In 2019, 1,762,450 Americans are expected to receive a diagnosis of cancer,1 and it doesn’t matter who you are, hearing “You have cancer” is a devastating blow. Oftentimes, the trauma of the diagnosis is further worsened by well-intentioned people who simply don’t know how to respond to the news.
A July 2019 article2 in The Atlantic addresses this sensitive issue. Taylor Lorenz tells the story of Kate Bowler, a 35-year-old historian and author of “Blessed,” a book that deals with “the origins of the notion that good things happen to good people.”
Bowler’s cancer diagnosis came like a lightning bolt from a clear-blue sky. In 2015, she sought treatment for stomach pain. It turned out to be Stage 4 colon cancer, and she was given less than a year to live.
“Many people who receive her diagnosis begin to get their affairs in order and spend their remaining time with family in between treatments.
Bowler did all that, but also launched a podcast3 called ‘Everything Happens,’ on which she talks with people about what they learned in dark times. She wrote another book. And she set about changing the way people view and talk about suffering in America,” Lorenz writes.4
As explained on the website5 for Bowler’s second book, “Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved,” her career as a professor at Duke Divinity School had centered around “the study of the prosperity gospel, a creed that sees fortune as a blessing from God and misfortune as a mark of God’s disapproval.”
Her cancer diagnosis forced her to face her own mortality, and in so doing, made her realize she’d “been tacitly subscribing to the prosperity gospel, living with the conviction that she can control the shape of her life with ‘a surge of determination.’”
Like so many others, she had bought into the idea that illness (or any other form of misfortune) is a sign of personal failure — somehow, you didn’t work hard enough; you weren’t optimistic enough. Somehow you disappointed God and this is your punishment.
“What does it mean to die … in a society that insists everything happens for a reason?” Bowler asks.6 She was happily married, had a young son and a job she enjoyed. In her mind, her future was all planned out.
She intended to get her Ph.D. and become a tenured professor. Up until the day she was told she had late-stage cancer, her life had followed the script of someone on the fast-track to happiness and fulfillment — proof she’d done everything right.
“But Bowler’s commitment to the notion that everything happens for a reason went out the door once her diagnosis hit,” Lorenz writes.7 “Now she believes that idea is deeply problematic. ‘We live in this culture that seems unable to allow people to suffer without trying to explain things to them,’ she said.
It’s common for people to tell themselves or others that the best is yet to come. But promoting that idea, Bowler argued, can be cruel to those who might consider their best days far behind them.”
Despite a grim diagnosis, Bowler survived. Today, four years later, her focus has shifted to educating people about how to support people in the midst of their suffering. Her own experiences taught her a lot about this, and many of the things people say turn out to be less than helpful. For example, Bowler suggests that when speaking to someone who is suffering:
Karen Raymaakers has also written about what to say when someone you know is diagnosed with cancer.9 She points out that our reactions are almost always shaped by previous experiences, hence the wide variety of reactions to something as devastating as a cancer diagnosis.
“They may show unbelievable strength you never knew they had, or be more vulnerable than you knew. They might show a number of different emotions — sadness, anger, guilt, fear, ambivalence, avoidance — and sometimes they may show all at once or change from moment to moment,” she writes.10
Raymaakers suggests taking your cue directly from the person who got the diagnosis. “How your loved one feels about their diagnosis will help shape your response to it,” she says. If they’re in a stage where they want to talk about their cancer, try to be present and just listen. If they don’t want to talk about it, don’t force it.
Whatever you do, though, don’t avoid the issue altogether. As noted by Raymaakers, it can be tempting to gloss it over and pretend like nothing is wrong, thinking your friend or family member already knows you care about them and support them no matter what.
“The truth is, cancer is the elephant in the room. To not acknowledge it is almost more hurtful than anything you could ever say,” Raymaaker writes.11
“The best advice in this situation is to say how you feel. Are you thinking about them? Then say so. Do you care about them? Then say so. Are you sorry that they are going through this? Then say so. Don’t know what to say? Then say that. Here are a few more conversation starters:
- I am here if you want to talk.
- I would like to help in any way I can.
- Are you up for having visitors?
- Is there anyone else you would like me to contact?
- This must be a hard thing to go through.”
Like Bowler, Raymaakers warns against trying to relate to what your friend is going through by comparing it to your own experience. She also discourages people from trying to find the silver lining.
“There isn’t much of a silver lining to a blood cancer diagnosis, so avoid saying things like, ‘It could be worse,’ or, ‘At least it isn’t ...’ For the person with the disease, this probably is the worst-case scenario,” Raymaakers says.12
Other don’ts include making overly pessimistic remarks, or saying things that minimize what your friend is going through. Keep pep talks like “It’ll be OK” and “Cheer up” for less distressing and life altering situations. Raymaakers adds:
“Don’t leave if things get tough. If the person gets angry, let them vent. If they tell you they’re afraid, open up the conversation so they can unload on you. ‘What are you most afraid of?’ ‘What can I do to help with your fears?’ … [I]f you let the patient do the talking, you don’t need to worry about what to say.”
In her article, Raymaakers also delves into “how to handle hospital visits,” and how you can help the person suffering through caring and thoughtful actions. Here are a few selections from her listings. For more, see the original article.13
• If your loved one is in the hospital, call ahead to make sure they can receive visitors, during what hours and whether certain gifts (such as flowers) might be inappropriate for health reasons.
Many cancer patients are fatigued and need lots of rest, so keep your visits to a half-hour or less, unless they ask you to stay. Keep in mind many cancer patients have weakened immune function, so do not visit if you’re feeling ill.
• Show you care by offering to care for their children or pets, run errands or do household chores for them, or deliver precooked meals that only require reheating. You can also offer to drive them to doctors’ appointments, or prepare a “chemo care package” with a few thoughtful items that might bring comfort or entertainment during long treatments.
While it would be inappropriate to tell a cancer patient to simply “cheer up” or “think positive,” optimism does play an important role in health and healing. In “Optimism and Hope in Chronic Disease: A Systematic Review,”14 published in Frontiers in Psychology in 2016, the authors highlight findings showing an optimistic outlook on life in general leads to lower depression levels, improved physical health and increased longevity. According to the authors:
“In regards to optimism, Scheier and Carver … defined it as an overall tendency to believe that vivid experiences will lead to good results rather than bad ones. Carver et al. … explained that to be optimistic is to maintain a generally favorable expectation about the future.
Hart et al. … added that overall positive expectations are considered one of the main determinants for knowing whether people will continue to pursue their life objectives in a condition of chronic disease …”
Hope, defined as “a state of positive motivation based on three components: objectives (goals to be achieved), routes (planning to achieve these goals), and agency (motivation directed toward these objectives),” has similar benefits.
Interestingly, evidence suggests that while optimism is protective against short-term stress, optimists facing prolonged stress may actually be at greater risk of health complications, “as optimists are more immunologically vulnerable under such circumstances.” Still, the authors concluded that:
“Some association between higher hope/optimism levels and a healthier profile was observed in 27 of the 29 studies. In regard to the results perceived by the study participants after intervention, only two articles found no relationship between the constructs and relevant results …
Regarding cancer, it was found that optimism predicted a year of survival regardless of other socio-demographic and clinical variables in patients with head and neck cancer … and more abilities to manage stressors while less optimistic cancer patients experienced more negative psychological changes …
The results of the studies presented in this analysis suggest that there is a close relationship between the constructs of optimism and hope and a reduction in the effects of chronic disease. However, it is important to highlight that the association between optimism or hope and physical health differs depending on the context of the disease and the subjects.”
