Smorgasbord Short Stories – The Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction – Sisu – DNA by Sally Cronin


This week’s carrot ranch flash fiction challenge In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about sisu. It’s a Finnish concept of enduring strength, the ability to consistently overcome.

Sisu – DNA

They found the old bones in a cave in Southern France. They were packed carefully and dispatched to a laboratory where they identified them as the remains of a woman in her 40s. This was elderly for her time, with arthritis and healed broken bones evidence of her hard life. Her mitochondrial DNA was matched to millions of women who migrated across the continent as ice thawed, populating almost every part of Europe and beyond. Her genes survived through the centuries and 20,000 years later matched to a young woman, who discovered where all her strength had come from.

©Sally Cronin

If you would like to participate in the Flash Fiction Challenge then follow the link: https://carrotranch.com/2019/05/02/may-2-flash-fiction-challenge/

I have a number of short story collections and you can find my books and their reviews: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

Smorgasbord Health Column – B12 (Cyanocolbalamin) – Cell health, DNA and Sleep


We are now coming to the end of the B vitamins and I hope that you will have found them an interesting group of nutrients that are so essential to our health both physically and mentally.

You will find the other B vitamin posts in the Health Column Directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-health-column-news-nutrients-health-conditions-anti-aging/

B12 is no exception and certainly for those of us in our 60s it is one of the vitamins we need to make sure we are taking in sufficient amounts in our food. Since B12 is primarily in eggs, dairy products and offal it is restrictive, especially as so many ‘experts’ tell you to stop eating them because of the impact on your cholesterol levels and waistline. I disabused that myth in the series on cholesterol which is a naturally occurring substance in our bodies and necessary for some pretty major operations such as brain function.

I am in the process of updating the cholesterol posts with the latest research and will be reposting them in coming weeks.

Vitamin B12 (Cyanocolbalamin) is an essential water-soluble vitamin but unlike other water soluble vitamins that are normally excreted in urine very quickly, B12 accumulates and gets stored in the liver (around 80%), kidney and body tissues.

  • B12 is vital for the efficient working of every cell in the body especially those with a rapid turnover as it prevents cell degeneration.
  • It functions as a methyl donor and works with folic acid in the manufacture of DNA and red blood cells.
  • B12 is necessary to maintain the health of the insulating sheath (myelin sheath) that surrounds all nerve cells.
  • It is involved in the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for resetting our biological clock’s rhythm when we change to new time zones, and also helps us sleep.

What can result from a deficiency of B12?

The most common disease associated with B12 deficiency is Pernicious Anaemia, which is characterised by large, immature red blood cells. Blood Health and Anaemia

But other diseases and medical conditions associated with a lack of this vitamin are;

  • Allergies,
  • Alzheimer’s disease,
  • Asthma,
  • Cancer,
  • Depression,
  • AIDS,
  • Low blood pressure,
  • Multiple sclerosis,
  • Tinnitus
  • Low sperm counts.

How do we become deficient in B12?

We actually do not need a huge amount of the vitamin per day, around 2 micrograms or 2 millionth of a gram. The problem is that it is not particularly well absorbed by the body so larger amounts are needed in the diet to supply the amount we need. Absorption of B12 requires the secretion from the cells lining the stomach of a glycoprotein, known as the intrinsic factor. The B12-intrinsic factor is then absorbed into the ileum (part of the small intestine) with calcium.

  • One of the issues regarding deficiencies is that many people have turned away from the richest sources of B12 because they believe either that they are harmful, fattening or will raise levels of cholesterol. Liver, kidneys and eggs have not enjoyed wonderful press over the last few years and many people have also reduced the amount of cheese they eat believing that it is fattening.
  • Plant sources of B12 are virtually non-existent and many long term and dedicated vegetarians have been found to be deficient.
  • Over use of antacids, inflammation of the stomach lining (Helicobacter pylori infection) and pancreatic problems can also lead to deficiency as the secretion of the intrinsic factor is compromised.
  • There is some evidence that women with breast cancer have lower levels of B12 and there are indications that women after menopause with very low levels were more likely to develop the disease. It is not clear if the deficiency is caused by the cancer in the body or the other way around.
  • Some drugs have inhibited the uptake of B12 such as those prescribed for diabetes and ulcers and there is a great deal of research into these interactions.
  • As we age our ability to process our foods becomes less effective with enzyme production reduced such as the secretion of the intrinsic factor necessary for B12 absorption. Added to the fact that many elderly people suffer from a lack of appetite and you have a higher risk of malnutrition.
  • An interesting piece of research proposes that it is possible that Vitamin E may protect the process of absorption of B12 by preventing oxidative damage to cell membranes. If so a deficiency in this vitamin may well affect our B12 levels.

