I am a Christian. I believe in the God of the Bible, in God the Father, in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit. I believe in Genesis 1:1 - "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (NIV)" I am a biochemist and a pharmacist by education. As such I have a desire to understand nature. I am writing this blog as my way to express the facts of true science as I understand them, from the perspective of one who believes that all things were created by God, for God and for His purposes.

Feel free to comment, to offer your perspective, or to give suggestions for subjects.
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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving - The Chemistry of a Blessing

A few years back, in 2000, there was a movie out called "Pay It Forward." The premise of the movie was to pass on a blessing to someone, with nothing expected in return. In the movie Trevor McKinney, troubled by his mother's alcoholism and fears of his abusive but absent father, is caught up by an intriguing assignment from his new social studies teacher, Mr. Simonet. The assignment: think of something to change the world and put it into action. Trevor conjures up the notion of paying a favor not back, but forward--repaying good deeds not by payback to the original person, but with new good deeds done to three new people. As he works on his assignment, it transforms his life and all of the lives of those touched by the ever-growing circle of good deeds.

Thanksgiving is a day to remember all who "Paid It Forward" to and for us. Before 1863 it was being celebrated separately in many states on different dates to commemorate the original Thanksgiving from 1621 when the Pilgrims and Indians gathered for a harvest celebration. The day was established by Abraham Lincoln as a national day for our country to celebrate all of the blessings we have. He set forth a proclamation on October 3rd, 1863, in the middle of the Civil War no less, to set apart the last Thursday of November "as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise."

Thanksgiving was set apart by Abraham Lincoln "as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens"

Here is the Proclamation:

"The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union."

We in America are truly blessed. We have all we need and then some. Even the poorest among us are generally richer than many in other countries. We have much to be thankful for. Recently with the "Occupy Wall Street" movement and a general sense of entitlements that seems to be growing in our country, we are putting our blessings at risk. Paul states in 2 Corinthians - "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 (NIV)"

Remember today to thank God for all that He has done in your life and in the lives of those around you. He is the giver of the day and the source of our strength. Remember the blessings you have received and "Pay It Forward" to all around you, with no expectation of return.

2 Chronicles 7:14 - "If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (NIV)"

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Diabetes and Insulin

Strictly, diabetes is defined as any of several disorders characterized by increased urine production. Generally when we think of diabetes, we are thinking of Diabetes Mellitus, a form of diabetes where insulin production or action is reduced, resulting in hyperglycemia or elevated blood sugar. This elevated blood sugar increases our bodies urine output as we try to eliminate the excess sugar in our urine.

There is another form of diabetes, Diabetes Insipidus, where increased urine production is caused by inadequate secretion of vasopressin by the pituary gland. It is not respond to insulin so we will not be discussing this form of diabetes. When we mention the word diabetes, we will be referring to Diabetes Mellitus.

Diabetes is either the lack of insulin in our bodies (Type I Diabetes) or our bodies are resistant to the insulin we produce (Type II Diabetes). Here is a more clinical definition:

Diabetes Mellitus (DM) – A general term referring to all states characterized by hyperglycemia.
  • Type 1 – An autoimmune mediated destruction of insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas, resulting in an absolute insulin deficiency.
  • Type 2 – A multifactoral syndrome with the combined influence of genetic susceptibility and of environmental factors, the best known being obesity, age, and physical inactivity, resulting in insulin resistance in the cells requiring insulin for glucose absorption. This form of diabetes is strongly inherited.

A person with type I diabetes must inject insulin since the body produces minimal or no insulin. In type II diabetes, the beta cells produce insulin, but our body's cells do not respond normally to it so more insulin is needed. This extra insulin can come by stimulating the beta cells to produce more, the goal of oral diabetic medications, or by supplementing with injected insulin. Type II diabetes is usually first treated by lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, healthy eating and exercise. Type I diabetes is always treated with injected insulin.

As we mentioned in a previous blog entry, Insulin - The Sugar Police, Insulin is remarkably similar in a number of animal species and can be used directly to treat diabetes. In fact, it was not too many years ago that all insulin was from animal sources. The two primary sources were bovine or beef insulin and porcine or pork insulin. Bovine insulin differs from human in only three amino acids, and porcine insulin differs in only one. Biosynthetic "human" insulin is now manufactured by recombinant DNA (rDNA) technology using bacteria to produce human insulin.

