BEWARE OF THE SNEAKY DEMON – ENDOCRINE DISRUPTION

SHORT ABSTRACT:

  • Many products including cosmetics, food, food supplements, textile materials, pesticides for protection of crops, animals and people from malicious organisms contain compounds called endocrine disruptors (or EDs).
  • EDs either mimic or partly mimic our hormones, either prevent hormones from binding to their receptors or change the normal homeostasis (work) of our hormones.
  • Results of ED exposure – male and female infertility, thyroid problems, underdeveloped fetuses, miscarriages, babies born with learning difficulties, animals (domestic or wild) born with unnatural aggression or passiveness and all kinds of other disabilities.
  • New ways of testing are possible – such is the in silico testing, where we do computer simulations and calculate the probability that an ED would bind to certain receptors.
  • EDs, don’t act with the receptors in very low concentration like hormones do. They can act in any concentration. The dose – response is nonlinear, which means that a low dose can be more potent than a higher dose for a given response to a certain compound.
  • Scientists through receptor – based toxicology screening can find out if a certain environmental substance has a public health significance.
  • Not all pesticides are EDs and not all EDs are pesticides. EDs can be all sorts of substances. Pesticides can be useful.
  • Should DDT be still used? It is time for precautionary actions that include both use and reduced exposure.
  • Can we have a good, practical, fashionable, tech-diverse lifestyle and at the same time be safe from EDs? Sure we can! Read what you can do to reduce exposure.

We live in an era when healthy, pragmatic and stylish lifestyle is important and a goal to many people. Image, looks, diet and even the way we exercise are judged and scrutinized. Thousands of ads, articles, blog posts and books promote and present all kinds of products and slap our faces with colorful pictures of unattainable perfection.

Marketing is very powerful these days. That’s not a bad thing, if we think of perfect products that deliver what they promise. That is to say – we don’t want any side effects, strange outcomes, lies, misleading or bullshit. But perfection doesn’t exist. What is endlessly promoted to us, and what is pressing us to become, is not the same to what is realistically attainable. Hence – debt, depression, anger, jealousy and general dissatisfaction poisons our existence.

 

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Many products contain compounds that screw with our hormonal system (endocrine system). By products, I mean everything – from medication, cosmetics, food, food supplements to textile materials, pesticides for protection of crops, animals and people from malicious organisms… Those compounds are called endocrine (hormonal) disruptors. They either mimic or partly mimic our hormones, either prevent hormones from binding to their receptors or change the normal work of our hormones. The results – male and female infertility, underdeveloped fetuses, miscarriages, babies born with learning difficulties, animals (domestic or wild) born with unnatural aggression or passiveness and all kinds of other disabilities. Worst of all, endocrine disruptors seem to be everywhere, all industries are using them, households and agriculture. We are surrounded by them and they are in the air, the water and in the soil.

 

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So, is there any good news in sight?

Well, yes and no. This is “sort of” a new age problem that requires a new age solution. I say “sort of”, because the term “endocrine disruption” was first used in the mid ’70s and early ’80s. But, only now we get to do an in-depth research thanks to technology. This doesn’t mean that the research from the 20th century is useless, far from that, it represents a valuable base for the newer ones.

I mentioned good news somewhere, didn’t I?

Good news is that we can prevent the use of these compounds. New ways of testing are possible – such is the in silico testing, where we do computer simulations and calculate the probability that an ED would bind to certain receptors. These tests are cheap, fast and precise.

 

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In vitro studies are done in tubes and in vivo are done in an alive organism or cells. Thanks to social media and the wonders of the Internet, knowledge can be shared and certain problematic substances avoided. This is especially important for babies (plastic bottles), children (toys, plastic cups, bottles, etc) and pregnant women (certain food supplements, plastics, etc).

What is most important and dangerous about some of the EDs, is that they don’t act with the receptors in very low concentration like hormones do. They bind to the same receptors and can act in any concentration. The dose – response is nonlinear, which means that a low dose can be more potent than a higher dose for a given response to a certain compound. (1) But, it gets even more complicated than that. We’re talking about complex mixtures, dose additivity and synergism between the chemicals. (2) Still, this kind of summation is not the only way EDs can interact with endogenous hormone systems to produce adverse effects. (2)

EDs also act on enzymes involved in steroidogenesis, steroid metabolism, and protein/peptide synthesis. They affect intracellular signaling processes and cell proliferation, growth, and death. There are hundreds, if not thousands of papers showing that ED exposures affect expression of genes and proteins in different cells, tissues, and organs.

Recent evidence suggests that some EDs may cause molecular epigenetic changes, including in the germline, which in turn may lead to trans-generational effects of EDs on numerous organ systems. This latter point is important, because it suggests that the legacy of ED exposures may go beyond the individual, and can last even if there is no further exposure, or despite efforts to clean the environment. (2)

 

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But, if the relationship between a hormone and its receptor is highly specific (meaning a certain hormone binds only with a certain receptor), how and why do some of these EDs bind to the same receptors? Shouldn’t their structure be the same? Well, no. Their structure is sometimes similar, sometimes it is not. Most of them are lipophilic substances, but not all. Scientists don’t know yet, why some substances, that are structurally different than certain hormones, have a similar effect as those hormones. They’re evil – that’s one reasonable scientific explanation.

Perhaps, another one is that the hormonal activities of environmental chemicals reside in a functional attribute rather than a structural one. This one is more logical than pure evil, I guess(3)

To see if this theory applies, scientists developed a new way of screening the substances. They called it receptor – based toxicology screening. How this works – they take a little tube and put human cells with a specific receptor/s and then throw in different environmental substances. And then they observe – what binds to the receptor, how it does that, what happens when it does and what is its structure like. Through the results (results like a certain receptor response) they can find out if a certain environmental substance has a public health significance. For example – they can predict toxicities at a certain dose.

This cool method will in no way provide a complete toxicological profile of a chemical, or replace complete animal testing or epidemiology and public health strategies, but it will generate useful, essential information for an important set of toxicological problems in a relatively short time and at relatively small cost. (4)

 

Not all pesticides are EDs and not all EDs are pesticides. EDs can be all sorts of substances.

Pesticides can be useful. Ever heard of malaria and insecticides (in particular DDT)?

I can hear you thinking: yes, they are useful, but are they safe??

Well, there’s no good way to answer this question. No way to please the anti-pesticide and the pro-pesticide communities. It is definitely an ethical issue, though. And one that needs to be resolved.

 

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Let’s take DDT as an example:

Is DDT “good”?

Well, yes if we look at how many lives it has saved.

But, is it safe for people, animals and the environment?

There have been many concerns about its safety, so to claim that it is safe, is indefensible.

Are inhabitants and also people who apply DDT exposed?

Oh, yes they are! And to high levels.

So, should it be used?

Well, in some circumstances, malaria cannot be halted, which is why DDT has to be used. But, now we have the technology, and we have the knowledge of what it is capable to do to the environment and our health (and the wildlife’s health). At the very least, it is time for precautionary actions that include both use and reduced exposure. 

The same precautionary actions can be applied to other pesticides that are a necessary evil, so to speak. They save our crops, they help us feed nations, but they also wind up in our body and some of them cause endocrine disruption. Actions to lower the exposure can save us and our environment from multiple potential health problems caused by endocrine disruption – from obesity and diabetes caused by environmental factors to infertility, nerve damage, cancer and thyroid problems.

 

But let’s go back to lifestyle.

Can we have a good, practical, fashionable, tech-diverse lifestyle, and at the same time be safe from EDs?

