Dangerous Endocrine-disrupting Chemicals

Hilary Brueck wrote . . . . . . . . .

Through the course of a single day, your hands, mouth, and body come in contact with countless pieces of paper, plastic, fabric, and furniture.

You probably don’t think about the chemicals these substances might harbor, or consider that they have a drug-like effect on health. But some do. They can make metabolisms slow down, subtly lower IQs, contribute to ADHD in children, and mess with sperm counts in men.

They’re called “endocrine disruptors,” and they’re around us all the time. The chemicals change how our bodies work by shifting the way hormones operate, according to Leo Trasande, a pediatrician and public-health researcher at NYU Langone Health.

“Hormones are the basic signaling molecules in our body that take on so many actions for practically every organ system,” Trasande told Business Insider. “And endocrine disruptors are synthetic chemicals that scramble those signals, contributing to disease and disability.”

In his new book, “Sicker, Fatter, Poorer: The Urgent Threat of Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals to Our Health and Future … and What We Can Do About It,” Trasande lays out the four big categories of endocrine disruptors he’s most concerned about, based on evidence from scientific studies and observations in his patients.

They are:

  • Bisphenols, like BPA, which are often found in the linings of aluminum-canned food and drinks and on cash-register receipts.
  • Brominated flame retardants that are in some carpets, furniture, and clothing.
  • Synthetic pesticides on food.
  • “Plasticizer chemicals” called phthalates that show up in plastic food packaging, lotions, and cosmetics.

BPA makes fat cells bigger, contributing to obesity and lower sperm counts

The chemical BPA, and others like it, could make the body turn more calories into fat instead of muscle, predisposing people to obesity.

In the lab, BPA acts like an obesogen. “It makes fat cells bigger,” as Trasande writes. This is especially true if human embryos are exposed to the chemicals while still in a mother’s womb.

Trasande said the obesogen effects of BPA are fairly small compared to what diet and exercise can do for health, but they’re real.

“BPA exposure may explain nearly 2% of all obesity in 4-year-olds,” Trasande says in his book. That stat is based on his analyses of data on childhood obesity and adult heart issues published in the journal Health Affairs in 2014.

The chemical is also dangerous for babies and pregnant women; it can up the odds of a premature birth, and mess with placenta function.

Men are not immune to the effects of BPA, either. The chemical can mess with androgens (male sex hormones) like testosterone, contributing to lower sperm counts, and even testicular-cancer rates.

The vast majority of us are exposed to the chemical. A 2013-14 CDC survey suggested 95% of US adults have detectable levels of BPA.

Counter to the adage that “the dose makes the poison,” with hormone-disrupting chemicals there are often nonlinear relationships between the amount of chemical exposure and risk as the body’s enzymes duke it out and compete with the hormone disruptors.

“The notion that everything needs to be linear — in a straight-line relationship — is really our own intellectual construct on a scientific reality that’s much more complicated,” Trasande says.

Many manufacturers are switching to BPA-free products. But that doesn’t always mean they’re safer, Trasande says, because many of the so-called replacements are just BPA relatives and the chemicals have similar effects on our health.

“To a large extent, when you don’t know what’s replacing [BPA], it’s often BPS, BPF, BPP, BPZ — what I like to joke of as the artist formerly known as Prince,” he said.

Brominated flame retardants found in most furniture we use

Brominated flame retardants — flame-stomping chemicals found in furniture, carpeting, clothing, and car-seat foam — can change the way the thyroid functions in a similar way to BPA, shifting how the body processes fats and carbohydrates.

What’s more, a 2012 Chicago Tribune investigation found that the firefighting chemicals, which are standard fare in foam cushions, don’t work well to stop flames.

One large study of the flame retardants in houses pinpointed a link between ADHD and exposure to the chemicals. More research is ongoing.

Concentrations of the chemicals in human blood, sweat, and breast milk are much higher in the US than in parts of the world, such as Europe, where more brominated flame retardants are banned.

Chemicals we spray to kill bugs can mess with us too

Certain pesticides used on food are also a concern, including bug-killing chlorpyrifos pesticides. These have been shown to impede brain development, making changes to the way a woman’s thyroid functions during pregnancy.

In the 1970s and ’80s, before the chemical was banned in homes, doctors started noticing an increase in tinier and shorter premature babies being born, even in homes with low levels of the chemicals. After the Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of chlorpyrifos in homes, in 2000, birth weights went back up.

