered an inherited disease, but a series of genetic variations increase the risk. If both parents are affected, it has been statistically shown that the risk for their children is ten times greater than that of the general population. It would be more accurate to say that we still do not fully understand the genetic factors related to multiple sclerosis. In the case of identical twins, both siblings are affected in 30% of cases, whereas in non-identical twins, this occurs in 5% of cases. Specific genes associated with multiple sclerosis include variations in the HLA antigen of white blood cells. This HLA region has also been implicated in other autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes and systemic lupus erythematosus. Overall, it has been estimated that HLA changes account for 20 to 60% of the genetic predisposition. Modern genetic methods, such as whole-genome association studies, have identified 12 additional genes that increase the risk of multiple sclerosis. Even microorganisms have been implicated as a cause of multiple sclerosis, as well as viruses like the Epstein-Barr virus, known as the infectious mononucleosis virus.
Smoking, as well as stress, are also risk factors. Work conditions, toxins, hormone intake, and certainly POOR DIET.
There is no known cure. Various treatment methods aim to restore function after an episode and to prevent new episodes and disability. Like any medical treatment, drugs administered to those with multiple sclerosis have several side effects. For these reasons, many patients turn to alternative therapies.
THE ROLE of VITAMIN D
As previously mentioned, many individuals suffering from multiple sclerosis, and given that they do not observe any cure for the disease (treatments often address symptoms and are frequently unsuccessful), turn their attention and hopes to alternative therapies. Here, I will recount an incident that happened to me recently. I was invited to speak with the board of the Multiple Sclerosis Patients Association. The meeting took place at the association's offices, located at the old airport (Hassani), which was once the site of the American base in Elliniko, Greece. I spoke to them about Ganoderma, also known internationally as Reishi, and how it can assist them as a dietary supplement. I also referred them to international literature on the subject. Furthermore, I emphasized how a combination of Ganoderma, vitamin D, and Omega-3 would be highly beneficial. When I finished, a lady told me that their doctors allowed them to take some "herbs" if they wished, as long as these "do not interfere with the body's biochemistry." After a moment of surprise and astonishment, I explained that anything a person consumes, even a sip of water, a small bite of bread, or a spoonful of sweet milk, or anything else for that matter, will indeed "enter the body's biochemistry." Enzymes will be involved in its breakdown, its nutrient components will enter the bloodstream, and the rest will be eliminated through the digestive tract, among other processes. I also told them that when we ask someone about a topic, there are two possibilities: those who know about the topic and those who do not. Those who do not know would do well to say, "I don't know!" As I say in all my lectures, and I have given many in various parts of Greece on the pharmacological properties of Ganoderma, for which I have written the book "Ganoderma the Miraculous," www.ganodermathemiraculous.com, there is nothing more ethical and admirable than admitting, "I don't know." By doing so, one opens the door to knowledge and has the opportunity to learn what was previously unknown. I am not entirely sure if the aforementioned lady's suggestion was made by an actual doctor, but if it was, I consider it simply unacceptable. Hundreds of thousands of esteemed scientists around the world conduct serious studies, and numerous universities conduct research on the ancestors of pharmaceuticals, which are herbs.
These herbs have evolved and have given rise to drugs. Billions of people use various alternative treatment methods, often with significant results. Of course, this is "unpleasant" for the pharmaceutical industry, but we will not delve into that sorrow now. I want to emphasize that patients should be informed and should be allowed to decide freely. They have a say, especially as patients who have a choice in the treatment they will pursue. Ganoderma will help them, and they will see it very soon, with scientific evidence. Ganoderma contains a plethora of ingredients, from organic germanium with its maximum oxygenation of nerve cells to triterpenoids that stimulate oligodendrocytes in myelin production for remyelination.
Vitamin D, which is abundant in Ganoderma, also plays a significant role in the treatment of multiple sclerosis. Researchers from the Multiple Sclerosis Society Cambridge Centre for Myelin Repair, as well as many others in various university clinics (read more on the subject), have observed that vitamin D receptors are linked to a protein called RXR gamma receptor, known for its involvement in myelin repair. By adding vitamin D to brain stem cells where RXR proteins were present, it was observed that the rate of oligodendrocyte production, responsible for remyelination of damaged neuron axons in the central nervous system and spinal cord, increased.
Another study conducted at Johns Hopkins University confirms that vitamin D can either prevent or alleviate the symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases. This research was based on the observation that countries with minimal sunlight and, consequently, a deficiency in vitamin D, also have increased cases of multiple sclerosis. However, the fact that our country receives ample sunlight throughout the year does not reassure us. In a recent study I conducted with Harokopio University (March - May 2016), we measured vitamin D levels in 26 volunteers. Among the 26 samples, 18 had very low levels of vitamin D, 5 had low levels, and only 3 had levels that approached normal limits.
