The Antiperspirant Debate

by Angie Smith

The concern surrounding the use of antiperspirants has been debated for years. Scientists have wrestled with a possible link in the product’s key ingredient, aluminum, and its connection to several major diseases. In a recent broadcast, CBS brought forth the issue once again, but for many people the question still remains – are they safe?

Antiperspirants contain aluminum because it has the ability to form a temporary plug within the sweat duct that stops the flow of sweat to the surface. Therefore they reduce the amount an individual sweats as well as helping to reduce odor. The major concern with this process is that the body absorbs whatever is put on the skin. After daily use of antiperspirants for many years, the chances of an illness-related disease due to aluminum build up increases dramatically.

Some diseases that have come out in the aluminum debate are Alzheimer’s and breast cancer. There are also warnings for people who have kidney disorders to avoid aluminum because it is the kidneys that flush out excess metals in the body. If the kidneys are not working properly, there is a chance that the aluminum could build up in the body faster than with the average individual. But it is possible for anyone to have an excessive amount of aluminum – often stored in the brain.

Many individuals see sweating as a negative bodily reaction, but sweating is a natural and necessary activity. It serves to cool and lubricate the skin, especially in areas that may rub against other areas of skin, such as under the arms. Sweat glands are also utilized in the body’s natural cleansing process, so to restrict sweat means that toxins can get trapped in the skin instead of being released.

There are many choices on the market for natural deodorants, which only fight odor, they do not block sweat. If an individual is concerned about excessive sweating, they should see a health practitioner because it may be caused by an imbalance in the body. Regular exercise and bi-yearly cleansing can help maintain a normal and healthy amount of bodily sweat. Be sure to stop by your local Down to Earth store and check out the natural deodorant and cleansing products available.

Cut Fish for Better Health

People who believe that adding fish to their diet makes them healthier will be surprised to learn this is a myth. Increasing numbers of health professionals and scientists are finding that it should not be mistaken as a health food at all. Consider the facts:

Saturated Fat.

Fish is high in saturated fat and has twice the amount of cholesterol as beef, chicken, and pork. Therefore, it is not uncommon that people who eat fish have higher blood cholesterol levels.

Fish Protein.

Fish protein is highly-acidic and is known to accelerate calcium loss, which contributes to osteoporosis and kidney stones. Eskimos are among the world’s greatest consumers of fish, which is high in protein. Surprisingly, after the age of 40, they have 10% to 15% greater bone loss than their American counterparts. The cause is attributed to the negative effects of protein on bone health.

Environmental Contaminants.

Fish is often highly contaminated with mercury, lead, toxic waste, parasites, etc. The higher up on the food chain, the more contaminated the fish. In fact, the FDA has advised women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant not to eat swordfish, king mackerel, tile fish, or shark for this reason. And finally, fish contains no dietary fiber or digestible carbohydrates, which is not ideal for optimal bowel function and metabolism. Of course, some people will argue that the Japanese (a fish-eating population) enjoy a low incidence of diseases common to Americans (heart disease, breast cancer, diabetes, etc.). And yes, they are said to have the longest life expectancy of any country in the world. But it is often ignored that their health is most likely due to a diet comprised mostly of rice and lots of vegetables, rather than the small amounts of fish they consume. Others may worry that if they don’t eat fish or fish oils, they won’t get their Omega 3’s, but the hype about fish oil is misleading and overrated. You don’t need to get your essential fats from fish. In fact, fish don’t even produce essential fats, they get it from the algae they eat. Only plants can make essential fats. Likewise, you can easily satisfy your dietary needs for essential fats on a plant-based diet. (See this month’s Health Tip for more details.) There is, however, at least one redeeming thing that can be said about fish. Many people find that eating fish helps them forgo meat and move towards a plant-based diet. In doing so, they eventually reach a clear and unmistakable conclusion:

“The single most important thing an individual can do for their health, for the environment, and for the sake of the innocent animals is to adopt a vegetarian diet.”

