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Feel Good Restaurants

Restaurant Owners Drive Six Hours To Cook Meal For Customer Dying From Cancer

Photos courtesy of Ekiben Restaurant

Baltimore’s Ekiben Restaurant is known for creative and interesting takes on Asian food. Recently, they’re also becoming known for an amazing deed of kindness they performed: Serving a dying customer their favorite dish.

The customer lived in Vermont, and was the mother of a Baltimore local and would often come visit. According to the Baltimore Sun, the family would regularly eat at Ekiben, with the tempura broccoli becoming one of the mother’s favorite dishes.

Sadly, the mother had fallen ill with lung cancer, and although she had jokingly said she would want to eat the broccoli on her deathbed, the family wondered if they could make the dish for her one last time.

They initially planned to try to make it on their own and get tips from Ekiben’s owners, Steve Chu and Ephrem Abebe. However, after the family contacted them for some advice, Chu and Abebe decided to drive up to Vermont and make it themselves.

It took six hours to get there, plus a few more hours to heat up the fryer in the freezing snow, but the owners were able to make the tempura broccoli and some tofu bowls outside of the customer’s house and safely deliver the meals inside.

For the mother, who enjoyed the meal thoroughly, it was a surreal and happy experience, one she was happy to enjoy. As for the owners, they told the Sun that they were just glad to make her happy.

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Drinks Health Science

Coffee Must Now Be Marked As Cancer-Causing In California Even Though It Fights It

Coffee is the lifeblood of our generation. It wakes us up in the morning, gets us past the 2 pm crash, and is the focal point of some of our social lives. According to a California judge, it now causes cancer too, despite doctors suggesting otherwise.

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NBC reports that the judge ruled in favor of The Council for Education and Research on Toxics in a major lawsuit regarding California’s Prop 65 and coffee. Under Prop 65, warning labels must be posted at establishments whose products contain potential cancer-causing compounds. In the case of coffee chains like Starbucks, that involves their bread and butter (aka the coffee), which contains a carcinogen called acrylamide.

Many coffee shops in California haven’t posted signs regarding their coffee based on the argument that coffee actually fights cancer and that acrylamide is present in low amounts. The judge, however, found that they couldn’t prove that coffee provides a benefit to human health, meaning that places like Starbucks could now be subject to fines for not having the signs up in the first place. That will be decided in a later phase of the trial.

Still, given recent scientific and medical findings around the cancer-causing potential around coffee, this ruling seemed a little bizarre. The World Health Organization (WHO) just took coffee off of their “possible carcinogen” list, and the American Institute for Cancer Research views coffee as a cancer-fighting food. This is partially due to the presence of antioxidants in coffee that, if you drank 4-6 cups of plain brew per day, could lower the risk of some cancers.

Sure, coffee has something that can cause cancer, but it’s also got compounds that fight it. That doesn’t mean they necessarily cancel each other out, but it does mean that if someone tells you coffee is dangerous, you can tell them otherwise.

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Culture Health News Products Technology

California Is Leading The Charge In Getting Monsanto’s ‘RoundUp’ Out of Our Crops

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If you’re anybody but Monsanto, you’ll be happy to hear this news.

For the first time ever, glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s signature herbicide RoundUp, will likely be required to carry a warning label that lists it as a potential carcinogen in the state of California. It’s a huge blow against the agricultural giant, as agricultural companies and farms across California will begin to reduce or eliminate their usage of the weed killer altogether, similar to what has begun to happen in Europe already. That decline in usage could spread across the United States as a result, significantly cutting the market of one of the world’s most notorious toxins.

This label requirement is likely to occur following the final ruling of a judge in a lawsuit filed by Monsanto against the state of California after the state announced its intent to add glyphosate to its list of chemicals known to cause cancer under Proposition 65 in 2015. The preliminary ruling, which ruled in favor of the state being able to list the chemical, was released recently by the ruling judge.

Monsanto filed the lawsuit in the first place because the company felt that California’s listing of glyphosate under Prop 65 was unconstitutional since it was based on findings founded by a respected international agency (International Agency for Research on Cancer, or the IARC) that glyphosate is a “probable carcinogen.” By relying on an international body, Monsanto argues that California is “delegating its authority to an unelected body not accountable to the United States.”

