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On March 26, 2019, Rockland County, New York, executive Ed Day issued a state of emergency, barring children under the age of 18 who had not gotten a measles-containing MMR shot from entering public places, including schools, restaurants, churches, synagogues and public transportation.1,2,3
The ban was initially set to expire once the state of emergency was lifted in 30 days, but was cut short when an acting New York State Supreme Court judge issued an injunction lifting the state of emergency on April 5, saying the number of measles cases did not meet the legal definition of an epidemic required for an emergency order declaration.4
A few days later, on April 8, 2019, New York City health officials ordered Orthodox Jewish schools and day care programs in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn to bar unvaccinated students from attending classes for the remainder of the measles outbreak, or face closure.
The next day, April 9, public health officials ordered residents in four Williamsburg, New York zip codes — 11205, 11206, 11211, 112495 — to get vaccinated within 48 hours or face a $1,000 fine or six months in jail.
The order applied to any individual who lives, works or goes to school in these Brooklyn zip codes and has not gotten an MMR shot and/or cannot show proof of natural immunity or does not have an approved medical vaccine exemption. According to the Daily Mail,6 city officials plan to “track unvaccinated people by tracing anyone who may have come into contact with people who have measles.”
In a follow-up move on April 15, 2019, on behalf of five Brooklyn mothers identified only by their initials, lawyers Robert Krakow, Robert F. Kennedy (of the litigation advocacy group Children’s Health Defense) and Patricia Finn filed a legal challenge in the New York State Trial Court,7,8 asking for a temporary restraining order against the New York City Department of Health and Human Hygiene and its commissioner as respondents for issuing the Williamsburg neighborhood MMR vaccination mandate.
Although New York Justice Lawrence Knipel initially denied a temporary restraining order, the preliminary injunction issue is expected to be argued in court.9
But not to be undone, in a game of moves and countermoves, the very next day, April 16, 2019, Rockland executive Day announced a new order that he and local health officials are now imposing: Get vaccinated or face a $2,000-per-violation, per day, fine.
“The new order would keep unvaccinated students who don’t have medical or religious exemptions in the most affected areas from going to school, and those who have measles or have been exposed to it and are not vaccinated from going to public places, both indoor and outdoor,” CBS2 New York reported.10
Rockland County leaders told CBS2 New York that they believe the new order will “stand up to legal challenges” because it also orders people to cooperate with investigators from the Board of Health. Beyond that, Day added, “We will restrategize at every opportunity regardless of what’s thrown in front of us. That’s just what we’re going to do.”
Vaccination Order in Williamsburg Raises Concerns About Forced Medical Treatments
As in Rockland County, the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn is home to thousands of predominantly orthodox Jewish families, many of whom object to vaccination on the grounds of their religious beliefs. According to the Chicago Tribune:11
“News of the order got a mixed reaction among Orthodox Jews in Williamsburg, the Brooklyn neighborhood affected by the order. Some residents — even those who support vaccination — said they felt uncomfortable about the city pushing inoculations on people who don't want them.
Others remain convinced, against expert assurances, that vaccines are unsafe. ‘It's true that a lot of people have measles, and measles are not a very good thing,’ said resident Aron Braver, but he thinks the vaccine is ‘also not a very good thing.’ ‘And it's everybody's option to do what he wants. What he decides,’ Braver added.”
Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, called the measure “extreme,” saying it “raises civil liberties concerns about forced medical treatment.”12
Indeed, if the government can threaten and force people to get MMR shots, what’s to stop forced vaccinations for influenza, or HIV infection, or any of the other hundreds of experimental vaccines currently being developed by the pharmaceutical industry and the federal government?
After that, what’s to stop forced use of prescription drugs when you’re diagnosed with an illness and government approved “standard of care” policy dictates that doctors prescribe you a particular drug for a particular health condition?
It’s a slippery slope. The irony is that vaccines are not without risk just like prescription drugs are not without risk. The difference between prescription drugs and vaccines is that drugs are given to sick people to theoretically make them well and vaccines are given to healthy people (at least most of the time) to theoretically keep them well if in the future they come in contact with a microbe that could make them sick.
Either way, there’s always going to be risk involved. Shouldn’t everyone have the right to decide which risk they’re most comfortable taking?
Why is it that government is so eager to protect you from the possibility you might get sick or die from natural causes, but appears unwilling to lift a finger to protect you from the harms of medical treatments?
Is Measles Really a Public Emergency Warranting Draconian Measures?
According to Day, the county’s 168 measles cases identified between October 2018 and the end of March qualified as a public health emergency. He said he plans to appeal the New York Supreme Court judge’s injunction that lifted the Rockland state of emergency declaration. “If this is not an emergency, what is?” Chicago Tribune quotes him as saying.13
I, for one, can think of a whole host of issues that might warrant declaring a state of emergency, but measles is not one of them. According to World Health Organization (WHO) data,14 measles killed 110,000 people in 2017, and that’s the global number. In the U.S. and other developed countries measles rarely leads to death. In fact, the last recorded measles-associated death in the U.S. occurred in 2015.15
Just how does an illness that hasn’t killed a single American in four years, and prior to measles vaccine being introduced in the early 1960s resulted in an average of between 450 to 50016 deaths annually, qualify as an emergency warranting the violation of First Amendment and other constitutional rights that protect us from government overreach?
If you’re old enough, you probably recall the days when no one batted an eye at the mention of measles because it was a common infection that most everyone experienced before age 10. If you’re not, the video above includes several clips from popular TV shows in the 1960s, illustrating people’s attitudes toward measles at the time. Similarly, a 1963 article in the Minneapolis Tribune (image below), which quotes Dr. Karl Lundeberg, the chief health officer for the city, notes:
“Children’s diseases, particularly red measles, seem to come in cycles of two or three years, said Lundeberg. The cycle pattern occurs because the disease is so highly contagious. ‘Everybody gets the measles during the epidemic, so they become immune,’ said Lundeberg. It usually takes two to three years before enough susceptible persons are born to transmit the disease.”
This 1963 article mentions the outbreak involved 2,325 reported cases of measles. The primary concern of parents and doctors at the time? How to keep the young patients’ boredom at bay. In this article, the advice given was to stock up on board games. Fast-forward some 55 years, and a couple of hundred cases are now spawning calls for forced vaccinations and the removal of civil rights.
Times have indeed changed. But it’s mainly public perception, in response to unnecessary fear mongering by public health officials, vaccine developers and the media, that has morphed.
The disease itself remains one of the more benign — unless you get it when you’re older, are vitamin A deficient or live in an underdeveloped country where there is a lack of basic health care and sanitation. A 1964 paper17 describing the frequency of measles complications includes comments by authors on the announcement of a measles vaccine, stating:
“One of the major sources of doubt about the need for immunization stems from the belief among many parents and doctors that measles is a mild disease in which serious complications are rare and almost never fatal in normal children.
Deaths have indeed declined rapidly in recent years to about 2 per 10,000 notifications, and a recent study has shown that about half of the deaths occur in persons with serious chronic disease or disability.”
You can learn more about the history of measles in the U.S. and other countries on the National Vaccine Information Center’s website.18
Measles Cannot Be Compared to Smallpox
Now, Day and others are trying to force the measles containing MMR vaccine on everyone, in some cases justifying forced use of MMR vaccine by comparing it to mandates issued for smallpox vaccination back in 1902.19 Mandatory use of the smallpox vaccine became common in the 19th century because smallpox had a complication and mortality rate of 30 percent.20
In 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Massachusetts’ decision to mandate smallpox vaccination and revaccination during smallpox epidemics, which included a fine of $5 for those who refused.21
Rev. Henning Jacobson had sued the state, saying he and his son had experienced allergic reactions to the vaccine when they received it the first time, and therefore feared getting revaccinated might jeopardize their health. The judge in the case ruled their personal health concerns of a minority did not outweigh the greater good of the majority of society.
However, the 1905 Supreme Court justices also warned that mandatory vaccination laws should not be so inflexible that they become “cruel and inhuman to the last degree.” They commented, “All laws, this court has said, should receive sensible construction.”22
Measles is nowhere near as deadly as smallpox. In 1962, a year before the measles vaccine was licensed in the U.S., the measles death rate was reported to be 1 in 1,000 cases.23 However, chances are the death rate was much lower than that, as the case fatality figures are based on reported cases and most measles cases were benign and went unreported.24
Parents were not particularly worried about measles before the vaccine was widely used because, like chickenpox, it was accepted as a childhood rite of passage and complications were rare. However, measles does have more serious complications for older children and adults, which is why parents in the past wanted their children to get the disease when they were young.
Authors of a recent study25 in The Lancet Infectious Diseases reported that when measles infection is delayed, negative outcomes are 4.5 times worse “than would be expected in a prevaccine era in which the average age at infection would have been lower.”
Studies have also shown vitamin A deficiency tends to make measles deadlier, and this deficiency primarily affects developing countries, Africa and South-East Asia in particular.26 This is also where most of the measles deaths occur. Research has shown vitamin A therapy prevents pneumonia and measles-associated mortality,27,28 and the WHO recommends administering vitamin A at the time a diagnosis of measles is given.29
Illness Prevalence Versus Mortality
For some reason, when it comes to measles, public health officials and the media make it seem as though being sick is, in and of itself, a cause for hysteria, even though the absolute risk for death from that illness is minuscule. It is, in short, nonsensical. You cannot eradicate all infections, and if such an effort is undertaken, it would be wise to focus on diseases that have the highest mortality rates.
Naturally, any death, for any reason, is tragic, but you cannot avoid all causes of illness and death, and it certainly seems reasonable to ask whether it makes sense to mandate that children receive vaccines for diseases with low mortality when there are many other causes of death that are not only easier to prevent but would save far more lives.
According to a special report30,31 on child mortality published in 2018 in The New England Journal of Medicine, the two top causes of death among children aged 1 to 19 in 2016 were motor vehicle crashes (20% of total deaths; 4,074 children) and firearm-related injuries (15% of total deaths; 3,143 children).
In terms of disease, cancer was the primary cause of death (1,853 deaths), followed by suffocation (1,430 deaths) and drowning (995 deaths). A total of 982 children died from drug overdoses. Heart disease killed 599 children and chronic lower respiratory disease took the lives of 274.
So, where is the evidence that measles is a catastrophic public health concern comparable to smallpox that warrants forcing all children to get vaccinated or be banned from going out in public?
What’s more, let’s not forget that going through and recovering from measles confers natural lifelong immunity. The same cannot be said for the vaccine, which only provides an artificial immunity that can be temporary as health authorities found out in the early 1990s that one dose of MMR was not enough and now two doses of MMR are given. Measles outbreaks often occur even in highly vaccinated populations,32,33,34,35,36,37 so vaccination even with two doses is no guarantee the disease won’t spread.
Plus, because MMR vaccine is a live virus vaccine, people who get it can develop vaccine strain measles infection with symptoms like fever and a red rash that looks a lot like wild type measles. In fact, a study published in 2017 revealed that when samples of blood from “confirmed” measles cases in 2015 in the U.S. were lab tested, 37.63% (73 of 194 cases) turned out to be vaccine strain measles, not wild-type measles.38
Measles Outbreaks Have Repeatedly Occurred in Vaccinated Populations
By the early 1980s, about 95 percent of children entering kindergarten in the U.S. had received a dose of measles-containing vaccine but, in 1989-1990, there were outbreaks of measles among school-age children and college students.
Public health officials responded by recommending a second dose of MMR vaccine for all children. In an article published in Clinical Microbiology Reviews in 1995, researchers stated:39
“Measles, which was targeted for elimination from the United States in 1979, persisted at low incidence until 1989, when an epidemic swept the country. Cases occurred among appropriately vaccinated school-age populations and among unimmunized, inner-city preschool children.
In response to the epidemic, measles immunization recommendations have been modified. To prevent spread among school-age populations, a second dose of MMR vaccine is recommended at 5 to 6 or 11 to 12 years of age.”
Today, measles outbreaks are occurring even in populations that have received two or more doses of measles vaccine, and/or where vaccination rates are above the “herd immunity” threshold. For example:
• A 2017 measles outbreak in a highly vaccinated military population in Israel, ranging in age from 19 to 37. The first two patients identified had both received two doses of measles vaccine. Patient zero, a 21-year-old soldier, had documentation of having received three doses.40
• A 2014 study41 conducted in the Zhejiang province in China found populations that have achieved a measles vaccination rate of 99 percent through mandatory vaccination programs still experience outbreaks far beyond what the World Health Organization expects.
What’s more, 93.6 percent of the 1,015 participants in this study tested seropositive for measles antibodies, which theoretically means they should have been protected against the disease.
• A 1994 study42 looking at measles incidence in Cape Town, Africa, indicated that as vaccination rates increased, measles became a disease in populations where the majority of children had been vaccinated. The immunization coverage was 91 percent and vaccine efficacy was estimated to be 79 percent. According to the authors:
“The epidemiology of measles in Cape Town has thus changed as evinced in this epidemic, with an increase in the number of cases occurring in older, previously vaccinated children. The possible reasons for this include both primary and secondary vaccine failure.”
The herd immunity threshold for vaccine-acquired artificial immunity is thought to be between 80 and 95 percent,43 depending on the disease in question. For measles, it’s between 90 and 95 percent. According to the CDC, over 94 percent of kindergarten children nationwide have received two doses of measles-containing MMR vaccine and only about 2 percent of children attend school with vaccine exemptions.44
Despite the high vaccination rate in the U.S., it’s not enough to thwart outbreaks, and evidence suggest outbreaks would probably continue to occur even if vaccine coverage was at 100 percent.
Lawsuit Is Being Mounted Against New York City
In response to the latest attempt to force vaccinate individuals in New York, civil rights lawyer Michael Sussman is mounting a lawsuit on behalf of families who feel the order unlawfully targets the Jewish community.
According to the Daily Mail,45 “Public health law experts say the case could swing either way; it will all rest on how deadly a judge believes measles to be.” If that’s truly the case, the outcome should be clear, seeing how no measles-associated deaths have been reported in the U.S. since 2015, and even before the measles vaccine became available, the death rate from measles was low.
Update: Vaccine Refusers in Arizona Battle Department of Child Services
In a related update, on April 9 I wrote about a case in Arizona where a SWAT team used a battering-ram to break down the door to the home of a family whose 2-year-old son had a fever. Their doctor reported them to state authorities for failing to take the child to a hospital — a decision the parents say they made because the boy’s fever was already coming down. They also said they feared “possible repercussions” for not having vaccinated the child.46
The Department of Child Services (DCS) removed all three of the couple’s children. Arizona state Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, has spoken out in defense of the parents, calling on the DCS to release the children back into the parents’ custody.
On April 11, AZ Central reported47 that Maricopa County Juvenile Court judge Timothy J. Ryan barred Townsend from attending the April 10 pretrial hearing. Townsend said she’s following the case to make sure the couple’s legal and constitutional rights are not violated by DCS or the court. She told AZ Central she was “stunned” by the judge’s behavior. The article goes on to state:
“Townsend had previously said she worried the parents … were unfairly targeted because they had not vaccinated their children. In Arizona, a parent may decline vaccinations for their child based on personal, religious or medical exemptions.
She called on DCS to ‘immediately return the children who are also being traumatized’ and said the case was ‘a complete miscarriage of justice and a shame to the state of Arizona.’
Townsend said state lawmakers have required a presumption of open child-welfare court hearings ‘to protect everyone — children, parents, the entire process.’ Barring lawmakers from a courtroom doesn’t serve the public’s interest, she said …
Michael Ramey, executive director of the Parental Rights Foundation, said the case has drawn national attention from families worried about their right to parent. ‘Far too often, family courts are closed to the public, not to protect the families but to protect the secret, underhanded goings-on of the family court system,’ he said.”
At least 26 U.S. states,1 three Canadian provinces and countries including South Korea, Finland, Sweden and Norway have been affected by chronic wasting disease (CWD), a contagious neurological disease that affects deer, elk, reindeer and moose.
Experts are racing to understand and contain this deadly condition before it wipes out entire herds or, worse, spreads to humans — a possibility that’s been raised by a number of studies. CWD is part of the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) disease family — the most notable member of which is bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad cow disease, a condition that affects cattle.
A human version of mad cow disease, known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), also exists and made headlines when it was discovered that it can be caused by eating beef contaminated with brain, spinal cord or other central nervous system tissue from infected cattle.2
Given the rising prevalence of CWD, experts are now asking whether the disease poses a risk to humans, especially since it has elements that make it fit for a horror movie. Epidemiologist Michael Osterholm said, speaking to Minnesota lawmakers, “This is kind of a worst-case nightmare … If Stephen King could write an infectious disease novel, he’d write it about prions.”3
What Are Prions, the Cause of CWD?
CWD is thought to be caused by prions, which are quite different from “ordinary” pathogens of the bacterial, viral or fungal nature. Colorado State University’s Prion Research Center calls prions “unprecedented infectious agents,”4 in part because they do not have a nucleic acid genome, such as DNA.
While viruses and bacteria need DNA or RNA to replicate, prions can do so even in its absence. Further, as noted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), “[P]rions exhibit an extraordinary resistance to common treatments used to stop other infectious agents, such as ultraviolet and ionizing radiation, exposure to chemical disinfectants, and heat treatments.”5
Prions can be transferred not only via direct transmission but also indirectly, via exposure to contaminated materials in the environment. The infectious agents in CWD persist in the environment, which is why deer and elk raised in captivity (or concentrated via artificial feeding) have an increased likelihood of transmitting the disease among them.
In fact, even plants may harbor infectious prions, as research shows they can bind to plant roots and leaves. In one study, hamsters were infected by eating prion-contaminated plants, and the infectious prions remained on the plants for several weeks. Plants can also uptake prions from contaminated soil,6 and prions are believed to persist in the environment for decades.
It’s possible then, though not proven, that CWD could even spread via agricultural crops, as wild deer defecate in the fields and the feces contaminate the crops or the infectious proteins are taken up by plants, such as wheat.
Further, it’s common practice for manure from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to be spread over agricultural land, where it often runs off into waterways. If CWD mutates into a form that can infect cattle, this could have major implications for its spread.
To be clear, not all prions are problematic. We all have these proteins in our bodies. It’s when they become distorted, or misfolded, that they begin to damage brain cells, in a way similar to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
What Is CWD?
CWD causes progressive, neurological degeneration that leads to physiological and behavioral changes, including increased drinking and urination, weight loss, lowering of the head, listlessness, drooling, stumbling and death. Animals may be infected for a long period and show no symptoms, only to suddenly succumb to the disease.
“Through time [CWD] degrades, essentially, their brain tissue,” ecologist Heather Swanson told High Country News. “That seems to happen pretty rapidly. To our eyes, they look fairly healthy, and within a number of weeks they reach that point — and then they're gone.”7
Research by Swanson and colleagues found that mountain lions preyed on CWD-infected deer nearly four times more than noninfected deer,8 perhaps because they could sense that the deer were unwell — even though they appeared otherwise normal.
Despite the intense predation, “remarkably high infection rates sustained,” with about one-fourth of the deer sampled in the study infected.9 CWD was first identified in 1967 and is on the rise with new and ongoing outbreaks.
In Iowa County, Wisconsin, for instance, the proportion of adult white-tailed deer infected more than doubled over a six-year period, and as of 2016 approximately 40% to 50% of males and 20% to 30% of females were infected.10 Overall, in the U.S., the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated:11
“Nationwide, the overall occurrence of CWD in free-ranging deer and elk is relatively low. However, in several locations where the disease is established, infection rates may exceed 10 percent (1 in 10), and localized infection rates of more than 25 percent (1 in 4) have been reported.
The infection rates among some captive deer can be much higher, with a rate of 79% (nearly 4 in 5) reported from at least one captive herd.”
Subsidizing the Source
CWD was first identified in captive deer in Colorado and wasn’t found in wild deer until 1981.12 The transport of captive deer is thought to have contributed to the spread of CWD throughout the U.S. Today, deer farms persist across the U.S., including in Wisconsin, one of the states hardest hit by CWD.
The state has 380 deer or elk farms, 23 of which have tested positive for CWD. Fourteen of the facilities have been depopulated as a result,13 but some are allowed to stay open, despite the known presence of the disease. What’s more, when a deer farm tests positive for CWD and is depopulated, the business owner receives a subsidy or bailout from the government.
It may seem strange that a business such as a captive deer farm, which promotes the spread of CWD by raising animals in close quarters, would receive government subsidies. It occurs because captive deer are considered livestock and as a result are covered under the Condemnation of Diseased Animals statute, which was enacted in 1977.
In Wisconsin alone, deer farmers have received more than $330,000 in compensation from state and federal officials after their animals were killed over CWD fears.14 The money to bail out the diseased farms comes either from tax revenues paid by Wisconsin residents or, if there’s not enough available, from federal funds also generated by taxpayers.
In May 2018, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker announced new rules for deer farmers operating in counties affected by CWD, effective via an emergency order. Both captive deer breeding and hunting facilities were supposed to be required to install additional barriers around their facilities, while hunters would be required to cut hunted deer into quarters and leave the spinal cord, where the disease may concentrate, behind.15
Deer farmers in the state opposed the new measures, with some saying the requirements would put them out of business. The rule was amended, giving deer farmers a year to comply, but it expired in February 2019 — before it ever took effect.16 Further, in October 2018, lawmakers rejected the emergency rule’s limit on hunters moving deer carcasses from CWD-affected counties.
Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has allowed some deer farms with CWD-positive animals to continue operating, including Wilderness Game Farm Inc., which has had 84 known CWD cases and still sells hunts that cost up to $9,000.17 As prion disease continue to rise in animals, Alzheimer’s continues to rise in humans — a connection that deserves a much closer look.18
The Alzheimer’s Connection
The Prion Research Center regards other diseases that involve misfolding proteins, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Lou Gehrig's and Huntington’s diseases, as prion diseases, much like CWD.19 And there is reason to believe, according to a review in Medical Hypotheses, that Alzheimer’s may develop similarly to mad cow disease and other spongiform encephalopathies.
“In fact, Creutzfeldt-Jakob and Alzheimer's often coexist and at this point are thought to differ merely by time-dependent physical changes,” the researcher stated. “A recent study links up to 13% of all "Alzheimer's" victims as really having Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease … All of this brings up the unthinkable: that Alzheimer's, Cruetzfeldt-Jackob, and Mad Cow Disease might just be caused by eating the meat or dairy in consumer products or feed.”20
Another concern is antler velvet from elk, which is sometimes taken in supplement form. Prions have been detected in elk antler velvet, which suggests it plays a role in disease transmission among elk and “humans who consume antler velvet as a nutritional supplement are at risk for exposure to prions.”21
There is also growing suspicion that Alzheimer’s may have an infectious component capable of human-to-human transmission. More than 200 people are known to have developed CJD as the result of receiving growth hormone contaminated with prions that came from human cadavers.
When eight of them later were autopsied, four of them had buildups in the brain characteristic of early Alzheimer’s disease, with the researchers suggesting misfolded amyloid beta protein, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s, may be transmittable similar to other prions.22
Further, because prions aren’t killed by ordinary sterilization methods, it’s possible they could be transmitted during common medical procedures, including dental work and colonoscopies. Meanwhile, prions may be spread via contaminated feces, saliva, blood or urine, as well as via contact with contaminated soil, food or water.