Therefore, in our country, a significant portion of the population has very low vitamin D levels. This happens for two reasons. Firstly, in order to produce vitamin D in our bodies, sunlight exposure is essential. Fifteen to twenty minutes per day is sufficient to meet this requirement. During the summer in our country, this is achievable, although not without the well-known risks that can threaten our health (e.g., malignant melanoma due to excessive sun exposure). However, during the winter, many people neglect this. Additionally, poor diet choices made by most of us, often without taking supplements into account, are considered essential since the raw materials we use to prepare our daily meals are of unacceptable quality. I should also mention that after the initial laboratory measurements of the 26 volunteers (all women), they were given a special diet based on mushrooms, which are known to contain large quantities of vitamin D. After 2 months, an increase in vitamin D levels in the volunteers' serum was observed, ranging from 18% to 82%. ***
Α FEW WORDS ABOUT VITAMIN D
Vitamin D is a steroid hormone that plays a crucial role in the intestinal absorption of calcium and the regulation of calcium-phosphorus homeostasis. It assists in maintaining normal calcium and phosphorus levels within the body. Its role extends to the formation and maintenance of strong and healthy bones, as well as supporting neuromuscular function. Furthermore, it has significant implications for nearly all cells of the immune system. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a wide range of diseases, including heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and cancer.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin synthesized in the skin upon exposure to ultraviolet radiation. However, sun exposure can be influenced by factors such as season, time of day, geographic location, skin type, sunscreen use, and age. Less than 10% of our vitamin D comes from dietary sources, primarily when supplemented through dietary supplements.
Certain foods are rich in vitamin D, including salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and tuna, dairy products, egg yolks, beef liver, and notably, mushrooms. It is worth noting that a recent study found that taking vitamin D with orange juice could result in up to five times higher serum levels compared to taking it with milk.
Daily exposure to sunlight for a few minutes can cover the body's daily vitamin D requirements. Exposure for 15-20 minutes in sunlight between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., without sunscreen, three times a week, is adequate to provide the necessary vitamin D to our bodies. During this time, the body can produce 10,000 to 20,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D. However, many people do not get sufficient sun exposure during the winter months.
Therefore, it is essential to measure vitamin D levels in the body, through a test called total vitamin D [25(OH)D], to prevent deficiency-related health issues. Low vitamin D levels can result from inadequate sunlight, dietary deficiency, poor vitamin absorption, or disorders in liver sterol metabolism. It is not recommended to measure 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D levels to detect vitamin D deficiency, as these levels can be misleadingly normal in individuals with significant vitamin deficiency.
Obesity, among other serious health problems, has been shown to cause vitamin D deficiency. Recent studies have indicated that every 10% increase in Body Mass Index (BMI) leads to a 4% further decrease in available vitamin D in the body.
Individuals who should undergo vitamin D level testing include those with suspected deficiency (e.g., individuals with persistent, non-specific musculoskeletal pain, rickets, osteomalacia, osteoporosis, chronic kidney disease, liver insufficiency, malabsorption syndromes, hyperparathyroidism). Additionally, pregnant or breastfeeding women, elderly adults with a history of non-traumatic fractures, obese individuals, homebound individuals, and infants breastfeeding from mothers with vitamin D deficiency should be tested. Also, individuals taking medications associated with reduced vitamin D levels, such as antiepileptics, glucocorticoids, antifungals, and cholestyramine, as well as ALL patients with multiple sclerosis.
Normal vitamin D values in ng/ml
STATUS RANGE OF VALUES
Deficiency < 11.0 Insufficiency 11.0 – 29.0 Sufficiency 30.0 – 100 Toxicity > 100
Gerassimos Tsiolis, PhD in BiochemistryUniversity of Bologna, Italy
** According to existing data, it has been observed that 33% of individuals tested at Quest Diagnostics laboratories in the USA had vitamin D insufficiency, while 60% had either deficient or suboptimal levels. In our country, despite the abundant sunshine for 300 days a year, the vast majority of women and many men have vitamin D insufficiency.
***Data from a study conducted by the medical laboratories "In Vitro" , in collaboration with the Charokopio University of Athens.
It is a reasonable question to ask, as there is much discussion lately about herbs and dietary supplements.
