Archive for October, 2012
Did you know that according to the National Retail Federation, there will be over $1 billion in candy sales this Halloween? In 2005, the average American consumed 25.7 pounds of candy, per capita, much of it around Halloween. And on top of that, the CDC recently reported that 1in 3 Americans are expected to have diabetes in the next forty years.
So what’s a parent to do? It’s Halloween, for crying out loud!
When trick-or-treating entered the American scene in the 1920s, neighbors gave children items like apples, pastries, breads and even money. So why, 40 years later, are there $1 billion in candy sales each Halloween? How has food marketing taken over this tradition?
“Companies went after Halloween candy a long time ago,” says Nancy Childs, Ph.D., professor of food marketing. “Candy companies are active and aggressive marketers who offer convenient, pre-packaged treats to fulfill the tradition.”
But have you ever read the side of a candy box?
According to Pure Fun Candy, the FDA does not monitor artificial colors, flavors and preservatives nor require that they be tested. Rather, the concept of “threshold of toxicological concern” has been proposed by the FDA to set acceptable daily intake for chemicals of unknown toxicity, apparently on the theory that a little bit can’t hurt. But have you ever seen a kid eat a ‘little bit’ of candy?
On top of that, research published in The Lancet, a leading medical journal in the UK, suggests that these additives do affect the brain chemistry of children, causing hyperactivity and ADHD like behavior. The research is so strong that Wal-Mart in the UK agreed to ban these ingredients in children’s foods and government agencies around the world have banned or removed these chemical additives in children’s foods. But American kids still consume these additives in record amounts, especially at Halloween.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
And while sugar is still sugar, organic candy does not contain toxic pesticides, high fructose corn syrup or other chemicals or genetically modified ingredients (ingredients engineered into corn and soy by the agrichemical industry to help these plants produce their own insecticides or withstand increasing doses of weed killers) that aren’t used in children’s foods in other countries.
But with budgets tight, that’s not an option to most families, But given reports by CNN addressing toxicity in children and last year’s Senate hearing in which CNN’s medical correspondent, Sanjy Gupta, addressed the same, perhaps we should take a cue from parents in the 27 countries in the European Union, in Canada, Australia and try to avoid the ingredients that their government agencies have banned in children’s foods – things like high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, MSG and those genetically engineered ingredients producing their own insecticides.
Do One Thing
So while we can’t make the perfect the enemy of the good, we can all do something, focusing on progress not perfection. So maybe this Halloween, you can opt-out of juice that contains high fructose corn syrup or artificial colors as a way to reduce your children’s exposure. Or when it comes to that inevitable deluge of candy, you can offer to engage your kids in a candy swap. For every few pieces of conventional candy that they collect, trade them in for a healthier treat, a sticker or some small toy.
Or better yet, write a letter to the Great Pumpkin. Apparently, he’s been known to bring little presents like gift cards or a book to children who leave their candy baskets outside the front door for him in the first week of November.
You can make a difference in the health of your family. The opportunity is enormous, and the time is now.
To learn more about ways to protect your children from genetically engineered ingredients in Halloween candy, you can visit the Non-GMO Project’s Guide to Halloween.
Additional information is also available at www.greenhalloween.org
Written by Emily Matthews
Food allergies don’t have to put a damper on a child’s enjoyment of traditional holidays. Research from science think tanks and masters degrees online come to the same conclusions: with a little planning, a child with severe food allergies can have just as much fun on Halloween as any child who is not suffering from this problem. By focusing on a great costume and other aspects of the holiday that don’t affect your child’s food allergies, your child will not worry about missing out at all.
One of the best ways to celebrate Halloween when your child has food allergies is to host a party at your house and serve only treats that are safe for them to eat. You can even have trick or treating in your home by having candy that is safe for your child to eat passed out in different rooms. The children who attend as guests will very likely not even notice anything different about the treats being served. If you take the initiative to provide activities and candy treats for your child to do during Halloween that are fun and exciting, your child may even feel that they got to do something extra special during the holiday and not worry about not being able to do what any other children are doing that day.
