Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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The Everyday Foods Linked To Good Mental Health

The foods can offset the impact of major life events, like divorce and unemployment.

Eating more fruits and vegetables is linked to a lower risk of depression new research concludes.

An extra four portions of fruit and vegetables per day can offset the impact of major life events, like divorce and unemployment.

The boost from more fruit and vegetables could counteract half the pain of getting divorced or one-quarter that of being unemployed.

The effect on mental well-being of eating 8 portions per day compared with none is even more dramatic.

These benefits come on top of the well-known protective effect against cancer and heart disease.

The conclusions come from an Australian survey of 7,108 people carried out every year since 2001.

All were asked about their diet and lifestyle.

The results showed that the more fruit and vegetables people ate, the less likely they were to be diagnosed with mental health problems later on.

fruits-veggies

Dr Redzo Mujcic, the study’s first author, said:

“If people eat around seven or eight portions of fruit and vegetables a day the boost in mental well-being is as strong as divorce pushing people the other way, to a depressed state.
We found being made unemployed had a very bad and significant effect on people’s mental health, greatly increasing the risk of depression and anxiety.
But eating seven or eight portions of fruit and vegetables a day can reduce that by half.
And the effect is a lot quicker than the physical improvements you see from a healthy diet.
The mental gains occur within 24 months, whereas physical gains don’t occur until you are in your 60s.”

One possible mechanism by which fruit and vegetables affect happiness is through antioxidants.

There is a suggested connection between antioxidants and optimism.

Dr Mujcic said:

“If people increase their daily intake of fruit and vegetables from zero to eight they are 3.2 percentage points less likely to suffer depression or anxiety in the next two years.
That might not sound much in absolute terms, but the effect is comparable to parts of major life events, like being made unemployed or divorced.
We tested for reverse-causality—ie whether it might be that depression or anxiety leads to people eating less fruit and vegetables—but we found no strong statistical evidence of this.”

About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. 
He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
The study was published in the journal Social Science & Medicine (Mujcic & Oswald, 2019).

 

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6 Easy Ways to Reduce Stress Naturally

There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about the direction the world is heading. And guess who the decks are stacked against? We’re pretty sure you can figure that one out.  Hardworking people who get up, go to work, and just want to live an ordinary and peaceful life are thrown into a vicious cycle of unrelenting turbulence and cynicism. World events affect our health, whether we realize it or not. More on this later.

We Have Enough to Worry About!

Do we really need another source of stress? None of us want to stress. Sometimes we need to deal with it to get along in life. But why are we asking for more? If you’re fortunate enough to have a steady income, the odds are that you stress too much about work – and probably about finances.

Maybe you or a family member has a disability. Maybe your savings are dwindling if you have any at all.

When one problem gets resolved, another always seems to pop up, doesn’t it?

Now ask yourself: “Do I really want to take on more stress? Why?”

Coping Tips

When the information we take in triggers a negative response, it has a very real impact on our health. Stress is stress; doesn’t matter if the source of stress is personal or not.

That said, let’s take a look at some ways to deal with stress caused by what you see, read, or hear.

6 WAYS TO DEAL WITH STRESS NATURALLY

1. KEEP YOUR MIND ON ONE THING

Did you know that the average person has 50,000-70,000 thoughts per day? While we may take a bit of pride in this number – the brain is a remarkable organ – being mindful of what we think about is essential.

Focus on the task at hand. Discard the extraneous garbage that you don’t need. Including obnoxious new anchors and news hosts.

2. DO THINGS YOU ENJOY

At the risk of sounding incredibly cliché, life is too damn short! It can’t (and shouldn’t) be all serious, all of the time.

Getting out the rut that is negativity bias can be difficult, so make it (much) simpler by doing the things you “get lost in.” Maybe it’s painting, writing, computer games, meditation, or reading.

You’ll feel much more relaxed and rejuvenated.

 

 

3. TALK TO PEOPLE

Keeping with the “Life is too damn short!” theme, take the time to visit your family and friends. Share a good meal, go out together, or just sit around and talk.

Of course, try not to limit yourself to friends and family. If that’s all you can manage, fine; but there’s a whole world out there! Trying joining a group of some sort; one that stokes your passions and adds some much needed Joie de vivre.

4. STAY HEALTHY

While most of us (including yours truly) enjoy the occasional grub/beer/wine-fest, make it a priority to stay healthy.

