The False Promise of Fish Oil Supplements

Note from Millie–   Americans love shortcuts, easy answers, quick results. But there are NO shortcuts to health; you have to eat correctly and exercise! I have always taught my clients that vitamin supplements are to help repair from deficiencies only. They will not build health or make you appreciate healthier. AND you should never, ever take oil soluble vitamins unless you need them to save your life, as in short term use of Vitamin D.

The oils that you are taking in supplements are rancid, therefore are rancid, rendering them carcinogenic. Nature puts oils in nice little packets to keep them fresh; the foods they came in- avocado, nuts and seeds, fish, green leafies, etc. So eat the whole foods themselves, not processed parts of them.

After decades of promises that they “may work” to reduce cardiovascular disease, the lack of a demonstrated benefit leads me to conclude that consumers are wasting their money.

The False Promise of Fish Oil Supplements

Credit: Getty Images

Every 38 seconds, someone in the U.S. dies from cardiovascular disease. Even more worrisome: deaths from cardiovascular disease have been rising dramatically since 2011 following years of decline. Strokes, heart attacks and other cardiovascular events cause great suffering and are an enormous health care burden.

These statistics are particularly troubling because each month, approximately 19 million people in the U.S. take fish oil supplements, many in the hopes of preventing heart disease—despite the absence of reliable evidence that such supplements (also called omega-3 fatty acid supplements) prevent cardiovascular disease and its serious consequences. To the contrary, all studies of fish oil supplements conducted to date have failed to show any significant clinical benefits beyond those of standard-of-care therapy.

Consumers have been told so many times that dietary fish oil supplements promote heart health that it seems to be accepted as factual. But this conventional thinking is not supported by the science. After decades of promises that fish oil “may work,” the lack of demonstrated benefit leads me to conclude that consumers are wasting their money on supplements in an effort to reduce cardiovascular risk.

A summary of all the evidence was recently published in the prestigious medical publication Annals of Internal Medicine. This review, published July 9, 2019, examined the effectiveness of 24 supplements and diets in preventing cardiovascular disease. The authors evaluated nine systematic reviews and four randomized controlled trials, which encompassed 277 trials and 992,129 participants. Findings indicated that few nutritional supplements or dietary interventions offered any protection against cardiovascular disease or death and that some may actually cause harm. Omega-3 products, in particular, yielded “low-certainty” evidence that they were associated with reduced risk for myocardial infarction and coronary heart disease.

Because the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classification for dietary supplements such as fish oil is different from that of prescription drugs, these supplements are not manufactured or reviewed by the FDA in as stringent a manner. Most found on the market—unlike prescription medications and certain over-the-counter (OTC) drugs—have not demonstrated effectiveness and safety in placebo-controlled clinical trials. This can be confusing: fish oil supplements, for example, are readily available to patients and often have labels that imply a benefit to cardiovascular health, yet they are not intended to treat any medical condition.

This study is just the latest in a growing body of evidence demonstrating the absence of benefit of fish oil supplements for heart health. Other studies looking into what common fish oil supplements actually contain have found that they have lower amounts of omega-3 than specified on the label, variable content and unregulated purity, and potentially significant levels of saturated fat and rancid oils.

It’s not just patients who are confused about the tested efficacy and safety of fish oil supplements. A survey conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind found that among those physicians and pharmacists who had recommended a nonprescription omega-3 product to patients, more than four in five (85 percent) believed incorrectly that they had recommended an FDA-approved OTC product. Thirty percent of pharmacists and 22 percent of physicians stated, incorrectly, that prescription and dietary supplement omega-3 products are similar in strength and content. This is an example of the adage that if something is said often enough, people will believe it to be true.

To help stop the alarming increase in deaths from heart disease, patients at risk for cardiovascular disease, as well as their health care providers, need to have an evidence-based rationale for what they use and recommend for heart health. Fish oil supplements should be treated with the same scrutiny as a prescription medication, particularly if patients or consumers are taking them for the specific purpose of preventing or treating cardiovascular disease.

As Amitabh C. Pandey and Eric J. Topol of Scripps Research Translational Institute, Scripps Research, and Scripps Clinic said in their editorialregarding the review published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, “it would be reasonable to hold off on any supplement . . . in all guidelines and recommendations.”


Why Short-Chain Fatty Acids Are Key To Gut & Overall Health, Plus How To Get More

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August 15, 2019 — 9:18 AM

In fairy tales, Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood have to outsmart some pretty creepy monsters. A journey into the forest means fending off werewolves and witches who are lurking around the corner. They enter at their own risk and learn to pack a silver bullet—a seemingly simple, magical solution to fending off the villains.

In the real world, we grapple with different—albeit equally terrifying—monsters: leaky gut, autoimmunity, heart disease, and cancer. And as a gastroenterologist, I’m not supposed to tell you there’s one seemingly simple, magical solution to our medical issues. I even flat-out say to my patients, “There’s no silver bullet.” But let me tell you a secret—I actually think there’s something that comes close.  

Curious about this real-life sprinkle of fairy dust? They’re called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), and I’m sharing the details on how they can shift your health for good and how to get more of them.

Why should you care about short-chain fatty acids?

Let’s start with the basics. SCFAs are produced when bacteria—the good kind—ferment fiber in the gut, thereby providing your body with energy, keeping your metabolism humming, and even thwarting a wide range of digestive disorders.

There are three main types of SCFAs: butyrate, acetate, and propionate. If you haven’t heard of them, that’s in large part because we’ve been ignoring fiber like it’s the nerdy kid from high school. But that’s all starting to change. 

You see, fiber isn’t just “in one end and out the other” as we’d once been taught. Instead, prebiotic fiber—which boosts the healthy bacteria that are already living in your gut—reaches the colon and sends our probiotic bacteria into an absolute feeding frenzy. Jonesin’ for their favorite food, probiotics go to town, and what results is postbiotic short-chain fatty acids. 

You’ve heard of prebiotics and probiotics, but did you realize that the entire point of these is to make postbiotics, or SCFAs? These underrated byproducts of fiber fermentation have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and loads of other health benefits in the gut and beyond.

What are the health benefits of SCFAs?

Back to my original point: SCFAs could be the silver bullet we’ve been looking for. Let me break the benefits down:

1. Your good gut microbes thrive on SCFA-producing fiber.

Studies have shown that fiber consumption increases the growth of healthy bacteria species such as lactobacilli, bifidobacteria, and prevotella. A January 2019 study showed that fiber also increases the diversity of species within the gut. Not to mention, the SCFAs produced by the fermentation of fiber in the colon suppress the growth of bad bugs like E. coli and salmonella. The end result: more good gut microbes, more diversity, and fewer bad dudes—all of which means better overall health.

2. SCFAs heal the colon wall and correct leaky gut.

Butyrate—remember, that’s one of the three types of SCFAs—is the main source of energy for our colon cells, providing up to 70% of their energy. In fact, it actually repairs leaky gut by increasing the expression of tight junction proteins, and, according to a 2012 study, butyrate has been shown to decrease bacterial endotoxin release into the bloodstream. If you’re a nerd like me, then you know that I just described the solution for the gut dysbiosis—a microbial imbalance within the gut that can drive a variety of health issues from IBS to rheumatoid arthritis to type 2 diabetes.

3. SCFAs help regulate the immune system.

Short-chain fatty acids have been shown to inhibit three of the most powerful inflammatory signals in the body, NF-κΒ, IFN-gamma, and TNF-α. They also play a role in regulatory T-cell production and function for the entire body, which is kind of a big deal in terms of keeping your immunity on track. So not only do SCFAs correct dysbiosis and heal leaky gut, they also create a powerful link between the microbiome and immune system that serves to make the immune system work properly. This explains why a loss of bacterial diversity and inadequate supply of the SCFA butyrate have been found at the heart of inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.

