West Michigan Organic

Eating natural in West Michigan

The back story August 29, 2010

We’ve woken up to the alarm going off that has been crying out for us to realize that there is an interconnectedness for ALL life and consequences for even seemingly insignificant choices that we make.  We, as humans, are destroying the earth with the use of chemicals, pesticides, and genetic modification.

The ideas that we’ll share are not original, in fact, the origination for some of these thoughts can be traced back to the book Silent Spring written by Rachel Carson in 1962.  Over the past several decades we have been brainwashed with better-living-through-chemistry propaganda, telling homemakers that traditional cooking and farming was drudge work and a waste of time for our technically advanced age.

The following is just our story, let’s call it a class.  For us, it has been all self-study but has been fun by using easy-to-digest methods such as watching movies.  It’s a gradual process and you can’t just jump right in with both feet, especially if you are a bit skeptical.  So with that said, we’ll lay out a few options to get you started and a roadmap of other pieces to take in.

Getting Started:

The initial seeds were planted some years ago when we watched the 2004 documentary Super Size Me (watch it here), which follows the filmmaker around  for a 28-day period where he only eats McDonald’s food.  If this movies was edited for some of the vulgarity, we believe that every child in America should watch this as part of their school curriculum.

A few years later we came across the film Fast Food Nation.  The movie is loaded with several plots that intertwine to give you a dramatic view of our complacent, contemporary American life.  Generally, the movie is good and we recommend seeing it but be aware that the intentions are good but sometimes the creative license is stretched a bit too much and seems a bit preachy.

Digging In:

The following two pieces are a MUST.

We think the whole book has great things to say but you only need to read 37 pages from Rod Dreher’s Crunchy Cons.  The third chapter is on food and speaks wonderfully about embracing the Slow Food attitude.  He references using the Weston A. Price Foundation website to find small organic farms in our region.

The other MUST is the 2008 documentary Food, Inc., which examines corporate farming in the US and the industrial production of grains and vegetables.  After watching this, we don’t understand how anyone could continue to eat our cheap, contaminated, American food.

The Impact:

In March of 2010, ABC aired the reality television series Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, which showcased Jamie’s effort to curb obesity in the US by going to the unhealthiest city and trying to revolutionize the school food program.  There were a total of six episodes, however, the meatiest parts are in the first two episodes.  After that, while interesting, it starts to feel a little too scripted or overly dramatic.

Another documentary that we strongly urge you to watch is Killer at Large.  The film showcases the saddening battle against obesity and all the differing causes.  You will find some rather unbelievable things in this movie and it will enlighten you to the gravity of this catastrophe.

Our Future:

What if the contents of your cabinets, refrigerator, and kitchen were quietly switched with genetically engineered foods?  Foods that the USDA refused to review because instead of treating genetic modification as a additive process, they treated it as a new form of breeding in order to specifically avoid any safety testing.  The EPA doesn’t care and the FDA is only notified voluntarily by a huge multinational corporation of a summary for what they have done.  The documentary The Future of Food offers an in-depth look into these trends.  Even better yet, you can watch the whole thing online at the website.

Back in 2001, PBS’s NOVA/Frontline ran the story, Harvest of Fear, which explorers the potential irreversible ecological disaster that we may encounter due to rushing genetically modified foods to market.  This controversy led Europe to label these types of products, however, nearly ten years later, the US has failed to allow consumers that same choice.

Joel Salatin has shown up in several of the documentaries that we have seen over the past few years so we jumped on the chance to hear and see him in person.  If you aren’t aware of Joel and his work, you need to familiarize yourself with him.  He is a farmer in Virginia that is committed to the “redemption business: healing the land, healing the food, healing the economy, and healing the culture.”  Here is a link on vimeo that is worth the hour. 


12 Responses to “The back story”

  1. Study shows fructose used differently from glucose
    * Findings challenge common wisdom about sugars
    Aug 2 (Reuters) – Pancreatic tumor cells use fructose to divide and proliferate, U.S. researchers said on Monday in a study that challenges the common wisdom that all sugars are the same.
    Tumor cells fed both glucose and fructose used the two sugars in two different ways, the team at the University of California Los Angeles found.
    They said their finding, published in the journal Cancer Research, may help explain other studies that have linked fructose intake with pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest cancer types.
    “These findings show that cancer cells can readily metabolize fructose to increase proliferation,” Dr. Anthony Heaney of UCLA’s Jonsson Cancer Center and colleagues wrote.
    “They have major significance for cancer patients given dietary refined fructose consumption, and indicate that efforts to reduce refined fructose intake or inhibit fructose-mediated actions may disrupt cancer growth.”
    Americans take in large amounts of fructose, mainly in high fructose corn syrup, a mix of fructose and glucose that is used in soft drinks, bread and a range of other foods.
    Politicians, regulators, health experts and the industry have debated whether high fructose corn syrup and other ingredients have been helping make Americans fatter and less healthy.
    Too much sugar of any kind not only adds pounds, but is also a key culprit in diabetes, heart disease and stroke, according to the American Heart Association.
    Several states, including New York and California, have weighed a tax on sweetened soft drinks to defray the cost of treating obesity-related diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
    The American Beverage Association, whose members include Coca-Cola (KO.N) and Kraft Foods (KFT.N) have strongly, and successfully, opposed efforts to tax soda. [ID:nN12233126]
    The industry has also argued that sugar is sugar.
    Heaney said his team found otherwise. They grew pancreatic cancer cells in lab dishes and fed them both glucose and fructose.
    Tumor cells thrive on sugar but they used the fructose to proliferate. “Importantly, fructose and glucose metabolism are quite different,” Heaney’s team wrote.
    “I think this paper has a lot of public health implications. Hopefully, at the federal level there will be some effort to step back on the amount of high fructose corn syrup in our diets,” Heaney said in a statement.
    Now the team hopes to develop a drug that might stop tumor cells from making use of fructose.
    U.S. consumption of high fructose corn syrup went up 1,000 percent between 1970 and 1990, researchers reported in 2004 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.


    This is insane, large corporations, the corn growers lobby, etc…are killing us with “convenience” and instead of pulling the plug on high fructose corn syrup all together, they’ve invited the large pharma companies to get involved to make money on the whole process, the process of your demise.

  2. Corn syrup producers want sweeter name: corn sugar

    NEW YORK – The makers of high fructose corn syrup want to sweeten up its image with a new name: corn sugar.

    The bid to rename the sweetener by the Corn Refiners Association comes as Americans’ concerns about health and obesity have sent consumption of high fructose corn syrup, used in soft drinks but also in bread, cereal and other foods, to a 20-year low.

    The group plans to apply Tuesday to the Food and Drug Administration to get “corn sugar” approved as an alternative name for food labels.

    Approval could take two years, but that’s not stopping the industry from using the term now in advertising. There’s a new online marketing campaign at http://www.cornsugar.com and on television. Two new commercials try to alleviate shopper confusion, showing people who say they now understand that “whether it’s corn sugar or cane sugar, your body can’t tell the difference. Sugar is sugar.”

    Renaming products has succeeded before. For example, low eurcic acid rapeseed oil became much more popular after becoming “canola oil” in 1988. Prunes tried to shed a stodgy image by becoming “dried plums” in 2000.

    The new name would help people understand the sweetener, said Audrae Erickson, president of the Washington-based group.

    “It has been highly disparaged and highly misunderstood,” she said. She declined to say how much the campaign costs.

    Some scientists have linked consumption of full-calorie soda — the vast majority of which is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup — to obesity.

    But sugar and high fructose corn syrup are nutritionally the same, and there’s no evidence that the sweetener is any worse for the body than sugar, said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The bottom line is people should consume less of all sugars, Jacobson said.

