Moves By the FDA May Change Food Packaging In the Near Future

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) efforts as of late have been focused on safety in the packaging and processing of food products and on information for the consumer. While these two areas of interest are hardly rare for the agency, the introduction of a couple of new pieces of legislation could require some significant changes in the packaging, processing and labeling of food products in the near future.

In 2011, the FDA passed the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA). As of the beginning of 2014, some areas of the FSMA are still open for interpretation. In general, the FDA is requiring makers and packagers of food to ensure that those who supply them with components of food are following certain guidelines. This is being done to ensure that a safe and sanitary process is being used not only by the maker or packager, but by all of those involved in the supply chain.

Some confusion, though, surrounds the definition of food, where the legal definition includes contact materials. This, in turn, could pull more than just food suppliers – vendors like packaging machinery manufacturers or cap, bottle and box suppliers – within the reach of the legislation. Though the FSMA appears to place the burden of setting up a safe and sanitary production process, this is not exactly spelled out in the Act. However, as long as food packagers and their vendors and suppliers work together to create product specific packaging lines, even a vague definition may not create too much turmoil.

But while food packagers and the industries that serve them await clarification on the FSMA, the FDA has turned their sites to the actual package that holds the food, or more specifically the nutrition label on that package. Suggestions for a nutrition label makeover have just moved from the FDA to the White House for approval. Unlike the FSMA, no changes have been made law as of yet, but just like the FSMA, food packagers are left wondering exactly what will be expected of them should the FDA adopt new guidelines.

Some expected changes include more focus or a more prominent display of the calorie count, a more clear picture of a serving size, moving away from gram measurements, additional or extended information on sugar and wheat and a possible move for the nutrition label to the front of the package. Given the trend toward healthy eating, it is surprising that this is the first makeover of the nutrition label since it was first introduced in the 1990s.

So why the change now? Generally speaking, our understanding of nutrition has changed quite a bit since the nutrition label was first introduced. As that understanding changes, the nutrition label must reflect any new information discovered to avoid becoming a useless box of numbers and percentages. As more and more Americans focus on getting and staying healthy, the nutrition label on food packages can be used as a tool if the correct, and helpful, information is displayed.

At the time of this writing, things are pretty much business as usual for food packagers and industry vendors. While changes to both packages and the packaging process can not be far off, the extent of those changes remains to be clearly defined.

Vitamin D: Why It’s Easy to Be Deficient

Have you ever seen pictures of children with extremely bowed legs? It is a condition called rickets and it’s from low levels of vitamin D, causing the bones to become soft and weak.

Vitamin D is crucial for bone health. It helps your body keep a good balance of calcium and phosphate in the blood. With low vitamin D levels, children can develop rickets and adults can develop osteomalacia, a condition in which weak bones cause bone pain, fractures, and muscle weakness.

Vitamin D also has many other functions in the body. It helps control the growth of your cells, improves your immunity, provides nerve and muscle strength, and reduces disease-causing inflammation in your body.

Some studies suggest it may help with type 2 diabetes, weight loss, multiple sclerosis, high blood pressure, depression, heart disease, colon cancer, and other types of cancer.

Nursing home residents seem to have significantly fewer falls when they start a daily vitamin D supplement.

While the jury is still out on all of the studies related to vitamin D, we know it is essential that you have enough but not too much so that it becomes harmful. Simply put, you need to have optimal levels of vitamin D.

How Do You Get Enough Vitamin D?

There are 3 ways for you to get vitamin D:

1. Your skin makes vitamin D through sunlight

2. You can get vitamin D from food

3. You can take a vitamin D supplement

Let’s start with the sun on your skin.

As a general rule, exposure of the face, hands, arms, and legs to sunlight 2 to 3 times a week may produce enough vitamin D to stay healthy. Exposure should be about 1/4 of the amount of time it takes for you to get a mild sunburn. Depending on your skin color, this can mean from 5 to 30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 am and 3pm.

It is the ultraviolet B radiation in sunlight that helps your skin make vitamin D. Complete cloud cover reduces this radiation by about 50%. Shade, including the shade from severe pollution, reduces this ultraviolet B radiation about 60%.

How about food?

Surprisingly, there are not too many foods that are naturally high in vitamin D. The following list includes the foods highest in vitamin D:

Vitamin D Measured in IUs:

Cod liver oil, 1 tbsp, 1,360

Swordfish, cooked, 3 oz., 566

Sockeye Salmon, cooked 3, oz., 447

Mackerel, canned, 3 oz., 214

Sardines, canned, 3 oz., 197

Tuna Fish, canned in water, drained, 3 oz., 154

Orange juice Vitamin D-fortified, 1 cup, 137

Milk, Vitamin D-fortified, 1 cup, nonfat, reduced fat, & whole, 115-124

The abbreviation IU stands for “international unit” and is what you will find on food and supplement labels.

