Plastics in our Food?

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

Some sensible, reasonable advice to help to avoid a growing problem of  food contamination from the packaging of mainly processed foods. The main article below particularly points to the ever-growing problem of micro-plastics in our oceans.

6 Ways to Use Less Plastic

Source: Consumer Reports

While it’s practically impossible to eliminate plastic from modern life, there are a number of steps you can take right now to cut back.

Do: Drink tap water.
Don’t: Rely on bottled water.

Water from plastic bottles has about double the microplastic level of tap water on average, according to a 2018 study published in the journal Frontiers in Chemistry. So unless your tap water is contaminated with unsafe elements, such as lead, it’s probably best to drink tap. Fill up a metal reusable bottle for when you go out. You can always filter your tap water. Depending on the filter, that may further reduce microplastic levels. (Check CR’s ratings of water filters.)

Do: Heat food in or on the stove, or by microwaving in glass.
Don’t: Microwave in plastic.

Some heated plastics have long been known to leach chemicals into food. So if you’re warming up food, use a pan in the oven or on the stove, or if you’re microwaving, use a glass container. Also, avoid putting plastics in the dishwasher because of the high heat involved in cleaning.

Do: Buy and store food in glass, silicone, or foil.
Don’t: Store food in plastic, especially plastic that may contain harmful chemicals.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has said that plastic food containers with the recycling codes 3, 6, and 7 may contain potentially harmful chemicals, unless they’re labeled “biobased” or “greenware.” Don’t store food in these types of containers. Instead, use containers made of glass or silicone, or wrap your food in aluminum foil. If you’re storing food in or eating food out of plastic containers, know that plastics with recycling codes 1 and 2 are more likely to be recyclable—though they are usually recycled into lower-quality plastics. And there still may be harmful or unknown chemicals in any type of plastic.

Do: Eat fresh food as much as possible.
Don’t: Rely on processed food wrapped in plastic.

The more processed or packaged a food is, the higher the risk that it contains worrisome chemicals. Food cans are often lined with bisphenol A (or similar compounds). Buy fresh food from the supermarket, and—as much as possible—try to use refillable containers if your market allows. (Of course, with shopping made difficult by the coronavirus pandemic, prioritize your health and shop however is most feasible and safest.) Certain markets let you fill up cardboard or reusable containers with bulk items and weigh them, or you can use your own mesh bags for produce. Raw meat and fish need to be kept separate for safety reasons, but ask the store fishmonger or butcher to wrap these foods in wax paper instead of plastic. Take cloth—not plastic—reusable bags to the store to take your groceries home.

Do: Vacuum regularly.
Don’t: Allow household surfaces to get dusty.

The dust in your house could be loaded with microplastics and chemicals that are found in plastic, such as phthalates. Cleaning up dust may help reduce the amount of plastics you inhale, especially if you are stuck inside for long periods of time during a period of social distancing. CR recommends vacuuming regularly with a HEPA filter, which is best for trapping dust. (Check CR’s ratings of vacuums.)

Do: Work with your community.
Don’t: Assume your impact is limited to what you do in your personal life.

Legislation to limit the use of single-use plastics and plastic production may pull the biggest levers, but joining forces with community-level recycling groups can truly make a difference. Look for so-called zero-waste groups, which can offer guidelines for how to recycle or compost all your garbage—and which lobby for local rules that can restrict throwaway items. When possible, shop at markets that source goods locally, so they don’t require as much packaging and shipping. Seek out groups such as Upstream, a nonprofit working to create reusable takeout packaging for restaurants. And when possible, educate yourself about and support any city, county, and state legislation limiting single-use plastic

CLICK HERE for the main article.

 

Getting your protein from plants: A recipe for longevity?

Question: Does plant or animal protein affect mortality and/or longevity?

A study found that for every 3% of a persons daily energy intake coming from plant protein instead of animal protein reduces a person’s risk of premature death by 10%.

For this study the researchers analyzed dietary data from more than 237, 000 men and 179, 000 women gathered between 1995 and 2011 as part of a long-term study on eating patterns and health. During 16 years of follow-up, a pattern emerged where plant protein intake appeared to reduce risk of early death. Every 10 grams of plant for animal protein swapping per 1000 calories resulted in a 12% lower risk of death for men and 14% for women, the finding showed.

Bottom Line: The findings provide evidence that dietary modification in choice of protein sources may influence cardiovascular health and longevity.

