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Germs At The Gym

Germs at the GymPutting in time at the gym is supposed to make you healthier, but if you’re not careful, it could be the cause of an unexpected surprise—sickness.  The gym is one of the best places for pathogens (germs) to hide.  It provides germs exactly what they need to thrive and multiply:  dampness, darkness, and warmth.  While other body systems and tissues may be affected, skin is the primary site of exogenous infection.

Although the exposure of athletes to various routes of physical insult has been recognized since humans ran from predators, only in modern times has attention been paid to the specifics. That covers everything from respiratory irregularities to athlete’s foot.  Most common, however, are attacks on the skin, and these account for more than half the outbreaks of infectious diseases that occur among participants in competitive sports. It’s been noted that, “viral, bacterial and fungal infections are common in athletes due to heat, friction and contact with others,” in a study reported in Canada. (Conklin. 1990)  Lesions from herpes, tumors from molluscum, and painful plantar warts may be transmitted from surface-to-person and from person-to-person at the gym. On the upsides, there is hope because “antibiotics are effective against mild infections.”

Do you pay attention to your skin after a day at the gym?  Probably not.  You might wash it, but do you examine it? In the worst possible scenario MRSA, methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, may appear.  This germ is usually associated with hospitals and nursing homes, but of late has been associated with schools, playgrounds, and your gym, but thankfully not as an epidemic.  MRSA can start as a tiny pimple and grow to the size of a softball in a short time, requiring hospitalization, surgical cleaning of the wound, stitching, and a course of antibiotics. MRSA infections commonly start at sites of visible skin trauma, such as cuts, scrapes, and abrasions, but also show up at places where there is hair, such as the back of the neck, armpit, and groin.  There have been cases of MRSA beginning on feet.  That makes sense because you tend to go barefoot in the locker room…when flip-flops are more in order.  Direct and indirect contact with the lesions and seepages of others make the skin vulnerable to a host of problems.  While MRSA may be the worst, it may also be the least likely of our worries. (Ryan. 2011)  More common are athlete’s foot, jock itch, impetigo, herpes simplex, and ringworm, among a few others.

There are preventive steps you can take. Covering any breaks in the skin is of paramount importance. It doesn’t take much for an opportunistic bacterium to worm its way in.  Do not shave prior to visiting your gym. That goes for gals as well as guys. Razor nicks open the door for infections. Do not go barefoot. The heat in the shower room, the darkness of the area, and the dampness provide the ultimate environment for the propagation of fungi and other pathogens. Wear flip-flops or water shoes. Besides, they’ll keep you from slipping on wet tiles.

It’s a nice courtesy for your gym to provide disinfectant sprays that you can use before attacking a machine or stretching on a mat. If it doesn’t, bring your own, along with paper towels.  What’s wrong with a rag?  It’ll transfer germs from one place to another.  Or bring disposable wipes.  More men than women shower at the gym. Make sure your towels are clean, and try not to use the one from your feet on the rest of your body if you’ve been barefoot or if it fell onto the locker room floor.  Don’t share towels, either.  Nor soap, unless it’s a liquid in a pump bottle.

Be religious about doing your laundry.  Don’t let wet stuff sit in your gym bag to ferment.  No matter how clean you think you are, stuff will grow there.  If you have kids, be especially vigilant.  Molluscum contagiosum is commonly seen in youngsters, usually being spread from skin to skin, but also by sharing a towel.  Meticulous hygiene is imperative.  Lots of men—more than women—walk around the locker room in the buff.  Wearing a towel places a barrier between you and the bench or any other shared surface.  The last place you want an itchy infection is where you sit.

References

Sports Med. 1990 Feb;9(2):100-19.
Common cutaneous disorders in athletes.
Conklin RJ.
Department of Dermatology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.

Am J Infect Control. 2011 Mar;39(2):148-50.
Are gymnasium equipment surfaces a source of staphylococcal infections in the community?
Ryan KA, Ifantides C, Bucciarelli C, Saliba H, Tuli S, Black E, Thompson LA.

