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Dr. Mercola

Film Covers the Many Dangers of the Cheap Meat Industry

8 hours 35 min ago

By Dr. Mercola

For several decades, Americans have enjoyed paying low prices for meat at the grocery store. Unfortunately, many are unaware of the hidden costs of "cheap meat"—and when you add them up, they are substantial.

The manner in which most commercial livestock is raised is wasteful of precious resources and destructive to the environment, in some ways irreparably. In addition to the broader ecosystem, people and wildlife have been paying dearly with their health.

The documentary "Meat of the Matter" traces the trail of destruction left by the commercial meat industry.

On the brighter side, a new breed of ranchers is leading the meat revolution by returning to traditional styles of animal husbandry, farming in a manner that actually supports and restores the earth as opposed to recklessly using it up.

The US Meat Racket

Most meat in the US (beef, pork, chicken, turkey, etc.) is raised in confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs. It's a corporate-controlled system characterized by large-scale, centralized, low profit-margin production, processing and distribution systems.

Food production has been built around efficiency—producing more for less. Worldwide, tens of billions of animals are crammed into feedlots, where they're tortured by unhealthy, unsanitary, and cruel conditions.

This is the "cheapest" way to raise meat, for the largest profits. Making matters worse, the government subsidizes these operations, shrewdly fleecing American taxpayers in order to keep the meat monopoly going.

Smaller American ranchers wishing to offer traditionally raised grass-fed meats, who care about quality and environmental impact, face higher operational costs and must charge a premium for their product.

Most of the grass-fed beef sold in the US—as much as 85 percent—is actually imported from Australia and New Zealand because those countries still have plentiful grasslands, as well as a climate that permits year-round grazing. As a result, Australian ranchers can sell their meat for less than American ranchers.1

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<img src="http://media.mercola.com/assets/images/infographic/truth-about-factory-farms.jpg" alt="The Truth About Factory Farms" border="0" style="max-width:100%; min-width:300px; margin: 0 auto 20px auto; display:block;" /> <p style="max-width:800px; min-width:300px; margin:0 auto; text-align:center;">The mass production of America's food comes with a hefty price. Find out the environmental, animal, and human impact of raising over 99 percent of US farm animals in factory farms in this infographic, "<a href="http://www.mercola.com/infographics/truth-about-factory-farms.htm">The Truth About Factory Farms</a>." Use the embed code to share it on your website or visit our infographic page for the high-res version.</p> <pre style="max-width:800px; min-width:300px; margin: 20px auto 0 auto; padding:10px; border:solid 1px #999999; background: #ffffff; white-space: pre-wrap; word-wrap:break-word;"><code>&lt;img src="http://media.mercola.com/assets/images/infographic/truth-about-factory-farms.jpg" alt="The Truth About Factory Farms" border="0" style="max-width:100%; min-width:300px; margin: 0 auto 20px auto; display:block;"&gt;&lt;p style="max-width:800px; min-width:300px; margin:0 auto; text-align:center;"&gt;The mass production of America's food comes with a hefty price. Find out the environmental, animal, and human impact of raising over 99 percent of US farm animals in factory farms in this infographic,"&lt;a href="http://www.mercola.com/infographics/truth-about-factory-farms.htm"&gt;The Truth About Factory Farms.&lt;/a&gt;" Visit our infographic page for the high-res version.&lt;/p&gt;</code></pre>

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Are You Eating Too Much Meat, or the Wrong Kind?

Most Americans consume three to five times more protein than they need (along with excess sugar and starchy carbohydrates and insufficient healthy fats). Excess protein can lead to elevated blood sugar, weight gain, kidney stress, leaching of bone minerals, and increased cancer risk.

Ideal protein intake for most is approximately one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass, which is typically 40 to 70 grams per day. Protein quality is as important as quantity. The best approach is to consume a wide variety of high–quality, grass-fed animal- and plant-based organic whole foods, such as the following.

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

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

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

In addition to eating too much meat, the majority of the excess is of poor quality, originating from CAFOs where the animals are fed an unnatural diet of glyphosate-contaminated genetically engineered grains, instead of fresh grass.

Feeding animals a species appropriate diet profoundly improves the nutritional quality of their meat, which has been established by science. It also virtually eliminates toxins such as glyphosate and other pesticides, which is the other side of the healthy-diet equation.

In 2009, a joint research project between the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Clemson University determined the numerous ways grass-fed beef beats grain-fed beef for your health. In a side-by-side comparison, they determined that grass-fed beef was superior in the following ways:2

Higher in total omega-3s Higher in the B-vitamins thiamin and riboflavin A healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (1.65 vs. 4.84)Higher in the minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium Higher in CLA (cis-9 trans-11), a potential cancer fighterHigher in vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) Higher in vaccenic acid (which can be transformed into CLA)Higher in beta-carotene Improper Slaughtering Hurts More Than Just the Animals

Slaughtering should not to be taken lightly, for multiple reasons, not the least of which is animal welfare. Besides treating animals humanely, you may not realize that how an animal is slaughtered affects food safety and the quality of the meat itself.

Improper slaughtering adversely affects meat quality due to physiological changes that occur when an animal becomes stressed. According to slaughtering guidelines posted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations:3

"The energy required for muscle activity in the live animal is obtained from sugars (glycogen) in the muscle. In the healthy and well-rested animal, the glycogen content of the muscle is high. After the animal has been slaughtered, the glycogen in the muscle is converted into lactic acid, and the muscle and carcass becomes firm (rigor mortis).

This lactic acid is necessary to produce meat, which is tasteful and tender, of good keeping quality and good color. 
If the animal is stressed before and during slaughter, the glycogen is used up, and the lactic acid level that develops in the meat after slaughter is reduced. This will have serious adverse effects on meat quality."

Improperly handled animals become stressed, particularly while being prepared for slaughter. The meat of stressed animals has even been shown to spoil faster.4 Animals are also far stressed living in CAFOs than on open pasture, and these stressed, injured and frequently diseased animals produce lower quality meat.

Meat that's bruised from injuries received during handling, penning, transport and slaughter must be thrown away, which is a major source of waste. According to the legendary Temple Grandin, there are five basic causes of animal welfare problems in slaughter plants:5

  • Stressful equipment and methods
  • Distractions that impede animal movement
  • Lack of employee training
  • Poor equipment maintenance
  • Poor condition of the animals arriving at the plant
Your Burger May Come with a Side of Antibiotics

It's virtually impossible to mass-produce clean, safe, optimally nutritious foods at rock bottom prices. To prevent the inevitable spread of disease from stress, overcrowding and an unnatural diet, feedlot animals are routinely fed antibiotics and other growth-promoting drugs and hormones. Today, more than 80 percent of total antibiotic use in the US is for livestock.

Nearly 25 million pounds of antibiotics are administered to American livestock each year. Careless antibiotic overuse by the commercial meat industry poses a direct threat to your health in the form of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. When you eat food that contains antibiotics, you not only get the drug but also antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Twenty-two percent of antibiotic-resistant illness in humans is linked to food. Consuming foods containing antibiotic drugs also causes alterations in your gut flora (dysbiosis), which can cause problems with both your mental and physical health.

Foodborne illnesses are a growing concern—we hear about them regularly on the news—but they might be even more serious than previously thought. Mounting research shows that Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Lou Gehrig's disease may be linked to a type of Mad Cow disease that results from the consumption of contaminated meats. When shopping, keep the following labels in mind to help you find truly high-quality meat that's free of antibiotics and other drugs:6

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

Humans aren't the only ones being sickened by the commercial meat industry—the US is currently being hit by the largest avian flu outbreak in history.7 Bird flu has wiped out 40 percent of the egg-laying flock in Iowa, the number-one egg-producing state in the US, doubling nationwide egg prices. Almost 45 million chickens and turkeys have been killed in an effort to contain the disease, mostly in Iowa and Minnesota, according to the US Department of Agriculture.8 Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nebraska9 have declared states of emergency.

Large-scale egg and turkey farms have been slammed, but backyard gardens have remained unscathed.10 Experts haven't determined exactly how the avian flu is spreading, but the CAFO model virtually guarantees drug resistance and out-of-control spread of disease, for both animals and humans.

The Outrageous Environmental Costs of the Meat Industry

Industrial agriculture is one of the most unsustainable practices of modern civilization. The "bigger is better" food system has reached a point where its real costs are becoming apparent, including massive pollution and loss of life—all manner of plant and animal life. Like water running down an open drain, the earth's natural resources are disappearing quickly. Some, such as soil, can be restored over time IF proper steps are taken, but others are lost forever. We've already seen more than 93 percent of our fruit and vegetable seed varieties disappear over the last century. Another 60,000 to 100,000 plant species are in danger of extinction.

Bees are disappearing at an alarming rate as a result of neonicotinoid pesticides. Monarch butterflies are disappearing even faster, likely due to the pervasive use of glyphosate on GMO crops along its flight path across the US. The North American Monarch population has plummeted by 91 percent over the past two decades. It's likely that our modern food system can be blamed for a significant portion of these losses. One Green Planet has an excellent article11 summarizing five basic ways industrialized farming is destroying the environment:

  1. Air pollution: Industrialized agriculture is responsible for more than 37 percent of methane emissions, 90 percent of CO2, and copious hydrogen sulfide ammonia. Methane has a global warming potential 20 times higher than carbon dioxide.
  2. Water pollution: Industrialized agriculture uses up to 70 percent of the world's fresh water supply. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates 75 percent of all water-quality problems in America's rivers and streams is from chemical-laden agricultural run-off that leads to toxic algal blooms, fish kills, and "dead zones."
  3. Deforestation: In the US alone, more than 260 million acres of native forests have been cleared to make room for crop fields, most of which are used exclusively to grow livestock feed (corn and soy). Deforestation is responsible for 2.4 billions tons of CO2 release annually.
  4. Soils: Nature abhors monoculture, as monoculture leads to soil depletion, erosion, depletion of the water table, loss of soil nutrients, and the application of massive quantities of synthetic agricultural chemicals.
  5. Carbon emissions: CAFOs use about 5.5 gallons of fossil fuels per acre (presumably per year, as article did not specify), between transportation, application of chemicals, and the incredible amount of energy it takes to run these massive productions. The average farm in the US spans 418 acres, meaning it will guzzle about 2,300 gallons of fossil fuels. By adopting a circular economy (reusing and recycling), carbon emissions could be cut by nearly 70 percent by 2030.
Are Greener Pastures Ahead?

Fortunately, there is a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel! Some farming and ranching pioneers are returning to the old ways, raising a wide variety of plants and animals in a way that copies a natural community. This new breed of farmer believes that sustainability and concern for future generations is as important as turning a profit. Animals live out natural lifecycles where they're happy and healthy and allowed to express instinctive behaviors. As sustainable agricultural champion Joel Salatin is fond of saying, pigs are allowed to express their "pig-ness"!

The key is to build healthy soil and healthy pastures—which of course grow healthy grass. As was said in the film, "There is more life below ground than above ground, and that's a hard concept for people to get." Animals roaming and grazing on pasture are strong, disease-free and unstressed, which produces the highest quality meat.

The entire food chain is connected—soils, plants, animals, humans, insects, fungi, and the rest—so supporting the bottom of the food chain ultimately supports your health. No-till agriculture is one of the best approaches to land regeneration, as 70 percent of the soil microbes responsible for plant health and communication are fungi (mycorrhizae), which tilling disrupts. Organic, biodynamic farms tend to be much smaller and cleaner, since the animals are not crammed together.

As a result, the animals are far less likely to harbor dangerous pathogens that contaminate the meat. When it comes time for slaughter, this is done in the field with minimal stress to the animal. As shown in the film, the animal is killed swiftly with a gunshot it never sees coming. Farming like this benefits the earth, the animals, the birds and the bees—and all of us.

Finding High-Quality Meats

Grass-fed beef, pastured poultry, and organic pastured eggs and dairy are becoming easier to find. Larger grocery chains are jumping on the "organic band wagon," but purchasing from your local organic farmers and ranchers is preferred. Here are a few tips for finding sources near you:

  • Grass-finished beef: Many grocery chains are now responding to customer demand by providing at least a small assortment of grass-finished meats. Please be aware of the difference between grass fed and grass finished. Most all cattle are fed grass as calves, they key is what they eat the months before slaughter. If your local grocer still doesn't carry them, ask the purchasing manager to consider adding a few. Some stores, like Publix, will even stock specialty items requested by a single customer.
  • The least expensive way to obtain authentic grass-fed beef is to find a local rancher you can trust, and buy it directly from the farm. If you can't find a local source, organic grass-fed beef and other related products can be purchased online.

  • Raw organic, pastured dairy products: Getting your raw milk from a local organic farm or co-op is one of the best ways to ensure you're getting high-quality milk. You can locate a raw milk source near you at the Campaign for Real Milk Website. The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws.
  • Organic, free-range eggs: To locate a free-range pasture farm, try asking your local nutrition store, or check out the following web listings:

What Secrets Are Revealed in City Sewage About Health

8 hours 35 min ago

By Dr. Mercola

Your body is teeming with bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other microbes that together make up your microbial inner ecosystem, or microflora. Your body actually contains about 100 trillion cells, but amazingly only one in 10 is "human." The others are made up of bacteria and other microorganisms.

As reported by Quartz:1

Bacterial cells alone outnumber our own by a factor of 20. No one has estimated the number of viruses, but we expect between ten and a hundred times more than the bacteria. In the body, microbial genes outnumber human genes by a factor of 200.”

You may recall the Human Genome Project, which was launched in 1990 and completed in 2003.2 The mission was to map out all human genes and their interactions, which would than serve as the basis for curing virtually any disease.

Unfortunately, not only did they realize the human body consists of far fewer genes than previously believed, they also discovered that these genes do not operate as previously predicted. Part of the problem is that we are not simply a product of our human cells – we’re a product of our microbiome as well.

Your genes, in fact, can be influenced by the bacteria and other microbes in your body, so by studying the microbial makeup of any population, you can actually gain much insight into its health. This is just what one group of researchers set out to do, using easily one of the best sources of human microbes around… poop.

City Sewage Reveals Communities’ Obesity Rate

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin and the Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts analyzed more than 200 sewage samples from treatment plants in 71 cities. Using genetic sequencing, they determined that about 15 percent of the bacteria tested came from human feces.3

Testing of gut microbiomes among individuals has to date shown that each is highly individual, with no core set of bacterial species dominating. However, by sampling sewage, which gives access to samples from millions of people, much less variability was present.

The researchers identified a set of “core” bacteria (about 60 types in all) that they noted are “both common to and abundant in the US populations.” Still, there were noted differences from city to city. As reported by the American Association for the Advancement of Science:4

“…the abundance of these and less common bacteria varied from place to place. This variation in the “sewer-wide” microbiomes reflected the variation seen among surveys of microbiomes of individual people. Each city had “a unique signature,” [Sandra] McLellan [a microbiologist at the University of Wisconsin] explains.

Those differences offer hints about the health of cities’ residents. Fat people tend to have a different microbiome from that of lean people, for example.

By analyzing the microbes in each city’s sewage, the researchers could tell which had an obesity problem, [Mithcell] Sogin [
a molecular evolutionist at the Marine Biological Laboratory] says.

Denver and Key West, Florida, microbes reflected a leaner population than those from Salina, Kansas, and Memphis, Tennessee, for example.”

In fact, by analyzing the distribution patterns of different groups of microbes, the researchers were able to determine whether the sewage samples came from obese or lean populations, with up to 89 percent accuracy.5

Yes, Your Microbes Might Be Making You Fat

Research has shown that obese individuals had about 20 percent more of a family of bacteria known as firmicutes, and almost 90 percent less of a bacteria called bacteroidetes than lean people.6

Firmicutes help your body to extract calories from complex sugars and deposit those calories in fat. When these microbes were transplanted into normal-weight mice, those mice started to gain twice as much fat.

This is one explanation for how the microflora in your gut may affect your weight. A 2011 study also found that daily intake of a specific form of lactic acid bacteria could help prevent obesity and reduce low-level inflammation.7

In this study, rats given the bacterium while in utero through adulthood put on significantly less weight than the control group, even though both groups of rats ate a similar high-calorie diet. 

They also had lower levels of minor inflammation, which has been associated with obesity. Meanwhile, obese people were able to reduce their abdominal fat by nearly 5 percent and their subcutaneous fat by over 3 percent just by drinking a probiotic-rich fermented milk beverage for 12 weeks.8

Given that the control group experienced no significant fat reductions at all during the study period, this is strong evidence that nourishing your microbial community is essential.

Preliminary research from the Netherlands has even revealed that transplanting fecal matter from healthy thin people into obese people with metabolic syndrome led to an improvement in insulin sensitivity.9

Is Your Microbiome Its Own Organ?

Researchers are increasingly starting to recognize gut microbiota as one of your unappreciated “organs.”10 It may be even more apt to view your body as a “super organism” composed of symbiotic microorganisms.

Yet, research suggests that many people are deficient in gut bacteria, making it a very important consideration if you’re not feeling in optimal shape, physically or psychologically. In one study, one-quarter of the participants were found to have 40 percent fewer gut bacteria than the average needed for good health.11 Obese participants were particularly at risk.

What might it mean for your health if you’re lacking in bacteria? The National Institutes of Health cites research showing that “variations in the composition of microbial communities may contribute to chronic health conditions, including diabetes, asthma, obesity, and digestive disorders.”

Gut bacteria have also been found to influence the processing and utilization of dietary nutrients,12  and they help protect against food borne disease.13 Bacteria have also been identified as major players in the distribution of your body fat, metabolism, and the regulation of your mood and memory.

Mounting research actually shows that problems in your gut can directly impact your mental health, leading to issues like anxiety and depression. They also help educate your immune cells—telling them which pathogens to fight off and which ones to leave alone.

Gut microbiota is also known to affect inflammation and metabolism, both of which are hallmarks of cancer. In fact, researchers have already linked certain microbes to specific cancers, such as:

  • H.pylori in gastric cancer. (The International Agency for Research on Cancer defines this microbe as a carcinogen14) Interestingly, H.pylori has also been linked to a reduced risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma, demonstrating the complexity involved, and the organ-specific effects microbes can have when it comes to their impact on cancer
  • Hepatitis C virus (HCV) in hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Chronic Salmonella enterica infection in gallbladder cancer
  • Haemophilus influenza and Candida albicans in lower respiratory tract tumors
Does Studying Microbes Hold the Key to Understanding Human Disease?

Scientific studies almost always focus on carefully chosen groups of people who are studied for a specific purpose, typically to confirm or debunk a hypothesis.

What made the featured sewage study so unique is that it allowed researchers to sample the fecal microbiota from millions of people – a feat that may have been impossible otherwise. A. Murat Eren, one of the featured study’s co-authors, told The Atlantic:15

“This is a way to generate information about the public without infringing on any individual’s privacy… In a natural way, we access the microbiome of a given community…  ‘By looking at the changes in microbial composition, we can come out with some early warning signals’ about how a community’s health may be changing over time.”

They’re not the only ones interested in sewage. Researchers from MIT are undertaking the so-called “Underworlds” project beginning this year. They intend to test Boston-area sewage for the presence of viruses, bacterial pathogens, and pharmaceutical and illegal drugs. As the Boston Globe reported:16 Data on such substances could predict epidemics or tell when they’re waning. They could also demonstrate the impact of shifts in regulations, such as bans on using trans fat in restaurants.”

The US National Institute of Health’s Human Microbiome Project (HMP) is also underway to “characterize microbial communities found at multiple human body sites and to look for correlations between changes in the microbiome and human health.” So far, this data gathering has resulted in nearly 200 scientific papers, along with a repository of resources that scientists can access to explore the relationships between human gut bacteria and disease.

The American Gut Project decided to take it a step further by allowing the American public to participate. (I published an invitation to join the project in 2012. Hopefully, some of you decided to join, as I did. If you didn’t, you can still sign up to participate on the Human Food Project’s website.17) All the gathered information from this project will be made public. It’s an extremely ambitious project seeking to identify the parameters for the ideal gut flora and how diet affects it. According to the American Gut Project:18

“One of the big questions the American Gut scientists hope to figure out is what characterizes healthy and sick guts (or even just healthier and sicker guts) and how one might move from the latter to the former… Even just beginning to know how many and which species live in our guts will be exciting, particularly since most of these species have never been studied, which is to say there are almost certainly new species inside you, though until you sample yourself… we won't know which ones.”

Optimizing Your Gut Flora for Optimal Health

All of this information should really drive home the point that optimizing your gut flora – living in harmony with your microbiome instead of assaulting it -- is of critical importance for disease prevention. Reseeding your gut with beneficial bacteria is essential for maintaining proper balance here. In light of this, here are my recommendations for optimizing your gut bacteria.

  • Fermented foods are the best route to optimal digestive health, as long as you eat the traditionally made, unpasteurized versions. Healthy choices include lassi (an Indian yoghurt drink, traditionally enjoyed before dinner), fermented grass-fed organic milk such as kefir, various pickled fermentations of cabbage, turnips, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, squash, and carrots, and natto (fermented soy). Fermented vegetables are an excellent way to supply beneficial bacteria back into our gut. As an added bonus, they can also a great source of vitamin K2 if you ferment your own using the proper starter culture.
  • We had samples of high-quality, fermented organic vegetables made with our specific starter culture tested, and a typical serving (about two to three ounces) contained not only 10 trillion beneficial bacteria, but it also had 500 mcg of vitamin K2, which we now know is a vital co-nutrient to both vitamin D and calcium. Most high-quality probiotic supplements will only supply you with a fraction of the beneficial bacteria found in such homemade fermented veggies, so it's your most economical route to optimal gut health as well.

  • Probiotic supplement. Although I'm not a major proponent of taking many supplements (as I believe the majority of your nutrients need to come from food), probiotics are an exception if you don't eat fermented foods on a regular basis.

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

Antibiotics, unless absolutely necessary (and when you do, make sure to reseed your gut with fermented foods and/or a probiotic supplement) Conventionally-raised meats and other animal products, as CAFO animals are routinely fed low-dose antibiotics, plus genetically engineered grains, which have also been implicated in the destruction of gut flora Processed foods (as the excessive sugars, along with otherwise "dead" nutrients, feed pathogenic bacteria) Chlorinated and/or fluoridated water Antibacterial soap Agricultural chemicals, glyphosate (Roundup) in particular

Social Anxiety Disorder Linked to High Serotonin Levels, Throwing Treatment with SSRIs into Serious Question

Thu, 07/02/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Depression and other mental health problems are at epidemic levels judging by the number of antidepressants prescribed each year.

According to CDC data,1 one in 20 Americans over the age of 12 report some form of depression, and 11 percent of the US population over the age of 12 is on antidepressant medication.2

This despite overwhelming evidence showing that antidepressants do not work as advertised.

At best, antidepressants are comparable to placebos. At worst they can cause devastating side effects, including deterioration into more serious mental illness, and suicidal or homicidal tendencies.

Virtually all of the school and mass shooters, for example, have been on antidepressants. Antidepressants are also prescribed to pregnant women, which can have serious repercussions for the child.

Research3 shows boys with autism are three times more likely to have been exposed to antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in utero than non-autistic boys. Those whose mothers used SSRIs during the first trimester were found to be at greatest risk.

Recent research into the mechanisms driving anxiety and social phobias now turn conventional drug treatment with SSRIs on its ear.

Turns out these mental health problems are not due to low serotonin levels as previously thought. They're linked to high levels! If these findings are taken as seriously as they should be, the mental health field is in for a major overhaul.

The Low Serotonin Theory Was Never Proven True, Yet Spawned a Booming Market of SSRIs

Prozac was released in 1987 in the US, giving rise to an entire new antidepressant therapy class known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Some of the most popular ones include:

  • Paxil (fluoxetine)
  • Celexa (citalopram)
  • Zoloft (sertraline)
  • Paxil (paroxetine)
  • Lexapro (escitalopram)

SSRIs work by preventing the reuptake (movement back into the nerve endings) of the neurotransmitter serotonin. This makes more serotonin available for use in your brain, which is thought to improve your mood.

Most people have heard of the "chemical imbalance" theory, which states that depression and anxiety disorders are due to low serotonin levels. Most believe this theory to be true. But the theory was just that—a theory. It sounds scientific, but there was actually no hard evidence behind it.  

As explained by investigative health journalist Robert Whitaker, in 1983 the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) investigated whether or not depressed individuals had low serotonin. At that time, they concluded there was no evidence that there is anything wrong in the serotonergic system of depressed patients.

Research 4, 5 published in 2009 added further evidence to the pile indicating the low serotonin idea was incorrect, as they found strong indications that depression actually begins further up in the chain of events in the brain. Essentially, the medications have been focusing on the effect, not the cause.

Drug companies kept running with the low serotonin theory though, as it justifies the aggressive use of antidepressants to correct this alleged "imbalance." Now, Swedish research really throws the justification for using SSRIs to treat anxiety disorders into question.

Anxiety Linked to High Serotonin Levels, Making SSRIs a Questionable Remedy

More than 25 million Americans report suffering from social anxiety disorder, which makes them feel embarrassed or severely uncomfortable in public situations.

As with depression, low serotonin has been the prevailing theory for explaining social anxiety, and hence SSRIs are typically prescribed for this disorder. (Other commonly prescribed anti-anxiety drugs include benzodiazepines, such as Ativan, Xanax, and Valium.

These are also associated with serious risks, including memory loss, hip fractures, and addiction. Among women who take SSRI's to counter symptoms of menopause, the drugs can significantly elevate their risk of bone fractures, and this risk lingers for several years.

One recent study6 found that, compared to women treated with H2 antagonists or proton pump inhibitors (indigestion drugs), SSRI's raised bone fracture rates by 76 percent in one year.

After two years of treatment, the fracture rate was 73 percent higher.People who take these drugs are also nearly four times more likely to die prematurely than people who don't, and also have a 35 percent greater risk of cancer.)

As reported by Medical Daily:7

[Dr. Tomas] Furmark and Dr. Mats Fredrikson, another professor of psychology at Uppsala University, questioned the underlying hypothesis of treating patients with SSRIs: What molecular role, exactly, does serotonin play in social phobia?8,9,10,11

To discover the truth, they used brain scanning technology, PET scans, to measure serotonin in the brains of volunteers with social phobia...

Communication within the brain works like this: Nerve cells release serotonin into the space between nerve cells. Then, serotonin attaches itself to receptor cells. Following this, serotonin is released from the receptor and returns to the original cell.

The researchers discovered patients with social phobia were producing too much serotonin in the amygdala. This brain region, tucked deep inside our skulls, is the seat of our most primitive emotions, including fear. The more serotonin produced in this area, then, the more anxious people feel in social situations."

Previous studies have revealed that increased nerve activity in the amygdala is part of the underlying mechanism that produces anxiety. Basically, those with social phobia have an over-active fear center. These new findings provide additional information, suggesting increased serotonin production in the brain may be part of this mechanism.

Either way, when it comes to treating this anxiety disorder, increasing serotonin in your brain with an SSRI will not soothe your anxiety. It will increase it, making SSRIs a questionable treatment option.

Fermented Foods May Help Social Anxiety Disorder, Study Finds

The impact of your gut microbiome on your brain function has been confirmed by a number of studies, and research is moving rather swiftly in this area. One of the reasons for why the bacterial makeup of your gut would have an influence on your mental and emotional health relates to the fact that your gut actually works much like a second brain.

Your central nervous system (composed of your brain and spinal cord) and your enteric nervous system (the intrinsic nervous system of your gastrointestinal tract) are created from identical tissue during fetal development. One part turns into your central nervous system while the other develops into your enteric nervous system. These two systems are connected via the vagus nerve, the tenth cranial nerve that runs from your brain stem down to your abdomen. 

It is now well established that the vagus nerve is the primary route your gut bacteria use to transmit information to your brain. Even more interesting, serotonin is produced in your gut as well as your brain, by specific bacteria. In fact, the greatest concentration of serotonin is found in your intestines, not your brain.

