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For a while now it has been known that some dental floss, such as Oral-B Glide, contain harmful chemical compounds called PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), similar to Teflon. These chemicals have all sorts of negative health effects, and are referred to as "forever chemicals" because they stick around.

A recent investigation by ehn.org (Environmental Health News) and Mamavation (a health/wellness site) tested 39 different brands of dental floss for PFAS by an EPA-certified laboratory. They found evidence of PFAS in one third of the samples, with levels ranging from 11 parts per million (ppm) to 248,900 ppm. Yup, it was Oral-B Glide with the incredibly high levels of PFAS.

These PFAS chemical compounds are linked to all sorts of health problems (e.g. kidney and testicular cancer, semen quality, thyroid disease, immune system effects, reproductive problems, and lowered sex and growth hormones in children) - so you want to avoid them if possible.

It turns out these chemicals are shed into the person's mouth when flossing if the floss contains PFAS, and can be measured in a person's blood.

The four floss brands with extremely high levels (over 70,000 ppm) were: Oral B Glide, Up & Up (Target brand) Smooth Slide Floss, Colgate Total Waxed Dental Floss, and Solimo (Amazon brand) Extra Comfort Dental Floss.

One piece of good news: No dental (tooth) floss marketed to children that they tested had indications of PFAS forever chemicals.

Bottom line: avoid non-stick smooth dental floss such as Oral-B Glide dental floss (or when the dental floss label brags that it is similar to Glide dental floss). Use plain waxed or unwaxed floss instead (e.g., Reach Waxed Floss, Tom's of Maine Floss). Look at the investigation results for brands to avoid and better choices.

From Environmental Health News (EHN.org): Tests find PFAS abundant ​in some dental floss

That nice waxy glide as you floss your teeth? Turns out it could be courtesy of PFAS, the "forever chemicals" that hijacks hormones and is linked to reproductive problems, birth defects, testicular cancer and a host of other diseases. 
...continue reading "Some Dental Floss Brands Contain Harmful PFAS Chemicals"

It seems that every so often another study finds that daily coffee consumption is healthy for a person. A recent large study found that daily drinking of 2 to 3 cups coffee is associated with a lower risk of early death (from any cause) and lower risk of cardiovascular  disease, when compared to non-coffee drinkers.

The University of Melbourne researchers also found that drinking ground and instant coffee, but not decaffeinated coffee, was associated with a reduction in arrhythmias including atrial fibrillation. In this study cardiovascular disease included heart disease, congestive heart failure, and ischemic stroke.

More good news - it applied to all types of coffee (ground, decaffeinated, and instant). However, when looking at the study results, ground coffee appears to be more beneficial than decaf or instant coffee. Two to three cups of coffee per day appeared to be the most beneficial.

The researchers point out that coffee contains more than 100 biologically active components, which are contributing to its health effects.[Other coffee studies] They also said that mild to moderate coffee consumption should be considered part of a heart healthy lifestyle. Great news!

From Science Daily: Coffee drinking is associated with increased longevity

Drinking two to three cups of coffee a day is linked with a longer lifespan and lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared with avoiding coffee, according to research published today in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the ESC.1 The findings applied to ground, instant and decaffeinated varieties. ...continue reading "Coffee Drinking Linked to Longer Life and Lower Risk of Heart Disease"

Foot massage Credit: Lubyanka, Wikipedia.

Could getting foot massages be a way to deal with some of the symptoms bothering women during menopause? A small study found that women getting foot massages during menopause had increased sleep duration (up to 1 hour), and it reduced fatigue and anxiety levels.

Hey, it's a small study with nice results. But thinking about it - wouldn't we all benefit from daily foot massages? After a massage one is typically more relaxed and feeling better. The study results are really not surprising...

From Medical Xpress: Foot massage effective in improving sleep quality and anxiety in postmenopausal women

The therapeutic benefits of massage have long been recognized. A new study suggests that foot massage, in particular, can help minimize a number of common menopause symptoms, including sleep disruption, effectively extending sleep duration by an average of an hour per day. Study results are published online today in Menopause.  ...continue reading "Foot Massages May Help With Menopausal Symptoms"

Babies in the womb react to the taste of food that their mother eats. Yes, it's true. A study conducted in England found that babies (the fetus) during 32 to 36 weeks development generally smiled or laughed after their mother ate carrots, but grimaced after she ate kale.

The fetus can smell and taste the food that the mother eats. Researchers of the study said that the diet of the pregnant woman exposes the baby to all sorts of flavors and smells, and say that "prenatal flavor exposure" has an effect on "chemosensory development".

