Microbiome ecology

A skeptical look at medical practices
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Lance Kennedy
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Re: Microbiome ecology

Post by Lance Kennedy » Tue Sep 18, 2018 2:16 am

Always take care with interpreting what is said. I went to a Greenpeace lecture years ago about dioxins. The speaker claimed that mothers milk contained dangerous levels of dioxins. I double checked in the technical literature and found that the measured level of dioxins in human milk averaged 100 parts per quadrillion. About a million TIMES too low to be of concern.

Couple things I noticed from reading the abstract (I really cannot be bothered reading a whole paper if it seems to be crap).
1. It refers to currently banned chemicals like dieldrin, chlorpyrifos, and DDT. Not the pesticides we now spray.
2. If did not say how those chemicals got into the human body. As I told you before, pesticides are hazardous to those who handle them. Just not from food that has very low levels of residue. People who handle these chemicals, which includes women who garden, may absorb dangerous levels.

But I am aware of what the NZ Food Safety Authority get from their tests, and the results do not reveal anything of concern.

Natural pesticides in food. Sure.
Potatoes contain solanine and chaconine.
Celery and parsnip contain psoralins.
Zucchini contains cucurbitacin.
Tomato contains tomatine, mostly in the leaves.

Ironically, some natural pesticides are actually considered healthy in small doses, even though nasty toxins in larger amounts.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2404325

In fact, each and every food crop contains natural pesticides. Less today than in times of yore, since we have bred the crops to taste less bitter, and that reduces the amount of natural pesticide.

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Re: Microbiome ecology

Post by TJrandom » Tue Sep 18, 2018 3:10 am

OK, but if these women were ag-chem workers that surely would have been noted. That it wasn`t I`d accept as evidence that they were not. But I do agree that they could have been exposed thru non-food sources - gardening, household bug/critter control, etc.

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Re: Microbiome ecology

Post by Lance Kennedy » Tue Sep 18, 2018 3:36 am

The fact that they were talking of chemicals no longer used makes me wonder. Obviously they did not pick up those chemicals from food, since they are not present in food today. So where did they come from ?

When Rachel Carson wrote her book "Silent Spring " she was talking of nasty sprays. But for many years now , western nations do not use those products. Instead we use biodegradable products of relatively low toxicity to humans. Something like DDT can remain in the human body for years, but not modern products. If you absorbed some modern pesticide from food, it would be all degraded within days or weeks.

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Re: Microbiome ecology

Post by TJrandom » Tue Sep 18, 2018 6:29 am

Lance Kennedy wrote:The fact that they were talking of chemicals no longer used makes me wonder. Obviously they did not pick up those chemicals from food, since they are not present in food today. So where did they come from ?

When Rachel Carson wrote her book "Silent Spring " she was talking of nasty sprays. But for many years now , western nations do not use those products. Instead we use biodegradable products of relatively low toxicity to humans. Something like DDT can remain in the human body for years, but not modern products. If you absorbed some modern pesticide from food, it would be all degraded within days or weeks.
The women were between 24 and 43 so the DDT was absorbed as long as 48 years ago and as recently as 3 years ago, given that the samples were taken in 2013 and 2015. The article does note an 80% decline since 1990 (25 years to 2015). DDT is rather long lasting in the environment. It was only banned in Australia in 1987 – just 30 years ago. A 50% breakdown in soil occurs by 15 years. so it seems reasonable that plants and their produce even today are impacted in Australia. It seems that DDT is still found in Salmon and fat from other animals, even though it started to be banned in the early ‘70`s (US, Japan).

BTW - thanks for your short list of foods with natural pesticides.

Edit - corrected the "as recent as", since injestion still occurs today.
Last edited by TJrandom on Tue Sep 18, 2018 8:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Microbiome ecology

Post by ElectricMonk » Tue Sep 18, 2018 6:50 am

In the USA, the FDA does ZERO testing of food itself: basically anyone can set up a lab and certify food to be safe to eat.
It is almost entirely the market that makes big chains turn to reliable and competent labs because of the damage to reputation and the cost of too frequent recalls.
The FDA can review records and close labs it deems incompetent or negligent, but it doesn't have the staff to check everyone regularly: it takes a scandal for the FDA to check whether those in charge of food safety are doing their job.

