Asparagus Ribbon Salad with Parmesan, Pine Nuts & Lemon


Tender asparagus is still in Season. Here’s another easy recipe using locally grown organic asparagus. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.





2/3 cup pine nuts, toasted, plus extra (toasted) for garnish
1 pound fresh, (organic) locally grown fat asparagus, rinsed
1 lemon, halved

1.5 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Zest of 1/2 lemon

Lemon circles, for garnish
2.5 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 fresh garlic clove, juiced

1 Tablespoon fresh chives, minced

Pinch turmeric (that comes with black pepper, already mixed in)

Pinch black mustard seeds, toasted (optional)

Pinch chili flakes

Pinch, black pepper

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or more



Asparagus in season, is so tender now. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.





Toast the pine nuts and the black mustard seeds together. Keep your eye on them and stir constantly so they don’t burn. You’ll have to do them over if they burn. Set aside.



Toast the pine nuts yourself; it really adds to the overall flavor. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.



Chop the chives, slice the lemons and set aside. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.



Rinse the asparagus, then make the asparagus ribbons

To shave the asparagus lay a stalk flat on a cutting board, holding it at the base. Usually, with asparagus recipes, you snap off the tough bottom, that’s too tough to eat. In this recipe, don’t snap it off, so you have something to hold onto when you make the asparagus ribbons.

Gripping the base, at about where the pale base turns green, use a vegetable peeler to shave the stalk in long, even strips all the way through the tip. Be sure to peel the asparagus ribbon, all the way to the end of the tip. Some of your ribbons will have part or all of the tip and others won’t. That’s okay. The end result will be a lovely variety of ribbons.

The best peeler to use, is the Y-shape one. Peel again until you’re about half way through the stalk, then turn over and peel the other side. When you reach the point that the peeler will no longer shave the spear, rest the spear on top of a wooden spoon (or wooden spatula) with a flat handle, to elevate the spear and take the last two or three strips. Peel all of the asparagus spears, like this.



Peeling the asparagus ribbons. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.



So-o easy to make asparagus ribbons and your salad will look so lovely. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.



Grate the parmesan.



It always tastes better, when you grate your own parmesan. Get a quality chunk of it at a reliable store. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.



Combine asparagus shavings, toasted pine nuts and toasted black mustard seeds, in a large salad (serving) bowl, and toss gently. Save some of the nuts for garnish.

In a small bowl, place the minced chives and the garlic juice in the bottom of the bowl and cover with olive oil. Add lemon juice, zest, chives, turmeric and pinch chili flakes, and whisk until smooth.



In a small bowl, make the vinaigrette. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.



If you toss this salad ahead of time, the ribbons wilt a little. They lose some of their perkiness. Therefore, just minutes before your meal begins, pour the vinaigrette dressing over the asparagus mixture and toss gently with salad servers, to lightly coat all of the asparagus ribbons.

Season according to your taste, if needed.

Finally, sprinkle the salad with the freshly grated parmesan and toss.

Garnish with a few toasted pine nuts. Place the lemon circles around the bowl for decoration.

Serve immediately.



One night we just had chilled white wine with crusty Italian bread dipped in extra virgin olive oil and this asparagus ribbon salad; fresh fruit for dessert.  ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.



This is the third time this month, that I’ve made asparagus ribbon salad.  Tonight, we started with icy white wine, and a Nova Scotia Salmon appetizer; followed by this salad and kale/mushroom patties with avocado pureed topping and strawberry jello cake. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.



Nothing says, Spring, like the sweet smell of hyacinths. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.



We saw Frank Langella give the most brilliant performance we’ve seen all year in a play called, The Father, by Florian Zeller. It’s on Broadway at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater, for a limited run that ends sometime this coming June.


The unique crafting of this play, takes the audience, back and forth in time, plus in and out of the aging psyche, superbly played by Frank Langella. The starring role is extremely difficult because of the many mental twists and turns, but the genius of Frank Langella captures all the delicate nuances of the leading character. I predict that this play will win more than one Tony Award for 2016. Buy your tickets first thing on Monday, so you don’t miss a terrific play and a once in a lifetime performance. We are very proud to be patrons of this event. The world needs more great theater like, The Father.



From Our Table to Yours !


Bon Appetit!


International team of climate researchers reconstruct global cooling in the reign of emperor Justinian

April 19, 2016

Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR)

Contemporary chronicles, archaeological studies and physical evidence all point to severe climatic changes and ensuing social crises in the middle of the 6th century. New data from ice cores suggest that these events were caused by two major volcanic eruptions. An international team of scientists has reconstructed the effects using state-of-the-art climate models. As they present now the volcanic double event was likely the strongest volcanic driver of Northern Hemisphere climate over the past one and a half millennia.



