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In 1996, the little town of Hinkley, California, won a massive arbitration against Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E). You might recall the story as the basis for the movie “Erin Brockovich,” in which a single mother and small-town attorney went up against a utility company that had been dumping hexavalent chromium into an unlined pond.1
At the time of the settlement, the case was the largest payout ever awarded for a direct-action lawsuit and environmental advocates were excited about the possibilities. Unfortunately, Hinkley has become a ghost town and hexavalent chromium has continued to contaminate water supplies across the U.S.
Back in Hinckley, a resident found levels of hexavalent chromium had recently increased in her water supply. Upon investigation, she discovered the plume had grown over the last 15 years, stretching miles from the original contamination site. In 2014, a feasibility study from PG&E found eliminating the chromium from the hardest hit areas may take up to 50 years.2
In the meantime, town properties have been classified as uninsurable wasteland. Hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium-6, is a carcinogen.3,4 While Hinkley struggles with contamination of their water supply, researchers have found varying levels of chromium-6 in the water sources of more than 250 million Americans.5
Although there are current water regulations for total chromium level exposure, despite a well-publicized lawsuit and full knowledge of the devastation caused by chromium-6, there are not yet permissible exposure limits for this carcinogen.6
In a study undertaken by researchers at Olivet Nazarene University, data demonstrated antioxidants, such as vitamin C, may help reduce the effects of hexavalent chromium commonly found in drinking water.7,8
Vitamin C and tea may mitigate water pollution
The research paper was presented at the Experimental Biology 2019 conference9 held in Orlando, Florida. The thesis paper was supervised by Ryan Himes, Ph.D., assistant professor in the School of Life and Health Sciences at Olivet University.
The allowable concentration of hexavalent chromium in drinking water is currently under review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The study was designed to determine how antioxidants might prevent cell toxicity when two types of human cells were exposed to different concentrations of chromium-6.10
Chromium-6 is a known powerful oxidizing agent, although the specific mechanism through which it causes cancer has not yet been determined.11 There has been no known preventive treatment for exposure. Researchers tested the hypothesis chromium-6 cytotoxicity might be prevented using antioxidants.12
They exposed human embryonic kidney and human intestinal epithelial cells, finding chromium-6 was significantly toxic in cell culture at concentrations of 200 parts per billion (ppb) and higher.13 The researchers found toxicity was blocked by vitamin C at 10 parts per million (ppm) or the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), the primary antioxidant in green tea, at 15 ppm.
The researchers found the cytotoxic effect was blocked by vitamin C or EGCG alone. They then exposed bacteria to 20 ppb or more of chromium-6 and observed DNA mutations. However, when the bacteria were also treated with 20 ppm of vitamin C, the cytotoxic effect was again blocked.
Water pollution affects millions in the US
In 2010, the Environmental Working Group (EWG)14 published an executive summary showing at least 74 million U.S. citizens in 42 states were drinking tap water contaminated with chromium, much of it likely in the form of cancer-causing hexavalent chromium.
By 2016 the number had jumped to 200 million15 and, according to researchers at Olivet Nazarene, 250 million Americans are currently drinking water contaminated with hexavalent chromium.16 In 1972, the U.S. Clean Water Act17 was supposed to ensure clean water for swimming, fishing and drinking. Unfortunately, after nearly five decades of regulation, waterways are in serious jeopardy.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 2 billion people worldwide do not have safe drinking water.18 Forced to drink contaminated water, hundreds of thousands die from preventable diseases.
U.S. drinking water is contaminated with pesticides, herbicides, antibacterial products and medications.19 In one ambitious project,20 researchers gathered samples from the Hudson River to measure levels of pharmaceutical pollution.21
Past testing had detected antidepressants, blood pressure medications, decongestants and other drugs. Unlike the volumes of information available on the effect of pathogens, the science on long-term exposure to slight amounts of a chemical soup mixture of pharmaceuticals and other chemicals is still in its infancy.
Where is the chromium?
Keeping the public in the dark is not new. A report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease registry showed widespread water contamination near military bases, chemical plants and elsewhere. They warned these chemicals could harm health at levels significantly lower than those deemed safe by the EPA.22
According to Politico,23 which obtained internal EPA emails, the report had been kept from the public for months to prevent a “potential public relations nightmare.” Although hexavalent chromium occurs naturally in the environment, high amounts are produced through industry.
Even in small amounts, it may trigger skin burns, pneumonia and complications during childbirth. You may search your county for chromium-6 testing using the EWG interactive map.24 During their evaluation, EWG found Oklahoma, Arizona and California have the highest averages; Phoenix has the highest level of any city.
Past EPA assistant administrator of toxic substances, Dr. Lynn Goldman, told PBS,25 “There should be no carcinogen in water. The overall problem here is, what does it take for EPA to speed up its standard-setting process?”
In a press release from the EWG announcing their interactive map, they stated two-thirds of American water supplies have levels above what scientists say are safe for hexavalent chromium. Of the more than 60,000 water samples collected between 2013 and 2015, more than 75% contained hexavalent chromium. Consumer advocate Brockovich commented on the results:26
“Houston, we have a problem. More than 20 years ago, we learned that this dangerous chemical poisoned the tap water of California communities, and now these tests and EWG’s report show that roughly 218 million Americans are being served drinking water polluted with potentially dangerous levels of this known carcinogen.
But in that time the EPA hasn't set drinking water standards for any previously unregulated contaminant, and there are disturbing signs the agency may again do nothing about chromium-6. This is an abject failure by the EPA, including members of Congress charged with overseeing the agency, and every American should be outraged by this inaction.”
Vitamin C may also reduce the effects of air pollution
Vitamin C is a water-soluble micronutrient humans do not have the ability to synthesize and must get from their diet.27 It is an essential cofactor in a number of enzymatic reactions and there is some evidence to suggest it may be useful as an adjunct to conventional medical practices to reduce heart injury and arrhythmia after a cardiac procedure.28
Oregon University29 reports no evidence that large amounts, up to 10 grams per day in adults, will have any toxic effect. However, 2 grams per day and greater may trigger diarrhea or gastrointestinal disturbances in some adults. The usefulness of vitamin C is related to its ability to donate electrons and reduce oxidative stress.30
In this manner it contributes to your immune system, supporting various cellular functions and epithelial barrier function against pathogens. While a gross deficiency results in scurvy, functional deficiency will impair the immune system31 and leave you susceptible to infection.
In addition to helping protect cells against water pollution as demonstrated in the featured study on hexavalent chromium,32 vitamin C may also help to mitigate oxidative stress response to air pollutants. There is substantial evidence particulate matter air pollution increases oxidative stress and those with higher dietary intake of specific vitamins may experience a lower negative response.33
The WHO34 places air pollution as one of the world's largest environmental health risk factors. In one meta-analysis,35 the review found evidence for vitamin supplementation in reducing the effects of pollution on asthma and other chronic respiratory diseases, including supplementation with carotenoids, vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids.
More benefits from antioxidants in tea
The featured study also found EGCG, an antioxidant found in green tea, was effective against the cytotoxic effects of chromium-6. Green tea has been prized for generations in China, Japan and Britain. It has also made a name for itself in the U.S., where many drink it daily to enjoy the many health benefits attributed to EGCG.
Studies have found EGCG increases fat oxidation36 and may help prevent obesity.37 It may also improve exercise performance38 and lower your risk of heart attack and stroke.39 However, not all green teas are created equal.
If you drink it, you probably assume you're getting the same dose with each cup, but an analysis of strength and purity of 105 products found the levels varied widely from product to product.40 It is important to seek out high quality green tea to enjoy some of the additional health benefits.
These benefits include inhibiting bacterial and viral growth,41 protecting against oxidation in the brain and liver,42 improving mental alertness43 and reducing blood pressure.44 The type of tea you purchase may make a difference in the amount of beneficial antioxidants and flavor.
There's also an art to brewing tea using loose leaves that brings out full flavor and reduces your exposure to unwanted additives, which I discuss in my previous article, “What's in your green tea?”
Vitamin C potent adjunct to cancer treatment
Vitamin C has also been shown to be selectively cytotoxic to cancer cells when administered intravenously or in liposomal form in high doses. The presence of vitamin C generates hydrogen peroxide, which is ultimately what kills the cancer cells.45
Normal tissue is unharmed46 by high levels of hydrogen peroxide as they have several ways of removing it before it builds to toxic levels.47 High doses of vitamin C administration in combination with chemotherapy and radiation may also significantly improve the effectiveness of these treatments.48
Cancer cells have unstable iron particles, also known as redox active iron molecules, making them more vulnerable to oxidative damage triggered by high dose vitamin C. Hydrogen peroxide is generated when the redox active iron reacts with the vitamin C, subsequently damaging the cancer cells’ DNA and making them more vulnerable to chemotherapy and radiation.49
Administration of vitamin C also helps those suffering from cancer by lowering levels of inflammation, a hallmark of cancer. Vitamin C appears to slow the growth of liver and lymphoma cancers in animal studies.50
Over the years, the government and business monopolies, including the likes of Big Tech, have formed a global alliance hell-bent on protecting and concentrating member profits. The price for keeping business going as usual is personal liberty and freedom of speech that may impact these fascist government-industrial complexes.
The major industries colluding to take over the government and government agencies include banking, military, agriculture, pharma, media and Big Tech.
The leaders of these industries have organized strategies to buy off politicians through lobbying and to capture regulatory agencies through revolving door hiring strategies and paid-for media influence through advertising dollars.
Big Tech has joined the movement, bringing in a global concentration of wealth to eliminate competition and critical voices — voices that bring awareness to the frightening future as our rights, freedoms and competition erode into a fascist sunset, all disguised as a means to protect you from "misinformation."
This year, we've seen an unprecedented push to implement censorship across all online platforms, making it increasingly difficult to obtain and share crucial information about health topics. If you've been having difficulty finding articles from my website in your Google searchers of late, you're not alone.
Google traffic to Mercola.com has plummeted by about 99% over the past few weeks. The reason? Google's June 2019 broad core update, which took effect June 3,1 removed most Mercola.com pages from its search results. As reported by Telaposts.com:2
"The June 2019 Google Broad Core Algorithm Update impacted the rankings of websites in Google's Search Engine Results Pages. Several aspects of the algorithm were changed which caused some sites to gain visibility and others to lose visibility.
Generally speaking, sites negatively impacted will see a drop in rankings for many or all of important keywords or key phrases which they used to rank well for … The June 2019 Google Broad Core Algorithm Update impacted sites across the web, however, I am personally seeing the most impact on News and Health sites."
Mercola.com targeted in Google's latest core algorithm update
Now, any time you enter a health-related search word into Google, such as "heart disease" or "Type 2 diabetes," you will not find Mercola.com articles in the search results. The only way to locate any of my articles at this point is by searching for "Mercola.com heart disease," or "Mercola.com Type 2 diabetes."
Even skipping the ".com" will minimize your search results, and oftentimes the only pages you'll get are blogs, not my full peer-reviewed articles. Negative press by skeptics has also been upgraded, which means if you simply type in my name none of my articles will come but what you will find are a deluge of negative articles voicing critiques against me in your searches. Try entering my name in Yahoo or Bing and you will see completely different results.
As explained by Telapost,3 a core update "is when Google makes several changes to their main (core) algorithm." In the past, Google search results were based on crowdsource relevance. An article would ascend in rank based on the number of people who clicked on it.
Traditionally, if you produced unique and high-quality content that matched what people were looking for, you were rewarded by ranking in the top of search results. You would find Mercola.com near the top of nearly any health search results.
So, let's say one of my articles on diabetes was seventh on the page for your search; if more people clicked on that link than, say, an article listed in third or fifth place, my article would move up in rank. In a nutshell, Google search results were, at least in part, based on popularity.
That's no longer the case. Instead, Google is now manually lowering the ranking of undesirable content, largely based on Wikipedia's assessment of the author or site.
Wikipedia's founder and anonymous editors are well-known to have extreme bias against natural health content and authors. Google also contributes heavily to funding Wikipedia, and Wikipedia is near the top of nearly all searches — despite the anonymous aspect of contributors. Who better to trust than a bunch of unknown, unqualified contributors?
Wikipedia's co-founder even admits these bad actors have made it a "broken system."4 Why would Google give such credibility to a platform that even its own founder says is broken and overrun with bad actors?
Google's new quality rater guidelines are a death knell for experts whose views threaten industry profits
Another major change was Google's 2019 quality rater guidelines,5,6 released May 16. What are these guidelines? As explained by Telapost:7
"Google hires 'quality raters,' people who visit websites and evaluate their quality. Their feedback doesn't directly impact your site; it goes to engineers who update the Google algorithm in an effort to display great websites to their users. The guidelines give us great insight as to what Google considers a quality web page."
One significant change: Google now buries expert views if they're deemed "harmful" to the public. As explained by The SEM post:8
"There has been a lot of talk about author expertise when it comes to the quality rater guidelines … This section has been changed substantially … [I]f the purpose of the page is harmful, then expertise doesn't matter. It should be rated Lowest!"
Google used to rank pages based on whether an author could prove their expertise based on how many people visited a page or the number of other reputable sites that linked to that page. No more.
As you may have noticed, we've stayed on top of this, even creating a peer review panel of medical and scientific experts that review, edit and approve most articles before they're published. This is in addition to my own medical expertise as a board-certified physician.
My articles are also fully referenced, most containing dozens of references to studies published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. Alas, none of this now matters, as the very fact that the information I present typically contradicts industry propaganda places me in the lowest possible rating category.
Bait and switch
Different perspectives are essential to a healthy debate of ideas. When our voices are censored humanity loses and fascism wins. Pinterest has banned me, Google has mostly erased my information and many others are experiencing this same censorship. What makes me so dangerous to these industries that they need to censor me from those looking for my information?
Google had the brilliant idea of utilizing crowd sourcing, providing the best answers to your questions by pushing the most frequently selected content to the top of the search results — a truly democratic system to reward people for sharing information, and helping you locate this information by essentially sharing the most popular, highest quality content.
My information was frequently at the top of many health searches, because many people like you found it to be the most valuable. But as Google's power grew to enormous proportions, the goal of providing this service to you changed. The goal now is to become even more powerful by uniting with other powerful industries and government to force their beliefs on the masses and manipulate the future itself.
Crowd sourcing has become crowd control. Google began by giving you everything you want so it can now take everything you have. Google has changed from looking at users as customers and giving them what they want, to making users custodians of their will — essentially making you a host of a virus to carry out their agenda.
Google has become the ultimate puppet master, infecting people and manipulating them without even knowing it. Their true goal is to be in complete control of all of us, directing our behavior — and should we rebel, they also have partnered with the military to create drones utilizing artificial intelligence to ensure resistance will be defeated.
This is eerily reminiscent of many science fiction books and productions, but we have proof of what Google is doing — and we cannot go along with it. Google refers to the goal of controlling humanity as "The Selfish Ledger," described in the video below. Our lives are being exploited by Google and other large tech companies, and you have no idea how far they have come or where they are going. The truth is, they can already predict and control your behavior.
Natural health and healing threaten drug and vaccine industry profits
This sentence in the SEM Post article9 cited earlier is key to understanding what's going on: "If the purpose of the page is harmful, then expertise doesn't matter." In other words, if a page is deemed harmful to the public, it gets the lowest possible rating regardless of expertise. And if pages don't vanish automatically in the new algorithm, quality raters will go in and manually manipulate crowdsourced relevance to bury the page or pages.
Just what might Google and its industrial and government/military allies deem "harmful"? In short, pretty much anything that presents views differing from the PR created by said allies, and that most certainly includes alternative and holistic health, and articles revealing the truth about toxic industries, including the drug and vaccine industries.
Indeed, Telapost lists10 Mercola.com as one of the biggest losers in Google's June 2019 core algorithm update, along with other natural health sites and Vimeo — a direct competitor to Google's Youtube video platform. The article also notes that:11
"In the QRG [quality rater guidelines], Google notes that raters should conduct 'research on the reputation of the website or creator of the main content.'
Later they say '… Wikipedia articles can help you learn about a company and may include information specific to reputation, such as awards and other forms of recognition, or also controversies and issues.' If a news style website has a poor reputation, factors on their site could correlate with what Google is trying to push down in search results."
I will delve into Wikipedia's role in this censorship movement in Part 2 of this article, which will be published tomorrow.
Google is undoubtedly one of the largest and clearest monopolies in the world. In fact, the company monopolizes several different markets, including search and advertising. Bing, its closest search competitor, has just 2% of the market — hardly a significant threat to Google's 90%.12 Google also controls about 60% of the global advertising revenue on the internet.
So, with this core algorithm update, Google is very effectively preventing a majority of people worldwide from learning about how to protect and support their health, which is nothing short of an attack on your civil liberties and right to pursue health and happiness.
I've written about the dangers of monopolies within the drug and agricultural industries on numerous occasions, but Google is without a doubt the greatest monopoly that has ever existed on the planet, and most people don't even realize it.
The technology giant has injected itself ever deeper into our day-to-day lives, from childhood education to Android phones, to patented meat substitutes13 and health care. Google's internet monopoly combined with its creepy personal information tracking and sharing poses a very unique threat to public health, privacy and well-being.
Anyone concerned about their health, food or environment and their ability to obtain truthful information about any of those issues needs to understand the role Google plays, and whose side Google is really on. I'll delve further into this in part 2.
Who are the Google quality raters?
So, just who are these quality raters Google hires to decide who's who and what's what, and manually rank pages higher or lower? Ars Technica has written articles about the poor working conditions of these raters. In April 2017, senior tech culture editor for Ars Technica, Annalee Newitz, reported:14
"Few people realize how much these raters contribute to the smooth functioning act we call 'Googling.' Even Google engineers who work with rater data don't know who these people are. But some raters would now like that to change. That's because, earlier this month, thousands of them received an e-mail that said their hours would be cut in half, partly due to changes in Google's staffing policies.
Though Google boasts about its army of raters, the raters are not Google employees. Instead, they are employed by firms who have contracted them to Google, full time, for years on end. These raters believe that Google has reaped significant benefits from their labor without ensuring their jobs are secure and stable. That's why 10 raters came to Ars Technica to tell the story of what their lives are really like."
At the time, Leapforce — which was incorporated in 200815 — was one of the largest companies supplying Google with raters. Most raters work from home and virtually everyone, including managers, use online pseudonyms, preventing employees from knowing who they're really working with.
"To get a task, raters log into Raterhub and see what's available. Some days plenty of tasks exists; on others, a rater might wait hours and be offered nothing … A typical task takes anywhere from 30 seconds to 15 minutes, and the amount of time the rater can bill for the task is pre-determined by Google," Newitz writes.16
In 2017, the hourly pay for a rater ranged between $13.50 and $17.40.17 Effective June 1, 2017, Google raters working in the U.S. could no longer bill for more than 26 hours a week, which meant those working full-time (about 20% of Leapforce raters) were reduced to part-time to minimize employee benefits.
In response to panicked workers, Leapforce founder and CEO Daren Jackson18 told the raters "this is not a change we are able to control," and that the abolishing of full-time work was due to "risk mitigation" related to "regulations."
According to Newitz, a new Google policy stipulated they wanted to work with employee-based workforces, so to keep its contract, Leapforce converted its raters from independent contractors to employees. It was very likely unlawful to have so many people independently contracted for these positions in the first place.
However, Jackson told Newitz he couldn't convert his full-time contractors to full-time employees "because Leapforce couldn't afford health care for all of them," as required under the Affordable Healthcare Act. After speaking to Ars about their work conditions, three of the raters were fired by Leapforce, Newitz reported in a subsequent article.19
Leapforce founder is a former Google employee
While Jackson claimed Leapforce had other clients beside Google (which he would not name when asked by Ars Technica), Google certainly appeared to be its largest. It should come as no surprise then that Jackson and Leapforce didn't just appear out of the blue. In fact, as reported by Newitz, Jackson used to work for Google. She writes:20
"Jackson told Ars that he started Leapforce in 2008 after quitting Google, where he had been working on a project called EWOQ. EWOQ is the precursor to Raterhub, though its origins are shrouded in secrecy. We do know that, as early as 2004, Google had a quality rater tool … At that time, raters were hired directly by Google …
But by the time Google purchased the website Raterhub.com in 2012, all of Google's raters were coming from contracting companies like Leapforce, Lionbridge, Appen, and ZeroChaos. Many of Leapforce's raters still call the tool they use at Raterhub 'EWOQ,' though one told me that they have no idea why, nor what it stands for."
In essence, the separation between Leapforce and Google appears to have been little more than a legal fiction that shielded Google from any legal liabilities for the way this workforce was treated.
In a subsequent article,21 published May 2, 2017, Newitz pointed out that Jackson had just created yet another rating company called RaterLabs,22 and was in the process of transferring raters from Leapforce to RaterLabs, but at reduced pay rates.
As reported by Newitz in a third article,23 published December 1, 2017, Leapforce/RaterLabs were ultimately acquired by a top competitor, Appen.24 She also reported that several Leapforce raters had filed complaints with employee rights groups. Two of the raters fired after speaking to Ars Technica filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board. Both cases were reportedly settled.
Google is not an independent actor in its censorship movement
While some argue that Google, being a private company, has the right to do whatever it wants, even if that means creating algorithms that censor important and relevant news and health insights while manually burying "undesirable" pages to protect the profits of its advertisers and other financial stakeholders.
However, being one of the biggest monopolies in the world, one could argue Google has really become more of a utility (like gas, water and electric utilities), and as such has a responsibility to serve the people. In fact, last year, U.S. House Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, suggested Google and Facebook be turned into, and regulated as, public utilities.25
After all, if you want to find an answer on the web what do you do? You Google it, you don't just "search." Google worked for many years to earn your trust, but it was just setting a trap to twist that trust into powerful control.
Unfortunately, even if such an idea were to gain traction (which it has not), it still wouldn't solve the problem, as Google is not acting independently, but rather is merely fulfilling a role within a much larger complex that includes the U.S. government, its military and national security apparatus, as well as several of the wealthiest and most powerful industries on the planet. I'll delve into these issues in part 2 tomorrow.
All of these "partners" have a vested interest in censoring information addressed by yours truly on a daily basis; information relating to nondrug options for the prevention and treatment of disease and/or warnings about dangerous treatments, drugs and vaccines, for example, or the benefits of regenerative agriculture over conventional farming and fake meat, or the hazards of toxic chemicals found in everyday products and food.
Again, as explained earlier, Google's latest core algorithm update and quality rater guidelines bury all of this information, favoring instead information relayed by sites that are either part of this industrial-technological-military-government complex, or that peddle the desired talking points.
It doesn't matter that I'm reporting on and referencing publicly available peer-reviewed research and have a whole panel of medical and scientific experts reviewing much of the information, because the science I highlight is the science industry doesn't want you to see.
Few are ever going to take the time to dig up these studies even though they're readily available, and thus by censoring me and other online sources like myself, the industrial-technological-military-government complex's task of social engineering is significantly simplified.
The information I share about pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines, GMOs, pesticides, junk food, fake meat, artificial sweeteners and other dangerous additives are prime targets for censorship for the simple reason that when you take control of your health, they LOSE control over you. By being informed, you take their power over you away from them.
What can you do?
I have been writing about Google for years because I knew this day would come. June 3, 2019, Google predictably removed my website and several other health sites from its search results.
It's a wakeup call for everyone, and now more than ever we must work together to share this information with others by word of mouth, by text and email. We have built in simple sharing tools at the top of each article so you can easily email or text interesting articles to your friends and family.
My information is here because all of you support and share it, and we can do this without Big Tech's support. It's time to boycott and share! Here are a few other suggestions:
• Become a subscriber to my newsletter and encourage your friends and family to do the same. This is the easiest and safest way to make sure you'll stay up-to-date on important health and environmental issues.
• If you have any friends or relatives that are seriously interested in their health, please share important articles with them and encourage them to subscribe to our newsletter.
• Use the internal Mercola.com search engine when searching for articles on my site. Nearly all major search websites except Yahoo! and Bing still use Google as their primary engines and have their own privacy issues. Then you have sites like StartPage and DuckDuckGo, which provide greater privacy than Google, but rely on Google's search results.
• Boycott Google by avoiding any and all Google products:
◦ Uninstall Google Chrome and use Brave or Opera browser instead, available for all computers and mobile devices.28 From a security perspective, Opera is far superior to Chrome and offers a free VPN service (virtual private network) to further preserve your privacy
◦ If you have a Gmail account, try a non-Google email service such as ProtonMail,29 an encrypted email service based in Switzerland
◦ Stop using Google docs. Digital Trends has published an article suggesting a number of alternatives30
◦ If you're a high school student, do not convert the Google accounts you created as a student into personal accounts
• Sign the "Don't be evil" petition created by Citizens Against Monopoly
1 Before the advent of antibiotics, which of the following herbs was commonly used in the treatment of various infections?
2 Of the 10 foods the FDA found to be contaminated with PFAS chemicals, the following food contained the highest amounts:
3 France recently banned which of the following food additives, citing lack of evidence of safety?
4 Which of the following has been shown to have the best success rate in the treatment of depression in scientific studies?
