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Wednesday, October 01, 2014
By Dr. Mercola
Both artificial sweeteners and certain gut microbes have previously been linked to obesity, and according to the latest research, artificial sweeteners may raise your risk of diabetes by disrupting your intestinal microflora. According to the authors of the widely publicized study:1
"[W]e demonstrate that consumption of commonly used non-caloric artificial sweeteners formulations drives the development of glucose intolerance through induction of compositional and functional alterations to the intestinal microbiota."
The researchers found that artificial sweeteners alter certain metabolic pathways associated with metabolic disease, and that it can induce gut dysbiosis and glucose intolerance in otherwise healthy people.
Glucose intolerance is a condition in which your body loses its ability to cope with high amounts of sugar, and it's a well-known precursor to type 2 diabetes. It also plays a role in obesity, because the excess sugar in your blood ends up being stored in your fat cells.
The fact that artificial sweeteners may exacerbate metabolic disorders like diabetes is a severe blow to diabetics who dutifully follow recommendations to switch to diet foods and beverages in order to control their diabetes.
The fact that artificial sweeteners are NOT a dieter’s nor a diabetic’s best friend has been known by researchers for some time. The problem is that it hasn’t received the necessary traction in the media—until now.2, 3
"Collectively, our results link non-caloric artificial sweeteners (NAS) consumption, dysbiosis and metabolic abnormalities, thereby calling for a reassessment of massive NAS usage," the researchers note.
Artificial Sweeteners Can Cause Glucose Intolerance by Altering Your Microbiome
The researchers initially started out testing the artificial sweeteners saccharin, aspartame, and sucralose in mice, and were "surprised" when the mice developed glucose intolerance.
As noted by New York University microbiologist Martin Blaser,4 no one had previously considered that artificial sweeteners might exacerbate metabolic disease by way of the microbiome.
Of the three non-caloric sweeteners tested, saccharin had the most pronounced effect on glucose levels. This led to a human trial, in which data from 400 people enrolled in a nutritional study were assessed.
Those who consumed high amounts of artificial sweeteners were found to have higher levels of HbA1C—a measure of blood sugar—compared to non-users or occasional users of artificial sweeteners.
Seven volunteers who did not use artificial sweeteners were then recruited, and asked to consume the equivalent of 10-12 single-dose packets of artificial sweeteners daily for one week.
Four of the seven people developed "significant disturbances in their blood glucose," according to the researchers. Some became pre-diabetic within just a few days!
The reason for this dramatic shift was traced back to alterations in gut bacteria. Some bacteria were killed off, while others started proliferating. As noted in the featured NPR article:5
"It could be that for some people who responded negatively to the artificial sweetener, the bacteria that got crowded out were helping to keep glucose in check."
This mirrors previous research,6 which has found that bacterial populations in the gut of diabetics differ from non-diabetics.
Another 2008 study demonstrated that sucralose can alter the microbiome in rats by reducing colonies of beneficial gut bacteria, and research published in Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology7 in 2012 revealed a potential link between aspartame and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Imbalanced gut flora has also been linked to obesity.
Compelling Results Suggest We Should Reconsider Widespread Use of Artificial Sweeteners
In sharp contrast to many other studies, this one was actually able to clearly show causality, meaning there’s a direct cause and effect relationship between consuming artificial sweeteners and developing elevated blood sugar levels. As reported by The Scientist:8
"Four weeks of treatment with gut bacteria-depleting antibiotics reversed the glucose intolerance in mice that continued to receive saccharin. This led the team to examine whether the microbiomes of the mice were somehow altering glucose metabolism.
Transplantation of feces from non-antibiotic-treated mice that consumed saccharin- or glucose-containing water into germ-free mice within six days induced the same blood-sugar elevations in animals that were never themselves exposed to the sweeteners.
'This is the elegant and home run experiment that shows causality in mice,' said [pathologist Cathryn] Nagler.
Using shotgun metagenomic sequencing on the fecal samples, the researchers showed that mice given saccharin or those that received a fecal transplant from saccharin-fed mice had a different microbiome composition compared to mice given sugar or no sweeteners."
Cathryn Nagler, who wrote an accompanying commentary9 in the journal Nature, said the findings were “very compelling,” noting that “the study suggests... we should step back and reassess our extensive use of artificial sweeteners.”
Aspartame Raises Insulin Levels as Much as Sugar
Other studies have also linked artificial sweeteners to metabolic alterations that promote type 2 diabetes—contrary to conventional thinking and health recommendations.
For example, one 2012 study10 found that chronic lifetime exposure to aspartame, commencing in utero, produced changes in blood glucose parameters in mice. Not only was aspartame found to decrease insulin sensitivity compared to controls, it also wrought havoc on brain function...
Another study published in 2007 in the journal Diabetes Care11 found similar results. Here, the researchers investigated the effect of different macronutrient compositions on plasma glucose and insulin levels during an acute bout of exercise in men with type 2 diabetes.
They hypothesized that using fructose or aspartame would have a lower impact on insulin release and glucose response than a sucrose-sweetened meal. Those of you who have been reading my articles featuring experts on sugar and fructose like Dr. Richard Johnson and Dr. Robert Lustig will immediately recognize this as a fatally flawed hypothesis. And indeed, that is what they discovered. According to the authors:
"Contrary to all expectation, the aspartame breakfast induced a similar rise in glucose and insulin levels at baseline than the sucrose meal, even if the aspartame meal had the same taste, and was 22 percent lower in calories and 10 percent lower in carbohydrates, with an inferior glycemic index... Considering the lack of evidence on the aspartame utilization in patients with type 2 diabetes, we consider that these clinical observations, in an exercise setting, raise important concerns regarding the safety of aspartame as suggested by international guidelines."
Obesity Continues to Rise
According to a recent JAMA study,12, 13 the obesity rate among American adults has continuously climbed over the last decade. Between 1999 and 2012, the average age-adjusted waist circumference increased from 95.5 centimeters (37 19⁄32 inches) to 98.5 centimeters (38 25⁄32 inches). Abdominal fat also rose from 46.4 percent in 1999-2000 to 54.2 percent in 2011-2012. The United Kingdom is facing a similar health crisis. According to September 17 article in Mail Online:14
“Obesity is a ‘slow-motion car crash’ which is threatening to bankrupt the NHS, according to its chief executive. Simon Stevens said the problem is now more deadly than smoking and causing millions to suffer life-long illness and disability. He also revealed that – absurdly – the NHS is spending far more on drastic weight loss surgery than trying to prevent the problem in the first place. A quarter of adults and a fifth of children are now considered obese and the rates have almost doubled in 20 years...
Next month, Mr. Stevens will publish a set of plans to tackle the problem which will see the NHS and private firms urged to do more to help staff lose weight. Doctors and nurses will be encouraged to be healthy role models for patients and hospitals told to ban junk food from canteens. NHS trusts and private companies will also be urged to help staff lose weight by holding slimming classes, running clubs or just providing bike racks at work. Mr. Stevens, who took up post last April, said: ‘Obesity is the new smoking, and it represents a slow-motion car crash in terms of avoidable illness and rising health care costs...” [Emphasis mine]
Artificial Sweeteners Can Severely Hinder Weight Management Efforts
Those who switch to artificial sweeteners are typically carrying extra pounds and/or are diabetic, or prone to these conditions. Unfortunately, this may be the absolute worst diet change you could implement if you're overweight or diabetic. Research has repeatedly shown that artificially sweetened no- or low-calorie drinks and other "diet" foods tend to stimulate your appetite, increase cravings for carbs, stimulate fat storage and weight gain, and promote insulin resistance and diabetes.
There are a number of different reasons for this. First of all, artificial sweeteners basically trick your body into thinking that it's going to receive sugar (calories), but when the sugar doesn't arrive, your body signals that it needs more, which results in carb cravings. This connection between sweet taste and increased hunger can be found in the medical literature going back at least two decades (see list of selected studies below). But artificial sweeteners also produce a variety of metabolic dysfunctions that promote weight gain—and now we can add gut dysbiosis and altered microbiome to that list!
In 2011, the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio publicized the results of two important studies, saying:15
"In the constant battle to lose inches or at least stay the same, we reach for the diet soda. Two studies presented [June 25, 2011] at the American Diabetes Association's Scientific Sessions suggest this might be self-defeating behavior. Epidemiologists from the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio reported data showing that diet soft drink consumption is associated with increased waist circumference in humans, and a second study that found aspartame raised fasting glucose (blood sugar) in diabetes-prone mice...
