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Friday, October 17, 2014

EPA’s Next Target -- American Dentists Who Are Mercury Polluters

By Dr. Mercola

Those silver mercury fillings whose vapors readily pass through cell membranes, across your blood-brain barrier, and into your central nervous system? The damage doesn't stop there.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently cited studies showing that approximately half of the mercury in the environment is there due to dental offices' amalgam (i.e. silver filling) waste.

In fact, dental clinics are the main source of mercury discharges to public water treatment centers, according to the EPA, which estimates there are about 160,000 dentists in the US who use or remove amalgam and virtually all of them discharge their wastewater to water treatment centers.

In all, dentists discharge about 4.4 tons of mercury a year to such centers. The problem, of course, is that the mercury then settles into sewer systems or the biosolids and sewage sludge that are generated during water treatment.

What happens to the sludge? Some of it ends up in landfills, while other portions are incinerated (thereby polluting the air) or applied as agricultural fertilizer (polluting your food), or seep into waterways (polluting fish and wildlife).

Unfortunately, mercury is persistent and bioaccumulative once it reaches the environment. And when it is exposed to certain microorganisms in water, it can change into highly toxic methylmercury – the type that now contaminates most seafood.

Most Americans don't realize that there is a simple solution that could drastically cut down on the environmental pollution caused by mercury waste, if only dentists would choose to use it.

EPA Proposes Rule Requiring Dentists to Use Amalgam Separators

The road to a federal rule mandating separators for American dentists has been long and circuitous.

The US is a federal system, so ideas generally start at the state level. A century ago, a distinguished Supreme Court Justice, Louis Brandeis, called the states "laboratories of democracy."

Fourteen years ago, Michael Bender of the Mercury Policy Project launched a campaign to persuade state and local governments to mandate separators. He enlisted state-based environmental groups, plus national groups like Clean Water Action and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The prototype for action was the city of Toronto, Canada, which cut the mercury in water by more than half by mandating separators. Over the decade of the 2000s, 12 states, most of them in the Northeast, mandated separators, as did many US cities, such as Duluth, Wichita, and San Francisco.

As pressure built for a national mandate, the EPA engaged first in political diversion, signing a document with the American Dental Association to do a voluntary system. As any economist or sensible citizen knows, voluntary environmental standards do not work, because it raises the cost of business only for the good guys.

Bender issued a report exposing the EPA plan. Because it was done in the final days of the second Bush Administration, he termed the report "The Midnight Deal." Former Congressman Dennis Kucinich convened an oversight hearing calling more attention to EPA's unwillingness to act.

In 2010, the EPA first announced it would create a rule requiring dentists who use dental amalgam to at least use best-management practices and install amalgam separators. An amalgam separator is a wastewater treatment device installed at the source, in the dental office, that can remove 95-99 percent of the mercury in the wastewater.

As originally proposed, EPA said the regulation would be finalized by 2012. But inaction continued, and it got worse in early 2014, when EPA staff were told the whole idea of a separator mandate would be put on the shelf. Conscientious staff objected to backing off addressing this major source of mercury pollution.

Bender, Charlie Brown of Consumers for Dental Choice, and major environmental groups launched a counterattack, Bender by making the case directly to the EPA (and to the media), while Brown launched a petition drive. This campaign was supported by Mercola.com, and many of our readers responded.

To its credit – and responding to the petition that over 13,000 of you signed– EPA decided to go forward with the rule. The rule's expected finalization date is September 2015.1 But we must leave nothing to chance! At the end of this article we ask you who have not yet signed that petition to do so!

By requiring dental offices to install amalgam separators, the EPA expects the amount of metals discharged into the environment to be cut by nine tons each year2 -- and at a very low cost to dentists.

The average annual cost of an amalgam separator for dental offices is $700, making it a "common sense solution to managing mercury that would otherwise be released to air, land, and water," the EPA noted.3

Unfortunately, dental offices that have already installed an amalgam separator will be allowed to keep it and be considered in compliance – even if it doesn't meet the proposed amalgam removal efficiency standards.

Still, aside from eliminating the use of dental mercury entirely… which is the ultimate goal we're working toward… this is a step in the right direction. About a dozen states already mandate the use of amalgam separators, but the EPA's rule will add a federal requirement.

Why Are So Many Dentists Still Using Mercury?

In order to protect human health and the environment, mercury should be phased out as soon, and as quickly, as possible. The international treaty, named the United Nations Minamata Convention on Mercury, requires the phasing out of many mercury-containing products, including thermometers, by 2020, and also calls for an end to all mercury mining within 15 years.

The treaty takes effect only after its ratification by 50 nations, which can take three or four years. Instead of working for the phase-down and ultimate phase-out of amalgam use, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Dental Association (ADA) are pushing stalling tactics.

They say that before phasing out amalgam we should go through a litany of diversions like (1) prevention of tooth decay, (2) research and mercury inventories, and (3) mercury waste management – none of which actually phase down amalgam use, as required by the Minamata Convention.

But no more research is needed before we take action – the many effective, affordable, and available mercury-free alternatives have already been researched for over half a century, and we certainly don't need any more research telling us that mercury is a problem.

And the realistic solution to waste management, of course, even beyond the amalgam separators, is to stop creating more mercury waste – i.e., stop using amalgam. Today, more than 50 percent of dentists in America have stopped using mercury filings.

That's major progress and Charlie Brown's Consumers for Dental Choice played a huge role in that change as when he first started his crusade only 3% of US dentists were mercury free. He helped prevent dental boards from prosecuting many of the early mercury free dentists.

But we still have a long way to go to end this archaic practice of putting mercury in people's teeth (and into the environment). Unfortunately, we seem to have stalled out at around 50 percent of dentists who still insist on using amalgam. Charlie Brown, leader of Consumers for Dental Choice, noted:

"We think the pro-mercury dentists have stabilized because they won't learn anything new and the profits are so easy. They are concealing from the patients that amalgam is a mercury filling.

The enabler of pro-mercury dentistry or of dental mercury is the FDA. The FDA says to dentists and says to the manufacturers, 'You may conceal the mercury from patients. You don't need to tell them,' and of course, therefore they don't."

A Poignant Reminder of Why Mercury Doesn't Belong in Dentistry

Dental amalgam is an antiquated tooth filling material that is 50 percent mercury—a potent neurotoxin—combined with silver, copper, and tin. Your health is at grave risk when you get mercury dental fillings, and the effects can be either acute or chronic. Children and pregnant women are at greatest risk.

A single dental amalgam filling may release as much as 15 micrograms of mercury per day. To put that into perspective, eating mercury-tainted seafood can expose you to about 2.3 micrograms per day -- and that alone was enough for scientists to call for a worldwide warning back in 2006!4

As noted in a 2010 extensive scientific review on mercury exposure and children's health, there is no known safe level of exposure for mercury!5 Ideally, exposure should be zero, so any dentist insisting that mercury exposure from amalgam is "minimal" or "inconsequential" is really doing their patients a reprehensible disservice.

Not only does mercury fuel the flames of inflammation, which is an underlying factor of most chronic disease, it also hampers your body's ability to detoxify itself, which further exacerbates matters. Mercury toxicity has been linked to Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and other neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis.

Earlier this year, Maria Indermuhle told her own harrowing story of getting mercury poisoning from her dental amalgams, which was actually misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis. She completely recovered after getting the amalgams removed. General symptoms of mercury poisoning include the following, which can easily be overlooked or misdiagnosed. If you have any of these, it may be a wise move to get a heavy metal screen test, to check for toxicity of mercury and other heavy metals:

Impairment of vision, hearing, or speech, including light sensitivity Lack of motor coordination Muscle twitching and/or tremors Headaches
Weakness Itching or burning Skin discoloration (red nose, cheeks, or lips) Profuse sweating
Elevated heart rate High blood pressure Mood swings, nervousness, anxiety, or irritability Insomnia

Important Information Regarding Amalgam Removal

For those of you who have mercury fillings, I recommend that you have them removed. However, it's very important to get it done right. Removing amalgam fillings can expose you to significant amounts of mercury vapors if the dentist doesn't know what he or she is doing. For this reason, it's important to find a qualified biological dentist, trained in the safe and proper removal of mercury fillings.

Biological dentistry views your teeth and gums as an integrated part of your entire body, and any medical treatments performed take this fact into account. Biological dentists are well aware of the dangers involved with toxic materials such as amalgams. Some of the things that need to be done to keep you (and your dentist) safe during amalgam removal include:

Providing you with an alternative air source and instructing you not to breathe through your mouth Putting a rubber dam in your mouth so you don't swallow or inhale any toxins, and using a high-volume evacuator near the tooth at all times to evacuate the mercury vapor
Using a cold-water spray to minimize mercury vapors Washing your mouth out immediately after the fillings have been removed (the dentist should also change gloves after the removal)
Immediately cleaning your protective wear and face once the fillings are removed Using room air purifiers

How to Find a Qualified Biological Dentist

Knowledgeable biological dentists can be hard to come by, so start your search by asking a friend, relative, neighbor, or inquire at your local health food store. The following links can also help you to find a mercury-free, biological dentist:

Take Action: Tell EPA You Support Its Mercury Amalgam Rule!

