Archive for the Uncategorized Category

A Brief Essay on The History and Dangers of Trans Fats.

Posted in Environmental Health, Uncategorized on March 28, 2010 by theseep
Author: Clint Slaughter, M.D., March 19, 2009

Rather than an infectious or outright chemical additive to food, our industrial food process has developed many ways to modify what we eat into other forms with occasionally unanticipated and disastrous results. The introduction of chemically modified trans-fats, formerly known as “partiallly hydrogenated” fats, into our diets over the course of the 20th century is one example of industrial food manipulation gone wrong. Vegetable oil comes in many natural and unnatural forms, the four main types in our diet being saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, and trans fats, all of which affect the body slightly differently (Fats 101, 2009). Saturated fats and trans fats are considered the “bad fats”, which have been found to increase Low Density Lipoproteins (LDLs), or “bad cholesterol”, when consumed regularly (de Roos, Bots, Katan, 2001), saturated fats also being more Trans Fat Fryercalorically dense than unsaturated fats. Since 1990, however, many studies have shown that the artificially modified trans fats have many more deleterious health effects, significantly contributing to vascular and coronary artery disease in various ways (Mozaffarian, Katan, Ascherio, Stampfer, Willett, 2006).

Partially hydrogenated oils were first introduced to the American Public in the form of Crisco in 1911 (A History of Trans Fats, 2008). A chemical reaction causes the natural cis, or same-side bond in a fatty acid chain to be converted to a trans, or opposite side bond. This actually straightens the molecule so that it becomes a more solid substance which allows for longer shelf life, longer use in fryers, and forms solid shortenings and margerine from liquid oil. Since the 1990’s, more and more studies have demonstrated that trans fats have many more health effects than natural fats, even the more caloric saturated fats. An excellent review of the current literature was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2006, discussed these many health issues, including elevated LDLs, and triglycerides, decreased High Density Lipoproteins (HDLs), or “good cholesterol”, increased systemic inflammation, and impaired endothelial cell dysfunction, all of which contribute to atherosclerosis, vascular disease, and coronary artery disease (Mozaffarian, et al, 2006). Another study looked at the effects of trans fats on flow-mediated vasodilation (FMD), another risk marker for vascular disease, and found that in comparison with saturated fats, trans fats decreased normal FMD, presumably further increasing cardiac risk (de Roos, et al, 2001).

Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, leading to nearly 8 million heart attacks a year and 6.5 million strokes (Cardiovascular Disease Statistics, 2009). The American Heart Association notes that in 2005, this translates to 864,480 deaths, or 35.3% of U.S. deaths, in comparison to 559,312 deaths from cancer, and 117,809 deaths from accidents. Unfortunately, trans fats have become a part of every American’s diet through margarine, fried foods, trans fats added to foods, it is ubiquitous in our industrial food supply, effecting all of us. As cardiovascular disease has increased over the last century, the addition of trans fats into the American diet has undoubedtly been a factor in the rise of our number one killer. As a testament to the public health system, the healthcare system, and the scientific community, over the last few years, trans fats have become a source of national attention. Through grass-roots activism and public health efforts, trans fats are being discouraged and even outlawed in New York City in 2006 and in California in 2007. More education is needed for consumers to be able to distinguish between types of fats and look for trans fats in labels where they are still available.

References

American Heart Association (2008). A History of Trans Fats. Retrieved on March 19, 2009 from: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3048193

American Heart Association (2009). Cardiovascular Disease Statistics. Retrieved on March 19, 2009 from: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4478

American Heart Association (2009). Fats 101. Retrieved on March 19, 2009 from: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3045789

American Heart Association (2009). Trans Fats. Retrieved on March 19, 2009 from: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3045792

de Roos, M., Bots, L., Katan, M. (2001). Replacement of Dietary Saturated Fatty Acids by Trans Fatty Acids Lowers Serum HDL Cholesterol and Impairs Endothelial Function in Healthy Men and Women
Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 21: 1233 – 1237. Retrieved on March 19, 2009 from: http://atvb.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/full/21/7/1233

