what exactly is “natural” flavoring?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Orna @ 9:16 am

If you’re a label reader, you may have taken comfort in the word “natural” that sometimes appears next to “flavoring.”

It’s time to think twice.

Some of what falls into that category is hydrolized vegetable protein, which also sounds innocuous but from some manufacturers is the subject of a nationwide recall due to Salmonella contamination. The latter isn’t such a problem in foods that will be cooked. More insidiously, HVP can show up as flavorings in products such as salad dressing and many snack foods.

To make matters worse, even Salmonella-free HVP can trigger food sensitivities for people. The product is made by breaking down soy, corn or wheat — themselves common allergens — into amino acids. One of those, glutamic acid, can combine with salt to make MSG, without showing up on the label. So, label readers, be skeptical. And if you see an unspecified ingredient called “flavor,” consider heading for the veggie aisle and making your own from scratch. (Via Huffington Post.)

Hunger and obesity combine as “Bronx Paradox”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Orna @ 9:12 am

The French Paradox considers that rich French foods don’t translate into fat French people. The Bronx Paradox considers the converse: New York’s South Bronx has one of the highest rates of both hunger and obesity in the United States. Researchers increasingly link obesity to “food insecurity” — the new, politically correct term for what once was simply called “hunger.” In the South Bronx, nearly 37 percent of residents reported no money for food at some point in the previous 12 months. That’s twice the national average. The issue is a combination of financial and physical access to good food. Part of the problem is too few supermarkets in low-income areas, while fast-food opportunities — filling and cheap — abound. Another component is the tendency to eat while running between the multiple jobs often required to put any kind of food on the table. (Via the New York Times.)

do sugary sodas cause pancreatic cancer?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Orna @ 11:48 am

You know that sugary sodas aren’t healthy, but are they really that bad? A new study reported in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, put out by the American Association for Cancer Research, found a huge health impact in a small number of study participants. Researchers found that people consuming two or more regular sodas each week had a whopping 87-percent increase in deadly pancreatic cancer over peers drinking juice instead. The findings are based on information from 14 years of following 60,524 men and women from Singapore. How does it work? Sugar stimulates the pancreas to create insulin, and the extra insulin may be responsible for turning pancreas cells cancerous. Soda makers find the study flawed, pointing out that only 140 study participants developed pancreatic cancer and only 30 of those drank soda at all. (Via WebMD.)

animals and the pharmaceutical industry

Filed under: Uncategorized — Orna @ 12:33 pm

Many folks in the circles I travel have deep concerns about animals, and often work selflessly and tirelessly to support animal rights. (How pysched were you about The Cove‘s Oscar last night?) They tend to eat low on the food chain, often eschewing animal products entirely — including foods like honey and clothing made from wool. I applaud their principles and deep care for the more-than-human world (as Villanova University Professor Chaone Mallory refers to it).

But as a physician I often see a disconnect on this issue when it comes to certain kinds of health care. For instance, many activists refuse to eat low-impact, health-promoting animal products but don’t think twice about prescription or over-the-counter medications that are tested extensively and cruelly on animals.

I want to be very clear: I am not saying people shouldn’t take drugs when they need them. From an activist perspective, you’re no good to your mission if you’re too ill to act! I’m curious, however, about balancing harms. Is regular consumption of fish/fish oil more cruel than what went into creating Prozac?

In my question to quantify the extent of pharmaceutical testing on animals, I sent a note to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Below is their response. (more…)

fear not the flower

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Orna @ 8:03 pm
Fall-blooming goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) is a common cause of seasonal allergies.

Fall-blooming goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) is a common cause of seasonal allergies.

It’s that season again, when a young plant’s thoughts turn to pollen — making an estimated 60 million people in the United States miserable.

While farmers and gardeners have greater exposure to seasonal allergens, they also have great tools to prevent and treat its symptoms: fruits, vegetables and medicinal plants.

If you know of seasonal trigger for your allergies, approach that season like an athlete preparing for a big sporting event by getting into shape. Starting four to six weeks ahead of the season with your garden’s tools can make a big difference when the pollen strikes.  (more…)

PCBs contaminate many fish-oil brands

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Orna @ 5:42 pm
Photo by Oktaviani Marvikasari.

Photo by Oktaviani Marvikasari.

Y’all know I’m a huge fan of fish oils for almost every aspect of health — from heart and mind to skin and joints, and that’s only for starters.

But a California environmental group found there’s a fly in the ointment, so to speak: They tested 10 (out of 100) common brands of fish oils and found them to be high in carcinogenic and toxic polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. The chemicals were banned in the US 30 years ago, which just goes to show how toxins stick around in our environment once we let those genies out of the bottle. (This is a good thing to remember at a time when even the stalwart European Union is sanctioning new genetically engineered potatoes.)

California has a labeling law that, the environmental groups say, requires these fish-oil purveyors to list PCBs on the bottle, and they’ve just filed a lawsuit to this effect. (more…)

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