Detoxing Your Teeth & Gums?

You know that the popular idea of “detox” has jumped the shark when Crest starts using it in the name of one of its product lines.

Crest Gum Detoxify

We’re not exactly sure what makes this product so “detoxifying.” The main difference between it and other Crest lines seems to be that it has about twice the concentration of fluoride – itself a toxin.

Oops.

But who can blame them for jumping on the bandwagon? “Detox” sells. And lately, we’ve seen it used more often than ever to sell toothpaste.

Most of these pastes are “natural” products, containing ingredients such as activated charcoal, bentonite clay, and an assortment of antimicrobial essential oils. You can find them anywhere from etsy to your local organic market.

My Magic Mud toothpaste

And there’s certainly nothing wrong with such pastes. They’re chemical-free, and ingredients such as charcoal and clay can help remove stains and brighten your smile. But while those ingredients are also known detoxers, it’s a bit of a stretch to call brushing your teeth “detox,” even if antimicrobials are used to help keep oral pathogens in check. Brushing is largely about breaking up the microbial colonies – biofilm/plaque – that grow between cleanings. We wouldn’t call flossing “detox” either.

The use of the term seems more a marketing hook than anything.

But it also brings up a point that bears some emphasis: If you have mercury amalgam “silver” fillings or other metal restorations in your mouth, you should steer clear from any toothpastes containing chelators such as bentonite clay and activated charcoal. (The Crest paste appears to contain a potential chelator, as well: sodium gluconate.) Not only does the physical action of brushing accelerate metal ion release from the restorations; such ingredients may accelerate it even further. Those metals may then be inhaled and introduced to the general circulation.

A gentler paste such as Tooth and Gum Essentials, for instance, would be a better option until you’ve had your amalgams replaced with biocompatible alternatives and have undergone full and proper detox under a professional’s guidance.

Real detox isn’t something to take so casually.

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Microbes, Microbes Everywhere

A woman goes into a public restroom and holds an open petri dish in an enclosed hand dryer for three minutes. She takes a picture of the petri dish and posts it publicly on Facebook.

And her post becomes just the latest thing to “break the internet.”

hand dryer petri dish Facebook post

Sure, some of those growths might be “pathogenic fungi and bacteria.” Or they might not be. But as many a commenter has since pointed out, they’re exactly what you would expect by just opening a petri dish anywhere. That’s what they’re made for: growing stuff, including microbes, good and bad alike.

And microbes are everywhere. One paper in the Journal of Virology estimated that there can be up to 40 million viruses and 11 million bacteria in every cubic foot of air. The researchers calculated that “we breathe in a few hundred thousand viruses every minute.”

What’s more, your very own body contains more microbes than human cells. Many are necessary to support good health. Recent research suggests that, in fact, a lack of microbial diversity may raise the risk of health problems, oral and systemic alike.

Other research has shown that, in the words of one news release, we each “emit” our “own personal microbial cloud.”

Consider what that might grow on a petri dish!

Yet the woman who posted the pic seems convinced that hand dryers are the problem. As MSN reported,

[she] says her experiment has changed the way she sanitizes after using public bathrooms.

“From now on I just wash and scrub, and dry on my clothes or shake and air dry OUTSIDE of the restroom.”

She has also since disclosed that she works for a company that develops hygiene products, which may explain a little or a lot of her original post. And of course good hygiene matters.

Yet even with good hygiene, microbes are everywhere. Whether the ones we’re exposed to will help or harm depends, as ever, on the state of the individual’s biological terrain. Bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microbial life can only thrive if given the right environment in which to thrive – just as tomatoes, say, will only thrive when grown in the right soil under the right conditions.

The terrain is everything.

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Fat Is Not the Villain

knife and fork For decades, dietary fat has been portrayed as a villain. And for decades, that hypothesis has been challenged.

Now, recent evidence lends even more weight to the notion that sugars and refined carbs are the real demons fueling all manner of chronic disease. And more folks are beginning to pay attention.

In the article below, from the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, Dr. Damien Downing discusses this important, imminent change to the old standard dietary advice.

