The degree to which a food has been altered during preparation lies on a continuum. Anything not directly harvested from the vine, ground, bush or tree has undergone some degree of processing. Processing may be as basic as freezing, canning or drying, or it may involve ultra-processing where food is significantly altered — foods you may typically purchase at a gas station.
Unfortunately, Americans not only eat a preponderance of processed foods, but 57.9% is ultra-processed.1 A study in 2013 found health care costs associated with Type 2 diabetes were $140 billion as compared to $90 billion for tobacco products,2 and diabetes is directly linked to a processed food diet.
The difference in the amount of sugar between foods that are ultra-processed and minimally processed is dramatic. Data demonstrate 21.1% of calories in ultra-processed foods come from sugar,3 while unprocessed foods contain no refined or added sugars. As food choices have changed over the past decades, so have the rising numbers of health challenges.
For instance, Type 2 diabetes is rooted in insulin resistance4 and a faulty leptin signaling system. In other words, it is triggered by a sugar-rich diet and the cure is free and readily available to anyone willing to change their eating habits.
An inundation of glyphosate in the food supply,5,6 exposure to organochlorine pesticides7 and heavy metal exposure8 may also be contributing factors to the rising numbers of children diagnosed with autism.
Rising Rates of Autism and Diabetes Are a Public Health Concern
The most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention9 indicate more than 100 million U.S. adults are living with diabetes or prediabetes. The report is based on 2015 data, which found 30.3 million have diabetes and another 84.1 million have prediabetes.
Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death10 and may contribute to three other causes of death found in the top 10, including heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. According to the American Diabetes Association,11 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year and 193,000 under the age of 20 have been diagnosed with diabetes.
The most recent data regarding the financial burden associated with diabetes indicates $327 billion were spent in 2017; direct medical costs were $237 billion, and business lost $90 billion in productivity.12 After adjusting for the age and sex differences of the population, statistics show the average medical cost in those with diabetes was 2.3 times higher than in those without diabetes.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by repetitive behaviors and ongoing social challenges that vary in degree depending on where you are on the spectrum, including difficulty communicating and socializing.13 Often the symptoms are recognized within the first two years of life.
The CDC began releasing biennial updates of estimated prevalence among 8-year-old children from 11 states in the U.S. based on medical records in 2004. The first estimate recorded 1 in 166 children diagnosed with autism.14 By 2016 this number had risen to 1 in 68, and in 2018 it was 1 in 59, a 15% increase from 2016.
Prevalence of Autism May Be Higher Than Suspected
However, two independent research teams analyzed data from parent questionnaires and independently found different results, including 29.5% of children who were not being treated for the condition at the time of the study.15
The first survey, published in the journal Pediatrics,16 concluded parent reported autism diagnosis was 1 in 40.
The second study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association,17 found the prevalence of autism varied substantially across states. Of those who were treated, 43.3% receive behavioral treatment only, 6.9% receive medication only and 20.3% received both.
In an evaluation of resources used from the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, it's been determined there was an 8.08% use due to autistic disorder in 2004, which rose to 20.53% in 2014.18
Additionally, the category of autistic disorders has the second highest allowance rate, with little to no indication of a decline in growth of the number of children applying for and receiving SSI benefits for autism.
Calcium Propionate Associated With Exacerbation of Autism Symptoms
While no one factor has been linked to the development of autism, the food additive calcium propionate (E282)19 has been linked to an aggravation of symptoms, and may play a role in the development of the condition.
Calcium propionate is a widely used additive in the food industry as a preservative and antifungal agent routinely sprayed on fruit, packed meat, cheese and bread.
Although the chemical is highly effective as an antifungal, it has a negative effect on the gut microbiome, which can exacerbate autism symptoms.20 Calcium propionate is the calcium salt of propionic acid, which is currently classified as generally recognized as safe (GRAS).21
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it may be used as an additive in food with no limitation other than “current good manufacturing process” as determined by the manufacturer.22 The European Food Safety Authority23 recognizes calcium propionate as an authorized antimicrobial preservative used in animal feed effective against several strains of bacteria.
In the U.S.,24 it is also used as an additive in cattle feed, as an extra calcium source for cattle and as a treatment for a variety of infections. The ability of the chemical to affect microbial growth does not end once it reaches your gut.
Acetate, propionate and butyrate are short chain fatty acids generated by microbial fermentation in your gut.25 These have been shown to have multiple beneficial effects on energy metabolism, playing a complex role between diet, gut microbiome and energy.26 However, an excess of propionate may induce behavioral effects remarkably consistent with autism.
Propionic Acid Affects Gut-Brain Axis
In one study, researchers noted propionic acid is produced by autism-associated gastrointestinal bacteria27 (clostridia and bacteroides) and may produce reversible behavioral, electrographic and neuroinflammatory changes resembling autism when administered to rodents.28
Propionic acid is naturally produced by gut microbiota as it breaks down digestive fiber. Calcium propionate was designated GRAS as it was assumed to be compatible with human physiology. The rate of propionic metabolism is affected by a variety of genetic, microbiotic and environmental factors.
However, an overabundance is found to have a neurobehavioral effect, especially in those with autism, who are already prone to an excess of propionic acid due to the microbial gut abnormalities, making them vulnerable to further damage.29 While these symptoms are not as easily detected in healthy people, exposure to high levels may trigger reversible autistic-like symptoms in healthy people as well.30
Ideally, your gut microbiome has a balance of harmful and beneficial bacteria (although many so-called harmful bacteria only cause problems when allowed to overgrow). Once a disproportionate number of one species grows,31,32 it may lead to the starvation of others and an excess production of certain chemicals.
When harmful bacteria are allowed to outgrow beneficial bacteria, the resulting inflammation contributes to gastrointestinal challenges associated with autism.33 This may also stimulate the gut-brain axis, triggering behavioral and psychological issues, such as anxiety.34 Propionic acid also has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier.35
While there have been no human studies demonstrating its potential to affect the development of autism, researchers hypothesize the sensitivity of neurological development during the fetal stage may contribute to the development of autism if the brain is exposed to excess propionic acid.36 There are animal studies suggesting perinatal exposure changes neurobehavior.37
Food Additive Used to Reduce Mold Growth Increases Insulin Resistance
A second study looked at propionate as a dietary disrupter, finding it could trigger a cascade of events leading to insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia. The study38 was led by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in collaboration with Brigham and Women's Hospital and Sheba Medical Center in Israel.
Propionate administered to mice was found to rapidly activate the animals’ sympathetic nervous system. This in turn led to a rise in glucagon and norepinephrine. The mice produced more glucose from their liver cells, leading to hyperglycemia.39 When the mice were chronically treated with propionate, equivalent to the amounts typically eaten by humans, it led to obesity and insulin resistance.40
The researchers went on to enroll 14 healthy human participants who were randomly placed in two groups. One received a meal with 1 gram of propionate as an additive and the other were given a meal with a placebo. Blood samples were drawn within 15 minutes of eating, and every 30 minutes for four hours.
The participants who ate the experimental meal had a significant increase in norepinephrine and glucagon. Lead author Amir Tirosh, Ph.D., who holds positions at the three collaborating universities, commented:41
“The dramatic increase in the incidence of obesity and diabetes over the past 50 years suggests the involvement of contributing environmental and dietary factors. One such factor that warrants attention is the ingredients in common foods. We are exposed to hundreds of these chemicals on a daily basis, and most have not been tested in detail for their potential long-term metabolic effects.”
Food Additives Increase Your Risk of Health Concerns
The FDA maintains a database of 4,000 ingredients, which by the FDA’s own admission42 “is only a partial list of food ingredients. Inclusion in this inventory of information from non-FDA entities does not indicate an FDA approval or evaluation of this use.”
The World Health Organization43 says there are “several thousand food additives used, all of which are designed to do a specific job in making food safer or more appealing.” Many additives have been linked to health concerns and were granted GRAS status without review or approval. As reported by the Washington Post:44
“The FDA said that although the law allows for food manufacturers to make their own safety determinations, the agency ‘encourages companies to consult with the agency when developing new ingredients.’ Ultimately, the FDA said, manufacturers ‘are responsible for ensuring that their food products are safe and lawful.’”
Unfortunately, while there is little assessment done on individual chemicals in isolation, mounting research suggests when consumed in combination, the health effects may be even more serious. An assessment45 done by the National Food Institute at the Technical University of Denmark found chemicals may amplify each other's adverse effects when combined, even in small amounts.46
Additionally, food manufacturers are permitted to label chemical compounds as “artificial flavors” without listing them individually. In late 2018,47 the FDA announced a list of seven synthetic compounds no longer allowed to be used as food additives in response to a petition brought by Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
These additives had been linked to cancer in animals and were most commonly used in baked goods, ice cream, candy and chewing gum. Dawn Undurraga, EWG’s nutritionist, said:48
“Consumers will never know which foods were made with these chemicals, since manufacturers have been allowed to hide these ingredients behind the vague term 'flavor.’ This is a positive step forward, but the FDA should empower consumers to make their own fully informed decisions by requiring full ingredient disclosure.”
The EWG has published a dirty dozen guide to food additives, works to ban other endocrine disrupting chemicals used as preservatives, and has developed a Food Scores49 database — an extensive list of ratings for more than 120,000 food and personal care products, providing information on ingredients and processing.
Strong Gut Microbiome May Reduce Health Risk
Taking care of your gut microbiome may be one of the most important things you can do to optimize your health. Your gut flora influences the function of a variety of internal organs, including your skin, lungs, breasts and liver.50 When your gut microbiome is disrupted, it may automatically disrupt your immune function and have far-reaching consequences.
For instance, the use of checkpoint inhibitors in the treatment of cancer, a class of immunotherapy drugs working by triggering your immune system, appears to be dependent on the gut microbiome.
As reported in Nature,51 a 2015 study found microbe-free mice failed to respond to treatment with checkpoint inhibitors, but those given Bacteroides fragilis responded better. Others have suggested the connection between your gut and mental health appears to be so strong, probiotics may one day take the place of antidepressants.
In an article published in Biological Psychiatry,52 the authors suggested severe and chronic mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, may be eliminated through the use of specific probiotics by dampening stress hormones. To learn more about how to balance your gut microbiome and develop a strong microbiota, see my previous article, “Go With Your Gut.”
It may be difficult to imagine, but a single family may have had a direct effect on the massive epidemic of opioid-related addiction and deaths the U.S. is now experiencing.
The U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War between 1954 and 19751 led to the death of 58,200 military personnel.2 By comparison, in 2017 alone, 70,200 people died from drug overdoses, 68% of which involved an opioid.3
The number of overdose deaths involving opioids was six times higher in 2017 than in 1999. In the 18 years from 1999 to 2017, almost 400,000 people died from overdosing on an opioid drug, including illicit opioids such as fentanyl and prescription drugs.4
These monumental mortality statistics are a recent phenomenon, as are the skyrocketing prescriptions for pain medications, since the understanding of pain pathophysiology is still in its infancy. In 1986, the World Health Organization published its Cancer Pain Monograph,5 which addressed the perceived undertreatment of post-operative and cancer pain.
This prompted several publications questioning the undertreatment of pain,6 including an article in 1990 in Scientific American,7,8 which questioned why opioids were reserved solely for cancer patients and avoided by those suffering chronic pain.
In 2000, The Joint Commission published standards for pain management,9,10 while the Federation of State Medical Boards and Drug Enforcement Agency promised less regulatory scrutiny.11
These events provided the foundation for pharmaceutical companies to introduce new extended-release opioid formulations, such as OxyContin, which were presumed to have a lower likelihood of abuse but were in fact extremely addictive. From 1997 to 2002, prescriptions for OxyContin rose from 670,000 in 1997 to 6.2 million in 200212 as physicians were urged to prescribe opioids for the treatment of chronic noncancer pain.
Opioid Epidemic Driven by Aggressive Sales Strategies
A recent Massachusetts lawsuit13 alleges that even though Purdue Pharmaceuticals, maker of Oxycontin, was aware of the drug's addictive potential, the company reassured physicians that the risk of addiction was low.14 By 1999, the National Capital Poison Center15 found 86% of patients who were prescribed opioids were using it for noncancer pain.
Early efforts to reduce opioid prescriptions created a demand for heroin, which was cheap and widely available. Deaths related to heroin overdose increased by 286% from 2002 to 2013.16 Synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, became available in 2013. By 2016, 20,000 deaths could be attributed to fentanyl and other synthetic opioid overdoses, in addition to overdoses from heroin and prescription opioids.17
The Massachusetts lawsuit alleges that in February 2015,18 Purdue Pharmaceutical's Project Tango was presented to the board as a plan for a joint venture to sell the addiction medication suboxone (Naloxone). The team mapped out how patients could first get addicted to opioids through prescription drugs or heroin, and then become consumers of the company's new drug.
They noted that even after patients were finished with the first round of suboxone, up to 60% would relapse and need it again, nullifying the company's original assurances the drugs were not addictive.19 The Sackler family are the owners of Purdue Pharma and in 2016 were said to have a combined fortune estimated at $13 billion.20
The family received nearly $4 billion in profits over the past decade, in large part due to sales of Oxycontin.21 Kathe Sackler is accused of devising Project Tango to increase the company's profits from a growing epidemic that is killing tens of thousands each year.22
Despite warning signs OxyContin was addictive, sales reps were promoting opioids to specific prescribers to increase prescription rates. Purdue Pharma hired global consulting firm McKinsey & Company to raise sales and control their image.
The effort is said to have been initiated to counterbalance emotional messages from mothers whose children had died from an opioid overdose.23 McKinsey & Company allegedly urged Purdue to direct its sales reps to the most prolific prescribers, classified as "Super Core" prescribers.24
Harvard Announces They Will Keep Sackler Name on Museum
The Sackler family play a strong role in Purdue Pharma and have historically been known for their philanthropic efforts. The family donated a wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a wing at the Louvre, a courtyard at Victoria and Albert Museum, a Center for Feminist art at the Brooklyn Museum and an arts education center at the Guggenheim Museum.25
Their profits have funded educational programs, medical research and professorships at Cornell, Stanford and Columbia universities.26 However, litigation against the Sacklers stemming from their role in the opioid crisis has placed pressure on these same institutions to return the gifts and remove the family name.
On this list of prestigious academic and art institutions is the Arthur M. Sackler Museum27 on the campus of Harvard University.28 As other institutions contemplate whether removing the Sackler name from their buildings and returning money might be appropriate, The Harvard Crimson29 reported university president Lawrence Bacow found this "inappropriate."
He stated Harvard would not remove the Sackler family name from campus buildings and would not return past monetary donations,30 as it was Dr. Arthur Sackler who donated funds to Harvard to name the school's museum after him.
Arthur Sackler — who The New York Times described as a research psychiatrist "who made his fortune in medical advertising, medical trade publications and the manufacture of over-the-counter drugs," passed away in May 1987,31 nine years before Oxycontin was launched in the U.S.32 Bacow believes there are "legal and contractual considerations," commenting:33
"Dr. Arthur Sackler died before the drug was developed. His family sold their interest in the company before the drug was developed. And I think it would be inappropriate for the university to either return the gift or take Dr. Sackler's name off the building that his gift supported given that he had absolutely no relationship to it."
New York Metropolitan Museum of Art Ends Relationship With Sackler Family
In a move the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art said is "in consideration of the ongoing litigation," they suspended any donations from the Sackler family and decided to end their relationship with the family. In a statement the museum attributed the move to the34 "production of opioids and the ensuing health crisis surrounding the abuse of these medications."
While they will no longer accept donations, they announced no plans to rename the Sackler Wing of the museum. The family quickly denied any allegations they are linked to the crisis in a statement to the New York Times,35 saying they believe the allegations are "false and unfair," but understand accepting gifts would place the museum in a difficult position at this time.
This ends a period of multiple gifts over generations that have been given by the Sackler family to the museum. Daniel Weiss, president and CEO of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, made a statement on the importance of private philanthropy to the museum as it has literally been the foundation and reason for growth of the buildings and collections. Weiss said:36
"What distinguishes our Museum from its global peers, such as the Prado, the Hermitage, and the Louvre, is the fact that we did not begin with a royal or imperial collection. Every object and much of the building itself came from individuals driven by a love for art and the spirit of philanthropy.
For this reason, it is our responsibility to ensure that the public is aware of the diligence that we take to generate philanthropic support. Our donors deserve this, and the public should expect it."
Similar announcements were made earlier this year from the National Portrait Gallery, Tate Modern and the Guggenheim Museum.37 In March, an arts organization — the Sackler Foundation — made a statement it would "pause" donations to institutions across the U.K.38
Arthur Sackler Designed Aggressive Tactics Responsible for Profits
Brooklyn-born brothers Arthur, Mortimer and Raymond Sackler were all physicians, and together founded Purdue Pharmaceuticals in 1952 after taking over a small struggling drug manufacturer. The company remained below the radar until the mid-1990s when Oxycontin came on the market.39
Over the years, the family was known for donating lavishly to a large range of institutions, many of which bear the family name. The loophole through which Harvard University40 and Arthur's wife Jillian41 would like to step begins when Arthur's brothers, Raymond and Mortimer, bought out his shares of Purdue Pharma from the estate before the introduction of Oxycontin.42
However, this overlooks Arthur's contribution to the sales of Oxycontin, as the drug's success is largely based on the aggressive advertising tactics he pioneered before his death. Arthur's daughter Elizabeth has since divested herself from any work with Purdue Pharma.
Raymond's sons Richard and Jonathan, and Mortimer's daughters Marissa and Kathe continue to work with the company.43 Kathe Sackler was at the heart of the marketing campaign dubbed Project Tango.44
She may have been sitting at the knee of Arthur Sackler, who was posthumously inducted into the Medical Advertising Hall of Fame in 1997. Sackler thought of doctors as unimpeachable stewards of public health, and devised his advertising campaigns to appeal to medical professionals.