Why should we be forced to pay when irresponsible dentists who still use mercury could easily and relatively inexpensively install amalgam separators, which catch most of the mercury before it goes down the drain? Until the EPA's proposed rule is final, dentists are still getting away with environmental pollution, and it's high time for that to change. I urge you to take a stand with us and tell the EPA not to let polluting dentists off the hook: It's time to stop dental mercury dumping. Consumers for Dental Choice has created a petition demanding the EPA immediately stop this practice. I hope you will take a moment to sign this petition right now.

To learn more about dental mercury and its risks, as well as keep abreast of the latest news on the EPA's mercury rule, please see the following sources:

Regenerative Agriculture Is the Answer to Many of the World’s Most Pressing Problems

By Dr. Mercola

“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself.” That’s a quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt, who clearly knew something most people, including farmers, have since forgotten.

The truth is, to feed the world, we must feed the soil. One of the best ways to prevent global disaster, save our health, and build a sustainable economy is through regenerative agriculture. This isn’t a luxury we can put on the backburner. Changes must begin immediately.

A major part of the problem we now face is that our agricultural practices have removed massive amounts of valuable carbon from land, transferring it into air and water where it does more harm than good.

By paying greater attention to carbon management, we have the opportunity to make a dramatic difference in this area, which is having major negative consequences to our agriculture, and the pollution of our air and water.

But carbon management is but one aspect of cultivating healthy soil. We must also address the harm being done by agricultural chemicals, which have replaced natural methods of pest control and fertilization used since the beginning of agriculture.

Not only are agricultural chemicals decimating our soils, they’re also killing off bees, butterflies, and other flora and fauna. An estimated 60 percent of the world’s ecological systems are nearing collapse,1 yet industry continues to turn a blind eye to the destruction.

But there are signs of change afoot. For example, the Natural Resources Conservation Service2 (NRCS), which is part of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), is now starting to take an active role in teaching farmers about the importance of soil health, as discussed in the featured video.

It’s definitely encouraging to see that no-till3 agriculture and other natural methods are increasingly being taken seriously, and that organizations like the NRCS is starting to pave a path toward an agricultural system that is self-generating, life-affirming, and non-polluting.

GE Crop Fields are Dead Fields...

There’s a big difference between living soil, capable of nourishing healthy plant growth, and chemically cultivated land that is quite literally devoid of life.

A couple of years ago, science writer Craig Childs decided to replicate a photo project by David Littschwager, who spent years traveling the world photographing anything and everything that entered the one-cubic-foot metal frames he dropped into gardens, streams, parks, forests, and oceans.

Around the world, Littschwager’s camera captured thousands of plants, animals, and insects within the cubes. Childs decided to replicate the photographic “critter census” in a corn field in Grundy County, Iowa.

The result was shocking. He found no signs of life with the exception of an isolated spider, a single red mite, and a couple grasshoppers among the genetically engineered corn stalks on the 600 acre farm. In an article documenting Childs adventure, Robert Krulwich writes:4

“It felt like another planet entirely,” Childs said. “I listened and heard nothing, no birds, no clicks from insects. There were no bees. The air, the ground, seemed vacant.

Yet, 100 years ago, these same fields, these prairies, were home to 300 species of plants, 60 mammals, 300 birds, hundreds and hundreds of insects.

This soil was the richest, the loamiest in the state. And now, in these patches, there is almost literally nothing but one kind of living thing. We’ve erased everything else.”

Chemical Agriculture Is Toxic Agriculture

More than one billion pounds of pesticides are used in the US each year, an amount that has quintupled since 1945. As with antibiotic overuse, the onslaught of pesticides and herbicide to combat pests has led to the development of weeds and bugs that are now resistant to the chemicals.

The answer to increasing resistance has been to apply greater amounts of chemicals just to keep up.

Now we’re also facing the next-generation of genetically engineered (GE) plants designed to withstand even more toxic chemicals, including 2,4-D (an Agent Orange ingredient), and dicamba.

Charles Benbrook, a research professor at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University, has found that rapidly increasing weed resistance is driving up the volume of herbicide needed by about 25 percent annually.

The approvals of 2,4-D and dicamba resistant GE crops could drive it up by another 50 percent, according to research published in Environmental Sciences Europe.5

That we cannot continue on this path should be self-evident, yet the chemical industry keeps the sham going. In a 2012 report6 by the Weed Science Society of America, the authors made the following opening remarks:

“It is clear to most weed scientists who are involved in herbicide research, and even those who are not, that the best way to reduce selection pressure for herbicide resistance is to minimize herbicide use.

However, the ‘solutions’ that have emerged in most recent meetings on herbicide resistance have usually involved more herbicide use...  

To an unbiased observer, it would appear that many weed emperors are wearing no clothes. Are we as a weed science discipline choosing to ignore true integrated solutions to the herbicide resistance problem?...

Surely, weed management diversity involves more than herbicide diversity. ‘Respect the rotation’ should mean more than the herbicide rotation.”

Chemical Technology Industry Survives by Deflecting the Problems They’ve Created

Indeed, junk food companies and pesticide producers have become quite good at deflecting issues to maintain their position in the marketplace. Chronic disease is rampant through our society, yet the food system takes little blame for these deadly offenses.

They’ve used the flawed calorie in/calorie out formula to guilt-trip Americans into believing it is solely a lack of exercise that has created this epidemic of chronic illness, not the junk food they’ve carefully formulated to be highly addictive, and which they market using some of the most insidious and potent marketing techniques ever devised.

In addition to being contaminated with toxic chemicals and foreign proteins, courtesy of genetic engineering, the nutrient content of foods has also dramatically declined as a result of deteriorating soils. For example, as explained by Dr. August Dunning, chief science officer and co-owner of Eco Organics, in order to receive the same amount of iron you used to get from one apple in 1950, by 1998 you had to eat 26 apples!

One of the primary reasons food doesn’t taste as good as it used to is also related to the deterioration of soil health. Soil minerals actually form the compounds that give the fruit or vegetable its flavor. All of these issues go back to the health of the soil in which the food is grown. Agricultural chemicals destroy the health of the soil by killing off its microbial inhabitants, which is one of the primary problems with modern farming, and the reason why the nutritional quality of conventionally-grown foods is deteriorating. Hence, more chemicals are NOT the answer, and never will be.

Food Production Now Threatens Human and Environmental Health...

Instead of being a cherished source of nutrition and an affirmation of life itself, our chemical-based agriculture system is destroying our soil, draining our aquifers for irrigation, contaminating our waters with fertilizers and pesticides, polluting our air, exterminating bees, butterflies, and other wildlife, and destroying beneficial microbes both in the soil and in our bodies... Yet the food and pesticide industries not only manage to avoid accountability, they also devise “solutions” that further increase their own profits while worsening the problem they created in the first place!

For example, while the pesticide industry insists that the answer to weed and pest resistance is a new, more lethal concoction of toxins, these toxins end up all over the place—in soil, water, and on your plate. What kind of solution is that? According to the latest USGS water quality survey, pesticide contamination is pervasive in streams nationwide.7 Streams are divided into agricultural, urban and mixed-use categories.

Half of mixed-use streams and nearly two-thirds of agricultural streams have pesticide concentrations exceeding the safety limit for aquatic life. A whopping 90 percent of urban streams now have pesticide concentrations exceeding aquatic life limits. This is an increase from 50 percent in the decade between 1992 and 2001. Furthermore, in the EPA’s 2000 National Water Quality Inventory,8 states across the nation reported that agricultural nonpoint source (NPS) pollution was the leading source of water quality impacts on surveyed rivers and lakes, and a major contributor to contamination of surveyed estuaries and ground water.

Over a billion people in the world have no access to safe drinking water, while 80 percent of the world’s fresh water supply is used for agriculture. Soil is also depleting 13 percent faster than it can be replaced, and we’ve lost 75 percent of the world's crop varieties in just the last 100 years. Overall, the situation is not sustainable for much longer. We simply must change the way we grow crops and raise livestock if we want to survive as a species.

Can the World Recover from the GMO Lie?

The chemical technology industry is quite skilled at turning lemons into lemonade. The extent of their creativity would be admirable if it wasn’t so devious and dangerous, and their effectiveness is well-tested. Across large parts of the globe, they’ve built monopolistic monocultures married with an ever-increasing need for more pesticides, claiming this is the only way to feed the world... Yet facts and figures keep revealing that such claims are overblown, if not outright false. As noted in a recent report by the USDA's Economic Research Service:9

“Over the first 15 years of commercial use, GE [genetically-engineered] seeds have not been shown to increase yield potentials of the varieties. In fact, the yields of herbicide-tolerant or insect-resistant seeds may be occasionally lower than the yields of conventional varieties.”

