By Dr. Mercola
Anti-viral flu drugs like Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir) are conventional medicine's go-to option for treating the flu, despite their risk of serious side effects and unproven benefits.
In fact, these drugs are stockpiled in many countries, including the US, for treating and preventing seasonal and pandemic influenza.
The World Health Organization (WHO) even classifies Tamiflu as an “essential” medicine, which they say are “selected with due regard to public health relevance, evidence on efficacy and safety, and comparative cost-effectiveness.”1
Writing in BMJ, however, researchers are now questioning Tamiflu’s status as an essential medicine, as well as its merit for stockpiling, in light of new findings showing it to be only minimally effective and ridden with side effects.
In a first-of-its-kind review, researchers used complete clinical study reports to resolve data discrepancies and reporting bias that had previously been uncovered in regard to Tamiflu research. Clinical study reports are “unpublished, extensive documents with great detail on the trials that formed the basis for market approval.”
Until recently, these documents were only available to manufacturers and regulators, but, after a four-year effort, the researchers were able to assess these regulatory documents (all 160,000+ pages of them).
What they found was that the evidence does not support claims that these drugs lower the risk of complications from the flu (such as pneumonia) or that the benefits outweigh the risks.
There is also no evidence to support claims that the drugs help to reduce viral transmission, which undoubtedly is a key reason why they would be stockpiled by the government or labeled as “essential” by WHO. The review revealed:
- Both drugs shorten the duration of flu symptoms by less than a day (specifically, by just 16.8 hours)
- Tamiflu did not affect the number of hospitalizations. Relenza trials did not record this data
- The effects of the drugs on pneumonia and other flu complications were unreliably reported and included limitations in diagnostic criteria, problems with missing follow-up on participants
- Tamiflu was associated with nausea, vomiting, headaches, kidney problems, and psychiatric events and may induce serious heart rhythm problems
According to the researchers:2
“Based on our assessments of the regulatory documents (in excess of 160,000 pages), we came to the conclusion that there were substantial problems with the design, conduct, reporting and availability of information from many of the trials... We identified problems in the design of many of the studies that we included, which affects our confidence in their results.”
It has been stated that Tamiflu helps to interrupt viral transmission and reduce complications, but the review found that this is not supported by the data. The meager reduction in symptoms, they suggested, may be “unrelated to an inhibition of influenza virus replication” and instead could be due to Tamiflu’s role as a central nervous system depressant.
Tamiflu and Relenza are part of a group of anti-influenza drugs called neuraminidase inhibitors, which work by blocking a viral enzyme that helps the influenza virus to invade cells in your respiratory tract.
The problem is that your nervous system also contains neuraminidase enzymes essential for proper brain functioning, and when blocked with these dangerous drugs, severe neurotoxicity may ensue (especially in the infants and children whose blood-brain barrier has not yet developed sufficiently).
Serious side effects include convulsions, delirium or delusions, suicidal behavior, and at least 14 deaths in children and teens3 have been reported as a result of neuropsychiatric problems and brain infections. Japan actually banned Tamiflu for children in 2007 because of the steep risks.
It was also around this time that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began reviewing reports of abnormal behavior and other brain effects in more than 1,800 children who had taken Tamiflu.4 Further, the drug commonly causes a myriad of side effects that, ironically, resemble the flu symptoms the drug claims to treat.5 The researchers concluded:
“Given that oseltamivir is now recommended as an essential medicine for the treatment of seriously ill patients or those in higher risk groups with pandemic influenza, the issues of mode of action, lack of sizeable benefits, and toxicity are of concern.
This is made worse by the record and stated intentions of governments to distribute oseltamivir to healthy people to prevent complications and interrupt transmission on the basis of a published evidence base that has been affected by reporting bias, ghost authorship, and poor methods.
We believe these findings provide reason to question the stockpiling of oseltamivir, its inclusion on the WHO list of essential drugs, and its use in clinical practice as an anti-influenza drug.”
You can decide for yourself whether these risks are worth a measly 16.8-hour reduction in your flu symptoms:
Nausea Vomiting Diarrhea Headache Dizziness Fatigue Cough Neuropsychiatric disorders, including suicidal behavior, hallucinations, seizures, delirium, and other behavioral side effects (such as reports of children jumping off roofs shortly after taking the drug)
While increasing numbers of researchers are demanding answers about why a potentially harmful, barely effective drug like Tamiflu is being stockpiled by the US government, it bears repeating that former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was made the chairman of a company called Gilead in 1997. You may have heard that drug company Roche manufactures Tamiflu, but it was actually developed by Gilead decades ago, and they gave Roche the exclusive rights to market and sell Tamiflu in 1996 (an agreement they attempted to terminate in 2005).6
Rumsfeld held major portions of stock in Gilead, and was reported to have made more than $5 million from selling shares of the company around the time of the bird flu hoax in 2005 (when the US placed an order for 20 million doses of Tamiflu at a price of $100 per dose... in case you weren’t counting, that comes to a staggering $2 billion). Mr. Rumsfeld was on the board of Gilead between 1988 and 2001, and when he left to join the Bush administration he reportedly retained a large shareholding (worth $25 million or more). In short, he handsomely profited from the government’s stockpiling of Tamiflu... and likely still is.
Flu season is mostly behind us in the US, but it’s not too soon to start bolstering your immune system for next year. A healthy immune system is the key to avoiding illnesses like the flu; as long as your immune system can stay one step ahead of the virus, you’ll feel better again quickly... and in some cases may not even know you were “sick.”
Toward that end, if your diet contains a lot of refined sugars, grains, and processed foods, you’re not doing your body any favors. Instead of giving your body the fuel it needs to function optimally, which means being healthy enough to fight off infectious viruses, you’re giving it more toxic elements that it must overcome.
For instance, eating too many carbohydrates in the form of sugar and grains is very unbalancing for your gut flora. Sugar is “fertilizer” for pathogenic bacteria, yeast, and fungi that can set your immune system up for an easy assault by a respiratory virus. Most people don't realize that 80 percent of your immune system actually lies in your gastrointestinal tract. That's why controlling your sugar intake is crucial for optimizing your immune system.
Additionally, making sure you’re ingesting plenty of beneficial bacteria in the foods you eat (specifically fermented foods) is also crucial, as is optimizing and having your vitamin D level monitored to confirm your levels are at a therapeutic 50-70 ng/ml year-round. I believe optimizing your vitamin D levels is one of the most potent preventive strategies available, followed by diet (including fermented foods to optimize your gut flora), stress relief, exercise, and sleep. There are other factors that can come into play too, of course. The following guidelines will also act in concert to support your immune system and help you avoid getting sick. You can also read my complete guide to fight the flu naturally here.
- Take a High-Quality Source of Animal-Based Omega-3 Fats. Increase your intake of healthy and essential fats like the omega-3 found in krill oil, which is crucial for maintaining health. It is also vitally important to avoid damaged omega-6 oils (think vegetable oils), as it will seriously damage your immune response.
- Wash Your Hands. Washing your hands will decrease your likelihood of spreading a virus to your nose, mouth, or other people. Be sure you don't use antibacterial soap using synthetic chemicals for this – conventional antibacterial soaps are completely unnecessary, and they cause far more harm than good. Instead, identify a simple chemical-free soap that you can switch your family to.
- Tried and True Hygiene Measures. In addition to washing your hands regularly, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, ideally with the crook of your elbow (to avoid contaminating your hands). If possible, avoid close contact with those who are sick and, if you are sick, avoid close contact with those who are well.
- Use Natural Immune-Boosters. Examples include oil of oregano and garlic, both of which offer effective protection against a broad spectrum of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa in your body. And unlike pharmaceutical antibiotics, they do not appear to lead to resistance and the development of “super germs.”
- Avoid Hospitals. I'd recommend you stay away from hospitals unless you're having an emergency and need expert medical care, as hospitals are prime breeding grounds for infections of all kinds. The best place to recover from illness that is not life threatening is usually in the comfort of your own home.
By Dr. Mercola
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria infect two million Americans every year, causing at least 23,000 deaths. Even more die from complications related to the infections, and the numbers are steadily growing.
It's now clear that we are facing the perfect storm to take us back to the pre-antibiotic age, when some of the most important advances in modern medicine – intensive care, organ transplants, care for premature babies, surgeries and even treatment for many common bacterial infections – will no longer be possible.
Experts have been warning about the implications of antibiotic resistance for years, but it's time to face the facts. Many strains of bacteria are becoming resistant to even our strongest antibiotics and are causing deadly infections.
The bacteria are capable of evolving much faster than we are. Secondly, drug companies have all but abandoned the development of new antibiotics because of their poor profit margins.
Antibiotic overuse and inappropriate use – such as taking antibiotics to treat viral infections -- bears a heavy responsibility for creating the antibiotic-resistant superbug crisis we are facing today.
According to Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, associate director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as much as half of all antibiotics used in clinics and hospitals "are either unneeded or patients are getting the wrong drugs to treat their infections."1
There's more to the story than this, however, as antibiotic overuse occurs not just in medicine, but also in food production. In fact, agricultural usage accounts for about 80 percent of all antibiotic use in the US,2 so it's a MAJOR source of human antibiotic consumption.
Nearly 25 million pounds of antibiotics are administered to livestock in the US every year for purposes other than treating disease, such as making the animals grow bigger faster.
In other parts of the world, such as the EU, adding antibiotics to animal feed to accelerate growth has been banned for years. The antibiotic residues in meat and dairy, as well as the resistant bacteria, are passed on to you in the foods you eat.
"The more you use an antibiotic, the more you expose a bacteria to an antibiotic, the greater the likelihood that resistance to that antibiotic is going to develop. So the more antibiotics we put into people, we put into the environment, we put into livestock, the more opportunities we create for these bacteria to become resistant."
This is a much bigger issue than antibiotics simply being left behind in your meat. For instance, bacteria often share genes that make them resistant. In other words, the drug-resistant bacteria that contaminates your meat may pass on their resistant genes to other bacteria in your body, making you more likely to become sick.
Drug-resistant bacteria also accumulate in manure that is spread on fields and enters waterways, allowing the drug-resistant bacteria to spread far and wide and ultimately back up the food chain to us. You can see how easily antibiotic resistance spreads, via the food you eat and community contact, in the CDC's infographic below.
Source: CDC.gov, Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013
According to the CDC's report, there are 12 resistant pathogens that pose a "serious" threat to public health. One-third of them are found in food. The four drug-resistant pathogens in question are:
- Campylobacter, which causes an estimated 310,000 infections and 28 deaths per year
- Salmonella, responsible for another 100,000 infections and 38 deaths annually
- E. coli
Previous research suggested you have a 50/50 chance of buying meat tainted with drug-resistant bacteria when you buy meat from your local grocery store.4 But it may be even worse. Using data collected by the federal agency called NARMS (National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System), the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found antibiotic-resistant bacteria in 81 percent of ground turkey, 69 percent of pork chops, 55 percent of ground beef, and 39 percent of raw chicken parts purchased in stores in 2011. EWG nutritionist and the report's lead researcher, Dawn Undurraga, issued the following warning to the public:5
"Consumers should be very concerned that antibiotic-resistant bacteria are now common in the meat aisles of most American supermarkets... These organisms can cause foodborne illnesses and other infections. Worse, they spread antibiotic-resistance, which threatens to bring on a post-antibiotic era where important medicines critical to treating people could become ineffective."
In the US, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are hotbeds for breeding antibiotic-resistant bacteria because of the continuous feeding of low doses of antibiotics to the animals, who become living bioreactors for pathogens to survive, adapt, and eventually, thrive. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) ruled that antibiotic resistance is a major threat to public health, worldwide, and the primary cause for this man-made epidemic is the widespread misuse of antibiotics.6
Measures to curb the rampant overuse of agricultural antibiotics could have a major impact in the US, as evidenced by actions taken in other countries. For example, Denmark stopped the widespread use of antibiotics in their pork industry 14 years ago. The European Union has also banned the routine use of antibiotics in animal feed over concerns of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
After Denmark implemented the antibiotic ban, it was later confirmed the country had drastically reduced antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their animals and food. Furthermore, the Danish 'experiment' proved that removing antibiotics doesn't have to hurt the industry's bottom line. In the first 12 years of the ban, the Danish pork industry grew by 43 percent -- making it one of the top exporters of pork in the world. As reported by Consumer Reports:7
"What happens when a country takes its livestock off antibiotics? In 2000 Denmark's pork industry ceased using antibiotics to promote the growth of its animals. Instead of eviscerating the nation's pork industry, those moves contributed to a 50 percent rise in pork production, according to a 2012 article in the journal Nature.8
Frank Aarestrup, D.V.M., Ph.D., head of the EU Reference Laboratory for Antimicrobial Resistance and author of the article, attributes Denmark's success to three factors: laws banning the improper use of antibiotics, a robust system of surveillance and enforcement, and rules that prevent veterinarians from profiting from selling antibiotics to farmers. 'Farmers and their livestock can thrive without the heavy use of antibiotics,' Aarestrup wrote. 'With a little effort, I believe that other countries can and must help their farmers to do the same.'"
In a word, industry. For instance, the American Pork Industry doesn't want to curb antibiotic use, as this would mean raising the cost of producing pork by an estimated $5 for every 100 pounds of pork brought to market. The pharmaceutical industry is obviously against it as well. Even though they're not keen on producing new antibiotics to bring to the market, they want to protect those that are already here – especially those incredibly lucrative varieties that are used perpetually in animal feed. Even Dr. Aarestrup, who helped Denmark cut the use of antibiotics in livestock by 60 percent, wrote about the intense industry pressures he faced:9
"Reducing Denmark's reliance on antibiotics was far from easy. My lab was visited by pharmaceutical executives who did not like what we were finding, and I would be cornered at meetings by people who disagreed with our conclusions. I have even been publicly accused of being paid to produce biased results. Despite such challenges, it has been satisfying to see that Danish farmers and their livestock can thrive without the heavy use of antibiotics. …The practice continues unabated in the United States, despite a statement from the Food and Drug Administration [FDA]… suggesting that farmers should stop voluntarily."
The FDA issued its long-awaited guidance on agricultural antibiotics on December 11, 2013.10 Unfortunately, it's unlikely to have a major impact in terms of protecting your health. The agency is simply asking drug companies to voluntarily restrict the use of antibiotics that are important in human medicine by excluding growth promotion in animals as a listed use on the drug label.11 This would prevent farmers from legally using antibiotics such as tetracyclines, penicillins, and azithromycin for growth promotion purposes. But it certainly does not go far enough to protect public health. The guidance contains far too many loopholes for any meaningful protection.
For example, farmers would still be allowed to use antibiotics for therapeutic purposes, which would allow them to continue feeding their animals antibiotics for growth promotion without actually admitting that's the reason for doing so. As reported by Scientific American:12
"[T]he success of the FDA's new program depends on how many companies volunteer to change their labels over the next 90 days in alignment with the FDA cutoff period. (Companies that do change their labels will have three years to phase in the changes.) And then there are myriad questions about how this would be enforced on the farm."
In short, while giving the superficial appearance of taking warranted action to protect public health, the reality is that they're simply shills for the industry. Michael Taylor,13 FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, and former VP for public policy at Monsanto, is again responsible for caving in to industry at the expense of human lives.
According to a recent report14 from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the FDA has known that using antibiotics in factory farms is harmful to human health for over a dozen years, yet it took no action to curb its use. And now, all they're doing is asking drug companies, who make massive amounts of money from these products, to voluntary restrict their use.
The report also found that 26 of the 30 drugs reviewed by the FDA did not meet safety guidelines issued in 1973, and NONE of the 30 drugs would meet today's safety guidelines... As reported by Rodale Magazine,15 the FDA is supposed to look at three factors when determining the safety of an antibiotic-based feed additive. Based on the three factors listed below, the NRDC's report16 concluded that virtually ALL feed additives containing penicillin and tetracycline antibiotics—both of which are used to treat human disease—pose a "high risk" to human health, and should not be permitted:
- The chances that antibiotic-resistant bacteria are being introduced into the food supply
- The likelihood that people would get exposed to those bacteria
- The consequences of what happens when people are exposed to those bacteria—would they still be able to get treated with human antibiotics?
The impending superbug crisis has a three-prong solution:
- Better infection prevention, with a focus on strengthening your immune system naturally
- More responsible use of antibiotics for people and animals, with a return to biodynamic farming and a complete overhaul of our food system
- Innovative new approaches to the treatment of infections from all branches of science, natural as well as allopathic
There are some promising new avenues of study that may result in fresh ways to fight superbugs. For example, Dutch scientists have discovered a way to deactivate antibiotics with a blast of ultraviolet light before bacteria have a chance to adapt, and before the antibiotics can damage your good bacteria.17
And British scientists have discovered how bacteria talk to each other through "quorum signaling" and are investigating ways of disrupting this process in order to render them incapable of causing an infection. They believe this may lead to a new line of anti-infectives that do not kill bacteria, but instead block their ability to cause disease.18 But the basic strategy that you have at your disposal right now is prevention, prevention, prevention—it's much easier to prevent an infection than to halt one already in progress.
Natural compounds with antimicrobial activity such as garlic, cinnamon, oregano extract, colloidal silver, Manuka honey, probiotics and fermented foods, echinacea, sunlight and vitamin D are all excellent options to try before resorting to drugs. Best of all, research has shown that bacteria do not tend to develop resistance to these types of treatments. The basic key to keeping your immune system healthy is making good lifestyle choices such as proper diet, stress management and exercise.
Avoiding antibiotic-resistance is but one of several good reasons to avoid meats and animal products from animals raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). This is in part why grass-fed pastured meat is the only type of meat I recommend. If you're regularly eating meat bought at your local grocery store, know that you're in all likelihood getting exposed to antibiotic-resistant bacteria and a low dose of antibiotics with every meal... and this low-dose exposure is what's allowing bacteria to adapt and develop such strong resistance.
The FDA's stance toward antibiotics in livestock feed is unconscionable in light of the harm it wreaks, and its weakness makes being proactive on a personal level all the more important. Quite simply, the FDA has been, and still is, supporting the profitability of large-scale factory farming at the expense of public health.
You can help yourself and your community by using antibiotics only when absolutely necessary and by purchasing organic, antibiotic-free meats and other foods from local farmers – not CAFOs. Even though the problem of antibiotic resistance needs to be stemmed through public policy on a nationwide level, the more people who get involved on a personal level to stop unnecessary antibiotic use the better. You can help on a larger scale, too, by telling the FDA we need a mandatory ban on sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics for livestock—not weak, voluntary guidance.
FDA Deputy Commissioner and ex-Monsanto attorney Michael Taylor will leave quite a legacy behind. He's not only served Monsanto and the other pesticide producers quite well, he seems to carry the same sentiment over to the antiobiotic crisis. The FDA claims that a voluntary guideline "is the most efficient and effective way to change the use of these products in animal agriculture." It would appear that Taylor's concern for human health takes a very distant back seat to industry profits...
To make your voice heard, please sign the Organic Consumer's Association's petition, calling for a mandatory ban on sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics for livestock.
By Dr. Mercola
Agricultural chemicals are progressively making their way into your body whether you are trying to avoid them or not, according to several recent studies in the US and Canada. A prime offender is glyphosate, the main toxic ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup. Glyphosate is both an herbicide and a pesticide.
Multiple scientific findings suggest that Monsanto and global regulatory bodies have been wrong about the lack of bioaccumulation of glyphosate-based agricultural chemicals.
