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Microplastics, which are tiny pieces of plastic particles less than 5 millimeters in size, have now been found in human placentas. To find tiny plastic particles on both sides of the placenta (the baby's side and the mother's side), as well as in the placental membranes, is an alarming finding! Why is this occurring? And are they causing harm to the developing fetus?

First, it is important to realize that we are surrounded by plastic in products that we use, and also in our environment. Eventually all plastic degrades into tiny pieces called microplastics and nanoplastics. These tiny plastic pieces are found throughout the world, including in the oceans and rivers, indoor air, and the food we eat and water we drink, especially bottled water. The particles get into us, and while some is excreted in the feces, they also get into our organs.

The Italian researchers examined small portions of 6 human placentas (from normal pregnancies) and found a total of 12 plastic particles in 4 of the placentas. The researchers said that all the particles were "pigmented" (colored), with 3 being tiny polypropylene pieces, and the other 9 could only be identified as pigments (e.g. from man-made coatings, paints, adhesives, cosmetics, and personal care products).

Human placenta. Credit: Wikipedia

The researchers did not know how the plastic particles entered the mother's blood stream and so got into the placenta - whether it was from the mother's respiratory system (breathed in) or the gastrointestinal system (from ingested foods). They thought that differences in foods eaten and lifestyles might result in why four placentas had plastic particles and two others not.

A big concern with microplastics in humans, especially developing fetuses, is that they can contain substances that can act as endocrine (hormone) disruptors and so could cause long-term effects on human health. Will they have an effect on the developing immune system? At this point we do not know. We have many questions and studies are needed.

What should one do to lower exposure to plastic particles? There are many things one can do. Especially important is to no longer drink bottled water or other beverages in plastic bottles, or store or cook food in plastic containers. List of tips on how to lower exposure to plastics and the harmful chemicals in them - Avoiding Harmful Chemicals

Excerpts from The Guardian - Microplastics revealed in the placentas of unborn babies

Microplastic particles have been revealed in the placentas of unborn babies for the first time, which the researchers said was “a matter of great concern”. ...continue reading "Tiny Plastic Particles Found In Human Placentas"

Americans think that their system of healthcare is the best in the world. Nope. Not even close. Not even for privileged white Americans. We're number 13 in a recent ranking of 13 countries.

A team of researchers compared six health outcomes in the wealthiest (top 1% and 5%) American counties to health outcomes of average citizens in 12 other developed countries. In three areas, such as infant mortality, maternal mortality, and heart attack survival, U.S. patients fared worse, and in two areas health outcomes are no better than for average citizens in other countries. Again: Health care for privileged Americans living in the wealthiest counties ranked worse overall than health care for average people in 12 other countries.

As expected, the health outcomes of White US citizens living in the 1% and 5% richest counties are better than those of average US citizens (not surprising!).

Breast cancer survival was the only area in which wealthy white American patients fared as well as average patients from all of the comparison countries, and better than 1 other country.

Infant mortality and maternal death rates in the US are disgraceful.  The infant death rate in the wealthiest American counties (4.01 deaths per 1000 live births) was higher than all the other 12 comparison countries. For example, in Finland the infant mortality rate is 1.7 per 1,000 live births. The average rate in America is even worse: 5.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. [See study tables for numbers.]

Again: Health care for privileged Americans living in the wealthiest counties ranked worse than health care for average people in 12 other countries. The 12 other comparison countries were Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.

Yes, the other countries all have universal health care with a single payer system. And we don't.

From Medscape: Even for Wealthy, US Healthcare Fails to Match Care in Many Other Countries

When it comes to health care, even privileged white Americans fare worse than the average citizens of 12 other developed countries, a new study suggests.  ...continue reading "Healthcare In the US Lags Behind Other Countries"

There is much concern nowadays about all the many chemicals we are exposed to in our lives. These include pesticides, heavy metals (e.g. lead, mercury), and chemicals that act as endocrine disruptors (hormone disrupting chemicals), such as BPA and phthalates. These chemicals are all around us and are linked to all sorts of health effects, including chronic diseases and reproductive effects - such as infertility, declining sperm counts, adverse effects on the developing baby, and endometriosis.