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Here’s what we can do:

  1. We can stop buying fast fashion clothes. Not only are these clothes made by women and children who barely make 3$ per day, but also they contain harmful chemicals, such as Nonylphenols, which have estrogen-like activity. After washing the clothes (and hoping they survive the first wash), these chemicals end in our water, where they persist for months. (5)
  2. We can eat organic food as much as possible. If we think about acidic rains, and the fact that the wind transports particles in various modes through different territories, as well as the fact that particles can remain in the atmosphere for up to several weeks and thus be transported thousands of kilometers from source regions, we can conclude that – even organic food is not as clean as a tear. (6) If we further split hairs (my favorite thing to do about anything and everything), because some pesticides have a systemic action, their residues are contained within the entire produce (fruit, veggie, whatever) and not just on the surface. Therefore, peeling and washing the produce is often not enough to prevent exposure to pesticides. (7)
  3. We can limit the usage of plastic. Plastic bottles, plastic utensils, plastic straws, plastic bags when we go shopping, plastic food containers, plastic coffee cups… All of these things can be replaced with a reusable version. Remember, plastic is one of the biggest sources of BPA. Remember that demon? It loves to screw with your brain. (8) Literally. 
  4. We can limit the usage of cans. You may ask how and why are cans connected to EDs? Well, some cans contain Bisphenol-A (yes, BPA again)! It slowly migrates from the inside walls of the cans into the food. Interestingly, this intensifies with the increase of glucose, NaCl and the expiration date. (9) Although, canned food is generally safe, and all the nutrients of the foods are preserved (more or less), if there is a possibility to buy foods preserved in a glass container, it certainly is a better choice.
  5. We can use water filters. Heavy metals and certain EDs can be found in our water system. Buying a simple water filter is a small change, but one that can make a huge difference in the quality of our life.
  6. We can be aware of what cosmetic products we use. This goes especially for shampoos and hair products, but also extends to all cosmetic goods in general. Avoid substances like: bisphenol-A, 4-t-octylphenol, 4-n-octylphenol, and 4-n-nonylphenol. These compounds are toxic and a study has shown that they have ED – properties. (10) More studies have been conducted on these compounds: benzophenone-1 (BP-1); benzophenone-2 (BP-2); 4,4′-dihydroxybenzophenone (4,4′-DHBP); 4-benzylphenol (4-BenzPh); homosalate (HO); octocrylene (OC) and 3-benzylidene camphor (3-BC). (11) That’s right – the “everlasting beauty” has a price and the highest one so far is – an in utero exposure to EDs. This is when the baby is exposed to EDs through the mother.

 

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The cosmetic industry slowly becomes more and more responsible about the products it sends to the consumers, but we are all still in the woods. The rise of ethical consumerism in this case helps with this problem, and slowly we all understand that well selected more natural products are better then synthetic ones. BUT THIS DOESN’T MEAN THAT SOME PLANTS DO NOT HAVE ED-PROPERTIES AND THAT ALL SYNTHETIC PRODUCTS HAVE ED – ACTIVITY. This is why the problem of endocrine disruption is so damn complicated. We are surrounded by materials – natural and synthetic and some of them are good and some of them are bad.

How do we know what is what?!

Well, we carefully select what is known to be good and avoid what is known to be bad. We read labels, educate ourselves about substances, follow scientific trends.

 

Now, I’m not trying to say that we should live in a bubble, isolated from everything. I’m just saying – be aware of the endocrine disruption problem, and live as balanced and as healthy as you can.

There are ways to be frugal and healthy. There are products out there that are brilliant and not that expensive. Relatively speaking, you can never have the best or the worst (despite what certain ads suggest). Generally speaking, organic beats processed any day, but that doesn’t mean that organic products are “virgins”.

Like I said, EDs are EVERYWHERE to some extent, present in different concentrations in different places on the Planet. Polluted cities have them more, but unpolluted cities have them also. The wind carries particles and molecules everywhere. So you’ll find “bad” micro(stuff) right in front of your doorstep no matter where you live. You’ll find good stuff too, so don’t worry about it. Much.

Till next time! Now where’s my paper cup of coffee?!

 

REFERENCES:

  1. Gierthy JF: Testing for Endocrine Disruption: How Much is Enough? Toxicological Sciences. 2002. 68. (1): 1–3. 
  2. Gore AC et al.: Executive Summary to EDC-2: The Endocrine Society’s Second Scientific Statement on Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals. Endocrine Reviews. 2015. 36. (6): 593–602. 
  3. McLachlan JA: Environmental Signaling: What Embryos and Evolution Teach Us About Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals. Endocrine Reviews. 2001. 22. (3): 319–341.
  4.  McLachlan JA: Functional Toxicology: A New Approach to Detect Biologically Active Xenobiotics. Environmental Health Perspectives. 1993. 101.(5): 386–387.
  5. Guenther K, Kleist E & Thiele B: Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry. 2006. 384. (2): 542-546.
  6. Jasper F, Kok EJ, Parteli R, Michaels TI and Karam DB: The physics of wind-blown sand and dust. 2012. Online source: https://arxiv.org/pdf/1201.4353.pdf. (29.07.2018)
  7. Pesticides in our Food. Pesticides Action Network UK (PAN UK). Online Source: http://www.pan-uk.org/our-food/ (29.07.2018)
  8. Negri-Cesi P: Bisphenol A Interaction With Brain Development and Functions. Dose-Response. 2015. 13. (2): 1559325815590394. 
  9. Sungur Ş, Köroğlu M, Özkan A: Determinatıon of bisphenol a migrating from canned food and beverages in markets. Food Chemistry. 2014. 142 (1): 87-91. 
  10. Miralles P, Chisvert A & Salvador A: Determination of Phenolic Endocrine Disruptors in Cosmetics by High-Performance Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry. Analytical Letters. 2018. 51. (5): 717-727. 
  11. Lopardo L, Adams D, Cummins A, Kasprzyk-Hordern B: Verifying community-wide exposure to endocrine disruptors in personal care products – In quest for metabolic biomarkers of exposure via in vitro studies and wastewater-based epidemiology. Water Research. 2018. 143 (15): 117-126. 
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BEHIND THE SCENES OF FOOD LABELING

SHORT ABSTRACT:

  • What are the differences between the labels organic, “green”, eco, bio and natural?
  • The three main reasons for purchasing organic products are concerns related to health, product quality, and environmental protection.
  • When we are talking about the “organic” labels, we must differentiate between “organic”, “made with organic (specified ingredients)” and “100% organic”.
  • “Green products” differs from organic products in the controlled and limited use of synthesized fertilizer, pesticide, growth regulator, livestock and poultry feed additive and gene engineering technology.
  • The USDA provides guidance on “natural” labeling on meat and poultry, but there is no formal rule. The FDA also does not have a formal rule to ensure the consistent and meaningful use of the “natural” labeling claim. 
  • Eco-Agriculture is an ecological rather than an industrial approach to food and fiber production. It represents a sophisticated system of farming, and offers farmers an alternative to increasing dependence on petrochemical inputs.
  • The Governments’ policy for bio-food production encourages farmers to avoid using synthetic agro-chemicals and move to eco-friendly crop production, pesticide-free production, bio-farming, zero budget/natural farming and permaculture.
  • Permaculture involves integrated farming methods that are based on principles learned from the study of natural ecosystems.
  • Biodynamic farming is a method of organic agriculture, which recognizes farm as a living system, and where one activity affects the other.

 

Is food really just food? Should you eat something because it does or does not have a certificate that is “eco”, or “bio”? And what about “natural” and “organic”? Are these words representing the same thing?

Yesterday I went to a store and what I noticed was that, we are overexposed to commercials that poke our eyes with colorful leaflets of “perfect for your body” food or “100% natural!”Sure.

Customers’ trust is everything these days, after all, the relationship between the industries and customers is mutualistic: the industries feed the customers and the customers feed the industries. It’s never-ending. Labels on foods can easily influence customers’ way of thinking and their choices. But, do they buy a good product?

