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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Ground Turkey--an Unhealthy Alternative to Hamburger

Do you think ground turkey is a healthy alternative to hamburger?  Well think again – a report published by Consumer Reports showed deadly bacteria in almost all ground turkey samples .  To make matters worse, many of the bacteria found were resistant  antibiotics. Some of the samples even contained the deadly virus MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus).

The Consumer Reports study tested for five types of bacteria within the 257 samples of ground turkey which were purchased at various stores and major retailers across the nation.  Bacteria from fecal matter was found on most of the samples, and one or more of the following types of bacteria could be found on 90% of the samples.

1. Campylobacter
2. Salmonella
3. Staphylococcus aureus
4. E. coli
5. enterocuccus

It is interesting to note that turkeys who were raised without antibiotics had less antibiotic resistant bacteria than the turkeys who received daily antibiotic dosing, a common practice by commercial turkey farms believed to promote growth.  However, even the organic and antibiotic-free samples had a high rate of bacteria contamination.
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Monday, April 8, 2013

Red Meat = Heart Attack?

heart attack anatomy
heart attack anatomy (Photo credit: gandhiji40)

Consumption of red meat has a direct link to increased risk of heart attack, according to a new study.  However, in this study, the culprit is not saturated fat, but the carnitine that is abundant in red meat.  The bacteria in the human digestive tract converts carnitine into a little known substance called TMAO, which may be the culprit associated with heart disease and heart attacks.   After the liver produces the TMAO, it is released into the blood stream.  Increased TMAO in the blood stream is a proven predictor of heart attack risk.   TMAO allows cholesterol to penetrate artery walls as well as prevents the elimination of excess cholesterol.

This particular study was led by Stanley Hazen of the Cleveland Clinic, and published in Nature magazine.  

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Connection between Meat and Early Puberty

Is there a connection between early puberty and consumption of meat and dairy?  Recent studies seem to point in that direction.  As the consumption of meat products increases in the Western diet, the average age of puberty decreases in girls.   This is concerning because girls who start their periods early are at increased risk for several diseases to include heart disease, ovarian, and breast cancer.   

The amount of meat consumed by Americans in the past 100 years has nearly tripled, according to an infograph in the New York Times.  As well, 100 years ago the average age for a girl to start menstruation was about 14 years old.  According to a study which was published in the June 10, 2010 Public Health Journal, today’s 7 year-olds who eat a little less than two portions of meat per day, have about a 50% chance of starting their periods before the age of 12½.  Girls who eat only one portion of meat every other day are only 35% likely to start menarche by age 12½, according to a Bristol University study.

The reason why meat may cause early puberty is still unclear, however, some scientists believe that the hormones administered to commercial raised beef could be a causative factor. To improve growth and weight gain, combinations of estradiol, progesterone, and testosterone, as well as the synthetic hormones zeranol and trenbolone acetate are given to cattle.  To increase milk production, some dairy cows are treated with the growth hormone rbGH.

It is perhaps the consumption of various residual hormones in beef, pork, chicken and dairy that could be a contributing factor to premature puberty.  It is also possible that this condition is purely a result of the population tripling their animal protein consumption, despite the hormones and antibiotics.  Obviously, more large scale research needs to be undertaken to understand this problem and avoid a future health crisis in women’s health.
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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Antibiotic-resistant germs flourish on meat products in US grocery stores.

Testing of grocery-store meat and poultry is showing an alarmingly high prevalence of MRSA and other antibiotic resistant bacteria 

Drug-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus, can cause deadly skin infections that can also spread to heart, lungs, blood, or bone. Nationwide tests by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) confirmed 47% of meat and poultry samples were contaminated with S. aureus, of which over half were resistant to a variety of antibiotics.  In another recent study, the largest sampling of raw meat products to date indicated that the superbug MRSA, (methicillin resistant S. aureus) is found in 7% of store-bought pork. Link to Science Daily report here.

These dangerous superbugs are being created by the liberal use of antibiotics by industrial farms to increase growth rates.  The deadly germs are then spread by handling practices at the plants.  According to a report  from the Union of Concerned Scientists, an estimated 70% of U.S. antibiotics are used  for non-medical uses by farm industries, primarily for growth enhancement. Densely-packed concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are the breeding grounds for drug-resistant bacteria that move from animals to to grocery store meat counters.

