By Dr. Mercola
According to the Washington Times,1 WebMD, the second most visited health site on the World Wide Web, has received a $4.8 million government contract to educate doctors about the ins and outs of the Affordable Care Act, colloquially dubbed “Obamacare.”
A similar contract for the public portal to educate consumers might also be in the works. However, the lack of transparency and disclosure of the contract has raised questions about potential conflicts of interest.
WebMD has defended against such allegations, saying that the government contract does not affect the company’s news operation, which is free to report what it wants about the health care plan. Still, as stated in the featured article:
“[F]ew if any news outlets earn millions of dollars in training fees from the government on topics they cover, putting WebMD in a unique spot in the media landscape as it navigates not only potential conflicts but also the appearance of conflicts.”
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has criticized the lack of transparency, telling the Washington Post:2
“Disclosure and transparency would be a good practice for any recipient of federal funding to promote the administration’s health care plan.
Even if certain content is not produced with federal funding, but the same company takes federal government money to produce other materials, consumers would be better-informed by knowing the financial relationships.”
According to the featured article,3 the contract includes training services aimed at physicians using the private portal, in the form of “lectures, articles, podcasts and ‘expert viewpoints’ in audio, video, or writing, among other presentations.” Doctors can also receive continuing education credits simply for watching the videos.
These services don’t come cheap. According to the Washington Post, a four- minute long video featuring the viewpoint of a medical expert can cost as much as $68,916 under the contract.
And an “exclusively sponsored” five- to eight-question quiz “to convey key sponsor messages” will cost the US government in excess of $140,000. That said, my criticism of this hidden association between the US government and WebMD does not revolve around their service fees.
The real problem is that WebMD has positioned itself as a primary source of independent and science-backed health information yet is financially dependent on pharmaceutical companies, and now the US government, which is trying to promote a widely contested and unpopular health care plan.
Not only that, but WebMD has in fact been caught red-handed promoting dangerous drug solutions on behalf of their sponsors to people who really don’t need such treatment—cementing the notion that WebMD is beholden to its sponsors, even at the expense of the safety and well-being of its readers.
You may recall that three years ago, WebMD was found to have created a depression screening test in which 100 percent of quiz-takers ended up having a “high likelihood of major depression,” and being asked to talk to their doctor about available treatment.4, 5 The test was sponsored by drug giant Eli Lilly, the maker of Cymbalta, and it’s quite telling that no one is found mentally healthy when Eli Lilly foots the bill...
The quiz was really nothing but direct-to-consumer advertising masquerading as a valid health screen. This is perhaps the most hazardous kind of drug advertising there is, as you don’t even realize they’re trying to sell you something. Seeing an advertisement on TV or in a magazine is one thing—you can recognize that as marketing.
But a health screening test on a well-respected health site? Most would fail to consider that such a test might be rigged to turn you into a consumer. It would probably have been more appropriate to present the test with a disclaimer stating: “For entertainment and time-wasting purposes only.”
That mental health screen debacle sounds awfully similar to the quizzes WebMD has now been contracted to produce under this government contract, “to convey key sponsor messages.” What might these sponsored messages be? In all likelihood, they will be related to the promotion of key drugs, such as cholesterol-lowering statins, now that the statin treatment guidelines have been updated to apply to twice the number of patients as previous guidelines.
The drug industry has deep pockets, so it’s no surprise that their adverts would be splashed all over the WebMD website. Prescription drugs for every imaginable problem are listed on virtually every WebMD page, along with plenty of health-harming processed foods and snacks.
The revenue WebMD generates from advertising is considerable. According to a recent WebMD press release,6 the revenue from public portal advertising and sponsorship for the months of July through September, 2013 alone was $109.6 million, compared to $97.6 million for the corresponding quarter in 2012. That pencils out to nearly half a billion a year in ads from the drug companies.
WebMD is a great example of the brilliant marketing the drug companies are doing. They seek to provide you with the illusion of an independent objective third party that just so happens to confirm their solution is the best choice for your health issues. But when you draw back the curtain, you find it’s really the drug companies themselves that are crafting the message—not an independent entity.
It might be worth noting that WebMD is also partnered with the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration). This virtually assures that you will not learn about any alternatives besides those approved by the FDA for your condition, and further strengthens the promotion of sponsored drugs. By default, you will be kept in the dark about the strategies that can make a real and lasting difference.
The lack of independence among promoters and distributors of health information has become of tremendous concern. Due to a dramatic rise in scientific fraud, which is particularly prevalent in the medical literature, it’s more important than ever to be able to gain access to the full set of data before making or taking a recommendation. Not only are industry studies 400 percent more likely to show positive outcomes, negative findings are never published, and raw data is rarely publicly available.
The sad fact is that before we can regain trust in the scientific method, science must be forthcoming with ALL the data. Every clinical trial should be registered before it begins, and all results and raw data should be provided at the conclusion. At present, they’re not... as a result industry sponsored studies have a 400% increase in positive outcomes vs. independent studies, and on top of that the negative studies are never published at all.
The reality of biased reporting on science was recently highlighted yet again in a study7, 8 authored by John Ioannidis and colleagues at Stanford University. Ioannidis is one of the world's most important experts on the credibility of medical research. He and his team of researchers have repeatedly shown that many of the conclusions biomedical researchers arrive at in their published studies are exaggerated or flat-out wrong.
Here, they did a meta-analysis9 of 160 other, previously published meta-analyses of animal studies for treatments of a variety of neurological disorders. This analysis ended up covering no less than 1,000 separate animal studies. As reported by Medical News Today:
“The authors' ‘meta-analysis of meta-analyses’ used the most precise study in each meta-analysis as an estimate of the true effect size of a particular treatment. It then asked whether the expected number of studies had statistically significant conclusions.
Alarmingly, the authors found that more than twice as many studies as expected appeared to reach statistical significance. The authors suggest that rather than reflecting willful fraud on the part of the scientists who conduct the original studies, this ‘excess significance bias’ comes from two main sources.
One is that scientists conducting an animal study tend to choose the method of data analysis that appears to give them the ‘better’ result. The second arises because scientists usually want to publish in higher profile journals; such journals tend to strongly prefer studies with positive, rather than negative, results. Many studies with negative results are not even submitted for publication or, if submitted, either cannot get published or are published belatedly in low-visibility journals, reducing their chances of inclusion in a meta-analysis.”[Emphasis mine]
Ioannidis’ team speculate that, as a result of these kinds of biased animal studies being published and used as grounds for further research, inappropriate treatments have probably made it into human trials where, of course, the stakes are much higher. But no matter what type of research you’re talking about, scientific integrity and complete uncensored reporting of results matter dearly. As stated in a related editorial in PLOS Medicine:10
“As early as 1990, Iain Chalmers, one of the founders of the Cochrane Collaboration, stated that, ‘Failure to publish an adequate account of a well-designed clinical trial is a form of scientific misconduct that can lead those caring for patients to make inappropriate treatment decisions.’”
Ultimately, when a researcher skews the results to fit a preconceived notion, whether it’s done for prestige or to please funders, consciously or unconsciously, it can eventually affect tens of thousands of patients. As reported by Medical News Today:11
“Adriane Fugh-Berman MD charges that basic science, not just clinical trials, is plagued by financial conflicts of interest. Fugh-Berman identifies evidence showing that industry-funded studies on animals and cell cultures can be as biased as industry-funded clinical trials, and can distort data on medical treatments.12”
To remedy this dismal situation and get medical science back on the right track, Ioannidis’ team makes several suggestions, including:
- Requiring animal studies to adhere to strict guidelines for study design and analysis
- Pre-registering animal trials in the same manner as human trials, in order to ensure publication of results regardless whether it’s positive or negative
- Making methodological details and raw data available in order to allow other scientists to verify the conclusions drawn
Another team of researchers in the Netherlands have drawn similar conclusions. In their essay, published in the journal PLOS Medicine,13 they too recommend study registration and data sharing to improve research quality and conduct. They also argue for the creation of a transparent system in which animal studies are routinely and systematically reviewed and replicated.
A staggering statistic can be found in a new report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.14 According to this report, global expenditure for prescription drugs is estimated to hit $1 trillion next year, and as high as $1.2 trillion in 2017. The main driver of increased drug sales is increased access to medical care across the world. In the US, the Affordable Care Act will likely lead to major spending increases, considering the fact that drugs are prescribed for virtually any ailment or complaint you might see a doctor for. As reported in Time Magazine:15
“[I]n a best case scenario of nearly complete enrollment [in the Affordable Care Act], increased demand from more insured people will push up prescriptions. Given the large pool of anticipated new enrollees, however, even if signups are lackluster, Michael Kleinrock, research director for the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics says, “We are still [going to] hit $1 trillion in 2014.”
It's important to understand that our current medical system has been masterfully orchestrated by the drug companies to create a system that gives the perception of science when really it is a heavily manipulated process designed to manipulate and deceive you into using expensive and potentially toxic drugs that benefit the drug companies more than it benefits your health.
Across the board, drugmakers do an excellent job of publicizing the findings they want you to know, while keeping studies that don’t support their product hidden from you and the rest of the world.
Also, I’m sure by now many of you can follow the dots and draw your own conclusions with circular maps and arrows marking the many conflicts of interest that exist between this unholy alliance of so-called independent health advisors, pharmaceutical companies, processed food companies, and the regulatory agency, the FDA. Folks, it’s time take control of your health, and that includes being able to discern real health advice from shadow marketing machines and propaganda that serves no one but the very industries responsible for much of the ill health in the first place.
It's important to realize that all research is NOT published. And it should come as no surprise that drug studies funded by a pharmaceutical company that reaches a negative conclusion will rarely ever see the light of day... And with so much data missing in action, what does the claim “scientifically proven” really amount to? It certainly cannot be construed as a guarantee of safety or effectiveness.
Likewise, if an alternative treatment has not been published in a medical journal, it does not mean it is unsafe or ineffective. There's a lot to be said for the tried-and-true remedies of old, even if they've not been rigorously studied by modern researcher. I recommend using all the resources available to you, including your own sense of common sense and reason, true experts' advice and other's experiences, to determine what medical treatment or advice will be best for you in any given situation.
By Dr. Mercola
Cardiac stress tests are sometimes used to make sure your heart works properly when put under stress.
Typically, you’ll be asked to walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bicycle to increase your heart rate until your heart is adequately stressed, then its function will be examined using an MRI or other imaging tests.
In cases where a person is unable to increase their heart rate via exercise, chemicals are sometimes used to simulate stress on your heart.
You need to be very careful when considering this type of heart test, known as a chemical cardiac stress test, as a new announcement from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that the drugs used could actually trigger a heart attack and death.
The FDA’s warning applies to two chemical stress test drugs called Lexiscan (regadenoson) and Adenoscan (adenosine). The injectable drugs dilate the arteries in your heart and increase blood flow, allowing doctors to check for areas of damage or low blood flow.
However, as blood flow increases, it naturally flows to healthy areas and may leave obstructed arteries with low blood flow, potentially triggering a heart attack.
Both drugs already contained a warning on their labels about the possible risk of heart attacks, but recent deaths reported to the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS) database and in the medical literature1, 2 prompted updated recommendations for use.
The FDA now warns that people with symptoms of cardiovascular instability should not use the drugs, and cardiac resuscitation equipment and trained staff should be available before administering these medications.
The drugs are still on the market, however, which is why it’s important that you’re aware of the heart attack risk if you or a loved one is considering a chemical stress test. The FDA explained:3
“Lexiscan and Adenoscan cause blood to flow preferentially to the healthier, unblocked or unobstructed arteries, which can reduce blood flow in the obstructed artery. In some cases, this reduced blood flow can lead to a heart attack, which can be fatal.”
Yes, but they’re not the conventional cholesterol tests your doctor may have ordered. If you’ve had your cholesterol levels checked, your doctor most likely tested your total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. But we now know those are not accurate predictors for cardiovascular disease risk.
A much more accurate predictor is testing your LDL particle number, as Chris Kresser, L.Ac, explains:
“To use an analogy: if you imagine your bloodstream’s like a river, the LDL particles are like the boats that carry the cholesterol and fats around your body. The cholesterol and fats are like cargo in the boats.
Right now doctors are usually measuring the amount of cargo or cholesterol in the LDL particles. But what we should be measuring is the number of LDL particles, or the number of boats in the river, so to speak, because that’s a much more accurate risk factor for heart disease.”
There are several ways to test for your LDL particle number. Kresser recommends using the NMR LipoProfile, offered by a lab called Liposcience. The test uses FDA-approved technology for testing LDL particle number, and it’s the test used in most of the scientific studies on LDL particles.
It’s easy to get and all major labs offer it, including LabCorp and Quest. Most insurance policies cover the test as well. Best of all, even if your doctor were to refuse to order it, you can order it yourself via third-party intermediaries like Direct Labs, or you can order the test online, and get blood drawn locally.
If your levels come back high, it’s time to figure out the underlying cause (which is not dietary cholesterol, as you may have been led to believe).
It’s not the amount of cholesterol that is the main risk factor for heart disease, rather it’s the number of cholesterol-carrying LDL particles, and, in particular, the small, dense (type B) particles that are linked to heart disease.
Also, what matters most is the quality of your lipoproteins. When oxidized (known as oxidized LDL or ox-LDL), these particles can cause direct damage to the lining of your arteries, contribute to plaque buildup and greatly increase your overall risk for heart disease.
When oxidative stress is high due to poor diet, insufficient exercise and sleep, and chronic stress, or when your antioxidant capacity is low (again usually because of a poor diet or smoking), then the accumulation of ox-LDL and associated arterial damage can occur.
If the primary cause of heart disease is not high cholesterol, then what is? Insulin and leptin resistance are the major culprits, as when this is present it causes an increase in small LDL particle number via several different mechanisms. While some genetic predisposition can play a role, insulin and leptin resistance is primarily caused by a combination of factors that are epidemic in our modern lifestyle:
- A diet high in processed and refined carbohydrates, sugars/fructose, refined flours, and industrial seed oils.
This is particularly relevant in lieu of the misleading public health advice, which suggests you replace healthful saturated fats with vegetable oils and grain carbohydrates. When you replace saturated fat with a higher carbohydrate intake, particularly refined carbohydrate, you exacerbate insulin resistance and obesity, increase triglycerides and small LDL particles, and reduce beneficial HDL cholesterol.
In a 2010 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,4 the authors stated that dietary efforts to improve your cardiovascular disease risk should primarily emphasize the limitation of refined carbohydrate intake and weight reduction.
- Insufficient everyday physical activity, including exercise and non-exercise activity. Leading a sedentary lifestyle causes biochemical changes that predispose you to insulin and leptin resistance.
- Chronic sleep deprivation. Even one night of disturbed sleep can decrease your insulin sensitivity the next day and cause cravings and overeating.
- Environmental toxins. Exposure to BPA, for example, can disrupt your brain’s regulation of your weight.
- Poor gut health. Imbalances in your gut flora (the bacteria that live in your gut) can predispose you to obesity and insulin and leptin resistance.
There are several other tests that I recommend if you’re unsure of your heart health. Again, not one of these is a conventional cholesterol test, but rather:
1. Fasting Insulin Level
Your fasting insulin level reflects how healthy your blood glucose levels are over time. Chronically elevated blood glucose leads to insulin resistance and numerous chronic diseases, including diabetes and heart disease.
Your fasting insulin level can be determined by a simple, inexpensive blood test. A normal fasting blood insulin level is below 5, but ideally you'll want it below 3. If your insulin level is higher than 3 to 5, the most effective way to optimize it is to reduce or eliminate all forms of dietary sugar, particularly fructose.
2. Cholesterol/HDL Ratio
The following two ratios are far better indicators of heart disease risk than total cholesterol alone:
- Your HDL/Cholesterol ratio: HDL (high-density lipoproteins) to total cholesterol percentage is a very good predictor of heart disease risk. Just divide your HDL number by your total cholesterol. Ideally, this number should exceed 24 percent; below 10 percent predicts an increased risk for heart disease.
- Your Triglyceride/HDL ratio: Divide your triglyceride number by your HDL. This ratio should ideally be below 2.
3. Serum Ferritin
Excess iron is a very potent oxidative stressor, causing dangerous free radicals that can damage your heart. Therefore, you should regularly check yourself for iron overload with a serum ferritin test. This blood test measures iron's carrier molecule—a protein called ferritin found inside your cells upon which the iron is stored. If your ferritin levels are low, it means your iron levels are also low, and vice versa. Use the following guidelines to interpret your serum ferritin level:
- The healthy range of serum ferritin is between 20 and 80 ng/ml
- The ideal serum ferritin range is 40 to 60 ng/ml
- Below 20, you are iron deficient; above 80, you have an iron surplus. Ferritin levels can go really high. I've seen levels over 1,000, but anything over 80 is likely to be a problem.
It is VITAL to appreciate that about one in five men and postmenopausal women have iron levels that are too high and are actually causing premature disease and death. If you or someone you love has triple digit ferritin levels you need to lower them ASAP.
The higher the number the worse it is, with numbers over 250-300 being particularly dangerous. Fortunately there is a very simple way to lower it -- donate blood. If you have risk factors that prevent you from having your blood accepted for donation, you can have your doctor write you a prescription for a therapeutic phlebotomy.
4. Waist Size
Waist size provides a fairly accurate benchmark for predicting your risk of death from a heart attack and from other causes. Determining your waist size is easy. With a tape measure, measure the distance around the smallest area of your abdomen, below your rib cage and above your belly button. The following is a general guide for healthy waist circumference:
- Men: 37 to 40 inches is overweight; greater than 40 inches is obese
- Women: 31.5 to 34.6 inches is overweight; greater than 34.6 inches is obese
5. Vitamin D
People with lower blood levels of vitamin D may be more likely to die from heartdisease or stroke. The only way to determine whether you’re within the therapeutic range is to regularly test your vitamin D levels. For more information, including an in-depth explanation of everything you need to know before you get tested, please see Test Values and Treatment for Vitamin D Deficiency.
Ideally, you’ll take steps now to protect and nourish your heart so that you have no need for invasive and potentially deadly procedures like a chemical stress test. The INTERHEART study, which looked at heart disease risk factors in over 50 countries around the world, found that 90 percent of heart disease cases are completely preventable by modifying diet and lifestyle factors.5 Take control of your health, including your heart health, today by paying attention to these positive lifestyle changes for your heart:
- Diet: Shift toward a nutrient-dense-food-based diet with higher fat and lower carbohydrate intake, such as my nutrition plan
- Intermittent fasting is a powerful tool to lower your body fat and normalize your insulin and leptin resistance
- Make sure you’re getting enough sleep
- Exercise regularly, and make sure to incorporate high-intensity interval exercises, as they are particularly effective for improving insulin and leptin sensitivity
- Avoid sitting too much, as that can have a direct adverse effect on insulin and leptin sensitivity
- Minimize your exposure to environmental toxins as much as possible
- Optimize your gut health by eating fermented foods, soluble fiber that enriches your beneficial gut flora, and avoid food toxins that harm your gut flora (i.e. sugar)
As you can see, the things you need to do to prevent heart disease are identical to what you would do to promote optimal health in general.
By Dr. Mercola
If you believe that it is your right to decide what food to feed yourself and your family, you will be interested in the latest legal battle brewing between an Oregon raw milk farmer and the state Department of Agriculture.
In Oregon, sales of raw milk from small farms directly to consumers are legal, but advertising that such milk is available is not.
This means that Christine Anderson, who owns a small farm in Oregon, is unable to post fliers at health food stores, get a booth at a local fair or even post a sign about her raw milk dairy on her own land.
