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Posts tagged ‘President’s Cancer Panel’

How to protect your children in today’s health landscape — a plea to parents

by Robyn O’Brien, founder, Allergy Kids Foundation.

The landscape of children’s health has changed. If you have any doubt whatsoever, ask your grandmother. Did she have friends juggling breast cancer and play dates? What about autism and allergies? ADHD and diabetes?

And while there were other things that they worried about, as parents today, we sit beside each other on the sidelines of soccer fields, in concert recitals or in the pews at church, and with few words spoken, we understand that things have changed.

Today, 46 kids are diagnosed with cancer every day. It is the leading cause of death by disease in children under the age of fifteen. Diabetes, obesity, asthma and food allergies are a tsunami of conditions raining down on the health of our children. And autism now impacts 1 in 88 American children.

Our grandmothers weren’t navigating these statistics. We know that it hasn’t always been this way. And we see firsthand how hard it can be, as we share the heartache of a friend, witness the grief of a sister or help a neighbor struggling with the cost of care. We say our prayers at night, grateful for the blessings we have received and mindful of how quickly things can change.

Our children have earned the title of Generation Rx because of how pervasive these conditions have become. The number of US kids with autism is up 78% reports the CDC, impacting 1 in 54 little boys, while 1 in 3 is overweight or obese, triple the rate of 1963, reports the American Heart Association, and 46 kids are diagnosed with cancer and 1,500 Americans – moms, dad, sisters, brothers, children – die from cancer every single day.

It didn’t used to be this way. And as this landscape of health has changed so quickly in such a short time, it begs the question: Why? Why have our families become so allergic? Autistic? Diabetic? Cancer stricken?

Since when did the landscape of childhood feel like a landmine of disease?

A lot of theories are out there, enough to cause doubt and confusion, but mounting scientific evidence, from the President’s Cancer Panel to the American Academy of Pediatrics, urges us to protect the health of our children by reducing our exposure to environmental toxins, especially those now found in and on our food.

With the President’s Cancer Panel and Stanford University urging pregnant moms and those with children to reduce their exposure to artificial ingredients now found in our food supply (things like artificial growth hormones in dairy, weed and pest killers used so frequently on our fresh produce as well as other artificial ingredients), we find ourselves reading labels in grocery store aisles – no longer just for fat and sugar content, but also for the list of allergens, artificial colors or genetically modified ingredients or any indication of the manufactured chemicals that they may contain.

And while the task can be overwhelming, we do it anyway for the love of our families. We find the strength, tenacity and courage to continue to move forward, asking questions, researching and reading, trying to do everything we can to reverse this tidal wave of disease.

And we are not alone. Thankfully, more corporations in the traditional food sector and those in the organic industry are doing what they can to help us. Some have been doing it for a long time, others are just beginning to make change. But the important thing is this: we are all doing what we can, where we are, with what we have, recognizing that the health of our country depends on the health of our children. Because while our children may only represent 30% of the population, they are 100% of our future.

So we have a choice: to let their health conditions bring us to our knees or bring us to our feet.

And when we decide to stand, we do so out of love, knowing that we do not stand alone. Millions of citizens in countries around the world stood for their right to know what is in their food, and now, millions of Americans who share this deep concern are doing the same.

A corporation will always have the right to make a profit, but Americans should also have the right to know what we are eating, so that together, leveraging this collective information and insight, we can protect the health of our country.

See Robyn O’Brien’s excellent talk at TEDx in 2011:

About the Author

Robyn O’BrienFounder, Executive Director, Allergy Kids Foundation.

As a former food industry analyst, Fulbright grant recipient, author and mother of four, Robyn O’Brien brings compassion, insight and detailed analysis to her role as the founder of the organization and her research into the impact that the global food system is having on the health of children.

Click here to view the Allergy Kids website.


Robyn O’Brien The Post I Hesitated to Share

Robyn O’Brien: Of 22 industrialized countries, we have the highest obesity statistics in the world and 41% of us are expected to get cancer in our lifetimes.  The post I hesitated to share:


Inspired Bites with Robyn O’Brien

Food and Chemicals: Learn What You Can Do to Protect Yourself

I have hesitated to share this piece.  Perhaps it is out of fear, perhaps out of heartache.  But the fact of the matter is that a growing number of people that I love and care about are wrestling with cancer in their families.  

