Archive for the ‘Current Affairs’ Category

FDA Set To Promote GMOs Using Your Tax Dollars

Monday, May 15th, 2017

Using the looming government shutdown as a smokescreen, our representatives in Washington snuck a deal into the most recent budget agreement that gives $3 million dollars of taxpayer money to the FDA to “promote understanding and acceptance of biotechnology.” This following on the heels of a letter submitted on April 18 to the FDA by 66 Bio-Ag and Food Industry groups supporting the outreach.

The FDA is currently mired in a hiring freeze and facing $40 million in proposed cuts under the “once-in-a-generation” budget proposal submitted by the current administration (which, at 62 pages it is inexplicably half the length of Monsanto’s Annual Report). I personally find it outrageous that tax dollars are being taken away from an agency put in place to protect consumers, while simultaneously slipping them taxpayer money to push propaganda benefiting a select few biotech companies like Bayer – Monsanto. A company with sales in one quarter that exceed the entire yearly budget of the FDA.

Bayer-Monsanto and the other bio-ag companies benefiting from this outreach have more than enough money to push their agenda on their own. What they don’t have is the credibility of the FDA, which ironically, isn’t saying much. But that goes to show how much credibility the bio-ag industry currently has with consumers.

Unfortunately, this budget deal has already passed and there is little or nothing that can be done to stop how the money is going to be allocated. However, the FDA has not announced what kind of educational programs they intend to implement. Which means there is still time to do something.

So what can you do?

Educate yourself. Learn both sides of the argument so that you can engage in educated discourse.

Contact the FDA! Tell them what you think. Don’t forget, they work for you!

Contact your representatives! Tell them, this aggression will not stand. Here’s a handy-dandy list for contacting your reps – Don’t forget, they work for you!

And here is a list of your representatives that are taking money from the bio-ag industry and pushing their agenda –



Health News: New Research Shows Common Food Additive Promotes Colitis, Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

Looking for another reason to buy certified organic foods?

Emulsifiers are used in food products to improve texture, mouth feel, and extend shelf life. According to a new study, synthetic emulsifiers polysorbate 80 and carboxymethylcellulsose – commonly use in non-organic processed foods – can induce intestinal inflammation by altering gut microbiota composition and promote the development of inflammatory bowel disease and metabolic syndrome.

Georgia State University Institute for Biomedical Sciences’ researchers Drs. Benoit Chassaing and Andrew T. Gewirtz led research efforts with contributions from Emory University, Cornell University and Bar-Ilan University in Israel. The research was published February 25, 2015 in Nature and was funded by the National Institutes of Health and Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, afflicts millions of people and is often severe and debilitating. Metabolic syndrome is a group of very common obesity-related disorders that can lead to type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular and/or liver diseases. Incidence of IBD and metabolic syndrome has been markedly increasing since the mid-20th century.

The term “gut microbiota” refers to the diverse population of 100 trillion bacteria that inhabit the intestinal tract. Gut microbiota are disturbed in IBD and metabolic syndrome. Chassaing and Gewirtz’s findings suggest synthetic emulsifiers might be partially responsible for this disturbance and the increased incidence of these diseases.

“A key feature of these modern plagues is alteration of the gut microbiota in a manner that promotes inflammation,” says Gewirtz.

“The dramatic increase in these diseases has occurred despite consistent human genetics, suggesting a pivotal role for an environmental factor,” says Chassaing. “Food interacts intimately with the microbiota so we considered what modern additions to the food supply might possibly make gut bacteria more pro-inflammatory.”

Addition of synthetic emulsifiers to food seemed to fit the time frame and had been shown to promote bacterial translocation across epithelial cells. Chassaing and Gewirtz hypothesized that synthetic emulsifiers might affect the gut microbiota to promote these inflammatory diseases and designed experiments in mice to test this possibility.

The team fed mice two very commonly used synthetic emulsifiers, polysorbate 80 and carboxymethylcellulsose, at doses seeking to model the broad consumption of the numerous synthetic emulsifiers that are incorporated into almost all processed foods. They observed that emulsifier consumption changed the species composition of the gut microbiota and did so in a manner that made it more pro-inflammatory. The altered microbiota had enhanced capacity to digest and infiltrate the dense mucus layer that lines the intestine, which is normally, largely devoid of bacteria. Alterations in bacterial species resulted in bacteria expressing more flagellin and lipopolysaccharide, which can activate pro-inflammatory gene expression by the immune system.

Such changes in bacteria triggered chronic colitis in mice genetically prone to this disorder, due to abnormal immune systems. In contrast, in mice with normal immune systems, synthetic emulsifiers induced low-grade or mild intestinal inflammation and metabolic syndrome, characterized by increased levels of food consumption, obesity, hyperglycemia and insulin resistance.

The effects of emulsifier consumption were eliminated in germ-free mice, which lack a microbiota. Transplant of microbiota from emulsifiers-treated mice to germ-free mice was sufficient to transfer some parameters of low-grade inflammation and metabolic syndrome, indicating a central role for the microbiota in mediating the adverse effect of synthetic emulsifiers.

