By Barbara Loe Fisher
The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) recently reported that the federal government has directed all public and private schools to publish vaccination and personal belief vaccine exemption rates, even though less than 1.7 percent of kindergarten children have any vaccine exemptions and less than 1 percent of children under 36 months old are unvaccinated.1,2,3
This Centers for Disease Control (CDC) directive comes at a time when nationwide, 94 percent of kindergarten students have gotten multiple doses of federally recommended vaccines for the past three decades,4 including five doses of pertussis and two doses of measles containing vaccines.
But what the CDC is not telling parents is the rest of the story about the real health status of school children in America.
Perhaps the CDC is pursuing higher and higher vaccination rates and gutting vaccine exemptions to try to take attention away from the chronic disease and disability epidemic sweeping through classrooms that makes it harder and harder for children to learn and be healthy.
California is serving as the CDC's role model for how states can go about shaming schools with less than a 95 percent vaccine coverage rate and blaming students with non-medical vaccine exemptions for endangering the public health.
After California health officials joined with the liability-free pharmaceutical and medical trade industries this year to lobby for elimination of the personal belief vaccine exemption (PBE) so they could segregate partially and unvaccinated children into homeschools,5 they created a new website with an interactive map.
There they posted the names and addresses of kindergarten and middle schools; the numbers of children enrolled; the personal belief exemption (PBE) rate; up to date (UTD) vaccination rate, and the coverage rates for nine state mandated vaccines, including DPT, polio, MMR, hepatitis B, and varicella zoster vaccines.6Putting Color Stars on Schools
The CDC has created a similar national website dedicated to incentivizing all states to use electronic medical records and vaccine tracking systems to publish school vaccination and PBE rates.7
But health officials in California have gone one step further: they also "rate" schools from "safest" to "most vulnerable" with the following color-coded rating system:
If government health officials are determined to violate the medical privacy of children, and post detailed vaccination and PBE rates for schools, then at the end of the 2015 to 2016 school year, parents should have access to much more relevant health information about each school and the students attending those schools, information like:
- The total number of sick days taken by students due to illness
- The percentage of students infected with HIV, hepatitis, tuberculosis, syphilis, and other transmittable diseases
- The percentage of chronically ill students on medication for asthma, diabetes, ADHD, epilepsy, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and depression
- The percentage of students with life-threatening peanut and other severe allergies
- The percentage of students with learning disabilities, autism, and other conditions requiring special education services
- The percentage of fully vaccinated and unvaccinated students who contracted infectious diseases
Parents may also want to know the percentage of children in each school who have cancer and other immune-compromising diseases. Immune-deficient children and adults, whether or not they have been vaccinated, are much more vulnerable to becoming infected with both wild type and vaccine-strain viruses.
The immune-compromised also are more likely to shed wild type and vaccine-strain viruses for longer periods of time in their body fluids, and transmit viral infections to other vaccinated and unvaccinated persons.8
If, in the name of transparency and the public health, government health officials are going to identify and demonize schools with a vaccine coverage rate of less than 95 percent and encourage discrimination against and segregation of students with religious and conscientious belief vaccine exemptions.
Especially when almost no medical condition qualifies for a medical exemption9 – then parents deserve to know the truth and nothing but the truth about the health of children attending different schools.
How many are taking medication for severe allergies, asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and depression;12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22 or are suffering with learning disabilities, ADHD, and autism;23,24,25,26 or are severely immune compromised and sick with cancer, HIV, hepatitis, tuberculosis, syphilis, and other kinds of immune-compromising diseases, some of them transmissible?27,28,29,30,31,32,33
These crippling medical conditions have increased by 10 to 100 percent or more among school children over the past 30 years at exactly the same time that public health officials have pounded children with three times more vaccinations than children used to get.
There are long-standing vaccine safety research gaps that the Institute of Medicine identified 20 years ago and as recently as 2013,34,35,36 including lack of adequate evidence that the government's childhood vaccine schedule of 49 doses of 14 vaccines before age 6 is safe.37
And there are still no credible scientific studies funded by government to compare the health of highly vaccinated children with children receiving fewer or no vaccines.Full Transparency or Respect for Human Rights?
Full transparency about the health of schools and student populations would provide parents with a way to identify which schools and school populations are actually healthier, not simply how many children in a school have personal belief vaccine exemptions, or what color star public health officials have pinned on them.
Of course, a more intelligent and compassionate operation of our nation's public health program would serve the people much better, starting with respect for the human right to informed consent to medical risk taking and rejection of the politics of demonization, discrimination, and segregation.38
Protect your right to know and freedom to choose by becoming a vaccine choice advocate in your community today. Go to NVIC.org and NVICAdvocacy.org to learn how. It's your health. Your Family. Your Choice.
Chemical Exposures Are a Major Threat to Human Health and Reproduction, International OB-GYN Report Warns
By Dr. Mercola
According to a newly released report1,2 by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics3 (FIGO), which represents OB-GYNs in 125 countries, chemical exposures represent a major threat to human health.
Toxic chemicals are all around us; in our food, water, air, and countless commonly used products and goods, and this onslaught is having a definitive effect — even when exposures are relatively low.
This is particularly true during pregnancy and early infancy. According to the report:
“Exposure to toxic environmental chemicals during pregnancy and breastfeeding is ubiquitous and is a threat to healthy human reproduction.”
The report is being shared during this year’s global conference on women’s health issues in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The group warns that international trade agreements currently under negotiation lack protections against toxic chemicals, and they also urge health professionals in all countries to advocate for policies that help prevent toxic exposures and ensure a healthy food system.Environmental Chemicals Threaten Human Health and Reproduction
The FIGO report hones in on a number of the most pervasive toxins, including:
- Air pollutants, such as diesel fumes
- Plastic chemicals, such as bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates
Among the health outcomes linked to these toxic chemicals are:
- Reduced cognitive function
The costs associated with these health outcomes are staggering. For example, in Europe, costs associated with exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals alone are estimated at 157 billion Euros per year.
In 2008, the cost associated with childhood diseases linked to toxic exposures in the US was estimated at nearly $77 billion.
To understand just how severe chemical exposures have become, consider this: each year a total of 9.5 trillion pounds of chemicals are manufactured or imported into the US, which translates into 30,000 pounds per American!
All of these chemicals “go” somewhere... They go into food production, building materials, household products, personal care items, furniture, clothing — you name it, it will probably have a variety of chemicals in it.
Chemical emissions and runoff also contaminate our soils, water, and air. As noted by Mother Jones:4
“Dr. Tracey Woodruff, an associate professor at the University of California-San Francisco, says while there are ways individuals can limit their exposure — including building better health practices overall and eating a pesticide-free, healthy diet — more needs to be done to protect everyone.
‘You can do some things to enhance your resiliency to disease or decrease chemical exposures,’ she says, ‘but there are a lot of things that are not in your control.’
That's why FIGO... is calling on health professionals and legislators to support policies that prevent exposure and offering recommendations that could help mitigate health risks, including increasing access to healthy food and incorporating environmental health into health care.”Absorption of Phthalates Via Ambient Air Has Been Confirmed
The idea that chemicals affect your health should come as no surprise. What may be surprising is the extent of your exposure. Most of us go about our day, touching, eating, drinking, and breathing with few concerns about what we’re actually coming into contact with.
Lo and behold, scientific investigations have revealed that even things like household dust, cashier’s receipts, and the floor beneath your feet may be contributing to your health problems.
Recent research5 even shows that when it comes to plasticizing chemicals like phthalates, you don’t even need to come into direct contact with the item in question.
Phthalates can be absorbed transdermally, meaning through your skin, via ambient air. In fact, this may be “a potentially important route of exposure,” the authors claim. Phthalates also accumulate in household dust, posing a risk for toddlers and pets that spend a lot of time crawling around in it on the floor.
As reported by Environmental Health Perspectives:6
“Only recently have scientists started to model dermal absorption of indoor air pollutants. ‘This study, as proof of concept, successfully confirms predictions about that pathway,’ says Gerald Kasting... [who] was not involved in the study.
DEP and DnBP are not the only indoor organic pollutants predicted to have meaningful uptake via dermal absorption directly from the air. More than 30 semi-volatile organic compounds commonly found indoors are predicted to have dermal uptakes similar to or greater than inhalation intake.
‘Our findings suggest that risk assessment models should not ignore the dermal pathway. There are other chemicals abundant in indoor air with the right physical properties… to move from air through skin to blood,’ [study author Charles] Weschler says.”Vinyl Flooring Raises Risk of Pregnancy-Induced Hypertension
Related research7,8,9 shows that phthalates in vinyl flooring can make pregnant women more susceptible to high blood pressure and heart disease. Pregnant women who had the highest levels of phthalate metabolites in their blood were nearly 300 percent more likely to experience pregnancy-induced high blood pressure compared to those with the lowest levels.
And again, even if you don’t walk barefoot on your vinyl floors, the phthalates can migrate out of the floors and contaminate the very air you breathe. The exact mechanisms behind phthalates’ association with heart disease are still under investigation, but it’s thought to be linked to its inflammatory activity.Organic Diet During Pregnancy Reduces Risk of Birth Defects and Other Health Problems
Pesticide exposure is another great concern during pregnancy. A number of studies have linked pesticides to birth defects, and recent research10 shows that the risk of two common urogenital birth defects in male children can be decreased by eating organic foods during pregnancy. As reported by the Institute of Science in Society:11
“The study analyzed over 37,000 women and children pairs, finding that women who consume any organic food during pregnancy are 0.42 times as likely to give birth to a boy with hypospadias as those who report seldom or never eating organic food. This decrease is modest but significant, and builds on a growing list of studies linking pesticides and other endocrine disrupters to these types of defects.”
Hypospadias is a condition in which the urethra is located on the underside of the penis instead of at the tip. Prevalence of this birth defect has risen in many countries, and now affects about one in every 250 male children in the US. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, rates of hypospadias doubled between 1968 and 1993. Pesticides are not the only chemicals increasing the risk of these kinds of birth defects.
Phthalates have been found to play a role as well, which isn’t so surprising when you consider that hormonal abnormalities has been identified as the key causative factor in this condition. Besides phthalates, a number of other plastic chemicals are known to mimic and disrupt the balance of sex hormones, including bisphenol-A and bisphenol-S (BPA and BPS). Hormone-disrupting chemicals have also been implicated in a number of other health conditions, including:DiabetesObesity Heart disease Infertility Hormone-sensitive cancers such as breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancers Prostate cancer Thyroid disease Poor brain development and diminished cognitive function in children Task Force Urges Everyone to Proactively Avoid Endocrine-Disrupting Hormones
Based on a review of more than 1,300 studies, an Endocrine Society task force recently issued a new scientific statement12,13 on endocrine-disrupting chemicals, noting that the health effects of hormone-disrupting chemicals is such that everyone needs to take proactive steps to avoid them. The statement also calls for improved safety testing to determine which chemicals may cause problems.
The task force, which is made up of doctors who actually treat patients with hormone-related problems, warn that endocrine-disrupting chemicals can have an impact on subsequent generations, and they urge infertility doctors to advice their patients to avoid hormone disruptors to improve their odds of successful conception and a healthy baby. Doctors also need to warn pregnant women and parents of young children about the risks associated with common chemical exposures.
At present, there are some 85,000 chemicals in use in the US, and no one knows exactly how many may act as hormone disruptors as the vast majority of these chemicals have not undergone safety testing. As noted by one of the members of the task force, even if only one percent of these chemicals cause hormone disruption, that would equate to about 850 different chemicals, making avoidance difficult. That said, among the chemicals most well-known for their hormone disrupting potential, even at low doses, are:
- BPA/BPS, found in plastics, the lining of canned foods, and cash register receipts
- Phthalates, found in soft plastics, vinyl flooring, perfumes, soaps, shampoos, and cosmetics
- Certain pesticides
- Triclosan, found in a wide array of antimicrobial products, such as soaps and hand sanitizers
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's best-selling herbicide Roundup, is one of the most commonly used herbicides in the world. An estimated one billion pounds a year is sprayed on our food crops, resulting in the average American eating several hundred pounds of glyphosate-contaminated food every year. In March, glyphosate was reclassified as a Class 2 A “probable carcinogen” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a division of the World Health Organization (WHO).
The California’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also issued a notice of intent14 to label glyphosate as “known to cause cancer.” Six months after the IARC’s report became public, Enrique Rubio, a farm worker, and Judi Fitzgerald, an horticultural assistant, sued Monsanto claiming Roundup caused their cancers, and that the company falsified safety data, intentionally mislead regulators about Roundup’s dangers, and failed to properly warn users about its carcinogenic potential.
According to Reuters:15
“Attorney Robin Greenwald, one of the attorneys who brought Rubio’s case, said on Tuesday that she expects more lawsuits to follow because Roundup is the most widely used herbicide in the world and the WHO cancer classification gives credence to long-held concerns about the chemical. ‘I believe there will be hundreds of lawsuits brought over time,’ said Greenwald. Monsanto spokeswoman Charla Lord said that the claims are without merit and that glyphosate is safe for humans when used as labeled.”More Legal Troubles for Monsanto
Monsanto’s legal troubles over its toxic products don’t end there. A French appeals court recently upheld a guilty ruling against Monsanto in the chemical poisoning case of a French farmer who used Roundup. The company is also tying up the courts in St. Louis, Missouri, where several residents have sued Monsanto claiming they developed lymphohematopoietic cancer as a result of PCB exposure.16
Monsanto was the primary manufacturer of PCBs in the US from 1929 until about 1977, and a number of lawsuits over PCB pollution has been brought since the ban on PCBs took effect. In 2002, Monsanto was found guilty of decades of "outrageous acts of pollution" in the town of Anniston, Alabama. Residents accused the company of dumping PCBs into the local river and a landfill. Court records showed Monsanto was aware of the toxic effects of PCB for at least three decades, but that the company refused to take corrective action due to cost.
All of Monsanto’s products are rooted in chemicals, and there’s nothing “green” about that. Earlier this year, San Diego sued Monsanto for polluting the Coronado Bay with PCBs. Monsanto always has been, and still is, a chemical company.
Moreover, Monsanto has made a habit out of marketing its chemicals as exceptionally safe and beneficial, only to decades later be revealed to be exceptionally toxic. In recent years, it has tried to greenwash its image, claiming it is now an agricultural company. But let’s face it, its main bread and butter are:
- Roundup, a carcinogen and promoter of antibiotic resistance
- Genetically engineered Roundup resistant seeds, which by their design end up being more heavily contaminated with this toxin
- Genetically engineered Bt plants, which are actually registered with the EPA as a pesticide,17 since the entire plant is designed to produce Bt toxin internally
FIGO’s report also discusses the hazards of air pollution, which brings us to the Volkswagen scandal. As reported by The New York Times18 in September, Volkswagen admitted equipping 11 million of its diesel cars with software used to cheat on emissions tests. According to the NYT report:
“The software sensed when the car was being tested and then activated equipment that reduced emissions... But the software turned the equipment off during regular driving, increasing emissions far above legal limits, possibly to save fuel or to improve the car’s torque and acceleration.”
In a follow up article19 bearing the headline, “How Many Deaths Did Volkswagen’s Deception Cause in the U.S.?”, The New York Times addresses the potential health ramifications of Volkswagen’s deception. “After consulting with several experts in modeling the health effects of air pollutants, we calculated a death toll in the United States that, at its upper range, isn’t far off from that caused by the G.M. defect,” the article states, referring to the General Motors ignition defect that caused at least 124 deaths. In Europe, where Volkswagen’s vehicles are far more common, the effect has likely been far greater.
Air pollution generated by car exhaust fumes is well known to cause both respiratory disease and heart problems, and as noted in a third New York Times article,20 there’s a clear connection between cleaner air and longer life:
“Numerous studies have found that the Clean Air Act has substantially improved air quality and averted tens of thousands of premature deaths from heart and respiratory disease... Applying that formula to EPA particulate data from 1970 to 2012 yields striking results for American cities.
In Los Angeles, particulate pollution has declined by more than half since 1970. The average Angeleno lives about a year and eight months longer. Residents of New York and Chicago have gained about two years on average. With more than 42 million people currently living in these three metropolitan areas, the total gains in life expectancy add up quickly.”Tips to Help You Avoid Toxic Chemicals
Considering all the potential sources of toxic chemicals, it’s virtually impossible to avoid all of them. However, you CAN limit your exposure by keeping a number of key principles in mind.
- Eat a diet focused on locally grown, fresh, and ideally organic whole foods. Processed and packaged foods are a common source of chemicals such as BPA and phthalates. Wash fresh produce well, especially if it’s not organically grown.
- Choose grass-pastured, sustainably raised meats and dairy to reduce your exposure to hormones, pesticides, and fertilizers. Avoid milk and other dairy products that contain the genetically engineered recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST).
- Rather than eating conventional or farm-raised fish, which are often heavily contaminated with PCBs and mercury, supplement with a high-quality krill oil, or eat fish that is wild-caught and lab tested for purity, such as wild caught Alaskan salmon.
- Buy products that come in glass bottles rather than plastic or cans, as chemicals can leach out of plastics (and plastic can linings), into the contents; be aware that even “BPA-free” plastics typically leach other endocrine-disrupting chemicals that are just as bad for you as BPA.
- Store your food and beverages in glass, rather than plastic, and avoid using plastic wrap.
- Use glass baby bottles.
- Replace your non-stick pots and pans with ceramic or glass cookware.
- Filter your tap water for both drinking AND bathing. If you can only afford to do one, filtering your bathing water may be more important, as your skin absorbs contaminants. To remove the endocrine disrupting herbicide Atrazine, make sure your filter is certified to remove it. According to the EWG, perchlorate can be filtered out using a reverse osmosis filter.
- Look for products made by companies that are Earth-friendly, animal-friendly, sustainable, certified organic, and GMO-free. This applies to everything from food and personal care products to building materials, carpeting, paint, baby items, furniture, mattresses, and others.
- Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to remove contaminated house dust. This is one of the major routes of exposure to flame retardant chemicals.
- When buying new products such as furniture, mattresses, or carpet padding, consider buying flame retardant free varieties, containing naturally less flammable materials, such as leather, wool, cotton, silk, and Kevlar.
- Avoid stain- and water-resistant clothing, furniture, and carpets to avoid perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs).
- Make sure your baby's toys are BPA-free, such as pacifiers, teething rings and anything your child may be prone to suck or chew on — even books, which are often plasticized. It’s advisable to avoid all plastic, especially flexible varieties.
- Use natural cleaning products or make your own. Avoid those containing 2-butoxyethanol (EGBE) and methoxydiglycol (DEGME) — two toxic glycol ethers that can compromise your fertility and cause fetal harm.
- Switch over to organic toiletries, including shampoo, toothpaste, antiperspirants, and cosmetics. EWG’s Skin Deep database21 can help you find personal care products that are free of phthalates and other potentially dangerous chemicals.
- Replace your vinyl shower curtain with a fabric one or glass doors.
- Replace feminine hygiene products (tampons and sanitary pads) with safer alternatives.
- Look for fragrance-free products. One artificial fragrance can contain hundreds — even thousands — of potentially toxic chemicals. Avoid fabric softeners and dryer sheets, which contain a mishmash of synthetic chemicals and fragrances.
By Dr. Mercola
The type and amount of fiber in your diet plays an important role in health — in part by positively affecting your intestinal microflora, which we now know is important for maintaining optimal health and preventing chronic disease.
I’ve been interested in the health benefits of fiber ever since my early days in medical school — so much so, my classmates nicknamed me “Dr. Fiber.”
Fiber does far more than just keep you “regular.” Mounting research suggests a high-fiber diet can help reduce your risk of premature death from any cause, likely because it helps to reduce your risk of some of the most common chronic diseases.
This includes type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke,1 and cancer. Studies have also linked a high-fiber diet to beneficial reductions in cholesterol and blood pressure, improved insulin sensitivity, and reduced inflammation — all of which can influence your mortality risk.
A meta-analysis2,3 published in 2014 evaluated the impact of a high-fiber diet on mortality and found that each 10-gram per day increase in fiber corresponded to a 10 percent reduction in all-cause mortality.
Those who ate the most fiber had a 25 percent reduced risk of dying from any cause within the next nine years, compared to those whose fiber intake was lacking.Microbes That Ferment Fiber Are Important for Health
Recent research reveals that certain microbes in your gut specialize in fermenting fiber found in legumes, fruits, and vegetables, and the byproducts of this fermenting activity help nourish the cells lining your colon.
As reported by MedicineNet.com,8 fiber-fermenting microbes are likely part of what makes a Mediterranean-style diet so beneficial for your health.
During the fermentation process these intestinal bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other inflammatory diseases.
According to the featured article:9
“The study of 153 Italian adults found higher levels of short-chain fatty acids in vegans, vegetarians, and those who closely followed a Mediterranean diet.
The diet includes large amounts of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and cereals; moderately high amounts of fish; low levels of saturated fat, red meat and dairy products; and some alcohol...
‘Multiple studies have shown the benefits of the Mediterranean diet,’ noted one U.S. expert, cardiologist Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum.
The new research ‘shows that the benefits may occur through the GI (gastrointestinal) tract and the metabolites that are released during the digestive process,’ she said.”
These findings support previous research, in which it was shown that these short-chain fatty acids produced by intestinal bacteria selectively expand regulatory T cells called Tregs, which are critical for regulating intestinal inflammation.10
According to one such study:11
“Treg cells suppress the responses of other immune cells, including those that promote inflammation. This finding provides a new link between bacterial products and a major anti-inflammatory pathway in the gut.”
It’s also worth noting that a Mediterranean-style diet tends to be far lower in sugars than your typical American processed food diet, and sugar is a preferred food source for fungi that produce yeast infections and sinusitis.
So the beneficial impact of a Mediterranean-style diet is really two-fold: the high-fiber content promotes healthy bacteria that produce health-promoting fatty acids and other beneficial byproducts, and the absence of sugar depletes harmful microbes, allowing the beneficial ones to thrive and thoroughly colonize.For Gut Health, You Need the Right Kind of Fiber
As mentioned, one way fiber benefits your health is by providing beneficial bacteria in your gut with the fodder they need to thrive. These beneficial bacteria assist with digestion and absorption of your food, and play a significant role in your immune function.
Alterations of the human microbiome through inappropriate and unnatural diet changes appear to be part and parcel of rising disease rates. In essence, we’ve strayed too far from our natural diet that promotes a healthy gut flora.
Detrimental dietary changes that have led to a general fiber deficiency14 include switching from fermented and raw vegetables to processed cereal grains.
Cereal grains may have been a good source of fiber in the past, but not anymore. These days, most grains are grown using agricultural chemicals such as glyphosate, which has now been identified as a “probable human carcinogen” and a promoter of antibiotic resistance.
Glyphosate contamination has also been linked to celiac disease and other gut dysfunction, which is the exact converse of what you’re trying to achieve by adding fiber to your diet.
Moreover, a high-grain diet tends to promote insulin and leptin resistance, and that too is counterproductive as it actually promotes many of the chronic diseases that healthy fiber can help reduce, most notably type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
So when it comes to boosting your fiber intake, be sure to focus on eating more vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Organic whole husk psyllium is a great source, as are sunflower sprouts and fermented vegetables, the latter of which are essentially fiber preloaded with beneficial bacteria.
The following whole foods also contain high levels of soluble and insoluble fiber.Flax, hemp, and chia seeds Berries Vegetables such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts Root vegetables and tubers, including onions, sweet potatoes, and jicama Almonds Peas Green beans Cauliflower Beans The Health Benefits of Organic Psyllium
Organic whole husk psyllium is one of my personal fiber favorites. Most people need about 30 to 32 grams of fiber per day, and taking psyllium three times daily could add as much as 18 grams of dietary fiber (soluble and insoluble) to your diet. Conventional psyllium is a heavily sprayed crop, so I strongly recommend opting for an organic version to prevent exposure to pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers.
I also recommend choosing one that does not contain additives or sweeteners, as these tend to have a detrimental effect on your microbiome. Psyllium has a number of well-established health benefits, including the following:15
- Maintaining regular bowel movements: Psyllium absorbs water in your gut, allowing for easier, smoother bowel movements. As such, it helps counteract constipation, and over the long-term will help you develop more regular bowel movements. It can also help ease hemorrhoids and anal fissures, which are aggravated by constipation.
- Optimizing cholesterol ratios and promoting heart health: Research has shown that psyllium helps optimize cholesterol ratios,16 and reduces your risk of heart disease17 by lowering blood pressure, strengthening your heart muscle, and improving lipid levels.
- Weight management: Psyllium (and other fiber sources) can also help you manage your weight. Part of this effect is related to the fact that fiber helps normalize your blood sugar. In one study,18 a mere five grams of psyllium a day helped diabetics control their blood sugar levels. Since fiber adds bulk, it can also help you feel fuller, thereby reducing overeating.
Chia seeds are another good source of fiber, providing about five grams per tablespoon — plus a whole lot more.19 They’re also a rich source of omega-3 fats, antioxidants, and minerals, including calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and manganese. These minerals are important for regulating blood pressure, body weight, energy metabolism, and DNA synthesis.
Their high antioxidant content also gives chia seeds the benefit of a long shelf-life. They can stay fresh without refrigeration for about two years. Chia seeds have also been linked to a number of health benefits, including:
- Improved satiety: Like psyllium, they add bulk and make you feel fuller longer.
- Improved blood lipids: Research has shown that chia seeds can help lower triglycerides optimize cholesterol ratios, and increase high density lipoprotein (HDL, typically known as “good” cholesterol).
- Blood sugar regulation: Chia seeds have also been shown to help reduce insulin resistance, and reduce the levels of insulin in your blood.
Another novel source of dietary fiber is mushrooms. According to a 2013 study,20 edible mushrooms vary greatly in their fiber content, but the highest levels are typically found in the sclerotium21 — the dense mass of filaments (mycelium) that make up the body of the mushroom. An added benefit of mushrooms is that they also tend to have medicinal properties, such as immune-boosting and even anti-cancer activity. Like so many other fiber-rich foods, mushrooms can also help control blood lipids and glucose levels.
According to the authors:
“Compared to other conventional sources of DF, such as cereals, fruits, legumes, and vegetables, mushrooms or fungi are underutilized. In fact, edible mushrooms or macrofungi are a rich source of some novel DFs that have various beneficial health effects to humans....”
Percentage-wise, the approximate fiber ratio of some of the most common edible mushrooms is as follows:
- Button mushroom: 8 to 10 percent
- Chantarelle: 11 percent
- Maitake: 10 percent
- Shiitake: 7 to 8 percent
- Oyster mushroom: 7.5 to 8.5 percent
Remember, dietary fiber has many benefits, as long as most of it is coming from high quality sources, such as organic, vegetables, organic psyllium, and chia seeds. Adding more mushrooms to your diet is also recommended, as they have great medicinal value over and above any fiber content. Fiber undoubtedly contributes to overall good health and longevity, and can have a positive influence on your disease risk by feeding and promoting the proliferation of healthy gut bacteria. They also contribute to the production of short-chain fatty acids like butyrate, which increase mucin in the gut that decreases leaky gut and also improves the health of the gut lining.
As briefly mentioned, fermented vegetables are another excellent choice, as not only are you getting valuable fiber from the vegetables, this fiber is also ‘preloaded’ with beneficial bacteria that nourish your gut. And gut health is really paramount if you’re seeking to improve your health and prevent or treat disease. As noted in a previous Your Buddhi22 article that addresses the benefits of fiber and fermented veggies, the former is a probiotic, whereas the latter are probiotic. Both are essential for a healthy gut:
“Fiber found in whole plant foods (fruits, veggies, grains, nuts, and seeds) is used by the large intestine to influence ‘transit’ time length. Fiber also feeds the gut flora, which are the healthy bacteria that use fiber as a medium to synthesize nutrients like SCFAs, vitamin K, and B-vitamins that are essential for GI cells. Fermented foods such as miso, tempeh, cultured dairy (kefir, yogurt), kombucha tea, kimchi, chutneys, and any fruit/vegetable fermented using lactic acid support a healthy intestinal flora. They also provide Lactobacillus acidophilus, a healthy source of bacteria.”
Avoid relying on grain-based fiber sources, as this can threaten your health in too many ways, from raising your insulin and leptin levels, to increasing your risk of glyphosate exposure. Processed grains are particularly harmful, and are second only to refined sugar and fructose in terms of promoting chronic disease. If there’s one thing you do NOT need, it’s processed sugar — from any source. Instead, get your fiber from fresh locally grown organic vegetables, nuts, and seeds. If you still fall short of the recommended 30 to 32 grams per day (20 grams being a bare minimum), supplementing with organic psyllium husk can help bring you closer to this ideal amount.
By Dr. Mercola
There’s a reason why your mouth may water for sweet potatoes in October and November but barely cross your mind in July. People have been eating seasonally since the beginning of time; there was no other choice.
Today many of us have the luxury of purchasing out-of-season produce year-round at the grocery store, but there’s probably still a part of you that is drawn to what’s in-season. Not only will such foods be tastier, fresher, and available to buy locally straight from a farm or farmer’s market, but they may contain more nutrients, too.
For instance, one study found in-season broccoli (fall) contained nearly twice as much vitamin C as out-of-season (spring) broccoli.1 Perhaps the ancient medical traditions like Ayurveda, which have long recommended seasonal eating, somehow knew that produce picked at its peak of ripeness in accordance with the laws of nature was healthiest too.
Ayurveda also suggests seasonal eating helps with digestion, because it favors easier-to-digest foods in the winter when your body is hard at work burning energy to keep you warm (and therefore theoretically has less energy to devote to digestion).
Earlier this year, in January, we featured vegetables that taste best in the winter. In June we featured six foods that taste best in the summer. Now, with fall upon us in the US, it’s a perfect time to feature foods that taste best during the fall months, and October in particular. Check out the list below for starters.25 Foods That Taste Best in October
Apples are in season from August to November, but many unique varieties not made for storage come into their prime in October (and will only be available for a month or two). Try Fuji apples or Gravenstein apples for two varieties that reach their peak October.
Compared to other commonly consumed fruits in the US, apples ranked second for highest antioxidant activity. However, they ranked highest for the proportion of free phenolic compounds, which means they are not bound to other compounds in the fruit, and therefore may be more easily absorbed into your bloodstream.3
Notably, much of apples’ antioxidant power is contained in the peel, where you’ll find antioxidants like catechins, procyanidins, chlorogenic acid, ploridizin, and more. Eating apples has been linked to a lower risk of chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and dementia.
It’s best to eat apples in their whole form, as this will give you the synergistic blend of nutrients and fiber the way nature intended, yielding greater health benefits than apple juice.
Pears are in season from August to February, but like apples, a few varieties stand out in October (try Bartlett pears or French butter pears, if you can find them).
Pears are rich in vitamin C and copper, and are one of the highest-fiber fruits (one medium pear contains about 5.5 grams of fiber). Fiber plays an essential role in your digestive, heart, and skin health, and may improve blood sugar control, weight management, and more.
People with ate a diet high in white-fleshed fruits like pears or apples also had a 52 percent lower risk of stroke, according to an American Heart Association study,4 likely due to their fiber and phytochemical contents.
Grapes are popular during the summer, but grapes harvested during October tend to be sweeter, since the cool nighttime temperatures bring out their sugar. Grapes contain vitamin K, manganese, and beneficial antioxidants, including resveratrol, which is found in red grape skins.
Resveratrol’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic properties have been well-established by science, and its benefits are thought to extend to the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, among others.
Grapes should be consumed in moderation, however, as they’re high in fructose, and excessive fructose intake is linked to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and obesity in those who eat a highly processed food diet.
It’s interesting to note, however, that the consumption of whole grapes has been linked to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.5 It's unclear why the authors observed this benefit, but it's likely that the phytonutrients in the grapes compensate for any potential fructose toxicity.
Persimmons are fairly uncommon in the US, though they’re the national fruit of Japan. These red-brown or orange fruits are rich in vitamins A and C, along with manganese, fiber, B-complex vitamins, copper, and phosphorus. They’re also a good source of phytonutrients, flavonoids and antioxidants, including lycopene, lutein, and beta-carotene.
Hachiya persimmons should be eaten fully ripe (you can cut it open and eat it with a spoon or slice it up in a salad). Fuyu persimmons are also in-season in October; these can be eaten hard, like an apple.
Pumpkins are most plentiful and easy to find in the US in October, mostly for decorations or carving into Jack-o-lanterns. But don’t discount pumpkins’ value as a food. Pumpkin is a type of winter squash that is an excellent source of carotenoids, including beta-carotene (which converts into vitamin A in your body).
Pumpkin is also rich in fiber, with three grams in a one-cup serving, and you can consume the seeds, too, for additional benefits (like immune system and prostate support).
Other notable nutrients in pumpkin include vitamin C, potassium, riboflavin, copper, and manganese, along with vitamin E, B vitamins, folate, iron, and phosphorus.
Taken together, pumpkin provides a powerful blend of nutrients that work together to synergistically benefit your health. As reported in Nutrition Research Reviews:6
“Pumpkin is one of the well-known edible plants and has substantial medicinal properties due to the presence of unique natural edible substances. It contains several phyto-constituents belonging to the categories of alkaloids, flavonoids, and palmitic, oleic, and linoleic acids.
Various important medicinal properties including anti-diabetic, antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, and others have been well documented.”
When using fresh pumpkin in your cooking, simply wash the pumpkin’s exterior, scoop out the seeds and pulp, and roast it, whole, in a 350-degree F oven for one to two hours, until tender.
You can also cut it in half and place it, cut side down, on a baking sheet in a 350-degree F oven for one to two hours. Then, simply scrape out the tender flesh and discard the rind.7 Pumpkin is in season from October to February.9 More Fall Superfoods
The five foods above reach their peak of flavor in October, but they’re not the only fruits and vegetables that are in-season during the fall. You’ll find nine others in the list that follows, each of which is incredibly good for you… and tasty too.
1. Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts contain sulfur-containing compounds called glucosinolates, which your body uses to make isothiocyanates. These activate cancer-fighting enzyme systems in your body. Brussels sprouts have been linked to the prevention of a number of cancers, including colon cancer,8 ovarian cancer,9 and others.
One study even found that compounds in Brussels sprouts may trigger pre-cancerous cells to commit suicide, which suggests adding more of this superfood to your diet could be a powerful anti-cancer strategy.10
Brussels sprouts also have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, useful for fighting both chronic oxidative stress and inflammation.
They help to support your body’s natural detoxification system and are an excellent source of vitamins K and C, and good source of fiber, manganese, potassium, choline, and B vitamins. Brussels sprouts are in season from September to March.
Cauliflower contains sulforaphane, a sulfur compound that has also been shown to kill cancer stem cells, thereby slowing tumor growth. Some researchers believe eliminating cancer stem cells may be key to controlling cancer. For instance, research has shown that combining cauliflower with curcumin (the active compound in the spice turmeric) may help prevent and treat prostate cancer.11
Cauliflower is also anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich, and may boost both your heart and brain health. Eating cauliflower will provide your body with impressive amounts of vitamin C, vitamin k, beta-carotene, and much more while supporting healthy digestion and detoxification. Cauliflower is in season from September to June.
3. Sweet Potatoes
Orange-colored sweet potatoes owe their appearance to the carotenoid beta-carotene. As an antioxidant, beta-carotene can help ward off free radicals that damage cells through oxidation, which can speed up aging and make you vulnerable against chronic diseases. This antioxidant can help support your immune system, as well as lower your risk of heart disease and cancer. Research shows that sweet potatoes can help regulate blood sugar because of their ability to raise blood levels of adiponectin, a protein hormone created by your fat cells, to help regulate how your body metabolizes insulin.
Sweet potato extract is said to help reduce inflammation in brain and nerve tissue throughout your body. The phytonutrients within sweet potatoes also influence fibrinogen, an important glycoprotein required for blood clotting. Together with thrombin and fibrin, balanced amounts of fibrinogen are important for wound healing and blood loss prevention. Sweet potatoes are in season from September to December.
The primary source of pomegranate's benefits come from its antioxidant content, particularly ellagitannin compounds like punicalagins and punicalins, which account for about half of the pomegranate's antioxidant ability. It's also an excellent source of the antioxidant vitamin C, with one pomegranate providing about 40 percent of the daily requirement for this vitamin.12 In fact, according to a 2008 study, which compared the potency of 10 different polyphenol-rich beverages, pomegranate juice scored top billing as the healthiest of them all.13
Pomegranates contain three types of antioxidant polyphenols, including tannins, anthocyanins, and ellagic acid, in significant amounts. Pomegranate's antioxidant activity is known to inhibit cell proliferation and invasion, and promote apoptosis (cell death) in various cancer cells.14 The antioxidants in pomegranates may also help to reduce inflammation that contributes to the destruction of cartilage in your joints, a key reason for the pain and stiffness felt by many osteoarthritis sufferers.
One study even found that pomegranate extract blocked the production of a cartilage-destroying enzyme.15 Many people enjoy pomegranates alone as a snack, but you can also sprinkle the arils (the juice-filled seed sacs) over salads or cooked dishes. Inside each aril is a crunchy fiber-rich seed. While some people spit them out, you can eat them whole, seed and all. Pomegranates are in season from August to December. So how do you get out the arils? The POM Council recommends this simple three-step process:16
- Cut off the crown, then cut the pomegranate into sections
- Place the section in a bowl of water, then roll out the arils with your fingers (discard everything else)
- Strain out the water, then enjoy the arils whole, seeds and all
Turnips contain a type of phytonutrient known as indoles, which may help fight cancer. One type in particular, brassinin, has been shown to kill human colon cancer cells.17 Turnips are also rich in fiber. Just 100 calories’ worth of turnips can give you 25 to 40 percent of your daily fiber requirement. While turnip root is rich in nutrients and antioxidants, it is a starchy vegetable and therefore should only be eaten in moderation. The greens, on the other hand, can be eaten in generous quantities (although admittedly they are quite bitter).
Turnip greens are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and manganese, but it’s their vitamin K content that really stands out. One cup of turnip greens will give you nearly 600 percent of your recommended daily value of the nutrient.
Vitamin K is a powerful regulator of your inflammatory response, and along with the anti-inflammatory plant-based omega-3s found in turnip greens (in the form of alpha linolenic acid, or ALA), make this vegetable an inflammation-fighting powerhouse. Turnips are in season from September to April.
Rutabaga, a cross between a turnip and a cabbage, are rich in fiber and vitamin C (one cup contains 53 percent of the daily recommended value). Rutabagas are also members of the cruciferous family of vegetables, which are rich in antioxidants and anti-cancer phytonutrients. Rutabagas are also an excellent source of potassium, manganese, B vitamins, magnesium, and phosphorus.
Rutabagas are also a good source of zinc, which is essential for immune support and may help protect your body from the effects of stress. As a mild-tasting root vegetable, rutabagas work well roasted or baked, and can serve as a nutrient-rich substitute for potatoes. They can also be eaten raw along with a dip, such as hummus. Rutabagas are in season from October to April.
These root vegetables resemble carrots but are whitish in color and have a sweet, nutty flavor. Parsnips are rich in nutrients like fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamin C. Eating foods rich in potassium are important because this nutrient helps offset the hypertensive effects of sodium. An imbalance in your sodium-potassium ratio can lead to high blood pressure and may also contribute to a number of other diseases, including heart disease and stroke. Parsnips are in season from October to April.
Rich in phytonutrients that appear to protect human DNA from free-radical damage, kiwi is also an excellent source of antioxidant vitamins C and E, and beta-carotene. Kiwi is also a good source of fiber, potassium, magnesium, copper, and phosphorus. One cup of kiwi contains 273 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C, which is five times that of an orange. Kiwi is in season from September to March.
Grapefruits are an excellent source of vitamin C and also contain pantothenic acid, copper, vitamin A, fiber, potassium, biotin, and vitamin B1. Grapefruit is also a good source of the dietary fiber pectin and the carotenoid phytonutrient lycopene. Lycopene's antioxidant activity has long been suggested to be more powerful than other carotenoids such as beta-carotene, and research has even revealed it may significantly reduce your stroke risk (while other antioxidants did not). Lycopene has also been shown to have potential anti-cancer activity, likely due to its antioxidant properties.
Studies have shown that people with a diet high in lycopene have a lower risk of certain cancers, particularly prostate cancer. Grapefruit is in season from September to April.Don’t Put Away Your Gardening Gloves Just Yet…
Depending on where you live, even in the northernmost areas of the US, a wide variety of vegetables can be grown during the winter, especially with the assistance of a few simple temperature-shielding strategies, such as cold frames, cloches, and row covers. For your winter garden, your most important date to know is your "first frost" date.
You'll want to plant your seeds early enough that the plants will be established before getting subjected to a light freeze. So your first step is to check your hardiness zone to see when your first frost is expected.
Most winter veggies are planted in mid to late summer so they are strong and ready for when the temperatures drop, and then ripe for harvest in winter or early spring. Timing this depends on how long each plant takes to reach maturity. Some vegetables actually develop a better flavor after a frost, so you'll need to plan accordingly. You can find more information on winter gardening here, however it’s one of the best ways to have fresh, inexpensive access to in-season veggies during the fall and winter months. Finally, the following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh seasonal foods in your local area, raised in a humane, sustainable manner.
By Dr. Mercola
Colorectal cancer, which includes both cancers of the colon and rectum, is the third most common cancer diagnosed in the US (not including skin cancers). In 2015, it’s estimated there will be more than 93,000 new cases of colon cancer (and nearly 40,000 cases of rectal cancer) diagnosed.1
As with most cancers, diet is thought to play a role in your risk of colon cancer. It’s known, for instance, that a diet high in processed meats (like hot dogs and certain luncheon meats) increases your risk, while a diet high in whole foods like vegetables and fruits lowers it.
New research by Texas A&M researchers, presented at the 2015 Experimental Biology conference in Boston, MA, even found consuming dried plums regularly might play a role in reducing colon cancer risk.
In case you’re wondering, dried plums are also known as prunes. According to the California Dried Plum Board (99 percent of the US supply of dried plums is grown in California), their target audience (women aged 25 to 54) responded more favorably to the name “dried plums” instead of “prunes,” so the name was changed. Elsewhere in the world, however, most people still call dried plums prunes.2
Another interesting fact is that while all prunes are plums, all plums cannot be made into prunes. Plum varieties used to make prunes have very high sugar content, which, according to the California Dried Plum Board, allows them “to be dried without fermenting while still containing the pits.”3Dried Plums May Lower Your Risk of Colon Cancer By Building Gut Bacteria
Dried plums are rich in potassium, fiber, and phytochemicals, including antioxidants, all of which may help lower your risk of chronic disease. However, it’s dried plums’ influence on the bacteria in your colon that may be most impressive of all.
In an animal study, researchers fed rats either a diet containing dried plums or a control diet (the same as the first diet but without the plums). Those fed the dried plums had significant increases in the number of bacteria in the gut known as Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes.
Rats on the dried-plum diet also had reduced numbers of aberrant crypts, which are signs of precancerous lesions that may be an indicator for future cancer development. Study author Dr. Nancy Turner explained:4
“From this study we were able to conclude that dried plums did, in fact, appear to promote retention of beneficial microbiota and microbial metabolism throughout the colon, which was associated with a reduced incidence of precancerous lesions.”
A 2005 study similarly revealed that dried plums “favorably altered… colon cancer risk factors” in rats, possibly due to their high content of dietary fiber and polyphenolics.5There Are Many Reasons to Eat Dried Plums… In Moderation
Dried plums are perhaps most well known for their role as a digestive aid (including having a mild laxative effect). They’re useful for this not only because they contain both soluble and insoluble fiber but also due to their high sorbitol content.
Sorbitol, an unfermentable sugar sometimes described as a prebiotic, is said to act as “a good medium for the production of desirable intestinal microorganisms”6 and has been suggested as the reason for dried plums’ laxative effect.7
Further, despite being high in sugar, dried plums do not lead to a rapid rise in blood sugar concentration, possibly due to their high fiber and sorbitol content.8 A review published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition in 2001 cited dried plums as the “epitome of functional foods” and continued:9
“Dried prunes contain approximately 6.1 g of dietary fiber per 100 g, while prune juice is devoid of fiber due to filtration before bottling…
Prunes contain large amounts of phenolic compounds (184 mg/100 g), mainly as neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acids, which may aid in the laxative action and delay glucose absorption.
Phenolic compounds in prunes had been found to inhibit human LDL oxidation in vitro, and thus might serve as preventive agents against chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer.
Additionally, high potassium content of prunes (745 mg/100 g) might be beneficial for cardiovascular health.
Dried prunes are an important source of boron, which is postulated to play a role in prevention of osteoporosis. A serving of prunes (100 g) fulfills the daily requirement for boron (2 to 3 mg).”Dried Plums May Be Beneficial for Obesity, Diabetes, Heart Disease, and More
Again in 2013, research published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition touted dried plums’ beneficial role in health. This review included mentions of dried plums’ potential role in reducing not only colon cancer but also other chronic disease currently plaguing the developed world:10
“Dried plums contain significant amounts of sorbitol, quinic acid, chlorogenic acids, vitamin K1, boron, copper, and potassium. Synergistic action of these and other compounds, which are also present in dried plums in less conspicuous amounts, may have beneficial health effects when dried plums are regularly consumed.
Snacking on dried plums may increase satiety and reduce the subsequent intake of food, helping to control obesity, diabetes, and related cardiovascular diseases. Despite their sweet taste, dried plums do not cause large postprandial rise in blood glucose and insulin.
Direct effects in the gastrointestinal tract include prevention of constipation and possibly colon cancer. The characteristic phenolic compounds and their metabolites may also act as antibacterial agents in both gastrointestinal and urinary tracts.
The indirect salutary effects on bone turnover are supported by numerous laboratory studies with animals and cell cultures.”
Despite these impressive benefits, it’s important to eat prunes in moderation due to their high fructose content. One medium prune contains 1.2 grams of fructose. If you're insulin- or leptin resistant (are overweight, diabetic, hypertensive, or have high cholesterol), then it would be especially advisable for you to limit your fruit intake.
As a general rule, I recommend limiting your fructose intake to a maximum of 15 grams of fructose per day from ALL sources, including whole fruit.
If you are not insulin/leptin resistant, (are of normal weight without diabetes, hypertension, or high cholesterol) I suggest limiting your fructose intake to 25 grams per day (or less) from all sources.
As far as preservatives and sulfating agents, which are a concern if you consume many types of dried fruit, this isn’t a major concern when consuming most dried plums.
According to the California Dried Plum Board, only potassium sorbate, which is considered a natural preservative, is used in processing dried plums. And since they’re already dark in color, there is no need to use sulfating agents (which are typically used to prevent darkening).11Eat Real Food to Prevent Colon Cancer
The foods you eat can play a major role in your risk of cancer, and this includes colon cancer. As mentioned, processed meats – those preserved by smoking, curing, salting, or the addition of chemical preservatives – are known to be a major risk factor.
This includes bacon, ham, pastrami, salami, pepperoni, hot dogs, some sausages, and hamburgers (if they have been preserved with salt or chemical additives), and more. Particularly problematic are the nitrates that are added to these meats as a preservative, coloring, and flavoring.
The nitrates found in processed meats are frequently converted into nitrosamines, which are clearly associated with an increased risk of certain cancers. Real food, like that described in my nutrition plan, on the other hand, may help you lower your cancer risk.
Vegetables, for instance, contain an array of antioxidants and other disease-fighting compounds that are very difficult to get anywhere else – like magnesium. Results from one meta-analysis indicated that for every 100-milligram increase in magnesium intake, the risk of colorectal tumor decreased by 13 percent, while the risk of colorectal cancer was lowered by 12 percent.12
The researchers noted magnesium’s anti-cancer effects may be related to its ability to reduce insulin resistance, which may positively affect the development of tumors. They noted: “The consumption of magnesium-rich foods may be a new avenue to explore further in the search for cancer-prevention strategies.”
Green leafy vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard are excellent sources of magnesium, as are some beans, nuts, and seeds, like almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds. Avocados are also a good source. Beyond magnesium, plant chemicals called phytochemicals can reduce inflammation and eliminate carcinogens, while others regulate the rate at which your cells reproduce, get rid of old cells, and maintain DNA. Vegetables are also one of the best forms of dietary fiber. Studies have repeatedly shown that people with higher vegetable intake have lower rates of cancer.
One study found people who ate seven or more portions of vegetables and fruit a day had a 42 percent lower risk of dying from any cause compared to those who ate less than one portion. They also enjoyed a 31 percent lower risk of heart disease and a 25 percent lower risk of cancer.13Eating Right Nourishes Your Gut Microbes
Nearly 100 trillion bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other microorganisms compose your body's microflora, and advancing science has made it quite clear that these organisms play a major role in your health, both mental and physical. For instance, the featured study showed that one way dried plums may lower colon cancer risk is by encouraging the growth of beneficial microbes in your gut. When you eat too many grains, sugars, and processed foods, these foods serve as “fertilizer” for pathogenic microorganisms and yeast, causing them to rapidly multiply.
While today 80 percent of processed foods are made up of genetically modified (GM) corn and soy, wheat, and meat, 15,000 years ago people ate about 150 different ingredients each week, according to Tim Spector, professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London and author of The Diet Myth.14
Spector wanted to find out what happens to your gut if you eat only fast food, specifically McDonald’s, for 10 solid days. His son, Tom, became the willing guinea pig and reported his symptoms, as well as sent stool samples to different labs, throughout the 10-day trial.
After 10 days of fast food about 40 percent of his bacteria species were lost, which amounted to about 1,400 different types. As you continue to subsist on junk food, your gut microbes respond and “bad” bacteria may proliferate, furthering your cravings for more unhealthy foods, and allowing diseases like cancer to flourish. For example, microbes can affect cancer susceptibility by modulating your immune system and inflammation. They can also influence gene expression, and appear to have the ability to alter the stability of your genes. Dr. Eva Sirinathsinghji of the Institute of Science for Society also noted:15
"A failure of the intestinal barrier to limit host-microbiota interactions is also thought to be important. Anatomical separation between the host and microbes is a crucial first line of defense and is maintained through an intact epithelial lining and mucosal layer, as well as a sensing system that detects and eliminates bacteria. Consistently, ulcerative colitis, a condition that disrupts the barrier, increases the risk of colon cancers. Studies that have induced barrier failure in lab animals have also shown that carcinogens are more likely to pass through a disrupted gut lining, leading to increased tumor formation in local and distant organs."Gut Bacteria May Reveal Colon Cancer
Your microbiome may even reveal your risk for, or presence of, colon cancer. A total of 90 people participated in a study published in Cancer Prevention Research.16 Thirty of the participants were healthy, 30 had precancerous intestinal polyps, and 30 had been diagnosed with advanced colon or rectal cancer. After assessing the composition of each person’s microbiome, it became apparent that microbiome analysis (using a fecal test) might be a viable way to screen for precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer.
According to the findings, adding microbiome analysis to other known risk factors for precancerous polyps resulted in a 4.5-fold improved prediction for the condition. Adding microbiome analysis to risk factors for invasive colorectal cancer resulted in a five-fold improvement in their ability to predict cancer.
The best way to optimize your microbiome is through your diet. A good place to start is by drastically reducing grains and sugar, and avoiding genetically engineered ingredients, processed foods, and chlorinated tap water. A gut-healthy diet is one rich in whole, unprocessed, and unsweetened foods, along with traditionally fermented or cultured foods.Top Cancer Prevention Tips
I believe you can virtually eliminate your risk of cancer and chronic disease, and radically improve your chances of recovering from cancer if you currently have it, by adhering to the following strategies.
- Buy whole organic foods and cook from scratch. This will automatically reduce your sugar consumption. The evidence is also quite clear that if you want to avoid cancer, or you currently have cancer and insulin resistance, you MUST avoid all forms of sugar, especially fructose, which feeds cancer cells and promotes their growth. Make sure your total fructose intake is less than 25 grams per day, or 15 grams if you’re struggling with insulin resistance or have symptoms of insulin resistance (diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, or heart disease).
- Opt for organic grass-fed meats to avoid genetically engineered ingredients, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and other growth-promoting drugs. You may also want to consider reducing your protein consumption to one gram per kilogram of lean body weight, as excess protein (especially from hormone- and antibiotic-treated meat) may promote tumor growth.
- Opt for glass packaging and storage containers to avoid endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
- Reconsider how you prepare and cook your food: I recommend eating at least one-third of your food raw. Avoid frying or charbroiling; boil, poach, or steam your foods instead. Consider adding cancer-fighting whole foods, herbs, spices, and supplements to your diet, such as broccoli, curcumin, and resveratrol.
- Intermittent fasting is an excellent strategy if you’re insulin/leptin resistant, have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or struggle with your weight. Intermittent fasting is not a permanent eating program; once your insulin resistance improves and you are normal weight, you can start eating more food, more frequently again, as you will have reestablished your body’s ability to burn fat for fuel.
- Normalize your ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats by taking a high-quality krill oil and reducing your intake of processed vegetable oils, like corn, soy, and canola.
- Optimize your gut flora to reduce inflammation and strengthen your immune response. Researchers have found a microbe-dependent mechanism through which some cancers mount an inflammatory response that fuels their development and growth. They suggest that inhibiting inflammatory cytokines might slow cancer progression and improve the response to chemotherapy. Adding naturally fermented food to your daily diet is an easy way to help prevent cancer or speed recovery. You can always add a high-quality probiotic supplement as well, but naturally fermented foods are the best.
- Exercise: Exercise lowers your insulin levels, thereby promoting weight loss, and discouraging the growth and spread of cancer cells. In one three-month study, exercise was found to alter immune cells into a more potent disease-fighting form in cancer survivors who had just completed chemotherapy. Researchers and cancer organizations increasingly recommend making regular exercise a priority in order to reduce your risk of cancer and help improve cancer outcomes.
- Vitamin D: There is scientific evidence you can decrease your risk of cancer by more than half simply by optimizing your vitamin D levels with appropriate sun exposure. Your serum level should hold steady at 50 to 70 ng/ml, but if you are being treated for cancer it may be advisable to be closer to 80 to 90 ng/ml for optimal benefit. If you take oral vitamin D and have cancer, it would be very prudent to monitor your vitamin D blood levels regularly, as well as supplementing your vitamin K2 and magnesium, as these nutrients work in tandem.
- Sleep: Make sure you are getting enough restorative sleep. Most of us need eight hours so strive for that by getting to bed early enough. Poor sleep can interfere with your melatonin production, which is associated with an increased risk of insulin resistance and weight gain, both of which raise your risk of cancer. Melatonin in and of itself is also a potent antioxidant with known anti-cancer properties, which is another reason why sleeping well is so important for cancer prevention.
- Avoid toxins: Reduce your exposure to environmental toxins like pesticides, herbicides, household chemical cleaners, synthetic air fresheners, and toxic cosmetics.
- Avoid radiation exposure: Limit your exposure and protect yourself from radiation produced by cell phones, towers, base stations, and Wi-Fi stations, as well as minimizing your exposure from radiation-based medical scans, including dental x-rays, CT scans, and mammograms.
- Manage your stress: Stress from all causes is a major contributor to disease. It is likely that stress and unresolved emotional issues may be more important than the physical ones, so make sure this is addressed. My favorite tool for resolving emotional challenges is the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT).
If you buy organic produce, you’ll also cut your exposure to pesticides and genetically engineered ingredients, and in ditching processed foods, you’ll automatically avoid artificial sweeteners, cut down on sugar, and avoid harmful processed fats. Speaking of fats, most people need upward of 50 to 85 percent healthy fats in their diet for optimal health.
Sources of healthy fats to add to your diet include avocados, butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk, raw organic dairy, coconuts and coconut oil, unheated organic nut oils, raw nuts and seeds, organic pastured egg yolks, and grass-fed meats. For more detailed dietary advice, please see my free Optimized Nutrition Plan.
Research has also found evidence suggesting exercise can help trigger apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancer cells. Ideally, your exercise program should include balance, strength, flexibility, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). For help getting started, refer to my Peak Fitness Program.
Regenerative Agriculture Is Saving Farmers, Ranchers, and the Environment from Financial and Ecological Failure
By Dr. Mercola
It is quite clear that in order to continue feeding a growing population, we must first feed the soil. One of the best ways to prevent global disaster, save our health, and build a sustainable economy is through regenerative agriculture.
Regenerative techniques, which include cattle grazing, can address a number of pressing problems, including water scarcity, soil erosion and degradation, air and water pollution, loss of biodiversity, and rising toxicity levels both in the environment and in our food.
Allen Williams is a sixth-generation farmer, born and raised on his family's farm in South Carolina, which has been there since 1840. This family heritage has played a major role in shaping his career.
When starting college, he fully intended to return to the family farm and spend the remainder of his life there. A highly respected professor shifted his plans for a time however, and he ended up spending 15 years in academia, teaching and doing research.
"I concentrated in animal science, livestock area. I got my bachelor's and master's degree at Clemson University in South Carolina and my PhD at Louisiana State University," Allen says.
During that time, I was heavily involved in commodity and conventional agriculture. But I started noticing that we were spending a lot more money on what I call “props”, things such as pharmaceuticals, soil fertilizers, chemicals, seed supplements, and vitamin and mineral supplements for livestock...
I noted that we were using more and more pharmaceuticals to keep animals healthy, and that our soil health was declining along with things like soil organic matter and water infiltration rates."Conventional Farming Is More Expensive in the Long Run
As soil health has declined from poor land management and heavy chemical usage, farmers have had to increase the amount of external inputs used on their land, such as inorganic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. The added costs have resulted in steadily dwindling profits.
In the 1990s, Allen began looking at how livestock was being raised and how soils were being treated. For more than two decades now, Allen has collected soil data along the way, including data on forage, plant, and animal performance, along with ecosystem-type data.
This helped him understand what's really occurring, and has helped him develop, formulate, and implement land management practices that have reversed much of the negative impacts done by the conventional model.
This includes improved soil health and boosted ecosystem biodiversity. In 2000, Allen left the University system and went back into private business full-time.
Since then, he’s consulted with more than 4,000 farmers and ranchers across Canada, the US, Mexico, and South America, particularly concentrating on the areas of grass-based animal agriculture.
He also is involved in his own grass-based ranching venture and is partners in Joyce Farms,1 a grass fed beef and pastured poultry branded program.
His consulting includes grass-fed beef-, grass-fed lamb-, pastured poultry, and pastured pork production. Soil health has also been a major focus. “With all of our current clients, we concentrate on building the soil foundation first – soil health is key – and then everything else is generated from there,” he explains.The Grass-Fed Exchange
Allen helped found The Grassfed Exchange2 in 2009. As an education-oriented organization, the Grassfed Exchange does not set policy or certify grass-fed products. That's done by organizations such as the American Grassfed Association, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and others.
"We wanted to be an organization that is fully focused on exposing farmers, ranchers, distributors, processors, restaurants, retail grocery sector, and consumers, to alternative grass-based agriculture," he says.
"[We] provide them cutting-edge, innovative topics, seminars, farm tours, and basically challenge them in this whole process...We like to look at multigenerational families because succession is very important.
If we are to have true regenerative efforts on our agricultural lands, it's going to have to be multigenerational. We place a strong educational emphasis on succession and on helping multiple generations, including our youth, understand the concepts of soil health and grass-based agriculture."
Each year, the Grassfed Exchange holds a three-day long conference. This year's conference will take place on September 16th to 18th at Mount Pleasant, Michigan.3
On the first day, you can take a farm tour, visiting ranches and farms that are engaged in innovative, cutting-edge practices specifically related to grass-based livestock production and the building of soil health. The remaining days feature presentations that help attendees to improve their farming skills and operations.Advantages of Grass-Based Livestock Production
There are significant benefits to regenerative land management, both from environmental and financial perspectives. It's truly a win-win situation for farmers and consumers alike—not to mention the Earth itself.
It's really important to realize that without a thriving ecosystem, mankind's chances of survival become increasingly slim. Regenerative agriculture is really a matter of self-preservation. Contrary to popular belief, it can also be financially rewarding.
"What we have found is that rather than detracting profitability by shifting our practices from conventional to more sustainable, regenerative practices... it has allowed us to significantly reduce input cost and significantly increase productivity per acre, thereby improving our overall net margins.
We're practicing a form of agriculture that allows us to benefit the environment, the ecosystems surrounding us, the consumers, the farmers themselves, and subsequent generations."
These techniques also have significant benefits for our water supply. By restoring and rebuilding soil organic matter, you significantly improve the water infiltration rate; meaning when rain falls, it soaks into the soil and is held there rather than running off and taking valuable topsoil with it.
This reduces the need for irrigation, which currently accounts for 70 percent of the world's total fresh water usage. Runoff—which is a continual problem in conventional agriculture—also carries nitrates, phosphates, and sulfur into our waterways.
Chesapeake Bay, for example, is a drainage area from conventional farms, as is the Gulf of Mexico where annual hypoxia occurs, creating a dead zone covering up to 8,000 square miles. This contamination problem is also averted through regenerative land management. "We have found that our form of agriculture allows us to significantly reduce those negative results of agriculture and to actually produce very positive results," Allen says.
There are benefits both above and below ground. Organic matter is rebuilt by strengthening the natural soil microbial population, and this has a myriad of benefits in terms of soil fertility and subsequent plant growth and plant health. It also promotes diversity of plant species growing in surrounding wild areas, and this has resulted in a return of significant wildlife populations, including but not limited to deer, ground-nesting bird species, and wild turkeys.
Beneficial insect populations that are vital to fertilization and propagation of plants are also positively impacted. Allen has noted a significant return in the pollinator insect population and other beneficial organisms like earthworm and dung beetles on farms that have adopted regenerative land management principles.Sustainable Agriculture Begins with Healthy Soils
So what are some of the most important components of sustainable, responsible, and healthy agriculture? As noted by Allen, you have to start from the ground up. It all begins below ground, in the soil. When working with a rancher or farmer, they begin by assessing the current state of the soil—its fertility and soil biology—and there are simple tests for that. Then, they have to determine how to implement agricultural practices that will allow the farmer to significantly reduce chemical inputs, such as inorganic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides.
"What we find is that when we have to rely on heavy applications of inorganic fertilizers we get trapped in a vicious cycle," he explains. "Heavy nitrogen applications over time acidify the soil, lower the soil pH, damage soil biology, and therefore cause us to have to come in every few years and correct those negative aspects through applying agricultural lime and those types of things.
We look at practices that allow us to significantly reduce all of those external inputs, particularly the chemical inputs –the inorganic fertilizers– and allow us to be able to substantially build the soil microbial population and other organism population beneath the soil. What we have found is that if we start there, then everything else comes much easier.
Our plants, whether we are growing crops or forages for our livestock to graze, are significantly healthier, more nutrient dense, and they are much more tolerant and stress-resistant. They are much more resistant to diseases that impact plants. They are much more resistant to pests that impact plants. And therefore because they are healthier, we get greater levels of production from them. And our livestock are healthier because they’re grazing these plants.”How You Can Support Regenerative Farming
Consumers can assist the process of converting conventional chemical-based agriculture into a system that relies on regenerative practices in a number of ways. For starters, "voting with your pocketbook" is one of the most potent ways to support farmers who have transitioned, or are transitioning, to sustainable practices. As noted by Allen:
"The exponential growth of the grass-fed sector over the last 15 years, as well as the local food movement, the increasing number of farmers market in the US, and the increased incident of direct marketing—consumers buying direct from farmers—all of those are ways that consumers can support and contribute to regenerative agriculture and family farm-based ranchers and farmers."
At present, less than two percent of the US population is engaged in growing sustainable food. So in terms of government policy, they have but a tiny voice. This is particularly true for farmers practicing regenerative agriculture. According to Allen, regenerative farmers make up just one-tenth of one percent of the entire US population.
They need the broader, stronger voice of consumers—not just by purchasing these products, but also by supporting policies from the USDA, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and others that would help further support regenerative agricultural practices. And, of course, by voting against policies that are detrimental to regenerative farmers.
Allen is also actively involved with the Pasture Project,4 which is part of the Wallace Center of the Winrock Foundation. (It's also supported by a number of other foundations.) The Pasture Project is heavily centered on controlling harmful runoff, particularly harmful runoff going into the Gulf of Mexico. The Pasture Project also places heavy focus on regenerative agricultural practices, and educates ranchers and farmers about techniques that will significantly reduce harmful runoff from their land.
Another important project that Allen is involved with is the Soil Carbon Nation Team, which consists of scientists, farmers, ranchers, soil experts, and other industry experts across the US. This team actively measures and monitors changes that are brought about by regenerative agriculture on farms and ranches, and use that data to help farmers understand the power of transitioning to regenerative agriculture.
"Consumer support of those types of projects can be very vital in helping us to continue those efforts," Allen says. "I've also been involved with the National Audubon Society5 and looking at the development of bird-friendly grazing practices. Consumer support of Audubon is another way [to support the movement] because they are heavily focused now on helping farmers and ranchers get the education they need, to, again, put in regenerative bird-friendly grazing practices on their farms and ranches.”How to Apply Regenerative Practices in Your Garden
Many of the regenerative land management practices used on farms and ranches can be duplicated in a much smaller area, such as your home garden. A large component of soil regeneration on a ranch is the presence of grazing cattle, which clearly is not feasible for most suburban home owners. But there are still plenty of strategies you can implement, including the following:
- First, stop or minimize tillage because when you till, you expose the soil and allow soil carbon to be released back into the atmosphere. In the soil, carbon promotes soil health and healthy plant growth. Once in the air, it only contributes to atmospheric CO2 levels, which has an adverse effect on the environment. Tilling also destroys important soil biology, particularly soil fungi.
- Also minimize the use of inorganic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, or avoid them entirely. Opt for organic fertilizers instead, if needed.
- To promote soil health, use:
- Mulch. One of the primary keys to healthy soil is keeping the soil covered with a deep ground cover.
- Compost application can be helpful. You can even work with local farmers and ranchers to access animal manures and apply that to your garden.
Many of the farmers and ranchers Allen has worked with over the past 20 years were in deep distress, trying to farm and ranch conventionally, and failing. Many of them were on the brink of losing their farms, which had been in the family for generations. By teaching them regenerative land management techniques, many of them are now thriving again, and are prospering financially. Moreover, their farms are greatly contributing to the health of the environment, rather than detracting from it. They're also producing very high quality, nutrient-dense foods.
"This holds a lot of hope for those who have not been able to make adequate profits on their farms and ranches, to be able to turn things around. These practices also offer a way – and this is very important to the future of agriculture – for beginning farmers and ranchers, for young people to be able to effectively and profitably enter back in to farming and ranching," Allen says.
"For several decades, we have seen the younger generations leave the farms and ranches for job opportunities that they deemed much more profitable and viable because they saw their fathers and mothers struggle on the farm and they didn't want any part of that.
Now, we're able to turn that scenario around and to be able to bring back the young people, the younger generations. We desperately need that because the average age of farmers and ranchers across the US are people in their 60s and early 70s. So we desperately need the younger generation to return to the land, and these regenerative practices allow them to have that opportunity to return and to do it in profitable and viable manner where they can support their young and growing families."
To learn more, or to get more actively involved, please check out the Grassfed Exchange website. It features blogs and videos by a number of contributors, along with a wide variety of cutting-edge educational information.
By Dr. Mercola
Most people understand the influence the drug industry wields via its revolving door with federal regulatory agencies. Less is known about the influence of the food manufacturers, particularly manufacturers of soft drinks.
Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, who holds a master's degree in Public Health from University of California, Berkeley and a PhD in Molecular Biology, has written a number of books.
Two of the most prominent ones are Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health, and the one that we discuss in this interview, which is Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning).
It's a fascinating exposé, and reveals a wealth of information that is highly likely you were previously unaware of as to how pervasive the soda industry influence really is.To Control Your Weight, Ditch Soda
Nestle was the chairman of Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University (NYU) for 15 years. She's a staunch advocate for public health and a leading voice in helping people understand these issues.
"I've been writing about food politics for 20 years or so. Each one of my books grows out over the previous one. This one emerges naturally from my previous work because sodas are low-hanging fruit, in public health terms," she says.
"The first thing you should do if you're trying to control your weight is stop drinking sugary beverages. They have calories. They don't have any nutrients. They really don't do anything for you, and the potential for doing harm is quite great.
As the Center for Science in the Public Interest has put it for years, sodas are liquid candy. You wouldn't be eating candy all day long if you were worried about your health. You shouldn't be drinking sugary drinks all day long either."
The soda industry is also well aware of the connection between soda consumption and obesity and obesity-related diseases.
As explained by Nestle, soda companies are by law required to inform the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) about vulnerabilities, and for the last decade Coca-Cola has been telling the SEC that obesity is the number one threat to soda industry profits — and for good reason.
"Health advocates have been telling the public to cut down on sugary drink consumption for quite a long time now and sales are down," Nestle says.
"That's why the title of my book is Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning), because the sales are down. They think it's due to public health advocacy, and I do too."How the Soda Industry Infiltrates Communities to Increase Soda Sales
Part of Nestle's book reveals how collaborations have been established with communities that have essentially been "paid off" to increase soda sales. The scope and comprehensiveness of the soda industry's influence was a big surprise even to her.
"If you're a community organization and you're working on anything even remotely related to health and you want a grant from Coca-Cola, you could get one, no matter how small you are. That was the part that really surprised me.
We saw that a lot during the fight over the Bloomberg soda cap. There were so many community organizations in New York City that got grants from Coca-Cola or the American Beverage Association (ABA), and these groups were unwilling to come out in opposition to the Bloomberg soda cap."
What she's referring to is New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's failed attempt to ban the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces in restaurants, movie theaters, sports arenas, and other food establishments within city limits, in an attempt to curb rising obesity rates.
"The soda industry went berserk. I would give anything to know how much money they spent to defeat that measure, because the fight over it went on for several years," she says.
The soda industry set up a fake "grassroots" initiative, an industry-funded front group, to raise public opinion against the proposal. According Nestle, they paid people 30 dollars an hour to collect petitions against the soda cap.
Planes flew over the city with banners, and there were truck signs, and movie theatre ads, and home mailings — all urging people to not let "the Nanny state" dictate what they eat and drink, and to reject the soda cap.
Eventually the soda industry sued the city and won on grounds that the city had gone about it administratively, and in an improper way.Community Organization and Education Is Paramount to Defeat 'Big Soda'
Berkeley, California learned from New York's mistakes and successfully passed a soda tax last year. The keys to winning were strong community organizing, and framing the issue not as a public health measure but as a "Berkley Against Big Soda" issue.
By framing it that way, everyone very quickly realized what the soda industry was up to when it pulled out yet another PR trick. Berkeley managed to destroy the soda industry's credibility, and in so doing was able to win.
"You have to do a lot of education and bring people on board who may respond to the food industry's framing of the issue as something that's just going to cost you money," Nestle says.
The food industry has picked up the [tobacco industry's] playbook in its entirety. The first thing they do is they try to discredit the science, and then they discredit the scientists.
They attack the messenger and try to reframe the issues as 'it's really about physical activity and hydration. Sodas aren't bad for your health,' and so forth.
They're having a harder and harder time doing that now as more of the tactics are being exposed. That's part of why the subtitle of my book is 'and winning.'"The Latest Soda Deception: 'Energy Balance'
One of the newer tactics employed by the soda industry is to refer to "energy balance." They've even created a front group called the Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN). In a nutshell, they don't disagree that obesity is a challenge. But they deflect the focus away from soda as a primary cause of obesity by reframing obesity as a matter of exercise deficiency.
"It would be funny if it didn't have such important public health implications," Nestle says. "The New York Times did an exposé in August of Coca-Cola's funding of this particular network and I was quoted in it. So, I talked to a lot of reporters in the week after that article came out.
What surprised me was how shocked the reporters were at the revelation that Coca-Cola was funding university scientists to say something like, 'You really don't have to worry about what you eat. Everything is about physical activity.' Wouldn't it be nice if that were true? But unfortunately, it's not. "Soda Manufacturing Uses a Surprising Amount of Water
Soda taxes and size restrictions are not the only battles waged by the soda industry in an effort to maintain sales. They're also fighting any and all legislation relating to restrictions on water usage and plastic bottle waste. For example, soda companies have worked very hard to allow bottled drinks to be sold in national parks, which tried to ban the sale of bottled water because a third of their litter is discarded water bottles.
With regards to water, you may be surprised at how much water it actually takes to produce a liter of soda. While the industry's "water footprint" varies depending on who's doing the calculation, soda companies estimate it takes about 1.3 liters to manufacture one liter of soda. This does not include the amount of water needed to clean the plant, wash the bottles, and other sanitary tasks. Nor does it include the water used to grow the corn and sugar. Independent groups that include these add-ons have come up with estimates of anywhere from 300 to 600 liters of water per liter of soda!How Pouring-Rights Contracts Ushered Soda into Schools
Another topic discussed in her book is how soda companies use pouring-rights contracts to penetrate the youth market in schools. Through this strategy, they've captured the majority of the colleges, high schools, and a significant percentage of the grade school populations in the US. Just what is a pouring-rights contract? These types of contracts began in the 1990s. They're contracts entered into with school districts for the exclusive use of the company's product in that school. So, you're either a Coke school or a Pepsi school, and this means all the vending machines have either Coke or Pepsi products in them.
"It was fine when they were doing it in colleges," Nestle says. "But then they worked their way down to high school, and then to junior high school. When they got to grammar schools, they'd gone too far. There was a lot of push back. Now, they are pretty much removed from grammar schools. But the deal was that they would give the school district millions of dollars, and it seemed like a lot of money, and then the schools would install vending machines everywhere.
There's research that shows that the more vending machines there are, the more products are sold. It put the schools in the position of pushers. That they would push the kids to drinks sodas because then, the school district got more money, which they could use for discretionary purposes, mostly school boards and athletic kinds of things."
However, while a few million dollars sounds like a lot, many schools ended up being schooled in the economics of business through these types of contracts, as no one calculated the amount of money they had to pay for the product that went into the machines, plus servicing of the machines, cups, logos, napkins, and all the other paraphernalia that goes along with having vending machines. "By the time you deducted all of that, they were hardly making any money at all. It just seemed like it was a lot," she says.Strategies That Make a Difference
Despite issues such as these, Nestle's book is actually quite optimistic. Education efforts are working, and soda consumption is on a slow but steady decline. Nestle and I have both taken part in this long-term education campaign, warning people about the health hazards of soda for more than two decades. Her book also delves into specific strategies you can employ locally to help improve people's health. Each chapter contains a recommendation.
"That's really why I wrote the book. I want to turn everybody into advocates for whatever food issue that they're interested in," she says. "This is a model of advocacy that's actually working... It starts, first of all, by identifying what your goal is and making it as specific as possible. Then, you try to recruit allies to work with you, to figure out the best possible way under the circumstances that you have for achieving that goal.
If your goal is getting people to drink less soda, you want to think about all the different ways in which you can get people to drink less soda and then recruit as many allies as you possibly can to help you think through what your strategies are going to be for doing that, and then you go into the communities and work with the communities to figure out how they can improve their health by, in this case, drinking less soda. So it's this big community effort, and to the extent that you do that and bring in the media and bring in as many allies as possible, you will have a really good chance of making progress over time."
There are large numbers of advocacy organizations around food and nutrition issues, and Nestle lists many of the more prominent ones on her website, including the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy. Other public health institutes across the US are also doing phenomenal work on anti-soda advocacy.
If you want to tackle obesity and diabetes in your local community, there are many ways to do so. For example, you can petition your work place to stop selling soda in its vending machines. Of course, talk to your kids about the ramifications of soda consumption, and reframe soda as the occasional treat, not a primary beverage that you drink every single day in large quantities. Nestle's book contains an entire chapter on how to confront kids about these realities, and how to become advocates themselves. Her website, FoodPolitics.com, also lists a number of videos that go with various chapters of her book.Influencing the Influence-Makers
Another area Nestle delves into in her book is how the soda industry is able to influence influence-makers and people in prestigious positions, such as the head of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and people associated with the World Health Organization (WHO). Needless to say, such individuals have done a lot to help whitewash the industry's health image.
"If you're very wealthy, you have very wealthy friends. So, Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola executives make friends with lots of very important people, and I tell some of those stories in the book. "
One such example was an executive of the World Health Organization, where he was in charge of chronic disease prevention. Nestle knew him personally, and regarded him as a public health hero, doing everything he could to fight food industry marketing of junk foods to kids. "It was a big shock to me when he went to work as an executive of PepsiCo," she admits.
She believes he sincerely believed that by going to work from the inside of a large soda company he could make a significant difference. But whether or not he's actually had any measurable success in changing the system is up for debate.
This particular story is also interesting in that while he was an executive at the World Health Organization, with hundreds of people working for him, he took a strong stance against soda marketing to children. Through lobbying various politicians, the soda companies managed to get him demoted to a position so low it basically forced him to quit. So it seems a bit ironic that he ended up within the folds of Pepsi after that.
One group of professionals that really need to become better informed is the medical profession. Many doctors still do not realize just how big of a problem conflicts of interest with the food industry really is. I've delved deep into conflicts of interest for the last 20 years, beginning with the conflict of interest involving drug companies and its influence on health recommendations, since I'm a physician myself. Nestle's book reveals the very same type of influence being wielded by the food and soda industries. Her book really opened my eyes to how widespread conflicts of interest are, and how pervasive its influence is.
As noted by Nestle:
"It's extraordinarily pervasive. On my blog, FoodPolitics.com, I've collected food industry-funded studies with results in favor of the food industry's marketing interest. Their studies, I think, are done for marketing purposes. They're certainly not about the science. So, the egg industry funds studies on how eggs don't have anything to do with cholesterol.
The soda industry funds studies on how the sugars in sodas don't do anything bad for your health. The dairy industry funds studies on how dairy industry is fine. Onward, the pork industry funds studies on how bacon is good for health because you're eating it for breakfast. I mean, I could just go on and on. And a lot of this research may be perfectly okay, [but] how would you know? That's what's so disturbing about it."Take Control of Your Health
The good news is that increasing numbers of people are now waking up to the many corporate influences running their lives, and you, being among those who are informed, can help share this knowledge with others. Nestle's website, FoodPolitics.com, contains a lot of information you can peruse, either to learn more for yourself, or to help you become a more effective activist within your own community.
I also wholeheartedly recommend picking up a copy of her excellent book, Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning). Remember, the more you know about how the industry works and the tactics they use, the more adept you become at seeing through the PR spin. And, the easier it will be for you to influence others as well.
By Dr. Mercola
Color blindness is said to affect about one in 12 men and one in 200 women worldwide.1 However, most of these sufferers aren’t completely color blind, which is actually a condition called achromatopsia, and refers to people who can only see in black and white or shades of gray.
More common is “color vision deficiency,” which refers to the inability to distinguish between certain shades of color (usually shades of red and greens, but sometimes blues and yellows).
While people with normal vision can distinguish about 100 color hues, someone with color vision deficiency may only see 20.2 According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), “very few people are completely color blind.”3How Do You See in Color?
Inside your eye’s retina are photoreceptors known as cones. The cones contain light-sensitive pigments that allow you to recognize color. Your eye’s cone recognizes red, green, and blue light based on light wavelengths. AOA continues:4
“Normally, the pigments inside the cones register differing colors and send that information through the optic nerve to the brain enabling you to distinguish countless shades of color.
But if the cones lack one or more light sensitive pigments, you will be unable to see one or more of the three primary colors thereby causing a deficiency in your color perception.
The most common form of color deficiency is red-green. This does not mean that people with this deficiency cannot see these colors at all; they simply have a harder time differentiating between them.
The difficulty they have in correctly identifying them depends on how dark or light the colors are.
Another form of color deficiency is blue-yellow. This is a rarer and more severe form of color vision loss than red-green since persons with blue-yellow deficiency frequently have red-green blindness too. In both cases, it is common for people with color vision deficiency to see neutral or gray areas where a particular color should appear.”What Causes Color Vision Deficiency?
This condition is often inherited, passed from mother (who is typically a carrier of the gene but not color blind herself) to son, in which case it will occur in both eyes. Color vision deficiency caused by injury or illness, which is less common, may impact just one eye. Health conditions that may lead to color deficiency include:Diabetes Glaucoma Macular degeneration Alzheimer’s disease Parkinson’s disease Multiple sclerosis Chronic alcoholism Leukemia Sickle cell anemia
Aging can also affect your ability to see colors vividly, as can certain medications, including those used to treat heart problems, high blood pressure, infections, nervous disorders, and psychological conditions.
It’s known that men and women tend to perceive colors differently, and one group of researchers suggested this could be due to the large number of testosterone receptors in the brain’s cerebral cortex.
Upon testing large groups of young adults with normal vision, they indeed found “marked sex differences in color vision.” Men, on average, were not as able as women to distinguish between shades of blues, greens, and yellows. They concluded:6
“We hypothesize that testosterone plays a major role, somehow leading to different connectivities for males and females: color appearance requires a re-combination and re-weighting of neuronal inputs from the LGN [thalamic neurons] to the cortex, which, as we show, depends on the sex of the participant.”The Island of Color Blindness
The tiny Pacific island Pingelap is known as “Color Blind Island” because of its strikingly high number of people with the condition. In this case, many of the residents are truly color blind and able to see only in black and white. The condition affects about 10 percent of the island’s population.7
They describe challenges such as not being able to detect if food is “off.” Some of the inhabitants have other vision issues as well, such as having difficulty seeing in full sunlight (and seeing better at night). What caused color blindness to take over the island is related to a tsunami that occurred in 1780.
Only about 20 people were thought to have survived, including the king, who carried the genetic mutation for color blindness. Pingelap is a remote island with a relatively small gene pool, so the color-blindness gene has persisted for centuries.Do You Have Color Vision Deficiency? Take This Test to Find Out
The Farnsworth-Munsell 100 hue test is one of the most well-known color blindness and color vision deficiency tests available. It involves sorting color plates by shade, which requires you to differentiate between colors and slight hue variations.
It consists of 88 color plates arranged in four batches of 22. They’re to be arranged so the colors appear to change gradually in steps. You can even take the test online.
If your color vision is normal, you’ll probably get a perfect score or make just a few errors. Those with color vision deficiency will have increasing numbers of errors depending on the severity of the deficiency.
It’s not a perfectly reliable way to diagnose color vision deficiency, especially given the variations that can occur due to computer monitor settings and ambient light conditions. However, it can give you an indication of where your color vision stands. If you have any doubts, visit an eye doctor to have your vision screened.If You Have Color Vision Deficiency, Can It Be Cured?
While there is no known cure for this condition in its inherited form, color deficiency that’s the result of an underlying health condition may improve if the health condition improves. For those with inherited form color vision deficiency, tinted eyeglasses may be useful.
For instance, wearing glasses with a red tint may help you distinguish between different colors. Many people also learn to adapt around the deficiency by using labels (for clothing, for instance) and memorization.
For instance, to distinguish between the colors on a traffic light, people with color vision deficiency will memorize that the red light is on top, yellow in the middle, and green on the bottom.8Want to Test the Quality of Your Eyesight?
Color vision is just one aspect of vision health. If you want to quickly test the quality of your eyesight, check out the video above. Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created a hybrid image titled “Marilyn Einstein” to help you determine if you have good vision.
The picture combines a low spatial frequency (i.e. blurry) image of Marilyn Monroe with a high spatial frequency (i.e. clear) image of Albert Einstein. If your eyesight is working as it should, you should be able to see a detailed picture of Einstein when viewing the picture close up. As the image gets further away and/or smaller (or if you squint your eyes), the image of Monroe will appear.
It’s interesting to note that your perceptions of how well you’ll see Einstein may impact the way you actually see it. According to research by Harvard University psychologist Ellen Langer and colleagues, when people were primed to believe they had excellent eyesight, their vision improved.9
This could be an example of a placebo effect, but it could also be a manifestation of what happens when people relax and, as the researchers noted, adopt a mindset that vision will improve. This is actually the foundation of The Bates Method, which teaches you how to retrain your eyes to relax, thereby allowing you to see more clearly.Are You Giving Your Eyes the Right Nutrients?
Your vision is precious, and while changes in diet won’t necessarily improve your color vision, especially if you struggle with inherited color vision deficiency, they will affect your eyesight overall (for good or for bad). For instance, high insulin levels from excess carbohydrates can disturb the delicate choreography that normally coordinates eyeball lengthening and lens growth. And if your eyeball grows too long, the lens can no longer flatten itself enough to focus a sharp image on your retina.
This theory is also consistent with observations that you’re more likely to develop myopia if you are overweight or have adult-onset diabetes, both of which involve elevated insulin levels. Following my nutrition plan will automatically reduce, or eliminate, excess sugar and grain intake from your diet while helping you optimize your insulin levels. Certain nutrients and foods, however, are also especially important for vision health. These include:
Dark Leafy Greens
The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin are primarily found in green leafy vegetables, with kale and spinach topping the list of lutein-rich foods. Lutein and zeaxanthin are both important nutrients for eye health,10 as both of them are found in high concentrations in your macula — the small central part of your retina responsible for detailed central vision. More specifically, lutein is also found in your macular pigment – known for helping to protect your central vision and aid in blue light absorption — and zeaxanthin is found in your retina.
According to one 1998 study in the British Journal of Ophthalmology orange pepper had the highest amount of zeaxanthin of the 33 fruits and vegetables tested.11 Zeaxanthin cannot be made by your body, so you must get it from your diet.
Organic Pastured Egg Yolks
Egg yolk is a source of both lutein and zeaxanthin along with healthy fat and protein, and while the total amount of carotenoids is lower than many vegetables, they’re in a highly absorbable, nearly ideal form. According to recent research,12 adding a couple of eggs to your salad can also increase the carotenoid absorption from the whole meal as much as ninefold. Keep in mind that once you heat egg yolks (or spinach) the lutein and zeaxanthin become damaged, and will not perform as well in protecting your vision; so cook your eggs as little as possible, such as poached, soft-boiled, or raw.
Wild-Caught Alaskan Salmon
Rich in omega-3s, the omega-3 fat DHA is concentrated in your eye's retina. It provides structural support to cell membranes that boost eye health and protect retinal function, and research suggests eating more foods rich in these fats may slow macular degeneration. In fact, those with the highest intake of animal-based omega-3 fats have a 60 percent lower risk of advanced macular degeneration compared to those who consume the least.13
A 2009 study also found that those with the highest consumption of omega-3 fats were 30 percent less likely to progress to the advanced form of the disease over a 12-year period,14 and a second study published in 2009 also found that those with diets high in omega-3 fats along with vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, lutein, and zeaxanthin had a lower risk of macular degeneration.15
Wild-caught Alaskan salmon is a good source of astaxanthin, but you may not be able to eat enough of it to reap optimal clinical results. Astaxanthin is produced only by the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis when its water supply dries up, forcing it to protect itself from ultraviolet radiation. Compelling evidence suggests this potent antioxidant may be among the most important nutrients for the prevention of blindness. It's a much more powerful antioxidant than both lutein and zeaxanthin and has been found to have protective benefits against a number of eye-related problems, including:Cataracts Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) Cystoid macular edema Diabetic retinopathy Glaucoma Inflammatory eye diseases (i.e., retinitis, iritis, keratitis, and scleritis) Retinal arterial occlusion Venous occlusion
Dr. Mark Tso,16 now of the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University, but who was my boss when I worked at the University of Illinois Eye Bank in the1970s, has demonstrated that astaxanthin easily crosses into the tissues of your eye and exerts its effects safely and with more potency than any of the other carotenoids, without adverse reactions.
Depending on your individual situation, you may want to take an astaxanthin supplement. I recommend starting with 4 milligrams (mg) per day. Krill oil also contains high quality animal-based omega-3 fat in combination with naturally occurring astaxanthin, albeit at lower levels than what you’ll get from an astaxanthin supplement.
A diet rich in whole foods will be best for your vision health, while avoiding processed foods will help you avoid many risks to your eyesight. For instance, a diet high in trans fat appears to contribute to macular degeneration by interfering with omega-3 fats in your body. Even though its health risks are well known, trans fat is still found in many processed foods and baked goods, including margarine, shortening, fried foods like French fries, fried chicken, doughnuts, cookies, pastries, and crackers. You’ll also want to avoid artificial sweeteners, as vision problems are one of the many potential acute symptoms of aspartame poisoning.
By Dr. Mercola
I recently caught up on my Netflix queue and watched episode seven of Cosmos, and was delighted to learn about one of the greatest heroes of the 20th century that I had never heard of.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has called water fluoridation the greatest public health achievement of the 20th Century. Clearly, they got that WRONG.
Many have forgotten that leaded gasoline was used for 80 years before the lead was removed, despite the fact that its toxicity has been known for at least 2,000 years.
Clair Patterson, PhD was instrumental in defeating the oil industry and getting lead removed from gas, and that definitely beats water fluoridation in terms of protecting public health.
Patterson is an unsung public health hero of the 20th century that most people have never heard of. The featured video is a 30-minute summary of the evolution of leaded gas, and ultimately, its removal, which was no small feat.
You can watch episode seven of Cosmos on Netflix for the full story, or watch this hidden gem video at the top of the page that took me hours of online searching to find. I was really surprised, actually shocked, that this story is not plastered all over YouTube.
Most likely this is related to the fact the story is 50 years old. Nevertheless, please watch the video as it is a very powerful testimony that will help put a perspective on many of the health challenges we face today.
The auto and chemical industries used the same techniques back then as they do now; promoting, defending, manipulating government officials, and molding public opinion in order to profit from a toxic product, all while knowing exactly the kind of harm it causes.
My hope is that the videos and this powerful story will motivate and inspire you to become a health advocate in your local community. It may take decades, and you may be vilified, but ultimately you will enjoy sweet victory by protecting millions of innocents from being harmed.The History of Leaded Gasoline
In the 1920s, lead was added to gasoline in order to make it a more efficient fuel. At that time, it was already well known that lead caused neurological harm, especially to children, in which it has been shown to lower IQ.
The first automobiles produced used all sorts of fuels — anything that would turn over a combustion engine, including benzene from coal, synthetic gasolines, and alcohol from farm crops.
A number of European countries used blends of alcohol as their primary fuel, and alcohol was predicted to become the choice of the future. It was more expensive than oil however, which made it less attractive.
Once the high compression engine was invented, car manufacturers started running into performance problems. General Motors diagnosed the problem, realizing that the problem originated with the fuel.
Large amounts of money were invested to figure out how to raise the octane level to reduce engine knocking. General Motors tried about 15,000 different combinations of elements to find a solution to the problem.
Adding benzene from coal to gasoline was found to work. Ditto for adding grain alcohol. Adding 10 percent alcohol to gasoline raised the quality of the fuel, causing less knocking in the engine. It also had other benefits, including clean combustion, which eliminated soot emissions, and increased horsepower without engine knocking.
But as research continued, General Motors determined that adding lead to the gasoline produced “an ideal anti-knock fuel.” It was ideal because manufacturing the lead additive, tetraethyl lead, would allow them to make the greatest profits.
They were very careful to avoid using the word “lead,” a known poison. Instead they created a rather benign sounding euphemistic chemical derivative from tetraethyl lead and called it “ethyl.” They even branded it with a female named Ethyl.
Standard Oil, the biggest oil company in the US, partnered with General Motors, creating a joint corporation known as Ethyl Corporation.
Ironically, the lead researcher at General Motors ended up with lead poisoning from the experiments, yet he still marveled about the profits the company stood to make.
As mentioned, alcohol additives basically provided the same benefit — it prevented engine knocking and boosted horsepower — while having added benefits like cleaner combustion.
So why exactly did a more toxic solution win out? In a word: profitability. Leaded gasoline had a much higher profit margin.
As explained in the film, by adding a percentage of alcohol to the gasoline, the oil industry stood to lose a large amount of petroleum sales, anywhere from 10 to 20 percent, depending on how much alcohol was added.
On the other hand, by adding lead to gasoline, the oil industry had a product it could control in its entirety, and that was their aim.
Considering the fact that lead is one of the best known poisons in mankind’s history, this decision really epitomizes the evil that goes along with unbridled greed. Even the ancient Romans knew that lead could cause insanity and led to death.
Public health officials did object to the addition of lead to gasoline. They were greatly concerned about the idea of adding hundreds of thousands of tons of a well-known industrial poison into the environment every year.
General Motors eventually capitulated and agreed to finance an investigation into the health effects of leaded gasoline.What’s in a Name?
The US Bureau of Mines, which wrote up the report, was asked by General Motors to avoid the term “lead gasoline.” The Bureau complied, and instead used the term “ethyl gasoline,” which was part of the name of the additive.
There’s a great similarity here with dental amalgams. Amalgam is 50 percent mercury, and rightfully should be referred to as mercury amalgams, or mercury fillings. But instead, they were termed “silver fillings,” referring to their color rather than their content. This misdirection has been exceptionally successful, and still to this day many do not realize that amalgams contain mercury.
In this case, Ethyl was a common name for a woman, and the association with a sweet woman’s name effectively diverted attention from the fact that it contained toxic lead. As mentioned, ads for ethyl gasoline even included the image of a young, beautiful woman named Ethyl, to cement this benevolent association.
However, there were ominous signs that leaded gas was a huge mistake right from the start. During the fall of 1924 — the year the first tetraethyl lead facility opened — reports quickly emerged of workers getting ill, suffering hallucinations, and even dying.
As reported in the film, the process used to manufacture tetraethyl lead was so hazardous that within the first month of operation, five workers went “violently insane” and died, and another 45 were severely injured by lead poisoning. This caused an enormous public outcry, and people were shocked to realize that “ethyl gasoline” in fact contained lead — a toxin known to cause insanity and death since the times of the Romans...Government Backed Big Oil
The government was urged to conduct an investigation, and a number of cities banned the sale of leaded gas. Months later the Surgeon General, Hugh Smith Cumming, invited industry leaders and independent experts to a conference to assess the situation.
Curiously, the Surgeon General ended the meeting early, after just one day instead of the four that were planned, and six months later, the health authorities concluded that “there are no good grounds for prohibiting the use of ethyl gasoline,” and the ban on the sale of leaded gas was lifted. Moreover, as noted in the film:
“The resistance to leaded gasoline disappeared, partly because there was a Federal Trade Commission order in the United States that banned any negative advertising about leaded gasoline. So if you were selling a competitive product, you couldn’t say that leaded gasoline was poisonous.”
The US Public Health Service also reached out to other nations saying they’d studied ethyl gasoline, and since no ill effects were found, these other countries should consider using it too. And thus, the use of leaded gasoline spread across the world at the recommendation from one of the highest health authorities in the world.Enter Clair Patterson, PhD and Public Health Advocate Extraordinaire...
Clair Patterson, PhD may seem like an unlikely candidate to save the day in this story. He was a geochemist who received his PhD, from the University of Chicago and then worked at Cal Tech, one of the most prestigious universities in the US. He worked on the Manhattan Project but is best known for his pioneering work in 1963 for establishing the age of the earth as being 4.5 billion years old. He was able to do this by analyzing certain isotopes of lead.1,2
He struggled for many years with conflicting results from his research when he finally realized the problems were the result of massive environmental lead contamination.
Initially he couldn’t determine the source of the lead contamination. The answer became apparent when he analyzed ancient pristine ice core samples taken in Greenland. He could clearly show how the lead levels in Greenland’s ice layers corresponded to eras such as the Roman era, the industrial revolution, and then, following the advent of leaded gasoline in the mid-1920s, a major spike in lead concentrations occurred.
He also found that the amount of lead in the environment was about 80 times the amount deposited in the ocean sediments, which explained his research discrepancies in the age of the earth determination. He was the first to fully appreciate that leaded gasoline had polluted every last corner of the globe — even the most remote of areas, and as a result everyone was being exposed to industrial lead pollution with very serious health consequences.
Then came another piece of shocking news. Animals in the Staten Island Zoo were poisoned. Some of the animals died, and one black leopard was paralyzed. The investigation revealed the poison was lead, and that it was coming from the environment. At that time, an estimated 200,000 tons of lead were being deposited into urban environments each year, and the animals were suffering the repercussions.Patterson Continued His Campaign to Remove Lead from Gas
In 1965, Patterson tried to draw public attention to the problem of increased lead levels in the environment and the food chain due to lead from industrial sources with the publication of his book, Contaminated and Natural Lead Environments of Man. In his effort to ensure that lead was removed from gasoline, Patterson ran up against the lobbying power of the oil and auto industries.
In an effort to preserve their profits, these industries used their powerful influence to launch a massive discrediting campaign against him and his research. Patterson was refused contracts with many research organizations, including the supposedly “neutral” United States Public Health Service. In 1971, he was also excluded from a National Research Council (NRC) panel on atmospheric lead contamination, even though he was the world expert on the subject at that time. Imagine how you would feel if you were the world expert and excluded from an expert panel because of a stance you took to protect the public health.
Despite these massive discrediting efforts, he doggedly pursued the elimination of lead from gasoline. Finally, in 1975, the US mandated the use of unleaded gasoline to protect catalytic converters. It took another 11 years but in 1986, Patterson's persistence caused the removal of lead from all gasoline in the US and as a result, blood lead levels in Americans dropped by 80 percent by the late 1990s. In my view he is one of the greatest unrecognized public health heroes of the 20th century.A Cautionary Tale of the Price of Corporate Greed
As noted in the film, this one substance, tetraethyl lead, added to gasoline, has had near-unfathomable repercussions for the health of the global community. Children exposed to lead were found to have significantly decreased IQ, for example. In one study, there was a six point difference in average IQ scores between children with the highest levels of lead in their teeth and those with the lowest levels.
Those with high lead exposure during childhood also had a seven-fold increased risk of not finishing high school, so the researchers were able to demonstrate that exposure to leaded gas had real-life, long-term ramifications on health and productivity. The loss in productivity in the US alone from these reductions in IQ is in the many billions of dollars.
By the end of the 1990s, lead was completely phased out of gasoline, replaced instead with the original alternative — alcohol. From beginning to end, lead was used in gasoline for nearly 80 years, causing unimaginable harm across the globe, just because the oil industry didn’t want to forgo a portion of its potential profits. We could have used alcohol to boost the octane level all along, had less greedy minds prevailed.
I find remarkable similarities between the experiences of Patterson, who was the world expert in his area and all the challenges he had in removing lead from gasoline when it was a known toxin for 2,000 years, and another toxin, fluoride, which was reinvented as a dental prophylactic in order to save the aluminum industry from lawsuits and exorbitant hazardous waste disposal costs... Fluoride, just like lead, is also associated with reductions in IQ which was one of the reasons they were finally able to get lead banned.
Unfortunately, fluoride doesn’t have the same history as a known toxin, so it’s been difficult to get it removed from drinking water. However, it’s just a matter of time. Eventually, the truth and the protection of human health will prevail. But we need to learn from history and recognize that there are very powerful corporate influences that will lodge massive discrediting campaigns to anyone or any organization that seeks to tell the truth or protect the public health on this issue.
Thankfully, we are making progress with other chemicals, like flame retardants, which are used in everything from furniture to electronics. They too have been linked to IQ reductions. And the proliferation of these toxic chemicals and the strong resistance to cut down on their use can again be traced back to the chemical industry’s “looking out for number one,” meaning itself, and its profits. We still have a ways to go here, but I suspect we, just like Patterson, will ultimately be victorious in the removal of both flame retardants and fluoride, although flame retardants will likely be eliminated before fluoride is.Tips to Reduce Your Chemical Exposure at Home
Certainly, there’s no shortage of toxic chemicals to avoid. The infographic above highlights some of the most common and most dangerous ones, which includes lead, mercury, and fluoride. Implementing the following measures will help you avoid a number of different chemicals from a wide variety of sources. To sum it up, stick to whole foods and natural products around your home.
The fewer ingredients a product contains, the better, and try to make sure anything you put on or in your body – or use around your home – contains only substances you're familiar with. If you can't pronounce it, you probably don't want it anywhere near your family.
- As much as possible, buy and eat organic produce and free-range, organic meats to reduce your exposure to added hormones, pesticides, and fertilizers. Also avoid milk and other dairy products that contain the genetically engineered recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST).
- Rather than eating conventional or farm-raised fish, which are often heavily contaminated with PCBs and mercury, supplement with a high-quality purified krill oil, or eat smaller fish or fish that is wild-caught and lab tested for purity. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon is about the only fish I eat for these reasons.
- Buy products that come in glass bottles or jars, rather than plastic or canned, since chemicals can leach out of plastics and into the contents.
- Store your food and beverages in glass rather than plastic, and avoid using plastic wrap.
- Use glass baby bottles and avoid plastic sippy cups for your little ones.
- Eat mostly raw, fresh foods. Processed, prepackaged foods (of all kinds) are a common source of chemicals such as BPA and phthalates.
- Replace your non-stick pots and pans with ceramic or glass cookware.
- Filter your tap water — both for drinking and bathing. If you can only afford to do one, filtering your bathing water may be more important, as your skin absorbs contaminants. To remove the endocrine-disrupting herbicide Atrazine, make sure the filter is certified to remove it. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), perchlorate can be filtered out using a reverse osmosis filter.
- Look for products that are made by companies that are earth-friendly, animal-friendly, green, non-toxic, and/or 100 percent organic. This applies to everything from food and personal care products to building materials, carpeting, paint, baby items, upholstery, and more.
- Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to remove house dust, which is often contaminated with traces of chemicals.
- When buying new products such as furniture, mattresses, or carpet padding, ask what type of fire retardant it contains. Be mindful of and/or avoid items containing PBDEs, antimony, formaldehyde, boric acid, and other brominated chemicals. As you replace these toxic items around your home, select those that contain naturally less flammable materials, such as leather, wool, and cotton.
- Avoid stain- and water-resistant clothing, furniture, and carpets to avoid perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs).
- Minimize your use of plastic baby and child toys, opting for those made of natural wood or fabric instead.
- Only use natural cleaning products in your home or make your own. Avoid products that contain 2-butoxyethanol (EGBE) and methoxydiglycol (DEGME) — two toxic glycol ethers that can damage fertility and cause fetal harm.
- Switch over to organic brands of toiletries such as shampoo, toothpaste, antiperspirants, and cosmetics. You can replace many different products with coconut oil and baking soda, for example.
- Replace feminine hygiene products like tampons and sanitary pads with safer alternatives.
- Avoid artificial air fresheners, dryer sheets, fabric softeners, or other synthetic fragrances.
- Look for products that are fragrance-free. One artificial fragrance can contain hundreds – even thousands – of potentially toxic chemicals.
- Replace your vinyl shower curtain with one made of fabric.
By Dr. Mercola
In this modern-day digital age, there’s a case to be made for communicating via video conferences, phone calls, and emails. Traveling to attend in-person meetings can be stressful, not to mention time consuming and expensive.
A white paper by Verizon Conferencing found a five-person meeting conducted in-person (involving plane travel for four of the attendees) is over seven times more expensive than a meeting conducted by audio conference and three times as expensive as a video conference.1
The average attendee also spent 53 hours and 24 minutes preparing for and travelling to the in-person event, which is about three times the time involved in either the audio or video meeting. Verizon noted:2
“The price of traveling to meeting after meeting is also paid in the currencies of lost productivity, wasted time, unattended-to work at the office, and time away from home and family – not to mention the stress and frustration involved in travel itself.”
Yet, despite their clear advantages in terms of efficiency, monetary savings, and convenience, audio and video conferences may not provide the same impact that a face-to-face meeting can provide.
Perhaps that’s why 87 percent of those surveyed by Verizon said they most prefer to meet in-person, and in-person meetings were ranked as more productive than their virtual counterparts.3
Researchers from Beijing Normal University pointed out that face-to-face communication differs from other forms of communication in two key ways:4
- Face-to-face communication involves the integration of “multimodal sensory information,” such as nonverbal cues (facial expressions, gestures, etc.)
- Face-to-face communication involves more continuous turn-taking behaviors between partners, which has been shown to play a pivotal role in social interactions and reflects the level of involvement of a person in the communication
These factors are critical to effective communication and may even play a role in helping to synchronize your brain with others in your conversation. In fact, research has shown a significant increase in the neural synchronization between the brains of two partners during face-to-face, but not during other types of, conversation.5
According to the study, which was published in The Journal of Neuroscience:6
“These results suggest that face-to-face communication, particularly dialog, has special neural features that other types of communication do not have and that the neural synchronization between partners may underlie successful face-to-face communication.”
Interestingly, this neural synchronization is also thought to play a key role in leader emergence, with those emerging as leaders synchronizing their brain activity with followers to a greater degree than occurs between followers and other followers.7
The quality of the communication was found to be a more important contributor to neural synchronization than the quantity of communication. This suggests that perhaps even infrequent in-person meetings may have more of an impact than frequent digital meetings.The Unconscious Elements of Face-to-Face Meetings May Trump Even Language
Researchers from MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory, including Alex Pentland and colleagues, have further revealed that face-to-face meetings allow members to come up with more ideas and become more capable as a group compared to virtual meetings. As Newsweek reported:8
“The deep, often unconscious elements of in-person interaction are more important than language. Pentland and his team have studied hundreds of groups in face-to-face meetings where participants wear sociometric badges, unobtrusive devices that record unspoken social signals ,
Who’s talking, how much, in what tone, interrupting or not, facing toward whom and away from whom, and gesturing how — but don’t record what people say.
That turns out not to matter. Pentland’s remarkable finding is that ‘usually we can completely ignore the content of discussions and use only the visible social signals to predict the outcome of a negotiation or a sales pitch, the quality of group decision making, and the roles people assume within the group.’
What matters are the many ways we connect only when we’re physically together.”
You might argue that you can still “read” a person’s facial expressions over video chat, but research suggests something is still lost in translation. For instance, in a study of brainstorming sessions done face-to-face, over the phone, or via video chat, the face-to-face sessions produced significantly more creative ideas.9 Face-to-face pairs generated about 30 percent more ideas than virtual pairs.Face-to-Face Meetings Are Best for Creativity
Meeting in person allows for increased eye contact, which builds increased trust and encourages group members to confide in and co-create with their group. Research published in the International Journal of Organizational Design and Engineering found:10
“ … [T]he more team members directly interact with each other face-to-face, and the more they trust other team members, the more creative and of higher quality the result of their teamwork is.”
The power of face-to-face meetings has not been lost on some of the most successful corporations in the world. The late Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, is said to have designed workspaces in order to force people to have more in-person interactions.
Google also serves its employees free food in cafeterias, in part to encourage them to stay on campus and mingle with their co-workers over lunch.11 Yahoo even made headlines in 2013 for, controversially, banning telecommuting for its employees. At that time, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said in a memo:12
“Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”Harvard Cites Benefits of ‘The Water Cooler Effect’ on Scientific Research
Colleagues who spend more time in close proximity, able to chat around the water cooler, so to speak, may even produce better research, according to Harvard Medical School researchers.13
After examining data from 35,000 biomedical science papers, they found more personal contact, particularly between the article’s first and last authors, led to more citations generated (the number of citations generated per scientific paper is used as a gauge of article quality).14 They concluded:
“Despite the positive impact of emerging communication technologies on scientific research, our results provide striking evidence for the role of physical proximity as a predictor of the impact of collaborations.”Is There a ‘Goldilocks Zone’ for Telecommuting?
Telecommuting is becoming increasingly popular among employers and employees a like. While 50 percent of companies allowed telecommuting in 2008, this had risen to 67 percent in 2014.15
While increased telecommuting offers greater flexibility to workers and may save companies money in overhead costs, it also takes away valuable time for face-to-face interactions among employees. Is there a “happy medium” that might provide benefits all around?
A poll conducted by Gallup suggests there may be. It found people who work remotely report being more engaged, enthusiastic, and committed to their work, provided they work remotely 20 percent of their working hours or less.16,17 It seems one key to telecommuting successfully may be to spend more time working in the office than out of it. As Money reported:18
“On one hand, it [Gallup’s poll] found evidence of added productivity from those working outside the office: People actually work more hours at home, in part because they weren’t commuting or running errands at lunch. Some of the productivity increase also comes from being away from office distractions, says Gallup CEO Jim Clifton.
But there is a point of diminishing returns, adds Clifton. People who spend 50 percent or more of their time working off site are less engaged than in-office counterparts and people who spend all of their time working remotely are twice as likely to feel disconnected from their work, Gallup found.”In-Person Interactions Are Important in Your Personal Life, Too
Much of the research on the benefits of face-to-face interactions surrounds their role in the business world, but don’t forget these benefits apply to your personal life too. Loneliness, a feeling of being disconnected from those around you and wishing you had that connection, is on the rise and can put your health – both physical and emotional – at risk.
While people are increasingly turning to social media as a way to connect with friends and family, be sure you are also taking time to have those irreplaceable face-to-face visits with those you care about. Psych Central explained:19
“It is often difficult, if not impossible, on social media to reveal the qualities that define deep, intimate relationships. While our social media friends offer us a great deal, it is not a true substitute or even supplement for real-life interactions with others. Social support can be a strong predictor of positive mental health. Emotional support has been shown to protect us from a wide array of both psychiatric and physical ailments.
But unlike online friendships, real-life relationships take time and effort. They help us learn about others and ultimately ourselves. Online friendships, while certainly valuable in many ways, lack the ability to provide us with opportunities for deep and lasting emotional closeness. So accept and seek out your online friends, rekindle lost connections, and revisit childhood friendships, as long as it is not at the expense of nurturing and deepening your real-life relationships.”
By Dr. Mercola
Antidepressants are among the most prescribed types of drugs in the US,1 despite the fact that many of them have also been linked to violence against self and others.
In 2004, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revised2 the labeling requirements for antidepressant medications (SSRIs and others), warning that:
“Antidepressants increased the risk compared to placebo of suicidal thinking and behavior (suicidality) in children, adolescents, and young adults in short-term studies of major depressive disorder (MDD) and other psychiatric disorders.
Anyone considering the use of [Insert established name] or any other antidepressant in a child, adolescent, or young adult must balance this risk with the clinical need.”
These labeling revisions were in large part driven by lawsuits in which pharmaceutical companies were forced to reveal previously undisclosed drug data.
The following year, the FDA issued yet another advisory; this time warning women that taking Paxil during pregnancy could result in a number of debilitating birth defects,3 including congenital heart defects.GlaxoSmithKline Has Paid $4 Billion in Settlements Related to Paxil
A civil lawsuit filed in 20044 charged GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) with fraud, claiming the drugmaker hid results from studies on Paxil showing the drug did not work in adolescents and in some cases led to suicidal ideation.
Rather than warning doctors of such potential side effects, GSK encouraged them to prescribe the drug to teens and children, which led to a significant increase in prescriptions — and violence, including suicides and homicides.
A study5 by the Institute of Safe Medication Practices published in 2010 identified 31 commonly-prescribed drugs disproportionately associated with violent acts. Paxil ranks third on this list.
A study by the Drug Safety Research Unit in Southampton showed that one in every 250 subjects taking Paxil or Prozac were involved in a violent episode.
In 2011, a whopping 14 million prescriptions for Paxil were written in the US,6 potentially equating to some 56,000 drug-induced incidents of violence annually from this drug alone.
GSK has paid out more than $1 billion to settle more than 800 different lawsuits related to Paxil,7 in addition to a $3 billion settlement with the US Department of Justice for the illegal marketing of Paxil and other drugs.
Yet Paxil has remained a “staple” in the psychiatrist’s arsenal. Perhaps this will finally change once the most recent research into Paxil becomes more widely known...GlaxoSmithKline’s Paxil Research Refuted By New Study
As reported by The New York Times:13
“Antidepressant trials are an extremely tricky enterprise, in part because anywhere from a third to more than half of subjects typically improve on placebo.
Choices about how to measure improvement — and how to label side effects — can make all the difference in how good a drug looks. And so it was in the Paxil study.
The original research... tracked depression scores over eight weeks in three groups of about 90 adolescents each, one taking Paxil, one on placebo pills, and one taking imipramine, an older generic drug for depression.
The Paxil group did no better than the other two groups on the study’s main measure — a standard depression questionnaire — but did rate higher on other, ‘secondary’ measures, like another scale of mood problems, the authors reported.
Researchers consider secondary measures like these as akin to circumstantial evidence, potentially meaningful but not as strong as the primary ones...”
The reanalysis of all of the original raw data provided by GSK found no evidence that Paxil was effective for the treatment of major depression in teens. In fact, its effectiveness, both clinically and statistically, was right on par with placebo.
It also found that serious side effects such as suicidal tendencies were mislabeled and misrepresented. As it turns out, the elevated risk for suicidal ideation was only gleaned by digging into the actual patient files, where the exact nature of the behavior was recorded.
In terms of harms, the difference between Paxil and placebo was “striking,” according to the researchers.
Severe adverse events were 260 percent more frequent on Paxil compared to placebo, psychiatric adverse events were 400 percent more frequent, and suicide was 10,300 percent more frequent — during the eight-week long study, 11 individuals in the Paxil group engaged in suicidal behavior, compared to just one in the placebo group.Reanalysis Reignites Call for Retraction of GSK’s Study 329
When Study 329 was originally published it received a lot of criticism, and calls for retraction have been made a number of times, citing both research flaws and ghostwriting, as well as undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
In an accompanying article14 to this new research, Peter Doshi, associate editor for The BMJ notes that the original manuscript for Study 329 was written by a writer on GSK’s payroll — not any of the 22 named authors.
“It is often said that science self corrects. But for those who have been calling for a retraction of the Keller paper for many years, the system has failed,” Doshi writes.
“None of the paper’s 22 mostly academic university authors, nor the journal’s editors, nor the academic and professional institutions they belong to, have intervened to correct the record.
The paper remains without so much as an erratum, and none of its authors — many of whom are educators and prominent members of their respective professional societies — have been disciplined.”
Still, while the reanalysis has reignited calls for a retraction of Study 329, the authors have downplayed any wrongdoings of the original researchers, focusing instead on marshalling for greater transparency and data sharing to raise the scientific integrity of drug research.
Co-author Jon Jureidini told Time Magazine:15 It’s not the point of this paper to humiliate GSK or to accuse anyone of fraud. It’s an attempt to honestly present the data. This is what the original paper should have looked like. If the original paper had reported things this way, there never would have been a problem.”Barriers to Accurate Reporting of Harms in Drug Studies
The reanalysis has done more than simply reverse the original findings however. It also highlights the importance of making raw study data openly available for review and assessment by the scientific community.
Had this “double-check” analysis been done a decade ago, a lot of lives could have been spared. It might also have prevented the “contamination” of other studies. Study 329 has been cited in 334 other studies16 — all noting of course that Paxil is effective and well tolerated.
It can be mindboggling to consider the snowball effect any given flawed study can have... Had Study 329 reported Paxil ineffective and unsafe, how might it have affected the conclusions of those other 334 studies?
The analysis was also able to identify a number of barriers that make it difficult to accurately report adverse side effects associated with drugs, and hopefully this will be able to help researchers improve the way these kinds of studies are done and analyzed in the future. The 10 potential barriers to accurate reporting of side effects include:Using an idiosyncratic coding system Failing to transcribe all adverse events (AE) from clinical record to AE database Filtering data on AE’s through statistical techniquesRestricting reporting to events that occurred above a given frequency in one group Coding events under different headings for different patientsGrouping events together Insufficient consideration of severityCoding of relatedness to study medication Masking effects of concomitant drugs Ignoring effects of drug withdrawal When Crime Pays — the Case of Risperdal
Writing for The New York Times,17 Nicholas Kristof recently addressed a similar situation in which a drug company made big bucks from a drug approved and marketed based on false information. The drug in this case is Risperdal, a billion-dollar antipsychotic that has been promoted to both young boys with autism and elderly dementia patients with devastating effects.
In the elderly, the drug is associated with stroke and subsequent death, and in boys it can promote the development of breasts. One young man was recently awarded $2.5 million in damages after the drug caused him to develop a 46DD bust.18
“Yet Johnson & Johnson marketed Risperdal aggressively to the elderly and to boys while allegedly manipulating and hiding the data about breast development. J&J got caught, pleaded guilty to a crime and has paid more than $2 billion in penalties and settlements. But that pales next to some $30 billion in sales of Risperdal around the world. In short, crime pays, if you’re a major corporation,” Kristof writes.
“J&J may in the end have to pay a total of $6 billion in settlements for its misconduct. But... the company made $18 billion in profits on Risperdal, just within the United States... That’s why we need tougher enforcement of safety regulations, and why white-collar criminals need to be prosecuted (as Attorney General Loretta Lynch has promised will happen). Risperdal is a cautionary tale: When we allow businesses to profit from crimes, we all lose.”Key Factors to Overcoming Depression Without Drugs
While there are instances where drugs may be warranted, antidepressants are rarely the most appropriate answer for depression. It’s important to realize that your diet and general lifestyle are foundational factors that must be optimized if you want to resolve your mental health issues, because your body and mind are so closely interrelated. Depression is indeed a very serious condition; however it is not a “disease.” Rather, it’s a sign that your body and your life are out of balance.
Mounting and compelling research demonstrates just how interconnected your mental health is with your gastrointestinal health for example. While many think of their brain as the organ in charge of their mental health, your gut may actually play a far more significant role. Research tells us that the composition of your gut flora not only affects your physical health, but also has a significant impact on your brain function and mental state. Previous research has also shown that certain probiotics can even help alleviate anxiety.19, 20
So the place to start is to return balance — to your body and your life. Fortunately, research confirms that there are safe and effective ways to address depression that do not involve unsafe (and ineffective) drugs. This includes but is not limited to the following. For additional suggestions, please review the links listed under Related Articles:Eat real food Dramatically decrease your consumption of processed foods, sugar (particularly fructose), and grains. There's a great book on this subject, The Sugar Blues, written by William Dufty more than 30 years ago, that delves into the topic of sugar and mental health in great detail. In addition to being high in sugar and grains, processed foods also contain a variety of additives that can affect your brain function and mental state, especially MSG, and artificial sweeteners such as aspartame. Optimize your gut floraIncrease consumption of probiotic foods, such as fermented vegetables and kefir, to promote healthy gut flora. Mounting evidence tells us that having a healthy gut is profoundly important for both physical and mental health, and the latter can be severely impacted by an imbalance of intestinal bacteria. Remember your gut is your second brain and produces more neurotransmitters than your brain. Get adequate vitamin B12Vitamin B12 deficiency can contribute to depression and affects one in four people. Optimize your vitamin D levelsVitamin D is very important for your mood. In one study, people with the lowest levels of vitamin D were found to be 11 times more prone to be depressed than those who had normal levels.21
The best way to get vitamin D is through sensible sun exposure. SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a type of depression that we know is related to sunshine deficiency, so it would make sense that the perfect way to optimize your vitamin D is through sun exposure. Optimize your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio To normalize your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, take high quality omega 3 oils such as krill oil and radically reduce if not completely eliminate industrial processed omega 6 oils.
DHA, an animal based omega-3 fat, is crucial for good brain function and mental health.22 Dr. Stoll, a Harvard psychiatrist, was one of the early leaders in compiling the evidence supporting the use of animal based omega-3 fats for the treatment of depression. He wrote an excellent book that details his experience in this area called The Omega-3 Connection. Evaluate your salt intakeSodium deficiency creates symptoms closely resembling those of depression. Make sure you do NOT use processed salt (regular table salt), however. You'll want to use an all natural, unprocessed salt like Himalayan salt, which contains more than 80 different micronutrients. Exercise dailyExercise is one of the most effective strategies for preventing and overcoming depression. Studies have shown there is a strong correlation between improved mood and aerobic capacity. There’s a growing acceptance that the mind-body connection is very real, and that maintaining good physical health can significantly lower your risk of developing depression in the first place. Get adequate amounts of sleepYou can have the best diet and exercise program possible but if you aren't sleeping well you can easily become depressed. Sleep and depression are so intimately linked that a sleep disorder is actually part of the definition of the symptom complex that gives the label depression.
By Dr. Mercola
Many Americans are aware that the processed foods lining grocery store shelves contain a variety of food additives. But most probably assume those additives have been tested for safety and approved for use in food by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
This isn't actually the case, however. While food manufacturers can submit new additives to the FDA for review, the process takes an average of two years… and some ingredients aren't approved for decades.
Food manufacturers are in the business of bringing new foods to the market, and fast, so rather than wait for a review process that's described as a "highway that is constantly gridlocked," many turn to the much less obstructed "GRAS pathway."1The GRAS Loophole That Allows Food Manufacturers to Add Practically Anything to Your Food
GRAS, or generally recognized as safe, is a loophole created in 1958. At the time, the first law regulating food additives had just been put into place, which required food companies to submit new ingredients to the FDA for review.
Congress didn't want the FDA to waste time reviewing common staple ingredients like table salt and vinegar, so they added the loophole that companies could prove certain ingredients to be GRAS, with no FDA review required.
However, since the 1950s the number of food additives has grown from about 800 to more than 10,000. We're not talking only about simple natural ingredients like vinegar and table salt anymore, but countless chemical concoctions that are putting Americans' health at risk.
There's lupin (sometimes spelled "lupine"), for example, which was rejected by the FDA when an Australia company wanted to add it to bread, pasta, and cereal. The ingredient is made from a peanut-related legume, and therefore could cause life-threatening allergic reactions in people with peanut allergies.
While lupin must be labeled as a major food allergen in Europe, some companies are using it in US foods with no warning for people with peanut allergies. Another example are meatless "Quorn" products, which contain a GRAS fungus-based ingredient called mycoprotein.
One young boy with a mold allergy died after eating a Quorn "burger," as the product has no label warning of the fungus-based ingredient on the package. Even synthetic trans fats, which are strongly linked to heart disease and other chronic diseases, were long considered GRAS and became a mainstay of processed foods for decades.
It was only in June 2015 that the FDA finally revoked trans fats' GRAS status. Laura MacCleery, an attorney with the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer advocacy group, told the Center for Public Integrity:2
"It's really clear that we have no basis to make almost any conclusions about the safety of the current food supply… We don't know what people are eating."Food Companies Use the Same 'Handful' of Scientists to Deem Ingredients GRAS
One of the most alarming problems with the GRAS loophole is that food companies are tasked with determining such status for their own ingredients.
So a company can simply hire an industry insider to evaluate the chemical, and if that individual determines the chemical meets federal safety standards, it can be deemed GRAS.
A Center for Public Integrity analysis of publicly available data found that food companies rely on a limited number of scientists again and again to make such determinations. Several of the "regulars" even have ties to the tobacco industry. According to the Center for Public Integrity:3
"Food companies repeatedly turn to a handful of scientists to determine whether new food additives can be deemed 'generally recognized as safe,' and avoid a rigorous pre-market government safety review."
Once an additive is granted GRAS status by the hired panel, the company doesn't even need to inform the FDA that the ingredient is used, and no independent third-party objective evaluation is ever required.
According to CSPI, at least 1,000 ingredients are added to US foods that the FDA has no knowledge of.4
As if that's not bad enough, if a company does choose to notify the FDA, and the FDA disagrees with the company's determination that the item is GRAS, the company can simply withdraw its GRAS notification and go ahead and use it anyway, as if no questions were ever raised.
This legal loophole 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.Food Additive Safety Process Is 'Illegal'
In 2011, the FDA re-opened the public comment period for proposed rules governing the GRAS system. Earlier this year, CSPI filed an 80-page comment that calls the FDA's process for overseeing food additives "illegal."
The comment, which was co-signed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Consumers Union, and the Environmental Working Group, notes the process is secretive and "undermines FDA's ability to conduct meaningful scientific assessments of the safety of food additives."5 According to the CSPI:6
"That law acknowledged that the FDA need not require pre-market testing of substances that had long been used in foods or that were well-recognized as safe by scientists…
But in a rulemaking opened by the agency in 1997 — but never finalized — FDA weakened the standards for what could be considered GRAS and proposed making permanent what the groups say is an illegal program of GRAS determinations by the food industry, often done in secret...
'The FDA must provide better oversight over all of the substances that are put in our food, especially those whose safety is in question,' said EWG Research Director Renee Sharp.
'Any safety determination should be based on publicly available scientific data, not the opinions of 'expert panels' that likely have conflicts of interest with food additive regulation.'"
In the comment, CSPI proposed the FDA limit which ingredients can bypass agency review, minimize conflicts of interest for scientists, and improve the quality and quantity of scientific data to back up safety decisions.7Phosphates: Another Potentially Dangerous GRAS Additive
Phosphorus-based food additives known as phosphates are used to enhance flavor and moistness in a variety of processed foods, including deli meats, frozen food, cereal, cheese, baked goods, soda, and more.
It's estimated that up to 45 percent of grocery store items may contain phosphates, which have been granted GRAS status. In people with kidney disease, however, phosphates can be dangerous as they build up in your body and may lead to hormonal changes, bone problems, heart disease, and an increased risk of death.
There's also concern the additives may pose a risk to healthy adults, in part because there are so many phosphates in processed foods that many Americans are eating too much.
Alex Chang, MD, a clinical investigator and nephrologist with the Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania, told Medicine Net that one-third of Americans eat twice as much phosphorus as is recommended (700 milligrams is the recommended daily allowance).8
A study he co-authored further revealed that higher levels of phosphates are linked to more premature deaths among healthy adults. In 2014, the National Kidney Foundation asked the FDA to require food manufacturers to list the amount of phosphorus on nutrition labels.
The European Food Safety Authority is also currently reevaluating adding phosphates to food, but the results of their study aren't expected until the end of 2018. If you'd like to avoid phosphates in your diet, keep in mind that it may be listed as simply "phosphate" or as part of a longer ingredient, such as "sodium tripolyphosphate." Mona Calvo, an expert at the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, further noted:9
"There is accumulating evidence that both the high intakes [of phosphates] and the poor balance of intake with other nutrients may place individuals at risk of kidney disease, bone loss, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic health conditions."Your Favorite Processed Foods Broken Down into Additives…
Have you ever wondered what you're really eating when you bite into a Twinkie or a Cool Ranch Dorito? Photographer Dwight Eschliman and writer Steve Ettlinger show you in their book Ingredients: A Visual Exploration of 75 Additives & 25 Food Products.
Leafing through the book, you'll get the feeling you're looking at a collection of science experiments, what with the displays of white and colored powders, clear liquids, and an occasional smattering of diced chicken, carrots, or corn. What you're really seeing are photographs of processed foods, deconstructed into their various food additive components. Ettlinger explained:10
"When you bake a cake or make some commercial food product by the millions in a large factory with industrial machinery and ship it around the country, where it sits on store shelves for weeks, you might add something to a batter to make it easier to pump through hoses. You might add something to keep the bubbles in a batter from getting crushed at the bottom of an enormous kettle.
You might add something to keep the final product from losing moisture or flavor in storage or so it doesn't collapse during transit. You might add something or use special ingredients so it doesn't spoil quickly. In short, you use food additives to achieve the scaled-up goals that the home cook addresses quite differently."
The book is not meant to expose the health risks of food additives. Although they're organized into categories of neutral, negative, and positive, they appear generous in some of their categories (monosodium glutamate, or MSG, for instance, was initially placed in the negative category but was later moved). However, what it does provide is a glimpse into what you're really putting into your body when you choose processed foods. If you look at the photos (Mother Jones compiled a few of them here), you'll see it can hardly be recognized as "food" at all…Why Risk Your Health with Processed Foods?
Most questionable food additives won't poison you on the spot. But research shows even small amounts of chemicals found in the food supply can amplify each other's adverse effects when combined, and some processed foods can contain a cocktail of hundreds of chemicals.11 No one knows what these exposures do over a lifetime, although some food additives (like propylparaben) are known endocrine disrupters.
When exposure occurs during critical times of development, both before and after birth for children, for instance, it can affect development of your child's reproductive, neurological, and immune systems, and this may have far-reaching effects over the course of their life.
Even aside from the additives, a processed food diet sets the stage for obesity and any number of chronic health issues. In fact, many of the top diseases plaguing the United States are diet-related, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. The answer to these health problems lies not in a pill, but in what you eat every day.
When it comes to staying healthy, avoiding processed foods and replacing them with fresh, whole foods is the "secret" you've been looking for. This might sound daunting, but if you take it step-by-step as described in my nutrition plan it's quite possible, and manageable, to painlessly remove processed foods from your diet.
Remember, people have thrived on vegetables, meats, eggs, fruits, and other whole foods for centuries, while processed foods were only recently invented. Many of the top executives and scientists at leading processed-food companies actually avoid their own foods for a variety of health reasons!
I believe you, too, should spend 90 percent of your food budget on whole foods, and only 10 percent on processed foods (unfortunately most Americans currently do the opposite). This requires that you plan your meals in advance. Ideally, this will involve scouting out your local farmer's markets for in-season produce that is priced to sell and planning your meals accordingly, but you can also use this same premise with supermarket sales.
You can generally plan a week of meals at a time, make sure you have all ingredients necessary on hand, and then do any prep work you can ahead of time so that dinner is easy to prepare if you're short on time in the evenings (and you can use leftovers for lunches the next day).
Processed foods are addictive, so if cravings are a problem for you please see my article on "How to Eliminate Junk Food Cravings." One of the most effective strategies to eliminate sugar cravings is intermittent fasting, along with diet modifications that effectively help reset your body's metabolism to burn fat instead of sugar as its primary fuel.
If your carb cravings are linked to an emotional challenge, a psychological acupressure technique called the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) can rapidly help you control your emotional food cravings. If you're currently sustaining yourself on fast food and processed foods, cutting them from your diet is one of the most positive life changes you could ever make.
By Dr. Mercola
Conflicts of interest are nothing new, but these days they have become more or less routine — an integral part of how entire industries operate.
The industries making the heaviest use of the "third-party approach," in which front groups, academics, and "independent" researchers are used to promote an agenda, tend to be industries that are more inherently harmful to the public.
Notorious examples include the tobacco, chemical, food additives, and biotechnology industries.
A previous article1 in Take Part lists nine industry-funded groups that promote an industry's selfish agenda, even though you'd be hard-pressed to realize it based on names like Center for Food Integrity, and the US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance.
Monsanto, lobbies for and shapes public opinion through an entire network of front groups, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the American Council on Science and Health, and the Center for Consumer Freedom, just to name a few.Kevin Folta — Poster Boy for Industry-Funded Third-Party Experts
One of the most recent conflict-of-interest scandals involving Monsanto and University of Florida professor Kevin Folta, a vocal advocate of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), was recently highlighted by Nature2 and The New York Times.3,4
Folta, who has vehemently denied ever receiving any money from Monsanto, was caught having been less than forthright about his connections to the company when his email correspondence was released in response to a freedom of information (FOIA) request by US Right to Know.5
In August of last year, Folta did in fact receive a $25,000 unrestricted grant from Monsanto, and Folta wrote back to a Monsanto executive saying: "I am grateful for this opportunity and promise a solid return on the investment."
However, despite a rare flurry of media attention, none of the mainstream media outlets have addressed the most flagrant piece of evidence against Folta, showing that not only did he solicit these funds from Monsanto, he appeared to do so with intent to hide the financial connection between them.
Keith Kloor, who initially broke the story about Folta’s connections to Monsanto in Nature,6 may in fact have been trying to soften the scandal.
As revealed by US Right to Know,7 Kloor is looked upon as an ally of Monsanto’s propaganda machine, and it appears Folta or the University of Florida were the ones who released the emails to Kloor in the first place, likely as a form of media preemption.
They probably did so because they knew it would soften the blow to have an industry advocate break the story.
The New York Times8 posted a long list of emails between Folta and Monsanto, obtained through the FOIA request. I encourage you to read these emails to see for yourself how Monsanto's PR firms use "independent" scientists to further the industry's version of science.Folta's Emails Show Intent to Hide Financial Ties to Monsanto
"Keith, this is a real winner. It will take a huge amount of time, but I think it will have a lot of impact... Thank you for this opportunity. It was a good time to think about how to solve the problem and devise a clever solution."
To solve the "biotech communications problem," Folta lays out a three-tiered program that includes training the trainers, engaging the public, and on-campus training at the University of Florida.
The total budget proposed by Folta for the implementation of this pro-industry agenda was $25,000 — a budget that was indeed approved.
However, while his public defense for his lack of transparency has been spun in a number of ways, no one has pinned him down on the following point: Why did he propose the funds be given in such a way as to remain UNDISCLOSED?
The very last paragraph in his proposal for this program (page 104 in the emails published by The New York Times), Folta writes:
"The total budget is $25,000. If funded directly to the program as a SHARE contribution (essentially unrestricted funds) it is not subject to IDC and is not in a 'conflict-of-interest' account.
In other words, SHARE contributions are not publicly noted. This eliminates the potential concern of the funding organization influencing the message."Financial Ties Are Hidden to Hide Message Source
That last paragraph clearly shows that Folta is the one offering the suggestion to hide the funds. He had no intention of disclosing his financial ties to Monsanto. It would appear he purposely solicited the funds with intent to hide the source.
While it may not legally qualify as money laundering, the effect is essentially the same. This email shows how the shell game works, and it reveals a disturbing reality: simply by moving money around via certain channels, it allows the "third-party" to appear as independent and not funded by industry.
It reminds me a bit of the situation with the Grocery Manufacturers Association,11 which in 2013 was sued by Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson for money laundering after it illegally collected and spent more than $7 million in donations from its members to fight GMO labeling in Washington, all while hiding the identity of its big business contributors.
Folta's incriminating email needs to be addressed and answered, because it shows a premeditated attempt to hide a financial contribution from the industry.
Why hide it at all? Because everyone knows that with the money comes influence. Folta himself promised a "return on investment" in writing.
The influence of the funding source is not an assumption — it's been scientifically investigated, and studies show that "gifts" from drug companies indeed influence the prescribing behavior of physicians, for example. And this influence was generated on amounts far smaller than Folta's grant. The benefits of industry relationships in science are quite similar to those in politics.
Studies have also shown that the funding source has a significant influence on the outcome of research.
Not only did Folta tell Monsanto12 he would "write whatever you like," he also apparently used the answers written by Monsanto's PR firm Ketchum to answer questions posed on the GMO Answers website, in which he was featured as a non-biased independent scientist.
Nature,13 which broke the Folta story, made it seem as though he'd ignored the canned answers provided for him by Ketchum. However, according to The New York Times,14 Folta often did use the Ketchum's answers, nearly verbatim, noting he now says that doing so was "a mistake," and "absolutely not the right thing."
As noted by The New York Times, "... the emails show how academics have shifted from researchers to actors in lobbying and corporate public relations campaigns."
Indeed, Folta's emails show that industry moguls like Monsanto can (and do) dump money into public universities without ever having to disclose it. And scientists are in on the game, allowing and even recommending the money be "laundered" in such a way as to keep the fake veil of "independence" needed to maintain public trust.Mainstream Media Finally Taking Notice of the Problem
The undisclosed recruitment of academics and scientists from universities such as Harvard, Cornell, the University of Florida, Penn State, and others is finally starting to gain some serious attention by the media, with critical articles being published not just by the New York Times, but also by Bloomberg,15 Chicago Tribune,16 The StarPhoenix,17 and The Boston Globe.18
"The company's role isn't noted in the series of articles published in December by the Genetic Literacy Project, a nonprofit group that says its mission is 'to disentangle science from ideology.' The group said that such a disclosure isn't necessary because the the company didn't pay the authors and wasn't involved in writing or editing the articles," Bloomberg writes.
As reported by both Bloomberg and Mother Jones19 — the latter of which includes an informative summary of the released emails so far — two years ago Monsanto's head of strategic engagement, Eric Sachs, asked a number of scientists to write a series of "policy briefs" relating to biotechnology. The topics were chosen based on "their influence on public policy, GM crop regulation, and consumer acceptance." According to one of Monsanto's emails:
"The key to success is participation by all of you - recognized leaders with the knowledge, reputation, and communication experience needed to communicate authoritatively with the target groups."
Less than a year later, the Genetic Literacy Project's website ran a series of articles that, according to Mother Jones "look remarkably like the ones proposed by Sachs, though no involvement with Monsanto is disclosed in any of them." The articles in question were written by Kevin Folta, Anthony Shelton, an entomologist and professor at Cornell; Calestous Juma, a professor at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government; Peter W.B. Phillips, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan; and David Shaw, chief research officer at Mississippi State University.Undisclosed Recruitment of Scientists Suggests Monsanto Cannot Defend Its Own Science
As in Folta's case, email exchanges suggest that the papers ultimately penned by these academics were less than independently conceived... As noted by The Boston Globe:20
"A Harvard Kennedy School professor wrote a widely disseminated policy paper last year in support of genetically modified organisms at the behest of seed giant Monsanto, without disclosing his connection, e-mails show. Monsanto not only suggested the topic to professor Calestous Juma. It went so far as to provide a summary of what the paper could say and a suggested headline. The company then connected the professor with a marketing company to pump it out over the Internet as part of Monsanto's strategy to win over the public and lawmakers..."
Like Folta, Juma defends his actions saying he was not paid by Monsanto, and that he used material from a book he wrote on the topic of his article. Yet one has to ask, if these scientists are indeed independent experts, why are they being spoon-fed by Monsanto and their PR machines? It just doesn't look good, and it's really difficult to defend your independence when you've been given exact parameters to follow by a company's public relations outfit...
In response to these findings, Bloomberg quotes Scott Faber, executive director of Just Label It as saying:
"It says something that Monsanto can't defend the safety of their own products, that they have to resort to hiring a PR consultant and get academics to spin the science."
And, as noted by The StarPhoenix:21
"[Gary] Ruskin, whose group [US Right to Know] accessed thousands of pages of emails and other documents linking the scientists and Monsanto, said North Americans should be able to trust their top university scientists, and that's not possible when significant connections to corporations such as Monsanto are not disclosed."The Questionable History of Monsanto's PR Firm Ketchum
In one email,22 Folta refers to Monsanto's PR firm Ketchum as his "friends." But Ketchum is a PR group with a questionable history; they're not exactly the people you want partnered with university academics teaching your kids. According to Ketchum, it was hired by the Council for Biotechnology Information (a biotech front group) to improve GMOs' public image and "balance" the online conversation.
US Right to Know previously called attention to a video ad in which the firm spoke about doubling positive GMO coverage using online social media monitoring — a tactic that smacks of internet "sockpuppets" — fake internet personas who interject themselves into social media conversations to steer the debate.
Ketchum also created the GMO Answers website, in which professors at public universities (including Folta) answer GMO questions from the public — supposedly without remuneration from the industry, although the email exchanges between Ketchum and Folta reveal the firm supplies prewritten answers to the questions they ask these "independent experts" to address.
In 2008, Mother Jones23 implicated Ketchum in an espionage effort against nonprofit organizations, including the Center for Food Safety and Friends of the Earth, and in 2010 Greenpeace sued the firm "for hiring former executives at a private security firm to spy on the environmental group from 1998 to 2000, and to perform a range of 'clandestine and unlawful' actions, including trespassing and stealing documents, in order to undermine the group's anti-pollution efforts against the chemical industry," Telesur TV reports.24
Ketchum is also a "disaster PR expert" that does work for a number of politicians and world leaders with image problems, including Russian President Vladimir Putin,25 as well as corrupt governments around the world. As recently reported by Telesur TV:26
"The Honduran government will pay controversial U.S.-based public relations firm Ketchum close to US$500,000 over the next year to give its embattled government a makeover after a multimillion-dollar corruption scandal sparked months of popular protests calling for the president's resignation. Ketchum will provide crisis management and reputation improvement services and report to President Juan Hernandez's sister Hilda Hernandez, who currently serves as Honduras' minister of strategy communications..."FP1 Strategies — Monsanto PR Firm Lobbying to Put an End to GMO Labeling Efforts
FP1 Strategies — another Monsanto PR firm — was co-founded by Danny Diaz, who was recently brought on to manage Jeb Bush's presidential bid. One of Diaz's previous victories include a successful campaign to prevent the restriction of over-the-counter sale of cough medicine used in meth labs.27
The firm has also been accused of using sneaky tactics against farm workers pushing for wage increases. FP1 is involved in the Grocery Manufacturers Association's (GMA) lobbying efforts for the Pompeo bill, HR 1599, which preempts states' rights to create their own GMO food labeling laws.Efforts to Educate Senators About the DARK Act Appears to Be Working
With regards to HR 1599, congratulations are in order, although we're certainly not out of the woods yet. In previous articles, I've urged you to speak to your Senators about HR 1599, and your donations have also allowed the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) to travel across the country to meet with Senators about the contents of this horrendous bill.
Not only does Pompeo's bill bar states from introducing their own GMO labeling, it also preempts the FDA or any other federal agency from requiring labels on GMO foods. It even goes so far as to preventing the FDA from allowing voluntary GMO labeling! This bill has all the bases covered to make sure you will not know if and when a food is genetically engineered.
All of this outreach has been effective, as a Senate bill has not yet been introduced. However, as OCA pointed out in a recent newsletter, the absence of a Senate bill is not going to stop Monsanto, and this is not the time to sit back and take a breather. You can bet the industry, spearheaded by the GMA, will come out swinging. A hearing will take place in the Agriculture Committee on October 21 - please make an effort to contact your senator.Folta's Irresponsible Defense of Roundup
In addition to being pro-GMO in general, Kevin Folta is also a staunch defender of Monsanto's flagship product Roundup. The active ingredient in Roundup is glyphosate, which in late March was reclassified as a "probable human carcinogen" by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a division of the World Health Organization (WHO).
For a review of the published studies28 questioning the safety of glyphosate in terms of its effects on human and animal health, check out this compilation by Dr. Alex Vasquez, containing 220-pages' worth of research. Recent follow-up research29,30 by Gilles-Éric Séralini — whose initial lifetime feeding study revealed massive tumor growth and early death — shows that long-term exposure to even ultra-low amounts of Roundup may cause tumors, along with liver and kidney damage in rats. Another heavily referenced 80-page report31 is "Banishing Glyphosate," authored by Drs. Eva Sirinathsinghji and Mae-Wan Ho.
Despite such well-documented concerns, Folta claims to have demonstrated glyphosate's harmlessness by drinking it, apparently more than once, judging by his Twitter posts.32 There are no photos or videos of these stunts however, so there's no telling if he actually did so, or how much of this registered poison he may have imbibed.
But regardless of the purity of his intentions, there's no scientific basis for drinking Roundup, and it's hard to imagine that a university professor charged with teaching students about safe handling of pesticides would actually do something that irresponsible. Glyphosate alone has been scientifically demonstrated to be toxic and Roundup even more so, courtesy of the synergistic chemical interactions with surfactants and other additives. Drinking a registered poison to "prove" harmlessness is a stunt — it's clearly NOT a scientific way to prove safety in an educational setting.Should You Be Concerned About Corporate Influence Over University Research?
In the end, the case of Kevin Folta has brought to the fore the problems inherent with allowing corporations to influence public land-grant universities. These concerns are laid out in some detail in a Food and Water Watch report33 titled, "Public Research, Private Gain." Land-grant universities first came about in 1862, at which time they revolutionized agriculture by devising improved seeds, hybrid plant varieties, and scientific breakthroughs that bolstered productivity. They initially partnered with farmers, and the research generally improved both food safety and availability.
Back then, the innovations coming out of these research facilities were primarily funded by public investments. That changed when, in the 1980s, federal policies began to encourage land-grant universities to partner with private corporations to further agricultural research. The patented seed business is an outgrowth of the research performed at these institutions in partnership with the private sector. As noted in this report:
"By 2010, private donations provided nearly a quarter of the funding for agricultural research at land-grant universities. This funding steers land-grant research toward the goals of industry. It also discourages independent research that might be critical of the industrial model of agriculture, and diverts public research capacity away from important issues such as rural economies, environmental quality, and the public health implications of agriculture.
Private-sector funding not only corrupts the public research mission of land-grant universities, but also distorts the science that is supposed to help farmers improve their practices and livelihoods. Industry funded academic research routinely produces favorable results for industry sponsors...
Congress should restore the public agricultural research mission at land-grant schools... Reprioritizing research at land-grant universities... could play a vital role in developing the science and solutions needed to create a viable alternative to our industrialized, consolidated food system."Labeling GMOs Is Necessary to Protect Public Health
The food industry has spent $51.6 million on a series of efforts to defeat GMO labeling laws,34 including lobbing for HR 1599, which would bar states from implementing their own GMO labeling laws. As of July 21, Monsanto alone had spent $2.5 million lobbying Congress.35 International trade agreements also threaten to restrict transparency about food — how it's produced, and where it comes from.
Why are these industries spending so much money and going to such great lengths to eliminate transparency about toxic exposures and potentially harmful substances in our food supply? Could it be because they realize how bad the situation really is, and that if public knowledge continues to grow, they won't be able to continue running business as usual?
Anyone who has taken the time to look at the available information on GMOs, Roundup, and other pesticides, and the damaging effects of modern industrialized agriculture as a whole will recognize that the situation is unsustainable and nearing a breaking point — both in terms of environmental harm and public health. We need to turn this situation around, and at the present moment, the most urgent action item is still to make sure our US Senators reject HR 1599, so that efforts to label GE foods can move forward.
By Dr. Mercola
In 2015, most people would raise an eyebrow, and maybe even protest, if a cigarette company like Philip Morris (which created brands like Marlboro) was funding research by a public health organization like, say, the American Lung Association.
The potential conflict is obvious, as organizations receiving large sums of money from a corporation could have their opinions, and, yes, even their research swayed to suit the needs of their corporate funders.
Yet, this type of blatant, you might say, pay off, occurs all the time in 2015, only it’s no longer the tobacco industry that’s doing all the funding. Nowadays, that title goes to many different players in the pesticide, pharmaceutical, food, and beverage industries, including what is considered by many to be an American icon – Coca-Cola.Coca-Cola Wants to Blame Obesity on Virtually Anything Other Than Soda
As the world’s largest producer of sugary beverages, Coca-Cola has quite strong motivation to keep soda in Americans’ good graces. Yet the research is becoming too abundant to ignore.
UCLA researchers found, for instance, that adults who drank at least one sugar-sweetened beverage a day are 27 percent more likely to be overweight or obese.1 Even those who only drank soda occasionally had a 15 percent greater risk, and a growing number of studies have linked rising childhood obesity rates to increased consumption of sugary beverages as well.
But the link goes far beyond even obesity. A recent meta-review published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that once you reach 18 percent of your daily calories from added sugar, there's a two-fold increase in metabolic harm that promotes pre-diabetes and diabetes.2
Moreover, research suggests sugary beverages are to blame for about 183,000 deaths worldwide each year, including 133,000 diabetes deaths, 44,000 heart disease deaths, and 6,000 cancer deaths.
Americans are catching on, with nearly two-thirds (63 percent) now saying they actively try to avoid soda in their diet.3 Rates of soda consumption have actually been dropping for decades, and Americans now consume about the same amount they did back in 1986.
Coca-Cola had to do something, but they couldn’t very well tell increasingly health-conscious Americans to drink more soda. So they went at it in a roundabout way instead, funding a front group by the name of The Global Energy Balance Network.
The New York Times broke this story in August 2015, and it turns out Coca-Cola donated $1.5 million in 2014 to start the organization.4 Their message? It’s not what you’re eating and drinking that’s making you fat, it’s a lack of exercise that’s the problem. The Times reported:5
“Health experts say this message is misleading and part of an effort by Coke to deflect criticism about the role sugary drinks have played in the spread of obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
They contend that the company is using the new group to convince the public that physical activity can offset a bad diet despite evidence that exercise has only minimal impact on weight compared with what people consume.”
What is perhaps most alarming is that this front group represents only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Coca-Cola trying to infiltrate public health opinions…Coca-Cola Has Given $120 Million to Academic Health Researchers, Major Medical Groups, and More
In September 2015, Coca-Cola published a detailed list of grants given to organizations since 2010. The move came after Coca-Cola Chief Executive Muhtar Kent made a promise to disclose its partnerships and support for obesity-related research.
Over the past five years alone, Coca-Cola spent nearly $120 million for such grants, bestowing them on health organizations both big and small – “physician groups, university researchers, cancer and diabetes organizations, and public parks, and even a foundation for the National Institutes of Health,” The New York Times reported.6 They continued:7
“The detailed list of grants shows the company’s remarkable reach across the United States and beyond. Beneficiaries included a number of medical and health groups.
This includes $3.1 million to the American College of Cardiology, more than $3.5 million to the American Academy of Family Physicians, nearly $3 million to the American Academy of Pediatrics, $2 million to the American Cancer Society, and roughly $1.7 million to the country’s largest organization of dietitians, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Marion Nestle, professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, said she was pleased that Coca-Cola had lived up to its promise to provide greater transparency, but she did not know of another food company so ‘deeply and widely entrenched in so many public organizations.’
‘What I find most remarkable about this list is its length and comprehensiveness,’ said Dr. Nestle, author of the book Soda Politics. ‘No organization, no matter how small, goes unfunded. Any scientist or dietitian who is willing to take Coca-Cola funding gets it.’”What Happens When a Soda Company Funds Health Research?
Not surprisingly, compared to studies with no financial conflicts of interest, research funded by the beverage and sugar industries are five times more likely to conclude there's "no link" between sugary beverages and weight gain.8 Researchers noted:
“… Our results confirm the hypothesis that authors of systematic reviews may draw their conclusions in ways consistent with their sponsors' interests."
So while Sandy Douglas, the president of Coca-Cola North America, told The New York Times that their financial support of “well-respected experts, institutions, and organizations” was made “with the best of intentions,” it’s clear they could be getting quite a return on their investment. Otherwise, why else would they do it?
And it’s not only research institutions that Coca-Cola has infiltrated. They also donated more than $6 million to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and hundreds of thousands of dollars to the N.A.A.C.P. and the Hispanic Federation.
The latter two “repaid” the company by supporting a beverage-industry lawsuit in 2013 that blocked former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempt to ban large sugary beverages from the city.9
It’s obvious how Coca-Cola stands to benefit from such relationships, but even with a scarcity of available funding for research and advocacy, it’s surprising that "credible" public health organizations would want to get tied up with this proverbial smoking gun. As Yoni Freedhoff, an obesity expert at the University of Ottawa, told The New York Times:10
“These organizations are forming partnerships with a company whose products are absolutely thought to be a major player in obesity and the spread of chronic, noncommunicable diseases…
Why in this day and age would a public health organization create even the possibility for there to be influence that might affect their ability to champion and promote public health?”Diet Soda Drinkers More Likely to Eat Unhealthy Foods
Coca-Cola is no stranger to sugarcoating the truth. One of their ongoing strategies to appear like they care about your health is to promote their diet beverages as a healthy alternative. In 2013, they rolled out an ad campaign encouraging people to unite in the fight against obesity, and then swiftly launched another campaign touting aspartame in its diet sodas.
According to the ad, aspartame is a “safe, high-quality alternative to sugar." Clearly they’ve not reviewed the hundreds of studies on this artificial sweetener demonstrating its harmful effects... or the risks of consuming diet sodas in general, which include weight gain.
In one study, people who drank diet soda had a 70 percent greater increase in waist size in a 10-year period compared to non-diet soda drinkers. Those who drank two or more diet sodas a day had a 500 percent greater increase in waist size.
Research published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics also revealed that people who drink diet beverages may end up compensating for their “saved” calories by eating more foods high in sugar, sodium, and unhealthy fats.11 Obese adults had the highest incremental daily calorie intake from unhealthy foods associated with diet beverages. Researcher Ruopeng An, a Kinesiology and Community Health professor at the University of Illinois, noted:12
"It may be that people who consume diet beverages feel justified in eating more, so they reach for a muffin or a bag of chips… Or perhaps, in order to feel satisfied, they feel compelled to eat more of these high-calorie foods."
For more on the detrimental effects of diet sodas, including in relation to weight gain, check out our infographic below.
While soda consumption in the US has seen an overall downward trend, many Americans are still drinking too much. In 18 states overall, more than 26 percent of US adults drink soda or other sweetened beverages at least once daily. Many of the states with the highest soda consumption are one in the same as those with the highest sugar consumption, and many also have higher rates of obesity and other unhealthy habits, such as eating fewer fruits and vegetables.
The top soda states also tended to have lower than average median household income and lower levels of higher education compared to the national average. To determine the five US states with the highest sugar and sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, 24/7 Wall St. used data from the CDC's "Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption Among Adults — 18 States, 2012" report published in August 2014.13 They include:14
- Pct. consuming soda and/or fruit drinks daily: 41.4 percent
- Obesity rate: 35.1 percent
- Pct. consuming vegetables less than daily: 23.2 percent
- Median household income: $37,963
- Pct. consuming soda and/or fruit drinks daily: 39.2 percent
- Obesity rate: 33.7 percent
- Pct. consuming vegetables less than daily: 26.8 percent
- Median household income: $44,297
- Pct. consuming soda and/or fruit drinks daily: 36.3 percent
- Obesity rate: 26.2 percent
- Pct. consuming vegetables less than daily: 24.4 percent
- Median household income: $51,230
- Pct. consuming soda and/or fruit drinks daily: 34.5 percent
- Obesity rate: 32.5 percent
- Pct. consuming vegetables less than daily: 25.4 percent
- Median household income: $45,690
- Pct. consuming soda and/or fruit drinks daily: 33.1 percent
- Obesity rate: 30.3 percent
- Pct. consuming vegetables less than daily: 32.3 v
- Median household income: $47,829
In order to break free of your soda habit, first be sure you address the emotional component of your food cravings using tools such as the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). More than any traditional or alternative method I have used or researched, EFT works to overcome food cravings and helps you reach dietary success. Be sure to check out Turbo Tapping in particular, which is an extremely effective and simple tool to get rid of your soda addiction in a short amount of time.
If you still have cravings after trying EFT or Turbo Tapping, you may need to make some changes to your diet. My free nutrition plan can help you do this in a step-by-step fashion. Remember, nothing beats pure water when it comes to serving your body's needs. If you feel the urge for a carbonated beverage, try sparkling mineral water with a squirt of lime or lemon juice, or sweetened with stevia or Luo Han, both of which are safe natural sweeteners. Remember, if you struggle with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or extra weight, then you have insulin sensitivity issues and would likely benefit from avoiding ALL sweeteners.Tell Coke They're a Joke!
Obesity is a serious public health problem in the US, and you are being sorely misled by companies pretending to have a solution that, in reality, only worsen the problem. I strongly urge you to let the Coca-Cola Company know how you feel by telling them to stop their deceptive marketing of soda products. Join me in taking a stand against false advertising and let your voice be heard. If you’re on Twitter, send a tweet to #CokeCEO to let Coca-Cola know you disapprove of their deceptive advertising. If you’re on Facebook, please share your thoughts with them on their Facebook Page.
You can also e-mail Coca-Cola to let them know how you feel about their strategy for fighting obesity — which does not include giving up soda and other sugary beverages. Already, in response to growing criticism, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent has issued a public apology, acknowledging that the company’s approach was “poorly planned.”15 But Coca-Cola’s campaign was hardly the result of poor planning! It was about disseminating poor science and perpetuating misleading information in order to deceive you about the influence of soda on your weight — a Big JOKE!
Coca-Cola also says “the way we have engaged the public health and scientific communities… is not working.” But this is not about engaging public health and scientific communities. It’s about trying to defend the indefensible using plain old bad/misleading information — a Big JOKE! Coke even has a “work it out calculator”16 that supposedly tells you how much you have to exercise to burn off your favorite beverage, but look at the numbers for Diet Coke...
According to them, you don’t have to spend a single minute exercising if you drink diet soda, yet overwhelming amounts of research shows artificially sweetened beverages promote weight gain to the same degree or more as regularly sweetened beverages — a Big JOKE!
By Dr. Mercola
Last year's (2014 to 2015) flu season was said to be one of the worst in years… and the flu vaccine, widely pushed by public health organizations as the best way to prevent influenza, was a major failure.
In January 2015, data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed the flu vaccine was only 23 percent effective last year, which means many people who received it believed they were protected from getting influenza but were not.
By February, public health officials had lowered the predicted effectiveness to just 18 percent and only 15 percent among children aged 2 to 8 – for the inactivated, injectable flu shot.1 The inhaled live virus nasal spray flu vaccine fared even worse, showing potentially no benefit for young children.2
It got so bad that, in January 2015, the CDC finally issued a warning saying the 2014 to 2015 flu vaccine was a poor match to the influenza A strain causing most cases of influenza that season.
It turned out the H3N2 strain had mutated, but health officials still urged people to get a flu shot, claiming the vaccine can make symptoms less severe without providing evidence that this is true.
In June 2015, research was published in Cell Reports showing that, indeed, the influenza A virus that had widely circulated during the 2014 to 2015 flu season had mutated. However, that mutation was not factored in when the vaccine was developed in early 2014.3 But don't worry… the CDC is confident this year's vaccine will work much better.Health Officials Were Confident in Last Year's Flu Vaccine…
It's déjà vu. Flash back to September 2014, and the CDC was hard at work telling adults not to forget to get their annual flu shot – and to make sure to get their children vaccinated too. This, CDC Director Tom Frieden said, would be "The best way to protect yourself against the flu..."4
Both the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics even went so far as to say the live virus nasal spray version was the preferred vaccine for healthy children ages 2 to 8 because research showed it worked a little better for them than the inactivated injected vaccine.
Children were given two doses to inhale initially so, theoretically, they could quickly build immunity.5 But it turned out the nasal spray flu vaccine was a bigger failure than injectable flu shots.
The flu vaccine is (and was) also widely recommended for pregnant women. It was around this time last year that a study came out in the New England Journal of Medicine stating the flu vaccine provided partial protection against confirmed influenza in pregnant women and their infants.6
The media began touting headlines like "flu vaccine safe for pregnant women," and one news outlet, News 4 Jax, even quoted about maternal-fetal medicine, with Dr. Erin Burnett saying, "All pregnant women should get the vaccine because it's 100 percent safe in pregnancy."7
This is quite a statement, since even the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists influenza (and Tdap) vaccines as either Pregnancy Category B or C biologicals, which means that adequate testing has not been done in humans to demonstrate safety for pregnant women, and it is not known whether the vaccines can cause fetal harm or affect reproduction capacity.8
After the CDC's aggressive promotion of flu shots for children, the elderly, healthy adults and pregnant women last year, we know how the story turned out – the flu vaccine was, once again, a major flop.After Epic Failure, CDC Says This Year's Flu Vaccine Will Be Better
Fast forward to 2015, and the CDC is singing the same tune all over again. In September 2015 Frieden said in a news conference, "Get vaccinated… That's the best way to protect yourself, your family and your community against flu."9
A CDC analysis reportedly has found that the most common strains of influenza virus circulating in the US and in other regions match the strains included in this year's vaccine.10,11 Jessica Rigler, bureau chief for epidemiology and disease control at the Arizona Department of Health Services, told KPHO News:12
"We expect it [the 2015 flu vaccine] to be much more effective than last year's flu vaccine… If healthcare providers and vaccine providers are following the proper procedures, all of last year's flu vaccine should be off the shelves… Everybody who's eligible should get flu shot… That's anyone 6 months of age or older."
I'm amazed at the tenacity with which health care providers will push these questionable vaccines. I don't visit "regular" physicians often but am required to do so once every two years or so for insurance purposes.
Even now, two years later, I'm still receiving phone calls, emails, and text messages from this health care provider reminding me to get my annual flu shot!
But remember, what happened last year was the most common circulating influenza A strain making people sick mutated near the beginning of the season.
How can vaccine regulators and policymakers claim to know that this won't happen again? Influenza viruses are notorious for undergoing mutations and what's to stop that from happening again this year?
Not to mention, last year certainly wasn't the first time the flu vaccine had a dismal effectiveness rate. The "gold standard" of independent evaluation and analysis of scientific evidence that a particular medical intervention actually works.
The Cochrane Database Review, has issued no less than five reports between 2006 and 2010, all of which debunk the myth that flu vaccinations are "the most effective flu prevention method" available.
"Influenza vaccines can provide moderate protection against virologically confirmed influenza, but such protection is greatly reduced or absent in some seasons."After Regular Flu Shot Fails Them, Seniors Are Told to Get a Higher Dose
Research has repeatedly shown that flu shots were not protecting seniors. The Lancet even concluded, "evidence for protection in adults aged 65 years or older is lacking."14 The "solution" was to come out with a new, higher dose vaccine — Fluzone High-Dose vaccine. It contains four times the amount of antigen found in a standard dose.15
Research published last year showed it may lower the risk of getting influenza by 24 percent among seniors compared to the standard-dose vaccine.16 This still isn't saying much, considering during the 2012 to 2013 flu season the standard flu vaccine was just 9 percent effective in seniors aged 65 and over.
Even when getting a vaccine with four times the dose, only one in four cases of influenza in older patients was potentially prevented. It's unclear whether the vaccine actually lowers the risk of influenza-related health complications and deaths.
The idea is that seniors need much more antigen in order to provoke the desired immune response, because studies have found that the flu vaccine creates only a weak immune response in the elderly. In essence, public health officials have realized that the flu vaccine does not work in the elderly, and their belief is that upping the dose will do the trick.
However, according to the manufacturer's safety studies, compared to the regular flu vaccine the high-dose version not only resulted in more frequent reports of common milder adverse reactions, it also caused slightly higher rates of Serious Adverse Events (SAEs).
A total of 6.1 percent of seniors injected with the regular Fluzone vaccine experienced a serious adverse event compared to 7.4 percent of those receiving the high-dose version. According to the package insert, the SAEs reported during the post-approval use of the vaccine include:17Thrombocytopenia (abnormally low platelet count, which can result in abnormal bleeding) Guillain-Barre syndrome Myelitis (spinal cord inflammation) Optic neuritis (inflammation of the optic nerve) Lymphadenopathy (enlarged lymph nodes) Facial palsy (Bell's palsy) Paresthesia (numbness/tingling of the skin) Itchy skin Anaphylaxis (life-threatening whole-body allergic reaction) Stevens-Johnson syndrome Vasculitis (inflammatory destruction of blood vessels) Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath Chest pain Brachial neuritis (excruciating unilateral shoulder pain, followed by paralysis of shoulder) Pharyngitis and rhinitis (inflammation of the throat or pharynx, and the nose, respectively) Convulsions, fainting, and dizziness Are You Skeptical of Getting an Annual Flu Shot?
You're right to be skeptical about an annual vaccine with this kind of questionable track record. Its effectiveness is wholly dependent on the educated "guesses" of health officials to choose the "right" influenza strains that circulate widely in any given year to include in the vaccine. And then again, they are banking on the hope that the virus won't mutate into a new strain between the time the vaccine is developed in the spring and when the "flu season" begins in the fall.
Even then, if all conditions are accounted for and you've been vaccinated against the exact same influenza strain you're likely to be exposed to in real life, the vaccine is not 100-percent effective. On a good year it may only be 60 percent effective.
In reality, during the past three flu seasons the CDC has claimed the flu vaccine's overall effectiveness was between 47 percent and 62 percent, but some experts have measured it at 0 to 7 percent.18,19 Aside from the questions regarding effectiveness, are questions regarding safety.
CDC officials direct doctors to give every child and adult in America a flu shot every year, but studies suggest that when children get a flu shot every year it can interfere with healthy immune responses and make them more likely to get influenza in certain flu seasons.20
Further, research presented at the 105th International Conference of the American Thoracic Society in San Diego revealed that children who get seasonal flu shots are more at risk of hospitalization than children who do not. In fact, children who had received the flu vaccine had three times the risk of hospitalization as children who had not. Among children with asthma, the risk was even higher.21
Separate research has also shown that the inactivated flu vaccine has limited efficacy in young children, while the live nasal vaccine leads to increased wheezing in children under 2 and increased hospitalization rates in infants aged 6 to 11 months.22 Data collected from Canada and Hong Kong during 2009 to 2010 showed that people who received the seasonal flu vaccine in 2008 had twice the risk of getting the H1N1 "swine flu" compared to those who hadn't received a flu shot.23,24,25 ABC News reported at that time how such shots may actually set you up for less "broad" protection than if you get, and recover from, a natural infection.26
Other side effects have also been reported, including Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS). In the video above, Barbara Loe Fisher, co-founder and president of the non-profit National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), interviews a Connecticut artist and her mother, a former professor of nursing, who developed GBS after getting a seasonal flu shot in 2008 and today is permanently disabled with total body paralysis.Serious Questions Remain Unanswered…
For the past several years, physicians in America have been insisting that every child age 6 months to 18 years must get an annual flu shot. Making matters worse, public health officials have since ramped up those recommendations, telling EVERY person over the age of 6 months to get a flu shot, healthy or not, pregnant or not, or low risk or high. With all of those vaccinations, will you become more susceptible to influenza-related complications and death? Will your rate of hospitalization be increased… and will the flu shot even protect you from the current year's circulating strains?
We really don't know, and that's a problem. Health officials have leapt ahead with recommendations of "flu shots for all" without adequate safety studies – so by getting a flu vaccine, you are effectively offering yourself up as a laboratory rat. In other words, you are the safety study!
There remain more questions than answers when it comes to vaccinations, which is why we regularly see "mysterious" side effects – like narcolepsy – popping up after vaccinations enter widespread use. It is also not widely understood that the artificial immunity created by a vaccine is not the same as the natural immunity you acquire from a natural infection.
When children are born, they develop natural immunity to a large variety of microorganisms that they breathe, eat, and touch. The immune responses initiated by cells lining their airways, skin, and intestines are very important in creating "memory" and protection against the microorganisms they naturally come into contact with every day.
That primary line of defense is a very important step in the maturation of your child's immune system – and it's bypassed when he/she gets a vaccine. With vaccination, you are merely creating an antibody, but as a Journal of Virology study showed, unvaccinated children actually built up more antibodies against a wider variety of flu virus strains than the vaccinated children.27
And it's important to remember that although influenza can be deadly, most people who become infected recover on their own in two weeks or less with no complications and no health care required – except for some rest, plenty of water and maybe a cup of warm bone broth to make you feel better. Besides, if you really want to stay healthy during the flu season – and all year around - the statistics speak for themselves:
If you're relying solely on the flu vaccine to keep you from getting sick, you're putting your health on the line. A strong immune system remains the best defense against influenza and other infectious diseases, and this can't be achieved by simply relying on a shot. Healthy eating, exercise, sleep, stress, and vitamin D levels are all factors that should be addressed to keep you well this flu season. You can read about these and other natural ways to help fight and prevent the flu here.
By Dr. Mercola
Amalgam, typically referred to as "silver fillings," is a consumer fraud perpetuated by those who, through the years, have stood to gain from its continued sale.
This includes the American Dental Association Health Foundation, the non-profit research arm of the American Dental Association (ADA), which held patents on two (now expired) amalgam formulations (patent numbers: US04078921 and US04018600).
By referring to the color of the compound rather than its content, consumers have been kept in the dark about the fact that they're placing a known neurotoxin — mercury — into their teeth.
As noted in a 2010 scientific review1 on mercury exposure and children's health, there is no known safe level of exposure for mercury.
Ideally, exposure should be zero, so those who insist amalgams — which are 50 percent mercury — pose no threat to health are not acting in an ethical or responsible manner.Amalgams Release Mercury Vapors
Dental amalgams readily release mercury vapors whenever you chew or brush your teeth, which pass through your cell membranes, across your blood-brain barrier, and into your central nervous system.
Effects can be psychological, neurological, and/or immunological.
One 2012 study2 evaluating the effects of mercury on cognition in adults found that mild impairment was evident at blood mercury levels of 5 to 15 µg/L. Above 15 µg/L, cognition was significantly impaired.
Most people are aware that mercury is hazardous to health, but if they don't know that amalgam fillings contain mercury, then they can't object to it in the first place.FDA Has Failed to Address Amalgam Fraud
According to a Zogby poll, 57 percent of Americans are unaware that amalgam contains mercury; 23 percent believe amalgam is made of silver.
This is clear proof that the deceptive use of the term "silver filling" has worked as intended. Moreover, according to this poll, only 11 percent of people were informed by their dentist that amalgam contains mercury.
The FDA is responsible for addressing consumer fraud that occurs in medicine and health. But when it comes to mercury fillings, the agency has refused to take corrective action. In fact, the agency has and continues to support the deceptive marketing of mercury amalgams as "silver fillings."FDA Also Broke Law By Refusing to Classify Amalgam
The FDA also has the responsibility to determine the risk of every medical device and to classify it accordingly. Dental fillings are a medical device. Yet for 32 years the FDA failed to classify mercury amalgam.
The agency broke the law, and in 2008 Charlie Brown sued the FDA over this breach. US District Judge Ellen Huvelle convened a hearing, and subsequently ordered the parties into mediation to set a date by which a classification would be completed.
The FDA agreed to classify amalgam and re-write its website by August 2009. FDA Associate Commissioner Randall Lutter and Charlie Brown negotiated the website language line by line, and, for the first time, the FDA issued this frank and serious warning about amalgam:
"Dental amalgams contain mercury, which may have neurotoxic effects on the nervous systems of developing children and fetuses."Conflicts of Interests Likely Influenced FDA Amalgam Rule
But then the long arm of the industry stepped in. Then newly-appointed FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg4 came straight from Henry Schein, Inc., the largest seller of dental products, including amalgam, where she'd spent five years serving on the company's board.
To get appointed as FDA Commissioner, Hamburg was required to sign an agreement promising to sell her Schein stock and stock options,5 and not to participate in regulator matters affecting Schein while owning these options.
However, not only did she retain Schein stock options, she also allegedly continued regular correspondence with Schein's general counsel on her private e mail.
On June 1, 2009 Charlie Brown wrote her, asking her to confirm that she had indeed recused (disqualified) herself from working on the pending amalgam rule. She never answered.
Instead she convened a meeting with FDA’s pro-amalgam dentist Susan Runner, and a rule was subsequently created that allowed for the continued concealment of mercury.
At the end of July, Runner unveiled the new rule, and the website language Brown and Associate Commissioner Lutter had agreed upon was replaced. By then, Hamburg had also transferred Lutter to another agency.
After the rule was announced, Schein's general counsel wrote to Hamburg saying that Schein is "indebted" to her for her work as Commissioner.
The FDA's 2009 rule classifies amalgam as a Class II medical device, which spares manufacturers from proving the product's safety. Class III devices, which would have been a far more appropriate classification, are considered more risky, and require proof of safety prior to marketing.
Remarkably, the agency also said that no environmental impact study of dental amalgam was necessary, and while claiming amalgam is an affordable choice for low-income people, it did not take into account the steep environmental costs of amalgam's use...
It took another year before the tide began to turn. In 2010, the international community gathered together in a series of meetings to hammer out a treaty addressing all sources of mercury pollution, including dental amalgams.
As mentioned, the treaty was finalized and signed in 2013, at which point the FDA's outdated stance became even more untenable.State Department Urged to Press FDA to Curb Dental Mercury
In the summer of 2014, a group of dentists, scientists, and patients filed a lawsuit against the FDA,6 claiming the agency "hasn't done enough to address any potential health hazards of amalgam and that it's low income groups... who often end up with these fillings because they don't have a choice..."
Consumers for Dental Choice also took the issue to the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, who signed the Minamata treaty on mercury in 2013 on behalf of the US government. The Minamata Convention includes a pledge to scale down amalgam use effective immediately. The FDA’s stance on amalgam is in direct violation of the Minamata Convention, as its current amalgam rule actually advocates more mercury fillings, not less!
Following the signing of the mercury treaty, Consumers for Dental Choice created a petition to the Secretary of State, urging him to insist the FDA comply with the treaty, and to disclose the presence of mercury in dental amalgam. Many of you signed this petition, and now the movement got a major boost from 60 American and foreign environmental groups who, in a well-publicized letter7 dated September 21, join in the call for the Secretary of State to "take a leadership role in encouraging FDA to reduce amalgam use."FDA's Stance Sends Embarrassing Message to Treaty Partners
Aside from the health risks of having mercury implanted in your teeth next to your brain, dental amalgams are also a significant environmental polluter. As noted by The Sacramento Bee:8
"A 2013 report by the US Geological Survey said dental mercury fillings now account for 35 percent to 57 percent of the nation's end-use mercury products. One study found an estimated 28.5 tons of mercury dental waste had been released to the environment...
The Minamata treaty aims to protect people around the world by limiting environmental emissions and releases of mercury into the environment... Its name stems from a disaster in the 1950s when more than 1,700 people who lived near Japan's Minamata Bay died after eating fish contaminated by mercury-laden wastewater from a chemical plant."
The US was the first of 128 countries to sign the mercury treaty two years ago. Yet embarrassingly, the FDA has not taken a single step toward fulfilling its international promise to phase down amalgam use. Eight other nations have already cut their use of dental mercury by 95 percent. This includes Norway, Sweden, Japan, the Netherlands, Finland, Estonia, Italy and Denmark.
According to Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project: "Unless FDA's policies toward amalgam phase down are changed, it may undermine mercury reduction efforts in the US. It also could send the wrong message to other Parties to the Minamata Convention."Congratulations! Your Support Is Paying Off!
Over the last several years, I've repeatedly called on your help to support the work Charlie Brown and Consumers for Dental Choice are doing, and you have consistently delivered — with financial donations and signatures on various petitions. The latest media focus on this issue could not have come without your dedicated support and participation. More often than not, grassroots efforts such as these are tough going. But it is working, and you can pat yourselves on the back for making it happen.
As noted by Charlie in a recent newsletter update:
"The letter from these environmental superstars is a culmination of years of our bridge-building with environmental groups. In the movement to abolish mercury fillings, we hold many cards: amalgam can harm consumers' health, risk dental professionals' health, pollute the environment, violate consumer rights, and inflict social injustice. We will play each and every card needed to win... and we are going to win."Three Ways You Can Help Make Mercury-Free Dentistry a Reality for All
There are amalgam phase-out campaigns in Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the US, where efforts are now focused on pressuring the FDA to uphold the promise made by the nation when it signed the Minamata treaty on mercury pollution. It's quite simple. The US made a promise to the international community to immediately begin reducing the use of amalgam, and the FDA is in direct violation of this promise.
It's an embarrassment to the White House and the entire country that the FDA is refusing to take the most basic of steps toward the phase-down of mercury fillings, which is to inform consumers that amalgam is made with mercury, allowing them to make an informed choice. Consumers for Dental Choice has proven itself as an effective and efficient NGO, and your support will allow them to continue working on our behalf to protect human health, especially minorities and the underprivileged, and the health of the environment. There are three ways you can help Consumer's for Dental Choice succeed:
- Use only mercury-free dentists. If your dentist still offers amalgam as a choice, switch to one who will not put mercury in anyone's mouth. Also be sure to let your dentist know why you're leaving.
- Join Consumers for Dental Choice's newsletter list on ToxicTeeth.org, or Mercury-Free.org, or write to Charlie at Charlie@ToxicTeeth.org.
- Make a donation to Consumers for Dental Choice.
By Dr. Mercola
Every five years, the US Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) convene a 15-member panel – the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) – to update the nation's dietary guidelines.
The panel's mission is to identify foods and beverages that help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight, promote health, and prevent disease. In addition to guiding the public at large, the guidelines significantly influence nutrition policies such as school lunch programs and feeding programs for the elderly.
The problem is the guidelines have a long history of flawed and misguided advice, such as recommending Americans consume diets heavy in grains and low in healthy fats, which has helped to fuel the epidemics of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases we're now seeing.
The upcoming 2015 US Dietary Guidelines, which are currently being reviewed by US health and agricultural agencies, have a chance to change that and set the record straight – and there had been some promising steps forward, such as a recommendation to remove warnings about dietary cholesterol.
However, with the latest guidelines set to be released this fall, a new report published in the journal BMJ has brought deserved criticism, including suggesting the guidelines are still not based on the latest science.BMJ Report: Dietary Guidelines Not Based on Latest Science
The DGAC scientific report, which serves as the foundation for the development of the dietary guidelines, "fails to reflect much relevant scientific literature in its reviews of crucial topics and therefore risks giving a misleading picture," according to an investigation by the BMJ.1
The report is authored by Nina Teicholz, an investigative journalist and author of The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat, and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet. She continues:
"The omissions [in science] seem to suggest a reluctance by the committee behind the report to consider any evidence that contradicts the last 35 years of nutritional advice."
While past committees used the USDA's Nutrition Evidence Library (NEL) as a basis for collecting studies to form the guidelines, this year's committee looked elsewhere for data on 70 percent of the topics it covered.
That data came largely from professional organizations like the American Heart Association (AHA), which not only conduct literature reviews based on different standards but are also known to be heavily supported by food and drug companies.
In January 2009, for instance, the AHA published a "scientific advisory" recommending that Americans consume more omega-6 fats (mostly refined vegetable oils) and fewer saturated fats, as part of the "heart healthy" low-fat, low-cholesterol diet.
In spite of ALL scientific data to the contrary, this is the rubbish they recommended, completely ignoring the fact that the standard American diet is overloaded with omega-6 fats (and poor-quality ones at that), while being severely deficient in critical omega-3s.
And last year, the American Beverage Association (ABA), which includes members such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, announced a partnership with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, an organization founded, in part, by the American Heart Association.
Relying heavily on data produced by these industry-beholden organizations was DGAC's first mistake… but there's more, too.Guidelines on Saturated Fats Appear Significantly Flawed
In a surprise twist, the DGAC not only suggested eliminating warnings about dietary cholesterol, it also reversed nearly four decades of nutrition policy by concluding that dietary fats have no impact on cardiovascular disease risk.
Unfortunately, the DGAC didn't set the record straight with regard to saturated fats, as it makes no firm distinction between healthy saturated fats and decidedly unhealthy synthetic trans fats.
The guidelines committee concluded that evidence linking saturated fat to heart disease was strong, but for decades healthy fat and cholesterol have been wrongfully blamed for causing heart disease. Over 70 published studies overwhelmingly dispute this flawed notion.2
For starters, DGAC must have missed the 2014 meta-analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine that used data from nearly 80 studies and more than a half-million people.
It found those who consume higher amounts of saturated fat have no more heart disease than those who consume less. They also did not find less heart disease among those eating higher amounts of unsaturated fat, including both olive oil and corn oil.3
They must have also missed the 2015 meta-analysis published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), which found no association between high levels of saturated fat in the diet and heart disease. Nor did they find an association between saturated fat consumption and other life-threatening diseases like stroke or type 2 diabetes.4Suggesting Saturated Fats May Be Healthy Sends Nutrition World into a 'Tizzy'
The nutritional myth that saturated fat is bad for you continues to fall apart as a steady stream of new books and studies on this topic hit the media. Teicholz's book The Big Fat Surprise is among those works challenging the old dogma.
Teicholz pointed out the flaws in the original Ancel Keys study, how saturated fat has been a healthy human staple for thousands of years, and how the low-fat craze has resulted in excessive consumption of refined carbohydrates, which has resulted in increased inflammation and disease.5
Unfortunately, none of this important health information is reflected in the committee's report.
In fact, the committee goes so far as to put saturated fats and sugar together in one category called "empty calories," which is not only misleading but scientifically inaccurate. TIME reported:6
"Teicholz says nutrition science doesn't support that classification, since saturated fats are consumed largely in foods like eggs, meat, and dairy which contain lots of vitamins and nutrients necessary for health.
'Saturated fat is not empty calories. Sugar is not empty calories,' says Dr. Robert Lustig, a professor of Pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, and co-founder and president of the Institute for Responsible Nutrition. 'Sugar is not dangerous because it's calories; sugar is dangerous because it is toxic calories.'"
Just the fact that Teicholz has dared to question the government's "expert" committee and their (flawed) opinion about saturated fat has "sent the nutrition world into a tizzy," as Politico put it. The media has been similarly flustered, with Politico reporting:7
"… [H]er [Teicholz's] take has now sparked a significant amount of national press coverage. CNN, Time, Newsweek, Yahoo, Mother Jones, and Medical Daily were among the media outlets to pick up the story. Reason went with the headline: 'U.S. Government Nutrition Advice Is Stuck in 1980s.'"BMJ 'Clarifies' Dietary Guidelines Investigation
Following the media uproar over Teicholz's criticism of the dietary guidelines, BMJ issued two "clarifications."8 The update was featured on Retraction Watch even though, to be clear, the BMJ report was not retracted.9 The clarifications involved just two aspects of the investigation, one involving the phrase "deleting lean meat" and the other regarding the percentage of reviews conducted by the National Evidence Library. According to the BMJ update:10
"We are happy to clarify two aspects of Nina Teicholz's article.
- Deletion of meat: The article sought to report how the DGAC has dropped lean meat from the list of foods recommended for a healthy diet. Although lean meats are recommended in the 2010 guidelines, they no longer appear in the committee's proposals for the updated 2015 guidelines.
- Percentage of reviews conducted by the National Evidence Library: The article notes that the DGAC 'did not use NEL reviews for more than 70 percent of the topics.' Because some of the topics did not require reviews of the scientific literature, the article would have been clearer had the next sentence specified that we were referring only to those that did. The numbers provided by the report are contradictory, but it appears that the portion of questions requiring a systematic review that did not receive one is 63 percent."
The article says: 'New proposals by the 2015 report include not only deleting meat from the list of foods recommended as part of its healthy diets, but also actively counselling reductions in 'red and processed meats.' We accept that the article would have been clearer if it had used the phrase 'deleting lean meat' rather than 'deleting meat.'
Unchanged is the fact that, while lambasting saturated fats, the committee is reluctant to point the finger at America's processed-carb addiction; instead they concluded only limited evidence exists on low-carbohydrate diets and health, so the topic is insufficiently reviewed in their recommendations. But as Teicholz wrote in the BMJ:11
"… [M]any studies of carbohydrate restriction have been published in peer review journals since 2000, nearly all of which were in US populations…
A meta-analysis… concluded that low carbohydrate diets are better than other nutritional approaches for controlling type 2 diabetes, and two meta-analyses have concluded that a moderate to strict low carbohydrate diet is highly effective for achieving weight loss and improving most heart disease risk factors in the short term (six months).
… Given the growing toll taken by these conditions and the failure of existing strategies to make meaningful progress in fighting obesity and diabetes to date, one might expect the guideline committee to welcome any new, promising dietary strategies. It is thus surprising that the studies listed above were considered insufficient to warrant a review."Committee Members Are Not Required to List Their Potential Conflicts of Interest
Unlike the authors published in most major medical journals, DGAC members are not required to list their potential conflicts of interest, leaving the door wide open for bias and influence from outside agendas and commercial interest. As Teicholz wrote: "Many experts, institutions, and industries have an interest in keeping the status quo advice, and these interests create a bias in its favor."12
Not surprisingly, even a cursory investigation revealed potential conflicts among committee members. According to the BMJ:13
"… [O]ne member has received research funding from the California Walnut Commission and the Tree Nut Council, as well as vegetable oil giants Bunge and Unilever. Another has received more than $10,000… from Lluminari, which produces health related multimedia content for General Mills, PepsiCo, Stonyfield Farm, Newman's Own, and 'other companies.'
… And for the first time, the committee chair comes not from a university but from industry: Barbara Millen is president of Millennium Prevention, a company based in Westwood, MA, that sells web based platforms and mobile applications for self health monitoring. While there is no evidence that these potential conflicts of interest influenced the committee members, the report recommends a high consumption of vegetable oils and nuts as well as use of self-monitoring technologies in programs for weight management."CSPI Blasts BMJ Article… Gets It Wrong Again
I've referred to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) as the consumer group you need to stop listening to, and this case is no exception. The group released a statement calling Teicholz's BMJ report "distorted" and "error-laden," but CSPI is the group that's gotten it wrong, again.14
They point out that DGAC's advice is "consistent with dietary advice from virtually very major health authority," and then go on to list some of the most industry-beholden and misguided organizations in the health field, like AHA and the American Diabetes Association – the latter of which still recommends diabetics consume toxic artificial sweeteners and grains and does not recommend restricting fructose-containing added sugars to any specific level at all...
This isn't entirely surprising, since history shows CSPI is seriously misguided when determining what's in the public's best interest. In the 1980s, CSPI actually spearheaded a highly successful campaign against the use of healthy saturated fats, touting trans fats as a healthier alternative. It was largely the result of CSPI's campaign that fast-food restaurants replaced the use of beef tallow, palm oil, and coconut oil with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, which are high in synthetic trans fats linked to heart disease and other chronic diseases.
In 1988, CSPI even released an article praising trans fats, saying "there is little good evidence that trans fats cause any more harm than other fats" and "much of the anxiety over trans fats stems from their reputation as "unnatural.'"15 In contrast, Teicholz was one the reporters who initially broke the story on the dangers of trans fats, more than 10 years ago, in an article for Gourmet magazine, so perhaps their critique of her BMJ piece is personal…16The Recommended 'Low-Fat, High Carbohydrate' Diet Has Not Produced Better Health for Americans
While the committee members are standing by their report, even stating they thought they "nailed it," Congress is meeting to discuss concerns, including those related to the evidence used, in October 2015. In short, the committee report sticks largely to the status quo nutritional advice given for decades, that Americans should eat less fat and fewer animal products for better health (with one exception being that they recommended a cap be put on sugar intake). On the contrary, a diet high in healthy fats and vegetables and low in sugar and grain-based carbs is what many Americans need for optimal health. Teicholz told TIME:17
"I believe that the literature shows that the low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet has not produced better health for Americans since it was first introduced as official government policy in 1980… For healthy people, a reasonable recommendation would be simply to reverse out of the high-carb diet to the balance that Americans ate in 1965 before the obesity and diabetes epidemics: roughly 40 percent carbs, 40 percent fat.
For people who are struggling with obesity and diabetes, which is now an astonishing proportion of our population, I believe that carbohydrate restricted diets — less than 40 percent carbs — should be presented as a safe and viable option."
If you want to learn more, watch my interview with Nina Teicholz, above. Many people actually need to increase the healthy fat in their diet even more, to 50 to 85 percent of daily calories. This includes not only saturated fat but also monounsaturated fats (from avocados and nuts) and omega-3 fats.
But one of the most important points to remember is that you do not need to avoid saturated fats. Saturated fats were unfairly condemned in the 1950s based on very primitive evidence that has since been re-analyzed. The evidence now clearly shows that saturated fats do not cause heart disease. Moreover, your body needs saturated fats for proper function of your:Cell membranes Heart Bones (to assimilate calcium) Liver Lungs Hormones Immune system Satiety (reducing hunger) Genetic regulation
"Another key piece of information is that a high-fat, carbohydrate-restricted diet looks healthier for losing weight and making your heart disease biomarkers and diabetes biomarkers look better. There's a real range in how much carbohydrates people will tolerate," Teicholz says.What Does a Real Food Plan for Optimal Health Look Like?
