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Many of us have concerns over the fact that people are constantly exposed to endocrine disruptors (chemicals that disrupt hormonal systems) in many common household and personal products. Even the vinyl flooring found in many homes  contains phthalates, which are endocrine disrupting chemicals. In the past year several studies have looked at vinyl flooring in homes and whether the chemicals in the flooring outgas into the air and then get into people living in the homes. The answer is YES - the chemicals in vinyl flooring do get into people living there, and they can be measured in urine (in the breakdown products of phthalates called metabolites).

Since research shows that endocrine disrupting chemicals have health effects, then the question is: Do chronic low levels do anything to people? Especially worrisome is, are they having an effect on the developing fetus when pregnant women are exposed to them and they get into the body? The following 2 studies looked at flooring, but keep in mind that we are exposed to phthalates in many, many products - e.g., plastic shower curtains, plastic food containers, some personal care products, household products. The problem is that the pthalates migrate out of the plastic products - they don't stay in the product. In the case of vinyl flooring - one can say that there are phthalate emissions from the flooring! And of course it gets into household dust.

Numerous studies found that phthalates (the phthalate metabolites) are routinely found in people of all ages - throughout the world. It can be measured in our blood (serum) and in our urine. Studies find them in breastmilk and also in amniotic fluid. Research finds associations associations between exposure to several phthalates and various effects on human health, including reproductive effects.

The following are two complementary studies. Study 1 looked at vinyl flooring (called PVC flooring in the article) in homes (in the kitchen and bedrooms), and found that phthalates get into pregnant women, and can be measured in the urine. Study 2 (from Duke University), found that chemicals children are exposed to in the home from vinyl flooring and the sofa (flame-retardants) can be measured in their blood and urine. The researchers took all sorts of samples from homes and children over a 3 year period and found evidence in the children of exposure to phthalates, organophosphate esters, brominated flame retardants, parabens, phenols, antibacterial agents and perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

So we have proof that these chemicals are getting into us. We can't avoid them totally, but can lower our exposure levels - look for upholstered furniture without flame retardants (read the label!), and don't install vinyl flooring (wood and tile floors are OK).  ...continue reading "What’s Getting Into You From Vinyl Flooring?"

An interesting study found that high fructose corn syrup promotes the growth of intestinal tumors - in mice. The amount was fairly small - the equivalent of 12 oz of soda (with about 20 g of high fructose corn syrup) per day. The big question now: Is this also true for humans?

A number of studies find an association of soda consumption (which typically has high-fructose corn syrup in it), obesity,  and cancer (e.g. colorectal cancer) in humans, but the question remained whether this was due to obesity (obesity is linked to many types of cancer) or whether the high fructose corn syrup is directly contributing to tumor development or tumor growth. Based on the results of this study, the researchers felt that the high fructose corn syrup "enhances" or "promotes" intestinal tumor growth. Yikes.

From Science Daily: High-fructose corn syrup boosts intestinal tumor growth in mice

Does sugar directly feed cancers, boosting their growth? The answer seems to be 'Yes' at least in mice according to a study led by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Weill Cornell Medicine.  ...continue reading "Time To Stop Drinking Soda?"

Another study found benefits from eating nuts - this time an association between frequently eating nuts and better brain functioning in older adults. The study was done in China and was part of a long-term nutrition and cognitive function study of 4822 adults (aged 55+ years). With aging, it is normal to have some decline in brain functioning, but the researchers said that high nut consumers had much less decline - that the more nuts consumed, the less decline (an inverse relationship).

The article below makes some grand claims ("could improve their cognitive function by up to 60 per cent") for a study that found an association between long-term nut consumption of more than 10 grams (about 1/8 cup) daily and cognitive health, but this doesn't prove it. Perhaps people who eat nuts also eat other foods or do other things that are beneficial for brain functioning. But ... the good news is that eating nuts frequently appears to be beneficial. So eat and enjoy.

By the way, peanuts are not nuts - they are legumes (also beans and peas) - but they have numerous health benefits, and were counted as nuts in this study. Common tree nuts are cashews, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, pistachios, chestnuts, lichee nuts, and Brazil nuts. [See all posts on health benefits of nuts.]

