Archive for June, 2011

Nutrient in tangerines shown to limit type 2 diabetes risk

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

The antioxidant nobiletin, which occurs naturally in high levels in tangerines, may help individuals avoid the symptoms of metabolic syndrome and prevent them from developing type 2 diabetes, according to a new study from a group of University of Western Ontario researchers. Their study, which was published in the journal Diabetes, showed that the molecule prevented mice from experiencing elevated cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, impaired glucose tolerance, buildups of fat in the liver and excess weight gain, even when they were fed a high-fat diet.

The mice also showed no signs of type 2 diabetes. Murry Huff, who led the investigation, said that the nobiletin-fed mice were protected from obesity and the side effects that come with the condition. In particular, these mice had a much lower risk of developing atherosclerosis, which occurs when fat builds up in the arteries. Atherosclerosis is known to increase a person’s risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

For the study, the researchers fed two separate groups of mice a high-fat, Western-style diet that included high levels of simple sugars. The diet of one of these groups was supplemented with nobiletin. These mice had significantly better metabolic health and were much less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Huff said that he and his team are considering testing the effects of the nutrient on a group of people who are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes or other metabolic conditions. Nobiletin appears to be much more potent than other similar antioxidants, and it could provide significant benefits to individuals whose diets increase their risk of cardiovascular and metabolic disorders. The study confirmed the findings of a 2004 investigation published in the journal Atherosclerosis, which showed that nobiletin may be a potent nutrient for fighting cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.


Food Safety: What we know—and don’t know—about the safety of eating GMOs

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Caution tape over burger.Are genetically modified foods safe to eat?

The conventional answer is “yes,” and it’s not hard to see why. Since their introduction in 1996, genetically modified (GM) or genetically engineered (GE) corn and soy seeds quickly conquered U.S. farm fields. Today, upwards of 70 percent of corn and 90 percent of soy are genetically modified, and these two crops form the basis of the conventional U.S. diet. Nor are they GM technology’s only pathway onto our plates. Nearly 80 percent of U.S. cotton is now genetically engineered, and cottonseed oil has emerged as a staple fat for the food industry. (USDA has figures on this.) Canola oil — another crop that has largely succumbed to genetic modification — is yet another common ingredient.

Given their swift path to ubiquity, wouldn’t we know by now if GMOs posed some threat? Since no obvious problems have come to the fore, some scientists — and certainly the agrichemical industry, which dominates GM seed production — have seen fit to declare them safe. Pamela Ronald, professor of plant pathology at the University of California, Davis, recently summed up the conventional view: “After 14 years of cultivation and a cumulative total of two billion acres planted, GE crops have not caused a single instance of harm to human health or the environment.”

Let’s leave aside Ronald’s claim about the environment (which is rendered suspect by the rise of herbicide-resistant “superweeds“) and dig into the human-health aspect. What we do know is that GMOs are not acutely toxic to eat. That is, we know that if you dine on a burger made from cows gorged on GM corn and soy, French fries cooked in oil from GM cottonseed, and soda laced with high-fructose syrup from GM corn, you’re not likely to keel over in agony. Tens of millions of people do it every day.

But what about more subtle, long-term effects — problems that public-health professionals call “chronic”? Here we enter less certain territory. With our highly processed diets largely deficient in fruits and vegetables, Americans have high and rising rates of chronic diseases like obesity and heart disease. Meanwhile, food allergies, autism, and non-alcohol-related liver disease have rocketed. It’s highly plausible that GMOs, which have existed in our diets for less than a generation, have emerged as another of many contributors to such long-term conditions.

So GMOs could theoretically be unsafe to eat. What does science tell us about the matter? Unfortunately, not much. Back in 1992, before the first GM seed had been commercially planted, the FDA declared GM foods to be “generally regarded as safe” — despite a complete absence of rigorous testing. And that meant that safety testing is completely unnecessary if, say, Monsanto wants to bring a novel crop to market. In a peer-reviewed 2004 paper [PDF] — which remains an extremely useful primer on regulation of GM crops —  William Freese and David Shubert show that the FDA made the “generally regarded as safe” decision over the objections of several agency scientists, who saw significant potential for harm. Moreover, when the agency rubber-stamps the introduction of a GM crop into the food supply, it does so using extremely non-committal language. As Freese and Shubert put it:

The review process outlined above makes it clear that, contrary to popular belief, the FDA has not formally approved a single GE crop as safe for human consumption. Instead, at the end of the consultation, the FDA merely issues a short note summarizing the review process and a letter that conveys the crop developer’s assurances that the GE crop is substantially equivalent to its conventional counterpart.

The authors quote from the letter the FDA sent to Monsanto on approval of Bt corn back in 1996:

Based on the safety and nutritional assessment you have conducted, it is our understanding that Monsanto has concluded that corn products derived from this new variety are not materially different in composition, safety, and other relevant parameters from corn currently on the market, and that the genetically modified corn does not raise issues that would require premarket review or approval by FDA. … as you are aware, it is Monsanto’s responsibility to ensure that foods marketed by the firm are safe, wholesome and in compliance with all applicable legal and regulatory requirements.

Shorter version: We’re approving this crop based on your word — don’t blame us if someone gets sick!

To put it more broadly, regulation of the safety of GM food is virtually nil, and research is scant and largely industry-funded. In a 2010 paper [PDF] in the journal Food Policy, researchers looked at all the papers on the health and nutritional effects of GM foods published in English between 1996 and 2009. Of the 94 studies they identified — not a large number, given the surge of GMOs into our diets over that period — 80 delivered “favorable” conclusions about the novel foods, while 10 had “negative” views and two were neutral. That sounds at first glance like a positive near-consensus around GMOs.

