From Circe to Clinton: why powerful girls are cast as witches

A misogynist insult in Washington and Westminster, a force for good in Hollywood for centuries, witches have personified dread of assertive females. But why does the stereotype persist?

During the 2016 US presidential election, American social media was flooded with images of Hillary Clinton wearing a black hat and riding a broom, or else cackling with green scalp. Her foes named her The Wicked Witch of the Left, claimed they had sources testifying that she smelled of sulphur, and took particular delight in depictions of her being melted. Given that the last witch trial in the US was more than 100 hundred years ago, what are we to build of this?

In the late 19 th century, the suffragette Matilda Joslyn Gage asserted something revolutionary. The persecution of witches, she said, had nothing to do with fighting evil or resisting the devil. It was simply entrenched social misogyny, the goal of which was to repress the intellect of women. A witch, she told, wasn’t wicked. She didn’t fly on a broomstick naked in the dark, or consort with demons. She was, instead, likely to be a woman” of superior knowledge “. As a thought experiment, she suggested that for “witches” we should read instead “women”. Their histories, she intimated, operate hand in hand.

Obviously, she was on to something. When we say witch, we almost exclusively mean girl. Sure, men have also been accused of witchcraft, but they are by far the minority. Further, the words used to describe humen with magical powers- warlock, magus, sorcerer, wizard- don’t carry the same stigma.

A better parallel to “witch” is the word “whore”. Both are time-honoured tools for policing females, “ve been meaning to” disgrace them into socially prescribed behaviour. A harlot contravenes norms of female sexuality; a witch contravenes norms of female power. Witches are often called unnatural because of their ability to threaten men. With her spells, a witch can transform you into a swine, or defeat you in battle. She can curse you, blight your harvests, dismis you, reject you, correct you. Penalizing witches accomplishes two things: it objective the threat and builds others afraid to follow in the unruly woman’s footsteps.

Yet, despite all the attempts to stamp out witches, they are as strongly with us as ever, from Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch in the Avengers movies, to the recent film The Love Witch , to the television series American Horror Story , to non-fiction books such as Stacy Schiff’s The Witches: Salem, 1692 . The stereotypical image of the witch- green scalp, pointed hat, warts, black cat- has become entrenched, but beneath that surface lies a dazzling variety; a rich diversity of women who have frightened, possessed and inspired us over the centuries.

Bones of contention … montages of Hillary Clinton as a witch have inundated social media

Let’s start with the classic: the evil, aged crone. This image took firm root in the Christian era, when witches were women who consorted with the devil; but old and ugly witches predated Jesus. Roman literature portrayed witches as pathetic creatures with false teeth and grey hair, who dug in the ground by moonlight, tore animals with their teeth and used the organs of boys they starved to death for their spells. They had two main pastimes: making love potions, and casting curses. The poet Ovid blamed a disappointing sex performance on a witch employing a sort of Roman voodoo doll to take away his effectivenes.( Sure Ovid, that was my first supposed, too .)

The most famous of this type must be Shakespeare’s weird sisters from Macbeth . They are repulsive” midnight hags”, with skinny lips, chapped fingers and beards. Their spells- eye of newt and toe of frog- are as disgusting as their appearances and curse anyone who crosses them. The classic fairytale witch, like the one in the histories of Hansel and Gretel who fees infants, also fits into this category, as does the Slavic Baba Yaga, and the Wicked Witch of the West from L Frank Baum’s Oz series, induced famous by actor Margaret Hamilton. The role was originally offered to the glamorous Gale Sondergaard, but she turned it down because she didn’t want to appear ugly.

Spellbound … Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra, who was accused of witchcraft. Photograph: Allstar/ 20 th Century Fox

And ugliness, of course, is key. The haggish outsides of these witches are meant to match their evil insides, and testify to their unnaturalness, since women are supposed to be as neat, attractive and young as possible. But the association with age also contains a kernel of truth: many of the women accused of sorcery were so-called ” wise girls”, older figures, often poor widows, who scratched out a living in the community with their experience as midwives, herbalists and hedge-doctors. Their solitary, vulnerable status and unusual knowledge built them perfect targets for people’s rage and dread when crops failed or babies died.

Foreign females were also vulnerable to accusations of sorcery, and the association between immigrants and sorcery goes back at the least to Greek mythology. The witch Medea was the princess of Colchis, on the eastern edge of the Black Sea, which to the notoriously xenophobic ancient Greeks was alien and suspect. When Jason and his Argonauts came to claim the Golden Fleece from her father, Medea fell in love with Jason and aided him with her spells, so that he and the Argonauts were able to confiscate the fleece and escape. In gratitude, Jason wedded Medea, but back home in his kingdom she was shunned, her sorcery and foreignness merging into a single undesirable trait. The idea seems to have been: no wonder she’s a murderous sorceress, she’s from the east.

This type of nativism also pops up in Shakespeare’s The Tempest . Sycorax, the witch mother of Caliban, is from Algiers, and though she never appears in the play, she is a harrowing, hideous figure, a” blue-eyed hag “, who is hunched over with” age and bitternes “. She was cast out from Algiers( the implication is that she was too wicked even for them ), and came to the island, where she “litter[ed]” her deformed son, practised her magic and worshipped her pagan-sounding divinity, Setebos. Towards the end of the 17 th century, the slave Tituba, who may have been South American, was blamed for resulting the innocent( white) daughters of Salem into evil. Her experience as an foreigner among the witch-hysterical Puritan is brilliantly imagined in Maryse Conde’s novel, I Tituba, Black Witch of Salem .

Fears of sorcery grounded in racism persist even today. The Roma, longtime outcasts in Europe, have frequently been accused of evil magic. And African-influenced voodoo is routinely used by Hollywood as a horror movie plot point.

But it wasn’t just vulnerable women who drew accusations of witchcraft. It was also women with serious political power. Joan of Arc resulted the French to victory against the English and was renowned in France for her purity, cleverness and religion in her “voices”. When the English leadership couldn’t beat her, they undermined her, crediting her success to demonic means, since, of course, a young woman could never perform such wonders on her own. When she was captured, they tried her for sorcery, quoting as partial proof of her unnaturalness the tremendous fortitude she depicted in combat, and her they are able to outwit her examiners in debate.

Magic circle … the new Wrinkle in Time film features Mrs Which, Mrs Who and Mrs Whatsit. Photo: Atsushi Nishijima/ Disney/ Kobal/ Rex/ Shutterstock

Cleopatra and Anne Boleyn were likewise accused of witchcraft, with gossips that Anne even physical marks of her compact with the devil, such as a third teat, moles and a sixth finger on her helping hand. Such accusations were a clever and effective route for a woman’s political adversaries to smear her since, as countless other women accused of sorcery learned, it is impossible to offer definitive proof that one is not a witch. Perhaps what is most shocking about this catch-2 2 is the way in which it continues to be played out today. Aside from Hillary Clinton, who has been called a witch since she was first lady, there was also the case of Julia Gillard, first female premier of Australia, who met with tauntings of” ditch the witch” from protesters. Nancy Pelosi, the minority speaker of the US House of Representatives, has faced similar witch-related insults, and recently Theresa May was filmed giggling aloud, and her so-called ” witch’s cackle” speedily went viral. The misogyny of all this is obvious. Debating and defeating these leaders politically isn’t enough- as women who indicate aspiration, they are abominations who must be deemed evil and cast out.

From JW Waterhouse’s portrait of Circe Invidiosa. Photograph: Alamy

The tradition of the sexy witch, who lures men with her beauty, is beloved by modern-day adult costume-makers, but goes all the route back to the first witch in western literature: the divine sorceress Circe. She first appears in Homer’s Odyssey , after Odysseus and his crew have washed up on her island, exhausted and mourning for the loss of their comrades. They run searching for dwellers and find a palatial house with tamed lions and wolves lolling around in the garden. A glistening goddess comes to the door, and invites them in. She gives them food and wine which she has drugged with spell-herbs, then lifts her wand and turns them into pigs.

Circe’s story brings together many classic witchy motifs: a ability with herbs and potions, a magic wand, control over animals. But what is most notable is her moral ambiguity- though she begins the episode as a figure of menace, after she and Odysseus become lovers, she transforms his humen back and offers vital resources and advice to Odysseus for his journey home. Not all seductive witches depict a similar ambiguity( CS Lewis’s White Witch surely does not ), but Morgan le Fay, Morticia Addams and Melisandre from Game of Thrones all fall into this category.

This brings us to our last type: the very best witch. Before we get to the famous examples, let’s start with the unknown ones- the countless women of history who used their knowledge of herbs, healing and midwifery to serve their communities as de facto doctors and chemists. In hours when reliable medical treatment was scarce and costly, they offered the first, and often merely, help a suffering person would be given. Matilda Joslyn Gage, in her treatise Woman, Church and State , hailed this local herb-woman as” the profoundest intellectual, the most advanced scientist” of her age. Gage’s name is largely unknown now, but her run lives vibrantly on: she was the mother-in-law of Baum, and immediately influenced his creation of Glinda, one of the most iconic good witches in popular culture. Glinda is a sparkly, memorable presence in the 1939 movie, and plays a meaty role in the books, protecting the good people of Oz with passion and wisdom. We may likewise insure Gage’s spirit in Gregory Maguire’s novel Wicked , which reimagines the Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba, as a heroic, misunderstand character.

Of course no discussion of good witches can be complete without the superlative Hermione Granger. Throughout JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Hermione’s intellect, kindness, sense of justice and determination attain her a role model for young girls- and boys- everywhere. And she’s only one of dozens of fascinating witches Rowling made, who run the gamut from good( Minerva McGonagall) to cruelly wicked( Bellatrix Lestrange ).

Rupert Grint, left, and Daniel Radcliffe with Emma Watson as Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban( 2004 ). Photograph: Allstar/ Warner Bros

Which brings us back to the multiplicity and diversity of witches. The truth is that witches cannot really be contained by types; they leap over borders, bursting out of categories as fast we stimulate them. They are constantly changing as we change, reflecting our ideas about girls back to ourselves.

If this is so, then there is much to feeling encouraged by. The image of the very best witch is ascendant in popular culture( aside from Hermione, as exemplified by the Scarlet Witch, Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer , and the new A Wrinkle in Time movie, prominently featuring Mrs Which, Mrs Who and Mrs Whatsit ). Women have attained powerful steps towards equality, and we are seeing an unprecedented awareness of sexual harassment, assault and the silencing of women. More of these secret abuses are coming to light every day, and more of the perpetrators are being removed from power.

Despite this progress, there is also sobering news. In the last decade, United Nation officials have reported a rise in females killed for sorcery across the globe. In India the problem is particularly well-documented, with older females being targeted as scapegoats or as a pretext for confiscating their lands and goods. In Saudi Arabia, females have been convicted of sorcery in the courts, and in Ghana they have been exiled to so-called ” witch camps”, an injustice movingly dealt with in award-winning movie, I Am Not a Witch . And in the United States, a Gallup poll found that 21% of people believed in witches( and not the Hermione Granger kind ).

We stand therefore at a crossroads- which is fitting, since crossroads are sacred to Hecate, Greek goddess of witchcraft. Will we continue to fear and penalize women with power? To call them evil? Or perhaps we can at last celebrate female strength, recognising that witches- and women- are not going away *

* Circe by Madeline Miller is published by Bloomsbury( PS16. 99 ). To b uy it for PS12. 99 go to .

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How to Drink& Cook Like a Celebrity

From Moby and Tom Colicchio to Nathan Myhrvold, this year we interviewed a range of celebrities about their own cook and drinking rules and philosophies. No two of the answers were the same and the stories often exposed a very personal side of these stars that is rarely ensure and gave insight into their everyday routines.

Read on for a selection of some of my favorite Drinking and Cooking Rules answers from 2017.

Some cooks are strict about measuring ingredients, others not so much. Which camp do you fall into ?” No , no , no. I’m not a cook that measures. In fact, when I was young I most likely would have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD and I couldn’t follow recipes. They would freak me out. And when I get Jacques Pepin’s La Technique it totally changed my life. I was 15, 16 years old when I got it. Because he emphasized this idea where you only focus on technique and don’t worry about recipes. We scarcely use recipes in my kitchen. I merely teach technique .” –Tom Colicchio Do you watch any food Tv shows today ?” Not really. I do occasionally watch Rick Bayless or somebody on PBS. I watch Anthony Bourdain on CNN because he’s a good friend, but frankly, I don’t watch too much food TV. So many of them are reality proves with a lot of yelling that I don’t like so much anyway .” –Jacques Pepin Can you share the single most important piece of advice you have for someone looking to hurl a memorable party ?” Great people, great music, and a lot of alcohol. Try to never run out of food, and never run out of alcohol. People make a lot of fuss out of entertaining but I think the buildup is worse than it really is. It doesn’t even matter what your stuff looks like. The devil’s in the details: You can literally merely pour Coca-Cola in a glass but add a lime wedge. You can order delivery and serve it on the nice china .” –Molly Sims Currently, what’s in your liquor cabinet ?” I’m looking at it right now. It’s quite mental how much whisky there is. There’s Talisker and Highland Park and Glenlivet and Laphroaig. And then we’ve got one from the Scottish Malts Society, which is Sangria on the Terrace 986, whatever that entails. All the whiskies made by the Malt Society have got these most incredible names. We always have vodka. We always have Myers’s Rum in case we want a Dark’ n Stormy. Oooh, there’s a Glenmorangie. We always have pisco. We always have tequila. That’s basically our basics, we don’t really run much fancier than that .” –Shirley Manson How important is it to you to eat with your family ?” We try as much as possible. I’ll say this to my tomb, if we could just please get more people to the dinner table, families, friends, politicians…But if we could actually sit down and take the time to eat dinner and break bread literally with people, a lot of these problems we have in this world would go away .” –Ming Tsai Out of all the cakes you’ve made in your career, which one are you most proud of ?” I’m a huge nerd. I love sci-fi. We got to make a life-size, running R2-D2 cake for [ Star Wars inventor] George Lucas and present it to him. For me, that was pretty special. To be able to say thank you to him with some of my best work, it truly felt great. It was so cool, and he loved it .” –Duff Goldman Do you ever drink hard alcohol ?” I used to do a shot of bourbon before a show because it kind of opened me up, but I used to get too drunk. I remember there was one performance I did with Nicki Minaj on the American Music Award, and I remember sitting down at the piano about to do the prove, and I realized how drunk I was, and I started freaking out inside .” –Skylar Grey Apron or no apron ?” You know what? I actually wear an apron. Chefs always wore a uniform but now we just see chefs in their t-shirts with a cool apron on. I miss the days of wearing a uniform. At heart, I’m a line cook. I kind of miss the chef coat because when I set that on then I’m on. But I have to say, when I’m at home and I’m cooking I do like having an apron on. I do. It just feels right. When you’re done and you sit down at the table you take your apron off .” –Amanda Freitag Does Jerry have any Seinfeldian food tics in real life? Like a love of big salads, black-and-white cookies, and marble rye ?” That was a television show and he lives in real life .” –Jessica Seinfeld

What music do you listen to when you’re cooking? ” We have a rule at Little Pine–and I’ve asked Ravi to have the same rule at Ladybird–which is please don’t play any of my music. I’m narcissistic enough without having my eatery play my own music! Maybe this is sad middle-aged bachelor music but, when I’m at home, I listen to a lot of classical music, and old folk-rock–Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell. Something about folk-rock in L.A. just seems to make sense. You listen to[ Joni Mitchell’s album ] Ladies of the Canyon in L.A ., and it only induces sense .” –Moby

How is designing a stadium that seats tens of thousands like designing a bar that seats at most a couple hundred ?” It has to do with the premium experience. In any modern stadium, there are different spaces. Some are concourses that hold 25,000 people; some are private clubs and other spaces for VIPs that are much smaller than that. One of the things we spend a lot of period thinking about is what constructs spaces special and different from one another. The stadium needs to have a significant describe for all the people in the city. We were able to take a premium design and experience and translate it to this bar. It’s not like a stadium bar; it’s more like a West End bar in London. Our experiences going to those types of bars, candidly, helped us bring this together into a complete design .” –David Manica Do you hang around with Adam Levine and another The Voice judges after a day of shooting ?” Man, we are together ALL DAY when we are filming The Voice ! I don’t want to hang out with those people when I’m done! No, I’m kidding. We definitely hang out here and there; it only depends on everyone’s schedule, but whenever we do, we have a lot of fun together .” –Blake Shelton How big is your spice rack at home ?” Here’s the thing, I weened it out a lot because you need to replace your spices every six months. My spice cupboard is pretty serious. Spices and herbs are what I rely on day in and day out to induce simple preparations that feel really celebratory and indulgent without having to change the process too much. One of my favorite spice mixtures, I literally stole from a spice nut mix that found in England that used rosemary and thyme and brown sugar and cumin and nigella seeds. It’s sick and twisted. It’s so good. That little hitting of brown sugar in with all the spice is pretty nice .” –Daphne Oz When you’re at home in L.A ., do you cook a lot ?” I do. I garden. I have an herb garden and right now I’m growing three different kinds of lettuce and arugula and some hot pepper and some tomatoes.[ I have] kumquat trees, avocado trees, Meyer lemon trees and orange trees. It’s a small garden but it’s what I have time to grow .” –Darby Stanchfield How can someone serve great beverages for a party without spending the whole night behind the bar ?” You have to pick a beverage that works well in big batches. If you have to do something like shake an egg white each time, that’s not realistic. With a larger group, you’ve gotta go with pitcher cocktails. That’s gotta be pre-mixed. But with a smaller group, individual drinks are possible. One of the things I love about entertaining a small group is you can have a conversation in the kitchen while you’re cooking or building drinkings .” –Ali Larter You’re from an Italian family and your books include a lot of Italian recipes; is it your favorite type of food to feed and cook ?” When it comes to eating, I actually love Italian-American and classic Americana, big-time. Lasagna, a Reuben; that’s my jam. I’m also a closet vegetarian part-time. When I was growing up, my father did a ton of stuff with veggies that really influenced me. For cook, I’m all about the Frenchies. French food may not be chic right now, but it’s timeless and it always comes back into style. Team Frenchie !” –Alex Guarnaschelli What do you like to drink ?” I am a whiskey drinker. My all-time favorite used to be Black Maple Hill Bourbon, but now they’ve changed it and it’s no longer the same. I enjoy bourbons, but I don’t drink rye. I’m also not really a Scotch drinker–I don’t think I’m sophisticated or cool enough for it. I have a lot because people give it to me as gifts, but I don’t like the smoky flavor. If I’m just at a sporting event or out at a bar, I’ll drink Crown Royal and ginger ale .” –Brian Baumgartner Why do you think oversized dishes are so popular ?” There’s sort of a sight and an awe factor. But I also think food as conquest is interesting to people. One thing we try to emphasize is that these are supposed to be shared. It’s a great way to bring people together around food. A lot of periods, it’s also a cheaper way to get a big group of people something to feed! What we’re really trying to highlight with the show is how much these bring people together and become a tourist attraction and something to do. It’s like a quest: People decide to get together and knock down a giant dish. Everybody watches the depict and runs,’ I want to see that in person !'” –Josh Denny You were one of the first people to be called a” celebrity chef ,” but today the title is virtually ubiquitous. How do you feel about the concept of chefs as celebrities ?” If you believe Anthony Bourdain, I was the first celebrity cook, but that’s just because I’m the oldest! Like the food revolution, that’s all ran very well, and now you have big food celebrities, much bigger than I am. But their own problems is that now cooks think that in order to be a success, they work a few years and then get a reveal on Tv. You have to spend some time learning how to do it, and it’s more than a year or two. They get distracted by the believed to be becoming famous .” –Jeremiah Tower Do you have a favorite drink to make ?” A Martini. The Martini is one of my absolute favorite cocktails, and I think it often doesn’t get diluted enough. It should be this silky, delicious cocktail. The secret to a perfect Martini is don’t be afraid to overdilute it. You have to get it to that very, very perfect point of just-before-overdilution. I pay close attention to the ratio of ingredients and how long I stir. My preferred ratio for a Martini is 50/50: I suppose equal proportions Beefeater Gin and dry vermouth is perfection .” –Mony Bunni When you’re on the road with your First Take colleagues, Max Kellerman and Stephen A. Smith, do you guys have favorite bars or eateries you like to visit ?” Honestly, I wish I could say that we did. There’s literally no time for it. We’re just trying to get a meal in. You’re just trying to find time to eat. For the three of us, it’s a lot of room service .” –Molly Qerim Do you have any cake-decorating tips-off for home bakers ?” I think that there are some materials out there that people don’t know about. Modeling chocolate totally changed my life. You can order it online, but you can also build your own: You just melt down chocolate and add corn syrup, but you have to use a very concrete ratio. Try working with modeling chocolate to build little sculptures–cupcake toppers and the like. It’s kind of like Play-Doh; it’s easy to mold, and to mix separate pieces together. From there, you can start testing out different materials like fondant to find what works for you. It’s difficult, but you’ll get better .” –Natalie Sideserf Given your extensive career in television, would you ever make a spirits or wine show ?” I’ve been dying to do that. I’ve been pitching Food Network on a spirits depict for ten years. When you start talking about the punt of the bottle and various nomenclature that’s connected, they think it scares the spectator. I don’t think so. I would love to be the first guy to have a spirits indicate on Food Network. It’s time. There’s no question it’s time .” –Marc Summers What does your home kitchen look like ?” A bit like the lab kitchen. To be honest, I don’t think there’s any equipment in there that would be in a’ normal’ home kitchen! I have a Thirode stave from France, two combi ovens, two French deck ovens for inducing bread, a huge cold-smoker, a sous-vide vacuum packer and a bunch of sous vide machines .” –Nathan Myhrvold

What’s the hardest part of soul food to master? ” I think it’s the long simmer. I am from Nashville, so I feel like I grew up with this food. I believe the hardest thing for me is to try to convey this to somebody else who isn’t from the south or even out west. I guess the misnomer is that all spirit food comes from the south. It doesn’t. We have New Orleans, which is its own thing, but you also have up north, you have out west. You have different types of soul food .” –Carla Hall

There were some tough episodes of What Not to Wear , your old demonstrate, when you and your co-host Stacy London had a drink to unwind. Was the alcohol real? ” That was real alcohol. I think we were drinking bourbon during those[ scenes ]. It was usually the last shot of the working day and we had a couple sips of bourbon before heading home .” –Clinton Kelly

What’s your signature drinking? ” My favorite drink is the one somebody is buying for me. That’s really the truth .” –Guy Fieri

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Bodybuilding medications sold online often contain unapproved substances, survey tells

( CNN) Selective androgen receptor modulators, known as SARMs, are pharmaceutical narcotics that mimic the effects of testosterone. Not yet approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, these compounds are often marketed to bodybuilders online as “legal steroids” that can help them look leaner and more muscular.

Most of the products sold online as SARMs contain either these unapproved substances alone — sometimes in sums different from what is specified on the label — or other unapproved hormones and steroids, according to a study published Tuesday in the medical journal JAMA.

“There are serious potential side effect, and there’s this wide-held misperception that these compounds are safe, ” told Dr. Shalender Bhasin, co-author of the new study and director of the research program in men’s health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Using Hot Sauce Is a Really Easy Way to Improve Your Diet, Say Experts

If you’re the type of person who breaks out the hot sauce at the start of every single meal, congratulations – you’re really onto something there.

A slew of studies over the past few years have been piecing together evidence that capsaicin – an active component of chili peppers – promotes a higher turnover of cells in the body, which could explain why eating spicy foods has been linked to a reduced risk of mortality and slowed cancer development.

“The bottom line is that any kind of vegetable material you consume will improve your health,” nutrition expert David Popovich from Massey University in New Zealand told TIME magazine back in 2015.

“But hot peppers are really beneficial for you, if you can take the spice.”

Popovich has been investigating the mechanism by which capsaicin appears to slow the growth of cancer cells in the lab.

Back in 2006, researchers discovered that high doses of capsaicin could slow the growth of prostate cancer cells in mice by up to 80 percent, while leaving the healthy cells alone, and in 2015, a separate team demonstrated for the first time how this spicy compound binds to cancer cells and triggers changes in their internal structure.

It’s not yet known exactly how capsaicin is interacting with cancer cells to slow their growth, but scientists have observed it binding to the outer membrane and lodging itself in, which appears to trigger chemical changes in the surface of the cell.

“If you add enough of it, it actually causes the membranes to come apart,” Fiona MacDonald reported for us at the time.

Popovich has observed the slowed growth of cancer cells in his own lab, and told Mandy Oaklander from TIME that the most popular hypothesis to explain what’s going on here is that the capsaicin is promoting a process known as apoptosis – programmed cell death that leads to a higher turnover of cells.

It’s basically regulated cell suicide in the interest of cleaning up cells that are no longer needed.

“That’s one of the ways scientists think capsaicin and other active compounds in vegetables can prevent cancer development: by stimulating apoptotic cell death,” says Popovich.

While some researchers are investigating the potential of incorporating a concentrated form of capsaicin into a new anti-cancer drug, José de Jesús Ornelas-Paz from the Research Centre for Food and Development in Mexico told Oaklander the real benefits appear to come from the whole chili pepper – not just that one active ingredient. 

“Pungent peppers are a cocktail of bioactive compounds,” he said.

“Blending, cutting and cooking improve the release of [these compounds] from pepper tissue, increasing the amount available for absorption.” 

According to Ornelas-Paz, because capsaicin is a fat-soluable compound, you should definitely try pairing it with a bit of fat or oil to help your body absorb it (which isn’t exactly difficult, unless you only like eating raw vegetables with your hot sauce).

As with many things to do with our diet, scientists still have to figure out the exact mechanism by which capsaicin could be altering our cells, but there’s enough evidence out there to suggest that it’s doing something beneficial.

In another 2015 study, a team from Harvard University assessed the health of almost half a million Chinese adults, and found that those who ate spicy food six or seven times a week had a 14 percent lower mortality risk than those who seldom ate it.

So apply that spicy condiment with abandon until you’re blinded by the salty tears of too much hot sauce sweet, sweet vindication. You might look ridiculous, but at least you know you’ve got science on your side.


Taking a look at the year in nutrition

As always, it was a good-news, bad-news year in nutrition, this one marked by controversial study findings, sombre obesity statistics, updated food regulations and encouraging news stories.

Many of the stories that made headlines (and the ones that didn’t) offered takeaways that can help us improve our diets in 2018 and beyond. Here are five big issues that I paid attention to, and why you should, too.

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This fall, Health Canada announced that as of Sept. 15, 2018, it will be illegal for manufacturers to add partially hydrogenated oils, the main source of trans fats, to food products. This is probably the most important change to our food supply in decades.

There is no safe level of trans fat in the diet; any amount of intake is believed to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. A steady intake of trans fat is also associated with a greater risk of Type 2 diabetes.

To avoid trans fats January through August, 2018, read labels. Choose foods with zero grams of trans fat. Avoid products that list partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, hydrogenated oil or shortening as an ingredient. (Partially hydrogenated oils are often listed as hydrogenated oils.)

Saturated fat controversy continues

It was a back and forth year for saturated fat, the type found in fatty meats and dairy products. In April, three cardiologists published a headline-grabbing editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine debunking the idea that saturated fat clogs arteries.

Then, in June, the American Heart Association (AHA) released an advisory report to clear up the confusion surrounding the link between saturated fat and cardiovascular disease. After an analysis of the scientific evidence, the AHA’s review refuted the notion that saturated fats are not tied to heart risk.

Reducing saturated fat and replacing it with unsaturated fats (found in nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, olives, avocado) was shown to benefit heart health. So was replacing saturated fats in the diet with whole grains.

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My advice for 2018? Watch your saturated fat intake, but don’t forget about the rest of your diet. The best-studied diets for cardiovascular health emphasize fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and lentils, nuts and unsaturated oils and limit refined carbohydrates and red meat.

Childhood obesity at all-time high

In October, a comprehensive study published in the Lancet revealed that the number of obese kids, between the ages of 5 to 19, worldwide has skyrocketed tenfold over the past 40 years.

A contributing factor to childhood obesity: a sedentary lifestyle. A fact that, last month, prompted Canadian experts in exercise physiology and obesity and the non-profit group ParticipAction to release 24-hour movement guidelines for infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

Recommendations for stronger, fitter, healthier kids include tummy time for babies and at least one hour of “energetic” play spread throughout the day for one-to-four-year-olds.

To help foster lifelong healthy eating, get your kids in the kitchen more often. Have them help you plan and prepare nutritious meals.

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Kids who cook are more likely to eat a wider variety foods. Plus, cooking with your child provides an opportunity to talk about health and healthy ingredients.

Gluten-free diet’s nutrition questioned

This year, scientists warned against following a gluten-free diet if you don’t have a medical reason to do so.

In March, findings from a large observational study suggested that eating a low-gluten diet increased the odds of developing Type 2 diabetes, presumably because it’s lacking in fibre.

Two months later, European research showed that, compared to gluten-containing products (e.g., breakfast cereals, breads, pasta, cookies), gluten-free alternatives were usually more calorie-dense, higher in fat and lower in protein.

Whether you avoid gluten for health reasons or simply because you prefer to do so, replace gluten-containing foods with alternatives that deliver fibre, protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Include gluten-free whole grains such brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, sorghum, millet and teff in your daily diet. Sweet potato, beans and lentils also deliver fibre-rich, gluten-free carbohydrates.

Plant protein popularity soars

It was a good year for protein, especially plant protein. A growing number of consumers decided to eat less animal protein for health reasons combined with environmental concerns, which fuelled the growth of plant protein in 2017.

This translated to more protein-rich plant foods on grocery store shelves, from Ripple’s plant-based milks (made from yellow peas) to Catelli Protein pasta (made from fava beans). Expect to see a continued rise in plant-based offerings next year.

Diets that include more plants are tied to protection from heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and certain cancers. Plant foods such as beans and lentils, edamame, tofu, nuts and seeds deliver protein along with fibre, vitamins, minerals and countless phytochemicals.

In 2018, aim to include at least five plant-based meals (breakfast, lunch and/or dinner) in your diet each week.

Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based private-practice dietitian, is director of Food and Nutrition at Medcan.


56 Different Names for Sugar

It can seem like nutrition experts are constantly disagreeing with each other—or coming out with new information that contradicts what they’ve said previously. But recently, several top names in the food industry came together at the James Beard Foundation Food Conference to make one thing clear: They all agree we should be eating a whole lot less sugar.   Click the link to the source story and
take a look at all the NAMES for Sugar…It’s Everywhere!

Source: 56 Different Names for Sugar