Natural Health Blog & News
Because the metaphor is so apt, mitochondria are often referred to as the "powerhouses" that generate energy, optimize cellular function and regulate the survival of neurons, especially under stress. Then a recent study uncovered more.
Teams of researchers based at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) in Mumbai, India, found that the neurotransmitter serotonin, known in scientific circles as 5-HT, is a significant player in the creation of new mitochondria in neurons, a process called mitochondrial biogenesis.
The process simultaneously enhances mitochondrial function while increasing cellular respiration and ATP, the energy currency of the cell. ATP is described in one study as both a neurotransmitter and neuromodulator.1 It involves the serotonin-2A (or 5-HT2A) receptor via "master regulators" of mitochondrial biogenesis, SIRT1 and PGC-1α.
According to the study,2 published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), 5-HT reduces cellular reactive oxygen species, boosts antioxidant enzymes, enhances mitochondrial function and "exerts potent neuroprotective action in neurons challenged with stress, an effect that requires SIRT1." EurekAlert explains further that 5-HT:
"Uncovers an unprecedented role for serotonin in energy production in neurons directly impacting how neurons handle stress. Mitochondrial function in neurons is vital in determining how neurons cope with stress and the trajectory of aging."3
Lead scientists Vidita Vaidya and Ullas Kolthur-Seetharam from TIFR and clinical researcher Ashok Vaidya wrote that after they identified 5-HT2A as the "key determinant" for the effects of the mitochondria by 5-HT, their next task was to point out the specific signaling pathways bringing about those effects.
While those pathways remained elusive, the researchers did note previously unknown evidence that 5-HT is an upstream regulator of SIRT1, which the authors of a previous study published in Cell4 observed is involved in numerous metabolic processes in many tissues. For instance, in a mouse model, SIRT1 reduced the production of Aβ amyloid peptides, the plaques often found in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. In addition:
"Our findings raise the tantalizing possibility of a reciprocal relationship between 5-HT and SIRT1 in the brain. Given the role of 5-HT in facilitating stress adaptation, this suggests the possibility that 5-HT could serve as a vital intermediary in enhancing stress adaptation of neurons through recruitment of the SIRT1–PGC-1α axis to enhance mitochondrial biogenesis and function, thus endowing neurons with enhanced capacity to buffer stress."5
An amino acid your body produces naturally and uses to produce serotonin, 5-HTP is the hydroxylated form of tryptophan. The supplements are made from the seeds of an African plant known as Griffonia simplicifolia and aren't derived from foods.6
In 2012, the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment published a study7 that described L-5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) as the immediate precursor of serotonin. (The term "precursor" in chemistry describes a compound that participates in a chemical reaction that forms another substance.) One of the interesting comparisons is that 5-HTP freely crosses the blood–brain barrier, while serotonin does not.8
This study noted the popularity of 5-HTP for cases of depression, as well as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Parkinson's and other maladies, but also asserted that some of the claims are "exaggerated and inaccurate," with efficacy only in combination with other compounds.
The key to the efficacy of 5-HTP for depression and anxiety, many experts say, may involve individual levels of serotonin or a lack thereof. While serotonin is a neurotransmitter with a central role in regulating mood, there's not a lot of clinical evidence that it's effective for anxiety. However, one study notes:
"Anxiety-like behavior is regulated primarily by 5-HT1A and 5-HT2C receptors, among others, but the 5-HT2C receptor regulates not only anxiety but also reward processing, locomotion, appetite, and energy balance."9
Medical News Today notes two challenges in the claim that 5-HTP helps depression. First, a number of studies were conducted without the use of placebos,10 which some contend compromises their findings. Second, it doesn't generally last long in the body because it's too rapidly absorbed and eliminated; however, "If researchers could find a way to make 5-HTP last longer in the body, it may show more promise as a depression treatment."11
An Australian review analyzed 5-HTP to see if it was more effective than a placebo for anxiety. It was, indeed, deemed better than placebos, although the researchers concluded more studies are needed.12 That said, there's evidence that there are other areas where 5-HTP shines, some of which may hearken back to the new discovery of mitochondrial biogenesis.
Studies show a deficiency in 5-HTP is associated with depression, weight gain, anxiety, sleep disorders and other problems. On the other hand, increasing your 5-HTP intake has been noted for its ability to counterbalance all of them. In studies, it's been found to be beneficial for the following:
• Weight loss — As if bent on making your weight loss journey fail, losing weight produces hormones that make you feel hungry, which so often leads to failure.13,14 However, 5-HTP may be able to counteract these hunger-inducing hormones, suppress your appetite and help you lose weight.15
One study showed that after taking 5-HTP or a placebo for five weeks, 20 people with diabetes on the 5-HTP ate about 435 fewer calories than the other group; 5-HTP also inhibited calorie intake from carbs, which also helped control their blood sugar.16 In addition, animal studies showed 5-HTP may reduce overeating due to stress or depression.17,18
• Fibromyalgia and migraine pain — One study showed 5-HTP decreased pain perception in mice.19 In cases of fibromyalgia, causing overall weakness, bone and muscle pain, low serotonin has been suggested as the cause. One study recommends 5-HTP to improve pain from this cause, along with improving sleep, as well as depression and anxiety.20 In another, 50 patients using it were "significantly improved."21
While the cause is still under debate, some scientists believe migraines stem from low levels of serotonin.22 One study notes, "The serotonergic (serotonin, 5-HT) system from the brainstem raphe nucleus has been most convincingly implicated in migraine pathophysiology."23
Another involved 124 people with migraines who reported significant improvement after treatment with 5-HTP for six months, including decreases in migraine intensity and duration in 71% of the patients.24
• Insomnia — Because 5-HTP makes serotonin, and serotonin can be converted to melatonin, this supplement is also used for sleeplessness and works by increasing your body's melatonin production.
Combining 5-HTP with GABA was found to reduce falling-asleep time from an average of 32.3 minutes to 19.1 minutes in 18 patients with sleep disorders, as well as increasing sleep time and improving sleep quality.25
In another study, patients with parasomnia and/or DOA (disorders with arousals), characterized by unusual or abnormal behavior such as night terrors or sleepwalking, were advised that 5-HTP might be a beneficial treatment option.26
If you've ever wondered what the term "dose dependent" means when it comes to supplements, not to mention drugs, it's that backing off or increasing your dose can impact both how it works and the side effects.27 Having said that, the dose of 5-HTP you take will depend on your reason for taking it. For example:
If you're considering taking 5-HTP for any of these conditions or something else, it's also important to consult with a health care practitioner first, to make sure you're taking a dosage that's right for you, and that this supplement won't interfere with any other medications you may be on.
Some drugs cause increased serotonin production, so combining some drugs with 5-HTP may cause dangerous levels and lead to serotonin syndrome, which can be life threatening.36 Certain cough medicines, antidepressants and prescription pain relievers are on this list. Similarly, if you take a sleep-promoting medication, including Ativan, Ambien or Klonopin, taking 5-HTP, which causes sleepiness, may be problematic.
Additionally, some research says taking 5-HTP may increase serotonin, but deplete the amounts of other neurotransmitters, including dopamine and norepinephrine, which could worsen some medical conditions, especially when taken long term. Some of these include ADHD, anxiety, depression, obesity, Parkinson's and seasonal affective disorder (SAD syndrome).
As for side effects, some individuals have reported nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness and stomach pain after taking 5-HTP supplements. You can minimize the potential of negative side effects by starting with smaller doses and increasing them gradually, if needed. As mentioned, because of the possibility of negative interactions with other medications, talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking 5-HTP supplements.
1 How much of global food crops are either wholly or partly dependent on pollination by insects such as bees?
2 Which of the following companies was found to have been aided by a CDC official in its efforts to influence World Health Organization officials into relaxing its sugar limits?
3 Which of the following sunscreen ingredients have been scientifically verified to be safe for human use?
4 Which of the following foods contain a compound found to be helpful in the treatment of schizophrenia, Alzheimer's and autism?
5 Green beans are ready to harvest when:
6 Which of the following substances has been shown to lower IQ in children?
In recent years, researchers have discovered glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup and other common weed killer formulations, may affect your body’s ability to produce fully functioning proteins, inhibit the shikimate pathway (found in gut bacteria) and interfere with the function of cytochrome P450 enzymes (required for activation of vitamin D and the creation of nitric oxide and cholesterol sulfate).
Glyphosate also chelates important minerals; disrupts sulfate synthesis and transport; interferes with the synthesis of aromatic amino acids (shikimate pathway) and methionine, resulting in folate and neurotransmitter shortages; disrupts your microbiome by acting as an antibiotic; impairs methylation pathways; and inhibits pituitary release of thyroid stimulating hormone, which can lead to hypothyroidism.1,2
Roundup has also been linked to certain cancers.3 In March 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as a "probable carcinogen" (Class 2A),4 based on "limited evidence" showing the weed killer can cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma and lung cancer in humans.
So far, three lawsuits against Monsanto (now Bayer) have resulted in high financial awards as Roundup was found to have caused the plaintiffs’ Non-Hodgkin lymphomas. The most recent plaintiffs were awarded a $2 billion judgment against Monsanto.5 All of this has led to grave concerns about glyphosate residues in food.
We’re now also realizing that genetically engineered (GE) foods are not the only source of this contaminant. Most conventional, non-GE crops are also contaminated, as are some organics. The reason for this has to do with the fact that glyphosate is commonly used as a desiccant or drying agent to speed up harvesting.
But that’s not all. Other desiccants may also be causing problems. As a whole, evidence suggests we need to be extremely cautious in our choices of plant-based foods, sticking to organics whenever possible, especially when buying high-lectin foods such as beans, peas and potatoes, as research shows the desiccant paraquat becomes exponentially more hazardous in combination with plant lectins.
Several rounds of food testing have also revealed just how prevalent glyphosate is in our food. Test results6 published in August 2018 by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) showed 43 out of 45 food products made with conventionally grown oats tested positive for glyphosate, 31 of which had glyphosate levels higher than EWG scientists believe would be safe for children.
A second round of testing7,8 revealed glyphosate is a staple contaminant in Cheerios breakfast cereals and Quaker oats products. All 28 samples contained glyphosate; 26 at levels suspected to be harmful to children’s health.
Five of 16 organic oat foods also contained low amounts of glyphosate, even though it’s supposed to contain none, as glyphosate is prohibited in the U.S. organic standards. Similarly, testing9 done by Friends of the Earth (FOE) earlier this year found glyphosate in 100% of the 28 oat cereals sampled.
Glyphosate has even been detected in PediaSure Enteral Formula nutritional drink, which is given to infants and children via feeding tubes. Thirty percent of the samples tested contained levels of glyphosate over 75 ppb — far higher levels than have been found to destroy gut bacteria in chickens (0.1 ppb).10
It’s also found in air, rain, municipal water supplies, soil samples, breast milk, urine and even vaccines, including the pneumococcal, Tdap, hepatitis B (which is injected on the day of birth), influenza and MMR. The MMR vaccine had the highest amounts at 0.8 ppb.11
Now, food testing by The Detox Project shows glyphosate contamination is rampant in organic plant-based protein supplements as well.12,13 According to The Detox Project,14 zero to 9 parts per billion (ppb) of glyphosate is a nondetectable level of no concern; 10 to 79 ppb is trace amounts of slight concern; anything above 80 ppb is of high concern.
When testing eight of the most popular pea protein brands sold on Amazon.com as of March 2019, one organic brand was found to contain as much or more glyphosate than conventional brands.
Two conventional (nonorganic) brands, Naked Pea and Anthony’s Pea Protein, had 39 ppb and 80 ppb respectively, while two separate batches of a top-selling organic brand, Orgain Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder, contained 83 ppb and 281 ppb.
One of the reasons so many grains and legumes are heavily contaminated with glyphosate is because it’s being used as a desiccant right before harvest. A desiccant is a chemical that speeds up the ripening of the crop and dries it out, which facilitates harvesting and allows it to be harvested sooner than were the crop left to dry naturally.15
Desiccation is also used to improve profits, as farmers are penalized when the grain contains moisture. The greater the moisture content of the grain at sale, the lower the price they get.
According to a 2017 study16 by University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers, “The herbicide Roundup is sprayed onto genetically modified crops and applied as a desiccant to most small nongenetically modified grains.”
So, whether we’re talking about Roundup Ready GE crops or conventional, non-GE grains, glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, “is found in these crops at harvest.”
As for how it ends up in many organic products is anyone’s guess. Drift from nearby conventional and/or GE crop fields is one possibility. Contamination during processing is another. Outright fraud, where a nonorganic crop is sold as organic is also a possibility.
While glyphosate is commonly used as a desiccant,17,18 it’s not actually supposed to be used that way. Desiccants require special registration, as high levels of the chemicals can be left on the crop, and glyphosate is not an approved desiccant.19
Farmers who use glyphosate anyway, and douse their crops at the wrong time, can cause their crop to be heavily contaminated. As explained in “Clarification of Preharvest Uses of Glyphosate,” 20 the grain must not be sprayed with glyphosate “until seed heads or pods are almost ripe (i.e., bulk sample less than 30 percent moisture).”
If applied too early, while the grain has a moisture rate higher than 30 percent, the glyphosate is absorbed through the leaves and stems and translocates throughout the plant. Farm Progress also notes that:21
“Glyphosate should be used only to control weeds that hinder harvest, not for vine desiccation. Not all glyphosate products are labeled for preharvest timings. The translocating properties of glyphosate make it possible for herbicide residues to accumulate in harvested beans if applications occur before the hard dough stage.”
Glyphosate isn’t the only desiccant that might be causing health problems. Research22 published 2018 in the journal NPJ Parkinson’s disease revealed that when the herbicide paraquat23 is combined with lectins, found in many plant foods, especially legumes, it can trigger the hallmark damage found in those with Parkinson’s disease.
The findings were reported by Medical News Today24 in December 2018. On a side note, Medical News Today25 incorrectly stated that paraquat was banned in the U.S. in 2007. It was actually the European Union that banned it that year,26,27 in large part due to research showing it can trigger Parkinson’s disease,28 which is precisely what they found in this 2018 study as well.
Paraquat is still legal in the U.S., but is classified as “restricted use,” meaning it must be applied by a licensed applicator. In the U.S., paraquat is currently scheduled for a registration review by the Environmental Protection Agency in the third quarter of 2019.29
At the end of October 2014, the EPA updated some of its residue tolerance levels for paraquat, specifically setting the level allowed on tuberous and corn vegetables (which include cassava, ginger, potato, tanier and true yam) at 0.5 ppm.30
According to the EPA’s pesticide reregistration in 1997,31 tolerance levels for paraquat have been set for over 80 raw agricultural commodities, processed foods and animal feed. During the 1997 reregistration, EPA updated tolerances for certain crops as follows:
Getting back to the NPJ Parkinson’s Disease study,32 results suggest that lectins, found in foods such as raw vegetables and grains, are the key link between paraquat and the damage resulting in Parkinson’s disease. As reported by Medical News Today:33
“[P]araquat, once in the stomach, causes alpha-synuclein to be misfolded and then helps it travel to the brain. Scientists believe that alpha-synuclein runs along the vagus nerve, which itself runs between the stomach and the brain.
In fact, recent studies have shown that the vagus nerve has a direct connection with the substantia nigra, making it a prime suspect in Parkinson's disease. This direct link also helps explain why digestive problems often precede the motor symptoms of Parkinson's by several years.”
To investigate, the researchers fed rats small doses of paraquat for 7 days. They also fed them lectins … As expected, they identified Parkinson's-related changes … As study co-author Prof. Thyagarajan Subramanian explains:
‘We were able to demonstrate that if you have oral paraquat exposure, even at very low levels, and you also consume lectins [...] then it could potentially trigger the formation of this protein — alpha-synuclein — in the gut. Once it's formed, it can travel up the vagus nerve and to the part of the brain that triggers the onset of Parkinson's disease.’
This series of experiments demonstrates how the interplay between two ingested compounds can conspire to create and then transport toxic protein structures from the gut to the brain.”
Last year, I interviewed Dr. Steven Gundry, author of “The Plant Paradox,” on the health hazards of lectins. I’ve embedded that interview above for your convenience.
