"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Nutrition’

The Real Cause Of The Global Obesity Epidemic: Are Toxic Chemicals Making Us Fat?

In Uncategorized on March 31, 2012 at 2:57 pm

 

Oldspeak:“Studies conducted jointly by researchers at Imperial College London and Harvard University, published in the medical journal The Lancet, show that obesity worldwide almost doubled in the decades between 1980 and 2008. The prevalence of obesity in infants under 6 months had risen 73 percent since 1980. “This epidemic  poses a problem for conventional explanations of the fattening of America. Since they’re eating only formula or breast milk, and never exactly got a lot of exercise, the obvious explanations for obesity don’t work for babies, You have to look beyond the obvious.” Robert Lustig , Endocrinologist, UC San Francisco Ain’t ‘progress’ grand? In our insatiable lust for ‘more’ convenience, faster, easier, lighter, smaller, ‘safer’, our wondrous technological innovation has led to us poisoning ourselves and our environment in a myriad of yet unknown ways. We’re made to believe it’s all our fault. It’s our poor food choices, our lack of exercise, our lack of discipline and while that may be true in some instances, the problem is much more insidious and variegated than we can imagine. We’ve through genetic modification and chemical manipulation turned our food, our naturally perfect and nutritional sustenance against us. There can be no sadder commentary on the sign of our times than the fact that we wrap our food in petrochemical derived plastics. We literally wrap our food in the derivations of the fossilized remains of ancient dead plants and animals, and have convinced ourselves that it’s safe. “Ignorance Is Strength”

By Washington’s Blog:

World Wide Obesity Epidemic

Some 68% of all Americans are overweight, and obesity has almost doubled in the last couple of decades worldwide. As International Business Tribune reports:

Studies conducted jointly by researchers at Imperial College London and Harvard University, published in the medical journal The Lancet, show that obesity worldwide almost doubled in the decades between 1980 and 2008.

***

68 per cent of Americans were found to be overweight while close to 34 percent were obese.

Sure, people are eating too much and exercising too little (this post is not meant as an excuse for lack of discipline and poor choices). The processed foods and refined flours and sugars don’t help. And additives like high fructose corn syrup – which are added to many processed foods – are stuffing us with empty calories.

But given that there is an epidemic of obesity even in 6 month old infants (see below), there is clearly something else going on as well.

Are Toxic Chemicals Making Us Fat?

The toxins all around us might be making us fat.

As the Washington Post reported in 2007:

Several recent animal studies suggest that environmental exposure to widely used chemicals may also help make people fat.

The evidence is preliminary, but a number of researchers are pursuing indications that the chemicals, which have been shown to cause abnormal changes in animals’ sexual development, can also trigger fat-cell activity — a process scientists call adipogenesis.

The chemicals under scrutiny are used in products from marine paints and pesticides to food and beverage containers. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found one chemical, bisphenol A, in 95 percent of the people tested, at levels at or above those that affected development in animals.

These findings were presented at last month’s annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. A spokesman for the chemical industry later dismissed the concerns, but Jerry Heindel, a top official of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), who chaired the AAAS session, said the suspected link between obesity and exposure to “endocrine disrupters,” as the chemicals are called because of their hormone-like effects, is “plausible and possible.”

Bruce Blumberg, a developmental and cell biologist at the University of California at Irvine, one of those presenting research at the meeting, called them “obesogens” — chemicals that promote obesity.

***

Exposed mice became obese adults and remained obese even on reduced calorie and increased exercise regimes. Like tributyltin, DES [which for decades was added to animal feed and routinely given to pregnant women] appeared to permanently disrupt the hormonal mechanisms regulating body weight.

“Once these genetic changes happen in utero, they are irreversible and with the individual for life,” Newbold said.

***

“Exposure to bisphenol A is continuous,” said Frederick vom Saal, professor of biological sciences at the University of Missouri at Columbia. Bisphenol A is an ingredient in polycarbonate plastics used in many products, including refillable water containers and baby bottles, and in epoxy resins that line the inside of food cans and are used as dental sealants. [It is also added to store receipts.] In 2003, U.S. industry consumed about 2 billion pounds of bisphenol A.

Researchers have studied bisphenol A’s effects on estrogen function for more than a decade. Vom Saal’s research indicates that developmental exposure to low doses of bisphenol A activates genetic mechanisms that promote fat-cell activity. “These in-utero effects are lifetime effects, and they occur at phenomenally small levels” of exposure, vom Saal said.

***

Research into the impact of endocrine-disrupting chemicals on obesity has been done only in laboratory animals, but the genetic receptors that control fat cell activity are functionally identical across species. “They work virtually the same way in fish as they do in rodents and humans,” Blumberg said. “Fat cells are an endocrine organ.”

Ongoing studies are monitoring human levels of bisphenol A, but none have been done of tributyltin, which has been used since the 1960s and is persistent in the marine food web. “Tributyltin is the only endocrine disrupting chemical that has been shown without substantial argument to have an effect at levels at which it’s found in the environment,” Blumberg said.

Concern over tributyltin’s reproductive effects on marine animals has resulted in an international agreement discontinuing its use in anti-fouling paints used on ships. The EPA has said it plans next year to assess its other applications, including as an antimicrobial agent in livestock operations, fish hatcheries and hospitals.

