STUDY: The Worldwide Decline In Children’s Cardiovascular Fitness

Boys and girls running

Researchers analyzed 50 studies on running fitness involving 25 million children from age nine to 17 in 28 countries from 1964 to 2010. The study measured how fast children could run in five to 15 minutes and how far. Results revealed that today’s children are about 15% less fit than their parents.


Here’s a few of the findings:

  • In a mile run – children today are about a minute and a half slower than their peers 30 years ago.
  • Children today are roughly 15 percent less fit from a cardiovascular standpoint than their parents were as children.
  • Children’s cardiovascular endurance fell an average of six percent in the United States per decade between 1970 and 2000.
  • Children’s endurance has declined consistently by about five percent every decade across many nations.

The study  is the first to show that children’s fitness has declined worldwide over the last three decades and the decline in running fitness may indicate worse health in adulthood. Only one-third of American children today get the recommended 60 minutes of moderately vigorous activity accumulated over a day for children ages six and up.

“If a young person is generally unfit now, then they are more likely to develop conditions like heart disease later in life,” Tomkinson said. “Young people can be fit in different ways. They can be strong like a weightlifter, or flexible like a gymnast, or skillful like a tennis player. But not all of these types of fitness relate well to health. The most important type of fitness for good health is cardiovascular fitness, which is the ability to exercise vigorously for a long time, like running multiple laps around an oval track.”

While the decline in fitness appears to be leveling off in Australia, Europe, and New Zealand – as well as in North America in the last few years – it is continuing to fall in China where annual fitness test data reveals that the country’s students have become slower and fatter over the past several decades. Interestingly, Japan has never had much falloff where fitness remains fairly consistent.

“Declines in cardiovascular endurance performance are probably caused by social, behavioral, physical, psychosocial and physiological factors,” Tomkinson added. “Kids should engage in at least 60 minutes of daily activities that use the body’s big muscles, such as running, swimming or cycling. We need to help inspire children and youth to develop fitness habits that will keep them healthy now and into the future. They need to choose a range of physical activities they like or think they might like to try and they need to get moving.”

RED MEAT DANGER: New Research Shows Link To Heart Disease

red-meatA new Cleveland Clinic research study has found that a compound abundant in red meat – that is also a supplement to energy drinks – promotes atherosclerosis. It also found that a diet high in carnitine promotes the growth of bacteria that metabolize carnitine, which produces artery-clogging trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) – a metabolite the researchers previously linked in a 2011 study to the promotion of atherosclerosis in humans.

By examining the cardiac effects of a carnitine-enhanced diet in normal mice – compared to mice with suppressed levels of gut microbes – researchers also discovered that TMAO alters cholesterol metabolism at multiple levels, which explains how it enhances atherosclerosis.


Carnitine And TMAO

The research study – published in Nature Medicine – also discovered that increased carnitine levels in patients predicted increased risks for cardiovascular disease and major cardiac events like heart attack, stroke and death, but only in subjects with concurrently high TMAO levels.

The study tested the carnitine and TMAO levels of omnivores, vegans and vegetarians, and examined the clinical data of 2,595 patients undergoing elective cardiac evaluations. They learned that vegans and vegetarians – even after consuming a large amount of carnitine – did not produce significant levels of the microbe product TMAO, whereas omnivores consuming the same amount of carnitine did. Baseline TMAO levels were also significantly lower among vegans and vegetarians than omnivores.

Leading the research team was Stanley Hazen, M.D., Ph.D., Vice Chair of Translational Research for the Lerner Research Institute and section head of Preventive Cardiology & Rehabilitation in the Miller Family Heart and Vascular Institute at Cleveland Clinic, and Robert Koeth, a medical student at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University.


Meat Eaters More Susceptible To Forming TMAO

“The bacteria living in our digestive tracts are dictated by our long-term dietary patterns,” Hazen said. “A diet high in carnitine actually shifts our gut microbe composition to those that like carnitine, making meat eaters even more susceptible to forming TMAO and its artery-clogging effects. Meanwhile, vegans and vegetarians have a significantly reduced capacity to synthesize TMAO from carnitine, which may explain the cardiovascular health benefits of these diets.”

Prior research has shown that a diet with frequent red meat consumption is associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk, but that the cholesterol and saturated fat content in red meat does not appear to be enough to explain the increased cardiovascular risks. This discrepancy has been attributed to genetic differences, a high salt diet that is often associated with red meat consumption, and even possibly the cooking process, among other explanations. But Hazen says this new research suggests a new connection between red meat and cardiovascular disease.

“This process is different in everyone, depending on the gut microbe metabolism of the individual,” he says. “Carnitine metabolism suggests a new way to help explain why a diet rich in red meat promotes atherosclerosis.”

While carnitine is naturally occurring in red meats – including beef, venison, lamb, mutton, duck, and pork – it’s also a dietary supplement available in pill form and a common ingredient in energy drinks. With this new research in mind, Hazen cautions that more research needs to be done to examine the safety of chronic carnitine supplementation.