5 The recommendation to walk at least 10,000 steps a day is based on:
6 Which of the following statements about Gardasil is true, based on data from Merck's own safety trials?
7 The following scenario has been found to increase the risk of autism spectrum disorder with intellectual disability by as much as 30 percent:
In answer to the question of whether drinking tomato juice has a positive influence on your blood pressure level, the answer is a resounding "yes," based in part on a recent, yearlong clinical study in Japan involving 481 men and women.
The study, published in Food Science & Nutrition, involved participants, aged between 21 and 74 years, who were supplied with as much unsalted tomato juice as they wanted (consuming an average of just under a cup of tomato juice per day) after being screened for such cardiovascular risk factors as blood pressure, glucose tolerance and their serum lipid profiles.1
At the end, new screenings revealed that 94 individuals with high and moderately high blood pressure levels, including some untreated, had significant decreases in both their systolic and diastolic blood pressure, with no other changes made in their overall lifestyles.
"Further, the serum low‐density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL‐C) level in 125 participants with untreated dyslipidemia (high levels of fat in the blood) significantly decreased."2
Researchers identified the antioxidant lycopene as not only the natural pigment that gives tomatoes their deep red color, but the fruit's most abundant natural carotenoid. Cooking tomatoes, for tomato paste, for example, increases their potency and bioavailability,3 and promoting increased lycopene absorption in your gut.
Other plant-based foods contain lycopene, but not nearly as much as there is in tomatoes. Other nutrients in tomatoes include flavonoids such as rutin, kaempferol and quercetin, lutein (another carotenoid), vitamin C, folate and potassium.
All of these ingredients help maintain heart health, but increasing your potassium intake may be one of the most important changes to make in your diet to lower your cardiovascular disease risk.
Further, people who have the lowest levels of lycopene in their blood have a higher increased risk for atherosclerosis, aka acute plaque buildup, and greater arterial thickness and stiffness.4 People with atherosclerosis in their carotid arteries (leading to the brain) that can be detected by ultrasound also have lower blood levels of lycopene compared with people with normal carotids.5
Additional studies show lycopene to be associated with numerous advantages for your heart, specifically strong antioxidant activity. The luscious red fruit (not the vegetable most think it is) contains many other beneficial antioxidants, including alpha tocopherol (vitamin E), alpha carotene, beta-carotene and retinol (vitamin A), but none at nearly the level of lycopene.
Lycopene for blood pressure may improve your heart, too
An Israeli study in 2001 noted that lycopene, as found in tomatoes, is also found in other fruits and vegetables. One reason it's an effective antioxidant is because it inactivates free radicals.6 Researchers in Finland revealed that due to the abundant provision of lycopene in tomatoes and other produce, the risk of ischemic stroke could be lowered by 59%.7
Study subjects included 1,031 middle-aged men. Those with the highest levels of lycopene in their blood were found 55% less likely to have any type of stroke compared to people with the lowest amounts. For the most common type of stroke — those caused by blood clots — men were assessed as being 59% less apt to have a stroke. According to University Health News:
"This is the first study to document a decreased stroke risk with lycopene consumption, although previous observational studies have shown that lycopene consumption is associated with lower rates of heart disease and atherosclerosis, as well as with a reduced risk of dying from any cause.
Clinical trials have also shown that lycopene benefits include lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, inflammation, and oxidative stress, including free radical damage to LDL cholesterol. Since all of these harmful processes are involved in the development of strokes, the Finnish researchers' findings come as no surprise."8
The implications for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and its various spin-offs are enormous. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), they're the most common cause of mortality in the world, with 15.2 million deaths recorded in 2016 alone.9
Even if it's not terminal, CVD can cause permanent organ damage that can lead to devastating quality of life consequences, most often due to atherosclerosis, which could be called acute plaque buildup, which eventually hardens and narrows your arteries.10
Related diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure are contributors with their own implications; heart-related disorders weigh heavily on each other, so regulating your blood pressure, as well as your lipid and glucose metabolism, helps to prevent CVD development and its widespread complications.
Lycopene has even more ways to improve your health
There are plenty of studies showing that increasing your lycopene levels brings about several layers of cellular benefits, reducing incidences and even exerting a preventative effect on diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as cancer and Alzheimer's. The journal Molecules11 notes several significant findings on lycopene, citing studies:
- Human plasma lycopene levels have shown an inverse association with oxidative DNA damage.12
- Previous studies have reported lycopene-rich diet and lycopene supplementation provided protective effects against DNA damage in both normal and cancerous human cells.13,14
- Consumption of lycopene-rich foods, juices or supplements has demonstrated protective effects against DNA damage in lymphocytes.15,16,17
- A high protection of lymphocytes from oxidative damage due to singlet oxygen and nitrogen dioxide was found in human subjects with higher intake of lycopene-rich tomato juice.18
- Lycopene can protect human lymphoid cells from singlet oxygen by binding to the surface of the cells.19
Lycopene captures reactive oxygen species (ROS) to prevent fats, proteins and DNA strand damage, which cause aging and higher disease risks. ROS attacks your body constantly and in many ways, some we can't do much about and some we can, from smoking to air pollution to eating primarily processed foods. One study explains how oxidation is a factor in high blood pressure, also known as hypertension:
"ROS can play, and in fact they do it, several physiological roles (i.e., cell signaling), and they are normally generated as by-products of oxygen metabolism; despite this, environmental stressors (i.e., UV, ionizing radiations, pollutants, and heavy metals) and xenobiotics (i.e., antiblastic drugs) contribute to greatly increase ROS production, therefore causing the imbalance that leads to cell and tissue damage (oxidative stress) ...
If not strictly controlled, oxidative stress can be responsible for the induction of several diseases, both chronic and degenerative, as well as speeding up body aging process and cause acute pathologies (i.e., trauma and stroke)."20
Another way high lycopene levels in your body produce dramatic, health-promoting benefits has to do with its mechanisms, and studies21 specify four ways lycopene works. It:
- Facilitates cell-to-cell communication at sites called "gap junctions," which are crucial for cells to stop growing at the right time, which is key for preventing the development of cancer.
- Stimulates the immune system to help destroy encroaching microorganisms and early cancer cells.
- Regulates endocrine (glandular) communication pathways.
- Regulates the cell reproductive cycle, preventing cancer development.
The problem with statins
Ischemic strokes, known for being clot related, take place when blood vessels in the brain become so narrow they're more easily clogged by fatty deposits, aka plaque, which cuts off the blood flow to brain cells. When taking 25 mg of lycopene via both the diet and supplementation, patients with slightly elevated cholesterol were found to have comparable results in lowering cholesterol as that of statins.22
Statins, the most profitable drug ever sold, have grossed more than $1 trillion. It's ironic, because additional studies show that people who take them die more often than people given placebos. Also ironic is the fact that evidence does not exist that proves lowering cholesterol or LDL does anything to improve anyone's health.
As it happens, low cholesterol levels are a health concern. Cholesterol is found in every cell in your body, helping to produce cell membranes, hormones (including the sex hormones testosterone, progesterone and estrogen) and bile acids that help you digest fat.
What eating tomatoes can do for you
One way to demonstrate what lycopene can do for you is to show what happened when researchers extracted it from the diets of postmenopausal women for a month: Lutein and zeaxanthin, α and /β –carotene, glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase were all significantly decreased in the women's blood profiles. They concluded:
"Daily consumption of lycopene may be important as it acts as an antioxidant to decrease bone resorption in postmenopausal women and may therefore be beneficial in reducing the risk of osteoporosis."23
One of the best things about the lycopene in tomatoes is that you can get the most benefit when it comes through foods, including tomato paste, tomato sauce, tomato soup, tomato juice and other lycopene-rich produce, like watermelon,24 a 2001 study notes. According to Edward Giovannucci, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health:
"Supplements may give you a purified form of lycopene, but you're not sure you're getting what you get from food. You may be getting the wrong form of lycopene in a supplement. There are also a lot of compounds in food that aren't lycopene but that are similar, and some of those molecules may be part of what makes lycopene so beneficial."25
- While they may be smaller, eating organic tomatoes rather than conventionally grown provides even more phenolic benefits.26
- When it comes to ketchup, the organic variety contains around 57% more lycopene.
- Whether they're raw or cooked, include a healthy fat such as olive oil when you eat tomatoes since lycopene is a fat-soluble nutrient.27
- Heating tomatoes for 30 minutes at 190.4 degrees F (88 degrees C) — roughly the temperature at which you'd simmer soup on the stove — boosts absorbable lycopene levels.28
- Tomatoes are in the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen,29 which lists the top 10 fruits and vegetables containing the highest levels of pesticide residue, so if you can't buy organic or grow your own, wash tomatoes thoroughly before eating.
The importance of sleep has been emphasized for years because of its positive effects toward health. Unfortunately, there are factors that can interrupt your peaceful sleep and cause unwanted complications. For some, sleep disturbances can be caused by snoring. This is a hoarse or harsh sound that develops when breathing is obstructed in some way during sleep.
According to SleepEducation.org, about half of people snore at some point in their lives. Snoring tends to be more common in men than in women. It usually runs in families and becomes more common as people get older.1 However, snoring shouldn’t be dismissed as a normal nightly occurrence, because it may be a sign of a disorder called sleep apnea.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea, which was named after a Greek word meaning “want of breath,”2 occurs when a partial or complete obstruction in the airway causes impaired breathing during sleep.3 While snoring is sometimes classified as the first sign of sleep apnea, there are four other types, namely:
- Central sleep apnea (CSA)
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
- Upper airway respiratory syndrome (UARS)
- Mixed sleep apnea
Sleep apnea can affect both children and adults.4 It manifests in 65% of all elderly men and 56% of senior women.5 Different causes of sleep apnea have been determined, including mechanical problems, poor nutrition and an existing disease, to name a few.6
Sleep apnea by the numbers
According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep apnea affects over 18 million adults in the U.S. As many as 10% to 20% of children who habitually snore may also suffer from this type of sleep disorder.7 What’s alarming is that only 20% of people with sleep apnea have been properly diagnosed and treated.8 Research published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine also pointed out that African-Americans have a higher OSA risk compared to Caucasians.9
Sleepiness and lack of concentration are among the many negative side effects of sleep apnea, which can make a person more likely to be involved in a car accident.10 The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes that in 2017, sleepy drivers were responsible for 91,000 police-reported car crashes. These incidents caused 50,000 injuries and nearly 800 deaths.11
There are ways to address sleep apnea
It’s never too early to resolve sleep apnea and bring back the high-quality rest you need. Browse these pages to become informed about sleep apnea’s common symptoms and causes, as well as the natural treatments and lifestyle changes that may help you address and prevent this disorder.
Zen Honeycutt, founder of Moms Across America, is nothing if not committed to action. In this inspiring interview, we discuss her book, "Unstoppable: Transforming Sickness and Struggle Into Triumph, Empowerment and a Celebration of Community," which delves into the state of the world's food supply, how to navigate through the many hazards of the standard American diet, and how you can become a powerful change agent yourself.
Like so many other parents, Honeycutt struggled to identify the roots of her children's many health issues, which included allergies, autoimmune problems and symptoms of autism.
"I was completely confused and baffled," she says. "Why was this happening? My kids had 19, 20 and 22 food allergies [respectively]. My husband and I had none of them. What was going on with the food supply? Thanks to Robyn O'Brien, Jeffrey Smith and all the scientists who started exposing information, I found out about genetically modified organisms (GMOs)."
She also discovered the disturbing truth about glyphosate, and how this pernicious weed killer, used on a wide variety of foods, whether they're GMO or not, decimates your gut microbiome and contributes to a host of health problems, some of which plagued her own children.
"The problem is glyphosate's so prevalent. This is the declared active chemical ingredient in Roundup that 80% of GMOs are engineered to withstand. Ijust's sprayed on all kinds of crops as a drying agent. It's in most of our food.
And then you combine that with all the other toxins in our environment, in our vaccines, in our pajamas, in our sofas and baby bottles and all of that — you've got all these chemicals and toxins coming at our kids. That's just a recipe for disaster.
Our kids are sick. One out of 2 children have a chronic illness; 1 in 2 males and 1 in 3 females are expected to get cancer in America today. That's not OK with me. That was the impetus for me starting Moms Across America. It was to raise awareness about GMOs and toxic chemicals in our food supply."
Standing up to Monsanto
On January 30, 2015, Honeycutt was given the opportunity to speak at a Monsanto shareholders meeting1 as a proxy for the John Harrington Investment Group. You can read her presentation here. The referendum she presented was passed, causing Monsanto's stock to significantly drop in the aftermath.
"I think a lot of the shareholders in that room probably were uncomfortable with owning Monsanto's stock after that meeting," she says. "That was probably one of the most terrifying and significant moments of my life, because I had the opportunity to speak on behalf of parents … with sick children.
I got to stand up in front of the entire shareholders meeting and basically hold them to account, to say how their products are harming our children. I got to meet Hugh Grant … the former chief executive officer (CEO) of Monsanto.
I looked him in the eye and said, 'You know, Mr. Grant, it takes a big man to make a big and powerful company. But it takes an even bigger man to acknowledge when something's not working and to go in a new direction … Moms Across America is looking forward to the day when Monsanto makes products that no longer harm our children.'
He said, 'We're always looking forward to have progress. We've got science on our side.' I said, 'Well, we actually have science on our side too, [and it shows] that your products harm our children … Just consider, what if you're wrong? What are the consequences?' … There's … global consequence.'
He said, 'If you're wrong, you're worrying an awful lot of people.' I said, 'But if I'm wrong, the consequence is only that people are eating organic. There's nothing wrong with organic' …
So many of us get concerned about … 'What if trolls come after me? What if I get attacked?' People are actually concerned for their physical safety in this climate right now. But … we cannot be stopped … We need to be unstoppable … We cannot let fear interfere with our commitment. We need to take action … Chemical companies should not be involved in our food supply. That's all there is to it."
As noted by Honeycutt, it's important to realize that the science Monsanto (now Bayer) claims is on their side was bought and paid for by them. Some studies have even been shown to have been ghostwritten by the company itself. Such facts have come out during the discovery process of some of the lawsuits against Monsanto, which now number well over 11,000.
Meanwhile, many peer-reviewed, independent studies have found glyphosate-based herbicides to be carcinogenic.2 Glyphosate has also been shown to be a DNA mutagen, a chelator of important minerals,3 an antibiotic,4 an endocrine disruptor5,6 and more.7,8,9,10,11
Recent research12 even found that among children born of women with high exposure to glyphosate during pregnancy the rate of autism spectrum disorder with intellectual disability was 30% higher than among those born of mothers who lived further from highly-sprayed areas. Children who on top of that were exposed to pesticides during their first year were at 50% increased risk.
As noted by Honeycutt, while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's review13 found glyphosate was not a carcinogen, its conclusion was based on industry-funded science, not independent science. In fact, according to some of the members on the scientific advisory panel convened to evaluate the strength of the EPA's decision, the agency violated its own guidelines by discounting and downplaying data from studies linking glyphosate to cancer.14
Turning devastation into triumph
More often than not, people who stand up to big industry end up paying a high price. Many lose their careers in the process. A similar situation, although impossible to prove, happened to the Honeycutts. Two weeks after Honeycutt attended Monsanto's shareholders meeting, an outside consultant came into and reorganized her husband's company.
"My husband was the only one fired," Honeycutt says. "Now, I can't say that it was definitely connected to Monsanto, but Monsanto was one of their clients. My husband was in the information technology (IT) division. He had nothing to do with Monsanto. He had nothing to do with sales. I don't even think he knew that they were a client for a very long time, not until I got into this.
He lost his job. At first we thought it was devastating … But … everything that seems devastating can actually be the best thing that ever happened to you … We made this into the best thing that ever happened to us. My husband got search engine optimization training. He became a consultant. His company is called Organic Results.
He now does consulting for companies that we believe in, to improve the traffic to their websites. He's a consultant for Moms Across America. He runs our marketing. He … helps us with our Health Solutions Store … He's been an integral part of Moms Across America, and part of the reason why we're able to still stay around.
The cool thing is we get to work together every day. He gets to be with our sons who are 16, 13 and 10 now. They get to have their dad around. It's just phenomenal. I just absolutely love that we get to do what we're doing."
Eating organic can make a world of difference
As mentioned, all three of Honeycutt's children struggled with food allergies. Her oldest son had a severe allergic reaction at 18 months after eating a nut. At the age of 5, he nearly died on Thanksgiving due to a pecan in the stuffing.
"One day, when he was about 8 years old, he had this rash around his mouth that had been going on and off for about seven months. It would last for about two weeks at a time. We didn't know what it was. He looked at me really forlornly. He said, 'Mom, I wish all my allergies would go away.' I said, 'Me too, buddy.' But in my head, I was thinking, 'That's never going to happen.'
Then I realized what I was saying in my head. I was like, 'Wait a second. That's not what I'm committed to. I'm committed to empowerment. What if there was something we could do?' I remembered my cousin, Sara, who had gone gluten-free for a long time and then was able to eat gluten about a year later.
I said, 'Ben, would you like to be able to eat a slice of pizza or have a piece of birthday cake at a birthday party like a year from now?' I painted that picture; that future. He said yes. I said, 'Well then, would you be my partner in your health? Would you drink green drinks and go to alternative doctors?' He said yes … We made a deal, and he did.
I did the research. He took the actions. He drank the green drinks. We took care of his gut bacteria. Within four months of going GMO-free, the rash was dramatically better. You could barely see it. It was a faint pink line under his lip if he was exposed to the allergen, which we figured out was carrageenan, by going to an alternative doctor.
And then within about a year or two of going organic … his allergies to walnuts and pecans went from a 19 down to 0.2. He no longer has a life-threatening food allergy. The peace of mind that I have as a mother that my son won't die from food is priceless. It's enormous. Our doctors' bills, by the way, are dramatically lower.
We used to spend $12,000 to $15,000 with good health insurance. Now it's maybe a couple hundred. It's nothing. That's just for checkups or whatever. We haven't had to go for a sick doctor visit in three and a half years. He's dramatically better."
Autism symptoms linked to glyphosate exposure
Honeycutt's second child developed a sudden onset of autism symptoms. "He was basically like an 8-year-old who was acting like a 3- or 4-year old. He was having tantrums. His grades went from As to Ds in math … His behavior was very erratic. He was trying to hit us … He was not being himself." Honeycutt says.
A medical checkup revealed he had gut dysbiosis caused by C. difficile. According to the doctor, who specialized in autism, the inflammation in his gut was also causing inflammation in his brain. Glyphosate is known to do this, which prompted the Honeycutt's to have him tested for glyphosate exposure.
"My son was the first one to be tested in America for glyphosate in his urine. We had finally initiated that. Moms Across America had put out the word to everybody. You can get your urine, your tap water and your breast milk tested for glyphosate.
His levels were eight times higher than was ever found in Europe, when Friends of the Earth did testing in Europe. I was furious that Roundup was in my son. We went 100% organic. Within six weeks, we retested him. His glyphosate levels were no longer detectable, and his autism symptoms were gone.
All we did was take care of his gut. We did give him an antifungal. We didn't have to do a probiotic in there, but we gave him lots of sauerkraut, organic food. He ate no sugar from Thanksgiving to New Year's, so he didn't feed the bad gut bacteria. He recovered. He has not had a single autism symptom [in] five years now."
Glyphosate found in vaccines
Now, food is not the only source of glyphosate exposure. Years ago, Honeycutt came across a Facebook post listing vaccine ingredients. Among them: polysorbate 80 — which like glyphosate can break down the blood-brain barrier and let toxins in — aluminum, bovine serum (blood) and egg.
Honeycutt realized some of these ingredients are likely GMO, or have been fed GMOs, and if so, they're likely contaminated with glyphosate since glyphosate cannot be washed off. When an animal eats glyphosate-contaminated feed, their body parts become contaminated as well. Moms Across America sent five childhood vaccines to be tested for glyphosate, and every single one of them came back positive.
"The measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine came back 25 times higher than the other vaccines. Another scientist independently tested 14 more vaccines, and they also came back and confirmed our results," Honeycutt says.
"His MMR vaccine came back 35 times higher. We all know that the problem around the MMR vaccine is that … it causes gut dysbiosis. [Andrew Wakefield] didn't say it causes autism. He said it causes gut dysbiosis. Incidentally, practically every child who has autism has gut dysbiosis.
This, to me, was huge, because what I'm thinking is, 'What if glyphosate in vaccines is one of the major contributing factors to vaccine damage?' If you think about it, mercury was in vaccines back in 1929, but it wasn't until the late '90s when GMOs and glyphosate came on the scene that there was a huge spike in autism.
Now, to be fair, there was also a huge spike in the numbers of vaccines given. Our children are now getting 49 doses by age 12 and 69 doses by age 18. The numbers of vaccines our children are getting are also extremely high. But there are children who get one vaccine and they're damaged after that. You have to look at what changed in the ingredients."
Another variable that happened in the late '90s was the dramatic increase in exposure to wireless radiation, and this too may be a significant contributor. There may even be a toxic synergy between the two that is contributing to the health deterioration we now see in so many children. The good news is that you have the ability to make a difference.
Aside from reading Honeycutt's book, "Unstoppable: Transforming Sickness and Struggle Into Triumph, Empowerment and a Celebration of Community," you can also learn more by visiting MomsAcrossAmerica.org and signing up for their newsletter. When you sign up, you'll receive a free mini e-book of "Unstoppable." Under the Action tab, you can also sign up to volunteer and post events.
"When you have that event, we know you're serious about getting the word out, so we send you free materials," Honeycutt says. "You only have to pay for shipping … We have some great flyers, 'Why Eat Organic?' 'What's Going on With Toxins in Our Food Supply?' … We don't make it a scary situation. It's just informative. We always bring solutions …
You give them a stack of 100 flyers and you say, 'Could you leave this at your school? Or your library? Or your community center?' … Just get the word out about what's happening in our food supply … That's a great way to get involved … You can also join in the 4th of July parades. It costs anywhere from nothing to maybe 30 to 50 dollars, if you want to buy a banner and also pass out flyers.
You can have movie nights. There are some great movies you can show over an organic potluck. That's my favorite thing to do. We'll also connect you with other moms on our Monday Moms Connect Calls at 5 p.m., Pacific time. If you sign up to our newsletter, you'll get an invitation to that.
We've expanded our mission to 'We educate and inspire mothers and others to transform the food industry and environment, creating healthy communities together.' By environment, we include anything that's coming at our kids. If that's a vaccine, if it's drugs, if it's pollution, if it's EMFs — no matter what it is that's coming at our kids that's going to overwhelm them [or] increase the toxic burden — we will address that …
To opt out of this toxic system, we need to not only eat organic food or grow our own organic food. We need to also learn how to take care of ourselves through herbs and plants and opt out of that whole Big Pharma system."
Moms Across America is also looking for more advisers, including moms who want to help educate others on these topics. If you're interested, please contact them.
As noted by Honeycutt, everyone has a moment when they decide to take action. For her, the realization that she had the power to make a difference came early. Her father was a great supporter from an early age and when, at the age of 12, Honeycutt came home saying class president elections were coming up, he suggested she should run.
"I said, 'Me? Why me?' He said, 'Why not?' I was like, 'Oh. OK. Why not?' I ran and won," she says. "If there's something you want to do or you're interested in doing, something you want to take on, [ask yourself] why not you? That quote from Lilly Tomlin: 'I always thought someone should do something about that, and then I realized I am somebody' — that's it.
I want everybody to believe that they are somebody; that they are, in fact … amazing … My personal commitment now is to empower community leaders to be global game changers, because that's what it's going to take …
Moms who are watching us right now … say, 'You know what? I'm the one who's going to get Roundup out of my town. I'm the one who's going to stop this vaccine mandate in my city. I'm the one who's going to get my school to have GMO-free food.'
When you do that, you — us, all of us collectively — we change the game around the world … So, sign up to Moms Across America and see where you can start taking action. Because when you do, it's incredibly fulfilling."
Also called pork filet and pork tender, pork tenderloin is a lean, boneless cut of meat taken from the muscles that run alongside the backbone of a pig. As its name implies, pork tenderloin is the most tender pork cut — this is because it’s located at a part that gets very little exercise, if any. It is long and cylindrical, with a tough connective tissue (called silver skin) that needs to be removed before cooking
A pork tenderloin usually weighs around 1 pound and is often sold whole. It’s a little expensive compared to other pork cuts. Be careful not to confuse pork tenderloin with pork loin because they’re two completely different cuts of meat. While pork loin is also a lean cut of meat taken from the back of the animal, it’s wider compared to pork tenderloin and can be used to cut steak-like pieces. These two cuts cannot be substituted for each other because of their difference in size and shape. ,
How Long Should You Cook Pork Tenderloin?
Timing and temperature are crucial when it comes to cooking pork tenderloin, as it can easily dry out and become chewy when overcooked. When undercooked, it could put you at risk of foodborne microorganisms such as Trichinella spiralis, E. coli and salmonella.
The cooking time for tenderloin may vary depending on the size of the cut, the cooking method used and the heat setting of the cooking equipment. Here are some of the approximate cooking times for different cooking methods according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA):
- Roasting — Pork tenderloins weighing between 1 pound and 1 1/2 pounds should be roasted in a shallow pan at 425 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 to 27 minutes, provided the oven has been heated to 350 degrees F beforehand.
