Monthly Archives: September 2012

New report raises concerns about mercury levels in school lunch tuna

Back in late August, took a look at the new federal regulations regarding school lunches. We were generally pleased about the new rules, and felt that, even if there are some rough spots along the road, these new regulations were a great start at nutritional improvements for our children. Today, we have found one of those bumps in the road.

A new report recently published by the Mercury Policy Project has found that tuna being sold to our schools may contain higher levels of mercury than previously understood. This report is the first of its kind, testing the different brands sold to school systems. The report comes with recommendations for parents and schools on limiting children’s consumption of these products. Some children may be at greater risk from mercury in tuna than previously thought, finds a new study by the Mercury Policy Project (MPP).

It’s an extremely detailed report and it contains solid advice on the amounts and types of tuna that can be consumed by kids. (See link below.) While it is noted that most children consume only moderate amounts of tuna and are not at risk of mercury problems, it does remain true that some kids really prefer the canned fish over other school lunch offerings. That’s the group of kids that are at significant risk from the mercury content. Health experts are encouraging parents and schools to restrict the frequency of their tuna offerings during lunch. In addition, they are stating that no albacore tuna should be served to kids at all, and to consider lower-mercury replacements for tuna such as canned salmon.

It was found that limiting tuna consumption for twice per month for most children and once per month for kids under 55 pounds would help to curb mercury exposure. Since light tuna has one-third as much mercury as albacore, albacore should be off the menu completely. Canned tuna is the biggest source of mercury in our diets. The report tested mercury content in 59 canned tuna samples from eight different brands that are sold to schools in eleven different states.

Kids in the United States eat twice the amount of canned tuna than any other fish. It’s inexpensive and supplies low-fat protein – plus it’s a fish that kids actually like. And since the new federal regulations do call for leaner protein sources, tuna is served consistently in our cafeterias. The following advice is directly from the report:

• Children should not eat albacore tuna. Albacore or “white” tuna contains triple the mercury level of light tuna; nothing justifies tripling a child’s mercury dose.
• Children weighing more than 55 pounds should not eat more than two servings of light tuna per month. This amount of tuna (six ounces) is more than the average child currently consumes; the mercury dose it contains is acceptably low in risk.
• Children up to 55 pounds should consume no more than one tuna meal per month. Because of their smaller body size, an added margin of caution is appropriate for younger children.
• “Tuna-loving” kids should be the focus of risk-management efforts. In particular:
o No child should eat tuna every day. (Tuna Surprise presents cases of children who did that, and were diagnosed with clinical methylmercury poisoning.)
o Parents and schools should offer children other seafood choices, such as shrimp and salmon, which are just as nutritious but contain far less mercury.
• The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s School Lunch Program should phase out commodity purchases of canned tuna, and replace it with lower-mercury alterative seafood items and other extra-lean protein sources.
• Parents should monitor their children’s canned tuna consumption at school and ensure that the total consumed at home and at school does not exceed the recommendations for exposure. wanted to make our community aware of this important information. If you have kids yourself, or in your network, it’s information we should all pay attention to during this school year.

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Sugar consumption might be responsible for more than obesity problems … Alzheimer’s and our diet

With all of the recent controversy surrounding sugar-sweetened beverages, has been busy looking at some of the other information available to us regarding sugar intake in our diets. We found some recent information that revisits an extremely important topic that’s certainly worth showcasing here.

Since 2005 there have been studies done that reflect on the connection between Alzheimer’s Disease and diabetes. It appears the disease may actually be a form of diabetes that could well be brought on by diet.

The studies that have been done focus on insulin. Insulin is released by the body to help cells absorb glucose that’s needed for energy. Our cells can hold a certain amount of sugar and the excess is converted to fat. Blood sugar (glucose) comes from sugar and carbohydrates. Insulin helps to keep our blood vessels healthy and also helps the neurons in our brains to absorb glucose, which strengthens the neurons.

While Type 1 diabetes results from an immune system response that destroys insulin producing cells, Type 2 diabetes results from environmental factors. Type 1 diabetes accounts for about ten percent of diabetic cases – Type 2 accounts for the remainder. Environmental factors are code words here for our diet.

