Thursday, March 26, 2009

How metals in food impact children's behaviour


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How metals in food impact children's behaviour

By Lorraine Heller, 25-Mar-2009

The contamination of food with certain metals needs to be urgently addressed in light of growing evidence linking trace elements to negative human behaviour, according to a lead researcher in the field.

Metals and other elements can be present in food either naturally, as a result of human activities (such as farming, industry or car exhausts), from contamination during manufacture/processing and storage, or by direct addition.
It has long been known that excessive amounts of any metal could be potentially dangerous, but there is now also strong evidence that some trace elements can contribute to aggressive or anti-social behaviour, said Neil Ward, professor of chemistry at the UK’s University of Surrey.

Many of the mechanisms are as yet unknown and more case studies are required, but it is clear that elimination produces positive improvements,” said Professor Ward at a Food and Behaviour conference held in Brighton, UK, last week.
Some metals and other elements (such as copper, manganese and zinc) can act as nutrients and are essential for health, while others (such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury) have no known beneficial health effects.

Nutrient depletion
Those elements that have no nutritional benefits could not only be toxic to the system, but they could impede absorption of essential nutrients in the body, which is particularly problematic in children, explained Ward.
For example, lead has been linked to anti-social behaviour, partly because it contributes to nutrient depletion.

“Lead acts as an anti-nutrient, hindering the utilisation of magnesium, zinc and vitamin B1. High lead levels have been linked to a reduction in IQ, negative classroom behaviour ratings by teachers, juvenile delinquency and increased violent behaviour,” he said, citing studies by Needleman et al., which appeared in the New England journal of Medicine, JAMA and Neurotoxic Teratology in 1990, 1996 and 2002 respectively.

Ward, who has studied the relation of trace elements to human disorders for over 25 years, said aluminium has also been linked to anti-social behaviour as it competes for the binding sites of biochemical receptors of other metal ions, such as iron and zinc. For the same reason, suboptimal dietary intake of zinc or iron could explain the uptake of aluminium, he said. References included studies by Moon and Marlow, Wenk and Stemmer, and Birchell and Chappell, which appeared in Biol Trace Elem Res (1986), Brain Res (1983) and the Lancet (1988) respectively.

Ward also highlighted findings from one of his own studies, conducted in 1995, which examined the heavy metal status of incarcerated young offenders compared to control individuals.

The double-blind case control study used scalp hair and blood serum tests to determine the levels of zinc, lead, cadmium and aluminium in the two groups. Levels of lead, cadmium and aluminium were found to be significantly higher in the young offenders group, whereas zinc levels were lower.
Zinc deficiency is also thought to occur as a result of ingestion of certain food colours, and has been linked to hyperactive behaviour or ADHD in children, said Ward.

The mode of action is not known, but azo dyes have been linked to behavioural changes in children. These colours could be acting as chelating agents, which bind available blood zinc and create a deficiency. The elimination of azo dye beverages and sweets can have a dramatic effect on some HA or ADHD children,” he said.

Food and Behaviour
Professor Ward was addressing an audience of medical professionals, teachers, healthcare and social workers, and food industry executives at a conference organised by the charity Food and Behaviour Research (FAB).
FAB aims to provide research-based information on how nutrition and diet can affect behaviour, learning and mood. For more information, click here:

Choices to make - Red, white or BE VEG???

THANKS JENNA --- for this article. Yes... we do have a choice and let it be one that is beneficial for our health as well as for MOTHER EARTH!

By Stephen Daniells, 24-Mar-2009

Choosing between red and processed meat, and white meat, may affect how long you live, according to new findings from a study with half a million people.

Writing in the new issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers from the US’ National Cancer Institute (NCI) report that increased consumption of red and processed meat may have a modestly increased risk of death from all causes and also from cancer or heart disease.

The study adds to an ever increasing list of bad news for red and processed meat, following a previous study from the NCI that reported high intakes of red and processed meats may raise the risk of lung and colorectal cancer by up to 20 per cent.

