Posts Tagged ‘Health’

Posted on June 3, 2011 - by

The New Food Pyramid: Where’s the Spark?


Perhaps the lush infographics I’ve been enjoying lately thanks to have me spoiled, but I was distinctly underwhelmed by “My Plate,” the USDA’s latest attempt at a visual representation of a balanced diet. The graphic, released yesterday, replaces the oft-maligned food pyramid,  which was introduced in 1992 as a way to get Americans to eat healthier food but instead became a symbol for much of what is wrong with the American diet: too much grain and carbohydrate, not enough fresh produce.

I understand that the designers were trying to simplify the image as much as possible. It’s meant to be a quick and memorable reference for the population at large, not a definitive guide for food dorks like me. And simplify it they did, to the extent that fats are not shown, sugars are absent, and instead of a recognizable fifth food group, we get the nebulous “protein.” How are we supposed to interpret this category, given that many vegetables, grains, and dairy products are great sources of protein? Where do beans and nuts fit in?

I’m sure the USDA carefully considered these questions and many other nitpicky details in their search for the “right” image, but with simplicity as their guiding principle, opted to focus on pounding a single message home: fruits and vegetables should make up half of what you put on your plate. I love the choice of a plate here (not to be confused with a pie, of course), which people already associate with food, serves as an easy reference point for proportional portion size, and doesn’t place food groups in a hierarchy like the original pyramid did.

Despite its elegance as a symbol, the plate image leaves me cold. It may be easily memorizable, but it isn’t memorable in the way that might inspire healthier, more balanced cooking and eating. It calls to mind math class rather than the dinner table. Until we as a nation stop thinking of healthy eating as a chore and begin to understand it as a source of pleasure, we’re not likely to trim our collective waistline anytime soon.

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Posted on November 17, 2009 - by

You Are What You Eat!


Bill Couzens HeadshotBy: Bill Couzens
Bill Couzens is the Founder of Less Cancer

In the work to raise awareness for unnecessary and preventable exposures that may contribute to health effects including cancer, food should be considered.  Consumers must move away from the practice of pulling foods off the shelf with little knowledge of what they and their families eating.

Scientists have documented many examples of environmental exposures that are known to increase cancer risk include: smoking, UV light, asbestos, some pesticides, hormones, metals, vinyl chloride, gasoline, and small particulates from automobile and coal-fired power plants, to name a few.

What about contaminants in food?

Dr Maryann Donovan from the Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh’s Cancer Institute (CEO-UPCI) says that  “consumers do need to become more selective when shopping for all products but especially food.  Scientists at the CEO-UPCI have measured contaminants in canned food at levels that can cause biological effects in laboratory studies. There are a number of published studies showing that some ingredients in products that we use in our homes, schools and communities are toxic and some have been shown to cause cancer in laboratory studies. Examples of possible food contaminants can include pesticide residues or bisphenol A. (BPA), a component of the resin that lines some cans and can leach into food”.

BPA, for instance, can be found in many of the canned foods sold in the United States. The Environmental Working Group tested 97 canned foods and found detectable levels of BPA in more than half of them.  The highest concentrations were in canned meats, pasta and soups.  Although there is no evidence that the levels of BPA in canned food cause health effects in humans, BPA is one of many chemicals in the environment that acts like the hormone estrogen.  Because low levels of hormones can have profound effects, exposure to hormone-like chemicals, known as endocrine disruptors, is especially concerning.  Pregnant women and children may want to limit their consumption of canned foods to avoid this source of BPA exposure.

It is important to protect children.  By making better food choices we can reduce their exposure to a host of unhealthy ingredients and contaminants. It is important to remember that children are not small adults, rather, they are a developing version of an adult. Simply put, children are under construction. They are unfinished and their developing systems are quite fragile.   We know, for instance, that in children the brain continues to develop into their twenties, and this makes their brains potentially more vulnerable to toxicants. They also breathe much more rapidly, so they take in more toxins through their lungs.  For children, depending on the exposure, some of the first body systems to show negative health effects can be their neurological and respiratory systems.

Food choice presents an opportunity to make change and begin the process of providing healthy choices for your family, but especially for young children. One easy first step is to seek out your local farmers market so that you can buy fresh food that is minimally processed. For myself and my family I always buy local first and, when available, I buy certified organic. I do this because I want to reduce the unnecessary and preventable exposures to unhealthy ingredients like sugars, fats, preservatives; contaminants in canned food;  genetically modified (GM) foods; and foods containing antibiotic and pesticide residues. While farmers markets can be a safe alternative for tracking down healthier foods, shopping there can also be a fun family adventure!


Posted on November 9, 2009 - by

Are We Playing Russian Roulette With Our Children?

By: Robyn O’Brien
Author of The Unhealthy Truth
Cross-Posted on Huffington Post

Today’s headlines are enough to make any mother quake.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism rates have doubled. Research published this morning in the journal Pediatrics reveals that in the U.S. in 2007 about 1 in 91 children ages 3 to 17 were somewhere on the autism spectrum. That’s more than any previous survey has found.

The new study then goes on to cite earlier research showing that the life-time medical cost of dealing with ASD is $1.6 million; other research cited says ASD-related costs borne by the health-care system rose 142 percent from 2000 to 2004.

While industry funded ‘experts’ may suggest that this study is based on subjective data, industry funded ‘experts’ also suggest that a bowl of Cocoa Krispies is a SMART CHOICE for our children.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there has been a 265% increase in the rate of hospitalizations related to food allergic reactions, 1 in 2 minority children and 1 in 3 Caucasian children born in the year 2000 (this year’s fourth graders) are expected to be insulin dependent by the time they reach adulthood and now 1 in 91 children has some degree of autism.

Today, health care spending represents 17% of our GDP, but perhaps it is time that we view our children as more than just a sales channel for Big Pharma’s money making medicine.

The unhealthy truth is that today 1 in 3 American children now has autism, allergies, ADHD or asthma.

In 1946, Harry Truman said, “A nation is only as healthy as its children.”

Shouldn’t we stop playing Russian Roulette with ours?