It's not so surprising then that researchers keep finding positive correlations between gut health and improved mental health. Most recently, researchers found that fermented foods and drinks helped curb social anxiety disorder in young adults. The study,12,13 published in Psychiatry Research, involved 710 psychology students at the College of William and Mary.

The participants filled out questionnaires rating their level of worry and anxiety, and documented their fermented food consumption over the past 30 days. Other factors such as healthy diet and exercise were also addressed. Among those who rated themselves as having a high degree of neurotic feelings, eating more fermented foods was linked to fewer symptoms of social anxiety. Meaning, the relationship between fermented foods and decreased social anxiety was strongest among those who tended to be more neurotic.

Key Factors to Overcoming Anxiety and/or Depression Without Drugs

It's important to realize that your diet and general lifestyle are foundational factors that must be optimized if you want to resolve mental health problems such as depression or anxiety, because your body and mind are so closely interrelated. 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. The drug treatments available today for depression are no better than they were 50 years ago.

Clearly, we need a new approach, and your diet is an obvious place to start. 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, and your gut microbiome can be quickly impacted by dietary changes—for better or worse. Research has also revealed there are a number of other safe effective ways to address depression and anxiety that do not involve hazardous drugs. So, if you suffer from an anxiety- or depression-related disorder, please consider addressing the following diet and lifestyle factors before you resort to drugs:

Dramatically decrease your consumption of processed foods, sugar (particularly fructose), grains, and GMOs High sugar and starchy carbohydrates lead to excessive insulin release, which can result in falling blood sugar levels, or hypoglycemia. In turn, hypoglycemia causes your brain to secrete glutamate in levels that can cause agitation, depression, anger, anxiety, and panic attacks. Additionally, sugar fans the flames of inflammation in your body.

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.  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.

Recent research also shows that glyphosate, which is used in large quantities on genetically engineered (GE) crops like corn, soy, and sugar beets, limits your body's ability to detoxify foreign chemical compounds. As a result, the damaging effects of those toxins are magnified, potentially resulting in a wide variety of diseases, including brain disorders that have both psychological and behavioral effects. Increase consumption of traditionally fermented and cultured foods Reducing gut inflammation is imperative when addressing mental health issues,14 so optimizing your gut flora is a critical piece. To promote healthy gut flora, increase your consumption of probiotic foods, such as fermented vegetables, kimchee, natto, kefir, and others. Get adequate vitamin B12 Vitamin B12 deficiency can contribute to depression and affects one in four people. Optimize your vitamin D levels Vitamin 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 depression than those who had normal levels.15 Remember, 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 or a tanning bed. If neither are available, an oral vitamin D3 supplement is highly advisable. Just remember to also increase your vitamin K2 when taking oral vitamin D. Get plenty of animal-based omega-3 fats Your brain is 60 percent fat, and DHA, an animal-based omega-3 fat, along with EPA, is crucial for good brain function and mental health.16 Research has shown a 20 percent reduction in anxiety among medical students taking omega-3s.17

Unfortunately, most people don't get enough from diet alone, so make sure you take a high-quality omega-3 fat, such as krill oil. 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 intake Sodium deficiency actually creates symptoms that are very much like those of depression. Make sure you do NOT use processed salt (regular table salt), however. You'll want to use an all natural, unprocessed salt like Himalayan salt, which contains more than 80 different micronutrients. Get adequate daily exercise Exercise 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. So 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.

Exercising creates new GABA-producing neurons that help induce a natural state of calm. It also boosts your levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which help buffer the effects of stress. Get enough sleep You 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. Tapping Your Anxiety Away

Energy psychology techniques, such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), can also be very effective for reducing anxiety by correcting the bioelectrical short-circuiting that causes your body's reactions—without adverse effects. You can think of EFT as a tool for "reprogramming" your circuitry, and it works on both realand imagined stressors.

EFT is a form of psychological acupressure, based on the same energy meridians used in traditional acupuncture for more than 5,000 years to treat physical and emotional ailments, but without the invasiveness of needles. Following a 2012 review in the American Psychological Association's journal Review of General Psychology, EFT is moving closer to meeting the criteria for an "evidence-based treatment."

Recent research has shown that EFT significantly increases positive emotions, such as hope and enjoyment, and decreases negative emotional states, including anxiety. EFT is particularly powerful for treating stress and anxiety because it specifically targets your amygdala and hippocampus, which are the parts of your brain that help you decide whether or not something is a threat.18,19 If you recall NIMH's explanation about how your amygdala and hippocampus are involved in anxiety disorders, you can see why tapping is such a powerful tool. EFT has also been shown to lower cortisol levels.20

Although you can learn the basics of EFT on your own, if you or your child has a serious anxiety disorder, I highly recommend that you consult a qualified EFT practitioner. For serious or complex issue you need a qualified health care professional that is trained in EFT21 to help guide you through the process, as it typically takes years of training to develop the skill to tap on and relieve deep-seated, significant issues.

There are situations where SSRIs may be warranted, but on the whole, these mind- and body-numbing drugs are grossly overused. I'd be willing to bet a majority of people taking them are not appropriate candidates, and would fare much better were they to address the basic, core issues relating to their general lifestyle and health. This includes proper diet, sleep, exercise, and employing effective tools for stress relief.

Exposure to the outdoors, such as walking barefoot through a grassy field and getting appropriate amounts of sun exposure, also should not be underestimated. If you're suffering from emotional or physical pain, I encourage you to peruse my inventory of tens of thousands of articles, which address these issues and offer a multitude of safe and effective alternatives.

Green Spaces Make Kids Smarter

Thu, 07/02/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Spending time in nature is important for physical and mental health, but more than 80 percent of Americans live in urban areas,1 which can limit access to green spaces.

Research conducted in the Netherlands in 2001 revealed people report fewer health complaints and better mental health when they're in a greener environment.2 Further, all types of green space – city parks, agricultural areas, forest, etc. – were equally beneficial. As reported by The Trust for Public Land:3

"The benefits extend to psychological health. 'The concept that plants have a role in mental health is well established,' according to a review of previous studies by Howard Frumkin in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

"Horticultural therapy evolved as a form of mental health treatment, based on the therapeutic effects of gardening. It is also used today in community-based programs, geriatrics programs, prisons, developmental disabilities programs, and special education."4

Further, 'research on recreational activities has shown that savanna-like settings are associated with self-reported feelings of 'peacefulness,' 'tranquility,' or 'relaxation,'' Frumkin writes.

"Viewing such settings leads to decreased fear and anger…[and] is associated with enhanced mental alertness, attention, and cognitive performance, as measured by tasks such as proofreading and by formal psychological testing."

Such benefits also extend to children, among whom researchers recently unveiled a promising benefit of adding green spaces to schools.

Green Spaces in Schools May Boost Cognitive Development

In a study of 2,600 children between the ages of 7 and 10, those with greater exposure to green spaces, particularly while at school, had improved working memory and decreased inattentiveness.5

During a one-year period, children exposed to significant green spaces had a 5 percent increase in the development of working memory and a 1 percent decrease in inattentiveness.

A large part of the benefit (anywhere from 20 percent to 65 percent) was attributed to a reduction in exposure to air pollution as a result of the green spaces.

Access to nature and the outdoors also increases physical activity and reduces noise exposures, which are also beneficial for mental health. There's also past research that suggests "microbial input" from spending time in nature plays a role in brain development.6

A 2014 study similarly found that children attending schools with greater amounts of vegetation scored higher on academic tests in both English and math.7 The researchers of the current study explained:8

"Contact with nature is thought to play a crucial and irreplaceable role in brain development… Natural environments including green spaces provide children with unique opportunities such as inciting engagement, risk-taking, discovery, creativity, mastery and control, strengthening sense of self, inspiring basic emotional states including sense of wonder, and enhancing psychological restoration."

5 More Benefits of Spending Time in Nature

A trip to a park, nature preserve, river trail, local farm, or any other natural space can benefit children and adults alike – so much so that you should really strive to spend time in a "green" space each and every day. Such benefits include:9

1. Improving Focus

Among children with ADHD, spending time in nature leads to improvements in focus and higher scores on concentration tests. Richard Louv, in his book Last Child in the Woods, even used the term "nature-deficit disorder" to describe behavioral problems he believes stem from spending less time outdoors.10

2. Boosting Creativity

One study found walking increased 81 percent of participants' creativity, but walking outside produced "the most novel and highest quality analogies."11

3. Getting More Out of Your Workouts

"Green exercise," which is exercise in the presence of nature, has unique benefits above and beyond indoor exercise. One meta-analysis of 10 studies found that physical activity outdoors for as little as five minutes leads to measurable improvements in mood and self-esteem.12

In addition to boosting your mood, outdoor exercise can be more challenging, leading to greater physical gains. For instance, if you walk, jog or cycle outdoors, you'll have to expend more energy to overcome wind and changes in terrain.13

There's even research showing levels of the stress hormone cortisol are lower when people exercise outdoors as opposed to indoors.14

4. Less Pain and Better Sleep

Older adults who spend more time outdoors have less pain, sleep better and have less functional decline in their ability to carry out their daily activities.15 According to research published in Biopsychosocial Medicine:16

"The healing power of nature, vis medicatrix naturae, has traditionally been defined as an internal healing response designed to restore health.

 Almost a century ago, famed biologist Sir John Arthur Thomson provided an additional interpretation of the word nature within the context of vis medicatrix, defining it instead as the natural, non-built external environment.

He maintained that the healing power of nature is also that associated with mindful contact with the animate and inanimate natural portions of the outdoor environment.

…With global environmental concerns, rapid urban expansion, and mental health disorders at crisis levels, diminished nature contact may not be without consequence to the health of the individual and the planet itself."

5. Increasing Your Vitamin D Levels

Spending time in nature allows kids and adults plenty of sun exposure to build and maintain their vitamin D levels. Increasing your vitamin D levels is important, as researchers have pointed out that increasing levels of vitamin D3 among the general population could prevent chronic diseases that claim nearly one million lives throughout the world each year.

Incidence of several types of cancer could also be slashed in half. Vitamin D also fights infections, including colds and the flu, as it regulates the expression of genes that influence your immune system to attack and destroy bacteria and viruses.

I firmly believe appropriate sun exposure is the best way to optimize your vitamin D levels, and the more time you spend outdoors, the easier it will be for you to naturally keep your vitamin D levels in the therapeutic range of 50-70 ng/ml.

Spending Time in Green Spaces Contributes to Improved Well-Being

According to research published in the Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, children who spent five to 10 hours a week outside developed a strong attachment to nature, a value that is important to both human development and well-being.17

Children who spent a lot of time outdoors also experienced a wealth of positive emotions, including peacefulness, happiness, and a sense of belonging to the world. As you might suspect, parents of children with the strongest connections to nature also spent a lot of time outdoors during childhood, engaging in experiences that they believe helped to shape their adult lives and spirituality.

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) even compiled a revealing list of facts that shows just how important outdoor time in green space is for children… and how detrimental removing this inherent connection to nature may be.18

For the record, nature's benefits don't discriminate. They're equally relevant to children and adults alike, with research showing people with access to nature have better health, increased levels of satisfaction, lower stress, and greater well-being.

Outdoor play increases fitness levels, fights obesity, and builds healthy bodies. Spending time outside raises levels of vitamin D, helping to protect children from heart disease, diabetes, bone problems, and more. Time outdoors improves distance vision and lowers the chance of nearsightedness. Schools with environmental education programs score higher on standardized tests in math, reading, writing, and listening. Exposure to environment-based education improves students' critical thinking skills. Children's stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces. Play protects children's emotional development while loss of free time and a hurried lifestyle may lead to anxiety and depression. Nature makes people nicer, enhances social interactions, and improves value for community and close relationships. The Impact of Green Space on Your Brain

Connecting with nature can help your mental health in a myriad of ways. A systematic review examined the impact of gardens and outdoor spaces on the mental and physical well-being of people with dementia, for instance. The research suggested that garden use, whether it be watering plants, walking through a garden or sitting in one, lead to decreased levels of agitation or anxiety among the patients.19 Interestingly, while spending time in a green garden may help relieve some dementia symptoms, it may also help to reduce your risk of developing dementia in the first place. As reported by CNN:20

"Two separate studies that followed people in their 60s and 70s for up to 16 years found, respectively, that those who gardened regularly had a 36 percent and 47 percent lower risk of dementia than non-gardeners, even when a range of other health factors were taken into account. These findings are hardly definitive, but they suggest that the combination of physical and mental activity involved in gardening may have a positive influence on the mind."

Meanwhile, Mycobacterium vaccae is a type of bacteria commonly found in soil. Remarkably, this microbe has been found to "mirror the effect on neurons that drugs like Prozac provide."21 It helps to stimulate serotonin production, helping to make you feel happier and more relaxed. In one animal study, mice that ingested Mycobacterium vaccae had a demonstrated reduction in anxiety and improved learning. The researchers noted that natural exposure to microbes by spending time outdoors may be important for emotional health and behavior: 22

"Recent studies show that contact with tolerogenic microbes is important for the proper functioning of immunoregulatory circuits affecting behavior, emotionality and health… Collectively, our results suggest a beneficial effect of naturally delivered, live M. vaccae on anxiety-related behaviors … supporting a positive role for ambient microbes in the immunomodulation of animal behavior."

Green Space Is Great for Grounding

The next time you go outdoors, take off your shoes and spend some time walking barefoot in the grass, sand or mud. The Earth carries an enormous negative charge. It's always electron-rich and can serve as a powerful and abundant supply of antioxidant and free-radical-busting electrons. Your body is finely tuned to "work" with the Earth in the sense that there's a constant flow of energy between your body and the Earth. When you put your bare feet on the ground, you absorb large amounts of negative electrons through the soles of your feet.

The effect is sufficient to maintain your body at the same negatively charged electrical potential as the Earth. This simple process is called "grounding" or "earthing," and its effect is one of the most potent antioxidants we know of. Grounding has been shown to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, improve sleep, enhance wellbeing, and much, much more. When you wear rubber- or plastic-soled shoes, however, you are effectively shielding yourself from this beneficial influx of electrons from the Earth.

Simply by getting outside, barefoot, touching the Earth, and allowing the excess charge in your body to discharge into the Earth, you can alleviate some of the stress continually put on your system. Walking barefoot can help ameliorate the constant assault of electromagnetic fields and other types of radiation from cell phones, computers, and Wi-Fi. It's also thought that grounding may actually facilitate the formation of structured water in your body.

Furthermore, grounding also calms your sympathetic nervous system, which supports your heart rate variability. And, when you support heart rate variability, this promotes homeostasis, or balance, in your autonomic nervous system. This is important because anytime you improve your heart rate variability, you're improving your entire body and all its functions.

Be a Role Model to Help Your Child Spend More Time in Green Spaces

Your kids are watching your every move, and if they see you enjoying the great outdoors, they will too. Encourage your children to engage in activities that are naturally interesting to them, such as playing on the monkey bars, rollerblading, skateboarding, playing basketball with friends, or helping you in the garden. Organized sports are great, but so are spontaneous romps through mud puddles, climbing trees, and spotting frogs in a nearby creek.

Opportunities to grow and appreciate nature are everywhere, so try to encourage your child's natural curiosity and sense of exploration by identifying birds on the way to the bus stop, talking about the insects you see around your yard, or helping your child plant a small flower or vegetable garden. Above all, resist the urge to overly structure your child's outdoor time, instead encouraging natural active play, time together as a family, as well as respect and appreciation for the outdoor world.

7 Top "Healthy" Foods to Avoid

Wed, 07/01/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

In a global survey of more than 27,000 people, 26 percent reported that confusion about which foods are healthy was a major barrier to eating right.1 That confusion is only compounded upon because many of the "official" dietary recommendations are contrary to optimal health.

There is no one-size-fits-all diet that benefits everyone, but there are certain principles that will help most people thrive. You want to be centering your diet on whole foods, for starters – those that come from nature, are minimally processed and, ideally, are grown locally and without synthetic chemicals.

At the same time, you want to minimize your intake of processed foods, particularly snack foods and convenience foods that have little to offer in the way of nutritional value. Such foods will add to your toxic load by way of high-fructose corn syrup, artificial colors and flavors, preservatives, and genetically modified (GM) ingredients while offering your body next to nothing in return.

Some foods do not fall neatly into these two categories, however, and may masquerade as "healthy" foods when in fact they should be avoided. Below you'll find examples of some of these "healthy" foods that could be sabotaging your healthy-eating intentions.

7 Top 'Healthy' Foods to Avoid

1. Yogurt

Yogurt can be incredibly healthy, rich in high-quality protein, beneficial probiotics, calcium, B vitamins, and even cancer-fighting conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). But the key words are "can be."

Most yogurts sold in US grocery stores resemble more of a dessert than a health food. One six-ounce container of Yoplait yogurt may contain 26 grams of sugar (for the red raspberry flavor, for example).2

The negative effects of the sugar far outweigh any marginal benefits of the minimal beneficial bacteria they have. Remember, the most important step in building healthy gut flora is avoiding sugar, as that will cause disease-causing microbes to crowd out your beneficial flora.

Many other yogurts contain artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, and additives, yet masquerade as health food. Mark A. Kastel, co-director of The Cornucopia Institute, which released the Yogurt Report last year, said:3

"What is most egregious about our findings is the marketing employed by many of the largest agribusinesses selling junk food masquerading as health food, mostly aimed at moms, who are hoping to provide their children an alternative, a more nutritious snack.

In some cases, they might as well be serving their children soda pop or a candy bar with a glass of milk on the side."

If you want to know which commercial yogurts are healthy and which are not, refer to The Cornucopia Institute's Yogurt Report. Their investigation found many products being sold as yogurt do not even meet the standards for real yogurt. The report also includes a comparative cost analysis of commercial yogurt brands.

The top-rated yogurts are generally VAT pasteurized at relatively low temperatures and are made from raw milk rather than previously pasteurized milk.

The good news is many organic yogurts are actually less expensive, on a price-per-ounce basis, than conventional, heavily processed yogurts (although some of the organic brands of yogurt actually contained some of the highest amounts of sugar).

Your absolute best bet when it comes to yogurt, however, is to make your own using a starter culture and raw grass-fed milk.

2. Fish

Fish has always been the best source for the animal-based omega-3 fats EPA and DHA, but as levels of pollution have increased, you have to be very choosey about which types of seafood you decide to eat.

If you're not careful, the toxic effects from the pollutants in the fish will outweigh the benefits of the omega-3 fats. About half of the world's seafood comes from fish farms, including in the US, and this is expected to increase. At first glance, farmed fish may seem like a good idea to help protect wild seafood populations from overfishing.

In reality, however, the industry is plagued with many of the same problems surrounding land-based concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), including pollution, disease, and inferior nutritional quality.

It's getting so bad that fish farms can easily be described as "CAFOs of the sea." Many farmed fish are fed genetically modified (GM) corn and soy, which is a completely unnatural diet for marine life. Others are fed fishmeal, which is known to accumulate industrial chemicals like PCBs and dioxins.

In a global assessment of farmed salmon published in the journal Science, for instance, 13 persistent organic pollutants were found.4 Some of the most dangerous are PCBs, strongly associated with cancer, reproductive, and other health problems. PCB concentrations in farmed salmon were found to be eight times higher than in wild salmon.

Certain types of farmed fish, including farmed catfish imported from china and farmed shrimp from China, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Indonesia are even on the US Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) watch list for illegal drug residues, including antibiotics and anti-fungal compounds.5

Levels of critical omega-3 fats may also be reduced by about 50 percent in farmed salmon, compared to wild salmon, due to increasing amounts of grain feed.

One study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found farmed tilapia and farmed catfish also have much lower concentrations of omega-3s and very high ratios of omega-6 fats to omega-3 fats.6

So is any fish still considered a "health food"?

Among the safest in terms of contamination, and the highest in healthy omega-3 fat, is wild-caught Alaskan and sockeye salmon. Neither is allowed to be farmed, and are therefore always wild-caught. The two designations you want to look for on the label are: "Alaskan salmon" (or wild Alaskan salmon) and "Sockeye salmon."

Canned salmon labeled "Alaskan salmon" is also a good choice and offers a less expensive alternative to salmon fillets. A general guideline is that the closer to the bottom of the food chain the fish is, the less contamination it will have accumulated, so other safer choices include smaller fish like sardines, anchovies, and herring.

Sardines, in particular, are one of the most concentrated sources of omega-3 fats, with one serving containing more than 50 percent of your recommended daily value.7

They also contain a wealth of other nutrients, from vitamin B12 and selenium to protein, calcium, and choline, making them one of the best dietary sources of animal-based omega-3s.

Finally, no matter what type of fish you're considering, look for varieties that have received the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification. This certification assures that every component of the manufacturing process – from how the raw materials are harvested to how the product is manufactured – has been scrutinized by MSC and has been independently audited to ensure it meets sustainable standards.

3. Soy

Soy is touted as a healthy vegetarian source of protein, but its phytoestrogens (or isoflavones) can mimic the effects of the female hormone estrogen. These phytoestrogens have been found to have adverse effects on various human tissues, as they produce a variety of mild hormonal actions within the human body.

An increased risk of breast cancer is another potential hazard, especially if you're exposed to high amounts of estrogen-mimicking compounds from birth.

Unfermented soy also contains natural toxins known as "anti-nutrients," along with additional anti-nutritional factors such as saponins, soyatoxin, protease inhibitors, and oxalates. Some of these factors interfere with the enzymes you need to digest protein.

While a small amount of anti-nutrients would not likely cause a problem, the amount of soy that many Americans in products like tofu, soy milk, soy oil, soy protein powder, and soybeans, can be extremely high. Further, one of the worst problems with soy comes from the fact that 94 percent of soybeans grown in the US are genetically modified.8 One of the best studies ever done to document the dangers of GM foods found that overall, inflammation levels were 2.6 times higher in GM-fed pigs than those fed a non-GM diet, and male pigs fared worse than the females.

If you eat Roundup Ready soy, one common GM variety that's engineered to withstand the herbicide Roundup, you'll be exposed to its active ingredient, glyphosate. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is the research arm of the World Health Organization (WHO), determined glyphosate to be a "probable carcinogen" (Class 2A). This was based on "limited evidence" showing that the popular weed killer can cause non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and lung cancer in humans, along with "convincing evidence" it can also cause cancer in animals.

Glyphosate and glyphosate formulations have also been shown to induce DNA and chromosomal damage in mammals, as well as human and animal cells in vitro. Even if you opt for organically grown soy, I still don't recommend consuming it, however, unless it's in fermented form. For centuries, Asian people have been consuming fermented soy products such as natto, tempeh, and traditionally made soy sauce -- and enjoying the health benefits. Fermented soy does not wreak havoc on your body like unfermented soy products do, but unfortunately, most soy sold in the US market is the unfermented, processed variety.

4. Agave

Most agave nectar or syrup is nothing more than a laboratory-generated super-condensed fructose syrup, devoid of virtually all nutrient value. This so-called "healthy" sweetener is mostly fructose and is so highly processed and refined that it bears no resemblance to the plant for which it's named. Depending on how it's processed, it may contain anywhere from 55 percent to 90 percent fructose. High-fructose corn syrup is also about 55 percent fructose so, even in the best case, agave syrup offers no advantage.

The evidence is overwhelming that, when consumed in large quantities, fructose is among the most damaging sugars you can eat. Fructose drives up uric acid, which is a direct pathway toward hypertension, insulin resistance, diabetes, kidney, and liver disease. Fructose is, in many ways, very similar to alcohol in the damage that it can do to your body… and your liver. Unlike glucose, which can be used by virtually every cell in your body, fructose can only be metabolized by your liver, because your liver is the only organ that has the transporter for it.9

Since nearly all fructose gets shuttled to your liver, and, if you eat a typical Western-style diet, you consume high amounts of it, fructose ends up taxing and damaging your liver in the same way alcohol and other toxins do. In fact, fructose is virtually identical to alcohol with regard to the metabolic havoc it wreaks. According to Dr. Lustig, Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at the University of California, fructose is a "chronic, dose-dependent liver toxin." And just like alcohol, fructose is metabolized directly into fat – not cellular energy, like glucose. A better sweetener options is stevia, a natural herb.

5. Veggie Chips

Veggie chips sound like a healthy way to satisfy your snack cravings, but they're nothing more than glorified potato chips. Most are made from corn flour or potato as a base and have only veggie powder or puree added in. Not only are most of the vitamins in veggies therefore NOT in veggie chips, but these snacks are then either fried or baked at high temperatures. When carbohydrate-rich foods like chips are cooked at high temperatures, acrylamide -- a tasteless, invisible chemical byproduct -- is formed.

Animal studies have shown that exposure to acrylamide increases the risk of several types of cancer, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer considers acrylamide a "probable human carcinogen." It has also been linked to nerve damage and other neurotoxic effects, including neurological problems in workers handling the substance. While this chemical can be formed in many foods when they're heated to a temperature above 120 degrees Celsius (248 degrees Fahrenheit), French fries and potato chips are the biggest offenders.

So whether they're laced with veggie powder or not, veggie chips are not a smart food choice. A far healthier alternative would be to chop up some fresh kale and toss it with some olive oil and natural salt, then bake it in your oven until crispy (homemade kale chips are also a favorite of "soul surfer" Bethany Hamilton).10 You can, of course, also snack on fresh veggies like carrot sticks, celery sticks, radishes, bell pepper, and even asparagus, to increase your nutrient and fiber intake while satisfying your craving for a crunchy snack.

6. Fruit Juice

The primary problem with fruit juice is that it simply contains far too much fructose to be healthy, not to mention the rarely mentioned methanol toxicity in any preserved juice. While whole fruits do contain fructose, they're also rich in fiber, antioxidants, and a vast array of health-promoting phytochemicals. Fruit juices, particularly pasteurized, commercially available fruit juices, have virtually none of these phytonutrients. The fiber in the whole fruits also plays a large role in protecting you from a rapid and exaggerated rise in blood sugar.

The fiber slows the rate at which sugar is absorbed into your bloodstream, and fruit juice will not provide such protection. According to a study published in the British Medical Journal, those who drank one or more servings of fruit juiceeach day had a 21 percent higher risk for type 2 diabetes compared to those who ate whole fruits.11 So if you're in the mood for something fruity, eat a piece of fruit instead of drinking a glass of juice.

An alternative that can be healthy is a homemade fruit smoothie, provided it's balanced with moderate amounts of fruit, protein, and healthy fats, like this avocado super smoothie (which also contains blueberries and pineapple). Most store-bought fruit smoothies are far too high in sugar and/or fructose to be considered healthy.

7. Gluten-Free Foods

Gluten, a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley, causes the immune system to attack the intestines in people with celiac disease. But non-celiac gluten sensitivity may actually affect as many as 30 percent to 40 percent of the population, and according to Dr. Alessio Fasano at Massachusetts General Hospital, virtually all of us are affected to some degree.12 This is because we all create a substance called zonulin in the intestine in response to gluten.

Glutinous proteins, known as prolamines, can make your gut more permeable, which allows partially digested proteins to get into your bloodstream that would otherwise have been excluded, any of which can sensitize your immune system and promote inflammation, contribute to chronic disease. Once gluten sensitizes your gut, it then becomes more permeable and all manner of gut bacterial components and previously excluded dietary proteins—including casein and other dairy proteins—have direct access to your bloodstream, thereby further challenging your immune system.

Gluten may even negatively impact mood and brain health.13 Gluten also makes your gut more permeable, which allows proteins to get into your bloodstream, where they don't belong. That then sensitizes your immune system and promotes inflammation and autoimmunity. Gluten-free foods are becoming more widely available in supermarkets and restaurants, due to growing consumer demand, but while this seems like it would be a healthy transition, most gluten-free products are nothing more than refined, processed junk foods.

Some may contain gluten-free grains in their place, which if you are insulin and leptin resistant will only raise your insulin and leptin levels, which is a major driver of most chronic diseases. And many gluten-free products contain high amounts of sugar, corn syrup, and alternative forms of starch, none of which is healthy. So while I believe many people can benefit from removing gluten from their diets, stick with gluten-free whole foods as a replacement – not the processed gluten-free junk foods lining many store shelves.

