Monday, December 23, 2013

HORMONE in Hairy Crab

14/10/11: Crabs in Hong Kong found to contain excessive estrogen

One quarter of Chinese crab samples tested in Hong Kong have been found to contain excessive amounts of the female hormone estrogen. Health experts said consumption of three crabs each day would result in ingesting amounts of estrogen exceeding the safety levels set by the World Health Organization.

SGS Hong Kong, the local branch of Swiss testing and certifying firm SGS Group, recently gathered more than 30 samples of Chinese mitten crabs, also known as hairy crabs, from the mainland. About a quarter of them were identified to contain excessive estrogen levels, according to a report from the National Business Daily in Shanghai.

SGS staff said however that more time is still needed to verify if the estrogen contains prohibited elements and whether these were natural substances or synthetic additives. They also did not identify from which parts of China the crabs came.

Certain hormones can be used by crab raisers or fishermen as they can make young specimens gain weight faster and achieve a higher turnover, but this may also bring health risks for consumers.

The report has prompted officials at the Hong Kong Food and Environmental Hygiene Department to heighten alerts on imports of the pricey crabs. They stated that they would visit crab farms in China for onsite inspections if necessary.

Chinese food and quality inspection authorities as well as crab suppliers, especially those from Jiangsu’s well-known Yangcheng Lake area, promised to step up inspections to better protect consumers and safeguard the interests of suppliers.

Yang Weilong, head of the Yangcheng Lake Crab Association in Suzhou, Jiangsu province immediately issued a public announcement that crabs from the Yangcheng Lake area are safe as all crab-raising operations are meticulously monitored by local food and health agencies.

Shipments overseas, including those to Hong Kong, also have to undergo extra inspections for customs clearance, he stressed. Yang however was only willing to vouch for the crabs from his own area, the most famous source for the expensive crabs.

Crab suppliers in other areas in China often disguise their products as coming from the Yangcheng Lake district near the Yangtze in order to fetch higher prices.

Previous incidents and media reports about crabs contaminated by illegal drugs or chemicals had caused heavy losses for suppliers, especially during the crab mating and peak supply season in September and October, after authorities in Taiwan and Hong Kong temporarily suspended import permits.

To avoid a possible wider impact on consumers and the image of Yangcheng crabs, officials at the Jiangsu Entry-Exit Inspection & Quarantine Bureau told reporters that they have given priority to the safety of crab products and stepped up inspections.

SHANGHAI officials said no excessive level of estrogen has been detected in hairy crabs in local markets following media reports about excessive hormone found in hairy crabs in Hong Kong. Chen Qiwei, the Shanghai government spokesman, told reporters at a press conference today that test results of all the samples collected from the local markets were satisfactory.

Food inspectors checked for more than 30 contents in the samples, including diethylstilbestrol, a type of estrogen. The inspection is carried out every three months by the city’s agricultural commission, food and drug administration, and administration for industry and commerce.

Chen said the three departments will strengthen the inspection of hairy crabs to ensure food safety.

It was reported on Tuesday that one-fourth of the 30 hairy crab samples tested in Hong Kong showed an excessive amount of hormone with the highest reaching 100 micrograms.

SGS, an international inspection company, warned that eating three hairy crabs with the highest level of hormone will surpass the safety limit suggested by the WHO.

However, it admitted that it used a new testing method in the check and was unable to tell if the hormone was natural or synthetic.

The Hong Kong Food and Environment Hygiene Department said it will release a full report of its hair crab check soon.

Why is estrogen at excessive level dangerous to the body?

Like all steroid hormones, estrogens readily diffuse across the cell membrane in the human body. Once inside the cell, they bind to and activate estrogen receptors which in turn modulate the expression of many genes.

While estrogens are present in both men and women, they are usually present at significantly higher levels in women of reproductive age. They promote the development of female secondary sexual characteristics and are also involved in the thickening of the endometrium and other aspects of regulating the menstrual cycle. In males, estrogen regulates certain functions of the reproductive system important to the maturation of sperm and may be necessary for a healthy libido.

After menopause, women experience a reduction in estrogen and can face a host of problems like vaginal dryness, memory problems, hot flashes, fatigue, irritability, sudden surge of cholesterols and lower bone density. Most menopausal women are introduced to estrogen replacement therapy to boost the estrogen levels.

Sustained high levels of stimulating estrogen in women increases the risk that of developing endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus) and the hormone can produce excess amounts of superoxide compound in the brain. Other associated symptoms are fluid retention, flagging energy, bloating and weight gain.

Those who had the uterus removed are usually given another medication called a progestin to take along. This may decrease the risk of developing endometrial cancer, but may suffer from side effects like breast cancer, heart attacks, strokes, blood clots in the lungs or legs, breast cancer and dementia.

Note that hormonal imbalance, especially from estrogen dominance, is not limited to women. Men are bombarded constantly with environmental hazards of environmental estrogen mimicking chemicals, known as xenoestrogens. When they interact with cellular receptor sites, the effects of true estrogen are blocked. To make matters worse, these endocrine disruptors lodge in fat cells where they are resistant to breakdown. They can act in a synergistic effect with other endocrine disrupters to create havoc at the cellular level, such as breast cancer for women and prostate cancer for men.

The most common sources of xenoestrogens include:
a. Commercially-raised animal products (eg. hairy crabs, poultry, salmon)
b. Styrofoam products, plastics and canned products (with plastic lining)
c. Personal Care Products (cosmetics, lotion, perfumes)
d. Oral Contraceptives
e. Pharmaceutical medications f. Food Additives & preservatives
g. Laundry & Dishwashing detergents
h. Household cleaners & air fresheners
i. Pesticides & Herbicides

Effective ways to reduce estrogen loads: 
+ A simple strategy is through diet, especially by increasing the intake of cruciferous vegetables, which include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy, turnips, and mustard. They are known to contain indole-3-carbinol, a phytochemical that enhances environmental estrogen elimination, improves hormonal balance and protects against cancer. 

+ Red wine is fermented with the resveratrol-containing grape skins present during fermentation. This substance blocks the effect of estrogen and can help to prevent the malignant growth of breast cancer in women. 

 + Avoiding commercial meats and dairy products from hormone (bovine) injected animals is another important measure. 

+ To help eliminate the toxins accumulated in the liver, drink lots of pure water from glass containers together with milk thistle whilst taking in more fibres from whole grains and legumes. Expedite the detoxification process in the cells with alkaline foods may be necessary for the average people.