Taking red meat out of your diet can be beneficial, but only if you swap for a healthy substitute, said a lead researcher from the US National Cancer Institute. For example, replacement of 3% energy from egg protein or red made protein with plant protein such as whole grains or cereals resulted in a protective Association for overall mortality, the researcher said on the other hand replacement of 3% energy from egg protein or red meat protein with other foods such as sugar sweetened beverages may or may not result in a reduction in mortality.

There are many reasons why choosing plant protein over animal protein could help extend your life; meat protein tends to come with higher levels of saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and other nutrients that aren’t very good for your health. For example, one ounce of red meat mixed with whole wheat pasta and veggies would provide much less saturated fat than a 9 ounce steak

On the other hand, plant proteins come with loads of fiber , antioxidants, and other compounds like vitamins and minerals that add to the nutrient density along with lesser calories as fat than in some meat products (processed meat in particular).

The researchers also added that there might be something specific about the products formed from the breakdown of animal-based protein that could cause arteries to grow harder or inflammation to occur. In 2011, researchers from the Cleveland Clinic demonstrated that meat eaters produced a metabolite that promotes heart disease called Trimethylamine-N-Oxide or TMAO. Of great interest, TMAO was not elevated in vegans who were asked to meet eat a meat meal for the purposes of the study. .

Huang, Jiaqu, et al. JAMA Intern Med. Published online July 13, 2020.

 

Is DNA Your Destiny?

Thinking of getting one of those DNA testing kits?  Aside from the Ancestry tests, the tests for your future health risks may be questionable and at this point you may want to save your money. Here is why.

A new outlook on genetics is called epigenetics  and involves the concept of environmental factors (including diet) affecting how genes are expressed or inhibited. Thanks to this relatively new science, we now know that experiences of previous generations may show up in your health and well-being. Many of the risks for chronic diseases – including obesity, diabetes type 2, high blood pressure, heart disease and dementia can be traced back to your biological roots and the experiences your parent and even grandpaents had. Similarly, the food you eat may affect your children and grandchildren.

Is Your DNA Your Destiny?

Gene Expression: the process by which a cell converts the genetic code into RNA and protein

Epigenetics: the study of heritable changes in gene function that occur without a change in the DNA sequence itself

DNA Methylation: A chemical reaction that occurs in a cell when a methyl group attaches to DNA, changing the expression of the gene to which it is attached.

Methyl Group: A type of molecular structure that occurs in many compounds, CH3, for example.

Methyl Donor: Nutrients, like folate and vitamin B12 that when metabolized can donate methyl groups during the process.

To fully illustrate the epigenetic process, one must tell the story of the agouti gene.

The Result of Methylation

Methylation Effects in the DNA

Both these mice have the gene called the agouti gene that tends to produce fat, yellow pups, so we want to silence the expression of the gene if possible. There is a way.  The mom of the brown mouse was fed B vitamins which silenced the gene. This produced brown pups with normal appetites resulting in a thin, healthy mouse.

Without altering the genomic structure, agouti moms were then able to produce healthy brown pups of normal weight and less prone to diseases.

How did this occur?  Some nutrients silence genes by providing methylation (adding a methyl group (CH3); others activate genes by inhibiting methylation. It’s like throwing a wrench into the DNA to stop the expression of a gene or removing the wrench to allow the expression of the gene. The B vitamins acted as methyl donors that caused methyl groups to attach more frequently to the agouti gene in utero, inhibiting its expression.  Silence or inhibiting depends on what the gene does: e.g., silencing a gene that stimulates cancer growth is beneficial; silencing a gene that suppresses cancer growth would be harmful.

In any case, your lifestyle choices may play a role in your future health status.

It must be remembered that with any new concept, doubts and skepticism will occur. Time for more research to examine this interesting hypothesis. The   implications are enormous in that we may be able to improve our health status by choosing healthy habits and lifestyles such as diet, exercise, stopping smoking, for example.

 

 

 

 

 

Nutrition News: No Nonsense

Are those eggs OK to eat? 

Too many of us end up throwing out food that is still perfectly safe to eat. Eggs are often on the top of the list of things people think go bad quickly. But eggs are safe to eat up to five weeks after the sell by date. If you’re curious about when those eggs were packed just look at the number under the sell by date, the three-digit number in the middle.

The problem with potassium.

Many people load up on bananas and potatoes because they are high in potassium, which can help lower blood pressure. But more isn’t always better. Too much potassium can cause irregular heartbeat and other side effects. While the National Institutes of Health has not released an upper limit for potassium, the supplements in the US do not contain more than 99 milligrams. Taking more potent forms can have serious adverse side effects including confusion, temporal paralysis, low blood pressure, weakness, and coma.