Can CWD Be Transmitted to Humans?
The burning question is whether or not CWD can be transmitted to humans, and while hard data aren’t yet available, there are some concerning signs that the answer could be yes. In a study on macaques, monkeys that share genetic similarities with humans, the animals developed CWD after eating CWD-infected meat or brain tissue.23
Some of the meat came from deer that had CWD but showed no symptoms of the disease, yet was still able to spread the infection to monkeys.24 Studies are currently underway to determine if people in contact with CWD-infected animals or meat are at increased risk of prion diseases, but results won’t be available for some time.
The World Health Organization recommends products that could be contaminated with CWD or any related disease should be kept out of the human food chain.25
Some experts, including Osterholm, who serves as director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Prevention, tracked the ability of BSE to be transmitted to humans decades ago, however, and have already sounded the alarm. Many believed that mad cow disease couldn’t infect people — until it did. Osterholm believes the same fate will become of CWD:26
“It is my best professional judgment based on my public health experience and the risk of BSE transmission to humans in the 1980s and 1990s and my extensive review and evaluation of laboratory research studies … that it is probable that human cases of CWD associated with the consumption of contaminated meat will be documented in the years ahead. It is possible that number of human cases will be substantial and will not be isolated events.”
If You Eat Venison, Be Sure It’s Not Infected
If you’re a hunter or consume meat from elk or deer, you should ensure the meat is tested for CWD before it’s consumed. While some states require testing of deer from high-CWD areas, others do not, and some areas offer free testing while in others it must be done at the hunter’s expense.
If you’ve obtained a deer from a captive farm, which isn’t recommended, it’s especially important to have the animal tested, as the farms are high-risk zones for CWD. It’s important to understand that you cannot judge whether an animal has CWD by symptoms alone. It can be years before symptoms develop, and a healthy-looking animal may still be infected and capable of transmitting the disease.
In addition, the CDC recommends hunters use caution when handling a deer in the field, including wearing latex or rubber gloves when handling the meat and minimizing contact with the organs, especially the brain and spinal cord.
If CWD disease has already mutated into a form that could infect humans, symptoms may not be seen for years or decades, and they may appear similar to other prion diseases like vCJD, making the diseases virtually indistinguishable.
The first commercially available gene-edited food is now on the market, but consumers won't know where it's being sold or if they've eaten food that contains it. The product, a gene-edited soybean oil created by biotech company Calyxt, was picked up by its first user — a Midwest company with both restaurant and foodservice locations, which is using it for frying as well as in dressings and sauces.1
Calyxt's soybean oil, Calyno, contains two inactivated genes, resulting in an oil with no trans fats, increased heart-healthy oleic acid and a longer shelf life. Along with refusing to identify the buyer of its gene-edited high-oleic soybean oil, Calyxt is marketing its product as "non-GMO," although it's clearly genetically engineered.
Using Semantics to Hide GMOs
Although they're genetically engineered, gene-edited foods are not marketed as GMOs, nor are they labeled as such. The difference comes down to a matter of semantics.
Calyxt used Transcription Activator-Like Effector Nuclease (TALEN) to find and edit DNA sequences in the making of its soybean oil, a process a company spokesperson went so far as to say could happen in nature. Speaking to Forbes, they stated:2
"[U]nlike GMOs, we simply edit existing genes within crops using our technology to speed up a process that otherwise could have happened in nature.
Through this process, we're able to provide outcomes quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively for the American people so that they can have healthier food ingredients without compromising the taste of what they already love. No foreign DNA is added to the product."
Unfortunately, they've also succeeded in introducing a genetically engineered oil to the U.S. food supply without the American people's knowledge or consent. The appeal to food manufacturers is clear: Calyxt's oil, with its zero trans fats and long shelf life, will appeal to companies eager to replace trans fats.
In an announcement through Bloomberg,3 Calyxt said this high-oleic oil contains "approximately 80 percent oleic acid and up to 20 percent less saturated fats." Calyxt also said they'd just completed the company's first commercial sale of a "premium," high oleic soybean meal as a livestock food additive that would be an "added benefit" for the livestock.
But the public may have another take on the matter, especially as many increasingly seek out real, whole foods in lieu of GMOs. One survey found only 32 percent of Americans are comfortable with GMOs in their food.4
By hiding behind the label of gene editing, they can pass off their genetically engineered Calyno oil as natural when it's clearly not. More than 100 farmers in the Midwest are reportedly growing Calyxt's high-oleic soybeans on more than 34,000 acres.5
Gene-Edited Chickens Created
If eating gene-edited soybean oil has you feeling like a guinea pig, you may be equally uneasy to know that gene-edited chickens are also a thing. At the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, chickens have been modified to resist flu, which spreads rapidly among CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) birds and has the potential to be transmitted to humans.
In order to create the transgenic chickens, scientists used the gene-editing technology known as CRISPR, or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat. They targeted part of the ANP32 gene, which codes for a protein that flu viruses depend on,6 and cells without the gene were impervious to the flu.
The Roslin Institute has also used gene editing to create pigs that are resistant to a disease called Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome, or PRRS, edits that are permanent and passed down to other generations. Other companies are using gene editing to remove genes that grow horns in dairy cattle, therefore allowing them to bypass the inhumane process of removing horns from CAFO cattle with no pain relief.
There is talk that first using gene editing to ease animal suffering or fight agricultural disease could soften regulators' stance and create a more favorable profile to the public.7 But ultimately the technology will inevitably be used increasingly for the purpose of profits.
Case in point, one study funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture has added the SRY gene to cattle, which results in female cows that turn into males, complete with larger muscles, a penis and testicles, but no ability to make sperm.8 Male (or male-like) cattle are more valuable to the beef industry because they get bigger, faster, allowing companies to make greater profits in less time.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed classifying animals with edited or engineered DNA as drugs, prompting backlash from the biotech industry,9 which doesn't want such foods labeled. The Roslin Institute has also launched a survey to gauge people's views on gene-editing and whether or not they would eat gene-edited animals.10
However, because they contain no foreign genetic material, foods produced via gene-editing are not subject to regulation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) — although an advisory board recommended gene-edited foods could not be labeled organic — or other regulatory agencies.
Gene Editing Used to Create High-Fiber Wheat, Altered Potatoes
To date, gene editing has been used not only to produce soybeans with altered fatty acid profiles, but also potatoes that take longer to turn brown and potatoes that remain fresher longer and do not produce carcinogens when fried. Other uses for gene-editing in foods include the creation of low-gluten wheat, mushrooms that don't turn brown and tomatoes that can be produced in areas with shorter growing seasons.
The technology may even be used to create plants that withstand droughts and diseases or seeds that can be customized to unique growing conditions. Calyxt has also developed a high-fiber wheat that has been declared a "nonregulated article," by the USDA's Biotechnology Regulatory Services of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The wheat is in Phase 1 of development and may launch as early as 2020 or 2021.11
Calyxt has lofty plans for expansion and is also working on gene-edited cold-storable potatoes and canola oil with improved composition, and hopes to eventually create products with many gene-edited targets in one. According to the company:12
"In particular, over time we may explore opportunities to apply our commercial strategy elsewhere around the world and leverage our North American products and footprint to target geographies where there are unmet consumer or farmer needs.
We also intend to explore the ability to add value through our existing product candidates once they are commercialized by combining traits in the same crop, which may allow us to create products with additional benefits without adding significant cost."
Gene Editing Isn't Always Precise, Carries Significant Risks
While gene-edited foods have already been released into the food supply, there safety is largely unknown. What is known, however, is that gene editing isn't a perfect science, and off-target edits could cause unintended changes to plant DNA, with consequences that could include growth disturbances, exposure to plant diseases or the introduction of allergens or toxins.13
In animals, gene editing has led to unexpected side effects, including enlarged tongues and extra vertebrae.14,15 Often researchers don't know the extent of a gene's functions until they attempt to tweak it, and something like an extra vertebra reveals itself. Speaking with Yale Insights, Dr. Greg Licholai, a biotech entrepreneur, explained some of the very real risks of CRISPR and other gene-editing technologies:16
"One of the biggest risks of CRISPR is what's called gene drive, or genetic drive. What that means is that because you're actually manipulating genes and those genes get incorporated into the genome, into the encyclopedia, basically, that sits within cells, potentially those genes can then be transferred on to other organisms.
And once they're transferred on to other organisms, once they become part of the cycle, then those genes are in the environment.
That's probably the biggest fear of CRISPR. Humans manipulating the genetic code, and those manipulations get passed on generation to generation to generation. We think we know what we're doing, we think we're measuring exactly what changes we're doing to the genes, but there's always the possibility that either we miss something or our technology can't pick up on other changes that have been made that haven't been directed by us.
And the fear then is that those changes lead to antibiotic resistance or other mutations that go out into the population and would be very difficult to control. Basically creating incurable diseases or other potential mutations that we wouldn't really have control over."
Japan Follows US, Says Gene Edited Foods Are Safe
While the European Union has ruled that gene edited crops must go through the same approval process as GMOs, Japan recently concluded that such foods could enter the consumer marketplace without any safety studies. "There is little difference between traditional breeding methods and gene editing in terms of safety," Hirohito Sone, an endocrinologist at Niigata University, stated.17
However, in an interview with GM Watch, Michael Antoniou, a London-based molecular geneticist, explained that significant changes could occur due to genetic editing, in both agricultural and medical contexts, necessitating long-term safety and toxicity studies. He explained:18
"Many of the genome editing-induced off-target mutations, as well as those induced by the tissue culture, will no doubt be benign in terms of effects on gene function. However, many will not be benign and their effects can carry through to the final marketed product, whether it be plant or animal …
Thus not only is it necessary to conduct whole genome sequencing to identify all off-target mutations from CRISPR-based genome editing, but it is also essential to ascertain the effects of these unintended changes on global patterns of gene function.
… In addition, it is important to acknowledge that the targeted intended change in a given gene may also have unintended effects. For example, the total disruption or modification of an enzyme function can lead to unexpected or unpredictable biochemical side-reactions that can markedly alter the composition of an organism, such as a food crop.
The compositional alterations in food products produced with genome editing techniques will not be fully revealed by the molecular profiling methods due to the current inherent limitations of these techniques. So it is still necessary to conduct long-term toxicity studies in established animal model systems. In the absence of these analyses, to claim that genome editing is precise and predictable is based on faith rather than science."
Organic Foods Are Not Gene Edited
Without a label requirement, there's no way for consumers to know whether they're eating gene-edited soybean oil — or one of the many future gene-edited products likely to hit the market. For now, however, gene-edited foods cannot be labeled organic, which is one more reason why seeking out organic and, even better, biodynamic foods, is so important.
This may not be the case forever, though, as some organic proponents have claimed gene editing falls within the realm of organic if used in a way that mimics nature.19 That being said, when the National Organic Standards Board voted (unanimously) to add CRISPR to the excluded methods list, one board member said:20
"It very clearly is a GMO [method] and has no field history of improved varieties to evaluate what unintended effects the technology might have on the environment, just like all of the GMOs released into the environment have had unintended effects that don't show up for a number of years."
Whether the U.S. government will ultimately decide to classify gene-edited foods similarly to GMOs or conventional foods, or to allow them under the organic label, remains to be seen, but for now the best way to avoid gene-edited foods, if you so choose, is to purchase organic.
If you are still baking primarily with whole wheat flour because you believe it is better for your health, you may not be aware of the many alternative flours that exist. While some are worth checking out, there are others that are best avoided altogether, such as corn flour and soy flour, which did not make the list as they are often produced from genetically engineered crops.
Many of the 20 alternative flours highlighted below are gluten-free. If you have celiac disease, a gluten intolerance or have chosen to go gluten-free for other reasons, you are very likely familiar with some of them. Gluten, by the way, is a protein made of glutenin and gliadin molecules that forms an elastic bond in the presence of water, thereby holding bread and cakes together and giving them a spongier texture.
Gluten is a concern because it interferes with your body's ability to break down and absorb nutrients from food. Gluten contributes to the formation of a glue-like, constipating lump in your gut that can interfere with proper digestion.
Undigested gluten prompts your immune system to attack your villi, the fingerlike projections lining your small intestine, resulting in side effects such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation or nausea. Gluten consumption can also predispose you to increased inflammation, nutrient malabsorption and deficiencies and other health problems.
Eight Healthy Alternative Flours
The eight flours shown directly below are, in my opinion, the healthiest of the 20 alternative flours addressed in this article. Each is gluten- and wheat-free. Two of my personal favorites are almond and coconut flour. Again, you will need to experiment a bit to figure out which types of flours work best with your recipes. When in doubt, start with smaller amounts of each type of flour and adjust from there.
Almond1 — Almond is produced by grinding and sifting blanched almonds into a fine powder. (The terms almond flour and almond meal are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. Almond meal is made by grinding almonds with their skins intact, a process that produces a coarser end product.) Because almonds are a tree nut, almond flour is naturally gluten- and wheat-free.
Almond flour is sweeter than other flours, low in carbohydrates and packed with protein and fiber. It is a good source of copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and vitamin E. While almond flour can be used as a 1-to-1 replacement for wheat flour, it will have the effect of making baked goods denser and flatter than usual.
Amaranth2,3 — Amaranth flour is a gluten-free, wheat-free flour produced by grinding the seeds of the amaranth plant into a fine powder. Not only does amaranth flour contain all nine essential amino acids, but it is also a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. While technically not a grain, amaranth flour is grain-like and is described as having an earthy, nutty taste.
Because it is a dense flour, you will achieve better results when blending amaranth with other flours. Start with 25 percent amaranth and adjust from there. It does best in pancakes and quick breads and can also be used to thicken roux, soups, stews and white sauces.
Arrowroot4,5 — Derived from the root of the plant of the same name, arrowroot flour (also known as arrowroot starch) is a tasteless, odorless powder useful as a thickening agent.
It is far superior to cornstarch, which is often genetically engineered. It also can be used as a breading for fish and meats or blended with other gluten-free/wheat-free flours to make baked goods.
Arrowroot contains a good amount of B vitamins, iron and potassium, but no protein, which gives it superior thickening power. As such, it is often used in confections because it creates a perfectly clear gel that can stand up to acidic ingredients and freezing. Accordingly, it is often used to thicken fruit gels and fruit sauces, including cranberry sauce and sweet and sour sauce.
Coconut6,7 — Coconut flour consists of the dried meat of fresh coconuts after they've been pressed to make coconut milk and most of the oil has been extracted. When used as a replacement for conventional flour, it adds a mild coconut flavor while imparting a rich texture and natural sweetness.
Coconut flour is nutritious, in part, because it boasts the highest percentage (48 percent) of dietary fiber of any flour. It's also a good source of protein, while being very low in carbohydrates. And, it's naturally gluten- and wheat-free.
You can turn standard baked goods into delicious gluten-free, low-carb paleo treats by replacing the wheat flour with coconut flour and adding eggs. On average, add one egg for every ounce of coconut flour used — this will help the ingredients hold together when baked. Also, because it is very dense, you will need to slightly increase the liquids in recipes involving coconut flour.
As a general rule of thumb, you can replace one-fifth of the flour in a recipe with coconut flour without compromising the taste or texture of the finished product. For a delicious breakfast treat, check out my recipe for coconut flour almond meal pancakes.
Hemp8 — Hemp flour (also known as hemp powder) is produced by milling and sifting hemp seeds after they are crushed to extract the oil. Hemp flour is gluten- and wheat-free and adds a mild, nutty flavor to baked goods. It is about 33 percent protein, making it a great source of amino acids. It is high in fiber, iron, magnesium and zinc.
This dense flour does best when combined with other alternative flours for baking. Limiting hemp powder to 25 percent of your flour blend will ensure a lighter texture, especially when baking bread. Due to its oily nature, hemp powder will go rancid unless it is refrigerated.
Millet9,10,11 — Millet is an ancient, drought-resistant grain — part of the grass family — grown widely in China, India and countries surrounding the Sahara Desert in western Africa. It has a protein structure similar to wheat, but is gluten- and wheat-free. It boasts a sweet, buttery, cornmeal-like flavor.
Millet is a good source of B vitamins and offers a decent amount of copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium and zinc. That said, millet also contains goitrogens, dietary substances known to impair your thyroid and iodine metabolism.
In countries in which millet is consumed as a staple, the development of goiter is common.12,13 As such, you'll want to moderate your intake.
Sorghum14,15 — Sorghum flour, which is both gluten- and wheat-free, is ground from the grain of the same name. It is an important dietary staple for some 9 million people worldwide, and is used often in Africa and India to make porridge and flat, unleavened breads. The Ethiopian flatbread called injera and a particular type of Indian roti are both made with sorghum.
Sorghum flour is a good source of antioxidants, B vitamins, fiber, iron phosphorus and protein. It has a mild, slightly sweet taste, which makes it a good addition to flour blends. It does not work well in cup-for-cup substitutions with regular flour.
Tapioca (cassava)16,17 — Tapioca flour is derived from the root of the cassava plant, producing a fine white flour useful as a thickener for gravies, sauces, soups and stir-fries. Tapioca adds chewiness to gluten-free and wheat-free baked items, and can be stored at room temperature for long periods of time.
Due to its bland taste, blending tapioca with other flours is best when using it for baking. Start by using 25 percent tapioca in your gluten-free blends and adjust according to your preference. When using sorghum flour for baking, you may want to increase your liquids slightly or add an extra egg to increase moisture content. If you are a diabetic or prediabetic, tapioca, as a digestive-resistant starch, is one of the recommended superfoods for diabetics.
Two additional "flours" I want to bring to your attention are those derived from cauliflower and macadamia nuts. To me, "cauli-flour" is simply riced cauliflower that can be spiced up to make a tasty flatbread or pizza crust. You can rice cauliflower by placing pieces of raw, washed cauliflower in your food processor and blending it until it is reduced to tiny, rice-sized pieces.
If you like cauliflower, check out these delicious recipes for nutritious golden cauliflower flatbread and cauliflower pizza crust. By using cauliflower instead of grain flours in these recipes, you replace starchy carbohydrates with whole-food nutrition and cut calories, while satisfying your craving for bread.
Similar to almond flour, macadamia flour is produced by using your food processor to transform whole, raw macadamia nuts into a fine powder. Macadamia flour has a sweet, nutty taste and is a healthy gluten-free, low-carb option. Macadamia flour is lower in both carbs and protein than almond flour. For a new taste twist, you can substitute macadamia flour into recipes calling for almond flour, including the coconut-almond pancake recipe mentioned above.
12 Flours to Avoid if You Want to Minimize Harmful Lectins
The 12 flours highlighted below are often touted as healthy alternatives to wheat, especially when it comes to gluten-free diets, whether it be celiac disease or simply a matter of personal preference. While some of these alternative flours are considered nutritious solely based on the amount of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals they contain, their health benefits may be overshadowed by the presence of harmful plant lectins.
Lectins are sugar-binding plant proteins that attach to your cell membranes and can be a hidden source of weight gain and ill health, even if you eat an otherwise healthy diet. Many lectins are proinflammatory, immunotoxic, neurotoxic and cytotoxic.
Certain lectins may also increase blood viscosity, interfere with gene expression and disrupt endocrine function. Because the following flours are high in lectins, I recommend you use them sparingly or avoid them entirely, especially if you have an autoimmune disease.
Barley18 — Barley flour is made from milled whole grain barley that's had its outer husk removed. This wheat-free flour contains some gluten and has a slightly sweet, nutty flavor. Barley flour is rich in fiber. Similar to oat flour (discussed later), it contains high amounts of soluble fiber composed of indigestible sugars called beta-glucans, which have been shown to lower your blood pressure.
For best results, use barley flour in a blend with other flours, and limit it to about 25 percent of the overall mix. It can also be used to thicken or flavor soups or stews.
Buckwheat19,20 — Despite its name, buckwheat (also known as kasha when its toasted) flour is not a form of wheat, but actually a relative of rhubarb. Because it is ground from seeds, buckwheat flour is both gluten- and grain-free. Due to its strong nutty taste, which can be overpowering and somewhat bitter, buckwheat flour should not stand alone in a recipe.
Buckwheat, which is a good source of calcium, fiber and protein, is a very fine flour and can be used as a substitute for cornstarch in gluten-free bread recipes. Buckwheat is a low-glycemic carbohydrate offering better satiety than wheat bread, so you'll feel fuller longer. You can replace regular flour with buckwheat flour cup-for-cup. It is said to make excellent waffles and pancakes, including Russian blinis, as well as French buckwheat crepes.
Chia21,22 — Chia flour is produced from ground chia seeds and is touted as a superfood because it is a source of concentrated energy and nutrition. Chia flour boasts a high calcium, fiber, omega-3 and protein content. When baking with chia flour, you will need to increase the amount if liquids and cooking time to achieve the best results. Chia flour is gluten- and wheat-free.
Chickpea23,24 — Also known as garbanzo bean flour, chickpea flour possesses a distinctive, slightly nutty taste that does not do well on its own. When substituting it for conventional flours, use very small amounts in combination with other gluten- and wheat-free flours, otherwise its distinctive taste may dominate. Chickpea flour is high in fiber, folate, manganese and protein.
Lupin25,26 — Lupin flour is derived from the "sweet lupin" legume that is in the same family as peanuts and soybeans. As such, this gluten- and wheat-free flour is high in fiber and protein and low in fat. The major caution about lupin flour is the possibility it may be life-threatening if you have a peanut or soybean allergy. Similar to other gluten-free grains, lupin does best when included in a flour blend.
Oat27,28 — Oat flour is made from ground oats, which can be concerning if you have celiac disease since oats are often contaminated with wheat. Even if you avoid wheat, you still need to contend with avenin, a protein in oats that is similar to gluten and therefore can have negative effects on celiac sufferers.
Oat flour is often thought to be a healthy choice because it contains high amounts of soluble fiber comprised of indigestible sugars called beta-glucans, shown to lower your blood pressure. Oat flour is well suited for baking, but absorbs liquids, so plan to increase liquid ingredients when using it. Oat flour goes rancid quickly, so store it in your refrigerator or freezer, or make small batches using a food processor.
Potato29 — Potato flour and potato starch, both of which are gluten- and wheat-free, are often confused. Potato flour possesses a very strong potato flavor, as well as the heaviness of potato. For these reasons, a little goes a long way in a recipe. It also has a short shelf life, so buy it only when you plan to use it.
Potato starch, on the other hand, has a light potato flavor and a consistency similar to cornstarch or tapioca. It has a longer shelf life, is a good thickener and has a taste virtually undetectable in recipes. If you are a diabetic or prediabetic, potato starch is one of the digestive-resistant starches recommended for diabetics. Both the flour and the starch cannot stand alone in recipes, and will do better when blended with other gluten-free flours.
Quinoa30,31 — Quinoa flour is produced from milled quinoa seeds. This ancient grain with a nutty flavor is both gluten- and wheat-free. It is recognized for its high amounts of lysine and isoleucine that enable it to be a complete protein source. It is one of the few plant foods containing all nine essential amino acids.