‘Data from this and other prospective studies suggest that the promotion of diet sodas and artificial sweeteners as healthy alternatives may be ill-advised,’ said Helen P. Hazuda, Ph.D., professor and chief of the Division of Clinical Epidemiology in the School of Medicine. ‘They may be free of calories but not of consequences.’” [Emphasis mine]
Sampling of Studies Refuting 'Diet' Claims
Here's a sampling of some of the studies published through the years, clearly refuting the beverage industry's claims that diet soda helps with weight management. The 2010 review in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine16 is of particular relevance here, as it offers a great historical summary of artificial sweeteners in general, and the epidemiological and experimental evidence showing that artificial sweeteners tends to promote weight gain. It also illustrates that as usage of artificial sweeteners has risen, so has obesity rates—despite all these "diet friendly" products.
Preventive Medicine 1986 Mar;15(2):195-20217 This study examined nearly 78,700 women aged 50-69 for one year. Artificial sweetener usage increased with relative weight, and users were significantly more likely to gain weight, compared to those who did not use artificial sweeteners—regardless of their initial weight. According to the researchers, the results “were not explicable by differences in food consumption patterns. The data do not support the hypothesis that long-term artificial sweetener use either helps weight loss or prevents weight gain.” Physiology and Behavior, 198818 In this study, they determined that intense (no- or low-calorie) sweeteners can produce significant changes in appetite. Of the three sweeteners tested, aspartame produced the most pronounced effects. Physiology and Behavior, 199019 Here, they found that aspartame had a time-dependent effect on appetite, “producing a transient decrease followed by a sustained increase in hunger ratings.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 199120 In a study of artificial sweeteners performed on college students, there was no evidence that artificial sweetener use was associated with a decrease in their overall sugar intake either. International Journal of Obesity and Metabolic Disorders, 200421 This Purdue University study found that rats fed artificially sweetened liquids ate more high-calorie food than rats fed high-caloric sweetened liquids. The researchers believe the experience of drinking artificially sweetened liquids disrupted the animals' natural ability to compensate for the calories in the food. San Antonio Heart Study, 200522 Data gathered from the 25-year long San Antonio Heart Study also showed that drinking diet soft drinks increased the likelihood of serious weight gain – far more so than regular soda23 On average, for each diet soft drink the participants drank per day, they were 65 percent more likely to become overweight during the next seven to eight years, and 41 percent more likely to become obese. Journal of Biology and Medicine, 201024 This study delves into the neurobiology of sugar cravings and summarizes the epidemiological and experimental evidence concerning the effect of artificial sweeteners on weight.
According to the authors: “[F]indings suggest that the calorie contained in natural sweeteners may trigger a response to keep the overall energy consumption constant. ...Increasing evidence suggests that artificial sweeteners do not activate the food reward pathways in the same fashion as natural sweeteners… [A]rtificial sweeteners, precisely because they are sweet, encourage sugar craving and sugar dependence.”
Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 201025 This review offers a summary of epidemiological and experimental evidence concerning the effects of artificial sweeteners on weight, and explains those effects in light of the neurobiology of food reward. It also shows the correlation between increased usage of artificial sweeteners in food and drinks, and the corresponding rise in obesity. Appetite, 201226 Here, researchers showed that saccharin and aspartame both cause greater weight gain than sugar, even when the total caloric intake remains similar. Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, 201327 This report highlights the fact that diet soda drinkers suffer the same exact health problems as those who opt for regular soda, such as excessive weight gain, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.28, 29 The researchers speculate that frequent consumption of artificial sweeteners may induce metabolic derangements. Nature, 20130 This study was able to clearly show causality, revealing there’s a direct cause and effect relationship between consuming artificial sweeteners and developing elevated blood sugar levels.
People who consumed high amounts of artificial sweeteners were found to have higher levels of HbA1C—a long-term measure of blood sugar—compared to non-users or occasional users of artificial sweeteners.
Seven volunteers who did not use artificial sweeteners were then recruited, and asked to consume the equivalent of 10-12 single-dose packets of artificial sweeteners daily for one week.
Four of the seven people developed “significant disturbances in their blood glucose,” according to the researchers. Some became pre-diabetic within just a few days.
The reason for this dramatic shift was traced back to alterations in gut bacteria. Some bacteria were killed off, while others started proliferating.
Are There ANY Safe and Healthy Alternatives to Sugar?
One of the best strategies to kick the sugar habit is to implement intermittent fasting, and to make sure you’re eating enough healthy fats. Once your body has the proper fuel, your sweet cravings will radically diminish. If you need a sweetener you could use stevia or Luo Han, both of which are safe natural sweeteners. For a comprehensive review of the best and worst sweeteners, please see my previous article, “The 4 Best, and 3 Worst Sweeteners to Have in Your Kitchen.” Just remember, if you struggle with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or extra weight, then you have insulin sensitivity issues and would benefit from avoiding ALL sweeteners.
If you're having trouble weaning yourself off soda, try Turbo Tapping. Turbo Tapping is a clever use of the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), specifically designed to resolve many aspects of an addiction in a concentrated period of time. Last but not least, if you experience side effects from aspartame or any other artificial sweetener, please report it to the FDA (if you live in the United States) without delay. It's easy to make a report — just go to the FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator page, find the phone number for your state, and make a call reporting your reaction.
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
By Dr. Mercola
Many people covet the “new car smell” that comes of a new car. A similar smell comes along with some new carpeting and is typically a sure sign it is releasing toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into your home’s air.
VOCs can include highly toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, along with benzene, toluene, perchloroethylene, and more. In the short term, such as immediately after new carpeting is installed, VOCs may cause headaches, nausea, and nerve problems, along with irritation to your eyes, nose, and throat.
Over time, exposure to VOCs has been linked to an increased risk of cancer in animal studies.1 VOCs come from many sources, but those released in your home are potentially the most dangerous because they accumulate in the air (whereas VOCs released outdoors are naturally diluted).
New Carpeting May ‘Flood’ Your Home with VOCs
The largest release of VOCs from new carpeting will occur in the first 72 hours after installation. However, low levels can continue to be emitted for years later (adding to the other VOCs in your home’s air from paints, varnishes, furniture, and other sources).
This is likely one reason why new carpet installation is associated with wheezing and coughing in babies during their first year of life,2 although there are other chemicals of concern as well. As reported by the Ecology Center:3
“Synthetic carpets are made from nylon fibers with a polypropylene backing. Of the chemicals released from carpet, most notable are styrene and 4-phenylcyclohexane (4-PC), both of which come from the latex backing used on 95 percent of carpets.
The ‘new carpet’ aroma is the odor of 4-PC off-gassing, which is an eye– and respiratory-tract irritant that may also affect the central nervous system. The adhesive used to affix the carpet to the floor typically contains benzene and toluene, some of the most harmful VOCs.”
Flame Retardants, Stain Protectors, and Insecticides Common in Carpeting
Carpeting, including its backing, adhesives, and padding, is often treated at the factory with toxic flame retardants, stain protectors, and moth repellants. A report from Greenpeace Research Laboratories explained:4
“The majority of industrially produced carpets contain a range of chemical additives. Chemicals are impregnated during the manufacture of the carpet fiber or are introduced externally as topical treatments on the final product.
The proposed purpose of some of these chemicals is to protect against dust mites, bacteria, molds and fungi. However, the addition of chemicals to carpets results in potential human exposure to hazardous chemicals in the home and other indoor environments.”
Greenpeace research analyzed eight carpet samples and found some contain high levels of endocrine-disrupting organotins, flame retardants, and permethrin (a pesticide), along with low levels of formaldehyde.
Flame-retardant chemicals, like PBDEs, have been linked to serious health risks like infertility, birth defects, neurodevelopmental delays, reduced IQ scores and behavioral problems in children, hormone disruptions, and various forms of cancer.
In fact, PBDEs were recently identified as one of 17 “high priority” chemical groups that should be avoided to reduce your breast cancer risk.5
When flame retardants are combined with VOCs, pesticides, and the additional chemical cocktail in carpeting (and other synthetic household products), it’s anyone’s guess what the result may be on human health and the environment (but rising rates of allergies, asthma, and chronic diseases give some indication…).
Greening Your Carpet: Tips for Less Toxic Carpeting
If you can, avoid carpeting altogether in favor of less toxic flooring surfaces (like hardwood, bamboo, or stone/tile). If not, it’s important to know how to “green” your carpet.
This takes a bit of due diligence, as even seemingly “healthier” carpets, like those that include recycled materials can be problematic. Some manufacturers are using a byproduct from coal-fired power plants, called coal fly ash, in their recycled carpeting, which is concerning because it may contain toxic heavy metals.6
First, consider carpeting and rugs made from natural materials, like wool. These will (typically) not contain flame-retardants or stain-resistant chemicals and will naturally repel insects. Carpets made from wool make up only a very small percentage of total production (0.4 percent) while nylon has the largest market share (57 percent).7
You can also look for carpeting with the Green Label Plus, which is given to the lowest-emitting carpet, adhesive, and cushion products on the market. The downside is that the Green Label Plus program is industry-run by the Carpet and Rug Institute.