There are indeed viable solutions to world hunger, but it involves neither genetic engineering nor chemicals. Indeed, genetic engineering doesn’t even fill a true need. For example, conventional plant breeding is turning out high-performance plants that are naturally more drought resistant,10 and this is done without the unnatural insertion of genes that have never existed in a plant before. We also need to stop senseless food waste that feeds landfills instead of people, animals, and soil. As reported by The Washington Post:11

“In 2012, the most recent year for which estimates are available, Americans threw out roughly 35 million tons of food, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That's almost 20 percent more food than the United States tossed out in 2000, 50 percent more than in 1990, and nearly three times what Americans discarded in 1960, when the country threw out a now seemingly paltry 12.2 million tons. In 1980, food waste accounted for less than 10 percent of total waste; today, it makes up well over a fifth of the country's garbage. Americans, as it is, now throw out more food than plastic, paper, metal, or glass—and by a long shot.”

Degenerative agriculture is the obvious problem; regenerative agriculture is the simple solution. We will be quite close to that goal once we reach a grass-fed milk and beef tipping point12--when enough people choose grass-fed animal products over the fare from confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). The reason why I say that is because grazing livestock on pasture is part and parcel of sustainable, regenerative agriculture.

By mimicking the natural behavior of migratory herds of wild grazing animals—meaning allowing livestock to graze freely, and moving the herd around in specific patterns—farmers can support nature's efforts to regenerate and thrive. This kind of land management system promotes the reduction of atmospheric CO2 by sequestering it back into the soil where it can do a lot of good. Once in the earth, the CO2 can be safely stored for hundreds of years, and adds to the soil's fertility. Another major tipping point for change can occur once GE foods are labeled, so that all Americans have a better chance of making informed purchasing decisions.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Link Between Obesity and Cancer

By Dr. Mercola

Obesity is a frequently overlooked factor that can contribute to an increased cancer risk, yet less than 10 percent of Americans are aware of this link.1 According to the National Cancer Institute,2 an estimated 84,000 annual cancer cases are linked to obesity.

Obesity may also affect the efficacy of cancer treatments. 
With rising obesity rates among young children in particular, it's becoming really important to understand this link.

Childhood obesity has nearly tripled since 1980, and one in five kids is now overweight by age six; 17 percent of children and adolescents are now obese.3 Unfortunately, childhood obesity has become so prevalent that many parents fail to recognize that their children are in fact overweight.4

Research5 has confirmed this perceptual shift, concluding that overweight/obese children are now nearly 25 percent less likely to be perceived as overweight compared to the previous decade.

While body acceptance is a good thing, it can also be dangerous if potent risk factors for lethal disease are simply ignored as "normal" in the process.

As noted in a recent position statement on obesity and cancer by the American Society of Clinical Oncology6 (ASCO), obesity is "quickly overtaking tobacco as the leading preventable cause of cancer." To address this overlooked cause of cancer, ASCO has established a “multipronged initiative,” which includes:

  1. Education to raise awareness about the evidence linking obesity and cancer
  2. Tools and resources to help oncology providers address obesity with their patients
  3. Research
  4. Advocating for policy and systems change to address societal factors contributing to obesity and improve access to weight management services for patients with cancer

Processed Food Drives Obesity and Cancer Epidemics

The obesity epidemic is directly related to excessive sugar consumption (virtually every single processed food is now loaded with hidden sugar and fructose, including baby food and foods thought of as "health foods"), and this is also a major driving factor for the cancer epidemic.

The link between a high-sugar diet, obesity, and cancer can be summarized in two words: insulin resistance. Both obesity and cancer result when your body loses its ability to burn fat as fuel.

Sugar also causes chronic inflammation, which also raises the risk of cancer. And, as noted in the featured CNN article:7

"Fat tissue also produces hormones called adipokines, which can stimulate or inhibit cell growth8... If these hormones are out of balance, the body may not be able to properly fight cell damage."

One of the most effective ways to reverse insulin resistance is intermittent fasting, along with making some basic changes to your diet, which revolves around restricting your sugar and fructose intake, and replacing carbs with healthy fats.

Studies Showing Obesity-Cancer Link

A number of studies have linked obesity to an increased risk for about a dozen different cancers, including cancer of the colon, esophagus, kidney, breast, and pancreas, as well as a heightened risk of dying from the disease:

  • A 16-year long study9 published in 2003 that included more than 900,000 Americans found that obese participants were more likely to be diagnosed and die from cancer, compared to those of normal weight
  • According to the authors, obesity "could account for 14 percent of all deaths from cancer in men and 20 percent of those in women"

  • A recent report published in the journal Cancer Research10 projects cancer incidence and death from cancer in the US will continue to rise over the next decade and a half, in large part due to rising obesity rates
  • A recent study11 involving 80,000 breast cancer patients found that pre-menopausal women with a body mass index (BMI) over 30 had a 21.5 percent chance of death whereas women with average BMI had a 16.6 percent chance of dying from the disease

A recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Internal Medicine12 found that most adults (just over 71 percent) get 10 percent or more of their daily calories from added sugar. Approximately 10 percent of American adults get 25 percent or more of their daily calories from added sugar!

On average, Americans consume about 350 calories a day from added sugar, which equates to about 22 teaspoons, and this is a sure-fire recipe for chronic poor health...

In the JAMA study just mentioned, those who consumed 21 percent or more of their daily calories in the form of sugar were twice as likely to die from heart disease compared to those who got seven percent or less or their daily calories from added sugar. The risk was nearly tripled among those who consumed 25 percent or more of their daily calories from added sugar.

But cancer is also fed by excess sugar, so while cancer risk was not assessed here, there's little doubt that your cancer risk will rise right along with your risk for heart disease...

Your Body Has Limited Ability to Process Sugar

The main problem with sugar, and processed fructose in particular, is the fact that your liver has a very limited capacity to metabolize it. According to Dr. Robert Lustig, you can safely use about six teaspoons of added sugar per day unless you are vigorously exercising. But the average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day.

All that excess sugar is metabolized into body fat, and leads to all of the chronic metabolic diseases we struggle with, including cancer.

Four grams of sugar is equivalent to about one teaspoon, and I strongly recommend limiting your daily fructose intake to 25 grams or less from all sources, including natural ones like fruit. That equates to just over six teaspoons of sugar a day.

If you're among the 80 percent majority who have insulin or leptin resistance (overweight, diabetic, high blood pressure, or taking a statin drug), you'd be wise to restrict your total fructose consumption to as little as 15 grams per day, until you've normalized your insulin and leptin levels.

Embed this infographic on your website:

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

While lack of exercise certainly plays a role in rising obesity rates13 among both children and adults, it's important to understand that you cannot exercise your way out of a poor diet.

The food industry has responsibility here that it has, so far, failed to accept. It spends more than $1.8 billion marketing junk food to kids each year,14 while paying lip service to concerns about obesity by now and then promoting exercise.

These processed junk foods are also loaded with hormone-mimicking chemicals that further contribute to cancer and other health problems. In short, the current generation of children raised on a processed food diet has a much higher risk of devastating health problems than their parents, thanks to the processed food industry.

The risks are significant. In girls, obesity exposes them to higher estrogen levels because estrogen is both produced and stored in fat tissue. Girls carrying excess body fat therefore have more estrogen and leptin, which can lead to insulin resistance and the development of more fat tissue, which produces even more estrogen—it's a vicious cycle that can result in premature puberty, and raises the risk of estrogen-sensitive cancers such as breast cancer later on in life.

Understanding the Sugar-Cancer Connection

Cancer cells need glucose to thrive, and if you have insulin resistance, it doesn't matter if that glucose comes from added sugar, fructose, or grains. In order to starve the cancer cells, or prevent them from forming in the first place, you have to eliminate its primary food source, i.e. the sugars, which include all non-vegetable carbohydrates.

In 1934, Otto Warburg received a Nobel Prize for his research on cancer cell physiology, which clearly demonstrated cancer cells require more sugar to thrive. Unfortunately, many oncologists still have not fully grasped the importance of this knowledge, nor do they apply it when devising a cancer treatment plan. Not everyone is clueless, however. Lewis Cantley, director of the Cancer Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School, has noted that as much as 80 percent of all cancers are "driven by either mutations or environmental factors that work to enhance or mimic the effect of insulin on the incipient tumor cells"15

Even in terms of treatment, cancer has been shown to respond to diet alone. A ketogenic diet, which is high in healthy fat and very low in sugar, especially for those who are insulin resistant, has been shown to reverse cancer in many cases, and research shows a lot of promise in this area. It can be very useful in addressing the underling insulin resistance. Once the insulin resistance resolves, a ketogenic diet is typically not required. Recent research16 has further added to the knowledge pool, showing that not only does sugar feed existing cancer; it also appears to initiate cancer growth. As reported by GreenMedInfo.com,17 this study:

"'...provide[s] evidence that increased glycolytic activation itself can be an oncogenic event...' That is to say, the activation of sugar-based metabolism in a cell – driven by both the presence of increased quantities of glucose and the increase glucose receptors on the cell membrane surface (i.e. 'overexpression of a glucose transporter') – drives cancer initiation. Moreover, the study found that 'Conversely, forced reduction of glucose uptake by breast cancer cells led to phenotypic reversion.' In other words, interfering with sugar availability and uptake to the cell causes the cancer cell to REVERSE towards its pre-cancer structure-function (phenotype).

