A case for ‘pure poison’ coconuts

In your opinion, what is the most vilified food item or ingredient that ever is, and does not deserve the hate?

Let’s see. There’s dietary fat, where two whole generations reduced it’s consumption because FDA said so. There is an ongoing phobia of gluten, where an entire section of society avoids consuming it because it’s bad for a tiny fraction of humanity. Ajinomoto (monosodium glutamate) might deserve to be notorious, but Jury is still divided on this one.

There are also sugar or high fructose corn syrup, which were adequately proven to be the reason behind the current obesity pandemic. But these do not attract sufficient regulation to control consumption.

Anyways, I was referring to the Coconut. This has a tragic story. Coconut is called all the names and condemned for a few decades now.

In 90s urban south Indians, with their infinite wisdom, stopped eating coconut products and oils and switched to sunflower. Thanks to a few “scientific” articles of modern food gurus, Indians chose to abandon the natural food ingredients they had been using for centuries if not the millennium. A few south-east Asian countries made a fortune exporting palm oil to India catering newfound coconut phobia of Indians. India is the largest importer of Vegetable oils. India still does meet more than 70% of her cooking oil demand through imports.

Over a couple of decades, there were sporadic epiphanies in the food-science world that Coconut might actually maybe good. Additionally, it’s actually not just ‘good’ it’s a superfood. There was a flood of articles comparing it’s smoking temperature, fat composition etc. with the celebrated Olive Oil. It apparently stands at the same level as olive oil and other Indian products such as ghee and butter.

Even then, a small section of food experts still carried on with their campaign against Coconut. One of the recent examples I can give is a Harvard professor called Coconut is pure poison. I am not paraphrasing; I am actually using her own words “pure poison.”. So, Coconut fearmongering continues for another generation.

I am going to leave you with a rebuttal by Eric Berg. Enjoy.

Ayurveda, Clinical Trials & Capitalism

Have you ever wondered why Ayurveda, one of the primary branches of Indian medicinal systems does not find many buyers outside India? Any argument related to its potency is generally neglected in the medical community, mostly ignored, frowned upon, and sometimes, even ridiculed. Some categorize it along with chiropractic and homoeopathy for the sole reason that the claims are neither reasoned out or backed-up with adequate testing. Unfortunately, a system that is practiced for thousands of years in the subcontinent has failed to become India’s soft power.

There is meditation, religion, spirituality, yoga, curry Holi, Deepavali and even bloody Bollywood have become soft powers but not revered Ayurveda.

Photo by Patru00edcia Paixao on Pexels.com

Considering a fair amount of modern medicine find its roots and ingredients in the plant-based extract, it is not hard to believe answers to most of our questions may lie Ayurveda. Agreed, we dint prove it conclusively, but what is the problem trying?

I have one answer for this, capitalism, and the patent system. I do not believe myself writing this, but apparently, it’s true. The system created to promote innovation and creativity and to provide credit to the right owners is destroying the chance of survival of Ayurveda. You would not expect this from torchbearers of growth, but unfortunately, it is true. Let me explain.

Capitalism, of which I am genuinely a huge fan, has a notable tendency on betting on the winning horse. Winner takes all is the mantra here, only winners can raise capital. Ayurveda needs a win, a single win to get her the start she is looking for. But the system which is stopping this is patent.

Patents, a sword wilding protector of intellectual property, are designed to provide a head start to reap the benefit of their innovation, which later becomes available to all with a royalty. Let me explain this through an example. We all know Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov, a genius inventor of Soviet Union was credited to have invented few of the most famous assault rifle known to humans. Most of his inventions are even named after him, abbreviated. AK versions such as 47, and 56 are the most favorite choice of weapons of militants and terrorists even to this day. However, Kalashnikov was born and invested it being a servant of a socialistic country. By definition‌, these designs automatically become government property. He remained a government employee throughout.

Imagine this scenario in a capitalist country. He would have immediately become an entrepreneur, manufacture it in Taiwan or Bangladesh, and then contract it to the world’s most powerful governments. The billboards and football half-time would run advertisements starring scantily clad women flaunting these products with buy-one get one free offer. Kalashnikov would have slept on a pile of dollar bills like Scrooge McDuck did. This is the difference what a patent brings to the battle.

Let us come back to Ayurveda. Any medical invention needs mandatory and favorable results from large clinical trials. Venture capitalists and angel investors will not even look at your proposal unless you show them the trial’s size and potency results. A simple clinical trial requires millions and millions of dollars, dozens of years of investment from doctors and scientists, and all should come from your pockets. Even after spending these, they are absolutely no particular way you will get a patent. You cannot patent potency of turmeric or a clove of garlic. The question here is, why to spend all that money to test something, the right result of which, immediately becomes public domain. That is the end of it.