Bisphenol A is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in consumer products, and the agency says the amount of bisphenol A or tributyltin that might leach from products is too low to be of concern. But the National Toxicology Program, part of the National Institutes of Health, is reviewing bisphenol A, and concerns about its estrogenic effects prompted California legislators to propose banning it from certain products sold in-state, a move industry has fought vigorously.

Similarly, the Daily Beast noted in 2010:

[Bad habits] cannot explain the ballooning of one particular segment of the population, a segment that doesn’t go to movies, can’t chew, and was never that much into exercise: babies. In 2006 scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health reported that the prevalence of obesity in infants under 6 months had risen 73 percent since 1980. “This epidemic of obese 6-month-olds,” as endocrinologist Robert Lustig of the University of California, San Francisco, calls it, poses a problem for conventional explanations of the fattening of America. “Since they’re eating only formula or breast milk, and never exactly got a lot of exercise, the obvious explanations for obesity don’t work for babies,” he points out. “You have to look beyond the obvious.”

The search for the non-obvious has led to a familiar villain: early-life exposure to traces of chemicals in the environment. Evidence has been steadily accumulating that certain hormone-mimicking pollutants, ubiquitous in the food chain, have two previously unsuspected effects. They act on genes in the developing fetus and newborn to turn more precursor cells into fat cells, which stay with you for life. And they may alter metabolic rate, so that the body hoards calories rather than burning them, like a physiological Scrooge. “The evidence now emerging says that being overweight is not just the result of personal choices about what you eat, combined with inactivity,” says Retha Newbold of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) in North Carolina, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “Exposure to environmental chemicals during development may be contributing to the obesity epidemic.” They are not the cause of extra pounds in every person who is overweight—for older adults, who were less likely to be exposed to so many of the compounds before birth, the standard explanations of genetics and lifestyle probably suffice—but environmental chemicals may well account for a good part of the current epidemic, especially in those under 50. And at the individual level, exposure to the compounds during a critical period of development may explain one of the most frustrating aspects of weight gain: you eat no more than your slim friends, and exercise no less, yet are still unable to shed pounds.

***

Newbold gave low doses (equivalent to what people are exposed to in the environment) of hormone-mimicking compounds to newborn mice. In six months, the mice were 20 percent heavier and had 36 percent more body fat than unexposed mice. Strangely, these results seemed to contradict the first law of thermodynamics, which implies that weight gain equals calories consumed minus calories burned. “What was so odd was that the overweight mice were not eating more or moving less than the normal mice,” Newbold says. “We measured that very carefully, and there was no statistical difference.”

***

`Programming the fetus to make more fat cells leaves an enduring physiological legacy. “The more [fat cells], the fatter you are,” says UCSF’s Lustig. But [fat cells] are more than passive storage sites. They also fine-tune appetite, producing hormones that act on the brain to make us feel hungry or sated. With more [fat cells], an animal is doubly cursed: it is hungrier more often, and the extra food it eats has more places to go—and remain.

***

In 2005 scientists in Spain reported that the more pesticides children were exposed to as fetuses, the greater their risk of being overweight as toddlers. And last January scientists in Belgium found that children exposed to higher levels of PCBs and DDE (the breakdown product of the pesticide DDT) before birth were fatter than those exposed to lower levels. Neither study proves causation, but they “support the findings in experimental animals,” says Newbold. They “show a link between exposure to environmental chemicals … and the development of obesity.” [See this for more information on the potential link between pesticides and obesity.]

***

This fall, scientists from NIH, the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and academia will discuss obesogens at the largest-ever government-sponsored meeting on the topic. “The main message is that obesogens are a factor that we hadn’t thought about at all before this,” says Blumberg. But they’re one that could clear up at least some of the mystery of why so many of us put on pounds that refuse to come off.

Consumption of the widely used food additive monosodium glutamate (MSG) has been linked to obesity.

Pthalates – commonly used in many plastics – have been linked to obesity. See this and this.  So has a chemical used to make Teflon, stain-resistant carpets and other products.

Most of the meat we eat these days contains estrogen, antibiotics and  powerful chemicals which change hormone levels. Modern corn-fed beef also contains much higher levels of saturated fat than grass-fed beef. So the meat we are eating is also making us fat.

Arsenic may also be linked with obesity, via it’s effect on the thyroid gland. Arsenic is often fed to chickens and pigs to fatten them up, and we end up ingesting it on our dinner plate. It’s ending up in other foods as well.

A lot of endocrine-disrupting pharmaceuticals and medications are also ending up in tap water.

Moreover, the National Research Council has found:

The effects of fluoride on various aspects of endocrine function should be examined further, particularly with respect to a possible role in the development of several diseases or mental states in the United States.

Some hypothesize that too much fluoride affects the thyroid gland, which may in turn lead to weight gain.

Antibiotics also used to be handed out like candy by doctors.  However, ingesting too many antibiotics has also been linked to obesity, as it kills helpful intestinal bacteria. See this and this.

Moreover, many crops in the U.S. are now genetically modified.  For example, 93 percent of soybeans grown in the US are genetically engineered, as are:

Some allege that Roundup kills healthy gut bacteria, and that genetically modified crops cause other health problems.

And Cornell University’s newspaper – the Cornell Sun – reports that our  intestinal bacteria also substantially affect our ability to eliminate toxins instead of letting them make us fat:

Cornell scientists researching the effects of environmental toxins to the onset of obesity and Type II Diabetes, discovered that—unlike other factors such as eating too many unhealthy foods—the extent of damage caused by pollutants depends not on what a person puts into her mouth, but on what is already living within her gut.

