Category Archives: Healthy Living

Friends Enjoying their Time

Friendship Not Money

It seems that people nowadays, in their quest for happiness, are putting all their efforts into material possessions, rather than what really matters most. Money can buy a lot of “things” but what about love, good health and good relationships? Aren’t those more important for our mental health?

A study was conducted entitled the new Origins of Happiness, and the findings were presented at the London School of Economics (LSE) well-being conference in December of 2016. Data was collected to use in the survey from four countries that revealed the key determinant of people’s life satisfaction.

Lord Richard Layard, LSE economist, led the study and said that the findings suggest that governments should be focused on well-being creation and not on wealth creation. According to Layard, by focusing on people’s physical and mental health, along with relationships, the corresponding reduction in depression and anxiety could reduce misery by 20% and at the same time, reduce health care costs.

Dealing with depression and anxiety would be self-financing because the costs would be recovered by increased employment rates and a reduction in health care costs. For a happy adult life, it is important that a child is judged on their emotional health and they should not be judged solely on their academic achievements. There is also evidence that schools have a big impact on a child’s emotional health. Some notable findings are: income inequality explains only 1% of the variation in happiness levels within a community while mental health differences explain over 4%; having a partner in life plays a greater role in life satisfaction than education level and being married is worth more than $100,000 of income; in the U.S., Germany, Britain and Australia the average happiness levels have failed to rise despite massive increases in living standards. Overall, the evidence shows that the things that matter most for our happiness and for our misery are our social relationships and our mental and physical health.

High income cannot buy happiness, but low income may become a hindrance to both happiness and well-being. Those living in poverty, which is $11,770 for a single person and 24,250 for a family of four, bear the brunt of the burden and usually struggle with both psychological and physical health. Nearly 9% of those living below the federal poverty line experience serious psychological distress compared to only 1.2% of those living at or above 400% of the poverty line.

The mid-life crisis period of unhappiness hits many people in their 40’s and may, in fact, be real. This is described as the U-shaped curve that was revealed from the research of half a million people. It is said that happiness levels tend to be high in childhood then move downward after the age of 18. Then it tends to bottom out during the 40’s. By age 50 and over, happiness begins to creep back up again for most, until they are in the last few years of life or a serious health problem occurs.

Ten keys to living happier, and spell out “Great Dream” are:
1. Giving: Do things for others
2. Relating: Connect with people
3. Exercising: Take care of your body
4. Awareness: Live life mindfully
5. Trying Out: Keep learning new things
6. Direction: Have goals to look forward to
7. Resilience: Find ways to bounce back
8. Emotions: Look for what’s good
9. Acceptance: Be comfortable with who you are
10. Meaning: Be part of something bigger

A big bonus of happiness is that it creates a positive feedback, leading to physical and mental benefits. Keep positive and hold those friends and family close. That is what should be important in life, not all the material things. Can’t we all do with more “family” time with our children and a little less material things? Love, laugh and enjoy the life you have been given. Stay a little healthier in mind and body at the same time!

Dr Fredda Branyon

Glass of Milk

FDA Milk Prohibition

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gives warnings about consuming raw milk, but the wholesome and natural food has a loyal and growing following. Until the 19th century “pasteurization” did not exist. It actually allows the proliferation of the milk coming from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOS) that can be produced in filthy conditions, and then heated until all the pathogens are gone. Not only killing the germs, but it also kills off the beneficial organisms in the milk and prevents natural souring. The FDA has begun a war against raw milk producers who are actually producing far healthier milk. This is all under the guise of protecting the public health, but in essence, they are taking away Americans’ food freedom.

The FDA is actually squeezing out the small farmers. The 10th Amendment reads “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Therefore, the FDA is in violation of the Constitution by trying to enforce raw milk bans within the states. This ban favors the industrial dairy at the expense of small family farms, according to Mike Maharrey, national communications director for the Tenth Amendment Center.

Hawaii, North Dakota and Alaska have introduced bills to legalize raw milk in their states. In Hawaii, this would legalize the sale of raw milk in retail stores as long as it contains a warning label about the “risks” of consuming unpasteurized milk. Farmers would also need to maintain records of everyone who purchased their raw milk. In North Dakota, farmers would be allowed to sell raw milk directly to consumers where they now have to purchase a share of the cow or herd to buy the raw milk. In Alaska, it would be legal for farmers to sell raw milk directly to consumers but have a warning label.

