BPA SELF-DEFENSE

Here are Dr. Vom Saal’s suggestions for minimizing your exposure to BPA

  • Avoid canned foods as much as possible.

Note: It does not help to store cans in the refrigerator or to use canned goods soon after you buy them. The harm is already done even before the cans reach the market, because high heat must be used to sterilize the food during canning.

Exceptions: Several manufacturers—including Eco Fish, Eden Organic, Edward & Sons, Muir Glen, Oregon’s Choice, and Wild Planet—have begun using BPA-free cans for some of their products. (See a manufacturer’s website for information on its BPA-free canned products, or contact the company directly.)

  • Choose cardboard over metal. Cardboard cartons (such as those used for juice or milk) and cardboard cylindrical “cans” (such as those used for raisins) generally are better options than metal cans—but they are not ideal, because they may contain some recycled paper (which is loaded with BPA), or they may be lined with a resin that contains BPA.

Get More of This Mineral to Shield Against Diabetes

Diabetes—the disease of chronically high levels of blood sugar—is an epidemic. Ten percent of American adults have it, including 40 percent of people six five and older. In fact, the rate of diabetes is rising so fast, the Centers for Disease Control predict the number of Americans with the disease will triple by 2050.

Against Diabetes

Key fact not widely reported: One reason so many of us get diabetes may be that so few of us get enough of the mineral magnesium in our diets. In a recently completed twenty-year study of nearly forty-five hundred Americans, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that those with the biggest intake of magnesium (200 mg per every one thousand calories consumed) had a 47 percent lower risk of diabetes than those with the smallest intake (100 mg per every one thousand calories consumed). The study also linked lower magnesium intake to higher levels of a biomarker of insulin resistance and three biomarkers of chronic inflammation (C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, fibrinogen).

What happens: Insulin is the hormone that ushers blood sugar (glucose) out of the bloodstream and into cells. In insulin resistance, cells don’t respond to the hormone, and blood glucose levels stay high—often leading to diabetes. And inflammatory biochemicals trigger the manufacture of proteins that increase insulin resistance. “Magnesium has an anti-inflammatory effect, and inflammation is one of the risk factors for diabetes,” says Ka He, MD, the study leader. “Magnesium is also a cofactor in the production of many enzymes that are a must for balanced blood sugar levels.

COMPELLING SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE

Other recent studies also link magnesium intake and diabetes:

  • Ten times more magnesium deficiency in people with diabetes. Compared with healthy people, people with newly diagnosed diabetes were ten times more likely to have low blood levels of magnesium, and people with “known diabetes” were eight times more likely to have low levels, reported researchers from Cambridge University in the journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice.
  • Low magnesium, high blood sugar. People with diabetes and low intake of magnesium had poorer blood sugar control than people with a higher intake of magnesium, reported Brazilian scientists. “Magnesium plays an important role in blood glucose control,” they concluded in the journal Clinical Nutrition.
  • More nerve damage. Nerve damage—diabetic neuropathy, with pain and burning in the feet and hands—is a common complication of diabetes. Indian researchers found that people with diabetic neuropathy had magnesium levels 23 percent lower than people without the problem.
  • Magnesium protects diabetic hearts. High blood sugar damages the circulatory system, with diabetes doubling the risk of heart attack or stroke. In a study from Italian researchers, taking a magnesium supplement strengthened the arteries and veins of older people with diabetes. The results were in the journal Magnesium Research. A magnesium supplement balances blood sugar—even if you’re not diabetic. In a study of fifty-two overweight people with insulin resistance (but not diabetes), those who took a daily magnesium supplement of 365 mg had a greater drop in blood sugar levels and insulin resistance than those who took a placebo, reported German researchers in Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism.

Bottom line: “Based on evidence from the study I led and other studies, increasing the intake of magnesium may be beneficial in diabetes,” says Dr. He.

MORE MAGNESIUM

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for magnesium is 420 mg a day for men and 320 mg a day for women.

However: In a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, no group of U.S. citizens tested—including Caucasian, African American, Hispanic American, men, or women—consumed the RDA for magnesium. “Substantial numbers of U.S. adults fail to consume adequate magnesium in their diets,” concluded researchers in the journal Nutrition. They also found that magnesium intake decreased as age increased—a troublesome finding, since diabetes is usually diagnosed in middle-aged and older people.