The third source of vitamin D is from supplements.

In general, there are two different forms of vitamin D on the market: ergocalciferol (also known as vitamin D2) and cholecalciferol (also known as D3). I will discuss their effectiveness in the following section.

How Much Vitamin D Do You Need?

Well, if you can get enough sun on your skin as described above, you really do not have to worry about getting more vitamin D from food and supplements.

On the other hand, food and supplements can provide a healthy dose of vitamin D if you have any (or a combination) of the following risk factors for low vitamin D:

  • You do not spend enough time outdoors, especially in the sun.
  • You live in a northern latitude, especially north of the Philadelphia-San Francisco line. For example, in Boston, there is not enough sunlight to make vitamin D in your skin for about 4 months of the year. If you go further north to Edmonton, Canada, your skin cannot make vitamin D for 5 months of the year.
  • You have been following your dermatologist’s suggestion of liberally using sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun’s radiation.
  • You have darker skin. Skin pigment reduces the skin’s ability to absorb the ultraviolet radiation in the sun. In a bathing suit, a light-skinned person spending 10-12 minutes under peak July sun in Boston can make 10,000 to 20,000 international units of vitamin D. It will take an Asian Indian person, who has darker skin, about 30 minutes to make as much vitamin D. It will take an African American with very dark skin about 120 minutes to make the same amount of vitamin D.
  • You are obese. Fat cells hoard vitamin D. This reduces the circulating vitamin in your blood.
  • Your have a medical condition such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and cystic fibrosis that impairs your gut’s absorption of vitamin D.
  • You are a strict vegetarian.
  • Your kidneys are impaired so they cannot activate the vitamin D you have.
  • You are older than 65. This means your skin makes less vitamin D, your gut may not absorb nutrients as efficiently, and your kidneys may not activate vitamin D as effectively. Even in sunny South Florida, as many as 40% of older people have low vitamin D levels.

If you have any of these risk factors, how many international units of vitamin D should you aim for a day?

This depends on whom you talk to. In recent years, various scientific authorities came up with different amounts of vitamin D that they consider good for your daily intake through food and supplements.

To spare you the confusing numbers and arguments, here is the bottom line.

If you are an adult, aim for 600 to 2000 IUs of vitamin D a day from your food and supplements.

And if you get vitamin D from supplements, keep in mind that unit for unit, cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) is better used by your body than ergocalciferol (vitamin D2).

In general, vitamin D3 is about 3 times more powerful than vitamin D2.

How Do You Know if You are Vitamin D Deficient?

If you are low on vitamin D, you may have bone pain and muscle weakness. But, often the symptoms of low vitamin D are very subtle. And even without any clear symptoms, low vitamin D can badly affect your health in different ways.

Your doctor can order a simple blood test, 25-hydroxy vitamin D, for you. Again, the normal range for vitamin D also varies according to different authorities. But here is what you need to know: a level of 30 to 50 ng/mL is considered optimal for bone health and overall health.

If your blood test suggests that you are very low on circulating vitamin D, your doctor may give you a prescription for high-dose treatment for a period of time. Make sure you follow his or her directions.

Can You Get Sick From Too Much Vitamin D?

Yes you can!

Too much vitamin D in your body can make you not want to eat, lose weight, urinate excessively, and have abnormal heartbeats. Even more seriously, it can make your blood calcium level too high, resulting in damage to your heart, blood vessels, and kidneys.

Unless you are under close monitoring by you doctor, do not take over 4000 international units of vitamin D from food and supplements a day. Exceeding this dose will increase your risk for having a toxic overload of vitamin D.

On the other hand, your skin will not make too much vitamin D from sunshine. Your body is such a marvelous creation that when you get too much sun, your skin actually rids itself of the extra vitamin D automatically.

Keep reading to discover the keys for defusing ticking health bombs that could be lurking in your body. Click here to discover the medical secrets necessary to know so you can live a better, longer, healthier life.

Small Business Health Insurance Choices

You know that you are mandated to provide health insurance for your employees. But, you aren’t a big company, in fact, it’s just you and two other employees that make up your entire business staff. So how are you going to afford to pay for the insurance for you and your staff?

Over the past few years, insurance premiums have gone the roller coaster of rising so high that it’s near impossible for any business, let alone a small business, be able to afford them. After the financial crisis happened, insurance premium rates went down in a spiraling dive that left everyone too scared to commit!

However now, there may be hope to be found in the new reform bills that will take effect in a few years’ time. So by 2014, small businesses may be able to get together to buy insurance as a group. Since most entrepreneurial businesses have a small work force, they will be able to avail of group rates rather than individual ones. The savings may be small, possibly 1% to 4% less, although employees will have more benefits, a raise of about 3%.

But what happens until then? Although the three years until the final date of 2014 won’t really take that long, it’s not the solution for small businesses that need to get insurance right now.