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Re: Microbiome ecology

Post by TJrandom » Tue Sep 18, 2018 8:09 am

That was my understanding too. In one of the links above it indicated that just 10% of imported food shipments to the US is tested, and I presume that it would be far less for domestic produce. It seems that the EPA. or one of their subs does some testing - but a producer has no obligation to give access - so the EPA developed procedures and reporting codes to indicate where the sample was obtained - at source, at a middleman, or even at a retail outlet. I was unable to find any reference to what % of food is actually tested.

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Re: Microbiome ecology

Post by ElectricMonk » Tue Sep 18, 2018 9:31 am

To be fair, I doubt very much that Lance is correct in saying that the NZ FSA is doing the testing.
But they might have to accredit the labs that do the actual work (unlike in the US).

The food itself is usually not tested; instead, the farms are inspected to see if there are likely sources of contamination or misuse of chemicals.
At harvest, there are random checks of the produce. Problem is, because there are so few tests, when something is detected, all sources become suspect; hence the massive recalls we usually see when there is any issue.

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Re: Microbiome ecology

Post by landrew » Tue Sep 18, 2018 4:38 pm

I expect that a significant portion of testing is complaint-driven.
The job of a skeptic is to investigate the unexplained; not to explain the uninvestigated.

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Re: Microbiome ecology

Post by Lance Kennedy » Tue Sep 18, 2018 7:47 pm

EM

NZ Food Safety does, in fact, do the testing. I have actually visited their labs and talked to their scientists.

Let me repeat a point.
Prof. Bruce Ames, one of the fields most respected scientists and inventor of the Ames mutagenicity test, reports that the average consumer ingests 10,000 TIMES as much natural pesticide as synthetic. Natural pesticides are just as toxic. Yet, mostly, all that natural pesticide causes no problems. Neither do synthetic pesticides.

The alarmism about synthetic pesticides comes from crackpot organisations, and as skeptics, we should not be supporting their bull-{!#%@}.

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Re: Microbiome ecology

Post by TJrandom » Tue Sep 18, 2018 9:13 pm

Lance, that is off point - as has been stated before - so please let me repeat the point. Natural pesticides - those created by the plant itself are not applied by humans, so humans have but one choice - to eat or not. Synthetic pesticides are applied by man - so we have two choices - eat or not PLUS apply or not, and in what quantity, timing, and with what residuals. We still do not know the full causes of many illnesses - and indeed they could be caused by natural pesticides, further compounded by both, or caused by over use of synthetic pesticides.

Nobody here, is being an alarmist. As skeptics we should be just as focused on what has not been concluded as what has. In this case, IMO the concern is more on the degree of testing, or not; the correct application; and the residual that a consumer ingests. That is, the guidelines and standards are probably OK. Questioning this is not being alarmist, nor is it bull-{!#%@}.

As for the NZ testing - are you saying that testing is prolific enough to detect any violation of the set guidelines? That would IMO at least include testing of each grower of each type of produce, or at least of each pesticide used for knowledge of correct application guidelines, plus follow-up random/periodic testing to catch errors. (Equivalent to what occurs in the food service industry for bacteria.)

I believe that Landrew made the point that in the US, testing is mostly compliance based. Meaning that major brands, ever protective of their brand value - would contract a lab for testing. IMO that sounds spot on - but what this would miss would be most fresh produce that is consumed – that purchased by most people from supermarkets, farmers markets, etc. In Japan, insofar as I can determine - testing would only occur after a major incident, leaving high residuals available to cause longer term damage. High residuals might well explain our higher incidence of several cancers - but we will never know, since testing does not occur, even though we have adequate standards.

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Re: Microbiome ecology

Post by Lance Kennedy » Wed Sep 19, 2018 1:00 am

TJ

It is not just about testing, though that is important. It is also about pesticide product selection and legal approval, plus standards of application. The days when malathion and chlorinated phenol were sprayed is long gone. Today, the products are low in mammalian toxicity and biodegradable.

