4 Foods to Boost Your Immune System

Food is medicine, and the consumption of the right foods can lead us to boost our immune system and protect us against unwanted diseases and colds. Having a good immune system is essential these days as more virulent strains of Covid-19 are appearing all across the globe. As well as taking preventative measures and precautions, take care to add the following foods to your cart during your next trip to the supermarket.

aerial view of people walking on raod

Ginger

white and brown dog paw on red textile

This spicy, yellow, stem is a popular medicinal plant in various cultures and is traditionally used to treat a myriad of conditions such as colds, digestive maladies, fevers, and nausea. Adding slices of fresh or dried ginger in your food to give dishes a lovely aroma. You can also obtain ginger powder and add hot water/ tea to turn it into a comforting drink.

Easing a cold or flu: A study done in 2013 shows fresh ginger is effective against a respiratory virus in human cells. In a separate study, researchers aimed to investigate the popularity of herbal medicine as a treatment for cold or a flu. 69% of the public used herbal medicine out of a total of 300 pharmacies and most found it as effective.

Reducing inflammation: A 2017 review of 16 clinical trials determined that phytochemical properties in ginger leads it to have anti inflammatory properties.

Lowering cancer risk: Ginger is packed with antioxidants and multiple studies have shown that ginger can reduce oxidative stress which occurs when too many free radicals build up in the body. Free radicals are toxic substances produced by metabolism and other factors, according to Medical News Today, and antioxidants are needed to eliminate free radicals to prevent them from causing cellular damage as it can lead to a range of diseases such as cancer.

Relieving nausea: Research shows ginger is able to alleviate morning sickness and relieve nausea from cancer treatments. A study in 2010 observed that ginger was able to reduce nausea in most of 60 children and young adults who underwent chemotherapy. Furthermore, a 2011 review of studies reported that a daily dosage of 1,500mg of ginger extract was able to alleviate symptoms of nausea.

Raspberries

black berry fruit

One cup of these ruby jewels contain over 50% of the minimum daily target for vitamin C which supports immunity, according to Health Magazine. Furthermore, raspberries are packed with other minerals and vitamins such as manganese, vitamin K, vitamin E, magnesium, copper, iron, and potassium. Besides that, they are associated with cancer protection as research shows that phytonutrients in raspberries may signal apoptosis, programming cell death in cancer cells. Another major attraction to raspberries is that they are easy to add to our diet as it can be served as sweet desserts or incorporated into savory dishes.

Cocoa

open cacao fruit lot

Nope, this is not a justification for you to stock up on chocolate bars! Rich in polyphenols, cocoa is a potent antioxidant and is reported to be beneficial for cardiovascular health, brain functions and cancer prevention. More importantly, cocoa influences the immune system, in particularly the inflammatory innate response and the systemic and intestinal adaptive immune response. Look out for cocoa powder (without added sugar) and go wild on different desserts!

Poultry

roasted chicken

When we’re sick, getting a bowl of chicken soup is almost a reflex action. However, there is more to this scenario then we let on. Properties of chicken in the soup may help lower inflammation, thus improve symptoms of a cold. Furthermore, poultry are high in vitamin B-6, which is crucial to the formation of red blood cells. The stock made by boiling chicken bones contains gelatin and other nutrients that are beneficial to improving immunity.


References:

 “Ginger in gastrointestinal disorders: A systematic review of ….” 5 Nov. 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6341159/. Accessed 7 Jan. 2021.

“Anti-emetic effect of ginger powder versus placebo as an add ….” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20842754/. Accessed 7 Jan. 2021.

 “Ginger: Health benefits and dietary tips – Medical News Today.” https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265990. Accessed 7 Jan. 2021.

“Getting to the Root of Chronic Inflammation: Ginger’s ….” https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128051863000059. Accessed 7 Jan. 2021.

 “7 Health Benefits of Raspberries | Health.com – Health Magazine.” 20 Mar. 2019, https://www.health.com/food/raspberries-nutrition. Accessed 7 Jan. 2021.

 “The effects of cocoa on the immune system – NCBI – NIH.” 4 Jun. 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3671179/. Accessed 7 Jan. 2021.

 “15 Foods That Boost the Immune System: Citrus, Bell Peppers ….” https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/foods-that-boost-the-immune-system. Accessed 9 Jan. 2021.

Are Red Meats Killing You?

A short walk down the meat aisle show shelves full of packaged slabs of meat, minced meat, and processed meats such as bacon, hot dogs, and sausages and Italian cuts. One thing in common is that all these meats are derived from red meats, notorious for increasing the risk of major chronic diseases. Here, we have compiled a list on why we should try to lower our red meat intake.

sliced vegetable on black textile

Why You Should Lower Your Red Meat Intake

Reduce the risk of developing coronary heart diseases

Over the years, there have been plenty of studies done by researchers warning us against the dangers of red meat. A recent study published in the British Medical Journal went one step further and showed that replacing red meat with plant- based diet can help keep the heart healthy, and even reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

The study aimed to find out the relationship of red meat and the risk of men developing coronary heart disease in the United States, and to find out if a plant based diet could positively affect the risk of CHD in men. The findings echoed other studies, where processed, unprocessed and total red meat were associated with a modestly higher risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD).

The study offered an alternative diet solution, and went one step further to report that an intake of one serving per day of combined plant proteins including nuts, legumes, and soy could lower the risk of CHD. Furthermore, the study also found that consuming whole grains and dairy products was associated with a lower risk of CHD.

variety of assorted-color beans

Processed meat contain carcinogens

According to reports by independent academic research organization, Global Burden of Disease Project, about 34,000 cancer deaths per year was linked to diets high in processed meat. The World Health Organization has classified processed meat as increasing the likelihood of developing colorectal cancer based on epidemiological studies conducted by researchers. Some studies have included links of consuming meat with pancreatic and prostate cancer, and stomach cancer.

person slicing meat

Reducing the consumption of red meat and processed meat as recommended by the WHO can help reduce risk of colorectal cancers. Furthermore, reducing our consumption of meat also reduces our intake of fat and sodium, which are risk factors for other cardiovascular diseases and obesity.

Increases risk of type 2 diabetes by 12%

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consumption of processed and unprocessed red meat in adults increased the risk of them developing type 2 diabetes by 12%. Besides that, the study found that substituting a serving of nuts, low- fat diary and whole grains for one serving of red meat was associated with 16-35% lower risk of type 2 diabetes among adults.

flat lay photography of sliced apples, sausages, chips and brown sauce

So how much protein should we eat?

  • The World Cancer Research Fund recommended a maximum of three servings a week in their 2018 report.
  • The National Academy of Medicine recommends “eating a little over 7 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight”.
round white ceramic plate with lime on top

Can you get enough protein without eating meat?

top view salad with guacamole

Yes, we can. Evidence points that we should cut down the amount of red meat we consume. In an interview with CNN Health, director of health promotion and communication at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s department of nutrition, Lillian Cheung recommends swapping meats for fish, legumes, nuts, seeds, and poultry. However, Cheung notes that it is important to ensure that we still get enough proteins and minerals. Cheung highlighted the importance of taking multivitamins containing iron or B12 vitamins or iron rich foods such as leafy greens, lentils and soybeans to ensure we’re getting sufficient iron while cutting back on red meat.

References:

“Red meat intake and risk of coronary heart disease … – The BMJ.” 2 Dec. 2020, https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m4141. Accessed 30 Dec. 2020.

