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Dr. Mercola

Relax, You'll Feel Better

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

While 99 percent of Americans feel relaxation is important, most spend less than 5 percent of their day in pursuit of it, according to a survey commissioned by, fittingly, a major cruise line.1

After you’ve done all of the ‘must-dos” of your day, you may simply feel you don’t have time for relaxation or, like 62 percent of the parents surveyed, you might feel guilty doing it.

One-third of those polled even said they feel stressed out just by thinking about relaxation! Perhaps, more aptly, they feel stressed out because it’s just one more thing that you’re “supposed” to be doing to stay well.

But I assure you, once you get into the habit of daily relaxation, you won’t know how you did without it. And don’t feel guilty. Regular relaxation is every bit as important as proper diet, sleep, and exercise; it’s all a part of feeling your best, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Anxiety May Accelerate Aging, While Relaxing Slows It

Part of what makes relaxation so good for you is by tamping down the effects of stress and anxiety. For instance, a recent study revealed that anxiety disorders increase your risk of several aging-related conditions, which might be due to accelerated aging at the cellular level.2

This cellular aging was reversible when the anxiety disorder went into remission, which suggests sound relaxation strategies may help you avoid this accelerated aging. In fact, you might be aware that your body has a stress response that kicks into gear when you’re facing a real (or perceived) threat.

The counterpart of the stress response is the relaxation response, which is a physical state of deep rest that changes physical and emotional responses to stress.

Researchers now know that by evoking your body’s built-in relaxation response – your innate, inborn capacity to counter the harmful effects of stress, according to an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Herbert Benson3 -- you can actually change the expression of your genes for the better.

According to one study in PLOS One:4

RR [relaxation response] elicitation is an effective therapeutic intervention that counteracts the adverse clinical effects of stress in disorders including hypertension, anxiety, insomnia and aging…

RR practice enhanced expression of genes associated with energy metabolism, mitochondrial function, insulin secretion and telomere maintenance, and reduced expression of genes linked to inflammatory response and stress-related pathways.”

Previous research by Dr. Benson and colleagues also found that people who practice relaxation methods such as yoga and meditation long-term have more disease-fighting genes switched “on” and active, including genes that protect against pain, infertility, high blood pressure and rheumatoid arthritis.5

The Many Health Benefits of Deep Relaxation

If you want to experience the health benefits of relaxation, you need to do more than lounge on your couch watching TV. You’re looking for deep relaxation, the kind where your mind stops running and your body is free of tension.

Jake Toby, a hypnotherapist at London's BodyMind Medicine Center who helps people to evoke the relaxation response, told The Independent:6

“What you're looking for is a state of deep relaxation where tension is released from the body on a physical level and your mind completely switches off," he says.

"The effect won't be achieved by lounging round in an everyday way, nor can you force yourself to relax. You can only really achieve it by learning a specific technique such as self-hypnosis, guided imagery or meditation."

Once you get into the relaxation “zone,” however, your body can benefit greatly.7 For instance, a stress-management program has been shown to alter tumor-promoting processes at the molecular level in women with breast cancer.8

Genes responsible for cancer progression (such as pro-inflammatory cytokines) were down-regulated while those associated with a healthy immune response were up-regulated.9 In addition, relaxation may help:

  • Boost Immunity: Meditation is known to have a significant effect on immune cells,10 and research shows relaxation exercises may boost natural killer cells in the elderly, leading to increased resistance to tumors and viruses.
  • Fertility: Research suggests women are more likely to conceive when they’re relaxed as opposed to when they’re stressed.11
  • Heart Health: Relaxation via meditation (done once or twice daily for three months) significantly lowered their blood pressure and psychological distress, and also bolstered coping ability in people at increased risk of hypertension.12
  • Mental Health: People who meditate note reductions in psychological distress, depression, and anxiety.13
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): When people with IBS practiced relaxation meditation twice daily, their symptoms (including bloating, belching, diarrhea, and constipation) improved significantly.14,15
Money Is a Top Source of Stress for Americans

In case you were wondering, money tops the list of stressors to Americans, beating out work, family responsibilities and health concerns.16 If you have trouble relaxing, perhaps you know this all too well.

Close to three-quarters of Americans (72 percent) said they feel stressed about money at least some of the time, and close to one-quarter (22 percent) said they experience extreme stress about money, according to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) latest “Stress in America” report.

What’s more, 32 percent of Americans said their lack of money prevents them from living a healthy lifestyle, while one in five have skipped (or considered skipping) needed doctor’s visits due to financial concerns.

Remember, it’s key to nip stress in the bud, because chronic stress – whatever the cause -- disrupts your neuroendocrine and immune systems and appears to trigger a degenerative process in your brain that can result in Alzheimer's disease.

In addition, when you're stressed, your body releases stress hormones like cortisol, which prepare your body to fight or flee the stressful event.

When stress becomes chronic, however, your immune system becomes less sensitive to cortisol, and since inflammation is partly regulated by this hormone, this decreased sensitivity heightens the inflammatory response and allows inflammation to get out of control.

According to award-winning neurobiologist Dr. Robert Sapolsky, the following are the most common health conditions that are caused by or worsened by stress (which, theoretically, relaxation could help counter):

Cardiovascular disease Hypertension Depression Anxiety Sexual dysfunction Infertility and irregular cycles Frequent colds Insomnia and fatigue Trouble concentrating Memory loss Appetite changes Digestive problems and dysbiosis How to Evoke Your Body’s Relaxation Response

As noted in the journal PLOS One, “Millennia-old practices evoking the RR include meditation, yoga and repetitive prayer.”17 These are, of course, not the only options. The relaxation response can also be elicited through tai chi, progressive muscle relaxation, biofeedback, guided imagery and Qi Gong, for instance. Deep breathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which induces the relaxation response, but taking even 10 minutes to sit quietly and shut out the chaos around you can also trigger it.18 And as noted by Dr. Kelly Brogan:

“…summoning up a feeling of gratitudewhile breathing in a paced manner (typically six counts in and six counts out), can flip heart rate variability into the most optimal patterns associated with calm relaxation and peak mental performance. They have validated the effects on ADHD, hypertension, and anxiety including double blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trials.”

If you’re feeling the effects of stress and you’re unable to fully relax, Dr. Brogan recommends doing this:

  1. Notice and acknowledge your discomfort.
  2. Relax and release it no matter how urgent it feels. Let the energy pass through you before you attempt to fix anything.
  3. Imagine sitting back up on a high seat, in the back of your head watching your thoughts, emotions, and behavior with a detached compassion.
  4. Then ground yourself. Connect to the present moment – feel the earth under your feet, smell the air, imagine roots growing into the earth from your spine.
EFT for Stress Relief and Relaxation

I also strongly recommend energy psychology techniques such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which can be very effective for reducing anxiety and stress – and inducing relaxation -- by correcting the bioelectrical short-circuiting that causes your body’s reactions. You can think of EFT as a tool for “reprogramming” your circuitry, and it works on both real and imagined stressors. EFT is a form of psychological acupressure, based on the same energy meridians used in traditional acupuncture for more than 5,000 years to treat physical and emotional ailments, but without the invasiveness of needles.

Following a 2012 review in the American Psychological Association’s journal Review of General Psychology, EFT has actually met the criteria for evidence-based treatments set by the APA for a number of conditions.19 Recent research has shown that EFT significantly increases positive emotions, such as hope and enjoyment, and decreases negative emotional states, including anxiety.20 EFT is particularly effective for treating stress and anxiety because it specifically targets your amygdala and hippocampus, which are the parts of your brain that help you decide whether or not something is a threat.

In addition to stress relief, you can use EFT for setting goals and sticking to them, which is what the video above is focused on. If you are seriously stressed about money, setting goals related to your financial future might be especially pertinent to finding deep relaxation – and easier to achieve when combined with EFT. Ideally, choose a combination of approaches, like guided imagery, meditation, yoga, and EFT, and do some form of them daily. Remember, the key to relaxation’s beneficial effects is to relax regularly and as often as you can.

Study Suggests Sugar Is Worse Than Salt for Blood Pressure

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

One out of every three US adults has high blood pressure (hypertension).1 If you're among them, one of the first recommendations your physician probably gave you was to cut back on salt.

Yet, there's far more to maintaining a healthy blood pressure than eating a low-salt diet – a strategy that works for some people and fails for others.

In fact, fewer than half of Americans with high blood pressure have their condition under control,2 and perhaps this is because conventional physicians have been focused on the "wrong white crystals," namely salt instead of sugar.

One of the primary underlying causes of high blood pressure is related to your body producing too much insulin and leptin in response to a high-carbohydrate (i.e. high sugar) and processed food diet.

New Study: Sugar May be Worse for Your Blood Pressure Than Salt

You've probably heard of the DASH diet, which is claimed to be among the most effective for controlling hypertension. It consists largely of fresh vegetables, fruits, lean protein, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and very low sodium content.

But it's ALSO low in sugar/fructose. So, while people on DASH diets do tend to show reduced hypertension, the reason for this may not be solely the reduction in salt, but the reduction in sugar.

The same holds true for reducing your intake of processed foods, which are top sources of both heavily processed salt and sugar/fructose. In a new review in the journal Open Heart, the authors also argue that the high consumption of added sugars in the US diet may be more strongly and directly associated with high blood pressure than the consumption of sodium.

They write:3

"Evidence from epidemiological studies and experimental trials in animals and humans suggests that added sugars, particularly fructose, may increase blood pressure and blood pressure variability, increase heart rate and myocardial oxygen demand, and contribute to inflammation, insulin resistance and broader metabolic dysfunction.

Thus, while there is no argument that recommendations to reduce consumption of processed foods are highly appropriate and advisable, the arguments in this review are that the benefits of such recommendations might have less to do with sodium—minimally related to blood pressure and perhaps even inversely related to cardiovascular risk—and more to do with highly-refined carbohydrates."

Take, for instance, one 2010 study that showed consuming a high-fructose diet lead to an increase in blood pressure of about 7mmHg/5mmHg, which is greater than what is typically seen with sodium (4mmHg/2mmHg).4

Research also shows that drinking a single 24-ounce fructose-sweetened beverage leads to greater increases in blood pressure over 24 hours than drinking a sucrose-sweetened beverage,5 which again points to the detrimental effects of fructose on your health. The Open Heart study authors concluded:

"It is time for guideline committees to shift focus away from salt and focus greater attention to the likely more-consequential food additive: sugar.

A reduction in the intake of added sugars, particularly fructose, and specifically in the quantities and context of industrially-manufactured consumables, would help not only curb hypertension rates, but might also help address broader problems related to cardiometabolic disease."

How Excess Sugar Causes High Blood Pressure

In order to effectively treat and recover from high blood pressure, it's important to understand its underlying cause, which is often related to your body producing too much insulin and leptin in response to a high-carbohydrate and processed food diet. As your insulin and leptin levels rise, it causes your blood pressure to increase. Eventually, you may become insulin and/or leptin resistant.

As explained by Dr. Rosedale, insulin stores magnesium, but if your insulin receptors are blunted and your cells grow resistant to insulin, you can't store magnesium so it passes out of your body through urination. Magnesium stored in your cells relaxes muscles.

If your magnesium level is too low, your blood vessels will be unable to fully relax, and this constriction raises your blood pressure. Fructose also elevates uric acid, which drives up your blood pressure by inhibiting the nitric oxide in your blood vessels. (Uric acid is a byproduct of fructose metabolism. In fact, fructose typically generates uric acid within minutes of ingestion.)

Nitric oxide helps your vessels maintain their elasticity, so nitric oxide suppression leads to increases in blood pressure. So any program adapted to address high blood pressure needs to help normalize both your insulin/leptin sensitivity and uric acid level.

As it turns out, by eliminating excess sugar/fructose from your diet, you can address all three issues (insulin, leptin, and uric acid) in one fell swoop. As a standard recommendation, I recommend keeping your total fructose consumption below 25 grams per day.

If you're insulin resistant (the majority of Americans are), have high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, or other chronic disease, you'd be wise to limit your fructose to 15 grams or less per day, until your condition has normalized.

In his book The Sugar Fix, Dr. Richard Johnson includes detailed tables showing the content of fructose in different foods, but you can view a sampling of the fructose content of several common fruits below.

Keep in mind that for most Americans, in order to lower your fructose/sugar consumption you'll also need to eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages and processed foods.

Fruit Serving Size Grams of Fructose Limes 1 medium 0 Lemons 1 medium 0.6 Cranberries 1 cup 0.7 Passion fruit 1 medium 0.9 Prune 1 medium 1.2 Apricot 1 medium 1.3 Guava 2 medium 2.2 Date (Deglet Noor style) 1 medium 2.6 Cantaloupe 1/8 of med. melon 2.8 Raspberries 1 cup 3.0 Clementine 1 medium 3.4 Kiwifruit 1 medium 3.4 Blackberries 1 cup 3.5 Star fruit 1 medium 3.6 Cherries, sweet 10 3.8 Strawberries 1 cup 3.8 Cherries, sour 1 cup 4.0 Pineapple 1 slice (3.5" x .75") >4.0 Grapefruit, pink or red 1/2 medium 4.3 Fruit Serving Size Grams of Fructose Boysenberries 1 cup 4.6 Tangerine/mandarin orange 1 medium 4.8 Nectarine 1 medium 5.4 Peach 1 medium 5.9 Orange (navel) 1 medium 6.1 Papaya 1/2 medium 6.3 Honeydew 1/8 of med. melon 6.7 Banana 1 medium 7.1 Blueberries 1 cup 7.4 Date (Medjool) 1 medium 7.7 Apple (composite) 1 medium 9.5 Persimmon 1 medium 10.6 Watermelon 1/16 med. melon 11.3 Pear 1 medium 11.8 Raisins 1/4 cup 12.3 Grapes, seedless (green or red) 1 cup 12.4 Mango 1/2 medium 16.2 Apricots, dried 1 cup 16.4 Figs, dried 1 cup 23.0 New Website Shows How Too Much Sugar Can Make You Sick

SugarScience.org is a new website that uses graphics, videos and science to show you the many links between excess sugar and chronic disease. It's a product of Dr. Robert Lustig and colleagues, who have reviewed more than 8,000 independent studies on sugar and its role in heart disease, type 2 diabetes, liver disease and more.6 The site notes:7

"Over time, consuming large quantities of added sugar can stress and damage critical organs, including the pancreas and liver. When the pancreas, which produces insulin to process sugars, becomes overworked, it can fail to regulate blood sugar properly. Large doses of the sugar fructose also can overwhelm the liver, which metabolizes fructose. In the process, the liver will convert excess fructose to fat, which is stored in the liver and also released into the bloodstream. This process contributes to key elements of MetS [metabolic syndrome], including high blood fats or triglycerides, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and extra body fat in the form of a sugar belly."

The site points out that added sugar can be found in 74 percent of packaged foods, using at least 61 different names on food labels. If you see sucrose, sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, you'll probably recognize that the food contains added sugars, but barley malt, dextrose, maltose and rice syrup (among many others) also signal added sugar. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that no more than 10 percent of your daily calories (and ideally less than 5 percent) come from added sugar or natural sugar. At 5 percent, if you eat a 2,000-calorie daily diet, this amounts to 25 grams of sugar a day. For comparison, the average American eats closer to 82 grams of sugar daily.8

Even in the US, acknowledgement of sugar's health dangers continues to grow. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee also recommended Americans limit their added sugars to 10 percent of their total daily calories, while the American Heart Association recommends no more than 150 calories a day for men and 100 for women. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee's working group on added sugar pointed out "strong scientific evidence" and "moderate evidence" that added sugars play a role in:9

Excess weight and obesity Type 2 diabetes High blood pressure Heart disease Stroke Tooth decay Does Salt Play a Role in Hypertension?

While the role of sugar in high blood pressure is becoming clearer, what does this mean for advice to cut salt from your diet to boost heart health? Overindulgence in the typically used commercially processed table salt can lead to fluid retention, high blood pressure, swelling of your limbs, and shortness of breath. In the long term, it is thought to contribute to high blood pressure, kidney and heart disease, heart attacks, and heart failure. However, compelling evidence suggests that while processed salt can indeed cause fluid retention and related health problems, numerous studies have, overall, refuted the salt-heart disease connection.

For example, a 2011 meta-analysis of seven studies involving more than 6,000 people found NO strong evidence that cutting salt intake reduces the risk for heart attacks, strokes or death. In fact, salt restriction actually increased the risk of death in those with heart failure.10 Some studies have shown a modest benefit to salt restriction among some people with high blood pressure, but the evidence does not extend to the rest of the population. So what's really going on? For starters, there's a huge difference between natural salt and the processed salt added to processed foods and salt shakers in most homes and restaurants. The former is essential for good health, whereas the latter is best avoided altogether.

Another factor that can have a significant impact on whether salt will harm or help your health is the ratio between the salt and potassium in your diet. Among other things, your body needs potassium to maintain proper pH levels in your body fluids, and it also plays an integral role in regulating your blood pressure. It's possible that potassium deficiency may be more responsible for hypertension than excess sodium. Imbalance in your sodium-potassium ratio can lead to hypertension, and the easiest way to achieve this imbalance is by consuming a diet of processed foods, which are notoriously low in potassium while high in sodium. Remember, processed foods are also loaded with fructose, which is clearly associated with increased hypertension risk, as well as virtually all chronic diseases.

This may also explain why high-sodium diets appear to affect some people but not others. According to a 2011 federal study into sodium and potassium intake, those at greatest risk of cardiovascular disease were those who got a combination of too much sodium along with too little potassium.11 According to Dr. Elena Kuklina, one of the lead authors of the study, potassium may neutralize the heart-damaging effects of salt. Tellingly, those who ate a lot of salt and very little potassium were more than twice as likely to die from a heart attack as those who ate about equal amounts of both nutrients.

My Top-Recommended Strategies to Prevent Hypertension

If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, dietary strategies will be crucial to controlling your levels. Avoiding processed foods (due to their being high in sugar/fructose, grains, trans fat and other damaged fats and processed salt) is my number one recommendation if you have high blood pressure. Instead, make whole, ideally organic, foods the focus of your diet. As you reduce processed foods, and other sources of non-vegetable carbs, from your diet, you'll want to replace them with healthy fat. Sources of healthy fats to add to your diet include:

Avocados Butter made from raw, grass-fed organic milk Raw dairy Organic pastured egg yolks Coconuts and coconut oil (coconut oil actually shows promise as an effective Alzheimer's treatment in and of itself) Unheated organic nut oils Raw nuts, such as pecans and macadamia, which are low in protein and high in healthy fats Grass-fed meats or pasture raised poultry

It's not only your diet that matters for healthy blood pressure … a comprehensive fitness program is another strategy that can improve your blood pressure and heart health on multiple levels (such as improving your insulin sensitivity). To reap the greatest rewards, I strongly suggest including high-intensity interval exercises in your routine. You'll also want to include weight training. When you work individual muscle groups you increase blood flow to those muscles, and good blood flow will increase your insulin sensitivity. If you want to kill several birds with one stone, exercise barefoot outdoors on sunny days.

Not only will you get much-needed sunshine to promote production of heart-healthy vitamin D, but bright daylight sun exposure will also help maintain a healthy circadian clock, which will help you sleep better. Poor sleep is yet another oft-ignored factor that can cause resistant hypertension. Going barefoot, meanwhile, will help you ground to the earth. Experiments show that walking barefoot outside—also referred to as Earthing or grounding—improves blood viscosity and blood flow, which help regulate blood pressure. Keep in mind that, in most cases, high blood pressure is a condition that can be managed and oftentimes reversed with natural lifestyle changes.

I encourage you to read through my full list of strategies to prevent and treat hypertension, however, below you'll find some additional highlights.

  1. Skip breakfast: Research shows that intermittent fasting helps fight obesity and type 2 diabetes, both of which are risk factors for high blood pressure. Your body is most sensitive to insulin and leptin after a period of fasting. While there are many types of fasting regimens, one of the easiest to comply with is an eating schedule where you limit your eating to a specific, narrow window of time each day. I typically recommend starting out by skipping breakfast, and making lunch your first meal of the day until you resolve insulin resistance, then you can eat breakfast if your fasting insulin levels remain normal.
  2. Optimize your vitamin D levels: Arterial stiffness (atherosclerosis) is a driving factor for high blood pressure. As your blood travels from your heart, cells in the wall of your aorta, called baroreceptors, sense the pressure load, and signal your nervous system to either raise or lower the pressure. However, the stiffer your arteries are, the more insensitive your baroreceptors become, and the less efficient they become at sending the appropriate signals. Vitamin D deficiency is, in turn, linked to stiff arteries, which is why optimizing your levels is so important.
  3. Address your stress: The link between stress and hypertension is well documented. Suppressed negative emotions such as fear, anger, and sadness can severely limit your ability to cope with the unavoidable every day stresses of life. It's not the stressful events themselves that are harmful, but your lack of ability to cope. I recommend  Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to transform your suppressed, negative emotions and relieve stress.
  4. Normalize your omega 6:3 ratio: Most Americans get too much omega-6 in their diet and far too little omega-3. Consuming omega-3 fats will help re-sensitize your insulin receptors if you suffer from insulin resistance. Omega-6 fats are found in corn, soy, canola, safflower, and sunflower oil. If you're consuming a lot of these oils, you'll want to avoid or limit them. For omega-3s, your best bet is to find a safe source of fish, or if this proves too difficult or expensive, supplement with a high-quality krill oil, which has been found to be 48 times more potent than fish oil.
  5. Optimize your gut flora: Compared to a placebo, people with high blood pressure who consumed probiotics lowered systolic blood pressure (the top number) by 3.56 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) by 2.38 mm Hg.12 The best way to optimize your gut flora is by avoiding sugar and processed foods and including naturally fermented foods in your diet, which may contain about 100 times the amount of bacteria in a bottle of high-potency probiotics. Using fermented foods with a starter culture like Kinetic culture will also add therapeutic levels of important nutrients like vitamin K2.
  6. Maintain an optimal sodium-potassium ratio: As mentioned, an imbalanced ratio may lead to hypertension. To ensure yours is optimal, ditch all processed foods, which are very high in processed salt and low in potassium and other essential nutrients. Instead, eat a diet of whole, unprocessed foods, ideally organically and locally-grown to ensure optimal nutrient content. This type of diet will naturally provide much larger amounts of potassium in relation to sodium.
  7. Eliminate caffeine: The connection between coffee consumption and high blood pressure is not well understood, but there is ample evidence to indicate that if you have hypertension, coffee and other caffeinated drinks and foods can ex­acerbate your condition.
  8. Vitamins C and E: Studies indicate that vitamins C and E may be helpful in lowering blood pressure. If you're eating a whole food diet, you should be getting sufficient amounts of these nutrients through your diet alone. If you decide you need a supplement, make sure to take a natural (not synthetic) form of vitamin E. You can tell what you're buying by care­fully reading the label. Natural vitamin E is always listed as the "d-" form (d-alpha-tocopherol, d-beta-tocopherol, etc.) Synthetic vitamin E is listed as "dl-" forms.
  9. Olive leaf extract: In one 2008 study, supplementing with 1,000 mg of olive leaf extract daily over eight weeks caused a significant dip in both blood pressure and LDL ("bad") cholesterol in people with borderline hypertension. If you want to incorporate olive leaves as a natural adjunct to a nutrition­ally sound diet, look for fresh leaf liquid extracts for maximum synergistic potency. You can also prepare your own olive leaf tea by placing a large teaspoon of dried olive leaves in a tea ball or herb sack. Place it in about two quarts of boiling water and let it steep for three to 10 minutes. The tea should be a medium amber color when done.
  10. Quick tricks: Increasing nitric oxide in your blood can open con­stricted blood vessels and lower your blood pressure. Methods for in­creasing the compound include taking a warm bath, breathing in and out through one nostril (close off the other nostril and your mouth), and eating bitter melon, rich in amino acids and vitamin C.

New Dietary Guidelines Reverse Flawed Recommendations on Cholesterol

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

For the past half century, cholesterol has been touted as a grave health hazard, and dietary fat and cholesterol have been portrayed as being among the “deadliest” foods you could possibly eat.

This may finally change, as limitations for cholesterol will likely be removed from the 2015 edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It’s about time really, as 60 years’ worth of research has utterly failed to demonstrate a correlation between high cholesterol and heart disease.

Not only does undamaged natural cholesterol not cause heart disease, it is actually one of the most important molecules in your body; indispensable for the building of cells and for producing stress and sex hormones, as well as vitamin D.

Cholesterol is also important for brain health, and helps with the formation of your memories. Low levels of HDL cholesterol have been linked to memory loss and Alzheimer's disease, and may also increase your risk of depression, stroke, violent behavior, and even suicide.

New American Dietary Guidelines May Remove Limits on Cholesterol

A draft1 of the 2015 edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans,2 created by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, now states that “cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”

And, according to a recent report in the Washington Post,3 an insider claims the new stance on cholesterol will remain in the final report. As noted by medical journalist Larry Husten:4

“The proposed change reflects a major shift in the scientific view of cholesterol that has taken place in recent years.

Although serum cholesterol is still considered an important risk factor, cholesterol consumed in food is now thought to play a relatively insignificant role in determining blood levels of cholesterol.”

However, if you process saturated fat or cholesterol and heat it by frying, then  you create very dangerous products that will clearly increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. So this new information does not give you free license to eat any type of cholesterol. Remember, trans fats are worse than sugar for your health.

Guidelines on Fat and Cholesterol Should Never Have Been Made

Steve Nissen, chairman of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, told USA Today:5 “It’s the right decision. We got the dietary guidelines wrong. They’ve been wrong for decades.” This message was echoed in Time Magazine, which recently reported that:

“[I]n the latest review6 of studies that investigated the link between dietary fat and causes of death, researchers say the guidelines got it all wrong. In fact, recommendations to reduce the amount of fat we eat every day should never have been made.”

Low-fat diets saw a real upswing in 1977, but according to research published in the Open Heart journal,7 led by Zoe Harcombe, PhD, there was no scientific basis for the recommendations to cut fat from our diet in the first place.

What’s worse, the processed food industry replaced fat with large amounts of sugar, While Dr. Harcombe shies away from making any recommendation about how much dietary fat might be ideal, she suggests that the take-home message here is to simply “eat real food.”

I have to say, it’s refreshing to finally see that message being repeated in the mainstream media. As reported by Time Magazine:8

“The less adulterated and processed your diet is, the more nutrients and healthy fats, proteins and carbohydrates your body will get, and the less you’ll have to worry about meeting specific guidelines or advice that may or may not be based on a solid body of evidence.”

Processed Fructose Affects Your Body Like Alcohol

The low-fat craze led to an avalanche of new processed food products, promising to benefit both your waistline and your heart. Alas, nothing could have been further from the truth.

When fat was removed, sugar was added in, and this has led to a massive increase in obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. As it turns out, your body metabolizes fructose in the same way it metabolizes ethanol, creating the same toxic effects.

Unlike glucose, which can be used by virtually every cell in your body, fructose can only be metabolized by your liver, because your liver is the only organ that has the transporter for it.

Since nearly all fructose gets shuttled to your liver, and, if you eat a typical Western-style diet, you consume high amounts of it, fructose ends up taxing and damaging your liver in the same way alcohol and other toxins do.

In fact, when you compare the health outcomes of fructose versus alcohol consumption, you see the diseases they cause are virtually identical:

Chronic Ethanol Consumption Chronic Fructose Consumption Hypertension Hypertension Cardiomyopathy Myocardial infarction Dyslipidemia Dyslipidemia Pancreatitis Pancreatitis Obesity Obesity Hepatic dysfunction (ASH) Hepatic dysfunction (NASH) Fetal alcohol syndrome Fetal insulin resistance Addiction Habituation, if not addiction Non-Alcoholic Liver Disease Has Become a Serious Public Health Concern

Dr. Robert Lustig, Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at the University of California, has been a pioneer in decoding sugar metabolism and sounding the alarm on processed fructose in particular.

In one of his papers,9 published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2010, Dr. Lustig describes three similarities between fructose and its fermentation byproduct, ethanol (alcohol):

  1. Your liver's metabolism of fructose is similar to alcohol as they both serve as substrates for converting dietary carbohydrate into fat, which promotes insulin resistance, dyslipidemia (abnormal fat levels in the bloodstream), and fatty liver
  2. Fructose undergoes the Maillard reaction with proteins, leading to the formation of superoxide free radicals that can result in liver inflammation similar to acetaldehyde, an intermediary metabolite of ethanol
  3. By "stimulating the 'hedonic pathway' of the brain both directly and indirectly," Dr. Lustig noted, "fructose creates habituation, and possibly dependence; also paralleling ethanol"

As recently reported in Scientific American,10 non-alcoholic fatty liver disease11 (NAFLD) now affects an estimated 25 percent of Americans, including an estimated 20 percent of children, who have never had a drop of alcohol. Cases of NAFLD have even been reported in children as young as three years old. This may sound like an impossibility. But did you know that most infant formulas contain the sugar equivalent of a can of Coca-Cola?

Ditto for many baby foods, which can contain as much sugar and harmful trans fats as chocolate cookies or cheeseburgers. Babies are methodically “poisoned” with exorbitant amounts of refined sugar and processed fructose from day one, so it’s really no wonder that so many of our youngsters struggle with weight issues and associated diseases.  As explained in Scientific American:12

“NAFLD describes the accumulation of fat in hepatocytes, or liver cells, in excessive amounts. These fats are typically triglycerides, which the body naturally stores and creates from calories that it doesn’t need right away. Normally these fats are burned off for energy, but if the body is overwhelmed with calories and a lack of exercise, then the triglycerides are simply never released. They instead accumulate in the liver and cause NAFLD, which can lead to inflammation, scarring, liver dysfunction and even liver cancer.”