Diabetes and Diet: A Crucial Combination for Health

by Angie Smith

With the rise in Type II diabetes over the last couple of decades, many people have taken notice of the dangers that are associated with its development as well as some of the potential causes. But many people have yet to understand what leads a body to have difficulties absorbing sugar and what options they have for regaining their health.

The growing concern is in the connection between the rising obesity epidemic and its link to Type II diabetes. About 80 percent of Type II diabetics are obese. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has said that the new approach to treating diabetes focuses on fat consumption instead of the old method, which made the elimination of refined sugars and starchy foods the main goal. They explain this by saying that the more fat there is in a diet the harder time insulin has getting sugar into the cells. As of yet, there is no known cause for this, but it has been proven that by reducing fat intake as well as excess body fat, a person can help their body’s insulin maintain a proper sugar balance.

Modern diabetic treatment programs, according to the Committee, drastically reduce meats, high-fat dairy products, and oils, while at the same time increase grains, legumes, and vegetables. One study they illustrated found that 21 of 23 patients who were taking oral medication for diabetes, and 13 of 17 patients on insulin were able to get off their medications after 26 days on a near-vegetarian diet and exercise program.

The benefit to a vegetarian diet for those who have or are at risk of diabetes, is that most vegetarian diets are low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Saturated fat is most commonly found in meat, eggs and dairy products and it has been linked to high cholesterol levels as well as weight gain. Unsaturated fat, which is found in olive and canola oil as well as nuts and seeds, is much healthier for the body and can help to keep weight and cholesterol levels down.

It is estimated that 17 million people have diabetes and around 95 percent of those cases are Type II, which most commonly affects adults over the age of 40. According to Jay B. Lavine, M.D., a Diplomat of both the American Board of Ophthalmology and the National Board of Medical Examiners, Type II diabetes is associated with obesity, inactivity, family history of diabetes and ethnicity.

Lavine said that the difference between Type I and Type II diabetes, is that Type I generally requires insulin treatment and it was formerly known as juvenile diabetes. Type I appears to be an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. In Type II diabetes, however, the body still produces insulin, but the body is resistant to its effects and so the sugar is unable to easily absorb into the cells where it is needed, and backs up in the bloodstream. Lavine said that both types of diabetes though, develop the same complications.

The good news for Type II diabetics, Lavine said, is if they change their lifestyle by adopting healthier eating habits, described as a high fiber, plant-based diet, and lose their excess weight, the diabetes can often be reversed and the need for medication eliminated.

Footnotes: 

Sources:

  1. Lavine, Jay B. “Diabetes and Diet.” October 2003. http://www.vegparadise.com/otherbirds312.html
  2. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. ”Diet and Diabetes.” October 2003. http://www.pcrm.org/health/prevmed/diabetes.html

E. coli 0157:H7

Unseen by the human eye, dangerous microorganisms can silently contaminate any appetizing meal. Tiny as they may be, once ingested, these one celled bacterium have an extraordinary ability to create havoc within the human body. Although there are many different pathogenic microorganisms, the E. coli 0157:H7 bacterium is one of the most common and dangerous. Even though it was discovered twenty years ago, E. coli 0157:H7 has only recently been recognized by the public because of its sudden prevalence in America's food supply. Most commonly found in ground beef, E. coli 0157:H7 tainted hamburgers are the leading cause of human infection. In the past ten years about half a million Americans have been made ill from E. coli 0157:H7.

E. coli 0157:H7 is a mutated version of the friendly E. coli bacteria which lives in our body. Most E. coli bacteria help us to digest food, produce enzymes, and guard against threatening organisms, but the mutated version is not so friendly; an infected person generally experiences bloody diarrhea and intense stomach cramps while young children and the elderly are prone to much more serious illness and even death. Once ingested, E. coli 0157:H7 releases a toxic substance called a Shiga toxin. Usually the Shiga toxin attacks only the intestinal wall (resulting in bloody diarrhea and stomach cramps) but in four percent of the reported cases it also enters into the bloodstream and can lead to kidney failure, anemia, internal bleeding, the destruction of vital organs, seizures, neurological damage, and strokes. E. coli 0157:H7 infection has also become the leading cause of kidney failure in children in the U.S.