The team is now testing additional emulsifiers and designing experiments to investigate how emulsifiers affect humans. If similar results are obtained, it would indicate a role for this class of food additive in driving the epidemic of obesity, its inter-related consequences and a range of diseases associated with chronic gut inflammation.

While detailed mechanisms underlying the effect of synthetic emulsifiers on metabolism remain under study, the team points out that avoiding excess food consumption is of paramount importance.

“We do not disagree with the commonly held assumption that over-eating is a central cause of obesity and metabolic syndrome,” Gewirtz says. “Rather, our findings reinforce the concept suggested by earlier work that low-grade inflammation resulting from an altered microbiota can be an underlying cause of excess eating.”

The team notes that the results of their study suggest that current means of testing and approving food additives may not be adequate to prevent use of chemicals that promote diseases driven by low-grade inflammation and/or which will cause disease primarily in susceptible hosts.

Watchdog Research Group Files Legal Complaints Against 14 Factory Farms Claiming Organic Status

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

In what The Cornucopia Institute is alleging is one of the largest fraud investigations in the history of the organic food industry, the Wisconsin-based farm policy research group announced filing formal legal complaints against 14 industrial livestock operations producing milk, meat and eggs being marketed, allegedly illegally, as organic.

Cornucopia contends that industrial-scale livestock farming illegally claiming organic status 1) undercuts ethical farmers and competitors that comply with federal organic law; and 2) takes advantage of consumers in the marketplace who assume that the animals producing their organic-certified food are being treated respectfully, and consequently result in higher food quality. Peer-reviewed published research indicates clear nutritional advantages in consuming milk and meat from cattle that are grazed on fresh grass, including elevated levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Eggs and chickens from birds that are allowed (as the law requires)to engage in their instinctive behaviors as omnivores in foraging on grass and insects, produce eggs that are coveted as being more nutritious and more flavorful.

The family-scale farmers who helped commercialize the organic food movement in the 1980s did so, in part, because agribusiness consolidation and control of the food supply were squeezing profit margins and forcing farmers off their land. Consumers enthusiastically made organics a rapidly growing market sector by supporting farmers and processors willing to produce food to a different standard in terms of environmental stewardship, humane animal husbandry, and economic fairness for farmers. “The inaction by the USDA places thousands of ethical family-scale farmers, who are competing with a couple of dozen giant dairies, at a competitive disadvantage,” said Kevin Engelbert, a New York-based dairyman, milking 140 cows who, along with his family, was the first certified organic dairy producer in the U.S.

There is nothing in the federal organic standards pertaining to the size of any given operation.

“The organic standards are scale-neutral,” said Kastel. “However, if properly enforced the standards are scale-limiting. At some point the magnitude of these operations becomes preposterous because their practical ability to meet minimum organic and humane livestock standards becomes impossible.”

Engelbert, who also previously served on the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), stated, “When serving on the NOSB, I was always reminded that the recommendations we made to the National Organic Program (NOP) had to be scale-neutral. I would like to see the Organic Food Production Act enforced on a scale-neutral basis as well.”

Without enforcement of NOP law, many traditional organic dairy farmers are in financial stress, with some selling their cows and exiting the industry. “Allowing these illegal dairies to continue to operate is a travesty and significantly undercuts the supply-demand dynamic that should be rewarding farmers in the marketplace and providing a decent living for our families,” Engelbert added.

In what Cornucopia claims has been years of inaction by the USDA, Cornucopia contracted for aerial photography in nine states over an eight-month period from West Texas to New York and Maryland. Consistent with earlier site visits, aerial photography confirmed a systemic pattern of corporate agribusiness operating industrial-scale confinement livestock facilities without legitimate grazing or access to the outdoors, as required by federal organic regulations. Cornucopia has filed formal legal complaints on the following industrial livestock operations with hyperlinks to the actual complaints and aerial photography:

Aurora Coldwater

Aurora Dublin

Burns Poultry (Herbruck’s)

Bushman Farms (Organic Valley)

Delta Egg Farm

Green Meadow (Herbruck’s)

Hilltop LLC – Boehning Dairy

Horizon Dairy (WhiteWave)

Idalou Egg Ranch


Natural Prairie

Raymond Facility

Redland Dairy

Smart Chicken

In the chicken industry, the USDA allows corporate agribusiness to confine as many as 100,000 laying hens in a building, sometimes exceeding 1 million birds on a “farm,” and substituting a tiny screened porch for true access to the outdoors. The loophole, “porched-poultry,” was first allowed in 2002 when the NOP director overruled organic certifiers and allowed The Country Hen, a Massachusetts egg producer, to confine tens of thousands of birds in a barn with an attached porch that might, at best, hold 5% of the birds in the main building. “Quite frankly, even if Miles McEvoy, who currently directs the NOP, believes that a porch, with a floor, ceiling and screened walls, constitutes ‘the outdoors,’ and only 5% of the birds have access or can fit in that space, then 95% of the others are being illegally confined,” Cornucopia’s Kastel stated.

Beginning in 2004, Cornucopia filed their first legal complaints against these industrial operations with varying degrees of success. As a result, the largest dairy supplying the Horizon label (now controlled by WhiteWave Foods) was decertified, and the USDA placed sanctions against Aurora Dairy. Both WhiteWave and Aurora are still being investigated by the USDA for improprieties.