- Broiling —Broil a 1-pound to 1 1/2-pound pork tenderloin for around 20 minutes over direct, medium heat. Turn the meat once halfway through.
- Frying — Tenderloin medallions cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch slices should be cooked for four to eight minutes in a skillet on stovetop.
- Braising — Braise 1/4- to 1/2 inch-thick tenderloin medallions for eight to 10 minutes.
Whichever cooking method you choose, be sure to let the meat rest for at least three minutes before consumption. The USDA also advises to measure the internal temperature of the pork tenderloin with a food thermometer before removing it from the heat source.
As with other cuts of pork, tenderloin should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure you place the thermometer into the thickest part of the tenderloin to guarantee that the entire piece is cooked well for safe consumption. The center part of the tenderloin may be a little pink, but this is normal and safe as long as it reached the correct internal temperature. , , ,
Different Ways to Cook Pork Tenderloin
Since it’s versatile, easy to prepare and quick to cook, pork tenderloin is a great go-to meat for a variety of recipes that you can serve for casual family meals or even formal dinner parties. Here are some ways you can cook pork tenderloin:
A marinated or dry-rubbed pork tenderloin takes well to the smokiness of a grill. I recommend grilling your meat over indirect heat. Do not use charcoal, as it can increase your risk of being exposed to heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which are harmful chemicals produced during grilling. Here’s the proper way to grill pork tenderloin on indirect heat so you get a crispy crust and a juicy center: ,Ingredients:
1 pork tenderloin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Herbs and spices, to taste
- Using a thin, sharp knife, trim the silver skin from the surface of the tenderloin.
- Combine all of the seasonings in a small bowl to make the rub.
- Pat the rub on the surface of the tenderloin, then set it aside as you prepare the grill.
- Lightly oil the grate with coconut oil then place the tenderloin on top.
- Cook the tenderloin over indirect heat for around 30 to 45 minutes, or until its internal temperature reads 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Let the meat rest for around 10 minutes before serving.
Tip: Don’t skimp on herbs and spices when grilling pork tenderloin. Not only do they add flavor to the meat, but they may also help reduce the amount of HCAs and AGEs produced when grilling.
Oven-Roasted Pork Tenderloin
1 pork tenderloin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon coconut oil
Herbs and spices, to taste
- Ten to 20 minutes before roasting, place a skillet in the oven and set the heat to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Trim off the silver skin of the tenderloin, then pat the seasoning on its surface.
- Using oven mitts, carefully take out the hot skillet from the oven. Add the oil into the skillet and swirl it to coat the surface of the pan.
- Place the pork tenderloin on the pan and put it back in the oven. Roast for 10 minutes.
- Flip the tenderloin then reduce the temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Continue roasting for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until its internal temperature reads 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Let the meat rest for around 10 minutes before serving.
Slow-Cooked Pork Tenderloin
Slow cooking is an ideal cooking method if you want to ensure that your pork tenderloin is moist, juicy and cooked thoroughly. If you’re planning to try this method, make sure you have ample time to cook your pork tenderloin on low heat. Follow this step-by-step guide: ,
1 pork tenderloin
Broth of your choice
Herbs and spices, to taste
- Place the pork tenderloin in the slow cooker, then add in the broth, herbs, spices and other seasoning.
- Cook on a low heat setting for seven to eight hours.
Baked Pork Tenderloin
1 pork tenderloin
Marinade or rub of your choiceProcedure:
- Heat the oven to 360 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Season the tenderloin with the marinade or rub, then place it on a baking dish lined with parchment paper.
- Drizzle with coconut oil and bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until its internal temperature has reached 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Let it rest for about 15 minutes before serving.
Once you’ve mastered the different cooking techniques for pork tenderloin, try cooking one of these recipes:
Garlic and Herb Roasted Pork Tenderloin
Serving size: 4
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes
1 1/4 pounds pork tenderloin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt, to taste
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
- Heat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Put all dry ingredients in a bowl. Stir well until all the ingredients are combined.
- Pat the rub on both sides of the pork tenderloin, pressing gently so the seasoning adheres well.
- Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add in the minced garlic; sauté for one minute.
- Put the tenderloin in the pan and cook for about 10 minutes, searing each side. Use tongs to turn the meat. Transfer the meat to a roasting pan and allow it to cook for 20 minutes.
Mustard and Garlic Crusted Pork Tenderloin
Serving size: 4 to 6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Total time: 60 minutes
2 pork tenderloins
3 tablespoons homemade mustard
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 teaspoons dried thyme
Black pepper, to taste
Kosher salt, to taste
- Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Line the baking pan with parchment paper, then lightly grease.
- Place the pork tenderloins in the pan and sprinkle lightly with salt.
- Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl and stir well until blended. Rub over all sides of the pork tenderloins.
- Roast the tenderloins for 40 to 55 minutes, or until their internal temperature registers at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit on the meat thermometer.
- Remove from the oven, cover loosely and let rest for five to 10 minutes before serving.
What to Look for When Choosing a Pork Tenderloin
When buying pork tenderloin, choose a piece that’s pinkish-red in color to make sure it’s fresh. Avoid those that look pale and have dark spots. Most importantly, always choose pork tenderloin that comes from a naturally raised, pastured source. Do not buy meat that comes from animals raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), since they’re likely given antibiotics that could put you at risk of antibiotic-resistant diseases.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Is pork tenderloin healthy?
A. Pork tenderloin is just as lean as a chicken breast. According to the USDA, roasted pork tenderloin may be a great source of protein, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6 and selenium.
Q. How do you know when the pork tenderloin is done?
A. The best way to tell the doneness of a pork tenderloin is to measure the internal temperature of the thickest part of the meat. Pork tenderloin should be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit to make sure it’s safe for consumption. ,
Q. Is it OK for a cooked pork tenderloin to be pink?
A. It’s normal for a properly cooked pork tenderloin to be slightly pink in the middle. This is safe for consumption as long as the internal temperature reached 145 degrees Fahrenheit. ,
Q. Should I wrap pork tenderloin in foil?
A. I do not recommend wrapping pork tenderloin or any food in foil, since it’s made from aluminum. Aluminum is a neurotoxic substance that could contaminate food, drugs and other consumer products. One study even shows that aluminum exposure could increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.
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- An important reminder before taking magnesium sulfate
- Frequently asked questions about magnesium sulfate
Magnesium is a mineral that comes from the soil1 and is present in various foods. It plays an important role in proper health because it is a cofactor in over 300 enzyme systems that are responsible for various biological processes, such as:2
- Protein synthesis3
- Muscle and nerve function4
- Blood pressure regulation5
- Blood sugar control6
- Energy production7
- Transportation of sodium and potassium into cell membranes8
It's clear that magnesium is an essential mineral that everyone should sufficiently have. Sadly, this is not the case for most Americans. It's estimated that almost half of Americans9,10 are not getting enough magnesium from their diet and are at risk of deficiency, which can lead to various health-related problems.
Magnesium deficiency is a serious cause of concern among Americans today. If your body lacks this mineral, you may develop conditions such as:11
- Blood clots16
- Heart disease
- Tooth decay
Quite simply, your best way to counteract the dangers of magnesium deficiency is to increase your intake of magnesium-rich foods.
Magnesium can be conveniently increased through your diet. There are many magnesium-rich foods you can eat and enjoy regularly to help optimize your health, such as:
- Avocado — 29 milligrams per 100 grams17
- Atlantic mackerel — 76 milligrams per 100 grams18
- Banana — 27 milligrams per 100 grams19
- Pumpkin and squash seeds — 262 milligrams per 100 grams20
- Spinach — 79 milligrams per 100 grams21
Aside from getting your magnesium from foods, taking magnesium supplements can boost your magnesium levels. However, supplements can be very confusing if you're unfamiliar with them. For example, there are different types of magnesium supplements, such as magnesium chloride, magnesium oxide, magnesium citrate and magnesium sulfate.
The reason for this is because pure magnesium is not easily absorbed by the body, so it must be bound to a carrier substance. All of these products use different carriers depending on the intended purpose and how bioavailable they are. Bioavailability is the amount of magnesium that can be absorbed in your digestive system for your body to use.22
Remember that when it comes to increasing magnesium, getting it through your diet is the healthiest approach. Supplements may work, but relying on them too much may cause digestive problems because increased magnesium levels have laxative effects.23 If you still want to try this approach, though, one magnesium supplement you can try is magnesium sulfate, also known as Epsom salt.
One of the main benefits of magnesium sulfate is its potential ability to boost the overall amount of magnesium in your body. To do this, magnesium sulfate is typically dissolved in bathwater, allowing your skin to absorb the substance.24 It may also be taken as a capsule depending on the user's preference.25
In a study conducted at the University of Birmingham in the U.K., 19 healthy participants were asked to soak in magnesium sulfate baths for 12 minutes, and their magnesium levels were measured afterward through blood and urine samples. Results indicated that most of the subjects had increased magnesium concentrations in their plasma, and that consistent bathing increased the concentration further.26
Magnesium sulfate has other uses aside from increasing magnesium levels in the blood. Here are other practical applications of this substance:
• Treatment for preeclampsia — Preeclampsia is a complication that may occur during pregnancy. It is marked by high blood pressure, abnormal function of organs and excess protein in the urine.27
To help treat preeclampsia, magnesium sulfate can be administered intravenously to help reduce the risk of seizures in the mother's body, and is actually one of the most common methods used for those who develop this condition.28 Dosages are strictly controlled in a hospital setting to minimize further complications.29
• Relief from constipation — Magnesium supplements are commonly taken for their laxative effect, and magnesium sulfate has been found to be helpful in this regard. Research suggests that magnesium helps improve bowel movements by pulling more water from your body into the colon.30 After taking a dosage, bowel movement should occur within 30 minutes to six hours.31
• Ease asthma symptoms — Asthma is a respiratory condition defined by breathing difficulties, coughing, wheezing and chest tightness.32 If this condition becomes severe, magnesium sulfate may be administered to provide immediate relief by inducing relaxation in the bronchial smooth muscles.33
Research suggests that the muscle-relaxing properties of magnesium work by inhibiting calcium influx into the cytosol.34
• Improved muscle recovery — Research has shown that magnesium may benefit muscle recovery after intense physical activity. According to a study in Magnesium Research, magnesium is responsible for oxygen uptake, energy production and electrolyte balance.
Furthermore, evidence suggests that even a slight deficiency in magnesium can already amplify the negative effects of strenuous exercise, such as oxidative stress. Therefore, increasing magnesium intake may help improve physical activity and recovery.35
• Better cognitive function — Magnesium deficiency has been linked to various neurological pathologies such as migraines, depression, epilepsy, stroke, traumatic brain and spinal injuries and Parkinson's disease.36
To help prevent the loss of brain function, magnesium sulfate may be utilized. According to a rodent study published in PLoS One, administration of magnesium sulfate in rats helped increase magnesium levels in the brain, as well as reverse impairments in long-term potentiation. In addition, insulin sensitivity had improved.37
Taking a magnesium sulfate supplement may benefit your health, however it may also introduce sudden changes in your system. Before you even consider taking a magnesium sulfate product, be sure to consult with your doctor, especially if you are dealing with kidney disease.38
Pregnant women should not take magnesium sulfate supplements without their physician's advice. Furthermore, it is not known if magnesium sulfate can pass into breastmilk, so before taking the supplement after giving birth, consult with your doctor for safety reasons.39
While published studies have suggested that magnesium sulfate can optimize your health, there's still a chance that you may experience side effects. Reported side effects include:40,41
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Heart disturbances
- Lowered blood pressure
- Muscle weakness
While there are many side effects indicated, not all of them are alarming and do not require medical attention. However, if you experience the more severe effects, such as a drop in blood pressure, anxiety attacks and heart disturbances, stop taking magnesium sulfate and visit a doctor immediately.
While it looks like magnesium sulfate can help you, don't just simply load up on it all the time. Too much magnesium in your body can result in hypermagnesemia, a condition that causes dangerous side effects like low blood pressure, respiratory paralysis and abnormal cardiac conduction.42
To prevent the effects of hypermagnesemia, you need to increase your intake of calcium as well. Ideally, your calcium to magnesium ratio should be 1-to-1. The muscle-relaxing properties of magnesium balance out with the muscle-contraction properties of calcium.43
Consumption of vitamin K2 should also be increased alongside calcium as well because it helps direct calcium into the parts where it is needed the most, such as the bones and teeth. Without vitamin K2, arterial calcification can occur.44
Q: Is magnesium sulfate soluble?
A: Yes, magnesium sulfate is a soluble substance, especially in water.45
Q: What does magnesium sulfate do?
A: Magnesium sulfate, also known as Epsom salt, increases the magnesium levels in your body, which may help avoid deficiency. Studies also found that it can help with a variety of conditions such as preeclampsia,46 digestive health, muscle repair and pain relief.47
Q: Is magnesium sulfate flammable?
A: Magnesium sulfate is not a flammable substance.48 However, it may release toxic or irritating fumes when exposed to a fire.49
Q: Is magnesium sulfate safe?
A: Magnesium sulfate is considered generally safe. However, as with other supplements, it may introduce undesirable side effects. Commonly reported problems include diarrhea, nausea, headache and lightheadedness. Be sure to consult with a doctor before taking magnesium sulfate, or any other form of magnesium supplements for that matter.50
The HPV vaccine Gardasil was granted European license in February 2006,1 followed by U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval that same year in June.2 Gardasil was controversial in the U.S. from the beginning, with vaccine safety activists questioning the quality of the clinical trials used to fast track the vaccine to licensure.3
Lauded as a silver bullet against cervical cancer, there have been multiple continuing reports since it was licensed that Gardasil vaccine has wrought havoc on the lives of young girls (and young boys) in the U.S. and in countries across the world. Serious adverse reactions reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) in relation to Gardasil include but are not limited to:4
Transverse myelitis (inflammation of the spinal cord)
Venous thromboembolic events (blood clots)
Autoimmune initiated motor neuron disease (a neurodegenerative disease that causes rapidly progressive muscle weakness)
Postmarketing experiences and adverse events reported during post-approval use listed on the Gardasil vaccine insert5 include blood and lymphatic system disorders such as autoimmune hemolytic anemia, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura and lymphadenopathy; pulmonary embolus; pancreatitis; autoimmune diseases; anaphylactic reactions; arthralgia and myalgia (musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders); nervous system disorders such as acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, motor neuron disease, paralysis, seizures and transverse myelitis; and deep venous thrombosis, a vascular disorder.
According to "Manufactured Crisis — HPV, Hype and Horror," a film6 by The Alliance for Natural Health, there have also been cases of 16-year-old girls developing ovarian dysfunction, meaning they're going into menopause, which in turn means they will not be able to have children.
Despite such serious effects, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and FDA allege the vast majority, or even all, of these tragic cases are unrelated to the vaccine, and that Gardasil is safe.
The Plaintiff's Science Day Presentation on Gardasil video features Robert F. Kennedy Jr., chairman and chief legal counsel for Children's Health Defense,7 an organization originally founded in 2016 as World Mercury Project and renamed in 2018 to focus on exposing and eliminating multiple harmful exposures contributing to the epidemic of chronic ill health among children. The video details the many safety problems associated with Merck's HPV vaccine, Gardasil.
The information presented is based on publicly available government documents. Kennedy notes that, if what he says about Merck in this video presentation were untrue, they would be considered slanderous.
However, Kennedy says he is not concerned about being sued for slander. He says he knows Merck won't sue, "because in the U.S., truth is an absolute defense against slander" and Merck knows that, were the company to sue for slander, Kennedy would file discovery requests that would unearth even more documents detailing Merck's fraudulent activities.
Kennedy's presentation does not go into the biological mechanisms by which Gardasil causes harm. He directs parents and pediatricians to the Children's Health Defense website8 to read peer reviewed medical literature sources for that information.
Instead, Kennedy's presentation focuses on what he describes as Merck's fraudulent clinical trials of Gardasil vaccine, which were used to gain FDA approval. While this article provides you with a summary of the key points, I urge you to watch Kennedy's presentation in in its entirety, as this information may well save you or your child a lifetime of heartache and exorbitant medical expenses.
Gardasil by the numbers
According to Merck, Gardasil will "eliminate cervical cancer and other HPV-associated cancers." While that may sound impressive, just how great is a woman's risk of dying from cervical cancer in the U.S. to begin with?
According to Kennedy, National Cancer Institute (NCI) data show the mortality rate for cervical cancer is 1 in 43,478 (2.3 per 100,000), and the median age of cervical cancer death is 58.
To eliminate that one death, all 43,478 must pay $420 — the average cost of the three Gardasil injections. According to Kennedy, 76 million American children have been mandated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to receive the vaccine, providing Merck with an annual revenue of $2.3 billion.
When you crunch the numbers, you realize that the cost of using Gardasil to save one life is $18.3 million. Meanwhile, compensation paid by the Vaccine Court for the death of a child maxes out at $250,000.
Put another way, $18.3 million is being spent in an effort to save a life from a disease, while the U.S. Health and Human Services values human life at just a quarter of a million dollars per person when a person dies from using a government recommended vaccine in that effort.
As noted by Kennedy, some will argue that $18.3 million is a reasonable cost for saving a life, but the criteria we should use, he says, when evaluating the cost of saving a life is whether there are less expensive ways to achieve the same goal.
In the case of HPV infection and cervical cancer, there's ample evidence showing that inexpensive PAP smears are the most effective way to identify an HPV infection, and by treating it to prevent it from turning into cancer.
Why tolerance for Gardasil-induced harm should be extremely low
By law, Merck must demonstrate that the HPV vaccine is safe. By legal definition, "The word safety means the relative freedom from harmful effect to persons affected, directly or indirectly, by a product when prudently administered, taking into consideration the character of the product in relation to the condition of the recipient at the time."
Kennedy points out that, in the case of the HPV vaccine, recipients are healthy preteen and teen girls and boys, for whom the risk of dying from cervical cancer and other related HPV cancers is zero. Remember, the median age of cervical cancer death is 58.
The median age of detection is 50. What this means, Kennedy stresses, is that the threshold for tolerance of vaccine-associated risks should be extremely low, since the risk of death at the time it's given is nil.
What's more, the HPV vaccine is a mandated requirement in some jurisdictions, and available without parental consent in others, which further lowers the bar of tolerance for vaccine-induced risks. In other words, especially when it comes to mandated use of the vaccine or use by teens without parental knowledge or consent, there should be virtually no conceivable risk associated with Gardasil vaccine.
As for determining the risk associated with a medical intervention prelicensure, the gold standard in medicine is double-blind placebo-controlled trials. In such a trial, one group of people, typically in the thousands, receives the experimental drug product, while the other half receives a placebo, an inert substance such as saline or a sugar pill that has no chemical or biological effects that might muddy the waters and interfere with the evaluation of the drug effects.
What's more, to control for the placebo effect, no one knows which of the participants received the medication or the placebo until the very end of the trial. Lastly, drug trials typically last for several years, as it's well-known that many side effects are latent and don't show up until years down the road.
Cancer, for example, can take four to five years to develop after exposure to a carcinogenic substance. For less carcinogenic yet still harmful substances, cancer may take decades to develop.
How Merck committed fraud in its Gardasil safety testing
Kennedy says the fraud Merck committed in its safety testing is (a) testing Gardasil against a toxic placebo, and (b) hiding a 2.3% incidence of autoimmune disease occurring within seven months of vaccination.
In his presentation, Kennedy shows Table 1 from the package insert9 for Gardasil, which looks at vaccine injuries at the site of injection. It shows that Gardasil was administered to 5,088 girls; another 3,470 received the control, amorphous aluminum hydroxyphosphate sulfate (AAAH) — a neurotoxic aluminum vaccine adjuvant that has been associated with many serious vaccine injuries in the medical literature.
A third group, consisting of 320 individuals, received a proper placebo (saline). In the Gardasil and AAAH control groups, the number of injuries were fairly close; 83.9% in the Gardasil group and 75.4% in the AAAH control group. Meanwhile, the rate of injury (again, relating to injuries at the injection site only), was significantly lower at 48.6%.
Next, he shows Table 9 from the vaccine insert, which is the "Summary of girls and women 9 through 26 years of age who reported an incident condition potentially indicative of a systemic autoimmune disorder after enrollment in clinical trials of Gardasil, regardless of causality." These conditions include serious systemic reactions, chronic and debilitating disorders and autoimmune diseases.
Now all of a sudden, there are only two columns, not three as shown for the injection site injuries. The column left out is that of the saline placebo group. Kennedy points out that Merck cleverly hides the hazards of Gardasil by combining the saline group with the aluminum control, thereby watering down the side effects reported in the controls. "They hide the saline group as a way of fooling you, your pediatrician and the regulatory agency," Kennedy says.
Looking at the effects reported in the two groups, 2.3% of those receiving Gardasil reported an effect of this nature, as did 2.3% of those receiving the AAAH (aluminum) control or saline placebo. The same exact ratio of harm is reported in both groups, which makes it appear as though Gardasil is harmless.
In reality, we know very little about Gardasil vaccine safety from the data as presented, since the vast majority of the controls were given a toxic substance, and they don't tell us how many of those receiving a truly inert substance developed these systemic injuries. Still, we can draw some educated guesses, seeing how the injection site injury ratios between Gardasil and the aluminum group were similar.
Merck's use of AAAH, a neurotoxic aluminum adjuvant instead of a biologically inactive placebo, effectively nullifies its prelicensure Gardasil safety testing.
As noted by Peter Gotzche with the Cochrane Center in 2016, when he co-filed an unofficial complaint against the European Medical Agency for bias in its assessment of the HPV vaccine, "The use of active comparators probably increased the occurrence of harms in the comparator group, thereby masking harms caused by the HPV vaccine."
When making an informed decision, you need to know both sides of the equation — the risk you're trying to avoid, and the risk you're taking on. Recall that, on average, 1 in 43,478 women will die from cervical cancer.
If 2.3% of girls develop an autoimmune disease from Gardasil, then that translates into 1,000 per 43,500. Even if a 1 in 43,478 chance of dying from cancer is gone, does it makes sense to trade that for a 1 in 43 chance of getting an autoimmune disease?
And how many parents are comfortable giving a child a substance knowing there's a 1 in 43 chance that this substance will cause a lifelong disability? Yet that's the choice parents have been fooled into making.
Merck has not disclosed how many clinical safety trials (also called protocols) it conducted for Gardasil. A slide in Kennedy's presentation shows a listing of several of the ones known, including protocol 18. Kennedy says this clinical trial is critical because that was the one that FDA used as its basis for giving Merck a license to market the vaccine for use in children as young as 9 years old.
Protocol 18 is the only trial in which the target audience, 9- through 15-year-old girls and boys, was tested prelicensure. The other trials looked at the vaccine's safety in 16- through 26-year-olds. Protocol 18 included just 939 children — "a very, very tiny group of people," Kennedy says, "for a product that is going to be marketed to millions of children around the world."
Aside from its small cohort size, protocol 18 is also filled with "fraud and flimflam," according to Kennedy. Merck presented protocol 18 to the FDA and HHS as the only safety trial that used a true nonbioactive inert placebo. This, however, was a misrepresentation.
Instead of pure saline, the placebo used in protocol 18 contained a carrier solution composed of polysorbate 80, sodium borate (borax, which is banned for food products in the U.S. and Europe), genetically modified yeast, L-histidine and DNA fragments. In essence, the "placebo" was all of the vaccine components with the exception of the aluminum adjuvant and the antigen (viral portion).
Very little if any safety testing has been done on these ingredients, so their biological effects in the body are largely unknown. What we can say for sure is that these are not inert substances like saline. Still, the 596 children given the carrier solution control "fared much better than any other cohort in the study," Kennedy says.
None of them had any serious adverse events in the first 15 days. Now, here's where Merck committed fraud yet again. As Kennedy points out, Table 20 in protocol 18 shows that Merck cut the amount of aluminum used in the Gardasil vaccine by half.
"They tested a completely different formulation," he says. "And, obviously, they took the amount of aluminum out to reduce the amount of injuries and mask the really bad safety profile of this vaccine …
Since Merck deceptively cut the amount of aluminum — Gardasil's most toxic component — in half, the data from that study does not support the safety of the standard Gardasil formulation. Since protocol 18 data are not based on the Gardasil vaccine formulation, the trial constitutes scientific fraud."
Exclusion criteria — Another bag of tricks
Kennedy also describes another trick used by Merck to skew results: exclusion criteria. By selecting trial participants that do not reflect the general population, they mask potentially injurious effects on vulnerable subgroups.
For example, individuals with severe allergies and prior genital infections were excluded, as were those who'd had more than four sex partners, those with a history of immunological or nervous system disorders, chronic illnesses, seizure disorders, other medical conditions, reactions to vaccine ingredients such as aluminum, yeast and benzonase, and anyone with a history of drug or alcohol abuse.
Yet Merck recommends Gardasil for all of these unstudied groups. Merck's investigators also had unlimited discretion to exclude anyone with "any condition which in the opinion of the investigator might interfere with the evaluation of the study objectives."
Merck also used "sloppy protocols to suppress reports of vaccine injury," Kennedy says. For example, only 10% of participants were given daily report cards to fill out, and they were only to be filled out for 14 days post-vaccination. What's more, these report cards only collected information about vaccination site effects, such as redness, itching and bruising.