So when a friend sent over this picture, who happens to be the 46 year-old sister of CNN’s Miles O’Brien, I thought; “What am I afraid of?”  If cancer looks like this, how scary can the information be?  

And as my heart wrestled with my ego, love triumphed over fear, and I am posting this.  Cancer can’t beat love, and my hope is that one day soon, we will have Less Cancer.

In 2010, a report for the President’s Cancer Panel said approximately 41 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime and about 21 percent will die from cancer.

Genetics don’t change this quickly, but the environment does.  And obesity and being overweight are now considered a major risk for certain forms of cancer.

In part, these statistics are due to an increased diagnosis and longer lifespans, but the President’s Cancer Panel also states:

“Some chemicals indirectly increase cancer risk by contributing to immune and endocrine dysfunction that can influence the effect of carcinogens,” the report said.

“Children of all ages are considerably more vulnerable than adults to increased cancer risk and other adverse effects from virtually all harmful environmental exposures.”

So while obesity may be an obvious epidemic that’s getting a lot of attention in the press – the food industry even jumping on board to become part of the solution – it appears that cancer is increasingly a silent epidemic: the American Cancer Society reports that 1 out of 2 men and 1 in 3 women are expected to get cancer in their lifetimes.

Combine that concern with the fact that the USA:

  • of 22 industrialized countries, the U.S. has the highest obesity statistics
  • 2/3 of Americans over age 20 are overweight
  • nearly 1/3 of Americans over age 20 are obese

And it’s obvious we’ve got a problem, not only a mounting health care crisis, but with 1 in 2 doctors experiencing burnout and stress due to the increasing burden its putting on our health care system, it could prove to be a health care tsunami.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.  Just because we have inherited a food system that has been built up over the last several decades, using cheap inputs that makes real food seem expensive and chemically intensive agriculture that routinely douses our food crops with toxins does not mean that we have to embrace this system going forward.

In our current system, our taxpayer resources go toward supporting the crops that are increasingly used by the processed food companies in the packaged and processed foods that are available 24/7 on shelves in gas stations, vending machines and elsewhere.  The majority of these same crops have also been genetically engineered to withstand increasing doses of chemicals or to synthesize and create their own insecticidal toxins internally. That’s the food and agriculture system that our tax dollars support.

But do we want it that way?  In light of the obesity rates and the Presidents Cancer Panel report, is this the food that we want to be cheap and available?  Or would we rather have our taxpayer resources put towards fruits and vegetables, supporting farmers that are growing their crops without the use of a controversial technology that has either been banned or requires labeling in over 40 other countries around the world because no long term human health studies have been conducted to see what the impact of eating crops genetically engineered to make their own insecticide might be on a developing baby, pregnant mother or someone with cancer?

We have a right to know what we are eating, especially in light of the evidence showing the role diet plays in disease.  It’s not a big ask.  Consumers in other countries, from France to Australia, Japan, even China and Russia have been given that right to know if there food has been engineered with this new biotechnology.  We are told the fat content, sugar content, protein content and allergen content of the ingredients that are in our foods.  Yet we haven’t been told if the ingredients have been genetically engineered and hardwired to withstand increasing saturation of the chemical industry’s products.

In light of the fact that 41% of Americans are expected to get cancer in their lifetimes and 21% of us are expected to die from it, isn’t this a fundamental human right that should be afforded to all Americans until those human studies have been conducted?

The chemical industry says “no”.  And without labels, they are able to claim that there is not a single documented case of any harm that has come.

And while correlation is not causation, without labels, how do we know if the escalating rates of pancreatic cancers, stomach cancers and pediatric cancers aren’t a direct result of eating foods hardwired for chemicals? Raised body mass index increases the risks of cancer of the breast, colon, prostate, endometrium, kidney and gallbladder, then just as sugars are labeled, shouldn’t ingredients hardwired for chemicals be labeled, too?

The claim, “no evidence of harm”, is not the same as evidence of no harm.  And mounting scientific studies are highlighting the role that chemicals used on our food crops and the toxins in our environment are having on our health.  And the toll isn’t only impacting the health of our loved ones, but health care data is also showing the toll that diseases are taking on the health of our economy.

