Natural Health Blog & News
Studies have found strong links between acute and/or chronic stress and a wide variety of health issues, including your brain function and risk for dementia. For example, animal research1 published in 2014 reported that elevated levels of stress hormones can speed up short-term memory loss in older adults by inducing structural changes in the brain.
The findings indicate that how your body responds to stress may be a factor that influences how your brain ages over time. Previous research has also linked chronic stress with working memory impairment2 and an increased risk for early onset of Alzheimer's disease.3
Fortunately, there's compelling research showing your brain has great plasticity and capacity for regeneration, which you control through your diet and lifestyle.
Based on the findings linking dementia with chronic stress, having effective tools to address stress can be an important part of Alzheimer's prevention, not to mention achieving and maintaining optimal health in general.
Most recently, researchers warn that having elevated blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol can impair your thinking skills and memory over time.4,5,6,7 The researchers used the government-sponsored Framingham Heart Study database to identify more than 2,200 people who did not have any signs of dementia, and followed them for eight years. As reported by The New York Times:8
"Researchers gave tests for memory, abstract reasoning, visual perception and attention to 2,231 people, average age 49 and free of dementia. They recorded blood levels of cortisol and did MRI examinations to assess brain volume.
The study,9 in Neurology, controlled for age, sex, education, body mass index, blood pressure and many other variables, and found that compared with people with average levels of cortisol, those with the highest levels had lower scores on the cognitive tests.
In women, but not in men, higher cortisol was also associated with reduced brain volume. There was no association of the lowest cortisol levels with either cognitive test scores or brain size."
A significant limitation of the study is the fact that blood levels of cortisol were only checked once, at the end of the study, and may therefore not be representative of people's long-term exposure to this stress chemical.
Still, a number of other studies have reported similar findings, so the link between stress and cognitive decline certainly appears to be real. Lead author Dr. Justin Echouffo-Tcheugui, assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, commented on the findings:10
"Our research detected memory loss and brain shrinkage in middle-aged people before symptoms started to show in ordinary, daily activities.
So, it's important for people to find ways to reduce stress, such as getting enough sleep, engaging in moderate exercise, incorporating relaxation techniques into their daily lives, or asking their doctor about their cortisol levels and taking a cortisol-reducing medication if needed. It's important for physicians to counsel all people with higher cortisol levels."
When you're stressed, your cortisol rises and, together with adrenaline, triggers your body's fight-or-flight response. Cortisol also increases the glucose level in your bloodstream and temporarily enhances your brain's use of that glucose, while simultaneously suppressing bodily functions deemed irrelevant during an emergency, such as digestion.
While this cascade of biochemical effects is beneficial when you're in immediate physical danger, cortisol has a corrosive effect that, over time, actually wears down the synapses responsible for memory storage and processing. This was demonstrated in the 2014 animal study11 mentioned earlier.
According to that study,12 elevated levels of cortisol affect your memory by causing a gradual loss of synapses in your prefrontal cortex, the brain region associated with short-term memory. As noted by the authors:
"Short-term increases in cortisol are critical for survival. They promote coping and help us respond to life's challenges by making us more alert and able to think on our feet.
But abnormally high or prolonged spikes in cortisol — like what happens when we are dealing with long-term stress — can lead to negative consequences that numerous bodies of research have shown to include digestion problems, anxiety, weight gain and high blood pressure."
While the authors of the Neurology study state that it is "premature to consider intervention" based on their findings,13 they suggest that lowering your cortisol may be a beneficial first step. The 2014 study authors also suggested you may be able to protect your future memory function by normalizing your cortisol levels.
Such intervention would be particularly beneficial for those who are at high risk for elevated cortisol, such as those who are depressed or are dealing with long-term stress following a traumatic event.
Other scientific findings have linked stress and severe dementia. Argentinian research14 presented at the World Congress of Neurology in 2013 suggests stress may actually act as a trigger for the onset of Alzheimer's disease, as nearly 3 in 4 Alzheimer's patients (72 percent) had experienced severe emotional stress during the two years preceding their diagnosis.
In the control group, only 26 percent, or 1 in 4, had undergone major stress or grief. Most of the stresses encountered by the Alzheimer's group involved:
According to lead author Dr. Edgardo Reich:15
"Stress, according to our findings, is probably a trigger for initial symptoms of dementia. Though I rule out stress as monocausal in dementia, research is solidifying the evidence that stress can trigger a degenerative process in the brain and precipitate dysfunction in the neuroendocrine and immune system. It is an observational finding and does not imply direct causality. Further studies are needed to examine these mechanisms in detail."
Aside from managing daily stresses, protecting your vision and hearing are other important factors that can influence your dementia risk. In fact, recent research16 suggests you can actually slow down cognitive decline by restoring your hearing and/or vision, and by a significant degree.
Lead author Dr. Asri Maharani, a researcher at the University of Manchester in the division of neuroscience and experimental psychology, told NPR,17 "We found the rate of cognitive decline was slowed by 75 percent following the adoption of hearing aids. It is a surprising result."
While the researchers were surprised by the findings, it does make sense. As noted by Dina Rollins, an audiologist who was not involved in the study, "Stimulating your ears stimulates the nerves that stimulate your brain," so by restoring hearing, you're "giving your brain what it needs to make sense of what you're hearing."
Another possible reason for this link has to do with the fact that hearing loss leads to social isolation, which has also been shown to speed cognitive decline and raise your risk of dementia. A related study18 by the same research group shows cognitive decline is also slowed by restoring vision. Here, Maharani's team found that cataract surgery slowed the rate of cognitive decline by 50 percent.
As mentioned, there's good news in all of this, and it's that your brain has a natural capacity for regeneration and rejuvenation. Among the most valuable dementia prevention strategies is a cyclical ketogenic diet described in my book, "Fat for Fuel" and many other articles. If you're new to this topic, see "Burn Fat for Fuel" or "A Beginner's Guide to the Ketogenic Diet" for an introduction.
In short, a ketogenic diet, being high in healthy fats and low in net carbohydrates, allows your body to start burning fat as its primary fuel and results in the creation of ketones. And, compared to glucose, ketones:
Recent research19,20,21,22,23 shows a ketogenic diet improves neurovascular integrity and function and clearance of amyloid-beta (a main component of the plaque that accumulates in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s disease) — in part by improving the gut microbiome — and neurovascular function plays a major role in cognitive capability.
More specifically, poor neurovascular function is strongly associated with loss of language, memory and attention, while reduced cerebral blood flow raises your risk for depression, anxiety and dementia. Impaired blood-brain barrier function has also been linked to brain inflammation, dysfunction of synapses, impaired clearance of amyloid-beta plaques, psychiatric disorders and dementia.24
According to the authors, "Our findings suggest that ketogenic diet intervention started in the early stage may enhance brain vascular function, increase beneficial gut microbiota, improve metabolic profile, and reduce risk for Alzheimer's disease."
It's important to realize the adverse impact sugar has on your brain. A high-sugar diet triggers insulin resistance, and there's a very strong link between insulin resistance and Alzheimer's.25 For example, a longitudinal study26 published in the journal Diabetologia in January 2018, found that the higher an individual's blood sugar, the faster their rate of cognitive decline.
Even mild elevation of blood sugar and mild insulin resistance are associated with an elevated risk for dementia.27,28 Research29 published in 2013 showed that sugar and other carbohydrates disrupt your brain function primarily by shrinking your hippocampus, a brain region involved with the formation, organization and storage of memories.
The authors suggest that “strategies aimed at lowering glucose levels even in the normal range may beneficially influence cognition in the older population.” A similar study30 published in 2014 found that Type 2 diabetics lose more gray matter with age than expected, and this brain atrophy also helps explain why diabetics have a higher risk for dementia, and have earlier onset of dementia than nondiabetics.
As noted by Dr. Sam Gandy, director of the Center for Cognitive Health at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, these findings “suggest that chronic high levels of insulin and sugar may be directly toxic to brain cells” and that “this would definitely be a potential cause of dementia."31
Perhaps one of the most striking studies32 on carbohydrates and brain health revealed high-carb diets increase your risk of dementia by 89 percent, while high-fat diets lower it by 44 percent.
Aside from stress and diet, three other lifestyle areas that play important roles in the development of dementia are sleep, physical fitness and exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs), the influence of which are summarized below.
• Sleep — Wakefulness is associated with mitochondrial stress. Without sufficient sleep, neuron degeneration sets in, which can lead to dementia.33,34,35 In fact, sleep deprivation is a risk factor for severe dementia, and animal research36 reveals inconsistent, intermittent sleep results in considerable and irreversible brain damage.
Research published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging37 suggests people with chronic sleep problems also develop Alzheimer's disease sooner than those who sleep well.
Your blood-brain barrier becomes more permeable with age, allowing more toxins to enter.38 This, in conjunction with reduced efficiency of the glymphatic system due to lack of sleep, allows for more rapid damage to occur in your brain and this deterioration is thought to play a significant role in the development of Alzheimer's.
• Exercise — Recent research39 found women with the highest cardiovascular fitness had an 88 percent lower risk of dementia than those with moderate fitness. Even maintaining average fitness is worthwhile, as women with the lowest fitness had a 41 percent greater risk of dementia than those of average fitness.
• Electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure — Microwaves emitted from cellphones, Wi-Fi routers, computers and tablets (when not in airplane mode) harm your brain by increasing intracellular calcium through the voltage gated calcium channels (VGCCs) in your cells.
The tissues with the highest density of VGCCs are your brain, the pacemaker in your heart and male testes. Once VGCCs are stimulated, they trigger the release of neurotransmitters, neuroendocrine hormones and highly damaging reactive oxygen species, significantly raising your risk of anxiety, depression and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.40
Basic prevention strategies include turning your Wi-Fi off at night, not carrying your cellphone on your body and not keeping portable phones, cellphones and other electric devices in your bedroom. To learn more, see my interview with professor Martin Pall. A more extensive list of prevention strategies to minimize your EMF exposure can be found in "Electromagnetic Radiation Specialist Reveals the Hidden Dangers of Electric Fields."
While I believe these are among the most important prevention strategies, there are of course many other factors that can come into play. To learn more about the prevention and reversal of cognitive decline, see my interview with Dr. Dale Bredesen, director of neurodegenerative disease research at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, whose unique ReCODE (Reversal of Cognitive Decline) program offers hope for many.
In 2014, Bredesen published a paper that demonstrates the power of lifestyle choices for the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's. By leveraging 36 healthy lifestyle parameters, he was able to reverse Alzheimer's in 9 out of 10 patients. This included the use of exercise, ketogenic diet, optimizing vitamin D and other hormones, increasing sleep, meditation, detoxification and eliminating gluten and processed food.
In all, Bredesen has identified 150 different variables that can have a significant influence on Alzheimer's, but at the heart of it all is mitochondrial dysfunction, and one of the pronounced health effects of a cyclical ketogenic diet is the optimization of mitochondrial function. Not surprisingly, Bredesen's ReCODE Protocol also includes nutritional ketosis. You can download Bredesen's full-text case paper41 online, which details the full program.
In a survey of 20,000 U.S. adults, 46 percent said they sometimes or always feel alone.1 While on the surface this may seem to be a mental health issue, it's one that's intricately tied to physical health as well. Increasingly, research is showing that loneliness exacts a significant toll on your health, one that's equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day2 and increases your risk of premature death.3
Your brain health may also suffer as a result of feeling lonely, with a recent study — including the largest sample to date — showing loneliness is associated with increased risk of dementia.4 While this association has been revealed previously, the latest study is unique in that it included a diverse sample of more than 12,000 individuals with a long 10-year follow-up time.
The results showed that feeling lonely is a strong predictor of dementia, and one modifiable risk factor that can potentially be improved to reduce dementia risk.
For the study, researchers from Florida State University (FSU) in Tallahassee used data from a sample of people aged 50 and older. Telephone interviews had been conducted measuring loneliness and social isolation and participants had also conducted assessments of cognitive ability every two years during the 10-year study.
Loneliness was associated with a 40 percent increased risk of dementia over the study period, and the link was independent of other risk factors including gender, education, race, ethnicity and even social isolation. Social isolation is an important distinction, as it is an objective measure that refers to the number of contacts a person has socially.
A person can have a large quantity of social contacts yet still feel lonely, or have a low number of social contacts and feel fulfilled, so social isolation is not always the best measure of how a person is feeling internally. This is where loneliness comes in, as it refers to the subjective experience of social isolation.
Only people who felt lonely had an increased dementia risk. They were also more likely to have other dementia risk factors, including depression, high blood pressure, diabetes and a history of smoking and less physical activity. However, the loneliness/dementia link remained even when these factors were accounted for.5
Study author Angelina Sutin, an associate professor at FSU in the college's department of behavioral sciences and social medicine, explained the difference between loneliness and social isolation, and how it's not always readily apparent who's lonely and who's not:6
"It's a feeling that you do not fit in or do not belong with the people around you … You can have somebody who lives alone, who doesn't have very much contact with people, but has enough — and that fills their internal need for socializing. So even though objectively you might think that person is socially isolated, they don't feel lonely.
The flip side is that you can be around a lot of people and be socially engaged and interactive and still feel like you don't belong. From the outside it looks like you have great social engagement, but the subjective feeling is that you're not part of the group."
In 2007, research published in the Archives of General Psychiatry also revealed that people who felt lonely had double the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease compared to those who did not.7 Study author Robert S. Wilson, Ph. D., explained in a news release:8
"Humans are very social creatures. We need healthy interactions with others to maintain our health … The results of our study suggest that people who are persistently lonely may be more vulnerable to the deleterious effects of age-related neuropathology …
If loneliness is causing changes in the brain, it is quite possible that … changes in behavior could lessen the effects of these negative emotions and reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease."
Indeed, yet another study looking into the link between loneliness and dementia revealed that feeling lonely, but not necessarily being alone, is associated with an increased risk of dementia in later life.
The association was so strong that researchers concluded feelings of loneliness may be a prodromal stage of dementia and noted, "A better understanding of the background of feeling lonely may help us to identify vulnerable persons and develop interventions to improve outcome in older persons at risk of dementia."9
Loneliness may affect dementia risk in multiple ways, including by increasing inflammation in the body along with blood pressure, both of which may affect dementia risk.
Feeling lonely may also encourage you to engage in unhealthy behaviors linked to dementia, including excessive drinking or not exercising. Further, if you're lonely, you may not be engaging in social activities or challenging your mind, which can further affect your cognitive function.10
While social isolation hasn't been linked to dementia the way loneliness has in the featured study, strong social networks are still an important factor for your overall health. Further, different types of social networks, such as those involving friends, children or other relatives, may have different effects on your health.
In one study, it was revealed that having a large network of good friends may have significant benefits for your memory later in life, much more so than social networks with children, relatives or confidants.11 The researchers suggested that friends may encourage healthy behaviors, such as physical activity, and that health advice from friends may be better received than that coming from family.
Further, strong friendships may be beneficial for other factors that influence brain health, including depression, self-efficacy, self-esteem, coping and morale and a sense of personal control.
"It is possible that these effects are due to the reinforcement of social roles, or because interactions with friends can become increasingly discretionary with age. The friendship networks that are retained in late life may offer high levels of socioemotional support, and thus confer benefit to individuals," the researchers explained.12 As for why social networks benefit memory, specifically, the researchers noted:13
"Social networks are the basis for social engagement, which is cognitively stimulating and may enhance neural plasticity in aging, thereby maintaining cognitive reserve. Thus better social networks might lead to continued psychological stimulation, delaying cognitive decline, or impairment.
An alternative possible mechanism is that the stronger social networks may serve to buffer against stress, through modifying its effects on the activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis of the central nervous system.
This affects neuronal functioning, and in this way individuals with better social networks are protected from some of these neuroendocrine processes. Another possibility is that social networks facilitate access to health care, indirectly forestalling brain pathology and other disease processes that affect cognition."
Dr. Kristen Fuller, a clinical mental health writer for Center for Discovery, added several other reasons why healthy friendships are so good for you:14
Friends encourage you and are there for you in good times and bad
Friends may push you outside your comfort zone, helping you develop social skills and grow as a person
Friends can give you a healthy reality check by being truthful
Friends help you learn how to communicate and compromise, which helps you develop healthy romantic relationships
Being friends with other couples can provide support during life transitions like engagement, marriage and having children
Loneliness affects your health in myriad ways. Two meta-analyses presented at the 2017 Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association even concluded loneliness and social isolation pose greater threats to public health than obesity, raising your risk for premature death by as much as 50 percent.15
The first analysis, which looked at 148 studies involving more than 300,000 adults, found social isolation increased the risk of premature death by 50 percent. The second, which evaluated 70 studies that included more than 3.4 million individuals, found social isolation, loneliness and living alone correlated with a 29 percent, 26 percent and 32 percent increased risk of mortality respectively.16
This is comparable to the risk of premature death associated with obesity and other risk factors for mortality, including smoking. In fact, loneliness has been linked to a host of mental and physical health problems, including an increased risk of:17
High blood pressure
Coronary heart disease
Lack of sleep has been identified as a public health crisis much like loneliness, and it turns out the two may be related. Research suggests loneliness may be tied to lack of sleep, as the more sleep deprived you are, the less social you become, and others pick up on the cue that you want to be left alone.18
It's a vicious cycle, as people who struggle with loneliness also tend to have trouble sleeping. For example, a 2011 study found that for each 1-point increase on the UCLA loneliness scale, an individual is 8 percent more likely to experience some sort of sleep disruption.19
Researchers have suggested that sleep loss actually causes loneliness by instigating "a propagating, self-reinforcing cycle of social separation and withdrawal."20 There are many causes of loneliness, however, above and beyond lack of sleep. Common reasons include:
With that in mind, if you're feeling lonely, be sure to tend to your sleep hygiene habits for a better night's rest. In addition, tend to the other underlying factors that may be contributing to your emotional state. The following strategies can help you to make meaningful connections with others in your community to help address feelings of loneliness and social isolation:
Join a club that interests you
Volunteer for a cause you believe in
Enroll in a class to learn a new skill or hobby
Create rituals of connection, such as calling a certain friend every Monday
Join a gym or sign up for a fitness class so you can exercise with others
Frequent local shops and markets, where you can build relationships with shop owners and other regular customers
Talk to strangers during your daily commute, at the grocery store and while walking your dog
Consider adopting a pet, such as a dog, which can provide companionship and a source of unconditional love
Move to be closer to your friends and family
Attend religious services or support groups
Addressing loneliness is an important strategy for reducing your dementia risk, but it's not the only one. In addition to improving this facet of your emotional and physical health, you'll also want to be sure you're paying attention to your cardiovascular fitness.