Exposure to chlorpyrifos can have lasting effects on child development. One 2015 study in kids between the ages of 11 and 14 found prenatal exposure to the chemical was linked to more arm tremors, which are also common in adults who’ve been exposed to lead. The chemicals are still used in agriculture.

Flexible plastics can also contribute to cancer

Finally, Trasande is concerned about phthalates, chemicals that help make plastics more flexible and durable. They appear in raincoats, flooring, hair spray, nail polish, plastic food packaging, and toys.

According to the US government, “one phthalate, Di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), is an endocrine disruptor and can cause cancer.” Additionally, the government says some phthalates can mess with normal reproduction and child-development processes.

In some studies, women tended to have more of the chemicals in their bodies than men because of beauty products they use. But anyone who eats packaged food or breathes in household dust probably has phthalates in their system.

More research on what these chemicals are doing to us is needed, but we do already have some evidence that they’re leading to premature births, which can set kids up for a whole host of health problems later in life, including vision and hearing issues, chronic diseases like diabetes, anxiety, depression, and learning disabilities.

The plasticizing chemicals may also be linked to decreases in male testosterone levels. Scientists need to know more about the plastics before they’ll say that conclusively, though.

Read more: Dangerous ‘forever chemicals’ have been found in US drinking water at alarmingly high rates — here’s what to know about PFAS

Recently, manufacturers, retailers, and state lawmakers have started to pay more serious attention to the dangers of hormone disruptors, and they’re making some changes.

Since 2013, California no longer requires furniture to contain flame retardants (a previous requirement for 38 years).

What you can do to reduce your exposure

  • Eat less canned food and more fresh produce. Trasande is a fan of organic farming because it generally excludes synthetic pesticides, but studies suggest that eating whatever fresh produce you can afford is the best strategy for your health.
  • Say no to paper receipts. This can help receipt-handling cashiers, who often have elevated levels of BPA in their urine.
  • Don’t microwave plastic containers or put them in a dishwasher as the heat promotes chemical leaching. Throw kitchen plastics away when they become etched or scratched.
  • Avoid the recycling Nos. 3, 6, and 7, which are common plastics found in shampoo bottles, Styrofoam trays for ground beef, and coffee-cup lids, among other things.
  • Incorporate iodine-rich foods into your diet, including seafood, dairy, and cranberries. Iodine is a necessary ingredient for thyroid-hormone production, which helps bones and brains develop well.
  • Look for cosmetics that are “phthalate-free” and made without parabens, triclosan, or benzophenones.
  • Opt for naturally flame-resistant fibers, like wool, instead of chemically treated carpets, furniture, and clothes.
  • Circulate fresh air through your home.

Small steps like these can make a big difference. The European Union has banned 1,328 chemicals from cosmetic use, and under the new bans French scientists have noticed a decline in chemical concentrations in people’s blood, urine, and hair. In the US, the FDA forbids just 11 chemicals, and concentrations of the toxic chemicals in American bodies are elevated when compared to Europeans.

The US has taken steps to improve public health before. The phase-out of leaded gasoline and paint in the 1970s led to a measurable brainpower boost in kids: as blood lead levels dropped, IQs went up anywhere from 2.2 to 4.7%. The economic benefits of that ban tally up to $2.45 trillion every year, and Trasande compares the IQ hike’s impact on productivity and the economy to a generous stimulus package:

As Trasande writes, “Each of us 300 million Americans gets the equivalent of as much as a $1,000 tax refund each year because we did the right thing and got lead out of gasoline in the 1970s.”

Many of the chemicals on Trasande’s danger list today stay in the body for hours or days, not months or years, which means it’s never too late to reduce your exposure.

Source: Business Insider

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French-style Roasted Rack of Lamb

Ingredients

1 rack of lamb, French trimmed
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and bruised
1 sprig of thyme
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
2/3 cup veal stock
3 tbsp cold unsalted butter
salt
black pepper

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F and season the lamb.
  2. Heat the oil in an ovenproof pan on the stove top and sear the lamb over high heat, fat-side down, until golden. Turn the lamb over and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and thyme, then place the pan in the preheated oven for 16 minutes for pink lamb, basting twice. Take it out and leave the meat to rest in a warm place.
  4. Drain the fat from the pan, add the shallot, and cook gently over medium heat. When it is soft, add the stock and boil until syrupy. Remove the garlic and thyme, then whisk in the cold butter to finish the sauce.
  5. Carve the lamb and serve wth the sauce.

Makes 2 servings.

Source: The French Kitchen

In Pictures: Brunches of Restaurants in London, U.K.

Learn How to Fall Properly

Dpahne Miller wrote . . . . . . . . .

One minute, I was trotting peacefully along a rutted hillside path.

The next, I lay in a heap on my left side, so racked with pain it was hard to breathe. A longtime runner, I traded pavement for trails a couple years ago, and since then, I’ve taken a few tumbles. But never had I fallen so fast and so hard. Moaning, I inventoried what might be broken.

Then panic set in as I considered some horrifying statistics: an estimated one in three women will break a hip, and, for patients older than 60, the one-year mortality rate after a hip fracture can be as high as 58 per cent. Though still in my early 50s, I thought of hardy patients I’d cared for over the years who had swiftly declined after one bad fall.

I was lucky. I had no major fractures or head trauma, and my bones, on X-ray, seemed reasonably strong. But I hobbled around for weeks, my left side turning from purple to yellow, my arm in a sling. Once I was finally back on the trail, I could not shake the fear that my next fall (and there certainly would be one) could be far worse. This anxiety quickly extended to any sport involving a hard surface, including street jogging, cycling, skating and skiing. I was suffering from a welldescribed “syndrome”: fear of falling, or FOF, which is especially common in the over-50 crowd. Research shows that people with FOF, regardless of whether they have experienced a bad fall, are more likely to become deconditioned, depressed and socially isolated.

At this point, my options seemed clear: confine all sports to a squishy mat, or learn how to fall safely. But what is the best way to fall, and how do we master this?

I often discuss fall prevention with my older patients, but I feel unequipped to tell them how to fall well. A PubMed search unearthed hundreds of studies evaluating exercise programs, assistive devices and physical environment modifications (shower bars, handrails, rug pads, etc.) to keep people from taking a spill. But there has been little research about the safest way to fall. One synthesis of 13 small studies (mostly performed on young athletes) suggests that going into a squat when falling backward, flexing elbows when pitching forward, and rolling over one shoulder if headed sideways are all good strategies. But the article gave little information about how to put this information into practice or whether these strategies work if you are no longer in your 20s.

I decided to seek out some experts in the art (and science) of falling safely.

On YouTube, I discovered Stephen Jepson, 77, a retired ceramics professor who teaches people how to stay nimble and upright or, should gravity prevail, how to avoid getting hurt. In one video, he runs around doing all sorts of tricks, including tightrope walking and jumping hurdles. Jepson says the key to avoiding fall injuries is to maintain quick hands and feet by constantly learning new physical skills. At 73, he taught himself to juggle clubs while standing on a balancing board, and, recently, he mastered the one-wheel hoverboard (imagine a skateboard with one large wheel in the middle). For me, he suggested these steps:

Level 1. Balance on one foot. Start by doing it near a doorway or chair so there is something to grab for support.

Level 2. Use your non-dominant hand to stir a pot.

Level 3. Use your non-dominant hand to stir a pot while standing on one foot.

Unsurprisingly, Jepson does his share of falling. “If you are going to fall, the best way to do it is to bend a knee and roll at an angle over one shoulder to protect your hip and your noggin,” he said.

Next, I contacted a doctor whose patients fall for a living. Ken Akizuki, team orthopedist for the San Francisco Giants, describes sliding into a base as a form of controlled falling. Akizuki can easily list players who fall well and those who don’t. Pitcher Madison Bumgarner is “incredibly athletic,” he said, while with one-time pitcher Shawn Estes, “you just watched and hoped he didn’t get hurt.”

Akizuki echoed Jepson’s advice about the best falling technique: “Tuck your head, use your strength to direct your fall and roll so that you take most of the impact on your backside, the upper back and/or glutes being the most resistant parts of your body.”

Akizuki said that, rather than keeping me safe, my newfound fear of falling could increase my chances of injury.

“(S)he who hesitates gets hurt,” he cautioned, and recommended I learn aikido to master this falling business.