However, the European Commission utilized the same report to reject a renewal of Monsanto’s license to use Roundup on crops in the EU, and may phase the herbicide out entirely within the next 18 months.

Glyphosate, of course, is the main ingredient of RoundUp, which Monsanto uses to spray all of its crops to kill weeds. It’s also well-known that glyphosate has many toxic effects in animals and humans. Considering Monsanto owns roughly 90 percent of the world’s soybean seed and supplies a ton of other agricultural products, chances are that you’ve probably consumed something sprayed by RoundUp recently.

By labeling RoundUp as a potential carcinogen, it could influence agricultural companies that use the herbicide to shift away from it, removing a possible cancer-causing agent from California’s food supply. California is the chief producer of over 66 different crops and accounts for about eleven percent of the nation’s agricultural supply, so removing glyphosate from those crops would be HUGE for the safety of our food supply.

This is a great first step by one of the nation’s leaders in agriculture, and it hopefully sets a precedent that the rest of the country will follow. It’ll be great to see glyphosate removed from our global food supply.

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News Sweets

Here’s Why Nutella Won’t Change Its Recipe Despite Cancer Scares

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The world found out this week that Nutella uses a controversial ingredient in its spread called palm oil. A recent European study linked palm oil to cancer, if not produced properly, and it prompted Nutella lovers to freak out.

Stores around the world started pulling Nutella off shelves, and everyone’s favorite spread looked to be ready for a change.

Nutella isn’t changing a damn thing, though, and here’s why.

Palm oil is so integral to Nutella, that getting rid of it would probably change it for the worst, as they claim the ingredient provides the creamy texture, and “enhances” the taste we’ve grown to know and love.

“It is the best ingredient for giving Nutella the right smoothness, guaranteeing its special spreadability,” the brand said through its website.

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If you’re thinking that they should be concerned about the consumer’s health, Nutella addressed it, deeply defending itsuse of palm oil.

Nutella said:

“The vegetable oil used in Nutella is sustainable palm oil, 100% certified segregated RSPO. This means that the palm oil used in Nutella is kept separated from conventional palm oil along the whole supply chain. Ferrero’s achievement of the RSPO certification has also been praised by Richard Holland, Director of WWF’s Market Transformation Initiative.”

So Nutella believes their use of palm oil is perfectly healthy, and giving in to the study’s claims would basically ruin Nutella.

It’s also good to note that palm oil isn’t banned in the US, and is used in lots of products we use, including Pop-Tarts, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and even Girl Scout Cookies.

It’s up to Nutella lovers to decide whether they believe the hazelnut spread is fine, or if they’ll demand a change that would alter its appeal forever.

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Tastemade/Snapchat

Why You May Want To Take The Kale Kraze With A Grain Of Salt

Several years ago, the American Kale Association hired Oberon Sinclair, the founder of a boutique public relations agency, joining the ranks of brands like Hermes and Vivienne Westwood. Around the same time, I had finally tricked adult me into liking spinach. Suddenly, for me, and after extensive work by Sinclair and her team, kale started replacing spinach on menus. Needless to say, we had very different feelings about the matter.

Long before the trend reached the critical mass it currently holds, I tried a kale salad because everyone was doing it, and I didn’t pay attention to after-school specials. Fourteen years of chewing through the undeniable taste of dirt later, I finally finished that salad and was wildly unimpressed. I could not comprehend how this leafy vegetable went from diner garnish and Pizza Hut buffet decoration to glorified superfood.

No one’s tricking you; kale is great for your health.

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An average kale salad serves up at least twice your daily recommended intake of Vitamins A and C and nearly 10 times more Vitamin K1 than you need. If you want to live forever, medical journals are now crawling with evidence that kale’s your magical elixir. Those antioxidants will save your organs, memory and even write your history paper… as long as you don’t ask too many questions.

You’re probably eating more raw kale than your body can handle.

GUYS I’ve been eating kale in my Kale shirt. It’s going well. #kale #Yale #kaleshirt #ihavesomuchtoshare

A photo posted by Charlene (@charmolino) on


I’m not talking about a casual kale eater; this is for the committed juicers and punny Kale shirt owners who have a “kale guy” at a farmer’s market two towns over. If you eat kale every single day, especially raw, you’re doing as much harm as you are fighting cancer/obesity/a case of the Mondays.

I won’t scare you about oxalates causing kidney stones since most greens worth a damn carry about the same risk level. That overload of Vitamin K, however, can be detrimental to people taking blood thinners or similar medications due to its clotting properties. Raw kale messes with the body’s ability to absorb iodine, which can result in hyperthyroidism after extensive exposure. But, you know, goiters can be sexy, right?

Don’t throw out your kale, cook it.

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Look, stop rubbing your kale in oil for ten minutes to “release the flavors” and just throw it into a skillet. Though there’s been some fear mongering across the board, scientists and doctors can universally agree that no one should eat raw kale more than once a week. So, bake them, steam them, fry them—whatever you need to do to keep your withdrawal symptoms at bay.

More importantly, stop making kale your end-all, be-all salvation and round out your diet with chard, broccoli, and the ever-dependable spinach. Variety is the spice of life, especially when that variety does not taste like a compost pile.

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Tastemade/Snapchat

5 Foods Scientists Claimed Cause Cancer, But Don’t

These days, it seems like even smiling causes cancer. Fortunately, there’s no conclusive evidence on that, but so many of our favorite things have been linked to cancer in one way or another, it couldn’t hurt to be cautious.

But science is also quick to revise their analysis, if you take any solace in that. Studies are often conducted to achieve a certain result, or sponsored by someone with a biased agenda. For instance, if I owned Splenda, it would benefit me to sponsor a test on the effects of Nutrasweet — especially if I chose rats that were genetically predisposed to cancer.

As you’ll see examples like the one above aren’t rare… in fact, that’s one of the literal examples below. Including that example, here are six things that the greatest scientific minds (or sometimes, just the uninformed masses) assumed to cause cancer, which were later dispelled as hokum.

1. Aspartame

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You might know aspartame by a number of names: Nutrasweet, Equal, or simply just “that stuff that ruins my coffee.” But, according to an article written by JW Olney and published in the Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology in 1996, it was also the cause for the rising number of brain tumors between 1975 and 1992. Which is a funny coincidence, because aspartame only became a popular sweetener in diet colas and sugar-free gums starting in 1982.

In case you’re not a scientist or a mathematician, let me break it down for you: aspartame could not have caused tumors before it was commercially available. Also of note is that the rats in the study were exposed to the human equivalent of anywhere between 8 and 2,000 cans of soda daily. If that sounds like your diet, you might have bigger problems than cancer. Yet rumors have persisted, and the American Cancer Society even has a page dedicated to debunking the myth.

2. Genetically Modified Foods

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Photo Credit: Lindsay Eyink

“Genetically Modified” is a very loaded term for a lot of political groups. But, strictly speaking, all food is genetically modified in one way or another—be it through natural selection, horticulture, or the heavy duty gene splicing happening on the mysterious island of Dr. Moreau. But it’s the latter that usually rankles people the most, as genes are inserted into a developing plant to enhance certain traits, creating a Genetically Modified Organism. Which, by the way, I’m still waiting for my freaking dragon.

These GMOs are perceived as unnatural and therefore unhealthy, but so far any link between GMOs and cancer is inconclusive. Molecular biologist Gilles-Eric Séralini even used rats that were genetically predisposed to cancer to try and sway popular opinion before a public vote to include GMO labeling on all non-organic foods. The Séralini Affair, as it’s since been dubbed, is one of the most notorious cases of abused scientific data and poorly constructed research in recent memory.

3. Drinking Cold Water After Meals

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When it comes to linking things to cancer, the motto should be “the more innocuous, the better!” Even something as essential as water could turn into dreaded cancer. It’s like 80% of our cellular composition is out to get us. Fortunately, these people are incompetent boobs and the only time water can cause cancer is when you’re stirring it with a rod of Plutonium-239.

At any rate, this ode to pseudoscience began circulating on the internet in 2006, just in time to terrify your grandmother whose dialup modem you installed a week earlier. It still gets a little play now and then, its proponents arguing that cold water makes fats congeal in your intestines, which, you know, totally causes cancer somehow. Well, rest assured that your insides are better for drinking water at any temperature below scalding.