If you are eating processed foods or foods from nearly any restaurant, odds are very high you are getting loads of this toxin, and if you are a pregnant woman, you may be passing them along to your unborn child via your baby's placenta, umbilical cord, and in your breast milk. This is gravely concerning as there is mounting scientific evidence that Roundup may be even more toxic than DDT.
As a result of the latest findings regarding bioaccumulation, testing commissioners have urged USDA and EPA to place a temporary ban on all use of glyphosate-based chemicals to protect public health, until more comprehensive testing is completed.
In the first ever testing for glyphosate in the breast milk of American women, Moms Across America and Sustainable Pulse found high levels in 30 percent of the samples tested.1, 2 This strongly suggests that glyphosate levels build up in your body over time, despite claims to the contrary.
Breast milk levels were found to be 76 to 166 ug/l, which is 760 to 1,600 times higher than the European Drinking Water Directive allows for individual pesticides.
Those levels are, however, lower than the 700 ug/l maximum contaminant level (MCL) for glyphosate in the US, set by the EPA based on the now-ridiculous premise that glyphosate does not bioaccumulate. There are currently no regulatory limits for glyphosate in breast milk.
Glyphosate has also been found in Americans' urine and drinking water. In those samples, levels were found to be more than 10 times higher than those tested in the EU in 2013. This is presumably due to the fact that the EU is now backing away from glyphosate usage and GE crops, whereas the US ignorantly races full speed ahead.
When seeking to understand this study, it is very important to note that many of the participants in this study were familiar with GMOs and had been actively trying to avoid them for several months to two years—which makes the findings even more disheartening. However, it is encouraging that expectant moms who were actively eating only organic, non-GE foods had lower levels of glyphosate in their breast milk.
In 2011, 250 million pounds of glyphosate were used in the US, and 1.3 billion pounds3 doused on fields worldwide. The EPA recently doubled the amount of glyphosate allowed in your food. Soybean oil is now allowed to contain a whopping 400 times the limit at which it can impact your health. Monsanto's sales of Roundup jumped 73 percent to $371 million in 2013 because of its increasing use on GE crops.
Dr. Don Huber is likely the leading GMO expert in the world, particularly in the area of toxicity. He is an award-winning, internationally recognized scientist and professor of plant pathology at Purdue University for the past 35 years. I strongly urge you to listen to my previous interview with Dr. Huber, at the top of this section, as well as Part 1 and Part 2 of this interview. This information will help you understand why GE foods pose such a serious risk to your health.
Epidemiological patterns show there's a rise in more than 30 human diseases in parallel with our increased usage of glyphosate and GE foods. There are no peer-reviewed scientific papers establishing the safety of GE crops. However, there are both clinical and peer-reviewed scientific papers showing the hazards of GE foods, including harmful secondary effects. Glyphosate is not "just" an herbicide/pesticide. It was originally patented as a mineral chelator. It immobilizes nutrients, making them unavailable for your body. It is also patented as a potent antibiotic that can devastate human gut bacteria. Your gut flora is critical to the proper function of your immune system, and when this is disrupted, you can develop all sorts of health problems.
This is not the first time scientists have suggested that glyphosate may have damaging effects on your health, and the health of your unborn baby. A 2011 Canadian study, published in the journal Reproductive Toxicology, looked at the effects of fetal and maternal glyphosate exposure, with disturbing findings. This was the first study to show the presence of circulating pesticides from GE foods in women, both pregnant and non-pregnant.4 The study found Bt toxin in the bloodstreams of 93 percent of pregnant women tested, in both their circulating blood and placentas.
Among all women tested, 80 percent of the pregnant group tested positive for Bt toxin in their babies' umbilical cords, and 69 percent of non-pregnant women tested positive for Bt toxin. Bt is an insecticide, short for Bacillus thuringiensis. Bt toxin makes crops toxic to pests, but the industry claims the toxin poses no danger to the environment or your health. Their argument is that the protein breaks down in your gut, but the fact that Bt toxin can be measured in your blood is certainly evidence that this claim is simply not true. To add insult to injury, the EPA recently approved an exemption for Bt tolerance levels in GE soy foods and feed.
Even though this exemption is specific to soy, similar exemptions have already been approved for corn, cotton, and other crops, paving the way for pesticide companies like Monsanto to incorporate as much as they want into your food. Bt crops have the Bt-toxin gene built-in, so the toxin is not broken down and cannot be washed off—you simply cannot avoid consuming it. It also has the ability to migrate over to other crops, making contamination a serious concern.
While all of this is disconcerting, and worthy of consideration, please do not make the mistake of thinking your baby would be better off on infant formula than breast milk. I am in no way encouraging new mothers to stop breastfeeding. On the contrary, I hope you take the issue of breastfeeding seriously enough to take the necessary steps to avoid toxins like glyphosate to the greatest extent possible, in order to safeguard your most valuable food source, namely your breast milk. Besides, infant formula is likely to contain glyphosate residues at higher levels than those found in breast milk...
Breastfeeding is really important for developing your baby's immune system and development. Breast milk is a true Whole Food—it contains all the nutrients your baby needs. Studies have shown that breastfed babies gain added protection against:
|Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)||Eczema||Respiratory and other types of infections|
|Heart disease||Obesity||Type 1 and type 2 diabetes|
|Bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease||Asthma and allergies||Necrotizing enterocolitis among premature babies|
The nutritional properties of breast milk are not only good for the newborn's immune system, they are also good for the brain. Breastfed infants tend to have higher intelligence than formula-fed infants. This may be due to certain compounds found in breast milk, including omega-3 fatty acids. For instance, one study found that the verbal IQ of 7- and 8-year-old children who had been breastfed was about 10 points higher than those who were not. Another 18-year study of over 1,000 children found that those who were breastfed had higher intelligence and greater academic achievement than children who were formula-fed as babies. It is interesting to note that babies who are breastfed naturally spend more time in what is known as the "quiet alert" state, which is not only soothing for parents but also it is the state most conducive to the newborn's learning.
As Drs. Seneff and Samsel reveal in a recent study5 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, glyphosate is probably the most harmful toxin we've ever encountered, both in our environment and on our dinner plates. Their findings show that two of the key problems caused by glyphosate in your body are nutritional deficiencies and systemic toxicity. The researchers propose that glyphosate is the most significant causal factor in today's epidemic of gluten intolerance, including full-blown celiac disease. Celiac disease and, more generally, gluten intolerance, is a growing problem worldwide, but especially in North America and Europe where an estimated five percent of the population now suffers from it. Drs. Seneff and Samsel mention the following as evidence of the connection between glyphosate and gluten allergies/intolerance:
- Fish exposed to glyphosate develop digestive problems reminiscent of celiac disease; celiac is associated with imbalances in gut bacteria that can be fully explained by the known effects of glyphosate on these bacteria
- Characteristics of celiac disease point to impairment of the enzymes necessary for detoxifying environmental toxins and other biological processes, and glyphosate is known to inhibit these enzymes
- Nutritional deficiencies seen in celiac disease (minerals such as iron, cobalt, and copper, and amino acids such as tryptophan, tyrosine, and methionine) can be attributed to glyphosate's strong tendencies to chelate minerals and deplete amino acids
- Both celiac disease and glyphosate exposure have been associated with an increased risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
- Reproductive issues associated with celiac disease, such as infertility, miscarriages, and birth defects, can also be explained by glyphosate exposure
More than one study has now shown that genetic material can jump from the plant kingdom to the animal kingdom and exert "predictably unpredictable" effects. In 2011, a Chinese study6 found that mice take up RNA (ribonucleic acid, little pieces of genetic material) when they consume plants, and that RNA was found to influence gene expression in the mice—a phenomenon referred to as trans-kingdom gene regulation.7
These findings and others have the different branches of industry in a conundrum. On one hand, the medical industry could benefit if these RNA molecules could produce effects that would help treat disease... like, perhaps, lowering LDL or reducing inflammation. However, for Big Ag, trans-kingdom gene jumping is NOT good news, as they've been claiming that GE foods are safe because genetic material cannot pass from your gut into your bloodstream, then to various other cells where it can wreak havoc on your body. In other words, they like to deny the existence of this trans-kingdom gene regulation.
Private researchers are finding themselves caught in the middle. One such example is Vicki Vance, a professor at the University of South Carolina who has been doing private research in this area for many years. Vance is being hounded by phone calls from Monsanto. She believes Monsanto and other companies have a financial interest in discrediting the Chinese study (through her work), because it casts doubt on the safety of GE foods, thereby threatening their bottom line. Vance says:
"I was really surprised that Monsanto took the time and effort to try to squash my research because it's such a contrast — I'm a little old lady running a little lab in South Carolina. Maybe I'm being paranoid, but I feel there's an effort from a large company with a lot of money toward discrediting the work of this other group and keeping people from publishing their work."
As severe as the threat of glyphosate-soaked foods is to your health, the threat to our environment may be even greater. Monoculture and the destructive agricultural practices required to raise GE crops ruin topsoil and rapidly turn grasslands into lifeless, barren expanses. We are moving closer to having NO viable farmland with which to grow food for our ever-increasing population.
Grassland soil is rich, and almost anything can be grown there. Grasslands once covered a quarter of the Earth, but many have now been turned into large commercial crop operations. Only five percent of the original prairie in the United States remains. A study published in February 2013 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that between 2006 and 2011, farmers in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Iowa—the Western Corn Belt—had plowed up 1.3 million acres of native grassland in order to plant corn and soybeans. In just four years, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota lost an area of wetlands the size of Rhode Island.8
Grasslands, and the wetlands that tend to go along with them, are among the most important ecosystems on the planet. They contain disproportionately high numbers of plant and animal species. In fact, more than one-third of US endangered species live exclusively in wetlands. The Nature Conservancy has called grasslands the world's most imperiled ecosystem. Once grasslands and prairies have been destroyed, they are virtually impossible to bring back. Grasslands also play a direct role in reducing pollution from glyphosate and other environmental toxins. According to The American Prospect:9
"Grasslands provide a range of critical 'ecosystems services,' soaking up rain and snowmelt and slowly releasing water in drier seasons, thereby reducing flooding and erosion and improving water quality by filtering out fertilizers and pesticides that run off of farmland. Fewer wetlands mean more chemicals making their way into local waterways and ultimately ending up in the area in the Gulf of Mexico known as the Dead Zone, where nutrient pollution has made it challenging for marine life to survive."
Turning grasslands into croplands has also resulted in widespread loss of wildlife habitat. Compared to grassland, cropland provides few or no resources for breeding birds. In fact, a recent study found that pesticides are the leading cause of declining grassland bird populations.10, 11 Bees and monarch butterflies are also taking a serious hit as glyphosate wipes out just about every plant that makes honey production possible, as well as killing off milkweed, the monarch's sole food and breeding source. Federal policies that support an unhealthy and unsustainable food system are largely to blame for the changing face of our Western prairies.
One Congressional Representative has been goat-roped by the food and biotech industry (his donors include General Mills and Koch Brothers) into introducing legislation to block state GE labeling laws. Maybe the fact that two states have already passed GE labeling bills and another 30 states are poised to consider them, has the industry scrambling for new allies.12 Most Americans want to know what's in their food—and 64 nations already require GE foods to be labeled.
Kansas Representative Mike Pompeo has introduced a bill,13 dubbed by opponents as the DARK Act ("Deny Americans the Right to Know Act") because its aim is to keep you in the DARK about whether or not your food contains GE ingredients.14 The bill would allow companies to voluntarily disclose whether their foods contain GE ingredients—which is pretty laughable, as companies have always had that choice. But guess how many have opted to do so? That's right, zero! The DARK bill would allow foods labeled as "natural" to contain GE ingredients, and prevent the FDA from requiring mandatory labeling. The number and variety of GE foods reaching grocery store shelves is accelerating, and these foods are making it to market without proper testing or labeling. It's time to take action now!
A ballot measure to prohibit GM crops in Jackson County, Oregon has been introduced by organic farmers, who are afraid that GM sugar beets will taint their organic crops through cross-pollination. Jackson County is a major source of GM sugar beet seeds, which are used to produce a significant portion of commercial sugar beet seed used across the United States.
The measure will appear before Jackson County voters on the May 20th primary ballot – so if you live in this area, please get out to vote. In the meantime, the sugar industry and other agribusiness giants have come out in droves to try to defeat the measure. Already, the opposition has donated tens of thousands of dollars to mount an pro-GMO campaign, including:
- Monsanto ($183,294)
- DuPont Pioneer ($129,647)
- Syngenta ($75,000)
- Bayer ($22,353)
- BASF ($22,353)
- Dow AgroSciences ($22,353)
The Center for Food Safety reported that, all in all, opponents of the measure have a total of $799,000.
To date, the organic farmers supporting the GM ban have raised roughly $100,000 in funds to defeat this corporate opposition. So as you can see we want to help them get started.
With your help, we've already raised $15,000. You can donate to this fund, and rest assured we'll donate as well. In fact, a portion of all sales on our site will go directly toward funding a $10,000 donation to Measure 15-119 against GM crops in Jackson County. If you've been meaning to make a purchase, today is the day to do so to help make a difference through this crucial campaign.
If GM crops are banned in Jackson County, it could be a turning point for the US, with other regions soon following suit. You may also make a donation directly to the Vote YES on Measure 15-119 here:
And as always, I encourage you to continue educating yourself about genetically modified foods, and to share what you've learned with family and friends. Remember, unless a food is certified organic, you can assume it contains GM ingredients if it contains soy, corn, or sugar from sugar beets.
By Dr. Mercola
In 2010, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued an Invasive Species Order1 (ISO) to "help stop the spread of feral swine and the disease risk they pose to humans, domestic pigs, and wildlife as well as their potential for extensive agricultural and ecosystem damage."
While this sounds perfectly reasonable considering how much damage wild pigs can cause, the way this order is being used by the DNR is far from it. Hybrid or heritage swine, such as those raised by Bakers Green Acres,2 a family-run farm, are not feral in the sense that they run around in the wild.
However, according to the DNR, Bakers' pigs fell under the classification of "feral swine" because they're cross bred with Russian boar—an illegal breed—and Mangalitsa pigs. They also share one particular trait with feral pigs—the shape of their tail, to be precise.
In fact, crazy as it may seem, the guidelines use physical characteristics as the determinant for deciding if a pig is considered an illegal invasive breed or not. As a result, the Department deemed Bakers' hybrid swine illegal, which is a felony offense. As reported by the Alliance for Natural Health:3
"The ISO4 shamelessly targets the heritage breeds favored by small and family farms, while protecting those favored by CAFOs. Under the ISO, possession of 'undesirable' pigs carries up to a two-year jail sentence and a $10,000 fine for each pig.
Moreover, the ISO allows the DNR to seize and destroy heritage breed of pigs raised by Michigan farmers on the spot—and without compensation."
Make no mistake about it, this is a blatant attempt by industry-led forces to shut down farm-to-table operations that threaten the status quo of the factory farm model. Many hog farmers, and there are some 2,000 in Michigan, destroyed their heritage swine herds once the ISO was issued. But Bakers Green Acres did not. Instead, they sued the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for loss of livelihood.
The DNR retaliated by asking the judge to fine the Bakers $700,000 for possession of "illegal" pigs. Two years of harassment nearly destroyed the family farm, but finally, in early February, a court date was set. At last, the constitutionality of the ISO would be assessed by a judge...
Alas, things didn't go as planned. Within mere days, less than two weeks shy of the scheduled court date, the DNR suddenly reversed its stance, agreeing that Bakers' heritage pigs were perfectly legal after all.
This meant the judge had no choice but to dismiss the case. It also meant that the DNR didn't have to defend the legality and constitutionality of its ISO. Nor did it have to clarify its definition of what a "feral" pig really is.
And, last but certainly not least, it means the DNR does not run the risk of having to compensate farmers, including the Bakers, who suffered massive losses due to these seriously flawed guidelines. As stated by Pete Kennedy, President of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund:5
"For two years, DNR has said the Bakers' pigs are illegal, then two weeks before trial, they say the pigs are okay. Why didn't the state take this position two years ago? The state should compensate the Bakers for the losses it has caused the farm."
The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund also noted that:
"Before the ISO went into effect, the farm's Mangalitsa pork was highly prized by local chefs and consumers. After the order, Baker lost access to USDA facilities to process his pork. The ISO not only cost Baker his pork sales to restaurants, but other farm products as well.
Baker's case has already made an impact beyond Michigan. In January the Indiana Board of Animal Health amended a regulation on wild hogs that partly based their legality on physical characteristics to clarify that the regulation did not apply to hogs raised on a farm."
In the end, while the Bakers won the right to raise hybrid swine, curly tails and all, this case is a perfect example of government run amok, trampling on constitutional rights just to protect Big Business.
Here, the DNR patiently waited, bleeding this small family-run farm dry before pulling an abrupt about-face to avoid losing what they knew would be a significant court battle that would free small farmers from a tyrannical law that unjustly targets small farmers of high quality heritage breeds.
As it stands, there's no guarantee that the DNR will not target other pig farmers over this issue... As stated by Harold Martin, the Michigan assistant attorney general:" I am not saying we won't apply the ISO. I am saying the ISO doesn't apply in this situation."6 The Bakers are not through, however.
"Now is the time to hold our leaders of the State of Michigan responsible for their actions," Baker writes. "From the DNR to the Attorney General's office to the Governor's office, we have been let down time and time again. The elected officials and bureaucrats that are not representing the Constitution of the people must be replaced."
As discussed in the featured video, Baker is producing a documentary about his case. You can pre-order a DVD copy on his website,7 which will help him finalize the film, and fund his ongoing work toward preserving constitutional rights in Michigan.
Another case that demonstrates just how crazy the status quo can get is Oregon's anti-advertising laws for raw milk producers. The sale of raw milk has been and currently is legal in Oregon, but advertising the fact that you have raw milk to sell was not... Until 7th generation dairy farmer Christine Anderson8 sued Oregon's Department of Agriculture for First Amendment violations that is. As reported by Alliance for Natural Health:9
"For years... Anderson was legally forbidden from advertising her milk—she couldn't post flyers in local stores, advertise via email or on her own website, or even display a roadside sign reading, 'Raw Milk for Sale!' If she did, she'd be subject to $6,250 in fines, up to $10,000 in civil penalties, and even a year in jail.
How could advertising a perfectly legal product be illegal, and why didn't the state government want Oregonians drinking raw milk? Could it have something to do with the Dairy Farmers of Oregon, an anti-raw milk industry group whose explicit mission is to 'build demand' for conventional dairy? Or is it the Dairy PAC, which donates thousands of dollars to state representatives?"
This nonsensical law also banned consumer access to information about how a farm produces its milk, thereby preventing you from being able to compare it to other sources of milk. It's worth noting that there's no reasonable justification for any of this. Research by Dr. Ted Beals, MD, featured in the summer 2011 issue of Wise Traditions,10 the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, shows you are about 35,000 times more likely to get sick from other foods than you are from raw milk.
Shielding you from raw milk advertisements is not protecting your best interests. If the US government really wanted to protect your health, it would ban junk food commercials and direct-to-consumer drug advertisements. Dr. Beals' research, which is based on the US government's own data, shows that between 1999 and 2010, there was an average of 42 cases of illness per year attributed to raw milk, and that includes both "confirmed" and "presumed" cases. In his report, Dr. Beals writes:
"From the perspective of a national public health professional looking at an estimated total of 48 million foodborne illnesses each year [from all foods]… there is no rational justification to focus national attention on raw milk, which may be associated with an average of 42 illnesses maximum among the more than nine million people (about 0.0005 percent) who have chosen to drink milk in its fresh unprocessed form. …Consumption of any food has some risk of illness or adverse reaction. And the consequence of basing public policy on horrific personal experiences is that all foods will ultimately be banned, and we will not be able to participate in any activity."