Wrong Dietary Guidelines Has Led to Flawed Medical Interventions, Too

Since the cholesterol hypothesis is false, this also means that the recommended therapies—low-fat, low-cholesterol diet, and cholesterol lowering medications—are doing more harm than good. Statin treatment, for example, is largely harmful, costly, and has transformed millions of people into patients whose health is being adversely impacted by the drug. As noted in the featured video, we now know a whole lot more about HDL and LDL, commonly referred to as “good” and “bad” cholesterol respectively, although that is also a bit of a fallacy.

Depending on the size of the particles, LDL may be either harmful or harmless, so LDL is not necessarily “bad” across the board. The issue of particle sizes is discussed in greater detail in my 2013 interview with Chris Kresser, L.Ac. 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 far more accurate predictor is your LDL particle number, the test for which is called an NMR Lipoprofile. 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. Also:

  1. Check your HDL to total cholesterol ratio. HDL percentage is a potent heart disease risk factor. Just divide your HDL level by your cholesterol. This ratio should ideally be above 24 percent.
  2. Boost your HDL cholesterol and lower your triglyceride levels. High triglycerides are a very potent risk factor for heart disease. In combination, high triglycerides and low HDL levels are an even bigger risk; this ratio is far more important to your heart health than the standard good vs. bad cholesterol ratio. In fact, one study found that people with the highest ratio of triglycerides to HDL had 16 times the risk of heart attack as those with the lowest ratio of triglycerides to HDL.
  3. You calculate your triglyceride/HDL cholesterol ratio by dividing your triglyceride level by your HDL level. This ratio should ideally be below 2. So while you strive to keep your HDL cholesterol levels up, you'll want to decrease your triglycerides. You’ll find strategies for increasing your HDL level below. Triglycerides are easily decreased by exercising and avoiding grains and sugars in your diet.

Statins Are Based on a Flawed Premise

Part of the reason why cholesterol-lowering drugs like statins are ineffective for heart disease prevention (besides the fact that the drug causes heart disease as a side effect) is that drugs cannot address the real cause of heart disease, which is insulin and leptin resistance, which in turn increase your LDL particle number via a number of 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
  • Insufficient everyday physical activity. Chronic sitting is also an independent risk factor that causes biochemical changes that predispose you to insulin and leptin resistance, even if you’re very fit and exercise regularly
  • Chronic sleep deprivation. Studies have shown that 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 weight regulation
  • Poor gut health. Studies indicate that imbalances in your gut flora (the bacteria that live in our gut) can predispose you to obesity and insulin and leptin resistance, and processed foods high in sugar effectively feed harmful bacteria, allowing them to take over
For Heart Health, Focus on Boosting Your HDL

A healthy diet is foundational for optimal health, and step number one is to ignore the advice to eat a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. Other strategies that will help reduce your risk of heart disease include the following:13

Replace processed foods (which are loaded with refined sugar and carbs, processed fructose, and trans fat—all of which promote heart disease) with whole, unprocessed or minimally processed foods, ideally organic and/or locally grown. Avoid meats and other animal products such as dairy and eggs sourced from animals raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Instead, opt for grass-fed, pastured varieties, raised according to organic standards. Eliminate no-fat and low-fat foods, and increase consumption of healthy fats. Half of the population suffers with insulin resistance and would benefit from consuming 50-85 percent of their daily calories from healthy saturated fats, such as 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, and grass-fed meats. No- or low-fat foods are usually processed foods that are high in sugar, which raises your small, dense LDL particles.

Balancing your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio is also key for heart health, as these fatty acids help build the cells in your arteries that make the prostacyclin that keeps your blood flowing smoothly. Omega-3 deficiency can cause or contribute to very serious health problems, both mental and physical, and may be a significant underlying factor of up to 96,000 premature deaths each year. For more information about omega-3s and the best sources of this fat, please review this previous article. You also need the appropriate ratios of calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium, and all of these are generally abundant in a whole food diet. To get more fresh vegetables into your diet, consider juicing. Optimize your vitamin D level. Some researchers, like Dr. Stephanie Seneff, believe optimizing your vitamin D level through regular sun exposure, opposed to taking an oral supplement, may be key to optimizing your heart health. If you do opt for a supplement, you also increase your need for vitamin K2.  Meanwhile, Dr. Robert Heaney recently highlighted research showing that carnivorous animals actually get some of the vitamin D they need from the meat they eat. For the longest time, meat was not considered a good source of vitamin D, primarily because it was so difficult to measure that we didn’t think it contained useful amounts. He recommends getting approximately 5,000 to 6,000 IUs of vitamin D per day from all sources – sun, supplements, and food – in order to reach and maintain a healthy blood level of 40-60 ng/ml. Optimize your gut health. Regularly eating fermented foods, such as fermented vegetables, will help reseed your gut with beneficial bacteria that may play an important role in preventing heart disease and countless other health problems. Quit smoking and reduce your alcohol consumption. Exercise regularly. Exercise is actually one of the safest, most effective ways to prevent and treat heart disease. In 2013, researchers at Harvard and Stanford reviewed 305 randomized controlled trials, concluding there were "no statistically detectable differences" between physical activity and medications for heart disease. High-intensity interval training, which requires but a fraction of the time compared to conventional cardio, has been shown to be especially effective. Pay attention to your oral health. There's convincing evidence linking the state of your teeth and gums to a variety of health issues, including heart disease. In one 2010 study,14 those with the worst oral hygiene increased their risk of developing heart disease by 70 percent, compared to those who brush their teeth twice a day. Avoid statins, as the side effects of these drugs are numerous, while the benefits are debatable. In my view, the only group of people who may benefit from a cholesterol-lowering medication are those with genetic familial hypercholesterolemia. This is a condition characterized by abnormally high cholesterol, which tends to be resistant to lowering with lifestyle strategies like diet and exercise.

How Fascism Creates Science-Biased Medicine in Federal Policies

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

As stated in their mission statement, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for protecting public health by assuring the safety and efficacy of drugs, biological products, medical devices, food, and more.1

It’s a tall order, no doubt, but the FDA makes many glaring omissions or, some might say, blatant oversights that put the public’s health at risk. Yet, the public is quite understanding and tolerant of the FDA’s mistakes and industry-friendly positions.

For instance, even as they continue to ignore the risks of antibiotics in animal feed, deceive you about mercury amalgams, and allow Americans to consume questionable foods that are banned in other countries

There is no major public uproar or demand for a (much-needed) overall of the agency. But it is hard to defend an agency that continually acts against the best interests of the public they’re entrusted to defend.

Now, due to the efforts of a professor and his students at the Arthur L. Carter Institute of Journalism at New York University, we have yet another example of the FDA failing to warn Americans, in this case about grave concerns due to falsifications in published data.

FDA Uncovers Fraud, Incompetence, and Misconduct in Clinical Trials… Says Nothing

The FDA reviews several hundred clinical trial locations that conduct research on human participants each year in order to be sure they’re engaging in good clinical practice. But what happens when they find evidence of questionable procedures or practices?

In the most serious of cases, the FDA can classify it as “official action indicated,” or OAI. This is reserved for “severe” forms of clinical trial violations, including "objectionable conditions or practices" that warrant compulsory regulatory action, as opposed to "voluntary action indicated" for lesser violations.”2

Now, if a trial had been deemed OAI by the FDA, you might assume that you’d see evidence of that when reading the results of studies based on said data. But that would be a liberal assumption. Researchers conducted a review of FDA inspection reports between 1998 and 2013.

They found 60 clinical trials that had been classified as OAI, and these trials had been used for data in 78 published articles. Out of those 78 studies, only three included mentions of the violations found by the FDA!

And we’re not talking about small, innocent mistakes. The violations included fraud, incompetence, and misconduct. This means that anyone browsing a medical journal might be making decisions based on fraudulent published studies.

Studies that the FDA knows contain grave errors… but chose not to say anything about. While you might not personally read this misleading data, your doctor might. As the study’s lead researcher, Charles Seife, noted:3

Your physician makes decisions based upon what he knows from the peer-reviewed literature… If that literature is tainted in some way without the physician knowing, then the physician is making treatment decisions based upon bad data."

Widespread Scientific Fraud, Limb Amputations… Even a Related Homicide Case!

In all, the study found about 2 percent of the close to 650 FDA inspections were classified as OAI. Among the violations was a trial in which patients were treated with stem cells to treat poor blood flow in a leg.

The trial reported that all patients reported improvement in their limbs… but one person had to have a foot amputated two weeks after the treatment.

In another case, the FDA said “systematic and widespread scientific fraud” made a trial of the blood-thinning drug rivaroxaban unreliable. But no mention of this fraud is made in the journals that published its findings.4

In another particularly egregious case, a researcher falsified documents that lead to the death of a chemotherapy patient. The researcher pleaded guilty to fraud and went to prison for criminally negligent homicide … but again, the related published studies make no mention of this.5 Of the 57 OAI trials:6

  • 22 had falsified information
  • 14 trials had researchers who failed to report adverse events
  • 42 trials had violations of the trial’s protocols
  • 35 trials had record-keeping errors
  • 30 trials had researchers who failed to protect patient safety or acquire informed consent
FDA Says They’re Moving Toward Transparency, Yet Heavily Redacts Information

The FDA devotes an entire section of its website to transparency and says they’re engaged in an “agency-wide effort to open the doors of the agency.”7 Yet, most of the documents obtained by students for the featured study were heavily redacted.

In some cases, Seife noted, you couldn’t even tell what drug was being tested… and he believes his team would have uncovered even more violations if not for the redaction.8 In a scathing review in Slate, Seife wrote:9

Reading the FDA’s inspection files feels almost like watching a highlights reel from a Scientists Gone Wild video. It’s a seemingly endless stream of lurid vignettes—each of which catches a medical researcher in an unguarded moment, succumbing to the temptation to do things he knows he really shouldn’t be doing.

Faked X-ray reports. Forged retinal scans. Phony lab tests. Secretly amputated limbs. All done in the name of science when researchers thought that nobody was watching. That misconduct happens isn’t shocking.

What is: When the FDA finds scientific fraud or misconduct, the agency doesn’t notify the public, the medical establishment, or even the scientific community that the results of a medical experiment are not to be trusted. On the contrary.

For more than a decade, the FDA has shown a pattern of burying the details of misconduct. As a result, nobody ever finds out which data is bogus, which experiments are tainted, and which drugs might be on the market under false pretenses.

The FDA has repeatedly hidden evidence of scientific fraud not just from the public, but also from its most trusted scientific advisers, even as they were deciding whether or not a new drug should be allowed on the market.

Even a congressional panel investigating a case of fraud regarding a dangerous drug couldn't get forthright answers. For an agency devoted to protecting the public from bogus medical science, the FDA seems to be spending an awful lot of effort protecting the perpetrators of bogus science from the public.”

Conflict of Interest Rampant in GRAS Panels

When the 1958 Food Additives Amendment was enacted, the exclusion of GRAS items from the formal FDA approval process for food additives was meant to apply to common food ingredients such as vinegar, i.e. items known through their historical use as being safe. Nowadays, however, countless manufactured ingredients end up slipping through this loophole.

A company can simply hire an industry insider—a completely conflicted "expert"—to evaluate the chemical, and if that individual determines that the chemical meets federal safety standards, it can be deemed GRAS without any involvement from the FDA. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine revealed that the individuals companies select to make these “expert” determinations often have conflicts of interest.10 In fact, of the 451 GRAS notifications reviewed:

  • 22 percent of the safety assessments were made by an employee of the additive manufacturer
  • 13 percent were made by an employee of a consulting firm selected by the manufacturer
  • 64 percent were made by an expert panel selected by either a consulting firm or the manufacturer

The researchers concluded that conflicts of interest in approvals of GRAS food additives are rampant and deserve attention from the FDA: Between 1997 and 2012, financial conflicts of interest were ubiquitous in determinations that an additive to food was GRAS. The lack of independent review in GRAS determinations raises concerns about the integrity of the process and whether it ensures the safety of the food supply, particularly in instances where the manufacturer does not notify the FDA of the determination. The FDA should address these concerns.”

The FDA has created a voluntary program that asks food companies to submit their safety assessments for FDA review. If the agency cannot find any major problems with the company's argument for GRAS status, a "no questions" letter is sent to the company. However, if questions about safety are raised by FDA scientists, the company can simply withdraw its voluntary submission, and go on using the chemical as if nothing has happened.

This legal loophole in the law allows food manufacturers to market novel chemicals in their products based on nothing but their own safety studies, and their own safety assessments—the results of which can be kept a secret. As Marion Nestle, Ph.D., Paulette Goddard professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University, said:11 “How is it possible that the F.D.A. permits manufacturers to decide for themselves whether their food additives are safe?”

How Independent Are Vaccine Supporters?

Conflict of interest is pervasive not just in the food industry but also in the medical field. As attacks against those who support vaccine choice rage on at an all-time high, it is important to understand who’s behind some of the most prominent vaccine supporters. In an investigation by CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson, she revealed strong financial ties between the vaccine industry and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), for starters. Among them, the agency received:12

  • $324,000 from Wyeth, maker of the pneumococcal vaccine
  • $433,000 from Merck, the same year AAP endorsed their HPV vaccine
  • Additional contributions from Sanofi Aventis, maker of 17 vaccines

The pro-vaccine group Every Child by Two has also received money from the vaccine industry, as has Dr. Paul Offit, who is one of the most outspoken defenders of vaccine safety. Dr. Offit received a reported $350,000 grant from Merck to develop a rotavirus vaccine, and has served on the scientific advisory board for Merck. He received another estimated $6 million when Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) sold the patent for the RotaTeq vaccine he developed. He was also on the CDC advisory board that approved the addition of a rotavirus vaccine to the US National Immunization Program (NIP) in 1998—a decision that paid off handsomely.

The original rotavirus vaccine added to the NIP, which was made by a competitor, was pulled from the market due to adverse effects. The RotaTeq vaccine replaced it, and he continues to receive royalty payments from the sale of RotaTeq to this day. (According to Wired Magazine,13 Merck's revenue from RotaTeq was $665 million in 2008 alone, of which Offit and his RotaTeq co-creators are said to receive a percentage.)

Hit Lists, Pay Offs, and Fake Journals All Par for the Course

Drug giant Merck has fortunately stopped promoting the mandatory use of Gardasil, the useless human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. Their campaign to promote it (back in the 2000s) was dubbed by some as the Help pay for Vioxx Litigation campaign (Vioxx is linked to heart attacks and was pulled from the market after it had killed more than 60,000 people). As noted by CorpWatch:14

“…revelations of money trails and the rush to make a new vaccine mandatory created a backlash and forced Merck, on February 20th [2007], to publicly abort its lobbying campaign for mandatory vaccination of school girls.”

Two legislators from Maine, Marilyn Canavan and Andrea Boland, painted a particularly poignant picture of who’s really running the show. At a conference organized by the non-profit organization Women in Government (WIG), they described one-sided “presentations” (not discussion) aimed at getting the female legislators on board with vaccination. According to CorpWatch:15

“Boland, a first-time legislator, joined Canavan, a WIG state director, at a small planning session, where she was taken aback by the extent to which corporations influenced WIG. ‘When discussing what the agenda for next year would be,’ participants were told to 'wait to see who's funding things.'" Similarly before fixing the program for next year, they ‘had to see what the sponsors want,’ said Boland.”

Merck is the same company that created a fake “peer-reviewed” journal called The Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine to promote pro-Vioxx articles.16 Merck even had a hit list of doctors who had to be "neutralized" or discredited because they had criticized the painkiller Vioxx. Those who made it onto Merck’s “hit list” said they experienced instances of intimidation, including suggestions that Merck would stop funding the institution or interfere with academic appointments.

This clearly gets in the way of academic freedom, researchers’ ability to accurately report their findings, and doctors’ ability to speak out against a drug they believe is harmful. But then that is what Merck was after. Adding to the issue, of course, is that this is probably not an isolated occurrence. Drug companies could be keeping any number of lists of people who are interfering with their ability to sell and make profits, and my guess is that they are at work “neutralizing” those people as we speak. In fact, I would bet on it.

Only Two Countries Allow Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) Drug Advertising

The US is one of them (New Zealand is the other). What is DTC advertising? It’s that barrage of ads you see on TV and in magazines and newspapers, or on the radio and Internet. They're ads telling you to run right out and ask your doctor if this or that pill would be right for you. Some drug companies have even taken to advertising highly specialized medical devices, like heart stents. It's a marketing bonanza that's turned America into a medicated mass of people who've been brain-washed into thinking that taking pills will make everything better―even for ailments you might not have.

But it's a brilliant move for Big Pharma, who has now turned the consumer into their very own sales rep, and a persuasive one at that. Not only is there a correlation between the amount of money drug companies spend on DTC advertising and the brand of drug patients request from their physicians, but the data shows DTC advertising rapidly converts people into patients. As mentioned by Alternet:17

"It's a disgusting, dishonorable way to generate sales--but it works. In 2008, the House Commerce Committee found that every $1,000 spent on drug ads produces 24 new patients,18 and a 2003 research report found that prescription rates for drugs promoted with DTC ads were nearly seven times greater than those without such promos.19 Ethics aside, these consumer hustles have proven to be profit bonanzas."

As you might suspect, the use of DTC ads has grown rapidly since it was first approved in the U.S. in 1997. At that time, the ads could only be run along with lengthy consumer information warning of risks and side effects, so few companies used them. In 1997, the FDA revised the rule so that rather than providing a full disclosure, companies only needed to meet an "adequate standard" when it came to describing risks to consumers. Although viewed as a relatively recent phenomenon, drug advertising has a long and sordid history, as reported in the American Journal of Public Health:20

“Although the public health impact of direct-to-consumer (DTC) pharmaceutical advertising remains a subject of great controversy, such promotion is typically understood as a recent phenomenon permitted only by changes in federal regulation of print and broadcast advertising over the past two decades. But today's omnipresent ads are only the most recent chapter in a longer history of DTC pharmaceutical promotion (including the ghostwriting of popular articles, organization of public-relations events, and implicit advertising of products to consumers) stretching back over the twentieth century.”

In an Era of Bias, Conflict of Interest, and Confusion: Take Control of Your Health

Virtually every measurable index indicates that despite the ever-increasing amounts of money invested, if you live in the US your chance of achieving optimal health through the conventional medical system is getting progressively worse. As just one example, while the US spends more than twice the amount on health care as other developed nations, we rank 49th in life expectancy worldwide—far lower than most other developed nations ... When it comes to your health, you simply cannot accept claims at their face value… Quite often—definitely too frequently for comfort—treatment recommendations are biased in favor of a specific drug simply because people making the decisions stand to profit from it.

Whatever your health problem might be, I strongly recommend digging below the surface using all the resources available to you; including your own commonsense and reason, true independent experts' advice and others' experiences to determine what medical treatment or advice will be best for you. Ultimately, you are responsible for your and your family's health, so be sure you feel completely comfortable with any related decisions you make. If you're facing a health challenge, choose healthcare practitioners who really understand health at a foundational level and have extensive experience helping others (and don't be afraid to ask for references and seek corroboration).

Of course, I always advise taking control of your health, which you can easily do by reviewing my comprehensive nutrition plan that summarizes my 30 years of clinical experience and treating 25,000 patients. I put this together so you can stay well and avoid having to rely on information that gives the perception of science when it is actually too heavily flawed or manipulated to benefit your health. Most of us live in free enough countries where we still have the ability to take back control of our health… we just need to grab the initiative.

Flame Retardants and Cosmetic Chemicals May Jeopardize Your Health

Tue, 02/24/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Unless you live in some remote wilderness, you’re likely being exposed to a wide variety of chemicals on a daily basis that can compromise your health. One class of chemicals that have become ubiquitous in the US is flame retardants.

In the 1970s, the US implemented fire safety standards that led to more and more products adopting the use of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) to meet the stringent regulations.

PBDEs have a molecular structure similar to that of banned PCBs, the latter of which have been linked to cancer, reproductive problems, and impaired fetal brain development.

And, even though certain PBDEs have since been banned in some US states, they still persist in the environment and accumulate in your body. Tests have revealed that as many as 97 percent of all Americans have significant levels of PBDEs in their blood.

Many harmful chemicals also lurk in personal care products that you apply to your body on a daily basis.

A recent article in Environmental Health Perspectives1 discusses the impact of newer flame retardants and the routes by which people are exposed to these hazardous chemicals—which, surprisingly, may include personal care products.

Hand-to-Mouth Exposures in Adults

In 2005, PBDEs used in foam furniture were voluntarily withdrawn from the US market.2 But were they replaced with harmless chemicals? Hardly.

Many PBDEs were replaced by organophosphate flame retardants such as tris phosphate (TDCIPP), and triphenyl phosphate (TPHP), both of which are now used in a wide variety of consumer goods, including furniture, cars seats, carpet padding, and baby products, just to name a few.

According to the featured article:3

“TDCIPP is listed as a human carcinogen under California’s Proposition 65, and a small human study found evidence that exposure to both TDCIPP and TPHP was associated with altered levels of some hormones and lower sperm concentration.

In vitro and animal data have linked TDCIPP to neurotoxicity and both TDCIPP and TPHP to endocrine disruption.”

A recent study4 looked at how, and to what degree, people were exposed to these chemicals in their homes. A total of 53 men and women participated in the study, and more than 90 percent of them provided dust samples from their home.

Not only did every single dust sample contain both TDCIPPs and TPHPs, metabolites of TPHP and TDCIPP were also found in 91 percent and 83 percent of the urine samples respectively.

Flame Retardants May Hide in Women’s Products

Interestingly, women had nearly twice the urinary levels TPHP metabolites than men, suggesting there must be a hidden route of exposure that women come into contact with more regularly than men... According to study author Heather Stapleton:

“This is a very unusual finding. We haven’t seen that before [for flame retardants], which suggests to us that there is likely exposure through a personal care product.”

Nail polish is currently being investigated as a possible source of the exposure to the flame retardant TPHP.

The study also found that those who had higher levels of organophosphate chemical traces on their hands had higher levels in their urine, suggesting that “hand-to-mouth contact or dermal absorption may be important pathways of exposure to these compounds.”

According to the researchers, frequent hand washing may help reduce some of the exposure, but clearly, your best bet would be to try to determine the sources and eliminate as many of them as possible—especially if you have young children.

Ideally, we all need to start paying attention to the presence of these chemicals, because not only are they bad when ingested or absorbed, they’re also bad for the environment when flushed down the drain...

Chemical Research Ruled by Politics, Not Science

A recent article by The Center for Public Integrity5 (CPI) reveals just how little is being done by the US government to protect you from these chemical hazards, thereby necessitating taking more personal responsibility.

It appears assessments of toxic chemicals by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have come to a standstill, courtesy of political wrangling.

One of the EPA’s responsibilities is to determine which chemicals pose a hazard to human health, and then decide how to protect the public from those chemicals. They may decide to ban the chemical in question, or create more stringent regulations, for example.

However, any such measure will result in a loss of profits for the chemical industry, which is working hard to keep their products on the market—and they have a very powerful political lobby to ensure business keeps going as usual.

One of the tactics the chemical industry uses is simply to seed doubt when questions about potential hazards arise.

It’s quite difficult to tease out exactly how much of a toxic chemical one must be exposed to before succumbing to cancer or some other malady, and the chemical industry uses that fact to argue for the chemical’s safety.

This is a strategy that was originally used with great success by the tobacco industry. Another political ploy being used today is o delay scientific findings. According to CPI reporter David Heath:

“Congressional investigators found that the Bush White House put many of the EPA scientific findings on hold. In fact investigators said the delays were so endless that the scientific research being done at the EPA was virtually obsolete.

Things would go over to the Bush administration and they'd ask a bunch of questions and they'd have to go back and start all over again...

[T]he Obama administration came in with a plan to fix it. And that called basically for doing many more chemicals assessments and to do them a lot faster. But that plan has actually failed. In the last three years the EPA has actually done fewer chemical assessments than ever before.”

Damning Assessment of Arsenic Halted and ‘Buried’

The EPA started working on a toxicology assessment of formaldehyde in 1998, and it’s still not published. Why? According to Heath, Louisiana senator David Vitter managed to postpone the assessment by threatening to block a key EPA appointment. Ditto for the EPA’s assessment of arsenic.

The agency began assessing arsenic around 2003. Then, in 2011, Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson inserted language into a committee report attached to a spending bill that delayed the release of that assessment. And even though the language is not legally binding, the EPA is strongly advised to follow it, and it does.

Shockingly, Heath reports that the EPA had determined arsenic is 17 times more potent a carcinogen than previously thought, yet these findings never made it to publication.  

“What that meant was that even people drinking the legal limit of arsenic6 in drinking water were likely to get cancer from it. In fact they came up with a calculation that was 730 out of 100,000 people would get cancer from it,” Heath says.

“[A]ll chemical assessments right now have been delayed. Congressman Simpson acted on behalf of two pesticide companies who make a weed killer containing arsenic.

Those companies hired a lobbyist named Charlie Grizzle, who had been a former EPA official and knew the ropes. At the same time he was also working as a lobbyist for the formaldehyde industry. And at the same time he was lobbying against the arsenic assessment, he was lobbying to delay all chemical assessments, about 50 in all.”

Chemicals Abound in Personal Care Products

Chemicals like formaldehyde and arsenic can be found in many products—some of which you may be ingesting or applying to your body on a regular basis. Nail polish, for example—which is now under investigation to determine the presence of flame retardants—typically contain formaldehyde along with toxic dibutyl phthalate (DBP), and toluene. Even Johnsons & Johnsons Baby Shampoo—a classic bathroom staple for most families with small children—contained formaldehyde when sold in the US (but not the version sold in other countries).

Last year, after years of applied pressure from public health groups, including a boycott, the company announced its famous baby shampoo had been reformulated and would no longer contain formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane7 (yet another chemical known for its toxic effects). Cosmetics are a major source of potentially toxic exposure for women.8

Tests suggest you can absorb five pounds of chemicals each year from your daily makeup routine alone. Many of these chemicals have been directly linked to cancer or are known to cause damage to your brain, reproductive system, and other organs. On average, women apply 126 different ingredients to their skin daily and 90 percent of them have never been evaluated for safety. A handful of the most hazardous ones include:

  • Paraben, a chemical found in deodorants and other cosmetics that has been shown to mimic the action of the female hormone estrogen, which can drive the growth of human breast tumors.
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate, a surfactant, detergent and emulsifier used in thousands of cosmetic products, as well as in industrial cleaners. It’s present in nearly all shampoos, scalp treatments, hair color and bleaching agents, toothpastes, body washes and cleansers, make-up foundations, liquid hand soaps, laundry detergents, and bath oils/bath salts. The real problem with SLES/SLS is that the manufacturing process (ethoxylation) results in SLES/SLS being contaminated with 1,4 dioxane, a carcinogenic by-product.
  • Phthalates are plasticizing ingredients that have been linked to birth defects in the reproductive system of boys and lower sperm-motility in adult men, among other problems. Be aware that phthalates are often hidden on shampoo labels under the generic term “fragrance.”
  • Methylisothiazolinone (MIT), a chemical used in shampoo to prevent bacteria from developing, which may have detrimental effects on your nervous system.
  • Toluene, made from petroleum or coal tar, and found in most synthetic fragrances. Chronic exposure linked to anemia, lowered blood cell count, liver or kidney damage, and may affect a developing fetus.

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<img src="http://media.mercola.com/assets/images/infographic/personal-care-products.jpg" alt="personal care products" border="0" style="max-width:100%; min-width:300px; margin: 0 auto 20px auto; display:block;" /><p style="max-width:800px; min-width:300px; margin:0 auto; text-align:center;">Your skin is your largest organ, and anything you put on it should contain only the best and safest ingredients from nature. So before slathering lotion or body wash on your skin, take a look at this infographic on toxic chemicals found in <a href="http://www.mercola.com/infographics/personal-care-products.htm"><strong>personal care products</strong></a>. Discover these common yet deadly chemicals and how they can potentially sabotage your health and well-being. </p> <pre style="max-width:800px; min-width:300px; margin: 20px auto 0 auto; padding:10px; border:solid 1px #999999; background: #ffffff; white-space: pre-wrap; word-wrap:break-word;"><code>&lt;img src="http://media.mercola.com/assets/images/infographic/personal-care-products.jpg" alt="personal care products" border="0" style="max-width:100%; min-width:300px; margin: 0 auto 20px auto; display:block;"&gt;&lt;p style="max-width:800px; min-width:300px; margin:0 auto; text-align:center;"&gt;Your skin is your largest organ, and anything you put on it should contain only the best and safest ingredients from nature. So before slathering lotion or body wash on your skin, take a look at this infographic on toxic chemicals found in &lt;a href="http://www.mercola.com/infographics/personal-care-products.htm"&gt;&lt;strong&gt;personal care products&lt;/strong&gt;&lt;/a&gt;. Discover these common yet deadly chemicals and how they can potentially sabotage your health and well-being. &lt;/p&gt;</code></pre>

Click on the code area and press CTRL + C (for Windows) / CMD + C (for Macintosh) to copy the code.

Perfume—A Cornucopia of Toxic Ingredients

Perfumes are another common route of toxic exposure, and although not discussed as frequently, the same applies to men’s colognes and body sprays as well. Of particular concern when you’re reading labels is the generic term “fragrance,” or “parfum.” These are catchall terms for some 10,000 different ingredients, most of which have not been tested for safety. As noted above, phthalates also hide under these terms.  A recent article in Time magazine9 addressing this issue states:

“Phthalates are wonderful for cosmetics because they make things smear really well... When it comes to perfume, phthalates keep all the liquid’s different elements suspended and evenly distributed... So what’s the problem? Some phthalates—namely one called diethyl phthalate (DEP)—are shown to disrupt our hormones, including testosterone. That’s a big concern for pregnant women, [Dr.] Patisaul says. ‘There’s evidence connecting phthalates to developmental disorders, especially among newborn boys’...

More research has linked DEP to poor lung function and myriad sperm issues, from lower counts to reduced motility... Which means men—particularly adolescents who fumigate their still-developing bodies with aerosolized body sprays—could be at risk... What isn’t clear: Just how much phthalate exposure is too much. ‘It’s not like we can deliberately expose a bunch of pregnant women or boys to phthalates and see what happens,’ Patisaul says. ‘So coming up with hard proof is difficult.’ That same dilemma helped cigarette companies dodge health regulators for decades.”

