low birth weight

  1. Apples top pesticide list

    I know it feels like summer has only just begun, but fall is right around the corner -- and that means apple season is almost here.

    Don't be fooled by the apples you'll find in the supermarket year 'round -- most of them are actually months old... and you won't believe the tricks they use to keep them fresh.

    The guy in the produce department will tell you that the secret is cold storage -- but those apples aren't just placed in a giant fridge somewhere.

    They're also given a massive dose of pesticides after they're harvested in order to prevent mold, blight, rot, and stains during that storage period.

    They're pumped so full of chemicals that a recent study based on government data found at least two pesticides on 92 percent of all apple samples even after they were washed and peeled.

    And 98 percent of more than 700 apple samples tested by the USDA had at least one pesticide.

    As a result, apples were placed on top of the Environmental Working Group's "dirty dozen," a list of fruits and vegetables that contain the highest levels of pesticides.

    EWG says apples are followed by celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, imported nectarines, imported grapes, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, domestic blueberries, lettuce, and kale.

    If you can't afford to buy everything organic – and these days, who can? -- make sure you at least go organic for those.

    While there's not a lot of research on what a low-but-steady stream of pesticides can do to a person, we do know that higher doses can cause cancer and hormonal problems.

    Some studies have found that farm workers exposed to pesticides on the job have a higher risk of Parkinson's disease. And in pregnant women and children, pesticide exposure has been linked to low birth weight, brain damage, ADHD, and even lower intelligence later in life.

    But the news from the produce aisle isn't all bad. EWG also found a number of fruits and vegetables so low in pesticides that you don't have to buy organic.

    They call them the Clean 15: onions, corn, pineapples, avocado, asparagus, sweet peas, mangoes, eggplant, domestic cantaloupe, kiwi, cabbage, watermelon, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, and mushrooms.

    The organization has a helpful guide you can print, clip and bring to the supermarket.

    It's just about the only time you might need to compare apples and grapefruit.

  2. Dangerous meds for little girls

    It's one of the worst ideas I've ever seen from the mainstream -- and that's saying a lot.

    An outrageous new study is pushing powerful diabetes meds on girls as young as 8 years old who don't even have the disease in a bizarre effort to preserve their fertility decades later.

    Researchers claim their study shows that the drug metformin can help prevent polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS -- a
    hormonal imbalance that's one of the leading causes female infertility.

    In reality, the study doesn't even show that much -- but if it did, there are other safer ways to beat the condition.

    I'll get to those in the moment.

    First, the details: Researchers recruited 38 8-year-old girls (presumably through their parents) who had some of the key risk factors for PCOS: low birth weight and early appearance of pubic hair.

    Half were given metformin for four years between the ages of 8 and 12, while the rest got the drug for just one year at the age of 12.

    By 15, the girls who were on the drug for four years were up to 8 times less likely to have some of the later signs of PCOS, including menstruation problems, acne, abnormal hair growth, and higher levels of male hormones.

    Obviously, there's no indication of whether or not these girls experienced fertility problems, but the researchers say they plan to track them until the age of 18 to see what else happens.

    But really, why bother?

    PCOS doesn't have a single "right" answer and there's no surefire cure for it -- and metformin won't turn out to be one, either.

    If it works even a little, it's because the condition appears to be related to diabetes: Women who suffer from PCOS have a higher risk of insulin resistance and a higher risk of the disease itself.

    The most promising treatment for both PCOS and diabetes isn't a drug -- it's lifestyle changes, and many of the women who've made those changes have been able to get both under control.

    One study from 2005 found that six months of a low-carb diet improved weight as well as testosterone and insulin levels in obese women who suffered from PCOS. A study last year found similar results from a low-glycemic diet, which is similar to a low-carb diet.

    Since eating right can make anyone healthier at any age, this one's a no-brainer: Don't give a little girl drugs for a condition she doesn't even have -- just put better food on the table every night, and the entire family will benefit.

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