    “Soda pop sweetened with sugar is every bit as conducive to obesity as soda pop sweetened with high fructose corn syrup,” he said.

    The American Medical Association says there’s not enough evidence yet to restrict the use of high fructose corn syrup, although it wants more research.

    Still, Americans increasingly are blaming high fructose corn syrup and avoiding it. First lady Michelle Obama has said she doesn’t want her daughters eating it.

    Parents such as Joan Leib scour ingredient labels and won’t buy anything with it. The mother of two in Somerville, Mass., has been avoiding the sweetener for about a year to reduce sweeteners in her family’s diet.

    “I found it in things that you would never think needed it, or should have it,” said Leib, 36. “I found it in jars of pickles, in English muffins and bread. Why do we need extra sweeteners?”

    Many companies are responding by removing it from their products. Last month, Sara Lee switched to sugar in two of its breads. Gatorade, Snapple and Hunt’s Ketchup very publicly switched to sugar in the past two years.

    The average American ate 35.7 pounds of high fructose corn syrup last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s down 21 percent from 45.4 pounds 10 years before.

    Cane and beet sugar, meanwhile, have hovered around 44 pounds per person per year since the mid-1980s, after falling rapidly in the 1970s when high fructose corn syrup — a cheaper alternative to sugar — gained favor with soft drink makers.

    With sales falling in the U.S., the industry is growing in emerging markets like Mexico and revenue has been steady at $3 billion to $4 billion a year, said Credit Suisse senior analyst Robert Moskow. There are five manufacturers in the U.S.: Archer Daniels Midland Inc., Corn Products International, Cargill, Roquette America, and Tate & Lyle.

    Corn refiners say their new name better describes the sweetener.

    “The name ‘corn sugar’ more accurately reflects the source of the food (corn), identifies the basic nature of the food (a sugar), and discloses the food’s function (a sweetener),” the petition said.

    Will shoppers swallow the new name?

    The public is skeptical, so the move will be met with criticism, said Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

    “This isn’t all that much different from any of the negative brands trying to embrace new brand names,” he said, adding the change is similar to what ValuJet — whose name was tarnished by a deadly crash in 1996 — did when it bought AirTran’s fleet and took on its name.

    “They’re not saying this is a healthy vitamin, or health product,” he said. “They’re just trying to move away from the negative associations.”


  3. Alternatives to BPA containers not easy for U.S. foodmakers to find
    By Lyndsey Layton
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Tuesday, February 23, 2010; A01
    Major U.S. foodmakers are quietly investigating how to rid their containers of Bisphenol A, a chemical under scrutiny by federal regulators concerned about links to a range of health problems, including reproductive disorders and cancer.
    But they are discovering how complicated it is to remove the chemical, which is in the epoxy linings of nearly every metal can on supermarket shelves and leaches into foods such as soup, liquid baby formula and soda. It is a goal that is taking years to reach, costing millions and proving surprisingly elusive.
    Randy Hartnell, whose company, Vital Choice, sells products aimed at health-conscious consumers, switched last year to can linings made without BPA. It was a costly move that he figured would resonate in the niche market that buys his canned wild salmon and low-mercury tuna.
    But a recent Consumers Union test detected small amounts of BPA in Vital Choice tuna, raising questions about whether it is possible to clean the food supply of the ubiquitous chemical. The consumer group also found trace amounts of BPA in baked beans made by Eden Foods, the only other U.S. company that says it has switched to BPA-free cans.
    “What we’re hearing is, the stuff is just omnipresent,” said Hartnell, whose Washington state company has spent as much as $10,000 on lab tests trying to pinpoint the source of BPA in its canned tuna. “Is it in the cutting board? The gloves that people wear who are working on the fish? Is it in the tuna itself? We don’t know. We’re trying to figure it out.”
    The food industry’s efforts began even before the FDA announced last month that it had reversed its position and is concerned about the safety of BPA, which is used in thousands of consumer goods, including compact discs, dental sealants and credit card and ATM receipts. Government studies estimate that the chemical has been found in the urine of more than 90 percent of the population.
    Foodmakers started looking for alternatives in 2008, after public pressure spurred manufacturers of plastic baby bottles to voluntarily rid their products of BPA. Several municipalities, Minnesota and Canada banned BPA from baby bottles. And Congress is considering a bill filed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) that would ban BPA from baby bottles, sports water bottles, reusable food containers, infant formula liners and food can liners.
    But foodmakers say they aren’t waiting for legislation or regulation.
    “It doesn’t matter what FDA says. If consumers decide they don’t want BPA, you don’t want to be in a can that consumers don’t want to buy,” said one source at a major U.S. food company who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Major food companies declined to talk publicly about their efforts to find a replacement for BPA linings. “We don’t have a safe, effective alternative, and that’s an unhappy place to be,” the source said. “No one wants to talk about that.”
    Heinz, for instance, says it has switched to BPA-free cans for some products but will not identify them or say what substitute it is using. General Mills, which owns the Progresso and Muir Glen lines of canned products, said it is testing BPA-free cans but would not elaborate. “We are optimistic that safe and viable alternatives will be identified in time,” said Thomas Forsythe, a company spokesman.
    The Environmental Protection Agency has declared the daily safe BPA exposure limit at 50 mg per kilogram of body weight, a level set in the 1980s. A growing body of peer-reviewed research in the past decade has suggested that very low levels — below the federal threshold — might be responsible for health problems. BPA is a synthetic version of estrogen, and scientists disagree about whether it causes lasting effects by triggering subtle cellular changes.
    John M. Rost, chairman of the North American Metal Packaging Alliance, which represents the canned food and beverage industry, said BPA has been “used safely in metal food packaging for decades. They have been deemed safe by regulatory agencies around the world.” He also said there hasn’t been a case of food-borne illness resulting from a failure of metal packaging since the industry began using BPA in its linings more than 30 years ago.
    Commercial uses of BPA exploded in the 1950s after scientists discovered its ability to make plastics more durable and shatterproof. By 1963, scientists were using it to create epoxy linings for steel cans, which held up under heat and other extreme conditions. Because the BPA linings extended the shelf life of canned goods, did not affect taste, prevented bacterial contamination and were relatively cheap, they became the industry standard by the 1970s.
    The FDA does not know which companies use BPA, how much they use or how it is applied, because manufacturers are not required to disclose that information.
    Some companies have had trouble finding out whether their cans contain BPA.
    Michael Potter, chief executive of Eden Foods, which makes canned organic products, began asking suppliers about his can linings after reading German research about BPA. “Trying to determine what was in the can linings that I was purchasing to put food in was a daunting task,” he said. “Inevitably, you end up speaking to a large law firm inside the Beltway that says you don’t have the right to know.”
    It took two years, but in 1999, Potter prompted one supplier, the Ball Corp., to switch to a can lined with oleoresin, a mixture of oil and a resin extracted from plants such as pine.
    The new cans are 14 percent more expensive, about 2.2 additional cents per can, Potter said. “It went into our costing, and we passed it onto our customers,” he said.
    But oleoresin deteriorates in contact with acidic food, forcing Eden Foods to use BPA in its linings for canned tomatoes. Potter said that was why trace amounts of BPA — one part per billion — were detected by Consumers Union in Eden Foods’ baked beans. The beans were made with tomato puree that had been stored in a can with a BPA lining.
    The EPA and the FDA, which oversees the use of BPA in food and beverage containers, are reviewing the chemical in light of new research. Last month, the FDA said it would launch fast-track studies to clarify the research on BPA. It is also encouraging manufacturers to migrate away from the chemical.
    But the process is slow, because testing must take into account a shelf life of two to five years for most canned foods. “You don’t want to find out that you made a switch based on six months of data but by 18 months the lining breaks down and people are eating it,” an industry source said.
    Makers of plastic bottles found a quick and relatively simple BPA substitute, polypropylene, but canned-food makers are having considerably more trouble.
    Foodmakers say that some alternative linings disintegrate, reducing a product’s shelf life. Other linings can’t withstand the high heat applied to certain canned products to kill bacteria. Still others interfere with taste.
    Consumer concerns led Japanese manufacturers to voluntarily reduce the use of BPA between 1998 and 2003. But because cans were primarily used for drinks, they could use a relatively simple polyester substitute. The Japanese also got rid of tableware containing BPA used for school lunches. After the change, Japanese scientists documented a significant drop in BPA levels in research subjects’ blood.
    Aaron L. Brody, a food packaging expert who teaches at the University of Georgia, said that even if health concerns are not valid, “if they had an economic can coating that could be applied to food and/or beverage cans today, the coatings industry, the canning industry, would have applied it instantly to get this monkey off their back.”