When your carpet is installed (even if it’s Green Label), it’s recommended that you have it unrolled and allow it to air-out in a well-ventilated space for 72 hours prior to installation (such as in a warehouse). If that’s not possible, it’s best to stay elsewhere for the first 72 hours after new carpeting is installed, and keep the area well ventilated to release toxins.
You may also want to consider buying refurbished carpet, or having yours cleaned using non-toxic methods, instead of buying new, which will be better for your health and the environment. If you’ll be disposing of your old carpeting, be aware that pulling up old carpet will release significant amounts of toxins into the air, so precautions should be taken.
Billions of pounds of old carpeting are sent to landfills every year, causing considerable environmental pollution and burden. Check out the Carpet America Recovery Effort to find out if your old carpet can be recycled.8
Water from Laundry Is Releasing Flame Retardants Into the Environment
The issue of household chemicals is complex and stretches far beyond carpeting. Flame retardant chemicals, for instance, are also found in furniture and other household goods. They’ve even been detected in laundry wash water, according to scientists with the Washington Toxics Coalition.9 They tested household dust and wash water and found flame retardant chemicals in all samples tested.
They believe the chemicals are sloughing off couches and TVs, collecting on clothing and washing out in the laundry. From there, they’re going right through wastewater treatment plants and out into local waterways.
Prior studies have shown flame retardants in the Columbia River as well as wildlife in the area, and the new research provides a potential explanation why. Today, it's estimated that 90 percent of Americans have some level of flame-retardant chemicals in their bodies. The study’s lead author explained:
“Toxic flame retardants are hitchhiking on our clothes and literally coming out in the wash… This study demonstrates for the first time a key way that toxic flame retardants found in our homes are transported to outdoor environments.”
Chemicals in Makeup, Perfume, and Plastics May Trigger Asthma in Children
Toxic chemicals are literally all around us, including in the personal care products, such as makeup and perfume, that many people use daily. One recent study by researchers at the University of Columbia in New York measured chemicals called phthalates – used widely in plastics and personal care products – in the urine of pregnant women. Those with the highest levels had children who were 72 percent more likely to develop asthma.10
And, compared to women with low levels, children born to women with the highest levels of one type of phthalate (di-n-butyl phthalate) had a 78 percent greater risk of asthma. The researchers urged women to check their makeup for the presence of phthalates as well as take other precautions. Said Dr. Robin Whyatt of Columbia University:11
“These chemicals are very widely used in very high volume and they are not generally listed on labels… There are some simple steps families can take. Avoid using plastic containers and as much as you can store your food in glass jars in the fridge… Never microwave in plastic. It is also worth considering cutting back on using any scented products – cosmetics, perfumes, air fresheners and detergents.”
How to Minimize Your Risks from Indoor Air Pollutants
Inhaling toxins in your indoor air that outgas from household items like carpeting, as well as picking them up via household dust, are among the primary sources of toxin exposure. The most effective way to improve your indoor air quality is to control or eliminate as many sources of pollution as you can first, before using any type of air purifier. This includes accounting for molds, tobacco smoke, VOCs from paints, aerosol sprays, and household cleaners, pesticides, phthalates from vinyl flooring and personal care products, pollutants from pressure-treated wood products, radon gas, and more (see tips below).
The next step to take is free—open some windows. Of course, this can only take you so far, but it's an important and simple step. Next, since it is impossible to eliminate ALL air contaminants, one of the best things you can do is incorporate a high-quality air purifier. At present, and after much careful review and study, I believe air purifiers using Photo Catalytic Oxidation (PCO) seem to be the best technology available. Aside from using an air purification system, there are a number of other steps you can take to take charge of your air quality and greatly reduce the amount of air pollutants generated in your home:
- Vacuum your floors regularly using a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner or, even better, a central vacuum cleaner that can be retrofitted to your existing house if you don’t currently have one. Standard bag or bagless vacuum cleaners are another primary contributor to poor indoor air quality. A regular vacuum cleaner typically has about a 20-micron tolerance. Although that's tiny, far more microscopic particles flow right through the vacuum cleaner than it actually picks up! Beware of cheaper knock-offs that profess to have "HEPA-like" filters—get the real deal.
- Increase ventilation by opening a few windows every day for 5 to 10 minutes, preferably on opposite sides of the house. (Although outdoor air quality may be poor, stale indoor air is typically even worse by a wide margin.)
- Get some houseplants. Even NASA has found that plants markedly improve the air! For tips and guidelines, see my previous article “The 10 Best Pollution-Busting Houseplants.”
- Take your shoes off as soon as you enter the house, and leave them by the door to prevent tracking in of toxic particles.
- Discourage or even better, forbid, tobacco smoking in or around your home.
- Switch to non-toxic cleaning products (such as baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and vinegar) and safer personal care products. Avoid aerosols. Look for VOC-free cleaners. Avoid commercial air fresheners and scented candles, which can outgas literally thousands of different chemicals into your breathing space.
- Avoid powders. Talcum and other personal care powders can be problematic as they float and linger in the air after each use. Many powders are allergens due to their tiny size, and can cause respiratory problems.
- Don't hang dry-cleaned clothing in your closet immediately. Hang them outside for a day or two. Better yet, see if there's an eco-friendly dry cleaner in your city that uses some of the newer dry cleaning technologies, such as liquid CO2.
- Upgrade your furnace filters. Today, there are more elaborate filters that trap more of the particulates. Have your furnace and air conditioning ductwork and chimney cleaned regularly.
- Avoid storing paints, adhesives, solvents, and other harsh chemicals in your house or in an attached garage.
- Avoid using nonstick cookware, which can release toxins into the air when heated.
- Ensure your combustion appliances are properly vented.
- Make sure your house has proper drainage and its foundation is sealed properly to avoid mold formation.
- The same principles apply to ventilation inside your car—especially if your car is new—and chemicals from plastics, solvents, carpet, and audio equipment add to the toxic mix in your car's cabin. Like the smell of new carpeting, that "new car smell" can contain up to 35 times the health limit for VOCs "making its enjoyment akin to glue-sniffing."12
Additionally, you may want to consider an active form of air purification, rather than passive air filtration. I personally use two of our Pure & Clear air purifiers to constantly purify the air in my home, There is not a filter in these units; they merely circulate particles that decimate VOCs and mold spores that happen to be in the air. For even more information, see “The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality” issued by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.
By Dr. Mercola
I've previously written about how your environment and lifestyle, particularly your diet, has a direct influence on your genetic expression. For example, research using identical twins have shown that diet trumps genes in terms of the level of health you achieve.
The science of epigenetics also challenges the conventional view of genetics, proving that the environment determines which traits a gene will express, and that your fate is in no way written in stone even if you have genetic predispositions.
Findings such as these offer tremendous amounts of hope for every single one of us, as it removes us from the position of victims of our heredity, and makes us masters of our own health and well-being.
Alas, as expressed in the featured article1 by Jonathan Latham, PhD, it has become increasingly clear that there's collusion going on between our government, industry, and scientists, to hide the fact that everything from human health and intellectual capacity to various addictions are indeed caused by the environment in which we find ourselves.
Science Increasingly Used as a Tool for Social Control
Latham starts off by discussing a truly blatant example of this type of manufactured PR. A recent study2 found that 98 percent of all variation in educational attainment (i.e. whether you complete high school or college) is accounted for by factors other than your genetic makeup.
"This implies that most of student success is a consequence of potentially alterable social or environmental factors," Latham writes.
"This is an important and perhaps surprising observation, of high interest to parents, teachers, and policymakers alike; but it did not make the headlines. The likely reason is that the authors of the study failed to mention the 98 percent figure in the title, or in the summary. Nor was it mentioned in the accompanying press release.
Instead, their discussion and interest focused almost entirely on a different aspect of their findings: that three gene variants each contribute just 0.02% (one part in 5,000) to variation in educational attainment.
Thus the final sentence of the summary concluded not with a plea to find effective ways to help all young people to reach their full potential but instead proposed that these three gene variants "provide promising candidate SNPs (DNA markers) for follow-up work."
This is as spectacular a misdescription of a scientific finding as is to be found anywhere in the scientific literature. But the question is why?"
Why indeed. Well, the answer becomes rather obvious when you consider the factors at play. First of all, there's the issue of pure ego and self preservation of geneticists. Study after study demonstrates that genes actually have precious little to do with anything that happens to you.