Although anyone can become ill from E. coli 0157:H7, it has had the most drastic and horrendous effects on children. In 1993, after eating a contaminated hamburger, six year old Alex Donley was overcome by extreme stomach cramps and a bloody bout of diarrhea. He was in so much pain that his parents rushed him to the hospital. He was one of the four percent- the Shiga toxins had entered his bloodstream and began to destroy his internal organs. Five days after eating the tainted hamburger meat, Alex was dead. Unfortunately, in the past decade, hundreds of other children have died a similarly brutal death by consuming E. coli 0157:H7 contaminated hamburger meat.

As one great mind of the past said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. More and more people are becoming increasingly aware of the many dangers of meat consumption and in accordance with the law of supply and demand, meat-free alternatives have hit the market. Now you can buy meat-free hamburgers, deli slices, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and bacon, just to name a few. In fact, Burger King has now jumped on the bandwagon and added a new item to their menu, a meat-free hamburger! Most cannot even tell the difference between the newly innovated "healthy" meat and the old. Until recently, tasty and healthy did not seem to go hand in hand, but now healthy has gained a whole new meaning. There is no longer a need to eat a diet laced with danger.

Footnotes: 

*The information in this article was taken from Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser.

The Steps to End World Hunger

by Rebecca Saltzberg

There are many reasons why people choose to adopt a vegetarian diet, including their personal health, the health and well-being of animals, and the health of the planet. Another profound, yet often overlooked, reason for going vegetarian is for the sake of the millions of people who starve to death each year.

Many people were told by their parents as children to clean their dinner plate because “there are starving children in Africa." From a young age, we were taught that to waste food was sinful and cruel when there are many less fortunate children around the world. Yet our well-intentioned (but misinformed) parents and educators were blind to the reality that there is no grosser waste of food than taking 15 to 20 pounds of healthful grain and using it as feed to produce one pound of animal flesh. They neglected to realize that the simplest and most important step each of us can take to end world hunger is to stop eating meat.

On this planet, a child dies of malnutrition every two seconds. Malnutrition is the principal cause of death for infants and children in developing nations. In fact, never before in history has starvation been so prevalent amongst the human species - approximately 25 percent of the world's population is malnourished.

Meanwhile, as more and more people experience the gnawing pains of hunger, there is simultaneously an unprecedented percentage of the population that is overweight and obese. The United States has the honor of being one of the fattest countries in the world. A greater and greater percentage of American children are overweight, and many more children are already showing signs of hardening of the arteries by the time they are teenagers.

In order to support the demand for meat products, the world's limited resources are being squandered. Raising animals for food consumption is so wasteful and inefficient that it simply is not possible to feed the world on a meat-based diet. The amount of land that it takes to feed just one meat-eater could sustain 20 vegetarians.

Overall, the grains and soybeans fed to American livestock each year could feed the more than 1.3 billion people going hungry. Jeremy Rifkin, President of the Foundation on Economic Trends, comments, "Cattle and other livestock are devouring much of the grain produced on the planet. It need be emphasized that this is a new phenomenon, unlike anything ever experienced before."

Following the lead of the United States and other westernized nations, many developing countries are beginning to focus their agriculture more and more around the production of meat. Consequently, third world countries that were once self-sufficient in their production of grain must now import it from the United States, but 75 percent of their imports are then fed to animals.

Every individual makes a difference. When just one person adopts a vegetarian diet, that action frees up land to feed as many as 19 other people. If just 10 percent of American meat-eaters adopted a vegetarian diet, there would be 12 million more tons of grain to feed to humans, enough to support the 60 million people who starve to death each year.

The Rise of Food Poisoning in America

Every day in the US about 200,000 people become sick, 900 are hospitalized and 14 die due to food borne illness. According to the Center for Disease Control, about one quarter of the American population suffers from food poisoning each year. Despite the government's attempts at implementing food safety standards, food borne illness has become an increasingly frequent and widespread problem in the United States.