Other countries have exercised precaution, labeling these ingredients so that consumers could make an informed choice and so that industry could be held accountable.  Until those studies have been conducted to determine what the long-term impact might be of eating genetically engineered foods during a pregnancy or a battle with cancer, perhaps it is time that we label them here, too.  Foods produced without these chemicals shouldn’t be labeled for only those that can afford to opt out.  They should be labeled for all Americans.

And while the chemicals in foods aren’t the only concern, there are certainly others, with the jury still out and since the FDA does not require pre-market food safety testing of these ingredients, given the growing burden that cancer and obesity are placing on our country and our economy, the value of adding two words “genetically engineered” to an ingredient label could far exceed any costs that may be incurred.

To learn more about how to get involved and join the growing number of Americans who believe we have a right to know what we are eating, please visit Our RIght To Know and Just Label It.  To learn more about efforts to beat cancer, please visit Less Cancer.



Organics You Can Afford 9 ways to bring organic food within reach By Robyn O’Brien

how to afford organics-basket of veggies

In a world in which we are increasingly worried about the health of our families, the stability of our jobs, and all of life’s responsibilities, the simple act of trying to eat healthy often becomes a challenge.

And with so many Americans food insecure and on food stamps, talking about organic foods—produced without the use of all kinds of additives and ingredients—can often sound like a luxury that few, if any, can afford.

But as organizations from the American Academy of Pediatrics to the President’s Cancer Panel encourage us to reduce our exposure to everything from pesticides to artificial growth hormones, the fact is that we should all be able to feed our families foods that are free-from additives that are increasingly being shown to cause harm. (Wondering what the most contaminated foods are? Find out with The Dirty Dozen.)

More from What You Need To Know About GMOs

So here are a few tips for those who want to start buying organic food but don’t want to pay the high price:

1. Go orgo-generic: Major grocery store chains like Safeway and Kroger, and big box food retailers like Costco and even Wal-Mart, now carry their own organic foods. And all foods labeled “USDA organic” are created equal, no matter where you find them. No need to upscale your grocery store when Wal-Mart gets it done.

2. Buy frozen: Frozen foods (like strawberries and fish) are cheaper than those that are delivered fresh. So if the prices on fresh produce are eye-popping, cruise on over to the frozen food aisle for a discount.

3. Eat with the season: Retrain your taste buds to think like your grandmother did. She didn’t eat strawberries in the middle of winter. Locally grown foods are usually cheaper than those flown in from another hemisphere, so if you eat with the season, you’ll be eating more affordably.

4. Skip the box, embrace the bulk: Food that comes in boxes costs more because of the packaging costs associated with designing those pretty pictures. When you buy in bulk, you’re not paying for all of the packaging—you’re paying for the food, which is what you wanted in the first place. So slide on over to that bulk food aisle in Safeway and look for noodles, cereals, and rice and beans.

5. Support the US economy and buy local: You can save money by becoming a member of a local farm (just like you became a member at Safeway or Costco!). How do you find a local farm, you ask? Well, thankfully, the USDA now has a list of online sites to help you find the closest farm near you, so click here to log onto the USDA site.

6. Comparison shop: You wouldn’t buy a car without comparison shopping, so before you even head out the door, you can compare the prices of organic foods at different retailers from the safety of your own computer at Eat Well Guide.

7. Coupons, coupons, coupons: Organic bargains are everywhere, so click on’s Frugal Living page where you will find All Organic Links.

8. Grow one thing: If you’re as busy as we are, there’s not a chance in creation that you’re going to be able to feed your family off of your home-grown harvest, but you will find that growing a tomato plant can be incredibly inspiring. And it’s not as intimidating as it seems. So pick one thing to grow—you can do it (we all grew lima beans in cups as kids, right?)

9. Find a friend.  It’s way more fun to have someone cheering you on as you begin to make these changes. And remember, just as our little ones learn to walk by taking baby steps, you can do the same thing here. Do what you can, where you are, with what you have. Take those baby steps. Because before you know it, you’ll be off and running.

Need some more inspiration? Check out The Top 10 Reasons To Go Organic.

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