Climate change hurts economy, EPA chief says | MNN – Mother Nature Network

Environmental regulations don’t kill jobs. In fact, they might be the only way to stop manmade climate change from killing the economy.

That was the message U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy delivered Tuesday in a speech at Harvard Law School, her first public address since taking office two weeks ago. McCarthy made it clear climate change will be her main focus at the EPA — and that, like President Obama, she sees carbon emissions as a danger to economic stability.

“Climate change isn’t an environmental issue,” McCarthy said. “It is a fundamental economic challenge for us. It is a fundamental economic challenge internationally.”

Climate change promotes natural disasters like droughts, fires, storms and floods, all of which can disrupt commerce and cripple economic growth. Superstorm Sandy shut down much of the U.S. Northeast last year, for example, and caused $50 billion in damage, second only to Hurricane Katrina in U.S. history. Few people saw Sandy as an environmental issue, McCarthy said Tuesday. “They looked at it as economic devastation.”

Republicans and industry advocates often suggest regulations to curb climate change also curb economic growth, but McCarthy sought to dispel that narrative. “Can we stop talking about environmental regulations killing jobs?” she said. “Let’s talk about this as an opportunity of a lifetime, because there are too many lifetimes at stake.”

The EPA is working to develop “a new mindset about how climate change and environmental protection fits within our national and global economic agenda,” she added, arguing emissions cuts are “a way to spark business innovation,” not an economic cudgel.

McCarthy, along with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, is quickly jumping into the task of fleshing out the national Climate Action Plan Obama unveiled in June. A key part of that plan is the EPA’s upcoming regulation of CO2 from both new and existing power plants, an authority granted by the Clean Air Act. Anticipating arguments that such regulations are too costly, McCarthy cited the long-term savings: Every dollar spent so far on Clean Air Act rules, she said, has produced $30 in benefits.

U.S. air pollution has fallen 68 percent since the EPA was founded in 1970, she added, even as the gross domestic product grew 212 percent and private-sector jobs grew 88 percent in the same period. Those stats come from an EPA report on the Clean Air Act’s economic benefits, which says the initial cost of regulation is offset by long-term public health and technological innovation. The U.S. environmental technology sector generated $300 billion in 2008, the report says, and supported nearly 1.7 million jobs.

McCarthy has spent the past four years leading the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, where she helped create new fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks. She has a reputation for working with industry leaders, and said Tuesday the U.S. auto industry’s post-recession rebound is a model for how to capitalize on climate rehab: “This is a game plan for other sectors to follow on how we can reduce emissions, strengthen energy security and develop new economic benefits for consumers and businesses.”

Despite the hopeful tone of her speech, though, McCarthy was also careful not to sugarcoat. “Climate change will not be resolved overnight,” she said in her closing remarks. “But it will be engaged over the next three years — that I can promise you.”

How Exercise Changes Fat and Muscle Cells –


John Cumming/Getty Images

Gretchen Reynolds on the science of fitness.

Exercise promotes health, reducing most people’s risks of developing diabetes and growing obese. But just how, at a cellular level, exercise performs this beneficial magic — what physiological steps are involved and in what order — remains mysterious to a surprising degree.

Several striking new studies, however, provide some clarity by showing that exercise seems able to drastically alter how genes operate.

Genes are, of course, not static. They turn on or off, depending on what biochemical signals they receive from elsewhere in the body. When they are turned on, genes express various proteins that, in turn, prompt a range of physiological actions in the body.

One powerful means of affecting gene activity involves a process called methylation, in which methyl groups, a cluster of carbon and hydrogen atoms, attach to the outside of a gene and make it easier or harder for that gene to receive and respond to messages from the body. In this way, the behavior of the gene is changed, but not the fundamental structure of the gene itself. Remarkably, these methylation patterns can be passed on to offspring – a phenomenon known as epigenetics.

What is particularly fascinating about the methylation process is that it seems to be driven largely by how you live your life. Many recent studies have found that diet, for instance, notably affects the methylation of genes, and scientists working in this area suspect that differing genetic methylation patterns resulting from differing diets may partly determine whether someone develops diabetes and other metabolic diseases.

But the role of physical activity in gene methylation has been poorly understood, even though exercise, like diet, greatly changes the body. So several groups of scientists recently set out to determine what working out does to the exterior of our genes.

The answer, their recently published results show, is plenty.

Of the new studies, perhaps the most tantalizing, conducted principally by researchers affiliated with the Lund University Diabetes Centre in Sweden and published last month in PLoS One, began by recruiting several dozen sedentary but generally healthy adult Swedish men and sucking out some of their fat cells. Using recently developed molecular techniques, the researchers mapped the existing methylation patterns on the DNA within those cells. They also measured the men’s body composition, aerobic capacity, waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and similar markers of health and fitness.