 

Fat Is My Friend

Commentary by Damien Downing, MBBS

Throughout 2017 I kept saying “This looks like the year that the whole fat-cholesterol-heart disease hypothesis falls apart.” Well for once it looks like I was right. Today (I write on Jan 1st 2018) the annual review from Diabetes.co.uk carries 3 game-changing headlines from the past year:

  • “Saturated fat myth challenged”
  • “High carb diet ‘increases heart risks’”
  • “Eating low fat could increase early death risk”

Let’s look at the history. (Flashback effects, please.)

Interior: a scientific laboratory at Oxford University, 1956
Eccentric British scientist Professor Hugh MacDonald Sinclair is doing something with a test tube. This is a man who lived on a complete Inuit diet (no plants, no land animals) for 3 months and said it was fine, except that because of the anticoagulant effect: “When I prune the roses my boots fill up with blood.”

Professor Sinclair:
We were fortunate in having Dr. Ancel Keys recently to work with us and I had been impressed in general with his belief that total dietary fat, of whatever kind, was related to atheroma. Since then I have come to realize that Keys’s hypothesis is not correct: what matters in atheroma is, I believe, the amount and structure of the dietary fatty acids.

Sinclair actually wrote that in a letter to the Lancet (1), which was described at the time as a professional suicide note – and so it proved; he lost his job and his laboratory soon after. Mind you, as he later explained, that was exactly 10 years after Oxford University’s medical advisers had reported that a generous offer from the recently established Wellcome Trust…to establish a Wellcome Institute of Human Nutrition should be refused because; ‘in 10 years’ time there will be no human nutritional problems to work on.’

Honestly, do you laugh or cry?

Sinclair described his own theory on lipids simply:

The causes of death that have increased most in recent years are lung cancer, coronary thrombosis, and leukemia; I believe that in all three groups deficiency of EFA (Essential Fatty Acid) may be important.

Now, six decades later, researchers are finally demonstrating that he was right. What kept them?

Keys and Fats

Apparently Ancel Keys didn’t like the weather in Britain, nor his job of lecturing undergraduates, and he soon escaped to southern Italy, where he later built a villa on the proceeds of a couple of diet books. He continued to develop his theory on fats, and in 1978 first published the now-infamous Seven Countries Study (2). This showed that there was an association between high cholesterol and risk of cardiovascular disease, but made the fundamental error of assuming that association meant causation.

The Seven Countries Study sparked a vigorous debate about “causal inference” and led to the guidelines that in Britain we know as the Bradford-Hill criteria (3), although in the USA they are rightly attributed to the Surgeon General’s report on Smoking and Health of 1964 (4), which used them to nail down that smoking-and-cancer causation once and for all.

Too late to catch Ancel out, though – the fat and heart hypothesis caught on and led to 50 years and a multi-billion dollar industry of low-fat food – and to massive increases in obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer….

Not to mention statins of course – a $30 billion turnover per annum industry, last time I checked. No wonder Sir Rory Collins of the Cholesterol Treatment Trials (CTT) Collaboration (also at Oxford Uni) has been fighting a rearguard action for years now against, well, anybody who can think, really. He furiously attacked the BMJ (5) for publishing a paper which slightly exaggerated the 17% rate of side-effects in people taking statins into “nearly 20%”, and claimed it would cost lives (6). When asked to show the raw data on side effects he said he couldn’t because it belonged to the Pharma companies who funded the studies. (The dog ate my homework.)

Statins and Stats

One of the good guys in this is Uffe Ravnskov in Sweden, who has been challenging and questioning the fat-heart hypothesis for years. He co-authored a great paper in 2015 called How statistical deception created the appearance that statins are safe and effective.(7)

How did they do that? Using one of the oldest fairground statistical tricks in the book – confusing the difference between relative and absolute risk. This paper explains:

Consider a 5-year trial that includes 2000 healthy, middle-aged men. The aim of the trial is to see if a statin can prevent heart disease. Half of the participants are administered the statin and the other half a placebo. In most clinical trials, we find that during a period of 5 years about 2% of all healthy, middle-aged men experience a nonfatal myocardial infarction (MI). Consequently, at the end of our hypothetical trial, 2% of the placebo-treated men and 1% of the statin-treated men suffered an MI. Statin treatment, therefore, has been of benefit to 1% of the treated participants.

