Self-Isolating in Glorious Countryside

Following government advice, and discussions with my dear friend Helen, I and my puss Goldie, have temporarily moved out of St.Leonards and are self-isolating with Helen at her beautiful cottage deep in the rural countryside of the High Weald.  I have lots, indeed more than enough to keep me busy – gardening, working on the advanced draft of my autobiography, reading and taking walks in the woods with her three handsome Gordon Setter dogs.

The property is set within an extensive garden with a stream flowing through it and additionally there are four acres of a large adjoining block of ancient woodland.  This is composed mainly of ash, with mature hornbeam, oak and beech with an understorey of hazel.  More about this woodland as this rolling blog continues…

 

 

A view of the woods during mid-March.

Mid-March.  The wood has been so wet this past winter!  Being situated on Ashdown Clay which provides little drainage, it’s been tricky walking along the paths but during the past week, the sunshine and drying breezes have transformed matters, we now being able to wear boots instead of the ubiquitous wellies!  This weekend, being on north-facing slope, the cottage and the woods are being buffeted by a strong and quite cold north-easterly wind, with sunshine and hail, making the air feel relatively rather bitter; we’ve resorted to firing-up the wood burner!

Monday, March 23 and another harbinger of spring made itself known – a chiffchaff calling from the tall willows and birches on the edge of the garden area.  In the woods this week the primroses at the top of the wood look resplendent with their massed two-tone pale yellow flowers being in full bloom.Small patches of the tiny, delicate moscatel are in flower with their minuscule green and yellow flowers forming small patches.  Hornbeam trees and the few hawthorn are now sporting small, delicate light-green leaves that are growing by the day.  Hornbeam forms almost pure stands in other sections of the wood; soil or possibly past harvesting practices causing the difference?

Monday, Mar 30.  Heard my first blackcap of the year.  Carried out a lot more gardening this week – I’ve worked off my small tum but the trouble is I fall asleep in front of the tv!

Friday, Apr 3.  More gardening including felling a small ash tree with only a bowsaw – phew!  Carried out some repairs to the revetment to the stream that flows under the footbridge to the cottage, and on through the garden.  A hum from the bees in the tall willows was easily audible today.  The coming anticyclone and its accompanying warmth and southerly winds should bring quite a fall of migrants over the coming days.  Reliably informed that the migration has been slow so far this spring.

Saturday, Apr 4.  The first warm and sunny day of spring! sat outside late afternoon in shirt sleeves watching the birds – great and blue tits, lesser woodpecker, chaffinch and coal tit.  Counted only four aircraft in about an hour, blissfully peaceful!

Monday, Apr 6.  After carrying out a large food shop in Crowborough we drove back over Ashdown Forest; the car parks were very quiet.  Gorse in flower; other areas of gorse having been cut, the Conservators of the Forest appear to have a monumental battle upon their hands fight the large areas of gorse.  I consider they should resort to the traditional practice of selective burns of small areas.  Conversely, reading in the RSPB’s latest update on their local reserves, they are going to create enclosures at Broadwater Warren and plant gorse.  I wonder if future wardens of the reserve will be riled by this introduction!  They have also discovered that they have the uncommon potter wasp, the nearest colony previously in Surrey.

Wednesday, Apr 8.  Saw my first brimstone butterfly today; they are not so common hereabouts? Looking through the woods, there is now a green haze with the millions of tiny leaves unfolding on the trees, especially the hornbeam and hazel.

Thursday, Apr 9.  Orange-tip butterfly seen for first time.  While sitting on the patio at about 6pm, did I fleetingly see a cuckoo fly over (or a kestrel)?  Have today started renovating a teak outdoor table; I bought on-line, a set of cabinetmakers scrapers and made a start on what will be a slow process – an antidote to self-isolation!

Friday, Apr 10.  Good Friday.  Saw my first holly blue butterfly today.

Saturday, Apr 11.  Have finished queaking the long chapter in my autobio concerning my 20 years of being involved with using Exmoor ponies for conservation grazing.  Carried out two repairs to the deer fencing around our woodland.  The neighbouring woodland has little understorey as the deer browse-off nearly all of the young saplings and flowers.  (See the two following pics).