As an aside, many food products bearing the gluten-free label have been found to be contaminated with sometimes high amounts of gluten. In one study, even naturally gluten-free products tested positive for gluten, courtesy of cross-contamination during processing. So if you're eating gluten-free due to celiac disease, avoiding processed gluten-free products may be even more important.

Additional Unhealthy Foods to Avoid

For a comprehensive guide on what to eat to be healthy, see my free optimized nutrition plan. Generally speaking, as mentioned, you'll want to focus your diet on whole, ideally organic, unprocessed or minimally processed foods. For the best nutrition and health benefits, you'll also want to eat a good portion of your food raw. To help sort through more of the confusion surrounding "health" foods that aren't, check out the infographic below. It has even more details on commonly consumed foods that you're better off avoiding.

Embed this infographic on your website:

<img src="http://media.mercola.com/assets/images/infographic/9-unhealthy-foods.jpg" alt="9 Unhealthy Foods to Avoid" border="0" style="max-width:100%; min-width:300px; margin: 0 auto 20px auto; display:block;"> <p style="max-width:800px; min-width:300px; margin:0 auto; text-align:center;">This infographic "<a href="http://www.mercola.com/infographics/unhealthy-foods.htm">9 Unhealthy Foods to Avoid</a>" uncovers shocking facts about unhealthy foods found in your local grocery stores, and why you should absolutely keep away from them. Use the embed code to share it on your website.</p> <pre style="max-width:800px; min-width:300px; margin: 20px auto 0 auto; padding:10px; border:solid 1px #999999; background: #ffffff; white-space: pre-wrap; word-wrap:break-word;"><code>&lt;img src="http://media.mercola.com/assets/images/infographic/9-unhealthy-foods.jpg" alt="9 Unhealthy Foods to Avoid" border="0" style="max-width:100%; min-width:300px; margin: 0 auto 20px auto; display:block;"&gt;&lt;p style="max-width:800px; min-width:300px; margin:0 auto; text-align:center;"&gt;This infographic "&lt;a href="http://www.mercola.com/infographics/unhealthy-foods.htm"&gt;9 Unhealthy Foods to Avoid&lt;/a&gt;"" uncovers shocking facts about unhealthy foods found in your local grocery stores, and why you should absolutely keep away from them. Use the embed code to share it on your website.&lt;/p&gt;</code></pre>

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

Consumer Protection Group Applauds FDA Ban on Trans Fats, but Undermines GMO Labeling Movement...

Wed, 07/01/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

For the past six decades, saturated fat and cholesterol have been wrongfully vilified as the culprits of heart disease. Research shows it's actually refined carbs, sugar, and trans fats found in processed foods that are the real enemy.

The first scientist to publish evidence linking trans fats to heart disease while exonerating saturated fats was Dr. Fred Kummerow,1 author of Cholesterol Is Not the Culprit. That first article was published in 1957.

Now 100 years old, Dr. Kummerow has spent eight decades immersed in the science of lipids, cholesterol, and heart disease, and his lifetime's work reveals that trans fat and oxidized cholesterol promote heart disease—not saturated fat, which actually has a beneficial health impact.

FDA Finally Takes Affirmative Action Against Trans Fat

Trans fat, found in margarine, vegetable shortening, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils became widely popularized as a "healthier alternative" to saturated animal fats like butter and lard around the mid-1950s.

Its beginnings go back 100 years though, to Procter & Gamble's creation of Crisco in 1911.

In 1961, the American Heart Association (AHA) began encouraging Americans to limit dietary fat, particularly animal fats, in order to reduce their risk of heart disease. In the decades since, despite low-fat diets becoming increasingly part of the norm, heart disease rates soared.

In 2013, Dr. Kummerow sued the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for failing to take action on trans fats in face of the overwhelming scientific evidence against it.

More than a decade earlier, in 2002, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) had even noted that there was "no safe level of trans fatty acids and people should eat as little of them as possible." Yet the FDA did nothing.

Three months after Dr. Kummerow filed his lawsuit however, the agency announced it was considering eliminating trans fat from the list of "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) list of food ingredients.

Then, on June 16, 2015, the FDA announced partially hydrogenated oils (a primary source of trans fat) will no longer be allowed in food unless authorized by the agency2,3,4,5 due to its health risks.

According to the FDA, this change may help prevent around 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 heart disease deaths each year.

The new regulation will take effect in 2018. In the interim, food companies have to either reformulate their products to remove partially hydrogenated oils, or file a limited use petition with the FDA to continue using them.

In order to gain approval, the company would have to provide evidence showing the trans fat is safe to consume—which could be difficult, considering the IOM's declaration that there's NO safe limit for these oils. But, as noted by CBS:6

"[F]ood companies are hoping for some exceptions. The Grocery Manufacturers Association, the main trade group for the food industry, is working with companies on a petition that would formally ask the FDA if it can say there is a "reasonable certainty of no harm" from some specific uses of the fats. It provided no specifics...

For now, the agency is recommending that consumers take a look at ingredient lists on packaged foods to make sure they don't contain partially hydrogenated oils. Once the three-year compliance period is up, none of those ingredients would be allowed unless FDA specifically approves them."

CSPI –The Consumer Group You Need to Stop Listening To

In response to the FDA's announcement, Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) told the New York Times:7

"This is the final nail in the coffin of trans fats. In terms of lives saved, I think eliminating trans fats is the single most important change to our food supply."

Their recent statement in support of the ban on trans fats is in stark contrast to their previous position on trans fats. As a consumer watchdog group focused on nutrition and food safety, many have and continue to look to CSPI for guidance, but 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 article8 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.'"

CSPI Accepts No Blame for Its Wildly Successful Promotion of Trans Fat

It wasn't until the 1990s that CSPI reversed their position on synthetic trans fats, but the damage had already been done.

Even to this day, many still mistakenly believe that margarine is a healthier choice than butter, and the CSPI's campaign to replace saturated animal and tropical oils with trans fats played an integral role in cementing this erroneous view in the public consciousness.

The group's successful influence on the food industry is discussed in David Schleifer's article, "The Perfect Solution: How Trans Fats Became the Healthy Replacement for Saturated Fats,"9 in which he notes that:

"Scholars routinely argue that corporations control US food production, with negative consequences for health...However, the transition from saturated to trans fats shows how activists can be part of spurring corporations to change."

CSPI rarely admits its errors however. In fact, rather than openly admitting it was flat out wrong about trans fats and had misled the public on this issue, CSPI simply deleted sections of its previous support of it from the web. This lack of forthrightness was also noted by Mary Enig in a 2003 article,10 in which she writes:

"On October 20, 1993, CSPI had the chutzpah to call a press conference in Washington, DC and lambast the major fast-food chains for doing what CSPI coerced them into doing, namely, using partially hydrogenated vegetable oils in their deep fat-fryers.

On that date, CSPI, an eager proponent of partially hydrogenated oils for many years, even when their adverse health effects were apparent, reversed its position after an onslaught of adverse medical reports linking trans fatty acids in these processed oils to coronary heart disease and cancer. Instead of accepting the blame, CSPI pleaded 'not guilty,' claiming that the fault lay with the major fast-food chains–including McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and Kentucky Fried Chicken, because they 'falsely claim to use '100% vegetable oil' when they actually use hydrogenated shortening'...

Thanks to CSPI, healthy traditional fats have almost completely disappeared from the food supply, replaced by manufactured trans fats known to cause many diseases. By 1990, most fast food chains had switched to partially hydrogenated vegetable oil...

Who benefits? Soy, or course. Eighty percent of all partially hydrogenated oil used in processed foods in the US comes from soy, as does 70 percent of all liquid oil. CSPI claims that its support comes from subscribers to its Nutrition Action newsletter... but CSPI is extremely secretive about the value of its assets, salaries paid and use of its revenues. If CSPI has large donors, they're not telling who they are, but in fact, in CSPI's January, 1991 newsletter, Jacobson notes that 'our effort was ultimately joined... by the American Soybean Association.'"

Beware: 100% Vegetable Oil May Be Just as Hazardous as Partially Hydrogenated Oil

Today, many restaurants have reverted to using 100% vegetable oils (such as peanut, corn, and soy oil) for frying. But research shows these oils have the worrisome problem of degrading into even more toxic oxidation products when heated, so they're probably no better than partially hydrogenated oils. Some of these oxidation products include cyclic aldehydes, which are even more harmful than trans fats. So the issue of WHAT the industry replaces trans fats with is of major importance. As noted by Nina Teicholz, one of the first investigative journalists to report on the dangers of trans fats 10 years ago:

"A group doing research on animals have found that at fairly low levels of exposure, these aldehydes caused tremendous inflammation, which is related to heart disease. They oxidized LDL cholesterol, which is thought to be the LDL cholesterol that becomes dangerous. There's a link to heart disease. There's also some evidence that links these aldehydes in particular to Alzheimer's. They seem to have a very severe effect on the body."

BEWARE: CSPI Just Sold You Out to GMO Industry

This tendency to fall in line with industry science and propaganda and then quietly reversing position when that position becomes more or less impossible to maintain seems to be a trend within the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). For example, it was only in 2013 that CSPI finally downgraded the artificial sweetener Splenda from its former "safe" category to one of "caution." I remember pleading with Michael Jacobson, their director, many years ago to reevaluate his position, but at the time he was convinced of Splenda's safety. The scientific evidence strongly suggests artificial sweeteners are just as bad, and in some ways more harmful, than sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

Worse than that though is its stand on genetically engineered organisms (GMOs) in food. Greg Jaffe, director of CSPI's Biotechnology Project, completely undermined the GMO labeling movement in his testimony at a recent hearing11 on the Pompeo bill H.R. 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, colloquially known as the Denying Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act, as it strips states' of their right to implement food labeling laws and regulations that restricts or bans the growing of GMO crops.

According to polls, over 90 percent of Americans now want GMO labeling. Yet, astonishingly, Jaffe says he's not sure consumers really want to know whether foods contain GMOs, despite what the polls say! This is an inexcusable position for a consumer protection group, as far as I'm concerned. You can listen to his statements in the following video below, where you will hear he has the audacity to claim there are no studies indicating any harm from GMOs. This is the type of ignorant position they held on trans fats and artificial sweeteners. At least you can say one thing about CSPI, they are consistently reprehensible ignorant on important health issue and need to be ignored.

Nobody Expects a Transgenic Organism on Their Plate

It really should be crystal clear that consumers should have a right to know about GMOs in their food. Researchers have demonstrated there are compositional differences between GE crops and conventional crops,12 with glyphosate-tolerant GE soybeans containing high residues of glyphosate (a Class 2A probable human carcinogen13) and AMPA. The primary trait of GMO crops is glyphosate resistance, they can withstand multiple applications of glyphosate and can therefore absorb more of it.

Another point that justifies labeling of GMOs is the fact that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) admits they do not test for glyphosate residues because it's too expensive to do so.14 Without such testing, GMO labeling is even more important, as it's quite clear that glyphosate-tolerant GE crops are significantly contaminated with this toxic chemical that cannot be washed off, as it permeates every single cell of the treated plant, from root to tip. The anti-labeling proponents cannot logically argue any of these points; they're indisputable, and GMO labeling is massively supported because consumers do demand the right to know.

CSPI and our federal government remain blind to these facts, but regardless, these transgenic organisms arenot a consumer expectation, and should therefore be labeled. Consider the new GE salmon spliced with eel genes... Salmon is labeled wild caught or farmed, but will not be labeled if genetically spliced with eel, which makes it a different version of the species altogether. Does that really make sense? What consumer reasonably expects a salmon to be spliced with eel?

Who Knew? CSPI Is Actually PRO-GMO!

Any so-called consumer protection group refusing to acknowledge these facts is simply not a real consumer watchdog. And CSPI's Greg Jaffe definitely appears to be pro-GMO, having discussed the merits of GE foods in a June 2014 Food Product and Design interview,15 in which he states that: "While there will continue to be demand for non-GMO ingredients, I do think it will continue to be a small specialty market." When asked about consumer misconceptions surrounding GMOs, Jaffe claims consumers don't realize the technology simply involves "adding one or two genes in a very precise way to a crop that already has thousands of genes," falsely insinuating that doing so leads to completely predictable results.

In fact, he states that "some consumers incorrectly believe that foods made from the current GE crops are not safe to eat," and then goes on to use the oft-repeated but false industry claim that "there is a strong international consensus from both scientific regulatory bodies... as well as scientific societies... that the foods made from the current GE crops are safe to eat."

CSPI’s executive director, Michael Jacobson is quoted16 as making a similar statement in July 2014, when he spoke at an American Soybean Association (ASA) forum saying: Many people have been made to fear genetically engineered ingredients, and it's totally irrational." That too raises questions about just how close the relationship is between the CSPI and the ASA—a group coincidentally based in St. Louis, where Monsanto also has its headquarters. Monsanto is also listed as one of ASA’s biotech working group partners.17

Meanwhile, on January 24, 2015, a statement signed by 300 scientists, researchers, physicians, and scholars was published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe,18 asserting that there is no scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs. Moreover, the paper, aptly titled "No Scientific Consensus on GMO Safety", states that the claim of scientific consensus on GMO safety is in actuality "an artificial construct that has been falsely perpetuated." The paper also notes that such a claim "is misleading and misrepresents or outright ignores the currently available scientific evidence and the broad diversity of scientific opinions among scientists on this issue."

If the CSPI’s mission is to “represent citizen’s interests” and “ensure advances in science are used for the public’s good,” as stated in its mission statement,19 how does it justify its anti-consumer position on labeling GMOs? It seems fairly irreconcilable. On the other hand, the CSPI contradicts itself yet again when talking about the dangers of corn and soy monocultures, the chemical dependence of these crops, and how it stresses the environment.20 It seems they simply cannot connect the dots when it comes to GMO’s...

Why It Took So Long to Learn the Truth About Trans Fats

Getting back to trans fats, CSPI is not solely to blame for the industry-wide replacement of healthy saturated fats with artery-clogging trans fats. The American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Heart Association (AHA) were also avid promoters of this switch, as discussed in Judy Shaw's book, Trans Fats.21

Well-respected medical journals such as the JAMA published ads promoting Wesson corn oil for lowering cholesterol, and Antonio Gotto Jr, then president of the AHA sent his personal endorsement of Puritan corn oil to doctors. Dr. William Castelli, who led the Framingham Heart Study, also gave Puritan his personal endorsement. As Shaw notes in her book:

"The influence of these physicians was profound. Their promotional advocacy and the endorsements by science and government prompted other doctors to encourage their patients to drastically modify their eating habits. Margarine was the new prescription. There seemed to be no dissenting voice, and the America public had no reason to be skeptical."

Trans Fats May Worsen Your Memory

Meanwhile, research such as that by Dr. Kummerow—which clearly showed trans fats were worse than saturated fat ever could be—was quietly ignored. Heart disease isn't the only health problem associated with trans fats. Research has implicated trans fats in other diseases as well. Most recently, it's been found to interfere with memory.22 As reported by Reuters:23

"It's not clear if... trans fats might interfere with memory by directly affecting the nervous system, or by contributing to overall cardiovascular disease, which harms the brain as well, researchers say... [Trans fats] had already been linked to poorer lipid profiles, including higher 'bad' LDL cholesterol, worse metabolic function, insulin resistance, inflammation and poorer cardiac and general health before the new study investigated potential memory issues...

Among men under age 45, increasing dietary trans fatty acid consumption was associated with decreasing word recall, with each additional gram of trans fat per day matched to 0.76 fewer words identified correctly. At the time of the study, participants' trans fat consumption ranged up to 28 grams a day, the researchers write. That would translate to 21 fewer correct word-recall responses out of an average normal score of 86.

'A lot of us are involved in jobs where words are important,' [lead author] Golomb told Reuters Health. A decrease of only a few words on this recall test can make a difference, she said, and it's reasonable to think that other areas of memory might also be associated with trans fats."

Healthy Eating Guidelines for the 21st Century

So, what's the general 21st century revised rule for healthy living and eating? One of the most important points 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 healthy unheated raw saturated fats for proper function of your:

Cell membranes Heart Bones (to assimilate calcium) Liver Lungs Hormones Immune system Satiety (reducing hunger) Genetic regulation

When it comes to cooking fats, few compare to tallow and lard in terms of health benefits and safety. These are the cooking fats that were originally used, and they're excellent frying fats. Coconut oil is also very stable at higher temperatures, and is another excellent choice for cooking and baking.

10 Surprising Ways You Are Making Your Vegetables Less Nutritious

Wed, 07/01/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Modern-day diets are often lacking in nutrition, in large part because food choices are not optimal. About 90 percent of the money Americans spend on food is for processed foods, which may be fortified with nutrients out of necessity but lack the naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes found in fresh whole foods.

Even the healthy foods you choose, such as an apple or lettuce, are likely not as nutritious as they once were. Ancient wild plants provided an astounding level of phytonutrients that are largely absent from our modern cultivated fruits and veggies.

For instance, wild dandelions contain seven times more phytonutrients than spinach, and purple potatoes native to Peru contain 28 times more anthocyanins than commonly consumed russet potatoes.1 As written in the New York Times:2

"Studies published within the past 15 years show that much of our produce is relatively low in phytonutrients, which are the compounds with the potential to reduce the risk of four of our modern scourges: cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and dementia.

The loss of these beneficial nutrients did not begin 50 or 100 years ago, as many assume. Unwittingly, we have been stripping phytonutrients from our diet since we stopped foraging for wild plants some 10,000 years ago and became farmers."

Industrial farming practices that threaten to completely deplete what was once rich and fertile soil further add to the problem. With each harvest, the land is stripped of vital nutrients plants need to grow, leaving not only lower crop yields but also less nutritious produce.

That being said, you certainly want to harness the nutrients your food does contain so it can be absorbed and utilized by your body. This starts in your kitchen, where some surprisingly common habits might be slashing the nutrient content of your veggies even more.

10 Surprising Ways You Are Making Your Veggies Less Nutritious

In her book Eating on the Wild Side, investigative journalist Jo Robinson details a decade's worth of research on nutrients in fruits and vegetables. She focused not only on the "standard" vitamins like A and C and minerals like calcium and iron, but also on phytonutrients that are far newer in terms of scientific research.

In order to maximize the nutrition in your produce, be sure to be aware of these common habits that may make your food less nutritious.3

1. Always Choosing Raw Tomatoes

Lycopene — a carotenoid antioxidant that gives fruits and vegetables like tomatoes and watermelon a pink or red color — is one nutrient you'll want to be sure you're getting enough of.

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 been shown to have potential anti-cancerous activity, likely due to its antioxidant properties. Studies have shown that people with a diet high in lycopene from tomato-based foods have a lower risk of certain cancers, particularly prostate cancer.

However, lycopene is one example of a nutrient that becomes more bioavailable when it's cooked. Research shows that cooking tomatoes (such as in tomato sauce or tomato paste) increases the lycopene content that can be absorbed by your body.

It also increases the total antioxidant activity. In one study,4 when tomatoes were heated to just over 190 degrees F (88 degrees C) for two minutes, 15 minutes, and 30 minutes:

  • Beneficial trans-lycopene content increased by 54 percent, 171 percent and 164 percent, respectively
  • Levels of cis-lycopene (which is a form easily absorbed by your body) rose by 6 percent, 17 percent, and 35 percent, respectively
  • Overall antioxidant levels increased by 28 percent, 34 percent, and 62 percent, respectively

So while tomatoes are healthy to consume raw, it's also wise to consume them cooked as well. You could try a cooked salsa or make your own tomato sauce at home… if you opt for a store-bought variety, make sure it comes in a jar, not a can.

You're best off avoiding canned tomatoes and tomato sauces, as can liners tend to contain potent estrogen mimics such as bisphenol A (BPA), which is a toxic endocrine-disrupting chemical.

2. Storing Your Lettuce Wrong

Do you store your lettuce leaves whole? You may be better off tearing them before storing them in your refrigerator. When lettuce leaves are torn, a boost of protective phytonutrients are produced.

As long as you eat the lettuce within a couple of days, you'll be able to take advantage of this extra phytonutrient content in the torn lettuce.

3. Boiling Your Vegetables

Do you boil vegetables like spinach? This allows valuable nutrients like vitamin C to leach out into the water. The different in nutrient content can be dramatic before and after boiling.

For instance, after 10 minutes of boiling, three-quarters of the phytonutrients in spinach will be lost to the cooking water. While this isn't as much of an issue if you're making soup, in which you'll be consuming the water along with the nutrients, if you're looking to prepare a vegetable only, you're better off steaming or lightly sautéing.

4. Eating Salad with Fat-Free Dressing

One of the most important toppings on any salad is the dressing, and here you'll want to avoid most store-bought brands, especially those that are low-fat or fat-free.

When fat is removed from a food product, it's usually replaced by sugar/fructose in order to taste good, and this is a recipe for poor health. Excess fructose in your diet drives insulin and leptin resistance, which are at the heart of not only diabetes but most other chronic diseases as well.

Further, some nutrients and antioxidants are fat-soluble, which means you must eat them with fat to properly absorb them. Using a dressing that contains healthy fats helps you ensure maximum nutrient absorption from your salad.

Coconut oil may make a particularly good choice, as it's been found to increase the absorption of nutrients. In an animal study that compared the effects of feeding coconut oil versus safflower oil on the absorption of carotenoids from tomatoes, coconut oil enhanced tissue uptake of tomato carotenoids to a greater degree than safflower oil.5

If you prefer to dress your salad only with vinegar, you can still achieve this fat-absorbing effect by adding other healthy additions like avocado or poached eggs. When men added 1.5 to 3 eggs to their salads, they increased their absorption of lutein and zeaxanthin by four to five-fold.6

Other carotenoids, including beta-carotene and lutein, increased three to eight-fold compared to the no-egg salad.

5. Cooking Garlic Without Letting It Rest

Garlic contains the precursors to allicin, which is one of the most potent antioxidants from the plant kingdom. In fact, researchers have determined that sulfenic acid, produced during the rapid decomposition of allicin, reacts with and neutralizes free radicals faster than any other known compound—it's almost instantaneous when the two molecules meet.

Garlic technically does not contain allicin, but rather, it contains two agents in separate compartments of the clove that react to form the sulfur-rich compound allicin when the plant needs it: alliin and an enzyme called allinase. So, what makes them react?

Garlic has a robust defense system to protect itself from insects and fungi. It enzymatically produces allicin within seconds when it is injured. The crushing of its tissues causes a chemical reaction between the alliin and the allinase, and allicin is produced—nature's "insecticide."

This is what makes garlic such a potent anti-infective, as well as what produces that pungent aroma when you cut into it. Allicin is quickly deactivated by heat. Just two minutes on the stovetop or one minute in the microwave will basically eliminate any useful allicin from the garlic.

However, if you let chopped garlic sit for 10 minutes before exposing it to heat, the enzyme that creates allicin will have time to finish working, and your finished dish should have a much higher allicin content. That being said, allicin is short-lived, lasting less than an hour. So once you've crushed your garlic and let it rest, try to consume it as quickly as possible. Better still, use a garlic press instead of a knife. As TIME reported:7

"Using a garlic press is even better than mincing, as it releases more of the compounds that combine to create allicin."

6. Discarding the Most Nutritious Parts of the Vegetable

Many Americans dutifully peel and chop away skins and upper greens on their veggies. Yet, these components often contain the most concentrated sources of nutrients. For instance, the dark-green tops of scallions are among the most nutritious, but many people toss this section away. The same goes for beet greens, which are equally, if not more, nutritious than beet roots, with nutrients that may strengthen your immune system, support brain and bone health, and more.

Apples are another example. Much of apples' antioxidant power is contained in the peel, where you'll find antioxidants like catechin, procyanidins, chlorogenic acid, and ploridizin. Even adding carrot peels to a carrot puree boosted antioxidant levels. The same goes for watermelon rind. Most people throw away the watermelon rind, but try putting it in a blender with some lime for a healthy, refreshing treat.8

Watermelon rind actually contains more of the amino acid citrulline than the pink flesh.9 Citrulline is converted to arginine in your kidneys, and this amino acid is important for heart health and maintaining your immune system. While many people prefer seedless watermelon, black watermelon seeds are edible too and actually quite healthy. They contain iron, zinc, protein, and fiber. One caveat: if you'll be consuming rinds or peels, opt for organic produce to minimize your intake of pesticides.

7. Eating Potatoes Right After Cooking Them

I don't recommend eating white potatoes often, as their simple sugars are rapidly converted to glucose that raises insulin levels and can devastate your health. However, if you do choose to eat them at least chill them for about 24 hours after cooking. This converts the starch into a type that's digested slower, and turns this high-glycemic vegetable into a low-glycemic one.

8. Cutting Carrots Prior to Cooking

Resist the urge to chop up your carrots before adding them to soups and casseroles. Research suggests that keeping the carrots whole, and cutting them up after they're cooked, helps retain nutrients. Also, like tomatoes, carrots may be better for you cooked than raw. Cooking helps break down the cell walls so your body has an easier time absorbing nutrients. Further, one study found that cooked carrots had higher levels of beta-carotene and phenolic acids than raw carrots, and the antioxidant activity continued to increase over a period of four weeks.10

9. Buying Broccoli Florets Instead of a Whole Head

Broccoli is one of the healthiest, cancer-fighting veggies you can eat. But it's also surprisingly perishable. One study found that broccoli can lose 75 percent of its flavonoids and 80 percent of its beneficial glucosinolates just 10 days after harvest.11 When the broccoli was cut into florets, the rate of antioxidant loss doubled, so choose fresh, locally grown broccoli in whole-head form for maximum nutrition.

10. Discarding the Cooking Liquid from Beans

Cooking dried beans from scratch is preferable to canned versions because of the potential for BPA in the can linings. However, the cooking liquid will hold much of the nutrients after the beans are done cooking. One trick is to let the beans sit in the liquid for about an hour after cooking to help them reabsorb some of the lost nutrients. Cooking beans in a pressure cooker may also preserve more nutrients than cooking beans using other methods.

Buying Organic Is One of the Easiest Ways to Increase the Nutrient Content of Your Produce

If you want to purchase the most nutritious produce for your family, opt for organic as much as possible. In addition to lowering your pesticide load, organic produce is more nutritious. For instance, organic fruits and vegetables can contain anywhere from 18-69 percent more antioxidants than conventionally grown varieties.12 And growing tomatoes according to organic standards results in dramatically elevated phenolic content and vitamin C compared to tomatoes grown conventionally.13

In 2010, PLOS ONE also published a study that was partially funded by the USDA, which found organic strawberries were more nutrient-rich than non-organic strawberries.14 So by starting off with organic ingredients, your meals will naturally be more nutritious.

More Secrets to Boosting the Nutrient Content of Your Diet

I firmly believe the solution for more nutritious food is to optimize the microbiology of the soil so the microbes can provide the optimal nutrients for the plant and maximize their genetic expression. Composting, vortexed compost tea, and mineral replacements are far superior to commercial fertilizers and also improve rather than degrade the quality of the soil. You can try using some of these methods to grow nutritious food yourself, or find someone locally who can do it for you.

