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A fishery is an organized means of catching fish, an activity otherwise known as fishing. This is different from fish farms, also known as aquaculture. On fish farms, the fish are commercially raised in enclosures for food, while a fishery is organized fishing for wild fish.
Farmed fish are some of the most toxic foods; this is especially true for farmed salmon, according to one study. Researchers found that farmed salmon tested five times more toxic than other food products. Farmed salmon contain half the omega-3 of wild salmon and are often fed a genetically modified diet. Many are given antibiotics and exposed to pesticides and other toxins to offset the unsanitary conditions in which they live.
Although farmed fish are exposed to purposely applied pesticides, fisheries in Japan have experienced a significant decline in fish and eel populations after neonicotinoids were sprayed in adjacent fields. Also known as neonics, this is a relatively new classification of insecticide that is water soluble and operates systemically.
This means the plants absorb the pesticide. The toxin in neonics operates on the central nervous system of the insects, causing death or impairing the ability to forage in pollinators. The idea was to create a defense mechanism for the plant so insects feeding on them would die before they did significant damage to the crops.
Fish Starved When Their Food Source Affected by Neonics
This widely used type of pesticide has now been associated with a declining harvest from Lake Shinji in Japan. Once a thriving fishery, researchers have found annual catches of smelt have fallen by 90% in the 10 years after the introduction of the pesticide to the surrounding fields.1
The study,2 published in Science, showed there was an immediate decline in the number of insects and plankton in the lake after neonics were used in adjoining rice paddies. This was rapidly followed by a collapse of the smelt and eel populations that rely on the insects and plankton for food.
The populations of smelt and eel had been stable for several decades, and while the analysis shows a strong correlation, the study was not designed to prove a causal link.
Damage to pollinators by neonics has been well-documented. The die-off to freshwater species has been studied more heavily in Europe, where data have linked the toxin to a collapse in the population of dragonflies, snails and mayflies associated with a decline in populations of birds feeding on those insects.
Other groups were recording the salt and pollution content in the lake, but the scientists didn't believe the reduction in the fish population was coinciding with those results. Masumi Yamamuro is a scientist with the Geological Survey of Japan and lead author on the study who investigated the cause of the decimation to the fish population.3
The researchers noticed one fish population had not declined and they determined the species had a more diverse diet and could survive on algae, not affected by insecticides. As the food sources for smelt and eel food were vanishing, the fish were dying as well.
One Chemical Has a Complicated Effect on the Ecosystem
Purdue University ecologist Jason Hoverman, who was not involved in the study, commented on the interrelationship of ecosystems often overlooked by agrochemical companies and big business. He said to NPR reporter Dan Charles:4
"When we think about chemicals, we often just go right to direct toxicity, not thinking about the food web implications; the food of the fish, and the impact of the chemicals on that food."
In 1962, Rachel Carson predicted the decline of the insect population, which she foretold would touch every living ecosystem on the earth. She was a celebrated biologist, ecologist and writer who called for responsible action to steward the Earth's resources.
She warned the federal government was part of the problem that could lead to environmental failure. Events predicted in her book have since come to pass in the last few decades. The Japanese researchers quoted Carson's "Silent Spring":5
"She wrote: 'These sprays, dusts and aerosols are now applied almost universally to farms, gardens, forests and homes — nonselective chemicals that have the power to kill every insect, the 'good' and the 'bad', to still the song of birds and the leaping of fish in the streams.' The ecological and economic impact of neonicotinoids on the inland waters of Japan confirms Carson's prophecy."
Matt Shardlow6 is a conservationist, author and CEO of Buglife, the only organization in Europe dedicated to saving invertebrates. The organization works to save bug habitats from destruction and to improve freshwater ecosystems. He commented to the Guardian on the results of this study:7
"Japan has had a tragic experience with nerve-agent insecticides. In the paddy fields, where the air once thrummed with the clatter of billions of dragonfly wings, these insecticides have imposed near silence. The annihilation of humble flies and the knock on effects on fish serve as further testament to the dreadful folly of neonicotinoids.
It is also extremely worrying that the levels of neonicotinoids in rivers in eastern England, as recently reported by Buglife, are very similar to the levels reported in this research. Unfortunately, while it is clear that harm must have been done to UK river health, the exact impact of neonicotinoids has yet to be quantified."
Vanishing Insect Population Affects Human Food Supply
In speaking with NPR Hoverman raised more specific questions about the cause of the problems:8
"These chemicals can definitely end up in water. We apply them on land, but they don't stay on land. The question becomes, are they at levels that are high enough to cause a problem?"
Other scientists studying the effects have acknowledged how these killer chemicals have damaged the environment, both immediately after application and years later. Yamamuro writes in the study,9 "This disruption likely also occurs elsewhere, as neonicotinoids are currently the most widely used class of insecticides globally."
If you remember going on a road trip as a child, you likely have a memory of bugs being smashed on your windshield. If you think about it for a minute, you may realize it's been awhile since your windshield was covered with insects. This has been called the "windshield phenomenon" by entomologists and is an ominous warning of the decline in insect species.
In one study evaluating the total flying insect biomass over 27 years in 63 protected areas in Germany, researchers discovered there had been a 76% decline. These reductions happened regardless of the type of habitat and were not explained solely by changes in weather, land use or habitat characteristics.
The researchers cautioned the loss of diversity and abundance could provoke a cascading effect on food ecosystems and the ramifications should not be taken lightly. Experts estimate 80% of wild plants depend on insects for pollination, 60% of birds depend on them for food and ecosystem services in the U.S. estimate their worth at $57 billion annually.
A study by researchers from the University of Nevada followed 67 butterfly species over 20 years in four locations. They discovered a significant reduction in the butterfly population was closely linked to the increased use of neonicotinoids.
Neonics Have High Risk and Little Reward
One study found agricultural lands in the U.S. are now 48 times more toxic than they were a short 25 years ago. The researchers found synthetic insecticide use shifted from organophosphorus pesticide to a mix of neonicotinoids and pyrethroids. The number of crops treated with neonicotinoids has risen precipitously and seed suppliers have doubled the amount of insecticide applied to each seed.
In the 1990s, only 35% of U.S. corn and 5% of soybean acres were treated with neonicotinoids. At that level of application, the pest population was not damaging enough to crops to cause economic harm, suggesting that treating hundreds of millions of acres is not necessary.
Despite years of evidence that neonics have a damaging effect on the environment with long-term damage on humanity, the use of this class of insecticide has continued. To compound the problem, farmers are not experiencing great benefits from the practice.
The investigators of one study compared results of farmers using regenerative practices to those who were using current monoculture methods. They discovered regenerative fields had a 29% lower production, but a 78% higher profit. In their review of pest management, they found corn fields treated with insecticides had 10 times more pests than those of regenerative farms.
Reduce Pesticide Use and Support Regenerative Farms
One key to reducing damage to the environment, wildlife and ultimately human health is to reduce the use of pesticides. Although the application is so commonplace it may seem necessary, researchers have demonstrated that pesticides can be cut without harming yields.
The results from some studies suggest reducing pesticide use may reduce crop losses since neonic coated seeds injure useful insects that help kill other pests naturally. Ecologically-based farming practices to help kill soybean aphids could save farmers in four states from hundreds of millions in losses each year.
Despite these findings, farmers are inundated with neonic-treated seeds and have limited ability to avoid them. Regenerative farming improves the biodiversity of the soil. It does not harm the environment and it ultimately increases the farmers' net profits, allowing them to continue providing food for the world and supporting their families.
Regenerative practices rebuild the topsoil, protect water sources, protect the insect population and offer you optimal nutrition. If you're not able to grow your own food, choose fresh, organic produce from local growers and seek out farmers who provide organic, grass fed beef, poultry and dairy products.
Certifications indicating farmers are using regenerative principles include Demeter biodynamic certification and American Grassfed Association (AGA) certification.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an imaging study that allows your physician to see detailed pictures of your organs and tissues. The MRI machine uses a large magnet, radio waves and a computer to take detailed cross-sectional pictures of your internal organs and tissues.1
The scanner looks like a tube with a table that enables you to slide into the tunnel of the machine to gather data. Unlike CT scans or X-rays that use ionizing radiation known to damage DNA, the MRI uses magnetic fields.
Images from an MRI give physicians better information about abnormalities, tumors, cysts and specific organ problems with your heart, liver, uterus, kidneys and other organs.
In some instances, your physician may want an enhanced MRI, one using a contrast agent or dye to improve the clarity of the images produced. According to a recent international poll,2 a majority of radiologists avoid informing patients when deposits of toxic contrast agents are discovered.
FDA Guidance on Gadolinium
Gadolinium is the contrast agent of choice in about one-third of cases.3 It's injected into your body, allowing for greater detail to show up in the MRI images. There's a price for this, however, as gadolinium is a highly toxic heavy metal.
To reduce its toxicity, the gadolinium is administered with a chelating agent.4 However, research suggests as much as 25% of the gadolinium injected in certain patients is not excreted,5,6 and deposits are still found in some patients long afterward.
In 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began investigating the potential health effects from brain deposits of gadolinium, and released guidelines7 on the use of gadolinium-based contrast agents (GBCAs) to lower any potential risk.
Two years later, the agency issued an update8 saying "Gadolinium retention has not been directly linked to adverse health effects in patients with normal kidney function," and that the benefits of GBCAs outweigh potential risks. Still, the agency required a new class warning and certain safety measures to be implemented. In its December 19, 2017, safety announcement, the FDA stated:9
"… after additional review and consultation with the Medical Imaging Drugs Advisory Committee, we are requiring several actions to alert health care professionals and patients about gadolinium retention after an MRI using a GBCA, and actions that can help minimize problems.
These include requiring a new patient Medication Guide, providing educational information that every patient will be asked to read before receiving a GBCA. We are also requiring manufacturers of GBCAs to conduct human and animal studies to further assess the safety of these contrast agents …
Health care professionals should consider the retention characteristics of each agent when choosing a GBCA for patients who may be at higher risk for gadolinium retention …
These patients include those requiring multiple lifetime doses, pregnant women, children, and patients with inflammatory conditions. Minimize repeated GBCA imaging studies when possible, particularly closely spaced MRI studies."
Patients Responsible for Requesting Medication Guide
However, while MRI centers are required to provide the gadolinium medication guide to all first-time patients scheduled for an enhanced MRI, hospital inpatients are not required to receive the guide unless the patient specifically requests it. A rather disconcerting detail mentioned in the FDA's May 16, 2018, update is that:10
"A health care professional who determines that it is not in a patient's best interest to receive a Medication Guide because of significant concerns about its effects may direct that it not be provided to that patient."
In other words, if they think you might say no to the procedure because you're worried about heavy metal toxicity, the health professional is allowed to simply withhold the safety information. Only if you specifically ask for it must that guide be provided to you.
While the FDA decided not to restrict the use of any GBCAs, the European Medicines Agency's Pharmacovigilance and Risk Assessment Committee has recommended suspending the use of four linear gadolinium contrast agents shown to be less stable (and therefore more likely to accumulate in the brain and cause issues in those with kidney problems) than macrocyclic GBCAs.11
Most Radiologists Hide Findings of Gadolinium Deposits
An equally disturbing finding12 is that 58% of radiologists hide findings of gadolinium deposits from patients when they're found on scans. As reported by Health Imaging,13 the most commonly cited justification for omitting any mention of gadolinium deposits in their radiology report was to avoid provoking "unnecessary patient anxiety."
However, this also prevents patients from taking action to protect their health, which could be really important if they're experiencing effects of gadolinium toxicity and haven't put 2 and 2 together yet.
To date, the greatest danger of GBCA has been thought to be relegated to those with severe kidney disease, in whom GBCA exposure has been linked to nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF),14 a debilitating disease involving progressive tissue fibrosis involving skin and subcutaneous tissues.15 To avoid this, those with kidney disease need to receive more stable forms of chelate with the gadolinium.16
However, the fact that gadolinium can accumulate in the brain (and throughout your body) even if you do not have kidney problems could have significant, hitherto unrecognized, dangers. For example, use of GBCAs has been linked to hypersensitivity in two brain regions (the dentate nucleus and globus pallidus),17 the consequences of which are still unknown.
Hyperintensity in the dentate nucleus has previously been linked to multiple sclerosis, and according to more recent research, this hyperintensity may actually be the result of the large number of enhanced MRI scans MS patients tend to receive.18 Hyperintensity of the globus pallidus, meanwhile, has been linked to liver dysfunction.
Researchers Propose New Gadolinium Disease Category
In the 2016 paper,19 "Gadolinium in Humans: A Family of Disorders," the researchers actually propose that GBCA deposits in the body should be viewed as a new disease category. They write:
"In early 2014, an investigation by Kanda et.al. described the development of high signal intensity in brain tissue on T-2 weighted images of patients with normal renal function after repeated administrations of GBCA …
This caught many radiologists by surprise, as many had thought that deposition of gadolinium could not occur in patients with normal renal function. This deposition results in signal-intensity increase on unenhanced T1-weighted images in different regions of the brain, primarily in the dentate nucleus and globus pallidus …
To our knowledge, neither the bone deposition first reported by Gibby et. al. nor the brain deposition first reported by Kanda et. al. have been associated with recognized disease. We propose to name these storage entities 'gadolinium storage condition.'
Along a separate avenue of inquiry, patient advocacy groups have formed, with an online presence in which individual members report that they have experienced severe disease following the administration of GBCAs.
Some of these patients have reported persistent presence of gadolinium in their systems, as shown by continued elevated gadolinium in their urine. All experience a variety of symptoms including pain in both the torso and the extremities; the latter location is associated with skin thickening and discoloration.
These physical features are similar, but lesser in severity, to those reported for NSF. Our preliminary investigation has convinced us that this phenomenon is a true disease process, which we propose naming 'gadolinium deposition disease.'"
The researchers go on to note other common signs and symptoms of "gadolinium deposition disease," such as persistent headache, bone, joint, tendon and ligament pain (often described as sharp pins and needles, cutting or burning), tightness in the hands and feet, brain fog and soft-tissue thickening that "clinically appears somewhat spongy or rubbery without the hardness and redness observed in NSF."
Lawsuit Highlights Gadolinium Dangers
"Gadolinium deposition disease" is what Chuck Norris' wife Gena claims to have developed after undergoing three contrast-enhanced MRIs in a single week to evaluate her rheumatoid arthritis.
The study cited above is part of the evidence included in the Norris' lawsuit20,21 (filed in November 2017) against several manufacturers and distributors of GBCAs. According to the lawsuit, the risks of gadolinium were known, yet patients are not warned.
Gena's symptoms began with a burning sensation in her skin. In a 2017 Full Measure interview, she described it as if there was acid burning her skin, slowly covering her body.22 Mental confusion, muscle spasms, kidney damage and muscle wasting followed.
She visited the emergency room several nights in a row, where doctors ran tests for ALS, MS, cancer and Parkinson's disease. The couple's attorney, Todd Walburg, told CBS News,23 "We have clients who have been misdiagnosed with Lyme disease, ALS, and then they've eventually ruled all those things out and the culprit remaining is the gadolinium."
In fact, it was Gena who made the connection between her symptoms and the MRIs she had undergone. She told Full Measure:24
"When we got to the hospital in Houston this last time, and I'm so bad and I said, listen, I am sober enough in my thinking right now, because I had such brain issues going on, I said I'm only going to be able to tell you this one time and I need you to listen to me very closely. I have been poisoned with gadolinium or by gadolinium and we don't have much time to figure out how to get this out of my body or I am going to die."
The Norrises claim they've spent nearly $2 million on efforts to restore Gena's health, with little progress. Even chelation therapy has had limited success.25
Heavy Metal Toxicity Is a Common Modern Hazard
Heavy metals are widely distributed throughout the environment from industrial, agricultural, medical and technical pollution. Heavy metal toxicity has documented potential for serious health consequences, including kidney, neurological, cardiovascular, skeletal and endocrine damage.
Heavy metals most commonly associated with poisoning are arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium, which are also the heavy metals most commonly found in environmental pollution. Symptoms of heavy metal poisoning vary based on the organ systems affected.
Scientists have found that heavy metals also increase oxidative stress secondary to free radical formation.26 Testing for heavy metal toxicity includes blood, urine and hair and nail analysis for cumulative exposure.
Detoxification can be difficult, and needs to be done with proper care. I've written several articles about this. More information can be found in "The Three Pillars of Heavy Metal Detoxification" and "The Walsh Detoxification Program."
Carefully Consider Your Need for Contrast MRI
The key take-home message here is to avoid using MRI scans with contrast unless absolutely necessary. Many times, physicians will order these tests just to be complete and cover themselves from a legal perspective.
If that is your case, then simply refuse to have the test done with contrast. If necessary, consult with other physicians that can provide you with a different perspective.
This is particularly important if you have a condition such as MS in which multiple MRIs are done. Also remember that multiple MRIs with contrast will be particularly dangerous the closer they're done together.
If You Need an MRI, It Pays to Shop Around
While I always recommend being judicious in your use of medical diagnostic procedures, there are times when it is appropriate and useful for you to have a certain test.
What many don't realize is that the fees for these procedures can vary tremendously, depending on where they are performed. Hospitals tend to be the most expensive option for diagnostics and outpatient procedures, sometimes by an enormous margin.
Freestanding diagnostic centers are alternative places to obtain services such as lab studies, X-rays and MRIs, often at a fraction of the cost charged by hospitals. Private imaging centers are not affiliated with any particular hospital and are typically open for Monday through Friday business hours, as opposed to hospital radiology centers that require round-the-clock staffing.
Hospitals often charge higher fees for their services to offset the costs of their 24/7 operations. Hospitals also may charge exorbitant fees for high-tech diagnostics, like MRIs, to subsidize other poorly reimbursed services. And, hospitals are allowed to charge Medicare and other third-party insurers a "facility fee," leading to even more price inflation.
So, if you do find that you need an MRI, don't be afraid to shop around. With a few phone calls to diagnostic centers in your area, you could save up to 85% over what a hospital would charge for the same service.
A study found that in urban homes, where the use of cleaning products is usually more prevalent than in rural homes, fungal diversity was higher, not lower as might be expected. The study, "Home Chemical and Microbial Transitions Across Urbanization," was published in the journal Nature Microbiology.1
Researchers investigated and compared the chemical and microbial conditions of urban and rural homes in the Amazon basin and of the people who lived in them.
The dwellings ranged from a rainforest village with thatched huts that had no walls to a Peruvian rural town with wooden houses but no indoor plumbing, to a more populous Peruvian city of 400,000 with more modern appurtenances, to the high-rise dotted metropolis of Manaus, Brazil.2 What the researchers found from the wide cross section of urban and rural living was surprising:
“The degree of urbanization correlated with changes in the composition of house bacterial and microeukaryotic communities, increased house and skin fungal diversity, and an increase in the relative abundance of human skin-associated fungi and bacteria in houses.
Overall, our results indicate that urbanization has large-scale effects on chemical and microbial exposures and on the human microbiota.”3
Cleaning Products May Be Encouraging Fungi
Many people are aware of the serious dangers of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that are caused by excessive antibiotic usage. But do fungi also become resistant to cleaning products and chemicals as the study suggests?
Fungal resistance to cleaning products and chemicals is only one explanation the researchers postulate in the study, but the substances are major suspects.
The researchers also question whether the fungi are flourishing because of the warmer temperatures typically found in urban homes and from other factors more likely to be found in urban homes than less developed housing, like reduced air exchange and lower levels of natural light.
There is even another facet to urbanization that could be at play in the increased fungal presence, says Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, a professor in the biochemistry and microbiology department and the anthropology department at Rutgers University-New Brunswick and senior author of the Nature Microbiology research.
Modern living shuts us inside with industrial compounds and higher carbon dioxide levels, she says.4 It is not surprising that being cut off from the healing properties of nature can have negative health consequences. The documentary, “Call of the Forest — The Forgotten Wisdom of Trees,” revealed how forest bathing produces positive psychological and physiological effects and trees boost the immune system by emitting specific and healthy compounds.
Similarly, in the documentary “Down to Earth,” grounding or earthing, in which foot contact is made with the Earth without shoes, is found to neutralize free radicals in the body through access to the negatively charged electrons in soil.
Grounding is also said to reduce the unwanted voltage humans can receive from electromagnetic fields that are ubiquitous in developed countries.
Urbanization Includes Many Harmful Factors
As would be expected, the researchers found molecules from medications and cleaning agents in urban homes but not in the rural or rainforest homes. And researchers made another fascinating discovery: In rural or rainforest homes, there was a greater variety of bacteria and fungi that live outdoors and fewer that colonize the human body and are harmful.
A study in Science Advances confirms the presence of desirable microbes in the gut microbiomes of those living in isolated areas and less touched by urbanization, but surprisingly also points out the existence of antibiotic resistance genes:5
“Most studies of the human microbiome have focused on westernized people with life-style practices that decrease microbial survival and transmission, or on traditional societies that are currently in transition to westernization.
We characterize the fecal, oral, and skin bacterial microbiome and resistome of members of an isolated Yanomami Amerindian village with no documented previous contact with Western people. These Yanomami harbor a microbiome with the highest diversity of bacteria and genetic functions ever reported in a human group.
Despite their isolation, presumably for >11,000 years since their ancestors arrived in South America, and no known exposure to antibiotics, they harbor bacteria that carry functional antibiotic resistance (AR) genes, including those that confer resistance to synthetic antibiotics and are syntenic with mobilization elements.
These results suggest that westernization significantly affects human microbiome diversity and that functional AR genes appear to be a feature of the human microbiome even in the absence of exposure to commercial antibiotics.”
A decline in the richness of humans' microbiomes may be linked to the increase of immunological and metabolic diseases such as asthma, allergies, diabetes and obesity in recent years, points out Dominguez-Bello.6 Even autism is associated with urbanization, which in turn is linked to a loss of microbiome diversity.7
Western Medications Deplete Beneficial Bacteria
The repeated use of antibiotics, seen in urban environments and seldom in rainforest and rural environments, may raise the risk for Type 2 diabetes by altering gut bacteria, write researchers in the European Journal of Endocrinology:8
"Treatment with two to five antibiotic courses was associated with increase in diabetic risk for penicillin, cephalosporins, macrolides and … The risk increased with the number of antibiotic courses."
There are other gut microbiome risks from urbanization. Pesticides, processed food and Caesarean sections may also contribute to the dramatic decline in the richness of the human gut microbiome. These factors are seldom seen in less developed cultures but abound in urban environments.
