People have know for at least a century that cranberries can help combat urinary tract infections but scientists are only now beginning to understand how. Canadian researchers exposed bacteria that cause the infections to cranberry powder and discovered that cranberries damage bacteria’s ability to grow the whip-like flagella appendages they use to move around, LiveScience finds. The bacteria almost completely lost the ability to swim and swarm—an ability that can be especially dangerous in urinary tract bacteria.
Even Proteus mirabilis—described as a “really aggressive swarmer” that can cause serious infections in catheterized patients—was crippled by the cranberry powder. The powder could be a very valuable treatment because it disables bacteria to be flushed out harmlessly by the body, whereas antibiotics kill most but not all bacteria, leading to hardy strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. One problem was the the concentration of cranberries most effective against bacteria was higher than what you would find even in a regular drinker of cranberry juice, so researchers are looking at embedding cranberry powder directly into catheters.
New Harvard research provides the strongest evidence to date that eating nuts can reduce a person’s risk of dying from cancer, heart disease, and a number of other causes.
The study, published Wednesday in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine,involved more than 118,000 healthy volunteers and found that those who regularly consumed a one-ounce daily serving of walnuts, almonds, cashews or other tree nuts had a 20 percent lower risk of dying from any cause during the three-decade long study compared to those who did not eat nuts.
Nut eaters were 25 percent less likely to die from heart disease, 10 percent less likely to die from cancer, and 20 percent less likely to die from diabetes as well as lung diseases. The study found that nut eaters enjoyed longer lifespans even if they did not exercise, avoided fruits and vegetables, and were overweight.
A mom who thought she was properly parenting by sending her two young kids to school with a homemade, whole-food lunch was shocked to find a penalty note from school officials informing her that the lunch of roast beef, potatoes, carrots, oranges and milk she provided was “unbalanced” and therefore had to be supplemented with Ritz crackers.
She was also fined $10.
The benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption are not a new discovery. However, new research confirms their role in reducing mortality. This reduction is more significant in the case of deaths from cardiovascular disease.
The analysis, recently published in the ‘American Journal of Epidemiology’, was directed by researchers from ten countries, including Spain, as part of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC).
The sample analyzed includes 25,682 deaths (10,438 due to cancer and 5,125 due to cardiovascular disease) among the 451,151 participants studied over more than 13 years.
“This study is the most significant epidemiological study that this association has examined to date,” María José Sánchez Pérez, director of the Andalusian School of Public Health’s (EASP) Granada Cancer Registry and one of the authors of the research, explains to SINC.
- Companies That Profit From Unhealthy Food Say Keep Eating Junk, Just Exercise More (Other Words)
- Life expectancy doubled in the past 150 years. Here’s why. (Slate)
- Bigger and healthier: European men grow 11cm in a century (Reuters)
- Eating broccoli may prevent osteoarthritis (Guardian)
- US Teens Are Actually Getting Healthier (Newser)
- UK: Half Of Seven-Year-Olds Not Exercising Enough (Sky)
- Six health myths you should ignore (New Scientist)
- Exercise and Caffeine Change Your DNA in the Same Way, Study Suggests (Science Daily)
- We all have hundreds of DNA flaws, UK geneticists say (BBC)
Doctors typically give patients prescriptions for medications. But a new program in New York City has doctors prescribing fruits and vegetables to obese or overweight patients.
Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs and Health Commissioner Thomas Farley launched the Tuesday. It aims to give at-risk families greater access to healthy foods.
Under the program, obese or overweight patients can be prescribed Health Bucks redeemable for produce at local farmers markets.
Health Bucks are a part of the city’s initiative to make locally grown produce available to low-income New Yorkers. The vouchers are accepted at more than 140 New York City farmers markets.
The Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program is meant to benefit whole families and communities at a time. Patients in the program receive $1 in Health Bucks per day for each person in their family for a period of at least four months. Each month, patients check in with the hospital to have their prescriptions renewed, and their weight and body mass index evaluated. They also receive nutritional counseling.
Until we attain a fair, sustainable food system for all, eating according to your values can cost a pretty penny. Organic produce, for example, tends to cost more than its pesticide-doused counterpart. The good news is, thanks to organizations like the Environmental Working Group (EWG), we know that some non-organic fruits and veggies are safer than others to eat. If purchasing organic food is too expensive for your family, go for these fruits and veggies next time you hit up the produce aisle.
Less than 1 percent of the samples EWG tested had any pesticides, making onions a particularly clean crop. Bugs don’t seem terribly interested in feasting on onions, so they aren’t sprayed as heavily with pesticides as some other vegetables.
