Category: wellness

Category: wellness

Canaries in the Kitchen-  The Dangers of Teflon Cookware

In two to five minutes on a conventional stovetop, cookware coated with Teflon and other non-stick surfaces can exceed temperatures at which the coating breaks apart and emits toxic particles and gases linked to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pet bird deaths and an unknown number of human illnesses each year, according to tests commissioned by Environmental Working Group (EWG).

In new tests conducted by a university food safety professor, a generic non-stick frying pan preheated on a conventional, electric stovetop burner reached 736°F in three minutes and 20 seconds, with temperatures still rising when the tests were terminated. A Teflon pan reached 721°F in just five minutes under the same test conditions (See Figure 1), as measured by a commercially available infrared thermometer. DuPont studies show that the Teflon off-gases toxic particulates at 446°F. At 680°F Teflon pans release at least six toxic gases, including two carcinogens, two global pollutants, and MFA, a chemical lethal to humans at low doses. At temperatures that DuPont scientists claim are reached on stovetop drip pans (1000°F), non-stick coatings break down to a chemical warfare agent known as PFIB, and a chemical analog of the WWII nerve gas phosgene.

For the past fifty years DuPont has claimed that their Teflon coatings do not emit hazardous chemicals through normal use. In a press release, DuPont wrote that “significant decomposition of the coating will occur only when temperatures exceed about 660 degrees F (340 degrees C). These temperatures alone are well above the normal cooking range.”

These new tests show that cookware exceeds these temperatures and turns toxic through the common act of preheating a pan, on a burner set on high.

In cases of “Teflon toxicosis,” as the bird poisonings are called, the lungs of exposed birds hemorrhage and fill with fluid, leading to suffocation. DuPont acknowledges that the fumes can also sicken people, a condition called “polymer fume fever.” DuPont has never studied the incidence of the fever among users of the billions of non-stick pots and pans sold around the world. Neither has the company studied the long-term effects from the sickness, or the extent to which Teflon exposures lead to human illnesses believed erroneously to be the common flu.

The government has not assessed the safety of non-stick cookware. According to a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food safety scientist: “You won’t find a regulation anywhere on the books that specifically addresses cookwares,” although the FDA approved Teflon for contact with food in 1960 based on a food frying study that found higher levels of Teflon chemicals in hamburger cooked on heat-aged and old pans. At the time, FDA judged these levels to be of little health significance.

Of the 6.9 million bird-owning households in the US that claim an estimated 19 million pet birds, many don’t know that Teflon poses an acute hazard to birds. Most non-stick cookware carries no warning label. DuPont publicly acknowledges that Teflon can kill birds, but the company-produced public service brochure on bird safety discusses the hazards of ceiling fans, mirrors, toilets, and cats before mentioning the dangers of Teflon fumes.

As a result of the new data showing that non-stick surfaces reach toxic temperatures in a matter of minutes, EWG has petitioned the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to require that cookware and heated appliances bearing non-stick coatings must carry a label warning of the acute hazard the coating poses to pet birds. Additionally, we recommend that bird owners completely avoid cookware and heated appliances with non-stick coatings. Alternative cookware includes stainless steel, ceramic and cast iron, neither of which off-gases persistent pollutants.

What is Better- Folate or Folic Acid?

What is folate and why do we need it? Folate or vitamin B9 is found in many different foods. Some of the highest folate foods are beef liver, spinach, lentils and beans, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, sunflower seeds and other leafy greens.

Folate has numerous beneficial roles in the human body. It helps in the production of DNA and RNA, aids in a process called methylation (which I will explain in just a moment), it helps to transform food into fuel producing energy, it partners with vitamin B12 to help make red blood cells and facilitate iron absorption in the body. In addition to all of that it also helps to reduce the production of homocysteine which is an inflammatory amino acid that damages the walls of our blood vessels. Folate also helps calm an overactive nervous system and supports brain, cardiovascular, reproductive health and function. Of all of these amazing benefits, the assistance folate provides in methylation is probably the most important because this biochemical process is involved in almost all of your body functions. There are literally hundreds of millions of these reactions occurring every second in your body! Without being too technical, methylation is the combining of a single carbon with three hydrogen atoms to form what is called a methyl group, which is then bound to a molecule. The unbinding of one of these molecules is called demethylation. Think of this binding and unbinding that occurs trillions of times every day in your body like little on-and-off switches, continuously regulating how everything works. Some of the things that methyl groups control are immune system response, repair of cells that are damaged by free radicals, brain neurotransmitters, repair of DNA, production and recycling of glutathione which is considered the body’s Master Antioxidant, our adrenal stress response, detoxification of chemicals, heavy metals and hormones, prevention of the inflammation response and cancer and even energy production. And that is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Can you see why it’s so important?

