By Sarah A LoBisco, ND


Can you believe it’s already June!! You know what that means, time to highlight some great article links for my upcoming June Top Reads Page. J The first topic of the month—Franken foods revisited!

Let’s start with…

…..the Case of the exploding watermelon!

I know, it sounds like a circus act, but it’s real! Dr. Mercola spoke about it in his latest blog. It seems that the farmers in China gave their watermelons a little too much of the growth accelerator forchlorfenuron. The result was an explosion of watermelons across the farmlands! Besides the empathy felt for the farmers who lost their crops, and the cartoon-like visual, this event sparked a new hot topic regarding food quality in the USA-hormones in our produce.

 As if pesticides, herbicides, GMOs, and sewage sludge weren’t enough menaces to contend with regarding conventional produce, now this! I have been counseling my patients for years on the use of hormones and antibiotics in dairy and meat, but now I guess I will have to mention that that there’s oxytocin in our produce! According to the Mercola article:

This is an area that doesn’t get much press. While many are now aware of the fact that CAFO raised meats are loaded with hormones, few would imagine that fresh produce would be laced with hormone additives as well. But they are. According to Zheng Fengtian, a professor of agriculture from Renmin University, hormones can increase yields by 20 percent or more, and are therefore “widely used.”

Some of these hormones you might never expect to make their way onto your plate, such as oxytocin—a hormone that acts as a neuromodulator in your brain; often referred to as “the love hormone,” or “bonding hormone.” It’s released naturally in large amounts in a woman’s body during childbirth, but has also been synthesized biochemically and is available as a prescription drug to induce labor—and is, apparently, being illegally injected into fruits and vegetables in some countries…

Last summer, an Indian health minister, Dinesh Trivedi, warned about the illegal use of oxytocin in fruits and vegetables in India. Apparently the hormone allows produce to gain weight and ripen sooner. Injected produce also appear plumper and fresher.

According to Trivedi, the hormone is being used on:

  • Pumpkins
  • Watermelons
  • Cucumbers
  • Aubergines

You would want to believe that a cucumber and spinach salad would do your body good, but this hormone present on conventional produce items can cause many side effects that aren’t. These include irregular heartbeat, neurological issues, and sterility. Furthermore, this isn’t the only hormone being used in fruit; there is also ethylene and calcium carbide. Calcium carbide has been touted to be potentially toxic to humans. We don’t want all those phytochemicals and antioxidants present in our fruit and vegetables to go to waste fighting off what is on the fruit rather than supporting health in our bodies, right?

So, the recommendation to buy organic becomes about sparing our body from toxins, but the food is also more nutritious.  According to the European-Union founded study reported the following about organic foods:

  • Organic fruit and vegetables have up to 40 per cent more antioxidants than non-organically grown produce
  • Even greater contrasts were found for milk, with organic milk containing up to 60 per cent more antioxidants and healthy fatty acids

So, now we know that we can’t count on conventional produce or meat, what about seafood? According to an article from VitalChoice, seafood is another example of consumers expecting a healthy meal and being viciously misled by labels. (I’m being dramatic, but hang in there, I get to solutions at the end. J)

Not only do we need to be concerned with excess heavy metals and GMOs in farmed fish (see below), but now we have to question what fish we REALLY are eating. This seafood fraud is detrimental in a variety of ways:

  •  “Seafood fraud can directly threaten human health. Swapping one fish species for another that may be riddled with contaminants, toxins or allergens can make people sick.” 
  • “Seafood fraud creates a market for illegal fishing by making it easy to launder illegally caught seafood products through the U.S. market. This undermines conservation efforts to prevent overfishing and accidental capture of at-risk species and hurts honest fishermen.”
  • “Mislabeling fish makes it difficult for consumers to make eco-friendly choices. Market-driven conservation efforts depend on the consumer’s ability to make an informed purchase of particular species. This effort becomes nearly impossible when fish are mislabeled.” 
  • “Seafood fraud misleads consumers about the true availability of seafood and the state of the marine environment. Because mislabeling maintains the appearance of a steady supply of popular fish species despite severe overfishing, the general public is unaware that the species is in serious trouble.

Furthermore, farmed fish is a big no-no.

  • They found that while farmed tilapia and catfish contain few omega-3s, they pack more omega-6s than burgers or bacon.
  • This unbalanced “omega-ratio” is proven to promote chronic low-level inflammation and the diseases that flow from it. (See “Farmed Salmon’s Diet Yields Unhealthful Cardiovascular Effects”)
  • Many people seeking omega-3s from seafood don’t know about this nutritional distinction between wild and farmed fish, and fall victim to a nutritional bait-and-switch.