Staying optimistic in the face of debilitating and/or lethal disease is easier said than done, no doubt. Yet it’s worth the effort, if not only to protect your mental health and avoid spiraling into despair.
If you’re been diagnosed with an illness, be it cancer or something else, you may want to consider The Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) to help you move through any negative emotions that surface to prevent them from becoming permanent companions.
In the video above, EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman demonstrates how to use EFT for the grieving process. When faced with your own mortality, feeling grief is natural. But it can become a hindrance if you cannot move through it. EFT may be helpful for that.
Also, check out Bowler’s podcast,15 “Everything Happens.” Bowler interviews a wide range of individuals, talking to them about “what they’ve learned in dark times.” Some discussions center around loss and grief, while others tackle living with chronic illness.
Spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi), also known as jatamansi,1 is an herb originating from the Himalayas.2 It’s commonly used as an essential oil, which is added to perfumes due to its sweet, balsamic and woody scent.3 But aside from its aroma, spikenard contains more healthful components that you can benefit from. To learn more about spikenard’s health benefits and uses, continue reading.
For centuries, spikenard has been used in medicine to treat numerous conditions, both physical and aesthetic. Its popularity as a therapeutic agent is widely known throughout the world, with the herb having been used in Indian, Greek, Egyptian, Arabic and Roman medicine. In fact, legend says that spikenard was the expensive ointment referenced in the Bible,4 when Mary Magdalene5 anointed Jesus’ feet.
The spikenard plant typically grows in mountainous regions, between 1,200 and 3,000 meters (almost 4,000 to 10,000 feet) above sea level.6
It is easily recognizable by its rosy or pale pink flowers and its rhizomes that are covered in tail-like brown fibers.7 These rhizomes, which are commonly hydrodistilled to make an essential oil, are the main parts of the spikenard plant that are used in Ayurvedic medicine.8 But because of difficulties in cultivating it at such high altitudes, its rarity and its environment, spikenard has been deemed as an endangered plant.9
While the name “spikenard” is often associated with Nardostachys jatamansi, it actually shares the same name with the Aralia racemosa, the American counterpart of this Indian herb. They do, however, offer different uses, with American spikenard being primarily used for easing coughs, asthma and arthritis.10
Spikenard is mainly utilized for its benefits for neurological and mental conditions, such as epilepsy, insomnia and mental weakness. In modern times it’s also been used to treat disorders of the cardiovascular system.11 Numerous studies have focused on the neuroprotective characteristics12 of this herb, with it being used as an alternative treatment for minimizing symptoms and slowing down the development of both Alzheimer’s13 and Parkinson’s disease.14
Its ability to help alleviate the symptoms of both these diseases is due to its high concentration of sesquiterpenes. These are natural chemicals that can penetrate the blood-brain barrier and help fight numerous neurological symptoms.15
But aside from this, spikenard can actually have an effect on a wide range of bodily functions. Some of these health benefits include:
While spikenard’s aroma is extremely pleasurable, its uses are not limited to deodorizing. Because of the impressive components of spikenard, you can use the oil or extract in numerous ways, particularly for these conditions:
If you want to grow your own spikenard, note that this plant may be extremely picky due to the climate and altitude it’s commonly found in. To start, make sure that you have soil rich in carbon and organic nitrogen. At lower altitudes, spikenard prefers a terrain that has a slight tilt. Locate an area that has moist soil and is partially exposed to sunlight. It’s best that you use a litter treatment with manure to boost the organic content of the soil.
To ensure that you’re getting the spikenard roots that have the highest levels of active compounds, harvest after they become mature, usually in September or October in higher altitudes.25
Spikenard essential oil, which has been used for a variety of applications for hundreds of years, has been used in religious rites. In funerals over 2,000 years ago, it was used to anoint the bodies of the departed, alongside myrrh oil and other oils.26 Today, some of spikenard essential oil’s uses include:
While there are no proven side effects caused by spikenard, it is suggested that you seek the opinion of a health care practitioner to see if this herb is recommended for you and whether it will interfere with any medications that you may be taking. For topical application, dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil and test on a small patch of skin to check if it causes an allergic reaction to avoid irritation and scarring.
Breastfeeding mothers should steer clear of this herb because of the possible repercussions it can cause. Spikenard oil use is also highly discouraged for pregnant women because of its supposed effect on menstruation. While it may improve menstrual cycles, spikenard may cause dangerous effects during pregnancy.30
In 2018, more than 318.2 million people visited U.S. national parks, logging more than 1.4 billion recreation visitor hours.1 Their popularity hints at humans’ inherent desire to spend time in natural spaces, and research backs up the benefits, showing that greater exposure to parks and other “green” spaces is associated with better health and well-being.2
Taking time to explore national parks is a worthy endeavor to get in your nature fix, but even better may be taking time to explore the natural world on a daily or weekly basis. Is there a magic number when it comes to the ideal amount of time to spend in nature to maximize its benefits to your health?
A study published in Scientific Reports explored the associations between contact with nature in the last seven days and self-reported health and well-being.3 Data from 19,806 participants were included, revealing that, compared to no nature contact, spending 120 minutes or more in nature during the previous week was associated with a greater likelihood of good health or high well-being.
There were decreasing returns with nature exposure beyond 120 minutes, and the association flattened out and even dropped between 200 and 300 minutes per week.
“We tentatively suggest, therefore, that 120 minutes contact with nature per week may reflect a kind of ‘threshold,’ below which there is insufficient contact to produce significant benefits to health and well-being, but above which such benefits become manifest,” the researchers said.4
It didn’t matter how the 120 minutes was achieved; multiple shorter visits had the same effect as fewer, longer visits, as long as they added up to 120 minutes, and the benefits held true across different populations, including older adults and people with long-term health issues. Lead study author Matthew White, of the University of Exeter Medical School, said in a news release:5
"It's well known that getting outdoors in nature can be good for people's health and wellbeing but until now we've not been able to say how much is enough.
The majority of nature visits in this research took place within just two miles of home so even visiting local urban greenspaces seems to be a good thing. Two hours a week is hopefully a realistic target for many people, especially given that it can be spread over an entire week to get the benefit."
The researchers of the featured study even suggested that, with further research, weekly nature guidelines could be developed similar to those given for physical activity. In fact, the study found that getting recommended levels of nature exposure weekly could result in a similar magnitude of health gains as achieving recommended levels of physical activity.6
Indeed, past research also shows that the health benefits of nature experiences depend on the dose. Among people in an urban environment, long visits to green spaces were associated with lower rates of depression and high blood pressure, while more frequent visits were linked to greater social cohesion, which is associated with physical and mental well-being. The study further revealed:7
“The results here suggest that nature experiences in urban green spaces may be having a considerable impact on population health, and that these benefits could be higher if more people were engaged in nature experiences.
