Saturday, October 24, 2020

How pink salt could be damaging your health

It is one of the trendiest items on health food and supermarket shelves, but some brands of pink salt have been found to contain toxic levels of lead and other harmful heavy metals.

The salt, which is promoted by health websites because it contains more minerals, sells for up to $10 a pack — three times the price of the white stuff which retails for as little as $3.

However an alarming study found the level of healthy minerals in the salt were so low you would need to eat six teaspoons of salt a day, six times as much as the World Health Organisation (WHO) says is healthy, to get any benefit.

And worse of all, pink salt could actually be harmful to your health.

Nutrition Research Australia tested 31 samples of pink salt and found one brand – Peruvian Pink Salt – contained so much lead it exceeded Food Standards Australia New Zealand’s (FSANZ) safe levels by 25 per cent and had 130 times more lead than white table salt.

According to US Food and Drug Administration guidelines “one teaspoon of Peruvian salt would be four times the daily limit of lead for a child,” researcher Flavia Fayet-Moore told News Corp.

There is no level of exposure to lead without harmful effects, she said. Young children, including unborn babies, are at greatest risk from lead exposure and it can permanently damage their brain and affect their intellectual development.

Symptoms of lead poisoning include muscle pains, fatigue, abdominal pains, headache nausea and vomiting, seizures and coma.

Other brands of pink salt were found to contain heavy metals that are dangerous if consumed long term. These included mercury, cadmium and aluminium.

Although these heavy metals were present in only tiny amounts they accumulate in the body as we age and can be toxic if consumed regularly, Ms Fayet-Moore said. “It could accumulate and result in adverse health effects,” she said.

Cadmium is stored in the liver and kidneys and is slowly excreted in urine but if it builds up it can affect the kidneys, lungs, and bones causing stomach irritation, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, headaches and flu-like symptoms.

Aluminium has been detected in the brain tissue of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and may reduce the rate of growth of brain cells.

“Our study shows that pink salt’s reputation for being ‘healthier’ has now been debunked, with the nutrient level too low and variable for it to be a consistent source of nutrients,” she said.

“While pink salt may look prettier on the dining room table, there are many healthy ways to enhance flavour and add colour to your meal, such as using herbs and spices like paprika, turmeric, cinnamon, saffron and even pink peppercorns,” she said.

The World Health Organisation says we should consume less than 5g or one teaspoon of salt per day but because it is in high levels in packaged foods, even sweet foods, most people consume 9-12 grams per day.

Foods with healthy salt levels contain less than 120mg of sodium per 100g.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

'My vegan diet ruined my health'

A couple of years ago, veganism was booming. I was editing a glossy vegan food magazine and every day brought more plant-based product launches and glowing Instagram stars proffering raw Buddha bowls.

I, too, went vegan in the summer of 2016, aged 45. After years as a vegetarian with an abiding love for animals, it seemed ridiculous to keep eating eggs and dairy when alternatives made from soy, pea protein and lentils were suddenly available. I had constant access to health information and a cabinet rattling with supplements. What I didn't have, unfortunately, was any understanding of how veganism would affect my health.

Despite reading glowing reports from other vegans of how their energy had increased, I was tired for hours every day. My hair was dry and brittle. My gums bled, I caught colds and felt low much of the time.

It took two years of inexplicable skin rashes and pain before I was diagnosed with a severe nickel allergy - a mineral in abundant supply in soy, pulses, beans and wholegrains. My entire diet, effectively. I had no idea that nickel allergy existed, but the dietitian I was finally assigned told me that she was seeing increasing numbers of patients developing it after turning vegan.

Despite my moral reservations, the specialist told me that I had to stop being vegan. I braved a piece of fish, and was amazed by its deliciousness. I introduced prawns, salmon, tuna and mackerel to my diet, along with eggs and cheese.

Within a few days, my low mood lifted and my energy returned. I felt like taking long walks again, and over the months my hair was thicker, and my skin less rash-prone, too. Most importantly, I slept better.

