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Delicious Living

What Are GMOs?

Genetically modified organisms contain altered cell information — the result of artificially transferring genes from one species to another.



Delicious Living

Concerned About GMOs? Find Out What YOU Can Do

Activists are calling on the U.S. government to enact three things:

1. Mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods;

2. Rigorous safety testing; and

3. A moratorium on the release of new GMOs until safety procedures are in place.

At the end of the last session of Congress, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, introduced the "Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act" that calls for mandatory labeling and identifying a reasonable detection level for GMOs — probably 0.1 percent. In January, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., introduced similar legislation in the Senate (HR-3377 and S-2080, respectively).

"Mandatory labeling and safety testing is not going to happen unless there's a very large consumer outcry over it," says Mike Liguori of Citizens For Health, one of the groups supporting the effort. "Sure, there are potential benefits, but at the same time there are dangers. The bottom line is consumers have a right to know if they want to take the risk. Call your representatives today." The Capitol switchboard number is (202) 224-3121.



Delicious Living

Are Your Vitamins GMO-Free?

Eat something with high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient, and chances are you're gobbling GMOs. Even fresh tomatoes, if not certified organic, hold the possibility of being genetically altered. As long as you know this going into the store, you can at least make an educated guess whether you're eating GMOs.

But what about the vitamins and supplements you take every day? You might think your horse chestnut tablet is as pure as the plant it was wildcrafted from, but GMO soy may have been used as an inactive ingredient to coat and hold the tablet together. Trouble is, most soy comes from the United States, and much of that has been genetically engineered to resist herbicides.

"It's very hard to find any soy that's certified GMO-free," says Eileen Sheets of Bioforce, a Swiss supplements manufacturer.

In 1988, California supplement maker Rainbow Light DNA-tested their soy raw material and found GMO levels ranging from 5 percent to 40 percent. Since then, they have converted their formulas to contain less than 1 percent GMOs, which is generally considered as low as tested levels realistically get.

Still, many manufacturers are not concerned with the miniscule levels of GMOs that may comprise pills but aren't considered active ingredients. Are you?



Delicious Living

Supplement Scope - September 2000

Supplement Scope
by Anthony Almada, M.S.

Nutritional and exercise biochemist Anthony Almada reviews the research behind the latest products on the market. Do they stand up to their claims? Do they rely on hard science or simply on marketing hype? And are more studies needed before determining if they really work?

The Amazing Astax
The next super carotene may be astaxanthin, pronounced asta-zan-thin, or simply called astax. This red carotene is derived from special strains of yeast or algae and contributes to the pink hue in some fish, such as salmon, shrimp and trout.

While carotenes are known for their antioxidant properties, astax has displayed potent activity in the test tube, possibly beyond the scope of other carotenes. It also has immune-stimulating and anticancer effects on animals, primarily if astax is consumed before tumors begin to develop. Recent studies also provide evidence that astax can serve as an ultraviolet (UV) radiation protectant.

On another note, one preliminary study, which should be repeated before any further conclusions are drawn, suggests astax can even enhance muscular endurance. New areas under exploration include astax for carpal tunnel syndrome, muscle soreness and high blood cholesterol.

Plant Power
We seem to be in the middle of a plant sterol renaissance, as evidenced by margarine-enhanced sterols that can be purchased in nearly every grocery store in the country. Phytosterols, or plant hormones, have long been known for their ability to reduce blood cholesterol. Today, new research is uncovering additional, health-promoting properties of these cholesterol impostors. Studies this year showed that phytosterols (sitosterol and/or campesterol) reduce the size and slow the spread of breast-cancer tumors in mice. Phytosterols also retard the proliferation of the cells that line blood vessels, suggesting they may help keep arteries from hardening.

Other recent studies show that sitosterol has a positive influence on symptoms of benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), but these effects have not been compared to saw palmetto supplementation, also known to effectively treat BPH.

Finally, a study presented this year showed a proprietary extract of sitosterol linked to a carbohydrate (sitosterol glucoside) prevented immune decline in HIV patients for more than two years, despite not taking any conventional anti-HIV drugs.

Headway on Alzheimer's
Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC), a transport molecule important to cellular energy production, has become a central focus in neurodegenerative disease research. Several studies have explored the use of ALC in treating Alzheimer's disease. Preliminary analysis of one study (3 grams/day for 1 year) suggests Alzheimer's patients under 61 may benefit, while older patients should not take it.