Prof. Suzanne Snedeker, food science, and Prof. Anthony Hay, microbiology, researched the contribution that microorganisms in the gut and environmental toxins known as “obesogens” have on ever rising obesity levels. Their work, which was published last October in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, reported a link between composition of gut microbiota, exposure to environmental chemicals and the development of obesity and diabetes. The review, “Do Interactions Between Gut Ecology and Environmental Chemicals Contribute to Obesity and Diabetes?”  combined three main ideas: predisposed gut microbe composition can increase an individual’s risk of obesity and Type II Diabetes, gut microbe activity can determine an individual’s metabolic reaction to persistent pollutants such as DDT and PCB and certain pharmaceuticals can also be metabolized differently depending on the community of microbes in the gut.

The microbe community influences many metabolic pathways within the gut, Snedeker said.  Our bodies metabolize chemicals, but how they are metabolized, and how much fat is stored, depends on gut ecology. Microbes are responsible not only for collecting usable energy from digested food, but also for monitoring insulin levels, storage of fat and appetite. Gut microbes also play an integral role in dealing with any chemicals that enter the body. According to Snedeker, differences in gut microbiota can cause drugs like acetaminophen to act as a toxin in some people while providing no problems for others.  While pharmaceutical and microbe interactions are well understood, there is little information in the area of microbe response to environmental toxins.

She said, there are more than three dozen chemicals called obesogenic compounds, that can cause weight gain by altering the body’s normal metabolic responses and lipid production.

“It seems probable that gut microbes are affecting how our bodies handle these environmental chemicals,” Snedeker said. According to Snedeker, enzymes that are influenced by interactions of gut microbes break down approximately two-thirds of the known environmental toxins. Therefore, differences in the gut microbe community strongly affect our bodies’ ability to get rid of environmental pollutants. Obesogens can alter normal metabolic behavior by changing the levels of fat that our bodies store. Snedeker and Hay suggested that the microbes in the gut of humans determine the way in which these chemicals are metabolized and thus could contribute to obesity.

Snedeker and Hay concluded that although high levels of obesogenic chemicals are bound to cause some kind of disruption in the gut microbe community responsible for breaking these chemicals down, the degree of the disturbance is dependent upon gut microbial composition. In other words, the amount of weight an individual is likely to gain when exposed to environmental toxins, or her risk of acquiring Type II Diabetes, could depend on the microorganism community in their gut.

No, Everything Won‘t Kill You

In response to information about toxic chemicals in our food, water and air, many people change the subject by saying “well, everything will kill you”. In other words, they try to change the topic by assuming that we would have to go back to the stone age to avoid exposure to toxic chemicals.

But this is missing the point entirely. In fact, companies add nasty chemicals to their products and use fattening food-producing strategies to cut corners and make more money.

In the same way that the financial crisis, BP oil spill and Fukushima nuclear disaster were caused by fraud and greed, we are daily exposed to obesity-causing chemicals because companies make an extra buck by lying about what is in their product, cutting every corner in the book, and escaping any consequences for their health-damaging actions.

In fattening their bottom line, the fat cats are creating an epidemic of obesity for the little guy.

What Can We Do To Fight Back?

Eating grass-fed meat instead of industrially-produced corn fed beef will reduce your exposure to obesity-causing chemicals.

Use glass instead of plastic whenever you can, to reduce exposure to pthalates and other hormone-altering plastics.

Try to avoid canned food, or at least look for cans that are free of bisphenol A.  (For example, the Eden company sells food in bpa-free cans.)  Buy and store food in glass jars whenever possible.   And wash your hands after handling store receipts (they still contain bpa).

Eat yogurt or other food containing good bacteria to help restore your healthy intestinal flora.   If you don’t like yogurt, you can take “probiotic” (i.e. good bacteria) supplements from your local health food store.

And don’t forget to tell your grocery store that you demand real food that doesn’t contain bpa, pthalates, hormones, antibiotics or other junk.  If we vote with our pocketbooks, the big food companies will get the message.

70% Of Ground Beef Contains Ammonia-Soaked “Pink Slime”; USDA Bought 7 Million Pounds For School Lunches

In Uncategorized on March 13, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Oldspeak:“So the stuff that the Ghostbusters struggled to contain is in ground beef, that’s being served to kids in copious amounts, despite the fact that there are no significant cost savings from adding it to meat. Why? Big Agra has so thoroughly corrupted and captured its toothless regulatory agency that the agency is buying demonstrably dangerous food additives that  facilitate Big Agra’s dangerous and toxic industrial scale food production methods.”There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” –Nelson Mandela

Is Red Meat – Or FAKE Meat – Killing Us?

Safety of Beef Processing Method Is Questioned

By Washington’s Blog:

ABC news notes:

“Pink slime,” a cheap meat filler, is in 70 percent of the ground beef sold at supermarkets and up to 25 percent of each American hamburger patty, by some estimates.

The USDA just bought 7 million pounds of pink slime to add to school lunches (up from 5.5 million pounds in 2009).

Jamie Oliver gave a must-watch demonstration on the subject a year ago:

But at least we know where the real meat part of ground beef comes from … right?

Nope … the World Trade Organization struck down American laws requiring labeling of beef to disclose the country of origin:

But at least beef is being tested for horrible diseases like mad cow disease, right?

Negatory: the government does very little testing … and prohibits private citizens such as ranchers or meat packers from testing it themselves.