Sunday, Apr 12.  Easter Sunday.  First small white butterfly seen, temperature reaching into the low 20’s C.  Road was very quiet today there being no shops open; very few aircraft seen today including two into Gatwick.  We spent much of the day sitting on the patio overlooking the woods, finishing off with taking dinner there in the early evening.

Monday, Apr 13.  Bank Holiday.  A strong, cold NE wind today with the sun not appearing until late-morning.  We spent a couple of hours in the afternoon plotting and marking out the un-fenced section of Helen’s boundary in the woodland.

Sunday, Apr 19.   This morning we went for a walked in the main part of the wood that is not owned by Helen and is in effect, abandoned.

It contains a few more substantial oaks and beech’s and plenty of middle-sized hornbeam and ash but little ground vegetation or saplings – anything edible being eaten by deer (they excluded form our part of the wood).  Bluebells are however are now putting in an appearance.  Found several largish medieval iron ore quarries (see below) and a piece of iron slag; hundreds of years ago this wood would have been a hive of industry.  Will go back tomorrow and take some pictures.  It’s like entering another world – on the face of it, appearing untouched by man and no outside of the wood sounds whatsoever – mystical!

Sunday, April 26.  Thought I may have heard a garden warbler singing?  Along a footpath just outside the boundary of the wood, I saw my first small copper and comma butterflies; also found the showy marsh marigold in a nearby boggy area.  I shall be returning home tomorrow, so am signing-off this particular blog.

Pollution Warning over Car Tyre and Brake Dust

Traffic jamImage copyright  GETTY IMAGES

Dust from car brakes and tyres will still pollute city air even when the vehicle fleet has gone all-electric, a report has warned.  Fragments of microplastics from tyres, road surfaces and brakes will also flow into rivers, and ultimately into the sea, government advisers say.  Ministers say they want to pass standards to improve tyres and brakes.

But critics say they need to go further by developing policies to lure people out of private cars.  The government’s Air Quality Expert Group said particles from brake wear, tyre wear and road surface wear directly contribute to well over half of particle pollution from road transport.

They warn: “No legislation is currently in place specifically to limit or reduce [these] particles.  So while legislation has driven down emissions of particles from exhausts, the non-exhaust proportion of road traffic emissions has increased.”

They say the percentage of pollutants will get proportionally higher as vehicle exhausts are cleaned up more.

Exhaust gasesImage copyright  GETTY IMAGES

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said : “The documents published today make clear that it is not just fumes from car exhaust pipes that have a detrimental impact on human health but also the tiny particles that are released from their brakes and tyres.  Emissions from car exhausts have been decreasing through development of cleaner technologies – and there is now a need for the car industry to find innovative ways to address the challenges of air pollution from other sources”.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said: “The industry is committed to improving air quality and has already all but eliminated particulate matter from tailpipe emissions.  Brake, tyre and road wear is a recognised challenge as emissions from these sources are not easy to measure.”

Transport options

The document chimes with a recent report warning that electric cars won’t offer a complete solution to mobility.  It said even self-driving electric cars would produce pollution and congest the roads.  The key was to reduce the use of cars by getting people on to less-polluting forms of transport, said Prof Jillian Anable, one of the authors of the report.

She said: “For many years ministers have adopted the principle of trying to meet demand by increasing road space. They need to reduce demand instead.”

The UK transport department said it was spending £6bn on buses, walking and cycling – and £50bn on roads.

Supporters of electric cars say the report may be flawed because when you lift your throttle foot in an electric vehicle, the car slows itself and there is less need to brake.

 

 

Could Pioneering Vet’s TB Test End the Slaughter?

As badger culls begin, could one pioneering vet’s bovine TB test end the slaughter?

Patrick Barkham.   The Observer.  Sun 15 Oct 2017.

Research at a secret location in Devon may help eradicate bovine tuberculosis without a single badger being killed, says leading vet

A pretty stone farmhouse sits in a bucolic green valley, surrounded by airy cowsheds. It looks like a timeless West Country scene but is actually a pioneering farm, where cutting-edge science is helping to solve the hugely controversial, multimillion-pound problem of bovine tuberculosis (bTB).

