Which Items In Our Kitchens Contain BPA?

Natalie Jacewicz wrote . . . . . .

It’s not exactly a secret that many plastic products have an additive called “bisphenol A,” or “BPA,” for short. NPR has covered the chemical substance many times, including here, here, and here.

Among other things, BPA helps make clear, hard plastic — the kind we associate with food storage containers and water bottles — and also lines the inside of many metal cans to prevent an aluminum taste from leaching into food or drink. The catch: Some studies suggest BPA could also disrupt our reproductive systems by changing sperm quality and increasing the risk of reproductive cancers like prostate and breast cancer.

Despite the coverage of BPA, when a reader wrote to the column and asked whether frozen dinner trays, rotisserie chicken containers, and other common items contained BPA, I was stumped. The reason? Manufacturers are not required to disclose whether their products contain BPA.

With limited information about what exactly goes into specific products, how should we view the materials in our kitchen? I reached out to academic scientists and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for answers.

The root of scientists’ concern about BPA in containers is that the chemical can leach out of packaging and into food. This happens when plastic deteriorates and releases its chemical contents, according to Nancy Wayne, a reproductive neuroendocrinologist at UCLA. Acidic foods, like tomato sauce, can break down plastic. Plastic also breaks down when heated; manufacturers may heat metal cans lined with BPA to sterilize them, and consumers frequently put plastic containers of food in the microwave. Once released, BPA can contaminate food and enter the human body, where it interferes with hormonal processes. This hormonal interference has been linked to cancer, heart disease, and obesity.

“We know that the vast majority of Americans [95 percent according to one study] have detectable levels of BPA in their blood and urine,” Wayne says. “We’re constantly exposed to it.”

Nonetheless, the FDA’s official current position is that the amount of BPA consumers encounter in packaging is safe.

“We’ve done a systematic evaluation of all the information we have,” says Jason Aungst, a supervisory toxicologist at the FDA. “At high doses of BPA, it’s very clear there are [hormone]-related effects. But when you get to the low dose, there’s no consistency. You see so many contradictions between different studies.”

Aungst says the average consumer would have to be exposed to 100,000 times more BPA than is typical to suffer health effects, and that most agencies around the world agree with the FDA that BPA in packaging is safe.

But many scientists remain skeptical that BPA is harmless, and several states have partially banned BPA. Plus, there’s one more wrinkle: Products marketed as “BPA-free” might not actually be safer than products with BPA, according to George Bittner, a professor of neurobiology and pharmacology at University of Texas, Austin. (Bittner also is the founder of PlastiPure, a company that evaluates materials for chemical effects on estrogen.) That’s because “BPA-free” products may contain functionally identical compounds that go by different names, like BPS, Bittner explains.

Fortunately, consumers who are not fully comforted by the FDA’s guidance have options. “You do have some control,” Wayne says. “Just be very thoughtful.”

Wayne switched all of her food storage containers from plastic to glass. When she noticed her parents had a collection of old, warped plastic food containers, she bought them glass too. Although Wayne admits buying glass may be pricier than plastic on the front end, she says glass lasts longer. As an alternative to plastic water bottles, Wayne recommends stainless steel. And to get more non-plastic options when shopping, she suggests talking to grocery store management.

For those who store or purchase food in plastic containers, Wayne has some cardinal rules: “Never ever heat plastic in the microwave. And don’t put it in the dishwasher. Wash it by hand with gentle detergent.” And if the plastic begins to visibly degrade, it’s time to get rid of it.

Finally, both Wayne and Bittner say more federal funding should be directed to developing new materials that don’t have chemicals that could tamper with our hormonal wiring.

Until then, we’ll have to live with the plastics we have, according to Wayne: “It’s the devil that we made a deal with.”

Source: npr


Mexican-style Slow Cooked Pulled Pork


3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces
1 pound pork belly, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup homemade chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon (heaping) kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Warm corn tortillas, chopped white onion, lime wedges, sliced avocado, dried oregano, chopped cilantro, and shredded cabbage (for serving)


  1. Place pork shoulder, pork belly, stock, salt, and pepper in a large heavy pot; cover and bring to a boil over medium-low. Reduce heat and simmer until pork is tender and shreds easily, about 2 hours.
  2. Remove lid and cook 10 minutes to reduce liquid (but not completely). Remove from heat.
  3. Transfer half of pork and pan juices to a large skillet, preferably nonstick, and cook over high until liquid evaporates and pork begins to fry in its rendered fat.
  4. Fry, stirring occasionally and pressing on pork with spoon to break up, until browned and just beginning to crisp, 10–15 minutes. Most of the pieces should be bite-size with some smaller shredded and super-crisp bits in the mix.
  5. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel–lined baking sheet. Cover with foil to keep warm and moist. Repeat with remaining pork.
  6. Serve carnitas with tortillas, onion, limes, avocado, herbs, and cabbage.