 “Cancer: Carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and ….” 26 Oct. 2015, https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/cancer-carcinogenicity-of-the-consumption-of-red-meat-and-processed-meat. Accessed 31 Dec. 2020.

 “Healthy swaps key to reducing red meat intake during the ….” https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/reducing-red-meat-covid/. Accessed 31 Dec. 2020.

“Worried about beef shortages and price spikes? Here’s how to ….” https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/18/health/eat-less-meat-shortage-wellness/index.html. Accessed 31 Dec. 2020.

 “Red meat consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: 3 cohorts ….” https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/94/4/1088/4598110. Accessed 31 Dec. 2020.

What You Should Know About Clean Eating

In searching for the perfect formula of healthy eating, and achieving our dream body, we’ve seen the rise and fall of all sorts of diet trends. Clean eating is a term thrown around in the health and wellness industry, however, the ambiguity behind this term poses a problem. A study was conducted to find out the perception of clean eating among 1266 adolescents and emerging adults and the definitions obtained were heterogeneous, with 40% describing the term as “non-processed” or “whole foods” and 13% noting “non-GMO” or “organic” components. (Read our article if you’re wondering if you should go organic!)

In a bid to narrow the scope of what constitutes clean eating, we’ve decided to scour the internet for a clearer definition of this term. A narrative we found in common was that it is a diet pattern that focuses on fresh, whole foods while avoiding refined and processed foods as well as preservatives and additives. However, it is up to an individual to determine the rigidity of their eating habits. Some people may go as far as to refuse to eat foods treated with hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides, while others may be more lenient.

cooked dish on gray bowl

“(Clean eating) is a diet pattern that focuses on fresh, whole foods while avoiding refined and processed foods as well as preservatives and additives.”

Whole foods, less preservatives and additives, less salt and sugar? On the surface, the idea of clean eating sounds good. However, a closer look shows how easy it is to fall into the clean eating rabbit hole.

fruit salad on gray bowls

Labelling foods as good and bad

Excessively categorizing foods into good and bad categories may lead us to fall down the rabbit hole of completely avoiding certain foods which may lead to nutrition deficiencies. Some people may refuse to eat any foods containing additives, however, an article published on Medical News Today claimed that there are some beneficial food additives. Vitamin D added into milk was used with the purpose of enhancing bones while iron added to orange juice serve as a source of nutrients for a person.

white liquid in glass cup

Clean eating may lead to eating disorders

Clean eating may unwittingly promote diet restrictions that lead to severe eating disorders as people mentally and physically punish themselves for “eating the wrong thing”. Medical experts coined this phenomena as fixation orthorexia nervosa, a fixation on righteous eating.

A study tracked the eating behavior of 762 women and evidence of diets falling under the banner of orthorexia. The experiment is done in a controlled environment where each subject is required to log their meals into an app. The results were then organized into a chart and a pattern is deduced from it. Those adhering to dietary advice are more likely to exhibit dietary restraint which may lead to more obsessive practices and develop into an eating disorder. This study shows the negative effects that diet restriction can have on an individuals mental health, as different eating disorders are results from eating too ‘clean’.  

women taking selfie

Takeaway

While magazines, and articles glorify clean eating and sing praises about its effects of glowing skin, and heightened energy, an article in the British Medical Journal refuted these claims as a “loose interpretation of facts” as other less restrictive diets can also do the same things. With the right mind set, eating clean is beneficial to the human body as we opt out artificial additives, preservatives and instead aim to eat a healthy diet full of whole foods. (Read here to find out top 5 healthiest cuisines in the world) However, excessive worry and focus on finding the cleanest foods may instead put a person under stress and morph into eating disorders and nutritional deficiencies.

Instead, of categorizing foods as good and bad, aim to eat a healthy variety of foods. Here is a recommendation of what a healthy meal should look like from Harvard University.

Healthy Eating Plate

References:

 ““It’s Healthy Because It’s Natural.” Perceptions of “Clean ….” 7 Jun. 2020, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7352986/. Accessed 29 Dec. 2020.

 “Clean eating: 3 myths and truths – Medical News Today.” 9 Feb. 2018, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320865. Accessed 29 Dec. 2020.

 “11 Simple Ways to Start Clean Eating Today – Healthline.” 8 Apr. 2019, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-ways-to-eat-clean. Accessed 29 Dec. 2020.

 “Margaret McCartney: Clean eating and the cult of healthism ….” https://www.bmj.com/content/354/bmj.i4095. Accessed 29 Dec. 2020.

“(PDF) Is #cleaneating a healthy or harmful dietary strategy ….” https://www.researchgate.net/publication/333567123_Is_cleaneating_a_healthy_or_harmful_dietary_strategy_Perceptions_of_clean_eating_and_associations_with_disordered_eating_among_young_adults. Accessed 30 Dec. 2020.

 “Healthy Eating Plate | The Nutrition Source ….” https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-eating-plate/. Accessed 30 Dec. 2020.

Dangerous Effects of Eating Frozen Foods

After a long day of work, we’re all guilty of throwing frozen foods into the microwave for a quick fix. Although frozen foods are quick, and affordable, a tiny part of us just knows that it certainly isn’t the healthiest dinner choice. However, what is wrong with eating frozen foods? Why are they bad for us?

frozen blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries

Frozen foods may increase blood pressure?

The US Food and Drug Administration defines processed foods as “any food other than a raw agricultural commodity and includes any raw agricultural commodity that has been subject to processing, such as canning, cooking, freezing, dehydration, or milling.” This defines nearly all food served in restaurants and grocery store products as processed. Food processing process involves the addition of sodium containing additives, hence increasing the sodium level in food products.

white and red labeled pack on shelf

This is an issue as according to the CDC, up to 70% of sodium Americans consume comes from processed and restaurant foods. Consuming too much sodium can increase blood pressure, hence increasing the risk of stroke and heart disease. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend Americans to consume less than 2300 milligrams of sodium each day. But here’s a more important question: How do we cut down sodium in our food?

  • Similar products may vary in sodium content, hence, compare food labels and opt for foods with the least amount of sodium.
  • Use fresh ingredients instead of processed ones
  • Request for lower sodium options when dining out
  • Reduce portion sizes can limit salt consumption
dish on white ceramic plate

Frozen food may clog arteries

In processed / frozen food, trans fat is known as “partially hydrogenated oils” on ingredient labels which is notorious for clogging arteries and increasing the risk of heart diseases, stroke, and developing type 2 diabetes. Trans fats raises bad (LDL) cholesterol, while lowering the good (HDL) cholesterol levels. Trans fat is created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid, according to Heart Organization.

pizza with berries

Why do companies use trans fats? Besides being inexpensive and giving food a desirable taste and texture, trans fats can be reused a number of times. However, its undesirable health effects have trumped its usefulness, leading countries such as Denmark, Switzerland, Canada, and several jurisdictions of the US to restrict or reduce the use of trans fats in food service establishments. In November 2013, the FDA determined that partially hydrogenated oils are no longer Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) in human food.