In fact, one study even suggests that sophisticated sanitation and sewage systems, the hallmark of developed cultures, may be a factor in destroying microbial diversity, perhaps more consequentially than antibiotics.9
Human Fungal Infections Are Increasing
In the last few decades, fungal infections have increased, mostly because of the growing population of immunocompromised individuals undergoing intensive chemotherapy and those with HIV.10 One fungal disease, Cryptococcosis, has become strongly associated with immunocompromised HIV patients.11
But in 1999, a different species of fungus called Cryptococcus gattii or C. gatti surfaced and it was not linked to HIV patients. Previously a tropical disease, C. gattii began to infect healthy individuals across the Pacific Northwest, leading doctors to wonder if environmental change could increase the domain of some fungal pathogens.12
Then in 2009, Candida auris, a deadly yeast fungus no one had ever encountered, emerged. First described in a Japanese patient with an ear infection, it has since become a rapidly spreading pathogen, especially ominous because it is often multidrug-resistant.13
C. auris mostly affects those who are already seriously ill and kills one-third of those it infects.14 Its multidrug-resistance means hospitals have a difficult time eradicating it.15 The origin and spread of C. auris is unprecedented, says NBC News:16
"C. auris didn't spread like a virus would, radiating out from one location. Instead, it popped up simultaneously in different parts of the world, including India, South Africa and South America.
'It was really mystifying that Candida auris appeared at the same time in three continents,' said ... Dr. Arturo Casadevall, chair of the molecular microbiology and immunology department at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Casadevall and his team thought the fungus's emergence must have been the result of some kind of change in the Earth's environment — in this case, a gradual rise in temperature."
What is especially odd, says NBC News, is that fungi normally gravitate toward the coolest parts of the human body like feet and nail beds. In the past, fungi didn't cause internal infections because they can't survive the body's warmer temperatures, which hover around 98 degrees Fahrenheit. Now, this may be changing.17
Fungicides May Be a Factor in the Fungal Boom
The emergence of aggressive, drug-resistant fungi could also stem from fungicides used agriculturally. The chemicals are widely used in farming. Mother Jones states:18
"According to data collected from US government sources by the pesticide-tracking group Hygeia Analytics … 62 percent of total US peanut acres were treated with the triazole fungicide tebuconazole in 2016, and 25 percent with another one, propiconazole.
Both were named in a 2013 Dutch study among five farm fungicides identified as a driver of resistance in hospital-acquired A. fumigatus infections among patients with no previous exposure to the chemical.
The use of fungicide propiconazole jumped nationwide from less than a half-million pounds in 2004 to more than 2 million pounds in 2016, according to the US Geological Survey. It’s used on soybeans, wheat, rice, fruits, vegetables, and orchard crops."
The wide use of chemicals with one specific means of killing fungi in agriculture, known as single-target-site fungicides, could morph into more drug-resistant fungal infections in humans, say experts.19
In Europe, the Americas and Asia, drug-resistant strains of the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus have also been found. Since drug-resistant Aspergillosis has even been identified in patients who have never been treated with antifungals, environmental sources are suspected.20
Spread of Fungal Infections Is an Environmental Red Flag
The spread of fungal infections raises many questions. The discovery of a greater incidence of fungi in urban areas suggests that the pathogens may be becoming resistant to cleaning products or even opportunistically replacing bacteria that have been eliminated since, as they say, "nature abhors a vacuum."
The preponderance of the urban-located fungi also highlights the unhealthy aspects of urban living. Major questions also exist about environmental change and the use of agricultural fungicides, both of which could be causing or contributing to fungal resistance. The phenomenon of antibiotic-resistant bacteria from excessive farm use in livestock is well-documented and another significant danger.
How Can You Avoid Infections?
Minimizing your use of antibacterial cleaners may help protect the natural diversity of microorganisms in your home and on your body, but you can also help to avoid infections — including fungal infections — by boosting your immune system. Toward this end:
- Exercise regularly — Exercise improves the circulation of immune cells in your blood. The better these cells circulate, the more efficient your immune system is at locating and eliminating pathogens in your body. Make sure your fitness plan incorporates weight training, high-intensity exercises, stretching and core work.
- Get plenty of restorative sleep — Recent research shows sleep deprivation has the same effect on your immune system as physical stress or disease,21 which is why you may feel ill after a sleepless night.
- Have good stress-busting outlets — High levels of stress hormones can diminish your immunity, so be sure you’re implementing some sort of stress management. Meditation, prayer, yoga and the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) are all excellent strategies for managing stress, but you’ll have to find what works best for you.
- Optimize your vitamin D levels — Studies have shown that inadequate vitamin D can increase your risk for MRSA and other infections,22 which can likely be extended to other superbugs. Your best source of vitamin D is through exposing your skin to the sun, but supplementation may also be necessary.
Trees are one of nature's greatest gifts, one that could be harnessed to strategically reduce air pollution in some of the most problematic spaces, such as near factories, industrial sites, roadways and power plants. In fact, nature-based solutions can compete with technology to reduce toxic air emissions across the U.S., according to research published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.1
What's intriguing is that existing natural areas, including forest, grassland and shrubland vegetation, are already responsible for mitigating a significant portion of U.S. air emissions, according to the study, which suggests that restoring natural land cover where possible could be a key strategy to improving air quality.
Restoring Nature Near Factories Could Reduce Air Pollution
Using data on annual emissions in U.S. counties and existing land cover, researchers from The Ohio State University revealed that restoring natural areas to county-level average canopy cover could reduce air pollution by an average of 27%. Further, in 75% of the counties, nature-based solutions ended up being less expensive than technological interventions such as smokestack scrubbers in mitigating pollution.2
Lead study author Bhavik Bakshi, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at The Ohio State University, said in a news release:3
" The fact is that traditionally, especially as engineers, we don't think about nature; we just focus on putting technology into everything … And so, one key finding is that we need to start looking at nature and learning from it and respecting it. There are win-win opportunities if we do — opportunities that are potentially cheaper and better environmentally."
In instances of combating air pollution from agriculture, dust emissions, power generation, metal processing, certain manufacturing plants and on-road emissions, ecosystems are less expensive than technologies. Only in the case of emissions from industrial boilers and some cases of manufacturing did pollution-control technologies win out.
Maintaining current levels of vegetation as well as restoring vegetation cover in industrial areas could help reduce some of the most common types of air pollutants, including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter. Further, while the study didn't look into how well different types of plants "scrubbed" the air, it's likely that certain plant species could be more effective than others.4
Both urban and rural areas stand to benefit from ecosystem-based approaches to combating air pollution. "This suggests that even though vegetation cannot fully negate the impact of emissions at all times, policies encouraging ecosystems as control measures in addition to technological solutions may promote large investments in ecological restoration and provide several societal benefits," the study noted.5
Health Hazards of Air Pollution
By mitigating air pollution, trees and other plants could save lives across the globe, as contaminated air is a leading cause of death.
Research published in The Lancet revealed that 9 million premature deaths were caused by pollution in 2015, which is 16% of deaths worldwide — "three times more deaths than from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined, and 15 times more than from all wars and other forms of violence," the researchers wrote.6
Among the pollution-related deaths, the majority — 6.5 million — were caused by airborne contaminants.7 A World Health Organization (WHO) report also found that 93% of children live in areas with air pollution at levels above WHO guidelines.8
Further, more than 1 in 4 deaths among children under 5 years is related to environmental risks, including air pollution. In 2016, ambient (outside) and household air pollution contributed to respiratory tract infections that led to 543,000 deaths in children under 5.
In some areas of the world, like New Delhi, India, polluted air has reached crisis levels, with officials warning residents to stay indoors and handing out face masks to children. The air is so polluted due to agriculture and transportation that it causes burning eyes and a thick fog that makes visibility difficult.9
"Over the past days," The Atlantic reported in November 2019, "[air pollution] levels in New Delhi have exceeded 10 times what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency deems safe. (The idea that any level is 'safe' is disputed, as even very low levels have been found to cause disease.) The effect is lethal, in India and beyond."10
While industry can certainly contribute to dangerous levels of air pollution, many are surprised to learn that the No. 1 cause of air pollution in much of the U.S., China, Russia and Europe is linked to farming and fertilizer — specifically to the nitrogen component of fertilizer used to supposedly enrich the soil and grow bigger crops.
In fact, research published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters demonstrated that in certain densely populated areas, emissions from farming far outweigh other sources of particulate matter air pollution.11
So, when considering the best types of plants to combat pollution, it's important to understand that clearing grasslands and other natural spaces to plant monocrops is part of the problem — not part of the solution.
Planting 1.2 Trillion Trees Could Save the Earth
Planting 1.2 trillion trees could be the answer to saving the Earth and would be capable of storing so much carbon dioxide (CO2) that they would cancel out a decade's worth of human-made CO2 emissions.12
The findings come from the work of ecologist Thomas Crowther and colleagues at Swiss university ETH Zurich, who also revealed that there's room for an additional 1.2 trillion trees on the planet. Writing in the journal Science, Crowther and colleagues explained:13
"We mapped the global potential tree coverage to show that 4.4 billion hectares of canopy cover could exist under the current climate.
Excluding existing trees and agricultural and urban areas, we found that there is room for an extra 0.9 billion hectares of canopy cover, which could store 205 gigatonnes of carbon in areas that would naturally support woodlands and forests. This highlights global tree restoration as one of the most effective carbon drawdown solutions to date."
Currently, the Earth is home to 3 trillion trees, which is seven times more than previously believed. "There's 400 gigatons [of carbon] now, in the 3 trillion trees, and if you were to scale that up by another trillion trees that's in the order of hundreds of gigatons captured from the atmosphere — at least 10 years of anthropogenic emissions completely wiped out," Crowther told the Independent.14
The United Nations responded to the findings, changing their Billion Tree Campaign to the Trillion Tree Campaign, which states, "Global reforestation could capture 25 percent of global annual carbon emissions and create wealth in the global south."
More than 13.6 billion trees have already been planted as part of the campaign,15 which tracks not only where trees have been planted, but also where forests currently exist and where forests could be restored. The Trillion Tree Campaign states that there is actually space for up to 600 billion mature trees on the planet, without taking space away from agricultural land.
However, since some planted trees won't survive, the target is to plant at least 1 trillion trees to reach the 600 billion mature tree goal. "Additionally, we must protect the 170 billion trees in imminent risk of destruction. They are crucial carbon storages and essential ecosystems to protect biodiversity," they state.16
Worldwide, communities have been coming together to encourage reforestation. In Kenya, 51 million trees have been planted since the late 1970s, largely at the hands of local, rural women.
Likewise, in Colombia, more than 54,000 trees have been planted in 32 communities since 2016, and each area has its own local tree nursery. Pakistan is also committed to the Billion Tree Tsunami, with plans to reforest more than 860,000 acres of deforested land.17
The Root Brain and the Intelligence of Trees
Amidst the growing realization that plant life may be key to undoing some of the harm man-made pollutants have done to the Earth is the acknowledgement that plants are not benign objects but rather living beings.
An extensive underground network connects plants by their roots, serving as a complex interplant communication system or "plant Internet," if you will. One organism is responsible for this amazing biochemical highway: a type of fungus called mycorrhizae.
Suzanne Simard, a professor in the Department of Forest & Conservation at the University of British Columbia, is among those who have revealed that this mycorrhizae network connects trees to each other in mind-blowing ways, such that trees might be viewed as beings with a capacity for intelligence, decision-making, learning and memory.
Speaking to Nautilus, Simard expanded on the root brain hypothesis first suggested by Charles and Francis Darwin:18
"Behind a growing root tip is a bunch of differentiating cells. Darwin thought those cells determined where roots would grow and forage. He thought the behavior of a plant was basically governed by what happened in those cells.
The work I and others have been doing — looking at kinship in plants, how they recognize each other and communicate — involves the roots. Except now we know more than Darwin did; we know that all plants, except for a small handful of families, are mycorrhizal: The behavior of their roots is governed by symbiosis.
It's not just those cells at a plant root's tip, but their interaction with fungus, that determines a root's behavior. Darwin was onto something. He just didn't have the full picture. And I've come to think that root systems and the mycorrhizal networks that link those systems are designed like neural networks, and behave like neural networks, and a neural network is the seeding of intelligence in our brains."
Among some of Simard's and colleagues' fascinating work is evidence that old trees recognize their own seedlings and change their behavior to provide them advantages. "A parent tree will even kill off its own offspring if they're not in a good place to grow," Simard explained.19 She points out that while such ideas may seem wild, ancient peoples also expressed them:20
"I f you go back to and listen to some of the early teachings of the Coast Salish and the indigenous people along the western coast of North America, they knew that [trees can be connected by fungal networks and communicate] already. It's in the writings and in the oral history.
The idea of the mother tree has long been there. The fungal networks, the below-ground networks that keep the whole forest healthy and alive, that's also there.
That these plants interact and communicate with each other, that's all there. They used to call the trees the tree people. The strawberries were the strawberry people. Western science shut that down for a while and now we're getting back to it."
Everyone Can Help Plant Trees
One of the simplest ways to get involved in supporting the environment and reconnecting to nature is by planting trees. Even if you live in a region where you can't plant trees, or in an apartment with no backyard, you can donate or gift trees to be planted.
Every tree makes a difference, and if you're feeling competitive, the Trillion Tree Campaign website has a tool for you to set a tree-planting goal and keep track of your target.21
The Campaign suggests everybody should plant at least 150 trees, with those in wealthy countries setting a higher target of 1,000. Mercola.com, in partnership with Trees for the Future, is also getting involved and has planted over 200,000 trees to date.22
The Maine Board of Dental Practice may be engaging in antitrust violations, according to a petition filed with the Federal Trade Commission by three nonprofit groups — Consumers for Dental Choice, Organic Consumers Association and Mercury Policy Project. At issue is what the complaint calls two competitive factions that have divided modern day dentists: those who use mercury and those who do not.
"The differences are so distinct," the petition notes, "that they can be classified into competitive submarkets." But the complaint alleges that the Maine Board of Dental Practice "is indisputably on one side — working to keep public funds going to that faction of dentists and not enforcing distribution of the Maine amalgam fact sheet, as required by law."1
State Dental Board Accused of Breaking Mercury Laws
State law requires that dentists who use amalgam, or mercury, fillings (also known, misleadingly, as "silver" fillings) give patients a fact sheet approved by the state, which is intended to explain "advantages or disadvantages" of the use of mercury, mercury amalgams and other materials used for dental fillings.2
The Maine fact sheet was created because dentists using amalgams were referring to them as silver fillings, a misleading statement that was putting patients at risk. According to the petition, only 11% of dentists tell their patients that amalgam contains mercury.
Further, African-American patients are three times less likely to be told that amalgam contains mercury, as are patients making under $50,000 a year.3 According to the petition:4
"Aware that dentists are concealing amalgam's mercury from patients — and/or calling them silver fillings — the Maine Legislature enacted a statute applicable only to the amalgam-users, instructing the Director of Health to write a fact sheet about amalgam's contents, risks, and alternatives, and directing that the dentists still using amalgam give it to patients and post it on the wall of the clinic."
The petition alleges, however, that the Maine dental board is engaging in a variety of actions to evade enforcing this requirement. In a news release, it's stated:5
"For example, the dental board advises dentists that compliance with the mandate is optional (although it is required), and the board held a secret vote to ally with the Maine Dental Association to defeat a state law that would shift MaineCare to mercury-free dentistry.
The dental board has proposed a rule regarding disclosure, but it fails even to mention the Maine fact sheet law or the official fact sheet … "
The petition sums up, "The board continues its combinations to keep the public uninformed, the fact sheet law unenforced, and the amalgam-using dentists shielded from the statutory mandate to post the state-prescribed fact sheet and to give to patients and parents/guardians."6
Maine Dental Board 'Not Above the Law'
The petition asks the FTC to investigate the Maine Board of Dental Practice to reveal whether they're enforcing and adhering to the law — and suggests that if not, the state's governor should appoint a new dental board. As noted by Katherine Paul of the Organic Consumers Association, "The Maine Dental Board is not above the law."7
Charlie Brown of Consumers for Dental Choice, a former antitrust law specialist, further explained, "The behavior of the Maine Dental Board raises serious antitrust questions because the board is protecting the income of the pro-mercury dentists. This board must redirect its loyalty from protecting sales of amalgam to protecting Maine's families and consumers."8
It's essential for people to be aware of the true make up of "silver" fillings, as they are approximately 50% mercury. Mercury is a toxic heavy metal, one that can cause harmful effects to your nervous, digestive, respiratory and immune systems. It's known to damage both the kidneys and the lungs in humans.
The World Health Organization notes that health effects from mercury exposure include tremors, impaired vision and hearing, emotional instability, paralysis, insomnia and developmental deficits during fetal development.9
Mercury exposure has also been linked to attention deficit and developmental delays during childhood, with WHO noting, "[M]ercury may have no threshold below which some adverse effects do not occur."10 In other words, even very small doses of mercury may be harmful. It's for this reason that, in 2018, the European Union banned the use of amalgam for children under 15 as well as for pregnant or nursing women.
Will FDA Finally End Amalgam for Children?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is a sluggard when it comes to acting against mercury dental fillings. The 28-nation European Union stepped up in 2018 and eliminated dental mercury for pregnant women, breastfeeding women and children under age 15.
So, Charlie Brown launched a campaign in 2018 to bring the European Union's example across the Atlantic. As Brown stated in an interview with me:
"The European Union, more than a year ago, ended amalgam for children under 15, and for pregnant and breastfeeding women. They required each member state — and there are 28 countries in the EU as of right now — to come up with a plan to go further.
We are saying to FDA, 'Why are you lagging so far behind Europe? Why won't you pay attention to the very treaty that the United States not only signed but was the first country in the world to ratify?'
As I said, the heat is building. We think we're going to move, but they still have been way too close to the pro-mercury dentists. There's no question. That's the ADA. The ADA, however, doesn't have the same clout they used to have because its own members are walking away.
Its own members are saying, 'Why should I use amalgam just because you want me to? I don't want to. My patients don't want to. I don't want to get people in my office sick.'"
I now have breaking news from Washington that could change things at FDA. Brown and his capable team had a series of meetings with FDA in 2018 and 2019.
Then — to his real credit — director of the Center for Devices and Radiological Health, Jeff Shuren, assembled a panel of science advisers to convene and consider whether the science merits a new FDA policy on amalgam. Those hearings were held on November 13 and 14, 2019. Brown brought incredibly talented and diverse public speakers to testify, including:
Dr. Mark A. Mitchell, co-chair of the Commission on Environmental Health of the National Medical Association
Eric Uram of Chicago Declaration to End Use of Mercury in Dentistry
Reuben Warren, director of the National Center for Bioethics at Tuskegee University (known historically as "the black Harvard")
Karen Howard of the Organic and Natural Health Association
Sharon Lewis of Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice
Kristie Trousdale, deputy director of Children's Environmental Health Network
Rochelle Diver of the International Indian Treaty Council
Jacquelynn Hawthorne, Los Angeles commissioner
Mary Starrett, Yamhill County, Oregon, commissioner
The science committee, by consensus, called on FDA to end its silence on amalgam, and to start getting information about amalgam's risks to American patients, especially to vulnerable populations. But we have witnessed two decades of FDA inaction on amalgam, and a big question looms: Will FDA ignore even its own scientific bodies?
Send Your Message to the FDA Today!
I urge you to take a moment to send your message to FDA. Call on the agency to listen to its own scientists and, this time, take action. You may comment now by clicking this button.
FDA must now decide what information to give directly to patients and parents, because so many pro-mercury dentists have not leveled with patients, or don't read enough to know what to say. Please choose from these questions, and then write your comment to the FDA!
- Did your dentist tell you about amalgam's mercury before implanting mercury fillings in your teeth or a family member's teeth?
- Was amalgam deceptively marketed to you as "silver fillings"?
- Should FDA issue "direct-to-patient labeling" on amalgam to make sure accurate information about its mercury content and risks reaches patients?
- At the least, FDA must tell patients that amalgam is 50% mercury and that nontoxic alternatives are available.
- FDA should tell everyone that countries around the world, including next-door Canada, are either recommending against amalgam for children and pregnant women — or outright banning it for them.
Minamata Convention Impetus for Action Against Amalgam
In an intense three-year campaign (2010 through 2013), the global umbrella founded by Consumers for Dental Choice, the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, succeeded in securing a strong amalgam plan in that treaty. The Minamata Convention on Mercury entered into legal force in 2017, triggering conferences of the parties to implement it worldwide.
At the first Conference of the Parties of the Minamata Convention, held in Geneva last October, Brown challenged the world to equal or exceed the new amalgam policy of the EU, launching the "Make Dental Amalgam History" campaign.
Brown concluded his speech with these stirring words to an audience of delegates from well over 100 nations: "Your nation should end amalgam use for children, because the children of your nation are equally important to the children of Europe." The worldwide campaign to end amalgam for children — as a springboard to ending its use entirely — continues.
American Association of Dental Boards Operates Within ADA
The American Dental Association (ADA) is among those who have long defended the use of mercury fillings. Not coincidently, they also hold two amalgam patents.11
The ADA Foundation, which "provides grants, scholarships, awards, and facilitated in-kind product donations to programs that are in alignment with the organization's efforts to advance oral health, expand access to dental care, and drive game-changing research," is located in Chicago12 — in the same building as the American Association of Dental Boards.13
The American Association of Dental Boards is a national association that heads up the individual state dental boards. Its mission is to "serve as a resource by providing a national forum for exchange, development and dissemination of information to assist dental regulatory boards with their obligation to protect the public."14 What's more, the American Association of Dental Boards states:15
"Membership is comprised of boards of dentistry, specialty boards (recognized by the American Dental Association), present and past members of those boards, board administrators, board attorneys, and dental and dental hygiene educators."
But the American Association of Dental Boards, whose role is to protect the public and regulate dentistry, is housed inside the offices of the American Dental Association; they even operate together on the same telephone lines. What a massive conflict of interest! Brown also brought this conflict of interest to the attention of the FTC.
It explains a lot of why dental boards have been so cozy with the ADA, helping protect the mercury secret and keep it from American parents and consumers. The continued use of mercury in dental fillings, and the lack of transparency in disclosing the toxic truth about amalgam's contents to consumers, is just another outcome of this conflicted relationship.
Michael Bender of the Mercury Policy Project stated in a news release, "Consumers must be told that amalgam is mainly mercury, but also that there are nonmercury alternatives available that work just as well or better."16
Mercury-Free Alternatives Are Readily Available
One of the most popular alternatives to amalgam is resin composite, which is made of a type of plastic reinforced with powdered glass. It's already common throughout the U.S. and the rest of the developed world, offering notable improvements over amalgam, as, according to Consumers for Dental Choice, it:17
• Is environmentally safe — Composite, which contains no mercury, does not pollute the environment. This saves taxpayers from paying the costs of cleaning up dental mercury pollution in our water, air and land — and the costs of health problems associated with mercury pollution.
