The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Mysterious Disease Ravages Caribbean Reefs
Marine biologists are dealing with a mystery. What's killing the coral reefs in the Caribbean?
The scientists first noticed a deadly outbreak earlier this year off the coast of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Big white lesions were breaking up the colorful tissues of stony corals. Some corals died the next day, bleaching completely. Others suffered for weeks, but within four months, more than half the reef died off from the mysterious disease, as Science News reported.
Researchers estimate that the mysterious disease is now affecting around a third of the Caribbean's 65 reef-building species, but they remain unsure if the disease is microbial, bacterial, viral or something else.
"Whatever the cause, it's annihilating whole species," said Marilyn Brandt, a coral ecologist at University of the Virgin Islands, leading a research team studying the outbreak, as Medical Daily reported.
Brandt's team is trying to figure out what is causing the disease by looking at the corals' microbiomes — the colonies of microbes that live in and on the corals. The researchers have to perform the arduous task of figuring out what normally belongs on corals and what doesn't, according to Science News.
So far, the prime suspect in the outbreak is stony coral tissue loss disease, known by its catchy nickname skittle-D, which was discovered near Florida five years ago when it triggered one of the deadliest coral disease outbreaks on record, according to Science News. That outbreak has continued for five years off the coast of Florida and spread over 580-kilometers, surprising scientists since outbreaks usually die off after a few months.
Scientists attribute that deadly outbreak to climate change.
"Anomalously high water temperatures, associated with climate change, are increasing the global prevalence of coral bleaching, coral diseases, and coral-mortality events," said a study on the outbreak published in the journal Scientific Reports. It went on to say that coral bleaching and disease outbreaks are a consequence of warming sea temperatures.
Warming sea temperatures are a double whammy for corals since it both stresses and weakens corals immunity to disease while also improving conditions for pathogens to survive. Add in pollution and overfishing weakening corals and pathogens are having an easier time taking hold in reefs, as Science News reported.
"Coral reefs just can't catch a break," said Brandt. "I feel like we're playing whack-a-mole," addressing one challenge after another.
In the U.S. Virgin Islands' outbreak, skittle-D is merely a prime suspect. The researchers need more time to investigate the cause with the hopes of putting a stop to it.
However, they will need to work fast. Past outbreaks of other coral diseases near St. Thomas took over a year to infect about half the coral cover. This new disease has inflicted the same amount of damage in half the time — spreading faster and killing more corals than any outbreak on record, said Brand, as Science News reported.
"It marches along the reef and rarely leaves corals behind," said Brandt. "We're pretty scared."
Researchers are struggling to keep pace with where and how the disease is spreading, since stony coral tissue loss disease has also been recently reported on reefs off the east coast of Mexico, Jamaica, St. Maarten and the Dominican Republic.
Getting the disease under control is also essential to the health of the ocean. Even though corals take up less than 2 percent of the ocean floor, they are essential to the ecosystem, sustaining an estimated 25 percent of marine life.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
You generally want to avoid certain foods if you want to lose weight and prevent chronic illnesses.
In this article, healthy alternatives are mentioned whenever possible.
Here are 20 foods that are generally unhealthy — although most people can eat them in moderation on special occasions without any permanent damage to their health.
1. Sugary Drinks
Added sugar is one of the worst ingredients in the modern diet.
However, some sources of sugar are worse than others, and sugary drinks are particularly harmful.
When you drink liquid calories, your brain doesn't appear to register them as food. Thus, you may end up drastically increasing your total calorie intake (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).
When consumed in large amounts, sugar can drive insulin resistance and is strongly linked to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. It's also associated with various serious conditions, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease (4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).
Drink water, soda water, coffee, or tea instead. Adding a slice of lemon to water or soda water can provide a burst of flavor.
2. Most Pizzas
Pizza is one of the world's most popular junk foods.
Most commercial pizzas are made with unhealthy ingredients, including highly refined dough and heavily processed meat. Pizza also tends to be extremely high in calories.
Some restaurants offer healthier ingredients. Homemade pizzas can also be very healthy, as long as you choose wholesome ingredients.
3. White Bread
Most commercial breads are unhealthy if eaten in large amounts, as they're made from refined wheat, which is low in fiber and essential nutrients and may lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar (10).
