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Everything You Need to Know About Potassium

Potassium is one of the seven essential macrominerals. The human body requires at least 100 milligrams of potassium daily to support key processes.

A high potassium intake reduces the risk of overall mortality by 20 percent. It also decreases the risk of stroke, lowers blood pressure, protects against loss of muscle mass, preserves bone mineral density, and reduces the formation of kidney stones.

The primary functions of potassium in the body include regulating fluid balance and controlling the electrical activity of the heart and other muscles.

This MNT Knowledge Center article provides an in-depth look at recommended intake of potassium, its possible health benefits, reliable sources of potassium, the effects of consuming too much or too little potassium, and any potential health risks of consuming potassium.

Fast facts on potassium

  • Adults should be consuming 4,700 milligrams (mg) of potassium a day. However, fewer than two percent of people in the U.S. consume enough potassium.
  • Potassium supports blood pressure, cardiovascular health, bone strength, and muscle strength.
  • Beet greens, white beans, soy beans, and lima beans are the foods highest in potassium.
  • Potassium deficiency can lead to fatigue, weakness, and constipation. It can escalate to paralysis, respiratory failure, and painful gut obstructions.
  • Hyperkalemia means that there is too much potassium in the blood, and this can also impact health.
  • Potassium is available in supplements, but dietary sources are most healthful.

Recommended intake

Potassium is a crucial nutrient, and a very small percent of people in the U.S. consume enough.
The Adequate Intake recommendation for potassium is 4,700 milligrams (mg) per day for adults. Most adults do not meet this recommendation.

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) also reported that less than two percent of people in the U.S. meet the daily 4,700-mg potassium requirement. Women consume less potassium than men on average.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommend an intake of 3,510 mg per day and agree that most of the global population is not meeting this recommendation.

Potassium supplements are available. However, it is best to obtain any vitamin or mineral through food. It is not individual vitamins or minerals that make certain foods important for healthful living, but the combined efforts of a range of nutrients.

Benefits

Potassium carries proven health benefits.

It is an electrolyte that counteracts the effects of sodium, helping to maintain consistent blood pressure. Potassium is also important for maintaining the balance of acids and bases in the body. Bases are alkalis that have not yet dissolved in water.

Blood pressure and cardiovascular health

Low potassium intake has repeatedly been linked with high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Maintaining a low sodium intake is essential to lowering blood pressure, but ensuring a good intake of potassium may be just as important.

An increase in potassium intake along with a decrease in sodium is crucial to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

In one study, those who consumed 4,069 mg of potassium per day had a 49 percent lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease compared with those who consumed about 1,000 mg per day.

Bone and muscle maintenance

Potassium-rich foods maintain an alkaline environment in the body, unlike in acidosis. Metabolic acidosis is triggered by a diet full of acidifying foods like meat, dairy products, and processed cereal grains. Acidosis is a common outcome of the typically acidic Western diet.

Acidosis can cause nitrogen excretion, loss in bone mineral density, and muscle wasting. A diet high in potassium can help preserve muscle mass in older people, as well as during conditions that tend to lead to muscle wasting, such as diabetic ketosis. However, a sufficient potassium intake can help prevent this.

One study found that participants that took in 5,266 milligrams of potassium per day maintained an average of 3.6 more pounds of lean tissue mass than those with a potassium intake 50 percent lower. Some studies also show an increase in bone density with high potassium intake.

Foods high in potassium

White beans are among the most potassium-rich foods, as are many other types of bean.
Potassium is found in many whole, unprocessed foods.

Some of the best sources of potassium are fresh leafy greens, avocados, tomatoes, potatoes, and beans. Processing greatly reduces the amount of dietary potassium. A diet high in processed foods is probably low in potassium.

Many processed foods are also high in sodium. As sodium consumption rises, increased potassium is needed to cancel out the effect of sodium on blood pressure.

Here is a table showing the nutritional benefit provided by one cup of the most potassium-rich foods.

