Plastic nursing bottles may be health hazards

Plastic nursing bottles are now being seen to have similar health hazards to infants and young children as plastic drinking water bottles are to older persons. Studies made by U.S. and other laboratories are linking chemicals found in the plastic material in nursing bottles to be instrumental in causing various forms of cancer later in life, including breast and prostate cancer. In addition, these chemicals, including some known as BPA or Bisphenol-A may also affect a child’s reproduction capabilities later in life.

Baby bottleBPA is defined as an organic compound containing two phenol functioning groups which have a semblance to estrogen hormone. BPA is an important ingredient in the polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins used to make the strong, shatter-proof plastic bottles that people rely on to heat up baby formula. The plastic material in itself is relatively safe when only water or juices at room temperature are poured inside. The problem arises when the formula is heated to a high temperature prior to being given to a baby; as well as when the bottle is washed at a high temperature, as in an automatic dishwasher. The heating process causes the chemicals in the plastic to be released into the fluid inside the bottle which then enter the child’s body and bloodstream. The chemical reactions are similar to what occurs to water inside plastic water bottles which are exposed to high temperatures (when left in a car, etc.)

Warnings of the possible dangers of BPA chemical reactions in infant feeding bottles are now being issued by U.S. government agencies such as the National Toxicology Program. Their findings indicate that these chemical reactions may cause harm to humans, especially children, and result in problems such as early puberty, reproductive problems and even neurological problems.

BPA is found in a number of plastic containers as well as in the coatings often used in a number of soft drink products. Although tests are still being conducted, the main concern is that continuous exposure to BPA could result in a chronic toxicity which will result in the aforementioned health problems.

Plastic infant feeding bottles have been in use for decades, and mothers rely on them to nourish their babies. The dangers of chemical toxicity are now becoming more publicized, and some countries, including Canada, are planning to declare that Bisphenol-A is a toxic substance. Some American states, including California, are also considering the banning of products containing BPA.

As for an alternative to BPA, perhaps the old adage that “breast is best” is in the end the best and safest infant feeding method.

The Price of Bio Fuels

India FarmerA recent posting in this web blog noted the problem of rising grain prices, most notably rice. It now seems that virtually all food items are increasing in price at a pace so great that the end result may be mass hunger and even starvation in many parts of the world, including so-called affluent countries like ones in Western Europe and even the U.S.A. Already, the price of basic cereal grains, notably wheat and corn are double in price to what they were just a few years ago. And many common vegetables, such as tomatoes and cucumbers, are selling at very high prices.

Global warming, or the hysteria being generated by this subject, is only part of the problem, however. There are other factors, both environmental and political, that are resulting in near-empty supermarket shelves and some countries and food riots in others. It’s easy to see why food shortages are now a way of life in most of Africa and parts of Asia. But now, millions of Americans are really feeling the bite that weekly grocery bills are taking from their incomes. And it’s not only bread, breakfast cereal, and other products made directly from grain that is causing food prices to run to as much as $250 a week for a family of four. Meat items are also becoming very expensive due to sharp increases in animal feed and fodder.

The answer to at least part of the problems of food shortages, coupled with high prices, lies in what we are now putting into our automobile gas tanks. Bio fuels, especially ethanol made from corn and sorghum, are re-directing thousands of tons of food grains into alcohol based fuels to make up for fuel shortages caused by increasingly scarcer and more expensive fossil fuels; most notably petroleum. Just ten years ago, American farmers complained of having massive grain surpluses, particularly in corn producing states like Indiana and Iowa. Due to low market prices, farmers were receiving subsides from the U.S. Government and were even being paid not to produce these crops.

Enter the ethanol age, when farmers are suddenly receiving high prices for growing ethanol producing grains with the encouragement and blessing of a government that continues preaching self-sufficiency in energy by augmenting crude oil with ethanol. The rush for farmers to grow crops for conversion into ethanol has resulted in countries like Brazil dedicating almost their entire agricultural production to growing crops like maize and sugar cane for conversion into ethanol. Poor Brazilian farmers, in their frenzy to grow “ethanol crops”, are destroying their country’s rain forests at an alarming pace to have more land available for growing these crops. The same thing is happening in many other countries too, with the result of less attention being given to growing crops for food.

Bio fuels in themselves are also ecologically polluting and contribute to the “greenhouse effect” and other symptoms of global warming. While these crops may not pollute our planet as bad as petroleum, bio fuels do cause pollution in their own way. And worst of all, every bushel of grain used to make ethanol means less available grain to be available for basic food commodities.

