With its elegant appearance and rich fragrance, rose has definitely achieved prime status when it comes to romance — a symbol of love and devotion. Aside from its delicate appearance, this bloom is valued for making a highly useful essential oil: rose absolute oil.1 Read on to learn more about rose absolute oil’s properties and uses, and why it is an essential oil that deserves a place in your cabinet.
Rose absolute oil is derived from rose blooms. Rose plants, which are deciduous or semi-evergreen, make up the plant family Rosaceae,2 is native primarily to the Northern Hemisphere, in areas with temperate climate.3 There are over 100 species of roses,4 which are native to Asia, North America, Europe and northern parts of Africa.5
The rose plant can be an erect, climbing or trailing shrub with stems covered in thorns of various shapes and sizes. The leaves are alternate and pinnately compound, somewhat oval and sharply toothed. The fleshy, berry-like fruit is called a “hip.” While wild rose varieties usually only have five petals, cultivated varieties can have double that amount or have multiple sets of petals. Flowers come in different colors, such as white, red, yellow, pink and even orange.6
There are two types of oil produced from roses: rose absolute oil and rose otto oil. They are actually used for the same purposes, but are different in terms of how they are produced.7 Rose otto, also called attar of roses,8 is extracted via gentle steam distillation. It usually comes from the Damask rose (Rosa damascena), and produces a pale yellow oil with an exquisite, deeply floral scent.9 In cold temperatures, this oil solidifies, but will return to liquid form when held between your hands.10
Meanwhile, rose absolute oil can be made from either Rosa damascena or Rosa centifolia, and is obtained via solvent extraction. it’s the less expensive of the two varieties.11 Rose absolute oil is reddish, with a deep, rich, rosy-spicy, honey-like scent.12
Some aromatherapists prefer to use rose otto oil, as they feel that trace amounts of chemical solvents used for extraction may be found in rose absolute oil.13 However, due to its aromatic strength and low cost, many fragrance manufacturers prefer using rose absolute oil.14
Rose absolute oil is used in manufacturing to add a pleasing scent to pharmaceutical preparations like lotions and ointments. It’s added to soaps, creams and perfumes as well. Edible processed products that call for fruit-like flavors, such as beverages, gelatins, baked goods, puddings and other sweets, also make use of rose absolute oil as a flavor component.15
Rose absolute oil can be used in aromatherapy, but I advise you to dilute it properly in a safe carrier oil like jojoba or coconut oil prior to use. It’s said to have anti-inflammatory, antidepressant and mild sedative properties.16
The typical chemical composition of rose absolute essential oil includes citronellol, B-phenylethyl alcohol, nerol, geraniol, eugenol, methyl eugenol, benzyl alcohol, farnesol, nonadecane and nonadecene.17
Rose absolute oil is traditionally calming and uplifting. Studies have also shown rose oil to have antimicrobial properties, particularly against Candida albicans, Staphylococcus aureus and E.coli.18 Here are the other potential health benefits of both rose otto and rose absolute oils:
- Stress and anxiety relief — A 2009 study of 40 healthy volunteers found that applying rose oil to the skin led to a greater relaxation response than a placebo oil. Those who received rose oil also decreased their breathing rate and blood pressure more than those who received a placebo.19
- Menstrual cramps — A 2006 study involving 67 female college students found that applying rose oil mixed with other oils (lavender, clary sage and almond oil) topically effectively reduced menstrual cramps.20
- Menopausal symptoms — In a 2008 study, 52 menopausal women were given weekly massages using essential oils like rose, lavender, jasmine and rose geranium. The researchers found that the women who received massages had a significantly greater improvement in menopausal symptoms than those who weren’t massaged.21
Rose oil is very difficult to extract, which makes it a very expensive substance. There is roughly 0.02 percent essential oil in every rose blossom, meaning you need at least 60,000 roses to produce just an ounce of oil, or 10,000 pounds of blossoms to make a pound of oil.22
The solvent extraction used to make rose absolute oil is now more commonly used than steam distillation. It produces a light brown, semisolid, waxy material called “concrete,” from which rose absolute oil is obtained through a polar solvent such as alcohol. This method produces 10 times more output than steam distillation.23
Rose absolute oil works best when diffused, inhaled, or applied topically. I advise diluting this oil prior to use, as it can be very strong. It blends well with bergamot, chamomile, neroli, patchouli, sandalwood, ginger, ylang ylang and patchouli.24
Rose absolute oil is safe, as long as it is used in its diluted form. I advise you to do a skin patch test to make sure that you do not have any allergies or sensitivities to this oil. Pregnant women, nursing mothers and children should also refrain from using this oil.
As with most essential oils, I recommend consulting a qualified healthcare practitioner before using rose absolute oil.
If used topically at full strength, rose otto oil or rose absolute oil may lead to skin irritation, as noted by some animal studies. There was also an incident wherein a 48-year-old woman developed contact dermatitis after using rose oil topically.25 Make sure you do not apply it to your eyes, mucous membranes and other sensitive areas.
Belly fat, also known as visceral fat, is often viewed as an aesthetic problem, but if you’re carrying extra weight around your middle your physical health, including that of your brain, could be at risk.
Excess belly fat is already well-known to play a starring role in the development of chronic diseases like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Even in people who aren’t obese, excess belly fat increases the risk of death from cardiovascular problems.1 The risks of belly fat, however, do not stop there.
Researchers at Loughborough University in England have revealed that carrying excess weight around your midsection may affect your brain health, even leading to a concerning decline in brain volume.2 Brain shrinkage, in turn, increases your risk of memory loss and other cognitive problems.
Excess Belly Fat Linked to Brain Shrinkage
The study involved more than 9,600 participants with an average age of 55, who received scores for both body mass index (BMI), a flawed formula that divides your weight by the square of your height, and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). Your waist-to-hip ratio is a more reliable indicator of your future disease risk than BMI because a higher ratio suggests you have more visceral fat — a measure BMI tells you nothing about.
The participants also received structural MRI, which provided brain images, allowing researchers to measure the volume of gray and white matter in the brain. After accounting for other risk factors, such as smoking and exercise levels, the researchers found a slight link between BMI and lower gray matter volume.
However, a much more significant connection was found for people with both high BMI and WHR. “The combination of overall obesity and central obesity was associated with the lowest gray matter compared with that in lean adults,” the researchers noted.3
Specifically, participants with a BMI and WHR in a healthy range had an average gray matter brain volume of 798 cubic centimeters. This dropped to 786 cubic centimeters among those with a high BMI and high WHR.4
For the study, people with a BMI above 30 were considered obese while central obesity was determined by a waist-to-hip ratio above .90 for men and .85 for women. Study author Mark Hamer, Ph.D., said in a press release:5
“While our study found obesity, especially around the middle, was associated with lower gray matter brain volumes, it’s unclear if abnormalities in brain structure lead to obesity or if obesity leads to these changes in the brain.
We also found links between obesity and shrinkage in specific regions of the brain. This will need further research but it may be possible that someday regularly measuring BMI and waist-to-hip ratio may help determine brain health.”
Why Might Belly Fat Shrink Your Brain?
The featured study isn’t the first time belly fat has been linked to brain shrinkage. In 2010, researchers also found visceral fat is associated with lower brain volume, this time among healthy middle-aged adults.6 As for why visceral abdominal fat may negatively impact your brain, the researchers speculated the following mechanisms:
- Inflammation — Obesity is associated with inflammation, and inflammation may increase your risk of dementia. Further, higher levels of inflammatory markers have also been associated with lower brain volume, including “greater atrophy than expected for age.”7
- Diabetes and insulin resistance — Not only are diabetes and insulin resistance both linked to obesity, but diabetes and higher fasting glucose levels are linked with lower total brain volume.8
- Hormones — One of the dangers of visceral fat is related to the release of proteins and hormones that can cause inflammation, which in turn can damage arteries and enter your liver, affecting how your body breaks down sugars and fats.
According to a study in the Annals of Neurology, “[A]dipose-tissue derived hormones, such as adiponectin, leptin, resistin or ghrelin, could also play a role in the relation between adipose tissue and brain atrophy.”9
Overall, it’s suggested that brain atrophy itself could be the main reason behind the association between increased visceral fat and cognitive decline and dementia.10
Obesity Also Linked to Brain Aging
Carrying excess weight throughout your body is also known to influence your brain health. For instance, a study published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging found structural changes in the brains of overweight and obese people — changes typically seen in far older individuals. In this case, it was white matter volume that decreased in relation to obesity, corresponding to an estimated increase of brain age of 10 years.11
In short, obesity may increase your risk of neurodegeneration, possibly due to the increase in inflammatory agents produced. Other research has also linked obesity with cognitive decline. For instance:
- In 2008, research revealed that central obesity (belly fat) is linked with an increased risk of dementia.12
- Research published in 2011 found a strong correlation between BMI and high levels of beta-amyloid, the protein that tends to accumulate in the brains of Alzheimer's patients, causing plaque buildup. It is believed that beta-amyloid destroys nerve cells, contributing to the cognitive and behavioral problems typical of the disease.13
- A 14-year-long study published in July 2016 found that among people who developed Alzheimer's disease, those who were overweight or obese at the age of 50 developed symptoms nearly seven months sooner than those of a healthy weight.
Further, the onset of symptoms moved up by 6.7 months for each unit increase in midlife BMI. Those with a high BMI were also more likely to have greater amounts of amyloid proteins in their brain.14
Belly Fat Is Linked to Certain Mental Health Conditions
Your mental health may also suffer from excess belly fat, which has been linked to conditions such as anxiety and depression.
Postmenopausal women who had abdominal obesity were significantly more likely to struggle with depression than those without it (37.6 percent versus 27.5 percent respectively), leading researchers to conclude that "visceral fat accumulation was an independent and positive factor significantly associated with the presence of depressive symptoms."15
Among women, waist-to-height ratio is also associated with anxiety. Data from 5,580 Latin American women between the ages of 40 and 59 were evaluated. Overall, those with waist-to-height ratios in the middle and upper thirds were at significantly higher risk for anxiety than those with less abdominal obesity.16
Those with the greatest abdominal obesity were also the most likely to actually exhibit outward signs of anxiety. Generally speaking, a woman is considered obese if her waist measurement is more than half of her height measurement.
Losing belly fat is key for both your brain health and your overall health. Cardiovascular deaths, too, have been found to be 2.75 times higher for those of normal weight and big bellies compared to those with both a normal BMI and a normal waist-to-hip ratio.17 It’s also important to recognize that monitoring your belly fat may be even more important than watching BMI.
Strategies for Targeting Belly Fat
Contrary to popular belief, focusing on abdominal exercises is not the ticket to reducing belly fat. While they will help you to build a stronger core, nutritional changes will also be necessary to burn stubborn belly fat. That being said, exercise is important too, especially fat-burning high-intensity interval training.
One of the great things about exercise is that it can help you burn fat while also benefiting your brain. Physical exercise helps build a brain that not only resists shrinkage, but also increases cognitive abilities by promoting neurogenesis, i.e., your brain's ability to adapt and grow new brain cells. Other factors linked to both brain health and belly fat include:
- Sleep — Sleep problems like insomnia can have a distinct impact on your brain over time, causing it to shrink more rapidly compared to those who sleep well.18 Meanwhile, sleeping for less than five hours a night is linked to an increased rate of abdominal fat gain over five years.19 If you’re not sleeping well, here are tips for a sound night’s sleep.
- Stress — Having elevated blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol can impair your thinking skills and memory over time.20 Previous research has also linked chronic stress with working memory impairment and an increased risk for early-onset of Alzheimer's disease.21
Chronic stress may also increase your risk for visceral fat gain over time,22 which means addressing your stress levels is imperative for both your brain and your belly.
A Ketogenic Diet Burns Fat, Boosts Brain Health
Perhaps most important of all is paying attention to your diet. While reducing your intake of processed foods and eliminating added sugars is important, I recommend going a step further and adopting a ketogenic diet if you’re struggling with belly fat or interested in protecting your brain health.
When your body burns fat as its primary fuel, ketones are created, which not only burn very efficiently and are a superior fuel for your brain, but also generate fewer reactive oxygen species (ROS) and less free radical damage.
A type of ketone called beta-hydroxybutyrate is also an important epigenetic player, having significant effects on DNA expression, increasing detoxification pathways and your body’s own antioxidant production. Beta-hydroxybutyrate also stimulates specific receptors on cells called g-proteins.
When these receptors are tagged by this beta-hydroxybutyrate during mild ketosis, it helps reduce the activation of pathways that lead to inflammation, and inflammation is a driver in most all chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, as well as are implicated in belly fat.
For the best results, however, combine nutritional ketosis with intermittent fasting. The ketogenic diet provides many of the same health benefits associated with fasting and intermittent fasting, but when done together, most people will experience significant improvements in their health.
The details are provided in my book "Fat for Fuel," but here is a summary of how to implement these two strategies as a cohesive health program. The “Ultimate Ketogenic Diet Beginner’s Guide” is also excellent reading if you’re new to this way of eating.
If you’re not sure whether your midsection is carrying an unhealthy amount of extra weight, your first step should be to determine your waist-to-hip ratio. To do so, get a tape measure and record your waist and hip circumference. Then divide your waist circumference by your hip circumference.
For a more thorough demonstration, please see the video below. If you fall into an at-risk zone, implementing the strategies above can help you to not only shed the fat but also improve your health significantly.
|Waist to Hip Ratio||Men||Women|
Waist to Hip Ratio: Ideal
Waist to Hip Ratio: Low Risk
Waist to Hip Ratio: Moderate Risk
Men: 0.96 to 0.99
Women: 0.81 to 0.84
Waist to Hip Ratio: High Risk
Like autism among children, Alzheimer's among seniors has reached epidemic proportions, with no slowdown in sight. On the contrary, evidence suggests the trend is worsening. At present, Alzheimer's affects about 5.4 million Americans and is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.1 The World Health Organization predicts that by 2050, 1 in 6 adults will be living with dementia.
It's important to realize that dementia is a lifestyle-predicated disease, and there are many strategies that will help prevent this kind of neurodegeneration. In essence, anything that will help optimize your mitochondria will also help prevent Alzheimer's. You can learn more about these Alzheimer's prevention strategies in this previous article.
Here, the focus is on specific nutrients shown to play an important role in brain health and cognition, starting with marine-based omega-3, which contains two long-chained fatty acids that are vital for brain health: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
1. Marine-Based Omega-3 Fat: DHA
The influence of marine-based omega-3 fats on physical and mental health has been the subject of intense research for decades, and there's compelling evidence they can help ameliorate a variety of psychiatric illnesses and degenerative brain disorders, including Alzheimer's.
In my new book, "Superfuel," cowritten with James DiNicolantonio, Pharm. D., we expain how DHA is an essential structural component of your brain, and is found in high levels in your neurons, the cells of your central nervous system. When your omega-3 intake is inadequate, your nerve cells become stiff and more prone to inflammation as the missing omega-3 fats are substituted with omega-6 instead.
Once your nerve cells become rigid and inflamed, proper neurotransmission from cell to cell and within cells become compromised. Low DHA levels have been linked to memory loss and Alzheimer's disease, and some studies suggest degenerative brain diseases may potentially be reversible with sufficient DHA.
For example, in one study,2 elderly volunteers suffering from memory deficits saw significant improvement after taking 900 milligrams (mg) of DHA per day for 24 weeks, compared to controls. Another study3 found significant improvement in verbal fluency scores after taking 800 mg of DHA per day for four months, compared with placebo. Furthermore, memory and rate of learning were significantly improved when DHA was combined with 12 mg of lutein per day.
I never previously realized this but DHA also stimulates one of the most important transcription factors that regulates cellular oxidation and reduction, and aids in detoxification, the Nrf2 pathway.4 Additionally, it also increases heme oxygenase 15 (a protein produced in response to oxidative stress) and upregulates antioxidant enzymes — all of which are important for brain health.
In addition, DHA is a precursor for the signaling molecule protectin, which is synthesized in response to oxidative stress. (When found in your central nervous system it's referred to as neuroprotectin, or NPD1.) As explained in a 2011 paper in the journal Nutrients:6
"NPD1 induces nerve regeneration, reduce leukocyte infiltration and maintains homeostasis through ageing by reducing pro-apoptotic and pro-inflammatory signaling. NPDI is induced by oxidative stress and protects retinal and neuronal cells from oxidative stress-induced apoptosis.
Many mechanisms have been implicated, including suppression of the IL-1β induced stimulation of COX. The discovery of NPD1 offers new therapeutic opportunities for a range of neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer's disease. It also provides an exciting potential for DHA in helping to delay or minimize the 'normal' cognitive decline during ageing."
2. Marine-Based Omega-3 Fat: EPA
EPA, meanwhile, appears to be particularly beneficial in the treatment of depression,7 as it helps lower levels of tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin 1 beta and prostaglandin E2 — three immune chemicals that tend to be elevated in those with depression.
A stumbling block has been to get sufficiently large amounts into your brain. To raise your brain level of EPA, you'd need to consume impractically large amounts of fish oil, for example. One theory is that degradation by pancreatic enzymes renders the EPA incapable of passing the blood-brain-barrier.8
However, recent research9 has discovered something really interesting. By using a lysophospholipid form of EPA (LPC-EPA), they were able to increase the EPA level in the brain of mice 100fold. Even more remarkable, LPC-EPA also doubled the DHA level in the brain, whereas free EPA had no effect on DHA levels. The authors further noted that:
"Only LPC-EPA increased EPA and DHA in retina, and expression of BDNF, CREB and 5-HT1A receptor in the brain. These novel results show that brain EPA can be increased through diet. Because LPC-EPA increased both EPA and DHA in the brain, it may help treat depression as well as neuroinflammatory diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease."
Papasani Subbaiah, professor of medicine and biochemistry and molecular genetics in the UIC College of Medicine and corresponding author, told MedicalXpress:10
"It seems that there is a transporter at the blood-brain barrier that EPA must pass through in order to get into the brain, but EPA in fish oil can't get through, whereas LPC-EPA can. You don't have to consume all that much LPC- EPA to have significant increases of EPA show up in the brain, so this could be a way to do rigorous studies on the effects of EPA in humans."
The Importance of Phospholipid-Bound Omega-3
There are a number of drawbacks to fish oil, and the lack of phospholipids is one of them. DHA and EPA are water insoluble and therefore cannot be transported in their free form in your blood. They must be packaged into lipoprotein vehicles such as phospholipids. This is primarily why the bioavailability of krill oil is so much higher than fish oil, because in fish oil, the DHA and EPA are bound to triglycerides.
When you consume fish oil, your liver has to attach it to phosphatidylcholine in order for it to be efficiently utilized by your body and brain. Phospholipids are also one of the principal compounds in high-density lipoproteins (HDL), which you want more of, and by allowing your cells to maintain structural integrity, phospholipids help your cells function optimally.
