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Friday, March 30, 2007

Milk Reduces The Health Benefits of Tea

An Online paper in the January 7th issue of the European Heart Journal points out that it is better to drink tea without added milk. Researchers from the Charité Hospital, Berlin have found that the beneficial effects of tea are greatly reduced upon adding milk.

It appears that proteins in milk bind to some of the substances present in tea, leading to a vast reduction of their beneficial effects.

The researchers asked healthy women volunteers to drink either freshly brewed 500 ml of black tea, black tea with (skimmed) milk, or boiled water as control.

Studies showed that drinking tea with milk was no better than drinking water.

Vessels relaxed

Their blood vessels (arteries) were monitored before and continually after they drank, for two hours using high- resolution ultrasound measurements. Black tea was found to relax the vessels significantly while water did nothing.

This result confirms many earlier studies, which have suggested that drinking tea is beneficial to, among others, the cardiovascular system.

The surprise came when they monitored the blood vessels of women who drank tea with milk. Drinking tea with milk was no better than drinking water!

The first author of the paper, Dr. Mario Lorenz, is reported to have said: "We found that whereas drinking tea significantly increased the ability of the artery to relax and expand to accommodate increased blood flow compared with drinking water, the addition of milk completely prevents the biological effect. To extend our findings to a functional model, we determined vasodilation (relaxation of blood vessels) in rat aortic rings by exposing them to tea on its own and tea with individual milk proteins added, and got the same effect".

Musical names

In other words, the proteins in milk are the benefit-killers here. The researchers theorise that these proteins bind to the biologically active ingredients of tea, making them unavailable for action.

These ingredients belong to what is called the catechin class of molecules. Their names have a chant-like intonative or rhythmic ring to them: catechin, epicatechin, gallocatechin, epigallocatechin, catechin gallate, epicatechin gallate, gallocatechin gallate, and epigallocatechin gallate.

The name catechin comes from its origin in tropical plants (catechu), and the family belongs to the class of flavonoids, since these molecules are responsible for the flavour. Catechinoids have been shown to offer a variety of health benefits. They are good anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, and protect cells from general wear and tear.

They are thus helpful against age-related disorders such as cataract and some retinal diseases of the eye, cardiovascular and neuromuscular disorders. They activate some enzymes that help relax blood vessels. There is also some evidence of their anti-cancer activity. In short, tea catechinoids have multivalent health benefits.

China's gift to the world

The Chinese, who introduced it to the world two millennia ago, have always held that tea is an all-purpose tonic. They consume two varieties: green tea and oolong, which is prepared by mild fermentation of green tea. The rest of the world uses black tea; we in India grow and pluck tea leaves and do the three-part process called CTC (curl, twist and cure) to it. Fermentation modifies the catechins and offers a slightly acidic and pungent flavour.

Black tea too has the catechins slightly modified; heating in the CTC step generates tannins; hence the darker colour (and also the unpleasant sour after-taste upon boiling it in water).

Tannins are not that healthy; they bind to the iron and other micronutrient metals in the diet, and remove them from circulation (so, do not overboil your tea, nor overdrink it). The lighter hued green tea and oolong, free of tannins, are safer. Tea came to India quite early.

The late Dr. K. T. Achaya remarks in his "A Historical Dictionary of Indian Food" (OUP, 1998) that I Ching, a Chinese traveller in India in the fifth century AD, described its use here. (Tea antedates coffee, brought here by Arab merchants 1100 years later).

While the Orientals drink tea straight, people in 17th century Surat were reported to drink black tea with `conserved lemons' (and no sugar). They also took tea with some spices added as treatment against headache, kidney and bowel troubles. Tibetans drink tea with the butter of the animal yak. Kashmiris drink it as kahwah, adding almonds and cardamom.

Gujaratis make tea with milk and add ginger; they also make a special masala, a pinch of which is added while making tea.

Adding milk to tea seems to have come from the colonial British ad Dutch. The other more popular way to drink tea is to add lemon or lime rather than milk.

Synergy and dysergy

That the added milk acts as a confounding factor tells us another thing, namely the effect of one component on that of another in a mixture.

Traditional medicine differs from allopathy or molecular medicine in that it more often than not uses multi-component mixtures as extracts.

In a mixture, component A might be the one that confers benefit; what each of the other components (B, C,…) does — enhance or confound the benefit — is an issue that needs study.

A substance that enhances the effect of another is said to act in synergy, while that which decreases this effect is said to act in dysergy.

Put it another way. Now that the Berlin study has shown that while milk in tea adds taste but kills the benefits, we need to study what the other additives do.

Adding lemon juice to black tea lightens the colour; does it modify the effects of the catechinoids?

Summer project

What are the effects of added butter, salt, ginger, cardamom, the Gujarati masala and other spices? Here is a nice little summer project for a student!

Let us not forget coffee, the morning staple of many in peninsular India. While it has far more caffeine and other types of anti-oxidants than tea, it is still known to be beneficial in small doses.

Does added milk synergise or dysergise? Are the Americans, Eastern Europeans and the Turks wiser in drinking it black and thick?

Some papers claim, however, that the cholesterol-lowering effect of coffee is not affected by added milk. Can this be confirmed? Add this as another aim of the summer project.


Arthritis -- Fight with Spicy Things

For centuries, spices have been used to preserve food and enhance its flavor, and as remedies for a long list of ailments. With the rise of allopathic medicine, much of that folk wisdom fell out of favor, and spices were replaced with prescription drugs.

Today the pendulum is swinging back, and researchers are confirming what herbalists have known all along -- the spice rack can be as potent as a medicine chest. Spices are rich sources of antioxidants and phytochemicals, both of which help our cells repair damage while easing symptoms of many common conditions. "They're powerhouses of pleasure and health," observes Victoria Zak, author of The Magic Teaspoon (Penguin Group, 2006).

There's another advantage as well. Flavoring food with more spices and less butter, oil, cream and salt can help improve health and make weight management easier.

Science has not yet investigated all of the dozens of spices on store shelves. But here is the latest research on eight of the most familiar.

Cayenne: The pepper spice that puts the zing in chili and other dishes, cayenne's claim to fame comes from its compound capsaicin, a popular ingredient in pain-relieving creams. But wait, there's more: One study found that a diet rich in cayenne-spiced chili protected against the formation of LDL ("bad") cholesterol, while another demonstrated that chili helped keep insulin levels low after meals. "Cayenne is the red-hot mama of healing spices," says Zak. "It's great for warming and as an all-around body tonic."

Cinnamon: One of the most versatile spices, cinnamon can be used to flavor everything from cookies to soups. And that's a wise choice because cinnamon has plenty to offer. Not only does it ease common tummy troubles like gas and bloating, but in a recent clinical trial, cinnamon significantly lowered fasting blood glucose, triglycerides and cholesterol levels in diabetics. Worried about E. coli? New research shows that cinnamon can wipe out the bacteria. When a teaspoon of cinnamon was added to highly contaminated apple juice, the E. coli was reduced by 99.5 percent after three days.