AJIC: American Journal of Infection Control. Vol 37, Iss 6 , Pp 447-453, Aug 2009
A critical evaluation of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and other bacteria of medical interest on commonly touched household surfaces in relation to household demographics
Elizabeth Scott, PhD; Susan Duty, RN, ScD; Karen McCue, BS

J Am Acad Dermatol. 1980 Oct;3(4):415-24.
Dermatologic aspects of sports medicine.
Levine N.

Adv Dermatol. 1989;4:29-48; discussion 49.
Sports-related skin injuries.
Basler RS.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Is Sugar Affecting Your Immunity?

sweet-drinkThere is a metabolic difference between simple and complex carbohydrates.  The simple ones become glucose soon after they are eaten.  The complex ones take longer to turn into sugar and are less apt to spike insulin and cause energy crashes down the line.  But that isn’t the only difference between the two.

Almost forty years ago scientists had an interest in the relationship of diet to health, specifically of sugar intake to immunity.   But their curiosity went past simple sugar to include carbohydrates other than glucose.  The cells that are the backbone of the immune system are supposed to kill, swallow, and dispose of alien bodies, including bacteria, viruses and cancer cells.  Scientists at Loma Linda University in California examined the activity of neutrophilic phagocytes (cells that dissolve the enemy) after subjects ingested glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey, or orange juice and found that “…all significantly decreased the capacity of neutrophils to engulf bacteria…”  (Sanchez, Reeser, et al. 1973)  Looking more closely, the researchers also discovered that the greatest effects occurred within the first two hours after eating, but “…the effects last for at least 5 hours.”  (Ibid.)  If there is any promise, it’s that the effects can be undone by fasting from added sugars for the next two or three days.

At the start of the twentieth century, Americans consumed only about five pounds of sugar a year.  By the fifties, that had grown to almost 110 pounds a year, and to more than 152 by the year 2000.  Corn sweeteners account for 85 of those pounds.
(USDA Economic Research Service, http://www.usda.gov/factbook/chapter2.pdf )  America’s sweet tooth increased 39% between 1950 and 2000 as the use of corn sweetener octupled.

Although the cited study is decades old, its message is contemporary. HFCS began replacing sugar in soft drinks in the 1980’s, after it was portrayed by marketers as a healthful replacement for demon sugar.  It didn’t hurt the industry that it cost less, either.  The biological effects of sugar and HFCS are the same, however.  Neither has any food value—no vitamins, protein, minerals, antioxidants, or fiber—but they do displace the more nutritious elements of one’s diet, and we tend to consume more than we need to maintain our weight, so we gain.

Even though the number of calories from the glucose in a slice of bread or other starch is the same as that from table sugar (half fructose and half glucose), they are metabolized differently and have different effects on the body.  While fructose is metabolized by the liver, glucose is metabolized by every cell in the body.  When fructose reaches the liver, especially in liquid form (as in soda), it overwhelms the organ and is almost immediately converted to fat.  (Taubes. 2011)

Innate immunity is that which occurs as part of your natural makeup and defends you against infection by other organisms.  Short-term hyperglycemia, which might come from a pint of vanilla, has been found to affect all the major components of the innate immune system and to impair its ability to combat infection.  Reduced neutrophil activity, but not necessarily reduced neutrophil numbers, is one of several reactions to high sugar intake.  (Turina. 2005)  Way back in the early 1900’s, researchers noted a relationship between glucose levels and infection frequency among diabetes sufferers, but it wasn’t until the 1940’s that scientists found that diabetics’ white cells were sluggish. (Challem. 1997)  More recent study has corroborated the diabetes-infection connection, agreeing that neutrophil phagocytosis is impaired when glucose control is less than adequate.  (Lin. 2006)  Impaired immune activity is not limited to those with diabetes.  As soon as glucose goes up, immune function goes down.