In the meantime, consuming plenty of raw, locally harvested, organic vegetables is one of the best ways to get the key nutrients your body needs, in levels that most closely replicate those found in the wild foods of our ancestors. For starters, this will ensure that you're avoiding all genetically modified (GM) produce, which also appears to be far less nutritious than non-GM food. Beyond this, there are several additional measures you can take to make sure you're getting the most nutritious food available:

  • Choose brightly colored foods: Produce in shades of blue, red, purple and dark green are among the most antioxidant-rich foods available.
  • Eat more bitter foods: Many of the most potent, disease-fighting compounds in food (phenols and polyphenols, flavonoids, isoflavones, terpenes, and glucosinolates) are bitter, acrid, or astringent in flavor. Expanding your diet to include these bitter-tasting foods is one of the healthiest moves you can make. Examples include grapefruit, arugula, collard greens, parsley, dandelion leaves, radicchio, cranberries, endive, and pomegranates.
  • Indulge in herbs and spices: Many herbs and spices remain largely unchanged from ancient times. Along with containing some of the highest antioxidant levels of all foods, herbs and spices are also very dense in other nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, and they also have medicinal properties. As a general rule, you really can't go wrong when using herbs and spices, and I recommend allowing your taste buds to dictate your choices when cooking. However, you can also choose spices based on their medicinal benefits.
  • Grow your own foods from heirloom seeds, including sprouts: This is one of the best ways to access nutrient-dense food, especially if you use heirloom seeds that have been carefully cultivated to produce the best plants possible. You can plant an organic veggie garden even in small spaces, and sprouts, which are also among the most nutrient-dense foods available, can also be grown easily at home.
  • Forage for wild, edible plants: Some of the "weeds" in your backyard or local environment are incredibly nutritious and very close to the wild plants consumed by our ancestors. Dandelion, stinging nettle, prickly lettuce, chickweed, sow thistle, red clover, burdock, cattails, Japanese knotweed, and sheep sorrel are examples of wild nutrient-rich foods. While you should only consume plants you are entirely sure are not poisonous, learning to gather safe, wild edible plants is quite simple.

How Conflicts of Interest Have Corrupted the CDC

Tue, 06/30/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Conflicts of interest have become more the rule than the occasional exception. Even the trusted US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) receives heavy funding from industry.

How this conflict of interest may have affected the organization’s decisions is the topic of an article1 in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), penned by the journal’s associate editor, Jeanne Lenzer, who notes:

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) includes the following disclaimer with its recommendations:

“CDC, our planners, and our content experts wish to disclose they have no financial interests or other relationships with the manufacturers of commercial products... CDC does not accept commercial support.”

The CDC’s image as an independent watchdog over the public health has given it enormous prestige, and its recommendations are occasionally enforced by law.

Despite the agency’s disclaimer, the CDC does receive millions of dollars in industry gifts and funding, both directly and indirectly, and several recent CDC actions and recommendations have raised questions about the science it cites, the clinical guidelines it promotes, and the money it is taking.”

Is the CDC Protecting the Private Good Rather Than the Public?

When confronted about the discrepancy between the CDC’s public disclaimer and the reality that corporate funding is flowing into the organization, Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, responded, saying:

“Public-private partnerships allow CDC to do more, faster. The agency’s core values of accountability, respect, and integrity guide the way CDC spends the funds entrusted to it.

When possible conflicts of interests arise, we take a hard, close look to ensure that proper policies and guidelines are followed before accepting outside donations.”

In other words, the CDC believes, and “assures” you, it has the moral backbone to do the right thing, despite the fact that studies have revealed moral fiber tends to significantly deteriorate as soon as a funding source with an agenda starts doling out money.

Moreover, a 2009 investigation by the Office of the Inspector General concluded the CDC has “a systemic lack of oversight of the ethics program,” noting 97 percent of disclosure forms filed by the organization’s advisors were incomplete, and 13 percent of advisors didn’t file one.

Did Industry ‘Buy’ CDC Recommendation for Expanded Hepatitis C Screening?

External funding to the CDC in the form of industry “gifts” was authorized in 1983—nearly 40 years after the organization’s inception in 1946. After the passing of legislation in 1992 that encouraged relationships between the CDC and industry, the non-profit CDC Foundation was formed in 1995.

Last year, this Foundation received $12 million from private corporations, and the CDC itself received another $16 million in funding earmarked for special projects from companies, manufacturers, and various philanthropists.

“For example, in 2012, Genentech earmarked $600 000 in donations to the CDC Foundation for CDC’s efforts to promote expanded testing and treatment of viral hepatitis. Genentech and its parent company, Roche, manufacture test kits and treatments for hepatitis C,” Lenzer writes.

Since 2010, when the CDC and the CDC Foundation formed the Viral Hepatitis Action Coalition, manufacturers of hepatitis C tests and treatments have donated more than $26 million to the coalition.

In addition to Genentech, donors include: Abbott Laboratories, AbbVie, Gilead, Janssen, Merck, OraSure Technologies, Quest Diagnostics, and Siemens.

Two years later, in 2012, the CDC issued guidelines recommending expanded screening for hepatitis C for everyone born between 1945 and 1965, saying newer antiviral drugs can effectively halt disease progression.

However, “the science behind cohort screening has been challenged and is said to be ‘the subject of major debate.’ The scientific debate along with the price tags of the newer drugs (over $84 000 per treatment course for the new drug sofosbuvir), raise questions about CDC’s industry funding,” Lenzer writes.

CDC Recommendations Increasingly Skewed

The CDC and the CDC Foundation also received monies from Roche for the creation of the CDC’s “Take 3” flu campaign, again raising questions about the influence of funding on its drug recommendations.

Genentech, the manufacturer of the controversial and dangerous influenza drug Tamiflu, is a member of the Roche Group.

Step 3 in the CDC’s flu campaign advises you to “take antiviral medicine if your doctor prescribes it.” In an article titled, “Why CDC Recommends Influenza Antiviral Drugs,” the agency cites a number of studies supporting its recommendation, including a recent meta-analysis published in The Lancet.2

The problem with that, Lenzer points out, is that the CDC describes this study as “independent,” when in fact it was sponsored by Roche. Moreover, all of the four authors have financial ties to Roche, Genentech (both of which sell Tamiflu), or Gilead (which holds the patent).

In addition to that, the CDC did not include last year’s systematic review3 of 83 trials conducted by the Cochrane Collaboration, which is the “gold standard” for independent research analysis.

Was this analysis ignored because it concluded Tamiflu alleviates symptoms of the flu by less than 17 hours, has limited effect on your risk of pneumonia, no effect on adult hospital admissions, and causes nausea, vomiting, headaches, renal problems and psychiatric syndromes?

According to the Cochrane group: “The trade-off between benefits and harms should be borne in mind when making decisions to use oseltamivir [brand name Tamiflu] for treatment, prophylaxis, or stockpiling.”

Another issue is this: CDC director Tom Frieden has stated that taking Tamiflu might save your life, yet the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned Roche it cannot claim the drug reduces pneumonia or deaths as they’ve never produced any evidence for that claim.

But who needs scientific evidence when the CDC is making off-label claims for you? “Shannon Brownlee, senior vice president of the Lown Institute and former journalist covering the CDC, told

The BMJ
, “This looks like classic stealth marketing, in which industry puts their message in the mouths of a trusted third party, such as an academic or a professional organization,” Lenzer writes.

FDA:  The Poster Child for Industry Bias

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also become notorious for its conflicts of interest and close ties to various industries, and there are many examples of this.

Last year, emails and letters between the FDA and Pfizer suggest the drug giant was given an inappropriate  amount of leverage to decide when and how to tell the public about the hazards associated with its veterinary drug roxarsone.4,5

FDA researchers found low levels of inorganic arsenic in the livers of chicken who consumed the drug. Correspondence between Heidi Chen, then attorney in Pfizer’s animal health division, and William Flynn, the FDA’s deputy director for science policy at the Center for Veterinary Medicine, reveal the agency allowed Pfizer to edit the wording of a press release about the roxarsone data, and more.

Government Must Act to Protect Scientific Integrity

Getting back to the CDC, it was created and has been relied upon as an independent agency without industry ties that might muddy the water in terms of the health and safety recommendations it issues. Now, it’s become apparent that not even the CDC can be counted on for unbiased science-based advice. So what, if anything, can be done to rectify the situation?

Considering the fact that CDC funding from industry was approved by the government, the answer, as noted by Jerome R Hoffman,6 methodologist and emeritus professor of medicine at UCLA, is to “get the government to reject this devil’s bargain, by changing the rules so this can no longer happen.” It’s simply unreasonable to believe that any organization will ignore its cash cows, and it’s equally naïve to believe that industry will continue donating money if the agency decides to do anything that even hints at cutting into industry profits.

For example, the NRA promptly withdrew its CDC funding when the agency began investigating gun violence.7 In summary, conflicts of interest endanger lives. People’s well-being become secondary to the corporate bottom line, and no organization or corporation is immune to the effects of conflicts of interest—not even the CDC. Even well-respected research universities like the University of Minnesota have fallen prey, relaxing research ethics to the point that research subjects die.8

Head of CDC Now Head of Merck Vaccines

The infamous revolving door between the government and the drug industry is another factor that has done an awful lot to destroy scientific integrity and government accountability. One classic example is Dr. Julie Gerberding, who headed up the CDC—which among other things is charged with overseeing vaccines—from 2002 to 2009 before becoming the president of Merck’s vaccine division, a position she currently holds today.

The influence her former high-level ties to the CDC wields is enormous, considering the fact that Merck makes 14 of the 17 pediatric vaccines recommended by the CDC, and 9 of the 10 recommended for adults. And while vaccine safety advocates are trying to rein in the number of vaccines given to babies, safety concerns keep falling on deaf ears. The vaccine industry is booming, and it's become quite clear that profit potential is the driving factor behind it. It is this type of reprehensible and inexcusable behavior that makes it an enormous challenge to change this seriously flawed paradigm.

Half of Published Research Likely to Be Completely False, Warns Editor-in-Chief of Major Medical Journal

Just as the CDC insists it has the ability to maintain its integrity awash in industry cash, corporations insist they have the integrity to stay on solid scientific ground when researching its own products. But, just as studies show the source of funding alters scientific conclusions, so research reveals that industry-funded research is riddled with flaws, shortcomings, and outright fraud. As reported by the Progressive Review:9,10

“... Dr. Richard Horton, the current editor-in-chief of the Lancet...recently published a statement11 declaring that a lot of published research is in fact unreliable at best, if not completely false. ‘The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness...’

Dr. Marcia Angell...makes her view of the subject quite plain: ‘It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of the New England Journal of Medicine’[Emphasis mine]

Omission of Data Often Protects Corporate Profits

Omission of data is another common tactic employed to skew the scientific consensus, and this is just as dangerous as publishing complete fabrications. For example, according to Dr. Lucija Tomljenovic,12,13 a post-doctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia (UBC) where she works in neurosciences and the Department of Medicine, many vaccine manufacturers and health authorities are actually well aware of dangers associated with vaccines, but have chosen to withhold this information from the public. She writes, in part:

“Deliberately concealing information from the parents for the sole purpose of getting them to comply with an ‘official’ vaccination schedule could thus be considered as a form of ethical violation or misconduct. Official documents obtained from the UK Department of Health (DH) and

the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) reveal that the British health authorities have been engaging in such practice for the last 30 years, apparently for the sole purpose of protecting the national vaccination program.”

Many industry-funded studies with negative findings simply never see the light of day, as suggested by a recent NEJM review14 looking at compliance rates with results reporting at ClinicalTrials.gov. The Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act (FDAAA) mandates timely reporting of results of applicable clinical trials to ClinicalTrials.gov, but only 13.4 percent of trials reported summary results within 12 months of completing the trial, and 45 percent of industry-funded trials were not required to report results. For comparison, only six percent of trials funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and nine percent of studies funded by other government or academic institutions were excluded from result reporting.

Doctors Also Share the Blame...

Bias is another major problem that has increasingly sullied the scientific community, and no one is immune—not even doctors, especially not when they’re receiving large sums of money from a drug company. According to “the most comprehensive accounting so far of the financial ties that some critics say have compromised medical care,” published last year, American doctors and teaching hospitals received a whopping $3.5 billion from drug and medical-device companies in the last five months of 2013 alone.15

A recent article16 in NEJM titled “Understanding Bias — The Case for Careful Study,” offers a discourse on bias, at the core of which you find financial conflicts of interest. But there are also a number of other hidden, largely subconscious conflicts within any given individual that can color his or her decision-making, such as how easy one treatment is versus another—one might require hours of work, while the other would allow the doctor some well-needed sleep.

 Either way, conflicts of interest do have an impact on the patient, and when the motive is selfish—be it to gain more money or sleep—that impact is likely to be detrimental. As noted in the NEJM article:

“Some 94 percent of physicians have relationships with industry, though these interactions most often involve activities such as receiving drug samples or food in the workplace... Physicians who attend symposia funded by pharmaceutical companies subsequently prescribe the featured drugs at a higher rate... Are any of these interactions, or efforts to curtail them, beneficial or harmful to patients? It depends on how you define harm. Consider pharmaceutical ‘gifting,’ a practice that smacks of bribery — which may be sufficient reason to prohibit it. But does it actually hurt patients? According to one influential commentary, it does...”

Doctors Urged to Stop Overtreating Patients

Yet another BMJ article17 urges doctors to stop overmedicating and overtreating patients, warning they’re doing more harm than good. As reported by BBC News18:

“Launching the Choosing Wisely campaign, experts are calling on medical organizations to identify five procedures each that should not be offered routinely or in some cases not at all. These might include: Pills for mild depression; Too many routine and unnecessary blood tests; Medicines for mildly raised blood pressure... [E]xperts say individuals should be encouraged to check whether procedures are definitely right for them. For example, patients are advised to ask: Do I really need this test or procedure?; Are there simpler options?; What happens if I do nothing?”

Overmedicating and overtreating is one result of excessive industry influence, although it’s certainly not the sole reason. From my perspective, it seems clear that more drugs, tests, and surgeries do not equate to better health. On the contrary, it raises the risks of side effects that may be as bad or worse than the original problem. It also raises the risk of fatal medical errors—a fate that befalls 440,000 Americans each year! As reported by Forbes19 in 2013:

“These people are not dying from the illnesses that caused them to seek hospital care in the first place. They are dying from mishaps that hospitals could have prevented. What do these errors look like? The sponge left inside the surgical patient, prompting weeks of mysterious, agonizing abdominal pain before the infection overcomes bodily functions. The medication injected into a baby’s IV at a dose calculated for a 200 pound man. The excruciating infection from contaminated equipment used at the bedside. Sadly, over a thousand people a day are dying from these kinds of mistakes.”

Drug Ads May Lose Fine Print Details About Side Effects

Have you ever asked your doctor if a certain drug was right for you—as instructed by virtually every drug ad you see on TV? Clearly, this ploy works, or the drug industry wouldn’t spend $4.53 billion a year on direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising.20 In the midst of all the faux science backing up recommendations to use drugs of all kinds, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering simplifying DTC print ads by making the manufacturers summarize potential side effects in layman’s terms—and omitting certain drug details altogether. Cutting the laundry list of side effects from radio and TV ads is also under consideration, ostensibly to improve your understanding of the drug’s risks.

According to Forbes:21

“‘In general, FDA believes that exhaustive lists that include even minor risks detract from, and make it difficult for, consumers to comprehend and retain information about the more important risks,’ the FDA says in its draft guidance on the proposed changes to print ads. The agency cites research showing that people can only process a limited amount of information offered in DTC drug ads. Furthermore, the FDA found, virtually no one reads even half of the fine print in drug ads, and of those who do, 55 percent say it’s hard to understand. The agency also cites several studies showing that when drug risks are described in laymen’s terms instead of medical jargon comprehension skyrockets.”

It’s difficult to discern whether a change like this might actually change how consumers “hear” or “see” the benefit versus risk potential of any given drug. In my view, the most reasonable approach would be to dramatically reduce or ban DTC drug ads altogether, as they do absolutely nothing to improve public health.  On the contrary, luring people into thinking they might benefit from a drug is a recipe for disaster, as it reinforces the fallacy that there’s a magic pill for every ill, when in fact most ailments can be effectively prevented or addressed with inexpensive lifestyle changes that have no detrimental side effects whatsoever.

History is replete with examples of drugs causing far more harm than good. Vioxx is one classic example. It killed about 60,000 people before being withdrawn from the market. Most recently, Takeda Pharmaceutical has agreed to pay $2.4 billion to settle some 9,000 lawsuits from patients who developed bladder cancer from the drug22--a side effect the company concealed, according to plaintiff attorneys. Despite such risks, Actos is still sold in the US and other countries.

Hopefully, you will resolve to take control of your health and avoid becoming a statistic of a conflict-of-interest-driven system that places greater value on share holders than patients. Addressing your diet is an obvious place to start, along with a regular exercise program.

Pope Francis, Neil Young, and 100,000 Beekeepers Take a Stand Against Toxic Agriculture

Tue, 06/30/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

What do Pope Francis, Neil Young, and German beekeepers have in common? They're all speaking out against genetically engineered crops and the excessive use of toxic pesticides.

Meanwhile, the chemical technology industry is feverishly trying to revamp its image by renaming itself and putting out new spins on words to disguise what they're really all about.

The sad fact is, the chemical industry has to a large degree taken over the food industry, not to mention hijacked the federal regulatory process. In essence, most of the population is being fed by poison experts.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which has been instrumental in keeping Americans in the dark about what's in our food, also admits it has played an integral role in shaping the draconian "DARK Act," which delivers Monsanto everything they've ever wanted on a silver platter while obliterating the democratic process.

Pope Francis Calls for Radical Transformations to Confront Environmental Degradation

On June 18, 2015, Pope Francis' 184-page long Encyclical letter1,2 was published, in which he calls for the transformation of lifestyles, politics, agriculture, economics, and business in general to tackle environmental degradation.

"The violence present in our hearts is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life," he says.

And, while praising scientific advancements, he criticizes the use of novel technologies without adequate forethought, noting that: "our immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values and conscience."

To many people's surprise, Pope Francis appears to have a fairly comprehensive grasp of the subject of genetically engineered food and its many inherent hazards, both to the environment and human health.

Far from coming from a strictly religious perspective, he comprehensively addresses the issue from the point of ecological and economical balance, noting:3

"The expan­sion of these [genetically engineered] crops has the effect of destroying the complex network of ecosystems, diminishing the diversity of production and affecting region­al economies, now and in the future.

In various countries, we see an expansion of oligopolies for the production of cereals and other products needed for their cultivation. This dependency would be aggravated were the production of in­fertile seeds to be considered; the effect would be to force farmers to purchase them from larger producers.

Certainly, these issues require constant at­tention and a concern for their ethical implica­tions. A broad, responsible scientific and social debate needs to take place, one capable of con­sidering all the available information and of call­ing things by their name.

Discussions are needed in which all those directly or indirectly affected (farmers, consumers, civil authorities, scientists, seed producers, people living near fumigated fields, and others) can make known their problems and concerns, and have access to adequate and reliable infor­mation in order to make decisions for the com­mon good, present and future.

This is a complex environmental issue; it calls for a comprehensive approach which would require, at the very least, greater efforts to finance various lines of inde­pendent, interdisciplinary research capable of shedding new light on the problem."

German Beekeepers Call for Nationwide Ban of GE Crops

The issue of GE crops goes hand-in-hand with the issue of rising pesticide use, and the effects these chemicals are having on soils, pollinating insects, and human health.

Bees can be viewed as "canaries in the coal mine," and over the last decade beekeepers have grappled with bee colony collapse disorder (CCD). Bees are priceless as they pollinate one-third of the food we eat. Just about every fruit and vegetable you can imagine is dependent on the pollinating services of bees.

But bee die-offs have in recent years been so severe that many farmers were barely able to get enough bees to get the job done, and beekeepers are asked to deliver their bees over far greater distances than ever before due to bee shortages.

Toxic pesticides have long been suspected of being responsible for CCD, and GE crops are particularly contaminated. To protect these crucial pollinators, the German Beekeepers Association (DIB), which represents nearly 100,000 beekeepers, has called for a nationwide ban on genetically engineered (GE) crops.

GE crops are approved on the European Union (EU) level, but recently adopted legislation4 allows member states to opt-out of the cultivation of GE crops if it so chooses. According to a report by GM Watch:5

"Under the law, a member state can ban a GMO in part or all of its territory. But the law has come under heavy criticism for failing to provide a solid basis for such bans.

The beekeepers are urging Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt (CSU) to implement a Germany-wide ban on cultivation. The Minister pleads, however, for letting each state decide individually.

The beekeepers counter that a piecemeal approach will not work. Bees fly up to eight kilometers in search of food, the DIB said, so a juxtaposition of GM crop cultivation zones and GMO-free zones within Germany would be 'environmentally and agriculturally unacceptable.. 'Bees know no borders,' the DIB added."

Neil Young Sings About 'The Monsanto Years'

Neil Young's latest album, The Monsanto Years, is all about Monsanto and "exposing the myth of progress," to quote one of his musicians. Young has also made public statements decrying the hijacking of democracy by corporate interests, warning:6 "These Corporations were originally created to serve us but if we don't appropriately prioritize they will destroy us."

"I choose to speak Truth to this Economic Power," he writes. "I support those bringing these issues to light and those who fight for their rights like Freedom of Choice. But Freedom of Choice is meaningless without knowledge. That's why it's crucial we all get engaged and get informed.

That's why GMO labeling matters. Mothers need to know what they are feeding their children. They need freedom to make educated choices at the market.
When the people have voted for labeling, as they have in Vermont, they need our support when they are fighting these corporate interests trying to reverse the laws they have voted for and passed in the democratic process."

Don't Be Confused by the Chemical Industry's Word Games

Monsanto recently made a bid to take over Syngenta, the world's largest pesticide producer. The $45.1 billion bid was rejected, but there's still a chance for a merger, in which case Monsanto may assume the Syngenta name, or a new more "neutral" name—a move intended to dissociate Monsanto from its long list of atrocities and lies. The two companies are also floating ideas for relocating the merged chemical behemoth to a lower-tax region to avoid US taxes.7

Whatever happens, I sincerely doubt Monsanto will be able to escape its past as I am committed to relentlessly exposing their lies, frauds, and deceptions to the masses. We will make sure that its sordid history will quickly transfer over to whatever name it assumes next. Still, words and names can be powerful, and the chemical technology industry is busy renaming and rebranding itself and its toxic wares in an obvious effort to disguise their true nature.

Take the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), for example, which on June 17 renamed itself the Biotechnology Innovation Organization.8 Basically, they want to remove the idea of "industry" from the industry. Monsanto also recently started using the word "seed protectants" for pesticides.9

Do these chemicals "protect seeds"? You could argue that they do, but their main function is to kill insects and other plants. Yet it's much harder to associate a "seed protectant" with toxic pesticide exposure that can cause harm to human health, isn't it? Do not let them get away with it by adopting this ridiculous new verbiage.

Why Are We Being Fed by a War Chemical Company?

Monsanto, a war chemical company that has been sued over toxic pollution multiple times, and been found guilty of lying and covering up evidence of their wrong-doing in virtually every case, is now looking to buy another giant chemical company, move their headquarters overseas to avoid US taxes, change their name, and rename their toxic bug and weed killers into nicer sounding things like "seed and crop protectants."

At the end of the day, Monsanto is still just a chemical company that is now using many of the same war chemicals to grow our food. Why do we accept food from a poison expert? Toxins are rendered largely unnecessary using regenerative practices, which have also been shown to outperform chemical agriculture in terms of yield.

Monsanto's president and chief operating officer Brett Bergemann recently stated that:10 "We have the challenge of feeding 9.5 billion people by 2050. We need to meet that need in a sustainable way and we need to drive sustainable intensification of agriculture." And yet everything Monsanto specializes in drives us in the polar opposite of regenerative agriculture. If you still believe Monsanto is concerned with feeding billions of people healthy nutritious food, then you simply have yet to objectively and carefully review their scandalous history.

They design and patent seeds that withstand the very herbicides they make and sell. They promised weeds would not develop resistance, but 10 million acres of superweeds stand witness to that lie. This has led to more Roundup being used to keep up with the weeds. Now crops resistant to even more toxic chemicals are being brought to market. Everything Monsanto has ever done has been centered around toxic chemicals, and now they're trying to purchase the world's largest pesticide producer.

Toxins and health do not go together, and anyone with impartial and rational motivations will quickly realize that Monsanto is not in the health-food business. They're in the poison business, and with the bid to take over Syngenta, it should be crystal clear that Monsanto is not about to change their century-old track record anytime soon, no matter how many new words they invent to confuse you about the use of toxins on your food.

GMA Threatens to Take Away Vermont's Twinkies

On April 27, 2015, a judge ruled against the food industry, spearheaded by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), upholding Vermont's GMO labeling law. The law will go into effect on July 1, 2016. But the GMA isn't done fighting against democracy and freedom and just about everything else the United States claims to stand for.

It recently sent a letter to Vermont, threatening to remove snack foods from the state lest Vermont drop its GMO labeling law. According to Politico:11 “The Grocery Manufacturers Association is warning Vermont officials that the cost to food companies to comply with the state’s GMO labeling law could exceed their sales revenue, forcing many of them to leave.” Should such a threat actually go through, it would surely be a magnificent experiment to see how residents’ health might improve compared to other states where snacks containing GMO corn syrup, sugar from GMO sugar beets, and vegetable oils from GMO soy and cottonseed are still sold.

GMA Admits Playing Integral Role in 'Denying Americans the Right to Know' (DARK) Act

The GMA has also been a driving force behind Pompeo "DARK" Act (HR 1599, "The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act")—a law that would not only preempt states' rights to create their own GMO food labeling laws, it also preempts any and all state and local regulation of GE crops, and weakens federal oversight.12 In short, it's a Monsanto dream come true, and a corporate fascism nightmare for the rest of us.

Not only would it nullify existing GMO regulation, it also prohibits future laws from even being considered! The Grocery Manufacturer's Association (GMA) admits playing an integral role in the creation of this draconian anti-democratic, anti-consumer bill.
In a June 17, 2015 email to the GMA board of directors, Pamela Bailey writes, in part:

"GMA knows that your companies are facing difficult decisions and monumental challenges implementing the Vermont mandatory GMO labeling law. Many of you have reached out to me and other GMA staff with your concerns. The federal legislation introduced in the House by Representatives Pompeo and Butterfield continues to gain very significant traction. Indeed, tomorrow there will be a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and GMA has been integral to the process.

One of the witnesses is the Assistant Attorney General of Vermont, and he will be responding to several tough questions. One of our expert witnesses in the Vermont litigation, President and CEO of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, will testify on the impact the Vermont law will have on food supply chain. Next week the House Agricultural Committee is holding a hearing, and we expect the only witness at that hearing to be USDA." [Emphasis mine]

Not surprisingly, Monsanto is also on the board for the Supply Chain Management...13

Take Immediate Action: Tell Your Congressman to Vote NO on Pompeo's Bill, HR1599 As noted by the Center for Food Safety (CFS),14 the latest changes to Pompeo's bill "create an anti-democracy, anti-consumer, anti-environment mega-bill" that simply MUST be stopped. We need everyone to put pressure on your federal representatives, and demand they vote NO on the Pompeo bill. We need to do everything we possibly can to prevent it from passing, so please, take action now! Tell your representative to support consumer and state rights, and reject Rep. Pompeo's bill, H.R. 1599.

Studies on Hydration Suggest Dehydrated Drivers May Pose Hazard on the Road, and Majority of Children Don’t Drink Enough Water

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Drinking pure water every day is a key component of optimal health. Unfortunately, many make the mistake of forgoing water for other types of fluids, most of which have added ingredients that will not do your health any favors.

Kids are particularly prone to drinking sweet drinks like soda and fruit juice instead of plain water, and many teens tend to reach for sports and energy drinks instead.

According to a recent Harvard study,1,2,3 more than half of American children are dehydrated, which can have repercussions for their health and academic performance.

About one-quarter of children in the US do not drink water on a daily basis. Overall, boys were more than 75 percent more likely to be inadequately hydrated than girls.

This dovetails with previous studies4 showing that boys drink more sugary beverages than girls. According to one 2011 analysis, about 70 percent of boys aged 2-19 drink sugary beverages daily. As noted by lead author Erica Kenney:5

“These findings are significant because they highlight a potential health issue that has not been given a whole lot of attention in the past.

Even though for most of these kids this is not an immediate, dramatic health threat, this is an issue that could really be reducing quality of life and well-being for many, many children and youth.”