Less available grain means less and more expensive food products, especially for those whose main diet is composed of basic foods like bread items, including pastas. Perhaps it’s now time to “reverse” the emphasis on growing cereal crops for fuel and begin growing more crops again for food. If not, the day will soon come when a loaf of ordinary ‘store bread’ will cost more than a gallon of Bio fuel. And the cost of that bun on a McDonald’s or Burger King hamburger will cause it to be much more pricy than it is today. After all, you can’t eat that stuff that goes into your car.

Better nutrition benefits epilepsy sufferers

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that affects millions of people all over the world, including more than two million in the US alone. Types of epilepsy, once called the “ailment of royalty” range from mild “Peti-Mal” seizures which are usually a momentary lapse of concentration, to severe or “Grand-Mal” seizures such as the type suffered by Roman Emperor Julius Caesar, in which the sufferer looses all bodily control, including control of urination and defecation.

There have been recent studies made concerning the effect of diet on epilepsy, including following special diets which are low in sugars and other carbohydrates, especially what are known as “junk foods”. While these diets have not been proven to be completely effective to relieve the severity of epileptic seizures or prevent them altogether, studies concerning nutrition and its effects on epilepsy are showing that it is possible to relieve the severity of these seizures by changing one’s nutrition.

Nutritional recommendations for epilepsy suffers include eating and drinking the juice from raw, green leafy vegetables, beets, carrots, and other vegetables with high vitamin content (see our Natural Diet section). Add raw milk and cheese products, raw seeds and nuts, plus soy protein to your diet, plus bio-type sour milk yogurts, especially organic yogurts. Switch to using olive oil instead of other vegetable oils, including taking at least two tablespoons of high quality virgin olive oil a day. Instead of eating large meals three times a day, it’s better to eat several smaller meals and never large amounts of food at night. It’s also recommended not to drink large amounts of liquids at once, especially at meals, as this can bring on seizures.

Certain items such as coffee and tea containing caffeine, refined sugar, alcoholic beverages, fried foods and excessive animal protein should be substantially avoided; as well as using artificial sweeteners, especially Aspartame.

A number of beneficial vitamins and minerals should also be taken by epilepsy sufferers, including Vitamin B complex, Vitamin B-3 (niacin), magnesium, Folic and Pantothenic Acid, calcium and zinc.

It is also very important to engage in a moderate exercise program to improve blood circulation, especially to the brain. And most important, stress must be avoided as much as possible.

Epilepsy sufferers usually take a number of medications which, if taken together with other drugs, such as birth control pills and medications to control conditions such as hypertension and asthma may interact with epilepsy medications. By following the above diet recommendations, it may be possible to reduce the amount of epilepsy medications required as well as the frequency and severity of the seizures.


Overdosing on vitamins and food supplements

Literally millions of people in North America, the U.K. and other western countries are taking daily vitamin and mineral supplements, as well as nutritional supplements containing vitamins. This phenomenon is not new, and many large companies producing these products are not only very rich but getting richer by feeding on the “hype” that people are receiving concerning the need for these supplements, which often cost hundreds of dollars per month.

Both family physicians and professional nutritionists are now agreeing that too many vitamin supplements are not only non-effective, but may actually be damaging to a person’s health. In an article that came out in the New York Times a few years ago, prominent research physicians, such as Dr. Annette Dickson, president of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, noted that more than 70% of all Americans take some kind of vitamin supplement which come in many forms; including fortified cereal, bread products, and other types of food. When combined with a ‘super fortified’ multi-vitamin product, the result, according to these health experts, can not only accomplish little or nothing towards maintaining good health, but can also be a cause of serious and often fatal health problems.

A few types of vitamins that people appear to be overtaking include Vitamins A, C, and E. Vitamin C, for example, is often recommended to be taken in high daily doses to either prevent or reduce the symptoms of a common cold. What usually happens, according to these doctors, is that the excess vitamin C is simply excreted by the person’s urine. Other vitamins, particularly those such as vitamin A and E, are stored in organs like the liver and can even result in conditions such as heart attacks and strokes.

Many take vitamin D supplements, often found in fortified milk and other dairy products, due to not being outdoors enough to let their bodies synthesize it. It has been pointed out however as people grow older, their skin looses the ability to synthesize this vitamin, and taking supplements containing vitamin D do not help to manufacture it.