Makes 8 servings.

Source: Bon Appetit magazine

In Pictures: Tacos in Mexico City

The Value of Strength Training

Regina Boyle Wheeler wrote . . . . . . .

Strength training — also called resistance training or, simply, weightlifting — isn’t just for those muscular bodybuilders at the gym.

It’s a type of exercise that should be part of everyone’s overall fitness plan. Why? Strength training keeps muscle toned, reduces body fat, and helps burn more calories even when you’re not working out.

Strong muscles are especially important as you age to stay steady on your feet and as independent as possible. A study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science found that a simple lower body strength and balance training program can decrease falls as you get older. Upper body strength counts, too, allowing you to accomplish everyday tasks, from carrying groceries to walking your dog.

If you’re new to strength training, a certified trainer can put together a plan with your fitness goals and ability in mind.

You don’t have to join a gym to strength train. You can work out at home using a set of free weights, such as a mix of dumbbells and barbells; a home weight-training machine; resistance bands that come in graduated tensions; or even plastic bottles filled with sand or water.

Do a total body workout at least twice a week, one that targets all the major muscle groups. An alternative is to break up your routine by focusing on your upper body two days of the week and on your lower body and “core” abdominal muscles on two other days.

As you get stronger, challenge yourself. Whenever an exercise in your current routine gets too easy, add more repetitions or more weight/resistance.

It’s important to give your muscles a break, too. Always allow two days between training sessions to give muscles time to recover and grow.

Source: HealthDay

Leafy Greens May Contribute to A Healthy Heart

Ana Sandoiu wrote . . . . . .

A new study published in The Journal of Nutrition examines the link between vitamin K levels and heart structure and functioning in young people.

Vitamin K plays a key role in blood coagulation and bone health. Deficient levels of the vitamin raise the risk of hemorrhage, osteoporosis, and bone fractures.

In its dietary form, vitamin K is known as phylloquinone, or vitamin K-1. This is abundantly found in leafy green vegetables such as kale, parsley, broccoli, spinach, iceberg lettuce, and cabbage.

The new research suggests that insufficient levels of the vitamin may affect the structure of the heart, leading to a condition called left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH).

The left ventricle is the heart’s major pumping chamber, and in LVH, this chamber is enlarged to an unhealthy degree. As the authors of the new study explain, a larger heart can malfunction with time, becoming less effective at pumping blood.

LVH tends to affect adults, but the researchers decided to study this heart structure in young people because cardiac abnormalities that begin in childhood tend to predict the risk of cardiovascular disease in adulthood.

To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first time that a study has examined links between vitamin K levels and heart structure in teenagers.

Mary K. Douthit and Mary Ellen Fain, both of the Georgia Prevention Institute at Augusta University, are the study’s co-first authors. Dr. Norman Pollock, a bone biologist at the same institute, is the study’s corresponding author.

Low vitamin K-1 intake correlates with LVH

Douthit and colleagues examined 766 healthy adolescents aged between 14 and 18. Half of the participants were male and half were female. Half of the participants were also black Americans.

The researchers assessed the diet and physical activity habits of these teenagers over a period of 7 days, using the participants’ self-reporting and accelerometry devices. Left ventricular structure and functioning were assessed using echocardiography.

Overall, the study found that the teenagers who consumed the least amount of vitamin K-1 had considerably greater left ventricles compared with those who consumed sufficient amounts of the vitamin.

Around 10 percent of the teenagers had LVH to some degree, as determined by measurements of the overall size of the ventricle and the thickness of its walls.

The researchers divided the results into tertiles, or thirds, of vitamin K-1 intake. They found, “The prevalence of [LVH] progressively decreased across tertiles of phylloquinone intake.”

In other words, the more vitamin K-1 the teenagers consumed, the less likely they were to develop LVH.

Fain says that the findings were independent of other potential confounders, such as sex, race, or physical activity patterns. The findings help them to “clarify the importance of phylloquinone intake to cardiovascular development,” the authors write.

Although further research is now needed, they add, the new findings could ultimately “lead to phylloquinone interventions in childhood aimed to improve cardiovascular development and to reduce the subsequent risk of [cardiovascular disease].”

Source: Medical News Today

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