Even a price list available on her web site received a complaint, and she was forced to take it down.
The advertising ban makes it virtually impossible for a small milk farmer to stay in business, and certainly to flourish, which is why Anderson is now suing the Oregon Department of Agriculture and asking that the ban be declared a violation of free speech rights.
Retail raw milk sales have been banned in Oregon since 1999. However, the state has an exemption for small farms with up to three cows, nine sheep, and nine goats to sell raw milk on their farms.
The catch, of course, is that they’re not allowed to advertise, and if they do, they could be punished with a year in jail, more than $6,000 in fines and up to $10,000 in civil penalties.
Clearly, this is put in place to limit the public’s access to raw milk, but increasing numbers of small farmers and Americans are challenging this “nanny state” mentality.
If you’re going to ban advertising for raw milk out of concerns for public health (even though no deaths have been linked to raw milk since the government began collecting such data), you should ban advertising for pasteurized milk, mass-produced meat and poultry and bagged salads too, all of which pose a greater threat of food-borne illness than properly produced raw milk!
Anderson’s federal lawsuit against the Department of Agriculture claims that the ban violates free speech rights and infringes on her business. She told OregonLive:1
"Raw milk is legal to sell but you can't talk about it… I work really hard, and I do a good job as a producer. I want to be able to talk about it. I would like to go about my small farm business without a lot of fear that what I'm doing can be construed as breaking the law."
While bills in several states (including North Dakota, New Mexico, and Illinois) have been introduced to further restrict access to raw milk, the Wisconsin Senate committee passed a bill that would allow dairy farmers to sell raw milk directly to consumers.
The bill would require raw milk producers to register with the state, undergo stringent testing and also keep a list of their sales available for inspection2… but it would allow a practice that many feel should be an unquestionable right – the ability to purchase any food you wish from the farm of your choice.
The raw milk bill will still have to pass through the full Senate next year and is already facing backlash from the state’s dairy industry.
However, if it’s passed it would be a major victory for food freedom, especially in Wisconsin, which is one of a handful of states that has been aggressively targeting raw-milk farmers, seeking to unjustly criminalize their methods of food production.
Many people should not consume dairy, as they are allergic to the milk proteins, whether it is raw or pasteurized. Additionally, many who are seeking to lose weight, have high blood pressure or diabetes would likely be better avoiding milk as it has the dairy sugar lactose.
However, if you are healthy and want to drink milk then it makes more sense to fear drinking pasteurized milk. While there has not been one single death due to raw milk between 1998 and 2008,3 the United States' largest recorded outbreak of Salmonella resulted from pasteurized milk.
However, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) never issued a specific Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report for this outbreak… The incident, which occurred between June 1984 and April 1985, resulted in 200,000 illnesses and 18 deaths!
Yet this and other outbreaks of illness resulting from the consumption of pasteurized milk are kept from public knowledge, and escapes warnings from the CDC.
In fact, they have never issued a warning against commercially pasteurized milk! This is just one example of the CDC's ongoing bias against raw dairy products. According to Mark McAfee, the founder of Organic Pastures Dairy:
"We haven't seen any deaths from raw milk since the data started being collected in 1973… [There are] no deaths in the CDC website from raw milk. There have been over 80 deaths from pasteurized milk during that time period if you include the Jalisco cheese incident, which killed 50 people all by itself in 1985 – pasteurized milk cheese.
The safety record is really, really good as far as death is concerned, but we still see 30 or 40 people a year that get sick from raw milk because of misunderstood or misapplied practices. But it's not rocket science.
That's why the Raw Milk Institute was founded; to help farmers get a reference point and help farmers build their food safety plans. Again, they are just daily checklists to make sure that conditions are right so that you have a reliable outcome all the time."
While there are no guarantees of perfection, it's worth keeping in mind that the potential for foodborne illness applies to ANY food. Dozens of deaths have been traced back to cantaloupe in recent years, for example.
It’s contrary to reason that milk (and many other foods) that comes from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are thought of as safe while raw milk sourced from a small carefully run farm is not. In CAFOs, large groups of animals are kept in a small space, oftentimes without natural light or access to the outdoors. The conditions are filthy, with animals standing in one another's waste. Needless to say, harmful bacteria naturally thrive in these conditions.
To combat disease (and promote unhealthy growth), the animals are fed antibiotics, the result of which is they become living and breathing “bioreactors” for the generation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. They may also receive hormones, which increase milk production, and they're fed a diet of grains and soy (most of which is now the genetically engineered variety) rather than grass, which alters their gut flora and makes them even more prone to disease.
As a result, drinking CAFO milk raw would be extremely dangerous. It must be pasteurized for safety. On the other hand, milk from grass-fed cows raised on smaller, clean farms can be safely consumed without being pasteurized, provided the farmer is committed to providing a safe, quality product.
While the benefits of raw milk are finally starting to be understood and acknowledged again, many are still under the misperception that all raw milk is unclean and unsafe. But as with any food, where your raw milk comes from makes a major difference in its quality and safety. Getting your raw milk from a local organic farm is one of the best ways to ensure you're getting high-quality milk, but even then, if you're thinking about purchasing milk from a small farmer, it would be very wise to visit the farm in person. Look around and ask questions about the following general conditions, which should indicate a source of high-quality raw milk.
Low pathogenic bacteria count (i.e. does the farmer test his milk regularly for pathogens?) The milk comes from cows raised naturally, in accordance with the seasons The cows are not given antibiotics and growth hormones to increase milk production The milk is quickly chilled after milking The cows are mainly grass-fed Cows are well cared for
The fight for food freedom isn’t just for those who love raw milk – it’s for everyone who wants to be able to obtain the food of their choice from the source of their choice. Raw milk isn’t the only food on the chopping block… raw-milk cheeses and heritage-breed pigs are also being targeted and there’s no telling what other small-farm, niche foods may be next. So please, get involved! I urge you to embrace the following action plan to protect your right to choose your own foods:
- Get informed: Visit www.farmtoconsumer.org or click here to sign up for action alerts.
- Join the fight for your rights: The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) is the only organization of its kind. This 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization provides a legal defense for farmers who are being pursued by the government for distributing foods directly to consumers. Your donations, although not tax deductible, will be used to support the litigation, legislative, and lobbying efforts of the FTCLDF. For a summary of FTCLDF’s activities in 2012, see this link.
- Support your local farmers: Buy from local farmers, not the industry that is working with the government to take away your freedoms.
By Dr. Mercola
Given the fact that acetaminophen (sold under the brand name Tylenol, among others) is one of the most widely used drugs in the world, you might be surprised to learn that taking just a bit too much, on a regular basis, or taking it in combination with alcohol, can have rather significant health risks.
The drug can have adverse effects on your liver and kidneys, and acetaminophen-containing prescription drugs must now carry a warning about the potential for serious and potentially lethal skin disorders.
Acetaminophen can be toxic to your liver, even at recommended doses, when taken daily for just a couple of weeks.1
Research2 has also shown that taking just a little more than the recommended dose over the course of several days or weeks (referred to as “staggered overdosing”) is far more risky than taking one large overdose.
Unfortunately, familiarity with this drug and the false sense of security it can bring puts many in harm’s way. When suffering with a cold, headache or other pain, many end up doubling or even tripling the maximum recommended dose by taking multiple OTC medications, all of which may contain acetaminophen at varying amounts.
Certain prescription painkillers, such as Vicodin and Percocet, also contain acetaminophen and should therefore not be mixed with other acetaminophen-containing medications.
Failing to heed this warning can easily lead to an overdose, which can cause serious liver damage or liver failure. Acetaminophen is actually the number one cause of acute liver failure in the US.
Recent research3 suggests that acetaminophen also significantly increases your risk of kidney dysfunction if taken with alcohol—even if the amount of alcohol is small. The findings were presented at the 141st annual American Public Health Association meeting in Boston, Massachusetts. 4
The risk is worrisome enough that the researchers advise doctors who recommend acetaminophen for pain management to educate their patients about the risks of mixing it with alcohol. Besides alcoholics,5 young adults are particularly at risk as they’re more likely to consume both.
The video above specifically addresses the potential hazards of using Tylenol to treat a hangover.
When you consider that both excessive alcohol consumption and regular use of acetaminophen can promote kidney toxicity and/or damage,6, 7 it’s not a major stretch to imagine that combining them might heighten such risks.
Data from more than 10,000 participants was analyzed for the featured study. In all, 2.6 percent of participants reported using acetaminophen together with small to moderate amounts of alcohol, and 1.2 percent of those who did so had impaired kidney function.
While that might not sound like much of a worry, the researchers found that the combination of alcohol with acetaminophen raised the risk of kidney damage by 123 percent, compared to either of them taken individually. According to the authors:
"Although individually it may not be harmful to ingest therapeutic dose of acetaminophen and a light/moderate amount of alcohol, combining the two may be potentially hazardous.”
When a medication is sold without a prescription and used with such frequency as acetaminophen, it’s easy to forget that every drug carries the potential for causing adverse effects—especially if used in combination with other drugs. Interestingly, little-known research from 2009 suggests acetaminophen might render vaccinations less effective when administered together.
Since vaccine-induced immunity is already inferior to naturally acquired immunity, it certainly doesn’t make sense to take something that might reduce whatever meager effectiveness a vaccine might offer.
According to this Czechoslovakian study,8 infants who received acetaminophen right after getting a vaccination experienced lowered immune response, developing significantly fewer antibodies against the disease they were vaccinated against.
The vaccines used in the study were for pneumococcal disease, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B, polio and rotavirus. (No flu vaccines were included. However, it’s likely the effect might still be the same.) The authors concluded that:
“Although febrile reactions significantly decreased, prophylactic administration of antipyretic drugs at the time of vaccination should not be routinely recommended since antibody responses to several vaccine antigens were reduced.”
The researchers suggested that the acetaminophen’s anti-inflammatory activity might interfere with your body’s immune system antibody response, which could explain why the vaccines were rendered less effective. It’s worth noting that a lowered immune response also means you're more susceptible to develop other infections.
And, as we now know, in the case of the flu for example, it is secondary infections such as bacterial staph infections that turn out to be deadly -- not the flu virus in and of itself. From that perspective, it may be worth reconsidering your use of acetaminophen when you feel like you’re “coming down with something.” You just might be better off skipping the pain reliever, and taking steps to boost your immune system instead, such as boosting your vitamin D levels.
The potential hazards of this medicine cabinet staple don’t end at liver and kidney damage. After reviewing data from the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS), the FDA found 107 cases of serious skin reactions linked to acetaminophen products from 1969 to 2012. Sixty-seven of them required hospitalization; 12 died. The data, coupled with several cases documented in medical literature, has prompted the FDA to require a warning about potential skin reactions be added to prescription acetaminophen products.9 The skin reactions linked to acetaminophen include:
- Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS): This reaction begins with flu-like symptoms that progress into a painful purple or red rash that blisters and causes the top layer of your skin to slough off. This can lead to serious infections, blindness, damage to internal organs, permanent skin damage and even death.
- Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TENS): TENS also typically begins with flu-like symptoms (cough, headache, aches, fever) and progresses into a blistering rash. Layers of the skin may peel away in sheets, and hair and nails may fall out. TENS is often fatal, typically as a result of infection.
- Acute Generalized Exanthematous Pustulosis (AGEP): This skin eruption causes numerous pustules to appear on the skin, often accompanied by fever. This condition typically resolves within two weeks once the acetaminophen is stopped.
While the main cause of SJS, TENS and AGEP is the consumption of certain acetaminophen-containing medications, no one knows exactly why it occurs, or what makes certain people more at risk. What is particularly alarming is that it can occur at any time, even if you’ve taken the medication in the past without issue. According to the FDA:10
“A serious skin reaction can occur at any time, even if you've taken acetaminophen previously without a problem. There is currently no way of predicting who might be at higher risk. If you've ever had a skin reaction when taking acetaminophen, don't take the drug again…“ [Emphasis mine]
While I generally do not recommend using acetaminophen-containing drugs for minor aches and pains, given their health risks, they are sometimes necessary to temporarily suppress severe pain, such as post-surgical pain. For those instances, I recommend taking it along with N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), which is the rate-limiting nutrient for the formation of the intracellular antioxidant glutathione. It is believed that the liver damage acetaminophen causes is largely due to the fact that it can deplete glutathione, an antioxidant compound secreted by your liver in response to toxic exposure. Glutathione also helps protect your cells from free radical damage.
If you keep your glutathione levels up, the damage from the acetaminophen may be largely preventable. (This is why anyone who overdoses on Tylenol receives large doses of NAC in the emergency room.) So whether you are taking Tylenol in prescription or over-the-counter form, I strongly suggest taking NAC along with it. Bear in mind that while this may help prevent liver damage from occurring, I’m not aware of any evidence supporting its use for the prevention of kidney toxicity and/or potential skin reactions.
Chronic pain is perhaps one of the most common ailments there is. And while different diseases and conditions may benefit from specific pain-relieving strategies, I believe the following guidelines are foundational basics for the treatment of most if not all painful conditions.
- Get sufficient high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats are precursors to mediators of inflammation called prostaglandins. One of the best sources of omega-3s is krill oil supplement. The omega-3 fats EPA and DHA contained in krill oil have been found in many animal and clinical studies to have anti-inflammatory properties. Unlike fish oil, krill oil does not pose any toxicity and rancidity to your body, which may only damage your health. It is also far lower on the food chain, making it far less likely to accumulate environmental chemicals and toxins.
- Eliminate or radically reduce your intake of grains and sugars, especially fructose. Excessive intake of grains and sugars will elevate your insulin and leptin levels primarily through causing your body to be resistant to them, resulting in increased inflammation in your body.
- Optimize your vitamin D levels through regular and appropriate sun exposure. Combined with vitamin K2, vitamin D can help prevent the softening of your bones that can often lead to lower back pain. Sun exposure also has pain-killing or analgesic properties beyond vitamin D production. Research has shown sun exposure can be quite beneficial for fibromyalgia pain for example.
- Avoid aspartame and MSG, both of which are notorious for causing headaches and triggering migraines.
- Grounding. Walking barefoot; grounding your body to the Earth, is a simple way to reduce chronic inflammation and pain. When you're grounded, there's a transfer of free electrons, which are among the most potent antioxidants currently known, from the Earth into your body. The effect is sufficient to maintain your body at the same negatively charged electrical potential as the Earth.
This results in a number of health benefits, including calming your sympathetic nervous system which produces beneficial changes in heart rate and blood pressure, improved sleep, decreased levels of inflammation, reduced pain, and an improved general state of well-being. It also thins your blood and reduces your blood viscosity, resulting in improved blood flow throughout your body.
Research has demonstrated it takes about 80 minutes for the free electrons from the earth to reach your bloodstream and transform your blood. A newer theory also proposes that grounding may facilitate the formation of structured water in your body, which may be critical for optimal health. To learn more about this, please see m y interview with water expert Dr. Gerald Pollack.
I recently interviewed Dr. Phil Harrington about the benefits of infrared laser therapy for pain. Laser therapy treatment helps reduce pain and inflammation and enhances tissue healing—both in hard and soft tissues, including muscles, ligaments, and even bones. It increases oxygenation of tissues and allows injured or damaged cells to absorb photons of light, which speeds healing. While there are a number of companies that manufacture lasers for tissue healing, K-Laser is currently the leading manufacturer of these types of infrared laser tools. Examples of the types of painful injuries that this kind of laser therapy can be helpful for include:
- Acute injuries, such as strains, sprains, and shoulder injuries
- Repetitive-use injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome
- Traumatic injuries, such as post-motor vehicle accident with cervical strain/sprain
- Chronic issues such as frozen shoulder and arthritis
To me, at this point in time, it would almost be medical negligence bordering on medical malpractice not to try laser treatment before prescribing drugs or surgery for conditions such as these. Other therapeutic mind-body modalities such as Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), yoga, acupuncture, meditation, hot and cold packs, and Foundation Training can also result in astonishing pain relief without any drugs. It’s worth noting that EFT is effective against both acute and chronic pain.
The following options can also provide excellent pain relief without any of the health hazards associated with acetaminophen and other pain killers.
- Astaxanthin: One of the most effective oil-soluble antioxidants known. It has very potent anti-inflammatory properties and in many cases works far more effectively than many NSAIDs. Higher doses are typically required and one may need 8 mg or more per day to achieve this benefit.
- Ginger: This herb is a potent anti-inflammatory and offers pain relief and stomach-settling properties. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea or grated into vegetable juice.
- Curcumin: Curcumin is the primary therapeutic compound identified in the spice turmeric. In a study11 of osteoarthritis patients, those who added 200 mg of curcumin a day to their treatment plan had reduced pain and increased mobility. In fact, curcumin has been shown to have potent anti-inflammatory activity, as well as demonstrating the ability in four studies to reduce Tylenol-associated adverse health effects.12
- Boswellia: Also known as boswellin or "Indian frankincense," this herb contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which have been prized for thousands of years. This is one of my personal favorites as I have seen it work well with many rheumatoid arthritis patients.
- Cetyl Myristoleate (CMO): This oil, found in fish and dairy butter, acts as a "joint lubricant" and an anti-inflammatory. I have used this for myself to relieve ganglion cysts and a mild annoying carpal tunnel syndrome that pops up when I type too much on non-ergonomic keyboards. I used a topical preparation for this.
- Evening Primrose, Black Currant and Borage Oils: These contain the fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which is useful for treating arthritic pain.
- Cayenne Cream: Also called capsaicin cream, this spice comes from dried hot peppers. It alleviates pain by depleting the body's supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that transmits pain signals to your brain.
Whether you’re trying to address acute or chronic pain, know that there are many safe and effective alternatives to more hazardous prescription and over-the-counter painkillers. K-Laser therapy can be an excellent choice for many painful conditions, including acute injuries.
For long-term relief, you'll want to start taking a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat like krill oil, as omega-3 fats are precursors to mediators of inflammation called prostaglandins. Addressing your diet by eliminating or radically reducing most grains and sugars (including fructose) is also important, as avoiding grains and sugars will lower your insulin and leptin levels. Elevated insulin and leptin levels are one of the most profound stimulators of inflammatory prostaglandin production. That is why eliminating sugar and grains is so important to controlling your pain.
I also recommend optimizing your production of vitamin D by getting regular, appropriate sun exposure, which will work through a variety of different mechanisms to reduce your pain. Along with these strategies, be sure you are also addressing any emotional elements. EFT is particularly useful for this—whether your pain is chronic or acute. In both instances, your level of stress, your anxiety and your perceptions of pain all play a role in how you experience pain, and addressing these elements can go a long way toward providing effective pain relief.
This is a Flash-based video and may not be viewable on mobile devices.
By Dr. Mercola
Many people needlessly shun raw nuts from their diet, believing their fat content contributes to weight gain. But mounting research suggests nuts such as pecans and macadamias may actually help you live longer—and help you lose weight to boot.
This isn’t so surprising considering the fact that tree nuts are high in healthful fats that, contrary to popular belief, your body needs for optimal function. Also, to optimize your health, weight, and longevity, you’ll want to shift your body from sugar-burning mode to fat-burning mode. One of the simplest and most effective ways to do this is to implement intermittent fasting.
In order for your body to begin burning fat as your primary fuel instead of sugar,it is helpful to swap non-vegetable carbohydrates like sugar and grains in your diet with high-quality healthful fats. Raw nuts are one source of such fats.
A recent study published in NEJM was a large-scale, 30-year long study done at Harvard.1, 2, 3, 4 It found that people who regularly ate a small handful of nuts at least seven times per week were 20 percent less likely to die for any reason, compared to those who largely avoided nuts in their diet.