As an expanded badger cull gets under way this autumn, in which 33,500 animals will be killed to help stop the spread of the disease, a leading vet, Dick Sibley, believes this Devon farm demonstrates a way to eradicate the disease in cattle – without slaughtering any badgers.

Sibley’s trial, at a secret location, was halted earlier this year when two new tests to better identify bTB in cattle were deemed illegal. But government regulators have now given the vet permission to continue. His work is backed by rock star-turned-activist Brian May, whose Save Me Trust last week began a four-year programme of vaccinating badgers at the farm against bTB.

The family that owns the farm, which has 300 milking cows, turned to Sibley in despair after being virtually shut down with bTB for five years. Because of the disease, their cattle cannot be sold on the open market.

“We had nothing to lose,” said the fourth-generation farmer, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of interference from extremists on both sides of the argument. “We want to get rid of TB, it’s costing us a lot. Any technology would be better than the old bTB test.”

Despite four years of badger culling, bTB continues to rise in England, and 30,980 cows were slaughtered in the year up to June in attempts to control it, an increase of 4%. Farmers, as well as wildlife campaigners, are increasingly critical of the cattle test for bTB, which misses many cases, leaving undiagnosed cows to spread the disease within herds. In 2015, 16% of English bTB “breakdowns” were only detected in abattoirs, after supposedly healthy cows had been slaughtered.

Sibley is pioneering two new tests. The phage test, developed by microbiologist Cath Rees of Nottingham University, uses a bTB-invading virus to “hunt” for the live bacterium. It is detecting bTB in cows on the Devon farm months before they test positive with the traditional “skin test”: 85 cows have tested positive with the phage test despite all being found disease-free by the conventional test.

Farmers then need to know if infected cows are infectious. For this, Sibley uses a second test, qPCR, developed by Liz Wellington, life sciences professor at Warwick University. It detects bTB in dung, showing if a cow is “shedding” – spreading – the disease. If it is, the cow is slaughtered even though the conventional test suggests it is healthy.

Both professors have given Sibley free use of their new technologies, and the tests have shown that supposedly healthy cows are the “hidden reservoir” of bTB on the farm. But Sibley said what farms need as well as better testing is better risk management and more resilient cows. “I’ve never cured a cow with a test,” he said.

The farm is an intensive dairy operation that keeps its cattle indoors once they are fully grown and milks them robotically – some cows produce 15,000 litres of milk each year. “If you don’t give that cow everything she needs, and keep the disease away from her, she will crash and burn,” said Sibley. “It’s just like athletes: if there’s a bit of E coli in the Olympic village, they all go down.”

TB – in cows as well as humans – is traditionally a disease of bad living conditions, so the farm’s barns are airy. There are fewer cows in each barn compared with a typical dairy farm, walkways are cleaned three times a day, and regularly changed drinking water is held in “tipping troughs” that are kept scrubbed clean. Dung falling into troughs is likely to be a key transmitter of the disease.

After studying each cow’s history, Sibley believes mothers often spread the disease to their calves at birth. The farm is combatting this by building a new maternity unit with rubber floors that will be disinfected after every delivery. Colostrum – the crucial first milk that boosts a calf’s immune system – is harvested from each mother but pasteurised before it is fed to each calf, so it won’t spread disease.

Leading vet Dick Sibley is trialling new testing methods for bTB that will detect the disease much earlier in cattle. Photograph: Jim Wileman for the Observer

After being “shut down” for five years, the farm had its first clear test last year. It hopes to be clear of all restrictions within 12 months. But Sibley says that removing the disease from cows without tackling diseased badgers is like “crossing the road and only looking one way”.

Farm CCTV reveals that no badgers come close to the cattle sheds, but Wellington’s qPCR technology tested badger latrines and found local badgers were shedding the disease: 30% of 273 faecal samples contained the bacterium. Young grazing cows are potentially exposed to the disease.

“We have to accept that the badgers are a risk,” said Sibley. “We either kill them, fence them out or, more constructively, vaccinate them to reduce the risk of infection in the environment.”

