Friday, August 27, 2010

Are high-tech sweeteners making us obese?

Sugar has been blamed for a laundry list of ills since crystalline sucrose was first created. Sugar causes the release of beta endorphins which many find addicting. The beta endorphins act like morphine, reducing pain and increasing relaxation. Eating a lot of sugar is known to cause weight gain, rotten teeth and lower one’s immunity. But in spite of its negative health effects, sugar has not lost its popularity and even back in 1970 Americans showed their love for it by consuming over 100 pounds of it per person.

Access to inexpensive corn and advancements in genetically engineered enzymes have created a high-tech modern sweetener that is cheaper, sweeter, and doesn’t decompose over a period of time like sugar and syrups do. The extra sweetness, particularly in high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) results in an even stronger release of beta endorphins and stronger addiction for some. These genetically engineered corn based sugars have been replacing crystalline sugar in almost every food we eat since 1970, yet they have a completely different composition than sucrose with health implications that researchers are just starting to study.


New technologies have allowed corn refiners to create sweeteners with genetically engineered enzymes and “chromatographic separation” High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is made using an enzyme that converts glucose to fructose. This breaks the bond between fructose and sucrose found in natural sugars allowing refiners to vary the percentages of fructose and glucose in the product. Then it is heated and hydrogen is added via a process called “catalytic hydrogenation” which is very similar to the process used for making hydrogenated oils.

Corn refiners have also created a long list of other sweeteners, they call “nutritive sugars”, made using the same chromatic separation and hydrogenation process producing lower calorie sugars and hydrogenated corn starches.

The hydrogenated corn sweeteners act as a preservative, just as hydrogenated oils did. Hydrogenated oils were shown to be toxic to the body because they cannot be easily absorbed. The glucose and fructose in the high-tech corn sweeteners are converted to triglycerides by the liver, and stored as fat under the stomach. Fat created from hydrogenated sweeteners may have similar problems being processed by the body as did hydrogenated oils.


The cheaper high-tech corn sweeteners have crept into almost every food Americans eat plunging our consumption of crystalline sugar to 65 pounds a year per person by 2008. Americans went from eating a half a pound per person of HFCS to over 50 pounds per person in 2008. And when all the other hydrogenated corn sweeteners in our diet are added up, the average American ate over 115 pounds of these sweeteners in 2008.

The migration to hydrogenated corn sweeteners over the past 40 years coincides with the huge increase in obesity and diabetes in the US since 1970. Recent research at Princeton University shows dramatic differences in weight gain between hydrogenated corn sweeteners and sugar.


A research team at Princeton University demonstrated that rats fed HFCS gained significantly more weight than rats fed crystalline sucrose, even when their overall calorie intake was the same. In addition to causing significant weight gain, long-term consumption of HFCS also led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen, and a rise in triglycerides. A second experiment compared rats eating only rat chow to rats on a diet rich in HFCS for 6 months. The male rats ballooned in size and the rat eating HFCS gained 48% more weight than those eating a normal diet. The rats eating HFCS showed signs “metabolic syndrome”, including abnormal weight gain, significant increases in triglycerides and fat around the belly.

These studies inspire us to read our food labels very closely so we do not end up consuming large quantities of these engineered corn sweeteners.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Health risks of investments gone bad

One of my prominent images of the Crash of 1929 is a Wall Street stock trader standing on the ledge of a high rise building preparing to jump. Yet even with that image rooted in our culture, people underestimate the risk of an investment going bad to their health and well being.

Numerous studies have highlighted the negative health effects of debt. A survey by, a nonprofit financial crisis center, found nearly half of the people with debt problems experienced symptoms of depression and 90% felt some stress. Paying off debt lifts the stress and improves a person’s health. A study in Germany showed that over-indebtedness was associated with an increased prevalence of being overweight and obesity that was not explainable by the person’s socioeconomic status. And, a study of college students showed that debt and stress were associated with wide-ranging adverse health indicators.

It seems logical to think that the stress of bankruptcy would have negative health consequences. But studies have shown that people in the US and Canada that went through bankruptcy had a sudden improvement in their health status, family relations and their employment status. The relief of getting out from under debt and investments gone bad has a positive impact on health. Some of the relief of bankruptcy is cultural. For example, studies show that the impact of bankruptcy for Japanese debtors is harsh and resulted in family problems, health problems, suicides and running away from home. Recent changes in the US bankruptcy law as well as the current poor economy may not provide the same level of relief as bankruptcies have in the past.

