April 24, 2013 By Dr. Mercola
I’ve long advocated drinking tea in lieu of coffee, but the downside of modern food technology is again rearing its ugly head and causing brand new health concerns over this otherwise healthful brew.
A recent article in The Atlantic1 raises questions about the safety of plastic tea bags, some of which have fancy pyramid shapes, designed to allow the tea leaves to unfurl during infusion.
Chances are you’ve never even given the tea bag a second thought. But indeed, some of the newer tea bags are made with a variety of plastics; some are nylon, some are made of viscose rayon, and others are made of thermoplastic, PVC or polypropylene.
Anyone aware of the dangers of plastic chemicals leaching out of plastic containers and bottles is likely to be concerned about drinking tea steeped through heated plastic.
The other bad news is that paper tea bags may be just as bad, or worse, than the plastic ones because many of them are treated with epichlorohydrin, a compound mainly used in the production of epoxy resins.
Considered a potential carcinogen by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health2 (NIOSH), epichlorohydrin is also used as a pesticide. Besides making its way into tea bags, it can also be found in coffee filters, water filters, and sausage casings.
When epichlorohydrin comes in contact with water, it hydrolyzes to 3-MCPD, which has been shown to cause cancer in animals. It’s also been implicated in infertility (it has a spermatoxic effect in male rats3) and suppressed immune function4.
This chemical is already a well-known “process contaminant” associated with modern food production. According to the American Oil Chemicals Society5 (AOCS), 3-MCPD can also be found in variable levels in refined vegetable oils, which is yet another reason to avoid such cooking oils and replace them with organic coconut oil.
Do Plastic Tea Bags Pose a Health Concern?
As you probably know, chemicals in plastic containers and bottles have been found to leach into food and drink, thereby posing a number of health hazards. Examples include bisphenol-A (BPA), bisphenol-S (BPS), and phthalates, all of which mimic hormones and act as potent endocrine disruptors.
Unfortunately, according to the featured article, neither the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have any information on the toxicity of plastic tea bags or the levels of plastic chemicals that might migrate into the tea when steeped in hot water. Hard to believe, but true, the US federal agencies are not supervising this potential toxic exposure.
According to the featured article:
“Could plastic tea bags also be bad for our health? They are most commonly made from food grade nylon or polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which are two of the safest plastics on the scale of harmful leaching potential.
Both have very high melting points, which offer some assurance to consumers, as one would think the melting point of plastic is the temperature at which one would need to worry about accidentally eating it.
There is another temperature point for plastics, though, that we may need to worry about, called the ‘glass transition’ temperature (Tg). That is the temperature at which the molecule in certain materials such as polymers begin to break down. As a rule, the Tg of a material is always lower than the melting point.“
Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius). In the case of PET the glass transition point (Tg) is about 169 degrees, and the breakdown point of nylon is even lower than PET.
“If the question is, ‘As the polymer goes through that transition state, is it easier for something to leach out?’ ‘the answer is yes,’ said Dr. Ray Fernando, professor and director of polymers and coatings at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo,” The Atlantic states.
So while these plastics are generally considered among the safest in terms of leaching potential, the molecules in these plastic tea bags may still in fact break down and leach out when steeped in boiling water—which is the recommended way to brew a good cup of tea, especially when you’re using higher quality whole tea leaves, which these newer tea bags are designed for…
Paper Tea Bags May Be Just as Bad, or Worse…
The now defunct Dexter Corporation was the initial owner on the patent6 of a method for treating both tea bags and coffee filters with latex (plastic), to aid in preventing tears that allow the tea leaves/coffee grounds to leak. This invention “saturates and completely impregnates” the entire web material. Therein lies one of the problems with paper tea bags as they are frequently treated with epichlorohydrin, which hydrolyzes to the carcinogen 3-MCPD when contact with water occurs.