May’s ‘Save Me Trust’ is funding badger vaccination around the farm. The Queen guitarist became a hate-figure for some farmers when he suggested that if bTB was such a problem they should stop rearing cattle. But he has been working behind the scenes for several years to support farmers.

“I’m very, very hopeful that Dick Sibley has the answer,” said May. “I hope it works out, not just for this farm but for the whole of Britain. That would take away this awful polarisation between farmers and the public and animal welfare groups.”

A global shortage of BCG vaccine stopped May vaccinating badgers last year and he points out that the farm has virtually banished the disease without touching a single badger. “If badgers are running around with bTB and the herd has been cleaned up with advanced testing, that really makes you wonder whether badgers are contributing to the disease,” said May.

While some epidemiologists have privately expressed frustration that the government has not yet adopted new cattle-testing technologies, Sibley said the regulators move slowly. “The authorities must have rock-solid evidence in case they end up in court. I predict that in five years time phage and qPCR will be in the toolbox for farmers.”

Other bTB-hit farms are interested in Sibley’s approach and May’s charity has pledged to help meet veterinary costs. In Wales, farms with chronic bTB are receiving special support from the Welsh government and could be among the first to adopt the new techniques. Christianne Glossop, Wales’ chief vet, said: “I have known Dick for many years and have great respect for his work. I am also well aware of his current trials and will be keeping a close eye on the results of his pilot in Devon exploring innovative new testing methods.”

The Devon farmer admits he has been surprised by his success. “This test is showing the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m excited that it could help us get clear of the disease and help other farmers in the future.”

THE CULLING DEBATE.

A zoonotic disease – one that can jump from animals to humans – bovine tuberculosis (bTB) caused thousands of human deaths until the pasteurisation of milk began in the 1920s. It was then almost eradicated from British cows with the widespread slaughter of herds in the 1950s.

However, in 1971 it was discovered that cows had passed the disease to badgers after a dead badger was found on a farm in Gloucestershire. The find led to five decades of debate and scientific uncertainty, and it is still not known what proportion – if any – of cattle TB cases are caused by badgers. The scientific consensus is that cows and badgers pass the disease between them but the precise method of transmission is also not known. Epidemiologists believe it is most likely via animal faeces.

Cattle TB has risen steadily since the 1980s and cost £500m in compensation to farmers in the decade up to 2013. That year, badger culling began in two “zones” in Gloucestershire and Somerset. It has since expanded to 21 zones in England. Ireland, the only other country with a bTB problem, also culls badgers.

Pro-cull farmers argue that reducing badger numbers will reduce bTB in the environment. No data has been published on the impact of four years of badger culling on cattle TB, but many scientists question the cull’s effectiveness.

Appetite For Destruction

https://www.wwf.org.uk/sites/default/files/2017-10/WWF_AppetiteForDestruction_Summary_Report_SignOff.pdf

A lot of people are aware of the impact a meat-based diet has on water, land and habitats, and the implications of its associated greenhouse gas emissions. But few know the largest impact comes from the crop-based feed the animals eat.  Go to the above WWF link and take a look!

 

Green Groups and MPs Calling for Amendments to the Repeal Bill

http://www.ciwem.org/green-groups-and-mps-are-calling-for-an-amendment-to-the-repeal-bill/

July 7 2017.  The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management,  (CIWEM).

 

Green Groups and MPs are calling For an Amendment To the Repeal Bill.

Thirteen major environmental charities in the Greener UK coalition have begun working with a cross-party group of MPs to ensure the Repeal Bill does not “dilute” the force of environmental law in the UK

The MPs that back the amendment so far include Ed Miliband, former Labour Party leader and secretary of state for energy and climate change, and Caroline Lucas, Green Party co-leader.

The government has said that existing UK mechanisms, primarily judicial review and the role of parliament, are enough to replace all the functions currently carried out by EU agencies and the European Court of Justice (ECJ).  But these UK mechanisms do not compare to current EU arrangements, the groups say.

Currently, EU agencies play important roles in monitoring the state of the environment, checking governments comply with environmental law and, where necessary, enforcing the law by initiating investigations into possible breaches, including in response to complaints from citizens and civil society organisations. If breaches of the law are identified, remedies and sanctions can be applied, including fines.