Today, with the hectic pace of life we lead, things have changed in a way that is not conducive to our health. Hard work under unfavorable conditions, stress, poor diet, increasingly sedentary lifestyles, and, why not, a healthcare system that is often perceived as hostile to citizens, along with the ongoing economic problems faced by all countries around the world (for various reasons), all pose high-risk factors for our health. Symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, lack of concentration, loss of appetite or binge eating, migraines, constipation, erectile dysfunction, and a complete lack of sexual desire serve as warning signs. Let's pay attention because our bodies are finely tuned machines that don't complain for no reason. Each of us can feel this. Let's not ignore the impending threat to our lives. Our bodies speak to us, and we need to learn to listen.
First and foremost, let's pay attention to our diet. It is paramount for maintaining good health. Processed foods, incorrect meal preparation even at home, and the raw materials used in our food, which are not necessarily of the best quality today (for example, most flours are refined), deprive us of the complex of B vitamins that are essential for our bodies. They also deprive us of the dietary fibers found in cereal bran, which our intestines eagerly await. Furthermore, the lack of truly fresh vegetables and fruits and the increased consumption of red meat and fatty foods lead us to a different philosophy. We need to find ways to improve our diet.
So, if our plates are lacking essential ingredients, as mentioned above, we must SUPPLEMENT these nutrients as much as possible. The answer to the question is self-evident: DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS ARE ESSENTIAL!!!
However, let's not get lost in the maze of what is necessary and what is not.
Indeed, if you visit your pharmacy to look for dietary supplements, you will encounter countless products that may confuse you. What should I take among all these? Which ones are truly necessary?
Here, you have your ally in your pharmacist, who is the specialist scientist to advise you accordingly. They have the knowledge to guide you correctly, mainly because they understand Biochemistry. They understand what happens in our bodies when we ingest food and the chemistry of each food item. More than the doctor, especially for the reasons mentioned, they are the specialists.
There are three essential substances that we need to take as supplements. Not thirteen, not a hundred and three. Vitamin C, Omega-3, and vitamin D. The first two on a daily basis, and the latter periodically.
Our bodies need 1-2 grams of vitamin C daily. Since humans do not synthesize this vitamin in their bodies, they need to get it ready-made from nature or supplements. It is nearly impossible to get 1 gram of vitamin C per day from nature. This becomes understandable when we learn that a fresh orange, for example, contains about 50 micrograms of vitamin C. So, we would need to eat 20 oranges to meet our daily need. The question is, can we eat 20 oranges every day? I think not. Therefore, we take a dietary supplement that has an appropriate amount of vitamin C.
Omega-3s are also essential on a daily basis. We cannot get 2-3 grams per day, which is the necessary daily dose, simply by consuming fish, as we would need to eat 12-14 servings per week, which is impossible. Therefore, the second supplement we should purchase is Omega-3. Pay attention here because the oil from fish containing Omega-3 also contains heavy metals that can be harmful if ingested. Look for the label of the product you choose to read the phrase "MOLECULARLY DISTILLED." Molecular distillation removes heavy metals from fish oil, such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and other toxins. It is also good to prefer an Omega-3 supplement made from small fatty fish, such as sardines and anchovies, which do not go to the seabed where heavy metals accumulate.
Now, vitamin D. Strangely, if one reads any relevant study, it is easy to understand that most Greeks have a deficiency in this very important vitamin. Consult your endocrinologist to confirm this. With normal values ranging from 30-100 ng/ml, most of us will have levels between 15 and 20. The same applies to Italians and Spaniards. These are countries with ample sunlight. Why does this happen?
Because we are not eating properly!
Vitamin D does not exist in nature. There is 'pre-vitamin' D, or more precisely D3 or cholecalciferol, which is converted into vitamin D within our bodies through exposure to ultraviolet sunlight. It's not enough to simply ingest vitamin D; we need to get out in the sun. Just 3-4 twenty-minute sessions per week (even with our arms exposed) when the sun is directly overhead are sufficient for our bodies to synthesize the required amount of vitamin D. That's why we need a vitamin D supplement, especially in the autumn and winter. Be sure to choose a supplement that contains 4000-5000 units of vitamin D3, as otherwise, we won't get enough.
So, we have demonstrated that dietary supplements are ESSENTIAL for the proper functioning of our bodies.
In addition to these three essential dietary supplements, there is something else that we need. However, this 'something' requires reading and research. It's a 'companion' that takes care of us daily in terms of our endurance as human beings. It helps us withstand the challenges we face. I am referring to certain substances known as IMMUNE BOOSTERS. These are natural substances that keep our Immune System, the defense mechanism of our body, in excellent condition. This way, our bodies can effectively combat any threat to our health, whether it's a microbe, virus, toxic substance, parasite, or something else. Here, I believe it would be unfair not to mention Ganoderma. Read about it yourselves and choose this 'something' to strengthen your immune system. IT IS NECESSARY!
