What are We Feeding Fido, and Why?

February 26, 2014

Food for Thought

Dog Food Bowl 2By Sarah “Steve” Mosko

My journey into the world of dog food ingredients began when my two-year-old mutts, Olive and Dexi, embarked on a hunger strike of sorts. They’d circle around their food bowls a foot away, sniffing all the while, only to walk away in protest before getting close enough to really get a good look. It felt as though they thought I might be trying to poison them, or at least pull a fast one of some sort.

I served what I thought were top-tier kibble and wet foods, never skimping on price and offering plenty of variety to avert boredom. I changed commercial foods numerous times, trying every ilk of so-called natural lines marketed as organic, grain-free and the like, yet still my offerings were snubbed. I’ll never know if they actually conspired to get my attention, but get my attention they did when they’d go two days without eating a bite, ostensibly giving in only when hunger forced them to.

I became convinced Olive and Dexi were rejecting the meals based on odor, inspiring my 3-part investigation into dog foods: first, to understand the canine sense of smell; second, to master commercial dog food labeling; and third, to discern what canine diet might really be best. I’ve concluded that the answer to the latter might not be as simple as one would wish.

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BPA Regulatory Reform Moves Glacially Slow

November 15, 2013

Pregnant women should not wait to protect fetuses

By Sarah “Steve” Mosko

Appeared:

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Pregnant women and their fetuses still exposed to BPA.
Photo: © Milan Nykodym, Czech Republic

Mothers of infants and toddlers can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that BPA (bisphenol-A), an estrogen hormone-mimicking endocrine disruptor, was banned nationwide from baby bottles and sippy cups last year and from infant formula containers just months ago.

For decades, BPA has been a key component of both polycarbonate baby bottles & cups and the resin lining of most canned goods, including infant formula. BPA can migrate from the packaging into the contents. Literally hundreds of studies in lab animals and humans have linked BPA to such diverse medical problems as breast and prostate cancers, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, miscarriage, low birth weight, reproductive and sexual dysfunction, and altered cognitive and behavioral development.

However, fetal exposure to BPA is far from a thing of the past, as pregnant women – and hence their fetuses – are still routinely exposed to BPA from canned foods & beverages and reusable plastic bottles, as well as thermal cash register receipts. Unfortunately, there seems little chance the federal government will step in any time soon to limit pregnant women’s exposure, even though scientists who study the health effects of BPA say there is more than enough scientific evidence to warrant it.

The Breast Cancer Fund (BCF), a non-profit dedicated to eliminating environmental causes of breast cancer, agrees. In a Sept. 2013 report titled “Disrupted Development: the Dangers of Prenatal BPA Exposure,” BCF summarized the latest research showing that exposure to BPA early in development sets the stage for diseases in adulthood. The organization’s “Cans, Not Cancer” campaign is focused on protecting pregnant women by pressuring manufacturers and policy makers to eliminate BPA from all food cans: Dietary intake is thought to be the greatest source of human exposure.

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Beyond Counting Sheep: Dos and Don’ts of Natural Sleep

August 30, 2013

By Sarah “Steve” Mosko, PhD

Appeared:

  • Natural Life Magazine, Nov/Dec, 2013
  • E-The Environmental Magazine, May/Jun, 2013

Counting Sheep2Humans spend roughly a third of their lifetimes in slumber.  Studies abound showing that a good night’s sleep (usually 7-9 hours) promotes a sense of well-being and that sleep loss leaves us feeling exhausted, irritable and easily overwhelmed by the day’s challenges.  Not surprisingly, sleep consistently ranks in surveys as one of life’s most pleasurable activities.  However, the percentage of both U.S. men and women in all age groups who are chronically sleep-deprived, averaging six hours sleep or less, has risen significantly in recent decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Among the likely causes are societal shifts, like longer work hours, shift work, greater emphasis on getting ahead, and technologies that lure people into staying up late.  This trend toward shorter sleep is particularly worrisome given the conclusions from sleep experts in a report titled “Sleep: A Health Imperative” that insufficient or mistimed sleep can contribute to serious health problems like cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, depression and cancer, as well as auto accidents.

Because sleep is right up there with eating as a fundamental biological drive, you’d think that sleeping would be as easy as falling off a log, especially where people are increasingly short on sleep.  Yet, the incidence of insomnia – loosely defined as difficulty falling or staying asleep – is about 30 percent of the adult population, and in a recent national survey, one in three adults reported difficulties related to sleep loss, such as trouble concentrating or remembering.

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How smart was that lambchop? And do his friends miss him?