Specifically, our results suggest that up to a further 7% of depression cases and 9% of high blood pressure cases could be prevented if all city residents were to visit green spaces at least once a week for an average duration of 30 minutes or more.”
More frequent and longer visits to green spaces were also associated with physical activity, which can further boost health. Visiting natural settings may help to facilitate exercise, as you can easily spend time walking, hiking or cycling trails.
Spending time in nature carries an impressive potential to boost your health. One meta-analysis of 103 observational and 40 interventional studies investigating about 100 health outcomes revealed that spending more time in green spaces is associated with decreased:8
Salivary cortisol (a marker of stress)
Diastolic blood pressure
According to the study, “For several nonpooled health outcomes, between 66.7% and 100% of studies showed health-denoting associations with increased greenspace exposure including neurological and cancer-related outcomes, and respiratory mortality.”9
Delving even deeper into nature’s connection to health, some research suggests that green spaces with the highest levels of plants, butterflies and birds, otherwise known as species richness or biodiversity, may further enhance psychological health.10 On the other hand, the opposite also holds true in that living in an urban environment might negatively affect mental health.
One of the goals of quantifying the optimal “dose” of nature is so doctors can advise their patients on how to get the most benefits of outdoor time. They could even hand out “green prescriptions.” The authors of the meta-analysis noted:12
“Green prescriptions involving greenspace use may have substantial benefits. Our findings should encourage practitioners and policymakers to give due regard to how they can create, maintain, and improve existing accessible greenspaces in deprived areas.
Furthermore the development of strategies and interventions for the utilisation of such greenspaces by those who stand to benefit the most.”
It’s an idea that’s catching on. One partnership project between NHS Shetland and the U.K.’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds allows general practitioners to prescribe nature as part of their patients’ treatment.
The Nature Prescriptions program “recognizes the benefits of nature on reducing blood pressure, reducing anxiety and increasing happiness as well as the growing disconnection with nature throughout society.”13 The program includes a schedule of seasonal activities designed to encourage more time in nature, which include such activities as:14
Counting the birds in your garden
Stepping outside and being still for three minutes, just listening
Getting out “whatever the weather” and feeling the exhilaration of wind and rain on your face
Making a birdbath
Looking for tracks and signs of animals
Planting some bulbs
As scientists continue to reaffirm the benefits of spending time in nature, many Americans struggle with getting enough outdoor time. In a report commissioned by Velux, a window manufacturing company, it’s revealed that 25 percent of Americans hardly ever go outside.15,16
“We are increasingly turning into a generation of indoor people where the only time we get daylight and fresh air midweek is on the commute to work or school,” Peter Foldbjerg, the head of daylight energy and indoor climate at Velux, a window manufacturing company, said in a statement.17
In another survey of 11,817 U.S. adults and children, 25% of adults reported spending less than two hours in nature each week.18 “The relationship of Americans and nature is changing,” the Nature of Americans report found, adding:19
“Adults and children alike spend evermore time indoors, participation in activities like hunting and fishing is stagnant or declining, and shifts in social expectations treat engagement with nature as a mere amenity.
These trends pose a nationwide problem, since overwhelming evidence shows the physical, psychological, and social wellbeing of humans depends on contact with nature.”
The report described a significant gap between Americans’ interest in nature and their efforts and ability to pursue that interest. While numerous factors are contributing to an increasing disconnect between Americans and nature, the report highlighted five of the most prominent:20
The good news is that it may require only 120 minutes a week to reap the many benefits that nature has to offer, and this is an amount that should be achievable for most people. Further, you needn’t spend two hours at one time; if you break it up into daily increments, that’s only about 17 minutes a day.
Taking time to walk outdoors during your lunch break, tend to your garden after work or walk your dog in the morning can all increase your exposure to beneficial green spaces. Try to make a habit of getting outdoors as much as possible; meal times, family gatherings and washing your dog are all opportunities to be outdoors.
Combining your workouts with nature by doing them outdoors is another good idea, and even talking a longer walk outdoors when you have time can be incredibly beneficial.
In one study, people who took a 90-minute walk in nature reported lower levels of rumination and had reduced neural activity in an area of the brain (the subgenual prefrontal cortex) linked to risk of mental illness such as depression than people who took a comparable walk in the city.21
As it stands, more than 50% of people live in urban areas, and this is expected to increase to 70% by 2050,22 which means making a conscious effort to increase access to green spaces will become ever more important — as will taking the time to use such spaces.
The Nature of Americans report suggested “transformative action” to achieve this, including the recommendations that follow to help connect Americans with nature:23
Emphasize regular, recurrent and routine engagement with nature, the outdoors and wildlife.
For adults and children, promote nature not only as a place for experiences, but also as a place for involvement and care.
Assure adults and children that time in nature can be (and even ought to be) social.
Provide socially safe and satisfying places outdoors, especially for urban and minority adults and children.
Work to lower the perceived costs of participation in recreational activities.
Promote experiences in nature that match Americans' multidimensional values of nature.
Broaden programming to include a range of outcomes.
For adults, promote conservation efforts as a way to improve their overall community and quality of life.
From the time of the American Revolutionary War when the U.S. won independence from England, Americans have maintained some semblance of a military force. The first Army was initially disbanded except for a few dozen troops.
After taking office, President Washington urged Congress to establish an effective system for the military1 “on which the honor, safety and well-being of our country so evidently and essentially depend.” Throughout the 236 years since the end of the Revolutionary War the U.S. has formally declared war on few occasions: the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, WWI and WWII.2
However, the various branches of the U.S. military have assisted abroad more than 300 times.3 The goal of the U.S. Army, for instance, is to defend America from attack and protect vital national interests.4 To accomplish this, the U.S. maintains an armed service of more than 3.1 million men and women stationed in the U.S. and around the world.5 They protect 12,479 miles of coastline and 7,458.4 miles of water and land boundaries.6
The military maintains at least 400 bases found on every continent except Antarctica.7 In a post-Cold War era, America took on the role of mediator, negotiating conflicts to reduce tension and encourage stability around the world.
In a statement before Congress submitted by past U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and past assistant to the president for National Security Affairs Stephen Hadley, they said:8
“Over the past seventy years, Democratic and Republican administrations alike have understood that American security and prosperity at home are linked to economic and political health abroad, and that America does better when other countries have the incentive and the capacity to work alongside us in tackling global challenges ...
The international order America built and led has not been perfect, but it has coincided with a period of security and prosperity unmatched in human history.”
China is currently expected to add military bases in areas where they have long-standing relationships, including Pakistan.9 Recently, British researchers from Durham University and Lancaster University find supporting the strength to defend the U.S. and their allies comes with a significant environmental cost.10
In a study published in Transactions of The Institute of British Geographers, researchers describe the enormous carbon boot-prints the U.S. military has been leaving around the world, relating the results of their research as a representation of a partial11 “yet robust picture of the geopolitical ecology of American imperialism.”