“Carnitine is not an essential nutrient; our body naturally produces all we need,” Hazen said. “We need to examine the safety of chronically consuming carnitine supplements as we’ve shown that, under some conditions, it can foster the growth of bacteria that produce TMAO and potentially clog arteries.”


Learn about Nature Medicine

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NEW USDA REPORT: Research Shows That Kids Like Healthy Options

USDAThe U.S. Department of Agriculture has released a new report on the impacts of providing children with healthy snacks as well as new steps to provide families with better information to combat obesity.

The new report examined the results of USDA’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which provides fruits and vegetables at no cost to students in more than 7,100 schools in low income areas.

It found that as students are introduced to fresh fruits and vegetables, they try them – and in most cases, they enjoy these snacks. Students participating in the program ate 15 percent more fruits and vegetables than their peers. In fact, when these fruits and vegetables were offered in schools, almost every student tried one.

For those who chose a fruit, more than 85 percent ate most or all of their snack. For students who tried a vegetable, more than 60 percent ate most of it, or finished the whole serving.

Research by USDA’s Economic Research Service has also found that these healthy foods are often no more expensive than less-nutritious foods. Still, there are millions of American families who lack access to healthy foods due to economic or geographical barriers.


New Nutrition Policy

USDA recently announced a measure that will improve nutrition education for low-income families, ultimately helping them to access more nutritious foods.

The new policy aims to give more flexibility for states to provide targeted education to recipients of the SNAP program, with a special goal of increasing healthy eating habits and reducing obesity. The new measure will help expand farmers markets and community gardens that help expand access to healthy foods. It will provide assistance for parents to access nutrition information and it will help retailers provide healthier foods to participants in SNAP.

These efforts to increase availability, affordability and information regarding healthy foods are more important than ever today. One-third of kids today are overweight or obese, putting them at risk for preventable illness in the decades to come. Along with malnutrition, this threatens the nation’s security and economic well-being in the decades to come.

The USDA says: “By improving access to healthy foods for our young people and their families, we can help create generational change to reduce childhood obesity and child malnutrition. Together, we can give today’s young people the tools they need to grow up healthy, strong and ready to succeed.”

Learn more about the USDA


HARMFUL INGREDIENTS: 10 Sweeteners, Preservatives And Chemical Additives You Should Avoid

harmful-ingredientsOn April 11th, Americans are encouraged to read the labels on their kitchen products and at the grocery store. Specifically, there are 10 ingredients that the Citizens for Health have named as harmful and that you should be aware of and avoid.

Citizens for Health also encourages you to take a picture of the label of any product containing one of these 10 harmful sweeteners, preservatives or additives, and to share it on Instagram using the hashtag #ReadYourLabels. The effort is designed to build awareness about the food and drinks you are consuming and make others aware of the types of food and drinks that contain these harmful ingredients.

Watch Out For These Additives

Aspartame – It is an artificial, non-saccharide sweetener used as a sugar substitute in some foods and beverages and will turn up in “light” or “low-cal,” diet soft drinks, teas and juice drinks, kid’s vitamins, liquid cold drugs and other pharmaceuticals, chewing gum, cereal, and sugar-free candies. Aspartame has never been proven to be a safe food additive, and is, in fact, considered by experts to be in a class of ingredients called “excitotoxins” that can literally excite brain cells to death, especially in children and the elderly. Foods containing this artificial sweetener must also bear a warning that the item contains phenylalanine for those with a disorder called PKU. Studies have connected it to the development of brain tumors in rodents and grand mal seizures in monkeys. Thousands of aspartame-related health complaints, from migraines to memory loss to dizziness to vision problems, have been reported to the FDA.

High Fructose Corn Syrup – also referred to as HFCS – comprises any group of corn syrups that has undergone enzymatic processing to convert some of its glucose into fructose to produce a desired sweetness. Health concerns have been raised about HFCS, which allege contribution to obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Critics of the extensive use of HFCS in food sweetening argue that the highly processed substance is more harmful to humans than regular sugar, contributing to weight gain by affecting normal appetite functions.

Artificial colors – food colorings or color additives – are any dye, pigment or substance that imparts color when it is added to food or drink. They’re made from coal tar and petroleum extracts and come in many forms consisting of liquids, powders, gels and pastes, and are present in many cereals, cakes, candy, bakery products, drinks, juice drinks, vitamins and pharmaceuticals. Due to its safety and general availability, food coloring is also used in a variety of non-food applications including cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, home craft projects and medical devices. Artificial colors are widely acknowledged to cause hyperactivity and behavioral problems in some children. Some, such as Red #3, have been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals, but are still allowed to be used in foods.

Trans Fats – Any food products containing partially hydrogenated oil contain trans fats regardless of a zero trans fats listing on the nutrition facts label. These can include bakery items, pizza, dough, pies, cakes and cookies, snack foods and frozen meals. Trans fats increase LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, and decrease “good” HDL cholesterol. People with high blood levels of trans fats appear to have a greater risk of developing certain cancers. Some research has even linked them to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s. All health authorities, including government agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are in agreement that trans fats cause heart disease and that cutting them out of our diet could prevent thousands of heart attacks and deaths from coronary disease each year.

