Better Living Through Well Being
“If you take care of the birds, you take care of most of the big environmental problems in the world,” or so says Thomas E. Lovejoy, tropical conservation biologist and National Geographic Fellow. Marking 2018 as “the year of the bird,” National Geographic, National Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, BirdLife International, and more than 100 organizations have joined forces for 12 months of storytelling and science to examine how our changing environment is impacting birds around the globe. This year also marks the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1918, considered the most powerful and important bird protection law ever passed. This year’s campaign is an effort to heighten public awareness of birds, their importance to our ecosystem, and their current plight. It includes simple but meaningful actions that anyone can take for a healthy planet filled with the beauty of birds.
Although 43 states have some form of state law that preempts local governments’ ability to regulate the use of pesticides, local grassroots organizations in the other seven states effectively mobilized and enacted legislation against the use of lawn pesticides in local jurisdictions where they are now banned. They were able to do so armed with the knowledge of the hazards and the viability of management practices that, without pesticides, focus on building a soil environment rich in microbiology that will produce strong, healthy turf that is able to withstand many of the stresses that affect turf grass. State preemption laws effectively deny local residents and decision makers their democratic right to better protection when a community decides that minimum standards set by state and federal law are insufficient. The seven states that do not preempt local authorities’ ability to restrict the use of pesticides on any land within their jurisdiction are Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, Utah and Vermont.
A novel study in January’s special issue of Clinical Chemistry provides compelling evidence in support of the theory that processed carbohydrates are the major culprit in factors contributing to the obesity epidemic. Until recently, health officials were hindered in implementing a successful strategy to curb obesity by their uncertainty of what dietary factors were fueling the epidemic. In the preamble to the journal report “Obesity: Innovative Approaches to Overcome Obstacles,” editors and obesity experts state, “Few topics are of greater concern for public health than obesity and its myriad complications.” The report states “for most of the past 40 years high dietary fat was considered a primary cause of obesity. Recently, attention has focused instead on foods with a high glycemic load, including fast-digesting carbohydrates like refined grains, potato products, and added sugars.”
Findings also support the carbohydrate-insulin model of weight regulation, which postulates that diets high in glycemic load promote weight gain through the anabolic effects of increased insulin secretion. It is hoped this current research will inform strategies for addressing the obesity problem and influence future public health policies.
Other articles of interest in this Winter 2018 TMIS eNewsletter:
* New report exposes deceptive marketing in $9 billion-dollar snack bar industry.
* National survey finds majority of Americans want a clean planet, believe climate change is occurring and want to take steps to reduce their environmental impact.
* Citizens of Belize pass Offshore Zone Moratorium to prevent offshore oil drilling and protect the largest barrier reef in the Americas.
* Research studies show naturopathic medicine is safe and effective for common chronic conditions.
* Report looks at likelihood of moving brain-computer interfaces from the lab into clinical and consumer applications.
* Advances being made by adult stem cell research companies address significant unmet medical needs in degenerative conditions such as stroke and heart failure.
* Grant-funded partnership between Memorial Hermann Community Benefits Corp., Target and national nonprofit Wholesome Waves gives patients in need access to free produce.
* Increase in insurance claims for health issues related to pet obesity over the last seven years highlights the need for diet management and regular exercise routines.
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From the Front Page of TMIS News
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National Geographic Announces 2018 Year of the Bird Campaign, a Year-Long Effort Dedicated to Celebrating and Protecting Birds
This year 2018 marks the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the most powerful and important bird-protection law ever passed. In honor of this milestone, National Geographic, the National Audubon Society, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and BirdLife International will join forces with more than 100 other organizations and millions of people around the world to celebrate 2018 as the "Year of the Bird."
This effort aims to heighten public awareness of birds because of their wonder and beauty, and because they symbolize nature's interconnectedness and the importance of caring for our shared planet. To get started, visitors to BirdYourWorld.org will discover simple but meaningful steps that anyone can take to help birds each month and join a pledge to participate.
Through 12 months of storytelling, science research and conservation efforts, Year of the Bird will examine how our changing environment is driving dramatic losses among bird species around the globe and highlight what we can do to help bring birds back.
Participating organizations include nonprofit and conservation groups, state and federal agencies, zoos, nature centers, and ornithological societies that are working together to raise the visibility of birds and inspire action through #BirdYourWorld throughout 2018. The campaign will also utilize National Geographic's portfolio of media platforms reaching millions of people around the world with engaging bird content that will educate, inspire and raise awareness about the challenges that birds are facing and what people can do to help.
