Are the Hormones in Milk Harming Your Health?

milkI had a conversation recently with someone about milk and realized that many people don’t know that our milk is high in hormones. While we have stopped the use of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH), diary cows in the US are typically always pregnant so the milk from those cows will be much higher in estrogen and progesterone than nonpregnant cows.

Milk from pregnant cows contains five times the estrogen during the first two months of pregnancy, according to one study, and a whopping 33 times as much estrogen as the cow gets closer to term. Could this increase in hormones in milk partially explain the rise in hormone sensitive cancers such as breast and prostate? Or early menstruation in young girls?
Ganmaa Davaasambuu, PhD, MD says: “The milk we drink today is quite unlike the milk our ancestors were drinking, without apparent harm, for 2,000 years. The milk we drink today may not be nature’s perfect food.”
Unfortunately, these hormones make it through processing so they will still be in yogurt and cheese. The amount of hormones is lower in lower fat milk. Goat and sheep milk are likely high in hormones as well. Check out the article below for more info on the unanticipated consequences of trying to produce cheap food.
Copyright 2016 Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD. All rights reserved.

Are Scannable Bar Codes the Best Solution for GMO labeling?

According to a recent survey, nearly 90 percent of consumers still want to know if they are consuming foods with genetically modified ingredients.

While a clear and concise label on the package seems like a no-brainer, it has been fought at every turn by those who oppose labeling, including the biotech and food industries. These industries have spent millions of dollars to squash grassroots labeling initiatives in California, Washington, Oregon, and Colorado. They also support national bills and policy riders that block a state’s right to label GMOs. And now the Grocery Manufacturers Association–the largest trade group for corporations that make food and beverages–has stepped up to the plate with its own solution for the conundrum of GMO labeling: QR codes.

The new initiative, called SmartLabel™, is a voluntary program that would add a bar code to foods consumers can scan using their smartphone camera to get information about a product. This could include more detailed ingredient information including whether a food contains GMOs. The program is limited, however, because not all companies would participate, nor would they all disclose whether a food contained genetically modified ingredients.

The program is also problematic for a number of other reasons. Do consumers really have the time to scan every item they purchase to find out if it contains GMOs? And what about the people who don’t have a smartphone, such as the elderly or those with lower incomes?

Data from the Pew Research Center reveals that for Americans who make less than $30,000 per year, only half have a smartphone. And for those that have one, 44 percent had to let their smartphone service lapse at some point for financial reasons. For seniors, a mere 27 percent own a smartphone. Thus, is a bar code really an equitable solution if 50 percent of those with a lower income and 72 percent of seniors can’t scan it? That’s about 100 million people who would not have access to the information they need to make an informed decision. Despite what some say, everyone does not win if we use bar codes in place of GMO labeling.

What does make sense? Putting a label right on the package. Even the New York Times Editorial Board recently came out in support of labeling. Americans want transparency and as food politics expert Marion Nestle, PhD, says, “Transparency is always the right thing to do.” The SmartLabel™ bar code would offer limited transparency and discriminate against the elderly and lower income Americans, keeping millions in the dark. It’s clearly not a win-win.

This post originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

Copyright 2015 Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD. All rights reserved.

4 Things You Should Know About the Paleo Diet

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 11.36.41 PMThe Paleo diet has been promoted as the optimal diet, offering the eater a plethora of benefits including weight loss, disease prevention, and improved health. It is designed to mimic what our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate and includes grass-fed meats, nuts, seeds, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and some oils. Foods to avoid on the diet include all grains, cereals, dairy, beans, and potatoes, as well as processed foods, sugar, salt, and refined oils.

It is well known that cutting out refined foods, sugar, and added salt can benefit your health. But the benefits of the other aspects of the Paleo Diet, in particular the large percentage of animal products consumed, are less cut-and-dry. And they have the potential to impact much more than your health. Here are four things to consider before going Paleo.

1. There Is No Research on The Long-Term Health Effects of the Paleo Diet. 

Despite the hype, there’s no evidence that the Paleo Diet lowers mortality or the risk of heart disease and cancer. Here’s some of what researchers have found so far:

  • A three-month study published in 2009 found lower blood sugars, triglycerides, and blood pressure and higher HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) in 13 participants eating a Paleo Diet.
  • Another study from the same year found lower blood sugars and other risk factors for heart disease for 13 people on the Paleo Diet with Type 2 diabetes over a three-month period compared to the standard diabetic diet.
  • A 2007 12-week trial found a decrease in blood sugar without weight loss for 14 participants with heart disease on the Paleo Diet as compared to 15 on the Mediterranean Diet.
  • Finally, a 2013 two-year trial found that obese, post-menopausal women lost a considerable amount of weight on the Paleo Diet after an initial six months, but didn’t maintain it two years later, because they were not able to stick with the higher protein recommendations.