Diabetes is the 6th leading cause of death
in the United States

Insulin generally comes as rapid acting, long acting or delayed acting forms. Regular (rapid onset, short-acting) and NPH (slower onset, longer duration) human insulins are the most commonly-used preparations. Others are Lente and Ultra-Lente (much slower onset and longer duration). A mix of NPH and Regular Insulin called 70/30 is also available.

Modified forms of human insulin, changing the amino acid sequence slightly or adding other molecules to the insulin chain, are also available. The modifications improve the absorption or duration of action characteristics of the insulin to give better overall glucose control. They are usually referred to as "insulin analogues". The rapid acting analogs are modified to prevent the formation of dimers and hexamers, making the insulin molecule more quickly absorbed and faster acting. The extended release analogs have additional molecules attached to the insulin chain, resulting in slower absorption and increased duration of action.

Examples include:

Rapid acting (response in 15 minutes or less)
  • Insulin lispro
  • Insulin glulisine
  • insulin aspart
Long duration (last for 18 - 24 hours)
  • Insulin glargine
  • Insulin detemir

Both long duration analogues are taken only once daily, and are used in treating type I diabetes as the basal insulin. A combination of a rapid acting and a long duration insulin is used to achieve an insulin profile that mimics that of the body´s own insulin release.

Unlike many medicines, insulin currently cannot be taken orally. It is destroyed in the gastrointestinal tract and must be given subcutaneous injection. Pre-filled insulin pens and pumps are available to simplify the injection regimen. Work is ongoing to develop an insulin nasal spray and stem cell researchers are looking to create replacement beta cells.

By reducing the concentration of glucose in the blood, insulin is thought to prevent or reduce the long-term complications of diabetes, including damage to the blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves. Everyone's body reacts to insulin in different ways. The onset, peak and duration of the different types of insulin will vary by individual.

Some Myths about diabetes:
Myth I: Sugar or eating sweets is the cause of diabetes. - It's not the sugar, it's too many calories and a lack of exercise for type II diabetes. Type I is due to a loss of insulin producing cells.

Myth II: Type I diabetics can't have anything sweet. - Fast-acting insulin therapies and intensive monitoring protocols can allow for the occasional treat.

Myth III: Type I diabetes, or juvenile diabetes, only affects the young. - Type I diabetes can affect anyone at any age although it is more common in younger people.

Myth IV: Only obese people get diabetes. - Obesity is the leading risk factor for type II diabetes but patients with type I diabetes are often otherwise very healthy.

Myth V: There is no treatment for Type II diabetes. - Type II diabetes can be delayed and even prevented with lifestyle modifications including exercise and a healthy diet.

There are a number of famous people with type I diabetes. The list includes:
  • Ernest Hemingway - Author (For Whom the Bell Tolls; A Farewell to Arms; The Sun Also Rises)
  • James "Catfish" Hunter - MLB Baseball Hall-of-Famer (baseball)
  • Nick Jonas - Jonas Brothers
  • Jackie Robinson - Baseball player
  • Mary Tyler Moore - Actress (Dick Van Dyke Show, Mary Tyler Moore Show, Ordinary People); diabetes advocate

The prevalence of diabetes is increasing every year. It is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. and 36% of American families cope with diabetes. Hopefully with continued advances in insulin, a trend towards healthier lifestyles and other new therapies, we will be able to get this disease under control.

Proverbs 16:24 - "Kind words are like honey — sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. (NLT)"

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Was "Mitochondrial Eve" the Eve of Genesis?

So last time we looked at Eternal Productions Scientific Fact number 37 from 101 Scientific Facts & Foreknowledge - "God has created all mankind from one blood (Acts 17:26; Genesis 5)." In their comment about this fact, they identified a study about men coming from a single ancestor. I stated studies show that 90% of all men descended from a single male ancestor. But nothing was said about women.

