Category Archives: fish

Pre-natal mercury exposure and autism link refuted

FoodFacts.com is well aware that for years, expectant mothers have been advised to avoid consuming fish with low levels of mercury. There’s been a concern that the chemical may be responsible for behavioral disorders such as autism. With the numerous nutritional benefits fish can bring to both mother and unborn child, we were happy to read some information today that disputes these concerns.

A new study coming out of the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Department of Public Health Sciences, the Seychelles Ministries of Health and Education, and the University of Ulster in Ireland, is reporting that there is no association between pre-natal mercury exposure and autism-like behaviors. The study draws upon more than 30 years of research in the Republic of Seychelles. The Republic of Seychelles is an ideal location to examine the potential health impact of persistent low level mercury exposure. With a population of 87,000 people spread across an archipelago of islands in the Indian Ocean, fishing is a both an important industry and a primary source of nutrition – the nation’s residents consume fish at a rate 10 times greater than the populations of the U.S. and Europe.

The Seychelles Child Development Study – a partnership between URMC, the Seychelles Ministries of Health and Education, and the University of Ulster in Ireland – was created in the mid-1980s to specifically study the impact of fish consumption and mercury exposure on childhood development. The program is one of the largest ongoing epidemiologic studies of its kind.

The study followed 1,784 children, adolescents, young adults and their mothers. Researchers first determined the level of prenatal mercury exposure by analyzing hair samples collect from mothers at the time of birth.

The researchers then used two questionnaires to determine whether or not the study participants were exhibiting autism spectrum-like behaviors. The Social Communication Questionnaire was completed by the children’s parents and the Social Responsiveness Scale was completed by their teachers. These tests – which include questions on language skills, social communication, and repetitive behaviors – do not provide a definitive diagnosis, but they are widely used in the U.S. as an initial screening tool and may suggest the need for additional evaluation.

The mercury levels of the mothers were then matched with the test scores of their children and the researchers found that there was no correlation between prenatal exposure and evidence of autism-spectrum-like behaviors.

There’s been an ongoing debate regarding fish consumption for expectant mothers. There are so many nutritional benefits from fish … vitamin E, lean protein, omega-3 fatty acids (which aid in fetal brain development), to name a few. But at the same time there has been serious concern regarding exposure to mercury and developmental problems for unborn children. Because of this the FDA has recommended that women limit fish consumption during pregnancy. Researchers noted that further study is needed in order to produce conclusive results.

FoodFacts.com looks forward to understanding more about the relationship between mercury and autism-related behaviors, as well as the prenatal benefits of fish consumption. Fish is healthy protein that provides important nutrients for healthy development. We look forward to further research that may possibly add fish back into the pregnancy diet – both for the enjoyment of the mother and the healthy growth of the unborn child.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/263870.php

Fish is great food

FoodFacts.com has been keeping up with the latest research regarding Omega-3 fatty acids and their benefits to our overall health and well being. Today we found some interesting research from the Friedrich Schiller University Jena and Jena University Hospital that helps us to better understand how Omega-3 fatty acids positively affect our bodies.

We’ve known for a long time that eating fish is a healthy choice. Fish is an easily digestible source of lean protein. And the Omega-3 fatty acids contained in fish bring added benefits for us all. Omega-3 fatty acids are found mostly in fatty fish like herring, salmon, and whitefish. They are linked with lowering blood pressure, strengthening our immune systems and being beneficial to our nervous systems and cardiovascular systems.

While we have evidence of all of these positive effects of Omega-3 fatty acids, we’ve never had a true picture of how they work for our benefit on a molecular level. This new study does just that. In articles published in “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA,” the scientists involved in the research describe how they analyzed the impact of Omega-3 fatty acids on a systemic level.

They were able to show that the “SLO1” potassium channel is an important component in the effectiveness of Omega-3s. These channels act like receptors for DHA (the most complex form of Omega-3) and are opened by the binding of Omega-3 fatty acids. The researchers explored the effects on the SLO1 channels on the cardiovascular systems of mice. Lab experiments found that administering DHA to the mice expanded their blood vessels and resulted in a drop in blood pressure. The same effect did not occur in genetically modified mice who lacked the ability to produce the SLO1 channel. So the findings confirmed that DHA has an impact on blood pressure that is mediated through SLO1 channels.