Importantly, your brain cannot readily absorb DHA unless it's bound to phosphatidylcholine, and while krill oil contains phosphatidylcholine naturally, fish oil does not. As the name implies, phosphatidylcholine is composed partly of choline, the precursor for the vital neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which sends nerve signals to your brain, and choline itself is crucial for brain development, learning and memory, as you'll see in the next section.
Recent research11 by Rhonda Patrick, Ph.D., also highlights the value of DHA bound to phospholipids, showing this form may actually reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease in those with the apolipoprotein E4 (APOE4) gene, which lowers the typical age of onset of this degenerative brain disorder.
Two hallmarks of Alzheimer's are amyloid beta plaques and tau tangles, both of which impair normal brain functioning. Alzheimer's patients also have reduced glucose transport into their brains, and this is one of the reasons why plaque and tangles form and accumulate in the first place. According to Patrick,12 DHA encourages your brain's uptake of glucose by regulating the structure and function of glucose transporters, proteins located at your blood-brain barrier.
While eating DHA-rich fish has been shown to slow the progression of Alzheimer's in APOE4 carriers, taking fish oil has not demonstrated the same efficacy. According to Patrick, this variation in response appears to be related to the different ways in which the two forms of DHA are metabolized and ultimately transported into your brain.
When the triglyceride form of DHA is metabolized, most of it turns into nonesterified DHA, while the phospholipid form is metabolized primarily into DHA-lysophosphatidylcholine (DHA-lysoPC). While both of these forms can cross the blood-brain barrier to reach your brain, the phospholipid form does so far more efficiently.
According to Patrick, people with APOE4 have a faulty nonesterified DHA transport system, and this may be why they're at increased risk for Alzheimer's. The good news is that DHA-lysoPC can bypass the tight junctions, thereby improving DHA transport, and for those with one or two APOE4 variants, taking the phospholipid form of DHA may therefore lower their risk of Alzheimer's more effectively.
3. Choline Helps Fight Alzheimer's Disease
Other recent research13 demonstrates the importance of choline for brain health and prevention of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's. Choline is a precursor to acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter required for the proper function of your brain and nervous system, playing a role in fetal brain development, memory, muscle control, mood and gene expression. As reported by Science Daily:14
"The study focuses on mice bred to display AD-like symptoms. Results showed that when these mice are given high choline in their diet, their offspring show improvements in spatial memory, compared with those receiving a normal choline regimen in the womb.
Remarkably, the beneficial effects of choline supplementation appear to be transgenerational, not only protecting mice receiving choline supplementation during gestation and lactation, but also the subsequent offspring of these mice. While this second generation received no direct choline supplementation, they nevertheless reaped the benefits of treatment, likely due to inherited modifications in their genes."
Choline helps protect against Alzheimer's by:
- Reducing your homocysteine level, an amino acid that has been shown to cause neurodegeneration and is involved in the formation of amyloid plaques, two hallmarks of Alzheimer's. Choline converts homocysteine into methionine, which has a number of beneficial effects.
- Inhibiting microglia activation. Microglia cells clear debris from your brain, and while this is a crucial function, in Alzheimer's the microglia have a tendency to become overactivated, causing inflammation in the brain that can result in the death of neurons. By reducing activation of microglia, choline can help protect Alzheimer's patients from further brain damage.
4. Phosphatidylserine Boosts Cognitive Function
Phosphatidylserine is another supplement that can help improve cognitive function15 and protect against Alzheimer's disease.16 Phosphatidylserine is an amino acid derivative that is highly prevalent in neural tissue and plays an important role in the cellular function in your brain.
While your body can synthesize it on its own, you can also get it through food (such as mackerel, cod, egg yolks and organ meats) and/or a phosphatidylserine complex supplement.17 Phosphatidylserine has a unique structure that makes it both hydrophilic, meaning it's attracted to water and hydrophobic, or repelled by water.
With this structure, phospholipids are able to arrange themselves into a phospholipid bilayer — two parallel layers that form a major component of the human cell membranes. In brain cell membranes, the phospholipid bilayer acts as a "gatekeeper," regulating the entry beneficial substances, basically nutrients, water and oxygen, while eliminating metabolic waste.18
In one study,19 supplementing with 400 mg of phosphatidylserine increased the speed of calculations done in short-term memory by 20 percent in a group of healthy adults. In another, it improved cognitive function of geriatric patients at a dosage of 300 mg per day for six months.20
Taken with DHA, it's also been shown to improve behavior and short-term auditory memory in children with ADHD.21 In patients with Alzheimer's, phosphatidylserine helps inhibit amyloid beta and interferon-gamma-induced microglial activation.22
5. Acetyl-L-Carnitine Protects Against Neurotoxic Insults
Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR) has many beneficial effects on brain metabolism, protects against neurotoxic insults, and has been shown to benefit certain forms of depression. In one study,23 healthy mice given ALCAR for 25 days at a dose of about half a gram per kilo, were found to have increased levels of the neurotransmitters noradrenaline and serotonin. According to the authors, this is "consistent with ALCAR's potential efficacy for depressive symptoms."
In another study,24 ALCAR was found to improve the clinical condition of patients with degenerative cerebellar ataxia (a condition resulting in the loss of control of bodily movements). According to the authors, "statistically significant improvement of some symptoms and a slow progression of the disease in both groups of patients" were observed.
6. Vitamin D Protects Against Memory Loss
Activated vitamin D receptors increase nerve growth in your brain, and researchers have also located metabolic pathways for vitamin D in the hippocampus and cerebellum, areas involved in planning, information processing and memory formation.
According to research25 published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, low vitamin D is associated with poorer brain function, and increasing levels may help keep older adults mentally fit. Vitamin D has also been shown to improve a number of brain disorders, including dementia and Alzheimer's disease.26
In one six-year study,27 those with severe vitamin D deficiency were more than twice as likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer's than those with higher levels. Even those with moderate deficiency had a 53 percent increased risk for all forms of dementia, and 69 percent increased risk for Alzheimer's specifically. According to the authors, "Our results confirm that vitamin D deficiency is associated with a substantially increased risk of all-cause dementia and Alzheimer disease."
The findings also suggest there's a threshold level of circulating vitamin D, below which your risk for dementia increases. This threshold was found to be right around 20 ng/mL (50 nmol/L). Higher levels were associated with good brain health.
I recommend getting your vitamin D level tested twice a year, and taking whatever dosage required to achieve and maintain a vitamin D level between 60 and 80 ng/mL (150 and 200 nmol/L). Ideally, you'd want to raise your level by getting sensible sun exposure, but if you cannot, consider an oral vitamin D3 supplement balanced with magnesium and vitamin K2.
7. Vitamin B12 Deficiency Wreaks Havoc on Cognitive Function
Vitamin B12 is another important player. Research28 shows people with high levels of markers for vitamin B12 deficiency are more likely to score lower on cognitive tests and have a smaller total brain volume, which suggests a lack of B12 may contribute to brain shrinkage.
Mental fogginess and problems with memory are two of the top warning signs that you have vitamin B12 deficiency, and this is indicative of its importance for your brain health.
Finnish researchers have also found that people who consume foods rich in B12 may reduce their risk of Alzheimer's in their later years.29 For each unit increase in the marker for vitamin B12 (holotranscobalamin) the risk of developing Alzheimer's was reduced by 2 percent. Another study30 found that supplementing with B vitamins, including B12, helps to slow brain atrophy in elderly people with mild cognitive impairment.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is widespread and many have trouble absorbing this nutrient properly from food sources. Blood tests for vitamin B12 are not always a reliable indicator of B12 status, so watching for symptoms of deficiency and increasing your dietary and supplemental intake is a practical alternative to blood testing.
B12 is available in its natural form only in animal food sources such as seafood, beef, chicken, pork, milk and eggs. If you rarely or never consume these animal products, you're at particularly high risk of B12 deficiency.
The good news is vitamin B12 supplementation is completely nontoxic and inexpensive, especially when compared to the cost of laboratory testing. I recommend an under-the-tongue fine mist spray, as this technology helps you absorb the vitamin into the fine capillaries under your tongue.
8. MCT Oil Boosts Brain Performance
One of the primary fuels your brain needs is glucose, which is converted into energy. Your brain actually manufactures its own insulin to convert glucose in your bloodstream into the food it needs to survive.
If your brain's production of insulin decreases, your brain literally begins to starve, as it's deprived of the glucose-converted energy it needs to function normally. This is what happens to Alzheimer's patients — portions of their brain start to atrophy, or starve, leading to impaired functioning and eventual loss of memory, speech, movement and personality.
In effect, your brain can begin to atrophy from starvation if it becomes insulin resistant and loses its ability to convert glucose into energy. Fortunately, your brain is able to run on more than one type of energy supply. It can run on both glucose and ketones, and ketones are actually better.
Ketones are what your body produces when it converts fat as opposed to glucose) into energy, and a primary source of ketone bodies are medium chain triglycerides (MCT). While coconut oil is one healthy option, MCT oil is a more concentrated source of ketones, so it tends to be more appropriate for clinical uses.
Most commercial brands of MCT oil contain a 50/50 combination of C8 and C10 fats (the "C number" stands for the carbon length of the MCT). My personal preference is straight C8 (caprylic acid), as it converts to ketones far more rapidly than do C10 fats, and will give you higher levels of ketones.
You can learn more about MCTs and the differences between them in my previous article, "The Many Health Benefits of MCT Oil." Ketones appear to be the preferred source of energy for the brain in people affected by diabetes, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and maybe even ALS, because in these diseases, certain neurons have become insulin resistant or have lost the ability to efficiently utilize glucose. As a result, neurons slowly die off.
The introduction of ketones may rescue these neurons and they may still be able to survive and thrive. In multiple studies, ketones have been shown to be both neurotherapeutic and neuroprotective. They also appear to lower markers of systemic inflammation. As noted by Mental Health Daily:31
"In small scale human trials,32 MCT supplementation boosted cognition in individuals with cognitive impairment and mild forms of Alzheimer's disease after just a single dose. While not everyone improved from the MCT treatment, those with certain genetics experienced notable improvement."
9. Probiotics Feed Your Second Brain
As your "second brain," the state of your gut also plays an important role in your neurological and psychological health. Probiotics have been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and decrease pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer's, including amyloid plaques and tangles. In one study,33 the probiotic strain L. plantarumMTCC1325 was identified as having these "anti-Alzheimer's properties."
In another study,34 published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 60 elderly patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's received either a placebo or a probiotic milk products containing Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Bifidobacterium bifidum and Lactobacillus fermentum for 12 weeks.
At the beginning and end of the study, participants underwent a standardized cognitive assessment and a highly sensitive c-reactive protein test, which is a powerful marker of inflammation. As reported by neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter:35
"The results of the study were stunning. The placebo group showed an increase in hs-CRP, the inflammation marker, by an impressive 45 percent. In the group taking the probiotic, on the other hand, hs-CRP didn't just stay the same, but actually declined by 18 percent, indicating a dramatic reduction in inflammation.
But here's the truly exciting news. Over the 12 weeks, the patients in the placebo continued to decline mentally, as you might expect. Their MMSE score dropped from 8.47 to 8.00, a substantial reduction.
But the group on the inflammation reducing probiotics actually demonstrated, not a decline in brain function, but an actual improvement, with their MMSE scores going from 8.67 up to 10.57, and that's a huge improvement. Again, not only was their mental decline stopped in its tracks, these individuals regained brain function!
The message here is that inflammation is directly determined by the health and diversity of our gut bacteria, and this has major implications in terms of brain health, function and disease resistance."
30 Tips in 30 Days Designed to Help You Take Control of Your Health
This article is included in Dr. Mercola's All-Time Top 30 Health Tips series. Every day during the month of January, a new tip will be added that will help you take control of your health. Want to see the full list? Click here.
Estimates suggest up to 20 percent of the general population experience chronic constipation,1 characterized by hard, dry and difficult to pass stools, and/or having less than three bowel movements per week. Chronic constipation also accounts for at least 8 million annual doctor's visits in the U.S.2
While temporary constipation can be the result of simply eating poorly for a day or two, chronic constipation has been linked to a number of other, more serious health problems, including diverticulitis, kidney disease,3 colorectal and gastric cancer, ischemic colitis and Parkinson's disease.4
So, having regular bowel movements is not just a matter of comfort, it also has important health implications. Following are several of my top tips for getting and staying regular.
1. Stay Properly Hydrated
Perhaps the most basic of all recommendations is to make sure you're drinking enough water each day. While using thirst as a guide to how much water you need is an obvious way to ensure your daily needs are met, it's important to realize that by the time your thirst mechanism kicks in, you're actually already in the early stages of dehydration.
So, don't ignore the initial sensations of thirst. Hunger, and sugar cravings in particular, can also be a sign that your body is crying for water. Other common telltale signs of dehydration include:5,6
Fatigue and/or dizziness
Foggy thinking and poor concentration
Back or joint ache
Dull, dry skin and/or pronounced wrinkles
Infrequent urination; dark, concentrated urine
Using the color of your urine is one of the best ways to track your individual hydration status from day to day.7 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, drink enough water to turn your urine a light-colored yellow. Just be aware that vitamin B2-containing supplements will turn your urine a bright, almost fluorescent yellow, making it 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.
2. Eat More Fiber
Eating a high-fiber diet is a classic recommendation for maintaining regularity and lowering your risk of hemorrhoids. There are two main types of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble. Ideally, you need both on a regular basis.
Digestive-resistant starches — found in chilled, cooked potatoes,8 seeds, tapioca starch and unripe tropical fruits such as banana, papaya and mango — can be considered a third type of fiber, differentiated from insoluble fiber by the fact that many of their benefits result from the fermentation process that occurs as they move through your large intestine.9
Like insoluble fiber, digestive-resistant starch is not broken down as it travels through your digestive tract and therefore adds bulk to your stool. They're also powerful prebiotics. By slowly fermenting in your large intestine, they feed gut bacteria that support optimal health.
Soluble fiber, found in cucumbers, blueberries, beans and nuts for example, dissolves into a gel-like texture that slows digestion and helps feed beneficial bacteria. Insoluble fiber, found in dark green leafy vegetables, green beans, celery and carrots, does not dissolve and stays basically intact as it moves through your colon.
By adding bulk to your stool, insoluble fiber helps move food through your digestive tract faster for healthy elimination. Sometimes referred to as roughage, insoluble fiber also helps clean your colon and remove food particles that, if stuck to the walls of your colon, may cause bloating, pain and constipation.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests daily targets for women and men at 25 and 38 grams of fiber respectively,10 while the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends getting 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories consumed. I believe both of these may be insufficient for optimal health.
My recommendation for daily fiber intake is 25 to 50 grams per 1,000 calories consumed. When adding more fiber to your diet, do it gradually, and be sure to drink plenty of water along with it. Without sufficient amounts of water, the fiber will not pass smoothly through your system, and may actually worsen constipation instead.
3. Eat These Top Four Foods for Regularity
While whole foods in general will help optimize your gut health, and many different kinds of leafy greens, root vegetables, fruits, berries, seeds11 and mushrooms12 will provide healthy fiber, some foods are better for preventing and treating constipation than others. Four top contenders, shown to have a beneficial impact on chronic constipation are:
• Fermented vegetables — I strongly recommend incorporating fermented foods to help "reseed" your gut with beneficial bacteria that will help you regain and maintain bowel regularity. The video above includes a short demonstration of how to make your own fermented foods at home.
• Organic nonpasteurized kefir — In one 2014 study,13 patients with functional constipation who consumed 500 milliliters of probiotic kefir daily for four weeks significantly improved their symptoms, increasing stool frequency and consistency, and reducing straining and the need for laxatives. According to the authors, the results "suggest that kefir improves bowel satisfaction scores and accelerates colonic transit."
• Artichoke — Very long-chained inulin extracted from globe artichoke has been shown to improve intestinal microbiota by having a prebiotic effect.14 In another study,15 daily supplementation with 15 grams of inulin from chicory improved constipation and quality of life in elderly people with constipation.
• Kiwi — According to a 2013 study,16 "Clinical studies in a range of adult populations consistently indicate that kiwifruit are a highly effective dietary option to promote laxation. This, together with emerging evidence for the putative effects of kiwifruit in beneficially promoting gastric emptying … suggests that kiwifruit are physiologically active throughout the gastrointestinal tract."
4. Try These Top Five Supplements if You're Constipated
Certain supplements can also help improve your regularity, whether you're struggling with constipation or diarrhea. Among them:
• Organic psyllium17 — Taking organic psyllium three times a day could add as much as 18 grams of fiber (soluble and insoluble) to your diet. Ideally, you'll want to get around 50 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories consumed, so you'll want to use psyllium in addition to a veggie-rich diet.
A report18 funded by the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) Foundation found that were U.S. adults over the age of 55 with heart disease to take psyllium dietary fiber on a daily basis, it could cut health costs by nearly $4.4 billion a year by reducing coronary heart disease-related medical events by 11.5 percent.
Just keep in mind that psyllium is a heavily sprayed crop, which means many sources are contaminated with pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. For this reason, only use organic unsweetened psyllium husk.
• Magnesium — One of the most popular short-term natural supplements that is effective against constipation is magnesium.19 It both softens stool (by drawing water into your intestines) and relaxes your muscles, allowing for easier elimination and less straining.
Begin by taking 200 milligrams of oral magnesium citrate each day and gradually increase the amount until the consistency of your stool improves. (Magnesium comes in several forms including chelate, threonate, citrate and sulfate. Citrate is the form that has the most effect on your intestinal tract and helps produce loose stools.)
• Pancreatic enzymes — In one small pilot study,20 the pancreatic enzyme lipase was found to improve stool consistency and reduce bloating, cramping and urgency in patients struggling with diarrhea predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
• Probiotics — A systematic review and meta-analysis21 published in 2014 concluded that probiotics help improve "whole gut transit time, stool frequency and stool consistency" in patients with functional constipation. B. lactis was found to be particularly helpful in this regard.
• Sporebiotics — Spore-based probiotics are part of a group of derivatives of the microbe called bacillus. Sporebiotics do not contain any live bacillus strains, only its spores — the protective shell around the DNA and the working mechanism of that DNA — which makes them particularly beneficial when you have to take antibiotics, as the spores are not affected by these drugs.
In one recent study,22 otherwise healthy people who struggled with loose stools who took Bacillus subtilis C-3102 daily for eight weeks saw significant improvement. The consistency of stool "approached the normal state" after the first four weeks.
5. Squatting Enhances Elimination
Sitting on your toilet may be comfortable, but placement of your knees and upper legs at 90 degrees to your abdomen actually pinches off your anal canal and makes having a bowel movement more difficult.