For school parties, helping plan the party, offering to bring safe treats, and explaining to your child’s teacher can help keep your child safe from getting any candy that could trigger their allergies. Using fun games as an alternative to candy is a great option to ensure that everyone has a good time on Halloween. If you are not able to attend your child’s school Halloween party, make sure that you inform the teachers and personnel ahead of time, just in case something happens and your child accidentally ingests candy that could provoke a reaction. Teachers should be informed of any signs of a reaction and any ingredients that could trigger your child’s food allergies.
It’s an unfair reality that most of the food passed out on Halloween won’t be safe for your child to eat. However, making sure that you know what they can eat will make things much easier. Do your research, but know that many sugar candies are free of the top eight allergens. At the end of the night, have your kids do a swap with their friends – they get all the Nerds, Smarties, and Dots, and don’t have to deal with the M&Ms and Snickers bars.
If some of the candy may be safe to eat, you can sort through it after your child brings it home and before they are allowed to eat anything, to make sure that all of it is safe to eat. Some children’s dentists offer children money in exchange for candy to promote healthy teeth, and cashing in on this type of promotion can help your child feel better about losing part of their stash.
It may take a little bit of advance planning, but your children’s Halloween can be just as great as yours were as a kid!
Emily Matthews is currently applying to masters degree programs across the U.S., and loves to read about new research into health care, gender issues, and literature. She lives and writes in Seattle, Washington.
A picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, a little video does the trick.
In this new video, bravely and creatively directed, learn the truth about what happens to the bears who drink sugary sodas, then share this with everyone that you love.
According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest:
Though consumption has declined slightly in recent years, soda and sugary drinks still are the biggest single source of calories in the American diet, accounting for about 7 percent.
And while Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and other soda companies spend lavishly to position the products as sources of happiness, sugary drinks are directly linked to obesity and diabetes.
Each additional sugary drink consumed per day increases the likelihood of a child becoming obese by about 60 percent.
Drinking one or two sugary drinks per day increases one’s risk for type 2 diabetes by 27 percent.
Because as The Real Bears site suggests, “Big soda companies have billions of dollars to tell their story, but we have each other.” And love. That’s a big one, too.
Learn more, get the facts, protect your loved ones at The Real Bears.
In the absence of any federal labeling law, California is trying to become the first state to label genetically engineered ingredients in foods. This could impact the county, as they represent the largest state economy in the US and the 8th largest in the world.
How could this affect all of us? When legislation was proposed in California for Coke and Pepsi to label a caramel color in their sodas as potentially carcinogenic, rather than do so, the soda giants reformulated their products….across the country.
If this legislation (Proposition 37) passes in California, as Jillian Michaels, Danny DeVito, Dave Matthews and others are urging in this public service announcement, the food industry might very well decide to reformulate their products here in the US for all of us, in order to avoid the liability that these labels might carry, removing GMOs from their products and replacing them with alternatives, much like what they have done in over 40 countries around the world, like all European countries, the UK, China, Australia, Japan and India, where GMOs are already labeled.
If you have friends or family in California, please share this important message, as we all have the right to know what we are eating, and what happens in California has the potential to impact all of us.
To learn more about this proposition and its ability to impact all of us, please visit California’s Right to Know
Bonnie Modugno, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian in private practice specializing in metabolism and sport nutrition. She is a friend of the AllergyKids Foundation, and we recently invited her to share her thoughts on the Stanford Study, the value of organic foods and other topics.
In an analysis of 237 studies of organic produce, meats and dairy foods, Stanford scientists determined that organic foods are no more nutritious than their conventional counterparts. The recent study published in The Annals of Internal Medicine has the food world spinning. The scientists looked at vitamin C in produce and omega three fatty acids in animal products among other nutrients and concluded that there just wasn’t enough difference to impact human health.
Human nutrition is a young science. The first “vitamin” was discovered early in the 20th century, the Recommended Dietary Allowances were first released in 1941 and the first dietary guidelines were established in 1980.
Since the beginning, nutrition science has been preoccupied with identifying essential nutrients. This early orientation has led too many nutrition scientists down a path of reductionist thinking, as if food were merely a delivery vehicle for essential nutrients in our diet. Today the rest of the food world is pushing back. Farmers, chefs, journalists, environmentalists, foodies, as well as many more integrative nutritionists, dietitians and other health care providers are crying foul.