What are the food sources for B12?

B12 is present in meats apart from offal, eggs and dairy products. It is better to drink a cold glass of milk than to eat yoghurt as the fermentation process destroys most of the B12 as does boiling milk.

There are very few sources, if any of B12 in plants, although some people do believe that eating fermented Soya products, sea weeds and algae will provide the vitamin. However analysis of these products shows that whilst some of them do contain B12 it is in the form of B12 analogues which are unable to be absorbed by the human body.

Eating foods containing Vitamin E may help the absorption process and the best sources for this are in nuts such as the walnuts, sunflower seeds, whole grains, eggs, spinach, apples, bananas, broccoli, brown rice, carrots, onions and oily fish.

Most cereals and breads today are fortified with B12 as are yeast extracts (marmite) and vegetarian products.

©Sally Cronin Just Food for Health 1999 – 2018

A little bit about me nutritionally.

A little about me from a nutritional perspective. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago. I qualified as a nutritional therapist and practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as being a consultant for radio. My first centre was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Here are my health books including a men’s health manual and my anti-aging book.

All available in Ebook from:  http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

And Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

Comprehensive guide to the body, and the major organs and the nutrients needed to be healthy 360 pages, A4: http://www.moyhill.com/html/just_food_for_health.html

Thank you for dropping in and if you have any questions fire away.. If you would like to as a private question then my email is sally.cronin@moyhill.com. I am no longer in practice and only too pleased to help in any way I can. thanks Sally

Thanks for dropping in and please feel free to share.

You will find the other B vitamin posts in the Health Column Directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-health-column-news-nutrients-health-conditions-anti-aging/

 

Smorgasbord Health – Weight Reduction – Meet Helena the first of my clan.


In the first post of this repeated series on weight reduction, I explained that I did not believe in the “Quick Fix” approach to weight loss or magic pills for life to prevent diseases that are lifestyle related. Weight loss has become the obsession of most women today in the western world. Magazines, celebrities and experts are constantly bombarding us with the latest, guaranteed way to lose our extra weight, and there is a multi-billion pound/dollar business to service our obsession.

N.B. There have been some comments in the past about the use of the term ‘loss’ when referring to weight and that it carries negative connotations.  To be honest I don’t feel negative about the term as the very act of losing weight that is causing health problems is such a positive experience.  However, I am using the term reduction more frequently as I would also like to combat the incessant negativity about FAT... like a lot of good things you can have too much of it and you need a certain amount of body fat to be healthy.

For me the key to losing weight is not about following the latest diet, or taking the latest miracle supplement but coming to an understanding with, and respecting our body. Never before in history has so much information been available about how our body works and the diseases that can cripple it. Perhaps there is too much and we are overwhelmed? Advice is torrential and confusing. One minute you should eat meat and the next only carbohydrate. Exercise for 30 minutes a day or perhaps just 2 minutes at a run would do the trick?

Before we move further into the series and talk about strategies that you as an individual can use to tailor make a diet that suits you, I would like to dial things back a notch.

Actually quite big notch – I would like you to meet my grandmother 500 times removed – called Helena. A woman who has passed on her powerful mitochondrial DNA to me, so powerful that despite all the pairings of genes throughout the last 20,000 years, I still carry her within me.

When I began my journey 22 years ago to repair my body and my health, I realised that I knew very little about my own family history from a health perspective and even less about the history of humans in general.

My mother had little information or even family to share with us. Her father was killed in the last week of the First World War at age 31, when she was just over a year old and an only child. My grandfather was Irish and Catholic and my grandmother English and protestant. Although his close family, living in England offered to educate my mother, it was provisional on her being brought up Catholic. My grandmother refused and contact was lost with my grandfather’s side of the family and consequently we also lost all their history.

In the late 1990s  I embarked on two historical journeys. One into the recent past and one way back into the late Stone Age. I managed to research back as far as the late 1400’s on both my mother’s English family and my father’s roots in the North East. No surprises but some emotional discoveries that both saddened and inspired me.

The Clan of the Cave Bear

One of my inspirations for our next step on this journey of discovery were the books of Jean M. Auel – beginning with the Clan of the Cave Bear – set around 28,000 years ago when the Neanderthal branch of human kind was disappearing. The story follows the life of Ayla and the series of six books up to her most recent – The Land of the Painted Caves – is the most fascinating read of my life. I wanted to find out if there was an Ayla in my past.