SCFAs actually have a direct anti-tumor effect thanks to their ability to regulate gene expression through enzymes known as histone deacetylases, or HDACs. One of the necessary steps for cancer development is unchecked cell multiplication and growth. There are multiple studies showing that—through their activity on HDACs—SCFAs are able to inhibit cellular proliferation. When you have dangerous cells, it’s not enough to just slow down their growth. You need to stop them in their tracks, and the way this is done is by causing apoptosis, or programmed cell death. SCFAs have the ability to destroy cancer directly by inducing apoptosis. If that’s not a magic spell, then I don’t know what is.

So how do you get more SCFAs?

You may be thinking, “This sounds great—where’s the supplement?” The problem is that most butyrate supplements would be absorbed almost immediately in the small intestine and never make it to the colon (which is where it needs to end up). Plus, these SCFAs need to be properly balanced, which is exactly what happens when you let their trillions of bacterial friends do their job in the colon.

Instead, the best way to get the health benefits of SCFAs is through the consumption of dietary fiber found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, and nuts. You can even try throwing it all into a gut-friendly smoothie. And for bonus points, sneak in some exercise, which we’ve recently discovered can help your body generate more SCFAs as well.

Bottom line: SCFAs are health-promoting powerhouses.

I could keep bragging about how SCFAs may help reverse diabetes, lower cholesterol, and protect us from heart disease and stroke. Or that SCFAs cross the blood-brain barrier, improving learning and memory, and may even protect us from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. That’s because this food molecule is not a flashy trend—SCFAs are a real game-changer with the potential to legitimately transform the health of those who pursue it. But there’s no magic pill, so keep loading up on fiber-rich foods and moving your body to harness their power.

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11 Genius Ways To Eat Your Greens!

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August 14, 2019 — 12:22 PM

Functional doctors agree—greens are one of the healthiest foods on the planet. Whether you’re munching on cilantro, spinach, or kale, you’re benefiting from better digestion, inflammation-fighting powers, and tons of antioxidants. We all know we should eat a heaping amount of green goodness daily—but how do you fit all of that fiber in? We reached out to the healthiest people we know to steal their genius tips for munching greens all day long.

1. Make marinated kale.

Some people refer to this technique as massaged kale, but the idea is less giving those greens a deep-tissue rub down and more ensuring that each and every leaf gets covered with a mixture of acid, oil, and salt. This helps draw out some of the kale’s natural moisture, softening and tenderizing it in the process. It works similarly to a ceviche, taking the texture of the greens from woody and raw to wilted and semi-cooked. This also makes it easier for your body to break them down. My favorite is this basic kale salad.

—Phoebe Lapine, mbg Collective member and founder of Feed Me Phoebe

2. Use leftover grease.

A favorite in my household is to make some meat in the pan, like bacon or ground beef, and then throw some leafy greens in the grease and use the grease to cook up the greens. Culturally, we shy away from meat grease because we’ve been taught it’s unhealthy. Everything in moderation, of course, but I would argue that most of us actually improve our health by incorporating reasonable amounts of fat from healthy animals. I get bacon from pastured pigs, free of nitrates and sugar. The grease from that is actually an excellent cooking fat with a high smoke point, and it adds flavor and nutrition to the greens. The fat also helps us absorb the fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K) in the leafy greens. 

Ellen Vora, M.D., mbg Collective member and founder of EllenVora.com

3. Sauté them in ghee.

Sautéed in ghee or even bacon fat! I’m not kidding. Many of the vitamins in leafy greens are fat-soluble, so adding a little fat will not only increase the flavor but also allow your body to absorb the vitamins. I never eat kale raw, as it can go through your system like sandpaper. If you suffer from any sort of bloating or gas, please consider eating fewer raw kale salads, a common mistake I see many of my nutrition clients make. 

—Diana Rodgers, R.D., founder of Sustainable Dish

4.  Make a smoothie

I always add organic and fresh leafy greens to my smoothies and smoothie bowls, especially during the summer. Spinach is a go-to, and you can freeze them to make them last longer. Using leafy greens in your smoothies makes a great foundation and can be easily balanced with fruits, nut milk, and, my favorite, coconut butter for yummy healthy fats. 