In fact, researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden revealed that women with the highest cardiovascular fitness had an 88 percent lower risk of dementia than those with moderate fitness.21 Further, even maintaining average fitness is worthwhile, as women with the lowest fitness had a 41 percent greater risk of dementia than those of average fitness.
Fitness, in this case, is not the same as exercise, and the study did not measure how often the women exercised. Instead, it focused on cardiovascular fitness, as measured by a stepwise-increased maximal ergometer cycling test. Cardiovascular fitness can be a measure of how well blood is circulating to your heart and brain.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is an important component of reaching high levels of fitness, and it requires only a fraction of the time compared to typical moderate or low-intensity gym workouts. Restoring mitochondrial function is another cornerstone of successful dementia prevention and treatment. In addition to exercise, one of the most powerful ways to optimize mitochondrial function is cyclical ketosis.
The upside of using exercise as a tool to reduce your dementia risk is that it may also improve your sleep and mood, which in turn may make it easier to get motivated to build new connections and relationships, alleviating loneliness and slashing your dementia risk even more.
Lavender is a perennial flowering shrub native to North Africa and the Mediterranean region, with a history dating back to more than 2,500 years ago. It has been used by ancient civilizations, such as the Phoenicians, Arabians and Egyptians, for perfumes and mummification. The Greeks, Romans and Persians added it to their bathwater to wash and help purify their skin.1
Today, lavender is sold in different forms, and is a common fixture among households and professionals. It can be used in different ways, such as for cooking, home decorations and aromatherapy. Lavender has a sweet, floral, herbaceous and slightly woody scent.
Due to the rich, long history of lavender, it's no surprise that many cultures have used it in various ways to help treat different conditions. Below are some of lavender's research-backed health benefits:
Promoting hair health — According to a study published in Archives of Dermatology, lavender oil, along with a mixture of other essential oils, may help treat alopecia areata (hair loss), and that it was able to show improvement in 43 percent of the total test participants.2 In another study that used mice as test subjects, lavender oil exhibited hair growth-promoting effects.3
Eliminating microbes — Research shows that lavender oil possesses antibacterial properties that are effective against 65 different strains, such as E. coli and S. aureus. In addition, it may also help fight fungi.4
Improving blood circulation — Lavender may help boost proper blood circulation throughout your body.5
Relieving respiratory disorders — If diffused via an inhaler or a vaporizer, lavender essential oil can help treat inflammatory respiratory conditions like asthma.6
Providing pain relief — Applying lavender essential oil to your muscles may help relieve soreness, joint pain and rheumatism.7
Boosting skin healing — A 2016 study notes that topical application of lavender oil can help promote acceleration of collagen synthesis and differentiation of fibroblasts, thereby promoting wound healing.8
Aside from the therapeutic and topical benefits of lavender, it has other useful applications for:
Growing lavender can be easily done in the comfort of your own home. Not only does it provide you easy access to its amazing health benefits, but it also makes your garden look better. To grow lavender, there are three aspects you need to focus on:12
• Planting and soil conditions — Plant lavender seeds in an open area that has lots of circulation and full sunlight exposure, spacing them 12 to 18 inches apart. The soil must have a pH between 6.7 and 7.3, and should be well-drained. This is important because lavender flowers should not have excess water in the soil, or the quality of the plants will suffer.
As the plants bloom, clip any wilted flowers to maintain the quality and prune them lightly to promote branching. Expect the flowers to fully mature when summer arrives.
• Maintenance — It's important to remember that in growing lavender, you should have an area with a good water circulation system and good air exposure. When watering, always add moderate amounts to prevent excess water from building up. If you're watering during the hot season, add sand to the soil to increase evaporation speed, because humid surroundings can cause fungi growth, causing the plants to deteriorate.
• Harvesting and storage — Once fully mature, you can harvest the flowers at your own leisure. To dry the flowers, gather a group of stems and hang them upside down in a dark, well-ventilated place to prevent molds from growing. In terms of storage, the flowers can maintain their fragrance for months if you harvest them before they entirely open.
If you want to try incorporating lavender into a meal, a salad is a great way to experience it. This recipe, which comes from Honest Cooking, contains a mixture of lettuce, onions, feta and peaches to provide various essential nutrients for optimal health. It’s easy to prepare, tastes great and best of all, smells amazing thanks to the lavender.13
Out of all the various uses lavender is known for, its essential oil form is probably the most popular. Lavender oil is prized for its anti-inflammatory, antifungal and therapeutic benefits. It's rich in esters, which are aromatic molecules that contain antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and adaptogenic properties.14
Lavender essential oil is manufactured through steam distillation. In this process, lavender flowers are placed over a still and are slowly steamed. Eventually, the steam forces the essential compounds of the flowers to be released in oil form, which is then gathered and packaged.15
There are many ways to apply lavender essential oil. Some of the most commonly used methods include:
Before using lavender essential oil, or any essential oil for that matter, it's always important to do a skin test to check for any allergic reaction. To perform the test, apply one drop of diluted lavender oil to your arm to see if your skin becomes irritated. If nothing happens, then you can proceed with using the oil (make sure it's diluted with a carrier oil when you do so). Should any irritation occur, stop using the oil immediately and contact your doctor if the irritation doesn't subside.
There are multiple areas in your home where bacteria find it easy to grow. Bacteria thrive in a warm, moist environments. One common household item that can harbor nearly 360 different species of bacteria is your kitchen sponge. However, while putting a sponge in the microwave for several minutes may kill some bacteria it doesn’t kill the worst ones.1
This is one reason Philip Tierno,2 professor of microbiology and pathology at New York University School of Medicine, says water temperatures need to be at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit (F) to kill bacteria and germs on your clothing (most automatic dishwashers are set at 120 F). The truth is bacteria are very resilient, even to heat.
Other common household items you may not have recently cleaned that are also prime environments for bacterial buildup are your trash can, computer keyboard, remote controls and cellphones.
Items handled frequently but cleaned infrequently are potential targets for bacterial growth. For instance, cellphones may have more total bacteria on the keys and screen than your toilet seat, kitchen counter and doorknobs combined.3
In a recent study, researchers found your showerhead is another household item likely growing more bacteria than you may imagine. Data analysis found regions in the U.S. where Mycobacteria were most prevalent in shower heads were the same areas where nontuberculous Mycobacteria (NTM) lung infections were most common.4
Researchers from the University of Colorado surveyed 656 household showerheads from across the U.S. and Europe,5 finding they often harbor abundant Mycobacterial communities which differ depending upon the geographic location, water chemistry and water source.6
They also found U.S. water systems treated with chlorine disinfectants had a particularly high abundance of certain types of Mycobacteria not found in Europe where chlorine is not used.7 The results highlight public health concerns related to biofilm buildup in water systems and shower heads.8
The researchers found areas of the U.S. where showerheads had a particularly high number of potentially pathogenic communities of Mycobacteria overlapped with regions where NTM lung disease were most prevalent. These areas include New York City, Hawaii, southern California and Florida.9 They believe this further demonstrates distribution of showerhead biofilms are predictable.10
The results of the featured study support previous research showing biofilm growing on showerheads contained opportunistic pathogens, including NTM, leading the researchers to conclude showerheads present a significant potential exposure to aerosolized bacteria.11
Data also revealed plastic showerheads had a wider range of bacterial growth than metal heads.12 The study's lead author, research technician Matthew Gebert from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado, explained the results of the study and the importance for homeowners to routinely clean their showerheads:13
“Bacteria grow and persist in biofilms coating the inside of showerheads and shower hoses despite the seemingly inhospitable conditions found in these habitats.
These bacteria must tolerate rapid temperature fluctuations, long intervals of stagnation or desiccation followed by high-shear turbulent flow events, and the low nutrient and organic carbon concentrations typical of most drinking water.
In many cases, showerhead-associated bacteria must also be able to tolerate residue from the chemical disinfectants — including chlorinated compounds — which are often added to municipal drinking water to limit bacterial contamination.
Most of the bacteria that can become aerosolized and inhaled when the shower is in use are likely harmless. However, this is not always the case. Bacteria within the genus Mycobacterium are commonly detected in showerhead biofilms and throughout the water distribution system.”
NTM are found in the soil and water and affect humans and animals. When the bacterium gets into your lungs it can trigger a serious infection that may slowly scar and damage your lung tissue.14 In mild cases, you may not require treatment. However, more serious infections may require as much as two years of treatment to clear completely.
NTM lung disease is not tuberculosis, so you cannot pass it from one person to another. Instead, you get it from eating food or breathing air or mist containing the bacteria. The nontuberculous Mycobacteria get into your lung tissue, potentially triggering an infection and inflammation.
Most who swallow NTM don't get sick. You're more likely to get the disease after inhalation if you already have chronic obstructive lung disease, a weakened immune system, cystic fibrosis, a past infection with tuberculosis or any autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis.15
You may be at a higher risk for NTM lung disease if you're a smoker, female, slender and white. The NTM germ lives in warm wet places, such as hot tubs, heated indoor pools and steamy bathrooms. Unfortunately, recurring infections or a relapse is not uncommon.16
Surgical resection may be necessary in selected cases with localized disease or when the infection is complicated by the formation of an abscess. According to the American Lung Association, there are over 80,000 people with NTM pulmonary disease in the U.S.17 Many of these are in older adults.
In some cases, the infections can become chronic, requiring ongoing treatment and have a significant impact on quality of life. The most common symptoms are cough that won't resolve, shortness of breath when active and coughing up blood (hemoptysis).18 Other symptoms include fatigue, low grade fever, night sweats and weight loss.
While the research was completed on showerheads, it is likely prudent to also clean the other faucets in your home. In many cases removing the showerhead makes the process easier. However, in some cases this may not be possible, and it certainly is not easy to remove your bathroom and kitchen faucets for routine cleaning.
Showerheads may spray unevenly as they develop mineral deposits. This slows the flow of water and may increase the risk of bacterial buildup. You can remove these deposits on showerheads and in your faucets by soaking them with vinegar. In cases where the mineral deposits are particularly resistant, add baking soda to the soak.
If you're unable to remove the showerhead you can simply soak it by using a rubber band and plastic bag. Remember to use this only with a fixture made with chrome, stainless steel or another protected metal surface so the vinegar doesn't eat away at the surface.19
Slip the rubber band over the top of the shower head or faucet, looping it around the shower arm or faucet head once or twice so the bag stays in place. Fill a bag with white vinegar and attach it to the fixture slipping it underneath the rubber band. Allow it to soak for up to an hour before removing it, polishing the fixture and running clear water through it.
If the mineral deposits are still present, you may want to use a toothbrush to loosen the debris or a toothpick or safety pin to poke out additional deposits. Once the mineral deposits have been removed, disinfect your showerhead by soaking it in a diluted solution of colloidal silver and water. Use the same process with a bag and rubber bands if the fixture is unable to be removed.20
Silver has been used medicinally since ancient times and it's often referred to as the world's oldest antibiotic. In the Middle Ages wealthy people would eat with silver utensils to reduce the risk of illness, which is where eating utensils derive their name — silverware — despite being made from other metals today.21
Over the past years, several studies have shown silver is one of the most effective weapons in the battle against antibiotic-resistant superbugs.22,23 Silver interferes with bacteria's metabolism, increasing production of reactive oxygen species, products of normal metabolic processes in your body, which, in excess, can damage cell membranes and DNA.24
Other substances can also be aerosolized from your showerhead. As I describe in this short video, chlorine, added to most municipal water supplies to reduce bacterial growth, is aerosolized during your shower. When chlorine interacts with organic material in the water supply or your body, it forms disinfection byproducts (DBPs).
These DBPs are far more dangerous to your health than chlorine and are, in fact, responsible for the vast majority of toxic effects from chlorinated water. Some of the most common DBPs forming from the reaction of chlorine and organic matter are trihalomethanes, classified as a Group 2B carcinogen.25
Although researchers once believed the majority of exposure to DBPs came from swallowing water, data now reveals this is not the only risk and may not be the most severe. On average you drink between 1 and 2 gallons of water per day, but expose yourself to 25 gallons when you shower.
Up to two-thirds of harmful chlorine exposure may be due to skin absorption and inhalation. Steam inhalation during a shower can contain up to 20 times the concentration of chlorine as tap water. The bottom line is chlorine and DBPs are another unseen danger in almost every shower.
You may minimize your exposure to aerosolized DBPs and bacteria by limiting the amount of time you spend in the shower or bath to 10 minutes or less and lowering the temperature of your water. Hot water opens the pores of your skin and allows a higher absorption rate of chlorine and other chemicals.
Additionally, steam contains high concentrations of vaporized gases and bacteria you can inhale. Using lower water pressure will decrease the amount of water and contaminants coming from the fixture. This is why I recommend if you can install only one filter, make it a shower filter.
Hematophagous arthropods are insects or spiders that feed on blood, and transmit human and animal pathogens worldwide. Called vector-borne diseases, the illnesses caused by their bites account for nearly 17 percent of all infectious diseases annually. Nearly 700,000 humans die each year as a result of having acquired an infectious disease from the bite of an insect.1
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an arm of the U.S. Department of Defense, plans to use insects to deliver genetically engineered viruses to plants with an aim to alter the plants genetic traits in the field.2 While the initial intent may have been to genetically control agriculture, it is not difficult to see how it may be easily weaponized.3
Although scientists recognize a reducing number and variety of insects worldwide, and the ecological chaos it would create in the environment, mosquitoes do not appear to be at immediate risk. Repellents have been a primary tool for reducing the bites of insects on humans and animals, with N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET) currently considered the gold standard in insect repellent.
However, with documented health risks, particularly for infants and pregnant women, it is a poor choice. In a recent study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), researchers found compounds derived from coconut oil are better than DEET at repelling these insects and protecting your health.4
Vector-borne illnesses are preventable using repellents to prevent transmission. For more than 60 years, DEET has been available commercially for this purpose. However, with rising health concerns over insecticides, there is an increased interest in developing effective, long-lasting and plant-based repellents.
A team of researchers led by entomologist Jerry Zhu with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service Agroecosystem Management Research Unit, analyzed data using coconut oil compounds against biting insects and bedbugs. Their data revealed the compounds had a strong repellency against mosquitoes and ticks.5
The repellent is not pure coconut oil, but a free fatty acid mixture of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid derived from the coconut oil. Encapsulating these coconut fatty acids into a starch-based formula, researchers used field trial testing to demonstrate it could also protect cattle against biting flies for up to four days.
By comparison, DEET was only 50 percent effective against biting flies, while the coconut oil compound was more than 95 percent effective. The researchers compared the coconut oil compound against DEET on bedbugs and ticks and found DEET lost effectiveness after three days while the coconut oil compound was effective in repelling bedbugs and ticks for nearly two weeks.6
Additionally, researchers tested the coconut oil fatty acids against mosquitoes on human participants, including the species responsible for transmitting the Zika virus, and found more than 90 percent repellency. According to the USDA, these coconut oil-derived compounds offer a longer-lasting protection against blood feeding insects then other known natural repellents.
In other testing, Consumer Reports recruited volunteers to test out spray-on repellents made of DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus, picaridin, a chemical called IR3535, and products made with natural plant oils. After the repellents were applied and allowed to sit for 30 minutes, the volunteers reached into a cage containing (disease-free) mosquitoes or ticks.7
Two products emerged on top and were able to keep mosquitoes and ticks away for at least seven hours: products that contained 20 percent picaridin or 30 percent oil of lemon eucalyptus. Picaridin resembles the natural compound piperine, an essential oil in black pepper.
However, picaridin is not a natural compound; it's produced synthetically in the lab. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), picaridin does not carry the same neurotoxicity concerns at DEET, although it has not been tested much over the long term. In the EWG’s assessment8 "Picaridin is a good DEET alternative with many of the same advantages and without the same disadvantages."
Not only do mosquitoes carry disease, but their bite creates an inflammatory response that can remain itchy for days. While the number of mosquitoes can be annoying, it is not wise to spray a bunch of chemicals on your skin to solve the problem. In 1946, the U.S. Army patented DEET, which is still widely recognized as an effective mosquito repellent.9
Although some support the use of DEET in small quantities, you will likely use more than small quantities if you spend time outdoors through the summer months. Prolonged exposure may impair cell function in parts of your brain, as demonstrated by death and behavioral changes in rats with frequent or prolonged use.10
When rats were treated with the average human dose equivalent of DEET, they performed far worse than control rats on physical tests requiring muscle strength, control and coordination.11 These results are consistent with reports of symptoms after the military used DEET in the Persian Gulf War. Heavy exposure can trigger:12
Eye and skin irritation
Muscle and joint pain
Shortness of breath
Unfortunately, these symptoms can appear months and even years after prolonged use of the chemical. While Duke University Medical Center pharmacologist Mohamed Abou-Donai, Ph.D., believes short-term exposure may not be harmful, he warns against ever using a product with more than 30 percent concentration.13
Unfortunately, exposure to DEET over the summer months may be frequent and long-term, and researchers have found the combined exposure with DEET and other chemicals is actually more dangerous than using DEET alone.14 Skin care products, deodorants, soaps and sunscreens, when mixed with DEET, increase toxic potential of the chemical.
Children are also more susceptible than adults to changes in their brain triggered by chemicals in the environment, as their skin more readily absorbs them and their neurological system is still developing.
