Crops Subsidized with Our Tax Dollars Are Making Us Sick


In the US, we subsidize the growth of commodity crops such as corn and soy. These crops are feed to livestock or industry creates ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup and oils that are put in the junkiest foods we consume (sodas, French fries etc.). This is why crummy junk food is cheaper than fruits and veggies and other healthy foods.

New research published in JAMA Internal Medicine shows that Americans who consume these foods weigh more, have a higher level of inflammation, and are more likely to develop diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

So in essence, our tax dollars are paying for food that makes us sick! It would be nice if they subsidized the growth of fruits and veggies instead.

You can see the original research here and also an article about the issue here in Mother Jones.


Copyright 2016 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)

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

Contained garlic

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)

Contained garlic
One test identified no DNA

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

No ginseng found
Detected garlic and rice

No garlic found
Detected palm, dracaena, wheat and rice

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

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

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

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.

GMO Update and the Huffington Post

by Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD

gmo-patentI have spend the past few years trying to get the word out about GMOs (genetically modified organisms). I have had some truly interesting experiences, some which I have talked about, such as my travails with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and some which I may never talk about for a variety of reasons. These experiences have given me a different perspective on things and perhaps a more realistic view of how big food and big agriculture work. And because of what has happened, I have had the opportunity to also blog for the Huffington Post. Please consider following me there as well! My most recent piece is about what happens to scientists who go against the grain and dare to publish research that criticizes GMOs. The intro and link to the full article are below.

The Anti-Science Behavior of GMO Proponents

“As the battle to label GMOs (genetically modified organisms) rages on, we have another more insidious battle taking place. It’s the battle to hold on to scientific integrity, especially as it relates to research about GMOs.” (more)










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

4 Ways the Food and Drug Administration Is Not “Protecting and Promoting Your Health”

fda-logo11by Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD

A few weeks ago I happened to catch an episode of the radio show, This American Life, which focused on the how the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) dealt with problems related to acetaminophen, also know as Tylenol.

In a nutshell, it took the FDA over 30 years to let us know that taking too much of this medication can cause severe liver disease and death. Historically, Tylenol was thought to be the safe pain reliever and one that we should “trust.” Truth be told, taking just two extra strength Tylenol tablets over the maximum daily dose of 8, can cause liver failure.

Why did it take the FDA so long to inform the public of the health risks associated with Tylenol? According to a review of the FDA process, a lack of financial resources and a heavy workload caused the delay.

Ironically, days before I listened to this episode, I was thinking about a few other perplexing FDA positions. While their tagline is “protecting and promoting your health,” there are many instances where their actions are anything but. Here are four such examples.

1. Food Additives 

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine (JAMA Intern Med) found that between 1997 and 2012 all of the members on panels to determine if a food additive was safe had ties to the industry that created them, either as an employee or consultant. One has to wonder, with such an infiltration of industry in the decision-making process, if these additives are truly safe to consume.

Additionally, the FDA allowed companies that created food products to determine whether or not a food additive was generally recognized as safe also known as GRAS. In some cases, these companies did not even notify the FDA of this determination!

Food politics guru Marion Nestle, PhD, wrote the commentary for the article. Not one to mince words, she says:

“How is it possible that the FDA permits manufacturers to decide for themselves whether their food additives are safe?”

How indeed.

She also says:

“…financial ties with food and beverage companies are now recognized as influences on federal dietary guidelines, opinions of nutrition professionals, and the interpretation of nutrition studies.”

The article concludes with the authors urging the FDA to address the lack of independent review and the ubiquitous financial conflicts of interest in GRAS determinations. Let’s hope the FDA follows this advice.

2. Fecal Implants

Fecal implants, also known as fecal microbiota therapy (FMT), are a procedure whereby stool from a healthy donor is inserted into the colon of another. Yes, fecal implants sound really gross. But they save lives and are actually more effective for curing difficult cases of Clostridium difficile (C. diff)–which can cause diarrhea, cramping, colitis, and death–than really expensive antibiotic pills. They have also been found to be helpful, or in some cases cure, other gastrointestinal conditions, such as ulcerative colitis, a debilitating condition that causes inflammation of the colon and bloody, frequent diarrhea.

However, in April 2013 the FDA decided if feces were preventing, treating, or curing a disease, then feces should be classified as a drug. The FDA did not approve fecal implants for therapeutic uses. Any doctor who wanted to use them would have to fill out an investigational new drug application. In response, many doctors stopped doing fecal implants, even though they were found to be 90 percent effective for C. diff.

Just a few months later the FDA changed their mind, due to strong push-back from the American Gastroenterology Association. They allowed fecal implants for use in people with C. diff who were not responding to standard antibiotic treatment.

I find it interesting that the FDA wants a lot of regulation for feces, a substance that appears to be helping many people, yet they are lax about so many other things. Of course, precautions need to be taken such as screening for HIV, hepatitis, and parasites. However, at a time of diminishing returns with drugs for many gastrointestinal diseases and no chance of an actual cure, why not allow fecal implants, especially when they have the potential to help so many people who are suffering?

3. Antibiotics in Animal Feed

Meanwhile back at the ranch, the FDA is still dragging its feet to ban the use of antibiotics in factory farming. A recent FDA report reveals that 80 percent of antibiotics are given to industrial farm animals. Why give these animals low doses of antibiotics? So they will get fatter faster and to prevent health problems caused by the extreme confinement and filthy conditions they are forced to endure.

Although there is a clear-cut link between the use of antibiotics in farm animals and antibiotic resistance, the FDA continues to allow their use. Instead of banning the practice, the FDA has called for industry to voluntarily stop the practice. According to Marion Nestle, the problem has only gotten worse. The Centers for Disease Control states that 2 million people are sickened each year by drug-resistant bacteria and 23,000 of them die. Since part of the problem is the use of antibiotics in animal feed, it seems like a no-brainer to stop this practice. The FDA has had over 30 years to take action on this, but has not as of yet.

Apparently, banning the hundreds of antibiotics used in factory farming would be “lengthy and cumbersome” so a volunteer approach was the option chosen by the FDA.

One would think that 23,000 Americans dying each year would trump industry desires and long appeals.

4. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

I have written before about the fact that the FDA does not do its own safety assessments or studies on GMOs before they are approved for use. Instead, the companies that create the crops do their own safety assessments, which the FDA only reviews. In other words, it is the opinion of companies such as Monsanto, Dupont Pioneer, Bayer CropScience, Dow Agrosciences, or Syngenta that are driving the approvals. This is a win-win for companies that stand to make a buck on GMOs, but is a lose-lose situation for us, the very people the FDA is supposed to be “protecting.”

The FDA is worried about poop, a basically free substance that can cure C. diff and potentially other inflammatory bowel diseases, but is fine with adding food additives, antibiotics, and GMOs to our food supply without adequate testing or conflict-of-interest-free determinations.

What is wrong with this picture? A lot. And it is the American people who will be paying the price.

Copyright © 2013 Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD. All rights reserved.