As a whole grain or flour, quinoa is particularly rich in two flavonoids, kaempferol and quercetin, which have antioxidant properties. Quinoa flour tends to dry out baked goods when used in large amounts. For that reason, it is best to use only small amounts of this flour in sweets such as muffins and quick breads.
Rice32,33 — Both brown and white rice flour are gluten- and wheat-free. Brown rice flour is the heavier, grainer of the two. While it has a higher nutritional content than its white cousin, brown rice flour can be a bit grainy and heavy in some recipes. Similar to potato and tapioca, brown rice flour is one of the digestive-resistant starches recommended if you are a diabetic or prediabetic.
Brown rice flour has a slightly nutty flavor, whereas white rich flour is quite bland. Given that white rice flour is milled from polished white rice, it has very little nutritional value. Its strength is in the light texture it imparts, making it ideal in recipes such as dumplings and pizza crust.
Keep in mind that rice contains chitin-binding lectins, which are similar to wheat lectin. Because chitins are long polymers of n-acetyl-glucosamine, the primary binding target of wheat lectin, wheat lectin and chitin-binding lectin are functionally identical. Given this reality, in my opinion, a grain-free diet often yields far superior health benefits as compared to a diet focused solely on eliminating wheat- and gluten-containing grains.
Rye34,35 — Rye flour is a dark flour that possesses a distinctive flavor. It is wheat-free and has a low gluten content. Breads made with rye flour tend to be denser than those made with wheat. When milled, rye flour retains the germ, endosperm and bran, making it more nutritious than refined wheat flour. Rye flour is a good source of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc, as well as fiber and protein.
When used in baking, rye flour, due to its lower gluten content than wheat flour, is less elastic and therefore produces bread that is less airy. Rye dough also contains more free sugars than wheat, so it ferments faster.36
Spelt37,38 — Spelt flour results from the milling of an ancient grain of the same name. Spelt flour contains a low amount of gluten, but is not entirely gluten-free. It is a good source of B vitamins, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc, and rich in fiber and protein. Spelt tends to absorb more moisture than wheat flour, so you will want to reduce liquids by 25 percent when substituting it.
When using spelt flour to make bread, take care to knead it lightly otherwise it will become dense. Spelt flour produces a bread similar in color to light rye, with a slightly sweet and nutty flavor. Some varieties of crackers and pretzels are made with spelt flour.
Teff39,40 — Teff flour is made from milled teff, a tiny cereal grain originating from northern Africa. Teff flour is a primary ingredient in the spongy, slightly-sour flatbread called injera that is eaten daily in countries such as Eritrea and Ethiopia.
It is both gluten- and wheat-free, with a mild, nutty flavor. Teff is an excellent source of amino acids, and is high in calcium, iron and protein. Much of its fiber is a type known as resistant starch, which has been linked to health benefits such as improved blood sugar and weight management.
Final Thoughts About Alternative Flours
Using alternative flours will require patience and can be quite a challenge. If you are living a gluten-free lifestyle — either due to celiac disease, a gluten or wheat intolerance or simply as a matter of personal preference — you will need to do some experimenting to achieve your desired outcomes. The struggles and rewards of gluten-free baking come in blending several flours, adding eggs and adjusting liquids.
The biggest adjustment, however, will be in your expectations for the finished product. No matter how many techniques and tricks you use, it is virtually impossible to replicate the elasticity of gluten in most baked goods, particularly in yeast breads. In time, however, you'll acquire a taste for denser, flatter treats made with one or more of the healthy alternative flours.
As you make a conscious choice to eat less wheat-containing foods, or perhaps to avoid wheat altogether, mainly because it is an inflammatory food, you'll be happier and healthier. I would say the same for the alternative flours containing lectins — it's better to avoid them or moderate your use. If you are looking for new ideas for gluten-free cooking and baking, check out my Healthy Gluten-Free Recipes.
Earth Day is an annual event celebrated each year on April 22, to promote environmental awareness and protection. As noted by calendar-365.com:1
"The history of Earth Day … dates back to 1970 when it was first celebrated … It was founded by Senator Gaylord Nelson to promote ecology and the respect for life on the planet as well as to encourage awareness of the growing problems of air, water and soil pollution."
You may be surprised to learn that of all the sources of pollution in our modern world, the greatest contributor is conventional agriculture. As explained by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations:2
"Over two-thirds of human water use is for agriculture … Crop and livestock production … are the main source of water pollution by nitrates, phosphates and pesticides. They are also the major anthropogenic source of the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide, and contribute on a massive scale to other types of air and water pollution.
The extent and methods of agriculture, forestry and fishing are the leading causes of loss of the world's biodiversity … Agriculture also affects the basis for its own future through land degradation, salinization, the overextraction of water and the reduction of genetic diversity in crops and livestock …
If more sustainable production methods are used, the negative impacts of agriculture on the environment can be attenuated. Indeed, in some cases agriculture can play an important role in reversing them, for example by storing carbon in soils, enhancing the infiltration of water and preserving rural landscapes and biodiversity."
Modern Food Production Is a Disaster in More Ways Than One
Yes, the way we grow a vast majority of our food is simultaneously destroying the natural world, thereby threatening our very existence on this planet. Indeed, virtually every growing environmental and health problem can be traced back to modern food production, including:
Food insecurity and malnutrition amid mounting food waste
Promotion of foodborne illnesses and drug-resistant bacterial infections
Rising obesity and chronic disease rates despite growing health care outlays
Rapidly dwindling fresh water supplies
Toxic agricultural chemicals polluting air, soil and waterways, thereby threatening the entire food chain from top to bottom
Disruption of normal climate and rainfall patterns due to the destruction of ecosystems by pollution
The good news is there's a viable answer to all of these. As recognized by FAO, the answer hinges on the widespread implementation of regenerative agriculture and biodynamic farming. By affecting change through your shopping habits, there's hope we may avoid a complete breakdown of our ecosystem and food production.
One thing's for sure: We cannot wait for regulations to drive this change. We must push for it ourselves, and we do so by voting with our pocketbooks every time we shop for food.
How Conventional Agriculture Pollutes Our Air, Water and Soil
According to research3 published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters in 2016, emissions from farming far outweigh other sources of particulate matter, and agricultural fertilizer, especially the nitrogen component, is the greatest contributor to air pollution in much of the U.S., China and Russia.
As nitrogen fertilizers break down, ammonia is released into the air. When it reaches industrial areas, it combines with fossil fuel combustion creating microparticles. Although nitrogen is found naturally in air, water and soil, reactive nitrogen, a primary component in nitrogen-based fertilizers, is processed using large amounts of energy from fossil fuel-burning engines. This also contributes to industrial pollution.
When nitrogen-based fertilizer is added to the soil, it reduces the amount of sequestered carbon4 and severely disrupts the soil microbiome5 — both of which affect the soil's ability to support plant growth.6 The addition of nitrogen-based fertilizer also reduces the soil's pH and decreases bacterial diversity in the soil.7
Excess fertilizer runoff is also one of the largest contributors to ocean pollution — creating dead zones where oxygen is eliminated and fish and other marine life can no longer survive8 — and groundwater pollution, rendering our freshwater supplies unfit to drink.9
Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs)10 are equally notorious for polluting precious water supplies. According to a report11 by Environment America, corporate agribusiness is "one of the biggest threats to America's waterways." Tyson Foods Inc. was deemed among the worst, releasing 104.4 million pounds of toxic pollutants into waterways between 2010 and 2014.
Conventional Agriculture Is Also Draining Global Water Supplies
Conventional agriculture, due to its heavy use of potable water for irrigation, is also a primary cause of water scarcity around the world, with aquifers once thought to be inexhaustible being drained faster than they can be refilled.
In the High Plains Aquifer (also known as the Ogallala) in the American Midwest, for example, the water level has been dropping by an average of 6 feet per year, while the natural recharge rate is 1 inch or less.12 The depletion of the agricultural water supply is allegedly due to the activities of an oil and gas company, American Warrior,13 which has 1.3 thousand leases for drilling rights across Kansas.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about 80 percent of U.S. consumptive water (and more than 90 percent in many Western states) is used for agricultural purposes.14
One-third of the world's largest groundwater aquifers are already nearing depletion,15,16 and according to a 2016 report17 by Phys.org, global groundwater resources could be depleted within as little as three decades. This chilling prediction was made by Inge de Graaf, a hydrologist at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado, who presented her findings at the 2016 American Geophysical Union meeting.
James (Jay) Famiglietti, director of the Global Institute for Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan and former senior water scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, has also stated that the majority of our global groundwaters "are past sustainability tipping points,"18 so whether it's three decades or a few decades more, it's only a matter of time until we run out of fresh water.
The long-term solution to these water quality and water scarcity issues is to phase out the use of toxic pesticides, chemical fertilizers and soil additives, and to grow crops and raise food animals in such a way that the farm actually contributes to the overall health and balance of the environment rather than polluting it and creating a dysfunctional ecosystem.
Soil Degradation and Erosion — A Devastating Legacy of Conventional Farming
In addition to being a primary source of air, water and land pollution, conventional agriculture also threatens our very ability to continue food production by degrading and eroding agricultural soils.
In a 2012 Time magazine19 interview, former University of Sydney professor John Crawford, who now is the integrated solutions lab flagship leader for sustainable agricultural sciences at Rothamsted Research center, noted that about 40 percent of agricultural soils around the globe are classified as degraded or seriously degraded.
"Seriously degraded" means that 70 percent of the topsoil (the layer of soil in which plants grow) has already disappeared. At present, topsoil is being lost 10 to 40 times faster than nature can regenerate and replenish it naturally.
The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification's Global Land Outlook report,20,21,22 published in 2017, concluded fertile soil is being lost at an average rate of 24 billion tons per year.
According to this report, one-third of Earth's soil is already "acutely degraded" as a result of tilling and heavy chemical use — agricultural methods that remove carbon from the soil and destroy the microbial balance in the soil responsible for plant nutrition and growth. Decreased productivity was noted on:
- 20% of global cropland
- 16% of forest land
- 19% of grassland
- 27% of rangeland
Soil Study by Organic Vineyard Demonstrates Benefits of Biodynamic Farming
A recent study23 by Bonterra Organic Vineyards, a leading organic wine brand in the U.S., demonstrates the beneficial impact organic and biodynamic farming have on soil health.
Pacific Agroecology,24 an environmental research and consulting company, performed the soil analyses of Bonterra's 13 vineyards in Mendocino County. Three of the vineyards use biodynamic methods, nine use organic methods and one uses conventional methods. Bonterra provides the following summary of these three farming methods:25
"Conventional — Farming practices … that permit the use of synthetic non-organic herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers for management of crops and competitive vegetation.
Organic — Agricultural practices that exclude the use of synthetic non-organic inputs — such as herbicides, pesticides and fertilizer — in favor of fostering the natural vitality of the farm through integrated pest management, cover crops, and building healthy soil.
Biodynamic — Formally defined in 1924, an approach to organic cultivation that views the farm as a living organism where plants, animals and humans interrelate as members of an intricately connected ecosystem that follows the cycles of nature."
Results reveal biodynamic sites have the greatest amounts of organic carbon in the soil, followed closely by sites using organic principles. Either method is far superior to conventional farming, sequestering 12.8% and 9.4% more carbon per acre respectively than the conventional site. More specifically, the comparison of organic carbon in the soil revealed:
- Conventional land had 41,000 pounds of soil organic carbon per acre
- Organic land had 45,200 pounds of soil organic carbon per acre
- Biodynamic land had 46,300 pounds of soil organic carbon per acre
What's more, they also tested undeveloped wildland owned by Bonterra, finding total carbon storage was even higher here than in any of the cultivated areas. This finding suggests efforts to conserve wildland is an important undertaking. Joseph Brinkley, director of vineyards for Bonterra told NewHope:26
"Soil organic carbon — something regenerative farming strives to enhance — is a signal of how well a landscape captures and stores carbon, and also contributes many long-term benefits to soil health, such as improved aeration, drought resistance, and erosion prevention."
Elizabeth Drake, regenerative development manager for Bonterra, added,27 "We're excited about the potential impact of this study, which we hope inspires other farmers to examine the benefits of organic and biodynamic agriculture."
Biodynamic Farming Is Organic — And Then Some
Biodynamic farming is a spiritual-ethical-ecological approach to agriculture initially developed by Austrian scholar Rudolf Steiner,28 Ph.D., (1861-1925). He taught there is an invisible force that aids and sustains humanity, and biodynamic farming makes use of a wide variety of influences, including planetary influences and moon phases.
As just one of many examples of Steiner's comprehensive approach to farming, biodynamic farmers will not cut off the horns on their cows, as the animal's horns are a primary sensory organ, and a complex interrelated relationship exists between the horns and the animal's digestive system.
To this day, Steiner's book "Agriculture: Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture" serves as the basis of biodynamic farming everywhere, and his agriculture course, first offered in 1924, is available for free online.29
Not only does biodynamic farming provide superior crops both in volume and increased density of nutrients, but biodynamic farms are also completely self-sustaining.
This self-sustainability is what sets biodynamic farms apart from organic farms, and translates into far stricter certification criteria. When something is certified biodynamic, you can be sure you're getting food that has been produced according to the most rigorous sustainability criteria available.
For example, while an organic farmer can section off as little as 10 percent of the farm for the growing of certified organic goods, in order to be certified as a biodynamic farmer, your entire farm must be biodynamic.
In addition to that, biodynamic certification also requires 10 percent of the land be dedicated to increasing biodiversity, such as forest, wetland or insectary. Biodynamic farming also has most or all of the features associated with regenerative agriculture, such as crop rotation, cover crops and so on.
Creating a Biodynamic Garden
If you're currently gardening or planning to start, consider implementing some biodynamic principles. As noted in a previous Mother Nature Network article on biodynamic gardening:30
"Biodynamic gardening starts with building truly healthy soil through thoughtfully integrating both plants and animals in the garden and creating fertility by rotating crops, growing green manures such as vetch or clover, and carefully composting plant waste, kitchen scraps and farm animal manures (such as chicken or rabbit) with the help of medicinal herbal preparations.
'It's not just about what chemicals you can't use but what you can actively do to create a healthy garden whole that sustains itself,' said Thea Maria Carlson, director of programs for the Biodynamic Association in Milwaukee. 'And it works on any scale, even in a small space.'
The ideal biodynamic garden includes both plants and animals. A growing number of cities and suburbs now allow homeowners to keep small numbers of chickens, rabbits, beehives or even goats.
But even without these domestic animals, creating a garden that attracts such common creatures as earthworms, bees, ladybugs, praying mantises, birds and other beneficial insects, including microbial ones in the soil, is something any small-scale gardener can do."
The article goes on to provide additional tips and guidance for budding biodynamic gardeners. For example, biodynamic principles include treating your compost with fermented medicinal herb preparations that enhance the availability of nutrients and microbial activity.
Biodynamic sprays, made from manure, ground quartz crystals and horsetail, are applied at certain times to further boost soil and plant health. You'd also want to follow a biodynamic planting calendar to ensure an optimal crop.
Basic Regenerative Farming Principles
While biodynamic principles are the gold standard, you can take a big step in the right direction simply by following these five basic regenerative principles for building a healthy soil ecosystem:
Avoid disturbing the soil microbiome with tillage, herbicides, pesticides and fungicides — The less mechanical disturbance, the better. The same applies in your home garden. The more you till, the faster the soil degrades and is destroyed, as it destroys soil aggregates and mycorrhizal fungi, which houses the microorganisms needed for nutrient transfer.
Similarly, by adding synthetic nitrogen to the soil, the biology is radically altered — it starts consuming carbon in the soil aggregate, which destroys the soil structure.
Without soil structure water cannot infiltrate and move throughout the soil profile and be stored via organic matter. The soil aggregates also provide the home for soil biology, which is critical to producing nutrient dense food.
Protect the soil's surface with cover crops and cover crop residue — Forest and prairie lands are completely covered with vegetation and this is the environment farmers need to emulate. That vegetation protects the soil not only from wind and water erosion, but also from excessive heating and cooling. These living plants are what end up actually "growing" topsoil.
In your home garden, you can use mulch, wood chips or lawn clippings to do this. You never want to leave soil bare, as bare soil will have a negative effect on soil biology and the water cycle. Cover crops and other forms of "soil armor," such as wood chips, effectively prevent water evaporation and lowers the soil temperature.
There is easily a 20-degree F difference or more between soil that is bare and soil that is covered. When air temperatures reach 90 degrees or so, soil temperatures will rise well above 100 degrees, which will dry everything out and fry the plants' roots.
"If you have good armor or residue on the soil surface, the temperature there can be in the 80-degree range. Those plants are growing. It's a huge difference in production for the producer," Brown says.
Diversify — Having a diverse array of plant life is essential, and cover crops fulfill this requirement as well. Home gardens will also benefit from cover crops, helping to improve the soil, attract beneficial insects and capture more sunlight (energy).
Maintain living roots in the ground as long as possible — In conventional farming, once a cash crop is harvested, there's nothing left in the field to capture sunlight and keep growing. Maintaining some kind of growth at all times is key. If you have a small vegetable garden, don't leave it bare once you've harvested your veggies. Instead, plant a cover crop in anticipation for the next season.
To make the transition back from cover crop to your chosen vegetables the following season, avoid the temptation to till the cover crop into the soil. Instead, use one of the following methods to kill off the cover crop and prepare the plot for new crop growth:
Once the cover crop has been killed off, you're ready to plant your vegetable seeds. For a small garden, use a hoe to part the cover crop remains over to the side. Create a small slice in the soil, drop in your seeds and cover with a small amount of soil. If you're planting a transplant, simply move the cover crop aside, dig the hole and plant as normal.
Integrate livestock and other animals, including insects — Centuries ago, large herds of bison and elk moved across the landscape, foraging, depositing manure and trampling vegetation into the ground. All of this is part of the natural cycle that is missing when animals are kept in concentrated animal feeding operations.
Many have started raising chickens in their backyards again and chickens are an excellent addition to a sustainable garden. Rabbits, pigeons and ducks are other alternatives that could work in some suburban areas, but even if circumstances or local laws prevent you from adding animals, be sure to plant flowering plants that attract pollinators and predator insects, as these will naturally help ward off pests that might otherwise decimate your main crop.
Protect the Earth by Voting With Your Pocketbook Every Day
Even if you're not inclined to grow your own food, you can help steer the agricultural industry toward safer, more sustainable systems by supporting your local farmers and choosing fresh, local produce, ideally organically or biodynamically grown.
Also, remember to choose organic, grass fed/pasture-raised beef, poultry and dairy, in addition to organic produce, as CAFOs are just as destructive as chemical-based agriculture. If you live in the U.S., the following organizations can help you find local sources of farm-fresh foods.
Demeter USA — Demeter-USA.org provides a directory of certified Biodynamic farms and brands.
American Grassfed Association (AGA) — The goal of the American Grassfed Association is to promote the grass fed industry through government relations, research, concept marketing and public education.
Their website also allows you to search for AGA approved producers certified according to strict standards that include being raised on a diet of 100 percent forage; raised on pasture and never confined to a feedlot; never treated with antibiotics or hormones; and born and raised on American family farms.
EatWild.com — EatWild.com provides lists of farmers known to produce raw dairy products as well as grass fed beef and other farm-fresh produce (although not all are certified organic). Here you can also find information about local farmers markets, as well as local stores and restaurants that sell grass fed products.
Weston A. Price Foundation — Weston A. Price has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass fed raw dairy products like milk and butter.
Grassfed Exchange — The Grassfed Exchange has a listing of producers selling organic and grass fed meats across the U.S.
Local Harvest — This website will help you find farmers markets, family farms and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass fed meats and many other goodies.
Farmers Markets — A national listing of farmers markets.
Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals — The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, hotels and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) — CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
The Cornucopia Institute — The Cornucopia Institute maintains web-based tools rating all certified organic brands of eggs, dairy products and other commodities, based on their ethical sourcing and authentic farming practices separating CAFO "organic" production from authentic organic practices.
RealMilk.com — If you're still unsure of where to find raw milk, check out Raw-Milk-Facts.com and RealMilk.com. They can tell you what the status is for legality in your state, and provide a listing of raw dairy farms in your area. The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund31 also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws.32 California residents can also find raw milk retailers using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com.
1 The following food is one of the best sources of choline — an important player in cell membrane function, nerve communication and the quenching of inflammation — which many are deficient in:
2 A primary physical effect of 5G, which relies primarily on the bandwidth of the millimeter wave, that many may be able to sense is:
3 The following is the most common cause of peripheral vertigo:
4 The following complementary treatment has been scientifically shown to reduce muscle spasms, pain, inflammation and mental health problems such as stress, anxiety and depression, while boosting immune function, flexibility and range of motion.
5 Which disease can dogs often detect through their excellent sense of smell?
6 The following are two primary benefits of fasting:
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) was considered a luxury some 5,000 years ago. Commonly used in Indian and Chinese cooking, the root was also used as a tonic to treat common ailments. Ginger is an herbaceous perennial plant likely native to southeastern Asia. Today, as in days’ past, ginger is used both for its flavor and for its medicinal properties.1
Ginger has a slightly biting taste and is often used dried or ground to flavor sauces, curry dishes, pickles and ginger ale.2 The root may also be used to make tea. Some cultures enjoy slicing and eating it between dishes to clear the palate.
Ginger can also help combat bad breath (halitosis). A 2018 study3 identified the chemical component in ginger responsible for eliminating bad breath, finding that the compound 6-gingerol enables an enzyme in your saliva to break down unpleasant odors.
The plant grows a little over 2 feet high with leaves 6 to 12 inches long. It produces a flower of overlapping green bracts that may be edged with yellow.4 It is the underground stem, or rhizome, of the ginger plant that is prized for its medicinal substances.
Ginger appeared in Europe in the first century when the Romans traded with India. When Rome fell, Marco Polo brought it from his travels to the East.5 It was so highly valued in the Middle Ages the price of half a gram was the same as the cost of one sheep.
While it thrives in the Caribbean, India is currently the greatest producer6 in the world. When it comes to exports, though, it’s China that holds first place.7 Ginger offers many health benefits that may reduce your need for some medications.
Ginger May Protect Against DNA Damage
Compounds in rosemary, ginger and turmeric are effective in reducing the inflammatory response in the body. In a study published in the Journal of American College of Nutrition,8 researchers set out to determine the bioavailability of herbs and spices after consumption. They measured the ability the compound had to protect lymphocytes from oxidative injury.
According to Nutrition Facts,9 in the average person approximately 7% have signs of DNA damage. After the researchers examined DNA damage in participants subjected to free radicals, the damage rose to just under 10%.