In addition, the researchers were surprised to find that a variant of DHA, often found in nutritional supplements, doesn’t seem to have the same effect on blood pressure. In fact, it appeared to suppress the effect of the natural DHA. So that consumption of non-natural Omega-3 fatty acids might actually counter the positive effects of the natural substance. This will be important for the supplementation patients and may alter clinical requirements in the future.

FoodFacts.com has always been a proponent of the inclusion of fish on our menus.  Fish offers great taste and variety to meals and important nutritional benefits.  We’re happy to see the confirmation of those benefits on a very meaningful level.  You can read more about this fascinating study here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130305080655.htm

Link between Omega-3s and postpartum depression

FoodFacts.com found some helpful information today regarding Omega-3s and postpartum depression.

A new study out of the University of Montreal has shown a possible link between levels of Omega-3s and this debilitating depression that occurs after giving birth in some women. Previously a link had been found between Omega-3 deficiencies and depression in mice.

Because omega-3 fatty acids are transmitted from the mother to her child while in utero and then after birth through breastfeeding, a deficiency can develop in the mother. This can cause an omega-3 deficiency to develop in the mother. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fatty fish and in certain nuts and seeds.

The research analyzed the data collected in 75 earlier studies on Omega-3 fatty acid levels and a gene known as the 5-HTT gene. This is the gene that controls the levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a mood regulator in our brain. Typically, serotonin levels drop in pregnant women because tryptophan, the chemical used to produce serotonin is redirected to support the growing fetus. The research explored the idea that perhaps raising the levels of Omega-3 fatty acids might increase the 5-HTT gene and raise serotonin levels in the brain of the expectant mother … thereby alleviating depression.

It does appear that increased levels of Omega-3 fatty acids found in certain fish, nuts and seeds can, in fact, have a positive effect on postpartum depression. Gabriel Shapiro, who led the study, commented, “The literature shows that there could be a link between pregnancy, omega-3 and the chemical reaction that enables serotonin, a mood regulator, to be released into our brains. So much of what we know about postpartum depression has to do with risk factors that are difficult, if not impossible to change – things like socioeconomic status, personal history of depression or genetic exposures.” This study would seem to point to a new direction, one which might be more easily treatable, and ultimately, solvable.

While FoodFacts.com understands that more research must be done to conclusively prove these findings, it would seem fairly simple for pregnant women to up their consumption of Omega-3 fatty acid rich fish, nuts and seeds – or to safely supplement with appropriate nutritionals under the guidance of their doctors.

Read more: http://www.upi.com/Health_News/2012/11/16/Omega-3-linked-to-postpartum-depression/UPI-62891353123360/ and
http://www.foodbeat.com/food-news/omega-3-and-postnatal-depression-could-eating-fish-help-postpartum-depression/

ADHD, learning difficulties and the benefits of DHA

Some incredibly encouraging research coming out of Australia regarding the benefits of DHA for kids with ADHD and other learning difficulties seems to corroborate other study findings that were available last month. FoodFacts.com wanted to share this information with our community, as we are aware of how many families are looking for answers for their children.

Often ADHD exists with kids who often have other learning difficulties. The conditions can be co-morbid (often found together) in a child. And a new nutritional study suggests that a high intake of omega-3 fatty acids that contain DHA can help make improvements for these children.

90 Australian children ranging in age from 7 to 12 participated in the study. All the kids involved had ADHD symptoms that rated higher than the 90th percentile on the scale used to determine the condition called the Conners Rating Scale. The children were given the supplements for a four month period.

At the end of that period it was found that there was a link between the increased levels of DHA and improved reading and behavior. Most telling, though, was that the children who had ADHD and learning difficulties showed a significant improvement in reading, spelling, the ability to divide attention, hyperactivity and restlessness.

They concluded that in fact that increasing levels of DHA may improve both schoolwork and behavior in ADHD kids and that children who present with both ADHD and learning difficulties may enjoy the biggest advantages.

This study from Australia comes on the heels of a study from Great Britain that also associated that daily supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids is linked to improve reading and behavior in kids with learning difficulties.