 

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Choosing the right food to eat is a complicated task. I know how this sounds – if our food source was limited, like in places where there is famine, drought or floods, we would be more grateful for everything in our lives. Still, we are surrounded not by one type of product, but by millions of choices within a type of product.

Take for example – milk; in the nearby store, these choices are available: cow milk, pasteurized milk (full cream, reduced fat, skim milk, calcium enriched, calcium and iron enriched, flavored…), goat milk, sheep milk, organic milk… One big shelf in the store – all reserved for milk. And other products? You’ve been in your nearby store, so you know what I’m talking about!

 

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A research shows that most consumers have difficulty understanding the information provided by both – FOP (front –of – package) and BOP (back – of – package) food labels. (1)

Let’s find out what really hides behind the terms “bio”, “eco”, “natural” and “organic”.

ORGANIC – THE REAL DEAL

 

The three main reasons for purchasing organic products are concerns related to health, product quality, and environmental protection.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), an organic label suggests to the consumer that a product was produced using certain production methods. In other words, organic is a process claim rather than a product claim(2)

Organic agriculture is regulated under various laws and certification programs. It is unique, because all synthetic inputs are restricted, and “soil building” crop rotations are administered.

The specific goal of organic agriculture is to strengthen sustainability. But, some negative effects may occur, which means that the production system is not an exclusive method for sustainable farming. The soil and water protection and conservation techniques of sustainable agriculture used to combat erosion, compaction, salinization and other forms of degradation are apparent in organic farming.

Properly managed organic farming reduces or eliminates water pollution and helps save water and soil on the farm (although incorrect use of manure can severely pollute water). A few developed countries urge or sponsor farmers to use organic techniques as means to fight water pollution (e.g. Germany, France).

 

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Organic farmers rely on natural pest controls (e.g. biological control, plants with pest control properties) rather than synthetic pesticides which, when applied wrongly, are known to kill beneficial organisms (e.g. natural parasites of pests, bees, earthworms), cause pest resistance, and often pollute water and land. Reduction in the use of toxic synthetic pesticides, which the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates to poison three million people each year, should lead to improved health of farm families. (2)

When we are talking about the “organic” labels, we must differentiate between organic, made with organic (specified ingredients) and 100% organic.

 

  • 100% organic – can be used to label any product that contains 100 percent organic ingredients (excluding salt and water, which are considered natural). Most raw, unprocessed farm products can be designated “100 percent organic.” Similarly, many value-added farm products that have no added ingredients—such as grain flours, rolled oats, etc.—can be labeled “100 percent organic” as well. (3) 
  • Organic label means that a product contains a minimum of 95% organic ingredients (excluding salt and water). Up to 5% of the components may be nonorganic agricultural products that are not commercially available as organic and/or nonagricultural products that are on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. (3) This list identifies the synthetic substances that may be used and the non-synthetic (natural) substances that may not be used in organic crop and livestock production. It further identifies a limited number of non-organic substances that may be used in or on processed organic products. (4)
  • Made with organic (specified ingredients) can be used to label a product that contains at least 70 % organically produced ingredients (excluding salt and water). There are a number of detailed restrictions regarding the ingredients that form the nonorganic portion. The remaining 30% of ingredients do not have to be certified organic; federal standards ban the use of genetic engineering, irradiation and sewage sediment for all ingredients. (3)(5) 

“GREEN” FOOD – ALMOST AS STRICTLY REGULATED AS ORGANIC

 

What about “green” food? According to government classification standards, that type of food is produced without certain pesticides and fertilizers and with biological methods. (2) 

 

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So, “green products” differ from organic products, in the controlled and limited use of synthesized fertilizer, pesticide, growth regulator, livestock and poultry feed additive. The primary driver of demand for “green food” is the lack of confidence in the safety and quality of produce, along with improvement in living standards and the expansion of the middle class. (6) 

NATURAL – FAKE

Next – we jump to the “Natural” category. According to the USDA, the “natural” label can be placed on a product “containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed (a process which does not fundamentally alter the raw product). The label must explain the use of the term natural (such as – no added colorings or artificial ingredients; minimally processed.)” This label in no way refers to the way an animal was raised, or if the animal was raised without hormones or antibiotics. (7)(8)

 

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This is why the label has to include a statement explaining the meaning of the term “natural” (such as “no artificial ingredients; minimally processed”). (8) 

Also, there is no organization behind the label. Each company can determine its own definition for the “natural” labeling claim. There are no standards as well. The USDA provides guidance on “natural” labeling on meat and poultry, but there is no formal rule. The FDA regulates processed food, produce and most fish, but again – the agency does not have a formal rule to ensure the consistent and meaningful use of the “natural” labeling claim. So, the label “natural” is not meaningful at all. (9)

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By Srijankedia [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The label “Natural”, however, must not be confused with the label “Certified Naturally Grown”, which is a whole different ball game. If you see this seal displayed at a farmers’ market, farm stand, or your local farm, it means that the farm’s methods are similar to those of a certified organic farm. The differences in the standards are minor, the main difference is in how those requirements are verified. There are fewer requirements for record-keeping compared with organic certification, since there is no annual review of records by a certification agency.

The bottom line is that the seal signifies that the farmer shares a commitment to farming procedures that build soil health, do not rely on synthetic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, animal drugs, and GMOs, and provide humane living conditions for farm animals. This type of food is yearly inspected by another farmer, a local extension agent, or three of the farm’s customers. (10)

ECO – NOT WHAT YOU THINK

 

Eco-Agriculture is an ecological rather than an industrial approach to food and fiber production. It developed in the 1930s (but the term was first used in 1970 by Charles Walters who was an economist, author, editor, publisher, and founder of Acres Magazine) partly in response to recognized natural phenomena and partly in reaction to the dominance of mechanism and specialization. Today, it represents a sophisticated system of farming, and offers farmers an alternative to increasing dependence on petrochemical inputs. Eco-Agriculture minimizes adverse environmental effects and promotes soil conservation and construction. (11)

 

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Photo by Tim Mossholder from Pexels

Consumers believe that “eco-labeled” products taste better, which, at least in part, may be an effect of the label. However, studies show that there is almost no difference in taste between foods produced by eco-agricultural methods and conventional foods.

In a recent set of experiments, participants were asked to taste two cups of coffee. The cups actually contained identical coffee, although the participants were told that one cup was “eco-friendly” coffee and that the other was not. A systematic taste-preference bias for the eco-friendly alternative was revealed, especially in participants with a generally positive view toward eco-friendly consumer behavior. The participants were also ready to pay more for the “eco-friendly” coffee. Similar findings were achieved with other products, as well. The results point toward the same conclusion: an eco-label tends to enhance the taste sensory evaluation of consumable products. (12)

BIO –MORE COMPLICATED THAN YOU THINK

When we talk about “bio” it usually means that we’re talking about foods that are produced through organic farming.

The word “bio” is thrown everywhere these days. There’s bio-fuel, bio-farming, bio-food, bio-pesticides, bio-dynamic farming….

We’re gonna talk a bit about permaculture and bio-dynamic farming.

Consumers are concerned over the negative impact of agro-chemicals, which is why over the years the demand for safe fruits and vegetables has increased.

The Governments’ policy for bio-food production encourages farmers to avoid using synthetic agro-chemicals and move to eco-friendly crop production, pesticide-free production, bio-farming, zero budget/natural farming and permaculture. 

