I’m a big baseball fan. Even though none of my teams are in the World Series this year, I’ve been tuned in as much as my busy work schedule has allowed. It’s hard not to notice that pretty much all the pitchers this year (and more than a few of the hitters) are wearing flashy cord-like necklaces.
Now, not being much of a fashion devotee, I just figured it was another trendy flourish. With the number of players sporting tatoos, piercings, and weird facial hair, the necklaces seemed like just another goofy thing. Until I came across this.
A new study published in the journal Toxicological Scienceslooked at the concentrations of a toxin called bisphenol A (BPA) in the blood and urine after a single-day moderate dietary exposure. The authors found that people eating three meals per day from cans lined with BPA had large spikes in their urinary output of the chemical, but that very little BPA was found in the blood stream.
An industry group quickly released a statement suggesting that this article was definitive evidence of the safety of BPA exposure from cans. It is in fact no such thing.
First of all, the study provides definitive proof that BPA from cans leads to spikes in urinary output, a finding that would be impossible if it were not absorbed. Second, this study included no measures of safety, only measuring some of the ways BPA travels through the body (a study called pharmacokinetics).
A provocative new article in the magazine Foreign Policy suggests that the local foods and organic movements are hurting the world’s poorest populations through their misplaced fetishes (his word, not mine).
The argument behind the controversial thesis is multifaceted, and lumps together discussions that probably have no business in the same conversation - transportation costs, GMOs, and seasonal eating are all important discussions, and deserve a longer discussion than a paragraph each before being cursorily swept aside. So, I guess as a nutrition educator, I’m not a huge fan of the article. But there were a couple of things about it that really caught my eye.
America’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) is truly a masterpiece of nutritional science.
Once a decade, NHANES publishes a comprehensive guide to what Americans eat, broken down by age, gender, race, and geographical location. This data helps guide public policy and research agendas over the upcoming decade.
What happens during a woman’s pregnancy can have life-long (or potentially life-shortening) effects on her child.
When 94 healthy young adults were tested, those whose mothers had experienced severe stress during their pregnancy (for example, the death or sudden severe illness of an immediate family member, loss of their home) were found to have much shorter telomeres than those whose mothers had had a healthy, uneventful pregnancy.
The latest research findings related to soy — specifically, to a compound derived from soybeans called equol –suggest that soybeans may be a plant panacea for men. Equol, which our intestinal bacteria can make from a phytonutrient abundant in soybeans called daidzen, protects against benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), prostate cancer & male pattern baldness.
Certain health-promoting intestinal bacteria can convert daidzein into equol, which is not only a seriously powerful antioxidant, but specifically binds to and shuts down men’s most aggressive, hyped-up form of testosterone: 5alpha-dihydrotestosterone (5α-DHT). Equol prevents 5α-DHT from attaching to androgen receptors (the cell receptors for male hormones), not only in the prostate, but also in and around the hair follicle, thus preventing initiation of the whole cascade of cellular events that leads to an enlarged prostate and male pattern baldness.
In addition binding to 5α-DHT, equol also latches on to an estrogen receptor abundant in the prostate called estrogen-receptor beta. ER-β regulates cell proliferation in the prostate, promoting the differentiation of normal cells and the apoptosis (cellular suicide) of cancerous cells. Thus, equol greatly lessens a man’s risk of BPH and prostate cancer through at least two mechanisms.
You may have heard that to so-called “phytoestrogens” in soy foods are not good for “real men,” but the research shows no changes in men’s testosterone or other hormone levels – just a dampening down of potentially harmful 5α-DHT.
Over the last several decades, soy protein has been shown to promote cardiovascular, bone and menopausal health, and also to be protective against breast cancer. Researchers are now suggesting that most of soy’s beneficial effects in both sexes are related to an individual’s ability to transform daidzein into equol. Not all healthy adults are equally able to make this conversion. Those whose intestinal bacteria enable them to be good “equol-producers” are those who benefit most from eating soyfoods.
How can you increase your likelihood of being a good equol-producer, so you can prevent your prostate from enlarging and your hairline from receding? Until equol is available as a supplement, you can make fermented soy foods (miso, natto, tofu, tempeh, tamari) a regular feature in your diet; fermented soy foods provide daidzein in a form that intestinal bacteria can more easily convert to equol. And if you don’t already, learn to love coleslaw. Equol, which is very stable, has recently been discovered ready-made in white cabbage.
Bland J. Functional Medicine Update, July 2011, Interview with Edwin Lephart, PhD. Available at Synthesis by Jeffery Bland http://www.jeffreybland.com/
Lund TD, Blake C, Bu L, Hamaker AN, Lephart ED. Equol an isoflavonoid: potential for improved prostate health, in vitro and in vivo evidence. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2011 Jan 13;9:4. PMID: 21232127
Setchell KD, Clerici C, Lephart ED, Cole SJ, et al. S-equol, a potent ligand for estrogen receptor beta, is the exclusive enantiomeric form of the soy isoflavone metabolite produced by human intestinal bacterial flora. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 May;81(5):1072-9. PMID: 15883431
Lund TD, Munson DJ, Haldy ME, Setchell KD, Lephart ED, et al. Equol is a novel anti-androgen that inhibits prostate growth and hormone feedback. Biol Reprod. 2004 Apr;70(4):1188-95. Epub 2003 Dec 17. PMID:14681200
Setchell KD, Brown NM, Lydeking-Olsen E. The clinical importance of the metabolite equol-a clue to the effectiveness of soy and its isoflavones. J Nutr. 2002 Dec;132(12):3577-84. PMID: 12468591
Do you think you are making a healthy choice by preparing your child’s lunch ahead of time, and sending it with them to school? Think again, according to a study published this week in the journal Pediatrics.
It turns out that over 90% of the lunches tested reached temperatures that would potentially foster the growth of bacteria responsible for food-borne illness. And since the temperatures were measured an hour and a half before lunch, foods were potentially sitting at these temperatures for a long time.
Actress Amanda Peet is in the news this week promoting the Every Child By Two vaccination campaign. In this news article, she talks about a scary experience she had last year when her daughter contracted pertussis (whooping cough), a serious disease that has been making a comeback as vaccination rates drop.
This is not the first time Ms. Peet has been in the news for her pro-vaccine statements. In 2008, she stirred up a hornets nest of anti-vaccine sentiment when she referred to parents who don’t vaccinate their children as “parasites.” Ironic, then, that two years later her daughter (who was too young to have completed the vaccine schedule) contracted the condition that is the center of the firestorm.
Did you know that store-bought chicken breasts are likely to have been injected with salt-water solution to increase their weight? If not, the food industry has done their job of keeping this practice under the radar. Fortunately, that is about to change.
In the same way that a broken watch is right twice a day, every once in a while the nutrition beliefs of the natural health community and the academic community line up in unexpected ways. This is the case with the reanimated recommendation of Meatless Monday.
The concept of a Meatless Monday as a means of conserving scarce resources is nearly 100 years old. It was developed in response to food shortages during World War I, and was revived during World War II. But once peacetime rolled around, the programs were placed in the same mothballs as the Send Over Smokes program and the Liberty Bond.