Simulated summertime (June-August) average temperature changes in 536 CE due to the stratospheric aerosol cloud resulting from an unknown volcanic eruption reconstructed here based on contemporary written records and ice core sulfate measurements. The simulated temperature changes, ranging from 1-3 ° C over Europe, show good agreement with estimates from two tree-ring temperature reconstructions based on trees in Northern Scandinavia.
Credit: Matt Toohey, GEOMAR



Contemporary chroniclers wrote about a “mystery cloud” which dimmed the light of the sun above the Mediterranean in the years 536 and 537 CE. Tree rings testify poor growing conditions over the whole Northern Hemisphere — the years from 536 CE onward seem to have been overshadowed by an unusual natural phenomenon. Social crises including the first European plague pandemic beginning in 541, are associated with this phenomenon. Only recently have researchers found conclusive proof of a volcanic origin of the 536 solar dimming, based on traces of volcanic sulfur from two major eruptions newly dated to 536 CE and 540 CE in ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica.

An international team of climate scientists led by Dr. Matthew Toohey at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel and Prof. Dr. Kirstin Krüger of the University of Oslo (UiO), with financial support from the Centre for Earth Evolution and Dynamics (CEED) at the UiO, has investigated the time period using the new ice core data, historical evidence and climate models. As they write in the international journal Climatic Change, the impact of the volcanic double event of 536/540 on Northern Hemisphere climate was stronger than any other documented or reconstructed event of the past 1200 years. “One of the eruptions would have led to a significant cooling of Earth’s surface. Two of them, so close in time, caused what is probably the coldest decade of the past 2000 years,” says Dr. Matthew Toohey from GEOMAR, lead author of the study today at a press conference at the annual EGU Meeting in Vienna where he presented the results.

To simulate the impact of the 536 and 540 eruptions, the scientists used the available data from ice cores and the descriptions of the solar dimming from contemporary scholars. With this data they estimated the magnitude of the eruptions and their approximate locations on Earth, and then simulated the spread and impacts of the aerosol clouds resulting from the volcanic injection of sulfur into the stratosphere. This revealed that following the eruptions, the solar radiation at Earth’s surface was strongly reduced over the Northern Hemisphere for several years, and caused decreases in the hemispheric average temperature of up to 2 degrees Celsius.

The relationship between the “mystery cloud” of 536 and the transition from Antiquity to the Middle Ages is an issue of great popular interest. Volcanic eruptions in the more recent past have impacted human societies. For example, in 1815 the Indonesian volcano Tambora hurled so much ash and sulfur into the atmosphere that the year 1816 became known as “the year without summer” in Europe and North America, where unusually low temperatures led to crop failures and famines. For eruptions of the more distance past, connections between eruptions and societal impacts become less clear.

Toohey and his colleagues used their climate model simulations to directly estimate the impact of the eruptions on agriculture in Europe, and identified Northern Europe and in particular Scandinavia as the most likely locations to have suffered under the cold conditions after the eruptions. This result supports the theory of a connection between the eruptions and archaeological evidence of a large-scale societal crisis in Scandinavia in the 6th century. “Each one of the eruptions of 536/540 would have strongly impacted societies, and it happened twice within four years,” says co-author Prof. Dr. Kirstin Krüger from the University of Oslo.

Which volcanoes exactly were responsible for these aerosols clouds is still enigmatic. “Several candidates are being discussed, including volcanoes in Central America, Indonesia and North America. Future studies will be necessary to show the exact source of the aerosol clouds of 536/540,” says Dr. Toohey.

Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Matthew Toohey, Kirstin Krüger, Michael Sigl, Frode Stordal, Henrik Svensen. Climatic and societal impacts of a volcanic double event at the dawn of the Middle Ages. Climatic Change, 2016; DOI:10.1007/s10584-016-1648-7


Source: Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR). “Two volcanoes trigger crises of the late antiquity: International team of climate researchers reconstruct global cooling in the reign of emperor Justinian.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 April 2016. <>.

New technique offers cheaper, faster method to create heart tissue for testing drugs and modeling disease

April 20, 2016

Gladstone Institutes

Scientists have invented a new way to create three-dimensional human heart tissue from stem cells. The tissue can be used to model disease and test drugs, and it opens the door for a precision medicine approach to treating heart disease. Although there are existing techniques to make three-dimensional tissues from heart cells, the new method dramatically reduces the number of cells needed, making it an easier, cheaper, and more efficient system.



Scientists have developed an easier, cheaper, and more efficient system for creating three-dimensional human heart tissue from stem cells.
Credit: Image courtesy of Gladstone Institutes



Scientists at the Gladstone Institutes have invented a new way to create three-dimensional human heart tissue from stem cells. The tissue can be used to model disease and test drugs, and it opens the door for a precision medicine approach to treating heart disease. Although there are existing techniques to make three-dimensional tissues from heart cells, the new method dramatically reduces the number of cells needed, making it an easier, cheaper, and more efficient system.

“We have bioengineered micro-scale heart tissues with a method that can easily be reproduced, which will enable scientists in stem cell biology and the drug industry to study heart cells in their proper context,” said first author Nathaniel Huebsch, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Conklin lab at Gladstone. “In turn, this will enhance our ability to discover treatments for heart disease.”

