Monthly Archives: June 2007

Reamins of Kush in Africa

What exactly does Kush mean to you? Probably Hindu god Rama’s son if you are a Hindu. And how about Kerma? May be misspelled Karma. But these two words have completely different meanings to archaeologists. A recently published article in The New York Times reports Kush, currently in Egypt, was an ancient kingdom that stretched 750 plus mile in Africa and its capital was Kerma. The Kushite kingdom has been dated back to around second millennium B.C.

 Not only are Kush and Kerma both Hindu terms but they also kind of resonate with an age-old story told in Nepal. The Kusundas of Nepal used to be nomadic until just a few decades ago. According to their story, they originated from Kush, one of the twin sons of Rama who was made the king of the forests. Could it be that once exiled, Kush and his army headed east, reached Egypt and established the kingdom of Kush?  The idea of Kush establishing a kingdom after his own name in Egypt is bizarre; however, Hindu supremacists may hold it true unless proven false. Even scientific evidence can be quoted–among the geneticists, it is a very well known fact that humans moved out of Africa to various parts of the world including India and later, they moved into Africa from India as well.  

Although based on the linguistic similarities one might contend that Hindus of India established Kushite kingdom, the chances of this hypothesis being true are very limited. Yet, my curiosity still lingers what can explain the similarities between an ancient African kingdom and a Hindu god?

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Do Diet Soda Cause Cancer: Apparently Not!

Like so many people I love the fizzling sensation caused by soda in my tongue and pallet. This kind of sensation is not satisfied by drinking water or juice. Even the high calorie energy drinks do not produce this sensation.

Besides, being health and environment conscious makes me lean towards soda. I drink lots of water everyday so why should I sacrifice the sensational fizzle during my lunch? Besides empty bottles from bottled water are one of the highest environment hazards if not recycled properly. I would not want to drink juice or energy drink simply because of the fact that they are loaded with calories. So soda seems to be the only choice I have.

Fine. My logic has numerous fallacies. But the point is I like drinking soda everyday. This leaves me with a dilemma. Should I drink the sugar loaded ‘regular’ beverage or should I opt for the ‘diet’ ones? Afraid of the amount of calories in ‘regular’ sodas, I used to drink ‘diet’ ones, until my friend pointed out that some of the components used in the diet soda could cause cancer.

Not that I am unaware of the fact that everything these days is carcinogenic, but I could not knowingly keep drinking ‘diet’ soda. What if they are really carcinogenic? After a few days of drinking ‘regular’ sodas, I could not take it anymore. The sweetness and the after taste of ‘regular’ were unbearable for me. Hence, I decided to investigate whether ‘diet’ sodas really cause cancer.

Although my investigation was limited to searching for scientific journals related to artificial sugar and cancer, I have learned, to my delight that artificial sugars do not cause cancer. According The American Dietetic Association (ADA), “consumers can safely enjoy a range of nutritive and nonnutritive sweeteners when consumed in a diet that is guided by current federal nutrition recommendations, such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Dietary References Intakes, as well as individual health goals.”

According to ADA, normal sugars are called nutritive sweeteners while artificial sugars are called non-nutritive sugars. FDA has approved five non-nutritive sugars— acesulfame-K (used in diet sodas), aspartame (used in diet sodas) aka Nutrasweet, neotame, saccharin, and sucralose to be safely consumable everyday over a lifetime on the basis that there is no known adverse effects of the non-nutritive sweeteners in obesity, cancer, and behavioral disporders. 

Scientists also seem to agree with ADA and FDA in the sense that non-nutritive sweeteners do not cause cancer. Various scientific studies with long known artificial sweeteners such as saccharin, cyclamate and aspartame demonstrate that they pose no carcinogenic effects in humans despite the fact that some of these artificial sweeteners induce bladder cancer in rats. Another study that looked at blood and brain cancers in men and women demonstrated that consumption of Aspartame does not cause these cancers. However, cancer-inducing properties of acesulfame-K, sucralose, alitame and neotame cannot be accessed in part because they have been recently introduced to the consumers and it is too early to detect their possible carcinogenic risks. In addition, there is more than one artificial sweetener in food products today, which makes it difficult to single out one possible carcinogenic factor.  

Although non-nutritive sweeteners do not pose carcinogenic threat, a group of scientists who study aspartame metabolism believe that upon digestion, methanol in aspartame (consisting of phenylalanine, aspartic acid, and methanol) is converted into formaldehyde (a carcinogen), which accumulates within the cells. Use of aspartame may lead to breast and prostate cancer. Although it is true that formaldehyde, a carcinogen is produced by aspartame, its concentration is so small that it causes negligible effect.

So, soda lovers, we have a good news unless you guzzle tanks of ‘diet’ soda, we are good. Just do not drink in excess seems to be the message. For the soda haters, they probably need to turn off their tvs, microwaves, cell phones and virtually all electronic piece of equipment they come near to live in a cancer free society. Also, I recommend going to an isolated forest to escape pollution. Oh, yes do not drive there for cars also induce cancer.

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Living Goddesses: A documentary by Ishbel Whitaker

The Kumaris are Buddhist girls believed to be inhabited by a Hindu goddess, so they’re seen as symbols of religious tolerance. For centuries, the goddesses were used by kings to legitimize their rule. NPR’s All Things Considered featured a Kumari who recently visited the US and interacted with children of her age at a Washington DC school. Although her interaction is pretty funny, the author of the article has completely ignored the process of being a Kumari, the huge responsibilities that little Kumaris carry, and their life different from that of their contemporary children. Hope the documentary does a better job in educating the public.

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