We consider ourselves to be risk averse. We avoided the perils of penny stocks, the .com bubble, and house flipping. Our first sign of the extent of the current economic disaster was in 2006 when two major banks with our FDIC insured CDs were decertified by the FDIC in the same week (WaMu and Indymac). Since the CDs were purchased through an investment firm, the status of our money was up in the air for four weeks and our stress was high. It was inconceivable to us that FDIC protected CDs could become an investment gone bad. This has colored our view of investment risk under the current economic conditions. We are surprised to see people continue to take on second and third mortgages for foreclosed properties in Hawaii county and use their retirement savings to invest in businesses.

Considering the studies of the health effects due to debt and loss of money, there should be a health warning when purchasing stocks, taking on mortgages, buying bonds, and charging up high interest credit cards. In a tough economy, previously for-sure investments have become high risk investments. Now it is best to not only understand the risks of a specific investment but also the risk to your health if the investment goes bad.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The story of Hawaii’s genetically modified papaya

Genetically modified papayas at Hilo farmer's market

Hawaii's genetically modified (GM) varieties of papaya were developed by Dr. Dennis Gonsalves,a native Hawaiian raised on a sugar plantation in Kohala on the island of Hawaii. While at Cornell University, he developed and commercialized genetically modified papaya plants to protect Hawaiian papayas from a deadly virus. Now more than 75% of the papayas grown in Hawaii are his GM Rainbow variety papayas. 

Dr. Gonsalves created GM papaya to save Hawaii's papaya industry from the ringspot virus which showed up in Hawaii in the 1940’s. The virus destroyed papaya production on Oahu in the 1950’s causing the papaya industry to move to Puna on the island of Hawaii in the 1960’s. Farmers in Puna now produce 95% of Hawaii’s papaya. Dr. Gonsalves began his research to develop a genetically engineered papaya resistant to the ringspot virus in the 1980’s and in 1992 a field trial was started on Oahu. By 1994, half of Puna’s papaya acreage was infected with the ringspot virus, but the genetically altered SunUp and Rainbow varieties of papaya were available by then to replace them. In 1997, the EPA and FDA granted approval for the sale of the GM papaya varieties. Exports of GM papayas started to the US mainland, Canada, and China.

But being able to sell to the Japanese market is critical to the success of Hawaii's papaya industry. Sales of Hawaiian papaya to Japan were $15 million in 1996 but dwindled to $1.2 million in 2009 due to the shortage of non-GMO papaya.

In 2002, Dr. Gonsalves left Cornell to become director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center in Hilo, Hawaii. After joining the USDA, he focused on getting Japan to approve the GM papaya varieties. Japan's process relies on scientific data, rather than being a political process. In April 2010, Japan gave its approval for the import of genetically modified (GM) papaya from Hawaii. The fruits will be available in Japanese supermarkets this year.

The hope is that the recent approval of GM papaya exports to Japan will restore Hawaii’s papaya export market. However, Japan requires that the GM papayas be labeled as a genetically modified food. Thus far, Hawaii papaya growers have not had to notify their consumers about the GM status of their papayas. The success of GM Hawaiian papaya exports is dependent on the consumers in Japan being willing to buy a GM labeled product and pay the same as a non-GM papaya from other parts of the world.

Approval of GM papaya by the European Union and other parts of Asia has not gone as well. Greenpeace has been actively attacking GM papaya and raiding GM research labs in Thailand to destroy the plants. Some blame them for cutting down thousands of GM papaya trees on Oahu and the Big Island this year.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Gout home remedies update

Gout-free Foot
Previously I blogged about my experiences with gout and different home remedies that I have tried. I am happy to report that avoiding foods with high levels of uric acid, eating foods high in malic acid, and taking a malic acid magnesium supplement has kept me gout-free for a year now. During the past year, I cut out canola oil and all poultry to make sure there was no canola in my diet.  I have also made eating one green apple (which are high in malic acid) a day a regular routine. These changes, combined with drinking alkaline bottled water to have a more neutral ph, has helped to dissolve and flush out the uric acid that caused my gout attacks.

Gout is caused by high levels of uric acid in the blood that forms crystals, usually in or near joints. Feet and hands are the most common place that the crystals form and in my case, they formed next to my big toe making walking nearly impossible. The long thin crystals act like needles and cut into the tissue and bone so that even touching the spot can cause intense pain. Since uric acid is not very soluble in water, it is hard to get the crystals to dissolve. Repeated attacks can cause long term damage to the joints and tissue.

