Become Straw Free and Help the World

Most people don’t realize this but American throw away as many as 500 million plastic straws a day. As Adrian Grenier of the non-profit Lonely Whale points out, “Conservatively, you can guess that Americans will use on average two plastic straws a day, so 500 million is an accurate estimate. But I challenge you to start paying attention to the straws you get in your iced coffee, smoothies, soda, and cocktails. When I’m in New York or LA the number of plastic straws I receive is often closer to 10 a day.”

A number of people and organizations are starting to care, and they are making a difference. Milo Cress started a movement in 2011 called Be Straw Free that encourages restaurants and hotels to only offer straws when people ask for them. Grenier has a Strawless in Seattle campaign which has, so far, helped Seattle to save 2.3 million plastic straws in only three months. They are asking restaurants and businesses to change to biodegradable straws and it’s making all the difference.

It’s certainly a cause worth thinking about and a change that could make all the difference.

The Many Dangers of Postpartum Depression

Not enough people understand the devastating consequences of postpartum depression. An estimated one in every nine women will have some symptoms after giving birth which include mood swings, fatigue and reduced interest in activities. This can certainly make it hard to bond with the baby and to get the things done that any new mother needs to do for herself and her child.

One interesting study conducted by Benjamin Nelson, Heidemarie Laurent and Nick Allen at the University of Oregon looked at how a mother’s depression affect her child’s stress levels and later cell health. They recruited 48 moms with 12 week old infants and followed them for 18 months. When the infants were six months old and then a year they were brought to the lab to be put through some mildly stressful tasks. The details of the study can be found here.

They found that when they collected saliva to see the length of the infants’ telomeres at 18 months, the worse the depression symptoms were in the mother, the higher the cortisol stress responses were in the infant. The study authors originally published their findings here.


Can Chocolate Help Prevent Heart Attacks?

Could eating chocolate actually help you to prevent a heart attack? The new research comes from the VA Boston HealthCare system’s analysis of 148,465 US veterans who were part of the Million Veteran Program. This program monitors their health over time. 90% of the participants were men, and the average age was 64. What they found was certainly surprising. Overweight people who eat chocolate at least five times a week are less likely to have a CAD (coronary artery disease) episode such as a heart attack. Those who never eat chocolate, in contrast, are more at risk for having a CAD-related episode.

The strangest part of the study is that they found that the positive effects don’t occur for people within a healthy BMI range or who are underweight. The US researchers hypothesized that this might be because the impact of eating this amount of chocolate is small so it only impacted those who have a higher risk of a CAD event.

The participants were followed for 2.5 years and were asked how many times a week they eat 28 grams of either milk or dark chocolate without extra flavorings added. The results showed that overweight people who had five or more servings of chocolate a week had the least amount of CAD related events.

Can Pesticides Hurt Pregnancy Chances?

Here is a disturbing study for those who are trying to get pregnant. A new study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine has found that consuming fruits and vegetables high in pesticide residue is associated with a lower chance of pregnancy and a higher risk of pregnancy loss. Dr. Yu-Han Chiu, a research fellow at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and first author of the study explains.

As she said,

“There have been concerns for some time that exposure to low doses of pesticides through diet, such as those that we observed in this study, may have adverse health effects, especially in susceptible populations such as pregnant women and their fetus, and on children. Our study provides evidence that this concern is not unwarranted.”
The study included 325 women between 18 and 45 who were under the care of a doctor for infertility treatment at the Massachusetts General Hospital. They found that women who ate 2.3 servings or more of high-pesticide-residue fruits and vegetables had 18% lower chance of getting pregnant and 26% lower chance of giving birth to a live baby.

As Dr. Chiu explained, “A reasonable choice based on these findings is to consume low-pesticide-residue fruits and vegetables instead of high-pesticide-residue ones. Another option is to go organic for the fruits and vegetables known to contain high pesticide residues. It is very important to keep in mind that, as far as we are aware, this is the first time that this association is reported, so it is extremely important that our findings are replicated in other studies.”

Certainly, there were limitations to the study and more investigative work is necessary.