The push back to the Stanford study has been enormous. Many Americans have become far too sophisticated in the post Omnivore’s Dilemma era to take the narrow findings of this study at face value. Every post I have read over the past two days immediately points to the real differences between organic and conventional food. To many consumers, the value of organic food production was never only about the nutrients.
The Problem with Reductionist Science
The traditional approach to studying nutrition is fragmented. Nutrition science often focuses on the smallest components of the diet, the essential nutrients. Most funding for nutrition research is appropriated for studies regarding specific nutrients.
It is easier to study a single nutrient compared to the overall diet. This is why you get to read front page stories telling you to avoid fat, or more specifically to eat more unsaturated fat, and even more specifically to consume more omega 3 fatty acids.
There is very limited research looking at overall dietary patterns, and even less linking the production of food to anything. Too often the only concern is what happens to man. Nutrition science tends to ignore the rest of our ecological home. Today, there is a need for nutrition science to connect more of the dots.
WHAT ABOUT THE VITAMINS AND MINERALS
Most critics of the Stanford study focus on the findings of the researchers. People want to think organic food must be far superior compared to conventionally raised foods. But research looking at nutrient content of organic versus conventionally grown food is mixed.
Sometimes conventional foods show higher nutrient content. (Although research shown below shows that organically grown produce has higher content more often) Still, this kind of data doesn’t often inspire the average Joe or Jane to pull out their hard earned cash to pay a premium for an organic product.
OMEGA THREE CONTENT IS DIFFERENT
The omega three fatty acid data is more compelling. Greater amounts of omega three fatty acids are thought to be health promoting. A lower ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 is linked to less inflammation. Less inflammation is associated with reduced risk of everything from cancer, diabetes, and heart disease to allergies, asthma, and more.
Grass fed beef is markedly different than beef from conventionally raised cattle. Grass fed beef contains more omega 3 fatty acids. Grass fed beef has a 2:1 ratio of omega six to omega three fatty acids; conventional beef has a ratio of 9:1. The greater amount of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in grass fed beef is bonus.
WHAT ABOUT ALL THE OTHER FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE HEALTH, NUTRITION AND DISEASE?
The Stanford’s study glaring omissions are exactly what has so many people energized about eating closer to the earth and preferentially choosing organic foods.
- People know that water is important. Runoff from conventional farms using conventional NPK fertilizer pollutes the waterways and creates dead zones in the oceans.
- Today’s educated consumers don’t want to consume added hormones in their food supply. The use of recombinant bovine growth hormone in dairy cows is far less common than it once was. Many consumers won’t buy milk containing rBGH.
- The educated food consumer knows that 80% of all antibiotics are used with animals, often in animal feed as a growth enhancer. They worry about the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
- Today’s consumers are concerned about exposure to pesticides, insecticides and other chemical agents used in conventional farming. They are aware these substances pose risk to human health. They bio-accumulate in fat stores.
These agents are known endocrine disruptors. 95% of “persistent organic pollutants” enter our body via the food supply. These chemical agents impact all life forms, especially compromising biodiversity of insects and microbes in the soil.
- Consumers have every reason to be wary of genetically engineered and GMO foods. Studies regarding the safety of genetic engineering are inadequate.
Proponents of genetic engineering would like consumers to accept that GMO foods are “substantially equivalent” to traditionally cultivated foods. Currently, substantial equivalence is determined using 90 day studies with lab rats. No wonder the current initiative to label GMO foods in California garners huge public support.
WE CAN NOT AFFORD TO EAT ACCORDING TO REDUCTIONIST SCIENCE
When making food choices we can no longer afford to only consider the nutrient content of food. The way food is grown and harvested matters. They way in which food is processed matters. The methods and packaging used to transport our food matters.
Today nutrition scientists need to broaden their scope and consider their findings in much broader context. The range of issues impacting human health encompasses the health of our precious resources: the vitality of livestock, crop diversity, soil ecology, the health of our oceans, our supply of fresh water and clean air. Everyone connected to the food supply needs to understand and respect this truth. Good nutrition has never been just about the nutrients.
Bonnie Modugno, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian in private practice specializing in energy metabolism and sport nutrition. Bonnie works extensively with individuals and families addressing nutrition concerns throughout the lifecycle, with a special focus on maternal, infant and child nutrition. She is a speaker and author, writing her blog at www.muchmorethanfood.com