• Preserves healthy tooth structure, because, unlike amalgam, it does not require the removal of significant amounts of healthy tooth matter. Over the long term, composite preserves healthy tooth structure and actually strengthens teeth, leading to better oral health and less extensive dental work over the long term.
• Is long-lasting — While some claim that amalgam fillings last longer than composite fillings, the science reveals this claim to be baseless. The latest studies show that composite not only lasts as long as amalgam, but actually has a higher overall survival rate.
Unfortunately, many private dental insurance companies do not cover mercury-free fillings for all teeth, so be sure to read the fine print if you're considering a new plan.
Choose a Mercury-Free Dentist
If your current dentist is still using mercury in his or her practice — even if they also offer mercury-free options — seek out a dentist that offers only mercury-free fillings for all patients. And, be sure to inform your dentist about the reason you're transferring. One place to look is on the website of Consumers for Dental Choice: www.toxicteeth.org: (scroll down the home page, and click "Find a mercury-free dentist"
For those of you who have mercury fillings, I recommend seeking advice from a qualified health professional about whether to have them removed. If the answer is yes, then go ONLY to a competent biological dentist who follows professional protocols for amalgam removal. Do not, however, remove fillings while pregnant, as this will expose you to increased mercury vapors.
The fact that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention accepts millions of dollars in funding from drug companies and vaccine makers is no minor problem. It may in fact be at the very heart of why so many harmful and nonsensical health recommendations end up being pushed down our throats.
The CDC has long fostered the perception of independence by stating it does not accept funding from special interests. In disclaimers peppered throughout the CDC website1 and in its publications, it says the agency “does not accept commercial support” and has “no financial interests or other relationships with the manufacturers of commercial products.”
Several watchdog groups — including the U.S. Right to Know (USRTK), Public Citizen, Knowledge Ecology International, Liberty Coalition and the Project on Government Oversight — are now petitioning2 the CDC to cease making these false disclaimers.3
CDC Gets Millions From Corporate Interests
In reality, the CDC does in fact accept millions of dollars each year from commercial interests through its government-chartered foundation, the CDC Foundation, which funnels those contributions to the CDC after deducting a fee.4
On the CDC Foundation’s website, you’ll find a long list5 of “corporate partners” that have provided the CDC with funding over the years. The petition also points out that the CDC media office states the agency “has, can and does accept commercial support,” which is a clear contradiction to its printed disclaimers. Furthermore:
“CDC even accepts earmarked money via the CDC Foundation, allowing manufacturers to fund studies or programs whose results would either expand their profits or reduce their liability exposure,” the petition states.6
“For example, the BMJ reported that ‘in 2012, Genentech earmarked $600,000 in donations to the CDC Foundation for CDC’s efforts to promote expanded testing and treatment of viral hepatitis. Genentech and its parent company, Roche, manufacture test kits and treatments for hepatitis C’ …
The CDC Foundation also accepted $1.7 million from the Central American sugar industry for studies on chronic kidney disease which have been criticized for being biased towards the sugar industry, by not asking the best questions.”
CDC Petitioned to Quit Making False Claims
According to the petition,7 the CDC accepted $79.6 million from drug companies and commercial manufacturers between 2014 and 2018 alone. Since its inception in 1995, the CDC Foundation has accepted $161 million from private corporations.
As reported by the Lown Institute,8 which aims to advance “a just and caring system for health to replace the current, failing model rooted in profit-driven, low-value care”:9
“Many of these contributions could be seen as conflicts of interest — for example, a $193,000 donation from Roche, the maker of antiviral drug Tamiflu, to fund a CDC flu prevention campaign.
Despite the significant funding the CDC receives from industry via its foundation, few were aware of these conflicts until Jeanne Lenzer called attention to the foundation in The BMJ10 a few years ago.
Recently, the CDC accepted $3.4 million from Pfizer for the prevention of Cryptococcal disease, $1 million from Merck & Co. pharmaceutical company for a program on preventing maternal mortality, and $750,000 from Biogen for a program on screening newborns for spinal muscular atrophy …”
The petition asks the CDC to stop publishing the false and misleading disclaimers, remove all previously published disclaimers from the CDC website and its publications, and to issue corrections, retroactively disclosing the agency’s financial relationships with industry.
“By issuing these false disclaimers, CDC is misleading health professionals, consumers and others both in the United States and around the world,” the petition states.11
“This deception undermines CDC’s credibility and integrity. But the damage here is not merely to the CDC itself. CDC is a national and global leader on medical and public health matters. It is crucial for the CDC to lead by example on matters of ethics, and, at a minimum, to faithfully and truthfully disclose its conflicts of interest.”
Government-Chartered Foundations Gives Control to Industry
In a November 5, 2019, press release, Dr. Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group stated:12
“That the CDC accepts millions from corporations directly impacted by the agency’s public health programs is indefensible. So, the CDC instead has adopted the strategy of repeatedly denying that it accepts such payments.”
Gary Ruskin, co-director of USRTK added:13
“It’s time for the CDC to be truthful with health professionals and all Americans, and to stop denying that it takes corporate money. The CDC is violating the public trust by misleading us in this way.”
The CDC is supposed to be a public health watchdog. It has tremendous credibility within the medical community, and part of this credibility hinges on the idea that it’s free of industry bias and conflicts of interest.
By accepting money from drug companies and vaccine makers, one has to wonder whether that money might be having an impact on the agency’s health recommendations.
Again and again, investigations have shown that funding plays an enormous role in decision-making and in research outcomes. As noted by Shannon Brownlee, senior vice president for the Lown Institute, government-chartered foundations:14
“… exist at least in part because they allow industries to directly fund and thus control the work of agencies that are either supposed to regulate them, or conduct research that can help or hurt their business.”
Telltale Signs of Impropriety Abound
When you start to investigate, there’s no shortage of telltale signs suggesting the CDC isn’t nearly as independent as it claims to be. Some have already been noted in the CDC petition, but there are plenty of others as well.
For example, in 2016, Barbara Bowman, Ph.D., director of the CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, quickly resigned after it was revealed she aided a Coca-Cola representative in efforts to get World Health Organization officials to relax WHO’s sugar limits.
I wrote about this in “CDC Executive Resigns After Being Caught Colluding with Coca-Cola to Salvage Soda Market.” Shortly thereafter, CDC director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald was found to have received funding from Coca-Cola for her anti-obesity campaign, which had a near-exclusive focus on exercise, not the impact of soda and sugary junk food. This was reported in “Public Health Agency Sued for Coke Collusion.”
CDC Promotes Drug Industry Agenda
In a November 4, 2019, article15 in Eye on Annapolis, Josh Mazer discusses how the CDC is funding state health programs aimed at implementing mandatory HPV vaccinations:
“The Maryland Prevention and Health Promotion Agency (PHPA) has received millions … as part of an effort to require public schools to force children to get the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination.
Those funds came in the form of grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC maintains a nonprofit foundation that gets enormous amounts of money from Big Pharma — including Merck, the company that produces Gardasil, the HPV vaccine. At the very least, Maryland’s acceptance of those funds has the appearance of impropriety …
During a PHPA-hosted ‘HPV symposium’ attended by state pediatric practices and Maryland Department of Health staffers in March 2018 … the featured speaker — Dr. Alix Casler — encouraged attendees to offer free dinners, bottles of wine, and ‘Quality Doctor Incentives $’ sales bonuses to get Maryland physicians on board with the HPV vaccine-pushing program …
Casler offered a $5,000 cash payment to pediatric practices that achieve targeted HPV vaccine sales goals … Casler is a paid spokesperson for Merck …
In 2016, the Maryland Partnership for Prevention — which lists the Maryland Department of Health as its top member — accepted $70,000 from the Association of Immunization Managers (AIM).
AIM’s top ‘Corporate Alliance Members’ are Merck, Pfizer, Sanofi Pasteur and Seqirus. That same year, legislation was introduced in Maryland to mandate the shot … Despite the deaths and the ongoing health-safety questions related to the HPV vaccine, Maryland PHPA has continued using our schools to push Merck’s product.”
CDC Front Group Lobbies for Mandatory Vaccinations
Mazer’s observations are unlikely to be coincidental, as the CDC is a primary contributor to the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), which lobbies for mandatory vaccinations and the elimination of personal belief exemptions to vaccination nationwide.16 As such, the CDC is actively using industry donations to promote a for-profit industry agenda.
It should be clear by now that the justifications given for why personal belief exemptions need to be abolished are nothing but a ploy to make money off mandatory vaccines.
In recent times, the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine has been the target vaccine used to ban vaccine exemptions, under the pretense that measles is a lethal disease that needs to be eradicated. However, as predicted, it didn’t take long before other, completely unnecessary vaccines were tacked on to the mandated vaccines list.
As just one egregious example, a bill introduced in New York (S298/A2912) now seeks to require children to receive the HPV vaccine — one of the most dangerous and unnecessary vaccines ever made — in order to attend public school or day care.
There are hundreds of vaccines in the pipeline for children and adults, and once vaccine exemptions are eliminated in your state, you can expect many more to be mandated.
At that point, you’ll have no way of opting out of any of them. Measles was really just the Trojan Horse used to eliminate vaccine exemptions and strengthen mandatory vaccination laws. As noted by Children’s Health Defense in a June 6, 2019 article:17
“ACIP’s industry-beholden membership roster reads like a ‘who’s who’ of the individuals and organizations who spearhead the nation’s vaccine business … The agency’s involvement with vaccine manufacturers also extends to patents, licensing agreements and collaboration on projects to develop new vaccines.
In fact, the CDC and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) profit handsomely from their ownership or co-ownership with private sector partners of vaccine-related patents.
An early 2017 analysis of Google Patents results18 showed that the CDC held 56 patents pertaining to various aspects of vaccine development, manufacturing, delivery and adjuvants.
By May 2019, the search terms ‘Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccines’ retrieved 143 results in the Google Patents search engine,19 and a separate legal website displayed 10 screens worth of CDC patents,20 both vaccine- and non-vaccine-related.
The author of the 2017 analysis suggests that the large number of patents held by the CDC ‘deserves an in-depth review to determine exactly what current financial relationships with vaccine makers now exist and what…current impact those revenue streams are likely having on vaccine safety positions’ …
Some of the key technologies underlying the development of the HPV vaccines Gardasil and Cervarix emerged from research patented by the NIH’s National Cancer Institute (NCI), which then licensed the technology to Merck, MedImmune and GlaxoSmithKline. By 2009, HPV licensing had become NIH’s top generator of royalty revenues.”
Children’s Health Defense goes on to cite an in-depth investigation by Mark Blaxill, published in Age of Autism, in which he notes that:21
“Gardasil is perhaps the leading example of a new form of unconstrained government self-dealing, in arrangements whereby [HHS] can transfer technology to pharmaceutical partners, [and] simultaneously both approve and protect their partners’ technology licenses while also taking a cut of the profits.”
Your Help Is Needed!
To help push for greater transparency, please contact the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services today at email@example.com and let them know that you demand the CDC:
- Cease publication of disclaimers that CDC has “no financial interests or other relationships with the manufacturers of commercial products” and that it “does not accept commercial support.”
- Remove all such disclaimers from the CDC website, including the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).
- Add corrections to all MMWR articles bearing these disclaimers, explaining that the disclaimers were incorrect and have been removed.
- Retroactively disclose, in any MMWR article bearing the disclaimers, any corporate contributions to the CDC or CDC Foundation that are relevant to the MMWR article.
As noted by Lown Institute, disclosing existing conflicts of interests is an important first step in the creation of a “clearer separation between government agencies meant to serve the public interest and industry companies,” but it shouldn’t end there. We also need to abolish the loophole that allowed this hidden industry influence to take root in the first place — the government-chartered foundations.
“We need to question why these foundations exist and push for more public funding of these agencies, rather than force public health agencies to rely on industry funding for their programs and compromise their independence,” Lown Institute writes.22
Teatime is an honored tradition in Great Britain and much of Asia, and tea plays an important role in cultures around the world. Teatime in the West often focuses on the food served with the beverage, while in Eastern cultures, serving tea has been elevated to an art form. It’s an ancient beverage that has demonstrated dramatic and positive effects on health.
Tea is one of the most popular beverages served around the world, second only to water. Nearly 80% of all U.S. households have tea in the kitchen cabinets and it's the only beverage commonly served hot or cold. In the U.S., 84% of the tea consumed is black tea, 15% is green tea and the remaining 1% is split between oolong, white and pu’erh.
The popularity of this wildly healthy tea is not any greater around the world as it accounts for just 2% of tea consumption worldwide. Although some say oolong is a black tea, and others a green tea, it does not fall into either category.
There are four varieties of tea produced from the Camellia sinensis plant: black, white, green and oolong. Although called tea, herbal teas are not true teas as they do not originate from the Camellia sinensis. One of the benefits oolong shares with green tea is its ability to change the rate of your metabolism.
Oolong Tea May Boost Your Metabolism and Weight Loss Efforts
Scientists have been intrigued by what they found to be weight regulating chemicals in tea, identified as catechins, which are commonly found in green and oolong varieties. The two most interesting have been epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and theaflavins.1
Researchers recently reviewed tea data in the hope of identifying functional foods affecting energy metabolism that may be used as a complementary dietary strategy in weight management.
In their review of oolong studies, they found that oolong tea had an effect on the modulation of energy balance, fat and carbohydrate metabolism. It also affected activity in the liver, fat, muscle and pancreatic cells after ingestion due to its high levels of EGCG and theaflavins.
The catechins appeared to inhibit the development of fat by down-regulating gene expression and stimulating energy consumption in the mitochondria. Another noted mechanism was an enhanced noradrenaline-induced fat breakdown after drinking oolong tea water extract.
The researchers theorized this effect could be partially due to the caffeine and other bioactive compounds found in the tea. In one animal study included in the review, researchers found ethanol extract of oolong tea triggered weight loss in mice.
Oolong May Boost Insulin Sensitivity
During their review of the literature2 researchers identified increased insulin activity after consuming oolong tea, in addition to reduced plasma glucose, which had a positive effect on diabetic rats. They believe the tea could be an effective adjunct in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes.
They found research supporting the combination therapy of oral antihyperglycemic medications and oolong tea, which was more effective at lowering blood glucose than using medications alone. Improved insulin utilization may reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes, both of which can assist with weight control.
The results of the literature review were similar to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition,3 in which researchers evaluated the energy expenditure of 12 men. The researchers designed a randomized crossover study to compare 24 hours of calorie burning after the participants underwent one of four interventions.
For four days prior to the study, volunteers did not drink any beverages with caffeine or flavonoids. The participants took each treatment for three consecutive days, and on the third day their energy expenditure was measured. They either drank water, full strength tea, half strength tea or water that contained 270 mg of caffeine.
The results demonstrated that energy expenditure was increased by 2.9% for those drinking full-strength tea and 3.4% for those who consumed caffeinated water, as compared to those who drank just water.
An additional 281 calories were burned by those drinking full strength tea and an extra 331 calories were burned by those drinking caffeinated water. The researchers also measured fat oxidation, which was significantly higher in those who drank the full-strength tea as compared to those drinking water.
Look for Tea, Not Weight Loss Tea
Just as there’s a difference between herbal tea and true tea from the Camellia sinensis plant, products sold as “weight loss teas” usually contain more than you bargain for. Actress Jameela Jamil started a campaign to warn men and women that these types of products may lead to dehydration and diarrhea. As Insider writes:4
“It turns out the heart-healthy teas that you might actually want to drink, which are scientifically-linked with good health outcomes, are both cheaper than a "teatox" detox tea and much safer for your body in the long run.”
Detox teas contain more ingredients than black or green tea leaves and their producers make claims that consuming the beverages will detoxify your body. These campaigns are targeted toward those who want to lose weight.5 Beginning September 18, 2019, Instagram started blocking ads for weight loss products aimed at users younger than 18 years of age. They also blocked ads that promised miraculous fixes for issues related to body image.
Although tea is healthy, too much of a good thing is not usually a better thing. Tea from the Camellia sinensis plant contains oxalates, which may contribute to the formation of kidney stones and other kidney conditions.
Oolong Produced Differently Than Black or Green Tea
While oolong is neither black nor green, the flavor and characteristics of the tea may fall closer to the black tea or green tea range depending on how it was processed. During processing, the leaves are oxidized between the level of green tea, which keeps much of the original color and flavor, and black tea, which is fully oxidized.6
This may be described as partial oxidation, or partial fermentation.7 However, depending on the tea master, oxidation can vary from 8% to 80%, which explains the variation in flavors. Oolong tea leaves are also traditionally rolled, curled or twisted to alter the appearance, color and aroma of the final product.
Black, green and oolong tea begin the processing journey in the same way. The leaves are first bruised and then allowed to wither, beginning the oxidation process. They are laid out to dry in the sun for several hours and then removed and cooled away from the heat.
Once fully cool, the leaves destined to become oolong tea are rolled and bruised to break down the cell walls. The leaves continue oxidation until the tea master is satisfied with the process and then are roasted to stop fermentation.
Once fully dried they are sorted according to size and color. Just as the color and flavor fall between green and black tea, so does the caffeine content. If the tea leaves were lightly oxidized, they'll have a lower level of caffeine, but higher levels of oxidation increase measurable caffeine.
Long-Term Health Benefits of Oolong Tea
Researchers have long studied the benefits of coffee and tea on neurological, vision, bone and metabolic health. Different types of tea offer different benefits, many of which are tied to the processing method used to manufacture the tea.
One of the benefits of oolong being oxidized slightly more than green tea and slightly less than black tea is that this specific level offers some of the benefits of both, making it one of the healthiest types of tea you can drink. The tea is rich in polyphenol antioxidants, which your body uses to fight the damage triggered by reactive oxygen species and free radicals.
Drinking green tea is associated with a reduced risk of all-cause mortality, lowered blood pressure and reduced chronic inflammation. The EGCG is responsible for helping your arteries relax and improve blood flow.
Drinking a cup each day may do more than boost your metabolic rate. It can go a long way toward improving your overall health and well-being. Oolong tea has also demonstrated the ability to lower the risk of brain function decline. The tea is rich in theanine, which is believed to help improve attention and relieve anxiety.
The antioxidants in oolong tea may reduce your risk of heart disease if you drink 8 ounces or more every day. In one study researchers found that those who drank 16 ounces of green tea or oolong tea daily experienced a 39% reduced risk of stroke.
How to Store and Brew Oolong for the Best Flavor
While oolong is healthy, it is important to use loose tea leaves. Tea bags may be more convenient, but many are made with heat-resistant polypropylene to prevent the bag from breaking apart in hot water. This means minute pieces of plastic likely end up in your drink.
Paper tea bags are treated with epichlorohydrin, a chemical to prevent tears, which has been found to be a probable human carcinogen. Epichlorohydrin reacts with water to form 3-MCPD, another possible human carcinogen.
The fermentation process extends the shelf life of the tea, with heavily oxidized varieties lasting as long as two years. Loose leaf oolong tea tends to quickly become stale, so it's important to store it properly.
The tea should be placed in an airtight container and kept in a dry, dark cabinet away from direct sunlight and heat. If stored close to spices and coffee the tea may pick up their flavors and odors.
Variation, oxidation and processing techniques mean a difference in the ideal brewing temperature. Look for the directions on the packaging for brewing instructions. Here are a few general tips to consider.8
- Use fresh, pure filtered water. Do not use distilled water as it will give your tea a flat flavor.
- In general, the tea should be steeped between 180 degrees and 200 degrees Fahrenheit for one to three minutes.
- Oolong teas can be steeped multiple times. With each cup the leaves unfurl just a little more, releasing more flavor. You may be able to get up to five infusions out of a high-quality tea.
- Oolong tea tastes best with a short infusion so it's a good idea to taste it after the recommended time before deciding to steep it longer.
- Cover the tea while it steeps to keep all the heat in the vessel, and try drinking it without any additives such as milk or sugar, to improve the health benefits and appreciate the handcrafted flavor of the tea.
Your body is a complex organism requiring quality sleep to function optimally. Your body’s circadian rhythms are a combination of biological clocks regulating everything from your metabolism to psychological functioning. One sure way to cause dysregulation of your biological clock is to skimp on sleep.
Although you have a master clock in your brain to synchronize bodily functions, every organ and cell has its own biological clock as well. In a stunning discovery published in 2017, researchers found half your genes are controlled by circadian rhythms that turn them on and off in a cyclical wave.
The whole-body circadian rhythm is largely dictated by your pineal gland, which is responsible for secreting melatonin or N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine. This hormone normalizes your circadian rhythm as it signals your body it’s time for sleep. The production of melatonin will depend on how much and when your body absorbs light.
The gland is located near the center of your brain and usually starts secreting melatonin near 9 p.m. Without an adequate amount of sleep and exposure to sunlight, your levels will naturally drop. Researchers have found an association between melatonin and rising levels of inflammation.
Melatonin Reduced Inflammation and Obesity Markers in Mice
In a combined effort, scientists from universities in Brazil and Italy1 sought to identify the role melatonin may have in improving disorders commonly found in those who are obese. The researchers used mice who were induced to become obese and treated them for 10 weeks with melatonin.
The objective was to determine if the hormone could effectively delay or block the damage from eating too much. The researchers found multiple results supporting their theory that melatonin supplementation could have a significant effect on the animals, including reducing triglyceride levels and total and LDL cholesterol levels.
They also found that supplementation prevented larger weight gain by reducing the formation of fat tissue and increasing the capacity to break down white fat. This combination of effects helped to prevent the hypertrophy of fat cells caused by excessive eating.
Additionally, the researchers noted the supplementation reduced a characteristic inflammatory process found in obese subjects where macrophages infiltrate adipose tissue. The mice also experienced a reduction in inflammatory related factors through a decrease in gene expression.
Overall, at the end of the 10-week trial, the group of mice eating an excessive amount without melatonin gained 49% body mass over the control group that ate a normal diet. The group of mice supplemented with melatonin increased their body mass 28% over the control group, but 13% lower than the group eating excess food without melatonin.
The researchers believe the data suggest that melatonin could be considered as a therapeutic agent to help mitigate the metabolic and inflammatory conditions triggered in those who are obese.
