Monday, August 15, 2011

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


Our honey bee population has declined more than 25 percent over the past few years. endangering us. Honey bees are responsible for pollinating more than 130 different crops and are a key factor in the agricultural industry's ability to provide food products and cosmetics. A variety of suspects in the decline of bees are poor nutrition, invasive mites and colony collapse disorder (CCD), where bees from a colony abruptly desert the hive and die. Some scientists, however, believe highly toxic pesticides--neonicotinoids--applied to seeds, travel systemically through the plant and leave residues that contaminate the pollen, resulting in billions of bee death or paralysis. The French refer to the effect as "mad bee disease" and in 1999 were the first to ban the use of these chemicals, which are currently only marketed under the trade names Gaucho and Poncho. Germany recently banned Poncho from use on corn seeds
The latest suspect for the decimation of the bees is a common food additive blamed for the current increase in overweight among humans --High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).It is the syrup of corn treated with enzymes to make it sweeter. It is commonly used in bakery and confectionery products and soft drinks. It is also used in bee keeping to stimulate brood rearing in the spring and to increase honey production. Bees’ predilection for the sweetener was first observed when they were seen to swarm to spillages of the syrup around facilities and rail roads.
Researchers from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) cited a new report that the heating of HFCS raises levels of hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), a toxin that causes gut ulceration and dysentery-like symptoms in bees. In humans it has been linked to DNA damage and its breakdown metabolites levulinic and formic acids (see my Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives) have also been reported to cause harm. The Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry noted recently the data are important for commercial beekeepers, for manufacturers of HFCS, and for purposes of food storage. The information is also important because HFCS is incorporated as a sweetener in many processed foods for humans.
The Corn Refiners Association (CRF) is now active combating the accusations against HFCS. The CRF points out high fructose corn syrup is used to provide the same sweetness of sugar “so that consumers would not notice a difference in taste”. It has replaced sugar in certain foods and beverages. Why? Well, it’s cheaper than sugar but that’s not all. HFCS, according to the producers, protects foods from spoilage, enhances fruit and spice flavors, which is why it is commonly used in yogurts, sauces and marinades and provides "pour ability" to products like frozen juice concentrates. Sugar doesn’t. It makes breads brown better, retains moisture in breakfast bars and bran cereals and gives soft texture to baked goods.”
In 2009, an article in the Journal of Clinical Investigation of The American Society for Clinical Investigation authored by many scientists---most of them from California universities--was entitled: “Consuming fructose-sweetened, not glucose-sweetened, beverages increases visceral adiposity and lipids (fats in the belly and blood) and decreases insulin sensitivity in overweight/obese humans” HFCS the scientists wrote may be the cause of the rise in obesity and diabetes in many parts of the world. The Corn Refiners spokespersons responded by pointing out that Mexico and Europe have rising rates of obesity and diabetes, despite having little or no HFCS in their foods and beverages.
Are the bees an early warning system like the canaries were in the mines or is it much ado about nothing more than a cheap, high calorie sweetener? You decide at the supermarket.

Sunday, April 26, 2009



The lobbyists for the Wall Street and the Auto manufacturers are in the news but behind the scene are the lobbyists for sugar and various sweeteners.

Take Stevia, for example, a sweetener from the plant S. rebaudiana grown in South America. The leaves of the stevia plant have 30–45 times the sweetness of sucrose. Rebiana is the trade name for a zero-calorie sweetener containing mainly the steviol glycoside rebaudioside A (reb-A),extracted from stevia. Truvia is the consumer brand for a sweetener made of erythritol and Rebiana marketed by Cargill and developed jointly with The Coca-Cola Company.In December 2008, the United States Food and Drug Administration permitted Rebiana-based sweeteners as food additives. PureVia is the PepsiCo and Merisant brand of reb-A. It has been used in other countries for years but has been successfully kept off the American market until now by lobbyists for sugar and other popular sweeteners. Its selling point now is that it is “natural”. Its sales barrier is that it is slower to release the sweet taste and more expensive than the others on the market.

I don’t have the space in this blog to give you all the pros and cons of the various sweeteners that I have listed them in the Seventh Edition of A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives just published by Three Rivers/Crown but here is some information from the book that may help you make more knowledgeable decisions.

INTENSE SWEETENERS. They are nonnutritive sweeteners, also referred to as low-calories sweeteners are artificial sweeteners. Intense sweeteners in most foods give you a calorie savings of about 16 calories per teaspoon (the calories of a teaspoon of sugar) Examples in the category include:

• Aspartame. Trade names include NutraSweet, Equal, NatraTaste and SugarTwin. A compound prepared from aspartic acid and phenylalanine. The FDA arranged for an independent panel in the early seventies which concluded that the evidence did not support the charge that aspartame might kill clusters of brain cells or cause other damage. However, persons with the phenylketonuria, or PKU, must avoid it.One prominent scientist caused a stir when he reported it might cause brain tumors in babies. Despite continuing warning by some scientists, The FDA has declared it GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has also found it safe.

• Saccharin. Trade name: Sweet n’ Low, SugarTwin. Used for more than 100 years in the United States, it is produced from a substance that occurs in grapes and is between three hundred and five hundred times sweeter than table sugar. Some government and hospital studies have linked it to bladder cancer but the lobbyists managed to keep it on the market.

• Acesulfame K. Sweet On, Ace K. The “K” is the symbol for potassium. Two hundred times sweeter than sugar, it is not digested by the body but instead is eliminated through the urine. There were worries that the substance causes tumors in animals but the FDA said that any tumors that appeared were routinely expected and not due to the sweetener. Acesulfame K has been approved in 20 countries.

Then there are the:
• Polyols. Sugar alcohols . Among them are: Erythritol, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, polyglycitol (usually listed as HSH, for "hydrogenated starch hydrolysates"), sorbitol, and xylitol. They are sucrose and fructose than to the super-sweet artificial sweeteners, but they supply fewer calories than sucrose and the other sugars because they aren't completely absorbed in the digestive tract. They don't affect blood-sugar levels as much as sucrose, a real advantage for people with diabetes, and they don't contribute to tooth decay, so they're the main sweetener in most varieties of sugarless gum. They can give you diarrhea and bloating, and there is a controversy about whether they raise blood sugar which the manufacturers claim they don’t and some diabetes specialists claim they do.

HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP (HFCS) has been blamed by consumer groups for causing obesity in children and adults. It is about one and a half times sweeter than sugar. It does have calories. Overweight and obese individuals consuming fructose-sweetened beverages also showed signs of increased levels of lipids in the blood (dyslipidemia), according to findings published in April in the Journal of Clinical Investigation using HFCS to a level of desired sweetness could affect their habits for a lifetime.

SUGAR.The Sugar Association (SA) lobbyists are now in full gears, out to stop the decline in the use of sugar, “the most natural sweetener” and apparently their efforts are paying off. The SA data reveals an estimated increase in sugar deliveries for domestic use in 2005-2006, which follows an almost continuous decline since 1976.
"Needless to say, we feel consumers have sweetener overload. Unlike twenty years ago when you could count sweetening ingredients on one hand, now there are 26 sweeteners being used in foods in the U.S. today. And consumers are beginning to return to what they feel is proven, safe and all natural - sugar," said Andy Briscoe, president of the Sugar Association.
"When consumers find out that sugar has just 15 calories in a teaspoon, they question the value of artificial and other man-made sweeteners in today's marketplace," he added.
Market analysts at Freedonia, who follow the food industry, report the sweetener market is set to grow at around 8.3 per cent year on year until 2008, with sales rising from a small base of $81million in 1998 to $189 million in 2008.
A recent report from Business Communications (BCC) predicts that although sugar alcohols and HIS (high intensity sweeteners) are still relatively new and unexplored sweeteners in the $10.92 billion global sweetener market, their presence in the market is growing rapidly. Total global sugar alcohol production was estimated at 836,905 tons, up 2.2 percent over last year. US consumption of sugar alcohols was estimated at 376,640 tons, nearly 79 percent of the total production of these sweeteners. In the next five years consumption of sugar alcohols and HIS is slated to rise as much as 15 percent as new
Whom do you believe? Those promoting Intense Sweeteners, semi-organic sweeteners? Sugar promoters?
We have all seen our dinning companions stuff themselves with fattening and carbohydrate ladened food and then at the end of the meal, open a little packet of sweetener for their coffee or tea and feel they haven’t overeaten. It is up to you which you choose but remember--- moderation is the best weapon in the battle of sweeteners!

Friday, April 17, 2009


If you wonder why I had to completely revise and update the Seventh Edition of A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients, think of edible cosmetics to beautify your skin. Whether they are called “nutricosmeticS” or “oral cosmeceuticals” or “nutricosmeceuticals” it takes a lot of attention to keep up with the changing cosmetic industry. Those in the field are geniuses when it comes to satisfying our needs for anti-aging and beautifying products.

Viactiv Multi-Vitamin Chews was perhaps the first commercial marketing in the nutricosmetic segment in 1998. A Vivactiv Choclate Chew is a good tasting super-vitamin targeted primarily at women. Frutels then came up with a nutricosmetic candy bar tailored to the younger set in 2006. The supplement was marketed to support the body’s own defenses against acne by regulating hormone fluctuations and supplying micronutrients that are absent in poor diets.

Intelligent Nutrients(IN), a company is now claiming to utilize 100% food-based, organically certified ingredients. IN is now marketing an antioxidant-infused chocolate bar and liquid and tablet-sized dietary supplements. The target? They sell in North American to medical spas, salons and boutique retailers.

Among other “inner-outer” beauty promoters, according to GCI, a trade journal for the cosmetic industry:

• Danone Essensi sells vitamin-fortified skin care yogurt which is produced by the actions of beneficial bacteria or yeast.

• Russia’s Wimm-Bill-Dann Foods markets a probiotic yogurt drink. Probiotics are live microorganisms that reportedly confer an inside and out health benefit to consumers.

• Neo-Beauty line has come up with aloe vera containing antioxidants, minerals and vitamins. The company claims the nutricosmetic improves the overall health of skin, nails and hair. Aloe Vera gel has long been topically applied in folk medicine for burns and other skin problems but according to the medical literature may cause intestinal cramps when ingested.

• Japan’s Nippon Milk Community’s Kirapuru sells lactic acid bacteria---produced commercially by fermentation—in a drink it claims firms the skin with 1,000 mg of collagen per pack.

• Toki, a lemon-flavored powdered collagen supplement, is also sold by the Japanese to the U.S. market”

• Eiwa Confectionary’s marshmallows are enriched with collagen to reduce the signs of aging.

• Hot and Sour Wonton Vermicelli, from Singapore’s Myojo Foods Company, features collagen and vitamin C.

• In South Korea, Goliath’s Orion Corp. sells Mi in Gumi Collagen Jelly.

• Japan’s Asahi Food & Healthcare Co., Ltd. offers Soaking Collagen Water Jelly.

Collagen is a protein substance found in connective tissues, usually derived from animal tissues for cosmetics. Firmer skin and other popular marketing claims have elevated collagen as one main ingredient in many nutricosmetic products, especially in Asian beverages.

Hyaluronic acid is another popular ingredient in nutricosmetics. It is a sugar compound present in all connective tissue in vertebrates. In humans it is found in high concentrations in the skin. Ceramides are also popular in nutricosmetics and they occur naturally in skin fats. Synthetic fatty alcohols are usually substituted for natural ceramides and are used in hair and skin conditioners..

Ingredients for nutricosmetics, Yoichiro Sugimura, senior director of scientific affairs and business development for Kyowa Hakko USA told GCI: “Historically, many herbs have been thought of and used for optimal health. In Japan, there is a saying that ‘food is the best medicine,’ so people are willing to think that certain foods are good for health, including skin health.”

The nutricosmetics market was worth $1.5 billion in 2008, according to Euromonitor International, with 95% of sales generated in Europe and Japan. Due to stringent regulations, the US market lags behind with only a 3% share, but interest is growing as Americans become acquainted with a wide array of functional foods and drinks that reportedly promote health. The success of functional products such as VitaminWater, Airborne and Emergen-C are strong indicators that consumers are warming to cosmeceutical and nutricosmetic products.

And if that isn’t enough to keep you busy seeking nutricosmetics, you can always look for nutriceuticals which are parts of foods considered to provide medical or health benefits. A snack bar which can stay moist and chewy for up to 24 months without the need for artificial preservatives, for example, has been developed by scientists in California. Its aim is to keep kids ingesting healthy snacks instead of fat-loaded, sugary, synthetically colored candy. The US Agricultural Research Service (ARS) said that the new process makes bars out of organically grown apples and berries and gives them a long shelf-life. The move reinforces a growing consumer demand for natural ingredients as opposed to the use of additives, which have become the focus of increasing public concern over the past few years.

A United Kingdom study recently concluded some artificial food colorings had an "adverse effect" on the hyperactive behavior of 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children. The efforts by Europeans to try and make food manufacturers take artificial everything out of snacks is described in my completely revised and updated Seventh Edition of A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives just published by Three Rivers/Crown.

Please excuse me now while I run and try to keep up with the new marketing techniques created by food and cosmetic manufacturers to entice you into buying their products despite the poor economy. It is quite a challenge.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Americans are being criticized for outsourcing our technology and manufacturing but you can’t stop them from being creative. The following new ideas may be fun but they also may have a significant affect on your health.

• FLAVOR SPRAYS. The inventor, David Burke, a famed chef and author as well as an inventor, has created mists that have no fat, cholesterol, calories, carbohydrates or sugar. They work with any kind of diet or just for pleasure. Eliminating the need for gravies, dressings, and sauces, Flavor Spray can make food more palatable. And if you crave chocolate but want to lose weight, just spray chocolate on your tongue and the craving is reportedly under control. Inexpensive, the pump spray contains FDA-approved natural and artificial flavors. Check:

• BREATH ANALYZER DETECTS TUMMY TROUBLES. The inventor, Ralph Giannella, MD and his colleagues at Cincinnati’s University Hospital have a special plastic bag that people breath into. They remove some of the breath with a syringe and then analyze it. The tests can be done for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, sugar intolerances, dairy intolerances, or intestinal transit time from the mouth to the large intestines. The researchers in the digestive diseases division at UC says bacteria helps break down our food which metabolizes into gas. Using the gases in a person’s breath can help determine problems in their GI tract. For more info check:

• IT’S THE WEATHER: A weather website offers Migraine, Arthritis, Asthma, Diabetes and Heart Disease sufferers relief with North America's a Medical Climate (MediClim) health warning forecasts. tracks weather patterns, identifies when conditions are more likely to affect health and alerts subscribers with an email the day before potential weather health risks. It is a health-weather forecast in North America and it's free; users simply sign-up with an email and zip code (to localize weather warnings). Founded by physician Dr. John Bart and senior career meteorologist Denis Bourque, this free service gives warnings via custom email alerts when health problems are likely to be aggravated by local weather conditions. Check: for more information

• NOT FISHY. If you don’t like or just won’t eat fish oil which reportedly is good for your body, consider Powdered Omega-3 Salts may soon be offering supplement makers an alternative, according to new research from Ocean Nutrition Canada (ONC). Findings published in the Journal of Functional Foods indicate that calcium- and magnesium-fatty acid salts of omega-3 fish oil are equally bioavailable as traditional liquid fish oil. Solid forms of omega-3 could offer several advantages over the liquid oil capsules, said the researchers, including increased stability, better tolerability, a lower cost, and the inclusion of other dry ingredients such as vitamins and minerals. It would also allow for an alternative for consumers who wish to avoid animal gelatin

Other countries can steal our innovations but they can’t keep our scientists from creating more all the time.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


No matter how bad the economy gets, the irrepressible cosmetic marketers can still create innovative products and encourage consumers to open their wallets. New lipsticks are a prime example.

It is estimated the average woman will eat two pounds of lipstick in her lifetime. So why not make an edible lipstick that is good for you? A company, founded by Scott-Vincent Borba, already has one on the market, its: Inside Out Lipstick—Revive. Borba claims it is “the first lipstick that’s actually good for you.” While the long-lasting lipstick beautifies you on the outside, Borba’s nutraceutical infused with vitamins and other healthy ingredients beautifies you on the inside. He says “This is the first-ever lipstick that will nourish, moisturize and rejuvenate lips” The price: $22.

To feed your ego, if you can afford it, French luxury firm Guerlain has released its KissKiss Gold and Diamonds lipstick in selected stores in the US, with the impressive price tag of $62,000.

The lipstick is a replica of the KissKiss lipstick released in 2005, designed by Olivier Echaudemaison and Herve Van Der Staeten. KissKiss contains light reflectors, to create a 'dazzling effect', and a softening complex of vitamin A, alpha bisabol and waxes, to provide instant and long lasting moisture.

I found this one while researching alpha bisabol for my Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients published by Three Rivers Press. Bisabol also called Oplopanax is a myrrh-type gum resin obtained from African trees. Widely used in cosmetics including bath soaps, eye makeup removers, fragrances, deodorants, foundations, shaving creams, skin fresheners, baby lotions, powders, lipsticks, and after-shave lotions.

Nothing spectacular so far perhaps, but the key to the notable price tag lies in the packaging. The casing of Guerlain's latest super-luxury lipstick is made from 110g of 18 carat yellow gold, with 119 diamonds decorating its surface.

And so why did a lipstick merit such a lavish design? According to the designer Herve Van Der Straeten: "Lipstick is simple, yet mysterious”. This element of surprise creates curiosity and longing, which is what I hope each woman experiences when she clutches KissKiss Gold and Diamonds in the heart of her hand. It is powerful and unimaginable, unique and desired, obtainable and unobtainable at the same time." Fellow designer Echaudemaison, more simply describes the lipstick as being designed for those who 'indulge in lavishness and appreciate exquisite design'.

If that lipstick is not in your pocketbook range, then maybe you’ll be interested in this innovation. Paris Hilton has a gold Lipstick—Lilycharm-- for dogs. It’s Pink and costs $15.99

Friday, December 26, 2008


In the interest of transparency, I must reveal that I have extremely high cholesterol in my blood and a family background of cardiovascular disease. My doctors have all prescribed cholesterol lowering drugs. I have been through every one of them on the market starting with niacin and each time, within three days, I have become a victim of severe muscle aches. That is one of the signs of serious and even fatal side-effects of such drugs.

Recently, while researching material for the updates of my seventh editions of A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives and A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients, I was looking through the FDA’s Medwatch Safety Alerts for Human Medical Products.

I found several describing side-effects from these multi-billion dollar medications in the category. Here they are:

Simvastatin Used With Amiodarone

Audience: Cardiologic healthcare professionals, pharmacists, other healthcare professionals

FDA notified healthcare professionals of the risk of muscle injury, rhabdomyolysis, which can lead to kidney failure or death, when simvastatin is used with amiodarone, (Crodarone®) a medication to keep the heart beating in sync. This risk is dose-related and increases when a dose of simvastatin greater than 20 mg per day is given with amiodarone. Although a revision of the simvastatin labeling in 2002 described an increased risk of rhabdomyolysis when amiodarone is taken with simvastatin doses greater than 20 mg daily, FDA continues to receive reports of rhabdomyolysis in patients treated concurrently with amiodarone and simvastatin. Prescribers should be aware of the increased risk of rhabdomyolysis when simvastatin is prescribed with amiodarone, and they should avoid doses of simvastatin greater than 20 mg per day in patients taking amiodarone.

Statin drugs and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)

Audience: Neurologists, cardiologists, consumers
[Posted 09/30/2008] An FDA analysis provides new evidence that the use of statins does not increase incidence of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neurodegenerative disease often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease." The FDA analysis was undertaken after the agency received a higher than expected number of reports of ALS patients on statins. It is based on data from 41 long-term controlled clinical trials. The results showed no increased incidence of the disease in patients treated with a statin compared with those given a placebo.

The FDA is anticipating the completion of a case-control or epidemiological study of ALS and statin use. Results from this study should be available within 6-9 months. FDA is also examining the feasibility of conducting additional epidemiologic studies to examine the incidence and clinical course of ALS in patients taking statins.

Based on currently available information, health care professionals should not change their prescribing practices for statins and patients should not change their use of statins.

Ezetimibe/Simvastatin (marketed as Vytorin)
Simvastatin (marketed as Zocor)
Ezetimibe (marketed as Zetia)

Audience: Endocrinologists, cardiologists, other healthcare professionals, patients
FDA informed healthcare professionals that the Agency is investigating a report from the Simvastatin and Ezetimibe in Aortic Stenosis (SEAS) trial of a possible association between the use of Vytorin and a potentially increased incidence of cancer. Vytorin is a combination product of simvastatin and ezetimibe used to decrease the production of cholesterol by the liver and inhibit the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine to reduce LDL-cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular events. Recently, FDA obtained preliminary results from the SEAS trial. The clinical trial tested whether lowering LDL-cholesterol with Vytorin would reduce the risk of cardiovascular events in individuals with aortic stenosis. A lower overall cardiovascular risk was not found with Vytorin. However, there was an additional observation that a larger percentage of subjects treated with Vytorin were diagnosed with and died from all types of cancer combined when compared to placebo during the 5-year study.
FDA anticipates receiving a final SEAS study report in about 3 months and the Agency's review and evaluation of the clinical trial data and other relevant information should take approximately 6 months. FDA will communicate its conclusions and recommendations at that time. Healthcare professionals and caregivers should continue to monitor patients taking Vytorin and report side effects from the use of this drug to the Agency.

It has been reported recently the incidence of heart disease and stroke have dropped significantly in recent years. Many credit it to the use of cholesterol lowering drugs. Others say, “What about the drop in cigarette smoking, a known culprit in cardiovascular disease? Could that be responsible for the good news and not the drugs?

There have been many negative cholesterol drug reports popping up periodically without much fanfare. For example, with the multi-billion dollar powerful drug Crestor was reported to be “ significantly more likely than other statins to cause muscle deterioration that can lead to kidney disease and failure” according to a study in the American Heart Association's journal, Circulation.

Documents on the FDA website reveal that pharmaceutical companies Merck and Schering-Plough conducted numerous safety studies on the popular cholesterol drug Zetia but did not publish the results, which suggested that the drug may cause liver damage when mixed with statins.

Zetia is a trade name for the drug, ezetimibe, also marketed under the names Ezetrol and Ezemibe. It is a major seller for Merck and Schering, and is estimated to have earned them $5 billion in 2007.

The website http:// explained the Zetia blocks cholesterol absorption in the gut, and is often prescribed in conjunction with another class of cholesterol drugs, called statins. Because statins function in a different fashion by increasing the rate at which LDL cholesterol is cleared from the blood, the combination leads to a greater overall decrease in cholesterol levels. This combination is so popular that Merck and Schering also sell a combination Zetia-Zocor (simvastatin) pill under the brand names Vytorin and Inegy.

But concerns have long existed that the combination of Zetia and statins may lead to liver damage. As early as 2002, an FDA reviewer recommended against allowing the drugs to be mixed, due to liver damage in animal studies. Since the drug's approval, various case studies of liver damage have been published in medical journals.

It may be that the statins are life-safer for the majority of users. But then, again, with the money behind promoting them, they may not be as good as publicity promotes.

Statins currently available in the U.S.include:

* Atorvastatin (Lipitor®)
* Fluvastatin (Lescol®)
* Lovastatin (Mevacor®, Altoprev™)
* Pravastatin (Pravachol®)
* Rosuvastatin Calcium (Crestor®)
* Simvastatin (Zocor®)

To make up your own mind, it might help if you followed the FDA’s as well as some cynical sites such as I, of course, will alert you when I am able, to what is happening backstage.