Some folks think they’re doing themselves a favor by using artificial sweeteners.  Once the brain is fooled into thinking a sweet has been swallowed, it directs the pancreas to make insulin to carry the “sugar” to the cells for energy.  After the insulin finds out it’s been cheated of real sugar, it tells the body to eat in order to get some, and that creates artificial hunger, which causes weight increase from overeating.   Even environmental scientists have a concern with fake sweeteners in that they appear in the public’s drinking water after use.  You can guess how that works. (Mawhinney. 2011)

Mineral deficiencies, especially prevalent in a fast-food world, contribute to immune dysfunction by inhibiting all aspects of the system, from immune cell adherence to antibody activity.  Paramount among minerals is magnesium, which is part of both the innate and acquired immune responses.  (Tam. 2003)  Epidemiological studies have connected magnesium intake to decreased incidence of respiratory infections, and intravenous administration has shown effective in treating asthma. (PDR. 2000)  But sugar pushes magnesium—and other minerals—out of the body.  (Milne. 2000)  This will compromise not only immune function, but also bone integrity.  (Tjäderhane. 1998)

Zinc has been touted for its ability to shorten the duration of the common cold.  Like magnesium, zinc levels decrease with age, and even tiny deficiencies can have a large effect on immune health, particularly in the function of the thymus gland, which makes the T-cells of the immune system.  Zinc supplementation improves immune response in both the young and the old.  (Haase. 2009)  (Bogden. 2004)  (Bondestam. 1985)  All the microminerals, in fact, are needed in minute amounts for optimal growth and development…and physiology.  Low intakes suppress immune function by affecting T-cell and antibody response. Thus begins a cycle whereby infection prevents uptake of the minerals that could prevent infection in the first place.  Adequate intakes of selenium, zinc, copper, iron plus vitamins B6, folate, C, D, A, and E have been found to counteract potential damage by reactive oxygen species and to enhance immune function.  (Wintergest. 2007)

Who would have viewed something as sweet as sugar as being so hostile? It taste great to eat but has a nasty habit of pushing everything else out.

References

Albert Sanchez, J. L. Reeser, H. S. Lau, P. Y. Yahiku, et al
Role of sugars in human neutrophilic phagocytosis
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Nov 1973; Vol 26, 1180-1184

Profiling Food Consumption in America
USDA
http://www.usda.gov/factbook/chapter2.pdf

Taubes G.
“Is Sugar Toxic?”
in New York times Magazine, 13 April, 2011

Turina M, Fry DE, Polk HC Jr.
Acute hyperglycemia and the innate immune system: clinical, cellular, and molecular aspects.
Crit Care Med. 2005 Jul;33(7):1624-33.

Challem J and Heumer RP.
The Natural health Guide to Beating the Supergerms.
1997. Simon and Schuster Inc. New York.  Pp. 124-125

Lin JC, Siu LK, Fung CP, Tsou HH, Wang JJ, Chen CT, Wang SC, Chang FY.
Impaired phagocytosis of capsular serotypes K1 or K2 Klebsiella pneumoniae in type 2 diabetes mellitus patients with poor glycemic control.
J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2006 Aug;91(8):3084-7.

Mawhinney DB, Young RB, Vanderford BJ, Borch T, Snyder SA.
Artificial sweetener sucralose in U.S. drinking water systems.
Environ Sci Technol. 2011 Oct 15;45(20):8716-22.

Tam M, Gómez S, González-Gross M, Marcos A.
Possible roles of magnesium on the immune system.
Eur J Clin Nutr. 2003 Oct;57(10):1193-7.

PDR:  Physicians’ Desk reference for Herbal Medicines.  Magnesium.  2nd edition.  Mintvale NJ: Medical Economics Company; 2000:  5340540

Milne David B, PhD and Forrest H. Nielsen, PhD
The Interaction Between Dietary Fructose and Magnesium Adversely Affects Macromineral Homeostasis in Men
J Am Coll Nutr February 2000 vol. 19 no. 1 31-37

Tjäderhane Leo, and Markku Larmas
A High Sucrose Diet Decreases the Mechanical Strength of Bones in Growing Rats
J. Nutr. October 1, 1998 vol. 128 no. 10 1807-1810

Fuchs, Nan Kathryn Ph.D.
Magnesium: A Key to Calcium Absorption
The Magnesium Web Site on November 22, 2002
http://www.mgwater.com/calmagab.shtml

Haase H, Rink L.
The immune system and the impact of zinc during aging.
Immun Ageing. 2009 Jun 12;6:9.

Bogden JD.
Influence of zinc on immunity in the elderly.
J Nutr Health Aging. 2004;8(1):48-54.