The World Cancer Research Fund published a report in 2007 that directly linked diet to cancer, with alcohol and red and processed meats posing particular risks.
“Red and processed meat intakes, as well as a high-risk meat diet, were associated with a modest increase in risk of total mortality, cancer, and CVD mortality in both men and women,” wrote the authors, led by Rashmi Sinha, PhD.
“In contrast, high white meat intake and a low-risk meat diet was associated with a small decrease in total and cancer mortality.

“These results complement the recommendations by the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund to reduce red and processed meat intake to decrease cancer incidence,” they added.

Study details
Sinha and coworkers analyzed data from 500,000 participants of the National
Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study aged between 50 and 71 years at the start of the study. Food frequency questionnaires were used to estimate intakes of white, red and processed meats.

During 10 years of follow-up the researchers documented 71,252 deaths, including 47,976 men and 23,276 women. Men and women with the highest intakes of red meat (average of 62.5 grams per 1,000 calories per day), were found to have a higher overall risk of death, including death from heart disease and cancer, than men and women who had the lowest average intakes (9.8 grams per 1,000 calories per day).
Similar results were observed for men and women with the highest average intakes of processed meat (22.6 grams), compared to those with the lowest (1.6 grams).
On the other hand, the high consumption levels of white meat were associated with slightly lower risk for total death, death from cancer and death from causes other than heart disease or cancer, compared to lowest consumption levels, said the researchers.

“For overall mortality, 11 percent of deaths in men and 16 percent of deaths in women could be prevented if people decreased their red meat consumption to the level of intake in the first quintile [one-fifth],” wrote Sinha and co-workers.
“The impact on cardiovascular disease mortality was an 11 percent decrease in men and a 21 percent decrease in women if the red meat consumption was decreased to the amount consumed by individuals in the first quintile,” they added.
“For women eating processed meat at the first quintile level, the decrease in cardiovascular disease mortality was approximately 20 percent.”

The researchers note that meat may increase mortality rate via several mechanisms. One is the formation of carcinogenic compounds during high-temperature cooking, while another is linked to the high levels of saturated fat. On the flip side, dietary patterns with low intakes of meat have been linked to reduced risks of heart disease (END OF ARTICLE)


BE VEG! GO GREEN! SAVE THE PLANET ! It's the best choice!


Many thanks to a friend who has been forwarding me informative reports and updates on what we are all about - BE VEG! GO GREEN! SAVE THE PLANET!

Here's one that is really interesting... USA has lots more vegetarians now than before. An estimated number of 367,000 of these are CHILDREN - about 1 child in every 200.


By Neil Merrett, 24-Mar-2009
Related topics: Financial & Industry

Vegetarian food manufacturers say they are increasingly catering for mainstream consumer tastes by meeting various consumer needs for affordable, healthy and even higher quality products, according to an independent association.
Stewart Rose, vice president of the non-profit organization Vegetarians of Washington, claimed that, while vegetarian food products can meet specific needs regarding consumer health, broad market appeal remained the key to driving future growth in the current economic climate.

“We will continue our broad based marketing program,” he stated. “The base of consumers are the vegetarian community, but the fastest growth potential is in reaching out to the mainstream and getting them to give vegetarian food products a try.”

The comments follow last weekend’s Vegfest 2009, an event that took place in Seattle, and, according to the group, is the largest vegetarian food festival in North America.

Rose told that estimates of this year’s event suggested that at least half of attendees at the show were not committed vegetarians, reflecting increasing interest by consumers in meat-free products.
He added that this seemingly growing number of so called ‘veg-curious’ shoppers was being met with growing interest from vegetarian food manufacturers eager to cater for main stream needs.

Like a lot of strategies currently being adopted within the food industry, Rose suggested that the economic downturn had been a major factor in steering trends.
He claimed that there was a proportion of vegetarian consumers who consciously spent more on healthier products and were therefore less likely to switch to other products.

Due to this reluctance to switch to other goods, Vegetarians of Washington said it expected the industry would remain focused on broad mainstream appeal in the future.
Aside from cost impacts, Rose said that in light of the growing interest in super fruit products like Goji berry, pushing and promoting other goods offering potential health benefits was another important development area.
Welfare and nutrients

Earlier this year, it was animal welfare and not health being linked to growing levels of US child vegetarians, according to a survey.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) study, which is said to be the first government estimate of the number of children who do not eat meat, showed that 367,000 children in the US are vegetarian.

