An intriguing presentation about the possible link between age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and processed food consumption literally caught my eye. As presented in the featured video, ophthalmologist Dr. Chris Knobbe, founder and president of the Cure AMD Foundation, suggests the common assertion macular degeneration is caused by aging or genetics is a mistaken one.
Given the reality macular degeneration has gone from being an extremely rare disorder more than a century ago to one that is found at increasingly alarming rates in developed countries around the world, Knobbe points to higher intakes of processed food ? not aging or genetics ? as the root cause.
He presented his research findings at the 2018 Ancestral Health Symposium, held in Bozeman, Montana. Knobbe asserts the same people known to consume the most processed food not only develop AMD, but are also more likely to be affected by cancer, heart disease, hypertension, obesity, Type 2 diabetes and stroke.
What Is Macular Degeneration?
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO),1 macular degeneration results when the part of your retina called the macula becomes damaged, causing you to lose your central vision. If you have AMD, you cannot see fine details whether close or far, but your peripheral (side) vision remains normal.
The BrightFocus Foundation defines AMD as "an irreversible destruction of the macula, which leads to loss of the sharp, fine-detail, 'straight ahead' vision required for activities like reading, driving, recognizing faces and seeing the world in color."2
Knobbe notes your macula measures 6 millimeters (mm), or about one-fourth of an inch, across and accounts for the central 10 degrees of your vision. "Arguably, this is the most important 6 mm in our bodies," he asserts.3 About macular degeneration, the AAO says:4
It is a leading cause of vision loss in people 50 years and older
About 80 percent of people with AMD have the dry form, which is characterized by the thinning of parts of your macula, as well as the growth of tiny clumps of protein called drusen, which causes you to slowly lose your central vision
Wet AMD is a less common but more serious form of vision loss because it causes new, abnormal blood vessels to grow under your retina, which may leak blood or other fluids that cause scarring of your macula
Wet AMD accelerates vision loss more quickly than dry AMD
Blurry vision may be the first sign of macular degeneration; regular visits to an ophthalmologist can help you identify early warning signs of the disease
Who Is Affected by Macular Degeneration?
AMD is no respecter of persons. A couple of well-known sufferers of the disease are legendary British actress Dame Judi Dench,5 83, and American actress and comedian Roseanne Barr,6 66, both of whom have spoken publicly of their vision problems.
Sadly, Dench and Barr are not outliers; they're just two of the estimated millions of people worldwide affected by this potentially devastating disease. According to Knobbe and experts at the BrightFocus Foundation, AMD is:7,8
The leading cause of irreversible vision loss in people over the age of 65 who live in developed countries
A leading cause of irreversible blindness and visual impairment worldwide ? the number of people living with AMD is expected to reach 196 million worldwide by 2020 and increase to 288 million by 2040
Known to affect as many as 11 million people in the U.S., this number is expected to double by 2050
Though Knobbe disagrees, the link between aging and macular degeneration is based on statistics suggesting your risk of contracting the disease increases from 2 percent for people ages 50 to 59 to nearly 30 percent for those age 75 or older.9
The Causes of Macular Degeneration
Traditional ophthalmology associates AMD to aging, hence the name "age-related macular degeneration," and more recently has also suggested genetics may be a contributing factor. The AAO claims you are also more likely to develop AMD if you are:10
Age 50 or older
Eating a diet high in unhealthy fats
Known to have a family history of AMD
In contrast to conventional wisdom, Knobbe, as discussed in the featured video, believes man-made, processed foods are the primary culprit, although he leaves room for a possible genetic link, too.
His beliefs, which were sustained through a combination of investigative journalism, interviews and research, culminated in the 2016 publication of his book "Cure AMD ? Ancestral Dietary Strategy to Prevent & Reverse Macular Degeneration."
In addition, a summary of Knobbe's work was published in the journal Medical Hypotheses in 2017.11 While the lifetime risk of contracting AMD was about zero in 1900, he says, by 1992, it was believed to affect 1 in 3 people over the age of 75.
Today, he claims 20,000 new cases of AMD are diagnosed worldwide every day. Based on his research, Knobbe states, "I believe, 100 percent, that this disease is caused by diet and diet alone. Now, no question, genetics play a role, but environment pulls the trigger. That 'environment' is our diet."
Processed Foods Implicated for Skyrocketing Rates of Macular Degeneration
Based on his research, Knobbe asserts the key to addressing the skyrocketing rates of AMD must focus on decreasing our intake of processed foods and returning to a so-called ancestral diet. This, he notes, may be our best means of preventing, and possibly treating, the disease.
Knobbe defines an ancestral diet as any eating program that existed on the planet prior to 1880, when the first processed foods ? namely, refined white flour and polyunsaturated vegetable oils ? were made available. Trans fats, he notes, were first introduced in 1911.
After noting the Western diet has more than 600,000 food items you can put on your plate today, Knobbe said, "When we break this down, what we know is 63 percent of these food items are made up of those refined, processed, nutrient-deficient foods in the form of added sugars, refined white flour, polyunsaturated vegetable oils and trans fats."
He calls the dependence on processed foods "the recipe for metabolic disaster and physical degeneration." Drawing from the work of the late Weston A. Price,12 Knobbe calls out the following problematic categories of processed food, which Price referred to as the "displacing foods of modern commerce":
Macular Degeneration: Another Disease of Western Civilization?
Given the increased use of these so-called modern foods during the past 140 years, Knobbe says it is no surprise higher intakes of them have been linked to what he calls "diseases of Western civilization."
On the list are well-known conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, autoimmune disorders, cancer, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Knobbe says he had somewhat of an epiphany in 2013 when he posed this question to himself: "Could AMD be another 'disease of Western civilization'?"
After comparing the historical rates of incidence for AMD as it related to the increased availability and consumption of sugar and vegetable oils, Knobbe began to surmise AMD indeed may be linked to the increased consumption of processed food. "After just 30 years of consuming these processed foods, we are at epidemic proportions of chronic disease," he observes.
In Japan, since the 1970s the increased use of vegetable oils has spiked the incidence of AMD. Said Knobbe, "The rate of AMD [in Japan] was at 0.2 percent prevalence in 1970. By 2007, their prevalence was 11.4 percent. That's a 57fold increase in the prevalence of AMD in just 30 years. We can't possibly explain that with genetics and aging."
When comparing rates of AMD in Nigeria, Knobbe noted the availability for processed food in major metropolitan areas as a factor in the 3.2 percent rate of AMD incidence in cities. He contrasted that rate to AMD prevalence among Nigerians living in a rural area where there was no access to processed food. It was just 0.1 percent.
Poverty Linked to Vision Loss; AMD Not a Disease of Aging or Genetics
Using data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Knobbe observed links between poverty and chronic diseases such as the prevalence of severe vision loss, including AMD. Southern states had higher incidence of both poverty and severe vision loss. About the link between the two, Knobbe states:
"Why is poverty an issue? Because in [the U.S.] you can purchase about 2,000 calories worth of processed food for about $3.50. That same 2,000 calories coming from whole foods ? costs you about $13 or more. It's a sad fact ? but it's a reality."
If AMD is all about aging, we would expect to see that people in the south, where the highest rates of severe vision loss exist, have the longest life spans. However, the data do not bear that out, notes Knobbe.
Life expectancy in the south is actually lower than the national average, he says. "Where we have the greatest vision loss, including the most macular degeneration, we have the shortest lives. This is not consistent with the theory that macular degeneration is a disease of aging."
As such, he concludes, "Macular degeneration is not a disease of aging. It's not a disease of genetics. It is a disease of processed food consumption. And that results in more chronic, metabolic and degenerative disease, more macular degeneration and earlier death." On his Cure AMD Foundation website, Knobbe writes:13
"Every shred of evidence I can find supports the hypothesis that it is the 'displacing foods of modern commerce' that are the primary and proximate cause of AMD. The prevention of this disease ? as well as the treatment ? is to remove those elements from the diet, and consume only ? our own native, traditional diets."
How to Help Prevent Macular Degeneration
Most certainly, eating nutrient-dense foods is the best way to preserve your eyesight. Knobbe recommends a whole food diet as the best antidote to vision problems such as macular degeneration. While a change in diet cannot reverse an established case of AMD, it can be helpful as a preventive measure before the onset of the disease.
Knobbe suggests you eat a diet "rich in meats, fish, eggs, fruit, vegetables, some nuts and seeds, and perhaps critically, some 'sacred' foods of our ancestors, such as beef or chicken liver, fish eggs (roe) ? or pastured butter."14 He adds, "My preference is to choose the wild or pastured versions of animal meats and eggs whenever possible, and organic versions of ? fruits and vegetables."15
While I agree with most of Knobbe's recommendations, for optimal health you will want to limit your daily fructose consumption, including fructose from whole fruit, to 25 grams (g) or less if you are healthy. If you are dealing with a chronic illness such as cancer or diabetes, you'd be wise to further restrict your fructose intake to 15 g until your condition improves.
Beyond this, animal-based omega-3 fats help improve cell structure and protect your sight, while whole foods high in anthocyanins and bioflavonoids help protect your cells from free radical damage. Lutein and zeaxanthin, potent carotenoid antioxidants found in leafy greens like kale and spinach as well as organic, free-range egg yolks, are also known for their role in promoting healthy vision.
It is believed the presence of lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin in your macula blocks blue light from reaching the underlying structures in your retina. As such, they help reduce your risk of light-induced oxidative damage that could lead to macular degeneration.16
Natural antioxidants like beta-carotene and vitamins C and E also support your eyes, as does astaxanthin, which is found in certain marine plants and animals, including krill oil. Learn more about the foods your body needs to protect your vision in my previous article "Eat Right to Protect Your Eyesight."
Other Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Macular Degeneration
Beyond your diet, blocking blue light may help reduce your risk for macular degeneration, while also improving your sleep. Below are a few tips on how to limit your exposure to blue light:
Use blue-blocking glasses ? Blocking blue light aids in regulating your internal body clock to control sleep patterns. Also, it reduces the negative effect high energy wavelengths have on your macula. I recommend you wear blue light-blocking glasses after 7 p.m. or when the sun sets.
Install blue-blocking software on your digital devices ? If you are not a fan of wearing blue blockers, you might want to try Iris, a free software program that can automatically adjust your screen settings to reduce blue light. I have used Iris for many years and highly recommend it.
Replace LED lights with incandescent bulbs ? Many of the LED lights sold today emit a large portion of aggressive blue light, which is why I advise you to use incandescent bulbs instead. To learn more about how to protect yourself, read my article "How LED Lighting May Compromise Your Health."
Sleep in total darkness ? To achieve a deeper, more restorative sleep, you must protect your eyes from light at night. Using a sleep mask or room-darkening shades are two easy solutions, and be sure to keep electronic devices out of your sleeping area.
While the rates of macular degeneration continue to climb, you can take steps today to reduce your risk of this debilitating eye disease. As Knobbe suggests, eliminating processed food from your diet is among the best preventive measures against macular degeneration.
While conventional medicine may try to convince you AMD and other chronic illnesses are simply a factor of aging or genetics, two areas over which you have little control, the truth is, you are not helpless to affect positive change.
Based on his research, Knobbe concluded the term AMD is a misnomer. Rather than calling the loss of central vision "age-related macular degeneration," he asserts it would be more aptly named "diet-related macular degeneration" or "DMD."17 While aging is not something you can control, you most certainly have some measure of control over your diet and, therefore, your eye health, too.
Lemon balm, which is not to be confused with lemon trees or lemon fruit, has been used as far back as the Middle Ages, and perhaps earlier.1 Lemon balm has been shown to be helpful in combating stress and anxiety,2 boosting appetite and alleviating the pain and discomfort caused by indigestion.3 This herb was also steeped in wine to lift spirits and it was employed in treating wounds and venomous insect bites and stings.
Lemon balm is a common sight in many herb gardens because it attracts bees. Beyond its medicinal uses, lemon balm can also be used for cosmetics and furniture polish manufacturing. Beyond that, fresh lemon balm leaves can be steeped and dried to make lemon balm tea, an herbal beverage that can soothe your senses. Here's all you need to know about lemon balm tea.
What Is Lemon Balm Tea?
Leaves of the lemon balm plant (Melissa officinalis), a member of the mint family, make a delicious herbal tea. Although lemon balm is native to Europe, it's now widely available and can be grown in home gardens, too. The plant can grow up to 2 feet high, or even higher if it's not well-maintained. During spring and summer, small, light-yellow flower clusters appear on lemon balm plants.4
If you're wondering why it's called lemon balm, it's because your fingers may smell like tart lemons when you rub the leaves together. Lemon balm leaves are shaped similarly to mint leaves. Deeply wrinkled, the leaves range in color from dark green to yellowish green, depending on the plant's soil and climate.5
Lemon Balm Tea's Uses and Health Benefits
According to The Heart Institute, the University of Michigan and journal articles, below are some of the most well-known benefits of lemon balm tea:6,7
? Reduces inflammation ? The anti-inflammatory compounds in lemon balm, which are available in the tea, help target conditions like arthritis, joint disorders and headaches.8
? Alleviates digestive issues ? Lemon balm tea supports healthy digestion and ensures proper absorption, making it potentially beneficial if you suffer from acid reflux, bloating, constipation, flatulence or indigestion.9
? Strengthens your immune system ? The antibacterial and antiseptic properties10 in kombucha, a fermented lemon balm tea, play a role in helping your body fight infections, cold and flu.11
Furthermore, lemon balm tea may assist in stimulating white blood cell production,12 while reducing your body's production of mucus and phlegm.13
? Helps relieve menstrual cramps ? As one of the oldest herbal remedies for menstrual cramps, lemon balm tea's analgesic, antispasmodic and sedative capabilities may aid in soothing painful periods,14 while toning down mood swings.
? Enhances cognitive function ? Lemon balm tea can be helpful for those suffering from Alzheimer's disease because it may help enhance cognitive function and improve memory. It can be particularly beneficial as an aromatherapy tool.15
The tea also is believed to deliver antioxidants that can inhibit plaque deposits along your body's neutral pathways.16
? Combats the herpes virus ? Research indicates lemon balm, in the form of a cream, essential oil or tea, has powerful effects on herpes cold sores and genital lesions due to the inhibiting activity of its polyphenol compounds against herpes virus activity.17,18
? Promotes heart health ? Lemon balm tea can be ideal for people suffering from hypertension because it's a natural sedative that assists in reducing blood pressure levels. In the long run, it may help decrease your risk for atherosclerosis, heart attacks and stroke.
If you are taking blood pressure medication, talk to your doctor before drinking lemon balm tea to avoid any potential negative interactions.
? Soothes anxiety ? Antioxidants and plant compounds in the tea contain anxiolytic properties that produce a nerve-soothing effect known to ease symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress.
Lemon Balm Tea Nutrition Facts: What's in It?
Some of the active compounds in lemon balm, which may be transferred onto the tea beverage, include tannins, flavonoids, rosmarinic acid, citronellal, eugenol and other polyphenolic compounds, as well as copper, manganese, zinc and various essential vitamins."19 As an herbal tea, lemon balm tea does not contain caffeine. This explains why it may be beneficial for calming frazzled nerves and soothing anxiety.
How to Make Fresh Lemon Balm Tea
Typically, lemon balm tea is made by steeping fresh plant cuttings in boiling water until the desired strength is attained ? shorter steeping results in weaker tea, while longer steeping yields a stronger beverage. The tea can be consumed hot or cold. You can also make this beverage using dried lemon balm leaves, although the drying process may cause the leaves to lose some of their flavor. Below is a simple lemon balm tea recipe:20
Lemon Balm Tea Recipe
2 cups of boiling water
2 teaspoons of fresh or 1 teaspoon of dried lemon balm leaves
Honey or stevia to sweeten (optional)
Pour the boiling water over the dried lemon balm leaves.
Infuse the mixture for up to 10 minutes and chill and drink afterward.
How to Store and Dry Lemon Balm for Making Tea
Fresh lemon balm leaves can be stored in plastic bags inside the refrigerator for a few days or you can freeze them. Dried lemon balm leaves stored in an airtight, glass container, in a dark and dry place, will have a shelf life of at least one year. The Herb Society of America21 notes that dry leaves can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days too, or inside the freezer for a short time in a double layer of food storage plastic bags.
If you want to learn how to dry lemon balm for tea, there are multiple ways to do it. Overall, make sure the leaves aren't exposed to light or heat. Mother Earth Living22 suggests cutting around two-thirds of the way down the plant's stem. Then, hang lemon balm upside down in a small bunch, leaving a 1-inch diameter at the base. Place the herbs in a dark, dry place with good air circulation, and dry for two days, after which time they will turn black.23
Another way to dry lemon balm leaves, according to the Michigan State University Extension, is to take a small amount and hang them in paper bags with holes punched on the sides. Don't place a large amount of lemon balm in a bag, as a lack of air circulation may cause the leaves to become moldy. Use a rubber band to close the top of the bag and hang it in an area where there's enough air circulation. Once the leaves are dry, they'll fall to the bottom of the bag.24
Side Effects of Lemon Balm Tea
Side effects25 from drinking lemon balm tea are said to be rare, and there's limited research regarding lemon balm's side effects when used for an extended period of time. The best approach is to drink lemon balm tea occasionally until you are certain your body can tolerate it. Some adverse effects that may develop, include:
Stomach upset, nausea and vomiting ? The potent active compounds in the tea may be responsible for these effects and they are only beneficial when the tea is consumed in moderation
Dizziness and drowsiness ? These effects were seen in people who drank very strong lemon balm tea; should these side effects occur, stop drinking it
According to WebMD,26 oral intake of lemon balm leaves may also lead to side effects like increased appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dizziness and wheezing. Avoid drinking lemon balm tea if you're allergic to other plants of the mint family because it may increase your risk for an allergic reaction.
If you're undergoing a surgical procedure, do not drink lemon balm tea two weeks before it, because the tea's sedative nature may negatively interact with the anesthesia. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, consult with your doctor about the safety of lemon balm tea. This tea can be safely consumed by children in small amounts.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Lemon Balm Tea
Q: Where can you buy lemon balm tea?
A: You can buy organic lemon balm tea from well-known online retailers or from a local health food store. To ensure you'll get a product that will provide genuine health benefits, only buy organic brands from reputable companies. Better yet, you can grow lemon balm at home and craft your own tea. The Spruce provides instructions on how to propagate this herb indoors.27
Q: What are the health benefits of lemon balm tea?
A: Some of the health benefits of lemon balm tea include:
? Soothing anxiety and depression
? Reducing inflammatory conditions, such as infections, colds and flu
? Relieving menstrual cramps
? Alleviating stomach problems like acid reflux, bloating, constipation and indigestion
? Combating herpes cold sores and genital lesions
Q: Can pregnant and breastfeeding women drink lemon balm tea?
A: While pregnant and breastfeeding women may be able to drink lemon balm tea in moderation, it's best to first talk to your doctor about your need for lemon balm tea and the amount of tea you plan to drink to ensure the safety of you and your baby.
As presented in the featured video, restaurants in the U.S., as well as a major chain in the U.K., are restricting cellphone use as a means of promoting real-life social connections over the use of social media while dining out. Sadly, it?s becoming increasingly rare to see couples, families and friends interacting with each other over meals inside or outside the home.