In 1987, a surprising study was published in the journal Nature.­ Looking at the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of 147 people from across all major racial groups, researchers found that all people alive today descended from one of two genetic branches. One branch contained only families of African origin, the other covered all other groups, including some from Africa. In most species, including humans, mtDNA is inherited solely from the mother. The study showed that both branches came from one woman.

Every single person on Earth today can trace their origin back to a single common female ancestor

­The geneticists concluded from the study data that every single person on Earth today can trace their origin back to a single common female ancestor. Because both branches contained African lineage, the authors concluded that Africa was this woman's home. They called this common female ancestor "Mitochondrial Eve." The idea for this research was based on a discovery made in 1980 that when you compare the mtDNA of two humans th­e samples are very similar, more similar than with any other primate. This finding suggested that humans share a more recent common ancestor.

The 1987 study authors stated they were not implying that Mitochondrial Eve was the first or only woman on Earth at the time she lived, she was just the most recent person to whom all people can be traced. In other words, many women lived before her and many after, but her life was the point from which all modern human families grew.

So why did the study say that Eve is humanity's most recent common ancestor, and not the first woman? Science will not claim a Creator since such a statement cannot be proven scientifically. Biblically, this study would support at least the concept that all humans descended from one man and one woman. Scientifically, an evolutionary bottleneck is used to explain why Mitochondrial Eve was just the most recent ancestor. An evolutionary bottleneck is a situation where most, if not all, members of a species suddenly die out, bringing the species to the verge of extinction. This sudden decrease is most likely the result of some kind of catastrophe. Afterward, just a few members remain to repopulate the species. Such a Biblical event would have been the Flood (Genesis 6, ff). Instead of being the first woman, the study states that Mitochondrial Eve was one of only a few survivors of a near complete human destruction.

Even decades after the Mitochondrial Eve study was published, the results are still hotly debated in the scientific community. The 1987 study pointed out that somewhere down the line of history, we are all related with East Africa as the place of our origin. Although this does not prove "Adam and Eve" and there are other issues to examine, clearly this is in line with the Biblical text. If not "Mitochondrial Eve", the Bible states there was another "Eve" somewhere in our human history.

Genesis 1:27 - "So God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female He created them. (NIV)"

Monday, November 14, 2011

Male and Female He Created Them - Can We Prove It?

Did God create them male and female? Was there really a single man and a single woman who together produced the human race? Can we tell this from our DNA? We are going to take a look at the Biblical truth from Genesis 1:27-28a: 27 "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it'. (NIV)"

Do the "facts" in the Bible ring true? Are the statements made by the Biblical authors foreknowledge and facts of scientific truths? A group called Eternal Productions produced a book listing 101 scientific facts claimed to be reported first in the pages of the Bible. This book chronicles examples of Biblical words of knowledge about some seemingly accepted scientific facts. The book is entitled "101 Scientific Facts & Foreknowledge," and enumerates the Biblical facts with a reference to the appropriate verses and a short explanation and justification for the "fact" in light of the referenced verse.

There are several websites that give a counterpoint to each of the 101 Facts, showing how they either are not true science, how Eternal Productions has twisted the Bible or true science to fit their point, or how the Bible was not the first reference to the specific scientific fact being discussed. One is RationalWiki and a second is a now defunct blog entitled Science and the Bible Archive.

So today we will look at Eternal Productions Scientific Fact number 37. Here is how it reads in 101 Scientific Facts & Foreknowledge. "God has created all mankind from one blood (Acts 17:26; Genesis 5). Today researchers have discovered that we have all descended from one gene pool. For example, a 1995 study of a section of Y chromosomes from 38 men from different ethnic groups around the world was consistent with the biblical teaching that we all come from one man (Adam)."

Now the "Science and the Bible Archive" rebuttal goes like this: "Science does not identify an 'Adam' in the Biblical sense of the word, and does not say that there was anyone like 'Adam' who was created by a God, of course…. but the logic of evolution it certainly does accord with the idea of humanity ultimately have common ancestors in Africa, a suggestion put forward in a number of Creation stories – not just the Biblical one. Hence, we find that the Bible on this occasion is at best not making a unique claim."