In an article entitled, “US Military Is a Bigger Polluter Than as Many as 140 Countries — Shrinking This War Machine Is a Must,” written by three of the researchers, they discuss the high levels of carbon emissions from military transports, saying:12
“Greenhouse gas emission accounting usually focuses on how much energy and fuel civilians use. But recent work, including our own, shows that the US military is one of the largest polluters in history, consuming more liquid fuels and emitting more climate-changing gases than most medium-sized countries.
If the US military were a country, its fuel usage alone would make it the 47th largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, sitting between Peru and Portugal.”
The study analyzed data retrieved from multiple Freedom of Information Act requests, looking at the U.S. military supply chains, and specifically hydrocarbon fuel purchases and distribution.
The U.S. Defense Logistics Agency Energy (DLA-E) was ultimately formed after the Vietnam War to consolidate logistics for every military branch, which the researchers characterized as “the invisible hand of imperialism.”13
“Every mode of warfighting requires its own unique hydrocarbon delivery system. The DLA-E is the bureaucratic apparatus mainly responsible for procurement and arranging delivery of hydrocarbons in this shifting geopolitical environment, and therefore controls the size and shape of the US military's carbon boot-print.
Without the highly developed, professionalised logistics and military supply-chains, the US military's reach, as well as its capacity to burn so much fuel, would be substantially impeded.”
While noting the environmental impact of hydrocarbon fuel emissions from the U.S. military is a significant contributor to climate change, the researchers suggested the only recourse was to shut off the engine protecting American’s and their allies around the world:14
“The only way to cool off the furnace is to turn it off, shuttering vast sections of the machine. This will have not only the immediate effect of reducing emissions in the here-and-now, but will also disincentivise the development of new hydrocarbon infrastructure that would be financed (in whatever unrecognised part) on the presumption of the US military as an always-willing buyer and consumer.
Opposing US military adventurism now is a critical strategy for disrupting the further construction of locked-in hydrocarbons for the future.”
While military drills and exercises may be disruptive,15 and sometimes dangerous,16 without training and practice military men and women would not be prepared to defend freedoms, transport supplies, guard embassies and train search and rescue teams at home.17
However, the processes require a significant overhaul, especially for firefighters and surrounding communities. According to Military Times,18 the water near 126 military bases tested positive for harmful levels of perfluorinated compounds. These substances are ubiquitous and part of a large and ever-expanding group of chemicals widely used in everyday products.
The chemicals are used in clothes, carpet, cookware and firefighting foam to make it more effective19 but at the high cost of damaging the health of those who are exposed.20 PFAS is the abbreviation used for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, neither of which is a single chemical but each a member of a family of man-made compounds.21
A report provided to the House Armed Services Committee listed contamination at 401 active and closed bases in the U.S. Drinking water contamination was identified at 36 sites and more than 90 reported on-base or off-base groundwater or drinking water contamination where the source tested above the EPA’s acceptable level for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) or perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOAs).22
On military bases these chemicals are used in concentrated foam used to put out fires on aircraft. A statement by the deputy assistant secretary of defense for environment, safety and occupational health, Maureen Sullivan, indicated the Department of Defense was installing filters and distributing bottled water,23 in addition to other changes.
The DoD tested 2,668 groundwater wells finding 61% were at higher levels than the EPA's recommended levels, which is no more than 70 parts per trillion. The guidelines established in 2016 were not enforceable; however, the DoD tested all locations and is currently working to comply with new standards.
Sullivan indicated24 it will not be a quick fix, as at least 12 water sources are provided by vendors or through a local utility and that since EPA guidelines are not enforceable, it becomes more difficult to make changes.
Sullivan estimates the cleanup for perfluorinated substances will add $2 billion to the costs of cleanup projects for which the military is responsible.25 The Air Force subsequently shifted all their bases from the legacy foam containing perfluorinated compounds26 to Phos-Chek 327 and retrofitted their fire trucks to accommodate the new product.28
Perfluorinated compounds may be found in food packaging material, commercial household products, and drinking water, as well as in fish, animals and humans, where they have the ability to build up and persist over time.29
According to the EPA,30 they are capable of triggering reproductive and developmental disabilities, liver and kidney disorders and immunological effects in laboratory animals. They also cause tumors in animal studies as well as low infant birth weight and thyroid hormone disruption.
Authors of an opinion-editorial wrote:31 “There are few activities on Earth as environmentally catastrophic as waging war.” But, unfortunately, until it is possible to control the political stability of the world, the possibility of war is a reality many live with every day.
While most of the human race strives for world peace, it is essential strategies are put into place to find safe alternatives to fight fires and protect those who fall under the purview of the U.S. armed services.
There are multiple factors contributing to rising pollution and declining health. Air, food and water pollution increase your risk of experiencing poor health. You may reduce your impact and take control of your health by making simple changes at home, which, taken together, may make a large impact on your local environment and overall health.
Plant some trees — Trees provide oxygen, improve air quality and conserve water while preserving the soil and supporting wildlife. Consider planting a few trees in your yard.32
Eat locally grown, organic produce and grass fed, pastured meat and dairy — The recent explosion of lab-created meat substitutes may be tempting if you believe it's the lesser of two evils, as compared to concentrated animal feeding operations. However, fake food is never an answer and regenerative farming has been proven to restore ecosystems, promote health and reduce pollution.
Additionally, eating organically grown produce reduces your exposure to pesticides and insecticides and improves the soil in which it's grown. Read more about regenerative farming practices in my past article, “Regenerative Farming: Restoring Soil Health and Saving Americans From Cancer, Chronic Disease.”
Drive less — Public transportation, walking, biking, carpooling and ride-sharing are all alternatives to hopping in your own car every day to go to work.33 It is important to also maintain your car by keeping the tires properly inflated to increase your fuel efficiency. This helps ensure the car is properly maintained, and it includes brakes and oil changes. Try to combine your trips when you're out.
Take care of your clothing — According to clothing designer Eileen Fisher,34 who was honored for her environmental work at the 2015 Riverkeeper's Annual Fishermen's Ball,35 "The clothing industry is the second largest polluter in the world ... second only to oil."
Taking good care of what you purchase may affect the toll on your local environment. Read more in my past article, “Care What You Wear: The Benefits of Becoming Clothing Conscious.”
Produce less waste — It is sometimes easy to toss the garbage in the can and forget about where it ends up. Think about purchasing food in bulk and using your own reusable container.36 Reduce waste by planning your meals before going shopping and then freezing or reusing the extra.
When you have food waste, compost it and use it in your garden for rich fertilizer. If you live in a large city, you may be able to find a compost drop-off site. If your city doesn’t have such a system,37 consider starting a program with a local neighborhood garden.
Do a home energy audit — Conduct your own energy audit at home to help save money and reduce the amount of pollution you produce. Switch lights off when you leave the room and unplug your electronic devices when they're not in use, especially your modem and routers to reduce the strength of electromagnetic fields in your home.
Turn your water heater down to 120 degrees Fahrenheit and install low-flow shower heads to save water and electricity. Steer clear of LED lights. While they may be more energy-efficient, they will also contribute to deteriorating vision, exacerbate chronic disease through mitochondrial dysfunction and impede quality sleep, as I discuss in a past article, “The Dangers of LED Lightbulbs.”