Mozaffarian, D., Katan, M., Ascherio, A., Stampfer, M., Willett W. (2006). Trans fatty acids and cardiovascular disease. New England Journal of Medicine. 354:15. 1601-13. Retrieved on March 19, 2009 from http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/354/15/1601?ijkey=/Ulbtkh3itKkQ&keytype=ref&siteid=nejm

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The S.E.E.P. is Back in School – Master’s of Public Health from Walden University

Posted in Uncategorized on March 11, 2010 by theseep

I apologize to any regular readers for the paucity of posts over the past year, I am now just over halfway through a Master’s of Public Health Degree from Walden University online while continuing to work as an ER physician and helping with our now 8 month old son Orion.  My wife Laura is back in school as well for a Master’s of Nursing Education, so we’ve been very busy while enjoying our new family at home.

I’m concentrating on environmental health and will begin posting relevant essays from classes with citations, shifting some of the writing on theseep.com from my generally well-informed, standard rants to articles with reliable sources and citations so that readers can look further into issues and see the basic research behind the rants.

Posted in Uncategorized on December 11, 2009 by theseep

Food Inc. – A Must Watch For Everyone That Eats!

If you’ve read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, you probably know many of the concepts presented in this riveting and eye-opening documentary. Seeing the images of the industrial food machine next to traditional farming practices is a stark contrast, and the many unintended consequences of how we grow and process the majority of our food are just plain frightening. From massively increasing rates of obesity and diabetes, to E. Coli contaminated spinach from C.A.F.O. feces runoff, to antibiotic resistant superbugs from the large doses of antibiotics given to livestock, to the contamination of fields with GMO crops, this film shows that we can no longer be oblivious to where our food comes from and how it gets to our tables.

This film will change the way you eat for a healthier you and a healthier planet.

Get Your Reusable Water Bottle and Utensils! The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has Spoken!

Posted in Uncategorized on September 3, 2009 by theseep

Haven’t heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch yet?  Besides the chemicals that that likely affect human health, like phalates and bisphenol-A, and the use of finite and polluting fossil fuels, the plastics that are so important and ubiquitous in our society are toxic to our oceans as well.  Surfline.com has a good article on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and a Good Morning America segment too.

Refuse to drink bottled water and don’t use disposable utensils! Get a reusable bottle, we like Klean Kanteen stainless steel bottles (for kids too!)and SIGG bottles, or some plastic bottles – ‘if it is a #2 HDPE , or a #4 LDPE, or a #5 PP, your bottle is fine“.  (You can even make your own SIGG bottle at cafepress.com for cheap or grab The S.E.E.P.’s “Consume Like You Give a Damn” series bottle!

As for the sporks, grab a mismatched set of utensils, a camping mess kit, or there are some bamboo utensil travel kits at gowesty.com. Throw them wrapped up in a cloth napkin in your backpack, purse, laptop bag, or man-purse and do your best to stop using disposables!

The S.E.E.P. Welcomes it’s Newest Addition!

Posted in Uncategorized on July 19, 2009 by theseep


We’ve been chronicling some of our efforts toward an eco-friendly nursery over at http://www.orionslaughter.com and now we can switch to logging our efforts at raising a sustainable baby! Orion was born on 7/10/09 at 2:53pm, weighing 7 lbs, 11 oz, and 21 inches long. Laura and he are doing great and I’ll be posting on our adventures with cloth diapers soon! Sorry for the lack of updates lately, we’ve been working hard preparing our home for Orion’s arrival and now we’re getting used to an entirely new life with our wonderful new family.

Autism is Not Caused by Vaccines: A Response to Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey’s Article.

Posted in Uncategorized on May 27, 2009 by theseep

Autism has become a major issue for modern parents, affecting 1 in 150 children, and can be linked to a number of exposures, including vaccines, according to a piece written last year by actress Jenny McCarthy and actor Jim Carrey and published in the New York Times (McCarthy, Carrey, 2008).  Unfortunately, although some legitimate sources are cited, including statistics from the CDC, McCarthy’s article uses mostly supposition and anecdotal evidence to support her arguments that vaccines “play a major role” in the development of autism.  McCarthy and Carrey have apparrently had success in reversing many of their son’s autism symptoms through “starting a gluten-free, casein-free diet, vitmain supplementation, detox of metals, and anti-fungals for yeast overgrowth that plagued his intestines” (McCarthy, Carrey, 2008).  While they do make an excellent point that physicians that they have seen after this improvement have not investigated the factors in his recovery, an action that could potentially lead to more understanding of the disease, the improvements could be due to any one of their interventions, behavioral or cognitive therapy, or a combination of factors.