That study, out of the University of Oxford involved kids between the ages and seven and nine who were underperforming on standardized tests. These kids were also given omega-3 with DHA supplements. The study determined that the kids taking these supplements improved their reading. In fact, there were 224 kids reading at or below the 20th percentile level. Over the 16 week trial period, the improvement in their reading was 20% greater than would normally be expected. And for the 105 kids in that initial group whose reading was below the 10th percentile, their improvement was 50% better than previously expected.

Both of these studies present parents with a simple and natural option when looking for help for their kids with ADHD and learning difficulties. Fish oil supplements are widely available throughout our country. They present no danger for our children and the benefits could truly make this a worthwhile undertaking for families looking for ways to help their children improve their behavior and their academic performance.

FoodFacts.com invites you to read more:
http://www.foodconsumer.org/newsite/Nutrition/Supplements/dha_improves_adhd_1008120643.html
http://psychcentral.com/news/2012/09/10/omega-3-may-help-underperforming-kids/44381.html

Omega-3 fatty acids and brain benefits

FoodFacts.com was happy to read new research information today regarding omega-3 fatty acids. It’s been known for a while that these essential fatty acids are important in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But this new study shows other valuable and fascinating benefits.

There’s now evidence that increasing the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids can actually slow down the aging process. New research that focused on over one hundred obese, inactive adults were split into three groups. The first group was given a placebo, another was given a supplement containing 2.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids. The other received a supplement with 1.25 grams of omega-3s.

The purpose behind the supplements was to study the effect of they would have on pieces of DNA called telomeres. Telomeres shorten with age and because of this play an important role in the aging process. These are what keep the strands of our DNA from unraveling and also help our cells to divide. When telomeres become too short, it can lead to cell inactivity or death. People over the age of 60 are actually three times more likely to die from heart disease if they haven shortened telomeres.

The results turned out to be quite revealing. It was found that the telomeres in the study participants who improved the ration of omega-3s to the other fatty acids in their diet actually improved the length of their telomeres. The group taking the placebo did not experience the same lengthening.

This is considered especially exciting as there have been previous studies focusing on mice that showed that lengthening their telomeres reversed their aging process. This new research with human participants does suggest a real possibility that omega-3 nutritional supplements could actually make a difference in the way people age. In the study involving mice who were given gene therapy their brain size which had shrunk by as much as 75% returned to normal.

FoodFacts.com is always encouraged to learn about positive health effects that come from natural sources. Anything science can provide us involving how dietary improvements can help us make dramatic changes in the health of our population is an exciting preview into the future.

Read more about this intriguing research:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/03/omega-3-supplements_n_1932903.html

Omega-3s vs. mercury … more information on fish and heart health

FoodFacts.com 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.

FoodFacts.com invites you to read more: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120924080303.htm
http://www.counselheal.com/articles/2926/20120924/benefits-fish-outweigh-dangers-consume-caution.htm

Vitamin D in the news

There have been so many different health headlines featuring Vitamin D lately! We wanted to make sure that our Food Facts friends have the information they need to make informed decisions.

Most of the information out there encourages people to have their Vitamin D levels checked in order to assure that there are no deficiencies. Studies are suggesting that getting enough Vitamin D is essential to your health and longevity. These studies include:

- Calcium and Vitamin D levels can reduce the mortality rate in older adults.
http://www.privatemdlabs.com/blood-testing-news/Vitamin_D_Deficiency-Diagnosis_and_Treatment_/Calcium-and-vitamin-D-may-help-reduce-mortality-rate-in-seniors—$800798920.php

- Low levels of Vitamin D may increase stroke risk. http://www.privatemdlabs.com/blood-testing-news/Vitamin_D_Deficiency-Diagnosis_and_Treatment_/Low-vitamin-D-levels-may-increase-stroke-risk—$800793033.php

- Treating Vitamin D deficiency can improve depression. http://www.privatemdlabs.com/blood-testing-news/Vitamin_D_Deficiency-Diagnosis_and_Treatment_/Treating-vitamin-D-deficiency-improves-depression-treatments—$800806477.php

These and many more benefits have been coming to light for Vitamin D recently. Truly sounds like this could be the wonder-vitamin. So, why aren’t we all being advised to find ways to get more Vitamin D?  That’s where it appears that experts seem to disagree. While we can be sure about defining too little, there is some concern about what defines too much. In 2010 the Recommended Daily Allowance for Vitamin D was raised to 600 IU for anyone from 1 – 70 years of age and increasing to 800 IU if you’re over 70. There are studies showing that up to 10,000 IU would not be toxic, and could be considered the upper limit for dosing of the vitamin.   http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vitamin-d/NS_patient-vitamind/DSECTION=dosing.   But this was in 2010 and there are new studies coming online all the time that show more and greater benefits.