A few years into the vegan revolution, it seems, the uneaten chickens are coming home to roost.

Increasingly, dietitians and GPs are expressing concern that in the stampede to save the planet, we may be risking our wellbeing. Last week, it was reported that Cheltenham Ladies' College in the UK has taken the unprecedented step of giving regular blood tests to newly vegan pupils to maintain health and prevent eating disorders such as anorexia, often linked to highly restrictive diets.

And though many advocates remain healthy, others, like me, are admitting defeat. Singer Miley Cyrus recently revealed that she'd reverted to a less restricted diet. "I've had to introduce fish and omegas into my life because my brain wasn't functioning properly," she said. Despite following "the strictest [vegan diet] you've ever known" for six years, other health issues reared up, including hip pain and a feeling of malnourishment. She reluctantly gave in and ate fish after suffering agonising kidney stones from excess oxalates, found in beans and spinach.

Actor Anne Hathaway has also spoken about her change of heart after going vegan - she "just didn't feel good or healthy". Dietitian Jane Clarke accepts that cutting down on meat can be beneficial, but is concerned by veganism's wholesale promotion by bloggers, rather than health experts.

"It's great that there is now a much wider range of non-meat sources of protein, but the power of social media and supermarkets to influence our food choices needs to be combined with scientific evidence," she warns, adding that the trend for highly processed vegan food with lots of sugar, fats and salt added shows "you can easily be unhealthy as a vegan".

She says the evidence still points to the health benefits of a balanced diet - including a limited amount of animal protein and dairy. Research recently published in the journal BMC Medicine found the lowest mortality rates in those eating up to 80g of meat a day.

"Calcium-rich foods including cow's milk are proven to be beneficial to bone health and help produce anticancer substances such as butyrate. The fact is, meat is a great source of easily accessible protein."

GP Noreen Nguru, the founder of, says deficiencies of nutrients and vitamins are "common among new and even established vegans, and include micronutrients deficiencies in vitamin D, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids and zinc - all responsible for building strong immune systems and protecting against bone fractures, high blood pressure and fatigue.

"Vegans are also at a much higher risk of developing a vitamin-B12 deficiency which, if left untreated for too long, can potentially cause irreversible neurological effects such as paresthesia (numbness or tingling in the hands and feet), co-ordination difficulties and even problems with memory."

Such deficiencies can be prevented with careful supplementation, but some argue that nutrients and vitamins can be harder for the body to absorb this way. In one Oxford University study published in 2010, half the vegans in the sample were B12 deficient.

"The implications of diving into a meat-free, egg-free and dairy-free diet without adequate preparation and research are likely to bring more harm than good," says Dr Nguru. And though she agrees that meat and dairy consumption have been linked to problems such as bowel cancer, "there are several less restrictive diets that offer heart-protective benefits and reduce the risk of cancer, such as low carb and Mediterranean diets rich in omega 3 and good fats".

Life coach Bianca Riemer, 41, went vegan in 2011, having been largely vegetarian. Despite taking all the recommended supplements, including omegas and B12, she kept craving lamb and chicken.

Though she initially felt better, "my energy was still very depleted and my acupuncturist suggested I should eat eggs and meat again. I added salmon, and then I got pregnant after two years of trying. I also started eating chicken and felt so much better for it."

After returning to meat, "the impact on my mental and physical wellbeing was close to immediate. But I don't think there's a one-diet-fits-all approach," she goes on. "Each of us should eat whatever suits us at different stages of life."

In Australia, 12 per cent of the population eat a mostly vegetarian diet. While in the UK, it's closer to 7 per cent and 4 per cent are, like me, pescatarian; between 1 and 2 per cent are vegan.

Many ex-vegans find vegetarianism a more successful refuge.