Dow Chemical Co is one of the largest producers of epichlorohydrin. According to safety literature7 from Dow, it’s a very dangerous chemical that requires using extra precautions when handling. Granted, that doesn’t automatically render it dangerous in the final product, but it can still be a cause for concern, particularly as it can turn into a carcinogen when water is added. There are many unanswered questions with respect to the potential hazards of using this chemical in products specifically designed to be used with boiling water…
A good way to protect yourself and your family in this area is to purchase your tea from manufacturers who can certify that their tea bags do not contain this compound. Organic India, for example, has sent me a confirmation that the paper used for their tea bags does not contain epichlorohydrin. In a 2009 article, Kristie Leong, MD also claims to have done her own inquiries and that Bigelow Tea Company does not use the chemical in their bags8. Many plastic tea bags are advertised as “silky” or “mesh bags,” or they’ll have fancy shapes or oversized bags. I’d suggest avoiding those as well if you want to be on the safe side.
Your best option would be to opt for loose tea. This does take longer, but it can be well worth the wait. One of my favorite teas is Royal Matcha Green Tea, which has one of the highest levels of the potent antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Unlike other teas which you steep and strain, matcha tea is a powder made from ground green tea leaves. You add the powder right into the water. You are consuming the whole leaf, which makes matcha one of the healthiest green teas available. Another excellent option is loose Tulsi tea leaves. This well-known Ayurvedic herb is also full of antioxidants that fight free radicals in your body and prevent oxidation damage.
How to Brew the Perfect Cup of Tea
There is an art to brewing tea using loose tea leaves, but once you find your “sweet spot” you may never go back to bagged tea again. Here are a few simple guidelines for making the “perfect” cup of tea:
1) Bring water to a boil in a tea kettle (avoid using a non-stick pot, as they too can release harmful chemicals when heated)
2) Preheat your tea pot or cup to prevent the water from cooling too quickly when transferred. Simply add a small amount of boiling water to the pot or tea cup that you’re going to steep the tea in. Ceramic and porcelain retain heat well. Then cover the pot or cup with a lid. Add a tea cozy if you have one, or drape with a towel. Let stand until warm, then pour out the water
3) Put the tea into an infuser, strainer, or add loose into the tea pot. Steeping without an infuser or strainer will produce a more flavorful tea. Start with one heaped teaspoon per cup of tea, or follow the instructions on the tea package. The robustness of the flavor can be tweaked by using more or less tea
4) Add boiling water. Use the correct amount for the amount of tea you added (i.e. for four teaspoons of tea, add four cups of water). The ideal water temperature varies based on the type of tea being steeped:
a) White or green teas (full leaf): Well below boiling (170-185 F or 76-85 C).
Once the water has been brought to a boil, remove from heat and let the water cool
for about 30 seconds for white tea and 60 seconds for green tea before pouring it over the leaves
b) Oolongs (full leaf): 185-210 F or 85-98 C
c) Black teas (full leaf) and Pu-erhs: Full rolling boil (212 F or 100 C)
5) Cover the pot with a cozy and let steep. Follow steeping instructions on the package. If there are none, here are some general steeping guidelines. Taste frequently as you want it to be flavorful but not bitter:
a) Oolong teas: 4-7 minutes
b) Black teas: 3-5 minutes
c) Green teas: 2-3 minutes
6) Once desired flavor has been achieved you need to remove the strainer or infuser. If using loose leaves, pour the tea through a strainer into your cup and any leftover into another vessel (cover with a cozy to retain heat)
After Water, Tea is One of Your Healthiest Beverage Choices
While some tea bags—whether plastic or paper processed with epichlorohydrin—may pose a potential hazard, please don’t let that deter you from drinking tea altogether. Although I still believe pure water should make up the majority of your daily fluid intake, high-quality tea has numerous health benefits to offer. Among them is growing evidence that the polyphenols in tea, which include EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) and many others, can be protective against cancer. For example, the polyphenols in green tea appear to be even more effective at fighting the progression of cancer than the antioxidants found in red wine and grapes. Beyond this, the beneficial properties in tea have been known to:
- Neutralize the effects to your body of harmful fats and oils
- Inhibit bacteria and viruses
- Improve digestion
- Protect against oxidation in your brain and liver
- Help promote healthy gums
Drinking tea has also been linked to:
- Improved mental alertness and slowing of brain-cell degeneration
- Reduced blood pressure
- Protection again type 2 diabetes
- Lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels
- Lower risk of breast, colon, lung, ovarian and prostate cancers
- Reduced risk of heart attack and stroke
Of course, there are some general ground rules to follow when selecting tea of any kind, and those are that it should preferably be:
- Organic (otherwise tea may be heavily sprayed with pesticides)
- Grown in a pristine environment (tea is known to accumulate fluoride, heavy metals and other toxins from soil and water, so a clean growing environment is essential to producing a pure, high-quality tea)
So keep these tips in mind, and go ahead and enjoy a cup or two of your favorite variety. I personally prefer Matcha tea, a vibrant bright green tea made of tea leaves ground into a powder, and Tulsi tea, which is a powerful adaptogenic herb that provides important therapeutic benefits.
