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Archive for May 12th, 2019

The essential amino acids and a note on protein sources

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I came across the statement that there were 8 essential amino acids (amino acids the body cannot make), and I thought there were 9. More searching, and I found articles that listed the 9 essential amino acids.

Things like this bring out my compulsive nature, and so more searching, and I found this very interesting post by  Rosane Oliveira at UC Davis Integrative Medicine:

The Awesome Amino Acid

Today is the first part of a three-part series called–The Essentials.

According to the dictionary, an ‘essential’ is something that is absolutely necessary.

Something ‘non-negotiable’.

We will kick off this series by discussing essential amino acids–those protein building blocks so key to a healthy, vibrant life.

We will pull back the curtain on all the myths that still swirl around this subject, including whether we need to source these essential amino acids from an animal or a plant-based diet.

It’s time to explore the real truth about this most ‘essential’ subject…

Essential Amino Acids… a Definition

Before we talk about essential amino acids, let’s first briefly discuss the definition of an amino acid.

Amino acids are organic compounds that combine to form proteins, which allow growth and regulate nearly every biochemical reaction in the body.

It is not an exaggeration to say that amino acids, and the proteins they create, are quite literally the building blocks of life.  Amino acids account for 75% of dry body weight; 95% of muscle (and heart), and 100% of hormones, neurotransmitters and neuropeptides are made up of amino acids.

The human body uses 20 amino acids in various combinations to form the proteins our cells need to function.

The body itself can create 11 of the 20. The other 9–the essential amino acids-– are amino acids that the body cannot make on its own; they must come from our diet.

The 9 essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

(It’s worth noting there is a debate raging in protein science around whether the correct number is 8 or 9 essential amino acids. [Emphasis added – LG] Today, most experts say 9, because they include histidine since it’s not synthesized in adults. However, others treat histidine as “conditionally” essential and some continue to exclude it completely.)

Animal or Plant-Derived Proteins–Which Is the Best Way?

The question then becomes…what foods best provide us with these 9 essential amino acids?

Many argue that the ‘only’ way to get your essential amino acids is by eating animal products while others endorse a plant-based diet as the superior route.

The main two areas of contention center on two issues:

  • The idea that animal-derived proteins have a higher quality.
  • The belief that only animal-based proteins can deliver a ‘complete protein’.

Are Animal-Derived Proteins Really of a Higher Quality?

To begin with, many argue that protein sources from an animal-based diet are superior in quality because they promote growth more rapidly than plant-derived protein.  However, there is a negative side to this growth because animal protein increases ALL cellular growth.

Studies have confirmed this, showing a clear link between animal-derived protein and cancer cell growth via increase of IGF-1 levels.

To make matters worse, animal protein also increases expression of TOR, the enzyme responsible for aging.

Secondly, and very much unlike animal proteins, plant proteins actually decrease IGF-1 levels, thus discouraging cancer cell growth.

As for the aging process, plant-based proteins are a far superior choice given the lower levels of the essential amino acid leucine (present in higher amounts in animal proteins), which is believed to increase expression of the enzyme TOR.

The Protein ‘Combination’ Debate

The second big confusion around the ‘animal versus plant’ debate is that many believe that plant-derived proteins don’t contain ‘complete’ proteins.  (A complete protein defined as one that contains sufficient amounts of all essential amino acids).

As we discussed in our articleall whole foods contain these nine essential amino acids.  All of them.  And if you’re taking in enough calories from whole foods, you’re taking in plenty of protein.

To confuse matters even further, there has been a long-held belief that the only way to get a ‘complete’ protein from a plant-based diet is through combining the right types of plant foods (otherwise known as ‘protein complementing’). However, studies have shown that the intestinal tract maintains an impressively similar ratio of essential amino acids due to the mixing of endogenous and dietary protein.  Now we know that intentional combining of plant foods is not necessary for absorption of essential amino acids, as long as you:

  • Consume enough calories to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat mainly unprocessed or minimally processed vegetables, intact legumes and whole grains.
  • Limit processed and refined foods.
  • Do not base your diet on fruits alone.

Even the American Heart Association agrees that “plant proteins alone can provide enough of the essential and nonessential amino acids, as long as sources of dietary protein are varied and caloric intake is high enough to meet energy needs.”

How Much Protein Do We Really Need?

In the end, one of the most important questions in this essential amino acid debate is how much protein do we actually need?

Even among us whole-food plant-based folks, it is important not to go overboard with proteins.

There really can be “too much of a good thing“.

The World Health Organization recommends that adults get at least 5% of their calories from protein.  Physicians and researchers in the plant-based community double that number (to be safe) and recommend that 10% of your daily calories come from protein.

When you consider that rice contains 8% protein, corn 11%, oatmeal 15%, and beans 27%, protein deficiency is virtually impossible when meeting your calorie needs with unprocessed starches and vegetables.

Simply put, you can enjoy all of the delicious foods included in a whole food, plant based diet even more, now that you know you’re getting all of your essential amino acids needs met — without the use of animal-derived proteins or having to “combine” foods to make the protein complete.

I also recommend her post on the essential fatty acids. However, her post on the essential vitamins (B12 and D) is odd: she fails to mention excellent dietary sources of B12 such as clams (extremely high in B12) and beef liver, and she provides no reason for not mentioning these foods.