Restaurants, which used to be a place of connection and socialization, are increasingly becoming hangouts in which patrons spend more time looking down at screens than up at and into the eyes of the people around them.
A poll commissioned by the U.K. restaurant chain Frankie & Benny?s suggests 70 percent of kids wish their parents would put down their phones and spend more time talking to them, whereas 67 percent of parents admitted their phone has come between them and their family.1
In case you need an incentive to share meals with your partner and children, you may be interested to know that engaging in regular family mealtimes has been shown to positively influence the physical and social development of children.
From New York to Houston, US Restaurants Are Saying No to Cellphones
According to CBS News, U.S. restaurant owners are becoming increasingly intolerant of America?s love affair with portable technology.2 The overuse of cellphones, laptops and tablets in public spaces is becoming problematic. Customers who sit together but don?t look at each other are detracting from what used to be a more interactive, social atmosphere.
Now, instead of making real-life social connections, many restaurant patrons are turning to social media. Instead of looking into the eyes of the person or people sitting across the table from them, diners are staring at their screens and checking news and social media feeds.
"You walk by a table and there's somebody playing a video game. Or people made a note they're celebrating their anniversary and you barely see them speak to each other over the course of the two-and-a-half-hour dinner," said John Winterman from restaurant Batard in New York City?s Tribeca neighborhood.3
Rather than check out Facebook or Twitter, people should take the opportunity to focus on and enjoy each other?s company, as well as their food, asserts Winterman. His comments are based on observation only. Unlike some restaurants in the U.S. and elsewhere, Batard has not banned cellphones.
In Queens, Mario Gigliotti, owner of the Italian restaurant Il Triangolo, believes taking a break from technology helps maintain a social atmosphere in restaurants.4 "No cellphones on the table. At dinner, everyone talks ... and this is my home ... and when you come into my home, my restaurant, that's how we run our restaurant.?5
In Houston, some restaurants, including Churrascos in the River Oaks area, have an unstated rule that all cellphone calls must be taken outside.6 ?Half the time you?re in a restaurant and you look around and everyone is looking down. No one is looking at anyone else at the table. It just kills me,? diner Ben Melson told KHOU11 News.7
?I try to keep my cellphone away, put it on vibrate ? ? he added.8 More often than not, restaurant staff notice tables lit up by light from blue screens. They note diners are often seen texting or posting to social media ? often while seemingly ignoring their companions or letting their meals get cold.
?It?s unfortunate ? to see people on a date just staring down [at their phone]. [We] can?t stop that though,? said Megan Protz, Churrascos? general manager.9
Promotions Offered to Patrons Surrendering Cellphones During Dinner
In Sioux City, Iowa, a restaurant called Sneaky?s Chicken offers a 10 percent discount to patrons willing to forego using their cellphones when dining on Wednesday nights. Most patrons are open to participate, says general manager Christy Wright.
"It was just something we just wanted to see if we could stop for a little bit and have people enjoy each other's company more than their cellphones," she stated.10
The promotion, called ?Back in the Day Dinner,? requires patrons to stash their devices in a box on the table. ?I would say 99 percent of the people [participate],? says Wright. ?Some are kind of hesitant. Some really think it?s a great idea.?11 Similarly, Sushi Lounge in Hoboken, New Jersey, offers ?Reconnect Tuesday.?
Customers who leave their cellphones in a box on the table until the check comes receive a 20 percent discount. ?For some people the struggle is real. They can?t do it,? notes assistant manager Casey Zin.12 Lebro?s, an Italian restaurant near Buffalo, New York, offers a 10 percent discount to patrons willing to put their cellphones in a bread basket on Sundays.
?You notice everyone is sitting around and not communicating with each other. Ninety percent of the time people have their phones out,? says Maura Pidanick, a server at Lebro?s. ?It?s a family restaurant, so my boss thought it was a nice idea [to put cellphones away].?13
Frankie & Benny?s Is First UK Restaurant Chain to Ban Cellphones
In its chain of 250 restaurants across the U.K., Frankie & Benny?s recently launched a trial ban on cellphone use at the table. To encourage patrons to place their devices in a ?No Phone Zone? box on their table, management offered a ?kids eat free? incentive for families with children up to 14 years of age.
The goal, says management, is to ?get the nation to embrace and celebrate family time.?14 The trial ban on cellphones at Frankie & Benny?s comes on the heels of a nationwide poll of 1,500 children and parents commissioned by the chain. Results of the poll suggest:15
70 percent wish their parents would spend less time on their phones and more time talking to them
56 percent would like to have more conversations with their parents
46 percent say phones get in the way most during dinner
76 percent felt guilty about the amount of time they spend on their phone
67 percent said their phone has come between them and their family
During the one-week campaign, Frankie & Benny's offered games and coloring kits for children and their parents to enjoy together at the table. A restaurant spokesperson told the Daily Mail, ?If the initiative is a success, we'll certainly be looking at ways to activate it on a more permanent basis.?16
About the trial ban on cellphones, author and parenting expert Sue Atkins, who is interviewed in the video above, expressed support for the ban on screens at the table. She stated:17
?We live in a busy, fast-paced 24/7 digitally connected world, unless we consciously plan not to be ? I love the idea of families sitting together, eating and chatting together away from screens.
Parents are role models in everything they do and in everything they say, so by managing their own screen time, parents are teaching their kids by example about when and where technology use is appropriate.?
A spokesperson for the chain noted restaurant staff would not force patrons to surrender their cellphones but, rather, they would simply encourage customers to participate in the ban.
?We looked at various ways we could encourage people to engage more at the dinner table, and we've found giving families the chance to part with their devices for a mere couple of hours is a great way to bring them closer and embrace family time,? said a Frankie & Benny?s spokesperson.18
Eating Together as a Family Helps Kids Thrive Physically and Socially
A study published in early 2018 by researchers from the University of Montreal, Canada, suggests children who routinely eat meals together with their family during early childhood are more likely to experience long-term physical and social health benefits.19 The research focused on a cohort of 1,492 children born between 1997 and 1998.
As part of the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development, the group had been followed by researchers since they were 5 months old. About the study, Linda Pagani, Ph.D., professor in the University of Montreal?s psychoeducation department, said:20
"We decided to look at the long-term influence of sharing meals as an early-childhood family environment experience in a sample of children born the same year, and we followed up regularly as they grew up.
Using a birth cohort, this study examines the prospective associations between the environmental quality of the family meal experience at age 6 and child well-being at age 10."
When the children were 6 years old, their parents began reporting on whether or not they shared family meals. When the children were 10, parents, teachers and the kids themselves provided information on the children's academic achievement, lifestyle habits and social well-being.
According to the results, a favorable family meal environment at age 6 predicted the following outcomes for the children at age 10:
Lower levels of nonaggressive delinquency, oppositional behavior, physical aggression, reactive aggression and soft drink consumption
With respect to those outcomes, Pagani commented:21
"The presence of parents during mealtimes likely provides young children with firsthand social interaction, discussions of social issues and day-to-day concerns, and vicarious learning of prosocial interactions in a familiar and emotionally secure setting.
Experiencing positive forms of communication may likely help the child engage in better communication skills with people outside the family unit.?
About the positive impact of family meals, authors of a 2011 study published in the journal Pediatrics found children and adolescents who share family meals three or more times per week are:22
More likely to be in a normal weight range
More likely to have healthier dietary and eating patterns
How to Safeguard Your Health in the Face of Cellphone Overuse
It?s no secret the popularity of cellphones continues to rise, making it the most rapidly accepted consumer technology in recent history.23
While there is real value and convenience associated with devices that enable you to communicate anytime, anywhere, the constant use of cellphones may be endangering your health. About Americans? tendency to become hooked on their cellphones, The New York Times observes:24
"The near-universal access to digital technology, starting at ever younger ages, is transforming modern society in ways that can have negative effects on physical and mental health, neurological development and personal relationships, not to mention safety on our roads and sidewalks."
Easy access to technology has led people to take their cellphones everywhere without a second thought, including the kitchen, doctor's office, dinner table and even the bathroom. Most notably, the constant use of cellphones increases your potential health risks associated with electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation.
? Exercise caution when carrying and using your cellphone ? Due to the reality your cellphone is always emitting a signal when it is on, I recommend you avoid carrying it in your pants pocket or bra.
Also, to ensure more restful sleep, keep your cellphone and other electronic devices out of your bedroom while you are sleeping.
? Keep your phone clean ? Wiping down your phone on a regular basis using a solution of 60 percent water and 40 percent rubbing alcohol sprayed on a soft cloth is one tactic you can use to eliminate surface germs on your cellphone.25
Given the ease with which health-damaging bacteria can transfer to your phone, I also advise you do not take your phone into the bathroom.26
? Limit cellphone use to areas with excellent reception ? When reception is weak, your device has to emit more power, and therefore more cellphone radiation. As such, I suggest you use your cellphone only when you have a strong signal. If the signal is weak, postpone the conversation or keep it brief.
? Maintain your cellphone away from your head ? Ideally, I advise you to use your cellphone only for texting and short phone calls. If you do not have access to a landline for longer phone calls, I recommend you use the speakerphone or a headset that uses a combination of shielded wire and air-tubes.
When not in use, I recommend you switch your cellphone to airplane mode or maintain it at least 3 feet away from you.
While restaurant bans on cellphone use are certainly one potential way to foster more connection among family and friends in a technological age, I would like to underscore the importance of exercising self-control and common sense when using personal electronics.
If your intention is to spend time over a meal with people you care about, I encourage you to put away your devices and focus on the food and fellowship. Without digital distractions, you will be free to look into the eyes and hear from the hearts of those seated around the table.
You?ll also appreciate the atmosphere and food to a greater measure when you are looking out onto the scene around you instead of down at a screen. I can say without hesitation, the sense of connection you?ll experience relating to other human beings far exceeds anything you?ll see on a screen.
Falls may not grab headlines like more sensational causes of injury, but they rank as the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury and death worldwide. Every year, more than 37 million falls occur that are severe enough to require medical attention, and 646,000 people die as a result, most of them aged 65 years and older.1
It?s estimated that 1 in 3 older adults falls each year, and the risk increases with age. Failing vision and hearing can contribute to fall risk, as can changes in cognition that may occur with age. Other health conditions like diabetes, foot problems, low blood pressure, muscle weakness and even heart disease may also affect your balance and increase your risk of falling.2
Another important risk factor ? one that?s often overlooked ? is sleep, or lack thereof. A simple way to lower your risk of falls and related fractures is to ensure you?re getting a good night?s sleep ? something that?s elusive to one-third of Americans.3
How Long You Sleep Influences Your Risk of Falls and Fractures
Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania used data from more than 157,000 women to investigate the association between sleep and falls.4 Interestingly, there appears to be a sweet spot when it comes to sleep, as both sleeping too much or too little may influence your risk.
The study revealed that, compared to women who slept the recommended seven to eight hours a night, those who slept for less than five hours or more than 10 were about 25 percent more likely to suffer from recurrent falls, defined as falling at least two times in a one-year period.
Along with sleep duration, poor sleep quality, insomnia and other sleep disturbances were also associated with an increased risk of recurrent falls. For short sleepers (less than five hours a night), the risk of fractures, including those in the upper limb, lower limb and central body, was increased.
?In conclusion, short and long sleep duration and poor sleep quality were independently associated with increased odds of recurrent falls. Short sleep was associated with [a] modest increase in fractures,? the researchers said.5 Lead study author Jane Cauley of the University of Pittsburgh said in a news release:6
?Falls are an important public health problem among older adults and lead to moderate to severe injuries. Most fractures occur because of falls, and recent evidence shows that mortality from falls in the U.S. is increasing ?
Even though falls are caused by a number of factors, our paper focuses on a novel risk factor: sleep. Results suggest that interventions aimed at improving sleep may reduce the risk of falls.?
Sleep Disturbances Affect Your Bone Health
If you?re sleep deprived, it can make you less steady on your feet and more prone to tripping, thereby increasing your risk of falls indirectly. However, sleep disturbances also have a more direct influence on falls and fractures by influencing bone turnover and muscle strength.7
Both short and long sleep duration have been indicated as risk factors for osteoporosis, for instance, and a study of older adults revealed that long sleep (eight hours or more a night) was the best predictor of osteoporosis risk.8
In osteoporosis, the net rate of bone resorption (breakdown) exceeds the rate of bone formation, which results in a decrease in bone mass. It turns out that how well you sleep may influence this delicate process, potentially leading to lower bone formation.
In fact, when 10 men had their sleep restricted and their circadian rhythm disrupted for three weeks, it led to an ?uncoupling of bone turnover wherein bone formation is decreased but bone resorption is unchanged.?9
?If chronic sleep disturbance is identified as a new risk factor for osteoporosis, it could help explain why there is no clear cause for osteoporosis in the approximately 50 percent of the estimated 54 million Americans with low bone mass or osteoporosis,? lead study author Dr. Christine Swanson, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado, said in a press release.10 It could also help explain why people who sleep too little are at increased risk of fall-related fractures.
Disrupted Sleep Associated With Health Issues That Make Falls More Likely
While sleep may directly affect your bone health, increasing your risk of fall-related fractures, it also relates to falls themselves in complex ways. Sleep influences your health on multiple levels, and is associated with other health problems that may also influence your fall risk, like anxiety, depression, alcohol intake, arthritis, diabetes and stroke. Specifically, as noted in the journal BMC Geriatrics:11
Alcohol intake is significantly associated with falls and may also lead to sleep disturbances
Both depression and loneliness are associated with falls in the elderly, while depression is linked to sleep problems; loneliness is also associated with more rapid motor decline in the elderly, which could influence fall risk
Chronic conditions such as arthritis, stroke and diabetes are associated with both severe sleep problems and fall risk
In the latter case, taking medications such as heart medicines, blood pressure pills or muscle relaxers can further increase your fall risk.
?People with chronic illnesses that affect their circulation, sensation, mobility or mental alertness as well as those taking some types of medications ? are more likely to fall as a result of drug-related side effects such as dizziness, confusion, disorientation or slowed reflexes,? according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center.12
Addressing Sleep Problems May Lower Your Risk of Falls
By addressing sleep disturbances, you may be able to cut your fall risk. Resorting to sleeping pills to help you sleep better isn?t a valid option, however, as taking prescription sleep aids including benzodiazepines (Valium, Ativan) and ?Z-drugs" (Ambien, Sonata, Lunesta) is associated with an increased risk of hip fracture, one of the most serious fall injuries, in older adults.13
More than 95 percent of hip fractures are caused by falling (typically falling sideways).14 If you?re having trouble sleeping, my Guide to a Good Night's Sleep contains 33 tips for improving your sleep. Avoiding exposure to blue light, including LEDs, after sunset is important and easily achievable by wearing blue-blocking glasses after sunset. I also recommend you:
Avoid watching TV or using your computer/smartphone or tablet in the evening,at least an hour or so before going to bed.
Make sure you get BRIGHT sun exposure regularly. Your pineal gland produces melatonin roughly in approximation to the contrast of bright sun exposure in the day and complete darkness at night. If you are in darkness all day long, it can't appreciate the difference and will not optimize your melatonin production.
Get some sun in the morning. Your circadian system needs bright light to reset itself. Ten to 15 minutes of morning sunlight will send a strong message to your internal clock that day has arrived, making it less likely to be confused by weaker light signals during the night.
Sleep in complete darkness, or as close to it as possible. Even the tiniest glow from your clock radio could be interfering with your sleep, so cover your clock radio up at night or get rid of it altogether.
Move all electrical devices at least 3 feet away from your bed. You may want to cover your windows with drapes or blackout shades, or wear an eye mask when you sleep.
Install a low-wattage yellow, orange or red light bulb if you need a source of light for navigation at night. Light in these bandwidths does not shut down melatonin production in the way that white and blue bandwidth light does. Salt lamps are handy for this purpose, as are natural, nontoxic candles.
Keep the temperature in your bedroom no higher than 70 degrees F. Many people keep their homes too warm (particularly their upstairs bedrooms). Studies show that the optimal room temperature for sleep is between 60 to 68 degrees F.
Take a hot bath 90 to 120 minutes before bedtime. This increases your core body temperature, and when you get out of the bath it abruptly drops, signaling your body that you are ready to sleep.
Avoid using loud alarm clocks. Being jolted awake each morning can be very stressful. If you are regularly getting enough sleep, you might not even need an alarm, as you'll wake up naturally.
Be mindful of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in your bedroom. EMFs can disrupt your pineal gland and its melatonin production, and may have other negative biological effects as well.
A gauss meter is required if you want to measure EMF levels in various areas of your home. If possible, install a kill switch to turn off all electricity to your bedroom. If you need a clock, use a battery-operated one.
More Tips for Reducing Your Risk of Falls
Once you?ve addressed your sleeping habits, what else can you do to improve your fall risk? Safety is key. Remove tripping hazards, such as loose area rugs, extension cords and clutters. Install safety treads to stairways, rubber mats in showers and tubs and grab bars in bathrooms if you feel unsteady on your feet.
Regular exercise is also important, as improving your balance, coordination and strength can significantly reduce your chances of falling. In fact, older adults who took part in an exercise program were 37 percent less likely to be injured during a fall compared to nonexercisers, one study found.15
This included a 61 percent lower risk of having a fall-induced broken bone and 43 percent lower risk of sustaining a fall-related injury serious enough to require admission to a hospital. Quite simply, as you get older, your muscle and bone mass decrease and the senses that guide your balance ? vision, touch, proprioception ? may all start to deteriorate, and this can make you unsteady on your feet.
However, you can easily combat this with exercise. For instance, eight weeks of balance training reduced slips and improved the likelihood of recovery from slips among the elderly.16
Strength training should also be part of your exercise routine, as it helps you maintain healthy bone mass, prevent age-related muscle loss and strengthen your connective tissues, tendons and ligaments, which help hold your body in the upright position.
Eating right is another strategy, as nutrients including vitamin D (which you can also obtain from the sun), K2 and magnesium contribute to the formation of strong, healthy bones. Optimizing your vitamin D levels alone may cut your risk of falls in half.17
So, while sometimes falls are inevitable, there?s a lot you can do to lower your risk and even prevent falls from occurring. By making sensible changes to your home, eating right, exercising and tending to proper sleep, you can help yourself stay steady on your feet no matter what your age.
Two years ago, U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data revealed a sudden drop in life expectancy in the U.S. for 2015.1,2 It was the first decline in 20 years. The trend continued in 2016,3 and the latest data for 20174 show the downward trend continuing for the third year in a row, which makes it the longest downward trend since World War I and the 1918 flu pandemic.5
Overall, the average life expectancy for the total U.S. population in 2017 was 78.6 years, down one-tenth of a percentage point from 2016. Life expectancy for men also declined, from 76.2 years in 2016 to 76.1 years in 2017, while life expectancy for women remained stable at 81.1 years.