They also tended to eat more fruits and vegetables, and were leaner than their nut-eschewing counterparts. Nut eaters were more likely to exercise and take dietary supplements. As reported by the Washington Post:5
“Even those who ate nuts less than once a week had a seven percent reduction in risk. Consuming nuts at least five times a week corresponded to a 29 percent drop in mortality risk for heart disease, a 24 percent decline for respiratory disease and an 11 percent drop for cancer.”
The study does have its weaknesses. For example, participants only filled out dietary questionnaires once every two to four years. They also included all types of nuts (including peanut, which is not a nut but a legume and not nearly as health promoting as tree nuts).
The study also didn’t differentiate how they were prepared (i.e. raw or roasted, for example). That said, the result of the featured study has added support from previous research.
For example, a study6 published in the Annals of Internal Medicine earlier this year found that middle-aged women who followed a Mediterranean-style diet rich in nuts and vegetables were approximately 40 percent more likely to survive into later decades without developing some form of chronic disease—including age-related memory deterioration.
Healthful fats and antioxidants, obtained from nuts and vegetables respectively (although nuts also contain beneficial antioxidants, by the way), are both critical factors for brain health. Lead researcher of the featured study, Dr. Ying Bao, told Boston.com:7
“I’m fairly confident in our results. We have long known that nuts are nutritious foods filled with folate, potassium, fiber, good monounsaturated fats, and antioxidants.”
This is a Flash-based audio and may not be playable on mobile devices.
All nuts are not necessarily created equal, and tree nuts are, from a nutritional stand point, far preferable to peanuts, which is technically a legume. My main objections to peanuts are that they tend to:
- Distort your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio as they are relatively high in omega-6
- Be frequently contaminated with a carcinogenic mold called aflatoxin
- Be one of the most pesticide-contaminated crops
My favorite nuts are macadamia and pecans, as they provide the highest amount of healthy fat while being on the lower end in terms of carbs and protein. Most nuts’ nutritional makeup closely resemble what I consider to be an ideal ratio of the basic building blocks—fat making up the greatest amount of your daily calories, followed by a moderate amount of high-quality protein and a low amount of non-vegetable carbs.
The main fatty acid in macadamia nuts is the monounsaturated fat oleic acid (about 60 percent). This is about the level found in olives, which are well known for their health benefits.
I have been consuming macadamia nuts and pecans almost daily since I started lowering my overall protein intake about a year ago. I primarily use raw macadamia nuts, but also enjoy pecans. They provide a great source of calories and are a phenomenal snack alternative.
To gain a better idea of what I’m talking about, please refer to my Food Pyramid for Optimal Health.
In the featured study,8 those who ate a one-ounce serving seven times or more per week appeared to benefit the most. One ounce of nuts equates to just over 28 grams, or about a small handful. The following list shows the nutrition facts9 in grams per one ounce for your most common tree nuts:
Numbers are grams per ounce
Macadamias 22 2 4 Pecans 20 3 4 Pine nuts 20 4 4 Brazil nuts 19 4 3 Walnuts 18 4 4 Hazelnuts 17 3 5 Cashews 13 4 9 Almonds 14 6 6 Pistachios 13 6 8
Generally speaking, each type of nut will offer a slightly different mix of nutrients for your health, so it’s a good idea to include a variety of nuts rather than sticking to one at the exclusion of all others. For instance:
- Raw macadamia nuts are a powerhouse of a nut, containing a wide variety of critical nutrients including high amounts of vitamin B1, magnesium, manganese, and healthful monounsaturated fat, just to name a few.
- Pecans: Pecans contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals, and research has shown they may help lower LDL cholesterol and promote healthy arteries. One of my favorite treats is candied pecans in a salad at a restaurant. I know they have sugar, but a few grams or less a day is not going to cause a major problem provided you’re eating a healthy whole food diet, opposed to processed foods (which are loaded with hidden fructose).
- Walnuts: Walnuts are good sources of plant-based omega-3 fats, natural phytosterols, and antioxidants that are so powerful at free-radical scavenging that researchers have called them "remarkable.”10 Plus, walnuts may help reduce not only the risk of prostate cancer, but breast cancer as well. They’ve also been shown to reverse brain aging in rats and boost heart health in people with diabetes.
- Almonds: One of the healthiest aspects of almonds appears to be their skins, as they are rich in antioxidants including phenols, flavonoids, and phenolic acids, which are typically associated with vegetables and fruits. A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry11 even revealed that a one-ounce serving of almonds has a similar amount of total polyphenols as a cup of steamed broccoli or green tea. Be careful not to overeat almonds though as they are high in protein, nearly one gram per almond.
- Brazil Nuts: Brazil nuts are an excellent source of organic selenium, a powerful antioxidant-boosting mineral that may be beneficial for the prevention of cancer.
As mentioned earlier, one of the keys to optimal health is to switch your body from burning sugar to burning fat as its primary fuel. This requires a shift in diet, away from non-starchy vegetable carbohydrates toward foods that are high in healthful fats—such as those found in tree nuts. Many would benefit from getting as much as 50-85 percent of their daily calories from fats. Although this sounds like a lot, by volume the largest portion of your plate would be vegetables because they have so few calories. Examples of healthful fats would be:
Avocados Butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk Raw dairy Organic pastured egg yolks Coconuts and coconut oil Unheated organic nut oils Raw nuts, such as almonds, pecans, macadamia, and seeds Grass-fed meats
Besides making sure you’re eating the right foods, intermittent fasting can be quite helpful for achieving this metabolic shift, and here’s why: It takes about six to eight hours for your body to burn the sugar stored in your body as glycogen. However, most of us never deplete our glycogen stores because we eat three or more meals a day. This teaches your body to burn sugar as your primary fuel and effectively shuts off your ability to use fat as a fuel.
Most people need several weeks of intermittent fasting, but some may need several months to teach their body to turn on the fat burning enzymes to effectively use fat as their primary fuel. It is important to understand though that once you teach your body to burn fat effectively and you are normal body weight without high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol, you only need to do intermittent fasting occasionally. You can go back to eating three meals a day as long as you keep your ideal body weight.
I prefer to think of intermittent fasting as a lifestyle rather than a diet. You could even think of it as intermittent eating rather than intermittent fasting, as all you’re doing is restricting your eating to a smaller window of time each day rather than grazing from early morning to late at night. I restricted my eating to a 6- to 7-hour window each day until I became fat adapted and lost about 10 pounds. Now, I still rarely ever eat breakfast but will have some nuts. Many days I only eat one meal around 2-4 PM, but several days a week, I will have two meals.
Weight loss is not the only beneficial side effect of intermittent fasting. It has also been shown to generally extend lifespan much in the same way calorie restriction and extended fasting, but without the suffering that goes along with those methods. It is likely that calorie restriction works to increase longevity by improving insulin and leptin resistance and also inhibiting the mTOR pathway by protein restriction. Healthful fat does not impair any of these pathways and appears to be the solution to having a regular calorie diet and still reap the rewards of calorie restriction.
If you’re ready to start intermittent fasting, consider skipping breakfast, make sure you stop eating three hours before you go to sleep, and restrict your eating to an 8-hour (or less) time frame every day. In the 6-8 hours that you do eat, have a moderate amount of healthy protein, eliminate or severely minimize carbs like pasta, bread, and potatoes, and exchange them vegetables and plenty of healthful fats. As already mentioned, this includes raw nuts and other foods like butter, eggs, avocado, coconut oil, and olive oil.
Remember, it will take a few weeks to a few months for your body to make the transition to fat burning mode, and you will need to exercise some willpower and self-discipline to get there. Just gradually extend the time that you start your first meal until it is in the afternoon.
Once your body has made the shift from carb burning to fat burning mode, you can expect cravings for sweets and food in general to rapidly decrease. This is a huge boon for most people, I’m sure. I know it was for me. For many, the desire for sweets and junk food will disappear entirely. Remember, it will typically take a few weeks, and you have to do it gradually, but once you succeed to switch into fat burning mode you’ll be easily able to go without food for 18 hours and not be bothered by hunger.
Another phenomenally beneficial side effect that occurs is that you will radically improve the beneficial bacteria in your gut.
Supporting healthy gut bacteria, which actually outnumber your cells 10 to one, is one of the most important things you can do to improve your immune system so you won’t get sick, or get coughs, colds, and flus. You will sleep better, have more energy, have increased mental clarity and concentrate better. Essentially every aspect of your health will improve as your gut flora becomes balanced.
Based on my own experience with intermittent fasting, I believe it’s one of the most powerful ways to shift your body into fat burning mode and improve a wide variety of biomarkers for disease. The effects can be further magnified by exercising while in a fasted state. For more information on that, please see my previous article “High-Intensity Interval Training and Intermittent Fasting - A Winning Combo.” Clearly, it’s another powerful tool in your box to help you and your family take control of your health, and an excellent way to take your fitness to the next level.
To increase the positive impacts on your health, look for nuts that are organic and raw, not irradiated or pasteurized. If you choose to use almonds (remember that they are relatively high in protein), be aware that pasteurized almonds sold in North America can still be labeled "raw" even though they've been subjected to one of the following pasteurization methods:
- Oil roasting, dry roasting, or blanching
- Steam processing
- Propylene Oxide (PPO) treatment (PPO is a highly toxic flammable chemical compound, once used as a racing fuel before it was prohibited for safety reasons)
There are generally no truly "raw" almonds sold in North America, so don't be misled. It is possible to purchase raw almonds in the US, but it has to be done very carefully from vendors selling small quantities that have a waiver from the pasteurization requirement. The key is to find a company with the waiver that is not pasteurizing them. When consumed with these guidelines in mind, raw, organic nuts are a convenient and enjoyable superfood to add to your diet. And this is precisely why they’re recommended as one of the best sources of healthy fats in my nutrition plan.
By Dr. Mercola
If you're a current smoker, the research suggests that no matter what your age, quitting can be extremely beneficial. For instance, if you quit smoking before the age of 40, more than 90 percent of the excess mortality caused by continuing smoking may be avoided.1
If you quit before the age of 30, the benefit is even more dramatic, with 97 percent of excess mortality vanishing. However, even if you quit later in life, there are still impressive benefits.
New research showed that smokers over 65 who quit smoking may reduce their risk of dying from heart-related problems to that of a non-smoker within just eight years.2
If you’re thinking of quitting, read below for the three steps you should take first. But when you’re ready, the following strategies, recently posted by TIME,3 may help, especially in the early days and hours:
- Chew carrots: A healthy snack can help you beat nicotine cravings (and the urge to bring something to your mouth). Carrots, celery, radishes, bell pepper slices, and other fresh veggies would all work for this purpose.
- Distract yourself: Surround yourself with people who are supportive of your choice to quit and who can help take your mind off of cravings.
- “Snap” your cravings away: Wear a rubber band around your wrist and snap it if you’re considering giving in to a craving. The sting will distract you and give you a moment to remember all of the reasons why you’re quitting.
- Exercise: Exercise helps fight addictions by releasing natural feel-good endorphins and easing stress and anxiety.
- Take a shower: This is another calming distraction, plus when you feel clean and fresh, you’ll be less likely to want to light up.
- Listen to music: Take your mind off of cravings with your favorite relaxing tunes, or put on an upbeat tune and dance to celebrate your new “smoke-free” self.
Nearly 44 million US adults (or 19 percent) smoke cigarettes, and cigarette smoking accounts for one of every five deaths in the US each year, which adds up to more than 440,000 deaths annually.4 The good news is that this is more than half that of what it was fifty years ago.
While smoking is conventionally described as a leading cause of preventable death, it actually pales in comparison to the excessive use of sugar and relying on the conventional health care system for health challenges. Both of these behaviors are far more deadly than smoking.
Still, the risks of smoking are well established and it’s certainly better off avoided. If you decide to quit, I believe it’s wise to get healthy first so you don’t turn to another vice, like sugar, as a substitute for cigarettes. When you do quit, however, you’ll experience certain benefits right away and others in the years that follow:5
- Within 20 minutes after quitting, your heart rate and blood pressure drop
- 12 hours after quitting, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal
- Within three months after quitting, your lung function increases
- Within nine months after quitting, coughing and shortness of breath decrease
- Within one year after quitting, heart disease risk drops and within five years related cancer risks are cut in half
Most flavored cigarettes have been banned since 2009, largely because they lured in children with candy- or fruit-like tastes. Flavored cigars, however, are still allowed and the tobacco industry has cleverly made flavored cigars that are thin in shape so they look just like cigarettes. In the last 12 years, sales of flavored cigars have jumped from $6 billion to $13 billion,6 and teens, in particular, are drawn to them.
A report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently showed that more than two-fifths of middle and high school students who smoke use flavored little cigars or flavored (menthol) cigarettes7 -- and nearly 60 percent are not thinking about quitting.
While rates of cigarette smoking in teens have gone down since 2011, use of other tobacco products have increased notably. Among them, increasing numbers of teens are using hookahs (also known as water pipes) and electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), likely because they believe them to be a safer alternative to cigarettes.
According to the CDC’s 2012 National Youth Tobacco Survey,8 2.8 percent of high school students tried e-cigarettes in 2012, compared to 1.5 percent in 2011. E-cigarettes are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and they are currently legal to sell to minors on a federal level (certain states and cities have already banned such sales, however).
Aside from the fact that smoking electronic cigarettes may tempt youth to try the real thing next, they also pose unique risks in and of themselves (not the least of which is exposure to nicotine). When you take a puff of an electronic cigarette a battery heats up a liquid that contains a flavoring (such as tobacco, menthol, cherry, vanilla, or java), a humectant (typically propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin) and, sometimes, nicotine.
As you inhale, you get a “dose” of flavored nicotine without the chemicals typically produced from burning tobacco. However, the FDA has already detected a potentially deadly antifreeze chemical called diethylene glycol in an electronic cigarette cartridge,9 along with tobacco-specific nitrosamines, which are linked to cancer.
Research has also shown that the aerosol from a leading manufacturer of electronic cigarettes contains metals including tin, copper, nickel, and silver, silicate beads and nanoparticles,10 with unknown but likely deleterious health consequences.
Research shows that two-thirds to three-quarters of ex-smokers stop unaided,11 so if you’re thinking of quitting try going cold turkey. However, I believe the "secret" is to get healthy first, which will make quitting all that much easier.
Exercising is part and parcel of this plan, and as research shows people who engage in regular strength training double their success rate at quitting smoking compared to those who don't exercise.12 Healthy eating is another crucial aspect that can't be ignored. In short, if you want to quit, here are the three basic tips to get you started:
- Read through my comprehensive free nutrition plan to get started eating right, which will teach you about intermittent fasting and other tools to get you healthy BEFORE you quit, radically increasing your likelihood of successfully quitting.
- Develop a well-rounded exercise regimen. It is your ally to fighting disease and quitting smoking. Strength training is an important part, but also remember to incorporate high-intensity interval exercises like Peak Fitness, core-strengthening exercises, aerobics, and stretching.
- Find a healthy emotional outlet. Many people use exercise, meditation, or relaxation techniques for this, and these are all great. I also recommend incorporating the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), as this can help clear out emotional blockages from your system (some of which you might not even realize are there), thus restoring your mind and body's balance and helping you break the addiction and avoid cravings.
If you smoke, I do advise quitting. You should also know about astaxanthin, which has been found to help prevent oxidative damage in those who smoke.13 This might be one way to at least help lessen some of the smoking-related damage for those who are unwilling or unable to quit.
By Dr. Mercola
The Hippocrates Health Institute, situated in southern Florida, is one of the world's oldest complementary health centers. Dr. Brian Clement got started with the organization in 1975, and assumed directorship in 1980.
He’s also the author of a three-volume series of academic books called, Food Is Medicine: The Scientific Evidence, reflecting on the work done at the Institute over the past six decades, combined with the empirical evidence coming out of research institutions such as Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, Princeton, and Stanford.
Dr. Clement is the medical director of the Hippocrates Health Institute. They offer residential programs lasting anywhere from one to three weeks, sometimes even longer. This allows you to learn, absorb, and help implement a new set of lifestyle strategies at a deep and lasting level.
The Institute was founded by a woman named Anne Wigmore who, in 1952, was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. Her doctors told her she had about three months left to live.
“Well, thank goodness for her history,” Dr. Clement says. “In Europe, her grandmother was a village doctor. She saw her grandma, a natural doctor who used herbs and plants. She adopted that, healed herself, and reversed her cancer.”
Upon her return to Boston, Massachusetts, Wigmore decided to share her experience and help others who were suffering debilitating and lethal diseases. And so the Hippocrates Health Institute was born in Boston in 1956.
Today, six decades in business, the Institute is at the cutting edge in terms of using food and other lifestyle strategies as medicine. When Dr. Clement first joined the staff, he was sent off to Europe.
“I spent three years there, bringing back the message of plant-based raw food diets and ran the original living food center called Humlegaarden – which was started more than 100 years ago in Denmark by Dr. Kristine Nolfi, who had reversed breast cancer with raw food... I came back in 1980 and assumed the directorship,” he says.
Presently, about half of the Institute’s patients are interested in disease prevention. The other half are quite ill. People come from all over the world to learn how to improve and regain their health at this spa-style health retreat. As I said earlier, I had a chance to personally visit the Institute for a week, and it was truly a wonderful experience.
One of the things I was particularly impressed with is the focus on raw foods, specifically sprouts.
I usually eat six to eight ounces of sunflower seed sprouts a day. Four truly powerful nutritional approaches taught at the institute are:
- Intermittent fasting and shifting from burning carbs to burning fat as your primary fuel
- Eating live, raw foods, including lots of sprouts
- Avoiding sugars, refined foods, and processed foods. They also advise avoiding all fruit juices and minimizing fruit initially
- Shifting from poor quality protein to high-quality protein
With respects to the latter, Dr. Clement explains:
“... [E]ach and every one of those four aspects are clinically researched here, and we’ve established concrete empirical evidence on how they work, biochemically, in your body, [and] high-protein diets are major culprits.
What we have seen recently, after 60 years and working with hundreds of thousands of people, is that when we reduce the amount of protein... and minimize the breakdown effect or digestion effect that your body requires to take this very dense nutrition and split it to amino acids, there’s health balance.
Our colleagues in Europe have added another dimension... glycation [and] advanced glycation end products (AGEs). In Germany, they showed us that proteins, when bonding with sugars, actually created another structure.
This structure is such an oddity, an enigma to the human biochemistry, that the immune system doesn’t know what to do with it. It runs rampant, actually causing cell death, producing free radicals.
When we bond high-protein diets, certainly high-animal protein diets (although this could happen in high-soybean diets) and sugars (not only white sugar and red beet but agave syrup and way too many soy proteins), you end up killing cells and creating free radicals. That’s what glycation and AGE’s does.”
In 1992, Johns Hopkins researched natural ways to squelch cancer. A diet high in cruciferous vegetables was identified as a factor that lowered the incidence. Additional research identified broccoli as having some of the most potent anti-cancer activity. Since then, when they finally looked into sprouted broccoli seeds, researchers discovered that the phytochemical in the sprouts killed cancer dozens of times more effectively than mature broccoli!
The reason why they teach that sprouts are a core food at the Institute is because sprouts, depending on the variety, are anywhere from 10 to 30 times more nutritious than the best organic vegetables you can grow in the best organic soil in your yard.
Sunflower seed and pea sprouts tend to top the list, in terms of their nutritional profile, each being typically about 30 times more nutritious than organic vegetables. 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
Phytonutrients, found in raw foods such as sprouts, are key for reversing disease with food. This is such a common-sense approach to health, yet the vision of so many people has been clouded by modern day living.