Food type (1 cup)                     Amount of potassium provided in milligrams (mg)
Cooked, boiled, or drained beet greens, without salt 1,309
Canned white beans 1,189
Cooked, boiled, or drained soy beans, without salt 970
Cooked, boiled, or drained lima beans, without salt 969
Baked sweet potato 950
Sliced avocado 708
Cooked, boiled, or drained mushrooms, without salt 555
Sliced banana 537
Red, ripe, raw tomatoes 427
Raw cantaloupe melon 417

A good way to reduce the harmful effects of high-sodium meals is to eat a high-potassium fruit or vegetable with each meal.

There are many more sources of potassium outside of this list. Be sure to check the potassium content of any preferred foods using the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database.

Deficiency

Potassium deficiency can cause a range of symptoms and health problems. It is also known as hypokalemia.

A normal potassium level is defined as between 3.5 and 5.0 millimoles per liter (mmol/L).

Hypokalemia is diagnosed when potassium levels fall below 3.5 mmol/L. Mild potassium deficiency will generally not present with symptoms. A potassium level lower than 2.5 mmol/L is considered extremely deficient, and symptoms will become more severe as levels reduce.

Symptoms of low potassium levels include:

  • malaise and fatigue
  • weakness and muscle pain all over the body
  • constipation

Extremely low potassium levels can cause:

  • severe muscle weakness and paralysis
  • respiratory failure
  • painful obstructions in the gut
  • tingling, crawling, numb, or itchy sensations main felt in the hands, feet, legs, or arms
  • intermittent muscle spasms

Low potassium can be diagnosed using simple blood tests and treated by alterations to the diet, including supplements. Having regular medicals and health screenings will also help a person track their potassium levels and avoid any potential shortfalls.

Risks

Potassium can also cause health problems when a person consumes more than the 4,700 mg recommended Adequate Intake.

Individuals with good kidney function can efficiently rid the body of excess amounts of potassium in the urine. This process normally has no adverse side effects.

There have been a small number of reports that potassium toxicity is associated with an extremely high intake of potassium supplements. No food-related potassium toxicity has ever been reported.

Hyperkalemia

Consuming too much potassium can be harmful to people whose kidneys are not fully functional. Excessive potassium consumption can lead to hyperkalemia, in which the kidneys cannot remove enough potassium from the body. This can be dangerous if the condition escalates quickly.

Potassium levels between 5.1 and 6.0 mmol/L are considered high and warrant monitoring and management. Levels higher than 6.0 mmol/L are dangerous.

Hyperkalemia will mostly be either symptomless or present very few symptoms. However, when symptoms do present, they are similar to those that occur in hypokalemia.

Severe or sudden hyperkalemia can cause heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and chest pain. At this stage, hyperkalemia can become a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention.

Reducing potassium intake

Hyperkalemia is treated by reducing the intake of potassium.

Potassium and sodium are part of a constant balancing act within the body. Maintaining this balance is vital to the smooth function of bodily systems.

If hyperkalemia is suspected, it is best to avoid high-potassium foods, such as the ones listed above. Salt substitutes, herbal remedies, or supplements should also not be consumed. These can all boost potassium levels rather than balance them.

High potassium levels have been linked to two cases of cardiac arrest. If the kidneys are unable to remove excess potassium from the blood, the effects of potassium on the heart could be fatal.

Takeaway

Potassium is vital to bodily function but does not hold the answers to healthful living on its own. Overall eating patterns and dietary balance are most important in bolstering health and keeping disease at bay.

Wed 10 January 2018 
By Megan Ware RDN LD
Reviewed by Alan Carter, PharmD
yogurt

 

10 Foods Higher in Potassium Than a Banana

Surprise! Bananas deliver less than 10 percent of our daily dose of the mineral potassium, which protects against stroke and heart disease. Here’s how to get the rest.

Butternut squash

This sweet root vegetable tops bananas in the rankings of foods high in potassium, delivering 582 milligrams of the essential mineral in one cup, compared to 420 milligrams in a banana. According to the U.S. RDA, adults should aim to get 4,700 milligrams of potassium a day.

Edamame

Soybeans are one of the top foods with potassium, packing in 676 mg per cup. Edamame beans are also one of the world’s best sources of plant-based protein because they contain all the essential micronutrients our bodies need to build muscle. Edamame are delicious roasted with a sprinkle of salt.

White and sweet potatoes

Fresh organic potato stand out among many large background potatoes in the market. Close-up potatoes texture.

A sweet potato contains 438 mg of potassium, while its cousin, the white potato, delivers a whopping 950 mg. Both types of tubers also come with high levels of vitamin A. People often confuse yams and sweet potatoes; for potassium, you’ll want to stick with sweet potatoes.

Swiss chard

Get 961 mg of potassium by cooking up a single cup of Swiss chard. Not only is it one of the foods high in potassium, but the leafy green is also packed with iron, calcium, and vitamins A, C, and K. Foods with potassium aren’t the only ones you should be adding to your diet.

Beet greens

Another one of the foods high in potassium? Chop and roast just one cup of beet greens for a 655-mg dose. As a bonus, you’ll also get folate, manganese, and copper, not to mention dietary fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin C, iron, and vitamin B6.

Tomato sauce

Not many people think of tomato sauce as one of the foods high in potassium, but topping your pizza, pasta, or vegetables with one cup of the stuff will get you 905 mg of the nutrient. Make sure to pick the perfect pasta shape to go with your tomato sauce.

Black beans

When you’re looking for foods high in potassium, black beans are a top choice, delivering a hefty 681 mg. This legume is also a great source of vegetarian protein and dietary fiber, plus a long list of other health boosters, including antioxidants, iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, manganese, copper, and zinc.

White beans

Surprisingly, white beans are the best source of potassium you can get. Just one cup contains an impressive 1,190 mg of potassium, which is about one-fourth of the daily recommended amount. Similar to black beans, they also contain protein, fiber, and a host of other healthful vitamins and minerals.

Watermelon

Two slices of watermelon contain a whopping 640 mg of potassium. Plus, its star ingredient is lycopene, a plant pigment that has been known to reduce the risk of some cancers.

Yogurt

Yogurt is a great source of calcium and delivers 380 mg of potassium per eight-ounce cup. Bring it over the banana threshold by adding one ounce of hazelnuts, which have 211 mg of potassium.

Morgan Cutolo
source: www.rd.com
Originally Published on Reader’s Digest
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The Health Dangers of Soy

Who hasn’t heard of the marvels of soy? The marketing bandwagon has touted soy as the perfect health food for decades. But could something that sounds so healthful actually be dangerous?

If you take the time to look into the actual science, then the answer is yes. Thousands of studies link soy to malnutrition, digestive distress, immune system breakdown, thyroid dysfunction, cognitive decline, reproductive disorders and infertility — even cancer and heart disease.

One of the primary reasons it would be wise for you to avoid soy is that more than 90 percent of soybeans grown in the United States are genetically modified. Since the introduction of genetically engineered foods in 1996, we’ve had an upsurge in low birth weight babies, infertility, and other problems in the U.S., and animal studies have shown devastating effects from genetically engineered soy including allergies, sterility, birth defects, and offspring death rates up to five times higher than normal.

Soybean crops are also heavily sprayed with chemical herbicides, such glyphosate, which a French team of researchers have found to be carcinogenic.

Soybeans — even organically grown soybeans — naturally contain “antinutrients” such as saponins, soyatoxin, phytates, trypsin inhibitors, goitrogens and phytoestrogens. Traditional fermentation destroys these antinutrients, which allows your body to enjoy soy’s nutritional benefits. However, most Westerners do not consume fermented soy, but rather unfermented soy, mostly in the form of soymilk, tofu, TVP, and soy infant formula.

Unfermented soy has the following 10 adverse affects on your body:

1. High Phytic Acid (Phytates): Reduces assimilation of calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc. Phytic acid in soy is not neutralized by ordinary preparation methods such as soaking, sprouting and long, slow cooking, but only with long fermentation. High-phytate diets have caused growth problems in children.

2. Trypsin inhibitors: Interferes with protein digestion and may cause pancreatic disorders. In test animals, trypsin inhibitors in soy caused stunted growth.

3. Goitrogens: Potent agents that block your synthesis of thyroid hormones and can cause hypothyroidism and thyroid cancer. In infants, consumption of soy formula has been linked with autoimmune thyroid disease. Goitrogens interfere with iodine metabolism.