Your Body Needs Water for Proper Functioning

Your body is comprised of about 65 percent water, which is needed for a number of physiological processes and biochemical reactions, including but not limited to:

  • Blood circulation
  • Metabolism
  • Regulation of body temperature
  • Waste removal and detoxification

Once your body has lost between one to two percent of its total water content, it will signal its needs by making you feel thirsty. Using thirst as a guide to how much water you need to drink is one obvious way to ensure your individual needs are met, day-by-day.

However, by the time your thirst mechanism actually kicks in, you’re already in the early stages of dehydration, so you don’t want to ignore the initial sensations of thirst.

Moreover, the thirst mechanism tends to be underdeveloped in children, making them more vulnerable to dehydration. The elderly are also at heightened risk.

Hunger—sugar cravings in particular—can also be a sign that your body is crying for water, so as noted in the featured video, when you feel hungry, drink a glass of water first.

So, in addition to thirst, which is an obvious signal, other signals indicating you need to drink more water include:6,7

Fatigue and/or dizzinessMood swings Foggy thinking and poor concentrationChills Muscle crampsBack or joint ache Dull, dry skin and/or pronounced wrinklesConstipation Infrequent urination; dark, concentrated urineHeadache Bad breathSugar cravings

Severe dehydration can be life threatening, but even mild dehydration can cause problems ranging from headaches and irritability to impaired cognition. It can also affect your sports performance, as noted in a recent CNN report:8

“Even being slightly dehydrated affects your ability to put effort into your workout. ‘A two percent dehydration level in your body causes a 10 percent decrease in athletic performance,’ says [sports dietitian Amy] Goodson.

"‘And the more dehydrated you become, the worse performance gets.’ Measured by ‘perceived exertion,’ how hard you feel you're exercising, you might be working at a 6 but you feel like you are working at an 8, says Goodson.”

The Color of Your Urine Is an Important Hydration Marker

The oft-repeated guideline is to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day, but considering the fact that your water needs can vary significantly from day to day depending on factors such as your activity level and weather conditions, this suggestion may be inadequate.

In reality, it’s virtually impossible to determine a general guideline that will apply to everyone, all the time. As noted in the video above, the Institute of Medicine recommends a much higher average water intake, suggesting women drink 2.7 liters or 91 ounces of water per day, and men 3.7 liters, or 125 ounces.

The featured study9 used urine concentration to evaluate hydration status, and looking at the color of your urine is perhaps one of the best ways to track your individual hydration status from day to day.

Concentrated, dark-colored urine is a sign that your kidneys are retaining fluids to maintain your bodily functions, and is a good indication that you need more water. Ideally, you’ll want to drink enough water to turn your urine a light-colored yellow.

Also please realize that riboflavin (vitamin B2; also found in most multi-vitamins) will turn your urine a bright, almost fluorescent yellow. So if you’re taking supplements containing B2, it may be more difficult to judge your water needs by the color of your urine.

Frequency of urination can also be used to judge your water intake. A healthy person urinates on average about seven or eight times a day. If your urine is scant or if you haven’t urinated in several hours, that too is an indication that you’re not drinking enough.

Being Dehydrated May Be as Dangerous as Being Drunk When Driving

When you’re dehydrated, you’re more prone to irritability and fatigue. Your cognitive functions, including your ability to concentrate also take a hit, and this can have serious ramifications if you’re behind the wheel. According to a recent study published in the journal Physiology and Behavior,10 dehydrated drivers made twice the amount of errors during a two-hour drive compared to hydrated drivers. Remarkably, this is similar to driving drunk!

As reported by CNN:11 “Since often people purposely avoid drinking prior to a long road trip to prevent bathroom stops, dehydration could increase the risk of traffic accidents.” For these tests, hydrated drivers drank 200ml every hour, compared to dehydrated drivers who received only 25ml of water an hour. As reported by The Daily Mail:12

“During the normal hydration test, there were 47 driving errors. That number rose to 101 when the men were dehydrated - the same mistake rate as that when drivers were either sleep deprived or at the drink-drive limit. The researchers...think dehydration leads to reduced brain activity as well as a drop in alertness and short-term memory...The researchers wrote...'Body water losses have been shown to impair performance in a variety of tests of both physical and mental performance... 'The level of dehydration induced in the present study was mild and could easily be reproduced by individuals with limited access to fluid over the course of a busy working day.'”

Replacing All Other Beverages with Pure Water Is a Major Step Toward Health

It’s important to recognize that your body loses water throughout each day, even when you’re not sweating, and that you need to constantly replenish this fluid loss. While soda, fruit juices, sports drinks, energy drinks, and other beverages typically contain a fair amount of water, they are poor substitutes for pure water, and generally do not count toward this requirement.

Soda and energy drinks, for example, are high in caffeine, which acts as a diuretic that will actually dehydrate you, so they’re a terrible choice for quenching your thirst. In fact, have you noticed that you tend to get thirstier the more soda you drink? The sugar is addictive, which contributes to this phenomenon, but dehydration also plays a role.

Worse yet, sodas, fruit juices, sports drinks, and other sweetened beverages typically contain processed fructose, which is a primary driver of obesity and metabolic dysfunction. Just one can of soda per day can add as much as 15 pounds to your weight over the course of a single year.

One soda per day also increases your risk of diabetes by 85 percent, and frequent soda drinkers have higher cancer risk. So to stay hydrated, drinking pure water is key. This is true when exercising as well. Many still believe that sports drinks are the best alternative to replenish lost fluids and electrolytes when working up a sweat, but that’s simply not true.

Why Sports Drinks Are Best Avoided

The majority of people believe that sports drinks like Gatorade are far better to drink than water when you’re dehydrated because of electrolyte replacement. Avoid this common mistake, as nothing could be further from the truth. More important than the electrolytes are sugar, and most sports drinks contain two-thirds or even more sugar than sodas, typically in the form of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

Many also contain artificial flavors and food coloring, none of which contribute to optimal health. Fructose is primarily metabolized by your liver, because that is the only organ that has the transporter for it and is the main cause of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). In your liver, fructose is metabolized much like alcohol, causing mitochondrial and metabolic dysfunction in the same way as ethanol and other toxins. And just like alcohol, your body turns fructose directly into fat—hardly what you need after a good workout.

If your sports drink is low-calorie and sugar-free, it likely contains artificial sweeteners, which may be even worse for you than fructose. In addition to that, consuming sugar after exercise will negatively affect your insulin sensitivity—and your human growth hormone (HGH) production if you’re doing high intensity exercise. Most sports drinks also contain high amounts of sodium (processed salt), which is meant to replenish the electrolytes you lose while sweating.

It is very easy and inexpensive to address the electrolyte replacement issue simply by adding a small amount of natural, unprocessed salt, such as Himalayan salt, to your water. Contrary to processed salt, this natural salt contains 84 different minerals and trace minerals that your body needs for optimal function. Another excellent option when you’re sweating profusely is coconut water.

It’s one of the highest sources of electrolytes known to man. Some remote areas of the world even use coconut juice intravenously, short-term, to help hydrate critically ill patients and in emergency situations. Also, fresh fruits are full of potassium and other important minerals that help address the missing electrolytes one looses in sweat. Just remember to eat the whole fruit, not fruit juices.

Both Soda and Fruit Juice Promote Poor Health

While many have become savvy about the health hazards of soda, many are still under the mistaken belief that fruit juice is a healthy beverage. This is a dangerous misconception fueling rising rates of weight gain, obesity, fatty liver disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes in the United States and other developed nations—especially among children. In fact, you are doing your body no favor whatsoever by swapping soda for fruit juice, and as a concise infographic posted by Discovery pointed out, fruit drinks can sometimes be worse for your health than soda.

One eight-ounce glass of orange juice has about eight full teaspoons of sugar, and at least 50 percent of that sugar is fructose. That's almost as much as a can of soda, which contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar. Fruit drinks, on the other hand, will likely contain high-fructose corn syrup, just as soda does. In fact, soda giants like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Dr. Pepper are actually the parent companies to most sugary drinks on the market, and that includes fruit juices.

If you and your family drink soft drinks and/or fruit juice regularly, one of the best things you can do for your overall health is to switch to clean fresh water. Fortunately, stopping soda is one of the easiest health habits to make for most people. But, if for any reason you are having difficulty stopping, please consider using Turbo Tapping to stop your sugar addiction and improve your health.

Opt for Structured Spring Water or Filtered Tap Water Over Bottled Water

While drinking water will help to optimally hydrate you, it is wise to drink toxin-free water, and the more unfiltered water you drink, the more pollutants you’re adding back in. Most tap water contains an array of harmful contaminants, including not only chlorine, but also disinfection byproducts, heavy metals, and pharmaceutical drugs. Federal scientists have reported13 finding traces of 18 unregulated contaminants in one-third of the water samples collected from 25 municipal utilities across the US, including perfluorinated compounds like PFOA. So besides making sure you’re drinking enough, another very important consideration is the type of water you drink.

Bottled water may be convenient, but has a number of significant drawbacks. First of all, drinking from plastic water bottles can pose health risks from industrial chemicals like bisphenol-A, bisphenol-S (BPA/BPS) and phthalates, which leach from the plastic. Bottled water also costs about 1,900 times the price of regular tap water, and 40 percent of bottled water is simply tap water that may not have received any additional filtering treatment whatsoever...

Moreover, the likelihood of bottled water being contaminated is far higher than with your tap water. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires large public water supplies to test for contaminants several times a day, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires private bottlers to test for contaminants only once a week, once a year, or once every four years, depending on the contaminant.

One independent test14 performed by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in 2011 revealed 38 low-level contaminants in bottled water. Each of the 10 tested brands contained an average of eight chemicals. Disinfection byproducts (DBPs), caffeine, Tylenol, nitrate, industrial chemicals, arsenic, and bacteria were all detected. Last but not least, plastic bottles also cause enormous environmental problems because of the sheer volume of plastic waste they create.

The answer to all these health and environmental issues is to minimize or eliminate your use of plastic water bottles. The most economical and environmentally sound choice you can make is to purchase and install a water filter for your home. And, in lieu of plastic bottles, use reusable glass water bottles instead, which have a much smaller ecological footprint.

The very best water, however, comes from a natural gravity-fed spring. FindaSpring.com15 is an excellent resource for finding one nearby your home. Not only does it tend to be naturally filtered and pH balanced, it’s also “alive” or “structured,” which is believed to have certain health benefits beyond mere hydration. I’ve previously interviewed Dr. Gerald Pollack on this subject. His book, The Fourth Phase of Water: Beyond Solid, Liquid, and Vapor, clearly explains the theory of the fourth phase of water, which is truly ground-breaking.

The fourth phase of water is living water. It’s referred to as EZ water—EZ standing for “exclusion zone”—which has a negative charge. This water can hold energy, much like a battery, and can deliver energy too. This is the kind of water your cells contain; even your extracellular tissues are filled with EZ water, which is why he believes it’s so important to drink structured water for optimal health. I drink vortexed water nearly exclusively as I became a big fan of Viktor Schauberger, who did much pioneering work on vortexing about a century ago. Dr. Pollack confirms that by creating a vortex in a glass of water, you’re putting more energy into it, thereby increasing EZ.

For Optimal Health, You Need to Drink Pure Water Every Day

There’s no doubt that you need pure water for optimal health. Simply swapping out all the sweetened, bottled beverages for pure water can go a long way toward improving your health, as virtually all of the biochemical processes in your body need water. The amount, however, is something you need to fine tune based on your individual circumstances.

Remember to listen to your body. Thirst is an obvious signal that it’s time to replenish your fluids. Fatigue and moodiness can also indicate you need to drink more water. Probably the best way to gauge your water needs however, is to observe the color of your urine, and how frequently you urinate. On average, a healthy number of bathroom visits is around seven or eight per day, and you want the color of your urine to be a light, pale yellow.

Top Summer Foods for Health

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), yin and yang refer to opposite elements or forces in nature, which, when balanced, promote harmony. Qi is a type of universal energy, and both yin and yang are manifestations of Qi, each with its own attributes.

Where yin tends to manifest cold, moist, cooling, and dark qualities, yang manifests as hot, dry, warming, and bright. The summer months, with their hot temperatures and bright sun, is decidedly yang.

Specifically, TCM describes summer as the season of fire, which is a symbol of the greatest yang. In order to keep harmony, it’s important to balance the strong yang energies with those of yin – and this is possible to do via your diet.

The summertime is a perfect opportunity to focus your diet on yin foods, which are by nature cooling or cold. When you eat yin foods in the summer, it helps you avoid “summerheat,” which is a condition linked to an overabundance of yang that causes a queasy, fatigued, and “blah” feeling when it’s hot outside.1

Top ‘Yin’ Summer Foods to Enjoy

Cooling foods tend to be in-season with abundance during the summer months. Most “green” foods, including vegetables and fruits, qualify, although some are better than others. To give your body a refreshing break from summer’s yang, focus on eating these cooling “yin” foods.

1. Sprouts

Sprouts may be small, but they are packed with nutrition, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes that help protect against free radical damage.

They’re an inherently cooling food and are perfect for adding to salads, either in addition to or in lieu of salad greens, and sandwiches and are especially tasty in combination with fresh avocado. You can also add them to your vegetable juice or smoothies.

Better still, growing your own sprouts is quite easy, and you don't need a whole lot of space either; they can even be grown indoors. Two of my personal favorites are sunflower seed and pea shoots—both of which are typically about 30 times more nutritious than organic vegetables.

They're also among the highest in protein. In addition, sunflower seeds contain healthy fats, essential fatty acids, and fiber—all of which are important for optimal health.

Mung beans are another common sprout popular to TCM; they’re a good source of protein, fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin A.

I used Ball jars when I first started sprouting seeds about 25 years ago, but I've since switched over to growing them in potting soil. With Ball jars you need to rinse them several times a day to prevent mold growth and it is a hassle to have them draining in the sink, taking up space.

Moreover, you need dozens of jars to produce the same amount of sprouts as just one flat tray. I didn't have the time or patience for that, and you may not either. The choice is yours, though. You can easily grow sprouts and shoots with or without soil.

My Sprout Doctor Starter Kit comes with what I consider to be three of the best sprouts to grow – sunflower shoots, broccoli sprouts, and pea shoots. When grown in soil, you can harvest your sprouts in about a week, and a pound of seeds will probably produce over 10 pounds of sprouts.

Sunflower shoots will give you the most volume for your effort and, in my opinion, have the best taste. In one 10x10” tray, you can harvest between one and two pounds of sunflower sprouts, which will last you about three days.

You can store them in the fridge for about a week. Broccoli sprouts look and taste similar to alfalfa sprouts, which most people like. I've partnered with a company in a small town in Vermont that develops, breeds, and grows their own seeds, and are industry leaders in seed safety for sprouts and shoots.

All of my seeds are non-GMO, certified organic, and packed with nutrition. My starter kit makes it easy to grow your own sprouts in the comfort of your home, whenever you want. It provides everything you need, so all you have to do is grow and enjoy your sprouts.

2. Watermelon (and Other Melons)

Watermelon is more than 91 percent water.2 This means that eating watermelon on a hot summer day is a tasty way to help you stay hydrated and avoid dehydration. Watermelon is also an excellent source of lycopene, with upwards of 6,500 micrograms in less than half a cup.

Lycopene's antioxidant activity has long been suggested to be more powerful than that of other carotenoids, such as beta-carotene. In one study, after controlling for other stroke risk factors, such as older age and diabetes, they found that men with the highest blood levels of lycopene were 55 percent less likely to have a stroke than those with the lowest.3

Watermelon also contains citrulline, which in your body is converted into L-arginine, which is a precursor to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide may help your vessels stay relaxed and open for blood flow, which is one reason why it may help lower blood pressure.

What else is watermelon good for? It’s rich in anti-inflammatory substances. For instance, watermelon contains the anti-inflammatory antioxidant lycopene as well as cucurbitacin E, or tripterpenoid.

This blocks the activity of the pain and inflammation-causing enzyme cyclooxygenase – the same enzyme blocked by COX-2 inhibitors, which include most NSAID drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen.

While being very low in calories (about 46 calories in a cup) watermelon also contains an impressive variety of other important nutrients in which many Americans are lacking, including:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin B6
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin A
  • Magnesium

It’s not only watermelon that’s beneficial to consume in the summer – other melons, like cantaloupe, muskmelon, and honeydew, are also beneficial.

Cantaloupes, for instance, provide an excellent source of antioxidants, like vitamin C and vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids). They also contain important nutrients like potassium, folate, copper, B vitamins, vitamin K, magnesium, and fiber.

If you eat the seeds (yes, they're edible), you'll also get beneficial plant-based omega-3 fat in the form of alpha-linolenic acid. With relatively few calories (about 54 per cup) and low fructose (2.8 grams in one-eighth of a medium melon), this is one fruit you can feel good about eating.

3. Cucumbers

Like watermelon, cucumbers are made up of mostly (95 percent) water, making them an ideal hydrating and cooling food. Cucumbers may also help to “cool” the inflammatory response in your body, according to raw-food advocate David Wolfe.

Animal studies also suggest that cucumber extract helps reduce unwanted inflammation, in part by inhibiting the activity of pro-inflammatory enzymes (including cyclo-oxygenase 2, or COX-2).4

Cucumbers also contain numerous antioxidants, including the well-known vitamin C and beta-carotene. They also contain antioxidant flavonoids, such as quercetin, apigenin, luteolin, and kaempferol,5 which provide additional benefits.

For instance, quercetin is an antioxidant that many believe prevents histamine release—making quercetin-rich foods “natural antihistamines.” Kaempferol, meanwhile, may help fight cancer and lower your risk of chronic diseases including heart disease.

Cucumbers also contain multiple B vitamins, including vitamin B1, vitamin B5, and vitamin B7 (biotin). B vitamins are known to help ease feelings of anxiety and buffer some of the damaging effects of stress.

4. Tomatoes

There’s good reason to regularly include tomatoes, another cooling food, in your diet, as they are rich in flavonoids and other phytochemicals that have anti-carcinogenic and other healthy properties.

They’re also an excellent source of lutein, zeaxanthin, and vitamin C (which is most concentrated in the jelly-like substance that surrounds the seeds) as well as vitamins A, E and B-complex vitamins, potassium, manganese, and phosphorus. Other lesser-known phytonutrients found in tomatoes include:

  • Flavonols: rutin, kaempferol, and quercetin
  • Flavonones: naringenin and chalconaringenin
  • Hydroxycinnamic acids: caffeic acid, ferulic acid, and coumaric acid
  • Glycosides: esculeoside A
  • Fatty acid derivatives: 9-oxo-octadecadienoic acid

Tomatoes are also a particularly concentrated source of lycopene. In addition to lowering your risk of stroke, lycopene from tomatoes (including unsweetened organic tomato sauce) has also been shown to be helpful in treating prostate cancer. If you eat tomatoes, choose organic varieties. One study found growing tomatoes according to organic standards results in dramatically elevated phenols content compared to tomatoes grown conventionally, using agricultural chemicals.

The organic tomatoes were found to contain 55 percent more vitamin C and 139 percent more total phenolic content at the stage of commercial maturity compared to the conventionally grown tomatoes.6

5. Rhubarb

Rhubarb is high in fiber, which is why it’s long been used in TCM for soothing stomach ailments and relieving constipation. A one-cup serving of rhubarb provides high levels of vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin A, and calcium, along with folate, riboflavin, niacin, B vitamins, and pantothenic acid. Rhubarb also provides important minerals, including manganese, iron, potassium, and phosphorus.

Due to its sour flavor, rhubarb is often found in recipes alongside sugar and other sweeteners. But a healthier (and far more cooling) way to consume it is by juicing raw right into your fresh vegetable juice. Remember, only the stalks can be eaten; rhubarb leaves are poisonous due to high levels of oxalic acid.

6. Dandelion Leaves

Dandelion leaves contain vitamins A, C, and K, along with calcium, iron, manganese, and potassium. They also have antioxidant properties and contain bitter crystalline compounds called taraxacin and taracerin, along with inulin and levulin, compounds thought to explain some of its therapeutic properties. Dandelion leaves can be used in salads, soups, juiced, cooked the same way as spinach, or dried (with flowers) to make dandelion tea (try it iced in the summer!). Dandelions offer you a wealth of nutrition; they contain:

One of the richest sources of beta carotene of all herbs (10,161 IUs per 100g, which is 338 percent of the RDA) Numerous flavonoids, including FOUR times the beta carotene of broccoli; also lutein, cryptoxanthin, and zeaxanthinOne of the HIGHEST herbal sources of vitamin K1, providing 650 percent of the RDA Vitamins, including folic acid, riboflavin, pyroxidine, niacin, and vitamins E and C Great source of minerals, including magnesium, calcium, potassium, manganese, and ironLeaves rich in dietary fiber, as well as a good laxative

7. Citrus Fruits

Oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes are all beneficial to add to your summer diet. They’re rich in fiber and vitamin C and also contain additional antioxidants known as flavonoids that may play a beneficial role in fighting heart disease, cancer, and inflammation. As noted in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry:7

“The anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of Citrus flavonoids can play a key role in their activity against several degenerative diseases and particularly brain diseases.”

Citrus fruits are simple to add to your diet; they can be incorporated into vegetable juice, used in salad dressings, squeezed over veggies, or used to make lemon/lime water, for starters. You can, of course, also peel and eat them (oranges and grapefruits), in moderation.

8. Bananas

Bananas contain dopamine, a natural reward chemical that boosts your mood. They're also rich in B vitamins, including vitamin B6, which help soothe your nervous system, and magnesium, another nutrient associated with positive mood. In addition, bananas are a good source of fiber, vitamin A, and antioxidants. They also contain fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which are a type of prebiotics that help nourish beneficial bacteria in your body while enhancing your ability to absorb calcium. Nutritionist Laura Flores told Live Science:8

"Bananas are high in antioxidants, which can provide protection from free radicals, which we come into contact with every day… Bananas are known to reduce swelling, protect against developing type-2 diabetes, aid in weight loss, strengthen the nervous system and help with production of white blood cells, all due to the high level of vitamin B6 that bananas contain."

9. Watercress

Last but not least, watercress is another cooling vegetable that’s perfect for a hot summer day. It may actually be the most nutrient-dense vegetable out there, scoring higher on nutrient density scores than both broccoli and sunflower sprouts. Based on 17 nutrients— including potassium, fiber, protein, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, zinc, and vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and K— watercress scored a perfect 100 in a study titled, "Defining Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables: A Nutrient Density Approach."9

Watercress, which is a close cousin to mustard greens cabbage and arugula, can be eaten as a salad green, steamed as a vegetable, added to soups and sandwiches, or, my favorite, sprouted. This plant has such a strong history of healing prowess that Hippocrates is said to have located the first hospital on the island of Kos close to a stream so that fresh watercress could be harvested for patients (watercress grows in water). Greek soldiers also reportedly ate it as a health tonic prior to going into battle.10

In a more recent study, people who ate about 1.5 cups of fresh watercress daily for eight weeks had a 10 percent reduction in triglyceride levels and a significant increase in lutein and beta-carotene, by 100 percent and 33 percent, respectively.11 Further, the watercress diet lead to significant reductions in DNA damage to blood cells, with researchers concluding “consumption of watercress can be linked to a reduced risk of cancer via decreased damage to DNA and possible modulation of antioxidant status by increasing carotenoid concentrations.”

Melons Should Be Eaten Alone and Other Tips for Fruit Consumption

Download Interview Transcript

While melons are a beneficial cooling fruit for summer, they’re best off eaten alone. In 2013, I interviewed Dr. Wayne Pickering, a naturopathic physician, on the principles of food combining, and this is one important tip he taught me. Improper food combining is one of the primary factors that cause gas, flatulence, heartburn, and upset stomach. What's worse, poor digestion can also contribute to malnutrition, even if you think you're eating a decent diet. You can learn the details in our interview, but one of the most basic rules to remember is as follows: "Eat melon alone, or leave it alone, or your stomach will moan."

In short, melon does not digest well with other foods and will frequently cause problems unless you eat it alone. So feel free to enjoy melon, but this is best done on an empty stomach (and resist the urge to combine your cantaloupe with yogurt or prosciutto). In addition, I recommend you consume melon and the other fruits on this list in moderation due to their fructose content. While some of these, like cantaloupe, are relatively low-fructose fruits (less than three grams in one-eighth of a melon), your grams can quickly add up if you consume fructose from other sources as well.

Bananas should certainly be eaten only in moderation, as one banana contains about 7.5 grams of fructose. I recommend keeping your total fructose intake below 25 grams of fructose per day if you're in good health and below 15 grams a day if you're overweight or have high blood pressure or diabetes. Finally, remember that variety is key. There are many more beneficial summer foods that are not listed here. If none on the list strike your fancy, other cooling foods often recommended by TCM for the summer months include:12

Spinach Summer squash Lettuce and most greens Cabbage Bok choy Celery Mint Asparagus Cilantro

Anti-Cancer Benefits of Avocado

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Avocados are one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Personally, I eat one almost every day. If you're an avocado fan, which 60 percent of Americans claim to be,1 you're probably aware that they're an excellent source of healthy monounsaturated fat, vitamins and antioxidants.

What you may not know, however, is that these super fruits also have cancer-fighting properties. In one of the latest studies, avocatin B, a type of fat found in avocados, was found to combat acute myeloid leukemia (AML), which is a particularly rare and deadly form of cancer.

Avocado Fat May Kill Cancer Stem Cells

The study, published in Cancer Research, revealed that avocatin B targets leukemia stem cells, which are responsible for causing most cases of AML recurrence.2

In those over 65, the disease is often deadly within five years, and there are few effective treatment options.3 The avocado fat was able to wipe out the leukemia stem cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed.

The researchers are working on developing a leukemia drug derived from avocatin B, however you can also get cancer-fighting agents just by eating avocados – especially if you peel them properly.

Avocados are rich in cancer-fighting carotenoids, which are most plentiful in the dark-green portion of the flesh that's closest to the skin. In 2010, the California Avocado Commission issued guidelines for getting the most out of your avocado by peeling it the right way.4

"California-grown avocados contain 11 carotenoids. According to USDA's Agricultural Research Service, avocados contain a complex package of phytonutrients, including carotenoids that may provide numerous health benefits.

Carotenoids appear to protect humans against certain cancers, heart disease and age-related macular degeneration. The UCLA research showed that in California avocados, the greatest concentration of beneficial carotenoids is in the dark green fruit of the avocado closest to the peel."

To preserve the area with the greatest concentration of antioxidants, you basically want to peel the avocado with your hands, as you would a banana:

  • First, cut the avocado length-wise, around the seed
  • Holding each half, twist them in the opposite directions to separate them from the seed
  • Remove the seed
  • Cut each half, lengthwise
  • Next, using your thumb and index finger, simply peel the skin off each piece
An Avocado a Day May Keep Bad Cholesterol Away

Eating healthy fats, including those in avocado, is important for protecting your heart health and optimizing your cholesterol levels.

Among overweight and obese Americans, those who consumed a moderate-fat diet with one avocado per day had lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol levels (by 13.5 mg/dL) compared to those eating an average American diet.5

Small dense LDL cholesterol was "especially" lowered, which is an important distinction. Large LDL particles are not harmful. Only small dense LDL particles can potentially be a problem, as they can squeeze through the lining of your arteries. If they oxidize, they can cause damage and inflammation.

The fact that eating an avocado a day helps lower this subset of potentially dangerous cholesterol particles is good reason to add it to your diet… In addition, past research has shown avocados might help improve lipid profiles, both in healthy individuals and in those with mild hypercholesterolemia (elevated cholesterol levels).

Healthy individuals saw a 16 percent decrease in total cholesterol level following a one-week-long diet high in monounsaturated fat from avocados.

In those with elevated cholesterol levels, the avocado diet resulted in a 17 percent decrease of serum total cholesterol, and a 22 percent decrease of both LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, along with an 11 percent increase of the so-called "good" HDL cholesterol.6

One study even found that eating one-half of a medium avocado with a hamburger significantly inhibited the production of the inflammatory compound Interleukin-6 (IL-6), compared to eating a burger without fresh avocado.7 According to lead author David Heber, MD, PhD, the findings offer "promising clues" about avocado's ability to benefit vascular function and heart health.