Fortunately, three months after filing suit with the help of Institute for Justice, which provides pro bono legal representation in cases such as these, the Department of Agriculture agreed to end its enforcement of the state's ban on the advertisement of raw milk. According to a February 13 press release11 by the Institute for Justice, Department of Agriculture director Katy Coba also agreed to ask the state legislature to repeal the law.
"'I am so excited that the State of Oregon has agreed that farmers like me should be able to advertise their legal products,' Christine said upon learning of the settlement. 'It will be such a relief to be able to carry on my business without feeling like I have to be looking over my shoulder for telling people about our farm and what I do.'"
Both of these cases demonstrate what those of us who want access to wholesome food are up against—unconstitutional shenanigans of the highest order! It's time for dissention, and to support each other, farmers and consumers alike, across state lines. Each and every case of infringement on your right to access healthy food must be vigorously and swiftly addressed. And the more voices that speak out against these kinds of repressions, the better our chances of success.
Virtually all of the meat and poultry (beef, pork, chicken, turkey, etc.) found in your local grocery store comes from animals raised in so-called confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). If it wasn't raised in a factory farm, it will typically bear a clear label stating it's "grass-fed" or "USDA 100% organic."
Large-scale factory farming is the cheapest way to raise meat, thereby allowing for the largest profits. But the ultimate price is high, as there's a complete disregard for human health, the environment, and the ethical treatment of animals.
Far from being what most people would consider "a farm," these massive operations are more like industrial warehouses, stocked to the hilt with animals that are quite literally crammed together. Due to the overcrowded, unhygienic conditions in these livestock factories, most of the animals end up getting sick. And whether they're ill or not, they're still routinely given antibiotics and artificial hormones to promote growth.
The natural diet of a cow is plain grass, but CAFO-raised cows are fed pesticide-laden grains and other byproducts instead. Not only does this upset their digestive systems and alter the nutritional makeup of their meat, all of the feed additives also get transferred to you when you eat that meat. The routine use of antibiotics in particular has led to the rapid rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs that now threaten human life.
The factory farm model also directly contributes to Americans' increasing reliance on processed junk foods, which in turn drives the rise in obesity and chronic disease. For the past several decades, the focus has been on creating ever-cheaper foods. Well, you cannot achieve top quality and rock-bottom prices at the same time. Something has to give, and quality nutrition definitely fell by the wayside as technology overtook the food and agricultural industry.
The problem is, the food industry knows it cannot compete with wholesome organic foods, raw milk, artisan cheeses, and delicatessen like the Bakers' swine. Since they cannot compete, the next best thing, from their perspective, is to simply eliminate the competition. By limiting or eliminating your access to alternatives, you have no choice but to become a consumer of CAFO goods.
I believe the movement toward sustainable food and ethical meat is an extremely positive one and, in the big scheme of things, is absolutely critical for optimal health, and for the protection of our environment. When it comes to meat, be it beef, pork, or poultry, the only type I recommend eating is meat that has been humanely raised according to organic principles.
By purchasing your meat from smaller farms, you're promoting their proliferation, and the return to saner, healthier ways of eating. In the end, that will benefit everyone in your community, including the animals. (The organic industry also tends to favor far more humane butchering practices, which is another important part of "ethical meat.") The following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh foods in your local area that has been raised in a sustainable manner:
- Local Harvest -- This Web site will help you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
- Farmers' Markets -- A national listing of farmers' markets.
- Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals -- The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
- Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) -- CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
- FoodRoutes -- The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs, and markets near you.
By Dr. Mercola
Snacking on chocolate may be one delectable way to boost your health, provided you choose the right type of chocolate, that is. Certain types of chocolate, as well as cocoa powder and cacao, rank right up there among the most anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich foods known to mankind.
It’s the antioxidant flavanols that are responsible for much of the health benefits, and recent research set out to determine which flavanols, in particular, may prevent certain health conditions, including type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Consuming high levels of flavanols found in foods like chocolate is linked to reduced insulin resistance and improved glucose regulation, which suggests it may be protective against type 2 diabetes.1
Chocolate varies greatly in the different types of flavanols it contains, so researchers wanted to find out whether different cocoa flavanols were more beneficial than others.
For instance, both fermentation and processing of cocoa beans influences the final outcome of flavanols in the cocoa (cocoa refers to the powder made from roasted, husked, and ground cacao, or cocoa, seeds, from which most of the fat has been removed).
The researchers supplemented a high-fat diet for mice with monomeric, oligomeric, or polymeric procyandins (PCs), which are different types of flavanols. It turned out that oligomeric PCs were the most effective at both maintaining weight and improving glucose tolerance in the mice.4
Even more intriguing, the doses of flavanols used in the study were significantly lower than those used in past research, which suggests it may be more feasible to obtain health benefits from eating chocolate than was previously thought. The researchers noted:
“The oligomer-rich fraction proved to be most effective in preventing weight gain, fat mass, impaired glucose tolerance, and insulin resistance in this model… Oligomeric PCs appear to possess the greatest antiobesity and antidiabetic bioactivities of the flavanols in cocoa, particularly at the low doses employed for the present study.”5
Research presented at the 247th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) revealed a unique connection between the microbes in your gut and the health benefits of chocolate. While cocoa powder is rich in antioxidants including catechin and epicatechin, along with a small amount of fiber, it was thought that these molecules were poorly digested and absorbed due to their large size.
The new study found, however, that your gut bacteria break down and ferment the components in dark chocolate, turning them into anti-inflammatory compounds that benefit your health. In particular, beneficial microbes including Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria “feasted” on chocolate, according to the researchers.
The study, which involved three cocoa powders tested in a model digestive tract, may help explain why chocolate has been found to be so good for your heart, as the anti-inflammatory compounds may reduce inflammation of cardiovascular tissue. The study’s lead author explained:6
“In our study we found that the fiber is fermented and the large polyphenolic polymers are metabolized to smaller molecules, which are more easily absorbed. These smaller polymers exhibit anti-inflammatory activity… When these compounds are absorbed by the body, they lessen the inflammation of cardiovascular tissue, reducing the long-term risk of stroke.”
The researchers suggested that consuming cocoa along with prebiotics may be one way to encourage the conversion of polyphenols into highly absorbable anti-inflammatory compounds in your stomach.
Prebiotics are carbohydrates found in whole foods that you can’t digest… but which beneficial bacteria can, acting as “food” for them. Unprocessed whole foods, such as onions and garlic, are among the best prebiotics, so if you’re eating right, you should be getting plenty of prebiotics.
It would seem that taking steps to encourage healthful gut bacteria, in general, would also ensure that you have enough beneficial bacteria available to help break down and ferment the healthy substances in cocoa.
This includes avoiding sugar and grains, as well as eating naturally fermented foods and/or taking a high-quality probiotic supplement. One of the major results of eating a healthy diet like the one described in my nutrition plan is that you cause your beneficial gut bacteria to flourish, and they secondarily perform the real "magic" of restoring your health.
Interestingly, the researchers also suggested consuming dark chocolate with antioxidant-rich solid fruits, such as pomegranate or acai, as another way to boost its health potential.
If the possibility that consuming chocolate may help you prevent diabetes and stay slim doesn’t excite you, perhaps the fact that accumulating scientific research has linked its consumption to over 40 distinct health benefits will.7
Among the most heavily researched is its link to heart health. For instance, when diabetic patients were given a special high-flavanol cocoa drink for one month, it brought their blood vessel function from severely impaired to normal. The improvement was actually as large as has been observed with exercise and many common diabetic medications.8
Small amounts of dark chocolate can also cut your risk of heart attack because, like aspirin, chocolate has a biochemical effect that reduces the clumping of platelets, which cause blood to clot.9 Platelet clumping can be fatal if a clot forms and blocks a blood vessel, causing a heart attack.
Another one of the ways chocolate may provide cardiovascular benefit is by assisting with nitric oxide metabolism.10 Nitric oxide protects your heart by relaxing your blood vessels and thereby lowering your blood pressure.
However, nitric oxide production produces adverse reactions and toxic metabolites, which must be neutralized by your body so they don't result in oxidative damage to your blood vessel lining (by peroxynitrite oxidation and nitration reactions). Cocoa polyphenols protect your body from these metabolites and help counter the typical age-related decline in nitric oxide production. The following table highlights even more benefits conferred by the cocoa bean.11
Anti-inflammatory Anti-carcinogenic Anti-thrombotic, including improving endothelial function Lowers Alzheimer's risk Anti-diabetic and anti-obesity Reduction in C-reactive protein Cardioprotective, including lowering blood pressure, improving lipid profile, and helping prevent atrial fibrillation Improved liver function for those with cirrhosis Neuroprotective Improves gastrointestinal flora Reduces stress hormones Reduces symptoms of glaucoma and cataracts Slows progression of periodontitis Improves exercise endurance May help extend lifespan Protects against preeclampsia in pregnant women
The term “chocolate” refers to the solid food or candy made from a preparation of cacao seeds (typically roasted). If the cacao seeds are not roasted, then you have "raw chocolate," which is also typically sweetened. It’s important to understand that consuming most commercially available milk chocolate candy is not going to give you the therapeutic benefits described above, as it contains both pasteurized milk and large quantities of sugar, which will significantly dampen its health benefits. White chocolate is also high in sugar and contains none of the phytonutrients, so it is not a good choice either.
The closer your cocoa is to its natural raw state, the higher its nutritional value. Ideally, your chocolate or cocoa should be consumed raw (cacao). When selecting chocolate, you can optimize its nutritional punch by looking for higher cacao and lower sugar content.
In general, the darker the chocolate, the higher the cacao. However, cacao is fairly bitter, so the higher the percentage cacao, the more bitter it is (the flavanols are what make the chocolate bitter, so manufacturers often remove them. But, it's those flavanols that are responsible for many of chocolate's health benefits). To counteract the bitterness, most chocolate is sweetened, so it's a matter of balancing nutritional benefit with palatability.
Although raw cacao is the most nutritious form, most of the health studies to date involve consumption of cocoa or chocolate, not raw cacao. And the results are STILL significantly positive. This fact suggests a good portion of the nutritional benefit of chocolate is retained after processing. Your goal then is to find a chocolate that's as minimally processed as possible, but still palatable. You don't want to eliminate too many of the health benefits by eating a product that contains a lot of sugar and chemicals. Choose chocolate with a cocoa/cacao percentage of about 70 or higher. If you can tolerate the flavor of raw cacao, however, then that's the absolute best option. Dark chocolate – as high in cacao and as bitter as you can stand -- is your best option.
In the video above, Dr. Beatrice Golomb discusses how to identify a high-quality chocolate and how to determine your optimal chocolate “dose.” In general, it seems preferable to consume smaller amounts of chocolate at more frequent intervals, much like the principle of split dosing for supplements, in order to ensure a steadier stream of nutrients in your bloodstream.
According to Dr. Golomb, studies show daily chocolate consumption in divided doses (two to three times per day) is probably beneficial, as long as you aren't going overboard in quantity, and as long as you're eating high-quality chocolate.
By Dr. Mercola
Of all the foods Mother Nature provides, few foods offer more of a “botanical bonanza” for your health than garlic. Garlic is a bulbous root closely related to the onion, mentioned in historical documents dating back 5,000 years—before its fame wafted into the rest of the known world.
Speaking of wafting, garlic’s nickname “stinking rose” is well-deserved due to its undeniably pungent aroma that some find objectionable, but others find intoxicating.
Numerous studies show garlic’s amazing health potential in nearly every area of your body, from clogged arteries to gangrene to preventing insect bites and ear infections. There is even evidence that garlic is able to help slow your aging process. When it comes to this magical bulb, what’s not to love?
Like so many other complex plant foods, garlic contains a wide range of phytocompounds that act together to produce a wide variety of responses in your body. Garlic is rich in manganese, calcium, phosphorus, selenium, and vitamins B6 and C, so it’s beneficial for your bones as well as your thyroid.
Garlic also helps your body cleanse itself of heavy metals, such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic.1 Green Med Info has also assembled a list of studies demonstrating garlic's positive effects for more than 150 different diseases.2 In general, its benefits fall into four main categories:
- Reducing inflammation (reduces risk of osteoarthritis as mentioned in the video above)
- Boosting immune function (antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and antiparasitic properties)
- Improving cardiovascular health and circulation (protects against clotting, retards plaque, improves lipids, and reduces blood pressure)
- Toxic to 14 kinds of cancer cells (including brain, lung, breast, and pancreatic)
The fact that garlic is so effective in fighting multiple types of cancer is probably related to its potent antioxidant effects. Garlic contains the precursors to allicin—a compound I’ll be discussing in detail shortly. Allicin is one of the most potent antioxidants from the plant kingdom.
In fact, researchers have determined that sulfenic acid, produced during the rapid decomposition of allicin, reacts with and neutralizes free radicals faster than any other known compound—it’s almost instantaneous when the two molecules meet. And as an anti-infective, garlic has been demonstrated to kill everything from candida to herpes, MRSA, drug-resistant tuberculosis, and even HIV.
Researchers have found that allicin is an effective natural "antibiotic" that can eradicate even antibiotic-resistant bugs. An added benefit is that the bacteria appear incapable of developing a resistance to the compound. However, the garlic must be fresh because the active agent is destroyed in less than an hour after smashing the garlic clove.
Garlic technically does not contain allicin, but rather, it contains two agents in separate compartments of the clove that react to form the sulfur-rich compound allicin when the plant needs it: alliin and an enzyme called allinase. So, what makes them react?
Garlic has a robust defense system to protect itself from insects and fungi. It enzymatically produces allicin within seconds when it is injured. The crushing of its tissues causes a chemical reaction between the alliin and the allinase, and allicin is produced—nature’s “insecticide.” This is what makes garlic such a potent anti-infective, as well as what produces that pungent aroma when you cut into it.
But allicin is short-lived, lasting less than an hour. Therefore, cooking, aging, crushing, and otherwise processing garlic causes allicin to immediately break down into other compounds, so it’s difficult to get allicin up to biologically active levels in your body.3
More than 100 different compounds have been identified in garlic, some of which come from the rapid breakdown of allicin itself. The absorption, metabolism, and biological effects of all these compounds are only partially understood. So, although garlic is known to possess a wealth of health benefits, we still do not know exactly which benefits come from which compounds, what compounds get into which tissues, etc.
As powerful as allicin is as an anti-infective, it only makes sense that garlic’s other health effects come from the synergism of those many OTHER compounds. This is a complicated topic, and if you want to explore it further, the Oregon State’s Linus Pauling Institute has a comprehensive article in their online Micronutrient Information Center.4
Most commercial garlic supplements perform quite poorly when it comes to actually being able to form allicin in your body. Allinase is destroyed by the strong acids in your stomach, which is why most supplements are “enteric coated,” to keep them from dissolving until they enter your small intestine. But most supplements tested produce only minimal amounts of allicin under these tough digestive conditions. Many garlic supplements list “allicin potential” on the label, which refers to how much allicin could be formed when alliin is converted, not how much allicin is actually produced.
Claims of actual “allicin release” may be more reliable, but with digestive conditions being so individual and variable, I would be less than confident you’re getting what the label promises. Therefore, when it comes to garlic, I believe it is much better to eat the real food rather than rely on a supplement. And due to the fact that allicin won’t be formed unless the garlic clove is crushed, you have to crush it before swallowing to get the full benefit, or chew it up. If chewing up raw garlic is a bit too hardcore for you, then you may have cause for celebration: aged black garlic to the rescue!
Developed in Korea, black garlic has been gaining popularity among Western foodies for several years now, but it has recently caught the eye of the health-minded due to studies revealing its impressive nutritional properties. Black garlic is produced by “fermenting” whole bulbs of fresh garlic in a humidity-controlled environment in temperatures of about 140 to 170 degrees F for 30 days. No additives, no preservatives... just pure garlic. Once out of the heat, the bulbs are then left to oxidize in a clean room for 45 days. This lengthy process causes the garlic cloves to turn black and develop a soft, chewy texture with flavors reminiscent of “balsamic vinegar” and “soy sauce,” with a sweet “prune-like” taste. Aficionados claim the flavor will impress even the most avid garlic-hater, as the pungency and spiciness is gone.5
Although the process is consistently described as “fermentation,” it really isn’t that in the strictest sense, as the transformation does not involve microbial processes—specifically, enzymatic breakdown and the Maillard Reaction are responsible for the caramelization of the sugars, dark color and deep, complex flavor profile.6 As the pearly white cloves slowly transition into their final black appearance, compounds in the fresh garlic transform into a whole new range of compounds. Compared to fresh garlic, black garlic is low in alliin but it is astonishingly high in other antioxidants!
In a 2009 mouse study, Japanese researchers found that black garlic was more effective than fresh garlic in reducing the size of tumors. The study was published in the journal Medicinal and Aromatic Plant Science and Technology.7 In another study, black garlic was found to have twice the antioxidant levels as fresh—the aging/fermenting process appears to double the antioxidants. Black garlic is packed with high concentrations of sulfurous compounds, especially one in particular: s-allylcycteine (SAC).8 Science has shown a number of health benefits from SAC, including inhibition of cholesterol synthesis.9
Perhaps this is why Mandarin oil painter Choo Keng Kwang experienced a complete reversal of his psoriasis after just four days of eating half a bulb of black garlic a day—this, after trying countless medically prescribed skin creams that were all complete failures.
An advantage of SAC is that it is well-absorbed and much more stable than allicin and 100 percent bioavailable. Researchers are confident it plays a significant role in garlic’s overall health benefits.10 Be mindful, however, that black garlic’s benefits may be more effective than fresh garlic for some conditions but not others, given its allicin content is low. For example, I suspect it may not be as effective if you have an infection, as allicin is thought to be the primary anti-infective agent in garlic, and fresh garlic is higher in allicin than black. According to Blue Fortune Farm (which admittedly sells black garlic), black garlic has the following favorable nutrient profile:11
SAC (mg/g) Calcium (mg) Phosphorus (mg) Protein (g) Black Garlic 5.84 36.66 80 12.5 Raw Garlic 0.32 5.0 40 2.2
Do you toss your garlic into the compost pile when it begins sending up those bright green shoots? You might want to stop doing that after you read the most recent report about sprouted garlic. In an article published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry,12 garlic sprouted for five days was found to have higher antioxidant activity than fresher, younger bulbs, and it had different metabolites, suggesting it also makes different substances.
Researchers concluded that sprouting your garlic might be a useful way to improve its antioxidant potential. Extracts from this garlic even protected cells in a laboratory dish from certain types of damage.13 This isn’t really surprising when you consider the nutritional changes that typically occur in plants when they sprout. When seedlings grow into green plants, they make many new compounds, including those that protect the young plant against pathogens. The same thing is likely happening when green shoots grow from old heads of garlic.
Growing your own sprouts is a great way to boost your nutrition, especially if you have limited space for gardening. Sprouted seeds of various kinds can contain up to 30 times the nutrition of homegrown organic vegetables and allow your body to extract more vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and essential fats from the foods you eat. If you want more information, please refer to our earlier article about sprouting. While you can sprout a variety of different beans, nuts, seeds, and grains, sprouts in general have the following beneficial attributes:
- Support for cell regeneration
- Powerful sources of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and enzymes that protect against free radical damage
- Alkalinizing effect on your body, which is thought to protect against disease, including cancer (as many tumors are acidic)
- Abundantly rich in oxygen, which can also help protect against abnormal cell growth, viruses, and bacteria that cannot survive in an oxygen-rich environment
Whether you choose to go raw or adventure into the black, you can’t go wrong with garlic. It gives new meaning to the term “heart healthy food”! And garlic goes with just about everything. You can smother your roasting chicken with it, sauté it with veggies, add it to your salad dressing, or run it right through your juicer along with the other veggies for a real immune-booster. Whatever form of garlic you prefer, you can have some fun experimenting as you widen your culinary repertoire, and build your health at the same time!