On the other hand, when you squat, your knees are brought closer to your abdomen, which changes the relationship of your rectum and sphincter, positioning your organs and muscles in a way that relaxes your rectum. This maximizes the efficiency of your evacuation.
When you're in a squatting position, muscles around your rectum and pubic bones are allowed to relax, thereby encouraging complete emptying of your rectum and cecum without straining. It also reduces the potential for stagnation of stool in your lower intestines and subsequent accumulation of toxins that impact the growth of your gut microbiome.
While squatting without support can be challenging if you're not used to it, using an inexpensive foot stool can help you achieve the proper body position while keeping you stable.
In one study,23,24,25 discussed in the short video above, 71 percent of patients who used a toilet foot stool reported their bowel movements were faster, and 90 percent experienced less straining. After the study was completed, two-thirds of the participants said they'd continue using the foot stool.
6. Consider Installing a Bidet
Last but not least, consider installing a bidet in your bathroom. While many Americans are leery of the bidet at first, once you've tried one, you're likely to never want to be without it. For those who aren't familiar with how they work, a bidet looks similar to a toilet but it is designed to help you freshen up after toilet use.
Most modern bidets have one or more jets that spray water, allowing you to straddle the device for a cleansing far superior to toilet paper. Today, there are also easy-to-use bidet seats that you can put atop a regular toilet, and bidet toilets, which are like a toilet and a bidet in one (a wand under the seat sprays water).
A simple bidet attachment can be bought for $50.26 Aside from improving your health and hygiene, which is priceless, this kind of attachment will pay for itself in a year or less in toilet paper alone.
As noted by bidet.org,27 "If you are constipated the water from the bidet can relax and stimulate your sphincter muscles, making it easier to have a bowel movement and requiring less straining and pushing. This can prevent hemorrhoids, anal fissures and even rectal prolapse."
Many of these issues are quite painful. By thoroughly cleansing the area with warm water and then gently patting it dry with a clean towel, you may minimize your risk for infection, and avoid the pain of wiping with toilet tissue. A bidet may also minimize pain and discomfort associated with anal fistulas, anal itching, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease and IBS.
Using convoluted logic to protect their profit margins, Big Soda, and particularly Coca-Cola, is using some of the same strategies in China that got them into public relations trouble in the U.S. Sweetened beverages have been identified as a major contributor to the rising rate of obesity and diabetes around the world, including a meteoric rise in China.
In light of this evidence, many public health organizations are beginning to take a stand against added sugar, including the American Heart Association (AHA), the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Although science has demonstrated glucose and fructose are metabolized differently, some public health organizations continue to claim obesity is a matter of consuming more calories than you burn. Evidence shows sugar wields harmful metabolic effects beyond simple calories and appears to be addictive, leading some to suggest elimination and not moderation is the best option.
However, this would significantly impact Big Sodas profit margin as all of their products contain sugar or sugar substitutes. To offset the push for better health through eating nutritious foods, the food, chemical and biotechnology industries built an intricate and powerful system to manipulate public and scientific opinion.
For instance, Coca-Cola funded the Global Energy Balance Network aimed at producing confusing information about soda science.1 Once their astroturfing tactics were discovered, the group was disbanded.
In much the same way AstroTurf mimics real grass, astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization so it appears as though it originates from a grassroots effort.
One 12-ounce can of regular soda has 33 grams of sugar and 36 grams of net carbohydrates, far more than your body can safely handle in a day. As soda sales are dropping in the U.S., Big Soda has identified a market ripe for the picking, where oversight is limited and free media coverage is not allowed.
Big Soda Finds a Burgeoning Market in China
Today, China is Coke's third largest market by volume,2 as the industry battles public opinion after the U.S. Surgeon General called on all Americans to fight obesity by reducing their sugar intake. Big soda has not given up without a fight as they blocked New York City's ban on large drink sizes and lobbied against soda restrictions.
The industry has funded exercise specialists to promote physical activity as the best solution to obesity in an effort to divert attention away from the proven link between what you eat and your weight. As sales are plummeting, the industry recognizes it's losing the battle.
A Gallup Poll3 in 2014 revealed 63 percent of Americans were actively trying to avoid soda, as compared to 41 percent polled in 2002.4 As the number of nations raising a price on sugary drinks with taxes continues to rise, this year topping 30, the U.S., China and Australia have not followed suit.5
Each of these countries struggle with an epidemic of obesity and health related problems, including cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. China continues to have vastly underdeveloped markets for products associated with an "American way of life," which Big Soda, and particularly Coca-Cola, has been able to take advantage of.
With a substantial population, huge growth potential remains for the conglomerate, making it "critically important to the future growth of our business," according to Coke chairman of the board and former chief executive officer Muhtar Kent.6
Industry Efforts Wildly Successful Without Watchdog Organizations and Free Media
Coca-Cola's efforts have been dangerously successful, in part because of their close relationship with the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) — a corporate funded organization founded by a former Coca-Cola senior vice president.7 Ostensibly, the organization claims to bring together scientists from industry, government and academia to "provide science that improves public health."
The organization is funded by food and beverage corporations, such as Nestle, McDonald's, Coke and PepsiCo, and has established standard levels of giving expected from their participating organizations.
However, evidence suggests the organization is a front aimed at influencing science and policies to benefit corporate interests over public health. According to internal documents, the organization is funded by the food and agriculture industries with influence extending to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Emails obtained by U.S. Right to Know8 through freedom of information act (FOIA) requests, reveal the CDC director, charged with preventing heart disease and stroke, has tried to help ILSI influence the WHO to back off anti-sugar talks. Ever since ILSI's inception, Coca-Cola has maintained close ties and has gone to great lengths to shift the blame for obesity away from sugar and onto exercise.
Their close relationship in China goes significantly further than what the ILSI has been able to achieve in the West.9 In an investigative report published in the BMJ by Susan Greenhalgh, an anthropologist at Harvard University who has studied science policy in China, alleges Coke has quietly influenced how China has tackled growing rates of obesity by promoting exercise over nutrition.10
She began corresponding with scientists in China as she was originally interested in chronicling the history of obesity in the country. China's obesity rate has been especially pronounced; in 1991, 20 percent were obese, but by 2011 it had risen to 42 percent of the population. According to Greenhalgh,11 "The major takeaway is that Coca-Cola's influence is global. It has been able to quietly influence the science and policy of chronic disease, including obesity."
ILSI's Close Ties With China Influences Governmental Policy
Greenhalgh's investigation centered on the ILSI organization, which infamously was once accused by WHO as having received money from the tobacco industry, which it then used to promote research downplaying the effects of secondhand smoke. The organization now has more than 12 branches in several countries, including China, and a particularly close relationship with the Chinese government.
From 2004 to 2015, ILSI-China sponsored or cosponsored six international obesity conferences featuring scientist who promoted fitness, not diet, as the key to preventing and lowering obesity rates.12 The ILSI-China headquarters is located inside the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the equivalent of the U.S. CDC.13
Without the freedom to publish investigative pieces in the way possible in the U.S. and other countries, state-run publications do not criticize the government's relationship with ILSI-China. In Greenhalgh's conversations with Chinese scientists she found they didn't appear bothered by the industry's close ties, as scientists are elsewhere.14
In a report from UNICEF, childhood obesity skyrocketed after 1990. According to the researchers, 15 "China is home to a staggering number of obese children." One Chinese government campaign, Happy 10 Minutes, encourages children to exercise for 10 minutes each day in what would seem to be a positive step toward improving public health.16
However, the initiative emphasizes exercise over nutrition, against most research demonstrating you can never out-exercise what you eat. It happens the fitness-is-best message has been the handiwork of Coca-Cola and other food and beverage giants that have helped to shape decades of public policy on obesity and diet-related illnesses.
The industry's efforts to manipulate nutrition science and policy in the U.S. is well-documented. In a paper published in the Journal of Public Health policy, researchers wrote:17
"This shift aligned with Coca-Cola's message that it is activity, not diet, that matters — a claim few public health scholars accept. These changes correlated with the growing importance of Coca-Cola's funding, ideas, and affiliated researchers via ILSI-China.
In putting its massive resources behind only one side of the science, and with no other parties sufficiently resourced to champion more balanced solutions that included regulation of the food industry, the company, working through ILSI, redirected China's chronic disease science, potentially compromising the public's health."
Big Soda Wants to Avoid Any Blame for Rising Rates of Obesity
The stunning influence Coca-Cola is wielding in China was in part developed to protect their financial interests and to engender as much support as possible to lay blame for obesity on any other doorstep except sugary beverages.
Coca-Cola's influence over Chinese society began in the late 1970s when it began exploiting limited opportunities for Chinese researchers to access funds.18 ILSI began promoting the narrative that all foods and drinks could potentially be part of a healthy diet.
Interestingly, this was the core message of the Global Energy Balance Network, which Coca-Cola believed could be used as a "weapon" to "change the conversation" about obesity and divert attention away from their products.19
A rising urban population with access to disposable income and a growing demand for international cuisine has driven obesity to the point China now lays claim to the title as having the largest overweight population in the world, bumping the U.S. to second place.20
There are more than 43 million men and 46 million women in China classified as overweight. But, while ILSI continues to push exercise over eating nutritional foods, there has been no shortage of research linking excessive sugar consumption with obesity, and the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages appears to have a particularly strong link.
UCLA researchers found adults who drank at least one sugar-sweetened beverage a day are 27 percent more likely to be overweight or obese.21 Even those who only drank soda occasionally had a 15 percent greater risk, and a growing number of studies have linked rising childhood obesity rates to increased consumption of sugary beverages as well.
As Marion Nestle, Ph.D., who holds a master's degree in public health from University of California, Berkeley, and a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology, wrote in The Guardian:22
"For at least the last 10 years, Coca-Cola's annual reports to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission have listed obesity and its health consequences as the single greatest threat to the company profits. The industry counters this threat with intensive marketing, lobbying and millions of dollars poured into fighting campaigns to tax or cap the size of sugary drinks …
[T]he Mayo Clinic Proceedings23 published a study arguing that the results of national dietary surveys, such as those that link sugary drinks to Type 2 diabetes, are so flawed that they constitute a major misuse of public funds. The authors report honoraria, speaking and consulting fees from Coca-Cola."
China Focuses on Reducing Rising Obesity Without Addressing Dietary Changes
In response to a progressively unhealthy lifestyle, the Chinese government has initiated a Healthy China 2030 plan with the aim to make China healthy by 2030. The blueprint for the plan includes promotion of health as a habit and the goal to bump the population's life expectancy by four years.
WHO believes this may be a move to put health at the center of the country's entire policymaking machinery. Interestingly, food and beverage companies have also jumped on the bandwagon, heralding Healthy China 2030 as a positive step in public health policy.
The excitement of the food and beverage industry may be related to what appears to be their influence on the policy.24 In reading through the plan it's easy to see key indicators of their influence, including frequent exercise, integrating sports and exercise with medical care, and promoting physical exercise.
The plan calls for developing a well-balanced diet by improving knowledge and literacy rates, reducing nutritional deficiencies and reducing the average daily salt intake by 20 percent. However, the plan does not discuss any other nutritional changes, sugar intake or what a balanced diet may look like.
Choosing Healthier Beverages Reduces Your Risk of Obesity and Ill Health
Don't fall into the trap of reaching for a soda when you're thirsty. For a discussion of the other side effects of drinking sweetened beverages, including links to research demonstrating a higher risk of depression, metabolic syndrome, stroke and dementia, see my previous article, "Give Up Soda."
Instead, consider swapping out your soda for clean water, a cup of black organic coffee, fresh juicing or tea. Each of these options have significant health benefits associated with consumption, taste great and offer some of the same energy boosting effects you're looking for in caffeinated sodas.
It is unfortunate how many fail to fully appreciate the impact your oral health has on your overall health. The delicate balance of bacteria in your mouth may be as important to your health as your gut microbiome. For example, periodontal disease affecting the soft tissues and bone is triggered by an increase in a gram-negative oral anaerobes bacteria, Porphyromonas gingivalis.
This bacterium impairs your immune response, while dental cavities are linked to Streptococcus mutans.1 Research has connected periodontal disease to Type 2 diabetes2 and finds failing to brush twice a day increases your risk of dementia by as much as 65 percent. Good oral hygiene may also lower your risk of pneumonia by 40 percent.3 Antibacterial mouthwashes and rinses also adversely affect your oral microbiome.
In a recent statement4 from the American Dental Association (ADA), they reaffirm the importance of flossing to oral hygiene and the reduction of tooth decay and gum disease, which develops when plaque builds up on the teeth and along the gum line. According to the ADA, these interdental devices, such as floss, are essential to taking care of your teeth and gums.
However, researchers have now discovered5 use of dental floss may actually increase your exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a group of man-made, persistent chemicals manufactured for use in food packaging, household products and in the workplace.6
Dental Floss Use Linked to Higher PFAS Levels
According to a study led by Silent Spring Institute in collaboration with the Public Health Institute in Berkeley California, results suggest certain types of behavior, including flossing, may contribute to elevated levels of PFAS chemicals.7
Researchers believe this is the first study to show an association between Oral-B Glide dental floss and higher exposure to PFAS — water- and grease-proof substances linked with numerous health problems. The study was published in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology as a special issue dedicated to PFAS.
Past research has demonstrated exposure increases directly from products being used and foods wrapped in PFAS-containing packaging. Since the chemicals are persistent in the environment, you may also be exposed through indoor air and dust or contaminated drinking water.8
Although scientists have known PFAS compounds are used in Oral-B Glide floss, Courtney Carignan, associate professor of food science and toxicology at Michigan State University, who was not a part of the study, states this finding suggests it may be more important than expected.9 In a response to Buzzfeed, Proctor & Gamble, owner of the Oral B and Crest brands, said it stands by the safety of all its products.10
In addition to blood levels, the researchers analyzed the chemical makeup of dental floss finding six brands tested positive for fluorine, an element indicating the presence of PFAS compounds. The products testing positive were:11
CVS Health Ease Between Super Slip Dental Floss Waxed
Safeway Signature Care Mint Waxed Comfort Floss
Crest Glide Deep Clean Cool Mint Floss
Colgate Total Dental Floss Mint
Oral-B Glide Pro-Health Mint
Glide Pro-Health Original
Another expert not involved in the study pointed out fluoride, which also contains fluorine, is sometimes added to dental products. However, study author Katie Boronow from Silent Spring Institute, said none of the products were advertised to contain fluoride for dental health.12
Boronow stressed the goal of the study was to get a clearer idea of how chemicals are absorbed, aside from contaminated drinking water or PFAS chemical contamination at work.13
'Forever Chemicals' Are Found in Multiple Products
Until recently, most PFAS chemicals were commonly referred to as PFC, or perfluorinated compounds. PFAS is now used by the scientific community and decision-makers in order to include the entire class of chemicals characterized by a chain of fluorine carbon bonds, among the strongest in chemistry.
The stability of PFAS means they are persistent in the environment and in your body, thus becoming known colloquially as "forever chemicals." Additionally, science is now beginning to understand the wide range of potential health effects, including several types of cancers, elevated cholesterol and a negative impact on liver function.
PFAS have caused quite a commotion in recent times. During this past year alone, the state of Minnesota settled a lawsuit against 3M,14 the EPA held a PFAS summit during which they threw out some members of the press,15 and the Trump Administration attempted to suppress data on the effect PFAS have on public health, believing it would cause a "public relations nightmare."16
This class of industrially produced chemicals are found in many products, including fire retardant foam, food packaging and cosmetics. Water sources supplying more than 30 communities across the U.S. are contaminated with dangerously high levels of PFAS chemicals,17 stain resistant chemicals with an interesting relationship to water.
The chemicals may be both attracted to and repelled by water, making them a unique class that remains intact in water, air and bodies for thousands of years.18 Manufacturers may have found them useful in camping gear, carpeting and nonstick cookware — that is until you consider the health trade-off.
Perfluoroalkyl Chemicals Pollute Water Supply for Millions
In the report19 the Trump administration tried to suppress, data detailed widespread PFOA contamination and suggested the chemicals are dangerous at levels at least seven to 10 times lower than the EPA's current safety threshold.
The current advisory level for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water is 70 parts per trillion (ppt), but environmental groups have long said this is still far too high. The report from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) recommends the levels should be dropped to 7 ppt and 11 ppt for PFOA and PFOS respectively.
A study by Harvard University20 found 16.5 million Americans have detectable levels of at least one form of PFAS in their drinking water and nearly 6 million are drinking water containing PFAS at or above the current EPA safety levels.
Should the EPA drop their safety level according to a ASTDR's recommendations, it would drastically increase the number of Americans who are legitimately at risk. The highest concentration levels of PFASs were found in watersheds near industrial sites, military fire training areas and wastewater treatment plants, but private wells were also found to be contaminated.
Testing in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, revealed 19 municipal wells, representing 28 percent of the city's water, have high levels of PFAS as a result of liberal use of firefighting foam by the South Dakota Air National Guard and Sioux Falls fire department decades ago. This toxic legacy persists since PFAS doesn't break down in the environment.
The wells were originally tested in 2011 but results were not released to the residents until 2016, when further testing led to more wells being shut down. At least 12 wells have been found contaminated at levels above 200 to 3,500 times the EPA's advisory level of 70 ppt.21
The U.S. Department of Defense report at least 126 water systems near military bases are contaminated due to their use of firefighting foam. While other countries are now using foam without these toxic chemicals, the U.S. military continues to use those manufactured with PFAS. Sharon Lerner, a reporting fellow at The Investigative Fund and an investigative journalist for The Intercept and other major media outlets reports:22
"[E]ven as the Army, Navy and Air Force have begun the slow process of addressing the contamination, which is expected to cost upwards of $2 billion, the Department of Defense isn't abandoning this line of chemicals.
While some of the precise formulations that caused the contamination are off the table, the U.S. military is in the midst of an expensive effort to replace older foam with a newer formulation that contains only slightly tweaked versions of the same problematic compounds …
Some of the studies showing the dangers of these persistent chemicals came from the manufacturers themselves ... The new foam contains no PFOS and 'little or no PFOA,' according to an Air Force press release.23 Instead, it uses the closely related molecules that pose many of the same dangers ... "
Toxic Cookware Has Been Polluting Water for Decades
The perception has been that what is on dental floss or your cookware likely stays in place. However, multiple studies demonstrate toxic chemicals have been leaching from your household products and contaminating your body and the environment.
One of the PFAS chemicals, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA, also known as C8), has been found to be more dangerous than previously thought. DuPont manufactured PFOA to make Teflon cookware for nearly 50 years.
Throughout that time, the company defended the safety of the chemical despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. To this day, DuPont continues to resist accountability for any health problems resulting from exposure.