This figure is estimated to be about in one in 200 children. The CDC report, which presents selected estimates of complementary and alternative medicine use among US adults and children, used data from the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, conducted by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.
The results were based on over 9,417 interviews for children aged up to 17 years.

However, experts claim that children who are vegetarians could lack essential nutrients if they don’t eat meat, such as protein. Therefore, it is important to eat alternative sources such as soybeans and nuts.
This is more the case for vegans who do not eat dairy produce or meat

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Food Shortage

Rising food prices have plunged an additional 75 million people below the hunger threshold, bringing the estimated number of undernourished people worldwide to 923 million in 2007.(1)

But are we really short of food?
1/3 of the world’s cereal harvest and over 90% of soya is used for animal feed, despite inherent inefficiencies. Grain currently fed to livestock is enough to feed 2 billion people.

It takes 10 kg of animal feed to produce 1 kg of beef
4 to 5.5 kg of grain to produce 1 kg of pork
2.1 to 3 kg of grain to produce 1 kg of poultry meat
Source: FAO, 2006; CAST 1999; B. Parmentier, 2007

"Everything else takes too long and we don’t have time. So we have to choose the vegetarian diet; no more animals breeding. Choose organic farming, helping each other, sharing the food that we have.

Because if we are vegetarian, all of us, we will have so much food to share with everybody; no one will ever go to sleep hungry at night anymore. And then we will have saved a lot of time, energy, money to help them also combat disease and rebuild their lives. Everything’s possible, because there will be no more war, even with animals. Peace begins at home."
- 2008 Critical Moments to Save the Planet: What Can I Do? Seminar -June 29, 2008(2)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

What is your dinner doing to the climate?

11 September 2008 by Bijal Trivedi

LOCAL or imported? Conventional or organic? Can you make choices that will keep your diet healthy and reduce your carbon footprint? Is it possible to eat green? Does it even matter?

It may surprise you to learn that our diets account for up to twice as many greenhouse emissions as driving. One recent study suggested that the average US household's annual carbon food-print is 8.1 tonnes of "equivalent CO2 emissions" or CO2eq (a measure that incorporates any other greenhouse gases produced alongside the CO2). That's almost twice the 4.4 tonnes of CO2eq emitted by driving a 25-mile-per-US gallon (9 litres per 100 kilometres) vehicle 19,000 km - a typical year's mileage in the US.

As greenhouse gas emissions attract ever greater scrutiny and criticism, the fields of sustainable consumption and life-cycle carbon accounting have prompted academics to tally the greenhouse gas emissions of hundreds of products and manufacturing processes so that we can make more environmentally friendly food choices.

In the UK some supermarkets have already begun pilot programmes to label foods with their carbon footprint. One potato crisp producer is now labelling some lines with their CO2eq footprint - the makers calculated that each 34.5-gram packet that leaves the factory accounts for 75 grams of CO2eq. The Carbon Trust, a campaign group based in London, is working on a standardised system that companies can follow to work out the CO2eq footprint of any product.

So how do you calculate your stomach's CO2eq footprint? It's far from simple. For a start, you have to analyse every joule of energy used, from farm to fork, to measure its greenhouse gas contribution. Food produced using wind or solar power will produce lower emissions than food reliant on gas or coal, for example. For meat and dairy produce you also have to account for methane and nitrous oxide emissions - both potent greenhouse gases.

Methane remains in the atmosphere for 9 to 15 years and traps heat 21 times as effectively as CO2. Fertilisers and manure release nitrous oxide, which is 296 times as good as CO2 at trapping heat and remains in the atmosphere for 114 years on average. A food's emissions total also depends heavily on where it grew and how it was transformed from raw ingredients into your dinner. This includes gases generated by tilling the land, sowing the crops, making fertilisers and pesticides, harvesting the food and shipping it to processing plants, as well as electricity for cleaning, processing and packing your food, and then transporting it to your store. Finally, the loss of carbon sinks when forests are cleared for grazing or crops has to be accounted for.