Healthful strategy: “I recommend increasing the intake of foods rich in magnesium, such as whole grains, nuts, legumes, vegetables, and fruits,” says Dr. He. Best food sources of magnesium include:

  • Nuts and seeds (almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds)
  • Leafy green and other vegetables (spinach, Swiss chard, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, green beans, asparagus, cucumber, celery, avocado, beets)
  • Whole grains (whole-grain breakfast cereals, wheat bran, wheat germ, oats, brown rice, buckwheat)
  • Beans and legumes (soybeans and soy products, lentils, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, black beans, navy beans)
  • Fruit (bananas, kiwi fruit, watermelon, raspberries) • Fish (salmon, halibut)

CONSIDER A MAGNESIUM SUPPLEMENT

But magnesium-rich food may not be sufficient to protect you from diabetes, says Michael Wald, MD, director of nutritional services at the Integrated Medicine and Nutrition clinic in Mt. Kisco, New York. That’s because many factors can deplete the body of magnesium or block its absorption. They include:

  • Overcooking greens and other magnesium-rich foods
  • Eating too much sugar
  • Emotional and mental stress
  • Taking magnesium-draining medications, such as diuretics for high blood pressure
  • Exposure to environmental toxins such as pesticides
  • Bowel diseases and bowel surgery “Low blood levels of magnesium are very common,” says Dr. Wald. And conventional doctors rarely test magnesium levels.

Recommended: To help guarantee an adequate blood level of magnesium, Dr. Wald recommends taking PERQUE Magnesium Plus Guard. For maximum absorption and effectiveness, this doctor-developed supplement contains four different forms of the mineral (magnesium glycinate, magnesium ascorbate, magnesium citrate, magnesium stearate). It also contains nutritional cofactors that help the mineral work in the body. The supplement is available at www.perque.com and through many other retail outlets, both online and in stores where supplements are sold. Follow the dosage recommendations on the label.

Supplement Safely with Magnesium

If you feel that you are one of the majority of Americans who don’t get enough magnesium from their diets, it may make sense to take a daily supplement, but always check with your doctor before taking any supplements. If you decide to get your magnesium level checked, ask your doctor for a magnesium red blood cell (RBC-Mg) test. It measures the magnesium that is inside cells. It’s a more accurate measure of magnesium than the standard serum magnesium test. An optimal RBC-Mg level is more than 5.5 mg/dL. The test isn’t essential. If you are generally healthy, you can’t go wrong with extra magnesium. The Institute of Medicine advises women thirty-one years old and older to get 320 mg of magnesium daily. For men, the recommended amount is 420 mg. These are conservative estimates based on your minimal needs. I recommend that you multiply your weight in pounds by 3 mg to determine the optimal dose.

Example: A 140-pound woman would take 420 mg of magnesium. During times of stress, when your need for magnesium is higher, multiply your weight by five instead of three. Keep taking the higher dose until things calm down again. You will start to feel the benefits within a few days. When you’re shopping for supplements, look for products that end with “ate”—magnesium glycinate, taurate, malate, etc. These forms are readily absorbed into the bloodstream and less likely to cause diarrhea.

Best: Opt for foods that are fresh or frozen or that come in glass bottles or jars or in foil pouches.

  • Never give canned liquid formula to an infant. Powdered is much safer.
  • When microwaving, never let plastic wrap come in contact with your food. If a product has a plastic film covering that is supposed to be left in place during microwave cooking, remove the film and replace it with a glass or ceramic cover instead.
  • Transfer prepackaged food to a glass or ceramic container before cooking, even if the instructions say to microwave the product in the plastic pouch it comes in.
  • Check the triangle-enclosed recycling numeral on plastic items that come in contact with foods or beverages—storage containers, water pitchers, baby bottles, sippy cups, utensils, and tableware. The numeral 7 indicates a plastic that may or may not contain BPA. To be safe, Dr. vom Saal says, “If you see a numeral 7 and it doesn’t say BPA-free, assume there is BPA.” The letters “PC” stamped near the recycling number are another indication that the plastic contains BPA.
  • Recheck what’s in your cupboards. Those new travel mugs? They might be made from number-seven plastic. Plastics labeled number two or five, which are also often used for food containers, do not have BPA. But they may contain other potentially harmful chemicals that can leach out, especially when heat breaks down the molecular bonds of plastic. To be safe, wash all plastic kitchenware in cold to room-temperature water with a mild cleanser, not in the dishwasher. Never microwave plastic containers, not even those labeled microwave-safe, such as frozen entrée trays. Instead, use a glass or ceramic container. Before putting hot soup or gravy into plastic containers to freeze, first allow it to cool. Throw out any plastic kitchenware that is scratched, chipped, or discolored—damaged plastic is most likely to leach chemicals.
  • Do not assume that plastics with no triangle-enclosed numeral are safe. Dr. vom Saal cautions, “Manufacturers know that consumers are looking for BPA, so they’re taking identifying numbers off their products and packaging.” Don’t fall prey to such tricks.
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