To Address Insulin Resistance, You Must Cut Sugar Consumption

If you're overweight, step number one is to reduce your overall sugar and grain consumption. I recommend keeping your total sugar/fructose intake below 25 grams a day, or as little as 15 grams a day if you have any health problems related to insulin and leptin resistance, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease, until your insulin/leptin sensitivity has been restored. One of the easiest ways to dramatically cut down on your sugar and fructose consumption is by switching to a diet of whole, unprocessed foods, as most of the added sugar in your diet comes from processed fare. Ideally, aim to:

  1. Avoid processed sugar/fructose, grains, and processed foods
  2. Eat a healthful diet of whole foods, ideally organic, and replace the grain carbs with:
    • Large amounts of vegetables
    • Low-to-moderate amount of high-quality protein (think organically raised, pastured animals)
    • As much high-quality healthful fat as you want (saturated and monounsaturated from animal and tropical oil sources). Most people actually need upwards of 50-85 percent fats in their diet for optimal health—a far cry from the 10 percent currently recommended.

Other ways to cut down on your sugar consumption include:

  • Cutting back on the amount of sugar you personally add to your food and drink
  • Using Stevia or Luo Han instead of sugar and/or artificial sweeteners. You can learn more about the best and worst of sugar substitutes in my previous article, "Sugar Substitutes—What's Safe and What's Not"
  • Using fresh fruit in lieu of canned fruit or sugar for meals or recipes calling for a bit of sweetness
  • Using spices instead of sugar to add flavor to your meal

Intermittent Fasting—One of the Most Effective Ways to Reverse Insulin/Leptin Resistance

Once you've addressed your basic food choices, you can further boost your fat loss efforts by incorporating the principles of intermittent fasting. Exercising in a fasted state will bring it up yet another notch. A simple way to get started with intermittent fasting is to simply omit breakfast, making lunch the first meal of your day. I usually recommend this kind of eating schedule, but if you want to eat breakfast and skip dinner instead, that's okay too. The key is to limit your eating to a specific, narrow window of time each day (about 6-8 hours), rather than eating every two to three hours, all throughout the day.

Intermittent fasting is by far the most effective way I know of to shed unwanted fat, eliminate sugar cravings, and normalize your insulin/leptin sensitivity. Intermittent fasting helps reset your body to use fat as its primary fuel, and mounting evidence confirms that when your body becomes adapted to burning FAT instead of sugar as its primary fuel, you dramatically reduce your risk of chronic disease. Another mechanism that makes intermittent fasting so effective for weight loss is the fact that it provokes the secretion of HGH18—a fat-burning hormone that has many well-recognized "anti-aging" health and fitness benefits.

Daily intermittent fasting tends to have the highest compliance rate, and mounting evidence suggests intermittent fasting can provide many if not most of the same benefits as longer, more rigorous fasts. Again, when you fast daily, you restrict your eating to a specific window of time, such as an eight hour window or less. You do this every day until your insulin/leptin resistance improves (which means your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol ratios, or diabetes normalizes). After that, you just need to do it as often as you need to maintain your healthy state.

Bottom Line

If you want to reduce, and in many cases virtually eliminate your risk of cancer and other chronic diseases, I suggest you get serious about restricting your sugar/fructose consumption to 25 grams per day—or less if you're already struggling with insulin-related health issues—and give intermittent fasting a try.

Again, you don't need to continue intermittent fasting for the rest of your life (unless you really want to). I believe that most who are insulin/leptin resistant would benefit from doing it continuously until the resistance resolves. However, once your weight is ideal, and you have no high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol ratios, or diabetes, then you can resume eating more frequent meals until or unless the insulin/leptin resistance returns.

Remember, exercise will not compensate for a diet too high in sugar, and such a diet will destroy many of the benefits of exercise too boot. So you really need to address what and when you eat if you want to shed excess weight and lower your risk for cancer and other chronic disease. There's no magic bullet, but a healthy lifestyle may be as close as you'll ever get to one.

Study Warns That Losing Your Sense of Smell May Mean You May Not Live Longer

By Dr. Mercola

Inside your nasal passages are two odor-detecting patches made up of about 6 million cells known as olfactory receptors. These allow you to detect thousands of different smells, and although other animals’ senses of smell are far more acute (a dog has 220 million olfactory receptors, for comparison), a human’s sense of smell is still remarkably sensitive.1

For instance, humans can detect certain substances in air even when they’re diluted to less than one part in several billion, according to the Social Issues Research Center’s (SIRC) Smell Report.2

Your sense of smell is intricately tied to your emotions, your ability to taste, and even sexual attraction… and it’s also intricately tied to your health.

According to some research, your sense of smell may peak at age 8 and start to decline in sensitivity by the age of 15. Other studies suggest smell sensitivity begins to deteriorate from your early 20s.3

That being said, healthy 80-year-olds have been found who have just as keen an ability to smell as much younger adults, which suggests that your sense of smell doesn’t just degrade as a matter of course, but rather may be dependent on your overall physical and mental health.4

New research, in fact, showed that smell is a powerful “canary in the coalmine” for predicting your future longevity, and if you lose yours, it’s a very bad sign…

Losing Your Sense of Smell May Predict Death Within Five Years

Olfaction, or sense of smell, is strongly linked to many diverse physiological processes, and so researchers from the University of Chicago set out to determine if it is a harbinger of five-year mortality.

Using data from a nationally representative sample of more than 3,000 older US adults, the study found those with an inability to perceive odor (known as anosmia) were more than four times as likely to die in five years, compared to those with a healthy sense of smell.5

Specifically, 39 percent of the participants who failed the first smell test (which consisted of identifying five common scents) died in the next five years, compared to 19 percent of those who had moderate smell loss and 10 percent of those with a healthy sense of smell.

Why Might Your Sense of Smell Serve as a Bellwether of Your Health?

A loss of the sense of smell was a remarkably strong indicator of approaching death, even more so than known leading causes of death, and independent of known risk factors like nutrition, cognitive function, mental health, smoking, alcohol abuse, or frailty.

Loss of sense of smell was a stronger predictor of death than even a diagnosis of cancer, heart failure, or lung disease.6 Loss of olfactory function is probably not a cause of death, but rather may “serve as a bellwether for slowed cellular regeneration or as a marker of cumulative toxic environmental exposure,” the researchers said.

As The Guardian reported:7

The tip of the olfactory nerve, which contains the smell receptors, is the only part of the human nervous system that is continuously regenerated by stem cells.

The production of new smell cells declines with age, and this is associated with a gradual reduction in our ability to detect and discriminate odors. Loss of smell may indicate that the body is entering a state of disrepair, and is no longer capable of repairing itself.

The olfactory nerve is also the only part of the nervous system that is exposed to the open air. As such, it offers poisons and pathogens a quick route into the brain, and so losing smell could be an early warning of something that will ultimately cause death.”

Check for Zinc Deficiency if You Are Losing Your Sense of Smell

Zinc, an essential trace mineral, is required to produce an enzyme called carbonic anhydrase (CA) VI, critical to taste and smell, which is why loss of sense of smell is one of the classic signs of chronic zinc deficiency. This might be yet another reason why a dwindling sense of smell is linked to impending death, as zinc is important for a number of life-sustaining functions, including:

  • Strong immunity
  • Important component of the enzymes involved in tissue remodeling and prevention of cancer
  • Maintenance of your mood, mental clarity, and restorative sleep
  • Prostate and intestinal health

Zinc is a constituent of at least 3,000 different proteins in your body and a component of more than 200 different enzymes. In fact, zinc is involved in more enzymatic reactions in your body than any other mineral.

Zinc increases your production of white blood cells and helps them fight infection more effectively. It also increases killer cells that combat cancer, helps your immune system release more antibodies, and supports wound healing.

Mild zinc deficiency is relatively common, especially in infants and children, pregnant or breast-feeding women, elderly, people with poor gastrointestinal absorption or bowel disease like Crohn's disease, and for those eating vegetarian or vegan diets. A number of factors contribute to the overall problem of zinc deficiency:

  1. Years of industrial farming practices, such as monocropping (planting large expanses of land with the same crop year after year) and tilling the soil, have left our soils deficient in natural minerals, like zinc.
  2. Certain drugs deplete your body of zinc, such as ACE inhibitors, thiazide diuretics, and acid-reducing drugs like Prilosec and Pepcid.
  3. Certain diets, such as vegetarian/vegan diets and high-grain diets, are low in bioavailable zinc and high in phytic acids, which impair zinc absorption.

If you are deficient in zinc, your body may become less able to repair genetic damage caused by oxidative stress. Having low levels of zinc has even been found to cause strands of DNA to break and studies have linked zinc deficiency to various types of cancer, infection, and autoimmune diseases.

Along with frequent infections, such as cold and flu, and a diminishing sense of smell, white spots on your fingernails can indicate you're not getting enough zinc.

What Are the Best Food Sources of Zinc?

For adults, the RDA for zinc is about 11 milligrams per day for adult men and 8 milligrams for women. If you are lactating or pregnant, you need about 3 mg more. For children, 4-8 year olds need about 5 mg, and 9-13 year olds need 8 mg, while infants need only about 3 mg. Good sources of dietary zinc include meats, oysters and wild-caught fish, raw milk, raw cheese, beans, and yogurt or kefir made from raw milk.

