Accessing the Daily Log Archives –
Several readers have asked how they can find past items appearing in the seven "Daily Log” boxes on the Center's homepage. We have created an archive of past items that is accessible via the "View Archive...” icons in each box.
You can also find the "Daily Log” archive by clicking on "Back to the Daily Log Archive” at the bottom of each item that appears in one of the seven daily log categories.
Pesticides Linked to Increased Risk of ADHD
A team of researchers at the University of Montreal and Harvard University has concluded that dietary exposure to organophosphate (OP) insecticides increases the risk of children getting attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
The team measured the levels of key OP metabolites in the urine of 1,139 children ages 8 to 15. For each 10-fold increase in OP metabolite levels, the risk of ADHD increased a remarkable 55% to 72%. The effect was even seen at the low end of the exposure curve. In conclusion, the team wrote -
"The present study adds to the accumulating evidence linking higher levels of pesticide exposure to adverse developmental outcomes.”
About 4.5 million children suffer from ADHD according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The authors projected that food -- especially fruits and vegetables -- are the primary source of OP exposures among these children.
The Organic Center has highlighted evidence in a recent report showing that imported fresh produce accounts for a disproportionate share of OP residues and risk. Imported sweet bell peppers, green beans, cucumbers, peaches, and grapes are among the fresh produce items containing residues associated with relatively high dietary risks.
Source: Maryse Bouchard, David Bellinger, Robert Wright, and Marc Weisskopf, "Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Urinary Metabolites of Organophosphate Pesticides,” Pediatrics, Vol. 125, No. 6, June 2010.
Prenatal Pesticide Exposure Triggers a "Silent Pandemic” of Developmental Neurotoxicity
Neurobehavioral function was studied in 87 children ages 6-8 years in northern Ecuador, in an area where many women work in the floriculture industry and are exposed to pesticides occupationally.
Only children whose mothers were exposed to pesticides in greenhouses during pregnancy displayed consistent deficits in a range of indicators of neurological development. These children experienced 1.5 to 2 year delays in development and also had higher blood pressure.
Source: Harari, et al., "Neurobehavioral Deficits and Increased Blood Pressure in School-Age Children Prenatally Exposed to Pesticides,” Environmental Health Perspectives, online February 25, 2010.
Songbirds and Organic Wheat
A paper by a U.K. research team entitled "Birds select conventional over organic wheat when given free choice” appeared in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. The team reports that birds prefer conventional wheat over organic wheat when given a choice, and attribute the preference expressed by bird feeding behavior to the approximately 10% higher protein content in the conventional wheat.
Because of higher levels of nitrogen fertilizer use on conventional farms, conventional food often includes higher levels of protein than organic food. But because protein is a nutrient present at ample to excessive levels in the typical western diet, this advantage for conventional food does not lead to any significant health benefits in countries like the U.K. and U.S.
The authors go on to make several questionable statements based on their experimental findings. For example, they conclude that –
"Our results suggest that the current dogma that organic food is preferred to conventional food may not always be true, which is of considerable importance for consumer perceptions of organically grown food.”
People do not seek out conventional or organic wheat to increase their average daily protein intakes, nor do preferences expressed by birds in an experiment like this one have anything to do with the reasons some consumers choose to purchase organic wheat and support organic wheat farmers.
The study has attracted considerable press attention and strong criticism for overstating its findings. In a May 19, 2010 story in the Los Angeles Times, one of the authors of the study acknowledged that - "Just because the birds preferred conventional food doesn't mean it's better for them.” The study makes no mention of the impacts of pesticide use on bird populations.
Source: Ailsa McKenzie, and Mark Whittingham, "Birds select conventional over organic wheat when given free choice,” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, in press, 2010.
Review Highlights Lack of Solid Studies on the Nutritional Benefits of Organic Food
A team of scientists at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine led by Dr. Alan Dangour has published a second paper in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) based on its work under a contract with the U.K. Food Standards Agency.
Their first paper came out in July, 2009 and concluded that there are no significant differences in the nutritional quality of organic and conventional food, a conclusion at odds with a similar analysis carried out by the Center. We concluded that on average, organic plant-based foods contain 25% higher levels of 11 nutrients.