Being careful about testing, product approval and application systems is great. However, we are also faced with numerous crackpots and crackpot web sites which make alarmist statements about synthetic pesticide residues that are just not true. If it is not to combat such bull-{!#%@}, what use are skeptics ?

Anyway, let me quantify a few risks. After all, putting numbers to something is good science.
Toxicity is most often quantified as grams per kilogram body mass, when eaten, that will kill half those consuming it. The smaller the number, the more toxic it is.

Salt, for example, which is not very toxic, rates at 5 grams.
Cyanide , which is very toxic, around 5 milligrams, or 1000 times more toxic than salt.

The most commonly ingested natural pesticide is solanine, which is found in the green portions of potatoes. It has a similar toxicity to cyanide. 5 milligrams.

Among agricultural chemicals, the most used are herbicides and tend to be low in toxicity. So let me quote the most used non herbicide. That is metam sodium, used as a soil sterilant in vast quantities. It has a toxicity of 900 milligrams.

This is part of a wider picture. Modern agricultural pesticides tend to be low in mammalian toxicity, and are biodegradable, so that the residues in food are minimal. Rarely more than one part per million. Natural toxins are more toxic and found much more abundantly. 10,000 grams of natural pesticide consumed by humans for every one gram of synthetic pesticide in food.

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Re: Microbiome ecology

Post by TJrandom » Wed Sep 19, 2018 3:28 am

Lance - not sure who you are having a discussion with... the gap, as I see it (not speaking on behalf of some imaginary crackpot), is that testing does not seem to occur sufficiently to protect consumers. Hence there is an issue that needs to be addressed. And please stop trying to muddy the water with natural, crackpots, bull-{!#%@}, and alarmism.

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Re: Microbiome ecology

Post by Lance Kennedy » Wed Sep 19, 2018 3:36 am

TJ

If consumers are not sufficiently protected, you should be able to reference that.

Show me cases where modern pesticide residues in food are causing consumers to sicken.

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Re: Microbiome ecology

Post by TJrandom » Wed Sep 19, 2018 6:24 am

Darnd.. thought I already did that. You must not be reading what I reference.

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Re: Microbiome ecology

Post by Lance Kennedy » Wed Sep 19, 2018 8:13 pm

Whoops. Double post.
Last edited by Lance Kennedy on Wed Sep 19, 2018 8:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Microbiome ecology

Post by Lance Kennedy » Wed Sep 19, 2018 8:17 pm

I said MODERN pesticides.

When someone talks about stuff that has not been in use for decades, it is hardly relevant.
I have seen references to natural pesticide poisoning, though this is rare. I have seen references to older pesticides causing sickness (recently, a spray of copper sulphate on grapes causing children to die from liver failure. This was an 'organic ' vineyard. ) But not to modern synthetic pesticides causing sickness by their residues in food. Certainly they can cause sickness in farmers, gardeners, contractors etc. who handle and spray the concentrate. But not from food.

Such statements tend to come from crackpot organisations with little or no credible evidence to back them up. Pseudoscience is not acceptable as a form of argument, and so I reject what those groups of weird people say.

The simple truth is that the major principle in the science of toxicology holds.
That is, it is all about DOSE. If the dose is low, there is no harm. As I have pointed out before, levels of synthetic pesticide residue above one part per million in food is very rare. Since modern pesticides (as opposed to some of the nastier older ones) are low in toxicity to humans. They are also non genotoxic, meaning they do not alter DNA. So it takes a larger dose to cause harm, and those larger doses occur only as part of handling the pesticides, or sadly in many cases, by deliberate suicide attempts.

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Re: Microbiome ecology

Post by TJrandom » Wed Sep 19, 2018 8:57 pm

Lance, your belief in the safety of pesticides in food approximates a religious belief. Your disparagement of scientists who question the safety and who publish their research is atrocious. Your belief that sufficient testing occurs simply because you have visited a lab is sad. Your moving of the goal posts every time you have been shown to be wrong borders on sophistry.