Coriander: For hundreds of years, coriander has been a favorite remedy for anxiety and insomnia. Now research has confirmed its tension-taming properties. Like cinnamon, coriander aids digestion. And it has shown promise in reducing blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Zak recommends a simple method for getting a daily dose of coriander -- adding it to honey. "Stir a teaspoon of coriander into one-half cup of honey for an uplifting afternoon treat, " she explains. Or mix it with hot water, tea or hot cereal.

Ginger: A common ingredient in ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicines, ginger boasts an antioxidant power equal to vitamin C. Among the spice's reported health benefits; easing arthritis pains, improving digestion, and treating colds, coughs and flu. Plus, research has shown that ginger is more effective at combating motion sickness than Dramamine.

Oregano: Reducing inflammation and battling bacteria and viruses are good reasons to include oregano in favorite foods. And now scientists may have discovered why the spice is so effective. In a study examining the antioxidant activity of nearly 40 different herbs and spices, oregano won the highest scores, beating out apples, oranges and blueberries.

Rosemary: A staple in Mediterranean cuisine, rosemary fights the formation of blood clots and reduces inflammation, making it a powerful ally against heart disease. Even the fragrance of this powerful antioxidant has healing properties. Aromatherapy research has shown that inhaling essential oils of several spices, including rosemary, eased depression and pain in arthritis patients. A 2004 study found that rosemary's phytochemicals may even be useful in treating Alzheimer's disease.

Saffron: Harvested from crocus blossoms, saffron is one of the world's most cherished spices. It's also a potent antioxidant, packing more punch than vitamin E. On the health front, saffron has been shown to protect against cancer and to treat depression as well as Prozac. "This spice is a great rejuvenator and circulatory tonic," Zak says. "If your spirits need lifting, saffron is for you."

Turmeric: A common ingredient in curries, turmeric is a powerful antioxidant that protects against cancer, lowers cholesterol and eases arthritis aches and pains by reducing inflammation. It has also been shown to increase insulin sensitivity by 300 percent.

More good news: Researchers at UCLA found that curcumin, a compound in turmeric, was more effective at preventing the development of brain-damaging plaques seen in Alzheimer's disease than any drug being tested. It is probably no coincidence that India's populace has the lowest rate of Alzheimer's in the world -- and a diet rich in turmeric.

Take a look at your store's spice shelves, and you'll see that we've only scratched the surface of what's available. Even though research has a long way to go when it comes to unlocking the health secrets of spices, there are plenty of reasons to enjoy their abundant flavor and satisfying aromas in the meantime.

Perfect Spiced Cider

Makes 20 servings

The proportions in this recipe need not be absolute. Remove and discard the apples when they get soft and brown.


  • 1 gallon apple cider
  • Two 3-inch cinnamon sticks
  • 4 medium apples
  • 2 teaspoons whole cloves
  • 1 lemon, sliced

How To

1. Combine cider and cinnamon sticks in Dutch oven or large pot over low heat.

2. Insert cloves in apples. Add to cider.

3. Increase heat, and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.

4. Add lemon slices, and serve warm.

Do-ahead tip

For a large party, make three separate batches. Start the first a half-hour before the party. When that batch begins to get low, put on the second pot. Have the third assembled in the refrigerator and ready to go, if needed. Keep the apples (cloves inserted) and lemon slices separate until the last batch goes on the stove.

Nutrition Facts

Per serving: 96 calories; 0 grams protein; 0 grams total fat (no saturated fat); 24 grams carbohydrates; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 20 milligrams sodium; 0 grams fiber; 20.8 grams sugars.

Reprinted from the Vegetarian Times.

How to Buy and Store Spices

Faced with the option of buying spices in glass or plastic containers, choose glass, Zak says. And unless you're cooking industrial quantities of food, go with the smallest size. "Spices should not be kept more than six months as a general rule." she says, explaining that sitting on the shelf longer can rob a spice of flavor. "Spices that are not fresh will show it. They lose their color and appear blanched or have no aroma. Fresh spices are fragrant."

Source: Better Nutrition.

Arthritis -- Fish Oil Still Fights Pain

In the 17th century, cod liver oil was quite different from its present form. Initially, it was produced by rotting cod livers, so it stunk and was black in color. Naturally it tasted yucky.

Despite that, people knew it to be good for health and they drank it as an all-purpose supplement though no one knew exactly how it worked.

By the 18th century, cod liver oil was produced by heating with steam. This resulted in a paler and better quality oil though it was still far from tasty and mothers had to force it down the throats of children, especially those who suffered from rickets.

In the 19th century, owners of The British Cod Liver Oil Producers (Hull) Ltd. found that some trawling companies operating in Hull, England, were using the sea boiling technique that produced a light golden brown oil that was far superior in quality, low in acidity, and had a bland taste. Kenneth McLennan, previously from Lever Brothers, came up with the idea of producing cod liver oil in tiny capsules and also came up with the name Seven Seas.

For Healthy Joints

The Eskimos have a reduced incidence of rheumatoid arthritis because of their fish-rich diet. The Japanese diet is also rich in fish, which may explain why they have fewer cases of arthritis compared to people of other countries.

Studies have shown that for patients with mild rheumatoid arthritis, fish oil supplements were able to reduce their nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug requirement.

Fish oil high in omega-3 fatty acids is crucial for adults suffering from arthritis and other bone-related problems. Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the production of chemicals that cause inflammation of the joints.

In patients with arthritis, inflammation is like a jagged edged knife because the enzymes worsen the problem. Apart from reducing the production of chemicals that cause inflammation, omega-3 fatty acids may also reduce the breakdown of cartilage.

Presently there are no drugs available to slow the progression of cartilage degradation. These joint problems cannot be cured, but with good management, a patient can lead an active life

Arthritis is a joint-disabling disease and one of the most common forms of arthritis is osteoarthritis. This degenerative joint disease is confined to local attacks in individuals.

It is basically the result of normal wear and tear on the joints with years of usage. Thus it occurs mostly in older individuals. Yet it doesn't just happen to older people. It is also likely to develop in joints that have taken a lot of punishment and abuse.

If you're overweight, for instance, your knee and hip joints are likely to be affected. Joints injured in an accident or sports, subjected to stresses at work or play, or joints with hidden birth defects are also more prone to developing osteoarthritis.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful, disabling disease of the immune system that triggers discomfort and swelling in nonspecific joints, nerves, muscles, tendons, blood vessels and connective tissue in the body. Rheumatoid arthritis can strike at any age, but mainly those between 25 and 40.

For some, it attacks only once in a lifetime. For others, it could be a long-term and progressive disease spreading from joint to joint and even resulting in limb deformities.