Unknown chemicals in frozen foods

A report from Environmental Working Group estimated that up to 2,000 synthetic chemicals can be found in conventional packaged foods. Furthermore, the chemicals may not be approved by the FDA but as it is approved by industry group, the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association, it is used in products while not being required to be labeled on the package. This is disturbing as these added chemical preservatives may cause long term effects such as increase the risks of diseases ranging from hormonal problems to cancer.

woman holding fork in front table

The EWG has conducted their research and summarized some common synthethic preservatives found in packaged foods:

Synthetic PreservativesConcerns
Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)Listed by the state of California as a carcinogen and classified as a potential endocrine disruptor by the European Union.
Sodium NitrateDetermined by the World Health Organization to be probably carcinogenic to humans.
Sodium BenzoateWorld Health Organization reports hematologic effects in laboratory studies
t-ButylhydroquinoneWorld Health Organization reports hematologic effects in laboratory studies.
Diacetyltartaric and Fatty Acid Esters of GlyceroWorld Health Organization reports inflammation of the heart in laboratory studies.
Propylene GlycolWorld Health Organization and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report blood effects in laboratory studies.
Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)Causes lung and liver tumors in studies of laboratory animals.
Disodium InosinateWorld Health Organization and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have determined can increase uric acid levels, increasing the risk of kidney stones or gout.
Disodium GuanylateWorld Health Organization determined can increase uric acid levels, increasing the risk for kidney stones or gout.
Polysorbate 80Environmental Protection Agency reports potential to be an endocrine disruptor in studies of cells. Disrupts gut microbiota in laboratory studies.
Polyoxyethylene Sorbitan MonostearateAffects reproduction and lactation in laboratory studies.
NatamycinWorld Health Organization reports gastrointestinal effects.
Source: EWG, from EWG’s Food Scores database
mixed fruits served on ceramic plates

Try to reduce the consumption of frozen foods as there are too many synthetic chemicals that may cause long term health problems. Furthermore, trans fat and sodium contained in frozen foods may increase the risk of one developing heart diseases, strokes and other complications. Instead, try to use natural and organic foods as all synthetic chemical compounds has to be stringently approved by the FDA. If you really suffer a lack of time, try to ask your server for dishes with the least amount of sodium when dining out, and to check nutrition labels carefully before purchasing frozen foods.


References:

 “Get the Facts: Sodium’s Role in Processed Food – CDC.” https://www.cdc.gov/salt/pdfs/sodium_role_processed.pdf. Accessed 29 Dec. 2020.

 “Dangerous Side Effects of Eating Frozen Foods, According to ….” 26 Dec. 2020, https://www.eatthis.com/news-side-effects-eating-frozen-foods-experts/. Accessed 29 Dec. 2020.

“Organic: The Original Clean Food – EWG.” 5 Mar. 2019, https://www.ewg.org/research/packagedorganic/. Accessed 29 Dec. 2020.

 “Trans Fats | American Heart Association.” https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/trans-fat. Accessed 29 Dec. 2020.

What You Didn’t Know About Tea

Tea is one of the most popular beverages, aside from coffee. If you need a daily caffeine fix, read our article discussing how much caffeine we should consume. From weight loss benefits, heart healthy benefits and cancer fighting properties, drinking a cup of tea a day can be a beneficial to the human body. However, is there a limit to drinking too much tea? Here is a compilation of positive and negative effects of drinking tea every day. But before we jump into it, here is a brief history on the origins of tea as we know it today.

The origins of tea

Tea drinking has been present in China several centuries before reaching the west. Tea originated from China in 2737 B.C when leaves blew from a tree Chinese emperor Shuen Neng was sitting under, into his cup of boiling water. This tree was Camellia sinensis, and is now more commonly known as tea. Since then, containers of tea can be found in tombs dating from the Han dynasty but it was only during the Tang dynasty where tea was formally declared as the national drink of China.

clear glass cup with tea near brown ceramic teapot

How did tea reach other countries?

  • Japanese Buddhist monks who studied in China brought tea back to Japan. Tea drinking soon became a huge part of Japanese culture.
  • In the 16th century, the Dutch utilized Portuguese trading routes to the east to bring back tea to Holland where it spread around Europe.
  • Despite the popularity of English tea, the English were one of the last to hop on this continental trend. It was only the marriage of Charles II to Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese princess with a tea addiction who spread her love for tea around England.

Effects of drinking tea

Tea may cure insomnia

Traditional East Asian Medicine prescribes certain herbal teas to cure insomnia. A study published by PMC tested a group of 40 patients with mild to moderate insomnia and split them into two groups, with one serving as a control group. The test group consumed a type of herbal tea, (Christina Loosestrife Tea) twice a day for a period of 4 weeks. Outcomes assessed using Insomnia Severity Scale, Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, and 12 – item Short Form Health Survey concluded that a 4 week treatment with HT002 herbal tea may reduce the severity of insomnia.

white and brown ceramic mug

Tea can aid your weight loss

Instead of getting a sugary cup of coffee topped with whipped cream and caramel, opting for a cup of regular tea can help save up to 450 calories. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that catechins in green tea is able to enhance exercise and boost abdominal fat loss in overweight adults. However, make sure that you aren’t adding condiments such as sugar, honey, or milk as an overconsumption of those condiments can lead to a weight gain.

woman using body tape measure while measuring her waist

Tea could protect you from certain cancers

According to 1Source, Epigallocatechin Gallate is a phenolic antioxidant found in a number of plants such as green and black tea. It inhibits cellular oxidation and prevents free radical damage to cells and is currently under study as a potential cancer chemopreventive agent.

Breast cancer: A study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NIH) aimed to find out the correlation between drinking green tea and breast cancer malignancy. Their results showed that an increased consumption of green tea (below four cups or more than five cups a day) correlated to a decrease in stage one and two breast cancer.

Prostate cancer: A study conducted among men in three geographical areas of Canada aimed to find out risk of prostate cancer from alcohol and other beverage use. Results showed that coffee and cola intake had no effect on prostate cancer, however a decrease in risk can be observed from men who consumed more than 500g of tea per day.

Lung cancer: A study published in the National Library of Medicine investigated the correlation between the risk of lung cancer in cigarette smoking men and the consumption of tea and coffee. The study concluded that those who drank coffee had no effect on lung cancer where else those who drank two or more cups of black tea per day reduced the risk of cancer.

Pancreatic and colorectal cancers: A study published on PubMed discussed aimed to investigate how the consumption of green tea affects the risk of pancreatic and colorectal cancers. Numerous animal studies and epidemiologic investigations have supported this theory and a recent study in Shanghai concluded that consuming green tea may lower the risk of these cancers.

person with pink band on her left hand

Tea reduces inflammation

Green tea contains catechin EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate) has anti- inflammatory effects. Studies involving animals and humans provide evidence that EHCH “surpresses gene and / or protein expression of inflammatory cytokines and inflammation related enzymes,” according to a study published by Pub Med. This function is “beneficial against cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases”, according to popular health and wellness magazine, Eat This, Not That!

photo of teacup with coffees

Tea can give you yellow teeth

Acid and tannins in tea can give teeth a yellow hue if drank daily. Tannin is a plant based compound that makes it easier for stains to stick to teeth, hence causing discoloration. Acids on the other hand, make tooth enamel softer and rougher, hence easier for stains to set in. Black teas in particular are the biggest culprits for tooth discoloration.

clear drinking glass with brown liquid

Tea may help us develop stronger bones

Tea is found to contain nutrients that stimulates bone formation and slow its breakdown, hence serving as protection against osteoporosis. A study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry showed that catechin EGC or epigallocatechin has positive effects on bone growth.

white and brown ceramic teapot on wooden tray

Teas may contain traces of heavy metal

News alert! Heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury may be found in brewed teas. According to a study, tea leaves originating from China contained traces of heavy metals. Contaminants in the tea could be related to being grown and harvested in close proximity of coal fired power plants, according to researchers in the Journal of Toxicity aiming to explain the presence of heavy metal in tea leaves.

green grasses

References:

Chun, Hay Ko, et al. “Effects of Tea Catechins, Epigallocatechin, Gallocatechin, and Gallocatechin Gallate, on Bone Metabolism.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2009, https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/jf901545u. Accessed 29 December 2020.