“I’ll never forget Ann Wigmore... This woman was purely heart and instinct. That’s why she was correct almost always,” Dr. Clement says. “I was frustrating her because I was young and insecure and was, in a way, challenging her [to explain]: “How does this reverse disease?”
She got frustrated one day and took a little organic sunflower seed, and said, “Don’t you realize if we put this to the ground, in seven weeks, it will be 12 to 15 feet-tall with thousands of seeds on it? That sunflower plant is going to be facing the east in the morning and facing the west at night. Now, don’t you think the power of the sunflower is that you’re taking hundreds and thousands of these, by eating them, and that juicing them is going to be good for you?”
It’s the light force in the food that is even more important than the nutrients and the proteins... It is so overwhelmingly obvious that, whatever food choices you make, eat large amounts of green, fresh food.”
Sprouts may in fact be one of the most obvious solutions to worldwide malnutrition and hunger due to poverty. They’re inexpensive and simple to grow, in virtually any climate when grown indoors, and can provide up to 30 times more nutrients than even organically grown vegetables! With barely any money at all, you can eat the healthiest of diets, year-round. Keeping seeds for sprouting is easy. Seeds are relatively simple to store and last for a long time. You also have to store FAR less food if you’re using seeds, as they don’t take up much space. I think it’s just a marvelous preparation strategy.
One of the things I teach is that, for most people, it’s far healthier to skip breakfast. Omitting breakfast, as part of an intermittent fasting schedule, can have a number of phenomenal health benefits, from improving your insulin sensitivity to shifting your body into burning more fat instead of sugar for fuel. This will help you painlessly lose weight without being hungry as you will now finally have the ability to burn fat. The Hippocrates Institute has also more or less eliminated breakfast, serving only raw vegetable juices in the morning. This is basically intermittent fasting, even though it’s not being taught as that in the program.
Intermittent fasting, also known as “scheduled eating,” does not necessarily mean abstaining from all food for extended periods of time. Rather it refers to limiting your eating to a narrow window of time each day. Ideally, you’ll want to limit your eating to a window of about 6-8 hours, say from noon until 6 or 8 pm each day, which means you’re fasting daily for 16-18 hours. This is enough to get your body to shift into fat-burning mode.
This is a gradual process. Typically you start by not eating anything for three hours prior to going to sleep. This will give you a head start to the fasting process so if you sleep for 8 hours you’ve already fasted for 11 hours when you awake. The next step is to wait as long as you can before you start your first meal or “break” your fast. You can gradually extend the time that you have your first meal by 15 to 30 minutes a day. After several weeks you will be having your first meal at lunch. Typically, the more your body uses carbs as its primary fuel rather than fat, the longer this will take. Once you shift to fat burning mode, modern research has confirmed some of the benefits to be:
- Normalizing your insulin sensitivity, which is key for optimal health as insulin resistance is a primary contributing factor to nearly all chronic disease, from diabetes to heart disease and even cancer
- Normalizing ghrelin levels, also known as "the hunger hormone"
- Promoting human growth hormone (HGH) production, which plays an important part in health, fitness and slowing the aging process
- Lowering triglyceride levels
- Reducing inflammation and lessening free radical damage
The Hippocrates Institute also provides and promotes raw vegetable juicing—but not the juicing of fruits. The reasons for this are manifold. According to Dr. Clement:
“Seventy-five percent of raw food eaters today are sugar addicts trading white sugar for agave syrup; trading cakes for three mangoes or watermelons. You’re still a sugar addict... We’ve done empirical research on that. For 35 years, [sugar, including fruit] has been restricted here at Hippocrates in people with cancer.”
If you have cancer and are in treatment, the Institute will tell you to eliminate all sugar, fruit juices and most fruit initially. Fruit juice is clearly worse than eating the whole fruit, since you’re then getting a high dose of fructose all at once, without any of the fiber. But even excessive whole fruit can be a problem for the vast majority of people today, especially if you’re struggling with your weight, insulin resistance, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or cancer.
Large amounts of fructose, especially for someone who’s insulin- and/or leptin-resistant, is not a good idea. Dr. Clement, however, believes that most people, with the exception of athletes, should avoid fruit.
Remember, this is his position, not mine. I am just presenting it so you can evaluate it for yourself. Personally I believe that if you are fat adapted, fruit can be beneficial, especially if consumed before or after a workout where the sugar is consumed as a fuel and does not increase glycogen stores. His argument probably makes more sense for those who are insulin and/or leptin resistant, which happens to be the vast majority of the population.
Some 30 years ago, Dr. Clement met a fruit cultivation specialist who informed him about some nutritional facts that few people ever consider. Eighty-five percent of the fruit available today did not exist 100 years ago. Fruit has been thoroughly changed through hybridization practices to increase sweetness, and therein lies the problem... and the answer to why it’s probably unwise for most people to eat a diet high in fruit.
For example, the honeybell orange, which is quite sweet, was spliced together about 35 years ago, mixing grapefruit with tangerine. And the popular Red Delicious apple? It’s now 50 times higher in fructose than the original apple, which was more sour than a crab apple!
“Here’s where we saw it: the average fruit today through hybridization has a minimum of 30 times more sugar on an average,” Dr. Clement says, and this is why one of humankind’s original foods is no longer appropriate in large quantities...
Our forefathers also didn’t eat processed sugar, which was primarily reserved for the aristocracy. Increasing sugar consumption over the past four or five generations has resulted in disturbed pancreatic functioning in most people. The human pancreas simply doesn’t know how to process sugars properly anymore, due to being overloaded.
“Now we have massive sugars from what I considered to be the original food of man. What could be more perfect? You eat a fruit, you spit it out, and the seed grows another tree. But now it is quite an altered fruit. Added to this, your pancreas doesn’t work well. So, now you have a problem. When we can get people off the addictive pattern of sugar and we can get them onto plant-based foods without the high-sugar content with enough glucose in it to sustain fuel of the cell, they don’t age prematurely and it works,” he says.
“I would rather have a mango than a green lettuce, because it tastes better. But a green lettuce supplies glucose for my cell without supplying additional amounts that become blood sugar, which not only creates blood sugar swings but feeds every known disease to man and create free radicals. That’s the answer... Definitively, I say that the only people who can eat – not should eat– dried fruit and a lot of bananas are people who are major athletes.”
Another interesting aspect relating to the consumption of fruit is the fact that often the fruit available at your local grocery store is not ripe, and unripe fruit, according to Dr. Clement, creates acidity in your body. (Ripe fruit is alkaline.) Sure, the fruit you buy may look ripe, but we actually have a vastly erroneous concept of how fruit ripens.
As it turns out, you cannot commercially process ripe fruit. If you were to pack ripe oranges in Florida, for example, and ship them to another state, they’d be rotten in about a week. Hence the fruit is picked months before it’s ripe. If you’re like most people, you probably think that once a fruit turns color and softens, it’s ripening. But this is not accurate.
Dr. Clement explains that in order for a fruit to optimally ripen, it must remain attached to the branch on the tree or bush. Nutrients are continuously fed to the fruit while on the tree. The veins that feed the fruit come from the roots, which in turn extract nutrients from the soil and beneficial soil bacteria. Add to that the UV rays from the sun, causing photosynthesis to occur throughout the plant. Once you pluck the fruit, it’s no longer receiving nutrients, and the ripening process stops. Hence the nutritional value of the fruit is compromised.
“We tell people that up to 15 percent of your diet can be ripe organic fruit, even if you’re not an athlete. But once we get beyond the 15 percent, 20 percent it starts to spill over and put sugar in the blood,” Dr. Clement says.
I recently interviewed Wayne Pickering, better known as “The Mango Man.” He eats plenty of fruit, but appears to be quite healthy. He is a strong proponent of food combining. Food combination takes into account the area and complexity of digestion of each food, to ensure it goes through your entire digestive system with ease. One of the core principles of food combining according to Dr. Pickering is that you should not combine fruit with vegetables, as this inhibits proper digestion. So, if you’re going to eat fruit, seek to eat it by itself, and not in combination with other foods—especially not starches. Dr. Clement agrees with this approach, saying:
“Yes, this is something I have adopted... [W]e’ve had so many times, when people have gotten on the food combining, they’ve eliminated gastrointestinal problems; diverticulosis, diverticulitis, overweight, nausea, and headaches. It has a lot to do with this [principle].”
Last but not least, with regards to juicing Dr. Clement makes a very interesting and important distinction. Chopping and blending your veggies with a high speed blender should not be confused with juicing as it does NOT provide you with the same health benefits as juicing. Remarkably, blending your veggies using a blender can kill up to 90 percent of the nutrients in 90 seconds, primarily due to oxidation, according to Dr. Clement. He explains:
“I had a colleague at the University of Miami set up a 29-dollar blender. He had his Vitamix. We measured the nutritional levels in several ounces of food. We put that food in the blenders. We knew what the numbers were. We blended it for 90 seconds. About 15 years ago, we found out that 90 percent of the nutrients (we were looking at vitamins A, E, C; the basic five nutrients at the top) are killed in 90 seconds of blending with a high-speed blender.”
Furthermore, when you drink—opposed to chew—the blended vegetables, your body does not produce the enzymes required for digestion of the pulp. Eighty percent of carbohydrates are digested in your mouth when you chew. Without the enzymes to break down the carbohydrates, your blended veggies begin to ferment in your intestinal tract. If the food you eat is not digesting properly, not only can painful gas, heart burn, acid reflux and other stomach problems arise, but your body will also be deprived of critical nutrients, which defeats the whole purpose of juicing in the first place.
Tens of thousands of people have already visited the Hippocrates Health Institute, and if you're interested in their services, check out their website at www.hippocratesinst.org. You can also call them at 561-623-1002. The Institute is open seven days a week.
By Dr. Mercola
I’ve highlighted the fact that the pharmaceutical industry is responsible for nearly 20 percent of corporate crime in a number of previous articles.
Here, I want to draw your attention to an excellent article1, 2 on the institutional corruption of pharmaceuticals, published in the Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics. It’s well worth reading in its entirety if you have an interest in this topic.
This term, “institutional corruption,” does not refer to any violation of existing rules or laws. Rather it refers to “a certain kind of influence, within an economy of influence, that has a certain effect,” as explained the Cambridge lecture above. As presented in the video, an activity is considered institutional corruption if it:
- Weakens the effectiveness of an institution, and/or
- Weakens public trust in that institution
The lecture series was sponsored by the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics at Harvard, which also published the featured article on this topic, written by Donald W. Light, Joel Lexchin, and Jonathan J. Darrow. They write:3
“Institutional corruption is a normative concept of growing importance that embodies the systemic dependencies and informal practices that distort an institution’s societal mission.
An extensive range of studies and lawsuits already documents strategies by which pharmaceutical companies hide, ignore, or misrepresent evidence about new drugs; distort the medical literature; and misrepresent products to prescribing physicians.
We focus on the consequences for patients: millions of adverse reactions. After defining institutional corruption, we focus on evidence that it lies behind the epidemic of harms and the paucity of benefits...
If “corruption” is defined as an impairment of integrity or moral principle, then institutional corruption is an institution’s deviation from a baseline of integrity.”
Lack of integrity is indeed different from outright violation of law, which is a punishable crime. Avoidance of “moral principle,” while not illegal per se, is still a very serious concern—if nothing else for the very real harm it produces. This is true in most situations, but it’s particularly heinous when it is the modus operandi of those who wield the greatest power over your health care.
The authors assert that, within the pharmaceutical industry, institutional corruption occurs at three different levels:
- Lobbying efforts and political contributions. This way, the pharmaceutical industry has influenced the US Congress to enact legislation that has severely undermined the stated mission and function of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- Through the application of industry pressure, “Congress has underfunded FDA enforcement capacities since 1906, and turning to industry-paid “user fees” since 1992 has biased funding to limit the FDA’s ability to protect the public from serious adverse reactions to drugs that have few offsetting advantages,” according to the authors.
- Commercializing the role of doctors, undermining their position as “independent, trusted advisers to patients.”
As stated in the featured article, the health care system is founded on the moral principle that a doctor, first, will do no harm. The principle of not harming the patient is explicit in the Hippocratic Oath,4 one of the oldest binding documents in history. Under that moral edict, the duty of any health care worker is, first and foremost, to treat illness using the best medical knowledge and science available, and to carefully assess the risks of harm.
“The institutional corruption of health care consists of deviations from these principles,” the featured article states.
Unfortunately, the system in operation today has strayed quite far from this high moral ground. In fact, it has strayed so far that, today, the medical establishment as a whole is one of the leading causes of death!
According to the most recent research5 into the cost of medical mistakes in terms of lives lost, 210,000 Americans are killed by preventable hospital errors each year. When deaths related to diagnostic errors, errors of omission, and failure to follow guidelines are included, the number skyrockets to an estimated 440,000 preventable hospital deaths each year. That makes medical errors the third-leading cause of death in the US, right after heart disease and cancer.
If we limit it to adverse drug reactions alone, the featured article6 tells us that 2.7 million Americans experience a serious adverse drug reaction while hospitalized each year. Of those, an estimated 128,000 die as a direct result of the adverse reaction. According to those statistics, hospital-based adverse drug reactions alone are the fourth leading cause of death in the US.
Sadly, a majority of healthcare workers observe mistakes made by their peers yet rarely do anything to challenge them. This too falls into the discussion in the featured video. In it, it is argued that if you have the ability to right a wrong, but do not, are you not also responsible for the outcome? In essence, part of the problem of institutional corruption is not simply “bad people doing bad things,” but “good people looking the other way.”
According to the featured article:
“The major patent-based research pharmaceutical companies also nominally commit themselves to improving health and relieving suffering... But in fact, these companies are mostly developing drugs that are mostly little better than existing products but have the potential to cause widespread adverse reactions even when appropriately prescribed. This deviation from the principles of health care by institutions allegedly dedicated to health care is institutional corruption.
We present evidence that industry has a hidden business model to maximize profits on scores of drugs with clinically minor additional benefits. Physician commitment to better health is compromised as the industry spends billions to create what Lessig calls a “gift economy” of interdependent reciprocation.”
Contrary to popular belief and corporate sob-stories bewailing the high cost of innovation, pharmaceutical companies devote a miniscule 1.3 percent of their revenues to research and development (R&D) of new drugs. Furthermore, pharmaceutical companies’ revenues have climbed six times faster than their investment in R&D over the past 15 years. Meanwhile, an average of 25 percent of revenues is spent on advertising and promotion of “new” drugs that are no better than their predecessors. So much for the claim that R&D costs are becoming increasingly “unsustainable.”
What’s really unsustainable is the industry’s blatant disregard for patients’ health and well being... Most new drugs offer minor clinical advantages over preexisting drugs at best, and no advantage but greater risks, at worst. For the past 35 years, very few drugs created represent any true advancement in drug therapy. According to the three authors, multiple reviews conducted between the mid-1970's to the mid-1990’s have found that only 11 to 15.6 percent of new molecular entities (NMEs) created provide any kind of “important therapeutic gain.” According to the featured article:
“The independent drug bulletin, La revue Prescrire, analyzes the clinical value of every new drug product or new indication approved in France. From 1981 to 2001, it found that about 12 percent offered therapeutic advantages. But in the following decade, 2002-2011... only 8 percent offered some advantages and nearly twice that many—15.6 percent—were judged to be more harmful than beneficial. A mere 1.6 percent offered substantial advantages.” [Emphasis mine]
They note that similar findings have also been made by the Canadian advisory panel to the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, and by a Dutch general practice drug bulletin. Interestingly enough, the US has not conducted any such review. Remarkably, studies have revealed that one in every five new drugs ended up causing such serious harm that they eventually received a severe warning label or were withdrawn from the market.
“Of priority drugs that were reviewed in slightly more than half the normal time, at least one in three of them caused serious harm,” the featured article states... [E]vidence suggests that commercial distortions of the review process and aggressive marketing contribute to both undermining beneficence as health care’s raison d’être and to the epidemic of harm to patients.”
Just over two decades ago, in 1992, Congress passed the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA), and from that moment on, the FDA was set squarely on the path toward doing more harm than good. The act authorizes the FDA to collect “user fees” from drug companies in order to increase the speed by which it can conduct drug reviews. A standard drug application must now be completed within 12 months of submission, compared to as much as 30 months prior to PDUFA. Priority applications must be completed within six months. Since the FDA began collecting user fees from the very industry it was intended to regulate, approved drugs have become increasingly dangerous. According to the featured article:
“Shortened review times led to substantial increases in serious harms. An in-depth analysis found that each 10-month reduction in review time—which could take up to 30 months—resulted in an 18.1-percent increase in serious adverse reactions, a 10.9-percent increase in hospitalizations, and a 7.2-percent increase in deaths.” [Emphasis mine]
There are ways to correct this fatally flawed system. Unfortunately, the pharmaceutical industry is at this point so enmeshed with our political structure, the US government may as well be viewed as a hybrid corporate-run entity, presenting a façade of concern toward the public but being none-too-confused about whom they’re really serving, namely industry. The featured article presents five strategies that would “reduce conflicts of interest and improve the safety and effectiveness of drugs,” should politicians and Americans at large decide that enough is enough:
- Research companies should have no part in testing the drugs they’ve developed. What’s called for is an independent institute to conduct drug studies.
- The FDA must restore public trust by taking a renewed leadership role focused on drug safety. Part of this includes simply enforcing its currently existing rules, which are all-too-frequently ignored.
- User fees must be eliminated. The FDA must be wholly funded by taxpayers-as-consumers, in order to clarify whom it serves and eliminate conflicts of interest with industry.
- Approval criteria for new drugs should include evidence of superiority over existing drugs and be of relevance to the patient
- Congress needs to create a National Drug Safety Board “with adequate powers, funds, and mandates to independently investigate and report on drug safety issues,” and provide open access to all data. This would go a long way toward reestablishing the public’s trust.
If we continue allowing Big Pharma to live and operate on moral low ground, you really don’t need supernatural powers to predict what the future will bring. History is full of examples of how far they will go to make a buck. Criminal corruption has reached pandemic levels within the industry already. In fact, it seems to be more of an unspoken rule than the exception.
Peter Gøtzsche, head of the Nordic Cochrane Centre (which is considered the gold standard in terms of independent research reviews), goes so far as to compare the pharmaceutical industry to an organized crime ring in his book, Deadly Medicines and Organized Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Healthcare.
"Besides peddling drugs known to be more dangerous than advertised, drug companies are also in large part responsible for the decimation of the very core of medical science, since they fund a great deal of the research. The source of funding has been shown to have a tremendous impact on the results of any study."
According to data from Thomson Reuters,7 the number of retractions of scientific studies have increased more than 15-fold since 2001, and a review8 published just last year showed that nearly 75 percent of all retracted drug studies were attributed to “scientific misconduct,” which includes:
- Data falsification or fabrication
- Questionable veracity
- Unethical author conduct
Corruption of science is incredibly serious, as health care professionals rely on published studies to make treatment recommendations, and large numbers of patients can be harmed when false findings are published. The average lag time between publication of the study and the issuing of a retraction is 39 months. And that's if the misconduct is ever caught at all. What’s worse, about 32 percent of retractions are never published,9 leaving the readers completely in the dark about the fallacies in those studies.
One clear example of how deadly corrupted science can be is the painkiller Vioxx. There were many indications that this would be a dangerous drug, despite Merck’s claims, and I warned my readers to avoid it before its FDA approval in 1999. In 2008, four years after the drug was withdrawn from the market, an editorial10 published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggested Merck might have deliberately manipulated dozens of academic documents published in the medical literature, in order to promote Vioxx under false pretenses.