There is an excellent 7 part series of webinars that one can watch called Generation Chemical: How Environmental Exposures are Affecting Reproductive Health and Development. Big names in the field discuss the latest science on the impact of harmful chemicals and pollutants on female and male reproductive health, pregnancy, and development, starting from preconception and through  life.

Yes, it's in depth, but also eye-opening. For example, the evidence is now raising the questions: Are fertile people healthier? Does poor sperm quality mean poorer health? Or earlier death? Research suggests that sperm count and quality are "canaries in the coal mine" for male health - evidence of harm to men from environmental and lifestyle influences.

Also, keep in mind that while you can't totally avoid harmful chemicals, you can really minimize your exposure and the levels measured in you. Avoiding Harmful Chemicals gives good ways to reduce exposures to harmful chemicals. This is especially important for both males and females if thinking about conception or pregnant.

SEVEN PART WEBINAR SERIES: 1) Introduction. Oct. 29, 2020. Discussed declining sperm counts that have been occurring worldwide over the last few decades - 52.4% decline in 38 years among men from Western countries, and the decline is still continuing. Effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) on men's and women's fertility, conception delay, pregnancy loss, some diseases, and endometriosis. ...continue reading "Top Scientists Explain How Harmful Chemicals Are Affecting Reproductive Health and Development"

Vegan diets may be popular, but there is concern whether someone following a vegan diet can get all necessary nutrients from the diet and whether this impacts health in a negative way. This is because a person following a vegan diet avoids all animal foods - which means no dairy, no meat, no eggs, no honey, no fish, no shellfish, and no insects. This can mean difficulties in getting enough protein and some nutrients, for example choline (necessary for the brain), vitamin B-12, and calcium.

A recent study by University of Oxford researchers examined this issue by following about 55,000 people for 18 years: meat eaters, vegans, vegetarians (avoid meat, but eat dairy and /or eggs), and pescatarians (a vegetarian diet, but also eats fish). They found that when compared to meat eaters, vegans had a higher risk of fractures in their bodies (number of total fractures), and especially hip, leg, and vertebral fractures. Vegetarians and pescatarians also had a higher risk of hip fractures when compared to meat eaters, but a lower risk than vegans.

Other studies have shown that vegetarians have lower bone mineral density (BMD) than non-vegetarians, and that both calcium and protein intakes are linked to bone health. In this study and other studies, vegans had substantially lower intakes of calcium than the other dietary groups (since they do not consume dairy), and both vegetarians and vegans had lower protein intakes than meat and fish-eating groups.

Bottom line: Research finds diets rich in whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, some fish, meat, eggs, and dairy (similar to the Mediterranean diet) as healthy and providing all nutrients. Pregnancy and childhood are times when one should be especially careful about getting all needed nutrients.

From Science Daily - Vegans, vegetarians and pescetarians may be at higher risk of bone fractures

Compared with people who ate meat, vegans with lower calcium and protein intakes on average, had a 43% higher risk of fractures anywhere in the body (total fractures), as well as higher risks of site-specific fractures of the hips, legs and vertebrae, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Medicine.  ...continue reading "Vegan Diets and Increased Risk of Bone Fractures"

Every study I've seen in the past decade finds that eating berries has health benefits. A recent study from Finland adds to this by finding that eating some blackcurrants after a meal has beneficial effects on blood glucose levels. This beneficial effect occurred even though the blackcurrants were eaten as a puree with a little sugar (because they are sour berries).

The study found that one didn't have to eat a lot of the blackcurrants - 75 grams or 2/3 cup, which was eaten as a puree. Since this study was done with 26 young healthy volunteers, they did not find an effect on inflammatory markers - which were good to start with.