What Should We Do?

So what’s the answer?

You could buy a pot roast or another cut of meat and grind it yourself. That way, you’ll be sure there’s nothing but real meat. (Talk to the butcher in your grocery store’s meat department; he’ll help you buy the right cut.)

Or you could buy grass-fed beef. Organic, grass-fed usually contains no pink slime.

And all grass-fed beef – organic or not – has a much lower risk for mad cow than other types of beef.

Why?

Because mad cow disease is most commonly caused by feeding animal products to cows. For example, Wikipedia notes:

A British inquiry into BSE [the scientific abbreviation for mad cow] concluded that the [disease] was caused by cattle, who are normally herbivores, being fed the remains of other cattle in the form of meat and bone meal (MBM), which caused the infectious agent to spread.

If they are fed grass – their natural food – they are much less likely to get sick.

Stores like Trader Joe’s label grass fed, so it is easy to find.

Grass-fed beef also contains more Omega 3s than beef from cows fed corn, meat or other “modern” feeds. See this and this.

Why is this important? Because eating Omega 3 rich foods can increase gray matter in adults and boost neurological development in children. Conversely, low dietary levels of Omega 3s in mothers can reduce their kids’ IQ. (This is not entirely surprising, given that (1) our brains are about 60% fat, and (2) leading nutritionists say that humans evolved to consume alot of Omega 3 fatty acids in the wild game and fish which they ate (more), and that a low Omega 3 diet is a very new trend within the last 100 years or so).

And if you think that asking for organic beef is a counterculture hippy thing, note that Ronald Reagan insisted on organic meat.

Partners In Slime: Feds Keep Buying Ammonia-Treated Ground Beef For School Lunches

By David Knowles:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s continued purchase of so-called pink slime for school lunches makes no sense, according to two former microbiologists at the Food Safety Inspection Service.

“I have a 2-year-old son,” microbiologist Gerald Zirnstein told The Daily. “And you better believe I don’t want him eating pink slime when he starts going to school.”

It was Zirnstein who first coined the term “pink slime” after touring a Beef Products Inc. production facility in 2002 as part of an investigation into salmonella contamination in packaged ground beef. In an email to his colleagues shortly after the visit, Zirnstein said he did not “consider the stuff to be ground beef.”

Made by grinding together connective tissue and beef scraps normally destined for dog food and rendering, BPI’s Lean Beef Trimmings are then treated with ammonia hydroxide, a process that kills pathogens such as salmonella and E. coli.

The resulting pinkish substance is later blended into traditional ground beef and hamburger patties.

For retired microbiologist Carl Custer, a 35-year veteran of the Food Safety Inspection Service, the idea of mixing in BPI’s Lean Beef Trimmings into more nutritious, pure ground beef was itself problematic.

“We originally called it soylent pink,” Custer told The Daily. “We looked at the product and we objected to it because it used connective tissues instead of muscle. It was simply not nutritionally equivalent [to ground beef]. My main objection was that it was not meat.”

Custer said he first encountered the product — which gained fame recently as “pink slime” in part due to the efforts of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver — back in the late 1990s. Despite voicing his concerns to other officials at the food inspection service, however, the USDA ruled that Lean Beef Trimmings were safe. “The word in the office was that undersecretary JoAnn Smith pushed it through, and that was that,” Custer said.

Appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1989, Smith had deep ties with the beef industry, serving as president of both the Florida Cattlemen’s Association and the of the National Cattlemen’s Association.

“Scientists in D.C. were pressured to approve this stuff with minimal safety approval,” Zirnstein said.

A baseline study conducted by Zirstein and Custer classified the trimmings as a “high risk product.” Zirnstein says the food inspection service ignored their findings, and commissioned a separate study to assess the safety of BPI’s meat.

The USDA, which plans to buy 7 million pounds of Lean Beef Trimmings from BPI in the coming months for the national school lunch program, said in a statement that all of its ground beef purchases “meet the highest standard for food safety.” USDA officials also noted that the sole role of the food inspection service is to determine the overall safety of the nation’s food supply, not to make judgments on a product’s relative merits.

But Zirnstein and Custer say that the USDA now finds itself in the odd position of purchasing a product that has recently been dropped by fast-food giants McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell.

“My objection with having it in the schools is that it’s not meat,” Custer said.

In 2005, the USDA limited the amount of ammonia-treated Lean Beef Trimmings in a serving of ground beef to 15 percent, but lax labeling requirements mean that it is virtually impossible as a consumer — and for parents of children at a schools where “pink slime” is a part of lunch — to know whether a given package of ground beef or hamburger patty contains it.

“The USDA-AMS [Agricultural Marketing Service] does allow for the inclusion of BPI Boneless Lean Beef in the ground beef they procure for all their federal food programs and, according to federal labeling requirements, it is not a raw material that is uniquely labeled,” Amy Bell, spokeswoman for the California Department of Education Food Distribution Program, told The Daily in an email. “Accordingly, there is no way to tell from simply looking at a package of finished product if BPI Boneless Lean Beef is in the product mix.”

Last year, the USDA said that 6.5 percent of the beef it purchased for the national school lunch program came from BPI.

In part, it’s the lack of clear labeling that rankles both Zirnstein and Custer.

“It’s more like Jell-O than hamburger, plus it’s treated with ammonia, an additive that is not declared anywhere,” Custer said.