Unlike fruits that have edible skins, pineapples have a tough, thick skin that protects the fruit inside from harmful pesticides. When you cut and eat a pineapple, the most exposed parts end up in the compost bin.
Like pineapples, avocados also have a rigid skin that avocado lovers don’t eat. You shuck off most pesticide residue simply by discarding the shell.
Cabbages don’t require much help to grow, so not many chemicals are sprayed on these veggies.
Thanks to their pod, peas are among the safest conventional produce to eat.
Like onions, asparagus just doesn’t attract many pests in the form of insects or disease, so it’s not heavily sprayed with pesticides.
A thick skin protects the tasty inside of a mango from harmful chemicals. But you’re not totally in the clear—you should still wash your fruit.
It’s unclear why eggplants fare better than other vegetables, though some suspect that its skin, being somewhat dense and slick, could act as a protective barrier. Whatever it is, it’s working: Eggplants are among the safer veggies to eat.
You still need to rinse off your kiwi, but that fuzzy little skin helps keep pesticides at bay.
Sweet potatoes not only ranked among the lowest in pesticide residue, they’re rich in nutrients like beta carotene, and during the fall season you can find them everywhere.
Researchers at the University of California, Davis recently carried out the first-ever study to consider dietary exposure to 11 toxins simultaneously, including acrylamide, arsenic, lead, mercury, dioxins and several banned pesticides (chlordane, DDE, dieldrin). The study’s participants included 364 children aged two to seven, 446 parents of young children, and 149 older adults, all living in California. To assess exposure levels, researchers used food-frequency questionnaires along with toxin content datasets from the Environmental Protection Agency. Exposure levels were then compared with the “cancer benchmark” of each toxin, which is the exposure level that would generate one excess cancer per million people over a 70-year lifetime. Non-cancer benchmark levels were also considered, for health effects other than cancer.
The researchers found that average exposure levels of the children and adults exceeded cancer benchmark levels for arsenic, lead, dieldrin, DDE and dioxins, while the children also exceeded cancer-benchmark levels of chlordane. Both children and adults also exceeded the non-cancer benchmark for acrylamide exposure. Most worrying was that for each of these toxins, children showed greater exposure margins than adults. In fact, children exceeded the cancer benchmark levels 10-fold for DDE, nearly 100-fold for dieldrin, and over 100-fold for arsenic and dioxins. Researchers noted that children are most at risk from these toxins because they are still developing.
Arsenic has been linked to liver, lung, kidney, and bladder cancers. Dieldrin is a banned insecticide suspected to cause cancer, Parkinson’s disease and low birth weight. DDE is a metabolite of the banned pesticide DDT, and is known to damages cells’ genetic material. Chlordane is also a banned pesticide and has been linked to cancer, neurotoxicity and low birth weight. All of these toxins, and especially dioxins, are also suspected endocrine disruptors and may therefore also disturb the development of the children’s immune, nervous and reproductive systems.
As a helpful guide, the researchers identified the top five food items responsible for exposure of preschoolers to each toxin:
Arsenic: poultry, cereal, salmon, tuna, mushrooms
DDE: dairy, potatoes, meat, freshwater fish, pizza
Dieldrin: dairy, meat, cucumber, cantaloupe, pizza
Chlordane: dairy, cucumber, meat, popcorn, potatoes
Dioxins: dairy, meat, potatoes, cereal, mushrooms
Acrylamide: crackers, fried potatoes, cereal, graham crackers, chips
Also, foods with the highest pesticide residues were (non-organic): tomatoes, peaches, apples, peppers, grapes, lettuce, broccoli, strawberries, spinach, pears, green beans and celery.
Based on their findings, the researchers in this study made several dietary recommendations for reducing exposure to the main toxins in the general population as follows:
Pesticides: switch to organic fruits, vegetables and dairy products
Acrylamide: reduce intake of chips, cereal, crackers and other processed carbohydrate foods
Persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals: reduce consumption of meat, fish, dairy
It’s rare that the authors of a peer-reviewed journal article publicly recommend a switch to organic foods, but that’s exactly what these researchers have done. Far from being just for snobs, organic products now appear to be a necessity for anyone wanting to protect themselves and their children from potentially dangerous levels of multiple toxins which now pervade our environment and food supply.