The Center highlighted several methodological flaws in the original Dangour et al. study, and published a letter in the AJCN explaining why the approach taken by the Dangour team obscured evidence of the nutritional superiority of organic food.
The new Dangour et al. paper focuses on the small number of studies that have assessed linkages between consumption of specific organic foods and changes in health status. Only 12 published studies on the topic were located. The paper concludes that:
"evidence is lacking for nutrition-related health effects that result from the consumption of organically produced foodstuffs.”
We agree with the Dangour team that there are very few high quality studies in the literature assessing nutrient-content/health-outcome linkages stemming from consumption of organic food. The good news is that there are at least a few quality studies and that some of these have, in fact, reported promising findings.
As noted in the Dangour review, three of the 12 studies reported at least some evidence that consumption of organic food leads to health benefits. Two studies documented benefits from consumption of organic dairy products (Kummeling et al., 2008; Risk et al., 2007), most likely triggered by the higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid and omega-3s in organic milk. A third study reported evidence that extracts of organic strawberries inhibited cancer-cell proliferation, whereas similar extracts from conventional strawberries did not (Olsson et al., 2006).
Given that so few studies have been carried out and the difficulty of establishing solid linkages between any aspect of diet and public health outcomes, it is not surprising that the evidence is limited on the nutrition-related health impacts of organic food. It is actually encouraging that one-quarter of the studies identified by the team did, in fact, have some evidence of a positive health impact, or increased odds of a positive health outcome.
When coupled with the increasingly powerful evidence of human health and environmental benefits from lessened exposure to pesticides, the nutritional benefits of organic food, while poorly understood, are none the less, icing on the cake.
Sources: Alan Dangour et al., "Nutrition-related health effects of organic foods: a systematic review,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, published online May 12, 2010.
Kummeling, I., et al., "Consumption of organic foods and risk of atopic disease during the first 2 years of life in the Netherlands,” British Journal of Nutrition, Vol. 99: 598-605.
Olsson, M.E., et al., "Antioxidant levels and inhibition of cancer cell proliferation in vitro by extracts from organically and conventionally cultivated strawberries,” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Vol. 54:1248-1255.
Rist, L., et al., "Influence of organic diet on the amount of conjugated linoleic acids in breast milk of lactating women in the Netherlands,” British Journal of Nutrition, Vol. 101:735-743.
Maternal Dioxin Exposure Plus a High-Fat Diet = Trouble
Scientists working in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina have found that female mice exposed to both dioxin and a high-fat diet suffered double the incidence of breast cancer, compared to mice exposed to the same amount of dioxin and a normal diet.
The authors conclude that women exposed to persistent chemicals like dioxin early in life can reduce their risk of breast cancer in adulthood by avoiding a high-fat diet.
Source: Michele Merrill et al., "Maternal Dioxin Exposure Combined with a Diet High in Fat Increases Mammary Cancer Incidence in Mice,” Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 118, No. 5, May 2010.
Banned Insecticide Identified as Type 2 Diabetes Risk Factor
In yet another study linking pesticide exposure to diabetes, Stanford University scientists have concluded that heptachlor epoxide, a breakdown product of the insecticide heptachlor, increases the risk for Type 2 diabetes.
The paper begins with a statement echoed throughout the President's Cancer Panel report–
"It is becoming clear that most non-communicable diseases are a result of a complex combination of genetic processes and the environment.”
Source: Chirag Patel, et al., "An Environment-Wide Association Study (EWAS) on Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus,” Plos One, Vol. 5, Issue 5, May 2010.
Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Lead to Insulin Resistance
European researchers have shown that exposure to persistent organic pollutants in fish oil, and in particularly organochlorine insecticides, down-regulates genes that regulate lipid homeostasis, thereby increasing insulin resistance and impairing glucose metabolism.
This study provides solid evidence of two mechanisms by which exposure to endocrine disrupting pesticides can contribute to overweight, diabetes, and the metabolic syndrome. It also reports that the beneficial effects of the omega-3 fatty acids in the fish oil were unable to overcome the detrimental effects of the POPs in unrefined fish oil.