It doesn't seem to matter what's under review, be it disease, behavior, or more nebulous areas such as your ability for "happiness"—the link to specific genetic variations remains stubbornly elusive. If gene variation is truly irrelevant, then the entire field of genetic research becomes superfluous...
But as Latham points out, the full answer to this question is more "interesting" than mere conflict of interest on behalf of scientists trying to keep their field alive. Government and a number of industries also have a vested interest in genetics, as gene variation removes responsibility from their respective shoulders. According to Latham:
"[O]ver the last 15 years, close to half the budget of the NIH has gone to genetic analysis of human populations. That is likely in excess of $100 billion dollars in the US alone.
The tobacco industry also pioneered 'behavioral genetics'. The idea that even addiction to cigarettes was a genetic phenomenon (and not a characteristic of cigarettes or tobacco) originated with the tobacco industry. The consistent aim behind promoting genetics, according to a memo written by Fred R. Panzer, Vice President of Public Relations for the Tobacco Institute, was to change the focus of attention "from one product to a type of person."
Science of Human Health in the Grip of Hidden Political Forces
In his article, Latham makes a strong case for the idea that our health science is "in the grip of hidden political forces." This is similar to what I discussed in my article, "Expert" Detractors on California Prop 37 are Shills for Big Biotech. In it, I reveal how for-profit corporations hire "third party experts" to bring their message to you, especially through the media.
This, my friends, is a commonly used form of propaganda, perfected by the tobacco industry. It's nothing but advertising masquerading as "information," or worse, as "independently-verified evidence." In essence, it's a hidden form of social control, where the opinion of the masses is steered by industry- and/or government forces.
If people can be made to believe that their genes are the primary drivers of disease, poor mental health, and even educational achievement, then those in control need not change a thing—toxins need not be removed from their products and the social control mechanism that is our US educational system can remain unaddressed, for example. It's well worth noting that evidence for genetic causations of any kind remains stunningly absent. As researchers Claudia Chaufan and Jay Joseph wrote3: "[T]hese variants have not been found because they do not exist."
It's quite clear that money and politics can and are dictating the conclusions of scientific research. I've discussed this in a number of articles that address how dramatically funding will skew a study's findings. Using the featured study as an example, the funding for the genetic research into a person's ability to attain a higher educational status was funded by a genetic epidemiology project called the Social Science Genetic Association Consortium (SSGAC), which obtains its money primarily from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the US government. The Consortium performs research under the founding premise that most outcomes in life stems from your genetic makeup. As Latham states:
"Consequently, the aim of all its projects is to physically locate these specific genetic factors on human DNA. But the actual Rietveld result implies that such genetic predispositions are pretty much irrelevant, at least as far as educational attainment is concerned. Thus we can say that SSGACs' founding premise is not in alignment with the data.
But that just brings the question back one stage further: why is the US government funding excessively genetic determinist projects such as this in the first place? The probable answer is that the US education system has many problems, which are exemplified by its low rankings on international scales. There is a danger that blame for these problems might be laid at the door of the secretary for education, the administration, or the President. This possibility could be neatly sidestepped, however, if educational attainment was genetically fated.
Essentially the same political logic applies to any human disease or disorder, or even any social complaint. If the disorder, for example autism, can be shown (or even just suggested) to have a partial genetic origin then a barn door is opened for any accused vaccine maker, or polluter, or policymaker, to evade the blame–both legally and in the perception of the public."
Genetic Causes for Cancer Could Save Industries Billions of Dollars
As an example of what we're talking about here, take a look at cancer research. While a lot of research money is funneled into genetic research, virtually nothing is spent on determining the extent to which our food and environment triggers the disease. As stated earlier, your genes will express or suppress genetic data depending on the environment in which it finds itself, meaning the presence or absence of appropriate nutrients, toxins, and even your thoughts and feelings, which unleash hormones and other chemicals in your body. Research into the health of our ancient ancestors4 also suggests that cancer is indeed a manmade disease, in large part caused by environmental factors such as:
Pesticide- and other synthetic chemical exposures A predominance of sugars and grains which causes the body to burn sugar rather than fat as its primary fuel Wireless technologies, dirty electricity, and medical diagnostic radiation exposure Pharmaceutical drugs Obesity, stress, and poor sleeping habits Lack of sunshine exposure and use of sunscreens
Were this to be officially acknowledged to be at the heart of our cancer epidemic, people would likely demand a complete overhaul of most industries that provide us with everything from food and clothes to personal care products, furnishings and more. No one really wants to take that bull by the horn, and our flawed system allows these industries to pad the pockets of politicians and regulators who make sure they're protected from invasive scrutiny.
The power and influence of some industries, such as the pharmaceutical industry, is so robust that our government has even enacted laws that prevent or severely limit you from suing pharmaceutical companies and vaccine makers when their products cause harm or death... Even worse, parents who object to the use of toxic chemotherapy on their children with cancer can have all of their children removed by the state. I predict that future generations will surely view this as an incomprehensible violation of human rights.
50 Industry Groups Form a New Alliance to Manipulate Public Opinion
Another example of the social programming that is currently in full swing is the use of front groups by industries with something to hide. For example, more than 50 front groups, working on behalf of food and biotechnology trade groups―Monsanto being the most prominent― formed a coalition called Alliance to Feed the Future. This alliance, which is being coordinated by the International Food Information Council (IFIC), was ostensibly created to "balance the public dialogue" on modern agriculture and large-scale food production and technology, i.e. this group will aim to become the go-to source for "real" information about the junk being sold as "food."
However, the groups comprising this new alliance actually represent multi-national food companies, biotech industry, and chemical companies that generate hundreds of billions of dollars worth of revenue from food related sales every year. This hardly makes them a reliable source of independent information, yet unless the public becomes widely aware of this ruse to confuse them, they will likely succeed in their mission to manipulate public opinion about food.
In a report titled: Best Public Relations Money Can Buy: A Guide to Food Industry Front Groups5, Michele Simon, JD, MPH, a policy consultant with Center for Food Safety also reveals how the food and agricultural industry hide behind friendly-sounding organizations aimed at fooling the public, policymakers and media alike.
These front groups are specifically created to mislead you about the product in question, protect industry profits, and influence regulatory agencies. This amount of collusion is clearly not necessary for a food or product that is truly safe and has great intrinsic value, but it must be done for inferior and/or dangerous products that cannot stand up to closer scrutiny by truly independent sources.
What's more, a large number of front groups have been created in order to have more seats at the Codex meetings, essentially giving chemical companies and major food manufacturers a much louder voice, in order to control the decisions made. And the decisions made at Codex affect food regulations across the world, not just in the US. To learn more about these front groups, please see my previous article, Front Groups Exposed—50 Industry Groups Form a New Alliance to Manipulate Public Opinion About Junk Food, GMOs, and Harmful Additives.
Modern Science—A "Full-Blown Enlightenment Malfunction"
As Latham states, "an extra-scientific explanation is required to explain why very large sums of taxpayer money have funded human genetic research in the face of such negative results." One such "extra-scientific" explanation by Latham is that "most of science is essentially now a top-down project."
This definitely appears to be the case in medical science, where the majority of research is funded by the very companies and industries that stand to gain from a particular result. Publication bias — the practice of selectively publishing trial results that serve an agenda — along with outright scientific fraud, has become a cancer at the core of evidence-based medicine. I am a big believer in the scientific method, provided it's applied appropriately that is. And that's the key issue here.
In order to qualify in the first place, the research must be unbiased, unprejudiced and free from any significant conflicts of interest. Sadly, this is not the case with most of modern medicine—especially not when it comes to drug research. But as the featured article points out, scientific inquiry into genetic causes are equally problematic. In fact, the ramifications may be even more far-reaching than that of corrupted drug science.
"There persists a romantic notion (retained by many scientists) that science is a process of free enquiry... But free enquiry in science is all but extinct," Latham writes. "In reality, only a tiny proportion of research in biology gets done outside of straightjackets imposed by funding agencies... The consequences of this dynamic are that individual scientists have negligible power within the system; but more importantly it opens a route by which powerful political or commercial forces can surreptitiously set the science agenda from above.
In the case of medical genetics that power has been used to deform our understanding of human nature itself.
Thus public money has bought not scientific 'progress' but the domination of intellectual enquiry by an entirely malevolent project, conceived fully outside of science. This project was intended only to ensure political paralysis and the consolidation of economic power and whatever agenda scientists thought they were following was entirely incidental. What we observe is in fact a full-blown enlightenment malfunction."