Canola (Canada oil low acid) is oil from a genetically engineered rapeseed which has historically been considered inedible by humans due to its high percentage of uric acid. The seed oil is now touted as a health food and has become one of the most common oils used in foods while the remaining plant is used as animal feed for cows, chickens, and turkeys.

This week, I learned about some disturbing new findings about how fructose is turned into uric acid in the body. This information is surprising since I have never seen fructose on any list of foods to avoid if you have gout.

Researchers have defined a “metabolic syndrome” that precedes the onset of diabetes. This syndrome includes a resistance to insulin, a rise in triglycerides, an increase in blood pressure, and inflammation in the body. Disturbingly, fructose is being blamed for this syndrome because ingesting it causes a rise in uric acid levels which inflames the body.

Considering the wide spread use of high fructose corn syrup in our food and beverages, this finding has major implications in the fight against diabetes and obesity.  The feeling of fullness comes from the brain which is signaled by an insulin response (or a fiber response) , but our diet of low-fiber, high fructose burgers, burritos, pizza, breads, breakfast cereal, soft drinks, and sweets never tells our brain that we are full so we keep eating and eating.  Researchers like Dr Peter Havel, Dr. Richard Johnson, Dr. Joseph Mercoloa are claiming that  fructose, which doesn’t cause an insulin response, is the reason for the growing amount of obesity, and not high fiber carbohydrates and glucose which do cause an insulin response.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup, despite its name, is really the same as other sweeteners like table sugar (sucrose), honey, agave, and concentrated fruit juices. All contain glucose and fructose in roughly equal amounts. High-Fructose Corn Syrup contains about 55% fructose and 45% glucose and table sugar is 50% fructose and 50% glucose. Honey and Agave are about 70% fructose. So any widely available sugar that is eaten has the potential to turn into uric acid and cause or worsen a gout attack.

So now, I am reducing the sugar in my diet to help me stay gout-free.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Pokémon World Championships in Hawaii

If you had a tween in the late 1990's, you are probably very familiar with Pokémon. Red and Blue versions of Pokémon for Nintendo’s Gameboy burst on the scene in the US in September 1998 along with the anime series. The trading cards were introduced the following year by Wizards of the Coast. Pikachu, Mew, Meowth, and Bubasaur became household names and our kid loved "Pokémon, the First Movie" which opened in the US in 1999. The movie’s popularity resulted in it briefly holding the record for the highest grossing animated film. We played the card game, watched the TV shows, and movies and were amazed at the endless releases of Nintendo games (Yellow, Gold, Silver, Crystal, Ruby, Sapphire, Diamond, Pearl). Over the past 12 years, the number of pocket monsters (Pokémon) grew from the original 151 to over 1500. This year the 13th movie was released and new Pokémon games HeartGold and SoulSilver were released for the Nintendo DS™ and Nintendo DSi™ systems to appeal to the original Pokémon tweens, now in their twenties, by setting the game in the same region as the first games with updated graphics and sounds. The games come with a tiny pedometer that allows players to bring their Pokémon with them on their walks and gain experience points.

All this Pokémon reminiscing is because the 2010 Pokémon World Championships are taking place this weekend at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island of Hawaii. The competition is operated by the Pokémon Company which awards titles to players in each of the three age divisions (Juniors born in 1999 or later, Seniors born between 1995 and 1998, and Masters born in 1994 or earlier). Competitors are invited due to their national standings and must bring their own deck to compete against players from over 20 countries. The top players in the the United States earned their places in the Hawaii invitational at the Pokémon National Championships held earlier this year in Indianapolis, Indiana. Prizes will be awarded to the top 32 winners in each of the age divisions including scholarships, games, cards, and Nintendo’s. In addition to the card competition, the World championships has a video competition. In its third year, the Video Game Championships has become popular with thousands of players competing in regional tournaments in the United States, Europe, and Japan in an attempt to qualify for the World Championships.

The three days of events at the Hilton include an opening ceremony, player meetings, side tournaments, movies, game room, autograph signing, and a chance to meet VPs from The Pokémon Company and Game Freak Inc. Game tables are already filled with kids and adults playing 
pokémon If you bring your Nintendo DS you can even get a battle-ready Crobat pokémon.

