Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

The Link Between Carbs, Gut Microbes, and Colon Cancer

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I feel better and better about my LCHF diet. Read this article in Pacific Standard by John Upton:

Colorectal cancer is a scourge of modern times, killing 50,000 Americans every year. It’s responsible for a heavier death toll than any other cancer besides lung cancer and, when it comes to women, breast cancer.

And new research, which was published last week in Cell, has provided insights into the dangerous link between colorectal cancers and modern diets heavy in wheat, rice, and other complex carbohydrates—diets that became possible with the advent of agriculture.

University of Toronto scientists led research that suggests a common type of gut-dwelling bacteria breaks down carbs into certain metabolites that can lead to cancer. These metabolites appear to cause cells that line the colon to divide and proliferate rapidly, forming polyps. These polyps, which can grow into a cancer, are the abnormal growths that your doctor is probing for when they subject you to a colonoscopy.

The scientists found that they could protect specially bred mice from the cancers in two ways. In some mice, they used targeted antibiotics to kill off the clostridia bacteria that convert carbs into the metabolite butyrate. In other mice, they reduced the amount of carbs in their diets.

“We know it depends on bacteria, and we know it depends on carbs,” says Alberto Martin, an associate immunology professor at the University of Toronto and one of the authors of the study. “This is the part of the study that’s still not solid, but we think that butyrate is somehow fueling the hyperproliferation of colon epithelial cells.” Other metabolites of carbohydrates might also be involved, he says. “It would be naïve to think it’s only butyrate.”

The phyla of bacteria . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2014 at 3:16 pm

Roundup-ready GMO corn causes serious health damage

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Perhaps GMO foods are not so benign after all—particularly if the genetic modification was to allow the food crop to survive being sprayed and coated with highly toxic herbicides, such as Roundup. Oliver Tickell reports in The Ecologist:

A scientific study that identified serious health impacts on rats fed on ‘Roundup ready’ GMO maize has been republished following its controversial retraction under strong commercial pressure. Now regulators must respond and review GMO and agro-chemical licenses, and licensing procedures.

A highly controversial paper by Prof Gilles-Eric Séralini and colleagues has been republished after a stringent peer review process.

The chronic toxicity study examines the health impacts on rats of eating a commercialized genetically modified (GM) maize, Monsanto’s NK603 glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup.

The original study, published in Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) in September 2012, found severe liver and kidney damage and hormonal disturbances in rats fed the GM maize and low levels of Roundup that are below those permitted in drinking water in the EU.

However it was retracted by the editor-in-chief of the Journal in November 2013 after a sustained campaign of criticism and defamation by pro-GMO scientists.

Toxic effects were found from the GM maize tested alone, as well as from Roundup tested alone and together with the maize. Additional unexpected findings were higher rates of large tumours and mortality in most treatment groups.

Criticisms addressed in the new version

Now the study has been republished by Environmental Sciences Europe. The republished version contains extra material addressing criticisms of the original publication.

The raw data underlying the study’s findings are also published – unlike the raw data for the industry studies that underlie regulatory approvals of Roundup, which are kept secret. However, the new paper presents the same results as before and the conclusions are unchanged.

The republication restores the study to the peer-reviewed literature so that it can be consulted and built upon by other scientists.

The republished study is accompanied by . . .

Continue reading.

Monsanto will fight this to the bitter end. Monsanto really doesn’t care whether the foods are damaging to the body; Monsanto is striving purely to make sure profits grow.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2014 at 9:12 pm

Why organic food is more healthful

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Sarah Gray writes in Salon:

Could there be a clear difference between organic and non-organic food? An international study, due out next week, in the journal British Journal of Nutrition, presents evidence that there is, indeed, a discernible difference.

Carlo Leifert from Newcastle University, led the team of researchers. Their conclusion states that organic food may have more antioxidant compounds present and lower levels of pesticides — four times lower than non-organic — and toxic metals like cadmium .

Leifert told the Guardian that the differences in antioxidant levels were “substantially higher.” They were apparently ranging between 19% and 69% higher in organic food. This study, according to the Guardian, is the first to show an actual difference between organic and non-organic food.

The debate of whether organic is healthier, is still far from over, as this is only one study. If anything it opens up new questions, and will lead to new exploration on the topic.

And of course not all are convinced, including Tom Sanders, a professor of nutrition at King’s College London. He said the study does show some difference but has some questions. “But the question is are they within natural variation? And are they nutritionally relevant?” he asked, “I am not convinced.” He also believes the article is misleading due to a reference to antioxidants as key nutrients.

The Independent also reports questions amongst the nutrition community, including Professor Richared Mithen of the Institute of Food Research. “The references to ‘antioxidants’ and ‘antioxidant activity’, and various ‘antioxidant’ assays would suggest a poor knowledge of the current understanding within the nutrition community of how fruit and vegetables may maintain and improve health,” Mithen explained.