You Can Take Control of Your Health
Ideally you're already leading a healthy lifestyle, eating right, exercising and managing stress, but if you're not, it's never too late to start. Each tissue only uses about 10 percent to 20 percent of its gene complement, and you want to be sure that those genes are the most advantageous ones possible for your health. You can begin to "remind" your cells to express in a healthful way, long before you manifest a disease, by encouraging your genes to express positive, disease-fighting behaviors by leading a healthy lifestyle.
As Latham says:
"[D]espite the almost daily PR barrage of genetic determinist headlines, our fate is not written in our DNA and the state of public understanding can in principle be reversed. The hopeful truth is that there are compelling reasons to remove subsidies for junk food, pesticides from the food and water, toxins from the workplace, and social and economic injustices from society, and that when we do, things will improve."
However, I suggest you don't wait for such changes to occur. Rather take matter into your own hands, educate yourself about health, and do that which is within your own power—which is a lot, by the way. When it comes to epigenetic expression, keep in mind that diet is only part of the equation. You can also turn your genes on and off with your emotions, and exercise has a direct impact on DNA as well.
Monday, September 29, 2014
By Dr. Mercola
Dental caries are caused by demineralization of your teeth (enamel and dentin) by the acids formed during the bacterial fermentation of dietary sugars.
Demineralization is countered by the deposit of minerals from your saliva, or remineralization, which is a slow process, and enthusiasts report that fluoride prevents dental caries by enhancing this mineralization.
However, dental caries, i.e. cavities, are not caused by a lack of fluoride, which is a cumulative poison that has little, if any, impact on dental health. Despite this, government organizations, including the American Dental Association, continue to promote water fluoridation as a key part of dental health… when lowering sugar intake would be far more useful.
The More Sugar You Eat, the Greater Your Risk of Cavities Becomes: New Study
New research by Aubrey Sheiham, Emeritus Professor of Dental Public Health, Department of Epidemiology & Public Health, University College London, shows there is a “robust” log-linear relationship of dental caries to sugar intakes.1
What this means is that your risk of cavities increases the more sugar you eat – and this was found to be true despite the use of fluoride.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that sugar intake represent no more than 10 percent of your daily energy intake in order to protect against dental caries in children and adults.
But the new study found that, in order to minimize your risk of cavities, sugar should make up no more than 3 percent of your total energy intake (with 5 percent noted as a “pragmatic” or more realistic goal).
Again, the relationship between sugar intake and risk of cavities remained even in areas where fluoride was widely used. In fact, the researchers noted that adults aged 65 and older living in areas with fluoridated water and in areas where most people use fluoridated toothpaste accounted for nearly half of all tooth surfaces affected by cavities.
Yet, the prevalence of cavities was markedly reduced in adults whose diets were made up of 3 percent sugar or less. In an interview with Medical Research, Professor Sheiham explained that current approaches are missing the boat when it comes to preventing cavities:2
“Current approaches to controlling dental caries are failing to prevent high levels of caries in adults in all countries and this relates to the current high level of sugar intake across the globe. Thus, for multiple reasons, including obesity and diabetes prevention, we need to adopt a new and radical policy of progressive sugar reduction.
The progressive accumulation of dental caries, despite widespread use of fluoride, shows that sugars intakes should be <3% to minimize the disability and cost of dental caries in a population.”
Sugar Is the Primary Cause of Dental Decay
By far, excess dietary sugar is the most significant factor in driving dental decay. WHO and most dental experts agree upon this fact.3 The massive consumption of sugar in the Western diet, particularly fructose in high fructose corn syrup, fuels the fire of tooth decay. Some of the true primary causes of tooth decay cited in the literature include:
- Consistent use of refined sugar, sugary soft drinks, and processed foods in general
- Children going to bed with a bottle of sweetened drink in their mouth, or sucking at will from such a bottle during the day
- Poor dental hygiene and poor access to and utilization of dental health services, usually related to socioeconomic status
- Mineral deficiencies, like magnesium, which can weaken bones and teeth4
- Vitamin K2 is crucial for bone mineralization and unless one has a regular source of healthy non-pasteurized fermented foods in their diet, there is a good chance they will be deficient in this important nutrient.
- More than 600 medications promote tooth decay by inhibiting saliva
While the American Dental Association does recommend limiting sugar to reduce your cavity risk, the message takes a backseat to their promotion of fluoride. For years, the ADA has warned that if you stop fluoridating your water, your rates of tooth decay will increase.
Indeed, if fluoride were effective in preventing caries, you would expect to see an increase in tooth decay when fluoridation is stopped. Yet, this is NOT what we see…
Optimize Your Vitamin D Levels to Lower Your Risk of Cavities
The enamel on your teeth is made up of primarily calcium and phosphate. Vitamin D is important for increasing your body’s absorption of these substances, which may help fight demineralization. Further, vitamin D receptors can be found on both immune system cells and cells in your teeth. According to the Vitamin D Council:5
“Vitamin D can bind to these receptors and increase the amount of good antimicrobial proteins in your body which help to fight the bacteria that cause dental caries. In addition, the cells in the teeth that form dentin and enamel contain vitamin D receptors, meaning that vitamin D may play a role in their functioning.”
Several studies have shown a link between low vitamin D levels and cavities, including:
- Children with early childhood caries tend to have lower vitamin D levels than healthy children6
- Vitamin D supplementation appears to be useful for preventing dental caries in adults7
- Dental caries has been shown to be inversely related to total sun exposure, with those living in sunnier areas (with presumably higher vitamin D levels) having about half as many cavities as those living in less sunny areas
As for HOW to optimize your vitamin D levels, I firmly believe that appropriate sun exposure is the best way. There's a handy smartphone app called DMinder (dminder.info) that will tell you how much UV radiation you're getting and how many IUs of vitamin D you're making based on your local weather conditions (reported from the weather service) and other individual parameters such as your skin tone and age.
It will also tell you when to get out of the sun, to protect yourself from sunburn. If you can't get enough sunshine, then a tanning bed would be your next best option, followed by vitamin D3 supplementation. It’s important to get your levels tested regularly to be sure they’re in the optimal range.
I recommend getting your vitamin D level tested at least once per year, when your levels are likely to be at its lowest. For people in the northern hemisphere, this would be around January or February. Based on the evaluation of healthy populations that get plenty of natural sun exposure, the optimal range for general health appears to be somewhere between 50 and 70 ng/ml.
Drinking Fluoridated Water Doesn’t Prevent Cavities
According to WHO data, the US, which fluoridates about two-thirds of public water supplies, actually has higher rates of tooth decay than many countries that do not fluoridate their water, including Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Sweden.8 The following demographic studies and fluoridation trends make it clear that fluoridation has very little to do with whether or not you develop cavities.
- In Japan, fluoridation has been virtually nonexistent since the 1970s, yet rates of dental caries have declined since that time.9
- In the town of Tiel in the Netherlands, water fluoridation was discontinued in 1973, and by 1993, rates of dental caries had declined.10
- In the town of Kuopio, Finland, water fluoridation was stopped after 1992. In 1995 and 1998, dental caries had either decreased or stayed the same.11
- In two towns in former East Germany, a significant fall in the prevalence of dental caries was seen in the 20 years following cessation of water fluoridation.12
- In Canada, "the prevalence of caries decreased over time in the fluoridation-ended community while remaining unchanged in the fluoridated community."13
It’s widely accepted now that what little benefit fluoride may have is topical, not systemic, making the practice of water fluoridation all the more fruitless. But even topical fluoride, such as fluoride toothpaste, is questionable at best.
A groundbreaking study published in the journal Langmuir uncovered that the fluorapatite layer formed on your teeth from fluoride is a mere six nanometers thick.14 You'd need 10,000 of these layers to get the width of a strand of your hair…
It’s unknown whether this ultra-thin layer can actually protect your enamel and provide any discernible benefit, considering the fact that it is quickly eliminated by simple chewing.
Oral Fluoride Won’t Help Dental Decay But Is Linked to Brain Damage
Many people are still unaware that accumulating research shows adding fluoride to water supplies may be damaging to your health, including that of your brain. Earlier this year, researchers from Harvard School of Public Health and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai added fluoride to a list of 11 chemicals known to harm brain development in children.15 One of the study’s authors has previously said:16
“Fluoride seems to fit in with lead, mercury, and other poisons that cause chemical brain drain… The effect of each toxicant may seem small, but the combined damage on a population scale can be serious, especially because the brain power of the next generation is crucial to all of us."