Eat This, Not That! Side effects of drinking tea, 14 December 2020, https://www.eatthis.com/side-effects-drinking-tea/. Accessed 29 December 2020.

“Green Tea Catechin Consumption Enhances Exercise-Induced Abdominal Fat Loss in Overweight and Obese Adults.” The Journal of Nutrition, vol. 139, no. 2, 2008, pp. 264-270, https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/139/2/264/4750912. Accessed 29 12 2020.

National Library of Medicine. “Alcohol and other beverage use and prostate cancer risk among Canadian men.” 1998. Alcohol and other beverage use and prostate cancer risk among Canadian men, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9833763/. Accessed 29 December 2020.

National Library of Medicine. “Anti-inflammatory Action of Green Tea.” Anti-inflammatory Action of Green Tea, vol. Pub Med, 2016, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27634207/. Accessed 29 December 2020.

National Library of Medicine. “Consumption of tea and coffee and the risk of lung cancer in cigarette-smoking men: a case-control study in Uruguay.” Pub Med, 1998. Consumption of tea and coffee and the risk of lung cancer in cigarette-smoking men: a case-control study in Uruguay, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9567246/. Accessed 29 December 2020.

National Library of Medicine. “Green tea consumption and the risk of pancreatic and colorectal cancers.” Pub Med, 1997. Green tea consumption and the risk of pancreatic and colorectal cancers, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9033623/. Accessed 29 December 2020.

National Library of Medicine. “Influence of drinking green tea on breast cancer malignancy among Japanese patients.” 1998, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9600118/. Accessed 29 December 2020.

1Source. “Caffeine: How much should you drink.” Caffeine: How much should you drink, 30 September 2020, https://1source.com/holistic/caffeine-how-much-should-you-be-drinking. Accessed 29 12 2020.

1Source. “Camellia Sinensis.” Camellia Sinensis, https://1source.com/ingredients/camellia-sinensis. Accessed 29 December 2020.1Source. “Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate.” https://1source.com/ingredients/epigallocatechin-3-gallate. Accessed 29 December 2020.

1Source. “Tannin.” Tannin, https://1source.com/ingredients/tannins. Accessed 29 December 2020.UK Tea & Infusion Association. “The History of Tea.” The History of Tea, https://www.tea.co.uk/history-of-tea. Accessed 29 December 2020.

US National Library of Medicine. “Effect of Traditional East Asian Medicinal herbal tea (HT002) on insomnia: a randomized controlled pilot study.” Integrative Medical Research, 2018. Accessed 29 December 2020.

Web MD. “Foods and Habits That Stain Your Teeth.” https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/features/foods-stain-teeth-feature#1. Accessed 29 December 2020.

The Ultimate 2020 Climate Update

Climate change, what 2020 taught us

A few days ago, an Instagram environmental activist page hopped on the bandwagon of a popular meme and pop culture trend which originated from ‘Spotify 2020 wrapped’ which consists of Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter users sharing their Spotify user summary listing their most listened songs and artists throughout 2020. Meme creators have used the same format and spun it off with their own twist, such as depreciating humor, or simply just sharing funny music. And in the case of @everythingclimatechange on Instagram, their twist was a 2020 update on the climate.

So let’s explore the 2020 Climate Wrapped

The average global temperature is 1.2°C above pre-industrial levels

What does ‘above pre-industrial levels’ mean? It means that average temperature (January 2020 to October 2020) is 1.2°C above the 1850–1900 baseline. According to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), scientists used a baseline to measure global temperatures – a time when fossil-fuel burning had yet to change the climate at such a high noticeable rate. At the moment the period between 1850 and 1900 is used which means that 1.5°C is the baseline. WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas stresses that as “There is at least a one in five chance of it temporarily exceeding 1.5 °C by 2024”.

Just because the average temperature hasn’t reached 1.5°C, it doesn’t mean that the effects are not serious or that we still have time. According to NASA, even if the temperature increase is limited to 1.5°C, sea level will continue to rise, as heat already stored in the oceans from human-produced warming causes them to expand.


The top corporate plastic polluters:

1. Coca-Cola

2. PepsiCo

3. Nestlé

According to the Guardian, these 3 brands were accused of “zero-progress” for the year 2020. Coca-Cola in particular turns out to pollute the earth with more plastic than PepsiCo and Nestlé combined. Coca-Cola produces about three million tonnes of plastic packaging a year, an equivalent to 200,000 bottles per minute.

In 2020, the company is still stern on producing single-use plastic bottled cola. Bea Perez, the Senior Vice President reasoned their decision, ‘Customers like them because they reseal and are lightweight’. The firm tried to compromise by making a pledge to recycle as many Coca-Cola bottles as possible. However, this does not appease environmental activists, as pledging ‘as much as possible’ means that there will still be tremendous amounts of plastic Coca-Cola bottles that end up in landfills and the sea.

4. Unilever

Unilever, one of the biggest multinational consumer goods companies which owns brands like Lipton, Rexona and Cif, have been revealed to produce 70,000 tonnes pollution footprint per year! Along with the brands mentioned above, the public claim that these companies lack a sense of morality for contributing such amounts of plastic pollution today. In response to this, Unilever has made a statement about their awareness and mentioned the commitments they want to partake in to reshape plastic use by 2025, such as halving their use of virgin plastic and and a reduction of more than 100,000 tonnes in plastic use.

5. Mondelēz International

Out of the 5 companies, Mondelēz International seems to have made a lasting impression that they have become progressive and all in to reduce plastic pollution. Just by searching on Google “Mondelēz International’s plastic pollution” , the first two pages are filled with articles that are leaving positive and optimistic remarks. The American multinational food company, who owns companies like Cadbury, Oreo and Sour Patch Kids, have announced to collaborate across the industry to work on the policy, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). According to Britannica: EPR is a practice and a policy approach in which producers take responsibility for management of the disposal of products they produce once those products are designated as no longer useful by consumers. Responsibility for disposal may be fiscal, physical, or a combination of the two.

Tadashi Kawamata’s artistic monument, Over Flow, to raise awareness about pollution in the ocean

Atmospheric CO2 levels reached a record high of 418.32 ppm (parts-per-million)

Even with the reduced carbon emissions due to the coronavirus pandemic, the rate has not decreased and has stayed higher than 2019’s atmospheric CO2 level (414.7 ppm). This begs the question, how much higher would the rate be today if there was no Covid-19?

The pandemic has been great to force a steep decrease on carbon emissions. In 2020, the global carbon emission rate has dropped to 7% as less people are traveling in transportation and factories had to go through a shut down as people isolate themselves. However, this jarring decrease is only temporary and is not as effective as it sounds. The secretary general of World Meteorological Organization (WMO) noted that: “The lockdown-related fall in emissions is just a tiny blip on the long-term graph. We need a sustained flattening of the curve”

What we should take from this is that for the environment to get better again, it has to be a global effort. And perhaps, it would take some sacrifices. click this for some blogs that could suggest you ways how to help!

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef experiences its 3rd mass coral bleaching in 5 years

Professor Terry Hughes, director of the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies found that 25 percent of the overall reef was severely bleached. Worse, the bleaching reached the coastal sides. Just as related to the carbon emissions mentioned above, bleaching of the coral reef happens because of rapid warming of the planet.