Source: Jerome Ruzzin et al., "Persistent Organic Pollutant Exposure Leads to Insulin Resistance Syndrome,” Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 118, No. 4, April 2010.
Monsanto Finally Acknowledges Serious Problems with Roundup Ready Crops
Monsanto Chief Executive Officer Hugh Grant said during a conference call with reporters on May 27th that weed resistance has become a serious problem and that Monsanto has got to get ahead of it, according to a Reuters story by Carey Gillam entitled "Monsanto set to help fight spreading ‘superweeds'.”
Chuck Benbrook is quoted in the story saying –
"It is too bad it has taken so long for Monsanto to get serious about addressing this problem. If solid glyphosate-resistance management plans had been put in place three or four years ago, the worst of the problem could have been prevented.”
Following the interview with Carey Gillam, I downloaded and read Monsanto's May 27th press release which triggered the Reuter's story. The Monsanto press release states -
"Weed resistance is real, but managing it doesn't have to be complex. The right tools exist today, and we're going to make it easy and more affordable for farmers to access those tools as a package, with Roundup as the cornerstone.”
Based on this comment by Grant, it is clear that Monsanto still is not prepared to "get serious” about managing Roundup resistance. It is truly amazing that Mr. Grant believes people will take Monsanto's commitment to addressing weed resistance seriously when he promises that more use of Roundup will be the "cornerstone” of the strategy.
A serious response to the problem of glyphosate resistant weeds must include a seed industry-wide agreement to cut by at least one-half the percent of cotton and soybean acres planted in any given year to Roundup Ready varieties, for reasons pointed out in a recent New York Times editorial (see next item).
A May 16, 2010 editorial in the New York Times is entitled "Resisting Roundup.” It focuses on the "...signs of trouble, chief among them the appearance in various parts of the country of herbicide-resistant weeds.”
The editorial addresses the over-reliance on glyphosate-based herbicides and asserts that the emergence and rapid spread of resistant weeds is forcing farmers to apply more herbicide and return to deep tillage, a practice that increases soil erosion, impairs water quality, and burns large volumes of diesel fuel.
The Center's November 2009 report "Impacts of Genetically-Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use in the United States: The First Thirteen Years” provides the only independent estimate of the magnitude of the increase of herbicide use in the wake of resistant weeds.
In the first three years of commercial use of Roundup Ready, GE crops, average per acre herbicide use did fall marginally, but by 2000, volumes started to rise. The average pounds of glyphosate sprayed on an acre of soybeans rose 97% from 1996 to 2006, and doubled on cotton acres between 1996 and 2007, according to USDA pesticide use data (see Table 4.1, page 29 in the "First Thirteen Years” report).
Over the first 13 years of commercial use of GE crops, 383 million more pounds of herbicides have been applied as a result of the planting of herbicide-tolerant crops. Dramatic increases in the number of herbicide applications needed to deal with resistant weeds in 2007 and 2008 accounted for almost half this increase.
The Times editorial ends by saying - "The solution is more diverse crops and cultivation practices, and a wider array of seeds, including non-genetically engineered ones. The unpalatable alternative is the re-introduction of far less benign herbicides.”
New Challenges on the Road to Safer Food
For years, E. Coli O157 has been the most dreaded bacterial pathogen able to find its way into food. O157 was responsible for the 1993 Jack-in-the-Box outbreak, as well as the 2006 spinach outbreak. While the majority of E. Coli O157 illnesses are caused by contaminated animal products, especially undercooked hamburger, a growing percentage of cases are traced back to leafy greens and other plant-based foods.
For several years, microbiologists have known that E. Coli O157 has a bunch of siblings and cousins fully capable of triggering serious illness. These related bacteria are generally referred to as "EHECs” -- Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli. This subclass of E. Coli bacteria have the ability to produce verotoxins, or Shiga-like toxins, that can cause abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and sometimes bloody diarrhea (haemorrhagic colitis). Fever and vomiting can also occur.