The media continues to spread inaccuracies and reports fear-based information related to raw milk consumption. West Virginia has historically been one of the least open states to raw milk and in 2016 legalized the distribution of raw milk through herd-share agreements.

It isn’t raw milk that makes people sick, even though that happens to be the target. The majority of food making people sick is coming from CAFOs and not the small organic farmers. You can get self-serve dairy straight from the vat in New Zealand. I remember 30 years ago when we used to buy raw milk directly from a small farmer near our home. It was self-serve. After turning on the agitator to mix the milk and cream that had risen to the top, we could fill our jugs from the spigot and then left our money in a jar. Everything was on an honor-based purchase. My kids loved it and were NEVER sick from it. If only that were still available, we would be buying it there again.

The grass-fed raw milk contains healthy bacteria that are good for your gastrointestinal tract, has more than 60 digestive enzymes, growth factors and immunoglobulins, contains conjugated linoleic acid, has beneficial raw fats, amino acids and proteins in a highly bioavailable form and contains vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K in highly bioavailable forms.

I believe in food freedom and we should all be able to consume whatever we believe to be healthy for us. If you happen to be allergic to the milk proteins or insulin resistant, you would be better off avoiding raw and pasteurized milk. The grass-fed raw milk from a high-quality source is usually superior in nutrition and flavor. We need to demand our rights for the 10th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

Dr Fredda Branyon

Bacteria in Blood

Identifying Bacteria in Blood Samples

A desktop diagnosis tool that detects the presence of harmful bacteria in a blood sample in a matter of hours instead of days has been developed by engineers at the University of California San Diego. This was made possible by a combination of proprietary chemistry, innovative electrical engineering and high-end imaging and analysis techniques powered by machine learning. The details of the team’s work are published in Scientific Reports.

Researchers melted bacterial DNA in 20,000 extremely small simultaneous reactions to identify low levels of harmful bacteria among a large number of human blood cells. One drop of rain contains hundreds of thousands of picoliter whereas each of these reactions contained only 20 picoliters. As DNA comes apart during melting, each one has a specific signature. Researchers can use machine learning to determine which types of DNA appear in blood samples as the melting process is imaged and analyzed. The system accurately identified DNA sequences from bacteria causing food-borne illnesses and pneumonia in less than 4 hours in 99% of the time.

Stephanie Fraley, a professor of bioengineering at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego and the paper’s lead author said that analyzing these many reactions at the same time at this small a scale has never before been attempted. This is a much more holistic approach. Currently, the methods being used to detect and identify bacteria relies on cultures that can take days and is too long to provide physicians with an effective and timely diagnosis tool before prescribing antibiotics.

One milliliter of blood is inoculated with Listeria monocytogenes, a foodborne bacterium that causes 260 deaths a year in the U.S., and Streptococcus pneumonia, which causes everything from sinus infections to pneumonia and meningitis.

All DNA was isolated from the blood sample and then placed on a digital chip that allowed each piece to individually multiply in its own small reaction. Each well containing DNA in the chip was only 20 picoliters in volume and researchers used a proprietary mix of chemicals subject to a provisional patent. The chip with the amplified DNA was placed in an innovative high-throughput microscope that the team had designed and then heated in increments of 0.2 degrees Celsius, causing it to melt at temperatures between 50 and 90 degrees, or about 120 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit.

The bonds holding the DNA strands together break as the DNA double-helix melts. The bonds have different strengths and that changes the way the strands unwind from each other creating a unique sequence-dependent fingerprint that can be detected using a special dye. The dye used causes the unwinding process to give off fluorescent light that creates what the researchers call a melting curve or unique signature for each type of bacteria. They were then able to capture the bacteria’s melting curves when imaging the melting process with the high-throughput microscope. The curves were then analyzed with a machine learning algorithm they developed.

After this process shrinking the size of the system was done so that it could be more easily deployed in clinics and physicians’ offices. They want to add to the system the capability to date fungal and viral pathogens, as well as genes for antibiotic resistance. They hope to further validate the results on patient samples and make this available to physicians in the next 5 years.

Dr Fredda Branyon

Omega 3 Capsule

Omega-3’s Return on Investment

According to a recent European study, young people have an inexpensive and bullet shot at preventing the development of high blood pressure by increasing their intake of omega-3 fatty acid, a high-octane nutrient. This study was presented at the American Heart Association’s 2016 Scientific Session. This study involved measuring the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood of 2,036 young and healthy adults.

They first assessed each subject’s blood pressure and found that those with the most omega-3s in their blood had the lowest systolic blood pressure. Those with the lowest amount in their blood had the highest diastolic blood pressure.