“They’ve taken a processed product, without labeling it, and added it to raw ground beef,” Zirnstein said. “Science is the truth, and pink slime at this point in time is a fraudulent lie.”

Neither BPI, nor Smith, who now serves on the board of directors at Tyson Foods, responded to The Daily’s request for comment on this story.

David.Knowles@thedaily.com

 

 

Genetically Modified Cows Produce ‘Human’ Milk

In Uncategorized on April 4, 2011 at 6:59 pm

Oldspeak:” Ummm. WOW. Really?! Using GM Cows to produce “human” milk in a bid to make cows’ milk more ‘nutritious’. Talk about your convoluted logic. You may ask why not just encourage mothers to breastfeed their own fucking children? 2 words “Comodification” and “Profit” And never mind the threats to the health of the cows.

By Richard Gray @ The U.K. Guardian:

Scientists have created genetically modified cattle that produce “human” milk in a bid to make cows’ milk more nutritious.

The scientists have successfully introduced human genes into 300 dairy cows to produce milk with the same properties as human breast milk.

Human milk contains high quantities of key nutrients that can help to boost the immune system of babies and reduce the risk of infections.

The scientists behind the research believe milk from herds of genetically modified cows could provide an alternative to human breast milk and formula milk for babies, which is often criticised as being an inferior substitute.

They hope genetically modified dairy products from herds of similar cows could be sold in supermarkets. The research has the backing of a major biotechnology company.

The work is likely to inflame opposition to GM foods. Critics of the technology and animal welfare groups reacted angrily to the research, questioning the safety of milk from genetically modified animals and its effect on the cattle’s health.

The scientists have successfully introduced human genes into 300 dairy cows to produce milk with the same properties as human breast milk.

Human milk contains high quantities of key nutrients that can help to boost the immune system of babies and reduce the risk of infections.

The scientists behind the research believe milk from herds of genetically modified cows could provide an alternative to human breast milk and formula milk for babies, which is often criticised as being an inferior substitute.

They hope genetically modified dairy products from herds of similar cows could be sold in supermarkets. The research has the backing of a major biotechnology company.

The work is likely to inflame opposition to GM foods. Critics of the technology and animal welfare groups reacted angrily to the research, questioning the safety of milk from genetically modified animals and its effect on the cattle’s health.

But Professor Ning Li, the scientist who led the research and director of the State Key Laboratories for AgroBiotechnology at the China Agricultural University insisted that the GM milk would be as safe to drink as milk from ordinary dairy cows.

He said: “The milk tastes stronger than normal milk.

“We aim to commercialize some research in this area in coming three years. For the “human-like milk”, 10 years or maybe more time will be required to finally pour this enhanced milk into the consumer’s cup.”

China is now leading the way in research on genetically modified foodand the rules on the technology are more relaxed than those in place in Europe.

The researchers used cloning technology to introduce human genes into the DNA of Holstein dairy cows before the genetically modified embryos were implanted into surrogate cows.

Writing in the scientific peer-reviewed journal Public Library of Science One, the researchers said they were able to create cows that produced milk containing a human protein called lysozyme,

Lysozyme is an antimicrobial protein naturally found in large quantities in human breast milk. It helps to protect infants from bacterial infections during their early days of life.

They created cows that produce another protein from human milk called lactoferrin, which helps to boost the numbers of immune cells in babies. A third human milk protein called alpha-lactalbumin was also produced by the cows.

The scientists also revealed at an exhibition at the China Agricultural University that they have boosted milk fat content by around 20 per cent and have also changed the levels of milk solids, making it closer to the composition of human milk as well as having the same immune-boosting properties.

Professor Li and his colleagues, who have been working with the Beijing GenProtein Biotechnology Company, said their work has shown it was possible to “humanise” cows milk.

In all, the scientists said they have produced a herd of around 300 cows that are able to produce human-like milk.

The transgenic animals are physically identical to ordinary cows.

Writing in the journal, Professor Li said: “Our study describes transgenic cattle whose milk offers the similar nutritional benefits as human milk.

“The modified bovine milk is a possible substitute for human milk. It fulfilled the conception of humanising the bovine milk.”

Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph, he added the “human-like milk” would provide “much higher nutritional content”. He said they had managed to produce three generations of GM cows but for commercial production there would need to be large numbers of cows produced.

He said: “Human milk contains the ‘just right’ proportions of protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins for an infant’s optimal growth and development.

“As our daily food, the cow’s milk provided us the basic source of nutrition. But the digestion and absorption problems made it not the perfect food for human being.”

The researchers also insist having antimicrobial proteins in the cows milk can also be good for the animals by helping to reduce infections of their udders.

Genetically modified food has become a highly controversial subject and currently they can only be sold in the UK and Europe if they have passed extensive safety testing.

The consumer response to GM food has also been highly negative, resulting in many supermarkets seeking to source products that are GM free.

Campaigners claim GM technology poses a threat to the environment as genes from modified plants can get into wild plant populations and weeds, while they also believe there are doubts about the safety of such foods.

Scientists insist genetically modified foods are unlikely to pose a threat to food safety and in the United States consumers have been eating genetically modified foods for more decades.

However, during two experiments by the Chinese researchers, which resulted in 42 transgenic calves being born, just 26 of the animals survived after ten died shortly after birth, most with gastrointestinal disease, and a further six died within six months of birth.

Researchers accept that the cloning technology used in genetic modification can affect the development and survival of cloned animals, although the reason why is not well understood.

A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals said the organisation was “extremely concerned” about how the GM cows had been produced.