However, those eating ginger for just one week before being attacked by free radicals experienced only a 1% rise in DNA damage, as opposed to the control group, in which DNA damage rose by 10%.10
A number of studies11 have documented the antioxidant and immunomodulatory effects of ginger, which may help prevent and treat several different types of cancer, including breast cancer, colorectal cancer12 and prostate cancer,13 primarily by inducing apoptosis, inhibiting proliferation of cancer cells and sensitizing tumors to radiotherapy and chemotherapy.14
Ginger May Prevent and Reduce Nausea in Pregnancy and During Chemotherapy
The most common and well-established use of ginger is for alleviating symptoms of nausea and vomiting.15 In one study,16 ginger root performed as well as other drugs prescribed for seasickness. In another,17 a fixed dose of 1 gram of ginger was more effective than a placebo in the prevention of postoperative nausea and vomiting, and researchers recommended it as an effective means of reducing these symptoms.
In other studies, researchers have evaluated the efficacy and potential benefits of using ginger to reduce nausea during pregnancy.18 These symptoms affect an estimated 80% of pregnant women during the first trimester.19,20 Also known as morning sickness, in a small percentage the condition may persist and result in dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and weight loss.21
Although several medications are available, each comes with a list of side effects. One meta-analysis of previous studies22 found formulations and dosages of ginger were predictably variable. Still, while the dosage and duration varied, the analysis demonstrated ginger was better than placebo when administered in a dose of approximately 1 gram for at least four days.
This same meta-analysis looked at studies evaluating chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, a major adverse effect suffered by cancer patients. The researchers evaluated seven trials and found five reported favorable results, while results from the other two clinical trials were unfavorable.
The mixed results may be explained by the use of nonstandardized ginger preparations and inconsistencies in study methods. The researchers went on to recommend an optimized design of clinical trials to more fully evaluate the efficacy of ginger in the prevention and treatment of nausea and vomiting.23
Anti-Inflammatory Properties May Help Many Conditions
In a study24 published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers did a meta-analysis to review the current scientific evidence for ginger’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
According to the researchers, inhibition of prostaglandin and leukotriene biosynthesis was likely the result of gingerol, shogaol and other structurally-related substances in ginger. These anti-inflammatory effects may be the underlying reason ginger is effective in pain management.
A University of Miami study25 showed it has the potential to replace nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. When a highly purified and standardized ginger extract was compared against a placebo in 247 patients with knee osteoarthritis, 63% those receiving ginger reported a reduction in pain and stiffness.
In a study published in the American Thoracic Society journal,26 researchers found as many as 40% of those with asthma used herbal remedies to manage their symptoms.
Results27 show the hypothesis that ginger can modulate intracellular calcium and induce bronchodilation in airway smooth muscle was true, leading the researchers to conclude the compounds found in ginger may be a therapeutic option for the treatment of asthma.
Ginger has also demonstrated effectiveness against painful menstrual cramps. As many as 10% of women have such severe cramps they're unable to maintain a normal schedule one to two days each month.28
A study29 in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine concluded that “Ginger was as effective as mefenamic acid and ibuprofen in relieving pain in women with primary dysmenorrhea.”
Ginger may also be effective against exercise-induced muscle pain. In one study,30 participants taking 2 grams of ginger per day for 11 days experienced a reduction in soreness after exercise. However, ginger doesn't appear to exert an immediate effect,31 but improves in effectiveness over time.
Ginger Has Antifungal and Antibacterial Properties
Antifungal and antibacterial properties of ginger may also help prevent or treat a number of conditions. In one study,32 researchers found ginger extract was able to break up fungi biofilm formation and had antifungal properties against Candida albicans and Candida krusei. These are opportunistic fungal infections in the oral cavity.
In another study,33 researchers found the strong antifungal activity was a promising agent to inhibit the growth of pathogenic fungi destroying Chinese olives. Yet another34 found it was effective in some solvents against Fusarium oxysporum, recognized as a devastating disease in tomato plants.
Studies have also demonstrated the effectiveness of ginger extract against Aspergillus flavus,35 a producer of aflatoxin,36 a potent carcinogen. This pathogen attacks cereal grains, legumes and tree nuts.
Ginger extract has also demonstrated antibacterial properties that can be useful against periodontal disease. In one test tube study,37 compounds found in ginger were able to inhibit the growth of oral pathogens, and in another,38 ginger extract demonstrated antibacterial activity against multidrug-resistant clinical pathogens.
Migraine Sufferers Benefit From Ginger
Globally, migraines are the third most common disease and sixth most common disabling disease. According to a 2018 study,39 1 in 7 American adults reported suffering from severe headaches or migraines in the previous three months. The economic burden is substantial. The annual cost for direct health care and reduced productivity is estimated at $36 billion.40
As of March 2016, the annual sales of sumatriptan injections (sold under the brand name Imitrex) were estimated at $183 million.41 Sumatriptan injection is used as a rescue drug for migraine headaches. Common side effects of the drug include pain or chest tightness, weakness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and drooling.42
Ginger has a history of being used for the treatment of headaches in Ayurvedic medicine,43 and has also been studied in a double-blind, randomized clinical trial of 100 patients with a history of acute migraine without aura.44
Patients were randomly selected to receive either ginger powder or sumatriptan. Researchers analyzed the onset of headache, severity and the interval between drug administration and response. Data from five migraine attacks per patient were collected. In both groups, the mean headache severity decreased significantly after two hours.
The patient satisfaction with both treatments did not differ. However, while the ginger treatment is statistically comparable to sumatriptan, it also has a much better side effect profile, as only a small number of participants experienced stomach upset.45
Reducing Systemic Inflammation Affects Blood Sugar, Weight and Liver Function
Ginger’s ability to reduce systemic inflammation may also make it a useful aid to improve blood sugar control, weight management and reduce your risk for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
In one study46 conducted to investigate the effects of ginger on fasting blood sugar, researchers collected data from a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial on 41 Type 2 diabetic patients.
One group received 2 grams of ginger powder supplement each day and the control group received 2 grams of lactose per day for 12 weeks. Researchers measured their fasting blood sugar, hemoglobin A1C and several other factors before and after the intervention.
Data showed ginger supplementation significantly reduced fasting blood sugar and A1C measurements compared to baseline and to the control group. In a second study,47 researchers conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial on 70 Type 2 diabetics. The experimental group took 1,600 milligrams of ginger daily for 12 weeks.
The group taking ginger had a reduction in fasting plasma glucose and hemoglobin A1C, as well as insulin, triglycerides and total cholesterol as compared to the placebo group. The researchers concluded ginger could be considered an effective treatment for the prevention of diabetes complications.48
As the name implies, NAFLD is fat buildup in the liver that is unrelated to alcohol consumption.49 It’s one of the most common chronic liver diseases worldwide. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial,50 researchers concluded the experimental group taking 2 grams of ginger supplement for 12 weeks showed beneficial effects on some of the characteristics of the disease.
Preparing Ginger at Home
While ginger is a safe food, in rare cases, high doses may trigger mild upset stomach, diarrhea, sleepiness, restlessness or heartburn. Taking ginger with food typically alleviates these challenges.
Ginger may also interact with medications such as anesthesia, anticoagulants and analgesics, possibly leading to poor wound healing, sun sensitivity, irregular heartbeat, bleeding and prolonged sedation.51
Since ginger has been proven effective for easing muscle pain caused by exercise, researchers of a study published in the Journal of Pain suggested trying a bit of grated ginger root in your food or steep a few teaspoons of it in a pot of very hot water for five minutes. The study noted that when ginger is heated,52 it exerts hypoanalgesic effects, helping to alleviate pain 23% to 25% better than placebo.
The large intestine is partly responsible for allowing good bowel movement, which is something that most people usually take for granted. But as with other parts of the body, your large intestine can also encounter its fair share of problems over time.
If you’ve been experiencing abdominal cramps that are accompanied by bloody diarrhea or the urge to frequently empty your bowels, then it’s likely that your large intestine is no longer in good shape, and you may be suffering from a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) known as ulcerative colitis.1 To fully understand this disease, let us first discuss what the large intestine is and how it works.
Understanding the Large Intestine
The large intestine is the final segment of the gastrointestinal tract. It’s a tubular structure with a length of about 5 feet and a diameter of approximately 3 inches.2 The primary function of this essential body part is to absorb water from undigested food to form a solid stool. It also aids in the absorption of vitamins and production of antibodies.3 There are different parts that make up the large intestine, and each one performs a specific function. These include:4,5,6
- Cecum — This is a pouch-like section that’s 2 inches long and found at the beginning of the large intestine. It absorbs the digestive fluids from the digestive waste that comes out of the small intestine.
- Appendix — This is a vestigial organ that’s located at the bottom the cecum.
- Colon — Some people use the term “colon” to refer to the entire large intestine, but this is actually just a part of it, and is where the majority of water absorption takes place. It’s also divided into four sections, namely ascending, transverse, descending and sigmoid colons.
- Rectum — Found at the end of the large intestine, the rectum is where the residual waste accumulates.
- Anus — The external opening at the end of the rectum through which stool leaves the body.
The entire large intestine will be compromised if one of its parts malfunctions. This may result in various medical problems that range from something as simple as intestinal gas to serious conditions like ulcerative colitis.7
What Happens When You Have Ulcerative Colitis?
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic IBD that causes the colon and rectum to become inflamed and develop ulcers or small open sores, which produce pus and mucus. It may also cause inflammation outside the intestine, particularly on the skin, joints and eyes.8
The exact culprit behind this disease is still unknown, but researchers believe that it’s a result of an overactive immune response. It’s also hard to predict when this disease is active since the remission period may last up to several years, only to be interrupted by an occasional flare-up just when you least expect it. The symptoms may vary from mild abdominal pain to excessive amounts of blood in stools, which may even require a blood transfusion.9,10
Ulcerative Colitis Can Be Controlled
Living with ulcerative colitis can be very hard. The urgent bowel movement that it causes can be embarrassing. On top of that, you also have to deal with abdominal pain, digestive disorders and other severe symptoms that may interfere with your daily life.
There is no permanent cure for ulcerative colitis yet, but there are holistic treatments and techniques that can help you control its symptoms, as well as achieve and maintain remission for a long period of time. Since it is a life-long disease, it usually requires ongoing treatment methods that are specifically suited for the type of ulcerative colitis that you have and the severity of your symptoms.11
Expanding your knowledge about this disease may also help you manage and avoid any possible complications that it may lead to. These pages contain helpful information about ulcerative colitis so you can learn more about its warning signs, the possible causes behind it, its different types and the recommended diet and treatment methods to keep flare-ups from occurring.
In the featured JJ Virgin Lifestyle Show podcast, I discuss my KetoFast protocol, which is the topic of my latest book by the same name. KetoFast is the term I coined to describe a protocol that combines three key strategies: a cyclical ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting and cyclical partial fasting.
In this interview, I describe how to implement the KetoFast approach, including the meal timing and the types and amounts of foods you should be adding to your plate.
“KetoFast” is the follow-up to my bestselling book “Fat for Fuel,” and I strongly recommend implementing the strategies laid out in “Fat for Fuel” first (which include daily intermittent fasting and cyclical nutritional ketosis), before you move on to “KetoFast,” in which you add partial fasting to everything you’re already doing.
Why I Wrote ‘KetoFast’
As I explain in this interview, the impetus behind “KetoFast” was two major realizations: First, that water-only fasting is a tremendously beneficial health intervention; and second, that while water-only fasting used to be an ideal strategy, the fact that modern man is so toxic makes it potentially dangerous to do extended water fasts for most.
We’re now surrounded by and exposed to some 80,000 chemicals in our environment, many of which are fat soluble, meaning they accumulate in your fat cells. Meanwhile, fasting effectively drives toxins out of fat cells, which can have devastating results if you’re severely toxic.
What’s more, since you’re not eating, you’re also not providing your body with the nutrients it needs to effectively neutralize and eliminate those released toxins.
My answer to this dilemma was to devise — based on the best scientific evidence I could find — a fasting program that mimics multiday water-only fasting, while supporting your detox pathways and minimizing the risks associated with toxicity.
The KetoFast protocol is also easier to comply with than multiday water fasting, and provides greater benefits because you’re able to do it more frequently. At most, you might do a five-day water fast 12 times a year (once a month). With the KetoFast protocol, you can do 42-hour fasts anywhere between 50 to 100 times a year.
The caveat is you need to have done at least a month of daily intermittent fasting and achieved nutritional ketosis as laid out in “Fat for Fuel” before you move on to KetoFasting. Once you’re metabolically flexible and can burn fat for fuel, the combination of cyclical nutritional ketosis and cyclical fasting is phenomenal for weight loss and optimizing your health and longevity.
Eating Too Frequently Creates Metabolic Dysfunction
In his book “Circadian Code: Lose Weight, Supercharge Your Energy and Sleep Well Every Night,” Satchidananda Panda, Ph.D., cites research showing that 90 percent of people eat across a span of 12 hours a day, and many across even longer timespans. This is a prescription for metabolic disaster, and will radically increase your risk for obesity and chronic degenerative disease over time.
Part of the problem is that when you eat throughout the day your body adapts to burning sugar as its primary fuel, which down-regulates enzymes that utilize and burn your stored fat. If you struggle to lose weight, this may well be a significant part of the problem — your body has simply lost the metabolic flexibility to burn fat for fuel.
The intermittent and partial fasting regimen described in “KetoFast” essentially mimics ancestral eating patterns, allowing your body to work optimally by allowing for periods of breakdown and cleanout, and periods of rebuilding and rejuvenation.
It’s particularly important to avoid snacking or eating a meal close to bedtime. You really want to stop eating at least three hours before you go to sleep, as feeding your body at a time when it does not need the energy fuels the creation of free radicals instead. Essentially, late-night snacking is a prescription for chronic disease and early death as it will impair your mitochondrial function.
Recent research1 shows men who eat supper at least two hours before bedtime have a 26% lower risk of prostate cancer, and women have a 16% lower risk of breast cancer than those who eat dinner closer to bedtime.2,3 This reduction in cancer risk makes sense when you consider the effect late-night eating has on your mitochondria.
Chronic inflammation is a hallmark of cancer, and by feeding your body late at night, the excess free radicals generated in your mitochondria will simply fuel that inflammation. Mitochondrial dysfunction in general has also been shown to be a central problem that allows cancer to occur. To learn more about this, see "The Metabolic Theory of Cancer and the Key to Cancer Prevention and Recovery."
Benefits of Fasting
The two primary benefits of fasting, in my view, are stem cell activation and autophagy. Stem cells play an important role in longevity as they are instrumental in repairing and rejuvenating your cells and tissues, while autophagy is your body’s innate cleanout process, by which damaged mitochondria, proteins and cells are digested and eliminated.
By upregulating autophagy and mitophagy (autophagy in your mitochondria)4 and boosting stem cells you will lower your risk of most diseases, including cancer5 and neurodegeneration.6
Nutrient composition is important here, and in the book, I provide details on how to optimize the autophagy and stem cell activation processes by eating certain foods (and avoiding others) at the right time. Aside from autophagy and stem cell activation, fasting is known to provide many other health benefits, including:7,8,9,10,11
Releasing ketones into your bloodstream, which help preserve brain function and protect against epileptic seizures, cognitive impairment12 and other neurodegenerative diseases
Boosting production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which stimulates creation of new brain cells and triggers brain chemicals that protect against brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease13,14
Increasing growth hormone by as much as 1,300 percent in women and 2,000 percent in men,15 thereby promoting muscle development and vitality
Lowering insulin and improving your insulin sensitivity; studies have shown intermittent fasting can both prevent and reverse Type 2 diabetes, which is rooted in insulin resistance16,17,18,19
Increasing levels of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which helps your body break down fat to be used as fuel and benefits your metabolism20,21,22
Boosting mitochondrial energy efficiency and biosynthesis
Lowering oxidative stress and inflammation23
Improving circulating glucose24 and lipid levels
Reducing blood pressure
Improving metabolic efficiency and body composition, modulating levels of dangerous visceral fat and significantly reducing body weight in obese individuals
Reproducing some of the cardiovascular benefits associated with exercise
Regenerating the pancreas25 and improve pancreatic function, reversing diabetes
Protecting against cardiovascular disease
Reducing low-density lipoprotein and total cholesterol
Improving immune function26
Synchronizing your body’s biological clocks27
Eliminating sugar cravings as your body adapts to burning fat instead of sugar
Increasing longevity — There are a number of mechanisms contributing to this effect. Normalizing insulin sensitivity is a major one, but fasting also inhibits the mTOR pathway, which plays an important part in driving the aging process
Summary of KetoFast Protocol
The following is a summary of my KetoFast protocol, which is, of course, expounded upon in my book. The first step is to compress your daily eating window to six to eight hours for at least four weeks, meaning you eat all of your calories for the day during those six to eight hours, and for the remaining 16 to 18 hours, you’re fasting. This is your base.
Once you’ve followed this intermittent fasting schedule for a month — at which point you’ll have restored your metabolic flexibility to burn fat for fuel — you can move into the second phase, which involves having a single reduced-calorie meal, ideally breakfast, followed by a 24-hour water-only fast, once or twice a week.
This meal will typically be somewhere between 300 and 500 calories. To determine how many calories you should have at this meal, first calculate your lean body mass by subtracting your percent body fat from 100. (So, if you have 20% body fat, you have 80% lean body mass.)
Then multiply that percentage (in this case, 0.8) by your current total body weight to get your lean body mass in pounds (or kilos). Next, multiply your lean body mass in pounds/kilos by 3.5. This is the number of calories you’ll want to eat for that meal.
Nutrient Ratios During KetoFasting
By eating just that one 300- to 500-calorie meal and then fasting for 24 hours, you essentially end up having eaten once in 42 hours. This will effectively allow your body to deplete the glycogen stores in your liver.
Even when you’re intermittently fasting for 16 to 18 hours, you still have plenty of glycogen left, but when you fast for 42 hours, glycogen will be completely depleted, sending autophagy soaring. And, you can do this twice a week! Now, what should these 300 to 500 calories consist of? Ideally:
• Carbs — Less than 10 grams of net carbohydrates (total carbs minus fiber) so as not to replete your glycogen stores. Primarily, your carbs would then be nonstarchy vegetables, seeds or nuts.
• Protein — Half of your personalized daily protein requirement. If you’re younger than 60, a general recommendation for your daily protein requirement would be 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of lean body mass, or 0.5 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass. Let’s say your daily protein requirement is 80 grams. For this meal, you’d cut that in half to 40 grams.
The key here is not just lowering your overall protein intake but rather restricting your intake of branched-chain amino acids such as leucine, found primarily in meat and dairy products.
The reason you want to restrict branched-chain amino acids at this meal is because they activate mTOR and inhibit autophagy — essentially blocking the very cleanout process you’re trying to activate through fasting. You can learn more about mTOR and autophagy in my interview with Dr. Jason Fung.
An ideal form of protein to include in this meal is collagen, which provides great support for your connective tissue. Chlorella is another excellent protein you can include.
• Fat — The remainder of your calories come from healthy fats such as coconut oil, avocado, MCT oil, butter, olive oil and raw nuts.
After Your Fast, Feast!
The day after you’ve completed your 42-hour KetoFast is the perfect time to do hardcore strength training, and to load up on your protein. Immediately after is when you’ll want to eat that grass fed organic steak and/or whey protein, as now you’re in rebuilding mode, so you actually want and need to activate mTOR to build new muscle mass.
As mentioned, mTOR, governs growth and inhibits autophagy. In this way, KetoFasting allows you to really feast twice a week as well, which counters any feelings of deprivation you might have during fasting, and this may significantly improve adherence.
Recipe by: Jennafer Ashley
Every year, children and chocolate-lovers alike enjoy brightly decorated chocolate Easter eggs to celebrate Easter Sunday. Unfortunately, chocolate Easter eggs bought from supermarkets are often made from processed chocolate and loaded with excessive amounts of sugar that can put you or your loved ones at risk of chronic metabolic diseases.
If you’re looking for a healthy, guilt-free Easter treat that the whole family can enjoy, this Keto Coconut Cacao Nests recipe from Jennafer Ashley of Paleohacks is a must-try! Not only does this delectable dessert look adorable with its crunchy chocolate nest and macadamia “eggs,” but it’s rich in antioxidants and healthy fats, too.
Keto Coconut Cacao Nests RecipeServings: 6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup raw cacao powder
1 teaspoon luo han guo (monk fruit) or stevia
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
12 macadamia nutsProcedure:
- Melt the coconut oil in a double boiler.
- Stir in the raw cacao powder and monk fruit (or stevia); mix until smooth.
- Remove the broiler from heat, and then stir in the shredded coconut.
- Spoon the mixture into six muffin tins with paper liners. Create a divot in the center of each “nest” with a spoon, then freeze for 10 minutes.
- Once hardened, place two macadamia nuts in the center of each nest and serve.
This Coconut-Filled Dessert Benefits Your Health in Various Ways
Coconut meat is an excellent source of dietary fiber — a high intake of which may help lower your risk for coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, obesity and digestive diseases based on a study published in the journal Nutrition Reviews. It’s also a good source of manganese — a mineral that plays an important role in bone formation and metabolism of amino acids, carbs and lipids. It is from this meat that coconut oil is extracted.
There are currently more than 2,000 studies on coconut oil’s discuss long list of uses and benefits. The primary compounds that give coconut oil its health advantage are medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), a type of saturated fat that’s readily available to use for energy in your body and can even cross your blood-brain barrier.
- Promote heart health — Studies show that in regions where coconut oil has been consumed as a part of a standard diet, people were found to have lower rates of cardiovascular disease. ,
- Support healthy brain function — According to a 2015 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, coconut oil provides the brain with a healthier energy source in the form of ketones, which are produced when its MCTs are absorbed and metabolized by the liver.
- Boost immune health — Animal studies suggest the antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties of coconut oil may help protect your gut against harmful pathogens and inflammation.
- Shed excess body fat — A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that replacing long-chain triglycerides (LCTs) with MCTs in a diet helps reduce body weight without adversely affecting lipid profiles.
- Improve oral health — The antimicrobial and antiseptic properties of coconut oil make it suitable for oil pulling. It also contains lauric acid, which may react with the alkalis in the saliva to produce a sodium laureate-soap like substance, which has cleaning action and may help reduce plaque adhesion and accumulation.
- Fight against yeast infection — Research shows that coconut oil exhibits antimicrobial activity against Candida species, making it useful for the treatment of fungal infections.
Macadamias Are a Nutritional Powerhouse
Macadamia nuts are one of my favorite nuts, as they contain the highest amount of healthy fats among nuts, yet they’re lower in protein and carbohydrates than other nuts. They also have the best omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, and are a good source of antioxidant flavonoids, dietary fiber, manganese, thiamin, magnesium, copper and phosphorous. Some of the benefits of macadamia nuts include:
- Promoting healthy heart function by lowering bad cholesterol levels
- Providing antioxidants that help fight free radicals
- Providing dietary fiber to help support healthy digestion and gut health
- Promoting healthy brain function
- Supporting skeletal health
- Helping to inhibit inflammation
Using Raw Cacao Powder Makes All the Difference in This Recipe
Raw cacao powder is close to the natural raw state of cacao, so it still contains the valuable polyphenols — catechins, epicathechins and procyanidins — that give chocolate its powerful antioxidant properties. These polyphenols also account for raw cacao’s bitter taste.