If you are healthy and you eat a well-balanced diet, you will rarely need supplements to complete your body's zinc needs, and you should strive to get zinc from dietary sources. Taking too much zinc in supplement form can be dangerous, as it can interfere with your body's ability to absorb other minerals, especially copper. If you decide to use a zinc supplement, chelated forms are better absorbed than inorganic forms, or zinc salts.

Tips to Improve Your Sense of Smell

About 3 million to 4 million Americans have been diagnosed with anosmia (a complete inability to smell) or hyposmia (a reduced ability to smell).8 If you notice your sense of smell slipping, and you know you’re not zinc deficient, there are steps you can take to improve it. First, I’d suggest reading through my nutrition plan for a comprehensive dietary plan that will support your health on multiple levels. Next, try these tips that are known to boost your sense of smell:9

  • Exercise: Research shows that the more you exercise, the less likely you are to develop problems with your sense of smell as you age. Exercising even one time a week was found to reduce the risk of losing your sense of smell.10
  • Become scent conscious: Make a point to smell your food before you eat it, and notice the scent of flowers, cut grass, or even rain. Doing this regularly will help increase your sense of smell.
  • Try “sniff therapy”: Choose three or four different scents, such as floral, fruity, and coffee. Sniff them four to six times a day, which will help the different receptors in your nose to work better.

How to Use Your Sense of Smell to Your Advantage

If your sense of smell is working fine, why not use it to your advantage? Through the use of aromatherapy, you can harness certain scents that trigger real physical and emotional responses. For instance, research shows:

  • A systematic review of 16 randomized controlled trials examining the anxiolytic (anxiety-inhibiting) effects of aromatherapy among people with anxiety symptoms showed that most of the studies indicated positive effects to quell anxiety (and no adverse events were reported).11
  • People exposed to bergamot essential oil aromatherapy prior to surgery had a greater reduction in pre-operative anxiety than those in control groups.12
  • Sweet orange oil has been found to have anxiety-inhibiting effects in humans, supporting its common use as a tranquilizer by aromatherapists.13
  • Ambient odors of orange and lavender reduced anxiety and improved mood in patients waiting for dental treatment.14
  • Compared to the controls, women who were exposed to orange odor in a dental office had a lower level of anxiety, a more positive mood, and a higher level of calmness. Researchers concluded, “exposure to ambient odor of orange has a relaxant effect.”15

Anxiety, of course, is only one use for aromatherapy. Other potential uses are varied and include the following:

  • Green apple scent for migraines: One study found that the scent significantly relieved migraine pain. This may also work with other scents that you enjoy so consulting with an aromatherapist might be beneficial.
  • Peppermint for memory: The aroma of peppermint has been shown to enhance memory and increase alertness.
  • Nausea and vomiting: A blend of peppermint, ginger, spearmint, and lavender essential oils has been found to help relieve post-operative nausea.16
  • Lavender for pain relief: Lavender aromatherapy has been shown to lessen pain following needle insertion.17

Study Warns That Losing Your Sense of Smell May Mean You May Not Live Much Longer

By Dr. Mercola

Inside your nasal passages are two odor-detecting patches made up of about 6 million cells known as olfactory receptors. These allow you to detect thousands of different smells, and although other animals’ senses of smell are far more acute (a dog has 220 million olfactory receptors, for comparison), a human’s sense of smell is still remarkably sensitive.1

For instance, humans can detect certain substances in air even when they’re diluted to less than one part in several billion, according to the Social Issues Research Center’s (SIRC) Smell Report.2

Your sense of smell is intricately tied to your emotions, your ability to taste, and even sexual attraction… and it’s also intricately tied to your health.

According to some research, your sense of smell may peak at age 8 and start to decline in sensitivity by the age of 15. Other studies suggest smell sensitivity begins to deteriorate from your early 20s.3

That being said, healthy 80-year-olds have been found who have just as keen an ability to smell as much younger adults, which suggests that your sense of smell doesn’t just degrade as a matter of course, but rather may be dependent on your overall physical and mental health.4

New research, in fact, showed that smell is a powerful “canary in the coalmine” for predicting your future longevity, and if you lose yours, it’s a very bad sign…

Losing Your Sense of Smell May Predict Death Within Five Years

Olfaction, or sense of smell, is strongly linked to many diverse physiological processes, and so researchers from the University of Chicago set out to determine if it is a harbinger of five-year mortality.

Using data from a nationally representative sample of more than 3,000 older US adults, the study found those with an inability to perceive odor (known as anosmia) were more than four times as likely to die in five years, compared to those with a healthy sense of smell.5

Specifically, 39 percent of the participants who failed the first smell test (which consisted of identifying five common scents) died in the next five years, compared to 19 percent of those who had moderate smell loss and 10 percent of those with a healthy sense of smell.

Why Might Your Sense of Smell Serve as a Bellwether of Your Health?

A loss of the sense of smell was a remarkably strong indicator of approaching death, even more so than known leading causes of death, and independent of known risk factors like nutrition, cognitive function, mental health, smoking, alcohol abuse, or frailty.

Loss of sense of smell was a stronger predictor of death than even a diagnosis of cancer, heart failure, or lung disease.6 Loss of olfactory function is probably not a cause of death, but rather may “serve as a bellwether for slowed cellular regeneration or as a marker of cumulative toxic environmental exposure,” the researchers said.

As The Guardian reported:7

The tip of the olfactory nerve, which contains the smell receptors, is the only part of the human nervous system that is continuously regenerated by stem cells.

The production of new smell cells declines with age, and this is associated with a gradual reduction in our ability to detect and discriminate odors. Loss of smell may indicate that the body is entering a state of disrepair, and is no longer capable of repairing itself.

The olfactory nerve is also the only part of the nervous system that is exposed to the open air. As such, it offers poisons and pathogens a quick route into the brain, and so losing smell could be an early warning of something that will ultimately cause death.”

Check for Zinc Deficiency if You Are Losing Your Sense of Smell

Zinc, an essential trace mineral, is required to produce an enzyme called carbonic anhydrase (CA) VI, critical to taste and smell, which is why loss of sense of smell is one of the classic signs of chronic zinc deficiency. This might be yet another reason why a dwindling sense of smell is linked to impending death, as zinc is important for a number of life-sustaining functions, including:

  • Strong immunity
  • Important component of the enzymes involved in tissue remodeling and prevention of cancer
  • Maintenance of your mood, mental clarity, and restorative sleep
  • Prostate and intestinal health

Zinc is a constituent of at least 3,000 different proteins in your body and a component of more than 200 different enzymes. In fact, zinc is involved in more enzymatic reactions in your body than any other mineral.

Zinc increases your production of white blood cells and helps them fight infection more effectively. It also increases killer cells that combat cancer, helps your immune system release more antibodies, and supports wound healing.

Mild zinc deficiency is relatively common, especially in infants and children, pregnant or breast-feeding women, elderly, people with poor gastrointestinal absorption or bowel disease like Crohn's disease, and for those eating vegetarian or vegan diets. A number of factors contribute to the overall problem of zinc deficiency:

  1. Years of industrial farming practices, such as monocropping (planting large expanses of land with the same crop year after year) and tilling the soil, have left our soils deficient in natural minerals, like zinc.
  2. Certain drugs deplete your body of zinc, such as ACE inhibitors, thiazide diuretics, and acid-reducing drugs like Prilosec and Pepcid.
  3. Certain diets, such as vegetarian/vegan diets and high-grain diets, are low in bioavailable zinc and high in phytic acids, which impair zinc absorption.

If you are deficient in zinc, your body may become less able to repair genetic damage caused by oxidative stress. Having low levels of zinc has even been found to cause strands of DNA to break and studies have linked zinc deficiency to various types of cancer, infection, and autoimmune diseases.

Along with frequent infections, such as cold and flu, and a diminishing sense of smell, white spots on your fingernails can indicate you're not getting enough zinc.

What Are the Best Food Sources of Zinc?

For adults, the RDA for zinc is about 11 milligrams per day for adult men and 8 milligrams for women. If you are lactating or pregnant, you need about 3 mg more. For children, 4-8 year olds need about 5 mg, and 9-13 year olds need 8 mg, while infants need only about 3 mg. Good sources of dietary zinc include meats, oysters and wild-caught fish, raw milk, raw cheese, beans, and yogurt or kefir made from raw milk.

If you are healthy and you eat a well-balanced diet, you will rarely need supplements to complete your body's zinc needs, and you should strive to get zinc from dietary sources. Taking too much zinc in supplement form can be dangerous, as it can interfere with your body's ability to absorb other minerals, especially copper. If you decide to use a zinc supplement, chelated forms are better absorbed than inorganic forms, or zinc salts.