In all, life expectancy for Americans has fallen by about four months over the past three years. Robert Anderson, chief of mortality statistics at the CDC, commented on the latest report:
"The idea that a developed wealthy nation like ours has declining life expectancy just doesn't seem right. If you look at the other wealthy countries of the world, they're not seeing the same thing."6
Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, also commented, saying the data "confirms that there's a profound change in the trajectory of mortality. This should really be getting everyone's attention in a major way."7
Drug Overdoses Drive Declining Life Expectancy in US
The initial decline in 2015 was primarily attributed to a rise in several categories of preventable deaths,8 including opioid overdoses, highlighting the failure of the American health care system to properly address the root causes of chronic disease and rein in the burgeoning opioid addiction epidemic.
The decline in 2016 was again driven largely by an increased number of deaths among younger Americans, fueled by opioid and fentanyl overdoses, while the 2017 drop is being attributed to a combination of still-increasing drug overdoses ? especially from fentanyl ? and a 3.7 percent rise in suicides.9,10
In 2017, the suicide rate was 14 per 100,000, up from 10.5 in 1999, concentrated in rural America, with middle-aged women committing suicide at a greater rate than men. With more than 47,000 Americans committing suicide in 2017, about 2,000 more than the year before, it's the highest suicide death rate in at least 50 years.11
The rise in suicide has also demolished the old stereotype that only chronically depressed people take their own lives. In reality, more than half of those who commit suicide have no known mental health problem at the time of death.12,13
Relationship problems, substance abuse, physical health problems, work and/or financial stress, legal problems and loss of housing are all contributing factors for suicide.14 CDC principal deputy director Dr. Anne Schuchat told CBS News:15
"Our data suggests that suicide is more than a mental health issue. We think that a comprehensive approach to suicide is what's needed. If we only look at this as a mental health issue, we won't make the progress that we need."
Fentanyl-Related Deaths Nearly Double for Second Year in a Row
Overall, about 70,000 more people died in 2017 than the year before,16 a number which is incidentally nearly identical to the number of people who died from drug overdoses that year, totaling 70,237 in all.17
Disturbingly, while overdose deaths relating to prescription opioids seem to have leveled off, deaths from fentanyl (a synthetic opioid that is far stronger) are increasingly sharply. According to Joshua M. Sharfstein, vice dean for public health practice and community engagement at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, "The opioid market has been completely taken over by fentanyl."18
The most recent data suggests fentanyl-related deaths rose from 19,413 in 2016 to nearly 28,466 in 201719 ? a 47 percent increase. Fentanyl-related deaths also more than doubled between 2015 and 2016.
As reported by The Atlantic,20 "Three reports released by the [CDC] ? paint a bleak picture of a country in which people are growing sick, using drugs and dying young ? many of them by their own hand." And, as noted in The Washington Post:21
"Sharfstein said the most lamentable aspect of the crises is that policymakers know which approaches make a difference, such as medically assisted treatment for drug abusers and increased availability of mental health services in states where they are lacking.
'So the frustration that many of us feel is that there are things that could save many lives,' he said, 'and we are failing to make those services available.'"
Top 10 Leading Causes of Death in 2017
In order, the 10 leading causes of death in the U.S. in 2017 were:22
Unintentional injuries (which includes drug overdoses)
I actually coined the term that doctors are the third leading cause of death in an article I published in 2000 after reading the print JAMA article by Dr. Barbara Starfield,23 and did the calculations based on her data. The term ended up being copied by many other sites. Ironically, Starfield, a medical doctor with a Ph.D. from Stanford, died from a medical mistake. She suffered a stroke from taking Plavix.24
What's Driving the Rises in Drug Overdoses and Suicides?
Reigning in drug overdoses and suicide rates will likely require more than improved availability of treatment. We also need to understand the underlying causes. As suggested by Dr. William Dietz, disease prevention expert at George Washington University, I agree there appears to be a sense of hopelessness beneath these self-destructive trends. CBS News reports:25
"Financial struggles, a widening income gap and divisive politics are all casting a pall over many Americans, [Dietz] suggested. 'I really do believe that people are increasingly hopeless, and that that leads to drug use, it leads potentially to suicide,' he said."
I would suggest social disconnection may also be part of the problem. While social media keeps us connected to many, it actually tends to alienate us from those closest to us, as trying to have a conversation with someone sitting with their nose glued to a screen hardly encourages intimacy. Social media also tends to be a source of stress.
Yet another important, yet frequently overlooked contributor to depression and other neuropsychiatric disorders is the electromagnetic field exposure from all of these wireless devices. In 2016, Martin Pall, Ph.D., wrote a magnificent and comprehensive review on this that is available for free online.26 In it, he reviews how regular exposure to low intensity microwaves, like those from your cellphone and Wi-Fi, impact your nervous system.
Social Media Use Linked to Stress and Feeling Disconnected From Family
According to the American Psychological Association's (APA) 2017 Stress in America survey,27 only 7 percent of American adults used social media in 2005. By 2015 that had grown to 65 percent. Among 18- to 29-year-olds, usage grew from 12 to 90 percent in that same timeframe.
A constant checker is someone who checks their email, text messages and social media accounts "constantly" throughout the day; 43 percent of Americans fit this bill, according to the APA, but they may be sacrificing their health as a result.
While non-checkers reported a stress level of 4.4 on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being "a great deal of stress"), constant checkers' average stress level was 5.3. This climbed to 6 among those who constantly checked their work email even during their days off.
The use of technology is in itself a source of stress for some Americans, especially when it's not working properly, and especially for constant checkers (23 percent compared to 14 percent of non-constant checkers). Meanwhile, constant checkers faced increased stress from social media, compared to non-checkers, namely due to political and cultural discussions.
Constant checkers were also more likely to report feeling disconnected from family due to technology, including when they're together, while 35 percent of this group also admitted social media made in-person meetings with family and friends less likely.
All of this makes identifying suicide risk all the more difficult, especially since about half of all suicides occur more or less without warning, triggered by an "acutely" stressful episode, such as the loss of a relationship or job, or sudden, deep feelings of alienation.
Know the 12 Warning Signs of Suicide, and How to Help
While some are better at keeping their depression and any thoughts of suicide well hidden, even from the ones they love, it's important for everyone to recognize the warning signs, and what they can do to help. According to the CDC, the 12 warning signs that someone may be contemplating or getting close to suicide are:28
Feeling like a burden
Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
Increased substance use
Looking for a way to access lethal means
Increased anger or rage
Extreme mood swings
Sleeping too little or too much
Talking or posting about wanting to die
Making plans for suicide
If you notice one or more of these signs, take the following five steps to help.
Ask how they are feeling and if they are considering ending their life, or if they have a plan to do so
Don't let them be alone and do your best to keep them safe
Make yourself available to them
Reach out to them daily and help them connect to others
If you live in the U.S. and are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text 741-741 for the Crisis Text Line.29If you are in danger of acting on suicidal thoughts, call 911 for immediate assistance.
What Can You Do to Avoid Painkillers and Overcome Opioid Addiction?
If you're struggling with opioid addiction, please seek professional help immediately. At the same time, a major step toward health when dealing with chronic disease of any kind, including opioid addiction, is to make dramatic changes to your diet and lifestyle. Below are four areas to address as a primary strategy:
Eliminate or radically reduce your consumption of grains and sugars
Increase your intake of animal-based omega-3 fats
Optimize your production of vitamin D
Radically reduce your intake of processed foods
Beyond that, if you suffer from chronic pain of any kind, know there are many natural, safe and effective alternatives to over-the-counter and prescription painkillers, including the following:
Medical cannabis ? Medical marijuana has a long history as a natural analgesic and is now legal in 33 states. You can learn more about the laws in your state on medicalmarijuana.procon.org.30
Kratom ? Kratom (Mitragyna speciose) is a plant remedy that has become a popular opioid substitute.31 (In August 2016, the DEA issued a notice saying it was planning to ban kratom, listing it as Schedule 1 controlled substance. However, following massive outrage from kratom users who say opioids are their only alternative, the agency reversed its decision.32
Be aware, however, that STAT News uncovered documents33 in November 2018 showing that the FDA, HHS and National Institute on Drug Abuse formally asked the DEA in October 201734 to classify kratom as a Schedule 1 drug, so this is still a developing issue.)
Kratom is safer than an opioid for someone in serious and chronic pain. However, it's important to recognize that it is a psychoactive substance and should be used with great care. There's very little research showing how to use it safely and effectively, and it may have a very different effect from one person to the next. The other issue to address is that there are a number of different strains available with different effects.
Also, while it may be useful for weaning people off opioids, kratom is in itself addictive. So, while it appears to be a far safer alternative to opioids, it's still a powerful and potentially addictive substance. So please, do your own research before trying it.
Low-Dose Naltrexone (LDN) ? Naltrexone is an opiate antagonist, originally developed in the early 1960s for the treatment of opioid addiction. When taken at very low doses (LDN, available only by prescription), it triggers endorphin production, which can boost your immune function and ease pain.
Curcumin ? A primary therapeutic compound identified in the spice turmeric, curcumin has been shown in more than 50 clinical studies to have potent anti-inflammatory activity. Curcumin is hard to absorb, so best results are achieved with preparations designed to improve absorption. It is very safe and you can take two to three every hour if you need to.
Astaxanthin ? One of the most effective oil-soluble antioxidants known, astaxanthin has very potent anti-inflammatory properties. Higher doses are typically required for pain relief, and you may need 8 milligrams or more per day to achieve results.
Boswellia ? Also known as boswellin or "Indian frankincense," this herb contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which have been prized for thousands of years. This is one of my personal favorites, as it worked well for many of my former rheumatoid arthritis patients.
Bromelain ? This protein-digesting enzyme, found in pineapples, is a natural anti-inflammatory. It can be taken in supplement form, but eating fresh pineapple may also be helpful. Keep in mind most of the bromelain is found within the core of the pineapple, so consider eating some of the pulpy core when you consume the fruit.
Cayenne cream ? Also called capsaicin cream, this spice comes from dried hot peppers. It alleviates pain by depleting your body's supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that transmit pain signals to your brain.
Cetyl myristoleate (CMO) ? This oil, found in dairy butter and fish, acts as a joint lubricant and anti-inflammatory. I have used a topical preparation of CMO to relieve ganglion cysts and a mild case of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Evening primrose, black currant and borage oils ? These oils contain the fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid, which is useful for treating arthritic pain.
Ginger ? This herb is anti-inflammatory and offers pain relief and stomach-settling properties. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea, or incorporated into fresh vegetable juice.
Spices come in all shapes and sizes, and star anise (Illicium verum Hook.f.)1 is a classic example. Its dark and attractive color and unique star shape makes it stand out from other spices. There's also research highlighting potential health benefits star anise can offer, making it a spice you should consider adding to your cooking arsenal.
What Is Star Anise?
Star anise grows as dark brown pods with six to eight segments each containing a seed. This spice hails from an evergreen tree plant native to southwest China2 and northeast Vietnam, although it's also cultivated in Spain, France, Italy, Morocco, India and the Philippines.3 Star anise tastes sweet and spicy, but slightly more bitter than Spanish anise. Some chefs use it to provide a licorice flavor for savory dishes.4
Some people think that star anise and anise seed are the same. While both spices contain a substance called anethole,5 their similarities end there. Anise seed belongs to the Apiaceae family,6 while star anise comes from the Illiciaceae family.7 Anise seed is used more in Western dishes, particularly in Greek and French cuisines,8 while star anise is more common in Asian cooking.9
6 Health Benefits of Star Anise
If you're looking for a flavorful spice with health benefits, star anise might be a good choice. Research has revealed that star anise may:
1. Provide antioxidants for the body ? According to a Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry article, star anise extract has potent antioxidant abilities against H2O2-induced cell death and DNA damage.10
2. Help reduce cancer risk ? A study published in the journal Chemico-Biological Interactions revealed that animals fed star anise had inhibited cancer development.11 However, more research is needed to show the full extent of this supposed benefit.
3. Exhibit antifungal and antibacterial capabilities ? Results showed that star anise extracts and essential oils have antifungal abilities, especially against Candida albicans, a common yeast infection.12
Star anise also has antibacterial properties. Four antimicrobial compounds derived from the spice were effective against nearly 70 strains of drug-resistant bacteria.13
4. Target conditions like influenza and cough ? Star anise can help fight influenza because of its shikimic acid content.14 A 2008 study discovered that shikimic acid, together with a plant antioxidant called quercetin, enhanced immune system function and helped protect the body against viral diseases.15 Ingesting star anise may also help relieve cough16 and sore throat.17
5. Improve digestion and dealing with digestive complaints ? Star anise tea may help alleviate gas, abdominal cramps,18 indigestion, bloating and constipation.19
6. Address sleep disorders ? This spice has mild sedative properties that may aid in calming nerves and ease sleep disorders.20
How to Use Star Anise
Star anise is mainly used for culinary purposes, especially in Chinese, Indian, Malaysian and Singaporean cuisines.21 It can be added to alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages.22 Star anise is a vital ingredient in Chinese five-spice powder, along with cloves, fennel seeds, Chinese cinnamon and Sichuan peppercorns.23
This spice is also known for its medicinal uses. In traditional Chinese medicine, star anise boasts stimulant and expectorant properties, and may increase libido24 and facilitate proper digestion.25 Research revealed that using star anise tea can help alleviate diseases like colic and arthritis.26
Growing Star Anise at Home
Star anise plants are usually cultivated from cuttings or seeds, and are best grown in USDA zones 7 through 10, in full sun or partial shade.27 According to "Spices: Agrotechniques for Quality Produce," star anise thrives in warm, subtropical climates, and in places where temperatures don't dip below 10 degrees F.
When growing star anise at home, start by sowing seeds in pots or containers, or plant them directly outside. Adding 3 inches of compost or aged manure on the ground around the tree during spring can work as your fertilizer, although you can also apply slow release fertilizer during the same season.28
The soil should be humus- and compost-rich, with a loamy29 and well-drained texture, and with a neutral to acidic pH level.30 Water the plant frequently to keep the soil slightly moist. While the plant is young, actively prune it so it can have the appearance of a bush, and remove dead, diseased and weak branches.
A star anise tree takes at least six years to grow from seeds, so you might have to wait for the plant to fully mature. Once the tree is ready, harvest star anise while they're still green, and then sun-dry them until their color changes to a reddish-brown hue. The seeds can be removed from the pods after.31
Try These Delicious Recipes With Star Anise
You can find whole or ground star anise in Asian supermarkets or spice stores,32 although whole spices are more ideal. Grind whole star anise using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Keep unused star anise inside an airtight container in a cool and dark place that isn't exposed to heat, moisture or sunlight, where it can keep for at least one year.33 If you bought ground star anise powder, use it within six months, or else you'll end up with a spice that lacks flavor.34
In cooking, star anise is used to enhance the flavors of duck, eggs, fish, leeks, pears, pork, poultry, pumpkin, shrimp or pastry, to name a few.35 It also goes well in soups, just like this carrot soup with star anise recipe:36
Add onion, thyme, three star anise pods, bay leaves and garlic. SautÚ until they soften, for about five minutes.
Add carrots and broth. Bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until carrots are very tender, for about 30 minutes.
Remove and discard thyme sprigs, star anise and bay leaves.
Working in small batches, puree soup in blender until very smooth and return to same pot. Season with salt and pepper. This can be made one day ahead. Cool slightly, cover and chill. Rewarm over low heat before continuing.
Finely grind remaining star anise in spice mill or coffee grinder. Ladle soup into bowls. Sprinkle with ground star anise.
Serving size: 6 to 8
As mentioned, star anise tea may help relieve certain illnesses. If you want to brew your own tea, follow this recipe, which features other healthy ingredients:37
Cinnamon-Star Anise Green Tea Recipe
2 tablespoons (8 grams) medium-size loose-leaf organic green tea or 4 organic green tea bags
1 5-inch cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
8 whole star anise or 1 1/2 tablespoon broken star anise pieces
4 cups boiling water
Place tea leaves or tea bags into a prewarmed teapot and set aside.
Add the cinnamon stick and star anise into a 4-cup heatproof measuring cup. Add the boiling water, stir the mixture and infuse for two minutes.
Pour infusion into the teapot. Carefully strain it to prevent the cinnamon and star anise from being added into the teapot. Steep the tea in the spice infusion for two minutes.
Strain the finished brew, place into teacups and serve immediately.
This recipe makes 2 to 4 servings.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes
If you haven't replenished your stock at home, but want its strong licorice flavor in your dishes, here are star anise substitutes you can use:38
Anise seed and a pinch of allspice (one crushed star anise is equivalent to one-half teaspoon crushed anise seed)
Chinese five-spice powder
A few drops of anise extract
Try Star Anise Essential Oil, Too
Star anise seeds can be steam-distilled to produce a pale yellow oil with a licorice-like aroma.39 Their main components are trans-anethole, caryophyllene and limonene.40
Star anise essential oil can be added to aromatherapy blends,41 soaps and perfumes.42 It may aid in relieving bronchitis, colds,43 digestion problems, and painful muscles.44 Combine it with a carrier oil, such as coconut, jojoba, sweet almond or olive oil, before applying topically.
Prior to using, consult your physician and take an allergen patch test to check for potential allergies. Don't use star anise oil if it's oxidized or old,45 or before driving or operating machinery or performing activities that need full attention, as it may slow down your reflexes.46
Potential Side Effects of Star Anise
If you fall under these groups, refrain from using the oil or consuming high amounts of star anise altogether:
Children below 5 years old
People with endometriosis or estrogen-dependent cancers
While there's information citing star anise's potential in increasing breastmilk production,47 talk to your physician before using the essential oil or consuming high doses of this spice. It's said that star anise, as well as other herbs like yarrow, chickweed and buckthorn, may pass through breastmilk and affect your infant.48 One study found that after star anise tea was given to young infants to relieve colic, neurological troubles occurred, with symptoms such as tremors, spasms and vomiting.49
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in nearly every cell of your body and is essential to good health. It plays a role in hormone production, digestion and the manufacture of vitamin D following sun exposure, and helps protect your cell membranes.
As noted by Zoe Harcombe, Ph.D.,1 "It is virtually impossible to explain how vital cholesterol is to the human body. If you had no cholesterol in your body you would be dead."
Your liver manufactures most, about 80 percent, of the cholesterol your body requires, which in and of itself suggests your body cannot survive without it. The remaining 20 percent comes from your diet. However, dietary cholesterol is absorbed at a rate of 20 to 60 percent, depending on the individual,2 and if you consume less, your body will compensate by making more and vice versa.
Animals use cholesterol in much the same way, hence beef, pork and chicken have similar levels of cholesterol, averaging 25 milligrams of cholesterol per ounce.3
Cholesterol has long been vilified as a primary cause of cardiovascular disease (CVD), yet numerous studies refute this hypothesis, demonstrating that cholesterol has virtually nothing to do with heart disease ? at least not in the way conventional medicine presents it.
As noted by Harcombe, the notion that there is good and bad cholesterol is also wrong. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) are not actually cholesterol; they're carriers and transporters of cholesterol, triglycerides (fat), phospholipids and proteins.
"LDL would more accurately be called the carrier of fresh cholesterol and HDL would more accurately be called the carrier of recycled cholesterol," she says.4 What's more, dietary cholesterol has no impact on the cholesterol level in your blood, so how could dietary cholesterol pose a health risk?