According to EcoWorld, the Great Barrier Reef indeed bleaches from time to time due to natural seasonal warming of the planet. However, in the case of 2002 and 2017, it was definitely our fault, just like for this year’s mass coral bleaching too. 2020’s coral mass bleaching was not the largest in terms of the span of corals bleaching, but rather was the second most severe on record. According to CNN, scientists found the damages are likely to be lasting and irreparable.

Apart from carbon emissions, other factors such as cosmetic chemicals also contribute to bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, especially sunscreen (read more about how sunscreens damage the corals)


This is the hottest decade on record, with the hottest six years occurring since 2015

According to the Guardian, the past decade was the hottest, and 2019 comes in top three for the hottest year. It is no news that the world gets hotter by each decade since the pre-industrial era. However The average rise in temperature per decade is 0.7°C, and for this decade, the average had increased to a whopping of 0.39°C.

Because of 2019’s rising temperature and an expected lack of progress, Karin Gleason, a NOAA climatologist said 2020 was suspected to become hotter and beat 2016 by 75%, 2016’s record – global temperature mean (0.99°C / 1.78°F), the hottest temperature recorded in 2016 was 51.0°C / 123.8°F in India. However, due to the pandemic, the percentage had decreased to 50%


California’s record-breaking wildfire season

The 2020 California Wildfire Season is currently an ongoing fire crisis.

In mid September, no one expected a gender-reveal party would be the cause of one of the top biggest wildfires of California, ever. As gender-reveal parties have become more trendy and a ‘once in a lifetime’, this family wanted to make sure they hold one that would become memorable by using a ‘pyrotechnic device’, starting the El Dorado Fire. Before that, California’s forests have been burning as well as normal, the common hot and dry weather of California plays a part.

The ongoing fire is not only life-threatening to the residents of California, but it was extremely detrimental to the environment. Especially in Covid-19, firefighters are not only under risk of extinguishing fires but also of contracting the virus. California will always have wildfires in 2020. It has started since May in Kings, the named fire, Interstate 5 has burned 2,060 acres. In August, California Governor Gavin Newsom said that the state was burning from 367 known fires, many of which were sparked by intense thunderstorms. According to Cal Fire over 9,639 fires have burned 4,359,517 acres

What scientists concluded was that “fire seasons like this one will be more common as drier, hotter conditions wrought by climate change continue to result in larger, more intense fires” the last recorded wildfire was in December 13 at Riverside


The top polluting countries are

China

China’s growth has been powered by the cheap and extremely polluting fossil fuel, coal, which is the power source to people’s homes and also industries and factories that sell lots of exports. The use of coal has contributed to the worst case of air pollution in China. According to Environment-Ecology, 75% of the premature deaths are caused by the 152 coal-fired power plants in Hebei Province.

United States

According to Active Sustainability, The US is “the biggest industrial and commercial power”. Even with active commitment and effort to reduce pollution, the US still ranks in second place as big cities are still producing emissions and recently, rural area are beginning to be affected.

India

Same as China, India’s industrialization main energy source is burning of the fossil fuels. According to the World Health Organization, 14 out of 15 most polluted cities are part of India. The Indian Express shows the pollution in India is caused by industrial pollution (51%), vehicles (27%), crop burning (17%) and fireworks (5%).

Russia

Corrosion Doctors says that power-plants in Russia “lack modern pollution control equipment, resulting in large amounts of toxic emissions and waste” As being another country with huge industrial demands, Russia is dependent on cheap and polluting fossil fuels like oil, coal and gas.

Japan

Japan has a reputation of modern and progressive urban development and industrialization. According to AZO Cleantech, Japan’s rapid growth has been beginning since the 19th century, therefore the dependence on coal, wood and gas produces a lot of emissions and waste.

China is one of the biggest countries in the world, yet you can only see so much due to the air pollution

Conclusion:

#2020climatewrapped

@everythingclimatechange was very direct with their conclusion. Essentially, the planet is not getting better and to prevent an irreversible consequence, we have to give effort now.

Reversing of climate change and reducing of pollution is no new topic. We are/were taught about it in schools and are encouraged to make better choices for the environment by people around us and in the media.

The pandemic has let us isolate ourselves and reflect on what is a necessity and creative ways we can introduce into our new life schedule that could help with the issue.


References:

 “2020 on track to be one of three warmest years on record ….” 2 Dec. 2020, https://public.wmo.int/en/media/press-release/2020-track-be-one-of-three-warmest-years-record. Accessed 11 Dec. 2020.

 “A Degree of Concern: Why Global Temperatures Matter ….” 19 Jun. 2019, https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2865/a-degree-of-concern-why-global-temperatures-matter/. Accessed 11 Dec. 2020.

“Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Nestlé named top plastic polluters for ….” 7 Dec. 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/07/coca-cola-pepsi-and-nestle-named-top-plastic-polluters-for-third-year-in-a-row. Accessed 13 Dec. 2020.

 “People still want plastic bottles, says Coca-Cola – BBC News.” 21 Jan. 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/business-51197463. Accessed 11 Dec. 2020.

“Rethinking plastic packaging – towards a circular … – Unilever.” https://www.unilever.com/sustainable-living/reducing-environmental-impact/waste-and-packaging/rethinking-plastic-packaging/. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.

“Mondelēz International Supports Global Harmonization on ….” 4 Nov. 2020, https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2020/11/04/2120162/0/en/Mondel%C4%93z-International-Supports-Global-Harmonization-on-Plastics-Recycling-Calls-for-Collaborative-Action-on-Flexible-Films.html. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.

“extended producer responsibility | Definition … – Britannica.” https://www.britannica.com/topic/extended-producer-responsibility. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.

 “Global carbon emissions down by record 7% in 2020 – DW.” 11 Dec. 2020, https://www.dw.com/en/global-carbon-emissions-down-by-record-7-in-2020/a-55900887. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.

 “Carbon dioxide levels hit new record; COVID impact ‘a tiny ….” 23 Nov. 2020, https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/11/1078322. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.

 “2020 Great Barrier Reef Bleaching Event Is Most … – EcoWatch.” 7 Apr. 2020, https://www.ecowatch.com/great-barrier-reef-bleaching-2020-2645655957.html. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.

 “Great Barrier Reef suffers third mass bleaching event in five ….” 7 Apr. 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/07/australia/great-barrier-reef-bleaching-2020-intl-hnk/index.html. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.

“Last decade was Earth’s hottest on record as climate crisis ….” https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/aug/12/hottest-decade-climate-crisis-2019. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.

 “Scientists Predict Scorching Temperatures to Last Through ….” 18 Jun. 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/18/climate/summer-weather-prediction.html. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.