August 15, 2013

By Sarah “Steve” Mosko

Appeared:

  • Natural Life Magazine, Jan/Feb 2014 (p. 14)
  • The Abolitionist Magazine, 20 Oct, 2013
  • The Animals Voice Magazine, Oct, 2013
  • Fullerton Observer, Mid Sept, 2013 (p. 8)

lambchop“Sheepish,” as defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, means “resembling a sheep in meekness, stupidity, or timidity.” Society as a whole seems to agree that sheep are none too bright, given the familiar insult that someone is dumb as a sheep.

But what do we really know about what goes on inside a sheep’s brain? And, if they aren’t as dumb as we’ve believed, should attitudes change about eating them, using them for experimentation, or their treatment by the wool industry?

Monkeys are both intelligent and evolutionarily close relatives of humans, the obvious choice perhaps for researching neurological human diseases marked by cognitive decline, like Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s dementia and schizophrenia. However, many people question the morality of using primates for research expressly because of their intelligence, plus primates exhibit complex behaviors which make them difficult to manage in research settings.

Because sheep are docile and easily handled, but also have large mammalian brains with a human-like convoluted cortex, scientists have taken interest recently in their intelligence, considering them a possible model for studying neurological diseases. What they have discovered might surprise you.

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Mid-Ocean Plastics Cleanup Schemes: Too Little Too Late?

May 27, 2013

By Sarah (Steve) Mosko, PhD

Appeard:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Plastic debris from N. Pacific Gyre.
(Algalita Marine Research Institute)

Imagine using a thimble to empty a bathtub, with the faucet still running. That’s how experts on ocean plastics pollution generally see schemes focused on extracting the debris from the open ocean instead of strategies to prevent plastic waste from getting there in the first place.

Interest in methods to rid the oceans of plastic debris is motivated by very real threats to the entire ocean food web. The “North Pacific Garbage Patch” is the most studied of the five subtropical gyres, gigantic whirlpools where waste is picked up and concentrated by slow-swirling currents. There, plastic debris already outweighs zooplankton, tiny creatures at the base of the food web, by a factor of 36:1, according to the latest trawls by the Algalita Marine Research Institute in Long Beach, CA.

Subtropical gures

The 5 subtropical gyres.

Conventional plastics do not biodegrade on land or in water, but become brittle in sunlight and break apart into ever smaller bits of plastic, still containing toxic substances introduced during manufacture – like phthalates, bisphenol-A and flame retardants. Plastics also attract and concentrate persistent oily pollutants present in seawater. So plastic debris not only threatens sea creatures through entanglement or by clogging their digestive tracts, but also introduces dangerous chemicals into the food chain.

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Plastics-Free Living: Beyond the Low Hanging Fruit

March 29, 2013

By Sarah (Steve) Mosko, PhD

Appeared in:

Low hanging fruit tree

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Perhaps you already bring your own reusable grocery bags, have kicked the bottled water habit and know better than to microwave in plastics, but still find daily life swimming in plastics and want to use less of it.  After recycling, the average American still generates a half pound of plastic refuse daily, a concrete indicator of how deeply entrenched are plastic materials in our 21st century lifestyle (USEPA, 2010).

Rational reasons to cut back on plastics fall into one of two spheres: limiting exposure to hazardous chemicals associated with plastics – like bisphenol-A, phthalates and flame retardants – or reducing the harm to the environment incurred at all stages in plastics’ lifecycle, from extraction of the petroleum needed for manufacturing to disposal of the non-biodegradable finished products.

Short of adopting a Tarzan-like jungle existence, it’s probably impossible to completely eliminate plastics from modern day life, but with a little digging and shopping savvy, you can enlarge that dent in your plastics consumption.  Some ideas follow.

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Chemicals in Plastics Foster Diseases Passed on to Future Generations

February 14, 2013

By Sarah (Steve) Mosko, PhD

Appeared: Algalita Marine Research Blog, 20-Feb, 2013

Endocrine disrupting things

Common objects contain endocrine disruptors

In pregnant women, exposure today to endocrine-disrupting substances common in everyday plastics might not only be adversely affecting the health of their fetuses, but the health and fertility of their future great grandchildren might also be at risk, according to a laboratory study just published in January.  The health risks are not handed down via changes to the genetic DNA code (i.e. gene mutations), but rather through a parallel biological scheme of coding known as “epigenetics.”

Background
Traits are passed from one generation to the next through two distinct but interacting vehicles of inheritance.  The genes that make up our DNA were once thought to contain the entire blueprint for all inherited traits. For some time, however, scientists have understood the critical role of another coding system that literally sits atop the DNA and instructs genes to turn on or off.  Because all cells in a given animal or human have the same DNA sequence as the original fertilized egg and sperm, another mechanism is needed to explain how cell differentiation occurs during development so that a heart cell, for example, ends up so different from, say, a brain or skin cell.

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