PLEASE NOTE: This is the first of a two part series. Part two with comprehensive and specific options on what to do if you already have a root canal will be posted soon. These two articles are our effort to help save lives not teeth.
By Dr. Lina Garcia
One of the fundamental understandings that supports holistic, biological dentistry is that the dental procedures and materials used in them can affect your whole body, not just your teeth.
In the case of a root canal procedure, it can lead to a number of chronic health problems and even degenerative diseases. Unfortunately, it is very rare for someone in need of dental care to be aware of this.
Although you may be surprised to read this view of root canals, any time the procedure is done there is a real possibility it can endanger your overall health because of the infection and toxicity that can develop in your tooth after the root canal is performed.
The connection between a root canal treated tooth and disease in another area of your body is one the majority of health-care practitioners and their patients are simply unaware of.
The lack of awareness of this connection is puzzling when you consider that in conventional dentistry medicine there is an appreciation of research that has identified a connection between periodontal disease and other health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, respiratory diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis, and difficulties during pregnancy.
Periodontal disease is the general label used to describe chronic infection and/or inflammation of the gums and the supporting structures of the teeth. The American Academy of Periodontology actively seeks to educate the public about research that supports what perceptive dentists inevitably recognize: "Infections in the mouth can play havoc elsewhere in the body."
Periodontal disease has been identified as a potential risk factor for many systemic diseases. However, it is not well appreciated that microbes surrounding a periodontally involved tooth can invade it from the apex and damage or kill it.
When this happens, a conventional dentist will recommend a root canal procedure. Tragically, most conventional dental and medical establishments inexplicably disregard the connection between oral microbes associated with root canals and systemic disease.
So, every year, millions of Americans undergo at least one root canal procedure with no awareness of the risk involved to their overall health. The root canal procedure is typically done instead of extracting the diseased, dying, or sometimes already dead tooth.
Root canals have been, and continue to be, a conventional, or "standard of care," procedure done by a dentist or an endodontist. (An endodontist is a dentist who specializes in doing a root canal procedure, which is also called endodontic therapy.)
The root canal procedure is endorsed by the dental establishment as the preferred alternative to extraction. It is a big part of the business of dentistry. Give people what they want — and who wants to lose a tooth? So conventional dentistry offers a procedure that allows patients to keep a problem tooth while conveying confidence there are no risks involved.
But, unfortunately, there are risks.And what all too many dental practitioners don't realize is that a root canal treated tooth can be a direct cause of numerous degenerative diseases.
If you have at least one root canal treated tooth, acting upon the understanding that it can be damaging to your health may help you realize freedom from one of the diseases or ailments listed in the table below.
Arthritis Appendicitis Endocarditis and myocarditis (heart inflammation) Kidney, liver, and gallbladder problems Meningitis Anemia Hardening of the arteries Nervous system breakdowns Pneumonia Heart lesions Eye infections Cancer
Many people suffer from diseases or ailments that modern medicine says are ofunknown cause. Well, the reality is that root canals are a seriously overlooked cause of many diseases.
More and more holistic-minded dentists, physicians and other practitioners are beginning to realize that many previously "incurable" diseases and ailments, which have no conventionally recognized cause, can sometimes be radically improved or completely resolved by extracting a root-canal tooth (or teeth) and properly cleaning out the tooth socket(s).
On the surface, having a root canal procedure instead of extracting a tooth is very appealing. A tooth is obviously an important part of your body that you want to keep if at all possible. But it's more important for you to see your health in a holistic way, so you can avoid losing much more than your tooth It's silly for us to think of ourselves as a collection of body parts that function independently of each other.
Seeing your health in a holistic way leads to understanding that each and every, part of your body can have an influence on the whole. In cases of intense pain, it may be thought of as a "mercy killing," but having a root canal can definitely be an effective way to eliminate the pain — kill the tooth and you kill the pain.
The pain is gone because the nerves are gone. However, a much more accurate, no-nonsense way of describing the end result of a root canal is this: It doesn't "save" the life of the tooth, but it does keep enough of the tooth's structure intact so that the crowned chewing surface will be functional, and you keep the aesthetic value of the tooth.
So there you are — you are now left with a functional but dead tooth in your mouth that looks good when you smile. But think about this for a moment. Doesn't it seem unhealthy, and even strange, to leave a dead tooth in your mouth? If any another organ in your body, like your appendix, were dead, it would have to be removed or else very aggressive strains of microbes that nature uses to decompose dead tissue would set in and threaten your life! And something similar happens with a dead tooth, whether it is killed from infection, trauma or the root-canal procedure.
After a root canal is done, the dead tooth, not sometimes, but always becomes an environment conducive to harboring chronic infection and toxicity. Because there is no reliable way, practically speaking, to completely sterilize a root canal treated tooth, (while it is still in a patient's mouth), it will be a source of infection for the whole body until it is extracted and the tooth socket is cleaned.
One of my biggest challenges as a Biological Dentist is when a patient cries with regret for agreeing to have a root canal procedure done to a tooth or teeth – a procedure they neither needed nor understood from the perspective of whole body health. Like any part of the body, a tooth can be inflamed, painful, or simply sensitive. If you go to a dentist they will quite often advise you to have a root canal.
But not so fast! Let's learn and make a wise decision. The table below lists several reasons a tooth can be sensitive or painful but please understand that it there is not enough space in this article to more fully elaborate. The best way to evaluate your specific pain would be with a qualified dental professional.
Clenching or grinding Stress Poor hygiene Referred pain from your heart Referred muscle pain from temporalis or masseter muscles Lack of sleep Trigeminal neuralgia Sinus headaches Sugars or processed foods, even fruits Ill-fitting restorations Neuropathic pain Tumors or aneurisms Hormone changes including perimenopause, menstrual cycles, and changes in testosterone levels Fractures Referral headaches from migraines or cluster headaches that change the blood vessels and nerves of the head Salivary dysfunction
Every single tooth is a little organ, and the same blood and lymphatic fluid that flows to and through your heart and all the other organs and systems in your body also flows to and through your teeth. Additionally, there is a complex system of nerves that connect your teeth to your brain, and every tooth is connected to one of the channels of life-force energy most commonly known as the acupuncture meridians. So, when you see the whole picture, you understand that your teeth are affected by what is going on throughout your body, and, of course, your entire body is affected by what is going on in your teeth.
Unfortunately, we usually do not learn about the oral/systemic health connection and the hidden risks of conventional dental practices until after we have developed at least one chronic health problem conventional practitioners do not know how to resolve. I understand it can be hard to believe that established dental practices that have been around for many decades can be obstacles to your good health because it was a challenge for me as well. All biological dental professionals were once traditionally trained. The move away from that training to encompass a wider view is never easy, but vital to our integrity.
Changing things for the better begins with questioning the status quo. It ultimately requires that you make better-informed choices so you do not wind up supporting the dysfunctional aspects of the conventional dental and medical establishments. Every time you accept and pay for a treatment, you are in essence saying, "I support this." So please, before paying for a root canal procedure, or for that matter, any other procedure, make sure the problem is not somewhere else and that the pain in your tooth will not subside if you properly address that issue.
The surest path to good health is to become educated (at least in a general way) about the different approaches to dentistry and medicine that are available to you before you actually have to make a choice for you or your children. With this in mind, I encourage you to seek out and create your own network of practitioners — family physician, dentist, and nutritionist, for starters — who have a holistic understanding of health and appreciate the value of working together as a team to meet the health-care needs of you and your children. While finding and creating your own network of holistic practitioners will take some time, it will be time well spent.
My years of practice have taught me that the best way to prevent disease is to build your health. We all have a self-healing potential, which I refer to as "the Health." I'm devoted to helping people learn how dental practices can either improve or damage their health. I want to help you make well-informed choices that support your health in body, mind and spirit. You certainly do have choices to make, especially avoiding unnecessary root canal procedures.
The holistic physician Dr. Thomas Rau, in his comprehensive book, Biological Medicine, says: "The disruptive fields which occur most frequently in the body, causing remote illnesses in other organs, are the teeth. So long as these disruptive factors are not eliminated, the physician will remain unsuccessful in many cases of chronic disease." Ultimately, the tragic consequence of not acknowledging the connection between our teeth, dental treatments, and our overall health is no attention is given to the real cause of — and curative treatment for — many chronic health problems.
When you have pain in your leg, arm, stomach, eyes, or any body part, hopefully you are not advised to kill the nerves of the area to shut off the pain. While this is obvious for these body parts, this advice is not obvious, and certainly not routine in your mouth. Most conventional practitioners have accepted the idea of killing a tooth even though it causes a poisonous environment that harbors pathologic bugs and disease. If a tooth is sensitive or hurting, the following are some of my recommendations before agreeing and paying for a root canal procedure:
Ozone therapy Proper oral hygiene Stress management Nutrition Oil pulling Local support for the tooth such as adjusting an ill-fitting restoration, a splint or mouth guard, decay and more Digest enzymes Proper sleep Traditional osteopathic treatment and support
All of the above can buy time for your immune system to recover allowing your tooth to heal. In trying to support and encourage my patients' own healing capabilities, and based on my studies, I will tell you that, without a doubt, what you are eating and drinking every day has a huge influence on the health of your teeth and gums. Even more, it is essential for us to appreciate that good nutrition contributes to the structure and function of every cell in our bodies.
I want to do all I can to make sure my patients and readers of this article understand the importance of developing the right nutrition habits in order to prevent tooth decay, gum disease and other dental problems. Nutrition can also support you while your tooth is healing from a metabolic, physical, or emotional injury. In that respect, I firmly agree with Dr. Mercola's nutrition plan. If you haven't had a chance to review it, please do as it is completely free and over 100 pages. It is divided into beginner, intermediate, and advanced sections so you can easily customize it for yourself
There is absolutely no question that making a commitment to self-care practices to help to prevent tooth decay in the first place is an example of wisdom in action. Except for a tooth injured by some type of physical trauma, a tooth that has had a root canal procedure, also had some degree of decay.
To prevent the need for root canal treatments, you must eliminate tooth decay through proper oral hygiene and good nutrition. Proper oral hygiene and regular dental cleanings are preventative measures that help to remove the sticky plaque and calcified deposits that form on the surface of teeth and helps to minimize the impact of many individuals' nutritionally poor and sugar rich diets. I have learned, and so I teach, that faithfully practicing good nutritional habits is, without a doubt, the most important preventative measure, because tooth decay is a consequence of systemic metabolic disturbance.
As Dr. Weston Price wrote in his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, "...when teeth are decaying, other things are going wrong in the body"! To achieve optimal oral and total body health, your teeth and the rest of your body needs you to choose high-quality foods that are in harmony with your metabolism. It is also absolutely essential to eliminate all sources of refined and processed sugar, white flour products, soft drinks, and all other "junk" foods and beverages. The wisdom is actually very simple: give your body what it needs and avoid hurting yourself with what you are eating and drinking!
A wise but simple oral hygiene practice that can be very supportive in helping you to have healthy teeth and gums, is the practice of "oil pulling." This wonderful practice not only has preventive value, but also therapeutic value for teeth and gums. Choosing to keep a dead tooth in your mouth can put you at increased risk of a variety of health problems. So, if a dentist recommends a root canal procedure to "save" your tooth from being pulled, remember to ask yourself, "How will I be affected if I have a dead, chronically infected tooth in my mouth?" Or "Do I really need this root canal?" Perhaps the tooth can heal without the unnecessary root canal procedure.
When I graduated from dental school, I took an oath that to this day encourages me. The oath said in part: "I will strive to advance my profession by seeking new knowledge and by re-examining the ideas and practices of the past." I hope that oath guides you, as well as me, on this journey toward making choices that will support your health. I hope it will encourage you, your family and the community to help forge a new dental and medical "Paradigm."
If you are seriously considering any of the dental procedures discussed above it is best to have them performed by a biologic dentist. The following organizations can help you to find a mercury-free, biological dentist that would best serve your needs:
- Consumers for Dental Choice
- International Academy of Biological Dentistry & Medicine (IABDM)
- Dental Amalgam Mercury Solutions (DAMS) E-mail them at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 651-644-4572 for an information packet
- Holistic Dental Association
- International Association of Mercury Safe Dentists
Dr. Lina Garcia is a Doctor of Medical Dentistry as well as a Doctor of Dental Surgery. She has been dedicated to the research and teaching of alternative solutions for conventional dentistry. Dr. Garcia has published several articles and is soon releasing her first book, "Take Care of Your Teeth and Build Your Health." She has trained around the world and is excited to be able to offer holistic services at her practice. She sees patients from all over the United States and worldwide, in her South Barrington, IL office
By Dr. Mercola
If you ever feel like it’s difficult to eat enough veggies, making a small investment in a high-quality juicer is one of the best steps you can take for your health. Raw juice can be likened to a "living broth," as it is teeming with micronutrients that many people are lacking.
When you drink fresh-made green juice, it is almost like receiving an intravenous infusion of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes because they go straight into your system without having to be broken down.
Drinking your juice first thing in the morning can give you a natural energy boost without resorting to stimulants like coffee. Since the juice is already in an easily digestible form, it can help revitalize your energy levels within as little as 20 minutes… and this is only the beginning of its benefits.
There are three main reasons why you will want to consider incorporating vegetable juicing into your optimal health program:
- Juicing helps you absorb all the nutrients from the vegetables. This is important because most of us have impaired digestion as a result of making less-than-optimal food choices over many years. This limits your body's ability to absorb all the nutrients from the vegetables. Juicing will help to "pre-digest" them for you, so you will receive most of the nutrition, rather than having it go down the toilet.
- Juicing allows you to consume a healthier amount of vegetables in an efficient manner. Virtually every health authority recommends that we get six to eight servings of vegetables and fruits per day and very few of us actually get that. Juicing is an easy way to virtually guarantee that you will reach your daily target for vegetables.
- You can add a wider variety of vegetables in your diet. Many people eat the same vegetable salads or side dishes every day. This violates the principle of regular food rotation and increases your chance of developing an allergy to a certain food.
Plus, it limits the number of different phytochemicals in your diet, as each vegetable will offer unique benefits. With juicing, you can juice a wide variety of vegetables that you may not normally enjoy eating whole.
Additionally, juicing can help:
- Promote weight loss. In one study, adults who drank at least eight ounces of vegetable juice as part of a diet lost four pounds over 12 weeks, while those who followed the same diet but did not drink the juice lost only one pound. The vegetable juice drinkers also significantly increased their intake of vitamin C and potassium, while decreasing their overall carbohydrate intake.
- Boost your immune system by supercharging it with concentrated phytochemicals. Raw juice also contains biophotonic light energy, which can help revitalize your body.
- Increase your energy. When your body has an abundance of the nutrients it needs, and your pH is optimally balanced, you feel energized. Since it can be utilized by your body immediately, those who juice report feeling the "kick" of energy almost instantly.
- Support your brain health. People who drank juices (fruit and vegetable) more than three times per week, compared to less than once a week, were 76 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease, according to the Kame Project.1
Juice cleanses are the latest health fad, with juice bars and prepackaged juice cleanses now widely available. There is certainly a case to be made for short (or even lengthier) juice fasts, in which you drink only fresh vegetable juice for a period of one to several days.
This is typically done for cleansing purposes or to treat certain health conditions, and should only be done under the guidance of a natural health care practitioner if you intend to go on a longer juice fast. Some people also drink green juices as part of their intermittent fasting regimens.
Time Magazine recently reported that even children are jumping on the juice cleanse bandwagon, and at least one company markets a cleanse specifically for children for about $100.2 Those geared toward adults can be even costlier – upwards of $600 for a five-day cleanse.
I am not opposed to juice cleanses under the right circumstances, but children are generally not the best candidates, as their bodies require healthy fats and proteins that are missing from fresh juices. Further, you needn’t spend hundreds of dollars on a fancy juice cleanse – it’s easy to make your own juice at home for a fraction of that cost, and it’s going to be fresher, too.
My philosophy regarding juicing is to view it as a regular part of your diet, not just a fad that you engage in once or twice a year. Drinking green juice every day is going to give you far more benefits than a sporadic three-day cleanse will. Kids, too, can enjoy vegetable juice on a daily basis, either as a beverage with a meal or as a snack (ideally along with a source of healthful fat to ensure all those fat-soluble nutrients get absorbed).
This is an important distinction to make because, if your juice contains too many fruits, it will be both higher in calories and sugar (fructose). You can add in an apple, a kiwi, or a handful of berries to give your juice flavor, but the bulk of it should come from organic, green veggies – spinach, celery, kale, Swiss chard, etc. Unfortunately, green juice has a stigma for tasting bad and many people avoid it simply because of its color. A recent survey by Jamba Juice even revealed that 28 percent of US adults “fear the look” of green juice and 32 percent said green juice is their least favorite type of juice.3 This negative reputation persisted despite the fact that 32 percent said they believe green juice is the healthiest option.
It may take some getting used to, but green juice actually has a very pleasant flavor, and you can tweak it to fit your taste. If you’re new to juicing, you can start with more mild-tasting veggies, like celery and cucumbers. From there you can work your way up to red leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, spinach, and escarole, along with parsley and cilantro. Greens like kale, collard, dandelion, and mustard greens are quite bitter, so you’ll want to start slowly and add just a few leaves at a time. If you would like to make your juice taste a bit more palatable, especially in the beginning, you can also add these elements:
- Limes and lemons: You can add one half to a whole lime or lemon for every quart of juice. You can actually juice the skin if you want to avoid the hassle of peeling them. Limes work well to cut bitter flavors.
- Cranberries: You can also add some cranberries if you enjoy them. Limit the cranberries to about four ounces per pint of juice.
- Fresh ginger: This is an excellent addition if you enjoy the taste. It gives your juice a little "kick"!
High-speed blenders like Vita Mix are great for green smoothies, but they are not the best juicers. You have a world of options when it comes to actual juicers, starting below $100 on the low end. You start getting into better quality juicers around $150. There are a number of different types of juicers, from fast-spinning centrifugal juicers to slow-moving masticating juicers. The slower the juice is extracted, the more nutrients are preserved. If you are new to juicing, I recommend a mid-priced juicer. The cheap centrifugal juicers (like the Juiceman) break easily, produce low-quality juice, and are very loud, which may contribute to hearing loss.
They also don't last very long. My favorite are the single gear juicers, which are relatively fast, less expensive and easier to clean than more expensive juicers like twin gears or even the $2,000 Norwalk juicers. Here is my current favorite juicer. When looking at your options, remember to evaluate the cleanup required, as this could influence your willingness to use it every day. As the “juice lady” Cherie Calbom says, "In the end, the best juicer is the one you'll actually use."
Once you get into the habit of juicing, you’ll find that you’ll look forward to your green juice and even miss it if you skip a day. You can find a detailed guide to juicing here, but to get started, you need a good recipe -- something that tastes great, or else you'll likely quit before you've really gotten started.
"Add in some dark greens because that's so wonderful for your health," Cherie suggests. "I use coloreds and Swiss chard, kale, parsley. I combine that with cucumber and celery. But if you've never juiced before, then you want to add in some flavorful things; a little bit of carrot. Some lemon is wonderful. It really improves the taste. I add lemon to almost everything I make."