  4. 7 Foods So Unsafe Even Farmers Won’t Eat Them

    Grocery stores may sell them, but experts won’t touch them; what you should know about your food.

    Smoking was proven to be cancer-causing, tanning beds were shown to be on par with arsenic, but what about canned tomatoes, corn-fed beef, conventionally grown potatoes? What would it take to convince you to clean out your pantry and change your eating habits? Scientists, doctors, even simple farmers were asked what foods they refuse to eat. The responses had nothing to do with things like donuts due to fat content, or white bread because of the concentration of empty carbs. We’re talking seemingly healthy things like tomatoes, beef, popcorn, potatoes, salmon, milk, and apples. For them, it’s all about how they are produced and packaged.

    7 experts in fields pertaining to both food and the environment answered one simple question: “What foods do you avoid?.” Their answers, published in an article entitled “7 Foods the Experts Won’t Eat” on Yahoo! Shine, will make you re-think food. When it comes to food and its affect on your health and the health of this planet, this is what they answered:

    1. Canned Tomatoes

    The Expert: Fredrick vom Saal, PhD, an endocrinologist at the University of Missouri who studies bisphenol-A.
    The Reason: Tin cans are lined with a resin that contains the synthetic estrogen bisphenol-A, which has been linked to a slew of health problems including heart disease, diabetes, reproductive problems, and obesity. But that’s not the biggest problem. The acid in tomatoes breaks down that bisphenol-A, leaching it into the food, and not just in insignificant amounts. According to the article, Saal comments that “you can get 50 mcg of BCA per liter out of a tomato can, and that’s a level that is going to impact people, particularly the young.” That’s why he’s not touching the stuff.
    The Solution: If you lo0ve the taste of “canned” tomatoes but prefer to skip the bisphenol-A, select glass bottles instead.

    2. Corn-Fed Beef

    The Expert: Joel Salatin, co-owner of Polyface Farms and author of half a dozen books on sustainable farming.
    The Reason: Cattle are naturally grass eaters… not grain eaters. In order to fatten the animals (and profit margins), farmers feed them corn and soybeans. And while the farmers are beefing up their earnings, they are minimizing the nutritional benefits. The article mentions the findings from a recent USDA-conducted study comparing corn-fed beef and grass-fed beef showing that grass-fed beef is “higher in beta-carotene, vitamin E, omega-3s, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), calcium, magnesium, and potassium; lower in inflammatory omega-6s; and lower in saturated fats that have been linked to heart disease.”
    The Solution: Pretty straight forward: Opt for grass-fed beef instead.

    WATCH VIDEO: Why Grass-Fed Beef? Emeril Answers

    3.Microwave Popcorn

    The Expert: Olga Naidenko, PhD, a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group.
    The Reason: It’s not the popcorn itself, but the chemically-saturated lining of the bag including a compound called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) that, according to a recent study from UCLA, may be linked to infertility. Microwaving vaporizes the chemicals as they move from coating the bag to lining the popcorn. But it’s not like this fact is un-acknowledged. In fact the article points out that DuPont, as well as other manufacturers, have “promised to phase out PFOA by 2015 under a voluntary EPA plan, but millions of bags of popcorn will be sold between now and then.”
    The Solution: Pop your own popcorn the way they did it in the olden days–in a pot.

    4. Conventionally Grown (Not Organic) Potatoes

    The Expert: Jeffrey Moyer, chair of the National Organic Standards Board.
    The Reason: Herbicides and pesticides may not be sprayed directly on root vegetables (since they’re underground), but they absorb the chemicals through the soil and water. Because potatoes are considered the nation’s most popular vegetable, producing a healthy crop is essential to keep up with demand. In order to maintain their health, the article exposes the scary fact that “they’re treated with fungicides during the growing season, then sprayed with herbicides to kill off the fibrous vines before harvesting. After they’re dug up, the potatoes are treated yet again to prevent them from sprouting.” But here’s the scary thing, Moyer says that he’s talked to potato growers “who say point-blank they would never eat the potatoes they sell. They have separate plots where they grow potatoes for themselves without all the chemicals.”
    The Solution: Another no-brainer— Only buy organic potatoes.

    5. Farmed Salmon

    The Expert: David Carpenter, MD, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany and publisher of a major study in the journal Science on contamination in fish.
    The Reason: When salmon is crammed into pens, fed soy, poultry litter, and hydrolyzed chicken feathers (obviously an unnatural environment for the up-stream swimmers), they’re levels of healthy vitamin D lowers as the contaminants increases. Those contaminants include carcinogens, PCBs, brominated flame retardants, and pesticides (like DDT). The article points out that DDT has been linked to both diabetes and obesity, quoting Carpenter in saying that “You can only safely eat one of these salmon dinners every 5 months without increasing your risk of cancer… It’s that bad.”
    The Solution: Avoid farmed salmon and instead select wild-caught Alaskan salmon. But make sure the packaging reads “wild.” If it just says “fresh Atlantic,” according to the article, “it’s farmed.”

    6. Milk Produced with Artificial Hormones

    The Expert: Rick North, project director of the Campaign for Safe Food at the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility and former CEO of the Oregon division of the American Cancer Society.
    The Reason: Unlike in the olden days when fresh milk was some of the purest nutrients you could get, dairy cows today are fed growth hormones like rBGH and rBST to increase milk production. Problem is, while they may be making more milk, they are also increasing their chances of udder infections (which can lead to pus in the milk). More than that, the article points out that high levels of IGF-1 from the rBGH may play a role in the development of breast, prostate, and colon cancers… which is why North says that “it’s banned in most industrialized countries.”
    The Solution: Read the labels and be sure that your milk doesn’t contain rBGH or rBST and that it is labeled organic or “produced without artificial hormones.”

    7. Conventional Apples

    The Expert: Mark Kastel, former executive for agribusiness and co-director of the Cornucopia Institute, a farm-policy research group that supports organic foods
    The Reason: Apples are the recipient of the most pesticides of all Fall fruits. Chemical producers swear that the residue is not harmful for human consumption, but the Yahoo! Article goes on to quote Kastel in saying that “Farm workers have higher rates of many cancers.”
    The Solution: Buy organic apples where available or at least thoroughly wash and peel apples before eating them.


  5. Report: Junk Food Diet Affects Children’s IQ

    Eating habits among three-year-olds shape brain performance as they get older, the research says.

    A diet dominated by fats, sugars and processed food at the age of three is directly associated with a lower IQ at the age of eight-and-a-half, according to a Bristol-based study of thousands of British children.

    Food packed with vitamins and nutrients notably did the opposite, helping boost mental performance as youngsters grew up, the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health reports.

    Researchers said toddlers’ diets could change IQ levels later in childhood, even if eating habits improved with age.