Interestingly, our intake of Vitamin D is less food dependent than our intake of other vitamins. There are certainly foods containing the important vitamin. A variety of fish, including salmon, tuna, cod, flounder, halibut, herring, mackerel, oysters and shrimp; cheeses like swiss and cheddar; whole eggs (the D is in the yolk), milk, all contain Vitamin D. But, traditionally, most of our Vitamin D intake occurs through our skin’s exposure to the sun. It’s widely felt that 30 minutes of sun exposure twice per week gives us the Vitamin D we need to maintain our health.

The recommendations we’ve all followed to limit our skin’s exposure to sunlight does have something to do with the idea that Vitamin D deficiencies have increased. There are studies that show that sunscreens can reduce ultraviolet-radiation-generated vitamin D in the skin. Since those recommendations are probably not going to go away and are necessary to maintain our good health as well, we may need to look at food and supplement sources to take advantage of all the good news that seems to be connected to Vitamin D.

Health is wealth, and for women oily fish is really rich

FoodFacts.com understands that there aren’t a lot of studies that have focused on the benefits of Omega 3s for women’s health. Little research has been done that has shown that women can reap the same benefits as men.

However, a groundbreaking new study has shown that a diet rich in oily fish can cut the risk of heart attack and stroke in women of childbearing age by 90%. That’s a pretty amazing number. And all you have to do to enjoy this statistic is increase your consumption of omega-3 fatty acids. Those are the ones found in oily fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines.

Fish oil has long been recognized as important for heart health, however it is now believed because of gender differences, fish oil may be even more beneficial for women of child-bearig age helping with blood pressure and heart and blood vessel function.

The study out of the Statens Serum Institute in Compenhagen researched 49,000 women between the ages of 15 and 49 all in the stages of early pregnancy. They were questioned about the amount and type of food they ate, how often they included fish in their diet, as well as their lifestyle and family history. The most common fish women ate according to the study were cod, salmon, herring and mackerel.

These women were monitored for an eight year period. Over the course of that time 577 cardiovascular events (things like heart attacks and strokes) were noted. Five of these events resulted in death.

The research revealed that the women in the study who rarely or never ate fish had 90% more cardiovascular problems then the women who ate oily fish every week.

This is one of the largest studies of its kind undertaken that has focused exclusively on women of child-bearing age. It was noted that the cardiovascular benefits of a diet that regularly includes oily fish were evident in this study at fairly modest dietary levels. There are questions regarding how increasing those levels may increase the benefits even further.

We want to make sure the women in our community stay educated and healthy. Here is a list of some other oily fish that will help you reap the benefits of a diet that’s rich in Omega 3s:

Salmon, Trout, Mackerel, Herring, Sardines, Pilchards, Kipper, Eel, Whitebait, Tuna (fresh, not canned), Anchovies, Swordfish, Bloater, Cacha, Carp, Hilsa, Jack fish, Katla, Orange Roughy, Pangras, Sprats

FoodFacts.com will continue to keep our eye out for news like this that can help our community pursue health through the latest research.

Top 10 Scariest Food Additives

Here at foodfacts.com, we like to keep our readers informed of all current and up-to-date information regarding health and food. Here is a recent news article discussing the 10 scariest food additives in some of the most popular food products most can find in their pantry.

There was a time when “fruit flavored” and “cheese flavored” meant “made with real fruit” and “made with real cheese.” Today? It’s artificial everything. Most of the food at your local supermarket is no more authentic than Snooki’s tan. Our fruit comes packaged in Loops, our cheese delivered via Whiz. Sure, it’s edible, but there’s no way your great grandparents would recognize this junk as food.

