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arm muscle


It is generally believed that the larger a muscle the stronger it is.

And that strong muscles suggest excellent health.

Maintaining muscular strength is especially important in older adults because as one ages, muscular strength can also be decreasing and thus affects one’s ability to walk and to do many things.

Research is showing though, that muscular strength decreases long before muscle mass.

Muscle quality and muscle strength can decrease as muscle fat is increasing.

Researchers are learning that fat can increase in the muscle between the individual muscle fibers and within the individual muscle cells. This has long been known as part of aging but more recently has been shown to be a part of illness, disuse or inactivity. The cause is unknown but as the fat accumulates, insulin signaling is impaired and inflammation of cartilage develops.  This can result in increased risk for physical impairments, type 2 diabetes, chronic inflammation and hyperlipidemia.

Weight loss and increased physical activity have been shown to decrease this accumulation and improve muscle quality.  This fat accumulation in the muscle tissue is considered the product of illness, disuse, or inactivity.  Help often includes exercise training and/ or diet-induced weight loss. Data suggests that weight loss is the best factor to decrease these fat accumulations and that a high protein diet versus a normal protein diet shows greater reductions in the fat mass and a preservation of the lean mass, strength and physical performance.*




  • Wright, Christian, Doctoral Student, Purdue University, Nutrition Close-Up, Egg Nutrition Center, Muscle Quality: What Does It Mean to Your Health?, Winter 2016.

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has finalized rules to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act.  This Act establishes enforceable safety standards for produce farms and makes importers accountable for verifying that imported food meets U.S. safety standards.  The rule also establishes a program for the accreditation of third-party certification bodies, also known as auditors, to conduct food safety audits of foreign food facilities.

The purpose is to help produce farmers and food importers take steps to prevent problems before they occur. Prevention – rather than treatment.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 48 million people (1 in 6 Americans) get sick each year from foodborne diseases. Approximately 128,000 are hospitalized and 3000 die each year. The new program is referred to as the Produce Safety rule, the Foreign Supplier Verification Program and the Accredited Third-Party Certification.

images dThe Produce Safety rule  – establishes science-based standards for growing, harvesting, packing and holding produce to provide food safety across the broad variety of produce farms. The standards include requirements for water quality, employee health and hygiene, wild and domesticated animals, biological soil amendments of animal origin (compost and manure) and equipment, tools and buildings. The rules are to help minimize the risk of serious illness or death from consumption of contaminated produce.

Foreign Supplier Verification Program rule – requires food importers to verify that foreign suppliers are producing food in a manner that meets U.S. safety standards and that they are achieving the same level of food safety as domestic farms and food facilities. (In 2013, USDA estimated that imported food accounted for about 19 percent of the U.S. food supply, including about 52% of the fresh fruit and 22 % of the fresh vegetables consumed by Americans.) Importers must conduct verification activities, such as audits of a supplier’s facility, sampling and testing of food, or a review of the supplier’s relevant food safety records, based on the risks linked to the imported food and the performance of the foreign supplier.

Accredited Third-Party Certification rule – establishes a program for the accreditation of the third-party certification bodies (auditors) to conduct food safety audits and to certify that foreign food facilities and food produced by such facilities meets applicable FDA food safety requirements. The FDA can require in specific circumstances that a food offered for import be accompanied by a certification from an accredited third-party certification body.

The law also grants FDA mandatory recall authority.

An amendment to the bill offers protections for operations (a.k.a. “qualified facilities” that make less than $500,000 a year and sell most (greater than 50%) of their products directly to consumers in the same state and within a 400-mile radius.  It also applies to all operations that the FDA classifies as “very small business”. Thus small, local farmers would not necessarily need to comply with some of the requirements and produce safety regulations. Instead these small-scale producers (like those who sell their goods at farmers’ markets or roadside stands) would continue to be regulated by local and state entities.  In addition, consumers would know whom they are buying from either by direct sales or clear labeling. Farmers who qualify must provide documentation that the farm is in compliance with state, local, county or other applicable non-Federal food safety law. The farm must prominently and conspicuously display the name and address of the farm/facility on its label or if no label, then by poster, sign or placard at the point of purchase or in the case of Internet sales, in an electronic notice, or in sales at stores and restaurants, on the invoice.

The law requires producers and importers to pay an annual fee to help with the costs of implementation.

The FDA will now have a legislative mandate to require use of their controls across the food supply, including pet food and animal food. The FDA can recall food in the case of contamination or illness. It can require farms to track their food and have and implement plans to deal with recalls or outbreaks of disease and they will be given access to food growers records in the case of an outbreak.

