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There is a huge problem in the organic foods industry, and it's a problem that our government refuses to address. The issue is that many of the imported foods into the US are actually not organic, and are not complying with organic standards. The result is that crops grown in the US, from farms following organic standards, can not compete with the low prices of fraudulent "organic" imports.

Now there is a follow-up to the lawsuit filed last October 2023 by Organic Eye and others about this "organic" fraud and lack of oversight by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) of foreign organic imports. It turns out that big business and industry lobbying groups are just fine with the lack of oversight and fraud - because it's great for their bottom line (billions of dollars!) And so they are opposing the lawsuit!

Many organic imported foods from places like China, Brazil, and Turkey are actually not organic, and this is why their "organic" foods are so inexpensive.  (The Washington Post and others have written about the fraud.)

Instead, try to buy organic foods grown and produced in the US, Canada, the European Union - and also from local farmers.

The following are excerpts from a follow-up article from Organic Eye - the investigative watch-dog group, who are trying to make sure that organic food really is organic. Go check out their site and read the full article, as well as others on the site.

Excerpts from Organic Eye - Organic Civil War: US Farmers Face off in Court Against Importers of Potentially Fraudulent Food

Last fall an Oregon organic hazelnut farmer filed a federal lawsuit against the USDA alleging the agency’s complacency in allowing massive imports that do not meet the federal statutory requirement that all certified farms be inspected on an annual basis. The lawsuit suggested this opens up a large percentage of the US organic food supply to wholesale fraud.

Instead of collaborating with the farmer-plaintiff and the nonprofit farm policy research group backing the effort, OrganicEye, to tighten up oversight on international organic production, a consortium of business interests has now filed an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief on behalf of the USDA and the status quo, worth billions of dollars in international commerce. ...continue reading "Why Many “Organic” Foods From Other Countries Are So Cheap"

It's March 1, which means meteorological spring is here. Cold winter is over, yet it didn't feel that cold for most. In fact, the last year has been unprecedented and shocking with all the warm records that were set.

This past winter was the warmest on record for the lower 48 in the United States - when looking at records going back to 1880. January was the eighth straight month Earth set a new warm record - a streak that started in June 2023.

Makes you wonder what's ahead for us this year. Will we keep breaking records for warmth? Probably yes.

From Weather Underground: It Was America's Warmest Winter On Record, Preliminary Data Shows

Winter was the warmest on record in the contiguous U.S. since the late 19th century, and was particularly warm from parts of the upper Midwest into the Northeast.

M​eteorologists group seasons into tidy three-month buckets that more closely follow average temperatures, rather than astronomical seasons that follow the changing sun angle. Meteorological winter follows the typically coldest months of the year from December through February.

E​xcept for some, it didn't feel all that cold this winter. 

Tattoos are incredibly popular these days. But do persons getting a tattoo actually know what's in the tattoo inks? Are they safe?

Unfortunately, the answer is that the inks are underregulated. A recent study found that many of the ingredients are not listed on the tattoo ink label. Only since 2022 has a law been passed giving the FDA oversight, but so far nothing much has happened.

A recent study by Binghamton Univ. researchers found that found that when they examined 54 tattoo inks from 9 manufacturers in the US, they found that 45 of them contained unlisted additives and/or pigments. More than half contained the unlisted ingredient polyethylene glycol, which can cause organ damage through repeated exposure. Other unlisted ingredients were propylene glycol, 2-phenoxyethanol (health risks to nursing infants), and azo containing dyes. Many of the unlisted ingredients posed possible allergic or other health risks.

The researchers only looked at additives present in large amounts (2000 parts per million or ppm). Once again European regulations are stricter with oversight down to 2 ppm.

Much is still unknown about health effects from the inks in tattoos. But it is known that there is persistent inflammation and also that some particles in dyes migrate to the lymph nodes in the body. Colorful tattoo inks can contain toxic elements such as nickel, chromium, cadmium, aluminum.

From Ars Technica: Caveat emptor: 90% of tattoo inks have unlabeled or mislabeled ingredients

If you live in the US and are planning on getting a tattoo any time soon, we've got some potentially unwelcome news. Many common commercial tattoo inks have either different ingredients than those listed on the label or additional substances that are not listed at all, according to a new paper published in the journal Analytical Chemistry. And there are other scientific studies suggesting that some of those ingredients could have adverse health effects, either in the form of allergic reactions or skin or other cancers.

...continue reading "Hidden Ingredients In Tattoo Inks"

Small intestine Credit: Wikipedia

It turns out that artificial sweeteners alter the gut microbiome, specifically the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine after the stomach). And not in a good way.

The gut microbiome is the community of microbes (bacteria, fungi, viruses) that lives in the small intestine - and it looks different in persons who use artificial sweeteners compared to persons who don't.