Bondestam M, Foucard T, Gebre-Medhin M.
Subclinical trace element deficiency in children with undue susceptibility to infections.
Acta Paediatr Scand. 1985 Jul;74(4):515-20.

Wintergerst ES, Maggini S, Hornig DH.
Contribution of selected vitamins and trace elements to immune function.
Ann Nutr Metab. 2007;51(4):301-23. Epub 2007 Aug 28.

Smolders I, Loo JV, Sarre S, Ebinger G, Michotte Y.
Effects of dietary sucrose on hippocampal serotonin release: a microdialysis study in the freely-moving rat.
Br J Nutr. 2001 Aug;86(2):151-5.

Jack Challem, Burton Berkson, M.D., Ph.D., Melissa Diane Smith
Glucose and Immunity
http://www.diabeteslibrary.org/View.aspx?url=Article638
Accessed 11/2011

Van Oss CJ.
Influence of glucose levels on the in vitro phagocytosis of bacteria by human neutrophils.
Infect Immun. 1971 Jul;4(1):54-9.

Bernstein J, Alpert S, et al
Depression of lymphocyte transformation following oral glucose ingestion
Am J Clin Nutr. 1977; 30: 613

Robert A. Good, Ellen Lorenz
Nutrition and cellular immunity
International Journal of Immunopharmacology. Vol 14, Iss 3, Apr 1992, Pp. 361-366

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Grape Seed (Extract) Kills Germs

grape_seed_extractGrapes have been around for a long time, their attributes being praised by the Egyptians six thousand years ago. The healing powers of grapes had been tapped by the ancient Greeks, usually in the form of wine. Folk healers in Europe used the leaves and sap from the vines to treat skin and eye diseases and to stop the inflammation and pain from hemorrhoids. The substances inside the grape, oligomeric proanthocyanidin compounds (OPCs), are powerful anti-oxidants believed to be able to treat a number of human maladies, from heart disease to cancer to aging skin. Regardless of whatever research can support these uses, there is considerable evidence that grape seed extract is able to address venous insufficiency and edema (Kalus, 2004) (Schaefer, 2003) (Kiesewetter, 2000).

The seeds of grapes are loaded with vitamin E, linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid), various flavonoids (including epicatechin, epicatechin gallate, epigallocatechin gallate, quercitin, kaempferol, and luteolin, among others) and OPCs (USDA, 2003). These compounds are also found in the juice, skins and wine, but in lower concentrations.   Related to the OPCs, resveratrol is the most recently heralded of the grape compounds, and is the subject of several human clinical trials (U.S. NIH), where it’s being studied for use in Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, vascular health, and a raft of other conditions. Only recently announced is that grape seed extract has antimicrobial properties that appear to be more successful than some (or even all) drugs of that class.

One of the most ubiquitous microbes, which causes more than ninety percent of gastrointestinal illnesses worldwide, is the Norovirus. Norovirus-induced gastroenteritis is often called intestinal flu, although the influenza virus is not associated with this illness. Norovirus is transmitted by fecal contamination of food or water, by person-to-person contact, or by airborne means, where it may land on doorknobs, computer keyboards and other surfaces. The flush of a toilet can do this. A disgusting thought is that some of this virus can land on a toothbrush if it’s kept close enough to the toilet when the silver handle is depressed while the seat is up. Long-term care facilities are notorious venues for transmission (Said, 2008). You’ve seen the sign on the mirror in the public lavatory that reminds employees to wash their hands before returning to work. Some pay attention, some do not. Maybe this is a legitimate reason to pray over your food.

Norovirus may be inactivated with bleach (Tuladhar, 2012), but that’s not something you carry around. Because the virus is not girded by a lipid coat, neither alcohol nor detergents are effective biocides. That possibly includes those little moist towels that come in foil packets. As odd as it may seem, grape seed extract (GSE) has shown itself effective against Norovirus. The shell that protects the nucleic acid of a virus is called a capsid, which is a protein. GSE has the uncanny ability to denature that protein and to render the virus inactive. In laboratory tests, Norovirus cells that were exposed to GSE clumped together, deformed and inflated, reducing the virus’ binding capability and infectivity (Li, 2012). When GSE-treated water was used to wash freshly cut lettuce, similar results were noted. But GSE’s potential doesn’t stop here.