The diabetes drug Avandia is another potent example. Between 1999 and 2007, Avandia is estimated to have caused over 80,000 unnecessary heart attacks,11 although the actual numbers of people harmed or killed by the drug is still largely unknown. Avandia is a poster child for the lethal paradigm of corrupted science as GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the manufacturer of Avandia, hid damaging information about the drug for over 10 years, as they knew it would adversely affect sales!
Two years ago, GSK agreed to a $3 billion settlement over the sales and marketing practices of several of its drugs, including Avandia. This was the largest federal drug-company settlement in US history, surpassing the $2.3 billion paid by Pfizer in 2009 for illegally promoting off-label uses of four of its drugs. Most recently, GSK’s crooked ways made international headlines yet again when Chinese authorities arrested four of the company’s senior executives on charges of cash and sexual bribery.
The British Medical Journal’s blog recently featured an article12 by former BMJ editor and director of the United Health Group’s chronic disease initiative, Richard Smith. The piece is also the foreword to the book mentioned earlier, Deadly Medicines and Organized Crime. Smith writes:13
“The drug industry has systematically corrupted science to play up the benefits and play down the harms of their drugs.... the industry has bought doctors, academics, journals, professional and patient organizations, university departments, journalists, regulators, and politicians. These are the methods of the mob.
... [D]octors and academics are supposed to have a higher calling. Laws that are requiring companies to declare payments to doctors are showing that very high proportions of doctors are beholden to the drug industry and that many are being paid six figures sums for advising companies or giving talks on their behalf. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that these “key opinion leaders” are being bought. They are the “hired guns” of the industry.
And, as with the mob, woe be to anybody who whistleblows or gives evidence against the industry. Peter tells several stories of whistleblowers being hounded, and John Le Carré’s novel describing drug company ruthlessness became a bestseller and a successful Hollywood film.”
Any time your doctor suggests a drug for an ailment, I urge you to do your due diligence before taking it. That said, remember that leading a common-sense, healthy lifestyle is your best bet to achieve a healthy body and mind. And while conventional medical science may flip-flop back and forth in its recommendations, there are certain basic tenets of optimal health that remain unchanged. Following these healthy lifestyle guidelines can go a very long way toward keeping you well and prevent chronic disease of all kinds:
- Proper Food Choices: For a comprehensive guide on which foods to eat and which to avoid, see my nutrition plan. Generally speaking, you should be looking to focus your diet on whole, ideally organic, unprocessed foods. For the best nutrition and health benefits, you will want to eat a good portion of your food raw.
Avoid sugar, and fructose in particular. All forms of sugar have toxic effects when consumed in excess, and drive multiple disease processes in your body, not the least of which is insulin resistance, a major cause of chronic disease and accelerated aging.
I believe the two primary keys for successful weight management are severely restricting carbohydrates (sugars, fructose, and grains) in your diet, and increasing healthy fat consumption. This will optimize insulin and leptin levels, which is key for maintaining a healthy weight and optimal health.
- Regular exercise: Even if you're eating the healthiest diet in the world, you still need to exercise to reach the highest levels of health, and you need to be exercising effectively, which means including high-intensity activities into your rotation. High-intensity interval-type training boosts human growth hormone (HGH) production, which is essential for optimal health, strength and vigor. HGH also helps boost weight loss.
So along with core-strengthening exercises, strength training, and stretching, I highly recommend that two to three times a week you do Peak Fitness exercises, which raise your heart rate up to your anaerobic threshold for 20 to 30 seconds, followed by a 90-second recovery period.
- Stress Reduction: You cannot be optimally healthy if you avoid addressing the emotional component of your health and longevity, as your emotional state plays a role in nearly every physical disease -- from heart disease and depression, to arthritis and cancer.
Meditation, prayer, social support and exercise are all viable options that can help you maintain emotional and mental equilibrium. I also strongly believe in using simple tools such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to address deeper, oftentimes hidden, emotional problems.
- Drink plenty of clean water so that your urine is light yellow.
- Maintain a healthy gut: About 80 percent of your immune system resides in your gut, and research is stacking up showing that probiotics—beneficial bacteria—affect your health in a myriad of ways; it can even influence your ability to lose weight. A healthy diet is the ideal way to maintain a healthy gut, and regularly consuming traditionally fermented foods is the easiest, most cost effective way to ensure optimal gut flora.
- Optimize your vitamin D levels: Research has shown that increasing your vitamin D levels can reduce your risk of death from ALL causes. For practical guidelines on how to use natural sun exposure to optimize your vitamin D benefits, please see my previous article on how to determine if enough UVB is able to penetrate the atmosphere to allow for vitamin D production in your skin.
- Avoid as many chemicals, toxins, and pollutants as possible: This includes tossing out your toxic household cleaners, soaps, personal hygiene products, air fresheners, bug sprays, lawn pesticides, and insecticides, just to name a few, and replacing them with non-toxic alternatives.
- Get plenty of high quality sleep: Regularly catching only a few hours of sleep can hinder metabolism and hormone production in a way that is similar to the effects of aging and the early stages of diabetes. Chronic sleep loss may speed the onset or increase the severity of age-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and memory loss.
By Dr. Mercola
Many people regard the holiday season as a time for well-deserved breaks and festivities. Included in that merry-making is typically a myriad of sweets, carb-heavy comfort foods, cocktails and more than a few excuses for skipping the gym.
As a result, the average American gains close to one pound during the six-week period from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day.1
This may not sound so bad, but if you don’t lose it you’ll be up 10 pounds in a decade without even noticing it. If you’re already overweight or obese, which two-thirds of Americans are, the weight gain tends to be more substantial – around 5 pounds each year.
This weight gain amounted to more than half of individuals’ annual weight gain, whether they were overweight or not, which means the holiday season really is the time of year when you’re most likely to put on the most extra weight, even though it’s only several weeks long.
This isn’t written in stone, however, and there are plenty of actions you can take to not only prevent holiday weight gain, but even to lose weight during the holidays if you need to.
1. Keep a Food Diary to Plan Meals
Most people who keep a food diary note what is eaten after it is eaten. By that time, any poor decisions would already have been made. Instead, try keeping a proactive food diary. That is, start your day by writing down exactly what you plan to eat, and then stick with it. While it’s ok to allow yourself a treat here and there, make sure it’s one you “planned for” in your diary that won’t throw off your entire day’s meals.
Also useful, while jotting down your daily food, make notes about how good you’ll feel while eating these healthy foods, and how they will help you achieve your ultimate goal of losing weight or not gaining weight, etc. The old adage is that if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.
2. Eat When You’re Hungry
Have you ever tried to “make up” for what you know will be a gorge-worthy holiday meal by eating nothing leading up to the big event? It is likely that when you arrived at the festive occasion, you were so famished that you devoured everything in sight. This is a big mistake that will only make you eat more in the long run.
A far better bet is to eat reasonable meals beforehand so that you feel satiated and are less likely to overindulge on sweets or stuffing. In fact, eating a bowl of broth-based soup before a meal is likely to result in your consuming 20 percent fewer calories total (including the soup!).2
3. Eat Your Fat First
Fat will help you to feel full while also stimulating your metabolism. So “snacking” on your portion of these foods first, before helping yourself to all of the starchy sides and desserts, may help you keep your cravings and total food intake in check. Good examples of fat are olives, olive oil, coconut oil, butter and nuts -- macadamia nuts are particularly useful as they are high in fat and low in protein.
4. Go for a Walk
A brisk walk after your meal has several significant benefits. First, it will get you away from the food, making it less likely that you’ll help yourself to seconds or overindulge in dessert upon your return. Second, while supporting your digestion and metabolism, the physical activity will help to lower your blood sugar levels and insulin (i.e. the fat-storing hormone).
5. Recondition Your Brain
Make no mistake: the highly processed foods – cookies, cinnamon rolls, bread, crackers, boxed stuffing and more -- so common at holiday feasts are engineered to appeal to your primal drive for calories, fat, sugar, and salt.
From the intense advertising to the lab-tested recipes, the junk food system is orchestrated to keep you buying more junk in lieu of real food. As you consume more and more of these highly processed products, you lose touch with the foundations of healthy eating – and your kids may grow up never knowing the value of a home-cooked meal. Your brain will also become conditioned to crave these unhealthy foods, making it nearly impossible to resist them.
When you eat sugar, for instance, it triggers production of your brain's natural opioids -- a key ingredient in the addiction process. Your brain essentially becomes addicted to stimulating the release of its own opioids as it would to morphine or heroin.
One way to help “reprogram” your brain so you don’t feel powerless to resist unhealthy foods is with the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). When your body's energy system is disrupted, you are more likely to experience distractions and discomforts related to food, and more likely to engage in emotional eating. Instead, if you engage your body's subtle energy system with EFT, the distracting discomforts like food cravings and hunger pangs often subside.
6. Try Intermittent Fasting
Our ancestors rarely had access to food 24/7 like we do today, and it makes sense that our genes are optimized for intermittent fasting. It takes about six to eight hours for your body to metabolize your glycogen stores and after that you actually start to shift to burning fat. However if you are replenishing your glycogen by eating every few hours, you make it far more difficult for your body to actually use your fat stores as fuel.Research has shown a beneficial glycemic effect from fasting that resulted in a lower gain in body weight than in non-fasting animals.3
Other research suggests fasting triggers a variety of health-promoting hormonal and metabolic changes similar to those that occur when you exercise. Fasting is historically commonplace as it has been a part of spiritual practice for millennia. Modern research has also confirmed there are many good reasons to fast intermittently, including:
- Normalizing your insulin sensitivity, which is key for optimal health as insulin resistance is a primary contributing factor to nearly all chronic disease, from diabetes to heart disease and even cancer
- Normalizing ghrelin levels, also known as "the hunger hormone"
- Promoting human growth hormone (HGH) production, which plays an important part in health, fitness and slowing the aging process
- Lowering triglyceride levels
- Reducing inflammation and lessening free radical damage
If you're healthy and you do decide to give intermittent fasting a try, do so gradually (don't try to do a 24-hour fast on your first day). Ultimately, you can opt for a 12-16-hour fast as frequently as you can. You can also consider fasting every other day, or simply delaying certain meals, such as skipping breakfast and exercising on an empty stomach.
There are many options, and you can discover what works best for you by listening to your body, and going slow; work your way up to longer fasts if your normal schedule has included multiple meals a day. You can also start out by ending your meals earlier in the evening or late afternoon and fasting overnight while you sleep.
I have revised my personal eating schedule to eliminate breakfast and restrict the time I eat food to a period of about six to seven hours, which is typically from noon to 6 or 7 pm. On the days that I exercise in the morning, I will have one scoop of Pure Power Protein about 30 minutes after the workout to provide nutrients, especially leucine, for muscle growth and repair. Interestingly, since adopting this approach for the past few months I have lost two inches from my waist size and gained three pounds, which means I have lost body fat and gained muscle mass.
Achieving and maintaining your ideal weight isn’t something to think about only during the holidays; it should be more of a year-round lifestyle. If you have ever struggled with losing weight and keeping it off, you already know what a challenge that can be. Dr. Richard Johnson of the University of Colorado has recently written a book called The Fat Switch, which presents a groundbreaking approach to preventing and reversing obesity. According to Dr. Johnson, based on his decades of research:
"Those of us who are obese eat more because of a faulty 'switch' and exercise less because of a low energy state. If you can learn how to control the specific 'switch' located in the powerhouse of each of your cells – the mitochondria – you hold the key to fighting obesity."
There are five basic truths that Dr. Johnson explains in detail in this new book:
- Large portions of food and too little exercise are the result of your fat switch being turned on
- Metabolic Syndrome is the normal condition that animals undertake to store fat
- Uric acid is increased by specific foods and causes obesity and insulin resistance
- Fructose-containing sugars cause obesity not by calories but by turning on the fat switch
- Effective treatment of obesity requires turning off your fat switch and improving the function of your cells' mitochondria
I highly recommend picking up a copy of this book, which has been described as the "Holy Grail" for those struggling with their weight. Dietary sugar, especially fructose, is a significant "tripper of your fat switch," so my long-standing advice to keep your TOTAL fructose consumption below 25 grams per day still stands. However, most people would be wise to limit their fructose to 15 grams or less, particularly if you have elevated uric acid levels, which can be used as a predictor for fructose toxicity.
For the majority of people, severely restricting non-vegetable carbohydrates such as sugars, fructose, and grains in your diet will be the key to weight loss. Refined carbohydrates like breakfast cereals, bagels, waffles, pretzels, and most other processed foods quickly break down to sugar, increase your insulin levels, and cause insulin resistance, which is the number one underlying factor of nearly every chronic disease and condition known to man, including weight gain.
As you cut these dietary villains from your meals, you need to replace them with healthy substitutes like vegetables and healthy fats (including natural saturated fats!). You will probably need to radically increase the amount of high-nutrient, low-carbohydrate vegetables you eat. I've detailed a step-by-step guide to this type of healthy eating program in my comprehensive nutrition plan, and I urge you to consult this guide if you are trying to lose weight.
Next, you'll want to add in proper exercise. The key to boosting weight loss and getting the most out of your exercise routine is to make sure to incorporate high-intensity, short-burst-type exercises, such as my Peak Fitness Program, two to three times per week. Several studies have confirmed that exercising in shorter bursts with rest periods in between burns more fat than exercising continuously for an entire hour. And because each session lasts just 20 minutes, there’s no excuse not to do it, even during the busy holiday season.
By Dr. Mercola
Besides sharing time with family and friends over food, the primary ingredient of the American Thanksgiving holiday is, of course, gratitude.
This year, Thanksgiving Day is also the first day of Hanukkah1 — an extremely rare convergence that will not occur again for 79,043 years! The last time it happened was in 1888. So for Jewish Americans, November 28 may be doubly festive this year.
As you take a moment to consider what you’re truly thankful for, and share it with those you love, I would like to share my gratitude for you, and all of our phenomenal Health Liberty partners.
Health Liberty is a nonprofit coalition formed by Mercola.com, National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), Fluoride Action Network (FAN), Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT), Organic Consumers Association (OCA), and Consumers for Dental Choice.
Each partner-organization has a rich history of advocacy and active campaigning for change and better access to truly empowering health information. Together, we’re making great strides toward improving a number of broken systems and health-harming practices:
- The outdated use of dangerous mercury in dentistry
- Water fluoridation
- Forced vaccinations
- Unlabeled genetically engineered foods
- The agricultural and food system that promotes unhealthy processed foods while trying to literally outlaw healthy whole organic foods
Throughout the year, we’ve spearheaded and supported a number of fundraising events for our partner organizations in order to help them continue with their mission to improve people’s health. In return, they’ve been dogged and tireless in their efforts to do just that. I cannot imagine where we’d all be without them.
For starters, the Campaign for Mercury-Free Dentistry, organized and led by Charlie Brown of Consumers for Dental Choice, beat tremendous opposition to get dental amalgam into the international mercury treaty this year.
The treaty, named the Minamata Convention on Mercury, requires action against mercury in many fronts -- mining (including gold mining, which uses mercury), power plants, industrial uses, and products. In a decade’s time -- if the treaty is enforced; always a big “if” -- our world can see a substantial diminution of man-made mercury.
Importantly, the treaty is being hailed as marking the beginning of the end for dental amalgam around the world, as it mandates that each nation phase down amalgam use. Specifically, each country must do at least two phase down steps listed in the treaty. The most constructive and efficient of those phase-down steps include:
- Promoting mercury-free alternatives
- Changing dental school curriculum and re-train dentists
- Encouraging insurance programs to favor mercury-free dental restorations over amalgam
It took three years; encompassing five negotiation sessions with all the nations, 15 regional sessions, dozens of papers and reports, and hundreds of meetings with individual governments to make sure dental amalgam made it into the treaty.
The treaty will take effect once it’s been signed by 50 nations—a task that can typically take three or four years. In this case, the Zero Mercury Working Group has launched a campaign to get it ratified by 50 nations (and hence take effect) in just two years.
Three weeks ago, the United States became the first nation to ratify this treaty. What a stunning turnaround, since the US generally does not ratify treaties on toxins at all! This action bodes well for speeding up the ratification process in other nations-- and for accelerating the worldwide campaign against dental mercury.
Two of my partners, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT), have been instrumental for helping raise awareness about the dangers of genetically engineered foods and their prevalence in the market place.
And even though two state initiatives were lost—California and Washington State—to the very deep pockets of the food industry and producers of genetically engineered seeds, the amount of discussion and awareness those two campaigns have raised is priceless.
Since the inception of genetically engineered seed, the food industry has avoided discussion about these unnatural alterations to our food supply, and these state labeling initiatives have forced the issue, placing it front and center in the mind of millions.
In many ways, we’re actually “winning by losing.” With each state ballot, more and more Americans are being educated on this issue, and are becoming savvy to the unsavory, and sometimes illegal, activities these companies engage in just to keep you in the dark about what’s in your food. It’s only a matter of time before this war is won, and we vow not to quit until it is. Some of the state initiatives currently in the works include:
- New Hampshire: HB 6602 would require labeling of “any human or animal food offered for retail sale” as of July 1, 2014.
- Oregon: GMO Free Oregon has plans to begin collecting signatures to get a GMO labeling initiative on the 2014 ballot.3
- Hawaii County, Hawaii: Bill 1134 would ban GMO crops from being grown on the island, with exceptions for some GE crops that are already being cultivated.
- Richmond, California: The Richmond city council is drafting an ordinance that would require genetically engineered foods sold in its jurisdiction to be labeled.5
After generations of misleading propaganda about the benefits of water fluoridation, the truth is finally getting some traction. Contrary to popular belief, the science clearly demonstrates that fluoride is a toxic chemical that accumulates in your tissues over time, wreaks havoc with enzymes, and produces a number of serious adverse health effects, including neurological and endocrine dysfunction. Children are particularly at risk for adverse effects of overexposure.
Yet despite the scientific evidence against the practice, the United States lags far behind other nations in acknowledging the mistake and ending this tragic “public health” measure. As usual, the big lie must continue to protect faith in long term public health policies and agencies...
Alas, the dam is starting to break, and fed up with government stonewalling, individual communities around the US have taken up the fight to end water fluoridation in their own local areas. Tirelessly aiding such communities is Dr. Paul Connett PhD, a chemist and executive director of the Fluoride Action Network (FAN). He’s a recognized leader in the fluoride education movement, spearheading the organized efforts to remove fluoride from our water supply in the US and elsewhere.
Earlier this year, we’ve seen a number of victories, both in the US and abroad, including Wichita, Kansas, Portand, Oregon, where water fluoridation was ousted. Portland is so important because it is the largest city in the US that remains unfluoridated. In Australia, 15 regional Queensland councils have decided to either stop fluoridation or have refused to start.
When it comes to fighting for your right to informed consent and be warned of vaccine risks, the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) is without equal in the US. If it wasn’t for the dedication of the NVIC team, far more people would likely suffer the unspeakable tragedy that is vaccine damage.
The power of personal choice is part of the definition of liberty, and the removal of choice—especially when it comes to medicine, which can have long-term health ramifications—is part of the very definition of tyranny. Today, there is no greater threat to liberty in America than the government enforced use of pharmaceutical products, such as vaccines, sold by corporations for profit.
The large gaps in scientific knowledge about the damage that repeated vaccination from day of birth throughout life could be doing to a child’s brain and immune system has turned current vaccine laws into a forced, uncontrolled scientific experiment on the American population. But matters would likely be far worse if it wasn’t for NVIC’s continuous advocacy for your right to be informed about the risks and to choose whether those risks are acceptable in your, or your child’s, case. In many instances the NVIC is the only pro-choice group present at important meetings relating to proposed vaccine rules.