To make chocolate more palatable, manufacturers often remove their polyphenol content and add in large quantities of sugar. However, this process strips most of chocolate’s health benefits. So, if you’re after the nutritional value of cacao, using raw cacao powder is your best bet. If you do not have this on hand, look for a chocolate that has a high cacao and low sugar content. Steer clear of milk chocolates and white chocolates, as they contain excessive amounts of sweeteners.
Why Should Luo Han Guo or Stevia Be Your Choice of Sweetener?
Luo han guo and stevia have become known as healthy alternatives to sugar and artificial sweeteners, and for good reason. The extract of luo han guo is 150 to 250 times sweeter than your usual table sugar, yet it does not cause spikes in blood sugar levels.
Stevia, which is naturally 200 to 400 times sweeter than sugar, also does not have drastic effects on blood sugar levels and may even provide additional health benefits. However, this does not mean that it’s OK to consume too much stevia or luo han guo. I still recommend that you use these natural sweeteners in moderation, just as you would sugar.
About the Blog
Paleohacks is one of the largest Paleo communities on the web. They offer everything Paleo, from a Q&A forum where users get their top health questions answered, to a community blog featuring daily recipes, workouts and wellness content. You can also tune in to their podcast, where they bring in the top experts in the Paleo world to share the latest, cutting-edge health information.
Although you might find them annoying in the summertime, mosquitoes are an important part of the ecosystem. Mosquito larvae live in the water and provide food for fish and other wildlife, including larvae of other species such as dragonflies. Mosquito larvae eat and recycle microscopic organic matter.
Adult mosquitoes are part of the diet of insect eating animals such as bats, spiders and dragonflies. They also help pollinate flowers as they drink the nectar. Opinions differ as to what would happen if mosquitoes were eradicated from the face of the Earth.1
Some estimate the number of migratory birds nesting between Canada and Russia would drop by more than 50 percent. In the absence of larvae, hundreds of species of fish would need to change their diet to survive. Most mosquito-eating birds would need to switch to other insects. Overall, mosquito loss would be experienced by many species.
That said, for humans, they are an annoyance. While male mosquitoes don't bite humans, but rather feed off flowers’ nectar, females require proteins and other components in blood meals to develop and lay eggs.
At best, the bite is an itchy nuisance and at worse it may transmit diseases like malaria, encephalitis and West Nile virus. Mosquitoes may even spread Lyme disease. A recent study by researchers in Malaysia suggests mosquitoes were affected by electronic music.2
Electronic Music May Help Reduce Mosquito Bites
Recognizing mosquitoes use sound to communicate, and that communication is crucial for survival and population maintenance, researchers from the University of Malaysia decided to investigate whether mosquito behavior could be disrupted by playing a track from dubstep artists Shrillex.3
The experiment was designed to compare feeding and mating behavior in the presence of a specific track, "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites," as compared to mosquitoes not exposed to music.
The music track peaked at 77 on the music charts in the U.K. in 2010 and won the best dance recording at the 54th Grammy Awards in the U.S.4 The soundtrack was chosen because it has a wide range of high and low frequencies. The researchers commented on their choice of music, saying,5
"In insects, low-frequency vibrations facilitate sexual interactions, whereas noise disrupts the perception of signals from conspecifics [members of the same species] and hosts."
The researchers described the female adult mosquitoes behavior as "entertained" and found they attacked their host later and less often than those who were in a music-free environment. They also found mosquitoes exposed to the song bred far less often. The researchers concluded:6
"The observation that such music can delay host attack, reduce blood feeding, and disrupt mating provides new avenues for the development of music-based personal protective and control measures against Aedes-borne diseases."
What Attracts Mosquitoes?
If playing loud electronic music in your backyard is not how you’d like to deter mosquito bites, you may want to start by learning what attracts them in the first place. Of the 3,000 different species in the world, only roughly 175 are found in the U.S.7 Each species differs in its persistence, biting habits and ability to transmit disease.
Nearly all are attracted by a number of chemical compounds, including the odor of carbon dioxide you produce every time you exhale. High concentrations of carbon dioxide may be detected from more than a 150 feet away.8 Other odors released in perspiration are also likely to attract mosquitoes, such as lactic acid and ammonia released by bacteria living on the human skin.9
The higher your body temperature, the more likely you are to sweat, which is why mosquitoes frequently bite around feet, ankles, wrists and hands. These are all areas that tend to retain moisture and have larger bacterial colonies. If you're warmer than the person next to you, mosquitoes will target you.
Women in the latter stages of pregnancy, people who are overweight and joggers also tend to be bitten more. One study from Japan10 demonstrated those with type O blood may be more likely to be bitten than those with type A. Mosquitoes are also attracted to alcohol.11
The female has a mouth part call a proboscis, which is much like a hypodermic needle.12 She uses it to pierce your skin until she finds a capillary from which to suck blood. At the same time, she injects some of her own saliva to stop the blood from coagulating. It is at this point she may transmit disease directly into your bloodstream. The chemicals in her saliva trigger the reaction on your skin.13
Some Get Bitten More Than Others
Mosquitoes target their prey based on chemical scent. Lactic acid, commonly found in human sweat, is known to consistently attract more mosquitoes. When lactic acid was added to animal odor samples, mosquitoes responded as they did to human odors.
In one study,14 data demonstrated the scent-based preferences of the anthropophilic mosquito A. aegypti, known to carry yellow fever. The preferences were due to the differences in the amount of lactic acid found on the host.
Researchers have found mosquito species exist specializing in biting humans, including those carrying malaria and yellow fever. They have evolved a remarkable innate preference for human scent.15
Researchers have also isolated compounds naturally occurring on the human skin, such as 1-methylpiperazine, which blocks the mosquitoes’ sense of smell and essentially makes it so the insects are oblivious to the presence of a host. The substance is produced by bacteria on your skin. Researchers are hoping to be able to make it on a large scale to replace dangerous chemical repellents.16
Some people are capable of secreting more of these natural substances than others, making them virtually invisible to mosquitoes. While researchers work on figuring out how to keep 1-methylpiperazine from evaporating off the skin naturally over time, it's crucial you steer clear of mosquito repellent containing N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide, commonly known as DEET.17
Steer Clear of DEET
Most conventional insect repellents contain DEET, a chemical mosquitoes find unpleasant. The compound is a colorless, oily liquid developed by the U.S. Army to protect soldiers in jungle warfare. After a request from the National Park Service, employees of the Everglades National Park, Florida, were investigated for adverse health effects from exposure to DEET.18
Anecdotal reports of confusion, abnormal sweating and neurobehavioral symptoms triggered the evaluation. A self-administered questionnaire was given to 143 employees and a urinalysis done in 20. Researchers found correlations between DEET use and affective symptoms, insomnia, muscle cramps and urinary hesitation.
Seventy-seven workers participated in a follow-up survey and researchers found impaired cognitive functioning and daytime sleepiness increased after exposure. They concluded the skin rashes, impaired cognitive function and daytime sleepiness were associated with exposure to the insect repellent.19
Children experience greater risk for subtle changes as their skin more readily absorbs chemicals, and the chemicals exert more powerful effect on their developing nervous system.
Another potentially harmful chemical found in many bug sprays is permethrin. This chemical is a member of the synthetic pyrethroid family, known to be neurotoxic. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has also listed permethrin as carcinogenic.20 Pyrethroids have recently been linked to behavior problems in children as well.
Permethrin is toxic to the environment, especially to bees and aquatic life, and is extremely toxic to cats.21 Even a few drops may be lethal to your feline friend. It is used in some topical flea products, so when you see "for dogs only" on the label, it likely contains permethrin. For more information, please refer to the Environmental Working Group's extensive review of bug repellent ingredients.22
Reduce Mosquito Populations on Your Property and Treat Bites at Home
There are a few natural methods of preventing mosquito bites. One of the best ways is by avoiding them in the first place and staying inside between dusk and dawn when they are most active. Mosquito populations are also thicker near shrubs and standing water.
According to the American Mosquito Control Association, an efficient way to control mosquito populations is to eliminate their larval habitat.23 Mosquitoes use wetlands such as swamps or sluggishly moving streams and ditches to lay their eggs. Homeowners may look for areas in their yard where mosquito breeding may take place, such as any place water may be left standing.
For water you would like to keep outside, such as water for your pets or a birdbath, be sure to change it at least every two days. Keep your rain gutters clean and flowing well and fill in or drain any puddles in the yard. Another area mosquitoes will lay their eggs is in trapped water inside plastic or canvas tarps used to cover your boat or pool.
Dress in lightly colored, loose-fitting clothing with long sleeves and long pants to reduce the number of bites. Bat houses are becoming increasingly popular since they voraciously eat mosquitoes and other insects. For more on buying a bat house or constructing one yourself, visit the Organization for Bat Conservation.24
Once bitten, your objective will change from repelling to treating the itch and inflammation. Fortunately, there are a number of natural herbs and agents with anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties to help soothe your skin. For a list of those see my previous article, "What Attracts Mosquitoes and How to Repel Them."
Use Natural Methods to Repel Mosquitoes
Vector-borne illnesses, or those transmitted to their host by other creatures serving to harbor pathogens, are preventable using natural repellents to prevent transmission.
Vector-borne illnesses may be transmitted by insect bites. A study,25 led by entomologist Jerry Zhu from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service found compounds in coconut oil strongly repelled mosquitoes and ticks.26
The compound used was not pure coconut oil, but rather a fatty acid mixture of lauric acid, caprylic acid and capric acid. After encapsulating these acids in a starch-based formula, the researchers demonstrated the formulation could protect cattle against biting flies for up to four days.
By comparison, DEET was only 50% effective against biting flies while the coconut oil compound was more than 95% effective. When tested on human participants, researchers found 90% repellency and a longer lasting protection than other known natural repellents.
DEET is not your only option for insect repellent as tests have revealed natural alternatives that could be more effective without the harsh side effects. For a discussion of your options, see my previous article, "This Natural Bug Repellent Works Better Than Deet."
We humans do not appreciate our sense of smell. Compared to other senses like vision and hearing, we tend to ignore the information from our sense of smell with the exception of flowers, food being prepared and, of course, those lucky people who have discovered aromatherapy.
But according to a recent documentary, "Smell — Our Most Underestimated Sense," our sense of smell affects us much more than we realize. Certainly, we know that it protects us from dangers like fire because we smell the smoke, explosions because we smell natural gas and food poisoning because we smell spoilage. But few realize our sense of smell also lets us "read" other people much like dogs "read" each other by sniffing.
Of course, the olfactory read that humans conduct is not as obvious as that of dogs sniffing but, according to this film, people will oftentimes sniff their hands after shaking hands with someone new, indicating that important information has been gained. The sense of smell also helps newborns bond with their mothers, and "smell dysfunction" can impair such bonding.
Nevertheless, smell is so underappreciated people interviewed in the documentary said they would rather lose it than their "access to technology," such as their smart phones. If you're inclined to agree, after watching this remarkable documentary, you just might change your mind.
Aromatherapy Takes a Clue From Nature
I am a big believer in aromatherapy, which is based on the use of essential oils, also called volatile oils. In addition to inducing relaxation and sleep, and reducing blood pressure1 and stress, aromatherapy may be beneficial for depression,2 anxiety,3 dementia4 and pain relief.5
According to "Smell — Our Most Underestimated Sense," plants and flowers also use these healing fragrances for themselves! For example, flowers deliberately emit the chemical signals of a female bee so that the male bee will "mate" with the flower and pollinate it. Certain birds, butterflies, bats, moths and even honey possum also pollinate flowers.
The irreplaceable services of these pollinators are seriously threatened by pesticides and chemicals, posing an environmental crisis. It is important to remember that every time you shop for organic food you vote against these harmful chemicals that are creeping into our daily life.
Interestingly, the least pretty flowers are often the most fragrant ones, because they cannot rely on their visual beauty to attract pollinators says the documentary, Moreover, plants can emit odors to warn other plants of impending insect attacks, just as animals warn others about imminent predators.
Sensing Others Through Our Sense of Smell
Many have heard of the phenomenon of menstrual synchrony in which women who live or work together can begin to have their periods at the same time.6 In a T-shirt sniff study, says the documentary, women's testosterone levels changed in response to the scent of another woman, depending on where that woman was in her monthly cycle — though, of course, the women were not consciously aware of this.
Paul Moore, a professor at Bowling Green State University who specializes in chemical ecology and the role chemical signals play in an organism's ecological role, explains the reaction like this:7
"The chemical senses, I call them ninjas — they're hidden. So, they go into our brain, and we're not aware of it, we're not conscious of it, so it makes us respond emotionally, respond physiologically, before we actually think about the response. So, it's very subtle and it's very hidden ...
Testosterone is tied very much to social dominance and in competitiveness and aggression. And up-regulating or down-regulating testosterone through chemical signals could change your competitiveness."
Why would this happen? From an evolutionary standpoint, fertility could be governed by a competition won by dominant females so that less "alpha" females would cease to compete for males at a certain time.
The Hidden Powers of a Handshake
Our sense of smell does not just determine sexual rivals and fertility competition. In one study cited by the documentary, a hidden camera filmed people meeting strangers for the first time and sometimes shaking their hands. Greeters who shook hands smelled their hands afterward twice as often as those who didn't shake hands, presumably accessing the "information" the handshake gleaned.
Shaking hands is likely a human version of dogs sniffing each other — a way of acquiring a lot of social information in one quick impression, says Moore. When dogs sniff each other upon meeting, for example:
"They're sniffing and saying, 'Oh, I played with you last week. You're a good dog to play with,' or 'I smell you from last week. You were a little mean, so I'm not going to play with you.' They're going to pick up their dominant status, social status, their reproductive status, what they've eaten. All that kind of stuff that you and I would share in a conversation with words, they share with chemical signals. Their whole world is sense of smell."
Man's Best Friend Can Save Our Lives
One of the most dramatic facts shared in "Smell — Our Most Underestimated Sense," is dogs' proven ability to detect cancer in humans from subtle smells in breath, skin and more. Dogs have up to 300 million receptor nerve cells that detect smell (compared to 5 million in humans) and some dogs have been successfully trained to detect human cancers.
In a 2015 study published in the Israel Medical Association Journal,8 two dogs picked out the breast cancer cell cultures that they had been trained to detect 100 percent of the time. These "detective" dogs even picked out cancer specimens they were not trained to detect, but they never picked out control (noncancer) specimens, meaning "false positives," which plague diagnostic methods that are more high-tech than dogs.
The dogs picked out early-stage cancer as well as advanced cancer with amazing accuracy and specificity — a skill that would clearly save lives. In a 2017 study published in the European Journal of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery,9 a trained dog was also able to detect early lung cancer from the exhaled breath of patients with remarkable accuracy. Here is what the researchers wrote:
"After appropriate training, we exposed the dog (a 3-year-old cross-breed between a Labrador retriever and a pitbull) to 390 samples of exhaled gas collected from 113 individuals (85 patients with LC [lung cancer] and 28 controls, which included 11 patients without LC and 17 healthy individuals) for a total of 785 times.
The trained dog recognized LC in exhaled gas with a sensitivity of 0.95, a specificity of 0.98, a positive predictive value of 0.95 and a negative predictive value of 0.98."
Other Cancers Are Being Detected by Dogs
Canine olfactory abilities are also being studied in the screening for colorectal cancer (CRC) which takes the lives of approximately 50,630 Americans per year.10 This is what researchers writing in a 2010 article in BMJ said:11
"Among patients with CRC and controls, the sensitivity of canine scent detection of breath samples compared with conventional diagnosis by colonoscopy was 0.91 and the specificity was 0.99.
The sensitivity of canine scent detection of stool samples was 0.97 and the specificity was 0.99. The accuracy of canine scent detection was high even for early cancer. Canine scent detection was not confounded by current smoking, benign colorectal disease or inflammatory disease."
Such noninvasive and economical methods for early detection of colorectal cancer that avoid colonoscopy are sorely needed. Currently the occult blood test is one of the few affordable tests in the doctors' colorectal cancer arsenal.
Dogs can also detect the specific volatile organic compounds associated with prostate cancer in urine samples with high estimated sensitivity and specificity according to a 2015 study.12
And, in a 2013 study, dogs correctly identified all 42 blood samples of patients with ovarian cancer, achieving an accuracy rate of 100 percent.13 Even more encouraging, the dogs could determine whether cancer cells remained after surgery, which is crucially important since doctors generally cannot determine if residual cancer cells remain.
How Were Dogs' Medical Abilities Discovered?
How did an awareness of such canine abilities and their possible use in medicine develop? Here is how the researchers trace the origins of such dog detections:
"The idea of using a dog's olfactory sense for the early detection of cancer was first raised by Williams and Pembroke and reported in The Lancet in 1989. These authors described the case of a patient who visited the clinic because her dog showed a particular interest in a skin nevus she had. Following its excision, the pathological examination revealed malignant melanoma."
A 2013 case report in BMJ (previously the British Medical Journal) reported a similar phenomenon.14
"Our patient is a 75-year-old man who presented after his pet dog licked persistently at an asymptomatic lesion behind his right ear. Examination revealed a nodular lesion in the postauricular sulcus. Histology confirmed malignant melanoma, which was subsequently excised."
Another Important Function of Our Sense of Smell
Do you like different flavored jelly beans? People tasting them in "Smell — Our Most Underestimated Sense" quickly discovered that most of the "taste" was from their sense of smell not their sense of taste. When they were asked to pinch their noses, most tasted nothing.
One subject said he tasted "nothing so far." Another said, the jelly bean had "like, a sweetness, but I don't know the flavor." Once the subjects unpinched their noses they could describe the exact flavor of the jelly bean — which was really a smell. The loss of smell had a profound effect on Anna Barnes, featured in the documentary.
"I had a bad hit to the head, so I was kind of recovering from that. And then about a week afterwards, I thought, 'Hold on, something's not quite right here.' It became very clear to me, when I was well enough to go outside, that I'd lost my smell, because back then, the sewerage was open sewerage.
So, I lost my appetite for the first, I would say, four months. I was kind of retraining myself to remember, 'Oh, no, you have to eat' ...
When I lost my taste, fruit tasted for me, terrible. It's just gross. Fruit just tastes really slimy. It's all about texture ... I also had some early, you know, mix-ups, of accidentally drinking vodka, thinking it was water. And, you know, all the kind of stereotypical things that I guess people worry about."
It is clear that from "reading" other people to determining dangers to our enjoyment of food, our sense of smell is crucial — and certainly more important than our access to technology if we were asked to choose. Just as eye-opening is the ability of man's best friends to use their olfactory natural abilities to detect cancers as accurately as the most high-tech machines.
Antioxidants play an important role in promoting health by protecting your body from free radicals, which are molecules that interfere with the function of your organs, resulting in damage.1 In this regard, many people do their best to increase their intake of well-known antioxidants such as vitamin C and E, as well as flavonoids from plants. But sometimes, this is simply not enough.2
What if there is a certain antioxidant that trumps everything else? The answer you're looking for isn't found in a vegetable or a fruit, but from deep within the ocean: astaxanthin.
Astaxanthin, commonly called "King of the Carotenoids," is a naturally occurring substance found in a specific type of microalgae, as well as certain seafood. In addition, its red color is responsible for turning the flesh of salmon, crab, lobster and shrimp pink.3 The research regarding this antioxidant is promising, as it has shown that astaxanthin possesses a variety of health benefits.
You may have seen some astaxanthin supplements sold in your local health store. Be vigilant in reading the product labels because some of them are made using synthetic ingredients. Of course, you want to avoid these products because they're made using petrochemicals obtained from petroleum and natural gas.
If you want real astaxanthin, it must be straight from the source, which is the Haematococcus pluvialis microalgae. This type of algae produces the antioxidant once its water supply dries up, and goes into survival mode to protect itself from sunlight, ultraviolet radiation and low nutrition. Astaxanthin is a result of this process. In addition, there are several foods that contain generous amounts of astaxanthin, mainly seafood that consume the microalgae, such as:4
Astaxanthin is also available in various dosages. If you choose to go the supplement route, I strongly recommend getting the ones made from the Haematococcus pluvialis microalgae, not the ones made from petrochemicals. This ensures that you're getting the legitimate benefits the antioxidant is known for, as well as safeguarding your health.
Astaxanthin is quite possibly one of the most valuable antioxidants you can ever take advantage of. Research about this substance is continually growing, and the results are very promising, such as:5
• Improved Antioxidant Profile — One standout feature of astaxanthin is that it is 550 times stronger than vitamin E and 6,000 times more potent than vitamin C. In addition, it is 10 times more effective than zeaxanthin, lutein, canthaxanthin and beta-carotene.6
Research has shown that this antioxidant may benefit your health in important ways. In one example, astaxanthin exhibited digestive-protective properties in rats affected with gastric ulcers.7
• Hearing Protection — Astaxanthin may benefit your hearing by raising your neurotrophin-3 (NT3) levels, a protein that plays a role in the communication between your ears and your brain. A study was able to support this hypothesis when researchers discovered that astaxanthin helped reverse hearing loss in mice.8
• Management of Diabetes — Researchers suggest that astaxanthin may benefit diabetics by reducing oxidative stress in their pancreatic cells caused by high blood sugar levels, as well as improve glucose and serum insulin levels.9
• Reduced Risk of Cardiovascular Disease — Taking astaxanthin regularly may reduce the risk of inflammation in your cardiovascular system.
In one study, participants who took 12 milligrams of astaxanthin per day were able to decrease the presence of C-reactive protein in their body, which is an indicator of inflammation. In another study, Sprague Dawley rats affected with myocardia had a reduced infarct size once astaxanthin was administered.10
• Anticancer Properties — Astaxanthin has been shown to have potential in fighting cancer. Experts believe that the antioxidant works by decreasing mutagenesis and carcinogenesis by inhibiting oxidative damage to cells.
Furthermore, it restores cell-to-cell communication to help decrease tumor proliferation. In one example, astaxanthin exhibited growth-inhibitory effects in human colon cancer cells.11
• Immune System Boost — Your immune system is constantly attacked by free radicals, and astaxanthin can help turn the situation around.
Reports strongly suggest that astaxanthin showed higher immunomodulating effects compared to beta-carotene, as well as enhanced antibody production and decreased humoral immune response.12,13
• Better Eye Health — A few studies suggest that astaxanthin may help protect your eye from various conditions, such as:
◦Age-related macular degeneration
◦Inflammatory eye diseases
• Neuroprotective Effects — Several studies suggest that astaxanthin may be a powerful tool in maintaining brain health, thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. In one example, 10 elderly participants who took 12 milligrams of astaxanthin daily for 12 weeks displayed improved cognitive and psychomotor function.14
One of the most interesting things about astaxanthin is that it is completely safe to consume, even at doses as high as 500 milligrams per day. The only documented side effect is a slight reddening of the skin, which can only occur if you increase your dosage. In any case, I still recommend that you visit a doctor to help assuage any concerns you might have before taking the supplement.
Based on published data, it's clear that astaxanthin has strong potential for helping optimize your health in a convenient manner when taken as a supplement. However, it may be more beneficial to consume astaxanthin using a natural approach via the foods where it is commonly found.