In 1998, the US food and drug administration began requiring that folic acid be added to enrich many different foods including rice, pasta, flour cereals, breads and other grain products. This move was in an effort to prevent what are called neural tube defects in newborns. Common forms of these defects are spina bifida and anencephaly. The defects actually occur in the first trimester of pregnancy, therefore by the time a woman becomes aware that she is pregnant it is often too late to add supplemental folic acid to her diet. Studies indicate that the occurrence of neural tube defects has declined as much is 32% since the implementation of folic acid enrichment in foods. While this has been of tremendous benefit in preventing a good number of these birth defects, it has had some unintended consequences for adults taking folic acid. You see, folic acid is created in a laboratory and it is the synthetic form of folate which is naturally found in many fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, nearly half of the population have a genetic mutation or single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP). This genetic mutation has many undesirable effects in the body, one of them which are the inability to convert folic acid into the active form which is called 5-methyltetrahydrofolate or 5-MHTF. Therefore, it is highly preferred to get folate from the diet versus folic acid. Some nutritional companies now are adding 5-MHTF rather than folic acid into their nutritional supplements. This greatly helps that nearly 50% of the population that cannot efficiently convert folic acid. According to the September 1, 2013 issue of the Journal of perinatal medicine, “supplementation of the natural form 5-MTHF, is a better alternative to supplementation of folic acid….”

To make matters worse, folic acid can bind to folate receptors, decreasing the body’s ability to absorb natural folate from food. This can also cause a buildup of folic acid in the system which has been linked to several different serious health conditions such as lung, prostate and colon cancers. According to David Smith PhD, Prof. emeritus of pharmacology at the University of Oxford, “there is a subgroup of people who may suffer harm from folic acid. For example, people with low vitamin B12 status and people who carry certain quite common genetic mutations. Furthermore, intake of high amount of folic acid in pregnancy may cause future harm to the child.” Dr. Smith and colleagues from Tufts University and the University of Oslo, have petitioned against fortifying mandates proposed in Europe. In a letter published in the British Medical Journal in 2016, they cite research showing that older people who took daily supplements or fortified foods containing more than 400 micrograms of folic acid suffered significant cognitive decline compared with those who did not. “Other unintended consequences of synthetic folic acid include, mental sluggishness, heart palpitations, feeling faint, irritability, fatigue, poor digestion, impaired immune system and can mask a Vitamin B12 deficiency…” The take-away from all of this. Once man begins to alter what nature created perfectly, there is always a price to pay. Get your folate from natural sources whenever possible. When you must supplement, look for 5-MTHF.

The Scoop on Nuts

Variety is the name of the game

Introduction

When you look at a nutrient profile of nuts, you can readily see a wide variation in the amounts and contents of different nutrients. It definitely gives you the impression that nuts are designed to be alternated in the diet to gain from the full array of benefits. Nuts are a good source of minerals. They also contain fats. Some nuts contain a much higher ratio of omega 6 oils which tend to be pro inflammatory. Other nuts contain a higher ratio of omega-3 oils which are more anti-inflammatory.

Mix it up

Some examples of the wide variation of vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids found in nuts are as follows:

Almonds- Highest in Calcium, Riboflavin (Vit B2) and Vitamin E (Alpha and Beta Tocopherol). Unfortunately however, almonds have the worst Omega 3 to 6 ratio of 2,028:1

Walnuts- Have the best Omega  3 to 6 ratio of 4:1 and very high in Gamma and Alpha Tocopherol

Pecans- Highest in Vitamin E (Gamma Tocopherol) and Beta Cryptoxanthin

Hazelnuts- Highest in Vit C, Lutein and Zeaxanthin

Brazil Nuts– Highest in Magnesium and Selenium

Pistachios- Highest in Potassium, Vit A and very high in Gamma Tocopherol

Macadamias- Highest in Monounsaturated fat, and Thiamine (Vit B1)

Pine Nuts- Highest in Vit K

Peanuts (not actually a nut, but a legume)- Highest in Folate

 

The bottom line is that nuts, just like vegetables, berries, fruit, meats and seeds all have different profiles of vitamins, minerals, trace minerals, phytonutrients, amino acids and fats. All foods found in nature are designed to be eaten in variety. That gives a person the broadest spectrum of nutrients to cover all of a person’s health care bases. It also prevents the body’s immune system from developing a sensitivity reaction to the proteins in the food from having that food in the diet too repetitively. A good game plan is to eat a handful of a different type of nut every day. My daily “treat” is to eat a handful of nuts with a small piece of dark chocolate. YUM!