Food as medicine, Food as justice, and Refrigerator Lights


Jacob Schor, ND, FABNO

July 5, 2013



Food as Medicine: Michael Uzick’s minute of fame!

A colleague of mine, Michael Uzick from Tucson, Arizona, became famous the other night when he was featured on a PBS piece on Food as Medicine. It’s an interesting story. Michael has served along with me for years on the board of the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians.  He is currently Vice-President of the association.



Food as Justice

I’ve written before about the GrowHaus here in Denver. It’s an urban farm featuring lettuce growing, fish farming and educational courses all done with the intention of improving access to healthy food in one of Denver’s food deserts. You may recall that I wrote about it several years ago. I was down there this morning for a tour and it’s amazing how far they’ve come. The place was abuzz with activity. If you want to take a few minutes to be inspired and come away with a pinch of optimism about the future, go on down for one of their tours. Tours are on Friday and Saturday mornings. [Note: the tour guide is none other than Sophie Schor, our daughter.] For more information:


Inappropriate Joke 

There’s a joke that I probably shouldn’t tell but that keeps coming up in my mind because of two interesting papers published in the scientific literature. The joke involves an older couple. The man, who may be developing some problems in cognitive function, claims that he has recently become closer to God. Asked for more detail, he explains that when he awakens at night to use the toilet, he just needs to open the bathroom door and God turns on the light for him.

His wife in the meantime is aghast as she suddenly understands why the orange juice tastes bad.


There are variations to this joke but they all of them hinge around refrigerators having lights, that turn on when the door is opened. 


That brings me to these studies. They are about what we might do with refrigerator lights that are turned on while the door is still closed.

Refrigerator lights: about cabbages and strawberries.....

In the June 20th issue of Current Biology, Danielle Goodspeed and colleagues reported that cabbages maintain their circadian rhythm even after harvest. In earlier studies Goodspeed had found that some plants rely on their internal clocks to fend off predatory insects. Insects tend to feed on the plants at certain times of the day and the plants know when to produce defensive chemicals to ward off these attacks. 


In this study she showed that store-bought cabbage could be trained using light and dark exposure to produce these pesticides at different times of the day. When cabbage loving moth larvae were allowed to feed on the cabbages, the difference was obvious. Cabbages that were out of sync with the bugs feeding schedule and producing pesticides at the wrong time of the day, were decimated. Normal cabbage, whose clocks were in-sync with the eating schedule of the insects, maintained their protection.              The cabbages suffered less damage and the larvae grew slower.


Why this is interesting of course is that these chemicals that cabbage eating larvae see as pesticides are viewed as desirable phytonutrients by scientists; these are the chemicals responsible for the anti-cancer action of cabbage. In cabbage it’s a chemical called sulforaphane glucosinolate. In other words, if instead of storing cabbage inside totally dark refrigerators, we could turn on the refrigerator light while the door is closed on a set schedule, we could control when the cabbages have their greatest anti-cancer effect, and have that be at the time of day we typically eat them.


Lettuce, spinach zucchini, sweet potatoes, carrots and blueberries were all put through similar experiments with similar results. It matters what time of day our food thinks it is. Keeping them in the dark is not a great idea. We often complain that produce isn’t as healthy as it once was, perhaps it is only suffering from jet-lag and needs to be put back on schedule and woken up when it’s time to be eaten? [1] 


There is another study about refrigerator lights. Strawberries are prone to fungal diseases and tend to get moldy when stored in the refrigerator. Special LED lights in the refrigerator can stop them from getting moldy.


Steven Britz of the USDA’s Food Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, experimented with ultraviolet LEDs like those used in Blu-ray disc players. He built a refrigerator using these lights and found that he could more than double the refrigerated life-span of strawberries.[2] In theory the produce drawer in our refrigerators could be set up to turn on these sorts of UV lights, and treat our stored foods and prevent mold growth.


Here’s where it gets interesting. There is a Spanish product, a grape skin concentrate that is extremely high in the phytochemical reseveratrol. This product stands out in the medical literature as it has until recently been the only resveratrol product that has had a significant clinical impact.[3] The product is made from freshly picked grapes that have been exposed to ultraviolet light, a process that was used to prevent mold growth and spoilage. This treatment triggered the grapes, even after harvest, to produce far more resveratrol than usual. Could exposing our refrigerated fruits and vegetables to UV light do the same thing and actually increase their nutritional content? Could UV and timed circadian lighting be combined to trigger a far more potent food? 




Link to the "UV light Increases Resveratrol in Grapes" (which it appears I may not have posted before) [Link






1. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2013.05.034


2. CLEO: 2013 presentation ATh3N.3. “Deep Ultraviolet (DUV) Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs) to Maintain Freshness and Phytochemical Composition During Postharvest Storage” by Stephen Britz


3. One-year consumption of a grape nutraceutical containing resveratrol improves the inflammatory and fibrinolytic status of patients in primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Tomé-Carneiro J, Gonzálvez M, Larrosa M, Yáñez-Gascón MJ, García-Almagro FJ, Ruiz-Ros JA, García-Conesa MT, Tomás-Barberán FA, Espín JC.

Am J Cardiol. 2012 Aug 1;110(3