Tips to Improve Your Sense of Smell

About 3 million to 4 million Americans have been diagnosed with anosmia (a complete inability to smell) or hyposmia (a reduced ability to smell).8 If you notice your sense of smell slipping, and you know you’re not zinc deficient, there are steps you can take to improve it. First, I’d suggest reading through my nutrition plan for a comprehensive dietary plan that will support your health on multiple levels. Next, try these tips that are known to boost your sense of smell:9

  • Exercise: Research shows that the more you exercise, the less likely you are to develop problems with your sense of smell as you age. Exercising even one time a week was found to reduce the risk of losing your sense of smell.10
  • Become scent conscious: Make a point to smell your food before you eat it, and notice the scent of flowers, cut grass, or even rain. Doing this regularly will help increase your sense of smell.
  • Try “sniff therapy”: Choose three or four different scents, such as floral, fruity, and coffee. Sniff them four to six times a day, which will help the different receptors in your nose to work better.

How to Use Your Sense of Smell to Your Advantage

If your sense of smell is working fine, why not use it to your advantage? Through the use of aromatherapy, you can harness certain scents that trigger real physical and emotional responses. For instance, research shows:

  • A systematic review of 16 randomized controlled trials examining the anxiolytic (anxiety-inhibiting) effects of aromatherapy among people with anxiety symptoms showed that most of the studies indicated positive effects to quell anxiety (and no adverse events were reported).11
  • People exposed to bergamot essential oil aromatherapy prior to surgery had a greater reduction in pre-operative anxiety than those in control groups.12
  • Sweet orange oil has been found to have anxiety-inhibiting effects in humans, supporting its common use as a tranquilizer by aromatherapists.13
  • Ambient odors of orange and lavender reduced anxiety and improved mood in patients waiting for dental treatment.14
  • Compared to the controls, women who were exposed to orange odor in a dental office had a lower level of anxiety, a more positive mood, and a higher level of calmness. Researchers concluded, “exposure to ambient odor of orange has a relaxant effect.”15

Anxiety, of course, is only one use for aromatherapy. Other potential uses are varied and include the following:

  • Green apple scent for migraines: One study found that the scent significantly relieved migraine pain. This may also work with other scents that you enjoy so consulting with an aromatherapist might be beneficial.
  • Peppermint for memory: The aroma of peppermint has been shown to enhance memory and increase alertness.
  • Nausea and vomiting: A blend of peppermint, ginger, spearmint, and lavender essential oils has been found to help relieve post-operative nausea.16
  • Lavender for pain relief: Lavender aromatherapy has been shown to lessen pain following needle insertion.17

Prescription Drugs Now Factor in Higher Percentage of Fatal Car Crashes Than Alcohol or Marijuana

By Dr. Mercola

Prescription drugs, marijuana, and multiple drug combinations are frequently found in the blood of drivers involved in fatal car crashes on US roads, according to a new study in Public Health Reports.1

Drivers today are more likely to test positive for drugs than drivers 20 years ago, and drugged drivers are now likely to be older than 50.

Gone are the days when drunk drivers were our only concern—alcohol is but one of MANY drugs that can make you dangerous behind the wheel. And now many people are on multiple drug cocktails, especially prescription drugs, which multiplies their impairment.

In 1993, about one in eight drivers were using more than one drug, but by 2010, it was closer to one in five. The number of drivers with three or more drugs in their system nearly doubled in this period, increasing from 11.5 to 21.5 percent. Study author Fernando Wilson of the University of Nebraska Medical Center adds:2

"Beyond that, we're also seeing more and more people using drugs and alcohol together. About 70 percent of drivers who tested positive for cocaine had also been consuming alcohol, and almost 55 percent of drivers who tested positive for cannabis [marijuana] also had alcohol in their systems."

Source: White House Report, Drug Testing and Drug-Involved Driving of Fatally Injured Drivers in the United States: 2005-2009 (PDF)

The Hidden Dangers of Pill-Popping

The study identified several drug use trends. Almost 60 percent of marijuana-only users were younger than 30, but 39 percent of prescription users were 50 or older.

This trend seems to be in line with the overall increased reliance on prescription medications, especially among lower income and older segments of the population. Ninety percent of people age 65 and up now use prescription medications.3

It is mind-boggling that the average person may have taken 14,000 prescription pills by age 70—and this doesn't include over-the-counter drugs! By the time you reach your 70s, you could be taking five or more pills every day, according to the documentary Pill Poppers. Virtually no drug is side effect-free, and drug side effects are often treated with even more drugs, perpetuating a vicious cycle.

Even drugs such as over-the-counter cold medications can make you sleepy and potentially dangerous behind the wheel. A 2013 CDC report estimated that up to 33 percent of all fatal car crashes involve a drowsy driver.4

Many people assume that the combination of drugs prescribed to them is safe to take while driving, because their doctor did not specifically warn them otherwise. The researchers suggest prescribers should take more care to warn patients about potential drugged driving impairment—a point also made by AAA in their 2009 report on this topic.5

Polypharmacy—using multiple drugs simultaneously—has numerous potentially adverse effects in your body, beyond impairing your operation of a motor vehicle, and typically a combination of drugs results in more impairment than any one single drug.

Even Small Amounts of Some Drugs Can Impair Your Driving

Use of a psychoactive (mind-altering) drug makes driving potentially unsafe—just like driving after drinking alcohol. The effects of specific drugs differ depending on how they act in your brain, but all can impair faculties necessary for the safe operation of a vehicle.

This includes motor skills, balance and coordination, spacial orientation, attention, reaction time, and judgment. According to National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):6

"Even small amounts of some drugs can have a measurable effect on driving ability...

It is hard to measure the exact contribution of drug intoxication to driving accidents, because blood tests for drugs other than alcohol are inconsistently performed, and many drivers who cause accidents are found to have both drugs and alcohol in their system, making it hard to determine which substance had the greater effect."

Drugs commonly implicated in accidents include opiates (narcotics), amphetamines (stimulants), benzodiazepines (depressants), cannabinoids, and cocaine. Many people are still under the illusion that prescription drugs are somehow safer than street drugs, but it's important to realize that prescription medications like hydrocodone and oxycodone are opioids—very similar to heroin.

Many prescription drugs, including opioid pain relievers and benzodiazepines prescribed for anxiety or sleep disorders, come with warnings about the operation of machinery—including motor vehicles—for a specified period of time after use. When prescription drugs are abused (taken without medical supervision), impaired driving and other harmful reactions are even more likely.



Source: White House Report, Drug Testing and Drug-Involved Driving of Fatally Injured Drivers in the United States: 2005-2009 (PDF)

18 Percent of Fatally Injured Drivers Test Positive for Multiple Drugs

Eighteen states currently have zero tolerance laws for drugged drivers. However, recent studies suggest these laws may not be making our roads much safer. One of these studies is the 2007 National Roadside Survey, performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).7 The survey found that more than 16 percent of weekend, nighttime drivers tested positive for illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter drugs.

More than 11 percent tested positive for illicit drugs. In 2009, another NHTSA survey found that 18 percent of fatally injured drivers tested positive for at least one illicit, prescription, or over-the-counter drug (an increase from 13 percent in 2005).8 These statistics are clearly trending in the wrong direction. According to a government report,9 in 2009 narcotics and cannabinoids accounted for almost half of all fatally injured drivers testing positive for drugs. The report, which includes an impressive array of statistical graphs and charts, includes the following facts:

  • Fatally injured male drivers outnumbered fatally injured female drivers by approximately 3:1
  • The younger age groups (15 to 24 and 25 to 34) accounted for almost half of all fatally injured drivers (each group with 23 percent)
  • Cannabinoid-positive drivers were younger, peaking at age group 15 to 24, while narcotic-positive drivers peaked at age group 45 to 54
  • Alcohol was involved in about one-third (34 percent) of all fatal crashes, yet among drivers who tested positive for any drug, 48 percent also tested positive for alcohol
  • Driver inattentiveness was associated with 10 percent of all fatally injured drivers but was slightly more common among narcotic, depressant, and other drug-positive drivers; drug-positive drivers are also less likely to wear seatbelts

Prescriptions Can Be Fatal if Used While Driving

In the CDC's Public Health Reports study, prescription drugs were involved in fatal car crashes at three times the rate of marijuana. In half of the fatal crashes, alcohol was also a factor. This is not meant to be an argument that driving under the influence of marijuana is safe, but this latest study clearly shows that combining prescription drugs and alcohol is even MORE dangerous when you're on the road.10

People involved in car accidents are more likely to have taken psychotropic drugs for a period of days, weeks, or months, according to a study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.11 Psychotropic drugs are those that alter your mental processes and are typically prescribed for anxiety, depression, insomnia, and other psychiatric disorders. Benzodiazepines, antidepressants, and insomnia drugs known as Z-drugs (including Sonata, Ambien, Imovane, and Lunesta) all have the potential to impair your driving.