The results, according to the Guardian are ” based on an analysis of 343 peer-reviewed studies from around the world – more than ever before – which examine differences between organic and conventional fruit, vegetables and cereals.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 July 2014 at 9:17 pm

Food Labelled ‘Organic’ Can Have Shocking Levels of Heavy Metals

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Imported foods, mostly—I hope. Ari LeVaux has the story at AlterNet:

Heavy metal pollution makes no distinction between how crops are grown. Irrespective of whether farming practices are organic or conventional practices are used, if the likes of cadmium, arsenic, lead, nickel and mercury are in the soil, water or air they can contaminate food and poison the people who consume it. With enough exposure, heavy metals can build up in the body, causing chronic problems in the skin, intestine, nervous system, kidneys, liver, and brain. Some heavy metals occur naturally in soil, but rarely at toxic levels, while human activities like mining, manufacturing and the use of synthetic materials like paint, and even some agricultural chemicals, can release heavy metals into the air and water, and from there they find their way to the soil. And once in the soil, heavy metals are virtually impossible to remove.

China acknowledged last April that a staggering one-fifth of its arable land is seriously polluted with heavy metals, thanks to decades of aggressive industrial development. China’s Environmental Protection Ministry looked at data sampled between 2006 and 2013 and described the situation as “not optimistic.” The most commonly found heavy metals were cadmium, nickel and arsenic. The revelation came after months of speculation about the report, which at one point was not going to be released as the results were considered to be a “State Secret.”

Cadmium, one of the metals found in high concentrations in Chinese soil, is one of the most toxic heavy metal pollutants. It moves through soil layers with ease, and is taken up by a variety of plants, including leafy vegetables, root crops, cereals and grains. Last year it was discovered that nearly half of the rice for sale in the southern China city of Guangzhou was tainted with cadmium, which caused a major uproar.

Nickel and arsenic, the other two pollutants found in greatest amounts, aren’t so great either.

In the U.S., arsenic in apple juice has been on the popular radar since September 2011, when Mehmet Oz reported high arsenic levels in multiple samples of apple juice that were independently tested for his television show. More than half of the apple juice consumed in the U.S. comes from China.

Oz was taken to the woodshed for being alarmist by a number of experts and authorities, including the FDA, which disputed the results with its own data. ABC News’ senior health medical editor, Richard Besser, called Oz’s claims “extremely irresponsible,” comparing it to yelling fire in a crowded theater.

A few weeks later, FDA admitted it had withheld many test results which did, in fact, support Oz’s claim. Besser apologized to Oz on national television, and soon after the FDA collected about 90 retail samples of apple juice for a new round of analysis. According to FDA documents now available, the levels reported by Oz are in fact consistent with those detected by the agency in samples from China and Turkey.

Last year the agency set a limit, also known as an “action level,” on arsenic in juice, at 10 parts per billion, the same level that’s enforced in drinking water. Currently, FDA has import alerts set for four firms, two each in China and Turkey. The products of these companies, while regularly tested for arsenic because of previous violations of the action level, continue to be imported.

While China is not the only polluted region from which we import food, with a combination of aggressive industrial development and legendarily lax enforcement, it’s become a poster child for scary food imports. But any region with rapid industrial development and suspect environmental regulations could be a candidate for producing food contaminated with heavy metals.

While we don’t import a huge amount of food from China overall, we do consume large amounts of certain things in addition to apple juice, like garlic and farmed seafood—including 80 percent of the tilapia we eat. Much of China’s surface water, including water used for aquaculture, is polluted, not only with industrial toxins but also with agricultural fertilizers, which fuel the growth of algae. Algae can accumulate heavy metals, as will the fish that eat it. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 July 2014 at 11:04 am

Fascinating fitness experiment

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In Brazil: the payoff from the experiment will, I bet, greatly exceed its cost. I hope they’re tracking things like sick days, public health expense, average hospital duration, etc. The outcomes will be interesting.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 July 2014 at 7:50 pm

Hurting for Work in Texas: What happens to workers when businesses run the government

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The human and social costs behind the Texas push to help big business—costs such as:

Investigative Findings

  • Texas stands alone in allowing employers to forgo workers’ comp insurance, and over 500,000 workers have no coverage if they are hurt or killed.
  • Texas doesn’t regulate private occupational insurance, which often provides fewer due process rights and stingier benefits than workers’ comp.
  • More than 90 percent of employers without workers’ comp flout a requirement that they notify the state of their opt-out status.
  • A quarter or more of employers without workers’ comp underreport lost-time injuries, recent audits suggest.
  • Major court decisions have eroded protections injured workers once had, including the right to sue certain employers who fire them for filing an injury claim.
  • Nearly half (45 percent) of all workers’ comp claims were initially denied or disputed in whole or in part from 2008 to 2013.
  • Workers are losing far more major disputes with workers’ comp insurers, and their margin of defeat has increased.

The four-part story by Jay Root is worth reading, since other state legislatures are likely to take or be pushed into taking a similar course:

Drive almost anywhere in the vast Lone Star State and you will see evidence of the “Texas miracle” economy that policymakers like Gov. Rick Perry can’t quit talking about.

From the largest U.S. refinery in Port Arthur to the storied Permian Basin in West Texas, Big Oil is back. In formerly depressed South Texas, gas flares from the fracking boom can be seen from outer space.

Toyota is moving its North American headquarters to suburban Dallas. And in the once-laid-back university town of Austin, it’s hard to find a downtown street without a construction crane towering overhead.