My husband and I decided to take advantage of the recently emerged DNA ancestry projects and in 2001 we both had our mitochondrial DNA tested. If you want an insight into the process before having your own DNA tested then I suggest you read Dr. Bryan Sykes book The Seven Daughters of Eve.

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When submitted, an individual’s DNA is tested against seven sets of bones. Each of the identified set of bones found in various regions in Europe was given a name. My results showed that my DNA came from Helena whose bones dated back around 20,000 years ago. My husband’s to a slightly later woman, Velda, 17,000 years ago.

So I now had two points at each end of my ancestry, Helena and my mother – and it was a fascinating process, not just to establish the likely route that my ancestors took to arrive in southern England, but to also establish some dietary and health links along the way.

Helena’s, and therefore my own DNA, is according to Dr. Sykes and his team, the largest and most successful of the seven native clans with 41% of Europeans belonging to one of its many branches. She was born somewhere in the valleys of the Dordogne in South Central France but the clan is widespread throughout all parts of Europe but reaches its highest frequency among the Basque people of Northern Spain and Southern France. (Perhaps explains my love of my former Spanish home in the mountains above Madrid combined with sunshine, olive oil, seafood etc.)

The ice-age was at its severest and stretched down as far as Bordeaux, and in Britain down as far as the midlands (Britain was still joined to continental Europe by dry land).   Helena’s diet would have consisted of meat, seafood from the shoreline such as oysters and possibly seaweeds, various plants and fruits, some tubers and mushrooms, seeds and grains. Recent research indicates that we may well have begun eating raw grains very early on when we left the forests for the grasslands, and that even 30,000 years ago we may have been processing existing grains for cooking. Rather negates the recent trend to take all grains out of our diet!

According to Helena’s bones, she was about 42 when she died and would have lived to see her grandchildren. That was a good age for the time. Life was very hard – apart from the cold and harsh living conditions, food scarcity, childhood was perilous and it was an achievement to reach 15. If you did, then provided you survived giving birth, avoided accidents and found enough to eat and store for winter months, you could look forward to perhaps another 20 years to your mid-30’s. In a time where survival of the fittest was the rule – Helena survived into her 40’s and produced daughters who were strong and fertile who resulted in not just myself, but my two sisters, and three granddaughters to carry on her legacy.

What is becoming evident is that because our ancestors were opportunistic eaters they had a much more varied diet than we do today, consuming over 100 different varieties of plant and protein. Today it is estimated that we restrict ourselves to around 25 different varieties. Take a look at your shopping basket and ask yourself when was the last time you tried something new?  This is not good for our general health as our bodies are designed to consume a broad spectrum of nutrients extracted from a wide variety of foods.

It appears that Helena’s descendants and their families wended their way through France once the ice had receded. They must have been strong both in mind and body to withstand the journey, its dangers and the daily grind of finding sufficient food to feed themselves and their families. Along the way some would have settled in with new groups that they encountered or simply as large family units. Eventually, some would have reached the fertile seashores of the South of England and the Isle of Wight, which may have been still attached to the mainland, and over the following centuries they would have created my immediate family.

Helena was 42 when she died 20,000 years ago and the interesting link is that according to the records I could find, nearly all my female relations from the recent past died at around the same age! In or after childbirth or worn out from the process of having a child a year, every year. Many children appeared to have died in the first year or two of their lives which must have been emotionally traumatic too. The first person in several generations to live a long life was my mother who died at nearly 95.

In fact it was not until the early 1900’s that this life expectancy would change. My grandmother and my mother in particular were the first of the women in my family to benefit from not just a more varied diet but a safer birth process, better public health and sanitation, reduction in childhood diseases, new medical advances, control and treatment of smallpox and measles and TB. Luckily neither was affected by the great Spanish Flu epidemic that killed millions in the two years after the First World War. Additionally they lived in the country with a plentiful diet of natural unprocessed foods full of variety and very little in the way of processed foods.

Sadly my grandmother had a weak chest and died from asthma at age 55 in 1945 and we never got to know her. The medical advances and drugs that might have saved her life came too late.

But I know now where I come from, who I am and that I have the strength derived from generations of strong women.   The journey gave me a greater knowledge of who I am and a greater understanding of my body. A body that is the outcome of thousands of years of survival. It needs to be treated with far greater respect than I gave it for the first 40 odd years of my life and I believe everyone needs to feel the same way about their own body and health.

So, before you embark on a starvation diet, or consume pills that promise you will lose weight, I would ask you think first about the impact of that action will have on your body. 

Links you might find interesting.

http://www.oxfordancestors.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Seven_Daughters_of_Eve
http://www.jeanauel.com/
http://www.amazon.com/Bryan-Sykes/e/B001H6J09S

©Sally Cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2018

Please feel free to ask any questions in the comment section and if you would like a private word then please email me sally.cronin@moyhill.com.

