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Health Capsules: Pesticide guide

Organic produce always is the best choice when seeking produce with the least pesticide residue, but certain types of produce are considered low-risk even when not organically grown, according to Consumer Reports.

Organic produce always is the best choice when seeking produce with the least pesticide residue, but certain types of produce are considered low-risk even when not organically grown, according to Consumer Reports.

Pesticide guide

Consumer Reports recently studied pesticide residues on 48 types of produce from 14 countries in order to develop guidelines to aid the public in reducing exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.

An article detailing the study, “Eat the Peach, Not the Pesticide: A Shopper’s Guide,” appears in the May issue of Consumer Reports and online at consumerreports.org.

According to Urvashi Rangan, executive director of Consumer Reports’ Food Safety and Sustainability Center, organic produce always is the best choice when seeking fruits and vegetables with the least pesticide residue.

“For those who can’t always afford organic, when it comes to reducing your pesticide exposure, we have specific recommendations for conventional options that are just as low risk as organic,” Rangan said.

But when it comes to some types of produce, according to Consumer Reports, shoppers always should opt for organic versions. Those foods include peaches, tangerines, nectarines, strawberries, cranberries, green beans, sweet bell peppers, hot peppers, sweet potatoes and carrots.

Produce items that Consumer Reports found to be “very low risk” or “low risk” for pesticide exposure when purchased in their conventional (non-organic) form include bananas, cherries, oranges, broccoli, lettuce and onions, among others.

Consumer Reports noted that much of what is known about the risk of pesticides has been learned from studying farmers who work with the chemicals regularly. Those studies have linked long-term pesticide exposure to Alzheimer’s disease; Parkinson’s disease; cancers of the prostate and ovary; depression; and respiratory problems.

In a press release, the organization stated:

“Consumer Reports notes that while the risks of pesticides are real, the health benefits of fruits and vegetables are, too. When possible, it’s best to choose organic or low-risk conventional produce. However, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables – ideally five or more servings a day – is the primary goal, even if it’s a type that falls into Consumer Reports’ very high-risk category.”


Fishy finding

Consuming herring, mackerel and three kinds of fish oil may result in resistance to cancer chemotherapy drugs, according to research published in JAMA Oncology.

Many cancer patients take supplements as a part of their attempts to adopt healthier lifestyles, but research has suggested some supplements could affect their treatment outcomes.

The study involving certain fish and fish oils was conducted at the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam. Study authors said their findings raised concern about the simultaneous use of chemotherapy and fish oil.

“Based on our findings, and until further data becomes available, we advise patients to temporarily avoid fish oil from the day before chemotherapy until the day after,” the authors concluded.


Working up a sweat

A large-scale Australian study suggests that for middle-aged and older adults, working up a sweat contributes to a longer life.

Researchers followed more than 200,000 adults aged 45 and older for more than six years and found that compared to those who participated in moderate physical activities such as social tennis or housework, those who took part in more vigorous pastimes such as competitive tennis or jogging had a 9-13 percent lower risk of mortality.

“The benefits of vigorous activity applied to men and women of all ages and were independent of the total amount of time spent being active,” lead study author Dr. Klaus Gebel, of the James cook University Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention, said. “The results indicate that whether or not you are obese, and whether or not you have heart disease or diabetes, if you can manage some vigorous activity, it could offer significant benefits for longevity.”

Gebel noted that those who never have undergone vigorous exercise should talk to a doctor before doing so.


Alcohol awareness

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) is encouraging Americans to evaluate their drinking habits.

The NIAAA defines low-risk drinking for women as having no more than three drinks on any single day and no more than seven drinks per week. For men, low-risk drinking means having no more than four drinks on any single day and no more than 14 drinks per week. Only about two in 100 people who drink within those limits have an alcohol use disorder, according to NIAAA research.

For more information and access to an interactive tool for self-assessing drinking patterns, visit niaaa.nih.gov.


Asthma alert

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a statement warning consumers about over-the-counter asthma products labeled as “homeopathic,” which are readily available in stores and online.

“Although there is no cure for asthma, there are many prescription asthma treatments approved by FDA as safe and effective, as well as some products that are marketed (over the counter) in accordance with an FDA monograph,” FDA officials said.

The FDA has not evaluated for safety and effectiveness asthma products bearing the label “homeopathic.”

If not treated appropriately for asthma, patients could be at risk for life-threatening asthma attacks.