I strongly recommend using organic vegetables as much as possible, and drinking it shortly after you make it. Vegetable juice is highly perishable so it's best to drink all of your juice immediately. However, if you're careful, you can store it for up to 24 hours with only moderate nutritional decline. This is really helpful if you are bringing your juice to work with you so you can consume it during the day. To properly store your juice:
- Put your juice in a glass jar with an airtight lid and fill it to the very top. There should be a minimum amount of air in the jar as the oxygen in air (air is about 20 percent oxygen) will "oxidize" and damage the juice.
- For even better storage, consider purchasing a food vacuum pump like Food Saver with a Ball jar attachment. You can pour your juice into a mason jar and put the lid on and use the Food Saver to suck out the air in the jar to vacuum pack it. This will remove most of the oxygen that will damage the juice.
- Immediately store it in the fridge and consume it when you are ready. It is best to drink it as soon as possible and in any case within 24 hours of juicing.
Most people juice in the morning, but if that does not work out well for your schedule, please feel free to choose whatever meal works best for your lifestyle.
By Dr. Mercola
The American food system is nearing a state of crisis. Ingredients is a documentary that explores the failings of the industrial food model, and how the local food movement is gaining momentum as a far better alternative. The film presents a refreshing look at food from the standpoint of sustainability, safety, flavor, nutrition, culture, and community.
This documentary takes us across the US from the urban food deserts of Harlem to the biodynamic farms of the Hudson River and Willamette Valleys, and into the kitchens of several celebrated chefs—culinary game-changers who are teaching us all how to eat better.
The current system, focused on cheap convenience foods, is costing Americans dearly. Most Westerners have lost their primal connection to food. Mealtimes used to be savored and shared with others.
Food preparation is now typically viewed as a chore that interferes with other "more important" activities. This detachment from food represents a cultural "disconnect" between humans and the earth, to the detriment of both. It's time for radical changes to our modern food paradigm, which is the subject of this uplifting documentary.
Americans have become dependent on cheap convenience foods that can be "prepared" in five minutes or less—or without taking both hands off the steering wheel. More than 17,000 new processed food products are introduced each year. Bright, catchy packaging conceals foods laden with chemicals, unhealthful fats, and high fructose corn syrup, all of which contribute to today's skyrocketing rates of obesity and illness, especially among our youth.
Americans spend less on food than any other industrialized nation—an average of $151 per week, which amounts to less than seven percent of their income. How can such a low value be placed on something so important for your health and longevity?
The US beef industry has managed to cut its prices in half since 1960. Unfortunately, cheap food contains cheap and toxic ingredients... and you get what you pay for. Food imports have increased four-fold over the past decade, overwhelming the FDA with inspections. Of the 200,000 shipments from China in 2006, less than two percent were sampled for quality and safety.
"Cheap food" isn't cheap when you consider all of the hidden costs associated with it. You make your first payment at the grocery store—just consider this your down payment, because you may be paying for it FIVE more times!
- Subsidies: At tax time, you pay for "cheap food" a second time with your contribution to agricultural subsidies. Processed food is mostly corn, canola, soy, rice, wheat, and sugar. These products (along with cotton) account for 98 percent of subsidies.
- Foodborne Illnesses: You may pay for cheap food a third time if you visit your doctor as a result of foodborne illnesses. CDC estimates that foodborne illnesses such as E. coli and salmonella cause 5,200 deaths each year in the US. Mass scale operations are riddled with quality control problems, leading to outbreaks of illness and food recalls.
- Chronic Disease: You pay for it a fourth time if you return to your doctor later for a chronic illness—heart disease, obesity, diabetes, stroke, and cancer—consider these "foodborne" illnesses that just take a little longer to manifest. According to CDC, one in three children born in the year 2000 will develop type 2 diabetes.
- Environment: As soon as the factory farmer files for bankruptcy and leaves, you pay for your food a fifth time. This is what often happens when they are asked to clean up their land—a monumental expense that often results in bankruptcy, sticking the rest of us with the tab.
- Energy: The sixth time is when you pay your fuel bill. Processed foods and imported foods have an extremely large energy footprint. One-fifth of US fossil fuel consumption goes to the growing, packaging, and transporting of food.
Central to the modern industrial food system are CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) and monoculture. These massive food operations benefit no one and are devastating to land and animals.
Today, livestock and poultry are typically reared in cages in tightly cramped quarters, with their feed consisting of grains, primarily genetically engineered corn and soy, instead of biologically appropriate grasses.
These animals are literally imprisoned and often tortured by unhealthy, unsanitary, and unconscionably cruel conditions. To prevent the inevitable spread of disease from stress, overcrowding, and poor nutrition, animals are fed antibiotics and other veterinary drugs. CAFOs contribute more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than the entire global transportation industry.
Meat products from CAFOs raise your risk for getting sick. Think about it—if you buy a pound of standard grocery store ground beef, you're buying a composite of thousands of cows. So, if any of those cows had an E. coli infection, then it's spread throughout an enormous batch of meat widely distributed across the country—or world. This is a problem of scale and density.
By contrast, many smaller scale farms naturally keep parasite levels minimal by having lower livestock density and increased diversity. Animals are much less likely to get sick as they rotate through grazing pastures.
Monoculture (or monocropping) refers to the agricultural practice of growing a single crop year after year on large expanses of land, without crop rotation. Corn, soybeans, wheat, and to some degree rice, are the most common crops grown with monocropping techniques.
Monocropping encourages the use of GE seeds, requires heavy pesticide and herbicide use, and is extremely destructive to the soil, as well as to biological diversity. GE crops and food products pose a threat to your health and ability to resist disease, soil strength, and the global food supply. The earth's soil is now depleting at more than 13 percent the rate it can be replaced due to our chemical-based agriculture system.
Today, 92.5 percent of US acreage is devoted to food animals or their feed, with only 7.5 percent devoted to food that goes directly to feeding human beings. Massive monoculture operations have led to the extinction of 75 percent of the world's crop varieties over the last century.
It is important to note that, just because a farm is "organic" does not mean it is necessarily environmentally friendly and sustainable. Some larger organic farms still employ monoculture, much like a conventional field. Many do not rotate crops and use insect sprays on a massive scale. Similarly, just because a farm is small and local does not imply that it necessarily uses sustainable agricultural practices. These are important distinctions, making it that much more important for you to get to know your farmers personally.
Total Video Length: 48:03
Download Interview Transcript
Given the above, you can certainly see how our existing food system is not only unhealthy, but unsustainable. But there IS a better way. We must shift our food sourcing away from multinational corporations and back to smaller local farms, which really amounts to returning to a pre-industrial food system. This does not mean our food system must be "low-tech."
Local farms employing sustainable and high-performance farming techniques, such as biological farming, offer a far superior option, bringing together the best of science and nature. High-tech (but still natural) farming increases soil's health and water-holding capacity, as well as improving the flavor and nutrient value of our food.
According to the Biodynamics Association, biodynamics1 is "a spiritual-ethical-ecological approach to agriculture, food production, and nutrition." Biodynamic farming works in balance with the cycles of nature. For example, crops are planted and harvested in accordance with phases of the moon that actually enhance crop quality and balance within the ecosystem.
The recent surge of farmer's markets and food co-ops is evidence of the growing movement in this overall direction—also known as the "local food movement." People are reestablishing their passion for food and connection with nature. Heirloom vegetables, normally missing from supermarkets, are being reintroduced. Seeds are being saved and cataloged. A new generation of young farmers is being supported, which reinvigorates local economies. According to Grist, the number of farmers' markets has steadily increased over the past 18 years, with the growth curve steepening since about 2008.2
In order for local farms to grow in number, land must be available near cities. But land is disappearing at an alarming rate—about one million acres per year. Local farmers, and the people fighting on their behalf, find themselves butting up against laws governing urban growth boundaries, which desperately need revision. And these arguments between farmers and land developers will only intensify as our food crisis worsens.
One way you can help is to support CSAs in your area (Community Supported Agriculture programs). CSAs operate through the commitment of individuals who buy annual shares in advance of the growing season in exchange for regularly scheduled deliveries of fresh local produce. These pre-paid shares help cover farmers' operational costs and relieve some of the pressure on these smaller farms to market their produce during the busy growing season.
Slow Food USA3 has a few tips to help you slow down and build your relationship with real food, which I have summarized below. This is not much different from what I have been advocating for years—returning to a whole food diet and eliminating processed foods.
- Buy, cook, and eat real food with whole ingredients. Avoid processed food with long ingredient lists and GE ingredients.
- When selecting meat, dairy, and poultry, choose grass-fed and free-range.
- Reconnect with your food. Whenever possible, learn the story behind it and meet the people who grow it. Familiarize yourself with your local or regional food history, cultural dishes, and seasonal specialties. Shop at a farmers' market, visit a farm, or buy into a CSA program.
- Cook and eat with others—not just family and friends. Bring new people and perspectives to the table. Help your children build a relationship with and an appreciation for real food.
- Grow some of your own food! Start in your backyard, community garden or windowsill. Or, join a community garden and grow food with others. Practice composting.
I believe the movement toward local, sustainable food is vitally important, both in terms of human health and the environment, and for the success of future generations. By purchasing your food from smaller local farms practicing sustainable farming, you are pushing the system toward change—and as others join you, a tipping point will eventually be reached that will send big industrial food producers heading for the hills.
Joining the local food movement doesn't mean that every single food you eat must come from within a 100-mile radius—but the majority should. Remember, you vote with your pocketbook each and every day. The following is a partial list of resources to help you locate farms in your area. Please also see my sustainable agriculture resource list.
- Slow Food – Founded to counter the rise of fast food and to "unite the pleasure of food with responsibility, sustainability, and harmony with nature"
- Local Harvest -- This Web site will help you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area
- Farmers' Markets -- A national listing of farmers' markets on the USDA Web site
- Eat Well Guide -- A free online directory of local, sustainable organic food
- Food Routes Network -- "Buy Fresh Buy Local" (BFBL) chapters help you find locally produced foods
By Dr. Mercola
Daylight Saving Time (DST), the practice of moving clocks ahead one hour in the summer months and returning them back an hour in the winter, was first implemented by Germany during World War I, as a way to conserve electricity.
The idea, however, dates back to William Willett, an Englishman who campaigned for “summer time” in the early 1900s so that people would have more time to be out in the sunlight – though the British government was not interested.
It wasn’t until 1918 that Daylight Saving came to the US, although it was repealed a short time later, in 1919 (largely due to lobbying from the agricultural industry, whose schedules were unproductively disrupted). As reported by History:1
“Rather than rural interests, it has been urban entities such as retail outlets and recreational businesses that have championed daylight saving over the decades.”
After the 1919 repeal, there was chaos in the US, with some cities and states continuing to shift their clocks while others did not. In 1966, the Uniform Time Act was passed, which put into place the DST standard used in the US today (although certain states, namely Hawaii and Arizona, opt out).
Since the beginning, DST has been surrounded by controversy, with many arguing against it even to this day. There is reason to believe that not only does DST not conserve energy, but it may actually be putting the health of modern-day humans at risk.
The first Monday after Daylight Saving Time begins each March is met with grumbles across the US, as most lose one precious hour of sleep. This might seem inconsequential, but research is mounting showing that even slight changes to your circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle) can be detrimental to your health… yes, even tweaking it by just one hour.
Recent research presented at the annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology revealed that the risk of having a heart attack on the Monday following DST rose by 25 percent compared to other Mondays.
At the end of the summer, when clocks are turned back one hour so that people get an extra hour of sleep, the risk of heart attack fell by 21 percent.2 Past research has similarly shown that the disruption to sleep schedules triggered by DST may pose a risk to your heart:
- Research published in the March 2013 edition of the American Journal of Cardiology showed a small rise in heart attack rates the Sunday following the shift to DST, along with a small tick downward the Sunday following the change back to standard time.3
- A 2012 University of Alabama study found that heart attacks increased by 10 percent on the Monday and Tuesday following the time change to DST. Heart attacks again decreased by 10 percent on the first Monday and Tuesday after clocks are switched back in the fall.4
- A 2008 Swedish study found your chances of having a heart attack increase in the first three weekdays after the switch to DST, and decrease after you set your clock back to standard time in the fall. Heart attacks increase by five percent the first Monday after the time change, and 10 percent on Tuesday.5
DST actually leads to a host of issues for health and personal safety. One Washington University neuroscientist told CBS News that adjusting clocks forward one hour corresponds with a significant increase in traffic accidents and heart attacks6 over the next two to three days.7
One study also found that the spring transition, which causes a phase advance, is particularly hard on the average person’s sleep-wake cycle,8 and while it’s generally thought that the loss of one hour of sleep on the night of the change is inconsequential, research suggests otherwise. According to a report in Sleep Medicine Reviews:9
“…data suggests that increased sleep fragmentation and sleep latency present a cumulative effect of sleep loss [following the spring transition], at least across the following week, perhaps longer.
The autumn transition is often popularized as a gain of 1 h[our] of sleep but there is little evidence of extra sleep on that night. The cumulative effect of five consecutive days of earlier rise times following the autumn change again suggests a net loss of sleep across the week.
Indirect evidence of an increase in traffic accident rates, and change in health and regulatory behaviors which may be related to sleep disruption suggest that adjustment to daylight saving time is neither immediate nor without consequence.”
Case in point, research also shows that daylight saving time leads to increases in workplace injuries (frequency and severity)10 as well as delays in reaction time that affect performance.11 Additionally:
- Suicides: Suicide rates for males rise in the weeks following the start of DST.12
- Automobile Accidents: Traffic accidents increase by eight percent on the Monday following the changeover to DST.13 And fatal alcohol-related traffic accidents increase for the first week after setting the clocks ahead.14 Workplace accidents and injuries increase by 5.7 percent, and 67.6 percent more workdays are lost as a result of injuries following the change to DST.15
- Productivity and Quality of Life: People are less productive once DST is implemented. Till Roenneberg, a Russian chronobiologist, reports that most people show “drastically decreased productivity,” decreased quality of life, increased illness, and are “just plain tired” following the switch to DST.16
Disruptions to sleep tend to cascade outward throughout your entire body. There’s a lot we still don’t know, but increasingly more that we do – and one hour really does make a difference.
Research has shown, for instance, that when participants cut their sleep from 7.5 to 6.5 hours a night there were increases in the expression of genes associated with inflammation, immune excitability, diabetes, cancer risk, and stress.17 In other words, getting just one hour less sleep a night may raise your risk of multiple chronic diseases. Interrupted or impaired sleep can also:
- Increase your risk of heart disease and cancer
- Harm your brain by halting new neuron production. Sleep deprivation can increase levels of corticosterone (a stress hormone), resulting in fewer new brain cells being created in your hippocampus
- Contribute to a pre-diabetic, insulin-resistant state, making you feel hungry even if you've already eaten, which can lead to weight gain
- Contribute to premature aging by interfering with your growth hormone production, normally released by your pituitary gland during deep sleep (and during certain types of exercise, such as high-intensity interval training)
- Increase your risk of dying from any cause
The health risks might be worth it if you could prove that Daylight Saving Time was resulting in major gains elsewhere, such as energy conservation. But the truth is, the energy conservation touted when DST became a national standard likely no longer apply because, in the 21st century, most people are not spending that extra daylight hour outside in the sunshine – they’re spending it indoors where it’s cool.
The irony is that the air conditioner costs far more energy to run than do the lights…The fact is, Daylight Saving Time is not actually saving anything… more accurately, we are sacrificing our health and safety due to this outdated and impractical time change. As reported by History:18
“Dating back to Willett, daylight saving advocates have touted energy conservation as an economic benefit. A U.S. Department of Transportation study in the 1970s concluded that total electricity savings associated with daylight saving time amounted to about 1 percent in the spring and fall months.
As air conditioning has become more widespread, however, more recent studies have found that cost savings on lighting are more than offset by greater cooling expenses. University of California Santa Barbara economists calculated that Indiana’s move to statewide daylight saving time in 2006 led to a 1-percent rise in residential electricity use through additional demand for air conditioning on summer evenings and heating in early spring and late fall mornings. Some also argue that increased recreational activity during daylight saving results in greater gasoline consumption.”
Small shifts in circadian timing occur all the time, not only due to Daylight Saving Time. In the 21st century, many people ignore their body's internal clocks, either by necessity (working the night shift or remotely with co-workers across the globe) or choice (staying up late surfing the Web or watching TV).
People are increasingly pushing the limits of their body clocks, getting up early and staying up late for a myriad of reasons. These reasons, it turns out, may not be worth it when it comes to your long-term health. Making small adjustments to your daily routine and sleeping area can go a long way to ensure uninterrupted, restful sleep and, thereby, better health. I suggest you read through my full set of 33 healthy sleep guidelines for all of the details, but to start, consider implementing the following changes:
- Avoid watching TV or using your computer in the evening, at least an hour or so before going to bed. These devices emit blue light, which tricks your brain into thinking it's still daytime. Normally, your brain starts secreting melatonin between 9 and 10 pm, and these devices emit light that may stifle that process. Even the American Medical Association now states:19
- Make sure you get BRIGHT sun exposure regularly. Your pineal gland produces melatonin roughly in approximation to the contrast of bright sun exposure in the day and complete darkness at night. If you are in darkness all day long, it can't appreciate the difference and will not optimize your melatonin production.
- Sleep in complete darkness, or as close to it as possible. Even the slightest bit of light in your bedroom can disrupt your body’s clock and your pineal gland's melatonin production. Even the tiniest glow from your clock radio could be interfering with your sleep, so cover your radio up at night or get rid of it altogether. Move all electrical devices at least three feet away from your bed. You may want to cover your windows with drapes or blackout shades.
- Install a low-wattage yellow, orange, or red light bulb if you need a source of light for navigation at night. Light in these bandwidths does not shut down melatonin production in the way that white and blue bandwidth light does. Salt lamps are handy for this purpose.
- Keep the temperature in your bedroom no higher than 70 degrees F. Many people keep their homes too warm (particularly their upstairs bedrooms). Studies show that the optimal room temperature for sleep is between 60 to 68 degrees.
- Take a hot bath 90 to 120 minutes before bedtime. This increases your core body temperature, and when you get out of the bath it abruptly drops, signaling your body that you are ready to sleep.
- Avoid using loud alarm clocks. Being jolted awake each morning can be very stressful. If you are regularly getting enough sleep, you might not even need an alarm.
- Get some sun in the morning, if possible. Your circadian system needs bright light to reset itself. Ten to 15 minutes of morning sunlight will send a strong message to your internal clock that day has arrived, making it less likely to be confused by weaker light signals during the night. More sunlight exposure is required as you age.
- Be mindful of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in your bedroom. EMFs can disrupt your pineal gland and its melatonin production, and may have other negative biological effects as well. A gauss meter is required if you want to measure EMF levels in various areas of your home.
By Dr. Kelly Brogan
Psychoneuroimmunology. This is what I aim to practice. Medical terms of this length command our respect for the interconnectedness of different subspecialties, for the futile segmentation and compartmentalization of the body into different organ systems.
As discussed in this previous article I wrote for Dr. Mercola, deconstructing the serotonin model of depression, psychiatry is in a crisis. It can no longer stand on its own, throwing more and more medications at its perceived target.
It seems, therefore, fitting that psychiatry would follow the investigative path of other lifestyle-triggered chronic diseases such as cancer, autoimmunity, and heart disease. There already exists a bidirectional relationship between all of the major chronic diseases and psychiatric diagnoses (patients who struggle with chronic diseases are more likely to be depressed and vice versa).