The problem with additives runs deep. The FDA currently maintains a list of ingredients called Everything Added to Food in the United States (EAFUS), which features more than 3,000 items and counting. Thankfully, most EAFUS ingredients are benign, but a few of them do have potentially harmful effects. Why they’re legal is a mystery to us. Some of them might be backed by powerful lobby groups, while others probably survive simply because some guy at the FDA has too much paperwork on his desk and hasn’t made time to adequately review the data.

Below are 10 of the most dubious ingredients hiding in your food, compliments of Eat This, Not That! 2011. Even if you’re not convinced of their danger, you have to admit this: The more filler ingredients you cut from your diet, the more space you have for wholesome, nutritious foods.

Scary Ingredient #1: Olestrapringles
A fat substitute synthesized by Procter & Gamble. Because human digestive enzymes can’t break down the big molecules, Olestra contributes 0 calories to your diet.

Why it’s scary: In the late ’90s, Frito-Lay released Olestra-enhanced WOW chips and Procter & Gamble introduced Fat Free Pringles. Both products were required to carry warning labels to notify customers about the risk of “loose stools.” Within 4 years, some 15,000 people had dialed in to a hotline set up specifically to handle adverse-reaction complaints. Apparently the complaints didn’t move the FDA, because in 2003, the administration revoked the warning-label mandate. If you want to take your chances with diarrhea, go ahead, but first consider this: Olestra also appears to interfere with the body’s ability to absorb some crucial nutrients like beta-carotene and lycopene. To counteract the effect, processers add some nutrients back, but it’s unlikely that all the blocked nutrients are adequetly replaced.

Furthermore, just last week I tweeted that an animal study at Purdue University found that fake fats like Olestra may cause more weight gain than real fat.

Where you’ll find it: Lay’s Light chips, Pringles Light chips

Scary Ingredient #2: Caramel Coloring
An artificial pigment created by heating sugars. Frequently, this process includes ammonia.stove-top

Why it’s scary: Caramel coloring shows up in everything from soft drinks and sauces to breads and pastries. When made from straight sugar, it’s relatively benign. But when produced with ammonia it puts off 2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole, chemicals that have been linked to cancer in mice. The risk is strong enough that the California government, a bellwether for better food regulation, categorized 4-methylimidazole as “known to cause cancer” earlier this year. Unfortunately, companies aren’t required to disclose whether their coloring is made with ammonia, so you’d be wise to avoid it as much as you can.

Where you’ll find it: Colas and other soft drinks, La Choy soy sauce, Stove Top stuffing mix

Scary Ingredient #3: Saccharin
An artificial sweetener discovered by accident in the 1870s.sweet-n-low

Why it’s scary: Studies have linked saccharin to bladder tumors in rats, and in 1977, the FDA required warning labels on all saccharin-containing foods. In 2000, the agency changed its stance and allowed saccharin to be sold without warning labels. But that doesn’t make it entirely safe. A 2008 Purdue study found that replacing sugar with saccharin in rats’ diets made them gain more weight, proving once again that you should be aware of these faux fat foes.

Where you’ll find it: Sweet ‘N Low, TaB cola

Scary Ingredient #4: Potassium Bromate
A compound that conditions flour and helps bread puff up during baking.

Why it’s scary: Potassium bromate causes thyroid and kidney tumors in rats, and it’s banned from food use in many countries. In California, products containing potassium bromate are required to carry a cancer warning. Fortunately, negative publicity has made the additive relatively rare, but until the FDA banishes it, you should remain on the lookout.

Where you’ll find it: Johnny Rockets Hoagie Roll

Scary Ingredient #5: Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)
Petroleum-derived antioxidants and preservatives.
.orbit

Why they’re scary: The Department of Health and Human Services says BHA is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen,” yet the FDA allows it to be used anyway. BHT is considered less dangerous, but in animal research, it too has resulted in cancer. Oddly, the chemicals aren’t even always necessary; in most cases they can be replaced with vitamin E.