Shaun Spiers, chair of Greener UK and executive director at Green Alliance, said: “No one voted for dirtier beaches or worse air quality. The government has promised to bring all environmental protections into domestic law, but laws are only effective when there are strong institutions to enforce them.

“The ultimate risk of fines imposed by the European Court has led the UK government to clean up its act several times – for example, when it stopped pumping raw sewage into oceans on a regular basis and, more recently, being ordered by the courts to publish stronger air quality plans.

“To secure the high level of environmental protection that the public overwhelmingly wants and needs, UK governance institutions must be sufficiently resourced, independent and expert. Otherwise, environmental law will fail.

“The government will protest its good intentions, but it should be establishing systems that are proof against any future government that may want to weaken environmental and other protections.”

The Greener UK coalition formed in response to the EU referendum, united in the belief that leaving the EU is a pivotal moment to restore and enhance the UK’s environment. It brings together 13 major environmental organisations, including the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, National Trust, and WWF.

The Great Repeal Bill will end the supremacy of EU law and return power to the UK.

Amendments.  The text of Repeal Bill amendment the groups are recommending the following:

(1) The relevant Ministers must, before the UK’s exit from the EU, make provision that all powers and functions relating to the UK that were carried out by an EU institution before the date of the UK leaving the EU will—

(a) continue to be carried out by an EU institution; or

(b) be carried out by an appropriate existing or newly created domestic body; or

(c) be carried out by an appropriate international body.

(2) For the purposes of this section, powers and functions relating to the UK exercised by an EU institution may include, but are not limited to—

(a) monitoring and measuring compliance with legal requirements,

(b) reviewing and reporting on compliance with legal requirements,

(c) enforcement of legal requirements,

(d) setting standards or targets,

(e) co-ordinating action,

(f) publicising information including regarding compliance with environmental standards.

(3) Within 12 months of the UK’s exit from the EU, the Government shall consult and bring forward proposals for domestic governance arrangements to ensure equivalent provision of the regulatory, monitoring, oversight, accountability, enforcement and other functions relating to the UK currently provided by EU institutions, by providing for the establishment by primary legislation of—

(a) a new independent body or bodies with powers and functions equivalent to those of the relevant EU institutions in relation to the environment; and

(b) a new domestic framework for environmental protection and improvement.

(4) For the purposes of this section ‘EU institution’ includes but is not limited to—

(a) the European Commission;

(b) the European Environment Agency;

(c) the European Chemicals Agency; and

(d) the European Court of Auditors.

(5) Responsibility for any functions or obligations arising from EU-derived UK law for which no specific provision has been made immediately after commencement of this Act will belong to the relevant Minister until such a time as specific provision for those functions or obligations has been made.

 

This article was originally posted on CIWM Journal Online.

New Threat to Ozone Layer

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/27/ozone-hole-recovery-threatened-by-rise-of-paint-stripper-chemical?CMP=twt_a-environment_b-gdneco

Ozone hole recovery threatened by rise of paint stripper chemical.  [Abridged].

Damian Carrington Environment editor, Tuesday 27 June 2017.

Dichloromethane, found in paint-stripping chemicals, has a relatively short lifespan so action to cut its emissions would have rapid benefits. Photograph: Justin Kase/Alamy

The restoration of the globe’s protective shield of ozone will be delayed by decades if fast-rising emissions of a chemical used in paint stripper are not curbed, new research has revealed.

Atmospheric levels of the chemical have doubled in the last decade and its use is not restricted by the Montreal protocol that successfully outlawed the CFCs mainly responsible for the ozone hole. The ozone-destroying chemical is called dichloromethane and is also used as an industrial solvent, an aerosol spray propellant and a blowing agent for polyurethane foams. Little is known about where it is leaking from or why emissions have risen so rapidly.

The loss of ozone was discovered in the 1980s and is greatest over Antarctica. But Ryan Hossaini, at Lancaster University in the UK and who led the new work, said: “It is important to remember that ozone depletion is a global phenomenon, and that while the peak depletion occurred over a decade ago, it is a persistent environmental problem and the track to recovery is expected to be a long and bumpy one.  Ozone shields us from harmful levels of UV radiation that would otherwise be detrimental to human, animal and plant health.”

