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A Swedish Bread Designed to Fight Diabetes Also Sharpens Memory

With type 2 diabetes on the rise at an alarming rate, the Antidiabetic Food Centre was founded in 2007 at Lund University, Sweden to study the effect of food on health in general, and the risk of developing diabetes, in particular.

One of the main areas of research has been how different types of bread affect our cognitive abilities as sugar is released into the bloodstream.

Why study different breads?

Bread is a main staple in most people’s diets. Some people eat bread several times a day; there is a wide variety of this food on the market.

So the researchers decided to look at a popular breakfast bread – the kind many people like to toast and savor with a dairy spread and some jam: white bread.

Considering how our intestines work, white bread is actually not a very healthy choice. It is notorious for its high level of glucose. It has little or no fiber, is digested quickly and sends lots of sugar right out into the bloodstream, dramatically increasing insulin production.

But it is a tasty morning food that is easily prepared to complement one’s first cup of coffee or tea.

Can white bread be made more healthy?

Instead of trying to change people’s bread preference, researchers wondered if white bread could be composed of ingredients that promote health. Was it possible to reengineer this unhealthy food to include more fiber and less sugar?

As a previous cafe owner, healthcare professional and Doctor of Technology, Anne Nilsson of Lund University’s Antidiabetic Food Centre decided to explore this idea.

She found a natural substance rich in fiber which could be added to white bread dough without changing the “toastability” of the bread. This substance is guaran, produced by grinding the endosperm of guar beans. The guar gum powder can be ground to both a coarse and a fine powder, making it easy to add to a yeast dough.

Putting the new recipe to the test

After finalizing the bread recipe, it was time to find some human ”guinea pigs” to test it on. What Dr. Nilsson wanted to know was if eating this low glucose bread would improve blood sugar levels as well as important mental abilities such as memory and attention.

In cooperation with the Dept. of Psychology at Lund University, two different types of tests were devised. One tested the subjects’ attention span, the other tested short-term memory.

Once the subjects had eaten the specified amount of bread, their blood sugar was checked at 15- and 30-minute intervals. The tests were administered at specified times throughout the first three hours of digestion.

Participants completed the same test protocol twice – once with the special bread, once with a common white bread – not knowing which bread was which.

They were only compared with him or herself, not with others in the study.

The results showed that people consistently performed better on mental challenges after eating the bread with fiber. The release of blood sugar was less and occurred over a longer period of time.

A new white bread to guard against diabetes?

Dr. Nilsson explains the positive results with how our intestines work, Actually, 80% of our immune system’s defense is found in the intestines. These organs are a natural barrier to harmful microorganisms, and what we eat has a great effect on this barrier.

A low fiber diet will cause increased flow through this barrier and inflammation of the cell walls. Over a longer period of time, this imbalance results in heart disease, other circulatory diseases and lower physical and mental stamina.

Thus, this new bread may be an important way to break such a negative cycle in the digestive tract and help prevent diabetes.

Research is continuing in this field, but at least we now know a bit more about how to start our day as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as possible.


Swedish Chicks Never Had It So Good!

Survival rates are up. Dangerous chemicals are out. Bacterial counts are down… drastically! This is the new situation at Sweden’s largest privately-owned hatchery. Salt, water and electricity vs. formaldehyde and hydrogen peroxide.

It sounds too good to be true.

For many years, the hatchery had used very strong detergents and disinfectants to keep bacteria counts under control. But the formaldehyde, hydrogen peroxide and acids they were using are also extremely harmful.

Costly too. This large hatching facility had a bill of more than $70,000 for the four tons of chemicals it required every year. Was it really possible to kill the germs more safely?

In 2009 the biotech company Anolytech, was founded in Ystad, Sweden to develop a highly efficient, low cost disinfectant for use in agricultural companies required to meet the highest possible hygienic standards. By summer 2011, the Blenta Hatchery in Blentarp had installed the new technology. Expectations were high – personnel were really looking forward to shedding all their protective clothing and gas masks!

Company directors anticipated major cost reductions when expensive chemicals no longer were needed. It didn’t take long. Soon tests were confirming that these harmless ingredients, handled in a very special way, could greatly reduce – even eliminate – bacteria which had previously been difficult to contain.

