Monday, November 29, 2010

Chanukah Fish Fry 2010

By Jacob Schor, ND, FABNO

Photo by rizkapb via Flickr, used under the Creative Commons License.
We celebrate the Chanukah miracle early this year; the first candle is lit on Wednesday night, December 1. No doubt some of my readers will point out that this is not early as Chanukah always falls on the 24th day of Kislev.

The miracle to which we refer involves Jewish forces led by Judah Macabee who defeated Syrian oppressors more than 2300 years ago and reclaimed the Temple in Jerusalem. The "miracle" occurred when a quantity of oil that would normally have kept the sacred lamps lit for one day lasted a full eight days, enough time for additional oil to be made. This holiday has become something of a celebration of oil; by tradition we eat fried foods for our holiday meals, the staple being latkes, fried potato pancakes. In recent years I have wondered whether there could be alternatives to this staple. Admittedly, some of our guests last year found the Chanukah chili rellenos on our menu something of a stretch.

Still, I haven’t given up looking for alternatives and this year will promote fish and chips as Chanukah food. Not only will this meal amply meet the oil consumption requirement, but fish and chips, though many people don’t realize it, is absolutely traditional Jewish food.

Some people mistakenly think of fish and chips as British food. After all, there are over 10,500 fish and chip shops in frying away over in England, though this is a significant drop from the record high of 35,000 shops in operation during the 1920s.

But where did the British learn to fry fish? They learned from Jewish immigrants, of course.

Fried fish in batter originated with the Portuguese Marranos. These Sephardic Jews fled the Spanish Inquisition, first to Holland and later to London. They brought their talent for deep frying fish with them to London in the early 1500s. Manuel Brudo, writing in 1544, described how the Marrano refugees fried fish, first sprinkling it with flour and then dipping it in eggs and bread crumbs. Lady Judith Montefiore, the anonymous editor of the first Jewish cook book in English (The Jewish Manual: or Practical Information in Jewish & Modern Cookery; with a Collection of Valuable Recipes and Hints Relating to the Toilette, edited by a Lady, which was published in1846) called for “Florence oil” in her recipe, obviously referring to olive oil.

Thomas Jefferson, before he became president, wrote home from London in the early 1800s of eating a meal of "fried fish in the Jewish fashion" and brought the recipe home to Monticello. This Jewish fish recipe appears in a collection of Jefferson’s favorite recipes put together by his daughter Virginia.

Jews were also the first to serve both fish and chips together. A 13-year-old Jewish boy named Joseph Malin began selling fish with chips together in 1860 in the East End of London. He fried the potatoes in his family’s basement, bought the fried fish from a shop and sold the combo from a tray he carried on the streets.

As no one disputes the basic contention that fried fish was first sold in London as Jewish food, there should be no argument that it is a suitable choice for a Chanukah meal.

All of this discussion of course is but a prelude or an excuse for me to review some recent research about the health benefits of fish and olive oil.

Although in recent years fried foods have become symbolic of fast food and assumed to be unhealthy, let us take a more generous view of fish and chips and rationalize that this meal will bring us a step closer to a Mediterranean diet.

Research studies tell us that following a Mediterranean Diet reduces the risk of many chronic diseases including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma.

This past November 2010, an interesting analysis of the health benefits of following the Mediterranean diet was published. Francesco Sofi and colleagues from the University of Florence, Italy combined data from 19 earlier studies on the effects the Mediterranean diet has on major diseases and mortality. This created a data pool of 2,190,627 subjects. The diet of each subject was graded. The closer their diet adhered to the classic Mediterranean diet, the higher their point score. The further from it, the lower the score. Possible scores ranged from 0 to 9.

Sofi’s analysis found that even a 2-point increase in score produced statistically significant health benefit. For every 2-point increase, a subject had a 13% decreased risk for getting Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, a 6% decreased risk of getting or dying of cancer and a 9% decreased risk of dying of cardiovascular disease. Each 2-point increase was also associated with an 8% decrease in risk of dying during the study from any cause.

Simple rules to the Mediterranean Diet:

1. Eat abundant amounts of plant foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds).
2. Eat concentrated sugars only on rare occasions.
4. Use olive oil as your principal source of fat.
5. Eat dairy products (mainly cheese and yoghurt) only occasionally
6. Eat red meat and poultry rarely and then in small amounts. Eat 4 eggs or less a week.
7. Eat fish frequently.
8. Drink wine in low to moderate amounts, generally with meals.