Largest City in Maine Joins City-Wide Shift to Organic Land Management, Banning Pesticides
Joining the national movement to require organic land management of its public and private property, the City Council of Portland, Maine has voted unanimously to restrict hazardous pesticides from its jurisdiction. The legislation is similar to an ordinance passed by the City of South Portland in 2016 and adopted by ballot initiative by the Town of Ogunquit, Maine in 2014. The law will take effect on July 1, 2018.
Outside of Maine, the City of Portland now joins other jurisdictions in the state of Maryland (Montgomery County and the City of Takoma Park), which have taken similar action. Twenty-eight jurisdictions throughout Maine have restricted pesticides in various ways, including on public property, but the comprehensive Portland-style ordinance stops virtually all hazardous pesticide use in the community, on private and public property.
Maine is one of seven states that has not, by state legislative action, taken away (or preempted) local authority to restrict pesticides more stringently than the state. However, the chemical industry is working to take away local authority in those states and last year tried unsuccessfully to push statewide preemption legislation in Maine.
Leading the effort in Portland is the group Portland Protectors, which led a 3-year effort to advance the new law. In support of the legislation, the Council received a letter from 31 medical and science professionals, who said, "As health professionals, it is our contention based on the molecular and microbiologic actions of these synthetic land care pesticides that the continued use of them must be challenged, banned, and replaced by practices and products that are not harmful to people and the environment."
Research Unravels the Puzzle of Obesity in January's Clinical Chemistry
Laboratory medicine experts are using genomics, metabolomics, and other cutting-edge clinical testing methods to advance the understanding of obesity. A special issue of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC)'s journal Clinical Chemistry, "Obesity: Innovative Approaches to Overcome Obstacles," highlights the latest innovations in the field that could lead to more effective public health policies to curb this epidemic.
Obesity has become one of the greatest health concerns of our time, with one-third of the world's population now considered to be overweight or obese. This condition raises the risk for serious health issues such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers, with the average medical spending for obese individuals coming in at $3,271 per year compared with $512 per year for non-obese individuals. Even more worryingly, no country since 1980 has experienced a decline in obesity in spite of public health efforts aimed at reversing the upward trend in its prevalence.
One factor hindering the development of a successful public health strategy is that experts are still unsure of what dietary factors are fueling this epidemic. A novel study in this special issue now provides compelling evidence in support of the theory that processed carbohydrates are the culprit. The roles that other factors play in the development and management of obesity, such as physical activity, genetics, and neurohormonal mediators, are also topics of much debate and are central to research in this special issue of Clinical Chemistry. Papers in this issue examine the efficacy of treatments such as dietary change, exercise, pharmacotherapy, and bariatric surgery. In addition to showcasing research that could influence future public health policies, the issue overviews the impact of current public health initiatives to prevent obesity and promote dietary change, and explores in detail whether a sugar tax would be beneficial.
BAR FIGHT: Popular/Lucrative Snack Bars Come Under Fire
A new report, Raising the Bar, Choosing Healthy Snack Bars versus Gimmicky Junk Food, and its accompanying scorecard expose misleading marketing practices by food industry giants that market candy-like snack and energy bars as wholesome and nutritious.
The report details how snack bar quality varies widely among brands, even among the many brands that market themselves as "made with" organic ingredients. It further exposes USDA National Organic Program regulation loopholes allowing use of conventional, hexane-extracted ingredients in "made with" organic products.
Issued by The Cornucopia Institute, a national food and farm policy research group, the report further exposes leading natural/organic brands for including cheap, conventional ingredients instead of creating products that qualify for the USDA organic label.
"The highly profitable snack bar industry is rife with gimmicky substitutes, such as protein isolates, sweetener syrups, and flours, instead of whole food ingredients," says the report's lead author, Linley Dixon, PhD, Cornucopia's chief scientist.
"With the exception of certified organic bars, many products add protein isolates processed with the neurotoxin solvent hexane, a byproduct of the gasoline refinement industry," added Dixon. "Hexane-extracted ingredients, like conventional soy protein isolate, are common in products that are labeled 'made with' organic ingredients. An intentional loophole in the USDA organic standards allows use of ingredients that are extracted using volatile solvents in 'made with' organic products (a process explicitly prohibited in products qualifying to display the USDA organic logo)."