Alongside these ESSENTIALS that I have described above, there are many products that cater to individual healthcare needs. There are therapeutic products with very positive results. Trust them, and remember that drugs originate from herbs, which have few or minimal side effects, while drugs have many undesirable effects, cleverly hidden from us by the pharmaceutical industry!
Gerassimos Tsiolis, PhD in BiochemistryUniversity of Bologna, Italy
Vitamin B12 is responsible for a wide range of functions in our body, including the metabolism of proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates, as well as the proper functioning of the nervous system. It plays a role in the synthesis of hemoglobin and the production of red blood cells, iron absorption, the secretion of adrenal hormones such as cortisol, aldosterone, adrenaline, and noradrenaline, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, and the maintenance of vitamin A levels in tissues. It also contributes to the healthy functioning of the digestive system.
Vitamin B12 can be obtained from our diet or produced by the normal flora in the last part of the small intestine of a person with a well-functioning gut. After the age of 50, 10-30% of the population shows a decrease in B12 levels, regardless of their dietary habits, indicating a problem of incomplete absorption or continuous reduction in B12.
B12 is present in animal-based foods (meat, fish, dairy, eggs), while it is virtually absent in the plant world. One might wonder how herbivorous animals like cows, goats, and rabbits acquire it. The quantities of B12 in the tissues of these animals do not come from their plant-based diet, but rather from the bacteria present on the surface of the Earth, which colonize their bacterial flora, synthesizing this valuable vitamin.
Why does the bacterial flora of animals produce much more B12 than that of humans? One possible answer to this question is that herbivorous animals eat plants that have not been thoroughly washed and come directly from the ground or a feeder very close to the soil. In contrast, humans wash and clean their food meticulously for hygiene reasons or consume foods that have undergone industrial processing, which further reduces the already minimal B12 content in wild plants or organically grown produce.
Given that modern agriculture today makes food almost entirely devoid of bacteria, a vegetarian or vegan must be careful not to risk medium to long-term B12 deficiency.
CONSEQUENCES OF B12 DEFICIENCY
Values above 200 pg/ml (or 150 pmol/l) are considered normal, while B12 levels below 80 pg/ml (or 60 pmol/l) are a sure sign of B12 deficiency. Reference values vary depending on the methodology of the clinical laboratory, the reference units, and also because some reference values have more statistical significance than physiological-pathological significance. To reach a very severe B12 deficiency, the path is somewhat long and always individual-dependent. Here, we must understand what a B12 deficiency does to our body.
The consequences primarily include hematological diseases (e.g., megaloblastic anemia) but also diseases of the nervous system, both central and peripheral. A deficiency in B12, along with a deficiency in folic or folinic acid, causes, among other things, an increase in homocysteine, a marker of cardiovascular function more significant than LDL or 'bad' cholesterol.
Scientific literature indicates that B12 deficiency is associated with various neurological and psychiatric disorders, complications during pregnancy, neonatal malformations, osteoporosis, and more.
The status of B12 in our body becomes apparent through specialized blood tests that include B12 levels, serum folate, red cell folate, homocysteine, and a blood count.
EXAMINATION REFERENCE VALUES
B12: 204 – 1130 pg/ml
Serum Folic Acid (Folate): 7 - 28 nmol/l
Folic Acid (Erythrocyte): 572 – 1988 pg/ml
Homocysteine: < 10.0 mcmol/l
A deficiency in B12 can also be detected through specialized blood or urine analysis by measuring the levels of MMA (methylmalonic acid), a substance that B12 rapidly metabolizes. Elevated MMA levels unequivocally indicate a B12 deficiency. Unfortunately, this analysis is not yet available in Greek laboratories. Therefore, this parameter is not applicable at the moment.
B12 is the weak point, perhaps the only one, in an exclusively plant-based diet. The discussion on this matter has ignited globally between proponents and opponents of a vegan diet. The ADA (American Dietetic Association) has taken a clear stance that vegetarians have no issues but should take supplements. They state, "No plant food has anything but minuscule amounts of active B12. Foods such as spirulina and various seaweeds are not serious B12 sources. Lacto-ovo vegetarians obtain substantial B12 from dairy products and eggs."
Given that the ADA is an organization that has demonstrated a serious approach to the choices of vegetarians and vegans, it should be taken into serious consideration. However, the issue still requires further investigation since there are positions with different views on what is rightfully called the "Achilles' heel" of vegans.
In general, researchers agree that the body needs a daily dose of 2-3 μg (micrograms) of B12. (1 μg = 1 millionth of a gram). Those who consume meat, fish, or dairy have a reserve, a storage of 2000 – 5000 μg, i.e., 2-5 mg, mainly in the liver, and it would take at least 3 years to deplete this reserve. To put it into perspective, if we had 1 gram of stored B12, it would last us for 600 years. There are cases of vegans who haven't experienced a B12 deficiency even after 30 years. Generally, after 3-5 years of a purely plant-based diet, B12 levels begin to drop. In some individuals, this may happen a bit earlier.