In a study of more than 140 National Park Services employees, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found neurobehavioral analysis demonstrated correlations between DEET exposure and depression, anxiety, insomnia, muscle cramps and urinary hesitation. Skin rashes and blisters were also reported.15
The annual number of people who get sick from vector-borne diseases has more than tripled since 2004.16,17 The World Health Organization (WHO)18 concluded climate change is likely a contributor, as warmer global temperatures have expanded the habitats of mosquitoes, ticks and other disease-spreading bugs.
Mosquitoes and ticks are responsible for nearly 77 percent of all vector-borne diseases. Dr. Lyle Petersen, director of the Division of Vector-Borne Diseases in the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases at the CDC said,19 “We desperately need to find new ways to deal with ticks and mosquitoes. We need better ways of controlling them and better diagnostic tools.”
According to the WHO,20 deaths attributed to vector-borne diseases include conditions such as malaria, schistosomiasis, leishmaniasis, Chagas disease and Japanese encephalitis. The highest burden is experienced in tropical and subtropical areas.
Distribution of these diseases is determined by complex demographic, environmental and social factors. Greater global travel and trade, as well as environmental challenges and unplanned urbanization have impacted pathogenic transmission and increased transmission seasons, triggering outbreaks in countries where they were previously unknown.21
Your best options are to reduce mosquito populations in your area through natural means and to use safe repellents. Consumer Reports tested three nonchemical options: a citronella candle, a portable diffuser with essential oils and an oscillating fan set at the highest speed.
While neither the candle nor the diffuser produce positive results, the fan cut mosquito landings by 45 to 65 percent for those sitting near the fan. You may also avoid insect bites by staying inside between dusk and dawn when they are most active.
Mosquito populations are higher in treed areas and near standing water. The American Mosquito Control Association (AMAC) recommends the “3Ds” of protection to prevent mosquito breeding on your property:22
Engage the mosquitoes’ enemy by providing a habitat for bats in your yard. These are voracious insect eaters who will help keep your mosquito population at bay. For more on buying a bat house or constructing one yourself, visit Bat Conservation International.23 Planting marigolds around your yard also helps reduce your mosquito population as mosquitoes dislike the fragrance.
While the mosquito repellent used in the featured study used coconut oil-derived compounds, there are additional health benefits to using the natural oil. Nearly 90 percent of the fat in coconut oil is healthy saturated fat, unlike the hydrogenated oils and trans fats that trigger inflammation and damage to your arterial system.
Half the fat in coconut oil is lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid with antibacterial, antiviral and antiprotozoal properties. Your body converts this to monolaurin, which can actually destroy lipid-coated viruses. You may also enjoy a number of other benefits when you incorporate coconut oil in your nutritional intake, including:
Support healthy thyroid function — Unlike soy oil and other vegetable oils,24 coconut oil does not interfere with thyroid function. It has anti-inflammatory properties helping to reduce inflammation that may lead to hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.25
Promote heart health — Animal and human studies have found heart disease risk factors such as total, LDL and HDL cholesterol levels contributing to poor cholesterol ratios are improved by taking coconut oil. In particular, the saturated fats in coconut oil may increase "good" HDL cholesterol, while also helping convert "bad" LDL cholesterol into a less harmful form.26
Promote healthy brain function — Research data determined ketones may work as an alternative energy source for malfunctioning brain cells, which has been found to reduce symptoms in patients with Alzheimer's disease.27
Boost immune function — Lauric acid, antimicrobial lipids, capric acid and caprylic acid coconut oil contains are known for their antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties.28 Regularly using it may help prevent colds/flu, and alleviate illnesses like hepatitis C, herpes and the Epstein-Barr virus.29
Boost energy — Medium-chain fatty acids (MCTs) in coconut oil are immediately digested and converted into energy by your liver.
Aid weight loss — Coconut oil provides an excellent fuel for your body and stimulates your metabolism to help you shed excess body fat, especially when combined with a cyclical ketogenic nutrition plan.
Aid digestion — Coconut oil is easy on your digestive system and will not produce an insulin spike in your bloodstream. The MCTs can also be absorbed easily in your digestive tract, compared to longer chain fatty acids found in polyunsaturated vegetable oils.
Control Crohn's disease — Research demonstrates healthy plant-derived fats, such as coconut oil, can bring about positive changes in your gut bacteria, decreasing the symptoms of Crohn's disease, an often debilitating condition.
Maintain healthy, youthful looking skin — Application of coconut oil topically benefits your skin, reducing the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines as the oil keeps your connective tissues strong and supple. Limited evidence also suggests it may boost collagen production,30 although the mechanism of action is unknown.
Control Candida — A study published in mSphere found mice given coconut oil had a tenfold drop in the colonization of Candida albicans yeast in their gut, compared to mice given soybean oil or beef tallow.31
Promote oral health — One study found massaging coconut oil on your gums for 10 minutes a day for three weeks significantly reduces plaque and decay-causing Streptococcus mutans.32 In another study, oil pulling, a traditional practice of swishing oil in the mouth, decreased plaque within the first seven days of practice.33
Cellphones were classified as a Group 2B “possible carcinogen”1 in 2011 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organization and the global gold standard for the classification of toxins.
This classification was based on evidence showing that nonionizing electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation from cellphones can trigger abnormal cell growth and tumors.2,3 In my view, this is a mistake and, just like smoking, I am confident it will be recategorized in the future to a 1A carcinogen.
Earlier this year, preliminary findings of two government-funded animal studies4 were published that further support the notion that cellphone radiation has carcinogenic potential.
The finalized report5 of these two studies — conducted by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), an interagency research program under the auspices of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences — was released November 1, 2018. While the preliminary report released in February 2018 significantly downplayed the findings, subsequent peer review upgraded the findings of risk.
The NTP rates cancer risk based on four categories of evidence: “clear evidence” (highest); “some evidence;” “equivocal evidence;” and “no evidence” (lowest). According to the NTP’s final report, the two studies, done on mice and rats of both sexes, found:6
• Clear evidence for heart tumors (malignant schwannomas) in male rats. These types of tumors started developing around week 70, and are very similar to acoustic neuromas found in humans, a benign type of tumor that previous studies have linked to cellphone use
• Some evidence of brain tumors (malignant gliomas) in male rats. Glial cell hyperplasias — indicative of precancerous lesions — began developing around week 58.
(Incidentally, incidence of glioblastoma multiforme (the deadliest type of brain tumor) more than doubled in the U.K. between 1995 and 2015.7,8 According to the authors of the analysis, the dramatic increase is likely due to “widespread environmental or lifestyle factors,” which would include cellphone usage)
• Some evidence of adrenal gland tumors in male rats, both benign and malignant tumors and/or complex combined pheochromocytoma
• Equivocal or unclear evidence of tumors in female rats and mice of both genders
The studies also found evidence of:
• Low body weight in female rats and newborns exposed to high levels of radiation during pregnancy and lactation
• DNA damage and damage to heart tissue in exposed male and female rats, but not mice
• Prostate, liver and pancreatic tumors in both rats and mice
According to The New York Times:9
“‘We believe that the link between radio-frequency radiation and tumors in male rats is real,’ John Bucher, a senior scientist at the National Toxicology Program, said in a statement.
But he cautioned that the exposure levels and durations were far greater than what people typically encounter, and thus cannot ‘be compared directly to the exposure that humans experience’ …
The lowest level of radiation in the federal study was equal to the maximum exposure that federal regulations allow for cellphone users … The highest level was four times higher than the permitted maximum.”
While the NTP insists the exposure — nine hours a day for two years, which is the lifetime of a rodent — is far more extensive than that of heavy cellphone users, I would strongly disagree, seeing how many, especially the younger generation, have their cellphones turned on and near their body 24/7.
Many are literally sleeping with their phone beneath their pillow. What’s more, cellphones are not the sole source of radiofrequency (RF) EMFs. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled tablets, computers, smart TVs, wireless baby monitors, cordless phones, smart appliances, smart meters and nearby cellular phone basestations are sources of similarly harmful radiation, and most of us are exposed 24/7. So, my guess is that the duration of RF-EMF exposure is actually far greater than the one tested in the study.
According to Microwave News, the NTP may have purposely minimized press coverage of its final report, which upgraded the risks. “Reporters were given very little notice to join the NTP teleconference on the release of the report. Nor was there much time to prepare a story for publication,” Microwave News reports,10 adding they were not informed of the teleconference via email until 10:45 a.m. October 31.
The conference was held at 2 p.m. that same day. While NTP refused to state how many reporters were on the call, the transcript reveals only eight reporters asked questions, giving the impression that many likely missed the advisory. Editors also had precious little time to assign a reporter to cover the story. Microwave News adds:
“The news that the NTP now believes the cancer link is “real” was under embargo until the next day, November 1. That gave the news media less than 24 hours to prepare their stories, an unusually short time for a technically complex subject. The main reason for embargoes is to give reporters time to do their homework and prepare a clear and accurate write-up …
Even the fact that the report was coming out in less than a day was embargoed by the NTP. It apparently wanted no advance notice of any kind … There was one exception among major media outlets: The New York Times … As it happened, [William] Broad, a long-time member of the science desk, was already working on the story. He was making background calls a week earlier …
There’s a long history of New York Times science reporters — Broad included — downplaying, if not outright dismissing, news of electromagnetic health effects. Anyone wanting to conceal the fact that NTP had found ‘clear evidence’ that cellphone radiation could lead to cancer would likely leak the story to the Times. And the Times delivered.
Here’s the headline from its web site: ‘Study of Cellphone Risks Finds ‘Some Evidence’ of Link to Cancer, at Least in Male Rats’ … [T]here is the obvious error in the headline: NTP found more than ‘some evidence’ — it saw ‘clear evidence’ … The subhead … ‘Many Caveats Apply, and the Results Involve Radio Frequencies Long Out of Routine Use,’ offers additional — unjustifiable — reasons to discount the NTP finding.”
The New York Times also claims the results are out of date due to the fact they used 2G, which is no longer in widespread use, and that 3G, 4G and 5G are “far less successful at penetrating the bodies of humans” due to the higher frequencies. However, there’s no evidence to suggest the newer technologies are safer. Quite the contrary. As noted by Microwave News:
“Two different German labs have exposed mice to 3G. Cancer promotion was found in each case. The lead author of the second study, Alex Lerchl, concluded that 3G signals ‘obviously enhance the growth of tumors’ … The fact is that we don’t know whether the higher G’s are any safer than 2G. Believing so is simply wishful thinking.”
The NTP also downplayed the risks by stressing that “high exposure” was associated with cancer in male rats, when in fact the results in some instances revealed a greater effect at a lower dose.
Such nonlinear dose response was also found in Lerchl’s study, in which a dose 50 times lower than the highest dose resulted in a greater response. “At this point, one can only guess where the threshold for RF effects may be. It could be lower than now commonly believed, possibly much lower,” Microwave News notes.
As explained by Louis Slesin, Ph.D., editor and publisher of Microwave News, the increased incidence of schwannomas in rodents exposed to radiofrequencies is of great concern for public health:11
“Schwann cells play a key role in the functioning of the peripheral nervous system. They make the myelin sheath, which insulates nerve fibers and helps speed the conduction of electrical impulses. There are Schwann cells just about everywhere there are peripheral nerve fibers. They are present in most organs of the body — whether mice, rats or humans.
Schwann cell tumors are called schwannomas. The NTP found schwannomas in many other organs, in addition to the heart, of rats chronically exposed to cellphone radiation. These included a variety of glands (pituitary, salivary and thymus), the trigeminal nerve and the eye … The NTP also saw schwannomas in the uterus, ovary and vagina of female rats.
The brain has no Schwann cells — the brain is part of the central nervous system. There, glial cells play a similar function. In fact, Schwann cells are a type of glial cell … Tumors of the glial cells are called gliomas. The NTP also saw an increase in glioma among the male rats exposed to GSM and CDMA radiation …
While schwannomas and gliomas are commonly noncancerous tumors, they can develop into malignant schwannomas or glioblastomas … The implication is that instead of searching for consistency in radio frequencies’ ability to cause cancer in specific organs, the emphasis should now be on specific cell types — beginning with Schwann cells in the periphery and glial cells in the brain.”
In my view, the primary hazard of cellphone radiation is not brain cancer per se but rather systemic cellular and mitochondrial damage,12,13,14,15 which can contribute to any number of health problems and chronic diseases. The process begins when low-frequency microwave radiation activates voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCCs)16 — channels in the outer membrane of your cells.
Once activated, the VGCCs open up, allowing an abnormal influx of calcium ions into the cell. This increased intracellular calcium and the accompanying increase in calcium signaling appears to be responsible for a majority of the damage that occurs. This is reviewed in more detail in my interview with professor Martin Pall below.
For example, excess calcium activates nitric oxide, and while nitric oxide has many health benefits, massively excessive nitric oxide reacts with superoxide to produce peroxynitrites — extremely potent oxidant stressors.17 Peroxynitrites in turn:
This pathway of oxidative destruction — triggered by low-frequency radiation emitted from mobile devices — may partially explain the unprecedented growth rate of chronic disease since 1990,21 and is a far greater concern than brain tumors.
While an estimated 80,000 U.S. men, women and children are diagnosed with a brain tumor each year,22 another 787,000 people die from heart disease.23 So, while the relative rarity of brain cancer may lead you to believe that cellphone use is safe, that’s only because you’re looking at a less prevalent outcome.
Cellphone radiation has also been shown to have a significant impact on neurological and mental health,24 contributing to and/or worsening anxiety, depression and dementia, for example, and all of these conditions are rampant and growing more prevalent. (This also makes sense as brain dysfunction will occur much faster than a tumor, which can take decades.)
Research also suggests excessive EMF exposure is contributing to reproductive problems. For example, researchers have found prenatal exposure to power-frequency fields can nearly triple a pregnant woman’s risk of miscarriage.25
According to lead author and senior research scientist at Kaiser Permanente’s research division, Dr. De-Kun Li,26 “This study provides fresh evidence, directly from a human population, that magnetic field exposure in daily life could have adverse health impacts,” adding his findings “should bring attention to this potentially important environmental hazard to pregnant women.”
According to Li, there are at least six other studies, in addition to two of his own, showing this link.27,28,29,30,31 EMF exposure may also play a significant role in testicular cancer and male infertility.
Studies have linked low-level electromagnetic radiation exposure from cellphones to an 8 percent reduction in sperm motility and a 9 percent reduction in sperm viability.32,33 Wi-Fi equipped laptop computers have also been linked to decreased sperm motility and an increase in sperm DNA fragmentation after just four hours of use.34
NTP’s final report has now been given to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the two agencies involved in the regulation of cellphones and assessment of health risks. Unfortunately, the FDA appears unwilling to change its stance on cellphone safety.
This is no surprise as the telecommunication industry has far more political lobbying influence than Big Pharma and Big Food combined. To expect anything other than full support for the telecommunication industry would be irrational.
In a November 1 press statement, Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, reaffirmed the agency’s position, saying:35
“The Food and Drug Administration is charged with ensuring cellphones — and any radiation-emitting electronic product — are safe for the public to use. Our scientific expertise and input, along with other health agencies, are used by the [FCC] to set the standards for exposure limits of radiation from cellphones, called radiofrequency energy …
We reviewed the recently finalized research conducted by our colleagues at the [NTP] … [W]e disagree, however, with the conclusions of their final report regarding ‘clear evidence’ of carcinogenic activity in rodents exposed to radiofrequency energy.
In the NTP study, researchers looked at the effects of exposing rodents to extremely high levels of radiofrequency throughout the entire body. This is commonly done in these types of hazard identification studies and means that the study tested levels of radiofrequency energy exposures considerably above the current whole body safety limits for cell phones … [T]hese findings should not be applied to human cell phone usage.
NTP hosted a three-day peer review of this study in March, as part of their normal process for issuing scientific reports … which included an assessment of the study methods and data by a panel of 15 peer reviewers to determine the basis of evidence for the final report.
Based on their assessment, the panel voted to upgrade the conclusions from some evidence to clear evidence for malignant heart schwannomas in male rats, and from equivocal (ambiguous) to some evidence for malignant gliomas of the brain and benign tumors of the adrenal gland in male rats. It’s important to note that the vote does not mean new data or findings were reported in the final assessment …
Based on our ongoing evaluation of this issue, the totality of the available scientific evidence continues to not support adverse health effects in humans caused by exposures at or under the current radiofrequency energy exposure limits. We believe the existing safety limits for cellphones remain acceptable for protecting the public health.”
While the FDA insists it “must thoroughly evaluate and take into consideration the totality of the data, and do so within the context of the complete body of evidence rather than drawing conclusions from the results of a single study,” it fails to address the elephant in the room, which is the corroborating evidence published by the Ramazzini Institute just one month after the NTP released its preliminary report in February 2018.
The Ramazzini study36 reproduces and clearly supports the NTP’s findings, showing a clear link between cellphone radiation and Schwann cell tumors (schwannomas)37,38,39 — but at a much lower power level than that used by NTP.
While NTP used radiofrequency (RF) levels comparable to what’s emitted by 2G and 3G cellphones (near-field exposure), Ramazzini simulated exposure to cellphone towers (far-field exposure). Ramazzini’s rats were exposed to 1.8 GHz GSM radiation at electric field strengths of 5, 25 and 50 volts per meter40 for 19 hours a day, starting at birth until the rats died either from age or illness.
To facilitate comparison, the researchers converted their measurements to watts per kilogram of body weight (W/kg), which is what the NTP used. Overall, the radiation dose administered in the Ramazzini study was up to 1,000 times lower than the NTP’s — and below the U.S. limits set by the FCC — yet the results are strikingly similar.
As in the NTP studies, exposed male rats developed statistically higher rates of heart schwannomas than unexposed rats. They also found some evidence, although weaker, that RF exposure increased rates of glial tumors in the brains of female rats.
The fact that the Ramazzini study used a radiation dose well below FCC limits yet still reproduced the NTP’s findings of cancer really weakens the FDA’s claims of safety.
The good news is that after more than a decade of mounting warnings, many are finally starting to take cellphone exposure seriously — at least as it pertains to their kids. Adults still struggle to curb their own cellphone and computer use, but at least minimizing exposure to children is a step in the right direction, and in my view a really crucial one.