These battles continue to play out in the court system as DuPont fights allegations C8 has triggered multiple health problems. The legal battles uncovered internal documents demonstrating DuPont was fully aware of the danger to the public and employees and yet continue using it.
After seven years of research, the results of which are detailed in more than three dozen peer-reviewed papers, the C8 science panel has linked PFOA to:24
- Ulcerative colitis
- High cholesterol
- Pregnancy-induced hypertension
- Thyroid disease
- Testicular and kidney cancer
Serious Health Risks Associated With PFAS
The list of health risks associated with PFAS continues to grow. The ASTDR's report notes evidence of negative liver, cardiovascular, endocrine, immune, reproductive and developmental effects. Other studies have revealed subtle effects, such as an increased risk of obesity in children, when exposure occurred in utero.25
In May 2015, more than 200 scientists from 40 countries signed the Madrid statement warning about the harms of PFAS chemicals and documenting the following potential effects from exposure:26
Disruption of lipid metabolism, and the immune and endocrine systems
Reduced hormone levels and delayed puberty
Decreased immune response to vaccines
Tumors in multiple organ systems
Testicular and kidney cancers
Adverse neurobehavioral effects
Neonatal toxicity and death
Reduced birth weight and size
Take Steps to Reduce Your Exposure
Since governmental agencies are exceptionally slow at regulating the toxins you may be exposed to in the products you purchase, it is up to you to limit your exposure making safer lifestyle choices. Consider the following to limit how much PFAS chemicals you come into contact with each day.
Oral care — You may easily eliminate your exposure by choosing dental floss, and other interdental devices, manufactured by a trusted company without toxic chemicals. Seek out products using vegan vegetable waxes that are smoother and glide between your teeth easily, as well as those without added fluoride, using nylon instead of chemically treated silk.
Oil pulling — Incorporate oil pulling into your daily regimen to reduce your risk of periodontitis and protect your gums. To find out more about the benefits of oil pulling, see my previous article, "What Is Oil Pulling?"
Drinking water — Unfortunately, the military is only attempting to clean up PFOA and PFOS contamination from drinking water and is not providing clean drinking water to residents in affected areas unless their water contains more than the EPA's threshold of 70 ppt of PFOA and/or PFOS specifically.
Further, there are more than 4,000 different PFASs, and scientists are only beginning to unravel their disturbing effects.27 The full extent of contamination is unknown, but there is a good chance your water is affected.
For this reason, and others, I highly recommend filtering your water at the point of entry and use in your home. For a more detailed discussion about PFAS water contamination, see "Conspiracy to Hide New Data on Water Pollution."
Cookware — Get rid of all nonstick cookware from your home, including waffle irons and sandwich makers. Instead, seek out a healthy line of nonstick ceramic cookware made without dangerous PFAS chemicals, and is made without other heavy metals, such as iron, lead, aluminum or cadmium.
Food packaging — In recent years, researchers and scientists have raised warnings about mounting toxic exposures, leading to efforts to rein in the use of chemicals known to be hazardous to human health, including PFAS commonly found in packaging from fast food and pizza restaurants and packaging in your grocery store.
In "The Most Toxic Retailers on the Planet," discover which companies received a failing grade from Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families' Mind the Store campaign, and which are making strides to improve your health.
Cosmetics — Certain cosmetics, particularly eye shadow, foundation, powder, bronzer and blush, have a higher risk of containing PFAS chemicals. An Environmental Working Group (EWG) report28 found 13 PFAS chemicals in close to 200 products spanning 28 brands, including makeup, sunscreen, shampoo and shaving cream. Consider searching the EWG Skin Deep Cosmetic database29 before your next purchase.
Ice cream giant Ben & Jerry's' efforts to dismiss a lawsuit brought against it by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) has been rejected. The District of Columbia Superior Court ruled that the suit, which alleges Ben & Jerry's used "smoke and mirrors" marketing aimed at covering up the true sources of its dirty dairy, will move forward.
Ben & Jerry's is the fourth top-selling ice cream brand in the world, and thanks to its acquisition by Unilever in 2000, has tripled its sales over the last decade and a half, reaching $1.23 billion in sales in 2016.1
Despite its prolific growth, it's still viewed by many as a socially responsible, environmentally friendly company — an image it has carefully crafted and worked to maintain, including via social media campaigns targeting young adults.
However, instead of being a true champion for the environment, Ben & Jerry's continues to source its milk largely from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), betraying both the environment and their customers' trust.
Judge Rules Against Ben & Jerry's, Allows Lawsuit to Move Ahead
Ben & Jerry's promotes its ice cream as made from milk from "happy cows" supported by its "Caring Dairy" program, a set of standards for cow care, planet stewardship and farmworkers that are supposed to go beyond the CAFO status quo. According to Ben & Jerry's:2
"Caring Dairy offers our farmers a program for evaluating, implementing and continuously improving sustainable agricultural practices on their farms. Our belief is that the future of dairy farming is to build soil health that includes increased cover crops, alternative tilling practices, rotational crops and grazing techniques.
We also believe that high quality animal care is fundamental to the success of a farm, a well-cared for cow will produce a higher quality milk. And of course the importance of labor that supports the entire farm, from the farmer to the farmworker."
It sounds good in theory, and looks good in print, but the reality is not so pretty. According to OCA, Ben & Jerry's sources its milk and cream from a cooperative in St. Albans City, Vermont. About 360 farms deliver dairy to the co-op, and fewer than 25 percent of them actually meet the Caring Dairy standards.
Further, all the milk at the co-op is mixed together, so Ben & Jerry's receives a mixed vat of Caring Dairy and, primarily, CAFO milk. "[E]ven if some of the milk comes from a farm that actually meets those standards, Ben & Jerry's can't truthfully claim that all of their milk and cream come from dairies that meet the company's 'Caring Dairy' standards," OCA noted.3
Indeed, and the judge agreed. While Ben & Jerry's filed a motion to have OCA's deceptive labeling and marketing lawsuit dismissed, Judge Neal Kravitz stated that the allegations were sufficient to advance a claim that consumers could be misled by Ben & Jerry's' labeling and marketing.
"A reasonable consumer could plausibly interpret Ben & Jerry's' labeling and marketing as affirmatively (and inaccurately) communicating that the company's ice cream products are sourced exclusively from Caring Dairies and/or other humane source," he wrote.4
Consumers Could Be Misled About Glyphosate in Ben & Jerry's
In their suit, OCA also claimed that Ben & Jerry's' marketing could lead consumers to assume that the ice cream contained no harmful chemicals, such as the herbicide glyphosate.
Kravitz agreed, noting, "The court concludes that the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to support a plausible claim that consumers would be misled by Ben & Jerry's' statements into believing the company's ice cream products contain no traces of chemicals like glyphosate."5
For all their talk about sustainable agricultural practices, if you look at Ben & Jerry's' ice cream labels, you'll notice that they don't mention organic. As such, pesticide usage is fair game and residues are par for the course.
In July 2017, OCA reported that 10 of 11 samples of Ben & Jerry's ice cream they tested came back positive for glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, and/or its main metabolite AMPA.6 The fan favorites Phish Food, Half Baked and Americone Dream are just a few examples found to contain glyphosate or its metabolites.
Also in 2017, OCA called on Ben & Jerry's to immediately transition to using only organic ingredients, including milk, "or face a national and international consumer boycott." Ben & Jerry's responded by stating their products are safe to eat and contain only trace levels below those allowed by regulatory standards.
However, daily exposure to even ultra-low levels of glyphosate for two years led to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in rats in one study.7 After being forced into the negative publicity spotlight, Ben & Jerry's released a "vision of sustainable agriculture," with claims that they would stop using ingredients made with crops chemically dried using glyphosate by 2020, which only applies to their nondairy ingredients.
They also claimed that they would come out with a new product line in 2018 that would include organic dairy in the base mix, slated to represent up to 6 percent of total U.S. sales.8 Unfortunately, it seems they have no intention of sourcing the bulk of their dairy from organic sources in the near future, although they did roll out a small selection of light ice cream made with organic milk and cream.
As it stands, however, Ben & Jerry's is contributing to the many problems caused by industrialized agriculture, including getting dairy from farms that are polluting Lake Champlain and Lake Carmi in Vermont's Franklin County, the suit alleges.
Ben & Jerry's Claims to Be GMO-Free but Is Made With Milk From GMO-Fed Cows
While Ben & Jerry's doesn't claim to be organic, they do claim to use non-GMO ingredients in their pints and ice cream shops. "We reached this non-GMO milestone in 2014 when we completed the transition of all plant-based ingredients in all* (sic) of our ice cream flavors to non-GMO," they claim.9
For people looking to avoid GMOs, this may seem like a green light to embrace Ben & Jerry's, but here's a juicy little fact: Ben & Jerry's uses conventional, i.e., CAFO, dairy, which is a leading consumer of genetically engineered crops via GMO animal feed. So while their ice cream may not use GMOs directly, it is certainly contributing to the proliferation of GMO crops in the environment.
According to the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, "In the United States, livestock have been fed genetically engineered crops since these crops were first introduced in 1996 … Because the majority of corn … and soybeans … are used for livestock feed, it is clear that the livestock industry is a major user of genetically engineered crops."10
If Ben & Jerry's truly wanted to support the GMO-free movement, they have a simple fix at their disposal: Switch to organic ingredients, which, for dairy, means it comes from cows fed only pasture or organic, non-GMO feed.
The Non-GMO Project described animal feed as "the key to a non-GMO future," pointing out, "When large-scale livestock and poultry farmers make the switch to non-GMO feed, the face of U.S. agriculture will change."11 Even mainstream companies like yogurt maker Dannon have committed to sourcing non-GMO feed for the animals producing their milk.
Yet, Ben & Jerry's keeps stalling. While they could be a major driver to a more sustainable planet, instead they only state, "We are actively seeking cost-effective options for farmers within our supply chain to convert to non-GMO animal feed." Meanwhile, this caveat exists on their Non-GMO Standards webpage:12
"We've based our non-GMO standard on the mandatory declaration requirements of European regulations and the GMO labeling law passed by our home state of Vermont. This standard does not address animal feed.
To be clear, the fresh milk and cream we source from family farmers is conventionally sourced. It is common practice for dairy cows' feed to contain GMO ingredients such as corn and soy."
Is Ben & Jerry's Exploiting Farmworkers?
Part of Ben & Jerry's' deceptive marketing spin involves the migrant workers on Vermont's dairy farms. The company pays less than the cost of production for its dairy, which makes it impossible to attract a local workforce. Most of Ben & Jerry's' dairy comes from farms where workers, mostly from Mexico, are paid low wages, expected to work long hours with little (or no) time off and poor living conditions.
As is the case with their spin on environmental responsibility, Ben & Jerry's claims to support a Milk with Dignity agreement, which they developed in partnership with migrant worker rights organization Migrant Justice.
They tout that 72 farms, with an estimated 250 migrant workers, are signed up for the program, which is supposed to offer basic farmworker protections, such as minimum wage, one day off a week, eight hours off per 24 hours of work, a bed and running water.
Yet, as of August 2018, zero of the 72 farms were actually in compliance with the agreement. What's more, the program is voluntary, which means any of the farms can opt out at any time. Michael Colby, president of Regeneration Vermont, explained:13
"Unfortunately, that bit of truth didn't make it into the fawning media coverage the well-orchestrated press event received, including a short New York Times piece that was headlined, 'Farm Worker Program a Success.'
It was the kind of coverage that must have had them dancing in the corporate headquarters of Unilever, the European mega-corporation that owns the Ben & Jerry's brand, among dozens of others, where market share — not social justice — is the primary goal. Unilever has called for Ben & Jerry's to be among its billion-dollar-a-year-brands by 2020."
Support the Companies Doing Dairy the Right Way
The purpose of OCA's lawsuit is to bring attention and awareness to the fact that one of the biggest "environmentally friendly" ice cream makers in the U.S. is actually supporting an industry that harms animals, the environment and public health. Whether Ben & Jerry's will clean up their act remains to be seen. Colby told Vermont Public Radio that the judge's recent ruling may ultimately force their hand:14
"They're making all kinds of false claims and all kinds of money — $800 million last year — while they're leaving the damage for Vermonters to clean up the water, for the cows to be unhealthy and for the consumers to be threatened by what's really in their products and how they're really farming …
Given the strength of this ruling, it should put a little fear in Ben & Jerry's and their corporate owner, Unilever … They really have two choices: they can negotiate with us to do the right thing without having to go further legally. Or based on this ruling, they really are facing a legal defeat which will really force them to stop making false claims."
Still, the fact remains that as long as consumers continue to buy Ben & Jerry's' products as is, they have little incentive to change. You can take a stand now by choosing only organic, grass fed ice cream in lieu of Ben & Jerry's. You can also send Ben & Jerry's a message using the online contact form at the bottom of their contact page letting them know why you've chosen to no longer purchase their products.
Better yet, call Ben & Jerry's directly (802-846-1500) and ask the company to fulfill their mission statement and go organic. OCA has also created a petition15 to encourage Ben & Jerry's to convert to organic and stop hoodwinking customers into thinking they're organic by claiming to be all-natural and environmentally responsible.
I also encourage you to look for The American Grassfed Association (AGA) logo on dairy (and meat), as it ensures the animals were born and raised on American family farms, fed only grass and forage from weaning until harvest, and raised on pasture without confinement to feedlots.16
By buying grass fed or pastured dairy products, you are making a solid choice toward protecting, not polluting, the planet — something Ben & Jerry's would be wise to also consider.
In the U.S., virtually all newborn babies have their heels pricked when they're between 24 and 48 hours old, typically before they leave the hospital. The purpose is to collect drops of blood to test for certain genetic, metabolic and congenital disorders, including phenylketonuria (PKU), cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease and others.
This newborn genetic screening started in the 1960s with screening for PKU and is now required in all 50 states, although each state runs its own program. Today, all states test for at least 29 disorders, with some testing for more than 60, but some health care providers may still refer to it as the "PKU test." The conditions included are those that can be effectively treated when caught early, preventing death or disability.
Not only is this the only test babies receive that's performed by the state department of health, but it's also mandatory, except in some cases of religious exemption. Every year, nearly 4 million U.S. babies receive newborn screening, and more than 5,000 are identified as having one of the screenable conditions.1
Parents, in the hazy first hours after having a child, may or may not remember their baby receiving the heel prick — and won't hear much else about it, unless their baby is diagnosed with one of the conditions. Yet, in some states, the blood drops taken from the child are not simply disposed of after the test.
Instead, they're sent to storage facilities that, in some cases, keep them indefinitely, raising serious concerns about privacy, patients' rights and the right of informed consent.
California Runs a Biobank Housing Every Newborn's Blood
California is among a handful of states that store newborn blood spots indefinitely. When CBS station KPIX asked six new moms about the test, and subsequent storage of the leftover blood spots, they were shocked.
State law requires that parents be informed of their right to have the samples destroyed, but the information is hidden on Page 13 of a 14-page genetic screening pamphlet given to women along with a stack of other papers in the hours after giving birth — hardly a time when most parents will commit to sorting through folders of paperwork.
The pamphlet is supposed to be given to women once before their due date and again in the hospital before the heel prick, but there is no one tracking whether this actually occurs, and many parents say they received the information only after the test was performed, if at all.
In a larger poll of California parents, three-quarters similarly were unaware that the state stored leftover blood spots indefinitely, and two-thirds weren't even sure if they received the newborn screening information. California has been storing blood spots since 1983 and has collected more than 9.5 million samples since 2000, according to CBS.2
According to state law, parents don't need to opt-in to having their baby's blood spot stored because blood specimens collected in a hospital or medical facility are not your property but become that of the state.3 According to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):4
"After the newborn screening tests are done, a small amount of dried blood remains on the filter paper card. Many labs keep and store these 'residual samples' because of their continued value to the family, laboratories' quality control and assurance monitoring, and public health.
Each state’s policies around residual blood spot storage and use are different — some store the blood samples only for a few weeks and then destroy them, while others store the spots indefinitely."
What Are the Blood Samples Used For?
The simplest explanation is that dried blood spots can be used if retesting is required or if the parents need further testing of the baby, but there are far more uses than this. California's newborn screening program uses residual blood spots for quality control, such as ensuring tests are accurate, as well as to develop new tests to add to the panel. They're also used for additional research:5
"California law requires the NBS [Newborn Screening Branch] program to use or provide newborn screening specimens for department-approved studies of diseases in women and children, such as research related to identifying and preventing disease. This could be to study birth defects, chronic disease, exposure to toxins or infections."
However, it’s not only government researchers who have access to the samples. According to CBS, California’s biobank has sold 16,000 blood spots since 2013, totaling about $700,000. Private researchers can obtain the blood spots for $20 to $40 each, and though they must meet certain criteria for their request to be granted, it’s possible that the samples could fall into the wrong hands.
When asked whether it was possible for blood spots to be requested for a certain purpose but used for another, Fred Lorey, the former director of the California Genetic Disease Screening Program, told CBS, "I want to say no … But I'm not ready to say no because I know how humans can be sometimes."6
Law Enforcement May Also Access the Blood Samples
Aside from researchers, blood spots have been used by coroners to identify bodies as well as by parents looking for paternity testing. Law enforcement can also gain access to blood spots if they have a court order, and in this case the blood spots are identified.
"[Consumer Watchdog's Jamie] Court points to the recent case of the Golden State Killer. Investigators used public ancestry sites to identify a murder suspect using decades-old unidentified DNA from a crime scene," CBS reported.7
While California states that their screening program does not store information about babies' DNA or store a "DNA profile" or DNA database, there's debate over whether blood spots can truly stay anonymous. In California, the blood spots are given only a number and are stored in a separate building from the identifying information, which is removed from the server and microfiched after a few years.
Yet, according to Court, "There is no such thing as de-identified DNA … The very nature of DNA is that it identifies you and your genetic code specifically."8 The Citizens' Council for Health Freedom (CCHF) even went so far as to question whether newborn genetic screening could be the new eugenics, noting, "the eugenic programs of the 20th century may now have transformed themselves into 21st century State and Federal 'public health genetics' programs."9
They suggest that informed written parent consent is needed to protect citizens, including newborns, and recommend the following protective strategies:
• Allow parents to choose the conditions for which their child is tested
• Destruct current state newborn DNA repositories
• Require informed written consent before newborn blood is taken for:
◦ Newborn genetic screening
◦ Government storage of test results and newborn DNA
◦ Research using newborn DNA and newborn genetic test results
"Finally," CCHF states, "State legislatures should privatize newborn genetic screening programs to protect citizens from State genetic registries, State ownership of citizen DNA, government research projects, and intrusive government interference in private family and medical decisions."10
Families Sue Government for Using Stored Blood Spots Without Permission
If you're thinking that storing babies' blood spots without parents' consent sounds like an overreach of government or legal authority, you're not the only one. In 2008, five families sued the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and Texas A&M University for just that. The state had changed its policy regarding newborn screening samples in 2002 from destroying them to giving them to researchers.