Avocados Might Help You Lose Weight and Absorb Nutrients

If the cancer-preventive and heart-healthy properties of avocado haven't convinced you that this is one superfood worth eating, maybe this will: according to research published in the Nutrition Journal, eating just one-half of a fresh avocado with lunch may satiate you if you're overweight, which will help prevent unnecessary snacking later.8

Those who ate half an avocado with their standard lunch reported being 40 percent less hungry three hours after their meal and 28 percent less hungry at the five-hour mark compared to those who did not eat avocado for lunch. The study also found that avocados appear helpful for regulating blood sugar

The monounsaturated fat in avocados is a type your body can easily burn for energy, and because they are so rich in healthy fats, avocados help your body absorb fat-soluble nutrients from other foods.

One study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that consuming a whole fresh avocado with either an orange-colored tomato sauce or raw carrots significantly enhanced absorption of the carotenoids and conversion of them into an active form of vitamin A.9

A 2005 study similarly found that adding avocado to salad allowed the volunteers to absorb three to five times more carotenoid antioxidant molecules, which help protect your body against free radical damage.10

Avocados Contain Nutrients Many Americans Are Lacking

Avocados provide close to 20 essential health-boosting nutrients, including potassium, vitamin E, B vitamins, and folic acid. Despite the fact that potassium is available in many foods, especially fruits and vegetables, only 2 percent of US adults get the recommended daily amount.11

It plays an important role in heart function, skeletal health, digestion, and muscular function, and is essential for the proper function of all cells, tissues, and organs in your body.12

Further, consuming enough potassium-rich food is important because this nutrient helps offset the hypertensive effects of sodium. Imbalance in your sodium-potassium ratio can not only lead to hypertension (high blood pressure) but may also contribute to a number of other diseases, including heart disease and stroke.

About 2.5 avocados provide the daily-recommended amount of about 4,700 milligrams (mg) of potassium a day. Not to mention, an average avocado contains about 40 mg of magnesium, which is about 10 percent of the recommended daily value.

Magnesium is a mineral used by every organ in your body, especially your heart, muscles, and kidneys. By some estimates, up to 80 percent of Americans are not getting enough magnesium and may be deficient. If you suffer from unexplained fatigue or weakness, abnormal heart rhythms, or even muscle spasms and eye twitches, low levels of magnesium could be to blame.

Better still, avocados are one of few foods that contain significant levels of both vitamins C and E.13 One study also found that a combination of vitamin C and E helped to slow plaque build-up, which could help prevent a heart attack or stroke.14

Avocados are even high in fiber, with about 4.6 grams in half an avocado. Fiber plays an essential role in your digestive, heart, and skin health, and may improve blood sugar control, weight management, and more, so when you eat avocados you're really providing your body with a comprehensive package of nutrition.

Embed this infographic on your website:

<img src="http://media.mercola.com/assets/images/infographic/avocado-uses-health-benefits.jpg" alt="Avocado Uses and Health Benefits" border="0" style="max-width:100%; min-width:300px; margin: 0 auto 20px auto; display:block;" /><p style="max-width:800px; min-width:300px; margin:0 auto; text-align:center;">Discover interesting facts about avocado, including its uses and benefits, through the infographic <a href="http://www.mercola.com/infographics/avocado-uses-health-benefits.htm"><strong>"Avocado Uses and Health Benefits."</strong></a> infographic. Use the embed code to share it on your website.</p> <pre style="max-width:800px; min-width:300px; margin: 20px auto 0 auto; padding:10px; border:solid 1px #999999; background: #ffffff; white-space: pre-wrap; word-wrap:break-word;"><code>&lt;img src="http://media.mercola.com/assets/images/infographic/avocado-uses-health-benefits.jpg" alt="Avocado Uses and Health Benefits" border="0" style="max-width:100%; min-width:300px; margin: 0 auto 20px auto; display:block;"&gt;&lt;p style="max-width:800px; min-width:300px; margin:0 auto; text-align:center;"&gt;Discover interesting facts about avocado, including its uses and benefits, through the infographic &lt;a href="http://www.mercola.com/infographics/avocado-uses-health-benefits.htm"&gt;&lt;strong&gt;Avocado Uses and Health Benefits: Facts About This Food.&lt;/strong&gt;&lt;/a&gt; infographic.&lt;/p&gt;</code></pre>

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Avocado Super Smoothie Recipe – Delicious!

You've surely tried guacamole and probably avocado on salads and sandwiches… but there are many more ways to enjoy avocados. One of my favorite ways is to blend one-third of an avocado into 12 ounces of water with my Vegan or Pure Power Protein and shredded coconut, along with my organic greens mix and my organic psyllium. You can also try avocado:

  • As a fat replacement in baking. Simply replace the fat called for (such as oil, butter, or shortening) with an equal amount of avocado
  • As a first food for babies, in lieu of processed baby food
  • In soups. For examples, see Lucy Lock's Chilled Mediterranean Soup or her Raw Creamy Carrot Soup
  • Added to smoothies or your protein shake
  • Baked with a soft-boiled egg in the middle for breakfast

You might also want to try this avocado super smoothie recipe, which is adapted from one posted at the Little Epicurean.15 Try it for breakfast or as a light lunch or snack that will stick to your ribs and give you lasting energy.

Avocado Super Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole avocado
  • 1 cup of torn kale leaves, no stem
  • 1/2 cup organic blueberries
  • 1/2 cup fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup of organic baby spinach
  • 1/2 sliced cucumber
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut water

Method:

Pour coconut water into blender. Add the avocado, kale, blueberries, pineapple, spinach and cucumber. Cover with lid and blend until smooth. Pour into two glasses and serve immediately.

Do You Wish You Could Grow Your Own Avocado Tree?

The seed from an avocado can be used to grow your own tree, although it's not as simple as just planting it in the ground. To get an avocado seed to grow, its "pointy" end needs to face the sun while the flat end needs to be kept wet at all times.

One way to accomplish this is by placing three or four toothpicks into the outer layer of the seed. Use the toothpicks as support structures to 'float' the seed on the top of a glass of water. If done properly, roots should begin to sprout within one or two months.

A Kickstarter campaign has also been launched for a device called the AvoSeedo. It keeps the seed properly immersed in water, and automatically adjusts as the water level in your container goes down. This makes the germination process much easier and more foolproof, because if your seed dries out, the germination process might stop permanently. If you're interested in growing your own avocado tree, you may want to check it out.

Chili Garlic Ginger Shrimp Recipe

Sun, 06/28/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

I have cautioned against consuming most seafood due to the potential of having widespread contamination. Many varieties of fish today come from polluted waters and are tainted with mercury, PCBs, and other potentially toxic heavy metals that can do serious damage to your health.  

However, I believe that shrimp, due to their small size, are one of the safer kinds of seafood that you can consume – as long as it is obtained from fresh, clean, and trustworthy sources,.   

If you can find a safe source of shrimp, I recommend whipping up this simple but truly flavorful sautéed shrimp recipe: Chili Garlic Ginger Shrimp.

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup  coconut oil
  • 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 fresh red chilies, seeds removed and thinly sliced
  • 16 large shrimp (16 ounces), peeled and deveined
  • 1-2 lemons, to taste
  • ½ cup Italian parsley, roughly chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preparation:

  • Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add coconut oil, ginger, garlic, chili, and shrimp. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring often.
  • Turn the heat to low and add the juice of 1 lemon. Stir in parsley. Remove from heat.
  • Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper, and more lemon juice if desired.

This recipe makes 4 servings.

(From Dr. Mercola’s Healthy Recipes for Your Nutritional Type)

Chili Garlic Ginger Shrimp Cooking Tips

If obtained from fresh, clean sources, shrimp is an excellent and nutritious food that can be served in various ways – whether as an hors d’ oeuvre, main dish, or even added to soups and salads. The key is finding wild shrimp harvested from the cleanest cold water sources.

When buying seafood, especially shrimp, look for products certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch can also guide you in the direction of more sustainable seafood choices.

Seafood Watch has rated various seafood sources according to their sustainability and other parameters. Although some of their “Best Choice” shrimp include farmed shrimp (which I absolutely do not recommend), some of the wild-caught shrimp varieties on their good-to-best list that you can consider buying are:1

  • Spot prawns from British Columbia (Canadian Pacific)
  • Coonstripe, northern and sidestripe shrimp, and spot prawns caught off Alaska

When purchasing fresh shrimp, look for those that are shiny and do not have any black spots. They shouldn’t be slimy and should have no ammonia-like odor, which are signs that the shrimp are going bad.2

Before deveining and shelling the shrimp, make sure you rinse them thoroughly. To devein, simply peel the shell using a paring knife and make a shallow slit along the back, from the head to the tail. Look for the black sand vein running along the center of the back. Using the tip of the knife, carefully remove and discard the vein. Rinse again under cold water.

Shrimp cooks very quickly, usually taking two to four minutes (depending on their size). Once they have started to curl up and turned a nice pink or light orange color, they’re ready to eat.

Why Is Chili Garlic Ginger Shrimp Good for You?

Fresh, wild-caught shrimp is an excellent health food that contains various nutrients like:

  • Vitamin B12
  • Tryptophan (an essential amino acid)
  • Healthful fats like omega-3s, saturated fat, and cholesterol
  • Selenium (Research shows that the selenium in shrimp can be well-absorbed by the human body)
  • Astaxanthin
  • High-quality protein (WHFoods3 actually ranks it as the eighth best food source of protein)

The shrimp in this recipe is made even more healthful by the herbs and spices used to flavor it, such as:

Ginger

Not only is ginger a wonderful (and fragrant) addition to your cooking, but it also has a wide array of medicinal properties that can fill several books. That’s why it’s one spice that I recommend having in your kitchen at all times. Ginger is a rich source of antioxidants such as zingerones, gingerols, and shogaols. It also has broad-spectrum antiviral, antibacterial, and antiparasitic properties.

If unpeeled, ginger can stay fresh in your refrigerator for up to three weeks, or in your freezer for six months or longer.

Garlic

Fresh garlic, despite its slightly pungent odor, is a potent herb with antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties although its therapeutic effects may go much further than that. The benefits of garlic come from its sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin. Oligosaccharides, selenium, arginine-rich proteins, and flavonoids also give it its health-promoting qualities.

If stored properly, garlic will stay fresh for about a month. Keep it in an uncovered container away from heat and sunlight, to prevent it from sprouting.

Chilies

The spicy flavor of chilies comes from capsaicin, an odorless and colorless compound that is produced to protect the peppers from fungal attack. When you eat it, it tricks your brain into perceiving heat where it touches your body.

Capsaicin is found to help alleviate pain by depleting your body’s supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that is necessary for transmitting pain signals to your brain. This compound also de-sensitizes your skin’s sensory receptors.

The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of capsaicin may also have some benefits against cancer. For example, it was found that capsaicin suppresses the growth of human prostate cancer cells, but leaves normal cells unharmed. For more about the benefits of eating chilies, read my article “How Chilies Can Be Used to Treat Pain.”

 

Vitamin K2: The Missing Nutrient for Heart and Bone Health

Sun, 06/28/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Most everyone, including many conventional physicians, have begun to appreciate the importance and value of vitamin D. Few, however, recognize the importance of vitamin K2, which is nearly as important as vitamin D.

Dr. Dennis Goodman,1 who was born in South Africa and trained at the University of Cape Town, has multiple board certifications in cardiology (and several subspecialties) and holistic integrative medicine.

After his internship at the Grootte Schuur Hospital—where Dr. Christian Barnard did the first heart transplant in 1967—he came to the US, where he did his cardiology fellowship at the at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, where Dr. Michael DeBakey performed the first bypass surgery.

"I was really very lucky to be in a situation where I had these two cardiac giants as mentors and teachers," he says.

Dr. Goodman is also the chairman of the Department of Integrative Medicine at the New York University (NYU), and has authored the book, Vitamin K2: The Missing Nutrient for Heart and Bone Health. In it, he explains why vitamin K2 is every bit as important as vitamin D.

“For 20 years I was putting stents in; running around day and night at the hospital. When I got called to the emergency room for someone having a heart attack, I was like a fireman putting out a fire in a house.

Sometimes, you were very lucky and could save the house from burning down, and sometimes not.

What I started to realize is that prevention is really the key for us to making the maximum impact. I’ve always been interested in the idea that everything we need to be healthy is provided by the Lord above –namely what’s out there for us to eat.

80 percent of these chronic diseases including atherosclerosis, heart attacks and strokes, diabetes, and obesity are preventable. So I got into the whole idea of learning integrative medicine,” he says.

He got his training in integrative medicine at the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine, and ended up being the chief of cardiology at the Scripps clinic for many years.

“Obviously, when you understand holistic medicine, you understand that so much of what we’re doing, unfortunately, in traditional medicine is procedures, testing, and prescribing drugs, because that’s what we’re taught—and making diagnoses instead of taking care of people who basically may not have a disease, but are not healthy and well.”

As a cardiologist, it's quite appropriate to delve into vitamin K2, as it has two crucial functions: one is in cardiovascular health and the other is in bone restoration.

It performs many other functions as well, but by helping remove calcium from the lining of the blood vessels, vitamin K2 helps prevent occlusions from atherosclerosis.

Vitamin K Basics

Vitamins K1 and K2 are part of a family, but they are very different in their activity and function. Vitamin K1, found in green leafy vegetables, is a fat-soluble vitamin involved in the production of coagulation factors, which are critical for stopping bleeding.

This is why when someone's on a blood thinner such as warfarin, they need to be careful not to take too much vitamin K1, as it will antagonize the effect of drug. Vitamin K2 is very different. There's a complex biochemistry that occurs with K2 involving two enzymes:

  • Matrix Gla-protein (MGP)
  • Osteocalcin

“Gla” is short for glutamic acid. Glutamic acid is imported into the cells in the wall of your arteries, where it binds to calcium and removes it from the lining of your blood vessels.

Once removed from your blood vessel lining, vitamin K2 then facilitates the intergration of that calcium into your bone matrix by handing it over to osteocalcin,. The osteocalcin then helps cement the calcium in place.

Vitamin K2 activates these two proteins. Without it, this transfer process of calcium from your arteries to your bone cannot occur, which raises your risk of arterial calcification.

"Vitamin K2 is like a light switch—it switches on MGP and osteocalcin, which takes calcium out of the arterial wall and keeps it in the bone.

There's so much information showing this relationship between osteoporosis (not having enough calcium in your bones) and having an increased incidence of heart disease. What's actually happening, I think, a lot of patients are vitamin K2-deficient," Dr. Goodman says.

“So now, I tell all patients – especially when they have risk factors for calcification – ‘You’ve got to get vitamin K2 when you take your vitamin D, and your calcium, and magnesium.’ Because we need to make sure that the calcium is going where it’s supposed to go.”

Statins May Increase Arterial Calcification by Depleting Vitamin K2

Besides a vitamin K2-poor diet, certain drugs may affect your vitamin K2 status. Dr. Goodman cites a recent article2 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, which suggests statin drugs may increase calcification in the arteries.

Interestingly enough, another recent study3 published in the Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology shows that statins deplete vitamin K2.

“For me, that is so huge because if that’s true, everybody that is put on a statin, you want to make sure they’re also taking vitamin K2,” Dr. Goodman says.

This is an important observation, considering one in four adults in the US over the age of 40 is on a statin drug. Not only do all of these people need to take a ubiquinol or coenzyme Q10, which is also depleted by the drug, it's quite likely they also need vitamin K2 to avoid cardiovascular harm.

Sources of Vitamin K2

Vitamin K2 is produced by certain bacteria, so the primary food source of vitamin K2 is fermented foods such as natto, a fermented soy product typically sold in Asian grocery stores. Fermented vegetables can be a great source of vitamin K if you ferment your own using a specially-designed starter culture. My Kinetic Culture is high in strains that make vitamin K2. If you would like to learn more about making your own fermented vegetables with a starter culture, you can watch the video and read more on this page.

Please note that not every strain of bacteria makes K2, so not all fermented foods will contain it. For example, most yogurts have almost no vitamin K2. Certain types of cheeses, such as Gouda, Brie, and Edam, are high in K2, while others are not. It really depends on the specific bacteria. Still, it's quite difficult to get enough vitamin K2 from your diet—especially if you do not eat K2-rich fermented foods—so taking a supplement may be a wise move for most people.

How Can You Tell if You're Deficient in Vitamin K2?

The major problem we face when it comes to optimizing vitamin K2 is that, unlike vitamin D, there’s no easy way to screen or test for vitamin K2 sufficiency. Vitamin K2 cannot at present be measured directly, so it’s measured through an indirect assessment of undercarboxylated osteocalcin. This test is still not commercially available, however. “That’s our problem. If that was available, we could start testing and showing people that their levels are low,” Dr. Goodman says.

Without testing, we’re left with looking at various lifestyle factors that predispose you to deficiency. As a general rule, if you have any of the following health conditions, you're likely deficient in vitamin K2:

That said, it's believed that the vast majority of people are in fact deficient these days and would benefit from more K2. One reason for this is very few (Americans in particular) eat enough vitamin K2-rich foods. So, if you do not have any of the health conditions listed, but do NOT regularly eat high amounts of the following foods, then your likelihood of being vitamin K2 deficient is still very high:

  • Certain fermented foods such as natto, or vegetables fermented using a starter culture of vitamin K2-producing bacteria
  • Certain cheeses such as Brie and Gouda (these two are particularly high in K2, containing about 75 mcg per ounce)
  • Grass-fed organic animal products (i.e. egg yolks, butter, dairy)
Different Kinds of Vitamin K2

The vitamin K puzzle is even more complex than differentiating between K1 and K2. There are also several different forms of vitamin K2. The two primary ones—and the only ones available in supplement form—are menaquinone-4 (MK-4) and menaquinone-7 (MK-7). MK-4 has a very short biological half-life—about one hour—making it a poor candidate as a dietary supplement. MK-7 stays in your body longer; its half-life is three days, meaning you have a much better chance of building up a consistent blood level, compared to MK-4.

In supplement form, the MK-4 products are actually synthetic. They are not derived from natural food products containing MK-4. The MK-7– long-chain, natural bacterial-derived vitamin K2– on the other hand comes from a fermentation process, which offers a number of health advantages.

Research4 has shown MK-7 also helps prevent inflammation by inhibiting pro-inflammatory markers produced by white blood cells called monocytes. MK-7 is extracted from the Japanese fermented soy product natto, and since it's longer lasting, you only need to take it once a day. With an MK-4 supplement, you need to take it three times a day. The duration of action is also much longer with MK-7.

As for a clinically useful dosage, some studies have shown as little as 45 micrograms per day is sufficient. Dr. Goodman recommends taking 180 micrograms per day, making sure the K2 is in the form of MK-7. If you're eating natto, all you need is about one teaspoon.

That said, vitamin K2 is non-toxic, so you don't need to worry about overdosing if you get more. Do 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! Last but not least, remember to always take your vitamin K supplement with fat since it is fat-soluble and won't be absorbed without it.

Magnesium Recommendations

Another important nutrient is magnesium, which Dr. Goodman addressed in an earlier book called Magnificent Magnesium: Your Essential Key to a Healthy Heart & More. There are at least 350 enzyme systems in your body that require magnesium for proper function. Perhaps even more importantly, the quartet of calcium, vitamin D, K2, and magnesium all work together synergistically. "They're all in the symphony. You should take them all," Dr. Goodman says. I couldn't agree more, and have discussed this in previous articles.

If you can find a supplement that contains vitamin D, magnesium, and vitamin K2 in combination, that might be ideal, and then add calcium according to your individual needs. One way to get calcium from your diet that doesn't cost you anything extra is to pulverize the eggshell from an organic, pastured egg. I use a coffee grinder to do this. I then add the powdered eggshell to my smoothie. Do be sure the eggs you use are organically raised on pasture though. You do not want to use eggs from chickens raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

Getting back to magnesium, the only people who really need to be concerned about taking too much are those with renal failure. “If your creatinine’s high, or you got renal failure, you can get into trouble with magnesium,” he says. “But everybody else, the only thing that can happen is some loose stools.”

As for the type of magnesium, Dr. Goodman recommends taking magnesium that ends in “ate”: threonate, glycinate, citrate, and dimalate —the latter of which has a slow-release technology (JIGSAW). “I cannot tell you how many people have written to me, e-mailed me, and thanked me because of magnesium supplementation – no more headaches, they’re sleeping at night, no more leg cramps or palpitations. In some patients it actually helped them lose weight. It’s huge,” he says.

More Information

In closing, Dr. Goodman notes, “I really hope that people get the message that we both are trying to send: to be healthy, you’ve actually got to do something about it. You’ve got to get up, think about nutrition, and think about exercise, stress management, and sleep.” In fact, in addition to vitamin K2, we discuss a number of side issues essential to optimal health in this interview, so for additional pointers please listen to the full interview, linked below the condensed video above, or read through the transcript.

I also recommend picking up one or both of Dr. Goodman's books: Vitamin K2: The Missing Nutrient for Heart and Bone Health, and Magnificent Magnesium: Your Essential Key to a Healthy Heart & More to learn more about these two underappreciated nutrients. While going into complex topics, Dr. Goodman's books are easy to read and understand for the layperson.

You'll Never Clean the Inside of Your Ears Again After Reading This

Sat, 06/27/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Many Americans swab their ears with cotton swabs as part of their regular hygiene routine, hoping to remove excess earwax. Yet, there’s nothing unhygienic about earwax and experts strongly recommend against inserting such swabs into your ear canal.

You see, your ears produce earwax for a reason. Known technically as cerumen, it’s produced by glands in your ear canal. Made up mostly of dead skin cells, earwax also contains other substances, including lysozyme, an antibacterial enzyme, fatty acids, alcohols, cholesterol, and squalene.1

Earwax is a substance that’s meant to be in your ears. It aids in your ears’ self-cleaning process, providing protection, lubrication, and antibacterial properties. As explained by the American Hearing Research Foundation:2

Too little ear wax increases the risk of infection… at least ten antimicrobial peptides are present in ear wax preventing bacteria and fungi from growing.”

The Benefits of Ear Wax

If you have too little earwax in your ear canal, your ears may feel dry and itchy. However, just the right amount of earwax helps with:

  • Preventing dust, bacteria, and other germs from entering and damaging your ear
  • Trapping dirt and slowing the growth of bacteria
  • Protecting the skin of your ear canal from becoming irritated by water

Your ears should have a healthy amount of earwax, as they’re a self-cleaning part of your body. Excess earwax should move out of your ear canal automatically, as cells there actually migrate naturally.

The removal of earwax is also helped along by movements of your jaw (talking, chewing, etc.), and once it reaches your outer ear it will simply fall out or be removed when you shower or bathe.

Why You Shouldn’t Stick Cotton Swabs in Your Ears

According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF), under ideal circumstances your ear canals should never have to be cleaned. They state:3

“Unfortunately, many people mistakenly believe that earwax should be routinely removed for personal hygiene. This is not so.

In fact, attempting to remove earwax with cotton-tipped swabs, bobby pins, or other probing devices can result in damage to the ear, including trauma, impaction of the earwax, or even temporary deafness. These objects only push the wax in deeper, and can block the ear canal entirely.”

Under normal circumstances, earwax is only produced in the outer one-third of your ear canal. One of the primary risks of cotton swabs is they can push the earwax into the deeper part of your ear canal, near the eardrum. As AAO-HNSF noted:4

“When a patient has wax blockage against the eardrum, it is often because he has been probing the ear with such things as cotton-tipped applicators, bobby pins, or twisted napkin corners. These objects only push the wax in deeper.”

When earwax is pushed deep into your ear where it doesn’t belong, it can bring fungus, bacteria, and viruses from the outer ear into the inner ear, increasing the risk of infection. It can also block your ear canal, leading to hearing loss, or even cause a ruptured eardrum.

It’s a vicious cycle, too, because the more you rub your ears with cotton swabs, the more histamine will be released, which makes your skin irritated and inflamed. This, in turn, may make you want to insert a cotton swab again, leading to additional dryness and irritation.5

There’s even research showing earwax impaction may alter cognitive function in the elderly via its affect on hearing. In one study, when impacted earwax was removed hearing improved significantly, as did the participants’ cognitive function.6

Put Down the Cotton Swab – Try This Instead

Most people do not need to clean their ears regularly. However, the following symptoms may indicate you have an excess of earwax buildup that needs attention:7

Noticeable wax accumulation Tinnitus (ringing in your ears) Severe itching in your ears Frequent earaches Partial loss of hearing Foul odor in your ears Discharge from your ears A feeling of fullness in your ears A sensation your ears are plugged

An ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor, or otolaryngologist, can remove earwax using a special suction, miniature instruments, and a microscope. If your eardrum is perforated, manual removal by a physician is recommended, however in most other cases you can clear earwax blockages at home.

The simplest way to do this is to first soften the wax by placing a few drops of olive oil, coconut oil, or water in your ear. Then, pour a capful of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide in each ear to flush the wax out. It’s worth noting that using plain sterile water, or a sterile saline solution, to soften earwax works just as well as oil or over-the-counter eardrops.

As an aside, the hydrogen peroxide trick (pouring a capful of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide in your ears) also works remarkably well at resolving respiratory infections, like colds and flu. You will hear some bubbling, which is completely normal, and possibly feel a slight stinging sensation. Wait until the bubbling and stinging subside (usually 5 to 10 minutes) then drain onto a tissue and repeat with the other ear.

If You’re Still Having Trouble With Wax Buildup…

If the home remedies don’t seem to be enough, high-pressure irrigation of your ear canal with a syringe may be necessary to remove troublesome wax. This should only be done by a professional, as if it’s done improperly it can damage your ear drum. Additionally, you should not irrigate your ears if you have diabetes, a perforated eardrum, a tube in your eardrum, or if your immune system is weakened.

If you suffer from a more serious impaction or you can’t get results at home, you may need to get the earwax removed by a physician who can manually remove the wax using microsuction, an otoscope, and other appropriate instruments.

Earwax Buildup Is Often a Sign of Omega-3 Deficiency

While most people’s ears are self-cleaning, there are some who seem to have trouble with excess wax buildup on a regular basis. If this applies to you, you may want to regularly soften and remove your earwax using peroxide, or visit a specialist every six to 12 months for a routine preventive ear cleaning.

However, you will also want to be sure to increase your intake of omega-3 fats, as frequent excess buildup of earwax can oftentimes be traced back to an omega-3 deficiency.

Often, the remedy is quite simple: eat more omega-3s or take a high-quality animal-based omega-3 supplement like krill oil. Good dietary sources of omega-3 include sardines, anchovies, and wild-caught Alaskan salmon.

Once you’ve cleared out any excess buildup or impaction, and are making sure you’re getting sufficient amounts of omega-3, it will normally prevent a recurrence. If the wax does return, it’s a clue that you have a serious omega-3 fat deficiency, and you may want to consult with a natural health care practitioner who can help ensure you’re getting the proper daily dose.

The Following Ear-Cleaning Methods Are Not Recommended

In addition to avoiding cotton swabs or other probing objects to clean your ears, AAO-HNSF also recommends avoiding the use of oral jet irrigators and ear candles. Ear candling involves putting a hollow cone-shaped device or “candle,” typically made of linen or cotton soaked in wax or paraffin, in your ear canal and lighting it on fire.

The person undergoing the procedure lies on his or her side. A paper plate or other collection device is placed above the ear, and the candle is inserted through a hole in the plate into the ear canal. The candle is lit and trimmed as it burns down.

After the candle burns down and is removed from the ear, a cotton swab is used to clean visible wax from the ear, and oil is sometimes applied as a finishing touch. Proponents and practitioners of candling maintain the procedure removes wax and other impurities from your ear.

The process by which this purportedly happens is as the smoke moves down the candle into your ear and back out again, a vacuum is created that pulls out wax and other debris from your ear into the hollow candle. However, research published in the journal Laryngoscope measured this pressure and concluded that no negative pressure was created.8 The same research also revealed that no earwax was removed during candling, and that candle wax was actually deposited in some test subjects’ ears.