There is no cure for arthritis, only proper management and prevention. This includes watching your weight and doing light workouts like walking, swimming and cycling. Supplementing with cod liver oil will also help. The oil has been consumed for generations for alleviating the pain and stiffness associated with arthritis.

Scientists have confirmed what people have long believed about cod liver oil -- that it can slow down or even reverse the destruction of joint cartilage. The fatty acids in the oil switch off enzymes that break down cartilage.

Experiments have shown that by exposing human osteoarthritic cartilage to cod liver oil for 24 hours, it reverses the action of the degenerating enzymes and swelling affecting the joint's tissue.

Source: New Straits Times.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Minimizing Breast Implant Complications and Detection

Breast augmentation with implants is the most popular and sought after cosmetic surgery available today. This is because the results of a successful procedure don’t just have the power to transform a patient’s body, but her self-confidence and quality of life as well. However, if you select an inexperienced or unqualified cosmetic surgeon, you may end up with unnatural looking breasts or recovery complications that can change your breast implant experience from an exciting, positive one to a difficult and painful one.

To ensure you are selecting the right cosmetic surgeon and that he or she is able is to achieve the best results possible, you should refer to the information and tips below when speaking with your cosmetic surgeon about the breast augmentation procedure and how to minimize complications and detection.

The Components of a Thorough Consultation

Once you’ve narrowed your cosmetic surgeon search down to one or two individuals, you need to schedule an initial consultation and come prepared. This is important because a thorough consultation can tell you if you’re in the right hands. You should bring along a list of the specific questions you’d like to ask as well as a sample photo of the breast size and shape you would like to achieve with the surgery.

One of the most important aspects of your consultation should be a detailed breast exam. In order for your cosmetic surgeon to recommend the best type of implant, placement and initial technique for your surgery, he or she will need to carefully evaluate your natural breasts. You will know if your surgeon is doing a thorough job of this if he or she is taking detailed measurements of breast volume and width, shape and nipple positioning, and the width between breasts. If your cosmetic surgeon doesn’t gather this important information during your consultation, it should be cause for concern.

Limiting Complications and Pitfalls - Strategies to Discuss With Your Surgeon

There are a number of steps that can be taken to make sure your breast implant surgery is as successful as possible. The following is a summary of the most commonly reported complications and telltale signs of surgery you want to avoid. Before you schedule your surgery, you should ask your cosmetic surgeon how he or she is going to address these issues to help ensure that you have the most positive experience and results possible.

Post Surgery Infection: Your cosmetic surgeon should have a detailed strategy for ensuring you do not contract an infection as a result of your surgery. Most surgeons will administer an antibiotic for you to take right before surgery as a precautionary measure. In addition, the instruments and implant used should be carefully sterilized in an autoclave.

Deflation and Rippling: Deflation and rippling are embarrassing telltale signs of breast implant surgery. There are several strategies for avoiding these pitfalls, the most common of which is overfilling your implants and selecting implant models that are smooth in texture.

Nipple Numbness: Fifteen percent of all women who have cosmetic breast surgery are left with permanent nipple numbness. The numbness is caused by intercostal nerve damage (the nerve that provides nipple sensation), which can occur if the nerve is cut accidentally during surgery. To avoid this, your surgeon should take care not to cauterize or cut any tissue near this nerve.

Asymmetry: The last thing you want as a result of breast augmentation is asymmetry. To help avoid this, your cosmetic surgeon should take detailed notes on any asymmetry you had before the surgery and adjust the amount of fluid or position of the implant to attain the best degree of symmetry possible.

Post Surgery Pain and Nausea: To make sure you do not experience severe pain after your procedure your surgeon can employ a variety of pain reduction methods. He or she can inject a long lasting numbing medicine directly into each breast that lasts for several days. In addition, you should be prescribed a strong oral pain medication to take once the injected medicine wears off. Managing pain is one of the best ways to avoid the onset of nausea. If you still experience nausea, there are other medications that your cosmetic surgeon can prescribe including Zofran, Scopalamine and Pepcid AC.

Once you have covered all of this information with your surgeon, you should feel confident in his or her abilities and that your experience will be an extremely positive one.


Birth Control -- FAQs About Hormonal Methods

Which methods of birth control contain hormones?

Contain Estrogen & Progestin

Contain Progestin Only

Combined Oral Contraceptives (The Pill)

The Patch (Ortho Evra)

The Vaginal Ring (Nuva Ring)

Progestin-Only Pills (Mini-Pill)

Depo-Provera Injection (DMPA)

Mirena and Progestasert IUDs

Norplant Contraceptive Implant

What's the difference between the types of hormones?

Methods containing higher levels of hormones are more effective but have more side-effects. Methods that contain estrogen have more serious side-effects and health hazards than methods with only progestin. Estrogen-free contraceptives are less effective than combined hormonal contraceptives.

How do birth control chemicals work to prevent pregnancy?

Birth control chemicals containing estrogen and/or progestin have several major mechanisms of action. Contraceptive mechanisms prevent fertilization; when these fail, additional mechanisms prevent implantation.

Major Pre-Fertilization Mechanisms

· Prevents ovulation. Changes cervical mucus to provide a barrier to sperm (probably only a minor contraceptive mechanism)

· Major Post-Fertilization Mechanisms. Changes the lining of the uterus to block implantation of the embryo

Do I need to use a backup birth control method in addition to my hormonal contraceptive?

If you start the Pill, Norplant, or Depo-Provera on the first day of your period, it is considered effective right away. It takes up to seven days for the hormones to become fully effective. However, the first seven days of a woman's cycle are already infertile, so no additional protection is required. If you start the method on any other day than the first day of your period, you need to use a backup plan for up to seven days. For the minipill, you may need a backup method for 28 days. Ask your doctor to be sure. For the Pill, some doctors recommend using a backup method for the first 30 days. This is mainly to be sure that a pregnancy does not occur while you are still getting in the habit of taking a pill every day.

I have just stopped my method because I want to have children. How long should I wait before trying to get pregnant?

It is recommended that you wait until you have had 2-3 normal menstrual cycles before trying to get pregnant. This is because it may take several months before your cycles return to normal after discontinuing a hormonal method. Doctors use the first day of your last menstrual period to determine your due date; if your periods are irregular this may result in an inaccurate date. Also, there is some evidence that birth control drugs may exert a prolonged effect on the endometrium, making it more difficult to become pregnant.

I have stopped using birth control. Why am I unable to conceive?

Because of the prolonged effect of the birth control drugs on your body, you may be infertile for some time. For combined oral contraceptives, the average length of infertility is 2-3 months, but some women will remain infertile for 6 months or more. For Depo-Provera users, infertility typically lasts from 6 to 12 months. You may not have any periods during this time.

Why have my periods stopped? Should I take a pregnancy test?