In other words, the garlic’s and turmeric may have healing properties no other modern medicine may have. But no one will spend a penny to test it. Only possibilities out for Ayurveda from this situation have a nationalistic government generously create a program to run trials, which itself will be socialistic. Is that an oxymoron?

I will leave you with a couple of research papers to read if you are interested.

  2. What are the challenges faced during Clinical trials of Ayurvedic and traditional medicines?

The Psychology of Money and Paracetamol Junkies

I am currently reading this cool book, which interestingly named “The Psychology of Money: Timeless Lessons on Wealth, Greed, and Happiness” by Morgan Housel. I have not finished it yet to give you a full review. But, I could not help but to share an important concept resonated well with me. Housel calls it as “being rational vs being reasonable”.

We all know what is being rational while taking any decision ahead of us. To achieve it rationally, we pull out all available information from Google, Wikipedia and Quora, draw a spreadsheet on pros and cons, apply the weighted average, analyze balance sheet, and then go for it. Additionally, you might factor the scenario of “What would Kejriwal do?” :-). Being reasonable is much easier to explain, it is just being practical with taking one day at a time and accepting being imperfect.

However, more than the concept itself, the example Morgan chose is fascinating. It is about temperature increase during a fever. Fever is almost always misconceived as a bad thing. We know that it must be avoided at any circumstances, else immediately leading to a panic situation. This has mostly to do with discomfort a fever brings in. And there is a widely accepted popular opinion that Fever is a side effect of an ongoing battle within the human body. For these reasons, we pop paracetamol even for a small degree increase in body temperature. In fact, a sub-industry of pharmaceuticals working on curing ‘fever’ and provide comfort to the ailing.

However, apparently, myriad studies have been conducted on fever and its effects on human body. Please be informed that I am not qualified to fully comprehend and provide advise. But I can tell you what the gist is. The temperature increase is not a side effect for most cases. Instead, it is a mechanism deployed by our immune system to set favorable grounds for battle by deliberately increasing temperature. In other words, temperature raise is not post-battle collateral damage. Instead, it is pre-battle and pre-emptive preparation against the infiltrating microorganisms. Evidently, a slight increase of one degree Fahrenheit can immediately put foreign microorganisms at their backfoot and thus increasing efficiency of our immune system by manifold.

On contrary to popular opinion, consumption of a Paracetamol would reduce the temperature setting back to the square one. The head start it previously gained is now completely removed. Basically, paracetamol will nullify the action taken by a system, which has a maturity that evolved over millions of years with its infinite wisdom. Now immune system will have to overwork.

In this scenario, and for short fevers, keeping calm and resting is the most rational thing to do. However, we have already sleepwalked into being paracetamol junkies. As adults, we pop a pill on the drop of a hat and rush toddlers emergency rooms. The panic overpowers the rationality, and we consider the most reasonable thing to do it burden the medical industry further. The doctors are obligated to remove patient’ discomfort, more than the obligation of cure. Hope it makes sense.

Disclaimer: I am not qualified to provide you with a piece of medical advice here. Please do your own reading and consult.

Blue-light eyeglasses scam

Snake Oil (e.g. Homeopathy) the central theme of scams dominated our previous few centuries. However, during the last couple of decades, a new theme has emerged, and the trend is ‘Filtering scams’! The basic premise of this scam is to filter good stuff and make it better. For some unfortunate reasons, ‘we the gullible’ can be convinced that products filtering essentials are right.

Take a look at these examples where good stuff removed:

  • Low-Fat dairy products
  • Gluten-free bread
  • Demineralised water (have written about it)
  • Blue Ray filter glasses!

Yes, Blue-ray filter is a new scam in the town. It’s currently heavily advertised and has even bigger word-of-mouth campaign going on for them.

The idea behind this product is to filter out any wavelength of light, which is borderline Blue, by a large degree – basically, Jaundice eyes. The campaign goes like this :

  1. In the beginning, God created all lights equally, but then Blue made some wrong choices and became evil
  2. It impacts the retina back of the eyes and causes permanent damage. Macular degeneration impact central vision (Had to throw in few uncommon medical terms)
  3. It influences Circadian Rhythm (read sleep) by impacting hormone secretion or lack thereof. 
  4. Responsible for Computer vision syndrome

Now that many studies are out the truth if at your disposal:

  • The human eye is designed to withstand all wavelength of sunlight unless of course, some genius directly stares at the sun. A Couple of devices are not going to cause enough blue light to cause any level of damage to the eyes.
  • Apparently, problems like Macular degeneration needs an enormous amount of Blue light for a very long period. Perhaps, Yellow light also could do similar damage for that quantity and duration. So Blue light filter is not going to change anything at all.
  • Computer Vision Syndrome can not be blamed on Blue light alone, all wavelengths have equal responsibilities. For these obvious reasons, a filter will not solve this problem.
  • Only one claim checks out is its impact on “Circadian Rhythm“. But that’s by design. Apparently, Human eyes, brain and biological clock of hormones (Melatonin) are designed to make you sleep/wakeup based on how much light you are staring at, specifically – blue!. However, you do not need filters to solve this problem. You can simply dim the lights or use the device settings rather than buying another product sits on your nose.

P.S. I am not more qualified than you to read and understand. So, if you decide to buy one anyway, please the specialists with the above set of questions. Let me know how it goes.

Please go through this undercover study on Blue-light glasses:

A little bit about RO Water Scams

RO water filters are massive scams of our generation. A lot of people are not aware that it’s nothing more than a marketing gimmick. Please observe their adverts very closely. In those, these water companies seem to have genuinely shocked with your lack of common sense, which, unfortunately, has made you drink poison called TAP WATER!! As a solution, they send drinking water experts such as Hema Malini and Sachin Tendulkar to counsel you. And get this., they want you to drink battery grade, lab distilled – H2O!

The fundamental premise of these adverts is fearmongering. They will tell you that consuming tap water can cause an array of medical conditions, screw with the happiness of your kids and elderly. And hence, you would regret till eternity for not having invested in 14 stages UF + UV+ RO+ Taste Enhancer + Alkaline + Copper and what not.

Full disclosure – even I did succumb to this gimmick a few years ago. I did not know that it was a scam during them, and they fooled me. But you know – that’s how scams work!

I had bought one when I moved to my current city. I chose the one which was sold by the lord Sachin Tendulkar. It costed me around 17k for a problem which could have been resolved by a water kettle worth 250 bucks. Anyways, the installation guys tested the water; were appalled by our TDS level 350; congratulated me for having invested in ‘my health’ set TDS for about 20 and left.

Source : anonymous on Internet

Let me take a slight deviation from my story to explain to you what things they lied to me about:

  1. The utility: RO is designed as a survival instrument rather than household utility. It’s definitely a boon where only water available is very hard/salty. At a regular residence with municipality supplied water,  this pretty much useless and harmful. In a gist, most of the households does not need a RO filter, unless they are on a ship (Ahoy Sailor!).
  2. The Health benefit: They will tell you TDS at any level is very bad for you. Basically, TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) is everything that is dissolved in water, including essential metals & minerals such as Na, Fe, K, Mg, Ca etc. Low TDS water has none of this good stuff, the absence of which will have health consequences, more than another way around.
  3. Ultrafiltration (UF): The biggest joke is UF filter along with RO. RO can do everything a UF can do and more. They still sold you a UF!
  4. The standard: They would recommend that TDS should always be set at 25 or less. This is way less than the guidelines provided by the World Health Organization (WHO)

The presence of dissolved solids in water may affect its taste (1). The palatability of drinking-water has been rated by panels of tasters in relation to its TDS level as follows:

excellent, less than 300 mg/litre;

good, between 300 and 600 mg/litre;

fair, between 600 and 900 mg/litre;

poor, between 900 and 1200 mg/litre; and

unacceptable, greater than 1200 mg/litre (1).

Water with extremely low concentrations of TDS may also be unacceptable because of its flat, insipid taste

I could not find a good investigation report from India; but found a Canadian one, have a look.

Okay, back to my story.

After all this research, we called the servicing guy and asked him to set for 250ppm. Again, he was shocked and said something hilarious “Sir, I can set it to 250 – but I cannot guarantee the well-being of your family “. You see that? Suddenly from being a RO water serviceman, he became my health insurance advisor, dietitian, and my grandmother. It followed by a long argument, calling managers etc. Long story short, they don’t like me anymore.

Fast-forward now, I spend my time educating people on RO water purifiers. Its kind of my Karma, giving back to society on lesson learned.

****Appendix ***

  1. RO purifiers waste more water than it purifies, sometimes 4 to 8 times. This should not matter in a ship, but for the house, its a criminal waste.
  2. Government of India is trying to implement a ban on such filtering where TDS is <500. Read the report
  3. Health is the main reason why you should be worried about low TDS in drinking/cooking water. Due to the absence of expertise, I will refrain from explaining the health issues associated with low TDS.
  4. My grievances are specific to RO filters, not UV filters.