    “This suggests that any cognitive/behavioural effects relating to eating habits in early childhood may well persist into later childhood, despite any subsequent changes to dietary intake,” the authors wrote.

    The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children is tracking the long-term health and wellbeing of around 14,000 children.

    Parents completed questionnaires detailing the types and frequency of the food and drink their children consumed when they were three, four, seven and eight-and-a-half years old.

    Every one point increase in the study’s dietary pattern score – a record of processed fat intake – was associated with a 1.67-point drop in IQ.

    The brain grows at its fastest rate during the first three years of life.

    “It is possible that good nutrition during this period may encourage optimal brain growth,” the report added.

    The School Food Trust’s director of research, Michael Nelson, said: “Given that around 23% of children start school either overweight or obese, it’s absolutely clear that healthy choices as part of their early development will stand children in good stead – not only for keeping a healthy weight as they grow up, but as this evidence suggests, improving their ability to do well at school.

    “We know from our own research that giving children healthier food in a decent environment at school improves their concentration in class, suggesting that it isn’t just what happens before school that is important for learning.

    “But these findings also demonstrate the importance of helping everyone involved with children’s early development to get the information and advice they need on good nutrition, to get children excited about food and healthy cooking, and to help families make healthy choices.”


  6. Is Skim Milk Making You Fat?
    You probably spend all of one second deciding what kind of milk to put in your coffee. What’s to debate? If you want to keep the pounds off and avoid heart disease, choose skim. This is gospel, after all: It’s recommended by the USDA and has so permeated our thinking that you can’t even find reduced-fat (2%) milk at places like Subway—and forget about whole.

    But is it true? Let’s start with the question of what’s fattening. Whole milk contains more calories and, obviously, more fat. A cup has 146 calories and almost 8 grams of fat, reduced-fat (2%) has 122 calories and almost 5 grams of fat, low-fat (1%) has 103 calories and 2.5 grams of fat, and nonfat (skim) has 83 calories and virtually no fat.

    But when it comes to losing weight, restricting calories has a poor track record. Evidence gleaned from numerous scientific studies says that if you starve yourself for lunch, you typically compensate at dinner. And according to a 2007 report in the Archives of Internal Medicine, telling overweight and obese patients to cut calories led to only “transient” weight loss—it didn’t stay off. The same goes for cutting saturated fat. In 2003, the Cochrane Collaboration, a respected source for unbiased reviews of research, compared low-fat diets with low-calorie diets and found that “fat-restricted diets are no better than calorie-restricted diets in achieving long-term weight loss.” As Walt Willet of the Harvard School of Public Health wrote in the American Journal of Medicine, “Diets high in fat do not appear to be the primary cause of the high prevalence of excess body fat in our society, and reductions in fat will not be a solution.”
    It’s becoming widely accepted that fats actually curb your appetite, by triggering the release of the hormone cholecystokinin, which causes fullness. Fats also slow the release of sugar into your bloodstream, reducing the amount that can be stored as fat. In other words, the more fat in your milk, the less fat around your waist. Not only will low-fat milk fail to trim your gut, it might even make you fatter than if you were to drink whole, according to one large study. In 2005, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and other institutions studied the weight and milk consumption of 12,829 kids ages 9 to 14 from across the country. “Contrary to our hypothesis,” they reported, “skim and 1% milk were associated with weight gain, but dairy fat was not.”

    But surely low-fat milk is better for your heart? We are often told to watch our consumption of dairy because it raises our bad cholesterol, the kind known as LDL. But LDL comes in at least four varieties, and only the smallest and densest of them are linked with heart disease. Dairy fat, it turns out, affects only the large, fluffy kind of LDL—the benign kind.

    And here’s a final thought: How would you feel if you opened a carton and poured a chalky, bluish-white liquid into your coffee? That’s the color many nonfat milks are before powdered milk is added to whiten them—a process that brings its own problems. Any way you look at it, there’s been a lot of whitewashing of skim milk’s image.
    To turn skim milk white, “some companies fortify their product with powdered skim,” says Bob Roberts, a dairy scientist at Penn State. Powdered skim (which is also added to organic low-fat milks) is produced by spraying the liquid under heat and high pressure, a process that oxidizes the cholesterol. In animal studies, oxidized cholesterol triggers a host of biological changes, leading to plaque formation in the arteries and heart disease, Spanish researchers reported in 1996. “OCs are mutagenic and carcinogenic,” they wrote. In 1998, Australian researchers studied rabbits fed OC and found that the animals “had a 64% increase in total aortic cholesterol” despite having less cholesterol in their blood than rabbits fed natural sources of the substance. (A 2008 Chinese study with hamsters confirmed these findings.) Roberts says the amount of OC created by adding powdered skim is “not very much,” but until the effects on humans are known, it’s impossible to say what’s a safe level.

  7. Soaring BPA Levels Found in People Who Eat Canned Foods

    Eating canned food every day may raise the levels of the compound bisphenol A (BPA) in a person’s urine more than previously suspected, a new study suggests.
    People who ate a serving of canned soup every day for five days had BPA levels of 20.8 micrograms per liter of urine, whereas people who instead ate fresh soup had levels of 1.1 micrograms per liter, according to the study. BPA is found in many canned foods — it is a byproduct of the chemicals used to prevent corrosion.
    When the researchers looked at the rise in BPA levels seen in the average participant who ate canned soup compared with those who ate fresh soup, they found a 1,221 percent jump.
    “To see an increase in this magnitude was quite surprising,” said study leader Karin Michels, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.
    The levels of BPA seen in the study participants “are among the most extreme reported in a nonoccupational setting,” the researchers wrote in their study. In the general population, levels have been found to be around 1 to 2 micrograms per liter, Michels said.
    The study noted that levels higher than 13 micrograms per liter were found in only the top 5 percent of participants in the National Health and Examination Survey, which is an ongoing study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
    “We are concerned about the influence of [hormone-disrupting] chemicals on health in general, and BPA is one of them,” Michels told MyHealthNewsDaily.
    The study is published online today (Nov. 22) in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
    Soup for lunch
    The study included 75 people, whose average age was 27. One group of participants ate 12 ounces of fresh soup every day at lunchtime, while the other ate the same amount of canned soup each day. Urine samples were collected from the participants on the fourth and fifth days of the study.
    BPA was detected in 77 percent of people who ate the fresh soup, and all of the people who ate the canned soup, according to the study.
    Only a few studies had previously looked at BPA levels from eating canned foods, and those relied on asking people how much of the food they usually eat comes from cans, Michels said. The new study was the first in which researchers randomized participants to eat a small serving of canned food or fresh food, and measured the resulting difference in their urine BPA levels, she said.
    “We’ve known for a while that drinking beverages that have been stored in certain hard plastics can increase the amount of BPA in your body. This study suggests that canned foods may be an even greater concern, especially given their wide use,” said study researcher Jenny Carwile, a doctoral student at Harvard.
    BPA and health
    A 2008 study of 1,455 people showed that higher urinary BPA levels were linked with higher risks of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and abnormal concentrations of certain liver enzymes, even after factors such as age, body mass index and smoking were taken into account.
    And other studies have linked BPA levels in a woman’s urine during her pregnancy to health problems in her child.
    It is not known how long the levels of BPA might remain high, according to the study. However, it is also not known whether such a spike, even if it isn’t sustained for very long, may affect health, the researchers wrote.
    The study was limited in that all of the participants were students or staff at one school, and a single soup brand (Progresso) was tested, but the researchers wrote that they expected the results to apply to canned foods with a similar BPA content.
    “Reducing canned food consumption may be a good idea, especially for people consuming foods from cans regularly,” Michels said. “Maybe manufacturers can take the step of taking BPA out of the lining of cans — some have already done this, but only a few.”
    The study was funded by the Allen Foundation, which advocates nutrition research.