The Importance of Melatonin to Sleep/Wake Cycles
As with many hormones and chemicals in the body, melatonin has more than one function. The best known role it plays is in controlling your sleep/wake cycle. This well-publicized function may be due to the fact that sleep plays a significant role in your overall physical and mental health.
An estimated 40% of Americans are sleep deprived every day, with many people getting less than 5 hours of sleep per night. Millions struggle to fall asleep and others find it challenging to stay asleep. Some wake up too early in the morning.
There are a number of hazards associated with sleep deprivation; you can read about these in my past article, “Nobel Prize-Winning Science Highlights Importance of Good Sleep for Health.”
Melatonin is a marker your body uses to influence what time of day or night it thinks it is. This happens regardless of the actual time. During a normal night of sleep, levels stay elevated for about 12 hours. As the sun rises, the pineal gland reduces production until the level in your blood is hardly measurable.
If you experience disruption to your circadian rhythms, your body will produce less melatonin and you will experience poor quality sleep. This can happen to those who work the night shift, have jet lag or are exposed to light during the night.
Melatonin Benefits More Than Sleep
A deficiency in this hormone may come with profound biological risks, such as potentially having higher levels of inflammation, a weaker immune system and an increased chance of developing cancer. The hormone interacts with receptor proteins that help control the different stages of sleep and are present in other organs and immune cells.2,3
Additionally, melatonin is a potent antioxidant that can raise the levels of other antioxidants, such as glutathione. Melatonin plays a role in the health and survival of mitochondria,4 your body's powerhouse, where energy production takes place at a cellular level.
Melatonin has shown some promise for pain control in those suffering from endometriosis. In one study,5 10 mg per day decreased pain by 39.8% and dysmenorrhea by 38.01%. Topical application may help prevent sunburn,6 while oral supplementation was 150 times more effective at treating tinnitus as compared to other drugs. Melatonin may also play a protective role in:7
Delayed sleep phase syndrome
Strengthening the blood-brain barrier
Reducing transplant complications
Recovery from stroke and traumatic brain injury
Vision and eye health
Blood pressure and heart health
Boost Your Melatonin Naturally
Melatonin does come in supplemental form, but it's also possible to raise your levels naturally. Researchers recognize nonpharmacological approaches to insomnia include better sleep hygiene, physical exercise and mindfulness meditation.
It makes sense to engage in simple habits to increase your natural production and improve your overall health and sleep without adding supplements. Four simple strategies include:
• Sunshine during the morning — Melatonin is affected by your exposure to light and dark. When it's light, production of melatonin naturally drops. Getting at least 15 minutes of sunlight in the morning hours helps to regulate the production of melatonin, dropping it to normal daytime levels, so you feel awake during the day and sleep better at night.
• Sleep in the dark — Your body produces and secretes melatonin in the dark, helping you to go to sleep and stay asleep. Sleeping in a completely darkened room, without lights from alarm clocks, televisions or other sources will improve your sleep quality.
If you get up during the night to use the bathroom, it's important to keep the lights off so you don't shut off your production of melatonin. Also, wear blue-light blocking glasses after sunset to avoid blue-light exposure.
• Lower your stress level and your cortisol level — The release of melatonin is dependent on the release of another hormone, norepinephrine. Excess stress and the resulting release of cortisol inhibits the release of norepinephrine, and therefore the release of melatonin. Stress-reducing strategies you may find helpful before bed include yoga, stretching, meditation and prayer.
• Increase foods high in magnesium — Magnesium plays a role in reducing brain activity at night, helping you to relax and fall asleep more easily. It works in tandem with melatonin. Foods containing higher levels of magnesium include almonds, avocados, pumpkin seeds and green, leafy vegetables.
Supplementation and Potential Negative Effects
The beneficial effects associated with melatonin suggest it may primarily have a function as an antioxidant. In speaking with Time magazine, Helen Burgess, co-director of the Sleep and Circadian Research Laboratory at the University of Michigan, said:8
"Some of the emerging science is showing that in people with higher levels of inflammation — which could be because they're obese, or because they're in the [intensive care unit] for a transplant — melatonin in the range of 6 mg to 10 mg may decrease markers of inflammation."
The authors of past studies have associated a deficiency in melatonin with obesity. It also may address inflammation, as supplementation has been associated with lowering oxidative stress and regulating adipokines involved in the inflammatory process. While believed to be relatively safe for up to 18 months, the long-term effects are largely unknown.
Possible negative interactions have been suggested for those with epilepsy or those taking Warfarin, a blood thinner. Melatonin is sometimes used in children to benefit those with sleep disorders, but long-term effects in children are also unknown. There has been some research suggesting that using melatonin during puberty may interfere with natural production of the hormone.
Researchers leading one study cautioned that supplementation should be limited in those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. They suggest considering the supplement only for those who also have chronic insomnia. It's crucial to remember that melatonin is a hormone, and long-term supplementation with hormones can have unknown effects on the body.
In addition to the strategies listed above to boost your natural production, you may benefit from sleep habits information in my past article, “Top 33 Tips to Optimize Your Sleep Routine.”
Magnesium1 is involved in hundreds of biochemical reactions in your body,2,3 and deficiency can contribute to significant health problems. Two common pathologies associated with magnesium deficiency are Type 2 diabetes4,5 and heart disease.
According to one scientific review,6 low magnesium may actually be the greatest predictor of heart disease, and other recent research7 published in Open Heart journal suggests even subclinical magnesium deficiency can compromise your cardiovascular health.
As noted in a 2018 scientific review8,9 published in Open Heart journal, a “vast majority of people in modern societies are at risk for magnesium deficiency” due to “chronic diseases, medications, decreases in food crop magnesium contents, and the availability of refined and processed foods.”
According to this review, most fail to meet the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for magnesium; 48% of Americans do not get sufficient magnesium from their diet. Among postmenopausal women with osteoporosis, the rate of magnesium deficiency is 84%.10
Type 2 diabetics also tend to be more prone to magnesium deficiency, and magnesium depletion has been found in 75% of patients with poorly controlled Type 2 diabetes, the review states.11
Magnesium Protects Your Heart Health
Low magnesium has been linked to a higher risk for high blood pressure,12 stroke13 and sudden cardiac death.14 According to the Open Heart study authors,15 “most people need an additional 300 mg of magnesium per day in order to lower their risk of developing numerous chronic diseases,” and this includes heart disease and diabetes. Magnesium supports healthy heart function and helps prevent heart disease by:16
- Combating inflammation, thereby helping prevent hardening of your arteries
- Normalizing blood pressure
- Improving blood flow by relaxing your arteries and preventing your blood from thickening, allowing it to flow more smoothly
Magnesium Status Impacts Diabetes and Blood Pressure
Magnesium also plays an important role in diabetes, and this is not nearly as recognized as it needs to be. Low magnesium levels have been linked to a higher risk of insulin resistance, a precursor to Type 2 diabetes,17 as it impairs your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, which is important for the prevention of Type 2 diabetes.18,19,20,21
In one study,22 prediabetics with the highest magnesium intake reduced their risk for blood sugar and metabolic problems by 71%, compared to those with the lowest intake. High levels of insulin in the blood, common with insulin resistance, also lead to further loss of magnesium.23
Most recently, a study24 published in October 2019 in the online issue of Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice again linked low magnesium levels with both diabetes and high blood pressure, both of which are risk factors for heart disease. As reported by the authors:25
“Across the quartiles of serum magnesium from high to low, the prevalence ratios for diabetes were 1.00, 1.35, 1.88, and 2.70, respectively. The presence of hypertension significantly increased the probability of diabetes along a wide range of low serum magnesium. A low intake of MRDP [magnesium related dietary pattern] was also positively associated with diabetes and high HbA1c.”
Other Studies Linking Magnesium Status to Diabetes Risk
An earlier meta-analysis,26 published in 2007, also found that magnesium intake was inversely associated with Type 2 diabetes incidence. This analysis included seven cohort studies looking at magnesium from either food or diet and supplements combined. According to the authors:
“All but one study found an inverse relation between magnesium intake and risk of Type 2 diabetes, and in four studies the association was statistically significant.
The overall relative risk for a 100 mg day increase in magnesium intake was 0.85. Results were similar for intake of dietary magnesium and total magnesium. There was no evidence of publication bias.”
Magnesium supplementation not only can lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes, but also has been shown to improve your condition if you already have full-blown diabetes. This was demonstrated in a 2018 study27 in the journal Nutrients.
Type 2 diabetics who took 250 milligrams (mg) of magnesium per day for three months saw a significant improvement in insulin levels and HbA1C (hemoglobin A1c, which is a marker of long-term glucose control) compared to controls.
As noted by the authors,28 “The results of this study matched previous studies that concluded that daily oral Mg supplementation substantially improved insulin sensitivity by 10% and reduced blood sugar by 37%.”
Are You Deficient in Magnesium?
The best way to ascertain your magnesium status is to do an RBC magnesium test, which measures the amount of magnesium in your red blood cells, along with tracking any signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency, such as:29,30
Seizures; muscle spasms, especially “charley horses” or spasms in your calf muscle that happen when you stretch your leg, and/or eye twitches
Numbness or tingling in your extremities
High blood pressure, heart arrhythmias and/or coronary spasms
Increased number of headaches and/or migraines
Low energy, fatigue and/or loss of appetite
The Trousseau sign31 — To check for this sign, a blood pressure cuff is inflated around your arm. The pressure should be greater than your systolic blood pressure and maintained for three minutes.
By occluding the brachial artery in your arm, spasms in your hand and forearm muscles are induced. If you are magnesium deficient, the lack of blood flow will cause your wrist and metacarpophalangeal joint to flex and your fingers to adduct (illustrated in the video below).
A more exhaustive list can be found in Dr. Carolyn Dean’s blog post, “Gauging Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms,”32 which will give you a checklist to go through every few weeks. This will also help you gauge how much magnesium you need to resolve your deficiency symptoms.
Get Tested Today
GrassrootsHealth, which is conducting consumer-sponsored research into vitamin D and omega-3, has now added magnesium to its nutrient research.
Their Vitamin D, Magnesium and Omega 3 PLUS Elements test kit is an excellent and cost-effective way to check the status of several vital nutrients, along with the essential minerals selenium, zinc and copper and the harmful heavy metals cadmium, lead and mercury.
Each kit contains instructions for how to collect your blood sample. You then mail in your sample and fill out a quick online health questionnaire through GrassrootsHealth.
Your participation in this research project will enable GrassrootsHealth researchers to provide accurate data about the magnesium status in the population, the level at which disease prevention is actually obtained, and guidance on dosing to achieve optimal levels.
All of this is crucial information that can go a long way toward improving public health. As explained by GrassrootsHealth, questions about magnesium that this particular project aims to provide answers for include:33
- What specific health outcomes are associated with this nutrient for me, for the total group?
- How can I figure out how much to take? What’s the dose-response relationship for all? For me?
- Does it matter if I’m also taking vitamin D? Omega-3?
- Does it matter what compound of this nutrient I take? What time of day? How often?
- What are the demonstrated health outcomes used to create this nutrient’s recommended range?
Your test results will be emailed to you in about 10 to 20 days after your samples are received. Your health data are used anonymously. Please note that 100% of the proceeds from the kits go to fund the research project. I do not charge anything extra as a distributor of these test kits.
Why Most People Need More Magnesium
One of the reasons why magnesium insufficiency or deficiency is so common, both among adults34 and teens,35 is in part due to the fact that most people don’t eat enough plant foods. Magnesium is actually part of the chlorophyll molecule responsible for the plant’s green color.
If you frequently eat processed foods, your risk of deficiency is magnified. That said, even if you eat plenty of greens you might still need to take a supplement, as most foods are grown in mineral-depleted soils and are thus much lower in magnesium than they have been historically.
Magnesium absorption is also dependent on having sufficient amounts of selenium, parathyroid hormone and vitamins B6 and D, and is hindered by excess ethanol, salt, coffee and phosphoric acid in soda.
Sweating, stress, lack of sleep, excessive menstruation, certain drugs (especially diuretics and proton-pump inhibitors) also deplete your body of magnesium.36 For these reasons, most people probably need to take supplemental magnesium. Taking a magnesium supplement is particularly advisable if you:37
Experience symptoms of insufficiency or deficiency38
Have high blood pressure
Engage in strenuous exercise on a regular basis — Research39 shows just six to 12 weeks of strenuous physical activity can result in magnesium deficiency, likely due to increased magnesium demand in your skeletal muscle
Are taking diuretics or medication for high blood pressure, especially thiazides, which have been shown to induce undetectable magnesium deficiency40 (while patients may have normal or even high serum magnesium, their bodies are actually depleted of magnesium)
Have had or are planning heart transplant or open heart surgery
Are at risk for or have had a heart attack, or if you experience ventricular arrhythmia
Have congestive heart failure
Are insulin resistant or diabetic (as this increases magnesium depletion)
Eat More Magnesium-Rich Foods
The recommended dietary allowance for magnesium is around 310 to 420 mg per day depending on your age and sex,41 but many experts believe you may need 600 to 900 mg per day.42
Personally, I believe many may benefit from amounts as high as 1 to 2 grams (1,000 to 2,000 mg) of elemental magnesium per day, as most of us have electromagnetic field exposures that simply cannot be mitigated, and the extra magnesium may help lower the damage from that exposure.
If your veggie consumption is low to begin with, consider including more magnesium-rich vegetables in your daily diet. Dark-green leafy vegetables lead the pack when it comes to magnesium content, and juicing your greens is an excellent way to boost your intake.
Other foods that are particularly rich in magnesium include natto, raw cacao nibs, unsweetened cocoa powder, avocados, pumpkin and sesame seeds, and herbs like chives and basil.43 One way to check your daily magnesium intake from foods is to use a free online nutritional tracker such as Cronometer.
Other Ways to Boost Your Magnesium Level
If your magnesium intake from food is found lacking, it would certainly be wise to supplement, either orally or topically. For oral supplementation, my personal preference is magnesium threonate, as it appears to be the most efficient at penetrating cell membranes, including your mitochondria and blood-brain barrier.
As a general rule, I recommend starting out on a dose of 200 mg of oral magnesium citrate per day, gradually increasing your dose until you develop slightly loose stools. To use this method, you need to use magnesium citrate, as it's known for having a laxative effect. Once you know your cutoff, you can switch to other forms if you like. Other effective ways to boost your magnesium level include:
• Taking Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) baths, as the magnesium will effectively absorb through your skin.
• Using a topical solution — I prepare a supersaturated solution of Epsom salt by dissolving 7 tablespoons of the salt into 6 ounces of water and heating it until all the salt has dissolved. I pour it into a dropper bottle and then apply it to my skin and rub fresh aloe leaves over it to dissolve it.
This is an easy and inexpensive way to increase your magnesium and will allow you to get higher dosages into your body without having to deal with its laxative effects.
Magnesium can be taken with or without food. If you’re also taking calcium, take them together. If you exercise regularly, consider taking your calcium and magnesium in a ratio of one part calcium to two parts magnesium with your pre-workout meal.
While the ideal ratio of magnesium to calcium is thought to be 1-to-1, most people get far more calcium than magnesium from their diet; hence, your need for supplemental magnesium may be two to three times greater than calcium.
1 Which of the following nutrients is crucial for the prevention of osteoporosis and cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke?
2 Which of the following has been linked to a significantly increased risk of ADHD and autism when consumed during pregnancy?
3 How many safety studies has the Federal Communications Commission performed to ascertain the health and environmental risks of 5G?
4 Which of the following have recently been found to be interconnected, exerting a powerful influence over each other?
5 Which of the following strategies will optimize fat loss, according to more recent science?
6 The Coca-Cola Company
7 Name one way by which Google can influence and manipulate U.S. elections without anyone noticing:
Medical experts and health leaders share insights on important issues affecting your health and well-being.
In this interview, Google whistleblower Zach Vorhies, who worked as a senior software engineer at Google and YouTube for over eight years, shares his inside knowledge of this global monopoly, revealing why Google is not a reliable source of information anymore.
Google's monopoly over search is matched by a continued reassurance that it is an unbiased search platform. Google is actively suppressing and censoring information, proving it is anything but unbiased.
While some of the information revealed is related to politics, you can read about my views about the two-party U.S. federal government here.
The point of sharing this information is that Google is manipulating search results to reflect its views, and to influence our social behavior while denying this is happening.
The Wall Street Journal just published a thorough investigation covering these same points.
Vorhies recently released about 950 pages of internal Google documents that paint a comprehensive picture of what's really going on. You can find all of those documents on the Project Veritas website.1
What Happened to 'Don't Be Evil'?
Like NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden before him, Vorhies is a courageous patriot who is trying to do the right thing by warning everyone about how Google is now manipulating and censoring the global storehouse of internet-based information.
"Everything started out with Google really great," Vorhies says. "They had this mission statement of organizing the world's information and making it universally accessible and useful. They also had this idea of 'Don't be evil.' It was built right into their initial public offering (IPO) statements.
I thought at the time, 'This is great. This is exactly the kind of company that the world needs. We need to organize all the world's information and make it universally accessible. We need to let the algorithms decide what goes to the top and let the users decide what's most useful for them and then make sure that other people are able to find that information.'
Google stayed true to those principles all the way up until 2016, until Donald Trump won the election. For some reason, they decided they were going to throw all these mission statements away and go after the president of the United States, censor the internet and distort the news so that people's searches could be redirected towards antipresidential sentiment.
This eventually morphed into not just censorship of the president, but censorship of information related to health … I realized [that] if this was allowed to continue, then this agenda of Big Pharma would be able to become … 'the truth' …
Once I found out that Google was censoring a lot of information, I started looking at the information it was censoring with a new degree of 'They wouldn't be censoring it unless it was true,' sort of thing.
It's a strange heuristic to use to figure out what's true in the world, but you've just got to figure out what they're censoring. You kind of understand that they're censoring it because it's not Big Tech-friendly. It's not friendly to the established players."
Some 'Fake News' Isn't so Fake After All
Shortly after Trump won the presidential election, you started hearing more and more about the scourge of "fake news." Google, like Facebook and others, decided they had to protect users from fake news. The problem is, who determines what's fake and what's not?
Using Google's internal search engine, Vorhies set out to determine what Google's definition of fake news was. He found several examples in a presentation. However, in it were actual, verifiably real news events. "I went, 'Wait a minute. Is this about fake news or is this about controlling the narrative for like political purposes?'" Vorhies says.
He began collecting these documents because he knew they were explosive enough that Google would remove them if word ever got out about them. In his continued search for real news presented as fake, he started unearthing other disturbing projects.
"The main project responsible for Google censorship is a thing called 'Machine Learning Fairness' (ML Fairness). As you imagine, they're not going to call their censorship regime something bad. They're going to call it something like 'fairness.'
So, if you're against that, you're against fairness. It's a euphemism. I discovered there was this umbrella project, 'ML Fairness,' and there were these subcomponents like 'Project Purple Rain,' which is a 24-hour response team that is monitoring the internet."
How Machine Learning Fairness Twists Perception of Reality
Just what is ML Fairness and how does it work? Vorhies explains:
"Let's say that this circle right here represents the entire spectrum of all possible artificial intelligence (AI) techniques. ML Fairness is a small part of that type of AI. It's a relatively new type of AI. What machine learning does is it simulates brain neurons and how they fire.
If you remember how a brain neuron fires, it takes in as input signals from other neurons and then mixes those signals together and decides whether it wants to fire or not, based on the signals that it receives.
Well, these artificial neurons do something similar. They have a collection of inputs, depending on the internal rule set. It will fire depending on the inputs it gets … And then that output is used as input for further downstream processing.
If you have this collection of millions of simulated neurons … you can start to create very complex behavior that's able to solve problems, like chess or the game Go … It can classify hate speech. That's the part that's interesting to me — how this thing could be used to classify information across the internet.
ML Fairness is a type of AI that takes information on the internet, classifies it and then ranks it. And then the Google engine will figure out whether the information is fair or not. And if it is 'fair,' it goes to the top. If it's not fair, then it gets pushed to the bottom. That's what ML Fairness is in a nutshell."
What this manipulation ultimately ends up doing is presenting a twisted and false view of the world. What you're seeing in your search results is what the AI algorithm decided is most fair — not what's actually happening in the real world.
This is how you now end up getting automated search suggestions such as "men can have periods" and "men can have babies," even though these are biological impossibilities. However, the algorithm deems the idea that only women can menstruate and bear children as "unfair" and basically "sexist," and thus it's pushing these ridiculous search suggestions to the top.
This obnoxious discrepancy is clear when using search terms like "men can …" The manipulation of reality will not be as transparent when using health or political search words, when you cannot be absolutely sure, ahead of time, about what the absolute truth is.
Did Google Conspire to Commit Treason?
Vorhies saw these changes starting to take place in early 2017. Next, Google announced it was going to start assigning an "authoritativeness score" to all news content. "I was able to see this ranking on internal documents," Vorhies says. High rankings were given to outlets like The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.
"These outlets, in my opinion, have been producing propaganda," Vorhies says. "They led to us into war with Iraq with the weapons of mass destruction hoax. They've lied to us [about] Vietnam. They have a history of supporting every war and military encouragement around the world that has [led to] the destruction of millions of lives."
In June 2017, chief executive officer of YouTube, Susan Wojcicki, announced that this was how they were going to filter news content across the YouTube platforms. As Vorhies expected, this led to a clamp down on anything that goes against the mainstream narrative.
"Around that time, I had the fortune of catching [another] seditious activity by Google. What I caught them doing was deleting words out of the translation dictionary from Arabic to English, in order to make a Trump tweet sound crazy.2,3"
President Trump had recently come back from a visit to Saudi Arabia when, on May 31, 2017, he tweeted: "Despite the negative constant press, covfefe." Originally, people were able to translate "covfefe" to "We will stand up." Taken together, you could see President Trump's tweet basically said, "Despite the negative constant press, we will stand up."
"People got really excited about that," Vorhies says. "Well, The New York Times decided that they were going to write an entire article saying, 'Actually, this word is nonsense. And everyone who thinks there's a decode is just wrong.'
The same day that this article came out, I believe it was June 1, 2017, a senior executive person at Google … of one of the AI divisions, wrote up a design document saying, 'We translated this world from Arabic to English. But according to The New York Times, that's not right. That's actually nonsense, so let's get rid of the word.' And so, they got rid of the word.
The team that was responsible for getting rid of this word called themselves the 'Derrida Team.' Why is that significant? Because there was a French philosopher by the name of Jacques Derrida, who advocated for the destruction of Western culture through the manipulation and censorship of language.
What a coincidence that this team responsible for censoring words would have the same name as this very significant philosopher who is considered the father of post-modernism.