Sophia Husbands had a failed attempt at veganism in 2018. "I did Veganuary for my health," says Husbands, 41, founder of wellbeing site LoveHappyBody, "but I started to get run down and developed mouth ulcers in just a month. I felt dizzy and it turned out my iron levels were very low."

Last year she went vegetarian, and says she's found the diet much more sustainable. "I've lost weight, my skin has improved. But I try to keep a balance now, and I'm wary of totally eliminating anything, as I think that can spark intolerances. If I craved meat or fish, I would return to it."

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Fluoride Fear Makes a Comeback

“Have you never wondered why I drink only distilled water, or rainwater, and only pure-grain alcohol? Have you ever heard of a thing called fluoridation of water? Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous Communist plot we have ever had to face?”

That was Gen. Jack Ripper (Sterling Hayden) to Capt. Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers) in the 1963 Cold War send-up Dr. Strangelove. Gen. Ripper is so concerned about his precious bodily fluids that he launches an attack on the Soviet Union. Such an attack never occurred, but conspiracy theories did indeed swirl around fluoridation. A re-run of sorts is now occurring courtesy of York University (Toronto) neuropsychologist Christine Till, author of a study that links fluoride in drinking water to lower intelligence in children.

The Journal of the American Medical Association notes that it subjected the study to added scrutiny and peer review, but experts from six countries are taking aim at Till. Harvard dental professor Myron Allukian Jr., former president of the American Public Health Association, charges that Till is “misleading the public and others by distorting the data and not doing the proper analyses.” In similar style, a report by Canada’s independent health agency claims Till’s conclusions were “not supported by the data” and Till was reluctant to hand it over. According to McGill University chemistry professor Joe Schwarcz, “Whoever owns the data should be willing to release it.”

Fluoridation of drinking water to prevent tooth decay began in the 1940s, and as Jesse Hicks notes at Science History, anti-fluoridation literature goes back more than half a century. Critics claim fluoride is linked to cancer, diminished intelligence, and birth defects, among other serious concerns. Christine Till has also linked fluoridated water with ADHD, and her new work provides some takeaways.

When it comes to medical science, peer review is not enough. Studies must be subject to replication by independent parties. When it comes to tooth decay, fluoridation is not the only factor, and other substances in water also raise cause for concern.

For example, in 2018, waters at the confluence of the Sacramento and American rivers were contaminated with E. coli bacteria, caused by fecal contamination. As KCRA reported, while only a small percentage of E. coli strands are harmful, “they can cause significant health problems.”

So if General Ripper were around today, he would have a lot more to worry about than just fluoride.

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Saturday, October 03, 2020

Subway bread isn't bread, Irish court rules

London: Ireland's Supreme Court has ruled that bread sold by the fast-food chain Subway contains so much sugar that it cannot legally be defined as bread.

The ruling came in a tax dispute brought by Bookfinders Ltd, an Irish Subway franchisee, which argued that some of its takeaway products – including teas, coffees and heated sandwiches – were not liable for value-added tax.

A panel of judges rejected the appeal on Tuesday, ruling that the bread sold by Subway contains too much sugar to be categorised as a "staple food", which is not taxed.

"There is no dispute that the bread supplied by Subway in its heated sandwiches has a sugar content of 10 per cent of the weight of the flour included in the dough, and thus exceeds the 2 per cent specified," the judgment read.

The law makes a distinction between "bread as a staple food" and other baked goods "which are, or approach, confectionery or fancy baked goods", the judgment said.

Subway disagreed with the characterisation in a statement. "Subway's bread is, of course, bread," the company said in an email.

"We have been baking fresh bread in our restaurants for more than three decades and our guests return each day for sandwiches made on bread that smells as good as it tastes."

Bookfinders was appealing against a 2006 decision by authorities who refused to refund value-added tax payments. Lower courts had dismissed the case before it reached the Supreme Court.

Subway said it was reviewing the latest tax ruling. It added that the decision was based on an outdated bread exemption set by the Irish government that was updated in 2012.