But then the researchers dug deeper and looked for industry ties. In 44 of the 94 total papers, one or more of the researchers had a financial or professional tie to the agrichemical industry. Of those 44, 43 had “positive” conclusions and one turned out “negative.” Meanwhile, 37 of the studies were done by independent researchers. Of those, 27 came back positive, eight came back “negative,” and two were “neutral.” In other words, near-complete consensus reigns among industry-linked scientists as to the safety of GM foods. But among independent scientists, the issue is much more contested.

In a peer-reviewed 2008 paper, Don Lotter demonstrates that only one independent long-term study has ever assessed how eating GMOs affects mammals. Funded by the Austrian government and released in 2008, that study initially seemed to reveal disturbing reproductive trouble in mice fed GMOs. But then in 2010, the Austrian government withdrew it from publication, citing insufficient data. I am trying to contact the study’s lead author, Austrian scientist Jurgen Zentek, for comment.

So where does all of this leave us? Obviously, in need of much more independent research. In April, a bit more trickled out from Quebec, Canada — and again, the results are unsettling. The study, published in the journal Reproductive Toxicology, focused on corn engineered to possess a trait from the bacteria Bt, which is toxic to a range of insects. So-called Bt corn is extremely common in the United States; according to the USDA, upwards of 60 percent of corn planted here has it. Since its introduction in the ’90s, its maker, Monsanto, has insisted that Bt corn must be safe, because the toxin embedded in it cannot survive the human digestive system.

The Quebec study (here’s the abstract) casts serious doubt on that bedrock assumption. Researchers checked blood samples of 39 pregnant women and 30 non-pregnant women for the presence of the toxin. None were exposed directly to Bt, but all had conventional diets. The results: The Bt toxin showed up in 93 percent of pregnant women and 80 percent of their fetuses. It was also present in 69 percent of non-pregnant women in the study.

So, 15 years after the introduction of GMOs, we know that they pose no threat of immediate, spectacular harm. That is, they won’t kill us suddenly. Whether they’re killing us slowly — contributing to long-term, chronic maladies — remains anyone’s guess.

Tom Philpott was Grist’s senior food writer until May 2011. He now writes for Mother Jones.


Uncle Matt’s green tip: Making your own compost

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Don’t throw away that banana peel!  Composting is a great way to introduce natural beneficial bacteria, fungi and nutrients into the soil while building organic matter  and helping make everything in your garden grow and taste better.

Learn below how to make your own compost with some practical, and easy, tips from eHow & Ben McLean, head of R&D for Uncle Matt’s.

1.  Collect food scraps usually headed for the garbage:  fruit and veggie peels, lettuce leaves, apple cores, egg shells and coffee grounds. Skip over any meat or dairy. You can even add shredded newspapers or grass clippings.

2. Designate an area to compost. This can be a hole in the ground or composting bin.

3. Start with a base layer of brush (old leaves and small twigs).

4.  Add a layer of your biodegradable scrap waste. You could mix in a bit of cow    manure at this point if you like.

5.  Lightly water your pile. The goal here is to allow for fermentation with proper aeration.

6.  Keep adding alternating layers of brush and scraps, keeping your pile loosely packed and well aerated. You’re looking for an internal temp of 160 degrees F. within a couple of days.

7. After three weeks, use a spading fork to dig into the pile and mix up the contents.  Turn it again after five more weeks.

From there, put it out in your garden at a rate of one pound for every 4 sq. ft. That’d be 50 lbs. of compost for a 200 sq. ft. garden (on the high side).

Source: Ben McLean III, head of R&D for Uncle Matt’s and

Uncle Matt’s featured in The Herb Companion

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Uncle Matt’s announced today the next addition in its premium line of organic juices: not-from-concentrate, flash-pasteurized and refrigerated lemonade. Made from California-grown lemons picked at the height of the season, Uncle Matt’s lemonade is the perfect balance of tart and sweet for a taste that’s reminiscent of old-fashioned fresh-squeezed lemonade from a roadside stand.

“Our homestyle lemonade is the real deal: not-from-concentrate, refrigerated, and made from top-quality organic California-grown lemons,” says Matt McLean, founder and CEO of Uncle Matt’s. “We think it’s a perfect extension for our brand as we reach out to moms and families.”

The suggested retail is recommended at an affordable $4.99 everyday price, and $3.99 on promotion. Uncle Matt’s lemonade uses only organic ingredients and is offered in family-friendly 59-ounce size. As with all Uncle Matt’s products, no synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers are ever used in the growing process.

Uncle Matt’s Organic is a Florida-based, family-owned company offering premium quality organic citrus juices and organic produce. All Uncle Matt’s products have no synthetic additives or preservatives. Produce and finished products are produced under the strict regulation and guidelines of Quality Certification Services, the largest and most respected organic certifier in Florida. Products are available in health food stores and at Whole Foods and other supermarkets nationwide. The company is an active member of Organic Trade Association (OTA) and supports the Organic Farming Research Foundation.

This press release is presented without editing for your information. The Herb Companion does not recommend, approve or endorse the products and/or services offered. You should use your own judgment and evaluate products and services carefully before deciding to purchase.

Why trust organic?

Monday, June 13th, 2011

The organic system is designed to verify that federally regulated organic production and processing methods are followed.

benefits of organic

That is why U.S. organic standards require: