Monthly Archives: April 2010

Will the FDA’s new powers help or hurt the Organic movement?

DC is used to infighting as politicians don’t always play nice.  But rarely are disputes between government agencies brought to public view.   Last week it was reported that the US Dept. of Agriculture, USDA,  and Food and Drug Administration, were in a turf battle over areas of supervision and responsibility- translation? Money.     The USDA is largely related to animal slaughter, and farming oversight, while the FDA is largely products.   The FDA has asserted  it is better prepared, equipped to handle  food safety inspections, and to evaluate the “safety of food at its production”,  currently the USDA’s domain.   The FDA wants the authority, and a fat budget,  to inspect any and all food producers, including small independent farms, and roadside stands,  not only for food safety but also to set  standards for what it considers safe use of  compost, fertilizers claiming adoption under the United Nations program, “Good Agricultural Practices”.      This program/publication serves as a guide to third world countries on field rotation to maximize yields, not exactly relevant here.

Small independent farms/producers like Wilderness Family Naturals, and cherry farmers in Michigan, have been the subject of  aggressive legal action on part of the FDA for making claims regarding their product’s health benefits.  A case brought against Organic Pastures Dairy resulted in a Federal judge’s reprimand of the FDA for such an unwarranted lawsuit.   Defending such actions can bankrupt a small farm, and they are right to be concerned.   In recent years, small farms and locally grown food producers have found support from the USDA which may evaporate with the changing of the guard.  The cynic in me says this is because the big businesses the FDA currently oversees, with big pockets, want to silence the competition so their health value doesn’t resonate with customers.

Organic and sustainable farming practices are at the forefront of ‘green’ initiatives that should be fostered and protected, yet, in this power grab, they may be the casualty.   That would be unfortunate for the conservation movement, and for our subscribers who place a priority on supporting healthy and eco-friendly companies.

Tendency to misdiagnose ailments in Teens

I have a niece who has endured digestive pain for over 3 years.  It all started with a sudden weight loss and abdominal pains, and several visits to her doctor and then referrals to specialists.   Their advice?  “Learn to live with it.  You have gastritis and hormonal irregularity”.   She attends a performing arts high school for dance so participating in this physical regimen and then holding down an after school job are quite a feat when ignoring constant pain.  As her periods lasted for weeks, insurance finally permitted surgery for what gynecologists assumed was endometriosis, as this could also explain her pain.    When they operated however, they found instead that her appendix had been leaking for several years, and had deposited scar tissue on every organ, most notably her bladder and uterus, severely compromising their effectiveness and function.     They removed her appendix and as much scar tissue as possible, and she is on the mend expected to have little lasting damage, and for the first time in years, her bladder is functioning properly and she is without pain.   If this had been considered it would saved her years of needless suffering.

But what if she were my nephew? Would she have fared any better?   I can tell you the answer to that is ‘NO”.  A 16 year old neighbor had his appendix removed fall 2008 after it ruptured.    In fall of 2009, symptoms like enlarged spleen, digestive ailments and pains sent him off for months of tests, evaluating everything from Celiac disease, Crohn’s, blood work for Leukemia and related cancers, and cat scans to detect tumors, all came back negative.   Only recently did they discover that scar tissue from his appendix had been building up and pressing on his other organs.   This is perhaps more troubling, as the appendix had already ruptured and should have been the very first thing evaluated.   So, why not?  Cost.  All other diagnosis involved un-invasive procedures, but this one, the obvious one, required an invasive procedure.
Doctors all too easily assume hormones and teen angst claiming “stress” induced disorders.  In our new health care world order, you will need to obtain a spine and some advocacy skills, as  it will be far more difficult to justify  the expense of a second opinion , let alone,  another procedure, or physician.

What the NCAA teaches us about the evolution of our diet

“March madness” is my favorite time of year , unless I have to shovel snow, and last night was an equally matched feast of athleticism, ballet and endurance not  seen in this tournament’s final competition in years.   Young men soared in mid air in what seemed an affront to Newtons’ laws of gravity, well temporarily.     None of these boys need be concerned about creeping waistlines, or extended gut. At least not yet.
But what happens when boys no longer boys, no longer soar? Would you have ever guessed 20 years ago that  Charles Barkley would be professing to Jay Leno that he would lose 50 lbs by, Christmas or was it Memorial Day? Somehow he, and I,  lost track between his Taco Bell endorsements.  Celebrities like Dan Marino endorse NutriSystem and Kirstie Alley gets dumped by Jenny Craig.    So what’s a former athlete, celebrity to do, after having kitchen staff their entire professional life?   Alas, the downside that comes with unfettered wealth renders them clueless.
Every individual I have ever known to buy dietary product lines, e.g., South Beach, Jenny Craig, among others, has had their weight creep back once they ceased bankrolling the packaged goods.   If drug dealers wrote business plans they would use the same revenue model:  “We  make the client completely dependent upon our product so they can’t ween themselves off it”.    Equally detrimental, is the processing of the goods.   There is something scary about a prepackaged meal- it completely removes our participation from the equation.     How can you possibly attain any long lasting result if you don’t learn to navigate the real world of food that goes beyond  unwrapping and microwaving?     Cooking and preparing one’s own meals is the most assured way of learning how to evaluate ingredients for a healthy diet.