People have a propensity to over-complicate health. Don’t listen to the 8-pack abs infomercial. Here’s everything you need for basic health:

– Eat 3-5 healthy meals per day.
– Abstain or cut back on alcohol and nicotine.
– Get 30+ minutes of moderate exercise per day (break it up into chunks, if easier.) Make the exercise something fun!
– Drink at least six, eight-ounce glasses of water per day.
– Practice diaphragmic breathing or mindfulness meditation.

5. LIMIT YOUR NEWS EXPOSURE

In fact, try limiting your T.V. time, period. Television, while it’s relaxing for an hour or two here and there, is pretty much a waste of time and brainpower.

If nothing else, limit the time spent watching the news. Instead, try scanning the headlines on Google News, Reuters, or your local paper. Bypass the garbage and only read what you think is essential. (Like sports.)

6. MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Gandhi famously said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Can you imagine the difference if everyone allocated just 10 percent of their time devoted to entertainment and “news” and did something to better humanity?

While we all want to make the world better, the uncomfortable truth is too many of us are spectators and not participants.

Make a personal pledge to help one person a day. How does this change the world? Via the “multiplier effect.”

See, when you help just one person, you aren’t just helping one person. You’re making it more likely that they’ll help someone, and that “someone” to help someone – and so on.

You’re being the change.

May you be happy and at peace this day and the next.

sources:
 


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Pretty Much Everything We Eat Is Full Of Sugar, And That’s A Major Problem

Additives sure aren’t adding to your health.

A frighteningly large portion of the calories and sugar North Americans eat comes from ultra-processed foods, which are tinkered with even more than regularly processed foods and may contribute to serious health issues like Type 2 diabetes, according to a new study.

Researchers from Tufts University and the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil found that ultra-processed foods are responsible for almost 60 percent of all the calories North Americans consume and about 90 percent of all added sugars they eat.

“The content of added sugars in ultra-processed foods was eightfold higher than in processed foods and fivefold higher than in unprocessed or minimally processed foods and processed culinary ingredients grouped together,” they write in the study published Wednesday in BMJ Open.

Added sugars should make up only about 10 percent of a person’s total caloric intake, the researchers note – however, they found that more than 80 percent of North Americans typically exceed this recommended limit.

Processed foods generally have added oils and salt. Ultra-processed foods are different because they’re enhanced with other additives, including colors, artificial flavoring and sweeteners, the study says.

Researchers say the top ultra-processed foods that North Americans consume are:

  • Breads
  • Cakes, cookies and pie
  • Salty snacks
  • Frozen meals
  • Soft drinks and fruit drinks
  • Pizza
  • Ice cream
  • French fries

For the study, researchers conducted at-home interviews and health examinations with 9,317 people of all ages, who also provided them with information about what they ate for a 24-hour period. The researchers say their study is the first to examine the relationship between ultra-processed foods and sugar intake in the U.S.

Eating excess amounts of added sugars is “most likely” contributing to health issues such as obesity, high blood pressure and coronary heart disease, the study warns.

The best thing to do is to entirely cut out these foods from your diet, the researchers say. That may sound easier said than done – and maybe even impossible, especially when life gets really busy. One way to do this is to avoid replacing water, pasteurized fresh milk and freshly squeezed fruit juices by soft drinks or flavored fruit drinks, said Professor Carlos A. Monteiro, one of the study’s authors.

Preparing at least some fresh foods at home rather than buying a lot of packaged meals will help decrease sugar intake, Monteiro added. And when you do buy packaged foods, be sure to look at the ingredient labels – even items like deli meats often contain sugar.

 
By Willa Frej         HuffPost US        03/10/2016
 

It’s Not Your Fault That You Eat So Much Sugar

Consumers don’t even want all this cloying sweetness. Manufacturers made the decision for them.

Consumers’ most common complaint about taste? “Too sweet.”

Americans tend to associate our health problems with sin. It’s hard to find a health story in the press that doesn’t blame greed and lack of willpower for our ongoing epidemics of obesity and diabetes as well as a recent upturn in the rate of heart disease. But the problems stem more from a greedy food industry than from any weakness in consumers. Our supermarket shelves are filled with items made with cheap ingredients, especially sugar and corn syrup, whether people want it or not.