DNA testing has proven that the food animals themselves are a major source of contamination.  However, the meat handling plants are also a source of contamination, as the meat sampling study of pork  showed no significant difference in MRSA contamination between pork raised with or without antibiotics.

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Meat and dairy cause bad breath.

Do vegetarians have sweeter breath than carnivores? 

Pete's halitosis still a problemImage by Fantata via Flickr
Halitosis a problem?
Foods high in protein, particularly animal protein such as fish, seafood, eggs, and dairy foods (especially milk and cheese) are the main culprits of halitosis (bad breath).  Consuming these high protein foods also feeds the bacteria living in our mouths and intestinal tracts.  The waste products of those bacteria can produce some stinky byproducts.

Driving by a feed lot, it is hard to ignore the foul odor which is actually created by a sulfur compound called methyl mercaptan -- this same sulfur compound is excreted as a waste product by our own oral bacteria as it feeds on particles of decaying meat debris found in gum lines and wedged in between teeth.These sulfur compounds are known by dentists as "volatile sulfur compounds" (VSC's).

Volatile sulfur compounds are the main culprits of bad breath, but the oral bacteria that feed on animal protein actually produce a variety of stinky waste products such as:
  • Cadaverine (taking its name from the smell of corpses)
  • Putrescine (taking its name from the putrid smell of decaying meat)
  • Skatole (this emanates the smell of  fecal matter)
  • Isovaleric Acid (think smelly feet)

To rid your mouth of these nasty bacterial byproducts, stick to a diet full of fruits and vegetables.  High fiber, crunchy plant food increases saliva production which keeps the bacteria at bay. Vitamin C is especially helpful in limiting oral bacteria because it creates an unfriendly environment for bacterial growth.  Get your vitamin C from fresh produce (citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers) rather than from supplements. 

It has long been known that parsley fights halitosis, but other herbs are helpful as well to include cardamon, rosemary, tarragon, coriander, eucalyptus and spearmint.
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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Fruits and Veggies minimize birth defects.

NHS Pregnancy Desktop Spelling Mistake Anomoly...Image by DrJohnBullas via FlickrAccording to the CDC, birth defects affect about one in every 33 babies born in the United States each year. Birth defects are the leading cause of infant deaths, accounting for more than 20% of all infant deaths.  They usually occur during the first three months of pregnancy, making the mother’s diet during and before pregnancy of critical importance to the health of the baby.

It has long been known that folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects and spina bifida.  Folic acid rich foods include Romaine lettuce, asparagus, broccoli, beans and spinach. In recent years, it was thought that if a pregnant woman simply supplemented any diet with folic acid in tablet form, it would provide optimum protection against birth defects.  While folate supplementation is important, women who eat the most amount and variety of vegetables, fruit and whole grains during their childbearing years will be less likely to have a baby with certain birth defects.   Recently, a study from Stanford University School of Medicine showed that healthy diets that included a diet rich in fruits and veggies decreased the likelihood of cleft lip or palate.  More info here.

The March of Dimes website lists animal protein to include meats, poultry and fish, on their list of food-borne risks in pregnancy.  This is because of the risk of bacteria such as listeriosis, E. coli and Campylobacter infections, and salmonellosis.  A particularly dangerous bacteria that can be found in raw or undercooked meat, Toxoplasmosis, is a parasitic infection.  Although it often causes no symptoms or only mild flu-like symptoms, if a pregnant woman contracts it, there’s about a 50% chance she will pass it on to her unborn baby . This may cause vision and/or hearing loss, mental retardation, seizures and other problems.

Pregnant women should also stay away from fish because of mercury contamination.  High levels of mercury can harm a baby's developing nervous system.  Researchers are also studying the connection between a pregnant woman's exposure to mercury and their children having autism.  Fish that live the longest and are predatory to other fish tend to have the largest accumulations of mercury, but almost all fish are contaminated with some level of mercury.
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