4. Fluoridated Water

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Water fluoridation is one of the few times that a social service actually did some real freaking, undeniable good for the greater population. By adding a little fluoride to our drinking water, we cut down on the number of cavities in the population by decreasing the wearing away of natural enamel—and all without changing the water’s flavor. But anytime you add anything to anything, people are sure that cancer is lurking just around the corner. Fears were confirmed with a study conducted by the National Toxicology Program in 1990, which found increased incidents of bone tumors in fluoridated rats. Since then, however, the test has been repeated over 50 times and found no link between cancer and fluoridated water. What caused the increase in 1990 study, then? Statistical anomaly. And the fact that the study was conducted in Chernobyl. (That last part is not true.)

5. Cooking with a Microwave

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I mean, if you can’t see it, it’s probably cancer… right? That’s the basic logic underlying this urban legend, either claiming that the microwaves give off excess radiation or add a little nuclear flavor to your microwave burritos. Scientist Hans Hertel tested the theory by locking a bunch of his buddies in a hotel room to eat nothing but vegetables and milk heated in a microwave. Two weeks later he popped his head out of that fart barrel and released the damning info: the men’s blood work exhibited signs of early cancer activity. But this study was done in an unsupervised manner, not published in a scholarly journal, and didn’t prove any conclusive link between their activity and cancer.

Other (respected, less flatulent) scientists maintain that the low-level, non-ionizing power emitted by microwaves just doesn’t have the power to alter anyone’s DNA. Again, the helpful folks at the American Cancer Society has an entire page dedicated to quelling your fears on this non-threatening appliance. The page also covers cell phones, radio waves and full-body security scanners, so crackpots beware.

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Hit-Or-Miss

Splenda, Cancer And That New Study We Need To Read More Carefully

Sucralose, the artificial sweetener known as Splenda that gives many treats their sugary taste is under fire yet again. Seriously, the cancer media panic is spreading. Fox. Forbes. Charlotte Observer. Foodbeast. Now, it’s trending on Facebook.

As FoodInsight.org points out, there have been more than 100 scientific studies on sucralose safety over the past 20 years. The European Union Scientific Committee on Food (SCF), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Food Standards Australia/New Zealand (FSANZ), the Health Protection Branch of Health and Welfare Canada, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), and Japan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare have all declared sucralose safe.

But hell — we shouldn’t count out some wild researcher who might have found something the others may have missed, right? Well, let’s start from the top…

What is Splenda (sucralose)?

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Splenda.com defines their product as a no-calorie sweetener that can be used as part of a healthy diet to reduce calories and carbs from sugar that you consume.

It is made through a patented process that starts with sugar and converts it to a no-calorie, non-carbohydrate sweetener. The result is a very stable sweetener that tastes like sugar, but without its calories. After you eat SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener, it passes through the body without being broken down for energy, so the body does not recognize it as a carbohydrate. — Splenda.com

 

The “new” findings:

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The new study feels like a science story we’ve heard before: someone found a direct link between Splenda (sucralose) and Leukemia and other cancers of the blood.

Frankly, I think there’s something intrinsically suspicious about Splenda. I feel it weird to be able to get all the sweetness I crave with no calories or carbs — Splenda at it’s core is fishy. I grew up on the adage that if it’s too good to be true, it most definitely always more than likely kind of is.

So what’s up with that study people are sourcing?

Media is currently citing a story published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health. But how is this study different from the ones prior that have been shut down or gone into the infinite abyss of questioning and finger pointing conspiracy theorists who believe someone influenced the study?

If you skim the unusually worded writeup from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, they claim the study making its rounds today is different from those priors. They claim it was published “from the respected Ramazzini Institute, an independent laboratory based in Italy, which found that the chemical cause leukemia and related blood cancers in male mice.”

The Ramazzini Insitute, yet another institute my non-PHD-having-ass has never heard of, has an apparent track record of making their “relevant” research available, in partsm to the public, while being vague when it comes to explaining the logic behind their design and interpretation of data.

Forbes caught this issue back in 2003 and now it looks like the same issues arise with their most current study.

 

The highlights of the study need clarity

The daily sucralose intake of the animals in the study needed more definition, so Forbes contributing writer Emily Willingham asked Soffritti, an author on the study to clarify the daily intake of the animals as it is unclear in its current formatting.

