Is the media still indirectly promoting smoking?

Everyone knows smoking is bad in today’s times. But why are people still smoking? I don’t believe the reason is due to lack of awareness in the dangers from smoking as there are many adverts and campaigns around that talks about that, even the packets of cigarettes themselves have pictures and labels of warning. You still see young people smoking like it’s something cool. If the campaigns and education on smoking being bad are effective, we shouldn’t be seeing this at all. So where is the new contributor of misinformation, that smoking is good, coming from then?

Most advertising and product placements are in television and movies. Maybe 10 years ago it would be strange to have so many adverts in a single show, but today, you cannot avoid adverts even if you want to. They are not only in television and movies, there are everywhere on the street, on websites, on your phone, on newspapers, and especially in music videos. One can only be led to believe that such product placements work, that’s why these advertising methods have prevailed over the years.

Now, when it comes to smoking, many governments have openly admitted it is bad. But do they stop or remove the tobacco industry? Nope. The tobacco industry is a very rich and powerful one, maybe that’s why. Outside of anti-smoking campaigns and adverts, there are movies and television shows that reaches the mass public regularly. Television is there 24 hours a day, everyday of the week. Movies are no longer something that is a treat, people have access to movies any time and every where they want. So is it that surprising to think the media is indirectly sending messages that smoking is fine?

When you think of movies with people who smokes in it, what kind of characters come to mind? It’s usually the bad guys, cool, aloof characters, lone rangers, the very misunderstood underdog character in the movie right? With young children to teenagers, those characters appear cool and enable teenagers to relate to themselves. These kids, with minds susceptible to what they are exposed to, often grow up accepting smoking as a character trait rather than a health risk. It is only when they get older that they are exposed to the information on bad effects smoking have on the body. But because the knowledge of smoking as a bad thing comes later in their understanding of that activity, it becomes harder to change their perception on it.

Educating children on the bad effects of smoking is the responsibilities of parents, not the country, I agree with that. However, how is all the educating in the world going to work if the media keeps portraying smoking as nothing harmful? To some, the difference is distinct between entertainment you see on television and in the cinema, but to children, they see both as one.

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The 7 ingredients I always avoid

There are many ingredients around the web that tout as the dirty dozen list to avoid at all cost. Even though there are some truth in what most of these websites are saying, my advice to you is to know what ingredient irritates you in a certain way and then make note to avoid them. Some people are more particular with the ingredients in their products than others, and some are pretty much alright with most ingredients except for a few that they may be allergic or sensitive to.

For myself, there are these 7 ingredients that I avoid no matter what, as I found that when I use products with any of these ingredients in them, my skin gets extremely dry and/or irritated.

1. Alcohol, Isopropyl (SD-40)

Alright, even though I list this as the first, I tend to be more lenient on this ingredient if the other ingredients in the list are from natural organic sources, or if it doesn’t feel too drying on my skin. Most ladies I know avoid alcohol in their products, and I would too if not for the fact that it’s kind of hard to find products for combination skin that doesn’t have alcohol in it.

It is said to be a very drying, irritating solvent and dehydrator that strips your skin’s natural acid mantle, making you more prone to viruses entering and may even promote brown spots and premature aging of skin.

2. Anionic Surfactants

Examples of anionic surfactants are: Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS), ammonium laureth sulfate (ALES), TEA (triethanolamine) lauryl sulfate, TEA (triethanolamine) laureth sulfate, lauryl or cocoyl sarcosine.

Some shampoo that claims to be SLS free usually have ALS to replace it, and that ingredient is no better than the notorious SLS. These ingredients are under the same category of surfactants that may be contaminated with nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic. Surfactants can pose serious health threats and are used for quick and effective cleansing properties.

You can find these ingredients in shampoos, body wash, facial wash and basically about 90% of personal care products that foam, but did you know that these ingredients are also used in car washes, as garage-floor cleaners and engine degreasers? I particularly avoid these ingredients because they always dry out my skin and trigger my eczema.

3. DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (monoethanolamine), TEA (triethanolamine)

These ingredients can cause allergic reactions and will lead to eye problems, dryness of the skin and hair over prolonged usage. Could be toxic and potentially carcinogenic if absorbed into the body over a period of time. Because of its known carcinogenic effects, these chemicals are already restricted in Europe. 

4. Mineral oil/paraffin oil/paraffin wax/petrolatum/liquidum paraffinum

Derived from petroleum by-product, this ingredient covers the skin like plastic, suffocating and clogging pores while interfering with the skin’s ability to eliminate toxins. By slowing down skin functions and cell development, it could promote acne growth and premature aging. Mineral oil derivatives can be contaminated with cancer causing PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and it is said that the only reason companies use it is solely because it’s cheap.