This hot economy, politicians say, is the direct result of their zealous opposition to over-regulation, greedy trial lawyers and profligate government spending. Perry now regularly recruits companies from other states, telling them the grass is greener here. And his likely successor, Attorney General Greg Abbott, has made keeping it that way his campaign mantra.

It’s hard to argue with the job creation numbers they tout. Since 2003, a third of the net new jobs created in the United States were in Texas. And there are real people in those jobs, people with families to feed.

There’s something about the thriving economy, though, that state leaders rarely mention: Texas has led the nation in worker fatalities for seven of the last 10 years, and when Texans get hurt or killed on the job, they have some of the weakest protections and stingiest benefits in the country.

While Texas has a Division of Workers’ Compensation, it is the only state that doesn’t require any private employer to carry workers’ compensation insurance or a private equivalent, so more than 500,000 people have no occupational benefits when they get injured at work. That means they often rely on charities or taxpayers to pay for their care.

Most Texans who are outside the workers’ comp system — more than a million people — do get private occupational insurance from their employers. But those plans aren’t regulated by the state and can be crafted to sharply limit employees’ benefits, legal rights and health care choices. Only 41 percent of the plans include death benefits, for example, according to state surveys.

Then there’s the state-regulated workers’ compensation system, which covers 81 percent of the Texas workforce. On paper, the policies look great: They all include death benefits, partial income replacement for employees too hurt to work and lifetime medical benefits for serious injuries.

But for thousands of workers, the promised benefits never materialize. Nearly half of all employee claims are initially denied or disputed in whole or in part, and when those denials blossom into a major disagreement before the Texas Division of Workers’ Compensation, workers lose most of the time, according to state data.

“They throw these workers away like tissue paper. They’re nothing more than a used Kleenex,” said Joe Longley, an Austin employment attorney who served as chief of the consumer protection division of the attorney general’s office in the 1970s. “We don’t provide for the workers. We provide for the businesses.”

Workers’ Compensation Commissioner Rod Bordelon has a different view. . .

Continue reading.

Given the corporate takeover of the government—Jim Hightower has a story of 300 Koch-led businessmen are going to spend $500 million to seize control of the Senate.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 July 2014 at 1:07 pm

How politics derailed EPA science on arsenic, endangering public health

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David Heath reports at The Center for Public Integrity:

Living in the lush, wooded countryside with fresh New England air, Wendy Brennan never imagined her family might be consuming poison every day.

But when she signed up for a research study offering a free T-shirt and a water-quality test, she was stunned to discover that her private well contained arsenic.

“My eldest daughter said … ‘You’re feeding us rat poison.’ I said, ‘Not really,’ but I guess essentially … that is what you’re doing. You’re poisoning your kids,” Brennan lamented in her thick Maine accent. “I felt bad for not knowing it.”

Brennan is not alone. Urine samples collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from volunteers reveal that most Americans regularly consume small amounts of arsenic. It’s not just in water; it’s also in some of the foods we eat and beverages we drink, such as rice, fruit juice, beer and wine.

Under orders from a Republican-controlled Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency in 2001 established a new drinking-water standard to try to limit people’s exposure to arsenic. But a growing body of research since then has raised questions about whether the standard is adequate.

The EPA has been prepared to say since 2008, based on its review of independent science, that arsenic is 17 times more potent as a carcinogen than the agency now reports. Women are especially vulnerable. Agency scientists calculated that if 100,000 women consumed the legal limit of arsenic every day, 730 of them would eventually get bladder or lung cancer from it.

After years of research and delays, the EPA was on the verge of making its findings official by 2012. Once the science was complete, the agency could review the drinking water standard.

But an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity found that one member of Congress effectively blocked the release of the EPA findings and any new regulations for years. . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more. For example:

Researchers from Columbia University gave IQ tests to about 270 grade-school children in Maine. They also checked to see if there was arsenic in their tap water at home. Maine is known as a hot spot for arsenic in groundwater.

The researchers found that children who drank water with arsenic — even at levels below the current EPA drinking water standard — had an average IQ deficit of six points compared to children who drank water with virtually no arsenic.

The findings are eerily similar to studies of lead, a toxin considered so dangerous to children that it was removed from paint and gasoline decades ago. Other studies have linked arsenic to a wide variety of other ailments, including cancer, heart disease, strokes and diabetes.

“I jokingly say that arsenic makes lead look like a vitamin,” said Joseph Graziano, a Columbia professor who headed the Maine research. “Because the lead effects are limited to just a couple of organ systems — brain, blood, kidney. The arsenic effects just sweep across the body and impact everything that’s going on, every organ system.”

And the Congressman who fought to keep arsenic in US drinking water?

. . . So, who did it? All the evidence from the Center’s investigation pointed to one congressman: Mike Simpson of Idaho.

Simpson was one of the Republicans who signed the letter to the EPA administrator complaining about the missing 300 studies. He was the chairman of the subcommittee that controlled funding for the EPA, where the language first appeared. He was also a member of another committee where the language surfaced again in a different report. He even asked the EPA administrator about arsenic at a subcommittee hearing.

