22 August 2013

Toy safety: China made vs USA made

Our common perception tell us that China made = bad, USA made = safer. Lets see below quoted from HealthyStuff.org:
Are products made in the USA safer than those made in other countries?
HealthyStuff.org has not found a consistent correlation between the country of manufacture and the presence of toxic chemicals in products. A lot of our consumer products are produced outside of the U.S. For example, eighty percent of all toys purchased in the U.S. are made in China. Therefore, the majority of toys that we've previously tested were from China. HealthyStuff.org has not found a consistent correlation between the country of manufacture and the presence of toxic chemicals in toys. Twenty-one percent of toys from China and 16% of those from all other countries had detectable levels of lead in 2008. In 2008, 17 toys manufactured in the U.S. were sampled and 35% of those had detectable levels of lead. Seven toys (2%) had levels above 600 ppm. One of the highest lead levels detected (190,943 ppm) was on a Halloween Pumpkin Pin made in the USA. In addition, our tests of vehicles and car seats produced in the U.S. consistently show elevated levels of one or more hazardous chemicals. These levels of hazardous chemiclas in US manufactured products are comparable to similar products produced in Asia or Europe.
Most importantly, I think, is to find toy companies that committed to provide non-toxic safe toys.


21 August 2013

Toxic Toys

I do not remember having a lot of toys when I was small, but we bought a lot of toys for the kids. Our toys ranges from the few dollars cheap plastic toys to higher end toys that are made of organic wood and painted with soy based ink.

Ever since I become a homemaker taking care two kids, I read up a lot of health & safety articles and in particular: toys safety. I have heard about toys being recalled so I have been assuming that toys left on the shelf, especially those sold in big toys store, are safe.

It was then I read an article which provided a link to the HealthyStuff.org. HealthyStuff.org tested a wide range of children toys for some hazardous chemical with a portable X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyser and compiled a report. I was shocked by their finding that one in three children's toys tested by HealthyToys.org found to have significant levels of toxic chemicals including lead, flame retardants, and arsenic (I have no idea why those toys are not being recalled yet!). Half of my kids' toys ended up in the rubbish bin. Few companies that have been perform consistently well are LEGO, Plan Toys and Gund. Children jewellery was identified as the most contaminated product category.

This finding open my eyes to the bigger picture, if those hazardous chemical can be so easily found in children toys, how about all other stuff that adults are using such as necklace, earring, bag, purse, table cloth, chair, car seat, etc? I did a search and indeed as I have guessed, the hazardous chemical can be found too. As a parent I believe you will agree that the kids nowadays are no longer settled for their toys, they like to meddle with our stuff.  Changing all those things at once for a better non-toxic alternative may cost a fortune. We have to weigh the pro and cons of each product. For example, if it is just a toy, we can throw it (nothing more important than your child safety). However, if it does serve an important purpose and the cost of replacing it is too high to bear, then probably it can stay. 

A precaution to take will be to wash your kids' hands often, before meal and before sleep. No matter what you decide, there is no way (or unrealistically expensive) for us to be sure of everything we use are toxic free. After all, as quoted from someone, 'that is the cost of living in this modern society'.

10 August 2013

New blogger, more coverage

Dear readers, starting from August 2013, Gingybite from The Yummy Journey will contribute post on this blog. She will be covering topic such as safety and toxicity of everyday things with special emphasis on kids stuff. Despite of the increase coverage of topic, I will keep the blog title as it is.

06 August 2013

Cultured Beef

Vegan from PETA rejoice! Now you can eat beef without feeling guilty, because Maastricht University (funded by Sergey Brin of Google) have created cultured beef. The culture is grown from a cow's stem cell. The meat has been made into a burger patty, cooked and eaten. Anyone would like a $300,000 burger?

21 May 2013

Microbes are your friend

Hannah Whitaker for The New York Times
Last week NYTimes article by Michael Pollan brought a fascinating research result from the frontier of Health Science. The gist of the article basically said that our rampant use of antibiotics, our diet of processed foods, environmental toxin and generally less "microbial pressure" (i.e. sterile environment) in everyday life affects the biodiversity of microbes in our gut. Because of this, we're more susceptible to condition like allergies, asthma and diabetes. Who is up for fecal transplant when sick?

What mother eat affect the breast-milk

Another sad case where a vegan-couple who didn't take Vit B12 and Vit A on their diet and have their baby fully breast-fed. The baby died malnourished. This is a strong case that while plant-based diet shown to be healthy, strict veganism is not!

06 May 2013

What the world eats?

Time's article featured photos by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluision from their book "Hungry Planet". Their portraits feature pictures of each family with a week's worth of food purchases. We soon learn that diet is determined by largely uncontrollable forces like poverty, conflict and globalization, which can bring change with startling speed. Thus cultures can move, sometimes in a single jump, from traditional diets to the vexed plenty of global-food production. People have more to eat and, too often, eat more of nutritionally questionable food. And their health suffers.



North Carolina, USA



California, USA





Texas, USA













08 April 2013

Fight Obesity: Freakonomics way

For you who haven't read Freakonomics, it is a book by an economist that look at how the world works from different angle. Like how two decades after "row v wade" US have lower crime rate. Anyway, on their recent podcast, Steve Levitt (the economist) was hired by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to brainstorm of ways to fight childhood obesity. He got dozen participants to explore the biological, behavioral, political and economic angles of obesity.