Thus, the Absolute Risk Reduction, which quantifies how effective a treatment is on the population at risk, was one percentage point. When it comes to presenting the findings of this hypothetical trial…using Relative Risk Reduction the directors can state that statin treatment reduced the incidence of heart disease by 50%, because 1 is 50% of 2.

A better, less fudge-able way of looking at the figures is using NNT – the Number Needed to Treat in order to benefit one person. In this example, you would need to treat 100 men with statins to prevent heart attack in one. Thennt.com is a great website and what it actually says right now about statins (in persons without known heart disease) is (8):

None were helped (life saved)
1 in 104 were helped (preventing heart attack)
1 in 154 were helped (preventing stroke)
1 in 50 were harmed (develop diabetes)
1 in 10 were harmed (muscle damage)

It’s not great, is it? How could we all get it so wrong? I blame Ancel Keys (and the weather in Oxford – though it’s not that bad, honestly). And the food and pharmaceutical industries, for whom it’s been far from wrong; sell them junk food that makes them fat and ill, then sell them drugs that don’t make them much better, and just keep on doing it year after year.

I do blame Ancel Keys, because the other big study he was involved with was the Minnesota Coronary Experiment (1968-73), on which he was co-principal investigator. This actually showed that lowering cholesterol from the study average of 208 mg/dL to 178 mg/dL (US units) or 5.4 mmol/L to 4.6 mmol/L (UK units) will increase your risk of death by 35%. Keys must have known this in 1973, but he/they never published it. It took a re-analysis in 2016 (9) to figure it out.

Meanwhile, back at the 3 headlines:

The saturated fat myth
The first of these news items – Saturated fat myth challenged – reports on an April 25, 2017 editorial (10) in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (no idea why that journal, but it’s part of the BMJ group – the same one attacked by Rory Collins so vigorously):

Saturated fat does not clog the arteries: coronary heart disease is a chronic inflammatory condition, the risk of which can be effectively reduced from healthy lifestyle interventions.

Despite popular belief among doctors and the public, the conceptual model of dietary saturated fat clogging a pipe is just plain wrong. A landmark systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies showed no association between saturated fat consumption and (1) all-cause mortality, (2) coronary heart disease (CHD), (3) CHD mortality, (4) ischaemic stroke or (5) type 2 diabetes in healthy adults.

The landmark systematic review referred to is the PURE study (11).

Take-home message? It’s in the title: Saturated fat does not clog the arteries. So tell me, did you read about that in the papers or online? It hasn’t exactly set the world on fire. I wonder why that is.

I have to add a small qualifier here, or people will challenge me with papers like this one (12) which does show a small decrease in coronary heart disease, with decreasing sat fat intake (18 percent relative risk, which means an absolute risk reduction of 1 in 1000 per person per year). This is true, but it’s not as big a story as the harm done by too much carbs.

High carb diet increases risk
The second one – High carb diet ‘increases heart risks’ – reports how leading cardiologist and former President of the World Heart Federation Dr Salim Yusuf has publicly stated, in a lecture at a major cardiology conference, that increased intake of carbohydrate is harmful.

Key quotes:

Some fats are good, some fats may be neutral but it is carbohydrate that is the worst thing.

* * *

Absolutely no evidence that low-fat milk is better for you.

* * *

If you look at dairy sources of fat, it is protective. If you look at meat sources of saturated fats, it is neutral and if you look at white meat, this is chicken and fish, there’s a trend toward benefit.

Low fat is risky
The final headline – Eating low fat could increase early death risk – also refers to the mega PURE study (135,000 people, 18 countries, 7 years follow-up). A major report appeared in the Lancet on August 29, 2017 (11): Associations of fats and carbohydrate intake with cardiovascular disease and mortality in 18 countries from five continents (PURE): a prospective cohort study.

The stated conclusion was

High carbohydrate intake was associated with higher risk of total mortality, whereas total fat and individual types of fat were related to lower total mortality. Total fat and types of fat were not associated with cardiovascular disease, myocardial infarction, or cardiovascular disease mortality, whereas saturated fat had an inverse association with stroke. Global dietary guidelines should be reconsidered in light of these findings.