Fetus grimaces after tasting kale. Credit: B. Ustun et al.

Other studies had found that babies are more willing to eat foods that their mother had eaten during pregnancy, but this latest study actually had photographic evidence of the baby's responses. [The study has some good photos.] Some other earlier studies found that the  amniotic fluid is flavored by the foods a mother eats during pregnancy.

Excerpts from Science Daily: Babies react to taste and smell in the womb

Scientists have recorded the first direct evidence that babies react differently to various smells and tastes while in the womb by looking at their facial expressions.
...continue reading "The Developing Fetus Can Taste Foods the Mother Eats"

It has been known for years that wearing your shoes indoors means that everything that is on the ground outdoors will be tracked into the home. Pesticides, heavy metals, lead, animal feces, and everything else out there.

Babies crawling around the floor (and also putting things into the mouth) get an extra heavy dose of "contaminants" that were tracked in. We all absorb contaminants through our skin, ingest (the mouth), or breathe them in.

All these contaminants become part of our indoor air quality. Our indoor air is not just the outside contaminants that made their way in, but there is also shedding of skin and cloth fibers from us and pets, as well as outgassing and breakdown (the dust) of whatever is in the home. We can't get rid of all contaminants, but we can really lower our exposure to them by not wearing our shoes indoors.

Bottom line: Take your shoes off at the door.

A nice discussion of this issue is in an article written by Professors M.P. Taylor and G. Filippelli earlier this year. Some excerpts from The Conversation: Wearing shoes in the house is just plain gross. The verdict from scientists who study indoor contaminants

You probably clean your shoes if you step in something muddy or disgusting (please pick up after your dog!). But when you get home, do you always de-shoe at the door?  ...continue reading "Leave Your Shoes At The Door"

Well, this is interesting.... Saline nasal rinses (which are popular among persons with sinus issues) apparently is very helpful if one gets COVID-19. A recent study found that starting daily saline rinses two times per day after COVID-19 symptoms start, significantly lowers the risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19.

To make your own saline nasal rinse: mix 1/2 teaspoon each of baking soda and salt in a cup of bottled or boiled (and then cooled) water. Put it into a saline rinse bottle or nasal bulb syringe and use.

In the study, among persons who did nasal saline rinses - less than 1.3% of the 79 study subjects age 55 and older who enrolled within 24-hours of testing positive for COVID-19 experienced hospitalization. No one died. Symptoms also resolved faster.

Among persons who didn't do nasal saline rinses: 9.47% of patients were hospitalized and 1.5% died in a similar group during the same time frame (Sept. 24 and Dec. 21, 2020).

By the way, all persons in the study were 55 or older, and had preexisting medical conditions such as obesity. Also, adding iodine to the nasal rinses did not make a difference. Plain saline rinses were sufficient.

From Medical Xpress: Twice-daily nasal irrigation reduces COVID-related illness, death

Starting twice daily flushing of the mucus-lined nasal cavity with a mild saline solution soon after testing positive for COVID-19 can significantly reduce hospitalization and death, investigators report. ...continue reading "Saline Nasal Rinses Reduce COVID Hospitalizations And Death"

More studies are finding that supplementing with vitamin D is not living up to its original promise - that is, as a supplement that can prevent or treat all sorts of health conditions. Two recent large studies found that daily vitamin D supplementation in persons with or without a vitamin D deficiency didn't reduce the risk of getting COVID-19.

Both studies found that no matter the vitamin D dose - low (800 IU/day), high (3200 IU/day), or even taken as a cod liver oil supplementdidn't prevent COVID infection, serious COVID, or any other respiratory infection. Very disappointing findings!

The researchers stress that both study results underscore that the COVID vaccines are the best way to protect a person from COVID-19 or a serious COVID illness. They advise that only persons with a vitamin D deficiency need vitamin D supplements. [Note: The best form of vitamin D is D3, which was given to the study participants.]

However, it must be pointed out that some other studies have found that vitamin D does lower how many respiratory infections a person gets each year (while other studies find no effect). So we'll see... more studies are ongoing.

From Medscape: Vitamin D Supplementation Shows No COVID-19 Prevention

Two large studies out of the UK and Norway show vitamin D supplementation has no benefit — as low dose, high dose, or in the form of cod liver oil supplementation — in preventing COVID-19 or acute respiratory tract infections, regardless of whether individuals are deficient or not. ...continue reading "Two Studies Find Vitamin D Doesn’t Prevent COVID"

Another recent study found that consuming artificial sweeteners do harm. In August a study found that artificial sweeteners alter both the oral and gut microbiomes in a negative way. Other earlier studies found an association with high blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, vascular dysfunction, and increased risk of cancer.