I signed up for an introductory aikido class. The sensei, a powerful-looking, 50-something woman, explained that this Japanese martial art is about not fighting but converting violent movements from an aggressor into something that is safe and harmonious. After learning to bow and stand, we moved on to ukemi — or the “art of falling.” I began to sweat as I watched her effortlessly tuck one leg under, become a human ball, and roll backward or forward unharmed. I looked around and noticed that some of my youngish classmates seemed to share my terror. Apparently FOF is not necessarily an age-related thing. I took a deep breath and threw myself earthward, glad that there was a thick mat to protect me from my mistakes.

After class, I called Adam Tenforde, sports medicine doctor and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. Although he studies the biomechanics of running and how to avoid falling, he was open to discussing the art (and science) of falling safely.

Tenforde described how his young children naturally explored their surroundings, using fingers and toes with equal dexterity and moving from upright to rolling and back again.

He thinks we quickly lose this ease because almost everything in our lives — including chairs, desks, beds, cars and even cushioned shoes — is designed to create distance between us and the ground. He recommends we counteract this, especially with our footwear: he and his kids go barefoot around the house and wear “minimal” shoes with thin, flexible soles for both sports and everyday living.

According to Tenforde, information we get from the bottoms of our feet (the technical term is plantar neurosensory input) helps us maintain balance. This input, coupled with muscle strength and agility, is essential for generating a “good correctional movement” should we fall. He refers his fallprone patients to physical therapists who take an integrated, whole-body approach to rehabilitation and don’t focus on just a couple of muscle groups. “It’s about the whole kinetic chain,” he said.

During my conversation with Tenforde, I realized that the same skills that keep me upright could also make me a better faller. Maybe it was not just luck that protected me from major injury that day on the trail! Maybe all that mud-sliding and rock-hopping over the past couple years had trained me to tumble well. Immediately, my FOF begin to disappear.

The next day, I put on shoes with paper-thin soles and hit the trail. While studies of how these shoes affect balance are contradictory, I appreciated how they improved my gait and made me feel more grounded. (Note: the transition to minimal shoes should be gradual to avoid injury.) Gone was that feeling of impending doom. I welcomed the uneven terrain and slippery stream crossings as a chance to build stability and fall resilience.

I had asked Tenforde if there is a specific age after which he advises patients to stop having an active lifestyle. He answers: “I take your age and subtract it from 100. Whatever number I get is the number of years I’m going to help you keep doing what you love to do.” In my case, that’s 47. So, I will continue to practise ukemi and stir my soup with my left hand while standing on one foot. And once I master this, I’ll try learning some new tricks.

Daphne Miller is a family physician and author of Farmacology and The Jungle Effect.

Source : The Washington Post

Study: Red Raspberries May Help with Glucose Control in People with Pre-diabetes

A study released today from the Illinois Institute of Technology shows the benefits of including red raspberries in the diet of individuals with pre-diabetes and insulin resistance.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 34 percent of American adults, around 84.1 million in all, had prediabetes in 2015. Patients with prediabetes are at higher risk for a number of conditions – including developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

The study, published in Obesity, investigated the effects of red raspberries in a group of people at-risk for diabetes who were overweight or obese and presented with prediabetes and insulin resistance. A metabolically healthy control group was also included in the study for reference.

Using a randomized, controlled, acute study design, 32 adults between the ages of 20-60 years had their blood tested over a 24-hour period after eating breakfast on three separate days. The three breakfast meals were similar in calories and macronutrients, but differed in the amount of frozen red raspberries – one meal contained no raspberries, one contained one cup of raspberries and one contained two cups of raspberries.

The results showed that as the amount of raspberry intake increased, individuals at risk for diabetes needed less insulin to manage their blood glucose. When two cups of red raspberries were included in the meal, glucose concentrations were lower compared to the meal with no red raspberries. The data suggests that simple inclusion of certain fruits, such as red raspberries with meals, can have glucose lowering benefits with indications of improvements in insulin responses. These effects are particularly important for people who are overweight or obese with pre-diabetes.

“People at risk for diabetes are often told to not eat fruit because of their sugar content. However, certain fruits – such as red raspberries – not only provide essential micronutrients, but also components such as anthocyanins, which give them their red color, ellagitannins and fibers that have anti-diabetic actions,” said Britt Burton-Freeman, Ph.D., director, Center for Nutrition Research at Illinois Tech. “For people who are at risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other health risks, knowing what foods have protective benefits and working them into your diet now can be an important strategy for slowing or reversing progression to disease.”

Source: EurekAlert!


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