Understanding doctors were greatly influenced by their own peers, he enlisted prominent physicians to endorse his products and cited scientific studies underwritten by pharmaceutical companies. John Kallir, who worked under Sackler for 10 years, was quoted in The New Yorker45 saying, "Sackler's ads had a very serious, clinical look — a physician talking to a physician. But it was advertising."
Allen Frances, former chair of psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine, put it differently:46 "Most of the questionable practices that propelled the pharmaceutical industry into the scourge it is today can be attributed to Arthur Sackler."
'The Sackler Family Lied and Our Kids Died'
The parents of children who fatally overdosed on opioids are unconcerned by claims that returning Sackler donations and taking his name off buildings are unrelated to the intricate relationship between Arthur Sackler and the opioid crisis. They are demanding Harvard University remove the family name from buildings that house one of its art museums.47
Tony LaGreca, age 71, told AP News48 the story of how his son Matthew became addicted after a football injury in college. He was prescribed 100 Oxycodone pills and told to take three or four a day.
According to LaGreca, his son rapidly became addicted and lived through hell for the next 15 years until he died. "The Sackler family lied and our kids died," LaGreca said.49 Andrew Kolodny, co-director of the Opioid Policy Research Collaborative at Brandeis University, commented:50
"If you look at the prescribing trends for all the different opioids, it's in 1996 that prescribing really takes off. It's not a coincidence. That was the year Purdue launched a multifaceted campaign that misinformed the medical community about the risks."
Tufts University is another institution struggling with the decision of what to do with its Sackler donations. The scrutiny at Tufts was triggered by the Massachusetts lawsuit raised by the attorney general against Purdue Pharma.
Although a Tufts spokesman issued a statement saying the university remains deeply committed to the highest ethical and scientific standards, the allegations go deep into practices at the university.
According to the redacted lawsuit,51 in 1999 the family made a targeted gift, establishing Tufts' masters of science in pain research, education and policy, essentially purchasing goodwill, name recognition and access to physicians. To get ahead of the game, Tufts has ordered its own investigation and tapped former U.S. Attorney General Donald Stern to review the program.52,53
However, while Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to misleading regulators in 2007, this action did not compel universities and museums to return or refuse cash. A scathing editorial in the Tufts Daily explained:54
"The opioid crisis was engineered in our own backyard… Purdue staff lectured Sackler students at courses on opioid policy, hosted events to encourage their widespread use, and developed research protocols and publications on pain management for the school.
Tufts even promoted a Purdue employee to be an adjunct professor in 2011, four years after Purdue pleaded guilty to intentionally misleading doctors and patients about OxyContin."
Number of Opioid Lawsuits Growing as Purdue Publicly Discusses Bankruptcy
The mounting number of lawsuits promises to be expensive for Purdue Pharma. One court filing in Connecticut revealed a 20-year-old internal company email saying "abusers aren't victims." The emails, which came from Richard Sackler, were revealed in a public complaint brought by the Connecticut attorney general as one of 2,000 lawsuits filed across the country.
In a statement, Attorney General William Tong said,55 "Purdue and defendant members of the Sackler family knew people were dying, but they continued to push their opioids in blind pursuit of profit."
At the party to launch Oxycontin, Richard Sackler, senior vice president of sales, announced,56 "[T]he launch of OxyContin Tablets will be followed by a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition. The prescription blizzard will be so deep, dense and white …"
About 1,500 of the 2,000 lawsuits filed in the U.S. are being overseen by a federal judge in Cleveland who is pushing the parties to settle. However, the Connecticut lawsuit is filed with the state government in a state court.
Purdue Pharma's CEO has said the company is considering bankruptcy in the face of lawsuits alleging their role in the opioid epidemic. While they have not yet decided whether to file bankruptcy, the CEO told The Washington Post57 it is something they are considering.
Jails Were Not Designed as Detoxification Centers
The number of overdoses from heroin use has led to an overpopulation in county jails now struggling with a new role as a center for opioid detoxification. More county jails are adding a form of medicated assisted treatment to help inmates detoxify safely in the hope they will stay clean behind bars and after their release.58
However, jail programs were not designed or built for effective detoxification treatments. This has led to a critical situation in which jails are scrambling to catch up. The National Sheriffs Association estimates up to two-thirds of the jail population has a dependence or drug abuse problem.59
One of the states hardest hit has been Middlesex County, Massachusetts, where the sheriff believes they are in a critical situation as they must physically and medically detoxify up to 40% of their population. Jails that have been hardest hit by the opioid epidemic include those in Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
Carlos Morales, the director of Correctional Health Services for California, San Mateo County, is optimistic about their potential to impact the community. He states60 statistics in their area show that, as an opiate user, once you detoxify in the jail system you have a 40% chance of overdosing. He believes they have the potential to reduce those odds.
The offering of treatment programs is new for many correctional systems across the country. Morales believes the jail needs to build a momentum of treatment. But treatment inside the jail is only half the problem, as once the inmates leave the facility they need access to health insurance, medications, counseling and treatment services to help them get through and stay drug-free.
Struggling With Opioid Addiction? Please Seek Help
Regardless of the brand of opioid, it's vitally important to realize they are extremely addictive drugs and not meant for long-term use for nonfatal conditions. Chemically, opioids are similar to heroin. If you wouldn't consider shooting up heroin for a toothache or backache, seriously reconsider taking an opioid to relieve this type of pain.
The misconception that opioids are harmless pain relievers has killed hundreds of thousands and destroyed the lives of countless more. In many cases you'll be able to control pain without the use of medications. In my previous article, "Treating Pain Without Drugs," I discuss several approaches to consider that may be used separately or in combination.
If you've been on an opioid for more than two months, or if you find yourself taking a higher dosage, or taking the drug more often, you may already be addicted. Resources where you can find help include:
- Your workplace employee assistance program
- Contact the Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration61 24 hours a day at 1-800-622-HELP
While there are instances where sunscreen may be prudent, these products are widely overused and contribute to widespread vitamin D deficiency. In my view, sunscreen is rarely needed, provided you’re following sensible sun exposure guidelines to prevent burning. Simply get out of the sun or wear clothing the moment your skin starts to turn light pink.
That said, conventional guidance by the American Academy of Dermatology1 stresses the use of sunscreen, not only when lying on the beach but every single day, regardless of weather or skin pigmentation. Aside from promoting vitamin D deficiency, which has a long list of health consequences, sunscreen use may also be a source of toxic exposure.
Pilot Study Confirms Your Body Absorbs Toxins From Sunscreens
A pilot study2,3,4,5 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shows four commonly used active ingredients in sunscreen are absorbed into your blood at levels that could potentially pose health risks. The four active ingredients looked in this study were avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene and ecamsule.
Twenty-four participants were asked to apply 2 milligrams (mg) of sunscreen per square centimeter over 75% of their body, using either one of two sprays, a lotion or a cream. This amount equates to the maximum recommended dose recommended by most makers of sunscreen.
A total of 30 blood samples were collected from each participant over seven days of application. The geometric mean maximum plasma concentrations were as follows for each of the chemicals:6
- Avobenzone — 4 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) for spray No.1; 3.4 ng/mL for spray No. 2; 4.3 ng/mL for lotion and 1.8 ng/mL for the cream
- Oxybenzone — 209.6 ng/mL for spray No. 1; 194.9 ng/mL for spray No. 2, and 169.3 ng/mL for lotion
- Octocrylene, — 2.9 ng/mL for spray No. 1; 7.8 ng/mL for spray No. 2; 5.7 ng/mL for lotion, and 5.7 ng/mL for cream
- Ecamsule — 1.5 ng/mL for cream
According to the authors:7
“Systemic concentrations greater than 0.5 ng/mL were reached for all 4 products after 4 applications on day 1. The most common adverse event was rash, which developed in 1 participant with each sunscreen.
In this preliminary study involving healthy volunteers, application of 4 commercially available sunscreens under maximal use conditions resulted in plasma concentrations that exceeded the threshold established by the FDA for potentially waiving some nonclinical toxicology studies for sunscreens …
FDA has provided guidance that sunscreen active ingredients with systemic absorption greater than 0.5 ng/mL or with safety concerns should undergo nonclinical toxicology assessment including systemic carcinogenicity and additional developmental and reproductive studies.”
Continue Using Sunscreen, FDA Says, Ignoring Potential Health Risks of Oxybenzone
While it comes as no surprise that toxic chemicals are being absorbed into your blood when applied to your skin, what’s shocking is the FDA’s guidance in light of the results — continue using sunscreen!8
This, despite the fact that all four chemicals were found to enter the bloodstream at levels above the presumed “safe” level after a single day of application, and remained in the system for at least 24 hours after last use. Just what might the ramifications be if you’re using them every single day, year-round?
Research9 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published in 2008 found 96.8% of the 2,517 urine samples collected as part of the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey had detectable levels of oxybenzone, which is a testament to just how much sunscreen people are using. And this data is 15 years old. It is likely far worse now.
Dr. David Strauss, director of the division of applied regulatory science at the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation Research and co-author of the FDA pilot study, told Time,10 “This supports the need for further studies to understand the clinical significance of this. We really have a paucity of data on whether there are adverse health effects of these ingredients or not.”
Dermatologist and spokesman for the American Academy of Dermatology, Dr. David Leffell, echoed the FDA’s recommendation, telling CNN Health,11 “Studies need to be performed to evaluate this finding and determine whether there are true medical implications to absorption of certain ingredients. [In the meantime, people should] continue to be aggressive about sun protection."
The Hazards of Oxybenzone
According to the Environmental Working Group,12 oxybenzone “has been linked to allergies, hormone disruption, and cell damage. A companion study published just one day earlier revealed that this chemical is linked to low birth weight in baby girls whose mothers are exposed during pregnancy. Oxybenzone is also a penetration enhancer, a chemical that helps other chemicals penetrate the skin.”
Research has also linked oxybenzone to “significantly lower” testosterone levels in adolescent boys,13 and reduced sperm count14 and altered hormone levels in men (specifically testosterone, estradiol and inhibin B).15 In women, the chemical has been linked to endometriosis,16 shorter pregnancies and lower male birth weights.17
Oxybenzone is also lethal to certain sea creatures, including horseshoe crab eggs, and researchers warn the widespread use of oxybenzone-containing sunscreens pose a serious threat to coral reefs and sea life.18
This effect is what prompted Hawaiian lawmakers to ban the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, both of which have been linked to severe coral damage.19,20
How FDA Established Safety Threshold for Sunscreen Chemicals
As mentioned, 0.5 ng/mL is the threshold for systemic concentration via absorption set by the FDA, below which companies do not need to perform certain toxicology studies. Here’s how the FDA set that threshold:21
“The 0.5-ng/mL threshold is based on the principle that the level would approximate the highest plasma level below which the carcinogenic risk of any unknown compound would be less than 1 in 100 000 after a single dose. This Threshold of Toxicological Concern (TTC) concept was first adopted by FDA in the regulation of food packaging substances that can migrate into food.
The threshold value is also consistent with the TTC applied to pharmaceutical drug substance impurities in the International Council for Harmonisation ‘Guidance for Industry: M7 (R1) Assessment and Control of DNA Reactive (Mutagenic) Impurities in Pharmaceuticals to Limit Potential Carcinogenic Risk.’
That document recommends a TTC of 1.5 μg/d, when appropriate, which was translated to 0.5 ng/mL for sunscreen active ingredients, assuming a circulating plasma volume of approximately 3 L.
Application of this concept was considered acceptable during the determination of the ‘generally recognized as safe and effective’ status of sunscreen active ingredients because such ingredients will be supported by extensive human use and absence of other pharmacologic or toxicologic signals from the nonclinical assessment recommended in the FDA sunscreen guidance.”
It’s worth noting that the 0.5 ng/mL threshold originates from regulation of chemicals that can migrate from food packaging into food, which means they would be consumed. Chemicals applied to your skin frequently go straight into your bloodstream, bypassing your gastrointestinal system, and hence may pose a different and potentially greater threat to health than ingested chemicals.
In short, there’s no telling whether the 0.5 ng/mL threshold is really appropriate for these four (and other) sunscreen chemicals. Only further study can shed light on that.
But rather than taking a precautionary approach and instructing individuals to use sunscreens known to be safe (non-nano-sized zinc oxide and titanium dioxide), the FDA simply says, “These results do not indicate that individuals should refrain from the use of sunscreen.”22 From my perspective, the results are a warning flag indicating you indeed should refrain from using these products as they have well documented health hazards!
Irrational Sunscreen Recommendations Issued by Consumer Reports
Consumer Reports has issued equally irrational recommendations. Less than a week before publishing the results of the FDA’s pilot study,23 in which they noted that the “results strengthen FDA’s call for more information on sunscreen safety,” Consumer Reports issued its annual Best Sunscreens report.24 Remarkably, all of Consumer Reports’ recommended sunscreens contain oxybenzone. Topping their lotion and spray lists:
- Best lotion — La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-in Sunscreen Milk (which the EWG Guide to Sunscreens,25 incidentally, rates among the worst, noting its active ingredient, oxybenzone, poses a moderate health concern)
- Best spray — Trader Joe’s SPF 50+ Sunscreen, which contains both oxybenzone and avobenzone
Don Huber, director of product safety at Consumer Reports, commented on the potential concerns people might have about oxybenzone saying, “While we recognize there are concerns with oxybenzone, we know that sunscreen is a critical part of an overall sun protection plan. It’s proven to prevent sunburn, and can lower your risk of skin cancer and reduce skin aging, and our testing is based on a product’s ability to filter UV rays.”
The oxybenzone-free sunscreens recommended by Consumer Reports are Walgreens Hydrating SPF 50 lotion26 and Hawaiian Tropic Sheer Touch Lotion SPF 50,27 both of which contain avobenzone instead.
However, no studies have been done to confirm whether avobenzone is actually a safer choice. According to a recent Danish study,28 13 of 29 sunscreen chemicals allowed in the U.S. and/or European Union have the ability to reduce male fertility, and avobenzone is one of them.
If you’re concerned about toxic ingredients, the EWG’s Skin Deep Database is a better site for evaluating your sunscreen choices. In 2017, my Dr. Mercola Sunscreen SPF 30 received its highest safety rating.29
New Sunscreen Regulations Proposed by FDA
The FDA recently proposed new regulations30 to “make sure sunscreens are safe and effective” in light of daily use. The public comment period ends May 28, 2019.31 If enacted, this could have a transformative effect on the sunscreen industry as a whole.
Importantly, as I’ve noted on a number of occasions, of all the active sunscreen ingredients used in products on the U.S. market, only two — non-nano-sized zinc oxide and titanium dioxide — have actually been deemed safe for human use by the FDA.
In its proposed rule, the FDA admits it does not have enough scientific data to draw any conclusions about the safety of 12 of the 16 active sunscreen ingredients on its list, and asks industry to help in providing more data to perform a “rigorous assessment” of all active ingredients on the market. Its pilot study was part of this current push to learn more about these ingredients.
Two of the 16 ingredients, PABA and trolamine salicylate, have been deemed unsafe, or not generally recognized as safe (GRAS), and are not currently in use, according to the FDA.
The proposal also includes broad updates to labeling requirements, as well as SPF-related changes. For the changes, FDA wants sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher to provide broad spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays, not just UVB as is currently the case.
Many Sunscreen Ingredients Have Endocrine Disrupting Effects
In addition to oxybenzone, at least eight other active sunscreen ingredients are suspected of having endocrine disrupting effects.32,33 As mentioned above, recent Danish research34 has highlighted the risk to male fertility by 13 of 29 sunscreen chemicals allowed in the U.S. and/or European Union.
The researchers found these chemicals have the ability to reduce male fertility by affecting calcium signaling in sperm, in part by exerting a progesterone-like effect. Of those 13 chemicals, the following eight are approved for use in the U.S.:
Octisalate (also known as octyl salicylate)
Octinoxate (octyl methoxycinnamate)
Oxybenzone (also called benzophenone-3)
"These results are of concern and might explain in part why unexplained infertility is so prevalent," senior investigator, Niels Skakkebaek, professor at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and a researcher at the Copenhagen University Hospital, said.35
Many sunscreens also contain vitamin A and/or its derivatives, retinol and retinyl palmitate, which have been linked to an increased risk of skin cancer by increasing the speed at which malignant cells develop and spread.
Oxybenzone and Other Sunscreen Ingredients Are Also Neurotoxic
Research36 published in Toxicology Reports in 2017 also warn that some sunscreen ingredients — including oxybenzone — are neurotoxic (toxic to your brain). The authors noted that:
- Since sunscreens need to be applied in significant amounts all over the body, calculations — assuming a maximum skin penetration of up to 5% — suggest the total amount of a given compound being absorbed from a single application could be as high as 200 milligrams (mg) or 2.56 mg per kilo of bodyweight
- Simultaneous application of insect repellents such as DEET enhances the penetration of the compounds, thereby multiplying their potential toxicity
- Sunscreen chemicals are found in blood, urine and breast milk following application, in some cases within as little as two hours
Sunscreen ingredients found to have neurotoxic effects in this study included:37
Octyl methoxycinnamate — Found to decrease motor activity in female rats and alter the release of a number of different neurotransmitters
Benzophenone-3 (oxybenzone) — Decreases cell viability of neurons, and upregulates estrogenic-related genes in male animals
4-methylbenzylidene camphor — Decreased cell viability and impaired neuronal development in lab animals
Octocrylene — Impaired expression of genes related to brain development and brain metabolism
According to the researchers:38
“The endocrine disruptive and developmental toxicity of many organic UV filters in experimental models is well established; these filters seem to be associated with altered estrogen, androgen and progesterone activity, reproductive and developmental toxicity and impaired functioning of the thyroid, liver or kidneys …
Since many of UV filters were shown to cross the blood-brain barrier, the risk for neurotoxicity also occurs … [S]ince it is known that other chemicals classified as endocrine disruptors can impair neuronal transmission, synaptic plasticity and produce neurotoxic effects, chemical filters might potentially produce similar effect.”