Impaired driving is just one of the many risks of these drugs. Since 2009, deaths from properly prescribed drugs have outnumbered traffic fatalities in the US, largely from overdoses. Prescription medications are also killing more people than illegal drugs these days. Psychotropic drugs are associated with a variety of serious mental and physical problems, including but not limited to the following:

  • Benzodiazepines are associated with an increased risk of dementia, certain cancers, and premature death; hypnotics such as Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata ("sleeping pills") have been linked to certain forms of cancer and overall reduced lifespan
  • Opioid pain relievers (narcotics) are associated with an increased risk of depression; the use of these painkillers has quintupled in recent years, and addiction to painkillers has reached epidemic levels
  • Deaths from prescription painkillers increased five-fold among women between 1999 to 2010, largely as a result of overdoses; a 2011 CDC report stated that prescription painkiller overdoses now exceed the number of deaths from heroin and cocaine combined12
  • ADHD drugs (stimulants such as Ritalin, Adderall, and Strattera) have been linked to permanent brain damage, liver, heart and blood vessel damage, heart attack, stroke, sudden death, depression, suicide, and increased cancer risk; yet these psychotropic drugs are still being prescribed to children at alarming rates
  • Antidepressants such as Prozac and Paxil have been associated with a disproportionate number of violent acts, including assaults, suicides, and homicides

Alcohol Kills One in 10 Working-Age Adults

According to a recent CDC study, alcohol accounts for one in 10 deaths among working-age adults.13 In addition to alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents, the study also took into account deaths from homicides, falls, and chronic diseases, such as alcoholic liver disease, stroke, and breast cancer. The report emphasizes alcohol is the fourth-largest cause of preventable death, behind smoking, poor nutrition, and lack of exercise. The report also estimates that the ravages of alcohol cost the US $224 billion each year, or $1.90 per drink.14

Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana May Double Your Risk of an Accident

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the most psychoactive compound in marijuana) can also cause serious driving impairment, especially at higher blood levels. Studies in several localities have found that between four and 14 percent of drivers who sustained injury or died in traffic accidents tested positive for THC.15 A large study in the British Medical Journal found that marijuana nearly doubles your risk of having a vehicle collision.16

In the 2007 NHTSA survey, 8.7 percent of weekend nighttime drivers tested positive for marijuana—four times as many as had blood alcohol concentrations exceeding the legal limit.17 This should be a wake-up call, particularly now that marijuana has been legalized in some states. According to NIDA:18

"Considerable evidence from both real and simulated driving studies indicates that marijuana can negatively affect a driver's attentiveness, perception of time and speed, and ability to draw on information obtained from past experiences. Research shows that impairment increases significantly when marijuana use is combined with alcohol."

Cannabis and Alcohol Produce Different Types of Driving Impairment

Cannabis and alcohol acutely impair several driving-related skills in a dose-dependent fashion, but the effects of cannabis vary more between individuals than alcohol because of individual tolerance, varying methods of ingestion (smoking, eating, etc.), and differences in THC absorption and metabolism.19 Alcohol and THC produce different patterns of impairment. The detrimental effects of THC are more pronounced with your automatic driving functions (such as spatial location) than with more complex tasks that require your conscious control. With alcohol, the opposite is true.

Some scientists believe that moderate marijuana smokers tend to be more aware of their impairment than drinkers, so they tend to compensate more effectively while driving by utilizing a variety of behavioral strategies. Alcohol impairs reaction time and increases risk-taking behavior (driving faster, tailgating, and passing recklessly), whereas moderately stoned drivers tend to slow down and be more cautious. However, as THC levels rise, these compensation strategies fail. The differences in impairment between alcohol and cannabis are further elucidated by Slate:20

"Real-world data from auto accidents indicate that a drunk driver is approximately 10 times more likely to cause a fatal accident than a stoned driver. Pot makes drivers worse at mindless tasks like staying in a lane, while alcohol undermines behaviors that require more attention, like yielding to pedestrians or taking note of stop signs."

Epidemiological studies show that drivers with THC blood levels exceeding 10 ng/mL—equivalent to smoking about one-half of a joint—are far more likely than sober drivers to cause an accident.21 One study found that blood THC concentrations of only 2 to 5 ng/ml were associated with substantial driving impairment, particularly in occasional smokers.22, 23 The most consistent finding in driving studies is that marijuana and alcohol together pose a much greater risk than using either one alone, which is very concerning as the two drugs are frequently used together.24, 25

Some forms of cannabis have powerful medicinal effects due to their combination of cannabidiol (CBD), medicinal terpenes, and flavonoids. But THC is also present in medical cannabis in varying concentrations, so if you use it, please don't underestimate its psychoactive effects, and err on the side of caution—especially when it comes to operating a vehicle.

Lesson: Don't Get Behind the Wheel if You Are Taking Psychotropic Medication

The risk of driving impairment from prescription medications has likely been underestimated for many years. There is no way to know how many of the accidents attributed to "drunk driving" have really been a combination of alcohol AND prescription drugs. When you take combinations of drugs, even those prescribed by your doctor, the mental and physical effects can be complex and unpredictable. If you do choose to take psychoactive medications, exercise good judgment and avoid getting behind the wheel.

Worry and Obsession Linked to Alzheimer's Risk

By Dr. Mercola

Are you often anxious, fearful, and moody? Do you worry often or have feelings of envy, jealousy, and loneliness? These are characteristics of neuroticism, a personality trait might increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease significantly.

The association between neuroticism and Alzheimer’s later in life was so strong that researchers suggested people with such traits seek cognitive behavioral therapy to help reduce their risk.

It’s not that being neurotic directly causes Alzheimer’s. However, it certainly increases your stress levels and may drive you to engage in unhealthy behaviors, like smoking, which further increase your risk.

As cases of Alzheimer’s continue to rise, the finding is actually good news, because if you tend to worry excessively you can do something about it now rather than later.

Being Neurotic May Double Your Risk of Alzheimer’s

Women who scored highest on a test for neuroticism were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s than women with the lowest scores, the new study found.1

Women who were extroverted, meanwhile, had a lower degree of long-term distress, and while this wasn’t directly applicable to Alzheimer’s, the research found women who were both the most neurotic and the least extroverted had the highest risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

The implication is that the distress associated with neuroticism is likely what’s driving its tie to Alzheimer’s, and this was shown in a previous study conducted by the same researchers last year.

That study found that women who faced common psychosocial stressors often experienced long-standing distress, and were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, than those who did not.

The stressors included in the study were divorce, widowhood, work problems or illness in a relative… hurdles that many people must overcome in their lives.

Stress Is Well Known to Promote Dementia

The connection between neuroticism and Alzheimer’s isn’t surprising, because this type of personality is a harbinger for chronic stress. Studies have found links between acute and/or chronic stress and a wide variety of health issues, including your brain function.

Most recently, an animal study reveals that higher levels of stress hormones can speed up short-term memory loss in older adults.2 The findings indicate that how your body responds to stress may be a factor that influences how your brain ages over time. As reported by Business Standard:3

"[R]ats with high levels of the stress hormone corticosterone showed structural changes in the brain and short-term memory deficits… older animals with higher levels of stress hormones in their blood have 'older' frontal cortexes than animals with less stress hormones, thus, stress may act as a pacemaker of aging in this key brain region."

Previous research has also linked chronic stress with working memory impairment.4 Other recent research suggests that stress may even act as a trigger for or speed up the onset of Alzheimer's disease, which currently afflicts about 5.4 million Americans, including one in eight people aged 65 and over.5

Specifically, 72 percent—nearly three out of four—Alzheimer's patients have experienced severe emotional stress during the two years preceding their diagnosis.6 In the control group for the study, only 26 percent, or one in four, had undergone major stress or grief. Most of the stresses encountered by the Alzheimer's group involved:

  • Bereavement; death of a spouse, partner, or child
  • Violent experiences, such as assault or robbery
  • Car accidents
  • Financial problems, including "pension shock"
  • Diagnosis of a family member's severe illness

Normalizing Your Cortisol Levels Might Help Protect Your Brain

Elevated levels of cortisol, one of your body’s stress hormones, affect your memory by causing a gradual loss of synapses in your prefrontal cortex. This is the brain region associated with short-term memory.

Cortisol—a stress hormone—basically has a "corrosive" effect, over time wearing down the synapses responsible for memory storage and processing. According to researchers:7

"Short-term increases in cortisol are critical for survival. They promote coping and help us respond to life's challenges by making us more alert and able to think on our feet.

But abnormally high or prolonged spikes in cortisol—like what happens when we are dealing with long-term stress—can lead to negative consequences that numerous bodies of research have shown to include digestion problems, anxiety, weight gain, and high blood pressure."

The researchers suggest that you may be able to protect your future memory function by normalizing your cortisol levels. Such intervention would be particularly beneficial for those who are at high risk for elevated cortisol, such as those who show traits of neuroticism, are depressed or are dealing with long-term stress following a traumatic event.

For this, I highly recommend the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). It's an energy psychology tool that can help reprogram your body's reactions to everyday stress, thereby reducing your chances of developing adverse health effects.

For a demonstration, please see the following video featuring EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman, in which she discusses EFT for stress relief. For serious or deep-seated emotional problems, I strongly recommend seeing an experienced EFT therapist, as there is a significant art to the process that requires a high level of sophistication if serious problems are to be successfully treated.

Did You Know a High-Carb Diet Increases Your Risk of Dementia by 89 Percent?

