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28 August 2009

Toxins in Lake Michigan fish linked to diabetes

This is a fish tale in which smaller is better than bigger, especially if the catch is to be eaten in any quantity.

That's because a new study of Great Lakes boat captains over 15 years found a correlation between the chemical DDE and diabetes. Those who ate more fish had more DDE in their blood and were more likely to develop diabetes, according to results published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives in July.

DDE is produced in the bodies of small bottom-feeding fish from ingesting the prevalent pesticide DDT. The chemical transfers to bigger fish when they eat smaller fish and then accumulates in the fat and liver of people who eat lots of what they catch.

"Sports fishermen are at the top of the food chain," said Bruce Fowler, assistant director of science at the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which funded the study, along with the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Charter boat captains tend to catch and eat more fish than the average recreational fisherman. But the captains care about their health, said Henry Anderson of the Wisconsin Division of Public Health, who managed the study.

"Many saw that their levels were high from the study and they cut back on their intake of fish," he said.

Exactly how DDE may lead to diabetes is unknown. Another pesticide, Agent Orange, can cause diabetes, but it's believed to do so in a different way than DDE, said Mary Turyk, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and lead author of the study.

DDE is a byproduct of the pesticide DTT, which was used in farming in the Great Lakes region. It was banned in the United States 37 years ago but continues to be a worrisome pollutant because it is used in other countries to combat malaria and because it remains in the lakes due to the slow turnover of water.

"DDT gets thrown up in the atmosphere and can be deposited by rain and snow attached to particles which settle at the bottom of the lakes," Fowler said. "The toxins are released by Asia and settle in North America. The jet stream carries a lot of things besides temperature and rain."

There is reason for hope, scientists say.

"The good news is that levels in fish and in people have been going down because we have been cleaning up the lakes," Anderson said.

Fisherman Todd Panagopalores, who often can be found at Northerly Island, said he and others worry about what they eat and keep only the smaller fish because they know the bigger fish accumulate the most harmful toxins. That advice is contained in guidelines from the Illinois Department of Public Health fish advisory, which are based on a monitoring program that test for 14 environmental chemicals in fish.

The advisory sets limits of fish consumption based on levels of PCBs, which can cause cancer, and mercury, which causes nerve damage and birth defects. Though tests for DDE are included, they do not contribute to the advisory because the levels found in local fish do not exceed health-based guidelines, said Ken Runkle, senior environmental toxicologist from the Illinois Department of Public Health.


Anderson said existing advisories are adequate, even given the possible DDE link to diabetes.

"The point is not to discourage people from eating fish but to be selective. If you eat a balanced source of fish, you will not run into problems with the fish advisory," Runkle said. He suggests eating different types of fish from different water sources.

"When properly prepared, fish are high in protein and low in saturated fats and part of a balanced diet," he said.

Researchers discount that mercury might have been the culprit of diabetes in their study, because mercury and DDE do not travel together. Mercury is found in fish muscle, whereas DDE and PCBs accumulate in the fat and skin. Trimming the fish's belly fat before cooking it and allowing the fat to drip off during cooking can reduce intake of the toxins, advises the Web site for the Illinois Department of Public Health.

An earlier study measured chemicals in 8,000 people across the U.S. to see whether pollutants were linked to diabetes. "Basically, it looked like a relationship between chemicals and diabetes, but they couldn't say which chemical was the toxic one," said Fowler. "This new research carries this one step further and points the finger at DDT as the primary agent."

Chris Taglieri, who fishes every morning for carp in the same spot at Northerly Island before he heads to work as a Chicago police officer, doubts the research will change fishermen's eating habits. He tosses back what he catches.

"There are other things with larger implications to be worried about," Taglieri said. "I think you should be more concerned with what's in a can of tuna than a fish that you catch."

The Claim: Some Foods Can Ease Arthritis Pain

Patients with arthritis are often encouraged to steer clear of all sorts of foods. But few of these diets are supported by any evidence.

In one of the largest analyses of diet and various types of arthritis, researchers looked at data on more than 800 patients from 15 studies. They examined several diets popular among arthritis patients and found that the one that had the greatest effect was a Mediterranean-type diet emphasizing foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, fish and olive oil, while limiting red meat. In 12 weeks, people on the diet reported about 15 percent less pain, but no improvement in physical function or morning stiffness. A vegetarian diet that allowed eggs and dairy products had a similar effect.

patients who were given daily capsules of fish oil to take along with their antirheumatic medications saw greater benefits for swollen and tender joints than patients given a placebo, apparently because of the oil’s anti-inflammatory properties.

Meanwhile, vegetables in the nightshade family, like potatoes and tomatoes, have long been said to contribute to arthritis pain. Some researchers have speculated that a group of compounds in the vegetables called alkaloids might worsen inflammation in sensitive people. But so far no solid studies have demonstrated this. Experts say a diet in which suspect foods are gradually removed should help patients identify any problematic foods

26 August 2009

Long-term exercise, healthy eating habits in young adults: U-M study

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---Despite mounting public health concerns about obesity and persistent social pressures dictating that slim is beautiful, young women in their '20s consistently exercise less than young men.

And young black women showed significant declines in exercise between 1984 and 2006, according to a University of Michigan study to be published in the October issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

The study is one of the first to analyze long-term patterns in weight-related activities, and to assess how these patterns vary by gender, race and ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.

The disparities in health behaviors the study reveals are consistent with disparities in the prevalence of obesity, particular among women, according to Philippa Clarke, lead author of the study and a researcher at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR).

