Skip to content

Breastfeeding
Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ Anton Nosik

Some women struggle with breastfeeding, and wind up breastfeeding for a shorter duration than other women. A recent study suggests one reason for women stopping breastfeeding early - they may have higher levels of PFAS chemicals, called "forever chemicals", in their bodies. These chemicals have many harmful health effects, including reproductive effects (such as endocrine disruption, higher levels of infertility).

The researchers analyzed levels of 5 different PFAS (perfluoroalkyl substances) chemicals in the blood of more than 1000 pregnant Dutch women. They found that those with higher levels  breastfed their babies for a shorter time (up to 20% shorter time) than those with lower levels. [NOTE: almost all humans are contaminated with PFAS chemicals, but levels vary}

Where did the PFOS chemicals come from? These human-made chemicals are used as water and stain repellants, and as coatings in many common products. For example, in rugs and fabrics with added stain resistance, certain dental flosses (e.g., Oral-B Glide floss), non-stick pots and pans (e.g., Teflon coating), water resistant long-lasting make-up, water and stain resistant food packaging, and even many water supplies.

How can we reduce exposures to these chemicals and lower levels in our bodies?  There are reasons they are known as "forever chemicals" - they stick around (persist), and contaminate both humans and the environment! But we can reduce our exposures to these chemicals and then levels in our bodies will go down. It just means making some changes.

For example, avoid using non-stick pots and pans, use plain waxed dental floss, cook more at home, and eat less take-out or fast-food (to avoid the water and grease resistant package coatings). For more tips:  Avoiding Harmful Chemicals.

From Science Daily: PFAS exposure can affect women’s ability to breastfeed

Women with higher levels of PFAS in their system may be 20% more likely to stop breastfeeding early, according to a new study published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.  ...continue reading "Certain Chemicals May May Have An Effect On Breastfeeding"

General Sherman, a giant sequoia tree. Credit: Wikipedia, Kimon Berlin

Trees that are several thousand years old in California's Sequoia National Park are in danger of being destroyed in this month's wildfires. Things are currently so bad that the base of some of the world's largest trees are being wrapped in aluminum fire-resistant blankets.

The trees being wrapped are giant sequoias, and the largest tree of all is called General Sherman. This tree is about 2200 to 2700 years old, 275 feet tall, over 36 feet in diameter at the base, and with a circumference of 102.6 at the base. (Almost as tall as the Statue of Liberty!).

Giant sequoia trees are adapted to fire, but both drought conditions and fires are getting more intense (climate change!) and can overwhelm them. Last year's Castle Fire destroyed an estimated 7500 to 10,600 mature giant sequoia trees that ranged in age from hundreds to 3000 years old. This is about 10 to 14% of these trees on Earth!

Giant sequoia base wrapped in fire-proof blanket. Credit: National Park Service, Sept. 16, 2021

From The Guardian: World’s largest tree wrapped in fire-resistant blanket as California blaze creeps closer

As flames crept closer to California’s cherished sequoia trees firefighters took an unusual step to protect them, wrapping the giant bases in fire-resistant blankets.

The shiny material that helps quell flames, commonly used to protect structures, is rarely applied to natural features, but crews fighting the KNP Complex fire in the Sequoia national park said they are doing everything possible to protect the iconic trees. ...continue reading "Giant Sequoia Trees Wrapped In Fire Resistant Blankets"

Congratulations America! The contiguous (lower 48 states) United States just had its hottest summer ever! This is not something to brag about, but a taste of coming attractions due to climate change. This year we've had heat wave after heat wave, drought in the west, humid tropical-type heat in the east, hurricanes, tornadoes, tropical storms, and so on. Whew...

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a report on Thursday pointing out that for the 2021 meteorological summer (June, July, August) the average temperature in the lower 48 states of the U.S. was 74.0 degrees F (2.6 degrees above average). This exceeds even the record heat of the 1936 Dust Bowl Summer.

Bottom line: We need to deal with climate change. Because otherwise the heat and extreme weather will just get worse and worse and worse.

Excerpts from Weather Underground: Summer 2021 Was Hottest on Record in the Contiguous U.S., NOAA Says

Four of the five hottest contiguous U.S. summers have now happened in the past 11 years.

Regardless of where it ends up on the list, summer 2021 will continue the long-term trend from climate change.

Eight of the nation's top 10 warmest summers have occurred in this century, according to NOAA. Only two summers in the 21st century were cooler than average – 2004 and 2009.

Since 1970, much of the U.S. has seen a warmer trend in summer, according to an analysis from Climate Central. This is particularly the case from Texas to the West and also in much of the East from Florida to Michigan to New England.

Excerpt from NOAA: Summer 2021 neck and neck with Dust Bowl summer for hottest on record

Last month brought Hurricane Ida, numerous wildfires and devastating floods, capping off a summer of record heat and rainfall for many states throughout the country.

Those who enjoy a little "potty humor" will like the results of a recent nutrition study comparing the results of a Western style diet (high fat, low fiber) to a high fiber Mediterranean diet. The high fiber diet resulted in much larger, softer stools, and an increase in stomach noises and farting. (Yes, they weighed their stools and counted daily farts!) There was no change in the number of stools per day.