Insulin resistance occurs when a diabetic’s cells don’t respond to the insulin in their bodies. So when the insulin notifies the cells to pick up the glucose in the blood stream, the cells ignore it. The insulin repeatedly notifies the cells when sugary foods are eaten and overloads them with “messages”. The cells become resistant and the process that insulin is responsible for can’t occur. Notably insulin-resistance can cause a diabetic to become disoriented and even lose memories. The neuropathologist whom Alzheimer’s is named for discovered the formation of protein plaques in the brain, replacing normal brain cells. What is being found now, though, is that lack of insulin and insulin resistance is linked to the formation of the plaques found with the disease. Experiments have been performed on rats that blocked the insulin to their brains. The result was that they began exhibiting signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

It has been shown that diabetics are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease. While diabetes isn’t thought to actually cause the debilitating disease, its presence seems to be connected to its development. Type 2 diabetes is a disease people can be genetically predisposed to (as are most diseases that are caused by environmental factors). Since diet is such a powerful influence on their development of Type 2 diabetes, it stands to reason that it is also a powerful influence on the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Sugar is being implicated as a culprit in the current war against obesity. But that seems to be only one of the problems being associated with its over-consumption. It’s not only sugary beverages we need to be concerned with – our food supply is saturated with processed products that contain added sugars. Perhaps greater research and publicity around this issue will capture the attention of consumers and cause real changes to the American diet. invites you to read more:

New York City may be leading the way … new studies show stronger links between sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity has learned that this has been a busy week for the sugar-sweetened beverage and obesity debate. Coming right off the heels of the New York City ban on the sale of large-sized sugary beverages at certain establishments, there were three new studies published this week that are suggesting that New York City has the right idea and may, in fact, be leading the way towards stronger regulations from the federal government.

We know that a third of American adults and about 17% of American kids are currently obese. It has been suggested that sugary beverages have contributed to the obesity problem as the rate of consumption of those drinks has risen at the same pace as the obesity problem since the late 70s. But these new studies which were published this past week in the New England Journal of Medicine directly explored the effects of sugar-sweetened drinks on weight.

The first two studies were random trials. One involved over 600 children split into groups. One group was given a sugar-sweetened beverage to drink and the other a sugar-free version of the same drink. They were followed for a year and a half. While both groups of children gained weight over the period, the group consuming the sugar-sweetened beverage gained over two pounds more over the same period of time.

The other involved tracking over 200 overweight or obese adolescents whose diets regularly included sugary beverages. One group was given only diet beverages and water over a full year period. This group had the beverages delivered directly to their homes for tracking purposes. The other group continued to drink the sugary beverages they had always consumed without any change to their habits.

By the end of the study period, the group drinking the sugar-sweetened beverages had appreciably higher BMIs than the group given the diet beverages and water.

The final study focused on over 30,000 men and women of European ancestry over a course of time. Among those involved in the study who were genetically predisposed to obesity, higher consumption levels of sugar-sweetened drinks were linked to higher BMI.

The American Beverage Association released a statement regarding the studies, “Obesity is a serious and complex public health issue facing our nation and the rest of the world, and we all must work together to solve it. We know, and science supports, that obesity is not uniquely caused by any single food or beverage. Thus, studies and opinion pieces that focus solely on sugar-sweetened beverages, or any other single source of calories, do nothing meaningful to help address this serious issue.”

Health and medical groups are now appealing to the U.S. Surgeon General to publish a report on sugary beverages and obesity. The report they are seeking is based on the idea that sugar-sweetened beverages need the same treatment from the federal government as cigarette smoking and its relationship to cancer.

Perhaps, despite the tremendous concern among New Yorkers regarding the ban on large-sized sugary beverages, the city’s mayor is actually on the cutting edge of the fight against obesity. is looking forward to following this issue and bringing our community breaking information regarding other bans that may ensue from the results of these new studies – and possibly even some action from the Surgeon General’s office as well.

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Omega-3s vs. mercury … more information on fish and heart health has been following some recent news regarding the consumption of fish and fish oil supplements. Long touted as helpful in combating heart disease, information that was released a few short weeks ago seemed to dispel the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.

But today, a new study coming out of a Swedish University seems to point to a different conclusion. More specifically, the study actually weighed the risks of the mercury content in fish against the benefits of the omega-3 fatty acids rich in some fish.

There are some fish that do contain pollutants that we don’t want included in our diets. Mercury is one of those pollutants and the levels of mercury present in fish varies between species. Mercury has been found to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, while the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids has been believed to decrease the risk of that same disease. So these scientists focused their study on getting the facts on where we should be regarding our fish consumption.

We know that fish, in general, is a healthy food. It is generally a healthier protein source that most meats and, until a few weeks ago, folks understood that the omega-3 fatty acids contained in some fish was beneficial for heart health.

Researchers involved in this new study explored the risk of heart attack and its relationship to omega-3 fatty acids and mercury by studying the people who consume them regularly. They did this by measuring the levels of both from blood and hair samples from a group of participants that had previously participated in health research. Those who had heart attacks after their initial medical exams were compared with those who had not.