Additionally, serious injuries may result from ear candling, including external burns, ear canal obstruction with candle wax, and even a perforated eardrum. Remember, earwax has been designed by nature as a cleaning mechanism for your ears. For most, the wax moves through the ear canal and eventually makes it to the outside, taking any dirt and other accumulated matter with it. Typically, only earwax that has reached the opening of your ear should be removed.

A 4th Grader's Short Documentary About School Lunch

Sat, 06/27/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Zachary Maxell was not your ordinary fourth grader. Zachary became disenchanted with the school lunches at his large public elementary school in New York City.

Every morning, he read the mouth-watering descriptions on the city’s online lunch menu to see what delectable cuisine was to be served that day.

Zach looked forward to those lunches that read as if they were coming from one of the city’s finest restaurants, but every day his heart sank when he was handed a tray of pale, lifeless, and ultimately tasteless food that was nothing like the advertisement—not by a long shot.

Irritated, hungry, and determined, Zachary decided to take matters into his own hands and went undercover.

Armed with a concealed video camera and a “healthy dose of rebellious courage,” he embarked on a covert mission to collect video footage of lunch—narrowly escaping encounters with the Lunch Lady that would end with embarrassing marches to the principal’s office.

Six months and 75 school lunches later, Zachary turned his secret footage into a short and funny but very eye-opening documentary named “Yuck!,” about New York City’s school lunch program.1

Serving Up Lies

Based on his courageous sleuthing, Zachary Maxwell gathered up enough evidence to allow a comparison between the City’s online advertisements of school lunches and what was actually served.

Was the City being truthful about the “delicious and nutritious” meals they advertised? Hardly!

Far from the mouth-watering culinary representations posted online, school lunches were highly repetitious, consisting mostly of processed foods and notably lacking in fresh fruits or vegetables. No dishes were made in house—meals were essentially a tour of factory food.

Although this was a sampling from only one school, the food quality can probably be generalized to the majority of school lunches across the country. Based upon his data, Zachary determined the following about his school lunch program:

  • “Two or more advertised items” were served only 51 percent of the time
  • “All advertised items” were served only 16 percent of the time
  • Pizza or cheese sticks were served 28 percent of the time, regardless of what the menu advertised

What was Zachary’s ultimate conclusion? The best lunches come in a brown paper bag.

Brown Bagging Is Likely Your Child’s Healthiest Option

Packing a healthy lunch for your child is probably a good idea, as the federal lunch program is in dire need of an overhaul. Any system in which pizza and French fries qualify as “vegetables” is unlikely to offer much nutrition.

Today, the National School Lunch Program operates in over 100,000 private and public schools, as well as residential child care institutions.

In the 2006 book Lunch Lessons, Cooper and Holmes write that, under the current school lunch program, French fries represent 46 percent of “vegetable servings” consumed by children ages two to 19, nationwide.

Skim chocolate milk is the number one school lunch beverage. The rationale for this comes from the ill-conceived plan to restrict your child’s fats—even healthy fats—with complete lack of regard for sugar. The USDA believes substituting sugar for healthy fat in milk is “worth it” to get kids to drink milk.

However, adding sugar and removing healthy saturated fat is a recipe for obesity, heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases, which is what we’ve been seeing in children at increasingly younger ages.

This of course completely ignores the fact that the milk is from CAFO animals given GMO feed antibiotics and hormones. Then this dangerous fluid is pasteurized to further destroy its nutritional value.

The USDA’s Smart Snacks in School program gives lip service to offering “healthy choices.” But if you look at this Smart Snacks Infographic,2 you can see that the "smarter, healthier" choices are actually processed foods, including junk foods like tortilla chips and artificially flavored water.

Most school lunches are heavily reliant on high-energy, low-nutrient-value processed foods because they’re cheaper. In 2011, the US spent more than twice as much on air conditioning for troops in Afghanistan than on the National School Lunch Program,3 and today’s childhood obesity rates reflect it.

That said, it’s not simply a matter of inadequate funding—it’s also a matter of how these funds are used.

STUDY: Kids More Likely to Be Obese if They Eat School Lunches

Over the past 14 years, severe obesity has increased among children, according to a 2014 study published in JAMA Pediatrics.4 In NYC, one in five kindergarteners is obese.5

Besides obesity, a poor diet makes kids less academically competitive. In one study, fifth-graders who ate fast food four or more times a week showed 20 percent lower test score gains by the eighth grade.

Are school lunches directly contributing to the obesity epidemic? If you look at the results of a 2010 study,6,7 the answer is yes. More than 1,000 sixth graders in Michigan who regularly ate school lunches were found 29 percent more likely to be obese than those who brought lunches from home. Specifically, the kids who ate school lunches:

  • Were more likely to be overweight or obese (38.2 percent vs. 24.7 percent)
  • Were more likely to consume two or more sugary drinks a day (19 percent vs. 6.8 percent)
  • Were less likely to eat at least two servings of vegetables a day (39.9 percent vs. 50.3 percent)
  • Were less likely to eat at least two servings of fruits a day (32.6 percent vs. 49.4 percent)
  • Were less likely to participate in sports or moderate exercise, and spent more time watching TV, playing video games, and using computers outside of school
Obesity Rates Fall When Access to Junk Food Is Limited

School policies that limit access to junk food have been demonstrated to make a difference. An article in Mother Jones8 cites a 2012 study9 by the University of Illinois that compared the weight gain of kids in states that limit junk food availability in schools with those that don’t. Students who attend school in states that limit junk food sales gained an average of 0.44 body mass index units (2.25 fewer pounds for a 5 foot tall child) less than adolescents in states with no policies.

The study also found that obese fifth graders living in states with stronger laws were more likely to reach a healthy weight by eighth grade than those living in states with no laws. Mother Jones cited another study &that found kids living in states with restricted junk food sales consume 160 fewer calories per day than kids in states with no such restrictions. The message here is clear: the accessibility of junk food substantially influences kids’ choices—and therefore their health. This is a commentary on the massive effectiveness of junk food marketing, which heavily targets children—even on the school grounds itself.

Eighty percent of public schools have contracts with Coke or Pepsi.10 Coca-Cola paid the Rockford, Illinois school district $4 million upfront and an additional $350K per year to sell its beverages in its schools. When schools aren’t forced to provide healthy food, they usually don’t, according to a 2015 study published in JAMA Pediatrics.11 Only a small number of schools offered healthy food options before the USDA federally mandated them under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

But for the small percentage of kids who did attend schools that revamped nutrition, researchers saw positive trends for obesity rates, suggesting that wider compliance could really make a difference. Even thought new nutritional standards were signed into law, schools have had a difficult time implementing these guidelines. In fact, the entire issue has become a political lightening rod between special interest groups and food industry lobbyists. French fries will not go down without a fight! If you want a detailed account of the resultant school lunch wars, this New York Times article is quite comprehensive.12

Vending Machines, Friend or Foe?

Having readily accessible vending machines fully stocked with junk food on school campuses makes matters worse by giving kids the opportunity to make even more unhealthy choices. Vending machines are found across the US in:13

  • 43 percent of elementary schools
  • 74 percent of middle schools
  • 98 percent of high schools

The results of a 2004 Gallup Youth Survey reported that 67 percent of high school students purchased food from vending machines, but I suspect the number is probably much higher today.14 On a positive note, almost half of all school districts have now banned junk food from vending machines,15 and some now offer fresh fruits and vegetables. Studies show that students will not choose healthy foods if junk foods are an option—the temptation is too great. However, studies also suggest that removing vending machines altogether does not work, as kids will obtain junk food from other places. When vending machines offer ONLY healthy choices, kids will buy those items—in other words, they adapt.16,17

How American School Lunches Stack Up, Next to France

Kids actually appreciate real food. A study18 recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Childhood Obesity found that, just like our star fourth-grader Zachary Maxwell, 70 percent of kids actually prefer healthier lunches.19 But where does a kid have to go to get a tasty, nutritious lunch? Outside the US, it would seem.

Consider what kids are served for lunch in France.20 There, almost all foods are prepared from scratch, right in the school kitchen. Main dishes, vegetables, soups, salads, and desserts are prepared daily, typically from local sources—you won’t find any frozen chicken fingers or pink slime burgers in French cafeterias. The only beverage served to schoolchildren there is filtered tap water. French children also get three recess periods per day—two 15-minute and one 60-minute recess—and the majority walk or bike to school. Given this, it’s not surprising that French kids aren’t fat. If you want to see what kids eat for lunch in other parts of the world, Business Insider has prepared an interesting slideshow.21

They’re Calling Off Recess... Seriously?

Physical education classes are at a historic low, often the first to get hit by budget cuts, but worse still, some schools are now eliminating recess.22,23 For a nation with childhood obesity rates already through the roof, this is insane! Why cut recess? Student performance on mandatory standardized tests often dictates teachers’ pay, and in some cases their jobs. So, many teachers are requiring students to spend playground time in the classroom, preparing for these tests.

Exercise is essential for children’s physical and mental health, as well as their social development. Children who exercise have better math and reading scores, improved concentration, stronger bones, better sleep, and lower risk of obesity and diabetes, as well as a mountain of other health benefits. The last thing we need to do is decrease exercise time and set them up for a potential of future inactivity that will decimate their health.

A Few Basic Tenets of Raising a Healthy, Happy Child

You have the unique opportunity (and responsibility) for teaching your child what “real food” is—particularly if his school is setting the opposite example. The following are a few basic lifestyle strategies you can model and teach your child:

  1. Proper food choices: Focus on eating a variety of locally sourced, organic whole foods, and consume a large percentage of them raw. Avoid refined sugar, especially high fructose corn syrup and other processed forms of fructose, sodas, pre-packaged foods and sports drinks. Make sure your child gets ample healthy fats, such as coconut oil, raw grass-fed butter, raw nuts, avocados, etc. Introduce your child to naturally fermented foods, which should become a permanent part of his diet. And if your child is not getting an acceptable school lunch, pack one at home.
  2. Daily exercise: Limit your child’s indoor time, especially in front of the TV, computer, and other electronic devices. Overweight and obese children need at least 30 minutes of exercise each day, and may benefit from closer to 60 minutes. Encourage your kids to play outside—and don’t be afraid of the dirt! Playing outside has the additional benefit of sun exposure to optimize vitamin D levels.
  3. Drink plenty of pure water: Introduce your child to the concept of fresh water as a beverage, as opposed to sodas and other commercial drinks.
  4. High-quality sleep: Children who sleep more tend to weigh less and have lower levels of the hormone leptin, better insulin sensitivity, and fewer food cravings than children who sleep less.
  5. Help your child manage stress: Stress affects kids as well as adults, so it’s important to teach your child how to manage it. One great technique that’s simple enough for kids to learn is EFT, or Emotional Freedom Technique (tapping). EFT can also benefit you, as a parent, to cope with the stresses of parenting. For more information, please visit my EFT page.
  6. Avoid as many chemicals and toxins as possible: Hormone-mimicking chemicals in common food and household products are known contributors to precocious puberty and other endocrine problems in children. Replace your child’s personal products (shampoos, lotions, soaps, cosmetics, etc.) and cleaning products with greener alternatives.
  7. Make informed choices about your child’s medical care: I cannot impress upon you strongly enough the importance of your active involvement in all aspects of your child’s healthcare, including vaccination.

Scientists Find Direct Link Between Brain and Immune System

Thu, 06/25/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

A new discovery by a team of researchers from the University of Virginia (UVA) “may call for a reassessment of basic assumptions in neuroimmunology” (a field involved in the study of the nervous system and the immune system).1

A direct link between the brain and the immune system, via lymphatic vessels that were not previously known to exist, was found. Similar to blood vessels, which carry blood throughout your body, lymphatic vessels carry immune cells throughout your body.

However, it was long believed that such vessels stopped before reaching the brain. The new discovery, which detected lymphatic vessels beneath a mouse’s skull, could open new avenues for understanding autism, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, and many other diseases.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that your brain, your immune system and your gut microbes are intricately linked. Autism, for instance, is associated with gastrointestinal problems and potentially an over-reaction in the immune system. As reported by io9:2

Moreover, neurological diseases like multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s have long been linked to changes in immune system function, and autoimmune diseases of the gut, like Crohn’s disease, correlate with psychiatric illness.”

It wasn’t always clear how such connections occurred, but now both a gut-brain axis and a pathway from your immune system into your brain have been uncovered.

‘They’ll Have to Change the Textbooks’

This was the reaction of Kevin Lee, PhD, chairman of the UVA Department of Neuroscience, when he heard of the new finding.3 The lymphatic vessels were detected in the meninges, the protective membranes that cover the brain, and found to closely follow blood vessels.

The study’s lead author, Jonathan Kipnis, a professor in UVA’s Department of Neurosciences and the director of UVA’s Center for Brain Immunology, highlighted the importance of the discovery:4

“We believe that for every neurological disease that has an immune component to it, these vessels may play a major role. Hard to imagine that these vessels would not be involved in a [neurological] disease with an immune component…

In Alzheimer’s [for example], there are accumulations of big protein chunks in the brain. We think they may be accumulating in the brain because they’re not being efficiently removed by these vessels.”

It makes sense. Why wouldn’t your brain have a direct conduit to your immune system, after all? And there have been clues along the way. The brain was once considered to be free of normal immune surveillance, which was thought to be necessary, for starters, because swelling (a normal immune response) inside the brain can be deadly.

However, considering the brain “immune privileged” was overly simplistic. According to io9:5

“Careful studies have shown that the brain does interact with the peripheral immune system, albeit in unique ways. Immune cells do, somehow, circulate through the brain, and antigens—which would normally stoke an immune response—do drain from the brain into the lymph nodes.”

The newly discovered lymphatic vessels in the brain indeed suggest there’s an intimate and essential connection between the brain and the immune system that is only beginning to be uncovered.

Microbes in Your Gut Influence Your Brain, Too

It’s not only your immune system that has a direct line to your brain. Your gut, which is teeming with microbial life, also communicates with your brain, via what’s known as the “gut-brain axis.”

In fact, in addition to the brain in your head, embedded in the wall of your gut is your enteric nervous system (ENS), which works both independently of and in conjunction with the brain in your head.

This communication between your "two brains" runs both ways and is the pathway for how foods affect your mood or why anxiety can make you sick to your stomach, for instance. However, this gut-brain connection is about far more than just comfort food or butterflies in your stomach. According to Scientific American:6

"The gut-brain axis seems to be bidirectional—the brain acts on gastrointestinal and immune functions that help to shape the gut's microbial makeup, and gut microbes make neuroactive compounds, including neurotransmitters and metabolites that also act on the brain."

This also explains why changes in your gut bacteria are linked to brain disorders and more, including depression. Jane Foster, PhD, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at McMaster University, described to Medicine Net the multiple ways your gut microbes communicate with your brain:7

One is via the enteric nervous system, the part of the nervous system that governs the digestive tract. Also, gut bacteria can alter how the immune system works, which can affect the brain. The gut bacteria are involved in digestion, too, and the substances they make when they break down food can affect the brain.

And under certain conditions, such as stress or infection, potentially disease-causing gut bacteria, or bad bugs, can leak through the bowel wall and enter the bloodstream, enabling them and the chemicals they make to talk with the brain through cells in blood vessel walls.

Bacteria could also communicate directly with cells in certain regions of the brain, including those located near areas involved in stress and mood…”

Altering Your Gut Bacteria May Influence Your Mood

A study published in the peer-reviewed journal Gastroenterology enlisted 36 women between the ages of 18 and 55 who were divided into three groups:8

  • The treatment group ate yogurt containing several probiotics thought to have a beneficial impact on intestinal health, twice a day for one month
  • Another group ate a "sham" product that looked and tasted like the yogurt but contained no probiotics
  • Control group ate no product at all

Before and after the four-week study, participants underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, both while in a state of rest and in response to an "emotion-recognition task."

For the latter, the women were shown a series of pictures of people with angry or frightened faces, which they had to match to other faces showing the same emotions.

"This task, designed to measure the engagement of affective and cognitive brain regions in response to a visual stimulus, was chosen because previous research in animals had linked changes in gut flora to changes in affective behaviors," UCLA explained.9

Interestingly, compared to the controls, the women who consumed probiotic yogurt had decreased activity in two brain regions that control central processing of emotion and sensation:

  • The insular cortex (insula), which plays a role in functions typically linked to emotion (including perception, motor control, self-awareness, cognitive functioning, and interpersonal experience) and the regulation of your body's homeostasis
  • The somatosensory cortex, which plays a role in your body's ability to interpret a wide variety of sensations

During the resting brain scan, the treatment group also showed greater connectivity between a region known as the "periaqueductal grey" and areas of the prefrontal cortex associated with cognition. In contrast, the control group showed greater connectivity of the periaqueductal grey to emotion- and sensation-related regions.

‘Psychobiotics’ for Better Mental Health?

The research is growing showing that your body’s brain and microbes are intricately linked. In December 2011, the Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility reported the novel finding that the probiotic known as Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 may help normalize anxiety-like behavior in mice with infectious colitis.10

Separate research also found the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus had a marked effect on GABA (an inhibitory neurotransmitter that is significantly involved in regulating many physiological and psychological processes) levels in certain brain regions and lowered the stress-induced hormone corticosterone, resulting in reduced anxiety- and depression-related behavior.11

Just as you have neurons in your brain, you also have neurons in your gut -- including neurons that produce neurotransmitters like serotonin, which is also found in your brain. In fact, the greatest concentration of serotonin, which is involved in mood control, depression and aggression, is found in your intestines, not your brain.

Psychobiotics or “bacteria for your brain” are even being used to successfully treat depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric problems,12 although more research is needed to determine which probiotics, and in what doses, work best for different mood disorders.

Currently, researchers are exploring so-called “magic bullet” antibiotics that are able to target specific “bad” bacteria while leaving good bugs unharmed. Fecal transplants are also being increasingly explored as a way to achieve a healthy microbial balance.

The Inflammatory Connection Between Your Gut and Your Brain

Your gut is also the starting point for inflammation—it’s actually the gatekeeper for your inflammatory response. According to psychoneuroimmunologist Kelly Brogan, your gut’s microorganisms trigger the production of cytokines. Cytokines are involved in regulating your immune system’s response to inflammation and infection. Much like hormones, cytokines are signaling molecules that aid cell-to-cell communication, telling your cells where to go when your inflammatory response is initiated.

Most of the signals between your gut and your brain travel along your vagus nerve—about 90 percent of them.13 Vagus is Latin for “wandering,” aptly named as this long nerve travels from your skull down through your chest and abdomen, branching to multiple organs. Cytokine messengers produced in your gut cruise up to your brain along the “vagus nerve highway.” Once in your brain, the cytokines tell your microglia (the immune cells in your brain) to perform certain functions, such as producing neurochemicals.

Some of these have negative effects on your mitochondria, which can impact energy production and apoptosis (cell death), as well as adversely impacting the very sensitive feedback system that controls your stress hormones, including cortisol. So, this inflammatory response that started in your gut travels to your brain, which then builds on it and sends signals to the rest of your body in a complex feedback loop. The take-home message is this: your body’s parts are intricately connected, and the health of your gut is of utmost importance to the health of your brain and that of your immune system.

‘Nutritional Psychiatry’ for Your Brain Health

Coming back full-circle to your brain health, consuming naturally fermented foods is one of the best ways to optimize your microbiome, which in turn may optimize the health of your brain. Fermented foods are also a key component of the GAPS protocol, a diet designed to heal and seal your gut. Scientific studies have revealed a positive-feedback loop between the foods you crave and the composition of your microbiome, which depends on those nutrients for survival. So, if you’re craving sugar and refined carbohydrates, you may actually be feeding a voracious army of Candida!

Once you’ve begun eliminating foods that damage your beneficial flora, start incorporating fermented foods such as sauerkraut, naturally fermented pickles, miso, tempeh, and fermented dairy made from raw, unpasteurized grass-fed milk (yogurt, kefir, etc.). These probiotic-foods will help heal, repopulate, and “re-educate” your gut. An article in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology makes the case that properly controlled fermentation amplifies the specific nutrient and phytochemical content of foods, thereby improving brain health, both physical and mental. The authors wrote:14

“The consumption of fermented foods may be particularly relevant to the emerging research linking traditional dietary practices and positive mental health. The extent to which traditional dietary items may mitigate inflammation and oxidative stress may be controlled, at least to some degree, by microbiota.”

They go on to say that the microbes associated with fermented foods (for example, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria species) may also influence your brain health via direct and indirect pathways, which paves the way for new scientific investigations in the area of “nutritional psychiatry.” Developing a healthy gut flora begins at birth. Childbirth and breastfeeding set the stage for what organisms are going to inhabit your baby’s body. Therefore, if you’re a mother-to-be, it’s important that you optimize your own microflora, as you will be passing it along to your child.

The good news is, fermented vegetables are easy to make in your own kitchen. They are also the most cost-effective way to get high-quality probiotics in your diet. Your goal should be to consume one-quarter to one-half cup of fermented veggies with each meal, but you may need to work up to this amount. Consider starting with just a teaspoon or two a few times a day, and increase as tolerated.

If that is too much (perhaps your body is severely compromised), you can even begin by drinking a teaspoon of the brine from the fermented veggies, which is rich in the same beneficial microbes. You may also want to consider a high-potency probiotic supplement, but realize that there is no substitute for the real food.

Certain Heartburn Drugs May Increase Your Risk of Heart Attack

Wed, 06/24/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Are you among the 20 million1 Americans taking an acid inhibiting drug to treat your heartburn?

If so, please be aware that for most the risks far outweigh the benefits for There are plenty of alternative effective strategies to eliminate heartburn without serious side effects.

Previous research2,3,4,5,6,7 clearly shows that proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid, are severely overprescribed and misused.

Indeed, PPIs are among the most widely prescribed drugs today, with annual sales of about $14 billion8--this despite the fact that they were never intended to treat heartburn in the first place.

Proton Pump Inhibitors Were Not Designed to Treat Heartburn

PPIs, the most powerful class of antacid drugs, were actually designed to treat a very limited range of severe problems,9 such as bleeding ulcers, Zollinger-Ellison syndrome (a rare condition that causes excess stomach acid production), and severe acid reflux, where an endoscopy has confirmed your esophagus is damaged.

PPIs were never intended for people with heartburn, and according to Mitchell Katz, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health,10 "about 60 to 70 percent of people taking these drugs have mild heartburn and shouldn't be on them."

If you're taking a PPI drug to treat your heartburn, understand that you're treating a symptom only; you are in no way addressing the underlying cause. And, by doing so, you're exposing yourself to other potentially more dangerous health problems, courtesy of the drug itself.

These drugs were initially released during the first years of my practice in the late '80s. It is important to note that, these drugs could only be obtained with a prescription and were not recommended to use for more than ONE WEEK. Today, they're sold over the counter and frequently used continuously by many!

The recommendation is to use them for a maximum of two weeks at a time, no more than three times per year, but many ignore this and stay on them far longer, which could have serious consequences. For example, reported side effects of PPI drugs include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Bone loss
  • Hip fractures
  • Infection with Clostridium difficile, a harmful intestinal bacteria (this risk is particularly heightened in children11)

It's also important to realize that while PPIs suppress the production of stomach acid—which in some severe cases may be warranted, short-term—the vast majority (about 95 percent) of heartburn cases are not caused by too much stomach acid, but rather from having too little.

Hence taking these drugs will actually worsen your condition over time... Reducing stomach acid also diminishes your primary defense mechanism against food-borne pathogens, thereby increasing your risk of food poisoning. PPIs simply do nothing to treat the underlying cause of ulcer pain.

PPIs May Raise Your Risk for Heart Attack

More recent research12,13 has also linked PPIs with an increased risk for heart attack, even if you have no prior history of cardiovascular disease. Lead author Nigam H. Shah of Stanford University in California told Reuters Health:14

"[G]iven the underlying biology and the effect of these drugs in reducing nitric oxide in the blood vessel walls, the observed association is not super surprising..."

However, he also noted that: "Although the results are compelling, this study does not prove that PPIs cause MI [myocardial infarction]..."

What he's referring to is that nitric oxide (NO) has the effect of relaxing your blood vessels, so by reducing the amount of NO in your blood vessel walls, PPI's may raise your risk of a heart attack.

To assess whether the use of PPIs were associated with a heightened cardiovascular risk among the general population, the team mined clinical data from more than 16 million medical records on 2.9 million patients.

This revealed that patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) who took PPIs had a 16 percent increased risk of heart attack. Moreover, as reported by Scientific American:15

"Survival analysis in a prospective cohort found a two-fold increased risk of cardiovascular mortality in PPI users... H2 blockers, which include famotidine (Pepcid AC) and ranitidine (Zantac), were not associated with increased cardiovascular risk...

"Consistent with our pre-clinical findings that PPIs may adversely impact vascular function, our data-mining study supports the association of PPI exposure with risk for MI in the general population," the authors write."

What Causes Heartburn?

Before we get into treatment, let's review the actual causes of heartburn, as this will help explain why acid blockers are so detrimental. "Heartburn," also referred to as acid reflux, is characterized by a burning sensation originating behind your breastbone, sometimes traveling up into your throat.

Heartburn is a hallmark symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also known as peptic ulcer disease. In some cases, this burning pain can be severe enough to be mistaken for a heart attack. But what's responsible for this painful effect?

After food passes through your esophagus into your stomach, a muscular valve called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) closes, preventing food or acid to move back up. Acid reflux occurs when the LES relaxes inappropriately, allowing acid from your stomach to flow (reflux) backward into your esophagus.

But the conventional rationale that acid reflux is caused by excessive amounts of acid in your stomach is incorrect. Excessive acid production is actually extremely rare, and the vast majority of acid reflux cases are in fact related to:

  • Hiatal hernia16
  • Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) imbalance

In the early 1980s, Dr. Barry Marshall, an Australian physician, discovered that an organism called helicobacter pylori (initially called campylobacter) can contribute to a chronic low-level inflammation of your stomach lining, which is largely responsible for producing many of the symptoms of acid reflux. One of the explanations for why suppressing stomach acid is so ineffective—and there are over 16,000 articles in the medical literature attesting to this—is that when you decrease the amount of acid in your stomach, you suppress your body's ability to kill the helicobacter bacteria. So suppressing stomach acid production only tends to just worsen and perpetuate the condition.

While it would seem logical to attempt to eradicate this organism as Dr. Marshall suggested (and eventually received the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1995), this is clearly not the ideal approach. We now understand that helicobacter bacteria can actually be part of your normal healthy microbiome. It is only when it becomes imbalanced by other bacteria that it becomes a problem. This typically occurs as a result of the poor food choices in a Western diet.

How to Normalize Your Body's Production of Stomach Acid

Additionally, contrary to popular belief, heartburn is often associated with having too little stomach acid to begin with, and one simple strategy to address this deficiency is to swap out processed table salt for an unprocessed version like Himalayan salt. By consuming enough of the raw material, you will encourage your body to make sufficient amounts of hydrochloric acid (stomach acid) naturally. Himalayan salt will not only provide you with the chloride your body needs to make hydrochloric acid, it also contains over 80 trace minerals your body needs to perform optimally, biochemically.

Research17 has also shown that sauerkraut or cabbage juice is among the strongest stimulants for your body to produce stomach acid. Another benefit is that it can provide you with valuable bacteria to help balance and nourish your gut. Having a few teaspoons of cabbage juice before eating, or better yet, fermented cabbage juice from sauerkraut, will do wonders to improve your digestion. Fresh raw cabbage juice can also be very useful to heal resistant ulcers.

Another option is to take a betaine hydrochloric supplement, which is available in health food stores without prescription. You'll want to take as many as you need to get the slightest burning sensation and then decrease by one capsule. This will help your body to better digest your food, and will also help kill the helicobacter and normalize your symptoms. Now, while hiatal hernia and H.pylori infection are unrelated, many who have a hiatal hernia also have H. pylori18 and associated symptoms. If you have a hiatal hernia, physical therapy on the area may work, and many chiropractors are skilled in this adjustment.