“What started California’s largest wildfires of 2020?.” 1 Oct. 2020, https://www.thecalifornian.com/story/news/2020/10/01/california-wildfires-2020-causes-august-complex-fire-lightning/5881552002/. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

“Gender-Reveal Party Is Blamed in California Wildfire – The ….” 18 Sept. 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/07/us/gender-reveal-party-wildfire.html. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

“Fires In California Burn On As Firefighters Risk COVID To ….” 21 Aug. 2020, https://www.npr.org/2020/08/21/904552759/wildfires-rage-on-in-california-as-fire-crews-and-evacuees-grapple-with-covid-ri. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

“Interstate 5 Fire – Cal Fire – CA.gov.” 3 May. 2020, https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/2020/5/3/interstate-5-fire/. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

“National Large Incident Year-to-Date Report – GACC-NIFC.” 20 Aug. 2020, https://gacc.nifc.gov/sacc/predictive/intelligence/NationalLargeIncidentYTDReport.pdf. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

 “The science of how climate change impacts fires in the West.” 17 Sept. 2020, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/09/climate-change-increases-risk-fires-western-us/. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

“Welcome to Incident – Cal Fire – CA.gov.” https://www.fire.ca.gov/incident/. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

 “Air Pollution in China – Environment – Ecology.” http://www.environment.gen.tr/pollution/766-air-pollution-in-china.html. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

 “Top 5 most polluting countries – Active Sustainability.” https://www.activesustainability.com/environment/top-5-most-polluting-countries/. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

“Want govt to build 1,600 km green wall along Aravalli, says ….” 24 Dec. 2019, https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/ahmedabad/want-govt-to-build-1600-km-green-wall-along-aravalli-says-activist-vijaypal-baghel-6182069/. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

“Corrosion and pollution in Russia – Corrosion Doctors.” https://corrosion-doctors.org/AtmCorros/mapRussia.htm. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

“How Japan is Tackling Pollution – AZoCleantech.com.” 19 Aug. 2019, https://www.azocleantech.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=918. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

World Soil Day: How cosmetics and fast fashion destroy the soil

World Soil Day is an international event hosted by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation (FAO), they aim to “Keep soil alive, Protect soil biodiversity” by addressing the cause and alleviate soil biodiversity loss.

Before we get into how cosmetic products harm the environment. We should first understand why our soil is dying.

Soil Degradation

According to the NSW, soil degradation ‘is the decline in soil condition caused by its improper use or poor management, usually for agricultural, industrial or urban purposes’. Soil degradation is certainly a natural regressive evolution process which can be caused by wind or water erosion. However, according to Pimentel et. al.’s study on soil erosion, the damages has increased by 17 times in the USA just because of modern cultivation alone. They added that it would take an investment of 6.4 billion USD to reduce this rate of increase.

The European Environmental Agency has referenced The Tutzing Project of 1998 mentioning that in humid climates, it takes up to 500 years on average for the formation of only 2.5 cm of soil. Therefore at this rate, this important finite source cannot beat the damages in time.

How cosmetics and fast fashion contributes to the damage?

According to the BBC, an estimated 92 million tonnes of textiles waste is created each year, by 2030, it is expected that more than 134 million tonnes of textiles a year will be discarded. Aside from non-environmental friendly packaging and production. When cosmetics and fast fashion items get improperly dumped, it becomes toxic and damages the soil underneath. In addition, the production for these industries also has a high demand of raw materials to be extracted from the soil. According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development, fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world.

Aside from the toxic product, synthetic cotton which can slowly cause organ damages in the long-term. The production of synthetic cotton is damaging to the soil. Using these synthetic fertilizers is not the big problem, the problem is the combination of this use and high demands. In these synthetic N-P-K (nitrogenphosphoruspotassium) fertilizers, it harms the water under the soil by producing more and grows algae at a faster rate in which the ecosystem cannot handle. In addition, production of synthetic cotton harms the surrounding land too, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides that are sprayed on the crop travels through air to the surrounding area, when pesticides go through the ground, eroding the soil.

Polyester is non-biodegradable, meaning discarded polyester fabrics and clothes will not break down easily in landfills, which could become a hazard to land and soil animals. A research was done specifically studying the effects of polyester fibers on the important soil decomposers food web animals. The results show a negative effect on the animal’s energy reserves, ingestion and a decrease of 30% in reproduction rate. Although the conclusion was that the effect is slight, polyester still creates a long-term effect on these soil invertebrates by disrupting the decomposition process. In addition, when polyester clothing is washed, the fabric sheds and the micro plastics are washed down the drain, ending up in aquatic habitats.

According to the American Chemical Society, traces of Siloxanes are found in soil and aquatic life. Siloxanes are simply a class of liquid silicon that is found in skincare products, hair products and makeup. Environment Canada reported that the chemical compounds of siloxanes are toxic to the environment, found as to bioaccumulate in the environment.

Extraction of Mica is not only a real issue of illicit child labour use but it is also an environmental issue. Natural Mica that are used to make shiny pigments to create makeup products like eyeshadows and highlighters goes through a process of mining. Mining does not only pollute air, but it scars habitats and creates an irreversible soil structure damage. Companies like Lush have now converted to only using Synthetic Mica – Lush Creative Buyer Gabbi Loedolff says “Even though it is synthesised in a lab, it is constructed of natural minerals, so you don’t end up with the problem of microplastics which can end up in the oceans and water supplies.”

Triclosan which are found in hand sanitizers and household products are not only harmful to aquatic life but also damages the soil. This FDA banned chemical has been found to disrupt the nitrogen cycle in soil. This means that the affected soil has fertility damage, causing plants to go yellow and die. When Triclosan reaches to a waterway, it accumulates and reacts with other chemicals to make dioxins which are toxic.

Aquatic pollution is also Soil pollution

As much more research on cosmetics and textile toxic chemicals leads to a greater amount of aquatic pollution results. It is important to note that water and soil are dependent on each other as an ecosystem. Observably, chemicals that leak into waterways come from the soil and polluted toxic water goes back to soil, ending up in our crops, killing vulnerable animals and microorganisms. Hence, becoming another statistic that contributes to the rapid increase of soil degradation.

Make smarter choices to protect our environment!

References:

“Why clothes are so hard to recycle I BBC Future” https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200710-why-clothes-are-so-hard-to-recycle Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “World Soil Day | Food and Agriculture Organization of the ….” http://www.fao.org/world-soil-day/en/. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “Soil degradation – Environment.Nsw.Gov.Au – NSW Government.” 25 Jul. 2019, https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/topics/land-and-soil/soil-degradation. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

“Why Soil Matters – YouTube.” 3 Nov. 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kZXulLobA8. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “Environmental and Economic Costs of Soil Erosion and ….” 11 Apr. 2004, http://www.rachel.org/files/document/Environmental_and_Economic_Costs_of_Soil_Erosi.pdf. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “3.6. Soil degradation – European Environment Agency.” https://www.eea.europa.eu/ds_resolveuid/KPU6HFDMO1. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

“UN launches drive to highlight environmental cost … – UN News.” 25 Mar. 2019, https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/03/1035161. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “Why Is Cotton Harmful to the Soil? | Hunker.” https://www.hunker.com/12505119/why-is-cotton-harmful-to-the-soil. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “Is Too Much Fertilizer a Problem? · Frontiers for Young Minds.” 20 May. 2020, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/486326. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

“Exploring the impacts of plastics in soil – The effects of ….” 15 Jan. 2020, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969719344420. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “Siloxane D4 (Cyclotetrasiloxane, octamethyl-) – Canada.ca.” 10 Feb. 2012, https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/chemical-substances/challenge/batch-2/cyclotetrasiloxane-octamethyl.html. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

“Siloxane D5 (Cyclopentasiloxane, decamethyl-) – Canada.ca.” 10 Feb. 2012, https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/chemical-substances/challenge/batch-2/cyclopentasiloxane-decamethyl.html. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “FAQ on Lush and mica – Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics UK.” https://uk.lush.com/article/faq-lush-and-mica. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

“Triclosan: its occurrence, fate and effects in the … – PubMed.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21330702/. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

Should You Go Organic?

Whether it’s for health purposes, a personal revelation, or a new years revelation, you’ve decided to adopt a healthier way of eating. You’ve swapped potato chips and burgers for vegetables and lean protein. But as you look through supermarket shelves another question comes to mind: what are organic labels and…should you choose them?

assorted vegetables on white ceramic plate

What does an organic label mean?