In the study 18 healthy men followed both types of diets for two week periods (first one diet, then a break, and then the other diet). The high fiber diet (54.2 grams fiber per day) resulted in numerous beneficial changes, especially nurturing healthy gut bacteria and metabolic improvements. The low fiber Western diet only had an intake of 4.7 g fiber per day. Interestingly, all participants were told to avoid fermented dairy products (e.g. yogurts) during the study.

The high fiber diet resulted in greater numbers of beneficial bacteria in the gut without any major changes in the core microbiome (microbial community). There were also numerous gut microbial metabolic improvements while on this diet. Interestingly, men who already had a more diverse gut microbiota (which is a sign of health) and routinely already ate more fiber rich plants foods, had less farting and stomach noises during the study.

Think of it this way: your diet is what feeds and nurtures the microbes living in your gut. Some microbes are associated with chronic diseases, and some with health - so you want to nurture the health-associated bacteria by eating a diet rich in plant foods (Mediterranean style diet).

By the way, a recent study found that eating fermented foods is a quick way to increase gut microbial diversity and health. It's beneficial to add some fermented foods (e.g. yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir) to your regular diet.

From New Scientist: Men fart more when eating a plant-based diet due to good gut bacteria

Plant-based diets cause men to fart more and have larger stools, researchers have found – but that seems to be a good thing, because it means these foods are promoting healthy gut bacteria.  ...continue reading "Farts and Good Gut Health"

It's finally over. One hundred years after leaded gasoline was first introduced, it is finally no longer used in automobiles and road vehicles anywhere in the world. Algeria was the last country to use leaded gas (it had stockpiles of it and wanted to use it up), and in July 2021 they made the switch to unleaded gas. Finally.

Tetraethyl lead was initially added to gas to boost engine performance, but numerous studies for years showed that the lead was harmful to health and the environment (it's still in soil and dust). A partial list of harms to human health: heart disease, strokes, cancer, chronic disease, lower IQ in children, brain damage (it's neurotoxic), lower impulse control. Scientists now feel that there is NO safe lead level - that all lead exposure causes harm.

Of course, the lead industry fought hard and dirty to keep lead in gas (and other products such as paint), but even so leaded gas for cars was eventually banned in the US (in 1990s). A 2011 study estimated that the phaseout of leaded gas increased global GDP by 4% or $2.4 trillion, raised IQs, lowered crime, and prevented 1.2 million early deaths per year.

However, while leaded gas is now allowed to be sold for vehicles in the US, lead is still allowed to be used in aviation fuel for aircraft. Eh...

Excerpts from VOX: One of the worst public health dangers of the past century has finally been eradicated

On Monday, the United Nations announced an environmental and public health milestone: the end of the use of leaded gasoline in automobiles and road vehicles worldwide. ...continue reading "Leaded Gas For Cars Is No Longer Being Used Anywhere In the World"

Another recent study found an association with pesticide exposure (both herbicides and insecticides) and leukemia risk in infants and children. The study found that exposure prenatally or during childhood to pesticides increases the risk for leukemia. (Keep in mind that cancer in childhood is rare, but it does occur.)

Researchers at the School of Medicine (in Greece) did a review and analysis of 52 studies and found that preconception exposure to pesticides by either the father and mother can increase the risk, also childhood exposure. But the biggest risk was a mother's exposure during pregnancy, and this was linked to both infant and childhood leukemia. (Yes,  the developing baby is also exposed when the mother is exposed during pregnancy)

What to do? If thinking about conceiving a child, already pregnant, or have children - try to eliminate as much exposure to pesticides as possible. Many of us have chronic exposures to low levels of pesticides - whether in our homes, yards, workplaces, and food. So this is important.

This means avoiding pesticide treatments or flea collars in pet dogs, not routinely applying pesticides in residences or outdoors, which includes outdoor weed + feed  or mosquito treatments (toxic pesticides!). Eat organic as much as possible. Use least toxic integrated Pest Management (IPM) if need to deal with a pest problem. (Beyond Pesticides is a good resource site for pesticide information, organic approaches, and IPM)

From Beyond Pesticides (they frequently write about pesticide studies): In Utero and Childhood Pesticide Exposure Increases Childhouse  Cancer Risk

A study published in Environmental Pollution finds the risk of acute childhood leukemia (AL) increases with prenatal and newborn exposure to pesticides (i.e., insecticides and herbicides). The study results support the hypothesis that chronic environmental pesticide exposure increases childhood leukemia risk up to two times. Maternal exposure has a stronger association with leukemia than childhood exposure. Insecticides and herbicides are of particular significance in increasing leukemia risk, especially for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. ...continue reading "Pesticide Exposure and Increased Leukemia Risk In Children"

Atrial fibrillation (a quivering or irregular heartbeat) can be very frightening for the person experiencing it. This heart arrhythmia disorder can be treated with medicines or surgical ablation, but new research suggests that it also can be improved after 6 months of exercise - about 3.5 hours per week.