Most people recover in 10 days, but in some patients (particularly young children and the elderly), the infection can lead to haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), a life-threatening disease. Up to 10% of patients with an EHEC infection may develop HUS, with a case-fatality rate ranging from 3% to 5%. Overall, HUS is the most common cause of acute renal failure in young children.
E. coli O157:H7 is the most important EHEC serotype in relation to public health, but six other serotypes are appearing more frequently and are beginning to be tracked by safety experts in the food industry and government.
An outbreak of 30 or more illnesses was recently caused by E. Coli O145, one of the six relatively new EHECs. The pathogen found its way into pre-cut Romaine lettuce distributed in more than two dozen states. So far, three people have developed HUS, according to a May 18, 2010 piece in the Washington Post entitled "Pre-cut lettuce is suspected cause of food poisoning outbreak.”
The New York Times picked up the story about a week later, with the May 26th piece by William Neuman entitled "In E. Coli Fight, Some Strains Are Largely Ignored.” Neuman reports that the USDA has been considering adding the six, lesser-known EHECs to the list of prohibited pathogens in meat, but has not done so, because of the lack of reliable, quick tests and resistance from the beef industry.
But because the USDA has failed to act, few food companies look for these other EHECs, doctors do not routinely test for them, and "...only about 5 percent of medical labs are equipped to diagnose them in sick patients.”
The scope of this problem is deeply worrisome, in part because USDA's response has been, thus far, so feckless.
Seattle lawyer Bill Marler has made a fortune representing victims of E. Coli O157 illness outbreaks over the last two decades, and has become a strong advocate for victims and a more aggressive government response. He tells anyone who will listen is number one goal is to put himself out of business.
Marler personally financed extensive testing of hamburger bought in the Seattle area and found EHEC bacteria in 1.9% of the samples, according to a piece in the Seattle Times (April 22, 2010, "E. Coli study by Seattle law firm leads to recall of ground beef”).
The good news is that steps taken by the beef and meat packing industries to reduce E. Coli O157 contamination also are helpful in minimizing risks from other EHECs. The bad news is that the factors giving rise to shedding of E. Coli O157 and other EHECs - anything that stresses cattle - are not going away anytime soon, and always get far worse in the heat of summer.
Some companies are, fortunately, taking matters into their own hands and are pushing the food safety envelope with state-of-the-art testing and prevention programs. According to the Times piece, Earthbound Farm is one of the few companies routinely testing for all pathogenic EHECs.
About one in 1,000 samples tested by Earthbound Farm through its now-famous "test and hold” program is found to be contaminated with a bacterium, mostly EHECs. Each time a lot of incoming leafy greens, or finished product (a much rarer event) tests positive, it is removed from the plant and taken to a landfill.
The program costs money, as does the need to divert otherwise wonderful, organic product from the channels of trade, but it is a price Earthbound Farm, its growers, and consumers have chosen to accept.
So until science sorts out how to combat these ever-changing bacteria and USDA takes decisive actions to expand margins of safety, consumers wanting to avoid EHECs in leafy greens have two good options - grow your own nowhere near cows, or purchase ready-to-eat leafy greens from a trusted CSA or grower, Earthbound Farm, or another company that administers an equally effective "test and hold” program.
Updated EWG "Dirt Dozen” List Triggers Pushback
Celery tops the recently released Environmental Working Group (EWG) "Dirty Dozen" list of foods, ranked by degree of contamination with pesticides. The EWG's methodology is described on their website, and is heavily weighted toward the number of pesticides found on the average sample of food tested by the USDA's "Pesticide Data Program (PDP).
A quick look at the latest USDA data on pesticide residues in celery shows clearly why celery ranked high on EWG's list. In 2008 testing, the PDP found 3,819 residues on 727 samples of conventional celery, or 5.3 residues per sample on average.
A California-based consultant ridiculed the basis of the EWG ranking and methodology and chastises EWG for not "digging deeper" and looking beyond the number of residues found.
The Center did just that with the benefit of our "Dietary Risk Index” (DRI), a measure of the relative levels of pesticide risk in specific foods (see the May 19, 2010 "Fact Abuse” item for details).