She said: “Offspring of cloned animals often suffer health and welfare problems, so this would be a grave concern.

“Why do we need this milk – what is it giving us that we haven’t already got.”

Helen Wallace, director of biotechnology monitoring group GeneWatch UK, said: “We have major concerns about this research to genetically modify cows with human genes.

“There are major welfare issues with genetically modified animals as you get high numbers of still births.

“There is a question about whether milk from these cows is going to be safe from humans and it is really hard to tell that unless you do large clinical trials like you would a drug, so there will be uncertainty about whether it could be harmful to some people.

“Ethically there are issues about mass producing animals in this way.”

Professor Keith Campbell, a biologist at the University of Nottingham works with transgenic animals, said: “Genetically modified animals and plants are not going to be harmful unless you deliberately put in a gene that is going to be poisonous. Why would anyone do that in a food?

“Genetically modified food, if done correctly, can provide huge benefit for consumers in terms of producing better products.”

 

 


The Dark Side of Vitaminwater

In Uncategorized on August 11, 2010 at 10:34 am

Oldspeak:“Why do we allow companies like Coca-Cola to tell us that drinking a bottle of sugar water with a pennies worth of added water-soluble vitamins is a legitimate way to meet our nutritional needs? Forced to defend themselves in court, they are acknowledging that vitaminwater isn’t a healthy product. But they are arguing that advertising it as such isn’t false advertising, because no could possibly believe such a ridiculous claim.”

From John Robbins @ The Huffington Post:

Now here’s something you wouldn’t expect. Coca-Cola is being sued by a non-profit public interest group, on the grounds that the company’s vitaminwater products make unwarranted health claims. No surprise there. But how do you think the company is defending itself?

In a staggering feat of twisted logic, lawyers for Coca-Cola are defending the lawsuit by asserting that “no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking vitaminwater was a healthy beverage.”

Does this mean that you’d have to be an unreasonable person to think that a product named “vitaminwater,” a product that has been heavily and aggressively marketed as a healthy beverage, actually had health benefits?

Or does it mean that it’s okay for a corporation to lie about its products, as long as they can then turn around and claim that no one actually believes their lies?

In fact, the product is basically sugar-water, to which about a penny’s worth of synthetic vitamins have been added. And the amount of sugar is not trivial. A bottle of vitaminwater contains 33 grams of sugar, making it more akin to a soft drink than to a healthy beverage.

Is any harm being done by this marketing ploy? After all, some might say consumers are at least getting some vitamins, and there isn’t as much sugar in vitaminwater as there is in regular Coke.

True. But about 35 percent of Americans are now considered medically obese. Two-thirds of Americans are overweight. Health experts tend to disagree about almost everything, but they all concur that added sugars play a key role in the obesity epidemic, a problem that now leads to more medical costs than smoking.

How many people with weight problems have consumed products like vitaminwater in the mistaken belief that the product was nutritionally positive and carried no caloric consequences? How many have thought that consuming vitaminwater was a smart choice from a weight-loss perspective? The very name “vitaminwater” suggests that the product is simply water with added nutrients, disguising the fact that it’s actually full of added sugar.

The truth is that when it comes to weight loss, what you drink may be even more important than what you eat. Americans now get nearly 25 percent of their calories from liquids. In 2009, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health published a report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, finding that the quickest and most reliable way to lose weight is to cut down on liquid calorie consumption. And the best way to do that is to reduce or eliminate beverages that contain added sugar.

Meanwhile, Coca-Cola has invested billions of dollars in its vitaminwater line, paying basketball stars, including Kobe Bryant and Lebron James, to appear in ads that emphatically state that these products are a healthy way for consumers to hydrate. When Lebron James held his much ballyhooed TV special to announce his decision to join the Miami Heat, many corporations paid millions in an attempt to capitalize on the event. But it was vitaminwater that had the most prominent role throughout the show.

The lawsuit, brought by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, alleges that vitaminwater labels and advertising are filled with “deceptive and unsubstantiated claims.” In his recent 55-page ruling, Federal Judge John Gleeson (U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York), wrote, “At oral arguments, defendants (Coca-Cola) suggested that no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking vitamin water was a healthy beverage.” Noting that the soft drink giant wasn’t claiming the lawsuit was wrong on factual grounds, the judge wrote that, “Accordingly, I must accept the factual allegations in the complaint as true.”

I still can’t get over the bizarre audacity of Coke’s legal case. Forced to defend themselves in court, they are acknowledging that vitaminwater isn’t a healthy product. But they are arguing that advertising it as such isn’t false advertising, because no could possibly believe such a ridiculous claim.

I guess that’s why they spend hundreds of millions of dollars advertising the product, saying it will keep you “healthy as a horse,” and will bring about a “healthy state of physical and mental well-being.”

Why do we allow companies like Coca-Cola to tell us that drinking a bottle of sugar water with a few added water-soluble vitamins is a legitimate way to meet our nutritional needs?

Here’s what I suggest: If you’re looking for a healthy and far less expensive way to hydrate, try drinking water. If you want to flavor the water you drink, try adding the juice of a lemon and a small amount of honey or maple syrup to a quart of water. Another alternative is to mix one part lemonade or fruit juice to three or four parts water. Or drink green tea, hot or chilled, adding lemon and a small amount of sweetener if you like. If you want to jazz it up, try one-half fruit juice, one-half carbonated water.