Focusing your diet on raw, whole, and ideally organic foods rather than processed fare is perhaps one of the easiest ways to sidestep dietary pitfalls like excess sugar/fructose, harmful synthetic trans fats, an overabundance of processed grains, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and other harmful additives, while getting plenty of healthy nutrients. The rest is just a matter of tweaking the ratios of fat, carbs, and protein to suit your individual needs.
One key, though, is to trade refined sugar and processed fructose for healthy fat, as this will help optimize your insulin and leptin levels. For more detailed dietary guidance, please see my optimal nutrition plan. It's a step-by-step guide to feeding your family right, and I encourage you to read through it. I've also created my own "food pyramid," based on nutritional science, which you can print out and share.
By Dr. Mercola
About 40 percent of food in the US is wasted. Waste happens at all steps of the food chain, from field to fork, but most of the waste is thought to occur on farms and in US households.1
You may contribute to food waste if you throw away your leftovers or let a bag of lettuce go bad before you use it up. On a larger scale, most farms end up trashing or composting what would otherwise be perfectly good produce simply due to cosmetic imperfections.
While it’s easier to understand food being wasted because it’s rotten or potentially contaminated, tossing out cucumbers because they’re too curvy or tomatoes because they’re too small is hard to stomach – especially as people go without food every day.Entrepreneurs Tackle Food Waste One Startup Company at a Time
While in college, Ben Simon and his friends noticed his university cafeteria throwing away good food. One meeting with dining services later, they were in charge of donating the once-wasted food instead.
From there, Simon and his friends started Food Recovery Network, a non-profit organization that donates food that would be wasted from university cafeterias to homeless shelters, soup kitchens, afterschool programs for kids, and more.
After just four years, 150 colleges and universities were taking part in the program. Next, Simon, along with two co-founders, started “Imperfect,” a San Francisco Bay-based company that sells cosmetically imperfect produce at a reduced price (sometimes by up to 50 percent less).
For $12, members of Imperfect receive boxes of 10 to 15 pounds of imperfect produce that otherwise would have been wasted.2
Another success story involves Claire Cummings, the so-called “waste specialist” for Bon Appétit Management Company, which operates more than 650 cafes. Aside from donating excess food and setting up composting programs, Cummings is also involved in saving cosmetically imperfect produce. As Alternet reported:3
“The program began with a pilot program in May 2014 and became official a few months later that September. Since then, they have expanded it to 16 states, with four more starting this October.
So far in 2015, they've saved 252,627 pounds of produce, or just over 126 tons. ‘Just to give you a snapshot — we're not just buying one kind of produce, we've rescued over 50 different varieties of produce,’ she [Cummings] explains.
For example, when a head of broccoli is broken down for bagging, little bits of broccoli fall off. Those used to go to waste, until Bon Appétit began using them in soups and salad bars. It turns out the little broccoli bits are just the perfect size for soups and salads, and using them instead of larger heads of broccoli saves the chefs some chopping.
The farmer used to toss out the twisted and gnarly shaped carrots from Washington. If he had left them in the field, they would have attracted a pest called the carrot rust fly, so he had to get rid of them. Now, he sells them to Bon Appétit, simultaneously keeping his carrots from going to waste and resolving his potential pest problem.”USDA and EPA Set First Food Waste Reduction Goals
The issue of food waste has finally attracted national attention in the US. In September 2015, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), together with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), announced the first national food waste reduction goal, which calls for a 50 percent reduction by 2030.
According to the USDA, the average US family of four wastes more than 2 million calories, which equates to $1,500 worth of food, every year. The USDA continued:4
“Food loss and waste in the United States accounts for approximately 31 percent — or 133 billion pounds — of the overall food supply available to retailers and consumers, and has far-reaching impacts on food security, resource conservation, and climate change.
Food loss and waste is the single largest component of disposed U.S. municipal solid waste… Furthermore, experts have projected that reducing food losses by just 15 percent would provide enough food for more than 25 million Americans every year, helping to sharply reduce incidences of food insecurity for millions.”
As for how they expect to achieve a 50 percent reduction in food waste, they plan to build on the ongoing US Food Waste Challenge (launched in 2013), which creates a platform of leaders and food-chain members to share best practices to reduce, recover, and recycle food loss and waste. Other initiatives aim to tackle both food waste and food loss.
The celery that goes bad in your veggie crisper, the remainder of your sandwich at a restaurant, and the loaf of bread that goes moldy on your kitchen counter are all contributors to the massive epidemic of food waste.
Restaurants and supermarkets are also contributors. Food loss is another issue, which typically takes place at production, post-harvest, and processing stages in the food supply chain. Initiatives to tackle these issues include:
- Apps to help consumers understand how to safely store food and understand food date labels
- Consumer education campaigns with food waste facts and reduction tips
- Encouraging restaurants, grocery stores, food service companies, and others to set aggressive goals for reducing food loss and waste
When one of the trendiest restaurants in Manhattan, Blue Hill, starts serving up food that could otherwise be described as “garbage,” you know the issue of food waste is getting hot. For two weeks, the restaurant transformed into a pop-up restaurant called wastED and served dishes made from salvaged or “unusable” foods, including:5
- “Dumpster dive” salad salvaged from a food processor
- A “burger” made from leftover pulp from a cold-pressed juice shop
- Meatloaf titled “dog food”
- Field corn, or “cow corn,” which is typically used to feed livestock
The idea for wastED came from Dan Barber, the chef and co-owner of Blue Hill, while he researched on his book The Third Plate. As Salon reported:6
“The history of diet and cuisine, he realized, is based on preventing waste: ‘You couldn’t afford waste when these recipes and expectations for meals were being developed; you didn’t have the luxury of waste,’ Barber explained.
It’s a principle, though, that’s been lost in our modern way of eating. ‘Waste, in so many ways, is the American experience,’ he said. ‘It’s the American diet.’”Denmark Reduces Food Waste by 25 Percent in Five Years
The Danish government recently announced that they’re wasting 25 percent less food than they did five years ago. This means the average Dane throws out 104 pounds of food a year, on average, compared to 273 pounds annually for the average American.7
NPR attributed at least some of this reduction to Selina Juul, who they called the queen of Denmark’s anti-waste movement. Juul started an organization called Stop Wasting Food, which targets individual consumers and challenges them to waste less food.
Interestingly, as is often the case, as consumers became more willing and even proud to purchase day-old bread and imperfect tomatoes, producers and retailers started jumping on the “trend” as well. Denmark’s largest retailer, Dansk Supermarked, for instance, has always sold near-expired food at reduced prices, but they’ve now got dedicated areas for it.
They’ve also invested in technology to help track food “from farm to fork,” including an IT system that helped them determine bread as a commonly wasted item. By ordering less bread, and selling older bread at a reduced price, they’ve reduced bread waste by 60 percent.8Half of Edible Seafood Is Wasted
To be clear, the issue of food waste isn’t only related to produce. Due to “inefficiencies and consumer refuse,” research published in the journal Global Environmental Change revealed that nearly half of edible seafood in the US is wasted.9 Out of a total edible seafood supply of 4.7 billion pounds per year:10
- Consumers throw away 1.3 billion pounds
- Fishers throw away 570 million pounds due to catching the wrong species
- 330 million pounds are lost during distribution
This is especially disturbing since the future availability of seafood is threatened by overfishing and unsustainable seafood farming practices. As Greenpeace stated:11
“Our appetite for fish is exceeding the oceans’ ecological limits with devastating impacts – and there is now estimated to be four times more global fishing capacity than there are fish left to catch.”
Fish as a protein source has been growing in popularity as the health benefits of omega-3 fats EPA and DHA have been more widely publicized. And while I don’t recommend consuming most types of fish due to widespread pollution, there’s no doubt that it was once a valuable source of nutrition (and some types, such as wild-caught Alaskan salmon, sardines, and anchovies, still are). The magnitude of seafood waste is simply astonishing, regardless, and the researchers were able to quantify just how much potentially valuable nutrition is being lost:12
“Based on conservative estimates, this waste represents 208 billion grams of protein, 1.8 trillion mg [milligrams] of eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acids (i.e., omega-3 fatty acids), and 1.1 trillion kilocalories. The seafood that is lost could fill 36 percent of the gap between current consumption and U.S. Department of Agriculture-recommended levels. As another way of understanding the magnitude of loss, this lost seafood could provide the total yearly target quantity of protein for 10.1 million men or 12.4 million women, EPA + DHA for 20.1 million adults, and calories for 1.5 million adults.”Yale University: Americans Throw Away Double the Trash as Federal Agencies Estimated
If there were any questions about wasteful tendencies in the US, Yale University recently put them to rest with a new study that calculated just how much Americans throw away on a regular basis. While the EPA estimated the amount of solid waste added to US landfills in 2012 to be 122 million tons, the new study found it was closer to 262 million tons, or about five pounds of garbage per person per day. By 2013, that amount had risen to 294 million tons.13
It turns out the EPA was basing its estimate on Americans’ own reporting of trash use, along with data from industry associations, businesses, and others, which tends to be underestimated. The new study involved data straight from landfill operators. While Americans are throwing away more than was previously thought, they’re recycling less. EPA estimates suggest Americans recycled 35 percent of their waste in 2012, but the study revealed it was closer to 21 percent.14Compost Programs Could Reduce Landfill Waste, Fight Carbon Erosion
If more US families and businesses composted their organic waste instead of tossing it in the trash, it could solve two major issues at once. For starters, it could divert waste from landfills. For instance, in California, the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency operates a regional compost program in which they accept yard trimmings and vegetative food discards that are placed in curbside containers by local residents.
They also accept yard trimmings from landscapers and tree trimmers, as well as certain agricultural byproducts from local farms, wineries, and food processors.
The organic material is then converted into premium quality organic compost and mulches, along with recycled lumber, firewood, and biofuel used to generate electricity. Since 1993, 1.6 million tons of yard and wood debris have been converted into these beneficial products. Sonoma Compost, which operates the Organic Recycling Program on behalf of the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency, estimates that nearly 1.5 million tons of yard and wood trimmings have been diverted from landfills since 1993 as a result of the program.15
Applying compost to farmland also traps carbon dioxide in the ground (for decades, centuries, or more) while also absorbing it from the air. The process, known as “carbon sequestration” or “carbon farming,” will help:Regenerate the soil Limit agricultural water usage with no till and crop covers Increase crop yields Reduce the need for agricultural chemicals and additives, if not eliminate such need entirely in time Reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide levels Reduce air and water pollution by lessening the need for herbicides, pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers
In Marin County, California, the Marin Carbon Project is already underway to increase carbon sequestration on the land. One of their protocols alone, the Rangeland Compost Protocol, “has the potential to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 28 million metric tons per year if compost can be applied to just 5 percent of California’s rangelands. That’s equivalent to removing nearly 6 million cars from the road.”16California Supermarkets Will Soon Be Required to Compost Food Waste
In April 2016, a new California law will take effect that requires large grocery stores to compost or recycle their food waste. Many of them will likely begin channeling their waste to companies like California Safe Soil, which created a process to turn food waste into farm-ready liquid fertilizer in just three hours. How is this achieved? Civil Eats reported:17
“First, the food is ground down into a liquid, then treated with enzymes to break down the protein, fat, and carbohydrates into the amino acids, fatty acids, and simple sugars. Then, it’s pasteurized (that is, heated at high temperatures) to kill any pathogens that might be present… There’s a separate stream for organic and conventional food, as California Safe Soil sells an all-organic version. Both are applied to the crops via drip irrigation.”
The product helps reduce the use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, which runs off fields and contributes to dead zones in rivers and streams. California Safe Soil also states they’ve diverted 2.2 million pounds of food waste from landfills since 2012.18Tips for Cutting Back on Food Waste in Your Own Kitchen
Although food waste must be tackled on national, state, and municipal levels, as well as at the farm, there’s plenty you can do to reduce your own contribution to this significant problem. For starters, be open to purchasing cosmetically imperfect produce if you come across it at the grocery store or farmer’s market. Many supermarkets claim they’d be more willing to purchase such produce from farmers if consumers showed they’d be willing to buy it.
In an interview with NPR, Dana Gunders of the Natural Resources Defense Council, who wrote the book Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook, also shared some useful tips you can put into practice to help reduce food waste today:19The “float or sink test” for eggs: If you’re wondering if your eggs are still good, put them in a bowl of water. If they sink, they’re fresh; if they float, they’re not good to eat. Know what food expiration dates mean: Most dates on food packages are a manufacturer’s estimate of when it will be freshest, but many foods are safe to eat days, weeks, or months after. Put wilted veggies in a bowl of ice water: This will crisp them up (try it with carrots, greens, broccoli, and more). If lettuce is a bit past its prime for use in a salad, try sautéing it like you would any other green. Freeze leftover ingredients: If you have half an onion or green pepper left after making a recipe, don’t toss it. Chop it up and store it in the freezer for later use. Use up sour milk: Milk that turns sour doesn’t have to be thrown away. Instead, use it in your recipes as a substitute for buttermilk. Store food properly in the fridge: Store meats in the bottom bin, where it’s coldest, and leave less temperature-sensitive items, like butter, higher up. Plan your meals: Plan ahead to know what you’re going to cook and eat for the week, then shop accordingly. Before checking out at the grocery store, be sure you’re not buying duplicates of items you have at home and be sure you’ll be able to consume all of the perishables in your cart.
For even more tips, check out Gunders’ book, Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook. In addition to sharing simple preservation methods (like freezing, pickling, and cellaring), it includes 20 “use-it-up” recipes and a directory listing of over 85 types of food, including how to best store them so they stay fresh longer.
By Dr. Mercola
While the importance of vitamin D has become more fully appreciated, another vitamin that is just as important as vitamin D, vitamin K2, needs wider recognition. It's a fat-soluble vitamin most well known for its role in blood clotting.
However, there are two primary kinds of vitamin K, and they serve very different functions.
Vitamin K1 is the primary form of vitamin K responsible for blood clotting, whereas vitamin K2 is essential for bone strength, the health of arteries and blood vessels, and plays a role in other biological processes as well, including tissue renewal and cell growth.
In the 2014 paper,1 "Vitamin K: An old vitamin in a new perspective," vitamin D expert Dr. Michael Holick and co-authors review the history of vitamin K and its many benefits, including its significance for skeletal and cardiovascular health. They also discuss important drug interactions.Vitamins K1 and K2 Are Not Interchangeable
The difference between vitamins K1 and K2 was first established in the Rotterdam Study,2 published in 2004. A variety of foods were measured for vitamin K content, and vitamin K1 was found to be present in high amounts in green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, broccoli, and cabbage.
Vitamin K2, on the other hand, is only present in fermented foods. It's produced by certain bacteria during the fermentation process. Interestingly, while the K1 in vegetables is poorly absorbed, virtually all of the K2 in fermented foods is readily available to your body.
Examples of foods high in vitamin K2 include raw dairy products such as certain cheeses, raw butter, and kefir, as well as natto (a fermented soy product) and fermented vegetables like sauerkraut.
However, not every strain of bacteria makes K2, so not all fermented foods will contain it. For example, pasteurized dairy and products from confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are NOT high in K2 and should be avoided. Only grass-fed animals (not grain fed) will develop naturally high K2 levels.
Most commercial yogurts are virtually devoid of vitamin K2, and while certain types of cheeses, such as Gouda, Brie, and Edam are high in K2, others are not. It really depends on the specific bacteria present during the fermentation.
One of the best sources I've found is to ferment your own vegetables using a special starter culture designed with bacterial strains that produce vitamin K2.
My research team found we could get 400 to 500 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin K2 in a two-ounce serving of fermented vegetables using such a starter culture, which is a clinically therapeutic dose.
Best yet, it is absolutely free if you use this starter culture. If you want to learn more about making your own fermented vegetables with a starter culture, you can watch the video and read more on this page.Sub-Categories of Vitamin K2
Vitamin K2 can be broken into two additional categories, called:
- MK-4 (menaquinone-4), a short-chain form of vitamin K2 found in butter, egg yolks, and animal-based foods.
- MK-7 (menaquinone-7), longer-chain forms found in fermented foods. There's a variety of these long-chain forms but the most common one is MK-7.
Avoid this in supplemental form, as it's only available in synthetic form. MK-4 also has a very short biological half-life — about one hour— making it a poor candidate as a dietary supplement.
This is the one you'll want to look for in supplements, as this form is extracted from real food, specifically natto, a fermented soy product. You could actually get loads of MK-7 from consuming natto, which is relatively inexpensive and available in most Asian food markets.
The MK-7, which forms in the fermentation process, has two major advantages. It stays in your body longer, and has a longer half-life, which means you can just take it once a day in very convenient dosing.
Research3 has shown MK-7 helps prevent inflammation by inhibiting pro-inflammatory markers produced by white blood cells called monocytes.
Vitamin K2 is an important adjunct to vitamin D, without which vitamin D cannot work properly. K2's biological action is also impaired by a lack of vitamin D, so you really need to consider these two nutrients together.
This means that if you take high doses of oral vitamin D you need to remember to also increase your vitamin K2 intake from either food or a MK-7 supplement. Failing to do so could cause harm, as without K2, your body will not be able to complete the transport of calcium into the proper areas, and arterial calcification could set in.
If you get your vitamin D primarily from sun exposure then this issue is largely circumvented, as your body is then able to regulate its vitamin D production. You simply cannot overdose on vitamin D from sun exposure.
Vitamins D and K2 also work synergistically with magnesium and calcium, so this quartet should ideally be taken in combination. Unfortunately, most people are deficient in both vitamins D and K, and magnesium insufficiency is also common.
At least 50 percent of the general population is at risk of vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency, and as many as 97 percent may be lacking in vitamin K2.4 This could very well be due to the fact that we stopped eating fermented foods with the advent of refrigeration and other food processing techniques.
While you likely get sufficient amounts of vitamin K from your diet to maintain adequate blood clotting, you're probably not getting enough to protect you from a variety of other health problems that are more specifically associated with vitamin K2, such as:
- Arterial calcification and cardiovascular disease
- Leukemia and cancer of the lung,5 prostate,6 and liver7
- Neurological deficiencies, including dementia
- Infectious diseases such as pneumonia
Besides a vitamin K2-poor diet, certain drugs may affect your vitamin K2 status. Research8 published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests statin drugs may increase calcification in the arteries, and other research9 shows that statins deplete vitamin K2.
You may be aware that statin users need to take CoQ10 (or ubiquinol) as the drug depletes this nutrient, but they may also need vitamin K2 in order to avoid the cardiovascular risks associated with statins.Why Vitamin K Is Critical for Cardiovascular Health
In the 1980s, it was discovered that vitamin K is needed to activate the protein osteocalcin, which is found in your bone. A decade or so later, another vitamin K-dependent protein was discovered: matrix Gla protein (MGP), found in your vascular system.
Without vitamin K, these and other vitamin K-dependent proteins remain inactivated, and cannot perform their biological functions. Another important finding was that MGP strongly inhibits calcification. When MGP remains inactivated, you end up with serious arterial calcifications, and this is why vitamin K is so crucial for cardiovascular health. Evidence suggests vitamin K can even reverse arterial calcification induced by vitamin K deficiency.
Vitamin K2 also helps prevent arterial calcification by shuttling calcium away from areas where it shouldn't be (in the lining of your blood vessels) to where it's really needed (such as in your bone). In the Rotterdam Study,10 which ran for 10 years, those who consumed the greatest amounts of K2 had the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular calcification, and the lowest chance of dying from cardiovascular disease.
People who consumed 45 mcg of K2 daily lived seven years longer than people getting 12 mcg per day. This was a profound discovery, because such a correlation did not exist for K1 intake. In a subsequent trial called the Prospect Study,11 16,000 people were followed for 10 years. Here, they found that each additional 10 mcg of K2 in the diet resulted in nine percent fewer cardiac events.
More recently, a study12 published in the journal Thrombosis and Haemostasis found that MK-7 supplementation improved arterial stiffness in otherwise healthy postmenopausal women. This study has been lauded as significant because while previous studies have only been able to show an association, this is the first to confirm that long-term use of vitamin K2 in the form of MK-7 does result in improved cardiovascular health.Vitamin K2 Is Crucial for Osteoporosis Prevention
As mentioned, vitamin K2 also plays a crucial role in bone health,13 and may be critical for the prevention of osteoporosis. Osteocalcin is a protein produced by your osteoblasts (cells responsible for bone formation), and is utilized within the bone as an integral part of the bone-forming process. However, osteocalcin must be "carboxylated" before it can be effective. Vitamin K functions as a cofactor for the enzyme that catalyzes the carboxylation of osteocalcin.
A number of Japanese trials have shown that vitamin K2 completely reverses bone loss and in some cases even increases bone mass in people with osteoporosis.14 The pooled evidence of seven Japanese trials also show that vitamin K2 supplementation produces a 60 percent reduction in vertebral fractures and an 80 percent reduction in hip and other non-vertebral fractures.15
A recent Chinese meta-analysis16 of 19 randomized controlled trials found that vitamin K2 supplementation significantly improved vertebral bone density in postmenopausal women, and reduced the risk of bone fractures.
Another three-year long placebo-controlled study17 done in the Netherlands found that postmenopausal women taking 180 mcg of MK-7 per day increased their bone strength and saw a decrease in the rate of age-related bone mineral decline and reduced loss of bone density, compared to those taking a placebo. The following graphic, from Dr. Holick's 2014 vitamin K2 paper,18 illustrates the effect of vitamin K on bone and vascular health.
Vitamin K2 Is Also Important for Healthy Pregnancy, Cancer Prevention, and More
Vitamin K2 also plays an important role throughout pregnancy and during breastfeeding for the healthy growth of the child. Not only does it affect the development of both primary and adult teeth; it also helps develop proper facial form and strong bones. (During childhood, vitamin K2 helps prevent cavities.) It may be particularly important during the third trimester, as most women's levels tend to drop at that time, indicating there's an additional drain on the system toward the end of the pregnancy.
Since there are no reported cases of overdose of vitamin K2, and appears to have no toxicity issues, it may be prudent to double or even triple your intake while pregnant. Cancer prevention is another health benefit of vitamin K2. The 2010 European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study19 found that high intake of vitamin K2 — not K1 — leads to reduced cancer risk, as well as a 30 percent lower risk of dying from cancer.20
The evidence also suggests vitamin K2 may reduce your risk for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Mayo Clinic researchers discovered that people with the highest intake of vitamin K2 had a 45 percent lower risk for this type of cancer, compared to those with the lowest vitamin K2 intake.21 They attribute this effect to vitamin K2's ability to inhibit inflammatory cytokines, which are related to this type of lymphoma, and its role the life cycle of your cells. Researchers are also looking into other health benefits.
- Vitamin K2 has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity; people who get the most vitamin K2 from their foods are about 20 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes
- One 2012 study22 found vitamin K2 has the potential to improve disease activity in those with rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
- Another study,23 found that vitamin K2 serves as a mitochondrial electron carrier, thereby helping maintain normal ATP production in mitochondrial dysfunction, such as that found in Parkinson's disease
- According to Dr. Holick's paper,24 vitamin K2 has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, and anticarcinogenic properties, and in addition to cancer and diabetes, MK-7 in particular may also offer benefits for age-related macular degeneration. Moreover, due to its structural similarity to coenzyme Q10, MK-7 may support ATP production in the respiratory chain
Clearly, you want both vitamin K1 and K2, but you're virtually guaranteed to not get enough K2 from your diet unless you eat the proper fermented foods. Dietary sources of vitamin K1 include:
As for a clinically useful dosage of vitamin K2, some studies — including the Rotterdam study25 — have shown as little as 45 micrograms (mcg) per day is sufficient. As a general guideline, I recommend getting around 150 mcg of vitamin K2 per day. Others recommend slightly higher amounts; upwards of 180 to 200 mcg. You can obtain healthy amounts (about 200 mcg) of K2 by eating 15 grams (half an ounce) of natto each day, or fermented vegetables. If you fermented them using a starter culture designed with vitamin K2-producing bacteria, one ounce will give you about 200 to 250 mcgs.
If you opt for a vitamin K2 supplement, make sure it's MK-7. Also remember to take it with fat since it's fat-soluble and won't be absorbed otherwise. Fortunately, you don't need to worry about overdosing on K2, as it appears to be completely non-toxic. People have been given a thousand-fold "overdose" over the course of three years, showing no adverse reactions (i.e., no increased clotting tendencies).
That said, people who are taking vitamin K antagonists, i.e. drugs that reduce blood clotting by reducing the action of vitamin K, are advised to avoid MK-7 supplements.26 As a last tip, keep in mind that vitamin K2 may not necessarily make you "feel better" per se. Its internal workings are such that you're not likely to feel the difference physically. Compliance can therefore be a problem, as people are more likely to take something that has a noticeable effect. This may not happen with vitamin K2, but that certainly does not mean it's not doing anything.
By Pete Evans
The paleo way of life is not meant to be restrictive, as you can see from this lovely butter chicken recipe. All the nasties have been replaced with good-quality ingredients that make it as good, if not better, than the original. I prefer chicken thighs for their superior flavor and tenderness.
And be adventurous with your vegetable component. Try eggplant, okra, zucchini, asparagus, pumpkin, sweet potato, and Asian water spinach. The rice has been replaced with cauliflower "rice" but broccoli "rice" is also a big hit, or try a mixture of both.
Yield: 4 Servings
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
- 4 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 1 to 2 pinches of cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 3/4 cups (400 ml) can coconut cream
- 1 1/2 pounds (700 g) chicken thigh fillets, cut into bite-sized pieces
- coriander leaves, to serve
- Cauliflower Rice (see recipe below), to serve
- Heat 4 tablespoons of the coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
- Add the onion and sauté for 3 minutes until translucent.
- Turn the heat down to low and stir in the garlic and spices. Add the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the salt, lemon juice, coconut cream, and mix well.
- Turn the heat up to medium and bring the sauce to a simmer.
- Add the chicken and stir until well coated with the sauce.
- Cover the pan with a lid and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened.
- Garnish with the coriander and serve with the cauliflower rice.
- 1 head cauliflower, chopped
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- Sea salt and black pepper to taste
- Place the chopped cauliflower florets into a food processor and pulse until the cauliflower has reduced into tiny pieces – the same size as grains of rice (or chop by hand with a sharp knife).
- In a frying pan, heat the coconut oil over medium heat and lightly cook the cauliflower for about 4 to 6 minutes, or until softened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve it where you would normally have rice - so much healthier for you and what I love is that it take a quarter of the time to cook!
- You can add garlic, chilli, other spices, seeds, nuts, herbs, meats, seafoods, vegetables, sauces, etc.