- Vulnerability of children and the developing brain to neurotoxic hazards (NCBI)
- Dietary exposures to food contaminants across the United States (NCBI)
- Study: 3D Printers May Be As Hazardous To Your Health As Cigarettes (Huffington Post)
- Pancreatic Cancer: Bacteria May Play a Role (Live Science)
- Menthols Might Be Worse Than Regular Cigarettes (Newser)
- Skip Breakfast, Jack Your Risk of a Heart Attack (Newser)
If a single, organic avocado tree can produce up to 2000 fruits in one lifetime, then it should be a viable food option for sustaining the world population with its incredible nutrient value. One of the most evolved plants on the planet, avocados grow in dry, arid climates, as well as more temperate ones. Incredibly, this super food has a biochemical profile that would make other fruits, vegetables and nuts blush, since it contains the nutrients of all three. In fact, avocados are so important to our overall health that studies have even found avocado-eaters to be especially healthy.
Vitamin B6 is one of the most well-researched vitamins in existence. It works to support a healthy nervous system, provides energy, and promotes the digestion of sugars and starches. But researchers in Japan have recently discovered it could even protect the very blueprint of your existence, your DNA.
“The present finding adds to evidence to support a protective role of vitamin B6 against oxidative DNA damage,” said the researchers. Oxidative stress has been associated with an array of health issues including, most prominently, cancer.
[...] Vitamin B6 is found naturally in a wide variety of foods including animal products like chicken, turkey, tuna, and venison. But it’s also found in potatoes, spinach, sunflower seeds, and bell peppers. While supplements exist, it’s always best to let whole, natural foods be your primary source for nutrition.
by Pascale Harter
Can we make ourselves happier? According to studies from all over the globe collated by the World Happiness Database in Rotterdam, we can. But the path to happiness may not be where we are looking for it.
Professor Ruut Veenhoven, Director of the Database and Emeritus professor of social conditions for human happiness at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, says his own study found a slight negative correlation between the number of times people in a study spontaneously mentioned “goals” and their happiness.
“Though it is generally assumed that you need goals to lead a happy life, evidence is mixed. The reason seems to be that unhappy people are more aware of their goals, because they seek to change their life for the better.”
But perhaps the most intriguing finding from an array of studies on file at the database is the lack of correlation between seeing meaning in life and being happy.
‘When Katie Stagliano, from South Carolina, was just nine years old, she planted a cabbage seedling that grew to change her life. In fact, when it weighed an astounding two-and-a-half stone, she knew it was destined for greater things than her own kitchen.
So, the cabbage was harvested, hoisted onto her father’s truck and delivered to a nearby soup kitchen, where it fed 275 people. “If one cabbage can feed that many,” Katie thought, “imagine how many people a whole garden could feed.”
Saddened by seeing families having to queue for their only meal of the day, she set up Katie’s Krops. Run as a non-profit organisation and supported by donations and grants, its aim is to create as many vegetable plots as possible and yield enough food to regularly feed hundreds of people, as well as inspire others to set up similar schemes. Her approach is proven: “we can all help because it only takes a seedling!”
Palmetto House, a shelter that offers living space to 30 residents – including 12 children – and three meals a day, was already on Katie’s delivery route. However, staff realised they had enough land to grow produce onsite. A plot was marked out, residents helped till the soil, and a professional gardener volunteered her expertise to advise Katie on how to make the space most productive.’
by Lisa Garber
‘It’s no secret that the Mediterranean diet can help us achieve longevity, but the overall lifestyles of the region’s populace shouldn’t escape our attention. Tucked away in the Aegean Sea is a small, rocky island called Ikaria, where residents on average reach the age of 90. Here are a few island secrets of longevity researchers have picked up after years of studying the dreamy getaway.’
by Brian Milligan
‘Over five days, I set out to see if it was possible to include sufficient fruit, vegetables, protein and carbohydrates in my food to do that, spending no more than £1 a day – while trying not to lose sight of the fact that eating should be a pleasure, not just a necessity.
Coffee, alcohol, cakes and even salad are just too expensive. But there are plenty of surprising goodies that are very much on the menu.’
by Tara Culp-Ressler
‘A New York City elementary school became the first public school in the nation to go completely vegetarian when it stopped serving meat in its cafeteria this year.
Flushing’s P.S. 244 consists of about 400 students between kindergarten and third grade. And the staff say that the school lunches — which include options like black bean quesadillas, brown rice, falafel, roasted red potatoes, and tofu — are a hit among those young kids, some of whom have started requesting similar foods at home.’
by Michelle Roberts
‘Staying healthy means following a balanced diet. A growing number of people, however, are eliminating entire food groups, seeing only negative qualities in things like dairy, eggs, meats, grains, and fats.
Over time, the only things left in their diet are fruits and vegetables. Taken to an extreme, it’s now treated as an eating disorder called “Orthorexia”.
This is how Boston University Nutritionist Jenn Culbert defines Orthorexia: “What it essentially means is that someone is obsessed with eating only healthy food that they consider to be pure.”
The problem, according to Culbert, is our bodies need those so called bad foods.’
