Screening for Toxins at Lightspeed

We know a lot about how people can reduce their risk of cancer with diet and other lifestyle choices, but the role of environmental toxins in cancer risk is still an area of concern. (Last week, the EPA released a major report on breast cancer’s links to environmental links.)

In a collaborative effort between the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Food and Drug Administration, the NIH has unveiled a new tool for identifying possible toxins: a robot.

Although he doesn’t have quite the flair of C-3PO of Star Wars fame, the new robot—Tox21—is playing in a much more important role. Continue reading

Turmeric: Golden Goodness

Did you get a chance to try the delicious Turkey Curry recipe in last week’s Health-e-RecipesIf not, you may want to give it a second look because one of the ingredients is the golden spice, turmeric.

Turmeric gets it characteristic yellow hue from a class of cancer-fighting compounds referred to as curcuminoids.  The most abundant of these compounds is curcumin.

Scientists have been studying curcumin for many years for its role in cancer prevention.  Several lab studies have shown that it reduces inflammation and regulates genes that promote tumor growth.

In a study published earlier this year in Journal of Interferon & Cytokine Research, mice that ate a diet containing curcumin had 75% fewer colonic polyps than mice that didn’t eat curcumin.  In addition, curcumin completely blocked the production of proteins that cause inflammation, a trigger for colon cancer.

This is a new study but the authors believe that if these results can be duplicated in humans, turmeric may offer protection against colon cancer.  You can read more about turmeric’s health benefits here.

Historically a component of both Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicines, turmeric is produced almost exclusively in the urban district of Erode, a city located in southern India.  Fortunately, you can buy turmeric in the spice aisle of your favorite grocery store!

Try adding turmeric to grains such as couscous or rice; it is also a nice addition to a dry rub for chicken or lean meat.

Hungry (and Obese) in America…Then & Now

Last week marked the 42nd anniversary of a landmark meeting: The White House Conference on Food, Health, and Nutrition, convened by President Richard Nixon.

In 1968, the year prior to the Conference, CBS News had aired a documentary titled, “Hunger in America.”  The shocking pictures of hungry, malnourished children served as a powerful catalyst that prompted the President to take measures to address hunger and poverty in the US.

Several initiatives were implemented after the Conference, including reforms to the Food Stamp Program, WIC, and Social Security.  These changes were intended to reduce financial burdens on vulnerable populations within our society—in particular, the poor, the young, and the elderly.

Today, more than 17 million households regularly experience food insecurity, according to the USDA. Food insecurity means limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods.

In a strange paradox, many who experience food insecurity today are also obese.  This may be due to the fact that more convenient and accessible food choices are often high in added sugars and fats.  When people face food insecurity, their nutritional needs are often exceeded by these perceived low-cost substitutions, leading to obesity.  Food insecurity also affects diet quality. A study published last year in Journal of Nutrition found that among 5,000 low income individuals, food insecurity was associated with an increased risk of chronic disease.

You can read more about the study here.

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