These four studies are among the best we have to date. And three out of the four were short-term and looked at a very small number of participants. All of them look at short-term risk factors and not disease or death rate. And none address the elephant in the room: What happens to your risk of heart disease, cancer, and overall mortality if you follow this diet for years?

We can say that the Paleo Diet may positively affect some of the risk factors for heart disease, but what does it do to others such as sticky platelets, the stability of the heartbeat, inflammation, or the state of the endothelial cells that line our arteries? We just don’t know.

2. There Is Long-Term Research on Meat Consumption. 

A 2012 Harvard study followed thousands of health professionals and nurses for 20 to 26 years and found a 12 percent higher death rate among those eating a low-carb diet that was also high in animal protein, such as beef and dairy. Those eating large percentages of animal protein were 14 percent more likely to die of heart disease and 28 percent more likely to die of cancer.

Another 2012 study, using the same nurses and health professionals, found consuming red meat was also associated with an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, and mortality.

The World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research also point to a “convincing” link between red meat, processed meats, and colorectal cancer. Due to the plethora of research, the American Cancer Society also emphasizes the value of plant-based foods and recommends limiting consumption of processed meat and red meat.

Animal products can also have an impact on emerging risk factors for heart disease, such as the creation of trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) by the bacteria in our gastrointestinal tracts, which helps cholesterol to stick to the wall of the artery. And while there is some suggestion that grass-fed beef might be healthier, we still just don’t know the health impact of eating a lot of it over the long-term.

3. Most Meat Production Takes an Enormous Toll on the Environment. 

Greenhouse gas (GHG) production is considerably higher for most animal products than plant-based foods. Not only is raising (e.g., feeding) animals very resource intensive, but some livestock also release methane — a potent GHG.

A 2014 study found that grain-finished beef requires more land and water and produces more GHGs and reactive nitrogen compared to poultry, pork, eggs or dairy. Reactive nitrogen, a by-product of fertilizer use, contributes to acid rain and creates dead zones in lakes and oceans. While pasture-based operations do appear to offer some environmental benefits, they make up less than 5 percent of all meat production.

And, the most important point: We’ve heavily industrialized our animal production to support the current American diet, which is nowhere near as meat-focused as the Paleo diet. Can you imagine how much meat we’d have to produce — and how much pollution and potential climate impact it would have — if everyone went Paleo? In countries like Indiaand China, where meat and dairy consumption has been on the rise along with the growing middle class, such a shift could have devastating global consequences.

4. The Paleo Diet Is Likely Not What Paleolithic People Actually Ate. 

Unless you’re eating a varied, seasonal diet including tubers, sedges, fruits, animals, insects, worms, leaves, and bark, you’re not eating Paleo, say anthropologists Ken Sayers and C. Owen Lovejoy.

Archeological scientist Christina Warinner discussed the dietary habits of the Paleo man in her TEDTalk, “Debunking the Paleo Diet.” In a nutshell, she says the Paleo diet “has no basis in archeological reality.” Her team’s research found that the diet of our ancestors was extremely varied and depended on where they lived and the time of year. People who lived in the Artic ate more meat. Those who lived in warmer climates ate more plants.In Mexico, for example, they ate prickly pear, legumes, fruits, agave, nuts, beans, gourds, and flowers. They also ate some wild game, but mostly rabbits when they could catch them.

It’s also worth considering that most of the food people eat today — on the Paleo diet or otherwise — has been altered through plant breeding and other modern agricultural principles. In other words it’s not even remotely similar to the wild foods our ancestors ate.

If really you want to eat like early humans, keep your diet local, plant-heavy, seasonal, and go for variety.
This post originally appeared in Civil Eats.

Copyright 2015 Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD. All rights reserved.

What’s in Those Herbal Supplements? Not Herbs! 

screen-shot-2015-02-03-at-120411-pm*600xx994-664-265-223by Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD

Authorities in New York state recently ran tests on popular herbal supplements sold at national retailers. What they found was pretty shocking. Four out of five herbal supplements did not contain any of the herbs they were labeled to contain such as ginkgo biloba, St. John’s Wort, or valerian root. Instead, they were filled with powdered rice, legumes, radish, wheat, carrots and even house plants! What? I am all for us having access to herbs and other supplements. Lets just hope the industry does thing right and gives us what we think we are paying for. So far, it looks like they can’t be trusted.

