February 9, 2010
by: David Gutierrez
Higher exposure to toxic chemicals may explain the difference in testicular cancer rates between Denmark and Finland, researchers from the University Department of Growth and Reproduction have found in a study on breast milk.
“Our findings reinforce the view that environmental exposure to [endocrine-disrupting chemicals] may explain some of the temporal and between-country differences in incidence of male reproductive disorders,” said lead researcher Niels Skakkebaek.
Rates of testicular cancer, genital abnormalities, low semen quality, and other male reproductive disorders are four times higher in Denmark than in nearby Finland. These conditions have previously been linked to exposure to industrial chemicals that disrupt the hormonal (endocrine) system.
Endocrine disruptors have also been linked to birth defects, neurological problems, and increased rates of cancer and heart disease. The most dangerous chemicals are known as persistent organic pollutants, because they resist environmental degradation and accumulate in the environment.
Most of these chemicals bind to animal fat. As a consequence, animal-based foods tend to contain higher concentrations. So does human breast milk.
In the current study, researchers tested the breast milk of 68 women in Denmark and Finland for 121 different chemicals. They found significantly higher levels of pesticides, dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the Danish breast milk.
The higher rates of testicular cancer and other reproductive disorders in Denmark may not be explained directly by contamination via breast milk. Breast milk contamination is thought to be a reliable marker of prenatal chemical exposure, which is likely to pose an even greater risk.
December 28, 2009
By David Gutirrez
Regular soda consumption significantly increases a person’s risk of obesity, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA).
“We drink soda like water,” said Harold Goldstein of the Center for Public Health Advocacy, which also took part in the study. “But unlike water, soda serves up a whopping 17 teaspoons of sugar in every 20-ounce serving.”
Researchers interviewed 40,000 adults on their beverage consumption habits, finding that adults who drank one sugary beverage per day were 27 percent more likely to be classified as overweight than those who drank sugary beverages less frequently.
Drinking one soda per day involves the consumption of 39 pounds of sugar per year.
According to the San Jose Mercury News, 15.5 percent of adults, 56 percent of teenagers, and 41 percent of children under the age of 12 in Santa Cruz County, Calif., consume one soda per day. The figures on children’s consumption were obtained from their parents.
An estimated 64 percent of adults in the city of Pajaro Valley are overweight or obese. The Pajaro Valley Unified School District says that 39 percent of its seventh graders are already overweight or at risk of being overweight.
Health advocates are acting on levels from the local to national to limit the damage done by soda and other sugary beverages. Many schools have banned sugary drinks from their campuses, but Watsonville High School Principal Murry Schekman admits that it is easy for students to get around this restriction by purchasing the beverages off campus.
“We need to provide a steady stream of information to students and families so they can very much understand the real dangers of sugar-sweetened products,” Schekman said.
On the city, state and national levels, there are also campaigns to impose a tax on soda. And the federal Women, Infants and Children (WIC) food assistance program recently banned the use of its funds to purchase juice for infants.
“By feeding infants breastmilk and water only, there is less opportunity to develop an early taste for sweetened beverages,” said WIC’s Santa Cruz County program director, Cathy Cavanaugh.
December 7, 2009
By Kenny Hodgart
Move to raise awareness of link to multiple sclerosis
The NHS in Scotland is to launch an awareness campaign about the links between vitamin D deficiency and multiple sclerosis after being spurred into acting by Glasgow teenager Ryan McLaughlin.
Vitamin D, obtained from foods and through the action of sunlight on skin, is essential for maintaining healthy bones. A deficiency is also linked to incidence of MS, a disease that attacks the central nervous system.
Ryan’s mother, Kirsten, has had MS for three years, and Ryan, 14, has shown some symptoms of the disease, but the family only discovered the link earlier this year after a family holiday.
Ryan’s father, Alan, said: “We had been in Australia and within 48 hours of being there Kirsten, who was in a wheelchair, was up and about and doing tae kwan-do. We then looked into the research and discovered there was some evidence Vitamin D was the crucial link.
“Kirsten started taking supplements and she hasn’t had a relapse since. Ryan has had some symptoms too but supplements have made a real difference for him as well. We started the campaign at Ryan’s insistence.”
With backing from children’s author JK Rowling and the MS Society they petitioned Holyrood and have now obtained a commitment from the Scottish Government to issue guidance to all health professionals who work with pregnant women and young children.
Older children, young adults, older people and women of child-bearing age are particularly susceptible to low levels. Many women begin pregnancy with low stores of the vitamin.
A written response from Holyrood’s petitions committee stated there was an “urgent need” to put a plan in place following evidence that a lack of vitamin D, in conjunction with a specific gene variant, may increase the risk of the disease.
The McLaughlins were urging the Government to commit to providing free vitamin D supplements to all pregnant and breastfeeding women and introduce supplements in the form of fortified milk and other drinks in schools.
The Government had already ruled out such commitments, but a written response following Thursday’s committee hearing said: “There is a need to educate women about the importance of taking vitamin D supplement when pregnant and the importance of giving their children a vitamin D supplement until the age of four.
“The Scottish Government will agree a co-ordinated programme of action with NHS Health Scotland.”
Ryan said: “I was shocked there had not been publicity around this before. We wanted there to be more awareness of the link and more research into how much of a problem it is in Scotland.
“These actions will make a big difference … it will go a long way to giving Scots children some protection against the disease and give parents proper advice.”