If your tap water tastes bad or you suspect it might contain lead or other contaminants, get a water filter that fits under the sink or attaches to the tap.

And it’s probably not the best idea to rely on a soft drink company for your vitamins and other essential nutrients. A plant-strong diet with lots of vegetables and fruits will provide you with what you need far more reliably, far more consistently — and far more honestly.

Big Soda Wants to Keep America Fat: Here’s How to Fight Back

In Uncategorized on May 23, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Oldspeak: “The biggest problem is that soda has become outrageously affordable. A staggering analysis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the price of carbonated drinks has fallen 34 percent since the late 1970s, while healthy foods like fruits and vegetables cost over 30 percent more than they did before. Sodas have fueled our obesity epidemic. An elegant solution — soda taxes — would cut our addiction, but the sugary drink industry is gearing up to make sure that can’t happen.”

From Daniela Perdomo @ Alter Net:

Scouring lobbyist filings is akin to looking into a public-policy crystal ball. What Big Business is spending on lobbying today will give you a good idea of what the next big policy fight will hinge upon.

Here’s an example. In the first quarter of this year, a trade group representing the interests of non-alcoholic drink-makers called the American Beverage Association upped its lobbying expenditures by a whopping 3,785 percent over the last quarter of 2009. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the ABA went from spending a paltry $140,000 to shelling out $5.4 million.

What are non-alcoholic beverage producers so afraid of? Two words: soda taxes.

Last year, Congress seriously discussed including a tax on sodas and other calorie-laden beverages like energy and sports drinks (diet sodas were to be exempted) in the forthcoming health care overhaul in order to help cover costs for what was then supposed to be a universal health care plan. At the time, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the proposed nationwide 3-cent tax on sodas would generate $24 billion over four years.

The ABA and affiliated moneyed interests successfully flexed their lobbying muscles and produced a $10 million nationwide ad campaign in order to extinguish talk of a federal soda tax. Such language never made it into the bill Congress eventually passed.

But the $110 billion-a-year sugary drink industry knows their fight isn’t up yet. They surely have been spooked by President Obama saying that soda taxes are an “idea that we should be exploring.” And the hawkers of sugary drinks are also aware that although they managed to derail a national tax — for now — local and state governments are taking up the battle Congress dropped.

The fight for our waistlines and purse strings is just heating up.

The American soda problem

It’s hard to know where to begin discussion of how bad sodas are for you, given the myriad reasons and statistics, but Marion Nestle, a public health nutritionist and professor at New York University, has been writing about this public health nuisance for so long she does a pretty good job of it.

“They have no redeeming nutritional value and just add unnecessary calories to diets that already have too many,” she told AlterNet.

Indeed, drinks like Coke, Gatorade, and curiously named drinks like Vitamin Water are essentially part sugar and part water, leading sweetened beverages to account for half of all sugar intake in the average contemporary American’s diet. Sugar-infused drinks have long been a stalwart of U.S. culture — Coca-Cola was born in 1886 — but Americans drink them much more than ever before. And it’s not hard to see there is a definite correlation between the obesity epidemic — which costs us $147 billion a year — and the explosion in soft drink consumption.

While the soda problem is apparent among Americans of all ages, youth are the most affected. After all, they’ve grown up on campaigns extolling “the Pepsi Generation.” Studies show that beverages now account for 10 to 15 percent of all calories consumed by children and teens — and for each extra can or glass of sugared beverage consumed per day, the chances of a child’s becoming obese increases by a staggering 60 percent. The average 18-year-old today is less than an inch taller than the average 18-year-old back then, but is 15 pounds heavier.

Yet the immense marketing budgets behind Coca-Cola and PepsiCo aren’t the only reason more and more people are drinking more of this stuff. The biggest problem is that soda has become outrageously affordable. A staggering analysis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the price of carbonated drinks has fallen 34 percent since the late 1970s, while healthy foods like fruits and vegetables cost over 30 percent more than they did before.

Lest you think you don’t have a “soda problem,” Gail Woodward-Lopez of the Center for Weight and Health at Berkeley has news for you. She says we shouldn’t drink more than one — yes, one — sweetened beverage per week.

The damage these drinks do to your system is leading people to compare the beverage business to the tobacco industry. Of course the ABA is loathe to accept such analogies. In a recent NPR interview, the person in charge of the group’s science policy said sweetened drinks are completely unlike cigarettes.

“Smoking kills people. There is no safe level of consumption. And soft drinks are an enjoyable, safe product that people have been enjoying for generations,” Maureen Storey said, before blaming American obesity on our failure to exercise.

To be fair, soda didn’t make us fat all on its own — and we do need to exercise a lot more. But given how much we drink these beverages, and how much of the nutritionally void sugar we ingest is derived from them, soda has become a problem we’re only now in hindsight realizing has damaged the health of an entire generation. Kind of like cigarettes.

How to tax it

The average state tax on a pack of cigarettes sold in the United States is $1.42; there is also a $1.01 federal tax. These extra costs have led to a decrease in cigarette consumption, particularly by price-sensitive demographics like young people, and brought millions in revenue to every state. Given the success of these measures, it’s little wonder that a sin tax on sodas is so appealing to health advocates.

New England Journal of Medicine study from last year, which made the public-policy case for soda taxes, opened with a quote from Adam Smith’s 1776 Wealth of Nations: “Sugar, rum, and tobacco are commodities which are nowhere necessaries of life, which are [sic] become objects of almost universal consumption, and which are therefore extremely proper subjects of taxation.”

