Monthly Archives: April 2007

Protecting fetuses only goes so far

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health released details of a study that found two pervasive man made chemicals in 100% of umbilical cord samples tested.

These compounds, PFOS and PFOA, are >not new to this blog. They are industrial chemicals that are used in making Teflon, used in packaging materials, and apparently are pumped into the environment and in our food in alarming amounts. These chemicals have “known to cause tumors and developmental problems in laboratory animals” according to the Johns Hopkins press release, although “more study is needed to understand health effects at these lower exposure levels.”

Ya know, you would think that more study would be needed before these compounds became so pervasive that they are found in 100% of umbilical cord samples. But, we all know it’s the natural medicine industry that is unregulated.

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Formula – now, with added hormones!

The Independent:

Scientist create ‘anti-obesity’ infant formula

By John von Radowitz, PA Science Correspondent

Published: 23 April 2007

Scientists are developing an infant formula designed to be given to babies to prevent them growing up fat, it was revealed today.

The controversial research aims to supplement baby milk with a hormone that suppresses hunger.

Animal studies suggest early exposure to the hormone leptin can programme the brain to prevent over-eating throughout life.

But fears have been raised about the safety of tampering with the brains of babies in such a fundamental way.

The infant formula, together with other “child-friendly” leptin preparations, is being developed by Professor Mike Cawthorne, director of metabolic research at the Clore Laboratory, University of Buckingham.

Prof Cawthorne has already shown that giving rats leptin supplements early in life provides permanent protection against obesity and diabetes.

His study, published in the American Journal of Physiology, found even adult animals fed a high-fat diet remained slim.

Leptin is naturally produced throughout life. But the research suggests that in infancy it “hardwires” the body’s energy balance settings.

It may even determine whether someone is fat or thin before birth.

Feeding the hormone to pregnant rats seems to have a life-long impact on their offspring. Animals born of leptin-treated mothers remain lean, despite being fed a fat-laden diet. In contrast those whose mothers were untreated gain weight and develop diabetes.

Prof Cawthorne argues he is only giving babies what they would normally get anyway from their mothers’ milk.

“The supplemented milks are simply adding back something that was originally present,” he told Chemistry & Industry magazine, which reported on the research today. “Breast milk contains leptin and formula feeds don’t.”

Previous studies looking at the ability of leptin to reduce hunger in human volunteers have proved disappointing.

Prof Cawthorne believes this is because they involved adults, rather than infants. Leptin was only likely to leave its stamp on the malleable brains of babies.

“You would only take this for a short time, very early in life,” said Prof Cawthorne.

However other experts remain to be convinced, and have expressed concerns about safety.

Dr Nick Finer, clinical director of the Wellcome Clinical Research Facility, at Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge, said: “The leap to a functional food being effective or safe is enormous. All obesities result from an excess of energy intake over energy expenditure, so any treatment must have effects on either or both arms of the equation.

“Even if this approach is shown to be valid in humans, extensive clinical trials would be needed to allow the right dose to be chosen and to show that the approach was safe. The concept that adding something to a food that could permanently alter brain development is exciting but at the same time so scary that it would mean a wholly new approach about how such treatments can be tested and approved for use. Would the first trials be in newly born children?”

Dr Ian Campbell, medical director of the charity Weight Concern, said: “Without evidence that this works in humans, it is pure flight of fancy that those consuming leptin from infancy will never get fat. I’d be surprised if this product could be advertised or marketed with these extraordinary claims.

“To date, leptin has proved to be a great disappointment. Most of us have plenty and true deficiencies are rare. In fact, obese people tend to have higher than normal levels.”

Professor Jonathan Seckl, a hormone expert at the University of Edinburgh, said: “We need to know whether leptin is acting pre and post-natally, figure out how it works, and dissect the possible side effects before this becomes a potential approach in humans.”

Prof Cawthorne told the Press Association the infant formula work was in the “very early stages”.

“It’s something we’re in the process of looking at,” he said. “There’s potential there because we know that breast-fed offspring have less of a tendency towards obesity in adult life.

“I’m not in the least suggesting that it will cure world wide obesity, but it’s something that could make a difference.