So until that time, any small business with less than 10 workers who earn about $25,000 can claim a tax credit on their health insurance of about 5% on their tax credits. Those “bigger” companies that have up to 25 workers who earn a maximum of $50,000 a year can claim partial tax credits.

The insurance company will also be prohibited, when the reforms kick in, from excluding coverage or setting rates that are based on pre-existing conditions. It will only be age, geographic location, and tobacco use that the rates will be based on.

These are the major changes in store for small businesses. Until 2014, though, there is nothing new in the market since many states won’t be implementing these changes until just before the due date.

Using Bodybuilding Supplements To Build Muscle Mass!

OK, first let’s get something straight here…

If you think that buying a shake or taking a few pills will all of a sudden make you huge, then you are mistaken.

No supplement will help you if you are not training and dieting correctly — they will just give you very expensive urine. All aspects of your program have to be in order for you to get the maximum benefit from sports nutrition supplements. From my experience, supplements enhance your program by:

1. Adding an element of convenience: Using food supplements like Meal Replacement Powders and whey protein help to eliminate the common problem of ‘not enough time’, by providing you with an quick efficient way to get your required nutrients each day.

2. Increasing strength and decreasing recovery time: Using vitamin and amino acid supplements help to minimize the negative side effects of weight training and speed your recovery.

The Benefit of Convenience

There are many ‘old school’ trainers and bodybuilders who profess the uselessness of supplements. They are constantly preaching that they don’t work, and that you don’t need them. Well, to tell you the truth they are correct, somewhat. Remember that not too long ago there were no supplements. Bodybuilders built huge physiques without meal replacement powders, creatine or prohormones.

There was no such thing as exercise ‘machines’. They used multi-jointed, compound free weight exercises that not only increased their muscular size, but also make them incredibly strong. So, if you look at that way it can be done and you don’t need any supplements. However, the decision whether or not to use supplements should involve the consideration of other factors that may come into play when speaking of dieting today. The first of which is time.

Many people today just do not have the time to live, eat and breathe food. Very few people like to cook, and even fewer cook on a regular basis. When was the last time that you actually had six meals that you actually cooked yourself? Many of those who are against dietary supplements continue to preach that you should get all the nutrients that you need from your diet. ‘Eat a balanced diet and you will get all the nutrition you need’. Well, 100 years ago that may have been true, but today this type of advice is questionable.

The fact is, most people’s idea of a good meal is restaurant or (even worse) fast food. To ask someone to eat specific amounts of protein, fat and carbs seems like an impossible request considering that most people can’t even get their minimum requirements of good fat or fiber. Experts will continue to spout ‘eat a balanced diet,’ while Americans feast on nutritionless fast food and sugar. Not only do our bodies have to deal with the ever-increasing external stresses of everyday life, they also have to combat nutrient-depleting, tissue damaging exercise.

If I did not have the option to supplement my diet with whey protein, I probably would not have gained as much weight as I have. Now, I’m not saying that the whey protein is why I gained weight, but it did help me a great deal.

I am usually very busy and I just don’t have the time, nor the desire to eat six, planned whole food meals per day. Supplements like meal replacement powders and whey protein fill in this gap for me.

I typically have three real food meals and three protein supplement meals — that makes up my required six meals each day. When I’m away from home, or not able to get an adequate meal, my MRP is always right there when I need it. It gives me a quantifiable amount of protein so that I can keep track of my nutrient intake. In my opinion, this is much better than just grabbing something and then trying to guess at how much protein, fat or carbs you just ate. Getting in all of your required meals and nutrient amounts is crucial to your success.

My mass diet requires a very high daily protein intake — Over 300g per day. Just to give you example of how much that is, here are some examples of what 300g of protein is equal to:

Tuna — 50 oz of canned tuna (the average can is 6-8oz.), which is 1,750 calories and 25g of fat

Chicken — 38 oz of chx breast (equals about seven 6oz breasts), which is 1,313 calories and 38g of saturated fat

Beef — 43 oz of lean ground beef (about 2.7 pounds of meat), which is 3,214 calories and 215g of saturated fat

Eggs — 50 large whole eggs, equals 3,750 calories and 250g of saturated fat

Egg whites — 100 egg whites, equals 1,600 calories and almost no fat

Pure whey protein — 15 scoops of EAS Precision Protein, equals 1,500 calories 7.5g of saturated fat

It is very possible to get this amount from eating whole foods only — But it will take work. Also, as you can see from the above numbers, getting all of your protein from regular food will also bring a lot of unnecessary elements like extra saturated fat. Yes, our goal to gain mass is to eat a lot of calories (including fat), but your main fat intake should consist of unsaturated fats that are liquid at room temperature like olive oil, flaxseed oil, sunflower oil and safflower oil. Whey protein supplements will help to give you the extra protein without the fat.