Monosodium Glutamate – also known as sodium glutamate or MSG – is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, one of the most abundant, naturally occurring, non-essential amino acids. You will find monosodium glutamate as well as hydrolyzed protein and autolyzed yeast – all known as “excitoxins” – in soups, broth, flavoring additives, chips, dips, soup mixes, ramen noodles, frozen meals, snack mixes, canned fish, and a wide variety of other dishes including “natural,” “vegetarian,” and organic ones. These are all toxic substances containing processed glutamic acid that can kill brain cells. They are especially harmful to kids, the elderly and developing fetuses. Adverse reactions to these additives include everything from skin rashes and asthma attacks to mood swings, upset stomach, migraines, heart irregularities and seizures – even potentially fatal anaphylactic shock.

Hydrolyzed protein – is protein that has been hydrolyzed or broken down into its component amino acids. While there are many means of achieving this, two of the most common are prolonged boiling in a strong acid (acid-HVP) or strong base or using an enzyme such as the pancreatic protease enzyme to stimulate the naturally occurring hydrolytic process. Protein hydrolysis can be used to modify the allergenic properties of infant formula.

Autolyzed yeast – Yeast extract contains an amount of naturally occurring glutamic acid or monosodium glutamate. This is produced from an acid-base fermentation cycle and is only found in some yeasts, typically ones bred for use in baking. Many food producers have replaced monosodium glutamate with yeast extract, which is cheaper, requires no E-number labeling, and allows food producers to claim their product is “all natural” or “with natural flavorings.” Health proponents claim this is a subversive move by the industry to hide an additive since the MSG contained within the yeast extract does not require explicit labeling.

Potassium bromate – is typically used as a flour improver, strengthening the dough and allowing higher rising. It is an oxidizing agent, and under the right conditions, will be completely used up in the baking of bread. However, if too much is added, or if the bread is not baked long enough or not at a high enough temperature, then a residual amount will remain, which may be harmful if consumed. Potassium bromate is produced by passing bromine into a solution of potassium hydroxide, and an industrial electrolytic process is used for large-scale production. Alternatively, it can be created as a by-product of potassium bromide production by absorption of bromine from ocean water into potassium carbonate. Potassium bromate has been known for over three decades to cause cancer in laboratory animals and has been banned from use in food products in China, Canada, Nigeria, Brazil, Peru and other countries, but has not been banned in the United States. The FDA sanctioned the use of bromate before the Delaney clause of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which bans potentially carcinogenic substances, went into effect in 1958, so it is more difficult for it to now be banned. Instead, since 1991 the FDA has urged bakers to voluntarily stop using it. In California a warning label is required when bromated flour is used.

– This pair of preservatives turns up in many breakfast cereals as well as snack foods, chewing gum, pies, cakes and processed meats. Made from coal tar or petroleum, BHA and BHT have been of concern for decades. Over 30 years ago studies found that after pregnant mice were fed BHT and BHA, their offspring were born with altered brain chemistry. BHA – butylated hydroxyyanisole – is a waxy solid used as a food additive with the E number E320 and the primary use is as an antioxidant and preservative in food, food packaging, animal feed, cosmetics, rubber, and petroleum products. It is considered a possible carcinogen by the World Health Organization and listed as a carcinogen in California. BHT – butylated hydroxytoluene – is a fat-soluble organic compound, chemically a derivative of phenol, that is useful for its antioxidant properties. While there may be some dispute to BHT’s use in the human diet, the chemical is widely used in industry wherever oxidation in fluids such as fuel, oil and other materials must be treated, and free radicals must be kept in-check. European and U.S. regulations allow small percentages to be used as a food additive. There is research that links to child hyperactivity as well as to cancer, and conversely, BHT is advocated as a diet supplement and antiviral useful against herpes family viruses.

Brominated vegetable oil or BVO – is vegetable oil that has had atoms of the element bromine bonded to it. Brominated vegetable oil is used to stabilize citrus-flavored soft drinks and has been used by the soft drink industry since 1931. It is found in some Gatorade products, Mountain Dew and other drinks containing citrus flavorings and its high density helps the droplets of natural fat-soluble citrus flavors stay suspended in the drink. BVO builds up in fatty tissue and has been shown to cause heart damage in research animals. It’s banned in Europe, India and Japan and has never been declared safe by the FDA, where its status has remained in limbo for over 30 years. The United States Food and Drug Administration considers BVO to be safe for use as a food additive. BVO is one of four substances that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has defined as interim food additives; the other three are acrylonitrile copolymers, mannitol, and saccharin.

“Harmful food additives can contribute to many serious medical conditions that include diabetes, obesity and heart disease,” says Harvard M.D., Dr. Eva Selhub. “Eliminating these ‘top 10’ additives from your diet is an excellent start to healthier eating.”