“There are always safety concerns, and whenever you do anything there tend to be unexpected events. But one could argue that giving formula feeds to babies that are different from breast milk might itself be changing their programming.”

He compared giving young children leptin with getting them to take cod liver oil – although he accepted that hormones were powerful substances.

Prof Cawthorne agreed that leptin was not the only natural ingredient missing from formula milk, and other factors also influenced obesity.

Whether or not infant formula with leptin should be classified as a food or medicine was a question that would have to be resolved, he said.

“It is still a grey area,” he added. “One could argue that as you’re replacing something that should be there, it’s not pharmaceutical.”

A spokesman for the Food Standards Agency said: “If you make a functional food using ingredients that are already on the market, then you wouldn’t have to go through a safety assessment. But if it includes new ingredients then you would, and it depends on the sort of ingredients.”

Claire Williamson, from the British Nutrition Foundation, said: “Leptin is a hormone that is synthesised in adipose (fat) tissue which appears to signal how much fat is stored, thus helping to regulate appetite.

“Researchers in the past found that when leptin was injected into specially bred mice, the mice ate less, burned food faster and lost significant amounts of weight.

“However, the precise details of the leptin system and its physiological significance in human weight control still remain to be fully understood.

“The research in rats supplemented with leptin is in its very early stages and needs to be replicated by further studies. Furthermore, results from animal studies cannot be assumed to apply to humans, so it is much too early to say whether this could be a possible way to prevent obesity in humans.

“Obesity is a complex disorder with a diverse range of causal factors, which makes it a complex and challenging disorder to tackle.

“Both genetic and environmental factors come into play in the causes of obesity. However, one incontrovertible fact is that for an individual to become obese, energy intake (i.e. energy from food) must exceed energy expenditure (i.e. through physical activity) for an extended period of time.”

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Earth Day’s Resolutions

earth dayHappy Earth Day, everyone!

I have been feeling guilty lately because I talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk all the time. I was inspired by Stacie’s post about sustainable toys. Actually, I was reminded that being an liberal hippy environmentalist involved more than bitchin. I have made some good strides in the past year. Although it may be too late to cloth diaper, I have switched to these wonderful cloth menstrual pads and a reusable menstrual cup. I have been using my windows instead of my air conditioner when we can, and we usually have our thermostat set at a balmy 72 degrees. (Remember, we live in Florida, so we really don’t use heat at all). I have been walking sometimes (not enough) when I can drive. We replaced a lot of our light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, and will continue to do so.

I have been shunning Chilean wines (sigh) and grapes and food that is flown in to me as much as I can. This is an area I could use some work. So, speaking of work I could use, here are my Earth Day resolutions:

1. Cut down on paper towel use. Use sponges and rags and towels whenever possible.

2. Keep up with dabbling in natural cleansers. Baking soda and vinegar, not just for science projects anymore.

(Or, as my friend said when she gave her amazing baking soda, Bronner’s soap and tea tree oil paste recipe for cleaning her shower: “Baking soda. Not just for cookies and freebasing.”

3. Cut down on the ziplock bag usage. (*twitch twitch* This one will be hard.)

4. Look into the 100 Mile Diet. I am not going to start it strictly immediately, but I am going to whittle down my flown and driven in food and investigate my local options. Including growing more food. I have had a good start with my veggie garden, but summer is too hot here for most stuff.

5. Walk and bike for errands when I can.

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Same old song and dance

I was on another non-mainstream parenting site and read yet another person come on and complain about how us judgmental natural types (well, the ones she is friends with irl) are making her feel bad about her decision to have a conventional medicalized birth. Here is my reply:

If you have people in your life assuming that you made your decisions based on being ignorant, then that is wrong.

However, only 5% of women give birth outside of hospital, so I find it really hard to believe that most women you encounter fall in this category. 85% of women choose anesthesia, and almost all of those women choose an epidural. Most women who choose out of hospital birth get treated like the ones who are, well, the very small minority. Even on this website is it very very rare to find someone who doesn’t vaccinate.