For users of combined oral-contraceptives, missing a period is not uncommon. If you have not missed a pill you are probably not pregnant, but a pregnancy test may not be a bad idea. If you miss two periods in a row OR if you miss your period and you did miss one of your pills, you could be pregnant. Contact your local pregnancy center immediately for a pregnancy test.

For users of progestin-only methods, lack of periods is common. It probably means that you are not ovulating. However, if you are experiencing pregnancy symptoms (nausea, fatigue, sore breasts, frequent urination, etc.) contact your local pregnancy center for a pregnancy test right away.

Half of all Depo-Provera users have no periods at all during the first year of use. And pregnancy symptoms such as weight gain, mild headaches and breast tenderness are also common side effects of the drug. This can be alarming for Depo-Provera users, but usually the pregnancy-like symptoms disappear. Even after using Depo-Provera, it takes on average 10 months from the time of the last injection for normal periods and fertility to return. If you have stopped using your method, it may take time for your periods to return to normal.

I'm on combined OCs and didn't get my period. How can I tell if I'm pregnant?

If your period does not start during the last few days on the "reminder" pills or during the first 3 days of the pill-free interval, take your temperature with a Basal Body Temperature (BBT) thermometer in the morning before you get out of bed. (You can get a BBT thermometer from most drug stores.) If your temperature is 98 degrees F for 3 days in a row during the pill-free week, you are probably not pregnant. You can also take a home pregnancy test, which are usually accurate by the time you miss your period, or visit a local pregnancy resource center for a free, accurate test.

What if I forget to take a pill?

Combined OCs It is recommended that you take that pill as soon as you remember, and take your next pill at the regular time, even if it means you take two pills in one day. You will probably not get pregnant, but just to be sure, you might use a back-up method for 7 days. If you have missed any of pills 15-21, ask your doctor or pharmacist for special instructions. S/he may ask you to continue taking your pills, but to start a new pack instead of taking the reminder pills.

Progestin-Only OCs It is recommended that you take that pill as soon as you remember, and take your next pill at the regular time, even if it means you take two pills in one day. You will need to use a back-up method for the next 2 days.

What if I forget to take two or more pills?

Contact your doctor or pharmacist for instructions. You may need to start a new pack or double up on pills for a while depending on what type of pill you were taking.

What if I get sick and vomit after taking the pill?

If you took a combined oral contraceptive pill two hours or more before you vomited, then you do not need to take it again. If the vomiting ocurred within two hours, you will need a replacement pill.

Can I use oral contraceptives to change the date my period comes?

Yes, but you will need to talk to your doctor or pharmacist for details. This practice can compromise the effectiveness of the pill. You might also ask your doctor about a new type of combined OC pill where women get their periods only four times a year. It works by reducing the number of pill-free intervals which trigger menstruation.

Why am I having irregular bleeding?

Mid-cycle spotting is not uncommon for users of the pill, especially during the first few months of use. When this happens, typically doctors prescribe a stronger formulation of the pill. Spotting is an indication of decreased pill effectiveness, so some doctors recommend using a back-up method should spotting occur. However, spotting could also be a symptom of the STD chlamydia, so you should be tested if you are at risk.

Users of Norplant and Depo-Provera can expect irregular menstrual patterns. No periods, light periods, and even prolonged or heavy bleeding are all potential side-effects. If you have prolonged or heavy bleeding, you should contact your doctor.

If I take my pill every day can I still get pregnant?

Yes. All methods of birth control can fail, even if you use them perfectly. If you miss a pill, take a mini-pill only a few hours late, or take antibiotics that will increase the likelihood of contraceptive failure. One in ten pill users get pregnant every year.

I took the pill before I knew I was pregnant. Can the hormones hurt my baby?

There is no conclusive evidence that a brief exposure to birth control chemicals will cause any sort of birth defect in the unborn child. However, you should avoid taking if these drugs if you think you might be pregnant.

Who should not use hormonal methods of birth control?
  • Women who are pregnant (known or suspected)
  • Women who are breastfeeding and fewer than 6­8 weeks postpartum
  • Women with unexplained vaginal bleeding
  • Women with active liver disease (viral hepatitis) or a history of liver tumors
  • Women over age 35 who smoke
  • Women with a history of heart disease, stroke or high blood pressure
  • Women with a history of blood clotting problems or diabetes
  • Women with breast cancer or a history of breast cancer
  • Women with cancer or a history of cancer in any reproductive organs
  • Women with migraines and focal neurologic symptoms
  • Women with moral objections to this type of birth control

Do birth control chemicals have unpleasant side-effects or health hazards?

Combined OCs

  • · Common Side-Effects (not comprehensive)
  • · Weight gain
  • · Acne or dark-colored areas on face
  • · Nausea/Vomiting (especially at the beginning)
  • · Dizziness
  • · Headache
  • · Depression
  • · Acne and/or oily skin
  • · Weight gain
  • · Vaginal infections
  • · High blood pressure
  • · Less Common Serious Health Hazards
  • · Blood clots in lung or brain
  • · Stroke
  • · Liver tumors
  • · Heart attacks
  • · Gallbladder disease
  • · Cancer

Progestin-Only Methods

  • · Common Side-Effects (not comprehensive)
  • · Untimely bleeding or spotting between periods
  • · Prolonged menstrual bleeding (8 days or more)
  • · No bleeding at all (amenorrhea) for several months or over a year
  • · Headache (very common)
  • · Nervousness/anxiety
  • · Lower abdominal pain
  • · Dizziness
  • · Loss of sex drive (libido)
  • · Depression
  • · Acne and/or oily skin
  • · Change of appetite
  • · Weight gain
  • · Breast tenderness (mastalgia)
  • · Increased facial or body hair growth (hirsutism) or hair loss
  • · Whitish vaginal discharge (leukorrhea)
  • · Excessive growth of body/facial hair or hair loss
  • · Infection the implants site for Norplant
  • · A brief period of pain or itching
  • · Enlarged ovarian follicles
  • · Bone density loss
  • · Less Common Serious Health Hazards
  • · Ectopic pregnancy
  • · Cancer

What happened to my sex drive (libido)?

One of the most common complains we hear from women is that after starting hormonal contraceptives they just don't feel like having sex any more. Doctors frequently dismiss women's concerns about sex drive while partners are left sulking. Until recently, few studies have examined this issue, other than those conducted by pharmaceutical companies (which tend to be invested in not finding problems). Earlier studies found conflicting results. The most recent research has found that loss of libido is a common problem and may not be reversible.

Will I gain weight if I start the Pill or other hormonal method, and if so how much?

There is no one answer to this question. Weight gain is a very common side effect in response to hormonal birth control and varies on an individual basis. For most women, extra female hormones make fat deposition easier and increase the appetite. Conversely, weight loss usually becomes easier when hormonal birth control is discontinued. For Depo-Provera the average weight gain is 5.4 lbs the first year, 8.1 lbs after two years, and 13.8 lbs after four years. But this is an average, and for many women weight gain can be extreme as this drug can increase the appetite. The average weight gain while on Norplant is only about a pound a year.