“This project is a great way to help people gain a better understanding about the foods they eat and recognize ingredients used as preservatives to determine, at least in part, the extent to which their food is processed,” says Gina M. Crome, registered dietitian and ACE-certified personal trainer. “Although a number of additives on the list are generally recognized as safe by the FDA, this determination is based only on current scientific research. Food additive risks can’t be completely eliminated as new data becomes available. The best defense against potential risk begins with educational awareness activities – such as this program. Consumers may also want to consider increasing their intake of fresh, whole foods that are as close to their natural state as possible.”

Learn more at Citizens For Health

Read more about consumer food safety issues


WARNING: Energy Drinks May Disturb Heart Rhythm/Increase Blood Pressure

energy-drinksResearchers analyzing data from several studies have determined that energy drinks may increase blood pressure and disturb the heart’s natural rhythm.

The research – presented at the American Heart Association’s  Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2013 Scientific Sessions – took a look at seven previously published observational and interventional studies to determine how consuming energy drinks might impact heart health.

They examined the QT interval – a segment of the heart’s rhythm on an electrocardiogram –  of 93 people who had just consumed one to three cans of energy drinks and found that the QT interval was 10 milliseconds longer for those who had consumed the energy drinks.

QT prolongation is associated with life-threatening arrhythmias. When prolonged, the QT interval can cause serious irregular heartbeats or sudden cardiac death. The finding that energy drinks could prolong the QT in light of reports of sudden cardiac death warrants further investigation.

Researchers also learned that the systolic blood pressure – the top number in a blood pressure reading – increased an average of 3.5 points in a pool of 132 participants including young patients 18 to 45 years old.

“Doctors are generally concerned if patients experience an additional 30 milliseconds in their QT interval from baseline,” says Sachin A. Shah, Pharm.D., lead author and assistant professor at University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif. “The correlation between energy drinks and increased systolic blood pressure is convincing and concerning, and more studies are needed to assess the impact on the heart rhythm.”

“Patients with high blood pressures or long QT syndrome should use caution and judgment before consuming an energy drink,” Shah continued. “Since energy drinks also contain caffeine, people who do not normally drink much caffeine might have an exaggerated increase in blood pressure. People with health concerns or those who are older might have more heart-related side effects from energy drinks.”

Find out more at the American Heart Association

Visit the University of the Pacific

Protection From Strokes: The Benefits Of Coffee And Green Tea

coffeeScientists undergoing a study of chemicals in coffee and green tea say the two drinks can benefit the heart when made a regular part of your diet. The study – published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association – concluded that green tea and coffee may help lower your risk of having a stroke and that the more coffee or green tea you drink, the lower your risk of stroke.

“The regular action of drinking tea and coffee largely benefits cardiovascular health because it partly keeps blood clots from forming,” says Yoshihiro Kokubo, of Japan’s National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Centre and lead study author.


While it is unclear how green tea affects stroke risks, catechins increase anti-clotting effects, plasma antioxidant capacity and have an antioxidant anti-inflammatory effect. Catechins are abundant in teas derived from the tea plant Camellia sinensis, as well as in some cocoas and chocolates. Flavonols – which catechins are a compound of – usually from cocoa beans or tea, are believed to keep arteries flexible, increase small vessel circulation, reduce blood pressure and protect against sunburns. None of these effects, however, has been adequately proven by rigorous science and clinical trials.

Catechins are also present in the human diet in fruits, vegetables and wine, and the health benefits of catechins have been studied extensively in humans and animal models. Reduction in atherosclerotic plaques was seen in animal models and reduction in carcinogenesis was seen in vitro. Catechins, when combined with habitual exercise, have been shown to delay some forms of aging. Mice fed catechins showed decreased levels of aging, lowering of oxidative stress in mitochondria, and an increase in mRNA transcription of mitochondrial-related proteins.

Many studies on the health benefits have been linked to the catechin content. According to Norman Hollenberg, Professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School, epicatechin can reduce the risk of four of the major health problems: stroke, heart failure, cancer and diabetes. He studied the Kuna people in Panama, who drink up to 40 cups of cocoa a week and found the prevalence of the “big four” is less than 10 percent. He believes epicatechin should be considered essential to the diet and thus classed as a vitamin.

Chlorogenic Acid

Chlorogenic acid – a chemical in coffee – reduces stroke risk by lowering the chances of Type 2 diabetes. Chlorogenic acid is marketed under the trade name Svetol in Norway and the United Kingdom as a food additive used in coffee, chewing gum, and mints. This compound, long known as an antioxidant, also slows the release of glucose into the bloodstream after a meal.

“Further research could clarify how the interaction between coffee and green tea might help further lower stroke risks,” Kokubo says. “This is the first large-scale study to examine the combined effects of both green tea and coffee on stroke risks. You may make a small but positive lifestyle change to help lower the risk of stroke by adding daily green tea to your diet.”

Many studies have examined the health effects of coffee, and whether the overall effects of coffee consumption are positive or negative has been widely disputed. The majority of recent research suggests that moderate coffee consumption is benign or mildly beneficial in healthy adults. However, coffee can worsen the symptoms of some conditions, largely due to the caffeine and diterpenes it contains.