Does High Cholesterol Cause Cardiovascular Disease?
In an April 16, 2018, podcast (embedded at the top of this article), Christopher Kelly with Nourish Balance Thrive interviewed Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, a British physician and author of "Doctoring Data: How to Sort Out Medical Advice from Medical Nonsense," "The Great Cholesterol Con," and "A Statin Nation: Damaging Millions in a Brave New Post-Health World."
An outline5 and transcript6 of the interview can be found on the Nourish Balance Thrive website. In this interview, Kendrick discusses the true cause of cardiovascular disease and "the specific environmental and psychosocial factors that cause the most harm." You can also view the video above, in which Kendrick delivers a half-hour lecture on "Why Cholesterol Does Not and Cannot Cause Heart Disease."
In short, the most concerning risk factors for cardiovascular disease are actually insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes and the chronic inflammation associated with these conditions. However, Kendrick argues there are other factors at play as well, such as how you eat.
Americans are notorious for rushing through their meals, while some other countries, such as France, encourage a slower, more leisurely pace during meals, which may affect how the food is metabolized.
"I still think that probably is partly the case because clearly if you eat in a rushed fashion and you gobble it down and then you rush around immediately afterwards, your body is not in the correct metabolic rate to digest your food," Kendrick says,7 adding:
"I was looking at some studies8 from Japan where they got people to eat a meal whilst being read a boring lecture and asked to eat the same meal whilst a comedian was telling jokes. And when the comedian was telling jokes, the blood sugar level was considerably lower."
Stress Increases Your Cardiovascular Disease Risk
Kendrick also notes the links between stress and elevations in insulin levels (as insulin is counteracted by stress hormones) and blood clotting factors, and cites data showing that death rates from cardiovascular disease parallel stressful events that affect an entire nation.
For example, in 1989, the heart disease rate skyrocketed in Lithuania, the same year the Soviet Union collapsed. This pattern can also be seen in other European countries. Meanwhile, the LDL hypothesis has failed to hold in a number of studies.
As just one example, Kendrick cites a BMJ study where they looked at LDL levels in people over 60, finding that those with the highest LDL levels actually had the lowest overall mortality, including CVD mortality.9
For Cardiovascular Disease to Occur, There Must be Arterial Wall Damage
Kendrick has written an extensive series of articles on the cardiovascular disease process. A summary of this voluminous work can be found in "What Causes Heart Disease ? Part 59,"10 posted on his blog November 27, 2018. In it, he dissects the fallacies inherent in the conventional LDL/cholesterol hypothesis, and explains the thrombogenic theory of cardiovascular disease as a more reliable counterhypothesis. He writes in part:11
"For the LDL hypothesis to be correct, it requires that LDL can travel past the lining of the artery, the endothelial cells, and into the artery wall behind. This is considered the starting point for atherosclerotic plaques to form.
The problem with this hypothesis is that LDL cannot get into any cell, let alone an endothelial cell, unless that cell wants it to. We know this, for certain, because the only way for LDL to enter any cell, is if the cell manufactures an LDL receptor ? which locks onto, and then pulls the LDL molecule inside. There is no other passageway. This is an inarguable fact ?
Others have argued that ? the LDL simply slips through the gaps between endothelial cells and that is how it gets into the artery wall. Again, this is impossible. There are no gaps between endothelial cells. Endothelial cells are tightly bound to each other by strong protein bridges, known as 'tight junctions.'
These tight junctions can prevent the passage of single ions ? charged atoms ? which makes it impossible for an LDL molecule to slip through, as it is many thousands of times bigger than an ion. This, too, is an inarguable fact.
Ergo, the initiation of an atherosclerotic plaque (the underlying problem in cardiovascular disease) cannot be triggered by LDL leaking into an undamaged artery wall. Which means that, if you want to get LDL (or anything else) into the artery wall, you first must damage the endothelium/lining of the artery."
The American National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute admits that damage of the interior layers of your arteries precedes heart disease, and that this damage can be induced by a number of factors, including smoking, high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, inflammation and, as Dr. Zach Bush and Stefanie Seneff, Ph.D., promote: glyphosate. Once the artery is damaged, cholesterol-rich plaque begins to build up as a protective mechanism.
"However, it is what happens next, where we rapidly diverge in our thinking," Kendrick writes.12"The mainstream believes that, after damage has occurred, it is LDL, and only LDL, leaking into the artery wall that triggers a whole series of downstream reactions that lead to plaques forming.
However, once you have damaged the endothelium there is no longer a barrier to stop anything getting into the artery wall. So, why pick on LDL? You also have proteins, red blood cells, platelets and Lp(a) and VLDL. Indeed, anything in the bloodstream now has free entry."
The Thrombogenic Theory
Kendrick presents the thrombogenic theory ? initially suggested by Karl von Rokitansky in 185213 ? as a counter-theory to the flawed LDL/cholesterol hypothesis. In summary, the thrombogenic theory goes as follows:
Endothelial damage occurs, resulting in the formation of a blood clot
The resulting blood clot is minimized in size by plasmin, an enzyme that breaks up blood clots
A new endothelial layer grows over top of the remnants of the blood clot, thereby incorporating it into the artery wall
Macrophages (white blood cells specializing in repair) break down and digest any remnants of the blood clot. The macrophages are in turn broken down along with their contents, and eliminated from your body through your lymph glands.
While this process leads to inflammation, it is a healthy response and not a disease state per se. Problems only arise "when the rate of damage, and resultant blood clot formation, outstrips the ability of the repair systems to clear up the mess," Kendrick explains.
So, while endothelial damage and resulting blood clotting is at the heart of cardiovascular disease, the only time this natural repair process will cause problems is when damage outstrips repair.
Factors That Raise Your Cardiovascular Disease Risk
As noted by Kendrick, "For good health, you want to maintain a balance between the blood being too ready to clot, and the blood not clotting when you need it to."14 So, what factors might lead to a situation in which the arterial damage is greater than your body's ability to repair it? Kendrick's "short list" includes over 30 factors, and there are many others. On this list are:
Use of certain drugs, including oral steroids, omeprazole, Avastin and thalidomide
Acute physical and mental stress, and chronic mental stress
Heavy metal exposure, including lead and mercury
Certain nutritional deficiencies, including vitamins B and C deficiencies
Next there are factors that promote blood clot formation and/or inhibit the dissolution of blood clots, all of which also raise your CVD risk. Again, there are many factors that can do this, including but not limited to:
Raised levels of lipoprotein (a), blood sugar, very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) and fibrinogen (fibrinogen binds tightly to the blood clot, creating a tough plug; with excess fibrinogen in your blood, you may end up with larger, more tough to dissolve blood clots)
Stress hormones such as cortisol
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Acute mental and/or physical stress
Lastly, there are factors that impair your body's repair system, i.e., the formation of a new endothelial layer over the blood clot, and the clearing of debris from the blood clot, and these also raise your risk for CVD. Factors that prevent new endothelial cells from being formed include but are not limited to:
Certain drugs such as Avastin, thalidomide, omeprazole and any drug that lowers synthesis of nitric oxide (conversely, anything that increases nitric oxide in our body will reduce your risk of heart disease15)
Factors that impair clearance of debris from within the arterial wall include:
Use of oral steroids, immunosuppressant drugs, certain anti-inflammatory drugs and many anticancer drugs
Chronic negative psychological stress
The Role of Inflammation in Cardiovascular Disease
According to Kendrick, while chronic inflammation is recognized as a contributing factor for cardiovascular disease, not all inflammation is bad. In fact, the use of anti-inflammatory drugs (which can impair useful acute inflammation) has been linked to an increase in cardiovascular disease risk, "Which suggests that if you interfere with the healing response to arterial injury, you are going to make thing worse ? not better," he says, adding:16
"[T]he real reason why [chronic] inflammation is being seen as a possible cause of CVD is because inflammatory markers can be raised in CVD. To my mind this just demonstrates that in people with CVD, lots of damage is occurring, therefore there is more repair going on, so the inflammatory markers are raised.
However, the mainstream has decided to look at this from the opposite side. They see a lot inflammation going on and have decreed that the inflammation is causing the CVD ? rather than the other way around. Frankly, I think this is bonkers. But there you go.
Anyway, where has all this got us to? I shall try to achieve a quick summary. The LDL hypothesis is nonsense, it is wrong, and it does not remotely fit with any other factors known to cause CVD.
The thrombogenic theory, on the other hand, fits with almost everything known about CVD. It states that there are three, interrelated, processes that increase the risk of CVD:
Increased rate of damage to the endothelial layer
Formation of a bigger or more difficult to remove blood clot at that point
Impaired repair/removal of remnant blood clot.
Any factor that does one of these three things can increase the risk of CVD ? You need to have three or four, maybe more, and then things really get going ? All of which means that ? in most cases ? CVD has no single, specific, cause. It should, instead, be seen as a process whereby damage exceeds repair, causing plaques to start developing, and grow ? with a final, fatal, blood clot causing the terminal event."
More Evidence Cholesterol Is Not the Enemy
The Minnesota Coronary Experiment was a study performed between 1968 and 1973 that examined the relationship between diet and heart health.17 The researchers used a double-blind randomized trial to evaluate the effect of vegetable oil (high in omega-6 linoleic acid) versus saturated fats in coronary heart disease and death.
The results were left unpublished until 2016, when they appeared in the BMJ. An analysis of the collected data revealed lowering your cholesterol levels through dietary intervention did not reduce your risk of death from coronary heart disease. According to the researchers:18
"Available evidence from randomized controlled trials shows that replacement of saturated fat in the diet with linoleic acid effectively lowers serum cholesterol but does not support the hypothesis that this translates to a lower risk of death from coronary heart disease or all causes.
Findings from the Minnesota Coronary Experiment add to growing evidence that incomplete publication has contributed to overestimation of the benefits of replacing saturated fat with vegetable oils rich in linoleic acid."
The researchers found that for every 30-point drop in total cholesterol, there was a 22 percent increase in the risk of death from cardiac disease. Upon autopsy, the group eating vegetable oil and the group eating saturated fat had the same amount of atherosclerotic plaques in their arteries, but the group eating saturated fat experienced nearly half the number of heart attacks as the group eating vegetable oil.
Similarly, a scientific analysis19 of three large reviews published by statin advocates (which attempted to validate the current belief that statin treatment helps prevent cardiovascular disease) concluded the three studies in question failed to satisfy criteria for causality and drew faulty conclusions. Specifically, the authors found:20
There was no association between total cholesterol and the degree of atherosclerosis severity
Total cholesterol levels are generally not predictive of the risk of heart disease and may be absent or inverse in many studies
In many studies LDL was not associated with atherosclerosis and in a large U.S. based study of nearly 140,000 patients who suffered an acute myocardial infarction, LDL levels at the time of admission were lower than normal
Adults over the age of 60 with higher LDL levels generally live longer
Few adults who experience familial hypercholesterolemia die prematurely
The researchers concluded that high cholesterol levels cannot be the main cause of heart disease as those with low levels have nearly the same degree of sclerosis as those with high levels, and the risk of having a heart attack is the same or higher when cholesterol levels are low.
They believe the hypothesis has been kept alive by reviewers using misleading statistics and excluding results from unsuccessful trials while ignoring numerous contradictory observations.21 For a description of other studies debunking the saturated fat myth, often linked closely to increasing cholesterol levels, see my previous article, "The Cholesterol Myth Has Been Busted ? Yet Again."
Why Statin Drugs Are Ill Advised for Most
While the dietary guidelines for Americans no longer focus on reducing dietary cholesterol to protect your heart, and U.S. cholesterol treatment guidelines have stopped using total cholesterol as a measure of heart disease risk, honing in on elevated LDL cholesterol instead, we're still far off the mark when it comes down to how to best prevent heart disease.
Refined sugar and processed fructose are in fact the primary drivers of heart disease, so that's where the focus needs to be ? not on driving down your cholesterol with the aid of a statin drug (and/or avoiding healthy saturated fats in your diet).
The only subgroup that might benefit from a statin are those born with a genetic defect called familial hypercholesterolemia, as this makes them resistant to traditional measures of normalizing cholesterol.
There are many important reasons why you should not take a statin drug unless you have this genetic defect, including but not limited to the following. For more information about each of these, see "5 Great Reasons Why You Should Not Take Statins."
1. They don't work as advertised ? A 2015 report22 published in the Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology concluded that statin advocates used a statistical tool called relative risk reduction to amplify statins' trivial beneficial effects. If you look at absolute risk, statin drugs benefit just 1 percent of the population. This means that out of 100 people treated with the drugs, one person will have one less heart attack.
Another systematic review23 published that same year concluded that in studies where death was the primary prevention endpoint, statins taken for up to six years postponed death by 5 to 19 days. In secondary prevention trials, death was postponed by 10 to 27 days.
Median postponement of death for primary and secondary prevention was three and four days respectively. When you consider the many health hazards associated with these drugs, this minuscule benefit hardly warrants statin treatment.
2. They deplete your body of CoQ10 ? Statins block HMG coenzyme A reductase in your liver, which is how they reduce cholesterol. This enzyme also makes CoQ10, which is an essential mitochondrial nutrient that facilitates ATP production.
As noted in a 2010 study,24 "Coenzyme Q10 is an important factor in mitochondrial respiration," and "Primary and secondary deficiencies of coenzyme Q10 result in a number of neurologic and myopathic syndromes." Since they impair your mitochondrial function, they could potentially affect any number of health problems, as without well-functioning mitochondria, your risk for chronic disease increases significantly.
3. They inhibit the synthesis of vitamin K2, a vitamin that protects your arteries from calcification.
4. They reduce ketone production25 ? If you take CoQ10 while on statins you still have not solved the problem, as the same enzyme (HMG coenzyme A reductase) also inhibits your liver's ability to produce ketones, water-soluble fats that are essential to keep your body metabolically flexible. Ketones are also important molecular signaling molecules. So, statins make it virtually impossible to achieve nutritional ketosis.
5. Because of 2, 3 and 4, statins increase your risk for other serious diseases, including:
Heart failure ? Primarily due to statin-induced CoQ10 deficiency26,27
Cancer ? Research28 has shown that long-term statin use (10 years or longer) more than doubles women's risk of two major types of breast cancer: invasive ductal carcinoma and invasive lobular carcinoma.
Diabetes ? Statins have been shown to increase your risk of diabetes via a number of different mechanisms, two of which include increasing your insulin resistance, and raising your blood sugar.
Musculoskeletal disorders and motor nerve damage ? Research29 has shown that statin treatment lasting longer than two years causes "definite damage to peripheral nerves."
Crucial and Recommended Nutritional Supplements if Taking a Statin
If you decide to take a statin, make sure you take CoQ10 or ubiquinol (the reduced form) with it. One study evaluated the benefits of CoQ10 and selenium supplementation for patients with statin-associated myopathy.32
Compared to those given a placebo, the treatment group experienced significantly less pain, decreased muscle weakness and cramps, and less fatigue. A vitamin K2 supplement is also highly recommended. MK-7 is the form you'll want to look for in supplements; it's extracted from the Japanese fermented soy product called natto.
Newer Cholesterol Drugs Are Not Safer
Also, beware of a newer class of cholesterol absorption inhibitors called PCSK9 Inhibitors.33 PCSK9 is a protein that works with LDL receptors that regulate LDL in the liver and release LDL cholesterol into the blood. The inhibitors block that protein, thus lowering the amount of LDL circulating in your blood; in clinical trials, these drugs lowered LDLs by about 60 percent. However, as discussed earlier, LDL has no direct bearing on your CVD risk.
What's more, while these drugs are being touted as the answer for those who cannot tolerate some of the side effects of the other drugs, such as severe muscle pain, trials have already discovered that PCSK9 inhibitors can produce "neurocognitive effects," with some patients experiencing confusion and attention deficits.34 There's evidence suggesting these drugs may actually be even more dangerous than statins.
Assessing Your Heart Disease Risk
As you evaluate your risk of cardiovascular disease, there are specific ratios and blood level values that will tell you much more than your total cholesterol number. For example, an NMR LipoProfile, which measures the size of your LDL particles, is a far better assessment of your risk of heart disease than total cholesterol or total LDL. The following tests will also give you a better assessment of your potential risk for heart attack or CVD:
? Cholesterol ratios ? Your HDL/cholesterol ratio and triglyceride/HDL ratio is a strong indicator of your risk. For your HDL/cholesterol ratio divide your HDL by your total cholesterol and multiply by 100. That percentage should ideally be above 24 percent. For your triglyceride/HDL ratio divide your triglyceride total by your HDL and multiply by 100. The ideal percentage is below 2 percent.
? Fasting insulin level ? Sugar and carbohydrates increase inflammation. Once eaten, these chemicals trigger a release of insulin, promoting the accumulation of fat and creation of triglycerides, making it more difficult for you to lose weight or maintain your normal weight. Excess fat around your midsection is one of the major contributors to heart disease.35
Your fasting insulin level can be determined by a simple, inexpensive blood test. A normal fasting blood insulin level is below 5 microunits per milliliter (mcU/ml), but ideally, you'll want it below 3 mcU/ml. If your insulin level is higher than 3 to 5, the most effective way to optimize it is to reduce net carbs.
? Fasting blood sugar level ? Studies have demonstrated people with higher fasting blood sugar levels have a higher risk of heart disease.36 In fact, when your fasting blood sugar is between 100 and 125 mg/dl, your risk of coronary artery disease increases to 300 percent more than those whose level is below 79 mg/dl.37,38
? High sensitivity C-reactive protein (HS-CRP) ? This is one of the best overall measures of inflammation and an excellent screen for your risk of heart disease. Ideally your level should be below 0.7 and the lower the better.
? Iron level ? Iron creates an environment for oxidative stress, so excess iron may increase your inflammation and increase your risk of heart disease. An ideal iron level for adult men and non-menstruating women is between 40 and 60 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml). You do not want to be below 20 ng/ml or above 80 ng/ml.
The simplest and most efficient way to lower your iron level if elevated is to donate blood. If you can't donate, then therapeutic phlebotomy will effectively eliminate the excess iron. Heavy metal detoxification will also naturally reduce high iron.
How to Avoid Heart Disease
In closing, remember that high total cholesterol and even high LDL are insignificant when trying to determine your heart disease risk, and dietary cholesterol and saturated fat are not contributing factors.
Probably the best predictor for CVD is your insulin sensitivity. Considering how insulin resistance drives chronic disease in general, not just heart disease, I strongly recommend measuring your fasting insulin on a regular basis and taking immediate action if you find yourself inching toward insulin resistance.
As for preventing or reversing insulin resistance, the following general guidelines will set you on the right track:
Dramatically reduce your net carbs and eliminate processed fructose, as this is what set this cascade of metabolic dysfunction into motion in the first place. Replace the lost calories with higher amounts of healthy fats, not protein. My optimized nutritional plan can guide you through this process.
Normalize your omega-3-to-omega-6 ratio. Most get far too little omega-3, found in fatty fish such as wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, anchovies, fish oil and krill oil, and too much omega-6, as it is plentiful in processed vegetable oils and hence processed and fried foods.