  8. Coca-Cola kicked off the orange juice probe
    Coca-Cola, maker of Minute Maid and Simply Orange, said Thursday that it was the company that originally alerted U.S. regulators to the issues surrounding Brazilian orange juice after it found a fungicide in some of its products.

    The Atlanta-based beverage giant notified the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Dec. 28 after detecting low levels of carbendazim in its own and in competitors’ finished orange juice and in juice concentrates that were not yet on the market.

    While the fungicide is legal in Brazil, where it is used to combat a type of mold that grows on orange trees, as well as other parts of the world, it is considered an “unlawful pesticide chemical residue” under U.S. law, the FDA said.

    Coca-Cola (KO, Fortune 500) said it immediately informed the FDA after it “discovered that some Brazilian growers had sprayed their trees with a fungicide that was not registered for use in the U.S.”

    FDA halts orange juice shipments to test for fungicide
    The FDA said it does “not intend to take action to remove from domestic commerce orange juice containing the reported low levels of carbendazim.”

    While Coca-Cola’s primary supply of orange juice in the U.S. comes from Florida, the company also imports products from Brazil.

    Overall, 11% of all orange juice consumed in the United States is imported from Brazil, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    Following Coca Cola’s alert, the FDA said earlier this week that it has halted shipments of orange juice and orange juice concentrate from all over the world and will test each one for the fungicide. The regulating agency said it will deny entry to shipments that test positive for carbendazim.

    So far, the levels of the fungicide that have been detected are “very low,” the FDA said, and the Environmental Protection Agency said those levels do not raise safety concerns, according to a preliminary risk assessment.

    Coca-cola said it could not comment on whether the discoveries would affect pricing of its orange juice products.


  9. Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs) are organofluorine compounds that have an ability to make products stain, grease, and water resistant, and are popular for their non-stick and stain-repellant uses. Due to these properties, PFCs are often used in paper food containers such as microwave popcorn bags and fast food wrappers. PFCs are considered persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and resist chemical, biological, and photolytic degradation in the environment. These chemicals biomagnify in the food chain and bioaccumulate in animal and human tissues.
    Familiar consumer products made from compounds of PFCs are Teflon and Scotchguard. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is found in polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), which is commercially known as Teflon. A key ingredient in Scotchgaurd, a fabric and carpeting stain repellant, is Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS).
    Exposure occurs through our diet, from food wrapped or cooked in materials containing PFCs, and through the food chain and water pollution. Another route of exposure is inhalation of PFCs from clothing, home furnishings, carpeting, and other materials treated with PFCs to be stain and water resistant.
    Though there has not been much research on the effects of PFCs in humans, testing has shown that PFCs are present in both humans and wildlife. PFCs may be linked to:
    Thyroid dysfunction
    Risk of high cholesterol
    Risk of cancer
    Liver dysfunction
    Endocrine disruption
    Developmental delays
    Fertility issues

    Microwave popcorn
    Microwave popcorn bags are coated with PFCs to help keep oil from permeating and leaking out of the bag.
    Food wrappers
    Fast-food and candy wrappers are coated with PFCs to help keep oil from permeating and leaking out of the wrapper.
    Teflon is a brand name, not a chemical, which is known for its non-stick properties and contains PFCs. Teflon is used as a descriptor of any number of perfluorochemicals since the chemistry is similar among these chemicals.
    Cookware – Non-stick cookware, electric frying pans and griddles
    Water resistant clothing – water-proof and water-resistant clothing, jackets, foot wear, etc.
    Fire protection – Fire extinguishers and foams, flame retardants
    Scotchguard is a brand name, not a chemical, which is known for its stain- and water-repellant properties and contains PFCs.
    Carpets – Stain-resistant carpeting contains PFCs.
    Clothing – Stain-resistant and water-repellant clothing contain PFCs.
    Car interiors – Stain-resistant upholstery and carpeting in automobiles contain PFCs.
    Furniture – Stain-resistant upholstery contains PFCs.
    Drinking Water
    PFCs persist in the environment, meaning they do not break-down and degrade. Soil contamination in landfills and ground-water run-off can contaminate drinking water.


  10. 8 Ingredients You Never Want to See on Your Nutrition Label
    The year was 1950, and The Magic 8-Ball had just arrived in stores. It looked like a toy, but it wasn’t. It was a future-telling device, powered by the unknown superpowers that lived inside its cheap plastic shell. Despite a bit of an attitude—”Don’t count on it,” “My reply is no”—it was a huge success. Americans, apparently, want to see their futures.

    A few decades later, Congress passed the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act that, among other things, turned the 45,000 food products in the average supermarket into fortune-telling devices. Americans inexplicably yawned. I’m trying to change that. Why? The nutrition label can predict the future size of your pants and health care bills.

    Unfortunately, these labels aren’t as clear and direct as the Magic 8-Ball. Consider the list of ingredients: The Food and Drug Administration has approved more than 3,000 additives, most of which you’ve never heard of. But the truth is, you don’t have to know them all. You just need to be able to parse out the bad stuff. Do that and you’ll have a pretty good idea how your future will shape up—whether you’ll end up overweight and unhealthy or turn out to be fit, happy, and energized.

    While researching the new Eat This, Not That! 2013: The No-Diet Weight Loss Solution, I identified 8 ingredients you never want to see on the nutrition label. Should you put down products that contain them? As the Magic 8-Ball would say: Signs point to yes.

    This preservative is used to prevent rancidity in foods that contain oils. Unfortunately, BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) has been shown to cause cancer in rats, mice, and hamsters. The reason the FDA hasn’t banned it is largely technical—the cancers all occurred in the rodents’ forestomachs, an organ that humans don’t have. Nevertheless, the study, published in the Japanese Journal of Cancer Research, concluded that BHA was “reasonably anticipated to be a carcinogen,” and as far as I’m concerned, that’s reason enough to eliminate it from your diet.

    You’ll find it in: Fruity Pebbles, Cocoa Pebbles

    These synthetic preservatives are used to inhibit mold and yeast in food. The problem is parabens may also disrupt your body’s hormonal balance. A study in Food Chemical Toxicology found that daily ingestion decreased sperm and testosterone production in rats, and parabens have been found present in breast cancer tissues.

    You’ll find it in: Baskin-Robbins sundaes

    Partially Hydrogenated Oil
    I’ve harped on this before, but it bears repeating: Don’t confuse “0 g trans fat” with being trans fat-free. The FDA allows products to claim zero grams of trans fat as long as they have less than half a gram per serving. That means they can have 0.49 grams per serving and still be labeled a no-trans-fat food. Considering that two grams is the absolute most you ought to consume in a day, those fractions can quickly add up. The telltale sign that your snack is soiled with the stuff? Look for partially hydrogenated oil on the ingredient statement. If it’s anywhere on there, then you’re ingesting artery-clogging trans fat.

    You’ll find it in: Long John Silver’s Popcorn Shrimp, Celeste frozen pizzas

    Sodium Nitrite
    Nitrites and nitrates are used to inhibit botulism-causing bacteria and to maintain processed meats’ pink hues, which is why the FDA allows their use. Unfortunately, once ingested, nitrite can fuse with amino acids (of which meat is a prime source) to form nitrosamines, powerful carcinogenic compounds. Ascorbic and erythorbic acids—essentially vitamin C—have been shown to decrease the risk, and most manufacturers now add one or both to their products, which has helped. Still, the best way to reduce risk is to limit your intake.