Learn more about Stroke – the Journal of the American Heart Association
Read about catechins and chlorogenic acid

Concerning Findings: The Link Between Sugar-Sweetened Beverages And High Calorie Intake

sugar-sweetened-beverageSweetened sodas, sports drinks, fruit drinks and energy drinks – also known as SSBs – are the primary culprit for higher caloric intake of children that consume them as compared to children that don’t, says a new  study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The study also concluded that SSB consumption is associated with higher intake of unhealthy foods.

The consumptions of SSBs over the past 20 years has risen, which has caused concern because higher consumption of SSBs is associated with high caloric intakes, but it wasn’t clear until recently what portion of the diet was responsible for consumers’ higher caloric intake.

The Findings

Data was taken from the 2003-2010 What We Eat In America, National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, and a sample of 10,955 children from ages two to 18 were analyzed. Results were tabulated for three age ranges – two to five, six to 11, and 12 to 18 years old. The results:

  • While intake of food increased, intake of non-sweetened beverages decreased with higher consumption of SSBs.
  • By examining both food and non-sweetened beverages SSBs are primarily responsible for higher caloric intakes among two to five year olds and six to 11 year olds.
  • A similar finding was observed among children aged 12 years, however, both food and SSBs contributed to higher caloric intakes of adolescents consuming greater than 500 kilocalories of SSBs.

“The primary aims of our study were to determine the extent to which SSBs contribute to higher caloric intake of SSB consumers and to identify food and beverage groups from the overall diet that are associated with increased SSB consumption,” says Kevin Mathias of the Department of Nutrition, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and lead investigator. “Among all age groups analyzed, the energy density – calories per gram – of food consumed increased with higher SSB intake. These findings suggest that higher consumption of SSBs is associated with consumption of foods with high caloric contents. This is concerning because many foods that are associated with higher SSB consumption – pizza, cakes, cookies, pies, fried potatoes, and sweets – are also top sources of solid fats and added sugars; components of the diet that the 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommends Americans should limit.”

Learn more about the What We Eat In America dietary survey

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Processed Meat Dangers: New Study Reveals Its Major Impact On Health

processed-meatBiomed Central has unveiled the results of a study of a half million people in 10 countries  that shows an association between cancer, cardiovascular disease and processed meat. The study – known as EPIC (the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) – followed people aged 35 to 69 for an average of 13 years and is reported in the BMC Medicine journal.

Important Findings

  • A person’s risk of premature death – increased risk of all-cause mortality – increased with the amount of processed meat eaten.
  • Men and women who ate the most processed meat ate the fewest fruit and vegetables and were more likely to smoke.
  • Men who ate a lot of meat also tended to have high alcohol consumption.
  • People who ate a lot of processed meat were also more likely to be obese, smoke, or make other lifestyle choices that can have a negative effect on health. Even accounting for diet, smoking, physical activity, and body mass index, processed meat was shown to have a major impact on health.
  • A small amount of red meat appeared to be beneficial to health possibly because meat is a good source of vitamins and other nutrients.

One challenge in researching processed meat’s effect on health is the other lifestyle factors involved. Vegetarians tend to make healthier lifestyle choices in general.

“Risks of dying earlier from cancer and cardiovascular disease also increased with the amount of processed meat eaten,” says analysis leader Sabine Rohrmann.  “Overall, we estimate that three percent of premature deaths each year could be prevented if people ate less than 20 grams of processed meat per day.”

“The results of our analysis support a moderate positive association between processed meat consumption and mortality in particular due to cardiovascular diseases, but also cancer,” the study’s authors concluded.

Learn more about BioMed Central

Common Chemicals Linked To Osteoarthritis: A Closer Look At PFCs

osteoarthritisA new study has linked exposure to two common perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) with osteoarthritis.

The study – published in Environmental Health Perspectives – looked at the associations between perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), and osteoarthritis in a U.S. study. Data was analyzed from six years of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES, 2003-2008), and accounted for factors such as age, income, and race and ethnicity.

They found that PFOA and PFOS exposures are associated with  a higher prevalence of osteoarthritis, particularly in women. As a group, women are disproportionately impacted by this chronic disease. When they looked at men and women separately, they found clear, strong associations for women, but not men. Women in the highest 25 percent of exposure to PFOA had about two times the odds of having osteoarthritis compared to those in the lowest 25 percent of exposure.

Reasons for differences in the associations between men and women, if confirmed, need further exploration. Better understanding the health effects of these chemicals and identifying any susceptible subpopulations could help to inform public health policies aimed at reducing exposures or associated health impacts

PFCs are used in more than 200 industrial processes and consumer products including certain stain and water-resistant fabrics, grease-proof paper food containers, and personal care products. Because of their persistence, PFCs have become ubiquitous contaminants of humans and wildlife.



Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), also known as C8 and perfluorooctanoate, is a synthetic perfluorinated carboxylic acid and fluorosurfactant. One industrial application is as a surfactant in the emulsion polymerization of fluoropolymers. It has been used in the manufacture of such prominent consumer goods as Teflon and Gore-Tex.