Raising the Bar also explains how, in many other ways, consumers find safer and higher-quality products in USDA certified organic brands over conventional, mass-market brands that contain long ingredient lists including questionable gums and synthetic preservatives, colors, or flavors.
Survey Finds Divided America Agrees on One Thing: Saving the Planet
Despite a country deeply divided along social and political lines, a new survey finds most Americans agree on at least one thing: We need to save the planet. The national survey, part of a special Eco Pulse report by Shelton Group, found the majority of Americans believe we deserve a clean planet, climate change is occurring and we all have a responsibility to take concrete steps to reduce our environmental impact.
"Despite all of the fighting, anger and frustration in the United States today, Americans can find common ground when it comes to the environment," said Suzanne Shelton, President and CEO of Shelton Group, the nation's leading marketing communications agency focused exclusively on energy and the environment. "We all want the same thing, a cleaner planet, and we agree that we must do our part to make that happen."
The new findings confirm a fundamental shift among Americans. A full 40 percent of Americans now believe "buying and using eco-friendly products is an important part of my personal image."
"Sustainability is becoming a much stronger part of how Americans identify themselves. It's clear that consumers want to be on the right side of this issue,and they expect the companies they buy from to be as well," Shelton said. "This presents significant opportunities for companies doing things the right way, and a threat to those that aren't."
Breaking news from Oceana: The biggest reef in Americas says "No!" to offshore oil
Belize has made history by unanimously passing the Petroleum Operations (Offshore Zone Moratorium) Bill, 2017 which will place an indefinite moratorium on offshore oil in Belize's marine territory. This decision has been welcomed by Oceana, WWF, and other members of the Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage as a landmark step forward to protect the Belize Barrier Reef and strengthen marine conservation worldwide.
This action is historic given Belize's economic dependence on its natural resources and will safeguard invaluable marine environments including the second longest barrier reef in the world, which runs along Belize's coast. Just as importantly, this law recognizes and respects the collective leadership and persistent involvement of tens of thousands of Belizeans for more than seven years on the issue of offshore oil.
Oceana has been an unwavering supporter of this call of the Belizean people since it began in the aftermath of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010 and within the reality that Belize's entire offshore area had already been sold as oil concession licenses. Following today's proceedings, Oceana's Vice President for Belize Janelle Chanona said, "This is truly 'The People's Law'. Belizeans have remained steadfast in their opposition to offshore oil since they became aware that marine assets were at risk of irreversible damage from the offshore oil industry."
Naturopathic Treatments for Chronic Conditions Are Safe and Effective, According to Numerous Research Studies
Numerous research studies of naturopathic treatments for common chronic conditions have shown that naturopathic medicine is both safe and effective. This is according to the Institute for Natural Medicine (INM), which has released a new FAQ about the safety of naturopathic medicine, in partnership with the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP).
Naturopathic medicine emphasizes prevention and the self-healing process to treat each person holistically and improve health outcomes. Consumers evaluating whether naturopathic medicine is safe should be aware of the following:
* Numerous research studies of naturopathic treatments for common conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic low back pain, and anxiety have shown that naturopathic medicine is both safe and effective. * Licensed naturopathic doctors complete a rigorous, four-year, in-residence, science-based, post-graduate medical education consisting of 4,100 hours of coursework and clinical training at an accredited naturopathic medical school.
* Medical malpractice insurance rates for naturopathic doctors are among the lowest of any medical services provider.
* Few medical treatments are 100% safe, but some are safer than others.
New Report From The Economist Looks at Brain-Computer Interfaces
Branchville, New Jersey
Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) open up communications channels between minds and machines and have already achieved remarkable things, says Andrew Palmer, The Economist's business affairs editor and author of a Technology Quarterly report on brains and machines. Published in the January 7th edition of the The Economist and online, the report assesses the latest research into BCIs and measures the gap between today's reality and the ambitions of the neurotechnology visionaries.
BCI technology has already been employed in the form of implants in the brains of paralysed people, helping them to control prosthetic arms, move cursors and even reanimate their own limbs. Now the pace of research into BCIs and the scale of its ambition is increasing. America's armed forces are keen to build better implants. And Silicon Valley is starting to focus on these technologies. Facebook is working on thought-to-text typing. Kernel, founded by entrepreneur Bryan Johnson, has $100m to spend on neurotechnology. Elon Musk has formed a firm called Neuralink, hoping to upgrade human intelligence in order to survive the advent of artificial intelligence.