In this interview with the late Dr. Robert Heaney, Creighton University professor of medicine and renowned researcher in the field of bone biology and vitamin D,1 he admits that an embarrassing secret in the field of nutrition is the lack of knowledge of what is really normal.
When the approach to measuring vitamin intake is determining the amount needed to avoid triggering a disease or establishing the highest amount before you experience toxicity, then you don?t achieve what is optimal to support biological function.
Vitamin D is a steroid hormone your body produces with the help of cholesterol when you're exposed to the sun. This critical nutrient interacts with a number of different systems in your body and is vital to cell DNA expression. One of the best ways to optimize your blood level is to get sensible sun exposure, taking great care to never get burned.
Although deficiency is very common, not only in the U.S. but also around the world, many believe they are not at risk simply because they eat foods fortified with vitamin D. With advancing technology and research it has become clear vitamin D deficiency is rampant and significantly impacts the development of several health conditions and chronic diseases.
In fact, research estimates2 85 percent of children in industrial cities, and well over half of adults and the elderly, suffer from vitamin D deficiency. Lack of sun exposure has likely been driven by the fear of developing skin cancer. However, office workers actually develop melanoma at greater rates than those who spend more time outdoors.3
Office Work May Increase Risk of Malignant Melanoma
For decades, the message from the medical community has been to avoid direct sun exposure and apply sunscreen when spending any amount of time outdoors. Australia's long public campaign4 to curb skin cancer rates has resulted in 31 percent of Australian adults being deficient in vitamin D, which in turn is linked with a number of deadly conditions, including cancer.
The application of SPF 30 can reduce the production of vitamin D by 97 percent. However, while it's important to reduce your potential for sunburn, it's been known since the 1970s that office workers have a higher risk of malignant melanoma than those who work outdoors.
Interestingly, melanoma appears on body parts that don't usually see much sun but which occasionally get burned, such as men's torsos or the back of women's legs.5 In one population-based, case-controlled study, researchers found a pattern of significantly increased risk of melanoma for lesions on the trunk of individuals who reported using sunscreen to enable them to spend more time sunbathing.6
When outside, you're exposed to the full spectrum of ultraviolet (UV) rays, including UVA and UVB. UVB light is necessary for your body to produce vitamin D and often affects only the superficial layers of your skin. UVA rays, on the other hand, will penetrate deep into the dermis and may lead to premature skin aging and suppression of your immune system.7
The differentiation between UVA and UVB light is where the light waves fall on the light wavelength spectrum. One reason why office workers may be at higher risk for developing malignant melanoma is their exposure to UVA wavelengths filtered through office windows.
Windows block UVB light but allow UVA through. A secondary reason may be that those who work in offices spend more time outside on holidays and weekends, resulting in burns, laying the groundwork for skin cancer.8 The World Health Organization (WHO) states:9
?Exposure during childhood is thought to be more important than exposure later in life. Tumor development may be linked to occasional exposure to short periods of intense sunlight, such as at weekends or on holiday. The higher incidence of malignant melanoma in indoor workers compared to outdoor workers supports that notion.?
Total Sun Spectrum Is Beneficial to Health
Scientists are just beginning to understand the many ways sun exposure is vital to human health. In an interview with Alexander Wunsch, Ph.D., world class expert on photobiology,10 he explains:11
"Sunlight induces coordinated endocrine adaptation effects. It affects sympathetic and parasympathetic activity, and is a major circadian and seasonal stimulus for the body clock ? Our system, via the eyes and via the skin, detects the colors of the light in the environment in order to adapt the hormonal system to the specific needs of the time and place.
It's different if we are sitting under the sun in the desert, or if we are sitting under a leaf roof or under a tree somewhere in the woods. The colors around us tell, through the eye, to our brain, to the midbrain [and] to the hormonal steering centers, what happens around us and what is to do in order to cope with this particular situation."
Given the many benefits of sun exposure, the WHO's classification of sunlight as a carcinogen (and recommendation to avoid the sun) is akin to saying oxygen may cause cancer because it's the precursor molecule for free radicals, so we should all stop breathing, according to Wunsch.
It's becoming clear regular exposure to full spectrum light is necessary and beneficial for most people, and public health would be better served by helping people understand the optimal "dose" needed, rather than telling them to shun all sun exposure.
Although abnormally high amounts of UVA exposure damages your skin, sensible sun exposure to UVA helps produce nitric oxide, which relaxes your arterial system and normalizes your blood pressure. In turn, high blood pressure (hypertension) is linked to coronary artery disease, aneurysm, heart failure, stroke and dementia.12
Importance of Vitamin D to Your Overall Health
In the past, vitamin D was recognized as the treatment for rickets, and later for osteomalacia (softening of the bones). Today, much of the attention on the benefits of vitamin D has focused on the prevention of colds and illnesses. However, vitamin D is a micronutrient vital to the functioning of each cell.
As Heaney describes, when you don't have enough of a micronutrient it impacts the optimal functioning of every cell. What scientists have learned in the past 10 years is the critical role the active form of vitamin D plays in making DNA available to the cell to create proteins and enzymes needed to function.
When your vitamin D level falls, it impacts how the cell functions. More immediately, you may experience a decline in immune competence, balance or bone strength. However, in the long term, vitamin D is responsible for number of crucial functions, including regulating the absorption of dietary calcium and phosphorus.
These nutrients are essential for bone health and neuromuscular activity. A study led by Arash Hossein-Nezhad, Ph.D., professor of endocrinology at Boston University,13 found adults who increase their vitamin D during the winter months enhanced the function of nearly 300 genes and circulating immune cells that control more than 800 biological processes and help repair DNA.14
These functions also help promote the death of precancerous cells and improve immune function. When vitamin D is at a suboptimal level, it increases the risk of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, stroke, depression, schizophrenia and tuberculosis. Deficiencies are more apt to occur at higher latitudes and during the winter months when the angle of the sun is oblique.15
Vitamin D Toxicity Is Relatively Rare
A collaborative study16 between Duke University and the National University of Singapore found low levels of vitamin D also increased the risk of cognitive decline and mental impairment. However, while the benefits of optimal vitamin D levels are many, it's nearly impossible to get enough sunlight all year-round in the Northern Hemisphere in order to meet your needs.
Residents of the British Isles are in a similar situation, where the sun is a relatively rare commodity. Public Health England17 recently issued a report recommending citizens take a vitamin D supplement, where before only at-risk individuals and children under 5 were given this recommendation.
Since each person absorbs and activates vitamin D differently, it?s impossible to recommend one supplemental dose for everyone over the winter months to achieve an optimal blood level of 60 ng/ml to 80 ng/ml.
The only way to assess your ideal dose is to monitor your serum vitamin D. This is easily done with a simple blood test, available at most labs and/or from GrassrootsHealth. While it?s important to take enough, it?s unlikely you?ll take too much unless you take more than 30,000 IU per day.
Vitamin D affects your serum calcium levels, which is how the Institute of Medicine defines vitamin D toxicity. According to Heaney, there is a wide margin of safety. For instance, in measuring blood levels of 25-hydroxy vitamin D, there are no recorded problems at levels of 200 ng/ml and below. To achieve this serum level you need to be take greater than 30,000 IU per day.
While it is difficult to achieve vitamin D toxicity, you may suffer negative effects if you don?t also maintain a healthy balance with other nutrients. If you take high doses of vitamin D3, remember to also boost your intake of vitamin K2 and calcium through food and/or a supplement, and get your vitamin D level tested to be sure you're safely within the therapeutic range.
Fluorescent Lighting in the Office Affects Your Health
Many offices are turning to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) in an effort to reduce energy expenditure. However, the low levels of energy and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) emitted may damage your health. A study from Stony Brook University finds UV radiation seeping through CFLs may damage skin cells.18
The research was sparked after the lead researcher read an article in an Israeli newspaper reporting a spike in skin cancer on a communal farm after residents switched to CFLs.19 Disturbing evidence had also surfaced in the European Union literature indicating exposure to CFL bulbs may be responsible for photodermatosis and skin cancer in humans.
CFL bulbs work by using electricity to excite mercury vapor, emitting UV light, which is absorbed by the bulbs? phosphor coating, converting the energy to visible light. In comparison to standard fluorescent tubes, CFLs create more space where UV light can escape when the phosphor coating chips.
Researchers studied keratinocytes from the outermost layer of skin and dermal fibroblasts forming the connective tissue. Although all of the bulbs tested had some emissions, some were worse than others. Under lab conditions, the cells on the skin stopped growing and changed shape.20 Andrew Goldsworthy, Ph.D., biologist from the Imperial College in London writes:21
?The symptoms of exposure to CFL radiation are remarkably similar to those reported by electrosensitive individuals when exposed to pulsed electromagnetic fields. Since the lamps do not flash, it seems probable that they are a direct effect of the pulsed radiation on the brain and nervous system.
The magnetic component of the radiation is the more dangerous because it can penetrate deep into the human body where it generates electrical voltages proportional to its rate of change. The rapid rise and fall times of these magnetic pulses can therefore give relatively massive and potentially damaging voltage spikes both in living cells and across their membranes.?
EMF is emitted from baby monitors, cellphones, cordless phones, Wi-Fi routers, smart meters and other wireless devices and causes serious mitochondrial dysfunction due to free radical damage. For a discussion of how electromagnetic fields affect your cells and your health, see my previous article, ?Reduce EMF Exposure.?
Are You Sensitive to Fluorescent Light?
Environmental factors may trigger stress reactions, nervous system dysregulation or physical sensitivities, including exposure to CFLs. These light bulbs have become increasingly ubiquitous as proponents argue they save energy. However, if these energy efficient bulbs increase mental and physical disease burden, the collective cost may far outweigh any savings.
Although stress reactions to CFLs are likely triggered by several factors, one issue is the blue light emitted, which stimulate nonvisual pathways from the eye and affect your circadian rhythms, arousal level and muscle tension.
Compared to incandescent lighting, CFLs demonstrate the ability to raise stress markers, blood pressure and reduce a drop in temperature during sleep, significantly affecting your quality of sleep.22
There have also been a handful of studies indicating an increase in repetitive behaviors in children suffering from autism23 or hyperactivity24 when they are exposed to fluorescent versus incandescent lighting. It's important to note the researchers found immediate effects and were not evaluating long-term cumulative effects as would occur from stimulation over time.
For all of these reasons, I recommend using incandescent lightbulbs in your officer and living spaces, reserving CFLs and LEDs for areas where you don?t spend any significant amount of time, such as in hallways, the garage or in porch lights. To learn more about healthy lighting, see ?How LED Lighting May Compromise Your Health.?
Also remember that sensible sun exposure (and/or a vitamin D3 supplement when sun exposure is not feasible) may actually lower your risk of several types of cancer, including the most lethal form of skin cancer.
In his first documentary film production, Jon Whelan, single dad after his wife died from breast cancer, presents overwhelming evidence that dangerous chemicals are added to products by design. As he discusses in this interview about his documentary ?Stink,? available on Netflix and YouTube, fragrances and scents are a dangerous, yet purposeful addition to products you use daily.
Your sense of smell is one of the most primal of your five senses. It is a key to survival, is often the first warning of safety or danger and is linked to memory. In fact, a powerful attraction to fragrances is manipulated by advertisers and marketers in order to sell clothing, personal care products and laundry products.
You can recognize up to 10,000 different smells and, according to Dr. Stuart Firestein of Columbia University, this system is very closely connected to the limbic system, said to contain your most basic drives.1
A study2 in 2015 published in Chemosensory Perception investigated how odor-evoked memories influence consumers? perception of a product. Researchers found fragrances evoking stronger personal emotional memories were preferred by the study participants.3
It is not surprising scent is powerfully connected to emotion and memory and drives buying decisions. Unfortunately, companies add toxic fragrances to mask the odor of noxious chemicals and as scent branding to acquire new customers and keep customers.
Smelly Pajamas Led to Documentary Film
The documentary film, ?Stink,? was triggered when Whelan purchased a pair of pajamas from the children?s clothing company Justice4 for his daughter. After opening the package, he found a weird smell. Whelan called the company to be sure the clothing was safe, but was stonewalled by company representatives.
Returning to the store, he found all of the packaged pajamas had the same odor. At this point he decided to tape the conversations he had with Justice and other companies, and began delving into the addition of chemicals to clothing and personal care products.
In a telling conversation with Procter and Gamble,5 manufacturer of a long list of cleaning and personal care items, including Crest toothpaste, Dawn dish soap, Pampers diapers, Tide laundry detergent and Pantene shampoo, the representative claimed they didn?t add a carcinogenic chemical to their products, it was just ?there.?6 Here?s a transcript of the conversation Whelan had:
Whelan: "I read an article online yesterday and it said something that if it has a chemical in it called 1-4-dioxane it might cause cancer. I just wanted to be sure that it's not true.?
Representative: ?It's not something we add to the product, OK, it's something that's in the product.?
Whelan: "Can you tell me who adds it then?"
Representative: "Pardon me?"
Whelan: "You said you didn't add it. I was wondering who does add it?"
Representative: "It's in all of the ingredients. You know what I mean?"
Whelan: "No I don't."
Representative: "OK, OK, how can I say this. . . you know if you do 1,200 loads of wash a day, it's still at a safe level."
As with exposure to many different toxins, one exposure at a low level may not trigger an immediate health condition, but what about repetitive or chronic exposure? Imagine smoking one cigarette and claiming the product had no health effects since you didn?t immediately get sick. The effect from toxins is cumulative, and can add up quickly when you?re exposed to chemicals in your food, furniture, air and clothing, all at once, and on a daily basis.
Whelan believes if the legislature won?t ban a chemical regulators know causes cancer, then it may be nearly impossible to fight for transparency and health protection against a highly-motivated and richly-funded industry destined to forfeit profits if they are forced to stop using cheaper, damaging and dangerous chemicals.
For instance, scientists and regulators know the dangers to consumers from asbestos. This material, used for insulation for decades, is known to trigger the development of mesothelioma. However, despite this knowledge, asbestos is not banned in the U.S. and its use may actually increase, as I discussed in a previous article, ?Asbestos and Benzene in Crayons and Markers.?
Dangerous Endocrine Disruptor Chemicals
Whelan uses the example of endocrine disrupting chemicals in his documentary, stating exposure to these has an inverted dose response curve. In other words, the danger is higher with lower level exposure over long periods of time. Your exposure occurs with use of personal care products, food packaging materials and clothing.
Vague arguments and claims have been used to dispute reports showing the use of toxic chemicals may be poisoning adults and children, causing damage beginning even before birth. Following an op-ed piece in The New York Times by Nicholas Kristof, the American Council on Science and Health claimed Kristoff would have flunked eighth grade science, saying:7
?Look at all these lethal things: toothpaste, soap, shower curtains. It's amazing we all aren't dead yet. Mr. Kristof's ?research? ? if you can even call it that ? relied heavily on well-known anti-science activists, such as the Environmental Working Group. Mr. Kristof has demonstrated time and again that he is entirely ignorant of the basic principles of chemistry and toxicology.?
However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a group of over 65,000 well-educated and science-based pediatricians in the U.S., agree with Kristoff and are asking parents to limit their children's exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals found in plastic. They warn these chemicals, such as phthalates, nitrates and bisphenol, may damage children's health for years to come.
Research from the World Health Organization (WHO) has even suggested a ban on endocrine disrupting chemicals may be needed to protect the health of future generations.8 Their research is one of the most comprehensive studies on different disrupting chemicals to date.
Dr. Leonardo Trasande,9 an expert in children's environmental health, believes children are more susceptible due to their dose exposure. And, as noted by Dr. Claire McCarthy, pediatrician at Boston Children's Hospital,10 ?Because the exposure is small and gradual we don't even realize it's happening.?
Fighting to Keep Chemicals in Your Products
Whelan believes the solution should be mandatory transparency so companies would make better decisions about what they use in their products and consumers could make informed decisions about what they buy.
Instead, companies are operating under the honor system set up by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)11 while fighting to keep cheap chemicals in their products so they can be made inexpensively, thereby protecting profits.
Unfortunately, the public pays for these cheaper products on the back end by spending thousands treating diseases triggered by overexposure to chemicals, which can build up in your system when you?re exposed to multiple products, such as personal care items, new furniture and carpeting and even clothing.
Whelan points out the world knows formaldehyde causes cancer, yet manufacturers are not removing it from their products. In fact, the U.S. was caught using products with heavy levels of formaldehyde in environmentally damaged areas.
For instance, trailer homes deployed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) along the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina were found to emit high levels of formaldehyde gas. In testing, 519 trailer and mobile homes were nearly 40 times customary exposure levels, triggering breathing difficulties, nose bleeds and persistent headaches.12
California Prop 65 Mandates Labeling Federal Government Doesn?t Regulate
California has taken a more proactive approach to the health of their citizens. In a study spearheaded by the Environmental Working Group,13 researchers found 287 chemicals in the cord blood of newborns. These babies were essentially born pre-polluted before ever consuming a single manufactured product.
In 1986 California voters approved an initiative best known as Proposition 65, requiring the state to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects. Since it began, it includes nearly 800 chemicals, and manufacturers are required to notify consumers when these chemicals are included in their product.14
According to the American Cancer Society,15 the risk of developing cancer was 40 percent in men and nearly 37 percent in women as of 2014. Their global cancer facts and figures suggest this number will grow to 50 percent by 2030.16
Europe Practices Precautionary Principles; the US Does Not
In the documentary, Whelan reveals the American Chemistry Council spent $121,000 per congressman to assist election campaigns. The influence pays dividends since it requires legislative action to alter the current status where manufacturers release chemicals under an honor system requiring proof chemicals are safe for consumer use prior to distribution.
Currently, the U.S. does not use precautionary principles, but rather acts under the assumption chemicals are ?innocent until proven guilty.? The opposite is true in Europe, where if a chemical is suspected dangerous, it?s phased out.
However, proving guilt is nearly impossible in the short term as these chemicals often accumulate over years in your body before effects are noticeable. This works to the advantage of the industry. For example, one of the world?s most popular chemical weed killers, Roundup, made by Monsanto (now Bayer), has been on the market since 1974.17
After 45 years on the market, Monsanto was recently ordered to pay $289 million when a jury found Dwayne Johnson?s non-Hodgkin lymphoma was at least partly triggered by glyphosate in Roundup, to which he was exposed as a school groundskeeper.18 The judge upheld the guilty verdict but later reduced the damages to $78 million.19
After the verdict, the presiding judge, Suzanne Ramos Bolanos, commented the company20 "acted with malice, oppression or fraud and should be punished for its conduct." In the past, Monsanto had sued California?s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment for adding glyphosate to their Proposition 65 list of cancer causing chemicals, and lost.
In the process of filming the documentary, Whelan did not receive a response to a question he posed to manufacturers: "What are the consumer advantages of buying products with hidden chemicals that cause cancer and birth defects?" He believes a safe compromise is transparency, allowing consumers to decide what exposure they will endure.
It isn't only the chemicals in the products you purchase to which you are exposed. Secondhand fragrance contamination is a public health concern as 30.5 percent of the general population find smells irritating and another 19 percent experience adverse health effects from air fresheners.21
Thirty years ago the issue was secondhand smoke, but today scent from perfume, air fresheners, scented laundry products and numerous other products on which fragrances are used are triggering health issues. Reactions to these fragrances created in the laboratory may include:22,23
Hay fever symptoms
Mucosal symptoms in eyes and airways24
Breathing and respiratory difficulties
The chemical cocktails in fragrances are often toxic as they are derived from petroleum and coal tar, and not made from the essential oils of flowers or sweet smelling plants. As soon as you smell an air freshener, scented candle or laundry detergent, you have already absorbed the chemicals into your body as they enter through your lungs.
Even when you no longer smell the fragrance, you're still absorbing the chemicals through your clothing, bedding and towels. Some synthetic fabrics have unpleasant odors, prompting manufacturers to cover them with masking fragrances.26 Secondhand fragrances are difficult to avoid as most public places use some type of air freshener, and make available scented hand soaps.
Although the number could potentially be falling, 85 percent of women wear perfume27 and over 60 percent of men use cologne and aftershave.28 A small number of schools, colleges, businesses and hospitals have enacted fragrance-free policies.
Are You Releasing Volatile Organic Compounds Into the Neighborhood?
The scent and chemicals manufacturers add to your clothing aren?t the only ways toxic chemicals are released. Since fragrances are essentially an unregulated market and manufacturers are working on the "honor system," it's not possible to find information on product labels about exposure to dangerous chemicals. Fabric softeners and dryer sheets are one such fragrance-laden product.29
One University of Washington scientist, Anne Steinemann, Ph.D.,30 professor of civil and environmental engineering and public affairs, has done a large amount of research into what chemicals are released by laundry products,31air fresheners, cleaners, lotions and other fragranced consumer products.32
One study focused on chemicals emitted through laundry vents during typical use of fragranced products, and was published in Air Quality, Atmosphere and Health in 2011. Steinemann found the following dryer vent emissions from 25 of the most common brands of scented laundry products:33
More than 600 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were emitted, and only two of those compounds were listed on any associated material safety data sheet. None of the chemicals were listed on any of the 25 product labels.
Two of the VOCs (acetaldehyde and benzene) are considered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be carcinogenic and unsafe at ANY exposure level.
Seven of the VOCs are classified as "hazardous air pollutants."
The highest concentration of emitted VOCs was acetaldehyde, acetone and ethanol.
Only 25 percent of the VOCs were classified as toxic or hazardous under federal laws.
Virtually none of the VOCs detected in her study were listed on product labels or the product?s material data safety sheet. Instead, labels listed only general categories, such as "biodegradable surfactants," "softeners" or "perfume." Even more disturbing, the "greener" products were just as bad, if not worse, than the conventional products.
Tips to Help You Avoid Toxic Chemicals
Whelan hopes his movie will move agencies to focus their efforts in the war on cancer toward prevention first. If you have information showing a product you?re purchasing has dangerous chemicals, it could change your buying decisions ? which is what manufacturers are trying to avoid.
When it comes to vaccination, it pays to do a risk-to-benefit evaluation before making up your mind. Public health officials argue that universal use vaccine recommendations and vaccine mandates have saved countless lives that would otherwise have been lost to infectious childhood diseases. What they fail to adequately address is accurately measuring the overall risk involved.
Problematically, many if not all vaccines have the ability to impair immune function, at least temporarily, which can have devastating consequences for some people, especially individuals who are more susceptible to adverse responses to vaccination.1
For example, while it?s unclear what kind of infection caused a New York State senator to die from sepsis, he had recently received a flu shot and avoided seeking medical attention thinking his illness was a routine minor side effect of the vaccine.
As it turns out, sepsis is being increasingly linked to influenza infection, and is a complication of influenza that people need to be aware of, even if they?ve been vaccinated, as the flu vaccine can increase susceptibility to infections. I?ll discuss these issues further below, but first, let?s take a look at some statistics worthy of consideration when you?re trying to decide whether to vaccinate yourself or your children.
Using Mortality Statistics to Evaluate Vaccine Risks and Benefits
A recent Medium article2 addresses vaccine risk-benefit evaluation head-on, providing some eye-opening statistical comparisons. Before vaccines against the following diseases became available and were routinely used, the annual death toll in the U.S. from several of the most common childhood diseases were as follows:
Chickenpox (varicella): 105 (average) to 138 (peak)6
Measles: 440 (average) to 552 (peak)7
How does the risk of dying from each of these infectious diseases compare to dying from other causes? Following are a few noteworthy examples highlighted in the featured article.
Each year, 100 people die from being struck by lightning,8 200 die from choking on food, 350 die from slip and fall accidents in the bath or shower,9 15,000 die from Clostridium difficile infections,10 40,000 from car crashes11 and 250,000 from medical errors.12 Nutritionist Luke Yamaguchi provides this perspective:
?Comparing the numbers, we can see that the odds of dying from lightning are greater than the odds of dying from rubella, mumps and rotavirus. ?Food in the windpipe? is a greater cause of death than either the chickenpox or hepatitis A. The measles, on the other hand, is more deadly than bathing.
If we are not afraid of eating solid food, taking a bath or walking outside on a rainy day, then why are we afraid of these infectious diseases?? Yamaguchi asks.13
?If my odds of dying from the chickenpox are about the same as my odds of dying from a lightning strike, then that is a risk I?m willing to take ? Call me crazy, but I don?t mind playing those odds.
Especially when there are things that I can do proactively to boost my immune system naturally and reduce my risk of dying from any infectious disease ? not just the ones for which there is a vaccine.?
Harm ? The Other Side of the Benefit Equation
The risk-benefit evaluation cannot end there, however. While some vaccines have indisputably saved lives, one must also compare the estimated number of lives saved against the number of people harmed by that same vaccine.
As noted by Yamaguchi, while vaccine benefits have been well-quantified, virtually no attempt has been made to accurately quantify the amount of harm done and, without that, you cannot get an accurate picture of a vaccine?s true value to public health.
Using the measles vaccine as an example, and without adjusting for population growth, Yamaguchi estimates some 24,200 lives have been saved by this vaccine over the past 55 years.
Meanwhile, as of March 31, 2018, more than 89,355 adverse reaction reports have been filed with the federal Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) in the U.S. following vaccination with the measles vaccine, including 1,657 disabilities and 445 deaths.14
While those statistics still come out in favor of the measles vaccine saving more lives than it takes, it is important to take into account the fact that an estimated 99 percent of adverse reactions to vaccines are never reported to VAERS. As noted in 2011 by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality:15
?Adverse events from vaccines are common but underreported, with less than 1 percent reported to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Low reporting rates preclude or delay the identification of ?problem? vaccines, potentially endangering the health of the public. New surveillance methods for drug and vaccine adverse effects are needed.?
No Definitive Answers for Which Is More Dangerous ? Measles or the MMR Vaccine
Once the available VAERS reports are multiplied by 100 to get a more accurate estimate of the actual harm, you end up with 9 million adverse reactions associated with the measles vaccine as of March 31, 2018, including 165,700 disability cases and 44,500 deaths.
Also consider that VAERS was not started until 1990,16 27 years after the introduction of the measles vaccine in the U.S. in 1963,17 so to compare the estimated number of lives saved since the inception of the vaccine with the estimated number of children harmed, you?d also have to try to extrapolate numbers of harm for those missing 27 years.
Barring such additional effort, we?re then looking at a loosely extrapolated estimate of 24,200 lives potentially saved by the measles vaccine since 1963, versus an equally if not looser estimate of 44,500 deaths potentially caused by the vaccine since 1990. Has mandated use of the MMR vaccine caused as many deaths as it prevents?
The truth is, no one knows for sure. It is not scientific to simply assume that the benefits of the MMR vaccine outweigh the risks for every individual and society as a whole without taking into account that the estimated harm from measles may have been overstated and the estimated harm from the vaccine may have been understated. Yet that?s all we get from health authorities ? assumptions masquerading as ?facts.?
Clearly, those who push for strict enforcement of laws requiring MMR vaccine use do not have the required scientific information to accurately make a reliable estimate of the true benefit of MMR or any other vaccine. As noted by Physicians for Informed Consent, under the heading ?Is the MMR Vaccine Safer Than Measles??:18
?A review19 of more than 60 MMR vaccine studies conducted for the Cochrane Library states, ?The design and reporting of safety outcomes in MMR vaccine studies, both pre- and post-marketing, are largely inadequate.?
Because permanent sequalae (aftereffects) from measles, especially in individuals with normal levels of vitamin A, are so rare,20 the level of accuracy of the research studies available is insufficient to prove that the vaccine causes less death or permanent injury than measles.?
Senator Dies From Sepsis
There are big gaps in vaccine science research and a troubling lack of information about the overall benefit of annual influenza vaccinations. Mounting evidence suggests the administration of annual flu shots, especially to all infants and children starting in the first year of life, may be causing immune system dysfunction, which could become a significant problem for children as they grow up.
New York State Senator JosÚ Peralta ? an outspoken proponent of annual flu vaccinations ? died November 22, 2018, at the age of 47 from sudden septic shock.21Sepsis is a progressive disease process initiated by an aggressive, dysfunctional immune response to an infection in the bloodstream (which is why it's sometimes referred to as blood poisoning).
Symptoms of sepsis are often overlooked, even by health professionals, and without prompt treatment, the condition can be deadly, as evidenced in Peralta?s case. He had reportedly complained of ?pressure behind his ears and headaches for a week or more,?22 but had largely dismissed his condition thinking it was just side effects from a recent flu shot.
His condition took a sudden turn for the worse on November 20, when he developed a fever. The following day, he had trouble breathing and became disoriented, at which point he was admitted to Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, New York.
Peralta died that evening, apparently from severe sepsis, a serious complication of infection for individuals whose immune systems are not functioning well, although the nature of Peralta?s infection and the precise cause of his death from sepsis apparently remains unclear.
While Peralta had recently received an influenza vaccination, research shows the flu vaccine often fails to work, and may actually weaken the immune system, making you more vulnerable to secondary infections and/or more severe disease.23,24,25 In one study,26 influenza vaccination more than quadrupled children?s risk of contracting an upper respiratory infection.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,27 the 2017-2018 seasonal influenza vaccine?s effectiveness against ?influenza A and influenza B virus infection associated with medically attended acute respiratory illness? was just 36 percent, meaning there was a 64 percent chance of contracting influenza even if you got the flu shot.
Research Highlights Link Between Influenza and Severe Sepsis
Sepsis is actually one of the leading causes of influenza-related deaths. When your immune system is weak, influenza can weaken it further, allowing a secondary infection to take hold. Sepsis is typically caused by this secondary infection, not the influenza infection itself.
According to researchers, ?Severe sepsis is traditionally associated with bacterial diseases ? However, viruses are becoming a growing cause of severe sepsis worldwide.? As noted in the video above, some sepsis symptoms also resemble influenza, which can lead to tragedy. The video offers guidelines on how to tell the difference between the two.
Sepsis, without doubt, requires immediate medical attention, whereas most people will successfully recover from influenza within a few days to a week with bedrest and fluids. Just how influenza can lead to sepsis is a somewhat complex affair, described as follows:28
?Regardless of the etiologic agent, the inflammatory response is highly interconnected with infection. In the initial response to an infection, severe sepsis is characterized by a proinflammatory state, while a progression to an anti-inflammatory state develops and favors secondary infections ?
In the predominant proinflammatory state, Th1 cells activated by microorganisms increase transcription of proinflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF-?), interferon-? (INF-?), and interleukin-2 (IL-2).
[C]ytokines ? released from endothelial cells and subsequently from macrophages can induce lymphocyte activation and infiltration at the sites of infection and will exert direct antiviral effects. Subsequently, with the shift toward an anti-inflammatory state, activated Th2 cells secrete interleukin-4 (IL-4) and interleukin-10 (IL-10).
In certain situations, T cells can become anergic, failing to proliferate and produce cytokines. Type I IFN has a potent anti-influenza virus activity; it induces transcription of several interferon stimulated genes, which in turn restrict viral replication. However, influenza virus developed several mechanisms to evade IFN response ?
Viral infections such as the influenza virus can also trigger deregulation of the innate immune system with excessive cytokines release and potential harmful consequences. An abnormal immune response to influenza can lead to endothelial damage ? deregulation of coagulation, and the consequent alteration of microvascular permeability, tissue edema and shock.?
Unfortunately, even when properly diagnosed, conventional treatments for sepsis often fail, and most hospitals have yet to embrace the use of intravenous (IV) vitamin C, hydrocortisone and thiamine,29 which have been shown to reduce sepsis mortality from 40 to a mere 8.5 percent.30,31
Being aware of this treatment (see below), and insisting on it should you or someone you love be at risk, could be a real lifesaver. Knowing what sepsis looks like is also crucial, as early diagnosis and treatment is crucial.
Signs and Symptoms of Sepsis
Common signs and symptoms of sepsis to watch out for include:32
A high fever
Inability to keep fluids down
Rapid heartbeat; rapid, shallow breathing and/or shortness of breath
Lethargy and/or confusion
Slurred speech, often resembling intoxication
Should a few or all of these be present, seek immediate medical attention to rule out sepsis. Also inform the medical staff that you suspect sepsis, as time is of the essence when it comes to treatment. As noted in the video above, hydration is of utmost importance, as damage caused by sepsis begins with fluid loss.
Familiarize Yourself With This Life-Saving Sepsis Protocol
If you or a loved one develops sepsis, whether caused by influenza or some other infection, please remember that a protocol of IV vitamin C with hydrocortisone and thiamine (vitamin B1) can be lifesaving.33 Tell your doctor and suggest it be part of the treatment ? chances are, he or she might not even be aware of it.
This lifesaving sepsis treatment protocol was developed Dr. Paul Marik, a critical care doctor at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in East Virginia, and clinical use has proven it to be remarkably effective for the treatment of sepsis, reducing mortality nearly fivefold.
Marik?s retrospective before-after clinical study34,35 showed that giving patients IV vitamin C with hydrocortisone and vitamin B1 for two days reduced mortality from 40 percent down to 8.5 percent.
Importantly, the treatment has no side effects and is inexpensive, readily available and simple to administer. There is nothing to lose by trying it unless the person with sepsis has a specific genetic disorder: Use of the sepsis treatment protocol is contraindicated if a person is glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficient (a genetic disorder).36 G6PD is an enzyme your red blood cells need to maintain membrane integrity.
High-dose IV vitamin C is a strong pro-oxidant, and giving a pro-oxidant to a G6PD-deficient individual can cause their red blood cells to rupture, which could have disastrous, even fatal, consequences.
Fortunately, G6PC deficiency is relatively uncommon, and can be tested for. People of Mediterranean and African decent are at greater risk of being G6PC deficient. Worldwide, G6PD deficiency is thought to affect 400 million individuals, and in the U.S., an estimated 1 in 10 African-American males have it.37
How Does the Treatment Work?
Vitamin C is well-known for its ability to prevent and treat infectious diseases. Previous research has shown it effectively lowers proinflammatory cytokines and C-reactive protein.38,39,40 Influenza,41 encephalitis and measles42 have all been successfully treated with high-dose vitamin C.
To investigate the mechanism of action for sepsis, Marik reached out to John Catravas, Ph.D., a pharmacology researcher at Old Dominion University. At Marik?s request, Catravas performed an independent lab study, which confirmed the effectiveness of the treatment. Catravas cultured endothelial cells from lung tissue and then exposed them to endotoxins found in patients with sepsis.
Interestingly, vitamin C acts like the steroid hydrocortisone, yet when either vitamin C or the steroid were administered in isolation, nothing happened. When administered together, however, the infection was successfully eradicated and the cells were restored to normal.
The addition of thiamine is also important. Not only is thiamine required for metabolism of some of the metabolites of vitamin C, research has also shown many patients with sepsis are vitamin deficient, and when thiamine is given, it reduces the risk of renal failure and mortality.
Studies have also shown thiamine can be helpful for a long list of diseases and disorders, including mitochondrial disorders,43 heart failure,44 delirium,45 thyroid fatigue and Hashimoto?s (a thyroid autoimmune disorder).46 These and other health effects may help explain why thiamine works so well in conjunction with vitamin C and hydrocortisone for sepsis. In short, the key Marik intuitively stumbled upon was the right combination of ingredients.
Dr. Craig Coopersmith, a leading sepsis researcher at Emory University School of Medicine, is currently conducting a multicenter trial to put Marik?s vitamin C protocol to the test.47 The projected completion date for this study is May 30, 2019.48
Strong Immune Function Minimizes Your Risk of All Sorts of Infections
It?s important to remember that your immune system is your first-line defense against all types of infections, be they bacterial or viral, so the most effective way to make it through flu season unscathed and avoid other infections that may turn deadly is to bolster your immune function.
While conventional health authorities claim getting an annual flu shot is the best way to ward off influenza, the medical literature suggests vitamin D optimization is a very effective strategy in helping to prevent respiratory infections of all kinds during the flu season.49,50,51 A number of studies52,53,54 have confirmed that people with higher vitamin D levels report fewer bouts of cold or flu.
A scientific review55 published 2017 concluded that people with significant vitamin D deficiency (blood levels below 10 ng/mL) can cut their risk of respiratory infection by 50 percent simply by taking a vitamin D supplement. People with higher vitamin D levels also benefited but to a lesser degree. Overall, they reduced their risk by about 10 percent, which the researchers stated was about equal to the effect of flu vaccines.
Aside from vitamin D, loading up on vitamins B1 and C may also go a long way toward keeping you healthy through the flu season and beyond. (Influenza has also been successfully treated with high-dose vitamin C.56)
Taking zinc lozenges at the first sign of a cold or flu can also be helpful, as zinc boosts immune function and plays a vital role in activating your body?s T cells (white blood cells tasked with destroying infected cells). For a list of common-sense strategies to further reduce your risk of sepsis, please see ?Vitamin C ? A Game Changer in Treatment of Deadly Sepsis.?
Salmon is the second most popular type of seafood in the U.S. (shrimp is the first), with just over 2 pounds consumed annually, per person.1 While many love its flavor, a key reason behind its popularity has to do with its perceived health benefits. As a rich source of beneficial animal-based omega-3 fats, salmon can, indeed, be a very healthy food choice.
However, it can also be among the worst food choices, and the difference lies in the details. While wild-caught Alaskan salmon is an example of good-for-you salmon, rich in healthy fats and low in pollutants, farm-raised salmon is not. Unfortunately, farm-raised makes up 75 percent of the salmon consumed worldwide, and its volume has increased nearly 1,000 percent from 1990 to 2015.2
Two Dumpsters Full of Rotting Salmon Discovered at Fish Farm
The video above, captured by Don Staniford of Scottish Salmon Watch, shows dead salmon rotting in dumpsters at two Scottish salmon farms, one owned by Marine Harvest and the other by Scottish Salmon Company.
?This is symptomatic of factory farming ? it?s the underbelly of battery factory salmon farming. Infectious diseases are rife in the industry and about a fifth of farmed salmon stock is dying. The fish in these tanks are not going to shops but they have been swimming alongside ones that are,? Staniford said in a news release.3 ?These fish are dying of horrible infections and diseases.?