Reduce Your Risk of Stroke

What is the biggest benefit of getting enough protein? If you said building muscles, you’d be close, but it might not be the biggest benefit. Recent studies show people who ate the most protein had higher levels of HDL ( good cholesterol) and those who eat the most protein (not including red meat ) were 20% less likely to suffer a stroke than those with the lowest intake. What’s more, people who ate more protein and fewer carbohydrates had better numbers for blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.

Bacon as Bad as Smoking?

Is that slice (or two or three) of bacon on your BLT as dangerous as smoking a cigarette? Processed meats like bacon and cold cuts are listed as a Group One carcinogen, the same as smoking or asbestos. But that doesn’t mean they’re equally as dangerous. The classification reflects the strength of evidence linking processed meats – think: bacon, sausages, hot dogs, jerky, and cold cuts to cancer risk. Basically, any meat that’s been tweaked to enhance the flavor or improved preservation by salting, curing, fermentation or smoking is considered processed. Just one 0.75 ounces of bacon (about two slices a day) is linked to an 18% greater risk of colorectal cancer. That’s the equivalent of 1 hot dog or a couple slices of cold cuts. While it isn’t a good idea to load up on these foods, they’re often high in saturated fat and salt too, let’s put the risk in perspective. The lifetime risk of an average American of developing colorectal cancer is 5%. An 18% increase raises that number to about 6%, so an occasional ballpark dog or B LT should be fine.  Important note: simply choosing nitrate-free meats may not reduce your risk of cancer. High temperature cooking methods like pan frying and grilling may produce more carcinogens in meat. Choosing lower temperature cooking methods like braising or roasting may reduce your risk. Ever tried cooking bacon in the oven? Works well!

Zinc can help boost your immunity as you age.

A new study showed that 30% of nursing home residents have low blood levels of zinc, and those with low levels were at significantly higher risk of pneumonia. Ensuring adequate zinc consumption could reduce chances of deadly infections. Zinc helps to improve the function of T-cells, a special type of white blood cell that targets and destroys invading bacteria and viruses. Zinc supplementation not only increased the number of T- cells, but it improved effectiveness, too. Get more zinc in your diet with shellfish, pork, cashews, peanuts, and chickpeas.

SOURCE:

19 Health and Nutrition Secrets that Can Change Your Life: Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter

Why Do Americans Eat So Much Beef?

 

A typical beef feedlot

January 22, 2013 by foodworksblog 3 Comments

Even though it has been reported that meat consumption has declined recently, in the past, Americans have been consuming about 150 pounds of “red meat” per capita/year. The percentages are startling: 60% beef, 39% pork, with only 1% for lamb and mutton. The percentage of goat is too small to even mention.

Pork had been the meat of choice since Colonial Days in the Plymouth Colony (circa 1623). The dense American forests were ideal for raising pigs. They were allowed to remain “wild” and roam freely most of the year with only penning them in the winter.    They were “finished” on corn that made the flesh firm and they gained weight quickly. Pigs were more efficient than cattle for meat, so cattle were more used for milk, butter, cheese and plowing.  Other food animals that were available were goats, sheep and chickens.

Goat meat was the first to be abandoned which virtually disappeared.  Goat meat was occasionally consumed in the South by low-income groups as well as some Hispanics.  Goat meat is still served in some Mexican restaurants.

Sheep migrated into British cookery as a by-product of wool production, especially in Scotland and Ireland.  Lamb eventually became more popular associated with the wool industry in New England, but did not catch on in the South due to the influence of the cotton industry.  Later, dairying replaced sheep herding in New England.

The Great Plains became the ideal location for raising cattle. When the corn production moved west, the pig and cattle industry followed.  Then, they had to be “walked” back over the mountains to the Eastern seaboards by “drovers”.  Cincinnati became known as “Porkopolis”.  By the time of the Civil War, Americans were “hooked on pork and had become “the staff of life”, primarily in the South and Midwest.

The Northeast became more partial to beef.  New Englanders no longer raised pigs due to the cutting down of the forests for the shipbuilding industry.  Little corn was grown to “finish” the pork.

In the Western plains, the American Indians preferred the buffalo, so the government (U.S. Army) figured out that if they could get rid of the buffalo, they also could rid the area of the Indians.  Cattle ranchers with the help of the railroads began to raise herds of cattle to replace the once prolific buffalo herds.  Progress with the railroads replaced the cattle drives and the Chicago stockyards became the center of cattle slaughter.  In 1882, refrigerated cars became more available for safer transportation;  the West was running out of grazing land that forced more feedlot “finishing” with corn.