A fascinating new study out of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia showed that among 400,000 food reviews on Amazon.com, the primary complaint was that food was too sweet. People used terms like “syrupy, overwhelmingly or cloyingly sweet,” said behavioral geneticist Danielle Reed, who led the research. She and her colleagues used a machine- learning program to sort through the thousands of reviews covering 67,553 products.

The finding was a surprise; she had designed the study to add to her body of work on the way people vary in the perception of bitterness. Genetic differences make some people much more sensitive to bitter tastes than others, and this can affect whether we love or hate vegetables such as broccoli and kale. She was surprised, she said, that on Amazon reviews, consumers rarely complained about bitterness, or saltiness for that matter. They complained about sweetness. Manufacturers may think they are sweetening things to suit a common taste, in which case they are getting it wrong – but the market is full of oversweetened foods, so the manufacturers mostly don’t lose customers to better-tasting competitors.

Or the problem may be that manufacturers are trying to use the cheapest possible ingredients in a way that consumers will still tolerate. Sugar is cheap, and corn syrup even cheaper. In his book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” author Michael Pollan recounts the way the introduction of corn syrup in the late 20th century tempted manufacturers add as much as possible to many processed foods and to lure consumers with giant sodas and other supersized products that felt like bargains but came with hidden costs. Later, the medical dogma that fat was deadly lead to an explosion of extremely sweet low-fat products as well.

However we got here, it’s clear that the empty calories are contributing to epidemics of obesity in the U.S. and elsewhere. The food police should rethink chastising consumers and turn their attention on the true culprits who are dishing it out.

By Faye Flam           July 10, 2019
 
   Faye Flam is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. 
She has written for the Economist, the New York Times, the Washington Post, 
Psychology Today, Science and other publications. 
She has a degree in geophysics from the California Institute of Technology.
 


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10 Ideas to Help With Loneliness

Have you ever been lonely in a crowd? Have you ever been perfectly content all alone? Me too. And I have also suffered from loneliness.

Loneliness is a complex mental and emotional phenomenon that has at its base a powerful emotion that has survival value for children. All of us have experienced some degree of abandonment, if only for a short time, and remember the painful and scary feeling that goes along with it.

Whenever we are reminded of this feeling or anticipate it in the future, we get a twinge of abandonment distress that we experience as loneliness. This can happen among a crowd of friends or even after making love. It can be pretty confusing and can put you off your game if you don’t know what’s going on.

Here are some tips for recognizing loneliness for what it is and dealing with it in the healthiest ways.

1. Realize that loneliness is a feeling, not a fact. When you are feeling lonely, it is because something has triggered a memory of that feeling, not because you are in fact, isolated and alone. The brain is designed to pay attention to pain and danger, and that includes painful scary feelings; therefore loneliness gets our attention.

But then the brain tries to make sense of the feeling. Why am I feeling this way? Is it because nobody loves me? Because I am a loser? Because they are all mean? Theories about why you are feeling lonely can become confused with facts. Then it becomes a bigger problem so just realize that you are having this feeling and accept it without over reacting.

2. Reach out because loneliness is painful and can confuse you into thinking that you are a loser, an outcast. You might react by withdrawing into yourself, your thoughts, and your lonely feelings and this is not helpful. At its best, anticipation of loneliness might motivate us to reach out and cultivate friendships, which is the healthiest thing to do if you are sad and alone. When you are a child, and your sadness causes you to cry, you may evoke a comforting response from others. If you’re an adult, not so much.

3. Notice your self deflating thoughts.  We often create self centered stories to explain our feelings when we are young, it is not unusual for children to assume that there is something wrong with them if they are not happy. If they are lonely and sad, children may assume other people don’t like them when this is rarely the case.

Victims of bullying may well have fans and friends, but they often aren’t aware of it because the shame and loneliness get more attention. Habitual assumptions about social status continue into adulthood and if you are looking for evidence that the world sucks, you can always find it.

4. Make a plan to fight the mental and emotional habits of loneliness. If you realize you are dealing with an emotional habit, you can make a plan to deal with loneliness. Since healthy interaction with friends is good, make some effort to reach out to others, to initiate conversation and face time even when your loneliness and depression are telling you not to. Yes, it is work, but it is worthwhile, just like exercising is worthwhile even when you are feeling tired or lazy.