Staphylococcus denotes a group of spherical bacteria that aggregate in clusters, like grapes. They’re part of the normal micro-organisms that congregate on the skin and upper respiratory tract. Being gram-positive, they endure on dry surfaces. The strain of this bacterium most significant to humans is S. aureus, which forms a large yellow colony in its host and exhibits a facultative character, meaning that it can survive either with or without oxygen. Most of us carry S. aureus as a ubiquitous flora located in the armpits (axillary), groin (inguinal), the outer section of the nostrils (anterior nares), and the anus (perineum). Some of us carry this bacterium intermittently with changing strains; a minority not at all. Many, if not most, cases of S. aureus illness originate from nasal colonies (von Eiff, 2001). Oddly, this circumstance, identified as MRSA (methicillin-resistant S. aureus), may be attenuated by drinking coffee or tea. It was found that coffee and tea drinkers were fifty percent less likely to carry the bacterium in their nostrils than those who did not imbibe (Matheson, 2011).

Seeking compounds against S. aureus is an ongoing challenge. However, there is hope in GSE, a complex able to inhibit the enzyme needed by the bacterium to grow. In a Taiwanese experiment, fish that were exposed to the pathogen in their environment were spared infection when pre-incubated with GSE, prompting the scientists to foresee the extract as a viable means to prevent food poisoning caused by this bacterium (Kao, 2010). Electron microscopy examination of S. aureus after exposure to GSE noted disruption of the cell wall and a distinct bactericide effect (Al-Habib, 2010). In bacterial skin conditions, S. aureus was found to be most susceptible to the bactericidal nature of GSE (Abtahi, 2011).

In an era where bacteria are learning to resist the drugs designed to eliminate them, research is looking to add natural sources to its armamentarium. Some believe that a natural villain cannot escape a natural hero, regardless of villainous mutations. Hospital-acquired (nosocomial) MRSA infections have increased in recent decades, becoming the leading cause of pneumonia and operative wound infections, and the second most common cause of bloodstream infections. Antibiotic resistance is disturbing, particularly among children (Frei, 2010), but there is evidence that blood and skin infections are on the wane (Landrum, 012). With increasing signs that GSE (and now pomegranate polyphenols) alters S. aureus cell walls to the point of destruction, the only aspect left to be investigated is safety (Su, 2012). This is usually not a major concern with ingredients found in common foods, but may be an issue with the more exotic and foreign elements.  Grape seed extract is held to be safe when used in appropriate dosages (ECFR) (Food Navigator, 2001) (Kiesewetter, 2000). From treating E. coli (Quinones, 2011) to Listeria (Sivarooban, 2007) to Campylobacter (Silvan, 2013) to a collection of enteric pathogens (Su, 2011) (Xiaowei, 2011), the compounds in grape seed extract have earned a place of honor in the medicine cabinet.

References

Abtahi H., Ghazavi A. and Karimi M.
Antimicrobial activities of ethanol extract of black grape
African Journal of Microbiology Research Vol. 5(25), pp. 4446-4448, 9 November, 2011

Al-Habib A, Al-Saleh E, Safer AM, Afzal M.
Bactericidal effect of grape seed extract on methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
J Toxicol Sci. 2010 Jun;35(3):357-64.

Anastasiadi M, Chorianopoulos NG, Nychas GJ, Haroutounian SA.
Antilisterial activities of polyphenol-rich extracts of grapes and vinification byproducts.
J Agric Food Chem. 2009 Jan 28;57(2):457-63.

Bernstein DI, Bernstein CK, Deng C, Murphy KJ, Bernstein IL, Bernstein JA, Shukla R.
Evaluation of the clinical efficacy and safety of grapeseed extract in the treatment of fall seasonal allergic rhinitis: a pilot study.
Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2002 Mar;88(3):272-8.

Food Navigator
GRAS status for grapeseed extract
8 Jun 2001
http://www.foodnavigator.com/Science-Nutrition/GRAS-status-for-grape-seed-extract

Frei CR, Makos BR, Daniels KR, Oramasionwu CU.
Emergence of community-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus skin and soft tissue infections as a common cause of hospitalization in United States children.
J Pediatr Surg. 2010 Oct;45(10):1967-74.