The concept of Pokémon was created by Satoshi Tajiri, who loved catching insects and tadpoles as a child growing up nearby Tokyo. With the help of Ken Sugimori and other friends, Tajiri formed Game Freak and later the design studio Creatures to put his love of catching creatures into game. His dream was to create a game for Nintendo’s GameBoy and with the help of his friend Shigeru Miyamoto (the famous game designer credited for Super Mario and the Legend of Zelda) he successfully pitched the idea.

Nintendo funded the project spending six years to develop the Pokémon games Red and Green that were released in Japan in 1996 and Pokémon Blue, released soon thereafter.  The games featured 151 pocket monsters that could be caught and trained in the pursuit of becomes a Pokémon master. In the same year, the Pokémon trading game card sets were released with 102 pocket monsters. The popularity of the franchise led to an anime series in 1997 and movies thereafter. In 1998, Pokémon Center store was opened in Tokyo and The Pokémon Company began its operation. Today there are 6 stores across Japan and one in New York.

If you are looking for some fun and excitement you might find it at the Hilton Waikoloa Village this weekend.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Are Genetically Modified foods safe?

In 2010, the share of genetically modified crops in the US, represented 86% of all corn planted (up 2% from last year), 93% of all soybeans planted (up 2% from last year), and 93% of all cotton planted (up 19% from last year).  Other genetically modified plants grown in the US include canola (rape seed), sugar beets, sweet corn, squash (zucchini and yellow crookneck squash), and papayas in Hawaii.

Every year since 1996, Americans have been eating a greater percentage of genetically modified (GM) and genetically engineered (GE) foods directly and indirectly through food additives, flavors, and vitamins.  The majority of the livestock, hens, and dairy cows around the world are fed solely GM feed and in the US injected with genetically engineered hormones such as rbGH (also known as rbST).  An increasing amount of honey is from bees fed on GM plant flowers.

We wonder how safe GM foods really are and if the reduced health and rising obesity in America is partly due to our new GM diet?

The big GM companies, Monsanto and Bayer, cite the lack of litigation for any substantiated health impacts due to GM food as proof of the safety of GM foods. Though we are not sure that a lack of litigation is proof of food safety, it does indicate that should there be any health effects from eating GM foods, they might be subtle.

Here are some recent developments that concern us about the GM food health question.
·         In 2009,  the American Academy of Environmental Medicine released a position paper on Genetically Modified foods stating that “GM foods pose a serious health risk” and called for a moratorium. They cited several animal studies and concluded  that there is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects and that they pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic, and genetic health.
·         A new disease, called Morgellon’s disease, is thought by some to be due to eating GM food. This painful disease creates a feeling of insects crawling under the skin and in some cases lesions on the skin that produce colored cellulose fibers. Analysis of the fibers showed that they contain DNA from a fungus and bacterium used in GM foods.
·         Biotech companies claim the Bt toxin gene added to GM plants from soil bacteria bacillus thuringiensis is safe since organic farmers use it in a spray. But Bt sprayings by plane to kill gypsy moths caused hundreds of people to report allergy or flu symptoms and some to go to the emergency room due to its effects. The Bt toxin in GM plants is more concentrated than the spray and remains in the plant rather than being able to be washed off.
·         Farmers in India are reporting allergic symptoms from handling Bt cotton and victims of itching are increasing dramatically.  It has been reported that cattle fed on Bt cotton fodder and oil cakes in India have suffered from infertility, reduced milk yield, bloody dysentery, excessive salivation, bloated stomachs, and have also died.

Living in Hilo we thought we could reduce the amount of GM foods in our diet.  However, the more we learn about genetically altered foods and food additives, the more we are confronted with their presence in products we never imagine they could be in.

Products from GM foods like corn, soy, canola, and cotton are spread throughout the manufactured food supply through popcorn, corn starch, corn flakes, corn oil, corn syrup (fructose and glucose), corn sugar (dextrose),  gluten, modified food starch, canola oil, soy flour, soy margarine, tofu, tempeh, natto, soy protein, lecithin, isolate, isoflavone, vitamin E (tocopherol), cotton oil, vegetable oil, vegetable protein, cellulose (used as a thickening agent and binder), sugar beet sugar, and more.