See below for the gory details about what is actually in four manistream brands below from this New York Times article. You can also read more about the issue here

From GNC, Herbal Plus brand:
Gingko Biloba:
No gingko biloba found
Did detect allium (garlic), rice, spruce and asparagus

St. John’s Wort
No St. John’s Wort found
Did detect allium (garlic), rice and dracaena (a tropical houseplant)

Ginseng
No ginseng found
Did detect rice, dracaena, pine, wheat/grass and citrus

Garlic
Contained garlic

Echinacea
No echinacea found
Did detect rice in some samples

Saw Palmetto
One sample contained the clear presence of palmetto
Other samples contained a variety of ingredients, including asparagus, rice and primrose

From Target, Up & Up brand
Gingko Biloba
No gingko biloba found
Found garlic, rice and mung/French bean

St. John’s Wort
No St. John’s Wort found
Found garlic, rice and dracaena (houseplant)

Garlic 
Contained garlic
One test identified no DNA

Echinacea
Most but not all tests detected Echinacea
One test identified rice

Saw Palmetto
Most tests detected saw palmetto
Some tests found no plant DNA

Valerian Root
No valerian root found
Found allium, bean, asparagus, pea family, rice, wild carrot and saw palmetto

From Walgreens, Finest Nutrition brand
Gingko Biloba 
No gingko biloba found
Did detect rice

St. John’s Wort
No St. John’s Wort found
Detected garlic, rice and dracaena

Ginseng
No ginseng found
Detected garlic and rice

Garlic
No garlic found
Detected palm, dracaena, wheat and rice

Echinacea
No echinacea found
Identified garlic, rice and daisy

Saw Palmetto
Contained saw palmetto

From Walmart, Spring Valley brand
Gingko Biloba
No gingko biloba found
Found rice, dracaena, mustard, wheat and radish

St. John’s Wort
No St. John’s Wort found
Detected garlic, rice and cassava

Ginseng
No ginseng found
Found rice, dracaena, pine, wheat/grass and citrus

Garlic 
One sample showed small amounts of garlic
Found rice, pine, palm, dracaena and wheat

Echinacea
No echinacea or plant material found

Saw Palmetto
Some samples contained small amounts of saw palmetto
Also found garlic and rice

Copyright © 2015 Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD. All rights reserved.

The Politics of Red Meat‏

by Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD

Oh the politics of the US Dietary Guidelines!! The meat industry has been pretty successful at keeping meat an important part of the guidelines (and thus a part of school lunches etc). One of their historic ploys has been to push saying “eat less saturated fat and cholesterol,” which is confusing to many consumers, instead of “eat less red meat,” which is clear and understandable.

Environmentalists have been pushing for the guidelines to warn Americans that red meat has a much greater carbon footprint than the uber healthy fruits and vegetables. And thus there is a big fight in Washington over this heated issue.  I had to laugh when Janet Riley,  the senior vice president for public affairs at the North American Meat Institute, said:  “This needs to be about nutrition. The purpose here is to give Americans the information they need to make healthy choices. This is not the time or the place to get into sustainability.”  If it were true that the US Dietary Guidelines were only about nutrition, red meat would have been limited long ago!!! It will be interesting to see what happens, stay tuned!

Graphic: How much red meat do we eat? 
meat intakeHere are some quotes from the National Journal article; the full article is below.

“Beef and cattle make up the single largest segment of U.S. agricultural production. And all those animals have left a mark. The industry adds roughly 14.5 percent to worldwide greenhouse-gas emissions, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.”

So far, activists see reason for optimism. An advisory panel tasked with making recommendations for the guidelines has singled out sustainability as a key area of interest. The panel went a step further this fall, saying that a diet higher in “vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds” and lower in “animal based foods” is not only healthier but also better for the environment.”

“Industry won one round when Congress passed a massive spending bill in December that ordered the administration to disregard “environmental factors” when issuing the guidelines.”

“The nonbinding directive denounced the effort to incorporate “sustainability, climate change and other environmental factors” into the recommendations. But USDA and HHS remain free to craft the guidelines any which way they want—and the fight is far from over.”

“Regardless, green groups say that even if the nutritional roadmap does not weigh in on red meat’s environmental impact, they believe that the door is now open for future change.”

“More people are starting to think about what they eat and where that food comes from and how that impacts the environment, and that’s a conversation that the U.S. really needs to have,” Hamerschlag said.”

http://www.nationaljournal.com/energy/the-political-battle-over-red-meat-20150203

The Political Battle Over Red Meat
Should federal dietary guidelines count carbon emissions, not just calories?
By Clare Foran
February 3, 2015 There’s a real food fight happening in Washington.