Researchers at the University of Adelaide randomly assigned 120 patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) to either receive an exercise regimen for 6 months or no exercise regimen. All persons received "usual medical care". [Note: it is not clear what usual medical care involved.] After 6 months and at 12 months, the exercise group had a lower incidence of recurrent AF  and less severe AF symptoms. The exercise helped maintain normal heart rhythm.

The exercise group had supervised exercise once per week for 3 weeks, and then every other week for 3 months, as well as an exercise plan to follow at home. The goal was to increase aerobic exercise up to 3.5 hours per week. Supervised exercise session were higher intensity to increase cardiorespiratory fitness, and home based  exercise was of moderate intensity (e.g. walking, indoor cycling, swimming).

Bottom line: Exercising up to 3.5 hours per week might improve and control AF so that medications or surgery are not necessary.

From ScienceDaily: Exercise maintains normal heart rhythm in patients with atrial fibrillation

A six-month exercise programme helps maintain normal heart rhythm and reduces the severity of symptoms in patients with atrial fibrillation, according to late breaking research presented at ESC Congress 2021. ...continue reading "Atrial Fibrillation Can Be Improved With Exercise"

Antibiotics can be life-saving, but there are also unintended consequences. One of them is that they disrupt and alter the gut microbiome (the microbial community of the millions of microbes living in the intestines). A large study found that use of antibiotics is linked to a higher risk of colon cancer 5 to 10 years later.

The researchers thought this was due to the antibiotics having negative effects on the gut microbiome. Antibiotics reduce numbers of beneficial bacteria in the intestines, while allowing bacteria linked to colorectal cancer to increase.

Researchers at Unea Univ. in Sweden compared 40,545 colon cancer cases to 202,720 controls (no cancer), and found that as antibiotic use increased, colon cancer increased in those persons during the next 10 years. It is unknown what happens after 10 years, because that is when the study ended. Interestingly, in women - increased use of antibiotics was linked to a lower incidence of rectal cancer.

The researchers analyzed the results with respect to different classes  of antibiotics, and found the strongest association with the use of quinolones, sulfonamides, and trimethoprims. These antibiotics have an effect on bacterial diversity - specifically allowing anaerobic Fusobacteria and Bacteroidetes species to live and become more abundant. Other studies also support the view that Fusobacteria (e.g., Fusobacterium nucleatum) and Bacteroidetes species contribute to colorectal cancer development.

What to do? To increase beneficial species in the gut and lower levels of inflammation in the body, studies support eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and fish - which also results in a high fiber intake (e.g., Mediterranean diet). Also, to quickly improve the diversity of microbes in the gut (a sign of health!) and to lower inflammation in the body, increase your intake of fermented foods.

Fermented foods include: yogurt, buttermilk, sour cream, cheese, kefir, fermented vegetables, kimchi, natto, miso, sauerkraut, traditional pickles, traditional sourdough bread, apple cider vinegar, and kombucha. To quickly improve the gut microbiome, try to eat six 1/2 cup servings each day for a few months.

From Science Daily: Antibiotics linked to increased risk of colon cancer

There is a clear link between taking antibiotics and an increased risk of developing colon cancer within the next five to ten years. This has been confirmed by researchers at Umeå University, Sweden, after a study of 40,000 cancer cases. The impact of antibiotics on the intestinal microbiome is thought to lie behind the increased risk of cancer.  ...continue reading "Antibiotics and Colon Cancer"

Over the years many studies have found that eating nuts is good for health and good for the gut microbiome. Now, a study that looked at the effect of adding pecans to the daily diet can be added to the list.

The Univ. of Georgia researchers found that adding about 1/4 cup (68 grams) pecans to the daily diet for 8 weeks improved cholesterol levels. A conclusion is that pecans can be viewed as good for the heart or "cardioprotective".

In the study they randomly assigned 52 adults who were at risk for heart disease (they were overweight or had hypercholesterolemia) to 1 of 3 groups, including a control group with no pecan intake. As one of the researchers (Dr. Cooper) said: "We had some people who actually went from having high cholesterol at the start of the study to no longer being in that category after the intervention.

After 8 weeks of eating 1/4 cup pecans daily, there were lower levels of fasting total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, TC/HDL cholesterol ratio, non-HDL cholesterol, and apolipoprotein B in the blood There were no changes in the control (no pecan) group.

By the way, do you remember years ago when doctors cautioned people about eating nuts?  That they were very high calorie and should be avoided? Hah! ... The view nowadays: Pecans are high in healthy fatty acids and fiber, both of which are linked to lower cholesterol. Eating nuts frequently also reduces the risk of several chronic diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and are beneficial for cognitive health.

From Science Daily: Pecan-enriched diet shown to reduce cholesterol

While the proper pronunciation of pecan remains a subject of debate, University of Georgia researchers have shown the tree nut can dramatically improve a person's cholesterol levels.  ...continue reading "Pecans Are A Healthy Addition to the Diet"