Researchers found that artificial sweeteners lowered microbial diversity (not good), and increased numbers of harmful bacteria in the duodenum. They also alter inflammation markers that circulate in the blood in a negative way. The use of non-aspartame artificial sweeteners (sucralose, saccharin, stevia) had slightly different effects than aspartame, but both overall had negative effects (when compared to gut microbiomes of persons not ingesting artificial sweeteners in their diet).

From Medical Xpress: Could artificial sweeteners alter your microbiome?

You may think that artificial sweeteners can help you lose some weight, but a new study finds they are no good for your gut's microbiome. ...continue reading "Artificial Sweeteners Alter the Gut Microbiome"

Another recent study found numerous health benefits in persons following an intermittent fasting-like diet for 3 months. It resulted in changes in blood and liver markers indicating a lower risk for several diseases (e.g., diabetes), and it reduced biological age 2.5 years.

Researchers found that following a diet that mimics fasting 5 days, then a normal diet 25 days for 3 monthly cycles improve a number of cardiometabolic risk factors such as reduced insulin resistance and other pre-diabetes markers. It also decreased abdominal fat and liver fat, and improved immune system functioning.

What did they eat during the 5 fasting-like days? They ate plant-based, low-calorie, and low-protein foods such as vegetable-based soups, energy bars, energy drinks, chip snacks, chamomile tea, and a supplement providing high levels of minerals, vitamins, and essential fatty acids. The foods were prepackaged and provided by an outside company to ensure the diet was followed.

But more importantly, the participants didn't really fast the 5 days - they just really cut back on calories, and ate plant-based foods. In other words, this type of diet is much easier to follow than a total fast, especially for several months. After the 5 days, the participants resumed eating their normal diet for the next 25 days.

From Medical Xpress: Fasting-like diet lowers risk factors for disease, reduces biological age in humans: Study

Cycles of a diet that mimics fasting can reduce signs of immune system aging, as well as insulin resistance and liver fat in humans, resulting in a lower biological age, according to a new USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology-led study. ...continue reading "A Five Day Fasting-Mimicking Diet Has Health Benefits"

A recent study reports more good news about eating a plant-based diet - that is, one rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, seeds, but low in meat and dairy foods.

Researchers found that in men who had already been diagnosed with prostate cancer, those eating the most plant-based foods had the least erectile dysfunction, urinary incontinence, urinary irritation, and had better "hormonal health and vitality" (e.g., symptoms such as low energy, depression, and hot flashes). Consuming more plant-based foods was associated with better sexual and bowel function (this last from the fiber in plant-based foods).

Other research already shows that plant-based diets can reduce the risk of prostate cancer, as well as for prostate cancer recurrence and for the cancer progressing. A reason for this could be because a plant-based diet (e.g., Mediterranean style diet) lowers chronic inflammation.

From Medical Xpress: Plant-based diet tied to improved sexual health in men treated for prostate cancer

A diet that limits meat and dairy but is rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts is linked to less erectile dysfunction, urinary incontinence, and other common side effects seen in prostate cancer patients, a new study shows. ...continue reading "Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet For Men With Prostate Cancer"

The bad news about microplastics in the environment and in all of us keeps coming. A recent study found microplastics in all human placentas, with the numbers of microplastics increasing over recent years. This is very concerning because at this point it is unknown what effects the microplastics are having on pregnancies and developing babies.

Microplastics are the teeny, tiny plastic particles (less than 5mm or .20 inches in length) that are a result of plastics breaking up over time.

A recently published study reported how researchers came up with a new method of measuring the number and amount of microplastics found in the placenta. Rather than just examining the placenta under a microscope and counting particles (other studies), they developed a new method (involving pyrolysis-gas chromatography and mass spectrometry) that reveals a more accurate number.

In the study, all 62 placentas tested contained microplastics in varying amounts - from 6.5 to 790 micrograms per gram of tissue. The main types of microplastics found were polyethylene (plastic bags and bottles) in nearly all samples, followed by polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and nylon.

Unfortunately, we know that all of us will have increasing amounts of microplastics in our bodies over time because plastic use is increasing throughout the world. We are ingesting them in our foods and beverages (especially bottled water), absorbing them through our skin, and breathing them in.

What you can do: Try to minimize your use of plastics, especially plastic water bottles. Choose alternatives whenever possible. For example, glass and stainless steel are OK and do not shed microplastics. Think glass bottles and bowls for foods and beverages, not plastic bottles and containers.