In 2008 the USDA found residues of 16 pesticides in celery with DRI scores over 0.1, the level at which the EPA should consider taking actions to reduce exposures and risk. These 16 pesticides included six organophosphate (OP) insecticides, a class of pesticides recently shown to contribute to ADHD.
The riskiest chemical found in celery in 2008 -- the OP chlorpyrifos -- had a DRI score of 1.2. The good news is that only 3.2% of the celery samples contained chlorpyrifos, but these 24 samples represent hundreds of thousands of servings of celery, based on the statistical sampling design of the PDP and overall celery consumption in the U.S.
Sometimes digging deeper to get all the facts about the pesticides in specific foods is not nearly as reassuring as some would lead us to believe.
TOC's List of Foods with Highest Pesticide Risk Levels to be Updated
By mid-summer, the Center will release a new report on pesticide residues and risk levels in domestically grown and imported conventional and organic foods, drawing on the most recent data from the USDA's "Pesticide Data Program (PDP).”
The report will highlight exposures to organophosphate (OP) insecticides known to increase the risk of ADHD, as well as overweight and diabetes and neurological development problems.
The new report will also describe upgrades in the methodology used by the Center in ranking foods according to average levels of pesticide risk. Our method relies on a "Dietary Risk Index” that takes into account average residue levels found in PDP testing, the frequency of residues, and the toxicity of each pesticide active ingredient.
Our initial ranking of relatively high-risk foods appeared in the ”Organic Essentials Pocket Guide" released in March, 2008. We will re-issue the pocket guide with the new listing, including both relatively high-risk and low-risk foods.
Another Look at Livestock's Contributions to Global Climate Change
A provocative paper has been issued by the World Watch Institute that projects that livestock account for over 51% of worldwide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions - a share more than four-times larger than the recent, official FAO's estimate of 11.8%.
A report with findings so far outside the mainstream of thought would normally be given little attention. But this paper is written by two experienced analysts working for the World Bank, Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang.
They identify eight major differences with the FAO projections. "Overlooked respiration by livestock” is the most significant, and accounts for over one-third of the difference. Other factors include overlooked land use changes, undercounting of methane and animal numbers, and misclassification of certain emission sources.
The report reinforces the growing consensus that much more work is needed to develop accurate estimates of agricultural sources of GHG emissions, a necessary first step in crafting policies to cost-effectively reduce emissions.
Source: Robert Goodland, and Jeff Anhang, "Livestock and Climate Change: What if the key actors in climate change are...cows, pigs, and chickens?" World Watch, November/December, 2006.
How Biotech Companies Attempt to Control Public Sector Science on GE Crops
A report in the Yale Environment 360 magazine focuses on tactics used by biotech companies to influence and control research carried out in public universities on genetically engineered (GE) crop varieties. The story revisits a submission sent to the Environmental Protection Agency in February 2009 that was signed by 24 land grant scientists and complained of inability to carry out independent research on GE crops because of "Bag tag” restrictions.
Anyone purchasing GE seed in America must agree to abide by the terms of a technology agreement, which is typically set forth in a tag on each bag of seed. The agreement prohibits the purchaser from using the seed for research purposes. So, scientists needing to conduct research on the performance, safety, or environmental impacts of GE seeds have to obtain permission from the companies to do so.
This process forces scientists to discuss their research ideas and experimental designs with GE seed companies, and often concludes in an agreement that provides the seed to the researcher, but with strings attached, including an opportunity to review and pre-approve publications reporting research findings.
The story also reviews cases where scientists have published findings raising questions about the efficacy or safety of GE crops, triggering harsh professional and personal attacks from the biotech industry and its surrogates. The Center's Chief Scientist, Chuck Benbrook, is quoted in the story:
"I have talked to dozens of scientists who have gone through incredible machinations to do their research....”
"What's happened is that with no independent voice on either the positive aspects of genetic studies or the negative, the public gets PR from the companies or spin from activist groups. As a result the issues around GM crops become more complicated and divisive than necessary. The companies, in their paranoia, have created a vacuum of expertise and it's the farmers who will ultimately be the victims.”