Importers have the responsibility to verify that their foreign suppliers have adequate preventive controls to ensure that their food is safe. The FDA has the authority to require that high-risk imported foods be accompanied by a credible third party certification or other assurance of compliance of entry into the U.S.  FDA can refuse entry into the U.S. of food from a foreign facility if FDA is denied access by the facility or the country.

All of this will cost money.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that to implement the program the FDA will need an increase in its base funding for food safety of $583 million over the first five years. It is estimated that FDA will need an increase of $109.5 million for FY 2016 to move forward to implement the program.

images aConcerns regarding the program include the cost to implement and run the program.  Many say there are already programs in place to protect our food supply. And virtually, within the States, we do a very good job of feeding a nation of people, with healthy and wholesome food.

Many state that the spending of thousands of dollars, hundreds of hours and the endless meddling of government bureaucrats, is an opportunity to “grow government”.

Many state the endless amount of paperwork and records required by the government, is taking precious time and money from producers to meet the government demands.

Many say they will go out of business due the unnecessary work and costs. This, in turn, will necessitate that even more food will be imported and imported from countries where even the tap water is unsafe to drink.

Others say that the government cannot keep-up with their work, now in various agencies, how will they be able to monitor food “smuggled” brought in from other countries.

Producers and food industry persons want our food to be safe.  They have no desire to offer food that may cause illness or harm and they have many personnel, presently, in their employ to check food handling to provide safe food and believe that the new regulation will take away from their current efforts of monitoring facilities and equipment to be able to do the additional paperwork.  Also the additional costs will require an increase in the cost of the food.

Sometimes when we try to fix a problem, we create many additional problems.  The law is here, how can we work with it?




FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, Wikipedia

U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA News Release, November 2015.

Taylor, Michael, Food Safety News.  The Future is Now for the Food safety Modernization Act, March 17, 2015




Also see: in this Blog –

  • Vacuum Cooling of Produce, 11/28/ 2012
  • Lettuce – Harvesting, Storing, & Transport, 10/31/2012
  • Food Transport – 10/31/2009






You may have heard that exercise increases harmful free radicals (particles that can cause oxidative damage) and have been told to take antioxidant supplements to prevent the oxidative damage.

Yes, Endurance exercise can increase oxygen utilization from 10-20 times over the resting state and this greatly increases the generation of free radicals. This raises concern about enhanced damage to muscles and other tissues and has us asking how effectively can athletes defend against the increased free radicals resulting from exercise?  Do athletes need to take extra antioxidants?

Although taking a general multivitamin is unlikely to be harmful, recommendations are against taking high doses of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, selenium and manganese because they might have negative effects on the body’s immune system.  High doses of antioxidants can sometimes turn into prooxidants.

To learn if there is damage from the increased amount of free radicals after exercise, one reviews the research. It is not possible to directly measure free radicals in the body, so scientists measure the by-products that result from free radical reactions.  If the generation of free radicals exceeds the antioxidant defenses then one would expect to see more of these by-products. These measurements have been performed in athletes under a variety of conditions.  *

Several interesting concepts have been found.  It has been found that regular physical exercise enhances the antioxidant defense system and thus protects against exercise induced free radical damage.  This is important because it shows how the body adapts to the demands of exercise.  These changes occur slowly over time and appear to parallel other adaptations to exercise.*

On the other hand, intense exercise in untrained individuals has shown that the exercise overwhelms the defenses and can result in increased free radical damage.  Thus, the “weekend warrior” who is predominantly sedentary during the week but engages in vigorous bouts of exercise during the weekend may be doing more harm than good.  Many factors may determine whether exercise induced free radical damage occurs – such as the degree of conditioning of the athlete, intensity of exercise, and diet.*

It is well known that vitamin deficiencies can create difficulties in training and recovery. However the role of antioxididant supplementation in a well nourished athlete is controversial.  The experimental studies are often conflicting and conclusions are difficult to reach. However some data suggests that increased intake of vitamin E may be protective against exercise induced oxidative damage.  It is hypothesized that vitamin E is also involved in the recovery process following exercise.  Currently the amount of vitamin E needed to produce these effects is unknown.  The diet may supply enough vitamin E in most athletes, but some may require supplementation. There is no firm data to support the use of increased amount of other antioxidants.*

In general antioxidant have not been shown to be useful as performance enhancers.  The one exception is vitamin E which has been shown to be useful in athletes exercising at high altitudes.   A placebo controlled study done on mountaineers demonstrated less free radical damage and decline in anaerobic threshold in those athletes supplemented with vitamin E.  Although difficult to generalize this finding suggests that supplementation with vitamin E might be beneficial in those triathletes who are adapting to higher elevations.*

In low doses, vitamin E is important in maintenance of immune function. Although some may be good, more may not be better. Vitamin E can become a potentially health-eroding prooxidant. In a study of triathletes who took high doses (800 IU) of vitamin E for two months before the triathlon, the vitamin E unexpectedly promoted inflammation during exercise.**

Remember the more an athlete exercises the more the athlete eats.  Compared with inactive people with smaller appetites, most athletes consume more calories and therefore more vitamins and minerals.**

There is little evidence that consuming antioxidant supplements are helpful for the athlete and there is evidence that taking antioxidant supplements in large amounts can be harmful. So until more evidence is found to clarify the use, it may be best to eat a good diet and get the vitamins you need from the food you eat.