Important Advice when Quitting PPIs

While I strongly advise you to quit using PPIs, getting off them is not easy and you simply can't quit them cold turkey without a relapse and severe pain, as they actually worsen the condition the longer you are on them. It is a perfect scenario for the drug companies that get you hooked, as you can't stop them without being in misery. These drugs promote both tolerance and dependence, so you have to gradually wean yourself off them.

To minimize this risk, you can gradually decrease the dose you're taking, and once you get down to the lowest dose of the proton pump inhibitor, you can start substituting with an over-the-counter H2 blocker like Tagamet, Cimetidine, Zantac, or Raniditine. Then gradually wean off the H2 blocker over the next several weeks. While weaning yourself off these drugs, start implementing the lifestyle modifications discussed below to help eliminate your heartburn once and for all.

Safe and Effective Strategies to Eliminate Heartburn and Acid Reflux

Ultimately, the answer to heartburn and acid indigestion is to restore your natural gastric balance and function and to do that, you need to address your gut health. The most important step is to eliminate processed foods and sugars as they are a surefire way to exacerbate acid reflux. They also alter your gut microbiome and promote the growth of pathogenic microbes. So be sure to eat lots of fresh vegetables and other unprocessed organic foods. Food allergies can also be a contributing factor to acid reflux, so eliminate items such as caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.

Reseeding your gut with beneficial bacteria, either from traditionally fermented foods or a high-quality probiotic supplement is also important, as this will not only help balance your bowel flora, it can also help eliminate helicobacter bacteria naturally. Probiotics and fermented foods, especially fermented vegetables, also aid in proper digestion and assimilation of your food. Other helpful strategies to get your heartburn under control include the following suggestions, drawn from a variety of sources, including everydayroots.com, which lists 15 different natural remedies for heartburn;19 as well as research from the University of Maryland School of Medicine,20 the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center,21 and others.22

Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar Acid reflux typically results from having too little acid in your stomach. You can easily improve the acid content of your stomach by taking one tablespoon of raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar in a large glass of water. Betaine Another option is to take a betaine hydrochloric supplement, which is available in health food stores without prescription. You'll want to take as many as you need to get the slightest burning sensation and then decrease by one capsule. This will help your body to better digest your food, and will also help kill the H. pylori bacteria. Baking soda One-half to one full teaspoon of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) in an eight-ounce glass of water may ease the burn of acid reflux as it helps neutralize stomach acid. I would not recommend this as a regular solution but it can sure help in an emergency when you are in excruciating pain. Aloe juice The juice of the aloe plant naturally helps reduce inflammation, which may ease symptoms of acid reflux. Drink about 1/2 cup of aloe vera juice before meals. If you want to avoid its laxative effect, look for a brand that has removed the laxative component. Ginger root Ginger has been found to have a gastroprotective effect by blocking acid and suppressing helicobacter pylori.23 According to a 2007 study,24 it's also far superior to lansoprazole for preventing the formation of ulcers, exhibiting six- to eight-fold greater potency over the drug! This is perhaps not all that surprising, considering the fact that ginger root has been traditionally used against gastric disturbances since ancient times.

Add two or three slices of fresh ginger root to two cups of hot water. Let steep for about half an hour. Drink about 20 minutes or so before your meal. Vitamin D Vitamin D is important for addressing any infectious component. Once your vitamin D levels are optimized, you're also going to optimize your production of about 200 antimicrobial peptides that will help your body eradicate any infection that shouldn't be there.

As I've discussed in many previous articles, you can increase your vitamin D levels through sensible sun exposure, or through the use of a tanning bed. If neither of those are available, you can take an oral vitamin D3 supplement; just remember to also increase your vitamin K2 intake. Astaxanthin This exceptionally potent antioxidant was found to reduce symptoms of acid reflux in patients when compared to a placebo, particularly in those with pronounced helicobacter pylori infection.25 Best results were obtained at a daily dose of 40 mg. Slippery elm Slippery elm coats and soothes the mouth, throat, stomach, and intestines, and contains antioxidants that can help address inflammatory bowel conditions. It also stimulates nerve endings in your gastrointestinal tract. This helps increase mucus secretion, which protects your gastrointestinal tract against ulcers and excess acidity. The University of Maryland Medical Center26 makes the following adult dosing recommendations:

  • Tea: Pour 2 cups boiling water over 4 g (roughly 2 tablespoons) of powdered bark, then steep for 3 - 5 minutes. Drink 3 times per day.
  • Tincture: 5 mL 3 times per day.
  • Capsules: 400 - 500 mg 3 - 4 times daily for 4 - 8 weeks. Take with a full glass of water.
  • Lozenges: follow dosing instructions on label.
Glutamine Research27 published in 2009 found that gastrointestinal damage caused by H. pylori can be addressed with the amino acid glutamine, found in many foods, including beef, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy products, and some fruits and vegetables. L-glutamine, the biologically active isomer of glutamine, is also widely available as a supplement. Folate or folic acid (vitamin B9) and other B vitamins As reported by clinical nutritionist Byron Richards,28 research suggests B vitamins can reduce your risk for acid reflux. Higher folic acid intake was found to reduce acid reflux by approximately 40 percent. Low vitamin B2 and B6 levels were also linked to an increased risk for acid reflux. The best way to raise your folate levels is by eating folate-rich whole foods, such a sliver, asparagus, spinach, okra, and beans. Melatonin, l-tryptophan, vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin B12, methionine, and betaine A dietary supplement containing melatonin, l-tryptophan, vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin B12, methionine, and betaine, was found to be superior to the drug omeprazole in the treatment of GERD.29 Part of the success is thought to be due to melatonin's inhibitory activity on nitric oxide biosynthesis, which plays an important role in transient lower esophageal sphincter (LES) relaxation, which, as I mentioned earlier, is part of the real underlying problem of GERD.

Impressively, 100 percent of patients receiving this supplement reported a complete regression of symptoms after 40 days of treatment, compared to just under 66 percent of those taking omeprazole. The authors concluded that "this formulation promotes regression of GERD symptoms with no significant side effects."

The World's Population Is Getting Sicker

Wed, 06/24/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

The largest analysis of health trends around the world from 1990 to 2013 has been released -- with some striking findings.1 Only 4 percent of the global population was free from health complaints in 2013, while one-third, or 2.3 billion people, struggled with more than five health problems each.2

While in some cases death rates have declined, rates of disability have increased. Further, the proportion of years of healthy life lost due to illnesses is rising at an increasing rate, from 21 percent in 1990 to 31 percent in 2013.

The data spanned 188 countries and included more than 300 illnesses and injuries. One out of 10 people worldwide suffered from at least one of the following health conditions in 2013:

Tooth decay Tension headaches Iron-deficiency anemia Age-linked hearing loss Genital herpes Migraines Intestinal roundworm A genetic blood disorder called glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency trait What Are the Leading Causes of Poor Health Worldwide?

Musculoskeletal issues, primarily low back pain, neck pain and arthritis, and mental health/substance abuse disorders accounted for close to half of the loss of healthy years of life, while the leading causes of ill health, both at the start and end of the study, were:

  • Low back pain
  • Depression
  • Iron-deficiency anemia
  • Neck pain
  • Age-related hearing loss

There was also a sharp rise in people suffering from diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and arthritis during the study period. For instance, diabetes cases rose by 43 percent. Study author Theo Vos, professor of Global Health at the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, noted:3

“Large, preventable causes of health loss, particularly serious musculoskeletal disorders and mental and behavioral disorders, have not received the attention that they deserve… Addressing these issues will require a shift in health priorities around the world, not just to keep people alive into old age, but also to keep them healthy.”

What to Do if You’re Struggling with Back Pain

Low back pain and neck pain make up two of the top five leading causes of poor health worldwide. It's estimated that, globally, one out of every 10 people suffer from lower back pain. The problem appears to be particularly prevalent in the US. According to earlier estimates, as many as eight out of 10 Americans struggle with back pain.

In the US, it accounts for 10 percent of all primary care doctors visits each year, costing Americans as much as $86 billion annually,4 but according to 2014 findings, back pain is also the number one cause of job disability worldwide.5 So, clearly, it's a universal problem of extreme proportions.

In the developed world, poor posture and/or improper movement is to blame for most cases of back pain. Spending most of your day slouched behind a desk or on the couch is a surefire way to develop back pain. Sitting is also an independent risk factor of everything from diabetes to heart disease, and can even take years off your life—even if you exercise regularly!

If you spend the majority of your day sitting, strive to reduce it to less than three hours a day. Use a standing workstation when you’re in the office and stand up and move as much as possible throughout the rest of your day as well. A good goal is to take 7,000 to 10,000 daily steps in addition to your regular exercise program.

Over the last year, I've been able to reduce my previously normal 12 to 14 hours of daily sitting to under one hour. And I noticed one amazing thing: the back pain I struggled with for many years simply disappeared.

I had previously tried four different chiropractors, posture exercises, Foundation Training, ab work, inversion tables, standing up every 15 minutes to stretch, and strength training. But nothing would touch it, other than to radically reduce my sitting, so I would recommend this first to get rid of your back pain.

Back Pain Is a Leading Cause of Painkiller Addiction

A related concern is the fact that lower back pain is also one of the primary reasons why people get hooked on prescription painkillers. Deaths caused by overdosing on painkillers now surpass murders and fatal car accidents in the US, and over the past five years, heroin deaths have increased by 45 percent.6

Officials blame this increase on the rise of addictive prescription drugs such as Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, codeine, and Fentora, all of which are opioids (derivatives of opium). Heroin is simply a cheaper option to these prescription medications.

Still, prescription painkillers claim far more lives than illegal street drugs like heroin. According to Gil Kerlikowske, director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, prescription painkillers were responsible for 16,600 deaths in 2010—well over five times more than those caused by heroin.7

US officials have recently gone on the offensive, stating that narcotic painkillers are a driving force in the rise of substance abuse and lethal overdoses, and that both patients and doctors need to become better informed about their risks.

Back pain, in turn, is a driving force behind opioid drug use, which makes it a central focus not just for decreasing disability claims and improving health and quality of life for millions of people, but also for tackling a rapidly growing problem of legal drug abuse and the associated death toll.

Please do not let your physician convince you that prescription drugs are your only option for pain relief. I’ve described 15 natural alternatives for back pain here.

Mental Health Disorders: Help if You’re Dealing with Depression

Mental health disorders like depression and anxiety are also causing a considerable amount of unwell around the globe. It’s likely no coincidence that depression tops the list alongside back pain, as both may have a similar cause: too much sitting.

In one study, women who sat for more than seven hours a day were found to have a 47 percent higher risk of depression than women who sat for four hours or less per day.

Women who didn't participate in ANY physical activity had a 99 percent higher risk of developing depression than women who exercised. The findings were crystal clear: excessive sitting and lack of exercise resulted in an increase in depression symptoms among middle-aged women.8

Sitting less, and moving more, could very well help both your back pain and your frame of mind, although depression can have multiple causes and be more complex than this. Your gut health is emerging as a key player in your mental health, for instance.

Certain probiotics are now being referred to as psychobiotics, or “bacteria for your brain,” and are being used to successfully treat depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric problems.

In one recent study, a multispecies probiotic supplement taken for four weeks reduced cognitive reactivity to sad mood, which is a strong marker for depression (the more a person reacts to sad mood with dysfunctional thoughts, the more prone they are to a depressive episode).9 The strongest effects were seen for reducing rumination and aggressive thoughts. According to the researchers:10

These results provide the first evidence that the intake of probiotics may help reduce negative thoughts associated with sad mood. Probiotics supplementation warrants further research as a potential preventive strategy for depression.”

Addressing Your Gut Health for Improved Mood and Overall Health

In another study showing the importance of microbes for your mood, researchers revealed why gardening seems to make so many people happy. Mycobacterium vaccae is a type of bacteria commonly found in soil, which people may ingest or inhale when they garden.11

Remarkably, this microbe has been found to "mirror the effect on neurons that drugs like Prozac provide."12 It helps to stimulate serotonin production, helping to make you feel happier and more relaxed.

Taking a probiotic, or being exposed to microbes through soil, are not the only ways to increase your exposure to these beneficial “bugs.” Fermented foods, including fermented vegetables, are one of the best sources of probiotics there is. It’s important to regularly eat fermented foods not only for your mental health but for your overall health as well. For every bacteria you have there are 10 bacteriophages or viruses. So not only do you have 100 trillion bacteria, you have one quadrillion bacteriophages.

All of these organisms perform a multitude of functions in key biological systems, from supplying critical vitamins to fighting pathogens, modulating weight and metabolism, and much more, and when your microbiome falls out of balance, you can become ill. Your microbiome also helps control how your genes express themselves. So by optimizing your native flora, you are actually controlling your genes. If you eat a mostly processed, junk-food diet, you can decimate the health of your microbiome, and this may explain why diabetes rates are on the rise.

One study showed that after just 10 days of fast food, about 40 percent of gut bacteria species were lost, which amounted to about 1,400 different types.13 Losses of microbial diversity such as this have been linked to diabetes and obesity. 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 further leading to declines in your health. Even Alzheimer’s disease has been linked to poor diet.

Type 2 Diabetes Is Usually Preventable and Reversible

While diseases like diabetes and Alzheimer’s have been rising significantly over the last two decades, it’s important to understand that these diseases are often preventable. In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas is producing some insulin, in fact usually too much, but is unable to recognize the insulin and use it properly. This is an advanced stage of insulin resistance, which is typically caused by a diet that is too high in sugars and sugar-forming foods. When you have inadequate insulin signaling, sugar cannot get into your cells and instead builds up in your blood.

While anyone can get type 2 diabetes, you are typically considered at highest risk if you are overweight, sedentary, if you are a woman who had gestational diabetes, have family members with type 2 diabetes, or have metabolic syndrome. However, all of these really have the same underlying root of insulin and leptin resistance. Type 2 diabetes represents the vast majority of all diabetics, and contrary to conventional medical and media teaching, it's nearly 100 percent curable through lifestyle changes alone.

Even Alzheimer’s Disease Is Often Preventable, with the Same Strategies as Preventing Diabetes…

As it stands, the evidence points to lifestyle factors, primarily diet, as the driving forces of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, as well. There are also many connections between Alzheimer's and other dietary-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, suggesting that ALL of these diseases are preventable through identical means. For example, previous research suggests diabetics have a doubled risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimer's disease was even tentatively dubbed "type 3 diabetes" in 2005, when researchers discovered that your brain produces insulin that is necessary for the survival of your brain cells. They found that a toxic protein called ADDL removes insulin receptors from nerve cells, thereby rendering those neurons insulin resistant, and as ADDLs accumulate, your memory begins to deteriorate. According to Dr. David Perlmutter, author of the New York Times' bestseller Grain Brain:

"[Alzheimer's] is a preventable disease. It surprises me at my core that no one's talking about the fact that so many of these devastating neurological problems are, in fact, modifiable based upon lifestyle choices… What we've crystallized it down to now, in essence, is that diets that are high in sugar and carbohydrates, and similarly diets that are low in fat, are devastating to the brain.

When you have a diet that has carbohydrates in it, you are paving the way for Alzheimer's disease. I want to be super clear about that. Dietary carbohydrates lead to Alzheimer's disease. It's a pretty profound statement, but it's empowering nonetheless when we realize that we control our diet. We control our choices, whether to favor fat or carbohydrates."

His book, Grain Brain, reveals how and why sugars and carbohydrates destroy your brain, and how to eat for neurological health. He notes Mayo Clinic research that reveals diets rich in carbohydrates are associated with an 89 percent increased risk for dementia while high-fat diets are associated with a 44 percent reduced risk. This combination of very little sugar and carbs, along with higher amounts of healthy fats, is KEY for addressing not only Alzheimer's, but diabetes and heart disease as well.

Are Global Health Problems the Result of a Disconnect from Nature?

Living in the modern world is making us sick. That’s the conclusion drawn by Dr. Pedram Shojai, OMD after many years of treating patients for the same lifestyle-induced illnesses, over and over again. This realization inspired him on a four-year mission to produce a film that might help “wake us all up.” The film “Origins” shows how our modern lifestyle has caused us to lose our connection with the earth, resulting in so many of our global problems from environmental destruction to hunger and disease.

Indeed, many of the leading health issues plaguing the global community are lifestyle-induced. We used to be naturally lean and strong but have become progressively more obese and weaker. Our bodies are so busy detoxifying that they frequently lack adequate resources to perform basic biological processes. Is it any wonder that humanity has become so sick? When a species is healthy, nature rewards it with fertility, but studies show that human fertility is waning. One of every four couples worldwide is unable to conceive due to problems with conception and miscarriage.

Fertility is a leading indicator for the health of an organism, so the fact that one in eight of us are not healthy enough to reproduce is a major clue. Our biology adapted to a diet of wild plants and animals—wild vegetables, berries, nuts, roots, and game, which were MUCH higher in nutrients than our foods today. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed nearly 100 grams of fiber every day, compared to the eight to 15 grams now consumed by the average Westerner. Food can be medicine or poison... the processed foods found lining grocery store shelves are not the foods we were designed to eat. Ninety percent of the average American diet is fake food out of a box, can, jar or tube.

The foods many react adversely to are relatively new in our food supply—genetically modified (GM) soy, gluten from hybridized wheat, GM corn, sugar, and highly pasteurized dairy, for example. These modern foods are foreign to your body, so it’s common to have problematic reactions, including inflammatory and autoimmune responses, which can lead to allergies, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and the list goes on and on. One of every four Americans now has type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes. Americans have shunned fats for the last 40 years after being told they cause heart disease, when the real culprit is sugar.

The epidemic of brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and the like are evidence of what happens when your brain is starved of beneficial fats while being bombarded with toxic insults over time. Your brain is made up of fat, so it’s no surprise that low-fat diets have been linked to depression and suicidal or homicidal behavior. Adding a sedentary lifestyle to a massively unhealthy diet creates the perfect storm for “diabesity.” Our ancestors were in constant motion, hunting, building and carrying objects, escaping from predators, etc. Today, people barely move. Sitting for more than eight hours a day is associated with a 90 percent increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

For optimal health, you need to move near-continuously throughout the day, or at least avoid sitting down for more than three hours. And, to keep your body strong, you hunter-gatherer genes want you to exert an all-out effort occasionally, such as high-intensity exercises, but few of us actually do this. Your body also wants to get outdoors regularly, to soak up much-needed beneficial sunlight, another “luxury” that modern life often does away with. Fortunately, by paying attention to these basic tenets of optimal health, you can avoid many of the diseases plaguing the world and live out your own life in health.

How Diseases Can Be Linked to Your Month of Birth

Wed, 06/24/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Your birth month may have a significant impact on your risk of developing certain diseases throughout your lifetime. In a study of 1,688 different health conditions, 55 were significantly dependent on birth month.1

While 19 of these associations were previously reported in medical journals (such as asthma and short-sightedness), and 20 were for diseases with close associations to those already reported, 16 new connections were revealed – including nine different types of heart disease.

Overall, those born in May had the lowest disease risk while those born in October had the highest, but there were many additional variables reported. According to the researchers:2

Hippocrates described a connection between seasonality and disease nearly 2500 years ago, ‘for knowing the changes of the seasons… how each of them takes place, he [the clinician] will be able to know beforehand what sort of a year is going to ensue…  for with the seasons the digestive organs of men undergo a change.’

Following in footsteps laid more than 2 millennia ago, recent studies have linked birth month with neurological, reproductive, endocrine and immune/inflammatory disorders, and overall lifespan.”

What Does Your Month of Birth Say About Your Health?

Several trends stood out to the researchers, including those linking neurological, reproductive, endocrine, and immune system health with birth month. Specifically, people born in:

  • March and April were more likely to have heart issues, including atherosclerosis
  • October and November were more likely to suffer from bronchitis, viral infections, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • December were more prone to bruising
  • September had a higher risk of vomiting
  • January were more likely to suffer from essential hypertension

Past research has also linked birth month with various diseases. In 1983, researchers found those born from May to September, when dust mites tend to be more abundant in the home, had a 40 percent increased risk of developing asthma, complicated by dust mite allergies.3

According to the featured study, Their finding was corroborated later when it was found that sensitization to allergens during infancy increases lifetime risk of developing allergies.”4

Last year, researchers also found Swedish children born in November and December had an increased risk of being diagnosed with ADHD, which they suggested might be due to their relative immaturity age-wise relative to their peers in school.5 Researchers of the featured study found a similar trend:6

We compared our ADHD smoothed proportions to odds ratios reported by a Swedish study and found a similar upward trend towards the later part of the year peaking in November. A rationale for their findings (and ours) is that relative immaturity (born later in the year) may result in increased ADHD detection.

This occurs because more immature children (i.e., younger in age) face higher demands early on in their school years making them more susceptible to ADHD diagnosis. The age cutoff for schools in Sweden is 31 December, which is the same for NYC public schools.”

Birth Month Influences Your Sun Exposure and Vitamin D

Many of the associations could have their roots in sun exposure, which increases vitamin D levels. For instance, babies born in spring have a higher risk of heart issues later in life, and spring babies would have been in utero during the winter months, when sun exposure, and vitamin D levels, tend to fall.

Vitamin D is very important for reducing hypertension, atherosclerotic heart disease, heart attack, and stroke, which brings the connection full circle. Further, that ADHD is more commonly diagnosed in children born in the fall and winter could also be related to vitamin D status. According to the featured study:7

“…the relationship between Vitamin D and ADHD and learning patterns has been established in rats and Vitamin D deficiency in early development (in utero or shortly after birth) could be related to ADHD.

In addition, past research found that those who were born in April or May, just after the darker, colder winter months, were significantly more likely to have multiple sclerosis (MS) than those born during October and November (after the summer months).8

Vitamin D may affect MS risk by altering chemicals called cytokines, which modulate your immune system and can either reduce or increase inflammation depending on their levels and proportions.

Food Allergies and Mood Also Linked to Birth Month

Similarly, US children (those living in Boston, in particular) born in fall and winter also have a higher risk of developing food allergies, which researchers again believe is due to seasonal fluctuations in sunlight and lower vitamin D levels.9

Even your mood might be affected by your birth month or, as researchers call it, your “seasonal biology.” Animal studies suggest mice raised in winter conditions (with less daily light exposure) may be prone to poor mood, including seasonal affective disorder, while mice raised in summer conditions had happier dispositions.10 Researcher Professor Douglas McMahon told the Daily Mail:11

Several studies show that people born in the winter months have an elevated risk of mood disorders such as seasonal depression, bipolar depression and schizophrenia – all of which are associated with disruption of normal circadian rhythms…

Whether seasonal birth could impact personality and mood is speculative, but not too far-fetched. Even though this sounds a bit like astrology, it is not: it’s seasonal biology.”

Even Time of Conception May Matter…

You probably rarely think about your health in relation to your birth month, let alone the month in which you were conceived, but even this may impact your future health.

Specifically, birth defect rates tend to be highest for women who conceive in the spring and summer – a time that correlates with increased levels of pesticides in surface water.12 Researcher Paul Winchester, M.D., Indiana University School of Medicine professor of clinical pediatrics, noted:13

“Elevated concentrations of pesticides and other agrochemicals in surface water during April through July coincided with significantly higher risk of birth defects in live births conceived by women whose last menstrual period began in the same months. While our study didn't prove a cause and effect link, the fact that birth defects and pesticides in surface water peak during the same four months makes us suspect that the two are related.”

Your Habits and Lifestyle Matter More Than Your Birth Month

You can’t do anything to change your birth month, and you certainly shouldn’t worry if you were born in October, which had the highest rate of disease associations. Nor should you feel your health is guaranteed if you happened to be born in the “healthiest” month of May. Your lifestyle choices matter far more for your ongoing health than your birth month. As reported by Newsweek:14

“The scientists behind the research have noted that other variables, such as an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise, play a far greater role in susceptibility to disease and advised that prospective parents should not worry about rearranging their reproductive calendars.”

I've previously written about how your environment and lifestyle, particularly your diet, has a direct influence on your genetic expression. For example, research using identical twins have shown that diet trumps genes in terms of the level of health you achieve.

The science of epigenetics also challenges the conventional view of genetics, proving that the environment determines which traits a gene will express, and that your fate is in no way written in stone even if you have genetic predispositions or are born in a certain “unhealthy” month. As an example, take a look at cancer research. While a lot of research money is funneled into genetic research, virtually nothing is spent on determining the extent to which our food and environment triggers the disease.

As mentioned, your genes will express or suppress genetic data depending on the environment in which it finds itself, meaning the presence or absence of appropriate nutrients, toxins, and even your thoughts and feelings, which unleash hormones and other chemicals in your body. Research into the health of our ancient ancestors also suggests that cancer is indeed a manmade disease, in large part caused by environmental factors such as:

Pesticide- and other synthetic chemical exposures A predominance of sugars and grains which causes the body to burn sugar rather than fat as its primary fuel Wireless technologies, dirty electricity, and medical diagnostic radiation exposure Pharmaceutical drugs Obesity, stress, and poor sleeping habits Lack of sunshine exposure and use of sunscreens

Were this to be officially acknowledged to be at the heart of our cancer epidemic, people would likely demand a complete overhaul of most industries that provide us with everything from food and clothes to personal care products, furnishings and more. No one really wants to take that bull by the horn, and our flawed system allows these industries to pad the pockets of politicians and regulators who make sure they're protected from invasive scrutiny. And, this isn’t only relevant to cancer. Many other chronic diseases, from heart disease and diabetes to obesity and even likely Alzheimer’s disease, stem from poor diet, toxic exposures, inactivity, and other lifestyle factors.

How to Take Control of Your Health

Ideally you're already leading a healthy lifestyle, eating right, exercising, maintaining healthy vitamin D levels and managing stress, but if you're not, it's never too late to start. Each tissue only uses about 10 percent to 20 percent of its gene complement, and you want to be sure that those genes are the most advantageous ones possible for your health. You can begin to "remind" your cells to express in a healthful way, long before you manifest a disease, by encouraging your genes to express positive, disease-fighting behaviors by leading a healthy lifestyle.

No matter what your birth month or current state of health, I suggest you take matter into your own hands, educate yourself about health, and do that which is within your own power—which is a lot, by the way. Keep in mind that diet is only part of the equation. You can also turn your genes on and off with your emotions, and exercise has a direct impact on DNA as well. For more details, check out my 11 basic guidelines for health and longevity below.

Embed this infographic on your website:

<img src="http://media.mercola.com/assets/images/infographic/general-health-guidelines.jpg" alt="11 Basic Guidelines for General Health and Longevity Infographic" border="0" style="max-width:100%; min-width:300px; margin: 0 auto 20px auto; display:block;" /><p style="max-width:800px; min-width:300px; margin:0 auto; text-align:center;">A healthy lifestyle is essential to achieving optimal wellbeing and longevity. This infographic, "<a href="http://www.mercola.com/infographics/general-health-guidelines.htm">11 Basic Guidelines for General Health and Longevity</a>," gives you useful tips to help you live a long and healthy life. Use the embed code to share it on your website or visit our infographic page for the high-res version.</p> <pre style="max-width:800px; min-width:300px; margin: 20px auto 0 auto; padding:10px; border:solid 1px #999999; background: #ffffff; white-space: pre-wrap; word-wrap:break-word;"><code><img src="http://media.mercola.com/assets/images/infographic/general-health-guidelines.jpg" alt="11 Basic Guidelines for General Health and Longevity" border="0" style="max-width:100%; min-width:300px; margin: 0 auto 20px auto; display:block;"><p style="max-width:800px; min-width:300px; margin:0 auto; text-align:center;">A healthy lifestyle is essential to achieving optimal wellbeing and longevity. This infographic, "<a href="http://www.mercola.com/infographics/general-health-guidelines.htm">11 Basic Guidelines for General Health and Longevity</a>", gives you useful tips to help you live a long and healthy life. Visit our infographic page for the high-res version.</p></code></pre>

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