For example, wild-caught Alaskan salmon is one of the most nutritious foods you can add to your diet. Aside from astaxanthin, it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that can provide a wealth of benefits to your overall well-being, such as decreased risk of coronary heart disease and arrhythmia. Almost anyone can benefit from omega-3 fatty acids, as it is an essential nutrient that must be obtained through your diet. Going with a natural approach is essentially hitting two birds with one stone.
Q: Should I take astaxanthin?
A: There's plenty of research that supports the potential health benefits of astaxanthin to your health. In other words, chances are high that taking astaxanthin will help optimize your health.
Q: What is astaxanthin used for?
A: Astaxanthin is generally taken to help improve the antioxidant profile in your system as well as helping lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, among other things.15
Q: What does astaxanthin do for the body?
A: Research has shown that astaxanthin may help manage diabetes, lower your risk of heart disease and cancer, and boost your immune system and antioxidant profile.16
Q: Is astaxanthin safe to take?
A: Yes, but this only applies to natural astaxanthin that comes from microalgae. Synthetic astaxanthin must be avoided.
Q: How do I take astaxanthin properly?
A: Astaxanthin supplements should be taken alongside foods rich in healthy fats to help improve absorption. This antioxidant may also be obtained naturally through seafood, such as wild-caught Alaskan salmon.
You know that feeling of energy and productivity you get after finishing your morning's first cup of coffee? It turns out you can get that without even drinking a drop, just by thinking about coffee.
The provocative finding not only highlights the power of thought but also suggests you may be able to get a boost just from thinking about your favorite brew — a habit that may benefit those who drink coffee too close to bedtime. To be clear, organic black coffee can be quite healthy, but for those looking to abstain (such as during pregnancy), your alertness needn't suffer — just think about pouring yourself a cup.
Thinking About Coffee Arouses Your Brain
In a study involving people from both Western and Eastern cultures, researchers from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management exposed participants to coffee- and tea-related cues in a series of studies.1 Lead author Sam Maglio said in a news release:2
"People often encounter coffee-related cues, or think about coffee, without actually ingesting it … We wanted to see if there was an association between coffee and arousal such that if we simply exposed people to coffee-related cues, their physiological arousal would increase, as it would if they had actually drank coffee."
While a lot is known about the physiological effects of coffee and caffeine on the body, the researchers explained, less is known about its psychological effects. However, it appears that many people’s brains may be primed toward arousal at the very thought of coffee, especially in Western cultures, where coffee dominates over tea.
After being exposed to coffee-related cues, such as images of coffee, the study participants perceived time as shorter and thought in more concrete, precise terms, which is suggestive of a more alert state of mind.
"People who experience physiological arousal – again, in this case as the result of priming and not drinking coffee itself — see the world in more specific, detailed terms. This has a number of implications for how people process information and make judgments and decisions," Maglio said.3
The effects were stronger among Westerners than those in Eastern cultures, perhaps because the West maintains a stronger association between coffee and alertness. "In North America we have this image of a prototypical executive rushing off to an important meeting with a triple espresso in their hand," Maglio continued. "There's this connection between drinking caffeine and arousal that may not exist in other cultures."4
Smelling Coffee Increases Alertness Too
Many people love to wake up to the scent of coffee, and it seems this, too, may be one way to jump-start your day — and your brain. Researchers had university students take GMAT algebra tests in a computer lab with an ambient coffee-like scent or no scent. Those in the coffee-scented room performed better on analytical reasoning tasks.5
The researchers also did a follow-up survey asking whether participants believed they would perform better in a room scented with coffee or flowers or no scent at all. Most believed the coffee-scented room would boost their performance, and this expectation, the researchers concluded, was partly responsible for the improved performance shown during testing.
"Our results thus demonstrate that a coffee-like scent (which actually contains no caffeine) can elicit a placebo effect," the study noted.6 The findings lend even more support to the notion that keeping a bag of coffee beans on hand for a quick whiff could you give you a mental boost in a pinch — no coffee drinking required.
The Case for Drinking Coffee
Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages in the world, and it’s intriguing that the love for coffee runs so deep that it may exert effects via scent or suggestion. However, the case can be made that drinking coffee is a good habit to get into, as it’s been linked to decreased mortality from a number of diseases, including heart disease, neurological diseases, Type 2 diabetes and several types of cancer, including endometrial and liver.7
There are more than 800 volatile compounds in coffee, although caffeine and chlorogenic acids are the most common. While it was long suggested that coffee consumption could be harmful, it's now generally believed that moderate amounts of coffee (three to four cups) have few health risks and much evidence of health benefits.8
In one review of 112 meta-analyses about coffee, this popular beverage was linked to a probable decreased risk of colorectal, colon, endometrial and prostate cancers, cardiovascular disease and mortality and Parkinson's disease, with researchers noting, "Given the spectrum of conditions studied and the robustness of many of the results, these findings indicate that coffee can be part of a healthful diet."9
As far as your brain is concerned, drinking coffee is known to boost alertness, well-being and concentration, along with improving mood and reducing depression. While it can potentially disrupt your sleep, particularly if you drink it at night, and may increase anxiety in certain people, coffee is linked to a host of brain benefits, including:10
- Prevention of cognitive decline
- Reduced risk of stroke
- Lower risk of Alzheimer's disease
Coffee May Be Even Better if You're Over 45
The benefits of drinking coffee may only get better with age — a major positive, since for many the love for coffee is lifelong. In fact, a 10-year study presented at the European Society of Cardiology congress in Barcelona showed that people who drank four cups of coffee per day had a 64% decrease in their risk of dying from any cause.
Among those aged 45 and over, however, every two cups of daily coffee lowered the risk of dying during the study period by 30%; no such association was seen in younger adults.11
In another study, this one in individuals aged 60 years and older, drinking two or more cups of coffee a day was associated with a lower risk of impaired agility in women and in those with obesity. Consuming two or more cups of coffee a day was also associated with a lower risk of impaired mobility in women.12
Coffee may also have a protective effect as you age, including in the case of silent brain infarction (SBI), which are often found in brain scans in healthy elderly people and may be associated with dementia and cognitive decline. Compared with those who didn't drink coffee, people who drank three or more cups of coffee a day during middle age had a lower incidence of SBI.
"Our report demonstrated that SBI was observed less frequently in middle aged Japanese who consumed 3 cups or more of coffee per day. To avoid senile dementia and/or symptomatic infarction in older age, the middle-aged individuals might have to drink more than 3 cups of coffee every day," researchers wrote in the Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases.13
Drinking two to four cups of caffeinated coffee daily has even been associated with a 50% reduced suicide risk among adults, compared to drinking one cup or less of caffeinated coffee, or decaf.14
Protect Your Heart With Coffee?
There are many heart-healthy actions you can take, from eating right to exercising — but is drinking coffee among them? It turns out that even your heart can benefit from a cup of joe.
Research presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2017 found, for instance, that compared to non-coffee drinkers, coffee drinkers had a 7 percent lower risk of heart failure and an 8 percent lower risk of stroke for each additional cup of coffee consumed per week.15
Drinking more than three cups of coffee a day may also lower your risk of developing atherosclerosis, also known as clogged arteries, a condition that seriously increases your heart disease risk, by 63%, particularly in people who have never smoked.
"Based on our results and prior studies, consumption of coffee could exert a potential beneficial effect against coronary calcification and cardiovascular disease risk, particularly in nonsmokers," researchers wrote in the Journal of the American Heart Association. "It is possible that deleterious effects of smoking overwhelm the benefits of coffee intake on early cardiovascular disease injury, so this impact of coffee may occur only in people who have never smoked."16
Coffee Contains Antioxidants
When you think of antioxidants, you may think mostly about fruits and vegetables, but coffee is another excellent source. Further, because coffee is so widely consumed, it's considered to be a major contributor to dietary antioxidants. With each sip, you're gaining these beneficial compounds that can scavenge free radicals and more, as researchers explained in Molecules:17
"Brewed coffee is a complex food matrix with numerous phytochemical components that have antioxidant activity capable of scavenging free radicals, donating hydrogen and electrons, providing reducing activity and also acting as metal ion pro-oxidant chelators.
More recent studies have shown that coffee components can trigger tissue antioxidant gene expression and protect against gastrointestinal oxidative stress."
While many of the benefits of coffee, including its cognitive ones, are often attributed to caffeine, research has shown similar benefits, including increased alertness, leading researchers to speculate that there may be other properties in coffee responsible for its psychoactive effects.18
What's the Healthiest Type of Coffee?
If you're not a coffee drinker, there's no reason to feel compelled to start. There are still many other dietary additions you can make to naturally ward off disease and improve your health. However, if you enjoy coffee, there's good reason to savor a cup — or a few — each day, though there are some caveats to consider.
Coffee, which is a heavily pesticide-sprayed crop, should always be organic, as well as shade-grown. Coffee is a shade-loving plant, but growers often strip forests to make growing and harvesting easier. This destroys the ecological habitat of many natural pest deterrents, such as birds and lizards, while the pests flourish, resulting in additional pesticide use in nonshade-grown varieties.
Drink your coffee black, skipping the added sugar and milk or cream, as the antioxidant capacity of coffee may be significantly decreased by the addition of milk.19 If you want to add something to your coffee, try coconut oil or medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, which may help you burn fat and improve mitochondrial function.
Start with a small amount, such as 1 teaspoon of MCT oil, working your way up to 1 or 2 tablespoons, to avoid gastrointestinal side effects. You can also blend in a pat of raw grass fed butter. This recipe is a favorite among those following a ketogenic diet.
Finally, while most people can safely consume coffee, if you’re pregnant you should avoid it due to the caffeine. Coffee consumption during pregnancy has been linked to low birth weight babies,20 heart problems21 and behavioral disorders in later life,22 so this is one population who can benefit instead by just thinking about, or smelling, this popular brew.
Vertigo is a form of dizziness that makes you feel as though you're moving or spinning even when you're stationary. As noted by the National Health Service of England, vertigo is a symptom of an underlying condition involving either your inner ear (peripheral vertigo) or your central nervous system (central vertigo), it's not a condition in its own right.1
In severe cases of vertigo, you may find it difficult to maintain your balance sufficiently to carry out everyday tasks. It can also be accompanied by other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, abnormal eye movements, headache, sweating, tinnitus, double vision and lack of coordination.
Common Underlying Causes of Peripheral Vertigo
While your outer ear canal, eardrum, middle ear and cochlea are involved in the transmission and interpretation of sound, your vestibular system is not directly involved in hearing.
The balance organs in your inner ear act as a gyroscope that sends messages to your brain about your body's position in space, and coordinate with your brain to balance your body as you move.2 Ailments that can contribute to peripheral vertigo, where the problem originates in your inner ear, include:3
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) — One of the most common forms of peripheral vertigo, BPPV occurs when crystal deposits in your vestibular system become dislodged and end up in your semicircular canal. As you move, the crystals disrupt the flow of the fluids, confusing your balance organs, resulting in dizziness.4
- Meniere's disease — Characterized by an abnormal production of fluid inside your inner ear, causing pressure to build up and result in vertigo. Your hearing may be affected as well.5
- Labyrinthitis — This condition is mainly defined by inflammation in the labyrinth of your inner ear,6 often caused by a viral infection.7 Since the labyrinth contains both the balance and hearing organs, not only do you get vertigo, but hearing problems as well.
- Vestibular neuritis — Similar to labyrinthitis, vestibular neuritis refers to an inner ear infection, in this case affecting the nerves connecting your inner ear and brain, thereby disrupting the normal flow of sensory information.8
- Acoustic neuroma — Acoustic neuroma occurs when a nonmalignant tumor grows in the cranial nerve of your inner ear. As the tumor gets bigger, it pushes against adjacent nerves, causing vertigo, hearing loss, headaches and even facial numbness.
Common Underlying Causes of Central Vertigo
Your central nervous system (CNS, which includes your brain and spinal cord) is responsible for controlling your muscle movement and the transmission of sensory stimuli to your brain. In central vertigo, damage or dysfunction in your cerebellum, the balance center of your brain, tends to be at play.9 Common underlying causes for central vertigo include:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI) or concussion — Vertigo is a common symptom following a concussion or TBI10
- Stroke — As noted in one 2014 study11 in Neurology, even a small stroke, if it affects your central vestibular projections, can cause severe vertigo
- Multiple sclerosis (MS) — MS is a condition that causes inflammation in your myelin, the protective layer of your nerve cells, causing your body to experience problems in muscle coordination and maintaining equilibrium, which may lead to vertigo.
- Vestibular migraines — Migraine known as vestibular migraine,12 which unlike traditional migraines may not always involve a painful headache, can cause vertigo, accompanied with vomiting and nausea.
- Brain and/or spinal cord tumors
The Link Between Stress, Anxiety and Vertigo
In addition to these underlying conditions, stress and anxiety may also play a role. Research has shown those suffering vertigo related to Meniere's disease and/or migraines also have higher rates of anxiety than people with other forms of vertigo.13
On the other hand, anxiety or stress may also cause dizziness in and of itself. As noted in a fact sheet by the Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy:14
"The vestibular system is responsible for sensing body position and movement in our surroundings. The vestibular system is made up of an inner ear on each side, specific areas of the brain, and the nerves that connect them. This system is responsible for the sense of dizziness when things go wrong.
Scientists believe that the areas in the brain responsible for dizziness interact with the areas responsible for anxiety, and cause both symptoms. The dizziness that accompanies anxiety is often described as a sense of light- headedness or wooziness. There may be a feeling of motion or spinning inside rather than in the environment.
Sometimes there is a sense of swaying even though you are standing still. Environments like grocery stores, crowded malls or wide-open spaces may cause a sense of imbalance and disequilibrium. These symptoms are caused by legitimate physiologic changes within the brain.
If there is an abnormality in the vestibular system, the symptom of dizziness can be the result. If one already has a tendency toward anxiety, dizziness from the vestibular system and anxiety can interact, making symptoms worse. Often the anxiety and the dizziness must be treated together in order for improvement to be made."
Physical Therapy for BPPV-Related Vertigo
In order to determine which treatment you might need, it's important to identify the underlying cause. As you might expect, treatment for peripheral vertigo will be different from central vertigo, as the problem originates in a completely different area of your body (ears opposed to CNS).
Most cases of vertigo will spontaneously resolve in a short amount of time, but if the problem persists for days or is chronic, seek medical help. In the case of BPPV, physical therapy is commonly recommended.
A physical therapist will perform a series of head movements to shift the crystal deposits in your inner ear into a location that won't affect your balance. There are several different particle repositioning procedures that can accomplish this, including the Epley, Semont, Foster and Brandt-Daroff maneuvers.15 In mild, temporary cases, you can also try these at home to achieve relief. As detailed by WebMD, the Epley maneuver is performed as follows:16
- Sitting on the edge of your bed, turn your head 45 degrees toward whichever side is causing the vertigo. Place a pillow on your bed so that when you lie down, it's positioned in the center of your back, between your shoulder blades, not your head
- Quickly lie down on your back with your head tilted 45 degrees. Make sure the pillow is between your shoulder blades at the center of your back, so your head is leaning slightly backward and to the side. Stay in this position until the vertigo stops, typically around 30 seconds
- Shift your head halfway to the opposite side (90 degrees) without raising it. Wait another 30 seconds
- Turn your head and shift your entire body to the opposite side so that you're looking downward, toward the floor. Wait 30 seconds
- Slowly sit up. Avoid standing until or unless the vertigo has resolved
Some find the Foster maneuver easier to perform, as you don't have to lie in bed. Here's a summary:
- Kneeling on all fours, raise your head and look at the ceiling for a few seconds
- Tuck your chin toward your knees, allowing the top of your head to rest on the floor. Wait for the vertigo to stop, typically about 30 seconds
- Turn your head about 45 degrees toward the side causing the vertigo. Wait 30 seconds
- Quickly raise up on all fours so that your head is level with your back (tabletop position), still at a 45-degree angle toward the affected side. Wait 30 seconds
- Quickly sit upright, with your head angled at 45 degrees toward the affected side, then slowly stand up and straighten your head. If needed, repeat the sequence after resting for 15 minutes
You can also find instructions for another, similar particle repositioning procedure, accompanied by drawings showing the body position, on the Cleveland Clinic's website.17
Other Conventional Treatments for Vertigo
If an inner ear infection is at fault, treatment will need to address the infection. Since most inner ear infections are caused by viruses and not bacteria, antibiotics are typically not recommended, as they do not work on viruses.
A number of natural remedies may be helpful, however, such as garlic, coconut oil or onion. For instructions on how to use them, and other treatment methods to consider, see "How to Treat an Ear Infection Effectively."
Similarly, with TBI-related vertigo, you may need to look at concussion treatment (see "The Concussion Repair Manual"), and if the vertigo is related to a stroke, you'll want to look at stroke rehabilitation (see "How to Optimize Your Recovery After a Stroke"). Naturally, in cases where your vertigo is caused by a more serious chronic disease, such as MS or tumors, the treatment will need to address those conditions as well.
Ditto for anxiety and/or stress-related vertigo, in which case cognitive-behavioral therapy can be helpful.18 If your vertigo is caused by a vestibular or balance disorder originating in your CNS, vestibular rehabilitation therapy may be recommended. As explained by Vestibular.org: 19
"[A]fter vestibular system damage, people can feel better and function can return through compensation. This occurs because the brain learns to use other senses (vision and somatosensory, i.e. body sense) to substitute for the deficient vestibular system.
The health of particular parts of the nervous system (brainstem and cerebellum, visual, and somatosensory sensations) is important in determining the extent of recovery that can be gained through compensation.
For many, compensation occurs naturally over time, but for people whose symptoms do not reduce and who continue to have difficulty returning to daily activities, VRT can help with recovery by promoting compensation.
The goal of VRT is to use a problem-oriented approach to promote compensation. This is achieved by customizing exercises to address each person's specific problem(s).
Therefore, before an exercise program can be designed, a comprehensive clinical examination is needed to identify problems related to the vestibular disorder. Depending on the vestibular-related problem(s) identified, three principal methods of exercise can be prescribed: 1) Habituation, 2) Gaze Stabilization, and/or 3) Balance Training."
At-Home Treatments for Vertigo
At home, the following strategies may offer relief from vertigo:20
Perform the Epley or Foster maneuver (see instructions above)
Sleep with your head slightly raised
Upon waking, move slowly when getting out of bed and sit on the edge of the bed for a minute or two before standing
Avoid bending down to pick up items
Avoid movements involving neck extension, such as reaching up to a high shelf
Avoid rapid head movements during daily tasks
Habituation training, i.e., perform exercises that typically trigger vertigo to train your brain to get used to it, thereby reducing your symptoms. Make sure you're in a safe place and have the necessary support to avoid falling
Pacing training, i.e., performing tasks that trigger anxiety or stress-related vertigo. As explained by the Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy,21 "Pacing is doing symptom-provoking activities in small doses with rest in between, so that your symptoms do not get out of control. By understanding … what situations or movements may cause your symptoms, you will learn to manage your situation much better"
Supplements to Help Relieve Vertigo
Certain supplements and essential oils may also be helpful against vertigo and general dizziness, including:22
Ginkgo biloba — This Chinese herb is commonly used to treat vertigo as it helps regulate blood flow to your brain. According to one study,23 ginkgo biloba is just as effective as the drug betahistine.
Ginger tea — Ginger, a folk remedy with a long history of use for nausea and motion sickness, may also help relieve vertigo.
Ginger moxibustion — In one study,24 ginger-partitioned moxibustion at the acupuncture point known as Tinggong (SI 19) was found to more effectively improve vertigo than particle repositioning procedures alone.
Ginger-partitioned moxibustion involves placing a thin slice of raw ginger on the skin (at the appropriate acupuncture point location) and then placing a burning piece of moxa on top. This treatment will necessitate a visit to a qualified acupuncturist unless you have the necessary medical training to do it yourself.
Magnesium — Making sure you're getting enough magnesium from either food or a supplement may help prevent or relieve vertigo. According to Vertigotreatment.org, vestibular disorders are rare in "parts of the world where the magnesium is represented in a diet in large quantities."25
You can also find more information on the "vertigo diet" used in the treatment of Meniere's disease and vestibular migraine on vertigotreatment.org.26
Water — Even mild dehydration can cause vertigo, so be sure to stay well hydrated by drinking enough clean, pure water.
Apple cider vinegar and honey — A simple home remedy that may help prevent and treat vertigo is two parts raw honey to one part apple cider vinegar. Stir and drink as a shot.
Essential oils — Essential oils known to address nausea and dizziness associated with vertigo include peppermint, ginger, lavender and lemon.
Warning: This oil comes with potentially damaging side effects due to the ingredient it's made from or the manufacturing process used to extract it. Because these negative effects overshadow the potential benefits, I do not recommend this oil for therapeutic use. Always be aware of the potential side effects of any herbal oil before using.
Among the many crops grown in the United States is cotton. According to the National Cotton Council, roughly 162 pounds of cottonseed are produced for every 100 pounds of fiber.1
The raw cottonseed actually consists of three commodities: linters, which are cotton fibers still clinging to the harvested seeds and which are used to make a variety of products, from paper money to cosmetics to photography film; the hulls, which are pressed into a meal or used as a bulk food in the livestock feed industry; and the kernels inside the hulls, which are crushed to produce the oil.2
As an agriculture product in the U.S., cottonseed oil is considered to be "one of the country's most important sources for vegetable oil," according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center.3 While cottonseed oil is also touted by the industry to be "cholesterol-free with a high level of antioxidants," making it a "premium oil" for cooking, baking and use by the processed (snack) food industry,4 fine food magazines such as Bon Appetit warn that it's one of the top three "least healthy" oils for you.5
This is one reason why I would not recommend it as part of your diet. Before I explain my stand, here is what mainstream recommendations say about this vegetable oil.
Cottonseed oil is a fairly common vegetable oil in the U.S. and was used as early as the 1800s.6 It was called "America's original vegetable oil" and created a high demand among its consumers.7 Cottonseed oil is similar to canola, corn, safflower, soybean and sunflower in terms of its polyunsaturated fat oil composition.8 In its nonhydrogenated form, it can be used for deep frying to lower the amounts of trans fat in fried foods.9
Cottonseed oil is known for its culinary purposes. It's used for frying or baking, and added to salad dressings,10 baked goods, cereals and mayonnaise.11 Because of its neutral taste, cottonseed oil will not mask or overpower the other flavors in your dish, unlike other oils.12 It's a familiar feature of processed foods,13 like potato chips14 and French fries,15 which I absolutely recommend you avoid if you want to achieve optimal health.
