Saturday, December 18, 2010

The BPA hysteria spreads

On the basis of "possible risks". They are not even sure it is a risk, let alone a real danger

The Massachusetts Public Health Council voted unanimously yesterday to ban the sale and manufacture of baby bottles and sipping cups containing the chemical BPA, but turned aside a push by environmental activists for more sweeping restrictions on use of the chemical linked to possible health risks in children.

Bisphenol A is used in a wide variety of products, including plastic bottles, children’s sipping cups, and the lining of canned food containers. Children and adults can ingest tiny amounts of BPA when they drink or eat from the containers, and studies of laboratory animals have suggested that the chemical could cause developmental problems for children if they are exposed to small quantities early in life.

Last year the state Department of Public Health warned parents of young children not to store infant formula or breast milk in plastic bottles containing the chemical and urged pregnant or breast-feeding women to avoid using food and drink containers made with it.

The US Food and Drug Administration has said there is some concern that the chemical could be harmful to children, and the federal government has launched a $30 million study of its health effects. Results are not expected until 2012.

The new state ban targets bottles and cups likely to be used by children 3 years old and under. It will take effect Jan. 1 for manufacturers and July 1 for retailers. There are no makers of these baby products in the state, but council member Paul Lanzikos suggested that the new date, earlier than the proposed date of April 1, as a symbol of the seriousness of the issue. To enforce the regulation, the state will conduct spot checks at stores and test any bottles or cups suspected to contain the chemical.

Environmental activists had urged a more comprehensive ban that included containers in which baby formula and food is sold, as well as anything a child could eat or chew on. They were disappointed after the vote.

“This regulation is a wholly inadequate response from the Patrick administration and will do little to protect children’s health,’’ Elizabeth Saunders, legislative director of Clean Water Action, said in a statement. “Manufacturers have largely removed BPA baby bottles and cups from the marketplace. This is a missed opportunity.’’

But Department of Public Health specialists said they presented a ban based on what science has shown about possible harms. “The Public Health Council is convinced that the scientific evidence is strong about the health impacts for infants and young children,’’ Geoffrey Wilkinson, senior policy adviser to the public health commissioner, told the council, an appointed panel of doctors, disease trackers, and consumer advocates.

“This is clearly a limited ban, and we know that this is much farther than industry would have preferred that the state go at this time,’’ Wilkinson said. “But it’s nowhere near as far as public health and environmental health advocates wanted the state to go. We think it is important to look at the research and to wait before considering further steps until research that is under way is reported.’’

Seven other states regulate the chemical, including Connecticut, whose ban also covers baby formula containers.

To critics who contend that bottles and sipping cups that contain the chemical have already been removed from store shelves, Wilkinson said that that may be true at large retail outlets, but is not necessarily the case at smaller stores in poorer neighborhoods. “This really extends the protection as a matter of policy, so it provides equal protection and addresses disparities that we are concerned may exist,’’ he said in an interview.


Junk food fan? Drinking tea could keep the pounds at bay -- if you are a mouse

Drinking tea may prevent weight gain caused by a junk food diet. Researchers found regular consumption of tea also suppressed damaging changes in the blood linked to fatty foods that can lead to type 2 diabetes. They said the research on mice could signal another set of health benefits from tea drinking if they are confirmed in trials on humans.

In the study some mice were given a high fat diet and others a normal diet. Each of these two groups were then split into smaller groups and given water, black tea or green tea for 14 weeks. Both types of tea suppressed body weight gain and the build-up of belly fat linked to a fatty diet.

But black tea, which is used in most ordinary cuppas, also counteracted the harmful effects on the blood normally associated with a high-fat diet. These included increases in cholesterol, high blood glucose and insulin resistance – a precursor to type 2 diabetes where the body does not efficiently use the insulin it produces. Rising obesity levels in Western countries have resulted in many more people having insulin resistance.

The study at Kobe University, Japan, was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Eight out of ten Britons drink tea. Dr Carrie Ruxton from the industry backed Tea Advisory Panel said: ‘This study is good news for tea drinkers, particularly those who drink black tea. ‘Though the findings need to be confirmed in human studies, this study found that tea helped to prevent weight gain and adverse changes in blood glucose, glucose intolerance, insulin resistance and lipid regulation evoked by a high fat diet. ‘Black tea had particularly favourable effects on blood cholesterol and insulin resistance.’

Tea drinking has already been linked with lowering the risk of heart disease, cancer and Parkinson’s disease. Other research shows drinking tea on a regular basis for ten or more years may improve bone density.

...but there's no miracle in goji berries. Trendy goji berries are not especially good for you – unless you believe in their healing powers. The goodness from the berries is mostly the result of a placebo effect, say researchers.

Hailed as a super food, their popularity has soared on the back of claims of anti-ageing and cancer-preventing properties but they have not yet been proven.

The berries do have the same nutrients as other fruits and vegetables, but the difference is the effect on those who truly believe in their wonder properties.

Professor Emilio Martinez de Victoria Muqoz at the University of Granada warned that the berries were simply ‘another fad’, adding: ‘Goji berries will not have any positive effect on people who do not follow a balanced diet’.


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