Then they asked the men to start working out. Under the guidance of a trainer, the volunteers began attending hourlong spinning or aerobics classes approximately twice a week for six months. By the end of that time, the men had shed fat and inches around their waists, increased their endurance and improved their blood pressure and cholesterol profiles.

Less obviously, but perhaps even more consequentially, they also had altered the methylation pattern of many of the genes in their fat cells. In fact, more than 17,900 individual locations on 7,663 separate genes in the fat cells now displayed changed methylation patterns. In most cases, the genes had become more methylated, but some had fewer methyl groups attached. Both situations affect how those genes express proteins.

The genes showing the greatest change in methylation also tended to be those that had been previously identified as playing some role in fat storage and the risk for developing diabetes or obesity.

“Our data suggest that exercise may affect the risk for Type 2 diabetes and obesity by changing DNA methylation of those genes,” says Charlotte Ling, an associate professor at Lund University and senior author of the study.

Meanwhile, other studies have found that exercise has an equally profound effect on DNA methylation within human muscle cells, even after a single workout.

To reach that conclusion, scientists from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and other institutions took muscle biopsies from a group of sedentary men and women and mapped their muscle cell’s methylation patterns. They then had the volunteers ride stationary bicycles until they had burned about 400 calories. Some rode strenuously, others more easily.

Afterward, a second muscle biopsy showed that DNA methylation patterns in the muscle cells were already changing after that lone workout, with some genes gaining methyl groups and some losing them. Several of the genes most altered, as in the fat cell study, are known to produce proteins that affect the body’s metabolism, including the risk for diabetes and obesity.

Interestingly, the muscle cell methylation changes were far more pronounced among the volunteers who had ridden vigorously than in those who had pedaled more gently, even though their total energy output was the same.

The overarching implication of the study’s findings, says Juleen Zierath, a professor of integrative physiology at the Karolinska Institute and senior author of the study, is that DNA methylation changes are probably “one of the earliest adaptations to exercise” and drive the bodily changes that follow.

Of course, the intricacies of that bogglingly complex process have yet to be fully teased out. Scientists do not know, for instance, whether exercise-induced methylation changes linger if someone becomes sedentary, or if resistance training has similar effects on the behavior of genes. Nor is it known whether these changes might be passed on from one generation to the next. But already it is clear, Dr. Ling says, that these new findings “are additional proof of the robust effect exercise can have on the human body, even at the level of our DNA.”


New Study Shows Why You Should Get the Kids to Bed on Time –

Going to bed at the same time every night could give your child’s brain a boost, a recent study found.

Researchers at University College London found that when 3-year-olds have a regular bedtime they perform better on cognitive tests administered at age 7 than children whose bedtimes weren’t consistent. The findings represent a new twist on an expanding body of research showing that inadequate sleep in children and adolescents hurts academic performance and overall health.

Izhar Cohen

The latest study considered other factors that can influence bedtime and cognitive development, such as kids skipping breakfast or having a television in their bedroom. After accounting for these, the study found that going to bed very early or very late didn’t affect cognitive performance, so long as the bedtime was consistent.

“The surprising thing was the later bedtimes weren’t significantly affecting children’s test scores once we took other factors into account,” said Amanda Sacker, director of the International Center for Lifecourse Studies in Society and Health at University College London and a co-author of the study. “I think the message for parents is…maybe a regular bedtime even slightly later is advisable.”

The researchers suggested that having inconsistent bedtimes may hurt a child’s cognitive development by disrupting circadian rhythms. It also might result in sleep deprivation and therefore affect brain plasticity—changes in the synapses and neural pathways—at critical ages of brain development.

Sleep experts often focus largely on how much sleep children get. While that is important, “we tend to not pay as much attention to this issue of circadian disruption,” said Judith Owens, director of sleep medicine at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., who wasn’t involved with the study.

Insufficient sleep and irregular bedtimes may each affect cognitive development through different mechanisms, Dr. Owens said. “The kid who has both [problems] may beat even higher risk for these cognitive impairments,” she said.

The study, published online in July in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, examined data on bedtimes and cognitive scores for 11,178 children.

The children were participants in the U.K.’s Millennium Cohort Study, a nationally representative longterm study of infants born between 2000 and 2002.

Mothers were asked about their children’s bedtimes at 3, 5 and 7 years of age. Nearly 20% of the 3-year-olds didn’t have a regular bedtime. That figure dropped to 9.1% at age 5 and 8.2% at age 7. Mothers were also asked about socioeconomic and demographic characteristics and family routines.

When the children were 7 years old, they received cognitive assessments in reading, math and spatial abilities. The poorest test scores were recorded by children who went to bed very early or very late, and by those who had inconsistent bedtimes, said Dr. Sacker. But once other factors in the home were taken into account only the inconsistent bedtime was associated with lower scores, she said.