Treatments for medical problems have been used since the beginning of human civilization.1 While many illnesses were thought to be the work of supernatural forces, various ancient civilizations created unique systems for treating individuals using, among other things, herbal remedies.2
Despite a lack of scientific knowledge and use of modern technology, many of these early remedies were useful and are still currently used.3 The beginning of pharmacy practice goes back as far as the Middle Ages.4 However, the industry we know had its roots in the 19th century.
Since then, it has become one of the most profitable and influential industries.5 In the past, many drugs were discovered by accident or through the identification of an active ingredient used in traditional remedies.6
The pharmaceutical industry of the 21st century chooses a different approach, attempting to understand disease and infection at the molecular and physiological level and then targeting the development of drugs based on this knowledge.7
The marriage of experimentation and the Industrial Revolution was likely first undertaken by Merck in Germany as they moved toward the manufacturing and selling of alkaloids. As the industry and their profits grew, George Merck, founder of Merck, declared:8
“We try never to forget that medicine is for the people. It is not for the profits. The profits follow, and if we have remembered that, they have never failed to appear. The better we remember it, the larger they have been.”
Merck’s statement from 1950 continues to resonate within the industry as Big Pharma manufacturers, markets and sells medicines to the people and for the people, raking in profits that far outweigh the benefits most experience. This is counter to the role given to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to protect:9
“[The] public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, and medical devices; and by ensuring the safety of our nation's food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.”
After leaving the top leadership position at the FDA, nine out of the last 10 commissioners in the past 33 years have gone on to work for pharmaceutical companies.
This stretch began when Arthur Hayes went on to join E.M. Pharmaceuticals in 1986 after resigning as commissioner in 1983.10 The last to join this group is the most recent FDA commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, who just announced he is joining Pfizer as a member of their board.11
Although none of these moves of past FDA Commissioners to pharmaceutical companies is illegal, the emerging pattern gives the perception of a revolving door, or an unstated agreement between the pharmaceutical industry and those who are charged with regulating the approval of their products.12
The single hold out who did not join any pharmaceutical company was David Kessler, who served as the FDA Commissioner from 1990 to 1997 under past President George W. Bush.13 Kessler went along to serve as the chair of the board of directors at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit nutritional watchdog organization.
He spoke to Quartz, saying he was worried the politicization of the FDA may be seen as a threat to independent, scientific analysis.14 He is not alone. Concerns were raised 34 years ago, in 1985 when the Chicago Tribune reported that Dr. Alexander Schmidt, commissioner under President Nixon, told state regulators:15
"We have more politicization of the agency than is either warranted by rational politics or good for the American people."
Gottlieb announced his move from FDA commissioner, which he resigned April 5, 2019,16 to the Pfizer board of directors June 27, 2019, on his Twitter account, posting:17
“I’m honored to be joining the board of directors of #Pfizer and working together with more than 90,000 Pfizer colleagues to promote medical innovation, advance patient care, and secure access to better healthcare outcomes for families around the world. @pfizer”
This announcement came just four days after he announced18 he was joining the advisory board at the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation. The NIHCM press release reported:19
“Gottlieb served under the Trump Administration as the 23rd Commissioner of Food and Drugs from 2017 to 2019, where he improved the efficiency of the regulatory process for novel drugs and medical devices and mobilized action on public health initiatives like teen nicotine use, opioid addiction and drug competition, and promoting affordable access to medicines.”
As Gottlieb splits his time between a nonprofit organization20 “dedicated to transforming health care through evidence and collaboration” and Pfizer pharmaceutical company whose mission is21 “to be the premier, innovative biopharmaceutical company,” it may be difficult to split his focus.
During his term at the FDA, Gottlieb pushed several policies intended to speed up drug approvals and use the power of the FDA22 to encourage greater use of biosimilars, or generic copied versions of more costly biologic drugs used to treat autoimmune diseases and some cancers.23
One manufacturer of biosimilar drugs is Pfizer, which had complained about perceived roadblocks to making these drugs more available. With Gottlieb on the board of directors at Pfizer, this may help the big company navigate the FDA rules and regulations more easily. Pfizer executive chairman and former CEO said in a statement:24
“Scott’s expertise in health care, public policy and the industry will be an asset to our company and enable our shareholders to continue to benefit from a Board representing a balance of experience, competencies and perspectives.”
Stat News25 reported in 2018 that board members were given cash retainers of $142,500 plus stock expected to be valued at $159,000 in 2019. Gottlieb will be serving on two board level committees, the Regulatory Compliance Committee and Science and Technology Committee.26
Pfizer is now moving more deeply into the treatment of cancer following the acquisition of Array BioPharma and a reorganization establishing businesses in medicine, consumer health care and innovative medicine.27
Sydney Wolfe, a founder of Public Citizen Health Research Group28 had expressed concern about the FDA commissioners ties to industry before Gottlieb joined the agency. Following the announcement Gottlieb would be joining Pfizer, Sidney Wolfe commented to Stat News:29
“This is classic and it’s not surprising. Philosophically, he’s returning to the ecosystem where he’s most comfortable. And he’ll get paid very well for it, too.”
While the FDA is currently in the spotlight, the CDC is not far behind. In 2002 Dr. Julie Gerberding was the first woman to be appointed as a director for the CDC.30 While there she overhauled the structure of the organization causing many of the senior scientists and leaders to leave, as she replaced them with those who had ties to the vaccine industry.
During her years at the CDC, the FDA approved the Gardasil vaccine for human papilloma virus vaccination manufactured by Merck. In 2009, Gerberding left the CDC and later became the president of Merck’s vaccine division.31
In early 2018, Alex Azar was appointed as the Secretary to Health in Human Services. Less than 48 hours later, he accepted the resignation from then CDC director Brenda Fitzgerald after it was revealed she purchased shares in tobacco, drug and food companies while serving as the head of the CDC.32
Her problems in the organization may have started with her unwillingness to address some aspects of the opioid crisis, but Politico33 reported her purchase of tobacco stock after starting at the CDC may have been the last straw.
Following her resignation, the World Mercury Project team, led by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., issued a press release34 discussing Merck’s “statistical gimmicks” to conceal Gardasil risks, falsification of mumps vaccine data and the then upcoming merger between Bayer and Monsanto, which was subsequently granted after the companies agreed to sell $9 billion in assets.35
Pfizer may enlist Gottlieb's help on more than biosimilar drugs. In late 2018, while Gottlieb was in office at the FDA and in what was seen as a slap in the face to President Trump, Pfizer announced it would increase the list prices on 41 different drugs in January 2019. This affected 10% of Pfizer's portfolio, most of which increased 5%.36
Just eight days after Gottlieb announced his move to Pfizer, Trump promised an executive order to enable the U.S. government to pay lower prices for prescription drugs. The aim is at a “favored nations clause” placing a limit on the cost to the government for any medication not to be greater than the lowest cost to other nations or companies.37
The Affordable Care Act expanded coverage to an additional 16.9 million Americans who were previously uninsured, creating a larger pool of individuals with access to medication.38 However, while the industry had access to a greater number of individuals, there continues to be a push toward “understanding the characteristics of early adopters” of new medications. Researchers wrote:39
“The successful diffusion of new drugs is crucial for both pharmaceutical companies and patients — and of wider stakeholder concern, including for the funding of healthcare provision.”