However by 2014, Cornucopia contends the USDA responds very slowly, if at all, to similar complaints undercutting ethical farmers and competitors that comply with federal organic law.

While the potential for large-scale fraud in the organic food industry is disillusioning, here’s what you can do as a consumer of organic products:

Support your local organic dairies, ranches, and egg and poultry farms. Neighborhood health food stores have advantages over large supermarket chains in their ability to carry milk products, poultry, eggs, and even meat from locally vetted sources. When your sources of dairy, meat, poultry, and eggs are local, it is easy to call the farm, or even better, arrange a visit with your kids to confirm the conditions the animals are kept in and the quality of their feed. Being connected to the source of one’s food has a satisfaction and gratitude that is impossible to have any other way.

Trust your senses. Your sense of sight, smell, and taste will confirm the quality of organic meat, dairy, poultry, and eggs, particularly after you have become accustomed to high quality food. If you have ever seen venison – wild deer or elk meat – then you will remember the lean, deep red color of the flesh, like a bold cabernet sauvignon. Truly grass-fed beef has a similar color and leanness. Only grazing on grass and sagebrush produces that leanness and color, which absolutely translates to the flavor of the meat. Anyone who has subsisted on venison or grass-fed beef for a year and then reverted back to conventional, store-bought beef can attest to “tasting” the corn and soy fed to conventionally farmed cows, elk, or buffalo.  Pastured hens lay eggs with a deep orange-colored yolk, yet the vast majority of eggs on the market have yolks that are pale yellow in color. That deep orange color is a testament to the chicken’s natural outdoor diet that includes bugs and therefore has higher levels of Omega 3s and vitamin A.

Rule of thumb: the lighter the color of the meat, egg yolks, butter, etc., the lower the quality of the animal’s diet and probably quality of life.

When you find sources of organic food you trust and love, then support them. As an example, I am a devout customer of Redwood Hill Farm and particularly their plain goat milk kefir. Far from “reasonably priced” at around $7 per quart, I love how their kefir makes me feel when I drink it, how they treat their animals, and the very high quality of their products. Because it is not cheap, I have to budget accordingly, but the goat milk kefir is a staple in our house and I love supporting that farm. I am not affiliated personally or professionally with Redwood Hill Farm and have nothing to gain by discussing this food company. I just love them and enjoy supporting them while supporting my health at the same time!

New White Paper Makes the Case Against GMOs

Friday, October 24th, 2014

Portfolio 21, an investment management group based in Portland, OR, recently released a 20-page white paper entitled The Case Against GMOs: An Environmental Investor’s View of the Threat to our Global Food Systems.

The White Paper provides an overview of the history and context for the development of Genetically Modified crops, the aggressive, long-term strategy of Monsanto for dominating the regulatory environment, and Monsanto’s strategy for targeting markets in primarily developing economies in South America, India, and Africa.

“All things considered, the risks associated with GM agriculture outweigh the benefits,” the white paper concludes, adding, “while genetic modification as a tool is neither inherently negative nor positive, the history of its use indicates that the GM product is largely deployed to increase short-term profits for agricultural biotech corporations at the expense of consumers, small farmers, and the environment.”

Environmentally, “GM agriculture and its systemic effects reinforce many of the most damaging aspects of monoculture and mechanization. These include biodiversity loss, agro-chemical use, and accelerated soil exhaustion. Additionally, the foreign genetic material can spread beyond its intended area through cross-pollination and interbreeding, as well potentially migrate across species.” Socially, “the demographic shifts that have accompanied the marketing and adoption of GMOs show disturbing patterns, especially in developing countries. Small farmers often become trapped by seed licensing fees and other rising input costs. Furthermore, the switch to crops that then get exported for processing can exacerbate local food supply and quality issues.” From the perspective of governance and regulation, “the intellectual property system allowing for corporate patents on organisms opens the door for a range of ethically problematic business practices. Also, agricultural biotech companies have repeatedly used their undue influence on regulators to gain product approval, circumvent regulations, and suppress dissenting independent studies.”

Taken in totality, the reputational and financial risks are that “consumers are becoming increasingly educated on their eating habits and the consequences of these choices. In addition to raising questions concerning the health effects of consuming GMOs, the spread of this information builds up negative perceptions of the agricultural biotech corporations and the industry as a whole. Given the information and the choice, an increasing number of consumers (and the companies that cater to them) are becoming less accepting of GMOs. The market, especially among consumers in wealthy countries, has pushed GM crops to the low end of the market, where they are now a cheap choice for animal feed, biofuel feedstock, and heavily processed food. Additionally agricultural biotech companies must contend with litigation costs, settlements, and “restructuring charges” arising from failed deployments.”

General Mills to Buy Annie’s Homegrown for $820M: Sell-out or Sell-up?

Friday, September 12th, 2014

Within minutes of the announcement that General Mills was acquiring Annie’s, the beloved maker of bunny-shaped crackers and organic mac ‘n cheese, the social media sphere lit up with consumer response … and the vast majority of viewpoints on the pending deal were far from positive.