Just three decades ago, food poisoning occurred mostly in small outbreaks at social events like family reunions, picnics, and parties and was caused by improper food handling. Today we are experiencing a whole new breed of food poisoning; it is now possible for thousands of individuals from all corners of the nation to contract identical food borne illnesses. In 1993 more than 700 people in four different states became sick from E. coli 0157:H7 contaminated Jack in the Box hamburgers. In August of 1997, Hudson Foods, a major hamburger supplier for Burger King, recalled 35 million pounds of ground beef (the largest food recall in the nation's history), as a result of a major E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak. In the past eight years about half of a million Americans have become sick from E. coli 0157:H7.

The drastic rise of food poisoning in America can be largely contributed to the centralization and industrialization of food production. Most of the beef consumed in the U.S. originates in one of thirteen massive packinghouses. While the consolidation of meat-processing plants conveniences the nation's food chains, the sheer size of these "food factories" renders them exceptionally conducive for the spread of disease. In such a processing plant, if a single food animal is infected with a dangerous microorganism it can contaminate thousands of pounds of meat.

In 1996, a nationwide study by the USDA found that 78.6 percent of ground beef contained microbes spread primarily by fecal matter. Many apparently healthy animals carry dangerous pathogens such as E. coli 0157:H7, Campylobacter Jejuni, Cryptosporidium Parvum, Salmonella, etc. Recent studies have found that when such pathogens are ingested by humans, the result may not only be a short lived bout of diarrhea and upset stomach, but possibly long term illnesses like heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, neurological problems, autoimmune disorders, and kidney damage.

Despite the drastic rise of food poisoning outbreaks across the nation, it is still not a well known fact that today's meat processing plants are much more dangerous than they used to be. The "all American diet" can no longer be eaten without caution because it has begun to take a toll on the lives of its people. The easiest way to avoid these food related dangers is to simply leave such foods out of one's diet. A plant based diet is much healthier, cleaner, safer, and in the end, it can lead to a higher quality of life.

Footnotes: 

*The information in this article was taken from "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser.

Goji Berries: Ancient Remedy Finds New Popularity

by Tandis Bishop

It wasn’t long ago when Noni Juice was all the rage. High in anti-oxidants, used for centuries by traditional healers, impressive testimonials for dozens of health ailments. Sound familiar? With such a bitter tasting juice commanding so much attention, it’s no surprise that the tangy tasting goji berry has now stolen the limelight.

Although the goji berry (“goji” means “happy”) has been used for thousands of years by herbalists in China, Tibet, and India to protect the liver, help eyesight, boost immune function, improve circulation, and promote longevity and overall wellbeing, it has only recently gained popularity in the West. It has become so popular, in fact, that Time Magazine recently named the goji berry as "superfruit" of the year. A big reason why goji berries have quickly become a favorite nutritional supplement is its impressive list of ingredients.

According to the Beijing Nutrition Research Institute analysis conducted in 1988, goji berries contain more beta carotene than carrots, more iron than spinach, 500 times more vitamin C by weight than oranges, over 18 amino acids, 21 trace minerals, and substantial amounts of vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6 and vitamin E. The analysis also discovered that the berries contain essential fatty acids and are an incredibly rich source of carotenoids (more than any other known food). What is even more impressive is the amount of antioxidants contained in goji.

In a test developed by USDA researchers out of Tufts University in Boston called the ORAC scale (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity), goji berries were shown to have extremely high levels of antioxidants with 5 times more antioxidants than prunes, and ten times more than blueberries.

To truly appreciate the significance of this discovery, you must first understand the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are atoms with an odd or unpaired electron. Because they are unstable, they seek out an electron to make a stable pair. As the free radical captures an electron, it creates a new free radical missing an electron, thus creating a cascading effect that can result in cellular damage. This damage can accelerate the aging process and contribute to a host of ailments and diseases. Free radicals are constantly attacking our body via the air we breathe, water we drink, pesticides on our fruits and vegetables, preservatives in our processed food, toxic chemicals in our cleaning products, and so on. Consuming foods high in antioxidants offers our bodies a powerful weapon to combat these free radicals.