A researcher at the University of Zurich and Cantonal Hospital of Baden in Switzerland, Dr. Mark Filipovic, said that even a reduction in blood pressure as little as 5mm Hg could prevent the number of strokes and heart-related events people experience. Less than 1 gram of omega-3 fats could benefit people who already suffer from hypertension, according to a report from another recent study. Just by taking a single 3-ounce serving of wild-caught Alaskan salmon you will receive this amount. A source of Krill oil has proven the best source.

By taking omega-3 supplements it can increase muscle function in older women. In a study each participant had her muscle size measured using MRI and muscle function testing with a dynamometer before and after the program began. The results were that resistance training increased their muscle function, size and quality in all the individuals. The women in the placebo group exercise training resulted in an average strength increase of 16%, but when the exercises were combined with an intake of fish oil, that improvement increased to an average of 34%.

By improved skeletal muscle improvement it could mean regaining the ability to rise from a chair or toilet, climb stairs and even regaining or maintaining independence. Losing their independence is probably the biggest fear by the elderly today. By having decreased function in older people it means their quality of life begins to diminish. The percentage of people who reach age 65 is projected to increase from 17% now to 23% by 2035, and are encouraging people to develop effective strategies for maintaining health well before that time is crucial. Companies are developing more omega-3 rich products to benefit brain health, cortisol control, ADHD mitigation, sports nutrition and stress management.

Lecithin contains choline that is good for your brain health of which ¾’s is phosphatidylcholine (PC). It was recently reported by the European Union (EU) that the savings for health care costs realized by using omega-3 food supplements to reducing cardiovascular disease (CVD) related events, are currently estimated at 38.4 million events throughout the EU. It is estimated by scientists that the relative risk among adults aged 55 and over is reduced by 4.9% given the use of 1,000 mg of omega-3 EPA+DHA supplements on a daily basis.

The shortage of marine-based omega-3 fatty acids is a health concern for higher risk of chronic disease worldwide. Krill oil is an ideal choice for raising the Omega-3 index because its omega-3’s are mostly bound to phospholipids, which enhance cellular uptake and carry EPA and DHA into the blood more efficiently. Omega-3s have a 230% return on investment! So why would we not take advantage of Alaskan salmon?

Dr Fredda Branyon

iced coffee 1

Hot vs. Iced Coffee: Is One Better Than the Other?

Did you know over half of Americans say they prefer hot coffee? Only 9 percent favor iced, and 19 percent say it depends on the season. But what if the temperature of your coffee plays a role in its nutritional profile? In this blog post, we will determine whether iced or hot brewed coffee is superior.

How Does Coffee Work? 

Coffee contains about 95 mg of caffeine from an average cup of coffee. In approximately 45 minutes after consumption, this plant-based stimulant will bind itself to the adenosine receptors and speed up cell activity. As a result, the consumer feels awake, alert, and more ready for long days and nights. Caffeine also increases heart rate, discharges sugar into the bloodstream, and opens up breathing tubes. These effects lead to improved energy despite lack of sleep, as well as promote an overall positive mood.

What Is the Difference Between Iced and Hot Coffee?

Most people assume that hot brew is more effective than its cold or iced variety. In truth, if both iced and hot coffee have similar doses of caffeine, they will have the same effect on the mind and body.

What Are the Benefits of Drinking Coffee?

Whether you prefer a hot cup of coffee or an iced blend, caffeine may provide the following health benefits:

  • Cut muscle pain
  • Increase fiber intake
  • Lower risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Protect against liver cirrhosis
  • Decrease risk of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Protection against Parkinson’s disease
  • Reduce suicide risk and depression
  • Reduce chances of contracting heart disease
  • Have stronger DNA
  • Lower risk of multiple sclerosis
  • Minimize colorectal cancer risk

There are several other benefits to drinking coffee. A study claims that caffeine could extend lifespans and delay age-related pathology. Further research claims that drinking coffee helps co-workers get along in the office.

Is Iced Coffee Better?

iced coffee 2

Iced coffee, however, is slightly better for your health. Hot coffee is three times more acidic than cold coffee; and the more acidic a drink is, the worse it is for your digestive system. This finding explains why iced coffee causes less tension in a person’s stomach than a hot cup. The typically alkaline environment of iced coffee not only has less acid, but it also has more flavor. Oils in coffee beans oxidize quicker at elevated temperatures. As a result, if you brew coffee grounds with hot or boiling water, oils full of acidic compounds will be released and give coffee a much bitter taste.