ANYONE CHOOSING TO EAT ONLY PLANT-BASED FOODS MUST TAKE SUPPLEMENTS TO ENJOY ALL THE ADVANTAGES OF A NATURAL PLANT-BASED DIET.
The perfect diet, if it ever existed, no longer exists today. We can talk about a better diet, one that gives us the best advantages and the fewest problems. This is certainly the case for a natural diet based on plant foods.
FOODS CONTAINING B12
Meat – Fish – Seafood – Eggs (yolks) – Dairy (mainly cheeses and yogurt)
B12-enriched foods for vegetarians (mainly cereals)
SYMPTOMS INDICATING POSSIBLE B12 DEFICIENCY
Continuous fatigue, weakness, and a sensation like pins and needles
Pallor and yellowing of the skin
Loss of taste sensation on the tongue (inability to recognize tastes)
Feelings of sadness and anxiety (hormones responsible for happiness or neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine, become inactive)
Severe neurological disorders
Vision and hearing problems
FACTORS THAT LEAD TO B12 DEFICIENCY
Consumption of antioxidants
Helicobacter pylori in the pyloric region
Gastric interventions affecting the mechanisms of the digestive system
Increased coffee consumption (4 cups per day)
Endogenous Factor (Glycoprotein produced by the stomach's parietal cells responsible for B12 absorption in the small intestine).
How Much B12 Should We Take with Supplements
Most studies on this subject agree that B12 absorption is more effective when we take small doses at regular intervals. This can be achieved through the consumption of foods enriched with B12 or supplements that ideally contain only low-dose B12. In fact, when we take a dose of B12 less than 5 mcg, about 60% is absorbed, while taking a dose of 500 mcg or more results in an absorption rate of approximately 1%. Of course, the use of high-dose supplements is also satisfactory (e.g., 2000 mcg), as it provides an absorption of 20 mcg, which is 7-10 times higher than the recommended daily dose of 2-3 mcg. It's worth noting that vegetarians and vegans should regularly check their B12 levels because only testing can confirm that the product they are taking is capable of providing the required B12 amounts. Additionally, because some supplements contain folic acid, which can mask a B12 deficiency (overlap), the recommended panel of tests that should be conducted frequently includes B12, folic acid, homocysteine, and a complete blood count or general blood test. Elevated homocysteine levels, even with normal B12 levels, indicate a B12 deficiency and the need for supplementation. If everything goes well, the subsequent test will show that elevated homocysteine levels have returned to normal.
As mentioned earlier, B12 is found in meat, fish, dairy, and eggs. Some researchers believe that B12 is also found in seaweed and certain traditional Japanese macrobiotic foods like Tempeh and Miso, which are fermented with bacteria. In 2002, Watanabe et al. demonstrated that seaweed, spirulina, and these macrobiotic foods contain minimal amounts of B12, but in an inactive form, so they cannot be considered reliable sources of the vitamin. However, the same researcher in a 2007 study published that green algae and red seaweed (Nori) contain small amounts of active B12, possibly due to the action of certain bacteria that coexist with these algae.
This much-discussed topic appears to have no end in sight. This is quite reasonable since studies are conducted daily in scientific centers worldwide. My advice to vegan friends is simply to undergo periodic examinations to determine when they need to supplement their diet.
Postscript: Let's Not Unfairly Judge Vegans
Many times, negative articles are published about vegans and their B12 deficiency. One of these, in the "New England Journal of Medicine," carried the sensational title "BLINDNESS OF A VEGAN" (in reality, it was a letter and not a research-based article). This letter discussed the case of a 33-year-old who had been a vegan since the age of 13 and experienced vision problems (optic neuropathy). Various examinations revealed a long list of deficiencies in vitamins A, C, D, E, B1, B12, FOLIC ACID, and trace elements like selenium and zinc. All of these indicated poor nutrition. Injectable B12 was administered to address anemia, not the neuropathy in the eyes.
Because this individual had deficiencies not only in B12 but in many other vitamins and minerals, which a vegan diet typically provides in sufficient quantities, it was evident that this person had absorption issues or followed an extremely poor vegan diet with significant deficiencies (e.g., consuming only sweets, processed foods, or cooked foods). This was eventually confirmed. However, newspapers simply emphasized that the individual's problems were due to their vegan diet, which is highly misleading. In reality, most articles published regarding B12 deficiency, whether in infants, children, or adults, relate to cases of individuals with absorption problems or sometimes individuals living in extremely impoverished conditions or adopting an unconventional lifestyle. In other words, the health problems of these individuals are not the result of their chosen vegan diet but rather have other underlying causes.