Simpson, who worked as a dentist and state legislator before entering Congress, is a frequent critic of the EPA. But in the 2012 and 2014 election campaigns, he has been portrayed as too liberal by Tea Party candidates funded by the right-wing Club for Growth.

In a brief interview outside his Capitol Hill office, Simpson accepted credit for instructing the EPA to stop work on its arsenic assessment.

“I’m worried about drinking water and small communities trying to meet standards that they can’t meet,” he said. “So we want the Academy of Science to look at how they come up with their science.”

Simpson said he didn’t know that his actions kept a weed killer containing arsenic on the market. He denied that the pesticide companies lobbied him for the delay.

But lobbyist Grizzle offered a different account.

“I was part of a group that met with the congressman and his staff a number of years ago on our concerns,” Grizzle said, adding that there were four or five other lobbyists in that meeting but he couldn’t remember who they were.

Other organizations that disclosed lobbying the EPA and Congress on the agency’s arsenic evaluation were the U.S. Rice Federation; the Mulch and Soil Council; the Association of California Water Agencies; and the National Mining Association, including the mining companies Arch Coal and Rio Tinto.

Grizzle began making donations to Simpson’s re-election campaign in January 2011, a few months before Simpson took action to delay the arsenic assessment. Since then, Grizzle has given a total of $7,500. That’s more than he’s given in that time to any other candidate.

Asked if the contributions were made in exchange for the delay, Grizzle said, “I don’t see a connection. I’ve been a friend and supporter of Congressman Simpson for a long time.”

When Simpson was asked if he was aware of the donations, he terminated the interview, saying, “I have no idea. But I’ve got a hearing.” . . .

 

Written by LeisureGuy

3 July 2014 at 12:44 pm

Alcohol responsible for 1 in 10 U.S. deaths

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It continues to astonish me that people seem quite accepting of legal availability of alcohol, which is implicated in much violence and many deaths and truly is a “gateway drug,” and yet are almost frantic in their denunciations of marijuana, from which death toll from usage is zero or slightly above—certainly nothing like the toll exacted by alcohol or cigarettes, both of which are legal, regulated, and taxed.

Of course, few would maintain that people in general succeed well at rationality.

Here’s the brief article by Nora Daley from PBS Newshour.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 July 2014 at 9:53 am

Wow! The American diet, dissected—worth pondering

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Great article in the Washington Post by Roberto Ferdman. A must-read.

It’s strange how much we support activities that are clearly detrimental to us—the fast-food industry, for an obvious example based on the findings in the story at the link.

Closely linked: 7 in 10 Youths Would Fail to Qualify for Military Service. That’s strong evidence that we are, in effect, failing ourselves.

And: a good post on the same general topic.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2014 at 2:01 pm

Sugar industry takes a leaf from the cigarette industry, as it were

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The sugar industry is following the cigarette industry’s mode of continuing to make money from destroying people’s health by finding scientists who lack integrity, purchasing them, and having them put out junk studies—or, if necessary, just have their lobbyists or executives write junk articles. (I’m beginning to see why sugar is junk food.) John Upton writes for Pacific Standard:

The mortal dangers of sugar are being covered up and tangled in misinformation by an industry that uses the same tactics adopted by tobacco companies and the climate change-denying fossil fuel interests.

We’ll let one of the industry’s own hired scientists spell out the basics of the faux dispute regarding sugar’s health effects.

“[C]ontinued attempts by some public officials and purported health advocates to stigmatize sugar as ‘toxic’ or ‘poison’ are baseless and have little-to-no scientific underpinning,” a Sugar Association executive wrote in an article on the Huffington Post’s Healthy Living blog. The article goes on to cherry pick research to create an illusion of scientific uncertainty regarding sugar and health links. “Sadly, this hysteria is happening even though sugar is a food we have safely consumed for thousands of years.”

The sad hysteria surrounding sugar is actually misinformation like this, which is spun like cotton candy by flacks, lobbyists, and hired scientists. Yes, humans have long consumed sugar, like the stuff in whole fruits. But we’re not consuming it safely during the modern era of mass production. A robust body of science links modern consumption levels with diabetes, obesity, and cavities—even cardiovascular disease, high triglycerides, and hypertension. Most contrary evidence is funded—or entirely invented—by mendacious merchants of sweetness.

sugar-consumpion

(Chart: Union of Concerned Scientists)

The Union of Concerned Scientists recently investigated the sugar industry and revealed in a new report just how much the industry suppresses science. Here are some of its strategies: . . .

Continue reading.

And yet I bet sugar executives (and the Representatives in Congress who make sure enormous sugar subsidies continue) never question their own actions. Perhaps for the obvious reason: the answer is unpalatable. Cf. Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception, by Daniel Goleman.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 June 2014 at 1:05 pm

Steak this weekend…

with 2 comments

I blogged about this report of a study that purported to show that routinely eating beef would tilt the gut microbiome toward a bacterium whose activities result in a chemical TMAO in the bloodstream, a chemical that encourages heart attacks. (More detail at the link.) This is of concern on a low-carb diet, since beef would move more in the mainstream of foods I eat—though I’ve mostly avoided it, substituting pork or chicken or fish.