The suit alleged that this violated the parents' rights under the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. The case was settled and DSHS was required to publically list where the blood spots had been used for research.
In addition to giving them to pharmaceutical companies, the samples were provided to the U.S. Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, prompting another lawsuit that DSHS acted with deception in distributing the samples.11
Although the case was ultimately dismissed, Texas destroyed millions of stored blood spots and now requires parents to opt-in to the storage program while disclosing whether they're planning to distribute the sample and to whom. Newsweek reported that while most people are supportive of allowing states to keep blood spots and store them, provided they give permission and receive explanations, it deserves a second thought:12
"Currently, there are private commercial data banks, including those run by health care companies; biobanks under the auspices of the NIH, academic and private research institutions; and the FBI's Combined DNA Index System, routinely used for law enforcement purposes.
[Jeremy Gruber, president of the Council for Responsible Genetics] says as genetic biobanks ‘become more widespread and the uses for DNA become more common … we’re going to start to see more and more bleed-over of these databases.'"
CCHF also highlighted a case in Michigan in which parents sued the state for storing and using their child's blood without their consent. A judge dismissed the case, claiming the actions did not cause "harm," but CCHF disagreed, pointing out the following instances of harm that result from the storage of newborn DNA:13
"The government essentially owns the DNA of every newborn through the newborn screening program. With this court case, the government has now claimed ownership and the judge has agreed.
Legislators can come up with new things to do with Baby DNA, such as genetic sequencing and law enforcement.
Not only has privacy been dismissed, but the ability to tell the government it cannot take DNA, blood or genetic property has also been dismissed.
Patients don't realize the harm if they are unaware DNA has been stored and could be used against them or for activities to which they are opposed.
Through DNA storage and research, another party can gain knowledge of the elements and biomarkers in the child's DNA and, therefore, have information on the subject, which the subject does not know.
Once the storage is discovered, parents may experience fear of what the government and researchers have already done, and what they might do in the future. This too is harm."
Can You Protect Your Baby's Privacy?
If you like the idea of having your newborn screened for genetic diseases but don't want your child's blood spot stored, you may be able to opt out. First, contact your state health department and find out what the storage policies are for blood spots taken for newborn screening.
CCHF maintains data on how long state governments keep the samples as well as opt-out forms for Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, South Carolina, Texas and Washington.14 California also allows parents to request that their baby's blood spots be destroyed, via this form.
While it's clear that large databases of newborn blood samples provide unprecedented research opportunities, there's also the potential for such samples to be used in unforeseen ways that threaten privacy. At the very least, parents have the right to informed consent not only about genetic testing for their child but also how their related blood samples are used in the future.
30 Tips in 30 Days Designed to Help You Take Control of Your Health
This article is included in Dr. Mercola's All-Time Top 30 Health Tips series. Every day during the month of January, a new tip will be added that will help you take control of your health. Want to see the full list? Click here.
Vaccines have quickly become Big Pharma's most lucrative profit center. Currently valued at more than $34 billion a year, the vaccine industry is projected to exceed $49 billion by 2022.1 There are several reasons for this rapid growth. Not only are vaccines priced much higher than pills, but governments and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are also engaged in the marketing of vaccines.
These unethical partnerships, which use both taxpayer and NGO money, advance misleading research intended to frighten the public. Worse, they discredit vaccine critics who raise legitimate safety and efficacy questions and even discredit the families and victims of vaccine injuries themselves.
To cash in on vaccine profits, Big Pharma, governments and NGOs have cast all vaccines as "life-saving." One of the clearest examples is the attempt to present the HPV vaccine as an "anticancer" vaccine, even though there's not a single shred of evidence that it actually has an impact on cervical cancer rates. Meanwhile, mounting evidence of serious harm and death caused by the HPV vaccine is being ignored or cast aside as "coincidental."
To Avoid Vaccine Injury, Educate Yourself About the Risks
The official stance repeated by most mainstream media is that vaccines have been thoroughly researched, that "hundreds" of studies have proven their safety, and that no link between vaccines and health problems, such as autism, have ever been found.
It sounds definitive enough, and is often repeated as established fact. Yet it's far from the whole truth. Importantly, the vaccine industry has long shied away from evaluating vaccinated versus unvaccinated populations to determine potential differences in general health outcomes.
The few independent scientists who have attempted such an investigation have little comfort to give to those who believe vaccines are essential for health, and mandatory use of vaccines by all children is the only way to protect society from disease.
Vaccine May Actually Be Doing More Harm Than Good
One such study,2 published in 2017, examined health outcomes among infants 3 to 5 months old following the introduction of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) and oral polio vaccine in Guinea-Bissau, which took place in the early 1980s. This population offered the rare opportunity to compare vaccinated and unvaccinated children due to the way the vaccines were rolled out in the West African country.
Shockingly, researchers discovered "DTP was associated with fivefold higher mortality than being unvaccinated." According to the authors, "All currently available evidence suggests that DTP vaccine may kill more children from other causes than it saves from diphtheria, tetanus or pertussis."
In short, the researchers concluded that DTP vaccine weakened the children's immune systems, rendering them vulnerable to a whole host of other often deadly diseases and serious health problems.
In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends that children receive 69 doses of 16 vaccines by the time they're 18 years old, with 50 doses of 14 vaccines given before the age of 6.3
This, despite the fact that no thorough investigation has ever been conducted to determine how all of these vaccines actually affect a child's health. What's worse, no one is tracking the health outcomes of children who adhere to the federally recommended childhood vaccine schedule and state mandatory vaccination programs.
Lawyers with the U.S. Justice Department also defend vaccines in the federal vaccine injury compensation program (VICP), commonly referred to as "vaccine court," which means the U.S. government has a stake in maintaining the illusion that vaccines are a necessary lifesaving measure that causes minimal harm.
High Vaccination Rate Does Not Translate Into Better Infant Health
What we do know is that:
• The U.S. has the highest vaccination rate in the world, with 94 to 96 percent of children entering kindergarten having received multiple doses of vaccines4
• The U.S. also has one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates of any developed nation5,6
• 1 in 6 American children has a developmental disability, which includes ADD, ADHD, autism, hearing loss, learning disabilities, mental disabilities, seizures and stammering — many of which are also listed or known side effects of vaccines
• 54 percent of children have a diagnosed chronic illness, including anxiety, asthma, behavioral problems, bone and muscle disorders, chronic ear infections, depression, diabetes, food and/or environmental allergies and epilepsy.
This list again mirrors many of the acknowledged side effects of vaccines, and the rise in prevalence of these diseases parallel the rise in required vaccines, yet vaccine promoters insist that these illnesses are in no way associated with vaccinations
Common Vaccine Side Effects
Both the U.S. Congress and the Supreme Court have also admitted that government licensed and recommended childhood vaccines are "unavoidably unsafe,"7 and possible side effects that are actually listed on vaccine inserts include:
Type 1 diabetes
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
Vaccines also have the highest number of recalls of any drug, which speaks to their "unavoidably unsafe" nature. Victims have also received compensation from the federal vaccine injury compensation program (VICP) for the following (and other) injuries:
Seizure disorder hypoxic seizure
Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis
Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy (CIDP)
Premature ovarian failure
Type 1 diabetes
Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura
Ocular myasthenia gravis
The Vaccines-Autism Link Revived
According to the latest survey,8,9 1 in 40 American children between the ages of 3 and 17 is now on the autism spectrum. This shocking update was published in the journal Pediatrics in December 2018. In 2014, the rate was 1 in 59; in 2010, it was 1 in 68; in 2000, it was 1 in 150.10 To say we're looking at exponential growth would be an understatement. But do vaccines have anything to do with this trend?
According to a Full Measure report11 by award-winning investigative reporter and former CBS correspondent Sharyl Attkisson, Dr. Andrew Zimmerman, a pediatric neurologist, was the pro-vaccine expert witness the government used to debunk and turn down autism claims in vaccine court.
"Zimmerman was the government's top expert witness and had testified that vaccines didn't cause autism. The debate was declared over," Attkisson reports. "But now Dr. Zimmerman has provided remarkable new information.
He claims that during the vaccine hearings all those years ago, he privately told government lawyers that vaccines can, and did cause autism in some children. That turnabout from the government's own chief medical expert stood to change everything about the vaccine-autism debate. If the public were to find out …
And he has come forward and explained how he told the United States government vaccines can cause autism in a certain subset of children and [the] United States government, the Department of Justice [DOJ], suppressed his true opinions."
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., chairman of The World Mercury Project, was the one who convinced Zimmerman to speak out about the cover-up. In a sworn affidavit, dated September 7, 2018, Zimmerman states that, in 2007, he told DOJ lawyers he had "discovered exceptions in which vaccinations could cause autism."
"I explained that in a subset of children … vaccine-induced fever and immune stimulation … did cause regressive [brain disease] with features of autism spectrum disorder," Zimmerman writes.
A week after this 2007 meeting, the DOJ fired him, saying his services would no longer be needed. According to Zimmerman, the DOJ then went on to misrepresent his opinion in future cases, making no mention of the exceptions he'd informed them of. Kennedy has now filed a fraud complaint with the DOJ Inspector General.
William Thompson, Ph.D., a senior scientist at the CDC's National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases, has also confessed to covering up links found between vaccines and autism, in this case the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.
According to Thompson, this scientific fraud was committed for the express purpose of covering up potential safety problems so the agency would be able to maintain that the MMR vaccine had been proven safe to give to all children. By eliminating the incriminating data, the link vanished, and this research has been cited as proof ever since that vaccines don't cause autism.
Attkisson's report also reveals how Congressmen who wanted to investigate the autism-vaccine link were bullied, harassed and threatened. Dan Burton (R-IN), Dr. Dave Weldon (R-FL) and Bill Posey (R-FL) are among 11 current and former members of Congress and staff who told Attkisson they were warned to drop the vaccine safety issue by PhRMA lobbyists.
Vaccines Can Have Serious Consequences for Adults Too
While children are more susceptible to vaccine damage than adults, grownups can and have been seriously injured and killed by routine vaccinations as well. It's important to realize that no vaccine is 100 percent safe for everyone. As reported by CNN, an oncologist with London's Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust recently died following a routine yellow fever vaccination:12
"Martin Gore, 67, died Thursday morning after receiving the vaccine, which is recommended to travelers visiting sub-Saharan Africa, most of South America, and parts of Central American and the Caribbean …
Gore's death casts light on the heightened risk associated with the yellow fever vaccine and the over-60 demographic. Typical side effects of the vaccine include headaches, muscle pain, mild fever and soreness at the injection site …
However, the vaccinations can, in rare circumstances, cause more severe side effects, including allergic reactions and problems affecting the brain or organs …
The WHO reported that all cases of viscerotropic disease — a rare but dangerous side effect of yellow fever vaccinations where an illness similar to wild-type yellow fever proliferates in multiple organs — have occurred in primary vaccines, starting two to five days after vaccination."
Might Vaccine Reaction Rate Be as High as 1 in 10?
In the video above, Del Bigtree,13 an Emmy Award-winning producer of "The Doctors" talk show for six years, and one of the producers of the documentary, "Vaxxed," discusses vaccine safety, or rather the lack thereof.
In it, he recounts how, in 2010, the CDC hired a company to automate the federal vaccine adverse event reporting system (VAERS) in such a way that any potential vaccine reactions reported to doctors participating in the Harvard Pilgrim HMO would automatically be uploaded into the VAERS database.
Remarkably, preliminary data showed that out of 376,452 individuals given 45 different vaccines, 35,570 possible vaccine reactions were identified. This means nearly 1 in 10 people suffered a reaction after vaccination concerning enough to be reported, yet the official CDC mantra is that the risk for serious vaccine injury or death is 1 in 1 million.
Unfortunately, while the creation of VAERS in 1986 was an opportunity to get a firmer grasp of the number of potential vaccine reactions, injuries and deaths occurring after vaccinations given in the U.S., the CDC didn't follow through, and the project fell by the wayside.
Medical Errors Are the Third Leading Cause of Death in the US
While I've focused a lot of attention on vaccines and the necessity for educating yourself about their risks in this article, vaccines are by far not the only hazard presented by the medical industry. In fact, medical errors in general are the third leading cause of death, killing an estimated 250,000 Americans each year,14,15 an increase of about 25,000 people annually from data published in 2000.16
Side effects from drugs, taken as prescribed, account for the vast majority of iatrogenic deaths, but unnecessary surgeries, medication errors in hospitals, hospital-acquired infections and other medical errors occurring in hospitals also claim their fair share of lives.
Research17 published in 2013 estimated that preventable hospital errors kill 210,000 Americans each year — a figure that comes very close to the latest statistics. However, when deaths related to diagnostic errors, errors of omission, and failure to follow guidelines were included, the number skyrocketed to 440,000 preventable hospital deaths each year.
10 Tips to Avoid Medical Harm
How can you avoid becoming one of these statistics? Aside from educating yourself on the risks and benefits of vaccines, here are several additional suggestions:
Ask your doctor whether a recommended test and/or treatment is really necessary, and do your own homework — According to a report by the Institute of Medicine, an estimated 30 percent of all medical procedures, tests and medications may be unnecessary,18 any one of which can put you at risk for a potentially serious or lethal side effect.
An investigation19 by the Mayo Clinic published in 2013 also revealed between 40 and 78 percent of the medical testing, treatments and procedures you receive are of no benefit to you — or are actually harmful — as determined by clinical studies. To learn which tests and interventions may do more harm than good, browse through the Choosing Wisely website.20
Avoid hospitals unless absolutely necessary — According to 2011 statistics, 1 in 25 patients in the U.S. end up contracting some form of infection while in the hospital,21 and 205 Americans die from hospital-acquired infections each and every day.22
Do your due diligence before undergoing endoscopy — If you're having a colonoscopy or any other procedure using a flexible endoscope done, you can significantly reduce your risk of contracting an infection by asking the hospital or facility how the scope is cleaned, and which cleaning agent is used.
Some esophagoscopes and bronchoscopes have sterile sheaths with disposable air-water and biopsy channels, but many others do not, and must be cleaned between each use. If the hospital or clinic uses glutaraldehyde, or the brand name Cidex, cancel your appointment and go elsewhere.
About 80 percent of clinics use glutaraldehyde because it's a less expensive alternative; however, it does not do a good job of sterilizing the equipment. If they use peracetic acid, your likelihood of contracting an infection from a previous patient is slim.
To learn more about this, see my interview with David Lewis, Ph.D., in "How Improper Sterilization of Endoscopes Could Put Your Health at Risk."
Enlist a health care advocate — Once hospitalized, you're at risk for medical errors, so one of the best safeguards is to have someone there with you. It's important to have a personal advocate present to ask questions and take notes.
For every medication given in the hospital, ask questions such as: "What is this medication? What is it for? What's the dose?" Most people, doctors and nurses included, are more apt to go through that extra step of due diligence to make sure they're getting it right if they know they'll be questioned about it.
To learn more, listen to my interview with Dr. Andrew Saul in "What Hospitals Won't Tell You — Vital Strategies That Could Save Your Life," or pick up a copy of his book, "Hospitals and Health: Your Orthomolecular Guide to a Shorter Hospital Stay."
In it, he discusses the dangers of hospital stays, the type of patient that tends to get killed most frequently, and how you can protect your health and life in the event you have to be hospitalized. For example, reminding nurses and doctors to wash their hands and change gloves before touching you can go a long way toward avoiding contamination with potentially lethal microbes.
Do your own prep for surgery — If you or someone you know is scheduled for surgery, print out the WHO surgical safety checklist and implementation manual,23 which is part of the campaign "Safe Surgery Saves Lives." The checklist can be downloaded free of charge here. Print it out and bring it with you, as this can help you protect yourself, your family member or friend from preventable errors in care.
Know the most effective protocol for sepsis — Sepsis is a progressive disease process initiated by an aggressive, dysfunctional immune response to an infection in the bloodstream, which is why it's sometimes referred to as blood poisoning. Each year, an estimated 1 million Americans get sepsis24,25 and up to half of them die as a result.26,27,28
Symptoms of sepsis are often overlooked, even by health professionals, and without prompt treatment, the condition can be deadly.
Unfortunately, conventional treatments often fail, and most hospitals have yet to embrace the use of intravenous (IV) vitamin C, hydrocortisone and thiamine,29 a treatment developed by Dr. Paul Marik, which has been shown to reduce sepsis mortality from 40 to a mere 8.5 percent.30,31 Common signs and symptoms of sepsis to watch out for include:32
Should a few or all of these be present, seek immediate medical attention to rule out sepsis. Also inform the medical staff that you suspect sepsis, as time is of the essence when it comes to treatment, and urge them to use Marik's protocol (currently the standard of care for sepsis at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, where Marik works). You can learn more about this protocol by following the hyperlink provided above.
Optimize your vitamin D instead of getting the flu vaccine — Research33,34 shows vitamin D optimization is a more effective flu prevention strategy than flu vaccination, reducing respiratory infections such as influenza by 50 percent in those with vitamin D blood levels below 10 ng/mL. People with higher vitamin D levels at baseline may reduce their risk by about 10 percent, which the researchers stated was about equal to the effect of flu vaccines.
Aside from vitamin D, loading up on vitamins B1 and C may go a long way toward keeping you healthy through the flu season and beyond. Influenza has also been successfully treated with high-dose vitamin C.35 Taking zinc lozenges at the first sign of a cold or flu can also be helpful.
Avoid antibiotics — Drugs are vastly overprescribed and misused, and this is particularly true for antibiotics. Avoid using them unless absolutely necessary, and remember they don't work for viral infections. Unnecessary use of antibiotics is one of the driving causes of antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
Turn a deaf ear to drug ads — While drug makers are required to inform consumers about potential side effects in their ads, they've perfected drug ad narration to make them less frightful.36
Avoid drugs, unless absolutely necessary — As mentioned, drugs — taken as prescribed — account for a majority of the 250,000 people who die from medical mistakes in the U.S. each year. A great many, if not most, diseases can be effectively addressed using simple lifestyle changes.
Key factors include diet, exercise and nonexercise movement, sleep and stress reduction. To investigate your options, you can search my database of tens of thousands of articles simply by entering your condition in the search engine.
Among the most lethal drugs right now are the opioids, which need to be used with extreme care and only in the short term. For treatment options, see "Treating Pain Without Drugs," and "Study Reveals Previously Unknown Mechanism Behind Acupuncture's Ability to Reduce Pain," which also provides a long list of other drug-free pain relief strategies.