It is well-known that vegetarians and vegans are generally healthier than the rest of the population. They feel better and contribute philosophically to making humanity and the planet better. At some point, we need to recognize that we can obtain protein from other sources and stop damaging the planet. It's not our sole property!"
Gerassimos Tsiolis, PhD in BiochemistryUniversity of Bologna, Italy
Proteins are large chemical molecules composed of long chains of smaller molecules called amino acids. They play a crucial role in building and supporting the structure of the human body, as well as in the production of vitamins, hormones, various enzymes, and immune system cells. Proteins exhibit diversity in their structure, with four distinct levels of structure, namely primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary. To elucidate the role of proteins as a source of nutrition for humans, it should be noted that, for instance, cooking or heating food may leave the primary and secondary structures of proteins unaffected but can alter their tertiary and quaternary structures. In other words, cooked proteins, including vitamins, do not have the same nutritional value as raw ones, and this should be taken into serious consideration when planning a balanced diet.
The initial interaction of proteins with digestive enzymes occurs in the stomach, thanks to pepsins, which are proteolytic enzymes present in gastric fluid. In the stomach, a mixture of hydrochloric acid and pepsin enables the breakdown (dissolution) of proteins with long chains of amino acids into smaller fragments known as polypeptides. Digestion continues in the duodenum with pancreatic trypsin, another proteolytic enzyme, which further breaks down polypeptides into even smaller fragments called peptides. This process continues until the original structure of amino acids is achieved, regardless of whether they are of plant or animal origin. At this point, they are absorbed through the small intestine and transported through the portal vein to the liver for an initial assessment before being delivered to the tissues of interest through the bloodstream.
THE TWENTY AMINO ACIDS OF LIFE
Chromatography of protein extracts has demonstrated that the amino acids present in the natural proteins of all organisms, whether plant or animal, total twenty. In other words, life speaks only one language, which consists of thousands of words (proteins), constructed from just twenty letters (amino acids). Just as in a language, we have short and long words, these twenty amino acids can form a variety of protein chains of different lengths, which can contain a few tens or even hundreds of these twenty amino acids. There are proteins with nearly identical amino acid sequences that perform entirely different functions thanks to the discerning ability of the central nervous system, the endocrine system, and the immune system, which can distinguish even the slightest differences in their structures, down to the tertiary structure.
Among the twenty amino acids that compose protein chains, ten are considered non-essential, not because they are not necessary in the organism, but because we do not need to obtain them directly from our diet. This is because our bodies can synthesize them from other substances. On the other hand, eight amino acids cannot be synthesized by our bodies and must be acquired through our diet; they are therefore referred to as essential or basic amino acids. Lastly, two amino acids, histidine and arginine, are semi-essential because they are necessary in neonates during growth but not in adults. Rich sources of histidine, arginine, and the other eight essential amino acids include grains, legumes, nuts, and oilseeds.
There is no difference between amino acids of plant or animal origin in biochemistry. For example, lysine found in animal proteins is exactly the same as lysine found in plant proteins. Lysine is lysine, period. This fact debunks the myth that animal proteins are superior to plant proteins and discredits the notion of "noble" proteins. It also puts an end to the fallacy that babies must necessarily consume meat (of animal origin) or dairy products!
Indeed, the theory that we require meat to prevent protein deficiency is a blatant and intentional inaccuracy. Millions of vegetarians and vegans have been found to have better health than the general population!
Our bodies are essentially protein factories. The DNA and RNA in our cells encode and translate proteins for the survival of our organisms. The source of these proteins is completely irrelevant. I would like to ask if you prefer proteins from a steak (with around 20% protein content but also high in saturated fats, which clog our arteries) or a serving of legumes (with a protein content of about 23% and minimal fat content)?
For instance, beef contains approximately 20% protein because the cow developed its muscle tissue by consuming plant proteins (and, in fact, when it was once fed with animal proteins, it contracted bovine spongiform encephalopathy or mad cow disease). This clearly demonstrates that the plant world can and does provide us with the necessary proteins and amino acids!
Carnivorous animals feed on herbivores, while fish and marine mammals feed on other fish, which, in turn, feed on algae and plankton, namely, marine plants rich in proteins. Once again, it is confirmed that life on our planet relies on plants. Let's consider that we are not lions or tigers (carnivores), even though we might like to be, and we are not pigs (omnivores), although we increasingly resemble them!