PFOA persists indefinitely in the environment. It is a toxicant and carcinogen in animals. PFOA has been detected in the blood of more than 98 percent of the general U.S. population in the low and sub-parts per billion range, and levels are higher in chemical plant employees and surrounding subpopulations.

Exposure has been associated with increased cholesterol and uric acid levels, and recently higher serum levels of PFOA were found to be associated with increased risk of chronic kidney disease in the general United States population, consistent with earlier animal studies, according to the American Journal of Epidemiology study “Perfluoroalkyl Chemicals and Chronic Kidney Disease in U.S. Adults.”



Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid or perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), is a man-made fluorosurfactant and global pollutant. PFOS was the key ingredient in Scotchgard, a fabric protector made by 3M, and numerous stain repellents. Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid is usually used as the sodium or potassium salts.

PFOS, together with PFOA, has also been used to make aqueous film forming foam, a component of fire-fighting foams, and alcohol-type concentrate foams. PFOS compounds can also be found in some impregnation agents for textiles, paper, and leather; in wax, polishes, paints, varnishes, and cleaning products for general use; and in metal surfaces and carpets.

In the semiconductor industry, PFOS is used in multiple photolithographic chemicals including photoacid generators and anti-reflective coatings. It has been phased out in the European Union semiconductor industry due to health concerns.

In animal studies PFOS also causes cancer, physical development delays, endocrine disruption, and neonatal mortality. Neonatal mortality might be the most dramatic result of laboratory animal tests with PFOS, as noted in the paper: Perfluoroalkyl Acids: What is the Evidence Telling Us?” Female mice with blood levels of PFOS within ranges found in wildlife and humans demonstrated higher mortality when infected with influenza A.

Although production and usage of PFOA and PFOS have declined due to safety concerns, human and environmental exposure to these chemicals remains widespread. Future studies are needed to establish temporality and shed light on possible biological mechanisms.

The research study was authored by Sarah Uhl, Michelle L. Bell, Yale Professor; and Tamarra James-Todd,  an epidemiologist at the Harvard medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital as the focus of Uhl’s Master’s of Environmental Science Program at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Learn more about Environmental Health Perspectives

Read more about perfluorinated compounds


SEAFOOD FRAUD: 33% Of Seafood Mislabeled

A report just released by Oceana – the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans – has uncovered widespread seafood fraud across the United States. DNA testing has confirmed that one-third – or 33 percent – of the 1,215 fish samples collected by Oceana from 674 retail outlets in 21 states from 2010 to 2012 were mislabeled, according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines.

Oceana found seafood fraud in every area it tested. Here’s the mislabeling rates.

  • Southern California – 52 percent
  • Austin and Houston, Texas – 49 percent
  • Boston – 48 percent
  • New York City – 39 percent
  • Northern California – 38 percent
  • South Florida – 38 percent
  • Denver – 36 percent
  • Kansas City – 35 percent
  • Chicago – 32 percent
  • Washington, D.C. – 26 percent
  • Portland – 21 percent
  • Seattle – 18 percent

The study targeted fish with regional significance and those found to be frequently mislabeled in previous studies including cod, tuna, wild salmon and red snapper. Of these most commonly collected types the two that had the highest mislabeling rates were snapper – 87 percent – and tuna – 59 percent. Forty-four percent of the retail outlets tested sold mislabeled fish. The worst level of mislabeling fell on sushi venues which had the worst mislabeling level – 74 percent – and then restaurants – 38 percent – and grocery stores – 18 percent.

More Mislabeling Findings

The report also revealed:

  • Mislabeling was found in 27 of the 46 fish types tested.
  • 84 percent of the white tuna samples were actually escolar – a species that can cause serious digestive issues for some individuals who eat more than a few ounces.
  • Fish on the FDA’s Do-Not-Eat list for sensitive groups because of their high mercury content – such as pregnant women and children – were sold to customers who had ordered safer fish – tilefish sold as red snapper and halibut in New York City and king mackerel sold as grouper in South Florida.
  • Between one-fifth to more than one-third of the halibut, grouper, cod and Chilean seabass samples were mislabeled.
  • Overfished and vulnerable species were substituted for more sustainable catch – Atlantic halibut sold as Pacific halibut and speckled hind sold as red grouper.
  • Only seven of the 120 red snapper samples collected nationwide were actually red snapper.
  • Cheaper farmed fish were substituted for wild fish – pangasius sold as grouper, sole, and cod, tilapia sold as red snapper and Atlantic farmed salmon sold as wild or king salmon.

While more than 90 percent of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, less than one percent is inspected by the government for fraud. More than 1,700 different species of seafood from all over the world are available in the U.S., making it extremely difficult for consumers to determine what they are eating.

“Some of the fish substitutions we found are just disturbing,” says Dr. Kimberly Warner, report author and senior scientist at Oceana. “Apart from being cheated, many consumers are being denied the right to choose fish wisely based on health or conservations concerns.”