But Brian in a comment pointed out this cogent rebuttal of the first study, and I am sure that searching will find other articles (pro and con)—but at least the science is not yet settled. I don’t plan on going on a beef binge, but I will buy it with less concern. Variety in one’s diet is probably the best course, though obviously anyone with a lick of sense will try to avoid refined sugars and flours and products made with them. Neither refined sugar nor refined flour is “food” in any sense save raw calories.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 June 2014 at 10:36 am

Posted in Food, Health, Science

Another article on pesticides as a cause of autism

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John Upton writes at Pacific Standard:

Many of today’s insecticides work by scrambling insects’ brains. And new research suggests they are having a similar effect on the brains of unborn humans, contributing to autism and development disorders—right up until the final trimester.

A team of researchers combined data from the Childhood Autism Risks From Genetics and the Environment (CHARGE) study with data from the California Pesticide Use Report, which is produced through one of the world’s most comprehensive pesticide application reporting programs. They wanted to assess how exposure to pesticides drifting over sprayed nearby fields could contribute to autism spectral disorders and developmental difficulties among mothers’ soon-to-be-born children.

The results of the analysis—which compared insecticide exposure from 1997 to 2008 with mental health metrics of the children of nearly 1,000 mothers in a state where 200 million pounds of insecticides are sprayed every year—were mind-boggling.

“We were expecting to see some association, only because it’s previously been reported,” says Janie Shelton, an epidemiologist working as a United Nations consultant and an author of the study. “But we didn’t expect to see it in the second and third trimesters.”

About a third of the mothers who took part in the study lived, during their pregnancy, within 5,000 feet of a farm where one of the four pesticide lasses being studied were sprayed. These mothers were more likely to have kids with autism, or kids who suffer difficulties developing communication, social, and motor skills (problems that affect one out of every 25 American children).

Children with autism spectral disorders were found to have had a 60 percent greater chance of having had organophosphates sprayed near their mothers’ homes while they were still in the womb. Children with development disorders were nearly 150 percent more likely to have had carbamate pesticides applied near the home during their mothers’ pregnancy. Both of the associations grew stronger as the pesticide applications encroached more closely upon their mothers’ homes.

“Applications of two of the most common agricultural pesticides (organophosphates and pyrethroids) nearby the home may increase the prevalence of [autism spectrum disorders],” the researchers write in their paper, published Monday in Environmental Health Perspectives. “Our findings relating agricultural pesticides to [development disorders] were less robust, but were suggestive of an [association] with applications of carbamates during pregnancy nearby the home.”

A large part of the problem is believed to be that the pesticides are neurotoxic—and tender neuron networks are particularly vulnerable to disruption. . .

Continue reading.

If you think that Monsanto and other such companies will voluntarily curtail their use of chemicals that are implicated in causing autism, then you have another think coming. The businesses that profit from those chemicals will fight to the bitter end to keep selling the, autistic children or not. Their only interest is increasing their profits. Cf. the cigarette industry, the asbestos industry, the automobile industry (which resisted every single safety enhancement until it was required by law and have continued to seek for ways to profit at the expense of safety—e.g., the Ford Pinto, the GM Cobalt). Corporations are sociopaths and the ONLY measure they look at now is profit. Nothing else.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 June 2014 at 1:54 pm

Former state health employees say they were silenced on drilling

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More evidence that corporations control the government. Katie Colaneri reports for NPR:

Two retirees from the Pennsylvania Department of Health say its employees were silenced on the issue of Marcellus Shale drilling.

One veteran employee says she was instructed not to return phone calls from residents who expressed health concerns about natural gas development.

“We were absolutely not allowed to talk to them,” said Tammi Stuck, who worked as a community health nurse in Fayette County for nearly 36 years.

Another retired employee, Marshall P. Deasy III, confirmed that.

Deasy, a former program specialist with the Bureau of Epidemiology, said the department also began requiring field staff to get permission to attend any meetings outside the department. This happened, he said, after an agency consultant made comments about drilling at a community meeting.

In the more than 20 years he worked for the department, Deasy said, “community health wasn’t told to be silent on any other topic that I can think of.”

Companies have drilled more than 6,000 wells into Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale over the last six years, making it the fastest-growing state for natural gas production in America.

Amid the record-breaking development, public health advocates have expressed concern that Pennsylvania has not funded research to examine the potential health impacts of the shale boom.

Doctors have said that some people who live near natural gas development sites – including well pads and compressor stations – have suffered from skin rashes, nausea, nosebleeds and other ailments. Some residents believe their ill health is linked to drilling, but doctors say they simply don’t have the data or research – from the state or other sources – to confirm that.

A state Department of Health spokesperson denied that employees were told not to return calls. Aimee Tysarczyk said all complaints related to shale gas drilling are sent to the Bureau of Epidemiology. Since 2011, she said, the agency has logged 51 complaints, but has found no link between drilling and illness.

“A list of buzzwords”

Tammi Stuck has been retired for just over two years. She still remembers a piece of paper she kept in her desk after her supervisor distributed it to Stuck and other employees of the state health center in Uniontown in 2011.