A few more references…

Pesticide food poisoning from contaminated watermelons in California, 1985.
Pesticides in Milk
Pesticides in food

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Re: Microbiome ecology

Post by Lance Kennedy » Wed Sep 19, 2018 10:28 pm

TJ

You are proving my point. The most recent example you could find was 35 years ago, and that was when it was used in a way that was not legally approved.

Here is a reference relating to the natural pesticide, solanine, found in potatoes.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-cul ... h-3162870/

This is but one of dozens of natural pesticides found in food. Cases of sickness and death from eating those natural pesticides are not terribly common, but compared to synthetic pesticide residues, they are far, far more dangerous. I do not want to be silly about this, and I have to say that sickness from either natural or synthetic pesticides in food is sufficiently rare to be a pretty much insignificant problem. But of the two, natural pesticides are much worse, and modern synthetic pesticides are normally not a problem at all in food.

Cucurbitacin is the one found in zucchini. We had 16 people poisoned by this here in NZ.

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/arti ... id=1090496

Another 22 were hit in Australia on a separate occasion, and it has happened the USA as well.

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Re: Microbiome ecology

Post by TJrandom » Thu Sep 20, 2018 12:44 am

Erm - the Australia DDT was just 3 years ago.

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Re: Microbiome ecology

Post by TJrandom » Thu Sep 20, 2018 12:50 am

Milk from Grain-Fed Cows Likely Contains Glyphosate... 2013, 2015. Second link.

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Re: Microbiome ecology

Post by Lance Kennedy » Thu Sep 20, 2018 1:22 am

TJrandom wrote:Erm - the Australia DDT was just 3 years ago.
How did the DDT get into the people's bodies ? A bit of a mystery.

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Re: Microbiome ecology

Post by Lance Kennedy » Thu Sep 20, 2018 1:24 am

TJrandom wrote:Milk from Grain-Fed Cows Likely Contains Glyphosate... 2013, 2015. Second link.
Glyphosate is close to harmless. It is listed as a "probable carcinogen " but that based on a study of laboratory mice where truly massive doses were given, way bigger than even a person spraying it would ever receive. Such data is very, very misleading.

Let me also add that I find this reference very suspect. Probably a crackpot source. The reason I say that is that it refers to "safe " raw milk. Raw milk is never safe, since it is a major source of tuberculosis infection. It is said that when Britain moved to all pasteurized milk, the number of new cases of tuberculosis dropped by 60,000 per year !

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Re: Microbiome ecology

Post by TJrandom » Thu Sep 20, 2018 1:40 am

Lance Kennedy wrote:
TJrandom wrote:Erm - the Australia DDT was just 3 years ago.
How did the DDT get into the people's bodies ? A bit of a mystery.
No mystery at all - ingested. IIRC, over 300 women - none reported as having worked in ag-chem. Still getting ingested today, given that DDT lives for a very long time in the soil. But robust food testing would determine if it is still in food.

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Re: Microbiome ecology

Post by Lance Kennedy » Thu Sep 20, 2018 1:56 am

Yes, DDT survives a long time. Half life about 50 years. The problem is, though, that the reason it survives that long is chemical stability and not being soluble in water. Difficult to see how in today's world it can get into food. DDT is more readily absorbed via animal tissues, since it is soluble in fat. But if you are not eating polar bear fat, you should still not ingest it in any meaningful amounts. A bit of a mystery to me. However, who knows what those ridiculous Australians are up to.

PS. On so called safe raw milk.
I checked on line. There are about 20 different diseases that I did not know about that can be contracted from raw milk. Ignore crackpot advice and drink only pasteurized.

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Re: Microbiome ecology

Post by ElectricMonk » Thu Sep 20, 2018 4:03 am

I don't see what there is still to argue except as an attempt to save face:
Lance agreed that food testing is necessary.
Everyone agrees that food safety is currently not a major health issue.

Everything past that is a waste of everyone's time.