5. Focus on the needs and feelings of others, the less attention on your lonely thoughts and feelings. I can walk down the street thinking about myself, my loneliness and the hopelessness of it all, staring at the sidewalk and sighing to myself. Or I can walk down the street grateful for the diversity of people I get to share the sidewalk with, silently wishing them good health and good fortune, and smiling at each person I meet. The latter is more fun, even though I sometimes have to remind myself to do it on purpose.

6. Find others like you. Now days there are more tools than ever before to find out where the knitters, hikers or kiteboarders are congregating so that you can get together with those who share your interests. This makes it much easier to identify groups with which you will have something in common, a natural basis for beginning a friendship.

7. Always show up when meeting up with others. You don’t have to run for president of the knitters society at your first meeting. But you do have to show up. I have been telling others to practice yoga for 20 years and promising I would do it myself for just as long, but except for the occasional coincidental yoga offering at a retreat, I didn’t take the trouble of finding a class I could attend regularly until a month ago. Now I am enjoying it and it wasn’t that hard. I have put a reminder in my phone to resign from the procrastinator’s society.

8. Be curious, but don’t expect perfection or applause. Each time you show up is an experiment, a micro adventure in social bonding. If you are curious about and interested in others, they will be attracted to you because you are giving them attention. So you will get attention in return. Curiosity about others also takes your focus away from those painful feelings that tend to make you hide and sulk.

9. Kindness goes a long way. “There’s nobody here but us chickens.” This is one of my favorite lines from The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment by Thaddeus Golas. Underneath the impressive facades of the high fliers are the same set of emotions we all are born with. Celebrities suffer from stage fright and depression too.

You have the power to offer loving kindness and generosity of spirit to all you come into contact with. It isn’t instinctual to be kind to strangers or people who scare you. But it is a choice. It is a choice that Jesus and Ghandi used intentionally. And in the long run it is a winning choice. The alternative, being mean or stingy with those you don’t know well, can get you a reputation as a Scrooge.

10. Be persistent even if a particular group does seem to be a dead end for you, try another. AA and AlAnon recommend that everyone try six different groups to find one that suits you best. If you are persistent, challenging the assumptions and feelings that tell you to give up and resign yourself to a life of loneliness, and showing up and being curious and kind to others and more and more groups, the odds are in your favor.

And once you have a friend or two, nourish those friendships with time and attention. Don’t be too cautious about whether you are giving more than you are getting at first. If you make more friends and some of them are takers, you can choose to spend more time with the friends who reward your friendship.

Brock Hansen     YourTango     8 Jul 2018

 

loneliness

 

Mindfulness and its proven impact on loneliness: What you should know

(BPT) – Maybe you know someone who stands by taking five minutes each morning to meditate or finds time after lunch to quiet his or her mind and focus on breathing. Whatever the method may be, incorporating “mindfulness” practices into your life can have a wide range of positive health benefits like improving your memory, sleep and immune system; reducing stress and feelings of loneliness and increasing compassion toward others and yourself.

Mindfulness means taking time to pay attention to yourself and your thoughts and feelings. Read on to learn how you can put mindfulness into practice in your life to help improve your overall health.

How to make mindfulness a routine part of your day.

  1. Find five to ten minutes each day to sit quietly and focus on your breath. (Helpful hint: Put your phone on silent or in another room so you can concentrate!) Take the time to notice where your mind goes and how your body is feeling. You just might find that this helps you focus and prioritize your day.
  2. Before you go to bed take time to focus on the good things that happened that day. Write your thoughts down in a journal. Writing them down can help you deliberately recognize the positive, even on a tough day.
  3. Search for “mindfulness apps” on your smartphone or tablet that lead you in a mindfulness exercise. For many people, using an app is an easy way to remain consistent with the practice. And many of these apps are free!

Feeling lonely? Mindfulness can help.

Mindfulness has been shown to help older adults overcome a silent but urgent health issue: loneliness. It is estimated that more than half of adults age 65 and over regularly experience moderate to severe loneliness. Loneliness is characterized by a marked difference between someone’s desired companionship and actual relationships. Through unique studies conducted by UnitedHealthcare and AARP, researchers are applying the techniques of mindfulness to help combat loneliness in older adults.

Loneliness poses a serious threat to the quality of life for older adults. It is linked to negative health outcomes such as higher risk of dementia, mortality and disability.