Conclusion

So it’s not just me, or “lunatic charlatans” like me, saying it: it’s official now. Sugar is the Devil, and Fat is our Friend. But remember, Sinclair was right – it’s not just that we all eat too much carbs, we also eat too little fat and oil. Way too little. In that Lancet letter he said “there is an enormous increase in permeability of the skin in EFA (Essential Fatty Acid) deficiency” – and capillary, and blood-brain barrier, obviously. We leak essentials out, and toxins in, triggering inflammation that we have leaked the resources to deal with. Eating fat doesn’t make you fat — it is the excess sugar and carbohydrate content in the modern diet, in the absence of adequate doses of nutrients, that causes fat buildup and leads to inflammation, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease. [13,14]

Seriously, we were built to be oil-fueled, not carb-burning. We talk about living off the fat of the land, not the sugar.

Was that really Santa Claus in the red outfit? Could it have been something from the Dark Side?

Dr. Damien Downing, who is almost certainly not from the Dark Side, practices nutritional and environmental medicine. He was co-founder of the British Society for Nutritional Medicine, and is the current president of the British Society for Ecological Medicine. Dr. Downing is author of The Vitamin Cure for Allergies and coauthor of The Vitamin Cure for Digestive Problems.

References

  1. Sinclair HM. Deficiencies of essential fatty acids and atherosclerosis, etcetera. Lancet 1:381-3, 1956
  2. Ancel Keys (ed). Seven Countries: A multivariate analysis of death and coronary heart disease, 1980. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-80237-3.
  3. Bradford-Hill, A., 1965. The Environment and Disease: Association or Causation? Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 58, pp.295-300. http://ift.tt/2ErRcz8
  4. US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the Public Health Service. Public Health Service Publication No. 1103, 1964. http://ift.tt/2shrvwq
  5. http://ift.tt/2hya5lf , accessed 2018-01-05
  6. Doctors’ fears over statins may cost lives, says top medical researcher. Guardian.com, 21 march 2014 (accessed 2018-01-05) http://ift.tt/290IXXU
  7. Diamond, D.M. & Ravnskov, U., 2015. How statistical deception created the appearance that statins are safe and effective in primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Expert Rev. Clin. Pharmacol, 8(2), pp.201-210. http://ift.tt/291bVv1
  8. http://www.thennt.com/, accessed 2018-01-05
  9. Ramsden CE, Zamora D, et al. Re-evaluation of the traditional diet-heart hypothesis: analysis of recovered data from Minnesota Coronary Experiment (1968-73) BMJ 2016;353:i1246. http://ift.tt/2wcJtAQ
  10. Malhotra A, Redberg RF, Meier P. Saturated fat does not clog the arteries: coronary heart disease is a chronic inflammatory condition, the risk of which can be effectively reduced from healthy lifestyle interventions. BJSM 2017: 51. 15; 1111-1113. http://ift.tt/2Enn8VA
  11. Dehghan M et al [Hundreds of authors] Associations of fats and carbohydrate intake with cardiovascular disease and mortality in 18 countries from five continents (PURE): a prospective cohort study. Lancet 2017; 390: 2050-62. http://ift.tt/2x9syj0
  12. Zong, G. et al., 2016. Intake of individual saturated fatty acids and risk of coronary heart disease in US men and women: two prospective longitudinal cohort studies. Bmj, 355(i5796). Available at: http://ift.tt/2Ennb3I
  13. Campbell R. Sugar Fraud. http://ift.tt/2sdk89f
  14. Smith RG. Toxic Sugar. http://ift.tt/2Eqs1gg

You can subscribe to the OMNS free of charge at http://orthomolecular.org/subscribe.html. To view previous articles, visit their archive at http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/index.shtml.

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So About Those New Blood Pressure Guidelines…

blood pressure dialYou’ve probably heard the one about the change in blood pressure guidelines. It was issued late last year by the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (AAC), and it garnered a lot of media attention. A lot.

Suddenly, millions of Americans became newly eligible for drugs to get their BP below the new magical number of 120/80.

Just as with lowered blood sugar thresholds for diabetes (or, ‘pre-diabetes’), and lower bone density thresholds for osteoporosis (or, ‘osteopenia’), the new ACC/AHA guidelines qualify millions of us for a ‘disease‘ we apparently did not have the day before the guidelines were released.