Other therapeutic possibilities for ALC run the gamut: It's been promoted as a testosterone booster, yet no human research supports this. ALC as an energy enhancer? There's promising research, but one animal study indicated ALC does not prevent age-related muscle decline. Two other animal studies showed ALC protected against bone marrow and nerve damage caused by the chemotherapy drugs Taxol and Cisplatin. A different animal study suggested ALC may slow age-related hearing loss. A human study showed ALC may protect nerve and heart function in diabetics.

Anthony Almada, M.S., is a nutrition and exercise biochemist who has collaborated on more than 45 university-based clinical trials. He is the co-founder of Experimental and Applied Sciences(EAS) and founder and chief scientific officer of IMAGINutrition (www.imaginutrition.com).




Delicious Living

Fields of Dreams

Fields of Dreams
by Laurel Kallenbach

Will the USDA's new organic rules prove a blessing ... or open a Pandora's box?

Buckets of vegetablesThe next few months could herald a new era for people who care about the purity of their food and the environment. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is poised to finalize and approve strong national organic standards that will help grocery shoppers all across the country determine the extent to which their food is pesticide free. Yet, while supporters of the organic movement are celebrating, a few are already wondering what problems will come of the standards. By passing these strict rules, has the USDA opened a Pandora's box? In addition to releasing wonderful possibilities and ushering in what will surely be a Golden Age of organics, some unpleasant problems may also be unleashed.

Americans from Miami to Anchorage can depend on standardized definitions of organic food once the USDA's proposed national organic standards are approved — hopefully by the end of this year. Starting 18 months after the new regulations pass, organic labels will clearly state what percentage organic ingredients a product contains (see "Look for the Organic Label," right). In addition, the USDA will prevent foods from being labeled as organic if they contain ingredients that have been genetically engineered, irradiated or produced using sewage sludge. "These standards will provide a clear set of labeling that gives consumers the ability to make choices about the products they buy," says Katherine DiMatteo, executive director of the Organic Trade Association.

Thanks to thousands of concerned consumers, we have this latest version of national organic standards, which have been in the formative stages for a decade. The 1997 version of the USDA-proposed standards would have allowed genetically modified organisms (GMOs), irradiated and sewage sludge-treated foods to be labeled organic, but public outcry stopped the agency in its tracks. More than 275,000 people wrote in, complaining about the proposal. "We turned the USDA around on its head," says Bob Scowcroft, executive director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation.

"Consumers get a good, protective labeling and production standard from this proposed rule," says DiMatteo. "Passage of the regulations will create a more secure marketplace for organics in general." She anticipates that over a period of years, as demand for and production of organic food escalates, grocery prices will go down. "As more products become available and we establish better distribution systems and transportation, retailers won't have to ask higher prices for organics because they have limited supply," she says.

Opening Pandora's Box
Radi While those in the organic community generally agree these new organic guidelines are good news for the consumer, some sticking points remain, primarily surrounding issues of contamination of organic crops caused by drifting pesticides, herbicides and GMOs. The public was allowed a period of comment that ended in June, and now all that's left to do is await what will hopefully be refined organic regulations. Though it could be months until these are announced, here's a review of some of the thornier issues that may face organic farmers and producers if the standards pass as currently written.

One of the biggest gaps in the mostly positive national organic rules is the lack of direction in cases of contaminated organic crops. "We need better guidelines about what happens if organic producers lose income or crops due to circumstances beyond their control, such as unwanted drift from pesticides, herbicides or genetically engineered crops," says DiMatteo. When pollen from a genetically engineered plant is deposited on an organic crop via wind or insects, she explains, that gene may be incorporated into the product, possibly rendering it unfit to be labeled organic.

"How do you test the wind for pollen? How do you test insects carrying pollen?" asks Scowcroft. "If there's drift that ruins an organic crop, organic farmers shouldn't be penalized. They may have to destroy their crop, but the government should compensate them. In cases of genetic drift, the owners of the patented gene should be liable for keeping their product out of our marketplace. We don't want that burden to be on the backs of family farmers. It's not their responsibility to deal with technology run amok on environmentally clean farms," he says.

The integrity of humanely produced meat, dairy products and eggs is also at stake. When labeled organic, these products are supposed to come from free-ranging animals, but a loophole in the proposed standards could allow products from intensively confined farm animals to be labeled organic. "If you don't define 'pasture' or 'humane spacing' then you can end up with animals who have only a theoretical access to the outdoors," says Ronnie Cummins, the national director of the Organic Consumers Association. "The way it's written now, factory farms could get by calling themselves organic."