Cottonseed oil is added to margarines, icings and whipped toppings because of its potential to help form beta prime crystal, which gives these food products a smooth and creamy appearance and consistency.16
Cottonseed oil is also added to personal care products such as soap and cosmetics,17 lubricants, nail polish removers, fertilizers18 and laundry detergents.19 This oil is even added to soaps used in washing wool. In the first half of the 20th century, cottonseed oil was also used as an excipient in drugs like penicillin and vaccines, but was replaced by peanut oil after cotton seed allergy reactions began being reported.20
Today cottonseed oil is one of many used as emulsifiers and excipients approved for use in a range of drugs and vaccines.21,22
Cottonseed oil is mainly composed of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), with linoleic acid making up a majority of its PUFA content.23 Other fatty acids that can be found in cottonseed oil include palmitic acid, myristic acid, palmitoleic acid, stearic acid, oleic acid and linolenic acid. The fatty acid composition of nonhydrogenated cottonseed oil is:24
- Saturated fat — 27%
- Monounsaturated fat — 18%
- Polyunsaturated fat — 55%
When partially hydrogenated, cottonseed oil's fatty acid profile is altered and its monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) concentrations increase:
- Saturated fat — 29%
- Monounsaturated fat — 50%
- Polyunsaturated fat — 21%
Although cotton farming goes back centuries — with the cultivation of it being evident even in prehistoric times — cottonseed oil production is relegated to more recent history, when it became part of a milling process.25 This is different from mills seen today, which are either screw press or solvent extraction facilities.26 Modern processing of cottonseed oil involves numerous steps, and the main techniques include:27
- Alkali refining
Because it's naturally stable, cottonseed oil requires less hydrogenation compared to other oils, and this results in lower trans fat levels.28
Some of the health benefits you may have heard about cottonseed oil is that it's "healthy" because of its high unsaturated fat levels that exhibit total cholesterol-, low-density lipoprotein (LDL)- and triglyceride-lowering properties.29 It's also touted for producing low levels of trans fats when used for deep-frying foods30 and for its low amounts of saturated fat.31
From a nutrition standpoint, cottonseed oil, along with almond oil and wheat germ oil,32 also has high concentrations of vitamin E,33 a nutrient that may play a role in lowering your risk for diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, cardiovascular disease and prostate cancer.
Conventional health experts advise getting vitamin E from vegetable oils like cottonseed oil, because people do not eat foods rich in this nutrient on a daily basis.34,35 It is also believed that vitamin E contributes to the long shelf life of cottonseed oil.36
However, I disagree with these health claims. As much as possible, don't use vegetable oils like cottonseed oil, whether it's hydrogenated or not, and whether it's unrefined or processed. It can negatively impact your health in multiple ways, as explained in the remaining sections. There is only one truly stable and healthful oil to use, and that is high-quality organic coconut oil.
Initially, cottonseed contains gossypol that's responsible for the oil's yellowish color.37 This substance can be toxic to nonruminant animals (only adult cattle and sheep are known to metabolize it38) and reacts with protein and lessens the oil's nutritional value.39
Increased amounts of gossypol have been linked to adverse effects like breathing problems, anorexia and heart, lung, liver and blood cell problems.40 This compound also triggered reproductive health problems among female nonruminant animals, particularly by disturbing "estrous cycles, pregnancy and early embryo development," and among male animals by causing infertility, sperm immotility and reduced sperm counts.41
In attempts to make this oil less damaging to your health, manufacturers came up with the following areas of improvement for cottonseed oil production:42
- Lowering or eliminating gossypol in cottonseed oil
- Increasing the yield of cottonseed oil extraction
- Increasing the oil's PUFAs and vitamin E concentrations
- Reducing saturated fatty acids
Another step the industry took as far back as 2007 was to implement "educational" marketing campaigns stressing the nutritious aspects of the nonhydrogenated oil, including the fact that "it does not require hydrogenation, the process that produces trans fatty acids," thus making it "trans fat free."43,44
And while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils in May 2018,45,46 the makers of Crisco shortening, a hydrogenated product, was already prepared, having introduced a new trans fat-free version of its product, made from sunflower, soy and cottonseed oils, in 2008.47
Even though being trans fat-free is a good thing, USDA data from July 2018 still show that 94% of the cotton crop grown in American soil is actually genetically engineered, which could leave questions as to how safe or nutritious cottonseed oil really is.48
Although GE proponents dismiss the concerns,49,50 GE crops have been linked in the past to possible reproductive problems, organ disruption,51 digestive problems52 and questions about possible allergic reactions.53 Some published reports have also highlighted that cottonseed oil contains a high pesticide load54 and is susceptible to mold contamination.55,56
Remember that saturated fat is important for many of your bodily functions, and will not cause heart disease as mainstream recommendations have led you to believe. One of the foods most abundant in saturated and other high-quality healthy fats that is an excellent substitute for cottonseed oil is organic coconut oil.
Coconut oil is ideal for cooking because it's resistant to high heat damage, and at the same time provides benefits for your overall well being. The article, "Use Coconut Oil Daily" outlines some of the reasons you should make the switch to this oil.
Olive oil is another option you can try, but it must be used cold and drizzled over your favorite foods. It shouldn't be heated because of its low smoke point, which can cause toxic smoke when used at high heats. For more information on some of the most ideal sources of healthy fats, read "Top 13 Reasons to Replace Dangerous Oils With Healthy Fats."
In the video above I answer more of your questions about my upcoming book, “KetoFast”. I am absolutely convinced that fasting is one of the most profoundly effective strategies there is to improve your metabolic health, which is why I'm so excited for the book's release on April 30.
The Most Important Health Book You'll Ever Read
My book, "KetoFast", offers you a step-by-step guide to lose weight and rejuvenate your health to help you prevent and even reverse disease.When you follow my plan, you’ll see inches melt away and disease markers improve. And you won’t have to endure the shortcomings of traditional fasting that I outlined earlier. I’ve taken the guesswork out of the process, so you’ll know exactly what to do and when.
There are important details in "KetoFast" that I learned when developing this program that will make it really easy for you. Once you have read the book and understand the simple concepts presented, you can easily implement the strategies into your lifestyle and you will be amazed at what it can do to help you take control of your health.
Overwhelming Response to the First KetoFast Question & Answer Session
For those who may have missed my first “KetoFast” question and answer session in March, you can watch it in the video below. There were so many fantastic questions about “KetoFast” that I didn’t have time to answer all of them. That is what let me to do a second question and answer session that you see above. I hope to be able to do a third question and answer session as there are still a number of outstanding questions I wasn’t able to get to.
Cholesterol is found in nearly every cell in your body. This waxy substance is vital for optimal functioning of cell membranes, regulating protein pathways and supporting brain health, hormone levels and reducing your heart disease risk. Your body also uses cholesterol to manufacture vitamin D after being exposed to the sun.
As Zoe Harcombe, Ph.D., has noted,1 "It is virtually impossible to explain how vital cholesterol is to the human body. If you had no cholesterol in your body you would be dead." The majority of the cholesterol in your body, approximately 80%, is manufactured in your liver,2 suggesting your body cannot survive without it.
The remaining 20% is absorbed from the foods you eat but only at a rate of 20 to 60% of what's in your food. As Alice Lichtenstein, senior scientist and director of the cardiovascular nutrition laboratory at Tufts University, told Eating Well, the absorption rate depends on the individual,3 and if you consume less, your body compensates by making more.
In other words, there is a level at which your body attempts to maintain your cholesterol by manufacturing more or less in response to your dietary intake. Since animals use cholesterol in much the same way as humans, beef, pork and chicken have similar levels of cholesterol in the meat.
In the past decades cholesterol has been vilified as a primary culprit in heart disease. Merck brought the first statin drug, Lovastatin, aka Mevacor, to market in 1987.4,5 Since then, statins have gone on to become the biggest selling class of pharmaceutical compounds of all time, with annual sales in excess of $19 billion in 2017 and projected to reach $24.4 by 2022.6,7 Although the growth has been rapid, recent data demonstrate physicians are not prescribing statins to all eligible patients.8
Physicians Not Offering Statins to Eligible Patients
According to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),9 36.7% of U.S. adults over the age of 21 met the eligibility requirements in 2015 for cholesterol lowering treatment with statins as defined by the 2013 guidelines issued by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association.
These guidelines define four groups said to benefit from statins,10 including those with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, diabetes and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels between 70 and 189 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). According to the CDC, 55% (43 million American adults)11 who fit the criteria are currently taking statin medication.
Despite these extraordinary numbers, a new study12 from Duke University Medical Center finds 26.5% of U.S. adults who fit the current criteria to use cholesterol-lowering drugs are not taking them. The study is suggesting this occurs since doctors do not offer the drugs to their patients or the patients express concern over the side effects.13
The guidelines were expanded by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force14 to include individuals who did not have a prior history of heart disease but who had concurrent health conditions that may place them at higher risk for heart attack in the future, such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and age.
According to the current survey, 59.2%15 who were not taking the drug said their physician had not offered them a prescription. This was most common among women, black people and uninsured patients.
In an email to Reuter's, Dr. Ian Kronish, associate director of the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, commented on the findings, saying some physicians may not have been completely behind the changes to the guidelines published in 2013, particularly for patients who didn't have extremely high cholesterol levels or a previous history of heart disease.16
How Do Statins Work?
Statins don't stop your body from absorbing cholesterol from your food, but rather prevent your liver from making the cholesterol it was designed to produce by blocking an enzyme in the mevalonate pathway called HMG-CoA reductase, used to make cholesterol in the liver.
Essentially, this classification of drugs blocks the mevalonate pathway, which plays a key role in multiple cellular processes, not just the production of cholesterol. Although studied with regard to cholesterol synthesis, the extent of the impact of the mevalonate pathway is not fully understood.17
The drugs also deplete your body of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), which may in part account for many of its devastating long-term results. A black box warning was proposed to warn patient and physicians about this reduction in CoQ10,18 but in 2014 the FDA decided against it.19
CoQ10 is used in energy production by every cell in your body and is vital for optimal health and longevity. In its reduced form, ubiquinol, it's a crucial component of cellular respiration and the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a coenzyme used as an energy carrier in every cell in your body. Since your heart is the most energy demanding organ, depleting this energy supply can have devastating consequences.
Former FDA Commissioner Had Strong Ties to Big Pharma
The featured study was performed at Duke University by scientists with a history of producing research supporting statin use and calling for a greater number of prescriptions in patients who may not have had a previous history of heart disease,20,21,22,23,24 continuing a legacy of pharmaceutical support left by Dr. Robert Califf,25 who served as U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner from February 2016 until January 2017.26
In May 2014, Califf, a Duke cardiologist and study chairman, gave a presentation27 to a group of experts, describing ways to increase the pace of innovation through the transformation of the research process. Specifically, his last slide called for a plan to simplify the regulatory systems governing research, believing it may have slowed biomedical innovation.
This was near the end of his association with Duke University, as he was soon to be nominated by then President Barack Obama as the FDA commissioner.28 During his confirmation hearings he defended his position in accepting drug industry funding and promised to not lower the agency's safety standards.
When questioned by senators, Califf attempted to disarm his previous statement that regulations governing research were too complicated and slowed innovation by saying,29 "I've never been a proponent of lowering standards. If anything, I've argued for raising them."
According to The New York Times,30 Califf had been associated with scientific papers produced by pharmaceutical company researchers, he'd been paid by seven drug companies and a device maker for consulting services, and his university salary was partially supported by drug companies, including Merck, Novartis and Eli Lilly.
In a conflict of interest section at the end of one paper, he declared financial support from more than 20 companies and research entitites.31 Daniel Carpenter, a Harvard political science professor with an expertise in the FDA calls him the "ultimate industry insider."32
Califf also resigned from the board of directors at Portola Pharmaceuticals on January 26, 2015, just prior to his nomination as FDA commissioner, having received compensation of $259,623.33
Recently, Duke Clinical Research Institute paid $112.5 million to settle claims that bogus research data34 were submitted to the National Institutes of Health to acquire grant money for research.35 Seven years of data were determined to be unreliable.
Risks Associated With Statins Supported by Science
Among those who were offered but declined statins in the featured study,36 the most common reason stated was fear of side effects from the drugs.37 Senior study author Dr. Ann Marie Navar from the Duke Clinical Research Institute38 believes public perception of side effects is unrealistic. She commented:
"Although there are risks associated with statins, the public fear of side effects is out of proportion to the actual risks. Misconceptions about statins are everywhere and are fueled by false information on the internet."
However, despite Navar's attempt to downplay the side effects of statin medications, the risks are well-documented and supported by scientific evidence, so the fears are well-founded. According to the FDA:39
- There have been rare reports of serious liver problems. Patients should notify their health care professional right away if they have the following symptoms: feeling unusually tired or weak; loss of appetite; upper belly pain; dark colored urine; yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes.
- Memory loss and confusion have been reported. The conditions are generally non-serious and reversible after stopping statin use.
- Increases in blood sugar levels have been reported.
- Before starting a statin, patients should inform their health care professional about all medicines that they are taking or plan to take. Some medicines may interact with statins, increasing the risk for side effects.
However, these are only the side effects acknowledged by the FDA and not the full scope of the effects supported by research. A reduction in CoQ10 triggered by this classification of drugs may increase your risk of acute heart failure40 and atherosclerosis, as found in data published in Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology.41
The study addressed several physiological mechanisms, including how the drug inhibits the synthesis of vitamin K2, which is responsible for protecting your arteries from calcification. One of its biological roles is to move calcium out of your blood and into the proper areas of your body, such as your bones and teeth.
Since statins inhibit the function of vitamin K2,42 it may place you at risk of deficiency, which may contribute to osteoporosis, heart disease, brain disease and inappropriate calcification. The same enzyme used by your liver to produce cholesterol that is inhibited by statins is also involved in the production of ketone bodies.
The depletion of CoQ10 and the inhibition of vitamin K2 also increases your risk of other serious diseases including cancer. Long-term statin use more than doubles a woman's risk of two types of breast cancer,43 and significantly increases a man's risk for prostate cancer.44 Research has also associated statin use with an increased risk of diabetes,45,46,47 neurodegenerative diseases,48 cataracts49,50 and musculoskeletal disorders.51
How to Evaluate Your Risk of Heart Attack
As you consider whether taking statins make sense for your health, it's important to understand what your cholesterol numbers mean. Your total cholesterol is not a strong indicator of your risk of heart disease. Better indicators are:
- The ratio of your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) to total cholesterol — To get this number, divide your HDL level by your total cholesterol and multiply by 100 to get the answer. Ideally, your HDL to cholesterol ratio would be 24% or above.
- Your triglyceride to HDL ratio — Your triglyceride to HDL ratio should ideally be below 2.
Two tests that are even more important for assessing your cardiovascular disease risk are your serum ferritin and gamma glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT). The GGT is used as a screening marker for excess free iron and a great indicator of your risk of sudden cardiac death. The recommended and ideal levels of ferritin and GGT are as follows. For more information about these tests, read my previous article, "Cholesterol Does Not Cause Heart Disease."
• Ferritin — Adult men and non-menstruating women: 30 to 40 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) or 75 to 100 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L).
The most commonly used threshold for iron deficiency in clinical studies is 12 to 15 ng/mL (30 to 37 nmol/L). You do not want to be below 20 ng/mL (50 nmol/L) or above 80 ng/mL (200 nmol/L). High iron during pregnancy is also problematic; having a level of 60 or 70 ng/mL (150 or 175 nmol/L) is associated with greater odds of poor pregnancy outcomes.
• GGT — Below 16 units per liter (U/L) for men and below 9 U/L for women. Above 25 U/L for men and 18 U/L for women, your risk of chronic disease increases significantly.
Protect Your Heart and Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease
Here are a number of suggestions to help protect yourself against heart disease. For further discussion of how lifestyle factors impact your risk, see my previous article, "Nearly Half of American Adults Have Cardiovascular Disease."
Minimize your exposure to electromagnetic fields and wireless radiation from cellphones, Wi-Fi, routers, smart meters and more, as this kind of radiation has been shown to cause serious free radical damage and mitochondrial dysfunction.
Eat an unprocessed whole food-based diet low in net carbs and high in healthy fats. A ketogenic diet — which is very low in net carbohydrates and high in healthy fats — is key for boosting mitochondrial function.
When your body is able to burn fat for fuel, your liver creates water-soluble fats called ketones that burn more efficiently than carbs, thereby creating fewer reactive oxygen species and secondary free radicals. Ketones also decrease inflammation and improve glucose metabolism.52
Eat nitrate-rich foods to help normalize your blood pressure. Good sources include arugula, cilantro, rhubarb, butter leaf lettuce, mesclun mixed greens, beet greens, fresh beet juice, kvass (fermented beet juice) and fermented beet powder.
Get plenty of nonexercise movement each day; walk more and incorporate higher intensity exercise as your health allows.
Intermittently fast. After you've become accustomed to intermittently fasting for 16 to 18 hours, you may try a stricter fast once or twice a week, when you eat a 300- to 800-calorie meal loaded with detox supporting nutrients, followed by a 24-hour fast. So, in essence, you're then only eating one 300- to 800-calorie meal in 42 hours.
If you have heart disease, consider enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP). To find a provider, see EECP.com.53
If you have heart disease, you may also consider taking g-strophanthin, an adrenal hormone helping to create more parasympathetic nervous system neurotransmitters, thereby supporting your parasympathetic nervous system. It also helps flush out lactic acid. Strophanthus is the name of the plant, the active ingredient of which is called g-strophanthin in Europe, and ouabain in the U.S.
Get sensible sun exposure to optimize your vitamin D status and/or take an oral vitamin D3 supplement with magnesium and vitamin K2.
Implement heart-based wellness practices such as connecting with loved ones and practicing gratitude.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, every day more than 130 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids.1 In October 2017, the Manchester, New Hampshire, Fire Department reported it responds to more calls for drug overdoses than fires,2 and as of June 2017, opioids had become the leading cause of death among Americans under the age of 50.3
Despite a number of public warnings, and a national effort to reduce this lethal trend, overdoses admitted into emergency rooms increased 30% between July 2016 and September 2017 in 45 states.4
Provisional data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)5 show the reported number of deaths in the 12-month period ending August 2018 was 67,360. The CDC had predicted 70,424 and believes the number was underreported due to incomplete data.
Despite these facts, there is no evidence of reversal of this growing epidemic, and in October 2018 an advisory committee to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sanctioned the most powerful synthetic opioid painkiller to date, — Dsuvia (sufentanil),6,7,8,9 — 1,000 times stronger than morphine, 50 times more potent than heroin and 10 times stronger than the synthetic opioid fentanyl.10
The final approval of the drug was announced November 2, 2018, by FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who said the drug would not be dispensed for "home use," and that it will carry a boxed warning about its risks, including death.11,12
The Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma, have a combined fortune estimated at $14 billion.13 The family received nearly $4 billion in profits over the past decade from Purdue, in large part due to sales of OxyContin, an opioid developed in the early 1990s.14 In an effort to reap greater financial rewards from a growing epidemic killing tens of thousands, Kathe Sackler devised Project Tango.15
Sackler Family Propose Project Tango to Increase Profits
Once the family had firmly established themselves in the sales of Oxycontin, they moved on to a new venture: addiction treatment. In early January 2019, a Massachusetts judge ruled to issue an unredacted account of a complaint filed with the state's attorney general's office naming Purdue and eight of the Sackler family members as defendants.
According to these documents,16 in September 2014 Kathe Sackler developed a confidential project called Project Tango. This was a secret plan for Purdue Pharmaceuticals to expand their business into the treatment of opioid addiction.
After publicly denying opioids were addictive for decades, she and her staff developed a program on the premise of believing "addictive opioids and opioid addiction" are "naturally linked," and determined Purdue should span "the pain and addiction spectrum" to become "an end-to-end pain provider."17
According to the court documents, the team reviewed findings and found profits had doubled between 2009 and 2014. This led Kathe Sackler and her staff to conclude the next business opportunity was opioid addiction treatment. They wrote:18
"It is an attractive market. Large unmet need for vulnerable, underserved and stigmatized patient population suffering from substance abuse, dependence and addiction."
Company Documents Allegedly Acknowledge Opioids Are Addictive
The Massachusetts lawsuit reads like a corporate crime drama. It goes on to allege that in February 2015, Project Tango was presented to the board of Purdue Pharmaceuticals as a plan for a joint venture controlled by the Sacklers to sell the addiction medication suboxone (Naloxone).19
The team mapped out how patients could first get addicted to opioids through prescription drugs or heroin, and then become consumers of the company's new drug. They noted even after patients were finished with a first round of suboxone, up to 60% would relapse and need it again. The following month the board shelved Project Tango.
In December 2016, several in the Sackler family had a meeting with staff about a revised version of Project Tango, with the idea of purchasing a company treating opioid addiction with implantable drug pumps.20 They believed this would be a "strategic fit" since the business treated the "strategically adjacent indication of opioid dependence."
In January 2018,21 Richard Sackler received his own patent for a drug to treat addiction. The patent was assigned to another arm of the Sackler pharmaceutical empire, Rhodes Pharmaceuticals. The application stated that opioids are addictive, and called people who became addicted "junkies."
Today, Rhodes offers the addiction medication Buprenorphine as transdermal patches and sublingual pills, along with a variety of opioid drugs, including hydromorphone (Dilaudid), hydrocodone and morphine.22
Meet the Sackler Family — Proud Pushers of the Opioid Epidemic
In 2007, Purdue Pharma paid $634.5 million in fines23 for fraudulently misbranding Oxycontin and suggesting it was less addictive and less abused than other painkillers. The company was charged with using misleading sales tactics, minimizing risks and promoting it for uses for which it was not appropriately studied.
Today hundreds of lawsuits have been filed in an effort to attach the Sacklers' personal fortunes and expose their intimate knowledge and participation in the opioid epidemic.
Representatives of eight Sackler family members named as defendants in both the New York and Massachusetts lawsuits made a joint statement to The New York Times24 in which they said the suits "ignore the fact that the Sackler family has long been committed to initiatives that prevent abuse and addiction," citing donations to an addiction research and treatment center in Oklahoma.
However, their contribution was in fact a condition of a court-approved settlement in an opioid lawsuit brought by the Oklahoma attorney general.25 In 2011, the family increased pressure to raise sales numbers, yet in a statement they said they were acting responsibly about "business issues that were highly relevant to doctors and patients."26
According to the lawsuit in Massachusetts, Richard Sackler met with sales reps for several days in January 2011 to discuss how they would promote their newest opioid drug. He demanded to speak to the sales VP to discuss how sales reps could overcome physician resistance and continued to push for increased sales.27
By February, the staff had given the family a map showing dangerous prescribers in Massachusetts corresponding with reports of poisonings, burglaries and robberies.28 These prescribers were code named Region Zero.29 In March, staff told the Sacklers, Region Zero prescriptions accounted for 10% of their sales.
Purdue Pharma Ignored the Warning Signs
The staff sent the family a report of tactics being used, focusing on this select core physician group, which the company calculated would be most susceptible to lobbying and persuasion. However, the sales reps repeatedly reported concerns that these physicians were writing inappropriate prescriptions.
According to the Massachusetts lawsuit, Purdue continued to order the reps to promote opioids to these doctors, and dozens of their patients overdosed and died.30 Sales reps were ordered to visit specific prescribers and increase prescriptions between 43% and 62%.31
When this was not as successful as anticipated, two reps were placed on probation with a threat to be fired when the doctors they visited did not prescribe enough opioids. According to the lawsuit, to ensure his orders were being followed, Richard Sackler demanded to be sent into the field to shadow sales reps.32
Upon his return, he asserted the legally required warning about opioids wasn't needed since it "implies a danger of untoward reactions and hazards that simply aren't there."33 In a statement from the family reported in The New York Times,34 they assert Richard Sackler had not been out in the field with sales representative since well before the launch of OxyContin in 1996.
