Friday, May 07, 2010

E. coli Tainted Lettuce in the News Again

E. coli tainted lettuce is in the news again... but this time it is E. coli 0145 (not the more common E. coli 0157) and it has been linked to romaine lettuce sold under the Freshway and Imperial Sysco brands with the "best before" date of May 12, 2010.

There are reports of 19 people falling ill owing to the E. coli outbreak, 12 of whom are in hospital. Three of the patients with life-threatening symptoms were diagnosed with hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can cause bleeding in the brain or kidneys:
College students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Ohio State in Columbus and Daemen College in Amherst, N.Y., are among those affected, according to local health departments in those states. (Associated Press - read more.)

FDA Press Release on the Recall

Friday, April 09, 2010

Apples - The Next Superfruit?

A new market survey finds that Americans believe apples should take their place alongside blueberries, cranberries and pomegranates as 21st century superfruit.

The new market survey Apples: The Next Superfruit, prepared by and The Lempert Report found:
"Shoppers regard apples as one of the top three healthiest fruits and 96 percent view the fruit as a value-based anytime food for both adults and children."
Apples were the first fruit we put on our Whole Food Sources for best liquid vitamins. It comes as no surprise to us that this wonderful fruit is finally getting the positive attention we feel it truly deserves!

Phil Lempert, CEO of and The Lempert Report, says, "Apples are rich in nutrients, especially fiber, are fat, sodium and cholesterol free, and contain a variety of phytonturients, including antioxidants, that play a role in the prevention of disease."

Although we are mindful that the survey was conducted on behalf of the US Apple Association, we cheer its findings.

The February 1866 edition of Notes and Queries magazine included a Pembrokeshire proverb: "Eat an apple on going to bed, And you'll keep the doctor from earning his bread."

This phrase over time became, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away."

Yes! Let's get this wonderful fruit onto the superfruit list!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Mom's Grapefruit Diet - under the microscope

You know, I recall several years ago when my mother decided to go on a diet to shed some inches and pounds. Out of all the diets she tried, only one was successful for her... the "grapefruit diet" she called it. It was also the only diet that didn't limit her food intake, and subsequently didn't limit our meals at home.

Well now, twenty-three years later, it turns out there may be a perfectly good scientifically explained reason her "grapefruit diet" worked so well.

There is a small flavanoid called naringenin, commonly found in grapefruit ...and it is coming under intense scrutiny by scientists from the University of Western Ontario following a recent study which showed surprising results.

Apparently, mice fed a high fat diet and supplemented with the naringenin flavonoid did not gain weight, while other signs of the metabolic syndrome were also prevented, according to findings published in the journal Diabetes.

"The marked obesity that develops in [mice fed a high fat diet] was completely prevented by naringenin," said lead researcher Murray Huff from the University of Western Ontario.

"What was unique about the study was that the effects were independent of caloric intake, meaning the mice ate exactly the same amount of food and the same amount of fat. There was no suppression of appetite or decreased food intake, which are often the basis of strategies to reduce weight gain and its metabolic consequences," he added.

You go, Mom!

Little did we know back then that your instincts were right on the mark.

So... how did her grapefruit diet work?

It was actually quite simple to follow and involved eating just one red (or pink) grapefruit per day. She would cut it in half and eat the first half in the morning (no sugar or sweeteners added) before breakfast and leaving for work. Then, in the evening, before eating dinner she would eat the other half of her daily grapefruit.

Just in case, she also always kept a jug of pulpy, unsweetened, unpasteurized grapefruit juice in the fridge. If or when she ever ran out of fresh grapefruit, she would simply substitute a 6 oz. glass of juice for her morning and evening routine.

Little did she know at the time that she was also benefiting her heart and quite likely, based on this study at least, preventing metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a condition characterised by central obesity, hypertension, and disturbed glucose and insulin metabolism. The syndrome has been linked to increased risks of both type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD).

This story brings to my mind the saying, "mother knows best."

Here's to your health! Cheers!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

ISIS Calls for Glyphosate Herbicides Ban

The Institute for Science in Society (ISIS) is calling for an all-out worldwide ban on glyphosate herbacides as data continues to mount against their safety.