Sophie Jaffe, mbg Collective member and founder of PhilosophieSuperfoods

I love adding leafy greens to ketotarian smoothies as you can add a lot without noticing a huge change—if any—in flavor. Mix in some coconut milk, berries, MCT oil, and adaptogens, and you have a delicious, creamy plant-based keto smoothie.

Will Cole, D.C., mbg Collective member and author of Ketotarian

 

5.  Stir ’em into an omelet.

My favorite way to eat leafy greens currently is in an omelet. I typically use baby spinach or kale, and it is a great way to get in some greens with breakfast or brunch! 

Alanna Waldron, R.D., founder of Eats Real Food

6.  Serve meals on a bed of greens.

Eating my meals on a bed of greens is my favorite way to incorporate them into my diet. It not only makes the plate look pretty, but it also ensures I’m getting nutritious vegetables with every bite! My favorite is the Organic Girl Protein Greens variety.

—Allison (Aaron) Gross, M.S., RDN, CDN, founder of Nutrition Curator

7.   Chiffonade them.

Most people don’t like leafy greens because they’re either bitter or tough to eat. I usually chiffonade my leafy green leaves so they’re easy to eat with a fork and toss them in a dressing with fat or something sweet. The fat (like a ghee or pairing with an avocado) helps dial back the bitter, as does a drizzle of honey.

Carlene Thomas, RDN, founder of OhCarlene

8.       Make a salad

My favorite way to enjoy baby greens is in salad form—baby kale is my current favorite. I also love adding leafy greens to soups, stews, and chili to bulk up the dish and add nutrients. They’re also an easy and delicious way to add nutrients and color to scrambled eggs or an omelet. When fresh isn’t available, I love to add frozen spinach to a smoothie.

Jessica Cording, R.D., mbg Collective member and founder of Jessica Cording Nutrition

9.     Stir-fry them up.

I love incorporating green leafy veggies into stir-fries (I love a mix of edamame, leek, and Swiss chard), a pesto (think spinach or kale pesto), or soups (wilting spinach into turkey chili). 

 

Liz MoodyContributing Food Editor

Liz Moody is a contributing food editor at mindbodygreen. She’s contributed to Glamour, Women’s Health, Food & Wine, goop, and many other publications and is the woman behind the…


Sugary Western Diets Fuel Newly Evolving Superbug

And it’s becoming increasingly resistant to disinfectants.

clostridium difficile bacteria

A diarrhea-causing bacterium is evolving into a new species, one that thrives on your sugar-rich Western diet, according to a new study.

The Clostridium difficile bacteria produce spores that spread through contact with feces, and so can commonly be found in bathrooms or on surfaces that people touch without properly washing their hands. What’s more, this bacterium is becoming increasingly resistant to disinfectants used in hospitals, said study lead author Nitin Kumar, a senior bioinformatician at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. 

Patients taking antibiotics face the greatest risk of developing diarrhea from C. difficile, because antibiotics clear away healthy gut bacteria that typically fight off the infection, Kumar told Live Science.

In the new study, Kumar and his team collected 906 different strains of C. difficile from the environment, from humans and from animals such as dogs, pigs and horses. The researchers analyzed and compared the DNA for these various strains and found that C. difficile was evolving into two separate species. 

In order to be considered the same species, two groups of organisms have to share 95% of their genomes, and the two emerging species of C. difficile share 94% to 95%, Kumar said. That indicates that “they are on the verge of speciation.”

It’s not uncommon for bacteria to evolve, but “this time, we actually see what factors are responsible for the evolution,” Kumar said.

One of the emerging species, C. difficile clade A, is the one that is thriving in hospitals. The team found that it made up 70% of the samples collected from hospital patients. DNA analysis suggested that this emerging species started evolving 76,000 years ago and eventually gathered mutations in its genes that better allowed it to metabolize sugars and form disinfectant-resistant spores.