5. Phthalates

It is a toxic chemical found in certain plastics and containers. Could be found in some hairsprays, cosmetics and nail varnishes, all which are readily absorbed by the body. When research and tests were done in controlled groups, an astonishing amount of people found phthalates in their body. Avoid products in plastic that bears the recycling symbols (the little triangle made with arrows and a number inside) 3,6, and 7.

6. Polyethylene glycol (PEG) compounds and propylene glycol/butylene glycol 

These potentially carcinogenic petroleum-derived ingredients are known to penetrate the skin and weaken protein and cellular structure. Again, this ingredient can cause premature aging and leave your skin vulnerable to bacteria. In cases that requires workers to handle these ingredients, the EPA warns against skin contact to prevent consequences such as brain, liver and kidney abnormalities, and made workers wear protective gloves, clothing and goggles to dispose of these solutions quickly by burying them in the ground.

While these health hazard warnings are everywhere in manufacturing companies that handle these ingredients, not one warning label is on the products that made it to our houses and used on our very own bodies, such as deodorants.

7. Parabens preservatives (methyl-, propyl-, butyl-, and ethyl-)

Most people are aware that parabens, used as preservatives to prolong the shelf life of products, are toxic and known to cause allergic reactions and even skin rashes, but hardly anyone is reading the ingredient list of the next lip product they are buying. Most ladies end up consuming these chemical preservatives that are from their lip products, and you guessed it right, parabens are also found in most humans’ bodies when tests were done.

The correlation between emotions and food

It had only recently occurred to me that wanting to eat healthy and making a conscious effort to maintain a healthy lifestyle requires a minimal amount of contentment with one’s current state of mind. For the longest time there has been a link between eating disorder and depression, but not many articles focus on the opposite. There could be some sort of sub-conscious activity in ourselves that perceives what we deserve to have and what we don’t. Take for example, people suffering from depression or low self esteem often indulge in binge eating or are bulimic. Their mentality is that they are not good enough, and their eating habits are often a passive aggressive way of punishing themselves.

Leading a healthy lifestyle is not one that happens accidentally. It takes good planning and minding to make it happen. The choice of wanting to be healthy stems from a certain wanting to love yourself that can only deprive from being happy. Speaking from experience, I was not always happy and healthy. If you’ve read the short little introduction on myself on this site, you would know that I led a complete opposite kind of lifestyle to how I’m living now. And during that period in my life, to say the very least, I was not happy at all, I was in a bad place and was figuring my life out. Looking back on my past eating and lifestyle choices now, I realize they were extremely poor.

I know, back then, that even if I had the knowledge of food like I have now, I wouldn’t be bothered to do anything about it because it wasn’t the top of my priority. It is very much a mental state of mind that determines what kind of lifestyle you subconsciously choose for yourself.

I am now very contented with my life, even though it’s not perfect and I’m still figuring things out, but I know I am happy. It is a kind of happiness that comes from inside and drives you to take even better care of yourself and your loved ones around you. Quoting Paul H Dunn, “Happiness is a journey, not a destination; happiness is to be found along the way not at the end of the road, for then the journey is over and it’s too late. The time for happiness is today not tomorrow.”

How about you? Do you have any related food stories to share?

The new drug of the century: Junk Food

The struggle with preventing and controlling obesity is nothing new. In Singapore, more and more people are having health problems even before they reach obesity. It doesn’t take an obese person to be unhealthy in today’s times. An average sized person who eats badly, can be inviting a host of physical problems very quickly in the near future.

Some of the main reasons people cite as to why they are not as food conscious as they should be, points at the lack of time in their lives. Processed, packaged foods are much faster to prepare and requires almost no washing up after, according to busy working adults. It seems like convenience is the key to the choice of foods these days. 

Apart from convenience in preparation, taste could be a factor in buying these junk foods, as they often contain high sodium and sugar levels. Working adults aren’t the only ones consuming more junk food, it seems that children are exposed to consuming junk in younger ages and in larger amounts in recent years.

Researches have found that burgers, chips and sausages have built the human brain into craving more sugar, salt, and fat laden foods as our taste buds adapt. It is found that overconsumption of high calorie foods actually trigger an addiction-like response in the brain that is similar to that of drugs.

A three year research on rats have presented “the most thorough and compelling evidence that drug addiction and obesity are based on the same underlying neurobiological mechanisms”.