The new research, published in the journal Nature Communications, analysed the level of dichloromethane in the atmosphere and found it rose by 8% a year between 2004 and 2014. The scientists then used sophisticated computer models to find that, if this continues, the recovery of the ozone layer would be delayed by 30 years, until about 2090.

The chemical was not included in the 1987 Montreal protocol because it breaks down relatively quickly in the atmosphere, usually within six months, and had not therefore been expected to build up. In contrast, CFCs persist for decades or even centuries.  But the short lifespan of dichloromethane does mean that action to cut its emissions would have rapid benefits. “If policies were put in place to limit its production, then this gas could be flushed out of the atmosphere relatively quickly,” said Hossaini.

If the dichloromethane in the atmosphere was held at today’s level, the recovery of the ozone level would only be delayed by five years, the scientists found. There was a surge in emissions in the period 2012-14 and if growth rate continues at that very high rate, the ozone recovery would be postponed indefinitely, but Hosseini said this extreme scenario is unlikely: “Our results still show the ozone hole will recover.”

 

There are other short-lived gases containing the chlorine that destroys ozone, but few measurements have been taken of their levels in the atmosphere. “Unfortunately there is no long-term record of these, only sporadic data, but these do indicate they are a potentially significant source of chlorine in the atmosphere,” said Hossaini, adding that further research on this was needed.

Anna Jones, a scientist at BAS, said: “The new results underline the critical importance of long-term observations of ozone-depleting gases and expanding the Montreal protocol to mitigate new threats to the ozone layer.”

Overall the Montreal protocol is seen as very successful in cutting ozone losses, with estimates indicating that without the protocol the Antarctic ozone hole would have been 40% larger by 2013. Scientists discovered four “rogue” CFCs in 2014 that were increasing in concentration in the atmosphere and contributing to ozone-destruction.

Tories and Labour Not Being Honest With Voters

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-40057115#

Tories and Labour not being honest with voters: IFS  [Abrided].

By Chris Johnston, May 26 2017.

Neither the Conservatives nor Labour are being honest with voters about the economic consequences of their policy proposals, an influential think tank has warned.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies said the Tories had very few tax or spending commitments in their manifesto.

Labour, in contrast, was proposing very big increases in tax and spending.  However, the IFS said Labour’s plans for paying for its proposed expansion in state activity would not work.

IFS deputy director Carl Emmerson said neither manifesto gave voters an honest set of choices or addressed the long-term challenges the UK faced.

“For Labour, we can have pretty much everything – free higher education, free childcare, more spending on pay, health, infrastructure. And the pretence is that can all be funded by faceless corporations and ‘the rich’,” he said.

“There is a choice we can make as a country to have a bigger state – that would not make us unusual in international terms. But that comes at a cost in higher taxes, which would inevitably need to be borne by large numbers of us.”

Meanwhile, the Conservatives offered spending cuts the party had already promised, Mr Emmerson said.  “Additional funding pledges for the NHS and schools are just confirming that spending would rise in a way broadly consistent with the March Budget,” he told a briefing in London on Friday.

“Compared with Labour, they are offering a relatively smaller state and consequently lower taxes. With that offer come unacknowledged risks to the quality of public services, and tough choices over spending.”

The IFS said the Tory plans “imply at least another five years of austerity, with the continuation of planned welfare cuts and serious pressures on the public services including on the NHS”.

Labour’s calculations that £49bn a year could be raised from the wealthiest individuals and companies were flawed and would raise £40bn at most in the short term, and less in the long term, it said.

Which Are the Healthiest Oils to Cook With?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-33675975?post_id=1281307675222529_1350253378327958#_=_

Which oils are best to cook with?

28 July 2015

From the section BBC Magazine

 

Choosing the right oil to cook with is a complicated business, writes Michael Mosley.

When it comes to fats and oils, we are spoiled for choice. Supermarket shelves are heaving with every conceivable option. But these days it is extremely confusing because there is so much debate about the benefits and harm that come from consuming different types of fats.