Kalus U, Koscielny J, Grigorov A, Schaefer E, Peil H, Kiesewetter H.
Improvement of cutaneous microcirculation and oxygen supply in patients with chronic venous insufficiency by orally administered extract of red vine leaves AS 195: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study.
Drugs R D. 2004;5(2):63-71.

Int J Food Microbiol. 2010 Jun 30;141(1-2):17-27. Epub 2010 May 11.
Grape seed extract inhibits the growth and pathogenicity of Staphylococcus aureus by interfering with dihydrofolate reductase activity and folate-mediated one-carbon metabolism.
Kao TT, Tu HC, Chang WN, Chen BH, Shi YY, Chang TC, Fu TF.

Kiesewetter H, Koscielny J, Kalus U, Vix JM, Peil H, Petrini O, van Toor BS, de Mey C.
Efficacy of orally administered extract of red vine leaf AS 195 (folia vitis viniferae) in chronic venous insufficiency (stages I-II). A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
Arzneimittelforschung. 2000 Feb;50(2):109-17.

Landrum ML, Neumann C, Cook C, Chukwuma U, Ellis MW, Hospenthal DR, Murray CK.
Epidemiology of Staphylococcus aureus blood and skin and soft tissue infections in the US military health system, 2005-2010.
JAMA. 2012 Jul 4;308(1):50-9.

Dan Li, Leen Baert, Dongsheng Zhang, Ming Xia, Weiming Zhong, Els Van Coillie, Xi Jiang and Mieke Uyttendaele
Effect of Grape Seed Extract on Human Norovirus GII.4 and Murine Norovirus 1 in Viral Suspensions, on Stainless Steel Discs, and in Lettuce Wash Water
Appl. Environ. Microbiol. November 2012 vol. 78 no. 21 7572-7578

Matheson EM, Mainous AG 3rd, Everett CJ, King DE.
Tea and coffee consumption and MRSA nasal carriage
Ann Fam Med. 2011 Jul-Aug;9(4):299-304.

Quiñones B, Massey S, Friedman M, Swimley MS, Teter K.
Novel cell-based method to detect Shiga toxin 2 from Escherichia coli O157:H7 and inhibitors of toxin activity.
Appl Environ Microbiol.   2011 March  75(5): 1410–1416.

Said MA, Perl TM, Sears CL.
Healthcare epidemiology: gastrointestinal flu: norovirus in health care and long-term care facilities.
Clin Infect Dis. 2008 Nov 1;47(9):1202-8.

Schaefer E, Peil H, Ambrosetti L, Petrini O.
Oedema protective properties of the red vine leaf extract AS 195 (Folia vitis viniferae) in the treatment of chronic venous insufficiency. A 6-week observational clinical trial.
Arzneimittelforschung. 2003;53(4):243-6.

Jose Manuel Silván, Elisa Mingo, Maria Hidalgo, Sonia de Pascual-Teresa, Alfonso V. Carrascosa, Adolfo J. Martinez-Rodrigueza
Antibacterial activity of a grapeseed extract and its fractions against Campylobacterspp.
Food Control. Volume 29, Issue 1, January 2013, Pages 25–31

Sivarooban T, Hettiarachchy NS, Johnson MG.
Inhibition of Listeria monocytogenes using nisin with grape seed extract on turkey frankfurters stored at 4 and 10 degrees C.
J Food Prot. 2007 Apr;70(4):1017-20.

Su X, D’Souza DH.
Grape seed extract for control of human enteric viruses.
Appl Environ Microbiol. 2011 Jun;77(12):3982-7. Epub 2011 Apr 15.

Su X, Howell AB, D’Souza DH.
Antibacterial effects of plant-derived extracts on methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
Foodborne Pathog Dis. 2012 Jun;9(6):573-8.

Tuladhar E, Hazeleger WC, Koopmans M, Zwietering MH, Beumer RR, Duizer E.
Residual viral and bacterial contamination of surfaces after cleaning and disinfection.
Appl Environ Microbiol. 2012 Nov;78(21):7769-75. doi: 10.1128/AEM.02144-12. Epub 2012 Aug 31.

