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Artificial Sweeteners And Telling Pregnant Women “In Moderation”

I can already tell that this pregnancy is different from my first. When I was pregnant with Little Isis, I drank no caffeine and took no over-the-counter medication. I remember having a few headaches and Mr. Isis fighting with me to take a headache pill. I would then proclaim dramatically, “But I can’t! What if it hurts the baby?!”

This morning, now pregnant with my second, I washed down a Zyrtec and two Tylenol with a cup of coffee. The little bugger is going to have to grow up with Little Isis. He might as well start building up his tolerance to exogenous substances at some point. I figure, now that its got a closed neural tube and a beating heart, we might as well begin.

Still, you can’t blame a pregnant woman for being a bit neurotic. The feeling that one is solely responsible for the well-being of a developing creature, combined with often contradictory advice, is enough to make anyone nuts. Most online advice is completely and utterly useless. Take this answer from Russell Turk, M.D. on the popular pregnancy website BabyCenter in response to the common question, “Is it safe to drink diet soda during pregnancy?” He answers:

Diet sodas often contain both caffeine and an artificial sweetener. There are several types of artificial sweeteners you may see on nutrition labels:

Aspartame (NutraSweet): Seems to be okay when consumed in moderation (the amount found in one or two 12-ounce servings of soda per day).

Saccharin (Sweet’n Low): Saccharin was found to cause birth defects in laboratory rats when consumed in very high amounts. Because its safety in smaller amounts is hard to prove, I would advise avoiding it.

Sucralose (Splenda): This relatively new sweetener, a modified form of regular table sugar, appears to be safe. But because it hasn’t been extensively studied, it’s best used in moderation.

It’s generally bad advice and leaves one wondering: “What is moderation? Will one soda hurt my baby? Will two sodas hurt my baby? How about three?” The default answer when we don’t know seems to be to tell women to do things in “moderation.” This places the sole responsibility on her to know what moderation means, and allows her to feel the guilt if something goes wrong. I think that these imprecise answers leave many women feeling helpless and afraid. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Brain Confounds Everything*

Farm Woo And Our Food

Google is an amazing thing — it occasionally tosses you a link that lands you in an alternate universe of folks you’d never encounter in real life.

Like cattle ranchers. I’ve just spent the good part of an hour wandering their world — reading about their concerns (water, wolves, the economy), seeing how cattle breeding has changed (you pick a sire at Bullsemen.com, then do genomic profiling on your stock — did you know that cows bred for docility have more tender meat ?), and learning that ranchers are not immune to marketing from the world of scientific woo.

Check this out — it’s called SOP Life Vibration or “Serio Bio-Hygienization.” They’re selling it to farmers and ranchers in Europe and the U.S. as the latest and greatest answer to bacterial growth and odors in farm feed and bedding:

SOP products are formulated with the innovative Sirio Operating Process technology to improve the environment of the farm in a more effective and longer lasting way than current available means.

SOP® products are natural and scientifically tested. They are not enzymes, bacteria nor disinfectants. Using a process of “frequential bio-conditioning” they selectively favor the activity of the “beneficial” micro-organisms and create unfavorable conditions to inhibit the development of the “pathogenic” ones.

A 100% natural product. Through a bio-frequency method, SOP® is created with strategic wavelength and harmony. This same technology is comparable to the electronic systems used for radio broadcasting.

SOP Bio-Hygienization“100% natural,” “Bio-hygeinization,”  ”Frequential bio-conditioning”…

I smell a woo. And that makes me nervous.

After all, I’m a meat eater. If someone’s putting something wacky into and around my food source, I want to know about it. So I decided it was worth my while to find out what the heck was in this SOP® stuff. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at tbtam*

Food Safety: Meat And Dairy From Cloned Cows?

The controversy over the human consumption of meat and dairy products from cloned cows continues. The UK Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes, after reviewing the evidence, concluded that there was no substantial difference between meat and dairy from cloned cows compared to conventional cows. However, food products from cloned animals and their offspring remain banned in Europe.

Use of offspring of cloned cows, sheep and pigs are legal in the U.S., South America, and Asia. Australia is likely to follow suit in a year or two. The European Union (EU) has an effective ban at the moment, but the policy is under review. The UK is also negotiating with the EU regarding the use of clones.

There is not much of a theoretical reason to suspect that cloned animals would present a health risk. The primary concern is that something unanticipated might have occurred during the cloning process, causing the animal to be genetically or developmentally abnormal. However, if the cloning process works properly this should not happen. Further, if mutations do occur but the animal lives, it is likely that any changes do not represent a risk to humans who consume the meat or dairy from such clones. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Science-Based Medicine*

Aspartame: Facts Vs. Fiction

If you believe everything you read on the Internet, then is seems that a chemical found in thousands of products is causing an epidemic of severe neurological and systemic diseases, like multiple sclerosis and lupus. The FDA, the companies that make the product, and the “medical industrial complex” all know about the dangers of this chemical, but are hiding the truth from the public in order to protect corporate profits and avoid the pesky paper work that would accompany the truth being revealed.

The only glimmer of hope is a dedicated band of bloggers and anonymous email chain letter authors who aren’t afraid to speak the truth. Armed with the latest anecdotal evidence, unverified speculation, and scientifically implausible claims, they have been tirelessly ranting about the evils of this chemical for years. Undeterred by the countless published studies manufactured by the food cartel that show this chemical is safe, they continue to protect the public by spreading baseless fear and hysteria.

Hopefully, you don’t believe everything you read on the Internet, and you don’t get your science news from email SPAM, where the above scenario is a common theme. While there are many manifestations of this type of urban legend, I am speaking specifically about aspartame — an artificial sweetener used since the early 1980s. The notion that aspartame is unsafe has been circulating almost since it first appeared, and like rumors and misinformation have a tendency to do, fears surrounding aspartame have taken on a life of their own. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Science-Based Medicine*

Food And Pesticides: The Dirty Dozen

Fruits and VegetablesThe Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit focused on public health. We know that the long-term consequences of eating chemicals from pesticides used on our foods is damaging to our health.

The EWG analyzed data from the FDA and found that people who eat five fruits and vegetables a day from the “Dirty Dozen” are eating 10 pesticides a day. We want people to eat more fruits and vegetables, but NOT to ingest more chemicals. Rinsing reduces but does not eliminate pesticides. So what’s the answer? Rinse completely and buy the “Dirty Dozen” foods organic whenever possible. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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