RationalWiki states its disclaimer like this: "Acts 17:26 says 'And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;' Genesis 5 is here (a reference to the genealogy of Adam). But what the research shows is that one strain of male DNA became dominant. Looking further into the research, we find that rates of mutation in DNA indicate the originator of the strain lived about 60,000 years ago, yet creationists claim the earth is 10,000 years old. Even worse for their argument, that 60,000 number is too small, according to some scientists, as the H. sapiens exodus from Africa took place over 100,000 years ago."

So the rebuttals state two main objections: 1) that the suggestion of common ancestors is not unique to the Bible, and 2) that the DNA strain mentioned was dominate but not necessarily from one man. It is also mentioned that Creationists claim the age of the earth is about 10,000 years old, not old enough for what the scientific record shows. On this third point, not all Creationists are "young Earth" directed and many believe that the Earth is millions of years old, just as most secular scientists. We will ignore this argument in our current discussion.

Lets examine the two main points. They both say the same thing but in different ways, that the concept of "Adam" as the father of all is not supported but common ancestors are indeed possible and compatible with evolution.

More than 90% of all males have a single common ancestor

The hypothesis that humans have a single origin (mono-genesis) was published in Charles Darwin's Descent of Man in 1871. It was later supported, in the 1980s, by a study of present-day mitochondrial DNA samples combined with evidence from the physical anthropology of primitive specimens. In one study of DNA it was observed that more than 90% of all males not native to Africa descended in a direct male line from the first bearer of a specific type of DNA, haplogroup F. Haplogroup F originated some 45,000 years ago, either in North Africa or in South Asia. In human genetics, haplogroup F is a very common Y-chromosome haplogroup spanning all the continents.

What this means is that more than 90% of all males have a single common ancestor, the first bearer of haplogroup F. Could this be "Adam?" Maybe, but it is only a 90% coverage. If Adam was the sole forefather of all men, then shouldn't all men have this DNA type? Now we have a lot to learn yet about DNA and there could still be more to this story but for now, there does not appear to be enough evidence to confirm (or deny) that we all came from a single man.

But the arguments don't say anything about "Eve." Could we all have come from a single woman? There seems to be more evidence in support of that hypothesis. We will look at that next time.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day -The Chemistry of Freedom

About a month ago my wife and I visited her Aunt in San Antonio. She had recently moved to a new home and her brother was visiting from Brazil for the first time in about five years. It was a great family reunion. At one point the talk turned to her husband who had passed away a few years back. He had been an Air Force pilot in WWII and had flown 42 missions, many over Germany during a number of fierce air battles. She had a picture that was taken from one of the planes in his squadron showing bombs exploding, sending deadly chunks of metal shooting in all directions, aimed at taking out the low flying planes. He was in one of those planes.

My uncle was a rear gunner in the same war, fighting over the Pacific during the battle of Midway. He was only 19 at the time. Both of our uncles survived, living into their 80's. We were lucky they made it home to tell their stories.

Since that war we have had Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan to name a few. Before WWII there were numerous wars as well, WWI, the Civil War and of course the Revolutionary War, our original call for freedom. All of these battles, right or wrong, were fought in the name of freedom. A freedom America continues to fight for, all over the world, for all of those oppressed by tyranny.

Today is Veteran's Day. A day we remember those who fought to establish and protect the freedoms we can so easily take for granted. It takes a special kind of individual to risk their life in the defense of another. If you see a soldier, thank them for their service. If you know a family who has a loved one deployed overseas, spend some time with them. If there is a family in your circle who has lost a loved one in the line of duty, comfort them. Most of all say a prayer and thank God for the blessing of these brave men and women. Without their courage and dedication, both past and present soldiers, we might not have the rights and freedoms we now enjoy. We owe a debt of gratitude to them all.

Isaiah 53:12a - "I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier, because he exposed himself to death. (NLT)"

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Enriched Uranium - Peaceful Power or Powerful Weapon?

Enriched uranium is uranium that has a higher concentration of uranium-235 than is found naturally, having been increased through isotope separation. Natural uranium is 99.3% uranium-238, with uranium-235 accounting for only about 0.7% of its weight. Uranium-235 is the only nuclide existing in nature that is capable of sustaining a chain reaction of nuclear fission. Enriched uranium is a critical component for both nuclear power generation and military nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) attempts to ensure nuclear power generation safety and control nuclear weapons proliferation by monitoring enriched uranium supplies and generation.