Creating heart cells from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) that are derived from a patient’s skin cells enables scientists to study and test drugs on that patient’s specific disease. However, cells made from iPSCs are relatively immature, resembling heart cells in an embryo more than cells in an adult. As such, these cells are inadequate for drug testing because they do not properly predict how a drug will affect adult heart cells. Additionally, heart cells created from iPSCs are challenging to make and work with, so creating large quantities can be difficult. Therefore, the fewer cells needed, the better.

The micro heart muscle addresses both of these concerns. Forcing the cells to organize and stretch into three-dimensional tissue helps spur development and coaxes them into resembling more mature cells that can better predict how a drug will affect adult heart cells. Also, the new method–published in the journal Scientific Reports–requires a thousand-fold fewer cells to grow the tissue than other tissue engineering techniques. Using fewer cells allows the scientists to do many more experiments with the same amount of resources.

Working in collaboration with Kevin Healy, PhD, at the University of California, Berkeley, the researchers first generated heart muscle cells and connective tissue cells from iPSCs. They then combined these cells in a special dish shaped like a tiny dog bone. This unique shape encouraged the cells to self-organize into elongated muscle fibers. Within a couple of days, the micro tissues resembled heart muscle both structurally and functionally. For example, when the researchers tested how the tissue responded to certain drugs that impair fetal heart cells but not adult heart cells, the micro heart muscle performed more like adult heart tissue.

“The beauty of this technique is that it is very easy and robust, but it still allows you to create three-dimensional miniature tissues that function like normal tissues,” said senior author Bruce Conklin, MD, a senior investigator at Gladstone. “Our research shows that you can create these complex tissues with a simple template that exploits the inherent properties of these cells to self-organize. We think that the micro heart muscle will provide a superior resource for conducting research and developing therapies for heart disease.”


Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Gladstone Institutes. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Nathaniel Huebsch, Peter Loskill, Nikhil Deveshwar, C. Ian Spencer, Luke M. Judge, Mohammad A. Mandegar, Cade B. Fox, Tamer M.A. Mohamed, Zhen Ma, Anurag Mathur, Alice M. Sheehan, Annie Truong, Mike Saxton, Jennie Yoo, Deepak Srivastava, Tejal A. Desai, Po-Lin So, Kevin E. Healy, Bruce R. Conklin. Miniaturized iPS-Cell-Derived Cardiac Muscles for Physiologically Relevant Drug Response Analyses. Scientific Reports, 2016; 6: 24726 DOI: 10.1038/srep24726


Source: Gladstone Institutes. “Micro heart muscle created from stem cells: New technique offers cheaper, faster method to create heart tissue for testing drugs and modeling disease.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 April 2016. <>.

April 19, 2016

NIH/Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Sticking to a healthy diet in the years after pregnancy may reduce the risk of high blood pressure among women who had pregnancy-related (gestational) diabetes, according to a study.



Sticking to a healthy diet in the years after pregnancy may reduce the risk of high blood pressure among women who had pregnancy-related (gestational) diabetes, according to a study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and other institutions.



The study was published in Hypertension.

“Our study suggests that women who have had gestational diabetes may indeed benefit from a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and low in red and processed meats,” said the study’s senior author, Cuilin Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., a senior investigator in the Epidemiology Branch of NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

Funding for the study also was provided by NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and National Cancer Institute.

In fact, a healthy diet was associated with lower risk for high blood pressure even in obese women. Obesity is a risk factor for high blood pressure. But obese women in the study who adhered to a healthy diet had a lower risk of high blood pressure, when compared to obese women who did not.

Approximately 5 percent of pregnant women in the United States develop gestational diabetes, despite not having diabetes before becoming pregnant. The condition results in high blood sugar levels, which can increase the risk of early labor and a larger than average baby, which may result in problems during delivery. For most women with the condition, blood sugar levels return to normal after birth. However, later in life, women who had gestational diabetes are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

The current study is the first to show that adopting a healthy diet–known to reduce high blood pressure risk among the general population–also reduces the risk among women with prior gestational diabetes. In an earlier study, Dr. Zhang and her colleagues reported that a healthy diet after gestational diabetes reduces the risk for Type 2 diabetes.

To conduct the study, the researchers analyzed the health histories of nearly 4,000 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study II, part of the Diabetes & Women’s Health study. Every four years, study participants responded to questionnaires on their eating habits. When appropriate, the researchers categorized the women’s responses according to three healthy dietary approaches: the Alternative Healthy Eating Index, Mediterranean-style Diet, and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH). These approaches emphasize consumption of nuts, legumes, whole grains and fish, and limit consumption of red and processed meats, salt, and added sugars.

After they statistically accounted for smoking, family history, and other factors known to increase high blood pressure risk, the researchers found that women who adhered to a healthy diet were 20 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who did not.

“High blood pressure affects about 30 percent of U.S. adults and increases the risk for heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke,” Dr. Zhang said. “Our study shows that a healthful diet is associated with decreased high blood pressure in an at-risk population.”

Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by NIH/Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Shanshan Li, Yeyi Zhu, Jorge E. Chavarro, Wei Bao, Deirdre K. Tobias, Sylvia H. Ley, John P. Forman, Aiyi Liu, James Mills, Katherine Bowers, Marin Strøm, Susanne Hansen, Frank B. Hu, Cuilin Zhang. Healthful Dietary Patterns and the Risk of Hypertension Among Women With a History of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus. Hypertension, 2016; HYPERTENSIONAHA.115.06747 DOI:10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.115.06747


Source: NIH/Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. “Healthy diet may reduce high blood pressure risk after gestational diabetes.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 April 2016. <>.

April 15, 2016

Hokkaido University

Stem cells have been used successfully, for the first time, to promote regeneration after injury to a specialized band of nerve fibers that are important for motor function.



CST axons entering into the graft (Green, graft; Red, CST axon).
Credit: Copyright Ken KADOYA



Stem cells have been used successfully, for the first time, to promote regeneration after injury to a specialized band of nerve fibres that are important for motor function.

Researchers from Hokkaido University in Japan together with an international team of scientists implanted specialized embryonic stem cells into the severed spinal cords of rats. The stem cells, called neural progenitor cells, were taken from rat embryos and directed to develop as spinal cord tissue. The implants, or “grafts,” promoted extensive regeneration of the severed nerve fibres, with the rats showing improvement in their ability to move their forelimbs. The team also used grafts of human neural stem cells in injured rats with similar results, demonstrating the potential of the success of this method across species.

The corticospinal tract (CST) is a band of nerve fibres that travels from the brain, through the brain stem and into the spinal cord. This structure is very important for motor function in humans. Injuries to the CST can result in paralysis. Much research has been done, with some progress, on using stem cells to regenerate other bands of nerve fibres in the spinal cord. But these have involved small gaps between the severed nerves in the presence of bands of bridging tissue. Lesions to nerve fibres located in the CST, however, and those involving large gaps and no bands of bridging tissue have proven largely resistant to regeneration.

The success of this current trial, reported in Nature Medicine, is promising for the future treatment of humans with severe spinal cord injuries. But much work remains to be done before it can be translated into clinical treatments. Further research is required to determine the best cell type to be used for grafting and for establishing safe grafting methods.

Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Hokkaido University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Ken Kadoya, Paul Lu, Kenny Nguyen, Corinne Lee-Kubli, Hiromi Kumamaru, Lin Yao, Joshua Knackert, Gunnar Poplawski, Jennifer N Dulin, Hans Strobl, Yoshio Takashima, Jeremy Biane, James Conner, Su-Chun Zhang, Mark H Tuszynski. Spinal cord reconstitution with homologous neural grafts enables robust corticospinal regeneration. Nature Medicine, 2016; DOI: 10.1038/nm.4066


Source: Hokkaido University. “New hope for spinal cord injuries.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 April 2016. <>.

The Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative (CTTI) and Managing Change


Target Health has been a member of the Steering Committee of the Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative since 2008 and it has been a superior journey. At the Steering Committee meeting this past week in Washington, the theme focused on implementing and managing change within organizations. Companies large and small, as well as FDA shared what they are doing to bring all aspects of clinical research into the 21st century in order to get novel and innovative drugs and devices to patients in a timely and cost-effective manner. There were candid and forthright discussions and one of the conclusions was that in order to make things happen, find people who want to do it, support them, let them experiment, and yes fail from time to time, and do not be afraid of change.


Springtime in New York City is Glorious


Springtime in NYC – Park Avenue Mall ©Target Health Inc. 2016


ON TARGET is the newsletter of Target Health Inc., a NYC – based, full – service, contract research organization (eCRO), providing strategic planning, regulatory affairs, clinical research, data management, biostatistics, medical writing and software services to the pharmaceutical and device industries, including the paperless clinical trial.


For more information about Target Health contact Warren Pearlson (212-681-2100 ext. 165). For additional information about software tools for paperless clinical trials, please also feel free to contact Dr. Jules T. Mitchel or Ms. Joyce Hays. The Target Health software tools are designed to partner with both CROs and Sponsors. Please visit the Target Health Website.


Joyce Hays, Founder and Editor in Chief of On Target

Jules Mitchel, Editor



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Public Health: Soil Conservation Leads to Healthy Crops, Leading to Healthy Consumption and Healthy Humans


Soil Profile: Soil scientists use the capital letters O, A, B, C, and E to identify the master horizons, and lowercase letters for distinctions of these horizons. Most soils have three major horizons?the surface horizon (A), the subsoil (B), and the substratum (C). Some soils have an organic horizon (O) on the surface, but this horizon can also be buried. The master horizon, E, is used for subsurface horizons that have a significant loss of minerals (eluviation). Hard bedrock, which is not soil, uses the letter R. Graphic credit: Wilsonbiggs – derived work from File:SOIL PROFILE.png by Hridith Sudev Nambiar at English Wikipedia., CC BY-SA 4.0,


“A nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.“ – Franklin D. Roosevelt


The Romans realized that the soil would become depleted if it did not receive fertilization. They were one of the early civilizations to employ a type of mixed farming. They would use manure from their farm animals to help revitalize their 1) ___. Yet the Romans did suffer from a decline in food production toward the end of their empire due to land overuse. One factor contributing to the fall of past civilizations, like Mesopotamia, and those of the Mediterranean region, was due in part to bad management of the landscape.