**A special thanks to the Italian scientist Michele Riefoli, whose work inspired this endeavor.
Gerassimos Tsiolis, PhD in BiochemistryUniversity of Bologna, Italy
The Myth of Cow's Milk as a Natural and Healthy Food
Is maternal milk the most complete food for a newborn? YES, absolutely true.
So, is cow's milk also the most complete food for both children and adults? NO, it's a big misconception! Cow's milk is ideal for calves but not for human infants because it lacks the necessary components required by babies, as illustrated in the table below.
First milk corresponds to milk produced 1-2 weeks after childbirth.
Transitional milk refers to milk produced up to 2 weeks after childbirth.
Mature milk is produced after the first 2 weeks of childbirth.
As shown in the table, compared to maternal milk, cow's milk contains fewer sugars, significantly more fats, and, most importantly, triple the amount of proteins.
Cow's milk is produced to nourish calves, which must be able to walk and develop their necessary muscle mass in a matter of hours. The physical growth of a calf requires precisely this nutritional composition. However, human infants need to primarily develop their Central Nervous System (CNS), which relies on sugars. Furthermore, they have different rates of physical growth.
Regarding proteins, the table illustrates a significant quantitative difference. While cow's milk is composed of approximately 80% caseins (a type of protein), maternal milk contains only about 35% of total proteins as caseins.
In conclusion, the idea that cow's milk is equivalent to maternal milk for human consumption is a misconception. Human milk is uniquely suited to the needs of human infants, both in terms of nutritional composition and developmental requirements. Cow's milk, while suitable for calves, lacks essential components for human babies and should not be considered a direct substitute for maternal milk.
Analysis of Milk Proteins in Various Animal Species % in protein content
Caseins coagulate in the acidic environment of the stomach, forming curds that are challenging to break down by the proteolytic enzymes of a newborn. Indeed, nature prescribes a low protein content of approximately 2.7% in human maternal milk, where caseins are nearly absent. In mature maternal milk, caseins increase to 35% of proteins, which collectively decrease to 1%. Conversely, whey proteins exhibit different proportions. In other words, maternal milk is entirely distinct from that of cows, goats, sheep, and donkeys, while it is relatively similar to donkey milk. It is essential to note that maternal milk, especially in first milk (colostrum) and transitional milk, contains immunoglobulins (IgA), which are absent in cow's milk. These immunoglobulins play a vital role in bolstering the still-weak immune system of the newborn, aiding in neutralizing various foreign agents that could enter the body.
When an infant is fed cow's milk instead of maternal milk, their immune defenses are compromised, increasing the risk of infections and allergies.
Milk is a secretion produced by the mammary glands of female mammals, and it is the first nutritional source bestowed upon neonates of any species. It has been established as a specialized food for each species. Therefore, the term "milk" cannot be used interchangeably and indiscriminately unless one seeks to create confusion in people's minds.
The marketing "linguists" have convinced the world that cow's milk is the general representation of milk and is considered the most complete dietary medium available to humans. However, this is far from the truth.
So, knowing that cows produce milk for calves and not for humans, one might wonder, "What can a mother do when she does not have enough milk to feed her baby?" Before we provide a specific answer to this question, it is essential to mention that neonates do not tolerate cow's milk during breastfeeding or during weaning due to the absence of lactase, an enzyme responsible for metabolizing lactose, in their systems. It is worth noting that approximately 50% of people have lactose intolerance and are aware of it. Furthermore, a significant portion of the remaining 50% also suffers from lactose intolerance but is unaware of it.
Babies fed dairy products and various homogenized cow's milk-based products often suffer from allergies, intolerances, digestive issues, skin problems, respiratory issues, anxiety, insomnia, asthma, pharyngitis, tonsillitis, gastroesophageal reflux, and are prone to frequent illnesses due to their weakened immune system. These neonates, instead of being nourished in a manner more aligned with their human nature, are confronted with the administration of pharmaceuticals. In a few years, they may be diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).
Title: "Milk Insufficiency, Myths, and Reality"
The insufficient production of breast milk has been observed to be concentrated among women living in industrialized countries and socially "privileged" groups within urban centers. It appears that, with few exceptions, this phenomenon is attributable to a lack of information about breast milk production mechanisms, a lack of confidence in a woman's ability to breastfeed, and insufficient psychological support to address potential difficulties.
In the work titled "L' alimentation infantile, bases physiologiques," we learn that in traditional societies, women living in precarious hygiene conditions, with poor nutrition, often experience illness, engage in exhaustive work, and have the highest rates of low birth weight babies. Yet, they all have sufficient breast milk production. For instance, a study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that in a sample of 3,898 mothers from Nigeria and Zaire, none were incapable of producing milk.