General Mill’s announcement tapped into the raw nerve of distrust felt widely across the US: large food companies dominate food choices in the grocery store without concern or regard for the health of the consumer. Consumers widely perceive large food companies, like General Mills, as having lied to the general public over the course of several decades in an effort to promote inferior food products containing synthetic and or sub-quality ingredients in order to drive profit margins irrespective of the impact on consumer’s health.

On Facebook, loyal consumers were outraged primarily over General Mills history of heavily funding the opposition to labeling Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Consumers are concerned that General Mills will use revenues derived from Annie’s extensive line of GMO-free products to fund opposition to GMO labeling. They are also concerned that Annie’s Homegrown has lost control of their product line and could begin containing GMO ingredients.

The sale of Annie’s Homegrown to General Mills brings to the surface consumer’s frustration over seeing a company that successfully overcame widespread distrust of the food industry being taken over by a company who is perceived as having no moral compass.

Annie’s Homegrown successfully won consumer trust in an era of cynicism around the food industry.  Will outrage in the social media sphere translate to a loss of revenues, or will it be a temporary expression of disappointment that has little to no impact on buying habits?

Founded in 1989, Annie’s has grown from a small player in the food business to one that had $204 million in food sales in the last fiscal year on over 145 products across 35,000 retail locations. Its rise has corresponded with the huge growth in consumer demand for organic food. Annie’s claims its products are made without artificial flavors, synthetic colors, or preservatives used in many other conventional packaged foods — like the ones General Mills is known for.

David and Goliath: Long-Term Study Damming GMOs is Republished in Spite of Monsanto Pressure to Suppress Results

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

In September of 2012, the peer review journal Food and Chemical Toxicology published the most rigorous study of its kind (Séralini et al) evaluating the long-term effects of consuming Genetically Modified (GM) corn and Monsanto’s NK603 glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup on rats.

The results of this study were devastating for the biotech industry on several fronts.

“Significant biochemical disturbances and physiological failures”

The original study found severe liver and kidney damage and hormonal disturbances in rats fed both GM maize and low levels of Roundup below allowable limits in drinking water:

  • In female rats, all treated groups died 2 to 3 times more than controls and more rapidly than occurred in 3 male groups fed GMOs. Females developed large mammary tumors almost always more often and earlier than controls. The pituitary was the second most affected organ because the sex hormonal balance was modified by GMO and Roundup treatments.
  • In treated males, liver congestions and necrosis were 2.5 to 5.5 times higher than controls. Significant and severe kidney nephropathies were also generally 1.3 to 2.3 times greater. Males presented 4 times more large palpable tumors that occurred 600 days earlier than the control group.
  • Underscoring the inadequacy of 90-day trials, the first large detectable tumors occurred at 4 and 7 months into the study in males and females, respectively.
  • The effects described above occurred at the lowest doses studied (i.e., most observed effects were not proportional to the dose of treatment) but had a threshold effect at the lowest doses tested.
  • The effects described above occurred in residual levels of Roundup formulations found in contaminated drinking water falling well within authorized, regulated limits.

Study Highlights Inadequacy of Current Safety Testing 

No regulatory authority requires chronic (i.e., long-term) animal feeding studies to be performed for edible GMOs and formulated pesticides. The current approval process is based on animal feeding trials of only 90 days, which is an inadequate duration when chronic diseases in animals and humans do not usually manifest until mid-life.

Moreover, the newly emerging science of epigenetics demonstrates that endocrine systems can be seriously disrupted by the presence of chemical residues at concentrations as low as a few parts per billion. Chemicals like Roundup do not produce a linear response where the extent of exposure determines the biological response. Instead, residues well below legal limits cause serious disruptions; non-linear responses to glyphosate undermine the logic of an approval process based on MRL (maximum residue levels).

Lastly, the studies conducted by the biotech industry focus on one single active ingredient, such as glyphosate in Roundup, instead of the total chemical mixtures that are actually used in agriculture, thus under-representing the potential toxic effects on environmental pollution and human health.

Publication Buckles Under Biotech Industry Pressure, Study Republished Elsewhere

Sustained criticism and defamation by Monsanto scientists successfully forced the editor-in-chief of Food and Chemical Toxicology – A. Wallace Hayes – to retract the study in November 2013 in spite of rigorous peer review. The Séralini et al study was recently republished in Environmental Sciences Europe.

In the republished study, the authors explain the retraction was “a historic example of conflicts of interest in the scientific assessments of products commercialized worldwide… We also show the decision to retract [the original study] cannot be rationalized on any discernible scientific or ethical grounds. Censorship of research into health risks undermines the value and the credibility of science; thus, we republish our paper.”

The republished study contains extra material addressing criticisms of the original publication as well as the raw data underlying the study’s findings – unlike the raw data for the biotech industry studies that underlie regulatory approvals of Roundup, which are kept secret. The new paper presents the same results as before and the conclusions are unchanged.

Paper Subjected to Three Rounds of Scrutiny and Peer Review

Dr Michael Antoniou, a molecular geneticist based in London, commented, “Few studies would survive such intensive scrutiny by fellow scientists.”

The paper was first peer reviewed for its initial publication in Food and Chemical Toxicology, which passed with only minor revisions.