Enriched uranium is created as two main types, low and highly enriched.
Low-enriched uranium (LEU) has less than 20% uranium-235. It is used in light water reactors (LWR), the most prevalent power reactors in the world. Uranium is most commonly enriched to 3 to 5% uranium-235 for use in these reactors.
Highly enriched uranium (HEU) has greater than 20% uranium-235. At this concentration, HEU is called weapons-usable although this would be a less than sufficient weapon. When used in nuclear weapons HEU usually contains 85% or more uranium-235. This grade of enriched uranium is known as weapons-grade. There is a process called downblending that turns highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium into low enriched, reactor-grade uranium. It is a major feature of the Megatons to Megawatts Program, converting uranium-235 to peaceful uses. It is estimated that there currently is approximately 2000 tons of enriched uranium (both reactor and weapons grade) in existence around the world.

Currently there are two main methods utilized for enrichment: gaseous diffusion and gas centrifuge. The gas centrifuge method consumes only 6% of the energy required for gaseous diffusion. Other methods are being developed but none have been scaled up to production levels. Gaseous diffusion works by forcing natural uranium through another substance, causing the uranium-235 to be separated out. Gaseous diffusion accounts for approximately 1/3 of all uranium enriched today. Most enriched uranium is currently produced by the gas centrifuge. The centrifuge spins gaseous uranium around rapidly, using centrifugal force to separate the heavier isotopes from the lighter ones.

Iran is suspected of being only "months" away from building a nuclear bomb

Iran has been in the news lately due to its development of enriched uranium and the building of numerous nuclear facilities. In June, Iran installed a new generation of centrifuges in its uranium enrichment sites and tripled its 20-percent enriched uranium output. Last August, Iran started transferring the nuclear enrichment centrifuges from its Natanz nuclear facility to their Fordo atomic site.

The Western world suspects that Iran's uranium enrichment program may be meant to produce nuclear weapons. Iran is now under sanction by the United Nations Security Council and the United States, the European Union and other western countries over its controversial nuclear program. Just this week the IAEA reported that Iran is building "hi-tech precision detonators which would be essential for a nuclear device, and developing a uranium core for a nuclear warhead." Iran is also suspected of testing weapons capable of carrying a nuclear payload and is only "months" away from building a nuclear bomb. Iran has denied all this, stating its nuclear program is for peaceful power generation purposes only.

Only time will tell if Iran truly has only peaceful intentions in mind.

2 Peter 3:10 - "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. (NKJV)"

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Vinegar Is Not Just For Catching Flies

"Tart words make no friends; a spoonful of honey will catch more flies than a gallon of vinegar"
~ Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706 - April 17, 1790)

Ben Franklin was comparing the tang of vinegar to the acid sharpness of terse words. I prefer it on my salad! Vinegar has been in use since man first made wine, in fact the word comes from the Old French "vin aigre", which translates into "sour wine." Vinegar is a liquid produced from the fermentation of ethanol yielding its key ingredient, acetic acid. Ninety percent of Americans buy vinegar, using it mainly for salads, in cooking, home canning and for cleaning.

Acetic Acid is an organic compound with the chemical formula CH3COOH. It is a colorless liquid called glacial acetic acid when pure. Acetic acid is the main component of vinegar (diluted in water), and has a distinctive sour taste and pungent smell.

Vinegar is made from the oxidation of ethanol in an alcoholic liquid, such as wine, fermented fruit juice, or beer. There are two processes of fermentation that differ by speed of production, fast and slow. Fast fermentation takes only hours to days but requires the use of equipment to oxidize the ethanol. Slow fermentation is a natural process taking weeks or months. During this time a nontoxic slime composed of cellulose and acetic acid bacteria called mother of vinegar accumulates in the liquid. Also a part of the fermenting vinegar may be the non-parasitic nematodes called vinegar eels, which are free-living creatures that feed on the mother. While they have been shown to be harmless to humans, they are usually filtered out before bottling.