In the ISIS report submitted to the US Environment Protection Agency, they indicate:
Latest evidence confirms world's top-selling herbicide used with GM crops is toxic and disrupts sex hormones at infinitesimal doses; time for a worldwide ban. ~ Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

More than 80 percent of Monsanto genetically modified crops (GM crops) are Roundup-Ready... Roundup being a glyphosate herbacide produced/sold by Monsanto.
The herbicide has already been linked with spontaneous abortions, Hodgkin's lymphoma and multiple myeloma in humans; and in laboratory studies glyphosate caused liver damage in rats. Roundup is also highly lethal to amphibians. [link]
The latest research confirms previous studies with respect to the potential toxicity of glyphosate herbicides and also takes a closer look at the amount required to become a threat to human cells. The amount is astonishingly small:
The toxic effects of Roundup (R400) begin at 5 ppm, and the first endocrine disrupting action is already evident at 0.5 ppm, 800 times lower than the level of 400 ppm authorized by the US Environment Protection Agency in food or feed. And these latest results come in the wake of a string of evidence linking the herbicide and its formulations with cancers, miscarriages and other reproductive toxicities, liver and cell toxicities, DNA damages, lethality to amphibians [2] and lately, a range of embryonic defects in frogs. [emphasis added by us - link]

The appalling aside to all of this is the widespread glyphosate contamination of water bodies across the USA. The midwest, better known as corn country, should be particularly concerned about the safety of their water.

We'll bring you more on this subject as it unfolds.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Food Safety on Washington's Plate

The Proposed Food Safety Enhancement Act has passed through the US House Energy and Commerce Committee and now moves to the floor of the US House of Representatives for consideration.

As can be expected, not everyone is happy with the proposed Bill. [see LA Times link]

There were more than a few areas of the Bill that were weakened prior to leaving the House Energy and Commerce Committee, including:
The American Meat Institute (AMI) worked closely with members of the Energy and Commerce Committee to ensure that the language addressing the modified atmosphere (low oxygen/CO) packaging was eliminated from the bill. [link]
Regulation is one thing. Overlap, redundancy and lack of enforcement is another... as you can see from a story I wrote on my political/personal blog over 2 years ago and mentioned here at BLV Health Watch.

Although we will watch this new Bill with interest, considering the advancements in Food Safety over the past 2 years we don't hold out much hope of things actually improving. The most we can expect is higher food costs at the grocery store, in my humble opinion... unless regulators finally become accountable and the overlap and redundancies are eliminated -- to streamline the entire system.

Stay tuned for more updates on this.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Nano-technology Not So Safe?

Nanotechnologies are now commonly found in sunscreen, cosmetics, food, clothing, sporting goods and packaging but a recent report put out by Investor Environmental Health Network (IEHN) claims:
"...some of these technologies are showing signs of posing serious hazards to human health and the environment, including the same kind of grave threats resulting from exposure to asbestos." [link]

Dr George Burdock of the Burdock Group claims that
"...manufacturers lack understanding about how particles can change when they are shrunk to nano-size, and the current economic situation has exacerbated potential dangers, as some cost-cutting companies could look to cheaper, less reliable safety assessments." [link]
The new IEHN report concludes:
"As a result of weak regulations, companies do not assess, quantify or disclose potential and pending liabilities on a timely basis... Today, as potentially ultrahazardous nanotechnologies enter the market, the same regulatory weaknesses that allowed asbestos manufacturers to conceal information from investors are being abused once again to conceal information regarding the newer technologies. Regulators must act now to prevent a repeat of past financial disasters, and to ensure that investors' expectations of forthright accounting are met. Although our report focuses on product-related liabilities, many of our findings are equally applicable to the broader array of contingent liabilities that appear in disclosure reports and financial statements."
With current worldwide annual investment in nano-technology research and development at $9.6 Billion and set to grow to $1 Trillion by 2015, the eight regulatory loopholes are of great concern -- for the financial industry as well as to the health and safety of consumers around the globe.

The complete report (52 pages) can be read on the IEHN website through this link.