There are 37 human studies linking moderately high fluoride exposures with reduced intelligence, 12 human studies linking fluoride with neurobehavioral deficits, and three human studies linking fluoride exposure with impaired fetal brain development,17 the idea of continuing to fluoridate drinking water is a shockingly bad idea. Approximately 100 animal studies have also linked fluoride to brain damage. This includes such effects as:18
Reduction in nicotinic acetylcholine receptors Damage to the hippocampus Formation of beta-amyloid plaques (the classic brain abnormality in Alzheimer's disease) Reduction in lipid content Damage to the Purkinje cells Exacerbation of lesions induced by iodine deficiency Impaired antioxidant defense systems Increased uptake of aluminum Accumulation of fluoride in the pineal gland
One particularly striking animal study published in 1995 showed that fluoride ingestion had a profound influence on the animals' brains and altered behavior. Pregnant rats given fluoride produced hyperactive offspring. And animals given fluoride after birth became apathetic, lethargic "couch potatoes."19 And that’s not all. Fluoride toxicity is also associated with the wide-ranging problems listed below.
Increases lead absorption Disrupts collagen synthesis Increases manganese absorption, which is also linked to lower IQ in children Crippling skeletal fluorosis and bone fractures Genetic damage and cell death Increased tumor and cancer growth Disrupts immune system Inhibits antibody production Brain damage and lowered IQ Dementia Arthritis Severe eye problems, including blindness Impaired thyroid function Bone cancer (osteosarcoma) Inactivates 62 enzymes Muscle disorders
ADA-Approved Toothpaste Is Ludicrous
The American Dental Association offers its “Seal of Acceptance” to more than 300 products, which they say have passed their “rigorous screening process.” The ADA boasts that their ADA seal is “the gold standard when it comes to evaluating the safety and efficacy of dental products,”20 but don’t fall for this self-serving propaganda. Earlier this month, for instance, a Dallas dental hygienist reported finding tiny bits of plastic, which Crest calls “microbeads,” in patients’ teeth.
The bits, which are made of polyethylene plastic, were found in Crest microbead toothpaste and were getting trapped under patients’ gums. This gives food and bacteria an entrance to your gum line, which could actually cause gum disease.21 Procter & Gamble, which makes Crest, recently reported they would stop using the “microbeads,” but many other risks remain, not only in Crest but in many other top-selling “ADA-approved” toothpastes. Colgate Total, for instance, is the only triclosan-containing toothpaste sold in the US. Research has shown that triclosan can alter hormone regulation and may interfere with fetal development.
Animal studies have also raised concerns about its ability to affect fertility, and bacteria exposed to triclosan may also become resistant to antibiotics. Even an increased cancer risk has been suggested. And, yes, despite its content of triclosan (one of the most prevalent endocrine-disrupting chemicals on the market), Colgate Total has earned the ADA’s Seal of Acceptance (proof of why this seal is virtually useless in gauging a quality toothpaste). Many ADA-approved toothpastes also contain surfactants like sodium laurel sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate (SLS), or sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES).
Surfactants are chemicals responsible for the foaming action of the toothpaste. But these chemicals can also interfere with the functioning of your taste buds, and may suppress taste receptors responsible for tasting sweet notes. This is thought to be the reason why everything tastes so bad right after you’ve brushed your teeth. So, choosing a toothpaste that does not contain SLS or SLES will allow you to taste your food properly after brushing your teeth. (As an aside, this may also be part of why coconut oil works so well for oral hygiene, as it helps maintain a more natural balance of lipids on your tongue, while still having potent antimicrobial properties.)
A Fluoride-Free Plan for Reducing Your Risk of Cavities and Improving Dental Health
Water fluoridation is ineffective and may offer no benefit at all for your teeth, not to mention placing your overall health in jeopardy. There's no reason to risk it, especially since sugar is one of the main factors in your dental health. Here are my basic guidelines for optimizing your dental health, safely and naturally, without the use of fluoride:
- Avoid fluoridated water and fluoridated toothpaste.
- Minimize your sugar and grain consumption. Keep your fructose intake to less than 25 grams per day. Avoid processed foods.
- Make sure you consume a diet rich in fresh, whole foods, fermented vegetables, and grass-fed meats, which will ensure you're getting plenty of the minerals that are so important for strong bones and teeth.
- Practice good oral hygiene and get regular cleanings from a mercury-free natural dentist.
- Consider oil pulling with coconut oil, which is a powerful inhibitor of a large variety of pathogenic organisms.
- Consume high-quality non-pasteurized fermented foods that are high in vitamin K2 to help mineralize your teeth properly.
Join the Fight to Get Fluoride Out of Drinking Water
There's no doubt about it: fluoride should not be ingested. At least when it comes to topical application, you have a choice. You can easily buy fluoride-free toothpaste and mouthwash. But you're stuck with whatever your community puts in your water, and it's very difficult to filter out of your water once it's added. Many do not have the resources or the knowledge to do so.
The only real solution is to stop the archaic practice of water fluoridation in the first place. Fortunately, the Fluoride Action Network has a game plan to END water fluoridation, both in the United States and Canada. Clean, pure water is a prerequisite to optimal health. Industrial chemicals, drugs and other toxic additives really have no place in our water supplies. So, please, support the anti-fluoride movement by making a donation to the Fluoride Action Network today.
Sunday, September 28, 2014
By Dr. Mercola
Spirulina, a type of blue-green algae, is an incredible superfood that provides a concentrated source of protein, vitamins, antioxidants, and other nutrients. As one of the oldest life forms on Earth, the use of spirulina as a food source dates all the way back to 9th century Chad, and it is believed spirulina was used by the Aztecs in 16th-century Mexico.1
Spirulina, a type of one-celled organism, got its name from the Latin word for “helix” or “spiral” because of its spring-like physical characteristic. In the US, spirulina is mostly known as a nutritional supplement or an ingredient to add nutrient power to smoothies and green drinks. However, in other parts of the world, spirulina is regarded as a valuable food source to prevent malnutrition.
What Makes Spirulina a Nutritional Superstar?
Although spirulina is often described as "blue-green algae," it is technically a type of cyanobacteria. Cyanobacteria are classified as bacteria because their genetic material is not organized in a membrane-bound nucleus. Unlike other bacteria, they have chlorophyll and use the sun as an energy source, in the way plants and algae do.
One of the special traits of spirulina is its rich protein content—it's 50 to 70 percent protein by weight (which is even better than red meat, which is about 27 percent protein). It also contains all of the essential amino acids, and 10 of the 12 non-essential amino acids, along with a potent array of other beneficial nutrients, such as:
B vitamins (including exceptionally high B-12), vitamin K, and other vitamins Naturally rich in iodine Minerals (including calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium, manganese, potassium, and zinc) One of best known sources of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA, an important fatty acid for heart and joints) Other essential fatty acids, including sulfolipids, which may be protective against HIV infection of T-helper cells2 Phytopigments (phycocyanin, chlorophyll, and carotenoids) Metallo-thionine compounds (proteins combined with metals that bind heavy radioactive isotopes) Low in carbohydrates (15-20 percent) Eighteen different amino acids
In addition to this rich nutritional blend, spirulina has the following special properties:
- The proteins in spirulina are of a highly digestible type (83 to 90 percent digestible), due to the fact that it does not have cellulose walls, like yeast and chlorella do. Therefore, the net protein utilization (NPU) is high (between 53 and 61 percent) and requires no cooking to increase the bioavailability of its proteins.
- Studies confirm a very high "protein efficiency ratio" (PER) for spirulina, meaning your body will be able to efficiently use these amino acids.
- Gamma-linolenic acid is rarely this high in ANY food and normally has to be synthesized by your body from linoleic acid. GLA is a precursor to important biochemicals, such as prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and thromboxanes, which serve as chemical mediators for inflammatory and immune reactions.
- Spirulina has no fatty acids with uneven carbon numbers and very low-level branched-chain fatty acids—two types of lipids that higher order animals, like you and me, cannot metabolize.
- Spirulina has about the same calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium content as milk, a vitamin E (tocopherol) level comparable to wheat germ, and four times as much vitamin B12 as raw liver!
Using Spirulina to Help Fight Malnutrition
Wild spirulina grows wild in the alkaline lakes of Mexico and on the African continent, although it is commercially grown and harvested all over the world. It reproduces quickly, and because the individual organisms tend to clump together, it's easy to harvest.
Commercial production of spirulina is estimated to reach 220,000 tons by the year 2020. Japan is the largest producer of spirulina, as well as the largest consumer, however its use is growing in India, as well.