Will hormonal methods protect me from sexually transmitted disease?

No. In fact, women who use Depo-Provera may double their risk of acquiring STDs, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV. Other hormonal contraceptives seem to also increase the risk of getting an STD. This is because these drugs cause dryness in the genital tract, which facilitates small tears and abrasions, making it easier for infections to enter the body. Also hormonal contraceptives may supresses the immune system, which makes it easier for infections to proliferate.


Safe Sex VS Safer Sex

For a time, the use of condoms and other contraceptives was often referred to as "safe sex". It was thought that, as long as you used condoms along with another method of birth control, you were virtually immune from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and pregnancy. Nowadays, the only type of safe sex is no sex at all.

What is Safe Sex?

When people speak of "safe sex" today, they are referring to abstinence. Abstaining from sex and sexual play is the only sure method to avoid catching an STD and to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. Although it may not prevent a pregnancy, having sex within a committed, monogamous, long-term relationship with someone who has tested free of any STDs is also generally considered to be safe sex.

So why isn’t using condoms along with other forms of birth control known as "safe sex" anymore but as "safer sex" instead? Because contraceptives can fail, resulting in pregnancy, and condoms cannot provide protection against all forms of STDs. However, condoms are still the only and best protection we have against most STDs. Therefore, it is important to use them every time you have sex.

What’s the Big Deal About STDs Anyway?

While some sexually transmitted diseases, like chlamydia, can be cured, others cannot. HIV is one of the most serious STDs out there and women are one of the fastest growing groups being infected. Moreover, according to UNICEF, half of all new HIV cases worldwide occur in people between the ages of 15 and 24. So if you’re young and sexually active, you’re automatically at a higher risk of being infected with HIV. Although it can be managed through medication, the HIV virus does eventually develop into AIDS leading to death. Other incurable STDs include human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the cause of genital warts and can lead to cervical cancer and even death,hepatitis B and herpes.

Sexually transmitted diseases are dangerous for anyone but they can have especially severe consequences in women. Many STDs can seriously damage your reproductive organs causing you to be infertile. Some, like HPV, have been linked to an increased risk of cervical cancer, a type of cancer that men do not need to worry about. Additionally, if you have an STD while you are pregnant, it is possible to pass the infection on to your baby causing her to become sick or possibly even die.

If you are sexually active, it is imperative that you use condoms each and every time you have sex even though they cannot protect you from every STD. Latex or polyurethane condoms are the most effective at protecting against STDs. However, they cannot provide protection against infections that are transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. Additionally, condoms can break or fall off during sex, putting you at risk of catching an STD. While it was once thought that condoms treated with spermicide helped to kill off STD infections and viruses, current research suggests that spermicides have no such effect. In fact, using spermicides multiple times throughout the day has actually been shown to increase your risk of STDs because the chemicals can irritate your vaginal lining thereby making it easier for an infection to get into your system.

Talking with Your Partner

When you are considering becoming sexually active with someone, talk to them about their sexual history. Remember, when you have sex with someone, you are having sex with every person they have ever had sex with. It is a good idea for both of you to go get tested for STDs so that you can be sure you are both free of any infections. However, some STDs can take as long as six months before they begin to affect you. If your partner has had sex with someone else in the last six months, it is a good idea to either put off having sex or use condoms until he can be retested.

If your partner refuses to get tested or has no desire to talk about his sexual history, you may want to reconsider your choice to have intercourse with him. Never feel guilty for asking about his sexual past. Your health, as well as his, is on the line and you both have a right to know what you’re getting into. Never allow yourself to be pressured, coerced or bullied into a sexual relationship. Do not hesitate to say no. If a your partner forces you to have sex after you’ve said no, that is rape and should be reported to the authorities.

Signs of an STD
If you notice any of the following symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor or gynecologist right away to be tested for STDs:

  • Vaginal itching
  • Burning sensation when you urinate
  • Unusual vaginal discharge
  • Blisters around the genital area
  • General pain in the pelvic area

Condoms -- FAQs

Are condoms effective at preventing pregnancy?
Although condoms do provide protection against getting pregnant, they also carry a 15% failure rate. Depending on your age and how consistently you use condoms, the chances of becoming pregnant could be higher. To increase your protection against pregnancy, use condoms along with another form of birth control, like the sponge. It is important to note, though, that condoms containing spermicide have not been found to be any more effective at preventing pregnancy than non-spermicidal condoms.

Will condoms protect against sexually transmitted diseases?
Condoms made out of latex or polyurethane will help reduce your chances of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) that are passed through bodily fluids, such as HIV and gonorrhea. They can also offer some protection against other STDs including herpes, trichomoniasis and Chlamydia, although not as effectively. Condoms do not offer much protection against STDs that can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, though, such as genital warts. Condoms made out of animal tissue do not offer any protection against STDs.

Are condoms a good way to avoid being infected with HIV?
Condoms can reduce your risk of contracting an HIV infection. However, if your partner has HIV or AIDS, there is still a chance that you could acquire the virus even if you use condoms. A 1993 study found that, of 171 women whose male partner had HIV, two of the women became infected with HIV despite consistently and properly using condoms when they had sex. However, of those women who did not use condoms consistently with their male partner who had HIV, 8 out of 10 women became infected with HIV. Abstinence from vaginal, anal and oral sex is the only way to completely avoid the risk of HIV infection.

Will using condoms with spermicide that contains nonoxynol-9 lower my chances of HIV infection?
Originally, nonoxynol-9 was believed to aid in reducing the risk of HIV infection along with infection of other STDs. However, recent studies have shown this to not be true. In fact, nonoxynol-9 may actually increase a person risk of contracting HIV, especially if it is used frequently. This is because the chemical can irritate the vaginal and rectal lining, thereby make a person more susceptible to infection. For this reason, spermicides are no longer recommended as protection against HIV and STDs. Additionally, more condom manufacturers are no longer producing spermicidal condoms while those who still do are using less spermicide.

Are condoms the best way to practice "safe sex"?
Although it was once a popular term, most experts nowadays recognize that there is no such thing as "safe sex", only "safer sex." While condoms can help to reduce your chances of pregnancy and STDs, they can also break and when they do, both you and your partner are put at risk even though you have done everything right. To be truly "safe" from pregnancy and STDs, it is necessary to practice abstinence. Sex in a monogamous, long-term relationship with an uninfected partner is also consdiered to be "safe" from STDs, although you can still get pregnant. To be "safer" from pregnancy and STDs, it is necessary to use condoms as well as some other form of contraception each and every time you have sex.

How often do condoms break?
Of the three different condom types, latex condoms are the most durable. However, anywhere from 2% to 6% of condoms will fall off or break during sex.