GM technology is used in other food additives produced with GM microorganisms including aspartame (an artificial sweetener),  vitamin B (riboflavine), glutamate(a flavor enhancer), and xanthan (a thickening agent). GM microorganisms produce enzymes used in foods including: chymosin for producing cheese; starch-splitting amylases used in bread and pastries; sugar-splitting invertases in sweets and chocolates; amylases and other enzymes used in the production of glucose syrup from starch; and pectinases used to degrade cell membranes in juice and wine. GM microorganisms also help produce other foods including: wheat beer with GM yeast and corn sugar; yeast extract from GM yeast; yoghurt with GM lactobacilli (lactic acid bacteria); salami (raw sausages) with GM lactobacilli (lactic acid bacteria); blue cheese with GM moulds; and Quorn (a new vegetarian food in the UK) from GM fungi. GM growth mediums are used to create bakers' yeast cultured on a medium containing GM corn; vitamin C produced by microorganisms raised using glucose derived from GM corn starch; and citric acid is produced by microorganisms raised using molasses derived from GM sugar beets.

And more GM products are entering the market and our food supply.  AquaBounty claims it is on the verge of receiving government approval to market eggs of a quick growing Atlantic salmon modified with a gene from a Pacific Chinook Salmon. If approved by the FDA, it will be the first GM animal to reach consumers in the US. In June 2010, the supreme court ruled that Monsanto could sell their GM alfalfa with USDA approval. Alfalfa is the 4th most planted US crop with the dairy industry being the biggest consumer.  
The existing organic and non-GM farms are getting contaminated by seeds and pollen blowing in from the ever increasing GM crop acreage.  In July 2010, Bayer was sued for introducing GM long-grain rice into the US food supply chain in several states which restricted US rice exports and caused a decline in rice futures.  Most non-GM products are allowed some percentage of GM content due to contamination.  The GM seeds are suppose to be sterile so that they can’t reproduce themselves, but scientists are finding GM canola plants along the highways and in wild areas where they shouldn’t be able to grow.
We will let you know if we can create a diet that is organic and results in us attaining excellent health and maintaining our “wealth BMIs”.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Amazing Natto

Natto is a fermented soybean food invented in Japan over 1,000 years ago. We had heard that it is suppose to be good for you, but recently a friend sent us a list of the amazing health benefits eating natto offers.

It is said the blood clot dissolving properties of natto provides the same capability as doses of $20,000 blood thinners given to heart attack patients in the ER. And the effects last longer and have no side effects.

Natto has a long list of other beneficial heath effects including prevention of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, osteoporosis, aging, senility, and intestinal disease due to its unique enzymes, vitamins and amino acids.

Pyrazine is an enzyme which gives natto its nasty smell and prevents blood from clotting. In 1990, Dr. Hiroyuki Sumi discovered another enzyme in natto he named Nattokinase which dissolves blood clots. The combination of these two enzymes is a powerful deterrent to blood clots that can cause a multitude of health problems. Natto increases circulation through restricted arteries, breaks up clots, and keeps clots from forming.

Natto also has lecithin, linoleic acid, and fiber from the soybeans, which purifies the blood and helps digestion. It is rich in vitamin K which helps with bone formation and olyglutamin acid in natto helps absorb calcium in the intestines. Japanese researchers have shown a correlation of eating natto with lower rates of cervical bone breakage, a common occurrence for elderly with osteoporosis.

Natto protects the body from other problems related to impaired circulation, including macular degeneration, senility, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia. It has anti-carcinogen effects from flanoviods and isoflavones present in soybeans.

We were most surprised to find that this incredible food has also been shown to have an anti-bacterial effect on pathogens such as typhus, dysentery, e-coli, and salmonella. Wow!

The downside of natto is that its smell, taste, and texture can be difficult to stomach for those of us not use to eating it. It has been dubbed sneeze beans due to its gooey, snotty look. Japanese people eat it raw, but we have heard that the taste and texture can be improved by mixing it with yoghurt, mayonnaise or cheese.

We immediately ran out and bought some natto at KTA. By itself, it smells terrible (like ammonia) and there is no way we could eat it. We mixed in the mustard & vinegar package that comes with it and it definitely helped. Vinegar eradicates the bad smell.
We mixed it in yoghurt and it was good, even better after granola was added in with it.
We mixed it in cottage cheese and it was great, even better with vinegar added. Adding some feta cheese in made it taste even better. Natto can definitely be made to taste great and it is very filling and has a lot of fiber. If natto is heated above 150 degrees F, the enzyme loses its effectiveness, so it is best to eat it cold.

Natto is widely available in Hawaii and on the big island at KTA. 