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Re: Microbiome ecology

Post by TJrandom » Thu Sep 20, 2018 7:34 am

Google of `path of DDT into food` produces...
Animal and fatty foods contain the highest levels of DDT and PCBs because they are stored in fat and increase in concentration as they move up the food chain. Even though it was banned in 1972, vegetables, meat, fish, and dairy products contain DDT.

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Re: Microbiome ecology

Post by Lance Kennedy » Thu Sep 20, 2018 9:02 am

ElectricMonk wrote: Lance agreed that food testing is necessary.
Everyone agrees that food safety is currently not a major health issue.
I will never argue against proper scientific and safety testing. It is possible to get too complacent, and this testing works to keep knowledge flowing. However, it is also possible to get perspective screwed. There are many aspects of foods that lead to harmful outcomes. Synthetic pesticide residues from modern pesticides do not appear to be significant. But such things as excess sugar and salt are genuine concerns, and these issues should be kept prominent. Side issues can lead people into not focussing on what really matters.

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Re: Microbiome ecology

Post by Lance Kennedy » Thu Sep 20, 2018 9:05 am

On DDT.
Because of its long half life, it will be around for a long time. But the puzzle to me is how enough can build up in the human body to be of concern. Believe it or not, but DDT is not one of the most toxic to humans. It is of more concern to certain wild life. After WWII, returning veterans were often doused in DDT powder to kill lice. Decades later, there was a study to see what this might have done to them. Compared to returned veterans who were not so treated, cancer rates were no higher.

Incidentally, TJ, I just noticed that one of your references was from the Journal of Pesticide Reform, which is a political rather than scientific publication. It helps to be more careful of your references. There are just too damn many crackpots out there publishing on the web.

PS. I just took another look at the DDT reference, which is a much better reference, since it comes from the N.I.H.. Problem solved. The amounts in mothers milk was NANOgrams of DDT per kilogram of milk fat. In other words, tiny amounts, too small to have any effect at all. The article actually was more about organo phosphate compounds. These, too, are not normally used any more.

By comparison, solanine, the natural pesticide in potato averages 80 parts per million, and is as toxic as cyanide. This is vastly more of concern than synthetic pesticide residues which are way less toxic, and found normally in less than 1 ppm amounts.

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Re: Microbiome ecology

Post by OlegTheBatty » Thu Sep 20, 2018 3:14 pm

spud toxicity

Not 80mg/kg Lance - 20 or less, with 20 being suggested as a legal cap. The first sentence of the last paragraph is poorly written - Solanine ingested from food sources runs an obstacle course through digestion and absorption which reduces the amount which gets into the blood stream.

solanine toxicity

some LD50's for comparison

Hydrogen cyanide is 3.7 mg/kg, so 10 times as toxic as solanine.

When someone's facts are as off as yours in that last post, I have to wonder about your sources. Or, perhaps you were going from memory - so it may improve credibility if you checked them before posting.
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Re: Microbiome ecology

Post by Lance Kennedy » Thu Sep 20, 2018 7:54 pm

Actually, Oleg, I checked both facts on line. I suspect that two references gave two different values.

Out of interest, I looked up hydrogen cyanide on line and found seven different values for LD50. Mostly these differences are a result of which laboratory animal species is used to determine lethal dose.

The F.D.A. reference below gave solanine in potatoes at 8 milligrams per 100 grams, which is 80 ppm.

https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/ ... fm?id=1364

I tend to believe the FDA more than a web site advertising lamps for sale.

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Re: Microbiome ecology

Post by Lance Kennedy » Fri Sep 21, 2018 9:04 pm

Returning to my OP. About probiotics.

The latest New Scientist (15 Sept. 2018, page 19 ) has an item which says that recent research has shown that probiotics do more harm than good. Often the bacteria in the probiotics did not colonise the gut. When probiotics were given after a course of antibiotics, the bacteria in the probiotics dominated the gut at the expense of other species, and slowed down the multi-species colonisation for up to six months. For good health, it appears that many species of gut bacteria are needed, and a massive dose of one or two is harmful.