The rats were divided into three groups. The first were fed healthy amounts of food to eat, the other was given restricted amount of junk food, while the third had unlimited amount of junk food. The third group, as you would imagine, got fat very quickly and started bingeing.

Apparently, eating junk food registers as ‘pleasure’ in the brain, and the more they ate over time, the larger the quantity it takes in order to reach the same amount of ‘pleasure’ registered by the brain. The brain practically got immune to the intake of junk food, and needs more to reach the same ‘high’ it felt the first time, just like drug addicts. This pretty much sums up the act of overeating, and may very well be the cause of obesity.

The addiction to junk food, whether we acknowledge it or not, has even been compared to the famous tobacco history, as smoking was not always admitted as a health risk especially the misinformation through advertising and marketing by the large companies.

However, not everyone thinks the research results are enough. Lobbyists for food industries insists there’s no such thing as a food addiction. Richard Adamson, consultant for the American Beverage Association said, “I have never heard of anyone robbing a bank to get money to buy a candy bar or ice cream or pop.”

Well, yeah sure, those people are too busy getting fat and stuffing their face with foods to do that, in case you didn’t notice, Mr Adamson.

Are we so superficial that even foods have to look a certain way to be sold?

How many of you have heard of the wonky food controversy in 2008? No? Well neither have I, until a couple of days ago. It seems that The European Commission had a certain set of rules that were launched in 1989 regarding standardizing the quality of our fruits and vegetables. However, years and years down the road, these rules have now been distorted, resulting in tons of food wastage. Today, it seems like our never ending quest to acquire beauty has involved even the foods we eat.

Supermarkets, or rather, companies running these supermarkets, refuse to accept fruits and vegetables from farmers that do not meet their standard requirements of how they look, and this can be measured in terms of texture, height and length of it, and the size of it. Their reason is that consumers do not want weird looking foods, even when consumers say this is not the case. While it seems to be an excuse rather than a reason, I start to see a vicious cycle in that statement.

For the longest time since the late 80s, people have been used to seeing fruits and vegetables in their ‘standard’, ‘fresh’ looking states, and would probably think a product is abnormal or spoilt when faced with an odd looking one. What makes this quest of beautifying our food terrible is that these odd looking ones are perfectly edible and no different from the normal looking ones. In fact, many of these ‘defected’ fruits and vegetables that have been rejected by supermarkets, are not even spoilt or unfit for consumption, they are rejected solely by the way they look. Talk about solving world hunger issues!

After the news got wind of this situation, there have been efforts in many places attempting to do right by these fruits and vegetables by demanding they put the wonky looking ones back in the shelves. And in 1st of July, 2009, The European Commission has lifted the ban of food standardization law on 26 fruits and vegetables. This list includes:

26 items (restrictions on shape and size repealed without qualification) – apricots, artichokes, asparagus, aubergines, avocados, beans, brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, cherries, courgettes, cucumbers, cultivated mushrooms, garlic, hazelnuts in shell, headed cabbage, leeks, melons, onions, peas, plums, ribbed celery, spinach, walnuts in shell, watermelons, and witloof/chicory.

There is another list of 10 items that the ban has not lifted entirely but restrictions lifted subject to labeling to distinguish them from ‘class 1’ or ‘class 2’ produce. These 10 includes:

Apples, citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, lettuces, peaches/nectarines, pears, strawberries, sweet peppers, table grapes and tomatoes.

I think it is a start with these bans being lifted, but we still have a long way to go. As far as these reports are concerned, i believe it applies mainly to the U.K. Because guidelines for foods deem fit for our supermarkets are different from theirs, this ban that has been lifted may or may not have been applied to us. I have been trying to access the website of Singapore’s AVA site but hadn’t been successful, and will do an update of this post the moment I can access it.

On an end note, when was the last time you saw a wonky looking fruit or vegetable on sale in a supermarket in Singapore? Could mother nature really have been consistent in her works that none of the wonky ones ever appear in Singapore?

Anyone know the answer to this?

I’ve been really puzzled by this unanswered question, and am hoping some of you can give me an educated guess, if not an answer. I’ve been buying my groceries at Cold Storage and Supernature, and both of them carry products by Bob’s Red Mill. However, all of Bob’s Red Mill’s products at Cold Storage have been covering a section of the label that, in my opinion, has nothing wrong with it and may in fact boost sales if consumers read it.