‘Data from a new study of British adults suggest that adherence to a “Western-style” diet (fried and sweet food, processed and red meat, refined grains, and high-fat dairy products) reduces a person’s likelihood of achieving older ages in good health and with higher functionality. Study results appear in the May issue of The American Journal of Medicine.
“The impact of diet on specific age-related diseases has been studied extensively, but few investigations have adopted a more holistic approach to determine the association of diet with overall health at older ages,” says lead investigator Tasnime Akbaraly, PhD, Inserm, Montpellier, France. “We examined whether diet, assessed in midlife, using dietary patterns and adherence to the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI), is associated with aging phenotypes, identified after a mean 16-year follow-up.”
The AHEI is a validated index of diet quality, originally designed to provide dietary guidelines with the specific intention to combat major chronic conditions such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
Investigators analyzed findings from the British Whitehall II cohort study, which suggest that following the AHEI can double the odds of reversing metabolic syndrome, a condition known to be a strong predictor of heart disease and mortality. The research team sought to identify dietary factors that can not only prevent premature death, but also promote ideal aging…’
New research suggests that practicing yoga produces internal changes on a genetic level ~ Pacific Standard
by TOM JACOBS
Newly published research from Norway suggests that a comprehensive yoga program rapidly produces internal changes on a genetic level. The results help explain the well-documented health benefits of this ancient practice.
“These data suggest that previously reported (therapeutic) effects of yoga practices have an integral physiological component at the molecular level, which is initiated immediately during practice,” writes a research team led by Fahri Saatcioglu of the University of Oslo. The team’s study is published in the online journal PLOS ONE.
Researchers first reported five years ago that practices such as yoga which elicit the “relaxation response” may have a long-term effect on gene expression. That’s the scientific term for whether a specific gene is “turned on,” meaning its protein or RNA product is being made. This latest study confirms those findings, links them to the body’s immune system, and suggests this effect may be instantaneous.
Your Food is Deceiving You: Interview with Ocean Robbins CEO-Food Revolution Network ~ Thom Hartmann
This film tells the story of a South Los Angeles edible garden planted in a surprising spot. Ron Finley, its planter, constructed the garden the way he wishes his neighborhood could be. And his vision of repurposing unused open space, like that of many others working together on urban agriculture in our city, should inspire us all, and remind us of how, with a little creativity of vision, and willingness to get our hands dirty, we can remake spaces defined by asphalt and dead grass into productive places of beauty.
TO LEARN MORE about the food movement in Los Angeles and how to get involved visit the Los Angeles Food Policy Council:
TO JOIN IN the MOVEMENT sign the GOOD FOOD PLEDGE:
by Tom Philpott
Remember that Stanford research meta-analysis purporting to show that organic food offers no real health advantages? (I poked some holes in it here). Buried in the study (I have a full copy but can’t post it for copyright reasons) is the finding that organic foods tend to have higher levels of phenols—compounds, naturally occurring in plants, widely believed to fight cancer and other degenerative diseases.
After the study’s release, one of the study’s authors, Dena Bravata, downplayed that result in a New York Times report :
While the difference [in total phenol levels between organic and conventional produce] was statistically significant, the size of the difference varied widely from study to study, and the data was based on the testing of small numbers of samples. “I interpret that result with caution,” Dr. Bravata said.
A paper published Feb. 20 in PLOS One highlighted the link between organic agriculture and phenols. A team of researchers compared total phenol content in organic and conventional tomatoes grown in nearby plots in Brazil. By cultivating the tomatoes in the same microclimate and in similar soil, the researchers were able to control for environmental factors that might otherwise affect nutrient content.
The result: Total phenolic content was 139 percent higher in the organic tomatoes than in the conventional at the time of harvest; and vitamin C content clocked in at 55 percent higher.
The authors hypothesize that the additional stress experienced by organic plants—having to fend off pests, scrounge harder for nutrients like nitrogen in soil, etc.—”resulted in oxidative stress and the accumulation of higher concentrations of soluble solids as sugars and other compounds contributing to fruit nutritional quality such as vitamin C and phenolic compounds.” In other words, when the plants suffer a bit, they generate more of these vital nutrients. And the same could be true for other phenol-rich fruits and vegetables.
There was a trade-off: the conventional tomatoes were significantly larger. But who wants big, tomatoes when smaller, more nutrient-dense ones are available? In my experience, smaller tomatoes, all things being equal, also tend to pack more flavor.
It’s important to note that this paper is just one data point within a complex topic; and the authors themselves note that more research is needed to understand the mechanism by which organic ag seems to boost phenol content. But as even the Stanford paper concedes, there does seem to be something to the connection.