All this being said, please don’t get me wrong, fried foods may not be totally good for you. Each year when I send out holiday recipes I receive return emails from people who are outraged that I’ve suggested such horrible ingredients. The cream of mushroom soup recipe found in a 2007 article on mushrooms and breast cancer probably wins the prize for provoking outrage. Though as I think about it the chille rellenos were a close second.

In fact, thinking about this, I won’t include a recipe this year. Nevertheless, let me wish you all a happy holiday season.

Jacob Schor, N.D., FABNO, majored in Food Science and Product Development as an undergraduate at Cornell University, and received his doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine at National College in Portland, Oregon in 1991. He served as President of the Colorado Association of Naturopathic Physicians from 1992-1999. He is currently president of the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians ( He maintains a private practice at the Denver Naturopathic Clinic. Other essays by Dr. Schor can be found at

Monday, November 22, 2010

Reflections from the Board of Directors

By Sara Thyr, ND

Bastyr University. Copyright © 2010. All Rights Reserved.
I was in Seattle in November for my last meeting with the Board of Directors of the AANP. It was an unusual mix of emotion for me. I have felt ready to be free of the substantial time commitment for some time now, but felt the melancholy creep in well before the end of the meeting.

The largest change in the years that I have been on the Board is moving from a reactionary board to a visioning board. Rather than putting out fires and throwing money at the crisis du jour, we are looking into the future and planning in a way that can only benefit the growth of our profession.

All of the governance documents are available for your perusal on the AANP website (you must be logged-in to view). If you haven’t already seen what we’ve been up to for the last few years, it will be worth your time to take a look. Your voice and involvement in your national association makes it all work. It should be evident from the ends and measures that we have set forth that we do this work for everyone in the profession (actually, everyone in need of healthcare in our country).

Looking at the future and where the Board sees the profession down the road is quite exciting. Everyone in the United States will know what a naturopathic physician is and have the opportunity to utilize naturopathic medicine for their healthcare. Can you see it?

I went to school at Bastyr University and graduated over 10 years ago. Being back on campus and seeing how it has grown in the years I have been gone was incredible. We stayed in the “village” – the LEED-platinum certified dorms on campus. They are beautifully designed and a much-needed advancement over previous dorm life. The herb garden has emerged to be a fixture on campus that is quite a bit more than the little circle of plants that was started when I was there. The students have more tools to study anatomy and other topics. Even though we were just there on a weekend, it was evident that much has improved. And with that growth and change will come great leaders in the profession. Not only do we have a student Board member, but we also had the President of the NMSA (Naturopathic Medical Students Association) present. With their input we can move towards better tools for graduates and our profession. The AANP Board will continue to grow, visioning and leading the profession with the best, most adapted tools that we and our staff can conjure.

The level of reporting on processes, the work plan, the budget and how well we are meeting our goals has substantially improved with changes and additions to the AANP staff over the years. The involvement in state licensing has increased and the connections for all legislative efforts have improved since my earliest days on the Board, largely thanks to the work of Executive Director Karen Howard, lobbyist Jan Lipson, outgoing Board member Michelle Clark, and now, our new legislative liaison, Gene McGill. Let’s not forget the countless volunteers in every state who work exceptionally long hours in order to make it all happen and improve our profession.

What will I miss the most about the being on the AANP Board? Well, I have had the great pleasure of serving with some truly remarkable people in our profession. In my experience from working at the state level from New Hampshire to California, I know of no other profession who has so many brilliant, caring and committed leaders. So I will miss being around these great minds, working arm-in-arm with them, and seeing that powerful impact we can have on the future of naturopathic medicine when we roll our sleeves up and move towards our goals.

I know that I leave the Board in capable hands. It is an exciting time to be involved and to see our profession expand its reach, just as the Bastyr’s herb garden expanded its reach. But as the last minutes of the meeting rolled by, I found myself just a little bit glum that it will be my last one for some time.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Future of the AANP

By Carl Hangee-Bauer, ND, LAc
AANP President

Fall has been a busy time for the AANP Board. After the dust settled from the convention and things relaxed for a bit, attention turned to identifying goals and priorities for the 2011-2012 work plan and budget.