The New York Times recently reported on the trend among Silicon Valley parents to forbid the use of tablets, computers, cellphones and TVs by their young children, and nannies are increasingly having to sign contracts to that end. New York Times contributor Nellie Bowles writes:41
“Even a little screen time can be so deeply addictive, some parents believe, that it’s best if a child neither touches nor sees any of these glittering rectangles. These particular parents, after all, deeply understand their allure … Enter the Silicon Valley nanny, who each day returns to the time before screens.
‘Usually a day consists of me being allowed to take them to the park, introduce them to card games,’ said Jordin Altmann, 24, a nanny in San Jose, of her charges. ‘Board games are huge. Almost every parent I work for is very strong about the child not having any technical experience at all … In the last two years, it’s become a very big deal’ …
The fear of screens has reached the level of panic in Silicon Valley. Vigilantes now post photos to parenting message boards of possible nannies using cellphones near children. Which is to say, the very people building these glowing hyper-stimulating portals have become increasingly terrified of them …
‘The people who are closest to tech are the most strict about it at home,’ said Lynn Perkins, the CEO of UrbanSitter, which she says has 500,000 sitters in the network throughout the United States. ‘We see that trend with our nannies very clearly.’”
There’s no doubt in my mind that RF-EMF exposure is a significant health hazard that will damage your DNA and contribute to premature death. It needs to be addressed if you’re concerned about your health, and that of your family. To learn more about the special risks RF-EMF pose to your little ones, see “Children’s Health Expert Panel on Cellphones and Wi-Fi.”
To protect yourself and your family from cellphone radiation and other sources of harmful EMFs, consider taking the following precautions:
Avoid carrying your cellphone on your body unless in airplane mode and never sleep with it in your bedroom unless it is in airplane mode. Even in airplane mode it can emit signals, which is why I put my phone in a Faraday bag.42
When using your cellphone, use the speaker phone and hold the phone at least 3 feet away from you. Seek to radically decrease your time on the cellphone. I typically use my cellphone less than 30 minutes a month, and mostly when traveling. Instead, use VoIP software phones that you can use while connected to the internet via a wired connection.
Connect your desktop computer to the internet via a wired Ethernet connection and be sure to put your desktop in airplane mode. Also avoid wireless keyboards, trackballs, mice, game systems, printers and portable house phones. Opt for the wired versions.
If you must use Wi-Fi, shut it off when not in use, especially at night when you are sleeping. Ideally, work toward hardwiring your house so you can eliminate Wi-Fi altogether. If you have a notebook without any Ethernet ports, a USB Ethernet adapter will allow you to connect to the internet with a wired connection.
Shut off the electricity to your bedroom at night. This typically works to reduce electrical fields from the wires in your wall unless there is an adjoining room next to your bedroom. If that is the case you will need to use a meter to determine if you also need to turn off power in the adjacent room.
Use a battery-powered alarm clock, ideally one without any light. I use a talking clock for the visually impaired.43
If you still use a microwave oven, consider replacing it with a steam convection oven, which will heat your food as quickly and far more safely.
Avoid using “smart” appliances and thermostats that depend on wireless signaling. This would include all new “smart” TVs. They are called smart because they emit a Wi-Fi signal and, unlike your computer, you cannot shut the Wi-Fi signal off. Consider using a large computer monitor as your TV instead, as they don’t emit Wi-Fi.
Refuse smart meters as long as you can, or add a shield to an existing smart meter, some of which have been shown to reduce radiation by 98 to 99 percent.44
Consider moving your baby’s bed into your room instead of using a wireless baby monitor. Alternatively, use a hard-wired monitor.
Replace CFL and LED bulbs with incandescent bulbs. Ideally remove all fluorescent lights from your house. Not only do they emit unhealthy light, but more importantly, they will actually transfer current to your body just being close to the bulbs. And, definitely do NOT purchase light bulbs you can control from your cellphone, as they emit RFR just like a Wi-Fi router.
Flu season is upon us again — the time of year when the steady message is "Have you gotten your flu shot yet?" Considering the many studies showing flu vaccines offer minimal protection against illness even when well-matched to circulating viral strains, the fact that vaccination continues to be touted as your first line of defense against influenza suggests this annual campaign is more about generating conformity for profit rather than actually improving and protecting public health.
Statistics reveal that in most years, flu shots are at best 50 to 60 percent effective at preventing lab confirmed type A or B influenza requiring medical care.1 In the decade between 2005 and 2015, the influenza vaccine was less than 50 percent effective more than half of the time.2
The 2017/2018 flu vaccine was a perfect example of this trend. The overall adjusted vaccine effectiveness against influenza A and B virus infection was just 36 percent.3
According to a 2014 meta-analysis,4 71 people have to be vaccinated in order for a single case of influenza to be avoided — a ratio that speaks to the ineffectiveness of this annual routine. Adding insult to injury, evidence5 (which was confirmed three years later6) suggests flu vaccination may double your risk of contracting pandemic influenza or a more serious bout of influenza.
Research7 published in 2011 also warned the seasonal flu vaccine appears to weaken children's immune systems and increases their chances of getting sick from influenza viruses not included in the vaccine.
When blood samples from healthy, unvaccinated children and children who had received an annual flu shot were compared, the unvaccinated group had naturally built up more antibodies across a wider variety of influenza strains compared to the vaccinated group.8
Evidence also shows you can get vaccinated, show few or no symptoms and still shed and transmit influenza to other people.9,10 Flu vaccines are also associated with debilitating and potentially lifelong side effects such as Guillain-Barré syndrome and chronic shoulder injury related to vaccine administration.
Flu vaccines are by their nature a tricky business because influenza viruses are constantly evolving and public health officials have to guess at least six months before the flu season starts which type A and B influenza virus strains might end up being predominant so drug companies can manufacture the vaccines.
When the strains chosen do not match the strains actually causing most of the disease in any given flu season, the vaccine’s failure rate significantly increases. But it’s also important to realize that the majority of respiratory influenza-like illness that people experience during any given flu season is not type A or B influenza.11
When you get a sore throat, runny nose, headache, fatigue, low grade fever, body aches and cough, most of the time it is another type of viral or bacterial respiratory infection unrelated to influenza viruses.12
In fact, data13,14,15,16 shows other types of viruses are responsible for about 80 percent of all respiratory infections during any given flu season. The flu vaccine does not protect against or prevent any of these other types of respiratory infections causing influenza-like-illness (ILI) symptoms.
The chance of contracting actual type A or B influenza, caused by one of the three or four influenza virus strains included in the vaccine, is much lower compared to getting sick with another type of viral or bacterial infection during the flu season.
All of that said, there are several different types of influenza vaccines to choose from in any given year. This year, the live attenuated nasal spray vaccine (FluMist), which the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices did not recommend during the 2016/2017 and 2017/2018 seasons due to its extreme ineffectiveness, is back and once again being recommended by the CDC.17
For the 2018/2019 season, FluMist is approved for nonpregnant individuals between the ages of 2 and 49. Exceptions18 include children taking aspirin- or salicylate-containing medications, those with suppressed immune function, children aged 2 to 4 who have asthma, those who have taken an antiviral drug in the previous 48 hours, and a few others.
You also have the injectable inactivated influenza vaccines, including a high-dose version for seniors over the age of 65, which contains four times the amount of antigen as the regular dose of the standard vaccine. In Canada, infectious disease experts have spoken out against the vaccine, saying it’s not effective enough to justify its high cost, which is about five times that of the regular flu vaccine.19
According to British Columbia's provincial health officer Bonnie Henry, research suggests 200 seniors would have to be vaccinated with Fluzone High-Dose to prevent a single case of influenza, and 4,000 would have to be vaccinated to prevent one flu-related hospitalization.20
Due to its poor performance, British Columbia, Quebec, Alberta, New Brunswick and Newfoundland will not cover the cost of Fluzone High-Dose for seniors who would otherwise get free regular flu shots. The Globe and Mail reports:21
"The divergent policies are part of a continuing debate over the targeted flu shot that experts say has major implications for future influenza vaccination programs — and the amount of money it costs to deliver them …
Danuta Skowronski, epidemiology lead of influenza and emerging respiratory pathogens at the BC Centre for Disease Control, said the benefits don't justify the price.
She also said the new flu shot has only been studied for a few seasons and that there are unanswered questions health policy officials should consider before they get locked into an expensive multiyear agreement.
For instance, emerging research suggests people who get repeat flu shots every year may actually experience reduced immunity in subsequent years. That could have implications for seniors who receive a high dose of the flu shot, she said."
A relative newcomer in the vaccine lineup is the quadrivalent influenza vaccine called Flucelvax, which became available during the 2017/2018 season. Approved for individuals over the age of 4, this vaccine is unique in that it uses dog kidney (MDCK) cells for production.22
Traditionally, candidate vaccine strain influenza viruses, i.e., the viruses selected for inclusion in the vaccine, have been produced using fertilized chicken eggs. Flucelvax viruses are grown in cultured animal cells instead.23 (Another relatively new technology uses insect (army worm) cells to produce a recombinant quadrivalent influenza vaccine, Flublok, for individuals over 18 years old.24,25)
As the effectiveness of conventional flu shots continues to leave much to be desired, the new Flucelvax vaccine was touted as a new-and-improved version that would protect more people once flu season hit. In reality, a study26 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed its benefit was quite modest.
While flu vaccines overall were only 24 percent effective in preventing flu-related hospitalizations in people aged 65 and older, the Flucelvax vaccine had an effectiveness rate of 26.5 percent in that population — hardly a major improvement.
It's been known for some time that growing flu vaccines in eggs may lead to problematic mutations that make them less effective against circulating influenza viruses. Such was the case during the 2016 to 2017 flu season, when H3N2 viruses were prevalent.
Writing in PNAS,27 researchers noted, "Human vaccine strains grown in eggs often possess adaptive mutations that increase viral attachment to chicken cells." They identified a mutation in the flu vaccine strain that produced antibodies that didn't work well to neutralize the H3N2 viruses circulating that year.
But the hope that cell-based vaccines might solve this problem appears overly optimistic. Dr. John Treanor, a flu vaccine expert at the University of Rochester Medical Center, told STAT News in 2017,28 "There wasn't convincing evidence that it [cell culture flu vaccine] was better, so why would anyone spend extra money to buy that?"
This was before the FDA data came in on the 2017 to 2018 season, which offered proof that the effectiveness was virtually identical to the conventional egg-based version.
In his 2013 article,29 "Influenza: Marketing Vaccine by Marketing Disease,” BMJ associate editor Peter Doshi, Ph.D., points out the lack of quality science underpinning the annual call for flu vaccination and the government’s lack of transparency. He noted that in its marketing of influenza vaccines, the CDC fails to uphold its pledge “to base all public health decisions on the highest quality scientific data, openly and objectively derived.” The Vaccine Reaction summarizes Doshi’s comments, in part:30
"Promotion of influenza vaccines is one of the most visible and aggressive public health policies today … Closer examination of influenza vaccine policies shows that although proponents employ the rhetoric of science, the studies underlying the policy are often of low quality, and do not substantiate officials' claims.
The vaccine might be less beneficial and less safe than has been claimed, and the threat of influenza appears overstated … Mandatory vaccination policies have been enacted … forcing some people to take the vaccine under threat of losing their jobs.
The main assertion of the CDC that fuels the push for flu vaccinations each year is that influenza comes with a risk of serious complications which can cause death …
The only randomized trial of influenza vaccine in older people found no decrease in deaths. This means that influenza vaccines are approved for use in older people despite any clinical trials demonstrating a reduction in serious outcomes.
Even when the vaccine is closely matched to the type of influenza that's prevalent … randomized, controlled trials of healthy adults found that vaccinating between 33 and 100 people resulted in one less case of influenza … For most people, and possibly most doctors, officials need only claim that vaccines save lives, and it is assumed there must be solid research behind it."
A perfect example of what Doshi is talking about was published January 2017. This scientific analysis31,32 of four randomized controlled trials, which claim vaccinating health care workers against influenza offers significant protection for patients, were in fact overstated, and grossly so. According to the authors:
"In attributing patient benefit to increased health care worker influenza vaccine coverage, each cluster randomized controlled trial was found to violate the basic mathematical principle of dilution by reporting greater percentage reductions with less influenza-specific patient outcomes … and/or patient mortality reductions exceeding even favorably-derived predicted values by at least six- to 15fold.
If extrapolated to all long-term care facilities and hospital staff in the United States, the prior cluster randomized controlled trial-claimed number needed to vaccinate of 8 would implausibly mean >200,000 and >675,000 patient deaths, respectively, could be prevented annually by health care worker influenza vaccination, inconceivably exceeding total U.S. population mortality estimates due to seasonal influenza each year, or during the 1918 pandemic, respectively.
More realistic recalibration based on actual patient data instead shows that at least 6,000 to 32,000 hospital workers would need to be vaccinated before a single patient death could potentially be averted."
The researchers concluded that these four trials, which are the basis for policies of enforced vaccination of health care workers "attribute implausibly large reductions in patient risk to health care worker vaccination, casting serious doubts on their validity," adding that "The impression that unvaccinated health care workers place their patients at great influenza peril is exaggerated."
Europe also suffers from the same lack of transparency in vaccine research and public policy, as evidenced by Cochrane scientists' failure to obtain the necessary vaccine trial data required to evaluate the quality of 11 clinical trials on the HPV vaccine held by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
Detailed information about a study's design, conduct and outcome can only be found in the trial's clinical study report (CSR), which drug companies are required to submit when applying for a new drug license. Transparimed.org reports:33
"Since 2014, in theory, independent scientists can access these documents by filing a request with the European regulator. In practice, the Cochrane team reports:
'After three years, we had obtained just 18 Clinical Study Reports (62 percent of the EMA's 29 reports) … Unfortunately, the reports still lacked important sections, such as protocols and serious harms narratives … Only three reports included completed case report forms … One study report of 4,263 pages was released in 17 files across seven batches over 12 months.'"
What’s more, the Cochrane scientists discovered that the EMA itself does not always receive all of the scientific evidence, as some of the submitted CSRs were incomplete. The team’s attempts to obtain the CSRs directly from the drug companies were equally fruitless. According to Cochrane:
"Although GlaxoSmithKline published versions of its Clinical Study Reports on its trial register, the reports often lack serious adverse events narratives and case report forms, and the data on serious adverse events in the reports we downloaded was heavily redacted."
Needless to say, without access to the CSRs, independent scientists such as the Cochrane group cannot assess the benefits and harms of the drugs or vaccines under review with any significant degree of accuracy or confidence.
"In our view, independent researchers ought to be able to obtain complete and unredacted Clinical Study Reports within a reasonable time frame without too many constraints or limitations," Cochrane writes.
"[R]egulators should release complete and coherent Clinical Study Reports… Urgent changes are essential for open and transparent assessment of the harms and benefits of interventions."
In related news, Arthur L. Caplan, Ph.D.,34 a New York University (NYU) professor and founding head of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU School of Medicine, raised more than a few eyebrows by claiming that a child’s presumed right to be vaccinated supersedes the parents’ legal right to exercise informed consent to vaccination on behalf of minor children.
In plain English, Caplan believes minor children should be vaccinated according to government recommendations regardless of whether parents have made an informed decision to decline one or more vaccinations for their child. As reported by The Vaccine Reaction,35 Caplan "claims that vaccinating children represents a higher moral imperative than respecting the informed consent rights of parents."
"'I want to point out a moral stance that I don't think has gotten enough attention, which is that every child has the right to be vaccinated,' said Caplan. 'We keep talking about parents' right to say yes or no, to avoid mandates or requirements, or to do what they choose to do. Someone has to speak up and say, 'Well, what about the kids? Don't they have any rights?'
Caplan believes that if parents refuse to vaccinate their kids the government has the right to override the legal right of parents to make medical care decisions for their children. Caplan argues that the government has the duty to vaccinate the children without the consent of the parents and by force, if need be."
In other words, what Caplan is saying is that parents should be prevented from making medical care decisions, especially vaccination decisions, on behalf of their minor children if those decisions do not conform with government policy. What kind of freedom is that? Coming from a self-appointed medical ethicist, this is scary, mind-boggling stuff. It’s barely one step away from all children being treated like property of the government.
Disturbingly enough, attempts to move this kind of public health policy and law forward are already underway, and parents everywhere need to join in the fight to retain their right to make medical decisions for their minor children. If government officials can vaccinate your child against your will, there’s no telling where it will end. As reported by The Vaccine Reaction:
"Legislation has been introduced in states like California that would seek to give government the right to make health care decisions for children, even against the wishes of their parents, if the state deems the decisions to be in the best interests of the children.
Such legislation would also allow government authorities to take legal physical custody of children in cases where parents refuse to comply with mandates forcing or coercing them to vaccinate their children.
The thrust of Caplan's thought process is that, at least when it comes to vaccination of children, parents should be stripped of their informed consent rights. Apparently, Caplan takes the view that the informed health care decisions that parents make for their children are just not relevant if those decisions conflict with government policy.
But it is precisely this 'long held legal right to make informed, voluntary decisions about pharmaceutical products and medical procedures that carry risks for their children,' says Barbara Loe Fisher of the National Vaccine Information Center, that is 'all that stands between parents and exploitation of their children by those in positions of power in society with a personal or professional vested interest in forcing every child to use pharmaceutical products that are not safe or effective for every child.'"
Breathing clean air is a right that should be enjoyed by every person on Earth, but as industry, agriculture and other sources of air pollution have proliferated, clean air has become increasingly scarce.
The problem has grown to monumental levels, such that the World Health Organization (WHO), in their latest report on air pollution and child health, stated, “Exposure to air pollution is an overlooked health emergency for children around the world.”1
Worldwide, the report states, 93 percent of children live in areas with air pollution at levels above WHO guidelines. Further, more than 1 in 4 deaths among children under 5 years is related to environmental risks, including air pollution. In 2016, ambient (outside) and household air pollution contributed to respiratory tract infections that led to 543,000 deaths in children under 5.