While, in fact, mercury levels were linked to a higher likelihood of heart attack, omega-3 fatty acids did appear to be related to decreased risk. And, the increased incidence of heart attack from mercury levels was found at only high levels discovered in the body. In addition, it was also linked to lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids. So, very high levels of mercury in the systems of people with very low levels of omega-3s were linked to elevated risk of heart attack. The researchers concluded that it is important for consumers to maintain a balance between both the beneficial and the In other words, what is important is the balance between healthful and harmful when consuming fish.

So our take away from this study is to choose our fish carefully, looking specifically for those that are lower in mercury while providing higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Here are a few varieties that fill that bill: shrimp, salmon, catfish, and pollock. Swordfish and tilefish have higher levels of mercury, and would be best left off the menu. invites you to read more:

Cancer concerns emerge around Monsanto’s herbicide and it’s genetically modified corn

While the food industry remains insistent that genetically modified foods pose no risk to the health of the population, has consistently found current information from credible sources that are finding more and more links to GMOs and health problems. And this latest piece of news is very eye-opening.

A study was recently published in the Food and Chemical Toxicology journal which was conducted at the University of Caen in France. This important research explored the connection between GMO crops sprayed with Monsanto’s Roundup pesticide and cancer.
The researchers fed rats food that contains NK603 which is one of the corn seeds that is impervious to Monsanto’s powerful pesticide, as well as water containing small amounts of the pesticide itself. Both male and female rats were affected adversely to the diet, with half of the males and 70% of the females dying prematurely. They developed mammary tumors as well as liver and kidney damage. The rats in the control group that were fed a different diet had a completely different outcome. Within that group, 20% of the males and 30% of the females were recorded as dying prematurely. The difference was very significant. It is important to note that the amount of the pesticides included in the rats’ diets was at the level considered “safe.”

As the only industrialized nation not maintaining a policy on the labeling of genetically modified foods, this information is especially important here in the U.S. With the important voting on Proposition 37 in California looming in the not-to-distant future, information like this will certainly play and important part in voters’ decisions on this controversial issue.

Monsanto has been a leading financial contributor in the battle to defeat Proposition 37. As you would expect their response to the study out of France was simply that the study’s findings were not substantial. Some of the reasons given were that since GMO crops and the pesticide itself have been used for a long length of time and that there has been no decline in the health of the population consuming them. will continue to share current information regarding the findings of studies focusing on the effects of GMOs on our health and well being. In the meantime, we invite you to read more:

The new arsenic concern: Are rice and rice products safe?

Last year, followed the disturbing controversy over arsenic found in apple juice products here in the U.S. Dr. Oz first reported on this and the concept and evidence was debunked. Just a few months later, however, the evidence was corroborated and brand names were released along with the levels of arsenic found in their samples.
Today, there’s more bad news and a brand new arsenic concern. Consumer Reports has released a report on arsenic levels in rice and rice products. Things like rice cereals, rice milk and rice that you prepare yourself. It’s disturbing and something we want our community to be aware of.

We know that arsenic is poison and that it doesn’t take much of it to actually kill a person. Those aren’t the levels of arsenic being found in these products, though. And the low levels discovered can, in fact, lead to serious health problems when consumed over time. In fact, it has been shown that just tiny amounts of arsenic exposure can result in cancer years later. Arsenic is already a known and powerful carcinogen, and there are currently studies being done by the Environmental Protection agencies that may find it to be a more serious concern than it was ever given credit for.

While these studies are being done, Consumer Reports has completed an analysis of its own. And they focused on numerous different forms of rice products. Rice was chosen as the study focus because previous research has already shown that it does contain more arsenic than other grains. Reasons for this could be because of how it is grown and the fact that it can absorb the arsenic from the soil and water used in its cultivation.

Consumer Reports tested over 60 different rice products and is recommending that people limit their rice consumption in more than a few different ways. For infants, for instance, they are suggesting that only one serving of rice cereal be given once per day. Children under five years of age should not consume rice drinks regularly. And older children should not eat any more than one and a half cups of rice cereal once per week. So much for Rice Krispies. There are even strong recommendations for adults.

While they have made some strong recommendations, the analysis illustrates a random sample of products and therefore, they are not including recommendations of specific brands. They did note however that brown rice had consistently more arsenic than white rice.

There are some great recommendations regarding how you can help reduce possible arsenic in rice by your cooking method that you’ll definitely want to check out. feels quite strongly that both the FDA and EPA should be looking far more closely at this report. There is a need for further studies on other food sources and arsenic levels. There are many areas that need immediate attention for a variety of reasons. It’s already known that poultry manure is a source of arsenic and should actually be banned, until the feeding of drugs containing arsenic to chickens is stopped completely.