4. Phytoestrogens/Isoflavones: Plant compounds resembling human estrogen can block your normal estrogen and disrupt endocrine function, cause infertility, and increase your risk for breast cancer.

5. Hemagglutinin: A clot-promoting substance that causes your red blood cells to clump, making them unable to properly absorb and distribute oxygen to your tissues.

6. Synthetic Vitamin D: Soy foods increase your body’s vitamin D requirement, which is why companies add synthetic vitamin D2 to soymilk (a toxic form of vitamin D).

7. Vitamin B12: Soy contains a compound resembling vitamin B12 that cannot be used by your body, so soy foods can actually contribute to B12 deficiency, especially among vegans.

8. Protein Denaturing: Fragile proteins are denatured during high temperature processing to make soy protein isolate and textured vegetable protein (TVP). Chemical processing of soy protein results in the formation of toxic lysinoalanine and highly carcinogenic nitrosamines.

9. MSG: Free glutamic acid, or MSG, is a potent neurotoxin. MSG is formed during soy food processing, plus additional MSG is often added to mask soy’s unpleasant taste.

10. Aluminum and Manganese: Soy foods contain high levels of aluminum, which is toxic to your nervous system and kidneys, and manganese, which wreaks havoc on your baby’s immature metabolic system.

Soy’s antinutrients are quite potent. Drinking just two glasses of soymilk daily provides enough of these compounds to alter a woman’s menstrual cycle. But if you feed soy to your infant or child, these effects are magnified a thousand-fold. Infants fed soy formula may have up to 20,000 times more estrogen circulating through their bodies as those fed other formulas. You should NEVER feed your infant a soy-based formula!

In fact, infants fed soy formula take in an estimated five birth control pills’ worth of estrogen every day.

As dangerous as unfermented soy is, fermented soy from organic soybeans is a different story altogether and can be a beneficial part of your diet. Fermented soy is a great source of vitamin K2, and K2 (combined with vitamin D) is essential in preventing osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, dementia, and various types of cancer.

Note that tofu is NOT on this list and is among the soy foods I do not recommend. Traditionally fermented soy products include:

  • Miso
  • Tempeh
  • Natto
  • Soy sauce (as long as it’s fermented in the traditional way, and not all are)

Contrary to what you may have heard, Asians do not consume large amounts of soy. They use small amounts as a condiment (about two teaspoons daily), but not as a primary protein source. And the type of soy they consume is traditionally fermented soy.

By Dr. Joseph Mercola           Oct 23, 2012


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Food Allergy, Food Intolerance, or Something Else?

It’s pretty common to have a reaction to a certain food, but in most cases it’s an intolerance rather than a true allergy. Why does it matter? Although they may have similar symptoms, a food allergy can be more serious.

These clues can help you figure out if it is an allergy or intolerance. A doctor can help you know for sure.

Food Allergy:

  • Usually comes on suddenly
  • Small amount of food can trigger
  • Happens every time you eat the food
  • Can be life-threatening

Food Intolerance:

  • Usually comes on gradually
  • May only happen when you eat a lot of the food
  • May only happen if you eat the food often
  • Is not life-threatening

Gluten-Free Diet for People With Gluten Allergies or Celiac Disease

Shared Symptoms

A food allergy and an intolerance both can cause:

  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

Different Symptoms

When a food irritates your stomach or your body can’t properly digest it, that’s an intolerance. You may have these symptoms:

  • Gas, cramps, or bloating
  • Heartburn
  • Headaches
  • Irritability or nervousness

A food allergy happens when your immune system mistakes something in food as harmful and attacks it. It can affect your whole body, not just your stomach. Symptoms may include:

  • Rash, hives, or itchy skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Sudden drop in blood pressure, trouble swallowing or breathing – this is life-threatening. Call 911 immediately.

 

food-allergy



Common Food Allergies and Intolerances

These triggers cause about 90% of food allergies.

  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts (such as walnuts, pecans and almonds)
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Soy
  • Wheat

The most common food intolerance is lactose intolerance. It happens when people can’t digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy. Another kind of intolerance is being sensitive to sulfites or other food additives. Sulfites can trigger asthma attacks in some people.