It was not unusual, Stuck said, for department brass to send out written talking points on certain issues, such as the H1N1 or “swine flu” virus, meant to guide staff in answering questions from the public.

This was different.

“There was a list of buzzwords we had gotten,” Stuck said. “There were some obvious ones like fracking, gas, soil contamination. There were probably 15 to 20 words and short phrases that were on this list. If anybody from the public called in and that was part of the conversation, we were not allowed to talk to them.”

Normally, when fielding calls, Stuck would discuss the caller’s problem, ask about symptoms, and explain what services the department or other agencies could offer.

However, for drilling-related calls, Stuck said she and her fellow employees were told just to take the caller’s name and number and forward the information to a supervisor.

“And somebody was supposed to call them back and address their concerns,” she said, adding that she never knew whether these callbacks occurred.

Sometimes, Stuck said, people would call again, angry they had not heard back from anyone from the department. . . .

Continue reading.

Government in the US is not in good shape, at least so far as guarding the public welfare.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 June 2014 at 1:58 pm

Autism Risk Higher Near Pesticide-Related Fields

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As readers know, I have long believed that the upsurge in autism-spectrum disorders was in part due to our practice of spreading millions of tons of toxins, including neurotoxins, on our fields and food. Now we see evidence supporting that supposition. Lindsey Konkel writes in Scientific American:

The study of 970 children, born in farm-rich areas of Northern California, is part of the largest project to date that is exploring links between autism and environmental exposures.

The University of California, Davis research – which used women’s addresses to determine their proximity to insecticide-treated fields – is the third project to link prenatal pesticide exposures to autism and related disorders.

“The weight of evidence is beginning to suggest that mothers’ exposures during pregnancy may play a role in the development of autism spectrum disorders,” said Kim Harley, an environmental health researcher at the University of California, Berkeley who was not involved in the new study.

One in every 68 U.S. children has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder—a group of neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by difficulties with social interactions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This study does not show that pesticides are likely to cause autism, though it suggests that exposure to farming chemicals during pregnancy is probably not a good thing,” said Dr. Bennett Leventhal, a child psychiatrist at University of California, San Francisco who studies autistic children. He did not participate in the new study.

The biggest known contributor to autism risk is having a family member with it. Siblings of a child with autism are 35 times more likely to develop it than those without an autistic brother or sister, according to the National Institutes of Health.

By comparison, in the new study, children with mothers who lived less than one mile from fields treated with organophosphate pesticides during pregnancy were about 60 percent more likely to have autism than children whose mothers did not live close to treated fields. Most of the women lived in the Sacramento Valley.

When women in the second trimester lived near fields treated with chlorpyrifos – the most commonly applied organophosphate pesticide – their children were 3.3 times more likely to have autism, according to the study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Chlorpyrifos, once widely used to kill insects in homes and gardens, was banned for residential use in 2001 after it was linked to neurological effects in children. It is still widely used on crops, including nut trees, alfalfa, vegetables and fruits.

The study also is the first to report a link between pyrethroids and autism. Application of pyrethroids just prior to conception meant an increased risk of 82 percent, and during the third trimester, the risk was 87 percent higher.

That finding is particularly concerning because . . .

Continue reading.

If you think Big Agriculture cares a whit about these findings, think again: I predict that they will use all their lobbying muscle and millions in “campaign contributions” to ensure that they can continue to use the toxic substances.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 June 2014 at 1:39 pm

Is Air Pollution Linked to Autism and Schizophrenia?

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If air pollution is the culprit, that would explain the steady rise in autism rates. Cliff Weathers reports at AlterNet:

A study recently released by University of Rochester researchers [3] indicates that air pollution exposure may have a negative impact on mental health and could possibly play a role in schizophrenia and autism. The university’s study was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The researchers found that air pollution causes inflammation in the brains of newly born mice, which damages the development of “white matter.” The same parts of the brain are known to be affected in humans exhibiting autism and schizophrenia traits.

The university researchers say that when mice are exposed to extra fine particle air pollution in the first few weeks of life, they developed neurological abnormalities similar to those seen in humans with the two health disorders. The abnormalities were mostly found in male mice, which also corresponds to the high numbers of men and boys diagnosed with both schizophrenia and autism.

The research concurs with a 2013 study published in JAMA Psychiatry [4] that also drew a link between air pollution and autism. That study, by researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of California, found that children who lived in areas with high levels of traffic pollution were three times more likely to be diagnosed with the neurodevelopmental disorder.

But the University of Rochester research is the first to link more mental-health disorders to air pollution.

“Our findings add to the growing body of evidence that air pollution may play a role in autism, as well as in other neurodevelopmental disorders,” said Deborah Cory-Slechta, professor of Environmental Medicine at the university.

The Rochester study found that the brain’s lateral ventricles, which are cavities filled with fluid to protect it from trauma, were three times their normal size. Similar dilation of the lateral ventricles has also been found in humans with autism and schizophrenia. The study also found that mice breathing polluted air also had high levels of glutamate, a neurotransmitter, in the brain.