While goji berries (or goji juice) may be an excellent addition to your diet, remember, no one food is the answer to perfect health. It’s important to consume a well-balanced, wholesome diet from a variety of foods, (primarily whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and healthy plant proteins). For those of you anxious to give this “superfruit” a try, you'll find ample supplies of goji berries and goji juice at all of our Down to Earth stores.

Footnotes: 

The information in this article has been provided for educational purposes only. If you have any medical conditions or are on any prescribed medications, please consult your physician before using goji berries or other nutritional supplements.

What’s good for your health is good for the planet!

October is Vegetarian Awareness Month, so it is fitting and proper that we take time to reflect on vegetarian values and what they mean to individuals, and to our environment.

For many, it means giving up meat and fish due to moral objections to killing animals, or objection to the brutal and inhumane ways in which animals are kept, treated, and killed for food, merely to satisfy unnecessary cravings to eat flesh and blood. With increasing interest in healthy food, many people are also becoming vegetarian because it is compatible with the low-fat, high-fiber diet recommended by dieticians and doctors. Concern about the environment is another factor, as people become increasingly aware of the negative environmental effects of raising animals for meat. This is particularly so as people become increasingly aware that going vegetarian is the best way an individual can reduce global warming.

Against this backdrop, many people prefer an organic, natural foods lifestyle because the best tasting and healthiest foods are free of pesticides and artificial chemicals, which also means they’re best for the environment. That’s why organic and natural foods, supplements and body-care products from Down to Earth are all-vegetarian, free of artificial flavors, color, and preservatives; and why they are minimally processed.

In short, what’s good for your health is good for the planet!

So, this month is the perfect time for vegetarians—and those moving towards plant-based diets—to think about and celebrate healthy, compassionate food choices. Perhaps it will stir the hearts and souls of those thinking about vegetarianism to give meatless fare a try (even for a day) and learn about its many benefits.

The simple act of choosing vegetarian meals is a powerful force for positive change, not only for the individual but also for friends, family, our community, and our entire planet. Therefore, recognizing and celebrating Vegetarian Awareness Month is a wonderful opportunity to help others learn about the many benefits of vegetarianism, such as:

  • Saving animals from suffering in factory farm conditions and from painful slaughter
  • Reducing the risk of major killers like heart disease, stroke and cancers
  • Reducing global warming (According to the United Nations, raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined.
  • Offering a viable answer to feeding the world's hungry, through more efficient use of grains and other crops
  • Conserving vital, but limited freshwater, fertile topsoil and other precious resources
  • Preserving irreplaceable ecosystems, such as rainforests and other wildlife habitats

Here are a few suggestions for how vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike can celebrate Vegetarian Awareness Month:

  • Host a meatless meal or potluck for your vegetarian or non-vegetarian friends
  • Eat meat-free for a day or throughout the month
  • Learn more about how a vegetarian diet can benefit you personally
  • Discuss vegetarianism with your family and friends
  • Eat meatless meals more regularly
  • Try the meatless options available at Down to Earth’s vegetarian deli
  • Attend one of Down to Earth’s free vegetarian cooking classes or vegetarian nutrition classes (for info call 947-3249)

Vegetarian Awareness Month was founded by the North American Vegetarian Society in 1977 and it was endorsed by the International Vegetarian union in 1978.

Footnotes: 

“Livestock a major threat to environment,” United Nations FAO Newsroom, Nov. 29, 2006: http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000448/index.html

Health Information Overload

by Michele McKay

There has been a media explosion in recent years that has changed the way we receive information. From the internet, to mail, to billboards and TV, people are being hit from every angle by ads. Several of the billion dollar industries – the diet and pharmaceutical – are known for working every avenue possible to get their products into our hands. But who really pays the price?