Considering the endocrine disrupting and neurotoxic effects of oxybenzone, its high absorbability, and the availability of safe sunscreens (those containing non-nano-sized zinc oxide and titanium dioxide), it seems rather irrational and downright irresponsible of FDA, the American Academy of Dermatology and Consumer Reports to urge people to continue slathering themselves and their children with oxybenzone-containing sunscreen on a daily basis.
How to Choose a Safer Sunscreen
When selecting a sunscreen, remember there really are only two known safe sunscreen ingredients — zinc oxide and titanium dioxide39 — and they must not be nano-sized.
Your safest choice is a lotion or cream with zinc oxide, as it is stable in sunlight and provides the best protection from UVA rays.40 Your next best option is titanium dioxide. Just make sure the product does not contain nano-sized particles and protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
Also keep in mind that SPF protects only from UVB rays (although if the FDA’s proposed rules are implemented, any SPF at or above 15 must protect against both UVA and UVB), which are the rays within the ultraviolet spectrum that allow your skin to produce vitamin D.
The most dangerous rays, in terms of causing skin damage and cancer, are the UVA rays. Avoid sunscreens with an SPF above 50. While not intrinsically harmful, the higher SPF tends to provide a false sense of security, encouraging you to stay in the sun longer than you should.
Moreover, higher SPF typically does not provide much greater protection. In fact, research suggests people using high-SPF sunscreens get the same or similar exposure to UV rays as those using lower-SPF products.
What’s more, a recent analysis41 by Consumer Reports found many sunscreens are far less effective than claimed on the label; 32 of the 82 products evaluated for 2019 offered less than half the protection promised by their stated SPF. Consumer Reports said they’d seen “a similar pattern in previous years’ sunscreen tests.”
Sensible Sun Exposure Is Good for Your Health and Longevity
I recommend spending time in the sun regularly — ideally daily. Sunshine offers substantial health benefits, provided you take a few simple precautions to protect yourself from overexposure. Here are my top five sensible sunning tips:
• Give your body a chance to produce vitamin D before you apply sunscreen. Expose large amounts of your skin (at least 40 percent of your body) to sunlight for short periods daily.
Vitamin D is involved in the biochemical function of nearly every cell and tissue in your body, including your immune system. When you're deficient in vitamin D, your health can deteriorate in a variety of important ways, because your cells require the active form of vitamin D to gain access to the genetic blueprints stored inside the cell.
Research42 published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in December 2018 called for an immediate revision of public health recommendations, noting that “nonburning UV exposure is a health benefit and — in moderation — should be recommended as such.”
The authors warn that the public has been misled and misinformed about the health ramifications of sun avoidance, as there are significant hazards associated with vitamin D deficiency, including a heightened risk of heart disease and several cancers, especially internal cancers but also skin cancer.43
This paper also points out that an estimated 12% of all U.S. deaths may be linked to inadequate sun exposure, and that sun avoidance is as potent a risk factor for death as smoking.
• Stay out just long enough for your skin to turn the very lightest shade of pink. Shield your face from the sun using a safe sunscreen or hat, as your facial skin is thin and more prone to sun damage, such as premature wrinkling.
When you'll be in the sun for longer periods, cover up with clothing, a hat or shade (either natural or shade you create using an umbrella). A safe sunscreen can be applied after you've optimized your skin’s daily vitamin D production, although clothing is your safest option to prevent burning and skin damage.
• Keep in mind that in order for sunscreen to be effective, you must apply large amounts over all exposed areas of your skin. This means the product should not trigger skin allergies and must provide good protection against UVA and UVB radiation. It also should not be absorbed into your skin, as the most effective sunscreen acts as a topical barrier.
• Consider the use of an "internal sunscreen" like astaxanthin to gain additional sun protection.44,45,46,47 In one study,48 subjects who took 4 milligrams of astaxanthin per day for two weeks showed a significant increase in the amount of time necessary for UV radiation to redden their skin.
On average, approximately 20% more energy was needed for skin reddening to occur. Astaxanthin can also be applied topically, which is why it’s now being incorporated into a number of topical sunscreen products.
Consuming a healthy diet full of natural antioxidants is another highly useful strategy to help avoid sun damage. Fresh, raw, unprocessed foods deliver the nutrients that your body needs to maintain a healthy balance of omega-6 and animal-based DHA omega-3 oils in your skin, which are your first lines of defense against sunburn.
Vegetables also provide your body with an abundance of powerful antioxidants that will help you fight the free radicals caused by sun damage that can lead to burns and cancer.
I’ve written about the collusion between industry and the U.S. federal regulatory agencies on many occasions throughout the years, and how industry-funded research simply tends to promote and support the industry agenda rather than shed truthful light on the benefits or risks of any given product.
In recent years, the hidden influence of The Coca-Cola Company over health and sugar science has been highlighted several times and, according to recent findings, it appears the company has not changed its secretive and deceptive ways, despite public assurances of transparency.
Documents obtained via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests reveal Coca-Cola’s research agreements with certain universities give the company questionable rights over the research process, while other FOIA documents show Coca-Cola has an unreasonable amount of influence over the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Truly, having a public health organization that protects and supports industry rather than looking out for public health is worse than having no public health protection agency at all, and making health decisions on Coca-Cola funded research is bound to lead public health in the wrong direction — which is exactly what’s been happening.
Coke’s Research Agreements Allow It to Bury Unfavorable Findings
Big Soda’s core message has been that the obesity epidemic is driven by a lack of activity, as opposed to indulging in sugar-based foods and beverages, despite overwhelming scientific evidence you will never be able to out-exercise your diet.
Recent FOIA documents obtained by the nonprofit consumer and public health watchdog organization U.S. Right to Know (USRTK) offer an explanation as to how the company can influence research to support and promulgate this false idea.1,2,3,4 As noted in a commentary in The British Medical Journal:5
“The research team, from the University of Cambridge, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the University of Bocconi, and non-profit group US Right to Know, looked at five research agreements made with four universities: Louisiana State University, University of South Carolina, University of Toronto, and the University of Washington.
They found that, although the contracts show that Coca-Cola does not have day-to-day control of the research, it has various rights throughout the process … This is despite Coca-Cola’s website stating that ‘in no event does The Coca-Cola Company have the right to prevent the publication of research results’ …
The authors are now calling on corporate funders to publish lists of terminated studies and on scientists to publish industry agreements to show that their findings are free from influence.”
Just how much influence do the agreements grant Coca-Cola? According to the featured paper,6 published in the Journal of Public Health Policy, the research contract provisions give Coke:7
- The right to review and comment on studies before publication
- Intellectual property rights connected to the research8,9
- Control over study data
- Control over disclosure of results
- Control over acknowledgment of Coca-Cola funding, meaning the company could prevent the researchers from disclosing that their funding came from Coke
- Power to terminate studies early for any reason, including no reason
Coke-Funded Science Cannot Be Trusted
In a USRTK press release, Gary Ruskin, co-director of USRTK and co-author of the paper, commented: 10
“These contracts suggest that Coke wanted the power to bury research it funded that might detract from its image or profits. With the power to trumpet positive findings and bury negative ones, Coke-funded ‘science’ seems somewhat less than science and more like an exercise in public relations.”
Marion Nestle, Ph.D.,11 professor of nutrition and public health at New York University and author of “Soda Politics,” in which she dissects the many ways in which funding from the food and beverage industry influences scientific results, calls the USRTK findings “jaw-dropping.” She told Inverse:12
“It demonstrates what we have all long suspected. Companies that sponsor research make sure that they get what they pay for. The study documents the involvement of Coca-Cola in many aspects of developing research projects.
It is no surprise that its funded research typically comes out with results that are useful for Coca-Cola marketing purposes. Industry funded research is marketing research, not scientific research.”
High Time for All Branches of Science to Mandate Preregistration of Studies
Since September 27, 2007, Section 801 of the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act requires any clinical trial being undertaken to be registered, and summary results must be submitted to ClinicalTrials.gov13 regardless of the outcome of the study. The reason for this is to help prevent publication bias where only positive findings see the light of day.
Unfortunately, this law only applies to certain clinical trials of drugs, biological products and medical devices,14 and while researchers in many other fields have taken to preregistering their studies,15,16 which means they must also publish their results, it’s not a blanket requirement across the board.
As of yet, preregistration of trials is not a requirement for nutritional research, although there’s a movement toward it. As noted in the 2015 editorial “Goals in Nutrition Science 2015-2020,” published in Frontiers of Nutrition:17
“[T]here is a general movement in science for ‘Transparency and Openness Promotion,’ formalized in ‘The TOP Guidelines.’18 The guidelines recognize eight standards: citation, data transparency, analytic methods (code) transparency, research materials transparency, design and analysis transparency, preregistration of studies, preregistration of analysis plans, and replication.
These standards aim to improve the communication of science, allowing improved understanding and replicability of results. Because the TOP Guidelines are being adopted across fields of science, the field of nutrition will not have to act in isolation to improve its scientific practices. Instead, we can build on and work with the minds and resources coming from a spectrum of scientific inquiry.”
Another paper, 19 “Best Practices in Nutrition Science to Earn and Keep the Public’s Trust,” published in January 2019, also highlights the TOP (transparency and openness promotion) guidelines that call for preregistration of studies.
On a quick side note, the first analysis20 of preregistered studies reveals there’s been a sharp increase in null findings, suggesting the practice is working as intended.
As reported by Nature, “Studies that preregister their protocols publish more negative findings that don’t support their hypothesis, than those that don’t.”21 This is important, because when mainly positive studies are published, it can easily create the false appearance that the evidence for a particular treatment is far stronger than it actually is.
CDC Colludes With Coca-Cola to Deceive You
Earlier this year, another batch of emails obtained via FOIA requests (after USRTK sued the CDC to get a response) revealed Coca-Cola was actively lobbying the CDC “to advance corporate objectives rather than health, including to influence the World Health Organization,” USRTK said in a post on its website,22 adding that the documentation demonstrates “a need for clearer policies on avoiding partnerships with manufacturers of harmful products.”
These documents, featuring correspondence between Coca-Cola executives and the CDC, can be found in the USCF Food Industry Documents online archive.23,24 A paper25,26,27,28 detailing the connections between Coke and the CDC based on the email cache was published in The Milbank Quarterly in January 2019.
In a press release announcing the publication of the paper, USRTK said:29
“Coca-Cola’s contact with the CDC shows the company’s interest in gaining access to CDC employees, to lobby policymakers, and to frame the obesity debate by shifting attention and blame away from sugar-sweetened beverages …
‘It is not the proper role of the CDC to abet companies that manufacture harmful products,’ said Gary Ruskin, co-director of U.S. Right to Know. ‘Congress should investigate whether Coca-Cola and other companies that harm public health are unethically influencing the CDC, and subverting its efforts to protect the health of all Americans.’
‘Once again we see the grave risks that arise when public health organisations [sic] partner with manufacturers of products that pose a threat to health,’ said Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
‘Sadly, as this example, and more recent ones in the United Kingdom show, these risks are not always appreciated by those who should know better.’”
CDC Official Helped Coke Influence World Health Organization
In March 2015, WHO published a new sugar guideline that specifically targeted sugary beverages, calling them out as a primary cause for childhood obesity around the world, especially in developing nations, where the soda industry is now aggressively expanding its reach.
WHOs recommendation to limit soda consumption was a huge blow to an already beleaguered soda industry, struggling to maintain a declining market share amid mounting evidence identifying sweetened drinks as a primary contributor to the obesity and diabetes epidemics.
Email correspondence between Alex Malaspina, a former Coca-Cola scientific and regulatory affairs leader and the founder of the food industry-funded group International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), and Barbara Bowman, Ph.D., then-director of the CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, revealed Bowman repeatedly tried to help Malaspina get an audience with WHO officials, with the aim to talk them into relaxing the sugar limits.30,31
As noted by the USRTK,32 while Bowman’s job was to prevent obesity and related health problems, she “appeared happy to help the beverage industry cultivate political sway with the World Health Organization.”
Bowman left the agency at the end of June 2016, just two days after the initial reports about her cozy relationship with Coke were made public,33 which suggests she understood full well how inappropriate her behavior was.
This case also highlights the reality of corporate loyalty. As reported by the Huffington Post,34 early in her career, Bowman worked as a senior nutritionist for Coca-Cola. She also co-wrote one of the editions of a nutritional book published by ILSI.35
It’s human nature to remain loyal to former employers and colleagues, which is why the revolving door between industry and the agencies that regulate them is so problematic. People don’t shed their corporate mindset just because they get a government title and a new set of responsibilities.
Latest Coca-Cola Funded Study Again Blames Inactivity for Childhood Obesity
Coca-Cola and other soda makers have invested a lot of money in research and PR efforts aimed at protecting sales through misdirection. Coca-Cola in particular has worked hard to make it seem as though they’re concerned about public health while secretly undermining real efforts to improve it.
For example, a historical analysis36 published in 2016 found the sugar industry funded research that identified dietary fat as the culprit in heart disease, not sugar, and didn’t disclose that funding.
A 2017 study37 revealed that while sponsoring 95 U.S. health organizations, Coke was lobbying against public health bills aimed at reducing soda consumption through taxing, sugar limits and other strategies.
Coca-Cola and many other junk food manufacturers are also notorious for funding — and thus influencing — food and nutrition conferences and education.38
Most recently, a Coke-funded study39 published in the International Journal of Obesity January 31, 2019, evaluated “the single and joint associations of objectively measured moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and sedentary time on week and weekend days with obesity in children from 12 countries …”
They concluded the odds of obesity were highest among those who got the least amount of physical activity on both weekdays and weekends. Children with the lowest odds of obesity were the most active throughout the whole week. As noted by Nestle in her Food Politics blog:40
“This is another paper from the ISCOLE study funded by Coca-Cola, that seems to be aimed at casting doubt on the idea that sugary beverages might promote weight gain. Instead, these results suggest that physical activity is a more important factor.
Of course physical activity is important for health, but doesn’t expend nearly as many calories as is usually needed to compensate for soft drink intake. I learned about this study from a Weighty Matters blog post41 by Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, who runs a weight management center in Ottawa.
In his view, the ISCOLE study ignores evidence42 that childhood obesity is a determinant of physical activity, ‘not the other way around.’ He also questions the ‘no influence’ statement in the funding disclosure, on the basis of emails43 between ISCOLE investigators and Coca-Cola that not surprisingly suggests that these relationships have the very real potential to influence the framing of results even if funders [are] not involved in study design.
As I discuss in ‘Unsavory Truth,’ the influence of food-industry funders appears to occur at an unconscious level; investigators do not recognize the influence and typically deny it.”
By Stuart Cooper, Campaign Director, Fluoride Action Network
Ending the addition of hazardous fluoridation chemicals — primarily hydrofluorosilicic acid — to the public's drinking water will be one of the greatest public health achievements of the 21st century.
With each passing month, the case against artificial fluoridation builds as new research showing harm is published, legal action advances, overfeeds and spills are exposed and local fluoride-free campaigns spread throughout the world.
Mounting Evidence of Harm
A number of significant studies — two of which were funded by the U.S. government (the National Institutes of Health, or NIH) — have been published in the last eight months linking fluoride exposure to lowered IQ, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and thyroid problems, and showing that pregnant women and infants in "optimally" fluoridated communities are exposed to significantly more fluoride than those in non-fluoridated communities.
In February 2019, a string of news stories — triggered by a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report1 admitting that at least 40% of children are overexposed to fluoride — focused on kids swallowing too much toothpaste and neglected the significant exposure from fluoridated tap water.
Regardless, the defenders of water fluoridation are missing the real story. Dental fluorosis is a biomarker of overexposure to fluoride and the "elephant in the room" is what damage fluoride is doing to other tissues.
Recent scientific research indicates that exposure to fluoridated water may lower thyroid function,2,3 particularly in those with an iodine deficiency. A new study also found that significantly more infants, particularly those under 6 months of age, will exceed the upper limit set by the Institute of Medicine for fluoride when consuming formula reconstituted with the "optimal" 0.7 parts per million (ppm), greatly increasing their risk of side effects.4
There are now over 350 published studies on fluoride's effect on the brain: 130 human studies, over 200 animal studies and 33 cell studies. This includes a major U.S.-government funded mother-offspring study conducted in Mexico City.5 This rigorous study — which controlled for many possible confounders — found a very strong association between fluoride levels in mothers' urine and lowered IQ for their offspring.
The fluoride levels in this study also correspond to levels in pregnant women living in "optimally" fluoridated areas in Canada according to an October 2018 paper.6
The same research team at University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health has since released additional findings that confirm and strengthen their 2017 fetus/IQ study.7 Very young children, aged 1 to 3 years, also show loss of IQ. In other words, their study now covers the ages of the offspring from 1 to 12 years.
For the ages of 1 to 3 years, for every 1 mg/L increase in the urine fluoride level of their pregnant mothers, the children averaged 2.4-point lower IQ scores. The finding was statistically significant and accounted for potential confounding factors.
They concluded, "Our findings add to our team's recently published report on prenatal fluoride and cognition at ages 4 and 6–12 years8 by suggesting that higher in utero exposure to F has an adverse impact on offspring cognitive development that can be detected earlier, in the first three years of life."
