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Obesity Might Involve More Than Calories In, Calories Out

by Arleigh Aldrich

More and more studies are surfacing with the argument that it’s not just how much we eat that is fueling obesity, but what we’re eating. For years, scientists and nutritionists have adhered to the “calories in, calories out” model, in which one loses weight by burning more calories than they intake. Now researchers are asking if pollutants that make their way into our food affect that model.

The culprits on trial are called “obesogens,” a new term coined to describe organic pollutants such as pesticides for crops and slimicides for water purification. Here’s the question: If I consume a diet with ingredients exposed to obesogens containing X amount of calories, will it cause me to gain more weight than if my diet didn’t contain those pollutants?

Bruce Blumberg, professor of developmental and cell biology and pharmaceutical sciences at the University of California, says yes. Blumberg coined the term obesogens and claims they have an effect on how the body responds to calories and stores fat. In his study, one group of rats was fed a diet which contained the pollutants tributyltin and triphenyltin, and the other fed a diet with the same amount of calories, sans the pollutants. He found the rats who were fed the pollutants were found to have larger and higher quantities of fat cells.

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BHA is Lurking in Your Cereal, but is it Safe?

By Lauren O’Connor, MS, RD for Nutri-Savvy.

You may tread on it, wear it, and yes, even ingest it! The same chemical used in making tires and the make-up you wear may be found in a wide variety of common, everyday food products.

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is a synthetic chemical found in petroleum, rubber, cosmetics, animal feed, and food packaging. Because it prevents oxidation, it is also used to “preserve freshness” in food products. It works by retarding rancidity and eliminating odors in fat and oil-containing foods. Though an “antioxidant,” this widely-used substance may be cause for concern.

The exposure to BHA in foods increased nearly two-fold from the 1970s to the early eighties, with US annual usage rising from 170,000 kg to 300,000 kg. The additive may be found in butter, meats, cereals, chewing gum, baked goods, snacks, nut products, dry beverage mixes, active dry yeast, dehydrated potatoes and beer! And let’s not forget the environment: If you work around livestock or in the cosmetics, rubber or petroleum industries, you have increased exposure. Fast-food employees who cook and serve fried, oily foods are also more exposed.
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What Do a McRib and Your Yoga Mat Have in Common?

These two items seem as far removed as the people who eat the sandwich and those who actually use a yoga mat, but they share something in common that is wildly alarming and worth having a look.

Azodicarbonamide, ammonium sulfate and polysorbate 80 are just three of the 70 ingredients that make up the famed McDonald’s BBQ McRib pork sandwich. Even though these nasty ingredients are in small enough quantities that may not otherwise be harmful to your health, it is worth noting how and where else these chemicals are being used just to put it into perspective.

The biggest one that will get some of you squirming in your seat is azodicarbonamide, a flour-bleaching agent found in the McRib bun. This chemical, in addition to giving your BBQ bun that fresh, white appearance, is also used to manufacture shoes, foam plastics, materials such as gym flooring and believe it or not, yoga mats.

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New Legislation Could Ban Food and Plastic Chemicals From Shelves

New legislation could alter the familiar faces of the grocery store aisles, such as Chester the Cheetah or the Jolly Green Giant, in the very near future.

According to, Rep. Jim Moran, D-Virginia, and Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts will introduce a bill later this month that would give the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences power to ban up to 10 harmful chemicals from common household and food products.

Once the NIEHS has named a chemical as “high concern,” its use is illegal after 24 months. Bisphenol A, often used in plastics and known as an endocrine disruptor, is one of the chemicals that could be on the banned list. Bisphenol A, or BPA, is also used in the lining of many canned goods, which are a staple of pantry cabinets throughout the US.

Harmful chemicals such as BPA and DES, a chemical found in cattle feed and breast cancer treatment medicine, can change how hormones operate and lead to birth defects such as neurological disorders or autism, according to the article.

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8 Sustainable States are Organic All Stars

In our fifty nifty states, some are shining above others in the area of sustainability and organic food production.

When a food is titled organic, that means that it was produced using methods that avoided synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers. The food does not contain genetically modified organisms and it was not involved in radiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives while being processed. If livestock or meat products are labeled organic that means the animal was raised without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones.

Obviously this is how farming used to always take place. Synthetic inputs are a creation of more modern times. All of these organic practices have been linked to sustainability in that they foster the cycling of resources, contribute to ecological balance, and protect biodiversity.

The health benefits of eating organic products come from the simple fact that one is consuming food, not chemicals. While the jury is still out on what impact these chemicals and artificial elements exactly cause, if you’re like me, I’d prefer not to eat a bug spray or an artificial flavor if I can avoid it. Even if it may not be “that bad” for me.

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