Beef became cheap and ranchers were paid to supply the Indian reservations with beef to prevent starvation (after eliminating the buffalo). For a while beef consumption fell again due to losing its price advantage at the turn of the century until about 1940.

In the early 1950s Americans were eating about equal amounts of beef and pork. By the late 1950s, beef consumption in the U.S. surpassed pork for the first time. By the 1960’s Americans were eating 10 times more pounds of beef and by the 1970s, 25 pounds more.

Why is beef king in the U.S?

  • Changes in beef production and marketing at the end of WW II fit the new postwar lifestyles.  Meat had been rationed during WWII.
  • Improved breeds appeared that were given soy, fish meal, corn, sorghum, hormones, antibiotics that allowed faster “finishing” times due to accelerated growth since the cattle ate day and night.
  • Lifestyles began to involve more home ownership in the suburbs, which lead to outdoor grilling. Beef patties were ideal grillers; pork patties fell apart.
  • There were no dangers of trichinosis with beef.
  • Women entered the workplace that resulted in eating outside the home.
  • The fast food industry exploded and the hamburger became the staple at the drive-in.
  • Presently it is estimated that Americans are eating about three hamburgers a week.

American still eat more meat than most cultures in the world, but even here, consumption is declining.  It is estimated the U.S meat consumption may fall by more than 12% from 2007 to 2012.  This computes to about 165.5 pounds per person, or about one-half a pound a day.

 But Why?

  • Health concerns about meat consumption are reaching the public.
  • Campaigns like Meatless Mondays may be having an effect.  People are getting the message to cut down on saturated fat.
  • Some lower income people may attempt to obtain cheaper sources of protein like grains and soy to improve their health while wealthier groups may have some environmental as well as health concerns.
  • All meat production in America requires a great deal of fossil fuel.  Production relies entirely on nonrenewable fossil energy. There are also concerns about adding grain crops to animal feed, water scarcity, and animal welfare.
  • Cost of meats has risen due to animal feed prices.

How do cows negatively affect the environment? Take a look at these statistics from a recent PBS News Hour video. 

  • It takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce one pound of grain-fed beef.
  • We use eight times more land to feed animals in the U.S. than we use to feed humans.
  • The 500 million tons of manure created each year by American cows releases nitrous oxide, a gas that has 300 times the global warming effect of carbon dioxide.
  • The 17 billion pounds of fertilizer used to grow feed for cows flows into rivers and oceans, creating huge algae blooms or dead zones where nothing can survive. In the U.S. we find them in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Oregon, and the Chesapeake Bay.
  • In total, 6.5 pounds of greenhouse gases are released to produce just one quarter-pounder burger.

Americans still value animal protein from meats and dairy with 65% of the U.S. protein coming from animals.  The global average is about 30%; some low-income countries only get about 6-7 % of their protein from animal sources.

Will the U.S. population accept the current trend of plant-based diets as part of their protein source as well as their taste buds? Time will tell – but it will be a hard road ahead.  The current trends for plant-based burgers (aka as the Impossible burger, and Beyond Beef) will be trial balloons to see how accepting the typical American consumer responds. It is now recognized that most healthy cultures globally depend on a more vegan diet approach than what we find so far on the American plate. The environmental benefits of growing plant crops may help to persuade some Americans to accept this diet pattern more readily. (my opinion).

Some Good News for a Vaccine?

Coronavirus Spikes

In  case you wonder why a food blogger like me is posting this article, I taught an infectious disease course for a number of years, worked in academia in Microbiology and Immunology, and antibody production in the body was part of my doctoral dissertation.

I love this article for the fact that it is often hard to find facts that you can trust – so I hope that this brings us some hope for a successful vaccine ASAP against Covid-19.

CLICK HERE.

Do we need to take obesity more seriously?

 

By now, most people understand that the elderly are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. But studies of COVID-19 patients in France, Italy, China and the United States have also identified chronic conditions that place even younger patients at risk. Near the top of the list: obesity.

The resulting diseases of obesity such as hypertension and diabetes type 2 are often found in the most serious cases of COVID-19 and are thought to contribute to the death rates from the infection.  Childhood overweight and obesity now affects 1 in 5 children and adolescents in the United States. Overweight children tend to be overweight adults. Prevention is the key. The earlier the intervention – the better.

CLICK HERE.

The Sickness In Our Food Supply?