This is the one at Cold Storage

This is the uncovered pack bought at Supernature

Words written on the label

I was thinking maybe it could be a company policy or something along the lines of those.. But still, I am really curious. If any of you has the answer, or have any rough idea, do comment to let me know! This little sticker on my Cold Storage bought pack is driving me curiously crazy.

The controversy of genetically modified foods (GMO)

Some people choose to buy organic because of the unnatural way many companies have chosen to produce their crops or livestock. We have been subtly introduced genetically modified foods since the middle of 1990s and look at us now – we cannot even tell the difference between foods that are genetically modified and foods that are planted and harvested by conventional methods. Documentary (part 2) by journalist Jane Moore went on a mission looking into origins of our foods these days and the truth will shock you if the term ‘genetically modified’ does not already.

The reason why many people shun organic food is because of the price, and because there has been no proper education given on the technology that is used on foods known as genetically modified organisms (GMO). Genetically modified foods are separated into two categories. The first one is genetically modified crops and the second is the way live stocks are being bred to produce meat that is virtually sold everywhere today. The GM crops are created by introducing genes in existing plants to produce ‘superior’ and ‘purer’ harvest that are supposed to be resilient to pests and weeds, to be easier to grow, and supposedly to be higher in nutrient levels.  Most live stocks including cows, chickens, pigs, and even some salmon fish farms, are usually injected with growth hormones and antibiotics that will make them grow faster and bigger than what was considered normal size about a decade ago.

While these GM foods are supposed to be better, they are not everything they claimed to be. Companies creating these GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are also companies that sell the pesticides used on these crops as it turned out GM crops are even more in need of pesticides and herbicides. Despite its claims, GM crops are harder and more expensive for farmers to sustain, and whether it is safe for the environment is another issue.

Government bodies would have assured you that there has been no direct health or environmental concerns linked to the use of genetic modifications, but many concerns have been raised regarding the long term side effects of consuming GMOs in accumulative amounts. Some states in Brazil have entirely banned GM crops, and the Brazilian Institute for the Defense of Consumers, in collaboration with Greenpeace, has prevented the importations of GM crops. In Europe there are large numbers of consumers unhappy with the increase in GM crops, leading them to mandate labeling of GM foods and non-GM foods so people have a choice.

A Genetic Modification Advisory Committee (GMAC) in Singapore was set up in April 1999, however, all foods containing GMOs entering Singapore must be proven safe by competent national regulatory bodies of the exporting country before being allowed into Singapore. This would mean we do not have our own national guidelines regarding GM foods. In regards to labeling of GM foods in Singapore, a consumer writing in to Straits times questioning the safety of international food safety standards was replied by GMAC that “The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) requires GM food intended for sale in Singapore to be subject to rigorous assessment and approval in the developed countries.”.  This “rigorous assessment and approval in the developed countries” would include the very confused regulatory process in the United States, which has three different government agencies that have jurisdiction over GM foods.

In the United States, they have the EPA, USDA and the FDA. In a nutshell, the EPA is in charge of evaluating crops for environmental safety, and the USDA evaluates whether the plant is safe to grow. Companies creating GM crops do not require a permit from USDA if they meet these 6 criteria:

1) The plant is not a noxious weed;

2) The genetic material introduced into the GM plant is stably integrated into the plant’s own genome;

3) The function of the introduced gene is known and does not cause plant disease;

4) The GM plant is not toxic to non-target organisms;

5) The introduced gene will not cause the creation of new plant viruses; and

6) The GM plant cannot contain genetic material from animal or human pathogens (see http://www.aphis.usda.gov:80/bbep/bp/7cfr340 ).

Image from 'http://www.whatisall.com/science/what-are-genetically-modified-foods.html'

Not one of those criteria involves checking for long term effects when consumed by humans in accumulative amounts. Lastly, the FDA evaluates pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and food products and additives, not whole foods. And so asking FDA to regulate something like corn, or apples and soybeans is not possible because these are considered “whole foods”.  The FDA’s take on GM foods is that they are  substantially equivalent to unmodified, “natural” foods, and therefore not subject to FDA regulation. When consumer interests groups asked the FDA to include their evaluation on whole foods, they replied that “the agency currently does not have the time, money, or resources to carry out exhaustive health and safety studies of every proposed GM food product”.

I believe consumers have the most say in deciding what foods they want. I find it highly unfair that this technology so widely used in our foods today is not being thoroughly explained or even made known to every consumers. People should be more aware and selective when it comes to food, as many people get too comfortable and trust blindly what is laid out there, instead of reading what’s on the label of their purchases.