The second review involved a non-transparent examination of Prof Séralini’s raw data by a secret panel of unnamed persons organized by the editor-in-chief Hayes in response to criticisms of the study by pro-GMO scientists. In a letter to Prof Séralini, Hayes admitted  the anonymous reviewers found nothing incorrect about the results. However, Hayes argued the tumor and mortality observations in the paper were “inconclusive” which justified his decision to retract the study.

Even so, numerous published scientific papers contain inconclusive findings, including Monsanto’s own short (90-day) study on the same GM maize, and have not been retracted. The retraction was even condemned by a former member of the editorial board of Food and Chemical Toxicology.

The study passed a third peer review arranged by Environmental Sciences Europe, the journal republishing the study.

Dr Antoniou states: “The republication of the study after three expert reviews is a testament to its rigor, as well as to the integrity of the researchers. If anyone still doubts the quality of this study, they should simply read the republished paper. The science speaks for itself… If even then they refuse to accept the results, they should launch their own research study on these two toxic products that have now been in the human food and animal feed chain for many years.”

Dr Jack Heinemann, Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics, University of Canterbury New Zealand, responded: “This study has arguably prevailed through the most comprehensive and independent review process to which any scientific study on GMOs has ever been subjected.”

New Study Proves Organic Produce is Healthier than Conventional

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

“Is organic produce more nutritious than conventional produce?”

If you believe this is a rhetorical question, you are not alone.

A major new study from the United Kingdom published conclusive evidence demonstrating organic crops and the food made from them are nutritionally superior to their conventional counterparts. This landmark study corrects many shortcomings of earlier studies and puts to rest any doubts about the benefits of organic.

“This is a ground-breaking study [that] … should greatly help to dispel consumer confusion about the benefits of organic,” said Dr. Jessica Shade, Director of Science Programs for The Organic Center (TOC). “The nutritional differences between conventional and organic crops have always been a much debated topic,” said Shade. “This significant study reevaluates the issue from a more inclusive, statistically accurate standpoint and strongly shows that organic fruits and vegetables have definite health benefits to conventionally grown products.”

An international team of experts led by Newcastle University analyzed 343 studies in the largest research effort of its kind. They found organic crops and organic crop-based foods are up to 60 percent higher in a number of key antioxidants than conventionally grown crops. They also demonstrated conventional foods have greater frequency and concentrations of pesticide residues and toxic heavy metals than organic crops. This landmark report is to be published in the July 15 issue of the prestigious British Journal of Nutrition.

Every Mouthful Counts

Shade states the results of the study have meaningful real-world implications since the antioxidants found in organic crops have been shown to reduce risk of serious chronic diseases.

“Based on the findings of this study, if an individual were to switch from a conventional to an organic diet, they could have a 20-40 percent increase in antioxidants without a simultaneous increase in calorie intake. In other words, for the same amount of food, eating organic delivers a significantly higher dietary intake of healthy antioxidants,” said Shade.

Currently, dietary recommendations include consuming five servings of vegetables and fruits. Based on this study’s findings, beneficial antioxidants found in five servings of organic produce are equal to about one to two additional servings of conventionally grown produce, but without the exposure to pesticide residues and heavy metals.

The Newcastle study found significantly lower instances of pesticide residues and lower levels of Cadmium – a highly toxic metal – in organic crops. Specifically, the study found conventional crops were four times more likely to contain pesticide residues than organic crops. Exposure to pesticides has been found to affect brain development, especially in young children, and pose a greater risk for pregnant women and men and women of reproductive age. The study also found organic crops had on average 48 percent lower cadmium levels than conventional crops. Cadmium can cause kidney failure, bone softening and liver damage. It can accumulate in the body, so even low levels of chronic exposure are dangerous.

Refuting Earlier Studies, Clearing Up Confusion

Professor Charles Benbrook, one of the authors of the study and a research professor at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University, said, “The findings of this study strongly support the existence of health benefits stemming from consumption of plant-based organic food and beverages. Our results are highly relevant and significant, and will help consumers sort through the often conflicting information on the nutrition of organic and conventional plant-based foods.”

The study from Stanford University released in 2012 set off a heated debate in the scientific and health worlds when it claimed organic foods were no healthier than non-organic. The Stanford report followed a 2009 study commissioned by the UK Food Standards Agency that found no substantial nutritional benefits or differences between organic and non-organic foods.

“Where the other studies had failed …the key reason for the success of the Newcastle study in …identify[ing] concrete statistical differences between organic and conventional crops comes down to time and numbers,” said Shade. Since the publication of both studies, there has been more research on organic crops, thus more data to draw from. The Newcastle study analyzed 343 studies, with about 100 of those studies published in the last five years; the Stanford study analyzed around 200 research papers, and the earlier UK study looked at just 46 publications.

A recent survey by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) found eight out of ten U.S. families now purchase organic products. In nearly half of those families, concern about their children’s health is a driving force behind that decision.

“Parents are becoming more informed about the benefits of organic,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of OTA. “[The Newcastle] study will do much to educate consumers even more and help them to make the best choices for their families.”

