Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Deodorants and rumors about cancer

I've wondered off and on about deodorants and whether they have any harmful side effects. First let's make a distinction. There are deodorants, which deal with the odor and not the sweating; and there are antiperspirants, which keep you from sweating in the first place. The vast majority of the products you see on the shelf are antiperspirants. They will say so on the front, usually in small letters. If you look on the back you will usually see an active ingredient, usually some form of aluminum. The most common is aluminum zirconium.

Considering it's some kind of metal compound, I wonder if it causes anything bad. I mean, we get lead poisoning and mercury poisoning, might aluminum cause something similar? So I did some quick online research to see what I could find.

It turns out that there are a lot of rumors about antiperspirants causing cancer or Alzheimer's. However these rumors don't seem to be backed up by any kind of research or evidence. I can see the line of reasoning... if you block the sweat from coming out, you have a buildup of toxins right by the lymph nodes under your arm, which could, according to this line of thought, increase the risks of cancer there. However it seems to be mostly heresay. This discussion contains a few links to research articles discussing the matter, if you'd like to read more details about it.

My conclusion? I think it's safe to continue using antiperspirants, but maybe sparingly. You never know what's going to come up in research later.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The importance of having alternatives

Someone brought donuts to the office. Again. I usually have no problems resisting, but they seemed to be calling more loudly than usual today. Every time I passed by them I would hear their call and stare longingly into the box. "Just one," I would think. I haven't had one in years.

It's hard. There is no doubt that junk food is habit forming and easy to succumb to. I finally managed to tear myself away from the donut box by repeating to myself that I have cookies in my desk. Cookies that do not contain trans fats. And although it just wasn't the same, it was enough to pull me away from the evil donuts.

One of the easiest way to avoid succumbing to bad foods is to not keep them stocked. But this doesn't mean depriving yourself altogether. Buy foods that are free from trans fats and high fructose corn syrup and keep them handy. You never know when someone (who obviously doesn't know any better) will bring something tempting yet evil to share.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Girl Scout Cookies and Trans Fats

By now I hope you know that trans fats are evil -- they increase your bad cholesterol, lower your good cholesterol, and there's nothing natural about them. I'm not exaggerating when I say the stuff is worse than lard.

Most cookies you see on the snack shelf contain trans fats. The same goes for Girl Scout Cookies, although they have made improvements. According to this article, they've lowered the partially hydrogenated vegetable oil used in their cookies to the point where they are legally able to use the "Zero Grams of Trans fat!" label on their packaging, as allowed by the FDA.

This is a great improvement, but bear in mind that this is a misleading label. "Zero" in this case does not mean none. If you look at the ingredients list, you'll still see "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil" listed there. Under FDA rules, less than half a gram per serving is allowable. Shame on the FDA for caving in to food manufacturers' whining. Shame on the Girl Scouts for not making this an even higher priority. Why not cut them out altogether? As always, it's about profits. And I think that's sad.