The role of inflammation, across these disease states, is better elucidated each day. Let's deconstruct what is known as it applies to mental health.
In this model, depression is a non-specific fever that tells us little about what is actually causing the body to react and protect itself in this way. The body is "hot" and we need to understand why. Depressive symptoms are the manifestation of many downstream effects on hormones and neurotransmitters, but if we swim up to the source, we will find a river of inflammatory markers coursing by.
The source itself may be singularly or multiply-focused as stress, dietary, and toxic exposures, and infection, as we will discuss here. As explored in the medical literature,1 inflammation appears to be a highly relevant determinant of depressive symptoms such as flat mood, slowed thinking, avoidance, alterations in perception, and metabolic changes. We understand this relationship based on:
Psychiatrists have longed to be legitimized in their role as science-based physicians. Despite this, there are no diagnostic tests that are validated for the assessment of psychiatric pathology. In the practice of functional medicine, however, the diagnosis becomes secondary to the individual's personalized interplay of factors and the "biomarkers" that can light the way toward healing.
Cytokines in the blood, or inflammatory messengers, such as CRP, IL-1, IL-6, and TNF-alpha have taken the stage as predictive2 and linearly3 correlative with depression.
Researchers have validated4 that, in melancholic depression, bipolar disorder, and postpartum depression, white blood cells called monocytes express pro-inflammatory genes leading to secretion of cytokines, while simultaneously leading to decreased cortisol sensitivity, the body's stress hormone and inflammatory buffer – a feedforward cycle.
Once triggered in the body, these inflammatory agents transfer information to the nervous system, typically through stimulation of major nerves such as the vagus, which connects5 the gut and brain. Specialized cells called microglia in the brain represent the brain's immune hubs and are activated in inflammatory states.
In activated microglia, an enzyme called IDO (indoleamine 2 3-dioxygenase) has been shown6 to direct tryptophan away from the production of serotonin and melatonin and towards the production of an NMDA agonist called quinolinic acid that may be responsible for symptoms of anxiety and agitation.
These are just some of the changes that may conspire to let your brain in on what your body may know is wrong.
While an animal model of depression may seem like an absurd idea, currently, lipopolysaccharide (LPS), an endotoxin produced by gram-negative bacteria, is used to induce these clinical models in rodents.
Mice that lack IL1-B7 (a cytokine that mediates inflammatory response), however, are protected against these LPS-mediated "depressive symptoms" (i.e., as demonstrated by loss of interest in sugar water), supporting the critical role of inflammatory messengers in the depressogenic cascade.
One of the most predictable side effects of interferon therapy for Hepatitis C is depression. In fact, 45 percent of patients develop depression8 with interferon treatment, which appears to be related to elevated levels of inflammatory cytokines IL-6 and TNF.
A number of trials have examined the role of anti-inflammatory agents in the treatment of depression. In one recent trial,9 a subset of patients resistant to antidepressant treatment and identified by serum markers of inflammation, most notably C-reactive protein >3mg/L, were responsive to treatment with the TNF-alpha antagonist (anti-inflammatory) infliximab (Remicade).
The pain-killer celecoxib (Celebrex) has been found in randomized, placebo-controlled trials10 to be superior to placebo in antidepressant augmentation. In the setting of psoriasis treatment with etanercept (Enbrel), mood was improved11 independent of psoriatic relief.
There has even been suggestion that the mechanism of action of antidepressants is through an anti-inflammatory effect, particularly on IL6. However, these observational studies have been largely inconclusive.12
What is driving this inflammation? How does it get kicked off? And how does it induce depression? With the limited clinical applications and revelations that came with the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2002, we have begun to focus on where we have outsourced our physiologic functions.
The microbiome has become an important consideration, and particularly, the gut, which houses at least 10 times as many human cells as there are in our bodies, and 150 times as many genes as are in our genome. These microbes control many vital operations and are responsible for synthesis of neuroactive and nutritional compounds, for immune modulation, and for inflammatory signaling.
Our greatest interface with the environment is the 70+ percent of your immune system housed in your gut wall. Disturbances in gut microbiota, autoimmunity, head injury, childbirth, and infection can all trigger systemic inflammation. This immune activity takes the form of a TH1 dominant cellular response in which macrophages produce ILI, IL6, and TNFalpha, all of which have been shown to be elevated in the setting of depression.
The communication between our guts and brains appears to rely, in part, on the vagus nerve, and is bidirectional in nature as reported in this 12-year prospective study13 that looked at relationships between gut problems like irritable bowel disease, anxiety, and depression.
The stage is set for the microbiome when we descend the vaginal canal and are breastfed. Unfortunately, the rate of cesarean sections doubled from 1990-2008, comprising one-third of US births. Maternal inflammatory states and diseases such as type 1 diabetes can increase risk of surgical birth, as can interventions such as ultrasound, 14 monitoring, and the epidural.15 Without vaginal transfer of mom's flora, the baby misses out on the most important inoculation.
A study16 of 24 Canadian babies at four months demonstrated that elective section resulted in the most diminished bacterial diversity. Surgically born babies had significantly less Bacteroides and Escherichia-Shigella species. In this cohort, formula-fed babies had overrepresentation of Clostridium difficile, Peptostreptococcaceae, and Verrucomicrobiaceae. Excitingly, research is being done on "vaginal swabs" for inoculation in the setting of C-section.17
In our nationwide departure from physiologic birth and breastfeeding, less than one-quarter of women can be expected to be nursing by 12 months postpartum. Breast milk18 contains unique nutrients for beneficial bacteria called oligosaccharides, but importantly, it is the vital follow up to the mother's vaginal flora, designed to support the baby's immune system during its infancy marked by an "anti-inflammatory" phenotype. During these first few months, the baby relies on the mother's breast milk to help inform its immune system of what is dangerous.
Over the course of lactation beginning with colostrum, the makeup of these bacteria and growth factors changes.19 A recent study20 confirms that mom's gut bacteria are vertically transferred through breast milk and that this "entero-mammary" connection is what helps to develop the baby's immune system. This is the beginning of natural immunity, which is so much more complex than vaccinologists would have you believe.
One of the many problems with formula is the glaring omission of these microbes leaving the baby susceptible to colonization by inappropriate strains, suboptimal diversity, and stimulation of the immune system by many of the toxic compounds in this synthetic food. In fact, infants fed breast milk had an anti-inflammatory cytokine milieu throughout infancy.21 Here22 is a stunning analysis of formula shortcomings.
Interestingly, this rat study23 demonstrated that the types of bacteria in the guts of these rat pups determined their response to stress on a physiologic level, and that it was more difficult to correct later in their rat-infancy. The gut bacteria influenced behavior and brain growth in these animals. I speak about some of the impediments to adequate milk supply here,24 but formula feeding25 in the hospital and "supplementation" is a major offender.
Often processed with genetically modified oils in high glycemic foods, gluten is a brain and body poison. Its havoc begins in the gut, where it promotes intestinal permeability by upregulating a compound called zonulin. Local gut inflammation (often lectin-induced) precedes more systemic inflammatory responses accompanied by antibodies to the different components of gluten (gliadin and glutenin), complexes with enzymes called transglutaminase, and to tissue in the brain, gut, and thyroid through a process called molecular mimicry.
The neurologic effects of gluten intolerance include depression, seizures, headaches, multiple sclerosis/demyelination, anxiety, ADHD, ataxia, neuropathy as discussed here and here. Independent of the brain effects already discussed, gliadin peptides may travel through the blood stream and can stimulate opiate receptors in the brain, resulting in their being termed gliadorphins, accounting for temporary withdrawal symptoms! Get the full scoop in my anti-gluten missive.
In the past year, there has been an explosion of terrifying information on the impact of herbicides like Monsanto's Roundup (glyphosate) on our gut microbiome. As it turns out, this chemical is very active in slaughtering beneficial bugs in your intestines via its impact on the "shikimate pathway" previously assumed not to exist in humans.
By imbalancing this flora, pesticides/herbicides also disrupt the production of essential amino acids like tryptophan, a serotonin precursor, and promote production of p-cresol, a compound that interferes with metabolism of other "xenobiotics" or environmental chemicals, making the individual more vulnerable to their toxic effects. Even vitamin D3 activation in the liver may be negatively impacted by glyphosate's effect on liver enzymes, potentially explaining epidemic levels of deficiency.
We also have evidence26 that insecticidal toxins such as “Bt” are transferred into the blood of pregnant women and their fetuses, and that glyphosate herbicide transfers to breast milk. Delve27 into this fascinating analysis of what we are learning about these chemicals in our food supply. Genetic modification of foods, in addition to guaranteeing exposure to pest and herbicides, confer risks of gene transference to human gut bacteria, even after a singular exposure.
Most people think of ibuprofen as an innocuous, over–the-counter comfort for aches and pains. Some are so lulled into a sense of safety and efficacy, that they keep these pills in their purses and nightstands for even daily use. In addition to other known risks, its effects on the small and large intestine may be best summarized by this statement:28
"The initial biochemical local sub-cellular damage is due to the entrance of the usually acidic NSAID into the cell via damage of the brush border cell membrane and disruption of the mitochondrial process of oxidative phosphorylation, with consequent ATP deficiency"
For anyone who recognizes the role of brush border integrity and energy production in health, this is quite a damning assertion. We need the gut lining to keep the gut contents away from the blood stream. Resulting increases in permeability allow for luminal factors (intestinal contents) to access the immune system and to set off autoimmune and inflammatory processes. More recent evidence29 suggests that unbalanced gut bacteria set the stage for NSAID-induced permeability through neutrophil stimulation. These changes occur within three to six months. There are no ways to mitigate these negative effects, which argues for getting to the root of why one is experiencing pain and resolving it through lifestyle change rather than suppressing it with medications that will whack-a-mole their way to new, chronic, and potentially more debilitating symptoms.
The monoamine hypothesis of depression has very little to say about brain/hormone interplay. The majority of studies30suggest that depression is associated with high cortisol states, and potentially from responses of this stress-system that were ingrained at birth or before. In the context of inflammation, however, cortisol, prolactin, and sex hormones are often dysregulated; in this model, depression is thought to represent a hypercortisolemic state which may result from elevated levels of inflammatory cytokines.
Peripheral glucocorticoid resistance may exacerbate this elevation in cortisol (by interfering with feedback mechanisms) and immune response, simultaneously, which would also drive changes in sex hormones progesterone, insulin, and androgens31 ultimately affecting mood states. Sleep is often compromised in states of stress, and sleep difficulties can also beget stress. The inflammatory effects of insufficient sleep were quantified in a study32 that deprived participants of sleep (just under six hours) for one week resulting in expression of genes associated with oxidative stress and inflammation.
Restoring optimal gut flora requires a variety of interventions, but beginning with a grain- and dairy-free diet, eliminating sugar, and genetically modified foods is a good place to start. Remember the role of LPS in depression? How depressive patients are more likely to have intestinal permeability allowing for toxic intestinal agents to circulate in their bodies? A traditional/ancestral diet may be an important modulator, according to Selhub et al. who state:33
"Traditional dietary practices have completely divergent effects of blood LPS levels; significant reductions (38%) have been noted after a one-month adherence to a prudent (traditional) diet, while the Western diet provokes LPS elevations."
For some, a FODMAPs diet may be indicated, and for others, a GAPs or Specific Carbohydrate Diet. This dietary approach will also confer the insulin stabilizing benefits of a high-fat, slower burning metabolic shift which protects cortisol, thyroid, and sex hormones. Increasing natural fats may also serve to protect the 60 percent lipid content of the central nervous system, precursors to hormones, and cell membrane composition while stabilizing blood sugar. I discuss three changes to make here.34
Herbs and spices may also play a palliative role in depression through their anti-inflammatory effects. Curcumin, a polyphenol in the Indian spice turmeric with elaborate anti-inflammatory mechanisms was recently found to be as effective as Prozac in small a randomized study I discuss here.35 Fermented foods, a part of traditional cultural diets, would also play a beneficial role, in this paradigm of microbiome-oriented, diet-supported mental health in ways stated here:36
"'This could manifest, behaviorally, via magnified antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, reduction of intestinal permeability and the detrimental effects of LPS, improved glycemic control, positive influence on nutritional status (and therefore neurotransmission and neuropeptide production), direct production of GABA, and other bioactive chemicals, as well as a direct role in gut-to-brain communication via a beneficial shift in the intestinal microbiota itself.' In this way, we use bacteria to modify our own bacteria and subsequently dampen inflammatory signals."
In a brilliant review entitled "Psychobiotics: A Novel Class of Psychotropic," Dinan et al tour us through the role of probiotics (therapeutic live organisms ingested as a supplement or as part of a fermented food) in mental health. Acknowledging the data for inflammatory cytokines influencing mood states, and the role of gut bacteria in triggering these cytokines, they review the available literature supporting antidepressant effects of probiotics. There is speculation that anti-inflammatory signaling through IL-10 may underpin probiotic efficacy.
For example, "germ-free" mice exposed to stress experienced normalization of their cortisol response after inoculation with Bifidus infantis. In a related experiment testing the stress of maternal separation, adult rodent behavior was normalized with this inoculation despite persistent cortisol changes. Lactobacilli, on the other hand, improved both parameters. In human adults with irritable bowel syndrome, depression and anxiety symptoms improved with administration of Bifidus, and in the setting of chronic fatigue, subjects experienced improvement in anxiety with Lactobacillus casei, relative to placebo.
In a recent double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized study, subjects receiving B. longum and L. helveticus for 30 days experienced improvement on the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, with decrease in urinary free cortisol. A probiotic-containing yogurt was also found to improve mood within 20 days in elderly volunteers. Intriguingly, a three-arm study39 looked at women consuming a fermented milk beverage three times a day vs milk vs nothing, found that those in the probiotic group had MRI-based changes related to midbrain emotional processing.
Activating the relaxation nervous system – the one that allows us to "rest and digest" – is an effective means of easing symptoms and restoring an anti-inflammatory state. You can start with something as simple as listening to a guided meditation for several minutes a day and working up to 20 minutes twice a day for a therapeutic effect.
The interconnectedness of your gut, brain, immune, and hormonal systems is impossible to unwind. Until we begin to appreciate this complex relationship, we will not be able to prevent or intervene effectively in depression, slated to become the second-leading cause of disability in this country, within the decade. For true healing, and meaningful prevention, take steps every day toward sending your body the message that it is not being attacked, it is not in danger, and it is well nourished, well supported, and calm.
As a society, we can begin to think about protecting the microbiome by demedicalizing birth and infant nutrition, and as individuls, by avoiding antibiotics, NSAIDs, grains, genetically modified and non-organic food. Promising interventions for depression from a gut-brain perspective include probiotics, fermented foods as part of a high natural fat diet, and relaxation response for optimal digestion, anti-inflammatory and insulin sensitizing effects. No antidepressant medication required!
By Dr. Mercola
For the last 17 years, I've warned that artificial sweeteners can wreck your health. Aspartame is among the worst of the bunch, and in general, people who consume aspartame tend to be in poorer health. They also tend to develop more of a sweet tooth.
I found the evidence against artificial sweeteners to be so compelling, and the hazards so disconcerting, I wrote an entire book on the subject called Sweet Deception, published in 2006. Now, years later, the research I presented in that book has been confirmed many times over, and the tide is finally beginning to turn against this toxic food additive.
Soda consumption is now in "freefall," having dropped to its lowest point since 1995, according to Time Magazine,1 with diet sodas taking the greatest hit.
Sales of carbonated beverages in general fell three percent in 2013, while diet Coke and diet Pepsi both dropped by nearly seven percent. Sales of Diet Mountain Dew also fell more sharply than regular Mountain Dew.2 As reported by Time Magazine:3
"One reason for the decline could be a growing awareness of the obesity epidemic in the US and growing health concerns surrounding sugar-sweetened beverages. According to Reuters, industry experts say the beverage industry is shrinking under the scrutiny. Even diet-branded drinks have suffered a loss of sales with concerns over artificial sweeteners."
It is very gratifying to see this turn of events, knowing we're making a difference. Also, quite frankly, I'm tired of writing about something this obviously harmful. I'll be happy to move on to other challenges that threaten your health.
Most recently, one of the largest studies of its kind, which included nearly 60,000 post-menopausal women who were followed for about 10 years, found that drinking just two diet drinks a day can dramatically increase your risk of an early death from heart disease.4, 5 The findings were presented at the American College of Cardiology's 63rd Annual Scientific Session in Washington, DC.6 As reported by the University of Iowa:7
"...[C]ompared to women who never or only rarely consume diet drinks, those who consume two or more a day are 30 percent more likely to have a cardiovascular event [heart attack or stroke] and 50 percent more likely to die from related disease.
'This is one of the largest studies on this topic, and our findings are consistent with some previous data, especially those linking diet drinks to the metabolic syndrome,' says Dr. Ankur Vyas... the lead investigator of the study.
...The association persisted even after researchers adjusted the data to account for demographic characteristics and other cardiovascular risk factors, including body mass index, smoking, hormone therapy use, physical activity, energy intake, salt intake, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and sugar-sweetened beverage intake.
On average, women who consumed two or more diet drinks a day were younger, more likely to be smokers, and had a higher prevalence of diabetes, high blood pressure, and higher body mass index."
Granted, there are limitations to this study. The nutritional data was gathered using questionnaires, and people are notorious for not remembering exactly what they eat and drink each week. So while there's an association, the study cannot prove causation.
Still, other studies have come to the same conclusion, so these findings simply add to an already voluminous pile of evidence showing an association between artificial sweeteners and poor health outcomes.
According to Susie Swithers, a professor of psychological sciences at Purdue University who studies the effects of artificial sweeteners in animals, the featured findings are not at all surprising. Her animal research also shows that diet drinks promote heart problems, and that animals fed artificial sweeteners develop a disrupted metabolic response to real sugar. She recently told MedicineNet.com:8
"[Like diabetics], they become hyperglycemic. Their blood sugars go up higher than they should. They also make less of a heart-protective protein. If drinking diet soda interferes with this system, then over the long term you're taking something away that protects your cardiovascular health, and that could be what's contributing to these effects."
Regular soda drinking is also strongly associated with obesity and poor health. This link is easier to grasp however, since more people understand the health hazards of excessive sugar consumption nowadays.
The fact that low- or no-calorie sweeteners do as much harm (or more!) than sugar, on the other hand, has seemed, and still seems, counterintuitive to many. Fortunately, this confusion is beginning to lessen. In fact, we may finally have reached the tipping point where enough people understand the hazards, which means the end of aspartame and other artificial sweeteners is near.
Despite being promoted for weight loss, foods and beverages with artificial sweeteners have never actually been proven to help weight loss. On the contrary, studies that look at this actually find artificial sweeteners promote weight gain. Part of the reason why artificial sweeteners don't work as advertised (such as help you lose weight and manage your insulin) relates to the fact that your body is not fooled by sweet taste without accompanying calories.9
Scientific American10 previously ran an article explaining the science behind this phenomenon. In a nutshell, when you eat something sweet, your brain releases dopamine, which supplies you with a jolt of pleasure. Your brain's reward center is activated.
The appetite-regulating hormone leptin is also released, which eventually informs your brain that you are "full" once a certain amount of calories have been ingested. In contrast, when you consume something sweet but non-caloric (i.e. an artificial sweetener), your brain's pleasure pathway is still activated by the sweet taste, but there's nothing to deactivate it, since your body is still waiting for the calories. As a result, you may end up overeating.