“Polluted air is poisoning millions of children and ruining their lives,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said in a news release. “This is inexcusable. Every child should be able to breathe clean air so they can grow and fulfil their full potential.”2
Children are exposed to polluted air both indoors and out. Outside, ambient air pollution comes primarily from the combustion of fossil fuel, waste incineration, industrial and agricultural practices and natural disasters such as wildfires, dust storms and volcanic eruptions.
In 2016, ambient air pollution led to 4.2 million premature deaths, nearly 300,000 of which occurred in children under the age of 5 years. Exposure to air pollution occurs in developed countries — especially in low-income communities — however, children living in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) were most affected.
Fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) refers to dust, dirt, soot and smoke — particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter. It’s the most studied type of air pollution, and the WHO report revealed that in LMICs, 98 percent of children under 5 years are exposed to fine particulate matter at levels higher than the WHO air quality guidelines.
In some areas, like African and Eastern Mediterranean regions, 100 percent of children under 5 are affected. In contrast, 52 percent of children under 5 in HICs are exposed to potentially dangerous levels of ambient air pollution. Indoors, 41 percent of the world’s population is exposed to household air pollution, particularly from cooking with polluting fuels and technologies.
Children are more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution than adults, in part because their bodies (including their lungs and brains) are still developing, putting them at risk from inflammation and other health damage from pollutants. They also have a longer life expectancy, giving more time for diseases to emerge.
Overall, a combination of “behavioral, environmental and physiological factors” makes children particularly susceptible to air pollution, WHO notes, adding:3
“[Children] breathe faster than adults, taking in more air and, with it, more pollutants. Children live closer to the ground, where some pollutants reach peak concentrations. They may spend much time outside, playing and engaging in physical activity in potentially polluted air.
Newborn and infant children, meanwhile, spend most of their time indoors, where they are more susceptible to household air pollution, as they are near their mothers while the latter cook with polluting fuels and devices … In the womb, they are vulnerable to their mothers’ exposure to pollutants. Exposure before conception can also impose latent risks on the fetus.”
The WHO report analyzed studies published within the past 10 years, and used input from dozens of experts, to reveal some of the top health risks air pollution poses to children. Among them:4
Adverse birth outcomes, including low birth weight, premature birth, stillbirth and infants born small for gestational age.
Infant mortality — As pollution levels increase, so does risk of infant mortality.
Neurodevelopment — Exposure to air pollution may lead to lower cognitive test outcomes, negatively affect children’s mental and motor development and may influence the development of autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Lung function — Prenatal exposure to air pollution is associated with impaired lung development and lung function in childhood.
Acute lower respiratory infection, including pneumonia
Asthma — Exposure to ambient air pollution increases the risk of asthma and exacerbates symptoms of childhood asthma.
Childhood cancers, including retinoblastomas and leukemia
Health problems in adulthood — evidence suggests that prenatal exposure to air pollution may increase the risk of chronic lung disease and cardiovascular disease later in life.
Pollution is only worsening in many parts of the world, and without aggressive intervention, deaths due to ambient air pollution could increase by more than 50 percent by 2050.5
The majority of global airborne particulate pollution — 85 percent — comes from fuel combustion, with coal being the “world’s most polluting fossil fuel.”6 Even in the U.S., an estimated 200,000 premature deaths are caused by combustion emissions, including that from vehicles and power generation.7
In a study of electric power generation in the U.S., which is coal-intensive, a study published in the journal Energy revealed that switching to natural gas for electricity generation could lead to significant benefits, including reducing sulfur dioxide emissions by more than 90 percent and nitrogen oxide emissions by more than 60 percent.8
In a Lancet study, authors took it a step further, noting that an even better solution would be shifting to low-polluting renewable energy sources such as wind, tidal, geothermal and solar options.9
The WHO authors also called for urgent changes to reduce air pollution, including switching to clean cooking and heating fuels and technologies and promoting the use of cleaner transport, energy-efficient housing and urban planning. They also advocate for improving waste management and locating schools away from busy roadways and factories.10
WHO’s guidelines, as well as their estimates of how many people are breathing polluted air, do not account for ozone or nitrogen oxides, which are also known air pollutants.
Emissions of nitrogen oxides combine with oxygen and sunlight to break down into ozone. Levels of this air pollutant have tripled since 1990,11 possibly due to synthetic nitrogen-based fertilizers, which release nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere.
Researchers have long known soil microbes convert nitrogen-based fertilizers to nitrogen oxides and release them into the air. However, it was estimated that only 1 kilogram of gas was produced per 100 kilograms of fertilizer, or roughly 1 percent. Researchers thought the amount of gas would increase linearly, or stay at 1 percent of the amount of fertilizer used.
However, further experimentation found the increase was exponential and not linear, as the original research didn't account for conversion when excess nitrogen fertilizer was applied to the fields. In California, agricultural lands may be responsible for as much as 51 percent of nitrogen oxides off-gassing across the state, especially in areas that use synthetic nitrogen-based fertilizers.12
Research published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters has also demonstrated that in certain densely populated areas, emissions from farming far outweigh other sources of particulate matter air pollution.13 As nitrogen fertilizers break down into their component parts, ammonia is released into the air.
Ammonia is one of the byproducts of fertilizer and animal waste. When the ammonia in the atmosphere reaches industrial areas, it combines with pollution from diesel and petroleum combustion, creating microparticles. Concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) workers and neighboring residents alike report higher incidence of asthma, headaches, eye irritation and nausea.14
Pollution is the “largest environmental cause of disease and premature death in the world today,” according to research published in The Lancet.15 The study revealed that 9 million premature deaths were caused by pollution in 2015, which is 16 percent of deaths worldwide. What’s more, among the pollution-related deaths, the majority — 6.5 million — were caused by airborne contaminants.
Fine particulate matter can enter your system and cause chronic inflammation, which in turn increases your risk of a number of health problems, from cancer to heart and lung disease. In the case of heart disease, fine particulate air pollution may increase your risk by inducing atherosclerosis, increasing oxidative stress and increasing insulin resistance, the researchers noted, adding:16
“The strongest causal associations are seen between PM 2.5 pollution and cardiovascular and pulmonary disease. Specific causal associations have been established between PM 2.5 pollution and myocardial infarction, hypertension, congestive heart failure, arrhythmias and cardiovascular mortality.
Causal associations have also been established between PM 2.5 pollution and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has reported that airborne particulate matter and ambient air pollution are proven group 1 human carcinogens.”
Because you can’t always control your exposure to air pollution, especially that outdoors, one of the best options is to fortify your diet with nutrients that may have a protective effect against pollutants. This includes:17
• Omega-3 fats — They’re anti-inflammatory, and in a study of 29 middle-aged people, taking an animal-based omega-3 fat supplement reduced some of the adverse effects to heart health and lipid levels, including triglycerides, that occurred with exposure to air pollution (olive oil did not have the same effect).18
• Broccoli sprouts — Broccoli-sprout extract was shown to prevent the allergic nasal response that occurs upon exposure to particles in diesel exhaust, such that the researchers suggested broccoli or broccoli sprouts could have a protective effect on air pollution’s role in allergic disease and asthma.19
A broccoli-sprout beverage even enhanced the detoxification of some airborne pollutants among residents of a highly polluted region of China.20
• Vitamins C and E — Among children with asthma, antioxidant supplementation including vitamins C and E helped to buffer the impact of ozone exposure on their small airways.21
• B vitamins — A small-scale human trial found high doses of vitamins B6, B9 and B12 in combination completely offset damage caused by very fine particulate matter in air pollution.22
Four weeks of high-dose supplementation reduced genetic damage in 10 gene locations by 28 to 76 percent, protected mitochondrial DNA from the harmful effects of pollution, and even helped repair some of the genetic damage.
In many areas of the world, people have limited options to improve air quality both inside and outside of their homes. WHO recommends the use of clean stoves for cooking as a key way to improve household air pollution, but notes that “reducing ambient air pollution requires wider action, as individual protective measures are not only insufficient, but are neither sustainable nor equitable.”23
Solving the problem, and protecting the health of future generations of children, will instead take a global effort. According to WHO:24
“To reduce and prevent exposure to both household air pollution and ambient air pollution, public policy is essential. Air pollutants do not recognize political borders but travel wherever the wind and prevailing weather patterns take them. Therefore, regional and international cooperative approaches are necessary to achieve meaningful reductions in children’s exposure.
Approaches to preventing exposure must be complementary and mutually reinforcing, on every scale: houses, clinics, health care institutions, municipalities, national governments and the global community …
Individual efforts can add up to collective action that changes minds, changes policies and changes the quality of the air around us. Such actions would go far toward ensuring that children can breathe freely, without the terrible burdens imposed by air pollution.”
In your own home, I recommend taking steps to keep your indoor air clean, including opening windows to let fresh air in and avoiding the use of known air pollutants like chemical cleaning products, air fresheners and scented candles. Purifying your home’s air is also a wise step, but no one filter can remove all pollutants, so be sure to do your research on the different types of air filters to meet your specific needs.
It's estimated that within the next 10 years, farm-raised fish will make up the majority of fish consumed by humans. There are already 100 species being farmed,1 and while aquaculture, as it's technically known, may sound like a sustainable alternative to catching wild fish, it poses many of the same problems plaguing industrial land-based livestock operations, or concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).
Among these is the need for a concentrated source of food. On land, this often comes in the form of genetically engineered corn and soy, but farmed fish are sustained via a diet of other fish, known as fishmeal. Aquaculture is a $160 billion industry,2 and as one of the fastest-growing sectors in the food production industry, its appetite for fishmeal is immense.
About 25 percent of wild-caught fish — amounting to about 20 million tons of seafood — are used to make fishmeal that's fed to farmed fish,3 and stocks of wild fish may be dwindling as a result.
In West Africa, sardinella is one of the most important fish species for both food security and job creation. It's also one prized for the production of fishmeal powder. In Mauritania, a country in Northwest Africa, 770,000 tons of sardinella are caught annually, up from 440,000 tons just a few years ago, according to a 2015 report funded by the European Union.4
Looking to cash in on the growing fishmeal demand, Chinese investors have built factories dedicated to exploiting the seemingly copious amounts of fish in Mauritania, Senegal and Gambia.
Yet, according to Abdou Karim Sall, president of an association of small-scale fishermen in Senegal, who spoke to Reuters, "In four or five years, there won't be any fish stocks left; the factories will close, and the foreigners will leave ... We'll be left here without any fish."5
In a Reuters investigation, it's revealed that aquaculture is increasingly taking sardinella away from the local people who depend on it for their survival. Reuters reported:6
"Sardinella migrate across a 1,000-mile zone shared by Mauritania, Senegal and Gambia. Officials from each country insist that they want to manage their fish sustainably and develop the kind of processing, freezing and export industries that could create thousands of jobs.
But with no effective regional management system yet in place, this goal may not be compatible with installing ever-more grinding machines for the benefit of fish farms producing food for Asia, Europe and North America."
According to the Coalition for Fair Fisheries Arrangements (CFFA), which promotes the livelihoods and food security of costal fishing communities, catches of sardinella in West Africa continue to decline, including in Mauritania, where only 172,000 tons were caught in 2017, down 41 percent from the 292,000 tons caught in 2016.7
Prior to the introduction of the fishmeal industry, the sardinella catch was limited naturally by how much the local market would bear. This natural limit has been removed now that fishmeal factories will buy as much fish as the fishing fleets will bring in. Marine scientist Patrice Brehmer told Reuters, "We could face a catastrophic situation."8 CFFA agrees, noting:9
"Whereas the effort by artisanal fleets in earlier years was restricted by the demand from the human consumption market, this restriction no longer exists at the moment. The fishmeal plants can absorb large quantities of fish, which stimulates artisanal fishermen to increase their effort.
Mauritanian fishmeal plants have even brought in a completely new fleet of efficient Turkish purse seiners to supply them with fish.
Senegalese fishermen from Casamance are now landing catches at fishmeal plants in Gambia. Sometimes these landings are so big that even the fishmeal plants cannot absorb them. As a result, considerable quantities of sardinella have to be dumped at sea or on the land."
Job security is also being threatened. Senegal's national dish, known as thiéboudiène, features smoked sardinella, which are carefully dried and smoked by thousands of women working in the sardinella smoking industry.
Whereas the demand for smoked sardinella was once high from local markets, now this activity is threatened because fishmeal factories are buying up all the sardinella, paying twice as much as the women fish smokers can, "leaving them with nothing but time on their hands," Reuters reported.10
The women can no longer afford to purchase fresh sardinella, leaving them out of jobs and the local residents without smoked sardinella to enjoy. Many fishermen are also wondering if they'll soon be forced to find a new line of work.
Gaoussou Gueye, a veteran fishmonger, told news outlet DW, "When the ships go out to sea together, there are not enough fish and they return without any catch. People are thinking there are no more fish left ... If we still had enough fish in Senegal, we would not to have to look for licenses in other countries to fish."11
What's more, the fishmeal factories are causing air and water pollution along the coast. Physicians in the area have even reported an increase of illnesses related to the pollution. Moctar Ame, an ear, nose and throat specialist in Nouadhibou, a city with more than 20 fishmeal factories, told DW that 20 percent of his patients have diseases caused by the factories' pollution:12
"There are many diseases that are directly related to the pollution of these factories. They release toxic air particles. When these particles enter the body, they cause allergies, chronic bronchitis and skin rashes. We cough a lot and have infected throats because of these particles."
The notion of fish farming becomes far less sustainable when you consider that growing fish is using up valuable supplies of fish that could be eaten directly by humans.
A study published in the journal Fish and Fisheries even revealed that most fish destined for fishmeal production are food-grade or prime food-grade fish that could be used to feed people.13 Study author Tim Cashion, research assistant at Sea Around Us, told NPR:14
"I was expecting there to be more truth to the argument that most of these fish don't have a place for human consumption, that there's generally not a market or a possibility of a market for these fish, but that's not what we found ...
In a world with many food insecure populations and people that could substantially benefit from having more fish in their diet ... that we're using 20 million tons of fish to feed aquaculture and livestock production? I think people should care about that."
Many farmed fish species, including tilapia and carp, are fed fishmeal. Further, about 30 percent of fishmeal production is used to feed CAFO animals including pigs and chickens. The types of fish used for fishmeal are also expanding to include not only sardinella and similar fish like anchovies, but also pompanos, drums and even some crustaceans.
It's a concerning finding, considering human exploitation, including overfishing, is the major cause of declining marine species, with some declining in numbers by 74 percent between 1970 and 2010.15
Aside from threatening wild fish stocks for the production of fishmeal, farmed fish also threaten wild fish by spreading disease, including sea lice and piscine reovirus (PRV). Sea lice are tiny parasitic crustaceans that feed on salmon skin and mucous. Just one or two sea lice can kill a juvenile salmon, with the lice literally eating the salmon alive, and adults may also be harmed if infestations occur.
As noted by Watershed Watch Salmon Society, "Even if average sea lice levels are kept 'low' on a farm, even very low numbers of lice per farmed salmon can add up to billions of sea lice eggs being released into surrounding waters."16
PRV, meanwhile, causes Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI) disease, which can be deadly to salmon. One study of salmon in British Columbia, Canada, revealed the proportion of PRV infection in wild fish was related to exposure to salmon farms.17
PRV was detected in 95 percent of farmed Atlantic salmon and up to 45 percent of wild salmon from regions highly exposed to salmon farms. In contrast, only 5 percent of wild salmon living in regions farthest from salmon farms were infected.
Nutritionally speaking, farmed fish are also a far inferior choice to the wild variety. For starters, their pens are often placed near shore, which means they're close to land-based sources of pollutant runoff. In addition, their diet of ground-up fishmeal may lead to concentrated levels of toxins like PCBs.
In a global assessment of farmed salmon published in the journal Science, PCB concentrations in farmed salmon were found to be eight times higher than in wild salmon.18 What makes fishmeal so toxic? In some cases, the fish used to make the feed comes from polluted waters.
Some of the toxicity also stems from the manufacturing process of the pellets. The fatty fish are first cooked, resulting in two separate products: protein meal and oil. While the oil has high levels of dioxins and PCBs, the protein powder also adds to the toxicity of the end product. To this protein powder, an "antioxidant" called ethoxyquin is added.
According to the documentary "Fillet-Oh-Fish," this is one of the best kept secrets of the fish food industry — and one of the most toxic. Ethoxyquin was developed as a pesticide by Monsanto in the 1950s. Its use is strictly regulated on fruits, vegetables and in meat, but not in fish, because it was never intended for such use.
The effects of this chemical on human health have never been established. The one and only study ever done on ethoxyquin and human health was a thesis by Victoria Bohne, a former researcher in Norway who made a number of disturbing discoveries, including the fact that ethoxyquin can cross the blood-brain barrier and may have carcinogenic effects.
Because much seafood is polluted, I only recommend eating safer seafood choices such as wild-caught Alaskan salmon, sardines, anchovies, mackerel and herring. All of these are at low risk of contamination, yet are high in healthy omega-3 fats. You'll want to opt for sustainably harvested wild-caught fish as well.
One of the best options toward this end is to look for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) logo, which features the letters MSC and a blue check mark in the shape of a fish. The MSC logo ensures the seafood came from a responsible fishery that uses sustainable fishing practices and meets the following standards:19
You’ve probably heard of thiamine, another name for vitamin B1, possibly in relation to “fortified” foods like cereals and breads. As one of eight essential B vitamins, thiamine is considered “essential” because your body can’t produce it on its own; it must come from an outside source.
Mostly concentrated in the skeletal muscles, but also found in your brain, liver, kidneys and heart, it’s excreted by the kidneys1 and performs several important functions in your body. More than one study has suggested it to be the primary “B” needed on a day-to-day basis.
Thiamine is used by nearly all your cells, metabolizing the carbohydrates and lipids in the foods you eat, helping to convert food into energy and boosting the flow of electrolytes in and out of the cells of your nerves and muscles.2 There are different forms of thiamine, each with individual functions:
Organic Facts5 lists a number of health benefits that are often overlooked in regard to having healthy levels of vitamin B1 in your system, such as:
It’s sometimes called the “antistress” vitamin for its positive influence on your central nervous system.