While it was once thought that taking large amounts of vitamin supplements helped prevent the risk of cardio-vascular conditions, it is now being found that the opposite often takes place. And older people who take increased doses of vitamins A and D to decrease the risk of osteoporosis, usually prescribed as around 1,500 micrograms per tablet or capsule, are actually taking twice as much as what is actually needed, resulting in an even greater risk of having this condition.

Many doctors, however, are still convinced that taking multiple vitamins is essential to maintaining good health. These include Dr. Joann e. Manson, Chief of Preventive Medicine at Brigham and Woman’s Hospital in Boston, Mass. Dr. Manson said, however, that taking these vitamins are only recommended if a person has severe diet deficiencies and must augment their diets by taking supplements.

But doctors and nutritionists alike agree that proper nutrition, including eating healthier diets, may reduce or even eliminate the need to take vitamin supplements. This is especially true for people whose diets are high in so called “junk foods”. There is no ‘magic bullet’ to cure an unhealthy diet, most health professionals agree.

Green Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning often means having to use harsh, toxic cleaning compounds that are not only damaging to our environment but physically hazardous as well. As a result of more attention being given to organic and environmentally friendly household products, more and more people are preferring to use cleaning compound that are made without toxic chemicals. Nowadays, a growing number of these products are available and are not only being offered in whole foods and organic products stores, but in well known supermarket chains as well, including Krogers, Safeway, and even WalMart Super Stores.

For cleaning dishes, companies like Clean Environment Company are offering products such as ones which do not contain any petroleum based or carcinogen type chemicals and are completely bio-degradable. These products are made for both automatic dishwashers as well as for hand dishwashing, and are chlorine and phosphate free. They are designed to not only get the cleaning job done, but will not contaminate our ecological and water systems once they are flushed down the drain.

For the laundry, phosphate free liquid and powdered detergents are available that not only thoroughly clean your laundry but will not “suds up” in streams and lakes afterwards. Some of the ingredients in these detergents are linear alkyl sulfonate and alcohol ethoxylate (completely bio-degradable) and natural, citric acid based compounds. Since ordinary laundry detergents have been claimed to be leading contributor to environmental pollution, natural “bio-compounds” are much more friendly to our environment

For floor, furniture and appliance cleaning, environmental friendly cleaning products are available to take care of virtually any kind of cleaning job, including removal of lime scale and grease. Even oven cleaners are available which do not contain petroleum distillates, ammonia, or formaldehyde. All of these products, including ones like oven cleaners for “heavy” cleaning jobs are bio-degradable and do not contain previously mentioned toxic compounds

When throwing away trash, special “bio bags” are available which are biodegradable and won’t contaminate landfills and garbage dumps (that’s done enough already with ordinary polyethylene plastic bags). Pet owners should consider using environmentally friendly pet shampoos and litter bags.

Although these products cost more than ordinary cleaning products (between 20 – 50%) the fact that using them helps our environment is reason enough to “go green” when doing household cleaning chores.

Costco’s bring your own shopping bags policy

Costco‘s, one of the worlds’ largest and must successful discount shopping chains, is also one of the most friendly from an environmental standpoint. Besides offering a wide variety of goods, including many whole food items, the chain does not give either paper or plastic shopping bags to sack groceries. Customers have to bring these themselves. There are two philosophies behind the company’s central management’s decision to do away with the ubiquitous shopping bags that people in other stores still use for not only their purchases, but at home as garbage and lunch bags, utility bags, and a world of other uses. Besides saving the chain a tremendous lot of money (grocery bags can cost one store an average of $30,000 per year) the chain is also proud of its overall contribution to protecting the environment.

CostcoAlthough mainly located in the U.S.A. and Canada, Costco also has 31 stores in Mexico, 19 in the U.K., 8 in Japan, 6 in South Korea, and 5 in Taiwan. People who shop in one the company’s wholesale stores have to either bring re-usable shopping bags with them or use cardboard boxes that contained goods sold in the store and are placed near the exits for customer use. The company also passes good buys on to their customers, including their own “house brand”, Kirkland Signature, which is seen on items ranging from food products to automobile batteries and tires. People wanting to shop at Costco purchase an annual membership for around $100 which they more than make up by the discounts they receive on their purchases during the year.