The U.S. is beginning to measure soil health by specific benchmarks used to evaluate soil health like CO2 release, humus levels, microbial activity, and available calcium. Soil health testing is spreading in the USA, Australia and Europe. Cornell University has had a Soil Health Test since 2006 and offers many types of individual soil health tests as well as three different soil health testing packages. The approach is to add into common chemical nutrient testing a biological set of factors not normally included in routine soil 2) ___ . The best example is adding biological soil respiration (CO2-Burst) as a test procedure; this has already been adapted to modern commercial labs in the past 10 years. In the last 40 years, USA soils have also lost up to 75% of their carbon (humus), causing biological fertility to drop drastically. Many critics of the current system say this is sufficient evidence that the old soil testing models have failed us, and need to be replaced with new approaches. These older models have stressed “maximum 3) ___“ and “ yield calibration“ to such an extent that related factors have been overlooked. As a result, huge agri-business farming has overlooked enormous quantities of valuable top soil erosion, replaced with synthetic fertilizer. Also used to replace lost soil nutrients, these farms have caused surface and groundwater pollution, by adding excessive amounts of nutrients like nitrates and phosphates, which eventually end up in our waterways and our 4) ___ water. This problem has grown enormously, and is reported to be the worst in the U.S. since the 1970s, before the advent of environmental consciousness.


In a healthy farm system, agriculture works in harmony with the natural environment. This begins with healthy soil that stores water and nutrients and provides a stable base to support plant roots. In a sustainable system, soil is kept in balance. Crops are rotated through the fields to replace 5) ___ in the soil. Where there is livestock, animals graze the land, then waste from those animals is used to fertilize the soil. The idea is that as farmers take from the land they also give back. Industrial farms disregard that need for balance. Land is used continuously and not given proper rest. Crops are not rotated in a way that replenishes the soil. Manure and chemical fertilizers are used to “feed“ the soil, but through over-application these additives become a problem. Factory farms concentrate an unnatural number of animals in one place, which creates an unmanageable amount of waste. For example, a single hog excretes up to 17.5 pounds of manure and urine each day. Put 1,000 hogs together, and that’s six million pounds of waste each year. On a factory farm containing 35,000 hogs,  over four million pounds of waste are produced each week, and over 200 million pounds each year. Large concentrations of animals squeezed together, causes 6) ___ which is why so many animals are given antibiotics, usually in their feed. On a sustainable farm, animal waste can be a tool, in factory-farm amounts it becomes a major pollutant.


The creation and disposal of such enormous quantities of waste has a devastating effect on the air, water and soil surrounding factory farms. Unlike human waste, livestock manure is not processed for sanitation. On factory farms it is commonly mixed with water and held in pits (called “lagoons“), and then spread or sprayed on cropland. But the system often suffers from an excess of manure: the lagoons can leak or spill, for instance, or the manure is over-applied to fields, which can cause it to run off into surface waters. This manure carries with it other substances that are used on industrial farms. These include 7) ___ and artificial growth hormones, which contaminate waterways and affect the plants and animals that live in them. Salt, a common component of manure from industrial dairies, can damage soil quality and contributes to erosion. All of these nutrients and heavy metals present in animal feed are also excreted by livestock, and so end up being applied to cropland. These include zinc, copper, chromium, arsenic, cadmium and even lead. In balanced amounts, some of these elements can be good for soil and promote plant growth. But as factory farms over-apply manure to fields, a significant quantity of nutrients builds up in the soil and can actually reduce the soil’s fertility. This damage is difficult to reverse, and ultimately puts fertile cropland out of use. Factory farms emit harmful gases and particles such as methane and hydrogen sulfide, which can contribute to global warming and harm the health of those living or working nearby. Air pollution results from the overuse of machinery, the mismanagement of manure, and the irresponsible feeding practices that characterize industrial farming. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides have turned agriculture into a leading source of water pollution in the United States. Runoff from factory farms kills fish, degrades aquatic habitats and threatens drinking water supplies. Additionally, factory farms use tremendous amounts of water, which cuts into our precious supplies of water that are not contaminated.