Now, a large study found that high consumption of artificial sweeteners is associated with increased risk of heart disease (cardiovascular disease), including heart attacks and strokes (cerebrovascular events).

What is high consumption of artificial sweetener? One individual packet of artificial sweetener or a 100 mL of diet soda is about 42.46 mg/day, while in this study high sweetener consumption is about 77.62 mg/day. So high consumption is not even 2 diet sodas or packets per day.

Bottom line: Artificial sweeteners are NOT a healthy or good alternative to sugar (or maple syrup or honey). Also, avoid high fructose corn syrup - that has its own problems. Artificial sweeteners are found in highly processed foods - try to also avoid those for your health.

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide. Avoiding sugar and instead consuming artificial sweeteners is not going to help you achieve health. But improving your overall diet will, such as eating a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, legumes (beans).

From Medical Xpress: Study suggests possible link between artificial sweeteners and heart disease

A large study of French adults published by The BMJ today suggests a potential direct association between higher artificial sweetener consumption and increased cardiovascular disease risk, including heart attack and stroke. ...continue reading "Health Harms Associated With Artificial Sweeteners"

Once again, bad news about ultra-processed foods. American adults eat so much ultra-processed food that it's now about 57% of their daily calories. It's because these foods are convenient, durable, available everywhere, taste good, and frequently are less expensive than whole foods.

A large study found that eating lots of ultra-processed foods (e.g., prepackaged foods, fast foods) is associated with a higher risk of colon cancer in men. Specifically, a 29% higher risk when compared to men who ate the least ultra-processed foods.

This association was not found in women.

However, when the researchers looked at specific kinds or categories of ultra-processed foods that were eaten, they found differences in colorectal cancer risk. Higher consumption of meat/poultry/seafood based ready-to-eat-products and sugar sweetened beverages (soda!) was associated with a higher colorectal cancer risk in men. Higher consumption of ready-to-eat/heat mixed dishes was associated with colorectal cancer in women.

But interestingly, eating yogurt and dairy based desserts were negatively associated with colorectal cancer risk in women - it's as if they were protective. Perhaps the beneficial microbes in the dairy foods?

Ultra-processed foods are ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat foods made of little or no whole foods. Instead, they are mostly made of substances derived from foods. They typically have many added ingredients such as additives, artificial colors, preservatives, stabilizers, sugars, artificial sweeteners, salt, flavorings, and hydrogenated fats.

Examples are frozen meals, soft drinks, hot dogs, cold cuts, fast food, packaged foods (including cookies and cake), candies, instant soups, and sweet or savory packaged snacks.

Studies also show that ultra-processed foods cause negative or harmful changes in the gut microbiome (microbial community of bacteria, viruses, fungi). Higher consumption is associated with a higher risk of a number of chronic diseases and cancer.

From Science Daily - New study links ultra-processed foods and colorectal cancer in men

For many Americans, the convenience of pre-cooked and instant meals may make it easy to overlook the less-than-ideal nutritional information, but a team led by researchers at Tufts University and Harvard University hope that will change after recently discovering a link between the high consumption of ultra-processed foods and an increased risk of colorectal cancer. ...continue reading "Ultra-Processed Foods and Risk of Colorectal Cancer"

Finally, it looks like soon everyone will be able to read the published scientific research articles that were funded by US taxpayer dollars. Instead of being behind a journal's "paywall" - which means you have to pay money to read the article (e.g. $40. !!), we will be able to read it for free.

According to the directive issued by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), this must occur no later than December 31, 2025.

It is incredibly frustrating to read the abstract (very short summary) of a research article, but not be able to read the actual article. Especially when you know that we (you and I) paid for the research to take place. The only beneficiaries of that system are the journal publishers, who make oodles of money off of research articles that they got for free. Blech...

There has been a move towards open access (everyone has free access) of published research anyway, and this will just hasten it. One noteworthy open access publisher is PLOS (plos.org) and another open access journal is Environmental Health Perspectives (receives support from the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences).

This is great! And should have happened years ago.

From The Scientist: No More Paywalls on Federally Funded Research: White House

In 2013, a memo from then-head of the Office of Science and Technology Policy John Holdren directed federal agencies to come up with a plan to make all the research they fund freely available to the public within 12 months of publication. Today (August 25), the current acting head of the same office, Alondra Nelson, released a memo that goes a step further, mandating that agencies ensure their research is available in publicly accessible repositories immediately on publication, by December 31, 2025 at the latest.  ...continue reading "Federally Funded Research Won’t Be Behind Paywalls In the Future"