According to a study in 2013,6 a long list of problems can occur when your body either doesn’t produce enough or doesn’t get enough nutritional benefit from food or through supplementation, and that includes thiamine. Constipation is something people with a thiamine deficiency often experience, but conversely, increasing their thiamine levels reduces the problem.
Thiamine is extremely important for cognitive function, as well as your nervous system and red blood cell formation, so it only stands to reason that it’s vital for brain health. When thiamine is missing or low, a whole string of such functions can be damaged in a sort of domino effect.
For example, enzymes (such as pyruvate dehydrogenase complex) needed as a cofactor in the Kreb’s cycle and for synthesizing and breaking down excess levels of dopamine, can lead to diminished brain function. Impaired neurotransmitters such as gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) can initiate problems like hallucinations, delusions and severe cognitive impairment.7 The study explains:
“GABA is a major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, and a decrease in the levels of this neurotransmitter and an increase in its amino acid precursor, glutamine, leads to neuronal excitation and hence delirium.”8
Although eating foods containing thiamine may be the best way to support your system, sometimes supplying it more quickly may be in order. The cognitive dysfunction noted earlier in relation to a vitamin B1 deficiency can be remedied with supplementation, as noted in one study9 in which 120 young adult females, whose levels were “adequate,” were given either the vitamin or a placebo daily for 60 days.
Beforehand, the participants’ mood, memory and reaction times were monitored; afterward, those who received B1 reported being “more clearheaded, composed and energetic,” and their reaction times were faster.
Although it’s not seen as often today as it has been in the past, a disorder known as beriberi is caused by low levels of vitamin B1. There are two types: “wet” beriberi, which damages the circulatory system and can cause heart failure, and “dry” beriberi, which results in nerve damage, diminished muscle strength and eventual muscle paralysis. Needless to say, it can be a life-threatening condition.
Beriberi is sometimes linked to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, an amalgamation of Wernicke encephalopathy and Korsakoff syndrome, which, according to HealthLine,10 are two forms of brain damage in the thalamus and hypothalamus regions that are directly related to thiamine deficiency.
Wernicke encephalopathy can bring about confusion, memory loss, reduced muscle coordination and vision problems like rapid eye movement and double vision. Korsakoff syndrome is a sign of permanent damage in the memory-storage areas of the brain; symptoms can include both memory loss and an inability to form new memories, as well as hallucinations.
Again, while the cause of this condition is a diet low in thiamine, it’s very rare in areas where people have access to fortified foods. It’s most common in regions of the world where the typical diet includes unenriched, processed white rice, as it has only a tenth of the thiamine in brown rice. (Like other foods, rice has both good and not-so-good elements; wild rice is the variety with more nutrients, fewer calories and fewer carbs, compared to white rice.)
One extensive review asserts, “Several risk factors can contribute to thiamine deficiency in patients with and without heart failure, such as inadequate dietary intake, excess alcohol ingestion, malabsorption syndromes and medications.”11 The medications include diuretics, penicillins, tetracyclines (for infections), sulfonamides (antibiotics or for treating ulcerative colitis12) and trimethoprim (used for bladder infections, middle ear infections and travelers' diarrhea13).
The review also shows that patients with congestive heart failure (CHF), numbering around 5 million people in the U.S. alone, can benefit dramatically from thiamine supplementation, especially since deficiency ranges from between 21 percent and 98 percent, plus, the usual treatment alternatives are problematic:
“Although therapies for CHF — including angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, beta-blockers, loop diuretics and omega-3 fatty acids — have improved morbidity and mortality, mortality rates in patients with CHF remain high … A 1995 trial indicated that thiamine supplementation in patients with CHF significantly improved left ventricular ejection fraction.”14
Fortunately, thiamine is found in a variety of foods. Omitting the many packaged foods thiamine is used in, such as crackers, cereals and bread, “real” foods with the highest amounts include macadamia and pistachio nuts, flaxseeds and sunflower seeds, raw, organic, grass fed milk, vegetables like eggplant, asparagus and bell peppers, grass fed beef, watermelon and oranges.
According to the George Mateljan Foundation,15 a nonprofit organization focusing on nutrition and the healthiest ways to cook for optimal health, around 20 percent of people in the U.S. over age 2 are deficient in vitamin B1. The site also lists crimini mushrooms, oats, garlic, parsley, cumin and sea vegetables as being sources of thiamine, as are kidney, black, pinto, navy and lima beans.
However, beans also contain sugar-binding proteins called lectins known to be a factor in leaky gut syndrome, which, among other problems, prevents the nutrients in the foods you eat from being adequately absorbed. For that reason, measures to keep lectins from ruining your gut, but still getting their nutritional benefits, involves a few important steps:
There’s plenty of evidence showing the wide array of benefits that come from this vitamin. On the other hand, certain diseases, including diabetes, gastrointestinal ailments and heart failure, bring with them an increased risk of vitamin B1 deficiency.
Interestingly, increasing your thiamine intake to optimal amounts can prevent some of the worst symptoms and complications that are common consequences. Verywell Health16 and University of Michigan Health17 list several disorders and diseases this supplement may help treat:
Thyroid and Hashimoto’s disease
Advanced glycation end products, aka AGEs, are glycotoxins in high-fat meats that can trigger inflammation and speed up the damage done by degenerative, age-related diseases.
One study18 indicates that benfotiamine (a fat-soluble form of thiamine) supplements were given to 13 participants with Type 2 diabetes, and after three days, they were given a meal high in AGEs (54 grams of protein and 48 grams of carbs). Subsequent tests showed that the supplement appeared to protect the study subjects from oxidative stress.
Additionally, in two randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of thiamine supplementation in patients with congestive heart failure, thiamine supplements compared to the placebo resulted in significant improvement.
As another study shows, thiamine deficiency was once a widespread problem in many Asian countries due to the nearly exclusive use of polished rice (i.e., white rice) as a staple diet, but once this was discovered, it was “somewhat controlled,” until recently:
“However, it is now realized that a large number of certain populations may be at high risk for developing this deficiency, including (heart failure); therefore, the interest in thiamine and thiamine deficiency has recently been reemerging …
Patients with (heart failure) may be at risk for developing certain micronutrient deficiencies, including thiamine deficiency. The focus of management of (heart failure) may need to be broadened to include the normalization of these nutritional abnormalities. Patients with (heart failure), especially those in advanced stages, may benefit from regular thiamine supplementation.”19
Something else to take into consideration, especially for anyone who drinks alcohol, is that alcoholic beverage consumption is one of the leading causes of thiamin deficiency. What does a person’s alcohol intake have to do with their thiamine levels? On one hand, treatment with thiamine can help restore normal body function, but abuse is a slippery slope. According to the George Mateljan Foundation:
“Perhaps the most important and well-known inhibitor of vitamin B1 nutrition in humans, however, is alcohol abuse. Alcoholics use more vitamin B1 in the detoxification of alcohol, often eat less vitamin B1 due to poor dietary habits, have trouble absorbing vitamin B1 in the intestine, and urinate out more of the vitamin. This is an almost perfect scenario for increasing deficiency risk.”20
The American Academy of Neurology reported in 2003 that individuals with certain “deficiencies in the hippocampus,” including thiamine, may result in Korsakoff syndrome, a memory disorder often found in alcoholism with symptoms comparable to the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, “Greater hippocampal damage was correlated to a higher memory deterioration index score for the Korsakoff's patients.”21
Study author Edith V. Sullivan, of Stanford University School of Medicine in California, noted both clinical and radiological similarities between the two disorders. In spite of the controversy involved, she believes that while their overall profiles are different, the nature of the impairments are the same. She notes:
“Resulting from a lack of thiamine (vitamin B1), Korsakoff's syndrome is typically a consequence of chronic alcohol dependence. Individuals at risk include those with nutritional deficiency disorders like anorexia. The nutrient thiamine helps restore certain brain functions like recalling past events and storing new information.
Current treatment of Korsakoff's patients includes thiamine and other B-complex vitamins. If treated early enough, Korsakoff's patients may have at least partial recovery.”
In addition, Sullivan stated in the study that clinicians who diagnose and treat patients with dementia should consider Korsakoff syndrome as they’re dialing in on a diagnosis.
If you think you may have a thiamine deficiency but you love to eat raw fish and shellfish, it’s important to note that both contain chemicals that can destroy the presence of thiamine in your body, so both should be avoided. However, cooked seafood dishes are not a problem in this regard.
Additionally, the tannins in tea and coffee may prevent your body from absorbing vitamin B1 properly. Also, it might be helpful to know that overcooking and refrigerating thiamine-containing foods for long periods can diminish or destroy the benefits of the vitamin.
What’s the difference between thiamine and the dietary supplement benfotiamine?23 Benfotiamine is fat-soluble, as opposed to the water-soluble thiamine form, and therefore raises thiamine levels in your blood up to five times better, maintains those levels much longer and has both greater bioavailability and absorption by the body than water-soluble thiamine.
As is true with many good things, too much thiamine can cause problems, too,24 starting with symptoms like blue lips, excessive sweating, restlessness, nausea and a mild rash or itching. More serious side effects from too much of this vitamin can fast-track to chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing up blood or vomit that looks like coffee grounds, and/or black, tarry stools.25
How much thiamine do people need? According to Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, the daily recommended thiamine intake for adult women is 1.1 milligrams (mg), and 1.2 mg for adult men. Children, typically having lower requirements, should get 0.5 to 1.2 mg per day, depending on their age and gender. Slightly higher levels of 1.4 mg per day are recommended for pregnant and/or breast-feeding women.26
1 Which of the following is NOT a known health benefit of spirulina?
2 Which of the following statements is true?
3 Microplastic pollution is ubiquitous. The following has not yet been identified as being contaminated with microplastics:
4 The omega-3 index test is a recommended annual health screen to measure your blood level of omega-3 fatty acids. For optimal health, you'll want an omega-3 index of:
5 Which of the following plants can be used as a natural biofumigant to suppress pest and diseases by chopping it up and incorporating it into your soil prior to the plant's flowering?
6 For optimal health, school-age children (ages of 6 to 13) need how much sleep?
7 Industrial processed vegetable oils such as Crisco are a primary source of:
Alkaline water is experiencing a resurgence in popularity with sales jumping from $47 million in 2014 to $427 million in 2017.1 Marketers claim alkaline water can correct excess acidity in your tissues, which can then prevent or reverse cancer, arthritis and other degenerative diseases.2
However, there's virtually no good evidence to support such claims, and I warned people about drinking alkaline water on a regular basis over eight years ago. Molecular hydrogen, on the other hand, does have a number of health benefits, some of which mirror the claims made for alkaline water — and there's a really good reason for that.
So, here, I'll review these two types of waters, and the scientific support (or lack thereof) for each of them, and how the benefits of molecular hydrogen were inappropriately transferred over to alkaline water — primarily due to ignorance.
Alkaline water is water that has gone through electrolysis that separates it into alkaline and acid fractions. The theory behind alkaline water is that alkaline (ionized) water is a powerful antioxidant with surplus electrons that can "mop up" dangerous free radicals. As reported by Arwa Mahdawi in The Guardian:3
"Dr. Tanis Fenton, an adjunct professor at the University of Calgary and an evidence analyst for Dietitians of Canada, told me that the marketing claims behind alkaline water are based on an old idea called the acid-ash hypothesis.
This posits that eating certain food like meat, dairy and eggs results in something called acid ash in your body, which increases your acid levels and causes adverse health effects including osteoporosis.
In 2002, an alternative medicine practitioner called Robert O. Young4 spun the acid-ash hypothesis into a fad alkaline diet, with a popular series of books called the pH Miracle.
According to these books, an alkaline diet could treat all manner of woes, from poor digestion to cancer. Young, by the way, was sentenced to three years in jail in 2017 for practicing medicine without a license."
According to Fenton — author of a systematic review5 of the association between alkaline water and cancer — the few studies showing positive results with alkaline water are poorly designed, leading him to conclude that "there is no rigorous evidence" showing that alkaline water produces health benefits.
This view is shared by Randy Johnson6 — who has a master of science degree in molecular genetics — whose evaluation of the evidence can be found on his Cyber Nook website page, "Drinking Water Resources: A Review of the Evidence Alleged to Support Health Benefits of Alkaline Water."7
One of the key reasons why the consumption of alkaline water cannot confer the health benefits associated with alkalinity is because you cannot alter the pH of your blood and body this way. As noted by Fenton:8
"Your body regulates its [blood] pH in a very narrow range because all our enzymes are designed to work at pH 7.4. If our pH varied too much we wouldn't survive."
Your diet, including the water you drink, can however alter the pH of your urine. Urine is typically acidic, with a pH around 6, and this is actually a sign that your kidneys are working properly. As for the benefits people report when drinking alkaline water, Fenton suggests the placebo effect may be at play.
Initial improvement can also be attributed to detoxification and/or improved hydration in general, simply from drinking more water. Lastly, alkaline water is often correlated with having a higher mineral concentration, which is known to have beneficial effects, particularly when dietary intake from food is low.9
The concept of the acidity or alkalinity of your body — or of water — is based on the pH scale. What is pH? It's simply a measure of the concentration of hydrogen ions.10 In fact, the acronym "pH" is short for "potential of hydrogen."
The higher a liquid's pH, the fewer free hydrogen ions (H+) it has; the lower its pH, the more free hydrogen ions (H+) it has. One pH unit reflects a tenfold change in ion concentration, so there are 10 times as many hydrogen ions available at a pH of 7 than at a pH of 8.11
The pH scale goes from 0 to 14, and a pH of 7 is neutral. Anything with a pH below 7 is considered acidic, and anything with a pH above 7 is alkaline (or basic).12
But the real reason why alkaline water is a scam is that it has no buffers to maintain its pH. The instant the alkaline water hits your very acidic stomach, the pH is neutralized as there are no buffers. Truly alkaline water would have an alkaline buffer like baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), which is also our body's natural alkaline buffer.
Some have claimed that as the stomach acid neutralizes the alkaline water, the bicarbonate ions are released into the blood and thus it has an alkalizing effect. This would be true if the alkaline water effectively neutralized all the stomach acid (like baking soda would), but alkaline water doesn't neutralize any significant quantity of stomach acid; the stomach acid completely neutralizes the alkaline water. So, there is no "net alkalizing effect."
Natural water on our planet ranges in pH from around 6.5 to 8.5, depending on surrounding soil and vegetation, seasonal variations and weather, and even time of day responses to sunlight. Human activities further influence the pH of our water, from the barrage of toxic industrial pollutants.
Most aquatic animals and plants have adapted to life in water with a very specific pH and will die from even slight changes. For example, Michigan State University found that when the pH of greenhouse media is too high (greater than 6.5), it increases the chances of micronutrient deficiencies in the plants, and too low of a pH (less than 5.3) results in calcium and/or magnesium and/or manganese toxicity.13
Similarly, Ohio State University Extension Service reports that alkaline water affects a plant's ability to obtain nutrients from the soil and can alter the soil's pH over time.14 Your body also requires a relatively stable pH, or else you'll run into problems. This was demonstrated in a Swedish well water study,15 which found both pH extremes to be problematic.
Notably, pH appears to have a major influence on your mitochondria.16 Research has shown normal cells die under extremely alkaline conditions, as a result of altering mitochondrial function.17
So, as noted by Fenton, "alkaline water is a solution to a problem that doesn't need solving." Indeed, it makes sense that you are designed to drink water that occurs naturally, which excludes alkaline water with pH levels of 9.5 and above.
Interestingly, aside from Young taking the acid-ash hypothesis and running with it, there's another piece of history that helps explain why the alkaline water myth gained hold. The Molecular Hydrogen Institute explains the history of electrolyzed reduced water or ERW (the most common term used for alkaline water in the scientific literature):18
"Studies on ERW began in the 1930s in Japan, and in 1965 the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare approved ERW as a medical substance with potential to improve gastrointestinal symptoms …
Over the ensuing decades, anecdotal and scientific evidence accumulated substantiating many other benefits of ERW such as: protecting DNA from radical damage, increasing glucose uptake, improving diabetes, preventing premature cell death, offering liver protection, preventing lipid oxidation and others. However, it was uncertain as to how ERW was producing these benefits."
Unfortunately, this is how the misunderstanding about pH came about. However, as noted by the Institute, "It is now well-recognized that the primary agent responsible for the benefits is attributed to the dissolved molecular hydrogen gas." So, in a nutshell, the benefits, when there are any, are actually due to the presence of molecular hydrogen, and has nothing to do with the pH of the water. Dr. Kyu-Jae Lee, a hydrogen gas researcher, says:19
"In the 1990s I began studying alkaline ionized water and published scientific articles on its antioxidant, anticancer and antidiabetic effects, but did not really understand why the water worked. It was difficult to believe. Upon further investigation, I have now confirmed that the benefits from the alkaline ionized water are attributed to the hydrogen gas produced during electrolysis.
Another researcher, Mami Noda, Ph.D., adds:20
"[B]y testing every variable of the water (e.g., minerals, pH, H2, etc.), it was clear that only H2 was exerting the benefit … Our 2009 publication of an MPTP-induced mouse model of Parkinson's disease also showed beneficial effects from H2.
We later discovered that the benefits in this model were mediated by H2-induced gastric ghrelin secretion via a ß1 adrenergic receptor-dependent pathway. Although hydrogen's effect in Parkinson's disease has now been confirmed in a human clinical trial, more research is necessary to reveal the molecular mechanisms responsible for the therapeutic benefits of H2.
Because of hydrogen's high safety profile, ease of administration and its promising medical effects, I feel obligated as a pharmacologist to continue my investigations of H2 as a novel medical gas."
Molecular hydrogen (H2) — two hydrogen atoms combined together — is a gas with very unique and selective antioxidant effects that specifically target the most harmful free radicals. It works primarily by improving and optimizing the redox status of the cell when needed.
As a result, you see improvements in superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione levels, for example. Not only does hydrogen selectively reduce the most toxic radicals, but it can help prevent an excess (which becomes toxic) of the free radicals from being produced in the first place. This is a very powerful prevention mechanism.