Also ignored were autoimmune problems, seizures and menstrual cycle disruptions experienced by many of the girls. They also did not follow up with those who reported serious side effects. Merck also granted broad discretionary powers to its paid investigators to determine what they thought constituted a reportable adverse event and to dismiss potential vaccine reactions.
The researchers did not systematically collect adverse event data, which is the whole point of doing a safety study in the first place, and by not paying for the additional time required by investigators to fill out time-consuming adverse event reports, Merck effectively incentivized the dismissal of side effects.
Many of the illnesses and injuries reported were also classified as "new medical conditions" rather than adverse events, and no rigorous investigation of these new conditions were performed.
According to Kennedy, at the time of the vaccine's approval, 49.5% of the Gardasil group and 52% of the controls (who received either the aluminum adjuvant or the vaccine carrier solution) had "new medical history" after the seventh month (Table 303, which included protocols 7, 13, 15 and 18), many of which were serious, chronic diseases.
Risk evaluation, take 2
Taking all of this into account, here's how the risk-benefit equation looks now: The 1 in 43,478 chance of dying from cervical cancer may have been removed (assuming the vaccine actually works), but by taking the vaccine there is now a 1 in 43 chance of getting an autoimmune disease, and a 1 in 2 chance of developing some form of serious medical condition.
According to Kennedy, Merck also submitted fraudulent information to its Worldwide Adverse Experience System and the federal Vaccine Adverse Effects Reporting System (VAERS) about the death of Christina Tarsell, one of its study participants.
"Merck claimed that Chris' gynecologist had told the company that her death was due to viral infection. Chris' gynecologist denies that she ever gave this information to Merck. To this day, Merck has refused to change its false entry on its own reporting system," Kennedy says.
"Furthermore, Merck lied to the girls participating in these studies, telling them that the placebo was saline and contained no other ingredients. And No. 2, that the study in which they were participating was not a safety study. They were told that there had already been safety studies and that the vaccine had been proven safe …
They made it so that the girls were less likely to report injuries associated with the vaccine, because they believed the vaccine they were receiving had already been proven safe and that any injuries did experience, maybe a month, two months or three months after the vaccine must just be coincidental and had nothing to do with the vaccine."
Does Gardasil prevent cervical cancer?
So, what about the claims the HPV vaccine prevents cervical cancer? If a girl or woman is trading a 1 in 43,478 chance of dying from cervical cancer for a 1 in 2 chance of developing a serious medical condition, it better be near 100% effective, wouldn't you say? However, according to Kennedy's presentation, there's scant evidence to support such claims.
In fact, it's nearly impossible to prove the efficacy of the HPV vaccine. Why? Because the target age for inoculation is 11, and the median age of death from cervical cancer is 58. There's a time gap of 47 years there. So, all Gardasil can offer, at this time, is the hope that 47 years down the line, all 11-year-olds who received the vaccine will be cancer free.
What's more, with such a tiny risk (1 in 43,478) there would need to be an enormous lifelong cohort to determine whether the vaccine actually decreased cancer deaths five decades down the line.
To get around the 47-year lag time, Merck used surrogate endpoints. None of the clinical trials actually tested whether the vaccine can prevent cancer. Instead, the vaccine was tested to see if it could prevent the development of CIN2 and CIN3 lesions, which are considered precancerous cervical lesions. As noted by Kennedy:
"Under Merck's' hypothetical theory, the reduction of precancerous lesions would translate into fewer cases of cervical cancer in 20 to 30 years. This gimmick of using 'surrogate endpoints' allowed Merck to shorten the clinical trials to a few years and get approvals for a drug that is utterly unproven to prevent cancer.
Since correlation does not prove causation, nobody knows if HPV virus actually causes cancer or whether it is a co-variable like yellow fingers and lung cancer."
No cancer prevention claims can be made for Gardasil
The problem with these endpoints is that "only a tiny fraction of CINs ever progress to cancer," Kennedy says, and "How can you call something 'precancerous' when it was never going to result in cancer?" As noted in a 2010 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology:10
"Misclassification of exposure and surrogate endpoints of disease can obscure causal relations. Using data from the Atypical Squamous Cells of Undetermined Significance/Low-Grade Squamous Intraepithelial Lesion Triage Study … the authors explored the impact of exposure (human papillomavirus (HPV) detection) and endpoint (histologic cervical precancer) classification on their mutual association …
CIN3 is an imperfect diagnosis of precancer and an immediate surrogate for cancer because not all CIN3 invades, such lesions are occasionally caused by noncarcinogenic HPV genotypes that are unlikely to invade, CIN3 can be a false positive diagnosis, and the classification is not perfectly reproducible."
According to Kennedy, Merck's internal ethics protocols actually state that marketers must avoid making claims based on the surrogate endpoints, meaning they cannot market Gardasil as a vaccine that prevents cervical cancer. All marketers can say is that it helps prevent risk factors for cervical cancer:
"A surrogate endpoint is a regulatory 'stand-in' for an ultimate endpoint, based on the assumption that a drug that affects the surrogate endpoint will also affect the ultimate endpoint. Often, surrogate endpoints are 'risk factors' for ultimate endpoints.
Surrogate endpoints are used when effects on ultimate endpoints have not been demonstrated … For these products, the indication is the surrogate, not the ultimate, endpoint. Promotion cannot make any claim vis-à-vis the ultimate endpoint."
Most cervical cancers are not associated with HPV after all
Another study11 cited by Kennedy that raises serious doubts about Merck's claim that Gardasil will eliminate cervical cancer was published in 2008 in the journal Gynecologic Oncology. According to this paper, "Only 28.2% of women with CIN2 or CIN3 confirmed by biopsy were infected exclusively by HPV type 16 or 18, a finding that places in doubt the degree of protection afforded by HPV vaccination."
Similarly, a 2014 study12 in the Journal of Experimental Therapeutics and Oncology found that "The prevalence of HPV in premalignant and malignant cervical lesions … was 39.5% and 33.3% respectively."
In other words, it appears HPV may be involved in just one-third of cervical cancers, which lowers the potential of young girls benefiting from this vaccine even further. It also decimates Merck's claim that the HPV vaccine will eliminate cervical cancer. At best, it might eliminate one-third of cases.
Risk evaluation, take 3
But it gets worse, because there's a possibility Gardasil could cause cancer. The Gardasil insert13 admits it has never been evaluated for carcinogenicity or genotoxicity, yet its ingredients "include potential carcinogens and mutagens, including aluminum and human DNA," Kennedy says.
He goes on to show the results of Merck's study protocol 13 (Table 17: Applicant's analysis of efficacy against vaccine-relevant HPV types CIN 2/3 or worse among subjects who were PCR positive and seropositive for relevant HPV types at day 1.)
What this protocol showed is that women who had previous exposure to the HPV strains used in the vaccine had a 44.6% increased risk of developing CIN2 and CIN3 lesions after vaccination. Taking the dubious efficacy of Gardasil into account, and the fact that it may only impact one-third of cervical cancer cases, the risk-benefit lineup when taking the vaccine now looks like this:
- There is still a chance of dying from cervical cancer unrelated to HPV
- There is a 1 in 43 chance of getting an autoimmune disease
- There is a 1 in 2 chance of developing a serious medical condition
- If someone has ever been exposed to any of the nine HPV strains included in the vaccine prior to getting Gardasil the risk of developing CIN2 and CIN3 cervical lesions is raised by 44.6%, which may raise the risk of cervical cancer
Widespread Gardasil use may trigger more virulent HPV infections
"To make things even worse, there are recent scientific studies that suggest a phenomenon known as type replacement," Kennedy says. "Type replacement" refers to when the elimination or suppression of one viral strain allows a more virulent strain to colonize.
The study,14 "Shift in Prevalence of HPV Types in Cervical Cytology Specimens in the Era of HPV Vaccination," published in the journal Oncology Letters in 2016 — which analyzed the association between the prevalence of 32 types of HPV virus in 615 women who had abnormal cervical cytopathology — reported that:
"… HPV16, which is recognized as the main HR-HPV type responsible for the development of cervical cancer, was observed in 32.98% of HPV participants, followed by HPV42 (18.09%), HPV31 (17.66%), HPV51 (13.83%), HPV56 (10.00%), HPV53 (8.72%) and HPV66 (8.72%).
The prevalence of HR-HPV types, which may be suppressed directly (in the case of HPV16 and 18), or possibly via cross-protection (in the case of HPV31) following vaccination, was considerably lower in participants ≤22 years of age (HPV16, 28.57%; HPV18, 2.04%; HPV31, 6.12%), compared with participants 23–29 years of age (HPV16, 45.71%; HPV18, 7.86%; HPV31, 22.86%), who were less likely to be vaccinated.
Consequently, the present study hypothesizes that there may be a continuous shift in the prevalence of HPV types as a result of vaccination. Furthermore, the percentage of non-vaccine HR-HPV types was higher than expected, considering that eight HPV types formerly classified as 'low-risk' or 'probably high-risk' are in fact HR-HPV types.
Therefore, it may be important to monitor non-vaccine HPV types in future studies, and an investigation concerning several HR-HPV types as risk factors for the development of cervical cancer is required."
Vaccine injuries and mortality rates found in Merck's preclinical studies
We've already covered some of the vaccine injuries, such as autoimmune disorders, shown in Merck's preclinical studies. Here are several more data points to consider:
- A 25% miscarriage rate for both Gardasil and AAHS controls. In the U.S., the miscarriage rate for the general public is 12.5%, which means miscarriages doubled compared to the normal background rate
- The rate of birth defects were five times higher in the Gardasil group than the AAHS group (five babies born with congenital deformation versus none)
- Within seven months of inoculation, 10.9% of women receiving Gardasil reported reproductive disorders, compared to just 1.2% in the control group that received the carrier solution (protocol 18)
- The death rate in the U.S., according to 2014 CDC statistics is 4.37 per 10,000. In the Gardasil clinical trials, the death rate was 8.5 per 10,000 — nearly double the background mortality rate of the general public
- According to Merck's own studies, the risk of dying from Gardasil is 37 times greater than the risk of dying from cervical cancer
Risk evaluation, take 4
How's the Gardasil risk-benefit looking now?
- There is still a chance of dying from cervical cancer unrelated to HPV
- There is a 1 in 43 chance of getting an autoimmune disease
- There is a 1 in 2 chance of developing a serious medical condition
- If someone has ever been exposed to any of the nine HPV strains included in the vaccine prior to getting Gardasil, the risk of developing CIN2 and CIN3 cervical lesions is raised by 44.6%
- The risk of dying from Gardasil is 37 times greater than the risk of dying from cervical cancer
In other words, Gardasil vaccinations appear to increase the overall risk of death by 370%, the risk of autoimmune disease by 2.3% and the risk of a serious medical condition by 50%.
To get an idea of how Gardasil is faring in the real world, we turn to VAERS. Unfortunately, vaccine adverse events reporting is voluntary, and investigations have revealed less than 1% of adverse events that occur after vaccination are ever reported to VAERS. Still, despite that debilitating shortcoming, "Gardasil has distinguished itself as the most dangerous vaccine ever invented," Kennedy says.
Between 2006 and November 2018, more than 60,000 adverse events following HPV vaccination were reported, 8,782 of which were categorized as "serious," including 439 deaths. Compared to the meningitis vaccine Menactra, which is given to the same age group (teens), Gardasil has:
- 85% more emergency room visits
- 125% higher hospitalization rate
- 100% more life-threatening events
- 265% more disabilities
In 2015, the Australian Department of Health Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) reported that the rate of adverse events following Gardasil vaccination is 17 times greater than the cervical cancer rate throughout an Australian woman's lifetime, and this study limited its analysis to anaphylaxis, fainting, allergic reactions and hospitalizations. This is just a handful of the many injuries linked to this vaccine.
Kennedy goes on to review findings from a number of different countries, including India, Japan, Denmark15 and Colombia, and how those countries have responded to findings of harm. He also notes that in countries with strong HPV vaccine coverage, cervical cancer rates have actually started creeping upward rather than downward.
According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers,1 each year 55 centers receive millions of calls, the majority from people who have come into contact with dangerous or potentially dangerous substances. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention2 says every day more than 300 children in the U.S. are treated in an emergency room as a result of poisoning.
However, these are not just linked to chemicals but also to everyday items such as household cleaners and medications. A recent study from the Central Ohio Poison Center3 evaluated those who had eye exposures to dangerous products and found while the annual frequency of exposures has declined by 37%, cleaning products accounted for 22%.
Poison statistics4 reveal cleaning substances are the second most common reason for poison exposure in children younger than 6. The greatest number of exposures were from cosmetics and personal care products, followed closely by cleaning substances, for which there were 109,563 reports in 2017.
One cleaning supply that has come under the microscope in the past several years is single-load laundry detergent pods. They hit the market in early 2012 and since then two things have become clear: They are a convenient way to do laundry and are a serious health hazard for children and adults alike.
A recent study5 published in the journal Pediatrics found the number, rate and severity of exposure have modestly decreased, but exposure among older children and adults is increasing.
Study shows laundry pods poisoning pediatric population
This short news broadcast highlights the findings of the current study. Researchers gathered data from the National Poison Data System in which exposure to liquid detergent were reported from 2012 to 2017. During this period, there were 72,947 exposures to liquid laundry detergent packets.6
Most of those reported were documented in children under the age of 6. Although the researchers found a slight increase from 2012 to 2015, the number and rate of exposure decreased by 18% from the beginning of 2015 to 2017. However, in those older than 6, the rate of exposure increased an astounding 292.7% by 2015 and 276.7% by 2017.7
Hospital admissions increased by 63.4% through 2015 but declined 55.5% by 2017. The researchers concluded the number, rate and severity may have decreased in part due to the voluntary product safety standard enforcement and public awareness campaigns.8
However, researchers found the number of exposures in older children and adults increased from 2012 to 2017. With exposure increasing in older individuals, the researchers called for strengthening of the current product safety standard to further reduce exposure.9
Poisoning is life-threatening, and has resulted in deaths
In 2015, the American Society for Testing and Material created new standards and recommended manufacturers producing laundry pods to make design changes to make the pods less attractive to young children, and to use materials that would be harder to tear open or chew through.10
The changes reached the market in 2015 and are reflected in the statistics found by the researchers. The researchers note safety standards may have fallen short because manufacturers were allowed to voluntarily meet child-resistant requirements in a variety of ways instead of adhering to a single standard.
Unlike products that are stored for many years, laundry pods are often used quickly, meaning any changes to the packaging could reach the market faster than products used less quickly. It's estimated laundry pods might be more dangerous as the detergent is more concentrated than in bottles or powder.11
This means parents should take immediate action if they suspect their child has been exposed. Chemicals in these pods may trigger seizures, coma, eye damage, skin burns and/or severe breathing difficulty. During the study period, eight people died after eating laundry pods, two of whom were babies.12
The other six deaths were adults with dementia or developmental disability. Of those injured, 239 survived “major effects” from the laundry pod exposure that were life-threatening or resulted in significant disability, according to Reuters.13 Senior study author Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus Ohio commented:14
“Like other poisons, young children can become much sicker than other older individuals with any given dose of liquid laundry detergent because their body weight is less. Fortunately, traditional liquid or powder laundry detergent is far less toxic than (laundry pods) and therefore is a safer alternative.”
What’s in the pod?
One of the more well-known laundry pods is made by Tide. According to their website,15 “Every Tide detergent contains many ingredients with long, complicated names.” The labeling also claims,16 “Tide PODS consist of up to 90% active ingredients,” which they say means you are paying for “clean” and not water.
The list of ingredients does indeed contain a long list of chemicals, concentrated and packed into a degradable pod designed to break apart in your washing machine. The ingredient list is provided by Procter and Gamble, manufacturers of Tide.17
As you read through the list in this one detergent, it’s important to remember that while the health effects and grading listed by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) are for the individual ingredients, these ingredients don’t exist in a vacuum.
Chemicals combine in the environment creating unknown effects. Each has a grade from the EWG from A to F — where “A” is the best grade the ingredient could receive — and a list of known health effects:
Linear alkylbenzene sulfonates — (C) Toxic to aquatic life18
Alcoholethoxy sulfate — (C) Asthma or respiratory irritant, skin and allergies, developmental and reproductive toxicity, environmental toxin and damage to DNA19
Propylene glycol — (A) Skin and allergy irritation20
Fatty acid salts
Polyethyleneimine ethoxylate — (D) Asthma and respiratory irritation, skin and allergies, developmental and reproductive toxicity and DNA damage21
Dipropylene glycol — (C) Asthma and respiratory irritation, skin and allergies, developmental and reproductive toxicity and DNA damage22
Polyvinyl alcohol film
Alcohol ethoxylates — (C) Asthma and respiratory irritation, skin and allergies, developmental and reproductive toxicity and DNA damage23
Peg-136 polyvinyl acetate — No information found on the product in the EWG database, but it was noted as found in only six products24
Monoethanolamine citrate — (F) Asthma, respiratory, skin and allergy irritant25
Diethylenetriamine pentaacetate, sodium salt
Sodium bisulfite — (C) Asthma, respiratory, skin and allergy irritant26
Disodium distyrylbiphenyl disulfonate
Sodium formate — (B)27
Subtilisin — (B) Asthma and respiratory irritant28
Hydrogenated castor oil
Calcium formate — (B)29
Amylase — (B) Asthma and respiratory irritant30
Mannanase — (B) Asthma and respiratory irritant31
Benzisothiazolinone — (C) Developmental and reproductive toxicity, skin and allergy irritant, environmentally toxic32
In the short term, researchers found the chemicals in laundry pods caused seizures, coma, severe breathing impairments, eye damage and burns.33 Other dangerous chemicals added to products by design are the fragrance and scents.
Scenting a product is intended to play on your memory to link the product to a good experience, and is a powerful technique used by manufacturers to manipulate your attraction to personal care products and laundry products. One study34 investigated how odor-evoked memories influence perception of a product, finding fragrances evoking stronger personal emotional memories were preferred by the study participants.35
Scented products poison your house and neighborhood
One exposure at a low level will likely not trigger an immediate health condition, but repetitive and chronic exposure often does. Imagine smoking one cigarette and claiming there was no health effect since you didn't get sick immediately. The effect from toxins is cumulative and may add quickly when you're exposed to chemicals in your food, furniture and clothing, all at once, and on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, perfumes and fragrances are considered proprietary information and remain relatively unregulated. Thirty years ago, the issue was secondhand smoke, but currently, scent from perfume, air fresheners, scented laundry products and numerous other products using fragrances, are triggering health issues.
The chemical cocktails in fragrances are often toxic as they are derived from petroleum and coal tar. As soon as you smell an air freshener, scented candle or laundry detergent, you have already absorbed the chemicals into your body as they enter through your lungs. Even when you no longer smell the fragrance, you're still absorbing the chemicals through your clothing, bedding and towels.
As an example, one study measured the chemicals emitted through laundry vents during typical use of fragranced products. University of Washington scientist, Anne Steinemann, Ph.D., found the following from 25 common brands of scented laundry products:36,37
- More than 600 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were emitted, and only two compounds were listed on any associated material safety data sheet. None of the chemicals were listed on any of the 25 product labels.
- Two of the VOCs (acetaldehyde and benzene) are considered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be carcinogenic and unsafe at any level of exposure. Seven of the VOCs are classified as "hazardous air pollutants."
- The highest concentration of emitted VOCs was acetaldehyde, acetone and ethanol.
- Only 25% of the VOCs were classified as toxic or hazardous under federal laws.
- Virtually none of the VOCs detected in her study were listed on product labels or the product’s material data safety sheet. Instead, labels listed only general categories, such as "biodegradable surfactants," "softeners" or "perfume." Even more disturbing, the "greener" products were just as bad, if not worse, than the conventional products.
Skip the poison and make your own detergent at home
The Alliance for Water Efficiency38 states washing machines are the largest water user in the average home, accounting for up to 40% of the overall water consumption. A typical family of four will generate more than 300 loads of laundry every year, and while high-efficiency washing machines will reduce the water load, laundry detergent is still necessary.
With a population of 329,006,000 and growing,39 those in the U.S. may be doing 24,673,125,000 loads of laundry every year. There are some relatively painless steps you can take to reduce your exposure, such as making your own laundry detergent.
Once you've tried it, you'll find the possibilities are endless and most of what you need may already be in your kitchen. Here's a recipe from Mommypotamus40 to help you get started on your own laundry detergent; consider adding the essential oils you like for a natural scent.
Homemade Natural Laundry Detergent41
- 6 cups washing soda
- 3 bars coconut oil soap (4.5 to 5 ounces each)
- Lemon essential oil (optional)
- Cut soap into small chunks. Add to a food processor along with the washing soda.
- Blend until you have a fine powder. You may want to lay a dish towel over the top of your food processor to prevent a fine mist of powder from floating into the air.
- Also, let it settle a bit before opening the container or the powder will float onto your kitchen counter!
- Pour into a clean container (keep the essential oil next to the jar and add five drops with each load)
Warning: This oil comes with potentially damaging side effects due to either the ingredient it's made from or the manufacturing process used to extract it. Because these negative effects overshadow the potential benefits, I do not recommend this oil for therapeutic use. Always be aware of the potential side effects of any herbal oil before using.
Canola oil is widely promoted as “one of the best oils for heart health.”1 However, this information is rather flawed, as canola oil and similar highly processed cooking oils hold untold dangers to your health.
Read on to learn what you should know about canola oil, and what my personal recommendations for the best cooking oil are.
Referred to as “the healthiest cooking oil” by its makers, canola oil is low in saturated fats and high in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) such as oleic acid, linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic (ALA).2,3 The oil is produced from a series of processes ranging from solvent extraction with hexane, to refining, bleaching and deodorization.4
Although canola is a type of rapeseed, the canola you see on store shelves is not the rapeseed you may be familiar with that is used for industrial and nonedible purposes, such as for lubricants, plastics and hydraulic fluids. The edible canola oil, on the other hand, is specifically grown as a food crop, genetically altered to contain significantly lower levels of erucic acid and glucosinolate in it, which makes it safe to eat.5
The modification focuses on broadening the seasons and regions where the plants can be cultivated and maximizing yield. The bad news is that in order to boost the resistance, researchers have developed herbicide-tolerant canola, including Roundup-ready and Liberty-tolerant types.6
Canola oil is a common ingredient in food products such as salad dressings, salad oil and margarines.7
Even though it’s marketed as a food product, according to the Canola Council of Canada, once plant-sourced oils like canola oil are processed they “can be used industrially to formulate lubricants, oils, fuels, soaps, paints, plastics, cosmetics or inks.”
Canola can also be used to produce ethanol and biodiesel. The point is, the Canola Council says, is that “just because you can do this doesn’t make the approved food oils at the grocery store somehow poisonous or harmful.”8
Canola oil is often praised by the mainstream food industry due to its fatty acid content:9
- Saturated fat — Canola oil contains about 7%, or about half the amount found in corn oil, olive oil and soybean oil.
- Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) — This is the most abundant fat in canola oil. The MUFA oleic acid makes up 61% of canola oil — second only to olive oil.
- Polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) — Compared to palm oil and olive oil, canola oil has a higher amount of PUFA. It has a ratio of omega-6 fat (linoleic acid) and omega-3 fat (alpha-linolenic acid) of 2-to-1.
Unfortunately, details you're told by vegetable oil manufacturers about canola oil's production and benefits don’t tell the whole story. As mentioned, canola oil was created through the hybridization and genetic alteration of the rapeseed, a plant used for industrial purposes.10 Rapeseed oil came from the plant known as "rape," from a Latin word meaning "turnip."11 Along with cruciferous vegetables, rape is a domesticated crop belonging to the Brassicaceae family.12
Although rapeseed oil is composed of 60% monounsaturated fat, it is inedible because of two dangerous substances:
- Erucic acid — a type of fatty acid that is associated with Keshan's disease, characterized by fibrotic lesions in the heart13
- Glucosinolates — bitter compounds that negatively affected the taste of rapeseed oil14
To turn rapeseed oil into an edible product, Canadian manufacturers used selective breeding to formulate seeds that had lower levels of erucic acid and glucosinolates. Canola oil, also known as "low erucic acid rapeseed (LEAR)," was formed.15
But, what the manufacturers don’t call attention to when they’re calling canola “healthy” is that hexane, one of the chemicals needed to extract oil from the seeds, is an HAP: a hazardous air pollutant. This begs the question of whether hexane is safe when ingested.16
According to the Toxicology Data Network, hexane may target the central nervous system and respiratory system when ingested.17 While hexane occurs in canola oil in only minute amounts, there are no sufficient studies that prove that it is safe to ingest.
Another part of the processing of canola oil is deodorizing, which is the step responsible for its bland taste. The bad news with this is that deodorizing reduces canola oil’s omega-3 fatty acids by up to 20%18 — so in the end, there’s not enough omega-3s for you to reap the benefits.
Although the food industry says it is, I do not believe canola oil is safe. Despite its "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) status, no long-term human safety studies have been conducted on canola oil.19 Animal studies, however, contradict some of the health claims about canola oil.
