cancer cells

  1. BPA Plastics Update:More reasons to throw out your cans and buy (or grow) fresh!

    I warned you last October about using canned foods and clear plastic food containers as they might contain a form of plastic called Bisphenol-a (or BPA). Even though the FDA and the EPA said last year that BPA poses no threat to human health, I have my doubts.

    Plus -- a few new twists and turns in this story have me more frustrated than ever, so I wanted to give you an update.

    First off...

    Here's the problem with BPA: It leaches into your food and gets absorbed by the body. In fact, drinking from a polycarbonate water bottle for just one week can prove harmful. That's according to a new study out last month by the Harvard School of Public Health.

    Harvard scientists invited 77 students to participate in this groundbreaking study, the first to emphasis just how quickly the body begins to absorb BPA from food or beverage containers.

    The students began the study with a 7-day wash-out period. During that time, they only drank from stainless steel containers in order to minimize BPA exposure. The BPA in their urine was then measured and used as a baseline.

    On the 8th day, students began drinking from clear polycarbonate water bottles that were known to contain BPA. The students drank from the containers for just one week. (Polycarbonate bottles are clear, hard, non-breakable, and refillable. They usually have a pop-top or flip-top lid for drinking.)

    Any guesses how much the BPA spiked after just one week?
    The BPA found in the students' urine after just one week of drinking from the plastic containers spiked by 69 percent!

    And in case you were wondering -- the students did use the water bottles properly. They didn't heat them. They didn't put them in the microwave. They didn't put them in the dishwasher. Nor did they use them with hot liquids, as these are all known to increase leaching.

    But the BPA leached anyway! And what's most shocking to me is how quickly the spike occurred. In just one week, their urine was full of the stuff.

    So why do we worry when we see spikes in BPA?
    Well, according to the Harvard School of Public Health news release, BPA is an "endocrine-disruptor in animals, including early onset of sexual maturation, altered development and tissue organization of the mammary gland and decreased sperm production in offspring. It may be most harmful in the stages of early development."

    That's not good, especially when you consider many baby bottles still contain BPA. (You can find some BPA-free baby items in stores now. Look on the packaging to be sure.)

    Plus -- high BPA levels in the body are associated with an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, neurological problems, and even cancer. In fact, one study by scientists from the University of Cincinnati showed that even low levels of BPA in the body can interfere with chemotherapy by essentially "protecting" the cancer cells.

    Big brother starting to take action…
    The good news is, lawmakers are starting to step in to put BPA food containers where they belong: off the market.

    Last week -- following the lead of Canada, the city of Chicago, and Suffolk County, NY -- the California state senate passed a bill to ban the use of BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups. And it looks like dozens of other states plan to follow suit...despite the FDA's 2008 ruling.

    In fact, it looks like the FDA's BPA ruling had less to do with actual scientific proof and more to do with dollar bills...5 million of them to be exact.

    Let me explain...

    Conflicts of interest from start to finish
    First off, the FDA ruling on BPA in 2008 was based on just two studies. And those were funded by the American Plastics Council. Clearly, they have a stake in keeping the status quo.

    And if that weren't enough of a conflict of interest…

    Martin Philbert is the founder and co-director of the University of Michigan Risk Science Center. Sounds benign enough, right? Well, he's also the Chairman of the FDA panel that put out the 2008 report on BPA telling us it was safe.

    But good old Marty has some explaining to do.

    Last year, reporters discovered that Philbert's Risk Science Center received a $5 million donation (that's 50 times the organization's annual budget) from a very dubious source. The donation came from Charles Gelman, an activist who, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal "has fought against government regulation of pollutants for years." He's also gone on record saying he believes BPA does not pose a threat to public health. It should come as no surprise that Gelman's hefty donation was sent to the Risk Science Center just before Philbert was set to rule on BPA safety in 2008.

    Even more interesting is that Philbert never disclosed the large donation to the FDA. It only came to light after reporters asked about it. But not to FDA associate commissioner looked into it. Since Philbert's salary wasn't paid by the $5 million donation, he's certain there wasn't a conflict of interest.


    Well, after some urging last week by two U.S. senators, it looks like the new FDA chief Margaret Hamburg, M.D. might actually have to fess up to the gaffe and reconsider last year's BPA ruling. Turns out that the ruling may have been made a bit hastily.

    I'd say!

    In any case, folks, if you're still unsure whether your plastic containers contain BPA, look for a recycling number somewhere on the bottom of the item. If it's got a #7 on it, you know it's got BPA in it.

    Plus -- it's wise to avoid all canned foods as these are likely to contain BPA as well. Go for fresh, organic string beans, peaches, and corn this summer, instead of the canned variety. I'm sure your local farmer's market has opened for the season, so it's a perfect time to clear out that pantry of all your canned foods. Or get really serious and plant your own beans this year!