From Science Daily: A nutty solution for improving brain health

Long-term, high nut consumption could be the key to better cognitive health in older people according to new research from the University of South Australia.  ...continue reading "Another Reason To Eat Nuts Frequently"

To the alarm of many, male fertility (sperm quality and sperm counts) has been rapidly declining over the past few decades. Researchers suspect that it's due to our exposure to chemicals in the environment, especially to endocrine disrupting chemicals - of which there are many, and to which we are exposed to daily. A recent study found that detrimental effects occur in the sperm of both humans and dogs when exposed to the common plastic softener DEHP and the persistent industrial chemical polychlorinated biphenyl 153 (PCB153). The researchers suggest this is because dogs live in households with humans and thus are exposed to the same environmental contaminants.

DEHP (diethylhexyl phthalate) is an endocrine disruptor (interferes with hormone systems) that is found in plastic materials in many household and personal items - for example, in carpets, vinyl flooring, some upholstery, rainwear, wires, some plastic toys, fragrances and air fresheners, some PVC pipes, some food packaging, medical tubing, plastic shower curtains. The problem is that it slowly leaches out of the products and into the air and household dust, it leaches out of packaging into foods (which we then ingest), and it can also be absorbed through direct skin contact. Bottom line: try to avoid DEHP by avoiding plastics known as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or vinyl as much as possible. (One can't totally avoid them, but can reduce exposure to them.)

From Science Daily: Chemical pollutants in the home degrade fertility in both men and dogs, study finds

New research by scientists at the University of Nottingham suggests that environmental contaminants found in the home and diet have the same adverse effects on male fertility in both humans and in domestic dogs.  ...continue reading "Common Chemical Has Negative Effects On Sperm of Both Humans and Dogs"

Many health professionals have warned for years that the antibacterial triclosan should be avoided. Triclosan is found in a large variety of personal and consumer products labeled "antibacterial" or "antimicrobial". Now a recent study gives another reason to avoid triclosan - it makes UTI (urinary tract infection) bacteria MORE resistant to antibiotics.

Scientists have been warning about triclosan (and related triclocarbon) for a while, and have asked that their use be restricted due to risks to human health, to wildlifeand its accumulation in water, land, wildlife, and humans. Not only do they persist in the environment, they are also a source of toxic and carcinogenic compounds including dioxins, chloroform, and chlorinated anilines. They are endocrine disruptors that bioaccumulate (build-up) in humans and wildlife. They are toxic to aquatic and other organisms, yet they are found in the majority of people and freshwater streams. In other words, the chemicals are all around us and in us!

More than 2000 personal and consumer products, as well as building materials, contain triclosan and triclocarban. For example, they are found in soaps, toothpastes, detergents, clothing, toys, carpets, plastics, kitchen items, and paints. According to the FDA, which is responsible for regulation of foods, drugs, cosmetics, medical devices, and similar products, there is no evidence that antibacterial soaps are more effective than nonantibacterial soap and water.

What should one do? Read labels and avoid products containing triclosan and other antimicrobials, and products labeled anti-odor, antibacterial, anti-germ, or containing Microban. No, you don't need antibacterial or anti-odor socks or cutting boards! See earlier posts on this topic (herehere, and here).

From Science Daily: Chemical added to consumer products impairs response to antibiotic treatment

Grocery store aisles are stocked with products that promise to kill bacteria. People snap up those items to protect themselves from the germs that make them sick. However, new research from Washington University in St. Louis finds that a chemical that is supposed to kill bacteria is actually making them stronger and more capable of surviving antibiotic treatment.  ...continue reading "Avoid Using Products With the Antimicrobial Triclosan"

Is eating vegetables in the Allium family (garlic, onion, leeks, spring onions, garlic stalks) protective in regards to colon cancer? A recent study from China suggests that eating higher amounts of these vegetables is associated with a lower incidence of colorectal cancer in both men and women. Interestingly, the researchers only looked at these 5 vegetables, which are commonly eaten in China, but not other Allium vegetables that are commonly eaten elsewhere in the world - such as chives, scallions, and shallots. All Allium vegetables are rich in flavonols and organosulfur compounds, which have properties that inhibit tumors (anti-tumor) in laboratory studies. High intake of Allium vegetables is thought to be protective for a variety of cancers, e.g. prostate cancer.