Furthermore, it is essential to consider that being born in as natural an environment as possible can undoubtedly contribute to successful breastfeeding and the infant's development. In a significant but relatively unknown study ("Widstrom, A.M., Ransjo-Arvidson, a.b. Et al., 'Gastric suction in healthy newborn infants"), instead of separating newborns from their mothers immediately after umbilical cord cutting, they were left on the mother's abdomen. After approximately 20 minutes, researchers observed the initiation of a series of movements in all cases. Initially, the baby moves its lips, produces saliva, and begins a slow upward movement towards the mother's breast. Guided by instinct and the scent of unwashed skin, the baby recognizes the path. Despite the heavy head and a few nuzzles on the mother's abdomen, the infant perseveres. When tired, it pauses briefly and then resumes. After about 10 minutes, it reaches its destination. It finds a nipple, turns it, and begins to suckle.
Researchers noted that the newborn performs all these actions independently within the first 20-30 minutes after birth when left in peace with its mother. If the infant breastfeeds within the first 30 minutes of birth, oxytocin is released in the mother's body. This hormone is essential for initiating vigorous uterine contractions, which put an end to postpartum bleeding and pain. Injecting oxytocin via a syringe does not produce the same result because the drug does not cross the blood-brain barrier and reach the brain. Additionally, this first breastfeeding stimulates the production of prolactin, the hormone that promotes milk production. Breastfeeding from the mother's breast also triggers mechanisms that facilitate the uterus's return to its original position, minimizing the risk of future conditions such as myomas and uterine cancer. Breastfeeding is a unique experience, not only biologically but also emotionally, representing mutual love and acceptance between mother and child—an unparalleled energy exchange. Mothers who undergo this experience do not suffer from postpartum depression symptoms because they feel supported by their newborn, creating a truly unique bond.
Finally, the overwhelming majority of individuals suffering from severe eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, or obesity have been shown not to have breastfed as infants or to have breastfed for a very short duration (less than three months). The lack of breast milk in mothers may be due to various pathologies that need to be examined, although they are fortunately quite rare. These include hypothyroidism, retained placenta, Sheehan's syndrome, and others that can be detected before pregnancy, requiring comprehensive preconception screening, as is recommended. We advise expectant mothers to seek information from organizations such as the Lega del Latte in Italy and similar programs worldwide, as well as attend midwifery schools, to prepare for the possibility of insufficient maternal milk production. Here, we provide a list of solutions.
The first solution involves seeking the assistance of a nursemaid, as there are women who produce far more milk than their infants require. These women should express the excess milk to avoid discomfort and complications. It is essential to overcome any hesitation about the baby receiving milk from another woman, as the most "foreign" substance to a child is cow's milk.
The second solution is the concept of a "Milk Bank," which exists in many countries. These banks collect surplus milk from mothers with overproduction, process it technologically to ensure safety and the necessary constituents for premature infants, and typically provide it in maternity hospitals for the needs of preterm infants.
The third solution involves "special milk for infants," which falls into two categories: animal-based and plant-based. The former involves processed cow's milk to make it as similar as possible to maternal milk, reducing casein and lipid content while adding substances such as carnitine and inositol considered essential for the first 3-4 months. Plant-based milk is always prepared to closely mimic maternal milk, with soy proteins (not genetically modified), vegetable polyunsaturated oils, maltodextrins, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. This type of milk does not contain lactose or casein and is useful for babies whose mothers have no milk or those with intolerance to cow's milk proteins and lactose.
Among mammals, as we saw in the second table of this article, goat's milk is the closest to maternal milk. Although this milk is significantly better than cow's milk, it is rarely considered a serious option due to its relative scarcity and cost. Nevertheless, it could be a good solution.
From the moment a child stops breastfeeding and begins to consume solid foods, there is no longer a need for milk. This is a natural occurrence in all mammals worldwide. Adults who claim to drink at least a liter of milk daily under the belief that it significantly benefits their health are perpetuating a colossal myth propagated by the dairy industry. This industry conceals the fact that a single cow is capable of producing approximately 10-15 liters of milk daily when properly nourished. The udders of these cows are massive and often touch the ground, coming into contact with soil teeming with bacteria and fungi. Consequently, many antibiotics and 10-15 antifungal agents are frequently detected in cow's milk.
It is quite fascinating to understand how this myth about milk has evolved. While it is true that in extreme situations where people endure extremely harsh living conditions, finding any sustenance, including milk, can be life-saving, when we have access to abundant natural resources, there is no reason to introduce something into our bodies that will inevitably lead to serious health risks. Proper nutrition is the foundation of good health, and milk is certainly not a part of it!
Gerassimos Tsiolis, PhD in BiochemistryUniversity of Bologna, Italy