Soil is not just dirt! Soil is a mixture of minerals, air, water, and organic matter such as roots, decaying plant parts, fungi, earthworms, bacteria, and microorganisms. An acre of healthy topsoil can contain 900 pounds of earthworms, 2,400 pounds of fungi, 1,500 pounds of bacteria, 133 pounds of protozoa, and 890 pounds of arthropods and algae. Factory farms also harm American farmland through their consumption of massive quantities of feed crops. Consider this: The average cow eats roughly 30 pounds of food each day. The beef industry raises more than 30 million cows each year. Some of those cows feed themselves by grazing on pasture, but the vast majority are raised in feedlots, where they eat corn and soybeans. The result: American cropland is pushed hard to produce an extraordinary amount of grain. And the natural grazing food for cows is not corn, which makes them sick. In response to this demand, conventional crop producers have adopted intensive growing practices. These methods increase crop yields, but they also damage the soil and throw natural systems out of balance, primarily due to erosion and loss of fertility. Crop farming is an “extractive“ process, meaning that as plants grow, they take nutrients from the soil and turn it into plant matter. When the plants are harvested, the nutrients leave the soil’s system. Sustainable practices replenish these nutrients, using compost, manure, or “green manures,“ which are plants that naturally deposit nutrients in the soil. Instead of replenishing the soil, intensive practices use chemical fertilizers to supply only what is necessary to grow the next round of crops. Chemical fertilizers are not as effective as natural sources of fertility, and are known to cause long-term depletion of organic matter, soil compaction, and degradation of overall soil quality. In 2005, American farmers used more than 22 million tons of chemical fertilizers.


Tilling is another aspect of farming that has gone out of balance in industrial practice. When land is plowed, old organic matter is turned under the soil in order to plant a new crop. However, when soil is bare it is most susceptible to 8) ___. There are many ways to protect against this. Farmers can leave strips of land untilled, to act as a catch for water-borne erosion. Instead of plowing up and down hills, leaving furrows that carry wet soil straight downhill, they can plow with the contours, making furrows that act as tiny retaining walls. And they can grow cover crops in the off-season, whose plants anchor the soil with their 9) ___. In the drive to produce ever more grain, however, precautions like these are often not taken. Currently, the average rate of soil erosion on US cropland is seven tons per acre per year. This is a serious problem, because erosion causes fertile farmland to lose nutrients and water retention ability. Because the first thing to go is precious topsoil, the soil removed by erosion contains about three times more nutrients and 1.5 to five times more organic matter than that which remains behind. The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service writes that erosion is the single greatest threat to soil productivity in the United States.


Organic fertilizers are composed entirely of organic matter such as manure and compost, these contain a wide range of nutrients and replenish the soil’s organic composition. USDA “Certified Organic“ produce can only be grown using natural fertilizers. A nutrient-rich mixture of decaying organic matter (typically leaves and other plant parts) used as fertilizer for plants. Synthetic or chemical fertilizer is composed primarily of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium; these petroleum-based soil additives lack the organic matter contained in natural fertilizers.


By using farming techniques such as crop 10) ___, conservation tillage, raising animals on pasture and natural fertilization, sustainable farmers produce food without having a negative effect on the environment. Instead of harming soil, air and water, sustainable farms actually enhance and preserve the land so that future generations can continue to use it for healthy food production.


ANSWERS: 1) soils; 2) testing; 3) yield; 4) drinking; 5) nutrients; 6) sickness; 7) antibiotics; 8) erosion; 9) roots; 10) rotation


William Prout MD (1785-1850) and Michael Pollan (1955 to Present)



William Prout by Henry Wyndham Phillips; Source: Wikipedia commons


William Prout FRS (1785-1850) was an English chemist, physician, and natural theologian. He is remembered today mainly for what is called Prout’s hypothesis. Our History of Medicine series is interested in Prout because he was one of the first (if not the first) to do chemical research into food substances and their relationship to human health.


Prout was born in Horton, Gloucestershire in 1785 and educated at 17 years of age by a clergyman, followed by the Redland Academy at Bristol and Edinburgh University, where he graduated with an MD degree in 1811. His professional life was spent as a practicing physician in London, but he also occupied himself with chemical research. He was an active worker in biological chemistry and carried out many analyses of the secretions of living organisms, which he believed were produced by the breakdown of bodily tissues. In 1823, he discovered that stomach juices contain hydrochloric acid, which can be separated from gastric juice by distillation. In 1827, he proposed the classification of substances in food into sugars and starches, oily bodies, and albumen, which would later become known as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Prout is better remembered, however, for his researches into physical chemistry. In 1815, based on the tables of atomic weights available at the time, he anonymously hypothesized that the atomic weight of every element is an integer multiple of that of hydrogen, suggesting that the hydrogen atom is the only truly fundamental particle (which he called protyle), and that the atoms of the other elements are made of groupings of various numbers of hydrogen atoms. While Prout’s hypothesis was not borne out by later more-accurate measurements of atomic weights, it was a sufficiently fundamental insight into the structure of the atom that in 1920, Ernest Rutherford chose the name of the newly discovered proton to, among other reasons, give credit to Prout. He also contributed to the improvement of the barometer, and the Royal Society of London adopted his design as a national standard.


Prout was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1819 and delivered the Goulstonian Lecture to the Royal College of Physicians in 1831 on the application of chemistry to medicine. He wrote the eighth Bridgewater Treatise, Chemistry, Meteorology, and the Function of Digestion, considered with reference to Natural Theology. It was in this work that he coined the term “convection“ to describe a type of energy transfer. The Prout is a unit of nuclear binding energy, and is 1/12 the binding energy of the deuteron, or 185.5 keV. It is named after William Prout.


In 1814, Prout married Agnes Adam, daughter of Alexander Adam, of Edinburgh, Scotland, and together they had six children. Prout died in London in 1850 and was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery.


Michael Pollan (1955 to Present)



Michael_Pollan speaking_at_Yale in 2011. Source: Ragesossderivative work: Gobonobo (talk) – Michael_Pollan_at_Yale_1.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0,


Michael Pollan is an American author, journalist, activist, and professor of journalism at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. He was born on Long Island, New York and is the son of author and financial consultant Stephen Pollan and columnist Corky Pollan. Pollan received a B.A. in English from Bennington College in 1977 and an M.A. in English from Columbia University in 1981.


In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Pollan describes four basic ways that human societies have obtained food: the current industrial system, the big organic operation, the local self-sufficient farm, and the hunter-gatherer. Pollan follows each of these processes – from a group of plants photosynthesizing calories through a series of intermediate stages, ultimately into a meal. Along the way, he suggests that there is a fundamental tension between the logic of nature and the logic of human industry. That the way we eat represents our most profound engagement with the natural world, and that industrial eating obscures crucially important ecological relationships and connections. On December 10, 2006 The New York Times named The Omnivore’s Dilemma one of the five best nonfiction books of the year. On May 8, 2007, the James Beard Foundation named The Omnivore’s Dilemma its 2007 winner for the best food writing. It was the book of focus for the University of Pennsylvania’s Reading Project in 2007, and the book of choice for Washington State University’s Common Reading Program in 2009-10.


Pollan’s discussion of the industrial food chain is in large part a critique of modern agribusiness. According to the book, agribusiness has lost touch with the natural cycles of farming, wherein livestock and crops intertwine in mutually beneficial circles. Pollan’s critique of modern agribusiness focuses on what he describes as the overuse of corn for purposes ranging from fattening cattle to massive production of corn oil, high-fructose corn syrup, and other corn derivatives. He describes what he sees as the inefficiencies and other drawbacks of factory farming and gives his assessment of organic food production and what it’s like to hunt and gather food. He blames those who set the rules (e.g., politicians in Washington, D.C., bureaucrats at the United States Department of Agriculture, Wall Street capitalists, and agricultural conglomerates like Archer Daniels Midland) of what he calls a destructive and precarious agricultural system that has wrought havoc upon the diet, nutrition, and well-being of Americans. Pollan finds hope in Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm in Virginia, which he sees as a model of sustainability in commercial farming. Pollan appears in the documentary film King Corn (2007). In The Botany of Desire, Pollan explores the concept of co-evolution, specifically of humankind’s evolutionary relationship with four plants – apples, tulips, marijuana, and potatoes – from the dual perspectives of humans and the plants. He uses case examples that fit the archetype of four basic human desires, demonstrating how each of these botanical species are selectively grown, bred, and genetically engineered. The apple reflects the desire for sweetness, the tulip beauty, the marijuana intoxication, and the potato control. Pollan then unravels the narrative of his own experience with each of the plants, which he intertwines with a well-researched exploration into their social history. Each section presents a unique element of human domestication, or the “human bumblebee“ as Pollan calls it. These range from the true story of Johnny Appleseed to Pollan’s first-hand research with sophisticated marijuana hybrids in Amsterdam, to the alarming and paradigm-shifting possibilities of genetically engineered potatoes.


Pollan’s book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, released on January 1, 2008, explores the relationship with what he terms nutritionism and the Western diet, with a focus on late 20th century food advice given by the science community. Pollan holds that consumption of fat and dietary cholesterol does not lead to a higher rate of coronary disease, and that the reductive analysis of food into nutrient components is a mistake. He questions the view that the point of eating is to promote health, pointing out that this attitude is not universal and that cultures that perceive food as having purposes of pleasure, identity, and sociality may end up with better health. He explains this seeming paradox by vetting, and then validating, the notion that nutritionism and, therefore, the whole Western framework through which we intellectualize the value of food is more a religious and faddish devotion to the mythology of simple solutions than a convincing and reliable conclusion of incontrovertible scientific research. Pollan spends the rest of his book explicating his first three phrases: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.“ He contends that most of what Americans now buy in supermarkets, fast food stores, and restaurants is not in fact food, and that a practical tip is to eat only those things that people of his grandmother’s generation would have recognized as food.


In 2009, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual was published. This short work is a condensed version of his previous efforts, intended to provide a simple framework for healthy and sustainable diet. It is divided into three sections, further explicating Pollan’s principles of “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.“ It includes his rules (i.e., “let others sample your food“ and “the whiter the bread, the sooner you’ll be dead“). In Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, published in 2013, Pollan explores the methods by which cooks mediate “between nature and culture.“ The book is organized in four sections corresponding to the classical elements of Fire (cooking with heat), Water (braising and boiling with pots), Air (breadmaking), and Earth (fermenting). Pollan has contributed to Greater Good, a social psychology magazine published by the Greater Good Science Center at University of California, Berkeley. His article “Edible Ethics“ discusses the intersection of ethical eating and social psychology. In his 1998 book A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder, Pollan methodically traced the design and construction of the out-building where he writes. The 2008 re-release of this book was re-titled A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams. In 2014 Pollan wrote the foreword in the healthy eating cookbook The Pollan Family Table. The book is co-authored by his mother Corky Pollan and sisters Lori Pollan, Dana Pollan, and Tracy Pollan.


Pollan is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine, a former executive editor for Harper’s Magazine, and author of five books: In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto (2008) The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (2006), The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World (2001), A Place of My Own (1997), and Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education (1991). In 2016, Netflix will release a four-part documentary series based on Pollan’s book Cooked (2013) and directed by Alex Gibney. In 2015, a documentary version of Pollan’s book In Defense of Food premiered on PBS. Pollan also co-starred in the documentary, Food, Inc. (2008), for which he was also a consultant. In 2010 Pollan was interviewed for the film Queen of the Sun: What are the bees telling us?, a feature-length documentary about honey bees and colony collapse disorder. He was also interviewed for Vanishing of the Bees, a documentary also about colony collapse, directed by Maryam Henein and George Langworthy.


In 2015, Pollan received the Washburn Award from the Boston Museum of Science, awarded annually to “an individual who has made an outstanding contribution toward public understanding and appreciation of science and the vital role it plays in our lives“ and was named as a fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. He has also won the James Beard Leadership award, the Reuters World Conservation Union Global Awards in environmental journalism, the James Beard Foundation Awards for best magazine series in 2003, and the Genesis Award from the Humane Society of the United States. His articles have been anthologized in Best American Science Writing (2004), Best American Essays (1990 and 2003), The Animals: Practicing Complexity (2006) and the Norton Book of Nature Writing (1990).


Greenness Around Homes Linked to Lower Mortality


According to an article published online in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives (14 April 2016), women with the highest levels of vegetation, or greenness, near their homes had a 12% lower death rate compared to women with the lowest levels of vegetation near their homes. The study found the biggest differences in death rates from kidney disease, respiratory disease, and cancer. The study also explored how an environment with trees, shrubs, and plants might lower mortality rates and results showed that improved mental health and social engagement are the strongest factors, while increased physical activity and reduced air pollution also contribute.


The study examined greenness around the homes of 108,630 women in the long-term Nurses’ Health Study by mapping home locations and using high resolution satellite imagery to determine the level of vegetation within 250 meters and 1,250 meters of homes. The study then followed the women from 2000 to 2008, tracking changes in vegetation and participant deaths. During the study, 8,604 deaths occurred.


The results consistently found lower mortality rates in women as levels of trees and plants increased around their homes. This trend was seen for separate causes of death, as well as when all causes were combined. When study compared women in the areas with highest greenness to women in the lowest, they found a 41% lower death rate for kidney disease, 34% lower death rate for respiratory disease, and 13% lower death rate for cancer in the greenest areas.


The authors also looked at characteristics that can otherwise contribute to mortality risk, such as age, race, ethnicity, smoking, and socioeconomic status. This enabled them to be more confident that vegetation plays a role in reduced mortality, rather than these factors. The authors even took into consideration if participants moved or the vegetation near their homes changed during the study.


Body-Mass Index in 2.3 Million Adolescents and Cardiovascular Death in Adulthood


In light of the worldwide increase in childhood obesity, a study published online the New England Journal of Medicine (13 April 2016), examined the association between body-mass index (BMI) in late adolescence and death from cardiovascular causes in adulthood.

Data on BMI, as measured from 1967 through 2010 in 2.3 million Israeli adolescents (mean age, 17.3 years), were grouped according to age- and gender-specific percentiles from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Primary outcomes were the number of deaths attributed to coronary heart disease, stroke, sudden death from an unknown cause, or a combination of all three categories (total cardiovascular causes) by mid-2011.

Results showed that during 42,297,007 person-years of follow-up, 2,918 of 32,127 deaths (9.1%) were from cardiovascular causes, including 1,497 from coronary heart disease, 528 from stroke, and 893 from sudden death. On multivariable analysis, there was a graded increase in the risk of death from cardiovascular causes and all causes that started among participants in the group that was in the 50th to 74th percentiles of BMI (i.e., within the accepted normal range). After adjustment for gender, age, birth year, sociodemographic characteristics, and height, the hazard ratios in the obese group (>95th percentile for BMI), as compared with the reference group in the 5th to 24th percentiles, were 4.9 for death from coronary heart disease, 2.6 for death from stroke, 2.1 for sudden death, and 3.5 for death from total cardiovascular causes, all statistically significant. Hazard ratios for death from cardiovascular causes in the same percentile groups increased from 2.0 during follow-up for 0 to 10 years to 4.1 during follow-up for 30 to 40 years; during both periods, hazard ratios were consistently high for death from coronary heart disease. The findings also persisted in extensive sensitivity analyses.

The authors concluded that a BMI in the 50th to 74th percentiles, within the accepted normal range, during adolescence was associated with increased cardiovascular and all-cause mortality during 40 years of follow-up and that overweight and obesity were strongly associated with increased cardiovascular mortality in adulthood.


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