It’s the world’s most popular drink, next to water—and it’s steeped in health benefits. Here, what six top brews can do for you.
The scoop: Black tea is the most common variety and accounts for about 75 percent of global tea consumption. Like many of the teas here, it’s made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, which are typically rolled and fermented, then dried and crushed. Black tea has a slightly bitter flavor and contains the most caffeine—about 40 milligrams per cup. (A cup of coffee has 50 to 100.)
Health benefits: Black tea has high concentrations of the antioxidant compounds known as theaflavins and thearubigins, which have been linked to lower levels of cholesterol, says Rebecca Baer, a registered dietitian in New York City. Research has shown that people who drink three or more cups of black tea daily may cut their risk of stroke by 21 percent.
The scoop: Green tea has a more delicate flavor than black. The leaves are dried and heat-treated soon after they’re picked, which stops the fermentation process. It contains about 25 milligrams of caffeine per cup.
Health benefits: Green tea is full of antioxidants called catechins; a subgroup known as EGCG may ward off everything from cancer to heart disease, says Karen Collins, a registered dietitian and a nutrition adviser at the American Institute for Cancer Research, in Washington, D.C. One study found that each daily cup of green tea consumed may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by 10 percent.
The scoop: Oolong is similar to black tea, but it’s fermented for a shorter time, which gives it a richer taste. It contains about 30 milligrams of caffeine per cup.
Health benefits: It may aid in weight loss. “Oolong activates an enzyme responsible for dissolving triglycerides, the form of dietary fat that’s stored in fat cells,” says Baer. One study showed that women who drank oolong tea burned slightly more calories over a two-hour period than those who drank only water.
The scoop: These leaves are picked when they’re very young, so white tea has a much milder flavor than any other variety, not to mention less caffeine—about 15 milligrams per cup. Loose tea may also contain more antioxidants than tea in bags, because the leaves are less processed.
Health benefits: White tea is another health multitasker. It offers the same potential cardiovascular and cancer-fighting benefits as other teas, says Joe Simrany, president of the Tea Association of the USA, in New York City. And some research suggests that it may offer benefits to people with diabetes. An animal study published in the journal Phytomedicine found that consuming white tea resulted in improved glucose tolerance and a reduction in LDL cholesterol. Some experts believe that this may eventually have implications for humans.
The scoop: In this category, aromatic extras, such as cinnamon, orange peel, and lavender, are paired with black, green, or white tea leaves.
Health benefits: Flavored teas have the same levels of antioxidants and the same health benefits as unflavored ones. Those flavored with superfruits, such as blueberries, may contain even more antioxidants, says Lisa Boalt Richardson, an Atlanta-based tea expert and the author of The World in Your Teacup ($25, amazon.com). But skip the sweetened varieties in bottles: You’re better off without that extra sugar, says Baer, who also cautions that flavored tea drinks are often watered down. “Some have such a low amount of antioxidants that you would have to drink 20 bottles to get the amount you would in a single brewed cup,” she says. One good antioxidant-rich, low-sugar bottled brand: Honest Tea (honesttea.com).
The scoop: Technically, herbal teas are not teas at all—they’re usually some combination of dried fruits, flowers, and herbs. Herbal varieties contain no caffeine. Avoid herbal weight-loss teas, which may contain dangerous laxatives.
Health benefits: There has been less research on herbal blends than on traditional teas, but one study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that drinking three cups of hibiscus tea daily could help lower blood pressure in people with hypertension. And evidence suggests that chamomile tea may promote sleep and that peppermint tea may calm the stomach.
The British are rightly famous for their tea drinking.