But what didn’t get so much attention is that large segments of the medical community disagreed with the revised guidelines.

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), for instance, refused to accept them. This organization of roughly 130,000 physicians expressed concern about how much weight was given to a single problematic study, as well as potential conflicts of interest.

More, their own reviews with the American College of Physicians (ACP) showed that while “there might be a small benefit of lower treatment targets in reducing cardiovascular events,”

no benefit was observed in all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality, myocardial infarction or renal events. Therefore, the AAFP and ACP recommended considering treatment to lower targets for some patients in the context of shared decision-making.

“Family physicians approach hypertension treatment on an individualized basis, taking into account patients’ histories, risk factors, preferences and resources,” AAFP President Michael Munger, M.D., told AAFP News. “We will maintain making informed decisions with patients while considering potential benefits and harms.”

Similarly, a recent commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine argued against a one-size-fits-all approach, as though a single health measure could ever be appropriate for all patients; as though the blood pressure goal of a 30-year old should be the same as that of an 80-year old. Such guidelines, they said, are “problematic.”

Some people with blood pressures of 130 to 139/80 to 89 mm Hg who are at higher cardiovascular risk may benefit from earlier intervention, but though such a broad-brush approach may be fine from a public health perspective, it could overburden our primary care physician workforce. Proper blood-pressure measurement is critical but time consuming. The unintended consequence may be that many people, now labeled as patients with hypertension, receive pharmacologic therapy that’s unlikely to provide benefit given their low absolute risk, and they may therefore experience unnecessary adverse events.

Dr.Kenny Lin of Georgetown University would seem to agree.

There’s some point where lower is not better, and I think we’re probably getting close to that point…. If you’re going to make something a ‘disease’ you better have the evidence to support that, and you better have something significant to offer the patient that translates into quality of life. If my patients hit a blood pressure of 130/80 I’m already talking to them about lifestyle changes. So how does redefining this as a ‘disease’ — the new hypertension — really help them? I don’t think we should be labeling people as hypertensive — or even pre-hypertensive — unless the evidence is strong that in doing so, and treating accordingly, we’re going to truly make a difference. In this case, I don’t think we have that evidence.

The situation with these guidelines offers a stark reminder of why individualized medicine matters so much.

You are a person. Blood pressure is just one piece of your total health story – just as root canal teeth, cavitations, or amalgams are just one piece. Each part of your current health status needs to be seen in the context of your total health story – all the challenges you may be facing, all the qualities that are in your favor.

The big picture matters.

PS: Dr. Brownstein offers another great critique of the creation of new patients through ever-changing health guidelines. We encourage you to hop over to his blog and check it out.

Image by Joey Parsons, via Flickr

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You Gotta Have a Gimmick, Raw Water Edition

2 bottles of waterAs we were saying last time, just because something is marketed as “natural” or “healthy” or “wholesome” doesn’t necessarily mean it is.

Such is the case with raw water, which you had probably never heard about until a few weeks ago, when the New York Times ran a story about it as a new, trendy thing.

In case you somehow were lucky to have missed the explosion of media that ensued, “raw water” is untreated water. It may be collected from springs or the atmosphere or even waste from fruit and vegetable processing.

And folks are paying up to $37 for a 2.5 gallon glass jug of the stuff. After all, it’s marketed as “natural” and “healthier” than the stuff that comes out of your tap.

Most of the objection focuses on the potential for untreated water to harbor disease-causing pathogens. Even spring water, notes a recent post at Tree Hugger,

can contain lots of other things, like Giardia or e. Coli. It just takes a beaver pooping upstream, or ducks and seagulls – that’s why campers use water filters and purification tablets even in the middle of pristine Northern wilderness.

Indeed, it’s why humans have treated their water for centuries. Drinking untreated water can make you sick, particularly if you have a compromised biological terrain, as most do in our modern environment.

Consequently, all water that is bottled and sold in the US must be treated in some way. “Even traditional bottled spring water,” noted the Times, “is treated with ultraviolet light or ozone gas and passed through filters to remove algae.”

Yet the presence of bacteria seems to actually be a selling point for raw water. It’s proponents brag about its “probiotic” content. “Processed water” is “dead water,” so the thinking goes.