Sounds exciting, huh? Actually, it’s some of the most important work that the AANP Board does. It requires that Board members think strategically, surveying the landscape for political and social trends, considering the future of healthcare reform, understanding readiness in states close to licensure, listening to feedback and the experience of our naturopathic physician members, and bringing that back to the table as we discuss and deliberate.

While the Board discusses these topics throughout the year, the formal start to our planning began at the August Board meeting. We examined programs that are currently underway and ranked programs such as marketing and public relations, state and federal affairs, fundraising, and others in order of importance to the ends and the goals of the AANP. The staff, led by Karen Howard, took this preliminary feedback and constructed the first draft of our next 2-year work plan and budget, getting further feedback from a Board survey that took a closer look at these initial ranking and programs.

This past weekend the Board held its Fall meeting on the beautiful campus of Bastyr University. Most of our time was spent discussing and debating the various details of the proposed 2011-2012 work plan. All of this, by the way, is done with keen attention to how to best serve our membership.

Let me give you some insights of the Board approved work plan.

Far and away the biggest priority is directed toward membership issues such as member benefits and professional success, programs such as the convention and membership services, and tools and resources for membership support including the AANP website.

State and Federal Affairs are a very big piece of the work plan. Facilitation of licensing in more states, inclusion in federal programs for the naturopathic profession under healthcare reform, engaging in strategic partnerships with like-minded organizations to effect change, and training our physicians and naturopathic students at the DC FLI – all are pieces in this very complex work.

Next, our Executive Director will take the work plan and assign budget categories to each area of emphasis for Board review and approval. This will be a very challenging step. While the AANP has weathered the economic downturn quite well compared with other associations, the economy has nonetheless impacted us. The budget will be very tight, and it will be a challenge to meet all of our goals. It is likely that choices will have to be made based on the key goals, priorities and programs we’ve identified.

I tell you all of this so you can understand some of the work that goes on behind the scenes and see why it is so important to be a member of your national association. The AANP is a member-driven organization that represents you in the halls of Congress and to the American people. It supports state licensing efforts and facilitates communication amongst various organizations within the naturopathic profession. It supports research and data collection to better inform others of our work. It provides top-notch continuing education with many of the thought leaders of our profession. It brings unity to our community of doctors and students in every state in the US and other countries.

Please join us as we move into the future by joining or renewing your AANP membership and letting your voice be heard.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Alley Jelly and Modern Chemistry

By Jacob Schor, ND, FABNO

Photo by Rachel Tayes via Flickr, used under the Creative Commons License.
There is a Hebrew prayer that expresses gratitude after tasting the first fruit of the season. This morning I am wondering whether there shouldn’t also be a prayer for the last taste of the season. I think this as I toss our last sprig of fresh basil into a pan of hot olive oil and the kitchen fills with the odor. The basil is in competition, though, with a pot of applesauce; I’d collected golden yellow apples that last night’s wind knocked off the tree around the corner. With the clock’s dropping back over just two weekends ago, there’s room in my morning schedule to make pack away a jar of applesauce before leaving for the office.

The weather here in Colorado collaborated to produce a bumper crop of fruit here in Denver. After watching cherries, apricots, plums and apples compost on the lawns of neighbors who have neglected to harvest their bounty, I’ve taken it upon myself to save what I can. Poppy also has taken advantage of the apples especially, and insists on eating a stomach full each day.

My wife Rena and I have been making grape jelly on weekends with some of the most flavor-filled Concord grapes I can even recall tasting. Thus the last few weekends have found me gathering the grapes hanging into an alley just off Montview Boulevard. This has led me to the grocery store, and to start experimenting with the new forms of pectin available. No doubt some reader will write to tell me that I shouldn’t use these modified pectins, but at this point, in my ignorance, they are very exciting. Traditional jelly-making required very high sugar concentrations to set. If I recall correctly, one heated the jelly ‘broth’ to about 220 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature at which the mixture was about 65% sugar. Without the high sugar concentration, the jelly wouldn’t set. It had to be sugar; the pectin wouldn’t jell if you tried substituting honey.