U.S. Department of Agriculture; Agricultural Research Service
USDA Database for the Flavonoid Content of Selected Foods
March, 2003
http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/Data/Flav/flav.pdf

U.S. National Institutes of Health
Clinical trials.gov
A service of the U.S. National Institutes of Health
http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/results?term=resveratrol

von Eiff C, Becker K, Machka K, Stammer H, Peters G.
Nasal carriage as a source of Staphylococcus aureus bacteremia. Study Group.
N Engl J Med. 2001 Jan 4;344(1):11-6.

Xiaowei Su and Doris H. D’Souza
Grape Seed Extract for Control of Human Enteric Viruses
Appl Environ Microbiol. 2011 June; 77(12): 3982–3987.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Taste Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

chicken-nuggetDo you realize how much and how often we put our faith and trust in other people? You trust that the car coming the other way won’t cross into your lane, and that the waiter washed his hands at least once before coming to your table. And you trust that your food is clean, whether from the supermarket, the butcher or the waiter.

When you bite into a crisp Delicious or Macintosh apple, you have the right to expect nothing more than apple skin, quercetin, some pectin, and vitamins and minerals. Do you know that apples are among the “dirty dozen” foods that are heavily sprayed with biocides? Yep, right up there with celery, grapes, peppers, strawberries and some greens, among others. Why do they have to do this to us? By our age, we’re expected to know the bottom line—money. With fruits and vegetables we have the advantage (If you can call it that) of being able to wash most of the junk off before we eat them. There’s a monumental difference, though, between what’s on a food and what’s in it. We can’t wash out whatever is inside a processed or prepared food…like some chicken nuggets.

The two best-known poultry purveyors in the United States have initials that rhyme with each other. One of them was a tad short of the truth when it announced several years ago that its product was antibiotic-free, only to announce later that it would stop using antibiotics in its chickens. The other company didn’t have to make such a declaration. Discounting husbandry practices and getting right to food preparation, we find that both of these companies have a comparatively pristine list of ingredients in their nuggets. The only question would be the definition of “natural flavor.”  The FDA publishes a Code of Federal Regulations, which we presume is what it says, but which we know is probably ignored to a hair’s breadth of compliance. We realize that, for some of us, a speed limit is merely a suggestion.

The “Code” says: “The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional. “

Unless a company has specified, you can’t tell what the natural flavor is. If you call a company, it is not obligated to disclose industrial secrets. See? Trust. With these two companies, the odds are in the consumer’s favor. A dyed-in-the-wool skeptic will know that a natural flavor can be duplicated in a lab because it’s the flavor that’s natural, not necessarily the ingredients that make it. Is anything straight anymore? Fast food nuggets are another story. (Wait until we get to the antibiotics part.)

Even the fast food monger that deals only in chicken uses an anti-foaming agent in its offerings. Dimethylpolysiloxane, used to make Silly Putty, is a vinegary-smelling silicone used to make caulk, certain adhesives and aquarium sealant…even silicone implants. It’s used in fast foods, including the fries, to keep the rancid, oxidized frying oil from bubbling over the pot. They call it preventing effervescence, which is the escape of gases from a solution. It prevents the embarrassing passage of gases through the gut, as well. If you forget the Beano, try a squeeze of Dap silicone. Next, tert-Butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) is added as an antioxidant to your happy meal, which makes the purveyor happy all the way to the bank because it enhances storage life. Forget that it’s used to stabilize diesel fuel (Almeide, 2011). If it makes you feel any better, the European Panel on Food Additives found no adverse effects of TBHQ in dogs (http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/publications/efsajournal.htm). In humans, though, chronic exposure, as would be the case for people who eat fast foods every day, may induce carcinogenicity (Gharavi, 2005( (Hirose, 1993). Oh, well, as long as the FDA says it’s O.K. (Code of Federal Reg. 21(3). 2013).