Vinegar can be made from many alcoholic liquids. Some examples include:
  • Malt Vinegar - Made by malting barley, causing the starch in the grain to turn to maltose. Then an ale is brewed from the maltose and allowed to turn into vinegar. In the United Kingdom, salt and malt vinegar is a traditional seasoning for chips and crisps.
  • Wine Vinegar - Made from red or white wine, it is the most commonly used vinegar in Mediterranean countries and Central Europe. Better quality wine vinegars are matured in wood for up to two years, and exhibit a complex, mellow flavor. Wine vinegar tends to have a lower acidity than that of white or cider vinegars.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar - Made from cider or apple must, it has a brownish-yellow color. It often is sold unfiltered and unpasteurized with the mother of vinegar still present. Due to its extra acidity, cider vinegar may be very harsh, even burning, to the throat. It is usually used diluted and sometimes sweetened with sugar or honey.
  • Balsamic Vinegar - An aromatic, aged type of vinegar traditionally crafted in Italy from the concentrated juice, or must, of white grapes. It is a very dark brown color, and has a rich, sweet, and complex flavor. True balsamic vinegar is aged for 12 to 25 years. The commercial balsamic sold in supermarkets today is typically made with concentrated grape juice mixed with a strong vinegar and laced with caramel and sugar. Balsamic vinegar has a high acidity level, but the tart flavor is usually hidden by the sweetness of the other ingredients.
  • Rice Vinegar - The most popular in East and Southeast Asia, it is available in white, red, and black varieties. White rice vinegar has a mild acidity and a somewhat "flat", uncomplex flavor. Red rice vinegar is colored with red yeast rice. Black rice vinegar, made with black glutinous rice, is most popular in China. Some varieties of rice vinegar are sweetened or otherwise seasoned with spices or other added flavorings.
  • Distilled Vinegar - Any type of vinegar may be distilled to produce a colorless solution of about 5% to 8% acetic acid in water. This is variously known as distilled spirit, virgin, or white vinegar, and is used for medicinal, laboratory and cleaning purposes. It can also be used in cooking, baking, meat preservation, and pickling. The most common starting vinegar, because of its low cost, is malt vinegar.
  • Spirit Vinegar - The term 'spirit vinegar' is sometimes reserved for the stronger variety (5% to 20% acetic acid) made from sugar cane or from chemically produced acetic acid.
The more common kitchen uses of vinegar include:
  • Salad Dressing - Many dressing recipes call for a vinegar and oil base.
  • Condiment for fish and chips — in the UK and Ireland salt and malt vinegar is sprinkled on chips.
  • Flavoring for potato chips — many manufacturers of packaged potato chips and crisps feature at least one variety flavored with vinegar and salt.
  • Vinegar Pie — a farm favorite made with common kitchen ingredients, it is flavored with a small amount of cider vinegar and may contain raisins, spices and sour cream.
  • Pickling — any vinegar can be used to pickle foods.
  • Apple cider vinegar - Usually placed on the table in small bowls or cups so that people can dip crab meat. Also mixed with water and used to steam crabs.
  • Substitute for fresh lemon juice — cider vinegar can usually be substituted for fresh lemon juice in recipes and obtain a pleasing effect.
  • Saucing roast lamb — pouring cider vinegar over the roasting lamb, especially when combined with honey or sliced onions, produces a sauce.
Vinegar has been used medically over the millennia and in many different cultures, however, few uses have been verified through controlled medical trials. Even uses shown to be effective have side effects and may cause serious health risks. Some medical uses include:
  • Soothing for sunburns - White vinegar applied as a spray to a tissue draped over a sunburn helps restore the lost acidity of the skin, and gives a cooling effect.
  • Possible cholesterol and triacylglycerol effects - Reduced risk of fatal ischemic heart disease was observed among participants in a trial who ate vinegar and oil salad dressings frequently.
  • Blood glucose control and diabetic management - Small amounts of vinegar added to food, or taken along with a meal, have been shown by a number of medical trials to reduce the glycemic index of carbohydrate food for people with and without diabetes.
  • Diet control - Several trials indicate that taking vinegar with food increases the feeling of fullness and thus reduces the amount consumed.
  • Antimicrobial use - Vinegar has been used to fight infections since Hippocrates prescribed it for curing persistent coughs. As a result, vinegar is popularly believed to be effective against infections.
White vinegar is often used as a household cleaning agent, usually diluted with water. Being acidic, it dissolves mineral deposits from glass, coffee makers, and other smooth surfaces. Vinegar sprinkled onto crumpled newspaper is a traditional, and still-popular, method of cleaning windows and mirrors. It is also used for polishing brass or stainless steel. Vinegar is an excellent solvent for cleaning epoxy resin and hardener, even after the epoxy has begun to harden. It is also an eco-friendly urine cleaner for pets and a weed killer. Vinegar has been marketed as an environmentally-friendly solution for many household cleaning problems. You can learn more about vinegar at The Vinegar Institute and see other unique uses for vinegar at 131 Uses for Vinegar.