30 Tips in 30 Days Designed to Help You Take Control of Your Health
This article is included in Dr. Mercola's All-Time Top 30 Health Tips series. Every day during the month of January, a new tip will be added that will help you take control of your health. Want to see the full list? Click here.
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body and the second most common intracellular cation1 (positively charged ion) after potassium. It's required for the healthy function of most cells in your body, but is especially important for your heart, kidneys and muscles.
According to one scientific review,2 which included studies dating as far back as 1937, low magnesium actually appears to be the greatest predictor of heart disease, and other recent research shows even subclinical magnesium deficiency can compromise your cardiovascular health.3
Low magnesium will also impede your cellular metabolic function and deteriorate mitochondrial function, and as a component necessary for the activation of vitamin D,4,5,6 magnesium deficiency may also hamper your ability to convert vitamin D from sun exposure and/or oral supplementation.
While the reasons for prioritizing magnesium could fill several books, here I'll review how it can benefit a few really common health problems and conditions, starting with its influence over vitamin D.
Magnesium Activates and Regulates Vitamin D
Two studies published last year have shed new light on the interactions between magnesium and vitamin D, warning that low magnesium impedes your body's ability to properly utilize vitamin D, even when it's present.7
As noted by Mohammed Razzaque, professor of pathology at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Pennsylvania, coauthor of the first study published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association in March 2018,8 "By consuming an optimal amount of magnesium, one may be able to lower the risks of vitamin D deficiency, and reduce the dependency on vitamin D supplements."
A second study,9 published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in December 2018, also concluded that your magnesium status plays an important role in your vitamin D status. Overall, people with high magnesium intake were less likely to have low vitamin D. They also had a lower mortality risk from cardiovascular disease and bowel cancer.
As explained by Dr. Qi Dai, professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the lead author of this study, "Magnesium deficiency shuts down the vitamin D synthesis and metabolism pathway."
What's more, magnesium was found to have a regulating effect, raising and lowering vitamin D based on baseline levels. In people who had a baseline vitamin D level of 30 ng/mL (75 nmol/L) or below, magnesium supplementation raised their vitamin D level. However, in those who started out with higher vitamin D levels (50 ng/mL or 125 nmol/L), magnesium supplementation lowered their vitamin D.
Magnesium Is Empirically Recommended for All Migraine Sufferers
According to some statistics,10 migraine is the third most prevalent illness in the world, affecting an estimated 1 billion people. Migraine attacks are typically recurring, of moderate to severe intensity, many times occurring only on one side of your head.
Along with throbbing, piercing or "burning" pain, other common symptoms include nausea, visual disturbances, dizziness, numbness in your extremities or face, and extreme sensitivity to light, sound, smell and touch.11,12 While the root cause for migraines continues to be debated, certain nutritional deficiencies have been found to exacerbate the condition, and magnesium deficiency13,14,15 ranks high on this list, as does vitamin D deficiency.16,17
Research shows migraine sufferers are more likely to suffer from magnesium deficiency than non-migraineurs,18 and since magnesium administration is both easy and safe, researchers have noted that empiric treatment with a magnesium supplement is justified for all migraine sufferers.19
In one placebo-controlled study,20 daily intake of 600 milligrams of magnesium in the form of trimagnesium dicitrate for 12 weeks reduced the frequency of migraine attacks by nearly 42 percent, compared to less than 16 percent in the control group.
In many cases, receiving a high dose of magnesium can also abort an attack in progress. The most effective way to administer magnesium for migraine would be to get an intravenous (IV) infusion. Barring that option, magnesium threonate may be your best option for an oral supplement. It has superior absorbability compared to other forms of magnesium, and its superior ability to cross the blood-brain barrier makes it more likely to have a beneficial effect on your brain.
Magnesium More Effective Than Antidepressants for Depression
Another incredibly common health problem in which magnesium plays an important role is depression, as it acts as a catalyst for mood-regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin. Research21 published in 2015 found a significant association between very low magnesium intake and depression, especially in younger adults.
Research22 published in PLOS ONE demonstrated magnesium supplementation improved mild-to-moderate depression in adults, with beneficial effects occurring within two weeks of treatment. In fact, the effects of magnesium were comparable to prescription SSRIs in terms of effectiveness, but without any of the side effects associated with these drugs.
Participants in the treatment group received a daily dose of 248 milligrams (mg) of elemental magnesium for six weeks, while controls received no treatment. According to the authors, "It works quickly and is well tolerated without the need for close monitoring for toxicity." Emily Tarleton, a graduate student in clinical and translational science and the bionutrition research manager of the University of Vermont's Clinical Research Center, told Science Daily:23
"This is the first randomized clinical trial looking at the effect of magnesium supplementation on symptoms of depression in U.S. adults. The results are very encouraging, given the great need for additional treatment options for depression, and our finding that magnesium supplementation provides a safe, fast and inexpensive approach to controlling depressive symptoms."
Magnesium Improves Brain Plasticity
Memory impairment occurs when the connections (synapses) between brain cells diminish. While many factors can come into play, magnesium is an important one. As noted by Dr. David Perlmutter, a neurologist and fellow of the American College of Nutrition:24
"It has now been discovered that magnesium is a critical player in the activation of nerve channels that are involved in synaptic plasticity. That means that magnesium is critical for the physiological events that are fundamental to the processes of learning and memory.
As it turns out, one form of magnesium, magnesium threonate, has the unique ability to permeate the brain and enhance the receptors that are involved in this process."
The specific brain benefits of magnesium threonate were demonstrated in a 2010 study25 published in the journal Neuron, which found this form of magnesium enhanced "learning abilities, working memory, and short- and long-term memory in rats." According to the authors, "Our findings suggest that an increase in brain magnesium enhances both short-term synaptic facilitation and long-term potentiation and improves learning and memory functions."
Magnesium Boosts Heart Health
Magnesium is also important for heart health. As explained by British cardiologist Dr. Sanjay Gupta,26 magnesium supports heart health via a number of different mechanisms. For starters, it combats inflammation, thereby helping prevent hardening of your arteries and high blood pressure.
It also improves blood flow by relaxing your arteries, and helps prevent your blood from thickening, allowing it to flow more smoothly. All of these basic effects are important for optimal heart function. Indeed, low magnesium has been linked to a higher risk for:
A recent paper in the Open Heart journal warns that even subclinical deficiency can lead to cardiovascular problems. According to the authors:30
"… 'Various studies have shown that at least 300 mg of magnesium must be supplemented to establish a significantly increased serum magnesium concentrations …' In other words, most people need an additional 300 mg of magnesium per day in order to lower their risk of developing numerous chronic diseases.
So while the recommended … recommended dietary allowance [RDA] for magnesium (between 300 and 420 mg /day for most people) may prevent frank magnesium deficiency, it is unlikely to provide optimal health and longevity, which should be the ultimate goal."
Magnesium Is Required for Hundreds of Biochemical Reactions
The importance of magnesium becomes even more evident when you consider it is involved in more than 600 different biochemical reactions in your body, which play important roles in:
Creation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy currency of your body31,32
Metabolism of calcium, potassium, zinc, phosphorous, iron, sodium, hydrochloric acid, acetylcholine and nitric oxide, as well as 300 enzymes, and the activation of thiamine33
Vitamin D activation and regulation
DNA, RNA and protein synthesis and integrity,34 and the creation of chromosomes35
Mitochondrial function and health. Magnesium is required both for increasing the number of mitochondria in your cells and for increasing mitochondrial efficiency
Regulation of blood sugar and insulin sensitivity, which is important for the prevention of Type 2 diabetes36,37,38,39 (In one study,40 prediabetics with the highest magnesium intake reduced their risk for blood sugar and metabolic problems by 71 percent)
Detoxification, including the synthesis of glutathione, considered by many to be your body's most powerful antioxidant
Muscle and nerve function, including the action of your heart muscle
Antioxidant defense via a number of different mechanisms, including anti-inflammatory activity and support of endothelial and mitochondrial function41
Maintenance of ionic gradients — keeping intracellular sodium and calcium low and potassium high — and maintaining cellular and tissue integrity42
Lowering the damage from electromagnetic fields (EMF) by blocking voltage gated calcium channels
Supporting healthy brain function. Magnesium acts as a buffer between neuron synapses, particularly those involved with cognitive functions (learning and memory).
Magnesium "sits" on the receptor without activating it, protecting the receptor from overactivation by other neurochemicals, especially glutamate, an excitotoxin that can harm your brain if it accumulates
Providing mental and physical relaxation; considered an important stress antidote43
Preventing headaches by relaxing blood vessels in your brain and acting as a calcium channel blocker44
Other Health Problems Associated With Magnesium Deficiency
Considering the widespread influence of magnesium, it's no great surprise that deficiency can snowball into significant health problems. In addition to what's already been mentioned, other common pathologies associated with magnesium deficiency include:45,46,47
Kidney and liver damage
Recurrent or persistent bacterial infections such as sinus, vaginal, middle ear, lung and throat infections due to low levels of nitric oxide
Fungal infections due to depressed immune function
Impotence (also associated with low nitric oxide levels)
Conditions associated with peroxynitrite damage, such as multiple sclerosis, glaucoma and Alzheimer's disease
Premenstrual syndrome, mood swings, aggression and anxiety
Muscle cramps and muscle weakness
Type 2 diabetes48,49 — Estimates suggest nearly half of all diabetics are magnesium deficient.50 Low magnesium levels also affect insulin resistance, a precursor to Type 2 diabetes.51 High levels of insulin in the blood, common with insulin resistance, also lead to further loss of magnesium52
Increased risk of death from all causes — One 2016 meta-analysis53 found increasing magnesium intake by 100 mg per day lowered participants' all-cause mortality risk by 10 percent
Are You Deficient in Magnesium?
When it comes to measuring your magnesium level, keep in mind that a regular serum magnesium is a poor choice, as only 1 percent of the magnesium in your body is actually found in your bloodstream. Your best bet is to get an RBC magnesium test (which measures the amount of magnesium in your red blood cells) and track your signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency.
Checking your potassium and calcium levels can also be helpful, as low potassium and calcium are common laboratory signs of magnesium deficiency.54 Among the more common signs and symptoms of magnesium insufficiency are:55,56
Seizures; muscle spasms, especially "charley horses" or spasms in your calf muscle that happen when you stretch your leg, and/or eye twitches
Numbness or tingling in your extremities
High blood pressure, heart arrhythmias and/or coronary spasms
Increased number of headaches and/or migraines
Low energy, fatigue and/or loss of appetite
The Trousseau sign57 — To check for this sign, a blood pressure cuff is inflated around your arm. The pressure should be greater than your systolic blood pressure and maintained for three minutes.
By occluding the brachial artery in your arm, spasms in your hand and forearm muscles are induced. If you are magnesium deficient, the lack of blood flow will cause your wrist and metacarpophalangeal joint to flex and your fingers to adduct. For a picture of this hand/wrist position, see Wikipedia58
A more exhaustive list can be found in Dr. Carolyn Dean's blog post, "Gauging Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms,"59 which will give you a checklist to go through every few weeks. This will also help you gauge how much magnesium you need to resolve your deficiency symptoms.
Most People Can Benefit From Magnesium Supplementation
Unfortunately, magnesium insufficiency or deficiency are extremely common around the world, both among adults60 and teens,61 in part due to the fact that most people don't eat enough plant foods.
If you frequently eat processed foods, your risk of deficiency is magnified. However, even if you eat plenty of greens (magnesium is actually part of the chlorophyll molecule responsible for the plant's green color), you are unlikely to get enough, due to most foods being grown in mineral depleted soils.
Magnesium absorption is also dependent on having sufficient amounts of selenium, parathyroid hormone and vitamins B6 and D, and is hindered by excess ethanol, salt, coffee and phosphoric acid in soda.
Sweating, stress, lack of sleep, excessive menstruation, certain drugs (especially diuretics and proton-pump inhibitors) also deplete your body of magnesium.62 For these reasons, most people probably need to take supplemental magnesium. Taking a magnesium supplement is particularly advisable if you:63
Experience symptoms of insufficiency or deficiency64
Engage in strenuous exercise on a regular basis. Research shows just six to 12 weeks of strenuous physical activity can result in magnesium deficiency,65 likely due to increased magnesium demand in your skeletal muscle
Are taking diuretics or medication for hypertension, especially thiazides, which have been shown to induce undetectable magnesium deficiency66 (while patients may have normal or even high serum magnesium, their bodies are actually depleted of magnesium)
Have had or are planning heart transplant or open heart surgery
Are at risk for or have had a heart attack, or if you experience ventricular arrhythmia
Are insulin resistant or diabetic (as this increases magnesium depletion)
Have congestive heart failure
How to Boost Your Magnesium Level
The RDA for magnesium is around 310 to 420 mg per day depending on your age and sex,67 but many experts believe you may need 600 to 900 mg per day.68 Personally, I believe many may benefit from amounts as high as 1 to 2 grams (1,000 to 2,000 mg) of elemental magnesium per day, as most of us have EMF exposures that simply cannot be mitigated, and the extra magnesium may help lower the damage from that exposure.
When it comes to oral supplementation, my personal preference is magnesium threonate, as it appears to be the most efficient at penetrating cell membranes, including your mitochondria and blood-brain barrier. Other effective ways to boost your magnesium level include:
• Taking Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) baths, as the magnesium will effectively absorb through your skin
• Using a topical solution — I prepare a supersaturated solution of Epsom salt by dissolving 7 tablespoons of the salt into 6 ounces of water and heating it until all the salt has dissolved. I pour it into a dropper bottle and then apply it to my skin and rub fresh aloe leaves over it to dissolve it. This is an easy and inexpensive way to increase your magnesium and will allow you to get higher dosages into your body without having to deal with its laxative effects.
Magnesium can be taken with or without food. If you're also taking calcium, take them together. If you exercise regularly, consider taking your calcium and magnesium in a ratio of one part calcium to two parts magnesium with your pre-workout meal.
While the ideal ratio of magnesium to calcium is thought to be 1-to-1, most people get far more calcium than magnesium from their diet; hence, your need for supplemental magnesium may be two to three times greater than calcium.
Eat More Magnesium-Rich Foods
Last but not least, while you may still need magnesium supplementation (due to denatured soils), it would certainly be wise to try to get as much magnesium from your diet as possible. Dark-green leafy vegetables lead the pack when it comes to magnesium content, and juicing your greens is an excellent way to boost your intake. Greens with the highest magnesium levels include:
Other foods that are particularly rich in magnesium include:69
Raw cacao nibs and/or unsweetened cocoa powder — One ounce (28.35 grams) or raw cacao nibs contain about 65 mg of magnesium.
Avocados — One cup of avocado on average (values differ depending on whether they come from California or Florida) contains about 44 mg of magnesium. Avocados are also a good source of potassium, which helps offset the hypertensive effects of sodium.
Seeds and nuts — Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds score among the highest, with one-quarter cup providing an estimated 191 mg, 129 mg and 41 mg of magnesium respectively. Cashews, almonds and Brazil nuts are also good sources; one-fourth cup of cashews contains 89 mg of magnesium.
Herbs and spices — Herbs and spices pack lots of nutrients in small packages and this includes magnesium. Some of the most magnesium-rich varieties are coriander, chives, cumin seed, parsley, mustard seeds, fennel, basil and cloves.
Organic, raw grass fed yogurt and natto — Choose yogurt made from raw organic grass fed milk with no added sugars; 1 cup of natto yields 201 mg of magnesium.
1 In plants, this compound triggers the creation of beneficial nitric oxide. When obtained from processed meat, the same compound triggers creation of carcinogenic compounds in your body.
2 The rollout of 5G wireless networks will:
3 Estimates suggest about half of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) contributing to air pollution comes from:
4 The following strategy has been scientifically validated as a way to boost health, happiness and life satisfaction:
5 The following strategy has been scientifically shown to reverse Type 2 diabetes in a matter of months, even if you've had diabetes for a decade:
6 Which of the following industries is the largest user of groundwater, contributing to the draining of aquifers around the globe?
7 Meditation has been scientifically shown to have a number of biological effects. The following is not one of them:
When farm animals are used for meats, people often think of flank steaks, rib roasts, T-bones or sirloin. But when the stomach lining is removed to cook dinner, the product is called tripe. It’s comparable to other organ meats such as liver, heart and kidneys, which also offer valuable nutrients.
It’s true that most tripe, which is actually a muscle meat, is derived from cows, but it can also come from sheep, lambs, goats, ducks, chickens or pigs, which is sometimes called “paunch,” which explains another term: offal, not to be confused with the word used synonymously with waste or excrement.
Eaten all over the world, tripe is one of the most common organ meats and requires a slow cooking method for optimal tenderness, but, as The Daily Meal observes, “even then, the chewy texture is an acquired taste.”1 When it comes from a cow, it’s usually from one of the first three of the cow’s four stomachs, each one serving a different function and four “very different” types of tripe:
“Chamber one is called the rumen, and its tripe is called blanket or flat tripe. Chamber two is called the reticulum, and its tripe, honeycomb tripe, is the most common. Chamber three is the omasum, and its tripe is called book tripe; chamber four, the abomasum, gives us the least-commonly used tripe: reed tripe.”2
Famous dishes from around the world feature tripe, such as andouille, a coarsely-ground smoked pork sausage popular in Louisiana’s Cajun population. In France, it’s a gray-colored dish made with tripe and pig intestines. Traditional cuisine in Florence, Italy, includes a slowly-braised Florentine dipping sandwich known as a lampredotto, aka tripe sandwich.
There are several versions of an authentic and somewhat labor-intensive Mexican dish called menudo, aka spicy tripe soup. One features pig’s feet or hominy or both, according to The Spruce Eats.3 A red-colored version is made using dried chilies. It’s also served with tostadas or tortillas to make bolillos.
Menudo soup has the distinction of being served following late-night celebrations such as weddings or holidays as a “cure” for a hangover. According to Pittsburgh’s Post-Gazette, Turkey’s version of menudo is known as iskembe corbasi, made with garlic, lemon and spices.4
Similar soups made from tripe around the world are called chakna in India, dobrada in Portugal, paklay in the Philippines and flaczki in Poland. What all these cultures and countries have in common is that tripe, for many, is a deliciously savory and often nostalgic comfort food.