To be sure, the concerns that are said to be driving interest in raw water are all too real. Contaminants like lead, fluoride, pharmaceutical residues, agricultural runoff, environmental contaminants, and the like are problems, to be sure.

But raw water sources aren’t immune to these. Surface and groundwater alike are subject to industrial pollution in particular.

In fact, as Oregon State chemistry professor May Nyman has said, “Absolutely pure water doesn’t exist.” Why?

Water really “likes” to dissolve other substances inside itself, she said. That’s because water molecules have strange Mickey Mouse shapes, with two hydrogen nuclei at one end and an oxygen nucleus at the other end, each with different electronic charges. Water molecules use those charged hydrogen bonds to interact and cling to one another, but they also cling to any molecule that approaches them. That makes it very likely that water will dissolve a bit of any object it encounters into itself.

And the purer a sample of water gets, the more strongly it will try to dissolve ions from any object it encounters.

In our view, raw water is the stuff of venture capitalism, not health, with possibly well-meaning but misguided business folk making a pretty penny off of justifiable concerns about the quality of our food and drink.

That said, water quality does matter. It’s one of the reasons why we always test our patients’ drinking water when they come in for biological terrain assessment (BTA) – a type of evaluation that arose from the work of French hydrologist Claude Vincent back in the mid-20th century.

Vincent’s job was to find water, purify it, and provide the best possible water for cities, towns, and villages throughout France. In doing so, he learned that there were completely different kinds of water and that these corresponded to certain illnesses. Average mortality increases according to the quality of the water.

One of the most important parameters BTA measures is the correlation between specific pH and oxidative/redox potential (rH2). This is how Vincent measured the quality of the water. The rH2 value is dependent on the pH, since it always rises when the pH becomes more acidic. The pH likewise depends on the rH2. The more contaminants in the fluid, the higher the rH2 and the more acidic the fluid he measured. The rH2 value, which gets increasingly oxidized, causes the biological terrain to become more poisoned.

So what to drink? We favor spring water, as you get its mineral content without fluoride and far fewer environmental contaminants. If tap water is what you’ve got, filter it before drinking. However, be aware that filters such as Brita typically can’t remove compounds such as fluoride. For that, you need something like reverse osmosis. While it will strip out minerals, as well, there are remineralizing attachments you can get to remedy that.

What you don’t need is to be spending nearly $40 for a bottle of raw water with no evidence that it’s any better for you and the potential to actually do some harm.

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So Many Snack Bars, So Relatively Few Healthy Options

Let’s take a minute to talk about snack bars.

snack bar

No, not that kind of snack bar. This kind:

Clif bar

Granola bars. Energy bars. Nutrition bars. Whatever you call them, they’re certainly tasty and convenient. What’s not to love?

How about the massive amount of sugar some of these products can contain, not to mention a veritable laundry list of synthetic chemical additives? How about the murkiness of organic claims around some of them?

Last month, the Cornucopia Institute released a helpful report, aiming to distinguish healthier options from “gimmicky junk food.” Overall, they found that

The majority of mass-market bars contain long ingredient lists with unfamiliar chemical names. In contrast, certified organic bars have far fewer and much simpler ingredients that are, in many cases, nutritious whole foods.

Many companies charge higher prices for ‘natural’ products when there is little, if any, difference from other, less expensive conventional products. Many popular brands shower themselves in ‘do-gooder ethos’ but stop far short of actually fulfilling a legitimate mission, especially when they make the choice to source conventional ingredients.

Those conventional ingredients can be a significant source of pesticide residues and other toxins, counteracting the goodness of any organic, non-GMO ingredients they may contain. Additionally, in products labeled as “made with organics,” the organic ingredients used are “likely” to be cheap ones such as oats or rice flour.

This enables them to legally use the words ‘made with organic’ on the packaging, but not the USDA seal. This rule allows the word ‘organic’ on the front package, even though up to 30% of the contents are not organic.

“Organic,” of course, confers a pretty tremendous health halo around any food it marks, regardless of what that 30% of non-organic ingredients consists of.