“The health risk of chronic loneliness, in older adults, is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and has a greater impact on mortality than obesity,” said Dr. Charlotte Yeh, M.D., chief medical officer, AARP Services Inc. “That is why UnitedHealthcare and AARP Services Inc. are collaborating to identify actionable solutions, geared for any individual across the spectrum of loneliness.”

Researchers looked at whether mindfulness interventions, like breath awareness, self-compassion and kindness exercises, could positively impact a person’s optimism and quality of life — all factors that help reduce loneliness.

Conclusions were encouraging: Mindfulness activities were shown to decrease loneliness among older adults. The research demonstrated that mindfulness reduced stress, and improved memory, sleep, the immune system, resiliency and compassion for self and others.

Although loneliness is complex and challenging to address, a mindfulness practice may help you live your best life.

Friday, June 28, 2019                Brandpoint 


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Smart Speakers May Detect Cardiac Arrest

Home devices that use A I may be able to pick up signs of distress and call for help.

Amazon Alexa and Google Home could be lifesavers — quite literally. A team at the University of Washington (UW) created a new tool that can monitor people for cardiac arrest through your at-home smart speaker.

When someone experiences cardiac arrest, they become unresponsive and may stop breathing or gasp for air. The tool can detect that gasp, known as agonal breathing, and then alert authorities for help.

About 475,000 Americans die each year from cardiac arrest. This occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating. Receiving CPR can greatly improve a person’s chance of survival, but only if someone is present.

“Just like smart speakers can listen to Alexa, what we are showing is that they can also passively listen to agonal breathing sounds and either raise an audible alarm or call emergency services when it detects one,” Shyam Gollakota, PhD, an associate professor in UW’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, told Healthline. Gollakota was one of the authors of a new study looking at if Alexa can detect signs of cardiac arrest.

How AI can help save your life

The new tool that UW researchers created is a “skill,” similar to an app, which is a built-in capability that can be used on voice devices that incorporate artificial intelligence (AI). These voice devices include Amazon Echo, whose virtual assistant is dubbed Alexa. Skills can be added to an existing Amazon Echo, Google Home, or smartphone.

Researchers tested out the tool, which was developed using real agonal breathing recordings captured from 911 calls. They collected data from 162 calls between 2009 and 2017, and created 236 clips from the calls. The recordings were captured from Alexa-enabled, iPhone 5s, and Samsung Galaxy S4 devices. After different machine learning techniques were applied, the team came up with 7,316 positive clips.

They were played at different distances to simulate possible locational differences. They also added in sounds that may interfere such as air conditioning running or the sound of a pet.

The team then used a negative dataset that had 7,305 sound samples of noises from people such as snoring.

The technology was able to detect agonal breathing 97 percent of the time from up to 20 feet away. The findings were published in NPJ Digital Medicine.

“We envision a contactless system that works by continuously and passively monitoring the bedroom for an agonal breathing event, and alerts anyone nearby to come provide CPR. And then if there’s no response, the device can automatically call 911,” Gollakota said in a statement.

He told Healthline the technology is being licensed and could be commercially available in a year or so.

“We also envision that our system would give users a warning before contacting emergency medical services or other forms of support and provide them a chance to cancel any false alarms,” Justin Chan, a doctoral student and fellow researcher, who also worked on the study, told Healthline.

The researchers plan to commercialize this technology through Sound Life Sciences, Inc. They want to test it on more calls across the country and in other countries.

Chan noted that the technology preserves privacy. It only runs on a smart device and doesn’t send data to the cloud or a third party. Data is only stored locally for a few seconds as required for processing, and is then discarded, he said.

Despite any potential privacy issues, many AI experts find the cardiac arrest detection skill quite a discovery.

“What these researchers have done is brilliant and a glimpse of an important evolution for smart speakers and voice assistants,” Bradley Metrock, an AI and voice expert and CEO of tech-focused Score Publishing, told Healthline.

smartphone

Physicians on a work in progress

Medical experts say the findings are interesting, but by the time Alexa can detect something is wrong, it may be too late.

Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency department physician at Lennox Hill Hospital in New York City, says agonal breathing may start only after brain damage is already occurring.

“Lack of adequate blood flow to the brain for greater than three to five minutes — the amount of time it takes to result in irreversible brain damage — will typically occur well before the onset of agonal breathing,” he explained.

He says further research may help uncover other biomarkers that could help detect warning signs far earlier.