UC Santa Barbara Scientists Discover Potential of Cinnamon to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

Friday, June 6th, 2014

According to a new study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease – “Interaction of Cinnamaldehyde and Epicatechin with Tau: Implications of Beneficial Effects in Modulating Alzheimer’s Disease Pathogenesis” – the compound responsible for giving cinnamon its sweet, bright smell could potentially play a role in delaying the onset of or warding off Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a neurodegenerative disease that progressively worsens over time as it kills brain cells. No cure has yet been found, nor has the major cause of Alzheimer’s been identified.

However, two compounds found in cinnamon –– cinnamaldehyde and epicatechin –– are showing some promise in the effort to fight the disease. According to Roshni George and Donald Graves, scientists at UC Santa Barbara, these compounds have been shown to prevent the development of the filamentous “tangles” found in the brain cells that characterize Alzheimer’s.

Responsible for the assembly of microtubules in a cell, a protein called tau plays a large role in the structure of the neurons, as well as their function.

“The problem with tau in Alzheimer’s is that it starts aggregating,” said George, a graduate student researcher. When for the protein does not bind properly to the microtubules that form the cell’s structure, it has a tendency to clump together, she explained, forming insoluble fibers in the neuron. The older we get the more susceptible we are to these twists and tangles, Alzheimer’s patients develop them more often and in larger amounts.

The use of cinnamaldehyde, the compound responsible for the bright, sweet smell of cinnamon, has proven effective in preventing the tau knots. By protecting tau from oxidative stress, the compound, an oil, could inhibit the protein’s aggregation. To do this, cinnamaldehyde binds to two residues of an amino acid called cysteine on the tau protein. The cysteine residues are vulnerable to modifications, a factor that contributes to the development of Alzheimer’s.

“Take, for example, sunburn, a form of oxidative damage,” said Graves, adjunct professor in UCSB’s Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. “If you wore a hat, you could protect your face and head from the oxidation. In a sense this cinnamaldehyde is like a cap.” While it can protect the tau protein by binding to its vulnerable cysteine residues, it can also come off, Graves added, which can ensure the proper functioning of the protein.

Oxidative stress is a major factor to consider in the health of cells in general. Through normal cellular processes, free radical-generating substances like peroxides are formed, but antioxidants in the cell work to neutralize them and prevent oxidation. Under some conditions however, the scales are tipped, with increased production of peroxides and free radicals, and decreased amounts of antioxidants, leading to oxidative stress.

Epicatechin, which is also present in other foods, such as blueberries, chocolate, and red wine, has proven to be a powerful antioxidant. Not only does it quench the burn of oxidation, it is actually activated by oxidation so the compound can interact with the cysteines on the tau protein in a way similar to the protective action of cinnamaldehyde.

“Cell membranes that are oxidized also produce reactive derivatives, such as Acrolein, that can damage the cysteines,” said George. “Epicatechin also sequesters those byproducts.”

Studies indicate that there is a high correlation between Type 2 diabetes and the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. The elevated glucose levels typical of diabetes lead to the overproduction of reactive oxygen species, resulting in oxidative stress, which is a common factor in both diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Other research has shown cinnamon’s beneficial effects in managing blood glucose and other problems associated with diabetes.

“Since tau is vulnerable to oxidative stress, this study then asks whether Alzheimer’s disease could benefit from cinnamon, especially looking at the potential of small compounds,” said George.

Although this research shows promise, Graves said, they are “still a long way from knowing whether this will work in human beings.” The researchers caution against ingesting more than the typical amounts of cinnamon already used in cooking.

If cinnamon and its compounds do live up to their promise, it could be a significant step in the ongoing battle against Alzheimer’s.

Tangible Benefits of Choosing Organic Confirmed!

Friday, December 13th, 2013

What do organic, grass-fed milk and MELT® Organic have in common? Both have naturally ideal Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratios of 2 to 1. Unlike conventional dairies, cows raised organically have access to grass, which naturally provides more nutrient dense milk. Melt Organic does so through the Perfect Blend of organic oils we carefully choose for our luscious butter improvement spreads.

In addition, neither organic milk nor MELT Organic benefit from agricultural programs that subsidize genetically modified (GM) grains such as soybean or corn. Unlike most margarines and cooking oils, MELT contains NO soy or corn oils and is Non-GMO Verified.

Why is organic milk twice the price of conventional milk? The answer: federal subsidy programs distort the market by affecting the availability and price of conventional milk and the GM grains used for livestock feed. Politicians panic at the notion of the Farm Bill expiring because they expect it will result in a doubling of the price of conventional milk.

If you could choose between conventional milk or organic, grass-fed milk for the same price, which would you buy for your family:

Conventional Milk  

Lower levels of Omega 3s

Mediocre farming practices:

Added hormones (rBST)                 VS

Antibiotic residues

Feed lots

Higher food safety risk (e. coli)

Cheap, GM, nutrient-poor diet

Organic, Grass-Fed Milk

Higher levels of Omega 3s

More sustainable farming practices:

No added hormones

No antibiotic residues

Organic diet, including grass

Lower food safety risk

Tangible Benefits of Choosing Organic
A recent study from Stanford called into question the nutritional benefits of organic produce; however, criticism of this study focused on its flawed methodology and its lack of addressing the well-documented evidence demonstrating the negative effects of increased exposure to pesticides. This study also ignored the noteworthy negative impacts of introducing the armory of chemicals used to grow conventional produce into the environment.