Permaculture is standing out among the various forms of sustainable farming. It involves integrated farming methods that are based on principles learned from the study of natural ecosystems. It aims to bring food production closer to consumers, restore soil fertility, and cultivate land in such ways, that maximize long term productivity, while minimizing artificial inputs and effort. It depends on small-scale, land and energy-efficient, multi-cropping systems, by which it avoids and reverses problems caused by modern agriculture. Permaculture encourages the cooperative approach, and build communities around food production. It supports healthy and sustainable food habits. (13)

 

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 photo credit: Local Food Initiative Vegetable garden Permaculture via photopin (license)

 

In the 1920s, an Australian philosopher by the name Rudolf Steiner, created the term biodynamic farming. It is a method of organic agriculture, which recognizes farm as a living system and where one activity affects the other. The term “biodynamic” comes from the Greek word bios meaning life and dynamikós meaning power. Hence biodynamic farming means “working with the power that creates and maintains life”.

BD farming has two main characteristics: using certain farming inputs from various herbal, mineral and raw materials processed in complex ways and finally applying them in small and minimal doses on soil and crops; and observation of rhythms in nature which go beyond the most obvious influences of sun, weather and season – we’re talking about lunar, planetary and stellar constellations. (14)

 

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Biodynamic farms aim to become self-sufficient in compost, manure and animal feeds, and additionally, an astronomical calendar is used to determine favorable planting, cultivating and harvesting times. This is how BD farming differs from organic farming.

BD farming includes organic agriculture’s priority on manures and composts and prohibition of the use of artificial chemicals on soil and plants. The farming practices are learned through experience and from other farmers.

Biodynamic agriculture assumes that the farm is an organism, an independent entity with its own individuality. Integration of crops and livestock, recycling of nutrients, maintenance of soil and the health and well-being of crops and animals are all priorities of BD farming. The farmer, too, is considered as part of the whole. (14)

People need to be aware of where their food comes from. We live fast paced lives, and sometimes, we think it’s impossible to eat healthy or live “green”. It all starts with a shift in consciousness. Although, it is impossible to isolate ourselves from pesticides (which are literally everywhere around us), it is less difficult to choose unprocessed foods, fresh fruits and veggies. Start small, but think big… about health and environment.

“When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied.”

~ Herophilus

 

REFERENCES:

  1. Temple, Norman J. et al.: Food labels: A critical assessment. Nutrition. 2014. 30 (3): 257 – 260. 
  2. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations). Committee on Agriculture, Fifteenth Session, Rome, 25-29 January 1999: Organic Agriculture. Online Source: http://www.fao.org/docrep/meeting/X0075e.htm (27.04.2018).
  3. USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). Agricultural Marketing Service: Organic Labeling Standards. Online Source: https://www.ams.usda.gov/grades-standards/organic-labeling-standards (27.04.2018). 
  4.  USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). Agricultural Marketing Service: The National List. Online Source: https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/organic/national-list (27.04.2018). 
  5. Consumer Reports: Made With Organic [Specified Ingredients]. Online Source: http://greenerchoices.org/2016/11/16/made-with-organic/ (27.04.2018).
  6. McCarthy B, Liu HB, Chen T: Green Food Consumption in China: Segmentation Based on Attitudes Toward Food Safety. Journal of International Food & Agribusiness Marketing. 2016. 28 (4): 346-362. Online Source: https://researchonline.jcu.edu.au/39263/9/39263%20McCarthy%20et%20al%202015.pdf (27.04.2018). 
  7. Online Source: http://www.twinoaksfarm.net/what-do-food-labels-really-mean (27.04.2018).
  8. USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). Food Safety and Inspection Service: Meat and Poultry Labeling Terms. Online Source: https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/food-labeling/meat-and-poultry-labeling-terms/meat-and-poultry-labeling-terms/!ut/p/a1/jZDNCsIwEISfxQcI2doqepSCtFVbRNSYi6ya1kCblCYq-vRaREHxp7unZb5hh6GcMsoVHmWGVmqFeX3z7hqm0HX6PkRJ3xlCGC-mycj3oTfr3IDVDyB2G_q_zAD–aMGD9rVxJ9klJdo90SqVFOWCUtQmZOoDGWp1jtiMBX2TFLcWmL2QtiHkONG5FJllBUCa9eOlPqQ2-r8lIgVVWH-A0vKX-OCc9swdmdeEMUuJN478KHPO_C9sLKYs8t4EIAMW1dofMrM/#14 (27.04.2018).
  9. Consumer Reports: Natural. Online Source: http://greenerchoices.org/2016/11/16/natural-label-review/ (27.04.2018).
  10. Consumer Reports: Certified Naturally Grown. Online Source: http://greenerchoices.org/2017/08/07/certified-naturally-grown/ (27.04.2018). 
  11. Merrill MC: Eco-Agriculture: A Review of its History and Philosophy, Biological Agriculture & Horticulture. 2012. 1. (3): 181-210. 
  12. Sörqvist P, Haga A, Langeborg L, Holmgren MWallinder M, Nöstl A, Seager PB, Marsh JE: The green halo: Mechanisms and limits of the eco-label effect. Food Quality and Preference. 2015. (43): 1-9. Online Source: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0950329315000312 (27.04.2018). 
  13. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations): Strategic Plan 2016 – 2020 for the Non-Sugar Sector. 2016. Page: 43. Online Source: http://extwprlegs1.fao.org/docs/pdf/mat159356.pdf (27.04.2018).
  14. Nabi A, Dr.Narayan S, Afroza B, Mushtaq F, Mufti S, Ummyiah HM and MM Magray: Biodynamic farming in vegetables. Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry 2017. 6. (6): 212-219. Online Source: http://www.phytojournal.com/archives/2017/vol6issue6/PartD/6-5-383-396.pdf (27.04.2018).

TOP 10 HEALTHY REASONS TO BE MORE PASSIONATE ABOUT TRAVELING

SHORT ABSTRACT:

  • How does travel affect our mental health or our health in general?
  • What exactly is mental health? Mental health involves our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It determines many things, like – how we interact with others, how we make choices, how we handle stress.
  • 10 reasons why traveling is good for us.

 

First, Happy New Year! 

giphy

via GIPHY

A month ago, I went to Munich and then a week after that, I traveled to Florence, Luca and Pisa in Italy. I don’t have to mention that I love traveling, do I? I traveled by train and by bus. I love the conversations I have with people, I love meeting new people, I love observing how people interact with each other and how they are dressed. Don’t worry, I’m not a weirdo. I don’t stalk people or scarily stare at them. But, as a writer, I love observing everything and I love reading.

 

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Can you guess, which one is me? 

 

These two travels made me think: how does travel affect our lives, or more accurate question that popped in my mind was – how does travel affect our mental health? What are its benefits to our health in general?

What exactly is mental health? Mental health involves our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It determines many things, like – how we interact with others, how we make choices, how we handle stress. It also affects our thoughts, feelings and actions. A good mental health does not only mean an absence of depression, anxiety or other psychological issues. A dose of anxiety and feeling blue from time to time is a normal occurrence in life. How we handle those disturbances can tell a lot about our mental well-being. A good mental health means having an appetite for living, to laugh and have fun, to have the ability to deal with stressful situations and bounce back on one’s feet quickly after being knocked down, to have a sense of meaning and purpose in life, to be flexible to change, to know when to work and when to play, to be able to build and maintain relationships, and to have a good dose of self-confidence and self-esteem.

 

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So, the question here would be, can travel boost all those good characteristics? And, I’m not talking about losing your luggage in a foreign airport. It sounds stressful (although, I actually enjoyed solving that problem (long story), my mom did not – again, long story… It happened in Paris… No, wait… It really is a long story. I better save it for another day!)

So, let’s dive in – 10 reasons why traveling is good for us:

1. We learn through travel.

Traveling gives the opportunity to collect useful information about other people’s culture, language, cuisine and traditions. According to a study published in the Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport & Tourism Education, travel has the potential to create dynamic situations of learning, (1) in which one learns not only about the foreign land, but also a lot about self. In a nutshell, travel can help us learn many things about our own view of the world and of life. Priceless knowledge.

 

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2. Travel improves our social skills.

Humans are social creatures. We communicate in multiple ways multiple times a day. We don’t just communicate face-to-face, but also through phones, radios, videos, etc.. We sometimes communicate even when we don’t realize it, and therefore, even the shiest, introverted person communicates with the world, one way or the other.

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As a solo traveler or as part of a group (friends or tourist agency group) we improve our social skills. We often start with a small talk, and soon find ourselves sharing opinions and learning new information. We observe body language and learn to analyze it. We observe manners and tone and volume of voices. All of this helps us learn a lot of things about ourselves and the people around us.

3. We develop new skills.

This one is especially directed to those people who plan their own journey without using a travel agency. Now, this doesn’t mean that people who travel with travel agencies don’t learn new skills. They probably do. But, when people plan a journey by themselves, they are directly responsible for time management, documents, finances and transportation.

 

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There is no one to show you the way, you have to find it by yourself. There is no one to tell you, that certain places are opened or closed at a particular time, you have to find that out by yourself. In short, solo travelers, or groups of travelers who plan their own journey, are somehow forced to concentrate and think in different ways than tourists who are following a tour guide. To sum things up – we learn how to solve problems on our feet and unlock skills we thought we never had in the first place. How cool is that?!

4. Adventure. 

Sure. We are not all the same. Some people don’t like adventures. (I’m not one of those people). But studies have pointed out that adventures can have direct positive impact on subjective well-being and perceived stress. Benefits of adventures are, according to numerous evaluations, a more positive self-concept and increased self-esteem. (2)

 

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5. Increased creativity.

We are so accustomed to our environment, that even if there is something creative in it, like a building or new appliances, new cars, we might not even recognize their potential. Our lives are busy and happening fast. We don’t have time for noticing things that don’t help us move forward… Or do we? We cannot let the world around us become invisible to us! So, we escape. For a short while. Outside of our comfort zone, we are more concentrated on what’s going on around us. All our senses are heightened and awoken, and when that happens, creativity slowly starts streaming in our brains, until it runs free. When that happens (at least for me), it represents an epitome of freedom and internal piece.

 

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6. Making new friends.

This one goes hand in hand with our social skills. But, when we travel, it is inevitable that we will meet new people. Some of them will be our companions only for a short time (for example while we sit in a train or a bus), and with some people we will just…click. Making friends is not easy. Ironically, in the 21st Century, the time of social media and hyper-communications, many people feel disconnected more than ever. Stepping out of one’s shell is never easy, or comfortable, but you know what they say about the comfort zone – great things never came from there. Not even friendships.

 

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7. Memories!

Traveling gives us moments to remember. I will never forget my trip to Munich and my trip to Italy. Munich and Florence are majestic cities! Love Pisa as well. The architecture, the history behind it, the people, the fun – all of it worth visiting, all of it unforgettable!

 

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8. Increased productivity.

When we travel, our must-does and to-does are muted. In this day and age, we usually work for a minimum of 40 hours per week, and after a while we run out of juice. But instead of sleeping in, going on a journey for a few days, away from everything is not a bad idea, right? It will clear the old thoughts and replace them with new ideas. Excessive working hours can negatively affect sleep quality, and inadequate sleep habits can potentially cause health problems. (3) A study, published in the Journal of Occupational Health, has found that an overtime work is an important factor of cardiovascular disease and obesity. (4) Quality of both – work and life, in these cases, drops and therefore productivity decreases. This is why taking a time off is very important.

 

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9. Bigger self-esteem.

This one is especially true for those people who decide to travel alone. The fact that they have to find a way in and out of any situation by themselves is a big boost to the self-esteem. Solo traveling is often times (at least for me) related to feelings of personal freedom (you go wherever you want, whenever you want), relaxation (nothing better than a single-bed hotel room and a relaxing bath or hot shower without anyone knocking on the door for you to hurry up), and personal discovery – I have learned a lot about myself through solo traveling.

 

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10. Diversity. 

This is my favorite part, so I saved it for last. When we travel we are introduced to greater diversity of population. It’s interesting and amazing to see so many cultures, races and religions living together in one place. Like a garden with beautiful flowers. Someone once said: The beauty of the world lies in the diversity of its people. I agree.

 

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REFERENCES:

  1. Roberson DN Jr.: Learning While Traveling: The School of Travel. Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport & Tourism Education. 2018. 22: 14-18.
  2. Mutz M, Müller J: Mental Health Benefits of Outdoor Adventures: Results From Two Pilot Studies. Journal of Adolescence. 2016. 49: 105-114.  
  3. Afonso P, Fonseca M, Pires JF: Impact of Working Hours on Sleep and Mental Health. Occupational Medicine. 2017. 67(5): 377–382. 
  4. Kawada T: Long Working Hours and Obesity with Special Reference to Sleep Duration. Journal of Occupational Health. 2014. 56: 399-400.

 

 

 

 

ARE HEALTH BENEFITS OF OUR DAILY CUP OF TEA REAL?

SHORT ABSTRACT: 

  • Chemistry of tea: what exactly is in our teacup? Fresh tea leaf is extraordinarily rich in the flavanol group of polyphenols (catechins), which may constitute up to 30% of the dry leaf weight. 
  • Tea and antioxidants. Tea is a major source of flavonoids, which are now well known antioxidants. 
  • Tea and cholesterol. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition has showed that black tea consumption notably lowered serum concentration of LDL (bad) cholesterol, specifically in subjects with higher cardiovascular risk. 
  • Tea and diabetes. Some epidemiological studies also present interesting and optimistic data, which indicate that drinking at least 4 cups of tea per day, regardless of its type, may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 20%. 
  • Tea and liver disease. A study has shown that tea protects us against non-alcoholic fatty liver disease by limiting hepatic lipid accumulation.
  • Tea and cancer. There are more than ten catechin compounds in tea. Catechins are a group of natural antioxidants, and they suppress DNA damage by enhancing antioxidant enzymes and promoting the repair of damaged DNA. 
  • Tea and weight loss. The topic of the effect of tea on weight loss is not new. A study indicated that taking green tea, capsaicin and ginger co-supplements for 8 weeks among overweight women had beneficial effects on weight, BMI, markers of insulin metabolism and plasma glutathione levels. 
  • Tea and depression. A study conducted in Japan showed that higher tea consumption was associated with a lower prevalence of depressive symptoms.
  • When is tea bad? Some experts claim that having considered the concentration of caffeine, its diuretic properties and the negative effect on iron absorption, the maximum consumption of black tea should not exceed 8 cups per day. 

 

Fresh tea leaf is extraordinarily rich in the flavanol group of polyphenols (catechins), which may constitute up to 30% of the dry leaf weight. Flavanols and their glycosides; depsides, such as chlorogenic acid, coumarylquinic acid; and theogallin (3-galloylquinic acid) –  one that is unique to tea, are other polyphenols present in the tea leaf. 

3,4,5-Tri-O-galloylquinic_acid

3-galloylquinic acid

By Edgar181 (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

On average level, caffeine is present in 3%, along with very small amounts of the other common methylxanthinestheobromine and theophylline.

Caffeine_structure.svg

Caffeine

By Vaccinationist, via Wikimedia Commons

The amino acid theanine (5-Nethylglutamine) is also unique to tea.

Theanine

Theanine

By Benrr101, via Wikimedia Commons

Tea accumulates aluminum and manganese. In addition to plant cell enzymes, tea leaf also contains an active polyphenol oxidase (an enzyme), which catalyzes the aerobic oxidation of the catechins during black tea manufacture. The enzymatic oxidation generates a lot of compounds, including bisflavanols, theaflavins, epitheaflavic acids, and thearubigens, which give the characteristic taste and color properties of black tea.