Never let it be said that the fast food industry doesn’t keep up with the times. A relative rookie in the cast of nugget ingredients is sodium aluminum phosphate, a leavening agent (baking powder) that is new to the baking industry. It has a different performance profile from other leaveners, with a preferred buffering action for flour mixes (breading), where it works slowly outside the cooker, but hastens once heated. Funny, but it’s used to make explosives, porcelain, cement, and leather tanning. Yep. There’s no worry about the sodium part and, as long as you don’t overdo it, the phosphate part isn’t too bad, either. But the aluminum fraction…not so good. Food contributes more aluminum to the body than water, and this leavening agent plays a part (Yokel, 2008, 2006). It might be naturally abundant, the third most abundant element after O2 and Si, and the most abundant metal in Earth’s crust, but Al has no place in human biology. Aluminum has been implicated in the etiology of Alzheimer’s disease (Ferriera, 2008) because of its neurotoxic character, wherein it alters the function of the blood-brain barrier (Savory, 2006). The use of aluminum adjuvants in pediatric vaccines is suspected of increasing the rate of autistic spectrum disorders (Shaw, 2013). Whether these adversities come from autoimmune reactions remains to be discovered, but that’s little consolation to anyone.

A recent analysis of chicken nuggets found them to contain ingredients besides meat. Fat, skin, bone, nerve and connective tissue comprised a substantial mass of the finished product (Deshazo, 2013). This aroused a response from the industry, which decried the inspection of only two samples. Gosh, how could the researchers have taken the wrong two out of the thousands of samples available? Nonetheless, fast food has been labeled as unfriendly and unhealthy in more countries than we might have thought, especially since energy density varies from culture to culture (Stender, April 2007) and the fat profile leaves much to be desired (Stender, May 2007).

Antibiotics have been used in poultry farming since the 1940’s when it was accidentally learned that the drugs produced increased growth in the birds. What happens is that the bad intestinal flora are sequestered to such a degree that the good can prevent the inflammation that interferes with nutrient absorption and availability. Thus, the birds grow. There was a time when any and all antibiotics were permitted in poultry, but when it became evident that human pathogens became resistant to antibiotic treatment, the list of drugs approved for farm use shrank to those that demonstrated effectiveness only in animals.  Because antibiotics within their own groups share a similarity, micro-organisms that have developed immunity to one will eventually develop immunity to the others (Aarestrup, 1998, 2000).

After animals have been fed antibiotics over a period of time, they hold onto strains of bacteria that are resistant to the drugs. After proliferating in the animal, they can be transferred to others, thus forming a colony of resistant micro-organisms, spawned by spontaneous genetic mutations within a gene sequence. Now the drug can kill only the non-resistant bacteria, allowing the resistant ones to thrive. Next, through cell-to-cell contact, some germs can pass resistance to others by swapping DNA or by dispersing DNA throughout the environment after cell death, allowing it to be absorbed by a different strain. Antibiotics, effective or not, are supposed to be withheld a few weeks before a chicken meets its maker. The USDA says that compliance is good, but keep in mind that this agency exists to help farmers, not necessarily the consumer (http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/poultry-preparation/chicken-from-farm-to-table/CT_Index).

Regardless of what is done to protect the customer, chicken is still a breeding ground for pathogens. The drug-resistant Heidelberg strain of Salmonella recently sickened more than 300 people in twenty states since March, 2013. Foster Farms was reluctant to issue a recall. The USDA is not required to force the issue, since recalls for meat and poultry are voluntary (http://consumersunion.org/news/consumer-groups-urge-usda-to-strengthen-oversight-of-poultry/). Strains of Salmonella isolated from feed had been found to be the same as those isolated from packaged raw frozen nuggets and strips, but this still does not identify the ultimate source (Bucher, 2007, 2008). And now the CDC says that we’ve reached the end of the line on antibiotics, and that the superbugs have won. There’s no weapon left to defeat them. We’ve become overmedicated. Our foods have become overmedicated. After passing the buck to heretofore trustworthy bodies, we find it’s nobody’s fault. And nobody has cared until today.

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FDA
[Code of Federal Regulations]
[Title 21, Volume 2]
[Revised as of April 1, 2013]
[CITE: 21CFR101.22]

FDA
[Code of Federal Regulations]
[Title 21, Volume 3]
[Revised as of April 1, 2013]
[CITE: 21CFR172.185]

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USDA
FSIS
Chicken from Farm to Table

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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.