While this study may have confused some into believing the differences between organic and conventional produce are insignificant, new research from Washington State University (WSU) concludes organic milk has quantifiable nutritional advantages over conventional milk.

In the first large-scale study to compare milk from organic and conventional dairies across the U.S., researchers found significantly higher levels of heart-healthy Omega 3s in organic milk and an “optimal” ratio of Omega 6 and Omega 3s of approximately 2.3 to 1. In comparison, conventional milk was found to have a ratio of Omega 6 and Omega 3s of 5.8 to 1, a 2.5-fold increase over organic milk. Averaged over 12 months, organic milk contained 25% less Omega 6s and 62% more Omega 3s than conventional milk.

The difference in levels of Omega 3s is primarily due to diet: organically raised cows eat less corn and grains and more grass, which is much more nutrient-dense and translates into more nutrient-dense milk.

Over the last century, consumption of Omega 6s in Western diets has dramatically increased, while omega 3 intakes have fallen. This shift is due to increasing consumption of foods containing nutrient-poor oils and grains (e.g., soy, corn, safflower) high in Omega 6s and low in Omega 3s. As a result, the American diet generally has intake ratios of Omega 6 to Omega 3 of 10 to 1 or 15 to 1, instead of a more optimal ratio of 2 to 1. Omega 3 nutritional deficiencies, caused in part by high levels of Omega 6s in the diet, contribute to a wide range of developmental and chronic health problems.

According to the WSU study, switching to whole-fat organic milk and reducing intake of foods high in Omega 6s (e.g., soy, corn, safflower oils) can decrease the Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio among adult women by ~80% of the total decrease needed to reach a target ratio of 2.3, making organic milk the better choice.

Those benefitting most could be people predisposed to heart disease, young children and women of childbearing age, so drink more whole-fat organic milk and eat MELT Organic every day.

The “Paleo Diet”: Real or Fad?

Saturday, September 21st, 2013

Zeal for “healthy eating” is almost on par with religion and politics for many people. Take the Paleo diet as an example: the Paleo diet is one of America’s fastest growing dietary programs, yet how scientifically based is it? The Paleo diet is based on the idea of abandoning modern agricultural diets because they make us ill; instead we should eat like our Paleolithic ancestors from more than 10,000 years ago. Intuitively, it makes sense to harken back to our ancestors for answers to our most difficult chronic disease-related questions, like digestive disorders, obesity, diabetes type 2, and heart disease. However, what if the true diet of our Paleolithic ancestors is virtually non-existent today due to Neolithic farming practices that long ago altered vegetables, fruits, seeds, and nuts, and our common meat sources like beef, poultry, and eggs? Is the Paleo diet nothing more than a modified Neolithic, farm-based diet?

Dr. Christina Warinner is an Archeologist at the University of Oklahoma and the University of Zurich’s Centre for Evolutionary Medicine. Her area of specialization is health and dietary histories of ancient peoples using bone biochemistry and ancient DNA. Through examination of the scientific evidence, Dr. Warinner de-mystifies several myths promoted by Paleo diet enthusiasts due to a lack of basis in archeological reality.

Myth #1: Paleolithic people evolved to eat meat and consumed large quantities of it.

Humans have no known anatomical, physiological, or genetic adaptations to meat consumption, yet humans have many adaptations to plant consumption. For example, carnivores make their own vitamin C. Since vitamin C is found in plants, carnivores must synthesize their own vitamin C since they do not consume plants. Humans cannot make their own vitamin C and must consume plants in order to acquire this essential nutrient. Humans also have longer digestive tracks than carnivores in order to digest plant matter and have molars to shred fibrous plants. On the other hand, humans do not possess carnassials, which are specialized teeth used to shred meat. While humans have some genetic adaptations to animal consumption, it’s limited to consuming milk not meat.

Further, the primary sources of meat today are from domestic cattle with much higher fat content than the lean, small game that would have been eaten by Paleolithic people. Paleolithic people ate organ meat and bone marrow, two important sources of nutrients. Native peoples in the Arctic ate a lot of meat because of long periods where plant matter wasn’t available; however, people in temperate and tropical regions ate plants as a large portion of their diets.

Myth #2: Paleolithic people did not eat whole grains or legumes.

Stone tool evidence from 30,000 years (20,000 years before the agricultural age) includes tools similar to mortar and pestles to grind up seeds and grains. Fossilized dental plaque allows recovery of plant microfossils and other remains today. Myriad plant remains have been found in the dental calculus of Paleolithic people and includes grains (e.g., barley), legumes, and tubers.

Myth #3: Foods listed under the Paleo diet are what Paleolithic people ate.

In charts of any Paleo diet book, images are shown of domesticated produce as a part of a Paleo diet that were radically altered from their wild counterparts to suit human needs such as increasing size, decreasing toughness, toxin load, latex, spines and seed content. In other words, produce in any grocery store or farm stand is the product of agricultural domestication dating back to the Neolithic transition. Vegetables, fruits, nuts and berries listed as “Paleo foods” are human inventions.