If the condom breaks, what should I do?
Depending on when you notice the break, you have a few different options.

  • When you notice the breakage before ejaculation, quickly pull out, remove the broken condom and put a new one on.
  • If ejaculation has already occurred, then wash away any semen that has leaked out with soap and warm water. This may also help to reduce your chances of STD infection. If you have any spermicidal foam, insert two applications into the vagina. Do not douche.
  • Regardless of when you noticed the break, contact your health care provider or a pregnancy resource center to discuss the possibility of pregnancy, what your options are and to take an STD test.

I always use a condom and they have never broken. Could I still get pregnant?
Although pregnancy is unlikely, it is still possible. If you think you might be pregnant, take a pregnancy test.

Are there any side effects or health risks associated with condoms?
The most common complaint associated with condoms is irritation. This is usually caused by latex condoms and is due to a person having a latex allergy. Spermicidal condoms can also cause irritation and may worsen the allergenic properties of latex condoms. Spermicidal condoms may also increase a woman’s risk of urinary tract infection. However, condoms are a fairly safe method of birth control and have few side effects when compared to methods like the Pill and IUD.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Issues around Hydrosols or Hydrolats

Hydrosols or hydrolats are the isolated distillation condensate waters, either intentionally produced or produced as a by-product to essential oil production, where aromatic materials are steam or hydro- distilled. Hydrosols are used by aromatherapists, and are used in nebulisers, cosmetics & shampoos and to a limited extent in foodstuffs.

Popular hydrosols include lavender water, orange flower water, kewda water etc. In India for example, kewda water (produced from male spadices of Pandanus odoratissmus flowers) is used for flavouring syrups, soft drinks & Moghlai cuisine. Little chemical data exists on the chemical make-up of many hydrosols, but an interesting paper by Platto A. & Roberts D. (2001) "The Aroma Quality of Lavender Water: a Comparative Study" Perf. & Flav. 26(3), 44-64 compared lavender waters from several different origins & determined amongst other things) that genuine lavender water distillation condensate could be differentiated from reconstituted water (diluted essential oil in water) by the absence of acetate esters.

Customers of hydrosols should always demand a "Certificate of Naturalness" from the supplier. This will have a section showing the total percentage of the natural involved, and a listing of the percentages and identification of each additive, if any. If the product is truly 100% botanically derived from the named source by a purely physical process (i.e. steam distillation) then it will indicate this fact - If the supplier is unable to do this, change to someone more professional [a template of a typical Naturalness certificate is available from Cropwatch on demand].


The production of hydrosols varies enormously depending on distillation techniques and countries of origin. For example, in the large production units such as in Turkey and Egypt, the plant material is distilled in closed equipment. The hydrosols never sees the light of day and atmospheric contamination is unlikely. In addition, the heat of distillation will pasteurise the water making its immediate use safe.

With small scale 'on-the farm' production, the hydrosols can become contaminated by the atmosphere or by the unhygienic conditions in which many stills are located. It is common to see barrels being filled in the open air that previously were stored over filthy drainage channels or in dirty barns.

With essential oils contamination is unlikely to be a problem due to their general inability to support most bacterial or fungal growth. However, with distillation waters this is another matter as hydrosols make an ideal growth medium for bacteria and fungi.

Saferty and Toxicity Issues

Subsequent bottling can turn a contaminated hydrosol into a safe one. For example they can be pasteurised in the same way as drinks or milk, or they can be finely filtered to remove organisms and other contaminants. This is all fine if the hydrosol is kept in a sealed bottle, but once opened they can quickly become contaminated again and the greatest care must be taken to avoid this. To prevent this contamination causing a health problem, larger commercial suppliers will add a preservative. The preservatives are often the same as those commonly used in foods. This idea goes against those who say they "must have a 100% natural product", but in reality, many hydrosols do contain a preservative without it being declared. Thank goodness they do as 'natural' does not equal safe.

There are other methods used to produce what is called a hydrosol or distillation water, but which are not genuine. They can be home-produced simply by making an infusion of the herb, filtering it and selling it as a hydrosol. They can be produced from freeze dried herbal extracts reconstituted with water (common). This may even be done in the country of origin making detection difficult. They can be made by dissolving some essential oil in water by using a surfactant to permit the oils emulsification. Finally, in some cases, they can be a synthetic perfume compound added to water. This is not uncommon with rosewater sold in pharmacies, or beauty shops.


Several people have raised the issue of toxicological effects of hydrosols. This really is unrealistic because many of the herbs from which hydrosols are made are permitted food additives. With most of the commonly available hydrosols one would need to drink the stuff by the gallon for days to even come anywhere near a toxic dose. That even holds good for animals who might lick it off their coats. If hydrosols were toxic then so is a cup of tea or coffee, most canned fruit drinks and many human and animals foods that contain herbs and essential oils. Also, many herbs that hydrosols are made from, have known toxicology from tests done on mice and rats by food safety advisors such as the World Health Organisation.

Microbial Contamination

The biggest hazard from using hydrosols is their potential bacterial contamination. When the product is just used on the skin, this may not cause problems as long as the bacteria can't get into the mouth. However, some dangerously incompetent authors and therapists advocate their internal consumption. If the product being used has not been properly preserved or processed then this represents a significant health hazard.

For those who wish to check the hazards associated with bottled waters below is some essential reading.

The above reports contain information on the contamination that has been found in ordinary bottled waters. In one survey of 103 brands up to a third of samples were contaminated. Cryptosporidium, Giardia and other cysts have been found and these led to 4000 people being hospitalised. Dateline NBC, September, 1994. The NRDC'S study of water found many different kinds of bacteria capable of causing illness.

You may be thinking "what has this got to do with hydrosols"? Well most hydrosols are mainly water with minute traces of a variety of plant chemicals. Rarely are those plant chemicals occurring at a high enough level to inhibit bacterial or fungal growth, despite the hype you will see written on this.

The Law

Most products intended for retail sale for human or animal consumption come under food safety laws and veterinary medicine laws. Hydrosols seem to be slipping through this safety net which would not matter if they were just being used as cosmetic products. However, increasingly people are being advised by quack practitioners to drink them for medical conditions, or being advised to give them orally to animals

Strongly advise any aromatherapist to check their insurance position on this. Many aromatherapy policies do not permit the therapist to practice herbal medicine. If you advise someone in a professional setting to consume a hydrosol for a medical reason, then you are practising as a herbalist. In some countries that would also classify you as an "unlicensed medical practitioner".

How Do I Know If what I’m Buying Is Safe?

The only way you can hope to find out is to ask the supplier pertinent questions (as follows), and do not believe woolly or misleading marketing hype.