The study is based on data obtained every two years from 17,314 men and women who were aged 19 to 26 between 1984 and 2006. The participants were part of a follow-up panel drawn from the Monitoring the Future Study, conducted by ISR. The analysis was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, as part of the Youth, Education, and Society Project, also based at ISR.

For the study, the researchers looked at trends over a 23-year-period in six different health behaviors. They measured how often participants reported eating breakfast, and eating at least some green vegetables and fruit; how often they exercised vigorously (jogging, swimming, or calisthenics); how often they got at least seven hours of sleep, and how much television they watched on an average weekday.

"Agreement is growing that the source of the obesity epidemic lies in an environment that produces an energy gap, where energy intake exceeds energy expenditure even by as little as 100 excess calories per day," wrote Clarke and co-authors Patrick O'Malley, Lloyd Johnston, John Schulenberg and Paula Lantz, all researchers at ISR.

The finding that young women consistently exercised less than young men, suggests that differences in energy expenditure could play a role in gender disparities in obesity and overweight.

The frequency of eating fruit and vegetables remained relatively stable among young adult women but declined significantly among young men. Young men also reported eating breakfast less often than did young women.

Both men and women reported a steady decline in the frequency of getting at least seven hours of sleep each night.

Despite the focus on television viewing as an important determinant of obesity, the researchers found that the amount of time men and women spent watching TV stayed relatively stable.

When the researchers compared behaviors of different racial and ethnic groups, they found some major differences. For example, although white women showed a steady increase in the frequency of eating breakfast, the trajectory for non-Hispanic black women declined until 1996 and only began to increase in 2000.

Although fruit and vegetable consumption changed little among young adults, consumption of both was consistently lower among black and Hispanic men and women in any given year.

And although the frequency of exercise remained relatively stable among young adult women in general, among black women, the frequency of exercising steady declined.

In addition, black and Hispanic women showed greater declines than white women in the frequency of getting at least seven hours of sleep a night. They also were less likely than white women to report eating breakfast, and eating fruits and vegetables.

Among men, those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds reported dramatic declines in sleep, after adjusting for race and ethnicity.

Minority racial and ethnic groups, and women from lower socioeconomic groups, also reported watching television more often than whites and women from more affluent backgrounds.

25 August 2009

Candle use linked to cancer risk

Candle-lit dinners may be romantic, but researchers are warning they could be harmful to health.

South Carolina State University experts analysed the fumes released by burning candles in lab tests.

They found paraffin wax candles gave off harmful fumes linked to lung cancer and asthma - but admitted it would take many years' use to risk health.

UK experts said smoking, obesity and alcohol were much more important in terms of cancer development.

And even the researchers admitted occasional candle use was not something people should worry about too much.

Lead researcher Amid Hamidi said people who frequently used candles, for instance to help them relax in the bath or provide the right ambience for dinner, were most at risk.

He told the American Chemical Society in Washington: "An occasional paraffin candle and its emissions will not likely affect you.

"But lighting many paraffin candles every day for years or lighting them frequently in an un-ventilated bathroom around a tub, for example, may cause problems."

To investigate candle emissions, the researchers burned a range of candles in the laboratory and collected the mixture of substances they gave off.

Paraffin-based candles produced "clear sharp peaks" for many chemicals, mainly because burning candles does not produce high enough temperatures to combust hazardous molecules such as toluene and benzene.

The scientists suggested switching to candles made from beeswax or soy, which did not release significant levels of the chemicals.


But Dr Joanna Owens, from Cancer Research UK, said: "There is no direct evidence that everyday use of candles can affect our risk of developing cancer.

"In terms of cancer, a far more significant type of indoor air pollution is second-hand cigarette smoke.

"When talking about cancer risk, it's important to focus on things we have hard evidence for.

"Lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol, obesity, unhealthy diets, inactivity and heavy sun exposure account for a much larger proportion of cancers."

Dr Noemi Eiser, medical director at the British Lung Foundation, added: "We would like to reassure people that occasional use of paraffin candles should not pose any risk to their lung health."

But she added people should still take "sensible precautions" such as ventilating rooms when burning candles.

Foods That Make You Smarter

Here are some foods that will supercharge your brain:


Start each day with a mix of high-quality protein and beneficial fats to build the foundation for an energized day,


Blueberries are possibly the best brain food on earth: they have been linked to reduced risk for Alzheimer’s, shown to improve learning ability and motor skills in rats, and they are one of the most powerful anti-stress foods you can eat.


Nuts contain plenty of vitamin E, which is essential to cognitive function.


Try sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, or flax seeds. Seeds contain a lot of protein, beneficial fat, and vitamin E, as well as stress-fighting antioxidants and important brain-boosting minerals like magnesium.


Beans provide a steady, slow release of glucose to your brain -- which means energy all day without the sugar crash.


Pomegranates contain high levels of antioxidants, which are essential for a healthy brain.


You have to brew tea fresh or you won’t get the benefits of all those catechines (antioxidants) that boost your brain. Because tea has caffeine, don’t have more than 2-3 cups daily.

Dark Chocolate

Chocolate has got brain-boosting compounds and it’s loaded with antioxidants


Garlic exerts a protective antioxidant effect on the brain.


Eggs contain protein and fat to provide energy to your brain for hours, and the selenium in organic eggs is proven to help your mood.

Green Leafy Vegetables

Green, leafy vegetables are high in iron, and iron deficiency is linked to fatigue, poor mood, foggy thinking, and other cognition issues.


Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that is particularly good for your brain; it even helps prevent dementia. You have to cook tomatoes to get the lycopene.

Cacao Nibs

Cacao nibs are among the top five most powerful brain foods.