So, sorry if you got treated like your choices are unfounded. I am not sure where you are finding these judgmental natural people. I hear about them all the time on the internet, but I trained for two years as a midwife and I have yet to meet someone who tries to convert their friends to a very trampled and unpopular way to have kids. In fact, the ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) wants to end out of hospital birth, and it is a huge controversy just now.

I don’t think it is right to tell people that what they choose for their birth is wrong or ignorant. I had a couple walk up to me and tell me they were going to give birth in the ocean only attended by dolphins. Yup. They decided that, and who am I to tell them I didn’t think that was safe? They seemed confident in their decision, and were not asking me for my opinion.

A family member got induced early. Before she told me she was going to get induced, (actually, she never told me, my mom called me the day of the induction and said she was in labor after being induced that morning, 3 weeks early. Only indication was a presumed large baby.) I had sent her and her partner an article from the New York Times a few weeks before (a newspaper they subscribe to) about early induction (not exactly what you are discussing here) saying that insurance companies are going to stop covering them because they fail so often and many moms end up with cesareans. The outcomes for the babies and moms was worse, and the the procedure was getting more and more common. Her early induction did fail, and she had a cesarean. She had major complications, and ended up in intensive care for 13 weeks. Will everyone who gets induced end up like her? Of course not.

Another family member told me that her doctor induces everyone and she would be induced. This was very early in her pregnancy, and I knew she wasn’t reading or studying up on birth. I told her she was a poor candidate for induction (irregular periods, not sure of her conception date, no early ultrasound) and she got offended. She also talked to her doctor and he told her the very same thing. She went into to spontaneous labor early and had a quick and easy birth, with an epidural. Did I tell her not to get the epidural? Of course not. In some hospitals, 90% of women get them.

So, is it rude to tell someone their researched health decision is uninformed? Absolutely. It happens all the time, and it doesn’t stop with birth. Is it rude to share legitimate information about birth with someone you care about? Maybe, maybe not, depends on how you present it, and how she reacts to it. And it is not the exclusive property of natural types. I have had members of my family tell me I was wrong in my choices and literally order me to do things like circ my sons. Call me repeatedly and tell me I had to. I have been mocked at a baby shower for trying a water birth. I was shamed into a corner for breastfeeding my 12 month old (He’s a YEAR??!!) Since the majority of moms do not agree or practice most of the things you listed being judged over, I think you should have less problems than the ones who do, but I don’t wish it on anyone.

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Thinking Blogger Award tag

I am touched to be tagged as a Thinking Blogger by Stacie at The Twinkies. Funny, because her posts have been making me think a lot lately, and I have been slightly AWOL. But, I am happy to pass on the love to a few bloggers whose blogs I thoughtfully read. I hope I am not retagging anyone, but I may be.

1. Ask Moxie

2. Belly Tales – Diary of a Student Midwife

3. Moms Rising

4. Anti-Racist Parent

5. Feministing

I also love Twinkies, which has obviously been tagged, and Women’s Health News, which has also been tagged.

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Maude Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut

VonnegutKurt Vonnegut died yesterday.

I would be hard pressed to call anyone else my favorite author. I still remember the elated feeling I felt when I read Harrison Bergeron for the first time. I was in tenth grade, in a stifling portable outside of Miami Beach Senior High. My English teacher was one of those soulless teachers. Even her hostile insipid joylessness couldn’t take away from the incredible literature we read that year, including Arthur Miller and Kurt Vonnegut.

I don’t remember ever discussing the work in class, but I remember reading it in our textbook and practically gasping with joy. I have read almost everything the man has written ever since, and I still come away from his books with a sense of optimism and hope, even though he is such a pessimist.

I vividly remember meeting him while I was in college. He was on an incredible speaking tour with Joseph Heller and William Styron. The topic of discussion was something about war as a result of the perpetuation of the military industrial complex. Yeah, I know, liberals aren’t good at soundbites.

I stood in line nervously, waiting to take a turn during the Q & A session after the three World War II veteran authors spoke. I told them a story. I told them that my father, also a World War II veteran, was part of the war machine. He told me about it when I was younger. He was a Naval officer and a presidential adviser at the time. He worked for the Hudson Institute, which was a conservative Washington think tank and a predecessor to the Heritage Foundation.