 

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There is no tannic acid in tea. Thearubigens compose the largest mass of the extractable matter in black tea, but their composition is not well known.

The catechin quinones also trigger the formation of many volatile compounds found in the black tea aroma fraction.

Green tea composition is very similar to that of the fresh leaf except for a few enzymatically catalyzed changes which occur extremely rapidly following plucking. New volatile substances are produced during the drying stage. Oolong tea is intermediate in composition between green and black teas. (35)

So, now that we know the tea chemistry, we can move on to the part of how tea affects our health. The health benefits of tea are known since the early centuries AD. Tea was such an important part of Chinese Pharmacopoeia, that demand for tea increased greatly by the end of the fifth century. (3) Many people have long believed in the medical efficacies of tea and other herbs, although effectiveness is not rigorously verified in scientific ways yet. (36)

Tea is a natural, low-processed and calorie free beverage. Many studies have been made to determine its effects on peoples’ health. Some studies claim that tea has antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anticarcinogenic, antihypertensive, neuroprotective, cholesterol-lowering, and thermogenic properties(37)

However, to every good news, there are also countering bad news. Figures. There are many studies as well, that have tested the level of contamination of teas, especially with heavy metals and pesticides.

We will have a quickie with both sides – the good one and the bad one. No, it’s not what you think! Dirty mind!

Ok, first – the benefits of tea. We’re talking about the tea from dried leaves of the plant Camellia Sinensis (green, oolong, white, yellow and black tea). Many scientific studies are trying to answer these important questions:

  • Are all teas the same?
  • What exactly are the health benefits of drinking tea?
  • How do the different ways of tea preparation affect the availability of its components?
  • How much and how long should one person consume tea to obtain the health benefits?

 

TEA AND ANTIOXIDANTS

Tea is a major source of flavonoids, which are now well known antioxidants. Tea catechins and theaflavins are, respectively, the bioactive phytochemicals accountable for the antioxidant activity of green tea and black tea. (38) Green tea and green tea extracts, now more than ever, are used in various industrial products, such as cosmetics, foods and beverages. (39) 

Due to fermentation, black tea and green tea have different phenolic compound profile. The main polyphenols in green tea are: (-) – epicatechine (EC), (-) – epicatechine gallate (ECG), (-) – epigallocatechine (EGC) and (-) – epigallocatechine gallate (EGCG). Conversly, theaflavins and thearubigins are the main additional families of polyphenols present in black teas. (40) EGCG, which is viewed as green tea’s most significant active component, is used as its quality marker. (41) 

Epigallocatechin_gallate_structure.svg

EGCG

By Su-no-G, via Wikimedia Commons

The level of polyphenols in the tea plant varies depending on climate, cultivar and processing. This means that the concentration of EGCG varies. Moderate concentrations of EGCG could help people to cope with conditions where the oxidative stress is increased (alcoholic fatty liver, obesity-induced inflammation). (42) Of course, more studies are to be made, to confirm this claim. 

A study published in the Natural Product Sciences Journal, by the Korean Society of Pharmacology estimates, that green tea extract and EGCG together have a bigger antioxidant ability than EGCG taken alone. (43) This is why green tea has been reported to exert beneficial effect against various diseases. It has excellent antioxidant properties and is a great choice of beverage.

Green tea has definitely higher total phenolic and flavonoid content than black tea, which means that green tea has better antioxidant properties than black tea(44)

Oolong tea, yellow tea and white are in the middle, they have more antioxidants than black tea, but less than green tea.

TEA AND CHOLESTEROL

While green tea is the obvious winner in the antioxidant race, black tea and white tea are said to be doing great in the lowering-of-cholesterol-race. It is true, that more studies have to be made in order to confirm this claim, but the number of research papers that show good results increases.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition has showed that black tea consumption notably lowered serum concentration of LDL (bad) cholesterol, specifically in subjects with higher cardiovascular risk. (45) Same can be said about white tea, according to a study published in the Journal of Food Chemistry. (46) This does not mean that green tea doesn’t have these properties. Green tea has been suggested to improve cardiovascular disease risk factors, including circulating lipid variables. However, more evidence is needed to confirm this claim. (47)

TEA AND DIABETES

Some epidemiological studies also present interesting and optimistic data, which indicate that drinking at least 4 cups of tea per day, regardless of its type, may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 20%. (48) Similar results were obtained for coffee, but that’s another story to be told. Of course, diet, lifestyle and genetic predispositions are also in the game here (as well as everywhere else), but we have to do everything that we can, to live a better and healthier life – change diet, do exercise, lower stress… you know the drill. Drinking tea without doing much of anything else will not help. Tea is just a helping tool to get to the wanted results. 

TEA AND LIVER DISEASE

Diet plays a large role in the development of metabolic disorders, including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, metabolic syndrome, etc… Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is an accumulation of fat in the liver despite a low level of alcohol intake, with signs of hepatomegaly (having an enlarged liver). (49) Metabolic syndrome is defined as a constellation of interconnected physiological, biochemical, clinical, and metabolic factors, which directly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and all cause mortality(50) 

Liver_01_animation1

By Database Center for Life Science(DBCLS)[2], via Wikimedia Commons

Recently, a study published in the Journal of Clinics and Research in Hepatology and Gastroenterology, indicated that green tea extract did not affect hepatic antioxidant status and lipid metabolism, but protected against non-alcoholic fatty liver disease by limiting hepatic lipid accumulation. (49) Roughly speaking, this means that the green tea extract would limit accumulation of fat in the liver, but would not influence the chemical processes that transform the fat.

Many more studies are giving similar results, however, more long term randomized clinical trials are needed to evaluate the health benefits of tea.

TEA AND CANCER

Many different studies point out at the protective effect tea has on the body, that drinking green tea lowers the risk for lung, breast and stomach cancer, but according to the Food and Drug Administration, study results are so vague, that based on the current state of knowledge it is not possible to acknowledge, that tea may decrease the risk of the mentioned cancers. (48) 

In the Journal Nutrients, scientists published a study about the effects of catechins from the tea on breast cancer. They introduced (somewhat disputing) in vitro and in vivo test results showing the association between green tea consumption and the decreased risk of breast cancer. The results between in vitro and in vivo studies were inconsistent probably because of the low oral bioavailability and the biotransformation of catechins in vivo(51) 

There are more than ten catechin compounds in tea. Catechins are a group of natural antioxidants, and they suppress carcinogen-induced ROS (Reactive Oxygen Species) and DNA damage by enhancing antioxidant enzymes, scavenging ROS, and promoting the repair of damaged DNA. Among them EGCG is the most abundant, and shows the most promising suppressing effects on breast cancer. (51) The role of tea in breast cancer (or any cancer) is uncertain and yet to be proven, but a cup of tea, or two, or three wouldn’t hurt anyone. 

TEA AND WEIGHT LOSS

There are many factors that influence a person’s weight: genetics, lifestyle, stress, gut microbiota, etc, etc… The topic of the effect of tea on weight loss is not new. Some say that tea boosts metabolism, others say its diuretic properties help the body get rid of toxins, and then others theorize that the antioxidants play a role in the process of weight loss. But, we’ve seen that it’s not really that simple. As mentioned above – oral bioavailability and biotransformation of tea components are pretty low, and higher above I mentioned that green tea extract does not influence lipid metabolism, only accumulation of fat in the liver. I’m not trying to be a kill-joy here – there are tons and tons of studies out there about the beneficial effects of tea on weight loss. In fact, a study indicated that taking green tea, capsaicin and ginger co-supplements for 8 weeks among overweight women had beneficial effects on weight, BMI, markers of insulin metabolism and plasma glutathione levels. (52) 

 

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BUT, I’ve said it once and I’ll say it million times – only drinking tea will not get anyone achieve long term results. Tea is a tool, that combined with other lifestyle and diet choices will help anyone achieve their weight goals. 