Exfoliation expertise

As people ready their skin for spring and summer fashions, many will begin with exfoliation, a process that sloughs away the topmost layer of dead skin cells and ideally, leaves skin looking brighter and makes topical skin treatments more effective.

But not every type of exfoliation is right for every skin type, and for some people, certain treatments may actually do more harm than good.

According to Dr. Mary P. Lupo, board-certified dermatologist and spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology, people whose skin has aged prematurely due to sun exposure and those with non-inflammatory acne (acne with only blackheads and whiteheads) may benefit from exfoliation.

On the other hand, people with inflammatory acne, rosacea, herpes simplex, warts and some other skin issues could make those conditions worse by using the wrong type of exfoliation so should consult a dermatologist before selecting a specific method.

Lupo offered the following advice for exfoliating skin:

• If skin is dry or sensitive, opt for milder chemical exfoliating treatments, such as a salicylic acid peel administered in a dermatologist’s office. Those with oily, thicker skin may be able to use stronger chemical treatments – like over-the-counter 2 percent salicylic acid wash – or a mechanical method, such as a motorized brush or a scrub containing exfoliating particles.

• Proper frequency of exfoliation depends on skin type and treatment strength. People with oily, thicker skin may need to exfoliate daily; those with dry or sensitive skin may need to limit at-home treatments to no more than once or twice weekly.

• Be careful what you buy, as not all exfoliation products are safe and effective. Make sure the product is from a recognized, reputable company. Choose over-the-counter products with a low acid concentration – no greater than 10 percent glycolic acid or 2 percent salicylic acid.

• Consult a dermatologist for help in choosing an at-home exfoliation product and for in-office procedures.


The American Academy of Pediatrics advises using metric measurements – not kitchen spoons – when dosing medication for children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises using metric measurements – not kitchen spoons – when dosing medication for children.

Metric for children’s meds

The American Academy of Pediatrics is urging parents to use an extra measure of caution when preparing a dose of a child’s medication. Specifically, the AAP advises, use only metric measurements and do not measure liquid medication in teaspoons or tablespoons, especially those taken from the kitchen drawer.

“Spoons come in many different sizes and are not precise enough to measure a child’s medication,” pediatrician Dr. Ian Paul said in an AAP policy statement published in the April 15 issue of Pediatrics. “For infants and toddlers, a small error – especially if repeated for multiple doses – can quickly become toxic.”

The updated AAP policy statement includes the following recommendations:

• Standard language should be adopted, including mL as the only appropriate abbreviation for milliliters. Liquid medications should be dosed to the nearest 0.1, 0.5 or 1 mL.

• How often a dose is needed should be clearly stated on the label. Common language like “daily” should be used rather than medical abbreviations.

• Pediatricians should review mL-based doses with families when they are prescribed.

• Dosing devices should not have extra markings that can be confusing and should not be significantly larger than the dose described on the label.

• Manufacturers should eliminate labeling, instructions and dosing devices that contain units other than metric units.

According to the AAP, more than 70,000 children are seen each year in emergency departments because of unintentional medication overdoses. Caregivers sometimes misinterpret milliliters for teaspoons or use the wrong kind of measuring device, resulting in a child receiving two or three times the recommended dose.


Gatorade vs. burger and fries

What is better for glycogen recovery after a long bike ride: a sports supplement, or fast food?

Researchers at the University of Montana set out to answer that question by sending 11 male cyclists on 90-minute glycogen-depletion rides and immediately after each ride having them consume either sports supplements such as Gatorade, Powerbar and Clif products or fast food such as hamburgers, French fries and hash browns. After a four-hour recovery period, the athletes completed a 12.4-mile time trial.

Looking at muscle biopsies and blood samples taken between rides, researchers saw no difference in blood glucose and insulin samples among the riders. Comparing cyclists based on the diets they consumed, researchers observed no difference in the rate of glycogen recovery and no difference in the athletes’ performance on the second ride.

“Our results show that eating fast food – in the right amounts – can provide the same potential for muscle glycogen as sports nutrition products that usually cost more,” said researcher Brent Ruby, director of the Montana Center for Work Physiology and Exercise Metabolism.

Ruby emphasized, however, that the study results should not cause athletes to expect the same results if they consume large amounts of fast food.

“We had participants eating small servings of the fast food products, not giant orders of burgers and fries,” he said. “Moderation is the key to the results we got.”

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