These entrepreneurs envisage a world in which people can communicate telepathically, with each other and with machines, or do things that are not possible at present, such as hearing at very high frequencies.
Stem Cells as Medicine: The Promise of Universal Donor Adult Stem Cells Continues to Attract Optimism
Creative Medical Technology Holdings, Inc provides the following discussion on a recent US News and World Report article addressing advances of adult stem cells and its own patented stem cell technologies.
Stem cells are broadly categorized into "embryonic" and "adult" stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are derived from fertilized eggs and hold potential to generate every major tissue in the body. Unfortunately, embryonic stem cells are difficult to control due to their very immature state. This limits their ability to be used in patients, which has accounted for a lack of commercial success. In contrast, adult stem cells, which are classified as every type of stem cell that is not embryonic, are the basis of the technology of the two publicly traded biotech companies referenced in the article, Mesoblast and Athersys. Currently, Mesoblast is developing stem cells based on bone marrow stem cells from donors, primarily for treating heart failure, which is in the most advanced phases of clinical trials, termed Phase III. Additionally, Athersys is also using bone marrow derived stem cells from donors, primarily for use in stroke, which is also in Phase III clinical trials.
Tackling Hunger, Partnership Prescribes Fresh Fruits and Vegetables to Families in Need
As part of its ongoing efforts to tackle the stubborn problem of food insecurity in Greater Houston, Memorial Hermann has given hundreds of eligible families vouchers to buy fresh fruits and vegetables thanks to an innovative new partnership between the health system, Target and Wholesome Wave.
Nearly one out of every five families in the Houston region struggles with hunger or a lack of access to healthy and nutritious food, almost double the national average. The crisis is even more acute among area youth, where an estimated one out of every four children under the age of 18 faces the threat of hunger every day. Nine percent of Houston's high school students reported going at least seven days without eating fresh fruit, according to the results of a communitywide survey published last year.
In an effort to change these grim statistics, Memorial Hermann Community Benefit Corporation teamed up with Wholesome Wave, a national nonprofit dedicated to making fruits and vegetables more affordable for low-income communities. The organization started its produce-prescription program, FVRx, in a pediatric clinic in a low-income community in Los Angeles. Thanks to a grant underwritten by Target, Wholesome Wave expanded the successful initiative to Houston, where Memorial Hermann Community Benefit Corporation was selected as the sole grant recipient.
Nurse practitioners, dietitians, and social workers at Memorial Hermann Health Centers for Schools identified approximately 300 families in need and provided them with vouchers that can be redeemed for free fruits and vegetables at any Target or at participating farmers markets. Since the program's inception at Memorial Hermann, tens of thousands of dollars have been distributed to Houston-area parents and children to purchase fresh produce.
Pet obesity on the rise for seventh straight year
One of America's most common New Year's resolutions is to lose weight, and statistics show that pet owners should share that goal with their dogs and cats. Data from Nationwide, the nation's first and largest provider of pet health insurance, reveals that pet obesity is on the rise for the seventh straight year. Nationwide members filed more than 1.4 million pet insurance claims in 2016, of which 20 percent were for conditions and diseases related to pet obesity- equaling a sum of more than $62 million in veterinary expenses. The boost in total obesity-related claims signifies a 24 percent growth over the last four years.
Similar to their human counterparts, excessive body fat increases the risk of preventable health issues and may shorten the life expectancy of dogs and cats. Nationwide recently sorted through its database of more than 630,000 insured pets to determine the top 10 dog and cat obesity-related conditions. Below are the results:
Most Common Dog Obesity-Related Conditions:
2. Bladder/Urinary Tract Disease
3. Liver Disease
4. Low Thyroid Hormone
5. Torn Knee Ligaments
7. Diseased Disc in the Spine
8. Chronic Kidney Disease
9. Heart Failure
10. High Blood Pressure
Most Common Cat Obesity-Related Conditions:
1. Bladder/Urinary Tract Disease
2. Chronic Kidney Disease
5. Liver Disease
7. High Blood Pressure
8. Heart Failure
9. Gall Bladder Disorder
10. Immobility of Spine
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