They–I should say ‘we’, as, yes, your humble author is a Brit–manage to down 165 million cups every day, and there are only 62 million of us.
1. Green tea may help fight Alzheimer’s
2. Old brains love tea
3. Improved cognition
4. That famous calming effect
5. Tea boosts memory
6. Better mental health
Tea for me
“…there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”
by Daily Health Post on March 22, 2013
Boost your brain power and keep your cognitive processes running smoothly into old age with these top ten brain foods.
1. Olive Oil
Drizzling your salad with olive oil or using it to sauté veggies may help preserve your brain’s overall health and function as you age. A 2010 study found that diets rich in monounsaturated fats, found in olive oil, can improve scores on test of overall cognitive function as well as verbal memory.
Like olive oil, avocados contain monounsaturated fats, which also contribute to proper blood flow to the brain and lower blood pressure. Since high blood pressure is a significant contributor to cognitive decline, eating foods like avocados that lower your risk of hypertension is a great way to ward off age-related brain power shortages.
Rich in Omega-3s, sardines give your brain the fatty acids it needs to build and maintain cell membranes. Diets containing high amounts of Omega-3s have also been associated with improved memory and focus, as well as a lower long-term risk of dementia.
These fiber and protein-rich nuts contain another type of Omega-3 not found in animal sources: alpha-linolenic acid, also known as ALA. Plus, just about every type of nut, including walnuts, is rich in vitamin E, which can improve blood flow and ensure that your brain is getting the oxygen it needs to work efficiently.
Popeye may have had the right idea. Researchers at Harvard Medical School found that women who consumed more green leafy vegetables over 25 years exhibited fewer signs of age-related cognitive decline than those who avoided veggies like spinach, kale, and Brussels sprouts.
Women who drink coffee have a far lower risk of developing depression than those who don’t, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Although the effects haven’t been studied in men, it’s likely that this benefit translates to them, too.
If you’re not a fan of coffee, freshly brewed tea is an excellent alternative. Lower levels of caffeine may still protect the brain from depression and boost focus and memory without the risk of anxiety and jitteriness, while the antioxidants in tea improve blood flow to the brain.
Your brain runs on glucose, which means that maintaining steady levels of blood sugar help your brain to work better. Beans provide a steady source of energy to your brain, along with protein, fiber, and minerals that keep the rest of your body functioning well.
Since they’re frequently touted as an antioxidant-rich superfood, you may be getting somewhat bored of blueberries. But this little fact might reinvigorate your love for this fruit: a study in mice found that a blueberry-enriched diet can not only prevent, but can actually reverse memory loss related to object recognition.
When it comes to immediate cognitive decline, dehydration is a serious culprit. In fact, when you don’t drink enough water, your brain actually shrinks. This means that your brain works far less efficiently than when it is hydrated, likely leading to impaired executive functions.
Have any other tips for good brain health? Share them in the comments section!
Dr. Neala Peake, selected from AllThingsHealing.com September 16, 2013
by Drew Kobb, Contributor to Integrative Medicine on AllThingsHealing.com
We all want to improve our lives, to feel better — so why don’t we make the necessary changes to improve our lives? Probably because it seems a little daunting, especially when we compare our current lifestyles with where we want to be. It would be a huge adjustment for most of us to start eating as healthily as Gwyneth Paltrow or become as proficient in the practice of hatha yoga as Nina Dobrev. But you don’t have to get to that level of any healthy practice to live a healthy lifestyle. Healthy lifestyles are built and enhanced day by day, one healthy practice at a time.
Eat Fresh First
You don’t have to start eating completely clean and organic this very minute. That’s too big of a change and will be a shock to your body. Instead, make a gradual change and ease into a healthier diet. One of the easiest ways to start doing this is by making the majority of what you eat fresh rather than pre-packaged or processed.
When you prepare your own food and snacks from fresh ingredients, you have more control over what is going into your body. Processed, pre-packaged food is more likely to contain harmful additives and preservatives, and far less likely to have natural, healthy organic compounds and nutrients.
So make sure that, as much as is possible, you make and eat fresh food.