Trump's reference in his promised executive order to close the gap in a two-level pricing system for prescription medications is well-known to those who live on the Canadian border. In one evaluation of the 13 largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, 45% of the combined revenue came from sales in the U.S. alone.40
This may be due in part to the difference in pricing. Dr. David Belk evaluated medications and pharmaceutical companies finding a vast difference in price per pill between the U.S. and Canada. For instance, Xarelto 20 mg is $14.37 per pill in the U.S. and $3.07 per pill in Canada.41
However, he points out the costs are in Canadian dollars and the prices for the U.S. are what the pharmacy pays for the drugs and not what the consumer pays, increasing the price difference. And in a look at the 2011 annual report from Pfizer,42 Belk finds on page 17 Pfizer reported $67.4 billion in revenues, $9.1 billion on research and development spending and $19 billion on marketing.
He compared some of these same factors in 13 major pharmaceutical companies finding the amount spent on marketing was about 60% more than what they spent on research.43
However, the pharmaceutical industry may be using the term “research” loosely. As Mariana Mazzucato, Ph.D., University College of London director for Innovation and Public Purpose44 discusses,45 78% of the patents approved by the FDA correspond to drugs currently on the market.46
In other words,47 the industry is no longer working toward the innovation of new drugs to treat illness, but instead is expending time and energy to extend patents and use other gimmicks to essentially release the same drug and maintain pricing.
It may be more important than ever to protect your health. Some of the simplest strategies are to eat a whole food diet, get at least eight hours of quality sleep, exercise daily and move consistently throughout the day. Steer clear of habits that may negatively impact your health, such as smoking and electromagnetic fields.
It is important to remember just small changes may reap big rewards, so don’t get overwhelmed by the thought of making changes. These links to some of my past articles will help provide tips and guidelines to get started.
Children experience greater exposure to chemicals pound-for-pound than adults and have an immature and porous blood-brain barrier, which allows greater chemical exposures to reach their developing brain. As a result, early exposures can have devastating, lifelong ramifications.
For example, as noted in the scientific review,1 “Neurobehavioral Effects of Developmental Toxicity,” published in the March 2014 issue of The Lancet, elevated fluoride exposure from drinking fluoridated water can contribute to a seven-point drop in a child’s IQ score,2 on average, and that’s just one of the thousands of chemicals children are exposed to on any given day.
As reported by c&en in 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists more than 85,000 chemicals found in the marketplace,3 and the list keeps getting longer. Of those, a mere 1% have been tested for safety.4
The Lancet paper identified 11 industrial chemicals known to disrupt brain development and cause brain damage, neurological abnormalities, reduced IQ and aggressiveness in children and, according to the authors:5
“We postulate that even more neurotoxicants remain undiscovered. To control the pandemic of developmental neurotoxicity, we propose a global prevention strategy.
Untested chemicals should not be presumed to be safe to brain development, and chemicals in existing use and all new chemicals must therefore be tested for developmental neurotoxicity. To coordinate these efforts and to accelerate translation of science into prevention, we propose the urgent formation of a new international clearinghouse.”
Alas, to this day, a truly comprehensive global prevention strategy to protect children from toxic chemicals has yet to be implemented. Ditto for efforts to increase protections within the U.S. In 2010, then-U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg announced he would introduce a safer chemicals bill to amend the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).6 As reported by Safer Chemicals at the time:7
“In opening remarks, Senator Frank Lautenberg said ‘the American public is a living breathing repository for chemical substances,’ and that as a result of inadequate testing of toxic chemicals, children have become test subjects.
‘Our children should not be used as guinea pigs,’ said Senator Lautenberg … Senator Lautenberg said his new bill would give the EPA the tools it needs to protect the public from unsafe chemicals by requiring testing of all chemicals in commerce and collecting data about harm to human health before chemicals can be added to consumer products.”
The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act8 was signed into law June 22, 2016,9 thereby amending the TSCA. It requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to perform risk-based chemical assessments and “evaluate existing chemicals with clear and enforceable deadlines.”
Alas, by the time 2018 rolled around, it became clear the updated TSCA had accomplished nothing. As reported in an Environmental Defense Fund blog post, dated February 5, 2018:10
“Last August, Scott Pruitt announced that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would reverse course in its conduct of risk reviews of new chemicals under the reforms made in 2016 to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) by the Lautenberg Act.
The changes will effectively return the program to its pre-Lautenberg state — under which few chemicals were subject to any conditions and even fewer to any testing requirements — or make it even weaker.”
The blog describes some of the political wranglings that led the EPA to reverse course under the influence of the American Chemistry Council. A December 19, 2017, article in The New York Times also reported on the rollback, stating:11
“The Environmental Protection Agency will indefinitely postpone bans on certain uses of three toxic chemicals found in consumer products, according to an update of the Trump administration’s regulatory plans.
Critics said the reversal demonstrated the agency’s increasing reluctance to use enforcement powers granted to it last year by Congress under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
E.P.A. Administrator Scott Pruitt is ‘blatantly ignoring Congress’s clear directive to the agency to better protect the health and safety of millions of Americans by more effectively regulating some of the most dangerous chemicals known to man,’ said Senator Tom Carper, Democrat of Delaware and the ranking minority member on the Senate Environment and Public Works committee.”
Unfortunately, neurotoxicity tends to be largely overlooked because the effects are not as readily and visibly demonstrable as birth defects, for example. As noted in The Lancet paper:12
“David P Rall, former Director of the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, once noted that ‘if thalidomide had caused a ten-point loss of intelligence quotient (IQ) instead of obvious birth defects of the limbs, it would probably still be on the market.’
Many industrial chemicals marketed at present probably cause IQ deficits of far fewer than ten points and have therefore eluded detection so far, but their combined effects could have enormous consequences.”
To put it bluntly, children are being used as guinea pigs and virtual poison detection devices. Oftentimes, it’s only after decades of exposure that the effects become apparent, at which point countless children have already paid the price with their health.
While some sources of toxic exposure may be readily apparent, a vast majority is not. Most parents don’t consider the possibility of children’s toys, nursing pillows or car seats being a source of continuous toxic exposure, for example. Just how pervasive are the toxic exposures to our children? Read on to find out.
Most recently, a June 26, 2019, article13 in The Guardian reports that “hundreds of thousands of children in the U.S. remain at risk of exposure to lead, which causes cognitive and behavioral deficits.” Of the 31 states that have reported statistics on the percentage of children with elevated lead levels, Louisiana and Kentucky are among the worst.14
As noted in this article, many older homes still contain lead-based paint. Anna Almendrala tells the story of a young mother whose 2-year-old son developed the habit of gumming the window sills.
Initial blood testing revealed her son, who was already diagnosed with autism, had a lead level of 24 micrograms per one-tenth liter of blood, “almost five times higher than the reference point the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) uses to recommend a lead intervention,” Almendrala writes.15
Further testing revealed his blood level was 49 mcg, nearly 10 times higher than the recommended intervention threshold. Lead abatement inside the home revealed “lead hotspots on the door frames, window sills, and in her son’s bedroom closet.”