A dearth of organic research and resources is another issue raised. "We know so little about the organic market, crop rotation, nonchemical weed control or how to develop an organic farm business plan," Scowcroft says. "We need appropriations to get organic farmers their fair share of research and marketing dollars."

Cummins agrees, pointing to monetary discrimination against organic farmers. "Last year the USDA gave $25 billion to conventional agribusiness, but it's proposing putting only $5 million or $6 million into organic businesses. That's absurd." He feels government has pigeonholed the organic industry as a small niche market that won't threaten business as usual. "My dream is that organic will become the dominant form of agriculture," he says. He hopes for the day when organic food is served in schools and hospitals. "When you send your kids off to school to eat lunch, they're getting the lowest grade, most contaminated food there is," he says. "The Berkeley, Calif., school district is the only one in the nation to include organic food in its school-lunch program."

In addition, Cummins and the Organic Consumers Association have been leading a campaign advocating the USDA to maintain the integrity of the proposed organic rules, to allow nongovernmental organic certifiers to state on their label that the product exceeds USDA organic standards, and to forbid foods with less than 50 percent organic ingredients to use the word "organic" anywhere on the package.

The Plight of the Organic Farmer
Greens Though national standards will likely increase public awareness of organics and demand for organically grown produce, meat and dairy products, organic farmers still have a tough row to hoe. It's a positive sign that giant agriculture businesses are buying organic companies and starting their own organic divisions, resulting in increased organic acreage nationwide. Yet, small farmers need help to transition from conventional to organic agriculture. "If the government was serious about helping farmers go organic, certification fees would be free," says Cummins. "Most organic farmers gross less than $30,000 a year, so a bunch of fees is a hardship. We think that organic certification — since it benefits all of society — should be free, and organic farmers should be subsidized."

Now is the time to stand by small organic farmers. "Every day, your dollars support the type and size of agricultural production you believe in," DiMatteo says. We must do our part by buying locally grown organic food, shopping at farmer's markets and farm stands, asking retailers to carry more local organic products year-round, buying seasonally and getting to know local farmers. "If a product is organic, it helps the environment and contributes to better health for people and animals, too," she says.

Public confidence in the new organic standards must not lead to complacency. "Consumers shouldn't relax, because the problem isn't completely solved," says Scowcroft. He suggests continuing to support organic foods and farmers in this country, even after the USDA organic label appears on your can of pinto beans or package of pasta. "Push yourself to buy more organically grown foods," he says. "Even with national certification, the organic production system is still fragile. And, if issues like genetic or chemical drift concern you, put pen to paper and write your legislators and the Secretary of Agriculture, demanding more resources for organic agriculture."

Despite some of the problems still facing organics in this country, Scowcroft applauds national organic standards and remains optimistic about the future. "Agriculture is at an incredible crossroads right now," he says. "We have every opportunity to make America a fully organic nation 20 years from now."

Laurel Kallenbach is a health and travel writer from Boulder, Colo.

Photography by: Frank Siteman, Ellen Hanson and Laurie Smith




Delicious Living

Bay Watch

Bay Watch

Iron sculpture Support the arts this Labor Day weekend at the 48th annual Sausalito Art Festival, Sept. 2­4, on Sausalito's scenic waterfront at the northern tip of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. Highlights include the Sculpture Garden, children's theater and gourmet food and wine served by local nonprofit culinary groups.

Visit www.sausalitoartfest.org or call 415-332-3555.

— E.B.




Delicious Living

Quiz: Which Foods Have Highest Pesticide Residues?



Delicious Living

Wipe Out Winter Woes

Winter's coming, and with it yet another nasty cold and flu season. But the germs that seem to increase exponentially with crisper weather and shorter days don't necessarily have to pack a wallop if you effectively arm your immune system with herbs.

A wide range of botanicals, from the Chinese herb astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) to usnea (Usnea barbata) — a lichen also known as "old man's beard" — has been found to boost immunity against viruses and bacterial infections. But boosting immunity is perhaps too general a term to apply to a system so complex. According to Lise Alschuler, N.D., medical director of Seattle's Bastyr University, "Instead of throwing herbs at someone to increase his or her immunity, the best thing to do is a whole-body analysis to determine what that body needs." Factors that can compromise the immune system include stress, improper diet and a lack of sleep.