TEA AND DEPRESSION

Whether tea consumption decreases the risk of depression remains controversial. A study conducted in Japan showed that higher tea consumption was associated with a lower prevalence of depressive symptoms. (53) 

A meta-analysis of eleven studies (22,817 participants with 4,743 cases of depression) showed that drinking 3 cups of tea per day decreased the risk of depression by 37%.

WHEN IS TEA BAD?

We’ve looked at many reasons (not all, there are so many other reasons, but if I write about all of them, these post series will never end) why tea is good for us, and it is time to review some bad aspects of tea drinking.

Tea (especially black tea) contains caffeine. Too much caffeine results in insomnia, increased heart rate and increased stress. Furthermore, the polyphenols from the tea bind the non-heme iron and in that way they reduce its absorption. Black tea tannins inhibit absorption of iron to a larger extent compared to catechins in the green tea. This means that people with anemia should refrain from drinking black tea during meals. (48)

Contamination of food, food products and natural health products is a growing concern. The Journal of Toxicology published a study with results of toxic element testing of off-the-shelf teas sold in tea bags (black, green, oolong and white). They found that most tea samples were contaminated with heavy metals. Unfortunately, there are no guidelines for routine testing and reporting of toxicant levels in teas and other “naturally” occurring products. (54) Hopefully, public health warning will be issued to protect consumer safety.

This one goes for any hot food or beverage, but drinking hot tea, according to a study published in The British Medical Journal (The BMJ), was found to be strongly associated with a higher risk of esophageal cancer. (55)

Black tea will lead to staining of your teeth. It’s as bad as coffee and as bad as red wine. And I still am not giving up any of those things!

So, how many cups of tea should we drink?

Some experts claim that having considered the concentration of caffeine, its diuretic properties and the negative effect on iron absorption, the maximum consumption of black tea should not exceed 8 cups per day. (48)

I think, tea as part of a lifestyle and as part of a meaningful ritual along with its many benefits outclass its few reported negative effects. Tea is a good companion in any time and at any place.

See you again soon!  

REFERENCES FOR THE TEA SERIES (YOU CAN FIND PART ONE HEREPART TWO HERE AND PART THREE HERE):

  1. Hall CM, Sharples L, Mitchell R, Macionis N and Cambourne B: Food Tourism Around the World. Development, Management and Markets. Butterworth-Heinemann. 2003. Page: 125. Online source: http://shora.tabriz.ir/Uploads/83/cms/user/File/657/E_Book/Tourism/Food%20Tourism.pdf#page=138).  (28.11.2017)
  2. Heiss ML, Heiss RJ: The Story of Tea. A Cultural History and Drinking Guide. Ten Speed Press. 2007. Page: 6.
  3. Martin LC and Raymond C: Alternative and Complementary Therapies. 2011. 17 (3): 162-168.
  4. Heiss ML, Heiss RJ: The Story of Tea. A Cultural History and Drinking Guide. Ten Speed Press. 2007. Page: 22.
  5. Ukers WH: All About Tea. Kingsport Press Inc. 1935. Page: 23.
  6. Ukers WH: All About Tea. Kingsport Press Inc. 1935. Page: 49.
  7. Online Source: http://www.tea.co.uk/tea-a-brief-history. (28.11.2017)
  8. Ukers WH: All About Tea. Kingsport Press Inc. 1935. Page: 67.
  9. Chang K.: World Tea Production and Trade: Current and Future Development. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Rome. 2015. Page: 3, 5.
  10. Hall CM, Sharples L, Mitchell R, Macionis N and Cambourne B: Food Tourism Around the World. Development, Management and Markets. Butterworth-Heinemann. 2003. Page: 126. Online source: http://shora.tabriz.ir/Uploads/83/cms/user/File/657/E_Book/Tourism/Food%20Tourism.pdf#page=138). (28.11.2017)
  11. Online Source: https://www.britannica.com/plant/tea-plant. (28.11.2017)
  12. Online Source: https://www.tea.co.uk/tea-growing-and-production. (28.11.2017)
  13. Online Source: https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/duke_energy/Camellia_sinensis.html. (28.11.2017)
  14. Online Source: http://giorgi10.tripod.com/id24.htm#tutunoberachite. (28.11.2017)
  15. Online Source: http://www.scmp.com/magazines/post-magazine/long-reads/article/1995442/indian-tea-pluckers-caught-time-warp-misery-and. (28.11.2017)
  16. International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour Safety and Health Fact Sheet Hazardous Child Labour in Agriculture. Tea. Geneva. 2004. Online Source: http://www.ilo.org/public//english/standards/ipec/publ/download/factsheets/fs_tea_0304.pdf. (28.11.2017)
  17. Online Source: https://ratetea.com/topic/oxidation-of-tea/57/. (28.11.2017)
  18. Online Source: http://www.madehow.com/Volume-5/Green-Tea.html. (28.11.2017)
  19. Online Source: https://www.teaclass.com/lesson_0208.html. (28.11.2017)
  20. Online Source: https://www.dethlefsen-balk.de/ENU/10943/Gelber_Tee.html. (28.11.2017)
  21. Hilal Y. and Engelhardt U.: Characterisation of white tea – Comparison to green and black tea. Journal of Consumer Protection and Food Safety. September 2007 (2): 414 – 421. (Online Source: https://www.tu-braunschweig.de/Medien-DB/ilc/w_t.pdf) (28.11.2017)
  22. Online Source: http://www.ethicalteapartnership.org/for-business/global-tea-production/ (28.11.2017)
  23. Hall CM, Sharples L, Mitchell R, Macionis N and Cambourne B: Food Tourism Around the World. Development, Management and Markets. Butterworth-Heinemann. 2003. Page: 121. Online source: http://shora.tabriz.ir/Uploads/83/cms/user/File/657/E_Book/Tourism/Food%20Tourism.pdf#page=138)
  24. Tong L.: Chinese Tea. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK. 2012. Page: 19. Online Source: https://books.google.mk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=q9NYpm7vX-8C&oi=fnd&pg=PA1&dq=chinese+tea+ceremony&ots=2hD-5M2wM-&sig=6ggokAILvd2fpNp1-PHxvUBoNSM&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=tea%20ceremony&f=true (02.12.2017)
  25. Tong L.: Chinese Tea. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK. 2012. Page: 5. Online Source: https://books.google.mk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=q9NYpm7vX-8C&oi=fnd&pg=PA1&dq=chinese+tea+ceremony&ots=2hD-5M2wM-&sig=6ggokAILvd2fpNp1-PHxvUBoNSM&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=tea%20ceremony&f=true (02.12.2017)
  26. Tong L.: Chinese Tea. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK. 2012. Page: 114. Online Source: https://books.google.mk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=q9NYpm7vX-8C&oi=fnd&pg=PA1&dq=chinese+tea+ceremony&ots=2hD-5M2wM-&sig=6ggokAILvd2fpNp1-PHxvUBoNSM&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=tea%20ceremony&f=true (02.12.2017).
  27. Online Source: http://www.realestate-tokyo.com/news/sado-japanese-tea-ceremony/ (03.12.2017).
  28. Online Source: https://www.ohhowcivilized.com/korean-traditional-tea-ceremony/ (03.12.2017)
  29. Online Source: http://www.foodandwine.com/tea/tibetan-butter-tea-cold-weather-breakfast-champions (03.12.2017)
  30. Online Source: https://russianlife.com/stories/online-archive/tea-time-in-russia/ (03.12.2017)
  31. Online Source: http://www.turkishculture.org/culinary-arts/turkish-tea-53.htm (03.12.2017)
  32. Online Source: https://www.german-way.com/the-mysterious-world-of-german-tea/ (03.12.2017)
  33. Online Source: https://www.tea.co.uk/a-social-history (03.12.2017)
  34. Rowland S.: The Heat Denaturation of Albumin and Globulin in the Milk. Journal of Dairy Research. 1933. 5 (1). 46-53 (Online Source: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-dairy-research/article/71-the-heat-denaturation-of-albumin-and-globulin-in-milk/358ECEC3211867DEF43C813D9EEE0FE6 (03.12.2017)
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THE ABSOLUTELY THRILLING TEA CULTURE AROUND THE WORLD

This is PART THREE, of the POST SERIES!