Times have changed and food chemists have developed pectins that don’t require added sugar and will still jell if sweetened with honey. This is why you can buy sugar free jelly and preserves in the grocery store. We made our first batch of grape jelly the old fashioned way, making juice from the grapes and cooking it down with what seemed an enormous amount of sugar. Our second batch is still setting, but we made it without adding any sugar. I’m quite looking forward to opening the jar for my first taste in a few weeks.

An excellent discussion of how to make no sugar jellies is available from the University of Tennessee’s Agriculture Extension Service:

This leads me to the point in this blog piece when I turn on my computer’s link to the National Library of Medicine and look up some current scientific data linked to whatever I am ruminating upon.

It so happens that there is a new paper looking at the effect of drinking Concord grape juice on blood pressure published a just over a week ago.

Researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine, almost within sight of Concord, the town where the grapes are originally from, conducted a placebo-controlled trial of grape juice in mildly hypertensive individuals. This was a double-blind cross over study. 64 otherwise healthy people participated and drank either grape juice or a placebo for two months, took a month off, and then switched beverages.

Although no statistically significant difference in average blood pressure was measured, several endpoints of interest did change during the grape juice portion of the study. Night-time blood pressures dropped 1.4% while drinking grape juice, while they increased 2.3% during the placebo phase. Blood sugar decreased 2 mg/dL while drinking grape juice, and increased 1 mg/dL during the placebo phase.i Interesting, but not fascinating.

These results are different from an earlier study from 2004. In this earlier study that was conducted in Korea, systolic blood pressure decreased an average of 7.2 mm Hg (p = 0.005) and diastolic blood pressure average by 6.2 mm Hg (p = 0.001) at the end of 8 weeks.ii In the new study. participants drank 7.5 ml /kg body weight, while in the older study, 5.5 ml/kg body weight was consumed.

Could the grape juice polyphenol content have varied, or could there be some genetic variant that differed between populations? It’s not clear.

Whatever the case with these studies, I remain enchanted with the idea of making sugarless jams and jellies, and look forward to next summer’s possibilities already. And as far as my pondering the lack of a prayer for the last of the season, well, it’s obvious that wiser ones than I understand that one never knows which taste will be our last so that all that we can mark is the first.
i Dohadwala MM, Hamburg NM, Holbrook M, Kim BH, Duess MA, Levit A, Titas M, Chung WB, et al. Effects of Concord grape juice on ambulatory blood pressure in prehypertension and stage 1 hypertension. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Nov;92(5):1052-9.
ii Park YK, Kim JS, Kang MH. Concord grape juice supplementation reduces blood pressure in Korean hypertensive men: double-blind, placebo controlled intervention trial. Biofactors. 2004;22(1-4):145-7.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


By Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO
AANP Past-President (2008-2009)

Photo by OakleyOriginals via Flickr, used under the Creative Commons License.
I have a dear friend who is 71 years old and as spunky as they come. She is intensely inquisitive of everyone who has the good fortune of meeting her. With focused determination, in a matter of minutes, she can extract the most intimate details even from the most reticent person. At the same time, she has a constant twinkle in her eye and a belly laugh ready to erupt at any moment. She is entirely unreliable at making plans as something better is quite likely to come along and catch her attention.

Around a table filled with her friends, she loves to debate the deeper meaning of every movie that is showing within a 20 mile radius. At one of these dinner gatherings a few days ago, I asked her a question, “What do you most attribute your good health to?” Her response: “My good health is the most certainly the result of surviving all of my bad habits.” Perhaps she was referring to her daily evening bourbon cocktail. Perhaps she was referring to her disdain for structured exercise. She does have a few bad habits to be sure, but as the evening progressed, I wasn’t thinking of those.

I watched her listen to her friends with complete compassion, while gently and persistently pointing out the silver lining in every cloud that someone resolutely created and simply delighting in the joy of being with people she loves. I thought about her past, too, and the deep adversity and loss she has experienced. It dawned on me that the real secret to her health and vitality was resilience – her unceasing ability to rebound from all manner of disappointments and to emerge into a confident embrace of life within and around her.