From Science Daily: Microplastics found in every human placenta tested

A flurry of recent studies has found that microplastics are present in virtually everything we consume, from bottled water to meat and plant-based food. Now, University of New Mexico Health Sciences researchers have used a new analytical tool to measure the microplastics present in human placentas. ...continue reading "New Method Finds Microplastics In All Placentas"

This comes under the realm of fun fact: A large study of over 21 million births over four decades in Japan found that most births occur during weekdays and not weekends or holidays.

This was especially true among high-risk births such as low birthweight and preterm births. The researchers mention that many deliveries are "controlled" - which could mean they are planned C-sections or induced births during weekdays.

Bet this is also true for other developed countries with high C-section rates.

From Science Daily: Significantly fewer births on weekends and holidays than weekdays, data analysis of over 21 million births from 1979-2018 in Japan shows

Significantly more babies were born on a weekday instead of weekend day or holiday, reveals a large-scale analysis of 21 million births in Japan over almost four decades published February 14, 2024 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Miho Sassa from the University of Tokyo, Japan, and colleagues. ...continue reading "More Births Occur During Weekdays"

Tai Chi Credit:Wikipedia

It turns out that doing the series of slow moving movements called Tai Chi reduces blood pressure more than vigorous aerobic exercise. This traditional Chinese exercise also has other benefits: it improves flexibility and balance, as well as cardiovascular and respiratory function.

A recent study found that doing the slow gentle movements and postures of Tai Chi (often called meditation in motion) for one year resulted in greater blood pressure reductions than aerobic exercises in persons with prehypertension. Half of a group of 349 adult volunteers were randomly assigned to Tai Chi for one hour 4 times per week for a year, while persons in the other group were randomly assigned to do aerobic exercises (including climbing stairs, jogging, brisk walking, and cycling) with the same frequency.

After one year, persons in both groups had lower blood pressure than at the start of the study, but in the Tai Chi group it was about 7.01 mmHg lower compared to 4.61 mmHg lower in the aerobic exercise group.

Prehypertension is blood pressure that is slightly higher than normal (between 120/80 and 139/89 mmHg), but not yet hypertension. In the study, the researchers also found that fewer persons from the Tai Chi group progressed to hypertension. A win-win.

The researchers of this study concluded that Tai Chi is a safe, moderate-intensity, mind-body exercise, which is suitable for persons of all ages and physical conditions. By the way, other studies also found that doing Tai Chi reduces blood pressure - as early as 12 weeks.

From NPR: Tai chi reduces blood pressure better than aerobic exercise, study finds

Tai chi, a traditional, slow-moving form of Chinese martial art, is known to increase flexibility and improve balance. Now, new research suggests it's better than more vigorous aerobic exercises for lowering blood pressure in people with prehypertension. ...continue reading "Study Found Tai Chi Reduces Blood Pressure Better Than Aerobic Exercises"

People don't realize the incredibly large amounts of pesticides applied to crops and soil in the US each year. Hundreds of millions of pounds! Which is the reason pesticides are found in our air, rain, water, soil, our foods, and in our bodies.

One of the pesticides that scientists are getting increasingly concerned with is the weed-killer glyphosate. It is the most used herbicide (weed-killer) in the world! It is found in Roundup, in non-organic crops, and even in genetically modified crops that are glyphosate resistant. Especially used on corn and soybeans, but also in a variety of crops (e.g., wheat, oats, cranberries, grapes, apples, beans).

The following story lays out the great amounts used in some states, especially in the midwest and southern states. Overall, an average of almost 130 pounds of glyphosate were sprayed per square mile in US counties each year.

But some counties had incredibly high amounts, such as Nueces County, Texas which has the highest use of glyphosate: more than 1,100 pounds sprayed per square mile. Iowa and Illinois (corn and soybean crops) accounted for 15% of national usage. The least was in northeastern (e.g., Massachusetts) and southwestern states (e.g., Nevada).

Evidence for health harms are increasing each year, such as an increased risk of cancer (e.g., non-Hodgkin lymphoma), premature births, endocrine disruption, and even disruptions of the gut microbiome (it kills beneficial microbes in the gut). The percentage of people with glyphosate detected in their urine, and the amount (concentration) has been rising over time. It can now be detected in almost all of us.

By the way, the EPA has raised "allowable limits" of glyphosate in foods over the years - when the pesticide industry asked for it. The US limits are much higher than those allowed in Europe - twice the levels! (Once again, in the US the EPA favors industry, not the people it's supposed to be protecting.)

This article is from October 2022, but it highlights  the incredibly high amounts of glyphosate applied in the US (see the good interactive map). Excerpts from NBC News: A potentially cancer-causing chemical is sprayed on much of America’s farmland. Here is where it is used the most.

Every day, farms across the country use a potentially cancer-causing chemical that is in the world’s most common weedkillers. And data shows that it’s most used in the Midwest and parts of the South. ...continue reading "Enormous Amounts of One Pesticide Used In the US"