It?s unclear how the fish in the video died, but salmon farms are required to store dead fish in a safe manner prior to disposal.4 How many farmed salmon are dying every year in Scotland?
According to Scottish Salmon Watch in a submission to the Scottish Parliament in March 2018, record levels of mortalities were uncovered in 2017 ? 25,000 tons amounting to an estimated 15 million to 20 million farmed salmon, which is a mortality rate of 26.7 percent.5
The mortalities appear to be on the rise, increasing from 5,000 tons in 2002 to 10,000 tons in 2011. As for what?s killing the fish, a laundry list of diseases was reported on Scottish salmon farms in 2017, including:6
Salmon gill poxvirus
Complex gill issues
Proliferative gill disease
Amoebic gill disease
Haemorrhagic smolt syndrome
Heart and skeletal muscle inflammation (HSMI)
Enteric redmouth disease
Farmed Salmon Could Pose ?Irrecoverable Damage to the Environment?
Farmed salmon is Scotland?s biggest food export, bringing in more than $789 million annually,7 and the industry is set to expand from a volume of 163,000 tons in 2016 to 200,000 tons in 2020.8 The industry claims aquaculture, as fish farming is known, is beneficial because it creates jobs while providing a sustainable source of food, but conservation groups and even government entities are finding otherwise.
The Scottish Parliament's Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee issued a report in 2018 that found a host of concerning issues surrounding farmed salmon and concluded the industry could ?cause irrecoverable damage to the environment? if said issues were not addressed.9 Some of the top issues covered in the report include:10
Sea lice are marine parasites that attach to salmon skin, feeding on their skin and blood and leading to wounds that can be life threatening. Fish farms, with their large numbers of salmon living in close proximity, are ideal breeding grounds for sea lice, and there?s potential for lice on salmon farms to infect wild salmon, damaging their populations.
?Although conclusive evidence for damage at the population level is hard to find in Scotland, studies in Norway show that increasing sea lice burdens on wild salmonids adds to pressures on the wild populations already impacted by climate change, river modification and commercial fishing,? the report noted.11
While medications added to farmed salmon feed or water can help prevent sea lice buildup, they only represent a bandage ? not a solution to the problem.
?Nearly all of these treatments are costly, none are fully effective, and most need to be repeated,? according to the review.12 ?In addition, sea lice populations also appear to be developing resistance to many existing treatment medicines and therapeutants.?
The Scottish Salmon Company has attempted to block the public release of photos showing their diseased salmon and even claimed losses of more than $1.3 million in 2016 because of sea lice and other disease. Despite this, they reported profits of over $38 million in 2017.13 Sea lice also represent a welfare issue for the fish, as the parasites can literally eat the salmon alive.
OneKind, an animal welfare group in Scotland, is calling for a halt on expansions to salmon farms until the sea lice issue and other welfare concerns are under control.
?It is now widely acknowledged that fish are sentient animals and are capable of feeling pain,? OneKind campaigner Sarah Moyes told The Ferret. ?Not only does this make this suffering wholly unacceptable, but the industry?s reputation is once again being damaged by another report of animal neglect.?14
Diseases Could Spread to Wild Salmon
The Scottish Parliament report pointed out that fish farms provide a ?favorable habitat? for the growth and spread of pathogens and parasites. Water currents can then spread the pathogens from farmed fish to wild salmon populations.
?There is some evidence that some disease is transmitted between farmed and wild fish by direct infection, by escapees, or by infection from wild to farmed fish,? the researchers noted, and ?Increased numbers and sizes of farms could lead to increased risk of infection of wild fish unless improvements in farm biosecurity and disease prevention outpace the expansion of production.?15
Fish Farm Waste Accumulates on the Seabed, Degrades Marine Life
Seabed marine life are known to significantly degrade when located beneath or near fish farms, and although they can recover if the industrial site is abandoned, full recovery can take more than two years. Further, monitoring of marine life is not sufficient enough near farms or in protected habitats, to reveal whether long-term damage is occurring.
Fish Farms May Lead to Nutrient Overload, Algae Blooms
Increased nutrients, including ammonium and phosphate, are observed near salmon farms, which could disturb the balance of organisms, degrade water quality and lead to the overgrowth of algae.
Drugs and Other Chemicals Could Be Harming Ecosystems
Drugs and other chemicals, including pesticides and antibiotics, used in the treatment of sea lice, fungal infections and bacterial infections in farmed salmon also pose a risk to the surrounding ecosystem.
For instance, British Columbia granted aquaculture company Cermaq Canada a permit to apply 2.3 million liters of Paramove 50, a pesticide, to 14 salmon farms in Clayoquot Sound in order to fight sea lice.
Not only may the pesticide be toxic to other marine life such as Dungeness crab, prawns and herring, but it?s also known to suppress salmon immune systems, making them even more susceptible to viruses. In turn, wild salmon swimming by may be further exposed to deadly diseases.
?Increased production is likely to require additional use of existing or newly developed chemicals,? the report added. ?There is a lack of ability to adequately predict low-level effects of long-term usage of these chemicals on benthic and pelagic ecosystem components at the scale of lochs.?16
Escaped Farmed Salmon Could Interbreed With Wild Populations
It?s estimated that 146,000 farmed salmon escape from fish farms into the sea in Scotland alone, a number that?s likely underreported. In Norway, it?s already been shown that genes from farmed salmon have mixed with wild populations.17
Dangers Posed to Predators, Including Seals
A number of marine mammals and birds find salmon farms to be attractive sources of prey. One of the largely unknown casualties of industrial fish farms are seals, which may be legally shot by fish farmers and fishermen ?when necessary? under the U.K.?s Conservation of Seals Act.18
According to Andy Ottaway,19 campaign director with the Seal Protection Action Group (SPAG), about 1,600 seals were shot in Scotland alone over the last six years, primarily by industrial fish farmers like Marine Harvest Scotland and Scottish Sea Farms.
Some fish farms have taken steps to deter seals using nonfatal means, such as the use of acoustic devices to scare seals away and removing dead fish from the cages to avoid luring the animals in. Still, gray seal populations have dwindled to 400,000 individuals worldwide, one-quarter of which live in U.K. waters.
Farmed Fish Isn?t a Healthy Choice of Food
Farmed salmon typically contain far more pollutants than wild-caught fish, along with an inferior profile of fatty acids. When the Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested farmed salmon from U.S. grocery stores, they found farmed salmon had, on average:20
16 times more PCBs than wild salmon
4 times more PCBs than beef
3.4 times more PCBs than other seafood
Further, while half a fillet of wild Atlantic salmon contains about 3,996 milligrams (mg) of omega-3 and 341 mg of omega-6,21 the same amount of farmed Atlantic salmon contains an astounding 1,944 mg of omega-6.22
The standard American diet is already heavily skewed toward omega-6, thanks to the prevalence of processed foods, and with farmed salmon, that unhealthy imbalance is further magnified rather than corrected.
Part of the problem is the fish feed given to farmed salmon, which may include everything from fishmeal to corn gluten meal, soybean meal and feather meal.23 The fishmeal used to produce commercial fish feed not only accumulates toxins found in the fish, but also poses another sustainability threat.
About 25 percent of wild-caught fish ? amounting to about 20 million tons of seafood ? is used to make fishmeal that?s fed to farmed fish,24 and stocks of wild fish may be dwindling as a result.
The Farmed Fish Market Is Collapsing
It appears the word may be getting out about the potentially disastrous consequences of farmed fish to the environment and human health.
Nasdaq reported that prices for Norwegian farmed salmon are falling, with all major weight classes decreasing. The average price per kilo was $5.80 near the end of November 2018, down more than 10 percent compared to one month prior, and nearly 8 percent compared to 12 weeks prior.25
When seeking healthy, environmentally friendly salmon, look for "Alaskan salmon" and "sockeye salmon," as Alaskan sockeye is not allowed to be farmed. Avoid Atlantic salmon, as typically salmon labeled "Atlantic Salmon" comes from fish farms.
If price is a factor (wild salmon can be pricier than farmed varieties), canned salmon labeled "Alaskan salmon" is a less expensive alternative to salmon fillets but will still offer the health benefits and flavor you?re after.
There may be unsafe drug residues in your beef, pork, chicken and turkey, but the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), doesn't think you should be alarmed.
Safety scientists at Consumer Reports disagree and suggest the residues could potentially be dangerous ? and at the very least consumers should be alerted when residues are found and the potential risks should be investigated. The residues stem from nearly 6,000 samples of meat from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), taken from October 2015 to September 2016.
"I'm floored by these results," Andrew Gunther, executive director of sustainable farming nonprofit A Greener World, told Consumer Reports. "These are potentially very dangerous drugs, appearing in more samples and at higher levels than I would have ever expected."1
FSIS Downplays Drug Residues, Uses Inadequate Safety Cut-Offs
FSIS uses cutoff levels for drug residues in meat that are higher than those recommended by Consumer Reports, other scientists and other government agencies. Known formally as the minimum level of applicability (MLA), FSIS set higher cutoff limits partly in response to updated testing equipment that is able to detect lower amounts of potentially dangerous substances.
Consumer Reports quoted Dr. Robert Poppenga, a professor of veterinary toxicology at the California Animal Health & Food Safety Lab at the University of California, Davis, who has worked with the FSIS:2
"Analytical equipment has gotten so sensitive that it's possible to detect things that you wouldn't have 20 years ago ? [the MLA gives] authorities some flexibility, and if they do find something at a very, very low level, they don't necessarily have to take regulatory action."
The high safety thresholds set by FSIS are inconsistent even with those set by other U.S. government agencies. For instance, the FSIS regulatory cutoff for chloramphenicol, an antibiotic, in meat is 3 parts per billion (ppb), but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has blocked imports of shrimp that contained the drug at levels of 0.3 ppb.3
Another drug, the anti-inflammatory phenylbutazone, has safety cutoffs ranging from 1 to 11 ppb in Europe, in contrast to the FSIS' much more generous limit of 50 ppb.4 For reasons unknown, FSIS does not use the limit of quantitation (LOQ), which is the lowest amount of a substance that can be reliably measured. LOQ is a widely accepted scientific standard.
Dr. Ronald Baynes, veterinary and director of the Center for Chemical Toxicology Research and Pharmacokinetics at North Carolina State University?s College of Veterinary Medicine, told Consumer Reports, ?I find that very disturbing that [the FSIS has] different standards."5
In their review of the data, Consumer Reports used their own more conservative safety cutoffs, which were a "best estimate" based on interviews with experts and reviews of government documents.
What Drugs Were Found in US Meat?
Consumer Reports, which obtained the FSIS data via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests made by food safety organizations, reported that hundreds of the meat samples tested positive for drugs that are supposed to be banned or restricted in U.S. meat. This included:
? Chloramphenicol ? This antibiotic is associated with several toxic effects in humans, including aplastic anemia (an inability to produce new blood cells, basically, a fatal form of anemia), and this effect is not dose dependent.
Because of its severe health risks to humans, chloramphenicol is only permitted for use in dogs and cats, yet the drug was found in beef, chicken, pork and turkey samples. The highest levels were found in beef.
In all, 81 of 2,865 beef samples contained this dangerous drug, and 12 of them contained levels above the FSIS cutoff (which again is 10 times higher than the FDA's cutoff for imported foods). Pork, followed by chicken, had the next-highest levels.
? Phenylbutazone ? This anti-inflammatory pain reliever is also known to cause aplastic anemia in humans, along with other blood disorders and cancer. Twenty-four of 1,448 pork samples contained the drug; one was above the FSIS cutoff.
? Ketamine ? Ketamine is a hallucinogenic anesthetic, used experimentally as an antidepressant. Of 4,313 beef and pork samples combined, 225 had ketamine above the threshold suggested by Consumer Reports, while 15 were above the FSIS cutoff.
? Nitroimidazole ? An antifungal drug with suspected carcinogenic activity, of 5,756 beef, pork and poultry samples, 667 contained the drug in levels above the CR threshold while 136 were above the FSIS cutoff.
As for how the drugs are winding up in meat, Consumer Reports suggested a number of possible routes of entry or exposure, including:
Improper use, such as giving too high a dose or administering the drug too close to slaughter
More Deaths Are Attributed to Poultry Than Any Other Food
Poultry products are surprisingly likely to be contaminated with bacteria that can make you sick, including salmonella. FSIS data from October 2017 to October 2018 detected salmonella in poultry from producers including Pilgrim's Pride, Tyson Foods, Foster Farms and many others, at establishments located across the U.S., from Iowa to Arkansas to New York and California.6
A Consumer Reports study of chicken in the U.S. revealed similarly dangerous conditions after testing 252 samples from CAFO chickens and 64 brands of antibiotic-free chicken (including 24 organic samples). The study revealed:7
All the brands tested (Perdue, Pilgrim's, Sanderson Farms and Tyson) contained "worrisome amounts" of bacteria
More than half the samples were contaminated with fecal contaminants, including enterococcus and E. coli
The most common bacterium was enterococcus, found in nearly 80 percent of the samples, followed by E. coli in 64 percent, campylobacter in 43 percent, klebsiella pneumoniae in 14 percent, salmonella in 11 percent and staphylococcus aureus in 9 percent
Nearly half the samples tested positive for at least one multidrug-resistant bacterium and 11.5 percent contained two or more
The prevalence of pathogens in poultry is so high that it's incredibly easy to be sickened by such products, even if you don't eat the meat. As reported by Consumer Reports:8
"According to James R. Johnson, M.D., a professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases and international medicine at the University of Minnesota, you don't have to ingest a lot of bacteria to become sick.
It's possible that simply touching the plastic wrapping on the outside of chicken packages might expose you to harmful bacteria, Johnson says. A 2010 study led by CDC scientists found that 13 percent of children younger than 3 were potentially exposed to raw meat or poultry products while riding in a grocery store shopping cart.9"
According to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics, there were 5,760 reported foodborne outbreaks between 2009 and 2015, resulting in 100,939 illnesses, 5,699 hospitalizations and 145 deaths. Of these, chicken was responsible for the most outbreak-associated illnesses ? 3,114 illnesses in total (12 percent).10
What's more, in an analysis of outbreaks from 1998 through 2008, the CDC revealed that "more deaths were attributed to poultry than to any other commodity."11 Consumer Reports even stated, "It's unrealistic to expect that the uncooked chicken you buy won't contain any potentially harmful bacteria."12
Most UTIs Are Caused by CAFO Poultry
While many strains of E. coli live in your intestines, and can end up causing a urinary tract infection (UTI) if introduced to your urinary tract via your own feces or during sexual intercourse, other strains of E. coli come from external sources like contaminated food. UTIs may actually be a foodborne illness caused by eating chicken contaminated with certain strains of E. coli.
In a study involving nearly 2,500 chicken, pork and turkey samples purchased from large retail stores in Flagstaff, Arizona, nearly 80 percent were found to contain E. coli.13 The researchers also tested blood and urine samples from people who visited a major medical center in the area, finding E. coli in about 70 percent of those diagnosed with a UTI.
In particular, a strain of E. coli known as E. coli ST131 showed up in both the meat samples, particularly poultry, and the human UTI samples. Most of the E. coli in the poultry was a variety known as ST131-H22, which is known to thrive in birds and was also found in the human UTI samples.
"Our results suggest that one ST131 sublineage ? ST131-H22 ? has become established in poultry populations around the world and that meat may serve as a vehicle for human exposure and infection," the researchers noted, adding that this E. coli lineage is just one of many that may be transmitted from poultry and other meat sources to people.
Leave Raw CAFO Poultry in the Store
Chicken is portrayed as one of the healthiest protein sources, but in addition to the contamination issues you may be surprised to learn that CAFO chicken also has a weak nutritional profile compared to other protein sources, including pasture-raised chicken.
The American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA) published a study that compared the nutrition of chickens fed on pasture with the USDA?s National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference values for CAFO chicken, for example. The pasture-raised chickens were higher in vitamins D3 and E and had an average omega-3-to-6 ratio of 1-to-5, compared to the USDA?s value of 1-to-15.14
The average American buys 83 pounds of poultry every year, but you're probably better off leaving it at the supermarket.15 Pasture-raised poultry is not likely to pose the same risks of contamination, as a large part of the problem stems from the dire living conditions on CAFOs. Consumer Reports noted:16
"According to the public-health expert J. Glenn Morris Jr., M.D., director of the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida, it's perfectly common for a chicken's intestinal tract to carry salmonella, campylobacter, or both, and when they're contained there, they don't harm the animal.
? [but] if a chicken living in cramped conditions regularly comes into contact with feces, the bacteria can cling to its skin and make their way onto your dinner plate."
Eat Eggs Instead of CAFO Chicken
In contrast to CAFO chicken meat, eggs, particularly organic pastured varieties, are one of the best protein sources you can eat. They?re a valuable source of vitamins (A, D, E and K), omega-3 fats and antioxidants, as well as choline.
Eggs are also rich in the antioxidant carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which are beneficial for vision health. And egg yolks are an excellent source of healthy fat and protein, while providing you with vitamins that many Americans are lacking. Eating egg yolks may even be an ideal way to resolve other common nutrient deficiencies beyond choline, including vitamins A, E and B6, copper, calcium and folate.17
The Cornucopia Institute released an egg report and scorecard, which ranks egg producers according to 28 organic criteria. It can help you to make a more educated choice if you're buying eggs at the supermarket. If you choose to eat chicken, finding a local grass fed farmer raising chickens on pasture is the safest, and healthiest, route to go.
Among most people in the U.S., cassava could be called a fairly unfamiliar vegetable, but it?s viewed as an important staple in diets of millions of people around the world. Visually similar to sweet potatoes, this root vegetable has its own unique and beneficial set of nutrients, and several other advantages, as well, not always for food.
From a shrub with the botanical name Manihot esculenta, cassava is also known as yuca root (but not the same as yucca), or manioc. Apart from being a major food source, cassava has proven itself to be quite versatile.
As the Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition1 notes, cassava roots are either ?sweet,? containing less than 50 milligrams (mg) of potential hydrogen cyanide per kilogram (km), or ?bitter,? with at least 250 mg of hydrogen cyanide per km of fresh root.
The sweet and bitter aspects are both significant, as the sweet variety is used for food, while the bitter type is used in industrial applications. Either way, the cyanide content, which is significant, is lowered during cooking or processing. This is important, especially when it comes to its use as a food (as I?ll discuss later).
Some claim that cassava originated in Portugal, with its earliest cultivation in Portugal and subsequent transport to Central Africa and eventual arrival in Asia and the South Pacific.2 According to Softschools3, Nigeria is the most prominent manufacturer of cassava, while Thailand is the leading exporter of cassava worldwide.4
Easy to grow in areas warm enough to avoid frost, cassava roots consist of four to eight individual tubers at the base of the stem, each around 12 inches long and roughly 2 or 3 inches wide. It?s propagated via stem cuttings. Beginning with the nutritional aspects and adding others, here are five of the top benefits of cassava.
1. Cassava has a wide array of nutrients ? The content of the root itself is essentially pure carbohydrates, and in fact may be the highest-calorie tuber known, but it does have its benefits, especially in areas of the world where calories are at a premium. Another way to put it is that it has a wide variety of nutrients, but not a lot of any one thing.