Coffee is not your saviour

Without a doubt, many people rely on coffee for their morning ‘wake up call’. Even healthy people who eat right, and are food conscious, drinks coffee once in a while. It is perfectly fine to indulge in coffee occasionally, but what is worrying though, are people who drinks coffee everyday, and at least three times a day. If you look up the internet you’ll find websites listing mostly benefits of coffee, and that is puzzling because coffee is far from beneficial. There may be some truth in those beneficial claims but more than often, the beneficial gains of coffee to the ratio of negative effects is 1:9. It doesn’t help that the media seems to associate coffee with a ‘hip’ or ‘cool’ lifestyle especially in television dramas for teens, with actors casually mentioning grabbing cups of coffee anytime of the day.

Recent research also showed that coffee is just a placebo for people reliant on their daily coffee fix and does not increase attention span and concentration. Regular consumers of coffee feel the effects of heightened alertness from coffee due to the chronic fatigue they suffer, and what the coffee does is merely masking that fatigue they are feeling for as long as the effects last. 

Coffee is also known to increase norepinephrine production, which is a stress hormone, and can cause palpitations, leading to a rise in blood pressure resulting in anxiety. This explains that ‘perk’ you feel that makes you think you’re awake after drinking that cup of coffee first thing in the morning. When the effect wears off, you long for another cup of coffee, thus developing a mental and physical dependency towards it.

Caffeine is not only diuretic, causing your body to dehydrate faster if you don’t drink enough liquids that is not coffee, it also has a taxing effect on your liver which metabolizes it. If consumed over a long periods of time, it will cause your liver to be overworked and slow down the ability to burn fats and cleanse the other toxins in your body.

Because coffee is acidic, when taken too much or on an empty stomach, can disrupt digestion in your stomach and then speeding up the passage of waste in the intestines, causing a sudden laxative effect. Such acidity are main contributors of ulcers of any kind and also heart burn for those who are more prone to digestive problems.

Instead of relying on coffee to give you a temporary boost that actually takes a toll on your body, I’d say try being alert and awake the Jack Lalanne way as he advises on how to stop being so tired all the time. Simple and common sense advice, but sadly, not many people follow.

Are you still going to pick up that cup of coffee after reading this?

Are you a sugarholic?

We all know too much sugar is bad for you. But do you know how bad it is for you? Most of our daily intake of sugar exceeds the daily requirement just by the afternoon. Sugar is in your cereal, your flavored milk, your coffee and tea, your food sauce, your pie, your cookie, dessert and the list goes on. In fact, a video on CBSNews website says, the sugar intake required for a day can be found in just half a can of soda.

According to this article, consuming too much sugar has proved to reduce the production of a brain chemical known as Brain-derived-neurotrophic factor (BDNF). With BDNF levels reduced, it contributes to insulin resistance which leads to diabetes and a host of other problems. Low BDNF levels are also linked to depression and dementia. And guess what? Chronic intake of sugar actually makes your brain unable to tell your body to stop eating, which is the reason for your sweet cravings.

Eating too much sugar is common sense  and everyone knows it. But to actually stop it and make a healthy change in your life is another issue. These knowledge are not newfound studies and research that are only reported recently. Jack Lalanne, was an advocate of eating and living healthy, and used his life as the best example to show the world that it works. He died at age 96 and was probably fitter than anyone in their 20s. The only regret is not knowing about him earlier or I would have bought a ticket and flown to meet this man in person. 

Jack Lalanne knew from the start that people are consuming sugar way more than what the body needs and by doing so, we are slowly eating ourselves to death. Watch the video below as Jack Lalanne explains and gives a lecture on ‘sugarholics’. Bear in mind that this is a black and white video and the sad fact is that this video is even more relevant to the way people live today. It is unfortunate that with all the advancement in technology and economy nowadays and we don’t even know how to eat to treat our body right. Guess wisdom really does not come with age.

How getting enough greens can save your life

After watching this video, both me and my partner were so inspired. This video is yet another confirmation of us being on the right path of eating right.

In this video, Dr. Terry Wahls talks about her unfortunate event of developing Multiple Sclerosis. Despite all the medical treatments and latest medications, her condition worsened. Being sick of having her condition spiraling downwards, she took charge of her situation by reading and researching.

Upon all that reading, she thoroughly understood what caused MS and what she can do about it. Just 5 months after going on a 80% vegetable diet, she has cured herself of her condition without the help of medication.

Watch this video as she shares with you her very inspiring story of how modern day illnesses can be very much avoided based on our diet and explains how we can do the same.