The participants are: Peter Attia, a former surgeon who now runs a nonprofit focused on nutrition; Kelly Brownell from the Rudd Center For Food Policy & Obesity at Yale; Geoffrey Canada of Harlem Children’s Zone; Bill Dietz, the former director of the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity at the CDC; Chris Economos, who studies obesity and childhood nutrition at Tufts ; Steven Gortmaker of the Harvard School of Public Health; Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman; Harvard economist David Laibson; RWJF Health Group senior vice president Jim Marks; Brian Mullaney, co-founder of Smile Train and WonderWork; Eric Oliver, a political scientist at the University of Chicago who has written a book about obesity; and Mary Story from the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota.

And on this discussion, no idea is out of the table, even the outlandish one. Go check it out.

18 March 2013

Coconut Milk

For my lunch today, I eat vegan Indian food. As you know, Indian cuisine often use coconut milk, just like Thai and Indonesian, in their cuisine. Many bodies around the world such as WHO, FDA and American Heart Association are recommend against consuming in significant amount due to its high level of saturated fat. However is coconut milk / oil really that  bad? Unrefined coconut milk contain large proportion of lauric acid, which is good in increasing your HDL. Not only that virgin coconut-oil is composed mainly of medium-chain triglycerides, which may not carry the same risks as other saturated fat.
So, how to solve this paradox? In this article, Ivy explain that the word unrefined and/or unprocessed are the key to answer this. Processed coconut oils contain hydrogenated oils (which contain trans fats) that are harmful to your health, not the unrefined coconut. Early studies on the health effects of coconut oil used partially hydrogenated coconut oil and not virgin coconut oil, which has a different health risk profile. While I am not suggesting you start eat lots of coconut meat or adding coconut oil by spoon full to every meal, unrefined coconut consumed in moderation is okay. However, when eating out, it is quite unlikely you will find eating places that will be using unrefined coconut milk or virgin coconut oil (since they spoil very fast), hence it is best to avoid food that use them (unless you it is explicitly mention that they use unrefined / unprocessed coconut milk).

17 March 2013

Fast Diet

NYTimes reported a new diet craze in England. The book, "The Fast Diet", is an instant best-seller since its introduction in January 2013. Why does it caught all this frenzy? Because it said that you can eat anything you want as long as you fast 2-days in a week. Personally I find this is nothing new since it is similar to the diet concept of "Calorie Restriction" that I describe on the post about Key Concepts in Healthy Diet.

16 March 2013

Link between sugar and onset of diabetes

If my earlier post, we have seen why sugar is toxic. A new study from PLOS shows that it’s not just obesity that can cause diabetes: sugar can cause it, too, irrespective of obesity; and obesity does not always lead to diabetes. In his book, "Fat Chance", Robert Lustig write about beating the odds against sugar, processed food and diabetes. Or you can read a short NYTimes article about this by Mark Bittman.

15 March 2013

Mediterranean diet ward off heart disease

A report from New England Journal of Medicine shows that a traditional Mediterranean diet (characterized by a high intake of olive oil, fruit, nuts, vegetables, and cereals; a moderate intake of fish and poultry; a low intake of dairy products, red meat, processed meats, and sweets; and wine in moderation, consumed with meals) is effective as a primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. You can find the article in layman term at NYTimes. However, Dr. Esselstyn, the author of the best seller “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure” dismissed the study. He believe in strict vegan diet and not even allowing olive-oil. My take? If you are healthy with no known family history of cardiovascular disease, I think an occasional small amount of olive-oil is fine (it is probably the healthiest oil out there). But if you have cholesterol issue or had some history of cardiovascular disease, I would say it is probably wiser to listen to Dr. Esselstyn.

Addictive Junk Food

Why is it that unhealthy food (aka junk food) taste so good and addictive? This article gave an excerpt from Michael Moss' book, "Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooks Us", of the science of addiction. Very good reading.

14 March 2013

Celiac-disease and gluten-free diet

Often time when I went to shop for grocery in organic shops, I often encounter food labeled as "wheat free" or "gluten" free. At first, I thought what is wrong with gluten, is it considered unhealthy? As someone who do not have celiac disease, I found out that there are quite numbers of people (mostly live in city of 1st world countries) have "wheat allergy" or "gluten sensitivity". This NYTimes article, "Who has the guts for gluten?", describe the reason why the occurrence happens higher in people who live in certain environment or lifestyle.

13 March 2013

Some backlog articles

I have been pretty busy for the past few months and haven't update much, on the next few days I will post some of my backlog write-up. Here we go:

Health over look

I love the Dove Real Beauty campaign. I found that nowadays we are bombarded with unrealistic model of beauty. And that make some people diet to lose weight (as an attempt to achieve media stereotype of beauty) rather than to be healthy. The article "Eating for Health, not Weight" is best summarized why is it so.

Mislabeled food

Unless you are a seafood foodies, it is quite hard for most people on the street to know the differences of different fish. That is why numbers of food establishment have been cheating their customer. This reminds me of one point when I vacationing in Bali, we chose a live crab for our dinner. I know how to choose a good one. But when it come out on the table, it was not the one that I chose. I am absolutely sure because I recognized them by their claw.

Long John Silver "real" lobster