So to say the least, the idea of taxing sodas isn’t really new. Currently, 33 states have a sales tax on soft drinks sold at grocery stores and in vending machines, with rates ranging from 1.3 percent in Montana to 7 percent in Rhode Island and Mississippi. Six other states have a sales tax on those sold in vending machines only. And finally, six states have instituted an excise tax in addition to the sales tax. Examples would be Rhode Island, which charges 4 cents per each case of beverage, and Arkansas, which taxes 21 cents per gallon and $2 per gallon of syrup.

The problem here, according to soda tax supporters like Julie Greenstein of theCenter for Science in the Public Interest, is that the sales and excise taxes out there are too small to affect consumption rates — and the revenues coming in from these taxes are not being directed to programs that would help prevent and treat obesity. (Half of the money we spend on obesity is paid for by taxpayers via Medicaid and Medicare.)

Greenstein’s organization is pushing for a tax of 7 cents per 12-ounce can of soda, which is estimated to bring in $10 billion per year. An April study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine says that if the price of sweetened beverages increased by 18 percent, people would consume an average of 56 fewer calories a day and lose about five pounds a year.

But some want to go even further, levying a tax of 1 cent per ounce. If this was done nationally, the revenue would be $14.9 billion in the first year alone.

There is a measure on the table in Washington, D.C. that would charge a penny per ounce, raising the price of a typical 12-pack of cans by 30 percent. The revenue would be used to pay for the newly passed Health Schools Act, which would improve the quality of lunches in the area’s public schools. The D.C. city council will vote on this on May 25, but observers aren’t sure it will pass.

Current and past efforts

In addition to the foiled federal tax last year, the industry has been aggressive in pushing back efforts elsewhere. The governor of New York proposed an 18 percent tax on sugar-rich drinks, and was beat down by the state legislature last year, but on Thursday announced a new — and less stringent — proposal to raise $815 million in annual soda taxes. The industry was also successful in influencing a vote in Philadelphia, although debate continues. A measure has been introduced in the California state senate, but prospects look slim there, too. Unfortunately, absolutely no moves are being made on the federal level right now.

“The industry is spending millions and millions of dollars. Every time you turn on the radio, there’s a Big Soda ad against these proposals,” Greenstein says. “They’re lobbying hard. They’re outspending us.”

Perhaps you remember a striking ad by Americans Against Food Taxes last year — at the height of the federal soda tax debate — which showed a mother unloading groceries from her car. Proponents “say it’s only pennies. Well, those pennies ad up when you’re trying to feed a family,” we’re told. Of course, the visceral ad doesn’t ask whether poor people who are struggling to feed their families should really be spending money on incredibly unhealthy food that will rack up medical bills, but then again why would it? Americans Against Food Taxes is a front group funded by the beverage industry.

More recently, as the New York City Health Department has unfurled a graphic campaign against sodas taglined “Don’t Drink Yourself Fat,” the Center for Consumer Freedom — front group number-two — has plastered the city with adsthat ask: “Big Apple or Big Brother?”

While Greenstein would have to hope against hope that any of the current efforts to pass effective soda taxes will be successful, she is actually buoyed by the industry’s response. “The fact that they’re spending so much is proof that if these proposals passed, they would be effective,” she says. “They wouldn’t be out here lobbying so hard against them otherwise. We’ll keep pushing and if it’s not this year then we’ll be back again the next.”

The fight will be framed (and reframed)

To be sure, the tremendous spike in dollars being spent by the beverage industry in order to counteract the bad press and to de-legitimize the arguments for soda taxes is proof-positive that the makers of these unhealthy drinks know these measures would be quite effective in reducing consumption and changing habits.

Last year, Coca-Cola trotted out its chief executive, Muhtar Kent, to pen aneditorial for the Wall Street Journal defensively titled “Coke Didn’t Make America Fat,” in which he argued that exercise was the solution to our fat problems. This argument is easily trumped by pointing to seatbelt legislation. Not wearing a seatbelt doesn’t solve all the risks related to driving in a car, but it can greatly diminish them. In the same way, cutting a nutritionally void drink out of our lives will aid us in the general path of a healthy life — along with increased exercise.

The ABA constantly trumpets the idea that soda taxes are regressive, because they would disproportionately affect poor people. But this is handily disputed. Sugar-sweetened drinks have no nutritional value and healthy alternatives like, say, water are free or much cheaper. So a tax that shifted consumption from soda and other sugary beverages to water would not only improve health and lower costs for cash-strapped families, it would also raise revenue for programs that promote healthy eating, obesity prevention and health care for those most in need.

The industry will also keep on saying that these taxes won’t actually affect consumption, they’d simply be ineffective from the get-go. But this is true, as a recently released RAND study shows, only when the taxes are small — and Big Soda knows it. A trade publication, Beverage Digest, ran a report in 2008 showing that if soft drink prices rose 6.8 percent, sales dropped 7.8 percent; and more specifically: if Coca-Cola prices increased by 12 percent, sales would drop by 14.6 percent.

While money and power may be on the sugar-pushing beverage industry’s side for now, the momentum is ultimately with the proponents of soda taxes. Support for food taxes continues to rise — especially when people are told revenues would go to obesity prevention — and growing public awareness about nutrition and health is fueling the attempts to pass truly effective soda taxes throughout the country.

In the meantime, get off the Internet, reach for a glass of water and go for a run.