This Consumer Reports analysis raises even greater concerns about the safety of our food supply. Our government needs to step up and address this disturbing and serious problem. invites you to read more:

BPA exposure linked to obesity in children in new study

The community has always expressed its opposition to the use of BPA in plastics and can liners. There has been a backlash against the use of the chemical by the population which has resulted in its ban for certain uses including baby bottles. And numerous manufacturers have willingly halted their use of BPA, as the voices of consumers have become increasingly clear and apparent.

Now, however, there has been new research undertaken that has actually linked BPA to the likelihood of obesity in children. We know that the whole country has become increasingly concerned about the rise in obesity and that a variety of different approaches to the problem are being realized across the United States. Most recently, New York City has banned the sale of large-sized sugary beverages in certain retail establishments. This move has been met with a plethora of different responses from consumers. But the ban certainly illustrates a growing trend. Obesity is a tremendous problem with implications ranging from rising health care costs to the health and longevity of the population. And now the chemical BPA that can be found in many different food and drink containers has been suggested as a possible link in obesity in children.

The study was authored by Dr. Leonardo Trasande, an associate professor of pediatrics and environmental medicine at the NYU School of Medicine. It found that children and teenagers exposed to high levels of BPA are more likely to be obese.

The study focused on the body mass and urinary BPA of more than 2800 children and teens in the U.S. Sadly, over 92% of the participants showed detectable levels of urinary BPA, and those with the highest levels were over two and a half times more likely to be obese than those with lower levels. This was true even after those kids were controlling their diets and increasing their exercise levels.

Dr. Trasande said, “Clearly bad diet and lack of exercise are the leading contributors to childhood obesity, but this study suggests a significant role for environmental, particularly chemical factors in that epidemic.”

While we can recognize the importance of the FDA’s decision to ban BPA in baby bottles, this study does suggest that this particular ban did not go far enough. BPA is a chemical used in the manufacturing of some plastics and the linings of metal cans. Studies done in the past revealed that the chemical leaches out of the plastic when heated. It has been linked to diabetes, infertility and cancer and now, obesity. Some claim that banning BPA is unreasonable and that there is no conclusive study regarding its harmful effects.

Still, it remains true that over 30 percent of children in the U.S. are overweight or obese. That percentage is three times as high as it was just thirty years ago. Whatever information we can gain that might help us control and reduce this problem should be more than welcome, not only in the medical community, but in the food manufacturing community as well. There are certainly alternatives for manufacturers – BPA is not there only alternative for manufacturing. That would be well illustrated by those companies who have stopped using the chemical in products already.

While we can all recognize that diet and exercise play a key role in obesity, there has been an explosive rise in the incidence of obesity in the population. This study’s suggestions certainly need further investigations. But for, these implications strengthen our own resolve that chemicals in our food supply do have consequences.
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Breast cancer may be linked to diet in the early years of life is always looking for relevant information regarding how diet and lifestyle affects our health. Today, we found information that may prove to be important for all females, regardless of age.

Research released by a team at UC Davis has presented evidence that suggests that diet may increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer later on. And that evidence is separate from the links previously found between breast cancer and the hormone estrogen.

The study illustrates the processes regulating breast development in females. “It’s long been assumed that circulating estrogens from the ovaries, which underlie normal female reproductive development, were crucial for the onset of breast growth and development,” said Professor Russ Hovey, senior author of the study.”Our findings, however, suggest that diet and shifts in body metabolism that parallel changes seen during obesity and Type 2 diabetes can also stimulate breast growth entirely independent of estrogen’s effects.”  The study involved mice receiving a diet with the addition of fatty acids known as 10,12 CLA (or conjugated linoleic acid). 10, 12 CLA mimics certain aspects of a larger metabolic syndrome.

The 10, 12 CLA was added to the diet of the test group of mice because it is known to disrupt normal metabolic processes. Importantly, the mice involved in the study were both male and female mice whose estrogen function was blocked. The findings showed that the supplement induced the growth of mammary ducts in both groups. This diet-induced breast development also increased the incidence of mammary tumors in some of the mice. They also noted that different strains of mice responded differently to the supplement, suggesting a genetic predisposition to how their bodies processed the fatty acid.