Glutamate, is one of the most abundant chemical messengers in the brain. It plays a key role in learning and memory [5]. Moreover, serves as a source of energy for the brain cells when their regular energy supplier, glucose, is lacking. But excess glutamate can damage and even kill neurons by generating free radicals in the cells that it over-excites. High levels of glutamate are also found in individuals suffering from these same two disorders.

The atmospheric contamination created by the researchers mimics what might typically be present at peak rush-hour traffic in a moderately-sized U.S. metropolitan area. The mice were exposed to air polluted with extremely fine particles for four hours for eight days during the first two weeks after birth. The finest air-pollution particles are believed to have the greatest health impact, according to the researchers. . .

Continue reading.

And I continue to suspect that the widespread use of toxic chemicals in agriculture also is a contributing factor.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2014 at 9:22 am

The tide turns on dietary fats

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The findings regarding fat as a food are rapidly conquering the idea that fat restriction is in itself a good thing. I think the problem may have stemmed in part from seeing dietary fat (the fat you eat) and going to directly to body fat (the fat that you store), ignoring the metabolic processes in between. It’s perfectly clear that non-fat foods (carbohydrates, primarily) can produce fat, and that fat foods can produce fuel, but this fact was elided in the low-fat push—dietary recommendations from Dean Ornish and Nathan Pritikin, both of whom recommended diets with less than 10% of calories from fat. That diet I can say, based on personal experience, is almost impossible to achieve for any length of time. In contrast, maintaining a diet with less than 10% of calories from carbohydrates is not only easy, it’s delicious. I’m now reaching the end of my fourth week on a low-carb diet and the average shows that I’m getting 5% of my calories from carbohydrates with no effort at all. And the protein levels average 28%, well within the recommended range. My fat intake is thus 67% of calories, and yet my weight is dropping steadily, partly because I feel full with fewer calories and do not get hungry between meals.

And I’m learning how benign many fats are. For example, lard (pork fat), chicken fat, and duck fat are monounsaturated oils, like olive oil, long touted as a very healthful oil. And even saturated fats are no problem: they pass through the metabolic process and are put to good use in our bodies. (Of course, there are bad fats: trans fats and fats too high in omega 6 fatty acids (e.g., peanut oil, canola oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, safflower oil).

DietDoctor.com points out some relevant articles:

TIME: The truth about fat
TIME: Ending the war on fat
WSJ: “The Dubious Science Behind the Anti-Fat Crusade
Saturated Fat Completely Safe According to New Big Review of All Science!
The Real Association Between Butter and Heart Disease in Sweden

 

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2014 at 9:03 am

Posted in Food, Health, Low carb, Science

Interesting comment on low-carb diets

with 3 comments

Steve of Kafeneio sent me a link to a very interesting article on possible bad outcomes if you don’t eat enough carbs to replenish glycogen in the body—and that explains the rapid weight loss when you start a low-carb diet. I need to do more research, but I will point out a few things before linking to the article:

1. The writer, Dr. Terry Simpson, is a Phoenix weight-loss surgeon who does lap-band surgery to help people lose weight. I.e., he’s not a nutritionist.

2. He doesn’t seem to understand low-carb dieting, which he confuses with a high-protein diet. “High-protein” is the term he uses in his title and throughout the article. My daily average protein intake for the past three weeks, in terms of percentage of calories from protein, has been: 31%, 25%, and 29%. The recommended daily intake from protein is 10%-35%, so my intake is not at all high but toward the middle of the recommended range. My carb intake is, of course, quite low: that’s the idea of the diet. Percentage of calories from net carbs (carbs-fiber and figuring 4 calories/gram) has been 5%, 4%, and 6%, so it is definitely a low-carb diet. But it is NOT high-protein.

3. The Atkins books make clear that as you near your goal weight, you begin to increase the proportion of carbs (while watching the calorie totals, thus also cutting back on fat and/or protein to make room for more carbs). It’s only the first two weeks (in general) that you keep net carbs under 20g/day—Atkins calls this the “induction phase” and points out that one can simply skip that and go to the next phase Next week I’ll up my goal limit to 30g/day. I’ll probably keep it there for a while, and then as I come in on goal I start upping it gradually, probably increasing by 5g/day each week—i.e., a week at 35g/day, the next week at 40g/day, and so on. Here’s a description of the four phases of the Atkins plan (note the tabs: Phase 1, Phase 2, Phase 3, and Phase 4). Observe how the diet adds carbs back in as you move through the phases.

But the article is interesting It focuses on what happens when the carbs are restricted. I want to do more reading about this, but assuming that some of you are following along, I did want to point out the article. Given the doctor’s not understanding the difference between low-carb and high-protein diets, I want to make sure that his other facts are straight.

Here’s the article.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: And here’s an article that flatly contradicts Dr. Simpson’s article.

Dr. Simpson writes: “The theory that when carbohydrates are not available your body uses  fat are used as an energy source is wrong! Without glycogen your body cannot use  fat as energy!”

The other article states: “There are indeed ways that fatty acids can contribute to the net synthesis of new glucose.” And later:

If we really do make glucose from fatty acids when times are tight as all of this evidence so strongly suggests, there should be a way for our bodies to regulate this process so that it only kicks in when we are in need of glucose.  Indeed, such a mechanism exists.