The researchers then introduced the C. difficile clade A bacteria to mice that were eating various diets. Results showed that the bacteria were more likely to thrive and colonize the gut when the mice ate diets rich in simple sugars, such as glucose and fructose. 

Essentially, our diet and other lifestyle factors, like the type of disinfectant commonly used in hospitals, are helping this bacteria to evolve more effectively, Kumar said. These results suggest that it might be useful to consider a “low-sugar diet for those patients who are infected with C. difficileclade A or [for hospitals to] look for new disinfectants as well.”

The findings were published Aug. 12 in the journal Nature Genetics.

Related: 5 Ways Gut Bacteria Affect Your Health

Originally published on Live Science.


Gut Throws Cells Overboard When Chemical Insults Build Up

When we eat things that are toxic:  medications, processed foods, food dyes, dairy, grains, alcohol, …we develop Leaky Gut, the beginning of health problems and inflammation.

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A team of Duke researchers has discovered that cells lining the gut of zebrafish—and probably humans too—have a remarkable defense mechanism when faced with certain kinds of toxins: they hit the eject button.

“The gut has the challenging job of handling all the chemicals that we consume or produce, and some of those chemicals can be damaging. So the gut has evolved many interesting ways to defend against damage,” said Ted Espenschied, a Duke graduate student who led the effort as part of his dissertation research.

The Duke team was testing more than 20 non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) in an attempt to make the zebrafish a new model for studying chemical injury in the gut. The fish are cheap to maintain, easy to breed, and most importantly, translucent for the early part of their lives, Rawls said. It’s also easy to administer chemical exposures and measure their environmental conditions via the tank water.

The researchers found something unexpected.”It’s often the case that drugs have multiple off-target effects,” said John Rawls, an associate professor of molecular genetics and microbiology and director of the Duke Microbiome Center.

But only one of the drugs they tested seemed to create any measurable differences in the fish, an old NSAID called Glafenine. It had been an over-the-counter oral painkiller used in Europe and the Middle East for three decades, but was taken off the market after being linked to kidney and liver damage.

Glafenine was making the fish shed up to a quarter of the cells lining their intestines overnight by a process called delamination. What hadn’t been recognized before is that delamination, which seems catastrophic, is actually a highly effective defense strategy.

The lining of the gut is a single layer of finger-like epithelial cells packed closely together. When a gut epithelial cell is distressed, it somehow becomes marked for destruction. During delamination, neighboring epithelial cells push against the doomed cell to loosen its anchor to the basement membrane they all stand on. The neighbors squeeze in on it and crowd it out until it pops up and is carried away to die in the gut.

A cross-section of zebrafish gut showing the junctions between epithelial cells in green and a protein expressed on absorptive cells in pink. Credit: John Rawls Lab, Duke University

“We weren’t expecting delamination to be protective,” Espenschied said.

Espenschied pivoted on the unexpected finding. “Only one NSAID had this remarkable effect of causing delamination of the gut epithelium and we were wracking our brains trying to figure it out,” Espenschied said.

“So we chased it,” Rawls added.

After many experiments and a detailed analysis of Glafenine’s chemical properties, Espenscheid determined that it wasn’t the drug’s NSAID qualities that harmed the gut, but rather its ability, apparently unique among NSAIDs, to inhibit a cellular structure known as the multidrug-resistant, or MDR, efflux pump.

These pumps exist to help purge unwelcome chemicals from the interior of the cell. Cancer researchers have been very interested in finding ways to block MDR efflux pumps because tumors ramp them up dramatically to push chemotherapies out of cancer cells, foiling cancer therapy.

Much less is known about what the pumps do in normal cells. “We do know that if you block these pumps, cells are unable to clear toxic chemicals and problems ensue,” Rawls said. When Glafenine blocks the MDR efflux pumps in zebrafish, the gut responds with delamination, by means the researchers haven’t yet identified.

“We don’t know yet which cells leave and why,” Espenschied said. “What separates that cell from its neighbors is a really fascinating question that we don’t know the answer to yet.”