For instance, the organization Antenna India provides spirulina “sweets” to children at risk of malnutrition and offer low-cost spirulina to women in self-help groups, who can then sell the superfood for profit while raising awareness about malnutrition.3
Research has shown that children who received a spirulina supplement daily five days a week for two months had better nutritional status and improved intellectual status compared to those who did not.4
This food is so nutritionally dense, in fact, that NASA and The European Space Agency are researching the benefits of incorporating spirulina into astronauts’ diets on spaceships and on Mars.5
Even beyond nutrition, spirulina offers multiple advantages to the environment and those who cultivate it. For instance, producing spirulina requires 10 times less water than other vegetables, and harvests occur year-round. And according to Antenna India, compared to soy, spirulina has a 20-fold greater harvest of protein per acre.6
Further, spirulina is easy to grow and reproduces itself with a rapid growth rate of about 30 percent a day.7 It offers benefits for workers, too, especially compared to other traditional jobs, such as working on rice paddies. According to development professional Amy Sheppey:8
“The women cultivating spirulina are paid a fair wage – about double in comparison to rice paddy workers – and the job is much less physically strenuous.
What’s more, the work is not dependent on good weather conditions and the women are not left vulnerable through intermittent employment. Considering spirulina’s numerous benefits, I question to this day why it is not used more widely across the development sector.”
Enhance Your Immune System, Reduce Inflammation, and Fight Chronic Disease with Spirulina
The health benefits of spirulina are vast and appear to impact virtually every area of your body. For instance, spirulina shows great potential for people with cardiovascular disease, in terms of creating better lipid profiles, controlling hypertension, and increasing blood vessel elasticity.
Animal studies suggest spirulina can also protect your liver, probably as a result of its high antioxidant properties and its ability to synthesize or release nitric oxide, and in a study of three antioxidant-rich diets (blueberries, spinach, and spirulina) spirulina was found to have the highest neuroprotective effect, possibly due to its ability to squelch free radicals and reduce inflammation.9
Spirulina has also been shown to benefit such wide-ranging conditions as arsenic poisoning to allergies. According to one study, patients treated with spirulina reported relief of symptoms commonly associated with allergic rhinitis, such as nasal discharge and congestion, sneezing, and itching.10 In fact, there are scientific studies supporting spirulina's potential usefulness in preventing and/or treating the following health conditions:
AMD (Age-related macular degeneration) Type 2 diabetes Cardiovascular disease, including hypertension NAFLD (Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) Liver health and decreased damage from heavy metal exposure Cerebrovascular disease (including stroke) Nutritional diseases, such as iron-deficiency anemia, pernicious anemia (B12 deficiency), vitamin A deficiency, and kwashiorkor Neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's Protection from HIV11 and other viruses Reduced allergy symptoms12 Cancer protection13 Radiation protection Bone marrow and blood health14 (especially during use of anticancer drugs) Strengthening immune defenses15 and modulating inflammatory response Reduced pain sensitivity16 by inhibiting prostaglandins, which contribute to pain and inflammation Reduction of arthritis symptoms Protection from the damage of ionizing radiation
Spirulina Safety: Beware of Contamination
Spirulina has a record of safety, even at high doses,17 with few reported side effects. However, if harvest from polluted waters, or cultivated incorrectly, it can accumulate toxins from the environment. For this reason, I recommend you avoid spirulina from Japan and nearby waters harvested after March 1, 2011, as they may be contaminated with radiation from the Fukushima nuclear incident. Ideally, only consume organic spirulina from a reputable source that is grown in pollutant-free waters.
If you are going to start on a spirulina regimen, the recommended dosage is 3,000 milligrams (mg) per day for adults, and 500 to 1,500 mg for children, for use as a preventative. For therapeutic use, 10,000 to even 20,000 mg per day is required for adults. However, remember that, in addition to being your powerhouse of essential vitamins and minerals, spirulina is a potent detoxifier. For that reason, it is best to start with a small dose and work your way up. Once you see how your body responds, you can then gradually increase your intake. Again, while side effects are minimal, the most prominent reactions you may experience are:
- Slight Fever -- The high protein content in spirulina increases metabolism, which may elevate your body temperature.
- Dark Green Waste Matter -- Spirulina can remove accumulated waste product in your colon, which may cause darker stool. Also, spirulina is high in chlorophyll. This will also turn waste matter green.
- Excessive Passing of Gas -- This may indicate that your digestive system is not functioning properly or you have an extreme build-up of gas.
- Feelings of Excitement or Sleepiness -- Your body is converting protein into heat energy, which may cause temporary feelings of restlessness. On the other hand, the detoxification process may also cause sleepiness, which may indicate your body is exhausted and needs better rest.
- Breakouts and Itchy Skin -- This is caused by the colon cleansing process and is only temporary.
It’s very likely that your body will go through an adjustment period with spirulina, and your best bet to reduce potential reactions is to start out small and increase your dose gradually to see how your body will react. However, there are some people who seem to be sensitive to spirulina and can’t tolerate it. If you are one of those, it would be wise to avoid spirulina. You might try chlorella, which has similar benefits. Most people can tolerate either chlorella or spirulina.
By Dr. Mercola
Most mainstream dietary advice recommends low-fat or non-fat dairy. But a growing number of experts argue that it’s far healthier to eat and drink whole dairy products, with all the fat left in.
Dairy foods contain roughly 50 to 60 percent saturated fat, and conventional thinking is that saturated fat is bad for your heart. This idea has been thoroughly refuted as false. It’s a mistaken interpretation of the science. In a 2010 analysis,1 scientists said:
“...There is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of [coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease].”
More recently, research presented at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) in Vienna, Austria, found that eating full-fat dairy products such as whole milk, cream, cheese, and butter, reduces your risk of developing diabetes.
Full-Fat Dairy Associated with Lower Risk of Diabetes
The study included nearly 27,000 people between the ages of 45-74 who were followed for 14 years.
As reported in The Telegraph,2 those who ate eight portions of full-fat dairy products a day cut their risk of diabetes by nearly 25 percent, compared to those who ate fewer portions. One serving counted as:
- 200 milliliters (ml) of milk or yogurt
- 20 grams (g) of cheese
- 25 grams of cream
- 7 grams of butter
Also, consuming 30 ml of cream or 180 ml of high-fat yoghurt daily reduced the risk of diabetes by 15 percent and 20 percent respectively, compared to those who ate none. According to lead author Dr. Ulrika Ericson of the Lund University Diabetes Center in Malmö, Sweden:3
“Our observations may contribute to clarifying previous findings regarding dietary fats and their food sources in relation to type 2 diabetes.
The decreased risk at high intakes of high-fat dairy products, but not of low-fat dairy products, indicate that dairy fat, at least partly, explains observed protective associations between dairy intake and type 2 diabetes...
Our findings suggest, that in contrast to animal fats in general, fats specific to dairy products may have a role in prevention of type 2 diabetes.”
In 2010, a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine4 proposed that it’s the palmitoleic acid, which occurs naturally in full-fat dairy products, that protects against insulin resistance and diabetes.
People who consumed full-fat dairy had higher levels of trans-palmitoleate in their blood, and this translated to a two-thirds lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to people with lower levels.
Other Research Showing Full-Fat Dairy Is Good for You
As I’ll discuss below, I firmly believe that pasteurized dairy products are best avoided. Unfortunately, research on raw dairy—which is always full-fat—are few and far between, so I’m going to refer to studies using pasteurized dairy for the sake of showing that the full-fat versions are the better choice.
Besides lowering your risk for diabetes, previous studies have also shown that consuming full-fat dairy may help reduce your risk of:
- Cancer: Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a type of fat found naturally in cow's milk, significantly lowers the risk of cancer. In one study,5 those who ate at least four servings of high-fat dairy foods each day had a 41 percent lower risk of bowel cancer than those who ate less than one. Each increment of two servings of dairy products reduced a woman’s colon cancer risk by 13 percent.
- Weight: Women who ate at least one serving of full-fat dairy a day gained 30 percent less weight over a nine-year period than women who ate only low-fat (or no) dairy products.6
- Heart Disease: People who ate the most full-fat dairy were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, according to a 16-year study7 of Australian adults.
More People Starting to Recognize That Butter Is Better
More and more people are starting to realize the fallacy of the low-fat myth. As noted by NPR,8 in 1992, 44 percent of household cooks surveyed reported being “concerned about the amount of cholesterol in their food.” Today, that number has dropped down to 27 percent.
Other countries have also switched over from margarine to butter in ever-increasing numbers. According to dairy economist Brian Gould, American butter export has grown from zero to just over 10 percent of the market since the early 2000s.
Keep in mind that butter’s nutritional value depends on how the cows are raised, as the fatty acid composition of butterfat varies according to the animal's diet. The very best-quality butter is raw (unpasteurized) from grass-pastured cows, preferably certified organic. (One option is to make your own butter9 from raw milk.)
