Tuesday, April 1, 2014

What are GMO's

You may have heard the term GMO floating around on the news or in our grocery stores. GMO’s stands for genetically modified organisms. These foods do not contain DNA from a second species, which is a common myth. These organisms usually have an existing trait modified to reduce or improve a specific phenotype. A phenotype is a characteristic that can be observed, like color or shape. The DNA of these organisms is altered in a lab and then reintroduced back into its species. The changes made to certain foods are made to either improve or reduce a specific phenotype. Some examples are vitamin A enhanced rice, herbicide resistant corn, and drought tolerance plants.

What are the benefits of Genetically Modified foods?

            Genetically modified foods have resulted in many benefits for farmers and consumers alike. They also show much promise in ensuring adequate food supply for our booming population in the next 50 years.
  • Pest resistance: The most common reasons for loss of crops are pests. To prevent these losses from happening, farmers routinely use a great deal of chemical pesticides on their crops. These pesticides can pose potential health hazards to consumers if ingested from the crop or run-off into the water supply. It can also cause harm to other aspects of the environment. Growing foods that are genetically modified (GM) help remove the need for chemical pesticide use and consequentially reduce the cost of bringing the crop to market.
  • Herbicide tolerance: Weeds are a common obstacle when growing crops of any sort. It is not cost effective to remove them by manual labor, so most farmers spray large amounts of different kinds of weed killers (herbicides). Which can be both time consuming and expensive. Crop plants that are resistant to a specific weed killer would allow the farmers to only need one powerful herbicide to take care of the weeds. One such crop that was created was a strain of soybeans by Monsanto that are resistant to Roundup. The crop needs only one spray, which reduces production costs and limits harmful environmental effects.  
  • Nutrition: Malnutrition is a common issue for impoverished people. For example, a typical staple food of impoverished people is rice. GM rice contains additional vitamins and minerals and is used to combat blindness due to Vitamin A deficiency in third world countries. This golden rice is also being developed to have an increased iron content these people can consume vitamins and minerals that this food would normally not contain.

Are GM foods safe?
  • Allergenicity: Unexpected allergic reactions in children are the main concern when it comes to GM foods. Many children have allergies to peanuts and other foods. New genes in plants may create new allergens to those that are allergen susceptible. More research is being done to prevent possible harm to consumers with food allergies.
  • Unknown health effects: There have been studies which involve rats and butterflies that have shown to have harmful effects on them. Science critics however, have deemed these studies flawed as the GM foods used in the studies were never intended for human or animal consumption. Besides the possibility of allergenicity, GM foods are believed to pose no risk to human health.
According to the USDA as of 2012, 88% of corn, 94% of cotton, and 93% of soybeans are genetically modified.

How are GM foods regulated?
There are three agencies that are responsible for the regulation of genetically engineered organisms. They provide guidance relevant to experimental testing, approval, and commercial release of GMO’s. They are the following:
  • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS): is responsible for protecting the US agriculture from pests and diseases. Their regulations place procedures for obtaining permits and notifications before introducing crops that are regulated in the U.S. Once they have received regulation status the organism no longer requires review for movement in the U.S. http://www.aphis.usda.gov/biotechnology/regulations.shtml
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): They are in charge of conducting risk assessments on pesticides that could pose harm to human health or the environment. They also establish tolerance and residue levels for various pesticides that can be applied to crops while their growing and remains after being processed. They sometimes will make visits to farms and ensure compliance to the regulations. Farmers that have B.t.corn, must have a license and grow 20% unmodified corn along with it. http://www.epa.gov/
  • Department of Health and Human Services’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA): The CSA states that, “Companies working to create new GM foods are not required to consult the FDA, nor are they required to follow the FDA's recommendations after the consultation.” http://www.fda.gov/

GM foods are not required to be labeled and is only done voluntarily by agribusiness industries. In the future if consumers show a preference for labeled foods might encourage labeling of GM foods.