Matthew 27:48 - "Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink."

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Insulin - The Sugar Police

As I mentioned in a previous blog, Glucose - Ah, Sugar Sugar!, man does not live by cheesecake alone. Our cells can only get energy from glucose. Glucose is absorbed directly from the intestines or is created in the body from the foods we eat. It is primarily generated by a breakdown of simple sugars or carbohydrates but can be formed by other pathways. But glucose cannot be absorbed directly into our cells without the help of Insulin.

Insulin is a proteinaceous hormone secreted by a special group of cells in the pancreas called the islets of Langerhans. The pancreas also releases other hormones as well as digestive enzymes, which are released into the intestinal tract and help with the breakdown and absorption of proteins and fats. Insulin controls the level of glucose in our blood and permits cells to absorb and utilize glucose. You can eat lots of food but be in a state of starvation without the action of insulin. As carbohydrates are absorbed into the bloodstream after a meal, insulin is secreted in response to the increased blood sugar. The insulin then attaches to cell receptors where it enhances the absorption of the glucose into the cells. The cells use the glucose for energy or convert it to glycogen for storage. The level of glucose in the blood is thus reduced and maintained at an appropriate level to support bodily functions.

You can eat lots of food but be starving without insulin

The beta cells in the islets of Langerhans release insulin in two phases. The first phase releases insulin rapidly in response to increased blood glucose levels. The second phase is a sustained, slow release of insulin triggered independently of blood sugar levels. If too much insulin is produced and blood glucose levels drop too low a release of hyperglycemic hormones (mostly notably glucagon from the islet of Langerhans' alpha cells) stimulates the release of glucose into the blood, primarily from glycogen stored in the liver. If we do not produce enough insulin, the sugar stays in our bloodstream and is unable to nourish our cells.

Insulin - Created by Isaac Yonemoto

Insulin is composed of two peptide chains referred to as the A and B chains. These two chains are linked together by two disulfide bonds. In humans, the A chain consists of 21 amino acids and the B chain of 30 amino acids. Within vertebrates, the amino acid sequence of insulin is extremely well-preserved. Bovine (beef) insulin differs from human in only three amino acid residues, and porcine (pork) insulin differs in only one. Even insulin from some species of fish is similar enough to human to be clinically effective.

The actions of insulin on our cells include (partial list):
  • Increased glycogen synthesis – increased storage of glucose in the liver and muscles
  • Increased lipid synthesis – fat cells take in blood lipids, converting them to triglycerides
  • Decreased proteolysis – decreased protein breakdown
  • Decreased lipolysis – reduced conversion of fat cell lipids into blood fatty acids
  • Decreased gluconeogenesis – decreased production of glucose from non-sugar substrates
  • Increased amino acid uptake – increased absorption of circulating amino acids
  • Increased potassium uptake – increased absorption of serum potassium
As you can see insulin helps regulate many bodily functions beyond just blood sugar. But insulin is probably best known for the disease where we do not have enough - Diabetes. I am sure all of you have heard of Diabetes. It is a disease where we do not produce enough insulin or our bodies resist the insulin we do produce. This lack of insulin activity is why diabetics have high blood sugar. We will take a closer look at how insulin is used in the treatment of Diabetes in a future blog.

Proverbs 25:27 - "It's not good to eat too much honey, and it's not good to seek honors for yourself. (NLT)"