On Trust Me, I’m a Doctor we decided to look at things from a different angle by asking: “Which fats and oils are best to cook with?”

You might think it is obvious that frying with vegetable oils has to be healthier than cooking with animal fat, like lard or butter. But is it really?

To find out, we gave some Leicester residents a variety of fats and oils and asked our volunteers to use them in their everyday cooking. The volunteers were also asked to collect any leftover oil which would then be analysed.

The fats and oils they used included sunflower oil, vegetable oil, corn oil, cold pressed rapeseed oil, olive oil (refined and extra virgin), butter and goose fat.

Samples of oil and fat, after cooking, were collected and sent to Leicester School of Pharmacy at De Montfort University in Leicester, where Prof Martin Grootveld and his team ran a parallel experiment where they heated up these same oils and fats to frying temperatures.

When you are frying or cooking at a high temperature (at or close to 180C or 356F), the molecular structures of the fats and oils you are using change. They undergo what’s called oxidation – they react with oxygen in the air to form aldehydes and lipid peroxides. At room temperature something similar happens, though more slowly. When lipids go rancid they become oxidised.

Consuming or inhaling aldehydes, even in small amounts, has been linked to increased risk of heart disease and cancer. So what did Prof Grootveld’s team find?

“We found,” he says, “that the oils which were rich in polyunsaturates – the corn oil and sunflower oil – generated very high levels of aldehydes.”

I was surprised as I’d always thought of sunflower oil as being “healthy”.

“Sunflower and corn oil are fine,” Prof Grootveld says, “as long as you don’t subject them to heat, such as frying or cooking. It’s a simple chemical fact that something which is thought to be healthy for us is converted into something that is very unhealthy at standard frying temperatures.”

The olive oil and cold-pressed rapeseed oil produced far less aldehydes, as did the butter and goose fat. The reason is that these oils are richer in monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids, and these are much more stable when heated. In fact, saturated fats hardly undergo this oxidation reaction at all.

Prof Grootveld generally recommends olive oil for frying or cooking. “Firstly because lower levels of these toxic compounds are generated, and secondly the compounds that are formed are actually less threatening to the human body.”

His research also suggests that when it comes to cooking, frying in saturate-rich animal fats or butter may be preferable to frying in sunflower or corn oil.

“If I had a choice,” he says, “between lard and polyunsaturates, I’d use lard every time.”

Lard, despite its unhealthy reputation, is actually rich in monounsaturated fats.

Our study also threw up another surprise because Prof Grootveld’s team identified in some of the samples sent in by our volunteers a couple of new aldehydes that they had not previously seen in the oil-heating experiments.

“We’ve done some new science here,” he says with a smile on his face. “It’s a world first, I’m very, very pleased about it.”

I’m not sure that our volunteers would have been quite so thrilled to discover their cooking had managed to generate new, potentially toxic compounds.

So what is Prof Grootveld’s overall advice?

Firstly, try to do less frying, particularly at high temperature. If you are frying, minimise the amount of oil you use, and also take steps to remove the oil from the outside of the fried food, perhaps with a paper towel.

To reduce aldehyde production go for an oil or fat high in monounsaturated or saturated lipids (preferably greater than 60% for one or the other, and more than 80% for the two combined), and low in polyunsaturates (less than 20%).

He thinks the ideal “compromise” oil for cooking purposes is olive oil, “because it is about 76% monounsaturates, 14% saturates and only 10% polyunsaturates – monounsaturates and saturates are much more resistant to oxidation than polyunsaturates”.

When it comes to cooking it doesn’t seem to matter whether the olive oil is “extra virgin” or not. “The antioxidant levels present in the extra virgin products are insufficient to protect us against heat-induced oxidation.”

His final bit of advice is always keep your oils in a cupboard, out of the light, and try not to reuse them as this also leads to the accumulation of nasty side-products.