Michael, W. (2007). Genetics 101. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.
USDA. (2013, 12 30). United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved from Biotechnology Frequently Asked Questions: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentidonly=true&navid=AGRICULTURE&contentid=BiotechnologyFAQs.xml

Whitman, D. B. (2000, April). Genetically Modified Foods: Harmful or Helpful? Retrieved from CSA Discovery Guides: www.csa.com/discoveryguides/gmfood/overview.php

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Digestive Health

            There are many things you can do for your health. One of those things is managing your diet for optimal digestive health. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has recommended including Prebiotics and Probiotics. These can be found in certain foods, and one does not have to solely rely on dietary supplements.  Consuming them from their food sources first is best because they are more readily available for absorption and digestion.

  • These are natural, non-digestible food ingredients that help promote helpful bacteria in your intestinal tract. They help improve gastrointestinal health and improve calcium absorption.

  • These are the actual “good bacteria” also referable to as live cultures. These bacteria aid in repopulating and balancing the bacteria in your gut. Additionally, this functional component works to boost immunity and overall health.
  • Some probiotics have been used to treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), lactose intolerance, and more. However effects vary from person to person.

Addition of Prebiotics and Probiotics into your diet:
  • Prebiotics have fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS). Some examples of these are inulin and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS). Specific foods that contain these components are bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, soybeans, and whole-wheat foods.
  • Probiotics can be found in fermented dairy foods like yogurts, aged cheeses and foods that include live cultures. Other non-dairy foods that include live cultures are kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh and soy beverages.

Why do they work well together?

             Prebiotics make it easier for probiotics to establish themselves in the gastrointestinal system. Food products that combine these two things together are called synbiotics. An example of this would be putting bananas on top of your yogurt. Check food labels when buying groceries to include both prebiotics and probiotics in your diet. Many labels will preclude to this by stating “nutrition boosters” or “promotes a healthy digestive system”.

Remember that lifestyle changes take time and you will want to start off slow when changing your diet. Your body may take some time to adjust to your new food intake and eating schedule.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Yoga and It's Benefits

              If you’re one of the few people who hasn't caught on to the yoga wave, no worries. We hope to give you a small introduction to yoga basics. To begin with, yoga focuses on the physical and spiritual improvement of the mind and body. There are “eight limbs” of yoga that help you reach enlightenment

  • The way you behave (Yama): This is about encompassing and advocating the behaviors of non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence and non-possessiveness.
  • Your attitude towards yourself (Niyama): Being clean, content, austerity, studying sacred texts and studying yourself, and surrendering to God.
  • Physical pose (Asana): Through freeing our mind and body of stress and tension you are performing asanas. They are done in preparation for meditation to relax and rejuvenate the body.
  • Breath control (Pranayama): Controlling and regulating your breath helps to make the connection between your state of mind, nervous system, and level of life energy. 
  • Withdrawal of the senses (Pratyahara): This is the process of being aware of yourself, undistracted from the world.
  • Concentration (Dharana):  This prepares you for meditation, as you focus on your breathing and nothing else.
  • Meditation (Dhyana): This is where people spend most of their time, in meditation. This is a constant, uninterrupted observation without a special focus. The goal is to increase awareness and unify oneself with the universe.
  • Enlightenment (Samadhi): This is the most difficult state to achieve. It requires much experience with the eight limbs of yoga. It is said that one experiences unity with the universe, infinite peace, harmony, and awareness.
Benefits of yoga:
  • Lessons chronic pain (lower back, arthritis, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome)
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Reduces insomnia
  • Increased flexibility
  • Increased muscle strength and tone
  • Improved respiration, energy and vitality
  • Maintenance of balanced metabolism
  • Weight reduction
  • Cardio and circulatory health
  • Improved athletic performance
  • Protection from injury
  • Stress management
  • Improved mental well-being
Yoga moves for the beginner:
  • Seated Forward Bend
  • Seated Straddle
  • Downward Dog
  • Downward Dog Split
  • High Lunges
  • Planks
  • Side Planks
  • Camel Pose

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Texting Ergonomics: Reduce Wrist, Hand, and Thumb Pain

Is your main mode of communication with others done through texting? Then you may be risk for “texting thumb” or thumb arthritis. Thumb Arthritis is caused by constriction of the flexor tendon in the thumb. It often reveals itself as painful popping or snapping when the thumb bends or straightens; it may even become locked in the curled position. The most common cause of texting thumb is due to repetitive griping motions such as texting or holding a smart phone. Thumb arthritis is specific to the carpometacarpal joint where the thumb and wrist connect. Gripping, or forceful pinching motions are often the source of these symptoms and can become more severe with excessive use.