    You’ll find it in: Oscar Mayer hot dogs, Hormel bacon

    Caramel Coloring
    This additive wouldn’t be dangerous if you made it the old-fashioned way—with water and sugar, on top of a stove. But the food industry follows a different recipe: They treat sugar with ammonia, which can produce some nasty carcinogens. How carcinogenic are these compounds? A Center for Science in the Public Interest report asserted that the high levels of caramel color found in soda account for roughly 15,000 cancers in the U.S. annually. Another good reason to scrap soft drinks? They’re among The 20 Worst Drinks in America.

    You’ll find it in: Coke/Diet Coke, Pepsi/Diet Pepsi

    Castoreum is one of the many nebulous “natural ingredients” used to flavor food. Though it isn’t harmful, it is unsettling. Castoreum is a substance made from beavers’ castor sacs, or anal scent glands. These glands produce potent secretions that help the animals mark their territory in the wild. In the food industry, however, 1,000 pounds of the unsavory ingredient are used annually to imbue foods—usually vanilla or raspberry flavored—with a distinctive, musky flavor.

    You’ll find it in: Potentially any food containing “natural ingredients”

    Food Dyes
    Plenty of fruit-flavored candies and sugary cereals don’t contain a single gram of produce, but instead rely on artificial dyes and flavorings to suggest a relationship with nature. Not only do these dyes allow manufacturers to mask the drab colors of heavily processed foods, but certain hues have been linked to more serious ailments. A Journal of Pediatrics study linked Yellow 5 to hyperactivity in children, Canadian researchers found Yellow 6 and Red 40 to be contaminated with known carcinogens, and Red 3 is known to cause tumors. The bottom line? Avoid artificial dyes as much as possible.

    You’ll find it in: Lucky Charms, Skittles, Jell-O

    Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
    Hydrolyzed vegetable protein, used as a flavor enhancer, is plant protein that has been chemically broken down into amino acids. One of these acids, glutamic acid, can release free glutamate. When this glutamate joins with free sodium in your body, they form monosodium glutamate (MSG), an additive known to cause adverse reactions—headaches, nausea, and weakness, among others—in sensitive individuals. When MSG is added to products directly, the FDA requires manufacturers to disclose its inclusion on the ingredient statement. But when it occurs as a byproduct of hydrolyzed protein, the FDA allows it to go unrecognized.

    You’ll find it in: Knorr Noodle Sides, Funyuns


  11. The 15 Grossest Things You’re Eating
    Friday, July 5, 2013 8:06 pm Written by: Leah Zerbe

    Unfortunately, gross food has become the norm in most supermarkets, with packaged food ingredient lists reading more like chemistry homework than something you’d want your family to eat. But in many cases, marketers have figured out a way to keep toxic additives and disease-promoting food packaging off of the label, making your job as a consumer harder than ever. We’re here to clear up the confusion and help you avoid some of the grossest foods on the market.
    Flame Retardant–Laced Soda
    What it is: The toxic flame retardant chemical brominated vegetable oil, or BVO, was initially used to keep plastics from catching on fire.
    Where it is: For decades, the food industry has been adding it to certain sodas, juices, and sports drinks, including Mountain Dew, Fanta Orange, Sunkist Pineapple, and some Powerade flavors. (Gatorade announced it would remove the compound from its drinks in Spring 2013.) BVO’s purpose? To keep the artificial flavoring chemicals from separating from the rest of the liquids.
    Why it’s bad: Scientists have linked too much BVO to bromide poisoning symptoms like skin lesions, memory loss, and nerve disorders.
    Paint Chemical In Salad Dressing
    What it is: Titanium dioxide is a component of the metallic element titanium, a mined substance that is sometimes contaminated with toxic lead.
    Where it is: Commonly used in paints and sunscreens, big food corporations add it to lots of things we eat, too, including processed salad dressing, coffee creamers, and icing.
    Why it’s bad: The food industry adds it to hundreds of products to make dingy, overly processed items appear whiter. “White has long been the symbolic color of ‘clean,'” explains food industry insider Bruce Bradley, who shares the tricks, traps, and ploys of big food manufacturers on his blog, BruceBradley.com. “Funny, when you use real food, you don’t need any of these crazy additives — I think I prefer the real deal.”
    Maggoty Mushrooms
    What it is: Maggots are fly larvae, tiny rice-shaped creatures that feast on rotting foods.
    Where it is: The Food and Drug Administration legally allows 19 maggots and 74 mites in a 3.5-ounce can of mushrooms.
    Why it’s bad: While maggots do have their place in the medical world—they can help heal ulcers and other wounds—most people think it’s pretty gross to eat them!
    If you need another reason to ditch canned goods, consider this: Most are lined with bisphenol A, or BPA, a plastic chemical that causes unnatural hormonal changes linked to heart attacks, obesity, and certain cancers
    Cloned Cow’s Stomach
    What it is: Traditionally, cheese makers used rennet derived from the mucosa of a veal calf’s fourth stomach to create the beloved, versatile dairy product. But Bradley notes that cost and the limited availability of calf stomachs have led to the development of several alternatives, including vegetable rennet, microbial rennet, and—the food industry’s rennet of choice — a genetically modified version derived from a cloned calf gene.
    Where it is: It’s used to make the vast majority of cheese sold in the United States.
    Why it’s bad: The long-term health effects of eating genetically engineered foods has never been studied in humans. And since GMO ingredients aren’t listed on the label, it can be tough for consumers to avoid rennet from this source. “With all these rennet varieties often listed simply as “enzymes” on an ingredient panel, it can be very hard to know exactly what kind you’re eating when you buy cheese,” says Bradley, author of the soon-to-be-released book, Fat Profits.
    Flesh-Eating Bacteria
    What it is: Grocery store meats are commonly infused with veterinary medicines, heavy metals, and staph bacteria, including the hard-to-kill, potentially lethal MRSA strain.
    Where it is: Unfortunately, the problem is far from rare. A study published last year in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases found that half of grocery store meat tested harbored staph bacteria. Researchers ID the overuse of antibiotics in industrial agriculture as a major cause in the rise of superbugs in our grocery store food.
    Why it’s bad: MRSA kills about 19,000 people a year in America — that’s more annual deaths than from AIDS in the U.S. Purchasing grass-fed meat and eggs from organic farmers is a more sustainable choice.
    Herbicide-Flavored Food
    What it is: Glyphosate, the active chemical ingredient in the popular weed killer, Roundup, is a hormone-disrupting chemical now used primarily on corn and soy crops genetically engineered to withstand a heavy dousing of the chemical. Nonorganic farmers dumped 57 million pounds of glyphosate on food crops in 2009, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) figures.