These risks are particularly pronounced in the US, because here, chemicals are assumed safe until proven harmful. Many other countries place the burden of proof on the chemical producer. Subsequently, perfume ingredients that are banned in Europe are still used in American products. France, known for its penchant for perfumes, also has some of the tightest regulations on cosmetic ingredients of any nation, although that doesn’t mean perfumes manufactured in France are 100 percent safe either.

How to Reduce Your Exposure to Toxic Chemicals

There are tens of thousands of potentially toxic chemicals lurking in your home, so the most comprehensive recommendation I can give you is to opt for organic or “green” alternatives no matter what product is under consideration—be it a piece of furniture, clothing, kids toys, cleaning product, or personal care item. This is by far the easiest route, as manufacturers are not required to disclose the chemicals they use to make their products comply with safety regulations, such as fire safety regulations. Your mattress, for example, may be soaked in toxic flame retardants, but you will not find the chemicals listed on any of the mattress labels.

You can certainly ask what type of fire retardants the product contains, but you may not always get an answer. And, while you likely won't find PBDEs in newer foam products, there are a number of other fire-retardant chemicals that can be just as detrimental to your health, including antimony, formaldehyde, boric acid, and other brominated chemicals. Cleaning products and cosmetics are also notorious for not disclosing all ingredients, as many concoctions are protected as trade secrets. Below are some general guidelines to consider that can help reduce your exposure to toxins in your home:

  • Be careful with polyurethane foam products manufactured prior to 2005, such as upholstered furniture, mattresses, and pillows, as these are most likely to contain PBDEs. If you have any of these in your home, inspect them carefully and replace ripped covers and/or any foam that appears to be breaking down. Also avoid reupholstering furniture by yourself as the reupholstering process increases your risk of exposure.
  • If in doubt, you can have a sample of your polyurethane foam cushions tested for free to be sure. This is particularly useful for items you already have around your home, as it will help you determine which harmful products need replacing.

  • Older carpet padding is another major source of PBDEs, so take precautions when removing old carpet. You'll want to isolate your work area from the rest of your house to avoid spreading it around, and use a HEPA filter vacuum to clean up.
  • You probably also have older sources of the PBDEs known as Deca in your home as well, and these are so toxic they are banned in several states. Deca PBDEs can be found in electronics like TVs, cell phones, kitchen appliances, fans, toner cartridges, and more. It's a good idea to wash your hands after handling such items, especially before eating, and at the very least be sure you don't let infants mouth any of these items (like your TV remote control or cell phone).
  • As you replace PBDE-containing items around your home, select those that contain naturally less flammable materials, such as leather, wool and cotton.
  • Look for organic and "green" building materials, carpeting, baby items and upholstery, which will be free from these toxic chemicals. Furniture products filled with cotton, wool or polyester tend to be safer than chemical-treated foam; some products also state that they are "flame-retardant free."
  • PBDEs are often found in household dust, so clean up with a HEPA-filter vacuum and/or a wet mop often.
  • Look for a mattress made of either 100% organic wool, which is naturally flame-resistant; 100% organic cotton or flannel; or Kevlar fibers, the material they make bulletproof vests out of, which is sufficient to pass the fire safety standards. Stearns and Foster is one brand that sells this type of mattress.
  • When purchasing personal care products, look for the genuine USDA Organic Seal.  If you can't pronounce it, you probably don't want to put it on your body. Ask yourself, "Would I eat this?" One way to clean up your beauty regimen is to simplify your routine and make your own products. Coconut oil, for example, can replace a whole slew of products, from skin moisturizers to hair care.
  • EWG’s Skin Deep database10 can help you find personal care products that are free of phthalates and other potentially dangerous chemicals.
  • Look for products that are fragrance-free. This applies to personal care products and household cleaning products alike. If you want a scent, consider using a pure essential oil.
  • Buy products that come in glass bottles rather than plastic, since chemicals can leach out of plastics and into the contents. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a serious concern. Make sure any plastic container is BPA-free.

Taxpayer Money Helps Pay for Monsanto Devastation

Tue, 02/24/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Earlier this month, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced a $3.2-million campaign to save “beleaguered” Monarch butterflies.1 As recently as 1996, there were close to 1 billion monarchs across the US. Today, their numbers have dwindled by 90 percent.

The crux of their campaign is restoring and enhancing monarch habitat, as habitat loss due to agricultural practices has played a role in their demise. More than 200,000 acres of habitat is slated to be restored for monarchs while the program is also planning over 750 schoolyard habitats and pollinator gardens.

It’s a good start, but there is something glaringly absent from the FWS announcement – Monsanto’s role in all of this.

Monsanto’s Glyphosate Is Killing Off Monarchs’ Favorite Plant

Milkweed is an easy target for glyphosate, the chemical in the herbicide Roundup that’s used prolifically on Monsanto’s Roundup Ready™ genetically engineered crops.

This perennial plant used to be common across American prairies, and it plays an integral role in monarchs’ survival. It is the only plant on which the adult monarch will lay its eggs.

Once the larvae hatches, the caterpillar will eat the plant. In fact, it is the only food that monarch caterpillars eat. Without milkweed along its migratory path, the monarch cannot reproduce – which means it cannot, ultimately, survive.

This is reason enough to take urgent action, but the loss of monarchs isn’t only about butterflies. According to FWS:

Spectacular as it is, protecting the monarch is not just about saving one species. The monarch serves as an indicator of the health of pollinators and the American landscape.

Monarch declines are symptomatic of environmental problems that pose risks to our food supply, the spectacular natural places that help define our national identity, and our own health. Conserving and connecting habitat for monarchs will benefit other plants, animals and important insect and avian pollinators.”

‘Farming Per Se Is Not the Problem’

FWS acknowledges that agricultural practices have played a role in devastating monarchs’ habitat. But it’s not just farming that’s the problem – it’s the planting of GM crops, particularly corn and soy, and the subsequent application of Roundup that is killing off the butterflies.

According to a report, “Monarchs in Peril,” by the Center for Food Safety (CFS), “farming per se is not the problem,” as monarchs have coexisted with agriculture since the 1800s.2

Even as prairies and forests in the Midwest were converted to cropland, one particularly hardy species of milkweed, common milkweed, survived. Its deep, extensive root system allowed it to survive tillage, mowing, harsh winters, and even the application of most herbicides, which typically didn’t affect their roots. CFS noted:

Thus, throughout the 20th century, common milkweed within and around corn and soybean fields has supported a large population of monarch butterflies.

In fact, in the late 1990s roughly half of the monarchs in Mexican winter roosts had developed on common milkweed plants in the Corn Belt, making this far and away the most important habitat for maintaining the monarch population as a whole.”

As of 2013, however, about 90 percent of soybeans and more than 80 percent of corn grown in the US are of the GM Roundup Ready variety. Between 1995, the year before the first Roundup Ready crops were introduced, and 2013, total use of glyphosate on corn and soybeans increased 20-fold, according to the CFS report.

Meanwhile, as usage of glyphosate has skyrocketed, milkweed has plummeted. In 1999, CFS noted that milkweed was found in half of corn and soybean fields, but this declined to 8 percent 10 years later. In 2013, it was estimated that just 1 percent of the common milkweed present in 1999 remained. Tragically, while milkweed is not harmed by many herbicides… it is easily killed by glyphosate. CFS reported:

Recently… a dramatic change in farming practices — the widespread cultivation of genetically engineered, glyphosate-resistant Roundup Ready corn and soybeans—has triggered a precipitous decline of common milkweed, and thus of monarchs.

Glyphosate, sold by Monsanto under the name of Roundup, is one of the very few herbicides that is effective on milkweed. Unlike many other weedkillers, once absorbed it is translocated (moved internally) to root tissue, where it kills milkweed at the root and so prevents regeneration.

Glyphosate is particularly lethal to milkweed when used in conjunction with Roundup Ready crops. It is applied more frequently, at higher rates, and later in the season — during milkweed’s most vulnerable flowering stage of growth — than when used with traditional crops.

The increasingly common practice of growing Roundup Ready crops continuously on the same fields means that milkweed is exposed to glyphosate every year, with no opportunity to recover.”

Call for Monarchs to Be Added to the Endangered Species List

With 90 percent of monarchs vanishing since the 1990s, groups including the Center for Biological Diversity are calling for the butterfly to be placed on the endangered species list.

Meanwhile, rather than directing Monsanto to pay the costs of restoring Monarch habitat… and calling for an end to the elimination of milkweed from cropland, Dan Ashe, director of Fish and Wildlife Service, said that everyone is responsible for killing off monarchs:3

“We’ve all been responsible. We are the consumers of agricultural products. I eat corn. American farmers are not the enemy. Can they be part of the solution? Yes.”

Monsanto surely breathed a sigh of relief upon finding no mention of their herbicide in the FWS report and, not surprisingly, applauded it by saying “farming and habitat for Monarchs can co-exist.”4 Critics, however, believe the FWS is not going far enough to protect this valuable species.

For instance, CFS advocates restricting the spraying of glyphosate late in the growing season, when milkweed is flowering and more likely to be killed.5 According to Larissa Walker, pollinator campaign director at CFS:6

“While funding for efforts to restore milkweed habitat are essential to the monarch butterfly's survival, without addressing the eradication of milkweed within agricultural fields, monarch populations will not rebound to resilient, healthy levels.

Research has shown that monarch butterflies lay up to four times more eggs on milkweed within agricultural fields, and unfortunately, this vital breeding habitat has been destroyed by herbicides used in conjunction with genetically engineered crops.”

Honeybees Are Also in Danger

Like Monarch butterflies, honeybees have been declining in record numbers in recent decades, due to what has been dubbed “colony collapse disorder.” There is no price that can be put upon the work of bees, which pollinate one-third of the food we eat.

Just about every fruit and vegetable you can imagine is dependent on the pollinating services of bees. Apple orchards, for instance, require one colony of bees per acre in order to be adequately pollinated. Almond growers must have two hives per acre.

So far there have been enough bees to keep up with production… but just barely. Those in the industry describe an increasingly dire situation in which finding enough bees to pollinate crops is "chaos." One recent study found that worker bees who begin foraging prematurely perform very poorly, and this compounds the stresses on the colony and accelerates failure of the hive.7

Glyphosate may also play a role in bee colony collapse disorder. As stated by GMO expert Dr. Don Huber, there are three established characteristics of colony collapse disorder that suggest glyphosate may be (at least partly) responsible:

  1. The bees are mineral-deficient, especially in micronutrients
  2. There’s plenty of food present but they’re not able to utilize it or to digest it
  3. Dead bees are devoid of the Lactobacillus and the Bifidobacterium, which are components of their digestive system

The bees also become disoriented, suggesting endocrine hormone disruption. Neonicotinoid insecticides, which are endocrine hormone disruptors, have been demonstrated to make a bee disoriented and unable to find its way back to the hive – and have been implicated in bee die-offs. Glyphosate is also a very strong endocrine hormone disruptor. Dr. Huber also cited a study on glyphosate in drinking water at levels that are commonly found in US water systems, showing a 30 percent mortality in bees exposed to it.

No One’s Testing to See How Much Glyphosate Is on the Produce You Eat

If pesticides, herbicides, and other agricultural chemicals are decimating pollinators, have you stopped to think about what happens when you eat them? Research has demonstrated that these agricultural chemicals are neurotoxic, capable of damaging your nervous system. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 60 percent of herbicides, 90 percent of fungicides, and 30 percent of insecticides are also carcinogenic.

All of these toxins are permitted on conventional farms, and any number of them can end up on your plate when you purchase conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. However, it’s difficult to know exactly how many pesticides and herbicides may be on your food and what the health consequences may be. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) insists pesticide residues on food are no cause for concern.

According to the agency's latest report, more than half of all foods tested last year had detectable levels of pesticide residues, but most, they claim, are within the "safe" range. Yet, the USDA does not test for glyphosate, which is the most commonly used herbicide in the US (and world)!  It’s worth noting that 73 percent of conventionally grown foods had at least one pesticide residue, as did 23 percent of their organically grown counterparts. A US Government Accountability Office report also called into questioned pesticide residue reporting and testing, noting the following glaring issues:8

  • The small percentage of produce tested (less than .01 percent of imported produce was tested in 2012)
  • The lack of disclosure about what is not tested (i.e. glyphosate)
  • The calculation methodology itself
Protest at Monsanto’s Headquarters: Monsanto Is Making Us Sick

At the end of January, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) joined Moms Across America (MAA) and others at a protest outside Monsanto’s corporate headquarters, the site of their annual shareholder meeting. OCA’s campaign “Monsanto Makes Us Sick” included speeches by medical doctors who summed up the scientific evidence against Roundup herbicide. At the shareholders meeting, MAA presented Monsanto’s CEO Hugh Grant with more than 500 testimonials of people describing how their health had been damaged by Roundup and its key ingredient glyphosate.9

At last year’s shareholder meeting, 10 peaceful protestors were arrested by police dressed in military fatigue uniforms. Rather than simply being on hand in case the protestors got out of control (which they did not), they actually engaged in intimidation games! If you’d like to get voice your opinion about Monsanto’s herbicides, or get involved with saving Monarchs and other pollinators, there are specific action steps you take below.

Action Step #1: Petition for Classifying the Monarch as 'Threatened'

A 2014 White House memorandum calling for a federal strategy to promote the health of honeybees and other pollinators, by way of a multiagency Pollinator Health Task Force, has been introduced.10 The petition also urges the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), USDA and President Obama to protect the Monarchs' breeding habitat by halting the approval of Monsanto Roundup Ready™ and other glyphosate-resistant and pesticide-promoting GE crops. As noted by the Los Angeles Times:11

"Since federal glyphosate rules were last updated a decade ago, its use has spiked tenfold to 182 million pounds a year, largely due to the introduction and popularity of corn and soybeans genetically modified to resist the herbicide... ‘The tenfold increase in the amount of glyphosate being used corresponds with huge losses of milkweed and the staggering decline of the Monarch,’ said Sylvia Fallon, an NRDC senior scientist. 'We are seeking new safeguards desperately needed to allow enough milkweed to grow... The good news is that butterflies are resilient and can rebound quickly... All they need is milkweed on which to lay their eggs.'”

Action Step #2: Ask Retailers to Stop Selling Pesticide-Treated Plants

If you live in the US, I would also encourage you to contact your local Lowe’s store, either by phone or in person, and ask them to stop selling bee-killing pesticides and neonicotinoid-treated plants. Neonicotinoid pesticides are a newer class of chemicals that are applied to seeds and taken up through the plant’s vascular system as it grows, where it’s expressed in the pollen and nectar that pollinators consume. For contact information, see Lowe’s Store Locator page.

Action Step #3: You Can Support Bee and Butterfly Populations from Home

To avoid harming bees and other helpful pollinators that visit your garden, swap out toxic pesticide and lawn chemicals for organic weed and pest control alternatives. Even some organic formulations can be harmful to beneficial insects, so be sure to vet your products carefully. Better yet, get rid of your lawn altogether and plant an edible organic garden. Both flower and vegetable gardens provide good honeybee habitats. It's also recommended to keep a small basin of fresh water in your garden or backyard, as bees actually do get thirsty.

In order to support the Monarch butterflies, consider planting a locally appropriate species of milkweed in your garden, on your farm, or wherever you manage habitat. You can use the Milkweed Seed Finder to locate seeds in your area. Whatever you choose to grow, please avoid purchasing pesticide-treated plants. Cut flower growers are among the heaviest users of toxic agricultural chemicals, including pesticides, so if you must buy cut flowers, make sure you select only organically grown and/or fair-trade bouquets.

Ideally, you'll want to grow your own pollinator-friendly plants from organic, untreated seed, but if you opt to purchase starter plants, make sure to ask whether or not they've been pre-treated with pesticides. Plant a pollinator-friendly garden by choosing a variety of plants that will continue flowering from spring through fall; check out the Bee Smart Pollinator App for a database of nearly 1,000 pollinator-friendly plants. Be sure to choose plants native to your region and stick with old-fashioned varieties, which have the best blooms, fragrance and nectar/pollen for attracting and feeding pollinators.

Keep in mind that you also help protect the welfare of all pollinators every time you shop organic and grass-fed, as you are actually “voting” for less pesticides and herbicides with every organic and pastured food and consumer product you buy. You can take bee preservation a step further by trying your hand at amateur beekeeping. Maintaining a hive in your garden requires only about an hour of your time each week, benefits your local ecosystem—and you get to enjoy your own homegrown honey!

Is Bone Broth the New Super Food?

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

If you happen to be in New York City, you can stop by Brodo, a trendy new to-go restaurant devoted to selling broth.1 One cup will set you back about $8… or you can make a gallon (that’s 16 cups) of this healing staple food right in your own kitchen for far less than the equivalent $128.

There’s no doubt that bone broth’s popularity as a superfood is growing. More than a few New York City bars are even featuring bone broth shots and cocktails.2 But there’s nothing “new” about it.

Bone broth may quite possibly be one of the oldest meals on record. Hippocrates was known to extol its virtues, and according to Dr. Kaayla Daniel, vice president of the Weston A. Price Foundation and coauthor (with Sally Fallon Morell) of the book Nourishing Broth:

Bone broth goes way back to the Stone Age, when they were actually cooking broth in turtle shells and in skins over the fire.”3

Why Bone Broth Is Regarded as a Superfood

There’s something inherently soothing about sipping on a warm cup of broth, and it really does have medicinal potential.

For starters, bone broth is used as the foundation of the GAPs diet, which is based on the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) principles developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. It forms the foundation because it is so healing to your gut.

The GAPS diet is often used to treat children with autism and other disorders rooted in gut dysfunction, but just about anyone with allergies or less than optimal gut health can benefit from it, as it is designed to heal leaky gut.

If your gut is leaky or permeable, partially undigested food, toxins, viruses, yeast, and bacteria have the opportunity to pass through your intestine and access your bloodstream; this is known as leaky gut.

When your intestinal lining is repeatedly damaged due to reoccurring leaky gut, damaged cells called microvilli become unable to do their job properly. They become unable to process and utilize the nutrients and enzymes that are vital to proper digestion.

Eventually, digestion is impaired and absorption of nutrients is negatively affected. As more exposure occurs, your body initiates an attack on these foreign invaders. It responds with inflammation, allergic reactions, and other symptoms we relate to a variety of diseases.

Leaky gut is the root of many allergies and autoimmune disorders, for example. When combined with toxic overload, you have a perfect storm that can lead to neurological disorders like autism, ADHD, and learning disabilities.

One of the main foods that you use is bone broth, because not only is it very easily digested, it also contains profound immune-optimizing components that are foundational building blocks for the treatment of autoimmune diseases.

Nutrients That Many Americans Are Lacking

Bone broth contains a variety of valuable nutrients of which many Americans are lacking, in a form your body can easily absorb and use. This includes but is not limited to:

Calcium, phosphorus, and other minerals  Components of collagen and cartilage Silicon and other trace minerals Components of bone and bone marrow Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate The "conditionally essential" amino acids proline, glycine, and glutamine

These nutrients account for many of the healing benefits of bone broth. As Dr. Daniel told the Washington Post:4

“We have science that supports the use of cartilage, gelatin, and other components found in homemade bone broth to prevent and sometimes even reverse osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, digestive distress, autoimmune disorders, and even cancer.”

Additional benefits of bone broth include the following:

  1. Reduces joint pain and inflammation, courtesy of chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine, and other compounds extracted from the boiled down cartilage and collagen.
  2. Inhibits infection caused by cold and flu viruses etc. Indeed, Dr. Daniel reports chicken soup — known as "Jewish penicillin"—has been revered for its medicinal qualities at least since Moses Maimonides in the 12th century.5
  3. Recent studies on cartilage, which is found abundantly in homemade broth, show it supports the immune system in a variety of ways; it's a potent normalizer, true biological response modifier, activator of macrophages, activator of Natural Killer (NK) cells, rouser of B lymphocytes, and releaser of Colony Stimulating Factor.

  4. Fights inflammation: Amino acids such as glycine, proline, and arginine all have anti-inflammatory effects. Arginine, for example, has been found to be particularly beneficial for the treatment of sepsis (whole-body inflammation).6 Glycine also has calming effects, which may help you sleep better.
  5. Promotes strong, healthy bones: Dr. Daniel reports bone broth contains surprisingly low amounts of calcium, magnesium and other trace minerals, but she says "it plays an important role in healthy bone formation because of its abundant collagen. Collagen fibrils provide the latticework for mineral deposition and are the keys to the building of strong and flexible bones."
  6. Promotes healthy hair and nail growth, thanks to the gelatin in the broth. Dr. Daniel reports that by feeding collagen fibrils, broth can even eliminate cellulite too.
Kobe Bryant Swears By Bone Broth

Bone broth is also getting attention for its use in sports medicine. Genuine bone broth contains components of cartilage that may help your body make cartilage. In addition, Dr. Daniel notes that body builders have long used gelatin supplements to support muscle growth. She describes bone broth as “the raw food version of a gelation supplement.”7

Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant is among those who swear by bone broth, and he believes it has kept his NBA career sustainable. It’s a foundation of his pre-game meals. As ESPN reported:8

"I've been doing the bone broth for a while now," Bryant said. "It's great - energy, inflammation. It's great."

As Tim DiFrancesco, the Lakers' head strength and conditioning coach, said, "Everybody is looking for a magical elixir or some cure-all… but bone broth is where it's at."9 He told ESPN:10

You could go into a store and on the shelf you’ve got this carton of vegetable stock or chicken stock, and that’s probably something that’s been flavored with salt and chicken-flavored bouillon cubes or something like that.

But there’s no actual vitamin, mineral nutrient value in there. It just tastes good because there’s enough salt in there. But when you make a bone stock the right way, it’s like liquid gold. And the way you know you have real stock on your hand is if you put it in the refrigerator overnight and it basically turns into Jell-O.”

Indeed, the more gelatinous the broth, the more nourishing it will tend to be. The collagen that leaches out of the bones when slow-cooked is one of the key ingredients that make broth so healing. According to Dr. Daniel, if the broth gets jiggly after being refrigerated, it's a sign that it's a well-made broth.

To make it as gelatinous as possible, she recommends adding chicken feet, pig's feet, and/or joint bones. All of these contain high amounts of collagen and cartilage. Shank or leg bones, on the other hand, will provide lots of bone marrow. Marrow also provides valuable health benefits so ideally you'll want to use a mixture of bones. You can make bone broth using whole organic chicken, whole fish or fish bones (including the fish head), pork, or beef bones. Vary your menu as the many types offer different flavors and nutritional benefits.

Use the Highest Quality Ingredients You Can Find

Perhaps the most important caveat when making broth, whether you're using chicken or beef, is to make sure the bones are from organically raised, pastured or grass-fed animals. As noted by Sally Fallon, chickens raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) tend to produce stock that doesn't gel, so you'll be missing out on some of the most nourishing ingredients if you use non-organic chicken bones.

If you can't find a local source for organic bones, you may need to order them. A great place to start is your local Weston A. Price chapter leader,11 who will be able to guide you to local sources. You can also connect with farmers at local farmers markets. Keep in mind that many small farmers will raise their livestock according to organic principles even if their farm is not USDA certified organic, as the certification is quite costly. So it pays to talk to them. Most will be more than happy to give you the details of how they run their operation.

Homemade Chicken Bone Broth Recipe

The recipe that follows is from Hilary Boynton and Mary Brackett's GAPS cookbook, The Heal Your Gut Cookbook: Nutrient-Dense Recipes for Intestinal Health Using the GAPS Diet. For even more broth recipes, this book is an excellent resource.

Homemade Chicken Broth

Ingredients

  • 1 3- to 4-pound stewing hen, 1-2 chicken carcasses, or 3-4 pounds of chicken necks, backs and wings
  • 4 quarts filtered water
  • 2-4 chicken feet (optional)
  • 1-2 chicken heads (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
  • 2 carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • Handful of fresh parsley
  • Sea salt

Method:

  • Put the chicken or carcasses in a pot with 4 quarts of water; add the chicken feet and heads (if you’re using them) and the vinegar.
  • Let sit for 30 minutes to give the vinegar time to leach the minerals out of the bones.
  • Add the vegetables and turn on the heat.
  • Bring to a boil and skim the scum.
  • Reduce to barely a simmer, cover, and cook for 6 to 24 hours.
  • During the last 10 minutes of cooking, throw in a handful of fresh parsley for added flavor and minerals.
  • Let the broth cool, strain it, and take any remaining meat off the bones to use in future cooking.
  • Add sea salt to taste and drink the broth as is or store it in the fridge (up to 5 to 7 days), or freezer (up to 6 months) for use in soups and stews.

Low Vitamin D in Childhood Linked to Heart Risks Later in Life, and Raises Adults’ Risk of Severe Stroke and Cancer

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Researchers such as Dr. Robert Heaney, who I previously interviewed in the above video, have now realized that vitamin D is involved in the biochemical “machinery” of all cells and tissues in your body, which is why it has such a potent impact on health and disease.

When you don’t have enough, your entire body will end up struggling to function properly, because all cells need the active form of vitamin D to open up the genome and access the information retained within its genetic plans.

When you’re deficient in vitamin D, your health can deteriorate in any number of ways from this lack of access to the cells’ genetic blueprint.

Researchers have previously pointed out that increasing levels of vitamin D3 among the general population could prevent chronic diseases that claim nearly one million lives throughout the world each year.

Chances are this number would reach even higher if more recent research were to be taken into account. Either way, compelling evidence suggests that optimizing your vitamin D can reduce your risk of death from any cause,1 making it a foundational component of optimal health.

Childhood Vitamin D Deficiency Can Be Costly in Terms of Health

For years, it’s been known that children born to vitamin D-deficient mothers are at increased risk for type 1 diabetes. Vitamin D deficiency in childhood is also associated with more severe asthma and allergies.

Recent research also suggests that having low vitamin D levels in childhood may raise your risk of hardening of the arteries in middle-age. The study,2 published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, involved nearly 2,150 people who were enrolled in 1980 at the age of 3-18. As reported by the New York Times:3

“All underwent periodic physical exams, including measures of serum vitamin D levels, blood pressure, lipid levels, diet, smoking, and physical activity and were examined up to age 45.

Doctors used ultrasound to examine arteries, including the carotid artery in the neck; thickening of the arteries is considered a marker of higher cardiovascular risk.

A vitamin D level of between 30 to 50 is generally considered adequate. Children in the lowest one-quarter for vitamin D levels, about 15 nanograms per milliliter, were nearly twice as likely to have thickening of the carotid artery as those in the other three quarters.”

According to lead author, Dr. Markus Juonala, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Turku in Finland, the findings suggest that vitamin D plays a role in long-term arterial health.

Here, they did not find that low vitamin D in childhood resulted in any specific heart conditions or stroke later in life, but other studies have indeed noted a strong connection between low vitamin D in adults and such health problems.

Low Vitamin D May Predict More Severe Stroke

According to veteran vitamin D researcher Dr. Michael Holick, research has shown that vitamin D deficiency can increase your risk of heart attack by 50 percent. Moreover, if you have a heart attack and you're vitamin D deficient, your risk of dying from that heart attack is upwards of 100 percent!

Similarly, findings presented at this year’s annual American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference suggest that people who have low vitamin D status are far more likely to suffer more severe strokes.

They also have poorer outcomes after suffering a stroke compared to those with more adequate vitamin D levels. As reported by the American Heart Association:4

“[Stroke] patients who had low vitamin D levels –defined as less than 30 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) – had about two-times larger areas of dead tissue resulting from obstruction of the blood supply compared to patients with normal vitamin D levels...

For each 10 ng/mL reduction in vitamin D level, the chance for healthy recovery in the three months following stroke decreased by almost half, regardless of the patient's age or initial stroke severity.”

Virtually All Cancer Patients Have Low Vitamin D Levels

Low vitamin D is also strongly associated with an increased risk for well over a dozen different cancers, including breast and colon cancer. Theories linking vitamin D deficiency to cancer have been tested and confirmed in hundreds of epidemiological studies, and understanding of its physiological basis stems from more than 2,500 laboratory studies.

Its anticancer effects include the promotion of apoptosis (cancer cell death), and the inhibition of angiogenesis (the growth of blood vessels that feed a tumor), and the level of protection afforded by vitamin D can indeed be significant. For example:

  • One recent meta-analysis5 found that having a high serum level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D was associated with a 25 percent reduction in relative risk of bladder cancer
  • A 2007 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine6 concluded that a vitamin D level of more than 33 ng/mL was associated with a 50 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer
  • Researchers7,8 Joan Lappe and Robert Heaney found that menopausal women given enough vitamin D to raise their serum levels to 40 ng/ml experienced a 77 percent reduction in the incidence of all cancers after just four years’ of supplementation
  • According to Carole Baggerly, founder of GrassrootsHealth,9 the evidence suggests as much as 90 percent of ordinary breast cancer may be related to vitamin D deficiency
Link Between Vitamin D Levels and Colorectal Cancer Strengthened

Not only does vitamin D protect against tumor proliferation in the first place, it also affects treatment outcome and recovery. The connection between vitamin D status and cancer survival was most recently demonstrated in research presented at the annual Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium.

Patients diagnosed with metastatic colorectal cancer who had higher levels of vitamin D had a far greater progression-free survival rate than those who were deficient. As reported by Clinical Oncology:10

“The study’s lead investigator, Kimmie Ng, MD, MPH... said the research adds to the existing evidence that vitamin D levels have an effect on cancer. Vitamin D is known to inhibit cell proliferation and angiogenesis, induce cell differentiation and apoptosis and have anti-inflammatory effects.

“Many of these processes are dysregulated in cancer, which led to the hypothesis that perhaps vitamin D had anticancer activity,” said Dr. Ng. Laboratory data support this hypothesis, with experiments demonstrating that administering vitamin D to mice with intestinal cancer reduces tumor burden.”

Nearly 1,045 patients with metastatic colorectal cancer were included in the study, and the median vitamin D level among them was just over 17 ng/ml. Few of them reported taking any kind of vitamin D supplement. Typically, anything below 20 ng/ml is considered a serious deficiency state that increases your chances of any number of health problems, including cancer. Many studies show that having adequate vitamin D is critical in order to optimize treatment outcome. Here, Dr. Ng noted that: “Patients who had levels in the highest quintile had a median survival of 32.6 months compared with 24.5 months for patients with levels in the lowest quintile.”

The Many Health Risks of Low Vitamin D

Vitamin D is one of the most well-researched nutrients out there, and the evidence overwhelmingly points to the fact that it is critical for optimal health and disease prevention. By the end of 2012, there were nearly 34,000 published studies on the effects of vitamin D, and there are well over 800 references in the medical literature showing vitamin D's effectiveness against cancer alone.

I’m thoroughly convinced that optimizing your vitamin D stores can go a long way toward preventing disease and living a longer, healthier life, as the known health benefits of vitamin D now number in the hundreds, if not thousands. Besides cancer and cardiovascular disease, other benefits of vitamin D include protection against:

Autoimmune diseases. Vitamin D is a potent immune modulator, making it very important for the prevention of autoimmune diseases, like multiple sclerosis11 (MS) and inflammatory bowel disease. Lung disease. In those who are deficient, vitamin D supplementation may reduce flare-ups of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) symptoms by more than 40 percent.12 Other research13 suggests vitamin D may protect against some of the adverse effects of smoking as well. Infections, including influenza. Vitamin D also fights infections, including colds and the flu, as it regulates the expression of genes that influence your immune system to attack and destroy bacteria and viruses. I believe it's far more prudent, safer, less expensive, and most importantly, far more effective to optimize your vitamin D levels than to get vaccinated against the flu. DNA repair and metabolic processes. One of Dr. Michael Holick’s studies showed that healthy volunteers taking 2,000 IUs of vitamin D per day for a few months upregulated 291 different genes that control up to 80 different metabolic processes. This included improving DNA repair; having a beneficial effect on autoxidation (oxidation that occurs in the presence of oxygen and /or UV radiation, which has implications for aging and cancer, for example); boosting the immune system; and many other biological processes. Brain health,(depression,14,15 dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease). Vitamin D receptors appear in a wide variety of brain tissue, and activated vitamin D receptors increase nerve growth in your brain. Vitamin D is therefore important for optimal brain function, mental health, and for the prevention of degenerative brain disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease. According to one recent study,16,17 seniors with low vitamin D levels may double their risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Another study18,19,20 found that people with the highest average intakes of vitamin D had a 77 percent decreased risk for Alzheimer's. Researchers believe that optimal vitamin D levels may enhance the amount of important chemicals in your brain and protect brain cells by increasing the effectiveness of the glial cells in nursing damaged neurons back to health. Vitamin D may also exert some of its beneficial effects on your brain through its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. How Much Vitamin Do You Need?

Dr. Robert Heaney is a professor and a well-respected vitamin D researcher, having studied this nutrient for more than 50 years. In the interview above, he shares many of his insights into this question. As a general guideline, an ideal, and what needs to be reclassified as normal, vitamin D level is in the range of 40-60 ng/ml. According to Dr. Heaney, research has shown that 40-60 ng/ml is the level a nursing mother needs in order to ensure her milk will contain the vitamin D her nursing infant needs. The 40-60 ng/ml range is also the same range needed for thyroid health, and it’s the range found in tribal populations living on the equatorial plains of East Africa.

Dr. Heaney has pointed out new research showing that oral sources of vitamin D are much higher than previously thought, and this provides compelling justification for the use of oral supplementation. But virtually every expert I have asked does believe that vitamin D produced from the UVB exposure provides additional therapeutic benefits. But for most people, winter precludes anything other than to increase their oral vitamin D supplementation.

That said, sensible sun exposure appears to be the best way to optimize your vitamin D level.  Dr. Heaney stresses that you need to get approximately 5,000 to 6,000 IUs of vitamin D per day from all sources – sun, supplements, and food – in order to reach and maintain a blood level of 40-60 ng/ml.

Keep in mind that the specific dosage is a very loose guideline, because people vary widely in their ability to respond to vitamin D. GrassrootsHealth—which Dr. Heaney is Research Director of—also has a helpful chart showing the average adult dose required to reach healthy vitamin D levels based upon your measured starting point. Ideally, make sure to monitor your levels at regular intervals, and take whatever amount of vitamin D3 you need to maintain a clinically relevant level year-round. Do remember to take vitamin D3—not synthetic D2—along with vitamin K2 and magnesium. To learn more about the reason for this recommendation, please see my previous article, “Magnesium—The Missing Link to Better Health.”


Sources

Common Sense Medical Approaches Are on the Rise

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

The US does not have a health care system; we have a disease-management system. It’s a system that is largely dependent on expensive drugs and invasive surgeries as opposed to preventive measures and simpler, less expensive treatment alternatives.

In short, it’s a system rooted in an ideal of maximized profits instead of helping people maintain or heal their health. The result of such a system is that Americans spend twice as much on health care per capita than any other country in the world.

In fact, according to a series of studies by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co, the US spends more on health care than the next 10 biggest spenders combined: Japan, Germany, France, China, the U.K., Italy, Canada, Brazil, Spain, and Australia.

Despite that, we rank dead last in terms of quality of care among industrialized countries, and Americans are far sicker and live shorter lives than people in other nations.

In US health care, the more invasive options -- drugs and surgery -- are employed FIRST, and then, when the patient has exhausted all conventional avenues, he or she will sometimes turn to alternative therapies or nutritional interventions out of what is often described as sheer desperation.

But, frequently, this is what ends up saving that person’s life. Now, the cat is out of the bag so to speak, and increasing numbers of Americans fed up with conventional medicine are seeking “alternative” avenues of care. Describing them as alternative isn’t really accurate, though. More aptly, these alternative methods are the ones that made the most common sense all along.

One-Third of Americans Seek Common Sense ‘Alternative’ Care

The most recent National Health Statistics Report combined data from nearly 89,000 adults to estimate the use of complementary health approaches in the US. Overall, 34 percent of US adults used a complementary health approach in 2012,1 and 5 percent used them as their sole source of medical care.

Non-vitamin, non-mineral dietary supplements was the most common alternative approach used, with fish oil ranking top on this list. Other commonly used approaches include:

  • Deep-breathing exercises
  • Yoga, tai chi and qi gong
  • Chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation

Past research has found that even more Americans -- up to 63 percent -- may use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM),2 while the rate is even higher among health care workers than it is among the general population (some might say ironically so).

In fact, 76 percent of health care workers use CAM, according to research in the journal Health Services Research.3 Even more revealing, health care providers, including doctors and nurses, were more than twice as likely to have used practitioner-based CAM, and nearly three times as likely to use self-treatment with CAM, during the prior year than support workers.

Nearly 6.5 million Americans, or one in 30, were even referred for mind-body therapy such as yoga, meditation, or guided imagery by their doctor or other health care practitioner, according to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine.4

Dr. Aditi Nerurkar, an internist and integrative medicine fellow at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, who co-authored the study, actually did so because of her patients’ requests. As reported by CommonHealth:5

"Nerurkar, 35, says she was ‘inspired by her patients,’ to pursue the research because so many of them kept telling her how much better they felt — that their insomnia or anxiety had ceased — after taking a meditation or yoga class."

Nearly 8 Percent of Adults Take Beneficial Animal-Based Omega-3 Fats

Notably, fish oil, a source of animal-based omega-3 fats, is the most common natural product used by Americans. It’s taken by nearly 8 percent of US adults. Omega-3 rich fish oil is one of the most well-researched nutrients on the market.

Its wide-ranging health benefits have been repeatedly proven, and animal-based omega-3 fats are one of the few supplements I recommend for virtually everyone to improve overall health.

According to CNN, some Americans reported taking fish oil to “avoid having to take cholesterol medication or because their father who had heart problems did.” Indeed, omega-3 fats are known to ameliorate metabolic risk factors for cardiovascular disease… but you may be better off taking krill oil instead of fish oil.

Fish oil is in a triglyceride molecule that has to be broken down in your gut to its base fatty acids of DHA and EPA. About 80-85 percent is never absorbed and is eliminated in your intestine (this is why fish oil can cause you to experience burp back and why about half of all people cannot tolerate fish oil).

Then once the fatty acids are absorbed into your blood stream, your liver has to attach it to phoshphatidyl choline for it to be used by your body. The amazing beauty of krill is that it is already in the correct form in the capsule, so your body uses virtually 100 percent of it.

Krill Oil Vs. Fish Oil: What’s the Difference?

Krill oil naturally contains the powerful antioxidant astaxanthin, which prevents the perishable DHA and EPA from going rancid, which is another problem with fish oil. The vast majority of fish oil being sold is actually rancid before you even open the bottle, because it doesn't have this protective antioxidant.

Research suggests that the metabolic effects of the two oils are "essentially similar," but that krill oil is as effective as fish oil despite the fact that it contains less EPA and DHA.6

It's worth noting that compared to a statin drug, both fish oil and krill oil are vastly more efficient. But krill is the most effective in the shortest amount of time, according to a study that compared the efficiency of krill oil and fish oil in reducing triglyceride levels.7

Over a six-week period, rats divided into three groups had their diets supplemented with 2.5 percent krill oil, 2.5 percent fish oil, or no supplement at all. In less than three weeks, both oils had markedly reduced the enzyme activity that causes the liver to metabolize fat, but the krill oil had a far more pronounced effect, reducing liver triglycerides significantly more.

The higher potency of krill oil allows it to decrease triglyceride levels in a shorter period of time compared to fish oil. Overall, after six weeks of supplementation, cholesterol levels in the krill oil group declined by 33 percent, compared to 21 percent in the fish oil group.

Liver triglycerides were reduced by twice as much -- 20 and 10 percent respectively. This is particularly important, as fasting triglyceride levels are a powerful indication of your body's ability to have healthy lipid profiles, which can be indicative of your heart health. And this is just one of omega-3 fat’s health benefits.

A Simple Approach to Radically Improve Your Health

It’s strange that consuming omega-3 fats is considered an alternative approach, when this is a simple measure that virtually everyone can benefit from. And while it’s easy to increase your intake by taking a high-quality krill oil supplement, you can also do so by eating certain types of high-quality, non-contaminated seafood, like wild-caught Alaskan salmon or sardines.

Sardines, in particular, are one of the most concentrated sources of omega-3 fats, with one serving containing more than 50 percent of your recommended daily value.8 They also contain a wealth of other nutrients, from vitamin B12 and selenium to protein, calcium, and choline, making them one of the best dietary sources of animal-based omega-3s.

In this way, using fish oil or krill oil, or consuming more sardines to increase your omega-3s, is no more an “alternative” approach than eating broccoli for more vitamin C, but I digress…The important thing to remember is that this is a simple strategy you can use to improve your health. In addition to heart health, animal-based omega-3s are essential for your brain, and omega-3 deficiency is believed to be a significant underlying factor of up to 96,000 premature deaths each year! Yes, this deficiency was revealed as the sixth biggest killer of Americans, so taking this recommendation to heart could prove to be lifesaving.

Use of Probiotics Increased Four-Fold From 2007 to 2012

Many more people are using probiotic and prebiotic supplements, often to improve digestive health although they do so much more. This is another strategy that should not be deemed as “complementary” or “alternative,” as maintaining a healthy environment in your gut is crucial for virtually everyone.

So far, the US National Institute of Health's Human Microbiome Project alone has produced 190 scientific papers, along with a repository of resources that scientists can access to explore the relationships between human gut bacteria and disease.9 Your gastrointestinal tract houses some 100 trillion bacteria—about two to three pounds worth. In all, the bacteria outnumber your body's cells by about 10 to 1. Your intestinal bacteria are part of your immune system, and researchers are discovering that microbes of all kinds play instrumental roles in countless areas of your health. For example, beneficial bacteria, also known as probiotics, have been shown to:

Beneficial bacteria also control the growth of disease-causing bacteria by competing for nutrition and attachment sites in your colon. This is of immense importance, as pathogenic bacteria and other less beneficial microbes can wreak havoc with your health if they gain the upper hand. For all of these reasons, and more, I always recommend a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods along with cultured or fermented foods. A high-quality probiotic supplement can also be a helpful ally to restore healthy balance to your microbiome – but this shouldn’t be considered a complementary form of health care… it’s a cornerstone of optimal health.

More Older Americans Are Trying Out Yoga

More than 7 percent of Americans aged 45 to 64 do yoga, which is up from just over 5 percent in 2002.10 This is yet another example of a healthy lifestyle choice that many people could benefit from, as is engaging in other forms of exercise, like high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and strength training. The Yoga Journal actually revealed the top five reasons why so many people try yoga, and they ranked as follows:11

  • Flexibility (78%)
  • General conditioning (62%)
  • Stress relief (60%)
  • Overall health (59%)
  • Physical fitness (55%)

Originating in ancient Indian philosophy, yoga is sometimes referred to as a form of meditative movement because in addition to offering physical benefits like improved flexibility, core strength, and balance, it also helps with relaxation, breathing, and mental well-being. So part of what makes yoga so beneficial is that it offers simultaneous benefits to both your mind and your body. Research suggests yoga can have a similar effect on your mind as antidepressants and psychotherapy, by influencing neurotransmitters and boosting serotonin. Yoga was also found to reduce levels of inflammation, oxidative stress, blood lipids, and growth factors, as well as have a positive effect on:12

  • Mild depression
  • Sleep problems
  • Schizophrenia (among patients using medication)
  • ADHD (among patients using medication)

Further, yoga has been shown to have a beneficial impact on leptin,13 a hormone that plays a key role in regulating energy intake and energy expenditure, as well as atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat).14 Other research shows that yoga is beneficial for chronic low back pain, anxiety, high blood pressure, and improved function (the ability to walk and move).

Chiropractic Manipulation and Meditation Are Also Common

The report found that close to 20 million US adults had chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation, while close to 18 million practiced meditation.15 If you’re suffering from pain, it’s wise to use the least invasive methods first, especially before resorting to a drug. For instance, according to a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and funded by the NIH, medication is not the best option for treating neck pain.

After following 272 neck-pain patients for 12 weeks, those who used a chiropractor or exercise were more than twice as likely to be pain free compared to those who took medication.16 Meditation may also be useful for pain relief, because it reduces brain activity in your primary somatosensory cortex, an area that helps create the feeling of where and how intense a painful stimulus is. Meditation has also been shown to help lower blood pressure, reduce psychological distress, depression, and anxiety as well as increase coping ability.17

Another pain reduction alternative to explore is NST. NST helps the body actually repair and recover the damaged tissue. If you are interested in this procedure, please refer to our list of NST practitioners. You can also purchase the NST DVD set or the NST Advanced DVD set from my online store.

Feeling Stressed? You Can Try This Deep-Breathing Exercise Right Now…

Part of what makes these approaches so useful is that they allow you to take control of your health. If you’re feeling stressed, for instance, you can try deep-breathing exercises virtually anywhere. Deep breathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which induces the relaxation response. There are many different breathing practices that you can try, but here I’m going to share two that are both powerful and very easy to perform. The first one I learned when I attended a presentation by Dr. Andrew Weil at the 2009 Expo West in California. The key to this exercise is to remember the numbers 4, 7 and 8. It’s not important to focus on how much time you spend in each phase of the breathing activity, but rather that you get the ratio correct. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Sit up straight
  2. Place the tip of your tongue up against the back of your front teeth. Keep it there through the entire breathing process
  3. Breathe in silently through your nose to the count of four
  4. Hold your breath to the count of seven
  5. Exhale through your mouth to the count of eight, making an audible “woosh” sound
  6. That completes one full breath. Repeat the cycle another three times, for a total of four breaths

You can do this 4-7-8 exercise as frequently as you want throughout the day, but it’s recommended you don’t do more than four full breaths during the first month or so of practice. Later, you may work your way up to eight full breath cycles at a time. The benefits of this simple practice are enormous and work as a natural tranquilizer for your nervous system.

The second is known as the Buteyko Breathing Method, which is a powerful approach for reversing health problems associated with improper breathing, the most common of which are overbreathing and mouthbreathing. When you stop mouth breathing and learn to bring your breathing volume toward normal, you have better oxygenation of your tissues and organs, including your brain. Factors of modern life, including stress and lack of exercise, all increase your everyday breathing. Typical characteristics of overbreathing include mouth breathing, upper chest breathing, sighing, noticeable breathing during rest, and taking large breaths prior to talking.

Controlling anxiety and quelling panic attacks is one of the areas where the Buteyko Method can be quite useful. If you’re experiencing anxiety or panic attacks, or if you feel very stressed and your mind can’t stop racing, try the following breathing technique. This sequence helps retain and gently accumulate carbon dioxide, leading to calmer breathing and reduced anxiety. In other words, the urge to breathe will decline as you go into a more relaxed state:

  1. Take a small breath into your nose, followed by a small breath out
  2. Then hold your nose for five seconds in order to hold your breath, and then release your nose to resume breathing
  3. Breathe normally for 10 seconds
  4. Repeat the sequence
More Than Half of Conventional Medical Procedures Provide No Benefit or Cause Harm

From time to time, medical experts reverse course on certain practices and procedures when science dictates a change in the standard of care. One classic example of a "reversal" is when hormone therapy for menopausal women came to a screeching halt when so many women developed blood clots, stroke, and breast and uterine cancers. In an attempt to determine the overall effectiveness of our medical care, the Mayo Clinic tracked the frequency of these medical reversals over the past decade and published a report in Mayo Clinic Proceedings in 2013.18 They found 146 reversals of previously established practices, treatments and procedures over the past 10 years.

Many new medical treatments gain popularity over older standards of care due to clever marketing more than solid science. The most telling data in the report showed just how many common medical treatments are not helping patients at all—or are actually harming them. Of the studies that tested an existing standard of care, 40 percent reversed the practice, compared to only 38 percent reaffirming it. The remaining 22 percent were inconclusive. This means that between 40 and 78 percent of the medical testing, treatments, and procedures you receive are of NO benefit to you—or are actually harmful—as determined by clinical studies.

Lead researcher Dr. Vinay Prasad wrote:19 "Reversal harms patients who undergo the contradicted therapy during the years it was in favor and those patients who undergo the therapy in the lag time before a change in medical practice.”

You've probably heard reports claiming that Britons and Canadians are highly dissatisfied with their health care system, but a Commonwealth Fund survey proved that Americans have them beat by a substantial margin. Americans were the least likely of all seven countries to report relative satisfaction with their health care system.20 Only 16 percent of Americans report being happy, compared with 26 percent in the UK and 42 percent in the Netherlands. Thirty-four percent of Americans want a complete overhaul in the health care system, whereas only 12 percent of Canadians and 15 percent of Britons say the same.

No wonder so many Americans are seeking to take control of their health by using less invasive, more common-sense approaches to care. The more you take responsibility for your own health -- in the form of nurturing your body to prevent disease -- the less you need to rely on the "disease care" that passes for health care in the United States. If you carefully follow some basic health principles -- simple things like exercising, eating whole foods, sleeping enough, getting sun exposure, reducing stress in your life, and nurturing personal relationships -- you will drastically reduce your need for conventional medical care, which in and of itself will reduce your chances of suffering ill side effects.

But in the event you do need medical care, seek a health care practitioner who will help you move toward complete wellness by helping you discover and understand the hidden causes of your health challenges... and create a customized and comprehensive -- i.e. holistic -- treatment plan for you. You and your family CAN take control of your health, and you can typically do so using lifestyle choices and other natural, holistic strategies.

Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili

Sun, 02/22/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Chili is a comforting dish to serve in the winter and, if you make it correctly, it can be quite healthy, too. While chili is usually made with beef and tomatoes, today’s recipe is made with chicken and no tomatoes at all.

Instead, green chili peppers, navy beans, and chicken broth combine to form a white chicken chili that’s out of this world – and full of nutrients to boot.

Pasture-Raised Organic Chicken Is a Surprisingly Healthy Food

Many people believe chicken is a healthier alternative to beef due to its lower saturated fat content – but its low levels of saturated fat are not what makes chicken good for you (saturated fat is actually quite healthy and so is grass-fed beef, but that’s besides the point).

Chicken is an excellent source of protein, B vitamins, selenium, phosphorus, and choline. It provides all B vitamins along with a surprisingly varied number of additional nutrients.

Chicken also contains a natural amino acid called cysteine, which can thin the mucus in your lungs and make it less sticky so you can expel it more easily. As reported by the George Mateljan Foundation:

“Chicken is perhaps best known for its high protein content, but it is a food that actually provides broad nutrient support… Included… are plentiful amounts of sulfur-containing amino acids like cysteine and methionine, as well as branched chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) that are important for support of cardiac and skeletal muscle.

All B vitamins are present in chicken meat… In terms of minerals, chicken is richest in selenium… Zinc, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron are also provided by this food.”

As with most foods, the source of your chicken matters. I strongly encourage you to avoid chicken from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and instead choose food sourced from local farms that are raising chickens the right way. The chickens should be allowed outside and they should be able to roam and eat insects and other natural foods.

Three Top Reasons to Avoid CAFO Chicken

Chicken from CAFOs is typically much cheaper than organic, pasture-raised chicken, but its low cost comes at a steep price. The hidden costs of inexpensive CAFO chicken can be divided into three categories:1

  • Ethical costs: Research has shown that chickens are not only quite smart, but they experience suffering just as animals higher up in the food chain—including you.
  • "Chickens have nervous systems similar to ours, and when we do things to them that are likely to hurt a sensitive creature, they show behavioral and physiological responses that are like ours.

    When stressed or bored, chickens show what scientists call 'stereotypical behavior,' or repeated futile movements, like caged animals who pace back and forth," The Cornucopia Institute wrote.

  • Environmental costs: CAFOs are notorious for producing massive amounts of offensive waste that disturbs and pollutes the local ecosystem. Residents living near CAFOs often battle nauseating odors and infestations of flies, rats, mice, intestinal parasites, and other disturbing health effects. As stated by Cornucopia:
  • "Tyson produces chicken cheaply because it passes many costs on to others. Some of the cost is paid by people who can't enjoy being outside in their yard because of the flies and have to keep their windows shut because of the stench.

    Some is paid by kids who can't swim in the local streams. Some is paid by those who have to buy bottled water because their drinking water is polluted. Some is paid by people who want to be able to enjoy a natural environment with all its beauty and rich biological diversity.

    These costs are, in the terms used by economists, 'externalities' because the people who pay them are external to the transaction between the producer and the purchaser...

    In theory, to eliminate this market failure, Tyson should fully compensate everyone adversely affected by its pollution. Then its chicken would no longer be so cheap."

  • Human health costs: Besides the health ramifications suffered by those who happen to live near a CAFO and are exposed to the environmental contamination caused by these factory farms, cheap CAFO chicken and eggs are also taking a hidden toll on your health when you eat them.

This is in part because their nutrition is inherently inferior… in part because they're contaminated with antibiotics and fed genetically modified feed… and in part because they raise your risk of contracting a foodborne illness.

White Chicken Chili Is Packed with Flavor and Nutrients

Enough about the importance of finding high-quality, sustainable, and humanely raised chicken… and on to what makes this particular white chicken chili recipe so phenomenal. Aside from chicken, it also contains:

Chicken or Bone Broth

I encourage you to make your own homemade bone broth to use as a base for your chicken chili. Bone broth contains valuable minerals in a form your body can easily absorb and use, including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulfur chondroitin, glucosamine, and a variety of trace minerals.

The gelatin found in bone broth is a hydrophilic colloid. It attracts and holds liquids, including digestive juices, thereby supporting proper digestion. You can find a recipe to make chicken bone broth here.

Garlic

Studies have demonstrated more than 150 beneficial health effects of garlic, including reducing your risk for heart disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, and various cancers such as brain, lung, and prostate cancer.

Garlic also has immune-boosting properties and is a triple threat against infections, offering antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties.

Green Chili Peppers

Chili peppers are one of the main sources of capsaicin, which has been shown to activate cell receptors in your intestinal lining, creating a reaction that lowers the risk of tumors.

Capsaicin may help fight obesity by decreasing calorie intake, shrinking fat tissue, and lowering blood fat levels, as well as fight fat buildup by triggering beneficial protein changes in your body. Capsaicin also has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and may help alleviate pain.

Cumin

Cumin is useful for digestion and energy production, and may improve glycemic control in people with type 2 diabetes. The spice has a long history of medicinal use, and has also been found to enhance memory and provide potent anti-stress benefits.

Oregano

Oregano contains vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as fiber, folate, iron, magnesium, vitamin B6, calcium, and potassium. It also has anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and anti-fungal effects, and may kill MRSA, listeria, and other pathogens. In fact, oregano has one of the highest antioxidant activity ratings, with 42 times the antioxidant punch of apples.

The recipe for this fabulous white chicken chili follows.2 And did I mention you can make it in a slow cooker? This means you can enjoy a homemade, from-scratch meal for dinner -- even if you’ve only got a few minutes in the morning to prepare it. Enjoy!

Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili3

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ to 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thighs, or a mix
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 6 whole green chili peppers, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 ½ to 2 teaspoons natural salt
  • ½ teaspoon coriander
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups bone broth or chicken stock
  • 1.5 cups cooked cannellini or navy beans
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh corn
  • To serve: shredded raw Monterey Jack cheese, lime wedges, chopped cilantro, raw sour cream, and hot sauce

Method:

  1. Combine the chicken, onions, celery, green chili peppers, garlic, cumin, 1 ½ teaspoons of salt, coriander, oregano, and bay leaf in a 6-quart (or larger) slow cooker. Stir to make sure the spices coat everything, and nestle the chicken into the vegetables. Pour the chicken stock over top, covering the chicken and vegetables by an inch or so.
  2. Place the lid on the slow cooker. Cook for 4 hours on high or 6 hours on low. (It's fine to cook for 8 hours on low, if needed, but the chicken tends to fall apart a bit more when you shred after cooking, rather than staying in pieces.)
  3. About 30 minutes before the end of cooking, remove the lid of the slow cooker and add the beans and corn. Taste and add another ½ teaspoon of salt or other seasonings as desired. Add the lid back on and cook for the remaining time.
  4. Lift the chicken from the slow cooker and shred it into large, bite-sized pieces with two forks. Stir the chicken back into the chili and remove the bay leaf.
  5. Serve with shredded cheese, wedges of lime, chopped cilantro, and sour cream.

The Unexpected Implications of Industry Involvement in Trans Fat Research

Sun, 02/22/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

I’ve written many articles about the bias inherent in industry-funded research. As a general rule, when research is funded by the industry, the results are likely to overwhelmingly favor the industry’s preconceived stance.

When unfavorable results emerge, confidentiality agreements typically have been signed that prevent the research from ever seeing the light of day.

However, in a paper that I will summarize in this article, titled: "We Spent a Million Bucks and Then We Had To Do Something: The Unexpected Implications of Industry Involvement in Trans Fat Research,"1 author 

David Schleifer points out that, sometimes, industry research may also be the very thing that compels an industry to make a better, safer product. Such was the case with trans fat, he claims, noting that:

“American food manufacturers long denied that transfats were associated with disease... But in 1990, a high-profile study showed that trans fats increased risk factors for heart disease more than saturated fats did.

Industry funded a US Department of Agriculture study that they hoped wouldexonerate trans fats. But the industry-funded... study also indicated that trans fats increasedrisk factors for heart disease more than saturated fats.

Industry quickly began developing trans fat alternatives. This confirmsthat corporations get involved in science in order to defend their products. But involvement in science can be the very meansby which corporations persuade themselves to change their products.”

Food Industry Interests Can Be Flexible...

Food manufacturers have had to disclose trans fat content since 2006, based on the emerging scientific consensus that trans fat consumption in fact increases your risk of heart disease. At least a dozen US states also restricted the use of trans fat in restaurants.

“Dow AgroSciences estimated a 50 percent decrease in the use of partially hydrogenated oils in North America between 2006 and 2008. From 2002 to 2009, trans fats were replaced in approximately 10,000 American food products,” Schleifer writes.

According to Schleifer, this change of heart came about as a result of the food industry’s own findings, which showed that trans fats are indeed worse than the saturated fats they were designed to replace.

His paper goes on to analyze the development of scientific claims about trans fats, with the goal of showing how industry science can, at times, lead to positive change.

Paradoxically, I show that 'meddling' in science is precisely what led corporations to change their positions in the 1990s and replace trans fats in their products in the 2000s,” he says.

I give an account of what might be called hegemonic power by showing that industrial actors indeed tried to discredit potentially damaging findings about trans fats. But in their efforts to discredit those findings, industry ended up funding research that showed trans fats increased the risk of heart disease more than saturated fats did.

Rather than manipulating scientific claims in order to defend their products, industry actors changed their products in light of the scientific claims that they participated in producing.”

Schleifer points out that, in the late '80s and early '90s, many consumer advocacy groups actually praised food companies for replacing saturated fats with trans fats, which was widely, albeit wrongly, believed to be healthier.

For example, the activist organization Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) actually notoriously promoted and defended the use of trans fats throughout the '80s, urging food manufacturers to switch from saturated fat to trans fat. At the time, CSPI “relied on the same government reports that industry actors used when they defended trans fats,” Schleifer says.

Once the tide began to turn away from trans fats, trans fat manufacturers and related trade associations did resist by discrediting and downplaying damaging evidence. Some even engaged in more unsavory tactics involving intimidating scientists who produced the damaging findings.

The reasons for such activities are manifold, but  it usually boils right back down to money. New scientific claims can trigger costly regulations, and can impact sales, of course. 

So clearly, financial incentives are front and center when the food industry meddles with nutritional research. However, conducting research is also one of the ways that corporations “develop, adjust, and redirect their courses of action,” Schleifer insists.

Dr. Kummerow’s Surprise

Schleifer’s article includes a summary of Dr. Fred Kummerow’s lipid research, which is detailed in my previous interview with him (featured above). Dr. Kummerow's work clearly demonstrated that it's not cholesterol that causes heart disease; rather it's the trans fats that are to blame. He was one of the first to make this association, and the first to publish a scientific article on it, in 1957.

Since then, research has repeatedly refuted the correlation between high cholesterol and plaque formation that leads to heart disease. Despite that, the saturated fat/cholesterol myth persisted far longer than seems reasonable, and in my view, industry resistance had an awful lot to do with that.

As a result, tens of thousands of lives have been cut short; the death toll rising with each passing year of inaction... Schleifer, on the other hand, is more forgiving in this regard, noting that:

“Kummerow’s story exemplifies the close connections between academic and industrial science and the sometimes hostile ways in which academics and industry interacted over trans fats...

In an article...[Robert Hastert of the Harshaw Chemical Company]   discussed a contentious presentation by Kummerow at the 1974 AOCS meeting that associated trans fats with disease.

'Shouting matches between industry- employed oil chemists on the one hand and so-called ivory tower physiologists and nutritionists on the other are definitely nonproductive,' Hastert wrote.

But Hastert referred to Kummerow’s presentation as an upsetting development 'from within,' rhetorically including academics and industrial scientists as part of the same world. The fats and oils industry looks to the health professions for guidance. Tell us, with at least a reasonably united voice, what you want and what you don’t want...While we may appear grumpy at times, especially when we feel we have been blindsided by ivory tower investigators, we are listening.”

Industry Scientists Try to Maintain the Status Quo

While Hastert claims the industry was listening, a number of industry scientists have been accused of limiting research on trans fats and aggressively refuting negative findings as they cropped up. Two mentioned by Schleifer are J. Edward Hunter, employed by Crisco maker Procter and Gamble, and Thomas Applewhite, who worked at Kraft.

“Hunter, Applewhite,and others often argued that the experimental diets in trans fats studies did not accurately represent real American diets,” Schleifer writes. “Mary Enig  published studies that associated trans fats with disease. Hunter, Applewhite, and others strongly criticized her claims....

While still a graduate student, Enig published an epidemiological article correlating trans fat consumption with cancer rates. Note that trans fats are usually associated with heart disease. Enig’s research associating trans fats with cancer is not unique, but it is rare. She has claimed that after her article was published, representatives from the major American edible oils trade association, the Institute of Shortenings and Edible Oils (ISEO), visited her office in person to intimidate her...

More than two decades later, Enig told a Gourmet magazine reporter, “They said they’d been keeping a careful watch to prevent articles like mine from coming out in the literature and didn’t know how this horse had gotten out of the barn”...

A Study Impossible to Ignore...

Under pressure from CSPI and the National Heart Savers Foundation, many food manufacturers began replacing saturated fats with trans fats in the late 1980’s. Then, in 1990, a study that has been retroactively regarded as the beginning of the end for trans fats was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM)... Schleifer writes:

“High levels of 'bad' LDL cholesterol are thought to increase the risk of heart disease. But high levels of 'good' high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol are also thought to protect against heart disease. Some types of saturated fats, such as stearic acid, for example, increase good HDL cholesterol.

[Lead author of the NEJM study] Martijn Katan was interested in whether and how trans fats affected good HDL cholesterol. He said that he did not have sufficient funding to address that question until Unilever hired a chief of nutrition who was willing to fund the research that became the NEJM study.

Katan and his graduate assistant Ronald Mensink fed diets based on monounsaturated, saturated, and trans fats to human subjects for three weeks per diet. Katan said the subjects’ cholesterol measurements 'came out totally different from what I had expected and predicted.'

Trans fats raised bad LDL cholesterol and also 'turned out to really lower HDL fairly dramatically.'  Katan’s experiment therefore suggested that trans fats increased the risk of heart disease more than saturated fats did. As per his agreement with Unilever, Katan showed them his results before publication. Like him “they were surprised. But they never tried to maneuver things or influence things... or to cover up.”

American organizations and trade groups, on the other hand, were quick to criticize Katan’s study, arguing that “the types and amounts of trans fats used in the Dutch study were not consistent with those found in the American diets.” However, the dam had been broken, and studies that followed only made the case against trans fats stronger.  A couple of studies that helped shift the position in the US included Walter Willett’s 1993 study that related trans fat consumption directly to heart disease.

According to Willett’s team, consumption of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils causes more than 30,000 deaths per year, courtesy of the trans fats these oils contain. Joseph Judd’s study, commissioned by the US soybean industry and performed by USDA researchers, also played a key role in shifting perception about trans fats. Judd’s team reconfirmed Katan’s findings. This USDA study also appears to have been a key piece of evidence that finally changed CSPI’s stance on trans fat as well.

Industry-Funded USDA Study Shifts Industry Stance in the US

According to Schleifer, the edible oil industry immediately began pondering solutions when Katan’s study came out, should it be proven correct by other studies. Many food manufacturers had traded saturated fat for trans fat in the 80’s, and were now unsure of what to do next.

“How did suppliers, manufacturers, and trade groups persuade themselves that trans fats really were a problem?” Scheifer writes. “A trade association representative told me that she brought food manufacturers, oil suppliers, and trade associations together into a group that she called the Trans Fat Coalition specifically in order to coordinate research that would address Mensink and Katan’s study. She emphasized that collaborating across corporations is a normal part of how industries 'develop strategies on how to manage an issue.'

Another industry professional said that interfirm collaboration allows companies and trade associations to set industry-wide priori ties and to pool research funds. He explained that research committees meet regularly to talk about shared problems and opportunities, but that they exclude discussion of business in favor of science.

One industry professional who participated in the Trans Fat Coalition explained to me, 'The industry itself wanted to get to the bottom on what’s going on with trans fat and they spent several millions of dollars through USDA in order to get the best science.' The Trans Fat Coalition funded an existing USDA nutritional science laboratory to replicate Mensink and Katan’s experiment. This became known as the Judd study, after its lead author.

The industry coalition assisted Judd’s lab with research design and provided experimental materials meant to accurately represent the types and amounts of trans fats found in American diets. As one industry professional said, 'It was completely the belief of this group that the Mensink and Katan study was not well done... and [Judd] would show that it wasn’t true.' However, the Judd study in fact confirmed Mensink and Katan’s results.”

'We Spent a Million Bucks, and Then We Had to Do Something'

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published the Judd study in April 1994, which concluded that: “trans fats raise LDL cholesterol to a slightly lesser degree than do saturates, and... may result in minor reductions of HDL cholesterol... The present study, together with that of Mensink and Katan and other recent investigations, indicates that dietary transfatty  acids may adversely affect plasma cholesterol risk factors for heart disease.”

One food industry employee interviewed by Schleifer claims that as soon as they were reasonably convinced about the health risks, they immediately set about to find a suitable replacement. According to Schleifer’s account, the interviewee stated that: “We spent a million bucks and... proved that the science was right, and then we had to do something.”

“Industry actors initiated the USDA Judd study specifically in order to disprove the Mensink and Katan study. This is troubling. But industry actors apparently felt they needed a scientific study, carried out in a nonindustrial laboratory, in order to know whether trans fats were a problem. This indicates the extent to which industry actors believe science matters,” Schleifer writes.

Should Industry Meddle with Science?

Schleifer believes the trans fat case shows two sides of the same coin. First, it confirms that industry indeed “meddles in science in order to defend their products.” But it also demonstrates that sometimes corporations will use negative findings to “persuade themselves that a product needs to be changed.” That’s a good thing. It’s unfortunate it doesn’t happen quicker, and more often, and in more branches of industry.  I personally feel there are a number of industries that have and continue to fight tooth and nail against evidence showing their products to be very harmful. The tobacco- and chemical technology industries are but two examples where you’d be hard-pressed to find any real shifts in position based on their own research.

“This returns us to the question of why industrial actors recalculated their positions on trans fats instead of digging in and resisting,” Schleifer writes. “Trade associations, suppliers, and manufacturers apparently expected to profit or at least to avoid trouble by replacing trans fats. The Unilever chief nutritionist who facilitated the NEJM study commented to the Washington Post about trans fats, 'Unilever found that if you make yourself vulnerable by not being able to defend your product, you have big problems.'

But firms may be less likely to fight damning scientific findings when they can swap out troublesome aspects of their products and profit by doing so... Food companies may be particularly prone to introduce 'new and improved' products as part of their efforts to 'grow' their brands. Corporations may change products in order to get ahead of regulators and competitors. They may try to create new desires among consumers, whether for products free of trans fats, fortified with probiotic flora, or flavored with the latest antioxidant 'superfruit.'

Other industries may be less able to be flexible than the food industry... Social scientists cannot assume that industrial involvement in science skews the truth...Industrial involvement in science can have a variety of consequences.

These include disturbing instances of suppression but they also include changing how firms manufacture their products. Social scientists have to closely follow how scientific claims matter to industrial action. We have to be vigilant in watching not only what corporations do to scientific claims but also what they do on the basis of those claims. All commercial products are manufactured and marketed by economically interested and presumably greedy corporations. But interestedness does not mean that industrial actors will necessarily prefer to keep their products unchanged.”

Documentary Reveals Shocking Extent of Government-Big Business Collusion to Eradicate Freedom of Choice

Sat, 02/21/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

 "America would be far, far healthier if the government had never told us what to eat."  - Joel Salatin in "Freedom From Choice"

Life is about choice. Every day we make choices that determine how we want to live—what we eat, what we read, whom we elect, and so on. But what if these choices are just an illusion?

In an era when regulations and red tape rule every industry, with lobby groups and big business wielding more influence than ever before, your daily choices have become increasingly limited. And when your options are so deliberately handpicked, are you really making any choices at all?

These are the questions explored in the documentary "Freedom From Choice," which offers a glimpse at the myriad of ways your life is being secretly influenced and controlled, and who is profiting.

Milk is a perfect example of how your choices are being limited today. Raw milk is banned in many states on the basis of claims that it's unhealthy and may make you sick.

Yet toxic herbicides and pesticides are dumped on our crops by the tankful, and this is touted as perfectly safe. If this reasoning seems nonsensical, then your reality testing is intact.

Government and industry are marked by massive corruption that has permeated essentially all of the major regulatory bodies, from food to drugs to finance. 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.

Maybe It's Time to Cry Over Spilled Milk

In sharp contrast to the US, France, Croatia, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands and Italy sell raw milk in vending machines. In some cases, US standards for raw milk are even higher than pasteurized milk.

For example, California has among the highest raw milk standards—farmers must meet or exceed pasteurized milk standards, without pasteurizing.

The vast majority of foodborne illnesses in the US are actually linked to factory farmed and highly processed foods, not raw foods. Disease-causing bacteria are the result of industrial farming practices that lead to diseased cows, which then produce contaminated milk.

While Congress has never outright banned raw milk, it's the only food banned from interstate commerce. This makes it challenging (although not impossible) for small farmers to share their raw milk products with people living across state lines.

As a result, private agreements called herdshares are often formed between farmers and individuals, which entitle you to the benefits of owning a "share" of a cow, such as a certain amount of milk each week.

Despite these legal agreements, federal agents now conduct aggressive armed raids against raw-milk farmers. Why go to all of this trouble? It's certainly NOT to protect your health!

Major milk manufacturers are a primary lobby within the FDA. Those choosing raw milk, which is a far superior food product, present a significant economic threat to the larger pasteurized milk industry.

The Telltale Squeak of the Revolving Door

The US food system revolves around money. To run for office, you need a vast amount of it. If you want to run for office but you aren't independently wealthy, the way our system works is that you have to go to the people willing to put up large sums of money to finance your campaign.

Of course, they'll want something in return. This arrangement confers an enormous advantage to big businesses. Therefore, what we have is not a "free market" but a massive collusion between government and big business, which are facilitated through lobbying.

Regulators often take their power and influence and join private lobbying firms in return for big paychecks, going from regulating an industry to working FOR that industry, and then back again, like a perpetually revolving door.

Corporations love having powerful, influential people on their payroll, so they do everything they can to lure them over. In return, these regulators pass a few choice laws to benefit their future employers—and before you know it, your government has been bought.

There is little regulation that's not designed to favor one special interest or another. Laws are adopted behind a public interest veneer, but underneath they are products of negotiation between industry leaders and government officials to eliminate the competition and enhance their economic status.

The revolving door between government, industry, and academia has effectively led to a situation where it's now extremely difficult, if not impossible, to trust conventional health advice, even if it comes from supposedly reputable institutions. No longer do we have a representative form of government—it represents only a select few who possess the most money and power.

Unfortunately, this corruption is not limited to the food system. It's a much broader problem for which you can find all-too-abundant examples in the banking, media and pharmaceutical industries. As stated in "Freedom from Choice:"

"With so much collusion between the regulators and the industries they regulate, the laws governing our daily lives have become excessive, unnecessary and downright nonsensical. Keeping the public safe and free is no longer the goal of a number of our lawmakers."

Is FDA the Most Corrupt of All Government Agencies?

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) might be the ultimate avenue of corruption, as conflicts of interest are rampant among FDA advisors. Physicians and scientists with financial ties to the drug industry should not be permitted to participate in broad policy and public health recommendations, yet this routinely occurs. One recent study1 reviewed how financial interests affected the voting behavior of nearly 1,400 FDA advisory committee members who took part in drug approval decisions between 1997 and 2011.

Members with financial ties to the company sponsoring the drug under review voted in favor of approval 63 percent of the time. Members without financial ties had a 52 percent chance of favoring approval. Committee members who served on a sponsoring firm's advisory board had a whopping 84 percent chance of voting in favor of the drug's approval.

A significant percentage of drugs have been approved in spite of the FDA's own scientist's safety objections, and as a result, drugs known to cause heart attacks, kidney and liver failure, and numerous other major health problems remain on the market today. Others, such as Vioxx, have remained on the market for years, killing millions of people before being removed. It's important to realize that the FDA accepts the drug industry's word that their products are safe but does no independent drug testing of its own.

Corporate Crime and the Corruption of Science

Nearly 20 percent of corporate crime is being committed by companies that make products for your health. Crimes committed by some of the top pharmaceutical companies include fabricated studies and hiding damaging research. A recent study concluded that a majority of American drug commercials—60 percent of prescription drug ads, and 80 percent of ads for over-the-counter drugs—are either misleading or outright false.

Drug companies operate much like an organized crime ring, essentially a pharmaceutical cartel, as Peter Gøtzsche (head of Nordic Cochrane Centre) discusses 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."

Corruption of science is one of the most dangerous forms of corruption. Doctors rely on published studies to make treatment recommendations, and large numbers of patients can be harmed when false findings are published. At present, the average lag time between the publication of a study and the issuing of a retraction is 39 months—and that's if the misconduct is caught at all. What's worse, about 32 percent of retractions are never published, leaving the readers completely in the dark about the fallacies in those studies.

Some drug companies are so corrupt that they published results of clinical trials they never actually conducted—they completely made them up! For example, Sanofi Aventis defrauded the US Food and Drug Administration by fabricating patients in a 400-person study for their drug Ketek, right down to forging signatures on bogus consent forms.2

Even more disturbing is that the FDA approved the drug anyway! In spite of knowing the company faked their data and the drug could kill people from liver damage, FDA gave their official stamp of approval. Corporate interests are the only explanation for why these regulators would choose to look the other way and knowingly put you and your family's life at risk.

'Drug Studies' Carefully Designed for Marketing, Not Science

In 1992, Congress passed the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA), and from that moment on, the FDA was set squarely on the path of doing more harm than good. The act authorizes FDA to collect "user fees" from drug companies in order to speed up its 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—as evidenced by the sharp increase in serious adverse drug reactions. An in-depth analysis3 found that each 10-month reduction in review time resulted in an 18 percent increase in serious adverse reactions, an 11 percent increase in hospitalizations, and more than a seven percent increase in deaths.

Science is further perverted by the fact that drug companies typically don't publish studies that are unfavorable for their drugs. An analysis of 585 large, randomized clinical trials registered with ClinicalTrials.gov4 found that 29 percent have not been published in scientific journals.5 The studies that do get published tend to be the ones whose data they can successfully manipulate to their advantage, like Novartis did for its blood pressure drug Diovan. Occasionally they get caught, which is what happened to Novartis when the Japanese ministry of health analyzed its data.6

The fact is that many of the studies sponsored and funded by the drug industry are not really intended to produce genuine scientific knowledge. Documents emerging in litigation suggest that pharmaceutical companies are designing, analyzing, and publishing trials primarily as a way of positioning their drugs in the marketplace. This raises new ethical questions, such as how much risk is justified to human subjects in a study whose principal aim is to optimize the drug's marketing plan?

University Sells Unsuspecting Student to the Pharmaceutical Cartel

Many clinical studies place vulnerable people at risk—at a minimum, mild discomfort, and at worst, serious pain and death. Consider the nightmare of one young man, Dan Markingson, a mentally ill student who volunteered for a clinical trial (in the CAFÉ study) for AstraZeneca's psychiatric drug Seroquel.7 While participating in this trial, Dan stabbed himself to death in his bathtub with a box cutter.

The subsequent investigation uncovered internal documents that suggested AstraZeneca was designing clinical trials as a covert method for marketing Seroquel. The ensuing lawsuit initiated by Dan's mother revealed disturbing financial arrangements between AstraZeneca and University of Minnesota for helping to recruit subjects for the Seroquel study. Dan's participation in the study generated $15,648 for the university, as did each of the other university-generated recruits. Is there no bottom to how low Big Pharma will go to maximize their profits?

Chertoff Makes a Killing from Airport Security Scanners

The revolving door between big business and government—and the abhorrent behavior it brings—is not limited to our food and drug system. For example, consider the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). TSA has come to represent, for some, an "acceptable" invasion of privacy. Many have concluded that loss of privacy is the price they must pay for being kept safe. But what's the point of TSA—to keep you safe or to make you feel scared? The more they can strip away your rights, the more you will be under their control.

Remember the airport scanners? After the undie-bomber incident on Christmas 2009, Head of Homeland Security (2005-2009) Michael Chertoff made sure those backscatter scanners were installed in airports across the country. The scanners were built by a California company named Rapiscan. Guess who worked as a consultant for Rapiscan after leaving Homeland Security?8, 9 Yes, Chertoff.

And then there's the banking industry. In November 2007, President Bush nominated Neel Kashkari as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for International Economics and Development. Kashkari (aka "Bailout Czar") authored and oversaw the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), which choreographed the Wall Street bailout. Kashkan Kashkan was an investment banker at Goldman Sachs. Goldman Sachs received almost $13 billion in bailout funds in 200810—and they also paid out $4.8 billion in bonuses that year.

Liberty and Justice for All

With regulatory agencies so deeply entrenched with big business, it's almost impossible to know whether the rules we live by are for our safety or someone else's financial benefit. Whatever the reason, the end result is our lives are so heavily manipulated by the desires of others that our choices are becoming more and more limited. All the safety in the world means nothing without the freedom to live as you choose.

How to regain freedom is an important question today, especially as it pertains to your health, and the featured documentary exposes the root of the problem. Once the government has been given excessive authority over our lives, then there's no stopping it. To do so, power must be removed from public office.

With the preservation of health freedom in mind, I created the nonprofit coalition Health Liberty. Health Liberty is a joint mission among 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, to help protect every American's freedom to make voluntary health choices. Each partner-organization has a rich history of advocacy and active campaigning for change and better access to truly empowering health information. By supporting these organizations, you can help protect health freedom not just for yourself, but for all Americans.

The Most Common Job in Every State

Sat, 02/21/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Using data from the Census Bureau, NPR made a map of the most common job in each state.1 The award for top job goes, overwhelmingly, to truck drivers… who knew? Truck driver was the most common job in 29 out of 50 states.

Part of the commonality has to do with the way the jobs are categorized by the government. The truck driver category includes all delivery people, which is an understandably large category.

Still, truck driving is resistant to both globalization and automation, which has protected it from much of the declines seen in other industries. As NPR pointed out, A worker in China can't drive a truck in Ohio, and machines can't drive cars (yet).”2

It is beyond clear that technology will radically change this in the future, as self-driving cars and trucks will start to appear in the next five years, and in ten years most of these truck-driving jobs will no longer exist.

Other industries have not been so fortunate, like farming. In 1978, farmers (owners and tenants) and farm workers were the most common job in eight states. In 2014, that had dropped to two states… but the term “farmer” is no longer used… now we have “farm managers,” which reflects the growing trend of “farms” turning into corporations.

Farmers, Once the Most Popular ‘Job’ in America, Now Make Up Less Than 1 Percent of the Population

The number of farmers in the US has been on the decline for a century. NPR explained this by saying that farming technology “keeps getting better, which means fewer and fewer people can grow more and more food.” As the Worldwatch Institute put it:3

For most of the past two centuries, the shift toward fewer farmers has generally been assumed to be a kind of progress. The substitution of high-powered diesel tractors for slow-moving women and men with hoes, or of large mechanized industrial farms for clusters of small ‘old fashioned’ farms, is typically seen as the way to a more abundant and affordable food supply.

Our urban-centered society has even come to view rural life, especially in the form of small family-owned businesses, as backwards or boring, fit only for people who wear overalls and go to bed early-far from the sophistication and dynamism of the city.”

But is this really a form of progress? As the number of farmers is dwindling, demands for food have only increased – demands that are being met by the proliferation of industrial concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and, ostensibly, genetically modified (GM) foods. This isn’t a problem unique to the US, either.

Agricultural jobs have declined in all industrial nations in the last five decades, in some cases by more than 80 percent.4 In the US, farmers were once the backbone of the country. Now they are more like a big toe. According to Worldwatch:5

Look at the numbers, and you might think farmers are being singled out by some kind of virus:

  • In Japan, more than half of all farmers are over 65 years old; in the United States, farmers over 65 outnumber those under 35 by three to one. (Upon retirement or death, many will pass the farm on to children who live in the city and have no interest in farming themselves.)
  • In New Zealand, officials estimate that up to 6,000 dairy farms will disappear during the next 10 to 15 years--dropping the total number by nearly 40 percent.
  • In Sweden, the number of farms going out of business in the next decade is expected to reach about 50 percent.
  • In the United States, where the vast majority of people were farmers at the time of the American Revolution, fewer people are now full-time farmers (less than 1 percent of the population) than are full-time prisoners.
  • In the U.S. states of Nebraska and Iowa, between a fifth and a third of farmers are expected to be out of business within two years.”
Most US Farms Don’t Make Enough Income to Cover Expenses

The most recent US Census states there are 2.2 million farms in the US. This sounds like a large number until you realize that in 1935, when the US had a population of just 127 million people, there were 6.8 million farms.

Further, the definition of a “farm” is “any establishment which produced and sold, or normally would have produced and sold, $1,000 or more of agricultural products during the year.”

So it’s a pretty lenient definition. Moreover, it’s estimated that farm production expenses average just over $109,000 per year per farm. But fewer than one in four US farms produce gross revenues in excess of $50,000. As noted by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):6

“Clearly, many farms that meet the U.S. Census' definition would not produce sufficient income to meet farm family living expenses.”

This explains why, by 2007, fewer than 188,000 of the 2.2 million farms accounted for more than half (63 percent) of sales of agricultural products.7 It is clear that most foods are produced on factory farms.

Even with major retailers, like Walmart, making claims of supporting “local” farms, small local farmers simply can’t grow enough produce to meet Walmart’s year-round demands. So much of its local produce may actually be coming from very large farms.

In some cases, already giant industrial meatpackers, dairy companies, and food processors actually merged simply to become large enough to supply Walmart. This consolidation has actually been blamed as one of the factors driving food prices up. Ironically, however, as food prices rise, farmers are getting paid less while the retailers… aka Walmart… are getting more:8

“Grocery prices have been rising faster than inflation and, while there are multiple factors driving up consumer costs, some economic research points to concentration in both food manufacturing and retailing as a leading culprit.

Farmers, meanwhile, are getting paid less and less. Take pork, for example. Between 1990 and 2009, the farmers’ share of each dollar consumers spent on pork fell from 45 to 25 cents, according to the USDA Economic Research Service.

Pork processors picked up some of the difference, but the bulk of the gains went to Walmart and other supermarket chains, which are now pocketing 61 cents of each pork dollar, up from 45 cents in 1990.

Another USDA analysis found that big retailers have used their market power to shortchange farmers who grow apples, lettuce, and other types of produce, paying them less than what they would get in a competitive market, while also charging consumers inflated prices. In this way, Walmart has actually helped drive overall food prices up,” Grist reported.

We Now Have More Prisoners Than Farmers…

It should be noted that in the US there are more prisoners than farmers. And where small family farms once dotted the rural countryside, most new prisons are now built in rural, and now often economically depressed, areas.

The prisons are heralded by economic development professionals as “economic engines,” which have become a leading source of proposed economic growth in rural America.9 This, along with gambling casinos and CAFOs, are now keeping many rural communities going, but at what expense?

As Prison Policy pointed out, “Hundreds of small rural towns and several whole regions have become dependent on an industry which itself is dependent on the continuation of crime-producing conditions.”10

CAFOs, meanwhile, are one of the largest sources of pollution in the US. Massive rivers of waste that pollute surrounding waterways with toxic bacteria and release noxious gasses into the air commonly stem from CAFOs’ “waste lagoons.”

CAFOs also serve as ideal breeding grounds for diseases ranging from influenza viruses to antibiotic-resistant superbugs, which can infect the animals, farm workers, and the general public. CAFO waste also contributes to air pollution, and CAFO workers and neighboring residents alike report higher incidence of asthma, headaches, eye irritation, and nausea. According to the EPA, US states with high concentrations of CAFOs report 20-30 serious water-quality problems annually.11

One of the reasons so few Americans are aware of these issues is because of “ag-gag” laws, which legally prevents people from filming or photographing conditions on factory farms. Ag-gag laws are being heavily promoted by lobbyists for the meat, egg, and dairy industries to essentially prevent anyone from exposing animal cruelty and food-safety issues at CAFOs.

Not surprisingly, the US government has a history of supporting these industrial CAFO operations, both by looking the other way when abuse or contamination occurs, and by directly subsidizing cheaply produced beef, and corn and soy used for feed. As it stands, 2 percent of US livestock facilities produce 40 percent of farm animals,12 and these large, corporate-owned CAFOs have been highly promoted as the best way to produce food for the masses.

The primary reason CAFOs are able to remain so "efficient," bringing in massive profits while selling their food for bottom-barrel prices, is because they substitute subsidized crops for pasture grazing. Factory farms use massive quantities of corn, soy and grain in their animal feed, all crops that they are often able to purchase at below cost because of government subsidies. Because of these subsidies, US farmers produce massive amounts of GM soy, GM corn, wheat, etc. -- rather than vegetables -- leading to a monoculture of foods that create a disease-promoting fast-food diet.

A New Generation of Farmers Are Paving the Way for Regenerative Agriculture

Our current food system is driven by policy and corporate control. And while those who promote it claim that it's the only way to feed an ever-growing population, it is in fact a highly unsustainable system. It may be financially profitable for a few large corporations, but it's driving the rest of us, including the last “real” farmers, into the poor-house. The film The Greenhorns demonstrates how we can collectively transform the current industrial monoculture, chemical-based agricultural paradigm into a healthier, more sustainable way of feeding ourselves and our neighbors, while restoring the health of our ailing planet.

"The Greenhorns documentary film... explores the lives of America's young farming community – its spirit, practices, and needs. It is the filmmaker's hope that by broadcasting the stories and voices of these young farmers, we can build the case for those considering a career in agriculture – to embolden them, to entice them, and to recruit them into farming.

The production of The Greenhorns is part of our grassroots nonprofit's larger campaign for agricultural reform... Today's young farmers are dynamic entrepreneurs, stewards of place. They are involved in local politics, partnering with others, inventing new social institutions, working with mentors, starting their careers as apprentices, borrowing money from the bank, putting in long hours, taking risks, innovating, experimenting... These young farmers have vision: a prosperous, satisfying, sustainable food system."

You can take part in the revolution in a number of ways. If you’re a young person deciding on a career, consider organic sustainable farming. You may even consider it if you’re looking for a mid-life change. At the very least, you can get personally involved in growing food for your own family. I have personally embraced this concept. So far, I've converted about 75 percent of the quarter-acre ornamental landscape around my home to an edible landscape.

I have put in about 300,000 pounds of woodchips as a large carbon input that will create magnificent topsoil, mycorrhizal fungi, and earthworms. I have 40 fruit trees including, bananas, papayas, figs, olives, loquats, oranges, limes, cherries, plums, peaches, mangos, tangerines, and kiwis. And once you integrate biological farming principles, you can get plant performances that are 200-400 percent greater than what you would typically get from a plant! All in a totally sustainable and environmentally friendly way.

Even apartment-dwellers or college dorm students can join the revolution by sprouting. You can also grow a wide variety of herbs, fruits, berries, and vegetables in pots. Hanging baskets are ideal for a wide variety of foods, such as strawberries, leafy greens, runner beans, pea shoots, tomatoes, and a variety of herbs. And instead of flowers, window boxes can hold herbs, greens, radishes, scallions, bush beans, strawberries, chard, and chilies, for example.

If you’re not inclined to grow your own food, sourcing your foods from a local farmer is one of your best bets to ensure you're getting something wholesome. And, you’ll be supporting the small farms – not the CAFOs -- in your area. Every state has a sustainable agriculture organization or biological farming organization that is the nucleus of the farmers in that state. You can also find an ever-increasing number of "eat local" and "buy local" directories in which local farms will be listed. The following organizations can also help you locate farm-fresh foods from real farmers in your local area:

  1. Local Harvest-- This Web site will help you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
  2. Alternative Farming Systems Information Center, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
  3. Farmers' Markets-- A national listing of farmers' markets.
  4. Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals -- The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
  5. FoodRoutes -- The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSA's, and markets near you.
  6. Weston A. Price Foundation has local chapters around the US where you can find organic, grass-fed milk and other organic foods.

EFT: Tap Away Your Stress and Pain with This Extraordinary Healing Tool

Thu, 02/19/2015 - 02:00

By Dawson Church, PhD

When you go to your doctor complaining of pain, what's likely to happen? You expect a diagnosis, and you may also expect to leave the doctor’s office with a prescription for pain-killing drugs.

But what if there were a miracle cure that was scientifically proven to remove two-thirds of your pain in a few minutes without drugs or surgery? Would you be interested? Would your doctor even know about it?

This miracle cure actually exists, and its value has been demonstrated in several clinical trials.1 It's as close as your fingertips, though it's unlikely that you'll get a prescription for it at your doctor’s office. It's called EFT or the Emotional Freedom Technique, and Dr. Mercola has been recommending it to you for more than a decade.

He was one of the first physicians to recognize EFT’s potential for treating both pain and other physical symptoms, and his pioneering work has been a major factor in making EFT “one of the most successful psychology self-help techniques ever developed.”2

Here are two typical stories drawn from the book EFT for Back Pain.3 Practitioner Roseanna Ellis and her clients use a 0 to 10 scale to assess the intensity of the pain, with 0 being no pain and 10 being the most extreme pain possible, as they use EFT on the emotional and physical aspects of pain.

EFT Success Stories: How Stress Can Trigger Back Pain

On a Friday night in the summer of 2006, I received a call from a woman begging me to come to her home because she had severe back pain. She said, “I threw my back out and I won’t be able to see my doctor until Monday. Please come now.”

When I arrived, Mary could barely walk. I treated her in the living room because she was unable to climb the stairs.

I tried all the therapy tricks I knew for about half an hour, to no avail. Then I asked her, “What was happening when you first threw your back out?”

She said, “I was watching my daughter try on her wedding dress.” Then she talked about the stress of the wedding and how everything was going wrong. We used EFT for the stress, for everything going wrong, and for “I can’t take it, I can’t rely on anyone.”

The pain decreased from a 10 to a 4. She was able to get on and off my treatment table with only slight discomfort, but she was very restricted in range of motion. I asked her, “Why would your body be afraid to move?”

She answered, “I am a control freak and the wedding planner is not doing things my way and it is freaking me out.” We used EFT for those worries too, and this helped her a lot. She was able to move her body in every direction with a pain level that had fallen to 1. I asked her what was keeping the pain at a 1. She answered, “It is very hard for me to give up control.”

Applying EFT to that fear did the trick. She sat up with a shocked look on her face and said, “You’re right, it is more about me than my daughter.” With that, she exclaimed that the pain was a 0, jumped off the table, and gave me a great big hug. I went over the next morning to give her a good stretch. She was still completely free of pain.

In another case, a 50-year-old man came to see me complaining of intense low back pain that measured a 10 on the 0-to-10 scale. He had very limited range of motion and could not bend over or twist without being in agony.

He was afraid that he would not be able to heal and would have to give up  golf, which he loved so much. He also feared getting old and becoming helpless.

We used EFT on the issues of being bent over, being afraid of getting old, being afraid to move because of pain, and fearing that he would have to give up golf, his favorite sport.

Within about 15 minutes, his range of motion had improved and his pain decreased to 7. Then he began to speak about his stress at work. We worked on his stress until his intensity fell to a 0 for stress and pain.

His pain fell to 0 and he began to move more easily. We used EFT before every motion he performed until he could bend without pain, and touch the floor. Needless to say, he was very pleased with his session.

There Are Many Cases That Prove EFT’s Pain-Relieving Benefits

These stories are just two of over 5,000 accounts of extraordinary healing published in the EFT online case history archive.4 They are typical of the results obtained when using EFT for pain.

Anecdotes like this have inspired a good deal of research into EFT over the course of the past 10 years, and that research provides fascinating insights that can help you deal with your own pain, whether it’s chronic pain or acute pain.

A study published recently in the peer-reviewed journal Energy Psychology examined the levels of pain in a group of people attending a three-day EFT workshop.5 It found that their pain dropped by 43 percent, and the results were statistically significant. When they were followed up six weeks later, their pain levels were still 42 percent lower than before the workshop.

I was part of a research team that conducted the first large-scale study of EFT a few years back. It's usually called the “Healthcare Workers Study,” because most of the participants were psychotherapists, doctors, nurses, chiropractors, or alternative medicine practitioners. It was published in the journal Integrative Medicine.6

There were 216 participants in the study, and they were assessed before and after attending a one-day EFT workshop. We measured their levels of psychological conditions like anxiety and depression. After the workshop, these levels dropped by an average of 45 percent.

The results were highly statistically significant; analysis showed that there was only one possibility in 10,000 that the results were due to chance.

During one segment of each workshop, participants worked on physical pain. We found that their levels of pain dropped by an average of 68 percent. This improvement was obtained in just 30 minutes of EFT.

When the mental health of participants was tracked three and six months later, most of the improvements they’d experienced in the workshop persisted over time. Those that used EFT more frequently after the workshop got better results.

In a randomized controlled trial (RCT), veterans with high levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms received EFT. After 6 treatment sessions, 90 percent of them no longer tested positive for PTSD. Their levels of pain were also assessed, and even though pain was not the primary target of the study, it reduced by 41 percent.7

An RCT conducted at the Red Cross Hospital in Athens, Greece tracked patients who suffered from tension headaches. After EFT, the frequency and intensity of their headaches dropped by more than half.8 Another RCT with a group of fibromyalgia sufferers found significant reductions in pain after an online EFT treatment program.9

Pressing the Right (Acupuncture) Points Is a Key Factor

EFT is often called “tapping,” because it involves tapping with your fingertips on acupuncture points. Other articles written by Dr. Mercola show that there is a lot of scientific evidence that acupuncture works for pain, and that it is effective for a wide range of physical symptoms. Acupuncture uses needles to balance the body’s electromagnetic energy system. Pressure on acupuncture points (acupoints), referred to as “acupressure,” can have similar effects.10

Acupressure is used in a Japanese massage therapy called Shiatsu, and tapping on acupuncture points has been used for thousands of years in the Chinese exercise routine called Qi Gong. Over 50 scientific studies and review papers published in peer-reviewed journals attest to EFTs efficacy for anxiety, depression, PTSD, pain, and similar issues. 11

Here’s one example, published in The EFT Manual, of how I used EFT with a doctor to eliminate acute pain. We again used the 0 to 10 pain scale, called Subjective Units of Distress or SUD, to measure the intensity of the pain.12

Ever Felt Like ‘There’s a Bowling Ball Stuck in Your Intestines?’

On the second morning of an EFT workshop, Howard, a physician attending the workshop, reported that he had a toothache. “I tried EFT on it last night and this morning, but it’s still there,” he said. I asked Howard how intense it was on a scale of 0 to 10. He said it was an 8.

I asked if there was anything that might be contributing to it emotionally. He was certain there was no emotional component, that it was “just a toothache.” He was a doctor, after all, he should know!

It occurred to me to ask a metaphorical question. “Howard, what are you chewing on, emotionally?” He said that he had been ruminating on his relationship with his longtime partner in his medical practice. His partner had made some investments that had turned out to be very successful and were pulling his attention away from his customary devotion to his patients.

I inquired Howard how his own investments were doing, and he said, “I’ve lost most of my savings in the real estate bust.” I asked him to think about his investment portfolio and give me an SUD level. The intensity was a 7. I asked, “How do you know it’s a 7?” and he said, “Because I feel like there’s a bowling ball stuck in my intestines.”

I requested that he think about the first time in his life he could remember that physical sensation of a bowling ball down there. He said, “I was 6 years old. I was playing in the hallway of the apartment building where we lived, and a stranger appeared. He pulled down the zipper of his pants and exposed himself to me. I ran away and hid in the basement of the building.”

We did some tapping around the memory of the flasher, but his bowling ball SUD did not go down below a 4, so we used EFT on each one of the “emotional crescendos” of the incident. They were all at a 0. I realized there must be additional aspects to the event that we had not yet addressed, so I asked him what happened right after the incident.

Howard recounted that after he left the basement, he went and told his mother what had happened. She said, “You’re always getting yourself into trouble.” He felt she was blaming him, and this led to a feeling that his misfortunes were always his fault, that he was never good enough. I tested his SUD level around his mother’s response, and it was a 10. Suddenly, he gasped and said, “I guess I am more angry at my mother for not protecting me than I am at the man!”

We tapped on that memory ‘til it went down to 0, and because time was short, we tapped on a lot of general statements such as “My feelings don’t count. I don’t deserve to be protected. Other people are okay, I’m not.” I sometimes use generalities when we need to “sneak away” from an incident due to a lack of time. I asked Howard to tell me about the bowling ball in his gut, and he said that it had evaporated into dew. His SUD rating regarding his medical practice partner was also now a 0. So I asked what number his toothache was, and his eyes opened wide. “I can hardly feel it! Maybe a 1 or a 2.”

EFT’ Has a Profound Impact on Your Cortisol and Brain Waves

How is something as simple as tapping with your fingertips on acupuncture points able to relieve pain? The reason is that stress is a large component of what we think of as physical pain. When stress is reduced using acupoint tapping, our perceived levels of pain go way down.

At the same time, changes are happening inside your body. Your stress biochemistry and brain function are shifting. In an RCT examining levels of the stress hormone cortisol, EFT was compared to talk therapy, and also to rest. In the EFT group, a single treatment session reduced cortisol levels significantly, while psychological symptoms like anxiety and depression dropped more than twice as much as in the talk therapy group.13

Studies using fMRI technology to examine the activation of the parts of the brain responsible for the fear response have found that acupuncture rapidly regulates them.14,15,16 Other studies have measured the brain wave frequencies associated with stress, and found that tapping calms them.17,18,19 Such research makes it clear that EFT isn’t just improving mental health, it’s having a powerful effect on the physiological functioning of our bodies. It’s regulating stress biochemistry and nervous system function.

Remember These Tips to Get the Most Out of EFT

There are several ways you can use EFT for pain. You can tap while focusing on:

  • The pain itself
  • Emotions associated with that part of your body
  • Events occurring in your life when the pain began
  • Similar events from your childhood
  • Fear of the pain persisting for a long time
  • Worries that the pain might get worse
  • Childhood experiences of pain
  • Images such as colors and textures at the site of the pain
  • Beliefs about aging and pain
  • Core beliefs about the necessity of suffering

Pain might be exacerbated by any of these sources, and by looking at all the possibilities, you’re very likely to discover the emotions associated with your pain. Once you’ve identified them, you can use EFT to reduce the stress that accompanies each event and emotion.

There are a number of ways to get the full benefit of using EFT for pain. One is to try the simplest form of EFT on yourself, using this link that shows a basic demonstration of EFT. You can download the free EFT Mini-Manual which will have you tapping in just a few minutes, and testing your results on the 0 to 10 scale.20 To unlock the full potential of EFT, you can train yourself in each step of the method at a Clinical EFT workshop. You can also engage the services of an expert practitioner trained in Clinical EFT.  

The bottom line is that you don’t have to keep suffering from pain unnecessarily. Research shows that pain can be reduced by up to two-thirds with this simple and easily-learned method.21 That’s not to claim that EFT can replace drugs or other needed medical treatments. In the Healthcare Workers Study, participants still experienced 32 percent of their pain after tapping. That remaining pain is probably due to physical conditions that need expert medical care. But when you use EFT in conjunction with modern medicine, you get the best of both worlds.

About the Author:

Dawson Church, PhD, is an award-winning author whose best-selling book, The Genie in Your Genes, has been hailed by reviewers as a breakthrough in our understanding of the link between emotions and genetics. He founded the National Institute for Integrative Healthcare to study and implement promising evidence-based psychological and medical techniques. His groundbreaking research has been published in prestigious scientific journals. He is the editor of Energy Psychology: Theory, Research, & Treatment, a peer-reviewed professional journal. He shares how to apply these breakthroughs to health and athletic performance through EFT Universe, one of the largest alternative medicine sites on the web.

How Much Sleep Is "Enough"?

Thu, 02/19/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

If you’re like most people, you’re probably not sleeping enough, and the consequences go far beyond just feeling tired and sluggish the next day.

According to a 2013 Gallup poll,1 40 percent of American adults get six hours or less per night. Even children are becoming sleep deprived. According to the 2014 Sleep in America Poll,2 58 percent of teens average only seven hours of sleep or less.

Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that lack of sleep is a public health epidemic, noting that insufficient sleep has been linked to a wide variety of health problems.

For example, getting less than five hours of sleep per night may double your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and/or stroke. Research has also found a persistent link between lack of sleep and weight gain, insulin resistance, and diabetes.3,4

But while the risks of insufficient sleep are well-documented, there have been lingering questions about how much sleep is “enough,” and recommendations have shifted upward and downward over the years. On February 2, the National Sleep Foundation released updated guidelines5,6,7 to help clarify this question.

Updated Sleep Guidelines

Led by Harvard professor Charles Czeisler, the panel of experts reviewed more than 300 studies published between 2004 and 2014 to ascertain how many hours of sleep most people need in order to maintain their health. The recommendations they came up with are as follows:

Age Group Recommended # of hours of sleep needed Newborns (0-3 months) 14-17 hours Infants (4-11 months) 12-15 hours Toddlers (1-2 years) 11-14 hours Preschoolers (3-5) 10-13 hours School-age children (6-13) 9-11 hours Teenagers (14-17)           8-10 hours Young adults (18-25) 7-9 hours Adults (26-64) 7-9 hours Seniors (65 and older) 7-8 hours

As you can see, the general consensus is that from the time you enter your teenage years, you probably need right around eight hours of sleep on the average. According to the panel:

“Sleep durations outside the recommended range may be appropriate, but deviating far from the normal range is rare. Individuals who habitually sleep outside the normal range may be exhibiting signs or symptoms of serious health problems or, if done volitionally, may be compromising their health and well-being.”

Modern Technology Can Affect Your Sleep in Several Ways

Modern technology is in large part to blame for many peoples’ sleep problems, for several reasons, including the following:

  1. For starters, the exposure to excessive amounts of light from light bulbs and electronic gadgets at night hinders your brain from winding down for sleep by preventing the release of melatonin. (Melatonin levels naturally rise in response to darkness, which makes you feel sleepy.)
  2. Electromagnetic radiation can also have an adverse effect on your sleep even if it doesn’t involve visible light.
  3. According to the 2014 Sleep in America Poll,8 53 percent of respondents who keep personal electronics turned off while sleeping rate their sleep as excellent, compared to just 27 percent of those who leave their devices on.

  4. Maintaining a natural rhythm of exposure to daylight during the day, and darkness at night, is an essential component of sleeping well. But not only are most people exposed to too much light after dark, they’re also getting insufficient amounts of natural daylight during the day.
  5. Daytime exposure to bright sunlight is important because it serves as the major synchronizer of something called your master clock, which in turn influences other biological clocks throughout your body.

Even Daytime Use of Technology Can Significantly Prevent Sleep, Especially Among Teens

People now get one to two hours less sleep each night, on average, compared to 60 years ago.9 A primary reason for this is the proliferation of electronics, which also allows us to work (and play) later than ever before. 

According to recent research, teens in particular may have difficulty falling asleep if they spend too much time using electronic devices—even if their use of technology is restricted to daytime hours! As reported by the Huffington Post:10

“The cumulative amount of screen time a teen gets throughout the day -- not just before bedtime -- affects how long they sleep, according to the study11...

‘One of the surprising aspects was the very clear dose-response associations,’ said the study's lead researcher Mari Hysing... ‘The longer their screen time, the shorter their sleep duration.’"

Boys spent more time using game consoles, while girls favored smartphones and MP3 music players, but regardless of the type of device, the effect on sleep was the same. The researchers found that:

  • Using an electronic device within one hour of bedtime resulted in spending more than an hour tossing and turning before falling asleep
  • Using electronics for four hours during the day resulted in a 49 percent increased risk of needing more than one hour to fall asleep, compared to those who used electronics for less than four hours total
  • Those who used any device for more than two hours per day were 20 percent more likely to need more than an hour to fall asleep, compared to those whose usage was less than two hours
  • Those who spent  more than two hours online were more than three times as likely to sleep less than five hours compared to their peers who spent less time online

Good Sleep in Middle Age May Benefit You in Your Senior Years

Another study12,13--which looked at sleep habits and mental functioning in later years—reviewed 50 years’ worth of sleep research, concluding that sleeping well in your middle-age years is an “investment” that pays dividends later. According to Michael Scullin, director of the Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory at Baylor University in Texas: "We came across studies that showed that sleeping well in middle age predicted better mental functioning 28 years later.”

This seems like a reasonable conclusion when you consider the more immediate benefits of getting enough sleep. Accumulated over time, both hazards and benefits are likely to pay dividends or exact a toll... For example, recent research14,15,16 shows that lack of sleep can shrink your brain, which, of course, can have adverse long-term ramifications. Other research published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging17 suggests that people with chronic sleep problems may develop Alzheimer’s disease sooner than those who sleep well.

Researchers have also found18 that adding just one hour of sleep a night can boost your health rather drastically. Here, they set out to determine the health effects of sleeping 6.5 hours versus 7.5 hours a night. During the study, groups of volunteers slept either 6.5 hours or 7.5 hours a night for one week. They then swapped sleeping durations for another week, yielding quite significant results. For starters, the mental agility tasks became much more difficult for the participants when they got less sleep. Other studies have also linked sleep deprivation to decreased memory recall, difficulty processing information, and dampened decision-making skills.

Even a single night of poor sleep—meaning sleeping only four to six hours—can impact your ability to think clearly the next day. It's also known to decrease your problem solving ability. The researchers also noted that about 500 genes were impacted. When the participants cut their sleep from 7.5 to 6.5 hours, there were increases in activity in genes associated with inflammation, immune excitability, diabetes, cancer risk and stress. From the results of this study, it appears as though sleeping for an extra hour, if you’re regularly getting less than seven hours of sleep a night, may be a simple way to boost your health. It may even help protect and preserve brain function in the decades to come.

A Fitness Tracker Can Be a Helpful Tool to Get More Sleep

To optimize sleep, you need to make sure you’re going to bed early enough, because if you have to get up at 6:30am, you’re just not going to get enough sleep if you go to bed after midnight. Many fitness trackers can now track both daytime body movement and sleep, allowing you to get a better picture of how much sleep you’re actually getting. Chances are, you’re getting at least 30 minutes less shut-eye than you think, as most people do not fall asleep as soon as their head hits the pillow.

I recently detailed some of the benefits of fitness trackers in my article “The Year in Sleep.” Newer devices, like Jawbone’s UP3 that should be released sometime this year, can even tell you which activities led to your best sleep and what factors resulted in poor sleep. When I first started using a fitness tracker, I was striving to get eight hours of sleep, but my Jawbone UP typically recorded me at 7.5 to 7.75. I have since increased my sleep time, not just time in bed, but total sleep time to over eight hours per night. The fitness tracker helped me realize that unless I am asleep, not just in bed, but asleep by 10 pm, I simply won’t get my eight hours. Gradually I have been able to get myself to sleep by 9:30 pm.

How to Support Your Circadian Rhythm and Sleep Better for Optimal Health

Making small adjustments to your daily routine and sleeping area can go a long way to ensure uninterrupted, restful sleep and, thereby, better health. I suggest you read through my full set of 33 healthy sleep guidelines for all of the details, but to start, consider implementing the following key changes:

  • Make sure you regularly get BRIGHT sun exposure during the day. Your pineal gland produces melatonin roughly in approximation to the contrast of bright sun exposure in the day and complete darkness at night. If you are in darkness all day long, it can't appreciate the difference and will not optimize your melatonin production. To help your circadian system to reset itself, make sure to get at least 10-15 minutes of morning sunlight. This will send a strong message to your internal clock that day has arrived, making it less likely to be confused by weaker light signals later on.

    Also aim for 30-60 minutes of outdoor light exposure in the middle of the day, in order to “anchor” your master clock rhythm. The ideal time to go outdoors is right around solar noon but any time during daylight hours is useful. A gadget that can be helpful in instances when you, for some reason, cannot get outside during the day is a blue-light emitter. Philips makes one called goLITE BLU.19 It’s a small light therapy device you can keep on your desk. Use it twice a day for about 15 minutes to help you anchor your circadian rhythm if you cannot get outdoors.

  • Avoid watching TV or using your computer in the evening, at least an hour or so before going to bed. Once sun has set, avoid light as much as possible, to promote natural melatonin secretion, which helps you feel sleepy. Devices such as smartphones, TVs, and computers emit blue light, which tricks your brain into thinking it's still daytime. Normally, your brain starts secreting melatonin between 9 and 10 pm, and these devices emit light that may stifle that process and keep you from falling asleep.
  • Even the American Medical Association now states:20 “…nighttime electric light can disrupt circadian rhythms in humans and documents the rapidly advancing understanding from basic science of how disruption of circadian rhythmicity affects aspects of physiology with direct links to human health, such as cell cycle regulation, DNA damage response, and metabolism.”

  • Be mindful of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in your bedroom. EMFs can disrupt your pineal gland and its melatonin production, and may have other negative biological effects as well. A gauss meter is required if you want to measure EMF levels in various areas of your home. At minimum, move all electrical devices at least three feet away from your bed. Ideally, turn all devices off while you’re sleeping. You may also want to consider turning off your wireless router at night. You don’t need the Internet on when you are asleep.
  • Sleep in darkness. Even a small amount of light in your bedroom can disrupt your body’s internal clock and your pineal gland's melatonin production. Even the glow from your clock radio could be interfering with your sleep, so cover your radio up at night or get rid of it altogether. You may want to cover your windows with drapes or blackout shades. A less expensive alternative is to use a sleep mask.
  • Install a low-wattage yellow, orange, or red light bulb if you need a source of light for navigation at night. Light in these bandwidths does not shut down melatonin production in the way that white and blue bandwidth light does. Salt lamps are handy for this purpose. You can also download a free application called f.lux21 that automatically dims your monitor or screens.
  • Keep the temperature in your bedroom below 70° Fahrenheit. Many people keep their homes too warm (particularly their upstairs bedrooms). Studies show that the optimal room temperature for sleep is between 60 to 68° F.

Processed Fructose Is the Number One Driver of Obesity and Diabetes

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Nearly 30 percent of the global population is overweight or obese, and more than one billion people, worldwide, are expected to fall into the obese category by 2030.

Concomitant to rising obesity rates among all age groups, there's also been a rapid rise in chronic health problems such as type 2 diabetes, liver disease, heart disease, and cancer.

In one recent study,1 which analyzed data from more than five million people, every 11-pound increase in body weight was associated with an in increased risk for 10 types of cancer, including leukemia, uterine, gallbladder, kidney, cervix, and thyroid cancer.

According to a study published in 2013, nearly one in five US deaths is now associated with obesity. That's nearly three times higher than previous estimates. Obesity is basically a marker for chronic disease.  The underlying problem, linking obesity with all of these health issues, is metabolic dysfunction.

The obvious question then becomes: What is causing this rampant metabolic dysfunction in the first place? Compelling evidence shows that processed fructose is a primary driver for both obesity and type 2 diabetes.

The average American consumes one-third of a pound of sugar per day, half of which is processed fructose, which is the most damaging of all. The majority of all this sugar is hidden in processed foods and beverages, so to address obesity and/or diabetes, ridding your diet of processed fare is key for success.

Fructose Is #1 Driver of Obesity and Diabetes, Analysis Confirms

Dr. Robert Lustig, Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at the University of California, has been a pioneer in decoding sugar metabolism. He was one of the first to bring attention to the fact that processed fructose is far worse, from a metabolic standpoint, than other sugars, including refined sugar.

Fructose is actually broken down very much like alcohol, damaging your liver and causing mitochondrial and metabolic dysfunction in the same way as ethanol and other toxins. It also causes more severe metabolic dysfunction because it's more readily metabolized into fat than any other sugar.

Other researchers are now backing up these claims. Most recently, a meta-review published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings2 confirms that all calories are not equal, which is precisely what Dr. Lustig has been telling us. 

The dogmatic belief that "a calorie is a calorie" has significantly contributed to the ever-worsening health of the Western world. It's one of the first things dieticians learn in school, and it's completely false. In reality, the source of the calories makes all the difference in the world when it comes to health.

In the featured review3,4,5 the researchers looked at how calories from the following types of carbohydrates—which include both naturally-occurring and added sugars—affected health:

  • Starch
  • Pure glucose
  • Lactose (natural sugar found in dairy)
  • Sucrose (table sugar)
  • Fructose, found both in fruit and in processed high-fructose corn syrup

 As reported by Time Magazine:6

"What they found was that the added sugars were significantly more harmful. Fructose was linked to worsening insulin levels and worsening glucose tolerance, which is a driver for pre-diabetes.

It caused harmful fat storage—visceral fat on the abdomen—and promoted several markers for poor health like inflammation and high blood pressure.

'We clearly showed that sugar is the principal driver of diabetes,' says lead study author James J. DiNicolantonio, a cardiovascular research scientist at Saint Luke's Mid America Heart Institute. 'A sugar calorie is much more harmful.'"

US Dietary Guidelines Promote Unhealthy Amounts of Sugar

The researchers warn that current dietary guidelines in the US are harmful, as they promote unhealthy amounts of sugar consumption. According to the Institute of Medicine, as much as 25 percent of your total daily calories can come from added sugars and still be considered healthy.

Similarly, the 2010 US Dietary Guidelines allows up to 19 percent of calories to come from added sugars. Remarkably, the American Diabetes Association does not recommend restricting fructose-containing added sugars to any specific level at all...

In sharp contrast to such liberal recommendations, the American Heart Association suggests limiting sugar to six teaspoons of sugar per day for women and nine teaspoons for men. The World Health Organization suggests limiting added sugar to a maximum of five percent of your daily calories.

As a standard recommendation, I strongly advise keeping your total fructose consumption below 25 grams per day, which is about six teaspoons. If you have signs of insulin resistance, such as hypertension, obesity, or heart disease, you'd be wise to limit your total fructose consumption to 15 grams or less until your weight and other health conditions have normalized.

According to the featured review, the research clearly shows that once you reach 18 percent of your daily calories from sugar, there's a two-fold increase in metabolic harm that promote prediabetes and diabetes, so current dietary guidelines are definitely a recipe for chronic disease.

Lead author DiNicolantonio told Time Magazine:7

"We need to understand that it isn't the overconsuming of calories that leads to obesity and leads to diabetes. We need to totally change that around. It's refined carbs and added sugars that lead to insulin resistance and diabetes, which leads to high insulin levels, which drives obesity."

DiNicolantonio and his team advise significant governmental changes to address the situation, including ending subsidies of corn, and adding subsidies for healthy whole foods. Most people eat processed foods because they're cheaper than whole foods, and switching agricultural subsidies around could change that.

Such changes are likely to take time however, so in the meantime, you would be wise to reconsider your own dietary habits. Remember, while you may need to spend a little more now in order to make sure you're eating healthy, it could save you a ton of money in the long run.

Over the past two decades, the cost of managing type 2 diabetes has doubled, and diabetics spend an average of $2,600 more on health care each year compared to non-diabetics.8 Wouldn't you rather spend that money on healthier foods, and circumvent the hassles and added health risks associated with diabetes altogether?

Other Recent Research Supports Fructose-Diabetes Link

Other recent research9,10 from the University of Utah also confirms that fructose is more harmful than table sugar. Here, corn syrup was found to have an adverse effect on animals' rate of reproduction, and caused premature death. According to senior author Wayne Potts,11 "this is the most robust study showing there is a difference between high-fructose corn syrup and table sugar at human-relevant doses."

Female mice fed a diet in which 25 percent of calories came from corn syrup had nearly double the death rate compared to mice fed a diet in which 25 percent of calories came from sucrose. Corn syrup-fed mice also produced 26.4 percent fewer offspring than those fed table sugar. As reported by Reuters:12

"The study suggests humans, especially women, could face adverse health effects tied to consuming too much corn syrup, which is found in many processed food products... Between 13 and 25 percent of Americans are estimated to eat diets containing 25 percent or more of calories from added sugars, according to the paper."

According to the authors of this paper, 42 percent of the added sugar found in the US diet comes from corn syrup; 44 percent comes from sucrose. The remaining 14 percent of added sugars are in the form of natural sweeteners such as honey, molasses, and fruit. The evidence clearly shows that processed fructose is the worst in terms of promoting adverse insulin and leptin reactions, which underlie diabetes and a wide variety of other chronic disease states. That said, all sugars contribute to insulin resistance to some degree—including whole grains, which are touted as having heart-health benefits—so to really safeguard your health, you need to pay attention to sugar in all its forms.

Processed Foods Is the Primary Source of Sugar

Doctors and health officials alike are still trying to convince you that you can have your cake and eat it too, as long as it's "in moderation." The problem with that is that if you eat a diet consisting primarily of processed foods, moderation goes out the window because virtually all processed food items contain some form of added sugar. Oftentimes, just ONE food item can contain an entire day's worth of sugar. When you add all the processed foods you eat in a day together, the total amount of sugar can be quite staggering. One recent study has linked the proliferation of restaurants and warehouse clubs like Costco and/or super-centers like Walmart to the rapid rise in obesity—all of which sell primarily processed foods.

As reported by The Atlantic:13

"In 1990, no state had an obesity prevalence of 15 percent or more. By 2010, no state was less than 20 percent obese... Charles Courtemanche, an assistant professor of economics at Georgia State University, analyzed a number of... theories [explaining rising obesity rates] for a recent study,14 Courtemanche realized that a lot of past studies came to conclusions like, 'the increasing popularity of driving to work is correlated with the rise of obesity.' But he wasn't sure what, specifically, was having the greatest effect on obesity's rise. He gathered 27 things he thought might be contributing to obesity... and put them in what he calls a 'statistical horserace'...  

Only two of the factors ended up being meaningful drivers of obesity: 1) the proliferation of restaurants and 2) the rise of warehouse clubs, like Costco, and super-centers, like those Walmarts that have grocery stores in them... [B]oth restaurants and super-centers saw a remarkable growth since 1990, and together they explain about half the rise in class II and class III obesity—the worst varieties. Interestingly, regular supermarkets actually had a slight negative effect on obesity rates, so it's not just that food has become more accessible. Instead, Courtemanche said, it's that it's become much, much cheaper."

Although not specified, the food he's talking about is processed food. Sweetened beverages may be among the worst culprits, and in most places a can of soda is far less expensive than a bottle of water. When bought in bulk, it's usually even less expensive. So sure, places like Costco may be adding to the problem by providing health-harming foods at even lower prices, but the fact remains that it is the processed food that is the real problem, not just the fact that food is made available at inexpensive prices... If fresh produce was the least expensive food around, more people would probably buy more of it, but they wouldn't gain a ton of weight as a result.

Embed this infographic on your website:

<img src="http://media.mercola.com/assets/images/infographic/fructose-overload-infographic.jpg" alt="fructose overload infographic" border="0" style="max-width:100%; min-width:300px; margin: 0 auto 20px auto; display:block;"><p style="max-width:800px; min-width:300px; margin:0 auto; text-align:center;">Discover the fructose content of common foods, beverages, sauces, and even sugar substitutes in our infographic "<a href="http://www.mercola.com/infographics/fructose-overload.htm">Fructose Overload</a>." Use the embed code to share it on your website or visit our infographic page for the high-res version.</p> <pre style="max-width:800px; min-width:300px; margin: 20px auto 0 auto; padding:10px; border:solid 1px #999999; background: #ffffff; white-space: pre-wrap; word-wrap:break-word;"><code>&lt;img src="http://media.mercola.com/assets/images/infographic/fructose-overload-infographic.jpg" alt="fructose overload infographic" border="0" style="max-width:100%; min-width:300px; margin: 0 auto 20px auto; display:block;"&gt;&lt;p style="max-width:800px; min-width:300px; margin:0 auto; text-align:center;"&gt;Discover the fructose content of common foods, beverages, sauces, and even sugar substitutes in our infographic "&lt;a href="http://www.mercola.com/infographics/fructose-overload.htm"&gt;Fructose Overload&lt;/a&gt;." Visit our infographic page for the high-res version.&lt;/p&gt;</code></pre>

Click on the code area and press CTRL + C (for Windows) / CMD + C (for Macintosh) to copy the code.

Gut Bacteria Implicated in Both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes—known as insulin-dependent diabetes—is actually an autoimmune disease that occurs because your immune system mistakenly attacks the cells in your pancreas that produce insulin. Like other autoimmune diseases such as lupus and multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes occurs because of a malfunctioning in your body's defense system, or your immune system.  According to recent research, onset of type 1 diabetes in young children tends to be preceded by a change in gut bacteria. Involving just 33 children with genetic predispositions, it's a small study, but previous research has also found that certain microbes can help prevent the disease, suggesting your gut flora may be a predisposing factor for this condition.

"[O]ne hope is that the results will lead to an early diagnostic test for type 1 diabetes, said researcher Aleksandar Kostic, a postdoctoral fellow at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard," WebMD15 writes. "There is also the possibility of developing new therapies for type 1 that would target the 'ecosystem' of the gut, he said."

Research also suggests there's a connection between certain types of bacteria and body fat that produces a heightened inflammatory response that contributes to metabolic dysfunction. Superantigens—toxic molecules produced by pathogenic bacteria such as staph—may actually play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes through their effect on fat cells. Preliminary research16 presented in 2010 revealed that transplanting fecal matter from healthy thin people into obese people with metabolic syndrome led to an improvement in insulin sensitivity. More recent research suggests that your diet alone can dramatically alter your microbial balance.

According to Jeffrey Gordon, director of the Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology at Washington University in St. Louis,17 a diet high in saturated fat, and low in fruits and vegetables allows microbes that promote leanness to overtake colonies of microbes that promote obesity. Speaking of obesity and gut bacteria, it's important to remember that when you take an antibiotic, or regularly consume foods contaminated with antibiotics (such as CAFO beef, courtesy of their use as a growth promoter in livestock), you decimate the beneficial bacteria in your GI tract. This may have a notable impact on your weight and metabolism.18

Optimizing Your Gut Flora May Be One of Your Most Important Disease Prevention Strategies

Optimizing your gut flora may be one of the most important things you can do for your health. Not only could it help normalize your weight and ward off diabetes, but it's also a critical component for a well-functioning immune system, which is your primary defense against all sorts of disease. Reseeding your gut with beneficial bacteria is key for preventing pathogenic microbes and fungi from taking over. To optimize your gut bacteria, keep these recommendations in mind:

  • Eat plenty of fermented foods. Traditionally fermented and cultured foods are the best route to optimal digestive health. Healthy choices include lassi, fermented grass-fed organic milk such as kefir, various pickled fermentations of cabbage, turnips, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, squash and carrots, and natto (fermented soy). Fermented vegetables, are an excellent way to supply beneficial bacteria back into our gut. And, unlike some other fermented foods, they tend to be palatable, if not downright delicious, to most people. As an added bonus, they can also a great source of vitamin K2 if you ferment your own using the proper starter culture.
  • Take a probiotic supplement. Although I'm not a major proponent of taking many supplements (as I believe the majority of your nutrients need to come from food), probiotics is an exception if you don't eat fermented foods on a regular basis.

In addition to knowing what to add to your diet and lifestyle, it's equally important to know what to avoid, and these include:

Antibiotics, unless absolutely necessary (and when you do, make sure to reseed your gut with fermented foods and/or a probiotic supplement) Conventionally-raised meats and other animal products, as CAFO animals are routinely fed low-dose antibiotics, plus genetically engineered grains, which have also been implicated in the destruction of gut flora Processed foods (as the excessive sugars, along with otherwise "dead" nutrients, feed pathogenic bacteria). Unless 100% organic, they may also contain GMOs that tend to be heavily contaminated with pesticides such as glyphosate Chlorinated and/or fluoridated water Antibacterial soap Agricultural chemicals, glyphosate (RoundUp) in particular Obesity and Diabetes Are Preventable and Treatable with Diet Alone

To recap, if you're insulin/leptin resistant, have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or are overweight, you'd be wise to limit your total sugar/fructose intake to 15 grams per day until your insulin/leptin resistance has resolved. This applies to at least half of all Americans. For all others, I recommend limiting your daily fructose consumption to 25 grams or less, to maintain optimal health. The easiest way to accomplish this is by swapping processed foods for whole, ideally organic foods. This means cooking from scratch with fresh ingredients. My free nutrition plan offers a step-by-step guide to feed your family right.

On a side note, obesity and diabetes—both type 1 and type 2—have also been linked to vitamin D deficiency. Ensuring your vitamin D levels are within optimal range prior to and during pregnancy can help prevent your child from developing type 1 diabetes. And being vitamin D deficient increases your risk for both obesity and type 2 diabetes in general, so it's an important component for overall health. Cutting out processed foods means you'll be eliminating a lot of energy (carbs like sugar, fructose and grains) from your diet, which need to be replaced with energy from other sources. The ideal replacement is a combination of:

  • High-quality healthy fat (including saturated19 and monounsaturated). Those with insulin resistance benefit from upwards of 50-85 percent of their daily calories in the form of healthy fats. Good sources include coconut and coconut oil, avocados, butter, nuts, and animal fats. (Remember, fat is high in calories while being small in terms of volume. So when you look at your plate, the largest portion would be vegetables.)
  • As many non-starchy vegetables as you want
  • Low-to-moderate amount of high-quality protein. Substantial amounts of protein can be found in meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, and nuts. When selecting animal-based protein, be sure to opt for organically raised, grass-fed or pastured meats, eggs, and dairy, to avoid potential health complications caused by genetically engineered animal feed and pesticides.
  • Most Americans eat far too much protein, so be mindful of the amount. I believe it is the rare person who really needs more than one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. Those that are aggressively exercising or competing and pregnant women will need about 25 percent more, but most people rarely need more than 40-70 grams of protein a day. To determine your lean body mass, find out your percent body fat and subtract from 100. This means that if you have 20 percent body fat, you have 80 percent lean body mass. Just multiply that by your current weight to get your lean body mass in pounds or kilos.

    To determine whether you're getting too much protein, simply calculate your lean body mass as described above, then write down everything you're eating for a few days, and calculate the amount of daily protein from all sources. Again, you're aiming for one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass, which would place most people in the range of 40 to 70 grams of protein per day. If you're currently averaging a lot more than that, adjust downward accordingly. You could use the chart below or simply Google the food you want to know and you will quickly find the grams of protein in the food.

Red meat, pork, poultry, and seafood average 6-9 grams of protein per ounce.

An ideal amount for most people would be a 3 ounce serving of meat or seafood (not 9 or 12 ounce steaks!), which will provide about 18-27 grams of protein Eggs contain about 6-8 grams of protein per egg. So an omelet made from two eggs would give you about 12-16 grams of protein.

If you add cheese, you need to calculate that protein in as well (check the label of your cheese) Seeds and nuts contain on average 4-8 grams of protein per quarter cupCooked beans average about 7-8 grams per half cup Cooked grains average 5-7 grams per cupMost vegetables contain about 1-2 grams of protein per ounce

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg Stepping Down

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), announced that she would be stepping down as commissioner at the end of March 2015.

As one of the longest-serving commissioners at the agency, Hamburg led the FDA for close to six years. She said the heavy demands of the job as well as the length of time she’s been serving contributed to her decision to resign.

While some have praised Hamburg’s time at the FDA, others, like Dr. Michael Carome, the director of the health research group at Public Citizen, have been more critical, calling her tenure a period of “weak and ineffective leadership.” He said in a statement:1

“Too often, the F.D.A. has succumbed to industry and political pressures, implementing policies and taking actions that tilt too far toward the bottom-line interests of pharmaceutical and medical-device companies, and away from protecting public health… Throughout Hamburg's tenure, the FDA has grown even more cozy with the industries that it regulates.”

Strong Ties to Industry from the Very Beginning…

Hamburg entered the FDA through the revolving government/private industry door after allegedly making millions as the director of Henry Schein Inc., the largest seller of dental amalgam (mercury fillings) and flu vaccine seller as well.2 To get appointed, Hamburg was required to sign an agreement promising:

  1. To sell her Schein stock and stock options
  2. Not to participate in regulatory matters affecting Schein while owning these options

Sign she did, but she apparently had her fingers crossed. Selling her stock, Hamburg retained her stock options, which in a few weeks gained from being "under water" (no value) to having market value. Promising to cut her ties with Schein, she allegedly continued regular correspondence with Schein's general counsel on her private e-mail.

Hamburg took office as Commissioner in May 2009. Charlie Brown, director of Consumers for Dental Choice, wrote her June 1, 2009 to inquire whether she had recused (disqualified) herself from working on an upcoming amalgam rule.

Not even answering, she convened a meeting with the American Dental Association's “best friend” at the FDA, dentist Susan Runner. On July 1, in a meeting whose notes are heavily expunged from public records requests, Henry Schein alumna Hamburg and pro-amalgam dentist Runner put together a disgraceful rule on amalgam.

It allowed continued concealment of the mercury within, buried the warnings for children and unborn children so deep in the rule no one would find them, and allowed Runner to be the FDA's spokesperson to proclaim amalgam safe.

At the end of July, Runner unveiled this monstrosity of a rule and, immediately after Runner's announcement, Schein's general counsel wrote Hamburg that Schein is "indebted" to her for her work as Commissioner. Hamburg was still holding Schein stock options until July 27, the day before the FDA rule was announced.

The FDA agreed that Margaret Hamburg had an ethical problem that led to her recusal, but neither she nor anyone else at the FDA would say what work she did on the rule or when she stopped working on it.

Under Hamburg, the FDA Continues to Allow Antibiotic-Resistant Disease to Flourish

The FDA has long been accused of ignoring the elephant in the room when it comes to antibiotic-resistant disease, namely factory farming practices where antibiotics are routinely fed to animals to promote growth.

According to the landmark “Antibiotic Resistance Threat Report” published by the CDC in October 2013, 2 million American adults and children become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year, and at least 23,000 of them die as a direct result of those infections.3 Even more die from complications.

As noted in Rodale Magazine, the FDA knows the dangers of antibiotics in animal feed, but continues to allow them, thereby allowing the problem to persist and grow unchecked:4

“The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has known for more than a dozen years that use of antibiotics in factory farms is harmful to humans, yet the agency has taken no meaningful action to stem their use.

That's the conclusion of a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), published after the environmental nonprofit collected data from the agency through a Freedom of Information Act request.5

The data came from an internal review on the safety of feed additives belonging to penicillin and tetracycline classes of antibiotics. The review started in 2001 and ended—for unknown reasons—in 2010. The findings: Twenty-six of the 30 drugs reviewed didn't meet safety guidelines set in 1973, and none of those drugs would meet the safety guidelines of today.”

Yet, despite the growing number of people dying from antibiotic-resistant diseases, when the FDA issued its pathetic guidance on agricultural antibiotics in December 2013, they failed miserably at protecting public health.

The agency only went so far as to ask drug companies to voluntarily restrict the use of antibiotics that are important in human medicine by excluding growth promotion in animals as a listed use on the drug label.

This would prevent farmers from legally using antibiotics such as tetracyclines, penicillins, and azithromycin for growth promotion purposes. But this guidance is not likely to protect your health at all, and was exactly what the drug companies were hoping for.

The industry is fond of pointing out the lack of proof directly connecting the antibiotics used in livestock to human disease outbreaks. This is by careful design to deceive you. The industry is not required to collect or report usage data. And without data on how and when drugs are used, such direct connections are very difficult to prove.

When asked why we don’t we have information on antibiotic usage in livestock after more than four decades of use, Hamburg’s beyond lame excuse was that they’re still trying to figure out what kind of data is needed...

In a Frontline News documentary, she also noted that the FDA believes this voluntary approach is going to be the most effective and speedy way to eliminate antibiotics for growth promotion purposes.6

The meat industries have agreed to reduce usage, but if no data is collected to verify which drugs are being reduced, and by how much, how can the FDA possibly ascertain the effectiveness of their approach?

So far, promptings to reduce usage appears to have fallen on deaf ears. According to the most recent FDA report, antibiotic usage actually INCREASED by 16 percent between 2009 and 2012, and nearly 70 percent of the antibiotics used are considered “medically important” for humans…7 And remember, for each year we delay affirmative action, tens of thousands of Americans die, and the resistance problem keeps growing.

Industry Is Still Adding Dangerous Synthetic Trans Fats to Your Food

According to CDC director Thomas Frieden, an estimated 5,000 Americans die from heart disease caused by synthetic dietary trans fats each year, and another 15,000 will get heart disease as a result of eating too many trans fats.8 Other CDC statistics suggest that as many as 20,000 heart attacks could be avoided each year by eliminating trans fats from the food supply.9

Trans fat intake has steadily decreased over the past several years, According to FDA estimates, Americans consumed an average of one gram of trans fat per day in 2012, compared to 4.6 grams per day in 2003. However, according to the Institute of Medicine, trans fat is unsafe at any level.

Reuters praised Hamburg for proposing “measures to improve nutrition by limiting dangerous trans-fats in food,”10 but they are still allowed in your food, even after a lawsuit.In 2009, Dr. Fred Kummerow, who has studied heart disease for more than 60 years, filed a citizen petition with the FDA calling for a ban on synthetic trans fats.11 In the petition, he noted that heart disease is often the result of trans fat deposited in veins and arteries, which can cause sudden death due to blockage.

The FDA is required to respond to such petitions within 180 days, but Dr. Kummerow had yet to receive a final response even four years later. So in 2013, he filed a lawsuit against the FDA, which alleged that the agency’s failure to ban partially hydrogenated oils (which contain synthetic trans fats) along with their unreasonable delay in responding to his 2009 petition, violate the Administrative Procedure Act and the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act prohibits the sale of foods containing poisonous or deleterious substances, and an extensive body of research has linked synthetic trans fats to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and even violent behavior. In November 2013, shortly after the lawsuit was filed, the FDA announced it would now consider removing partially hydrogenated oils—the primary source of trans fats—from the list of "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) ingredients. They were supposed to accept comments for 60 days, after which a permanent decision would be made. The comment period was up in January 2014… but it was extended.

As you might expect, many of the comments against FDA’s proposal to revoke GRAS status come from the food industry, including ConAgra Foods, Nestle, and a 104-page tome of a comment from the Grocery Manufacturers Association.12 If finalized, the FDA's decision means that food manufacturers can no longer use partially hydrogenated oils, i.e. trans fats, in their products without jumping through hoops to get special approval. But there still has been no final decision made.13 After the lawsuit, the FDA had little choice but to do what it should have done years ago, which is address a well-known toxin in the food supply. It's just too bad that they had to be sued in order to do their job… and still haven’t officially removed it from the GRAS list.

51 New Drug Approvals in 2014… Including Conflict-of-Interest Driven Zohydro

Under Hamburg, the FDA approved 51 new drugs in 2014 alone, which is the most in close to 20 years.14 In a blog post, Hamburg called the drug approvals “innovative approaches to help expedite development and review of medical products that target unmet medical needs.”15 But many believe the speedy drug approvals come at the expense of safety. A prime example is the narcotic painkiller Zohydro. Dr. Sanjay Gupta discussed conflicts of interests that may have coaxed the FDA to approve Zohydro ER (Zogenix) last year.16

The drug, which is the first drug containing pure hydrocodone (synthetic heroin), was approved at the same time that the FDA was also recommending tighter controls on narcotic painkillers, in light of alarming addiction rates and deaths linked to accidental overdoses. All other hydrocodone-containing painkillers on the market are mixed with other non-addictive ingredients. Zohydro ER was approved for patients who need around-the-clock pain relief, and contains an opioid dose that is five to 10 times greater than anything else on the market.

As noted by Dr. Gupta, when FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg was criticized for the agency’s approval of Zohydro, she countered saying that “100 million Americans” suffer from severe chronic pain warranting use of the drug. This figure amounts to about 40 percent of the US adult population! Pharmaceutical companies, including the maker of Zohydro, paid up to $35,000 to attend private meetings with the FDA and National Institutes of Health (NIH) staff, in which discussions revolved around the development of new pain treatments. This prompted two US Senators to launch an investigation into what appears to be a classic “pay to play” scheme. According to a MedPageToday report:17

“[T]he meetings also involved discussions of ‘enriched enrollment’ for pain trials, which enables drug companies to weed out nonresponders or patients who have adverse reactions to the drug from enrollment in clinical trials -- which critics say stacks the deck in favor of the drug... Zohydro clinical trials used the enriched enrollment methodology. During its FDA advisory committee hearing, several experts expressed concerns about what would happen once the drug moved from trials into the real world because of that methodology.”

Three Strikes and You’re Out… Who’s Up Next?

Mercury fillings, antibiotics overuse, trans fats… we have three-plus strikes against Hamburg. She’s out now… anyone want to bet where she’s headed? Back to Henry Schein perhaps? As for who will replace Hamburg, Dr. Robert Califf, a cardiologist and researcher from Duke University who currently oversees the FDA’s drug, medical device and tobacco policy has been fingered as the most likely successor.18 I’d like to say that he will be a breath of fresh air for the FDA… but Dr. Califf has an extensive list of industry associations of his own to disclose. According to author disclosures listed in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology:19

“For the period from 2010 through 2013, Dr. Califf reports receiving research grants that partially support his salary from Amylin, Johnson & Johnson, Scios, Merck/Schering-Plough, Schering-Plough Research Institute, Novartis Pharma, Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, Aterovax, Bayer, Roche, Lilly, and Schering-Plough; all grants are paid to Duke University.

Dr. Califf also consults for TheHeart.org, Johnson & Johnson, Scios, Kowa Research Institute, Nile, Parkview, Orexigen Therapeutics, Pozen, WebMD, Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, AstraZeneca, Bayer-OrthoMcNeil, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Boehringer Ingelheim, Daiichi Sankyo, GlaxoSmithKline, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, Medtronic, Merck, Novartis, Sanofi-Aventis, XOMA, University of Florida, Pfizer, Roche, Servier International, DSI-Lilly, Janssen R&D, CV Sight, Regeneron, and Gambro; all income from these consultancies is donated to nonprofit organizations, with most going to the clinical research fellowship fund of the Duke Clinical Research Institute. Dr. Califf holds equity in Nitrox LLC, N30 Pharma, and Portola.”

It’s unlikely that this change in leadership is going to reform the FDA or lead to significant changes in favor of your health. Virtually every measurable index indicates that despite the ever-increasing amounts of money invested, if you live in the US your chance of achieving optimal health through the conventional medical system is getting progressively worse. As just one example, while the US spends more than twice the amount on health care as other developed nations, we rank 49th in life expectancy worldwide—far lower than most other developed nations...The time is ripe for you to take control of your health, and my site is chock full of free comprehensive recommendations that can serve as an excellent, truly independent starting point.

Whatever your health problem or health goal might be, I strongly recommend digging below the surface using all the resources available to you, including your own commonsense and reason, true independent experts' advice, and others' experiences to determine what medical treatment or advice will be best for you. Ultimately, you are responsible for your and your family's health -- not me, not your physician, and certainly not any researchers or government health agencies. I cannot stress enough how important it is to become an active participant in your own care, and make sure you are making decisions that correspond with your own best judgment, knowledge, and experiences.

NY Attorney General to Wipe Herbal Supplements from Shelves

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

New York's Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, has ordered GNC, Target, Walgreens, and Wal-Mart to immediately stop selling certain herbal supplements. The products include up to seven varieties -- ginkgo biloba, St. John's wort, ginseng, garlic, echinacea, saw palmetto, and valerian root – that reportedly were mislabeled or contained adulterated content.

While the products have already been pulled from shelves amidst what the Attorney General's (AG) office called an "outrageous degree of adulteration," there is a problem.

The test used to deem the herbal products adulterated is considered inadequate and unproven by experts, such that the results cannot be considered valid. I'm all for transparency and truth in labeling, but these supplements have been wrongfully targeted in what appears to be a carefully orchestrated attack or a horribly incompetent attempt to protect consumers.

This goes far beyond just damaging the reputation of businesses and products, class-action lawsuits are already underway, which could leave the NY Attorney General in a very vulnerable position with a lot of explaining to do.

Fewer Than Half of Supplements Tested Contained Ingredients Indicated on the Label, AG Study Claims

The study, which was commissioned by New York's Attorney General, found that only 4 percent to 41 percent of the products tested contained DNA from the plant species listed on the label.

Some of the products contained none of the ingredient while others reportedly contained DNA from other plants.1 The products were tested up to five times each using a DNA barcoding technique, which is at the heart of the controversy over the results.

The AG's office is requiring the companies to provide detailed information about the product manufacturers, evidence of analytical testing, detailed cGMP [current good manufacturing practice] procedures, and any adverse events reported, but to date the details of the AG's study are unclear. The AG's office has not released full study protocols or reports of analytical data.2 As Forbes reported:3

"[American Botanical Council chief science officer, Stefan Gafner, PhD], who also serves as technical director for the ABC-AHPA-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program, expressed surprise that the AG would issue such aggressive actions against major U.S. companies with just one round of research results from one investigator's laboratory.

More detailed and published investigations by other researchers particularly with ginkgo products, seem to diverge from the results with the chain store product brands in New York.

'At this moment, we have not seen any of the methodology details, so we can't really comment on how well the tests were carried out, but the high percentage of supplements that did not contain the material indicated on the label definitely should make the investigators wonder just how accurate this approach is.'"

DNA Testing Is Unable to Identify Ingredients in Many Herbal Supplements

The AG's investigation used DNA testing, which, according to The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), is an "inadequate and unproven analytical method to test herbal supplement products."

Not only is DNA barcoding an emerging technology that is seen by many in the scientific community as one that might one day play a complementary role in testing, but it has serious limitations when it comes to testing herbal supplements.

Namely, many herbal supplements contain herbal extracts, which have a loss or denaturation of DNA material during processing. The DNA barcoding test cannot, therefore, identify the ingredients accurately. AHPA President Michael McGuffin said:4

"It appears that many, if not all, of the products the New York State Attorney General tested contained herbal extracts and this processing would likely disrupt or destroy the DNA…

If an herbal product manufacturer used this analysis, without any additional confirmation, to prove that an herbal extract is accurately identified, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would almost certainly dismiss this as inadequate to verify identity."

In fact, in 2013, the New York Times5 reported on a similar study using DNA barcoding, which also found a sizable number of products tested did not include the product on the label.6 At that time, the FDA publically called the testing method invalid.7

While the FDA has used DNA barcoding to reveal some cases of fraud, such as that in mislabeled seafood, it does not use it for testing herbal supplements. Apparently, the reporter who wrote the 2013 New York Times story, Anahad O'Connor, was called by an AG prosecutor.

As NewHope360 reported,8 the author noted in a blog that the prosecutor "had read my article in the Times and was outraged that companies selling health products engaged in such large-scale fraud."

Later in the blog, O'Connor writes: 'I had no idea that the article had made an impression on law enforcement officials too – and I'm glad that they used their resources to root out what appeared to be a blatant case of consumer fraud.'

So it appears the New York Attorney General launched an investigation patterned after the one in 2013, even though the FDA already called the data invalid. Adding to the curiosity, NewHope360 reported:9

"[Frank Lampe, vice president for communications at the United Natural Products Alliance] said he wonders why those resources did not include a call to the FDA and why they appear to have used the Times story as a road map in their investigation. 'It's the question for the [New York] Attorney General: What motivated this?' he said."

This appears to be far more a case of politics and policy than one of public protection… the Attorney General even incorporated the views of legislators into his news release!

In response, the United Natural Products Alliance is collecting "large quantities" of the supplements cited in the Attorney General's investigation and submitting them to certified botanical testing labs for analysis.

According to ABC News:10

"'They will perform universally accepted methods and procedures to test the products and will independently report their findings, which will be made public,' said Loren Israelsen, the group's president. 'We feel the most appropriate response to bad science is good science.'"

GNC Tests Show Products are Pure, Properly Labeled

GNC refuted the claims made by the New York State Attorney General and submitted both original test results and results of re-tests as evidence of purity and proper labeling of the supplements in question. It looks like Eric Schneiderman may soon be eating some crow, as the tests came back clean. NewHope360 reported:11

The retesting results clearly and conclusively demonstrate that the Company’s products are pure, properly labeled and in full compliance with all regulatory requirements.

…In performing its tests, GNC used only validated, widely used and generally accepted testing methodologies approved by standard setting bodies, including the United States Pharmacopeia, Association of Agricultural Chemists, British Pharmacopeia and European Pharmacopeia.

These are the non-profit scientific organizations that set standards for the identity, strength, quality, and purity of medicines, food ingredients, and dietary supplements manufactured, distributed and consumed worldwide.”

The re-test results were even reviewed by Robert Fish, who is described as an expert on FDA good manufacturing. He, too, confirmed their authenticity, stating:12

“…the products at issue were each manufactured in compliance with federal FDA requirements … the products contain the ingredients stated on the labels at the levels indicated on the labels … the products are not contaminated, and … the products are therefore not adulterated.”

Supplements Are Already Tightly Regulated

Pro-pharmaceutical spokesmen like Dr. Paul Offit and US Senator Dick Durbin have repeatedly stated that dietary supplements are unregulated and need stricter oversight due to the hazards they pose to your health. This is patently false, and you only have to look at the very first sentence on the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) website to settle that dispute.13 There, it plainly states:

"FDA regulates both finished dietary supplement products and dietary ingredients. FDA regulates dietary supplements under a different set of regulations than those covering 'conventional' foods and drug products. Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA):

  • The manufacturer of a dietary supplement or dietary ingredient is responsible for ensuring that the product is safe before it is marketed.
  • FDA is responsible for taking action against any unsafe dietary supplement product after it reaches the market."

Back in the early 1990s, the FDA threatened the availability of dietary supplements to the point that consumers staged a massive revolt, which resulted in the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA). The law specifically protects your access to dietary supplements by classifying them as foods, not food additives or drugs, and it grandfathered in dietary supplements that were already in use as of 1994. Only novel ingredients introduced after October 15, 1994 are required to seek FDA approval, but the FDA can, and has, shut down supplement makers that do not meet these regulations.

This Isn't a Matter of Safety…

An estimated 106,000 hospitalized patients die each year from drugs that, by medical standards, are properly prescribed and administered, and two million more suffer serious side effects. How does the safety of supplements compare?

  • In 2001, 84.6 percent of all substances implicated in fatal poisonings were pharmaceutical drugs, according to that year's American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) report. This compares with 0.8 percent for all dietary supplements combined, even including substances such as dinitrophenol, a dangerous (and illegal) substance banned in 1938, as well as the central nervous system stimulant Ma Huang (Ephedra). ONE drug alone, the anti-asthma drug theophylline, which was responsible for 15 deaths that year, amounted to 66 percent more than all the available dietary supplements combined.
  • According to CDC mortality data for 2005, prescription drugs killed more than 33,500 people that year, second only to car accidents. That same year, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported 27 deaths that were associated with dietary supplements (one of which was reportedly due to Ephedra; the herbal supplement banned the year before for being too dangerous. In 2005, low-dose Ephedra was also subsequently banned).
  • In 2011, it was reported that there are more than 487 times more adverse event reports for FDA-approved prescription drugs than there are for supplements, and 409 times more serious events for drugs than supplements.14
New York State Has a History of Anti-Supplement Legislation

In 2013, the New York State legislature revealed two bills that showed anti-supplement bias. The first, S3650, would create a system for reporting adverse events related to supplements (even though the FDA already collects them), and give the health commissioner the authority to ban supplements based on any risk they deemed to be "harmful." The Alliance for Natural Health reported:15

"This would undermine the hard-won national regulatory system for supplements under DSHEA, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994—which was enacted to encourage access to nutritional supplements. Creating a 'negative' list of supplements at the state level directly contradicts the process outlined by DSHEA and brings us one step closer to a system of approved vs. non-approved supplements.

Remember, supplements aren't allowed to state their full therapeutic benefits lest they be considered a drug by the FDA. Since it is illegal for producers to cite benefits in any but the most vague terms, the analysis will necessarily be one-sided, and any risk, no matter how tiny, may be deemed sufficient to have the supplement banned. Note that the same rule isn't applied to OTC drugs like acetaminophen, which every year is responsible for 100,000 calls to poison control centers, 56,000 emergency room visits, 26,000 hospitalizations, and more than 450 deaths from liver failure."

The second bill, A.4700, would require sports supplement manufacturers and distributors to hand out pamphlets describing whether the product had been banned by sports leagues and whether there were negative adverse effects or known herb-drug interactions. However, the bill excludes supplements in liquid form and those that contain caffeine, which means those supplements that are sometimes deemed risky, like energy "shots," would not be included.

Perhaps the NY Attorney General will reap what he has sowed, and end up paying the price for putting political motivations ahead of prioritizing real health issues facing citizens of his state.  The New Yorker may have shot a fatal blow at his job security in a piece titled, "How Not to Test a Dietary Supplement".

If you'd like to tell New York legislators to oppose these anti-supplement bills and question the lack of basic knowledge displayed by the NY Attorney General, you can do so here.

Transparency Is Important, But Integrity Is Required

Recalls for supplements attract attacks from those who would prefer to eliminate the supplement industry, as it's seen as a threat to pharmaceuticals. But it's not a fair game when the supplements are recalled due to no fault of their own, but rather due to flawed and inadequate testing. Then it's a witch-hunt. The supplement industry would do well to be as transparent as possible in every aspect of their manufacturing.

There are certainly plenty of shady characters in every industry, and illegal acts occur across the board - including the supplement industry.   But there is a difference between compliance and enforcement, the fact that illegal supplements exist is not because more regulations are necessary when current regulations are not enforced.

From now on, my own products will have videos explaining the formulation and manufacturing processes used, and include video walk-throughs of the plant where my products are made. Below are two such videos. The first shows the RFI manufacturing facility, where many of my nutritional supplements are made. The second explains the Licaps (liquid capsule) technology, and why I've chosen this particular technology for my liquid supplements.



Antibiotic Resistance Will Kill 300 Million People by 2050

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Three problems with the US food supply that is making food a source of disease rather than optimal health include: the way our food is raised; the way it's processed; and the routine use of hazardous drugs and chemicals.

The United States is one of the few countries in the world that produces and processes food in a way that defies both science and common sense.

As noted in the featured TED lecture, 86 percent of every dollar you spend at the grocery store goes toward paying for processing and marketing of the food. A mere 14 percent goes to the farmer that actually grows the food ingredients in question.

This alone should tell you that that inexpensive processed food item you buy is hardly a bargain. Not only are you getting very little real food, as there are so many fillers and additives tossed in, you're also getting very little in terms of healthy nutrition.

This is important, as your body is not designed to process and thrive on a base of disease causing ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated vegetable oil.

EU Balks at US Foodstuffs

A recent Washington Post1 article reports that many Europeans are now worried that a new “free-trade” deal (it’s as free as the Patriot Act was patriotic) that will introduce “culinary nightmares” like hormone-treated beef, chlorine-washed chicken, and glyphosate soaked genetically engineered ingredients.

Many other nations have shunned food manufacturing practices that are routinely used in the US, and for good reason.

As noted by one organic French farmer: "In France, food is about pleasure, about taste. But in the United States, they put anything in their mouths. No, this must be stopped." According to the Washington Post:

"In October, tens of thousands of people from 22 E.U. countries took to the streets to protest the deal. The protests included flash mobs in Belgium and a demonstration in Copenhagen that used a 24-foot Trojan horse to symbolize the hidden risks of the trade deal.

Even in Britain — a nation hardly known for the glories of its national cuisine — fear and loathing of modified American foods, and the trade deal in general, appear to be running surprisingly strong...

'It's possibly one of the most dangerous agreements,' the British TV chef Jamie Oliver told the Times of London. He added: 'We don't have hormones in our meat; that's banned. But not over there. We don't have hundreds of poisons and pesticides that have been proven to be carcinogenic. They do.'"

Antibiotic Resistance Will Kill 300 Million People by 2050

Perhaps one of the most objectionable of US food practices is the routine use of antibiotics in livestock for growth-promoting purposes.

Agriculture accounts for about 80 percent of all antibiotics used in the US, so it's a primary source of antibiotic exposure, and it's the continuous use of low dose antibiotics that permits bacteria to survive and become increasingly hardy and drug resistant.

A brand new report2 commissioned by UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, estimates that by 2050 antibiotic resistance will have killed 300 million people; the annual global death toll reaching 10 million.

The global cost for treatment is estimated to hit $100 trillion by 2050. Health law expert Kevin Outterson told Scientific American:3

"You can look at antibiotic resistance as a slow moving global train wreck, which will happen over the next 35 years. If we do nothing, this report shows us the likely magnitude of the costs."

A mere 15 years from now, in the year 2030, antibiotic-resistant disease—if left to spiral out of control—is expected to have killed 100 million. Resistant malaria is a likely candidate as the top killer, while resistant E.coli would account for the greatest chunk of the financial burden, due to its prevalence.

The FDA has admitted since 1977 that this practice is a serious threat. 

We have the animal drug manufacturers and a clueless and corrupt federal government for looking the other way and leading the world off a deadly cliff for the sake of profits. Antibiotic-resistant diseases may be the single most deadly threat to our very existence.

Signs Supporting the Worst-Case 'Global Train Wreck' Scenario

The review in no uncertain terms spells out that there is clear and present danger and that the world must act now, lest we be thrown into the pre-antibiotic dark ages when common infections were lethal. Clearly we are already well on our way:

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention4 (CDC) data show that two million American adults and children become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year. At least 23,000 Americans die each year as a direct result of an antibiotic-resistant infection. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) also attribute nearly 133,000 illnesses each year to contaminated chicken parts. Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) kills more Americans each year than the combined total of emphysema, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson's disease, and homicide.5 Between 1973 and 2011, there were 55 antibiotic-resistant foodborne outbreaks in the US, and more than half of them involved pathogens resistant to five or more antibiotics.6 Despite evidence that the situation is getting out of control and we're losing even our strongest antibiotics to resistance, between 2008 and 2013, less than one percent of available research funds in the UK and Europe were spent on antibiotic research.7 Support the Solution—Demand Meat Without Antibiotics

The issue of antibiotic-resistance is a major reason for choosing organic, pastured meats and other animal products, including eggs and dairy. It is in fact the only animal products I recommend eating. Other reasons for avoiding CAFO meats include animal welfare, environmental health issues, and avoiding GMOs and pesticides, as most of these animals are also fed GMO grains contaminated with the pesticides they're bred to resist or produce internally.

There are some glimmers of hope though. Six of the largest school districts in the US recently decided to switch to antibiotic-free chicken in their cafeterias,8 which will put pressure on meat companies like Tyson, Perdue, and Pilgrim's Pride to adjust their production practices. Earlier this year, Chick-fil-A vowed to switch to antibiotic-free chicken within the next five years. 

Chipotle is another franchise that serves responsibly raised beef steaks. Most recently, fast-food chain Carl's Jr. rolled out a burger made with grass-fed, free-range beef, promising to be free of antibiotics, steroids and hormones.9  MeatWithoutDrugs.org10 has also organized a campaign, calling for Trader Joe's to exclusively source its meat from animals raised without antibiotics. You can sign the petition here. You can also download and print out a flyer and take it with you the next time you visit your local Trader Joe's store.

"As one of the most progressive national retailers, Trader Joe's has already demonstrated care for their customers' health by saying no to GMOs, artificial colors and trans fats in the products they sell. Trader Joe's can also be a leader by helping move the livestock industry in the right direction," the organization says.

What Does the Label Mean?

Of course, when you're looking for antibiotic-free meat, you want to know what to look for. MeatWithoutDrugs lists a number of labels11 currently in use; some of which are useful, and some of which can be downright deceptive:

100% USDA Organic label offers excellent assurance that antibiotics have not been used at any stage of production. "No antibiotics administered" and similar labels also offer high assurance that antibiotics have not been used, especially if accompanied by a "USDA process Verified" shield. "Grass-fed" label coupled with USDA Organic label means no antibiotics have been used, but if the "grass-fed" label appears alone, antibiotics may have been given. "American Grass-fed" and "Food Alliance Grass-fed" labels indicate that in addition to having been raised on grass, the animal in question received no antibiotics. The following three labels: "Antibiotic-free," "No antibiotic residues," and "No antibiotic growth promotants," have not been approved by the USDA and may be misleading if not outright fraudulent. "Natural" or "All-Natural" is completely meaningless and has no bearing on whether or not the animal was raised according to organic principles. "Natural" meat and poultry products can by law receive antibiotics, hormones, and genetically engineered grains, and can be raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Most CAFO Chicken Has Been Washed in Chlorine

The US is also known for a number of processing practices that other nations will not allow. One of them is washing chicken in chlorine, to reduce the presence of potentially pathogenic bacteria (which are there in the first place as a direct result of being raised in a CAFO environment). The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) permits poultry producers to put all poultry through an antimicrobial wash, using chlorine which will create large amounts of dangerous disinfection byproducts LINK. and other chemicals to kill pathogens

We already have a problem with antibiotics causing antibiotic-resistant "super germs" when used in the animals' feed, and this likely makes the problem even worse. Workers in the plants have also reported health problems from the chemical washes, including asthma and other respiratory problems. Not to mention it's unclear how much of the chlorine residue remains on the chicken when you eat it. In the European Union (EU), the use of chlorine washes is not only banned, but they won't even accept US poultry that's been treated with these antimicrobial sprays.

Both the USDA and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claim that giving chickens a chlorine bath is safe, but that's not enough to convince many Germans, who are among the most vocal opponents to a free trade agreement between the US and EU. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) could generate an estimated $100 billion a year in economic growth for both the US and the EU, but many Germans believe a trade agreement with the US would compromise their food safety and quality. According to Reuters:12

"The phrase 'Chlorhuehnchen,' or chlorine chicken, has entered the parlance of everyone from taxi drivers to housewives since trade negotiations began a year ago. An Internet search for the term generates thousands of results, bringing up cartoons of animals dumped in vats of chemicals and stabbed with needles. A majority of Germans believe chlorine-washed chicken is a danger to human health despite its successful use in the United States to kill bacteria, according to survey by pollster Forsa."

Factory Chicken Farmer Reveals the Truth About His Operation

The routine use of antibiotics isn't the only problem with factory farmed animals. Some chicken producers have already stopped using antibiotics, but that doesn't make their operations any healthier—for the animal or for you. In the video above, Leah Garces of Compassion in World Farming visits Craig Watts, a contract farmer for Perdue. Dissatisfied with the system, he has taken the bold step to show everyone the reality hiding behind his barn doors. "There's a lot of flaws in the system," he says. "The consumer is being hoodwinked."

His chicken farm raises about 30,000 chickens at a time, and over a six week growing period, it's considered normal for at least 1,000 of them to die. Causes of death include illness, genetic problems, and injuries occurring from overcrowding. The chicks are sent to the contract farmer from Perdue, and the farmer has no control over the health or genetics of the chicks they receive. Their only job is to raise them, and in order to fatten them up faster, the farmers are actually contractually prohibited from giving the flock access to open air and sunshine, because the less the chickens move, and the more they eat, the bigger they grow.

What You Need to Know About the USDA Process Verified Label

Perdue chickens are USDA Process Verified, meaning the following criteria have been fulfilled:

  • Raised cage-free
  • All vegetarian diet
  • No animal byproducts
  • No antibiotics ever
  • Humanely raised

After watching the video, it will be quite clear that loopholes abound... They're not caged, but the chickens are crammed in so tightly they still can barely move, forcing them to sit in feces for the entirety of their lives, resulting in open sores. They may also be antibiotic-free, but the chickens Watts raises hardly look healthy. Nor does it seem like a truly humane way of raising chickens. As noted in a report by Wired Magazine,13 Perdue recently agreed to stop using the "humane" claim on one of their labels. Compassion in World Farming says that's not enough:

"Americans think they are buying chickens raised in idyllic pasture when the meat is labeled 'natural.' But what they are actually buying are chickens raised on a bed of feces-filled litter that hasn't been change for years. They are buying chickens bred to get so big, so fast they can't stand on their own two feet. They are buying chickens raised in dimly lit warehouses, who never see the light of day except when coming from the hatchery or heading to slaughter. With an image of green pastures in their mind, shoppers are picking up a package of chicken from a factory farm."

Secrecy Is Necessary to Perpetuate Factory Farming

This kind of "false front" is endemic in the American food supply. Philip Lymbery, an animal-welfare activist and author of the book Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat, notes that one of the techniques used to perpetuate factory farming is in fact secrecy. For example, in Europe, eggs from caged hens are marked "battery eggs," whereas in the US, those same eggs are labeled as "farm fresh" or "country fresh."

If you don't know there's a problem, you won't demand change, and there's every reason to suspect that that is also why the food industry is fighting tooth and nail to prevent labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the US, as well as legislation that would prevent them from fraudulently labeling GMOs as "Natural."

Even nutritionists are dissuaded from talking about the environment when making food recommendations—and that directive comes straight from the US Congress. As reported by 91.3 WYSO radio, a government-appointed group of nutrition experts working on an updated set of dietary guidelines decided to collect data on environmental implications of various food choices. But Congress subsequently blocked their efforts by attaching a directive to a spending bill that was recently passed by House and Senate. In it, Congress directs the Obama administration to ignore environmental factors in the revisions of the dietary guidelines.

Other Smokescreens and Fail-Safes

Another type of smoke screen used to keep you in the dark about how your food is grown and processed is to simply change the words in use. For example, the pork industry has recommended hog farmers quit using the word "gestation crate," replacing it with a more humane-sounding "individual maternity pen." Alas, we're still talking about the same exact thing: a two-foot-wide cage where breeding pigs spend nearly their entire lives, unable to even turn around. Other examples include "harvesting" animals rather than "slaughtering" and "environmentally controlled housing" in lieu of the confinement barns they really are.

As a final "fail-safe," several US states also have so-called ag-gag laws in place. The laws, which are being heavily promoted by lobbyists for the meat, egg and dairy industries, effectively prevent anyone from exposing animal cruelty and food-safety issues at CAFOs by:

  • Making it illegal to take undercover photos or videos
  • Requiring anyone applying for a job at a CAFO to disclose affiliations with animal rights groups
  • Requiring activists to hand over undercover videos immediately
  • Requiring mandatory reporting with extremely short timelines so patterns of abuse cannot be documented

These undercover videos and revelations by whistleblowers are often the only glimpse that Americans get into the world of industrialized agriculture. But the industry knows that the more they see, the more uncomfortable people will become with supporting this broken system.

UN Calls for End to Industrialized Farming

Many still believe that industrial farming, CAFOs, genetic engineering, and heavy chemical use are necessary in order to feed an ever-growing population. But numerous studies and reports have concluded that this simply isn't true. As recently reported by Truth Out:14

"In 2013, the United Nations announced that the world's agricultural needs can be met with localized organic farms.15 That's right, we do not need giant monocultures that pour, spray and coat our produce with massive amounts of poisons, only to create mutant pests and weeds while decimating pollinators and harming human health. Don't believe the hype: We do not need genetically modified foods 'to feed the world'...

Organic agriculture, which has gone from a fringe movement to a multibillion industry, can produce high yields and withstand disaster and duress much better than chemical-reliant crops, according to reports coming out of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM),16 which held its 18th annual world congress in Istanbul this past October. And a 30-year study17 from the Rodale Institute showed that organic farm fields yielded 33 percent more in drought years compared with chemically managed ones."

According to the UN's Trade and Environment Review, shifting away from industrialized farming toward more bio-diverse, ecological, and localized farming practices can address a number of pressing issues, including food security, poverty, gender inequality, and climate change. The answer, they say, lies in a localized food system that promotes consumption of regional produce, because smaller, more diversified farms employ greater numbers of people, and produce more food on less land. They also use less water, and by using ecological principles, they don't need to use nearly as many chemicals, if any at all.

The New Ethics of Food Consumption

Conscientious consumers are making a dent in the system, albeit slowly, and while facing fierce opposition with every small step. Case in point, the story of Hilliker's Ranch, where a brand new and far more humane system has been installed. Here, 8,000 chickens are raised in aviary roosts, where each animal has a private matted space. A conveyor belt shuttles away the waste, while another collects the eggs. As noted by the Christian Science Monitor:18

"The conscience of consumers increasingly aware of the treatment of animals that become their burgers and chicken fingers has thrown a wrench in the gears of industrial farming, which has raced since the end of World War II to raise and slaughter animals faster and more efficiently, without much regard for their welfare.

There are people on all sides of the issue – farmers, distributors, government regulators, animal welfare advocates, and research scientists – who concur that animal welfare is now an established and growing ethic in the US production of food. The view that food animals are simply a commodity is yielding increasingly – albeit haltingly – to the perception that these animals are also sentient beings deserving of more-humane treatment."

According to a recent poll,19 56 percent of Americans say they're willing to pay more for eggs, knowing they came from hens raised with enough space to stretch their limbs; 49 percent are also willing to pay more for bacon, ham, or pork from pigs raised with enough space to move. Clearly, most people do not want animals to suffer unnecessarily in order for us to eat, and as awareness of industry practices grows, I'm hopeful we'll see more changes come about.

We Can Change the System One Family at a Time...

I believe the movement toward sustainable food and ethical meat is very important, both in terms of human health and animal welfare. Organic, grass-fed and finished meat, raised without antibiotics and other growth promoting drugs is really the only type of meat that is healthy to eat, in my view. The following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh foods in your local area that has been raised in a humane and sustainable manner:

  • Local Harvest -- This Web site will help you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
  • Eat Wild: With more than 1,400 pasture-based farms, Eatwild's Directory of Farms is one of the most comprehensive sources for grass-fed meat and dairy products in the United States and Canada.
  • Farmers' Markets -- A national listing of farmers' markets.
  • Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals -- The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
  • FoodRoutes -- The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs, and markets near you.

Top US Doctor Says Medical Marijuana May Help Some Conditions

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 02:00

This is a Flash-based video and may not be viewable on mobile devices.

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By Dr. Mercola

The use of marijuana for medical purposes is now legal in 23 states, and two more are considering legalization for medical use by 2016.1 On a federal level, however, the herb is still considered a Schedule 1 controlled substance (other Schedule 1 drugs include heroin, LSD, Ecstasy, methaqualone and peyote).

It received this label in 1970, when the Controlled Substance Act was enacted. This act labeled cannabis as a drug with a "high potential for abuse" and "no accepted medical use," which clearly is not an accurate description – just ask US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.

In an interview with CBS This Morning, Murthy said, “We have some preliminary data showing that for certain medical conditions and symptoms, marijuana can be helpful."2 His statement echoes a growing sentiment in the medical and scientific communities that the health benefits of marijuana should no longer be ignored.

It’s Time to Acknowledge the Medicinal Effects of Marijuana

Marijuana was a popular botanical medicine in the 19th and early 20th centuries, common in US pharmacies of the time (and its use can actually be dated back to 2700 BC3). Today a wealth of research shows marijuana does have outstanding promise as a medicinal plant, largely due to its cannabidiol (CBD) content.

Cannabinoids interact with your body by way of naturally occurring cannabinoid receptors embedded in cell membranes throughout your body. There are cannabinoid receptors in your brain, lungs, liver, kidneys, immune system, and more. Both the therapeutic and psychoactive properties of marijuana occur when a cannabinoid activates a cannabinoid receptor.

Research is still ongoing on just how extensive their impact is on our health, but to date it's known that cannabinoid receptors play an important role in many body processes, including metabolic regulation, cravings, pain, anxiety, bone growth, and immune function.4

Some of the strongest research to date is focused on marijuana for pain relief and better sleep. In one study, just three puffs of marijuana a day for five days helped those with chronic nerve pain to relieve pain and sleep better.5

Americans for Safe Access also has links to research studies suggesting that cannabis may help in the treatment or prevention of Alzheimer's disease and cancer, noting:6

"To date, more than 15,000 modern peer-reviewed scientific articles on the chemistry and pharmacology of cannabis and cannabinoids have been published, as well as more than 2,000 articles on the body's natural endocannabinoids. In recent years, more placebo-controlled human trials have also been conducted.

A 2009 review of clinical studies conducted over a 38-year period, found that 'nearly all of the 33 published controlled clinical trials conducted in the United States have shown significant and measurable benefits in subjects receiving the treatment.'

The review's authors note that cannabinoids have the capacity for analgesia through neuromodulation in ascending and descending pain pathways, neuroprotection, and anti-inflammatory mechanisms—all of which indicates that the cannabinoids found in cannabis have applications in managing chronic pain, muscle spasticity, cachexia, and other debilitating conditions.

Currently, cannabis is most often recommended as complementary or adjunct medicine. But there is a substantial consensus among experts in the relevant disciplines, including the American College of Physicians, that cannabis and cannabis-based medicines have therapeutic properties that could potentially treat a variety of serious and chronic illness."

American Academy of Pediatrics Calls for DEA to Reclassify Marijuana

In January 2015, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) updated their policy statement on marijuana.7 In their updated version, they acknowledge that cannabinoids from marijuana “may currently be an option for… children with life-limiting or severely debilitating conditions and for whom current therapies are inadequate.”

While frowning on recreational use, the AAP gave their “strong” support for research and development as well as a “review of policies promoting research on the medical use of these compounds.”

They recommended downgrading marijuana from a schedule I drug on the DEA’s schedule to a schedule II drug, in order to facilitate increased research. The fact is, research to date has been very promising, but there’s still a lot we don’t know.

A large part of why there are so many unanswered questions about marijuana’s health potential is because it has been strictly controlled by the government, even when it comes to carefully controlled research. Americans for Safe Access explained:8

“It can be difficult to locate information about the safety and therapeutic value of cannabis. An unfortunate result of the federal prohibition of cannabis has been limited clinical research to investigate the safety and efficacy of cannabis to control symptoms of serious and chronic illness.

Many scientists have noted research is 'hindered by a complicated federal approval process, limited availability of research grade marijuana, and the debate over legalization.'”

Potent Painkillers Are in a Less-Restricted Drug Class Than Marijuana

One of the strongest areas of research regarding marijuana’s health benefits pertains to pain. In 2010, the Center for Medical Cannabis Research (CMCR) released a report on 14 clinical studies (most of which were FDA-approved, double-blind and placebo-controlled) on the use of marijuana for pain. The studies revealed that marijuana not only controls pain, but in some cases it did so better than available alternatives.9 While prescription painkillers were responsible for 16,600 deaths in 2010, one study found "little, if any effect of marijuana use on… mortality in men and… women."10

Yet, ironically, oxycodone, fentanyl, and meperidine (Demerol), which are among the most commonly abused opioids and leading causes of opioid overdose deaths, are Schedule II drugs, meaning they should technically be less dangerous than marijuana, a Schedule I drug. Meanwhile, until recently certain opioid prescription drugs such as Vicodin were classified as Schedule III substances, which are defined as "drugs with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence."

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only recently recommended tighter controls on painkiller prescriptions, and has announced its intention to reclassify hydrocodone-containing painkillers from Schedule III to Schedule II drugs. While critics of medical marijuana (which, by the way, are in the minority, as 85-95 percent of Americans are in favor of medical cannabis, and 58-59 percent are in favor of legalizing marijuana) point out its risks, they pale in comparison to those of opioids. While some do become addicted, or at least dependent, on marijuana, it is far less addictive – and far less deadly -- than prescription opioids.

Is Marijuana a Potential Cancer Treatment?

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In his medical practice, Dr. Frankel treats a wide variety of patients with medical cannabis, which has become his specialty. Despite the many claims of cannabis performing miracles, he's reluctant to think of it as a cure for anything. Occasionally, however, patients will experience very dramatic results. For example, he has seen tumors virtually disappear in some patients using no other therapy except taking 40 to 60 milligrams of cannabinoids a day. The most common thing he sees in cancer patients, however, are tumors shrinking, or a metastasis disappearing. Sometimes tumors will shrink or vanish, only to reemerge in other areas, months later, and then shrink or vanish again...

And according to Americans for Safe Access:11

“To date, studies have shown that cannabinoids arrest many kinds of cancer growths through promotion of apoptosis (programmed cell death) in tumors and by arresting angiogenesis (increased blood vessel production). Cannabinoids have also been shown to halt the proliferation or spread of cancer cells in a wide variety of cancer types. Unlike conventional chemotherapy treatments that work by creating a toxic environment in the body that frequently compromises overall health, cannabinoids have been shown to selectively target tumor cells.

…The direct anti-tumor and anti-proliferation activity of cannabinoids, specifically CB1 and CB2 agonists, has now been demonstrated in dozens of studies across a range of cancer types, including brain (gliomas), breast, liver, leukemic, melanoma, phaeochromocytoma, cervical, pituitary, prostate and bowel. The anti-tumor activity has led in laboratory animals and in-vitro human tissues to regression of tumors, reductions in vascularisation (blood supply) and metastases (secondary tumors), as well as the direct destruction of cancer cells (apoptosis).”

In the video Run From the Cure, below, you can also see Rick Simpson, a man who was openly growing hemp in his backyard and using it to produce hemp oil, which he gave, for free, to his friends and family. The oil, Simpson and many others claim, has a remarkable healing effect on countless diseases and conditions, including cancer. After numerous raids by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Simpson was forced to seek asylum in another country, but his Web site, Phoenix Tears, still stands. There you can find instructions on how to produce hemp oil, as well as testimonials from people who say the oil has helped them.

Industrial Hemp to Be Grown in Washington State

In early 2015, Senate Bill 5012, to allow the growing of industrial hemp in Washington state, was passed. The growing of industrial hemp will now be authorized as an agricultural activity, and Washington State University will study its production, with a report set to be released in 2016.12 This is progress in the right direction, since the US is the only industrialized nation where growing industrial hemp is illegal. Well, technically it is not illegal, but growing it requires a permit from the DEA – and it is reportedly almost impossible to get one.

This is unfortunate because hemp is a hardy, renewable raw material that can be used to make health foods, natural body care, biofuel, plastic composites, construction materials, clothing, and much more. In Colonial times in Jamestown, Virginia, growing hemp was actually mandatory.13 According to Dr. Frankel, cannabis has been cultivated in Northern Europe since before the last Ice Age. Even back then, there were two very distinct groups of strains.

One is cannabis; the other is hemp. There's plenty of confusion about the similarities and differences between these two plants. Despite their differences, the US DEA classifies all C. sativa varieties as "marijuana."  While they are subspecies of the same plant species, they look very different, and are extremely different in ways that really matter when it comes to medicinal (and recreational) use. To summarize:

  • Hemp has less value for medicinal uses, as it only contains about 4 percent cannabidiol (CBD) and lacks many of the medicinal terpenes and flavonoids. It also contains less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which means it cannot produce a high or get you stoned. However, for many disease processes, THC is very much indicated and required. So, for many disease processes, CBD alone has much less value.
  • Cannabis is potent medicine courtesy of high amounts (about 10-20 percent) of CBD, critical levels of medicinal terpenes, and flavonoids, as well as THC in varying ratios for various diseases. The higher the THC, the more pronounced its psychoactive effects

The fact that it is now coming back to the US is a positive sign, not only for the economy (currently most hemp seed, oil, and fiber is imported) but also because it means regulators are starting to understand the vast differences between hemp and marijuana -- legalizing hemp is not the same thing as legalizing marijuana. Washington is not the only state slated to grow industrial hemp. At least 31 states have introduced, and 19 have passed, pro-hemp legislation.

On a federal level, the Agricultural Act of 2014 also included language in favor of hemp, and authorized “institutions of higher education or state department's of agriculture in states that legalized hemp cultivation to promulgate regulations to grow hemp as an agricultural pilot program.”14 The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015 is also attempting to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana so that hemp may be grown as an agricultural product.

Marijuana as a Schedule I Drug Supports Prisons as Profit Centers

In the US, where there are more prisoners than farmers, most new prisons are built in rural, often economically depressed, areas. They are heralded by economic development professionals as “economic engines,” which (along with gambling casinos and concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs) have become a leading source of proposed economic growth in rural America. In 2014, Sen. Dick Durbin was criticized for touting the activation of Thomson Correctional Center in rural Thomson, Illinois as the key to “the economic future of northern Illinois.”15 The federal government contributed $53 million to open the dormant prison, which Durbin also cited as an untapped source of jobs.

Research is lacking to show what, if any, benefits prisons bring to rural areas over time, but, as Prison Policy pointed out, “Hundreds of small rural towns and several whole regions have become dependent on an industry which itself is dependent on the continuation of crime-producing conditions.”16 This brings us back full-circle to marijuana – a plant that sends millions into the US prison system. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), marijuana arrests account for more than half of all drug arrests in the US. And of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests made between 2001 and 2010, the vast majority (88 percent) were for simply having marijuana.17 

If marijuana were legalized, these arrests would cease… and perhaps the profit-centers in rural America – the prisons – would cease to exist as well. Pharmaceutical profits could also be threatened. There's no doubt that marijuana needs to be rescheduled, and Dr. Frankel actually thinks marijuana should be de-scheduled altogether, as a plant really does not belong on any schedule of a controlled substance. The federal government, meanwhile, seems to want to get rid of medical use of marijuana, which, in light of its many medicinal effects, begs the question: Why?

According to Dr. Frankel, the answer is simple. "They want it. This is a huge market," he says. And yes, medical cannabis is clearly competition to the pharmaceutical industry, as the cannabis plant can take the place of a wide variety of synthetic drugs, especially for mood and anxiety disorders. The last thing they want is a therapy that's going to take away from their bottom line, and, perhaps, the last thing the prison system wants is to legalize a plant that’s going to take away from theirs.

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