As explained by Gundry, plant lectins can wreak havoc on your health by attaching to your cell membranes, causing inflammation, damage to your nerves and cell death. Some can also interfere with gene expression and disrupt endocrine function.
In other words, while lectins can cause severe health problems in and of themselves, by spraying paraquat on lectin-rich crops, those crops are made exponentially more hazardous, as the lectins act as transport vehicles for the toxic herbicide.
In the U.S., one of the registered desiccants is Reglone.35 The active ingredient in this desiccant herbicide is diquat, which like paraquat is chemically identified as a dipyridyl.36 Stated product benefits include maximized pea and lentil yield, more scuff resistant potato skins and easier potato harvesting.37
According to the National Pesticide Information Center,38 “diquat poisoning is less common than paraquat poisoning … In animal studies, diquat causes mild, reversible injury to type I pneumatocytes but does not injure the type II cells.” Since it’s considered less toxic than paraquat, diquat is not registered as a limited use herbicide.
However, evidence suggests diquat may still have similar risks as paraquat. As noted in a 2015 study39 in the Archives of Toxicology, diquat causes cell death by producing reactive oxygen species independently of the mitochondria, and appears to be quite hazardous to brain tissue. According to the authors:
“Evidence indicates that Parkinson’s disease (PD), in addition to having a genetic aetiology, has an environmental component that contributes to disease onset and progression …
Given its similarity to paraquat, an agrochemical removed from registration in the EU for its suspected potential to cause PD, we have investigated the in vitro capacity of the related herbicide Diquat to cause PD-like cell death.
Diquat showed greater toxicity towards SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells and human midbrain neural cells than paraquat and also MPTP, which was independent of dopamine transporter-mediated uptake.
Diquat caused cell death independently of caspase activation … with only a minor contribution from apoptosis, which was accompanied by enhanced reactive oxygen species production in the absence of major inhibition of complex I of the mitochondrial respiratory chain …
Diquat may, therefore, kill neural tissue by programmed necrosis rather than apoptosis, reflecting the pathological changes seen following high-level exposure, although its ability to promote PD is unclear.”
In January 2019, the EU confirmed it is withdrawing the approval of diquat. The final date for order and delivery of diquat products to farms is July 31, 2019, and the final date for use is February 4, 2020.40 Its use continues unabated in the U.S., however. In fact, some are recommending diquat to replace glyphosate for certain kinds of weed control.41
The paper42 “Use of Paraquat as a Desiccant for Early Maturity of Chickpea and Residue Dynamics,” presented at the 2019 International conference on Global Environmental Challenges Human Health and Sustainable Development conference, highlights the potential hazards of consuming nonorganic hummus and other products made from chickpeas:
“Several herbicides have been used in the agricultural fields to increase the crop productivity and grain yield through weed management. Chickpea (Cicerarietinum L.) is an important food legume crop.
As chickpea is a slow growing crop and may take approximately 5-6 months and this may further delay sowing of next crops which can be taken in the same field in summer season such as moongbean.
Hence in order to reduce days of crop maturity and to study fate of paraquat residues in soil and chickpea grains that may exist as a result of use of this herbicide on chickpea, a broad leaf herbicide, paraquat was chosen to use as a desiccant to facilitate early maturity of chickpea.
Paraquat application at 750 to 1.0 kg/ha as desiccant enhanced the process of maturity of chickpea and 10 to 16 days can be saved by this application. However paraquat application at 750g/ha and 1.0 kg/ha resulted in residues in chickpea grains and straw and restrict its application as a desiccant in chickpea crop.”
BASF, meanwhile, recommends using a mix of both paraquat and glyphosate to “sharpen up chickpea harvest results.”43 It’s no wonder then that food testing reveals concerning levels of glyphosate in popular hummus brands44 (paraquat was not part of this testing).
The highest levels of glyphosate were found in Trader Joe’s Hummus Dip (effective level 30.67 ng/g) and Sabra Class Hummus Non-GMO Gluten Free (14.35 ng/g), again proving that GMO-free is not a guarantee that it won’t contain glyphosate. As reported by Moms Across America on August 31, 2018:45
“Moms Across America has been especially concerned about the presence of glyphosate in hummus, as the consumption of hummus, fueled by companies like PepsiCo, has risen dramatically over the past five years …
Hummus is considered a healthy snack for children, a popular protein replacement for meat for vegetarians, and vegans, and is a go-to party food on college campuses.
In addition, Canadian activist Tony Mitra released records of 7,800 glyphosate test result findings from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in 2017 in his book ‘Poison Foods of North America.’
In those documents, results for glyphosate residues on garbanzo beans from North America had levels as high as 795 ppb.46 In other countries levels were, on average 32 ppb. Even organic garbanzo beans tested positive glyphosate residues, pointing to the problem of widespread contamination.”
There are at least two take-home messages from all this. First, it’s important to realize that glyphosate contamination is not restricted to GMOs. It’s a more or less universal contaminant, affecting conventional and even some organic foods as well, primarily due to its use as a desiccant right before harvest.
Secondly, the hazards of desiccation are not limited to glyphosate. Paraquat has been linked to the development of Parkinson’s disease by attaching to lectins in the foods, and questions remain as to whether diquat may have similar effects. These herbicides are considered the “best” drying option for legumes in particular, which are also particularly high in lectins.
As a result, many foods that vegetarians and vegans rely on may pose significant health hazards in more ways than one. You can reduce lectin concentration by pressure cooking, for example, but if you’re using an unclean source, you’re dealing with extra-toxic kinds of lectins.
To avoid or at least minimize these hazards, it’s important to buy organic beans, peas, potatoes and other high-lectin foods from a reputable source, ideally a local farmer you can trust.
In recent decades, the food system responsible for feeding millions of people has drastically changed, impacting food safety and human health. The manufacturing of vegetable oil1 and changes in how your cereals,2 salads3 and meats4 are grown, processed and adulterated before finally reaching your plate, have dramatically altered the overall nutrition of most people's diets.
Americans spend 57.9% of their food budget on ultraprocessed foods,5 which means more than half of what the average American eats in any given day are foods that may be purchased at the local gas station or convenience store. These foods also account for 89.7% of added sugars in the diet.6
Data from a nationally representative food survey was used in a 2016 study,7 which found 70.4% of calories came from processed foods while less than 1% (0.7) came from vegetables. This change in eating habits over time may be a result of the Push hypothesis, described by Kevin Hall, Ph.D., from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.8
He describes this as a combination of factors pushing calories into the food system and subsequently changing the way we eat. These cheap convenience foods are contributing to the obesity epidemic.9 Hall and his team recently published a rigorous study10 in the journal Cell Metabolism, demonstrating the effect ultraprocessed diets have on excess calorie intake and weight gain.
A small scale, but rigorous, randomized and carefully controlled study was performed by the National Institutes of Health to analyze if those eating ultraprocessed foods ate more calories and gained more weight. The researchers recruited 20 healthy adult volunteers — 10 women and 10 men in their 30s. The group were admitted for four continuous weeks into the NIH Clinical Center.11
The participants were randomized into two groups who received an ultraprocessed or unprocessed diet for the first two weeks and were immediately switched to the alternate diet for the next two weeks.
The researchers offered the participants three meals a day, matched for calories, macronutrients, sugar, sodium and fiber at an amount equivalent to double their estimated requirement for weight maintenance. The participants were encouraged to eat as much as they wanted.
During these four weeks, the researchers measured energy intake, weight changes and took metabolic measurements.12 As noted by the NIH,13 observational studies in the past have shown an association between diets high in processed foods and health problems.
In this study,14 the researchers were intent on demonstrating whether processed foods were a problem on their own or whether individuals eating processed food already had health problems that were unrelated to diet. The data showed an average increase of 459 calories per day when eating ultraprocessed foods compared to the unprocessed diet.
Increased energy intake occurred over breakfast and lunch, with no significant increases in calories at dinner in those eating an ultraprocessed diet. During the study, the researchers also found those eating the ultraprocessed meals ate significantly faster than those eating the unprocessed foods, which may have led to higher energy intake.
They hypothesized the orosensory properties of the ultraprocessed foods may have increased the eating rate and delayed satiety signaling.15 This may have resulted in a greater overall calorie intake. While on the ultraprocessed diet, people gained an average of 1.98 pounds over two weeks, and while on the unprocessed diet lost the same amount.16
Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, cardiologist and dean of Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, says,17 "Putting people in a controlled setting and giving them their food lets you really understand biologically what's going on, and the differences are striking."
The researchers defined ultraprocessed foods using the NOVA classification system18,19 that considers food with ingredients predominantly found in manufacturing as ultraprocessed, such as high fructose corn syrup, flavoring agents and emulsifiers.
The New York Times20 published examples of processed meals the participants may have received, such as Cheerios, Chef Boyardee ravioli, diet lemonade and Otis Spunkmeyer cookies or blueberry muffins, and chicken salad with canned chicken and Hellman's mayonnaise. Barry Popkin, nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina, who was not involved in the current study, commented:21
"The difference in weight gain for one [group] and weight loss for the other during these two periods is phenomenal. We haven't seen anything like this. We should try to eat as much real food as we can. That can be plant food. It can be animal food. It can be [unprocessed] beef, pork, chicken, fish or vegetables and fruits. And one has to be very careful once one begins to go into other kinds of food."
While every attempt was made to completely match nutritional parameters, the researchers found ultraprocessed versus unprocessed meals differed markedly in the total amount of added sugar, as well as in insoluble fiber and saturated to total fat.
Not surprisingly, they also found the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats was a whopping 11-to-1 in ultraprocessed foods, but only 5-to-1 in unprocessed foods (the 5-to-1 is near ideal and is what a balanced omega-6 to omega-3 diet should like).
Omega-3 fats are essential polyunsaturated fats your body requires for a variety of functions, including muscle activity, cognition and heart health. While omega-3 fats are available in some plants and marine animals, it is the marine-based omega-3 fats docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) that are crucial for optimal functioning of cells and mitochondria.
DHA appears to be particularly important for your brain22 while EPA is of greater importance for heart health.23 Omega-6 fats are also essential nutrients your body needs for normal growth and development. The difference is omega-6 fats are found easily in many processed foods and in nuts and seeds.24
An overabundance of omega-6 fat increases the risk your body will produce inflammatory chemicals.25 The ideal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats ranges from 1-to-1 to 1-to-5, which is nearly impossible if you're regularly eating processed foods or restaurant fare, as these are loaded with omega-6 from industrial vegetable oils like corn oil and canola oil. In a standard Western diet, the ratio is often 1-to-15 or greater.26
The deficiency in omega-3 fats and abundance of omega-6 may promote the pathogenesis of many diseases, including inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Increasing omega-3 consumption may exert a suppressive effect.
For instance, one author writing on the importance of a balanced ratio27 found a ratio of 4-to-1 associated with a 70% decrease in total mortality from cardiovascular disease. A ratio of 2.5-to-1 reduced proliferation of rectal cells in those with colorectal cancer and a ratio of 2-3-to-1 suppressed inflammation in those suffering rheumatoid arthritis.
Multiple studies28,29,30,31 have found a close association between chronic low-grade inflammation, in part triggered by the composition of fatty acids in the diet, and insulin resistance with an increase in the risk for obesity. In other words, the higher levels of omega-6 fats found in ultraprocessed foods increase chronic inflammation and your risk for developing insulin resistance and obesity.
The featured study32 in Cell Metabolism also found several factors contributed to overeating ultraprocessed foods. Those eating the ultraprocessed foods had a higher eating rate that may have potentially been affected by the orosensory properties of foods, which were softer, easier to chew and swallow, and may have led to eating more quickly.
Additionally, the researchers found ghrelin,33 a hormone released by the body to trigger hunger, was decreased in those eating the unprocessed diet, compared to their baseline measurements.34 After eating an unprocessed diet the participants' fasting glucose and insulin levels also tended to be lower compared to baseline.
Compared to the unprocessed diet, measurements after eating the ultraprocessed diet were unchanged from the participants' baseline measurements, suggesting the subjects had likely consumed a diet habitually high in ultraprocessed foods. Hall commented:35
"One thing that was kind of intriguing was that some of the hormones that are involved in food intake regulation were quite different between the two diets as compared to baseline."
According to the National Cancer Institute,36 tobacco is the leading cause of cancer and the leading cause of death from cancer. Those who smoke, or those who are regularly around secondhand smoke, have an increased risk since the many chemicals in the tobacco damage DNA. Cancers associated with tobacco include:37
Although smoking has held the No. 1 spot for preventable causes of cancer for decades, it appears obesity is not far behind. According to Dr. Otis Brawley,38 professor of oncology in epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University and former chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, this which may occur within the next five or 10 years.39
However, it appears many Americans are unaware that some of the leading causes of cancer are controllable, including obesity.40 The International Agency for Research on Cancer41 has identified a link between being overweight or obese and an increased risk for developing certain types of cancers.
Compared to those who are within a normal weight range, those who are obese are also likely to have a recurrence of their cancer with a lower likelihood of survival. Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine42 concluded "Increased body weight was associated with increased death rates for all cancers combined and for cancers at multiple specific sites."
Reuters reports43 the rate of cancer unrelated to obesity declined by 13% between 2005 and 2014, while obesity-related cancers rose by 7%. They also reported the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing 630,000 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with cancer linked to being overweight or obese in 2014. This accounted for 40% of all cancers in 2014.
As the overall rate for new cancer diagnoses continues to fall, the rates of obesity-related cancers are rising, along with the rates of obesity. A report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association44 found obesity rates rose from 33.7% to 39.6% between 2007 and 2016.
Although the exact association between cancer and carrying excess weight is not fully understood, researchers are focusing on studying visceral fat, as it is metabolically active, secreting proteins that drive insulin levels higher and may spur cellular growth.45
Rising rates of obesity and reliance on processed and ultraprocessed foods is likely linked to an increasing risk of early death and chronic disease, such as cardiovascular disease,46 Type 2 diabetes47 and arthritis.48 Foods rich in omega-6 fats create chronic inflammation in the body, which has been linked to each of these conditions.
In one study,49 a French team looked at how much of a person's diet was made of ultraprocessed foods and found for each 10% increase, the risk of death rose by 14%. After removing confounding factors such as smoking, obesity and low educational background, the link remained.
In a cross-sectional study50 using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of over 9,000 participants, the researchers concluded: "Decreasing the consumption of ultraprocessed foods could be a way of reducing the excessive intake of added sugars in the USA."
Undoubtedly, there is a serious health epidemic in the U.S., and a majority of it is linked to diet. There are no quick and easy answers. It is crucial to remember what you eat is the foundation on which your health is built and eating a processed food diet is a recipe for long-term disaster.
If you have access to real food, it is important to take the time to learn to cook from scratch and make the most of any leftovers. With a bit of dedication and planning it's also possible to grow produce at home in small spaces, including indoors.
Eating a diet of 90% real food and 10% or less processed foods is achievable and may make a significant difference in weight management and overall health. Consider the following guidelines to get you started:
Focus on raw, fresh foods and avoid processed foods. If it comes in a can, bottle or package and has a list of ingredients, it's processed.
Severely restrict carbohydrates from refined sugars, fructose and processed grains.
Increase healthy fat consumption. Eating dietary fat isn't what's making you pack on pounds. It's the sugar/fructose and grains that add the padding.
You may eat an unlimited amount of nonstarchy vegetables; since they are so low in calories, most of the food on your plate should be vegetables.
Limit protein to less than 0.5 gram per pound of lean body weight.
Replace sodas and other sweetened beverages with pure, filtered water.
Shop around the perimeter of the grocery store where most of the whole foods reside, such as meat, fruits, vegetables, eggs and cheese. Not everything around the perimeter is healthy, but you'll avoid many of the ultraprocessed foods this way.
Vary the whole foods you purchase and the way you eat them. For instance, carrots and peppers are tasty dipped in organic hummus. You get the crunch of the vegetable and smooth texture of the hummus to satisfy your taste, your brain and your physical health.
Stress creates a physical craving for fats and sugar that may drive your addictive, stress-eating behavior. If you recognize when you're getting stressed and find another means of relieving the emotion, your eating habits will likely improve.
The Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) may help reduce your perceived stress, change your eating habits around stress and help you create new, healthier eating habits that support your long-term health. To discover more about EFT, how to do it and how it may help reduce your stress and develop new habits, see my previous article, "EFT Is an Effective Tool for Anxiety."
In 2014, the Ice Bucket Challenge went viral in social media. Many people, including celebrities and known personalities like Oprah Winfrey, LeBron James and Steven Spielberg1 dumped buckets of ice and water over their heads with a goal to promote awareness of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, and encourage donations for research.2
The challenge garnered $115 million in donations in a span of two months, tripling the ALS Association's budget for research.3 But in spite of the outpour of financial support, not everyone may have understood what the initiative implied or what ALS is. Learn more about Lou Gehrig's disease — its causes, symptoms, treatments and how you can reduce your risk of this disease by reading this article.
Lou Gehrig's disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder that affects the lower and upper motor neurons.4 These nerve cells, which are connected from the brain and spinal cord to different parts of the body, control voluntary muscle movements that allow you to walk, breathe, talk and chew. When you have Lou Gehrig's disease, these neurons deteriorate, leading to the weakening of muscles and loss of movement control.5
This disease's clinical and pathological features were first described by Jean-Martin Charcot,6 the father of neurology,7 in a series of lectures in the 1860s and 1870s. His essential contribution is the reason why this disease is sometimes referred to as Charcot's disease.8
The name Lou Gehrig's disease, on the other hand, was derived from Lou Gehrig, a New York Yankee player in the 1920s and '30s. He experienced loss in motor control, a symptom of ALS, and was forced to retire in 1939 because of his condition.9
Studies have found that people between the ages of 40 and 70 are the ones most at risk of developing Lou Gehrig's disease. In the U.S., around 5,000 people are diagnosed with ALS each year.10 A 2016 study projected that there may be a 69% increase in the number of Lou Gehrig's disease cases over the next 25 years due to aging. This is about 376,674 cases in 2040, as compared to 222,801 cases in 2015.11
Lou Gehrig's disease is not contagious12 but it may lead to death because of respiratory failure.13 The life expectancy of a person with this disease is about two to five years from the time of diagnosis, but in some cases, they live beyond this range. There is no universal guide on Lou Gehrig's disease stages, but two approaches are being widely used to help determine, assess and manage a person's condition with Lou Gehrig's disease. These are:
• King's clinical staging — Similar to cancer staging, this approach considers the clinical spread of disease to ascertain its progression. Here are the stages:14
◦ Stage 1 — Involvement of one clinical region
◦ Stage 2 — Involvement of second clinical region
◦ Stage 3 — Involvement of third clinical region
◦ Stage 4 — Nutritional or respiratory failure
◦ Stage 5 — Death
• Milano-Torino staging — This approach considers the differences in a person's functional capabilities as the disease spreads, and is broken down into these stages:15
◦ Stage 0 — Functional involvement
◦ Stage 1 — Loss of independence in one domain
◦ Stage 2 — Loss of independence in two domains
◦ Stage 3 — Loss of independence in three domains
◦ Stage 4 — Loss of independence in four domains
◦ Stage 5 — Death
Lou Gehrig's disease may be considered sporadic if it occurs in people with no family history of this disease.16 On the other hand, 5% to 10% of ALS cases,17 are considered familial, in which two or more people in a family have this disease.18
Although both forms are clinically similar, sporadic ALS' mean age onset is 56 years,19 while familial ALS' mean age onset is 45.5 years.20 More studies are needed to confirm its main cause, but some studies found that it may be hereditary, leading to familial ALS. The causes of sporadic ALS are also unknown, but numerous factors are considered, including:21
• Mitochondrial dysfunction
• Oxidative stress
• Glutamate excitotoxicity, a process that damages neurons22
• Apoptosis or programmed cell death23
Here are other factors that may increase your risk for Lou Gehrig's disease:
• Smoking — A 2010 study suggested that women may have a higher risk of Lou Gehrig's disease if they are smokers.24 Formaldehyde, which is a component in tobacco smoke,25 may also be associated with this risk.26
• Military service — An ALS Association meta-analysis found that veterans who served in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have a higher risk of acquiring this disease.27 These service persons are usually exposed to burning agents,28 but not all military personnel have this risk, because it may be specific only for certain service periods.29
• Lead exposure — A 2002 study found that lead exposure may increase your risk of Lou Gehrig's disease.30 A separate study suggests that its onset may be triggered by the transfer of lead from the bones to the blood.31
• Genetics — In 1993, mutations in the SOD1 gene were linked to familial ALS.32 Studies involving genetic mutations suggest that the decline in motor neuron functions in ALS may be due to the changes in the processing of RNA molecules, which are responsible for gene regulation and activity.33
The onset of Lou Gehrig disease symptoms usually occurs between the ages of 50 and 65.34 Symptoms that emerge from the arms are referred to as limb-onset ALS, while those that affect speech and swallowing functions are called bulbar onset ALS.35 Lou Gehrig's disease's early symptoms are:36,37
In rare cases, mental functions deteriorate as well, leading to dementia. Affected people may exhibit unusual silence, changes in their personalities, paranoid ideas and childish behavior.43 However, they are aware of these symptoms because they retain their ability to remember, understand and solve problems.44 As a result, they may develop depression.45 These symptoms may worsen over time because Lou Gehrig's is a progressive disease.46
There is no cure for Lou Gehrig's disease yet, but rehabilitation is essential to help maximize a person's functions and their quality of life. This process may help them manage their symptoms and do things independently.47 A rehabilitation team may consist of a combination of different health care specialists and medical professionals:48
Here are things to consider for the rehabilitation of a person with Lou Gehrig's disease:
• Use of adaptive equipment — A person with this disease may experience difficulty in turning knobs, handling food, opening cans and writing. It may be minimized by improving common equipment or replacing problematic objects with more appropriate tools such as Velcro fasteners instead of zippers, long-handled sponges and combs, lightweight electric shavers and kitchen utensils, long straws and button hooks.
Remember to consult an occupational therapist to know the most effective devices that are helpful for people with ALS and to avoid unnecessary expenses for impractical devices.49
• Physical therapy — Doing appropriate exercises and motion techniques may help boost comfort and improve ability to move.50 Swimming, walking, stationary cycling and other low-impact aerobic exercises may help strengthen muscles and boost cardiovascular health.51 It is recommended to consult a physical therapist for proper advice and assistance.
• Speech therapy — A person with ALS may experience difficulty in speaking and swallowing, so speech therapy is essential to help develop communication techniques, especially if oral communication may not be possible anymore.52 Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices may be used as well to help with daily functions and decision-making tasks.53
• Use of respirators — An impaired respiratory function is the most common cause of death of people with Lou Gehrig's disease.54 Using noninvasive positive pressure ventilation (NPPV) may help prolong survival55 and improve their quality of life.56 This type of breathing support may help maintain oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the body, especially when respiratory functions have declined.57
• Rest — If a person with ALS experiences fatigue, they must conserve their energy by taking frequent rests and avoiding strenuous activities.
• Use of walking aids — Walking properly may become a chore because of weakened limbs. A therapist may recommend canes, crutches and walkers to promote safety and independence when walking or moving around. Canes are usually used during the early stages of this disease. Walkers have base supports that may help with stability, but they also may become tiring to lift when walking.58
Lou Gehrig's disease may not be prevented, but a 2013 study59 found that alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E) may be associated with a lower risk of Lou Gehrig's disease. This study involved men with low levels of this nutrient, who took supplements for five to eight years. Natural sources of tocopherols60 or vitamin E are avocados, olives, leafy greens like spinach, high-fat foods like nuts, seeds, fatty fish and seafood.
A 2012 Annals of Neurology study found that consuming carotenoid-rich foods may help reduce your risk of this disease as well.61 Here are some foods that contain this nutrient:
When buying these foods, make sure that they are organic or produced from organic sources to reduce your risk of toxic chemicals and pesticide ingestion.
At least 15% to 55% of people with Lou Gehrig's disease lose weight62 because of their difficulty in swallowing, which lowers their calorie and protein intake.63 A 2013 study found that they may also lose their appetite, leading to malnutrition,64 which is usually present in up to 50% of people with Lou Gehrig's disease.65 Thus, nutrition must be given importance. Here are foods that may provide beneficial effects against Lou Gehrig's disease:
• Green tea — A 2006 animal study found that epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), an antioxidant found in green tea, may help slow down the onset of this disease and may help prolong affected people's life span.66
• Ginseng — A Journal of the Neurological Sciences animal study67 found that ginseng root may help minimize the symptoms of ALS. It helps stimulate nerve growth factor and its high affinity receptor in the brain, which trigger and control nerve growth,68 resulting in improved learning and memory and lower risk of neuronal death.
Chewing or swallowing food may be difficult for most people with this disease, so remember to avoid the following foods:69
In addition, a Biomed Research International study found that following a ketogenic diet may help boost and restore the mitochondrial function of a person with Lou Gehrig's disease, as with other neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.70
The ketogenic diet focuses on the consumption of low amounts of carbohydrates, moderate amounts of protein and high amounts of fat. This helps the body use healthy fats as fuel instead of carbs to produce energy, which may help regenerate your mitochondria as well. You may read the article "A Beginner's Guide to the Ketogenic Diet: An Effective Way of Optimizing Your Health" to learn how to apply this diet to your lifestyle.
Using a suction device may help remove excess fluid or saliva as they eat, but if a person with this disease can no longer swallow or chew, it may be advised to use a feeding tube, which is inserted into the stomach. This may help reduce the risk of choking and pneumonia, which is caused by inhaling liquid into the lungs.71
Q: How do you get Lou Gehrig's disease?
A: The main cause of Lou Gehrig's disease is unknown, but some studies found that it may be hereditary, leading to familial ALS. Sporadic ALS, on the other hand, may be caused by several factors, including mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress, neuron damage, inflammation, apoptosis or programmed cell death, smoking, lead exposure and genetics.
Q: Is Lou Gehrig's disease hereditary?
A: It is said that 5% to 10% of Lou Gehrig's disease cases are hereditary, in which two or more family members have this disease.
Q: Is Lou Gehrig's disease genetic?
A: A 1993 study found that familial ALS may be linked to genetics, particularly to the SOD1 gene.72 Some studies suggest that the decline in motor neuron functions in ALS may be caused by the changes in RNA molecule processing, which is responsible for gene regulation and activity.73
Q: What does Lou Gehrig's disease do to your body?
A: If you have Lou Gehrig's disease, your neurons will deteriorate, resulting in the weakening of muscles and loss of movement control. It may affect your respiratory function as well, leading to death.
Q: Do ALS symptoms go away?
A: No. ALS is a progressive disease, meaning, your symptoms may worsen over time.
Q: Is Lou Gehrig's disease fatal?
A: Yes. Its symptoms progress over time and lead to death.
Cream of mushroom soup, with its rich and earthy flavor, is considered a comfort food that could keep you warm and satisfied using only a few but healthy ingredients. It is a classic dish that is easy to cook, perfect for a light but filling dinner. This full-flavored starter is best consumed with a side of baked vegetables or gluten-free garlic bread, and it is also used as a base ingredient in casseroles.
But because of their busy lifestyles, some people opt for the convenience of ready-to-eat, processed canned soups. The problem with canned soup — and most canned foods — is that it may be tainted with the endocrine-disrupting chemical bisphenol A (BPA) that leaches from the can’s linings. Also, convenience foods often have additives, artificial flavorings or preservatives in them to maintain shelf life.
Instead of settling for processed varieties, why not try this simple cream of mushroom soup recipe by Felicia Lim of Paleohacks? It makes use of fresh mushrooms, herbs and other wholesome ingredients to give you a hearty and delicious soup that will warm you up during cold days.
How to Make Cream of Mushroom Soup
Paleohacks by Felicia Lim
Makes: 2 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
1-pound baby bella mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 large diced yellow onion
3 large minced garlic cloves
2 cups water
2 tablespoons coconut cream
1 teaspoon Himalayan salt
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, for garnish
Fresh chopped parsley, for garnish
4 tablespoons coconut oil, plus more for garnish
Baby bella, also known as crimini or cremini, is a mushroom variety with a deeper and earthier flavor than white button mushrooms. It has a light-tan to rich-brown cap and a firm texture, and like other mushroom varieties, could be cooked in many ways. Criminis are best combined with grass fed beef or vegetables.
Though they are considered fungi and not plants, mushrooms provide a number of nutrients such as B vitamins, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, selenium, ergothioneine, copper, potassium, fiber and beta-glucans. Selenium is responsible for boosting the immune system and suppressing DNA damage due to free radicals. Niacin helps lessen the risk of diseases associated with heart disease. Copper helps counter anemia, osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, while pantothenic acid or vitamin B5 is a vital nutrient for the digestive system that reduces the risk of rheumatoid arthritis and high blood cholesterol.
According to a 2011 study, mushrooms such as cremini have chemoprotective properties that may help suppress the spread of breast cancer cells. Another study found that mushrooms may help mitigate cardiovascular diseases, as they may alter inflammatory environments. Additionally, mushrooms make a great alternative for meat because of their flavor-enhancing umami properties — but be sure not to cut back on your meat intake because it is an important part of your diet.
When buying mushrooms, check if their cap tightly covers the gills — that’s how you would know they’re fresh. Also, choose those that are organically grown. This is to ensure that they contain more nutrients, as they are usually cultivated in healthier conditions. You may also grow your own mushrooms to guarantee their freshness and safety.
Coconut oil is your best choice when cooking mushrooms, to give them a golden brown color. In spite of the misconception that this oil’s fat content may be bad for your health, many published studies oppose this, including one study that found that Polynesians who consume coconut as their main source of energy are not prone to vascular diseases, even with a high saturated fat intake.
Coconut oil is known for its many benefits, including heart health. According to a 2016 Nutrition Foundation study, using coconut oil instead of cis unsaturated fats such as olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil and corn oil may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. It was also found to help reverse the development of the symptoms of hepatosteatosis, a nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Note: Though coconut oil remains to be a healthy choice, remember to use it sparingly because its lauric acid content may have drawbacks, especially if you have a leaky gut. Also, choose organic unrefined virgin coconut oil instead of partially hydrogenated coconut oil because the hydrogenated version undergoes more processes that may convert some of its good fats into bad ones.
Considering mushrooms and coconut oil as two of its main ingredients, this cream of mushroom soup makes a great addition to your regular ketogenic diet plan . One cup of whole cremini mushrooms contains only 3.74 grams of carbohydrates. Consuming a low amount of carbohydrates may help suppress your appetite, as well as allow your body to burn more ketones to lessen your risk of inflammation.
On the other hand, coconut oil is known for its significant amounts of healthy fats, which may be beneficial for a ketogenic diet’s fat-burning activity. This recipe may help you maintain a low-carb, high-fat diet to achieve optimal health.
PaleoHacks is a top source for amazing Paleo recipes, fitness tips and wellness advice to help you live life to the fullest. If you have questions regarding the Paleo diet in general, PaleoHacks may provide you with the answers that you need.
Since 1945, it's been claimed that adding fluoride to drinking water is a safe and effective way to improve the public's dental health. Since then, many have bought into this fallacy hook, line and sinker, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
One of the reasons why it's so important to eliminate water fluoridation is because this chemical is very difficult to filter out. You can remove some or a significant amount using distillation, reverse osmosis and special filtration media, but the vast majority of water filters that people have access to will not remove fluoride.
As a result, you might filter your water, thinking you've purified it, but you haven't eliminated fluoride. This is particularly problematic for low-income parents of small children, who need to use fluoride-free water for mixing baby formula. Fluoridated water contains 200 to 250 times more fluoride than mother's milk,1 significantly raising the child's risk of fluorosis and other health problems.
Scientific investigations have revealed fluoride is an endocrine-disrupting chemical,2 and have linked it to the rising prevalence of thyroid disease,3 which in turn can contribute to obesity, heart disease, depression and other health problems.
Even more importantly, fluoride has been identified as a developmental neurotoxin that impacts short-term and working memory, and contributes to rising rates of attention-deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD)4 and lowered IQ in children.5
Many of these studies have found harm at, or precariously close to, the levels millions of American pregnant women and children receive. In all, there are more than 300 animal and human studies demonstrating fluoride can cause:6
In the featured video, Paul Connett, Ph.D., a toxicologist, environmental chemist and the founder and current director of the Fluoride Action Network (FAN), provides an update on FAN's lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stop water fluoridation nationwide, along with the history behind and the science underpinning it.
