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The Hottest Fashion Accessory of This Year’s World Series: the Magic Necklace

By Matt Brignall
October 30, 2011
File under: Homeopathy, Natural Health, Uncategorized

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.

It turns out that the necklaces are being used as a performance-enhancing tool, and that the titanium ions are believed by some to aid recovery and prevent injury. This is almost certainly a fanciful claim. …read more of The Hottest Fashion Accessory of This Year’s World Series: the Magic Necklace here

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Misinterpreting Research to Reassure the Public – an Object Lesson

By Matt Brignall
October 7, 2011
File under: Childrens Health, Diet, Natural Health, Nutrition, Uncategorized

A new study published in the journal Toxicological Sciences looked 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).

…read more of Misinterpreting Research to Reassure the Public – an Object Lesson here

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Is There a Downside to the Organic and Local Food Movements?

By Matt Brignall
September 24, 2011
File under: Diet, Natural Health, Nutrition, Sustainable Food

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.

First, I think this is another sign of a growing backlash against the natural foods movement. I’ve seen this coming for a while, but it’s really gathered steam over the past year or two. At first, this felt like a sort of natural response to the evangelical excesses of portions of the health food community. …read more of Is There a Downside to the Organic and Local Food Movements? here

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America’s Potassium Problem

By Matt Brignall
September 9, 2011
File under: Childrens Health, Diet, Health Concerns, Illness Prevention, Natural Health, Nutrition

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.

The newest NHANES data, gathered from 2003 to 2006, are just starting to seep out into the research world, and if you are an advocate for food-as-medicine, the results aren’t pretty. …read more of America’s Potassium Problem here

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Poor Food Safety Practices: Do They Put School Children At Risk?

By Matt Brignall
August 9, 2011
File under: Childrens Health, Diet, Health Concerns, Illness Prevention, Nutrition

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.

Do you think that cold pack you included in the lunch will prevent this issue? Wrong again. …read more of Poor Food Safety Practices: Do They Put School Children At Risk? here

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If They Won’t Believe the Scientists, Maybe They’ll Believe the Actresses

By Matt Brignall
August 1, 2011
File under: Childrens Health, Health Concerns, Illness Prevention

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.

My intention here is not to rehash the evidence in favor of vaccinations. It has been done more thoroughly and snarkily than I could manage to do it on such a tight deadline. Rather, my concern is about what has happened to our trust for science in this country. …read more of If They Won’t Believe the Scientists, Maybe They’ll Believe the Actresses here

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Saltwater Chicken?

By Matt Brignall
August 1, 2011
File under: Diet, Natural Health, Nutrition, Sustainable Food


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.

…read more of Saltwater Chicken? here

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A New Life For an Old Idea

By Matt Brignall
July 5, 2011
File under: Diet, Health Concerns, Illness Prevention, Natural Alternatives, Natural Health, Nutrition, Sustainable Food, Uncategorized


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.

In 2003, as part of the Healthy Monday series of campaigns, the guy responsible for the advertising catch-phrase “don’t squeeze the Charmin” revived the Meatless Monday program. …read more of A New Life For an Old Idea here

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Can You Reverse Type 2 Diabetes?

By Matt Brignall
June 28, 2011
File under: Diet, Health Concerns, Natural Health, Nutrition


People with type 2 diabetes can not only normalize their blood sugar, but can undo some of the tissue damage that leads to the disease, according to a provocative new study published this month in Diabetologia.

Previous research trials have demonstrated that you can go into remission from type 2 diabetes, but conventional wisdom has been that the hormonal changes leading to diabetes are progressive, and only go in a single direction – getting worse.

In this study, a group of 11 recently diagnosed (< 4 years ago) type 2 diabetics under the age of 65 ate a 600 calorie diet for 8 weeks. This diet was largely made up from a liquid nutrition product called Optifast, but also included 3 servings of vegetables per day. …read more of Can You Reverse Type 2 Diabetes? here

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USDA Rearranges the American Plate

By Matt Brignall
June 13, 2011
File under: Diet, Health Concerns, Nutrition


Last week, the United States Department of Agriculture replaced the long-standing food pyramid icon with a new visual image based around a standard meal plate. This new graphic is the centerpiece of a dramatically reworked set of dietary recommendations that began to emerge this past February.

To understand why this is such an upgrade, let’s start with a bit of history. The original Food Pyramid was released in 1992.While it was an easily understood image, it was hardly a document geared toward controlling a trend toward obesity. It heavily emphasized grains, and provided little help with choosing grain-based foods wisely. It also emphasized meat and dairy in a way that seems in retrospect to be overly food industry-friendly and calorie-dense.

In part due to these criticisms, the USDA released the …read more of USDA Rearranges the American Plate here

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