Mercola.com recently sponsored the NVIC multi-state billboard campaign, which involved placing educational vaccine awareness ads in several cities including Chicago, Phoenix, Tucson, Portland, Olympia, and Austin, allowing us to reach over 10 million people. But there is so much more to be done in this arena, so I invite you to get involved. Nothing could possibly express your gratitude for these “liberty fighters” more than to join them.
Last but certainly not least, I am grateful for you—for reading, absorbing, implementing, and sharing the information in this newsletter each day, and for time and time again responding to the call to action from all of these partner organizations. It is with YOUR support that their work is being accomplished. It is through YOUR participation and engagement in important issues that change is being manifested. YOU are the ones changing the world—one Facebook post, Twitter share, and donation at a time.
Never underestimate the impact you’re having. By itself, a singular voice may not be heard, as it can easily be drowned out by paid opposition. But add together the sound of millions of concerned, dedicated voices, and eventually it will become a deafening roar that cannot be ignored even by the most callous and corrupted decision makers. We have significant problems within our political system, our health system, and our food and agricultural systems. Some seem to be broken beyond repair. But the answer is not to give up, but rather to know that you can make a profound difference.
Take heart in knowing that there are in fact people and organizations already hard at work to change these systems for the better. Let’s be thankful for them. And let’s not take them and their hard work for granted. Instead, join them and share the load. That’ll ease the burden for everyone.
As for myself and my Mercola.com team, our social responsibility is to promote valuable health information, and it’s a mission we will never cease to fulfill. With your help, we have been able to help educate the public and to help you make informed health choices for yourselves and your families. We hope that with our continuous service, you will stay motivated to take control of your health. Because ultimately, “having your health” is something that will fill you with gratitude for the rest of your life!
By Dr. Mercola
Your emotions can have a powerful effect on your physical health and well-being—and vice versa. Happiness can not only protect your body from stressors that can lead to coronary heart disease, it can also boost your immune system's ability to fight off the common cold.
Happy people also tend to live longer, and enjoy more fulfilling relationships. But happiness can be rather subjective. And there’s a wide spectrum between “happiness” and “depression.”
With winter fast approaching and lack of sunlight in the northern hemisphere, which increases the risk for SAD (seasonal affective disorder), this is a particularly timely topic.
According to Shelley Carson, an associate at Harvard University’s Department of Psychology and co-author of the book, "Almost Depressed: Is My (or My Loved One's) Unhappiness a Problem?" many suffer with subclinical symptoms of depression.
In other words, they’re “almost depressed.” In a recent article for CNN Health,1 Carson sheds light on this “in-between” state. “Research suggests that as many as 12 million people in the United States may be suffering from low-grade depression symptoms that are not severe enough to warrant clinical treatment,” she writes.
Symptoms of being in the “almost depressed” category include:
- Inability to enjoy things that you used to consider fun
- Being easily irritated and overreacting to minor incidents
- Regularly finding excuses to avoid socializing
- “Going through the motions” and feeling like each day is a struggle
- Feeling overstressed, thinking you’ll never catch up with all your to-do’s
Major depression is typically associated with thoughts of death or suicide, and feelings of deep hopelessness or helplessness, making it critical to recognize and address such symptoms. To assess your or a loved one’s risk factors, please review this previous article.
If you are feeling desperate or have any thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline,2 a toll-free number 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or call 911, or simply go to your nearest Hospital Emergency Department.
Below, I will share what I believe are some of the most effective options for preventing and/or treating symptoms of depression, “the Blues,” or what Carson refers to as “almost depression” that saps the joy out of your life and detrimentally affects your health.
Besides the increased suicide risk, major depression also quadruples your risk of major heart disease, and raises your risk of a cardiac event by six times, compared to people who are not depressed. There’s simply no doubt that your emotional state impacts your health.
Subsequently, while being “almost depressed” is not considered a clinically treatable mental health condition, that certainly doesn’t make it any less important to address. According to Carson:3
“At Harvard Medical School, we have been investigating the effects that almost depression and other subclinical conditions can have on an individual's quality of life.
People who are almost depressed report a number of issues, including lower job satisfaction, lower satisfaction with their marriage and other personal relationships, more anxiety issues, less control over their lives and lower overall well-being than people who do not fall into the almost depressed range.
Research indicates about 75 percent of cases of low-grade depression will devolve into full-blown major depression if they are not recognized and arrested.”
In her article,4 Carson lists nine simple strategies that have been tested and found effective against subclinical depression in randomized clinical trials. These include:
Get sufficient amounts of exercise Schedule activities you know you’ve enjoyed in the past, as this will help activate your brain’s pleasure centers Express your negative feelings creatively, through painting, singing, music or other creative pursuits Manage your day-to-day stress levels Assess your thoughts and change how you interpret events Practice mindfulness, i.e. pay attention to the moment you’re in right now Silence your “inner critic” and practice more positive self-talk Widen your social support network Improve your self-care, such as eating better and getting enough sleep
I believe it’s helpful to view depression—whatever “level” of it you may be experiencing—as a sign that your body and life are out of balance, rather than as a disease. It’s a message, telling you you’ve veered too far off course, and you need to regain your balance. One of the key ways to do this involves addressing negative emotions that may be trapped beneath your level of awareness. My favorite method of emotional cleansing is Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), a form of psychological acupressure.
Some people avoid energy psychology, believing it’s an alternative form of New Age spirituality. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is merely an advanced tool that can effectively address some of the psychological short circuiting that occurs in emotional illnesses. It is not associated with any religion or spiritual outlook at all, but merely an effective resource you can use with whatever spiritual belief you have.
If you have severe depression, I would strongly urge you to consult with a mental health professional who is also an EFT practitioner. Self-treatment for serious mental health issues is NOT recommended, because although it is easy to learn EFT and far less expensive to do it yourself, it is nearly always better to work with a professional. It’s truly an art that takes years of practice to develop the skill to successfully address deep-seated, significant issues.
That said, for most of you with depression symptoms, this is a technique you can learn to do effectively on your own. In fact, it's so easy that children are learning it. In the videos below, EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman shows how you can use EFT to relieve symptoms of depression.
Total Video Length: 0:29:21
There are other effective stress-management methods you could try as well, such as meditation, journaling, breathing exercises, yoga, or simply sharing your feelings with a close friend. Experiment with a number of approaches, and then pick the methods you find most helpful.
EFT was developed in the 1990s by Gary Craig, a Stanford engineering graduate specializing in healing and self-improvement. It’s akin to acupuncture, which is based on the concept that a vital energy flows through your body along invisible pathways known as meridians. EFT stimulates different energy meridian points in your body by tapping them with your fingertips, while simultaneously using custom-made verbal affirmations. This can be done alone or under the supervision of a qualified therapist. By doing so, you help your body eliminate emotional “scarring” and reprogram the way your body responds to emotional stressors.
I have been a fan of energy psychology for many years, having witnessed its effectiveness in my medical practice and in my own personal life. However, studies have been few and far between as science has been trying to “catch up” with clinical experience. That has finally started to change. Several studies have been published in the last few years, showing just how safe and effective EFT really is. For example, the following three studies show remarkable progress in a very short amount of time for people with a history of trauma:
- A 2009 study5 of 16 institutionalized adolescent boys with histories of physical or psychological abuse showed substantially decreased intensity of traumatic memories after just ONE session of EFT.
- An EFT study6 involving 30 moderately to severely depressed college students was conducted. The depressed students were given four 90-minute EFT sessions. Students who received EFT showed significantly less depression than the control group when evaluated three weeks later.
- In a study of 100 veterans with severe PTSD7 (Iraq Vets Stress Project8), after just six one-hour EFT sessions, 90 percent of the veterans had such a reduction in symptoms that they no longer met the clinical criteria for PTSD; 60 percent no longer met PTSD criteria after only three EFT sessions. At the three-month follow-up, the gains remained stable, suggesting lasting and potentially permanent resolution of the problem.
The following strategies are important to consider if you are facing depression and the earlier you address your symptoms the better. These strategies have nothing but positive effects and are generally very inexpensive to implement. Besides using EFT, I strongly recommend addressing your diet as one of your first steps. Foods have an immense impact on your body and your brain, and eating whole foods as described in my nutrition plan will best support your mental and physical health. Avoiding processed foods, sugar (particularly fructose) and grains is particularly important as it will help normalize your insulin and leptin levels, which is an important contributing factor to depression.
Sugar causes chronic inflammation, which disrupts your body's normal immune function and can wreak havoc on your brain. Sugar also suppresses a key growth hormone called BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor), which promotes healthy brain neurons and plays a vital role in memory. BDNF levels are critically low in people with depression, which animal models suggest may actually be causative. Other important dietary recommendations include the following:
- Optimize your gut flora. Mounting research indicates that the bacterial colonies residing in your gut may play key roles in the development of brain-, behavioral- and emotional problems—from depression to ADHD, autism and more serious mental illness like schizophrenia.
In a very real sense you have two brains, one inside your skull and one in your gut, and each needs its own vital nourishment. It’s important to realize that you have neurons both in your brain and your gut -- including neurons that produce neurotransmitters like serotonin. In fact, the greatest concentration of serotonin, which is involved in mood control, depression and aggression, is found in your intestines, not your brain! Perhaps this is one reason why antidepressants, which raise serotonin levels in your brain, are often ineffective in treating depression, whereas proper dietary changes often help.
A recent proof-of-concept study found that probiotics (beneficial bacteria) actually altered participants’ brain function.9 Compared to the controls, the women who consumed probiotic yogurt had decreased activity in two brain regions that control central processing of emotion and sensation. The implications are particularly significant in our current era of rampant depression and emotional “malaise.”
Fermented foods are the best route to optimal digestive health, as long as you eat the traditionally made, unpasteurized versions. Some of the beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods are also excellent chelators of heavy metals and pesticides, which will also have a beneficial health effect by reducing your toxic load. Healthy choices include fermented vegetables, lassi (an Indian yoghurt drink), fermented milk such as kefir, and natto (fermented soy). If you do not eat fermented foods on a regular basis, taking a high-quality probiotic supplement is recommended.
- Supplement your diet with animal-based omega-3 fat. I strongly recommend taking a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat, like krill oil. This may be the single most important nutrient for optimal brain function, thereby preventing depression. DHA is one of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and krill oil, and your brain is highly dependent on it for optimal function. Low DHA levels have been linked to depression, memory loss, Schizophrenia, and Alzheimer's disease.
- Get adequate vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 deficiency can contribute to depression and affects one in four people.
- Evaluate your salt intake. Sodium deficiency actually creates symptoms that are very much like those of depression. Make sure you do NOT use processed salt (regular table salt), however. You’ll want to use an all natural, unprocessed salt like Himalayan salt, which contains more than 80 different micronutrients.
- Make sure your cholesterol levels aren't too low for optimal mental health. I have been educating the public about the underreported, adverse effects associated with lowering cholesterol through drugs like statins for many years, but what many still do not know is that low cholesterol is linked to dramatically increased rates of suicide, as well as aggression towards others.10
This increased expression of violence towards self and others may be due to the fact that low membrane cholesterol decreases the number of serotonin receptors in the brain (which is approximately 30 percent cholesterol by weight). Lower serum cholesterol concentrations therefore may contribute to decreasing brain serotonin, which not only contributes to suicidal-associated depression, but prevents the suppression of aggressive behavior and violence towards self and others.
Next, the following three common-sense lifestyle strategies can go a long way toward warding off symptoms of depression, by helping your regain a sense of health and wellbeing.
- Get regular exercise. Regular exercise is one of the "secret weapons" to overcoming depression. It works by helping to normalize your insulin levels while boosting the "feel good" hormones in your brain. For more information, please review my article about the many ways exercise can benefit your brain. According to Dr. James S. Gordon, MD, a world-renowned expert in using mind-body medicine to heal depression:
"What we're finding in the research on physical exercise is that exercise is at least as good as antidepressants for helping people who are depressed… physical exercise changes the level of serotonin in your brain. And it increases your endorphin levels, your "feel good hormones."
Also—and these are amazing studies—exercise can increase the number of cells in your brain, in the region of the brain called the hippocampus... they're very important because sometimes in depression, there are fewer of those cells in the hippocampus. But you can actually change your brain with exercise. So it's got to be part of everybody's treatment, everybody's plan."
- Get regular sun exposure. Have you ever noticed how great it can feel to spend time outdoors on a sunny day? Well, it turns out that getting safe sun exposure, which allows your body to produce vitamin D, is great for your mood. One study even found that people with the lowest levels of vitamin D were 11 times more prone to depression than those who received adequate vitamin D. You can optimize your vitamin D either by sunlight exposure or by using a safe tanning bed, or by taking a high-quality vitamin D3 supplement.
- Try “ecotherapy.” Spending time outdoors has been shown to dramatically improve people’s mood and significantly reduce symptoms of depression. Outdoor activities could be just about anything, from walking a nature trail to gardening, or simply taking your exercise outdoors. According to a 2009 report on Ecotherapy by the British Depressionalliance.org:11
“94 percent of people taking part in a MIND survey commented that green exercise activities had benefited their mental health; and 100 percent of volunteers interviewed during an outdoor conservation project agreed that participation benefited their mental health, boosted self-esteem and improved confidence.”
- Make sure you get adequate sleep. Set a bedtime and stick to it. Staying up until the wee hours of the morning is going to have a detrimental effect on your mood, as well as your overall health. Adequate rest has been proven to protect against depression and suicidal thoughts—especially in teenagers.
I strongly believe that energy psychology is one of the most powerful tools for resolving emotional issues, but the evidence also clearly points to the fact that outdoor activities like gardening can have a significantly beneficial impact on depression, and exercise in any form is one of the best-kept secrets to preventing the blues in the first place. Strengthening your spiritual faith can be another important aspect of mental and emotional health, as discussed in a previous article.
In terms of diet, dramatically decreasing your consumption of sugar (particularly fructose), grains, and processed foods is very important, as is getting adequate vitamin B12. In fact, vitamin B12 deficiency can contribute to depression and affects one in four people. Vitamin D and omega-3 fats are also very important for your mood and brain health. You may also want to evaluate your salt intake. Sodium deficiency actually creates symptoms that are very much like those of depression. Again, make sure you ONLY use all natural, unprocessed salt like Himalayan salt, which contains more than 80 different micronutrients.
Please remember, your lifestyle can make or break your health and general sense of wellbeing and may be one of the most fundamental contributors to depression, so you’d be well advised to address the factors discussed in this article before resorting to drug treatment—which science has shown is no more effective than placebo, while being fraught with potentially dangerous side effects.
While I’ve addressed what I believe is one of the most powerful mind-body techniques in this article, namely EFT, there are many others that can also be helpful. For even more inspiration, please see my previous article 13 Mind-Body Techniques That Can Help Ease Depression.
By Dr. Mercola
One in four Americans over the age of 45 currently take a statin drug, despite the fact that there are over 900 studies proving their adverse effects, which run the gamut from muscle problems to increased cancer risk.
Now, new treatment guidelines for high cholesterol will likely DOUBLE the number of Americans being prescribed these dangerous drugs, bringing the total to an estimated—and staggering—72 million people!
The new guidelines, laid out in the report 2013 ACC/AHA Guideline on the Treatment of Blood Cholesterol to Reduce Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Risk in Adults1,2 were issued by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology on November 12.
The updated treatment guidelines now focus on risk factors rather than cholesterol levels.
The guideline report was prepared by a panel of “experts” who volunteered their time, and is ostensibly based on an analysis of randomized controlled trials. Not surprisingly, the panel members are affiliated with more than 50 different drug companies, many of which have a financial interest in the outcome of this report. One of the authors even has stock in a medical malpractice firm.
According to the New York Times,3 several committee members ended up dropped out of this investigative panel because they were “unhappy with the direction the committee was going.”
As explained by the American Heart Association,4 the new guidelines advise doctors to look at certain risk factors in order to determine if a patient should be prescribed a statin drug, or whether he or she should simply focus on heart healthy lifestyle changes. The problem is, virtually no one will fall into the latter category.
If you answer “yes” to ANY of the following four questions, the treatment protocol calls for a statin drug:
- Do you have heart disease?
- Do you have diabetes? (either type 1 or type 2)
- Is your LDL cholesterol above 190?
- Is your 10-year risk of a heart attack greater than 7.5 percent?
"We were able to generate very robust risk equations for both non-Hispanic white men and women as well as African-American men and women. Those equations factor in age, sex, race, total and HDL ('good') cholesterol levels, blood pressure levels, blood pressure treatment status as well as diabetes and current smoking status. Each of those factors is assigned a numerical value and can be used to determine individual risk percentage using an online calculator.”
Dr. Stephen Sinatra7 wrote an in-depth article in which he decimates every single one of these four treatment guidelines. According to him, the new guidelines are at best 20-25 percent accurate, and here’s why:
- The heart disease criteria, while it might be appropriate for older men, does not really work for women. There’s no data demonstrating that the benefits of statins outweigh the health risks in women—risks that include diabetes and breast cancer.
According to Dr. Sinatra: “[I]n my opinion, the only women who should be on statins are those with advanced coronary artery disease who continue to deteriorate despite lifestyle interventions. I believe that less than one percent of women with coronary artery disease fall into this category.”
- In short, giving a drug that causes diabetes to someone who already has diabetes is nonsensical. It can only make matters worse. What’s more, data indicates that statins can cause arterial calcification in diabetic men who take the drug. Thirdly, statins can cause cataracts, which is a common problem in diabetics. The drug may therefore increase this risk.
- This may be appropriate if you have genetic familial hypercholesterolemia, as this makes you resistant to traditional measures of normalizing cholesterol, such as diet and exercise. This condition is quite rare, affecting an estimated one in 500. In the absence of this genetic situation, treating high LDL levels has little validity.
- As you will see below, the 10-year heart attack risk calculation has been “programmed” in such a way as to make patients out of virtually everyone. Besides that, Dr. Sinatra points out that the complexity of estimating risk based on age, race, blood pressure, smoking habits and other criteria is quite likely to lead to overzealous prescribing.
The CV risk calculator, which basically evaluates those who do not immediately qualify by having heart disease, diabetes or elevated LDL, appears to have some very significant flaws. And again, not surprisingly, the flaws are such that a vast majority of people end up having a greater than 7.5 percent risk of a heart attack within the next 10 years—thereby qualifying them for “preventive” statin treatment.
A very clever strategy indeed: create a test that virtually assures that everyone who takes it will be a candidate for these expensive drugs they’re seeking to have people take for the rest of their lives. According to a November 17 article in the New York Times,8 Dr. Steven Nissen (quoted earlier) spoke out against the implementation of these guidelines:
“[I]n a major embarrassment to the health groups, the calculator appears to greatly overestimate risk, so much so that it could mistakenly suggest that millions more people are candidates for statin drugs. The apparent problem prompted one leading cardiologist, a past president of the American College of Cardiology, to call... for a halt to the implementation of the new guidelines.
‘It’s stunning,’ said... Dr. Steven Nissen... “We need a pause to further evaluate this approach before it is implemented on a widespread basis.’ ‘We’re surrounded by a real disaster in terms of credibility,’ said Dr. Peter Libby, the chairman of the department of cardiovascular medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.”
...The controversy set off turmoil at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association... After an emergency session... the two organizations that published the guidelines — the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology — said that while the calculator was not perfect, it was a major step forward, and that the guidelines already say patients and doctors should discuss treatment options rather than blindly follow a calculator.”