Source: Bruce Stutz, ”Companies Put Restrictions on Research into GM Crops,”; Yale environment 360, May 13, 2010.
Interesting factoids about food, farming and the environment
The "June Effect” - Relatively high levels of the corn herbicide atrazine are present in Midwestern water supplies in June, following the spring spray season, triggering an increase in birth defects among children born nine months later.
Source: "Atrazine Commonly Used on Indiana Crops,” TheIndyChannel.com, May 24, 2010.
Flooding in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita deposited so much relatively clean sediment in the city that overall soil lead levels in New Orleans dropped by 46%. Incredibly, this reduction in soil lead levels has been accompanied by a 53% drop in blood lead levels among children in the impacted neighborhoods.
Source: Page 34, Chemical and Engineering News, May 3, 2010.
10.62 parts per million of penicillin was found in the muscle of a dairy cow from Idaho tested in 2009 by the USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service. The meat was sold and entered the food supply, despite a 0.05 ppm FDA tolerance applicable to penicillin in meat. _____________________________________________________________________________________________________
The average American consumes 22.2 teaspoons of sugar per day.
Monsanto has confirmed that pink bollworms have developed resistant to Bt cotton in India, the "first case of field-relevant resistance..” to a Btcrop anywhere in the world.
Source: "Hardy Cotton-Munching Pests are Latest Blow to GM Crops,” Science, Vol. 327, March 19, 2010.
$12 billion plus - annual average spending on commodity programs and crop insurance by the USDA.
$65 million - annual spending on the "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food.”
Source: David Goldstein, "In political food fight, critics fire at USDA program," Kansas City Star, May 22, 2010.
50% -- share of farm workers in the U.S. that are undocumented (illegal immigrants), according to the USDA.
70% -- share of undocumented farm workers, according to some industry experts.
Source: "Florida growers warn of danger to food supply,” Palmbeachpost.com, May 27, 2010
153 - Number of registered, foreign food manufacturing facilities inspected by the FDA in 2008, out of 189,000.
Source: Chemical and Engineering News, May 24, 2010, page 29.
The "Big Guns”
By: Chuck Benbrook and Alan Greene
Thomas Buchanan of the University of Southern California medical school is one of the nation's foremost authorities on diabetes. In a chilling commentary in the June 2010 issue of the journal Obesity, he argues that it is time to "bring on the big guns” in the nation's effort to stem the tidal wave of type 2 diabetes.
His commentary begins with a summary of the latest clinical studies on today's two major weapons deployed in the fight against diabetes - lifestyle interventions, especially those designed to reduce weight, and drug therapies to slow the progression of diabetes. His conclusion is sobering –
"What seem to be impressive risk reductions over the short term translate to only modest delays in the onset of diabetes.”
A leading drug therapy, metformin, reduced diabetes risk by 31% in a recent study, but delayed the onset of diabetes only by one year. Some studies analyzing lifestyle changes in conjunction with drug therapy report delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes by two to four years. While these delays are of unquestionable value, they do not "...stop the loss of ß-cell function that leads to rising hyperglycemia.” (ß-cells in the pancreas produce insulin, compensate for insulin resistance, and play a key role in glucose management). We underestimate excess body fat's ability to cause ongoing damage to ß-cells.
For this reason, Buchanan concludes that "...we need to get real about what we are up against. Losing a little weight or taking a relatively weak medication such as metformin will do little more than buy some time.” And so, he argues that "more powerful tools...big guns” are needed to have a meaningful impact on the incidence and severity of type 2 diabetes, both in the U.S. and abroad.
The "big gun” Buchanan promotes for dealing with patients on the way to diabetes is restrictive bariatric surgery, such as gastric binding. These procedures are less invasive, according to Buchanan, than gastric bypass surgery, which is now reserved for patients already obese and dealing with ß-cell failure. He argues that for many patients, surgical interventions are the most likely way, and perhaps the only way, to trigger substantial weight loss.