A consistent pattern of sleep behavior mattered. “Those who had irregular bedtimes at all three ages had significantly poorer scores than those who had regular bedtimes,” Dr. Sacker said. This was especially true for girls who didn’t establish consistent bedtimes between 3 and 7 years old.

Yvonne Kelly, a co-author of the study and a professor in the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London, said the researchers aren’t sure why girls seemed to be more affected. She noted that the difference in scores between these groups of girls and boys wasn’t statistically significant for the reading and spatial tests, but it was for the math test.

“I don’t think for one moment that boys are immune to these things and girls are more affected,” Dr. Kelly said.

The researchers didn’t have data on the total number of hours children slept overnight because mothers weren’t asked about what time the children woke up.

In general school-age kids—kindergarten through eighth-grade—should be getting about 10 hours of sleep, while 3- and 4-year-olds might need 11 to 13 hours, including day-time naps, said Shalini Paruthi, director of the pediatric sleep and research center at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center at Saint Louis University.

Dr. Paruthi said the good news from the study is that the majority of the children went to bed at a consistent time, reinforcing advice from sleep specialists. “The younger the child is, the better it is to get into the habit of a regular bedtime,” said Dr. Paruthi, who wasn’t affiliated with the study. She recommends a 15-minute, pre-bedtime routine to help the brain transition from a more alert to a quiet state.

And in order to keep the body’s internal clock in sync with the brain, bedtimes on weekends and in the summer should only stray from the normal time by an hour or less, Dr. Paruthi said. “The internal clock in the brain and the body like to have consistency every day,” she said.

Write to Sumathi Reddy at sumathi.reddy


Where Calories Are Hiding

Where Calories Are Hiding

The moment of truth: The creamy pasta dish sounds delicious, but it’s 500 calories more than the grilled chicken and vegetables. Do you order it?

In many cases the answer is yes, say researchers who have studied what happens when calorie counts are included on menus.

More diners will open their menus to find calorie counts under a proposed federal law requiring the counts in restaurants with 20 or more locations. Health advocates and restaurants say the law could be finalized by the end of the year. A Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman says details of the law, first proposed as part of the 2010 health care bill, are still being worked out. It could also require grocery and convenience stores to list calories on prepared foods.

Many restaurants are reworking recipes, swapping in whole milk for cream or putting less oil in cooking pans. Some are adding less sauce to dishes or offering smaller portions. Many are creating lower-calorie sections on menus or sticking to calorie guardrails, designing dishes to come in under 500 calories, for example. Several chains such as Starbucks Corp., SBUX -0.72% McDonald’s Corp., MCD +0.51% and Panera Bread Co., PNRA -0.10% voluntarily post calories on menus nationally.

Big Bites

Guess which restaurant items have fewer calories.


The restaurants hope to attract diners who say they want healthier options (even if they don’t order them) and those who say they like to know calorie information (even if they end up ignoring it).

Research on how calorie information on menus influences purchasing behavior shows mixed results. Some large studies show that customers who said they noticed the information or were exposed to it for a longer period bought fewer calories.

For example, a study funded by the City of New York that reviewed about 15,000 receipts and surveys from fast-food lunch patrons before and after the city required those restaurants to list calories on menus showed no change in the average calories bought. But 1 in 6 people used the calorie information, and that group purchased an average of 96 fewer calories, an 11% decrease.

Stanford University used purchasing data at New York, Philadelphia, and Boston Starbucks locations over a 14-month period to compare consumer behavior in restaurants with and without calories on menus. Average calories per purchase fell 6% at restaurants with calorie counts on menus. (The reduction came entirely from food purchases, not drinks.)

A handful of cities, including Seattle and Philadelphia, already require calorie counts on menus.

Jorge Back, CSPI

The Cheesecake Factory reduced calories in its Bistro Shrimp pasta by using less sauce. Next month it will be 2,440 calories, not 2,980.

Smaller studies have shown that the calorie information has no effect on purchases. One recent example from Carnegie Mellon University showed that if customers are given a pamphlet with recommended calorie information before entering a restaurant that has menu calorie counts they purchase slightly more calories.

Seventy-one percent of people say they want healthy options when they eat out, according to an internal survey from Darden Restaurants Inc., DRI 0.00% the largest full-service restaurant company in the U.S. and owner of chains including Red Lobster and LongHorn Steakhouse.

“What’s tricky is they might not always eat that way,” says Cheryl Dolven, director of health and wellness for Darden. About 65% of people say they favor nutritional labeling in restaurants, according to a 2012 survey from Technomic Inc., a restaurant research and consulting firm.

Earlier this year Darden hired five people to analyze the nutritional content of potential menu items at various points during research and development, says Ms. Dolven. Typically, Darden and other companies would do this testing right before a new dish goes onto menus, she says. Now Darden menu-development chefs use the team to understand “wow, we are way over on calories and the calories are really driven by the oil in the sauté pan,” and then make adjustments, says Ms. Dolven.