It is currently estimated that the 562 world-wide locations save more than $16 million dollars per year in bag costs and literally thousands of tons of plastic and paper waste. Other large shopping clubs, such as Sam’s Club (owned by WalMart) also supply less shopping bags or none at all. Re-usable bags are available for sale, however.

The problem of shopping bags, made from petroleum based polyester material, has been a major concern of environmentalists for years. These bags not only clutter up garbage dumps, but are discarded at beaches, forest recreation areas and reservoirs. It takes as long as a hundred years for one of these bags to disintegrate and the pollution they cause when disposed in garbage dumps eventually reach ground water aqua systems.

By eliminating these bags at check out counters, stores like Costco’s not only save money but help considerably in protecting the ecology of our planet.

Organic food benefits noted by The Organic Center

The Organic Center, based in Denver Colorado, released in March, 2008, a special report of its findings in which it was estimated that a much as 97% of the dangers from pesticides would be eliminated if America’s 8 million acres of land used for growing farm produce would be converted to organic farming.

Dr. Charles Benbrook, Chief research scientist for the Center, summarized in the report that the fundamental way to stop the dangers to food caused by pesticides is to “choose the organic option”. To back up this claim, comparison examples were made between farm produce grown organically to that grown by conventional methods, which included use of pesticides. According to Dr. Benbrook’s findings, American families are exposed to as much as 13 kinds of pesticide residues daily. Some of the larger amounts are found in spinach (9 residues), raisons (11 residues), peaches ( 5 or more residues) and bell peppers (as much as 12 residues).

To add to these findings, it was also noted in the report that other agricultural products, including dairy and meat products, were found to contain multiple pesticide residue. This is perfectly understandable, as the fodder fed to dairy and meat producing cattle comes largely from hay and alfalfa that had been sprayed with pesticides.

In regards to the production of fruits and vegetables, it was pointed out that only 3 per cent of agricultural land is utilized for growing these kinds of produce, with the remainder used for growing cereal grains and similar crops.

Dr. Benbrook added that although it will take years to changed current farming methods to growing crops by organic methods, at least 10 per cent of all crops are currently being grown by organic methods. As more and more consumers begin purchasing organic produce, the risks from pesticides will be reduced as well. The Organic Center included a list of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables that have the highest pesticide risk index. Some of these include: cranberries (178) bell peppers (132) and green beans (330). Imported produce has even higher pesticide indexes with “summer fruits” such as pears, grapes, peaches, and nectarines having indexes of 266 to 282, and vegetables like lettuce and cucumbers having indexes of between 316 and 326. Bell peppers, apparently “havens” pesticide residues, had indexes of over 700!

Taking these findings into consideration, it’s easy to see why it is worthwhile to purchase only organically grown produce.

Choline a vital nutrient for good health

Choline is an organic compound that was first discovered in 1864. It is classified as being part of the B-vitamin group and is found mostly in eggs, soy products, and cooked meats. Although this compound is considered as very important to maintaining good health, very few people are familiar with it. It is found in cell membranes and is considered as vital for maintaining healthy human cell growth. Scientific studies have concluded that choline intake in humans should be between 425 and 550 milligrams per day. As eggs are one of the commonest and least expensive sources of choline, eating one egg per day supplies a good portion of an average person’s need.

Choline is especially vital in women. Recent studies conducted by laboratories of the U.S. National Institute of Health have found that by consuming adequate amounts of choline daily, women have less chance of having breast cancer. Carried out among 3,000 adult women, the studies found that by consuming at least 450 milligrams of choline daily, women had 25% less chance of developing breast cancer than those who consumed lesser amounts. The studies concluded that choline is a very important nutrient for all persons, no matter what age or sex. Women of child bearing age need adequate amounts of this nutrient; especially pregnant women. One egg has around 125 mg of choline, or about a quarter of normal daily requirement. High amounts of choline are also found in liver, soy beans, cauliflower, and wheat germ (found in health and natural foods stores).

In addition to being effective against breast cancer, choline is also good for maintaining memory functions and against heart disease.

Choline can have an unpleasant side affect, however, as many people are not able to cope with high levels of choline in their bodies; which results in a disorder known as trimethylaminuria or “fish odor syndrome” in which their bodies begin to emit a strong, unpleasant order that smells like fish. People suffering form this condition are advised to consume less foods high in choline, especially liver (all kinds) and other organ meats.

Despite this problem, the benefits of this essential nutrient far outweigh any possible detriments, and people are advised to make sure they consume adequate amounts of choline in their daily diets.