    Where it is: Roundup is so heavily used around homes and in farm fields that it’s now being detected in streams, the air, and even rain. Because it’s a systemic herbicide, it’s actually taken up inside the plant … meaning we eat it. Yep, it’s legally allowed in our food, and in an amount that worries scientists. It’s found in most nonorganic packaged foods because most contain corn- or soy-derived ingredients, the crops that are most often heavily doused with Roundup.
    Why it’s bad: Glyphosate exposure is linked to obesity, learning disabilities, birth defects, infertility and potentially irreversible metabolic damage. To avoid pesticides in products, eat organic and avoided processed foods as much as possible. And use caution — “all natural” foods often are chockfull of pesticides and genetically engineered ingredients.
    Beaver Anal Gland Juice
    What it is: It’s a bitter, smelly, orange-brown substance known as castoreum, explains Bradley. “In nature, it’s combined with the beaver’s urine and used to mark its territory.”
    Where it is: It’s used extensively in processed food and beverages, typically as vanilla or raspberry flavoring.
    Why it’s bad: This gross ingredient won’t show up on the label. Instead, companies using it in making processed food list it as “natural flavoring.” This poses a dilemma for vegans and vegetarians — and anyone who wants to avoid eating any creature’s anal excretions.
    Sex Hormones in Milk
    What it is: Today’s cows produce double the amount of milk they did just 40 years ago, thanks largely to a genetically engineered, synthetic hormone called recombinant bovine somatotropin, or rBST.
    Where it is: It could be in milk that’s not organic or not labeled as rBST free.
    Why it’s bad: Scientists link rBST to prostate, breast, and colon cancers. It’s banned in other countries, and although still legal here, many dairies are moving away from it due to consumer demand. Choose organic milk to ensure that the cows producing your milk are fed a diet free of antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides.
    Shampoo Chemicals in Produce
    What it is: Phthalates are plasticizing chemicals used in everything from pesticides and fragranced soaps and shampoos to nail polish and vinyl shower curtains.
    Where it is: A 2010 study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found phthalates are winding up in our food, too. The source could be direct exposure to pesticides containing the hormone-disrupting chemical. Or to another potential source, human sewage sludge applied as a fertilizer to farm fields. The sludge can be tainted with shampoo chemicals that wash down the drain — it all winds up at the water-treatment plant, the source of the sludge. (Note: Use of human sewage sludge is banned in organic farming.)
    Why it’s bad: Phthalate exposure, even in small amounts, has been linked to behavioral problems in children, allergies and asthma, eczema, and unhealthy changes in our hormonal systems.
    Human Hair and Feathers
    What it is: L-cysteine is a non-essential amino acid made from dissolved human hair (often from China) or duck feathers.
    Where it is: It’s used as a commercial dough conditioner to improve the texture of breads and baked goods.
    Why it’s bad: Eating something derived from the human body violates Muslim beliefs. Hair and duck feathers pose an ethical dilemma for vegans, too.
    Crushed Bugs
    What it is: Carmine, a bright red food colorant, is actually the crushed abdomen of the female Dactylopius coccus, an African beetle-like insect.
    Where it is: Look for it in red candies and red-tinted yogurts and juices (particularly ruby red juices) — it’s often listed as carmine, crimson lake, cochineal, or natural red #4 on ingredient labels, according to Bradley.
    Why it’s bad: Not only is the thought of eating bug juice gross, but it also poses an ethical issue for some vegetarians and vegans.
    Ammonia-cleansed Beef
    What it is: Factory-farm conditions are rife with bacteria. On top of that, processing plants mix meat from hundreds or thousands of different cows, potentially creating a public health hazard in the mix. To try to make the meat “safer,” industry typically puts the beef through an ammonia gas bath.
    Where it is: The USDA deems the gross process safe enough, and allows the meat to be sold without any indication that it received the gas treatment. (The process is banned in meats earning organic certification.)
    Why it’s bad: You might order your burger with pickles or lettuce, but you likely don’t want a side of ammonia, a poisonous gas. The kicker? Evidence suggests that blasting beef with it might not even be fully effective at killing germs. Look for organic, pasture-raised meats for a safer option. Often, you can buy these meats directly from local, sustainable farmers.
    Brain-Frying Fake Food Dyes
    What it is:Many artificial food dyes found in hundreds of everyday foods are made from petroleum-derived materials.
    Where it is: Dyes are used in cereals and candy to make them more “fun” for kids, in pickles to make them appear fresher, and in place of actual real ingredients in a variety of foods. Example? Betty Crocker Carrot Cake Mix is actually a carrot-free product, with “carrot flavored pieces” cooked up from corn syrup and artificial colors Yellow 6 and Red 40.
    Why it’s bad: Orange and purple food dyes have been shown to impair brain function, while other dyes have been linked to ADHD and behavioral problems in kids and brain cell toxicity. You’re getting ripped off, too. It’s cheaper for food companies to use fake dyes than real ingredients. (Tropicana Twister Cherry Berry Blast contains 0 percent berry and cherry juice, despite its name.)
    Shrimp Coated in Cleaning Chemicals
    What it is: Depending on where your shrimp comes from, it could be tainted with chemicals used to clean filthy shrimp farm pens. Just as gross, farmed shrimp from overseas is often full of antibiotics, mouse and rat hair, and pieces of insects.
    Where it is: Contaminated shrimp tends to come from critters imported from overseas shrimp farms. If you’re looking for safer options, choose domestic shrimp. For the best options, consult the good fish list.
    Why it’s bad: Only about 2 percent of all imported seafood is inspected, meaning this nasty stuff is making its way onto your plate.
    Disease-Promoting Popcorn Bags
    What it is: An industrial nonstick chemical that falls under the perfluorinated chemicals class is utilized in certain food packaging.
    Where it is: These suspect chemicals are commonly used to coat the inside of popcorn bags to prevent sticking and grease leakage. The same chemicals are also in the nonstick coating of many pots, pans and baking sheets.
    Why it’s bad: A study published in January 2012 in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that nonstick chemicals in popcorn bags significantly damage the immune system, opening the floodgates for a whole host of other health problems. Nonstick chemicals are also linked to high cholesterol, sperm damage and infertility, and ADHD. Popcorn — made the good old-fashioned way, in a pot on the stovetop — is still a great option.