Phew, does all this doom and gloom make you want a nice refreshing glass of milk to quench your thirst? Sorry, guys, I’d think twice before drinking down the beverage that “does your body good.”  I already spoke about the sugar-cancer connection, and milk contains the hormone insulin-like growth to increase blood glucose and if you factor along all the antibiotics it contains, milk isn’t what it’s marketed to be. Mark Hyman, MD, lists 6 reasons to avoid milk in his latest blog:

  • Milk doesn’t reduce fractures. Contrary to popular belief, eating dairy products has never been shown to reduce fracture risk. In fact, according to the Nurses’ Health Study dairy may increase risk of fractures by 50 percent!
  • Less dairy, better bones. Countries with lowest rates of dairy and calcium consumption (like those in Africa and Asia) have the lowest rates of osteoporosis.
  • Calcium isn’t as bone-protective as we thought. Studies of calcium supplementation have shown no benefit in reducing fracture risk. Vitamin D appears to be much more important than calcium in preventing fractures.
  • Calcium may raise cancer risk. Research shows that higher intakes of both calcium and dairy products may increase a man’s risk of prostate cancer by 30 to 50 percent. Plus, dairy consumption increases the body’s level of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) — a known cancer promoter.
  • Calcium has benefits that dairy doesn’t. Calcium supplements, but not dairy products, may reduce the risk of colon cancer.
  • Not everyone can stomach dairy. About 75 percent of the world’s population is genetically unable to properly digest milk and other dairy products — a problem called lactose intolerance.

Now, for Some Positive Action Steps:

Uggh! All these scary facts! It’s my job as a Naturopathic Doctor to teach, not scare. No worries if you are on a typical American diet of cookies, fast food, and diet drinks, there’s still hope. I don’t want to stress you out and create more damage!

So, let me empower you with 9 simple, but maybe not easy, action steps baby steps to move you toward a diet without all the added non-benefits:

1. Go for quality first. For example, if you are eating more boxed and canned foods, begin exchanging them for whole, fresh foods of high quality. Start reading labels and if there are more ingredients that you can’t pronounce than can, leave it on the shelf.

2. Start replacing your meat and dairy with hormone free and antibiotic free sources. Coconut, rice, goat, or almond milk is a better choice than cow’s milk.

3. Drink more water and herbal teas. Dump the soda, which is not only calorie filled, but sugar and fructose filled. (See below)

4. Use the Non-GMO shopping Guide and the Dirty Dozen list to determine the produce items which is more likely to be safer to consume, if you can’t buy them organic.

5. With your healthy produce at hand, increase your vegetable intake to one more serving a day until you are up to 6-11 servings a day. This may take some time if you still consider corn and potatoes as a vegetable, they are actually carbohydrates.

Increasing vegetables will not only up your fiber intake and help with digestion, but provide your body with detoxification support and phytonutrients. Your liver and immune system will thank you.

6. Reference the newly revised food guide pyramid to get an idea of how to divide your plate. Although I don’t agree with all the recommendations, but at least it’s a start to modifying the high carbohydrate driven society. Here’s a tip for all you sugar and carb lovers, next time you get a craving, grab a protein source instead. It really does work, because it will balance your blood sugar. This brings us to number 7…..

7. Increase healthy proteins by adding in nuts, seeds, lean meats and poultry, and legumes.

8. Start exchanging white foods with whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, and millet.

9. Replace sugar and artificial sweeteners with stevia or xylitol.

Remember change is tough. You don’t want to change all everything at once so start with one or two things a week to enforce the habit. Doing too much at once puts the nervous system in stress mode and makes your comfort set point go nuts! So, remember to be gentle and have some self-compassion.

Look for my June Top Reads, coming soon!

Now, I want to hear from you….

What do you think about organic foods vs. conventional?

What action steps will you take or have you taken to improve your health and diet?  What were the results?

Comment below.



In health,
Dr. LoBisco



Mercola, J. The watermelon you should never eat. June 3, 2011.

Catalytic Generators, LLC. Ethylene.

EPA Pesticide Fact Sheet.

Medical NewsToday. Organic foods are more nutritious say EU researchers. October 2007.

Wetherby, C. Fish fraud remains rampant, say 2 reports. VitalChoice newsletter.,b1h0JlRD

Wetherby, C. Tilapia taken to task. VitalChoice newsletter.,b1h0JlRD

Hyman, M. Dairy-6 Reasons why you should avoid it at all costs.

Neuman, W. Nutrition Plate Unveiled, Replacing Food Pyramid. NY Times.