Over the past 19 years, FAN has facilitated the removal of fluoride from the water supplies of hundreds of communities across North America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Europe. This week, we're helping FAN raise funds to make sure that FAN wins this lawsuit, and I encourage you to make a donation to this important cause.
The lawsuit has been led by attorney Michael Connett, a former executive director of FAN who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the science of fluoride. He is also the son of Paul and Ellen Connett. He is a practicing attorney in a firm that specializes in toxic injury cases.
Over the past year Michael has traveled across the USA and the world, working with leading experts to develop the case that EPA must regulate fluoridation chemicals to prevent known or expected harms. In essence, that means the end of fluoridation.
The gathered scientific evidence for the case is unprecedented in scope and the authority of the people behind it. Legally, the case breaks new ground by using a section of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that allows anyone to file suit to compel EPA to regulate any toxic chemical so as to prevent harm from that chemical.
EPA has tried legal maneuverings to stop or constrain the lawsuit, but the court has sided with FAN every time. So, the case is scheduled for trial that will last two weeks or longer in the federal district court of San Francisco. Thousands of pages of testimony have already been gathered in preparation for the trial.
The science and law are on our side. Please consider donating to this history-making lawsuit. If you have already donated, please consider an additional donation. Your donation can help end fluoridation once and for all. Donations are tax deductible.
November 22, 2016, a coalition including FAN, Food & Water Watch, Organic Consumers Association, American Academy of Environmental Medicine, International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology, Moms Against Fluoridation and several individuals, filed a petition7,8 calling on the EPA to ban the deliberate addition of fluoridating chemicals to U.S. drinking water under Section 21 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
As explained by Connett, the TSCA allows citizens and nongovernmental organizations to petition the EPA to remove toxic substances found to pose a threat either to the general population or a subset of that population.
The petition was made on the grounds that a large body of research demonstrates fluoride is neurotoxic at doses within the range now seen in fluoridated communities, and included over 2,500 pages of scientific documentation detailing these health risks.
The EPA denied the petition9 February 27, 2017, on the grounds that it had failed to present "a scientifically defensible basis" to conclude that anyone had in fact suffered neurotoxic harm as a result of fluoride exposure. In response, FAN and its coalition partners filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, legally challenging the EPA's denial of their petition.
As one might expect, the EPA filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Fortunately, United States District Judge Edward M. Chen denied the EPA's motion10 on December 21, 2017, thereby allowing the case to move forward.
Next, the EPA sought to limit the coalition's scope of discovery. Not only did they try to prevent coalition attorneys from obtaining internal EPA documents, but they also wanted to prohibit coalition experts from referring to studies published after the November 2016 petition was submitted.
This included a landmark U.S. government-funded study11,12 published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives in September 2017. This study is critical in demonstrating that fluoride is neurotoxic and has no place in the public water supply. Fortunately, on February 7, 2018, Chen denied13 this motion as well.
"By and large, we've succeeded in getting all the interviews and depositions that we needed," Connett says, adding, "Our lawsuit is much stronger than the original petition because of science which has taken place since September 2017."
In the featured video, Paul Connett provides a summary of the history of the science underpinning the lawsuit:
"In 1996, when I first got involved, it coincided with the first two intelligence quotient (IQ14) studies from China, which found that children in high-fluoride communities had lower IQ than children in low-fluoride communities," he says.
"By 2006, when the National Research Council looked at all the health issues from toxicology of fluoride,15 they found six IQ studies. They concluded, based only on those six studies, that fluoride did in fact pose a threat to the brain. Of course, these human studies were backed up with many dozens of animal studies …
By 2008, we were up to 18 studies. The reason it jumped from six to 18 was that my son, Michael, who spearheaded much of this … research into neurotoxicity, had translated many of the Chinese studies …
By 2010, when we published our book 'The Case Against Fluoride: How Hazardous Waste Ended Up in Our Drinking Water and the Bad Science and Powerful Politics That Keep It There,' which I published with Dr. James Beck from Canada and Dr. Spedding Micklem from Scotland, the number [of studies] had risen to 23 …
Then in 2012, a distinguished team, partly from Harvard University, did a review16 of 27 of the IQ studies; 25 of those were from China and two were from Iran. Now, they pointed out many weaknesses in the study designs. They didn't feel they had enough information in many of those studies.
But they also concluded that the consistency of these 27 studies was overwhelming … These 27 studies were done over a period of 21 years. They were done in two countries, China and Iran. They were done in different geographical areas of China. They were done by different research teams.
Despite all that variety of research, 26 of the studies showed that the children with the higher fluoride exposure … had lower IQ than the children with the lower fluoride exposure … Very striking indeed. The proponents of fluoridation have done their best to dismiss these and other studies …
Over 60 studies have been done. At least 57 now show this difference of lowered IQ with higher fluoride exposure. But the proponents have said, 'Oh well, these studies are from China and these other countries. You can't trust those. They didn't do them in fluoridated communities. This is natural fluoride' …
They also said that the concentrations were ridiculously high, much higher than in fluoridated communities … The promoters of fluoridation have always confused concentration with dose."
As explained by Connett, it's not the concentration of fluoride in the water (measured in mg per liter) that is significant for health. What matters is the dose you get in mg/day and the dosage (mg/day divided by the individual's body weight) and these depend on a variety of fluctuating factors, such as:
The body weight issue is of critical importance, for a given dose in mg/day it is worse for a child than an adult; worse for an infant than a child and much worse for a fetus than an infant, a fact that was made very clear in a landmark U.S.-government funded study published in 2017.
An international study effort led by professor Howard Hu, who at the time of the study's publication was at the University of Toronto. The study is known as the "Bashash study" after the lead author, Morteza Bashash, Ph.D. The team also includes researchers from McGill, Harvard, Mount Sinai, Michigan, Indiana and the National Institute of Public Health of Mexico.
Funding for this research came from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the EPA. The finalized study17,18 was published in the September, 2017 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.
"It was a 12-year study. It was funded by the U.S. government. We had top researchers and topnotch methodology. They controlled for every conceivable factor," Connett says.
"They found a strong relationship between the level of fluoride in pregnant women's urine and the subsequent IQ of their offspring. Individual measurements of exposure … is important because it's independent of the source of fluoride.
It doesn't matter if the fluoride came from water, from salt, from pollution or [any other source]. [They measured] the total dose … Sure enough, they found lowered IQ in the offspring at 4 years of age, and then again between 6 and 12. The higher the fluoride levels of the urine of the women, the lower the IQ of the children."
The 2017 Environmental Health Perspectives study19 is important for FAN's legal case because it demonstrates the anticipated IQ loss from fluoride exposure at current levels in the U.S. is significant.
It revealed that a child of a mother who drinks water with 1 part per million (ppm) of fluoride can be predicted to have an IQ that is 5 to 6 points lower than a child born to a mother who drinks fluoride-free water. Equally important was the finding that there was no threshold below which fluoride did not affect IQ.
In a nutshell, as the level of fluoride in urine increased, IQ decreased, and this remained true across the entire range of exposures, from lowest to highest. So, the extent of the damage is really just a matter of degree.
As noted by Connett, an important feature of the 2017 Environmental Health Perspectives study was that they measured fluoride in urine, as this is a far more accurate indicator of total fluoride intake than simply measuring the concentration of fluoride in drinking water and then calculating how much water is being consumed.
The researchers also controlled for a wide range of factors — including lead, mercury, socioeconomic status, smoking, alcohol use and pregnancy-related problems — that could potentially skew the results or produce a false effect. Importantly, they were able to largely rule out the influence of these confounding factors. Connett notes:
"Again, the proponents of fluoridation say, 'This is not relevant to water fluoridation. They don't have water fluoridation in Mexico.' [This is a] completely useless argument, because [the level of fluoride in the urine is a measure of the women's total exposure of fluoride regardless of the source of fluoride].
Subsequent to this study, in 2018 a study20 [was] done in Canada. They found the same levels of fluoride in the urine of pregnant women in Canada as in Mexico City. To be precise, the average in pregnant women in Canada is 0.87 ppm. The average in Mexico City was 0.91 ppm, so about the same. Also … they found twice the level [of fluoride] in the urine in fluoridated communities compared to non-fluoridated communities.
There have been more studies since then … [In 2018], Bashash, et al., also looked at attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). They found more symptoms of ADHD amongst the children with the highest fluoride exposure in their mothers than the lower ones.21 That was important.
There's been another very important study22,23by Ashley Malin … She found that for women who were already low-iodine or borderline iodine-deficient, exposure to fluoride made their hypothyroidism worse, as measured by TSH … Millions of people in Canada and the United States are borderline or outright deficient in iodine. This is a very important finding.
It's also important to relate the two issues. When a fetus comes into existence, it has no thyroid gland. It is totally dependent on the mother's production of thyroid hormones as to its development. Critical in that development is mental development.
It's well-known that if a woman is hypothyroid, there's an increased risk for the child to have a lower IQ. You can see the possible explanation for what's happening with pregnant women. It may well be this increased risk of hypothyroidism."
As noted by Connett, the sum of the research suggests American children are indeed being harmed by current levels of fluoride in drinking water. In the featured video he cites one Chinese study in which they found 1.4 milligrams (mg) of fluoride per day was associated with a lowering of 5 IQ points in children.
The recommended fluoride level in the U.S. is 0.7 ppm. To reach 1.4 mg of fluoride a day, a child would need to drink just 2 liters of water at 0.7 ppm, Connett says, adding "And that's before you've even introduced the notion of fluoride from swallowing toothpaste, from food, from pesticides and so on. It's clear that many, many children are being overexposed to fluoride as far as their mental development is concerned."
Importantly, the 2017 Environmental Health Perspectives study24 shifts the focus of concern from childhood exposure to fetal exposure in utero. For a fetus, the toxicity of any given dose is far more significant than for an infant, young child or an adult. The developing brain of a fetus is very vulnerable to toxic influences, which fluoride has clearly been demonstrated to be.
"It really makes no sense of putting this known neurotoxic substance into the drinking water for every pregnant woman and every child," Connett says. "That's what we're trying to end with this lawsuit."
Why is this lawsuit so important? Why are we raising money for this lawsuit? Well, the lawsuit is important because as important as we believe these studies are … the major media in this country have not covered it. The New York Times has not said a word about the neurotoxicity of fluoride. They, like many other mainstream media, are still promoting fluoridation and treating us as idiots, as crazy people. It's sad, but that's the truth.
Unfortunately, professional bodies and health departments are still trapped by the paradigm that fluoridation is safe and effective. They go crazy whenever a study shows that tooth decay is going up if you stop fluoridation. Many of these are fallacious studies, but they get excited about that as if the whole concern about the body is the tooth …
It's a very myopic view of the human being, and certainly the development of the fetus and the child. But that's the establishment's attitude. They either ignore these studies or they find a way of attacking them. The beauty of our lawsuit is the lawsuit under TSCA, it's in the hands of a federal law judge.
In this particular [legal] case, [because it is being tried de novo25] the EPA cannot trump the science with authority. They can't say, 'Well, we are the agency that the U.S. government has set up to review these issues like this. We have determined that fluoride is safe' … They can't get away with using authority. This lawsuit will be a battle between the sciences: Our science … and their science, which I assume will attempt to destroy each study.
But they're going to have hard job because there are over 300 studies. Over 60 human studies now show that fluoride damages the brain at levels at which the fetus is exposed in fluoridated communities. I believe this lawsuit … is our best chance of ending fluoridation in the United States. If we end it in the United States, we end it worldwide. It is incredibly important."
You can learn more and find the details on the hundreds of published studies26 on fluoridealert.org. And, if you're concerned about the health effects of fluoride, please support FAN with your tax-deductible donation today. Funds raised will be used to continue fighting this lawsuit to the end.
"Why do we need so much money? Well, lawsuits are expensive," Connett says. "As we've made progress in this federal lawsuit … we've gotten more excited about the real possibility that we could win and end fluoridation. As we got more excited, we got more experts, some of them world-famous; some of them leading authorities in their areas of specialty. That's why we need to top-up our funds to win this lawsuit."
Taking a daily shower is a fairly recent development for Americans. Just 100 years ago, many thought getting their whole body wet at once (instead of taking the sponge baths that were common then) would invite diseases like pneumonia and someone would "catch their death."
Nowadays, a long, hot shower is a daily ritual for Many Americans. Most soaps and personal care products have surfactants that, when combined with water, bind to oil and remove the beneficial fats called sebum that naturally protect your skin.1
Generally speaking, the more a product bubbles or lathers, the more surfactants it contains. Many people spend money to buy expensive lotions to restore or replenish the natural skin oils they remove when they shower.
The irony is that most of the skin lotions people buy to use after they shower are far inferior to your skin's own "lotion" — sebum. Worse, most are loaded with toxic ingredients that pose risks to your health.
Taking showers that are too long or too hot can also dry your skin — as will not drying yourself with a towel as soon as you emerge from the shower. (There is one exception to the rule: If you live in a very hot or damp environment, letting your body "air dry" and the water drops evaporate without a toweling off will cool you off.)
Cold water may also dry out your skin and there is no evidence that it has any therapeutic benefits for your skin barrier,2 although there may be benefits on a deeper level from exposure to cold temperatures.
There are toxins you want to avoid in your soaps, shampoos and other personal care products — antibiotics. When antibacterial dish, body and laundry soaps emerged in the 2000s, they were sold as "new and improved" products to get you "better than clean."
However the products, still widely sold, do not get you cleaner than soap and water but do expose you to the endocrine-disrupting effects of antibiotics like triclosan, found in popular dish detergents and toothpastes.
Antibiotic resistance and the creation of "superbugs" is also driven by the wide use of these antibacterial products.
In 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave industry a year to remove antibiotics from personal care products unless manufacturers can prove they are "both safe for long-term daily use and more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of certain infections."3
Soaping your skin can be counterproductive, as we have seen, since it removes the balance of beneficial bacteria and dries your skin. However, you certainly want to wash areas that have a high density of sweat glands and can produce odors — notably your groin area, buttocks and armpits.
But even when it comes to washing your genitalia, experts warn about excess soap. Here is what writer and Harvard-educated anthropologist Leslie Turnbull of The Week says:4
"The external genitalia of both men and women need to be cleaned … However, given the sensitivities of these areas, this is best done with the hand, not a cloth ... and, believe it or not, the water of the shower is probably all you need.
If you feel you really need to use your surfactant-free soap on your groin and (for guys) testicles and (ladies) external labia, then whatever you do ... keep that soap away from the areas where your outside turns into your inside.
Both urologists and gynecologists agree; soap in these places is as unnecessary and potentially harmful as soap in the eye. Both genders should clean their external genitals front to back, finishing with the perianal area. As with every other part of the body, rinse well both front and back."
There is another irony. While people generally overly soap their skin, they may actually neglect their feet. Many Americans are guilty of “mistakenly thinking the runoff from cleaning the rest of them will somehow remove the dirt, bacteria and dead skin from this critical part of the body,” says Turnbull, which is not always true.5 The top and bottom of your feet and between your toes may need to be washed separately.
Though it may not clean your feet, there is a benefit to the shower runoff for people who are prone to developing ingrown toenails.
After the shower when your skin and nail are soft, the toenail that tends to "ingrow" can be lifted up by gently going underneath its edge with your fingernail — discouraging it from growing into your skin. Certainly, preventing an ingrown toenail is preferable to treating it.
Sometimes, people who are otherwise thorough washers can also neglect their ears, says Turnbull. Use your index finger to lightly clean the external folds of your ears and the oft-forgotten area behind your ears with gentle shampoo or plain water.
Many people wash their hair in the shower daily or every other day. As with showering, there's growing recognition that perhaps we've become too clean with these practices.
Like overcleansed skin, hair can be dried out by shampoo and move people to use conditioners to try to replenish the natural oils that are lost, which, like skin’s natural oils, are immensely preferable to external lotions that are applied.
Ironically, the less you wash your hair, the less it needs washing: Frequently shampooing actually makes hair more oily — and when you shampoo less, you “train” your hair to become less oily.