My dad told this story in his typical fashion. He didn’t tell it often, and was really just trying to show his daughter how smart he was. The head of the Hudson Institute, my father’s boss, attended a White House meeting deciding whether to enter the Vietnam conflict . I am sure I could find his name if I researched enough, but I would have trouble confirming it, since my father died a few years ago. He said this man was presumably the smartest man in the country at the time, and had just given an impassioned argument about why we needed to go into Vietnam. His reasons included Communism and the domino theory.

My father apparently spoke immediately after and said no, the real reason we needed to go into Vietnam was that the Korean conflict had been a decade before, and the country needed a good military build up. According to his version of the story, his reason was the deciding factor to go into Vietnam.

Since he died, I have interacted on message boards with others who loved him and his writing, and I am happy to read that he has interacted with many others on a personal level. I hated to hear that he struggled with depression when he has given so much to so many. I think we had the benefit of hearing his voice and having the bound messages that yes, there are people in this world as talented as he is. But Kurt didn’t have the excitement of starting a new Vonnegut novel as a fan, but only as an self critical writer.

I am happy that his attempt to commit suicide by Pall Malls backfired on him, and he died at the ripe old age of 84, even if he felt cheated. That is the same age my father was when he died.

Kurt is a patron saint to the Tinfoil Hat wearers. He wrote about aliens, and about ice-9, the super weapon. He wrote about a computer that can replace people, even Japanese flower arrangers. He spoke in public about global warming in the seventies…the SEVENTIES! He was suspicious of technology and preferred to walk to buy a typewriter ribbon than to learn how to use a computer. He was a humanist and a pacifist and a crude, funny old grump.

I would like to end this with my favorite quote from Kurt Vonnegut. It is from God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. It is the prayer that will accompany ever birth that I witness.

“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies &emdash; ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’ “

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Happy Easter – here’s a joke!

Knock knock

Who’s there?

Either

Either who?

Either bunnies

Knock knock

Who’s there?

Seymour

Seymour who?

Seymour either bunnies

Knock knock

Who’s there?

Eden

Eden who?

Eden Seymour either bunnies!

Knock knock

Who’s there?

Consumption

Consumption be done about all these either bunnies?

Happy keister!

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Coming up for air

GingerHowdy, y’all. Sorry I have been slightly AWOL lately. Getting into medical school has been the most wonderful curve ball I have ever experienced.

One of the perks I am looking forward to about medical school is the free full text access to all of those medical journals. OMM, I cannot WAIT! I will be hopefully have some free time to share some of what I am reading about here, as I am sure some of it will fuel my paranoid fire.

What has been making me paranoid lately? Well, my friend Paige reminded me that I should share this widepsread bit of news about contaminated pet food on here. It sure has been making me worry.

First of all, I was shocked by the amount of pet food companies owned and operated by the same parent company. Just another reminder that the way “capitalism” is run in our country is not a level playing field or often what is best for the consumer. Little companies cannot compete against the ones with higher capital, and are taken over by conglomerates who, in many cases, don’t have that attention to detail that made those smaller companies successful in the first place. Profit motive runs completely contrary to what is best for the consumer because it encourages cutting corners and outsourcing to unsafe food supplies, as seen here. These contaminated food batches weren’t made domestically. Can we buy cheaper meds from Canada? NO! Unsafe and illegal, even though our domestic pharmacies import the same drugs made in the same overseas factories! Can everyone we buy from import their materials and goods and export their tax base? Sure, it’s good business!

Secondly, how many parents have fished pet food out of their toddler’s mouths? Hands up, please. My older son S loved dust bunnies (ewwwww…..) and younger son Z loved dog food. Poor Ginger rarely ate that year, because we had to resort to jsut keeping it off the floor.

Finally, what the heck are they putting in pet food, anyway? Rat poison? Does that mean there is rat meat in there? I used to make my own pet food for a while in college, but I burned a few motors out on my blenders before I decided it was way too high maintenance for me to handle. I am now buying the Purina dry food that says real _____ is our main ingredient. I am thinking of switching to Newman’s Own, since I love all of their other products. Anyone have any recommendations?

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