According to Harvard Health, the purpose of organic agriculture is to preserve natural resources, support animal health and welfare, and to avoid synthetic materials or chemicals in produce. The USDA is a strict regulator for the organic industry and only provides a “USDA Organic” seal for foods that are 95% organic.

sliced apples and bananas on white surface

Produce and livestock is considered organic when:

  • Soil is free from synthetic pesticides and fertilizers
  • Crops cannot be genetically modified
  • Animals cannot receive antibiotics or growth hormones
  • Animal feed has to be grown organically
  • Animals must be able to roam around outside
  • Processed organic foods must not contain synthetic additives

Is organic food safer?

Man made pesticides in non organic foods

sliced meat on brown wooden chopping board

In an interview with WebMD, John Reganold, a professor of soil science at Washington State University described the chances of getting pesticide residues as “much less with organic food”. He used a case study conducted by Consumer Union to show that organically grown crops had one third of the pesticide residue compared to non organic produce.

Even so, the amount of pesticide and synthetic chemicals in non organic produce is still well below the level that the Environmental Protection Agency has deemed unsafe. Hence, the real potential health risk is whether the accumulation of small doses over decades may harm us.

Natural toxins in organic food

brown round fruit on gray metal rack

If you helped out in the kitchen, you’d instinctively know to cut off the green spots on potatoes. Solanine is a substance produced by potatoes and is identified by its green spots. This is an example of natural toxins in plants where an over consumption of this substance can make you physically ill. As organic plants lack synthetic chemicals and pesticides to protect them, they have to resort to creating their own toxins to contend with pests and insects. Some say this this natural toxins may be as harmful or even more so then synthetic pesticides used in the production of non organic foods.

As a rule of thumb, rinse all fruits and vegetable thoroughly under running water even if you are going to cook it after. Take special care to wash fruit skins such as oranges or melons as cutting unwashed fruit skins may bring pesticides from the blade into the flesh.

Is organic foods more nutritious?

sliced fruit on white surface

A few studies have reported a higher level of antitoxins, Vitamin C and minerals in organic foods, however, the differences compared to non organic produce is too small to have a significant impact.

However, there is one certainty. Eating food while its fresh is the only way to get the most nutrients out of it. Nutrients oxidize over time. So, even if there is a higher content of nutrients in organic foods, it would oxidize and disappear sitting in the refrigerator.

Is it worth the cost?

vegetable salad

Toxic and pesticides accumulate in the soil, water, our bodies and we end up consuming it. Although there is insufficient data surrounding this topic, the potential health risks are always there. Choose what works for your lifestyle. Organic foods tend to be up to 47% more expensive than non organic foods. If you are able the luxury of choosing all organic produce and like the idea of a more environmentally friendly production system, organic is the way to go! However, choosing certain products as organic works too!

World’s AIDs Day: Myths about HIV/AID

World’s Aids Day (December 1st) has been made as an International Day to raise awareness about AIDs. To raise awareness, let us get informed and break down the myths!

Did you know the red awareness ribbon is the symbol for people living with HIV/AIDS, as well as prevention of drug abuse and drunk driving?

What is AIDs?

According to Mayo Clinic, “Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDs) is a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). By damaging your immune system, HIV interferes with your body’s ability to fight infection and disease.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released the statistics for AIDs of 2019:

38,000,000 – estimated number of people living with HIV

1,700,000 – number of people that were newly infected with HIV

690,000 – number of people that died of HIV related causes

The origins of HIV/AIDs

HIV came from a type of chimpanzee in Central Africa. These chimpanzees had the HIV-like virus called simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV). The SIV later infected humans as hunters would either eat infected chimps, or the blood of infected chimps would infect the hunter’s wounds or cuts. It is believed that the first transmission of SIV to HIV came from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1920. And later on, the spread started during the 60s across the Caribbean, and to the States during the 70s. Which later became a spread of the whole world.

Symptoms and Effects of HIV/AIDs

According to the New York State Department of Health, symptoms like fever, sore throat, swollen glands or a skin rash would appear after being infected with HIV. These symptoms would still go away without being treated. However, the HIV stays in your blood, without treatment, it gets worse. The immune system becomes weak and overtime, it could develop into AIDs if left not treated.

So how does HIV attack the immune system? In the immune system, there are white blood cells which are CD4 cells. HIV gets inside these CD4 cells, makes copies of them and then kills the cell. So the virus in the body increases and CD4 cells decrease, making the body vulnerable.

Based on Mayo Clinic, the progression to AIDs means that the immune system is severely damaged. Therefore the body will be more likely to develop opportunistic infections or opportunistic cancers. Infections such as Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP), Tuberculosis, Toxoplasmosis e.t.c And cancers such as Lymphoma and Kaposi’s sarcoma.

How is HIV transmitted and Myths/Misconceptions

Before writing this, I asked my friends what they knew about HIV/AIDs, and shockingly, they knew nothing at all.

HIV is a transmitted disease from one person-to-person through sex (as a Sexually Transmitted infection, STI) and when sharing injection drug needles; via bodily fluids: blood, semen, vaginal fluid, anal mucous and breastmilk.

So let’s explore the Myths

  • Only adults get HIV

Everyone can be a victim of HIV, it is not limited to sexual partners or drug users. HIV can be transmitted from mother to babies during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding.

  • You can get HIV from kissing

HIV cannot be spread through saliva. As HIV is a STI, it is no surprise that this is a misconception. However, HIV from kissing is not impossible, but rather extremely rare. It only becomes possible if the blood of a HIV positive partner gets into the bloodstream to the other, as both have sores or bleeding gums.

  • You can get HIV from oral sex

This is only possible if there are open sores on the genital area or bleeding gums/sores in a partner’s mouth. Though not impossible, it is extremely rare.

  • Contraceptive pills, washing after sex and pulling out can prevent HIV

False. The only contraceptives that are successful at preventing transmitting HIV are proper use of condoms and the use of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a medicine PrEP is prescribed to HIV-negative adults and adolescents who are at high risk for getting HIV.

  • You can get HIV from sharing food

As mentioned, you cannot get HIV through saliva. However, it is also not impossible and is extremely rare. Food will only be contaminated if a HIV positive persons’ blood mixes with the food when chewing. But don’t be fearful, HIV cannot survive exposure to the air or heat from cooking.

  • You can get HIV from water

HIV cannot survive in water.

  • You can get HIV from insect and pet bites

Theoretically, this could only be possible if an insect e.g. a mosquito bites a HIV positive person, then transmitting it to another person when biting the other person. But this is all myth, because HIV cannot infect insects or pets in the first place. The reason being that HIV cannot live with them due to difference in genetic build-up, hence the H in HIV stands for humans.

  • If a couple are both HIV positive, they don’t need protection

This myth is extremely dangerous as it is false and promoting unsafe sex. HIV is a virus of many strains, therefore, different people can have different strains of HIV. Unsafe sex between HIV positive couples means that the partner(s) can contract a strain they didn’t have, worsening their health.

  • You can get HIV from Tattoos and piercings

This is only possible if the needle being used is contaminated with infected blood. As regulations require professionals to sterilize needles before use, the cases are rare. However, you must be aware.