Conclusion

Due to its low acidity and less bitter taste, iced coffee is chemically superior to its hot counterpart. So, to everyone loyal to hot joes: Order yourself an energizing iced coffee the next time you need a caffeine fix! You can even become your own coffee connoisseur and make cold brew at home. Brewing coffee only requires a pitcher or a mason jar, and a strainer to sift the coffee grounds. Not only will you have delicious coffee in the comfort of your home, but you will also save money by avoiding a trip to Starbucks.

potatoes

Relationship of Brown Toast & Potatoes to Cancer

potatoes

According to the U.K. government scientists, you should cook your toast and potatoes to a golden color, not browned, in order to reduce the intake of a chemical that may increase the chance of having cancer.  Acrylamide is a natural byproduct of the cooking process and not deliberately added to food. Acrylamide is formed when you heat certain foods, such as starch foods like potatoes and root vegetables, as reported by professor Guy Poppy, chief scientific adviser to the U.K.’s Food Standards Agency.

These foods form acrylamide when cooked to above 120 degrees.  Other foods that have high levels of acrylamide are potato chips, cakes, cookies, cereals and some coffee.  Acrylamide exposure to cancer has been linked through studies in rats, according to the National Cancer Institute. The National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have evidence from human studies that acrylamide is a “probably human carcinogen.”

According to Diane Benford, head of risk assessment at the Food Standards Agency, the current levels of acrylamide that are found in our present diet are higher than they are comfortable with.  They are encouraging the industry to try to reduce acrylamide levels in processed foods and wish to raise the awareness among consumers of the things they could do to help reduce their exposure to acrylamide in food.

Some easy steps we can all take to reduce acrylamide at home are:

  • Go for the golden yellow color or lighter when frying, baking, toasting or roasting starchy foods.
  • Check the package for cooking instructions and follow them carefully.
  • Don’t keep raw potatoes in the fridge if you are going to roast or fry them as this can increase the overall acrylamide levels.  Cool instead in a dark, cool place at temperatures above 42 degrees.
  • Keep a varied and balanced diet that includes at least five servings of fruit and vegetables every day.

By re-evaluating the way we cook our starchy foods it just might prevent our body from being exposed to the increased risk of cancer.  We also want to be reminded that starchy foods are carbohydrates that convert to sugar….the food cancer loves most.

Dr Fredda Branyon

caffeine

An Antidote to Aging

antidote

I recently read an article touching on the subject of coffee being the latest antidote to aging, written by Alice Park and appearing in the Time publication. Other articles are reflecting some similar details but this one delved more fully into the issue.

They are finding growing evidence that the daily jolt of java might be a health habit, because of its ability to keep heart vessels clear and lower the risk of Type 3 diabetes.  It is also known for its cancer-fighting antioxidants. Well, now coffee appears to help combat “aging”!

A new study was conducted that focused on the cells of coffee drinkers and those who were non-coffee drinkers.  It was found that the older people who consumed more caffeine tended to have lower levels of inflammation, which is a culprit behind a number of chronic diseases associated with aging that includes certain cancers, joint disorders and even Alzheimer’s.  The individuals who drank five or more cups of coffee a day showed very low levels of inflammatory factors in their blood. After studying their gene activity, the scientists found that genes linked to inflammation were less active than the same genes in people who didn’t drink as much.

Caffeine turns off the pathway to inflammation nearly altogether.  When combatting cellular aging, that’s especially beneficial because inflammation isn’t regulated as well as it is in a younger body.  In aging, something is breaking down, and we are less effective at managing this inflammation, according to Mark Davis, director of the Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection at Stanford University and one of the study’s primary authors. At that time caffeine seems to undo some of the disruption caused by aging.

The researchers believe the key will be to figure out when the inflammatory response starts to spiral out of control.  Then they may be able to get ahead of it sans coffee. They are also currently conducting another study that may help by hoping to analyze the immune systems of 1,000 people.  A reference range of inflammation at various life stages could tell people their risk of developing chronic conditions and then they might consider adding or keeping up with their coffee habit.

But, that second cup of java certainly can’t hurt now. That seems to be the number one trick to revving the embolism and getting us going in the morning. Now you can enjoy that cup (or two) of coffee without any more guilt! But please, no more than two cups. And oh, did I mention you should leave out the sugar? Try Stevia instead.