Written by Leisureguy

12 May 2019 at 4:16 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

How Tropicana manufactures its orange juice

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Paul J. D’Arcy has a post at Science of Revenue that explains why I’ve not had orange juice for decades:

I hope I’m not the first person to tell you that Tropicana orange juice would be flavorless without the help of a New Jersey perfume company. It probably all made sense 40 or 50 years ago when food and brands were manufactured in similar ways. But over the last 50 years, the core philosophy of corporate branding has shifted from “the story that you tell” to “the promise that you keep.” Tropicana never evolved.

Decades ago, big brands focused on manufacturing a brand image. Before the Internet and social media, brand building focused on telling a story about a product or service that made people want to experience it. Broadcast media was trusted by the public and Madison Avenue agencies were wizards at building brand stories that everyone believed. During this bygone era, truthfulness was a secondary consideration.

Tropicana: “Fresh from the Grove”

Some of these brands are still alive and strong today. My favorite example is Tropicana.  Many people my age have enjoyed Tropicana orange juice for years based on its unique taste and brand promise of premium orange juice “fresh from the grove.” Tropicana’s story was that the orange juice was fresh, never frozen, and never from concentrate. I judged the taste of other orange juice brands by the taste of Tropicana and wondered why other brands couldn’t match its fresh taste.

Tropicana was very good at creating slogans that highlighted the freshness of its product:

  • Tropicana. Straight from the fruit.
  • Orange juice direct from oranges, not from concentrate.
  • 100% pure squeezed sunshine.
  • Feel pure good. Everyday.
  • If it tasted any fresher it would still be on the tree.
  • Tropicana’s got the taste that shows on your face.
  • Specially made for healthy bodies, healthy lives, healthy kids.

It turns out that the reality of Tropicana’s product is very different from the story told by the company’s slogans. The secret to Tropicana’s success is an innovative manufacturing process that preserves orange juice by removing oxygen from the freshly squeezed juice. Removing oxygen allows Tropicana to store the juice for long periods of time without freezing or reducing to concentrate. Unfortunately, it also permanently removes all of the natural flavor of the juice. Here is a summary from

The technology of choice at the moment is aseptic storage, which involves stripping the juice of oxygen, a process known as ‘deaeration,’ so it doesn’t oxidize in the million gallon tanks in which it can be kept for upwards of a year. When the juice is stripped of oxygen it is also stripped of flavor providing chemicals. Juice companies therefore hire flavor and fragrance companies, the same ones that formulate perfumes for Dior and Calvin Klein, to engineer flavor packs to add back to the juice to make it taste fresh. Flavor packs aren’t listed as an ingredient on the label because technically they are derived from orange essence and oil. Yet those in the industry will tell you that the flavor packs, whether made for reconstituted or pasteurized orange juice, resemble nothing found in nature. The packs added to juice earmarked for the North American market tend to contain high amounts of ethyl butyrate, a chemical in the fragrance of fresh squeezed orange juice that, juice companies have discovered, Americans favor. Mexicans and Brazilians have a different palate. Flavor packs fabricated for juice geared to these markets therefore highlight different chemicals, the decanals say, or terpene compounds such as valencine.

In the food industry of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, new production techniques made it possible to create highly-processed mass-produced food products that could be produced consistently, shipped globally, and sold everywhere. Tropicana created something new: a manufactured juice product whose premium price was driven by marketing and technology. Tropicana combined a strong brand with a unique taste and claims that were legally protected. For a generation of consumers, Tropicana was the benchmark for fresh.

Tropicana: A Broken Brand Promise

By today’s standards, however, Tropicana is a bad brand. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 May 2019 at 6:36 am

Facial-recognition technology is not ready for prime time

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From Azeem Azhar’s Exponential View newsletter this morning:

Facial recognition technology used by London’s Metropolitan Police incorrectly identified members of the public in 96 percent of matches made between 2016 and 2018. (Meanwhile, US airports are on track to use face recognition on 97 percent of all passengers within four years.)

Written by Leisureguy

12 May 2019 at 6:19 am

Facebook and agnotology

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From Azeem Azhar’s Exponential View newsletter this morning:

Facebook co-founder, Chris Hughes, says with great clarity what so many now believe: Facebook should be broken up.

Facebook’s dominance is not an accident of history. The company’s strategy was to beat every competitor in plain view, and regulators and the government tacitly — and at times explicitly — approved.

I don’t blame Mark for his quest for domination. He has demonstrated nothing more nefarious than the virtuous hustle of a talented entrepreneur. Yet he has created a leviathan that crowds out entrepreneurship and restricts consumer choice. It’s on our government to ensure that we never lose the magic of the invisible hand. How did we allow this to happen?

This is more than simply restricting consumer choice. Facebook’s quest for growth has also spread Zuckerberg’s dorm room cultural values across the globe. It has become an interface between people as citizens (not merely as “consumers”) and the resources they need to access. Facebook has also been instrumental in the growth of agnotology as a business and societal disease.

🕳️ danah boyd on how social media fosters agnotology, the ‘strategic and purposeful production of ignorance’ and is a ‘tool of oppression by the powerful.

What’s at stake right now is not simply about hate speech vs. free speech or the role of state-sponsored bots in political activity. It’s much more basic. It’s about purposefully and intentionally seeding doubt to fragment society. To fragment epistemologies. This is a tactic that was well-honed by propagandists.

One nuance I would add is that while actors within these platforms may act to purposefully spread ignorance, I think the platforms themselves have apathetic positions on epistemologies. Rather this emerges as a result of chasing engagement and the ad-supported business model. (We first covered agnotology in EV#24.)

Written by Leisureguy

12 May 2019 at 6:14 am

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