“I think the concept of monitoring breathing in a contactless fashion to detect a heart attack is a work in progress,” Glatter said. “Since early intervention is paramount in trying to save lives, we may need to evaluate biomarkers other than agonal breathing, since its appearance is a sign that death is imminent.”

Speak up for better health

It may seem odd to use a robotic device as a way to call for help, but AI is increasingly being used as a way to improve people’s health and detecting when something is wrong.

The reason is that AI is particularly good at detecting patterns, explained Marius Kierski, a partner with Sigmoidal.

His company specializes in machine learning and AI.

“I believe that AI advancements have a longer way to go to make it into everyday devices, because of the regulatory requirements,” he told Healthline.

Alexa also has a home security skill that can listen for sounds like glass breaking when you are not home. You just put your Amazon Echo (or Echo Dot) into security mode and tell it you are leaving. It listens.

In addition, the Alexa-enabled devices already have a host of healthcare-related skills. Express Scripts, for example, lets patients check the status of a home delivery and get notifications when orders are shipped. Atrium Health, a healthcare system in the South, allows people to find an urgent care location near them and schedule a same-day appointment.

“You don’t have privacy concerns then because you’re not home to be eavesdropped on,” said Freddie Feldman, president and CEO of VocoLabs. He is creating Alexa skills and other conversational interfaces that can help patients. “It’s a little different [than the cardiac arrest skill technology], but very much the same in that they’re using AI to detect a certain pattern of sounds and then act on it.”

“I think the advancement is really great and interesting,” he added. “Having a device in the home that is connected and ‘always listening’ is actually a benefit in a use case such as this.”

Henry O’Connell, president and CEO of Canary Speech, believes these applications will be primarily used in hospitals and in clinical trials rather than the home

O’Connell’s company is creating technology that integrates AI and machine learning for health. They are working to devise disease classification tools for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as conditions such as anxiety and depression.

O’Connell said hospitals and clinical trials may be a better fit for AI voice applications. In part, this is because in these locations, physicians have to be very clear about how their data will be use in order to get informed consent from patients. Only then can their voice data be used to evaluate them for diseases.

Other AI and health applications are in the pharmaceutical industry, which uses AI in the drug research process.

There’s even a chance radiologists may soon employ AI. A 2018 study found AI may beat dermatologists at detecting some skin cancer signs.


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Weedkillers in Cereals: What to Know

In a new round of testing, the nonprofit watchdog Environmental Working Group found the weedkiller glyphosate in all 21 cereal and snack products it sampled.

“All but four contained levels higher than what EWG considers protective for children’s health,” says Alexis Temkin, PhD, an EWG toxicologist and co-author of the new report, issued Wednesday.

Glyphosate is the main ingredient in Bayer-Monsanto’s weedkiller Roundup.

Monsanto took exception to the report and said its products contain safe levels of chemicals, well below federal limits. The FDA says its standard safe level of glyphosate ranges from 0.1 parts per million to 310 ppm.

The products meet the regulatory standards set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, Temkin says, but the EWG believes that the feds’ “tolerance limits are too high to adequately protect children’s health.”

The EWG first tested oat-based products in August 2018 and then again in October. It did the latest round to see if there has been any shift in the market or if oat-based foods still contain levels that were present before.

In general, the watchdog group found no differences.

In a statement, General Mills spokesperson Mike Siemienas says: “General Mills’ top priority is food safety and has been for over 150 years. Most crops grown in fields use some form of pesticides and trace amounts are found in the majority of food we all eat.”

baby_child_cheerios_cereal

 

What the New Tests Found

In the previous testing, including 94 samples of oat-based foods, glyphosate was detected in all but two samples, with 74 samples at levels above the EWG’s benchmark of 160 parts per billion (ppb). In the latest testing, ”we did 21 samples; four we had previously tested and 17 were new,” Temkin says.

Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch, made by General Mills, had the highest levels, with 833 ppb, and regular Cheerios had 729 ppb.

Temkin says the EWG benchmark for children’s health of 160 ppb is calculated on how much of a substance would result in one additional case of cancer in every million people over a lifetime.

Nature Valley Fruit & Nut Chewy Trail Mix Granola Bar, Dark Chocolate & Nut, had the lowest results, with 76 ppb. Among other products sampled, Nature Valley Maple Brown Sugar granola bars had 566 ppb, Nature Valley Almond Butter Granola Cups had 529, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheerios had 400 ppb.

Complete results are here.