Her resilience seeps into those around her as she constantly buoys them up, praises them, and revels in their unique brilliance. You just cannot help but to feel better about yourself when you are with her. She lives life with the expectation that we will swing at anything that life throws at us, that we will make contact with the ball, and that the point is to revel in wherever the ball flies. I smile as think of her now, likely snuggled into her bed, watching one of her favorite shows on TV, eager to fall asleep so that she can start her day tomorrow.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Rediscovering the Value of Fats in Our Diets

By Susan DeLaney, ND, RN
2010 AANP President's Award Winner

Photo by @joefoodie via Flickr, used under the Creative Commons License.
For most of the last 50-60 years, we have been under the influence of the “lipid hypothesis,” which translates into “saturated fats are bad,” that “cholesterol causes heart disease,” and that “to stay healthy one must eat low-fat or non-fat foods.” According to some food theories, any fat at all is bad for you and should be avoided at all costs.

I found this somewhat confusing as my grandparents grew up eating eggs and bacon with lard biscuits and butter. They worked hard and were rarely sick and lived healthy lives even as they aged. Looking at epidemiological evidence, it also seems that various groups of people living around the world consume even more saturated fats in their diets. Eskimos living in extreme cold areas consume approximately 80% of their calories from saturated fats, from marine mammals such as seal and whale meat and their fats, fish and fish eggs and their organ meats. The Masai, an African tribe, live almost exclusively on milk, meat and the blood of the cows they raise, with 80% of their diets consisting of saturated fats. Yet when scientists have examined the health of both of these groups of people living on their traditional diets, they remain free from heart disease, cancer, and the common infectious diseases.

The French present another problem, so much so that we call it the “French Paradox.” In the United States the death rate from heart disease is 315/100,000 and in France the death rate is 145/100,000. Somewhat confusing as the French eat so much butter, cheese, rich sauces and meat, all of the things we have been trained to avoid to prevent heart disease and maintain a healthy lifestyle. So we say “it must be the wine,” which does have beneficial effects but not enough to create such a difference in the death rates from cardiovascular disease. Looking more closely at the data, it turns out that in the region of Glascony, where people eat the highest levels of fats in their diets from duck and goose livers, the death rate from cardiovascular disease is 80/100,000. What’s up with that?: the highest fat in the diet with the lowest rate of heart disease! Bring on the wine, cheese and pâté!

What is now becoming evident to us is that real foods high in fats are essential to our health as they contain important fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. These vitamins act more like signaling hormones acting in concert with one another, instructing the body to perform important functions within the cell. They are the primary drivers of every system in the body. Foods such as butter, eggs, cheese and milk from pasture-raised animals contain very high amounts of these important vitamins. Additionally fish and fish livers oils, organ meats, shellfish, the fats of pigs and birds, and even insects prized by certain cultures contain high levels of vitamins A and D. And what about Vitamin K2? Surprisingly, goose and duck livers are amongst the foods containing the vitamin at its highest levels. Other K2-rich sources include cheeses, egg yolks, butter and fatty meats—all those things the French love to eat!!

Science is now beginning to back up these observations with the fat-soluble vitamins, especially K2, which acts by conferring the physical ability for proteins to bind calcium, helping it find its proper placement in the bones rather than the arteries. K2 also offers protection from heart disease by regulating two important proteins involved in monitoring and clearing the plaque from the arteries. In the future it is likely that the lack of vtamin K2 will be considered one of the major contributing factors to heart disease.

As naturopathic physicians, we should take a more holistic approach by considering the combination of ALL of fat-soluble vitamins as they act together, talking to one another and influencing heart disease, not to mention the other systems in our body.

Vitamin D, an important fat soluble vitamin, has been in the news recently, with studies demonstrating that many are deficient. Such deficiency contributes to the increased risk of cancer, auto-immune disease, heart disease, osteoporosis, depression and many other health concerns. Were a lack of sunlight the primary culprit, one of the studies would not have shown that even in Hawaiians with exposure to sun 28 hours per week—a level most of us barely reach in a month—50% of them are vitamin D deficient!!

Why, you ask, is this so?

Our diets are lacking in the foods that are rich in Vitamin D, as well as the other fat-soluble vitamins A, E and K. Fully committed to the low fat diet, most people have limited and even eliminated healthy fat-containing foods from what they eat. Know for a fact that if you supplementing vitamin D, you are lacking in the other vitamins as well. Instead of more supplements, I recommend changing your diet to include healthy fats from animals raised on pasture land: butter, cheese, eggs and milk. Include fatty fish and shellfish from unpolluted waters and, like traditional people and the French, eat more organ meats and the fat from animals. Let real food be the foundation what your health, and enjoy it as well!!

For more information: