LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND – Coarse sea salt, in particular fleur de sel, is what the Swiss Heart Association tells us we should be using, while of course being sensible about the limiting the quantity of salt in our food and using herbs and spices more often to flavour foods. Strangely enough, having read the web site of Camargue’s famous salts, and more recently a Fleur de Sel Celtic salt page which reminded me that fleur de sel has far more minerals and trace elements than table salt, I still couldn’t have said how this salt develops.
EPFL has a little quiz today on its home page, although rather oddly it’s labeled Monday 15 April 2013, about the source of sea salt. I admit I’m embarrassed that I got it wrong. The answer provides a quick little science lesson – in fact these weekly lessons are a good series, for kids but also forgetful adults who once knew these things.
Here’s what the book with sensible suggestions and 62 recipes from the Fondation Suisse de Cardiologie.
More on salt from the US salt industry and
European Parliament votes against keeping the absinthe in absinthe
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The European Commission wants clarity: the list of ingredients in the famous old Swiss drink, absinthe, must contain certain basic ingredients, its argues, and one of these is thujone, found in several plants, including Artemisia absinthium, also known as Great Wormwood.
It’s also found in sage.
The European Parliament said Thursday that it disagrees, voting 409 to 247 for the status quo, which sets a maximum amount of 35 milligrams per kilogram of absinthe – but which sets no minimum. The Commission’s goal is to standardize the drink by ensuring the same basic ingredients are used.
The vote was backed by members of parliament voicing health concerns, who said there is no need to guarantee that the “toxin” thujone is part of the drink. Absinthe was banned for most of a century in a number of countries because of fears that it poisoned drinkers; it was famous in the arts world for its hallucinogenic effects.
The drink was banned in Switzerland in 1908 but authorized again in 2005. It was given protected IGP status in August 2012, so that at least in Switzerland, makers of the “green fairy” drink must meet a set of standards.
Figure well below that for UK, France
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The Swiss continue to hold a steady line on their consumption of spirits, at about 1.6 litres per person a year for the past 10 years. Consumption has risen slightly, new figures from the Federal Bureau for Alcohol show, but in line with the rising population.
The Swiss consumed on average 8.6 litres of pure alcohol, all categories combined, in 2011, well down from the 17 litres per person back in 1900.
For the past three years overall consumption has remained steady, with a slight dip in wine drinking made up for by a slight increase in beer.
British drinkers, by comparison, consume slightly more alcohol per person in total, measured as pure alcohol.
The UK’s annual consumption per person in product terms (not pure alcohol) was 27.9 litres for wine, 2.2 litres for spirits (@100% alcohol) and 106.4 litres for beer, according to the British Wine and Spirit Trade Association, in 2011.
The French drink somewhat more spirits, about 2.5 litres. Spirits account for 20 percent of alcoholic beverages drunk in France with wine 60 percent, compared to spirits accounting for 21 percent in the UK and wine 30 percent.
In Switzerland, spirits account for 18 percent of alcohol consumption and wine 50 percent. Beer makes up the bulk of the difference in all three countries (figures are from the WHO and date back to 2005, with only Britain showing a significant change, with less beer and more wine in recent years.
Swiss spirits account for only 18 percent of the market, with 82 percent imported. Whisky remains the most popular import, accounting for 21 percent of the market, followed by vodka, with 18 percent.
The Swiss indigenous production, from a variety of fruits, is highly dependent on fruit yields, with harvests tending to alternate good and bad years. A happy note for the industry is an 11 percent increase in exports in 2012, due almost entirely to the 104 percent increase in sales abroad of Swiss absinthe, which received protection from the European Union in August 2012. The quantity nevertheless remains very small compared to imported spirits.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The Globe & Mail has a good article today on what those sell-by dates on food really mean, but the most interesting part for some of us will be the list at the end of the safety shelf lives for many foods.
I was surprised to see that while fresh eggs are good for up to four weeks, hard-boiled ones are safe for only a week. Not everyone will agree with all the times, and they probably vary slightly from one country to another depending on how products are treated (French sources indicate 21 days, not 28, for eggs), but these are useful reminders.
UHT milk, I had forgotten (but I rarely buy it), lasts no longer than fresh, once it is opened.
I recall a nephew who loved spaghetti with tomato and meat sauce for a snack, when he was a high school student and doing a lot of sports. He complained of frequent stomach cramps, but it was only after his mother found a jar of opened and unrefrigerated meat sauce in a cupboard, from a few days earlier, that the source of the problem was found. Lesson: parents, teach your children about basic food safety, including shelf lives!
Swiss Milk offers a number of interesting suggestions for keeping various foods (in French).
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Winemakers, oenologists and serious wine amateurs who suffer from depression may find their health problems compounded by the loss of their ability to smell. New research from the Université François-Rabelais de Tours indicates that people suffering from depression may discover that the loss of their olfactory senses is a sign that they are slipping into depression again.
The national health and medical research institute Inserm, in France, published the research 5 November, showing that people suffering from severe depression are likely to be unable to enjoy pleasurable smells. The ability to distinguish smells also appeared to be part of their depression, even after treatment that was otherwise considered successful. One particularly surprising result: vanilla, cinnamon and bitter almond were classified as unpleasant odours.
Studies are now underway to see if similar olfactory problems appear in patients with Alzheimers and alcohol dependency.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – New research to try to better understand the source of the beneficial aspects in red wine appears to show, at least for men with high blood pressure, that alcohol-free red wine could offer help. The results of the Barcelona-based research were published Friday 7 September in the American Heart Association journal Circulation Research.
The AHA (American Heart Association) summarizes the research:
“Non-alcoholic red wine increased participants’ levels of nitric oxide, which helped decrease both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, researchers said. Nitric oxide is a molecule in the body that helps blood vessels relax and allows more blood to reach your heart and organs.“Researchers studied 67 men with diabetes or three or more cardiovascular risk factors who ate a common diet plus one of the following drinks: about 10 ounces of red wine, non-alcoholic red wine or about 3 ounces of gin. All of the men tried each diet/beverage combination for 4 weeks.“The red wine and nonalcoholic wine contained equal amounts of polyphenols, an antioxidant that decreases blood pressure.”
The study leaves many questions, starting with whether the same results would be achieved with healthy people and with women. The authors note that lower blood pressure can reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. It measured blood pressure on one day only, raising the question of longer-term benefits.
“And the researchers didn’t measure the exact polyphenol content of the wines, raising the possibility that some other property of the non-alcoholic wine helped lower blood pressure,” CNN points out. “Despite the growing evidence of red wine’s heart benefits, doctors generally don’t recommend it to their patients because of the hazards associated with alcohol. Non-alcoholic red wine might be an option for people who want to consume polyphenols without the alcohol, [co-author] Estruch and his colleagues say.”
An AHA editorial on the subject of wine and hearts, in August 2012, suggests that ” The greatest blood pressure benefit seems to be obtained with one drink per day for women and with two drinks per day for men.”
Note: I will try to come up with addresses for alcohol-free wine in Switzerland; for now I have one to suggest:
La Côte de Vincent
Signatures de Prestige
C/O Brasier François SA
17 rue Blavignac
1227 CAROUGE – GENEVE
Tel: +41 22 827 46 10
Fax: +41 22 343 71 41
E-mail : email@example.com
And Cave SA carries a good article on the subject of low and no alcohol wines, in French.
I can’t decide if this is a lesson on useful blogging or in how to get things done, but this is a girl who is going places! Here’s to better school lunches everywhere.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – It is a heartening week in the research news corner, as seen from Canada. Researchers in Lausanne have measured the long-term metabolism in humans of lycopene, found in tomatoes, and coupled with recent research from the UK we now know it can do wonders for the skin.
Another group in Canada are seeing that rats given Resveratrol, the substance that has given red wine a good name in recent years, don’t pass diabetes on to the next generation.
Lycopene has long been known to have antioxidant qualities and tomatoes are one of the rare sources of it, in useful quantities. It is quickly absorbed into the skin, where it can play a useful role in protecting against ultraviolet rays, and it can still be found six weeks later, AB Ross and his team at the Nestle Research Center near Lausanne say (full story, Toronto Sun/QMI agency).
The Toronto Star also carries an article about research in Alberta that shows Resveratrol, found in red wine pigments, could be useful in fighting diabetes. The antioxydant, which came to fame in the 1980s when research showed it could help stave off cancer, has another preventive role in rats. Lab rats genetically susceptible to developing diabetes and that are fed the compound do not develop abdominal fat, which is linked to diabetes.
This still leaves a lot of questions. Do the offspring need Resveratrol frequently? Daily? A short, quick dose in infancy? And when the research moves on to humans, will we find that a glass a day keeps the diabetes away, or if we drink it regularly will our children benefit?
Meanwhile, the garden tomatoes are ripening and at least we can keep our skin looking bright and young while we ponder the impact of red wine on our health.
Cheers! Here’s to the Alberta research team carrying on with its research, and to the rest of us just carrying on carrying on with red wines while we wait for the outcome.
May our children bless us for it.
Geneva, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – A major European study, published 8 April in the British Journal of Medicine, says that people who drink more than two units or “standard drinks” a day for men and more than one for women are at greater risk of developing alcohol-related cancers.
The study followed 363,988 men and women, ages 30-75, in eight countries, to assess their risk of developing cancer. It covered drinkers in Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom.
A standard glass is about 125 ml, or a little over a Swiss one decilitre glass, but as defined in the article: “two drinks a day for men with about 24 g alcohol, one for women with about 12 g alcohol”.
The BBC reports that in Britain National Health Service “guidelines are a little more relaxed, saying that men should drink no more than three to four units a day while women should not go above two to three units a day.”
Switzerland carried out a survey in 2010 showing that up to 18 percent of the Swiss population may be at risk of excessive drinking. The overall figure hides changing habits, with consumption falling steadily in recent years for the population as a whole, but certain groups, notably young men 15-25 increasing consumption and switching from wine to beer and spirits, according to Addiction Info Suisse, a Lausanne-based group that earns 20 percent of its revenue from carrying out research for the Swiss government.
Higher consumption linked to four main cancers
The report’s findings show varying incidences of cancer:
“10% (95% confidence interval 7 to 13%) and 3% (1 to 5%) of the incidence of total cancer was attributable to former and current alcohol consumption in the selected European countries. For selected cancers the figures were 44% (31 to 56%) and 25% (5 to 46%) for upper aerodigestive tract, 33% (11 to 54%) and 18% (−3 to 38%) for liver, 17% (10 to 25%) and 4% (−1 to 10%) for colorectal cancer for men and women, respectively, and 5.0% (2 to 8%) for female breast cancer.”
The Guardian cites one expert who suggests the figures are low, since they reflect people’s drinking habits 10 years ago and people in the UK have increased their alcohol consumption.
Discussions in Switzerland have included the value of increased wine education to help consumers better understand how to enjoy alcohol without abusing it, I wrote in GenevaLunch in 2010, in the wake of French debates over banning advertising for alcohol.