For example, in Canadian research published in 1997 in Nutrition Research, piglets fed with milk replacers containing canola oil had signs of vitamin E deficiency, even if the replacement contained sufficient amounts of the nutrient. Deficiency in vitamin E can be dangerous, as it can lead to free radical damage and cardiovascular problems.20
A year later, researchers found the piglets fed with canola oil had reduced platelet count and an increase in platelet size. The researchers concluded that the ingestion of canola oil interfered with normal hematological development.21 In another animal test conducted, rats ended up with high blood pressure, an increased risk for stroke and a shortened lifespan when canola oil became their primary source of fat.22
It is important to take note that these studies were made prior to the introduction of GE canola oil. This means you face not only the dangers of canola oil discovered in these studies, but also the potential hazards of genetically modified vegetable oils that may remain as residues in the final product.
So, what really happens when you use canola oil in your food? The answer is that canola oil and other heated vegetable oils are some of the worst ingredients you can add to your food, if for no other reason that eating foods with canola oil will only distort your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio.
The bottom line is if you're using canola oil, it's time to throw it out and replace it with fats that will truly benefit your health. One of your best options is coconut oil, which I personally use. Olive oil is also good, but if you’re going to cook with an oil, coconut is the better choice because it tolerates higher heat levels, as I explain later in this section.
Another problem with canola oil is that it’s even more dangerous when hydrogenated, which is common in processed foods. Manufacturers hydrogenate the oil because it prolongs processed foods’ shelf life.23 And then, to make matters worse, consuming these foods exposes you to even higher levels of trans fats.24
So, the idea that canola oil is beneficial to your health is nothing but a myth. Another myth is that saturated fat is bad for you. The “bad” fat belief stemmed from Ancel Keys' Seven Countries Study,25 which linked saturated fat with heart disease. The truth is that his research was manipulated to achieve the conclusion that saturated fat is “bad,” as he selectively analyzed data from seven countries rather than comparing all data from 22 studies available to him at the time.
When you look at the majority of the data he had available to him, you’ll find that all the data combined actually disproved his theory. The truth is saturated fat does not cause heart disease and is, in fact, an important part of a healthy diet.26
The reason coconut oil is the best choice for cooking is that it’s resistant to heat damage, unlike canola oil and other vegetable oils. Coconut oil also carries beneficial fat like lauric acid, which provides antiviral, antibacterial and antiprotozoa properties.27
If you’re not cooking with it, another beneficial oil I recommend is olive oil. It’s important to remember that olive oil is highly sensitive to heat damage, so you definitely don’t want to cook with it. But it’s great at room temperature drizzled over cold salads.
Another caveat: Make sure you purchase only high-quality authentic olive oil, as 60% to 90% of the brands sold in the market today are adulterated. Good quality olive oil contains important vitamins and nutrients, and can be a salad superstar if you buy the right kind. For more information on olive oil, check out my article on using it in salads, “Olive Oil: The salad superstar.”
Understanding the reasons we sleep has been a subject of study for years. Although scientists haven’t yet discovered all that occurs during sleep, there have been unique discoveries leading to a better understanding of cognitive1 and physical health.2,3
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds 1 in 3 Americans doesn’t get enough sleep4 and note insufficient sleep is linked with a wide variety of health problems.5 For example, getting less than five hours of sleep each night may double your risk of heart disease or stroke.6 Researchers have also found a persistent link between sleep deprivation, weight gain7 and insulin resistance.8
Sleep deprivation also influences your mental and cognitive abilities and emotional well-being. In fact, one of the reasons sleep deprivation is so detrimental is it doesn't impact just one aspect of your health: It impacts many.
In a recent study published in Diabetes Care,9 funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, researchers found it isn't just the number of hours of sleep each night, but also the regularity of your sleep that impacts on your health.
Erratic sleep pattern increases risk of obesity and diabetes
Previous research has found detrimental health effects with sleep deprivation, but this new study discovered that when participants did not stick to regular bedtime and wake-up schedules it put them at higher risk for obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and other metabolic disorders.
Researchers enrolled participants from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis.10 They completed a seven-day actigraphy, which is a noninvasive way of monitoring rest and activity cycles. A sensor is worn for a week to measure gross motor activity. They were then followed for a median of six years.11
Metabolic abnormalities were defined using criteria developed for the National Cholesterol Education program, and researchers used five cross-sectional analyses adjusted for socio-demographic and lifestyle factors.
They found that for every one-hour deviation of sleep duration, the participants’ risk of metabolic syndrome increased by as much as 27%; a one-hour deviation in timing (i.e., going to bed earlier or later than regular) was associated with 23% higher odds.12 Study author Tianyi Huang, epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, commented:13
“Many previous studies have shown the link between insufficient sleep and higher risk of obesity, diabetes, and other metabolic disorders. But we didn’t know much about the impact of irregular sleep, high day-to-day variability in sleep duration and timing.
Our research shows that, even after considering the amount of sleep a person gets and other lifestyle factors, every one-hour night-to-night difference in the time to bed or the duration of a night’s sleep multiplies the adverse metabolic effect.”
Bedtime changes came before metabolic dysfunction
The study followed 2,003 men and women between the ages of 45 and 84. In addition to wearing sensors for seven days, the participants also filled out a sleep diary and answered standard questionnaires about their sleep habits and other lifestyle and health factors.14
The prospective results demonstrated variations in duration and bedtimes came before the development of metabolic dysfunction, providing evidence for a causal link between irregular sleep and metabolic disorders.
Researchers found the participants whose duration changed by more than one hour had a higher likelihood of being African-American, working non-day shift schedules, smoking and having shorter sleeping duration. Co-author Dr. Susan Redline with the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women's Hospital, said:15
"Our results suggest that maintaining a regular sleep schedule has beneficial metabolic effects. This message may enrich current prevention strategies for metabolic disease that primarily focus on promoting sufficient sleep and other healthy lifestyles."
Metabolic syndrome leads to greater health challenges
Metabolic syndrome is characterized by a cluster of symptoms, including large waist circumference indicating high levels of visceral fat, high blood pressure, insulin resistance and/or high blood sugar, low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and high triglycerides. The combination of three or more of these factors is evidence of metabolic dysfunction.16
These risk factors raise your risk for heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Your risk is also raised even when you have “borderline high-risk factors.”17 Although a large waistline is a visible sign, the remainder have no visible signs or symptoms.
The incidence of metabolic syndrome often parallels obesity and Type 2 diabetes. According to a global survey18 of 195 countries in 2015, 604 million adults and 108 million children were obese. Researchers have found the problems of obesity have doubled in 73 countries since 1980.
However, obesity is not always synonymous with metabolic syndrome, as scientists have found there are individuals who are obese with high levels of insulin sensitivity yet have no high blood pressure. The data on metabolic syndrome is difficult to ascertain, as many who have the condition do not carry the diagnosis and many of the factors have no symptoms.19
Some researchers believe metabolic syndrome is three times more common than diabetes and estimate the global prevalence to be 25%. This global estimate is close to an estimation for the U.S. population. The CDC20 estimates 9.4% of the U.S. population has diabetes and three times this is 28.2%, slightly higher than the global estimation.
The high cost of sleep deprivation
Sleep deprivation comes at a steep cost to individuals and communities. For instance, third mate Gregory Cousins’ sleep deprivation led to one of the greatest environmental catastrophes in history when he ran the supertanker Exxon Valdez aground, causing 11 million gallons of crude oil to spill into Prince William Sound.21
The accident devastated 23 species of wildlife and nearly 1,300 miles of coastline habitat. As reported in The Balance, in just the first few days 140 bald eagles, 302 harbor seals, 2,800 sea otters and 250,000 sea birds were killed.22
According to the American Sleep Association,23 37.9% of Americans report unintentionally falling asleep during the day at least once a month. Unfortunately, many skimp on sleep to “get things done.” However, the evidence shows when you skimp on sleep, you lose productivity.24
Sleep deprivation costs the U.S. economy $411 billion every year in accidents and lost productivity.25 Loss of sleep not only affects quality of life, but when individuals like construction workers, nurses, doctors and pilots choose to push through sleep deprivation, it may have lethal consequences.
The CDC finds drowsy driving is a major problem in the U.S. and estimates it was responsible for 83,000 crashes, 37,000 injuries and 886 fatalities annually between 2005 and 2009.26 While falling asleep at the wheel is dangerous, being sleepy or drowsy makes you less attentive, slows your reaction time and affects your ability to make decisions behind the wheel.
The CDC finds those who do not get enough sleep, such as shift workers, those with untreated sleep disorders or those taking certain medications, are most likely to drive drowsy.27 Additionally, a loss of sleep increases your risk of cardiovascular disease,28,29 premature birth,30 lower academic performance,31 depression, anxiety,32 dementia and Alzheimer's disease.33
More sleep may help you reach your goal weight
In addition to lowering your risk for these conditions, improving your sleep time and quality may well help you with your weight loss efforts. U.K. researchers investigated the connection between sleep duration, diet and metabolic health in 1,692 adults.34 The researchers analyzed adiposity, metabolic markers and food intake.
Blood pressure and waist circumference were also recorded. After results were adjusted for confounding factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, smoking and socioeconomic status, the researchers found the number of sleep hours was negatively associated with body mass index and waist circumference. However, it was not associated with any dietary measures.
They found adults sleeping fewer hours were more likely to be obese.35 If you're trying to lose weight, getting an adequate amount of sleep may mean the difference between success and failure.
Researchers at the University of Chicago found those who slept 8.5 hours lost 55% more body fat than those who slept 5.5 hours. According to these researchers,36 "Lack of sufficient sleep may compromise the efficacy of typical dietary interventions for weight loss and related metabolic risk reduction."
Light and EMF pollution reduces sleep quality
Your quality of sleep may be impacted by the number of hours you spend sleeping, an irregular sleep pattern and by light and electromagnetic pollution. If you have ever gone camping, you likely noticed a change in the quality of sleep you enjoyed. Chances are you slept deeper and awakened more rested.
Two influential factors resulting in better sleep outdoors and away from “civilization” are a drastic reduction in exposure to artificial lights and electromagnetic fields (EMF). Your circadian clock is affected by your melatonin levels, which is in turn affected by your exposure to light at night. This plays a role in how deeply you sleep and how well rested you might feel the next day.
Even exceptionally dim light during sleep may have a detrimental effect on quality and quantity. Ideally, you'll want to avoid having any light in your bedroom at night.
Consider using blackout blinds on your window if you have a street lamp outside your bedroom. Also, consider moving any alarm clock or other light emitting device outside the bedroom and/or wearing a sleep mask to reduce light exposure.
EMF may also impair your sleep quality37 and produce oxidative damage.38 Consider shutting off all electronic devices and your Wi-Fi at night to reduce your exposure and improve your sleep quality.
Strategies to improve your sleep quality
Sleep continues to be one of the mysteries of life. Although it was once thought to be little more than a waste of time, modern research has shed light on the crucial component sleep plays in a healthy lifestyle.
Unfortunately, sleep debt has a cumulative effect and a persistent lack of sleep may disrupt your health. The good news is there are many natural techniques you may use to restore sleep health, develop a regular pattern of sleep and enjoy high-quality sleep.
Whether you have difficulty in the early hours of the night falling asleep, waking up too often, difficulty falling back to sleep or don't feel rested when you wake up in the morning, you will likely find tips in my previous article, “Top 33 tips to optimize your sleep routine,” to help adjust your pattern and improve your sleep quality.
Additionally, the article gives you the ideal amount of time you need to sleep depending on your age. As discussed, maintaining a natural rhythm of daylight and darkness is essential to quality sleep, and we share more about this in my interview with Dan Pardi in the article.
According to the World Health Organization, depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide, and increased 18% between 2005 and 2015.1 In the U.S., an estimated 17.3 million American adults, or 7.1% of the adult population, experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2017.2 The highest rates are reported among those aged between 18 and 25.3
Questions abound, however, over whether clinical depression is actually increasing, or whether people are simply being inappropriately diagnosed, and even more importantly, what the best treatment might be. With regard to treatment, my review will focus primarily on exercise which, rather overwhelmingly, appears to have a solid scientific basis of support.
Many are needlessly taking antidepressants
According to one 2013 study,4 major depression may be vastly overdiagnosed and overtreated. When Dr. Ramin Mojtabai, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, evaluated the diagnostics of 5,639 participants with clinician-identified depression, he found only 38.4% of them actually met the DSM-4 criteria for a major depressive episode (MDE).5 Among seniors over the age of 65, only 14.3% met the criteria. Furthermore:6
"[P]articipants with more education and those with poorer overall health were more likely to meet the criteria. Participants who did not meet the 12-month MDE criteria reported less distress and impairment in role functioning and used fewer services. A majority of both groups, however, were prescribed and used psychiatric medications."
Mojtabai told The New York Times:7
"It's not only that physicians are prescribing more, the population is demanding more. Feelings of sadness, the stresses of daily life and relationship problems can all cause feelings of upset or sadness that may be passing and not last long. But Americans have become more and more willing to use medication to address them."
An earlier 2009 meta-analysis8 of 41 studies that assessed the accuracy of diagnoses of depression by general practitioners found "GPs correctly identified depression in 47.3% of cases." So, over the years, it appears overdiagnosis is becoming more prevalent and not less.
According to this review, findings suggest "that for every 100 unselected cases seen in primary care, there are more false positives (n=15) than either missed (n=10) or identified cases (n=10)," and that "Accuracy was improved with prospective examination over an extended period (three to 12 months) rather than relying on a one-off assessment or case-note records."
There's a fine line between depression and normal
While we must not downplay the seriousness of major depression, we must also not lose sight of the fact that the experience of a wide range of human emotions is normal and healthy.
In a controversial move, the bereavement exclusion9 — where "clinicians were advised to refrain from diagnosing major depression in individuals within the first two months following the death of a loved one" — which was included in DSM-4, was removed in DSM-5 in 2013. As noted in the paper, "The bereavement exclusion and DSM-5: An update and commentary:"10
"The removal of the bereavement exclusion in the diagnosis of major depression was perhaps the most controversial change from DSM-IV to DSM-5. Critics have argued that removal of the bereavement exclusion will "medicalize" ordinary grief and encourage over-prescription of antidepressants.
Supporters of the DSM-5's decision argue that there is no clinical or scientific basis for 'excluding' patients from a diagnosis of major depression simply because the condition occurs shortly after the death of a loved one (bereavement). Though bereavement-related grief and major depression share some features, they are distinct and distinguishable conditions.
Bereavement does not 'immunize' the patient against a major depressive episode, and is in fact a common precipitant of clinical depression. Recognizing major depression in the context of recent bereavement takes careful clinical judgment, and by no means implies that antidepressant treatment is warranted.
But given the serious risks of unrecognized major depression — including suicide — eliminating the bereavement exclusion from DSM-5 was, on balance, a reasonable decision."
1 in 6 Americans is on a psychiatric drug
The problem with taking an antidepressant to maneuver through difficult emotional territory is that many end up taking them long-term, and many find they cannot get off them without suffering debilitating withdrawal symptoms. As noted by pharmacist.com in April 2018:11
"Initially, the drugs were cleared for short-term use; but even today, with millions of long-term users, there is little data about their effects on individuals who take them for years …
And yet, it is not clear that everyone who is taking an open-ended prescription should stop. Most physicians agree that a subset of users may benefit from a lifetime prescription, though they disagree on the size of that group."
According to a 2017 study,12 1 in 6 Americans between the ages of 18 and 85 were on psychiatric drugs, most of them antidepressants, and 84.3% reported long-term use (three years or more). Out of 242 million U.S. adults, 12% were found to have filled one or more prescriptions for an antidepressant, specifically, in 2013.
Long-term use places life and limb at risk
Research does show there may be a price to pay for the long-term use of antidepressants. For example, one 2015 study13,14 found that, compared to perimenopausal women treated with H2 antagonists or proton pump inhibitors (indigestion drugs), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI, a class of antidepressants) raised bone fracture rates by 76% in the first year of use.
After two years of treatment, the fracture rate was 73% higher. In 2017, Canadian researchers warned SSRIs might increase patients' risk of cardiovascular events by 14% and all-cause mortality by 33%,15 likely due to their anticlotting properties. As noted in the abstract:16
"We conducted a meta-analysis assessing the effects of ADs on all-cause mortality and cardiovascular events in general-population and cardiovascular-patient samples … Seventeen studies met our search criteria. Sample type consistently moderated health risks.
In general-population samples, AD [antidepressant] use increased the risks of mortality (HR = 1.33, 95% CI: 1.14-1.55) and new cardiovascular events (HR = 1.14, 95% CI: 1.08-1.21). In cardiovascular patients, AD use did not significantly affect risks.
AD class also moderated mortality, but the serotonin reuptake inhibitors were not significantly different from tricyclic Ads … The results support the hypothesis that ADs are harmful in the general population but less harmful in cardiovascular patients."
Low serotonin theory demolished, but antidepressant use goes on
Research17,18 published in 2009 also strengthened the evidence indicating the low serotonin idea is incorrect, finding strong indications that depression actually begins further up in the chain of events in the brain. Essentially, SSRIs focus on an effect of depression, not the cause.
As noted by investigative health journalist Robert Whitaker, as early as 1983 the National Institutes of Mental Health investigated whether or not depressed individuals had low serotonin.
At that time, they concluded there was no evidence that there is anything wrong in the serotonergic system of depressed patients. Drug companies kept running with the low serotonin theory, though, as it justified the aggressive use of antidepressants to correct this alleged "imbalance."
The placebo response in depression
According to the 2015 paper,19 "Depression: How Effective Are Antidepressants?" studies suggest antidepressants may, on average, improve symptoms in 20 people out of 100. (Studies comparing the drugs to placebo found 20 to 40 out of 100 found relief from placebo alone, while 40 to 60 out of 100 reported improvement on an antidepressant after six to eight weeks.)
Several studies have addressed the surprisingly robust placebo response seen in those with depression.20 For example, a 2002 paper21 in the journal Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience noted that, "With its naturally fluctuating course, depression is a highly placebo-responsive condition: Mean placebo response rates in antidepressant clinical trials are 30% to 40%."
In those with mild depression, the likelihood of a positive response to placebo is even higher — as high as 70%.22 This paper also notes that when a placebo effect is at play, the patient will be more likely to experience a relapse, compared to when a true drug response is responsible for the improvement.
It also cites studies showing the placebo response rate tends to be highest "for women with a single episode of depression (66.7%) and lowest for women with recurrent depressive episodes (13.3%)."
Antidepressants may do more harm than good in most patients
In a recent article,23 professor Dr. Peter C. Gotzsche, co-founder of the Cochrane Collaboration and the Institute for Scientific Freedom, also points out other factors that can influence study results, falsely making antidepressants appear better than placebo in some studies. He writes:
"[V]irtually all trials are flawed, exaggerate the benefits of the drugs, and underestimate their harms … Virtually all patients in the trials are already on a drug similar to the one being tested against placebo.
Therefore, as the drugs are addictive, some of the patients will get abstinence symptoms (usually called withdrawal symptoms) when randomized to placebo, even if a wash-out period before randomization is introduced.
These abstinence symptoms are very similar to those patients experience when they try to stop benzodiazepines. It is no wonder that new drugs outperform the placebo in patients who have experienced harm as a result of cold turkey effects.
To find out how long patients need to continue taking drugs, so-called maintenance (withdrawal) studies have been carried out, but such studies also are compromised by cold turkey effects. Leading psychiatrists don't understand this, or they pretend they don't.
Most interpret the maintenance studies of depression pills to mean that these drugs are very effective at preventing new episodes of depression and that patients should therefore continue taking the drugs for years or even for life …
The smallest effect that can be perceived as an improvement on the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale is 5 to 6, but flawed trials attain only approximately 3. Several meta-analyses24 have found that the effect is larger if the patients are severely depressed, but the reported effects are small and below what is clinically relevant for all severities of depression."
More health risks linked to antidepressants
Gotzsche also summarizes some of the known harms of these drugs, citing research showing antidepressants:
- Double the risk of harm from suicide and violence in healthy adults. According to this study,25 the number needed to treat to harm one healthy person was 16
- Increase suicidality and aggression two- to threefold in children and adolescents26 — "an important finding considering the many school shootings where the killers were on depression pills," Gotzsche says
- Increase risk of suicide and violence by four to five times in middle-aged women with stress urinary incontinence27
- Double the risk of a core psychotic or potential psychotic event in women28
"I have described the dirty tricks and scientific dishonesty involved when drug companies and leading psychiatrists try convincing us that these drugs protect against suicide and other forms of violence," Gotzsche writes,29 pointing out that "Even the FDA was forced to give in when it admitted in 2007, at least indirectly, that depression pills can cause suicide and madness at any age."30
Whitaker takes it a step further in a commentary he wrote in 2005:
"A review of the scientific literature reveals that it is our drug-based paradigm of care that is fueling this epidemic. The drugs increase the likelihood that a person will become chronically ill, and induce new and more severe psychiatric symptoms in a significant percentage of patients …
… As with any epidemic, one would suspect that an outside agent of some type — a virus, a bacterial infection, or an environmental toxin — was causing the rise in illness. That is indeed the case here. There is an outside agent fueling this epidemic of mental illness, only it is found in the medicine cabinet."31
Criteria for major depression
According to DSM-5 criteria,32 to receive a diagnosis of major depression, you must:
- Experience five or more of the following symptoms (see symptom list below) during a single two-week period
- At least one of the symptoms must include depressed mood and/or loss of interest or pleasure
- The symptoms must cause you "clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning"
- The symptoms must not be related to substance abuse or another medical condition (see "More than 200 commonly used drugs are known to cause depression as a side effect" for more information on medical conditions and drugs that might influence your state of mind)
Major depression symptom list:
Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day
Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day
Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day
A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down)
Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day
Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day
Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide
Keep in mind that major depression is typically associated with thoughts of suicide and feelings of deep hopelessness or helplessness, making it critical to recognize and address such symptoms. To assess your or a loved one's risk factors, see "These types of children have an increased risk of suicidal thoughts," and "Suicide is on the rise — Know the warning signs, and how to help."
If you are feeling desperate or have any thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline,33 a toll-free number 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or call 911, or simply go to your nearest Hospital Emergency Department.
What science says about exercise as treatment for depression
If antidepressants are not the answer in most cases of depression, what is? There's a solid and ever-growing body of scientific evidence showing physical exercise is a major key in the successful treatment of depression. Here's a short-list of studies and scientific review articles that have investigated this oft-ignored prescription, starting with the most recent:
JAMA Psychiatry 201834,35 (a study funded in part by the National Institute of Mental Health) concluded exercise "may have greater efficacy than current approaches that target depressed mood."
Contrary to popular belief, they found that while physical activity affected the participants' mood afterward, their mood did not affect the amount of physical activity they engaged in. This defies the common assumption that depression causes physical inactivity. In fact, the results suggest it's largely the other way around.
Frontiers in Pharmacology 201736 addressed the question of whether a comparison between exercise and drug treatment is evidence based, noting that:
In conclusion, they found three randomized controlled trials comparing four months of exercise to the use of antidepressants (two of which involved patients with major depression and one recruited those with minor depression). All of them found that exercise and antidepressant treatment were equally effective.
Of 11 randomized controlled trials comparing exercise as an adjunctive treatment to antidepressants (combination comparisons) against a wide variety of controls, 10 of them found "a significant depressive improvement after the exercise period, and/or that the proportion of patients with a clinical response was larger for the exercise group than the control."
The paper reviews a variety of biological mechanisms by which exercise can benefit those with depression, including boosting BDNF and serotonin and lowering inflammation biomarkers. The authors also point out that:
Current Opinion in Psychology 201537 highlighted the role of inflammation in depression, and how biological markers can help explain how exercise reduces depressive symptoms. As explained in this review:
Many other studies support the view that depression is mediated, and perhaps directly caused,38 by inflammation, especially gastrointestinal inflammation.39 Cytokines40 in your blood, and/or inflammatory messengers such as CRP, interleukin-1, interleukin-6 and TNF-alpha are all predictive of41 and correlate42 to depression.
In melancholic depression, bipolar disorder and postpartum depression, white blood cells called monocytes express proinflammatory genes that provoke secretion of cytokines.43
At the same time, cortisol sensitivity goes down, and cortisol is a stress hormone that buffers against inflammation. Together, these inflammatory agents transfer information to your nervous system, typically by stimulating your vagus nerve, which connects your gut and brain.44
In one study,45 the researchers suggested "depression may be a neuropsychiatric manifestation of a chronic inflammatory syndrome," and that "these findings justify an assumption that treating gastrointestinal inflammations may improve the efficacy of the currently used treatment modalities of depression …"
In this model, depression is the result of your body's attempts to protect itself from an inflammatory response, and involves hormones and neurotransmitters. Depressive symptoms most strongly associated with chronic inflammation include:46
Asian Journal of Sports Medicine 201547 looked at "systematic reviews, meta-analyses and large-scale randomized control trials on effects of exercise on depression" to devise recommendations for doctors "who plan to use exercise protocols in depression."
Here, they highlighted 10 different biological effects of exercise known to have a beneficial effect on people with depression. These effects include48 upregulation or increase in the levels of norepinephrine, serotonin, BDNF, endorphins and endocannabinoids, and a downregulation or decrease in the levels of cortisol, TNF-alpha, IL-1beta, IL-6 and ACTH.