As safe as it is ingenious

Water and regular vacuum-packed salt is put into large tanks. The brine produced is then sent through a reactor that splits it into an acidic solution and an alkaline solution. The alkaline solution is used for cleaning and the acidic solution is used to disinfect.

It is completely safe, biodegradable and can be rinsed away through the normal drainage system.

American chicks will soon be just as pampered

When word reached the US poultry giant Chick Master, they soon paid a visit to their Swedish colleagues at Blenta. Seeing with their own eyes how this ingenious solution disinfects both safely and economically, they soon started negotiating for usage rights in the US.

German pigs are also benefitting

News of this revolutionary disinfectant has also reached Germany. A pig farmer with a group of piglets that were extremely aggressive tried spraying a diluted dose of the liquid on the troublesome pigs once a day. The results were remarkable. The tail bite wounds of the aggressive piglets healed 80% faster than was normally the case. In addition, the piglets became much more passive. How could this be? Not only does the solution effectively kill germs, but amazingly, it also removes hormonal odors that trigger tail biting in piglets.

Everyone’s quality of life improves

In Blentarp it may be difficult to know which group has benefitted the most – the 36 million chicks a year hatched there, or those who take care of them. After years of needing to use protective clothing at work, they can truly appreciate just how intrinsic an environment free from dangerous chemicals is to one’s peace of mind and quality of life. They also get to see how healthy new hatchlings can certainly glow with a sort of chickly happiness.



Siri Derkert – Using Art to Change Society

Today, Sweden is a model of social equality. But it hasn’t always been so.

Universal suffrage was not established until 1921. In the medical, legal and teaching professions, women were generally excluded until after WWII. The first woman minister in the Church of Sweden was not ordained until 1960. The arena of politics was clearly reserved for men. Women often found themselves unwelcome as professionals in the performing and visual arts.

Misogyny permeated all areas of Swedish society when Siri Derkert was born in 1888. Her family was of the working class and struggled to make ends meet. At the age of twenty-three, she began studying at the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts. Like many other artists of the time, the Avant-garde and Cubist movements in Paris attracted her attention. In 1913 she settled in Paris to continue studying and working as an artist for the next several years.

Her years as part of the Parisian Avant-garde were very formative. They nourished her artistic abilities as well as her radical political philosophy. At the core of her worldview was a strong dedication to feminism.

Bringing the Avant-garde to Swedish Art and Politics

Moving back to Sweden, Siri Derkert became a champion of women’s rights as well as one of the important contributors to modernism in Swedish art. Her Cubist paintings are renowned even today. She often contributed to social debates in the media. These were monumental feats, considering the devotion she had to her children and the burden she shouldered as their primary caregiver.

Siri Derkert’s art is known for its highly personal and expressionistic style. Thanks to her continued work during two World Wars, she attained an unusually prominent position in Swedish cultural circles. In the 1940’s and 1950’s she was part of a curriculum that brought her together with other Swedish feminist pioneers of the time; Emilia Fogelclou, Elin Wagner and Elise Ottesen-Jensen.

These members of Sweden’s cultural elite shared Siri’s revolutionary thinking. She envisioned a society where neither men nor women were favored because of their gender. Rather, both were welcome to contribute to society in a spirit of mutual respect.

Public Art as a Means to Social Reform

With time, she became known for her radical thoughts and sharp tongue. Yet, Siri Derkert’s most profound legacy is perhaps her monumental contribution to Swedish public art.

After WWII she won several competitions. Her first commission was to create the so-called ”Women’s Column” at the Central Station of Stockholm’s subway. Here she used a new technique of drawing in wet concrete.

In 1962 she was chosen to represent Sweden in the newly opened Nordic Pavilion at the Venice Biennale Arts Exposition. One of the highest recognitions an artist could be given at that time.

”Where Are the Birds Singing?”

Part of Siri Derkert’s social vision also included respecting nature and the fragility of our eco-systems.

In the mid-60’s she designed a large, woven tapestry for the City Hall of Hoganas. Entitled ”Where Are the Birds Singing?” this work was finished in 1967. It is a beautiful, moving and eloquent warning of DDT’s destruction of life, echoing the prophecies of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.

Siri Derkert’s artistic integrity and dedication to social equality, helped turn the wheels of progress in Sweden. The birds are singing in Sweden. They sing of a more just society – a hopeful model of human rights for one and all.