Increased Strength and Decreased Recovery

In addition to a whey protein supplement, I recommend that everyone should be taking a multi-vitamin, plenty of vitamin C, and glutamine. Creatine can also be added if you are over 18.

Multi-Vitamin

Weight training increases the body’s need for many minerals like magnesium and selenium. The multi-vitamin ensures that I am not deficient in any major essential vitamin or mineral. Deficiency symptoms include muscle weakness and suppression of the immune system, muscle cramping and fatigue.

I always take a multi-vitamin without iron, because grown men do not need additional iron. We get enough from our food. Men and postmenopausal women should never take iron supplements unless they have iron-deficiency anemia, which is only diagnosed by blood tests. The body has no way to eliminate excess iron except through blood loss. Women who menstruate are protected from iron overload, obviously. Iron is also an oxidizing agent that can cause damage to the heart and arteries, and is a major risk factor in arteriosclerosis.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C essential to prevent free radical damage, which is accelerated after the heavy trauma of weight training. It is also essential is helping to repair connective tissue which helps decrease the amount of time you are sore. I train very heavy and extremely hard. When I train my legs, I am usually sore for about 5-6 days afterwards.

If I do not supplement my diet with vitamin C, I would normally be sore for almost 10 days! So, it really helps me to recover and get back to training. I typically take around 3,000mg in divided doses. That would equal quite a few oranges!

Glutamine

Glutamine is an amino acid that is produced by our bodies, but most of the time our bodies demand so much, that it can’t create enough. I supplement my diet with glutamine to increase my levels of glutathione. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant, which helps to combat the stresses of exercise trauma, and prevent muscle protein breakdown.

I especially believe that it helps prevent my body from breaking down my new muscle while I am asleep, so I never go to bed without taking it. I take about 15g per day (in divided doses), which would be impossible to get naturally.

Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine’s purpose is to supply our muscle with energy. It is also found in red meat, but you would have to eat an enormous amount of meat to get the same benefits as taking pure creatine powder. Everyone knows about creatine so I will not go into it here, but I do want to say that the major benefit from taking creatine is that it will increase your strength.

This will enable you to lift heavier weights, which will stimulate more muscle growth. Many people make a big fuss over the muscle volumizing effects of creatine, because if you stop taking it, you lose that extra fluid that creatine brings into your cells. So what! You certainly DO NOT lose the extra muscle creatine helped you to gain.

I can honestly say that I could not have built the body I have today without the convenience and enhancements supplements provide. I simply don’t have the time or desire to do it any other way. This is a choice that you must decide for yourself. You will be spending your money on these products, so make sure that you know their place in your program.

Don’t get caught up in product hype. Supplements will help, but they will NOT do the work for you.

Inside or Outside of the Health Insurance Exchanges

Businesses, individuals and families are even more confused about where they can buy health insurance come 2014. Some think they have to buy inside the exchange. This is simply not the case. So what do you do? Get informed!

The exchanges were designed to offer a richer set of plans that most people in America are used to through their employer. The government knew this going into it. On top of that, they created an incentive to use the exchange through subsidies for those who qualify. But only within the exchange. The family size and income will play a major role on what and how much subsidy you will qualify for from the government inside the exchange. There are no government subsidies outside of the exchange.

Inside the exchange, there will be a Gold, Silver, Bronze and a Platinum plans. The insurance carriers who offer plans inside the exchange will not be required to offer all four plans. They are required to offer one gold and one silver plan. Each plan will have slightly different essential benefits.

There is no ruling on what will be available outside of the exchange, at the time of this writing. The understanding is there will be more flexibility in choosing a plan that meets your needs versus what is available inside the exchange. As of now, the non-grandfathered plans, will include more of the essential benefits that are required by the law. This could be a plan you currently have right now. An example of essential benefits is maternity coverage. The maternity benefit will be added to your plan, along with the associated costs, as well as new plans starting January 2014.

This can be a good or bad thing, depending… It is bad for that single 30 year-old male entrepreneur that is unmarried. He will be paying for a benefit that he will not be able to use unless he gets married and they are having children. The flip side is a growing family does not have to wait a period of time until maternity kicks in. This will eventually have an impact on the premiums. But what won’t?

The plans outside of the exchange, will have more flexibility for plan selections. If you want that $5,000 deductible because you are willing to take the risk to offset premiums, you can have it. If you want to keep your HSA plan, you can. At least at the time of this writing.

Having this flexibility will allow premiums to go down. There is talk going around the industry that the plans within the exchanges will cost you more than outside the exchange. This will give many the advantage of buying outside the exchanges at a much lower cost. Especially when you make more than the income required to qualify for the subsidy by the government.

Make sure you know your choices going into 2014. The media and your friends do not work in the industry and they could only provide one-sided information. Be informed for 2014.