They also note psychosocial effects that have a beneficial impact, such as self-mastery, social interaction and distraction from rumination. According to this evaluation, depressed patients most likely to benefit from exercise are: Under 20 or over 40 years old, have higher education status, untrained, and have mild to moderate depression.
Characteristics of an exercise program most likely to benefit people with depression include: Supervised and/or structured exercise; individually tailored exercise consisting of aerobic exercise and resistance training (or a mix); low to moderate intensity; 45 to 60 minutes per session at least three to four times per week for a minimum of 10 weeks. The authors also encourage physicians to employ a multidisciplinary team, noting that:
Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 201149 concluded 12 weeks of high-intensity exercise led to a 28.3% remission rate in patients who had previously failed to get any relief from SSRIs.
Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice 2006.50 This meta-analysis of 11 studies concluded doctors would be well advised to recommend exercise to patients suffering from depression, anxiety and eating disorders, as the evidence showed "substantial benefit."
Archives of Internal Medicine 199951 reported 16 weeks of aerobic exercise was just as effective as Zoloft for the treatment of major depression in older patients.
Consider nondrug solutions first
Addressing your nutrition is perhaps the best place to start if you're feeling depressed. Foods have an immense impact on your brain, and eating whole foods as described in my nutrition plan will best support your mental and physical health.
Avoiding processed foods, sugar (particularly fructose) and grains is particularly important as it will help normalize your insulin and leptin levels, which is an important contributing factor to depression. Certain nutrients are also known to cause symptoms of depression when lacking, and specific herbs and nutritional supplements may also help counteract symptoms.
To suggest that depression is rooted in nutrient deficiencies and other lifestyle related factors does not detract from the fact that it's a serious problem that needs to be addressed with compassion and nonjudgment. It simply shifts the conversation about what the most appropriate answers and remedies are.
For a list of nutrients, herbs and supplements that have been shown to be particularly helpful for depression, as well as a long list of studies showing just how ineffective antidepressants are, and guidelines for safe drug withdrawal, please see "What Does the 'Best Evidence' Say About Antidepressants?"
According to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission,1 the medical device industry has developed and sold an enormous number of products they feel play a crucial role improving the ability to diagnose and treat illness. However, there are a relatively small number of large diversified companies supplying these devices specific for therapeutic use.
In a report to Congress, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission stated:2 “The industry is distinctive both for its tendencies to make frequent, incremental changes to its products and its extensive ties with physicians.”
While medical devices are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the regulatory framework is less stringent than that used for pharmaceutical drugs. Many devices considered to be low risk may be marketed without prior approval and those considered medium risk are only required to demonstrate they are substantially equivalent to an existing device before being marketed.
Due to a rapidly expanding scientific and engineering knowledge base, there's been an acceleration in the development of new devices. The FDA3 maintains information for manufacturers to determine if their product is a medical device, how to classify it, label it and report it. The FDA Medical Device Reporting (MDR) regulation mandates reporting device-related adverse events.4
On the surface it appears as if the FDA and other federal agencies are seeking to protect consumers from malfunctioning or poorly designed devices. However, an investigative report by Kaiser Health News (KHN)5 revealed a hidden program.
The Voluntary Malfunction Summary Reporting has allowed manufacturers to submit MDRs in summary form. The KHN6 investigation found these collections included 1.1 million reports since 2016.
MAUDE tracks public reports
Publicly, the Manufacturer and User Facility Device Experience Database (MAUDE)7 is where adverse events are reported for medical devices. The FDA also maintains MedWatch,8 an adverse event reporting program for the public where individuals may subscribe to safety alerts and learn of new reports made on human medical products or may report serious problems themselves.
Within the MAUDE system is an online search that allows the public to look through the database for information on medical devices that may have malfunctioned or caused a death or serious injury. According to the FDA, the database remains current through the end of the past month, and the they seek to include all reports.9
Before KHN revealed the existence of a hidden database kept by the FDA, The Associated Press reported spinal stimulators used to treat pain and other conditions caused more than 80,000 deaths from 2008 to 2018. While marketed as a panacea for a wide range of pain disorders, the stimulators accounted for the third highest number of medical device injury reports to the FDA.10
These devices became one of the fastest growing medical products as doctors and companies aggressively marketed them as a safe antidote to the opioid crisis. However, patient reports indicate they are responsible for shocks, burns or spinal cord nerve damage resulting in muscle weakness and paraplegia.
Of the 4,000 different types of medical devices tracked by the FDA, metal hip replacements and insulin pumps are the only two logging more injuries. Medical device manufacturers have insisted spinal cord stimulators are safe and 60,000 are implanted annually.
An investigative collaboration between the AP, NBC, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and 50 other media partners around the world, discovered more than 1.7 million injuries and nearly 83,000 deaths related to spinal cord stimulators.
In response to the investigative piece by the AP, the FDA released a statement saying it would take new action to create11 “a more robust medical device safety net for patients through better data. Unfortunately, the FDA cannot always know the full extent of the benefits and risks of a device before it reaches the market.”
This statement was made just months before information was released by KHN showing FDA has supported a program that hides reports on faulty medical devices, injuries and malfunctions, leaving doctors and medical forensics professionals unable to make informed decisions about treatment.
Hidden reports place patients at risk
The program was initiated 20 years ago. The FDA justified it saying the program was designed to allow for more efficient internal review of well-known risks.12 This special exemption allowed manufacturers to file reports of malfunctions into a database that remained hidden from doctors and the public view.
The repository of device-related injuries has expanded since its inception. At least 1.1 million incident reports have found their way into the internal alternative summary reporting archive instead of the widely scrutinized public database.
An FDA official who spoke with KHN13 said this program “is for issues that are well-known and well-documented with the FDA” and that it “has allowed the FDA to more efficiently review adverse events … without sacrificing quality” of the review or information received.
The simple goal two decades ago was to cut down on redundant paperwork. A former FDA official told KHN14 the program took shape after under-reporting triggered changes allowing criminal penalties against device companies. Once this happened, thousands of injury and malfunction reports came into the agency every month.
Some of these were so similar that Larry Kessler, a past FDA official, reported they were “mind-numbing” to review. As a solution, they proposed device makers could seek a “special exemption” to avoid reporting certain complications into a public database and would instead send a spreadsheet each quarter, six months or year, listing the injuries or malfunctions of their devices.
In this way, reviewers would look for problems or spikes in known issues while the public and physicians remained unaware of the vast number of injuries and malfunctions being reported every month.15
Buried data in FDA special exemption reports
KHN read over reams of records looking for references of reporting exemptions. In addition, the FDA also opened other pathways for manufacturers to report thousands of injuries and deaths listed in lawsuits. These exemptions were applied to products considered risky, such as pelvic mesh and devices implanted in the heart.16
A spokeswoman for the FDA confirmed these exemptions were created without public notification. Records from the FDA provided to KHN showed more than 480,000 injuries or malfunction reported in this program in 2017 alone. These alternative summary reports are not well-known, even within the industry.
For instance, Matthew Baretich, a biomedical engineer from Denver, Colorado, helps several area health systems analyze patient injuries and make equipment purchasing decisions. In order to do his job, he regularly scans public injury reports and when asked about these alternative summary reports he said,17 “I've got to tell you, that's a new term to me.”
Bruce Barkalow, president of a biomedical engineering firm in Michigan, is who government officials and attorneys call when medical devices fail. In an interview with KHN18 he said he was not aware of the reports, and that the data would be meaningful to his forensic investigations. Former FDA commissioner Dr. Robert Califf, who held the post from 2015 to 2017, said he was unaware of the program.
Information blackout on 100 medical devices
All deaths are mandated to be reported in MAUDE, but hidden databases have included malfunction reports for nearly 100 medical devices, including those implanted in patients or used in surgeries. The FDA declined to give KHN a complete list of devices granted exemptions but confirmed exemptions have been used for intra-aortic balloon pumps, surgical staplers and mechanical ventilators.19
Recently, the FDA announced it will be terminating the alternative summary reporting program in an effort to increase transparency. It also revealed it would open past records to the public within weeks. Former FDA official Dr. S. Lori Brown called this:20
“… a victory for patients and consumers. The number one job of the FDA — it shouldn't be “buyer beware” — is to have the information available to people so they can have information about the devices they're going to put in their body.”
Federal records have also shown the agency allowed makers of breast implants to hide hundreds of thousands of injuries and malfunctions in alternative summary reports. Exemptions will end for implantable cardiac defibrillators, pacemakers and tooth implants.21 The FDA reportedly began to close the program as far back as mid-2017.
However, data provided to KHN22 shows that in the first nine months of 2018 the FDA accepted more than 190,000 injury reports and 45,000 malfunction reports in their hidden reporting program. In the upcoming release of data, the FDA will open summary reports filed before mid-2017. Going forward, device makers will be required to file individual reports for each patient harmed by medical devices.
However, the FDA also said it will not stop device makers from filing exemption reports withheld from the public when there is mass litigation over a device, nor has a plan been announced to open records that contain injury reports related to pelvic mesh and surgical robots.
As a comparison, KHN23 found 84 accounts of stapler related injury were filed with MAUDE in 2016 while 10,000 malfunction reports were sent to the in-house database.
The FDA had initiated a newer summary reporting program in which more than 5,500 types of devices are covered, allowing manufacturers to log device malfunctions. They announced these will be left in place, but manufacturers will not be allowed to report serious injuries in this program. However, the FDA has a spotty historical record of disclosing reports to advisers.24
Bad information devastates families
While it may be easier for those counting reports to forget, the millions of hidden accounts of medical device malfunctions and injuries have devastated families and destroyed countless lives.
• After living for years in pain after a crushing injury, Jim Taft consented to using a spinal cord stimulator from Boston Scientific to cloak the pain and get off pain medication.25 The stimulator failed soon after it was surgically implanted, delivering electric shocks so strong he couldn't sleep and at one point fell down a flight of stairs.
It was implanted in April 2014 by a neurosurgeon who received $181,000 from the company over five years as consulting fees and payment for travel and entertainment. By the time Taft had the spinal cord stimulator removed four years later, the damage sustained left him unable to walk more than a few steps. He’s now virtually paralyzed.26
• A lawsuit brought by the family of Mark Levering, 62, alleges he nearly lost his life during surgery. Hospital staff performed CPR for 22 minutes while surgeons sutured a severed vein caused by a stapler malfunction. He was in a medically-induced coma and underwent several more surgeries to repair the damage.
After awakening from the coma, he was unable to walk and cannot consistently recognize his wife or son due to the lack of oxygen to his brain and the subsequent brain injury.27
• In 2013, April Strange had surgery to remove a benign liver growth. When the stapler malfunctioned, she bled to death, leaving behind a husband and two daughters, then ages 6 and 8. After surgery, the stapler was thrown out, leaving Strange's husband unable to prove it had a defect. While stapler-maker Covidien denies allegations their product has a defect, they reached an agreement to settle with the family.28
FDA collaborates with manufacturers and CDC with states
Federal agencies charged with protecting public health interests appear to take actions leaning toward protecting big business instead. As the FDA begins revealing the number of under reported injuries and malfunctions in surgical equipment and medical devices, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is hiding information about deadly infections in hospitals.
Although the CDC is vigilant in their surveillance of hospitals out of the country, The New York Times29 exposed a culture of secrecy within the U.S. that affects health care. One recent infection affecting hospitals has been Candida auris, which the CDC calls30 “an emerging fungus that presents a serious global health threat.”
The fungus is often multidrug-resistant, difficult to identify using standard lab methods and causes outbreaks in multiple health care settings. However, the CDC and states appear to be collaborating to hide outbreaks as a way to avoid frightening patients.
Knowledge of an outbreak is important when you're making decisions about nonurgent matters, such as elective surgery. The New York Times31 reports hospitals hide the outbreaks even when disclosure could have saved lives.
Take steps to protect your health
The best way to avoid the potential for medical device malfunction or uncontrolled infection is to protect your health. While there are times when you may need to seek immediate medical attention for accidents and injuries, I believe your best course of action is to maintain optimal health using strategies I've discussed in past articles.
Begin by getting eight hours of quality sleep, maintaining a healthy gut microbiome, eating a nutritionally balanced diet and getting plenty of exercise and movement each day. For guidelines and tips to help you, see the following articles:
- Sleep — Why you need it and 50 ways to improve it
- Gut microbiome may be a game-changer for cancer prevention and treatment
- Everything you need to know about the ketogenic diet
- Exercise to improve your body and your brain
The International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. Their mission, according to their website,1 is "to provide science that improves human health and well-being and safeguards the environment."
The organization was founded by Alex Malaspina, a former senior vice president at Coca-Cola Co. and a regulatory affairs leader. While he founded ILSI in 1978, his ties with Coca-Cola were not severed. Coca-Cola awarded scientists the inaugural ILSI Malaspina International Scholars Travel Award in 2015 when Coca-Cola attended the 2015 ILSI annual meeting in Phoenix, Arizona.2
Malaspina continued to work with Coca-Cola as a vice president in Atlanta, Georgia, long after founding ILSI.3 He also served4 as coordinator for new products at the pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc., and was president of the International Technical Caramel Association,5 a food industry trade group for users and producers of caramel colors.
While often referred to as Dr. Malaspina, he is not a medical doctor. Rather, he earned his doctorate in philosophy in 1955 and was conferred an honorary Ph.D. from the University of Salvador, Argentina.6 In 1994 he received the International Award from the Institute of Food Technologists. The goals of the ILSI are reportedly to bring:7
"… together scientists from government, academia and industry to uphold the scientific integrity and objectivity of nutrition and food safety science so that the resulting data and its applications are used ethically to improve food systems for the betterment of public health."
However, Malaspina has been an influential figure in the food industry, driving an epidemic of obesity8 and Type 2 diabetes9 through unique and strategic devices.10
Study exposes ILSI as shill for multinational food industry
A new study11 based on the organization's internal documents shows ILSI embedded itself in public health panels across Europe and the United Nations in an effort to promote its own industry-focused agenda to raise profits at the expense of public health worldwide.
Sarah Steele, Ph.D., from the department of politics and international studies at the University of Cambridge, led the research published in Globalization and Health. Information in the study is based on documents U.S. Right to Know (USRTK) obtained through state Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.12
USRTK is a nonprofit investigative research group focused on investigating the food industry. Simon Barquera, Ph.D., a consultant for the World Health Organization,13 tweeted following the release of the study:14 "Today is #blackmonday for #ILSI an organization that has blocked public health nutrition efforts in Mexico & other countries."
The study found some of the top officials at ILSI were asked to sit on international panels discussing the negative impacts of tobacco, chemicals and sugary foods on individuals, where they used their position to push for more lenient regulations on products that have mountains of scientific evidence proving the impact on health. Lead author Sarah Steele told The Guardian:15
"Our findings add to the evidence that this nonprofit organisation has been used by its corporate backers for years to counter public health policies. ILSI should be regarded as an industry group — a private body — and regulated as such, not as a body acting for the greater good."
Steele and her colleagues read through more than 170,000 pages of emails from 2015 to 2018, finding ILSI received funds from food companies, including Nestle, General Mills, Monsanto and Coca-Cola.16
While the organization publicly denies any involvement in public policy solutions or commercial interests,17 the study uncovered emails from founder Malaspina to executives at Coca-Cola in which he characterized new sugar intake guidelines as a "disaster" for Coke. Emails were uncovered suggesting ILSI protects industry interests, including this one, sent to Suzanne Harris18 at ILSI:19
"Dear Friends, These guidelines are a real disaster! They could eventually affect us significantly in many ways; Soft drink taxations, modified school luncheon programs, a strong educational effort to educate children and adults to significanty limit their sugar intake, curtail advertising of sugary foods and beverages and eventually a great pressure from CDC and other Agencies to force industry to start deducing drastically the sugar we add to processed foods and beverages.
Also we have to expect that many nations will follow the US guidelines. We have to consider how to become ready to mount a strong defence. Warm regards. Alex"
Nonprofit campaigns against public health policy
ILSI has affiliated chapters around the world20 and, in what may seem to be a juxtaposition of ideas, just completed participation in the 6th World Conference on Research Integrity in Hong Kong, China.21 According to the ILSI website:22
"Scientific integrity is fundamental to the mission and work of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI). Specifically, ILSI North America and its partners throughout the scientific community have been leaders in defining principles, guidelines, and best practices for establishing and maintaining the Integrity of the scientific process when diverse stakeholders collaborate — now ILSI and it's 16 entities are building on this work."
According to documentation, ILSI partners include large food industry giants and agribusinesses intent on promoting the use of chemicals in agriculture and manufacturing. In fact, the study authors wrote the nonprofit is a lobby group promoting the interests of agrichemical industries counter to healthy public policies.23 Co-author Gary Ruskin, co-director of USRTK commented:24
"ILSI is Big Food's global stealth network to defeat scientists, regulators and others who point out the health risks of their products. Big Food wants you to believe that ILSI works for your health, but really it defends food industry profits."
Trustees on the board of ILSI have included representatives from Kellogg's, General Mills, Nestle and Pepsico,25 while Kristin DiNicolantonio, ILSI global communication director, told The Guardian26 they did so "in an individual capacity."
In 2019, some of ILSI's industry board members include representatives from Cargill, Pepsico, Coca-Cola, DuPont, General Mills, ConAgra, Abbott Nutrition and Campbell Soup Co. Even the USDA and CDC are included as "liaisons" to the board.27 In Europe, employees from General Mills, DuPont and Nestle sit on the board.28
The World Health Organization (WHO) was involved in 2016 after ILSI vice president Alan Boobis chaired the meeting to establish public policy on glyphosate. ILSI had taken more than $1 million in donations from Monsanto. WHO cut formal ties with ILSI in 2017.29
In an interesting turnabout, Mars Co. quit ILSI in 2018 and issued a statement explaining:30 "We do not want to be involved in advocacy led studies that so often, and mostly for the right reasons, have been criticized."
ILSI disavows founder while maintaining ties with Coca-Cola
Three days after the featured study was released, ILSI31 published a response in which they said Steele's conclusions about its lobbying policies are incorrect. They reiterated the organization explicitly prohibits members from advocating commercial interests and informs on actions by industry rather than developing policy.
In the statement,32 ILSI was explicit Malaspina was no longer an ILSI trustee, officer or representative of the organization of any kind and has no position within the organization. Any comments he may have made after 2001 should be seen as a retired private citizen.
They encouraged anyone reading the study to discount emails from Malaspina in which he was in contact with ILSI members. However, while this deep dive into documents from the self-proclaimed industry watchdog establishes its involvement in policy and decision making on a global scale, it is not the first time dirt has been found when ISLI has come under the microscope.33
Earlier this year, papers published in the BMJ34 and the Journal of Public Health Policy35 revealed the powerful influence the ILSI held over the Chinese government policymaking related to obesity.
The nonprofit organization is funded by corporate membership and supporters. In 2015 they thanked a three-page list of worldwide corporate supporters,36 including McDonald's, Monsanto, Pfizer and Red Bull. Currently, its website lists industry members37 such as the Coca-Cola Co., ConAgra, General Mills, PepsiCo and DuPont.
ILSI worked to discredit scientist
ILSI supports the use of glyphosate, sugar and numerous other chemicals in the manufacturing of food, and takes great offense to scientists who dare to identify flaws in their conclusions. Dr. Tim Noakes is one who reviewed a meta-analysis called the Naudé Review.38
The review was published in 2014, in which the researchers claimed data showed low-carb diets are no more effective for weight loss than low-fat diets. Noakes and public health researcher Zoe Harcombe reviewed the publication, finding multiple flaws and saying the conclusions were not robust.39
In South Africa, Noakes is nationally famous as exercise scientist and physician transforming sport by challenging some of the most commonly held beliefs. In the past, he has addressed hydration, motivation and fatigue, but apparently bit off too large a bite when he took on carbs, big soda and sugar.40
In February 2014 he tweeted41 that babies should be weaned onto low-carbohydrate diets. Suddenly the floodgates opened, and he was pressed to defend his statement, even though he no longer practiced medicine. A colleague, Russ Greene from CrossFit Inc., flew to South Africa to speak to Noakes and read 300 pages of trial documents.
Court trial to defend low-carb statement
Greene writes the trial42 "sets a frightening precedent," as anyone who dares to tweet something out of sync with the food industry's proxy organizations may face the full force and deep pockets of the junk food industry. Although one dietitian was the face of the opposition, she was not the leader, nor were dietitians leading the charge. In fact, the dietitian most verbal is also a consultant for Kellogg's.43
She erased most of the online documentation of her relationship with Kellogg's following the start of the trial.44 During the 2014 Nutrition Congress, ILSI contributed to the program and three officials from South Africa's Department of Health spoke at the ILSI session. Noakes was initially acquitted, but the Health Professionals Council of South Africa filed an appeal.
He was again acquitted in mid-2018, being found not guilty of giving nutritional advice online, during which he demonstrated a low-carb diet was scientifically correct and could cause no harm. While the trial may seem frivolous to some, Greene calls it45 "just good business" for Coca-Cola and its proxies.
A whole food diet plan reduces health risks
If you want your body to perform optimally, you need real food and all-natural nutrients, which is common sense advice for everyone. A real food diet is a foundational pillar for optimizing your health and your gut microbiome. Choosing organic, whole foods grown without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers is key to avoiding toxins, and just as important as getting a wide variety of nutrients.
Organic fruits and vegetables may contain 19% to 69% more antioxidants than those conventionally-grown.46 Many of these have been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative disorders.
On the other hand, eating ultraprocessed foods places you at greater risk for disease, including metabolic syndrome,47 cardiovascular disease48 and diabetes.49 Research has also linked ultraprocessed foods to cancer50 and premature death. Unfortunately, eating processed foods has become the norm worldwide.
For a discussion on the dangers of processed foods see my previous article, "Processed foods lead to cancer and early death." Making changes to your nutrition may improve your health and help you more easily control your weight. For tips on eating more real food, see my previous article, "For optimal health and weight, eat real food."
Processed food is the antithesis of a healthy diet for a number of different reasons, the addition of unregulated and often undisclosed chemicals being a significant one. Besides preservatives, emulsifiers, colors and flavors, which are generally listed, there are any number of others that do not have to be disclosed, as they’re considered “processing aids.”
Additives are used in food processing to slow spoilage, prevent fats and oils from going rancid, prevent browning, and fortify or enrich the food with synthetic vitamins and minerals to replace the natural ones that were lost during processing.
They’re also added to improve taste, texture and appearance, as many processed foods would be as dull and bland as cardboard without some artificial help. But despite widespread use, many food additives have questionable safety profiles, or none at all, since only a small percentage have ever been properly tested.
One such in the U.S.’s largely unregulated, group of food additives are nanoparticles, which are rapidly gaining favor in the food industry. Tests by the Adolphe Merkle Institute of the University of Fribourg and the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office in Switzerland found nanosized titanium dioxide, silicon oxide and talc in 27% of the food products tested.1
“This suite of ingredients, engineered to almost atomic scale, may have unintended effects on cells and organs,2 particularly the digestive tract.3
There are also indications that nanoparticles may get into the bloodstream4 and accumulate5 elsewhere in the body. They have been linked to inflammation,6 liver and kidney damage7 and even heart8 and brain damage,9” The Guardian reports in a recent article.10
Nanoparticles — A hidden health hazard in processed food?
Nanoparticles have gained popularity in the food industry for their ability to “improve” the texture, appearance and flavor of food. Silicon dioxide, for example, is added to many spices and salts as an anticaking agent, meaning it allows the spices to flow easier and not clump together.
Titanium dioxide (labeled E171 in the EU), is a whitening agent used in a wide variety of products, from chocolate and chewing gum to baked goods, milk powders and mayonnaise. However, while titanium dioxide has long been considered inert, concerns about nanosized titanium dioxide have been raised for years.11
According to The Guardian,12 “the tiny metal additive has … been shown to accumulate in liver, spleen, kidney and lung tissues in rats when ingested and to damage the liver and heart muscle.”
Christine Ogilvie Hendren, executive director of the Center for the Environmental Implications of NanoTechnology at Duke University, told The Guardian that she washes “all my foods like crazy,”13 in an effort to remove surface nanoparticles.
Christine K. Payne, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, Duke University, added “There might be concerns for toddlers when you have a small body mass that you’re eating a lot of these … products.”14
France bans nanosized titanium dioxide
Due to mounting safety concerns, France recently banned nanosized titanium dioxide in food, effective 2020. According to Reuters,15 “the country’s health and safety agency said there was not enough evidence to guarantee the safety of the substance.”
According to Payne, her studies (which are focused on the inhalation of nanomaterials) have revealed “lots of unexpected molecular and genetic effects” even at levels up to 100 times below those deemed safe by conventional toxicology tests. Payne told The Guardian:16
“What all labs [doing such research] are seeing now is that there are effects beyond toxicity, so you can work at non-toxic concentrations but still see, for example, an oxidative stress response which can lead to inflammation.”
In his safety review17 “Is Nano Safe in Foods?” published November 2017, David Julian McClements from the University of Massachusetts discusses nanoparticles’ effect on the human gastrointestinal tract, as well as some of the potential toxicity mechanisms of various food-grade nanoparticles, concluding “there is evidence that some of them could have harmful effects.”