The root may not have a lot of protein as vegetables go, but it has more than most cereals and pulses, with 2.5 percent of the DRI (dietary reference intake) in the same one-half-cup serving, and more protein than that of other tropical food sources, such as plantains, white potatoes or yams.
One cup of boiled cassava5 contains 330 calories, 78 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of protein and 4 grams each of fiber and sugar. You?ll also find B-complex vitamins contained in cassava including folate, thiamin, B2, B5 and B6, as well as iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, potassium and manganese.
According to MedicalNewsToday,6 cassava is a source of resistant starch, which scientists say resistant starch may boost a person's gut health by helping nurture beneficial gut bacteria. Resistant starch is beneficial because it feeds the friendly bacteria in your colon and turns them into important short-chain fatty acids.
It also improves your gut bacteria and, as a bonus, may lower your blood glucose levels. Resistant starches remain relatively unchanged as they pass through your digestive tract.
Another beneficial aspect of eating cassava is its fiber, which is broken down into short-chain fats to both balance and enhance your gut bacteria.7 Cassava also contains saponins to help lower inflammation.
2. Cassava: A crop that can feed the world ? Cassava is one of the ancient foods that sustained generations of people who lived along the banks of the Amazon River in South America. In fact, not just the roots but the leaves of the cassava plant were consumed long before Columbus ever arrived.
Not much has changed; cassava is still recognized as an important food source for millions, as people in around 80 countries, from Nigeria to Cameroon to Togo, reportedly rely on cassava as a vital food source, which translates to bolstering the diets of about 800 million people, a 2012 study notes.8
In addition, it?s known as one of the most drought-resistant crops in the world,9 without much need for fertilizer.
3. Cassava is useful for manufacturing and livestock purposes ? Cassava is used to feed animals on a gigantic scale, primarily in South America, the Caribbean and Europe. Its leaves are harvested when the plant is still young and sun-dried for a few days, then the hay is used to feed cows, buffalo, goats and sheep.10
?A Feasibility and Market for Cassava Industrialization in Uganda,? published in 2017, notes that cassava is also used to make fabrics, paper and building materials, including plywood, as well as for the production of ethanol for use as biofuel,11 with China and Brazil the most prominent manufacturers of cassava-based biofuel.
4. Cassava is extremely versatile ? Published in 1988, a comprehensive book called ?Cassava in Food, Feed and Industry?12 lists a number of different drinks and fermented foods that cassava is used in after being peeled, soaked, cubed, grated or ?riced.? Cassava may also be roasted, boiled, steamed into a paste, dried, baked and crumbled.
Cassava is often mixed with other foods such as coconut and bananas to change its texture and flavor. As a carbohydrate, cassava can be mashed, made into chips or french fries, and used in dishes both sweet and savory, like the latter for a Cuban dish known as yuca con mojo, combining cassava with citrus juices, garlic, onion, cilantro, cumin and oregano.
5. Cassava is gluten-free ? This means it doesn?t contain the protein gluten, like wheat, that can cause potentially serious adverse reactions. What does ?gluten-free? mean in terms of food manufacturing?
In 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a new definition for "gluten-free" for the purpose of food labeling, which stated a food must contain no more than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten to be labeled as gluten-free.13 As Medical News Today explains:
?An ingredient that has been derived from a gluten-containing grain can be labeled as ?gluten-free? if it has been processed to remove gluten and use of that ingredient results in the presence of less than 20 ppm of gluten in the food.?14
However, some foods are gluten-free naturally, and cassava is one of them. Interestingly, some are labeled ?gluten-free? when it?s clear that cassava doesn?t contain gluten ? and couldn?t.
Caveat Concerning Cassava Consumption: Don?t Eat It Raw
There?s a really big caveat to eating cassava: Avoid eating it raw, because it?s toxic in this form. One study15 notes that as a root crop, it accumulates two cyanogenic glucosides: linamarin and lotaustralin. It?s the linamarin, found in all parts of the cassava plant but primarily concentrated in the root and leaves, that produces the toxic compound hydrogen cyanide (HCN). As Mother Nature Network observes:
?When properly soaked and dried, and especially when people have protein in their diet, bitter cassava is OK; but when any of the process is skimped on, problems arise. Due to correct food processing and strict regulations, cyanide-laced cassava poses little threat to Americans who eat the root.
But, in Africa, where cassava has become a major part of subsistence diets, many poor people suffer from a chronic and crippling form of cyanide poisoning known as konzo.?16
Only soaking the cassava roots and leaves and cooking them at high temperature render the toxic compounds harmless. Otherwise, side effects can be serious and range from intoxication and extreme pain to nausea and death.17 Along with dangerously decreased levels of iodine comes an increased risk of developing goiter, a thyroid condition, all due to cyanide poisoning.18
If they happen to ingest raw cassava, children can experience irreversible paralysis in their legs, and the elderly can develop a condition known as tropical ataxic neuropathy (TAN), resulting in a loss or distortion of sensation in the hands and feet, weakness, poor vision and difficulty walking.19
How Tapioca Is Made
Tapioca is the starchy liquid extracted from the cassava root to make tapioca flour, the base for a uniquely sweet, delicious dessert in the form of pudding, and often used as a thickening agent.20 In comparing cassava root with tapioca, one cup of dry pearl tapioca contains 544 calories, 135 grams of carbohydrates and 5 grams of sugar.21
In most parts of the world, harvesting cassava roots is a manual process. About 70 percent of each root is water and 24 percent is starch, with 3 percent being fats, minerals and sugars, 2 percent fiber and 1 percent protein.22 Because they begin to degrade within 24 hours of being harvested, timely and thorough processing is recommended.
According to a book written in 2003, ?The Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition,? It?s a tedious process: First, dirt and debris are washed away from the roots, and then the tough skin peeled off.
To break the cell walls, roots are chopped into small chunks to feed into what is called a rasp disintegrator to dispose of the hydrogen cyanide, and the remaining pulp washed on screens to strain out the starches and retain the fiber, which is usually used either as fertilizer or cattle feed. The book adds:
?The starch slurry (also called starch milk), after screening, is put through a continuous centrifuge to separate the starch from fine fiber and soluble material. This can also be achieved by sedimentation.
Starch thus collected may be reslurried and put through a centrifugal purification process as desired. Typically, sulfur dioxide (0.05 percent) is added to water used in the centrifugation purification processes to prevent microbial growth.
Starch slurry from the purification process is dewatered by centrifugation or vacuum filtration and then dried by drum, belt, tunnel or flash methods. Flash-drying is most common. The final moisture content of the dried starch is in the range of 12 to 14 percent. Dried starch aggregates are pulverized to obtain a free-flowing powder.?23
Additionally, tapioca starch is sold in several forms, depending on what it will be used for, and the texture depends on such factors as the plant variety, where it was grown, its age, the amount of rainfall, fertility of the soil and the manufacturing processes implemented.
Clearly, cassava has made its mark on the world and continues to do so. In the future, cassava may have important potential for use in food and manufacturing processes worldwide. According to Medical News Today:
?Scientists may eventually be able to replace high-fructose corn syrup with cassava starch. Researchers are also hoping that cassava could be a source of the alcohol that manufacturers use to make polystyrene, PVC and other industrial products.?24
1 According to recent research, to boost metabolism and increase energy expenditure you need to:
Decrease protein intake
Increase protein intake
Decrease net carb intake
Recent research shows that as your carbohydrate ratio diminishes, energy expenditure increases. On average, those eating just 20 grams of carbs a day burned 250 calories a day more than those eating 60 grams. Learn more.
Increase net carb intake
2 The latest strategy the media and industry is using to restrict your access to the truth under the guise of "fake news" is:
Blacklisting sites based on popularity
NewsGuard site ratings for trustworthiness
NewsGuard will rate online news brands based on nine criteria of credibility and transparency, ostensibly to help readers avoid fake news. Learn more.
3 Of the 40 retailers evaluated by the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families' Mind the Store campaign, how many have made meaningful progress at improving the chemical safety of the products, food and packaging they sell?
About half the 40 retailers evaluated by the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families' Mind the Store campaign have made meaningful progress at improving the chemical safety of the products, food and packaging they sell during 2018. Learn more.
4 Which of the following remedies may have played a significant role in the deaths of 50 million people during the influenza epidemic of 1918?
Leading medical journals of the day actually recommended using 25 aspirin a day to suppress the fever in patients suffering from influenza. Many of the people who died from influenza were found to have bleeding in the lungs, a strange symptom of the flu and a known side effect from aspirin overdose. Learn more.
5 Which of the following plants produce red berries that are toxic to humans and should not be used?
Climbing honeysuckle varieties can produce red berries that are toxic to humans. If ingested, you may experience side effects such as stomach upset, vomiting,diarrheaand nausea. Learn more.
6 What is the approximate death toll from cervical cancer each year in the U.S.?
Zero, thanks to the HPV vaccine
Nearly 4 million
As of 2018, about 13,240 new cases of cervical cancer will be diagnosed, and about 4,170 will die from it. If you get regular pap smears, your chances of dying from cervical cancer is 0.00002 percent. Learn more.
7 A controversial hypothesis suggests the central immune dysfunction in Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is associated with:
A retrovirus family known asxenotropic murine leukemia virus-related viruses(XMRVa) may play a causal role in chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic myalgic encephalopathy and other diseases, including autism. Learn more.
Normally, sugar and cancer go together in a negative way. Because a growing number of studies show sugar feeds cancer1,2,3,4 and plays a role in most chronic disease,5 I typically advise you eliminate refined sugar from your diet. I also recommend you limit your fructose consumption for similar reasons. Even when consumed in the form of whole fruit, fructose may be harmful to your health if eaten excessively.
Now, research out of Scotland suggests a type of sugar called mannose, found in cranberries and other fruits, may be useful in the treatment of certain cancers. In experiments involving lab mice, mannose was shown to interfere with the ability of cancerous tumors to take up glucose. It also boosted the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs.
Mannose Shown to Suppress Cancer in Lab Mice
While sugar has been shown to fuel cancer growth, a team of European researchers, most of whom represent the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute for Cancer Research at Scotland?s University of Glasgow, have found quite the opposite.
In experiments involving lab mice, Kevin Ryan, Ph.D., professor of molecular cell biology at the University of Glasgow, and his colleagues found mannose:6,7,8
Slowed the growth of multiple cancers, including lung, pancreatic and skin, presumably by interfering with the ability of cancerous tumors to take up glucose
Reduced the size of cancerous tumors
Boosted the effectiveness of cancer drugs ? specifically cisplatin and doxorubicin, two of the most widely used chemotherapy medications
Did not affect the weight or health of the mice
Mannose also increased the life span of some of the mice. The results of their research were published in the November 2018 issue of the journal Nature.9 To date, mannose has been used as a natural treatment for cystitis (inflammation of the bladder) and urinary tract infections (UTIs).
After Ryan and his team added mannose to the drinking water of mice suffering from lung, pancreatic or skin cancer, they noticed tumor growth slowed. In addition, they noted no obvious side effects to the mice treated with mannose.
?Tumors need a lot of glucose to grow, so limiting the amount they can use should slow cancer progression,? said Ryan. ?The problem is that normal tissues need glucose, as well, so we can?t completely remove it from the body.?10
As such, the researchers had to find a dose of mannose sufficient to block glucose such that it slowed tumor growth, but allowed normal tissues to remain unaffected. ?This is early research, but it is hoped that finding this perfect balance means that, in the future, mannose could be given to cancer patients to enhance chemotherapy without damaging their overall health,? Ryan stated.11
Beyond the cancers mentioned above, the team exposed cells from other types of cancer ? including bone, bowel, leukemia and ovarian ? to mannose. Some of the cancer cells responded well to mannose while others did not. About this, one source noted, ?The anticancer potential of mannose appeared to depend on whether an enzyme that breaks down the sugar was present in cells.?12
Should You Use Cranberry Juice to Treat UTIs or Cancer?
Very likely you?ve been told that drinking cranberry juice can soothe cystitis and UTIs. Now, the current research seems to suggest it can be used to treat cancer. As such, you may be thinking about loading up on cranberry juice, which I do not recommend.
First, while the use of mannose to treat bladder and urinary tract issues is well founded, I advise you to avoid cranberry juice as a medical treatment. That?s because you?d have to drink a lot of juice, which is often laden with toxic amounts of sugar.
For those conditions, consult your medical practitioner to ensure an accurate diagnosis and then inquire about the possible use of a mannose-containing supplement. Second, with respect to cancer treatment and mannose, keep in mind this research is preliminary and has yet to be tested on humans.
With respect to that, Ryan commented, ?Our next step is investigating why [the] treatment only works in some cells, so that we can [determine] which patients might benefit the most from this approach.? He expressed his desire to see clinical trials begin on mannose ?as soon as possible to determine its true potential as a new cancer therapy.?
Martin Ledwick, Cancer Research UK?s head information nurse, joined Ryan in cautioning cancer patients to resist the temptation to self-medicate with mannose. Ledwick said:
?Although these results are very promising for the future of some cancer treatments, this is very early research and has not yet been tested in humans.
Patients should not self-prescribe mannose as there is a real risk of negative side effects that haven?t been tested for yet. It?s important to consult with a doctor before drastically changing your diet or taking new supplements.?
The bottom line is it?s difficult to regulate your body?s glucose levels in a healthy manner through self-experimentation. This is particularly the case if you are dealing with a serious illness like cancer or diabetes. While mannose may be a useful complementary treatment, I also encourage you to:
Eat a healthy, whole food diet, which implies avoiding processed foods and sugar, especially soda and sweets
Get at least seven to nine hours of high-quality sleep every night
Reach out for or continue receiving treatment from professional health care practitioners who are familiar with your condition and experienced in natural approaches
What Is Mannose and How Does It Work?
As mentioned, mannose is a monosaccharide found in cranberries and other fruits, including apples, blueberries, oranges and peaches. It also resides in vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and green beans.
About this simple sugar, The Clinical Advisor says, ?In addition, d-mannose occurs naturally in some cells in the human body and is thought to be a prebiotic, because consumption of d-mannose stimulates and fosters the growth of good bacteria in the digestive tract.?
Beyond its presence in whole foods and your body, mannose also commonly appears in supplement form under the name D-mannose. Although mannose is chemically considered a simple sugar, structurally, it is similar to glucose.
That said, it is absorbed more slowly in your gastrointestinal tract than glucose, which accounts for its lower glycemic index. With respect to this aspect of mannose, The Clinical Advisor notes:
?Compared with actual glucose, which is readily absorbed and has a glycemic index of 100, mannose must first be converted into fructose and then into glucose, significantly blunting the insulin response and reducing its impact on blood sugar levels.
After mannose is absorbed by the gut, it is not stored in the liver like glucose, but is filtered out of the body directly by the kidneys.?
For the experiments in which mannose was given to lab mice afflicted by cancers such as bone, bowel, leukemia and ovarian, mannose was shown to more readily disrupt cells that had lower levels of an enzyme called phosphomannose isomerase (PMI). About the impact of PMI, the study authors stated:
?Cells with low levels of PMI are sensitive to mannose, whereas cells with high levels are resistant. ? PMI levels also vary greatly between different patients and different tumor types, indicating that PMI levels could be used as a biomarker to direct the successful administration of mannose. ?
[T]he administration of mannose could be a simple, safe and selective therapy in the treatment of cancer, and could be applicable to multiple tumor types.?
Research Validates Mannose for Treating Rare Disease CDG and UTIs
D-mannose has been shown to help in the treatment of a rare disease called carbohydrate-deficient glycoprotein syndrome type 1b (CDG 1b). This condition is passed down through families and is characterized by liver and digestive problems associated with hyperinsulinism and inconstant thrombosis. Beyond that, the condition causes your body?s blood coagulation factors to be decreased.
About CDG 1b and mannose, authors of a 2009 study commented, ?In our experience, mannose given orally at least four times per day not only transformed lethal CDG 1b into a treatable disease, but also improved the general condition and digestive symptoms of all reported patients but one.?17
As mentioned, D-mannose is commonly used to prevent and treat UTIs, which are usually caused when E. coli bacteria is transferred from your intestinal tract to your urinary tract. D-mannose is great for UTIs because it attaches to the E. coli bacteria, causing them to stick to each other instead of clinging to the walls of your urinary tract.
Under those conditions, the harmful bacteria can be eliminated from your body during urination. Given the increasing instances of antibiotic resistance, natural remedies for UTIs are imperative.
A 2014 study published in the journal World Journal of Urology found D-mannose powder to be as effective as an antibiotic in treating recurrent UTIs in women. A total of 308 women were divided into three groups:18
The first group received 2 grams (g) of D-mannose powder mixed in water daily for six months
A second group was given 50 milligrams (mg) of the antibiotic Nitrofurantoin daily
The third group was a control group and received no treatment
Of the 98 patients experiencing a recurrent UTI, just 15 percent of them consumed D-mannose, whereas 20 percent took the antibiotic and 61 percent received no treatment.
With respect to the outcomes, the study authors said, ?D-mannose powder significantly reduced the risk of recurrent UTI, which was no different from [the] Nitrofurantoin group. More studies will be needed to validate the results ? but initial findings show that D-mannose may be useful for UTI prevention.?19
If you have been plagued by recurrent UTIs or bladder inflammation, particularly if you are concerned about antibiotic resistance, now may be the time to talk to your health care practitioner about trying D-mannose. It is generally quite effective for up to 90 percent of UTI cases.
The only exception would be UTIs caused by a bacterium other than E. coli; in that case, you?d be better served to ask your doctor about supplements known to disrupt biofilms.20
Mannose Contributes to the Healing Properties of Aloe Vera
While you probably know aloe vera is beneficial for soothing burns, improving wound healing and inhibiting inflammation, you may not be aware that the major sugar in aloe vera is mannose. In a 1994 study, lab mice receiving 300 mg/kilogram (kg) of mannose-6-phosphate showed improved wound healing compared to those treated with saline controls.
The researchers noted, ?This dose also had anti-inflammatory activity.?1` Authors of a 2004 study added, ?The clear pulp, also known as inner gel, of [the] Aloe vera L. leaf is widely used in various medical, cosmetic and nutraceutical applications. Many beneficial effects of this plant have been attributed to the polysaccharides present in the pulp.?22
Another source states, ?High concentrations of mannan saccharides are available in the gel of aloe plants. Laboratory studies show the effects of glucomannan saccharides signals as they activate the immune response through increased expressions of interleukin-1, interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor.?
Cautions About Taking Mannose
While mannose is thought to be well tolerated in most people, I do not recommend supplementing with it if you are pregnant or breastfeeding due to the lack of research validating its safe use. That said, pregnant and breastfeeding moms should be fine consuming mannose-containing foods, assuming it is done in moderation.
The side effects associated with mannose may include bloating and loose stools. Beyond that, since mannose could make it harder to regulate your blood sugar if you have diabetes, use caution when taking D-mannose supplements if you are diabetic.
While the news about mannose as a potential cancer fighter is encouraging, more research, including clinical trials, is needed to validate its effectiveness. For your safety, always consult a medical professional before taking a new supplement or changing the dosing associated with any of your existing supplements.