This was followed up by another published paper that linked higher levels of urinary fluoride during pregnancy with more symptoms of ADHD9 — the second study to do so.10
World Expert on Lead Now Warns of Fluoride's Neurotoxicity
As if the recent research condemning fluoridation couldn't get any worse, a major review article in the journal Pediatric Medicine by David Bellinger, Ph.D., professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, has included fluoride in a list of chemicals known or suspected to interfere with the neurodevelopment of children.11
Bellinger, recognized as one the leading experts in the world on the neurotoxicity of lead, holds three important positions in Boston: two at Harvard and one at Boston Children's Hospital.
In his review of fluoride's neurotoxicity, Bellinger cites the meta-analysis of 27 IQ studies from China and Iran;12 a follow-up study in China he co-wrote13 and the more recent U.S. government-funded mother-offspring studies from Mexico City.14,15
While the mainstream media covered the Choi meta-analysis from 2012, they have ignored all the major neurotoxicity studies published since then. Meanwhile, they continue to go overboard on low-quality studies that focus on tooth decay.
According to Paul Connett, Ph.D., Fluoride Action Network (FAN) director, "We hope that when more pediatricians read about these important neurotoxicity studies — especially the mother-offspring studies — that they will warn women of child-bearing age to avoid all sources of fluoride during pregnancy and parents not to bottle-feed their infants with formula prepared with fluoridated tap water."
Help FAN's Precedent-Setting Neurotoxicity Lawsuit
These new scientific findings further strengthen the evidence of fluoride's neurotoxicity. The fluoride levels at issue in these studies are within the range that pregnant women in the U.S. are receiving, so the findings are clearly relevant to our ongoing legal case against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
In November 2016, the FAN together with a coalition of organizations and private citizens, presented a petition to the EPA calling on the agency to exercise its authority to prohibit the addition of fluoridation chemicals to the public's drinking water supplies under Section 21 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
The EPA dismissed our petition, which prompted our coalition to file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court. Since then, we've had several significant legal victories. First, Judge Edward Chen denied the EPA's motion to dismiss the case. Second, the judge denied a request by the EPA to prohibit our attorneys from obtaining internal documents and our experts from using the recently published studies mentioned above.
The third victory came in October 2018 when the EPA objected to sharing internal documents — or allowing their employees to be deposed — about their acknowledgment of and concerns about the known risks associated with fluoridation. Judge Chen ruled the EPA had to share this crucial information (see the Judge's full ruling).16
Yet another victory came in April 2019 when the court compelled EPA to both produce further documents and produce three more of its scientists for deposition.
We are now entering the final phase before our historic trial begins. The judge originally scheduled the trial for the beginning of August 2019, but due to the recent government shutdown, the federal court was also closed and the trial has been moved back several months to late 2019 or early 2020.
In the meantime, our legal team will continue conducting the discovery phase, interviewing EPA officials and collecting internal documents. FAN urgently needs your help to ensure we can provide the funding necessary for the foremost scientific experts in the world to present the best case at trial.
The primary expense at this point is the experts, who will need to spend considerable time preparing reports, preparing for their depositions and testifying in court. To fund these specific legal costs, FAN is currently running a spring fundraiser.
You can follow it on social media using the hashtag #FluorideLawsuit. So, please consider becoming a supporter of our historic legal action by making a tax-deductible donation today that will be doubled for a limited time.
Fluoridation Overfeed Sickens Hundreds
The latest research isn't the only fluoridation fiasco being ignored by the media and the dental lobby. Fluoridation-related accidents, malfunctions, overfeeds and worker errors have shockingly become commonplace. The most recent example is the current fluoridation crisis and negligent actions of elected officials occurring in Sandy, Utah.
A power outage during a snowstorm in Sandy February 6, 2019, caused a pump to flood parts of the town's drinking water system with dangerously high levels of fluoridation chemicals, with city officials saying possibly up to 150 ppm.
The fluoridating chemical released in Sandy — hydrofluorosilicic acid — apparently caused the corrosiveness of the water to increase dramatically, causing leaching of unsafe levels of lead, copper and other heavy metals from plumbing.
A public health official claimed neurotoxic harm from lead only occurs as the last stage of poisoning. Actually, in children, neurotoxicity occurs at levels below where symptoms of lead poisoning appear.
Possibly the most egregious act of negligence committed was the removal of "Do Not Ingest" from the initial warning to residents. The utilities director removed the words intentionally after consulting with representatives of the state health department, but has yet to explain his justification for doing so, even to the mayor and citizens.
The mayor has since placed the utilities director, Tom Ward, on paid administrative leave to "restore the public's confidence," in the water system. The city was also cited by the State Division of Drinking Water for failing to notify the public adequately and for exceeding safe fluoride levels.
The mayor and city council voted to open an independent investigation into how the malfunction occurred and how the city responded. Both county and state legislators have called for an investigation of fluoridation in Salt Lake and Davis counties, as well as a moratorium on the practice throughout Utah.17
The mayor of Salt Lake City stated that unless state legislators ban the practice, by law Salt Lake area voters must make the decision with a question on the ballot. In response, FAN sent a letter to the mayor and other public officials asking for a detailed health investigation.
The fluoride incident February 5 to 7 reportedly caused levels at homes to reach way over 100 mg/L, a level close to what caused a fatality and serious illnesses in a previous overfeed accident in Alaska. A level of 100 mg/L is 25 times greater than the EPA standard and 150 times greater than the normal level for water fluoridation.
FAN points out that government officials downplayed possible health effects. Officials said fluoride does not accumulate in the body and therefore should cause no long-term effects. This is incorrect, as 50% of ingested fluoride is retained and can raise the body-burden for years.
The health investigation that followed the Alaska fluoride poisoning incident found elevated fluoride and abnormal clinical blood measures weeks after the exposures had ceased.
FAN has requested that a thorough health investigation be conducted, similar to that for the Alaska incident, with added attention to lead and other heavy metals. The mayor's office replied that he would seriously consider our request and get back to FAN.
Fluoridation Accidents Are Too Common
Pro-fluoridation officials have responded by claiming that accidents like this are very rare. As usual, their claim is factually incorrect. Fluoridation-related accidents happen on a regular basis, endangering millions of residents.
FAN has put together a list of 50 accidents that have occurred primarily since 2000 and have been reported by media outlets. These even include two accidents in the Salt Lake City area that hospitalized a water worker, contaminated a local stream and killed wild animals.
As you view our accident list, keep in mind that many go unreported. I suspect this list could easily be doubled or even tripled with additional research into U.S. Department of Transportation rail and trucking accident records, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) records and state groundwater records.
Also keep in mind that a fluoridation accident or overfeed doesn't have to occur to cause leaching of heavy metals from the drinking water infrastructure. It happens with the so-called "optimal" level of fluoridation additives as well.
Moms2B Avoid Fluoride
The Fluoride Action Network believes that it is urgent for pregnant women to be warned of this potential and avoidable threat to their baby's intellectual development. Because government authorities are failing to issue such warnings, FAN has begun this campaign to warn expectant mothers to avoid fluoride — especially fluoridated water — during pregnancy.
Fluoride is added to approximately 70% of public drinking water systems across the U.S. as nonconsensual dental treatment. The greatest exposure to fluoride for the majority of Americans comes from drinking fluoridated water and using it in food preparation to make soups, rice, coffee, tea, infant formula and more.
What water should I drink if I am pregnant? — Find out here
Questions & Concerns? Check out the Q & A
While ending public water fluoridation is the proper response and ultimate solution to this health risk, it's important that we work to reduce the harmful effects of the practice while it's still in effect. A crucial part of this effort is warning people who are particularly vulnerable to fluoride's toxicity.
With your help, we can educate the next generation of parents, so they can take action to avoid fluoride exposure during this critical time in the development of their child. Consider taking these first steps to help spread the Moms2B Avoid Fluoride message, so that expecting mothers can act to protect their children:
- Learn about the campaign.
- Like the campaign on Facebook.
- Help spread the word by distributing our flyer and sending a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.
- Learn what other steps you can take.
State and Local Campaign Momentum Continues
If the dental and chemical lobbies had their way, you would never know about the millions of people who live in communities that have successfully fought to prohibit the addition of fluoridation chemicals to their drinking water.
Fluoridationists would like us all to believe that the practice is continuing to expand and that the trend is firmly in favor of more towns initiating the practice. However, this is just more propaganda, as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's own stats and our records of community victories have affirmed.
Since 2010, approximately 250 communities representing approximately 7.2 million people have chosen — either by referendum or by council vote — to prohibit fluoridation (see list of local victories).
More than 500 communities throughout the world have ended existing fluoridation programs or rejected new efforts to fluoridate since 1990, adding millions more freed from fluoridation.
Most of these victories were the result of citizens organizing local campaigns and voicing their opposition to public officials, with many working in coordination with FAN or using our materials to educate their neighbors and local decision-makers about the serious health risks associated with the practice.
These numbers don't even reflect the residents who have been spared from countless attempts to pass statewide fluoridation mandates in recent years, which FAN has helped defeat. In 2018 alone, four separate mandate bills in Hawaii and New Jersey were met with significant opposition and failed to even pass out of the first committees where they were considered.
If passed, over 5 million people would have had fluoridation chemicals forced upon them, regardless of local opposition and at the expense of taxpayers with no say in the matter.
Our data also show that 79% of community or council votes on fluoridation in the U.S. over the past five years were prompted by residents or officials calling for an end to fluoridation, not for implementation of it. And every attempt to initiate fluoridation has been at the request of dentists and their lobbyists, not independent residents.
It's crucial we maintain this momentum, so we can ensure that fluoridation becomes a thing of the past for you and the world. FAN is dedicated to creating more resources for campaigners, providing more analysis on key studies, recruiting more professionals to support local campaigners, raising greater awareness in the media and among decision-makers and assisting advocates for safe water around the globe with their campaigns.
New Educational Materials
A couple examples of new educational resources we've been working on: FAN recently created a video series to provide the public and decision-makers with a basic understanding of fluoride, to dispel myths surrounding fluoridation and answer common questions.
The series, "Fluoride Fundamentals," currently includes four short videos — with more on the way — that have been incredibly popular on social media, particularly our video detailing where fluoridation chemicals come from; now with over 150,000 views on Facebook. We suggest sharing these videos on your own social media pages, with decision-makers, family and friends.
We also have three new "one-pager" handouts available to quickly educate your community and local officials. We plan to continue publishing new and updated handouts throughout the year, so follow us on social media and sign up for our emails to get them as they're released.
FAN Is Working for You
The dental lobby is not going to let artificial water fluoridation end without a drawn-out fight. This means it's up to concerned citizens and educated health professionals like yourselves, along with groups like the Fluoride Action Network, to protect the public from unnecessary and harmful exposure to fluoride.
Please support our efforts by organizing locally to help end fluoridation, by sharing our message with others and by making a tax-deductible donation of any size.
Bayer has come up zero for 3 in the first lawsuits alleging that Roundup herbicide caused cancer, with the latest verdict ordering the chemical giant to pay $2 billion to its victims.
The verdict came from the third case, heard before the Alameda County Superior Court of California, in which a married couple, Alva and Alberta Pilliod, claim they both developed Non-Hodgkin lymphoma after regular use of Roundup. The pair had been using Roundup since the 1970s, stopping only a few years ago.
The jury heard 17 days of testimony and deliberated for less than two days before deciding in the Pilliods’ favor. Bayer, which is the largest seed and pesticide company in the world due to its $63 billion purchase of Monsanto in 2018, must now pay $2 billion in punitive and compensatory damages.
Bayer to Pay $2 Billion, Guilty of 'Malice, Oppression or Fraud'
The guilty verdict against Bayer includes a $1 billion payout to Alberta, who developed Non-Hodgkin lymphoma brain cancer in 2015. Another $1 billion is owed to Alva, who was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which has spread from his bones to his spine and pelvis, in 2011. A total of $55 million in damages was awarded for past and future medical bills and pain and suffering.1
In order to award punitive damages, U.S. Right to Know reported, "The jury had to find that Monsanto ‘engaged in conduct with malice, oppression or fraud committed by one or more officers, directors or managing agents of Monsanto’ who were acting on behalf of the company."2
The plaintiffs' attorney, Brent Wisner, also stated, "From day one, Monsanto has never had any interest in finding out whether Roundup is safe."3 Wisner based his request for punitive damages on the $892 million in gross profits Monsanto reported in 2017, and this was just from its agricultural chemicals division.
Bayer plans to appeal the verdict, and the damages may ultimately be reduced, as it's generally upheld that punitive damages shouldn't be more than 10 times higher than compensatory damages. Still, the $2 billion verdict sent a shockwave through the system.
Bayer shares have fallen about 45 percent since the Monsanto purchase, and dropped as much as 5% when the third verdict was announced.4,5 Now, with at least 13,400 lawsuits still looming from people who claim exposure to their glyphosate-containing Roundup herbicide caused them health problems, including cancer, the likelihood of a settlement grows stronger.
Some analysts have suggested settlement costs could exceed $14.6 billion, and while the company, according to Moody's, may be able to absorb payments of $5.6 billion, if costs reach $22.4 billion it could be a blow to their credit rating.6
Bayer Lawyers Complained About Celebrities at Trial
During the third trial, the plaintiffs’ lawyers presented evidence including internal emails and advertising that showed Monsanto’s lack of regard for safety. One such advertisement showed a man killing backyard weeds while wearing shorts and a T-shirt to the tune of an Old West film, while Monsanto studies have recommended the chemical only be applied while wearing chemical boots and overalls.7
Internal Monsanto emails, meanwhile, mentioned ghostwriting scientific papers and payments to front groups, such as the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), to promote glyphosate's safety.
Bayer attorneys, while maintaining that Roundup is safe, tried another tactic: distraction. They brought up completely unrelated "concerns" in front of jurors, like the fact that the plaintiffs' attorneys had posed for a photo with environmental activists Daryl Hannah and Neil Young.8
The trials have revealed disturbing evidence against the chemical giant, including the fact that Monsanto allocated about $17 million in one year to discredit the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) scientists who spoke out against glyphosate.9
In March 2015, IARC determined glyphosate to be a "probable carcinogen" based on evidence showing the popular weed-killing chemical can cause Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and lung cancer in humans, along with "convincing evidence" it can also cause cancer in animals.
For instance, in 2017, Henry Miller was thoroughly outed as a Monsanto shill during the 2012 Proposition 37 GMO labeling campaign in California. Miller, falsely posing as a Stanford professor, promoted genetically engineered foods during this campaign.
In 2015, he published a paper in Forbes Magazine attacking IARC's findings after it classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. Later it was revealed that Miller's work was in fact ghostwritten by Monsanto.
Two Prior Roundup Lawsuits Led to Similar Payouts
In August 2018, a jury ruled in favor of plaintiff Dewayne Johnson in a truly historic case against Monsanto. Johnson — the first of the cases pending against the chemical company — claimed Roundup caused his Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and the court agreed.
Monsanto was ordered to pay $289 million in damages to Johnson, although the award was later reduced to $78 million. Bayer asked the court to throw out the judgment in April 2019, going so far as to ask for reversal of the damages awarded based on the fact that Johnson is near death.10
In a second case, a judge ruled in favor of the plaintiff, ordering Bayer to pay more than $80 million. The jury agreed that Edwin Hardeman's repeated exposures to Roundup, which he used to kill weeds on his 56-acre property, not only played a role in his cancer diagnosis but also that the company did not warn consumers that the product carried a cancer risk.11
The case was split into two phases, with jurors first finding the chemical to have caused the cancer on purely scientific grounds and the next phase finding that Bayer is liable for damages.12 Ultimately, Hardeman was awarded $75 million in punitive damages, $5.6 million in compensatory damages and $200,000 for medical expenses.13
The Government Has Bayer's Back
In the midst of Bayer facing billions in damages due to glyphosate causing cancer, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in their latest review of glyphosate, released a draft conclusion stating the chemical poses potential risks to mammals and birds that eat treated leaves, as well as risks to plants,14 but "no risks of concern" for people and "is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans."15
It's not surprising, considering the EPA's history of siding with and protecting Monsanto. As far back as 1983, when a Monsanto study revealed an increased cancer risk in mice exposed to glyphosate, the EPA asked for further studies, but the company simply refused. They claimed the study wasn't a concern because one mouse not exposed to glyphosate also developed a tumor, and used this to support its safety.
Johnson's lawyer, Timothy Litzenburg, told Rolling Stone, "They fought over that one mouse's kidney for years, spent millions of dollars on experts, instead of just doing the test again. The EPA even offered a compromise — let's just do a kidney and liver test. Monsanto said 'no.' It's amazing how often they're able to say no to the EPA."16
In an opinion piece in The Guardian, Nathan Donley, a scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, and Carey Gillam, an investigative journalist, ask the question we all should be asking:17
"Precisely because the chemical has been treated as so much safer than other pesticides, over the past 45 years glyphosate has become virtually ubiquitous: residues of the chemical have been documented in food, air, water and soil samples, as well as within the bodies of people who have never used the pesticide. The chemical has even been detected in raindrops.
It all raises this troubling question: if what has been touted as perhaps our 'safest' widely used pesticide actually causes cancer, what assurance do we have about the hundreds of other pesticides that the EPA has assured us are safe?"
Bayer's Shareholders Are Outraged
At Bayer's annual general meeting in Bonn, Germany, 55.5% of shareholders voted against ratifying the management's actions, in large part due to the Monsanto acquisition.18 Some are calling the takeover "disastrous,"19 and investors had complained that Bayer was not revealing enough about its strategy for defeating upcoming lawsuits.