About six days later, I saw the newspapers were making a push for invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president from office due to mental incapacitation. One of the reasons that they cited was how Trump was tweeting nonsense.
Now, wait a minute, that was made nonsense by this manipulation of the dictionary! I realized these people have gone too far. There's obviously a collusion here. I have to bring this to attention no matter what.
This isn't because I'm necessarily a Trump supporter — I didn't vote for him — this is simply because they can't be doing this to a sitting president of the United States. That just can't happen. It's treason.
If this is going to happen, then I've got to let the public [and] law enforcement know about it. Because if I don't, then I'm part of a conspiracy of silence … It was at that point that I decided I could no longer sit in silence. I took my cache of documents and I started to prepare for a disclosure event."
YouTube Censorship Has Had Lethal Consequences
In 2018, the real-world ramifications of censorship hit home when an Iranian YouTube creator who had recently been demonetized marched into YouTube headquarters and opened fire on employees and then shot herself.4
"Her name was Nasim [Najafi Aghdam]. She had a video that went viral in Iran … She was creating really bizarre videos that were just — I don't know — I watched them and I actually strangely loved them. I couldn't stop watching them. They were so weird.
She decided that she was going to quit her job and become a full-time content creator, like millions of others … YouTube was the platform to do that. Everyone was getting a lot of subscribers and were trying to generate money, get monetized on the platform …
They would get a cut of the ads that were running when people interact with the ads or view them … What YouTube did is they made a blanket ban. Anyone under 10,000 subscribers got censored. By censorship, I mean demonetized. They lost all of the funding that they could get for their videos. They can still post videos, they just [cannot] get any money [from Google Ads] for it.
And so, this person had just lost her job. She felt she was being oppressed by YouTube. She drove all the way from San Diego, came to the YouTube headquarters on 901 Cherry Avenue … came into the lunch area patio, took out a handgun and started firing …
She shot a couple of people. Ran out of ammo, reloaded and shot some more and then [shot] herself in the chest and [bled] to death … Obviously, this person was mentally deranged but, also, she was triggered by Google's censorship. Now I've got this very personal story about how censorship has affected my safety.
You would think that maybe YouTube would [rethink] its censorship, but no. They didn't … Every day I would come into work and I would think, 'You know, with this increase in censorship, is someone [else] going to come in with a gun?'"
Google Attempts to Destroy Vorhies by 'Lawfare'
Vorhies resigned from Google June 28, 2019, and was immediately put under investigation, as the company had logs showing the many documents he'd been searching for and reading through. Vorhies tells the story of what happened next:
"When I went to Project Veritas, I went under anonymity. We only released two pages of the 950 that they had [been given]. My hope was that Google would leave me alone … But they decided they weren't going to do that.
They decided they were going to attempt to financially destroy me by engaging in lawfare, which is warfare via the legal system. Within a few weeks of me disclosing ML Fairness to Project Veritas, they sent me threatening letters, demanding access to all my data outside of work …
I wrote them back a letter admitting I had retained files, telling them I had given them to law enforcement ... The NDA, the nondisclosure agreement I signed is nonenforceable in cases where the company is committing criminal activity. Sedition is criminal activity, which means that the NDA is null and void.
I can submit evidence of Google's criminal activity to the government and to the media when the company is engaging in unlawful activity. That's what I did. Also, I signed the NDA in good faith, believing that Google's word of organizing the world's information and making it universally accessible and useful and 'Don't be evil,' were truthful statements …
I met an attorney who was representing Kevin Cernekee, another Google engineer who attempted to blow the whistle in the most legitimate way possible, which was to notify the Federal Labor Relations Authority in California. Kevin gave these papers to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
Google responded by ambushing him with HR, seizing his laptop, seeing all the documents that he had downloaded, and then firing him and creating a legal theory that he had hacked into Google to get documents so that he could reconstruct Google's legal strategy and maybe even sell it.
They applied criminal charges against him. They made him defend himself in court for his collection of evidence that he had sent to the NLRB. He's [spent] $100,000 dollars of his own money defending himself [against] Google, so I knew what was in store for me.
[Cernekee's] lawyer was like, 'Yeah. This is the first step in a very painful process that's going to drive on for years. They're going to make it very expensive. Their goal is to destroy you.' Well, in that case, I'm not going to fight in the legal law. I'm going to fight in the court of public opinion.
I decided at that point to come out to Project Veritas and disclose who I was so that I could get eyes [on me], and I said, 'If Google's going to take me down, then I'm going to leverage that so that everyone else can see what they do and what they're really about. And then we can make Google's censorship program part of the national discussion.'
I disclosed everything. I released it to the public, all 950 pages … August 17, 2019 … [I've] tried to become a cultural force so that we can hold Google to account of what they're doing, because their censorship is wrong.
It's wrong for America. It's anti-American. Their election meddling is something that needs to be looked at, needs to be watched, because they've meddled with the elections in the past. They're meddling in the elections now.
They were able to deactivate Tulsi Gabbard's ad account directly following the Democratic debates. They've meddled in the Ireland elections. They've meddled in the Brazil elections.
We know this because there was a Supreme Court ruling that released the evidence showing they had a secret agreement with one of the politicians to generate dirt and boost it up on the current president of Brazil."
How Autofill Can Shift Political Opinion
Vorhies goes on to explain and describe how Google tools such as autofill search recommendations can be used to sway public opinion on political (and other topics), which can have significant political consequences.
Autofill is what happens when you start typing a search query into a search engine and algorithms kick in to offer suggestions to complete your search. We've been led to believe that whatever the autofill recommendations are is what most people are in fact searching for — Google has stated that the suggestions given are generated by a collection of user data — but that's not true, at least not anymore.
"This story about the autofill first got disclosed by Dr. Robert Epstein, who is a Harvard-trained psychologist and former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today," Vorhies explains.
"What he said was that Google had flipped a bunch of votes for Hillary using this autosuggest feature. I've investigated this claim. I've verified it to be true … It turns out that a lot of the popular searches were being suppressed.
For example, you typed in 'Clinton body count.' It's a popular search term. This brings up all the people who have died in the decades that were associated with Hillary Clinton.
Well, this search result has been deleted off the search suggestion. What's happened instead is that a bunch of negative search terms have been inserted that went against the current president of the United States, Donald Trump.
So, when you're typing in search queries for Trump, it's autocompleting and suggesting, 'Do you mean that he's a liar? That he's a crook?' … And then you do the same for Hillary Clinton and it has all these positive terms … They were doing this on the political stuff.
The most significant thing about this feature is the fact that you don't expect to have this part of your online experience to be hatched for political reasons. You think that this is legitimately what other people are searching for.
As a result, you don't have your filters on. Your brain puts on these filters when it starts to evaluate politically charged information. When you read a newspaper article, you may be thinking to yourself, 'This may be true, this may not.' You're skeptical.
But when you're typing into a search, you don't think that because you don't think that's rigged, so whatever bias is inherent in that search result slips through and goes directly into your subconscious. This is what Epstein was explaining."
The Search Engine Manipulation Effect
Epstein developed a "black box test" (a method of software testing) to measure just how influential a tool like autofill can be. Remarkably, his test demonstrated that "Google's 'autocomplete' search suggestions can turn a 50/50 split among undecided voters into a 90/10 split"5,6 — all without anyone being aware of the manipulation.
Similarly, when Epstein looked at the power of search engine manipulation to shift preferences and perceptions, he found that:7
"(1) biased search rankings can shift the voting preferences of undecided voters by 20% or more, (2) the shift can be much higher in some demographic groups, and (3) such rankings can be masked so that people show no awareness of the manipulation."
The good news is, there are ways to lower this manipulation effect, but to do so, people have to be aware that biased ranking is taking place. In his 2017 paper, "Suppressing the Search Engine Manipulation Effect," Epstein writes:8
"A recent series of experiments demonstrated that introducing ranking bias to election-related search engine results can have a strong and undetectable influence on the preferences of undecided voters.
This phenomenon, called the search engine manipulation effect (SEME), exerts influence largely through order effects that are enhanced in a digital context.
We present data from three new experiments involving 3,600 subjects in 39 countries in which we replicate SEME and test design interventions for suppressing the effect. In the replication, voting preferences shifted by 39.0%, a number almost identical to the shift found in a previously published experiment (37.1%).
Alerting users to the ranking bias reduced the shift to 22.1%, and more detailed alerts reduced it to 13.8%. Users' browsing behaviors were also significantly altered by the alerts, with more clicks and time going to lower-ranked search results.
Although bias alerts were effective in suppressing SEME, we found that SEME could be completely eliminated only by alternating search results — in effect, with an equal-time rule.
We propose a browser extension capable of deploying bias alerts in real-time and speculate that SEME might be impacting a wide range of decision-making, not just voting, in which case search engines might need to be strictly regulated."
As pointed out by Vorhies, "We've got to watch out for Google, because … they're going to try to rig the 2020 elections." Based on Epstein's results, Google certainly appears to have the power to do so. The only way to prevent it may be an information campaign that exposes this hidden agenda, thereby helping to suppress this search engine manipulation effect.
Do a Google Detox
How can you prevent getting sucked into the false-reality vortex that is Google? Vorhies offers a number of suggestions for how to minimize Google's influence over your life:
- Stop using Google search. Options include DuckDuckGo9 and Startpage10
- Stop using Gmail. ProtonMail,11 which provides end-to-end encryption and less spam, is an excellent option
- Switch from an android phone (powered by Google) to an iPhone. While not perfect, iPhone is slightly better of the two
There are alternatives for most if not all Google products, and by using these other companies, we can help them grow so that Google becomes less and less relevant.
"Use iPhone, use DuckDuckGo and use Protonmail. Those three things will get most of Google out of your life," Vorhies says. "I've been a lot happier because of that. I know [Google is] able to read everything that I write when I'm on Gmail or I'm using one of their services. I've had people who want to interview me on YouTube, and then their YouTube pages get destroyed."
Also, stop using Google docs (Digital Trends has published an article suggesting a number of alternatives12) and if you're a high school student, do not convert the Google accounts you created as a student into personal accounts.
Both the Chrome and Firefox browsers have also been compromised by Google, so consider switching if you're on either of those. Brave is my personal favorite, but the Opera browser is another alternative.13 Vorhies is also a fan of Brave.
"The guy who created this browser, Brave … added features to eliminate all the ads. Now my MacBook runs like new. I've got a 2012 MacBook. I thought I had to upgrade it in order to make it run fast.
[Using] Brave instead, my computer operates five times faster when it [has] a lot of browser tabs open. It's phenomenal. Not only do I get to Google detox, but I get a better experience by not using Google. It's a no-brainer. People should just use it. And all of the plug-ins I use, like LastPass, which contains all of my passwords, they all install."
Support Vorhies' 'Disclosure Tour'
In the interview, Vorhies recounts a long harrowing incident in which Google instructed local police to perform a mental wellness check on him, which escalated into a full-blown evacuation of the entire street due to a fake bomb threat, confabulated in an effort to get him out of his apartment. To get the full scoop on that story, please listen to the interview above.
He also discusses how Google's censorship of things like holistic health and clean energy developments is actually evidence that a better future is ahead. The drug and oil industries are starting to lose their grip as safer, less expensive and more effective alternatives are gaining ground. Censorship is a last-ditch effort to hold on to a crumbling paradigm.
As Vorhies mentioned earlier, his primary focus right now is to raise awareness about Google and to create a cultural force for change. You can help by sharing this article and video, and by following Vorhies on Twitter. His handle is PerpetualManiac (Twitter.com/PerpetualManiac).
"If you click the follow button, you'll be part of a collection of patriots who are looking to ensure the survival of the republic, to ensure sovereignty and to bring Google to account for the censorship they're doing. People are helping me raise awareness by retweeting the things I'm saying. Because honestly, I'm fighting giants," Vorhies says.
"If [Google is] going to take me down, then I'm just going to go down fighting. I'm going to leverage everything they do to further the great awakening that's happening right now in the United States and across the world.
I'm doing that because, ultimately, I'm in service to a higher power … I believe this magnificent creative force in the universe wants people to be free. It's up to us to ensure that the freedoms we enjoy are handed down to our children … our grandchildren and our collective future."
Your poop says a lot about your overall health. In fact, it’s a direct reflection of your gut, which contains a complex microbial ecosystem. It exerts such a strong influence over your body it is frequently referred to as the “second brain.”
There is a strong connection between your gut health and mental health, affecting your subconscious thought and immune system. Health conditions associated with your gut microbiome include obesity, chronic fatigue syndrome and allergies; your gut health also influences your risk of cancer and Parkinson’s. Optimizing your gut microbiome may be one of the more important strategies you could undertake to prevent disease.
The diversity of your gut microbiome also plays a role in your heart health. The authors of one study found that those who suffered a heart attack had a larger number of metabolites produced by certain gut microbes. This high level was not found in those who did not have a heart attack or have atherosclerosis.
Scientists have found that eating more plants and fiber affects the formation of your stool and reduces the number of bacteria producing metabolites linked with hypertension and heart disease.
Researchers See a Goldmine Being Flushed Down Your Toilet
The size and shape of your poop is one indication of the health of your gut. If you’ve been in the habit of flushing before looking, you may be making a mistake. One group is also asking you to take a quick pic of your poop before pressing the toilet lever and flushing it away.1
Researchers from MIT are building a database of images to train artificial intelligence (AI) they hope will ultimately play a role in patient care and research. An MIT startup, Auggi, and a microbiome company, Seed, have teamed up for the project to develop a program able to analyze human poop.
The team hopes 100,000 people will turn and shoot before flushing, sending the image to be included in the database. The team first tested the software using blue Play-Doh poop and a 3-D printed toilet to mimic real life.2 The researchers decided to use blue since they didn’t “want to scare people in the lab.”
The initial training with 36,000 pictures of fake poop resulted in 100% recognition by the software. However, this may have been since the researchers could perfectly mold the Play-Doh. For real data they next turned to images people were posting pictures of their poop on Reddit.
The team is now asking 100,000 people to submit pictures of their poop to improve the accuracy of the AI program and create the first image database of human poop. You can participate by using your mobile phone to go to seed.com/poop where you’ll enter your name and email address and the time of your regular poop schedule. If you’re ready, you can shoot a picture then and there to send.
If you need a bit of time, you can ask the site to send an email reminder. The company says that once you’ve collected the image and sent it, they will strip the identifying metadata, including your email address and other digital information that may potentially be used to identify you, before the picture is added to the database.
Auggi Will Use AI to Match Stool With Bristol Stool Chart
The group has engaged the help of seven gastroenterologists who will evaluate the images as they are collected, making notes for the software program.3 The goal is for the AI to identify which of the seven categories your poop falls into on the Bristol Stool Chart.
In 1997, Dr. Ken Heaton from the University of Bristol4 developed the chart as a means for patients to report the consistency and formation of their stool. This helps medical professionals recognize whether their patients are short on fiber, severely constipated or dealing with diarrhea. The lucky 66 volunteers who helped Heaton changed their diets swallowed marker pellets and recorded the weight, shape and frequency of their poop.
The Bristol chart is a widely used tool that involves a seven-point scale. It ranges from Type 1 indicating constipation to Type 7 indicating diarrhea with a variety of consistencies, shapes and forms in between. Types 3 and 4 are considered normal and ideal. Types 6 and 7 indicate diarrhea and inflammation.
It is normal for your stool consistency and shape to fluctuate from day to day, particularly when you change your diet. However, most of the time you should aim for Types 3 and 4 that some describe as a torpedo, sausage or snake.
What’s in It and How Often Should I Go?
The consistency and shape are largely determined by fiber and water. When food travels rapidly through the intestinal tract your body absorbs a limited amount of water from the waste product, leading to a loose or liquid stool. A slower transit time allows the body to absorb more water, leading to harder stool.
The average time it takes between eating and defecating varies from person to person and depends upon your age, sex and the type of food eaten. Loose stools or diarrhea may be a sign of infection, causing the body to move food and fluids rapidly through the digestive tract. The most common type of acute diarrhea is attributed to bacterial infections.
Chronic diarrhea may result from irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, drugs, endocrine diseases or malabsorptive diseases such as celiac disease or reactions to fructose or gluten. When you experience poor nutrition, lack of exercise, dehydration or a low fiber diet it may lead to constipation.
Normal frequency varies from three bowel movements per day to three per week. For more information about signs of a healthy stool, see my past article, “What Should Your Poop Look Like?”
AI Tracking May Help Researchers and Patients
The team hopes their software will help people take control of their own gut health and better understand the relationship between lifestyle choices and the symptoms they experience. David Hachuel, a co-founder of the startup Auggi, is building the AI platform. He commented on the patients who experience bowel irregularities and the impetus behind the software development:5
“They struggle every day making decisions on what to eat, how much exercise to do to keep their symptoms at bay. And so it’s really critical to build this database and to develop these simple monitoring tools to allow those patients to essentially do that at home.”
The team's goal is to train the platform to categorize photos using the Bristol Stool Chart to make inferences about overall health. They hope to roll out the application publicly in the first quarter of 2020 to help those who keep a log of their stool, helping them and their physicians guide treatment.
Dr. Jack Gilbert from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine is co-founder of the American Gut Project and also solicits stool samples from research participants. He commented to CNN6 that the application may help reduce research bias and variation since nearly every clinical trial he conducts requires the participants to rate their stool on the Bristol chart.
Gilbert said, “Human beings are just not very good at recording things.” The automation of this process would potentially help patients improve their treatment protocols and researchers gather more accurate data.
Tips to Optimize Gut Health and Stool Form
With the information and knowledge currently available, it's no longer necessary to guess the types of changes needed to improve your health and the condition of your stool. StoolAnalyzer.com can help make suggestions to help you achieve the “perfect stool.” The Bristol Stool Chart is also a useful tool to rank the health of your stool.
Shape, color, diameter and texture are all factors you can use to gauge whether your stool is healthy or unhealthy. If your stool is not ideal, it's important to pay attention to your diet and water intake. Whether the stool is too hard or too loose, it's important to increase fiber intake. Good options include organic psyllium and freshly ground organic flaxseed. Shoot for 25 to 50 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories you eat each day.
You can boost the health of your intestinal microbiome by adding naturally fermented foods. If you suspect you're not getting enough beneficial bacteria from your diet it may also be important to add a probiotic supplement. Your bowel health may be optimized by removing gluten, the most common sources of which are wheat, barley, rye, spelt and other grains. Avoid sugar, artificial sweeteners and processed foods.
You will make a significant impact on the movement of stool through your intestinal tract by exercising at least 30 minutes each day and moving as much as possible throughout the day. Another strategy to try is changing the position you use while pooping. Sitting on a typical toilet does not allow the muscles involved in bowel control to fully relax.
In order to fully evacuate you must push or even strain. However, while squatting, these muscles relax easily, making elimination easier. The combination of squatting and lifestyle changes can make a significant difference. However, if you continue to experience problems, schedule a visit with your holistic health care provider to rule out any medical issues.
What do the soft drink brands Sprite, Fanta and Dasani all have in common? They are all owned by The Coca-Cola Co., the soft drink monolith that makes 500 different brands amounting to nearly 4,000 drink choices.1
Coca-Cola’s top brands, including Coke and Diet Coke, generate more than $1 billion a year in sales. But as those of us who are environmentally conscious know, they also generate much of the world's plastic pollution.
A riveting 2019 documentary by the German public broadcaster DW, “Plastic Tide: Choking on Coke,” exposes how Coca-Cola deceives customers and environmentalists about its plastic pollution.2
Last year, James Quincey, president and CEO of The Coca-Cola Co., announced a "World Without Waste" campaign to "collect and recycle the equivalent of every bottle or can it sells globally by 2030."3
While the PR spin sounds believable, the DW documentary depicts Coca-Cola's glib nonchalance about actually reaching its stated antipollution goals, the origins of its profit-oriented plastic bottle push and how its plastic pollution is a blight on poorer countries in particular.
Coca-Cola's Cagey Switch to Plastic Bottles
Younger people may not remember but as late as the early 1980s, in some locations in the U.S., Coke was not sold in the plastic, single-use polluting bottle we see today. It was sold in glass bottles for which the customer paid a deposit and which the customer had to return.
I can personally remember seeing people washing out their used glass Coke bottles and returning them, usually in a six-bottle cardboard holder, to the store where they were bought for a new "six pack." When you think about it, the deposit/return Coke bottles were the essence of recycling. But not for long.
By 1975, Coca-Cola was already running TV ads extolling the virtues of the single-use plastic Coke bottle which was "so light" compared with the old, soon-to-be-outdated glass bottle and presumably more pleasing to the consumer. Soon "no deposit/no return" Coke soft drinks were the norm with no thought or plan of how to deal with their mass disposal.
Plastic Bottles Made Coca-Cola More Money
Why did Coca-Cola switch to plastic? The answer should surprise no one. Returnable bottles forced Coca-Cola to "internalize their pollution costs" says Bart J. Elmore, author of Citizen Coke, who is interviewed in the documentary. Plastic bottles allowed, and continue to allow, outsourcing of the problem and the costs to consumers and taxpayers. The public pays for the plastic pollution.
Arsen Darnay, a former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency employee who was the first engineer in the world to investigate the ecological impact of Coca-Cola bottles, was also interviewed in “Plastic Tide: Choking on Coke.”
Darnay was one of two principal researchers working for Midwest Research Institute, a group hired by Coca-Cola in the spring of 19704 to look at how glass bottles affected the environment, compared to metal and plastic containers.
Recounting how he discovered that “returnable glass pollutes significantly less” than plastic, Darnay said, “We put this together for them, and they didn’t publish it … They were not interested in having the public see the total picture.” Then, he said, he “watched them slowly introduce the plastic bottles.”
Shifting the Blame for Plastic Pollution Onto Consumers
From launching the more profitable single-use plastic bottles to its call for more consumer involvement with pollution, Coca-Cola has continually and successfully shifted the problem of its plastic pollution onto consumers, says Elmore.
Back in the 1970s, when its switch to plastic bottles began, Coke partnered with Keep America Beautiful, to position itself on the side of environmentalism and subtly imply that litter, and especially plastic litter, was somehow the consumer's fault and problem, Elmore adds. Few realize Coca-Cola was behind the Keep America Beautiful campaign.
“Plastic Tide: Choking on Coke” shows an old Keep America Beautiful TV ad that shamelessly uses a Native American man, belonging to a demographic associated with environmental purity, to plead for the public not to pollute.
Nowhere in the ad is there mention of the industrial producers like Coca-Cola that contribute to such pollution. It is all the consumers' fault, the PR campaign and continual campaigns imply.