Read both, but I trust the latter more because Dr. Simpson doesn’t even seem to grasp that the Atkins diet is not a high-protein diet.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 June 2014 at 12:04 pm

Posted in Health, Low carb, Science

More on low-car eating: The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet

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The Economist reviews a new book:

The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet. By Nina Teicholz.

“Eating foods that contain saturated fats raises the level of cholesterol in your blood,” according to the American Heart Association (AHA). “High levels of blood cholesterol increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.” So goes the warning from the AHA, the supposed authority on the subject. Governments and doctors wag their fingers to this tune the world over. Gobble too much bacon and butter and you may well die young. But what if that were wrong?

In this section

Nina Teicholz, an American journalist, makes just that argument in her compelling new book, “The Big Fat Surprise”. The debate is not confined to nutritionists. Warnings about fat have changed how food companies do business, what people eat, and how and how long they live. Heart disease is the top cause of death not just in America, but around the world. The question is whether saturated fat is truly to blame. Ms Teicholz’s book is a gripping read for anyone who has ever tried to eat healthily.

The case against fat would seem simple. Fat contains more calories, per gram, than do carbohydrates. Eating saturated fat raises cholesterol levels, which in turn is thought to bring on cardiovascular problems. Ms Teicholz dissects this argument slowly. Her book, which includes well over 100 pages of notes and citations, covers decades of nutrition research, including careful explorations of academics’ methodology. This is not an obvious page-turner. But it is.

Ms Teicholz describes the early academics who demonised fat and those who have kept up the crusade. Top among them was Ancel Keys, a professor at the University of Minnesota, whose work landed him on the cover of Time magazine in 1961. He provided an answer to why middle-aged men were dropping dead from heart attacks, as well as a solution: eat less fat. Work by Keys and others propelled the American government’s first set of dietary guidelines, in 1980. Cut back on red meat, whole milk and other sources of saturated fat. The few sceptics of this theory were, for decades, marginalised.

But the vilification of fat, argues Ms Teicholz, does not stand up to closer examination. She pokes holes in famous pieces of research—the Framingham heart study, the Seven Countries study, the Los Angeles Veterans Trial, to name a few—describing methodological problems or overlooked results, until the foundations of this nutritional advice look increasingly shaky.

The opinions of academics and governments, as presented, led to real change. Food companies were happy to replace animal fats with less expensive vegetable oils. They have now begun abolishing trans fats from their food products and replacing them with polyunsaturated vegetable oils that, when heated, may be as harmful. Advice for keeping to a low-fat diet also played directly into food companies’ sweet spot of biscuits, cereals and confectionery; when people eat less fat, they are hungry for something else. Indeed, as recently as 1995 the AHA itself recommended snacks of “low-fat cookies, low-fat crackers…hard candy, gum drops, sugar, syrup, honey” and other carbohydrate-laden foods. Americans consumed nearly 25% more carbohydrates in 2000 than they had in 1971.

In the past decade . . .

Continue reading.

FWIW, since starting the low-carb meals on 23 May, I have lost 1.4 lbs/week, despite some difficulties in finding my footing while moving from high-carb low-fat eating to low-carb high-fat eating. Take a look at the weight chart for those weeks below. The calorie chart bounced around even more. Nevertheless, I think I’m getting it sorted now and expect better progress. I’m sticking with it for now, but plan to go see my doctor in September for a full blood panel and physical to see what obtains.

Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 11.59.19 AM

Written by LeisureGuy

13 June 2014 at 12:05 pm

A potential problem with high-fat diets

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Interesting report on the effects of a high-fat (36% fat—much like the typical Western diet) and a low-fat (13% fat) diet when fed to pregnant or lactating Macaque monkeys.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2014 at 4:32 pm

Posted in Food, Health, Low carb, Science

Mindfulness Can Avert Bodily Responses to Emotional Stress

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Probably why traditional wetshaving works so well for many. Tom Jacobs writes in Pacific Standard:

Emotional stress is undeniably uncomfortable. But the real danger it poses is the damage it can do to our bodies, causing or exacerbating health problems ranging from headaches to high blood pressure.

If we could experience emotional pressure strictly on an intellectual and emotional level, rather than a physical one, we’d certainly be better off. Newly published research suggests there’s a secret to doing just that: Mindfulness.

Confirming previous research, a study finds that “strong identification with, or judgment of, negative thoughts and emotions” can trigger a hormonal stress response that increases production of cortisol. Too many such releases have been linked to an array of health issues, ranging from memory loss to vulnerability to infections.

However, according to a research team led by Jennifer Daubenmier of the University of San Francisco’s Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, this unwelcome dynamic gets short-circuited “if those thoughts and emotions are experienced with mindful awareness.”

“These findings support the idea that the tendency to describe and accept distressing experiences may buffer the impact of psychological distress on physiological arousal,” the researchers write in the journal Psychoneuroendochronology.

Their study featured 24 overweight or obese women who enrolled in an intervention program at USF. The extent to which they practiced mindfulness—which involves being fully aware of what is happening in the present moment, and accepting it in a non-judgmental way—was determined by their answers to a series of statements. Similar tests measured their anxiety level and inclination to ruminate. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2014 at 8:49 am

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