This story may sound like an anomaly, as lead-based paint was banned for use in housing in 1978.16 However, there are many older homes, and few families ever consider it might contain toxic remnants from years past.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates as many as 24 million U.S. residences built before 1978 still contain lead hazards, and in June 2019 announced $330 million in grants will be distributed to clean up lead and other safety hazards in low-income housing communities.17 Almendrala writes:18
“When it comes to lead exposure in America, we still don’t have a clear picture of how many children are being exposed to the neurotoxin and where they are.
This leaves hundreds of thousands of children vulnerable to the dangers of lead, and compounds inequality in the form of cognitive and behavioral deficits that can hamper communities for generations. Experts say that it’s possible to eradicate lead from American infrastructure, but that we don’t prioritize it.
‘We are currently doing things backwards [by] using children’s blood as detectors of environmental contamination,’ said Dr Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician who famously uncovered elevated levels of lead in her pediatric patients and linked it to a new water source in Flint, Michigan. ‘The screening that needs to happen is in the environment before children are ever exposed.’”
Our food supply has also become a notorious source for toxic exposures, ranging from herbicides and pesticides to antibiotics and food additives of questionable safety (having never undergone safety testing). For a list of some of the most common food additives to avoid, see “What Chemical Cocktail Is in Your Food?”
Tests have indeed confirmed that those who eat nonorganic foods as a general rule have far higher levels of toxins in their system.19 In 2015, Joseph E. Pizzorno, founding president of Bastyr University, told The Sydney Morning Herald that toxins appear to be a primary culprit in most chronic diseases, and that “Pesticides used on the food people eat are a better predictor of Type 2 diabetes than any other factor we have today.”20
David Bellinger, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, has expressed similar concerns. According to his estimates, published in 2012, based on a population of 25.5 million American children, 16,899,488 IQ points have been lost due to exposure to organophosphate pesticides. Another 22,947,450 IQ points have been lost to lead exposure, and an additional 284,580 IQ points have been lost from methylmercury exposure.21,22
Of these, pesticides and methylmercury are both found in our diet (fish and seafood being the primary route of exposure for mercury23), while drinking water is an increasingly common source of lead.
In 2015, a report24 by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics25 warned that mounting chemical exposures now represent a major threat to human health and reproduction, stating that “prenatal exposure to chemicals and poor health outcomes are increasingly evident.”
The CHAMACOS Study26,27 is among those showing that very small amounts of pesticides may be harmful, in this case to children’s brains. It followed hundreds of pregnant women living in Salinas Valley, California, an agricultural mecca that has had up to a half-million pounds of organophosphates sprayed in the region per year.
The children were followed through age 12 to assess the impact the pesticides had on their development. It turns out the impact was quite dramatic. Mothers' exposure to organophosphates during pregnancy was associated with:28
Brenda Eskenazi, chief investigator of the CHAMACOS study, also noted that the effects of combined chemical exposures need further attention, as we still know very little about the synergistic effects of different chemicals.29
In 2015, an Endocrine Society task force also issued its second scientific statement30 on endocrine-disrupting chemicals, noting that the health effects of hormone-disrupting chemicals are such that everyone needs to take proactive steps to avoid them. The statement also calls for improved safety testing to determine which chemicals may cause problems.
As far back as 2002, a paper31 in Environmental Science & Technology warned that endocrine disrupting 4-nonylphenols (NPs) “are ubiquitous in food,” but that’s certainly not the only source. As noted by the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences:32
“A wide range of substances, both natural and man-made, are thought to cause endocrine disruption, including pharmaceuticals, dioxin and dioxin-like compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls, DDT and other pesticides, and plasticizers such as bisphenol A. Endocrine disruptors may be found in many everyday products — including plastic bottles, metal food cans, detergents, flame retardants, food, toys, cosmetics, and pesticides.”
One class of endocrine disrupting chemicals, per- and poly- fluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS),33 commonly used in a wide variety of products, including nonstick food wrappers and containers, are also pervasive in the U.S. food supply, and at levels far exceeding the advisory limit for PFOA and PFAS in drinking water (there are currently no limits in food).
The testing, conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, was performed in 2017 as part of its Total Diet Study34 and presented35 at the 2019 meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. PBS reported the findings, noting:36
“The levels in nearly half of the meat and fish tested were double or more the only currently existing federal advisory level for any kind of … PFAS. The level in the chocolate cake was higher: more than 250 times the only federal guidelines, which are for some PFAS in drinking water …
PFOS, an older form of PFAS no longer made in the U.S., turned up at levels ranging from 134 parts per trillion to 865 parts per trillion in tilapia, chicken, turkey, beef, cod, salmon, shrimp, lamb, catfish and hot dogs. Prepared chocolate cake tested at 17,640 parts per trillion of a kind of PFAS called PFPeA.
The FDA presentation also included what appeared to be previously unreported findings of PFAS levels — one spiking over 1,000 parts per trillion — in leafy green vegetables grown within 10 miles (16 kilometers) of an unspecified eastern U.S. PFAS plant and sold at a farmer’s market.”
In truth, to create a comprehensive list of common toxic exposures, let alone a listing of all potential ones, would require far more space than can be afforded here. That said, here’s a sampling of toxic exposure routes you may not have thought of before.
To protect yourself and your family — especially your little ones — consider addressing some of these exposures; replacing them with nontoxic alternatives. You can read more by following the hyperlinks to previous articles, where I also provide suggestions for replacements.
Nobody wants to think about consuming feces in their chicken or steak dinner, but trace amounts of fecal contamination are a reality that exists in store-bought meat. While the U.S. Department of Agriculture states they have a “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to fecal matter in meat,1 this only applies to feces that can be seen by workers on inspection lines.
These inspectors may view up to 175 chickens in a minute — far too many to catch every speck of poop that may be there.2 There’s an obvious yuck factor there, but in addition feces can contain E. coli and other pathogens that can make you sick.
With foodborne diseases causing 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths in the U.S. each year,3 it’s time the USDA stepped up to keep consumers safe, but so far they’re dodging responsibility instead.
A 2011 study conducted by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) found 48% of the 120 chicken products tested (obtained from 15 grocery chains in 10 U.S. cities) were contaminated with E. coli, commonly found in feces,4 prompting PCRM to state “chicken should carry feces warning labels”:5
“Who cares, the chicken industry says. If the feces are adequately cooked, any germs they harbor will be killed.
But feces may contain round worms, hair worms, tape worms, along leftover bits of whatever insects or larvae the chickens have eaten, not to mention the usual fecal components of digestive juices and various chemicals that the chicken was in the process of excreting.
Given the widespread nature of this disgusting problem, consumers deserve fair notice. It’s time for every package of supermarket chicken to carry a sticker that says, ‘Warning: May Contain Feces.’”
In response to the sickening findings, PCRM petitioned the USDA in 2013, requesting the USDA regulate feces as an adulterant under the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act.6
In its petition for rulemaking, the PCRM argued that the USDA’s standard of “no visible feces” is woefully inadequate and would be considered “disgusting by the average consumer.” According to PCRM, fecal bacteria really should be regulated as an adulterant.