Click this to read our article about Tattoos and their poor regulations

HIV/AIDs Stigma

When HIV became recognized publicly during the 80s, the topic of HIV was very controversial. This is because HIV is transmitted through sex which is taboo in some countries. According to UNAIDS, The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, 50% of people report having discriminatory attitudes towards people living with HIV. 2 additional myths that can be very stigmatizing are :

  • Only gay men get HIV

As mentioned, everyone can be a victim. This misconception comes from the fact that anal sex has a higher risk of transmitting HIV than vaginal sex. This myth has effected many gay men. In the beginning, HIV had a nickname called the “gay plague”. There are also surveys by Lambda Legal that shows LGBT individuals getting denied of HIV/AIDs treatment or be discriminatorily treated, also over 32% of LGBT individuals were also told that they were to be blamed for their health status

  • You can get HIV from touching a HIV positive person

Since HIV can only be transmitted through specific bodily fluids, this is false. Paige Rawl, who contracted HIV since birth was interviewed by Vox and shared her experience.

“The coach made a joke to my mom that the team could use my HIV status to our advantage, because the players on the other team would be scared to touch me, and I could score goals.”

Avert, an international HIV and AIDS charity pointed out why it is important to debunk myths. They explained that incorrect HIV information stops people getting tested.

“My daughter refused to go hospital to receive medicines. My daughter died because of the fear of stigmatization and discrimination”

World AIDs day 2020 – How COVID-19 affected HIV patients

WHO has participated in this International Day by rallying for ‘global solidarity’. They explained that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the services for HIV, especially in countries that have weak health care, hence they suspected that HIV/AIDs related deaths are rising. Global solidarity would “to maintain essential HIV services during COVID 19 and beyond – and to ensure continued provision of HIV services for children, adolescents and populations most at risk for the disease”. If this is successful, WHO could potentially reach their 2030 goal – to end the AIDs epidemic.


References:

“HIV/AIDS – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic.” 13 Feb. 2020, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hiv-aids/symptoms-causes/syc-20373524. Accessed 1 Dec. 2020.

“World AIDS Day 2020 – World Health Organization.” https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-aids-day/2020. Accessed 1 Dec. 2020.

“About HIV/AIDS | HIV Basics | HIV/AIDS | CDC.” https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/whatishiv.html. Accessed 1 Dec. 2020.

“History of AIDS – HISTORY.” 13 Jul. 2017, https://www.history.com/topics/1980s/history-of-aids. Accessed 1 Dec. 2020.

 “How Is HIV Transmitted? | HIV.gov.” 24 Jun. 2019, https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/about-hiv-and-aids/how-is-hiv-transmitted. Accessed 1 Dec. 2020.

“Myths about HIV and AIDS | Avert.” 14 Apr. 2020, https://www.avert.org/hiv-transmission-prevention/myths. Accessed 1 Dec. 2020.

“Myths about HIV and AIDS: Transmission and misconceptions.” 24 Sept. 2020, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323832. Accessed 2 Dec. 2020.

“Why are gay and bi guys more prone to getting HIV?.” https://www.nzaf.org.nz/media/1757/150327_why_are_gay_and_bi_guys_more_prone_to_hiv.pdf. Accessed 2 Dec. 2020.

“Facts about HIV Stigma | HIV Basics | HIV/AIDS | CDC.” https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/hiv-stigma/index.html. Accessed 2 Dec. 2020.

 “HIV Stigma and Discrimination | Avert.” 10 Oct. 2019, https://www.avert.org/professionals/hiv-social-issues/stigma-discrimination. Accessed 2 Dec. 2020.

 “When Health Care Isn’t Caring – Lambda Legal.” https://www.lambdalegal.org/sites/default/files/publications/downloads/whcic-report_when-health-care-isnt-caring.pdf. Accessed 2 Dec. 2020.

“People living with HIV still face enormous stigma and hate – Vox.” 1 Dec. 2015, https://www.vox.com/2014/8/10/5956765/this-is-what-its-like-to-have-hiv-in-2014. Accessed 2 Dec. 2020.

3 Reasons You Should Use Sunscreen in Winter

We are particular about applying sunscreen during summer, however most of us stop using sunscreen as the seasons change and winter rolls by. Contrary to popular belief, even as we swap tank tops and shorts for long coats and mitten, it is still crucial that we use sunscreen during the winter.

Always apply sunscreen!

Winter intensifies suns’ rays

Snow and ice can reflect up to 90% of the UV rays. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone wears sunscreens daily as Ultraviolet radiation (UV) rays from the sun often result in damage and mutations in our DNA. In fact, there is a strong positive relation between UV exposure from the sun and the increase of non melanoma skin cancers. Besides that UV rays are also the main cause of wrinkles according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Even though we hardly notice the sun during winter, don’t forget that the reflective rays are still harmful!

Sunscreen has anti aging properties

Sunscreen stops you from aging!

Do you feel your skin get drier during winter? Are there fine lines appearing out of the blue? Fine lines appear due to the UV rays that penetrate and damage collagen and elastin in your skin. Sunscreen acts as a barrier that moisturizes and protects your skin against the dry, harsh, winter weather, as well as provide a protective film that reflects UV rays from penetrating your skin. Furthermore, the ozone layer which traps most UV rays is the thinnest during winter, according to Beaumont Organization. It is important to protect ourselves with sunscreen especially from 10am to 4pm as that is when sunrays are at its strongest. A 4 year study conducted in Australia compared skin aging in 900 men and women. The results found that those who used sunscreen had no detectable increase and even 24% less skin aging compared to those who did not. This study shows concrete evidence that sunscreen does have anti aging properties.

Winter conditions remove sunscreen faster

Sweating off sunscreen is a tell tale sign you need to reapply sunscreen. However, we don’t sweat during winter, making it hard to remember to reapply sunscreen. Some people even think that because we don’t sweat, the sunscreen is still there and applying it once in the morning is more than enough. Shockingly, the harsh winds wear sunscreens faster and makes them lose its effectiveness according to The Skin Cancer Foundation. We are recommended to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, and immediately after sweating for sunscreen to protect your skin.

How do we choose sunscreens?

With the variety of the types of sunscreens on supermarket shelves, how do we choose the right sunscreens for us? What do the SPF numbers mean?

What does the SPF numbers mean?

What do SPF numbers mean?

SPF numbers, or sun protection factor, don’t show the strength of the sunscreen. Instead, it is the duration you can go before reapplying. There’s a little math involved. If you were to get a sunburn after 10 minutes without sunscreen, after applying SPF 30, you can stay 30x longer (300 minutes / 5 hours) before getting sunburnt.

There are 2 major types of sunscreens

two teal and yellow labeled containers
  • Physical sunscreens

Physical sunscreens are also known as mineral sunscreens that function like a mirror and reflects the suns rays. Titanium dioxide (TiO2) and zinc oxide (ZnO) are what gives sunscreens the white sheen we see on our skin and if physical sunscreens don’t appear white, it means that the the ingredients in the sunscreen isn’t high enough to protect you from the sun.

  • Chemical sunscreens

Chemical sunscreens absorb suns’ rays and dissipate it away as heat. The pros of sunscreens is that it stays on the skin for a longer duration of time. However, chemical sunscreens are bad for the environment as it forms byproducts that are harmful to the environment and marine life, leading some organizations to ban the use of certain ingredients in sunscreens.

Ingredients you should avoid in you chemical sunscreens:

Check out our in depth discussion of physical and chemical sunscreens here!

All in all

Sunscreen should be used all year round, especially during winter. When choosing sunscreen for you, it is important to calculate SPF and constantly reapply sunscreen every two hours to protect your skin against the harsh winds and invisible UV rays. While physical sunscreens are au natural, they tend to wash off easily. While chemical sunscreens last longer, certain ingredients are harmful for the environment and marine life. Hence, if you want to use chemical sunscreens, make sure to avoid ingredients that may potentially harm the environment.