            The elbow can also suffer from increased tension in the tunnel through which the ulnar nerve passes. When in the elbow, this is referred to as Cubital tunnel syndrome. Spending too much time holding your phone to your ear, resting your elbow on a desk, or keeping your arm bent at an acute angle to use your mouse all contribute to cubital tunnel syndrome. Symptoms include numbness or tingling in the ring and small finger and soreness on the inside of the elbow or forearm.

Texting Ergonomics:
  • Keep messages brief. The more keystrokes you do the more strain you’re causing on your hands and thumbs.
  • Use word prediction or auto complete.
  • Choose a device that has a full keyboard (you want reduce the number of times you tap a key to select a letter).
  • Use shortcuts opposed to scrolling.
  • Use a neutral grip when holding a device. This is best represented by a straight wrist that is not bent in either direction.
  • Maintain an upright position while texting. Do not bend your head down or round your shoulders.
  • Rest your thumb by alternating it with your index finger.

Specifics for touch screens:
  • Use device in a vertical position while typing. This will reduce the amount of reaching space your thumb does to press a key.
  • Use the pads of your fingers instead of the tips of your nails. Using your nails can create an awkward bent position for your thumb.

Severe cases treatments:
  • Cortisone injections- eliminate pain and restore mobility.
  • Thumb carpometacarpal arthroplasty- A surgical procedure to release the pulley at the base of the thumb will free the tendon to move more easily.
  • Splints

Cubital tunnel syndrome prevention:
  • Use a pad to rest your elbow on.
  • Avoid pressure on the back of the elbow.
  • Sleep in a splint the keeps your elbow from bending too much.
  • Avoid position that keep your elbow flexed for extended periods of time.
  • In severe cases a surgery can be performed to relieve the pressure off the nerve, improving symptoms, and preventing risk of permanent nerve damage to the hand.



Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Iron Deficiency Anemia

Anemia is a common concern for women of child bearing age. The prevalence of iron deficiency anemia found in the NHANES II was 5-10%, in the United States. That is equivalent to 1 in 5 women of childbearing age. It is estimated that nearly half of all pregnant women are at risk for developing iron-deficiency anemia. This can be attributed to the fact that pregnant women need twice as much iron as usual to increase the blood volume to the fetus to grow. Anemia is defined as a hemoglobin (hematocrit) concentration lower than the 2.5th percentile for healthy, well-nourished individuals of the same age, sex, and stage of pregnancy.  Iron deficiency anemia is associated with laboratory evidence of iron depletion as a result of serum tests. The signs and symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia can vary in their severity from mild to severe. 

Signs & Symptoms of Anemia
  • Fatigue (tiredness) is the most common symptom, and occurs in all types of anemia. This occurs because the body does not have enough hemoglobin to carry oxygen all throughout the body.
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Coldness in hands or feet
  • Pale skin
Signs & Symptoms of Iron Deficiency
  • Brittle nails
  • Swelling or soreness of the tongue
  • Cracks in the sides of the mouth
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Frequent infections
  • May have unusual cravings for nonfood items (like ice, dirt, starch, or paint). This craving is called pica.
  • Development of restless legs syndrome
Make an appointment with your health care provider if you notice negative changes in your health. Your provider will be able to diagnose you based off of your medical history, physical exam and various results on tests and procedures. Once the severity of your condition is known, a treatment plan will be created for you.

Diet Changes
Eating more of the following foods is a great way to lower your risk of developing iron-deficiency anemia.
  • Include iron supplements into your diet, but be careful to follow your provider’s instructions for doses,    large amounts of iron can be harmful.
  • Eat more iron rich foods like red meat, beef, chicken, turkey, pork, fish, and shellfish. Iron-fortified breads and cereals.
  •  Peas; lentils; white, red and baked beans; soybeans; and chickpeas.
  • Spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables.
  • Prune juice
  • Dried fruits like prunes, raisins, and apricots.
  • Vitamin C helps to absorb iron. Plan your meals rich in iron and vitamin C for optimal iron absorption.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Truth About Sugar

Throughout history, sugary treats have been the staple food of happiness in America. Could it be that it is now the root of our misery? Since 1950, America’s sugar consumption has increased by 39%. American’s on average consumed 52 teaspoons of added sugars a day in 2000. The USDA recommendation of sugar consumption is 40 grams or 10 teaspoons per day. That means a person would consume 52 teaspoons of added sugars a day! Some added sugars are: sucrose, corn sweeteners, honey, maple syrup, and high-fructose corn syrup.