Stress certainly should be kept to a minimum to protect your health in all facets as you age. Yet, this is only one piece of a complex puzzle. Your diet also plays a very important role. In fact, neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter, MD insists that being very strict in limiting your consumption of sugar and non-vegetable carbs is one of THE most important steps you can take to prevent Alzheimer's disease. He cites research from the Mayo Clinic, which found that diets rich in carbohydrates are associated with an 89 percent increased risk for dementia. Meanwhile, high-fat diets are associated with a 44 percent reduced risk. According to Dr. Perlmutter:

"[Alzheimer's] is a preventable disease. It surprises me at my core that no one's talking about the fact that so many of these devastating neurological problems are, in fact, modifiable based upon lifestyle choices… What we've crystallized it down to now, in essence, is that diets that are high in sugar and carbohydrates, and similarly diets that are low in fat, are devastating to the brain.

When you have a diet that has carbohydrates in it, you are paving the way for Alzheimer's disease. I want to be super clear about that. Dietary carbohydrates lead to Alzheimer's disease. It's a pretty profound statement, but it's empowering nonetheless when we realize that we control our diet. We control our choices, whether to favor fat or carbohydrates."

His book, Grain Brain, reveals how and why sugars and carbohydrates destroy your brain, and how to eat for neurological health. The combination of very little sugar and carbs, along with higher amounts of healthy fats is KEY for addressing not only Alzheimer's, but diabetes and heart disease as well. All of these conditions are rooted in insulin and leptin resistance, and the dietary answer is identical for all of them.

If Your Blood Sugar Is Even a Little High, You’re at an Increased Risk of Dementia


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The importance of a healthy diet cannot be overstated, as a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrated that even mild elevation of blood sugar—a level of around 105 or 110—was already dramatically associated with an elevated risk for developing dementia.8 Dr. Perlmutter believes it's very important for physicians to become cognizant of this link, and to stop downplaying the risks associated with even mildly elevated blood sugar.

If your fasting blood sugar is even mildly elevated (over 95 mg/dl), it's time to address your diet to lower it. Dr. Perlmutter makes a very important point here, noting that "normal" blood sugar really should not be the same as the average. It should be the optimal or ideal level. You do not want to be right smack in the middle "average" when the population sample is severely diseased! So what is an ideal fasting blood sugar level? Dr. Perlmutter suggests that anything over 92 or 93 is too high. He believes the ideal fasting blood sugar level is around 70-85, with 95 as the maximum. If you're fat adapted, there's no reason to shun even lower fasting blood sugar levels. According to Dr. Perlmutter:

"It really depends on whether you have adapted your body to burning fat. People who have been on a high-fat, low-carb diet are able to tap into body fat as an energy resource. They've undergone a change called keto-adaptation. It means they're burning fat and they can get by with much lower blood sugar because they're burning fat and don't need to worry about blood sugar as much.

This notion that your brain needs sugar is really old news as well. Fat, specifically ketones, which your body produces by metabolizing your fat, is now called a 'brain superfuel.' There is even a pharmaceutical product; a medical food that you can write as a prescription, which raises the level of ketones or fat in the bloodstream of patients, offered up now as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease. Who knew? The point is the brain loves to burn fat. That's what we have to shift it over to..."

One of the tools I've found particularly useful here is intermittent fasting, which can really help jumpstart your body into burning fat instead of carbs as its primary fuel. In his book, Grain Brain, Dr. Perlmutter also starts off the intervention section with a period of fasting, which can be viewed as pressing the Reset button. He's particularly aggressive about it in patients who are insulin/leptin resistant. 

So What’s the ‘Recipe’ for Healthy Brain Function?

According to Dr. Perlmutter, fat avoidance and carbohydrate overconsumption are at the heart of the Alzheimer's epidemic. To learn more about how you can protect your brain health by eliminating non-vegetable carbs from your diet, I highly recommend reading his book, Grain Brain. In order to reverse the Alzheimer's trend, we simply must relearn how to eat for optimal health. Processed "convenience foods" are quite literally killing us, inducing diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and dementia.

The beauty of following my optimized nutrition plan is that it helps prevent and treat virtually ALL chronic degenerative diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer's. Other lifestyle factors, particularly stress relief, sun exposure and exercise, are also potent allies against all forms of dementia. Ideally, you'll want to carefully review the suggested guidelines below and take steps to incorporate as many of them as you can into your daily lifestyle. The sooner you begin, the better.

Dietary Strategies to Help Prevent Alzheimer’s

  • Avoid sugar and refined fructose. Ideally, you'll want to keep your sugar levels to a minimum and your total fructose below 25 grams per day, or as low as 15 grams per day if you have insulin/leptin resistance or any related disorders.
  • Avoid gluten and casein (primarily wheat and pasteurized dairy, but not dairy fat, such as butter). Research shows that your blood-brain barrier is negatively affected by gluten. Gluten also makes your gut more permeable, which allows proteins to get into your bloodstream, where they don't belong. That then sensitizes your immune system and promotes inflammation and autoimmunity, both of which play a role in the development of Alzheimer's.
  • Optimize your gut flora by regularly eating fermented foods or taking a high-potency and high-quality probiotic supplement.
  • Increase consumption of all healthy fats, including animal-based omega-3. Sources of healthy fat include avocados, butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk, organic pastured egg yolks, coconuts and coconut oil, raw nuts, raw dairy, grass-fed meats, and pasture-raised poultry. Also make sure you're getting enough animal-based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil. High intake of the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA help by preventing cell damage caused by Alzheimer's disease, thereby slowing down its progression, and lowering your risk of developing the disorder.
  • Reduce your overall calorie consumption, and/or intermittently fast. Ketones are mobilized when you replace carbs with coconut oil and other sources of healthy fats. As mentioned above intermittent fasting is a powerful tool to jumpstart your body into remembering how to burn fat and repair the inulin/leptin resistance that is also a primary contributing factor for Alzheimer's. To learn more, please see this previous article.
  • Improve your magnesium levels. There is some exciting preliminary research strongly suggesting a decrease in Alzheimer's symptoms with increased levels of magnesium in the brain. Unfortunately, most magnesium supplements do not pass the blood-brain barrier.
  • Eat a nutritious diet, rich in folate. Vegetables, without question, are your best form of folate, and we should all eat plenty of fresh raw veggies every day. Avoid supplements like folic acid, which is the inferior synthetic version of folate.

General Lifestyle Guidelines for Alzheimer's Prevention

Besides diet, there are a number of other lifestyle factors that can contribute to or hinder neurological health. The following strategies are therefore also important for any Alzheimer's prevention plan:

  • Exercise regularly. It's been suggested that exercise can trigger a change in the way the amyloid precursor protein is metabolized,9 thus, slowing down the onset and progression of Alzheimer's. Exercise also increases levels of the protein PGC-1alpha. Exercise also leads to hippocampus growth and memory improvement.10 I would strongly recommend reviewing the Peak Fitness Technique for my specific recommendations. Also, be sure to do regular walking. New studies suggest you need between 7,000-10,000 steps a day, in addition to your high-intensity exercise, to stay healthy.
  • Optimize your vitamin D levels with safe sun exposure. Strong links between low levels of vitamin D in Alzheimer's patients and poor outcomes on cognitive tests have been revealed. Researchers believe that optimal vitamin D levels may enhance the amount of important chemicals in your brain and protect brain cells by increasing the effectiveness of the glial cells in nursing damaged neurons back to health. Vitamin D may also exert some of its beneficial effects on Alzheimer's through its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. Sufficient vitamin D (50-70 ng/ml) is imperative for proper functioning of your immune system to combat inflammation that is also associated with Alzheimer's.
  • Avoid and eliminate mercury from your body. Dental amalgam fillings, which are 50 percent mercury by weight, are one of the major sources of heavy metal toxicity, however you should be healthy prior to having them removed. Once you have adjusted to following the diet described in my optimized nutrition plan, you can follow the mercury detox protocol and then find a biological dentist to have your amalgams removed.
  • Avoid and eliminate aluminum from your body. Sources of aluminum include antiperspirants, non-stick cookware, vaccine adjuvants, etc. For tips on how to detox aluminum, please see my article, "First Case Study to Show Direct Link between Alzheimer's and Aluminum Toxicity."
  • Avoid flu vaccinations as most contain both mercury and aluminum, well-known neurotoxic and immunotoxic agents.
  • Avoid anticholinergics and statin drugs. Drugs that block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter, have been shown to increase your risk of dementia. These drugs include certain nighttime pain relievers, antihistamines, sleep aids, certain antidepressants, medications to control incontinence, and certain narcotic pain relievers. Statin drugs are particularly problematic because they suppress the synthesis of cholesterol, deplete your brain of coenzyme Q10 and neurotransmitter precursors, and prevent adequate delivery of essential fatty acids and fat-soluble antioxidants to your brain by inhibiting the production of the indispensable carrier biomolecule known as low-density lipoprotein.
  • Challenge your mind daily. Mental stimulation, especially learning something new, such as learning to play an instrument or a new language, is associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimer's. Researchers suspect that mental challenge helps to build up your brain, making it less susceptible to the lesions associated with Alzheimer's disease.