1. Does this hydrosol contain a preservative? If the answer is a categorical "no" then see next.

2. Do you have any evidence that this product has been tested for microbial contamination?

3. Can I see copies of test results?

4. Where is the product bottled, i.e. by the distiller or later in the supply chain?

5. Do you repack the hydrosol from bulk barrels or other bulk storage?

6. Do you produce it yourself? If so how is it stored and how do you ensure it is not contaminated?

7. If you advocate its consumption have you been certified as a food preparation premises?

What To Be Wary of

Some hydrosols can be very useful for a limited range of ailments. For example, rose, chamomile, lavender, neroli, and a few others can make wonderfully cooling applications for a variety of skin problems. Indeed in some cases they are better than the same plants essential oil. However, unlike with essential oils, there is hardly any research base behind such uses. It is mainly traditional information and how accurate that information is depends on the depth of knowledge of the person advocating its use. Herbalists in the past rarely used hydrosols because they preferred to use herbal teas or decoctions which (when freshly prepared) were not contaminated by microbes. Therefore, there is very little information to be found on hydrosols in good books on herbal medicine. When in certain societies they did use hydrosols, you should always remember they used the fresh product. They did not use it from a bottle that had been shipped round the world with the time and conditions suitable for microbial growth (unless a preservative is used).

Beware of hydrosols made from plants on which there is no safety data on their essential oils. For example, verbenone type rosemary, ravensara, thyme chemotypes, etc. Also beware of hydrosols made from plants with known dangers, for example the sensitisation reactions associated with fresh Verbena and Yarrow. These hydrosols may be safe on the skin but I am not aware of any formal testing having been done.

Traditional healers rarely used hydrosols because they did not generally undertake distillation, although there are a few exceptions. So one has to ask where all this information entering the market in recent years has come from? The simple answer is a typical one for aromatherapy: The suggested uses are frequently based on how teas and suchlike were and still are used by herbalists. Also, in many cases, the uses have simply been invented by certain aromatherapy authors.

I have to add something very important here. Please never forget that very few aromatherapists are trained in physical diagnosis, in the medical sciences or in herbal medicine. Therefore, the aromatherapists advocating the use of hydrosols can make some enormous blunders on what they write about and teach. Some of the claims on web sites are outrageously misleading and are often illegal under their countries own laws. Canada is particularly bad in this respect.

Beware of those who make references to uses based on the books of certain French aromatherapy authors. With one book in particular, the information is not properly referenced and it is known some of the text was not written by the claimed authors, but rather by editors. Therefore, medicinal claims made in such a book should be viewed with the utmost scepticism. One web site in Canada is using information from this book and the site owner is being promoted as "a world leader on the subject", in reality far from the truth.

Hype and Lies Designed to Mislead

Never accept the following statements without any evidence of their truthfulness. What follows and other answers are just hype and lies designed to mislead.

" I have been selling this for 20 years and never had a problem".

"I am a leading authority on the use of hydrosols",

"such and such teacher says",

"I am working with 4 chemists around the world",

Other hype:
"They are like homeopathic essential oils".
No, this is complete hogwash. Anyone that says this must be totally ignorant of homeopathy. To be homeopathic the preparation MUST be manufactured in a specific manner and hydrosols are not done like that.

"Homeopathic flower remedies use alcohol as a preservative"
Yes, they do, but the alcohol is around 60% and thus an effective preservative. Also, one only gives a few drops at a time, and see below.

"Adding a little grain alcohol acts as a preservative".
Again hogwash. Such a statement proves the person saying it has absolutely no knowledge of what is required of a preservative. It takes at least 25% alcohol by volume to inhibit most (but not all) micro-organisms. Therefore, if you add a couple of teaspoons of alcohol to a pint of hydrolate all it will do is make the bugs merry!

So Are Hydrosols of Any Use at All?

Yes, they can be if they are properly treated to ensure no contamination. They can be very good for treating most kinds of skin inflammation. Rosewater in particular is wonderful for that. They can be excellent cosmetic agents for treating things like overactive sebum production. Some can be great for subduing the inflammation of acne and similar conditions. Some are the ideal solution to sore eyes or minor convunctival infections. They can be an ideal cooling application for nipple soreness from early breastfeeding, as they can for soothing external vaginal damage from childbirth. There are many other examples involving damaged skin that they are ideal for, but only if the product can be proven to be bug free.

Should I Drink Them?

No You should not. If you wanted a herbal preparation you would rather make a fresh herbal tea which contains far more of the herbs active constituents than most hydrosols.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Myths Organic Food

Myth: Organic food tastes like cardboard.

Fact: This may have been true of processed foods at one time—take crackers or pretzels for example—but this stereotype is as outdated as the hippie connotations that follow it. Today many organic snack foods taste the same as their conventional counterparts, while most people agree that fresh, locally grown organic produce does not compare to the alternative. Even organic produce that is not in season and has been shipped thousands of miles to reach our grocer’s shelves cannot compare to the produce found in our own back yard or at farmers markets. Taste is certainly an individual matter, what you think!Try baking a couple batches of cookies or prepare a couple of bowls of fruit or vegetable salad; use organic ingredients in one and conventional ingredients in the other.Which tastes better?

Myth: Organic food is too expensive.

Fact: In general, organic food costs more than conventional food because of the laborious and time-intensive systems used by the typically smaller organic farms. You may find that the benefits of organic agriculture off-set this additional cost. At the same time, there are ways to purchase organic while sticking to your budget. Consider the following when questioning the price of organic:
• Organic farmers don’t receive federal subsidies like conventional farmers do. Therefore, the price of organic food reflects the true cost of growing.
• The price of conventional food does not reflect the cost of environmental cleanups that we pay for through our tax dollars.
• Organic farming is more labor and management intensive.

Myth: Eating organic food is the same as eating natural food.

Fact: Natural foods do not contain additives or preservatives, but they may contain ingredients that have been grown with pesticides or are genetically modified. In other words, the ingredients in the ingredient panel will look familiar, but they have not been produced organically. Natural foods are not regulated and do not meet the same criteria that organic foods do.

Myth : Organic foods are no healthier than non-organic foods.

Fact: Wrong. Food produced organically contains fewer contaminants. Some scientific studies have shown that there are more nutrients in organically produced food.

Myth: Organic farming increases the risk of food poisoning.

Fact: False. Organic farming can actually reduce the risk.

Myth: Organic farming uses pesticides that damage the environment.

Fact: Untrue. Organic farming systems rely upon prevention rather than cure, minimising the need for pesticides.

Myth: Consumers are paying too much for organic food.

Fact: Not so. crop rotations, organic animal feed and welfare standards, the use of good husbandry instead of agri-chemicals, and the preservation of natural habitats all result in organic food costing more to produce. Non-organic food appears to be cheaper but in fact consumers pay for it three times over – first over the counter, second via taxation (to fund agricultural subsidies) and third to remedy the environmental pollution (or disasters like BSE) caused by intensive farming practices.