Although it is true that Autism rates have risen in recent years and is a major health problem, it is imperative to use information derived from reliable sources before rushing to stop vaccinations, an intervention that saves countless lives.  The Wakefield paper published in 1998 that began the popular notion that autism is caused by vaccines was only a case series, where 12 children who were observed to have developed intestinal problems within a month of the MMR vaccine, and 8 of whom were also diagnosed with autism at that time (“A Look at What Causes”, 2008).  While there may be a correlation, this does not denote causation, and along with the small sample size and type of study, this paper should not be used to base any conclusions on, only the possibilty of future research.  Other studies are currently looking at biochemical contributors for autism that may lead back to an environmental cause (Deth, Muratore, Benzecry, Power-Charnitsky, & Waly, 2008; Van Den Hazel, Zuurbier, Babisch, Bartonova, Bistrup, Bolte, et al., 2006), and the CHARGE Study is an ongoing large-scale case-control study investigating a wide array of possible environmental and genetic factors into the development of autism and hopes to uncover some statistically significant causational factors (Hertz-Picciotto, I., Croen, L., Hansen, R., Jones, C., Van De Water, J., & Pessah, I., 2006).

There is much epidemiologic work to be done in the search for causes of the autism epidemic.  Although it is good to have these types of issues brought to the attention of the public through media, much of the media information and hype is innaccurate.   In this case, because of celebrity status and media attention, McCarthy and Carrey write a heartfelt and well-intentioned piece that is presented by lay-people without the epidemiologic background to properly interpret and synthesize the current data on autism and it’s contributors.  This lack of scientific rigor and support in many popular media outlets unfortunately is not uncommon and spreads innacurate and potentially harmful information.

References:

Deth, R., Muratore, C., Benzecry, J., Power-Charnitsky, V., & Waly, M. (2008). How environmental and genetic factors combine to cause autism: A redox/methylation hypothesis [Abstract]. NeuroToxicology, 29(1), 190-201. Retrieved May 10, 2009 from the EBSCO Database.

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Vaccine Education Center.  (2008)  A Look at What Causes, and What Doesn’t Cause, Autism.  Retrieved on May 9, 2009 from:  http://www.chop.edu/consumer/jsp/division/generic.jsp?id=84662#other_studies .

Hertz-Picciotto, I., Croen, L., Hansen, R., Jones, C., Van De Water, J., & Pessah, I. (2006). The CHARGE Study: An Epidemiologic Investigation of Genetic and Environmental Factors Contributing to Autism. Environmental Health Perspectives, 114(7), 1119-1125. Retrieved May 10, 2009

McCarthy, J., Carrey, J. (2008, April 4).  Jenny McCarthy:  My son’s recovery from autism.  CNN.com.  Retrieved on May 8, 2009 from:  http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/04/02/mccarthy.autsimtreatment/ .

Van Den Hazel, P., Zuurbier, M., Babisch, W., Bartonova, A., Bistrup, M., Bolte, G., et al. (2006). Today’s epidemics in children: Possible relations to environmental pollution and suggested preventive measures. Acta Paediatrica, 95, 18-25. Retrieved May 10, 2009 from the EBSCO database.

Posted in Uncategorized on May 13, 2009 by theseep

Cap and Trade: What is It?

Hank Green over at ecogeek.com has posted a nearly auction-style, fast primer on the Cap and Trade system proposed by the Obama administration. This is a must see, as this legislation stands to be one of the most important pieces in starting our emissions decline. He does a good job flitting though the major point of contention – the assertion by many conservatives that it’s just another tax. Although it can be construed as such, it’s more of a pollution cap with monetary incentives for companies, a system that should be much more flexible, functional, and fair to both businesses and American citizens than a straight “carbon tax”.