PR Document Exposes Coca-Cola Lobbying Hypocrisy
From a PR standpoint, Coca-Cola wants to appear conscientious and environmentally responsible. For example, this is what CEO James Quincey wrote in his 2018 op-ed titled "Why a World Without Waste Is Possible:"5
“Consumers around the world care about our planet. They want and expect companies like ours to be leaders and help make a litter-free world possible... Through our ‘World Without Waste’ vision, we are investing in our planet and in in our packaging to help make the world’s packaging problem a thing of the past.”
Yet, the reporters contributing to “Plastic Tide” unearthed some embarrassing documents that show a very different side to Coca-Cola. The documents, from Coke's lobbyist in Brussels, recommend the company strongly fight recycling legislation as well as restrictions on advertising to children and caffeine in their drinks.
When confronted with the lobbyist recommendations in the documentary, Michael Goltzman, Coca-Cola's vice president for social impact and global policy, disavows the stated goals and says they are no longer Coke's "strategy."
Though the report is only 2 years old when Goltzman dismisses it, he could not name when the strategy was changed or point to any updated documents when the interviewer asked. He admits Coca-Cola is still using the same lobbyist.
Tanzania Is a Casualty of Coca-Cola's Plastic Pollution
The African country of Tanzania is supposed to be one of the most beautiful and pristine locations in the world. But “Plastic Tide” shows how plastic pollution has impacted and seemingly altered forever the country's economy and natural beauty. As in the U.S., Coca-Cola replaced glass bottles with single-use plastic in Tanzania.
The documentary includes an interview with a foreman at a Coca-Cola bottling warehouse who directs the distribution of what looks like millions of single-use plastic bottles to be sold. He assures the “Plastic Tide” interviewers that the bottles are what consumers want and present no problems. “It's all good,” he says.
Then viewers see a 50-year-old woman scavenging for plastic along plastic-strewn areas in Tanzania, adding each discarded piece to a huge bag she is carrying to contain them. We are told she does this every day to feed her family and earns about 2 Euros a day for her effort.
There is little money in collecting plastic anymore, she tells the interviewer; the market for plastic has really fallen off. The impoverished woman living on pennies from plastic waste is no doubt referring to the world wide implications of China refusing, in 2017, to accept any more of the world's plastic waste.6 Having no place to sell plastic waste for recycling has affected poor and rich countries alike.
No Recycling System in Place, Admits Coca-Cola Official
When a documentary representative shows him photos from plastic-polluted Tanzania, Goltzman again has no clear answers. "I don't like looking at those clips," he admits, but adds that he is not aware of any systems for addressing Coke's plastic pollution in Tanzania. He’s not even aware of why such a system is not in place. He sounds baffled. “We don’t see a world without plastic,” he admits at the same time he tries to assure that Coke has a plan in place, but not yet implemented.
Nor was Goltzman able to answer why a commitment in a Coca-Cola document in 2008 to have all Coke bottled beverages contain 25% recycled plastic by 2015 was not met.
Further chipping away at the credibility of the soft drink giant, Helene Bourges of Greenpeace says in “Plastic Tide: Choking on Coke” that despite the company's claim that 12% of their product is made from recycled plastic, only 7% actually is. Clearly, Coca-Cola, which sells 120 billion plastic bottles a year, according to the documentary, is playing fast and loose with the truth.
Plastic Is a Threat to Life Everywhere
Plastic pollution is pervasive, infiltrating water and food supplies and adversely affecting the environment, on which humanity depends for food, water and natural resources, and the solution to this problem cannot be placed solely on consumers “doing the right thing” with the plastic products they buy. Clearly, companies like Coca-Cola need to face the facts as well — and at bare minimum live up to its own promises.
Plastic can take up to 1,000 years to break down. Researchers estimate a single plastic coffee pod may take up to 500 years, the duration of the Roman Empire.7 While the impact of plastic tends to be focused on manufacturing and/or disposal, a report by the Center for International Environmental Law, in partnership with six other environmental organizations, finds:8
“… that each of those stages interacts with others, and all of them interact with the human environment and the human body in multiple, often intersecting, ways.”
The report associates plastics with numerous forms of cancer, neurological, reproductive and developmental toxicities, as well as diabetes, organ malfunctions and a significant impact on eyes and skin. Although it appears plastic is cheap and convenient, Graham Forbes, global plastics project leader for Greenpeace, points out that the true cost is reflected in how:9
“Plastics are harming or killing animals around the globe, contributing to climate change and keeping us dependent on fossil fuels, entering our air, water, and food supplies, and seriously jeopardizing human health throughout their lifecycle.”
Recycling Is Vastly Underutilized
Only 8% of plastic is ever recycled,10 and even then, some of the items tossed in the recycling bin may never make it to the recycling center. Some end up contaminating entire loads of recyclables that would otherwise have gone on to other uses.
While it’s best to verify guidelines for your local facility, anything smaller than a Post-it note cannot be sorted properly, so unless you screw on bottle tops it's better to throw them away. Bubble padded envelopes, wax paper and diapers are not recyclable.
Paper cups with shiny coatings or paper food bowls with plastic lining will not be accepted. For ways to become a recycling expert, see my previous article, “Top 11 Tips to Become an Expert at Recycling.”
What Can You Do to Reduce Your Use
Still, while improved recycling is part of the answer, it’s unlikely to be enough. The use of plastic needs to be reduced at the front end as well. Companies like Coca-Cola would do well to return to glass bottles, for example, rather than insisting on plastic bottles.
Even if all glass is not recycled, it’s an inert substance that is not going to poison the earth for centuries to come. Aside from urging Coke and other beverage makers to use glass bottles, and avoiding beverages sold in plastic, you can also have a positive impact on plastic pollution by:
Using reusable shopping bags for groceries and reusable produce bags for fresh produce
Taking your own leftovers container to restaurants
Bringing your own mug for coffee, and bringing drinking water from home in glass water bottles instead of buying bottled water
Requesting no plastic wrap on your newspaper and dry cleaning
Avoiding disposable utensils and straws
Opting for nondisposable razors, washable feminine hygiene products for women, cloth diapers, handkerchiefs instead of paper tissues, rags in lieu of paper towels and infant toys made of wood rather than plastic
Avoiding processed foods (which are stored in plastic bags with chemicals). Buy fresh produce instead, and forgo the plastic bags
What you eat affects your mood and, beyond that, is powerful enough to influence symptoms of depression for better or for worse. Globally, healthy diets have shifted to diets that favor processed foods and refined sugars, and the burden of depression has also risen worldwide, with 300 million people affected.1
Depression among adolescents is also on the rise, increasing by 30% in the last 10 years,2 but research suggests that changing eating habits, even for a short period of time, can lead to lasting improvements in symptoms among young adults, making dietary changes a key factor in relieving depression.3
Healthy Diet Reduces Symptoms of Depression
Researchers from Macquarie University, Australia, studied 76 students between the ages of 17 and 35 who followed a poor diet and had moderate to high levels of depression symptoms.4
One group of the participants was asked to improve their diets by cutting back on refined carbohydrates, sugar, processed meats and soft drinks, while eating more vegetables, fruits, dairy products, nuts seeds, healthy fats and anti-inflammatory spices such as turmeric and cinnamon.5
After only three weeks of healthier eating, those in the healthy diet group had significant improvements in mood and their depression scores even went into the normal range. Anxiety scores also reduced significantly, while the control group, which didn’t change their diet, experienced no changes in depressive symptoms or anxiety.
Among the 21% of participants who continued to eat a healthy diet for three additional months, improvements in mood were maintained.6 The study’s lead author, Heather Francis, said in a news release:7
"Modifying diet to reduce processed food intake and increase consumption of fruit, vegetables, fish and olive oil improved depression symptoms in young adults. These findings add to a growing literature showing a modest change to diet is a useful adjunct therapy to reduce symptoms of depression."
Past research, including a systematic review of studies involving youth aged 4.5 to 18 years, linked unhealthy diet with poorer mental health, while healthy diet led to better mental health.8
Likewise, the researchers noted, “Several systematic reviews and meta-analyses show a relationship between diet quality and depression. A meta-analysis showed that healthy diet regardless of pattern (e.g. Mediterranean, vegetarian, Tuscan) was linearly associated with reduced incidence of depression.”9
The featured study is particularly noteworthy because it shows improvements in mental health can be achieved just weeks after making healthier dietary choices, and those improvements continue as long as the healthy eating is maintained.
Processed Foods Linked to Depression in Teenagers
Accumulating evidence is highlighting the strong link between what you eat and how you feel, both mentally and physically. Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham analyzed the excretion of sodium and potassium in the urine in 84 urban, low‐income adolescents, a group that may be at an increased risk of both unhealthy diet and depression.
Higher levels of sodium in the urine can be an indication of a diet high in sodium, such as processed foods and salty snacks. A low level of potassium, meanwhile, is indicative of a diet lacking in fruits, vegetables and other healthy potassium-rich foods, providing objective measures of dietary intake.
Higher sodium and lower potassium excretion rates, indicative of a fast food or processed food diet, were associated with more frequent symptoms of depression at follow up 1.5 years later.
“This study was the first to demonstrate relationships between objective indicators of unhealthy diet and subsequent changes in depressive symptoms in youth,” the study noted, with researchers adding, “Given the substantial brain development that occurs during adolescence, individuals in this developmental period may be particularly vulnerable to the effects of diet on the neural mechanisms underlying emotion regulation and depression.”10
Why Does Food Affect Your Mood?
The relationship between your diet and mental health is complex and tied to multiple biological mechanisms. Sugar, in particular, is a known detriment to mental health and has been linked to depression specifically.11 It’s a known inflammatory food, and depression is increasingly recognized as a problem rooted in chronic inflammation.
Cytokines and inflammatory messengers such as CRP, IL-1, IL-6 and TNF-alpha are predictive of12 and correlate to depression,13 and consuming sugar may increase circulating inflammatory markers, which could lead to depressed mood.14 Aside from sugar, many processed foods are inflammatory, and an inflammatory diet, overall, is associated with recurrence of depressive symptoms in women.15
Further, for the featured study, the researchers also measured biological markers of inflammation, although the data have not yet been analyzed to reveal its outcome.16 If you suffer from depression, it may be well worth your effort to take steps to reduce the level of inflammation in your body, starting by following an anti-inflammatory diet.
There are other links as well. Poor diet could influence depression by disturbing the gut microbiome, which could further influence brain function,17 for instance. It can also lead to obesity, which further affects inflammation and also presents psychosocial factors linked to depression.18 Poor diet, particularly one high in sugar, could also contribute to depression by:19
- Decreasing levels of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), leading to hippocampal atrophy in depression
- Causing an exaggerated insulin response, influencing hormone levels and mood
- Triggering addiction-like effects, which could influence dopamine and mood
Omega-3 Fats for Depression
If you’re feeling depressed, be sure to increase y our intake of the animal-based omega-3 fats EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which are important for brain health and mental health.
The 2001 book, "The Omega-3 Connection," written by Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Andrew Stoll, was among the first works to bring attention to, and support the use of, omega-3 fats for depression, and they’ve been shown to lead to improvements in major depressive disorder.20
Small cold-water fish that are rich in animal-based omega-3 fats, but have a low risk of contamination, are among your best choices for a dietary source of omega-3s. This includes anchovies, sardines, mackerel, herring and wild-caught Alaskan salmon.
The omega-3s they contain are vital to your brain, helping to fight inflammation and depression alike. Supplementing with high-quality krill oil is also recommended, especially if omega-3-rich foods are not consumed on a regular basis.
In a set of five practical dietary recommendations for the prevention of depression, based on the best available current evidence, researchers writing in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience also highlighted “a high consumption of foods rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids” as one of the key strategies.21
Whether you eat fatty fish or take a daily krill oil supplement, you'll want to track your omega-3 level. The best way to know whether you’re consuming adequate quantities of omega-3 is via a blood test. For optimal health, you'll want an omega-3 index of 8% or higher.
What Are the Best Antidepressant Foods?
Certain foods are nutrient-dense sources of nutrients known to help prevent depression as well as help recover from it. Twelve such antidepressant nutrients include:22
Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA)
When researchers looked for the foods that would provide the most concentrated sources of these antidepressant nutrients, they came up with the following seven highest-scoring foods:
Oysters and mussels, but avoid those from contaminated waters
Seafood, particularly wild-caught Alaskan salmon, herring, sardines and anchovies
Organ meats, but only those from grass fed animals (not CAFO animals)
Focusing on real food and incorporating some of these superfoods for mental health into your daily diet is one strategy that may help fight depression in all ages. As the researchers noted, many people are lacking the nutrients found in these healthy foods:23
“Interestingly, many foods with a high AFS [Antidepressant Food Score] are not commonly eaten as part of the Western dietary pattern … The evidence linking dietary patterns and depressive disorders supports the consumption of a whole-foods based traditional diet as opposed to a Western dietary pattern to prevent and promote recovery from depression.”
Limiting Processed Foods for Mental Health
By following traditional dietary patterns — those that avoid or limit processed foods in favor of wholesome, nutritious foods — you can better your mental health, whether you’re an adolescent or an adult.
In still more research supporting this link, 32% of participants with depression who followed a diet rich in nuts, seeds, eggs, fruits and vegetables, fatty fish, olive oil and grass fed beef were no longer depressed at the end of three months. In contrast, only 8% of those who did not change their diets had such an improvement.24,25
While teens and young adults aren’t always known for their healthy food choices, this is a crucial period in which lifelong healthy eating patterns are established. In addition to modeling a healthy diet for youth, letting teenagers know they’re being manipulated by food marketers is a simple trick for getting teens to eat better.26
Students who read an exposé that revealed the manipulative practices used by marketing companies chose to eat less junk food and drank more water instead of soda, likely because it tapped into teens’ natural desire to rebel against authority. The healthier your diet becomes, the healthier your mental health is likely to be.
However, if you’re in the midst of a crisis and are finding it difficult to make healthy lifestyle changes, consult with a holistic health care provider who can help you along this healing journey.
Sleep plays an integral role in your immune function, and one of the surprising mechanisms behind this link has to do with how sleep impacts your gut microbiome. Two recent studies shed light on this connection between sleep and your gut health.
The first, published in the December 2018 issue of Frontiers in Psychiatry,1 focused on the microbiome's role in insomnia and depression. As noted by the authors:
"Numerous studies have suggested that the incidence of insomnia and depressive disorder are linked to biological rhythms, immune function, and nutrient metabolism, but the exact mechanism is not yet clear.
There is considerable evidence showing that the gut microbiome not only affects the digestive, metabolic, and immune functions of the host but also regulates host sleep and mental states through the microbiome-gut-brain axis.
Preliminary evidence indicates that microorganisms and circadian genes can interact with each other. The characteristics of the gastrointestinal microbiome and metabolism are related to the host's sleep and circadian rhythm."
Your Gut Microbiome's Role in Insomnia and Depression
Previous studies have shown your gut microbiome can play a significant role in depression and anxiety, and that your diet — which can effectively alter the bacterial composition of your gut — can raise or lower your risk of these mood disorders.
As noted in the Frontiers in Psychiatry study,2 mounting research suggests your gut microbiome helps regulate not only your mood but also your sleep cycle through what's known as the gut-brain axis — a bidirectional communication "highway" that links your central and enteric nervous systems.3
According to the authors of this paper, your gut microbiota affect brain function through three different pathways, all of which have this bidirectional flow:4
1. The immunoregulatory pathway — Here, gut bacteria influence brain function via interaction with immune cells that regulate your levels of cytokines, cytokinetic reaction factor and prostaglandin E2.
2. The neuroendocrine pathway — With more than 20 types of enteroendocrine cells, your intestine is the largest endocrine organ in your body. As explained by the authors,5 "The gut microbiome may affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the central nervous system (CNS) by regulating the secretion of neurotransmitters such as cortisol, tryptophan and serotonin (5-HT)."
3. The vagus nerve pathway — Your enteric nervous system also plays an important role in the vagus nerve pathway. Here, gut microbiota can exert influence via sensory neurons in your intestinal myenteric plexus.
These intestinal neurons have synaptic connections to motor neurons in the intestine that help regulate hormone secretion in the gut and intestinal motility. Synaptic connections also exist between the intestinal nervous system and the vagus nerve, which connects your brain and intestine.
The authors note that neurotoxic metabolites produced by various gut microbiota can also enter into your CNS via your vagus nerve, "thereby affecting brain function, stress responses and sleep structure."
As mentioned, the information flow through these three pathways is bidirectional, so your CNS can also regulate the composition of your gut microbiome through these pathways.
As one example, through its ability to alter the function of epithelial cells in your intestine, the HPA axis can affect the bacteria's living environment, and in so doing, influence the composition of your gut microbiome.6
Circadian Genes Affect Your Gut Microbiome
In 2017, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine went to three biologists for their discovery of master genes that control your body's circadian rhythms. Your body contains not just one biological clock, but a vast array of clocks that regulate everything from metabolism to psychological functioning.
While the master clock in your brain synchronizes your bodily functions to match the 24-hour light and dark cycle, each and every organ, indeed each cell, has its own biological clock.
Half of your genes are also under circadian control, turning on and off in cyclical waves. As you might expect, the microbiota in your gut are also under circadian control, which means disruptions in sleep can affect the composition and health of your microbiome as well. As reported in Frontiers in Psychiatry:7
"Evidence suggests that Clostridiales, Lactobacillales, and Bacteroidales, which account for ~60% of the microbiota, show significant diurnal fluctuations that result in time-of-day-specific taxonomic configurations.
Liang et al. found that the two primary components of the mammalian intestinal microbiota, Bacteroidetes, and Firmicutes, showed cyclical changes in abundance from day to night that are related not only to rhythmic food intake and dietary structure but also to the biological clock and gender of the host.
Recent studies showed that circadian clock misalignment, sleep deprivation, and shift experience changes circadian clock gene expression and microbial community structure.
Interfering with the sleep patterns of mice can also change the structure and diversity of the intestinal microbiota. These findings suggest that circadian genes might affect the intestinal microbiota."
So, to summarize the findings of this Frontiers in Psychiatry, there's a bidirectional connection between your gut microbiome, your sleep and your risk of depression, and endocrine hormones and clock genes play important roles in these processes.
Microbiome Diversity Linked to Sleep Quality
The second study8,9 addressing the curious link between your gut health and sleep was published in PLOS ONE in 2019. Here, the researchers investigated how the microbes in your gut affect the actual quality of your sleep — which we already know can have far-reaching effects on your general health.
Poor sleep and/or lack of sleep has been linked to a wide variety of ailments and health conditions, ranging from poor cognitive performance and neurological dysfunction to an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes,10 heart disease,11 cancer12 and Alzheimer's disease.13
On the other hand, high-quality sleep is associated with improved health, cognition and increased creativity, as discussed in "Using Sleep as a Tool for Creativity."
Using advanced sleep measuring devices, the researchers were able to measure the quality of participants' sleep, which was then compared to the composition of their gut microbiome to see if a correlation could be made. As reported by the authors:14
"We found that total microbiome diversity was positively correlated with increased sleep efficiency and total sleep time, and was negatively correlated with wake after sleep onset. We found positive correlations between total microbiome diversity and interleukin-6, a cytokine previously noted for its effects on sleep.
Analysis of microbiome composition revealed that within phyla richness of Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes were positively correlated with sleep efficiency, interleukin-6 concentrations and abstract thinking.
Finally, we found that several taxa (Lachnospiraceae, Corynebacterium, and Blautia) were negatively correlated with sleep measures. Our findings initiate linkages between gut microbiome composition, sleep physiology, the immune system and cognition. They may lead to mechanisms to improve sleep through the manipulation of the gut microbiome."
The Role of Cytokines
As mentioned at the beginning, sleep is known to influence your immune function, and cytokines, produced in response to an antigen, are multifunctional chemical messengers that help regulate your innate and adaptive immune systems.15
Interestingly, cytokines also appear to act as a "critical interface between sleep physiology and gut microbiome composition," according to this study. As explained by the authors:16
"The acute phase pathway cytokines IL-1β and IL-6 in particular are strongly associated with sleep physiology. IL-1β is a major somnogenic factor. IL-1β administration in human and non-human animals increases spontaneous sleep and fatigue, and IL-1β increases with ongoing sleep loss.
Unlike IL-1β, IL-6 is not a direct somnogenic factor, but sleep loss results in increased IL-6 levels. In the gut, IL-6 and IL-1β mediated-inflammation fluctuate in response to stress and disease.
For example, intestinal mucositis results in increased expression of IL-6 and-IL-1β in the small intestine and in serum and colon tissue in mice. In humans, chronic stress alone increases IL-6 and-IL-1β.
Despite the close relationship between cytokine activity, gut microbiome activity and sleep, only a handful of studies have examined sleep and gut-microbiome composition ... In humans, previous research has shown that partial sleep deprivation can alter the gut microbiome composition in as little as 48 hours …
A more recent study showed that high sleep quality was associated with a gut microbiome containing a high proportion of bacteria from the Verrucomicrobia and Lentisphaerae phyla, and that this was associated with improved performance on cognitive tasks."
So, in summary, what this PLOS ONE study reveals is that the composition of your gut microbiome, the quality and quantity of your sleep, your immune function and cognition are all connected.
Lack of Sleep Makes Chronic Health Problems Extra Risky
The finding that poor sleep and lack of sleep can deteriorate your gut health helps explain why sleeping too little when you're struggling with a chronic health issue could be a downright deadly prescription. As reported by CNN Health:17
"If you're a middle-aged adult with high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes or existing heart disease and you typically sleep less than six hours each night, you could be setting yourself up for cancer or an early death from heart disease."
The study18,19,20 CNN is referring to was published in the October 2019 issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA). In it, researchers sought to determine whether short sleep duration would increase the risk of death associated with cardiometabolic risk factors and cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases.
Data from 1,654 adults from the Penn State Adult Cohort were evaluated. Using Cox proportional hazard models, the adjusted hazard ratio for all-cause mortality among those who slept less than six hours and had cardiometabolic risk factors (high blood pressure, elevated glucose or Type 2 diabetes) was 2.14 times higher than those who regularly slept six hours or more.
They also had a 1.83 times higher risk of dying from cardiovascular or cerebrovascular diseases. Among those with a diagnosis of heart disease or stroke, sleeping less than six hours a night increased their all-cause mortality risk by 3.17 times. Interestingly, it also increased their risk of dying from cancer, specifically, by 2.92 times.
All of these associations were found to be independent of age, sex, ethnicity, obesity, smoking and other health conditions that might influence the results. Conversely, sleeping less than six hours did not increase the risk of death in those that did not have cardiometabolic risk factors or a cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease diagnosis.