Not all nanoparticles are added directly to the food itself. They’re also used in packaging, and may migrate onto the food. According to McClements,18 these nanoparticles may also pose health hazards. Nanosized silver, for example, commonly used as an antimicrobial agent in food packaging, may kill beneficial gut bacteria and alter your gut microbiome if ingested.
Nanosized titanium dioxide linked to gut inflammation
Research19,20 published in May 2019, found nanoparticle-sized titanium dioxide administered in drinking water impacted the gut microbiota in mice in a way that might trigger inflammatory bowel diseases and/or colorectal cancer. As explained by the authors:21
“While TiO2 [nanosized titanium dioxide] had minimal impact on the composition of the microbiota in the small intestine and colon, we found that TiO2 treatment could alter the release of bacterial metabolites in vivo and affect the spatial distribution of commensal bacteria in vitro by promoting biofilm formation.
We also found reduced expression of the colonic mucin 2 gene, a key component of the intestinal mucus layer, and increased expression of the beta defensin gene, indicating that TiO2 significantly impacts gut homeostasis.
These changes were associated with colonic inflammation, as shown by decreased crypt length, infiltration of CD8+ T cells, increased macrophages as well as increased expression of inflammatory cytokines.
These findings collectively show that TiO2 is not inert, but rather impairs gut homeostasis which may in turn prime the host for disease development.”
Associate professor Wojciech Chrzanowski, a nanotoxicology expert with the University of Sydney's School of Pharmacy and Sydney Nano Institute, told Science Daily:22
"There is increasing evidence that continuous exposure to nanoparticles has an impact on gut microbiota composition, and since gut microbiota is a gate keeper of our health, any changes to its function have an influence on overall health.
This study presents pivotal evidence that consumption of food containing food additive E171 (titanium dioxide) affects gut microbiota as well as inflammation in the gut, which could lead to diseases such as inflammatory bowel diseases and colorectal cancer.”
Nanosized titanium dioxide alters intestinal homeostasis
Another recent study23 published in the journal Environmental Science: Nano sought to determine whether nanosized titanium dioxide could affect the intestinal barrier function, the aim of which is to protect your body from external threats, if so, how.
To do that, the researchers co-cultured two types of colorectal cells to “reconstitute an in vitro mucus-secreting intestinal epithelium,” which was then exposed to three different agents: nanosized titanium dioxide, pure anatase (a mineral form of titanium dioxide), or an anatase and rutile mix (two mineral forms of titanium dioxide). As reported by the authors:24
“Two exposure scenarii were used: acute exposure for 6 h or 48 h after cell differentiation (21 days post-seeding), or repeated exposure during the course of cell differentiation, i.e., twice a week for 21 days post-seeding.
Epithelial cells repeatedly exposed to TiO2 developed an inflammatory profile, together with increased mucus secretion. Epithelial integrity was unaltered, but the content of ATP-binding cassette (ABC) family xenobiotic efflux pumps was modified.
Taken together, these data show that TiO2 moderately but significantly dysregulates several features that contribute to the protective function of the intestine.”
All nanoparticles bind to gut bacteria
According to a study25,26 published last year, all nanoparticles in food have the ability to bind to all types of gut bacteria, albeit to varying degrees, thereby altering the bacteria’s life cycle and activity inside your body.
While the authors suggest these characteristics may render nanoparticles usable in medicine — they could potentially be used to push the gut microbiome in a positive direction, for example — they may also cause problems. As noted in Medical News Today, which reported the team’s findings:27
“Compared with bigger particles derived from the same materials, nanoparticles have a much larger surface area relative to their size … and are able to cross biological barriers. These barriers include the mucus layer that lines tissues such as the gut.
For these reasons, their fate in the human gut is likely to differ greatly from that of larger-scale counterparts derived from the same materials. According to the study authors, ‘It is, therefore, important to ensure that any nano-enabled food ingredients are safe for application in foods’ …
A potential outcome that could be of benefit is the inhibition of infections, for example by H. pylori. The team made this discovery when experimenting with silica nanoparticles in cell cultures.
However, a potentially disturbing prospect that came up in other experiments was that binding to nanoparticles could render some unfriendly bacteria less visible to the immune system. Such a result could increase inflammation responses, for instance.”
Safety testing lags behind identification of novel ingredients
As noted in a 2018 paper28 in the journal Nanotechnology Reviews, “There is an imbalance between the increase in research to identify new nanoparticle applications and their safety …”
The authors further point out that “It has been observed that people perceive nanotechnology risks similar to genetically modified food, thus reducing the consumption of such food,” and that while “there are numerous studies on the use of nanotechnology in food and the effect of nanoparticles on human health,” few analyses of the available evidence have been performed.
In an attempt to fill this void, the authors “present and analyze different studies on the use and the safety of nanoparticles in food.” This is a good paper to read through if you want a comprehensive overview of their use and potential toxicities.
Problematically, “After years of research, we have only come to the conclusion that materials at nanoscale show drastically different properties and unexpected behavior,” the authors state, adding that “This unexpected behavior is what leads to our concerns about its toxicity.” The fourth section, “Nanotoxicity,” reads in part:29
“Nanoparticles have the unique property of increased surface area per unit volume. This renders them to behave completely different from their bulk counterparts … [N]anoparticles are more likely to react with various biological entities such as lipids and proteins or cells as a whole. Nanoparticles may cross the cell membrane entering various organs and activate inflammatory or other immune responses.
To foresee the unknown consequences of nanoparticle usage, nanotoxicological studies are performed. A typical toxicity test involves cells or organisms subjected to a specific dose of chemicals (nanoparticles, in the case of nanotoxicological studies) and measuring the response of the cells over a period of time.
The dose-response relationship from these experiments determines the optimum dose and acceptable limits for chemicals. However, unlike conventional chemicals … nanoparticles … have shapes, surface area, and surface electrical charge completely different from bulk counterparts. These might diffuse, aggregate, sediment, and change the physical and chemical properties of the media they are kept in.
The major inference that we draw is that the conventional in vitro assays may misinterpret the results and the dose-response regimes. These conventional assays do not take into account the anomalous behavior of nanoparticles in the environment and their cellular uptake.”
According to the authors, several factors can affect the toxicity of nanoparticles, including dosage, chemical reactivity, charge distribution, size and shape of the particle, and the particle’s surface area. Other influencing factors include the fact that “the interaction between the nanoparticle and the biological membrane can be either physical or chemical.”
Physical interactions between a nanoparticle and a biological membrane typically trigger “disruption of membranes and its activity, protein folding, aggregation and various transport processes,” while chemical interactions primarily result in “reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation and oxidative damage.”
Multiple exposure routes further complicate the picture when trying to identify health risks. Similarly, the route a nanoparticle uses to enter any given cell can also influence its toxic potential to the cell, as different entry routes generate greater or lesser stress.30
“The fact that their particles can distort lipid organization and overall membrane structure is an evidence in itself that the nanoparticles may affect biology as a whole,” the authors note, adding “There is an urgent need for information to better understand the nanoparticle-biological interactions and processes.”
FDA does not regulate nanoparticles in food
While the EU has required engineered nano ingredients to be clearly indicated on the food label, no such rules exist in the U.S. When asked for a comment, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration told The Guardian31 “there are no specific provisions in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act that deal with nanomaterials in food.”
Many do not realize that food additives are not automatically required to get premarket approval by the FDA,32,33,34 or that items that fall under the “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) designation are exempt from the approval process altogether.
The problem with the GRAS program is that a company can simply hire an industry insider to evaluate the chemical, and if that individual determines that the chemical meets federal safety standards, it can be deemed GRAS without any involvement from the FDA. No independent third party objective evaluation is required.35 As a result, we now have many so-called GRAS chemicals in our food supply that have never existed in the food supply before.
Used in combination, food additive hazards are amplified
Adding further complexity to an already complicated picture is research showing that when you consume multiple food additives in combination, the health effects may be more serious than previously imagined.
In 2015, Denmark’s “largest research project on chemical cocktail effects in food,”36 led by the National Food Institute, concluded that even small amounts of chemicals can amplify each other’s adverse effects when combined. As reported by the Institute:
“A recently completed, four-year research project on cocktail effects in foods … has established that when two or more chemicals appear together, they often have an additive effect.
This means that cocktail effects can be predicted based on information from single chemicals, but also that small amounts of chemicals when present together can have significant negative effects.
‘Our research shows that indeed, little strokes fell great oaks also when it comes to chemical exposure. Going forward this insight has a profound impact on the way we should assess the risk posed by chemicals we are exposed to through the foods we eat,’ Professor Anne Marie Vinggaard from the National Food Institute says.”
While this research did not address nanosized additives, it stands to reason that since nanoparticles tend to be more reactive and unpredictable than their bulkier conventional counterparts, when combined with other additives — nanosized or not — the risk of toxicity may be significantly magnified.
Avoid processed foods to sidestep many potential hazards
The food industry has dramatically altered our diet, and these changes directly affect your weight and overall health. A large part of the problem stems from the processes used to manufacture the food, as food processing destroys valuable nutrients.
It also removes much of the food’s original flavor, and to address these shortcomings, synthetic nutrients, flavors, colors and other additives are used. Many of these added chemicals can wreak metabolic havoc, as your body doesn’t quite know what to do with them.
Another factor that makes processed foods the antithesis of a healthy diet is the excessive use of refined sugar and processed fructose. Virtually all processed foods contain added sugar — including commercial infant formula and baby food. Most processed foods are also loaded with genetically engineered ingredients and/or glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in the history of agriculture.
If you’re concerned about your health, buying a good cook book and cooking from scratch using whole, organic ingredients is one of the best investments you could possibly make. For a step-by-step guide to making wiser food choices for yourself and your family, please refer to my free optimized nutrition plan.
Remember, a processed food diet sets the stage for obesity and any number of chronic health issues. In fact, many of the top diseases plaguing the United States are diet-related, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer. The answer to these health problems lies not in a pill, but, primarily, in what you eat every day.
Per- and polyfluoroalykyl substances1,2 (PFAS) are widely used chemicals that make products water-, oil-, grease- and stain-resistant. The chemicals are also used in firefighting foam. One type, perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA, is commonly found in older nonstick cookware.
PFOA and its cousin perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) are associated with a wide array of health problems, including cancer, immune and thyroid dysfunction, low birth weight and more.3
Disturbingly, because PFAS chemicals take thousands of years to degrade, and are found in groundwater across the country,4,5 they’ve become a significant environmental threat.
Research6 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in 2007 found PFAS chemicals in the blood of more than 98% of Americans tested. And, while concentrations of some PFAS (including PFOA and PFOS) declined by 10% to 32% between 1999 and 2004, another PFAS called PFNA doubled, resulting in a net increase.
The decline of PFOA and PFOS can be explained by the fact that both have been phased out, PFOS starting in 2000 and PFOA in 20067,8 Still, due to their persistence in the environment, they’re still showing up in the strangest places.
Sharon Lerner, a reporting fellow at The Investigative Fund and an investigative journalist for The Intercept and other major media outlets, has written extensively about PFAS and the industry’s attempts to cover up the damage.9
Testing reveals PFAS in US food supply
Research10,11 published in 2017 revealed 33% of fast food wrappers and containers contain fluorine, which suggests perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) were used to give the paper that slick surface, and earlier studies12,13,14 have confirmed fluorinated chemicals can migrate from the packaging into the food.
Now, food testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (performed in 2017 as part of its Total Diet Study15 and presented16 at the 2019 meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry) reveals PFAS chemicals are in the U.S. food supply,17,18,19,20,21 and at levels far exceeding the advisory limit for PFOA and PFAS in drinking water (there’s currently no limits in food).
Of the 91 foods tested for 16 types of PFAS, 10 were found to contain the chemicals.22 As reported by PBS:23
“The levels in nearly half of the meat and fish tested were double or more the only currently existing federal advisory level for any kind of … PFAS. The level in the chocolate cake was higher: more than 250 times the only federal guidelines, which are for some PFAS in drinking water …
PFOS, an older form of PFAS no longer made in the U.S., turned up at levels ranging from 134 parts per trillion to 865 parts per trillion in tilapia, chicken, turkey, beef, cod, salmon, shrimp, lamb, catfish and hot dogs. Prepared chocolate cake tested at 17,640 parts per trillion of a kind of PFAS called PFPeA.
The FDA presentation also included what appeared to be previously unreported findings of PFAS levels — one spiking over 1,000 parts per trillion — in leafy green vegetables grown within 10 miles (16 kilometers) of an unspecified eastern U.S. PFAS plant and sold at a farmer’s market.”
Dairy farm near Air Force base forced to ditch toxic milk
The FDA also reported that samples of drinking water and milk from cows raised on a farm near a U.S. Air Force base that uses PFAS-containing firefighting foam were found to contain disturbing amounts of the chemicals.
Drinking water contained 35 times more PFAS than the current health advisory level set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is 70 parts per trillion (ppt).24 The milk contained high enough amounts it was deemed a human health concern, resulting in all milk from the farm being discarded.
In humans, the serum elimination half-life of PFOA ranges between 2.325,26 and 3.8 years,27 and for PFOS between 4.8 to 5.4 years.28 Similarly, it takes a long time for exposed cows to start producing clean milk. As reported by CNN Health:29
“The FDA noted that even after the cows are no longer exposed to the PFAS contaminated water or feed, the accumulated chemicals can remain in the cow. Just 30 days of eating and drinking contaminated food and water would require 1.5 years for a cow to rid their system of the chemicals.”
April 25, 2019, the EPA released draft interim guidance for groundwater contaminated with PFOA/PFOS above 70 ppt, which is a “key component of the agency’s PFAS Action Plan,” according to the press release.30 While that’s great news, it seems clear we also need regulations for PFAS contamination in food and not just drinking water.
Sewage sludge — A major source of PFAS on farms
As recently reported by The Intercept,31 sewage sludge appears to be another major source of these toxic, persistent chemicals. Documents32 obtained by The Intercept reveal 44 samples of sewage sludge tested by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection all contained at least one PFAS chemical, and “In all but two of the samples, the chemicals exceeded safety thresholds for sludge that Maine set early last year.”
Maine’s tolerance levels for PFAS are set at 2.5 parts per billion (ppb) for PFOA, 5.2 ppb for PFOS, and 1,900 ppb for PFBS. Mike Belliveau, executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center in Portland, told The Intercept these levels are “probably about 10 times weaker than they should be,” adding, “Even low parts-per-billion levels of PFAS in sludge can threaten the health of the food supply.”
How do PFAS get into the food supply?
At present, authorities do not know exactly how the chemicals are entering the food supply, but there are several possibilities, and it’s likely to be a combination of factors. One is that the chemicals are leaching from food packaging.
Another theory is that when biodegradable packaging in which PFAS are used are composted, the chemicals enter the food chain via the compost.33,34 As noted in study35 published online May 29, 2019:
“The loads and leachability of 17 perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) were analyzed in nine OFMSW [organic fraction of municipal solid waste] commercial composts and one backyard compost.
PFAA loads ranged from 28.7 to 75.9 micrograms/kilo for OFMSW compost that included food packaging and from 2.38 to 7.6 micrograms/kilo for composts that did not include food packaging.
Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS) were detected in all composts; however, OFMSW composts were dominated by short-chain PFAAs (>64%) and perfluoroalkyl carboxylates (PFCAs, >68%), particularly the C6 PFCA.”
A third hypothesis is that they’re entering the food chain via contaminated groundwater. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, 90 military bases have groundwater contaminated with PFAS at levels exceeding the EPA advisory level,36 and PFAS have been found in local water systems across the country as well.37,38,39 When contaminated groundwater is used to irrigate crop fields, the chemicals then enter the food chain.
Researchers experiment with PFOA as cancer treatment
Curiously, while PFOA has been implicated in certain cancers, particularly kidney and testicular cancer, a 2018 study40 details a human experiment to test the chemical’s chemotherapeutic properties. According to this paper:
“The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) categorized PFOA as a possible human carcinogen for testicular and kidney cancer (group 2B).
In light of this IARC qualitative hazard index listing and the presence of PFOA in the general population, it is highly unusual that an environmental toxicant such as PFOA would ever be considered for its chemotherapeutic properties.
Interestingly, PFOA has been shown to cause endoplasmic reticulum stress in tumor cells, activity against PIM kinases, and activity in 5 xenograft models of solid tumors.
Because PIM kinases can be overexpressed in many cancers that involve cell survival, cell cycle progression, and cell migration, inhibitors of PIM kinases have become a focus for drug discovery research, including APFO [ammonium perfluorooctanoate].
Based on APFO’s antitumorgenicity profile, a phase 1 trial was sponsored by CXR Biosciences, Ltd … to determine the safety, dose limiting toxicity, and maximum tolerated dose (MTD) of APFO …
The purpose of this paper is to describe this APFO phase 1 trial and the time-dependent relationships that were observed over the course of this study between administered doses of APFO, plasma concentrations of PFOA, and several clinical markers, including cholesterol, in the participating subjects.”
In all, 49 “primarily solid-tumor cancer patients who had failed standard therapy” received a weekly dose of APFO — an ammonium salt of PFOA — ranging between 50 milligrams and 1,200 mg for six weeks.
It’s worth noting that three of the researchers have declared conflicts of interest, having received grants from or been employed by 3M Company, a former manufacturer of PFOA.
I bring that up, seeing how they propose that health concerns over environmental PFOA exposure may be overblown, as they could find “no evidence of any major effects other than a decrease in total cholesterol (but not HDL) and an increase in fT4 (but not TSH) for increasing levels of PFOA plasma concentration,” despite reaching “levels of PFOA more than four orders of magnitude higher than the levels observed in general populations.” Only one subject exhibited signs of “dose-limiting toxicity.”
Doubtful PFOA is helpful rather than harmful
I wouldn’t shrug off concerns about PFOA (or any other PFAS) based on that study, however. There’s a far more robust body of evidence showing PFAS chemicals can cause harm even in minute doses.
In 2005, the EPA fined DuPont $16.5 million for violating the Toxic Substances Control Act by withholding decades’ worth of information about health hazards associated with PFOA. That same year (2005), a panel of scientists was convened to determine PFOA’s effect on human health.
The results of this seven-year investigation, which was completed in November 2013, are detailed in more than three dozen peer-reviewed papers, and link PFOA to:41
- Ulcerative colitis
- High cholesterol
- Pregnancy-induced hypertension
- Thyroid disease
- Testicular- and kidney cancer
Its health effects were deemed to be widespread and occurred even at very low exposure levels. In 2015, a woman who sued DuPont, blaming her kidney cancer on PFOA-contaminated drinking water, was awarded $1.6 million in damages.42
This and other legal processes against DuPont uncovered internal documents showing the company was fully aware of the chemical's danger to the public and employees, yet continued using it and hid contamination problems.
Madrid Statement details health effects of PFAS
In May 2015, more than 200 scientists from 40 countries signed the so-called Madrid Statement on PFASs,43,44 which warns about the harms of all PFAS chemicals, both old and new. According to the Madrid Statement, health effects associated with the older, long-chain PFASs such as PFOA, include:45
Disruption of lipid metabolism, and the immune- and endocrine systems
Adverse neurobehavioral effects
Neonatal toxicity and death
Tumors in multiple organ systems
Testicular and kidney cancers
Reduced birth weight and size
Decreased immune response to vaccines
Reduced hormone levels and delayed puberty
The Madrid Statement also points out the problem with replacing PFASs known to be harmful with other similar, but less scientifically evaluated, compounds, saying:
“Although some of the long-chain PFASs are being regulated or phased out, the most common replacements are short-chain PFASs with similar structures, or compounds with fluorinated segments joined by ether linkages.
While some shorter-chain fluorinated alternatives seem to be less bioaccumulative, they are still as environmentally persistent as long-chain substances or have persistent degradation products.
Thus, a switch to short-chain and other fluorinated alternatives may not reduce the amounts of PFASs in the environment. In addition, because some of the shorter-chain PFASs are less effective, larger quantities may be needed to provide the same performance.”
How to avoid PFAS chemicals
The Madrid Statement recommends avoiding any and all products containing or manufactured with PFASs, noting they include products that are stain-resistant, waterproof or nonstick. More helpful tips can be found in the EWG’s “Guide to Avoiding PFCS.”46 Other suggestions that will help you avoid these dangerous chemicals include avoiding:
Items that have been pretreated with stain-repellants, and opt out of such treatments when buying new furniture and carpets
Water- and/or stain-repellant clothing — One tipoff is when an item made with artificial fibers is described as “breathable.” These are typically treated with polytetrafluoroethylene, a synthetic fluoropolymer
Items treated with flame retardant chemicals47 — This includes a wide variety of baby items, padded furniture, mattresses and pillows. Instead, opt for naturally less flammable materials such as leather, wool and cotton
Fast food and carry out foods — The wrappers are typically treated with PFCs
Microwave popcorn — PFCs not only may present in the inner coating of the bag, but they also may migrate to the oil from the packaging during heating. Instead, use “old-fashioned” stovetop popcorn
Nonstick cookware and other treated kitchen utensils — Healthier options include ceramic and enameled cast iron cookware, both of which are durable, easy to clean and completely inert, which means they won’t release any harmful chemicals into your home.
A newer type of nonstick cookware called Duralon uses a nonfluoridated nylon polymer for its nonstick coating. While this appears to be safe, your safest bet is still ceramic and enameled cast iron.
While some recommend using aluminum, stainless steel and copper cookware, I don’t for the following reasons: Aluminum is a strongly suspected causal factor in Alzheimer's disease, and stainless steel has alloys containing nickel, chromium, molybdenum and carbon.
For those with nickel allergies, this may be a particularly important consideration. Copper cookware is also not recommended because most copper pans come lined with other metals, creating the same concerns noted above. (Copper cookware must be lined due to the possibility of copper poisoning.)
Oral-B Glide floss and any other personal care products containing PTFE or “fluoro” or “perfluoro” ingredients — The EWG has an excellent database called Skin Deep48 you can peruse to find healthier options
Unfiltered tap water — Unfortunately, your choices are limited when it comes to avoiding PFASs in drinking water. Either you must filter your water or obtain water from a clean source. Both solutions can be problematic and/or costly.
While many opt for bottled water, it’s important to realize that PFASs are not regulated in bottled water, so there’s absolutely no guarantee that it’ll be free of these or other chemicals. Bottled water also increases your risk of exposure to hazardous plastic chemicals such as bisphenol-A, which has its own set of health risks.
Most common water filters available in supermarkets will not remove PFASs. You really need a high-quality carbon filtration system. The New Jersey Drinking Water Quality Institute recommends using granulated activated carbon “or an equally efficient technology” to remove PFC chemicals such as PFOA and PFOS from your drinking water.49 Activated carbon has been shown to remove about 90% of these chemicals.
In 2018, He Jiankui, a Chinese scientist, claimed to have created the world's first gene-edited babies. He modified the DNA of human embryos during in vitro fertilization by disabling a gene called CCR5, which could potentially make the babies resistant to infection with HIV.1
The babies, twin girls known as Lulu and Nana, were born in 2018,2 and a third baby with an edited CCR5 gene is due to be born in 2019.3 He's team received major backlash from the highly controversial move, as while the technology to genetically edit human babies has existed for some time, ethical considerations had stopped researchers from tinkering with the human germline.
In the case of editing germline cells, such as embryos, eggs and sperm, changes made to the genome will be inherited by future generations, potentially altering the course of evolution. What's more, it's becoming increasingly clear that altering even a single gene can lead to a cascade of unexpected changes.
Such is the case with the CCR5 gene, as new research published in Nature Medicine revealed that knocking out that gene may lead to negative effects on life expectancy, potentially shortening the gene-edited babies' life spans before they were even born.4
World's first gene-edited babies may die early
University of California Berkeley used genotyping and death register information of 409,693 individuals of British ancestry to determine the effects of mutations to the CCR5 gene, similar to what He's team altered in the "designer" babies. While they did, indeed, find that such individuals may have higher immunity against HIV, they also had a 21% increase in all-cause mortality rate.
In other words, those with CCR5 mutations were about 21% less likely to live to be 76 years. Study author Rasmus Nielsen, a professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, told NPR, "This is a cautionary tale … What we found is that they had significantly increased mortality … It's rather substantial. We were quite surprised the effect was this large."5
Nielsen and colleagues believe altering the CCR5 gene may weaken immunity against other viruses, such as acquiring a fatal case of influenza.6 So a gene alteration that may be considered to be protective can quickly turn out to actually be harmful. Nielsen continued to The Telegraph:7
"Beyond the many ethical issues involved with the CRISPR babies, the fact is that, right now, with current knowledge, it is still very dangerous to try to introduce mutations without knowing the full effect of what those mutations do. In this case, it is probably not a mutation that most people would want to have. You are actually, on average, worse off having it."
What is CRISPR and CRISPR-cas 9?
CRISPR, or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat, allows scientists to modify an organism's DNA, leading to possibilities that were unheard of generations ago not only in the medical field but also in agriculture and manufacturing. By tweaking genetics, researchers could theoretically help prevent inheritable diseases or create hardier, more nutritious plants, for instance.