Several herbs boast properties that can increase a generally healthy person's resistance against viruses and bacterial infections. Alschuler's top-three favorites for fighting colds and flu are echinacea (E. angustifolia, E. purpurea), osha root (Ligusticum porteri) and black elder flower (Sambucus nigra).

Echinacea, an increasingly popular perennial indigenous to the United States, improves the vitality of the immune system. For centuries, Native Americans have used the herb for snake bites, cancers and infections. Today, many people find that if they take echinacea immediately at the onset of cold or flu symptoms, the severity and duration of the illness is lessened. Most herbalists recommend not ingesting echinacea continuously over a long period of time; rather, alternate it with other system-enhancing herbs, and give your body a rest.

Another herb Alschuler recommends for its immune-boosting powers is astragalus, which can be ingested in dried-powder, capsule form. Or, astragalus bark can be included when preparing soups and teas — especially during the cold winter months.

Other immune-boosting botanicals easily incorporated into diets include garlic (Allium sativum), onion (Allium cepa), gingerroot (Zingiber officinale) and shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes). Garlic, onion and gingerroot — which have been dubbed the "trinity roots" by ayurvedic healing master Yogi Bhajan — are synergistic, so including all three in a soup works well. In large, medicinal quantities (up to 20 capsules daily), garlic can help kick an infection in its early stages. Add shiitake and the lesser-known maitake mushrooms (Grifola frondase) to winter stir-fries, salads and soups for added immune-system stimulation.

Herbal teas are well known for their ability to comfort and soothe; depending on the herbs used, they can also be used to boost immunity and fight colds and flu. Try a cup of tea made with a teaspoon of a dried blend of astragalus, echinacea, licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) and ligustrum (Ligustrum lucidum).

If, despite your precautions, you find yourself with a bout of flu this winter, Alschuler recommends an herbal tea bath that stimulates the immune system and kills bacteria: Place two heaping tablespoons of a blend of yarrow flowers (Achillea millefolium), echinacea, elder flower and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) in 10 ounces of hot water. Steep 20 to 30 minutes, and add to a hot bath. This will help the body create a sweat and rid itself of toxins. Subsequently, sip a tea of elder, echinacea, usnea, astragalus and garlic to speed your body's healing and build your immunity.

Cathy Laws is a freelance writer and editor based in Salisbury, Md.


Delicious Living

That's Using Your Melon

That's Using Your Melon!

Cantalope Here's a riddle: Two melons are sitting on a shelf. Everything about them looks virtually identical, except the price: One costs substantially more than the other. Which do you buy? Used to be, we didn't have to think twice — the answer was the cheaper one. But now, the bottom line isn't in the checkbook.

We've all heard about the dangers of commercial farming: toxic pesticide and fertilizer residues, topsoil erosion, the increasing immunity of crop-destroying pests. But choosing the more expensive melon — the one marked "organic" — is choosing to return to simpler times, before fear of food contributing to health problems was even a consideration.

In two heartening trends, more consumers are regularly buying organic produce, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs are popping up all around the country. At CSA farms, consumers purchase "shares" prior to the harvest and receive a weekly portion of seasonal, organic produce in return. "CSAs not only provide individuals with healthy food, but they are a way to recreate community and reconnect people to the land," says Chuck Beedy, executive director of BioDynamics, a San Francisco-based group that organizes CSAs. "Supporting organics helps to guarantee a positive evolution for mankind." Wouldn't you say that's worth a more expensive melon?

To find out more about CSAs near you, check out www.biodynamics.com or call 800-516-7797.

— Josh Dinar

Photography by: Jeff Padrick




Delicious Living

Happy Meals

How to give your children a balanced, healthful diet

Five-year-old Grace inspects her food carefully, and if I've tried to slip in any colorful vegetables, she won't have anything to do with it. Alec, 3, usually sits at the counter while I cook, popping cucumbers, carrots and kiwi into his mouth faster than I can get them on his plate. Lately, though, he's becoming more influenced by his older sister's picky eating habits. And for little Emma, who's 9 months old and just getting the hang of solid foods, every meal is an experiment.

I try to offer my children a variety of wholesome foods. But I fret. Is their diet balanced? Are they getting the right amount of calcium? And what are the long-term effects of all the preservatives, dyes and other chemicals in our daily diets?

I know I'm not alone in my struggle. A U.S. Department of Agriculture study reveals that only 35 percent of 2 to 3 year olds have what the USDA defines as a "good" diet. And another study reports only 16 percent of children between the ages of 4 and 6 have good diets (Pediatrics, 1997, vol. 100).