  12. Dirty Dozen List of Endocrine Disruptors
    12 Hormone-Altering Chemicals and How to Avoid Them

    There is no end to the tricks that endocrine disruptors can play on our bodies: increasing production of certain hormones; decreasing production of others; imitating hormones; turning one hormone into another; interfering with hormone signaling; telling cells to die prematurely; competing with essential nutrients; binding to essential hormones; accumulating in organs that produce hormones.
    Here are 12 of the worst hormone disrupters, how they do their dirty deeds, and some tips on how to avoid them.

    Some may say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but do you really want a chemical used in plastics imitating the sex hormone estrogen in your body? No! Unfortunately, this synthetic hormone can trick the body into thinking it’s the real thing – and the results aren’t pretty. BPA has been linked to everything from breast and others cancers to reproductive problems, obesity, early puberty and heart disease, and according to government tests, 93 percent of Americans have BPA in their bodies!
    How to avoid it? Go fresh instead of canned – many food cans are lined with BPA – or research which companies don’t use BPA or similar chemicals in their products. Say no to receipts, since thermal paper is often coated with BPA. And avoid plastics marked with a “PC,” for polycarbonate, or recycling label #7. Not all of these plastics contain BPA, but many do – and it’s better safe than sorry when it comes to keeping synthetic hormones out of your body. For more tips, check out: http://www.ewg.org/bpa/
    Dioxins are multi-taskers… but not in a good way! They form during many industrial processes when chlorine or bromine are burned in the presence of carbon and oxygen. Dioxins can disrupt the delicate ways that both male and female sex hormone signaling occurs in the body. This is a bad thing! Here’s why: Recent research has shown that exposure to low levels of dioxin in the womb and early in life can both permanently affect sperm quality and lower the sperm count in men during their prime reproductive years. But that’s not all! Dioxins are very long-lived, build up both in the body and in the food chain, are powerful carcinogens and can also affect the immune and reproductive systems.
    How to avoid it? That’s pretty difficult, since the ongoing industrial release of dioxin has meant that the American food supply is widely contaminated. Products including meat, fish, milk, eggs and butter are most likely to be contaminated, but you can cut down on your exposure by eating fewer animal products.
    What happens when you introduce highly toxic chemicals into nature and turn your back? For one thing, shemale frogs. That’s right, researchers have found that exposure to even low levels of the herbicide atrazine can turn male frogs into females that produce completely viable eggs. Atrazine is widely used on the majority of corn crops in the United States, and consequently it’s a pervasive drinking water contaminant. Atrazine has been linked to breast tumors, delayed puberty and prostate inflammation in animals, and some research has linked it to prostate cancer in people.
    How to avoid it? Buy organic produce and get a drinking water filter certified to remove atrazine. For help finding a suitable filter, check out EWG’s buying guide: http://www.ewg.org/report/ewgs-water-filter-buying-guide/
    Did you know that a specific signal programs cells in our bodies to die? It’s totally normal and healthy for 50 billion cells in your body to die every day! But studies have shown that chemicals called phthalates can trigger what’s known as “death-inducing signaling” in testicular cells, making them die earlier than they should. Yep, that’s cell death – in your man parts. If that’s not enough, studies have linked phthalates to hormone changes, lower sperm count, less mobile sperm, birth defects in the male reproductive system, obesity, diabetes and thyroid irregularities.
    How to avoid it? A good place to start is to avoid plastic food containers, children’s toys (some phthalates are already banned in kid’s products), and plastic wrap made from PVC, which has the recycling label #3. Some personal care products also contain phthalates, so read the labels and avoid products that simply list added “fragrance,” since this catch-all term sometimes means hidden phthalates. Find phthalate-free personal care products with EWG’s Skin Deep Database: http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/
    Who needs food tainted with rocket fuel?! That’s right, perchlorate, a component in rocket fuel, contaminates much of our produce and milk, according to EWG and government test data. When perchlorate gets into your body it competes with the nutrient iodine, which the thyroid gland needs to make thyroid hormones. Basically, this means that if you ingest too much of it you can end up altering your thyroid hormone balance. This is important because it’s these hormones that regulate metabolism in adults and are critical for proper brain and organ development in infants and young children.
    How to avoid it? You can reduce perchlorate in your drinking water by installing a reverse osmosis filter. (You can get help finding one at: http://www.ewg.org/report/ewgs-water-filter-buying-guide) As for food, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid perchlorate, but you can reduce its potential effects on you by making sure you are getting enough iodine in your diet. Eating iodized salt is one good way.
    Fire retardants
    What do breast milk and polar bears have in common? In 1999, some Swedish scientists studying women’s breast milk discovered something totally unexpected: The milk contained an endocrine-disrupting chemical found in fire retardants, and the levels had been doubling every five years since 1972! These incredibly persistent chemicals, known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs, have since been found to contaminate the bodies of people and wildlife around the globe – even polar bears. These chemicals can imitate thyroid hormones in our bodies and disrupt their activity. That can lead to lower IQ, among other significant health effects. While several kinds of PBDEs have now been phased out, this doesn’t mean that toxic fire retardants have gone away. PBDEs are incredibly persistent, so they’re going to be contaminating people and wildlife for decades to come.
    How to avoid it? It’s virtually impossible, but passing better toxic chemical laws that require chemicals to be tested before they go on the market would help reduce our exposure. A few things that can you can do in the meantime include: use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, which can cut down on toxic-laden house dust; avoid reupholstering foam furniture; take care when replacing old carpet (the padding underneath may contain PBDEs). Find more tips at: http://www.ewg.org/pbdefree/
    You may or may not like heavy metal music, but lead is one heavy metal you want to avoid. It’s well known that lead is toxic, especially to children. Lead harms almost every organ system in the body and has been linked to a staggering array of health effects, including permanent brain damage, lowered IQ, hearing loss, miscarriage, premature birth, increased blood pressure, kidney damage and nervous system problems. But few people realize that one other way that lead may affect your body is by disrupting your hormones. In animals, lead has been found to lower sex hormone levels. Research has also shown that lead can disrupt the hormone signaling that regulates the body’s major stress system (called the HPA axis). You probably have more stress in your life than you want, so the last thing you need is something making it harder for your body to deal with it – especially when this stress system is implicated in high blood pressure, diabetes, anxiety and depression.
    How to avoid it? Keep your home clean and well maintained. Crumbling old paint is a major source of lead exposure, so get rid of it carefully. A good water filter can also reduce your exposure to lead in drinking water. (Check out http://www.ewg.org/report/ewgs-water-filter-buying-guide/ for help finding a filter.) And if you need another reason to eat better, studies have also shown that children with healthy diets absorb less lead.
    Arsenic isn’t just for murder mysteries anymore. In fact, this toxin is lurking in your food and drinking water. If you eat enough of it, arsenic will kill you outright. In smaller amounts, arsenic can cause skin, bladder and lung cancer. Basically, bad news. Less well known: Arsenic messes with your hormones! Specifically, it can interfere with normal hormone functioning in the glucocorticoid system that regulates how our bodies process sugars and carbohydrates. What does that mean for you? Well, disrupting the glucocorticoid system has been linked to weight gain/loss, protein wasting, immunosuppression, insulin resistance (which can lead to diabetes), osteoporosis, growth retardation and high blood pressure.
    How to avoid it? Reduce your exposure by using a water filter that lowers arsenic levels. For help finding a good water filter, check out EWG’s buying guide: http://www.ewg.org/report/ewgs-water-filter-buying-guide/
    Caution: That sushi you are eating could be hazardous to your health. Mercury, a naturally occurring but toxic metal, gets into the air and the oceans primarily though burning coal. Eventually, it can end up on your plate in the form of mercury-contaminated seafood. Pregnant women are the most at risk from the toxic effects of mercury, since the metal is known to concentrate in the fetal brain and can interfere with brain development. Mercury is also known to bind directly to one particular hormone that regulates women’s menstrual cycle and ovulation, interfering with normal signaling pathways. In other words, hormones don’t work so well when they’ve got mercury stuck to them! The metal may also play a role in diabetes, since mercury has been shown to damage cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, which is critical for the body’s ability to metabolize sugar.
    How to avoid it? For people who still want to eat (sustainable) seafood with lots of healthy fats but without a side of toxic mercury, wild salmon and farmed trout are good choices.
    Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs)
    The perfluorinated chemicals used to make non-stick cookware can stick to you. Perfluorochemicals are so widespread and extraordinarily persistent that 99 percent of Americans have these chemicals in their bodies. One particularly notorious compound called PFOA has been shown to be “completely resistant to biodegradation.” In other words, PFOA doesn’t break down in the environment – ever. That means that even though the chemical was banned after decades of use, it will be showing up in people’s bodies for countless generations to come. This is worrisome, since PFOA exposure has been linked to decreased sperm quality, low birth weight, kidney disease, thyroid disease and high cholesterol, among other health issues. Scientists are still figuring out how PFOA affects the human body, but animal studies have found that it can affect thyroid and sex hormone levels.
    How to avoid it? Skip non-stick pans as well as stain and water-resistant coatings on clothing, furniture and carpets.
    Organophosphate pesticides
    Neurotoxic organophosphate compounds that the Nazis produced in huge quantities for chemical warfare during World War II were luckily never used. After the war ended, American scientists used the same chemistry to develop a long line of pesticides that target the nervous systems of insects. Despite many studies linking organophosphate exposure to effects on brain development, behavior and fertility, they are still among the more common pesticides in use today. A few of the many ways that organophosphates can affect the human body include interfering with the way testosterone communicates with cells, lowering testosterone and altering thyroid hormone levels.
    How to avoid it? Buy organic produce and use EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, which can help you find the fruits and vegetables that have the fewest pesticide residues. Check it out at: http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/
    Glycol Ethers
    Shrunken testicles: Do we have your full attention now? This is one thing that can happen to rats exposed to chemicals called glycol ethers, which are common solvents in paints, cleaning products, brake fluid and cosmetics. Worried? You should be. The European Union says that some of these chemicals “may damage fertility or the unborn child.” Studies of painters have linked exposure to certain glycol ethers to blood abnormalities and lower sperm counts. And children who were exposed to glycol ethers from paint in their bedrooms had substantially more asthma and allergies.
    How to avoid it? Start by checking out EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning (www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/) and avoid products with ingredients such as 2-butoxyethanol (EGBE) and methoxydiglycol (DEGME).


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