I'd like to quote a few excerpts here:
Nanomaterials can represent a special threat to health and safety because the unprecedented manipulation of particles at the molecular scale brings with it unprecedented toxicity expectations - as the particle size decreases so dramatically, materials are able to penetrate the body much more aggressively. In addition, the molecular scale causes reactivity to increase so that harmful effects can be intensified. Previously harmless substances may even take on hazardous characteristics.

Laboratory studies indicate that some nanoparticles ingested from food or water, or breathed in, can pass through the intestinal walls or lungs and reach the bloodstream, allowing them almost unrestricted access to the human body. Some inhaled nanomaterials can access the brain, as they can pass the blood-brain barrier via the olfactory nerve.

Despite the growing number of nanotech food products on the market, consumers have no way of knowing which products contain nanotechnology. Other proposed uses of nano in food include: "interactive" drinks that contain nanocapsules that change color and flavor, spreads and ice creams with nanoparticle emulsions that improve texture, and nanocapsules that carry nutrients and flavors into the body, increasing their bioavailability.

The "nutritional products" segment of RBC Life Sciences markets nutritional supplements and personal care products, and accounted for 79%, 83% and 83% of consolidated net sales in 2008, 2007, and 2006, respectively.51 According to the company’s most recent annual report, they market a line of over 75 nutritional supplements and personal care products, including herbs, vitamins and minerals, as well as natural skin, hair and body care products. Some of these are advertised as food products, while others are "nanoceuticals," or nutritional supplements. One such product is RBC Life Sciences’ Slim Shake, containing Cocoa-Clusters. CocoaClusters are described as follows:

“The natural benefits of cocoa have now been combined with modern technology to create CocoaClusters. RBC’s NanoClusters are tiny particles, 100,000th the size of a single grain of sand, and they are designed to carry nutrition into your cells. During the process of creating Nano-Clusters, pure Cocoa is added to the "Cluster" formation to enhance the taste and the benefits of this treasured food.” This food is touted as a "technologically advanced form of cocoa that offers enhanced flavor without the need for excess sugar." However, nano-sized particles may not behave in the body the same way normal-sized particles of cocoa would behave. This product may therefore cause unintended health effects. RBC Life Science’s disclosure on the potential risks of its many nano-enabled products is nonexistent in its annual reports.

The use of nanosilver as an antimicrobial agent is now widespread, with a wide variety of products now on market shelves. The petitioners discovered no fewer than 260 selfidentified nano-silver consumer products. A recent study reported that nano-silver could harm the immune system, and other researchers have suggested that if nanoparticles from disinfectants get loose and into the body, they might wreak havoc with the human immune system.

"Recent research found that washing nanosilver impregnated clothing caused substantial amounts of nanosilver to leech into the discharge wastewater and eventually into the environment."

A particular group of nanomaterials, carbon nanotubes, raises special concerns because they are similar in shape and rigidity to asbestos fibers. Carbon nanotubes are "seamless cylinders of hexagonal carbon networks and are 10,000 times thinner than a human hair. They are a hundred times stronger and six times lighter than steel and are used in adhesives, coatings and polymers and as electrically conductive fillers in plastics to make polymers more resistant against temperatures, harsh chemicals, corrosive environments, extreme pressures and abrasion."

Multiple laboratories have already independently found that certain carbon nanotubes can cause progressive, irreversible lung damage in test rodents. Two 2003 studies conclusively showed lung damage from exposure to certain carbon nanotubes. Further studies on this topic have increasingly strengthened the link between certain carbon nanotubes and pulmonary damage.

Regulators currently allow companies to conceal emerging science that forewarns of potential liabilities in the future.

If you truly want to learn more, I highly recommend you read the full report.

Friday, June 12, 2009

First Pandemic in 41 Years

H1N1 swine flu was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday, Thursday, June 11, 2009, describing it as a "moderate" pandemic. The reasons for the declaration, per the WHO website:

On the basis of available evidence and expert assessments of the evidence, the scientific criteria for an influenza pandemic have been met. The Director-General of WHO has therefore decided to raise the level of influenza pandemic alert from phase 5 to phase 6. [link]
As of 07:00 GMT, 12 June 2009, total global laboratory-confirmed cases of new influenza A(H1N1) as officially reported to WHO by States Parties to the International Health Regulations (2005) were at 29,669 cases. [link]

What Makes H1N1 Potentially More Dangerous Than Ordinary Flu?