Dr Fredda Branyon

woman_lying_down

Body Scan Meditation & Cancer

Girl-Relaxing

Many people turn to stress-reduction techniques like relaxation breathing, guided imagery, meditation, aromatherapy and the body scan meditation practice, because having to deal with cancer is so stressful. Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) and body scan meditation is recommended to be done together by therapists, wellness counselors and stress reduction teachers to help keep muscle tension low, minimize pain signaling, decrease worry and alleviate some fatigue.  However, this may not be the right stress-reduction method for everyone.

Body scan meditation involves the person lying flat on the floor on their back and in a quiet space.  While closing your eyes you focus on breathing in a slow, steady fashion with the voice of a therapist or teacher guiding your attention to parts of your body from your head to your toes.  When you are directed to tighten the muscles of your face and with an exhale of breath slowly releasing the tension, it is the PMR part that comes into the therapy. You would then tighten the shoulder muscles, bring your shoulders to your ears, exhale your breath, and then release the tension.  You will continue this until reaching the muscles of your feet, curling up your toes, then releasing the tension with an exhale of breath. Progressively tightening and releasing the muscle groups while breathing in a controlled fashion is the goal so that your whole body can become fully relaxed.  This is sometimes called fully relaxing into the ground and is to feel comforting to your body and mind.

woman_lying_downIf this works for you it’s great, but some people with a cancer diagnosis may find the body scan meditation actually worsens their anxiety.  Stress from cancer originates with the body and by turning your attention to the body, your mind may hyper-focus on every single ache, twinge, tingle or other type of pain.  When this happens, the mind may get trapped into thinking about everything that is wrong with the body and may increase worry about where the cancer cells currently are, or if the cancer will come back to one body part or another.  Having a quiet room might actually magnify the worry about cancer because there are no distractions from thinking about your body that either has, or used to have, cancer.

It is possible to make this relaxation technique of body scan and progressive muscle relaxation work even while dealing with cancer by actively thinking about what is working in your body.  If you can take in a deep breath through your nose and exhale through your mouth, pull your shoulders down out of your ears, stretch your neck and make circles with your wrists and ankles while exhaling to release the tension in the joints, your body might still be able to use this technique.  Things that your body is still able to do while reminding yourself of that regularly, may be helpful for your mental well-being.

Walking practice, if you are able, is another way to enjoy the relaxation benefits of body scan meditation or PMR.  Take advantage of the wind, birds, trees, grass and squirrels while taking a walk to distract your mind from cancer thoughts.  Just moving the body is a distraction, so pay attention to it from head to toe and think about walking tall with good posture. Notice the movements of your arms and feet as they make contact with the ground.  Breathe slowly with purposeful inhales through your nose and exhale through your mouth.

Stress is not easy to manage when you have cancer and it may take multiple activities to get the benefits you are reaching for.  Just feeling a little less stressed is something worth working for, especially when dealing with cancer.

Dr Fredda Branyon

Alcohol_and_Caffeine_Mixed

Alcohol, Caffeine & A-fib!

Alcohol, Caffeine

And exactly how do alcohol and caffeine affect someone with A-fib?  Danielle Dresden published an article that was reviewed by Debra Sullivan, PhD, MSN, CNE, COI, on this exact subject.  Those suffering from A-fib describe it as feeling like their heart could flop out of their chests while some feel about to pass out.  Still, others feel absolutely nothing at all.

The most common form of heart arrhythmia is called atrial fibrillation (A-fib), or irregular heartbeat that affects 2.7-6.1 million people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Appearing with a variety of symptoms, they do all have the same cause of irregular and rapid beating of the upper chambers of the heart. These episodes can be unsettling and uncomfortable but aren’t usually life-threatening. If untreated though, A-fib can lead to dangerous health conditions.

Those diagnosed with A-fib are about 5X more likely to have a stroke that can lead to permanent disability or death as it can weaken the heart muscles over time, which triples the risk of heart failure.  The risk of dementia also doubles.

Alcohol’s impact on the heart is a subject of ongoing discussion in the medical field.  Researchers believe it can have both positive and negative impacts. A positive with moderate drinking include raising levels of the “good” cholesterol, preventing platelets from forming blood clots and reducing the buildup of plaque in the circulatory system.

Negative effects of alcohol are high blood pressure, heart failure, weight gain leading to high blood pressure and enlarged heart.

Caffeine has many effects on the human body, according to the American Heart Association, but no links have been confirmed between caffeine intake and heart disease.  There is no link found between caffeine and arrhythmia, but reports indicate that drinking more than 5 cups of coffee each day can raise blood pressure. Many health experts believe there is a connection between caffeine, alcohol and A-fib that can trigger an attack.  Researchers are currently investigating the specific causes.