H2 also activates the Nrf2 pathway when needed. Nrf2 is a transcription factor that, when activated, goes into the cell's nucleus and binds to the antioxidant response element in the DNA. It then induces the transcription of further cytoprotective enzymes such as glutathione, superoxide dismutase catalase, glutathione peroxidase, phase II enzymes, heme-1 oxygenase and many others.
A landmark paper21 on molecular hydrogen came out in Nature Medicine in 2007, showing 2 percent hydrogen gas was effective at preventing brain damage from ischemia reperfusion and, as an antioxidant, has powerful therapeutic applications.
Hydrogen is the smallest molecule in the universe, and is neutral and nonpolar, which is why its bioavailability is so great. It does not dissociate into its electrons and protons when dissolved in water, so it will not alter the pH of water or your body and has nothing to do with the alkaline water concept.
More than 1,000 peer-reviewed scientific publications have collectively demonstrated that H2 has therapeutic potential in over 170 different human and animal disease models. In fact, hydrogen is shown to benefit virtually every organ of the human body, and the reason for this is because hydrogen actually targets and mitigates the root causes of inflammation and oxidation.
To learn more about the details of how molecular hydrogen works, see "The Remarkable Benefits of Molecular Hydrogen,"22 in which I interview a world-class expert and researcher in this field, Tyler W. LeBaron. I've also included that interview below for your convenience.
Due to the similarity in names, many confuse hydrogen water with hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), and I often get asked if one can get the benefits of molecular hydrogen by drinking hydrogen peroxide in water. This is a dangerous mistake to make, so let me make this point abundantly clear:
Never ingest hydrogen peroxide (3 percent solution).
Hydrogen peroxide (3 percent solution) — the stuff you use to disinfect wounds — is not the same as molecular hydrogen or hydrogen (H2) water. Hydrogen peroxide is for topical use only. You could potentially use it is as a mouth rinse for gingivitis, provided you spit it out and do not swallow, and you can pour a few drops into your ear canal as a remedy to combat cold and flu symptoms. But you should never ingest hydrogen peroxide.
Another common misconception is that adding hydrogen to water will form hydrogen peroxide. As explained by the Molecular Hydrogen Institute:23
"Water has the chemical formula H2O, and hydrogen peroxide has the chemical formula H2O2, which by comparison contains an extra oxygen, not hydrogen. So, it does not, indeed it cannot, form hydrogen peroxide.
The fact is, hydrogen gas does not bond to or react with the water molecules, it just dissolves into the water. It does not create some novel molecule like H4O, which would in fact be chemically impossible to form.
Therefore, hydrogen water and hydrogen peroxide are completely different substances. Furthermore, hydrogen peroxide cannot be used to generate H2 gas or make hydrogen-rich water."
Yet another source of confusion is the issue of alkaline versus alkalinity. These two words are not interchangeable, as from a scientific standpoint as they refer to different things. This too may be part of why people have placed such undue value on alkaline water. As explained by Mark Timmons, CEO of U.S. Water Systems:24
"To alkalize your body means that you give the body the ability to maintain a proper pH, but in order to do that you need water with alkalinity not alkaline water. pH merely measures the degree of acidity or alkalinity, not the capacity to neutralize acid … You also don't alkalize your body based upon pH, but rather on alkalinity.
Alkalinity measures the ability to neutralize acid with buffers which are the sum of bicarbonates. Alkalinity is measured in mg/L (milligrams per liter). Alkaline mineral compounds include … calcium, potassium, magnesium, sodium, manganese [and] iron. So, you need to add alkalinity to your body, but you need to realize that pH has no relation to that alkalinity.
Case in point: Spinach juice has a pH of 6.4 but alkalinity of 2,250 mg/L … If you put one-half teaspoon of baking soda into a glass of water, you would have 1,500 mg/L of alkalinity. Compare that to one of the many alkaline filters on the market. Most add just a few mg/L of alkalinity and then it only lasts a few gallons."
One of the purported health benefits of drinking alkaline water is cancer prevention. However, much of the research really argues against alkalinity when it comes to treating cancer.
According to Robert Gillies, who has studied tumor formation and acidity at the Moffitt Cancer Center,25 tumors make their own acidity by their very nature, and they do this even in an alkaline cellular structure.
Scientists developing anticancer agent prototypes that selectively kill tumor cells by interfering with the regulation of intracellular pH also report that alkaline treatments do not have the desired effect, whereas strongly acidic treatments do!26
Even more interesting is a 2005 study27 by the National Cancer Institute, which revisits the use of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) to treat cancer. They found that, in pharmacologic doses administered intravenously, ascorbic acid successfully killed cancer cells without harming normal cells.
This is yet another example of cancer cells being vulnerable to acidity, as opposed to alkalinity. So, it seems clear that the relationship between alkalinity and cancer has been grossly oversimplified by those jumping to premature conclusions.
In summary, it's unlikely that drinking alkaline water will do you much good. You're probably just wasting your money. Hydrogen water, on the other hand, when consumed on a daily basis, has wide-ranging health benefits. I use it myself regularly.
Hydrogen can be obtained from various inhalation devices, hydrogen-producing tablets and ready-to-drink hydrogen beverages in cans (not plastic). For more ins and outs of molecular hydrogen, its actions and therapeutic potential, and information on how to ensure you’re getting a quality product, see my interview with LeBaron.
A 20-year Finnish observational study suggests eating fermented dairy products could protect you against heart disease. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 610,000 Americans die of heart disease each year, accounting for 1 in 4 deaths.1
Despite public skepticism about the potential adverse health effects of dairy products — reflected in an increasing intake of plant-based drinks like almond, rice and soy — scientific evidence continues to validate the many positive nutritional benefits of dairy products.
Researchers are especially calling attention to the health benefits of fermented dairy foods such as kefir and yogurt. Personally, I am a fan of raw, organic grass fed dairy products such as butter and yogurt. Given the high amounts of healthy fats they contain, raw, organic grass fed dairy can be particularly beneficial if you follow a cyclical ketogenic diet.
In a new study published in the British Journal of Nutrition,2 researchers from the University of Eastern Finland highlight the nutritional benefits of fermented dairy, suggesting eating kefir, yogurt and other fermented dairy products may protect you against heart disease.
For clarity, the distinguishing factor between traditional dairy and fermented dairy is the presence of live bacteria, such as is added to milk to create yogurt. The team assessed data involving 1,981 men, ages 42 to 60 years old, taking part in the 1980s-era Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study with a mean 20-year follow-up.
Their objective was to investigate whether fermented and unfermented dairy products are associated with the risk of incident coronary heart disease (CHD) in a population characterized by a high dairy intake. Though none of the participants had heart disease at the inception of the original study, 472 later experienced some type of coronary heart event.
“Our findings and those from other studies suggest fermented dairy products may have health benefits compared to nonfermented dairy,” study author Jyrki Virtanen, Ph.D., associate professor of nutritional epidemiology at the University of Eastern Finland, told Newsweek. “Therefore, it might be a good idea to use more fermented dairy, such as yogurt, kefir, quark (a type of creamy cheese) and sour milk.”3
According to Medical Xpress,4 the research was based on food diaries kept by the study participants, who were divided into groups based on the amounts of dairy products they consumed. When Virtanen and his team compared the groups with the highest and lowest consumption, while adjusting for various lifestyle and nutrition factors, they found:5,6
“Some of the beneficial effects of fermented dairy products may relate to their impact on the gut microbiota,” Virtanen added.7 Because the study was observational, he acknowledged it can’t be used to prove the intake of fermented dairy products actually cuts your risk of cardiovascular events.
“The next step would be to start randomized clinical trials, where … health effects of fermented and nonfermented dairy products are compared.”8
Separate research, conducted earlier in 2018, found consuming dairy products such as milk and cheese could lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. Study author Marcia Otto, Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology, human genetics and environmental sciences at University of Texas Health (UTHealth) school of public health, said in a statement:
"Our findings not only support, but also significantly strengthen, the growing body of evidence which suggests that dairy fat, contrary to popular belief, does not increase risk of heart disease or overall mortality in older adults."9
In the study, which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Otto and her team measured the blood levels of three dairy-based fatty acids in 2,907 adults ages 65 and older. Measurements were taken when the study began in 1992 and again six and 13 years later. Among the outcomes, the researchers found:10,11
"Consumers have been exposed to so much different and conflicting information about diet, particularly in relation to fats," says Otto. "It’s therefore important to have robust studies, so people can make more balanced and informed choices based on scientific fact rather than hearsay."12
Beyond that, a 2017 meta-analysis of 29 studies involving more than 938,000 participants, published in the European Journal of Epidemiology,13 indicated the consumption of dairy products such as cheese, milk and yogurt had a neutral effect on health.
Study author Sarah Guo, Ph.D., U.K. University of Reading, said in a statement: "This latest analysis provides further evidence that a diet that is high in dairy foods is not necessarily damaging to health.” Guo also noted “the potentially beneficial effect of fermented dairy on heart health.”14
Based on meta-analyses and randomized controlled trials about the impact of dairy with respect to health conditions such as cancer, obesity and Type 2 diabetes, authors of a 2016 European study published in the journal Food & Nutrition Research found mostly positive or neutral associations.
Based on their extensive review of scientific evidence gathered from previous research, they offered insights about the influence of dairy on the following health conditions:15
All-cause mortality — Consumption of milk and dairy products was not associated with all-cause mortality
Cancer — Dairy intake was inversely associated with bladder, breast, colorectal and gastric cancer and was not associated with the risk of lung, ovarian or pancreatic cancer. Evidence about dairy and prostate cancer risk was inconsistent.
Cardiovascular disease — Dairy consumption has been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
Obesity — Recent evidence suggests the use of dairy products was linked to reduced risk of childhood obesity, whereas intake of dairy products by adults was shown to “improve body composition and facilitate weight loss during energy restriction.”16
Osteoporosis — Evidence suggested a beneficial effect of dairy on bone mineral density, with no association with respect to bone fracture risk
Type 2 diabetes — Intake of dairy products was associated with a neutral or reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes
In conclusion, the study authors stated, “The totality of available scientific evidence supports that intake of milk and dairy products contribute to meet nutrient recommendations, and may protect against the most prevalent chronic diseases, whereas very few adverse effects have been reported.”17
The easiest way to determine the best milk for you is to listen to your body. If you feel ill after drinking dairy milk, chances are good you may suffer from lactose intolerance, a casein allergy or another type of dairy sensitivity. Rather than eat and drink illness on yourself, your best strategy is to simply avoid traditional dairy products.
Keep in mind that many who believe they cannot drink regular cow’s milk actually do fine when drinking raw, organic grass fed milk, which is far easier on your digestive system. Raw, organic grass fed A2-only milk may be even better.
Replacing milk and other dairy products with nondairy substitutes is a matter of personal choice. If you don’t miss drinking and eating milk-based products such as cheese, ice cream and yogurt and can obtain requisite nutrients from other foods, you can easily forgo nondairy alternatives.
However, if you cannot imagine life without eating certain types of foods — like ice cream or yogurt, for example — then by all means, find a substitute. If you do choose substitutes, I advise you to read labels carefully to avoid artificial ingredients and toxic amounts of added sugar.
Very especially, do not choose substitutes containing soy because most of that crop is genetically engineered (GE). With respect to ice cream for example, choosing a coconut-based substitute would be a better choice than one made with soy.
If you are able to tolerate cow’s milk, I highly recommend you drink raw organic milk from organic, grass fed animals. Once your taste buds acclimate to it, you are sure to enjoy the thick, creamy taste and many beneficial nutrients raw milk provides, including calcium. High-quality raw milk provides other health benefits, such as:
The best raw, unpasteurized milk comes from healthy cows raised on open pasture. In that setting, cows are free from herbicides and other toxic chemicals known to negatively affect the quality and taste of the final product. It’s best to source your milk from a local organic farm. You can locate a provider near you through the Weston A. Price Foundation’s Campaign for Real Milk.
If you’re new to raw milk, keep in mind the appearance of grass fed organic milk is quite different from the milk you may have purchased from the grocery store. Carotenoids in the grass give it a yellowish color.
Though it may look more like cream than milk, raw milk is one of the healthiest beverages around. Not only is it nutritionally much better for you than the pasteurized variety, its taste is also far superior.
In multiple studies, researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) have underscored the nutritional value of yogurt. Not only can a premeal serving of yogurt boost your postmeal metabolism, but yogurt has also been found to reduce inflammation.
About the 2018 results published in The Journal of Nutrition,18 involving 120 premenopausal women, half of whom were obese, Ruisong Pei, a UW-Madison food science postdoctoral researcher, said, "Eating 8 ounces of low-fat yogurt before a meal is a feasible strategy to improve postmeal metabolism and thus may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases."19
Earlier work by the UW-Madison team, published in 2017 in the British Journal of Nutrition,20 based on the analysis of blood samples from the same participant group, highlighted yogurt’s anti-inflammatory activity.
Specifically, inflammatory markers such as TNF-alpha, an important inflammation-activating protein, were significantly reduced in the women who ate yogurt. Beyond boosting your metabolism and reducing inflammation, yogurt consumption has also been linked to heart health.
Specifically, a 2018 study published in the American Journal of Hypertension links higher yogurt consumption to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease among men and women with high blood pressure — one of the primary risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Higher intakes of yogurt were associated with: 21,22
Beyond the fact it contains healthy milk-derived nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin and vitamin A, traditional homemade yogurt is a fermented food known to promote gut and heart health. It is also a nutrient-dense food rich in high-quality protein, beneficial probiotics and cancer-fighting conjugated linoleic acid.
If you haven’t yet considered making your own yogurt, perhaps you don’t realize how easy it is to do. All you need is a high-quality starter culture and raw, organic grass fed milk. Fortunately, there are many excellent starter cultures available online or from your local health food store.
Whatever you do, do not use sweetened commercial yogurt as your source for the starter culture because it contains too much sugar and too few live cultures to be effective. Because bacterial cultures are temperature sensitive, the trick to making good yogurt is keeping the milk/culture starter mixture at a consistently warm temperature until it has had sufficient time to ferment.
Using a dehydrator is an excellent way to control the temperature to promote fermentation. While the consistency won’t be quite the same as store-bought yogurt, making homemade yogurt affords you control over the ingredients you use. For more tips, check out “How to Make Fresh Homemade Yogurt.”
When yogurt and other fermented dairy products become a regular part of your diet, you will not only give your digestive tract the beneficial bacteria it needs for optimal functioning, but you may — as noted in the new research — lower your risk of heart disease, too.
Recipe by Jennafer Ashley from PaleoHacks
You can change [CO1]your diet and improve your well-being by looking for wholesome and nutrient-filled options that’ll replace lackluster and unhealthy items. One such example is cauliflower rice, which more and more people nowadays are using instead of typical rice varieties. (You make cauliflower rice by pulsing or grating cauliflower until it resembles rice grains or couscous.)
Switching to cauliflower rice provides you with both nutrients and variety — you can combine your favorite vegetables, meats and spices in one dish. This cauliflower rice recipe created for Mercola.com readers by Jennafer Ashley of PaleoHacks is a healthy meal you’ll surely enjoy.
For the Cajun seasoning:
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
For the dirty rice:
1/2 pound organic grass fed ground beef
1 tablespoon ghee
1/2 cup green bell pepper, finely chopped
1/3 cup sweet white onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup beef stock
3 cups cauliflower rice
Stir together the ingredients for the Cajun seasoning in a small bowl.
In a skillet over medium heat, brown ground beef for five minutes. Use a spatula to break up the beef into crumbles.
Stir in ghee, chopped bell peppers, onion and celery and continue to cook for seven minutes longer.
Add beef stock to the skillet and stir in cauliflower rice and Cajun seasoning. Cook five minutes, stirring occasionally until cauliflower is softened. Serve hot[RS6].
This recipe makes 4 servings
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 17 minutes
Total time: 22 minutes
Add This Mouthwatering Cauliflower Rice Recipe Into Your Arsenal
The use of cauliflower as a healthy rice alternative may have contributed to its increased demand and sales. According to a 2017 Time magazine article, a whopping $390 million worth of cauliflower was sold by U.S. farmers back in 2016, compared to $239 million in 2012.[i]
However, eating cauliflower rice shouldn’t just be perceived as a health food trend that’ll eventually go away, but rather a conscious diet choice to help improve your overall health and well-being.
What Makes Cauliflower Rice Special?
Did you know that you can eat cauliflower rice either raw or cooked? The Huffington Post explains that the former tends to be crunchy, while the latter is light and fluffy, but tender and chewy too.[ii] No matter what your preference is, you can be sure that consuming cauliflower may deliver important benefits.
This cruciferous vegetable’s nutrient content is unparalleled, as it contains a wide variety of vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6, C, K and folate) and minerals (magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and calcium), as well as protein and fiber.[MJU7][iii],[iv]
Phytonutrients in cauliflower play a role in this vegetable’s antioxidant abilities. Depending on which color of cauliflower you choose (purple, green and orange varieties are also available), cauliflower contains good quantities of beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, caffeic acid, cinnamic acid, ferulic acid, quercetin, rutin and kaempferol.[v],[vi],[vii]
A 2012 animal study published in the American Journal of Hypertension noted that sulforaphane, a compound in cauliflower, helped significantly improve blood pressure and kidney function among rats.[MJU8][viii] On the other hand, a 2017 Food Function study highlighted that cauliflower leaf powder, when used as a preventive supplement, helped decrease the risk for inflammation and oxidative stress caused by a lipopolysaccharide (LPS) injection in rabbits.[ix]
When buying cauliflower heads, choose those that are clean and creamy white, with bud clusters that are compact and not separated. Avoid cauliflower that’s spotted or dull-colored, or has small flowers in it.[x] While most people use white cauliflower for making this dish, as mentioned, you can use purple, green and orange varieties[xi] for this recipe too.