Considering ordinary flu during peak flu seasons account for up to 500,000 deaths per year [link], what makes the new influenza A (H1N1) -- with only 145 confirmed deaths to date -- such a major concern?

There are a few reasons, actually, including...

First, the age and health of some victims. Where most flu viruses tend to be particularly dangerous for the weak, young and the elderly, this particular strain appears to be striking in even healthy individuals and in age ranges generally considered low risk for death from flu viruses.

For example, even though the virus appears to be slowing in the USA, on Thursday three additional deaths from H1N1 were reported in New York -- including a child under 2, a teenager and a person in their 30s.

Second, the virus is spreading from person to person during non-flu season. Had it spread during regular flu season, it could have been far worse, as we find in the third point...

Third, perhaps the most important, there is the very real fear that H1N1 could mutate into something far more dangerous now that it is passing so quickly and easily from person to person.

How Could Swine Flu Mutate?

Back in 2006, when bird flu first arrived on the scene, we ran a lengthy, detailed article here at BLV Health Watch regarding how avian (bird) flu viruses can mutate. Quote:

There are 2 ways the [H5N1] virus could easily mutate...

In humans - if a person who already has flu is comes into close contact with birds who have highly pathogenic avian flu, there is a tiny chance that the person could become infected with the avian flu virus. If this happens, the person would now be carrying both the human flu virus and the avian flu virus. The two viruses could meet in the person's body and swap genes with each other. If the new virus had the avian flu's genes that made it rapidly fatal and the human flu's genes to allow it to be passed from person to person, a flu pandemic could result.

In pigs - pigs are susceptible to both human and bird flu viruses. If a pig became infected with both viruses at the same time, it could act as a "mixing vessel", allowing the two viruses to swap genes and produce a new virus.
With H1N1, the mutation process is the same. With H1N1, however, we already have widespread, fast human to human transmission... The very real danger now becomes a mutation as a result of someone infected with another virus becoming infected with this particular strain.

Keeping in mind that the World Health Organization states "the pandemic is only 'moderate in severity' and cautions against overreaction by the public" ...there is another take from experts:

Experts fear, however, that as it passes through populations, it could mutate to become more lethal and return with increased force in the winter influenza season. That is what happened with the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. [link]

What are the 6 phases of a pandemic?

PHASE 1 - 3: Predominantly animal infections - few human infections.

PHASE 4: Sustained human to human infection.

PHASE 5 - 6: Widespread human infection.

There are two additional non-numbered phases to a pandemic by WHO definition, and they are, in order:

POST PEAK: Possibility of recurrent events.

POST PANDEMIC: Disease activity at seasonal levels.

Link to WHO pdf.

WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl emphasized Thursday that "Phase 6 doesn't mean anything concerning severity, it is concerning global spread. . . . Pandemic means global, but it doesn't have any connotation of severity or mildness."

As they write in their media release upgrading H1N1 to Phase 6 (pandemic status), "We know, too, that this early, patchy picture can change very quickly. The virus writes the rules and this one, like all influenza viruses, can change the rules, without rhyme or reason, at any time." [link]

For now, at least, H1N1 is only "moderate in severity" ...let's all hope it stays that way.

Additional Sources/Resources:

World Health Organization - Epidemic and Pandemic Alert and Response (EPR)
World Health Organization - Situation updates - Influenza A(H1N1)
World Health Organization - Swine Flu Frequently Asked Questions
World Health Organization - Swine Flu Guidance for Individuals
USA Centers for Disease Control (CDC) - H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu)
USA Centers for Disease Control (CDC) - H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu): General Information

News Articles Relating to Pandemic Announcement:

MSNBC - WHO raises flu pandemic to highest level
LA TIMES - Swine flu pandemic declared by World Health Organization
SCIENCEDAILY - Swine Flu Update: WHO Declares Pandemic In Response To Ongoing Global Spread Of Novel Influenza A (H1N1) Virus
ASSOCIATED PRESS - WHO: Swine flu pandemic has begun, 1st in 41 years