The calculations can become "fiendishly complicated", says Astrid Scholz, an ecological economist at Ecotrust, a think tank based in Portland, Oregon. Scholz led the development of a carbon calculator for the Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation, which developed a Low Carbon Diet for its 400 plus cafeterias in the US.

For example, to calculate the CO2eq impact of eating an industrially raised chicken breast, you would factor in the following. First, there's the emissions from preparing the feed pellets. This would include the fertiliser, growing and processing the grain, and finally transforming it into bite-sized pellets that will feed the chicken while it sits in a hut with 250,000 other birds. Add to that the energy for heating the structure, the fuel for transporting the chicken to the slaughter facility, and the emissions from running the slaughtering facility and manufacturing the packaging.

Then there are emissions from transporting the animal to the wholesaler, the refrigeration costs of storing the meat, the trip to the retailer, and further refrigeration in the shop. Then you drive to the store, buy your chicken, drive home and cook it - all those emissions count too. Chicken is a relatively simple example, but the more stages involved in a food's production, the harder it becomes to calculate its true CO2eq footprint.

Scholz found that until recently there had been no wide scale effort to calculate CO2eq for foods in the US. In Europe, however, there are fledgling programmes that have calculated CO2eq emissions for some foods, so she used these figures to create a carbon calculator that she says gives comparable figures for the US. "We took a Dutch chicken farm and plopped it in Texas and assumed that it worked in a similar way," she explains.

She describes the resulting carbon calculator as "version 1.0 of a good idea". It doesn't give you the derivation of the figures, but it will tell you that 333 grams of CO2eq is emitted to make one hard-boiled egg. Compare that with a bowl of cereal with milk: 1224 grams of CO2eq - equivalent to driving a typical SUV 6 km.

The main culprit in the bowl isn't the cereal, it's the milk. That's because the most emissions-intensive foods are red meat and dairy products. In general, red meat emits 2.5 times as much greenhouse gas as chicken or fish, since rearing cows and other livestock requires a lot of energy. It takes 2.3 kilograms of grain to make every kilo of chicken meat, 5.9 kg of grain for a kilo of pork, and 13 kg of grain plus 30 kg of forage for a kilo of beef. Worse still, they produce methane and their manure releases nitrous oxide.

However, Peter Tyedmers, an ecological economist at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, warns that such calculators should be taken with a pinch of salt. Tyedmers and his students provided much of the raw data for the calculator, and while he agrees it is a good idea in principle, he says the figures they came up with are specific not just to the precise types of foods they measured, but to every detail of where and how they were produced, so cannot be generalised. For example, regional differences in farming practices can make a big impact on the final figure, he says. Simply changing an animal's feed can have a huge impact on its CO2eq footprint too. "It's all very fluid," says Tyedmers. "There's a tremendous hunger for these sorts of numbers and this has created the assumption that any existing figures are robust. They're not."

Tricky as it may be, some general rules are emerging that can guide you towards a less carbon-intensive diet. One sure-fire way of reducing your CO2eq footprint is to go vegetarian. Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin, at the University of Chicago, calculated that switching from the average American diet to a vegetarian one could cut annual emissions by almost 1.5 tonnes of CO2eq per person.

Switching from the average American diet to a vegetarian one could cut emissions by 1.5 tonnes of CO2eq per person

If you can't face life without steak, there might soon be an alternative source of meat that can still dramatically cut your CO2eq emissions: in vitro meat. Animal-rights organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which promotes vegetarianism, is offering a $1 million prize for an industrial-scale means of making in vitro chicken meat with a taste and texture indistinguishable from the real thing.

Careful dietary choices can also make a big difference to your greenhouse gas emissions. For example, you may well think that eating local or organic produce are greenhouse-friendly options, but that's not always the case. Even different fish have a wide variety of greenhouse impacts.

Christopher Weber at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, also examined whether vegetarians eat enough nutrients. His conclusion was a resounding yes. "Plant-based diets are safe, and are probably nutritionally superior to mixed diets deriving a large fraction of their calories from animals," he wrote. The message is clear: indulge in a steak once in a while, but our planet's health would be better off if we just give meat the chop.