Myth: Organic food cannot feed a hungry world.

Fact: False. Intensive farming destroys the fertility of the land and is unsustainable. Organic methods help labour-rich but cash-poor communities to produce food sustainably.

Myth: Organic farming is unkind to animals.

Fact: Far from it. Animal welfare and the freedom to behave naturally is central to organic livestock standards.

Myth: Organic food is 100 percent pesticide-free.

Fact: Truth. While organic farmers don't apply environmentally harmful chemicals to crops, they are permitted to use safer pesticides where necessary. The organic designation never really meant 100 percent pesticide- or chemical-free, despite public perception. The designation actually describes a method of farming that is as ecologically sound as possible. Also, chemical pesticides are now so widespread that they appear regularly in the rainwater that drenches all crops, conventional and organic alike. These chemicals can also drift through the air onto organic fields from conventional fields located miles away.

Myths, Reality and Research around Organic Food

The Myth and Reality Report examines some of the key issues around organic food and its production. It takes up the challenge of answering the critics – who range from public relations companies defending agri-business, through to the heads of national food authorities and some academics. It exposes the misleading and erroneous statements made against organic food, and provides the facts that prove them wrong.

The myths which damage the organic movement are not conjured out of thin air and they do not arrive in the newspapers by chance. The myths are generated by organisations with particular interests to defend, and they are presented as press releases and prepared articles for publication in the media.

Between 1990 and 2000 the organic market in Europe grew at average of 25 per cent a year to reach an annual turnover of £6 billion by April 2000. Growth within the UK has been particularly strong in recent years with a five-fold increase in market value in only 5 years. There is a growing shift in consumer purchasing towards organic food. This trend has developed for a number of reasons :

  • Loss of trust in non-organic food products after a long line of food scares.
  • Desire to avoid pesticide residues in food.
  • Desire to eat food produced without the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).
  • Demand for the highest possible standards of animal welfare.
  • Demand for environmental protection and enhancement.
  • Desire to protect the environment from GMO contamination.
  • Confidence in the external inspection programme and legal standards for production covering all organic production and processing.
  • Health and safety of farm and food workers worldwide.

Policy makers have recognised the potential for organic farming as a means of food production that meets the demands of nature and the marketplace. The benefits of organic management are reflected by government support for conversion, and post-conversion organic management, in all European countries except the UK.

However, the progress and objectives of organic farming have not been welcomed by all. Organic production aims to avoid external inputs in order to achieve sustainability. This conflicts with non-organic agriculture which relies heavily on external inputs to increase yields (particularly pesticides and fertilisers). As a consequence pesticide sales globally are now estimated to be worth over £15 billion a year.

There is clearly a strong commercial interest in maintaining this market. It is therefore no surprise that organic farming has its critics, who are attempting to influence the buying habits of consumers with anti-organic allegations. It is important that these allegations or myths are engaged and refuted rather than ignored and allowed to gain credibility. The myth and reality initiative was launched by the Soil Association and Sustain to provide a well referenced and robust response to these myths. This report aims to educate critics, provide information for the organic sector and the media, and to raise awareness amongst the general public.

However, emerging research is already beginning to show the benefits of organic production. The results of a major six-year study recently reviewed in Nature magazine comparing organic, integrated and conventional apple systems revealed that an organic apple production system has similar yields to conventional and integrated production methods. Importantly, it also has higher soil quality, is better for the environment, produces sweeter and less tart apples, has higher profitability, and achieves greater economic sustainability.
With confident that more research will yield more evidence that organic food and farming is good for people and good for the planet.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Eating for Optimal Health -- Putting Ideas into Action

  • This day starts with a serving from almost every food group to fill you with fiber, vitamins and minerals. Not into breakfast foods? A turkey sandwich, an orange and a glass of milk gives you the same benefits as the more traditional breakfast fare.

  • Not only is eating every meal important, snacks help prevent over-hunger which leads to over-eating. This sample day includes 2 snacks. When you eat them depends on your mealtimes. For example, if you have an early breakfast and late lunch, a mid-morning snack is for you. Not crazy about nuts and dried fruit? How about an apple with peanut butter or cheese and crackers. Both give you the needed protein/carb mix to satisfy you and tide you over until mealtime.

  • Each of these meals provides a balanced mix of protein and carbs, as well as meats, starches and veggies/fruit. But there's many ways to achieve those goals. Try a slice of pizza and a salad on the side, with some yogurt mixed with a half cup of blueberries. Or, a cup of tuna noodle casserole with steamed carrots and a glass of milk.

Eating for Optimal Health -- Nutrition Basics

Eat Breakfast

Certainly every meal is important, but the first meal after a long night's rest is crucial in many ways. It's the first shot of energy to rev you up and get your day started. It's a great opportunity to eat your first servings of calcium-rich dairy foods, fruits, and whole grains--common ingredients in morning meals. A good breakfast also helps you steer clear of high fat/sugar vending machine fillers.

Don't Skip Meals

Missing meals on a regular basis is a bad idea no matter what your reason. No time? Make time. Trying to lose weight? This won't work. Skipping meals leads to overeating later in the day. In addition, the body becomes very efficient to prevent starvation. Translation: your metabolism slows down and stores more fat. Finally, without the continuous energy food supplies, you become run down and more susceptible to sickness. The solution: During the day try to eat every 3 to 4 hours. That means breakfast, perhaps a snack, lunch, a snack, and dinner.

Eat Protein With Your Carbs

No need to avoid carbs altogether, just don't over do it. Pairing protein-rich foods with your carbs makes this task easier. Carbohydrates provide much-needed energy to your body; however they are digested quickly leaving you feeling hungry soon after eating. Bagels and muffins for breakfast, candy bar snacks and large portions of pasta and rice at lunch and dinner become an unending cycle resulting in hunger pangs and the need for a pick-me-up. Proteins digest more slowly therefore you feel satisfied longer. The solution: Enjoy complex carbs in moderate amounts and along with low-fat protein. Instead of a bagel and cream cheese, try an English muffin with peanut butter. Instead of a candy bar, how about dried cranberries and almonds. Instead of a big bowl of pasta, dish out three-quarters a cup of pasta along with a grilled chicken breast.

Break Down Your Dish

Chances are your dinner (or lunch) plate looks a bit like this: a pile of meat, chicken, or fish and a pile of rice, potatoes, or pasta and on a good day maybe a smidgen of veggies or a salad on the side. Well its time to put your math skills to work. Divide your plate into three parts. One quarter is for the protein of the meal--meat, chicken, beans, etc.--three ounces or about the size of the palm of your hand. One quarter is for the starchy foods--rice, potato, corn, etc.--about a half cup. And the remaining half should be loaded up with fruits and veggies. With the exception of the starchy vegetables like corn, peas, and potatoes, veggies can be eaten as often as and as much as you want. They help fill you up but contribute few calories.