The EWG bought the products via online retail sites, shipping about 300 grams of each to an independent lab to analyze glyphosate levels.

Cancer-Causing or Not?

Are the levels worrisome or not? Experts disagree. The International Agency for Research on Cancer said in 2015 that glyphosate is ”probably carcinogenic to humans.”

The EPA says the chemical is not likely to cause cancer in people. In April, the EPA, while reviewing glyphosate, said it ”continues to find that there are no risks to public health when glyphosate is used in accordance with its current label and that glyphosate is not a carcinogen.”

Most crops grown in fields use some form of pesticides and trace amounts are found in the majority of food we all eat.
~ General Mills spokesperson Mike Siemienas

Glyphosate is a weedkiller and also helps ready crops for harvest. It promotes even drying so more of the crops can be harvested at the same time.

In recent years, some communities have banned the use of glyphosate. To date, three juries have awarded damages in cases involving the weedkiller and cancer. In May, a California jury ordered Monsanto to pay a couple more than $2 billion in damages.

Parents who are concerned can turn to organic products, Temkin says. “We do know that organic oats are going to have much lower levels, because the use of glyphosate is prohibited,” she says. Still, it’s no guarantee, since organic oats might be grown near fields where the weedkiller is used.

Monsanto Replies

In a statement, Monsanto says: “The glyphosate levels in this report are far below the strict limits established by the Environmental Protection Agency to protect human health. Even at the highest level reported by the EWG (833 ppb), an adult would have to eat 158 pounds of the oat-based food every day for the rest of their life to reach the strict limits set by the EPA.”

General Mills’ Siemienas agrees.

“Experts at the FDA and EPA determine the safe levels for food products,” he says. “These are very strict rules that we follow as do farmers who grow crops. We continue to work closely with farmers, our suppliers and conservation organizations to minimize the use of pesticides on the ingredients we use in our foods.”

The allegations, he says, are the same as those made in previous EWG reports.

Sources
Article: Weedkillers in Cereals: What to Know
Environmental Working Group: “In New Round of Tests, Monsanto’s Weedkiller Still Contaminates Foods Marketed to Children,” June 12, 2019.
News release, EPA: “EPA Takes Next Step in Review Process for Herbicide Glyphosate, Reaffirms No Risk to Public Health,” April 30, 2019.
Alexis Temkin, PhD, toxicologist, Environmental Working Group.
The New York Times: “$2 Billion Verdict Against Monsanto Is Third to Find Roundup Caused Cancer.”
Statement, Monsanto, June 13, 2019.
Mike Siemienas, spokesperson, General Mills. 
FDA.gov: “Questions and Answers on Glyphosate.”
Libby Mills, RDN, spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Carl Winter, PhD, extension food toxicologist; vice chair, food science and technology, University of California, Davis.
United States Department of Agriculture: “Changes in Retail Organic Price Premiums from 2004 to 2010.”
United States Department of Agriculture: “Organic Production and Handling Standards.”
Trewavas, A. Crop Protection, September 2004.
Environmental Protection Agency: “Pesticides and Food.”
United States Department of Agriculture: “Organic Labeling Standards,” “Organic Agriculture,” “Organic Market Overview,” “Labeling Organic Product.”
Environmental Working Group: “EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce,” “FDA Bans Three Toxic Chemicals.”
Winter, C. Journal of Toxicology, May 2011.
North Carolina State University: “Strawberry Disease and Their Control.”
The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station: “Removal of Trace Residues from Produce.”
Krol, W. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, October 2000.
National Potato Commission: “US Per Capita Utilization of Potatoes.”
Srednicka-Tober, D. British Journal of Nutrition, March 2016.
American Cancer Society: “Teflon and PFOA.”
Crop Protection: “A critical assessment of organic farming-and-food assertions with particular respect to the UK and the potential benefits of no-till agriculture.”
Journal of Agromedicine: “Pesticide/Environmental Exposures and Parkinson’s Disease in East Texas.”
PLOS: “Choosing Organic Pesticides over Synthetic Pesticides May Not Effectively Mitigate Environmental Risk in Soybeans”
Colorado State University: “Pesticides: Natural Isn’t Always Best.”
British Journal of Nutrition: “Composition differences between organic and conventional meet; A systematic literature review and meta-analysis.”
PBS: “USA to propose standard for organic seafood raised in U.S.”
Food Standards Agency: “Pesticides.”

