Friday, May 10, 2013

Nutritious apples, poisonous claims

Eat fewer apples, strawberries and grapes, and more corn, onions and pineapples, and you'll protect yourself and your children from "toxic" pesticides, according to the Environmental Working Group's 2013 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce. This advice, however, is nothing more than dangerous hogwash.

Every year, the group issues its "study" and "shopping guide" using the U.S. Department of Agriculture's annual review of pesticide residues found on food. It always includes a "dirty dozen" list of fruits and veggies that contain the highest pesticide residues in the department's sample.

This year's list includes: apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, hot peppers, imported nectarines, peaches, potatoes, spinach, strawberries, sweet bell peppers, kale and collard greens, and summer squash.

The Environmental Working Group has lots of healthy alternatives on its "clean 15 list," and its report claims "[t]he health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure." Still, the group suggests that people eat fewer of some items stating, "You can lower your pesticide intake by avoiding the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables and choosing the least contaminated produce."

Eating fewer of these items will not lower health risks, as the Environmental Working Group's rhetoric suggests. Residues are too low — on even the organization's "worst" examples — to make any public health difference to children or adults. Accordingly, placing any of these healthy foods on a "dirty dozen list" isn't simply highly misleading, it's dirty politics designed to scare everyone from ma to grandma.

Contrary to the Environmental Working Group's scary depiction, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) press statement on Agriculture Department data reads: "The newest data from the [Pesticide Data Program] confirm that pesticide residues in food do not pose a safety concern for Americans. EPA remains committed to a rigorous, science-based and transparent regulatory program for pesticides that continues to protect people's health and the environment."

The Department of Agriculture's "Message to Consumers" related to its residue report explains further: "This report shows that overall pesticide residues found on foods tested are at levels below the tolerances established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and that overall pesticide residues found on baby food are lower than the levels found on other commodities."

The Agriculture Department notes further in its questions and answers that residues at levels above the Environmental Protection Agency tolerance standards occurred in just 0.27 percent of the samples. That means 99.73 percent of the samples met the agency's very stringent standards. This is consistent with past Department of Agriculture reports, which barely find any residues, year in and year out.

Unfortunately, the Environmental Working Group's Shopper's Guide may discourage consumption of listed healthy fruits and vegetables, which could undermine public health. Eating a large amount and a wide range of fruits and veggies is one of our best defenses against cancer and other health problems. The quarter of the U.S. population consuming the least amount of fruits and vegetables has a cancer rate twice as high as the quarter of the population consuming the most, according to one study. Accordingly, the World Health Organization recommended in its 2000 World Cancer Report increased intake of fruits and vegetables to reduce the cancer-incidence rate by 30 percent across the board.

As a partial solution, the Environmental Working Group suggests buying organic food, yet organic food is often more expensive and not a reasonable option for consumers on fixed budgets. There isn't any compelling body of evidence demonstrating that organic food is any safer, as recently reported in a Stanford University study and another study in the journal Pediatrics.

If we all ate organic food, the environment would suffer because organic farming is less productive. If we abandoned high-yield farming with pesticides, farmers would need to plant about 10 million additional square miles to produce the same amount of food, notes researcher Dennis Avery in "True State of the Planet." That is more land than all of North America (about 9.4 million square miles), leaving no space for wildlife conservation.

A consumer's best option is to ignore the Environmental Working Group and follow the Agriculture Department's advice of eating more fruits and vegetables. The department explains: "Health and nutrition experts encourage the consumption of fruits and vegetables in every meal as part of a healthy diet. This is affirmed in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and My Plate, the federal nutrition graphic that shows that people should fill half their plate with fruits and vegetables."


Student with just weeks to live is saved by new Hodgkin's lymphoma drug after worldwide search failed to find bone marrow donor match

This looks like very good news

A young man’s life has been saved by a new drug after he was struck down by the blood cancer Hodgkin's lymphoma for the second time.

Student Martin Solomon, 20, desperately needed a life-saving bone marrow transplant and was told he had just weeks to live unless a donor was found.

His heartbroken family searched the world for a match without success because of his mixed Irish and Afro-Caribbean heritage.

Manchester United footballer Rio Ferdinand even asked his Twitter followers to join the bone marrow donor register to see if they could save his life.

Time was running out for the Manchester University student and a donor had not been found so he was approved for a new treatment which has only recently become available in the UK.

He has amazed doctors at Manchester’s Christie Hospital by beating the disease in just a few months thanks to the Brentuximab Vedotin.

It meant Mr Solomon’s own white blood cells - which were harvested then put back in his body - were able to beat the cancer.

Martin is now in remission, and doctors have told him that he could be well enough to return to university in September.

His family, from Sale Moor, Manchester, started the Match4Martin campaign last year, when it was believed a bone marrow transplant was his only chance of survival.

His parents have vowed to continue the campaign to find a donor just in case Martin’s cancer ever returns.

His mother, Paula, said: ‘Compared to how things were at the end of last year, we have gone from the depths of despair to complete euphoria that Martin is still with us. We just thank God for cancer research and drug trials.’

Mr Solomon said: ‘I can’t wait to get back to normal - I’m just so relieved.

‘We’ll continue searching for a bone marrow donor for me but I am hoping to go to Croatia for a holiday with all my friends this summer and I’d like to go back to university as well.’

His father, Martin Senior, added: ‘We’ll be taking each day as it comes but plan to throw him a massive barbecue party for his 21st in July.’

Stephen Cannon, honorary consultant at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital and specialist in orthopaedic oncology, said it is too early to call the new medication a 'wonder drug', but that results are promising.

He said: 'It's early days - the drug has only been about for a year and a half -  and I don't have any personal experience of it.

'But results have been positive. More research needs to be done to check that there aren't any serious side-effects, but so far it looks promising.'


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