The Unique Nutrition Profile of Tripe
A 3-ounce serving of tripe contains over 10 micrograms of selenium (15 percent of the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI)), which your cells rely on (along with zinc) for optimal thyroid function, enzyme activity and DNA production. The National Institutes of Health (NIH)5 identifies selenium as an antioxidant that protects against disease-causing free radicals. Livestrong also notes:
“Zinc is a mineral that’s also important for healthy skin, healing of wounds and growth. It's found all over your body — in bones, teeth, hair, skin, liver, muscle and white blood cells …
Another trace mineral in tripe is iron … needed by your body for the production of hemoglobin, the component of red blood cells that carries oxygen to your body’s tissues. Iron is also a vital component in muscle cells and necessary for the formation of many enzymes in your body.”6
Phosphorus is another essential mineral in tripe that works with zinc to nourish your cell membranes. More specifically, phosphorus helps make up phospholipids or fats in these cell membranes. Meanwhile, zinc is part of the makeup of the proteins in your cell membranes. Both zinc and phosphorus support healthy cell communication and have singular jobs as well: Phosphorus nourishes your bones and teeth, while zinc supports immune function.7
You’ll also find several B vitamins in tripe, such as niacin, folate and B12 (aka cobalamin), significant in converting homocysteine to methionine, largely responsible for producing new proteins in your body. The American Journal of Preventive Medicine8 notes that too much homocysteine in your bloodstream could increase your risk for developing cardiovascular disease.
Inadequate B12 intake could cause pernicious anemia, which can cause numbness or tingling in your hands and feet, a smooth and tender tongue, weight loss and weakness.
As a source of choline, beef tripe provides 220 milligrams (mg) in a 4-ounce serving, which is 52 percent of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for women and 40 percent for men. Choline produces compounds essential for tissue function; in fact, lipids containing choline comprise your cell membranes while aiding in cell communication,9 while acetylcholine made from choline stimulates healthy brain function.
Tripe for Weight Loss?
There may even be benefits of eating tripe for people looking to lose weight. With its modicum of carbohydrates, it provides a viable option for your weight-loss plan, as “a low-carb diet lowers insulin levels, which causes the body to burn stored fat for energy and ultimately leads to weight loss,” according to the Mayo Clinic.10 Three ounces of tripe contain 80 calories and just 1.7 grams of carbs.
The Public Health Collaboration11 conducted a randomized, controlled clinical trial during which low-carb diets were compared with low-fat diets, and participants on the low-carb diets lost significantly more weight. In addition, the choline content in tripe helps your body metabolize fats, preventing an accumulation of fat in your liver.
Tripe is an economical source of protein, delivering 10 grams — more than 20 percent of the DRI — in each 3-ounce serving. Tripe also has far less fat compared with the same amount of beef steak, which has 14.5 grams instead of the 3.4 grams from tripe, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.12 Livestrong also notes:
“Protein is a filling nutrient because it slows down the emptying of food from your stomach after you eat, so that you may feel less hungry for the next meal. This may help explain why some high-protein diets appear more effective for weight loss than low-protein diets.”13
Further, a large European study published in the New England Journal of Medicine14 notes that even a modest increase in lean protein combined with a modest reduction in your glycemic index was found to be a healthy way to help with weight loss and maintain a healthy weight.
Healthy Ways to Prepare Tripe
How could tripe be included in a healthy meal plan? Like nearly any other food, tripe can be healthy or harmful depending entirely on how it’s prepared and what it’s served with. Instead of frying it, try healthier preparations such as pressure cooking or poaching. Many people boil it, especially in soups, to make a filling meal that vegetables and herbs can be added to. Pickling it in vinegar is another popular way of preparing tripe.
The best tripe “cuts” are described as dense with a chewy texture, but not as rubbery as stewed calamari. The flavor is mild, and one reason it’s a popular addition to so many dishes is that the meat and the broth that accompanies it absorb the essence of the vegetables, spices and herbs it’s cooked with.
If you’re used to preparing tripe using the boiling method, which requires cooking slowly for long periods, or if you have no idea what to do with it, one way to slow-cook beef tripe is in a pressure cooker. In the featured video, professional chef Cristian Feher explains that of the four stomachs in beef, honeycomb tripe is considered “choice” or premium.
One thing to keep in mind is that once you cook tripe, it shrinks by around 50 to 60 percent. Feher adds 4 cups of water to 3 or 4 pounds of tripe, fresh ground black pepper and a generous amount of sea salt or Himalayan salt. “It tastes absolutely amazing,” Feher says. He adds that you should drain the tripe, as the water it’s cooked in will contain the impurities.
“From here, you can go in all sorts of directions,” he says, recommending a recipe known as mondongo, a Dominican-style tripe stew made with beef tripe, onion, garlic, peppers, carrots, potatoes, tomato sauce and cilantro, per the instructions on Smart Little Cookie.15 Here’s another tasty possibility inspired by The Spruce Eats.16
Caribbean Beef Tripe Soup
- 1/2 cup yellow split peas (soaked overnight)
- 2 teaspoons grass fed butter or ghee
- 1 cup diced onions
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme (divided)
- 2 pounds grass fed cow tripe, cut into pieces
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 6 cups water (plus more to create soup)
- 1 pound pumpkin or calabaza squash, cut into large chunks
- 2 pounds green plantains, peeled and cut into 1-inch rounds
- 6 to 8 okra
- To prepare, soak 1/2 cup of yellow split peas overnight.
- Rinse the tripe well. Heat the oil in a pressure cooker or stock pot, add the onions and sauté until they're translucent (two to three minutes). Add 3 sprigs of thyme and sauté for 1 minute.
- Add the tripe, salt and pepper and sauté for four minutes, then add 6 cups water and stir.
- Cover the pressure cooker and cook for 45 to 50 minutes. (Time begins from the first whistle.) If using a stockpot, cover it and cook for two to three hours.
- Release pressure cooker valve to let out steam and open the pressure cooker. Add the pumpkin, plantains and the remaining thyme, and cook until the plantains are almost melting, with the lid open.
- Add the okra, cover and cook for six to eight minutes.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Stir and serve.
Like most other dishes, tripe soup can be tweaked with favorite ingredients to make the finished product your own, whether it’s spicy or more of a broth than a stew. As The Spruce Eats notes, “Some cooks add carrots, green olives or raisins, while others prefer garlic.”17
One more thing: Use organic, grass fed meat whenever possible, and that includes tripe. Remember that it’s not the whole stomach you’re eating when you serve tripe, but just the lining of the stomach.
Bees provide a vital function to sustain life on Earth. Without their tireless service through the pollination of trees and crops, we would simply not be able to put food on the table. Through pollination, the simple transfer of grains of pollen from one plant to another, bees fertilize the flowers of crops and other plants, ensuring seed production.
Some plants rely on wind, others are self-pollinating, but most need the services of natural pollinators such as honey bees. In addition to providing benefit to the agricultural industry, they also pollinate wild plants and flowers, helping preserve natural forests and a wealth of flowering plants.
An indirect benefit of honey bees, yet a crucial one, are the wild plants they pollinate which feed numerous animal species. Loss of the honeybee would mean a collapse of the natural ecosystem, beginning with vegetation and ending with the animals that rely on this vegetation as a food supply, including humans.
The process of turning flower nectar into honey is one marvel happening in the beehive. Health benefits from bee products are significant, including bee propolis and royal jelly. However, it is important the products you consume are from a pesticide-free source as products created in the hive are concentrated.
Unfortunately, this becomes more difficult each year as more farmers use neonicotinoids pesticides. In one sampling collected around the world, researchers found 75 percent of honey collected were contaminated with neonicotinoids and 45 percent contained two or more pesticides.1
Honey, Pollen, Propolis and Royal Jelly
In this interview with Chris Kresser, Carly Stein, owner of Bee Keepers Natural, describes the variety of products produced by a healthy hive, the benefits to human health and the necessity for protecting the bee population.
The first product is honey, which is a source of food for the bees, providing the insect with necessary carbohydrates. The honey is rich in enzymes and minerals and raw honey is a powerful antioxidant with natural antiviral properties.
Bee pollen is a product many have been taking for years, and is the main source of protein for the bee, used to fuel their athletic endeavors each day of carrying almost half their body weight in flower pollen back to the hive. Bee pollen is packed with vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B and more protein per gram than any animal product. In essence it is an all-natural, food-based, bioavailable nutrient boost.2
Bees make propolis from tree resin and use it to line the hive as a natural immune system, protecting the insects inside from outside germs. Propolis contains over 300 natural and powerful compounds to support immunity. Bees also line the front entrance of the hive with propolis in order to decontaminate themselves before coming in.
If honey is the carbohydrates, pollen are the proteins and propolis is the immune system, then royal jelly is the superfood of the hive. This is the substance the hive uses to create the queen bee. Within the first three days of development, all larvae are fed royal jelly. Then only one larvae, destined to become the queen, will exclusively eat royal jelly.3
The queen grows significantly larger than the rest of the bees and may lay up to 1,500 eggs a day, while other females do not develop reproductive organs. She can live three to five years, as compared to regular foraging bees, which may live only six to eight weeks.
Royal jelly has been used cross-culturally for decades. Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners use it to improve fertility and as a hormone stabilizer with known immune modulating properties. Western medicine, researchers have evaluated the effects it has on the brain, specifically on focus, memory and reducing the potential of dementia.
Effect of Royal Jelly on Brain Health
Nootropics are substances that may improve cognitive function, specifically executive function such as memory, creativity or motivation. They are sometimes called “smart drugs” as are used to improve mental performance and have gained popularity in a highly competitive society valuing speed and performance. Royal jelly is one of those substances.
Royal jelly is unique in that it contains proteins, sugars, fats and amino acids.4 However, it is the compound acetylcholine in the royal jelly that likely gives it its nootropic effects.
Acetylcholine is an abundant neurotransmitter, found in your central and peripheral nervous system. It helps to activate pain responses, regulates your endocrine system and rapid eye movement sleep function.5 Deficiencies can lead to myasthenia gravis, characterized by muscle weakness.
Although there are foods with an abundance of choline, a precursor to acetylcholine, royal jelly is the only food source containing acetylcholine. This essential nutrient is used by the brain in mood, mental alertness, concentration and memory functions, qualities that dim or are lost with cognitive impairment and dementia.
In fact, acetylcholine activity is a target of Alzheimer drugs that block the breakdown of this neurotransmitter to reduce symptoms.6 Royal jelly has a beneficial role in neural functioning and findings support the potential neuroprotective role of royal jelly.7
Oral administration of royal jelly in an animal model produced a promising avenue for ameliorating neuronal functioning through regeneration of hippocampal granule cells, necessary in the cognitive process.8
In a recent study evaluating the worldwide use of neonicotinoid pesticides and the link to the declining bee populations, researchers found the pesticides had an adverse effect on the acetylcholine the bees produced. The authors believe this is a new discovery of how the neurotoxic effects of the pesticides may be killing honeybees.9
Royal Jelly May Facilitate Stem Cell Research
Three days after a mammalian egg is fertilized, the inner cell mass can be isolated, containing embryonic stem cells designed to develop into a baby. Stem cells are pluripotent, meaning they have the ability to turn into any type of tissue in the mammal from which they came. Adult stem cells are multipotent, meaning they have the ability to form a subset of tissue but are limited.10
In order for researchers to successfully use embryonic stem cells, they must be kept in their native state as long as possible. Since embryonic stem cells have the potential to grow into different cells serving specialized functions, they are valuable for research.
However, growing embryonic stem cells in the lab creates a challenge as their natural inclination is to quickly move out of their pluripotent state to differentiate. In a recent study11 by Stanford University scientists, the team found royalactin, also known as major royal jelly protein 1, could stop embryonic cell differentiation and keep the cells in their embryonic state for up to 20 generations in culture.
Normally, scientists use an inhibitor factor to prevent differentiation when grown in culture. The researchers also identified a protein with similar qualities found in mammals, which they named Regina. In their next step, the team plans to investigate whether this mammalian equivalent of royalactin has the ability to affect cell regeneration and wound healing in adult animals.12
Propolis, the Original Antibiotic
Stein calls propolis the original antibiotic, in reference to the strong association it has in supporting your immune system through antimicrobial action. Propolis has been used for thousands of years in folk medicine as an antimicrobial and antioxidant, and for its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Through the inhibition of the activity of certain enzymes that synthesize glucans from sucrose, bee propolis has been found to prevent the formation of dental plaque.13 Propolis is also used for canker sores and infections caused by bacteria, including tuberculosis and upper respiratory tract infections triggered by viruses.14
Propolis has been used for cancer of the nose and throat, for warts and for the treatment of gastrointestinal problems, including H. pylori infections in people with peptic ulcer disease. Direct application to the skin may be used for wound cleansing, genital herpes, cold sores and minor burns.15
Studies have also found oral care with propolis as a mouthwash in individuals undergoing chemotherapy helps to improve oral health, reducing symptoms of oral mucositis, common in those undergoing chemotherapy.16
In a study17 where a suspension of propolis and zinc was given to children who had recurrent acute otitis media (ear infections), researchers found it significantly reduced the risk for new episodes. Propolis was also proven effective against microbes found in saliva samples from those suffering periodontitis, suggesting it may be used therapeutically to inhibit oral microbial growth.18
A study19 evaluating the efficacy of a natural propolis extract given in cases of acute and chronic rhinopharyngitis in children found it lowered the incidence and sometimes suppressed the viral microbial flora in the upper airways. Another study20 demonstrated propolis extract was an effective treatment against pancreatitis in animals.
Benefits From Propolis at Home
Due to its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, propolis may be used to:
- Promote oral health — Propolis contains antibacterial properties, which may be beneficial for combating gingivitis and other oral problems stemming from the abundance of bacteria in your mouth. The added antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties from propolis may help speed healing of mouth sores and other oral infections.
- Support skin health — Propolis may be used in dermatological products due to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It also assists in wound healing by reducing free radical activity in the skin and promoting collagen production.21 Propolis ointments may be used to promote healing of cold sores, genital herpes and minor burns.
- Combat infections — Propolis extracts may be taken to aid in recovering from giardiasis, H. pylori infection and oral thrush.
Contraindications and Side Effects
As a natural supplement, propolis and royal jelly are relatively safe for most people as they do not cause toxicity. However, certain contraindications stem from insufficient long-term studies and pre-existing allergies. If you fall into any of the categories below it would be best to avoid the use of these supplements.22
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women — Due to insufficient studies proving safety during pregnancy and while nursing, it would be best to avoid bee products to avoid potential complications.
- Asthma — Certain compounds present in propolis may make asthma worse. If you have asthma, avoid propolis supplements and/or products.
- Bleeding disorders — Patients with blood clotting problems should not use propolis as it may slow blood clotting, increasing your risk of excessive bleeding. Patients who will undergo surgery should also stop taking propolis a few weeks before their scheduled procedure.
- Allergies to bee byproducts — People with allergies to bee products should avoid propolis, royal jelly, honey and bee pollen.
How You Can Help Improve the Bee Population
Entomologists around the world are tracking the rapidly declining number of insects, and are concerned by the data they're collecting. As noted by the distinguished Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson, Ph.D.:23
"If all humankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed 10,000 years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos."
If you are unsure of how the collapse of bee colonies may affect you, consider when one Whole Food store removed all produce from plants dependent on pollinators, it ended up pulling 52 percent of its produce from the store shelves, including apples, lemons, onions, broccoli and melons.24
More than 700 bee species are headed toward extinction in North America, according to a report from the Center for Biological Diversity.25 A variety of factors influence this decline, not the least of which is the use of pesticides, which significantly alter the population’s growth, which I discussed in “Latest Major Threat to Bees and Trees.”
Over the 2015-2016 winter, more than 28 percent of bee colonies were lost, representing an increase of nearly 6 percent compared to the previous winter. To avoid harming bees and helping other pollinators visiting your garden, eliminate the use of toxic pesticides and lawn chemicals and instead opt for organic weed and pest control alternatives.
Consider growing your own pollinator-friendly plants from organic untreated seeds. Stein points out when you support growers who are growing the right way, using pesticide-free alternatives, it makes a difference. Support your local farmers who are choosing organic, pesticide-free agricultural practices.
Maintaining a hive in your own garden requires only about an hour of your time each week and you'll benefit from your own homegrown, raw honey. Additionally, you can provide your backyard bees with water, as bees get thirsty too. Add a bowl of water surrounded by rocks and mulch so the bees have something to perch on and drink.
30 Tips in 30 Days Designed to Help You Take Control of Your Health
Dawson Church, who has done a lot of work on the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) and brought a level of scientific legitimacy to the value of this powerful tool, recently published a new book with the self-explanatory title, "Mind to Matter: The Astonishing Science of How Your Brain Creates Material Reality."
"I was one of those people who was very focused on the effects of energy therapies in the physical body. I did the first triple-lined, randomized control trial showing how EFT affects cortisol levels. I've been very focused on immunoglobulins, brainwaves, hormones and all the things that we can measure in the body," Dawson says.
"I have a friend at Harvard who's a psychiatrist, who told me, 'It's the energy that's making those molecules be the way they are.' I was always a little skeptical about that. But with him and others, [such as] Dean Radin, Rollin McCraty … they all said, 'Dawson, it's the energy. There is really a direct chain of causation between our thoughts and things.'
But I thought, 'When I look at all the links in that chain, I'm sure I'll find a lot of broken links.' I began to look at the studies, the primary research … There were no broken links … It's just remarkable to me how our thoughts literally create things in our bodies and all around us."
Heart Coherence Allows Synchronistic Events to Occur
The term Dawson uses in his book is "synchronicity." And it was a series of synchronicities that led to the writing of this book.
"One of those synchronicities, just one of many, [occurred when] I was writing this chapter on synchronicity. I wanted to understand these things called 'field line resonances.' These are scientific concepts. The earth is like a giant magnet. It has a north pole and a south pole [and] these lines of magnetic flux around the planet.
As a solar wind goes by the Earth, it literally plucks these magnetic force lines like strings on a violin. I wanted to know more about this really fascinating but very complex subject.
I was speaking at a conference with Dr. Joe Dispenza … After my talk, they put me on a science panel. On the science panel was McCraty, who had just done the most remarkable piece of research, the authoritative paper on field line resonance. He told me all about it."
An interesting anecdote on synchronicity described in Dawson's book was how he managed to find a set of keys he lost while snorkeling in Hawaii. He retells the story:
"On this particular day, I snorkeled all over this big bay. I got back to the Jeep, put my hands in my pocket to grab the keys. No keys … So, my keys were lost and I thought I should get back to the water and try and find them.
I spent about an hour [searching]. Now, I didn't panic. That's the big thing. I talk a lot in the book about synchronous mind and being in synchrony with the universe. I got into that state. It's the synchrony of heart coherence; feeling totally fine, no panic.
I swam around this bay looking for them. But again, this is a big bay. I'm looking for two tiny keys lost in the coral 10 to 12 feet deep. There's no logical way of finding them. But my intuition said, 'Let's do this.' As dusk began to fall, a father with three teenage sons got into the water …
My intuition said, 'Just go talk to them.' I said to them, 'I've been noticing you, seeing you dive to the bottom. Did you, by chance, find anything in the coral down there?' The youngest boy held up my keys. The chances of that happening are infinitesimally small.