By Kathleen Doheny        June 14, 2019 
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on June 14, 2019


2 Comments

What Is Folic Acid, Why Do You Need It And What Foods Have It?

What Is Folic Acid?

Folic acid is the synthetic version of the folate, a B vitamin that’s vital for the formation of red blood cells. It also plays a part in helping the body’s nerves function properly. The vitamin is essential in helping DNA form within cells, “allowing each cell to replicate perfectly”, according to the BDA, the association of British dieticians.

If you don’t have enough folic acid in your body, it can cause a form of anaemia – where blood cells have reduced ability to carry oxygen around the body – which causes tiredness, weakness and fatigue. People with a deficiency might also suffer from diarrhoea, loss of appetite, weight loss, headaches, heart palpitations, a sore tongue and behavioural disorders.

Why Is It Important For Pregnant Women?

Folic acid fortification – the process of folic acid being added to grain products – has already been adopted in more than 60 countries worldwide, including Australia, Canada and the US.

The government’s 12-week consultation on whether folic acid should be added to flour follows years of campaigning by charities including Shine, which represents people with the birth defect spina bifida.

Pregnant women are advised to take a folic acid supplement before conceiving and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy to cut the risk of birth defects. But some women forget to take the supplement, do not follow advice or do not discover they are pregnant until it is too late.

Neural tube defects (NTDs) – birth defects of the brain, spine or spinal cord – occur when an opening in the spinal cord or brain remains from early on in human development. “Folic acid can prevent NTDs, but only if taken very early in the pregnancy, and really before conception,” says Clare Murphy, director of external affairs at Bpas.

“Currently, women are advised to take folic acid supplements during the early stages of pregnancy, but around half of UK pregnancies are unplanned, which means that many women have already missed the window to take folic acid by the time they realise they are pregnant.”

Around 1,000 pregnancies are affected by NTDs each year in the UK and more than 40% of cases are fatal. Under plans to fortify flour, experts predict that around 200 birth defects a year could be prevented.

Public health minister Seema Kennedy said the move would also help women from the poorest areas who are less likely to take folic acid supplements. “It is right that we do all we can to protect the most vulnerable in society,” she added.

 

Do Men Need It Too?

Folic acid is important for everyone, regardless of their sex. According to the BDA, men, children and women who are not likely to become pregnant should be able get sufficient amounts of folate (the form of folic acid occurring naturally in food) by eating a healthy diet.

It’s been reported that folic acid can help protect the heart and cardiovascular system, boost sperm count, and decrease the risk for certain cancers. Some evidence suggests it might even reduce the risk of mood disorders.

What Foods Contain Folate (Folic Acid)?

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Beans and legumes (ie. peas, blackeye beans)
  • Yeast and beef extracts
  • Oranges and orange juice
  • Wheat bran and other whole grain foods
  • Poultry
  • Pork
  • Shellfish
  • Liver
  • Fortified foods (ie. some brands of breakfast cereals – check the label).

How Much Should You Have?

Adults and children over 11 years old are recommended to have 200μg (micrograms) of folate daily, according to the BDA. You can get enough folic acid from food alone – many cereals have 100% of your recommended daily value of folic acid. Look on the outside of packets for the nutritional chart or the ‘contains folic acid’ symbol.

Women trying for a baby are advised to have 200μg plus a supplement. For pregnant women, the advice is to take 300μg plus a 400μg supplement during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy – but consult your doctor first, especially if you’ve had a pregnancy previously affected by neural tube defects or if you have diabetes.

Breastfeeding mothers are advised to make sure they’re having 260μg a day, to help their child’s development.

Should You Take Folic Acid Supplements?

While pregnant women are strongly advised to take folic acid supplements, the rest of the population should be able to get enough providing they eat a balanced, nutritious diet. BDA suggests those aged over 50, or those with a history of bowel cancer, should take no more than 200μg/day per day.

Potential side effects of taking additional supplements daily include nausea, loss of appetite, trapped wind or bloating – although the NHS notes these symptoms are usually mild and don’t last long.

If you have any of the following, you should speak to your doctor before having folic acid supplements:

  • An allergic reaction to folic acid or any other medicine
  • Low vitamin B12 levels or pernicious anaemia
  • Cancer
  • Kidney dialysis
  • A heart stent

 

By Natasha Hinde        13/06/2019