What about a gluten allergy? While celiac disease – a long-lasting digestive condition that’s triggered by eating gluten – does involve the immune system, it doesn’t cause life-threatening symptoms.

Treatment for Food Allergy

Your doctor can find out if you have an allergy or intolerance. These things may help:

Keep a diary of the foods you eat and the symptoms you have

Stop eating some foods to help figure out which one is causing symptoms

Have allergy tests

If you have a food allergy, you’ll need to stop eating the food altogether. .If you have a food intolerance, you’ll need to avoid or cut back on that food in your diet. For lactose intolerance, you can look for lactose-free milk or take a lactase enzyme supplement.

With a food allergy, you could be at risk for anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction. Ask your doctor if you need to carry an Auvi-Q or Epi-Pen (epinephrine shots) that you could give yourself in an emergency. If so, always carry two injections with you.

How to Prevent Symptoms

Learn which foods – and how much – cause you to have symptoms. Either avoid the food or only have as much as you can without triggering symptoms.

When you eat out, ask your server about how your meal will be prepared. It may not always be clear from the menu whether some dishes contain problem foods.

Learn to read food labels and check the ingredients for trigger foods. Don’t forget to check condiments and seasonings. They may have MSG or another additive that can cause symptoms.

WebMD Medical Reference
Reviewed by Luqman Seidu, MD on November 16, 2014
 
source: WebMD


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4 Surprising Foods Packed With Estrogen — The Chemical Linked to Obesity and Sexual Dysfunction

Many otherwise healthy foods contain high levels of estrogen.

April 10, 2014 

It is no secret that our bodies and our environment are swimming in estrogen. Puberty is occurring as early as eight years old in children and recently babies in China have developed breasts. Frogs and fish are becoming “intersex” and losing their male characteristics from excreted estrogens in the environment and waterways. In England, the Daily Mail ran a feature on the phenomenon of women’s bra cup sizes increasing independent of their weights, likely because of environmental and livestock chemicals. The website Green Prophet speculated that women in the Middle East are not yet experiencing cup inflation because their environments have not become similarly estrogenized.

While many people are fans of big boobs, the larger issue of feminized women, men and wildlife should be a wakeup call. Estrogen is blamed for everything from breast and prostate cancer and other hormone-linked conditions to obesity, sexual dysfunction, dropping sperm counts and depression and mood disorders. In studies of women given prescribed hormone drugs, estrogen was linked to lung cancer, ovarian cancer, skin cancer, gall bladder cancer, cataracts urinary incontinence and joint degeneration.

Most of us know we unwittingly get synthetic estrogens (endocrine disrupters) from plastics like BPA, petroleum based products, detergents, cosmetics, furniture, carpeting, thermal receipts and on our food from agriculture chemicals like pesticides, herbicides and fungicides (a good reason to buy organic). But we also get a lot of “natural” estrogens from foods we may eat every day. While these “phytoestrogens” are not as bad as synthetic chemicals, women who are plagued with PMS, fibrocystic disease and water retention, or who are at risk for breast cancer and men who do not want to be feminized may want to use them moderately.

Here are some “good” and “bad” foods that have more estrogen than you may realize—or want.

1. Flax

Flax and especially flax meal has the image of being a healthy superfood. But when you look at a list of the top phytoestrogen-containing foods, flax and flax products are at the very top. A hundred grams of flax packs an astounding 379,380 micrograms of estrogen compared with 2.9 micrograms for a fruit like watermelon. Flax is now widely found in baked goods like bread, bagels and muffins, snack foods, cereals, pasta, drink mixes and used in poultry, swine, beef and dairy cow feed.