The thought is divided on whether or not people with A-fib can consume alcohol or caffeine safely.  The American Heart Association advises those with A-fib to avoid excessive amounts of alcohol and caffeine.  A recommended general heart health guideline sets the limits of one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.  One drink is considered 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor, according to the American Heart Association.  Other risk factors are age, obesity, genetics, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, chronic kidney disease and European ancestry. There is a closer connection between obstructive sleep apnea and A-fib than any other risk factor.  Further potential causes include: certain medical procedures, emotional stress, physical stress, dehydration, sleep, hormones and exercise.

A heart-healthy diet can help those with A-fib, such as eating a variety of fruits, veggies and whole grains, protein sources as legumes, fish and poultry, intake of omega-3 as salmon, herring or trout, reducing sodium, avoiding saturated fats and foods that contain them, limiting oil, avoiding sugary beverages and not smoking and/or being subjected to secondhand smoke. Exercising regularly is essential for a healthy heart function. A very basic level of activity as 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise 5 days a week and muscle-strengthening activities twice a week is recommended by the American Heart Association.

Dr Fredda Branyon

rubber_ducks

Poison In Toys

rubber_ducks

Those simple plastic toys our children are playing with every day might be posing a danger to their health and wellness. Chemicals found in toys may also inhabit your floors, kitchen storage, shower curtains and laundry detergents. Some are actually so dangerous they have been banned from use in consumer products and others are banned from their use just in children’s products.

In spite of the danger, one of the world’s largest chemical companies is fighting to continue the use of phthalates. This is a chemical with known endocrine disrupting effects, and children whose neurological and endocrine systems are still developing, are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of phthalates.

Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil has spent years prioritizing corporate interests over those of consumers and the environment. In a recent report it is demonstrated that the petroleum company understood the link between fossil fuel use and warming climate as early as 1977. The company has tried to refute the idea, protecting their interest in the oil industry. Over 25% of their $16 billion net profit in 2015 resulted from the sales of other petroleum-based products that include plastics, batteries, synthetic fibers, household detergents and tires. One of the chemicals is the family of phthalates and is used to make plastic pliables.

These health risks from exposure to phthalates are significant and Congress limited or banned the use of several of these phthalates in 2008 and investigated if more should be removed from children’s products. Eight phthalates were recommended to be banned from children’s toys in a final report in 2014, but the CPSA has yet to finalize their ban. ExxonMobil continues to insist the product produces no harm and is working hard to reverse the committee decision.

Phthalates are plasticizers and added to plastics to make them more pliable. Most have a half-life of 24 to 48 hours but recent studies have detected a toxic load of phthalates in urine, blood and breast milk. A higher level is evident in those who eat from fast food restaurants as the food is packaged in plastic and/or non-stick wrappers. Small children are exposed through teething toys, plastic toys, breathing household dust and through the use of medical devices. Constant exposure to products made with phthalates guarantees the chemicals remain in the body and stored in the fat cells. When released, they contribute to the level of phthalates found in the urine.

These phthalates are known endocrine disruptors, otherwise known as chemicals that interfere with the function of your body’s endocrine system. Some changes in wildlife that have been traced to endocrine-disrupting chemicals include Baltic seal population reduction, eggshell thinning in birds of prey, alligator population decrease in a polluted lake, frog population decrease, male sex organs on female marine animals such as whelks and snails and negative effects on fish reproduction and development.

They are also linked to male reproductive problems. A study evaluated immature eggs from 50 couples undergoing in vitro fertilization. There were 761 oocytes, or immature eggs, and only 184 developed well enough to be transferred to the prospective mother. There was an inverse association between men who had high levels of phthalates in their urine and the development of high-quality blastocysts.

Scientists have also linked phthalate exposure to attention deficit disorder, breast cancer, obesity, type 2 diabetes, lowered IQ, autism spectrum disorder, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, reduced male fertility, asthma, altered thyroid function, imbalanced growth hormone, liver cancer, miscarriage and suspected carcinogen. Priority should be to reduce our exposure to phthalates to our families. Avoiding plastic food containers, plastic toys, reading labels, buying goods in glass containers, don’t microwave plastic containers or wraps, using natural cleaning products, avoiding fabric softeners and checking your tap water for contaminants are just a few of the precautions we should all be using. It’s up to us to keep our family healthy.

Dr Fredda Branyon