A very long article by Michael Pollan but is worth reading if you want to understand the complexities of our food system. It involves the “elephant in the room” consisting of  Covid -19 that  exposes the interrelated factors associated with our our current food system and health care costs. Based on this essay, our “diets may be killing us” as a few recent articles have suggested. Click the link below or find it on the Website of Michael Pollan of (“eat food, not too much, mostly plants” fame).

A quote from Forbes, May 12, 2000 in an article from Nav Athwal sums it up:

“One thing the coronavirus pandemic has taught us is the level of control we have over our lives is not as great as we think.  Whether it be our ability to be mobile, our ability to meet with friends or the food we eat and how we eat it, the conveniences we took for granted not long ago are luxuries in a post-coronavirus world.”

Any suggestions for a solution?

CLICK HERE.

The Blue Zone: A Book Review

Leave a comment

By Sally J. Feltner, M.S., Ph.D.

Ponce de Leon began his quest for the fountain of youth in 1531 and humans have been seeking magical solutions for keeping us younger and living our later years in relatively good health.

In 2009 with the backing of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, AARP and the National Geographic, Dan Buettner established the Blue Zone Project and authored The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the people who lived the longest, He interviewed those who were either centenarians or those in their later years and began to investigate what factors may have contributed to five regions of longevity hot spots in the world that included:

  • Sardinia in Italy with the highest concentration of centenarian men.
  • Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California, where some residents live ten more healthy years than the average American.
  • The Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica that has the world’s lowest rates of middle-age mortality and the second highest concentration of male centenarians.
  • Ikaria, Greece that has one of the world’s lowest rates of middle age mortality and lowest rates of dementia. Only 20 percent of people over 80 showed any signs of dementia, whereas a similar study of long-lived people near Athens showed an almost 50 percent rate of dementia- a rate similar to that for older Americans.”
  • Okinawa, Japan home to the world’s longest living women.

Remarkably, all the regions had common characteristics that included family and purpose, community and spirituality, stress reduction and physical activity. Mr. Buettner later published The Blue Zones Solution and coauthored with Ed Diener, The Blue Zones of Happiness.

One major practice was that all their diets, though not vegan, were predominantly based on plants. Meat and other animal products are either the exception or used as a condiment. Okinawans, practice a philosophy called hara-hachi bu regarding food; they only eat until they are 80% full

In the Costa Rican Zone, everyone feels like they have a plan de vida or life plan. Even at ages above 60 and 70, inhabitants don’t stop living. They keep themselves busy; they love to work. It provides them a “reason to waking up in the morning” called ikigai. There is no word for “retirement” in Okinawa.

The book introduces some very interesting longevity “superstars.”

  • Marge Jones, at 100 years old from Loma Linda begins every day with a mile walk, a stationary bicycle ride, and some weight lifting. “I’m for anything that has to do with health”, she says
  • Kamada Nakazitam, 102 years old from Okinawa says “To be healthy enough to embrace my great – great grandchild is bliss.”
  • Ellsworh Wareham, age 91 from Loma Linda, assists during heart surgery procedures, something he does about two or three times a week
  • Abuela Panchita, 100 year old Costa Rican woman whose 80 year old son, Tommy bicycles to see her every day, spends every day cooking, splitting logs and using a machine to clear brush from her
  • The notion of moai in Okinawa stands for “a social support network. Says 77 year old Klazuko Mann, “each member knows that her friends count on her as much as she counts on her friends.”
  • From the author: “I once pressed a 101-year-old woman in Ikaria, Greece to tell why she thought people there lived so long. ‘We just forget to die,’ she said with a shrug. None of them went on a diet, joined a gym, or took supplements. They didn’t pursue longevity – it simply ensued”

The final chapters in the first book boil it all down into nine lessons and a cultural distillation of the worlds’ best practices in longevity. Buettner provides credible information available for “adding years to your life and life to your years.”

However, there is a downside that is currently happening. From the Author: “Sardinians today have already taken on the trappings of modern life. For example, junk foods are replacing whole-grain breads and fresh vegetables traditionally consumed here. Young people are fatter, less inclined to follow tradition, and more outwardly focused.”

The first book concludes with a chapter on Your Personal Blue Zone. Other books give us more explicit ways to establish Blue Zones in other areas such as the U.S.

From the back cover of The Blue Zones Solution – “Propagating the Blue Zones would not only prevent a rise in the prevalence of diabetes (and other misfortunes) it would allow us to eliminate more than 80 percent of the burden we have now. That’s revolutionary.”

David Katz, M.D., Director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center