Chocolate Not Only Sweet But Healthy

Chocolate, though often high in calories, is actually one of the healthiest food products we can eat. The secret if reaping the benefits from chocolate is to eat it in it’s purest form; i.e., dark or bittersweet chocolate with at least 60 to 70% pure cocoa butter, which is chocolate in it’s most natural state. Chocolate in commercial chocolate candy and chocolate bars though often contain high amounts of sugar, as well as corn syrup, and a number of preservatives which we can really do without.

Studies made by some of the leading commercial chocolate producing companies have found that worldwide, some 69% of total chocolate consumption is bittersweet chocolate, with milk chocolate coming in second at 21% and white chocolate third at 10%.

The best types of natural chocolate is the dark, bittersweet variety usually found in high quality natural and organic foods stores; and much of this kind of chocolate comes from central America and the Caribbean. The making of chocolate has been in existence in Central America for more than 3,000 years. The health benefits include a number of alkaloids which not only induce a pleasurable effect on the body but also are help reduce risks of cardiovascular diseases by lowering blood pressure levels.

Besides its confectionery qualities, chocolate is also widely used in baking cakes and cookies. Who hasn’t enjoyed a truly well made chocolate cake, or chocolate chip cookies and brownies? Chocolate fondue dips are also a favorite at parties, especially during the winter months.

Those who fancy the types of chocolate that is sold in high quality candy and confectionery stores will find a garden of earthly delights in a product that is still one of the most popular gift items for romantic calendar dates such as anniversaries, and of course Valentine’s or Love Day, in which gifts of chocolate are becoming popular in countries like China and Japan.

Although Switzerland is still well acclaimed for it’s chocolate, especially milk chocolate, Belgium is perhaps the king of truly quality chocolates such as Godiva which must be constantly under refrigeration and is sold by weight. Fine quality chocolate of this type can sell for $50 a pound, and is definitely a cut above the “Mister Goodbar” types you usually find in discount department stores.

Of course, chocolate is high in calories and must be eaten in moderation, or most of its health benefits will be null and void. But if people know their “chocolate limit” and don’t overdo it, why not enjoy all the merits of fine chocolate, especially its taste!

Delightful Whole Food Store

Needing some veggies, and remembering my last supermarket experience, I wandered in to my city’s version of the popular Whole Foods Store which caters to those who want produce that is a cut above the ordinary. I wasn’t disappointed, as the store, which goes by the name of Eden (from the Garden of Eden, I presume) is definitely a “garden of earthy delights”. The first thing one sees is the store’s layout, which is definitely more upscale than the average supermarket, and even has synthetic parquet flooring to add to the atmosphere.

Browsing though the spice and dried fruit section, I could see that not only was there virtually every kind of spice and fruit available, but arranged much more orderly and cleaner than a similar place might be in an open air produce market. That also goes for the fruits and veggies; and one has a choice of purchasing either regular produce or organic. The organic produce is much more expensive, though, and they had a guy standing there to weigh and price the items, to prevent people from paying for non-organic stuff, which is a lot cheaper, when they check out. Even the bags you put the fruit in are different, the organic ones being green (wonder why?).

One thing most people really notice in this kind of store is that junk food like most carbonated soft drinks, regular potato chips and corn chips, etc. are not available. Neither are the candies and cakes that usually are big selling items in regular supermarkets. The candies, cookies, and cakes that are available have less sugar and whole grains in their make up. And what chocolates are available are at least 60% pure cocoa, which is said to be very healthy for the heart.

Beers and wines that are in stock are mostly from small independent breweries and wineries, with many types being organic.

Am impressive assortment of dairy products are also available, made from low-fat milk products, as well as from soy and other vegetable ingredients. Cereals and granola products are also more healthy types, with most made form whole grains, much of them organic. And the breads; they are in a class to themselves.

The meat department features only “free running poultry” and range fed beef and other hoofed animals. Even the fish looked more healthy, as if they may have actually been taken from unpolluted water – if that’s possible now days. Although the prices for these meat and fish products are much more than the usual supermarket prices, at least you know you’re getting something better for your money.

And the ice cream section, sells home made types that really taste like ice cream!

A full range of vitamin supplements, much of them natural, are also on the shelves, with helpful salespeople to assist customers to purchase the right type needed.

All in all, these stores are worth a visit, even if only occasionally. We might all take heed the words from a popular health club commercial: “you have only one life; so live it well”.