Take the Active Road
This is not to say you have to get up with the sunrise every morning to practice your yoga asanas, or never use a car again. Some places, such as for long grocery trips or an errand on the other side of town, are just not practical to walk or bike to. But if you’re just headed for one little thing at the corner store, it wouldn’t kill you to walk there, so you should. Whenever possible, take stairs as opposed to escalators or elevators.
Taking a little time to be active, even if it’s for something like this, will mean that much more work is done to move your muscle groups throughout the day.
Your body does the best it can to clean itself out internally, but sometimes it could use a little conscious effort and help to rid itself (ahem: you) of toxins.
Eat diets heavy in fiber, and try to take in substances that naturally work to help your body detox, such as peppermint tea, red pine oil, and ginger. Give yourself a hot steam bath every so often and clean out your pores more thoroughly than you normally do.
Relax and Recharge
Your body needs time to process and take in all the good things you do for it, and repair the damage of a day. So take time every day to just recharge from the stresses you face. Don’t dwell on the things that worry you every minute — take mental time off to relax your brain.
In addition to this, do whatever you can to get adequate sleep. Tests and studies show that your brain starts to lose the ability to concentrate once your nightly sleep time dips below 8 hours, and the average American adult only gets 6.9 hours of sleep each night. So take the necessary time to sleep and rest at night so your body can recharge.
Enjoy the Little Things
What’s the point of making the changes to live a healthier lifestyle if you don’t enjoy your life? Take time to notice and enjoy the small things that brighten your day. Take a moment to just feel the warm sunshine, to savor the food you eat. Relish the simple pleasures of life and allow your brain to release the serotonin that will help you feel healthy and happy. Then sit back and enjoy how much better you feel.
August 4, 2013 by: True Activist
Simply put, your brain likes to eat. And it likes powerful fuel: quality fats, antioxidants, and small, steady amounts of the best carbs. The path to a bigger, better brain is loaded with Omega-3 fats, antioxidants, and fiber. Give your brain a kick start: eat the following foods on a daily or weekly basis for results you will notice.
Start each day with a mix of high-quality protein and beneficial fats to build the foundation for an energized day. Avocado with scrambled eggs provides both, and the monounsaturated fat helps blood circulate better, which is essential for optimal brain function. Worst alternative: a trans-fat-filled, sugar-laden cream cheese Danish.
Green it: you don’t need to buy an organic avocado – conventional is fine. But make sure your supplementary protein is free range, cage free, or organic.
These delicious berries are one of the best foods for you, period, but they’re very good for your brain as well. Since they’re high in fiber and low on the glycemic index, they are safe for diabetics and they do not spike blood sugar. Blueberries are possibly the best brain food on earth: they have been linked to reduced risk for Alzheimer’s, shown to improve learning ability and motor skills in rats, and they are one of the most powerful anti-stress foods you can eat. Avoid: dried, sweetened blueberries.
Green it: buy local and organic, and be mindful of seasonality. When blueberries are out of season, opt for cranberries, grapes, goji berries, blackberries or cherries to get your brain boost.
3. Wild Salmon
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for your brain. These beneficial fats are linked to improved cognition and alertness, reduced risk of degenerative mental disease (such as dementia), improved memory, improved mood, and reduced depression, anxiety and hyperactivity. Wild salmon is a premium source, but we’ll highlight a few other sources on this list for vegetarians and people who just don’t like salmon. Avoid farmed (read: sea lice infested) salmon.
Green it: the California salmon stock is threatened, so choose wild Alaskan salmon only, and eat small portions no more than twice a week.
Nuts contain protein, high amounts of fiber, and they are rich in beneficial fats. For getting an immediate energy boost that won’t turn into a spike later, you can’t do better than nuts. The complex carbs will perk you up while the fat and protein will sustain you. Nuts also contain plenty of vitamin E, which is essential to cognitive function. You don’t have to eat raw, plain, unsalted nuts, but do avoid the ones with a lot of sweetening or seasoning blends. Filberts, hazelnuts, cashews, and walnuts are great choices, with almonds being the king of nuts.
For those avoiding carbs, macadamia nuts are much higher in fat than most nuts. By the way, peanuts just aren’t ideal. Aside from the fact that many people are allergic, peanuts have less healthy fat than many other types of nuts…maybe that’s because peanuts are not actually a nut! They’re still much better than a candy bar, however.