**  Clark, Nancy, Sports Nutrition Guidebook, Healthworks Fitness center, Chestnut Hill, MA.




anti-ox“Pomegranates, persimmons, berries, broccoli, nuts”, “neutralize free radicals”, “anti-cancer”, anti-aging”, “enhance the function of the immune system”, “boost immune defenses”, “boost cellular antioxidant defenses”, “protect against heart disease and cancer”, “anti-aging ingredient in beauty products”,  – the buzz is everywhere, –  grocery store shelves, supplement promotions – everywhere!

What are antioxidants and what do they really do?

Antioxidants are molecules that fight oxidation. Oxidation is a normal chemical process that takes place in the body every day.  Oxygen is important for the body’s health, but exposure to oxygen also causes oxidation.  Oxidation in the body can be accelerated by stress, sun, cigarette smoking, alcohol and pollution.  When the natural oxidation process is disrupted, highly unstable and potentially damaging molecules called free radicals are formed.  Oxygen triggers the formation of these destructive little chemicals and they can cause damage to the cells, if not controlled. These free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms that contain an odd number of electrons.  They are formed when these molecules react with oxygen.  Once formed free radicals can start a chain of damaging chemical reactions.  This chain reaction can damage important body chemicals, DNA, and the cell membrane, causing the cells to function poorly or die.  Some cells can heal while others are permanently damaged.

Antioxidants are natural substances that can stop or limit the damage caused by the free radicals.  The body uses antioxidants to stabilize the free radicals.  Antioxidants terminate these chain reactions by removing free intermediates and inhibit other oxidative reactions.  They do this by being oxidized themselves. Thus antioxidants are often reducing agents. Some scientists believe free radicals may contribute to the aging process as well as cause cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Antioxidants can protect and reverse the damage caused by oxidation to some degree.  The body produces antioxidants to fight off the free radicals formed by body processes.  Also the body gets antioxidants from the diet.   Examples of foods high in antioxidants are foods high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene and selenium.

To help the body it is recommended that one eat a healthy mix of colorful fruits and vegetables and other antioxidant-rich foods.:

  • Vitamin A is found in milk, liver, butter and eggs.
  • Vitamin C is found in fruits and vegetables such as papayas, strawberries, oranges, cantaloupe, and kiwi and bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, cauliflower and kale.
  • Vitamin E is found in some nuts and seeds, including almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts and peanuts, also in green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale and in oils such as soybean, olive, sunflower, corn, and canola oils and in almonds, and avocado.
  • Beta carotene is found in colorful vegetables and fruits like carrots, peas, cantaloupe, apricots, papayas, mangoes, peaches, pumpkin, apricots, broccoli, sweet potatoes and squash, beet greens, spinach and kale.
  • Lutein is found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, collards, and kale, broccoli, corn, peas, papayas and oranges.
  • watermelon, apricots, tomatoes, and papaya.
  • Selenium is found in cereals (corn, wheat and rice), nuts, legumes, animal products (beef, fish, turkey, chicken, eggs, and cheese), bread and pasta.
  • Anthocyanins – found in blue and purple foods like blueberries, raspberries, plums, pomegranates, eggplant, and red cabbage.*


Antioxidants are not interchangeable.  Each antioxidant has its own chemical behavior and biological properties.  Thus we need to eat a variety of foods rich in antioxidants to get antioxidants with the different properties.


Antioxidants are also in antioxidant supplements.  However when thinking about adding antioxidant supplements to one’s diet, it is advised to talk first with your doctor. There has been much discussion and hype about antioxidants. It was in the 1990’s when scientists were first understanding that free radical damage was involved in clogging arteries in atherosclerosis and may also contribute to cancer, vision loss and other chronic conditions. There was some early association of persons with low intakes of antioxidant-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables that seemed to be at a greater risk for developing chronic conditions.  However before test trials could be done and completed, the media and the supplement and food industries began to hype the “benefits “ of antioxidants.  Frozen berries, green tea and other foods thought to be rich in antioxidants were touted as disease-fighting foods.