“Purchasing seafood has become the ultimate guessing game for U.S. consumers,” adds Beth Lowell, campaign director at Oceana. “Whether you live in Florida or Kansas, no one is safe from seafood fraud. We need to track our seafood from boat to plate so that consumers can be more confident that the fish they purchase is safe, legal and honestly labeled.”

Read the Oceana report

Learn more about fighting seafood fraud

The Health Benefits Of Cilantro And Coriander

cilantro corianderCilantro – also known as coriander  – is an herb that brings added flavor to dishes such as fish, chicken, lamb, pork and shellfish. It also goes great with rice, peppers, guacamole, salsas, salads, tomatoes and lentils.

But it’s not used just for cooking and eating. Cilantro was used in ancient Greece as a component of perfume, was used by the Romans to mask the smell of rotten meat, and is a natural cleansing agent effective with heavy metals.

Coriander seeds are used in traditional Indian medicine as a diuretic. In holistic and traditional medicine it is used as a digestive aid. James A. Duke, Ph.D., a former botanist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and author of The CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs, cites the digestive-system-promoting benefits of cilantro and recommends drinking a cup of the tea made from a handful of the leaves when experiencing any form of stomach discomfort.

Coriander has been documented as a traditional treatment for Type 2 diabetes, according to Wikipedia. Coriander seeds were also found to have a significant hypolipidaemic effect on rats – resulting in lowering levels of total cholesterol and triglycerides and increasing levels of high-density lipoprotein.

Research conducted by The Dental School of Piracicaba in Brazil found cilantro oil to be a new natural antifungal formulation opportunity. The School of Life Science in Tamil Nadu, India noted, after researching the anti-diabetic activity of cilantro, the leaves and stem, “if used in cuisine would be a remedy for diabetes.”

Cilantro seed oil possesses antioxidative and antihyperglycemic properties, and consumption may decrease oxidative stress. It has also been examined and described to have a blood-sugar lowering effect. Other benefits include strong antioxidant activity and demonstrated antibacterial activity. Cilantro has also been shown to have anti-anxiety effects, has demonstrated anti-fungal activity, may help improve sleep quality, and may be able to help prevent cardiovascular damage.

Learn more about cilantro and coriander

Find out more about James A. Duke and the CRC Press


WARNING: The Link Between Deep-Fried Foods And Prostate Cancer

deep-fried-foodAcrylamide, heterocyclic amines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, aldehyde and acrolein . If you deep fry your foods, chances are you are consuming these toxic compounds – and increasing your risk of prostate cancer.

A new study finds that regularly consuming deep-fried foods is associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer and that the effect appears slightly stronger in more aggressive forms of the disease.

The study – conducted by investigators at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center – and published online in The Prostate – is the first to examine deep frying methods while previous studies looked at high-heat cooking methods. The researchers controlled for factors such as age, race, family history of prostate cancer, body-mass index and PSA screening history when calculating the association between eating deep-fried foods and prostate cancer risk.

The researchers analyzed data from two prior population-based case-control studies involving a total of 1,549 men diagnosed with prostate cancer and 1,492 age-matched healthy controls. The men were Caucasian and African-American Seattle-area residents and ranged in age from 35 to 74 years. Participants were asked to fill out a dietary questionnaire about their usual food intake, including specific deep-fried foods.

The Findings

  • Men who reported eating French fries, fried chicken, fried fish or doughnuts at least once a week were at an increased risk of prostate cancer as compared to men who said they ate such foods less than once a month.
  • Men who ate one or more of these foods at least weekly had an increased risk of prostate cancer that ranged from 30 to 37 percent.
  • Weekly consumption of these foods was associated also with a slightly greater risk of more aggressive prostate cancer.

The Culprits

Possible means for the increased cancer risk include the fact that when oil is heated to temperatures suitable for deep frying, potentially carcinogenic compounds can form in the fried food. They include acrylamide – found in carbohydrate-rich foods such as French fries; heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons – chemicals formed when meat is cooked at high temperatures; aldehyde – an organic compound found in perfume; and acrolein – a chemical found in herbicides. These toxic compounds are increased with re-use of oil and increased length of frying time.

Foods cooked with high heat also contain high levels of advanced glycation endproducts, or AGEs, which have been associated with chronic inflammation and oxidative stress. Deep-fried foods are among the highest in AGE content. A chicken breast deep fried for 20 minutes contains more than nine times the amount of AGEs as a chicken breast boiled for an hour.

“The link between prostate cancer and select deep-fried foods appeared to be limited to the highest level of consumption – defined in our study as more than once a week – which suggests that regular consumption of deep-fried foods confers particular risk for developing prostate cancer,” said Janet L. Stanford, Ph.D, corresponding author of the study. “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to look at the association between intake of deep-fried food and risk of prostate cancer. However, deep-fried foods have previously been linked to cancers of the breast, lung, pancreas, head and neck, and esophagus.”

Read the study – Consumption of Deep-Fried Foods and Risk of Prostate Cancer

Learn more about the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center


Improve Your Heart Health

million heartsWe mentioned in our last post that February is Heart Awareness Month. Cardiovascular disease – including heart disease and stroke – is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Over 2,000 Americans a day die from cardiovascular disease.