Likewise, those with cardiometabolic risk factors or a cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease diagnosis who slept six hours or more were not at increased risk for death either. It was specifically the combination of chronic health problems and short sleep duration that increased the risk of death, including cancer mortality.
Sleep Duration Plays a Role in Mortality Prognosis
As noted by the authors:21
"Our novel findings show that objective short sleep duration increases the mortality risk of middle‐aged adults with CMRs [cardiometabolic risk factors] and those who have already developed CBVD [cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases].
Middle‐aged adults with CMR who slept <6 hours were at a high risk of dying from CBVD, whereas middle‐aged adults with CBVD who slept <6 hours were at a high risk of dying from cancer …
If these findings are replicated in other large cohorts with objective sleep measures, short sleep duration should be included in the prediction of the mortality prognosis of middle‐aged adults with CMR or CBVD.
The primary finding of the current study indicated that there was an ≈2‐fold risk for all‐cause, CBVD, and non‐CBVD mortality in participants who had CMRs at baseline and demonstrated short sleep duration in the sleep laboratory.
Individuals who had CMRs and normal sleep duration at baseline, on the other hand, did not show a significantly increased risk on any of the mortality outcomes. This finding suggests that obtaining an adequate amount of sleep may minimize the adverse effect of CMRs on multiple mortality outcomes.
For instance, participants with both CMRs and short sleep at baseline showed an 83% higher risk of dying from CBVD, whereas their CMR counterparts with normal sleep duration had a modest 35% nonsignificant higher risk of CBVD mortality …
In conclusion, objective short sleep duration is an effect modifier of the mortality risk associated with CMR or CBVD. More important, our data suggest that short sleep may operate through different mechanisms on CBVD versus cancer mortality."
General Sleep Guidelines
Considering the massive importance of sleep for preventing the two top killers in the U.S. (heart disease and cancer), just how much sleep do you need to reap protective benefits?
According to a scientific review of more than 300 studies published between 2004 and 2014, a panel of experts came up with the following recommendations. Keep in mind that if you're sick, injured or pregnant, you may need a bit more than normal.
|Age Group||Hours of sleep needed for health|
|Newborns (0 to 3 months)||14 to 17 hours|
|Infants (4 to 11 months)||12 to 15 hours|
|Toddlers (1 to 2 years)||11 to 14 hours|
|Preschoolers (3 to 5)||10 to 13 hours|
|School-age children (6 to 13)||9 to 11 hours|
|Teenagers (14 to 17)||8 to 10 hours|
|Adults (18 to 64)||7 to 9 hours|
|Seniors (65 and older)||7 to 8 hours|
Set a Nightly Alarm to Help You Get Enough Sleep
There's simply no doubt that sleep needs to be a priority in your life if you intend to live a long and healthy life. For many, this means forgoing night-owl tendencies and getting to bed at a reasonable time.
If you need to be up at 6 a.m., you need a lights-out deadline of 9:30 or 10 p.m., depending on how quickly you tend to fall asleep. If you find it difficult to get to bed on time, consider setting a bedtime alarm to remind you that it's time to shut everything down and get ready for sleep. For further guidance, see "Sleep — Why You Need It and 50 Ways to Improve It."
How to Nurture Your Gut Microbiome
As for how to improve and maintain a healthy microbiome — which might do more to improve your sleep than is currently appreciated — it isn't very complicated, but you do need to take proactive steps to encourage its health while avoiding factors known to cause harm. This includes:
|Eat plenty of fermented foods — Healthy choices include lassi, fermented grass fed kefir, natto (fermented soy) and fermented vegetables.||Antibiotics, unless absolutely necessary, and when you do, make sure to reseed your gut with fermented foods and/or a high-quality probiotic supplement.|
|Take a probiotic supplement — Although I'm not a major proponent of taking many supplements (as I believe the majority of your nutrients need to come from food), probiotics are an exception if you don't eat fermented foods on a regular basis.||Conventionally raised meats and other animal products, as factory farmed animals are routinely fed low-dose antibiotics and GE grains loaded with glyphosate, which is widely known to kill many bacteria.|
|Boost your soluble and insoluble fiber intake, focusing on vegetables, nuts and seeds, including sprouted seeds.||Chlorinated and/or fluoridated water — Especially in your bathing such as showers, which are worse than drinking it.|
|Get your hands dirty in the garden — Exposure to bacteria and viruses can help to strengthen your immune system and provide long-lasting immunity against disease.
Getting your hands dirty in the garden can help reacquaint your immune system with beneficial microorganisms on the plants and in the soil.
|Processed foods — Excessive sugar feeds pathogenic bacteria.
Food emulsifiers such as polysorbate 80, lecithin, carrageenan, polyglycerols and xanthan gum also appear to have an adverse effect on your gut flora.
Unless 100% organic, they may also contain GMOs that tend to be heavily contaminated with pesticides such as glyphosate. Artificial sweeteners have also been found to alter gut bacteria in adverse ways.22
|Open your windows — For the vast majority of human history, the outside was always part of the inside, and at no moment during our day were we ever really separated from nature.
Today, we spend most of our lives indoors. And, although keeping the outside out does have its advantages, it has also changed the microbiome of your home.
Research shows that opening a window and increasing natural airflow can improve the diversity and health of the microbes in your home, which in turn benefit you.23
|Agricultural chemicals — Glyphosate (Roundup) in particular is a known antibiotic and will actively kill many of your beneficial gut microbes if you eat foods contaminated with it.|
|Wash your dishes by hand instead of in the dishwasher — Research has shown that washing your dishes by hand leaves more bacteria on the dishes than dishwashers do, and eating off these less-than-sterile dishes may actually decrease your risk of allergies by stimulating your immune system.||Antibacterial soap — It kills both good and bad bacteria and contributes to the development of antibiotic resistance.|
Asthma is a chronic airway condition that triggers wheezing, shortness of breath and coughing. Those who have asthma may have symptoms ranging from mild to severe; these may occur every day or just on occasion. For many people, asthma begins in childhood and becomes a lifelong condition.
The goal of conventional medicine is to manage the symptoms, called asthma attacks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 7.9% of Americans are diagnosed with asthma.1 Traditional treatment aimed at managing symptoms is realistically only a stopgap measure to help individuals engage in their everyday activities.
The type of treatment will usually depend upon age, severity and response to the options. One treatment commonly prescribed is a metered dose inhaler (MDI), also called a puffer, which is a pressurized canister designed to fit into a mouthpiece.2
How many times and how often you use the inhaler will depend upon what medication the device is delivering. The device measures the amount of medication in each puff and delivers it using a chemical propellant to help deliver it to your lungs.
Metered Dose Inhalers: A Measurable Source of Air Pollution
A research team from Cambridge University was led by Dr. Alexander Wilkinson who acknowledges inhalers are a lifeline for those who have breathing problems.3 Wilkinson serves as a respiratory consultant for the National Health Service (NHS) of England.
He and his team conducted prescription data in England during 20174 to measure the effect MDI devices have on the environment. The types of inhalers were separated into categories based on the mechanism of action.
Data on the carbon footprint of inhalers from other scientific publications were reviewed, as well as independently certified reports. The data analysis revealed a potential reduction in financial and environmental cost. Replacing 10% of MDI inhalers using hydrofluoroalkanes (HFAs) with dry powder inhalers (DPI) delivering less expensive medication in the same category, could reduce drug cost in England by £8.2 million ($10.5 million) each year.
Additionally, using the same percentage of MDI to DPI switch, England could save 58,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year affecting global warming. This is the same amount of air pollution 180,000 cars make driving 400 miles.5 Just five doses from one inhaler emits as much as one car driving 9 miles; most MDI canisters contain 100 doses. The researchers concluded:
"Substantial carbon savings can be made by using small volume HFA134a MDIs, in preference to large volume HFA134a MDIs, or those containing HFA227ea as a propellant."
England Identifies MDI as a Carbon Hotspot
According to England's House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee,6 most MDIs use the HFA134a propellant with a global warming potential (GWP) of 1,480. The NHS has identified MDIs as a "carbon hotspot."
The MDI is currently exempt from the EU's regulations. Although the HFA MDI inhaler is the most popular in England and the U.S., in most cases the DPI is prescribed in other countries, such as Sweden. GlaxoSmithKline told the House of Commons Audit Committee: "It is not just Sweden; it is across most of Europe that the dry powder inhaler is the predominant inhaler."
Health authorities in England have consistently balked at switching to DPI devices, citing cost as a major obstacle.7 But the researchers demonstrated a cost reduction when less expensive and equally effective medication was used in the green inhaler devices. Wilkinson talked about the results of the analysis, saying:8
"The gases within these canisters are such powerful greenhouse gases that they can contribute significantly to an individual's carbon footprint and if you are using one or two of these inhalers every month, then that can really add up to hundreds of kilos of carbon dioxide equivalent over the course of a year …"
This is not the first time propellants in MDI inhalers were removed when it was discovered they were dangerous. In 2008, the FDA9 banned the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in albuterol inhalers due to U.S. participation in the International Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. They were replaced with HFAs, another harmful chemical propellant.
Researchers Call for Alternative Treatments
Another scientist on the research team, Dr James Smith, consultant in public health at Cambridge University, is concerned for those who will be impacted by the threat to health and speaks to the small changes that may have a big impact, saying:10
"Climate change is a huge and present threat to health that will disproportionately impact the poorest and most vulnerable on the planet, including people with pre-existing lung disease. Our study shows switching to inhalers which are better for the environment could help individuals, and the NHS as a whole, reduce their impact on the climate significantly."
The research team are calling for exploration into environmentally friendly inhalers to help treat those who have asthma.11 The data showed air pollution released from MDI devices produce an estimated 3.9% of the carbon footprint produced by medical devices and treatments prescribed by the NHS.
The scientists concluded if the Environmental Audit Committee's target of switching 50% of all inhalers to those having a low GWP by 2022 is achieved, it could reduce carbon emissions by 288,000 tons every year:12
"Switching to low GWP inhalers can be achieved while making financial savings in terms of drug costs. Patients, prescribers and guideline authors should carefully consider the carbon footprint of these inhalers and where they are likely to be equally effective, prioritise low GWP inhalers."
Make Each Puff Count
Using an MDI appropriately is important for both the environment and to inhale the medication. With each puff the propellant carries the medicine into your lungs. Wilkinson talks about the importance of using good technique, saying:13
"It's really important that we use these inhalers wisely, that patients have good technique and they have their technique assessed so we can really make sure every puff counts."
In addition to using the MDI device, you may also be prescribed a spacer or chamber to hold the ejected medication in a tube for a few seconds.14 This means you don't have to coordinate breathing in and compressing the canister at the same time. Spacers help reduce the risk of side effects when medication is deposited along your vocal cords or you don't receive enough medication.
Spacers use different designs and work with different types of MDIs. Some whistle to let you know you're inhaling too fast, some can be washed in the dishwasher and others must be hand washed. It is also important to keep track of the number of puffs you use for each canister. Many come with a dose counter, but some don't.
The label on the MDI will tell you how many puffs are in each canister. Keep a record of how many you've used since even if you see spray come out, it does not mean there is still medicine left in the canister. Wilkinson also points out once the canister is finished, it is important to get rid of it properly.15
The spray that comes out even when there's no medication in the canister is the propellant. These greenhouse gases need to be disposed of appropriately. He recommends taking your MDI canister back to the pharmacy for proper disposal.
How Many Suffer With Asthma?
There are currently 5.4 million adults and children in the U.K. who receive treatment for asthma.16 The study team concluded that changing just 10% of the MDI devices in this population could significantly reduce carbon emissions.
According to the World Health Organization, 235 million people around the world suffer from asthma and it is one of the most common chronic diseases in children.17 In the U.S., the 7.9% dealing with asthma adds up to 26 million people.18
In real numbers, the U.S. has 4.8 times the number of people with asthma as England. This means the real number of MDI devices in use in the U.S. is also higher. While GlaxoSmithKline reports other countries are switching to greener alternatives, the U.S. and the U.K are not included on the list.
Natural Options May Reduce Reliance on Medication
You may make a significant difference in reducing air pollution by investigating alternative methods of treatment — both medicinal and natural. It is important to remember that the underlying concepts of Western medicine are reactionary. In other words, physicians wait until there is a problem and then prescribe drugs to treat it.
These drugs often come with side effects that may trigger another prescription to control the side effects of the first. While there is a time for medication, it's important to first offer your body every chance to control the condition naturally.
In other words, by supporting your body's natural functions, you may be able to reduce or eliminate your reliance on medications. For instance, an imbalance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids increases the likelihood you'll experience an asthma attack. Researchers from Johns Hopkins found children with asthma who had a higher intake of omega-3 appeared to be more resilient, with fewer symptoms when exposed to air pollution.
Vitamin D also plays a crucial role in your body's ability to fight inflammation, a root cause of many chronic diseases. As I've written before and which has since gathered more research evidence,19 optimal levels of vitamin D reduces the risk of asthma exacerbations.
Homeopathic treatments offer another treatment as practitioners focus on the whole-body function and do not treat only an individual symptom. Historically, those treated in homeopathic hospitals suffered a death rate one half to one-eighth of those treated in conventional medical hospitals.
In fact, during the 1849 cholera epidemic, Cincinnati homeopaths were so successful that published data show 3% of their patient population died while 48% to 60% of those under traditional medical treatment died. Homeopathic remedies are essentially nanomedicines as they operate on the premise that the more diluted the remedy, the more effective it becomes.
In addition, there are far fewer side effects and adverse reactions. Seek out a homeopathic professional who can help identify a remedy specific to your condition to reduce or eliminate breathing difficulties associated with asthma. Read more about the history of homeopathy and treatments for asthma in my past article, "Homeopathy for Asthma."
According to the telecom industry, 5G, the “5th Generation” wireless network, is required to give people the wireless freedom they crave and need. Described by HP as “blazingly fast,” 5G, which is 70 times faster than its predecessor, 4G, “will replace cable internet for good,” allowing you to download a two-hour high-definition movie in three seconds flat.1
5G is also being touted as necessary to enable the development and proliferation of self-driving cars and other future technologies. However, as noted in a May 2019 Forbes article,2 robocar designers are not, in fact, relying on 5G for their development, and the cars themselves do not actually need that kind of bandwidth to perform the required functions.
While “blazingly fast” 5G might sound attractive to many who have grown up in the internet era, there are significant health and environmental concerns relating to 5G radiation that are not being properly addressed, which may have profound implications both in the short and long term.
If increased internet speed and reliability are the end goal, then fiber optic connections would be a far better (and safer) way forward. Indeed, we need more wired connections and fewer wireless ones as it is. With 5G, microwave radiation exposures will so massively increase, there’s no doubt in my mind that mankind will eventually end up regretting its shortsightedness.
Remember that no one has problems with the faster speeds of 5G, no one. What any serious student of health has concerns with is that the data are being distributed wirelessly, when in most cases the data could be distributed easier and less expensively over fiber optic cables.
No Safety Studies Have Been Done
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.3
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.
As noted by a Federal Communications Commission representative during a February 6, 2019, senate commerce hearing (above), no 5G safety studies have been conducted or funded by the agency or the telecom industry, and none is planned.4,5
In short, there’s no telling exactly what might happen to our ecology and the people being exposed to this novel wireless technology 24/7, once it’s deployed. As noted by Dr. Cindy Russell,6 executive director of Physicians for Safe Technology, in her August 2018 paper in the journal Environmental Research:7
“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 non-linear.
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.”
There’s No Safe Way to Implement 5G
Similarly, in an article8 on the Environmental Health Trust’s website, Ronald Powell, Ph.D., a retired Harvard scientist of applied physics, notes “there is NO SAFE WAY to implement 5G in our communities; rather, there are only ‘bad ways’ and ‘worse ways,’” and rather than argue about who should have control over its deployment, we should focus on preventing its employment altogether.
Indeed, mounting research9,10 suggest the proliferation of 5G for the sake of faster wireless internet could be a public health disaster, so if 5G does end up “replacing cable internet for good,” humanity may be in for a devastating shock in coming decades, if not sooner.
While it may take years to fully ascertain the full effects of 5G, there are early warning signs. People have reported mass die-offs of bees around 5G towers in California,11 for example, and residents in Gateshead in the U.K. started reported insomnia, chronic nosebleeds and stillbirths after the installation of streetlamps that emit 5G radiation in 2016.12
‘No Reason to Believe 5G Is Safe,’ Scientific American Says
In an October 17, 2019, article,13 Scientific American warns “We have no reason to believe 5G is safe,” and that “contrary to what some people say, there could be health risks.” The article, written by Joel M. Moskowitz, Ph.D., director for the Center for Family and Community Health in the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, notes:14
“The telecommunications industry and their experts have accused many scientists who have researched the effects of cell phone radiation of ‘fear mongering’ over the advent of wireless technology's 5G.
Since much of our research is publicly-funded, we believe it is our ethical responsibility to inform the public about what the peer-reviewed scientific literature tells us about the health risks from wireless radiation.”
Moskowitz points out that the FCC has recently announced15 its intention to reaffirm and maintain current radio frequency radiation (RFR) exposure limits, which were originally adopted in the late 1990s. However, there are significant problems with this.
Current RFR limits are based on studies from the 1980s looking at the behavioral effects of microwave radiation on rats, “and were designed to protect us from short-term heating risks due to RFR exposure,” Moskowitz writes.16
These limits are already outdated for our current levels of exposure, so they’re surely bound to be completely inadequate for 5G. Since the 1980s, more than 500 studies17 have identified harmful health or biological effects at RFR intensities far below those needed to produce heating, yet the FCC is ignoring these clearly established facts. As noted by Moskowitz:18
“The FCC’s RFR exposure limits regulate the intensity of exposure, taking into account the frequency of the carrier waves, but ignore the signaling properties of the RFR. Along with the patterning and duration of exposures, certain characteristics of the signal (e.g., pulsing, polarization) increase the biologic and health impacts of the exposure.
New exposure limits are needed which account for these differential effects. Moreover, these limits should be based on a biological effect, not a change in a laboratory rat’s behavior.”
What Science Says About 5G
A 2-page fact sheet19 on 5G can be downloaded from the Environmental Health Trust’s website. There, you can also access a long list of published scientific studies showing cause for concern.20 Remember, 5G will result in an exponential increase in RFR exposure, and there are already thousands of studies demonstrating biological effects from low-intensity electromagnetic fields (EMFs).
More than 1,800 studies summarized in the BioInitiative Report21 (2007 and 2012) show immune system effects, neurological effects, cognitive effects and much more. For example, cumulative daily EMF exposure from cellphones and Wi-Fi is associated with cancer,22,23 altered brain development in children and reproductive damage in both sexes.
Prenatal exposure to magnetic fields can nearly triple a pregnant woman’s risk of miscarriage.24 Several other studies have come to similar conclusions.25,26,27,28,29 In men, studies show EMF radiation from cellphones and laptops reduces sperm motility and viability,30,31 and increases sperm DNA fragmentation.32
In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified cellphones as a Group 2B “possible carcinogen” based on the available evidence,33 and two recent studies (one by the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP)34 and one by the Ramazzini Institute in Italy35) have reconfirmed 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.”
Many studies have been published since 2011, and RFR is currently listed36 as one of the “high priority” items to be reassessed by the IARC within the next five years. Based on the expanded evidence base, the IARC could potentially end up upgrading the carcinogenic classification of RFR.
What Makes 5G Different?
Considering how many are already struggling with electromagnetic hypersensitivity, saturating cities and suburban areas with 5G will undoubtedly add many more to this once-rare affliction, and could easily make life unbearable for those who are already struggling at current exposure levels.
A significant problem with 5G technology is that it relies primarily on the bandwidth of the millimeter wave or MMW, which operates between 30 gigahertz (GHz) and 300GHz.37 The MMW is known to penetrate 1 to 2 millimeters of human tissue38,39 and has been linked to a number of potential health problems, including:40,41,42,43
Pain44 (MMW is actually what’s used in crowd control weapons by the U.S. Department of Defense, as it has the ability to cause a severe burning sensation45)
Suppressed immune function46
Impacted heart rate variability — an indicator of stress — in rats47,48 and heart rate changes (arrhythmias) in frogs49
Cellular stress and increase in harmful free radicals51
Eye problems such as lens opacity in rats (which is linked to the production of cataracts57) and eye damage in rabbits58,59
Depressed growth and increased antibiotic resistance in bacteria60
We’re Flying Blind, But Warning Signs Abound
Again, 5G is so new that we simply do not have the same volume of research demonstrating its specific health effects as we do for earlier generations of RF radiation. The fact that the issues above have already been identified should be a giant red flag.
Certainly, there’s absolutely nothing to suggest that 5G is going to produce LESS harm than current technologies in use, and there are thousands of studies showing harmful effects from that. What’s more, 5G will be used in addition to our current technologies; it’s not replacing them all. As noted by Moskowitz:61
“Since 5G is a new technology, there is no research on health effects, so we are ‘flying blind’ to quote a U.S. senator. However, we have considerable evidence about the harmful effects of 2G and 3G. Little is known the effects of exposure to 4G, a 10-year-old technology, because governments have been remiss in funding this research …
5G will … accompany 4G for the near future and possibly over the long term. If there are synergistic effects from simultaneous exposures to multiple types of RFR, our overall risk of harm from RFR may increase substantially.
Cancer is not the only risk as there is considerable evidence that RFR causes neurological disorders and reproductive harm, likely due to oxidative stress.”
Indeed, research62 by Martin Pall, Ph.D., details how excessive oxidative stress triggered by microwave exposure from wireless technologies can lead to reproductive harm and neurological disorders such as anxiety, depression, autism and Alzheimer’s.
You can learn more about the exact mechanisms in my 2017 interview with Pall, featured in “The Harmful Effects of EMFs Explained.” Pall is also interviewed by Sharyl Attkisson in the Full Measure special, “5G Whiz,”63 above, in which he points out that the health effects of 5G are going to be far more significant than what we’re already seeing with 2G through 4G.
If you think we’re not seeing health effects from these previous generations of tech, think again. Do you feel anxious? Have trouble sleeping? Do you feel tired “all the time”? Do you have frequent headaches? Have trouble concentrating?
All of these are effects of EMF exposure and telltale signs indicating that you’re being affected. Matters will only get worse from there, unless you take steps to lower your exposure.