There is an array of “Web sites, TV medical reports, magazine and newspaper stories heralding one breakthrough after another,” Newsweek writers Barbara Kantrowitz and Claudia Kalb said. They add that the number of pages devoted to health and medical science in news magazines has quadrupled since 1980. Journalists are seeking “juicy” headlines and readers have become ravenous for quick fixes for everything from cancer to dietary fat. Unfortunately, scientific studies are complex and their full interpretations cannot be captured in a brief description, although this is the how most Americans receive the news.

Reading beyond the headlines

A recent case in point is the barrage of misleading headlines about a 15-year study conducted by the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) on the relationship between breast cancer and low-fat diets. The major newspaper headlines and news coverage led readers and listeners to believe that there are no benefits to a low-fat diet. In fact, the study was nuanced in its design and in its results, and the message that was lost behind the headlines was that researchers hoped women would not jump to a false conclusion and increase their fat intake as a result of the study.

The pharmaceutical media machine

New heights in the interest and reporting of health and dietary issues represent an economic opportunity that is not lost on the pharmaceutical industry. It spent $3.7 billion on magazine and TV advertising last year alone. In addition to mounting major advertising campaigns, “following the money” reveals that pharmaceutical companies often underwrite research and employ physician “experts” to report on scientific developments as a means of promoting their products.

“When corporate sponsors fund research, it's more likely to show beneficial effects," says Dr. Richard Deyo, Professor of Medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle. Because the funding corporations have a stake in the outcome, studies yielding negative results often go unpublished. The situation is compounded because, as Dr. Elias Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of Health says, "The media reports all studies as if they have the same degree of certainty. There's no real label of quality."

Anyone who wants to be truly informed needs to learn to read beyond the headlines, "follow the money", and separate advertising from independent research. The knowledge gained will be worth the effort.

Getting to the Heart of the Matter

by Tandis Bishop

At the turn of each New Year, many Americans jump on the “self-improvement” wagon. This often entails the hope of getting fit and losing weight because with spring around the corner, the motivation to improve our appearance is very high. But what is often left behind is the hope for something like a healthy heart.

Cardiovascular disease is still the No. 1 killer in America. The majority of these deaths are from coronary heart disease. Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise is the number one recommendation by physicians to maintain a healthy heart, but many people still do not know what an ideal diet consists of.

According to the American Heart Association, “Many studies have shown that vegetarians seem to have a lower risk of coronary heart disease (which causes heart attack).” Since most vegetarian diets are low in animal products, they are also usually lower than meat-eating diets in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.

Vegetarians suffer markedly lower mortality from coronary heart disease compared to non-vegetarians (Key et al (1999). High blood cholesterol is a primary risk factor in heart disease. In addition, studies have shown that vegetarians have significantly lower levels of low-density-lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. This is the type of cholesterol particularly associated with heart disease.

A vegetarian diet is also naturally high in fiber. Fiber has been proven to help lower cholesterol levels in the blood due to its fat-binding abilities. Fatty acids and cholesterol can bind to fiber and are blocked from cell entrance. Thus, fiber-bound fats are typically not absorbed in the small intestine and instead pass into the large intestine (colon) where they will be excreted in the feces or degraded by intestinal bacteria. In addition, like fiber-bound fatty acids, bile acids bound to fiber cannot be reabsorbed and re-circulated. They are also sent to the colon for fecal excretion or degradation, resulting in the use of cholesterol in the body for synthesis of new bile acids. As more cholesterol is used up to make new bile acids, less remains in the blood.

In his best-selling book, “Eat More, Weigh Less”, Dr. Dean Ornish describes how he was able to actually reverse heart disease through a vegetarian diet, exercise, and meditation. Dr. Ornish’s findings were particularly amazing because even the most aggressive medical treatment is generally only able to help stop heart disease from getting worse, not actually reverse damage as Ornish’s treatment did.

Footnotes: 

Down to Earth is here to help you on your track to a healthy heart. We have many heart-friendly vegetarian products in our stores and recipes on our website to assist you in your transition toward a plant-based diet. Check out the Health Tips section on our website for the American Heart Association’s guidelines to a healthy heart.

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