Green groups want the government to tell Americans that eating less meat benefits the earthAnd environmentalists are lobbying to add what amounts to a climate-change warning to federal dietary guidelines

But while a multiagency advisory panel has given activists reason for optimism, Congress has cast doubt on the idea, and food industry lobbyists are pressing their case on and off Capitol Hill.

The food fight has so far revolved around the federal dietary guidelines—a metric that millions of Americans consult when deciding what to eat, and the blueprint that determines the makeup of school lunches and a wide array of government meal programs.

And the stakes are high. Americans are eating less red meat than they have in decades, and farmers and ranchers could feel the pinch if federal guidelines cast meat in a less-than-favorable light. Environmentalists, meanwhile, see the battle as a way to cut carbon emissions at a time when major legislation to address climate change is dead-on-arrival on the Hill.

Final recommendations for the guidelines are expected to arrive any day now, and the Agriculture and Health and Human Services departments must finalize the nutritional roadmap within the year. Environmentalists want those guidelines to warn Americans that red meat packs a far greater carbon-footprint punch than fruits and vegetables.

Beef and cattle make up the single largest segment of U.S. agricultural production. And all those animals have left a mark. The industry adds roughly 14.5 percent to worldwide greenhouse-gas emissions, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
So far, activists see reason for optimism. An advisory panel tasked with making recommendations for the guidelines has singled out sustainability as a key area of interest. The panel went a step further this fall, saying that a diet higher in “vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds” and lower in “animal based foods” is not only healthier but also better for the environment.

Environmentalists applauded. “You can’t talk about public health without impacting the environment. The two are intertwined,” said Kari Hamerschlag, a sustainable food and agriculture advocate with Friends of the Earth.

But lobbyists for the meat industry say that sustainability is far beyond the scope of the advisory panel.

“This needs to be about nutrition. The purpose here is to give Americans the information they need to make healthy choices. This is not the time or the place to get into sustainability,” said Janet Riley, the senior vice president for public affairs at the North American Meat Institute.

A growing chorus of industry voices have criticized the pronouncement of the advisory panel. And the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Pork Producers Council, and the National Chicken Council are all registered to lobby on the guidelines.

Industry won one round when Congress passed a massive spending bill in December that ordered the administration to disregard “environmental factors” when issuing the guidelines.

The nonbinding directive denounced the effort to incorporate “sustainability, climate change and other environmental factors” into the recommendations. But USDA and HHS remain free to craft the guidelines any which way they want—and the fight is far from over.

To further ward off environmental attacks, the industry has also taken pains to prove that meat is a sustainable source of food.

One argument the industry has made is to say that processed foods are a prime example of sustainability.

“Processed meats like bacon and lunch meats are sustainable because they take cuts of meat that might otherwise not be used, and that cuts down on waste,” Riley said, adding: “Sausage was the original sustainable food.”

Regardless, green groups say that even if the nutritional roadmap does not weigh in on red meat’s environmental impact, they believe that the door is now open for future change.

“More people are starting to think about what they eat and where that food comes from and how that impacts the environment, and that’s a conversation that the U.S. really needs to have,” Hamerschlag said.

Stephanie Stamm contributed to this article.

Copyright © 2015 Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD. All rights reserved.

10 Things You Should Know About GMOs and GMO Labeling

cornfield-3by Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD

Even though GMOs have been in our food supply for years, there are still a lot of unanswered questions about them. There are legitimate environmental and societal concerns including the corporate control of the food supply, loss of crop diversity, and the escalating use of herbicides. The safety of GMOs is a whole other matter and something that is very important to me as a health professional.

Proponents claim they offer a plethora of benefits including higher yields, more nutritious food to feed the hungry, fewer weeds and bugs, and a decrease in herbicide use. But reality tells an entirely different story. While they make millions for multinational corporations, they don’t offer consumers a thing.

Although it is nearly impossible to have a civil conversation about GMOs, discussion about scientific issues is necessary and important. Here are 10 things worth considering in the ongoing and contentious debate about GMOs.

1. GMOs have not helped to feed the world. This is partly because a lot of GMO corn and soy are used for other things such animal feed or ethanol production, and not human consumption. Most of the GMOs we do consume are found in the junkiest processed food available, which does not improve anyone’s nutritional status. Although we grow more GMOs than any other country, 33.3 million adults and 15.8 million childrenlive in households that are food insecure.

2. Yields for GMO corn and soy have not gone up significantly. But herbicide use has increased by 404 million pounds.

3. Weeds are becoming resistant to the herbicide glyphosate (used with GMOs) and now cover about as much farm land as the state of Oregon. A toxic new herbicide called Enlist Duo, made with 2,4 D (half of agent orange), has been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency to fight these weeds. This herbicide is linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Parkinson’s, and may be particularly harmful to children.

4. GMOs have dramatically decreased the monarch butterfly population due to glyphosates destruction of milkweed, the monarch’s breeding habitat.

5. Some believe the hypothetical “golden rice,” genetically engineered to be higher in vitamin A, could help prevent blindness. However, Jonathan Foley, Ph.D., and executive director of the California Academy of Sciences says, “Why pick an expensive, high-tech approach — costing millions of dollars and decades of work, with no guarantee that people will accept and eat orange-colored rice — rather than low-tech, simple solutions that could work right now?” Why indeed.

6. GMO proponents on one hand say GMOs are safe, but on the other hand say nothing is proven safe. So which is it? The truth is all we have are animal studies. Without long-term data in humans, we will never know if they are safe for us, nor will we know their long-term health effects. Even the American Cancer Society says the “…long term health effects are unknown.”

7. Substantial equivalence, which is used by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve GMOs, compares the compositional analyses of a GMO crop to a similar plant that is not a GMO (isoline). This process looks at nutrients, antinutrients, and toxins to determine if there are any significant changes. The problem is there may be other changes we are not aware of that are not a part of this comparison. Trans fats, for example, have just one change in the placement of a single hydrogen atom. That one change totally alters their impact on human health. Are we really aware of all of the subtle changes that can occur with genetic engineering?

Additionally, substantial equivalence has failed the FDA before. Metal on metal hip replacements are one example of a technology approved using substantial equivalence with disastrous results. These hip replacements had a high failure rate due to the erosion of metal and it’s migration into the surrounding tissues. Ultimately, it’s impossible to know the long-term implications of a technology without appropriate research.

8. Some think that GMOs must be safe since we have been eating them for 17 years without any demonstrated harm. However, in reality our health has been declining, not improving. We weigh more and have more co-morbid conditions than ever before. In fact, a recent Journal of the American Medical Association article states that we spend a fortune on health in the US, more than any other industrialized nation, yet we have “fallen behind peer countries in terms of improvements in population health.” While you can’t say this is because of GMOs, you can’t say its not. And that’s why we need human studies.

9. Questioning GMOs does not mean you’re a fear mongerer, denier, or anti-science and has no relationship to climate change or vaccines. It just means you’re cautious about a technology we don’t need to survive.

10. GMO proponents spent 45 million dollars to block labeling in California and 22 million in Washington. So far they have spent about almost 19 million in Oregon and 11 million in Colorado. That’s close to a 100 million dollars in total. The biggest spenders have been Monsanto, DuPont/Pioneer, Coca Cola, Pepsi, Kraft, Land O’ Lakes, and Kellogg’s. What are they trying to hide?

There are many reasons to question GMOs. But the concerns about safety and impacts on the environment are almost a moot point. The irony is, the behavior of biotech corporations and food manufacturers to thwart labeling at every turn and some scientists, journalists, and bloggers who attempt to discredit anyone who disagrees with their ideology, has alienated many. So for a lot of people, even if someday research shows GMOs are safe and we understand their long-term effects, they still will not want them.

These corporations, organizations, and individuals have tried to bully us and push GMOs into our daily diet without our consent, attempting to tell us what we should eat without any transparency or choice. Dr. Foley got it right when he said:

“It’s about respecting people’s deep cultural connection to food and their right to know what’s in it.”

Food politics guru Marion Nestle, Ph.D., weighed in saying:

“I think much of the public distress over GM foods is because of lack of transparency. Without labels, customers cannot exercise freedom of choice.”

Dr. Nestle was also part of an early focus group for the FDA and reveals:

“We warned the FDA that if GMOs were not labeled, the public would wonder what the industry was trying to hide. This, we said, would not only hurt the FDA’s credibility, but would end up hurting the GMO industry as well.”

And this is their fatal mistake–and their undoing. Even millions spent on clever video programing orchestrated by Conde Nast and Monsanto,the recruitment of mommy bloggers, and misleading articles and hit pieces about anyone who questions GMOs, can’t fix their PR blunder. The consumer rejection of GMOs is why some companies are already “quietly dumping GMO ingredients” as reported by NPR.

Sometimes freedom of choice is the most important consideration of all. Want to exercise yours? Check out my previous post for tips on how to avoid GMOs. And vote “yes” to label GMOs.

Copyright © 2014 Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD. All rights reserved.