Wrap cauliflower heads loosely in plastic and store them in your refrigerator. Fresh cauliflower heads may last around two weeks. You may also store fresh cauliflower by cutting them into florets and keeping them inside a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator. If your refrigerator is well-regulated, the cauliflower may last this way for around one week.[xii] To make cauliflower rice, simply pulse it through your food processor or grate using a box grater.[xiii]
Two Tasty Veggies Increase This Dish’s Flavor and Nutrient Content
You can add any of your favorite vegetables to cauliflower rice. For the recipe above, two ingredients not only add color and flavor to this dish, but impart additional benefits too:
Celery — You may already know that this low-calorie vegetable is abundant in vitamins and minerals, but it’s the other compounds found in celery that steal the show. Flavonoids like beta-carotene and its related components, lutein and zeaxanthin,[xiv] which are present in high amounts, are said to help reduce inflammation and heart disease risk, promote better immune system health, and prevent growth of abnormal cancer-causing cells.
Other antioxidant compounds in celery include flavonols[xv] (kaempferol and quercertin), natural phenolic dihydrostilbenoids (lunularin) and furanocoumarins[xvi] (bergapten and psoralen). A compound in celery called 3-n-buthylphthalide may also assist in lowering cholesterol and blood pressure levels by promoting relaxation in your blood vessels.[MJU9][xvii]
To buy the best celery, choose those that are crisp and tightly formed in bunches, without brown spots or yellow leaves. Place them inside a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. As much as possible, avoid splitting celery stalks until you’re about to use them. If you notice damaged stalks, discard them and just wash the clean stalks thoroughly.[xviii]
Green bell peppers — Green bell peppers are prized for their powerful vitamin C content that may promote enhanced immune system health, combat harmful free radicals in the body, lower the risk for scurvy and decrease arterial inflammation that may lead to heart disease, diabetes and cholesterol build up.[MJU10]
Green bell peppers are also home good quantities of antioxidant phytonutrients such as flavonoids, carotenoids, and hydroxycinnamic and hydroxybenzoic acid derivatives.[xix],[xx]
Purchase green bell peppers that are glossy, firm and feel a bit heavy. Avoid peppers that have soft spots or mold, and feel light to the touch. To store, place them inside paper bags or open-topped plastic bags in your refrigerator. They can be kept for up to two weeks. Make sure to use green bell peppers within 24 hours of cutting them.[xxi]
Consuming Grass Fed Beef Delivers Immense Benefits
It has been constantly proven that grass fed beef is superior compared to meat obtained from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in terms of quality and nutrient content.[xxii] Grass fed beef is abundant in beta-carotene, omega-3 fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid, vaccenic acid, and other vitamins and minerals.[MJU11]
More recent research has shown, however, that a particular saturated fat in grass fed beef called stearic acid may promote cardiovascular benefits. According to an August 2018 Nature Communications study, stearic acid intake assisted with lowering the risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer compared to other saturated fats found in animals and plants.[xxiii]
Grass fed beef is considered a good stearic acid source, with research showing that this type of beef contains 36 percent higher amounts of saturated stearic acid (17.45 percent) compared to grain-fed beef (12.8 percent).[xxiv][MJU12]
As much as possible, source your grass fed beef directly from a trustworthy farmer in your area. If you don’t have access to a farmer, purchase meat from supermarkets that carry the American Grassfed Association (AGA) logo. When you see this, you can ensure that the animal was:[xxv]
Fed a diet of 100 percent forage during their lifetime
Raised on pasture, and not in confined environments
Not administered any hormones or antibiotics
Born and raised on American family farms[xxvi]
This grass fed standard not only provides higher-quality and more nutrient-rich meats, but enables transparency between farmers and consumers, and promotes more humane and sustainable farming practices that even small farmers may deem feasible and achievable.[xxvii]
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 may need.
I've previously interviewed James DiNicolantonio, Pharm.D., about his book, "The Salt Fix: Why the Experts Got It All Wrong and How Eating More Might Save Your Life," where he exposes why we got it wrong about salt and promotes eating healthy real salt.1
"The Salt Fix" is a fascinating book and I encourage you to go pick up a copy and read it. Here, we will focus on our new book, "Superfuel: Ketogenic Keys to Unlock the Secrets of Good Fats, Bad Fats, and Great Health," which covers the importance of dietary fats, and how to discriminate between healthy and harmful fats.
DiNicolantonio compiled most of the research for this book and invited me to contribute to it, which I was happy to do. Healthy fats are the foundation of my last book, "Fat for Fuel," and I thought it would be useful to expand on the topic with this book.
"'Superfuel' is the ketogenic diet 2.0," DiNicolantonio says. "Everyone's doing keto diets now, where their diets are mostly 70 to 80 percent fat. But, 'How do we enhance that diet? What are the healthy fats? What type of fat should people be eating since it's making up the majority of their calories?'
I think a lot of people doing the ketogenic diet are doing some things right, but they're doing a lot of things wrong … That really was the motivation for this book."
In a nutshell, "Superfuel" guides you back to a diet closer to what was eaten during Paleolithic times. Just over 100 years ago, Procter & Gamble introduced Crisco as an alternative to butter and lard in 1911, and we began consuming industrial vegetable oils or seed oils that never existed before.
These oils are primarily omega-6 linoleic acid, and damaged omega-6 at that, due to the processing involved. As a result, our omega-6 intake nearly tripled, while our intake of plant- and marine-based omega-3 fat DECREASED tenfold, causing a severe imbalance in our omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, which ideally should be between 1-to-1 and 1-to-5. DiNicolantonio says:
"We've had these dramatic changes in our fat intake. They actually changed us from the inside out. Omega-6 isn't bad as it is an essential fat. It's only when you isolate it and adulterate and consume it in excessive quantities that it becomes pernicious. We have these bottles of omega-6 now that are … exposed to light, and then we cook with them. That oxidizes the oil further.
Then we consume these isolated oils. They don't have the natural vitamins and minerals and antioxidants in the coatings around seeds and nuts that gives us omega-6 to protect them from oxidizing in our body.
When you consume these isolated oils, even if it's a cold-pressed omega-6, the acid in your stomach will oxidize those oils and create lipid hydroperoxides and aldehydes. We absorb these and they cause a ton of damage."
Indeed, one of the most significant dangers from consuming processed vegetable oils is that the damaged fats are integrated into your cell membranes, including the mitochondrial membrane, and once these membranes become dysfunctional, complications are sure to follow.
Even if you do not cook with canola oil or some other vegetable oil, there are many other stealth or hidden sources of damaged omega-6s. If you frequent restaurants on a regular basis, for example, you're virtually guaranteed to be eating a high-omega-6 diet, as most restaurants use vegetable oils in their cooking and baking.
"Canola oil is one of the worst oils you can cook with," DiNicolantonio says. "It causes a ton of oxidation products, because they're so susceptible to heat due to the double bonds. They put these omega-6 seed oils in bread and in condiments, cereals, pastries and desserts. It's really everywhere … [and] it's literally transforming you from the inside-out, because these long-chain omegas get integrated in the cell membrane.
The oxidation products oxidize those fatty acid tails. When you damage those tails in the lipid bilayer, they start to curl upwards. That actually creates a more permeable membrane. You get more things that aren't supposed to get into the cell and damage the mitochondria, damage the DNA. The fluidity of the cell membrane also goes down.
The fluidity of the cell membrane is extremely important, because you have all these hormone transporters that sit in the cell membrane. When you don't get enough omega-3s, especially docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the membranes become very rigid …
Instead of being able to come in and out very easily, because the membrane isn't fluid, it starts … affecting how things flow into and out of the cell. Your metabolic rate goes down, and you have damage in the cell. It's a huge issue."
With regards to your mitochondria, these organelles have an inner membrane. Cardiolipin is an important component of this membrane and it needs to be saturated in DHA, which happens to be very susceptible to oxidation. Cardiolipin can be likened to a cellular alarm system that triggers apoptosis (cell death) by signaling caspase-3 when something goes wrong with the cell.
However, if the cardiolipin is not saturated with DHA, it cannot signal caspase-3, and hence apoptosis does not occur. As a result, dysfunctional cells are allowed to continue to grow, which can turn into a cancerous cell. Similarly, in your brain, DHA is used as a signal to stimulate NRF2, heme oxygenase 1 and to upregulate antioxidant enzymes.
"Omega-3s oxidizing in the body is bad, but our bodies kind of know what to do with that signal, whereas omega-6, not so much, because we didn't have as much during Paleolithic times," DiNicolantonio says.
Lowering your omega-6 intake is also important for the removal of senescent cells, i.e., aged, damaged or crippled cells that have lost the ability to reproduce. If senescent cells are not removed, they start gunking up the machinery. Fasting is another method that will clear out senescent cells.
When it comes to omega-6, you really only need 1 to 2 grams of linoleic acid per day. I like my primary sources of omega-6 to be whole foods such as nuts and seeds. With the exception of flax seeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds, most other plant seeds have high amounts of omega-6
Meanwhile, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends you to consume 5 to 10 percent of your calories as omega-6 from vegetable oils or olive oil. DiNicolantonio explains:
"Instead of recommending whole foods, they recommend oils, which makes absolutely no sense. The Lyon Diet Heart Study2 lowered linoleic acid from over 5 percent to about 3.5 percent [and found] a 70 percent reduction in cardiovascular [problems] and mortality.
There's actually no evidence to support the AHA or the United States dietary guidelines, [which] recommends consuming high amounts of omega-6s from vegetable oils …
The problem with these industrial seed oils is the processing that occurs to get [the oil] out of the seed. They have to use hexane and deodorize the oil, because it's so toxic. By the time it makes it to the shelf, you've got all these oxidation products, and then you consume it and your body oxidizes it with the acid in your stomach.
These oxidation products are about a fiftyfold higher than the eicosanoids made in your body. They are dramatically more harmful than any of the most harmful eicosanoids, like thromboxane a2 … because they form aldehydes. These aldehydes, like 4-hydroxynonenal … is what actually causes oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL).
It binds to the apolipoprotein B (apoB) [and] all apoB-containing lipoproteins. Now, these lipoproteins aren't recognized by the LDL receptors. They hang out in the blood. It's really the linoleic acid that gets integrated into high-density lipoprotein (HDL), LDL and very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL), [which then] oxidizes and causes atherosclerosis.
Linoleic acid itself also damages the endothelium and causes an increase in penetration of LDL and VLDL particles into the subendothelium … And then when you get these oxidation products, it's dramatically more harmful.
This is what's causing neurodegenerative diseases. Aldehydes can actually crosslink tau protein and create neurofibrillary tangles. It has been shown in animal studies that these aldehydes can literally create neurofibrillary tangles that you see in Alzheimer's disease.
This is what's called advanced lipoxidation end-products (ALEs). Most people know about advanced glycation end-products (AGEs), but these ALEs, by far, are much more harmful, and it's caused by consumption of oxidized omega-6 seed oils."
It may come as a surprise to learn that all omega-3 sources are not healthy either. Not only is the ratio between omega-3 and omega-6 a primary concern, but industrially processed omega-3 products can also cause problems similar to those caused by too much, and damaged, omega-6. This is a topic we delve deeper into in the book.
For example, about half of all fish oils have problems with oxidation. So, when buying a fish oil supplement, you really need to look for a product that tests the hydro peroxide levels. The lower the level the better, but I would not accept anything over 5 percent.
Many fish oils are also not sourced from wild fish, and that's another consideration. Ideally, you really want a fish oil obtained from wild-caught fish and not farmed. Also avoid farmed fish such as farmed salmon if you're using that as a direct omega-3 source.
Many times, farmed salmon are raised on an unnatural diet that raises their fat content to abnormal levels and skews their omega-3 to omega-6 ratio in favor of the latter. They're also chockfull of toxins. Along with wild-caught salmon, other healthy sources of omega-3 are sardines, anchovies and herring.
In addition to that, there's the issue of sustainability, where both wild-caught and farmed fish fall short. That's one of the reasons I like krill oil, because it is the largest biomass in the world, and harvesting is tightly regulated. If you're a vegan and refuse to eat any animal food at all, your choices become very limited. Perhaps one of the best sources of EPA and DHA for vegans is algal oil.
"Krill is great, because it is very sustainable and has so many advantages compared to just regular fish oil, because the omega-3s are bound to phospholipids," DiNicolantonio says. "Back in Paleolithic times … we were scavengers. Sites have been discovered from over 2 million years ago with dozens of animal skulls cracked open around them.
The brain is higher in DHA than salmon — up to 30 percent more concentrated. So, our ancient ancestors were able to access and scavenge skulls in the African savanna and get tremendous amounts of DHA. To give you an example, 4 ounces of brain can give you up to 1.5 grams of DHA.
It's extremely saturated in cholesterol as well. This was a phospholipid-bound DHA that we were getting. And your brain doesn't absorb DHA without it being bound to phosphatidylcholine … When you're consuming fish oil, you've got to esterify it. You've got to attach it to choline, and then you absorb it.
But with krill oil, being bound to the phospholipids, you get twice the absorption of DHA … And then, also, our consumption of ALA was 10 times what it was today. How we used to get omega-3s if we weren't getting brain or seafood is we were consuming a tremendous amount of plant material.
We were getting 10 to 15 grams of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). That's the parent omega-3 in plants. We only get about 2 grams nowadays. If you look at a female of childbearing age, they could convert over 20 percent of their ALA to EPA …
[A woman of childbearing age] can convert almost 10 percent of that ALA to DHA, which is a long-chain marine omega-3. They were getting 1 to 1.5 grams of DHA just from the conversion."
Bear in mind that these conversion rates are not typical. The average, nonpregnant adult typically converts only 5 percent ALA to EPA and 0.5 percent ALA to DHA.
What's more, when you go from 15 grams of omega-6 linoleic acid to 30 grams, which we're consuming nowadays, that reduces your conversion rate of ALA to EPA and DHA by another 40 to 50 percent. Certain nutrients, including magnesium and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), are also required, so certain nutritional deficiencies play a role in your ability to convert ALA to EPA and DHA as well.
In regard to the ketogenic diet, most people don't understand how important omega-3s are to building muscle, improving fitness and burning fat. To give you an example, if you replaced just 6 grams of visible fat in your diet (such as steak) with 6 grams of high-quality fish oil, research shows that in just three weeks you may lose 2 pounds of fat and gain half a pound of muscle. The reason for this is because omega-3 fat, particularly DHA, is the pacemaker of the cell.
"The reason why hummingbirds can beat their wings 80 times a second is because they can saturate their wings with DHA," DiNicolantonio says. "DHA makes the cell membrane so fluid that molecules, like amino acids, glucose, sodium, potassium, they fly in and out of the cell.
The same thing happens in humans. When you consume a high amount of omega-3s, about 3 to 4 grams, you create a cell membrane that is super saturated DHA, very fluid. Now, your basal metabolic rate goes up 15 percent. Your beta-oxidation in the liver during exercise, your fat burning during exercise goes up by 30 percent. Even at rest, your beta-oxidation goes up by 20 percent.
Long-chain omega-3s are important for ketogenic diets, because you become a better fat-burning machine. It's affecting the machinery, the beta-oxidation in the liver. It's improving that by activating genes. And then the other omega-3, the plant omega-3, ALA, is a ketogenic substrate, so it doesn't get stored like the marine omega-3s. It can be converted into ketones …
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) oil is great too for fat loss. Meta-analyses or randomized studies show that MCT oil, compared to long-chain saturated fats — we're talking about heavy cream and butter —significantly reduces waist circumference and visceral adiposity, because it doesn't get stored. It gets burned for ketones.
The reason why [marine-based] omega-3s are good for fuel is because it suppresses inflammation in the brain. What happens in a cognitive-declining brain is you're not able to utilize glucose well, because of the inflammation. DHA helps squelch the inflammation.
Your brain is able to utilize glucose better when you're consuming more omega-3s. You're actually able to produce more ketone bodies when you're consuming both parent omega-3 and the long-chain EPA and DHA. You become a better ketogenic machine when you're consuming high amounts of omega-3s."
The mechanism behind these effects is an upregulation of genes that activate beta-oxidation in your liver, allowing you to burn fat more efficiently when you have enough omega-3s in your system. Overall, your basal metabolic rate goes up, because your cell membranes are so fluid, which allows amino acids and glucose to flow into and out of the cells better.
Your inflammation also goes down, and all of this helps optimize your ability to burn fat for fuel. On top of that, omega-3s help synthesize protein, so muscle protein synthesis dramatically increases when you consume 3 to 4 grams of animal-based omega-3 per day — again, because amino acids are able to circulate through the cell very easily when its saturated with DHA.
"Studies have shown in middle-aged adults, as well as in the elderly, consuming 3 grams of DHA [per day] increases muscle strength, increases your maximum amount that you're able to rep. Your grip strength is improved. This is an important fat to help prevent sarcopenia.
This is a very big issue, where elderly people are not even able to carry a milk carton. Really, the omega-3s are what's going to hopefully help prevent a lot of the muscle loss during aging."
After taping this interview, the drug company Amarin issued a press release3 about a new study with fish oil that was just recently completed. They used a new proprietary prescription formulation of fish oil called Vascepa. This is a highly-processed form of EPA.
The drug trial was called REDUCE-IT and it was done for five years. The really unusual result of this trial is that they used high doses — 4 grams per day — which is two to four times as much EPA as is typically done in these types of studies.
What did they find? They found a 25 percent reduction in cardiovascular risks, which far exceeded their expectations and results that are seen with statins. The study only looked at cardiovascular disease but my guess is other degenerative diseases, like Alzheimer's, diabetes and arthritis, also likely improved. We won't be able to review the study until it is presented at the American Heart Association's annual meeting on November 10, 2018.
This study confirmed what we wrote and predicted in our book that will be published on November 13. BUT here is the real kicker, the drug costs $2,500 per year or over $200 per month. Krill and clean fish are far less expensive but you need to approach the 4 grams per day dose to achieve these results, which is the key.
In closing, this has been but a small sampling of what is covered in greater depth in "Superfuel: Ketogenic Keys to Unlock the Secrets of Good Fats, Bad Fats, and Great Health," which can be preordered from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. It's a great complement to "Fat for Fuel," and will help you clearly understand the benefits of these vitally important fats.
Follow Dr. James DiNicolantonio on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more information. Pick up a copy of his book, "The Salt Fix: Why the Experts Got It All Wrong and How Eating More Might Save Your Life."