Other studies have found similar beneficial blood sugar level effects from eating other kinds of berries. Berries are rich in polyphenolic compounds, and dark colored berries are especially rich in anthocyanins. The blackcurrants (Ribes nigrum) were chosen for this study because blackcurrants are native to Finland, and both grow in the wild and are cultivated there. Cassis liquor is made from blackcurrants.

From Science Daily: Blackcurrants are favorable for glucose metabolism

Blackcurrants have a beneficial effect on post-meal glucose response, and the required portion size is much smaller than previously thought, a new study from the University of Eastern Finland shows.  ...continue reading "Benefits Of Eating Blackcurrants For Dessert"

Many people wonder whether eating organic foods has health benefits. Yes - studies have found some benefits, such as lower pesticide residue levels in the body in children and adults, and that eating organic foods is linked to a lower risk of cancer. A recent study conducted in France found that one benefit of eating organic foods may be a lower incidence of type 2 diabetes.

University of Paris researchers found that the more a person ate organic foods, especially plant-based organic foods, the lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. For each 5% increase in the proportion of organic foods in the diet, the risk of type 2 diabetes decreased by 3%. Those eating the highest amount of organic foods had a 35% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, when compared to those eating the least.

They point out that their findings are similar to a recent US study which found that persons reporting purchasing organic foods had a 20% lower prevalence of diabetes (when compared to people not purchasing organic foods). Animal studies find that exposure to several types of pesticides can increase the risk of diabetes. Some types of pesticides, such as pyrethroids, organophosphates, and organochlorides are endocrine disruptors and can result in metabolic disorders such as diabetes.

A nice discussion of the study, from Beyond Pesticides: Food For Thought: Eating Organic Reduces Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

The study. From the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (IJBNPA): Prospective association between organic food consumption and the risk of type 2 diabetes: findings from the NutriNet-Santé cohort study

Being overweight increases the risk of developing diabetes. So a British study finding that modest lifestyle changes could lower the incidence (by over 40%) of developing type 2 diabetes is very encouraging. These were persons who had been diagnosed with prediabetes, thus they were at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

What are the beneficial lifestyle changes? Losing a modest amount of weight (4 1/2 to 7 pounds) and increasing the amount of exercise to 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise.

Excerpts from Science Daily: A few kilograms weight loss nearly halves the risk of diabetes

Losing a few kilograms in weight almost halves people's risk of developing Type 2 diabetes -- according to a large scale research study led by the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and the University of East Anglia. ...continue reading "Modest Lifestyle Changes Can Lower the Risk of Developing Diabetes"

Study after study finds all sorts of negative health effects from exposure to pesticides, including cancers, endocrine (hormone) disruption, and neurological effects.  Pesticide exposures can occur in the home, at work or school, in the air (drift), and in food and water. A recent study found that higher chronic pesticide exposure, such as occupational exposure (e.g. farm worker), is linked to developing Parkinson's disease.

University of California San Francisco (UCSF) researchers found the higher rates of Parkinson's disease both in people who have genetic susceptibility to developing the disease, and also in those who don't have a genetic susceptibility. Meaning everyone is at risk for developing Parkinson's disease with enough chronic exposure.

Studies find that chronic exposure to some pesticides has a higher risk for Parkinson's disease than others, and especially strong links are with the pesticides 2,4-D, chlorpyrifos, paraquat, glyphosate, and rotenone. Some countries, including in Europe and Canada, ban the use of some of these chemicals due to concerns about links to Parkinson’s, but the U.S. only restricts the use of some of them (e.g. paraquat).

Many pesticides are neurotoxins. Dr. Ray Dorsey (publisher of book: Ending Parkinson's Disease: A Prescription for Action ) said studies show a dose-response effect between chronic pesticide exposure and Parkinson's disease: "an almost perfect correlation between the amount of pesticides used in certain communities and the rates of PD. He points out that Parkinson's disease is the world's fastest growing brain disease with a lifetime risk of about 1 in 15. (That's high!)