Given the number of people struggling with overweight and on the road to diabetes, the total cost and human impact of the tens of millions of surgical procedures that would be required to combat obesity in this way boggles the mind. Plus, the long-term weight-reduction effectiveness of less invasive surgical procedures is unknown, as are rates of complications from "hardwiring” weight loss by physically manipulating a person's GI tract.
Before, or at least at the same time the "big gun” of surgery is deployed in the fight against adulthood obesity and diabetes, more aggressive actions should be taken earlier in life to help prevent these disorders in the first place. Recent science points to several promising options, many of which impose little or no cost on society and deliver multiple benefits.
Paradoxically, we can farm and eat our way around the problem, at least to some extent -- first, by adopting an urgent mission of growing and choosing clean foods that are relatively low in calories and unhealthy fats, but that promote enjoyment and satiety (the sense of fullness), and second, by aggressively minimizing exposure to hollow calories from excess sweeteners or fats and to obesogenic chemicals used in the production, packaging, and serving of our food. We can no longer afford for French fries to be the most common "vegetable” consumed by children, or for endocrine-disrupting chemicals to line our food containers.
Elsewhere in the same issue of Obesity, scientists from the Harvard School of Medicine report that walnut consumption increase satiation, or the sense of fullness that leads people to stop eating (Brennan, A.M., et al., 2010). Other researchers have shown that the secondary plant metabolite resveratrol can help trigger satiety by up-regulating SIRT1, a key enzyme in the cell-signaling pathway governing appetite (Ahn, et al., 2008).
Several studies exploring how resveratrol impacts satiety are reviewed in Chapter 4 of our report "That First Step: Organic Food and a Healthier Future". Chapter 2 summarizes studies showing that organic farming systems elevate the concentrations of resveratrol in grapes, the crop accounting for the majority of resveratrol in the diet.
Sticking with Buchanan's military theme and analogies, reducing prenatal exposures to endocrine disrupting chemicals must become another high-priority front in the war against obesity and diabetes. Organic farming and food are vital assets to deploy in reducing exposures to the approximate two-dozen pesticides that are known to disrupt fetal development or metabolism.
More than a dozen recent studies have identified pesticides as risk factors for overweight and diabetes (for examples, see the three items on insulin resistance and obesity in the "Breaking Science” section of this newsletter). The most alarming new data links a mother's pre-natal exposure to organophosphate (OP) insecticides to increased risk of diabetes. A February 2010 paper in Environmental Health Perspectives, for example, identified a key mechanism through which OP insecticides can alter the trajectory of cell signaling "…in a manner consistent with the observed emergence of prediabetes-like metabolic dysfunction” (Adigun et al., 2010).
Buchanan is on solid ground in highlighting that bariatric surgery belongs among the options considered for patients rapidly gaining weight and losing ß-cell function. But before the nation rushes headlong into such a dramatic and costly intervention impacting tens of millions of people, a greater diversity of tools and tactics that show promise, individually and collectively, should be explored more fully and deployed more effectively.
Adigun, A.A., et al., "Neonatal Organophosphate Pesticide Exposure Alters the Developmental Trajectory of Cell-Signaling Cascades Controlling Metabolism: Differential Effects of Diazinon and Parathion,” Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 118, No. 2, pages 210-215, February 2010.
Ahn, L. Et al., "Dietary resveratrol alters lipid metabolism-related gene expression of mice on an atherogenic diet,” Journal of Hepatology, Vol. 49:1019-1205.
Grennan, A.M., et al., "Walnut Consumption Increases Satiation but Has No Effect on Insulin Resistance or the Metabolic Profile Over a 4-day Period,” Obesity, Vol. 18, No. 6, June 2010.
Thomas Buchanan, "Stemming the Tide of Type 2 Diabetes: Bring on the ‘Big Guns',” Obesity, Vol. 18, No. 6, June 2010.
Core Truths on the Major Benefits of Organic Food and Farming
Core Truths is a ground-breaking compilation of the most current research on organic agriculture. This highly readable and graphically stunning 108-page coffee table book documents the verifiable health and environmental benefits of organic products.
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The Organic Center Features Jerry Garcia Artwork
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