The lawsuit also alleges that in 2017, doctors prescribing high doses of opioids and many pills per prescription were key "drivers" of Purdue's profits, and management was concerned the CDC's effort to save lives by reducing doses would force the company "to adjust down our revenue expectations."35
Sackler Family Attempts Illegal Strategies to Dodge Liability
The family's push for sales continued until it became clear they couldn't outrun the financial responsibility being imposed by the court. The New York attorney general filed an amended lawsuit against Purdue and eight individual Sackler family members as reported in The Wall Street Journal.36
The amendment argues Purdue's profits should be taken back from the owners since the company's current assets would not cover the rising number of lawsuits being filed against Purdue.
The New York lawsuit alleges the family moved funds out of Purdue and an affiliated generic company, Rhodes Pharmaceuticals, into a variety of other financial entities, which would not be available to litigants of any lawsuits.
The lawsuit further claims the Sacklers regularly voted to pay themselves hundreds of millions of dollars each year, the same claim made by the Massachusetts lawsuit.37
The details of the payments in the New York lawsuit were heavily redacted as reported by The Wall Street Journal.38 However the details in the Massachusetts lawsuit were opened by a state judge earlier this year.
The New York lawsuit alleges the transfers out of Purdue and Rhodes are fraudulent and the distributions "left Purdue with unreasonably small capital to pay off certain creditors in opioids litigation, including plaintiff New York State."39
The New York complaint is being brought under a fraudulent conveyance law,40,41 meant to protect creditors. The attorney general will need to prove the company was at or near insolvency when the transfers were made.
New York will likely argue the existence of hundreds of lawsuits could be considered a debt, while Purdue could argue they expected to win the lawsuits and didn't consider it a liability.42
Another Company May Be Providing Fuel for the Fire
While all eyes are on the almost soap opera-style story of the Sackler family and the role they and their company, Purdue Pharmaceuticals, played in the opioid epidemic, it is important to note other pharmaceutical companies have also played a supporting role.
Oklahoma is suing Johnson & Johnson for the part they played in the opioid epidemic. Currently facing thousands of lawsuits alleging its baby powder causes cancer, Johnson & Johnson is responsible for developing and creating some of the raw material serving as active ingredients in popular opioid products, including OxyContin, the lawsuit alleges.43
The Oklahoma attorney general has asked the state court to release millions of pages of confidential documents submitted during discovery. Before 2016, Johnson & Johnson boasted one of its opium poppies enabled the growth of oxycodone and said their morphine poppy was the most potent in the world, according to slides obtained by Axios.44
Oklahoma is also alleging Johnson & Johnson funded pro-opioid groups to market opioids to seniors as rarely addictive. Johnson & Johnson then filed papers urging the court to deny the attorney general's request to make public documents related to their opioid activities.45
The New York attorney general named four manufacturers and six distributors, including Johnson & Johnson, McKesson Corp. and Purdue in their lawsuit, citing deceptive marketing practices and unlawfully diverting drugs. The lawsuit claims these 10 companies were largely responsible for creating the epidemic ravaging New York. Attorney general Letitia James said in a statement:46
"We found that pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors engaged in years of deceptive marketing about the risks of opioids and failed to exercise their basic duty to report suspicious behavior, leading to the crisis we are living with today."
Opioids Are Deadly and Ineffective for Long-Term Pain
In April 2016, the CDC published a paper noting opioids have not been proven safe or effective beyond six weeks of treatment.47 "In fact, several studies have shown opioid use for chronic pain may actually worsen pain and functioning, possibly by potentiating pain perception," the paper states.
The researchers discussed how treatment with opioids in pain management has vacillated over the last 100 years. Efforts in the 1990s to improve pain management did not take into account the addictiveness of opioids and the lack of documented effectiveness in the treatment of chronic pain.
Nonpharmacological methods with documented ability to ameliorate chronic pain — and which pose a substantially less risk to your health — may include exercise, weight loss, cognitive behavioral therapy and interventions to improve sleep.48 When opioids are considered, researchers recommend using a lowest possible effective dose over the shortest period of time.
The researchers recommended clinicians exercise caution and monitor patients closely to prevent addiction. They believed initiation is a momentous decision and should only be undertaken when the patient understands the substantial risks involved, and concluded:49
"Management of chronic pain is an art and a science. The science of opioids for chronic pain is clear: for the vast majority of patients, the known, serious, and too-often-fatal risks far outweigh the unproven and transient benefits."
Struggling With Opioid Addiction? Please Seek Help
Regardless of the brand of opioid, it's vitally important to realize they are extremely addictive drugs and not meant for long-term use for nonfatal conditions.
Chemically, opioids are similar to heroin. If you wouldn't consider shooting up heroin for a toothache or backache, seriously reconsider taking an opioid to relieve this type of pain. The misconception that opioids are harmless pain relievers has killed hundreds of thousands and destroyed the lives of countless more.
In many cases you'll be able to control pain without using medications. In my previous article, "Billionaire Opioid Executive Stands to Make Millions More on Patent for Addiction Treatment," I discuss several approaches — including nondrug remedies, dietary changes and bodywork interventions — that can be used separately or in combination to control pain, both acute and chronic.
If you've been on an opioid for more than two months, or if you find yourself taking a higher dosage, or taking the drug more often, you may already be addicted. Resources where you may find help include the following. You can also learn more in "How to Wean Off Opioids."
- Your workplace Employee Assistance Program
- Contact the Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration50 24 hours a day at 1-800-622-HELP
A cluster of cancer cases among young children at Weston Elementary School in Ripon, California, has reignited the conversation about whether electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation from cell towers might be a contributing factor.1 In 2016, at the age of 10, Kyle Prime was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Five months later, his classmate, Mason Ferrulli, was diagnosed with brain cancer.
This year, two more children at the school have received cancer diagnoses. Three teachers have also been diagnosed with various forms of cancer since 2016, along with two preschool-age children that live near the school, and a former student, who was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 22.2,3
The parents of Prime and Ferrulli believe the Sprint cellphone tower located on campus might have played a role, even though tests reveal it's functioning normally and emitting radiation below the government standard.
"It is classified as a possible carcinogen.4 That tells us that there is some evidence out there. We're not naive to the fact that there could be other components out there — other environmental influences… but the bottom line that we feel in regards to this tower is it doesn't belong there... if there's any indications that its unsafe," Monica Ferrulli told CBS News.5
Cellphone Radiation Safety Guidelines Are Outdated
Indeed, for those of you who are familiar with the health effects of EMFs and the way the government safety standards are set, such results are little proof of safety.
As noted by Joel Moskowitz, director of the Center for Family and Community Health at UC Berkeley (an area that has taken a stricter stance on EMF awareness and safety), the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) "guidelines for cellphone radiation adopted in 1996 are outdated and were mostly based on work done by industry-paid scientists."6
Fortunately, while Sprint adamantly denies any possibility of harm to the community, the company has turned the tower off and says it will move the tower to another location. On the downside, any respite the area might get from this action is likely to be temporary, as the nationwide rollout of 5G draws near.7
5G Rollout Will Exponentially Increase EMF Exposures
Whether EMF can cause serious adverse effects is a question that is only going to grow stronger over time, especially in light of the 5G rollout. As noted in the The Modesto Bee:8
"Ripon and many other cities are preparing for the wireless industry's conversion to 5G technology, designed to provide highspeed Internet service for smartphones. The rollout involves the installation of hundreds, if not thousands, of 'small cell' devices that will expose people to radiofrequency waves in cities.
Because the 5G technology for wireless carriers will use 'millimeter' waves that travel short distances, around 200 small cell antennas may be needed in a city of Ripon's size, while the estimate for San Jose is more than 4,000."
What's worse, the FCC revised its rules relating to the rollout of 5G technology in September 2018, limiting cities' rights to control the placement of 5G antennas. Los Angeles and other cities sued to overturn the FCC's new rules, but January 10, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit sided with the FCC.9 In an email to Governining.com, Brian Namey, a spokesperson for the National Association of Counties, said:10
"We are concerned that the FCC's ruling overlooks community decision-making and significantly impedes counties' ability to ensure public safety and well-being. We share the FCC's goal of expanding broadband access for every American; however, a one-size-fits-all approach will not achieve that goal."
What You Need to Know About 5G
Unlike the 4G technology currently in use, which relies on 90-foot cell towers with about a dozen antenna ports on each, the 5G system uses "small cell" facilities or bases, each with about 100 antenna ports.11 These cell bases will be mounted to already existing infrastructure such as utility poles.
Ultimately, many if not most homeowners can expect to end up with a 5G cell base mounted right outside or very near their home. Workplaces and educational institutions will also be saturated with MMWs.
Once installed in your neighborhood, you won't have a choice to opt out of continuous 5G exposure, and research compiled by EMF coach and author Lloyd Burrell12 and others13,14 suggests the proliferation of 5G could turn into nothing short of a public health disaster.
Seeing how many are already struggling with electromagnetic hypersensitivity, saturating cities and suburban areas with MMW radiation will undoubtedly worsen their plight, and add many new sufferers.
5G (5th Generation) technology relies primarily on the bandwidth of the millimeter wave (MMW), which is primarily between 30 gigahertz (GHz) and 300GHz.15 The MMW is known to penetrate 1 to 2 millimeters of human skin tissue16,17 and has been linked to a number of potential health problems, including:18,19,20,21,22
Eye problems such as lens opacity in rats, which is linked to the production of cataracts,23 and eye damage in rabbits24,25
Impacted heart rate variability, an indicator of stress, in rats26,27,28 and heart rate changes (arrhythmias) in frogs29,30
Pain31 — MMW is actually what's used in crowd control weapons (Active Denial Systems) by the U.S. Department of Defense, as it has the ability to cause a severe burning sensation32
Suppressed immune function33
Depressed growth and increased antibiotic resistance in bacteria34
Doctors and Scientists Warn of 5G Hazards and Urge Caution
While MMWs have not been widely used before, it's already been suggested that sweat ducts in human skin act as antennae when they come in contact with MMWs.35 In a 2016 letter to the FCC, Dr. Yael Stein of the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, Israel, who has studied 5G MMW technology and its interaction with the human body, writes:36
"Computer simulations have demonstrated that sweat glands concentrate sub-terahertz waves in human skin. Humans could sense these waves as heat. The use of sub-terahertz (millimeter wave) communications technology (cellphones, Wi-Fi, antennas) could cause humans to percept physical pain via nociceptors.
Potentially, if G5 Wi-Fi is spread in the public domain we may expect more of the health effects currently seen with RF/ microwave frequencies including many more cases of hypersensitivity (EHS), as well as many new complaints of physical pain and a yet unknown variety of neurologic disturbances.
It will be possible to show a causal relationship between G5 technology and these specific health effects. The affected individuals may be eligible for compensation … Respected members of the FCC and U.S. Senate Committees, please protect Public Health and vote against exposure of the public to harmful G5 technology."
In 2015, 247 scientists engaged in the study of biological and health effects of nonionizing EMFs across the world signed an international appeal to the United Nations,37 calling for protection from nonionizing EMF exposure due to evidence of health effects even at low levels.
Two years later, in 2017, more than 180 doctors and scientists from 35 countries signed a petition38 to enact a moratorium on the rollout of 5G due to the potential risks to wildlife and human health.
20 Facts About 5G
In this video, Paul Ben Ishai, Ph.D., a senior lecturer with the department of physics at Ariel University in Israel, reviews the potential risks to human health from sub-MM communication systems. The Environmental Health Trust has also published a list39 of 20 facts you need to know about 5G wireless. These include:
5G coverage requires "small cell" antennas to be placed in neighborhoods everywhere.
Millions of small cells must be built into people's front yards.
The radiation from 5G small cells is not minor, and will increase EMF radiation near homes, causing aesthetic deterioration of the environment in addition to health risks.
5G will not replace current wireless technology but add to it, increasing exposure exponentially.
Community authority is being overruled at every level of government in the name of boosting cellphone coverage and internet speeds.
Cellphone companies have confirmed that 5G small cells will work at a distance of 3,000 feet and do not need to be placed every 100 feet, necessitating them being placed near homes.
Scientists worldwide are calling for a halt to the rollout of 5G.
Cumulative daily radiation exposure is associated with serious health effects, including cancer,40,41 altered brain development in children and reproductive damage in men.
Indeed, thousands of studies showing biological effects from low-intensity EMF, including over 1,800 referenced in the report’s conclusion, were summarized in the BioInitiative Report42 (2007 and 2012), demonstrating immune system effects, neurological effects, cognitive effects and much more. Another important study,43 funded by the U.S. government, was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2011.
Using a positron emission tomography or PET scan capable of detecting alterations in glucose, the researchers determined that cellphone radiation triggers your brain cells to metabolize glucose at an increased rate.
Glucose metabolism equates to cell activation, so the findings indicate that radiation from your cellphone has a well-defined measureable influence on your brain. Essentially, each time you put a cellphone up to your ear, you're artificially activating your brain cells.
Multiple papers have concluded wireless radiation is a human carcinogen; the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified cellphones as a Group 2B "possible carcinogen" in 2011,44 and two recent studies (one by the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP)45 and one by the Ramazzini Institute in Italy46) confirm its carcinogenic potential.
The NTP study found heart tumors (malignant schwannomas) in male rats, "similar to acoustic neuromas, a benign tumor in people involving the nerve that connects the ear to the brain, which some studies have linked to cellphone use."
According to experts, 5G small cell wireless streaming bills do not make financial sense.
Antennas near homes also decrease property values.
Microwave antennas in front yards pose several worker and public safety hazards.
Wireless companies warn investors of risks, but do not inform people living near cellphone towers.
Antennas near homes will cause a deterioration of sleep for the occupants, resulting in decreased performance and health.
Cellphone radiation has been shown to have an adverse impact on birds, bees, trees and plants.
Many U.S. cities and entire countries are voting to halt 5G.
The Federal Communications Commission does not monitor radiation exposures from cell installations and many cell towers already violate radiation limits.
The International Association of Firefighters officially oppose cell towers on fire stations, and have done so since 2004, after research showed firefighters with antennas on their stations suffered neurological damage, including memory problems, intermittent confusion and feelings of weakness.47
The American Academy of Pediatrics and many other medical organizations are calling for federal action to protect children from EMF exposures, citing research showing that living near mobile phone base stations is associated with an increased risk for headaches, memory problems, dizziness, depression and sleep disturbances.
Research48 by Martin Pall, Ph.D., published in 2016 detail how, when VGCCs are activated in the brain, they release neurotransmitters and neuroendocrine hormones. Hence, consequences of chronic EMF exposure to the brain also include anxiety, depression, autism and Alzheimer's.
Preliminary results from the largest long-term study49,50,51 of brain development and youth health in the U.S., the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study,52 also reveals the brains of the most prolific users of electronic devices look different compared to those who use smartphones, tablets and video games less frequently.
Children who use electronic devices for seven hours or more each day have premature thinning of the brain cortex, the outer brain layer that processes information from the five physical senses (taste, touch, sight, smell and sound). As little as two hours of screen time per day may impact cognition, resulting in lower scores on thinking and language tests.
Fiber optic connections is the solution and the safe alternative to boost internet speed and reliability.
Learn More About the Health Risks of 5G
You can download a two-page fact sheet53 on 5G from the Environmental Health Trust. On their website, you can also access a long list of published scientific studies showing cause for concern.54
In "5G Wireless Telecommunications Expansion: Public Health and Environmental Implications," published in Environmental Research in August 2018, Dr. Cindy Russell, executive director of Physicians for Safe Technology,55 writes:56
"Like other common toxic exposures, the effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation (RF EMR) will be problematic if not impossible to sort out epidemiologically as there no longer remains an unexposed control group.
This is especially important considering these effects are likely magnified by synergistic toxic exposures and other common health risk behaviors. Effects can also be nonlinear.
Because this is the first generation to have cradle-to-grave life span exposure to this level of man-made microwave (RF EMR) radiofrequencies, it will be years or decades before the true health consequences are known. Precaution in the roll out of this new technology is strongly indicated."
Health Effects of EMF Exposure in General
Even without the addition of 5G, most people are already living in a proverbial sea of microwave radiation, and there's ample evidence suggesting this unnatural level of exposure is harming our health. For example, research has shown EMFs from cellphones, laptops, tablets, Wi-Fi, smart meters, baby monitors and other wireless devices:57
Create excess oxidative stress — EMFs activate voltage gated calcium channels located in the outer membrane of your cells.58,59,60,61,62 Once activated, the VGCCs allow an abnormal influx of calcium ions into the cell. The excess calcium triggers a chemical cascade that results in the creation of peroxynitrite, extremely potent oxidant stressors believed to be a root cause for many of today's chronic diseases.
Inside your body, peroxynitrite modifies tyrosine molecules in proteins to create a new substance, nitrotyrosine and nitration of structural protein.63 Changes from nitration are visible in human biopsy of atherosclerosis, myocardial ischemia, inflammatory bowel disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and septic lung disease.64 Over time, the cellular and mitochondrial damage being generated can set the stage and contribute to any number of health problems, including cancer.
Open the blood-brain barrier, allowing toxins to enter your brain.
Fragment DNA — Studies have shown EMFs cause DNA fragmentation. Significant oxidative stress from peroxynitrites may also result in single-strand breaks of DNA.65
Damage mitochondria, and impair proton flow and ATP production — The enzyme ATP synthase — which passes currents of protons through a water channel, similar to current passing through a wire — generates energy in the form ATP from ADP, using this flow of protons.
Magnetic fields can change the transparency of the water channel to protons, thereby reducing the current. As a result, you get less ATP, which can have system wide consequences, from promoting chronic disease and infertility to lowering intelligence.
Alter cellular function due to excessive charge — In a previous interview, Alasdair Philips, founder of the Powerwatch,66 explained how EMF exposure alters cellular function by way of excessive charges. Essentially, the cell functions as a gel, held together by electric charge. When the charge becomes excessive due to a massive influx of electrons, the function of the cell is disrupted.
Raise the risk for abnormal cell growth and cancer, including leukemia and cancer of the brain, acoustic nerve, salivary gland, eyes, testes, thyroid and breast — As early as 2011, the evidence was strong enough for the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization, to declare cellphones a Group 2B "possible carcinogen."67
Since then, a number of studies have found support for EMF having carcinogenic potential, including two recent studies by the National Toxicology Program (NTP, an interagency research program under the auspices of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences),68,69,70 which found clear evidence for heart tumors in male rats exposed to 2G and 3G cellphone radiation.
Corroborating evidence has been published by the Ramazzini Institute. The Ramazzini study71 reproduced and clearly supports the NTP's findings, showing a clear link between cellphone radiation and Schwann cell tumors (schwannomas)72,73,74 — but at a much lower power level than that used by NTP.
Has neurological effects — Studies dating back to the 1950s and '60s show the nervous system is the organ most sensitive to EMFs. Some of these studies show massive changes in the structure of neurons, including cell death and synaptic dysfunction. Consequences of chronic EMF exposure to the brain include anxiety, depression, autism and Alzheimer's disease, which Martin Pall, Ph.D., details in a 2016 paper.75
Contributes to reproductive problems in both sexes — For example, prenatal exposure to magnetic fields can nearly triple a pregnant woman's risk of miscarriage.76 Several other studies have come to similar conclusions.77,78,79,80,81 In men, studies show EMF radiation from cellphones and laptops reduces sperm motility and viability,82,83 and increases sperm DNA fragmentation.84
Alters your microbiome, turning what might otherwise be beneficial microbes pathogenic. This too can have far-ranging health effects, since we now know your microbiome plays an important role in health.
Remedial Strategies to Lower EMF Exposure
Below are several suggestions that will help reduce your EMF exposure. You can also find guidance and solutions for mitigating electric and magnetic fields at the end of "Healthy Wiring Practices,"85 a document created by building biologist Oram Miller, whom I've interviewed on this topic. In this document, he also discusses specific workarounds for various devices, including cellphones, MacBooks, Roku and Apple TV.
Use filters to remove voltage transients from your electricity and use meters to confirm that they are in a safe range.
Use a battery-powered alarm clock, ideally one without any light. I use a talking clock for the visually impaired.86
Consider moving your baby's bed into your room instead of using a wireless baby monitor. Alternatively, use a hard-wired monitor.
If you must use Wi-Fi, shut it off when not in use, especially at night when you are sleeping. Ideally, work toward hardwiring your house so you can eliminate Wi-Fi altogether. It's important to realize that if you have a Wi-Fi router, you have a cellphone tower inside your home.
Ideally, you'd eliminate your Wi-Fi and simply use a wired connection. If you absolutely must have a router, you can place it inside a shielded bag when not in use. You can find shielded items online, or make your own using Swiss Shield fabric. If you have a notebook without any Ethernet ports, a USB Ethernet adapter will allow you to connect to the internet with a wired connection.
For more extensive shielding, you can consider painting your bedroom walls and ceiling with special shielding paint, which will block RF from outside sources, such as cell towers, smart meters and radio/TV towers. Windows can be covered with metal window screen or film. For your bed, consider a shielding bed canopy.
Daytime strategies to reduce unnecessary EMF exposure
To reduce EMF exposure during the daytime, consider using Stetzer filters to decrease the level of dirty electricity or electromagnetic interference being generated. You can also take these with you to work or when you travel. This may be the single best strategy to reduce the damage from EMF exposure since it appears that most of it is generated by the frequencies that the filters remove.
Connect your desktop computer to the internet via a wired Ethernet connection and be sure to put your desktop in airplane mode. Also avoid wireless keyboards, trackballs, mice, game systems, printers and portable house phones. Opt for the wired versions.
Avoid carrying your cellphone on your body unless in airplane mode and never sleep with it in your bedroom unless it is in airplane mode. Even in airplane mode it can emit signals, which is why I put my phone in a Faraday bag.87
When using your cellphone, use the speaker phone and hold the phone at least 3 feet away from you. Seek to radically decrease your time on the cellphone. I typically use my cellphone less than 30 minutes a month, and mostly when traveling. Instead, use VoIP software phones that you can use while connected to the internet via a wired connection, or better yet, use a landline telephone.
General household remediation
If you still use a microwave oven, consider replacing it with a steam convection oven, which will heat your food as quickly and far more safely.
Avoid using "smart" appliances and thermostats that depend on wireless signaling. This would include all new "smart" TVs. They are called smart because they emit a Wi-Fi signal and, unlike your computer, you cannot shut the Wi-Fi signal off. Consider using a large computer monitor as your TV instead, as they don't emit Wi-Fi.
Replace CFL bulbs with incandescent bulbs. Ideally remove all fluorescent lights from your house. Not only do they emit unhealthy light, but more importantly, they will actually transfer current to your body just being close to the bulbs.
Dimmer switches are a source of dirty electricity, so consider installing regular on/off switches rather than dimmer switches.
Refuse smart meters as long as you can, or add a shield to an existing smart meter, some of which have been shown to reduce radiation by 98 to 99 percent.88