Where you’ll find it: Goya lard, Golden Grahams, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Orbit gum

Scary Ingredient #6: Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil
A semi-solid fat created when food processors force hydrogen into unsaturated fatty acids.sandwich

Why it’s scary: Partially hydrogenated fats are the principle sources of trans fat in the American diet, and a Harvard study estimated that trans fat causes 70,000 heart attacks every year. The good news: Partially hydrogenated oils are beginning to slowly retreat from our food. Progressive jurisdictions like New York City are starting to restrict the allowable amounts in restaurants, and many chains are switching to healthier frying oil. Still, the battle isn’t over. At Long John Silver’s, for example, there are still 17 menu items with more than 2 grams of the stuff. According to the American Heart Association, that’s about the maximum you should consume in a single day.

Where you’ll find it: McDonald’s McChicken, Long John Silver’s Broccoli Cheese Soup

Scary Ingredient #7: Sulfites
Preservatives that maintain the color of food, and by releasing sulfur dioxide, prevent bacterial growth. fig-enwton

Why it’s scary: Humans have used sulfites to keep food fresh for thousands of years, but some people—especially asthma sufferers—experience breathing difficulties when exposed. In the 1980s, unregulated use resulted in at least a dozen deaths, prompting the FDA to slap warning labels on wine bottles and develop new guidelines for proper use. Now restaurants can no longer soak fresh ingredients in sulfites. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, there have been no known deaths since the new legislation took hold. The bottom line: If you’re among the majority of people not sensitive to sulfites, consumption won’t hurt you. If you’re not sure, ask your doctor for a test.

Where you’ll find it: Wine, Sun-Maid Mixed Fruit, Jolly Ranchers, Fig Newtons

Scary Ingredient #8: Azodicarbonamide
A synthetic yellow-orange dough conditioner bagel

Why it’s scary: This chemical is used most frequently in the production of industrial foam plastic, and although the FDA has approved its use for food in the States, the United Kingdom has labeled it a potential cause of asthma. In a review of 47 studies on azodicarbonamide, the World Health Organization concluded that it probably does trigger asthmatic symptoms. The WHO concluded, “exposure levels should be reduced as much as possible.” I’ll put it more concisely: Avoid it.

Where you’ll find it: Dunkin’ Donuts bagels, McDonald’s burger buns

Scary Ingredient #9: Carrageenan
A thickener and emulsifier extracted from seaweed.popsicle

Why it’s scary: Seaweed is actually good for you, but carrageenan is a mere seaweed byproduct. Through animal studies, it has been linked to cancer, colon trouble, and ulcers. It isn’t certain that carrageenan harms humans, but avoiding it is clearly the safer option. Most studies examined degraded forms of the additive, and research from the University of Iowa found that carrageenan could be degraded through the normal digestive process.

Where you’ll find it: Weight Watchers Giant Chocolate Fudge Ice Cream Bars, Skinny Cow Ice Cream Sandwiches, Creamsicles

Scary Ingredient #10: Ammonium Sulfate
An inorganic salt that occurs naturally near active volcanoes and is used commercially to nourish yeast and help bread rise.4036996_orig

Why it’s scary: This nitrogen-rich compound is most often used as fertilizer, and also appears commonly in flame retardants. Thankfully, the ingredient only sounds scary—a 2006 Japanese rat study found the additive to be non-carcinogenic. Both the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the FDA deem it safe.

Retrieved from: Yahoo.com

Sick fish suggest oil spill still affecting gulf!

bp-gulf-oil-spill-fish-kill-290x425
A year after the Deepwater Horizon disaster spewed oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the Florida beaches are relatively clean, the surf seems clear and the tourists are returning. But there are signs that the disaster is continuing to affect marine life in the gulf far from where humans can observe it.

Over the winter, anglers who had been working the gulf for decades began hauling in red snapper that didn’t look like anything they had seen before.

The fish had dark lesions on their skin, some the size of a 50-cent piece. On some of them, the lesions had eaten a hole straight through to the muscle tissue. Many had fins that were rotting away and discolored or even striped skin. Inside, they had enlarged livers, gallbladders, and bile ducts.

“The fish have a bacterial infection and a parasite infection that’s consistent with a compromised immune system,” said Jim Cowan, an oceanographer at Louisiana State University, who has been examining them. “There’s no doubt it’s associated with a chronic exposure to a toxin.”