Whereas gene editing was once a very imprecise and expensive process, scientists can now go into your DNA and essentially cut and paste it at specified places. The technology can be traced back to bacteria, which protect themselves by cutting out invading virus' DNA and inserting it into their own, then replicating the new sequences to prevent future viral invasions.8
In 2012, researchers refined the system and revealed that any DNA (not just bacteria) has this ability — and the process works in humans.9 With CRISPR-Cas 9, the technology was said to be even more precise, acting as a pair of scissors to "snip" DNA at specific locations. As explained by the U.S. National Institutes of Health:10
"CRISPR-Cas9 was adapted from a naturally occurring genome editing system in bacteria. The bacteria capture snippets of DNA from invading viruses and use them to create DNA segments known as CRISPR arrays. The CRISPR arrays allow the bacteria to 'remember' the viruses (or closely related ones).
If the viruses attack again, the bacteria produce RNA segments from the CRISPR arrays to target the viruses' DNA. The bacteria then use Cas9 or a similar enzyme to cut the DNA apart, which disables the virus.
… Although Cas9 is the enzyme that is used most often, other enzymes (for example Cpf1) can also be used. Once the DNA is cut, researchers use the cell's own DNA repair machinery to add or delete pieces of genetic material, or to make changes to the DNA by replacing an existing segment with a customized DNA sequence."
Why the world has resisted the creation of CRISPR babies
While the U.S. National Institutes of Health does not provide funding for studies on gene-editing technologies in human embryos, CRISPR technology has already been used to edit human embryos made from sperm from men carrying inherited disease mutations. The researchers successfully altered the DNA in a way that would eliminate or correct the genes causing the inherited disease.11,12
Unlike in the Chinese study, the gene-edited embryos were only allowed to develop for a few days.13 There was no intention to implant them into a womb to develop into babies, but had this been done, the gene edits would have been passed on to future generations as well.
This is a large part of the controversy surrounding He's gene-edited babies. William Hurlbut, a scientist and bioethicist at Stanford, told NPR, "I think we're facing a very serious issue as a species here … This is not like other technologies. It's not like you're just dealing with an individual patient. You're now dealing with the entire human gene pool."14
Also problematic, He's genetic editing disabled CCR5 in an attempt to replicate the effect of a CCR5 variant called delta 32, which occurs naturally in about 10 percent of northern Europeans,15 but much less often in Chinese people.16
However, while it approximated the natural CCR5 mutation, it did not duplicate it exactly, leading some experts, like professor Robin Lovell-Badge, from the Francis Crick Institute, to call the study "foolish" and question whether it would work to prevent HIV in the babies:17
"It is impossible to predict if the mutations carried by the twin girls will have any effect … [the study] shows once more that He Jiankui was foolish to choose CCR5 to mutate."
As a result of the rogue study that many believe violated ethical rules, He was fired from his university position and criticized by Guangdong's health ministry.18 Yet, according to Hurlbut, at least one fertility clinic in Dubai has already contacted He to ask if he would teach the technology to his clinic. "You can see from this that there will be immediate uptake for application of this," Hurlbut said.19
Xinzhu Wei, another author of the study that found CCR5 mutations may shorten life span, added: "Because one gene could affect multiple traits, and because, depending on the environment, the effects of a mutation could be quite different, I think there can be many uncertainties and unknown effects in any germline editing."20
She also told BBC News, "The Crispr technology is far too dangerous to use right now for germ-line editing."21
CRISPR leads to unexpected off-target mutations
Warning bells have been sounded before when it comes to CRISPR, as the technology leads to unexpected mutations — even in the case of the "more precise" CRISPR-Cas 9. One study used a different method to search for unintended mutations, based on a separate study that used CRISPR-Cas9 to restore sight in blind mice by correcting a genetic mutation.
The researchers sequenced the entire genome of the CRISPR-edited mice to search for mutations. In addition to the intended genetic edit, they found more than 100 additional deletions and insertions along with more than 1,500 single-nucleotide mutations, raising concerns that testing CRISPR in humans may be premature, even with CRISPR-Cas 9.22
Study author Dr. Stephen Tsang of Columbia University Medical Center said that even a single change to a nucleotide could have a "huge impact."23 Indeed, in animals, gene editing has led to unexpected side effects, including enlarged tongues and extra vertebrate.24,25
Does CRISPR carry cancer concerns?
Off-target mutations that occur as the result of gene editing include rearranging chromosomes, inactivating essential genes or improperly activating others, such as cancer-causing genes.26
For instance, CRISPR-Cas 9 leads to the activation of the p53 gene, which works to either repair the DNA break or kill off the CRISPR-edited cell.27 CRISPR actually has a low efficacy rate for this reason, and CRISPR-edited cells that survive are able to do so because of a dysfunctional p53.
Unfortunately, p53 dysfunction is also linked to cancer (including close to half of ovarian and colorectal cancers and a sizable portion of lung, pancreatic, stomach, breast and liver cancers as well).28
In one study, researchers were able to boost average insertion or deletion efficiency to greater than 80 percent, but that was because of a dysfunctional p53 gene,29 which would mean the cells could be predisposed to cancer. Tinkering with genetics is an exciting field and one that holds great allure to scientists looking for fame and fortune, but the fact is there's a great number of unknowns when it comes to altering genetics.
It's quite possible, for instance, that using CRISPR to cure one chronic or terminal disease could come at the "cost" of a shortened life span or an increased cancer risk later.30 And if that's the case, do the benefits still outweigh the risks? Hurlbut told CNBC, "We want to be very careful, nature is a profound balance and if we intervene in a way that is not profound we can upset things."31
Is caution also warranted for gene-edited food?
The evidence is in favor of using extreme caution when proceeding with genetic tinkering of human germlines — if it should be done at all. Some scientists have called for a global moratorium on CRISPR babies,32 even as another area of gene editing — that of your food — is moving full-steam ahead.
A gene-edited soybean oil created by biotech company Calyxt, contains two inactivated genes, resulting in an oil with no trans fats, increased heart-healthy oleic acid and a longer shelf life — but with unknown effects on human health.
Although they're genetically engineered, gene-edited foods are not marketed as GMOs, nor are they labeled as such.33 What's more, Calyxt's gene-edited soybean oil is already on the market and being served at restaurants, so you could be eating it without even knowing.
As for gene-editing on embryos, it raises an even more profound question about informed consent — is it ethical for parents to alter their children's genetics without their consent? Questions such as these will only continue to mount as CRISPR and other gene-editing technologies race forward at an unprecedented pace.
Despite their tiny size, mosquitoes have been called the world's most dangerous creature because they spread deadly diseases. More than half the people on Earth live in an area where disease-carrying mosquitoes are present and, every year, mosquitoes cause millions of deaths from diseases like malaria, dengue and yellow fever.1
Insecticides are considered to be one of the primary defenses against insects like mosquitoes, but they come with their own set of risks, not the least of which is the potential for resistance.
The growing problem of insecticide resistance has not gone unnoticed by the World Health Organization, which reported that resistance to four commonly used classes of insecticides — pyrethroids, organochlorines, carbamates and organophosphates — is already widespread in regions of Africa, the Americas, South-East Asia, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Western Pacific.2
Now, research published in the journal Oecologia has shown that mosquitoes are also developing resistance to commonly used agricultural insecticides, but their predators are not, creating the perfect environment for mosquitoes to flourish.3 Paradoxically, in this way insecticide usage could be leading to increased numbers of mosquitoes in some regions.
Mosquito predators may die while mosquitoes thrive
Researchers from Utah State University were conducting research on Costa Rican orange plantations when they realized they were getting an awful lot of mosquito bites — more so than they received in other areas. This led to the first part of the featured study, in which the researchers detected mosquito larvae flourishing in bromeliads, plants that hold small pools of water between the folds of their leaves.
When they compared the mosquitoes on orange plantations treated for decades with dimethoate, an organophosphate insecticide, with mosquitoes found in forests not treated with insecticides, they found double the mosquitoes in the orange plantations, but a lack of damselfly larvae, which are insects known to feast on mosquitoes.4
The researchers also exposed mosquitoes to dimethoate in the lab, which revealed not only that mosquitoes from orange plantations were 10 times more tolerant of the insecticide than the pristine forest mosquitoes, but also that damselflies from plantations succumbed to the chemicals, suggesting they have not developed resistance the away the mosquitoes have.5
"This evolved resistance to pesticides may, therefore, allow W. abebela [mosquitoes] to colonize habitats free of the dominant predator in the system, explaining the higher W. abebela abundances in pesticide-exposed areas than in pesticide-free locations," the researchers explained.6
Beyond Pesticides, a nonprofit organization leading a mission to transition to a world free of toxic pesticides, further explained that differences in biology of mosquitoes and their damselfly predators are compounding the insecticide resistance problem:7
"Life cycles of the mosquitoes studied are 12 to 24 times shorter than damselflies, providing mosquitoes with a faster opportunity to develop resistant individuals. Given this short life cycle, even a small number of resistant mosquitoes can rapidly repopulate an area with their improved genetics.
Damselflies just cannot catch up in time. This further increases the dominance of mosquitoes in an ecosystem. Without predators to tamp down their populations, mosquitoes are able to colonize new habitats. In this case, mosquitoes in chemical-dependent groves are able to lay eggs in larger bromeliads, whereas in pristine areas the presence of damselflies and other predators make this highly unlikely."
Mosquitoes genetically adapt while predators are poisoned
One of the mechanisms that allows mosquitoes to so efficiently develop resistance to pesticides is through the overproduction of specific enzymes, as follows:8
- Carboxylesterases, which are efficient against organophosphate and carbamate insecticides
- Glutathione-S-transferases, or GSTs, which are efficient against organophosphates, organochlorine and pyrethroid insecticides
- Cytochrome P450-dependent monoxygenases, which are efficient against most insecticide types, often in conjunction with other enzymes
At least one study, in which researchers analyzed more than 760 mosquito genes possibly involved in insecticide resistance, revealed that an increase in activity of detoxification enzymes in resistant insects was triggered by a rise in the copies of genes coding for the enzymes.9,10
Mosquitoes in at least 68 countries resistant to insecticides
According to a WHO global report on insecticide resistance in malaria vectors like mosquitoes, 68 countries have reported mosquitoes resistant to at least one class of insecticide, while 57 of them report resistance to two or more classes.11
That being said, as of February 2019, only 40 countries have completed insecticide resistance monitoring and management plans as recommended by WHO's report, leading the Organization to suggest that their understanding of the extent of the problem is incomplete.
The global fight against malaria is centered on insecticide application and distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets, but insecticide resistance renders these "weapons" highly questionable.
As for insecticide-treated bed nets, which are treated with pyrethroids, a five-year evaluation conducted across five countries found that mosquitoes were resistant to pyrethroids in all of the areas tested, but those using the nets still had significantly lower rates of malaria infection than those who did not.12
According to WHO, "They attributed the continued efficacy of LLINs [long-lasting insecticidal nets] to the barrier provided by the nets themselves and to the fact that, even in areas where mosquitoes have developed resistance to pyrethroids, treated nets may still kill the mosquitoes."13
One WHO scientist suggested that resistant mosquitoes landing on the treated nets may not die right away, but if they continue to be exposed to the insecticides while trying to find a way through the net, it's possible the higher exposure could eventually kill the mosquito.14 However, other studies have found that both treated and untreated nets have a "clear protective effect against malaria."15
Insecticide usage leads to devastating 'trophic cascades'
Applying insecticides and other pesticides is creating resistant bugs along with a host of other problems, as such chemicals do not exist in isolation. When they're applied in the environment, they lead to what Beyond Pesticides described as "trophic cascades."
"Beyond direct toxicity, pesticides can significantly reduce, change the behavior of, or destroy populations of plants and animals. These effects can ripple up and down food chains, causing what is known as a trophic cascade. A trophic cascade is one easily-understood example of ecosystem-mediated pesticide effects," the organization noted.16
They used the example of the organophosphate insecticide malathion, which is sometimes applied to aquatic environments for mosquito control. It's typically applied in low doses over the course of several weeks for this purpose. Researchers tested the effects of applying the chemical in this way as compared to a one-time exposure, such as may occur due to agricultural runoff, to a variety of plankton and tadpoles.
Both types of exposure were damaging, though the continued low-dose exposure was the worst. According to Beyond Pesticides, the trophic cascades in aquatic environments caused by insecticide exposure show the complexity of ecosystems and the widespread effects that insecticides cause:17
"In both instances, malathion's impact on zooplankton caused a trophic cascade. By depressing the zooplankton population, phytoplankton flourished. The increase in free-floating algae clouded water, decreased light penetration, and led to reduced periphyton growth.
Decreases in periphyton algae, the primary food source for tadpoles, retarded growth and development in leopard frogs, which prevented many from metamorphosing before the vernal pool in which they resided dried up (though wood frogs were generally unaffected).
While zooplankton in the single-application mesocosm eventually experienced a population rebound, it took nearly a month and a half before this occurred. Overall, frogs in single-application mesocosms fared slightly better than those in chronically exposed tanks, which experienced an ongoing state of disruption that never permitted zooplankton populations to bounce back."
Genetically engineered mosquitoes released
In January 2018, lab-bred Aedes aegypti mosquitoes carrying wolbachia bacteria were released in South Miami, Florida. It was the first phase of the Miami-Dade County Mosquito Reduction Test Program, which targeted a one-half square-mile treatment area that received the altered mosquitoes and a corresponding control area within the city.
Over a six-month period, the genetically engineered mosquitoes were released into an approximately 170-acre area. Interest in releasing lab-made mosquitoes has peaked in recent years in response to the Zika virus scare, which has since petered out in the U.S.
The project was conducted by the Miami-Dade County Mosquito Control & Habitat Management Division in collaboration with MosquitoMate, Inc., which created the technology.
MosquitoMate's lab-bred male mosquitoes are infected with wolbachia bacteria, which is naturally occurring in up to 60 percent of insect species, but not in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. When the male wolbachia mosquitoes mate with female mosquitoes in the wild (which do not carry the bacteria), the resulting eggs do not hatch, which means the number of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the area should ultimately decrease.18
The project was said to be a success, showing a 75 percent reduction in mosquitoes in the area, due to egg hatch failure.19,20 However, once genetically engineered mosquitoes are released (as they already have been), there's no stopping them from mingling with wild mosquitoes.
While this may help to reduce the spread of certain viruses (although this remains to be seen), it may also have other unintended, as yet unknown consequences. There's also the potential ramifications to the ecosystem of eliminating the insects, which can occur whenever any species is removed or drastically reduced — even species we deem to be pests.
While mosquitoes are primarily viewed as a nuisance and vector for deadly diseases like malaria, there may be "undesirable side effects" of eradicating them entirely, according to Florida University entomologist Phil Lounibos, Ph.D. BBC News reported:21
" … [Lounibos] says mosquitoes, which mostly feed on plant nectar, are important pollinators. They are also a food source for birds and bats while their young — as larvae — are consumed by fish and frogs. This could have an effect further up and down the food chain …
He warns that mosquitoes could be replaced by an insect 'equally, or more, undesirable from a public health viewpoint.' Its replacement could even conceivably spread diseases further and faster than mosquitoes today."
Tips for avoiding mosquitoes
It's definitely something to consider, although you can also take sensible precautions to avoid getting bitten. Wear long sleeves and pants if you know you'll be outdoors in a mosquito-prone area and use natural insect repellants (not synthetic chemical versions), like cinnamon leaf oil, citronella essential oil or catnip oil, as necessary.
If mosquitoes are bothering you in your backyard, a house fan can keep them away while you're outdoors, as can the strategic planting of marigolds, which mosquitoes tend to stay away from.
Draining standing water, including pet bowls, gutters, garbage and recycling bins, spare tires, bird baths and children's toys, is also important to encourage mosquitoes to live elsewhere. This is where mosquitoes breed, so if you eliminate standing water you'll eliminate many mosquitoes. Finally, try installing a bat house, as mosquitoes are one of their favorite meals.
Asthma is a chronic condition affecting the airways. Inflammation makes your airways swell, triggering wheezing, shortness of breath and coughing. Symptoms may range from mild to severe and may happen rarely or every day. For most people, the condition starts during childhood and becomes a lifelong condition.
The goal of conventional medicine is to manage symptoms and avoid exacerbations, which are called asthma attacks. According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),1 7.9% of adults and children currently hold a diagnosis of asthma.
The children's age group most affected is 5- to 14-year-olds, of whom 9.7% have asthma. Boys have a greater incidence than girls, but women have a greater incidence than men. Conventional treatment2 is aimed at managing symptoms to allow the individual the ability to engage in normal everyday activities, and realistically is only a stopgap measure.
The types of treatments used will depend upon age, severity and response to the treatment option. Many with asthma use daily medication for long-term control and short-term relief inhalers during an asthma attack. In addition to identifying environmental factors triggering asthma attacks, homeopathic treatments may offer enough relief to reduce or eliminate pharmaceutical drugs.
However, while asthma is amenable to homeopathic treatment, the British Homeopathic Association3 recommends treatment with a homeopathic professional and not self-treatment to find the best remedies for your specific condition.
History of homeopathy
The practice of homeopathy was popular in the U.S. and Europe in the 1800s. Some of its strongest advocates were European royalty, American entrepreneurs and literary giants. However, while gaining popularity, it has become the object of opposition from established Western medicine.4
Homeopathy began with the discoveries of Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician who coined the word homeopathy to refer to pharmacological principles. The basis is a "law of similars," previously described by Hippocrates and utilized in many cultures, including the Mayan, Chinese, Greek and Native American cultures.
By the time Hahnemann was 24 he could read and write in at least seven languages and ultimately translated over 20 major medical textbooks. The premise Hahnemann worked under was identifying small doses of compounds triggering biological changes.5
Coincidentally, in 1798 the discovery of giving small doses of cowpox to immunize against smallpox was generally accepted, while Hahnemann's work was not.
Many of the initial practitioners in homeopathy graduated from prestigious medical schools, yet orthodox medicine was threatened because homeopathic practitioners offered an integrated and systematic approach for therapeutic practice and were sharply critical of the use of conventional drugs.
Homeopaths believed masking an individual's symptom, as opposed to treating the underlying condition, could create deeper and more serious disease,6 which history has shown to be the true in many cases. By 1882 the American Medical Association (AMA) had purged their ranks of all homeopathic practitioners.
They also established a code of ethics asserting any physician would lose their membership if they even consulted with a homeopath. At the time, without membership in a local medical society a physician no longer had a license to practice medicine.
Despite this oppression, the practice thrived in the 1800s and early 1900s. However, while popular among the rich and poor alike,7 the most likely reason it survived was the success homeopathic treatment enjoyed in treating infectious epidemic diseases during the 1800s.
Basics of homeopathy
Statistics showed the death rate in homeopathic hospitals were one-half to one-eighth those found in orthodox medical hospitals. In 1849 during the cholera epidemic, Cincinnati homeopaths were so successful they published a list of those who were cured and those who died. Only 3% of their patient population died while from 48% to 60% of those under orthodox medical treatment died.8
After the 1900s, the AMA became increasingly effective at suppressing the practice and by 1910 the Carnegie Foundation issued the infamous Flexner Report, an evaluation of medical schools. The report gave homeopathic colleges poor ratings based in part on faculty who continued in clinical practice and schools offering courses in pharmacology, which was not considered worthwhile.
As a result, those who graduated from schools without a high rating were not allowed to take the medical licensing examination. The decline of homeopathic practice may also have been associated with poor economic viability as it demands more time with the patient.9
In Hahnemann's practice, he based treatment on the totality of symptoms and prescribed one medication at a time. However, as the practice of homeopathy progressed, others prescribed medicines for specific symptoms as opposed to the underlying condition.
Currently, homeopathic remedies are essentially nanomedicines. The premise on which homeopathic treatments have been made for over a century is that the more diluted the remedy, the more effective it becomes. These nano doses may penetrate the blood-brain barrier and cellular membranes with greater ease, without triggering a defense mechanism.10
Additionally, there are no side effects and no adverse reactions. To date there are more than 300 double-blind placebo-controlled trials on homeopathy published in peer review medical journals, including:
BMJ (British Medical Journal)12,13
Chest (the publication of the American College of Chest Physicians)14
Pediatrics (publication of the American Academy of Pediatrics)15
Cancer (journal of the American Cancer Society)16
Pediatrics Infectious Disease Journal (publication of the European Society of Pediatric Infectious Diseases)17
European Journal of Pediatrics (publication of the Swiss Society of Pediatrics and the Belgium Society of Pediatrics)18
Asthma affects millions
The exact cause of asthma is unknown, and it may vary from person to person. Researchers believe it is the result of a strong immune response to an allergen in the environment, such as seasonal proteins or pet dander. These make their way into the airway, where the immune system reacts strongly.
According to Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America,19 African-Americans in the U.S. die from asthma at a higher rate than people of other ethnicities. It is the leading chronic disease in children and the top reason children miss school days. In 2013, 13.8 million school days were missed that could be attributed to asthma.
Every day, 10 Americans will die from asthma, and many of those deaths may be avoidable with proper treatment and care. Adults are four times more likely to die from an asthma attack than a child, and women are more likely to die than men. According to the CDC,20 the economic burden of asthma is greater than $80 billion per year in medical expenses, days missed from work and school, and death.
However, researchers believe these numbers are likely higher21 as data only included individuals treated for asthma, defining this as having at least one medical encounter for asthma or prescription filled within the calendar year. Additionally, the information in the study did not account for nonmedical costs such as transportation and diminished productivity at work or school.
Signs and symptoms of asthma include chest tightness, coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing, which triggers a whistling sound as you exhale. Attacks may happen suddenly and may be life-threatening.22
Symptoms may get worse with viral infections, can be triggered by exercise, allergies, cold air or hyperventilation, and may be worse at night or early in the morning. Those living with asthma may find their symptoms increase and decrease over time, or even within the same day.
Homeopathic remedies for asthma
Your homeopathic professional will identify a remedy to help your body reduce or eliminate breathing difficulties associated with asthma. As a result, you may expect to spend about an hour with your homeopathic practitioner as they determine the best medications to try first. Homeopathic remedies commonly prescribed for asthma include:23,24,25,26,27,28
Ipecacuanha — Prescribed for sudden wheezing and cough with constant gagging and vomiting, the medication is from a creeping shrub, Cephaelis ipecacuanha, native to Brazil. Patients presenting with a chest rattle, symptoms worsening in warm humid weather or heat, sweating, feeling clammy or nauseous may benefit.
Arsenic album — This may be prescribed for difficulty breathing at night, thirstiness accompanied by frequently sipping water and anxiety related to breathing difficulty. The person may feel exhausted but restless and anxious. They have more difficulty breathing while lying down and symptoms are usually more intense between midnight and 2 a.m.
Natrum sulphuricum — This is prescribed for asthma occurring in damp weather when the patient is reporting thick, green sputum.
Nux vomica — This is prescribed for asthma symptoms that happen with an upset stomach; attacks are worse in the morning, after eating or during dry weather.
Lobelia inflata — This is prescribed when there is over inflation of the lungs and shortness of breath out of proportion to wheezing. It may be triggered by anxiety, leading to working unnecessarily hard to breathe, or in smokers.
Asthma attacks during labor and delivery may be helped with Lobelia inflata. Those who get relief also find cold, damp weather tends to make their asthma worse, while slow, deep breathing makes it better.
Antimonium tartaricum — This has traditionally been used as an emetic, inducing vomiting. Doses used in homeopathy are infinitesimally small and this may be used with some benefit in children and the elderly when the symptoms are associated with an infection and a lot of mucous. Other symptoms may include respiration that is rapid and difficult, and mucus that is expelled with difficulty.
Sambucus nigra — The extract from the elderberry is also used as an antiviral. In homeopathy it may be beneficial to those who feel like they are suffocating at night or whose symptoms are worse between midnight and 3 a.m.
Natrum sulphuricum — This is useful in children and adults in asthma symptoms worse near 4 a.m., during damp weather and before menstruation.
Pulsatilla — This may used when asthma symptoms appear when the person gets warm or eats rich foods. Yellow-colored mucus with gagging and choking and tightness in the chest in the evening or night relieved by cool fresh air may indicate you will benefit from Pulsatilla.
Spongia tosta — When there is a hard, barking, dry cough associated with the asthma it is a strong indication for this remedy. The person may find warm drinks are helpful or sitting up with the head tilted backward. The symptoms are more common before midnight at night.
Balanced omega fats may reduce symptoms of asthma
If you struggle with asthma, also consider your omega-3 intake. Your body needs a balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Unfortunately, most Americans eat a diet too high in omega-6 and too low in omega-3.29 A study from Johns Hopkins Medicine30 demonstrated children diagnosed with asthma who had higher levels of omega-3 fat also had fewer asthma symptoms.
In the study,31 data was gathered from 135 children from age 5 to 12. Roughly one-third of the children had mild symptoms of asthma, one-third had moderate and one-third had severe symptoms. Data on diet, symptoms and inhaler use were gathered through questionnaires.
The researchers were focused on exposure to air pollution and subsequent asthma symptoms. They found children with higher intake of omega-3 had a lower asthma response to indoor air pollution and appeared to be more resilient. The study adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting dietary intake has an influence on your body's response to air pollution and may help reduce asthma symptoms.