The research trials have not have the hoped-for benefits. Most research teams reported that vitamin E and other antioxidant supplements did not protect against heart disease or cancer.  However the disappointing results has not stopped or slowed food companies and supplement sellers. Antioxidant supplements are a $500 million dollar industry ** and growing.  Antioxidants are added to breakfast cereals, sports bars, energy drinks, etc. They are promoted as additives that can prevent heart disease, cancer, cataracts, memory loss and other conditions.  Continued testing and research are not finding anything promising for prevention or cures of chronic health conditions.  (There was some protection found against the development of advanced stages of age-related macular degeneration, but not cataracts with taking a combination of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene and zinc.)


If antioxidants were harmless, there would be no concern.  However, a few studies are showing that taking antioxidant supplements, either single agents or combinations, may interfere with health.  One of the most significant findings was among heavy smokers in Finland, who began developing lung cancer when given beta-carotene supplement.  Also skin cancer was higher in women who were given vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, selenium and zinc. One study indicated that those who took vitamin A, E, and beta-carotene supplements may be at risk for premature death.  Excessive intake of vitamin E has also been associated with heart failure and increased bleeding.

There have now been many studies done, but no substantial health benefits have been found for supplemental antioxidants.  Antioxidants in food, though, is considered safe.  Until more  research is done and the use of supplemental antioxidants is found to be beneficial to one’s health, it is advised that one not take anti-oxidant supplements.  The best source of antioxidants is a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.  It is recommended that one eat between 5-9 servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables, every day.






*Family Doctor, Web Version, Antioxidants,  Reviewed/Updated: 2/14.




(Picture Insert is the structure of the antioxidant vitamin ascorbic acid -vitamin C – -Wikipedia-antioxidants.)








Cucurbita (Latin for gourd) is a genus of herbaceous vine in the gourd family.  Basically squash is the fruit of the gourd family plants. The varieties of squash are divided into summer squash and winter squash.  The plants are thought to have been in the Americas before humans and likely they originated in southern Mexico.

For the most part, summer squash have thin skins. They are more perishable than winter squash an requires less time to cook.  Winter squash have harder, thicker skins and seeds. Their flesh is firmer and requires longer cooking time. They are less perishable and can be stored for longer periods of time.

There are many types of squash. If you confuse the different types, perhaps the following descriptions will help.



Squash-COCOZELLE-2        Cocozzello squash is a long, round slender fruit – 8-10 inches when harvested. It has dark green skin striped with lighter green.






squash-crookneck-2         Crookneck  is a yellow, golden or white elongated fruit curved at the one end. It has a “bumpy, yellow skin and yellow flesh.







Scallop  or Pattypan squash is a small round and shallow shape with scalloped edges resembling a toy top or flying saucer.  It can be yellow,              green or white and usually 2-3 inches in diameter.  It is also know as sunburst, granny, custard, or button squash.






      Straightneck  squash has yellow skin and yellow or golden fruit with a stem edge that narrows.  It has a straight neck, unlike the crookneck.




squash-veg marrow1


Vegetable Marrow is a long, elongated squash.  (The Spaghetti squash is a winter variety of Vegetable Marrow.)




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Zucchini squash is a cylindrical fruit, dark or light green (also there is a yellow variety).  It is usually harvested when about 10-18 inches long.









Acorn Squash  –  Winter squash with a pointed apex with longitudinal grooves.  Acorn squash are small, dark green – to orange squash and has a      rubbed rind and yellow interior.






Butternut Squash – Winter squash, They grow about 12 inches long and bell-shaped.  they have thin butterscotch colored skin and a sweet,                  nutty, flesh.









Calabaza Squash – or West Indian Pumpkin squash – popular in the Caribbean.  Sweet, juicy, golden fruit. Taste and texture  are similar to                  butternut. It has a tough, tan or orange rind.






Delicata Squash – 1-2 pound fruits with pale, yellow skin with dark green stripes – looks like a cucumber.  It has a creamy flavor and texture               and some say it tastes  like sweet potato. It was popular in the early 1900’s.







Hubbard Squash  –  8-20# fruits.  Rind is orange to grayish blue and has yellow flesh.  It is sweet.







Kabocha– pumpkin shaped, Japanese squash.  Each piece is about 2-3 pounds.







Pumpkin Squash – This round squash has bright, orange skin.  Each weights about 2-8 pounds. It has a mellow sweetness and dense flesh.





squash-spaghetti-2 - CopySpaghetti Squash or Vegetable Marrow Squash.  It is a winter variety of the Vegetable Marrow squash.  It is an oval shaped, yellow squash with stringy fruit that when cooked, separates into spaghetti-like strands.  It is very mild and each fruit weighs 4-8 pounds.






squash-ornamental gourds


Ornamental Gourds – Non-edible – for decorative purposes.