Another recent report published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism11 found that diet soda drinkers suffer the same exact health problems as those who opt for regular soda, including excessive weight gain, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.12, 13 The sad fact is, Americans in particular are addicted to sweet flavors, which appears to trigger a complex set of biological systems, pathways, and mechanisms that in the end leads to excess weight gain—whether that flavor comes loaded with calories or not.
The connection between sweet taste alone and increased hunger can be found in the medical literature going back at least two decades. These two studies, for example, dating back to the late 80s and early 90s, both showed this link between artificial sweeteners and increased hunger:
- Physiology & Behavior, 198814 – In this study, they determined that intense (no- or low-calorie) sweeteners can produce significant changes in appetite. Of the three sweeteners tested, aspartame produced the most pronounced effects.
- Physiology & Behavior, 199015 – Here, they again evaluated whether or not the mere taste of "sweet" increases hunger, by having human subjects chew gum for 15 minutes containing various levels of aspartame (0.05%, 0.3%, 0.5%, or 1.0%).
Interestingly, although those who chewed artificially sweetened gum reported increased hunger compared to the control group who were given nothing or unsweetened gum base to chew, the increase did not directly correlate with the aspartame concentration in the gum.
Women experienced the greatest increase in hunger after chewing gum containing 0.3 percent aspartame (the second lowest concentration amount), while men were the hungriest after chewing on gum containing 0.5 percent aspartame. The authors stated:
"The highest aspartame concentrations had a time-dependent, biphasic effect on appetite, producing a transient decrease followed by a sustained increase in hunger ratings. Thus, the concentration of the sweetener, the sex of the subject, and the time after chewing, were all important determinants of whether 'sweetness' increased hunger."
Aspartame is primarily made up of aspartic acid and phenylalanine. The phenylalanine has been synthetically modified to carry a methyl group, which provides the majority of the sweetness. That phenylalanine methyl bond, called a methyl ester, is very weak, which allows the methyl group on the phenylalanine to easily break off and form methanol.
You may have heard the claim that aspartame is harmless because methanol is also found in fruits and vegetables. However, in fruits and vegetables, the methanol is firmly bonded to pectin, allowing it to be safely passed through your digestive tract. Not so with the methanol created by aspartame; there it's not bonded to anything that can help eliminate it from your body. That's problem number one.
Problem number two relates to the fact that humans are the only mammals who are NOT equipped with a protective biological mechanism that breaks down methanol into harmless formic acid. This is why animal testing of aspartame does not fully apply to humans. According to Dr. Woody Monte, a toxicology expert and professor emeritus at Arizona State University in food and chemistry:
"There is a major biochemical problem here. Methyl alcohol is known now, and has been known since 1940, to be metabolized differently by humans from every other animal."
As explained by Dr. Monte, in humans, the methanol ends up acting as a Trojan horse, and here's how. Both animals and humans have small structures called peroxisomes in each cell. There are a couple of hundred in every cell of your body, which are designed to detoxify a variety of chemicals. Peroxisome contains catalase, which help detoxify methanol. Other chemicals in the peroxisome convert the formaldehyde to formic acid, which is harmless, but, again, this last step occurs only in animals. Human peroxisomes cannot convert the toxic formaldehyde into harmless formic acid.
So to recap: in humans, the methyl alcohol travels through your blood vessels into sensitive areas, such as your brain, that are loaded with ADH, which converts methanol to formaldehyde. And since there's no catalase present, the formaldehyde is free to cause enormous damage in your tissues. Symptoms from methanol poisoning are many, and include headaches, ear buzzing, dizziness, nausea, gastrointestinal disturbances, weakness, vertigo, chills, memory lapses, numbness and shooting pains in the extremities, behavioral disturbances, and neuritis.
The most well known problems from methanol poisoning are vision problems including misty vision, progressive contraction of visual fields, blurring of vision, obscuration of vision, retinal damage, and blindness. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen that causes retinal damage, interferes with DNA replication and may cause birth defects. Not surprisingly, the most comprehensive and longest human study looking at aspartame toxicity found a clear association between aspartame consumption and non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and leukemia.
As consumers increasingly avoid artificial sweeteners like aspartame, Splenda, and others, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are trying to save their sinking business by developing the next generation of artificial sweeteners. In my opinion, it's doubtful that these newer sweeteners will be any safer than previous versions, but it may fool many, because these newer additives won't be listed on the label.
As reported by The Motley Fool,16 PepsiCo now has worldwide exclusive rights to use Sweetmyx (S617) in non-alcoholic beverages. The sweetener, developed by Senomyx—a biotech company that specializes in novel flavor modifiers and flavor enhancing food additives—was recently granted Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status,17, 18 which opens the door for commercial use. (Firmenich has lifetime rights to commercialize Sweetmyx for alcoholic beverages and food products.)
The crux here is that Sweetmyx is considered a flavor additive, which allows it to slip beneath the radar. It will simply be lumped together under the "artificial flavors" listing on the label, and doesn't have to go through the FDA approval process.
The reason for this is because it's not actually a sweetener per say. Rather, it is a flavor modifier; a chemical substance (protected as a trade secret) that tricks the taste receptors on your tongue to send the message to your brain that what you're tasting is sweeter than it really is. Hence, less fructose or sugar can be used in the product, while still providing the same sweet taste. But as discussed earlier, such tricks tend to backfire, and could create unsuspected metabolic havoc. At present, no one knows exactly what the ramifications might be.
Sweetened beverages, whether it's sweetened with sugar, HFCS, naturally-occurring fructose, or artificial sweeteners, are among the worst culprits causing obesity and related health problems, including diabetes and heart and liver disease, just to name a few. Remember that sweetened beverages also include flavored milk products, bottled teas, and "enhanced" water products. I'd be leery of anything listing "artificial flavors" as well—especially if the products boasts being low in sugar.
Ditching ALL of these types of beverages can go a long way toward reducing your risk for chronic health problems and weight gain. Your best, most cost effective choice of beverage is filtered tap water. I strongly recommend using a high-quality water filtration system unless you can verify the purity of your water. You can read more about water filtration in this previous article to help you make a decision about what type of water filtration system will suit you best. Since most water sources are now severely polluted, the issue of water filtration and purification couldn't be more important.
Besides purification, I also believe it's critical to drink living water. Last year, I interviewed Dr. Gerald Pollack about his book, The Fourth Phase of Water: Beyond Solid, Liquid, and Vapor. This fourth phase of water is referred to as "structured water" and is the type of water found in all of your cells. This water has healing properties, and is naturally created in a variety of ways.
Water from a deep spring is one excellent source of structured water, and there's a great website called FindaSpring.com19 where you can find a natural spring in your area. You can also promote structured water through vortexing, i.e. stirring your water, creating a vortex in the glass or pitcher.
If you're having a hard time giving up artificial sweeteners (they can be just as addictive as other sugars), I suggest trying the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). More than any traditional or alternative method I have used or researched, EFT works to overcome food cravings. If diet soda is the culprit for you, be sure to check out Turbo Tapping, which is an extremely effective and simple tool to get rid of your soda addiction in a short amount of time. If you still have cravings after trying EFT or Turbo Tapping, you may need to make additional changes to your diet. My free nutrition plan can help you do this in a step-by-step fashion.
As for a safer sweetener option, you could use stevia or Luo Han, both of which are safe natural sweeteners. Remember, if you struggle with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or extra weight, then you have insulin sensitivity issues and would likely benefit from avoiding ALL sweeteners, including stevia and Luo Han.
Last but not least, if you experience side effects from aspartame or any other artificial sweetener, please report it to the FDA (if you live in the United States) without delay. It's easy to make a report — just go to the FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator page, find the phone number for your state, and make a call reporting your reaction. As Terri LaPoint writes in her Inquisitr article:20
"Ironically, the manufacturer of aspartame, Searle, started working on finding a drug to combat memory loss shortly after FDA approval for aspartame to be used in carbonated drinks.
Aspartame is a neurotoxin. Even ants have sense enough to avoid it. Yet, diet drinks add this neurotoxic chemical as its sweetener, and they promote it as a heath food to a public that naively puts its trust in the experts. Then the manufacturers stand ready to offer you drugs to help you with your symptoms that they don't tell you are directly related to your diet sodas. It's a win-win situation for them, with the consumer as the loser. You don't lose weight. You lose health. Drink water. Drink tea. Drink regular soda – anything but the diet sodas. You just might live longer."
I couldn't agree more.
By Dr. Mercola
Another nail has been driven into the coffin of the low-fat diet. Three articles have recently appeared in prominent medical journals elucidating the fallacy of the saturated fat myth.
For nearly four decades, you've been urged to replace your dietary saturated fats with carbohydrates and omega-6 polyunsaturated fats in order to improve your metabolic profile and lower your cardiovascular risk.
Yet scientific evidence clearly shows that this advice has raised your heart attack risk, as well as your chance of developing a number of other life-threatening chronic diseases.
Studies have consistently failed to support any significant association between saturated fat intake and cardiovascular risk. In fact, saturated fat has been found to be cardioprotective if you are consuming the right kind.
Still, the government continues its mission to vilify cholesterol, largely fueled by the pharmaceutical industry for which statins have been among the most profitable drugs ever made.
Never mind what the research actually says about what's beneficial for your health. The real culprit behind cardiovascular disease is not saturated fat, but rather excess dietary sugar, and omega-6 fats, mostly from vegetable oils.
Interventional Cardiology Specialist Registrar in London Aseem Malhotra wrote an excellent scientific review in the British Medical Journal about what is known to date about saturated fat intake and heart disease, explaining how recent studies have not supported any significant association between saturated fat and cardiovascular risk.1
Malhotra reports that two-thirds of people admitted to hospitals with acute myocardial infarction have completely normal cholesterol levels. He also mentions a recently published randomly controlled trial that was stopped early after it showed that, in high risk people, the Mediterranean diet achieved a 30 percent improvement over a low-fat diet in terms of cardiovascular events. He concludes:
"The greatest improvements in morbidity and mortality have been due not to personal responsibility but rather to public health. It is time to bust the myth of the role of saturated fat in heart disease and wind back the harms of dietary advice that have contributed to obesity."
These findings were further crystallized by an international research team headed by University of Cambridge, which analyzed data from 72 separate studies about heart risk and fatty acid intake. This massive meta-analysis included data from 600,000 participants in 18 different countries.
The team concluded that saturated fat is NOT linked to coronary disease risk.2 They pointedly state that the science does not support the common nutritional guidelines for heart health, the mantra heard far and wide—a diet rich in polyunsaturated fats but low in saturated fats will reduce your risk for heart disease. This is a myth—and a deadly one.
In an excellent editorial in the journal Open Heart, research scientist and doctor of pharmacy James J. DiNicolantonio reviews the cardiometabolic consequences of replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates and omega-6 polyunsaturated fats.3 His points are summarized in the table below.
Potential Harms of Replacing Saturated Fat with Carbohydrates Shift to overall atherogenic lipid profile (lower HDL, increased triglycerides and increased ApoB/ApoA-1 ratio) Increased small, high-density LDL particles Increased oxidized LDL Reduced HDL Impaired glucose tolerance, higher body fat, weight gain, obesity, and diabetes The potential harms associated with replacing saturated fat with omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, which include increased risk of coronary disease and death4 Increased inflammation Increased thrombogenic markers Increased risk of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular events, and death from heart disease and increased overall mortality (all causes) Increased risk for cancer
In January 2009, the American Heart Association (AHA) published a "scientific advisory" recommending that you consume more omega-6 fats (mostly refined vegetable oils) and fewer saturated fats, as part of the "heart healthy" low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. In spite of ALL scientific data to the contrary, this is the rubbish still being recommended.
The AHA and other health authorities continue to ignore the fact that the standard American diet is overloaded with omega-6 fats (and poor-quality ones at that), while being severely deficient in critical omega-3s.
One of the primary problems with all oils derived from vegetable seeds is that they are major sources of omega-6 fats. Omega-6 fats are pro-inflammatory and contribute to insulin, leptin, and resistance, altering your mood and impairing learning and cell repair.
The science is loud and clear: the correct balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fats is essential if you want to be the healthiest you can be. There are actually two problems related to how these fats are being consumed by most Westerners today.
Omega-3 fats are the ones that are present in fish and krill oil and some seeds like flax, chia, and hemp. These are the essential fats that have EPA, DHA, and ALA fats that are present in your brain and cell membranes. Omega-6s are oils are high in other plants like corn, soy, safflower, and sunflower oils. All of these oils are required to be healthy, but largely due to processed foods and the use of industrialized oils most of us are consuming far too many omega-6 fats compared to omega-3 fats. The ideal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats likely ranges from 1:1 to 1:5, but the typical Western diet is between 1:20 and 1:50.
Most of us consume far too many omega-6 fats — AND the wrong ratio of these fats. Both omega-3 and omega-6 fats are PUFAs and they are essential to your health, but when omega-6 is consumed in excess, it becomes problematic — and even more so if it's damaged through processing. One of the problems with PUFAs is that they are very chemically unstable, and highly susceptible to being altered and denatured by what's around them. When you eat too many PUFAs, they are increasingly incorporated into your cell membranes.
Because these fats are unstable, your cells become fragile and prone to oxidation, which leads to all sorts of health problems, such as atherosclerosis. I believe a lack of omega-3 combined with an excess of industrialized omega-6 oils is a profoundly important and simple shift in diet that you need to address. High omega-6:3 ratios have also been associated with an increase in cancers, like melanoma. Bear in mind that you need both plant-derived and animal-derived fats for optimal health. For a complete discussion of the differences between types of dietary fat, omega-3 versus omega-6, DHA, EPA, etc., please refer to our comprehensive fatty acids overview.
The benefits of omega-3 fats are truly far-reaching. If you go to the omega-3 fat page on GreenMedInfo.com,5 you will see a long list of scientific studies supporting the benefits of omega-3 fats for hundreds of diseases, including drug-resistant cancer, bipolar disorder, autism, cystic fibrosis, hypertension, and atrial fibrillation—and those are just the tip of the iceberg. Omega-3 fats have powerful anti-inflammatory effects, proving extremely beneficial for inflammation-based disorders such as arthritis and bronchial asthma. Chronic inflammation is a major driver of so many of the diseases we see today, and omega-3 deficiency is a significant factor. Omega-3 deficiencies are associated with the following (which is far from an all-inclusive list):
- Inflammatory conditions: arthritis, stiff or painful joints, asthma, etc.
- Cognitive and emotional problems: depression, psychosis, learning disabilities, memory loss, poor concentration, etc.
- Metabolic dysfunction: weight gain, obesity, diabetes, food cravings
- Skin problems: allergies, acne, eczema, psoriasis, hives; dry, bumpy or flaky skin
- Heart or kidney problems, high blood pressure, or immune dysregulation
Of all the processed oils, canola has probably done the most damage to America's health. Canola consumption has skyrocketed over the past few decades, representing an enormous source of excess omega-6 fat. Unlike olive oil, which comes from olives, and avocado oil, which comes from avocados, canola doesn't come from the "canola plant"—there is no such thing. The word "canola" comes from "Canadian oil low acid," and is a genetically altered product of the rapeseed plant, part of the mustard family.
As discussed in a previous article by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, PhD, a genetic manipulation technique involving seed splitting was used to create this variety of rapeseed, which is low in erucic acid and high in oleic acid. This invention initially became known as LEAR oil, which stands for Low Erucic Acid Rapeseed.
Despite its GRAS status, no long term human safety studies have been done on canola oil. Meanwhile, animal studies on LEAR oil, "challenge not only the health claims made for canola oil, but also the theoretical underpinnings of the diet-heart hypothesis." In 1997, Canadian research showed that piglets fed milk replacement containing canola oil had signs of vitamin E deficiency, even though the milk replacement contained adequate amounts of vitamin E. Vitamin E protects cell membranes against free radical damage and is important for cardiovascular health.
A year later, the same research team found that piglets fed canola oil had decreased platelet count and an increase in platelet size. These results were reconfirmed in another study a year after that. Rats bred to have high blood pressure and being prone to stroke also had shortened life-spans when fed canola oil as the sole source of fat. Later research suggested the cause for this effect is the sterol compounds in the oil, which "make the cell membrane more rigid" and contribute to the shortened life-span of the animals. According to Fallon and Enig in "The Great Con-ola:"
"These studies all point in the same direction -- that canola oil is definitely not healthy for the cardiovascular system. Like rapeseed oil, its predecessor, canola oil is associated with fibrotic lesions of the heart. It also causes vitamin E deficiency, undesirable changes in the blood platelets and shortened life-span in stroke-prone rats when it was the only oil in the animals' diet. Furthermore, it seems to retard growth, which is why the FDA does not allow the use of canola oil in infant formula... Most interesting of all is the fact that many studies show that the problems with canola oil are not related to the content of erucic acid, but more with the high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and low levels of saturated fats...
There are indications that monounsaturated fats in excess and as the major type of fat can be a problem. Overabundance of oleic acid (the type of monounsaturated fatty acid in olive and canola oil) creates imbalances on the cellular level that can inhibit prostaglandin production. In one study, higher monounsaturated fat consumption was associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.
Even the dogma that monounsaturated fatty acids are good for the heart is at risk. According to a 1998 report, mice fed a diet containing monounsaturated fats were more likely to develop atherosclerosis than mice fed a diet containing saturated fat. In fact, the mice fed monounsaturated fats were even more prone to heart disease than those fed polyunsaturated fatty acids.
This means that the type of diet recommended in books like The Omega Diet -- low in protective saturates, bolstered with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and relying on monounsaturated fatty acids, whether from olive or canola oil, for the majority of fat calories -- may actually contribute to heart disease. Such diets have been presented with great marketing finesse, but we need to recognize them for what they are -- payola for the food companies and con-ola for the public."
The important point to remember about this is that the timing of the above events occurred BEFORE the widespread adoption of GMO canola oil. Now virtually all of the canola oil produced is glyphosate resistant and sprayed with one of the most toxic herbicides known to man. So now, not only do you have the concerns addressed above, but you have the additional health challenge of glyphosate residues to content with.
The best way to improve your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio and improve your heart health is to eat the following types of high-quality foods:
- Unprocessed organic oils such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocados and avocado oil, and organic butter—or better yet, raw butter from grass-pastured cows.
- Raw nuts and seeds, such as fresh organic flax seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and English walnuts, which are also high in omega-3s (ALA). Spirulina is an excellent source of GLA (gamma linolenic acid, a beneficial omega-6).6
- Meat from animals that are free-ranging and/or grass-fed, which are higher in beneficial omega-6s, such as natural CLA. If you have access to them, game meats such as venison are also high in beneficial fats. The article "Better Beef," written by California rancher Dave Evans, gives a great in-depth view of the many benefits of grass-fed beef.
- My favorite omega-3 fat supplement is krill oil. Egg yolks from pastured hens are also rich in beneficial omega-3s.
- Coconut oil, while not an omega-3 or omega-6 fat, is an extremely beneficial dietary fat with an "embarrassment of riches" for your heart, metabolism, immune system, skin and thyroid. Coconut oil's health benefits derive from its special medium-chain fatty acids.
By Dr. Mercola
Fish has always been the best source for the animal-based omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.
However, as the understanding of mercury's toxic effects has grown, it has become even more critical to ensure you are choosing the right fish so you can receive the benefits of the healthful fats that many low mercury fish provide, as explained recently by a leading expert from Harvard Medical School.1
The question of which fish you should eat and avoid is receiving renewed attention, as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stand poised to update the national advisory for fish consumption for pregnant women, nursing mothers, women of childbearing age, and young children.2
While the Agencies have yet to announce what the new advice will say, or when the updated advisory might be made public, the prospect of new recommendations have already unleashed a public relations fight.