According to the study’s authors:

We found a significant dose-related increased incidence of males bearing malignant tumors (p < 0.05) and a significant dose-related increased incidence (p < 0.01) of hematopoietic neoplasias in males, in particular at the dose levels of 2,000 ppm (p < 0.01) and 16,000 ppm (p < 0.01).

Here is Emily’s question/answer with the author:

EJW: When you say that you fed the animals 500 ppm, etc., is it correct that that also can be given as 500 mg/kg per animal? If not, how does that ppm value translate into per kg values?

Soffritti: You may consider approximately 60 mg/kg bw.

That means the authors used 12x the recommended daily limit for humans. So yes, too much of anything is bad. Too much water? You drown.

Splenda reduced cancer rates in some mice

Currently unhighlighted in the report is that Splenda indeed reduced cancer rates in some mice. It even resulted in lower body weight as well:

Their results show a dose-related decrease in cancerous tumors in female mice, from 67% in females exposed to no sucralose to 59.4% in female mice exposed to 16,000 ppm. At 8,000 ppm, the decrease is even steeper, down to 55.4%. The increase in males from 0 ppm to 16,000 was from 56.4% to 62.9%, but at 8,000 ppm, the rate was 53% in males, 10% lower than the zero exposure level.

The same pattern of decrease is evident for females and blood cancers–sucralose-stuffed female Swiss mice had half the cancer rate with 16,ooo ppm sucralose vs. no sucralose.

For the entire mouse population, males and females combined, cancer rates were practically identical across doses; at 0, 500, 2,000, 8,000 and 16,000, rates for the whole mouse population were 61.6%, 61.6%, 60.7%, 54.2% and 61.2%, respectively.

For the blood cancers, the pattern was similar for the whole population: 22.4%, 19.2%, 25.7%, 26%, and 29.1%, respectively, at 0, 500, 2,000, 8,000 and 16,000 ppm.

In other words, high levels of sucralose resulted in lower cancer incidence in some animals — but we’re not talking about that now, are we?

 

So am I gonna die, or nah?

Regardless of Soffritti et al.‘s messy conclusions and questionable highlights, discussion and further research are still needed and encouraged. Hell, Soffritti even ends their abstract with a J.J. Abrams-style conclusion, stirring the pot:

Conclusions: These findings do not support previous data that sucralose is biologically inert. More studies are necessary to show the safety of sucralose, including new and more adequate carcinogenic bioassay on rats. Considering that millions of people are likely exposed, follow-up studies are urgent.

Right or wrong, some good efforts were made on this study. I personally don’t use Splenda, primarily because the general conspiracy has seeped into my being, and generally just drink less sugar-based shit in general, real sugar or not. That said, if someone can dig further into Soffritti’s research and tell me I might be lowering cancer risk and losing weight by enjoying Splenda…then I feel like we can talk more!

Forbe’s contributor Trevor Butterworth hit it on the head in 2003 with his conclusion of Soffritti’s work:

Ramazzini’s track record of walking its talk in terms of scientific data may be abysmal; and investigations into its research methods may reveal a six-lane highway of ineptitude; but even a broken clock tells the time accurately twice a day. Careful scientists will not want to dismiss any findings out of hand completely. Which is why the fact that this cancer panic is being promoted before the publication of any data, and at an event for children, which makes it look deeply suspicious, unethical, and indeed, cynical. We’ve been here before.

Real conclusion on Splenda? We’re still looking for one.

Categories
Health

FDA Is Banning Certain Pizza Boxes We Use Cause They Might Kill Us

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In a shocking development for pizza lovers, the Food and Drug Administration is saying that there are chemicals in your pizza boxes that may cause serious health problems.

Three substances are being banned by the FDA, specifically for the waxy pizza boxes designed to prevent grease and water from soaking in. The substances all contain perfluoroalkyl ethyl which are classed as aspoly and perfluoroalkyl substances.

These chemicals are said to increase health problems and increase the risk of cancer as they can stay in the body for years. Common household items like wax pastry bags and microwave popcorn bags may also contain the substances.

Numerous health groups filed a petition against the chemicals leading to the ban which went into effect Monday.