But when those things happen to you, again and again, it's like the universe saying to you, 'Hey. Pay attention. Something's going on here.' Synchronicity, when we're in sync, when we're in that state of a heart coherence, when we meditate, when we tap away our stress, we enter that space of what I call nonlocal mind.
In the nonlocal mind, we have access to information we don't have at a level of local mind. I begin the book and end the book with this really powerful plea to make that your life. That you aren't living your life just kind of limited by what you see at the commission of your local mind; that you open yourself to meditation every day, and to the mystery of the nonlocal mind …
Nonlocal mind is doing all kinds of miracles in our lives and nature all the time. If we just open ourselves to that level of information, we gain access to levels of consciousness [and] knowing that is far beyond the ones we have at the level of our small, little local minds."
Being in the Flow
This synchronous mind Dawson is talking about is the same as what athletes experience as "being in the flow" or "being in the zone." Using electroencephalography (EEG), researchers have shown that when an athlete is in the flow, their brainwaves are in phase. On the other hand, if you look at the EEG of someone who is angry or frustrated or processing a negative emotion, you find their brain waves are not in step.
"It's not a figure of speech, it's literally a flow state," he says. "You could actually measure the brain[waves], and then recreate that. It's not a mystery anymore. We know the formula. We could reproduce the formula. We can train anybody to acquire that kind of a state."
The book also discusses research showing how our brainwaves affect our biology. Delta frequencies, for example, have been shown to trigger cellular regeneration. Up until a few years ago, we didn't have the equipment to measure really slow delta waves below one cycle per second. Now, there's research showing that telomere regeneration is sparked by ultraslow brainwaves at 0.19 cycles per second.
How do you generate delta brainwaves? Certain types of meditation will get you there. Doing EFT will also generate delta frequencies. Certain theta frequencies, meanwhile, stimulate stem cell production.
According to Dawson, the Schumann frequency of 7.8 hertz is a special frequency generated through meditation that is associated with a number of beneficial changes in your body. This is also why many integrative cancer specialists are now stressing the importance of lowering stress and incorporating meditation in their cancer treatment programs.
A Cancer Story
A woman named Beth Misner is writing a book about her cancer experience, and how she drove her cancer into remission using nothing but energy medicine. In March 2017, she was diagnosed with a 5-centimeter (2-inch) tumor in her right breast. The lymph nodes under her right armpit were also inflamed and full of cancerous cells — a sign that the cancer had spread into her limbic system. They also discovered three areas of concern on her right lung.
Her doctor at MD Anderson in Houston (a famous cancer clinic) wanted to initiate radiation right away, but Misner decided to wait. She eventually decided to address her cancer on the level of energy. She contacted Dawson for advice and suggestions. Dawson recounts what happened next:
"She began to do chi gung intensively. She began to tap intensively. She began to do energy medicine exercises, and got energy medicine treatments. She cleaned up her diet. She got rid of stress in her life. She did a whole bunch of proactive things to shift herself at the energy level.
Now, this is March [when] she gets the diagnosis of MD Anderson. By May, scans showed that all the lymph nodes under her right armpit were completely clear, and the tumor shrunk from 5 centimeters to 1.4 centimeters. One of her doctors said, 'Well, it looks to me like it's just necrotic. It's just dissolving. Her body has removed it.'
She, again, just kept on the energy techniques and later on her bloodwork showed not a trace of cancer in her body. That's the power of using energy. That's why I urge people, whatever your challenge is — it doesn't mean this is the right approach for everybody — but pay attention to stress. Pay attention to energy."
A very important side note here is that you have to make a choice, and it's not necessarily an easy one. If you have chemo and/or radiation, energy work will not be effective, as the treatments are simply too toxic. Metabolic cancer therapies such as cyclical ketosis and fasting, on the other hand, can be very beneficial.
"I'm not saying [energy work] is going to work perfectly for everyone. What I'm saying is look at your energy options. What 'Mind to Matter' shows you is that my consciousness and energy has enormous effect on the matter of your cells. If you're ignoring that leverage point, you're ignoring the biggest possible leverage point of your own health," Dawson says.
How to Get Into a Coherent Flow State
So, how do you get into a coherent state of flow? Lifelong meditators can do it effortlessly, showing that it's a matter of training. Through experimentation, Dawson developed a program he calls EcoMeditation that combines HeartMath's quick coherence technique with tapping and mindfulness.
Dawson cites research showing that EFT can cause a 37 percent drop in cortisol in just one week. And, when cortisol goes down, DHEA goes up, because they make the same two precursors. It also improves many beneficial enzymes. For example, in one week, baseline immunoglobulin levels rose by 113 percent, basically more than doubling immune-functioning markers. It also decreases sympathetic nervous system activation.
"We know now, because we've looked at this in peak performers, athletes, business people, financial experts, in people in meditative monasteries and nunneries and people who are really focused on meditation in the long term.
We know that meditation has these effects, but how do you get there quickly? You can spend an hour with your eyes closed and not be meditating. Or you can spend two minutes and enter a deep state. How do you get there? I'm focused on that really intently now," Dawson says.
Dawson defines meditation as the ability to sustain an alpha state for 15 seconds or more. EcoMeditation can get you into a coherent brain state in about four minutes.
"You essentially are mimicking the breathing, the posture of that 10,000-hour Tibetan monk. If you do what they do, if you mimic with no belief, no spiritual superstructure, and just give the physiological cues to your body, you go into that what we call the 'awakened mind state' just like that," he says.
Seven Steps to Awakened Mind
You can find a series of guided meditations by Church on InsightTimer.com, including entraining yourself with synchronicity and affirming inner peace.
There are seven steps to Dawson's EcoMeditation formula.1 For best results, set aside 20 to 30 minutes for this practice each day. Studies suggest half an hour of meditation daily produces noticeable changes in about a month or two, but even as little as 10 minutes a day can produce shifts in about 10 days.
1. First, tap each of the EFT acupressure points (see diagram), while holding the intention that you are calm and peaceful. While tapping, say to yourself (out loud or silently), "I release any and all blocks to inner peace. I release all tension in my body. I release anything in my past, present or future that stands between me and inner peace."
2. Next, relax your tongue on the floor of your mouth. This relaxes the hypoglossal nerve that runs from your tongue into the vagal nerve, which tells your vagal nerve that you aren't under threat. As a result, your whole body starts to relax.
3. Now, picture a large empty space behind your eyes. Simply doing this will put you into an alpha state.
4. Do the HeartMath quick coherence technique, which involves slowing your breathing to six seconds per in-breath and six seconds per out-breath (five breaths per minute).
5. Next, visualize your physical heart, and imagine breathing in and out of your heart. This will put you into a deep state of heart coherence.
6. With each out-breath, imagine a beam of love flowing out from your heart toward a person or place that you love. Hold this image for several breaths. Simply doing this will generate delta, theta and even gamma brainwaves. Gamma is the wave of happiness and integration.
"Most people don't have a gamma flare that lasts more than two seconds," Dawson says. "But after a week of meditation, you live in that state where you're having these flares of integrative brainwaves called gamma at the very top of the band, and then people feel totally wonderful."
7. Lastly, bring the beam of love back into your heart and visualize it flowing into any part of your body that is uncomfortable or in pain. To end the meditation, take three deep six-second breaths., then return your attention to the room and open your eyes.
When to Meditate for Optimal Results, and What To Do When Stress Strikes
Dawson recommends doing your meditation first thing in the morning, and to complement it with EFT during the day whenever stress might rear its ugly head.
"If you wake up and the first thing you turn your attention to is being in that alpha state, that dreamy state and meditating, then you capture all benefits of being in that alpha state … I see this as extending that sleep state out into your waking state," he says.
"[When] you start your day that way, you condition synchronicity. You condition beta thinking … [R]esearchers find that people's problem-solving ability goes up by 260 percent when they're in that state. Their creativity doubles. Their productivity at work increases dramatically. You're now a far more productive human being …
When you're going through the day and [stress gets triggered] … that's when you tap … Usually within two minutes, you will see your subjective units of distress scale go down to a low number, often a zero. Then go about your day. Now, you're much calmer, and you're able to proactively move through your day with this little technique to help yourself recover.
Recovery time is pretty fast. After a while, you develop a different and new homeostasis, where your irritability, your resentment levels, your level of guilt, shame, anger and blame, all of these negative emotions has to go way down."
Meditation Alters Your Brain Structure
According to Dawson, doing this meditation every day, your baseline levels of cortisol and immunoglobulin will begin to improve. Certain feel-good hormones will also increase. Once you get used to feeling good, that then becomes your new normal. This has to do with the neuroplasticity of your brain. Dawson explains:
"Neuroplasticity is like the hardware in our brains — the channels that conduct information, the neurons and the synapses that carry the flow of energy of information in our brains. The ones you use the most get developed … But the speed of this is extraordinary.
Within one hour of repeated stimulation, where there was just one synapse, now there are two. That's in one hour of repeat stimulation. If you stimulate that neural bundle for weeks, days, months and years, it grows much bigger. Eventually, the software of your consciousness literally creates the hardware of your brain."
One stunning story showing just how significantly you can change your brain through meditation is recounted in Chapter 1 of Dawson's book. Graham Phillips, a TV reporter, decided to try an eight-week meditation program given by Monash University. He was a skeptic, and wanted to test it out for himself.
"The experts there … did MRIs on every single region of his brain ... after which he began to meditate regularly and be mindful of the course of his day. After two weeks, he found, behaviorally, he was much less stressed. After eight weeks, he went back into the lab. Again, they spent a whole day going over all of these tests with him. They also got a second MRI to measure the volume of different parts of his brain.
This number sounds too crazy, it's almost like science fiction, but they examined a part of the hippocampus, the dentate gyrus, which is the memory or learning center that has to do with the regulation of emotion … and found it grew by 22.8 percent … So, it's not just a feel-good practice. It's literally reshaping the content inside your skull."
Healing Can Be Learned
Research shows that when you expose cells to a frequency of 7.81 hertz, DNA replication becomes far more efficient. Importantly, certain frequencies stimulate the reproduction of stem cells, while other frequencies cause the stem cells to migrate and adhere where needed.
To use stem cells for healing, those are the three things required: replication, migration and adhesion, and all three can be triggered through meditation. "In the book, I have a list of the conditions that are treated successfully with energy healing," Dawson says.
"The disease is a symptom of the dysregulation of your system. Take cancer, for example. Those cancer cells can't live in a normal healthy body. They only live in a body that is dysregulated. You want to improve all those factors that are dysregulating you, then you'll see a pervasive upwards spiral and good effect on your health generally," he says.
"The more I learn about the body, the more I see that the body is a [self-]healing machine. The body heals naturally. You have to do something pretty radical to stop the body from healing. When you load it up with sugar, stress and things like that, you get in the way of healing.
But your body is just an amazing healing machine, the way cells proliferate. All you have to do is get out of the way. Get out of the way by not stuffing things in your mouth, stuffing things in your mind, stuffing things in your environment that hurt you and don't work for you. If you just quit doing the bad stuff, then your body is naturally going to heal …
Some people do need an external stimulus … Sometimes I will say, 'You need to go an energy healer. You need a boost energetically to get the process going. Go get acupuncture. Go see an energy medicine practitioner. Go see a therapist.' You need that external push for some people's bodies …"
Mind to Matter
To learn more, I highly recommend picking up a copy of "Mind to Matter: The Astonishing Science of How Your Brain Creates Material Reality." In it, Dawson lists 30 lifestyle practices that can make a big difference in your physical and psychological health. You can also find more information — including a free EFT mini-manual and Dawson's published research — on his website, DawsonChurch.com.
"I want to inspire people [to take action]," he says. "You will literally feel yourself changing when you [meditate every day]. That's the biggest gift that you can give yourself. Release that stress. When you do that, your full human potential starts to shine. All those parts of yourself that have been stuck, all those limiting stories you start to let go of, then you can be.
The magnificence of you starts to come through. As you're hooked up to your nonlocal mind in meditation, you get access to ideas, solutions and all kinds of knowledge and wisdom you don't have when you're stuck in the level of local mind.
Then suddenly, your life becomes way easier. You're living in synchrony not just with other people around you, but with the whole universe. That's what I call a synchronous life …
If you're listening to this … please, I'm asking you to raise your hand now and make that commitment to meditating every day. Meditation is free. It's online. Go there. Grab it. Try it out. You will feel the shifts inside of yourself. But do that as your gift for yourself for the new year."
Pasta is a favorite food enjoyed all over the world, and it’s something that you may eat from time to time as well. The great thing about it is that you can create endless varieties to suit whatever mood you’re in. However, there’s one problem with pasta — it’s made from grains.
As you know, I don’t recommend eating grains because they contain gluten, a protein composed of glutenin and gliadin molecules. When these two molecules mix together with water, an elastic bond is formed. The resulting compound prevents you from absorbing nutrients from the other ingredients in your meals properly, which can lead to malabsorption and nutrient deficiencies.
So, how can you enjoy pasta without the gluten? Simple: Use zucchini for the noodles, which is high in fiber and various nutrients.
I’ve featured several zucchini pasta recipes before, but this version, created by Pete Evans, combines it with a rich tomato sauce made from wholesome ingredients such as fresh tomatoes, various herbs and spices. This healthy, easy-to-prepare dish can be a staple of your diet if you enjoy pasta regularly.
- 6 to 10 semi-dried tomatoes
- 2 organic tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 1 red capsicum, roughly chopped
- 6 to 10 green olives, pitted and roughly chopped
- 1 cup of organic Swiss brown mushrooms, roughly chopped
- 1 large handful of organic basil leaves, torn
- 1 tsp. of finely chopped organic rosemary leaves
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 small red chili, sliced (optional)
- A squeeze of organic lemon juice
- 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
- 4 organic zucchinis
- 1 Tbsp. of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large handful of organic baby spinach leaves
- Toasted pine nuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, to serve
- Place the semi-dried tomatoes in a food processor, along with the fresh tomatoes, capsicum, olives, mushrooms, basil, rosemary, garlic, chili (if using) and lemon juice. Pulse the ingredients until combined, but still chunky. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, drizzle 3 tablespoons of olive oil and then set aside for five to 10 minutes to marinate.
- To make the zucchini noodles, thinly slice the zucchinis using a mandolin slicer or a vegetable peeler. Toss the noodles with the remaining oil, the parsley and some of the pepper, and set aside to marinate for five minutes at room temperature.
- To serve, combine the noodles with the chunky tomato sauce and baby spinach leaves, then spread the pine nuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds over the meal.
Serves: 4 persons
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Zucchini Is a Great Substitute for Flour-Based Pasta Noodles
The great thing about zucchini is its versatility. You can use it in different dishes such as salads and soups, or even make zucchini fries for an appetizer. In this recipe, however, zucchini takes center stage as a healthy alternative to pasta noodles.
Compared to noodles made from flour, zucchini is loaded with various nutrients, most notably soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber can help slow down digestion, which helps you feel full longer, making it an effective tool for weight control. Insoluble fiber on the other hand, helps digested food move quicker through your intestines, helping regulate bowel elimination. Be sure to eat the skin, because this is where most of its fiber is located.
In addition, zucchini is loaded with various antioxidants such as zeaxanthin and lutein. These two compounds work together to help promote eye health. The drawback is that your body cannot produce zeaxanthin and lutein on its own, so you need to get them through your diet. Thus, if you want to maintain your healthy vision, you should consume zucchini regularly.
Tomatoes Are a Great Source of Lycopene and Other Vitamins
Tomatoes are known for their lycopene content, a compound that gives tomatoes their red color and also happens to be a powerful antioxidant. According to the results of a long-term study that lasted for 12 years, participants (who were middle-aged men) who had high levels of lycopene were 55 percent less likely to have any form of stroke compared to those who had lower levels.[i] Moreover, tomatoes have the following nutrients that can support optimal health:
Herbs Add Flavor and Aroma to This Recipe
Herbs are a great way to add appeal to any recipe. Specific herbs offer certain flavors, and a combination of them can add a wonderful kick to the dish’s overall flavor. This recipe makes use of three healthy herbs, namely:
Basil is an essential herb that you should always have in your kitchen, not just for its flavor, but for its nutrients as well. It’s known for its sweet, earthy flavor and emits a wonderful aroma when cooked.
Health benefits, however, are where basil truly shines. Just two tablespoons of the herb can provide 29 percent of the daily recommended value for vitamin K. This nutrient is important for recovery, because it can help improve blood clotting whenever you sustain cuts or wounds.
In addition, basil provides good levels of vitamin A, which is an essential antioxidant that can help protect your cell linings from free radical damage, especially your blood vessels. Regular consumption of this vitamin can help lower your risk of various cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks and atherosclerosis, as well as help prevent the cholesterol in your blood from oxidizing.
Parsley is usually garnished on top of dishes, and is ignored most of the time. If you’ve been doing this for some time now, you’re doing a great disservice to your health, because this little herb is loaded with nutrients you should not ignore.
For starters, parsley contains a whopping 574 percent of the daily recommended value for vitamin K, and like basil, can help improve blood clotting, in addition to helping promote bone strength and helping limit neuron damage in the brain.
Parsley is rich in iron as well — twice as much as spinach, in fact. This mineral plays an important part in your overall health, because it helps carry oxygen from your lungs to every organ and tissue in your body.
Rosemary is one of the most popular cooking herbs around. Its flavor and aroma lends itself well to a myriad of dishes, such as sandwiches, roasted meats, dips and soups. It’s even used to make infused oil that can be used in aromatherapy.
Memory improvement is usually the health benefit attributed to rosemary, especially for the elderly. In one study, 28 senior adults were given varying doses of rosemary, alongside a placebo. The researchers noticed that an optimum dosage of 750 milligrams helped improve cognitive function among the participants, compared to the placebo and higher doses of rosemary.[ii]
Aside from memory improvement, rosemary is known for its vitamin A content, which can help with eliminating free radicals, supporting eye health, maintaining healthy skin and helping lower the risk of lung and mouth cancer. Vitamin C is also abundant in rosemary, which can help maintain a healthy immune system and collagen synthesis.
About the Author
Pete Evans is an internationally renowned chef who has not only cooked for the general public, but also cooked a royal banquet for the Prince and Princess of Denmark, a private dinner for Martha Stewart and even represented his hometown at the gala GʼDay U.S.A. dinner for 600 in NYC. Pete’s career has moved from the kitchen into the lounge room with many TV appearances including Lifestyle Channel’s Home show, Postcards from Home, FISH, My Kitchen Rules and Moveable Feast.
Pete’s latest endeavor, The Paleo Way, is a vibrant health, weight management and fitness program, tailored to a Paleo lifestyle. Its 10-week activation program teaches you the synergy between eating good food, moving your body every day and looking at the positive sides and secrets to a healthier and happier life.