 If you can’t stomach the taste and texture of natto, you can get some of the same effects with a pill containing Bacillus Natto bacteria - Nattokinase. There is some debate about its effectiveness, but many people are posting great results from taking the pill.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Mercury in our favorite Hawaiian fish

When we moved to Hawaii, we researched the health issues of mercury in local fish and found several reports stating that Hawaii had very low amounts of mercury compared to fish caught elsewhere in the world. Our favorite fish are ahi, mahimahi, ono, and salmon and we eat it a couple of times a week or more. 

Recently, we watched “The Cove”, a documentary about dolphin killing in Japan. The killing of the dolphins was disturbing, as was finding out that it is being supported by marine parks around the world.  But, the information about rapidly increasing mercury levels in the North Pacific Ocean was frightening since fish is one of our primary sources of protein.  Dolphins and fish cannot rid their bodies of mercury like humans can. And since our favorite large fish live on smaller fish, the mercury becomes concentrated in their flesh. The bigger and older fish have a greater concentration of mercury than smaller fish.

Mercury is devastating to the brain development of small children and developing fetuses.  But, even in adults, mercury in the brain will destroy neurons used for sensory perception, memory and motor skills.  Fortunately, humans can eliminate mercury, but it can take a long time and damage to the brain continues as long as the mercury contamination remains in the body.

Recent USGS studies have shown that mercury levels in the North Pacific Ocean have increased about 30% over the last 20 years and are continuing to rise, mostly due to the daily addition of coal burning power plants in China.  The mercury is released into the air and accumulates in streams which empty into the oceans. Mercury in water is converted to methylmercury which is absorbed by plankton and consumed by fish. Consumption of ocean fish and shellfish account for over 90 percent of human methylmercury exposure in the United States

The USGS research that concerns us was published in 2008. The graphs in the report show the latitude and longitude of China, with highly toxic areas along their coastlines.  The National Fisheries Institute disputes that there have been any cases of methylmercury toxicity in the US from consumption of commercial fish. Their evidence is based on a National Health and Nutrition Examination survey taken in 2002. We searched for recent reports on the health effects of the increasing amounts of mercury in the oceans from other US government organizations like the CDC, ATSDR, EPA or FDA and found nothing.  But organizations like are publishing their findings of alarming levels of mercury they are finding in fish bought from grocery stores in California and in sushi restaurants around the US.  Their site’s mercury calculator showed that our 6 oz meal of Ahi last week was 196% of the EPA limit.

Until we see research convincing us otherwise, we are cutting back on eating  ahi, mahimahi and ono, and replacing it with more Big Island raised, low fat, grass-fed, beef.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The college debt dilemma

Having a kid in college has made the college loan issue a major topic of discussion in our home this summer.  The big question being: will a college diploma increase one’s income enough to justify borrowing the money required to get through four years of college?  Loans for college are not like other types of debt because in most cases the students can’t get rid of the it through bankruptcy.

We have been researching the outcome for young people that entered college in 2004, when the economy was growing, credit was easy, and the expectation of a high paying  job after graduation seemed assured.  Of the 2008 college graduates, 67% had student loans which was up from 27% in 2004. And 10% of those with loans owed more than $40,000, some with monthly payments the size of a mortgage payment. College costs have gone up tremendously since 2004  (over 25% for most colleges) and many State Universities are projecting even larger increases in tuition and student fees over the next two years.  The University of Hawaii’s in-state tuition for an Asian Studies degree will have increased by 64% from 2007 ($5136) to its projected cost in 2011 ($8400). That doesn’t include escalating student fees, special fees for other majors, books, and room and board.

Web sites, blogs and newspaper articles are filled with postings by young people recently graduated with monthly college loan payments from $700 to $2000.  Even the students that manage to get a high paying job after graduation are finding it nearly impossible to make their payments. Those with entry level jobs or without jobs are struggling with depression and anxiety and many regret going to college and often contemplate suicide.

As the stress and suffering of these students grows, many people are starting to question the legality of college counselors “advising” students to take on huge debt in an uncertain economy. Their advice to students to take on loans and load up credit cards has financially benefited the colleges without regard for the health and welfare of the students. Meanwhile, colleges are cutting back on staff, degrees, and classes making it more challenging for students to graduate.

Our conclusion is that taking on debt to go to college no longer makes sense. US colleges are providing less at a higher cost and most degrees are no longer a guarantee of higher wages.