The study holds the possibility of increasing the understanding of human breast development both before puberty and after menopause when estrogens are not as prevalent in the female system. It is also important to note that the increasing rate at which girls are experiencing puberty at earlier ages has coincided with the growing problem of childhood obesity. Dietary sources of 10, 12 CLA are beef and dairy products. Again, perhaps pointing to the effects of a diet higher in fats among the young female population, the study underscores the importance of healthy diet in the fight against this all-too-often deadly disease. will continue to look into these findings and keep our community apprised of any new developments. For now, read more at:

The ban is official … New York City prohibits the sale of any sugary beverage over 16 ounces has been keeping our community updated on Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed ban on the sale of sodas and other sugary drinks over 16 ounces that was publicized a few months back. And today, New York City’s Board of Health passed the proposal. The ban will affect restaurants, concession stands and other establishments selling beverages.

The 16-ounce limit is in effect for regular soda (non-diet), sweetened teas and other beverages deemed to be sugar and calorie-laden. The establishments this will apply to will be movie and Broadway theaters, cafeterias in offices, fast food restaurants and places like local delicatessens. It will not apply to supermarkets and some convenience stores.
Of the nine board members voting, eight approved the proposal and only one abstained. And not for the reasons you might initially think … the abstaining member thought that the ban was not comprehensive enough.

Literally tens of thousands of New Yorkers signed a petition opposing the ban believing that this is unnecessary government intrusion into their lives. But there have been other things this particular mayor has put in place … like forcing chain restaurants to print calorie counts for the dishes they offer clearly on their menus. Moves like this on the part of the mayor have spurred the federal government to introduce requirements that are similar in nature. While the large-sized sugary-beverage ban is inciting to New Yorkers, many doctors and celebrities in the food world do believe that these are necessary steps to preserve the public health. does think that the ban will, in fact, discourage the over-consumption of over-sized beverages. We do have a tendency to supersize everything out there in our convenience-style world. Our burgers are bigger, our bagels are larger, our sandwiches are stuffed with more meat and cheese than they were just a decade ago. Perhaps if we stop thinking we need 20 ounces of Coke, we might also feel that those things should change as well. And we will save calories by drinking smaller sizes of those sugary beverages. And that really can’t be a bad thing.

And while New Yorkers have made it clear that they will continue to fight the ban, does wonder why the mayor thinks that the consumption of diet soda, diet iced tea and high fructose corn syrup-laden waters are actually good things for folks in the city. There have been links drawn between high fructose corn syrup and obesity. And let’s not forget that diet sodas and diet iced teas are chemically rich beverages that are not good for anyone’s health. We’d have to imagine that imposing size limits on these beverages as well could only have a positive effect on the health of the population. In other words, sugar isn’t the only enemy in the fight for the health of New Yorkers or the remainder of the population of the U.S. So, if they’re going to go this route, perhaps they should broaden their horizons of health concerns. Just our opinion.

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Another reason to love coconut oil … it might actually help prevent tooth decay

The community has long been sharing the important benefits of coconut oil in our diets. Coconut oil is thought to be one of the “good” fats, with properties that actually work for your health, instead of against it. But here’s more interesting news regarding this interesting oil … it might act to help the fight against tooth decay.

At the Society for General Microbiology’s Autumn Conference, scientists from the Athlone Institute of Technology in Ireland presented their work regarding how digested coconut oil can attack tooth decay bacteria. It can act as a natural antibiotic that can be used in commercial toothpaste and make a real difference in dental health.

Their work explored the antibacterial properties of coconut oil and coconut oil that had been treated with enzymes that mimic digestion. Streptococcus bacteria is a common bacteria found in the mouth that contributes to tooth decay. So they tested the oils against the streptococcus bacteria and discovered that the coconut oil prepared to mimic digestion had a tremendous affect against the growth of those bacteria. In previous research it has been discovered that partially digested food can play an active role in combating micro-organisms. But it appears that this is the first study that focused on coconut oil and its interaction with the streptococcus bacteria that plays an important role in tool decay.

As an added bonus, they also found that the “digested” coconut oil could also help with the yeast that causes thrush. This study has linked the concept that the addition of modified coconut oil might be marketable as an antimicrobial for oral healthcare. Dental health is a problem that affects between 60 and 90% of children and the majority of adults in industrialized countries. And the study’s findings could really have an impact on dental hygiene products … helping to combat problems in a more natural manner. It is especially important in today’s reality where there is an increasing resistance to antibiotic treatment. And it may have other important implications. It’s possible that products of our digestion actually can combat bacteria. This holds a lot of promise in light of the growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria showing up in the population. is thrilled with the idea that there may be more natural alternatives that can help us as we face those antibiotic resistant bacteria. While we understand that more research is needed, we are encouraged to learn that chemically produced solutions are not our only alternatives to combat common health problems.

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