The Institute also put together a “snack bar scorecard,” ranking over 100 different bars from a variety of brands. By far, most ranked from merely good to junk food. Only four brands made it to the very top tier: Bearded Brothers Energy Bar (which earned 1550 out of a possible 1600 points), Simple Squares, Raw Crunch Blueberry Lemon, and Lara Bar Organic with Superfoods. (Interestingly, a number of other varieties of Lara Bar ranked much lower.)

The lowest on the list? Fiber One Protein Bars, with a score of exactly zero.

The report is a good read, and includes helpful tips for choosing healthier options from among the dreck. A snapshot:

  1. Buy certified organic products.
  2. Support companies that exclusively manufacture and offer USDA certified organic products.
  3. Look for whole ingredients.
  4. Avoid protein isolates, especially those that are not labeled organic.
  5. Choose bars with lower levels of added sweeteners.
  6. Choose bars without added flavors and colors.
  7. Choose bars without harmful synthetic and non-organic preservatives, emulsifiers, and gums.

Or you could just make your own. Bars are quick and easy to make, and you have more control over what goes in them (or doesn’t go in them, as the case may be). There are tons of great recipes online, including gluten-free and vegan options. Here are a few recipe collections to get you started.

Do be aware, though, that some of these can still contain high amounts of sugar. Yes, honey, agave, maple syrup, and other “natural” sweeteners count, as do dates, which are commonly used to help bind bars, as well as sweeten them. Sugars, of course, fuel both decay and the chronic inflammation that marks gum disease.

Similarly, bars can often be on the sticky side, giving those sugars more time in contact with your teeth – and the bacteria that colonize on them between cleanings.

We suggest that if you do choose to eat them, you make them just a once-in-a-while thing, not, say, a daily pick-me-up in the afternoon or regular meal replacement. And do brush and floss afterwards.

To download the full report from the Cornucopia Institute, click here.

Images by Leonard J. DeFrancisci & Marco Verch, via Wikimedia Commons

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Just How Common Is BPA in Dental Sealants?

placing sealantAccording to the logic of the American Dental Association, the BPA released from many dental sealants is “safe” because kids get more exposure to this endocrine disrupting chemical from other products.

We didn’t say we understand how that logic works. We can say that it totally sidesteps the fact that exposure from sealants does occur.

Now a new paper in Environmental Research suggests some of the scope of the problem.

An international research team studied the composition of 70 dental resins available for sealant use in the US, representing 19 brands from 15 manufacturers. Of these, 65 were found to contain either BPA or bisphenol A diglycidyl ethers (BADGEs).

That’s over 90% of all products.

And it’s in line with the results of a survey of 130 resins marketed in Europe. Over 86% of them were found to be based on BPA-derivatives. Only 18 products were completely BPA-free.

In the US study, researchers

found that 65 of the 70 sealants contained at least one of eight bisphenol analogues. Among these analogues, BPA was the most abundant (46%), at concentrations that ranged from below quantification levels to 1,070 µg/g. The group noted that unpolymerized BPA-based monomers can leach into saliva, followed by systemic absorption into the bloodstream.

Bisphenol F was the second most abundant bisphenol found, with a detection rate of 24% and concentrations ranging from below quantification levels to 374 ng/g. Other bisphenols were less frequently detected.

BADGE levels were found as high as 1780 µg/g.

And the worst case scenario? The authors noted that

The worst-case exposure scenario with the highest measured concentration of total BPs and BADGEs and application on 8 teeth at 8 mg each yielded an estimated daily intake (EDI) of 1670 and 5850 ng/kg·bw/day for adults and children, respectively. Although the EDI is below the specific migration limit set by the European Food Safety Authority, dental sealants are a source of exposure to BPs and BADGEs, especially in children.

Because of this, “It would be ideal to have BPA/BADGE-free dental sealant to avoid exposures in people who receive sealants and dentists who apply sealants,” noted one of the study’s authors.

We agree. And they do exist. And the conscientious biological or holistic dentist will do their utmost to make sure that only those resins are used when placing sealants.

But what if you or your child already has BPA-releasing materials in your mouth? The safest and sanest thing to do is leave them there. The greatest exposure has already happened. Within a week of placement, BPA release dwindles to near zero. Removing the sealant would only subject the teeth to unnecessary trauma while delivering very little benefit.

Then, if your dentist recommends sealant again, make sure the new one is BPA-free.

Image via Studio Dentaire

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