The researchers mention that other studies examining this issue had mixed results - with some finding a protective effect of Allium vegetables, but not others. The researchers suggested that the high intake of these vegetables in the groups they studied and also cooking methods (which vary among different regions of China, as well as different countries) could explain the differences. For example, slicing and crushing fresh garlic releases beneficial compounds, but boiling onions leads to an approximately 30% loss of beneficial substances. After reviewing a number of studies that looked at Allium vegetable intake and cancer, it appears that while eating them cooked in any way is good, the most beneficial effects seem to be from raw Allium vegetables.

How much of the Allium vegetables did they eat? The healthy (non-colorectal cancer) group ate about 2 ounces or 1/4 cup of Allium vegetables per day (or 47 pounds annually), versus the colorectal cancer group ate about 1.5 ounces per day (or 15.92 kg or 35 lbs annually). Other differences between the groups were that the colorectal cancer group had higher intakes of alcohol and red meat, but less milk, other vegetables, and fruit (as compared to the healthy group). But both groups had the same intake of fiber. Bottom line: eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, including Allium vegetables (onions, garlic, leeks, spring onions, chives, scallions, shallots).

From Science Daily: Consuming garlic and onions may lower colorectal cancer risk   ...continue reading "Eating Garlic, Onions, and Leeks Linked to Lower Risk of Cancer"

Once again a study finds that eating berries (this time blueberries) is associated with health benefits - that the blueberries improved both blood vessel functioning and blood pressure. This multi-part European study was conducted on both humans and mice. The researchers specifically looked at what component of blueberries had the beneficial effects on blood pressure and came to the conclusion that it was the anthocyanins in the blueberries.  Anthocyanins are the blue, violet, or red flavonoid pigments found in berries and other plants.

How much did the researchers find to be beneficial in the study? 2 cups or 200 g blueberries daily for one month. The study participants drank blueberry juice, but the assumption is that eating whole blueberries has the same beneficial effect.The researchers found that the lowering of blood pressure (5 mmHg) is similar to what is commonly observed with blood pressure lowering medication (e.g. ACE inhibitors) in patients.

By the way, research finds health benefits from eating a variety of berry types and richly colored fruits and vegetables (e.g. better brain functioning, lower blood pressure, lowering of cholesterol levels). Not only are the micronutrients different, but also the microbial species which we ingest (this is good!). So don't eat just one kind of berry - eat them all!

From a press release published by King's College London: The 'blue' in blueberries can help lower blood pressure  ...continue reading "Blueberries and Blood Pressure"

The following is a really nice article about endocrine disruptors (chemicals that can interfere with the body's hormonal system). Journalist Hillary Brueck writes about where they are found (all around us!), some of the many negative health effects, and about NYU physician and researcher Dr. Leonardo Trasande and his new book: "Sicker, Fatter, Poorer: The Urgent Threat of Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals to Our Health and Future ... and What We Can Do About It." Also, some things we can do to lower our exposure to endocrine disruptors.

By the way, once again Europe is ahead of the US in dealing with this problem. Excerpts from Business Insider: A toxic-chemicals expert is sounding the alarm about 4 cancer-linked chemicals that could be making us sicker and fatter

Through the course of a single day, your hands, mouth, and body come in contact with countless pieces of paper, plastic, fabric, and furniture. You probably don't think about the chemicals these substances might harbor, or consider that they have a drug-like effect on health. But some do. They can make metabolisms slow down, subtly lower IQs, contribute to ADHD in children, and mess with sperm counts in men.

They're called "endocrine disruptors," and they're around us all the time. The chemicals change how our bodies work by shifting the way hormones operate, according to Leo Trasande, a pediatrician and public-health researcher at NYU Langone Health. "Hormones are the basic signaling molecules in our body that take on so many actions for practically every organ system," Trasande told Business Insider. "And endocrine disruptors are synthetic chemicals that scramble those signals, contributing to disease and disability."