“Delamination is a common solution to a lot of different insults,” Rawls said. “But it’s been challenging to understand if that is contributing to damage and disease, or a beneficial adaptation to the insult. Our work shows that it’s actually beneficial.”


Cholesterol Medication Can Lead to Diabetes

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The patients who were prescribed cholesterol-lowering statins had at least double the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, suggests a study.

The study published in the ‘Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews’ analyzed health records and other data from patients to provide a real-world picture of how efforts to reduce heart disease may be contributing to another major medical concern, said Victoria Zigmont, who led the study.

Researchers found that statin users had more than double the risk of diabetes diagnosis compared to those who didn’t take the drugs. Those who took the cholesterol-lowering drugs for more than two years had more than three times the risk of diabetes.

“The fact that increased duration of statin use was associated with an increased risk of diabetes — something we call a dose-dependent relationship — makes us think that this is likely a causal relationship,” Zigmont said.

“That said, statins are very effective in preventing heart attacks and strokes. I would never recommend that people stop taking the statin they’ve been prescribed based on this study, but it should open up further discussions about diabetes prevention and patient and provider awareness of the issue.”

Researchers also found that statin users were 6.5 per cent more likely to have a troublingly high HbA1c value, a routine blood test for diabetes that estimates average blood sugar over several months.

The study included 4,683 men and women who did not have diabetes, were candidates for statins based on heart disease risk and had not yet taken the drugs at the start of the study.

About 16 per cent of the group — 755 patients — were eventually prescribed statins during the study period, which ran from 2011 until 2014. Participants’ average age was 46.

Randall Harris, a study co-author and professor of medicine, said that the results suggested that individuals taking statins should be followed closely to detect changes in glucose metabolism and should receive special guidance on diet and exercise for prevention.

Zigmont was careful to take a wide variety of confounding factors into account in an effort to better determine if the statins were likely to have caused diabetes, she said. That included gender, age, ethnicity, education level, cholesterol and triglyceride readings, body mass index, waist circumference and the number of visits to the doctor.


Plant-based Meats Sound Healthy, but they’re Still Processed Foods and It’s Mostly Soy

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Ingredients-  Water, Soy Protein Concentrate, Coconut Oil, Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors, 2% or less of: Potato Protein, Methylcellulose, Yeast Extract, Cultured Dextrose, Food Starch Modified, Soy Leghemoglobin, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Zinc Gluconate, Thiamine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Sodium Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Niacin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12.

It’s mostly soy, and that is problematic as soy is not fit for human consumption;

Soy foods contain trypsin inhibitors that inhibit protein digestion and adversely affect pancreatic function. In test animals, diets high in trypsin inhibitors led to stunted growth and pancreatic disorders. Soy foods increase the body’s requirement for vitamin D, needed for strong bones and normal growth. Phytic acid in soy foods results in reduced bioavailability of iron and zinc which are required for the health and development of the brain and nervous system. Soy also lacks cholesterol, likewise essential for the development of the brain and nervous system. Megadoses of phytoestrogens in soy formula have been implicated in the current trend toward increasingly premature sexual development in girls and delayed or retarded sexual development in boys. A recent study found that women with the highest levels of estrogen in their blood had the lowest levels of cognitive function; in Japanese Americans tofu consumption in mid-life is associated with the occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease in later life.  Soy isoflavones are phyto-endocrine disrupters. At dietary levels, they can prevent ovulation and stimulate the growth of cancer cells. As little as four tablespoons of soy per day can result in hypothyroidism with symptoms of lethargy, constipation, weight gain and fatigue.

Twice in June, ingredients used by both of America’s most popular plant-based meat companies were called into question.

On June 21, a consumer interest group issued concerns around one of the ingredients in Beyond Meat’s production process. And earlier in June, the World Health Organization said that eating heme—a main ingredient in the Impossible Foods burger—is linked with the formation of carcinogens in the gut.So far, both companies have weathered the criticism. But increased scrutiny of Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods’ meat alternatives poses a big question for all companies offering substitutes to edible animal flesh. How do they truthfully and thoughtfully communicate what they are making—highly processed food—to consumers who are invested in their social missions, yet dubious of food that humans have tinkered with?

