Health & Wellness


Canada refuses to label cloned meat 'organic'

Is eating steak made from a cloned cow more appealing if it was raised organically?

The answer is no, according to Canadian food authorities.

Canada has declared organic food and cloned animals to be mutually exclusive -- which means any products derived from cloned animals won't carry the country's new organic logo.

The restriction will be introduced under a sweeping set of revised national guidelines, released last week, that are designed to regulate the country's organic food industry and prevent companies from making false or misleading claims.

Last year, U.S. health officials declared that any cloned milk or meat could not be called organic.


'Experiment of nature' examines how mother's diet may impact on child's health

Could our mother's diet at the time we are conceived set the course for our future health? This intriguing question is at the heart of a new study based on an "experiment of nature" being conducted by Wellcome Trust-funded researchers.

We inherit our DNA - the genetic blueprint that determines our make-up - from our parents: 50% of our DNA from our mothers and 50% from our fathers. Apart from the occasional mutation, deletion or duplication of information, this DNA remains unchanged between generations.

The environment, for example our diet, whether we smoke, and the toxins that we encounter in our daily life, can cause changes in how our genes are expressed - in other words, how they function - and these changes can be inherited, even when the DNA sequence itself does not change. These so-called "epigenetic" effects can occur through a process known as DNA methylation, where methyl caps bind to our DNA and act like dimmer switches on our genes.

Take 2

Giant Foods Issues Potato Product Recall

Bacterial Contamination Fears Spur Recall Order

Baltimore - Two grocers have issued a recall on some potato products.

Giant Food and Stop & Shop have pulled 20 oz. bags of Simply Potatoes Shredded Hash Browns, Simply Potatoes Homestyle Slices and Simply Potatoes Red Potato Wedges.

The products were recalled by Northern Star Co., a subsidiary of food processor Michael Foods Inc. The recalled items all have "use by" dates on their packages ranging from March 29 to April 3, 2009.

The products may be contaminated with listeria monocytogenes, a bacteria that can cause flu-like symptoms, such as high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness and nausea. The bacteria can be very damaging for pregnant women or those with weakened immune systems.


China: 70 ill from tainted pig organs

Beijing - At least 70 people in one Chinese province have suffered food poisoning in recent days after eating pig organs contaminated by a banned food additive, state-run media reported Monday.

Health officials in the Guangdong province in southeast China said most were treated at hospitals and released, but at least three people remained hospitalized, the China Daily newspaper reported.

The victims complained of stomach aches and diarrhea after eating pig organs bought in local markets since Thursday, China's Xinhua news agency reported. A local health official said initial investigations indicated that the pig organs were contaminated by clenbuterol, an additive that is banned in pig feed in China.

Three people were detained for suspected involvement in raising and selling contaminated pigs, authorities said.

Clenbuterol can prevent pigs from accumulating fat but is harmful to humans and can be fatal. One of the largest food poisoning cases involving clenbuterol happened in Shanghai in September 2006, when 336 people were hospitalized after eating pig meat or organs contaminated with the additive, China Daily said.


Why New Mothers Need Extra Attention

Around the globe, giving birth and caring for a baby is mostly women's work.

But that work is fraught with difficulty, and women are often navigating a sea of critical choices as they try to breast-feed and bring up a child, especially under conditions of scarcity.

Recent research by anthropologist Barbara Piperata of Ohio State University has shown that one of the most pressing issues for new mothers is the caloric cost of breast-feeding. Piperata has lived with the Ribeirinha people of the Amazon and analyzed how women in a culture that doesn't utilize a grocery store might cope with the high caloric demands of feeding a baby. Breast-feeding, it seems, takes an extra one-third of calories per day, and that increase is critical among the Ribeirinha, where women eat the meat and fish brought home by their husbands, and food is generally hard to come by.

Arrow Down

Eating eggs linked to lowering high blood pressure, new study shows

There's one more reason to put eggs back on the menu.

Researchers in Canada have published evidence that eggs, often frowned upon because of their cholesterol content, may actually reduce a major risk factor in heart disease: high blood pressure.

In fact, they found that eggs may be just as effective in bringing down high blood pressure as ACE-inhibiting prescription drugs.


Some of Your Body's Cells Have a 'License to Kill'

Millions of "natural killer cells" -- nature's first line of defense against cancer, viruses and other infectious microbes --- are on constant patrol inside your body.

These tiny assassins, the immune system's rapid-response team, can quickly spot a dangerous cell, poke holes in its outer wall and release poisons to destroy it. They also alert other immune cells to join the attack.

Despite their forbidding name, natural killer cells are the good guys in the never-ending war against disease.


Scientists close in on 'universal' vaccine for flu: study

Scientists on Sunday unveiled lab-made human antibodies that can disable several types of influenza, including highly-lethal H5N1 bird flu and the "Spanish Flu" strain that killed tens of millions in 1918.

Tested in mice, the antibodies work by binding to a previously obscure structure in the flu virus which, when blocked, sabotages the pathogen's ability to enter the cell it is trying to infect, according to the study.

Because this structure -- described by one scientist as a "viral Achilles' heel" -- is genetically stable and has resisted mutation over time, the antibodies are effective against many different strains.

The breakthrough "holds considerable promise for further development into a medical tool to treat and prevent seasonal as well as pandemic influenza," said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which helped fund the study.

Comment: To clarify, the proposed "universal flu vaccine" is not, strictly speaking, a "vaccine". The latter is defined as "immunogen consisting of a suspension of weakened or dead pathogenic cells injected in order to stimulate the production of antibodies". Here, what is being injected is the antibodies themselves, which work as an effective medicine against pathogens. They fall in the realm of immunotherapy rather than disease prevention (especially since it is not clear whether these monoclonal antibodies confer long term immunity).


My Forbidden Fruits and Vegetables

If you've stood in line at a farmers' market recently, you know that the local food movement is thriving, to the point that small farmers are having a tough time keeping up with the demand.

But consumers who would like to be able to buy local fruits and vegetables not just at farmers' markets, but also in the produce aisle of their supermarket, will be dismayed to learn that the federal government works deliberately and forcefully to prevent the local food movement from expanding. And the barriers that the United States Department of Agriculture has put in place will be extended when the farm bill that House and Senate negotiators are working on now goes into effect.


Study Finds Genes Important to Sleep

For many animals, sleep is a risk: foraging for food, mingling with mates and guarding against predators just aren't possible while snoozing. How, then, has this seemingly life-threatening behavior remained constant among various species of animals?

A new study by scientists at North Carolina State University shows that the fruit fly is genetically wired to sleep, although the sleep comes in widely variable amounts and patterns. Learning more about the genetics of sleep in model animals could lead to advances in understanding human sleep and how sleep loss affects the human condition.

The study, published online in Nature Genetics, examined the sleep and activity patterns of 40 different wild-derived lines of Drosophila melanogaster - one of the model animals used in scientific studies. It found that, on average, male fruit flies slept longer than females; males slept more during the day than females; and males were more active when awake than females. Females, in turn, tended to have more frequent bouts of sleep, and thus were disrupted more from sleep, than males.