Bottom line: Try to minimize your exposure to pesticides. Organic farms don't use the pesticides implicated in neurological harm - because organic standards don't allow it. Also, use organic or least-toxic Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for pest control in your home. Avoid using pesticides in your yard, especially the lawn. Stay away from recently pesticide treated areas. Eat organic foods as much as possible.

In the following article: sporadic Parkinson's disease means it happened spontaneously, which is different from someone having a genetic risk factor. From Beyond Pesticides: Pesticide Exposure Increases the Risk of Developing Gene-Specific and Sporadic Parkinson’s Disease Incidences

Research at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) finds that pesticide exposure increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease (PD), regardless of whether disease onset is idiopathic (spontaneous) or genetic (GBA genetic risk variant). Although the exact etiology [cause] of PD remains unknown, epidemiological and toxicological research repeatedly identifies exposure to pesticides, as well as specific gene-pesticide interactions, as significant adverse risk factors that contribute to PD. Furthermore, this study, “Gene Variants May Affect PD Risk After Pesticide Exposure,” suggests that environmental triggers like occupational exposure to pesticides can prompt PD in individuals with or without the genetic precursor ...continue reading "Pesticides Linked to Parkinson’s Disease"

For many years we have viewed 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit  (37.0°C) as the normal body temperature of a healthy adult. It turns out that is no longer true. The average body temperature has been falling for the last few decades. Studies find the temperature decrease in different parts of the world, in both rural and urban areas. Looks like it's somewhere between 97.5°F (California), 97.7°F (among the Tsimane in the Bolivian Amazon), and 97.9°F (United Kingdom).

An international team of researchers studied the body temperature of the Tsimane of the Bolivian Amazon using 16 years of data and compared the findings to the US and UK studies. The Tsimane live a subsistence lifestyle without access to running water or sanitation, have high exposure to diverse pathogens (e.g. parasites), and many infections. During the last 2 decades they have had increased access to health care (including vaccinations), and to markets, and there has been an improvement in health and lifestyle. So it was surprising that their average body temperature also declined in the last 2 decades.

The researchers think the temperature decline among the different populations is due to a combination of factors, which include improved lifestyle, better medical care and treatments, increased use of antibiotics which alter the gut microbial communities (microbiome), fewer parasitic infections, changes in physical activity, and increasing body weight.

From Science Daily: Average body temperature among healthy adults declined over the past two decades

In the nearly two centuries since German physician Carl Wunderlich established 98.6°F as the standard "normal" body temperature, it has been used by parents and doctors alike as the measure by which fevers -- and often the severity of illness -- have been assessed.  ...continue reading "Normal Body Temperature Is Lower Than We Thought"

Credit: Wikipedia

Many routine checkups have been postponed during this pandemic, including routine dental checkups every 6 months. But is it OK to put off such visits? A recent review of studies found evidence that traditional six-month visits are not necessary in healthy individuals without dental problems. The 6 month checkups don't improve oral health when compared to persons getting them every 24 months.

The researchers found that in adults there is no difference in the number of cavities (caries), gingival or gum bleeding (gum disease), and oral health whether one gets a six-month dental checkup versus a 24 month check-up. This review is published on the prestigious Cochrane reviews web-site.

In other words, it is OK to put off a routine dental visit in healthy adults. However, the researchers stress that this is in adults without any dental issues, and that if there are dental problems to go to the dentist.

From Medical Xpress: Study shows traditional six-month dental check-ups not necessary for healthy adults

A new review provides reassurance to patients who have missed routine dental check-ups due to COVID-19 restrictions by showing that six-monthly check-up appointments do not improve oral health.  ...continue reading "Routine Dental Checkups Not Necessary Every Six Months"