In his new book, "Sicker, Fatter, Poorer: The Urgent Threat of Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals to Our Health and Future ... and What We Can Do About It," Trasande lays out the four big categories of endocrine disruptors he's most concerned about, based on evidence from scientific studies and observations in his patients. They are: Bisphenols, like BPA, which are often found in the linings of aluminum-canned food and drinks and on cash-register receipts. Brominated flame retardants that are in some carpets, furniture, and clothing. Synthetic pesticides on food. "Plasticizer chemicals" called phthalates that show up in plastic food packaging, lotions, and cosmetics.  ...continue reading "New Book Warning Us About Endocrine Disruptors"

Once again a study found benefits from exercise - specifically that regular exercise is better for the brain and for thinking skills (for "executive function"). Executive function is a person's ability to regulate his or her own behavior, pay attention, manage new information and unexpected challenges, to plan, organize, and achieve goals. Executive functioning can decline in older adults - "age-related declines". So it's definitely beneficial to prevent or slow down a decline in thinking skills.

In this study 132 individuals (aged 20 to 67 years) living in New York City were either randomly assigned to a stretching group or an aerobic exercise group for 6 months. They were given a number of tests (at the start, at 3 mos, and at 6 mos.) to measure executive function, memory, IQ, etc. After 6 months the aerobic exercise group had a number of benefits (compared to the stretching group): they reduced their BMI (body mass index), they increased the cortical thickness in a part of their brain (this is good), and they had improved executive function thinking. The researchers found that the aerobic exercise showed more benefit to older adults than the younger adults.

How much did the aerobic group exercise? The individuals had 4 sessions a week of aerobic exercise (stationary cycling, treadmill, elliptical machine) which consisted of 10 to 15 minutes of warm-up/cool down, and 30 to 40 minutes of exercise. Note that at the start of the study all persons were healthy, sedentary non-exercisers - with "below median aerobic capacity". Meaning that there is hope for all of us to benefit from regular exercise whether a young adult or over 60.

For those persons that dread going to a gym or spend money for exercise equipment  - you don't need it! Just get out and walk briskly, or ride a bicycle, climb stairs regularly - in other words, move! The goal is to get your heart pumping. From Science Daily -

Exercise may improve thinking skills in people as young as 20

Regular aerobic exercise such as walking, cycling or climbing stairs may improve thinking skills not only in older people but in young people as well, according to a study published in the January 30, 2019, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. ...continue reading "Aerobic Exercise, Thinking Skills, and the Brain"

How many times have you heard to eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes (beans), and seeds? Study after study finds that eating a diet rich in these foods is linked to all sorts of health benefits. A big reason is that they have lots of fiber - which feeds beneficial microbes in our gut. A recently published review of studies in the prestigious journal Lancet examined studies done over the past 40 years and found numerous health benefits.

The researchers found that people consuming high levels of dietary fiber and whole grains have a lower risk of death from heart disease (cardiovascular mortality) and death from any cause. They also have a lower incidence of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer (as compared to those eating less fiber). There was a dose-response effect - in other words, the more fiber eaten daily, the lower the incidence of these diseases and deaths. They also found that a high fiber diet is also linked to lower cholesterol levels, lower weight, and lower blood pressure.

This study viewed 25 to 29 grams per day as a high fiber diet, but said the findings suggest that higher levels of fiber would be even more protective. Which means put down that delicious white bread and sugary cereal and start eating whole grain foods! Nowadays the average person eats less than 20 grams of fiber per day, but guidelines say to eat at least 30 grams per day. The researchers pointed out that getting fiber from real food is best.

From Science Daily: High intake of dietary fiber and whole grains associated with reduced risk of non-communicable diseases

People who eat higher levels of dietary fiber and whole grains have lower rates of non-communicable diseases compared with people who eat lesser amounts, while links for low glycaemic load and low glycaemic index diets are less clear. Observational studies and clinical trials conducted over nearly 40 years reveal the health benefits of eating at least 25g to 29g or more of dietary fiber a day, according to a series of systematic reviews and meta-analyses published in The Lancet.  ...continue reading "Eating Lots of Fiber Has Health Benefits"