The vote was symbolic in nature and won't legally change anything, but highlights the growing unrest within the company, which will only be heightened with the latest $2 billion verdict.
According to Bloomberg, "Markus Mayer, an analyst at Baader Bank AG, said the ruling increases the probability that Bayer becomes vulnerable to a takeover or a target for more activist investors like Paul Singer's Elliott Management Corp. pushing for a split between agriculture and health assets."20
Bayer was even caught making a hit list after French media raised accusations about Monsanto's 2016 "stakeholder mapping project." Monsanto had compiled lists of supportive and critical stakeholders, which may have violated both ethical principles and legal regulations. In a bit of damage control, Bayer posted the following:21
"Following an initial review, we understand that this initiative has raised concerns and criticism. This is not the way Bayer seeks dialogue with society and stakeholders. We apologize for this behavior.
Currently, we have no indication that the preparation of the lists under discussion violated any legal provisions. Bayer will ask an external law firm to investigate the project Monsanto commissioned and evaluate the allegations.
The law firm will also inform all of the persons on the lists of the information collected about them. Bayer will fully support the public prosecutor's office in France in its investigations."
Glyphosate Is Still Being Sprayed With Abandon
Nearly 300 million pounds of glyphosate are used in the U.S. each year, with usage being heaviest in the Midwest due to extensive production of genetically engineered (GE) corn and soy. In fact, more than 90 percent of corn and soy grown in the U.S. is genetically engineered, and these ingredients are common in processed foods.22
The chemical was detected in more than 90 percent of pregnant women tested living in Central Indiana, and levels of the chemical were associated with shortened pregnancy lengths.23 Aside from cancer, in 2017, separate research revealed that daily exposure to ultra-low levels of glyphosate for two years led to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in rats.24
What’s more, glyphosate is in fact patented as an antibiotic, and when broken down, the word antibiotic means “anti-life.” In addition to promoting antibiotic resistance by priming pathogens to more readily become resistant to antibiotics,25 Roundup causes disturbances to a soil fungus called Aspergillus nidulans26 and may be causing serious damage to non-target plants.
Glyphosate is also a popular tool for desiccating (or accelerating the drying out) crops like wheat and oats. In testing done by Friends of the Earth (FOE), 100 percent of oat cereal samples tested positive for residues of glyphosate.27 If you want to avoid this chemical as much as possible, choose organic or biodynamic foods, and install a filter on your drinking water.
If you're curious how much glyphosate is in your body, the Health Research Institute (HRI) in Iowa developed the glyphosate urine test kit, which will allow you to determine your own exposure to this toxic herbicide.
Ordering this kit automatically allows you to participate in the study and help HRI better understand the extent of glyphosate exposure and contamination. In a few weeks, you will receive your results, along with information on how your results compare with others and what to do to help reduce your exposure. We are providing these kits to you at no profit in order for you to participate in this environmental study.
1 Which of the following types of exercise has been shown to be particularly effective for diabetes and insulin resistance?
2 Which of the following statements is true?
3 Research shows a majority of urinary tract infections are the result of:
4 Which of the following are now required by the FDA to carry a black box warning, stating side effects include dangerous behaviors that can lead to injury or death?
5 Which of the following chemicals produced by your body is responsible for many aspects of runner's high?
6 Glyphosate has been called a probable carcinogen by:
7 Cutting edge cancer research led by Thomas Seyfried, Ph.D., suggests that in order to safely and effectively treat cancer, you must:
Two years ago, in December 2017, the United Nations General Assembly declared May 20 of each year as World Bee Day.1 The resolution was the result of an initiative started in 2015 by the Slovenian Beekeepers' Association in an effort to raise awareness about the importance of bees and other pollinating insects, all of which are threatened with extinction thanks to a wide range of toxic human activities.2
As explained by the U.N.,3 May 20 was chosen because it "coincides with the birthday of Anton Janša, who in the 18th century pioneered modern beekeeping techniques in his native Slovenia and praised the bees for their ability to work so hard, while needing so little attention."
While bumble bees might be the most well-recognized, there are in fact between 25,000 and 30,000 different species of bees across the globe. On the Center for Food Safety's website4 you can find a listing of some of the most common species, such as sweat bees, digger bees, carpenter bees, cuckoo bees, long-horned bees and many more.
More than 75% of the world's food crops depend on these and other pollinators, either wholly or in part, as do 90% of wild flowering plants.5 What's more, in the past 50 years, there's been a 300% increase in the volume of crops being produced that are dependent on pollination.6
As such, "Caring for bees and other pollinators is part of the fight against world hunger," the U.N. says.7 It's also important to protect and maintain biodiversity among bee species to ensure agricultural resilience.
Report on Global Biodiversity Warns of Troubling Times Ahead
The first report8 on "The State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture" by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture., issued in April 2019, warns that biodiversity is dwindling across the globe, thereby threatening global food production and human survival.
All forms of life — animals, plants and microorganisms necessary for food, feed, fuel and fibers — are losing diversity. As reported by worldbeeday.org:9
"Of around 6,000 species of agricultural plants, fewer than 200 contribute to global food production, and just nine of them account for 66% of total crop yields. World livestock production is based on approximately 40 animal species, with just a handful providing the vast majority of meat, milk and eggs. The catch quantity is being exceeded for a third of fish stocks, while more than half have reached their limit of sustainability …
At the meeting of the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture the European Region proposed that the results of this report be included in the strategy of biodiversity being drawn up by FAO.
Several countries proposed that countries should respond to the main conclusions of the report by including the findings and content in national policies, legislation, programmes and projects in the area of biodiversity in agriculture, forestry and food, in line with their capacities, while there is also an urgent need to formulate further measures to implement the conclusions from the report.
The report will also be important for discussion on the global framework for biodiversity as part of the Convention on Biological Diversity after 2020 and for achieving the sustainable development goals of Agenda 2030."
Another global assessment report10 on pollinators, pollination and food production, released by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) in 2016, found an estimated 16% of the vertebrate pollinators around the world are threatened by extinction, as are 30% of island species. According to IPBES vice-chair, Sir Robert Watson::11
"Wild pollinators in certain regions, especially bees and butterflies, are being threatened by a variety of factors. Their decline is primarily due to changes in land use, intensive agricultural practices and pesticide use, alien invasive species, diseases and pests, and climate change."
Bee Species Declining Across Northwestern US
Similarly, researchers at the University of New Hampshire warn there’s been a “dramatic decline” of 14 wild bee species needed for pollination of apples, blueberries, cranberries and other crops grown in the Northwest. 12 Sandra Rehan, assistant professor of biological sciences, told Science Daily:13
"We know that wild bees are greatly at risk and not doing well worldwide. This status assessment of wild bees shines a light on the exact species in decline, beside the well-documented bumble bees. Because these species are major players in crop pollination, it raises concerns about compromising the production of key crops and the food supply in general.
We found that wild bee species that once greatly populated more southern areas near sea level are now in decline. While up north in more mountainous areas, like the White Mountains, those same species persist which is an indicator of how climate change is affecting certain populations, especially in the Seacoast area."
Using museum data stretching back 125 years (1891 through 2016), the researchers analyzed the prevalence of 119 wild bee species that are native to New Hampshire but also widespread across the Northeast and North America as a whole.
Fourteen of the species were found to have significantly declined while eight species have significantly increased. Out of the 14 species in decline, 13 are ground nesters and one is a cavity nester. Overall, both declining and increasing species have been migrating northward over the last 125 years, suggesting changes in climate are a driving factor.
'Bee Safe' Pesticide Is Harmful to Bees, Research Shows
In related news, the pesticide Sivanto (flupyradifurone), which its maker, Bayer CropScience, claims is completely safe for bees, may not be so safe after all. A yearlong investigation14 by the University of California (UC) San Diego found Bayer’s testing appears to have excluded common use cases that lead to abnormal behavior and increased mortality in exposed bees.
Sivanto, developed to replace neonicotinoid pesticides, which are known to contribute to bee die-offs, was registered for commercial use in 2014 and is currently available in 30 countries including the U.S. and countries in Africa, Asia and Europe. Another 65 countries are also expected to give Sivanto the green-light of approval.
It’s “bee safe” classification permits Sivanto to be sprayed on crops that are in bloom with actively foraging bees. However, according to this study, the pesticide “could in fact pose a range of threats to honeybees depending on seasonality, bee age and use in combination with common chemicals such as fungicides,” the press release states.15
The video above demonstrates the abnormal activity and motor coordination deficits exhibited by exposed bees. As noted in the press release, the researchers:16
"… showed that worst-case, field-realistic doses of Sivanto, in combination with a common fungicide, can synergistically harm bee behavior and survival, depending upon season and bee age. Bees suffered greater mortality — compared with control groups observed under normal conditions — and exhibited abnormal behavior, including poor coordination, hyperactivity and apathy."
Pesticides Need More Rigorous Risk Assessment
Importantly, while official guidelines for pesticide risk assessment focus testing on bees inside the hive, the researchers discovered that the foragers are actually more susceptible to harm, in part because they're more likely to be exposed and in part due to their age. Younger honeybees work inside the colony while the older ones forage outside the hive.
In the case of Sivanto, the harmful effects were four times greater on foragers than in-hive bees. Needless to say, this still threatens the health of the entire colony. The harm was also greater on both types of worker bees during the summer, compared to spring.
"According to the authors, the standard measurements of only lethal effects are insufficient for assessing the complexity of pesticide effects," the press release notes.17 Lead researcher Simone Tosi, who works at ANSES, the French agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety, commented:18
"This work is a step forward toward a better understanding of the risks that pesticides could pose to bees and the environment. Our results highlight the importance of assessing the effects pesticides have on the behavior of animals, and demonstrate that synergism, seasonality and bee age are key factors that subtly change pesticide toxicity."
James Nieh, professor of biological sciences at UC San Diego, added:19
"Because standard risk assessment requires relatively limited tests that only marginally address bee behavior and do not consider the influence of bee age and season, these results raise concerns about the safety of multiple approved pesticides, not only Sivanto.
This research suggests that pesticide risk assessments should be refined to determine the effects of commonly encountered pesticide cocktails upon bee behavior and survival … The idea that this pesticide is a silver bullet in the sense that it will kill all the bad things but preserve the good things is very alluring but deserves caution."
How to Celebrate World Bee Day and Protect Bees Every Day
On worldbeeday.org, a number of suggestions can be found for how kindergartens and schools can get involved and celebrate World Bee Day with educational activities.20 For example, schools are encouraged to get together with local beekeeping associations to organize a visit to a local beekeeper where the children can learn about bees and nectar-bearing plants, honey production and how to set up a hive.
On a more individual basis, there are a number of things you can do to help protect our pollinators, not only on World Bee Day but every day. Following are several suggestions issued by worldbeeday.org:21
Plant nectar-bearing flowers in your garden, yard or balcony to help feed the bees, and be sure to avoid using toxic pesticides and herbicides that might hurt pollinators! If you have a farm, large or small, be sure to incorporate flowers that support the wild bee population. The following video, made by Project Integrated Crop Pollination, demonstrates helpful planting practices.
Buy honey and other hive products from local beekeepers to help keep them in business.
Teach your children about the importance of bees and beekeepers.
Set up a beehive.
Preserve meadows and sow wildflowers in your garden, making sure the wildflower mix you choose contains flowers native to your area. Non-native plants do not contribute as much toward the care and feeding of local insects, as they are not able to adapt and feed on whatever is available. Hybridized plants also do not provide proper nourishment, and can be likened to "junk food" for insects, as they do not provide much in terms of nourishment.22
Wait to cut meadow grass until the nectar-bearing plants have finished blooming, so as not to rob bees of crucial nourishment.
Avoid using toxic pesticides and herbicides. Even when using a nontoxic product, make sure to spray it when there’s little to no wind, and either early in the morning or late at night, when bees are not actively foraging.
Blooming plants and trees that must be sprayed with pesticides should be mulched before spraying to avoid attracting bees.
The skullcap herb, not to be confused with the deadly autumn skullcap mushroom,1 comes in two varieties: the American skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) and Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis).2 Although they come from the same family and have medical uses, they are not interchangeable.
The American skullcap is found in North America but is also grown in Europe in other areas of the world. Many of the studies done on skullcap have used Chinese skullcap, native to China and parts of Russia. It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for the treatment of infections, headaches, inflammation and allergies.3
The American skullcap gets its name from the cap-like appearance of the purple or blue flowers gracing the heavily branched plant.4 The plant grows to 4 feet in height and may be found growing wild in the woods. The Chinese skullcap flowers on a single stem growing 1 foot high.5 Both herbs are available as a powdered extract, and the American skullcap may be found in liquid form.
One flavonoid compound — scutellarin — is found in the plant genus Scutellaria and Erigeron.6 An extract from the herb Erigeron breviscapus — breviscapine — has been used in TCM and in the treatment of a variety of diseases. Breviscapine contains high amounts of scutellarin, and scutellarin is also found in the American and Chinese skullcap herbs.
Flavonoid in Skullcap Has Neuroprotective Effect After Brain Injury
Breviscapine is an extract of flavonoids from the herb Erigeron breviscapus, which contains 85% of scutellarin also found in Scutellaria, or skullcap.7 A recent study published in the Journal of Cellular Biochemistry8 investigated the neuroprotective effects of breviscapine after traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Researchers induced a closed diffuse TBI in rats and then injected breviscapine into their abdomen 30 minutes later. The researchers performed neurological scores to measure behavioral outcomes as an indication of neurological damage. Histopathological tissue sections of the rat's brains were subsequently used to evaluate cellular damage.
The researchers found nuclear factor erythroid 2–related factor 2 (Nrf2) and downstream proteins in the brain tissue. They concluded breviscapine could alleviate or reduce cell death following a TBI and improve neurobehavioral functions through upregulation of Nrf2.9
Nrf2 has been described as the "master regulator of oxidative responses."10 It is recognized as one of the major mediators in the resolution of inflammation and has been found to induce the expression of antioxidants that are crucial in the initiation of healing.
The Journal of Cellular Biochemistry study11 concluded that the downstream proteins12 (including HO-1 and NQO-1) detected in the histological tissue sections indicated upregulation of Nrf2. Expression of Nrf2 and the interaction with signaling pathways may facilitate development of therapeutic approaches to help reduce chronic inflammatory diseases.
Nrf2 is also a regulator of cellular resistance to oxidants,13 as part of a complex antioxidant defense system. It may also control the expression of genes involved in detoxification and elimination of reactive oxidants.14
Protective Effect of Scutellarin Found in Heart, Liver and Kidney Studies
The protective effect breviscapine initiates in the NRF2 pathway against cellular apoptosis and oxidative stress following injury may also play a role in the positive effects it plays in the heart, liver and kidneys. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center15 reports scutellarin has purported uses in atherosclerosis, inflammation, epilepsy and hepatitis.
In a study published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology,16 researchers used Sprague-Dawley rats to induce focal cerebral ischemia and heart ischemia followed by treatment with breviscapine or scutellarin. Their results found the protective effects of scutellarin in both the heart and brain were better than the mixture in breviscapine.
An article in the Frontiers in Pharmacology17 reported several clinical studies found breviscapine may be used in conjunction with medication for a variety of cardiovascular diseases, including myocardial infarction, atrial fibrillation, chronic heart failure and pulmonary heart disease.
The active antioxidant effect also reduces liver ischemia-reperfusion injury. In a study18 of 40 rats, histopathologic analysis was performed 24 hours after reperfusion. Researchers found breviscapine reduced injury by inhibiting liver oxidative stress. During an ischemic event, cellular death begins. When blood supply is restored, additional damage may occur from free radical activity.19
Several other studies have described a renal protective effect of breviscapine in animal20 and human studies. In one meta-analysis,21 researchers found breviscapine injections had a therapeutic effect in those with diabetic nephropathy, including a renal protective effect.
Another22 found breviscapine injections, in combination with antihypertensive drugs, improved clinical outcomes in those treated for hypertensive nephropathy and could serve as a renal protective strategy for patients.
Additional Health Benefits From Scutellarin
In a letter to the editor in the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine,23 researchers describe the use of breviscapine in an animal study demonstrating its effect against pulmonary embolism. They concluded there was a reduction in inflammation in the lung tissues, which facilitated reduction in vasoconstriction.
Scutellarin has a traditional use as a potent antiplatelet agent. In one study,24 using mice with induced endometriosis, researchers concluded scutellarin was an efficient treatment by suppressing platelet aggregation and inhibiting proliferation, fibrogenesis and angiogenesis. These factors resulted in a reduction in lesion size and an improvement in pain in the mice.
American skullcap is also a traditional herbal medicine used in the treatment of stress and anxiety.25 In one placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study26 using 43 healthy participants, researchers found American skullcap "significantly enhanced global mood without a reduction in energy or cognition."
The effects of scutellarin have also been considered a promising candidate for the development of therapeutic drugs against transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) leading to the loss of neurons and synaptic functions.27 In humans, TSEs include neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.
Additionally, Chinese skullcap has antihistamine properties, traditionally used to treat allergic rhinitis, asthma and eczema.28 Scutellarin has also demonstrated in vitro antibacterial and in vivo anti-inflammatory properties.29
Researchers found the anti-inflammatory effects of scutellarin to be helpful as an additional treatment with bleomycin, a broad-spectrum antitumor drug. The study30 was aimed at investigating a combined treatment protocol using in vivo and in vitro experiments in animals.