SHORT ABSTRACT:

  • Historically, tea played a central role in social and political life. Today, tea culture refers to the way people prepare tea, how they interact with tea and how they drink it.
  • Bellow are presented the cultural tea traditions from around the world.

 

The word “tea” has many connotations. It can refer to a plant, a beverage, a meal service, an agricultural product, an export, an industry, an art, or a dedicated pastime. (23) 

Tea plays an important role in many cultures. But why tea? Historically, tea played a central role in social and political life. Today, tea culture refers to the way people prepare tea, how they interact with tea and how they drink it. Aesthetics surrounding the tea drinking is also very important. Tea ceremonies are beautiful, and each culture has an intricate ritual which honors values, heritage, spirituality and tradition.

Tea ceremonies are not mystic, rather natural and elevated. Some people say, that tea ceremonies in China are like the character of Chinese people – natural and casual, and not restricted by certain patterns. (24) 

The tea ceremony in China consists of many elements, such as: choice of tea, type of water, utensils, time, presentation and manner of drinking the tea. With the popularization of tea, people from different regions and nationalities developed their own unique customs of drinking tea. (25)

Ceremony tea sets in various historical times are different, depending on what was in fashion in those particular times. The tea apparatus must fully exhibit the fragrance of the tea and display its visual aesthetic beauty.  It is also important when and where drinking of tea occurs. (26)

 

 

お茶

Japanese tea ceremony is choreographic ritual of preparing and serving Japanese green tea Matcha. The whole process is not about drinking tea, but about aesthetics, preparing a bowl of tea from one’s heart.

At first tea was prepared and drank only by Buddhist priests and noblemen. In the 13th century the samurai noble warrior class became fascinated with tea preparation, and so tea parties of various sorts became very popular. Eventually, the art of tea ceremony came to be enjoyed by people of all classes. (27)

 

 

The Korean tea ceremony is not as formal as the Japanese and with more natural ease of movement than the Chinese. This means – fewer formal rituals, fewer restrictions, greater freedom for relaxation, and more creativity in enjoying a broad variety of teas, services, and conversation. (28)

 

 

चाय

India’s national drink is called Chai. It is a black tea infused with different flavors (ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, pepper, cinnamon and cloves). It is very popular, and is always offered to visitors in Indian homes, offices and places of business. 

 

 

བོད་ཇ

Drinking butter tea is part of every day life in Tibet. It is called Po Cha in Tibetan and it is made out of tea, water, butter and salt. Tibetan medicine supports the combination of butter and tea as a means of sharpening one’s mind and body. (29)

 

 

Чай

Tea was introduced to Russia in the mid 1600s. It is appealing to the Russian lifestyle because it’s warm and hearty. Typical Russian tea is a combination of two or three types and flavors. The Russian process of tea making is a bit different: first, they produce zavarka – this is a dark, concentrated brew; then, they separately boil water. When they make tea, first they fill the cup with zavarka and then they dilute it with hot water. Zavarka is made in a special pot called samovar. Tea is served to guests as a welcome gesture. (30)

 

 

Çay

Tea was introduced to Turkey in the 1500s, but Turkish people ware not convinced by its specialness. It was given another chance much later – in the 1870s. Today, tea is an important part of Turkish culture. Not only that, but Turkey has one of the highest per capita consumption rates of tea, averaging about 1,000 cups per year. Yes, tea is the king! (And coffee is the queen, together they rule not only Turkey, but the whole world).

Turks use a double tea pot to prepare tea. Water is boiled in the lower pot and loose-leaf tea is steeped in the top pot. This allows each person to drink tea as they desire – strong or light. In some parts of Turkey, people use samovar to prepare tea in.

Turkey is the sixth largest producer of tea in the world. Travel to any town of Turkey, and you are sure to find a tea house or a tea garden. (31) 

 

 

أتاي

The Maghrebi mint tea (in Moroccan Arabic: atay) is a green tea with spearmint leaves and sugar.

It is the traditional drink of Morocco. Similar tea is prepared in Spain and it is called Moorish tea. Tea is a very important part of Moroccan culture. Drinking it in company symbolizes hospitality and friendship.

 

 

Tee

The Frisian tea time was developed in the west part of North Germany. The so-called “Ostfriesentee” is a strong black blend, and it is served in a large porcelain tea pot. The tea pot is warmed up with hot water, which is then discarded. Next, the tea is poured into the pot and offered in small cups made out of thin porcelain. Before serving the tea, a candied sugar is put in each cup, and after the tea is poured in the cup, cream is carefully added to each drink. This makes a beautiful pattern in the dark liquid, called “wulkje” (little cloud). (32)

 

 

Thé

Tea first came to Paris in the 17th Century, a few years before it arrived in London. At first it was used as a medicinal drink. It was given to King Louis XIV for his gout.

France drinks mostly black tea, and although the French tea market is rather small, it is growing steadily. 

 

 

Tea

 

 

Last, but not least – Britain and tea. A love story. 

Tea is synonymous with British culture. Since the 18th century, Britain has been one of the greatest tea consumers. 

British aristocracy was introduced to tea by a foreign (Portuguese) princess named Catherine of Braganza, the queen of Charles II. This was in the 17th century. 

In the early 1800s Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford launched the idea of having tea in the late afternoon to bridge the gap between luncheon and dinner, which in fashionable circles was not served until 8 o’clock at night. 

Later in the 19th century, tea became a very popular home beverage for women. Tea was then drank by all social classes. Rich people’s tea was accompanied by bread or toast, cold meats and pies, eggs and fish. Poor people took their morning tea with bread and butter, or maybe porridge or gruel.

Sometime in the 1860s the afternoon tea became very “fashionable”. Such teas were elegant affairs, with tea drank from the finest china. This became such a big deal, that even today, contemporary manuals on etiquette are full of advice on how to conduct a correct afternoon tea. (33) 

Yes. An instruction book on how to drink and enjoy a cup of tea. Moving on.

In the 20th century, tea played an important part in the lives of British people. During the two World Wars, the government took drastic measures and actions to safeguard the essential morale-booster. (33) They had detailed plans what to do with the tea supplies in case of bombing, ship sinking and so on. Yes – tea is that important to the Brits.

And what about milk in tea? Which one goes first in the cup? Well, there are… theories.

If we pour milk in first and then tea, this will cool the water too quickly, affecting the brewing. This provides you with a pretty lame cup of tea. That is one theory.

Another one is: if you pour milk in last (in the hot tea), it will cause denaturation of the lactalbumin and lactoglobulin (proteins in the milk) (34), which allegedly gives the tea stale taste. Again – lame. 

Some logical reasons as to why these theories are born:

in the old days, they put milk in first, so that the tea cup doesn’t crack when they poured the hot tea in.

And the theory of pouring milk in last? Orwell stated a suitable explanation – the drinker that way regulates the final tea color.

Such a violent debate. Tsk, tsk, tsk…

I don’t put milk in my tea, unless I drink it after 18.00h. Then I pour milk in last. According to the theory stated above, I’m drinking a lame cup of tea with denatured milk proteins. It actually tastes pretty damn good. So, screw the theories and take it from me – drink the tea in such a way that gives you most pleasure. 

TO BE CONTINUED…

References will be written at the end of the post series. 

 

Zeba Juveriya

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