Green it: try to choose organic, raw nuts, and if you can’t get those, at least avoid the tins of heavily-seasoned, preservative-laden nuts that may have taken many food miles to get to your mouth.
Try sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flax seed, and tahini (a tangy, nutty sesame butter that tastes great in replacement of mayo and salad dressing). Seeds contain a lot of protein, beneficial fat, and vitamin E, as well as stress-fighting antioxidants and important brain-boosting minerals like magnesium.
Green it: Again, just look for organic and try to avoid the highly-seasoned, processed options. In general, things like fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts are pretty low-impact, environmentally speaking, in comparison to meats and cheeses.
Opt for the fruit over the juice so you get more fiber. Pomegranates contain blueberry-like levels of antioxidants, which are essential for a healthy brain. Your brain is the first organ to feel the effects of stress, so anything you can do to offset stress is a smart choice.
Green it: pomegranates are seasonal and not generally local for most of us, so enjoy sparingly and rely on other berries like acai, grapes and cherries when you can’t get this fruit.
Garlic – the fresher the better – is one of the most potent nutritional weapons in your arsenal. Eat it as much as your significant other can stand. Not only is it fabulous for reducing bad cholesterol and strengthening your cardiovascular system, it exerts a protective antioxidant effect on the brain.
It makes life easier, but don’t even think about buying the chopped or peeled garlic. Nutritional benefits = zero.
Green it: just choose organic, and go for local if you can get it.
8. Green Leafy Vegetables
Spinach, kale, chard, romaine, arugula, lolla rossa – whatever green you like, eat it daily. Green, leafy vegetables are high in iron (slightly less “green” iron sources include beef, pork and lamb). Americans tend to be deficient in iron, which is too bad, because the deficiency is linked to restless leg syndrome, fatigue, poor mood, foggy thinking, and other cognition issues.
Green it: choose organic, and shop at your farmers’ market or order from a local CSA. Leave out the red meat a few days a week and rely on a big, well-seasoned green stir fry or salad.
9. Cacao nibs
Cacao nibs are among the top five most powerful brain foods, right next to wild salmon and blueberries.
Green it: as long as it’s fair trade and organic, it’s green.
Go figure, but tomatoes don’t usually make the brain-boosting food lists. Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that is particularly good for your brain – it even helps prevent dementia. You have to cook tomatoes to get the lycopene. But this does mean that ketchup is good for your brain. Although because of the sugar in it, you should look to other sources for most of your lycopene intake, such as fresh tomato sauce.
Green it: try to eat tomatoes that are local and get your lycopene in vitamin form when tomatoes aren’t in season. You’ll know when that is – the tomatoes will be pale, tasteless, and pithy.
11. Olive Oil
Though we know the brain does need a small, steady supply of glucose, don’t overlook fat. Studies have consistently shown that a low-fat diet is not the health boon we hoped it would be (remember the 90s low-fat craze?). In fact, avoiding fat can increase foggy thinking, mood swings, and insomnia. A diet rich in healthy fats is essential to clear thinking, good memory, and a balanced mood. Your brain is made of fat, after all.
One study of men found that those who relied on the processed vegetable fats found in salad dressings, snacks and prepared foods had 75% higher rates of mental degradation (dementia, memory loss) than men who ate healthy fats. Most processed foods and fast foods use corn oil, palm oil, soybean oil and other Omega-6 fats. You don’t want Omega 6 fats. Even saturated fat is safer than Omega 6’s.
Choose healthy fats such as those present in olive oil, nut butters, nuts and seeds, flax, oily fish, and avocados. Avoid processed fats found in pastries, chips, candy bars, snacks, junk food, fried foods and prepared foods. Eating the wrong fat can literally alter your brain’s communication pathways.
Green it: look for organic, local, or farmers’ market options when it comes to your food. You should also explore herbal remedies for mood swings and brain health.
You have to brew tea fresh or you won’t get the benefits of all those catechines (antioxidants) that boost your brain. Because tea has caffeine, don’t have more than 2-3 cups daily.
Green it: buy organic, fair trade loose leaf or packets to support sustainable business practices.