The results suggested scutellarin enhanced the anticancer effect of bleomycin, and at the same time reduced the drug's side effect of pulmonary fibrosis.31 The herb also has been used in TCM for the treatment of:32,33,34
Potential Side Effects of Skullcap
While use of herbs is a traditional approach to strengthen the immune system and treat disease, some may trigger side effects and interact with supplements or medications. Penn State Milton S Hershey Medical Center35 warns that the American skullcap herb has been contaminated in the past and so should be obtained from a reliable source.
Those with diabetes should take Chinese skullcap only under a doctor's supervision, as it may reduce blood sugar levels and raise the risk of hypoglycemia. Chinese skullcap may exacerbate stomach or spleen problems and should not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding.36
American skullcap may induce mental confusion, irregular heartbeat and seizures when taken in high doses. Both also have a sedative effect and may increase the effect from anticonvulsants, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, tricyclic antidepressants, alcohol and drugs used to treat insomnia.37
The Flowers Are Beautiful and the Tea Promotes Relaxation and Other Health Benefits
While skullcap is available in powder and tincture form, you may also enjoy a hot cup of skullcap tea in the evening. Take care if you drink it during the day as it has a sedative effect. Driving or operating machinery after drinking it may be dangerous.
You may get two servings of tea from 1 tablespoon of high-quality skullcap herb and 2 cups of boiling water.38 Steep the tea in a teapot for 10 minutes and then, if you prefer, sweeten with raw honey, Luo han or stevia.
American skullcap typically blooms between May and August in zones 4 to 839 and prefers partial shade to full sun, while Chinese skullcap enjoys full sun and dry sandy soil. Skullcap may easily be grown from seed as they germinate at a naturally high rate, especially when stratified.40
In this process,41 you treat the seeds to simulate germination. Cold stratification is easily done in the refrigerator. Mix a quarter cup of sand in a mixing bowl and add water until it can form ball. Add your desired seed amount to the sand, mix it thoroughly and place it in a bag in the refrigerator for one week.
The seeds can be sown indoors before the first frost or outdoors once the threat of frost is gone. Ensure the soil is moist, but well-drained. You may also propagate by dividing roots or cuttings and allowing them to spread. Skullcap can be harvested once the flowers are in full bloom using a pair of scissors or shears to retrieve the flowers and leaves.
Described as a patented compound with the ability to enhance working memory, short- and long-term memory and learning in animal studies, magnesium L-threonate (shortened to MgT and pronounced "Mag T") was developed by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2010.
The animal study that first introduced MgT, published in Neuron in 2010,1 noted its ability to rapidly absorb into the brain, which structurally reversed specific aspects of brain aging by increasing the number of "functional presynaptic release sites while it reduced their release probability."2
Magnesium is already recognized as a mineral required by your body for more than 300 crucial biological functions, such as contracting your muscles, maintaining your heartbeat, creating energy and activating nerves to send and receive messages.
However, with all its importance to your bodily functions, a large percentage of the U.S. population is deficient in magnesium, with about half not getting the recommended amounts: 310 to 320 milligrams (mg) for women and 400 to 420 mg for men.3 Presumed deficiencies vary depending on your health status and age; for example, having heart disease and being elderly increase the risk for being deficient in magnesium, one analysis found.4
But still, no matter the age, it's apparent that magnesium deficiency is a genuine health concern worldwide. In fact, in 2006 a French study of 2,373 subjects aged 4 to 82 concluded that 71.7% of men and 82.5% of women weren't getting adequate amounts of magnesium.5
People with low magnesium levels are at risk for a number of serious disorders, including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and other signs of metabolic syndrome, as well as osteoporosis.6
A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease in 20167 notes MgT's benefits in the areas of anxiety, sleep disorders and cognitive dysfunction in human adults. The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trial took place in three separate institutions, and involved participants between the ages of 50 and 70 with reported episodes of memory problems, sleep disorders and anxiety.
In short, the study found brain atrophy is a natural part of aging, but supplementation with magnesium L-threonate, aka MMFS-01, for 12 weeks improved and even reversed symptoms in the study group:
"With MMFS-01 treatment, overall cognitive ability improved significantly relative to placebo. Cognitive fluctuation was also reduced.
The study population had more severe executive function deficits than age-matched controls from normative data and MMFS-01 treatment nearly restored their impaired executive function, demonstrating that MMFS-01 may be clinically significant ... The current study demonstrates the potential of MMFS-01 for treating cognitive impairment in older adults."
Scientists Double Down on Reversing Brain Aging
To come to this conclusion, this study conducted baseline cognitive testing, with the first follow-up testing six weeks later. Then, for 12 weeks, study subjects were randomly dosed daily with either placebos or 1,500 to 2,000 mg of MgT, depending on body weight, as cognitive tests were repeated at six-week and 12-week intervals in the areas of:
- Executive function
- Working memory
- Episodic memory (ability to recall fleeting events)
Significantly, the most "startling" finding is that not only does MgT enhance performance on individual cognitive tests in older adults with cognitive impairment, but it serves to reverse brain aging by more than nine years.8 The study's findings revealed four significant results from MgT use:
- Improved body magnesium status — After 12 weeks, two things were noted in the treated group: They exhibited significantly increased red blood-cell magnesium concentration, indicating high circulating levels of magnesium in the body; and significant urinary output of magnesium, showing that large amounts of magnesium were absorbed.
- Improved cognitive abilities — Visual attention and task switching revealed (in some cases as early as six weeks) increases in performance speed for executive function and cognitive processing. Notably, overall composite scores rose steeply compared with baseline scores and with placebo recipients at Weeks 6 and 12.
- Reduced fluctuation in cognitive ability — Cognitive functions that are worse some days than others is one sign that mild cognitive impairment may be developing.9,10 Those on the placebo showed notable fluctuation in their cognitive scores, while the MgT group reflected mostly positive changes.
- Reversed clinical measures of brain aging — Perhaps the most significant finding, which explains how MgT can "turn back time" in aging brains.
MgT and the Blood-Brain Barrier
MgT boosts the magnesium levels in your brain when taken orally due to its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. Once it's in your brain, it increases the density of synapses, the communication connections between brain cells. What's more, MgT increases this function in precisely the places needed.11,12,13
The importance of getting it to your brain shows why it isn't as simple as adding magnesium to your diet, as MgT works differently than typical magnesium, which doesn't reach the brain to change the factors of brain aging.14
Even raising blood magnesium levels by 300% (known as "induced hypermagnesemia") doesn't change cerebrospinal fluid levels by more than 19%.15 An all-encompassing study showing the complex regulatory functions of the blood-brain barrier notes:
"The environment exerts profound effects on the brain. A large body of evidence shows that brain plasticity is strongly affected by exposure to stimulating environments, with beneficial consequences throughout the entire life span."16
One reason these discoveries were deemed critical is because there's a connection between a loss of synaptic density, brain shrinkage and subsequent cognitive decline, the study authors said.
Understanding How MgT Rejuvenates Aging Brains
According to researchers, your brain doesn't age at the same rate as the rest of your body. For instance, a 60-year-old can have a brain that essentially functions like that of someone a decade older. How that varies is measurable via performance test scores as well as physiological parameters.17,18,19 It can also happen in cases of traumatic brain injury.20
The MMFS-01 study shows an average chronological age of 57.8 years in their study participants. However, their cognitive function averaged 68.3 years of age — about a 10-year difference.
But supplementing with MgT made a dynamic difference: The subjects' collective brain age decreased from 69.6 at the start of the study to just 60.6 in just six weeks' time — a nine-year brain age drop. The improvements continued through all 12 weeks, with the brain age at the end averaging 9.4 years younger, which closely matched their peers with healthy brains.
The takeaway is the remarkable difference that magnesium, and more specifically, MgT, makes in regard to turning back time in people whose brain age is greater than that of their chronological age.
Studies also show how increasing concentrations of magnesium in cultured brain cells from the hippocampus (where memories are stored and retrieved) boosts both synaptic density and brain plasticity.21,22 The reasons this is important are twofold:
- Synaptic density isn't just the measure of the structural integrity of brain synapses, but evidence suggests that greater synaptic density results in more efficient cognitive processing.23
- Plasticity is a measure of the speed at which synaptic connections can change with new stimuli — it's essentially learning at the cellular level.24,25,26,27
Sleep Factors and Anxiety Observed in Cognitive Decline
Researchers cited a number of earlier studies exploring factors contributing to cognitive decline. Sleep loss28 and anxiety disorders29 with perceived memory loss. Not surprisingly, people with this particular set of conditions are more likely to develop Alzheimer's, as the following studies can attest.
In a review published in 2013, researchers from several hospitals and research centers in St. Louis reported that symptoms of sleep disorders, anxiety and disrupted circadian rhythms are common in patients with Alzheimer's disease. In their study objective, the authors wrote:
"Recent animal studies suggest a bidirectional relationship between sleep and amyloid-β (Aβ), a key molecule involved in AD (Alzheimer's) pathogenesis. This study tested whether Aβ deposition in preclinical AD, prior to the appearance of cognitive impairment, is associated with changes in quality or quantity of sleep."30
The upshot was that amyloid deposition was associated with an inferior quality of sleep, specifically worse sleep efficiency (the percentage of time in bed spent actually sleeping) in comparison with those without amyloid deposition, although sleep time was similar in both groups. Significantly, "Frequent napping was associated with amyloid deposition."31
In 2007, scientists in Sweden followed 185 people for three years with no cognitive impairment along with another 47 people with depressive symptoms related to mood, motivation and anxiety. Interestingly, the scientists observed, "The predictive validity of mild cognitive impairment for identifying future Alzheimer disease cases is improved in the presence of anxiety symptoms."32
Another 2013 study33 as a collaboration between researchers in California observed that aging is associated with regional brain atrophy, reduced slow wave activity during non-REM sleep and impaired long-term retention of episodic memories. The researchers found that age-related gray-matter atrophy was linked to sleep disorders and impaired long-term memory.
What Does Calcium Have to Do With Magnesium?
There are a few little-known but important factors regarding magnesium. One is that like other minerals, your body doesn't produce it, so it must be derived from an outside source. Second, magnesium works hand in hand with calcium, and the optimal ratio between magnesium and calcium is 1-to-1.
However, doctors have mistakenly pushed women in particular to concentrate on their calcium intake to avoid problems with osteoporosis. With insufficient amounts of magnesium, your heart can't function properly. When the balance between the two favors calcium, especially to the 2-to-1 ratio promoted by doctors over the past 30 years, it can result in a heart attack.
In one study,34 high incidences of hip fractures in Norway were thought to be a result of an imbalance between the concentration of calcium and magnesium in municipal drinking water. In fact, 5,472 men and 13,604 women aged 50 to 85 years suffered hip fractures, which, after an investigation, researchers concluded that increasing magnesium may protect against them.
In addition, keeping your vitamin K2 and vitamin D intake on par with magnesium and calcium is also important. The four work together. For instance, people whose magnesium intake was relatively high were shown in one study35 to be less likely to have a vitamin D deficiency, compared with people with an inadequate magnesium intake.
If you opt for a magnesium supplement, note that there are several different forms. Additionally, one way to get it is through taking regular Epsom salt baths or foot baths. This form of magnesium, magnesium sulfate, absorbs into your skin to raise your levels.
Essentially, since you get only one brain to last your entire life, scientists believe supplementing with MgT appears to be imperative for anyone wanting to preserve brain function, and even recover some function that was lost.
With its impressive array of nutrients — fiber, antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, vitamins A, K and C, and omega-3 and -6 fats — it’s not surprising that kale is now dubbed a “superfood,” and has found its way into many recipes, such as salads and soups, and even as a healthy snack. Its exceptionally high amount of protein — 2 grams in every 100-gram serving — for a vegetable has caused it to earn the moniker “the new beef.”
But how do you cook kale properly to ensure that you get to enjoy its flavor? If cooking this vegetable is something new to you, don’t worry. This guide will help you learn to cook kale greens properly — whether you get them fresh or frozen, and whether you cook them in the oven or on the stovetop. You can also check out some healthy recipes featuring this one-of-a-kind superfood.
How Long Should You Cook Kale?The ideal cooking time for kale depends on your chosen method. Most of the time, kale is boiled because it makes it tender and chewy but not mushy, plus brings out its sweetness. BBC Good Food suggests these steps when cooking whole kale leaves:
- Rinse whole kale leaves before placing them in a pan. No need to shake off the water. Cover.
- Let the kale cook for two minutes or more until it’s wilted.
- Drain the excess water thoroughly.
If using shredded or chopped leaves, try this method:
- Place the kale in a pan with 1 centimeter (not quite a half-inch) of water.
- Add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil, then simmer up to five minutes or until wilted.
- Drain the kale thoroughly.
If pan-frying, the cooking time can take as much as 10 minutes. Remember that cooking kale to get the right texture may require a bit of patience. The key is to make sure that the kale is tender and soft after cooking. This will allow you to enjoy its flavor and versatility.
How to Cook Kale in Different WaysBelow are two methods on how to cook kale. Before you decide on a cooking method, though, you need to know what type of kale you’re cooking with. For example, Bon Appetit notes that curly kale, the most common variety, is great when sautéed or roasted alongside meats or other vegetables. Once exposed to dry heat, such as in the oven, the curly edges crisp up beautifully. These techniques are also good for red kale or scarlet kale.
On the other hand, Tuscan kale or dinosaur kale, which is slightly thinner and more tender than red kale and curly kale, has a shorter cooking time, but is more versatile. Use it raw in salads, or add it last to soups and pastas. Be careful not to overcook it, or you can lose the chewy texture.
You also need to choose whether you’re using frozen or fresh kale. Most people prefer to buy fresh kale and use it immediately, but did you know that freezing kale can actually have some benefits? Aside from extending the shelf life for up to a year, freezing kale also gives it a sweeter flavor compared to fresh kale.
If you’re wondering how to cook frozen kale versus fresh kale, here’s good news: You don’t need to wait for it to thaw. If you’re using this vegetable for soups, sauces, stews or raw juices, just add the frozen greens as you would fresh. However, Chef Rich LaMarita of Natural Gourmet Institute in New York notes that frozen kale will add moisture to whatever dish you’re preparing, so it may not be suitable for other types of recipes — you may need to choose fresh kale instead.
How to Boil Kale on the StoveAccording to Genius Kitchen, boiling kale gives it a buttery soft texture and a light and mild flavor. Here’s their step-by-step procedure on boiling kale:
How to Boil Kale
Optional: Season the greens with a drizzle of lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pepper.
How to Bake Kale in the Oven: Making Kale Chips
If you want to make a healthy snack using kale, then I’d recommend making kale chips. Check out this easy kale chips recipe:
Simple and Crunchy Kale Chips Recipe
Tip: Spice these kale chips up with your favorite flavors, such as chili powder, garlic powder or onion powder.
How to Cook Kale Chips in a Skillet
Check Out These Other Delicious Kale RecipesKale is versatile — whether you want to use it for breakfast, lunch or dinner, mixed with other ingredients, or enjoyed by itself, you certainly wouldn’t be disappointed with the countless ways you can use this leafy green vegetable. To get you started, here are three scrumptious and healthy kale recipes you can make at home.
Kale Tortilla Recipe
(Recipe by Pete Evans)
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Ingredients for the salad:
(Recipe by Marisa Moon of My Longevity Kitchen)
(Recipe by Cynthia Machado)
Can I Eat Raw Kale?Just like other leafy greens, kale can be enjoyed raw. One of the simplest ways to do so is to add it to smoothies, just like in this Avocado Super Smoothie Recipe. Adding raw kale to Caesar salad and other salads with heavy dressings is something that’s also being done by many restaurants today. MedicalNewsToday recommends “massaging” the leaves by briefly scrunching them in your hands. This breaks down the cellulose in the leaves so kale’s nutrients can be easily released and absorbed by the body.
However, consuming too much raw kale may lead to unpleasant effects. In a Washington Post article, Dr. Deirdre Orceyre, a naturopathic physician from the Center for Integrative Medicine at the George Washington University Medical Center, notes that raw kale can tax the digestive system and cause bloating, gas and other abdominal problems.
She also notes that kale “contains a compound that can suppress thyroid function in certain people.” These compounds are known as goitrogens, and are found in other raw leafy greens as well, such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage. Since cooking reduces the goitrogens in kale, Orceyre recommends limiting consumption of raw kale or kale juice to just one or two times a week, although she says you can enjoy as much of it as you like when it’s cooked.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About KaleQ. How long does it take to cook kale?
A. It depends on the cooking method. Boiling kale can take between two and five minutes, while pan-fried kale can take up to 10 minutes to cook. What’s crucial is that kale should be tender and soft when cooked, but not mushy. This brings out its naturally sweet flavor.
Q. What is kale good for?
A. One of the ways that kale can benefit you is through its lutein and zeaxanthin antioxidants, which are essential for optimal eye health. Sufficient intake of these antioxidants may help hinder macular degeneration and other retinal diseases that are linked to ultraviolet light-induced oxidative stress. For more about kale’s health benefits, read “What Is Kale Good For?”
Q. What is the best way to cook kale to make it tender?
A. You can pan-fry, steam or even bake kale, but the most ideal cooking method is to boil it. Boiling kale makes it tender and chewy but not mushy, and also brings out its sweetness.
Q. Can kale be bad for you?
A. Raw kale may contain goitrogens, which can affect thyroid function. To minimize these effects, limit your consumption of raw kale to once or twice a week, although you can consume as much cooked kale as you want.
Mental disorders are often portrayed in a bad light in media,1 resulting in negative stereotypes that have long been ingrained in American culture. However, just like physical ailments, mental disorders are an illness, and those who suffer from them need help and support.
There's a large lack of understanding and education on how to cope with mental diseases, as many people typically focus on physical health.
It's estimated that 54 million Americans are affected with a mental illness in a given year.2 The most common types that you may have heard about are depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is probably the most misunderstood.