As it stands, the guideline committee has vowed to examine the flaws to determine if and what changes are needed to make it more accurate. Until then, it may be good to know that the calculator appears to overestimate your risk by anywhere from 75 to 150 percent! Dr. Nissen used the calculator to evaluate some of his own patients—men who had no known risk markers. They had healthy cholesterol levels, normal blood pressure, and didn’t smoke; in short, men who were completely healthy, and found they still ended up having a 7.5 percent risk, qualifying them for arbitrary drug treatment.
“Something is terribly wrong,” he told the New York Times,9 noting that using this calculator will ensure that virtually every “average healthy Joe” gets statin treatment. According to the two researchers who discovered the problem:10
“Miscalibration to this extent should be reconciled and addressed before these new prediction models are widely implemented. If real, such systematic overestimation of risk will lead to considerable overprescription.”
But that’s not all. As described by the American Heart Association,11 the guideline also does away with the previous recommendation to use the lowest drug dose possible—a strategy that typically meant you’d end up being prescribed a low-dose statin along with one or more other cholesterol-lowering medications. The new guideline basically focuses ALL the attention on statin-only treatment, and at higher dosages, ostensibly to eliminate the need for additional drugs. But if you don’t need ANY drug to begin with, why take a much higher dose of a drug that is well known for having potentially serious side effects?!
The panel members have concocted a bizarre justification for these actions, trying to make it sound like the new recommendations are focused on prevention through lifestyle modifications along with statin therapy. This is a gross misapplication of the word “prevention,” as these drugs cannot address the underlying conditions of heart or cardiovascular disease. Even more egregious, they have apparently chosen to completely ignore recent research showing that statins can effectively negate the benefits of exercise, which is one of the primary heart disease prevention strategies!
But the biggest “sham” of all is that statin drugs, touted as “preventive medicine” to protect your heart health, can actually have detrimental effects on your heart. For example, a study published just last year in the journal Atherosclerosis,12 showed that statin use is associated with a 52 percent increased prevalence and extent of calcified coronary plaque compared to non-users. And coronary artery calcification is the hallmark of potentially lethal heart disease. Just what kind of prevention is that?
One of the major benefits of exercise is the beneficial impact it has on your heart health, and exercise is a primary strategy to naturally maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Alas, if you take a statin drug, you’re likely to forfeit any and all health benefits of your exercise. As previously reported by the New York Times:13
“In past studies, researchers have shown that statins reduce the risk of a heart attack in people at high risk by 10 to 20 percent for every 1-millimole-per-liter reduction in blood cholesterol levels (millimoles measure the actual number of cholesterol molecules in the bloodstream), equivalent to about a 40-point drop in LDL levels.
Meanwhile, improving aerobic fitness by even a small percentage through exercise likewise has been found to lessen someone’s likelihood of dying prematurely by as much as 50 percent... But until the current study, no experiment scrupulously had explored the interactions of statin drugs and workouts in people. And the results, as it turns out, are worrisome.”
The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology,14 discovered that statin use led to dramatically reduced fitness benefits from exercise, in some cases actually making the volunteer LESS fit than before. The results showed that:
- On average, unmedicated participants improved their aerobic fitness by more than 10 percent after a 12-week long (five days a week) supervised exercise program. Mitochondrial content activity increased by 13 percent
- Volunteers taking 40 mg of simvastatin improved their fitness by a mere 1.5 percent on average, and some had reduced their aerobic capacity at the end of the 12-week fitness program. Mitochondrial content activity decreased by an average of 4.5 percent
According to senior study author John P. Thyfault, a professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri:15 “’Low aerobic fitness is one of the best predictors’ of premature death. And if statins prevent people from raising their fitness through exercise, then that is a concern.”
The key to understanding why statins prevent your body from reaping the normal benefits from exercise lies in understanding what these drugs do to your mitochondria—the energy chamber of your cells, responsible for the utilization of energy for all metabolic functions.
The primary fuel for your mitochondria is Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), and one of the primary mechanisms of harm from statins in general appears to be related to CoQ10 depletion. This also explains why certain statin users in the featured trial ended up with worse aerobic fitness after a steady fitness regimen.
It's been known for many decades that exercise helps to build and strengthen your muscles, but more recent research has revealed that this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential role exercise can play in your health. A 2011 review published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism16 pointed out that exercise induces changes in mitochondrial enzyme content and activity (which is what they tested in the featured study), which can increase your cellular energy production and in so doing decrease your risk of chronic disease.
Odds are greater than 100 to 1 that if you're taking a statin, you don't really need it. The ONLY subgroup that might benefit are those born with a genetic defect called familial hypercholesterolemia, as this makes them resistant to traditional measures of normalizing cholesterol. For many years, I’ve been educating my readers about the fact that cholesterol isn’t the cause of heart disease, and even conventional doctors have started catching on. So I can’t help but wonder if these new guidelines, which bypass the issue of cholesterol levels, placing the focus on risk factors instead, aren’t just a shrewd way of getting around this pesky issue.
Now, in three out of four cases, your cholesterol levels will not be a factor at all—you still qualify for statin treatment just by having heart disease, diabetes or a 7.5 percent or greater 10-year risk, based on a calculator that makes patients out of completely healthy people. This truly appears to be a recipe for disaster, and I cannot advise against falling into this trap strongly enough. It reminds me of the ludicrous suggestion three years ago to provide free statins with meals at fast food restaurants.17
Statins are HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, which means they act by blocking the enzyme in your liver that is responsible for making cholesterol (HMG-CoA reductase). But remember, your body NEEDS cholesterol—it is important in the production of your cell membranes, hormones, vitamin D, and bile acids that help you to digest fat. Cholesterol also helps your brain form memories and is vital to your neurological function. There is also strong evidence that having too little cholesterol INCREASES your risk for cancer, memory loss, Parkinson's disease, hormonal imbalances, stroke, depression, suicide, and violent behavior.
As I mentioned earlier, there are over 900 studies demonstrating the harmful effects of statins. To learn more about statins, please see my special report: “Do YOU Take Any of These 11 Dangerous Cholesterol Drugs?” It’s also important to remember that statins are classified as a "pregnancy Category X medication" meaning, it causes serious birth defects, and should NEVER be used by a woman who is pregnant or planning a pregnancy. If it is prescribed it is simply gross negligence and malpractice.
Another factor to keep in mind is that statin drugs may not mix well with other potentially lifesaving drugs, such as antibiotics. According to recent Canadian research,18 patients —especially the elderly—taking cholesterol-lowering drugs such as Lipitor, should avoid the antibiotics clarithromycin and erythromycin, as these antibiotics inhibit the metabolism of statins. Increased drug concentrations in your body may cause muscle or kidney damage, and even death.
Statins have also been shown to increase your risk of diabetes via a number of different mechanisms, so if you weren’t put on a statin because you have diabetes, you may end up with a diabetes diagnosis courtesy of the drug. Two of these mechanisms include:
- Increasing insulin resistance, which can be extremely harmful to your health. Increased insulin resistance contributes to chronic inflammation in your body, and inflammation is the hallmark of most diseases. In fact, increased insulin resistance can lead to heart disease, which, again, is the primary reason for taking a statin in the first place. It can also promote belly fat, high blood pressure, heart attacks, chronic fatigue, thyroid disruption, and diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and cancer.
- Raising your blood sugar. When you eat a meal that contains starches and sugar, some of the excess sugar goes to your liver, which then stores it away as cholesterol and triglycerides. Statins work by preventing your liver from making cholesterol. As a result, your liver returns the sugar to your bloodstream, which raises your blood sugar levels.
Drug-induced diabetes and genuine type 2 diabetes are not necessarily identical. If you're on a statin drug and find that your blood glucose is elevated, it's possible that what you have is just hyperglycemia—a side effect, and the result of your medication. Unfortunately, many doctors will at that point mistakenly diagnose you with "type 2 diabetes," and possibly prescribe another drug, when all you may need to do is simply discontinue the statin in order for your blood glucose levels to revert back to normal.
Statin drugs also interfere with other biological functions. Of utmost importance, statins deplete your body of CoQ10, which accounts for many of its devastating results. Therefore, if you take a statin, you must take supplemental CoQ10, or better, the reduced form called ubiquinol. Statins also interfere with the mevalonate pathway, which is the central pathway for the steroid management in your body. Products of this pathway that are negatively affected by statins include:
- All your sex hormones
- The dolichols, which are involved in keeping the membranes inside your cells healthy
- All sterols, including cholesterol and vitamin D (which is similar to cholesterol and is produced from cholesterol in your skin)
The authors of the guideline list conflicts of interest, starting on page 51 of the document, but it’s been reported that anyone with conflicts did not actually vote on the final draft. Some news outlets have therefore reported that there were NO conflicts of interest involved in the making of the guidelines. This is, I believe, a serious mistake in reporting, as members of this panel actually have ties to more than 50 different drug companies. Whether they voted on the final draft or not, they were still instrumental in creating the guidelines in the first place.
For example, the lead author, Dr. Neil J. Stone, is a strong proponent of statin usage and has received honoraria for educational lectures from Abbott, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Kos, Merck, Merck/Schering-Plough, Novartis, Pfizer, Reliant, and Sankyo. He’s also served as a consultant for Abbott, Merck, Merck/Schering-Plough, Pfizer, and Reliant. Here are two more examples:
- The second author listed, Jennifer Robinson, admitted to the New York Times in 2011 that she was taking research money from seven companies, including some top sellers of cholesterol pills. University of Iowa records show industry financing of more than $450,000 for research led by Robinson between 2008 and 2011. (As an FYI, 2008 was the year the committee began working on these new treatment guidelines.)
- Another author, C. Noel Bairey Merz, has received lecture honoraria from Pfizer, Merck & Kos, and has served as a consultant for Pfizer, Bayer, and EHC (Merck). She’s also received unrestricted institutional grants for Continuing Medical Education from Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, Novartis, Wyeth, AstraZeneca, and Bristol-Myers Squibb Medical Imaging, as well as a research grant from Merck. She also has stock in Boston Scientific, IVAX, Eli Lilly, Medtronic, Johnson & Johnson, SCIPIE Insurance, ATS Medical, and Biosite.
Two years ago, the New York Times19 criticized the cholesterol panel, including Dr. Stone, for its many apparent conflicts of interest. Stone told the NYT that the group was taking “extraordinary measures to reduce bias,” but with the evidence I've found on this group, how could they possibly not be biased toward the use of statins? At least 12 of the 16 members have financial ties with the pharmaceutical industry! Even more egregious, only seven of them chose to disclose such ties. After hours of internet research, I discovered five more authors had potential conflicts of interest with industry. It's nothing short of outrageous that an entire nation of people may be prescribed these hazardous drugs based on the decision by a group that has so many financial ties to so many drug companies.
The panel’s conflicts of interest again came under fire in a recent article in Time Magazine,20 which noted that:
“The Institute of Medicine (IOM), an independent organization of scientists that analyzes available data and provides advice on medical issues, recommends that chairs of guideline committees should have no conflicts of interest if possible, and that the entire panel should also be free of ties to industry; if that’s not possible, then at least half of the members should meet this criterion...
Those policies stem from studies suggesting that biases do creep into people’s behaviors, whether consciously or not. In one study published earlier this year, for example, scientists compared the guidelines proposed by two different groups of experts for treating a blood clotting disorder; the panel in which 73% of members reported connections to pharmaceutical companies suggested stronger recommendations for turning to drug-based treatments compared to a panel in which none of the members had ties to industry.”
Dr. Stone claims the panel could not have been created unless members with conflicts of interest were included, because anyone involved in a statin drug trial would be considered a consultant. “And you can’t have expertise without having done clinical trials,” he told Time. However, according to the IOM, panels charged with devising treatment guidelines do NOT really have to be experts in the field. While helpful, clinical experience is not critical because the job of the panel is to assess available research for sound methodology and accuracy of data.
Contrary to what pharmaceutical PR firms will tell you, statins have nothing to do with reducing your heart disease risk. In fact, this class of drugs can increase your heart disease risk—especially if you do not take Ubiquinol (CoQ10) along with it to mitigate the depletion of CoQ10 caused by the drug.
Poor lifestyle choices are primarily to blame for increased heart disease risk, such as eating too much sugar, getting too little exercise, lack of sun exposure and rarely or never grounding to the earth. These are all things that are within your control, and don’t cost much (if any) money to address.
The fact that statins can effectively nullify the benefits of healthy lifestyle changes like exercise, which in and of itself is important to bolster heart health and maintain healthy cholesterol levels, is yet another reason to think twice before opting for such a drug. Also remember that the BEST way to condition your heart (as well as burn excess fat) is to engage in high-intensity interval exercise. Evidence suggests that this may actually provide MORE protection against heart attacks than long durational aerobic-type exercises.
If you’re currently taking a statin drug and are worried about the excessive side effects they cause, please consult with a knowledgeable health care practitioner who can help you to optimize your heart health naturally, without the use of these dangerous drugs.
By Dr. Mercola
Spritzing on perfume or cologne is a daily ritual for many, not to mention that the vast majority of personal care products – shampoo, lotion, deodorant – contain fragrances of their own.
There’s a dirty little secret the fragrance industry would rather you not know about, however, which is the extreme toxicity of many of these products. Hidden behind their pleasant scents are typically chemicals linked to hormone disruption, reproductive problems, and even cancer.
Many perfumes sold at department stores, big-box retailers, and virtually everywhere else can aptly be described as poison – and this means that you could very well be sacrificing your health by wearing them…
I caution against using any synthetic perfume or cologne, or any other synthetically fragranced personal care product, as they're almost always loaded with synthetic chemicals that have been linked to cancer, reproductive toxicity, allergies, and more.
And although the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) actually has direct authority to regulate harmful ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products, it doesn't exercise it… The Environmental Working Group (EWG) explains:1
“When you see ‘fragrance’ on a personal care product's label, read it as ‘hidden chemicals.’ A major loophole in FDA's federal law lets manufacturers of products like shampoo, lotion, and body wash include nearly any ingredient in their products under the name ‘fragrance’ without actually listing the chemical.
Companies that manufacture personal care products are required by law to list the ingredients they use, but fragrances and trade-secret formulas are exempt.”
What does this mean for a health-conscious person like yourself? When you purchase a fragrance, it could contain any number of the 3,100 or so stock chemical ingredients used by the fragrance industry. What blend is in most products you buy, exactly, is virtually impossible to ascertain, aside from testing it in a lab – and this is actually what the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics did…
Laboratory tests commissioned by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, and analyzed by EWG, found a total of 38 chemicals not listed on the labels in 17 name-brand fragrances (such as Chanel, Giorgio Armani, Bath & Body Works, Old Spice, Calvin Klein, and more).2
The average fragrance product contained 14 chemicals that were not disclosed on the label (along with another 15 that were listed!). The report noted:
“Among them are chemicals associated with hormone disruption and allergic reactions, and many substances that have not been assessed for safety in personal care products.
Also in the ranks of undisclosed ingredients are chemicals with troubling hazardous properties or with a propensity to accumulate in human tissues. These include diethyl phthalate, a chemical found in 97 percent of Americans and linked to sperm damage in human epidemiological studies, and musk ketone, a synthetic fragrance ingredient that concentrates in human fat tissue and breast milk.”
The Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973 requires cosmetics companies to list ingredients on labels, but it exempts fragrance, leaving consumers in the dark about what’s in such products.
The FDA, however, is equally in the dark about fragrance ingredients, and has not assessed the vast majority of such chemicals for safety when they’re used in spray-on personal care products – and certainly not their much enhanced, synergistic toxicities when blended together.3 So if the FDA isn't doing the job of investigating the safety of these ingredients, who is?
The fragrance industry is allowed to regulate itself, through a trade association known as the International Fragrance Association (IFRA). This association is responsible for conducting safety tests to determine the ingredients safe for use for their own industry – but this association has not evaluated the majority of the chemicals either!
According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics’ report, 66 percent of the secret chemicals, and 19 percent of the listed chemicals, found in product tests have not been assessed for safety. Making matters worse, even for the chemicals that are tested, there are serious questions about whether the industry's research institute is really as "independent" as IFRA claims it to be. Dr. Samuel Epstein, M.D., chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, and author of Toxic Beauty, warns:
"This testing is minimal and restricted to local effects on human skin, and short-term toxicity tests in rodents."
The term “fragrance,” under US law, actually means a combination of chemicals that gives a perfume or cologne its distinct scent. These ingredients may be derived from petroleum or natural raw materials, or they may be produced synthetically. Perfume manufacturers typically purchase fragrance mixtures from companies that specialize in developing fragrances (known as fragrance houses) and then combine them to create a unique scent.4
It is this chemical combination that is typically kept protected as a “trade secret,” while other chemicals in the products (solvents, stabilizers, preservatives, dyes, and UV absorbers) may be listed on the label. So what is a typical fragrance actually made of? Some common offenders include:
- Parabens: Synthetic preservatives known to interfere with hormone production and release.
- Phthalates: Another synthetic preservative that’s carcinogenic and linked to reproductive effects (decreased sperm counts, early breast development, birth defects) and liver and kidney damage.
- Synthetic musks: These are linked to hormone disruption and are thought to persist and accumulate in breast milk, body fat, umbilical cord blood, and the environment.
According to EWG:5
“An analysis of the chemical contents of products reveals that the innocuous-looking ‘fragrance’ often contains chemicals linked to negative health effects. Phthalates, used to make fragrances last longer, are associated [with] damage to the male reproductive system, and artificial musks accumulate in our bodies and can be found in breast milk. Some artificial musks are even linked to cancer.
And if you've got asthma, watch out -- fragrance formulas are considered to be among the top 5 known allergens, and can trigger asthma attacks.
The same kinds of chemicals are often used for fragrances in cleaning products, scented candles, and air fresheners. To avoid those unpleasant side effects, choose fragrance-free products, but beware labels that say ‘unscented.’ It may only mean that the manufacturer has added yet another fragrance to mask the original odor.”
Have you ever gotten a headache because someone sitting next to you is doused in perfume? Or felt dizzy, nauseous, irritable, confused, or fatigued due to fragrances worn by coworkers at the office? These are signs that you likely have a chemical sensitivity to fragrance, and it's more common than you might think. So anytime you or someone else wears a fragrance, it not only poses a health risk to the wearer, but also potentially to anyone around him or her, who will be exposed to the scent whether they like it or not.
Our powerful attraction to fragrances is now being manipulated by advertisers and marketers to sell products, as well, raising some serious health and ethical concerns. Your sense of smell is one of your most primitive senses and is hard-wired deep into primitive areas of your brain. According to Dr. Stuart Firestein of Columbia University,6 your olfactory system is very closely connected to your limbic system, which is said to contain your most basic drives. So it's not surprising that scent is powerfully connected to both emotion and memory.
Product manufacturers know this, and as a result fragrances are added to far more products than you may realize, often to mask the odor of noxious chemicals but also to appeal to your emotional side. Fragrances are even added to medications (inhalers and sports creams), furniture polish, dental floss, nail polish, paper, some disposable razors, and even construction materials such as paint and varnish. Many stores now use "scent branding" to draw people in, like bees to honey—and KEEP people in. Customers in ambient-scented stores have been found to shop for 20 to 30 percent longer.7
Avoiding toxic fragrance does not mean that you must forgo all pleasant scents in your home or personal care products, as truly natural options are available (although if you are sensitive keep in mind that botanical extracts can also cause reactions in some people).
Organic essential oils are one option (you can even add them to your own non-fragranced lotion, for instance), and may be found in some safe fragrances that are 100 percent naturally derived. This includes essential oils and isolates that come from botanical ingredients such as flowers, fruits, seeds, bark, leaves, wood, and other natural raw materials.
They may cost more, and the scent may only last a couple of hours after each application, but they won’t pose the health risks of synthetic fragrances. Another option, of course, is to forgo fragrance entirely… in fact, a woman’s natural scent has been found to be more seductive than perfume,8 scoring another point for the power of nature!
This is a Flash-based video and may not be viewable on mobile devices.
By Dr. Mercola
I’ve written extensively about the high price of genetically engineered (GE) crops on human health and ecosystems, and these ramifications are becoming increasingly well-known.
I’ve also railed against the flawed agricultural subsidies that promote the propagation of GE corn and soy, both of which can now be found in most processed foods. But the problems with corn, and GE corn in particular, do not end there.
In 2007, Congress passed a law requiring gasoline to be mixed with ethanol, ostensibly to reduce dependence on foreign oil. Ethanol was also a major part of Obama’s presidential platform for “green” energy, which he touted as the answer to global warming.
While the pesticide producers and junk food manufacturers continue to pound their purpose to 'feed the world', they seem to completely dismiss that we've destroyed millions of acres of wildlife to accommodate our federal mandate to grow 'fuel' instead of food.
I think we all understand quite clearly that most nutritional needs have nothing to do with the capacity to grow food, we already have resources to grow plenty of nutritional food for the planet if that's what we were really trying to accomplish.
The US agriculture policy ensures our failure, designed by the interests of pesticide and junk food corporations to produce profits and not nutrition. What better example than burning food for fueling our engines? How does this help feed the world?
Corn is the primary source of ethanol in the United States, and this, ironically, has turned out to have devastating consequences for the environment. Converting food into fuel is also a facet of the “green” movement that even communist dictator Fidel Castro warned against:1
“With the Iowa political caucuses on the horizon in 2007, presidential candidate Barack Obama made homegrown corn a centerpiece of his plan to slow global warming.
And when President George W. Bush signed a law that year requiring oil companies to add billions of gallons of ethanol to their gasoline each year, Bush predicted it would make the country ‘stronger, cleaner and more secure,’ the featured article2 states.
“Historically, the overwhelming majority of corn in the United States has been turned into livestock feed. But in 2010, for the first time, fuel was the No. 1 use for corn in America. That was true in 2011 and 2012.
Newly released Department of Agriculture data show that, this year, 43 percent of corn went to fuel and 45 percent went to livestock feed.” [Emphasis mine]
Needless to say, the more corn is used for ethanol, the more corn our farmers have to plant in order to meet demands for food and animal feed. In response to this rising demand, American farmers are converting everything from environmentally valuable grasslands to critically important pristine virgin lands into corn fields.
The ethanol boom has come at a far higher price than the US government is willing to admit. Millions of acres of conservation land has been destroyed—converted into corn fields.
According to the featured article in the Star Tribune, five million acres of conservation land have disappeared while Obama has been in office. To put that into perspective, that’s more than the Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined.
More corn acres also mean more fertilizers being spread over greater areas and a further decimation of our valuable top soil along with continued mismanagement of dwindling water resources.
In just five years, (between 2005 and 2010), American corn farmers increased their use of nitrogen fertilizers by more than one billion pounds. As a result, many areas now have to address increasingly polluted drinking water.
In Minnesota, for example, about a dozen communities so far have spent millions of dollars to clean toxic nitrogen from their water supplies, and according to a recent government report, reducing the high levels from the state’s water supplies would require massive changes in how farmers grow their crops.
Implementing these changes could cost upward of $1 billion a year. According to executive director of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, Steve Morse:
"We're doing more to address water quality, but we are being overwhelmed by the increase in production pressure to plant more crops.”
Industrial monoculture farming practices as a whole pose a tremendous threat to water supplies, in multiple ways, whether through contamination or by depleting what little fresh water is available. And far from being a solution, GE crops make matters even worse, as they end up needing more agricultural chemicals than other crops, and typically require more water.
Besides contamination by crop fertilizers, fresh water reserves are also being outright depleted by agricultural irrigation. An article in Harper’s Magazine3 published in the summer of 2012 highlighted the rapid depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer—the largest subterranean water supply in the United States.
“Until the Second World War, the Ogallala went almost entirely untapped... It wasn’t until the 1940s, when a variety of new technologies coalesced on the plains, that large-scale irrigation sprang up for the first time—but from there, the transformation was quick.
Within a decade thousands of wells were drilled, creating a spike in productivity as unprecedented as it was unsustainable... [D]uring the early 1990s, farmers throughout the Great Plains began to notice a decline in their wells. Irrigation systems from the Dakotas to Texas dipped, and, in some places, have been abandoned entirely.”
According to Kevin Mulligan, a professor at Texas Tech University who leads the effort to monitor the Ogallala, available water in the aquifer has gone down by about 80-100 feet in just the past 15 years, and none of the water is likely to be replenished. A mere 20 years from now, it’s unlikely that any irrigated agriculture will be possible on the high plains—the water will be all gone.
The billions of pounds of fertilizer being used on all of these corn fields are also contaminating rivers, and contribute to an ever-expanding dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico—a zone, currently the size of Connecticut, that is too toxic to support aquatic life.
“The consequences are so severe that environmentalists and many scientists have now rejected corn-based ethanol as bad environmental policy. But the Obama administration stands by it, highlighting its benefits to the farming industry rather than any negative impact,” Star Tribune4 reports.
“The government's predictions of the benefits have proven so inaccurate that independent scientists question whether it will ever achieve its central environmental goal: reducing greenhouse gases. That makes the hidden costs even more significant. “
Upon closer analysis, it seems the White House “green” agenda amounts to little more than another gift to the pesticide industry, spearheaded by Monsanto. It’s certainly not saving the environment. Instead, Monsanto is rolling in dough courtesy of increased sales of its patented genetically engineered Roundup Ready corn... According to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, ethanol is “good for business.” He claims it’s good for farmers, which from a financial perspective, it might be. But overall, the corn-for-ethanol agenda is nothing short of an ecological disaster that is costing us far more than money.
A decade ago, farmers were paid about $70 annually per acre to enter the conservation program, which meant leaving their farmland idle and improve the soil fertility with cover crops. From an environmental perspective, this is important, as conservation lands trap carbon in the soil and prevent topsoil erosion. Grasslands also naturally convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, which is what you might call a “staple” for human life on Earth. The world may in fact be running out of usable topsoil, the layer that allows plants to grow.
According to an article in Time World,5 soil erosion and degradation rates suggest we have only about 60 remaining years of topsoil. Forty percent of the world's agricultural soil is now classified as either degraded or seriously degraded; the latter means that 70 percent of the topsoil is gone. Our soil is being lost at 10 to 40 times the rate it can be replenished, and our agricultural systems are to blame, which epitomizes the term "unsustainable."
It takes decades or even centuries to regenerate significant levels of soil. This is the exact converse environmental effect an environmentally friendly biofuel is supposed to contribute to...Strategies like using rock dust powders, biochar, no till farming, and biological inoculants can help reverse this trend if they are started soon enough.
Agriculture as a whole also accounts for 70 percent of our fresh water use. When the soil is unfit, water is wasted—it washes right through the soil and past the plant's root system. We already have a global water shortage that's projected to worsen over the next 20 to 30 years, so this is the last thing we need to compound it. Soil degradation is projected to cause 30 percent loss in food production over the next 20 to 50 years—while our global food demands are expected to increase by 50 percent over this span of time. All of these things considered, should we really keep growing so much corn to fuel our cars?
Many don't realize that soil is alive and has an incredible diversity of microorganisms. One handful of soil contains more microbes than the number of people who have ever lived on our planet.
These organisms create a powerful synergy with the plants and recycle organic material, making the soil more resilient and better at holding water and nutrients, and better at nurturing plants. Microbes need carbon for food, and we're depleting our soil of this element by using chemical fertilizers, overgrazing, over-ploughing, and burning stubble in fields to accelerate crop turnover. Add to this genetically engineered crops, and our soil—which is crucial for growing nutrient-dense foods—is dealt another deathblow. In fact, reduced soil fertility could lead to famine on a scale never previously seen.
By law, biofuels are supposed to be at least 20 percent greener than gasoline. Ethanol, based on corn, didn’t meet this criteria at first. As reported in the featured article, certain assumptions were made about the price of corn, the number of acres planted, and the yield from each acre, in order to squeeze ethanol into the green category.
“The most important of those assumptions was called the yield, a measure of how much corn could be produced on an acre of land. The higher the yield, the easier it would be for farmers to meet the growing demand without plowing new farmland, which counted against ethanol in the greenhouse gas equation,” Star Tribune writes.
This is where genetically modified seeds really gained a stronghold. Pesticide producers like Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer stepped in, promising yields could be dramatically increased by using genetically modified corn. If each farmer could produce more corn on less acreage, environmental effects would be reduced. Inept (if not outright corrupt) politicians bought this line of nonsense hook line and sinker. In the end, yields per acre didn’t increase, but the price of corn did, more than doubling between August of 2010 and this year, thanks to ethanol now being added to gasoline. The dramatic rise in price per bushel spurred farmers to exit the conservation program. As stated in the featured article:6
“America could meet its ethanol demand without losing a single acre of conservation land, Energy officials said. They would soon be proven wrong. Before the government ethanol mandate, the Conservation Reserve Program grew every year for nearly a decade. Almost overnight, farmers began leaving the program, which simultaneously fell victim to budget cuts that reduced the amount of farmland that could be set aside for conservation. In the first year after the ethanol mandate, more than 2 million acres disappeared. Since Obama took office, 5 million more acres have vanished.”
As reported by Mother Jones7 earlier this year, this conversion of grasslands to crop fields is the exact opposite of what might be in our best interest.
“...to get ready for climate change, we should push Midwestern farmers to switch a chunk of their corn land into pasture for cows. The idea came from a paper8 by University of Tennessee and Bard College researchers, who calculated that such a move could suck up massive amounts of carbon in soil—enough to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture by 36 percent. In addition to the CO2 reductions, you'd also get a bunch of high-quality, grass-fed beef...Turns out the Midwest are doing just the opposite.”
What’s worse, farmers started sacrificing virgin land to grow even more corn. According to the Department of Agriculture, an estimated 38,000 acres of previously untouched land vanished below a sea of corn rows in 2012 alone. The Associated Press, using government satellite data, estimates at least 1.2 million acres of virgin land has been converted since 2006 (the year before the ethanol legislation was passed)—and that’s just in the states of Nebraska and the Dakotas!
The ethanol legislation requires the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to study the effects of the ethanol initiative on water and air pollution. Alas, such studies have not been done. Despite the complete lack of investigation, Vilsack9 recently stated that "There is no question air quality, water quality is benefiting from this industry.”
While I normally suggest you combat the broken agricultural system by purchasing organically and locally grown foods, the answer is more complex when it comes to avoiding corn-based ethanol. If you drive a car that runs on gasoline, you’re supporting the ethanol industry whether you really want to or not. One answer might be to invest in an electric hybrid, but the rare earth minerals that must be mined for the batteries are something to be considered in this decision. In many areas, you may also be powering your "electric" car from a power plant using coal.
I believe we must all become more involved in the political process that permits these poorly thought-through policies to go through in the first place, and combat the political inertia that keeps them in place once it becomes obvious that they’re doing more harm than good.
By Dr. Mercola
Efforts to stop the archaic practice of using amalgam “mercury” fillings have been gaining speed, with several significant milestones taking place in 2013.
The culmination took place in October, when a legally binding international treaty to control the use of this toxic metal was signed into action (and, victoriously, the treaty gives special attention to the use of amalgam).
A sign that the issue of mercury toxicity is becoming well established in the dental field came when two publications – Dental Tribune and Dentistry IQ – posted articles online
The articles addressed a letter from environmental, health, social justice, and consumer groups from 40 nations calling on a leading amalgam manufacturer to cease the toxic trade in dental mercury.
The articles, which appeared in September and October, mysteriously disappeared, however, and now it’s been confirmed that Dentsply was behind the disappearance of at least one of them.
The Dental Tribune acknowledged that they removed the mercury and Dentsply articles “because [they] received a big complaint from the company [Dentsply].”1
The move has environmental and health activists worried that the industry bigwig has no plans to stop their mercury manufacturing and, instead, may be simply switching their target markets. According to Consumers for Dental Choice:2
“The censored Dental Tribune piece included references to ‘the treaty on phasing down the use of amalgam’ and widely held concerns that ‘the dental companies will dispose of mercury-containing filling materials in Africa, South Asia and Latin America.’”
…Fears that Dentsply might now be looking at developing countries as major markets for mercury-amalgam fillings were heightened after Dentsply's sponsorship of a conference in Birmingham, England, in August.
A critical theme of the conference — ‘the demise of amalgam’ — appeared to apply only to the distribution of amalgam products in European countries. By taking the unusual step of censoring these articles in prominent dental publications, Dentsply has exacerbated those fears.”
The international mercury treaty mandates that each nation phase down amalgam use. But there is concern that amalgam manufacturers such as Dentsply are seeking ways around this treaty, which when ratified by 50 nations will be legally binding. Consumers for Dental Choice reported:3
“…health and environmental activists from around the world sent a letter to Dentsply CEO Bret W. Wise, urging him not to use the treaty's provision on the ‘phase down’ of mercury-based dental amalgam as a pretext for dumping its products in developing countries. This was precisely the course of action that American tobacco companies took after the U.S. and many other governments began issuing warnings about the dangers of smoking in the 1960s.”
Ironically, amalgam is only a tiny portion of Dentsply’s annual profits, as the company also makes other dental materials, so they could easily stop selling this toxic substance. The company could adopt a phase-out plan of its own and stop selling the material to dentists, a move that would not only improve patients’ health but also the environment.
Exiting amalgam might be welcome news to Dentsply shareholders, who in past years have filed petitions with the Securities and Exchange Commission to get answers from Dentsply’s board of directors about its intentions on amalgam.
As it stands, Dentsply, as an aggressive manufacturer and marketer of mercury fillings, is also one of the world’s major mercury polluters. Amalgam contributes an estimated 10 percent of environmental mercury pollution, which means that amalgam manufactured by Dentsply and other major manufacturers is in fact causing direct harm to the environment.
Mercury from dental amalgam is released into the air when people are cremated, for example. It also enters soils and waterways, where it becomes a major contaminant of our food supply.
The sad fact is that American taxpayers pay the many indirect costs that dentists are causing by polluting your environment with mercury. It’s time the pro-mercury dentists either stop using amalgam or pay for the damage they’re contributing to. Truly, any responsible dentist in today’s day and age would simply stop using amalgam -- and any responsible corporation would stop making it.
Currently, Dentsply is being challenged to switch to mercury-free alternatives, both via a grassroots campaign in York, Pennsylvania (where the company is based), and a call from environmental and social justice organizations on six continents not to dump amalgam in developing nations.
Dentsply is already planning its exit from Europe. But if the children of Europe are no longer getting mercury in their mouths, why should the children of North and South America, Africa, or Asia still be getting mercury in theirs?
Earlier this year, research conducted in collaboration with the Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) and the Sustainable Development Policy Institute found that some dental hospitals in Pakistan had hazardous levels of mercury pollutants in the air.4
The study found some dental teaching hospitals with indoor air levels of mercury between eight and 20 times higher than the permissible level for human health, posing risks not only to patients but also to medical staff.
In response to the study, Polyclinic hospital in Pakistan has become the country’s first to ban mercury fillings, citing hazards to human health. Dr. Pakiza Hyder, who heads Polyclinic’s dental surgery department, said:5
“…it is seen that toxic mercury vapors leak and travel throughout the body before being deposited in vital organs and causing multiple health problems. Mercury vapors are not only harmful to patients but dental surgeons and their assistants, too, are exposed to them. In this light, we’ve banned mercury fillings.”
In a study of amalgam use in the central African nation of Cameroun, the Research and Education Center for Development found that at least one hospital in the capital city of Yaoundé has been amalgam-free for years. So mercury-free dentistry can work in the hospitals of Asia and Africa!
The International Association of Oral Medicine and Toxicology—Philippines and Ban Toxics also recently passed a resolution asking Congress to pass a law that would stop the use of dental amalgam in children.6 So it’s clear that mercury-free dentistry is gaining global momentum.
For those of you who have mercury fillings, I recommend that you have them removed… but avoid making the mistake I did nearly 20 years ago. I had the procedure done by a non-biological dentist. When you have these fillings removed you can be exposed to significant amounts of mercury vapors if the dentist doesn't know what he or she is doing.
Replacement of amalgam is a serious medical procedure. Do not go to a dentist who does not fear the toxicity of mercury and who does not use a protocol that both builds up your strength beforehand and limits in every possible way your exposure to mercury.
You can find a mercury-free dentist of your own on Consumers for Dental Choice’s website, or check out dental listings from their close allies at the International Academy of Biological Dentistry and Medicine and the Holistic Dental Association – two dental associations whose support for mercury-free dentistry has been unflagging. It's also for this reason that I strongly suggest you get healthy BEFORE having your fillings removed, as you want your detoxification mechanisms optimized prior to removal. My struggles with my own teeth led me to learn about and embrace biological dentistry, also known as holistic or environmental dentistry.
In a nutshell, biological dentistry views your teeth and gums as an integrated part of your entire body, and any medical treatments performed takes this fact into account. The primary aim of holistic dentistry is to resolve your dental problems while working in harmony with the rest of your body. Biological dentists are well aware of the dangers involved with toxic materials such as mercury fillings (aka amalgams). Some things that need to be done to keep you (and your dentist) safe during amalgam removal include:
- Providing you with an alternative air source and instructing you not to breathe through your mouth
- Using a cold-water spray to minimize mercury vapors, and putting a rubber dam in your mouth so you don't swallow or inhale any toxins
- Using a high-volume evacuator near the tooth at all times to evacuate the mercury vapor
- Washing your mouth out immediately after the fillings have been removed (the dentist should also change gloves after the removal)
- Immediately cleaning your protective wear and face once the fillings are removed, and using room air purifiers
Getting the mercury treaty was just the first step. “The treaty gives us the framework we need to make mercury-free dentistry a reality for everyone,” says Charlie Brown. “But now it’s up to us to see that it is implemented effectively.” The treaty will require nations to take two of the listed phase-down measures… but some of these measures are more effective at phasing down amalgam use than others. Here is a summary of the best treaty measures for phasing down amalgam use, as supported by the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry:
- Promoting Mercury-Free Dental Fillings: This measure includes educating dental consumers about the mercury in amalgam and the availability of mercury-free alternatives. As Zogby polls have shown, over 75% of consumers choose mercury-free fillings as soon as they find out amalgam is 50% mercury. So this step is proven to phase down amalgam use.
- Training in Mercury-Free Alternatives: Dental schools should phase out amalgam instruction. In the interim, nations can require training on mercury-free alternatives for dentists and tell government-funded dental schools to teach students how to use mercury-free dental fillings and techniques, while not requiring competency exams on amalgam and not permitting students to use amalgam in children in school dental clinics.
- Adjusting Government Programs and Insurance: Most people end up with amalgam not because it is the least expensive material or it is the best option for their health (it never is), but because it is all their insurance or Medicaid will pay for. Therefore, governments should urge insurance companies to fully cover mercury-free alternatives and no longer purchase amalgam for use in government programs (like for our soldiers and sailors in the military).
- Making a Plan to Minimize Amalgam Use: Setting goals to minimize amalgam use is a good first step to start phasing down amalgam.
An estimated 40-50 percent of dentists in the US no longer use amalgam. That’s a good start, but it’s not enough. I urge you to get involved in this issue to help us phase out amalgams entirely. As mentioned, Dentsply is a leading manufacturer of mercury fillings – and it’s time to tell them to stop.