Many Experts Have Expressed Concern
Over the years, many hundreds of experts have expressed concern about where we are going, technologically. Since 2004, the International Association of Firefighters have officially opposed cell towers on fire stations, as research showed firefighters suffered neurological damage from them, including memory problems, intermittent confusion and feelings of weakness.64
In 2015, more than 230 scientists in 41 countries engaged in the study of biological and health effects of nonionizing EMFs signed an international appeal65 to the United Nations, calling for protection from nonionizing EMF exposure due to evidence of health effects even at low levels.
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, pointed out that:66
“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.”
Stein also warned that “It will be possible to show a causal relationship between 5G technology and these specific health effects,” and that “affected individuals may be eligible for compensation.” For these reasons, Stein urged the FCC and U.S. Senate committees to vote against 5G.
A year later, in 2017, more than 180 doctors and scientists from 35 countries signed a petition67 to enact a moratorium on the rollout of 5G due to the potential risks to wildlife and human health. Despite all of that, U.S. leaders are forging ahead with 5G without a second thought to what it might do to the population and the environment.
Our Children Are at Significant Risk
The American Academy of Pediatrics68,69,70 has also been 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.
Indeed, preliminary results from the largest long-term study71,72,73 of brain development and youth health in the U.S. — the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study74 — reveals the brains of the most prolific users of smartphones, tablets and video games look different compared to those who use electronic devices 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. 5G installations will only magnify these and other health risks.
For a list of potential health effects associated with EMF exposure, see “Electromagnetic Radiation Specialist Reveals the Hidden Dangers of Electric Fields,” which features my interview with Oram Miller.
5G Threatens Weather Prediction
Interestingly, aside from potential health ramifications, a global 5G network will also threaten our ability to predict weather which, in addition to putting civilians at risk will also jeopardize the Navy.75
According to a recent paper76 in the journal Nature, widespread 5G coverage will prevent satellites from detecting changes in water vapor, which is how meteorologists predict weather changes and storms.
In a recent letter to the FCC, democratic Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden, Ore., and Maria Cantwell, Wash., urge the agency to rein in the expansion of wireless communications in the 24 GHz band for this reason.77
Protect Yourself and Your Family From Excessive EMF
There’s no doubt in my mind that microwave radiation from wireless technologies is a significant health hazard that needs to be addressed if you’re concerned about your health. Unfortunately, the rollout of 5G will make remedial action all the more difficult, which is why we all need to get involved and do what we can to prevent it in the first place.
If you’re a Georgia resident, you can sign Change.org’s “Stop 5G” petition. Bath and North East Somerset also have a “Stop 5G” petition going on. Other petitions can be found now and then by searching online.
Apart from making your sentiments known to lawmakers, here are several suggestions that will help reduce your EMF exposure and help mitigate damage from unavoidable exposures. For even more do’s and don’ts, see the infographics by the Environmental Health Trust below.
Identify major sources of EMF, such as your cellphone, cordless phones, Wi-Fi routers, Bluetooth headsets and other Bluetooth-equipped items, wireless mice, keyboards, smart thermostats, baby monitors, smart meters and the microwave in your kitchen. Ideally, address each source and determine how you can best limit their use.
Barring a life-threatening emergency, children should not use a cellphone, or a wireless device of any type. Children are far more vulnerable to cellphone radiation than adults due to having thinner skull bones, and developing immune systems and brains.
Research78 also demonstrates that infants under the age of 1 do not effectively learn language from videos, and do not transfer what they learn from the iPad to the real world, so it’s a mistake to think electronic devices provide valuable educational experiences.
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.
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. 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.
Avoid using wireless chargers for your cellphone, as they too will increase EMFs throughout your home. Wireless charging is also far less energy efficient than using a dongle attached to a power plug, as it draws continuous power (and emits EMF) whether you’re using it or not.
According to Venkat Srinivasan, director of Argonne Collaborative Center for Energy Storage Science, keeping your cellphone or tablet fully charged at all times will also reduce the life of the battery, which will necessitate the purchase of a brand-new phone.79
As a lithium ion battery charges and discharges, ions pass between a positive electrode and a negative electrode. The higher the battery is charged the faster the ions degrade, so it's better to cycle between 45 percent and 55 percent.
Shut off the electricity to your bedroom at night. This typically works to reduce electrical fields from the wires in your wall unless there is an adjoining room next to your bedroom. If that is the case you will need to use a meter to determine if you also need to turn off power in the adjacent room.
Use a battery-powered alarm clock, ideally one without any light. I use a talking clock for the visually impaired.80
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.
Refuse a smart meter on your home 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.81
Consider moving your baby’s bed into your room instead of using a wireless baby monitor. Alternatively, use a hard-wired monitor.
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.
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.82
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. Instead, use VoIP software phones that you can use while connected to the internet via a wired connection.
Avoid using your cellphone and other electronic devices at least an hour (preferably several) before bed, as the blue light from the screen and EMFs both inhibit melatonin production.83,84 If you must use your phone make sure you have the blue light filters activated and have it in dark mode.
Research clearly shows that heavy computer and cellphone users are more prone to insomnia.85 For example, one 2008 study86 revealed that people exposed to radiation from their mobile phones for three hours before bedtime had more trouble falling asleep and staying in a deep sleep.
The effects of EMFs are reduced by calcium-channel blockers, so make sure you’re getting enough magnesium. Most people are deficient in magnesium, which will worsen the impact of EMFs. As noted by Pall in a previous interview:
Pall has also published a paper87 suggesting that raising your level of Nrf2 may help ameliorate EMF damage. One simple way to activate Nrf2 is to consume Nrf2-boosting food compounds. One of the best ways to activate the Nrf2 pathway is with molecular hydrogen tablets that can be taken at a dose of two to three tablets dissolved in 12 to 16 ounces of water, once a day.88
Exercise, calorie restriction (such as intermittent fasting) and activating the nitric oxide signaling pathway (one way of doing that is the Nitric Oxide Dump exercise) will also raise Nrf2.
For over five years I have warned readers about the dangerous effects of vaping. Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, vape pens and electronic nicotine delivery systems, are marketed as, and widely believed to be, safer than combustible cigarettes. But these newer options may be just as dangerous as their predecessors.
For example, e-cigarette devices contain toxic nicotine, heavy metals, fine particulate matter and formaldehyde1 and even threaten bystanders exposed to their second-hand "smoke."2 Nicotine is always addictive, regardless of its method of delivery, and some e-cigarettes, notably Juul, deliver significantly more nicotine than other cigarettes.3
Juul has been accused of deliberately targeting and hooking young people on its "slick" products while pretending they were intended for smoking cessation for adults. Now, a former top Juul executive has filed a lawsuit alleging that Juul sold at least 1 million contaminated nicotine pods and did not recall them when made aware of the situation.4
Serious Accusations Against Juul
Siddharth Breja, formerly Juul's senior vice president for global finance, claims in a lawsuit he recently filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California that he was fired in 2019 in retaliation for criticizing the sale of at least 1 million contaminated and expired mint-flavored nicotine pods by Juul.5 The type of contamination or its source was not revealed in the lawsuit. According to The New York Times:6
"' … [Juul] has jeopardized and continues to jeopardize public health and safety and the lives of millions of consumers, many of them children and teens' …
… Mr. Breja detailed a culture of indifference to safety and quality-control issues among top executives at the company and quoted the then-chief executive Kevin Burns saying at a meeting in February: 'Half our customers are drunk and vaping' and wouldnʼt 'notice the quality of our pods.'
… Juul did not recall the pods, Mr. Breja said, yet he was told to charge the supplier, Alternative Liquids Inc., $7 million so that Juul could recover from the contaminated batches … Mr. Breja said he urged Juulʼs chief financial officer to issue either a recall or put out product safety warnings. A week later, the complaint says, Mr. Breja was fired."
Through a spokesperson Juul denied both the retaliation and product safety charges. The allegations are "meritless, and we already investigated the underlying manufacturing issue and determined the product met all applicable specifications," said Ted Kwong, a Juul spokesman, in The New York Times.7
Yet the allegations increase the spotlight on a company already under investigation by the U.S. FDA, the Federal Trade Commission, five state attorneys general and several congressional committees, and named in at least 50 lawsuits brought by school districts and individuals.8
Accusations Increase Questions About Vaping Deaths
Vaping illness is becoming so common it has been given a name by the U.S. CDC: EVALI standing for "e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury."9 As of October 29, 2019, the CDC had reported 1,888 cases of EVALI, occurring in in all states but Alaska, Washington D.C. and a U.S. territory.10 There have been 37 deaths.
Because the popularity of vaping, widely attributed to Juul's slick marketing,11 has happened so suddenly, health professionals are baffled by EVALI, which has also happened suddenly. Investigators are literally learning about it in "real time"12 and do not have a complete picture of causation yet.
Otherwise healthy young people continue to present themselves at the ER with severe shortness of breath and other EVALI symptoms, some requiring the use of mechanical ventilators for weeks13 and some rehospitalized after their first bout.14 The CDC's current EVALI recommendations are concerning, to put it mildly:15
"At this time, FDA and CDC have not identified the cause or causes of the lung injuries in these cases, and the only commonality among all cases is that patients report the use of vaping products, including e-cigarettes. No one compound or ingredient has emerged as the cause of these illnesses to date; and it may be that there is more than one cause of this outbreak.
We do know that THC [tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component of marijuana] is present in most of the samples tested to date, and most patients report a history of THC-containing products.
The latest national and state findings suggest products containing THC, particularly those obtained off the street or from other informal sources (e.g. friends, family members, illicit dealers), are linked to most of the cases and play a major role in the outbreak.
As such, we recommend that you do not use e-cigarette or vaping products that contain THC. And since the specific cause or causes of lung injury are not yet known, the only way to assure that you are not at risk while the investigation continues is to consider refraining from use of all e-cigarette and vaping products.
Adults addicted to nicotine using e-cigarettes should weigh all risks and benefits … All tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, carry a risk."
Vaping Is Clearly Linked to Harm
The harm now seen with vaping is not entirely a surprise. A 2018 study that appeared in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology reported, "short-term exposure of endothelial cells to flavoring compounds used in tobacco products have adverse effects on endothelial cell phenotype that may have relevance to cardiovascular toxicity."16
Endothelial cells form the linings of blood vessels. The study found that even lower concentrations of certain popular e-cigarette flavors like vanillin, menthol and cinnamaldehyde (cinnamon) induced inflammation and impaired nitric oxide production that indicated endothelial dysfunction.
In 2014, researchers at Japan's National Institute for Public Health detected formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, two well known carcinogens, in vapor produced by several types of e-cigarettes, raising valid questions about e-cigarettes' touted superior safety profile compared with traditional cigarettes.17
One e-cigarette brand generated 10 times more formaldehyde than combustible cigarettes, said the lead researcher!18 Research published in 2015 in the Journal Chemical Research in Toxicology detected highly reactive free radicals, linked to oxidative stress, in e-cigarette vapor and noted:19
"Electronic cigarette (EC) usage has increased exponentially, but limited data is available on its potential harmful effects … These results demonstrate, for the first time, the production of highly oxidizing free radicals from ECs which may present a potential toxicological risk to EC users …
… This study adds reactive free radicals to the list of potentially toxic products which have been found in EC aerosols … damage from these radicals has been implicated as an important causal factor in a variety of tobacco related diseases and disorders."
The deleterious effect of e-cigarette vapor on the lungs may also compromise immune response, according to 2018 research published in the BMJ journal Thorax.20 The study found e-cigarette vapor is toxic to living cells and may induce an inflammatory state within the lungs while also impairing bacterial clearance, possibly leading to more serious respiratory tract infections in e-cigarette users.
Also concerning is the fact that the liquids used in e-cigarettes are highly unstable and "new compounds can form after mixing of constituents and during storage," according to the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.21
Juul Ignited the E-Cigarette Boom
It is now estimated that 1 in 4 high school seniors has reported vaping nicotine in the past month, and health officials indict Juul for the exploding popularity.22 Juul is said to have hooked young people on e-cigarettes by using social media that positioned Juul as cool, providing sponsorships of high profile events23 and by offering an appealing compact, "flash drive" size,24 which enables users to hide the device and even use it in school.
The addictive potential of Juul is attributed to the use of nicotine salts. They are created by combining freebase nicotine with lactic acid. "The theory is that nicotine salts are able to travel more deeply into the lung than the freebase, where the nicotine is absorbed faster," Grant O'Connell, head of scientific affairs at Imperial Brands, told The Verge.25
The nicotine in the salts is ionized, creating a smoother and less harsh vaping experience due to its positive charge.26 In fact, the salts in one Juul cartridge deliver roughly the amount of nicotine found in a pack of cigarettes.27
The recent lawsuit by Breja about contaminated products being released and not recalled adds to the picture of a cagey and unethical company.
Top Tips to Help You Quit Smoking
I believe the "secret" to quitting smoking and vaping is to get healthy first, which will make quitting both mentally and physically easier. Exercise is an important part of this plan, as research shows people who engage in regular strength training double their success rate at quitting smoking compared to those who don't exercise.28,29
Healthy eating is another crucial factor to improve your health and strengthen your ability to quit. I also recommend mindfulness training (MT) to help you quit smoking or vaping addiction. MT reduces activity in the posterior cingulate cortex area of the brain, which is activated in smokers in response to smoking cues.
People who used a mindfulness app had a reduction in self-reported daily cigarette consumption by an average of 11 cigarettes per day, compared to nine cigarettes per day for those using a standard quitting-smoking app in one study.30,31
Throughout your day, when you notice you have cravings for a cigarette or e-cigarette, you don't have to react to them — they are just thoughts. Another excellent supportive tool, especially for dealing with such cravings, is the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), which can help you to break free from smoking as well as vaping.
In a compelling interview with France 24, Vandana Shiva, environmental activist and anti-globalization author, reveals the nefarious influence multinational corporations like Monsanto have on agriculture. Rather than helping farmers to grow their land, the corporation's chemicals and patented genetically engineered (GE) seeds force farmers to become dependent on them.
According to Shiva, when villages in India are able to save seeds and engage in organic agriculture, the wealth is maintained in the village instead of by corporations, and the local economy jumps tenfold. She also calls out Microsoft founder Bill Gates' "charitable endeavors," which she compares to the piracy of Christopher Columbus.
Shiva's analogy paints Gates as the Christopher Columbus of modern times, with a mission to impose genetically modified organisms (GMOS) on small farmers around the world. "When Bill Gates pours money into Africa for feeding the poor in Africa and preventing famine, he's pushing the failed Green Revolution, he's pushing chemicals, pushing GMOs," Shiva said.
Why Isn't Gates Funding Regenerative Agriculture?
The heart of the issue is that Bill Gates has taken to investing in corporate products, such as lab-grown meats instead of regenerative agriculture.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation not only funds The Cornell Alliance for Science, which is essentially a front group for the agrichemical industry, but is also pro-GMO, which makes sense, since Gates has also bought millions of dollars' worth of shares in Monsanto stock, according to AlterNet (and also invested in soy- and GE-yeast-based "burgers").1
It seems he has a penchant for GMOs and lab-grown meat, both forms of patented staple foods that, while looking good on the surface, pose many new, and likely unforeseen, hazards to the global food supply.
As Shiva noted, he's furthering the Green Revolution, the Rockefeller Foundation-funded conversion of natural farming to a system dependent on chemicals, fossil fuels and industry, and in so doing, "Bill Gates is continuing the work of Monsanto."
A whopping 35% of cereal and soy harvested globally is fed to animals being raised on CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations).2 Where you could once find locally grown food nearby, we're now very much dependent on the industrial agriculture complex for our very sustenance.
By taking the power away from small farmers and putting it into the hands of multinational corporations like Monsanto, we have a worrying consolidation and industrialization of agriculture and the food supply.
'Huge Upsurge' in Roundup Cancer Lawsuits
Since Bayer acquired Monsanto in 2018 for $63 billion, they've been grappling with lawsuits alleging their (formerly Monsanto's) glyphosate-containing Roundup caused health problems, including cancer. To date, 42,700 lawsuits against Bayer have been filed by individuals alleging that glyphosate caused them to develop cancer, a "huge upsurge" in recent months.3
According to Bayer, the rise in glyphosate lawsuit filings "may reflect a campaign by plaintiffs' lawyers and lead generators to increase the volume of plaintiffs as quickly as possible in connection with" settlement negotiations.4
Bayer has remained unfazed, even with the staggering number of filings, stating, "This significant increase is clearly driven by the plaintiff-side television advertising spend which is estimated to have roughly doubled in the third quarter compared with the entire first half of the year … However, the number of lawsuits says nothing about their merits."5
Analysts at JP Morgan suggested the number of glyphosate lawsuits may soon surpass 45,000.6 U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria7 ordered attorneys for Bayer and the plaintiffs to meet for settlement talks, appointing attorney Kenneth Feinberg as the mediator.8
Bayer said it will act in "good faith" and participate in the mediation, but initially said it doesn't plan to negotiate until its appeals have run their course, a process that could take years. Bayer also continues to defend glyphosate's safety, and said it expects U.S. appeals courts to reverse or "tone down" the first three court rulings they lost.9
In August 2018, jurors ruled Monsanto must pay $289 million in damages to DeWayne "Lee" Johnson, a former school groundskeeper who claimed the company's herbicide Roundup caused his terminal cancer.10 The award was later slashed to $78 million,11 but it signaled the beginning of a running trend in Roundup cancer lawsuits.
In the second case, a judge ruled in favor of the plaintiff, Edwin Hardeman, who alleged his repeated exposures to Roundup caused him to develop cancer. Bayer was ordered to pay more than $80 million in the case, which also found Monsanto failed to warn consumers that the product carried a cancer risk.12
Hardeman was awarded $75 million in punitive damages, $5.6 million in compensatory damages and $200,000 for medical expenses, but a judge later slashed the amount to $20 million, plus compensatory damages.13 In a similar trend, the third Monsanto Roundup case involved Alva and Alberta Pilliod, who both developed Non-Hodgkin lymphoma after regular use of Roundup.
The jury ordered Bayer to pay $2 billion in punitive and compensatory damages,14 but a judge later said the punitive damages, which make up the majority of the award, should be reduced.15
Farmers Don't Care About Glyphosate Lawsuits
With the rising number of people alleging glyphosate caused them to develop cancer, farmers may start to shy away from its use but, according to Bayer, so far this isn't the case. "There is extremely strong support among farmers, who are imploring us to keep this crop chemical — which is systemically relevant for the preparation of fields — on the market," Werner Baumann, Bayer chief executive officer, told journalists.16
Sales of glyphosate-based herbicides in the third quarter of 2019 are "roughly on par" with last year's numbers, Baumann added.17 Bayer reportedly gets most of its Crop Science business from U.S. and Brazilian farmers, but their pro-glyphosate sentiments may not be echoed around the world.
Germany, for instance, announced it would be banning glyphosate in 2023, with a phase out starting even sooner.18 The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) determined that glyphosate is a "probable carcinogen" in 2015. Germany's decision to ban the chemical, however, is based on its effects on insect populations, including pollinators that support the food supply.
In the first phase of the ban, starting in 2020, glyphosate will be prohibited in city parks and private gardens. Use of glyphosate will also be banned in areas with rich biodiversity, such as grasslands, orchard meadows and some river and lake shores.19
An increasing number of other countries are also concerned about glyphosate's toxicity and have imposed bans, restricted usage or made plans to do so. Among them:20
Austria plans to ban glyphosate January 1, 2020.
Bahrain has banned glyphosate.
Brussels, Belgium, prohibits the use of glyphosate; Belgium also banned individual glyphosate usage.
Vancouver, Canada, banned public and private glyphosate usage, except for treating invasive weeds.
The Czech Republic banned glyphosate as a weed killer and drying agent.
Denmark banned the use of glyphosate on post-emergent crops to avoid food residues of the chemical.
Malta banned the use of glyphosate in public spaces, including on roadsides or near schools.
Netherlands banned all noncommercial glyphosate usage.
Monsanto Fights to Hide Secret PR Work
Meanwhile, as the legal battles continue, Monsanto is trying to block orders requesting that internal records between the company and PR firms be turned over. Monsanto is claiming that its dealings with PR firm FleishmanHillard be considered "privileged," similar to a relationship between attorneys and their clients. According to U.S. Right to Know:21
"FleishmanHillard became the agency of record for Monsanto's 'corporate reputation work' in 2013, and its employees became deeply involved with the company, working 'at Monsanto's offices nearly every day' and gaining 'access to online repositories of non-public confidential information,' the company said.
'The fact that some of these communications involve the creation of public messaging does not strip them of privilege,' Monsanto said in its court filing."
Bayer has stated that it stopped communications and public affairs activity with FleishmanHillard earlier in 2019, after it was revealed that the agency was involved in creating Monsanto hit lists.22 The lists contained hundreds of names and other personal information about journalists, politicians and scientists, including their opinions about pesticides and genetic engineering.23
Monsanto has even gone so far as to plant a spy in the courtroom during one of the Roundup cancer trials. A woman named Sylvie Barak told other journalists that she was a freelancer for the BBC, but it later turned out that she wasn't. Instead, she appeared to have worked for FTI Consulting, a business advisory firm that Monsanto and Bayer had hired.
Barak invited the other journalists to meet one of her clients and have a "girls' night out" of sorts, during which she seemed to fish for reporters' views on Monsanto and spew industry-friendly banter.
A reporter who was present, but who wished to remain anonymous, told HuffPost, "[Barak] would make suggestions about interesting parts of the testimony. And then go on and on about certain points of testimony to try and get it into stories, and it was always bad for the plaintiffs."24
FTI responded by saying Barak attended the trial to take notes, and Bayer denied authorizing FTI to work at the cancer trial, but several journalists involved said they were left feeling like someone else might be watching them.
"Monsanto has also previously employed shadowy networks of consultants, PR firms, and front groups to spy on and influence reporters," HuffPost stated. "And all of it appears to be part of a pattern at the company of using a variety of tactics to intimidate, mislead and discredit journalists and critics."25
Support Local, Regenerative Farmers
One of the best ways to fight back against the multinational corporations angling to control agriculture and the food supply is to make an effort to support the farmers who are farming the right way, using regenerative farming techniques — without the help of GMOs and Roundup. If you live in the U.S., the following organizations can help you locate such farm-fresh foods in your area:
EatWild.com — EatWild.com provides lists of certified organic farmers known to produce safe, wholesome raw dairy products as well as grass fed beef and other organic produce. 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 — The Weston A. Price Foundation 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.
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 — This is a USDA website that has a wide range of information on farmers markets and programs.
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 and 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.
FoodRoutes — The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs and markets near you.
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 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 Fund also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws. California residents can also find raw milk retailers using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com.
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