But, experts assure us that if you "provide healthy foods, reasonably structured times for meals and snacks and a nurturing atmosphere, you can trust your child to do the rest," says pediatrician Janice Woolley, M.D., whose book, Food for Tots (Mammoth Prints), was released this summer.

Control Issues
While you can't always control what your child will eat and when, you can control the portion size they are given. Here's a good rule of thumb: Portions for preschoolers equal about one tablespoon per year of age, or about one-fourth to one-half of an adult serving, says Woolley, who has practiced pediatrics on Mercer Island, Wash., for more than 20 years.

If you prefer to think of food portions in calorie terms, you may be surprised to learn that kids may actually need more calories than their parents, says Susan Gins, M.S., a certified nutritionist who operates a Seattle-based practice called Nourish. While these averages can range from plus or minus 10 percent, the general daily calorie requirement for children ages 1 to 3 is 1,300 calories; 4 to 6 year olds need 1,800 calories; and 7 to 10 year olds require 1,310 calories.

Children are the best judges of their appetites. "It's important not to press children to eat when they're ready to stop," says Woolley. Gins agrees: "Kids have small stomachs. You're much better off thinking in terms of three small meals and three snacks."

Keep in mind, too, that it's OK for children to skip an occasional meal. "Don't make meal times a battle," Woolley says. "Choosing to eat is your child's job. Your responsibility is to provide healthy food and to keep the atmosphere pleasant and relaxed. Trying to force a child to eat is a battle you can't win."

Juggling Fats, Carbs and Proteins
Although children may need more calories per pound of body weight than some adults, they need roughly the same percentages from each food group.

A balanced diet includes 70 to 80 percent wholesome, natural foods, says Elson Haas, M.D., founder and director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin in San Rafael, Calif., and author of several books, including The Staying Healthy Shopper's Guide (Celestial Arts).

Up until age 2, children need to eat 50 percent of their daily calories from fat to provide for proper brain development and growth, says Woolley. After age 2, however, their fat intake should decrease to around 30 percent of total daily calories. Gins specifies, "Limit the saturated fat and add the fats that help with nervous-system development. These include DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) — the omega-3s and omega-6s, like in evening primrose oil, flaxseed oil, walnuts, salmon and tuna."

Kids' carbohydrate requirements increase gradually with age. After infancy, half of their daily calorie consumption should come from carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates, such as grains and fruits, are the best sources of energy. But, Woolley notes that children need a lot of energy, and they have trouble eating enough complex carbohydrates to fulfill their tremendous energy requirement. Simple sugars fill the gap.

When it comes to protein, an infant needs 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily. This gradually decreases to about a half a gram per pound by age 5, says Woolley. "Children who eat dairy products, meat and eggs usually have more than enough protein in their diets," she says. "If you're feeding your child a vegetarian diet, be sure to include high-protein foods such as legumes, soy and whole grains." If you're raising a vegetarian or plan to, you might also consult a nutritionist to make sure you're covering the basics.

Add Supplements, Subtract Additives
Most nutrition professionals agree that it's best for children to get their Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamins and minerals from the foods they eat, but we all know that meeting those daily goals can be hit or miss.

That's why it's a good idea to supplement kids' diets with an age-appropriate, high-quality multivitamin/multimineral. "I'm a big advocate of supplements," says Gins. "They give you a bottom line, and you know your kids are getting the necessary micronutrients. Even if you're eating organic, you're not sure your kids are getting enough. Why take a chance? You might as well just give them a one-a-day supplement."

Parents also need to limit the amount of preservatives and other chemicals their children ingest. "With these chemicals, the concern is really the general load [children are] getting and the persistent day-to-day exposure over time," says Haas.

The basic additives to minimize in your child's diet include: artificial colors, excess refined sugar, monosodium glutamate (MSG), Aspartame, sodium nitrite, sulfites and sulfur dioxide, hydrogenated fats, artificial flavorings, excess salt and the preservatives BHT and BHA.

There are conflicting opinions, but some experts believe that the chemicals in food may be linked to behavior and the increase of children with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

"Packaged, manufactured foods enhance flavor, making things saltier, spicier or more sugary [than whole foods]," says Haas. "That's not really what foods taste like."

As parents, the best we can do is to encourage healthy eating habits for our children by stocking the pantry with wholesome snacks, offering nutritious meals and setting a good example.

Julie Stafford is a freelance health writer living in Niwot, Colo.