It became a popular alternative to fish oil which had been promoted to improve mood, the immune systems and to prevent heart attacks and strokes, especially as concerns about mercury risks in some fish surfaced. A tablespoon of flaxseed oil, which contains alpha-linolenic acid (also found in walnuts and some oils) is “worth” about 700 milligrams of the omega-3 found in fish oil says the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide. Flax also provides fiber, a substance lacking in our over-processed diets. But there is another reason it may not be the superfood it appears besides its estrogen wallop. Like so many edible plants today, genetically modified versions of flax are rampant, spreading and rarely labeled. Buyer beware.

tofu and soybeans

2. Soy

What is the second highest phytoestrogen-containing food in most lists? Soy, which packs 103,920 micrograms of estrogen per 100 grams. Low in calories and with no cholesterol, soy has been a mainstay protein of many cultures for centuries and is considered nature’s perfect alternative to meat by many vegetarians and vegans. It has been hailed as a “good” estrogen that could prevent breast cancer and serve as an alternative for hormone replacement therapy, traditionally made from pregnant mare urine.

Yet the bloom has partially fallen off soy’s rose. Its possible cancer prevention properties were called into question after some animal studies and groups like the American Cancer Society found themselves defending its moderate use. Like flax, unlabeled GMO soybeans dominate the market and have been linked to sterility and infant death in hamsters.

3. Other Legumes and Common Health Foods

Other “healthy” foods like flax and soy may have more estrogen than you think. Legumes like chickpeas (garbanzo beans) red beans, black-eyed peas, green peas and split peas are also estrogenic and black beans pack 5,330 micrograms of estrogen per 100 grams. Hummus (from chickpeas) has 993 micrograms of estrogen per 100 grams. How about the “healthful” seeds we think of as mingled in trailmix? Sesame and sunflower seeds are among the highest of all estrogenic foods. While their seeds are not a staple of most people’s diets, their oils are widely used in processed and prepared foods. A site for women suffering from the estrogen-linked endometriosis advises against sunflower oil as well as safflower, cottonseed and canola oils and recommends only olive or grapeseed oil.

Other ingredients that can amount to a side dish of estrogen are alfalfa sprouts, licorice and the flavorings red clover and fennel, sometimes found in teas. Food ingredients in personal care products can also have estrogenic effects. Tea tree oil found in some shampoos, soaps and lotions can enlarge the breasts of boys reported ABC news. And sore and tender breasts have also been reported from using a shampoo with pomegranate.

4. Animal Products

On most lists of products containing estrogen, animal products like milk and beef are at the very bottom. Milk, for example, is said to provide 1.2 micrograms of estrogen per 100 grams. Unfortunately, most “research” that assures the public that hormones used in meat production or milk production (like Monsanto’s  rBGH) result in less estrogen are funded by Big Ag. Two features betray the Big Ag-funded research —it claims there is no difference between hormones that occur “naturally” in the human body and synthetic hormones, and it claims there are no residues of the latter. If synthetic hormones are so safe, why would we mind residues? The European Union disagrees about the dangers and boycotts US beef, which is swimming in the hormones oestradiol-17, trenbolone acetate, zeranol and melengestrol.

As for “no residues,” a scientific paper called “Detection of Six Zeranol Residues in Animal-derived Food by HPLC-MS/MS,” disputes the claim. Zeranol, an estrogen-like drug widely used in US livestock production is especially controversial. “Our laboratory has reported that long-term exposure to either Z [zeranol] or E2 [estradiol-17β] can induce transformation of human breast epithelial MCF-10A cells,” says a 2009 paper in Anticancer Research.Translation: it can contribute to breast cancer: “The proper evaluation of the safety of Z [zeranol] is of both public health and economic  importance.”Another paper reports “breast irritation” in people exposed to nothing but the clothing of those working around zeranol. This is an ingredient used in US meat?

A paper which appeared in Science of the Total Environment examines the outbreak of precocious puberty and breast development of children in Italy and Puerto Rico in the late 1970s and 1980s and attributes the symptoms to zeranol-like “anabolic estrogens in animal foods.” In both occurrences, the symptoms disappeared when the hormone-laced food was removed. Zeranol is found in meat, eggs and dairy products “through deliberate introduction of zeranol into livestock to enhance meat production,” says the paper. It is “banned for use in animal husbandry in the European Union and other countries, but is still widely used in the US. Surprisingly, little is known about the health effects of these mycoestrogens, including their impact on puberty in girls, a period highly sensitive to estrogenic stimulation.”

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter and the author of “Born With a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Random House).”