Common Misconceptions About Schizophrenia
There are plenty of misconceptions that surround schizophrenia. The examples below are the most prominent ones, which you may already be aware of:3
• Schizophrenics have multiple personalities — It's not clear how this idea came about, but schizophrenics do not have "split" or multiple personalities. The word "schizo" does mean split, but the word actually refers to a person’s ability to think and express emotions. People with multiple personalities are diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder.
• Schizophrenics have dangerous behavior — This myth stems from the negative portrayal of schizophrenics in films, where they're often depicted as criminals with dangerous, paranoid behavior. In truth, only a very small number of schizophrenics commit crimes, with only 23% of this rooted directly in their symptoms.
• Schizophrenia can't be treated — While it's true that schizophrenia has no cure, that doesn't mean schizophrenics can't be helped. A combination of different treatment methods can work together to reduce your risk for a schizophrenia attack. In fact, many schizophrenics go on to have a successful recovery and excel in their chosen careers.
• Schizophrenia is caused by bad parenting or a bad childhood4 — People often speculate that the reason why a person gets schizophrenia is due to having a difficult childhood. This isn't the case, as schizophrenia is caused by a complex interplay of genes and your environment. Your upbringing is just one part of the equation.
How Does Schizophrenia Affect You?
Schizophrenia is a disease that affects the way you perceive reality and can cause major behavioral changes. Defining symptoms include:5
- Cognitive problems, such as trouble thinking logically
- Having hallucinations or hearing voices
- Reduced speech
- Attention problems
- Lack of pleasure in daily activities/routines
- Odd beliefs that others do not agree with
- Lack of emotional expression during speech
- Agitated body movements
Researchers aren’t sure how schizophrenia develops, but evidence suggests that schizophrenia has a hereditary component. If you have a schizophrenic relative, you have an increased risk that you may get it as well.
Treating schizophrenia relies on a combination of different methods, all working together to help manage the symptoms. A healthy diet, exercise and supportive therapy are generally recommended to help lower your risk for an attack. Medication may be prescribed as well, but be aware that medications come with many side effects.
This guide aims to educate you about schizophrenia, such as its different subtypes, symptoms, treatment and factors that may increase your risk. You’ll also discover how to spot early signs of this mental disorder. But note that the information provided here isn’t enough to help you manage schizophrenia alone. It’s still important to consult with a trusted doctor, preferably one who has plenty of experience helping schizophrenics in the past.
Thomas Seyfried, Ph.D., professor of biology at Boston College, is a leading expert and researcher in the field of cancer metabolism and nutritional ketosis. His book, "Cancer as a Metabolic Disease: On the Origin, Management and Prevention of Cancer" is a foundational textbook on this topic, and in August 2016, he received the Mercola.com Game Changer Award for his work.
Here, we discuss the mechanisms of cancer and the influence of mitochondrial function, which plays a crucial role in the development and treatment of this disease. His landmark cancer theory is available as a free PDF
Many of his views are now encapsulated in his most recent paper,1 "Mitochondrial Substrate-Level Phosphorylation as Energy Source for Glioblastoma: Review and Hypothesis," published online December 27, 2018. He's also published a number of other papers2,3,4 on the metabolic underpinnings of cancer.
"The paper … is a review and hypothesis paper identifying the missing link in Otto Warburg's central theory," Seyfried explains. "[Warburg] defined the origin of cancer very accurately back in the 1920s, '30s, '40s and '50s in his work in Germany. Basically, he argued and provided data showing that all cancer cells, regardless of tissue origin, were fermenters. They fermented lactic acid from glucose as a substrate.
Even in the presence of oxygen, these cells were fermenting. This is clearly a defect in oxidative phosphorylation. The problem is that for decades, people said Warburg was wrong — mainly because we see a lot of cancer cells take up oxygen and make adenosine triphosphate (ATP) from within the mitochondria … People began to question, 'If cancer cells have normal respiration, why would they want to use glucose as a fermentable fuel?'
The whole concept became distorted … The cancer cells simply choose to ferment rather than respire. Now, of course, if you look under the electron microscope at majority of cancers, you'll see that the mitochondria are defective in a number of different ways. Their structures are abnormal. The numbers are abnormal. There are many abnormalities of mitochondria seen directly under electron microscopy. Clearly, Warburg was not wrong."
Why Biopsies Are Risky
Before we go delve into the meat of how cancer actually occurs it would be good to review a diagnostic strategy that nearly all of us are offered when confronted with a cancer diagnosis. It is vital to understand that this may not be your best strategy and that for many it would be wise to avoid the biopsy.
Seyfried warns against doing biopsies, as this procedure may actually cause the cancer to spread. A tumor is basically a group of proliferating cells in a particular part of your body. For purposes of diagnosis, a small biopsy sample will often be taken to ascertain whether the tumor is benign or malignant.
The problem is that when you stab into the cancer microenvironment to remove a part of the tissue, it creates a wound in that microenvironment that in turn elicits the invasion by macrophages and other immune cells.
If you already have an acidic microenvironment, you run the risk of causing a fusion hybridization event in that microenvironment between your macrophages and cancer stem cells (as discussed below). This could turn a potentially benign situation into a malignant one, and if the tumor is malignant, stabbing into it could make a bad situation worse.
"The question is, what is the value of doing a biopsy in the first place? We take biopsies of breast tissue to get a genomic readout of the different kinds of mutations that might be in the cells. Now, if cancer is not a genetic disease and the mutations are largely irrelevant, then it makes no sense to do that in the first place. If the tumor is benign, why would you want to stab it? If the tumor is malignant, why would you ever want to stab it?
I came to this view by reading so many articles in the literature based on brain cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, liver cancer showing how needle biopsies have led to the dissemination of these tumor cells, putting these people at risk for metastatic cancer and death," Seyfried says.
In metabolic therapy, you would not touch the tumor; you would not disturb the microenvironment. By leaving it alone, you allow the tumor to shrink and go away.
"When you start to look at this as a biological problem, many of the things that we do in cancer make no sense. We have, in brain cancer, people say, 'You have a very low-grade tumor. Let's go in and get it out.' What happens is you go in and get it out, and then the following year it turns into a glioblastoma.
How did that happen? Well, you disturbed the microenvironment. You allowed these cells that are marginally aggressive to become highly aggressive. Then you lead to the demise of the patient," Seyfried says.
"That happens significantly because it's called secondary glioblastoma arising from therapeutic attempt to manage a low-grade tumor. The same thing can happen with all these different organs. You stab breast tumors, you stab colon tumors, you run the risk of spreading the cells …
My argument is the following: If the patient has a lump, whether it's in the breast, in the colon, lung or wherever or a lesion of some sort, that should be the cue to do metabolic therapy.
Do metabolic therapy first. In all likelihood, it will shrink down and become less aggressive. Then the option becomes, 'Should we debulk completely rather than doing some sort of a biopsy?' We want to reduce the risk, because if we can catch the whole tumor completely, then we don't run the risk of spreading it …
In our procedure, you bring the body back into a very high state of metabolic balance, and then you strategically go and degrade the tumors slowly without harming the rest of the body.
Radiation, chemo and the strategies that we’re using today don’t do this. They’re based on the gene theory of cancer that genetic mutations are causing the cell cycle to grow out of control. Well, this is not the case. Again, a lot of these toxic procedures need to be rethought, reanalyzed in my mind."
Solving the Warburg Theory's Dilemma
In biology, structure determines function. This is an evolutionarily conserved concept. So, how can mitochondria be structurally abnormal in tissue, yet have normal respiration? As Seyfried notes, this doesn't make sense. Confusion has arisen in part because many study cancer in culture, and "make profound statements and comments regarding what happens in culture," Seyfried says.
"If you look at cancer cells in culture, many of them do take in oxygen and make ATP, but at the same time, they're fermenting. This was the conundrum. They called it the Warburg Effect. They're fermenting, but many people at the same time thought their respiration was normal.
This was the main problem with Warburg's theory. But Warburg clearly said in his papers [that] it's not the fact that they take in oxygen; it's how much ATP they can generate from oxidative phosphorylation, which is the normal respiratory capacity of the mitochondria."
As explained by Seyfried, if you measure ATP and look at oxygen consumption in tumor cells, it appears they're making ATP and taking in oxygen, therefore, their respiration is assumed to be normal. However, when you look at the tissues in cancer patients, the mitochondria are abnormal.
"What I and Dr. Christos Chinopoulos from Semmelweis University in Budapest, Hungary, who is the world-leading expert on mitochondrial physiology and biochemistry … realized [was] that the mitochondria of tumor cells are actually fermenting amino acids, glutamine in particular. They're not respiring. They're fermenting an alternative fuel, which is glutamine," Seyfried says.
Warburg's Cancer Theory Proves Correct
With this understanding, Warburg's theory can be proven correct — cancer arises from damage to the mitochondria's ability to produce energy through respiration in their electron transport chain.
The compensatory fermentation involves not only lactic acid fermentation, but also succinic acid fermentation using glutamine as a fermentable fuel. It's been known for decades that glutamine is a main fuel for many different kinds of cancers, but most people thought it was being respired, not fermented.
Seyfried and Chinopoulos' discovery confirms that cancer cells in fact have damaged respiration, and to survive, the cancer cells must use fermentation. The two most available fermentable fuels in the cancer microenvironment are glucose and glutamine. Hence, targeting glucose and glutamine is a crucial component of cancer treatment.
Without glucose and glutamine, the cancer cells will starve, as they cannot use ketones. The simplest approach to cancer then is to bring patients into therapeutic ketosis, and then strategically target the availability of glucose and glutamine.
"Basically, what we're saying [is] that mitochondrial substrate-level phosphorylation is a non-oxidative metabolism mechanism inside the mitochondria that would generate significant amounts of energy without oxidative phosphorylation," Seyfried says.
Genetic Mutations Are Not the Cause of Cancer
According to Seyfried, mitochondrial dysfunction is at the heart of nearly every type of cancer. Unfortunately, few oncologists have this understanding and many still believe cancer is the result of genetic defects. However, nuclear transfer experiments clearly show cancer cannot be a genetic disease.
"There's been no rational scientific argument that I have seen, to discredit the multitude of evidence showing that the [genetic] mutations are not the drivers but the effects [of mitochondrial dysfunction]," Seyfried says.
"As a matter of fact, there’s new information now where people are finding so-called genetic drivers of cancer expressed and present in normal cells, normal skin and also esophagus … This is another [issue] — how you get these so-called driver mutations in normal tissues. We’re also finding some cancers that have no mutations, yet, they’re fermenting and growing out of control.
There are a number of new observations coming out that challenge the concept that cancer is a genetic disease. And once you realize that it's not a genetic disease, then you have to seriously question the majority of therapies being used to manage the disease. This [helps] explain [why] we have 1,600 people a day dying from cancer in the United States.
Why do we have such an epidemic of suffering and death when we have been studying this disease for decades? Well, if you look at the massive amounts of scientific papers being written on cancer, you'll often find that they're structured around gene defects.
What I'm saying is that if cancer is not a genetic disease and the mutations are downstream epiphenomena, why would the field continue to focus on things that are mostly irrelevant to the nature of the disease? What I'm saying is very devastating, because I'm telling the majority of the people in the field that they're basically wasting their time …
I think we can drop the death rate of this disease by about 50% in 10 years if cancer is treated as a mitochondrial metabolic disease, targeting fermentable fuels rather than using toxic therapies that are focused on downstream effects.
Radiation is designed to stop DNA replication. DNA replication requires energy. If you pull the plug on their fermentable fuels, they're not going to be able to replicate anyway … All of the things that we're doing to treat cancer is basically approaching the disease from a misunderstanding of the biology …
We know viruses can cause cancer. We know radiation causes cancer. We know carcinogens cause cancer. We know intermittent hypoxia causes cancer. We know systemic inflammation causes cancer. We know just getting older puts you at risk for more cancer.
We know there are inherited mutations in the genome that can cause cancer. But how are all these things linked through a common pathophysiological mechanism? The common pathophysiological mechanism is damaged through the structure and function of the mitochondria."
Every one of the issues … including inherited mutations, damage the respiration of a particular population of cells in a tissue. You look at the breast cancer gene (BRCA 1), for example. People will say, 'Cancer must be a genetic disease because you inherit a mutation that causes the disease.'
You only get the disease if that mutation disrupts the function of the mitochondria. Fifty percent of women who carry the mutation never get cancer or breast cancer because the mutation, for some reason, did not damage the mitochondria in that person."
So, to summarize, the true origin of cancer is damage to the respiratory function of the mitochondria, triggering compensatory fermentation, which is run by oncogenes. Oncogenes play a role by facilitating the entry of glucose and glutamine into the cell to replace oxidative phosphorylation.
Why and How Cancer Spreads
Seyfried also has a very different view on the biology of metastasis (the spread of cancer). He explains:
"We've looked at cancer stem cells in a number of our preclinical models … These guys grow like crazy in place. The tumor just keeps expanding, but it doesn't spread. It doesn't spread into the bloodstream or metastasize to various organs.
We discovered a very unusual cancer 20 years ago. It took us 10 to 15 years to figure out what it was. You can put a few of these cells anywhere in the mouse's body and within three to four weeks, this mouse is full of metastatic cancer. It made the cover of the International Journal of Cancer, when we published this back in 2008, but we had worked on the problem for years.
We couldn't figure out what it was that made these cells so incredibly metastatic. We found out that once we identified the biology of the cell, it turned out [it has] many characteristics in common with the macrophage, which is one of the most powerful immune cells in our body.
We said, 'Wow. Is this unique only to this kind of cell or do metastatic cancers in humans also express characteristics of macrophages?' We looked and we found that almost every major cancer that metastasizes has characteristics of macrophages. Then we said, 'Well, how could this possibly happen? Is it coming from the macrophage?'
A number of scientists ... have all clearly shown that there is some fusion hybridization character going on. In other words, macrophages, our wound-healing cells, they come into a microenvironment where you might find many proliferating neoplastic stem cells, but they don't have the capacity to metastasize.
It's only when the macrophages fuse with these stem cells that you have a dysregulated energy metabolism coming in this hybrid cell. This hybrid cell now has characteristics of both stem cells and macrophages.
The stem cell is not genetically equipped to enter and exit tissue. The macrophage, as a normal cell of your body, is genetically equipped to enter and exit tissue and live in the bloodstream. They're very strongly immunosuppressive. These are all characteristics of metastatic cancer."
Metastatic Cancer Is a Hybrid Cell Combination
According to Seyfried, metastatic cancer cells are essentially a hybrid, a mix of an immune system cell and a dysregulated stem cell, the latter of which could originate from a disorganized epithelial cell or something similar. In short, it's a hybrid cell with macrophage characteristics.
Macrophages are essential for wound healing and part of our primary defense system against bacterial infections. They live both in the bloodstream and in tissues, and can go anywhere in the body. When an injury or infection occurs, they immediately move in to protect the tissue.
"The metastatic cancer cell has many of those same properties," Seyfried explains, "But the energy and the function of the cell is completely dysregulated, so it proliferates like crazy but has the capacity to move and spread through the body, so it's a corrupted macrophage. We call it a rogue macrophage."
Like macrophages, metastatic cancer cells can also survive in hypoxic environments, which is why most angiogenic therapies are ineffective against metastatic cancer.
So, what do these metastatic hybrid cells need to survive? Both macrophages and immune cells are major glutamine consumers, and according to Seyfried, you can effectively kill metastatic cells by targeting glutamine.
Conventional Cancer Treatments Are Unnecessarily Deadly
However, it must be done in such a way so as to not harm the normal macrophages and the normal immune cells. In other words, it must be strategic. For this reason, Seyfried developed a "press-pulse therapy" for cancer, which allows the patient to maintain normal immune system function, while at the same time targeting the corrupted immune cells — the macrophage fusion hybrid metastatic cells — as well as inflammation.
"The therapies we are using to attempt to kill these [metastatic] cells put us at risk for having the cells survive and kill us. You can control these cells for a short period of time, but they can hunker down and enter into some sort of a slightly dormant state, but they reappear.
People say, 'Oh, these tumor cells are so nifty and smart they can come back at you." The problem is you've never really challenged them on their very existence, which is they depend on fermentation to survive. If you don't target their fermentation, they're going to continue to survive and come back at you.
Many of the therapies that we use — radiation, chemo and some of these other procedures — are not really going after the heart of the problem. That oftentimes put you at risk for the recurrence of the disease. Your body is already seriously weakened by the toxic treatments. And in the battle, you lose. If you are fortunate enough to survive … your body is still beat up.
You have now put your [body] at risk for other kinds of maladies … Why are we using such toxic therapies to kill a cell when we know what its weaknesses are? These are the paradigm changes that will have to occur as we move into the new era of managing cancer in a logical way."
A Strategic Approach to Killing Cancer Cells
To properly address cancer, then, you need to clean up the microenvironment, because the microenvironment will strategically kill cells that are dependent on fermentation while enhancing cells that aren’t. At the same time, the microenvironment will also reduce inflammation.
"You also have to be very careful not to kill your normal and healthy immune cells, because they need glutamine too," Seyfried says. "What we find is that when we strategically attack the tumor this way, it turns out that our immune cells are paralyzed.
The cancer cells are killed, but the normal immune cells are paralyzed. They're not dying, they're just not doing their job. What we do is we back off the therapy a little; allow the normal immune cells to regain their biological capacity, pick up dead corpses, heal the microenvironment, and then we go after the cancer cells again.
It's a graded response, knowing the biology of the normal cells and the abnormal biology of the tumor cells. This is a beautiful strategy. Once people know how you can play one group of cells off another, and how you can strategically kill one group of cells without harming the other cells, it really becomes a precision mechanism for eliminating tumor cells without harming the rest of the body.