While plant-based meat companies are ultimately making processed foods, their marketing is more in line with natural, organic offerings. “I was encouraging the plant-based companies to recognize this a couple years ago,” says Jack Bobo, a food technology consultant who works with companies making meat alternatives.

At the time, the companies didn’t seem to consider the fact that groups opposed to genetically-modified and processed foods would eventually come after them. “They often tried to position themselves as being in the organic, gluten-free, natural product space,” Bobo says.

Now, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are increasingly facing questions around how their products are made. The first backlash arguably hit in 2018, when the US Food and Drug Administration expressed concern over a key ingredient in the Impossible Foods burger. The company uses genetically modified yeast to produce the soy leghemoglobin, or “heme,” that gives its burger a meat-like flavor. The agency later gave the company its nod of approval.

Others are concerned that leghemoglobin—again, a new ingredient in the food supply, since humans don’t typically eat soy roots—hasn’t gone through enough testing to prove it’s safe, and agree with the FDA that Impossible Foods’ GRAS notification came up short. “The point of some of us that are being critical of this is not that everything that’s engineered is unsafe or anything like that,” says Michael Hansen, senior staff scientist at the Consumers Union, which was also not involved in the FOIA. “It’s like, look, any new food ingredient, some new food additive, of course it should go through a safety assessment process.  Ingredients include wheat protein, to give the burger that firmness and chew. And potato protein, which allows the burger to hold water and transition from a softer state to a more solid state during cooking. For fat, Impossible Foods uses coconut with the flavor sucked out. And then of course you need the leghemoglobin for heme, which drives home the flavor of “meat.

An even newer category of meat alternative companies would do well to pay attention. Cell-cultured meat producers like JUST, Aleph Farms, and Memphis Meat make animal protein that doesn’t require the slaughtering of animals. If the plant-based meat concerns catch enough public attention, they rusk hurting the perception of all meat alternatives—including the cell-cultured products that haven’t even hit the market. “Anybody can poison the well for everybody,” says Bobo.

Some cell-cultured food companies are tackling their messaging even before products hit shelves. “We spend a lot of time trying to make sure everyone understands what we’re doing,” says Mike Selden, the co-founder of cell-cultured fish company Finless Foods. “There’s just too many people and they don’t all go for the same news sources and channels of communication.” But some messaging has to wait. “No matter what a lot of our communication is going to be right at the endpoint of use, like in the restaurant on the menu, and what it tastes like.”

As Bobo explains, how people use language around their products matter, especially when consumers are shopping and eating in an environment in which there’s suspicion (much of it scientifically unwarranted) around genetically-modified ingredients and the health impacts of processed foods. For these meat alternative companies, the issue boils down to how they truthfully and thoughtfully communicate what they’re making.

So far, though, the plant-based alternatives have demonstrated a winning playbook. Beyond Meat’s stock price has climbed more than 129% since its initial public offering in early May, from an opening price of $25 per share to $154.13 when the US markets opened Friday (June 28).

Beyond Meat’s stock has only hit small road bumps—when Nestlé announced plans to launch a veggie burger in the US this fall, when both Perdue Farms and Tyson Foods touted intentions to sell hybrid plant-meat products later this year, and when a story broke that grocery store chains are still mulling whether plant-based burgers should be sold in the meat aisle instead of the specialty foods section.

From the perspective of cell-cultured meat companies, that early resilience could even make it easier to enter the market. Bruce Friedrich runs The Good Food Institute, a non-profit that represents, supports, and sometimes lobbies on behalf of both plant-based meat companies and startups working on cell-cultured meat.

“The more we can get the conventional meat industry normalizing eating plant-based meats the better,” says Friedrich. “All of that will help make mainstream the idea of cell-based meats as an alternative to meat.”