  2. Glorious grapes!

    The other day, reading through my ‘Inbox,’ I came across an e-mail about an all-natural grape seed treatment for leukemia. The gist of the article claimed that grape seeds could kill 76 percent of diseased cells overnight. Being the skeptic that I am, I thought this sounded way too good to be true.

    Where did these results come from, I wondered? It had to be a fluke, concocted by some backward scientist in Slovakia. How could an all-natural remedy really kill 76 percent of leukemia cells overnight?

    However, after checking into the research myself, I found that the study was conducted at the University of Kentucky. (No, it wasn’t Harvard, but a big university laboratory nevertheless.) I also found that the results got published in the highly-respected, peer-reviewed medical journal Clinical Cancer Research.

    Okay, these little grape seeds had my attention. Now what? How do they destroy leukemia cells so quickly?

    First, let’s back up. I probably should explain a little bit about leukemia so you can truly appreciate how promising this study could be in the years to come for any family touched by this brutal disease.

    It’s the goliath of cancer
    Leukemia is a vicious type of cancer that attacks the lifeline of your body: your blood. Normally, blood cells start out as stem cells made in the bone marrow. Then they mature into:

    • White blood cells (which help fight infection)
    • Red blood cells (deliver oxygen to vital organs and tissues in your body)
    • Platelets (help form blood clots when you get a cut or injury)

    In healthy individuals, blood cells have a life cycle. When this happens, the old cells get replaced by new, healthy cells that are made in the bone marrow. It’s this natural turnover that helps keep you free from disease.

    But in leukemia patients, this natural system has gone awry. The bone marrow begins to produce abnormal white blood cells that don’t die. Over time, the abnormal cells crowd out the healthy blood cells.

    As a result, diseased cells take over the blood stream. Leukemia patients can become prone to infection, grow tired easily, and become anemic.

    Plus, sometimes the treatment’s worse than the disease
    Treatment depends on the type of leukemia (there are four main types). Most mainstream routes involve some type of rigorous chemotherapy regimen, steroids, radiation, or even bone marrow transplants.

    The road is far from easy for a leukemia patient. That’s why a proven and effective non-toxic treatment like grape seed extract is such welcome news.

    What led scientists to test grape seeds?
    The majority of research into grape seed extract has focused on promoting heart health. But recent studies have shown that grape seeds also seem to protect you against cancer.

    Grape seeds contain loads of proanthocyanidin, an antioxidant thought to be 20 times more powerful than vitamin C. These antioxidants seem to neutralize roaming free radicals in your body that can cause cancer and disease.

    In recent lab tests, grape seed extract has been shown to work against cancers of the breast, lung, and prostate. As recently as 2006, a very promising study funded by the US National Cancer Institute showed that grape seed extract could control the spread of colon cancer in mice.

    Up until now, however, scientists dared not even dream that the natural extract could touch a disease as complex as leukemia.

    A quick end for abnormal cells
    In a new in vitro experiment (which means the work was conducted in test tubes with human cells, not animal cells), grape seed extract caused 76 percent of leukemia cells to literally ‘commit cell suicide.’

    And, this mass drop-off (a process known as apoptosis) occurred within 24 hours. Plus, unlike chemotherapy, which kills all replicating cells (even hair cells), the grape seed extract left healthy cells alone.

    Send those leukemia cells packing
    Researchers at the University of Kentucky discovered that grape seed extract activates JNK, a protein that regulates the apoptosis pathway. So the extract literally sends the leukemia cells packing, never to be seen again.

    According to the study’s lead author Xianglin Shi, PhD, Professor in the Graduate Center for Toxicology at the University of Kentucky: "These results could have implications for the incorporation of agents such as grape seed extract into prevention or treatment of hematological malignancies and possibly other cancers."

    While this treatment has only been proven in the lab, not on human patients, the results are extremely promising.

    Check out your local health food store
    Grape seed extract is actually pretty easy to come by. And it’s cheap too. For preventative measures, I would recommend 200 mg per day (under the care of a naturopath, of course).

    If you’ve got leukemia and would like to add grape seed extract to your regimen, check with your doctor or hematologist first. There hasn’t been a lot of research into how grape seed interacts with other drugs or supplements you may be taking. I’d use caution and probably stick pretty close to 200 mg a day. (As a side note: In a 12-month study, rats were given 100 mg of grape seed extract and they safely tolerated that dosage. It wouldn’t be a stretch to assume 200 mg is a safe dosage for humans.)

    Also, buyers beware that grape seed extract is sometimes shortened to "GSE.” But that acronym is also sometimes used as an acronym for grapefruit seed extract.

    As research into this promising, non-toxic leukemia treatment continues, I’ll be sure to keep you updated.

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