In addition to drying out hair, most commercial hair products contain toxic chemicals that operate as endocrine disruptors including sodium lauryl sulfate, phthalates used for fragrance, and methylisothiazolinone (MIT) and parabens, used as preservatives.
Neither bath soap nor shampoo should be synthetically scented because a pleasant aroma is not worth exposure to these chemicals. A slight hint of lavender or citrus derived from essential oils is safe but, if you’re unsure, look for hair products whose labels say "fragrance free."
In reaction to excessive harsh shampooing, a "no-'poo" movement has developed that advocates abstaining from shampoo altogether in favor of baking soda, vinegar or even applying conditioner to use as a "shampoo."
If you're thinking of switching over to baking soda and vinegar, be aware, though, that many people say their hair initially felt grimy and unclean before it ultimately got better.
Though we have all heard the instructions "lather, rinse, repeat" for decades, almost no experts actually recommend a second shampooing. Sometimes "lather, rinse, repeat" is necessary in a salon after chemical treatments, say experts, but is seldom necessary in the everyday world.6
Applying conditioner after you shampoo is more important on your hair's ends than your scalp because the ends are much farther away from your scalp's oil and will be drier.
Dr. Karyn Grossman, a dermatologist in Beverly Hills, California, recommends slapping "conditioner on the ends of your hair — generally, more for thick hair and less for thinner strands — to let it sink in."7 She told Greatist:8
"The warm, wet environment works magic: Follicles open up, letting the conditioner sink in extra deep and making it more effective than if you had rinsed off immediately … Wait until the end of your shower, and then use a comb to detangle hair."
Like shampooing, both men and women often like to shave in the shower because it is convenient and skin is softened. Turnbull suggests:9
"If you shave in the shower, always keep a clean razor on hand. Dry it out between uses. Consider investing in a good shaving mirror if you shave your face and/or a shower bench if you shave your legs. These can make the process of shaving in the shower infinitely easier and even safer."
With droughts occurring in many parts of the U.S. and world, we can’t act like water is an unlimited resource. A 10-minute shower can use up to 50 gallons of water — about 5 gallons are used a minute. For this reason, experts suggest turning the water off while you are shaving — especially since most people want to take their time and be careful with a blade, which could expend a lot of unnecessary water.
A lot of water is also misused in waiting for the shower to reach its desired warm temperature. That is why some conscientious people place 5-gallon buckets under their shower head while the water is warming to use later for watering plants, rinsing clothing or even flushing the toilet.10
Speaking of the toilet, some people urinate in the shower, which is not as unsanitary as it sounds since urine is sterile unless there is infection present.11 While some may find the idea of relieving themselves in the shower unpleasant, it is a habit that does conserve water because 27 percent of the water used in American homes comes from toilet flushing.12
Even the humidity and warmth in the bathroom after taking a shower can be conserved by keeping the door and windows closed. This will soften your skin and let moisture sink in while you are dressing and grooming, say experts.
But there is one caution when it comes to humidity: It can degrade the potency and composition of any medicines you have stored there (and, if left overly humid, the moisture could contribute to mold growth). Increasingly, pharmacists tell people to keep their medicines anywhere but in the bathroom!
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has hailed water fluoridation as one of the top 10 public health achievements of the 20th century. Beginning in 1945, it was claimed that adding fluoride to drinking water was a safe and effective way to improve people's dental health. Over the decades, many bought into this hook, line and sinker, despite all the evidence to the contrary. The featured film, "Our Daily Dose," reviews some of this evidence. As noted in the film's synopsis:
"Filmmaker Jeremy Seifert lays out the dangers of water fluoridation informatively and creatively, highlighting the most current research and interviewing top-tier doctors, activists, and attorneys close to the issue. Through thoughtful examination of old beliefs and new science, the film alerts us to the health threat present in the water and beverages we rely on every day."
The film may not offer many brand new revelations to those of you who are already well-informed about the history and documented hazards of fluoride.
It was primarily created as an educational vehicle aimed at those who may not be aware of these issues, or who might not yet be entirely convinced that drinking fluoride isn't a good thing. So PLEASE, share this video with all of your friends and family who are on the fence on this issue, and ask them to watch it. It's only 20 minutes long, but it packs a lot of compelling details into those 20 minutes.
Understanding how fluoride affects your body and brain is particularly important for parents with young children, and pregnant women. It's really crucial to know that you should NEVER mix infant formula with fluoridated tap water for example, as this may overexpose your child to 100 times the proposed "safe" level of fluoride exposure for infants!
If your child suffers with ADD/ADHD, drinking fluoridated water may also worsen his or her condition. Ditto for those with underfunctioning thyroid. So please, do share this video with your social networks, as it could make a big difference in people's health.
Scientific investigations have revealed that fluoride is an endocrine-disrupting chemical,1 and a developmental neurotoxin that impacts short-term and working memory, and lowers IQ in children.2 It has been implicated as a contributing factor in the rising rates of both attention-deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD)3,4 and thyroid disease.
Indeed, fluoride was used in Europe to reduce thyroid activity in hyperthyroid patients as late as the 1970s, and reduced thyroid function is associated with fluoride intakes as low as 0.05 to 0.1 mg fluoride per kilogram body weight per day (mg/kg/day).5
Children are particularly at risk for adverse effects of overexposure, and in April 2015, the US government admitted that the "optimal" level of fluoride recommended since 1962 had in fact been too high. As a result, over 40 percent of American teens show signs of fluoride overexposure6 — a condition known as dental fluorosis. In some areas, dental fluorosis rates are as high as 70 to 80 percent, with some children suffering from advanced forms.
So, for the first time, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) lowered its recommended level of fluoride in drinking water7,8,9 by 40 percent, from an upper limit of 1.2 milligrams per liter (mg/L) to 0.7 mg/L. The HHS said it will evaluate dental fluorosis rates among children in 10 years to assess whether they were correct about this new level being protective against dental fluorosis. But just what is the acceptable level of harm in the name of cavity prevention?
A number of studies10,11,12,13 have shown that children with moderate to severe dental fluorosis score worse on tests measuring cognitive skills and IQ than peers without fluorosis — a clear revelation highlighted in the film, as some still insist that dental fluorosis is nothing more than a cosmetic issue.
According to the film, the CDC estimates water fluoridation decreases dental decay by, at most, 25 percent. Recent research14,15 however, suggests the real effect may be far lower. Based on the findings of three papers assessing the effectiveness of fluoridation on tooth decay, the researchers concluded that water fluoridation does not reduce cavities to a statistically significant degree in permanent teeth.
If that's the case, then why are we still jeopardizing our children's long-term thyroid and brain health by adding fluoride to drinking water?
Fluoride — like many other poisons — was originally declared safe based on dosage, but we now know that timing of exposure can play a big role in its effects as well. Children who are fed infant formula mixed with fluoridated water receive very high doses, and may be affected for life as a result of this early exposure.
Fluoride can also cross the placenta, causing developing fetuses to be exposed to fluoride. Considering the fact that fluoride has endocrine-disrupting activity, this is hardly a situation amenable to the good health of that child. It's important to realize that fluoride is not a nutrient. It's a drug, and it's the ONLY drug that is purposely added directly into drinking water.
This route of delivery completely bypasses standard rules relating to informed consent, which is foundational for ethical medical practice. What's worse, there's no way to keep track of the dosage. And no one is keeping track of side effects.
According to the recent Iowa Study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the CDC, infants and young children are being massively overdosed on fluoride. This study, which is the largest U.S. study conducted measuring the amount of fluoride children ingest, concluded that:
As stated, fluoride is a drug, and research into the health effects of fluoride are based on pharmaceutical grade fluoride. However, a majority of water authorities do not even use pharmaceutical grade fluoride; they use hydrofluosilicic acid, or hexafluorosilicic acid — toxic waste products of the phosphate fertilizer industry, which are frequently contaminated with heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury, cadmium, lead and other toxins.
This is a key point that many fluoride proponents fail to address when arguing for its use. Indeed, holding elected officials accountable for procuring proof that the specific fluoridation chemical used actually fulfills fluoride's health and safety claims and complies with all regulations, laws and risk assessments required for safe drinking water, has been a successful strategy for halting water fluoridation in a number of areas around the U.S.
While the idea of hiding toxic industrial waste in drinking water would sound like a questionable idea at best to most people, it was welcomed by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In a 1983 letter, Rebecca Hanmer, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Water, wrote:
"... In regard to the use of fluosilicic acid as a source of fluoride for fluoridation, this Agency regards such use as an ideal environmental solution to a long-standing problem. By recovering by-product fluosilicic acid from fertilizer manufacturing, water and air pollution are minimized, and water utilities have a low-cost source of fluoride available to them..."
Ninety-seven percent of Western European countries do not fluoridate their water, and data collected by the World Health Organization (WHO) show that non-fluoridating countries have seen the exact same reduction in dental cavities as the U.S.,16 where a majority of water is still fluoridated. If fluoride were in fact the cause of this decline, non-fluoridating countries should not show the same trend.
Clearly, declining rates of dental decay are not in and of themselves proof that water fluoridation actually works. It's also worth noting that well over 99 percent of the fluoride added to drinking water never even touches a tooth; it simply runs down the drain, contaminating and polluting the environment.
Despite the fact that the scientific evidence does not support fluoridation, those who question or openly oppose it are typically demonized and written off as crazy conspiracy theorists. Many fluoride supporters claim the science of fluoridation was "settled" some 50 years ago — effectively dismissing all the revelations produced by modern science!
To defend their position, they rely on outdated science, because that's all they have. You'd be extremely hard-pressed to find modern research supporting water fluoridation.
Indeed, as noted in the film, ending water fluoridation will be one of the greatest public health achievements of the 21st Century, and I for one will not stop until that happens. To learn more about why water fluoridation runs counter to good science, common sense and the public good, please see the following video, which recounts 10 important fluoride facts.
The best way to prevent cavities is not through fluoride, but by addressing your diet. One of the keys to oral health is eating a traditional diet or real foods, rich in fresh, unprocessed vegetables, nuts and grass fed meats. By avoiding sugars and processed foods, you prevent the proliferation of the bacteria that cause decay in the first place.
According to Dr. Francesco Branca, Director of WHO's Department of Nutrition for Health and Development:18 "We have solid evidence that keeping intake of free sugars to less than 10 percent of total energy intake reduces the risk of overweight, obesity and tooth decay."
Other natural strategies that can significantly improve your dental health are eating plenty of fermented vegetables, and doing oil pulling with coconut oil. Also make sure you're getting plenty of high-quality animal-based omega-3 fats, as research suggests even moderate amounts of omega-3 fats may help ward off gum disease. My favorite source is krill oil.
Berberine has long been used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines to help fight off bacteria, viruses and other harmful microorganisms. Its extracts and decoctions were even consumed to help relieve gastrointestinal problems, such as bacterial diarrhea, intestinal parasites and ocular trachoma infections.1
However, recent studies show that there's actually more to berberine than its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, its potential health benefits make it one of the most powerful supplements today.
Berberine is a bitter-tasting, yellow-colored alkaloid compound that can be extracted from several medicinal herbs and plants.2
Initially known for its potent antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, berberine also plays an essential role in numerous physiological processes in the body, since it's one of the few chemicals that can activate adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK).3,4
To give you a background, AMPK, which is also known as the "metabolic master switch,"5 is an enzyme that controls how energy is produced in your body and how it's used by the cells. By activating this enzyme, berberine helps regulate the biological activities that normalize lipid, glucose and energy imbalances.6,7
The positive effects of berberine to your overall health are relatively similar to the effects of proper diet, exercise and weight loss. While I don't recommend replacing healthy lifestyle and dietary habits with this supplement, its potential health benefits can make it a worthy addition to your routine.
There are different types of berberine supplements on the market today, with the most common one being berberine hydrochloride (HCL). Its other formulations include berberine sulfate, berberine citrate and berberine phosphate.8 Your body can absorb and use berberine faster than it can be measured by a blood test. It can also form complexes with other compounds.9
As mentioned above, berberine is a naturally occurring compound found in several medicinal plants and herbs. It's usually extracted from the roots, barks, leaves and rhizomes of any of the following plants:10,11,12
The ability to activate the AMPK is, perhaps, the most valuable benefit of berberine, since this leads to better metabolism and mitochondrial health, which in turn helps support other physiological processes in the body.13 Along with its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, berberine may provide the following health benefits:
Some of the other uses for berberine include burns, glaucoma, hepatitis, menopausal symptoms, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and osteoporosis, among others. However, further studies are still needed to confirm its benefits for these conditions.24
According to the Natural Medicine Journal, berberine may be considered for three general conditions: metabolic syndrome, inflammation and cancer. The positive effects of berberine for these conditions are also backed by a number of scientific studies, most of which were conducted in recent years.25
For instance, a pilot study done in 2008 compared the efficiency and safety of berberine for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes to that of metformin, a common diabetes drug. Results show that berberine works just as well as metformin when it comes to controlling blood sugar levels. What makes it even better is that it does not cause any life-threatening side effects unlike most diabetic medications.26
Another study published in the Journal of Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders also confirms the positive effects of berberine on metabolic syndrome and insulin sensitivity. According to this study, taking 500 milligrams of berberine daily for a span of three months helped lower systolic blood pressure levels, decrease waistline in females and increase insulin sensitivity.27
Meanwhile, the anti-inflammatory properties of berberine have also been evaluated in several studies. A study published in the Journal of Rhinology states that berberine may help reduce inflammation caused by allergic rhinitis.28 It may also help treat gastrointestinal inflammatory diseases, according to another research published in the American Journal of Physiology.29
The cancer-fighting properties of berberine are also supported by scientific evidence. For example, a study conducted in 2009 found that berberine may help control cancer, as it helps stop the growth of tumor and the spread of cancer cells.30
Berberine has a remarkable safety profile, and according to a study published in the American Journal of Physiology, it does not exhibit toxicity in the cells. Keep in mind, though, that it may still cause a few side effects if taken incorrectly. Some of the side effects that are commonly associated with this supplement include:31
Berberine is possibly unsafe for pregnant and breastfeeding women, since it can be transferred to the infant through breastmilk or by crossing the placenta. Newborn infants who were exposed to berberine are reported to develop kernicterus, a rare type of brain damage.
Berberine may also interact with other medications. For instance, it inhibits the CYP3A enzymes, which are necessary for metabolizing many drugs. This lowers your body's ability to break down certain types of medications, enhancing their effects and putting you at risk of an overdose.
It also hinders the absorption of tetracycline and other antibiotics, and augments the effect of oral hypoglycemic drugs. That said, make sure that you consult your doctor before taking this supplement along with other medications.32,33 It's also worth noting that berberine is a potent alkaloid, so I suggest that you cycle its intake.
Taking berberine is not enough to improve your overall health — you need to put in some effort too. In order to maximize the positive effects of this supplement, it's best to pair it with these healthy lifestyle and dietary habits:
• Follow a ketogenic diet — The ketogenic diet is centered on eating high-fat, low-carb and moderate-protein meals to reach the state of nutritional ketosis, wherein your body burns fat for fuel instead of glucose.
One of the many health benefits of this dietary approach is improved metabolic and mitochondrial function, since it decreases the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and secondary free radicals in your body, which are the primary causes of damaged cells and mitochondrial DNA.
• Exercise regularly — Regular exercise not only promotes the production of new mitochondria, but it also stimulates mitophagy, which is the process of removing damaged mitochondria from the cells to maintain proper cellular function.
• Boost your nutrient levels — Aside from berberine, there are other nutrients that may help support proper mitochondrial function, including ubiquinol, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins. You can increase the levels of these nutrients in your body by eating nutritious foods or taking supplements.
• Avoid eating before bedtime — Eating less than 3-4 hours before bedtime causes your body to produce higher amounts of free radicals, which may damage your mitochondrial DNA, accelerate aging and cause chronic diseases.
• Avoid environmental toxins — The best way to reduce your exposure to toxins is by avoiding artificial products and nonorganic foods, as they contain chemicals that may harm your health. As much as possible, eat only organic produce and free-range animals. You should also use natural cleaning products in your house and avoid materials that are made from plastic.
Q: What does berberine do?
A: Berberine is one of the few compounds that can activate AMPK, therefore improving your metabolic and mitochondrial function.34,35 This leads to a cascade of health benefits, such as improved insulin sensitivity, better lipid metabolism and lower cholesterol levels. Because of these, studies suggest that berberine may be used for managing diabetes,36 lowering the risk for heart disease37 and reducing body weight.38
Berberine is also good for alleviating gastrointestinal issues, as it helps fight off bacteria, protozoa and fungi, with its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. You can even use it topically on wounds to help inhibit infections.39
Q: Where can I buy berberine?
A: You can buy berberine from drugstores or health shops. However, research shows that some berberine supplements on the market are not as effective as they claim, so make sure that you get one from a trusted organic brand to guarantee its efficiency.40
Q: What is berberine HCL?
A: Berberine HCL is the most common formulation of berberine supplement. Some of the other forms include berberine citrate, berberine sulfate and berberine phosphate.41
Something about figs feels rich and decadent. The fruit has deep colors, a distinctive shape and a gentle scent. Throughout history the fig tree has become a symbol of peace and prosperity. The fig is from the genus Ficus and the mulberry family (Moraceae).1
The common fig (Ficus carica) is believed to be indigenous to an area from Turkey to Northern India. It grows from 3 feet to 39 feet high with broad deciduous leaves that are deeply lobed.2 The tree bears fruit in singles or pairs. There are four horticultural types of fig: Smyrna, Caprifig, San Pedro and common.
The tree has a shallow but spreading root system that can penetrate up to 20 feet in permeable soil. The spreading branches and large leaves offer ample shade. Figs have been used to sweeten desserts and appear in popular holiday dishes.3 The fruit has multiple seeds, soft skin and may be eaten ripe or dried.4
Figs have been called nature's candy as they have a high amount of natural fructose, but they are also a source of fiber and full of vitamins and minerals.5,6,7
The fig is one of the world's oldest trees and may be traced back to early historical documents. It's native to the Middle East and Mediterranean areas. The Greeks valued them so highly they had laws preventing their export from the country.8
Remnants of figs have been found in Neolithic sites traced to 5000 B.C..9 The fig was a principal food in the Greek culture, and the Spartans used it in their public tables.
Pliny the Elder wrote about the many varieties and in Latin mythology the fig was held sacred and employed in religious ceremonies.10 In Mediterranean countries, the fig was used so frequently it was called “the poor man's food.”11
Figs were introduced in England in 1525 and first planted in Mexico in 1560. They were introduced to the U.S. in 1769 during the establishment of the San Diego Mission. Although the Smyrna fig was brought to California in the late 1800s, commercial agriculture was not possible until wasps were introduced in 1900 to pollinate the plants.12
Currently, California produces 98% of the figs consumed in the U.S, while Turkey tops global production.13 In Venezuela, the fig is in great demand by fruit processors. An inadequate supply triggered the launch of a program in 1962 encouraging commercial planting, which had a favorable response. Fresh figs were regarded as a highly desirable luxury.14
Although they have an exotic appearance and sweet rich flavor, they are easy to grow. In colder climate zones below hardiness zone 6,15 they may be successfully grown in containers and sheltered during the winter months. In hardiness zones 6 and above, the trees may be planted directly in the ground and grown as large trees.16
Figs will appreciate a sheltered area on the south or southwest side of your house. If they're grown in containers, you may shelter them on a covered porch or in the garage during the winter. Figs purchased from a nursery should be planted 1 or 2 inches lower than they were growing in the original pot.17
This helps protect their shallow root system and reduces the risk of harming the plant. Fig trees are also easily propagated by taking an 8- to 10-inch wood cutting in the early spring. Place this in a pot of good soil several inches below the surface, with one or two buds above the dirt line.18
Keep the soil moist but well-drained. The tree will root in the pot and should remain in the container for at least one season before transplanting into the ground. Fig trees are dormant in the springtime, which is when they should be transplanted into the ground.
The trees are fairly drought tolerant, but you'll want to water them if the ground gets too dry. Most of the time, the trees do not require fertilization,19 but a side dressing of well-balanced organic fertilizer or compost in the spring may help jump-start leaf development. However, too much fertilizer encourages more leaves and less fruit.20
When grown in the ground, you may wish to train it against the wall or fence. This makes it easier to harvest the fruit and when grown against the home, will protect the branches from the elements. If grown in a container, the plant should not be pruned during the first year.
During the second year, cut each branch by about half to keep the plant manageable in the pot. Ensure any cuts made are above a node in order to encourage the plant’s lateral growth and greater fruit production.21 You may also want to remove an ill-placed branch, and any dead wood.
Fig plants are naturally healthy but there are a few insects and pests that may threaten the health of your plant. The first is the root-knot nematode, more commonly found in parts of the southern U.S.22
The larvae of these pests infect the plant roots and reduce their ability to absorb nutrients from the soil. While an infected plant may be pruned to balance the weak system, it will eventually die as there is no treatment.
Rust is a fungus, showing up on the underside of leaves and is usually not fatal.23 There are more than 5,000 known species of rust. The fungal disease favors four to eight hours of low-intensity light, warm temperatures and moisture.
By planting in full sun and allowing the leaves to dry, you'll go a long way toward reducing the potential your plant will get infected. Pick off and destroy any infected leaves falling from the plant and never use them in compost.24
The biggest challenge to a successful harvest will be picking the fruit before the squirrels and the birds get to them. Some gardeners find covering smaller trees with netting may dissuade wildlife.25 While this might be practical with container plants and smaller trees, it is impractical with large trees. You'll have the most success being diligent watching for ripe fruit and harvesting immediately.
Under the right conditions, some species produce two crops in one year.26 The first ripens in late May or early June and the second is ready in late September to early November. The first crop is often a smaller harvest and the second season of fruit has thicker skins but a greater concentration of sweetness.27
The fruit will be ready to harvest when the narrow area where the fruit connects to the plant begins to shrivel and the fruit begins to droop.28 The fruit will be soft to the touch and the skin may begin to split. Most varieties of fig will darken just before it's time to harvest.29
If you pick the fruit and find a milky liquid substance draining from the stem, the fruit has not quite ripened. Wait a couple of days before trying to harvest again. Be aware, this milky substance may irritate your skin, so it is helpful to wear gloves while harvesting.30
Once off the plant, figs do not continue to ripen. They also have a short shelf life and will last in the refrigerator for only two to three days. Many find drying figs helps extend their life and makes them tasty. Before drying, the figs should be washed thoroughly and dried with a towel.
You may cut them in half or leave them whole on a wire rack across a baking sheet in a 140 degrees Fahrenheit oven for eight to 24 hours. You know they're done when the outside becomes leathery and you don't see any juices on the inside.31 However, they should still be slightly pliable. Dried fruit will last in the refrigerator or freezer in an airtight container for 18 to 24 months.
There are over 700 varieties of named fig trees, but some are synonyms. Those in the Caprifigs, Smyrna and San Pedro types are not usually grown by home gardeners as they have complex pollination requirements to bear fruit.
However, the common fig (Ficus carica) is parthenocarpic, meaning it bears fruit without fertilization. Fig varieties requiring pollination have an opening to allow pollinating wasps to enter the flowers. Since common figs don't have an opening, they are also less susceptible to insect and water damage. Some of the common figs performing well at home include:
• Celeste — This is a small to medium-sized fig growing on a large tree.32 The fruit ripens earlier than most and is more commonly used as a dessert fig as it is sweeter. The pulp of the fruit is white pink and the fruit is almost seedless. While it produces a heavy crop, it happens over a short period of time,33 and it will only produce one crop per season.34
• Alma — This variety was developed by the Agricultural Experiment Service of Texas A&M University.35 It's a cross between two Caprifigs and was introduced in 1975. The fruit has excellent flavor and ripens late in the season.
It is highly productive and starts bearing fruit early but is less cold-hardy than some. It does well in Texas coastal areas, and while most figs do not require pruning, this variety requires some to produce a good crop.
• Brown turkey — This tree produces a large crop of figs over a long season. The fruit is smaller and not quite as rich as Celeste, but it often produces a second crop.36 The fruit has few seeds and the main crop begins in mid-July while the earlier crop is smaller. It's adapted to warmer climates and is often found on the islands of Hawaii.37
• Purple Genca — This tree is also known as Black Genoa or Black Spanish and produces large deep purple colored fruit with red flesh. The fruit is oblong, broader at the apex and narrower at the base, with a juicy, sweet, rich flavor.38
While dried figs are nearly always available, the unique taste and texture of fresh figs is an experience you won't soon forget. One medium sized fig is approximately 37 calories and provides 1.5 grams of fiber, in addition to vitamin B6, copper, pantothenic acid and folate.39
Figs are a good source of potassium, which your body uses to control blood pressure and balance the sodium potassium ratio. As you might expect, the nutritional value increases by weight as the fruit is dried. For instance, 100 grams provide 35 mg of calcium when fresh40 but 162 mg of calcium when dry.41
Since the food is high in fiber, it may act as a natural laxative.42 High fiber foods provide a feeling of fullness and the fiber in figs acts as a natural prebiotic to support pre-existing beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Fig leaves may be as important nutritionally as the fruit itself as they have unique health benefits, including an ability to regulate blood sugar. In one study,43 patients given a decoction of fig leaves for one month were able to lower their average insulin dose by 12%.
An animal study evaluating hypertriglyceridemia in rats used an administration of fig leaf decoction. While total cholesterol levels were unaffected, the fig decoction had a clear positive effect on lipid molecule breakdown.44
Another animal study45 evaluated the effects of figs, dates and pomegranates on neuroinflammation. They found daily administration of a supplement containing these three fruits decreased inflammatory cytokines and delayed formation of senile plaques. The researchers concluded the fruit mediated the reduction of cytokines and may be one mechanism that can help protect against neurodegenerative diseases.
Figs are tasty and versatile. Use them within two to three days after picking from the tree or move on to drying them in the oven or dehydrator. The Kitchn46 offers several ways enjoying your figs, including:
Cooked with oatmeal
Roasted with honey
Chopped into a salad
Made into fig chutney
Sliced into a spoonful of creme fraiche
Added to muffins, scones and cookies
Stuffed with cheese and baked, goat and mascarpone
Added to a roast to add a sweet note to the savory sauce
Enjoy the health benefits of green beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) all year-round when you discover how to grow green beans in your garden, containers and even indoors. Green beans were originally grown in Central and South America.1 The vegetable was introduced to the Mediterranean region and cultivated around Italy, Greece and Turkey by the 17th century.
Today, backyard farmers grow green beans around the world as they are easy to grow and you may enjoy a large harvest from a limited space. Green beans come in varieties that may need support (pole beans), or may grow on their own without support (bush beans).
Although growing green beans in your own vegetable garden may seem challenging, as long as you provide some of the basic requirements, you'll be reaping a bountiful reward whether your beans are planted indoors or out.
Those rewards also extend to the health benefits of green beans, which include being high in fiber, low in calories and having repeatedly demonstrated the ability to lower your risk of chronic illness.2
Green beans are annual plants so you'll be planting new green beans each year. The plants enjoy a slightly acidic pH, near 6.0 to 6.2, and moderately rich soil. Prepare your soil before planting green beans seeds by adding organic compost. The seeds may be sown directly outside after the danger of frost is gone.3
Plant the seeds about an inch deep and water immediately. Keep the soil moist by watering regularly. The most important factor for a good harvest is ensuring the soil is warm, as cool, damp soil will rot the plants.4
Sow the seeds for pole beans close together and then thin to about 6 to 10 inches apart after germination. Bush beans may be thinned to 3 to 6 inches apart after germination. Both may be started indoors before the last frost; transplant 3-inch seedlings to your garden or container after the threat of frost has passed.5
If you choose container gardening, the green beans will need at least an 8-inch pot. However, for best results, the container should be 12 inches or larger. The larger the container, the less they will need to be watered. However, the container should have good drainage soil and about an inch of gravel at the bottom to encourage drainage and reduce the potential for root rot.6
Green beans enjoy full sun, so whether in the garden or in a container, they should be placed where they'll receive at least eight hours of direct sunlight each day. Bush beans planted in containers need more space around them than pole varieties for airflow and to reduce the potential for fungal growth.
On the other hand, pole beans require more vertical space and a stake or trellis to support their growth.7 Once the seedlings are 3 inches or taller, add mulch around the plants to retain moisture and discourage weeds.
Green beans are not heavy feeders. When grown in garden soil an initial addition of compost and a side dressing of organic fertilizer midway through the growing season is usually enough to produce a hearty harvest of beans. In containers, the vegetables may benefit from monthly organic fertilizer.8
You may also consider growing green beans indoors, especially if you enjoy the flavorful addition to your recipes all year long. As it is a relatively quick growing plant and quite pretty, it can make a visually appealing addition to your windows.
When growing indoors, the seeds may be planted any time of the year. However, it is helpful to remember the plants continue to have certain environmental requirements, such as plenty of sunlight. Alternatively, consider using grow lights if you don't have a window receiving at least six hours of direct sunlight each day.9
The plants are warm weather plants and enjoy a spot where the temperature will be at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit (F) and up to 85 degrees F. However, excessive heat and humidity may trigger a variety of problems.10 Since they are an annual plant, you'll get the same number of harvests grown indoors as you would outside.
Fill your containers with the same type of soil as you would have used outdoors — enriched with compost, well-draining, with a pH of 6 to 6.2. Avoid using soil rich in nitrogen. When the seedlings begin to appear and are 3 inches tall, add mulch to retain moisture.
As with outdoor containers, a light feeding of organic fertilizer once a month may help your harvest. Whether grown indoors or out, most varieties will be fully grown and ready to begin harvesting within 50 to 60 days.11
As you begin to choose your green bean varieties, it's helpful to remember your harvest will be determined on whether your plant is determinate or indeterminate. These are botanical terms identifying basic growth patterns. In general terms, bush beans tend to be determinant, while pole beans tend to be indeterminate.12
Indeterminate plants grow and produce until the first frost hits and kills the plant. Indeterminate growth also refers to sequential flowering on a plant, on which the production of beans relies. In your vegetable garden, the most common plants having determinate or indeterminate seeds are tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, beans and strawberries.
For the most part, your seed packets will be identified as determinate or indeterminate. In either case, by consistently harvesting your beans as they mature, you'll increase production. Usually, the first crop will be the largest and the subsequent crops will come in at a reduced number.13
Gardeners who like to harvest green beans all summer long may prefer to use indeterminate plants. On the other hand, by stagger planting your green beans you'll get similar results with larger harvests.14
Some crops may also be semi-determinate, which means they'll stop producing but may be coaxed into a second round of production by regularly harvesting the beans as they're produced.
Pay close attention to the type of seeds you plant as it affects the type of pruning you may consider. As shared by the Daily Garden,15 indeterminate plants may be pruned of unwanted shoots, which then directs nutrients to the area of the plant you'd like it to go. On the other hand, determinate plants will perform better if they're not pruned excessively.
There are slight variations in the shape and size of green bean varieties and they are called different names depending upon the geographical region, such as fine beans, snap beans, string beans or French beans. However, despite the varying names they are all green beans.
Throughout the world there are approximately 150 varieties in all shapes and colors, but despite the differences in appearance, the health benefits are similar. As such, most green beans are more or less interchangeable in any recipe you find. The variations may come in the time it takes to cook or the texture. According to The Spruce, some of the more common varieties include:16
Green beans, string beans or snap beans — These are long, rounded and green. Heirloom varieties may have a fibrous string running down their sides, but since this has proved inconvenient for most cooks, it has been bred out of varieties sold in the grocery store. Kentucky Wonder is an old pole variety with good taste and Bountiful produces stringless heirloom bush beans.17
Wax beans — These are identical to green beans except they're yellow. Since this is the only difference, use wax beans in your recipes in much the same way you would use green beans. The Golden Wax Bean is a soft textured, yellow bush bean.18
Haricot vert — Also known as French green beans or filet beans. Although these look nearly identical to green beans, they're usually very thin, slightly more tender and higher priced at the grocery store. Many consider them to have a better flavor than regular green beans. Triomphe de Farcy is an heirloom haricot vert bush bean.19
Long beans — These are sometimes called yard-long beans and are from a different family than green beans. They're similar in flavor and look, but are extraordinarily long. They may grow over 24 inches, but for those with the best flavor and texture, look for long beans less than 18 inches.
Purple string beans — These are simply a purple variety of a classic green bean or wax bean. However, while they have a unique color, it's lost during cooking. Consider lightly steaming them with an immediate ice bath to preserve as much color as possible. Royal Burgundy is an early producing bush bean.20
Romano beans — Also called Italian green beans or flat beans, these are wide and need a little more cooking than other pole beans. The smaller ones are tender, while larger ones have more beans.
Insects and four-footed animals enjoy beans as much as you do. Deer and groundhogs may eat the entire plant so it is necessary to use fencing to deter them.
By giving the plants plenty of air circulation and keeping the ground moist but not soggy, you may help prevent fungal diseases thriving in damp conditions. Some of the more common pests described by Clemson Cooperative Extension, include:21
• Aphids — These soft-bodied insects are usually green but may appear to be yellow, brown or black. Although aphids are most prevalent during cool dry weather, they may appear at any time during the summer. Heavy populations may stunt your plant growth and treatment should be started anytime you find them on your plant.
You may control aphid populations by taking advantage of their weakness.22 Beneficial bugs, such as lacewings and ladybugs, may be attracted to the garden by planting fennel, mint and dill nearby. A strong spray of water may dislodge a light infestation, or spraying the plants with a solution of several drops of dish soap and water.23
• Thrips — These small insects measure one-eighth inch or shorter. They commonly feed on beans and peas and may negatively affect your harvest when they're present on early bloom flowers. As thrips affect pollination, if you have three or more thrips for every flower it may result in defectively shaped pods.
Prune your plants to get rid of any injured area of the plant.24 Garlic is a powerful way to remove these insects. Blend two cloves in 2 cups of water. Cover and let it rest for 24 hours and then filter with cheesecloth. Put two drops of the liquid in 12 cups of water and spray your plants.
• Mexican bean beetle — This beetle is up to one-third inch long and yellow to brown in color. The wings have eight small black spots. After feeding for one to two weeks the female deposits yellow eggs on the underside of the leaves, which hatch up to two weeks later. Both adults and larvae feed on the undersides of the leaves.
Natural predators include several species of tiny parasitic wasps. Hand pick the adults and larvae, and squash egg clusters off with your fingers. Interplant companion plants between beans using petunias or potatoes to deter the beetle.25
• Spider mites — These are tiny eight-legged creatures more closely related to spiders than insects. They appear on the underside of the leaves and a light infestation shows up as whitish stippling. A heavy infestation turns the leaves yellow or bronze. You'll find the underside of the leaves covered with silk and webs.
A strong spray from your garden hose may be enough to knock off a light infestation. The plants may be sprayed with a mixture of 3 tablespoons of dish soap to a gallon of water.26
• Slugs — Slugs eat any part of your plant touching the damp ground, which means they may cause more damage to your bush beans than your pole variety.27 Fortunately, there are a number of organic home remedies you may use to get rid of slugs.
One of the more popular is a beer trap. Bury half a cup in the soil near your plants and fill it halfway with beer. The slugs will be tempted by the smell and drown in the beer.
Harvesting is an ongoing adventure in your garden and the more you pick, the more beans the plant will likely set. Most varieties are ready for harvest between 50 and 60 days.28 Your green bean pods may be ready to harvest once they reach a length of 4 to 7 inches in diameter and are a little fatter than a pencil.
Some gardeners prefer determining the time of harvest based on the texture of the green bean and not the size. They should be firm, crisp and show no visible signs of bulging in the bean.29
However, since the plants continue to produce beans, it's important you take care not to damage the plant as you're harvesting. Use two hands to pick them and keep from ripping the vine as you use a twist and snap motion to remove the bean.
Once harvested, your green beans may be stored on the kitchen counter with the stems on. Once you remove the stems, they must be moved to the refrigerator. The stems usually snap easily and you may also be able to remove any fibrous strip running along the length of the pod at the same time.30
Your green beans may also be stored in the freezer for up to a year. Prior to freezing, add them to boiling water for two minutes and then directly into an ice bath. This blanching process helps the beans retain their bright green color. Place them in an airtight container prior to freezing.
Green beans may also be canned to preserve them over the winter. Only can fresh beans to ensure a better tasting bean later. Green beans need to be pressure canned since they are a low acidic food and pressure canning reduces the risk of botulism. Take care while using a pressure canner as they may be dangerous if not handled properly.31 Fermenting your green beans is another excellent and tasty choice that will make them last longer.
Green beans are a rich source of vitamins A, C, K and manganese, fiber and folate. The combination of these nutrients make green beans helpful in the reduction of heart disease and colon cancer.32 The boost to your immune system helps reduce your risk of colds, and the nutrients contribute to helping you control diabetes.33
Fiber helps to regulate your digestive process and the nutrients also provide benefits to your eyes and bones. Folate present in green beans is important during pregnancy as it helps to prevent birth defects and is needed for the healthy growth and development of the infant. Read more about green bean food facts in my previous article "What Are Green Beans Good For?"
Green beans have graced tables around the world for decades. Especially popular during the holiday seasons, green beans are available year-round and are a wonderful fresh treat straight from your garden. Green beans contain natural toxins produced by the plant to defend against predators or threats, such as bacteria or fungi.34
However, the type of toxin is different from other beans and not as dangerous, especially in small amounts in your salad or as a quick snack.35 Most green bean recipes start out with cleaning and preparing the beans for cooking. What's Cooking America offers these ideas on washing and preparing your beans:
First, wash them thoroughly with clear, cool water to rid them of any dirt or garden debris. And then rinse again. Break off both ends as you wash them and then either leave them whole or cut them into your desired length.36 They can be cut crosswise, diagonally or French cut.
You'll get the sweetest-tasting crisp beans when you cut them as little as possible. Beans can be boiled, steamed or sautéed. Cooking as little as possible in the smallest amount of water is the best way to preserve nutrients.
Some green bean recipes call for blanching the beans, where they are first added to boiling water for a few seconds to one minute and then immediately removed and placed in an ice bath. This sets the color and keeps the texture. Green beans can also be steamed using a steamer basket that keeps your green beans over boiling water, but not in it.37
Green beans may also be sautéed by first boiling or steaming for one to two minutes, tossed with coconut oil or avocado oil and garlic powder and then added to a skillet over medium heat for several minutes. Salt and pepper the beans to taste and enjoy!
St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) is named after St. John the Baptist, since it's usually in full bloom by June 24, the saint's feast day.1 The plant bears yellow flowers2 with oblong petals3 that have black dots on their edges. It can stand 1 to 3 feet tall, and has multiple reddish stems4 and yellow-green leaves.5 Although primarily found in Europe, St. John's wort can now be found growing in the U.S.,6 China, northern Africa, western7 and eastern Asia, Australia and New Zealand.8
The plant typically blooms during summertime, and can be seen growing in woods, hedges, roadsides, pastures and meadows.9 St. John's wort also bears sticky fruits with three-chambered capsules10 that hold multiple small, black and pepper-like seeds11 with a resinous smell.12
Under certain conditions, St. John's wort may be helpful for your mental health if you're feeling depressed — provided you aren't currently taking prescription antidepressants, as the combination of the two could cause serious increases in your serotonin levels.13
Used alone and under the supervision of your health care provider, the herb contains compounds such as hypericin, hyperforin, flavonoids and flavonoid derivatives, xanthone derivatives, amentoflavone, biapigenin and volatile oils that may help combat depression.14,15
An analysis of 35 studies published in Systematic Reviews in 2016 revealed that St. John's wort assisted in alleviating depression symptoms better than a placebo, and similarly to typical conventional drugs.16
Authors of a 1997 Pharmacopsychiatry animal study discovered that St. John's wort extract may work like antidepressants by helping prevent reuptake of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, and promoting positive effects in mice who were given the substance.17
This herb may also help address mental health problems such as anxiety or seasonal affective disorder (SAD),18 which normally occurs during the winter months because of a lack of sunlight.19 Aside from impacts toward your mental health, St. John's wort may also help:
St. John's wort was used to treat wounded soldiers during the Crusades,32 and drive out the "inner devil" in people during Medieval times. However, St. John's wort's history of medicinal use dates back to ancient Greece, where it was believed to possess "magical powers."33 It was also recommended to be used against hallucinations34 by Paracelsus, a Swiss man considered "the father of chemistry and the reformer of material medica" (among many other nicknames).35
The use of St. John's wort is prevalent in some European countries, such as Germany, against mental health issues like depression.36 St. John's wort can be found in other forms such as tinctures, oils or balms that may help promote healing of burns, wounds, insect bites and bruises.37,38 You may also encounter St. John's wort products such as supplements,39 liquids, powders40 and teas.41,42
St. John's wort leaves and flowers can be used to make tea43 that may assist in:44
Remember that if you have high blood pressure levels, are taking antihypertensive50 or antidepressant medications, or would need to undergo surgery, drinking St. John's wort tea may lead to adverse effects.51 Also, do not take St. John's wort without consulting a health care practitioner if you are on prescription medications of any sort including birth control pills.52
Are you interested in trying St. John's wort oil? Initial research has revealed that it possesses anti-inflammatory capabilities,53 and may help:
If you plan on using this oil, consult a physician and take an allergen patch test to check for potential side effects. Dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil like sweet almond, olive, jojoba or coconut, or add it to other oil blends, since it can deliver a warm, balsamic, herbaceous and sweet scent. St. John's wort oil blends well with clary sage, cedar,59 lavender and lemon balm oils.60
No matter what form of St. John's wort you use, remember that it may lead to photosensitivity61 or sun sensitivity.62 If you're using St. John's wort, try to avoid the sun as much as possible, or use sunscreen or wear protective clothing.63 Some of the other side effects linked to St. John's wort include:64,65
As mentioned, St. John's wort has the tendency to interact with multiple drugs, as highlighted by PennState's Milton S. Hershey Medical Center:
If you're taking these drugs, refrain from using St. John's wort with them since it may lead to other health issues. This herb can also reduce the drugs' effectiveness.66
Before using St. John's wort, talk to a physician67 or mental health professional (if you're struggling with a mental health problem) to determine if this will be beneficial for your condition and find out the ideal dosage you may need to take. If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, avoid using any form of St. John's wort,68 since it may cause your baby to develop drowsiness, fussiness or colic.69
Science has proven time after time that food is potent medicine. Broccoli, for example, has a solid scientific foundation showing it’s one of the most valuable health-promoting foods around. While it contains several health-promoting compounds, one of the most widely studied is sulforaphane.
The cancer-fighting properties of sulforaphane are perhaps the most well-known, but it has also been shown to benefit your heart and brain, boosting detoxification1 and helping prevent and/or treat high blood pressure,2 heart disease, Alzheimer’s3 and even autism.4,5,6 Now, researchers report sulforaphane may also be helpful in the treatment of schizophrenia.7,8,9
An initial study,10 published in Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience in 2015, involved just 10 outpatients with schizophrenia. Patients were given 30 milligrams (mg) of sulforaphane glucosinolate per day for eight weeks. As reported by the authors:
“Clinical symptoms using the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS) and cognitive function using the Japanese version of CogState battery were evaluated at the beginning of the study and at week 8.
A total of 7 patients completed the trial. The mean score in the Accuracy component of the One Card Learning Task increased significantly after the trial … This result suggests that SFN [sulforaphane] has the potential to improve cognitive function in patients with schizophrenia.”
More recently, a series of three animal and human studies11 by researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine suggest sulforaphane may also benefit patients with schizophrenia by helping to rebalance the glutamate levels in their brain. As reported by Neuroscience News:12
“Schizophrenia is marked by hallucinations, delusions and disordered thinking, feeling, behavior, perception and speaking. Drugs used to treat schizophrenia don’t work completely for everyone, and they can cause a variety of undesirable side effects, including metabolic problems increasing cardiovascular risk, involuntary movements, restlessness, stiffness and ‘the shakes.’”
According to Dr. Akira Sawa, director of the Johns Hopkins The Schizophrenia Center, “It’s possible that future studies could show sulforaphane to be a safe supplement to give people at risk of developing schizophrenia as a way to prevent, delay or blunt the onset of symptoms.”13
One of the studies14 in this series, published January 9, 2019, in JAMA Psychiatry, assessed differences in brain metabolism between 81 schizophrenic patients and 91 healthy controls, finding schizophrenics had lower levels of key brain chemicals associated with the disease — glutamate, N-acetylaspartate,15 GABA and glutathione — in their anterior cingulate cortex, a brain region involved in executive function, emotional affect and cognition.16
According to the paper17 “Cognitive and Emotional Influences in Anterior Cingulate Cortex,” this brain region appears to be “the brain’s error detection and correction device,” and “is part of a circuit involved in a form of attention that serves to regulate both cognitive and emotional processing.”
In the brain, glutamate — an excitatory neurotransmitter18 — plays an important role in brain cell communication, and lower levels have been linked to both schizophrenia and depression.
Schizophrenics also had lower levels of N-acetylaspartate in the orbitofrontal region, an area involved in cognitive processing and decision-making, as well as the thalamus, an area involved in the relaying of sensory signals and the regulation of consciousness.
They also had lower levels of glutathione in the thalamus. Glutathione, a master antioxidant produced by your body, is made up of glutamate, cysteine and glycine, and is a physiologic reservoir of neuronal glutamate.19
For the second study in the series, the researchers focused on the management of glutamate in the brain. As reported by Neuroscience News,20 they wondered whether faulty glutamate management might be a key problem in the disease, and whether drugs could be used to “shift this balance to either release glutamate from storage when there isn’t enough, or send it into storage if there is too much.”
So, in this study,21 published February 12, 2019, in PNAS, they blocked an enzyme that turns glutamate into glutathione in the brain cells of rats, using a drug called L-Buthionine sulfoximine, thereby allowing glutamine to be used up.
“The researchers found that these nerves were more excited and fired faster, which means they were sending more messages to other brain cells. The researchers say shifting the balance this way is akin to shifting the brain cells to a pattern similar to one found in the brains of people with schizophrenia,” Neuroscience News 22 explains.
Next, to increase the level of glutamine stored as glutathione, they used sulforaphane, as it activates a gene that makes an enzyme required for the synthesis of glutathione from glutamate. As expected, this slowed the speed with which neurons fired.
In other words, it helped normalize the brain cells, allowing them to behave in a manner more like healthy controls. Dr. Thomas Sedlak, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences told Neuroscience News:23
“We are thinking of glutathione as glutamate stored in a gas tank. If you have a bigger gas tank, you have more leeway on how far you can drive, but as soon as you take the gas out of the tank it’s burned up quickly. We can think of those with schizophrenia as having a smaller gas tank.”
In an earlier pilot study24 (counted as the third in this series) by the same team, published in the May 2018 issue of Molecular Neuropsychiatry, they used mice and healthy human subjects to assess the effect of sulforaphane on glutathione levels in the brain. Here, patients with a history of psychiatric illness were specifically excluded. As explained by the authors:
“The participants completed two visits, scheduled 7 days (1 week) apart. The participants were given 100 µmol sulforaphane as standardized broccoli sprout extract in the form of 2 gel capsules, and instructed to ingest the extract each morning for 1 week …
Urine and blood specimens were collected prior to the first dose of broccoli sprout extract and within 4 h of the final dose. MRS [magnetic resonance spectroscopy] scans were performed prior to the first dose and within 4 h of ingesting the final dose …
Following 1-week administration of sulforaphane, the study participants demonstrated a significant augmentation of GSH in non-monocytes that include a mixture of T cells, B cells, and NK cells. The GSH level was 9.22 nmol/mL before sulforaphane administration and 12.2 nmol/mL following sulforaphane administration, a 32% increase …
We report that a short-term administration of sulforaphane was sufficient to significantly increase peripheral GSH levels in human subjects. We found an increase in GSH in the HP [hippocampus], but not elsewhere in the brain regions assessed. The peripheral GSH ratio had a strong and significantly positive correlation with brain GSH levels in the THAL [thalamus] upon sulforaphane treatment …
[I]n a submitted study, we will report that peripheral GSH levels may be correlated with cognitive functions. We thus posit the significance of exploring the possible correlations between peripheral GSH and clinical/neuropsychological measures and the influence of sulforaphane on such functional measures that are altered in neuropsychiatric disorders. The present study is a key first step toward such future studies.”