He believes the toxin in question is oil, given where and when the fish were caught, their symptoms, and the similarity to other incidents involving oil spills. But he is awaiting toxicology tests to be certain.

Cowan said he hasn’t seen anything like these fish in 25 years of studying the gulf, which persuades him that “it would be a pretty big coincidence if it wasn’t associated with the oil spill.”

If he were a detective, he’d be ready to make an arrest.

“It’s a circumstantial case,” he said, “but at the same time I think we can get a conviction.”

Red snapper are reef fish that feed on mantis shrimp, swimming crabs and other small creatures found in the sediment on the gulf floor. Anglers catch them at anywhere from 60 to 200 feet deep. In addition to the snapper, some sheepshead have turned up with similar symptoms, Cowan said.

The fish with lesions and other woes have been caught anywhere from 10 to 80 miles offshore between Pensacola and the mouth of the Mississippi River, an area hit hard by last year’s oil spill, Cowan said.

“They’re finding them out near the shelf edge, near the spill site,” said Will Patterson, a marine biology professor at the University of West Florida.

Patterson, who has been studying reef fish in the gulf for past two years, has sent some of the strange catches to a laboratory for toxicology tests. He suspects Cowan is correct about the oil being the culprit but is withholding judgment.

Red snapper are a popular seafood, with a delicate sweet flavor whether served broiled, baked, steamed, poached, fried or grilled. Asked whether the sick fish might pose a hazard to humans who ate them, Cowan said nobody would want to touch these, much less cook them.

“It’s pretty nasty,” Cowan said. “If you saw this, you wouldn’t eat it.”

Most of the fishermen who caught the weird snappers tossed them back, weighed anchor and moved to another spot, he said. But a few dropped their suspect catch into a box separate from the healthy fish and brought them to shore to show to scientists.

Several of those scientists discussed the disquieting discovery at a conference at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg recently.

“We’re seeing fish anomalies, strange-looking fish,” said Richard Snyder, director of the Center for Environmental Diagnostics and Bioremediation at the University of West Florida, who has accompanied fishermen going out to collect samples for study. “Wound-healing is becoming an issue.”

The key is what happened to the livers and bile, said Ernst Peebles of the University of South Florida, who is far more cautious about attributing the lesions and discoloration to the spill because they could be caused by something else.

The liver, gallbladder and bile system filter out hydrocarbons — oil components — that the fish might consume while eating their prey. If those systems are enlarged, that means they have become stressed out. That, Peebles said, “is very consistent with the impacts of oil.”

If those systems quit working, that would compromise the immune system, Cowan said.

Does that mean the crustaceans and other prey that the red snapper have been eating are contaminated with oil? “I don’t think anybody’s looked,” said Cowan.

However, University of South Florida scientists have found some microscopic organisms called “foraminifera” — forams, for short — that are also showing signs that something troubling is going on in the gulf. Forams live on the gulf bottom and are eaten by worms, crustaceans and fish.

Ben Flower of USF said they have found forams in the gulf “with deformed shells. . . . It was striking.” There is evidence of hydrocarbons from oil in the sediment, but test results that could show if that’s the cause of the deformity are still in the works, he said.

The symptoms displayed by the red snapper are similar to something that happened four years after the 1989 Exxon-Valdez spill in Alaska. In 1993 the herring fishery in Prince William Sound crashed. The herring succumbed to fungus and a virus — their immune systems had been compromised.

However, a 1999 report noted that “the extent to which the exposure to oil contributed to the 1993 disease outbreak is uncertain.”

Gil McRae, director of the state’s marine science laboratory in St. Petersburg, said he thought it was “irresponsible” for scientists to be attributing the red snapper’s symptoms to the spill without further testing and analysis.

All of the scientists involved said they were nervous about what impact this might have on the gulf’s seafood industry, which still has not recovered from the shutdowns and bad publicity during last year’s crisis. Peebles pointed out that any premature release of information could also scare fishermen away from helping the scientists investigate what was going on.

“Now we’re hiding information because political and economic interests don’t want you to say anything because it would affect economic interests,” said William “Bill” Hogarth, a former federal fisheries official who now oversees the Florida Institute of Oceanography. “But fishermen, they’re seeing fish that are deformed.”

Article provided by Craig Pittman