How is Sugar Harmful?

Studies have identified various ways in which sugar negatively effects our bodies.

Negative effects are:
  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Aging of the body or wrinkles in the skin
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Increased risk of diabetes
  • Increased risk of obesity and weight gain
  • Increased risk of pancreatic cancer

What you can do about your health:

It is important to know your baseline of ‘free’ sugar intake. To do this, keep a sugar log for seven days to find your daily average sugar intake. If you are over the recommended sugar consumption, make it a goal to reduce your intake to 40 grams or 10 teaspoons.

Here are some helpful tips to help you overcome your sugar cravings:

  •     Clean out your cupboards of tempting snacks and treats.
      ·          Do not buy "sugar filled" products.

·         Eat 4-6 cups of colorful vegetables daily.

·         Drink 8 cups (64oz) of water throughout the day.

·         Exercise at least 2-3 hours per week.

·         Practice stress relieving exercises such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing 4-5 times per week.

·         Develop a healthy sleep schedule (7-8 hours per night).

·         Surround yourself with people that support your sugar reduced lifestyle.

       Don’t put yourself down if you struggle. This is a change in lifestyle that will take time. After a few weeks you will surely feel healthier and happier. With perseverance, you won’t even miss having sugar!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Love Yourself and Your Body

               February is the month of love, but you don’t have to be in a relationship to enjoy it. Take this time to learn to love yourself,  regardless of your relationship status. With the media bombarding women about their imperfections and what perfect really is, many of us struggle with loving ourselves as we are. Learning to love yourself involves setting goals. Some of these goals could be eating more vegetables, enjoying more fruits, or walking to campus instead of driving. These are all things we have the ability to control that make an impact on your health. Below is a list of ways in which we can love our bodies by Margo Main, a Ph.D. from the University of Santa Clara.

“20 Ways to Love Your Body” by Margo Maine, Ph.D.
Think of your body as the vehicle to your dreams. Honor it. Respect it. Fuel it.

1.         Your body is extraordinary--begin to respect and appreciate it.
2.         Create a list of all the things your body lets you do. Read it and add to it often.
3.         Become aware of what your body can do each day. Remember it is the instrument of your life, not just an ornament.
4.         Create a list of people you admire: people who have contributed to your life, your community, or the world. Consider whether their appearance was important to their success and accomplishments.
5.         Walk with your head held high, supported by pride and confidence in yourself as a person.
6.         Don't let your weight or shape keep you from activities that you enjoy.
7.         Wear comfortable clothes that you like and that feel good to your body.
8.         Count your blessings, not your blemishes.
9.         Think about all the things you could accomplish with the time and energy you currently spend worrying about your body and appearance. Try one!
10.     Be your body's friend and supporter, not its enemy.
11.     Consider this: your skin replaces itself once a month, your stomach lining every five days, your liver every six weeks, and your skeleton every three months.
12.     Every morning when you wake up, thank your body for resting and rejuvenating itself so you can enjoy the day.
13.     Every evening when you go to bed, tell your body how much you appreciate what it has allowed you to do throughout the day.
14.     Find a method of exercise that you enjoy and do it regularly. Don't exercise to lose weight or to fight your body. Do it to make your body healthy and strong and because it makes you feel good.
15.     Think back to a time in your life when you felt good about your body. Tell yourself you can feel like that again, even in this body at this age.
16.     Keep a list of 10 positive things about yourself--without mentioning your appearance. Add to it!
17.     Put a sign on each of your mirrors saying, "I'm beautiful inside and out."
18.     Choose to find the beauty in the world and in yourself.
19.     Start saying to yourself, "Life is too short to waste my time hating my body this way."
20. Eat when you are hungry. Rest when you are tired. Surround yourself with people that remind you of your inner strength and beauty.


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