For people who can tolerate gluten, Ezekiel bread is an excellent choice. Whole-grain bread is also healthier than white bread.
If you have problems with gluten or carbs, then here are 15 recipes for breads that are both gluten-free and low in carbs.
4. Most Fruit Juices
Fruit juice is often assumed to be healthy.
While juice contains some antioxidants and vitamin C, it also packs high amounts of liquid sugar.
In fact, fruit juice harbors just as much sugar as sugary drinks like Coke or Pepsi — and sometimes even more (11Trusted Source).
Some fruit juices have been shown to have health benefits despite their sugar content, such as pomegranate and blueberry juices.
However, these should be considered occasional supplements, not an everyday part of your diet.
5. Sweetened Breakfast Cereals
Breakfast cereals are processed cereal grains, such as wheat, oats, rice, and corn.
They're especially popular among children and frequently eaten with milk.
To make them more palatable, the grains are roasted, shredded, pulped, rolled, or flaked. They're generally high in added sugar.
The main downside of most breakfast cereals is their high added sugar content. Some are so sweet that they could even be compared to candy.
Choose breakfast cereals that are high in fiber and low in added sugar. Even better, make your own oat porridge from scratch.
6. Fried, Grilled or Broiled Food
Frying, grilling, and broiling are among the unhealthiest cooking methods.
Foods cooked in these ways are often highly palatable and calorie-dense. Several types of unhealthy chemical compounds also form when food is cooked under high heat.
These include acrylamides, acrolein, heterocyclic amines, oxysterols, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and advanced glycation end products (AGEs) (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source).
To improve your health, choose milder and healthier cooking methods, such as boiling, stewing, blanching, and steaming.
7. Pastries, Cookies and Cakes
Most pastries, cookies, and cakes are unhealthy if eaten in excess.
Packaged versions are generally made with refined sugar, refined wheat flour, and added fats. Shortening, which may be high in unhealthy trans fats, is sometimes added.
These treats might be tasty, but they have almost no essential nutrients, copious calories, and many preservatives.
If you can't stay away from dessert, spring for Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, or dark chocolate.
8. French Fries and Potato Chips
Whole, white potatoes are very healthy.
However, the same cannot be said of French fries and potato chips.
Potatoes are best consumed boiled, not fried. If you need something crunchy to replace potato chips, try baby carrots or nuts.
9. Gluten-Free Junk Foods
Yet, people often replace healthy, gluten-containing foods with processed junk foods that happen to be gluten-free.
These gluten-free replacement products are often high in sugar and refined grains like corn starch or tapioca starch. These ingredients may trigger rapid spikes in blood sugar and are low in essential nutrients.
Choose foods that are naturally gluten-free, such as unprocessed plant and animal foods.
10. Agave Nectar
Agave nectar is a sweetener that's often marketed as healthy.
However, it's highly refined and extremely high in fructose. High amounts of fructose from added sweeteners can be absolutely disastrous for health (26Trusted Source).
In fact, agave nectar is even higher in fructose than many other sweeteners.
Whereas table sugar is 50% fructose and high-fructose corn syrup around 55%, agave nectar is 85% fructose (27Trusted Source).
Stevia and erythritol are healthy, natural, and calorie-free alternatives.
11. Low-Fat Yogurt
Yogurt can be incredibly healthy.
Nonetheless, most yogurts found in the grocery store are bad for you.
They're often low in fat but loaded with sugar to compensate for the flavor that fat provides. Put simply, most yogurt has had its healthy, natural fats replaced with an unhealthy ingredient.
Additionally, many yogurts don't provide probiotic bacteria as generally believed. They're often pasteurized, which kills most of their bacteria.
Choose regular, full-fat yogurt that contains live or active cultures (probiotics). If possible, buy varieties from grass-fed cows.
12. Low-Carb Junk Foods
Low-carb diets are very popular.
While you can eat plenty of whole foods on such a diet, you should watch out for processed low-carb replacement products. These include low-carb candy bars and meal replacements.
These foods are often highly processed and packed with additives.
If you're on a low-carb diet, aim for foods that are naturally low in carbs, which include eggs, seafood, and leafy greens.
13. Ice Cream
Ice cream may be delicious, but it's loaded with sugar.