In summary, these findings suggest sulforaphane might be a safe alternative to help reduce psychosis and hallucinations in schizophrenic patients, although the researchers warn more studies are required to identify optimal dosing and assess long-term effects.
Another series of studies suggests cruciferous vegetables high in sulforaphane might benefit those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), primarily by upregulating genes that protect against oxidative stress, inflammation and DNA damage, “all of which are prominent and possibly mechanistic characteristics of ASD,” the authors say.25
Sulforaphane also boosts antioxidant capacity, glutathione synthesis, mitochondrial function, oxidative phosphorylation and lipid peroxidation, while lowering neuroinflammmation. According to the researchers, these characteristics also make it suitable for the treatment of ASD.26
The first study,27 published in 2014, found daily treatment with dietary sulforaphane significantly reduced the severity of “socially impaired behavior” in children with ASD after 18 weeks. Improvements became obvious (compared to those in the placebo group) at four weeks of treatment.
At 18 weeks, the sulforaphane treatment group had a 34% reduction in Abberant Behavior Checklist (ABC) scores and a 17% reduction in Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) scores. According to the authors:28
“[A] significantly greater number of participants receiving sulforaphane had improvement in social interaction, abnormal behavior, and verbal communication. Upon discontinuation of sulforaphane, total scores on all scales rose toward pretreatment levels.”
The second study,29 published in 2017, presented a case series follow-up of patients who continued the sulforaphane treatment after the first study ended. Here’s a limited outtake from the narrative provided by one of the families whose son is referred to as “R”:
“R’s parents wanted to help him: ‘He would make constant noises and did all these abnormal motor tics; [we] felt like he really had no control [over his behavior and body] and it was just noise, not functional words. He didn’t have any expressive language.’
R’s parents saw several medical specialists who prescribed a total of 18 different medications, all of which had either minimal or negative effects on R. ‘Nothing changed the constant noises or the terrible rage attacks,’ until R took SF [sulforaphane] …
R’s family took him to the Lurie Center at Massachusetts General Hospital where we were conducting the study on the effects of SF on males with ASD. The study was a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. However, within days, R’s mother believed that he was taking SF:
‘I knew that he was on the study drug because I saw such a change so quickly. I want to scream from the rooftops and tell people to give the kids broccoli sprouts [extract] because literally, it changed my life,’ reported R’s mother.
‘Now we can go to the movies, restaurants, plays, we went on vacation with another family, we go to church, we just went to a concert, things we could never do before are now possible. [I am] able to have confidence and he [R] is more confident as well.’
N.B. Such a rapid response was unusual in the context of what was observed by the study physicians with other subjects. When responses to supplementation were observed, they generally took 3 or 4 weeks to become manifest. In this case, the study team actually wondered whether the mother might be exhibiting a placebo response; however, the ABC subscales and both ABC and SRS overall scores for R did also change.”
The third paper30 in this series, a trial progress report published in 2018, assessed the safety, clinical effects and mechanisms of action of sulforaphane in ASD. Interestingly, this paper describes how sulforaphane mimics “the fever effect” in ASD. This is where high fever temporarily improves behavior in autistic children. The researchers explain:
“Fever stimulates heat shock proteins (HSP) and cellular stress responses, leading to improved synaptic function and long-range connectivity. Expression of gene transcription by NFE2L2 (Nrf2), which is reduced in ASD, also increases during fever.
Sulforaphane (SF), an isothiocyanate obtained from broccoli sprouts, induces HSP and Nrf2 as well as ‘cell-protective’ responses that may benefit ASD through common cellular mechanisms underlying heterogeneous phenotypes.”
While this trial was still incomplete at publication, as only 46 participants out of a planned 50 had been enrolled, preliminary analysis showed “26% participants were much/very much improved at seven weeks, 38% at 15 weeks, 64% at 22 weeks, and 64% at 30 weeks,” the researchers said, adding that “preliminary results show that sulforaphane appears to be safe and effective in children with ASD.”
Sulforaphane may also be useful in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. In a 2018 study,31 mice with Alzheimer's were treated with sulforaphane for four months, which significantly inhibited both the generation and accumulation of amyloid-beta, and alleviated several pathological changes associated with Alzheimer's, including oxidative stress and neuroinflammation.
The mice also demonstrated cognitive benefits, remaining normal, cognitively speaking, compared to wild-type mice at 10 months of age, which is when dementia typically begins in Alzheimer's mice. In tests of neurons themselves, pretreating cortical neurons with sulforaphane protected them against injury caused by amyloid beta.
An earlier study32 published in 2009 revealed that antioxidants — including sulforaphane — protect cells from oxidative damage, facilitate removal of the amyloid-beta peptide and reduce abnormal protein-related causes of disease.
In studying how sulforaphane interacts with amyloid-beta to prevent various neurodegenerative processes, researchers of a 2014 study33 used liquid chromatography/electrospray ionization mass spectrometry to reveal that amyloid-beta is less likely to aggregate in the presence of sulforaphane.
Another 2014 study34 showed that, in mice with Alzheimer's-like lesions (induced in part by administration of aluminum), sulforaphane reduced neurobehavioral deficits by promoting the growth of new neurons (neurogenesis) as well as reducing the aluminum load.
While this article focuses on the neurological benefits of broccoli, research has revealed a long list of health benefits associated with this cruciferous vegetable, including a reduced risk for:35
Cancer — Studies have shown sulforaphane supports normal cell function and division while causing apoptosis (programmed cell death) in colon,37 prostate,38 breast39 and tobacco-induced lung cancer40 cells, and reducing the number of cancerous liver tumors in mice41
Insulin resistance45 and Type 2 diabetes46
Broccoli and other water- and nutrient-rich veggies also support healthy liver function, which in turn promotes optimal functioning of your natural detoxification systems. Broccoli sprouts, in particular, have been shown to help detox environmental pollutants such as benzene.50,51
This is important for virtually everyone these days, but especially women of childbearing age. Autistic children are known to have higher levels of environmental toxins in their system, and this underlying toxic burden plays a significant role.
Healthy liver function also helps promote healthy, beautiful skin, making broccoli a good antiaging food. What’s more, the sulforaphane in broccoli also helps repair skin damage.
To boost the benefits of sulforaphane in broccoli and other cruciferous veggies, pair them with a myrosinase-containing food.52 Myrosinase is an enzyme that converts the precursor gluocosinalate, glucoraphanin, to sulforaphane. Examples include mustard seed,53 daikon radishes, wasabi, arugula or coleslaw, with mustard seed being the most potent.
Adding a myrosinase-rich food is particularly important if you eat the broccoli raw, or use frozen broccoli. Ideally, broccoli should be steamed for three to four minutes to increase the available sulforaphane content. This light steaming eliminates epithiospecifier protein — a heat-sensitive sulfur-grabbing protein that inactivates sulforaphane — while retaining the myrosinase in the broccoli.54
Steaming is important, because without myrosinase, your body cannot absorb sulforaphane. If you opt for boiling, blanch the broccoli in boiling water for no more than 20 to 30 seconds, then immerse it in cold water to stop the cooking process.
If you prefer raw food, you’d be better off eating raw broccoli sprouts instead of mature broccoli. According to Dr. Paul Talalay, professor of pharmacology and co-author of the 1997 study55 “Broccoli Sprouts: An Exceptionally Rich Source of Inducers of Enzymes That Protect Against Chemical Carcinogens,” "Three-day-old broccoli sprouts consistently contain 20 to 50 times the amount of chemoprotective compounds found in mature broccoli heads.”56 As a result, you can eat far less of them while still maximizing your benefits.
More than 70% of U.S. water supplies have industrial-grade fluoride chemicals added under the guise of preventing tooth decay.1 The problem is that fluoride, a toxin, is linked to an increasing list of health damages, while the usefulness of ingesting it to prevent cavities is highly questionable.
Steven Gilbert, Ph.D., founder and director of the Institute of Neurotoxicology and Neurological Disorders (INND), works to bring awareness about the health effects of toxic substances, water fluoridation included.
In his "Connecting the Dots for Health" paper, he summarizes how connecting the dots between the science, history and ethics of water fluoridation clearly supports the action to discontinue water fluoridation in order to significantly reduce fluoride ingestion.2
If you've ever wondered how a neurotoxic chemical came to be added to U.S. water supplies, Gilbert states:3
"The history of community water fluoridation is a reflection of the post WWII era of the 1950's when many thought chemicals in one form or another could solve almost any problem. Our gaze was focused on the beneficial properties of the chemicals, not on the potential hazards. A classic example is DDT, that in addition to being a potent pesticide, almost killed off predatory birds and more recently was found to be harmful to humans."
In 1945, fluoride was given the green light by the U.S. government following the release of a large amount of hydrogen fluoride from DuPont's Deepwater, New Jersey, plant. A massive quantity of toxic hydrogen fluoride was produced as a byproduct of industry, and its disposal was an inconvenient and costly problem.
To avert lawsuits, industry came up with the clever idea of revamping fluoride's image — they told people fluoride was good for their teeth and began adding it to public water supplies. Initially, fluoride waste from the aluminum industry is what went into drinking water.
But by the late 1940s, they'd found a cheaper source — the phosphate industry, a byproduct of making fertilizer. According to a paper in Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective, a production of The Ohio State University and Miami University departments of history:4
"Many are surprised to learn that unlike the pharmaceutical grade fluoride in their toothpaste, the fluoride in their water is an untreated industrial waste product, one that contains trace elements of arsenic and lead.
Without the phosphate industry's effluent, water fluoridation would be prohibitively expensive. And without fluoridation, the phosphate industry would be stuck with an expensive waste disposal problem."
Gilbert also explains that the decision to fluoridate U.S. drinking water was based on two studies comparing cavity rates in a city with fluoridated water (Grand Rapids/Muskegon, Michigan) with those in one without (Newburgh/Kingston, New York).
They were supposed to run for 10 years, but when some cavity reduction was seen in early reports, the U.S. Public Health Service approved water fluoridation after only five years — with no data on long-term toxicity.5
More than 300 studies have shown fluoride's toxic effects on the brain,6 including a 2006 National Research Council review that suggested fluoride exposure may be associated with brain damage, endocrine system disruption and bone cancer.7
In 2012, Harvard researchers also revealed that children living in high-fluoride areas had significantly lower IQ scores than those who lived in low-fluoride areas8 and suggested high fluoride exposure may have an adverse effect on children's neurodevelopment.
A study of Mexican women and children also raised concern, showing that higher exposure to fluoride while in utero is associated with lower scores on tests of cognitive function in childhood, both at the age of 4 and 6 to 12 years.9
Each 0.5 milligram per liter increase in pregnant women's fluoride levels was associated with a reduction of 3.15 and 2.5 points on the children's scores on the General Cognitive Index (GCI) of the McCarthy Scales of Children's Abilities and the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI), respectively.
Fluorosilicic acid, which is the fluoride chemical added to drinking water, may also be contaminated with additional harmful compounds, including lead and arsenic. Children, in particular, are at risk from ingesting fluoride, but they are exposed to the same levels in drinking water as adults. According to Gilbert:10
"From the 1950s the PHS [Public Health Service] recommendation for the concentration of fluoridated water has been 1.0 mg/L (milligrams per liter or ppm) for most of the U.S., with a range of 0.7 to 1.2 mg/L. In 2015, this recommendation was lowered to 0.7 mg/L to reduce the toxic side effects of fluoride ingestion while attempting to maintain its beneficial effects.
For toxicological assessment, ingested doses are typically adjusted by body weight. Kids eat more, breathe more, and drink more than adults on a body weight basis so they will have higher fluoride doses than adults. Moreover, child organ systems such as the brain and bones are still developing, making them more vulnerable to the toxic effects of fluoride."
In terms of overall toxicity, the Fluoride Action Network (FAN) describes acute fluoride exposure as more toxic than lead but slightly less toxic than arsenic.11 In fact, fluoride is a common ingredient in pesticides used to kill rodents and insects. Chronically, exposure to low levels of fluoride is also harmful, not only to your brain but to your body as a whole.
Fluoride is an endocrine-disrupting chemical, and studies have linked it to the rising prevalence of thyroid disease,12 which in turn can contribute to obesity, heart disease, depression and other health problems. Fluoride was once used to reduce thyroid function in people with hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), and even low doses of 2 to 5 mg may be enough to affect thyroid function.13
"This dose is well within the range (1.6 to 6.6 mg/day) of what individuals living in fluoridated communities are now estimated to receive on a regular basis," FAN notes.14 A 2012 study also found a link between fluoride exposure and osteosarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer.15 A 2006 study also found a link between fluoride exposure in drinking water during childhood and the incidence of osteosarcoma among men.16
Such a link is biologically plausible, according to FAN, because bones are a principle site of fluoride accumulation, fluoride can be mutagenic at high enough concentrations and fluoride stimulates the proliferation of osteoblasts (bone-forming cells), which could increase the risk of malignancy.17
The majority of U.S. kids suffer from dental fluorosis, a discoloration and mottling of teeth caused by overexposure to fluoride in drinking water. While often brushed off as a cosmetic concern, this mottling is a sign of increased porosity of the enamel, and it's permanent. If the tooth-forming cells are being harmed by fluoride, it's likely that other cells in the body are too.
Research has found impairment in cognitive abilities among children with fluorosis (even mild fluorosis) compared to children with no fluorosis, for example.18 Studies have also found that children with higher levels of fluorosis have increased rates of cavities19 — a finding that suggests more is definitely not better, even when it comes to protecting against cavities.
According to Gilbert, "At a very mild or mild level, it causes white splotches or stripes on teeth. At moderate or severe levels, the mottling is more pronounced and can cause yellow or brown stains and pitting of the enamel, which can increase cavities."20
According to the most recent data, the dental fluorosis rate in the U.S. is now a staggering 65 percent, with researchers stating, "The results of this study greatly increase the evidence base indicating that objectionable dental fluorosis has increased in the United States. Dental fluorosis is an undesirable side effect of too much fluoride ingestion during the early years of life."21
Another study also revealed a more than 31% increase in the prevalence of dental fluorosis among 16- and 17-year-olds from 2011-2012 to 2001-2002. "The continued increase in fluorosis rates in the U.S. indicates that additional measures need to be implemented to reduce its prevalence," those researchers concluded.22
The third piece of Gilbert's puzzle is ethics, and from this perspective adding fluoride to U.S. drinking water is akin to drugging the majority of a population without its consent. Gilbert notes:23
"Physicians prescribe drugs on an individual's needs, ensuring that it's pharmaceutical grade (not contaminated) and requiring a specific dose for a specific length of time. They also must inform their patients of potential harmful side effects. However, the final decision on whether to take the drugs rests with the patient. With fluoridation, all these safety protocols are violated, taking away the individual's right of informed consent."
People who are more vulnerable to fluoride's effects, such as infants, pregnant women or those with kidney disease and diabetes, have no way of avoiding this drug in their drinking water if they live in an area with fluoridated water.
While it's possible to install a water filter, such as reverse osmosis, to remove fluoride from your drinking water, or obtain a separate source of drinking water, this puts low-income families, who may not be able to obtain these alternatives, at a disadvantage.
Considering there are many studies showing fluoride's toxicity, the Precautionary Principle, which states that preventive measures should also be put in place to avoid exposure if there's evidence of a substance causing harm, should be put into place.
"For these and other reasons, a growing number of public health professionals are recommending that fluoridation of drinking water be discontinued," Gilbert says, supporting his recommended action to "discontinue water fluoridation so that ingestion of fluoride is greatly reduced." This is the norm in most of the world, as about 95 percent of the world's population drinks unfluoridated water.24
Finally, fluoride is not the answer to healthy teeth. A comprehensive oral care plan should include addressing your diet, reducing your net carb (total grams of carbohydrates minus your grams of fiber) intake and, if needed, taking nutritional supplements that support your oral health, such as vitamins C and K2, and coenzyme Q10.
Regular brushing with fluoride-free toothpaste and flossing are also important, as are regular professional cleanings with a mercury-free biological dentist.