An organization focused on enhancing cardiovascular disease prevention activities is Million Hearts. This national initiative – which works with communities, health systems, federal agencies, nonprofit organizations and private-sector partners – has set a goal to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017.

Million Hearts plans to do this by:

  • Improving access to effective care
  • Improving the quality of care for the ABCS
  • Focusing clinical attention on the prevention of heart attack and stroke
  • Activating the public to lead a heart-healthy lifestyle
  • Improving the prescription and adherence to appropriate medications for the ABCS

Know Your ABCs To Improve Heart Health

A – Appropriate aspirin use – Ask your doctor if aspirin will reduce your risk for heart attacks.
B Blood pressure control – You can control your blood pressure and reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke.
C – Cholesterol management – Your healthcare professional can provide guidance to help you lower your cholesterol levels if they’re high.
S – Smoking cessation – Ask your healthcare professional to connect you with tools to help you quit smoking.

Read more about Million Hearts

Learn more at the National Stroke Association


What You Can Do To Keep Your Sodium Levels Low

sodiumAre you aware that a diet high in sodium can have a negative effect on your health and lead to the development of heart disease?

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. High blood pressure is a key heart disease risk factor and a diet high in sodium contributes to the development of hypertension and heart disease. With February being Heart Awareness Month, this is a great time to take a look at steps you can follow to be heart healthy and reduce your sodium intake.

The average American consumes double the recommended amount of sodium, which is listed at 2,300 milligrams for adults in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. And with sodium being so readily available it is easy for your sodium consumption to rise.

Reduce Sodium Consumption

A few things you can do to reduce your sodium consumption:

  • Avoid adding salt to your food for two weeks and chances are you won’t want to return to using as much. After that, gradually decrease usage so your body gets used to less sodium and doesn’t crave it.
  • Limit the amount and servings of processed foods such as fast food, canned soups and frozen meals.
  • Reduce the amount of condiments you consume such as mustard, ketchup, dressings and sauces.
  • Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and less canned foods.
  • Eat lean ground beef, low-sodium processed meats and hamburgers from scratch.
  • Flavor your food with spices, herbs, fruit juices and zest from citrus fruit.

“The most alarming fact is that without even realizing it, we ingest a large amount of sodium every day,” says registered dietician Ryan Whitcomb of Whitsons Culinary Group. “It is present in canned and some frozen vegetables, in smoked meats, cheeses, and in most processed foods. Keep in mind that large amounts of sodium can increase your blood pressure, forcing your kidneys and heart to work harder.”

Visit Whitsons Culinary Group

Read more about sodium in your diet

NEW STUDY: Does What You Eat Affect Your Sleep?

eat sleepPeople with the most varied diets are the best rested and what you eat does affect how well you sleep, says a new study by the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

The study – released online to Appetite – took a look at data from the 2007-2008 U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Their findings:

  • Certain nutrients may play a role in sleep duration.
  • People who eat a wide variety of foods – an indicator of an overall healthy diet – had the healthiest sleep patterns.
  • Short sleepers – five to six hours a night – consumed the most calories; followed by normal sleepers – seven to eight hours; very short sleepers – fewer than five hours; and long sleepers – nine or more hours.
  • Normal sleepers consumed the most varied diet; short sleepers consumed the least varied diet.
  • Very short sleep was associated with lower intake of a chemical called lycopene – found in red and orange-colored foods such as tomatoes – as well as total carbohydrates and tap water.
  • Short sleep was associated with lower intake of vitamin C, tap water, selenium – a mineral found in nuts, meat and shellfish – and higher intake of nutrients found in green, leafy vegetables – called lutein and zeaxanthin.
  • Long sleep was associated with lower intake of a substance found in chocolate and tea – theobromine; a saturated fat called dodecanoic acid; choline – which is found in eggs and fatty meats; total carbohydrates; and a higher intake of alcohol.

“Although many of us inherently recognize that there is a relationship between what we eat and how we sleep, there have been very few scientific studies that have explored this connection, especially in a real-world situation,” said Michael Grandner, an instructor in psychiatry and member of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. “In general, we know that those who report between seven and eight hours of sleep each night are most likely to experience better overall health and well-being so we simply asked the question, ‘Are there differences in the diet of those who report shorter sleep, longer sleep, or standard sleep patterns?’

“Overall, people who sleep seven to eight hours each night differ in terms of their diet, compared to people who sleep less or more,” Grandner added. “We also found that short and long sleep are associated with lower food variety. What we still don’t know is if people altered their diets, would they be able to change their overall sleep pattern?”

Grandner feels that this will be an important area to explore going forward because it’s known that short sleep duration is associated with poor health effects, including weight gain, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It’s also known that people who sleep too long experience negative health consequences.”If we can pinpoint the ideal mix of nutrients and calories to promote healthy sleep, the health care community has the potential to make a major dent in obesity and other health risk factors.”

Visit the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology

Learn more about the Appetite research journal