This dairy product is also high in calories and easy to overeat. If you eat it as a dessert, you're usually piling it on top of your normal calorie intake.
It's possible to opt for healthier brands or make your own ice cream using fresh fruit and less sugar.
14. Candy Bars
Candy bars are incredibly unhealthy.
They're high in sugar, refined wheat flour, and processed fats while also very low in essential nutrients.
What's more, these treats will leave you hungry because of the way that your body metabolizes these sugar bombs.
15. Processed Meat
Even though unprocessed meat can be healthy and nutritious, the same is not true for processed meats.
Most of these studies are observational in nature, meaning that they can't prove that processed meat is to blame. However, the statistical link is strong and consistent between studies.
If you want to eat bacon, sausages, or pepperoni, try to buy from local butchers who don't add many unhealthy ingredients.
16. Processed Cheese
Cheese is healthy in moderation.
It's loaded with nutrients, and a single slice packs all the nutrients as a glass of milk.
Still, processed cheese products are nothing like regular cheese. They're mostly made with filler ingredients that are engineered to have a cheese-like appearance and texture.
Make sure to read labels to confirm that your cheese contains dairy and few artificial ingredients.
Eat real cheese instead. Healthy types include feta, mozzarella, and cottage cheeses. Many vegan cheese alternatives can also be good choices.
17. Most Fast Food Meals
Generally speaking, fast-food chains serve junk food.
Most of their offerings are mass-produced and low in nutrients.
Despite their low prices, fast foods may contribute to disease risk and harm your general wellness. You should especially watch out for fried items.
As a result of mounting pressure, many fast-food chains have started offering healthy options.
18. High-Calorie Coffee Drinks
Coffee is loaded with antioxidants and offers many benefits.
At the same time, the creamers, syrups, additives, and sugars that are frequently added to coffee are highly unhealthy.
These products are just as harmful as any other sugar-sweetened beverage.
Drink plain coffee instead. You can add small amounts of heavy cream or full-fat milk if you desire.
19. Anything With Added Sugar or Refined Grains
It's important to avoid — or at least limit — foods that contain added sugar, refined grains, and artificial trans fats.
These are some of the unhealthiest but most common ingredients in the modern diet. Thus, the importance of reading labels cannot be overstated.
This even applies to so-called health foods.
Aim for nutrient-dense, whole foods, such as fresh fruits and whole grains.
20. Most Highly Processed Foods
The simplest way to eat healthy and lose weight is to avoid processed foods as much as possible.
Processed goods are often packaged and loaded with excess salt or sugar.
When you're shopping, make sure to read food labels. Try to load up your cart with plenty of veggies and other whole foods.
The Bottom Line
Though the Western diet packs plenty of junk food, you can maintain a healthy diet if you steer clear of the processed, high-sugar items mentioned above.
If you focus on whole foods, you'll be well on your way to feeling better and reclaiming your health.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
John Paul Stevens, the retired Supreme Court Justice who wrote the opinion granting environmental agencies the power to regulate greenhouse gases, died Tuesday at the age of 99. His decision gave the U.S. government important legal tools for fighting the climate crisis.
By Elliott Negin
On July 8, President Trump hosted a White House event to unabashedly tout his truly abysmal environmental record. The following day, coincidentally, marked the one-year anniversary of Andrew Wheeler at the helm of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), first as acting administrator and then as administrator after the Senate confirmed him in late February.
By Tara Lohan
If you're a lover of wilderness, wildlife, the American West and the public lands on which they all depend, then journalist Christopher Ketcham's new book is required — if depressing — reading.
World hunger is on the rise for the third consecutive year after decades of decline, a new United Nations (UN) report says. The climate crisis ranks alongside conflict as the top cause of food shortages that force more than 821 million people worldwide to experience chronic hunger. That number includes more than 150 million children whose growth is stunted due to a lack of food.
By Adrienne L. Hollis
Because extreme heat is one of the deadliest weather hazards we currently face, Union of Concerned Scientist's Killer Heat Report for the U.S. is the most important document I have read. It is a veritable wake up call for all of us. It is timely, eye-opening, transparent and factual and it deals with the stark reality of our future if we do not make changes quickly (think yesterday). It is important to ensure that we all understand it. Here are 10 terms that really help drive home the messages in the heat report and help us understand the ramifications of inaction.