You don't need to be poisoned and irradiated. You just have to know how to use these procedures to strategically kill the cells. Protecting normal macrophages is part of the strategic process. Killing the corrupted ones is part of the strategic process. Again, you have to put all of these together in a very logical path. Otherwise, you're not going to get the level of success that we should be getting."
The Press-Pulse Strategy
This strategy is what Seyfried calls “press-pulse treatment,” and essentially involves restricting the fermentable fuels — glucose and glutamine — in a cyclical fashion to avoid causing damage to normal cells and tissues. Glucose is effectively restricted through a ketogenic diet. Restricting glutamine is slightly trickier.
The press-pulse strategy was developed from the concept of press-pulse in the field of the paleobiology. A "press" was some chronic stress on populations, killing off large numbers, but not everything, because some organisms can adapt to stress. The "pulse" refers to some catastrophic event.
The simultaneous occurrence of these two unlikely events led to the mass extinction of almost all organisms that existed on the planet. This was a cyclic event over many hundreds of millions of years. The geological records show evidence for this press-pulse extinction phenomenon.
"What we simply did was take that concept and say, 'Let's chronically stress the tumor cells.' They need glucose. You can probably kill a significant number of tumor cells by just stressing their glucose. That's the press. The press is different ways to lower blood sugar. You put that chronic stress on top of the population either by restricted ketogenic diets [or] therapeutic fasting. There are a lot of ways that you can do this.
Also, emotional stress reduction. People are freaked out because they have cancer, therefore their corticoid steroids are elevated, which elevates blood sugar. Using various forms of stress management, moderate exercise — all of these will lower blood sugar and contribute to a chronic press and stress on the cancer cells.
However, you're not going to kill all cancer cells if you just take away glucose. Because the other fuel that's keeping the beast alive is the glutamine. We have to pulse, because we can't use a press for glutamine targeting, because then you're going to kill your normal immune cells or impair them, and they are needed for the eventual resolution of the disease.
What we're going to do is we're going to pulse various drugs. We don't have a diet system that will target glutamine. Glutamine is everywhere. It's the most abundant amino acid in your body … But you have to use [the drugs] very strategically; otherwise they can harm our normal immune system and then be counterproductive ...
I think that once we understand how we can target effectively glutamine without harming our normal immune cells … this is the strategy that will make most of these other therapies obsolete ... It's cost-effective and non-toxic and it will work very well.
But we're still at the very beginning of this. We need to continue to develop the doses, timing and scheduling of those drugs that are most effective in targeting glutamine that can be done without harming the rest of the cells in our body."
If you would like to support Dr. Seyfried’s research, please consider making a donation to the “Foundation For Metabolic Cancer Therapies.” The donation tag is on the top row of the of the foundation site (http://www.foundationformetaboliccancertherapies.com/). This Foundation is dedicated to supporting Dr. Seyfried’s studies using metabolic therapy for cancer management with 100% of the donated funds going directly to research on metabolic therapy for cancer.
For years I have advocated for an organic diet to maximize your health, avoid many health problems and help the environment. Choosing organic foods reduces your exposure to pesticides, herbicides and dangerous genetically engineered (GE) foods, which comprise almost all nonorganic foods and are typically unlabeled.
Now, a new powerful documentary, “Secret Ingredients," follows the lives of several families as they suspect their health problems are caused by their nonorganic diets and embrace an organic diet, free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and chemicals. The dramatic recoveries documented from conditions like chronic pain, asthma, autism spectrum diseases and fertility problems are truly inspiring and should convince everyone to start eating organic.
One Family's Story
"Secret Ingredients" begins with the story of Kathleen DiChiara and her family. Kathleen had been a triathlete until waking up one day in her 30s with sudden neuropathy. After a failed surgery, Kathleen experienced paralysis, chronic pain syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), fibromyalgia and myofascial pain syndrome and became so disabled she lost her career.
At the same time that she was battling the sudden onset of these disabling conditions, Kathleen's first son Stephen was diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) at an early age — an autism spectrum disorder. The PDD included sensory processing disorder, a digestive disorder, a language disorder and selected mutism, says DiChiara. Footage shows an active little boy who has no ability to communicate with words and must point and grunt to convey his thoughts and wishes.
DiChiara's second son, Camden, born soon after, also had serious health problems. He was born with asthma so severe the family had to rent a nebulizer, a machine that turns liquid medicine into a mist, to be ready for his frequent attacks. Camden also had a severely bloated stomach, constipation, mood swings, irritability and rashes.
More Family Woes Lead to New Awareness
The DiChiara family’s woes continued. DiChiara's third son, Treyson, was born with severe rashes, eczema and allergies. The rashes and inflammation behind his knees were so severe they were bleeding. In addition to herself and her three sons, new chronic health problems also appeared in her husband Stephen, who in his 40s was diagnosed with a benign breast tumor condition called gynecomastia.
At this point, DiChara began to suspect something the family was eating was contributing to the scourge of chronic diseases. Moreover, she saw the futility of her family leading a healthy lifestyle if it was undermined by harmful food. She also saw how many other parents and children she knew were experiencing similar chronic health problems despite their pursuit of healthy lifestyles and believing they were eating nutritiously.
She resolved to research the possible causes of the family's many health problems and began to assiduously study holistic nutrition, eventually becoming a functional diagnostic nutritionist (FDN-P). Because of the severity of her first son’s condition, DiChara focused on the biochemistry behind autism and how food chemicals break down in the body. In fact, she says, autism was "my greatest teacher about the human system and its interaction with food."
Clues to the Autism Epidemic
Almost everyone is now aware of the autism epidemic. When I was in medical school more than 30 years ago, the incidence of autism was 1 in 10,000, whereas today it is 1 in 59, according to CDC statistics.1 It is not only the U.S. that is experiencing such shocking rates.
From my perspective, there are many potential and sometimes interacting factors that are contributing to the astounding rise in autism spectrum disorder. They include vaccine adjuvants, especially when combined with genetic predispositions, microbial toxins like mold, prenatal vitamin D deficiencies and even electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure.
But topping the list of suspected factors may well be GMO foods and the agricultural chemicals used to grow them like glyphosate, pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers — including chemicals lurking in biosolids, which are now used widely on food crops.
A 2019 article in BMJ titled "Prenatal and Infant Exposure to Ambient Pesticides and Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children: Population Based Case-Control Study” confirmed some disturbing links:2
"Findings suggest that an offspring's risk of autism spectrum disorder increases following prenatal exposure to ambient pesticides within 2000 m of their mother's residence during pregnancy, compared with offspring of women from the same agricultural region without such exposure. Infant exposure could further increase risks for autism spectrum disorder with comorbid intellectual disability."
Clues to Hormonal Conditions
Several parents appearing in "Secret Ingredients" suffered from hormone-related conditions, most experiencing dramatic improvements after adopting diets of organic food. Mia, for example, had undergone two miscarriages but when put on an organic diet, delivered a healthy baby.
The hormone conditions people in the documentary say they experienced — the gynecomastia suffered by DiChara's husband, and a woman’s 8-year-old daughter who developed breasts at age 8 — are no surprise when looking at the chemicals used in nonorganic food. A 2018 article in Food and Chemical Toxicology confirms the breast cancer links of the widely-used glyphosate commonly known as Roundup:3
“Previous studies showed that glyphosate stimulates breast cancer cell growth via estrogen receptors. The present study investigated the effect of glyphosate on the estrogen signaling pathway involved in the induction of cholangiocarcinoma (CCA) cell growth...
The effects of glyphosate on cell growth, cell cycle and molecular signaling pathways were measured. The results showed that HuCCA-1 cells expressed [in] estrogen receptor alpha ... The data from this study indicate that glyphosate can induce cell growth in ERα positive CCA cells through non-genomic estrogen receptor/ERK1/2 signaling pathway.”
In 2018, the journal Clinical Nutrition ESPEN reported that the widely-used herbicide glyphosate inhibits4 "aromatase that turns androgens to estrogens." Another effect of glyphosate's disrupting effect on hormones is "weak androgens and estrogen depletion coherently explain white matter asymmetry and dysconnection in autism," says the journal.
Say No to Glyphosate
Some of you may be too young to remember the scandal surrounding DDT, an organochlorine insecticide used widely on U.S. crops until its deadly effects on animals and the environment surfaced, which led to it being banned.5
Glyphosate, which GMOs are designed to withstand, is the DDT of our era, and as the full effects of its toxicity become evident I hope it will likewise be banned. As noted in the documentary, chemical companies like Monsanto make plants resistant to the poison of glyphosate so they can sell more.
Glyphosate has been linked to autism, endocrine derangement and fertility problems as well as digestive problems, allergies and more — many of which are described in "Secret Ingredients." It compromises the human microbiome, says neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter, which in turn can influence the brain and mood, immunity and body weight.
Glyphosate has been used so indiscriminately, it has defeated its own purpose Jeffrey M. Smith, founder of Institute for Responsible Technology, says in the documentary. There are now 300 million acres of herbicide-resistant weeds leading to more glyphosate use and the use of other, even more toxic herbicides, says Smith.
As noted in the film, even crops that are not GMOs, such as wheat, are sprayed with glyphosate before harvest. Cotton crops are also sprayed with glyphosate, , which means things like bandages and even tampons may be a source of exposure.
Glyphosate Depletion of Nutrients
Glyphosate depletes and makes unavailable important nutrients in the human body, which could explain its links to so many diseases. A 2015 article in Surgical Neurology International states:6
"Manganese (Mn) is an often overlooked but important nutrient, required in small amounts for multiple essential functions in the body. A recent study on cows fed genetically modified Roundup(®)-Ready feed revealed a severe depletion of serum Mn. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup(®), has also been shown to severely deplete Mn levels in plants.
Here, we investigate the impact of Mn on physiology, and its association with gut dysbiosis as well as neuropathologies such as autism, Alzheimer's disease (AD), depression, anxiety syndrome, Parkinson's disease (PD), and prion diseases. Glutamate overexpression in the brain in association with autism, AD, and other neurological diseases can be explained by Mn deficiency.
Mn superoxide dismutase protects mitochondria from oxidative damage, and mitochondrial dysfunction is a key feature of autism and Alzheimer's. Chondroitin sulfate synthesis depends on Mn, and its deficiency leads to osteoporosis and osteomalacia. Lactobacillus, depleted in autism, depend critically on Mn for antioxidant protection.
Lactobacillus probiotics can treat anxiety, which is a comorbidity of autism and chronic fatigue syndrome. Reduced gut Lactobacillus leads to overgrowth of the pathogen, Salmonella, which is resistant to glyphosate toxicity, and Mn plays a role here as well. Sperm motility depends on Mn, and this may partially explain increased rates of infertility and birth defects.”
Glyphosate: A Probable Carcinogen
In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer reclassified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen and since then, disturbing findings continue to be reported. But the problem in getting at the true dangers is the same as we see with Big Pharma and other influential industries. “Research" is funded by the companies making the product, academics are paid large sums to defend the safety of those products and incriminating research is buried. Here is how BMJ recently described the problem in getting a true picture of the dangers of glyphosate:7
"Undisclosed industry involvement has emerged in evaluations by EFSA, the UN’s Joint Meeting on Pesticide Residues, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Lobbying by industry was widespread and well documented. Although it is difficult to quantify, lobbying probably influenced the outcome of some of these evaluations and media coverage and led U.S. government officials to question supporting the IARC/WHO."
A Happy Ending for the DiChiara Family
After six months of eating organic foods and removing all pesticides, chemicals and GMOs from their diet, the DiChiara family's health conditions rapidly improved. "Within a few weeks, we had significant changes and each symptom in each individual improved," says DiChiara of her family's switch to eating organic.
"It was in short time relative to how long we suffered," she says. After six months the family’s conditions and symptoms had all but disappeared. We are taking ourselves "out of the human experiment," says DiChara emphatically. Other families and children shown in the documentary also achieved miraculous results once they went organic and got the toxins out of their diet.
Yet toxic food is everywhere and is actually the norm. “It is hard to believe that food that looks so good and tastes so good can be bad for you,” DiChara muses toward the end of the documentary, adding that even though organic food is slightly more expensive, it is much less expensive than treating the chronic diseases stemming from toxic food.
One take-home message from this excellent documentary is that consumers must look for not just one but two labels on any food they buy. The non-GMO label is valuable, of course, but it does not necessarily mean the food was not sprayed with chemicals before harvest. Food must also carry the U.S. 100% Organic label for consumers to be assured of their purity.
Owing to its low cost, delicious taste and nifty, self-protective “packaging,” it’s completely understandable why banana is one of the most popular fruits all over the world. It’s a nutritious snack that’s bursting with fiber, potassium and other standout minerals,1 hence making it a well-loved food by adults and children alike.
But while most people love bananas because of their sweet flesh, there is a rising trend today that makes use of the whole fruit, including the peel, and “brewing” it to make a delicious cup of tea — one that’s said to help with sleep disorders.2 But are there any truths to banana tea’s purported benefits?
Banana peel tea is exactly what it sounds like: It’s a tea made by brewing a whole banana with the skin intact. A sprinkle of cinnamon may be added for flavor.3 Most people aren’t aware that the peel of banana contains healthy nutrients, just like its flesh. A 2011 study published in the Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology journal noted that banana skin “contains various bioactive compounds like polyphenols, carotenoids and others.”4
The problem is that banana skin not only is bitter, but thick and fibrous. Unlike other fruits like apples or pears, you can’t eat it raw along with the flesh. If subjected to heat, though, the tough texture of the banana peel loosens up, so it becomes simpler to chew and digest.5 Hence, one of the best ways to make use of the peel (along with the flesh) is to brew it into banana tea.
Banana peel has been touted as a useful all-around home remedy, especially when used topically. It’s said to help whiten teeth,6 to help get rid of warts7 facial lines and pimple marks8 and to polish silver and leather.9 But as a tea, the most popular benefit linked to banana peel is its touted ability to help bring about a good night’s sleep.10
You’ve probably read about this claim from many health and wellness blogs and health experts, such as Dr. Mehmet Oz,11 who recommended banana tea as a sleep aid in his site. But is there any truth to banana tea’s sleep-boosting potential?
There are three nutrients in banana peel that may contribute to this effect, namely potassium, magnesium and tryptophan.12 Potassium, which is loaded in bananas and may also be found in the peel, has been linked to an improvement in sleep, according to a 1991 study in the journal Sleep.13 It’s also been linked to relaxing the muscles.14
Magnesium also has shown promise in alleviating insomnia, according to a 2012 study among elderly subjects.15 Tryptophan, on the other hand, has been shown to help promote sleepiness. According to one study,16 taking tryptophan in doses of 1 gram or more leads to “an increase in rated subjective sleepiness and a decrease in sleep latency.”
However, there are no formal clinical studies on this tea yet, so these claims are still inconclusive. It may be better to try other, better-researched techniques to help improve your sleep.
There is no caffeine in bananas,17 therefore homemade banana tea is caffeine-free as well. This makes it tolerable for people with caffeine sensitivity.
To make a good cup of banana peel tea, you need to start by finding certified organic bananas. Bananas are a sterile plant, meaning they’re cultivated via cuttings and not seeds.18 As a result, there is no genetic diversity in the plant, giving it weak immunity against pests and diseases.19
For this reason, bananas are among the most heavily sprayed crops today.20 In Costa Rica, for example, a study from Environmental Research journal notes that bananas grown for export make use of as much as 40 kilograms (88.1 pounds) of pesticides per hectare (2.47 acres) per year.21
Since making banana tea will require submerging the entire banana in water, using organic crops will help ensure that no pesticides will leach into your tea. Make sure to wash the banana thoroughly with water before brewing it.
Once you’ve got organic bananas on hand, here are a couple of recipes from Organic Facts you can try. One is for banana tea, which uses the whole fruit, while the other is banana peel tea, which only makes use of the skin:22
Banana Tea Recipe
- 1 organic banana (ends sliced off)
- 6 cups filtered water
- Cinnamon or honey, to taste
- Bring the water to a boil in a pot.
- Add the banana to the boiling water.
- Let the banana steep for 10 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and strain.
- Add the cinnamon or honey or both, and enjoy!
Banana Peel Tea Recipe
- Fresh banana peels
- 1 cup filtered water
- Cinnamon (optional)
- Freeze the banana peels until they harden.
- Put the peels in a pan and let thaw for one to two hours, until they turn black.
- Bake the peels in an oven at 149 degrees F for 30 to 45 minutes
- Grind the dry baked peels and place in an airtight container.
- Boil the water in a stainless steel pot. Add the powder.
- Allow the tea to steep in hot water for a bit. Strain and add honey and cinnamon to taste.
Note: Ground banana peels are as strong as black tea.
While it may offer certain nutrients, take note that consuming banana tea in copious amounts is not recommended as it may lead to hyperkalemia — this is when you have too much potassium in the body.23
Since severe hyperkalemia can be life-threatening, and may lead to chronic kidney disease and cardiac arrest,24 it’s best to consume banana tea in moderation to avoid these effects. Organic Facts notes that other side effects like stomach upset, vomiting and nausea may occur if banana tea is consumed in large amounts.25
The importance of getting high-quality sleep cannot be overstated, but take note that simply relying on banana tea may not be the best option, especially since the studies are still inconclusive on this purported benefit.
If you need to boost the quality of your sleep, however, you can start by employing simple lifestyle changes, such as removing all electronic gadgets and light-emitting devices from your bedroom, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and keeping your bedroom temperature cool. Check out my comprehensive list of sleep-boosting strategies in this article, "Want a Good Night's Sleep? Then Never Do These Things Before Bed."