Know your fats

 

  • Polyunsaturated fatsContain two or more carbon-carbon double bonds. When eaten in as food such nuts, seeds, fish and leafy greens, they have clear health benefits. However, the benefits of consuming sunflower oil and corn oil, although rich in polyunsaturates, are much less clear.
  • Monounsaturated oilsContain just one carbon-carbon double bond. They are found in avocados, olives, olive oil, almonds and hazelnuts, and also in lard and goose fat. Olive oil, which is approximately 76% monounsaturated, is a key component in the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Saturated fatshave no double bonds between carbon atoms. Although we are encouraged to switch from eating saturated fats, particularly dairy and other fats derived from animals, the benefits of doing so are being challenged.
  • The percentages of each in the oils below varies somewhat but these values are typical
Type of oil or fat Polyunsaturated (%) Monounsaturated (%) Saturated (%)
Coconut oil 2 6 86
Butter 3 21 51
Lard 11 45 39
Goose fat 11 56 27
Olive oil 10 76 14
Rapeseed oil 28 63 7
Sesame oil 41 40 14
Corn oil 54 27 12
Sunflower oil 65 20 10

 

New ‘Low Sugar’ Chocolate

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/dec/01/nestle-discovers-way-to-slash-sugar-in-chocolate-without-changing-taste

Nestlé says it can slash sugar in chocolate without changing taste.

Haroon Siddique, Thursday 1 December 2016.

ABSTRACT.  Nestlé says it has found a way of slashing the amount of sugar in some of its chocolate bars by 40%, without compromising the taste.

The Swiss food company, whose products include Kit Kats, Aeros and Yorkies, said it has achieved the reduction by discovering a way “to structure sugar differently”. The new process is said to make sugar dissolve faster so that even when less is used, the tongue perceives an identical level of sweetness.

choco

It plans to patent the process, discovered by its scientists, which it says will enable it to significantly decrease the total sugar in its confectionery products.

Visit the above link for the full story.

Red Meat Triggers Toxic Immune Reaction Which Causes Cancer

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/11316316/Red-meat-triggers-toxic-immune-reaction-which-causes-cancer-scientists-find.html

Red meat triggers toxic immune reaction which causes cancer, scientists find.

By Sarah Knapton, Science Editor, 29 Dec 2014.

Red meat has been linked to cancer for decades, with research suggesting that eating large amounts of pork, beef or lamb raises the risk of deadly tumours.

But for the first time scientists think they know what is causing the effect. The body, it seems, views red meat as a foreign invader and sparks a toxic immune response.

Researchers have always been puzzled about how other mammals could eat a diet high in red meat without any adverse health consequences.  Now they have discovered that pork, beef and lamb contains a sugar which is naturally produced by other carnivores but not humans.

It means that when humans eat red meat, the body triggers an immune response to the foreign sugar, producing antibodies which spark inflammation, and eventually cancer.  In other carnivores the immune system does not kick in, because the sugar – called Neu5Gc – is already in the body.

Scientists at the University of California proved that mice which were genetically engineered so they did not produce Neu5Gc naturally developed tumours when they were fed the sugar.

“This is the first time we have directly shown that mimicking the exact situation in humans increases spontaneous cancers in mice,” said Dr Ajit Varki, Professor of Medicine and Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of California.

“The final proof in humans will be much harder to come by.  This work may also help explain potential connections of red meat consumption to other diseases exacerbated by chronic inflammation, such as atherosclerosis and type 2 diabetes.”

“Of course, moderate amounts of red meat can be a source of good nutrition for young people. We hope that our work will eventually lead the way to practical solutions for this catch-22.”  Red meat is a good source of protein, vitamin and minerals, but an increasing body of research suggests too much is bad for long-term health.

Health experts recommend eating no more than 2.5oz (70g) a day, the equivalent of three slices of ham, one lamb chop or two slices of roast beef a day

A study published by Harvard University in June suggested that a diet high in red meat raised the risk of breast cancer for women by 22 per cent.  In 2005 a study found those who regularly ate 5.6oz (160g) of red meat a day had one third higher risk of bowel cancer.

The average person in the UK has 2.5oz (70g) meat a day 3oz (88g) among men, 2oz (52g) among women) but 33 per cent have more than 3.5oz (100g) a day.

Previous research has suggested that a pigment in red meat may also damage the DNA of cells lining the digestive system.

The new research was published online in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.