Let's first understand how mercury winds up in our fish and seafood. It all circles back primarily to how most energy in the world is generated. Sadly, even in the 21st century the majority of U.S. man-made emissions are released from burning coal laced with mercury.
Combustion in power plants of coal containing mercury is a major source of environmental pollution. Mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants and other sources moves through the air and is deposited in water and finds its way into fish, accumulating especially in fish that are higher up the food chain.
The good news is that about 70 percent of tested wild caught fish consumed in the US contain relatively low levels of mercury.3 However, fish like tuna, marlin, shark, barracuda, and swordfish have some of the highest levels of contamination.
This is due to the fact that the oceans and thousands of water bodies have been seriously polluted. As a result, pregnant women who should be especially careful to consume the right types of fish. It is quite certain that consuming fish is a crucial part of your diet, but you should be sure to optimize with the right kinds of fish - to receive maximum benefits with minimal mercury exposure.
That's because the toxic heavy metal can cross the placenta to harm the rapidly developing nervous system, including the brain. Studies have associated prenatal methylmercury exposure with impaired development of sensory, motor, and cognitive functions, resulting in learning difficulties, poor coordination, and inability to concentrate.
About 10 percent of the US population—including many children, pregnant women, and women of childbearing age, in particular—have mercury levels above the levels currently recommended for fetal and child health.
The seafood industry is suggesting that the updated advisory will relax warnings against consuming certain fish containing high mercury levels. Industry executives, speaking last month at a trade show in Boston, said they expected the FDA to change the advisory in a way to get people to eat more tuna and other seafood. For example, John Connelly, president of the trade organization National Fisheries Institute has said:4
"Whether it be pregnant women, nursing moms, or guys [in their 50s], you're better off eating seafood, your risk is not eating enough seafood. I think the government is understanding that now."
Christopher Lischewski, chief executive of Bumble Bee Foods LLC, one of the largest canned tuna companies in North America, recently made a similar statement:5
"Based on the accurate science they've looked at since , FDA recognizes they made an error in 2004 in putting out a mercury advisory that had no scientific merit."
No scientific merit? That may be a stretch, as the industry appears to have overlooked more than a dozen epidemiology studies over the past decade that have reported adverse effects of mercury on brain development at levels as low as one-tenth of what was thought to be harmful ten years ago when the advisory was written.6 These studies found no threshold level below which prenatal methylmercury exposure has no adverse effects
The new Minamata Convention on Mercury,7 named after the fishing village in Japan where a severe poisoning incident occurred, has as its symbol a fish. That's because the treaty's main objective is to reduce human exposure to mercury through a range of provisions designed to reduce uses and emissions of mercury from major sources, like coal-fired power plants.
Time is of the essence when it comes to reducing mercury emissions. That's because mercury can circulate in the global environment for decades, making it "...likely to be several years or decades before reductions in mercury emissions have a demonstrable effect on mercury levels in nature and the food chain," according to the United Nations Environment Program.
In the meantime, sufficiently health protective mercury advisories are necessary to inform women of child bearing age about fish consumption both before and during pregnancy. Such advisories should try to balance two objectives:
- Promoting fish consumption for its nutritional benefits (including important benefits to the developing fetus)
- Protecting the exquisitely sensitive fetal nervous system from the toxic effects of methylmercury exposure
The 2004 EPA/FDA guidance instructs women of childbearing age, pregnant women, young children, and nursing mothers to limit their consumption of albacore tuna to a maximum of six ounces per week and abstain completely from swordfish, tilefish, shark, and king mackerel.
This is due to high mercury levels in these larger fish. According to the EPA/FDA advisory, some fish and shellfish "contain higher levels of mercury that may harm an unborn baby or young child's developing nervous system."
Unfortunately, while most consumers understand that (a) fish have significant health benefits, and (b) that fish contain mercury, most do not know which fish are high and low in mercury.
Rather than encouraging pregnant women to eat, say less tuna and more salmon, the industry insists (against the weight of scientific evidence) that all fish are beneficial, regardless of the mercury content, even though only a relatively small percentage of fish species have higher mercury levels.8
Which is why some of the fishing industry is now trying to "psych out" the FDA by predicting that the agency's new fish advisory will lean in their favor. This, however, may be little more than wishful thinking, as suggested in the Wall Street Journal:9, 10
"'It's 'wishful thinking' on the part of the seafood industry to think the updated advisory will tell those in the at-risk groups to eat more tuna,' said Carl Safina, president and founder of the environmental group Blue Ocean Institute. 'The FDA is considering changes to its advice,' he said. 'No one apparently knows what they are considering… so it's fantasy for fishermen to think the advice on tuna will be relaxed.'"
I've previously addressed the issue of what fish to safely eat during and before pregnancy, noting that while eating fish certainly has important health benefits, it's really critical to use discernment.
The challenge is to find and choose the 25 varieties of fish and shellfish that qualify as low or very low in mercury.11 Several of them are quite high in omega-3s. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon, for example, is one very low mercury fish. Tuna is by far the largest source of mercury exposure in our diet, and anyone who wants to reduce their mercury intake needs to eat less tuna. The tuna population has also been decimated due to over-fishing, I believe it is best to avoid tuna and make better choices when consuming seafood.
Last month, on behalf of the Mercury Policy Project (MPP) and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Earth Justice filed a lawsuit12, 13 against the FDA. The groups are suing FDA for failing to respond to a July 2011 petition in which the groups asked the Agency to give consumers clear, accurate and accessible information about toxic mercury in the seafood they eat.
According to Michael Bender, MPP's director, the FDA's recommendations are both out-of-date, and do not reach the people who need them most—pregnant women, parents of young children, and heavy fish eaters. A package label would rectify that problem. As reported by Bloomberg Business Week:14
"The Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Mercury Policy Project filed a lawsuit... against the Food and Drug Administration requesting regulations to label fish containing high levels of mercury and include information on what levels of consumption are safe. They also want the government to require supermarkets to display this information on signs at the fish counter...
According to the complaint, hundreds of thousands of children in the US. are born every year with elevated blood mercury levels caused by their mothers' consumption of fish and shellfish contaminated with methylmercury, a neurotoxin that has been linked to learning disabilities, lowered IQ, and impaired cognitive and nervous system functioning."
Despite the fact that the FDA is charged with consumer safety and protecting the public from harmful contaminants, it repeatedly falls short of this task. Thirteen years ago, the CSPI filed a petition with the FDA requesting warning labels on high-mercury fish,15 but the agency never responded. It was legally required to do so within 180 days. The current lawsuit seeks a court ordered deadline for the FDA to make a final decision on the issue.
Your total mercury exposure depends on two factors: which fish you eat and the amount of fish you eat. As noted by Bender, "this critical fact is often obscured by industry exhortations to 'eat more fish,' without regard to mercury content."
Mercury content can vary 100-fold from one species to another, so it certainly makes sense to pay close attention to which fish are on the high side and which are on the low end. For example, research16 published in 2010, which quantified the contributions to total mercury in the US seafood supply by 51 different varieties of fish and shellfish, found that tuna was responsible for more than one-third of Americans' total exposure to methylmercury.17 According to the author:
"The analysis performed here identifies the relative importance of different fish and shellfish as sources of mercury in the US seafood supply and proposes improved consumer advice, so that the public can benefit from fish consumption while minimizing mercury exposure. Except for swordfish, most fish with the highest mercury levels are relatively minor contributors to total inputs.
Tuna (canned light, canned albacore and fresh/frozen varieties) accounts for 37.4 percent of total mercury inputs, while two-thirds of the seafood supply and nine of the 11 most heavily consumed fish and shellfish are low or very low in mercury. Substantial improvement in risk communication about mercury in fish and seafood is needed; in particular, several population subsets need better guidance to base their seafood choices more explicitly on mercury content."
For a handy list that you can print out for reference, please see the Mercury Policy Project's guide to mercury levels in different varieties of fish and shellfish.18 Among the safest are shrimp and salmon. Canned tuna, mackerel, swordfish, grouper, marlin, and orange roughy have some of the highest levels of mercury levels. For even more information about mercury in fish, I recommend reviewing MPP's website, Mercury and Fish: The Facts.
A 2012 report19 by the Mercury Policy Project offers risk management advice for schools and parents, and warns that canned tuna is a major source of mercury exposure in children. Based on average contamination levels in tested samples, small children should eat light tuna no more than twice a month, and albacore tuna should be avoided entirely. The report also recommends that if your child eats tuna once per week or more, you should have their blood tested for mercury. If the result is over 5 micrograms per liter (ug/L), his or her consumption should be restricted.
Keep in mind that methylmercury harms a person's nervous system to differing degrees, depending on how much mercury you've accumulated. At above average doses, brain functions such as reaction time, judgment, and language can be impaired. At very high exposures, mercury can affect your ability to walk, speak, think, and see clearly. Another 2012 study20 that evaluated the effects of mercury on cognition in otherwise healthy adults found that those with blood mercury levels below 5 µg/L had the best cognitive functions. Mild impairment was evident at blood mercury levels of 5 to 15 µg/L and above 15 µg/L, cognition was significantly impaired.
Given the above facts, let the FDA know where you stand! To make your voice heard, email or call FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, either via email or a telephone call.
To contact FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg directly, you can call her at (301) 796-5000, or send her an email: Margaret.Hamburg@fda.hhs.gov.
You can also contact your representatives by visiting the US Congress Members page.
Remember, you don't need to quit eating fish altogether. But you DO need to be aware of which fish are safer to eat, and which you'll want to eat only rarely, if at all. As stated by Edward Groth,21 an independent food safety consultant and author of the report titled: "An Overview of Epidemiological Evidence on the Effects of Methylmercury on Brain Development, and a Rationale for a Lower Definition of Tolerable Exposure:"22
"If women are eating less fish because they're confused, and there's some evidence that's the case, then we're not getting the result we want. The secret is to get women to eat more low-mercury fish."
To take advantage of the health benefits of fish, avoid eating large predatory fish that are high on the food chain. An excellent choice is wild-caught Alaskan salmon. The reason for this is that it contains some of the highest amounts of beneficial omega-3 fats, in combination with being among the least contaminated. Yet there are many other good choices as well, that you can find on the FDA23 and MPP24 websites.
By Dr. Mercola
Increasing exposure to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, may be at least partially to blame for rising rates of numerous chronic diseases in Westernized societies, according to recent research.
The finding, published in Entropy,1 has ramifications for virtually every man, woman and child in developed nations, as this pesticide is widely used on both conventional and, especially, genetically modified (GM) crops (to the tune of more than one billion pounds sprayed in the US alone).
If you eat processed foods, most of which are made with GM corn and soy ingredients, you’re consuming glyphosate residues, probably in each and every bite. Knowing this, and the fact that tests show people in 18 countries across Europe already have glyphosate in their bodies,2 the following news should leave you very, very concerned… if not compelled to take action against this health-endangering chemical.
While Monsanto insists that Roundup is safe, a peer-reviewed report authored by Anthony Samsel, a retired science consultant, and a long time contributor to the Mercola.com Vital Votes Forum, and Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), reveals how glyphosate wrecks human health.
They argue that glyphosate residues, found in most commonly consumed foods in the Western diet courtesy of GM sugar, corn, soy, and wheat, “enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment to disrupt normal body functions and induce disease.” Interestingly, your gut bacteria are a key component of glyphosate’s primary mechanism of harm.
Monsanto has steadfastly claimed that Roundup is harmless to animals and humans because the mechanism of action it uses (which allows it to kill weeds), called the shikimate pathway, is absent in all animals. However, the shikimate pathway IS present in bacteria, and that’s the key to understanding how it causes such widespread systemic harm in both humans and animals.
The bacteria in your body outnumber your cells by 10 to one. For every cell in your body, you have 10 microbes of various kinds, and all of them have the shikimate pathway, so they will all respond to the presence of glyphosate!
Glyphosate causes extreme disruption of the microbe’s function and lifecycle. What’s worse, glyphosate preferentially affects beneficial bacteria, allowing pathogens to overgrow and take over, including the highly toxic Clostridium botulinum.
It has been estimated that only 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs) would be enough to kill the entire human population.3 At that point, your body also has to contend with the toxins produced by the pathogens. Once the chronic inflammation sets in, you’re well on your way toward chronic and potentially debilitating disease.
In the interview above, Dr. Seneff reviews a variety of chronic diseases, explaining how glyphosate contributes to each condition. So to learn more, I urge you to listen to it in its entirety. It’s quite eye opening. According to Dr. Seneff, glyphosate is possibly "the most important factor in the development of multiple chronic diseases and conditions that have become prevalent in Westernized societies,” including but not limited to:
Autism Gastrointestinal diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, chronic diarrhea, colitis, and Crohn's disease Obesity Allergies Cardiovascular disease Depression Cancer Infertility Alzheimer’s disease Parkinson’s disease Multiple sclerosis ALS and more
To get a bit more in depth on just one of the chronic diseases highlighted by Dr. Seneff, consider the reports showing that glyphosate may stimulate hormone-dependent cancers even at extremely low “environmentally relevant” amounts.
In a study published last year, researchers concluded that glyphosate is a xenoestrogen that is functionally similar to estradiol, the most potent human estrogen, and concentrations in the parts-per-trillion range had carcinogenic effects.4
Adding insult to injury—in light of the fact that more than 90 percent of soybeans grown in the US are genetically modified—they also found that the phytoestrogen genistein, naturally found in soybeans, heightened the estrogenic effects when combined with glyphosate. According to the authors:
“This study implied that the additive effect of glyphosate and genistein in postmenopausal women may induce cancer cell growth.In this present in vitro study, we showed an estrogenicity of pure glyphosate...
Furthermore, this study demonstrated the additive estrogenic effects of glyphosate and genistein which implied that the use of glyphosate-contaminated soybean products as dietary supplements may pose a risk of breast cancer because of their potential additive estrogenicity."
This wasn’t the first time this pesticide has been linked to cancer. In 2012, the first-ever lifetime feeding study evaluating the health risks of GM foods was published. It found that rats fed a type of GM corn that is prevalent in the US food supply for two years developed massive mammary tumors, kidney, and liver damage, and other serious health problems.5 According to the authors:
"The health effects of a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize (from 11% in the diet), cultivated with or without Roundup, and Roundup alone (from 0.1ppb in water), were studied 2 years in rats. [Editors note: this level of Roundup is permitted in drinking water and GE crops in the US]
In females, all treated groups died 2-3 times more than controls, and more rapidly. This difference was visible in 3 male groups fed GMOs. All results were hormone and sex dependent, and the pathological profiles were comparable. Females developed large mammary tumors almost always more often than and before controls, the pituitary was the second most disabled organ; the sex hormonal balance was modified by GMO and Roundup treatments.
In treated males, liver congestions and necrosis were 2.5-5.5 times higher... Marked and severe kidney nephropathies were also generally 1.3-2.3 greater. Males presented 4 times more large palpable tumors than controls, which occurred up to 600 days earlier.
Biochemistry data confirmed very significant kidney chronic deficiencies; for all treatments and both sexes, 76% of the altered parameters were kidney related. These results can be explained by the non linear endocrine-disrupting effects of Roundup, but also by the overexpression of the transgene in the GMO and its metabolic consequences."
They really are not exaggerating when they say it caused massive tumors… some of the tumors weighed in at 25 percent of the rat's total body weight. In fact, the researchers had to euthanize some of them due to the profound pain and suffering these tumorous animals were observed to be experiencing. You can see the pictures for yourself here.
The research was considered so "hot" that the work was done under strict secrecy. According to a French article in Le Nouvel Observateur,6 the researchers used encrypted emails, phone conversations were banned, and they even launched a decoy study to prevent sabotage. The findings were a nail in the coffin for the pesticide/biotech industry, but then the journal began to receive Letters to the Editor alleging fraud and calling upon the editors to retract the paper.
After what the journal described as a “thorough and time-consuming analysis” of the study, they said they found “no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data.”7 All they could find “wrong” with the research was that it used a low number of animals for the study, even though it was the same number of animals Monsanto used in their study… so they, quite outrageously, retracted this important paper. Even the retraction statement admits that the results presented are “not incorrect” but rather may be “inconclusive”! If every paper that could be considered inconclusive were retracted, there would scarcely be a published paper left!
As reported by the Institute of Science in Society (ISIS): “…the unsettling results of the Séralini study… almost certainly lie behind its notorious retraction by the journal editor a year after it was published.” The most damning revelation of this debacle was that a former Monsanto employee, Richard E. Goodman, early in 2013, was appointed “Associate Editor for biotechnology” for the journal that retracted the study.8 The obvious question is: was Monsanto behind the retraction?
You may be wondering why, if GM foods are so potentially toxic, Americans aren’t dropping like flies. Well, this is a debatable statement, as with rates of chronic diseases climbing exponentially, many Americans are dying before their time. Furthermore, rats only live a few years, which is why you’re able to see tumors develop rapidly in response to dietary changes. Humans live around 80 years, so we will notice these effects in animals long before we see them in humans. The gigantic human lab experiment of eating GM foods is only about 10 years old, so we are likely decades away from tabulating the human casualties.
As discussed above, glyphosate contamination is but one route by which GM foods are poisonous. It has a number of devastating biological effects. So much so that it may very well be one of the most important factors in the development of a wide variety of modern diseases and conditions. In summary, these detrimental effects include:
Nutritional deficiencies, as glyphosate immobilizes certain nutrients and alters the nutritional composition of the treated crop Disruption of the biosynthesis of aromatic amino acids (these are essential amino acids not produced in your body that must be supplied via your diet) Increased toxin exposure (this includes high levels of glyphosate and formaldehyde in the food itself) Impairment of sulfate transport and sulfur metabolism; sulfate deficiency Systemic toxicity—a side effect of extreme disruption of microbial function throughout your body; beneficial microbes in particular, allowing for overgrowth of pathogens Gut dysbiosis (imbalances in gut bacteria, inflammation, leaky gut, and food allergies such as gluten intolerance) Enhancement of damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and environmental toxins as a result of glyphosate shutting down the function of detoxifying enzymes Creation of ammonia (a byproduct created when certain microbes break down glyphosate), which can lead to brain inflammation associated with autism and Alzheimer’s disease
The food companies on the left of this graphic spent tens of millions of dollars in the last two labeling campaigns—in California and Washington State—to prevent you from knowing what's in your food. You can even the score by switching to the brands on the right, all of whom stood behind the I-522 Right to Know campaign. Voting with your pocketbook, at every meal, matters. It makes a huge difference.
As always, I encourage you to continue educating yourself about genetically modified foods, and to share what you've learned with family and friends. Remember, unless a food is certified organic, you can assume it contains GMO ingredients if it contains sugar from sugar beet, soy, or corn, or any of their derivatives.
If you buy processed food, opt for products bearing the USDA 100% Organic label, as organics do not permit GMOs. You can also print out and use the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, created by the Institute for Responsible Technology. Share it with your friends and family, and post it to your social networks. Alternatively, download their free iPhone application, available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications. For more in-depth information, I highly recommend reading the following two books, authored by Jeffrey Smith, the executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology:
- Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies about the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You're Eating
- Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods.
For timely updates, join the Non-GMO Project on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter. Please, do your homework. Together, we have the power to stop the chemical technology industry from destroying our food supply, the future of our children, and the earth as a whole. All we need is about five percent of American shoppers to simply stop buying genetically engineered foods, and the food industry would have to reconsider their source of ingredients—regardless of whether the products bear an actual GMO label or not.