Food quantities for Paleolithic peoples were also much smaller overall. For example, a large amount of wild broccoli would have been necessary to approximate our domestic variety. Plants collected were tough, woody and fibrous and contained toxins along with beneficial phytochemicals. Meat sources were very lean and included eating the organs and marrow. It is virtually impossible for everyone to eat a truly Paleolithic diet based on foraging – the global population is simply too large.

Myth #4: There is one singular Paleo diet.

When referring to Paleolithic diets, it is important to speak of them in the plural. Throughout the world, Paleolithic diets were widely variable based on climate, region, locally available foods and season. When more plants were available, more were eaten (e.g., temperate and tropical regions); when fewer plants were available, fewer were eaten (e.g., Arctic region). Seeds and fruits were available during different times in the year; and herds migrate and fish spawn on seasonal cycles. People had to move from resource patch to resource patch with periods of high mobility and sometimes over long distances.

What can we learn from our Paleolithic ancestors?

Eating a diet rich in species diversity is important for consuming the vital nutrients we require for healthy life. Today’s trends in American diets are in the opposite direction because nearly all processed foods contain wheat, soy, or corn. Additionally, nearly all non-organic soy and corn is genetically modified.

We evolved to eat fresh foods when they are in season with their highest nutritional content.

We evolved to eat whole foods in their complete package with fiber and roughage. By decoupling whole food from the nutrients inside, we trick our bodies and override the mechanisms that evolved to signal fullness and satiation. For example, one 34 oz soda is equivalent to 8.5 feet of sugar cane. While no Paleolithic person could consume that much sugar cane, the same sugar content can now be consumed in 20 minutes.

Agree or Disagree? A.M.A. Classifies Obesity as a Disease

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

The New York Times recently reported on the American Medical Association, the nation’s largest physician group, recently classifying obesity as a disease. The vote of the A.M.A. House of Delegates went against the conclusions of the association’s Council on Science and Public Health, which studied the issue over the last year.

Do you agree with the A.M.A.’s decision?

Obesity, particularly childhood obesity, is of great concern to us at Melt® Organic headquarters. We welcome opportunities that raise awareness of obesity so long as they emphasize the fundamental role diet plays in creating obesity and metabolic disorders.

Proponents of the A.M.A.s designation believe classifying obesity as a disease will:

  • Induce physicians to pay more attention to the condition and spur more insurers to pay for treatments;
  • Provide a new definition that helps in the fight against Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, which are linked to obesity;
  • Bring more attention to obesity as a nationwide problem;
  • Help improve reimbursement for obesity drugs, surgery and counseling;
  • Encourage physicians to take obesity more seriously and counsel their patients about it;
  • Reduce the stigma of obesity stemming from the widespread perception that it is simply the result of eating too much or exercising too little.

Opponents argue:

  • Obesity should not be considered a disease primarily because the measure typically used to define obesity, the body mass index, is simplistic and flawed.
  • Some people with a B.M.I. above the level that usually defines obesity are perfectly healthy while others below it can have dangerous levels of body fat and metabolic problems associated with obesity. Some people could be over-treated because their B.M.I. is above a line designating them as having a disease, even though they are healthy.
  • Because of existing limitations with using B.M.I. to diagnose obesity in clinical practice, it is unclear whether recognizing obesity as a disease, as opposed to a ‘condition’ or ‘disorder,’ will result in improved health outcomes.
  • No specific symptoms are associated with obesity; obesity is more a risk factor for other conditions than a disease in its own right. Proponents argue obesity fits some medical criteria of a disease, such as impairing body function and is a “multimetabolic and hormonal disease state” that leads to unfavorable outcomes like Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
  • “Medicalizing” obesity by declaring it a disease would define one-third of Americans as being ill and could lead to more reliance on costly drugs and surgery rather than lifestyle and dietary changes. For example, two new obesity drugs – Qsymia from Vivus, and Belviq from Arena Pharmaceuticals and Eisai – entered the market in the last year. Qsymia has not sold well in part because of poor reimbursement and concerns that the drug can cause birth defects, which resulted in restrictions placed on distribution. Those restrictions are now being relaxed. Belviq went on sale only about a week ago, so it is too early to assess its performance in the marketplace.

Dr. Oz and Melt®’s Perfect Blend

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

In a segment called, “Solutions to Break Your Food Addictions” (aired Thursday, March 8), Dr. Oz featured Melt® Organic as his best replacement for butter on the Dr. Oz Show!

Given Melt®’s humble roots in my kitchen, I was ecstatic to see it on the Dr Oz Show! I thoroughly enjoyed seeing both Dr. Oz and a guest from his audience loving Melt®’s divine, creamy taste while enjoying the added bonus of excellent nutrition.

While Dr. Oz mentioned the flaxseed oil in the product, it’s the virgin coconut oil-flaxseed oil combination that is the foundation of Melt®’s Perfect Blend. If a blob of coconut oil  doesn’t sound appetizing or a shot of flaxseed or cod liver oil, Melt®’s divine, silky, rich taste and creamy texture will make getting your daily MCFAs and Omega 3s much easier and more delicious. So go ahead and slather, spread, drizzle, bake, top, and cook your hearts out with Melt®. With our Fair Trade, Ecosocial, and non-GMO ingredients, you can also count on Melt® having the highest sustainability ethics standards.

Go Melt®!

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