The next best is pasteurized butter from grass-fed or pastured organic cows, followed by regular pasteurized butter common in supermarkets. Even the latter two are healthier choices by orders of magnitude than margarines or spreads. Avoid “Monsanto Butter,” made from cows fed almost entirely genetically engineered grains.7 This includes Land O’Lakes and Alta Dena.
The Many Health Benefits of Grass-Fed Butter
Other research backs up the suggestion that butter is a health food that offers both short-term and long-term benefits for your health. One study10 found that fat levels in your blood are actually lower after eating a meal rich in butter than after eating one rich in olive oil, canola oil, or flaxseed oil.
The scientists’ main explanation is that about 20 percent of butterfat consists of short- and medium-chain fatty acids, which are used right away for quick energy and therefore don’t contribute to fat levels in your blood. Other oils (canola, flax, etc.) contain only long-chain fatty acids, which are more readily stored as fat.
What this means is that a significant portion of the butter you consume is used immediately for energy—similar to a carbohydrate. But, unlike a carbohydrate, it doesn’t adversely affect your insulin and leptin levels. The primary nutrients found in butter are outlined in the table below. For more information on the health benefits of butter, take a look at this classic article by the Weston A. Price Foundation.11
Nutrients in Organic, Grass-Fed Butter *Vitamin A in the most absorbable form Lauric acid Lecithin (necessary for cholesterol metabolism and nerve health) Antioxidants *Vitamin E Vitamin K2 Wulzen factor: hormone-like substance known to prevent arthritis and joint stiffness (destroyed by pasteurization) *Fatty acids, especially short- and medium-chain in the perfect omega-3 to omega-6 balance *CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid): anti-cancer agent, muscle builder, and immunity booster Vitamin D Minerals, including selenium, manganese, chromium, zinc, and copper Iodine in a highly absorbable form Cholesterol Arachidonic Acid (AA): brain function and healthy cell membranes Glycospingolipids: fatty acids that protect against GI infections *The highest amounts of CLA and omega-3 fats come from cows raised on grass pastures. Their butter is also 50 percent higher in vitamins A and E, and 400 percent higher in beta-carotene, giving grass-fed butter its deeper yellow color.
Raw Dairy Is Preferable Over Pasteurized
While the featured research focused on the fat content of the dairy, I also want to point out that the issue of pasteurization is another important consideration. Raw milk from organically raised grass-fed cows is far superior in terms of health benefits compared to pasteurized milk. Pasteurization destroys enzymes, diminishes vitamins, denatures milk proteins, destroys vitamin B12 and vitamin B6, kills beneficial bacteria, and actually promotes the growth of pathogens. Many of the enzymes that are destroyed in this process are needed for digestion. As a result, drinking pasteurized milk can tax your pancreas and promote disease—particularly allergies.
A number of studies have also demonstrated the superior safety of raw milk compared to pasteurized. Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of foodborne illnesses in the US are actually linked to factory farmed and highly processed foods, not raw foods. For example, late last year Chobani Greek yoghurt was recalled following reports of gastrointestinal illness.12 The yogurt, which is pasteurized and not raw, was found to be contaminated with a fungus called Murcor circinelloides.
Unfortunately, despite overwhelming evidence of safety and health benefits, several US states have outright banned the sale of raw milk for fear of contamination. That’s in sharp contrast to Europe, where some nations even sell it in vending machines13... But there’s really no need to fret about the safety of raw milk, provided it comes from organically raised, pastured cows. Research by Dr. Ted Beals,14 MD, featured in the summer 2011 issue of Wise Traditions, shows that you are actually about 35,000 times more likely to get sick from other foods (most of which are processed) than you are from raw milk.
You can easily ascertain the quality of grass-fed milk, butter, and yoghurt by its color. The carotenoids in the plants cows eat on pasture gives grass-fed products a more yellow-orange cast. When cows are raised on dried grass or hay, opposed to fresh-growing grass, you end up with a whiter product, which is an indication of reduced carotenoid and antioxidant content. Raw milk yogurt is also very thick and creamy, compared to pasteurized commercial varieties. The same goes for pastured eggs, which can be ascertained by their deep orange yolk. CAFO chickens, which never go outdoors, and are fed grains rather than bugs and insects, produce eggs with pale yellow yolks.
Documented Raw Milk Health Benefits
Just like raw organic butter, raw milk from grass-fed cows has a number of health benefits you simply will not obtain from drinking pasteurized and homogenized CAFO milk. For example, raw milk is:
Loaded with healthy bacteria that are good for your gastrointestinal tract High in omega-3 and low omega-6, which is the beneficial ratio between these two essential fats Full of more than 60 digestive enzymes, growth factors, and immunoglobulins (antibodies). These enzymes are destroyed during pasteurization, making pasteurized milk much harder to digest Loaded with vitamins (A, B, C, D, E, and K) in highly bioavailable forms, and a very balanced blend of minerals (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron) whose absorption is enhanced by live Lactobacilli Rich in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which fights cancer and boosts metabolism Rich in healthy unoxidized cholesterol Rich in beneficial raw fats, amino acids, and proteins in a highly bioavailable form, all 100 percent digestible It also contains phosphatase, an enzyme that aids and assists in the absorption of calcium in your bones, and lipase enzyme, which helps to hydrolyze and absorb fats
Where to Find Raw Milk
There are several resources out there to help you locate raw milk and other dairy products, and the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws, in case you don’t already know what your state’s rules are.
- The Campaign for Real Milk has a Real Milk Finder, listing sources in various US states
- You can also contact your local Weston A. Price chapter for a listing of raw dairy vendors
In many states, you can make a private agreement with a dairy farmer, called a herdshare, which entitle you to the benefits of owning a “share” of a cow, such as a certain amount of milk each week. If you simply cannot obtain raw milk, for whatever reason, you have a couple of options that are likely to be better than drinking conventional pasteurized and homogenized milk from confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs).
Some food US stores have started selling lightly pasteurized and non-homogenized organic milk. If your local store doesn’t carry it yet, you can ask them to do so. As a last resort, you could opt for organic pasteurized milk. At least, you’ll avoid many of the detriments of CAFO dairy that way—including antibiotics, recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), and other drugs. You’ll also avoid a source of genetically engineered organisms (GMOs) and glyphosate, as CAFO cattle are typically fed genetically engineered grains.
New Raw Milk Bills Could Allow More Food Freedom
Raw milk is the only food banned in interstate commerce. This makes it challenging (though not impossible) for small farmers to share their raw milk products with people living across state lines. Such nonsensical bans have resulted in an increasing number of violent crack-downs on peaceful dairy farmers who want nothing more than to provide their customers with high-quality food.
Fortunately, there are signs of progress and glimmers of hope. A bipartisan coalition of 20 lawmakers is planning to introduce a series of “food freedom” bills this year. The first two to be released could be a major step forward in the raw milk movement. According to Congressman Thomas Massie of Kentucky, these bills are intended to improve consumer food choices while protecting local farmers from federal interference:
- The Milk Freedom Act of 2014 (HR 4307): The bill would prohibit the federal government from interfering with the interstate traffic of raw milk products, offering relief for small farmers who have been harassed, fined, or prosecuted for distributing raw milk.
- The Interstate Milk Freedom Act of 2014 (HR 4308): This bill would prevent the federal government from interfering with trade of unpasteurized natural milk or milk products between states where distribution or sale of such products is already legal.
To protect food freedom and freedom of choice for all Americans, I urge you to contact your government representatives, and ask them to vote YES on both HB 4307 and HB 4308. The Farm-to-Consumer Defense Fund has created a one-click form letter for this purpose. Please take a moment to sign the petition right now.
The Right Kind of Milk Can Do Your Body Good
While both the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the CDC warn that raw milk can carry disease-causing bacteria, they completely overlook the fact that these bacteria are the result of industrial farming practices that lead to diseased animals, which may then in turn produce contaminated milk.
This is a key issue, as raw milk from a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) IS dangerous and must be pasteurized in order to be fit to drink, whereas raw milk from cows raised on pasture IS NOT dangerous and does not need pasteurization. It’s really critical to understand that it is the source of the milk makes all the difference when it comes to raw milk. So, to summarize, there are two primary considerations to take into account when deciding on dairy:
- Full-fat versus low-fat or non-fat. The former is definitely a better choice, regardless of whether you opt for raw, organic lightly pasteurized, or organic pasteurized. Pasteurized and homogenized low fat dairy products and skim milk have little to no redeeming nutritional value, as all the good stuff has been processed into oblivion or taken out altogether
- Raw versus pasteurized. Pasteurization damages and denatures the milk, rendering it a source of allergies and digestive problems. Many who are lactose intolerant and cannot eat or drink dairy find that they do not have these problems with raw grass-fed dairy products.