Lower-calorie sections have been added to menus at many Darden Restaurants in recent years. LongHorn has a “Flavorful Under 500” menu and Olive Garden a “Lighter Italian Fare” section with items under 575 calories. Across all brands, it plans to reduce sodium and calories 10% by 2016 and 20% by 2021. Darden has featured menu calorie counts where mandated by law, about 180 restaurants.

“Some people hate it,” says Ms. Dolven. They think “uh, I didn’t want to know that,” she says.

Last month a Drexel University study found fast-food restaurants in areas where calorie counts are required on menus have a higher percentage of healthy menu items, but showed no difference in the nutritional value of menus overall.

Restaurant calorie counts aren’t an exact science, as one cook might throw a larger handful of cheese into a salad than another. Industry executives say the federal law will likely provide some flexibility on accuracy as there is under FDA regulations for packaged food. For example, a box of cereal listed as 100 calories per serving can actually be up to 20% higher or 120 calories per serving.

To reduce calories, restaurants are scooping the dough out of bagels used for sandwiches or using less cheese among other tricks, says Betsy Craig, chief executive at MenuTrinfo, a Fort Collins, Colo.-based company that calculates nutritional information for restaurants and advises on recipes.

Panera Bread

Panera’s Roast Turkey Artichoke Panini, a surprising 1,100 calories, was considered a ‘gotcha’ item for diners. It is now 780 calories.

After years of landing on the annual Xtreme Eating list of high-calorie restaurant food published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Cheesecake Factory CAKE +1.45% is reducing calories in two pasta dishes by using less sauce, says David Overton, founder and chief executive of Cheesecake Factory Inc., a 163-location chain. Next month, the Bistro Shrimp Pasta will fall to 2,440 calories from 2,980, according to the restaurant. The Kids’ Pasta with Alfredo Sauce will be 1,290, down from 1,810. “I was sick of winning that prize,” says Mr. Overton of the CSPI list.

At Cheesecake Factory restaurants in areas where calories on menus are required, order behavior hasn’t changed, he says. “I don’t think it’s a way to change people’s eating habits.”

The proposed federal law exempts menu specials such as a “soup of the day.”

A person needs between about 1,800 to 2,800 calories a day depending upon activity level, metabolism, gender and other factors, says Kristin Kirkpatrick, a dietitian and wellness manager at the Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute. Salads with creamy dressing or cheese, full-fat yogurt, smoothies, and anything fried can be unexpectedly high-calorie, she says.

Calories are, of course, just one gauge of the healthfulness of a dish.

Some restaurants wear calorie counts like a badge of honor—and use them as a marketing tool. Mad Greens, an 11-location salad chain based in Denver, added calorie information to menus in 2010 as a way to try to stand out from other quick restaurant meals, says chief executive and co-founder Marley Hodgson.

“Our goal is to kind of get close to a 500- or 600-calorie meal,” says Scott Davis, chief concept and innovation officer for Panera, which says it was the first national chain to introduce calorie information on menus nationally in 2010. When the company first compiled nutritional information in 2008 it reworked some “gotcha” items—for example, a turkey artichoke panini with a deceptively high 1,100 calories.

On a current Panera menu of limited-time dishes, in order to come in around 300 calories, salads are served with a side of olive oil and half a lemon that can be squeezed on as dressing, Mr. Davis says.

Still, he thinks “the majority of people walk right by,” calorie information on menus, though over time more people have begun taking notice, he says. “I think it’s one of those things that will take years to understand.”

[Tag Calories are hiding]

The Health Powers of Poppy Seeds (Who Knew?) | Healthy Eats – Food Network Healthy Living Blog

by Katie Cavuto-Boyle in Katie’s Healthy Bites, July 30, 2013

poppy seeds
Most often associated with bagels and breads, poppy seeds tend to be forgotten among the other seeds we use when cooking. But not only do poppy seeds add great flavor and crunch to foods, they also provide some respectable health benefits.

1. One teaspoon of poppy seeds has enough calcium and phosphorus to meet 4% of your daily needs. These minerals work together to build strong bones. (Because our bones are constantly replacing old or injured bone with new bone, adults need a consistent supply of these minerals.)

2. Poppy seeds also provide the body with 2% to 4% of the daily needs for iron in one teaspoon. Iron is important for carrying oxygen throughout the body and helps us have a healthy immune system.

3. Zinc helps to regulate growth and development of new cells and the structure of proteins. One teaspoon of poppy seeds will provide 2% to 3% of your daily zinc.

Easy ways to incorporate poppy seeds in your diet include adding them to salad dressings and brown-rice dishes. Take the challenge and add one teaspoon of poppy seeds to your day! Here are some recipes to get you started.