Smorgasbord Health – Vitamin of the Week – B12 (Cyanocolbalamin) – Cell health, DNA and Sleep


smorgasbord health

We are now coming to the end of the B vitamins and I hope that you will have found them an interesting group of nutrients that are so essential to our health both physically and mentally. B12 is no exception and certainly for those of us in our 60s it is one of the vitamins we need to make sure we are taking in sufficient amounts in our food. Since B12 is primarily in eggs, dairy products and offal it is restrictive, especially as so many ‘experts’ tell you to stop eating them because of the impact on your cholesterol levels and waistline. I disabused that myth in the series on cholesterol which is a naturally occurring substance in our bodies and necessary for some pretty major operations such as brain function.

This week I am going to be posting the series on stress as I have had a number of questions on the B vitamins role in this response to our lives. That starts tomorrow and through the rest of the week.

 Vitamin B12 (Cyanocolbalamin) is an essential water-soluble vitamin but unlike other water soluble vitamins that are normally excreted in urine very quickly, B12 accumulates and gets stored in the liver (around 80%), kidney and body tissues. B12 is vital for the efficient working of every cell in the body especially those with a rapid turnover as it prevents cell degeneration. It functions as a methyl donor and works with folic acid in the manufacture of DNA and red blood cells and also is necessary to maintain the health of the insulating sheath (myelin sheath) that surrounds all nerve cells. It is involved in the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for resetting our biological clock’s rhythm when we change to new time zones, and also helps us sleep.

The most common disease associated with B12 deficiency is pernicious anaemia, which is characterised by large, immature red blood cells. But other diseases and medical conditions associated with a lack of this vitamin are allergies, Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, cancer depression, AIDS, low blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, tinnitus and low sperm counts.

HOW DO WE BECOME DEFICIENT IN B12?

We actually do not need a huge amount of the vitamin per day, around 2 micrograms or 2millionth of a gram. The problem is that it is not particularly well absorbed by the body so larger amounts are needed in the diet to supply the amount we need. Absorption of B12 requires the secretion from the cells lining the stomach of a glycoprotein, known as the intrinsic factor. The B12-intrinsic factor is then absorbed into the ileum (part of the small intestine) with calcium.

One of the issues regarding deficiencies is that many people have turned away from the richest sources of B12 because they believe either that they are harmful, fattening or will raise levels of cholesterol. Liver, kidneys and eggs have not enjoyed wonderful press over the last few years and many people have also reduced the amount of cheese they eat believing that it is fattening.

Plant sources of B12 are virtually non-existent and many long term and dedicated vegetarians have been found to be deficient. Over use of antacids, inflammation of the stomach lining (Helicobacter pylori infection) and pancreatic problems can also lead to deficiency as the secretion of the intrinsic factor is compromised. There is some evidence that women with breast cancer have lower levels of B12 and there are indications that women after menopause with very low levels were more likely to develop the disease. It is not clear if the deficiency is caused by the cancer in the body or the other way around.

Some drugs have inhibited the uptake of B12 such as those prescribed for diabetes and ulcers and there is a great deal of research into these interactions.

As we age our ability to process our foods becomes less effective with enzyme production reduced such as the secretion of the intrinsic factor necessary for B12 absorption. Added to the fact that many elderly people suffer from a lack of appetite and you have a higher risk of malnutrition.

An interesting piece of research proposes that it is possible that Vitamin E may protect the process of absorption of B12 by preventing oxidative damage to cell membranes. If so a deficiency in this vitamin may well affect our B12 levels.

WHAT FOOD SOURCES ARE THERE FOR B12?

 B12 is present in meats apart from offal, eggs and dairy products. It is better to drink a cold glass of milk than to eat yoghurt as the fermentation process destroys most of the B12 as does boiling milk.   There are very few sources, if any of B12 in plants, although some people do believe that eating fermented Soya products, sea weeds and algae will provide the vitamin. However analysis of these products shows that whilst some of them do contain B12 it is in the form of B12 analogues which are unable to be absorbed by the human body.

Eating foods containing Vitamin E may help the absorption process and the best sources for this are in nuts such as the walnuts, sunflower seeds, whole grains, eggs, spinach, apples, bananas, broccoli, brown rice, carrots, onions and oily fish.

Most cereals and breads today are fortified with B12 as are yeast extracts (marmite) and vegetarian products.

©sallycronin Just Food For Health 2007

Coming up tomorrow the start of the Stress Series…thanks for dropping by and please feel free to share. Also if you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask.

Thanks Sally