The USDA failed to respond not only to the PCRM’s 2013 petition but also to a 2017 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, in which the physicians group sought “documentation of fecal contamination rates detected in poultry slaughter plants and other data related to poultry inspection and slaughter line speed.”7
The failure to respond prompted PCRM to file a lawsuit against the USDA over the fecal contamination issue, but the agency is still refusing to take action.
In June 2019, the USDA announced they would not be taking further action to address concerns over feces in poultry and meat, again clinging to the rationale that fecal contamination is only a “visible defect.” According to PCRM:8
“USDA conceded that bacteria commonly found in feces are routinely present on meat and chicken products. USDA also agreed that the ‘presence of E. coli and other enteric bacteria on meat or poultry products indicates that the bacteria is likely associated with the intestinal tract.’
Nevertheless, USDA claimed that products containing these bacteria are not actually contaminated because, USDA argued, ‘fecal contamination is a visible defect’ only.”
The lawsuit, however, is still pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. It quotes a federal inspector who spoke about a “fecal soup” often seen during the poultry slaughtering process:9
“We often see birds going down the line with intestines still attached, which are full of fecal contamination. If there is no fecal contamination on the bird’s skin, however, we can do nothing to stop that bird from going down that line.
It is more than reasonable to assume that once the bird gets into the chill tank (a large vat of cold water), that contamination will enter the water and contaminate all of the other carcasses in the chiller. That’s why it is sometimes called ‘fecal soup.’”
In a 2013 FOIA request, PCRM obtained a USDA training video that also revealed chicken carcasses soaking in such water for up to one hour — right before getting packaged for consumers.10
“Since the agency is dodging its responsibility, consumers should protect themselves from fecal contamination by avoiding chicken and other meat products,” Deborah Dubow Press, associate general counsel for Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, said in a news release.11
Rather than avoiding all meat products, another option is to avoid conventional meat products raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), favoring grass fed animal products instead.
Consumer Reports tested the prevalence of bacteria in different types of ground beef. They purchased 300 packages of beef from 103 stores (including grocery, big box and natural food stores) in 26 U.S. cities and analyzed them for the presence of five types of disease-causing bacteria:12
The bacteria were further tested to reveal whether antibiotic resistance was present. The results revealed:13
Notably, CAFO beef was not only more likely to be contaminated with bacteria but also to contain antibiotic-resistant bacteria than more sustainably raised meat, especially grass fed. According to Consumer Reports:14
“At a minimum, sustainably produced beef was raised without antibiotics. Even better are organic and grass-fed methods. Organic cattle are not given antibiotics or other drugs, and they are fed organic feed. Grass-fed cattle usually don’t get antibiotics, and they spend their lives on pasture, not feedlots.”
The study found 18% of conventional beef samples were contaminated with bacteria that were resistant to three or more classes of antibiotics; however, only 9% of sustainably produced beef contained resistant bacteria. As for grass fed, only 6% contained resistant superbugs.
Not only is choosing organic, grass fed animal products better for the environment, it’s also safer for your health. Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., executive director of the Center for Food Safety and Sustainability at Consumer Reports, is among those who recommend choosing “grass fed organic beef” as much as possible:
“The most sustainable beef production systems don’t rely on any daily drugs, don’t confine animals and do allow them to eat a natural diet … Our findings show that more sustainable can mean safer meat,” he said.15
To find grass fed meat, the most dependable source is meat certified by the American Grassfed Association (AGA), which ensures animals were born and raised on American family farms, fed only grass and forage from weaning until harvest, have not been treated with hormones or antibiotics, and raised on pasture without confinement to feedlots.
It’s safe to assume that there could be unlabeled, nonfood ingredients in some of your favorite food products. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re harmful, but some, like insect parts, are certainly unappealing, and others, like rodent hair and mold, possibly could be harmful.
The U.S. FDA allows certain levels of “natural or unavoidable defects in foods for human use that present no health hazard.” According to the FDA, “The FDA set these action levels because it is economically impractical to grow, harvest or process raw products that are totally free of nonhazardous, naturally occurring, unavoidable defects.”16
The FDA’s Food Defect Levels Handbook reveals what “natural or unavoidable defects” are allowable in your food, some of which may surprise you. The handbook sets "Food Defect Action Levels,” above which a food is considered adulterated. This means anything below the action level is fair game:17
Berries — Average mold count is 60% or more
Frozen broccoli — Average of 60 or more aphids and/or thrips and/or mites per 100 grams; Average of 10 or more whole insects or equivalent per 500 grams (excluding thrips, aphids and mites)
Ground cinnamon — Average of 400 or more insect fragments per 50 gram; Average of 11 or more rodent hairs per 50 grams
Chocolate — Average is 60 or more insect fragments per 100 grams when 6 100-gram subsamples are examined; Any one subsample contains 90 or more insect fragments; Any one subsample contains three or more rodent hairs
Cocoa beans — More than 4% of beans by count are moldy; More than 4% of beans by count are insect-infested including insect-damaged; Average of 10 mg or more mammalian excreta per pound
Cranberry sauce — Average mold count is more than 15%; The mold count of any one subsample is more than 50%
Canned mushrooms — Average of over 20 or more maggots of any size per 100 grams of drained mushrooms and proportionate liquid or 15 grams of dried mushrooms; Average of more than 10% of mushrooms are decomposed
Frozen or canned peaches — Average of 3% or more fruit by count are wormy or moldy; In 12 1-pound cans or equivalent, one or more larvae and/or larval fragments whose aggregate length exceeds 5 millimeters
Strawberries — Average mold count of 45% or more and mold count of at least half of the subsamples is 55% or more
Tomato catsup — Average mold count in 6 subsamples is 55% or more
Wheat flour — Average of 75 or more insect fragments per 50 grams; Average of 1 or more rodent hairs per 50 grams
To find the safest sources of food, choose those being raised according to organic, grass fed and regenerative farming practices. This means avoiding CAFO animal products, which make up the majority of those sold at conventional grocery stores, and instead choosing those raised by grass fed farmers and using the AGA certified logo.
Another good option is biodynamically grown food. Biodynamic farming is organic by nature, but it goes even further, operating on the premise that the farm be entirely self-sustaining. In the U.S., biodynamic farms use the USDA organic standard as a foundation but have additional requirements, encompassing the principles of regenerative agriculture and more.
You can grow some of your own food as well, which can supplement your other natural food sources. As for potential contamination in your meat, Rangan said, “There’s no way to tell by looking at a package of meat or smelling it whether it has harmful bacteria or not … You have to be on guard every time.”18
Toward that end, take commonsense precautions to avoid contaminating other foods and kitchen surfaces and spreading any bacteria that may be present to yourself or others. To avoid cross-contamination between foods in your kitchen, adhere to the following recommendations:
Weeds resistant to common herbicides — dubbed superweeds — have spread over 60 million acres of U.S. farmland,1 and the economic and environmental devastation caused the weeds is growing, too. Worldwide, weeds have evolved resistance to 167 different herbicides, and herbicide-resistant weeds have been reported in 93 different crops in 70 countries.2
Scientists are now scrambling to understand how weeds are outsmarting these widely used agricultural chemicals, but it's often said that the spread is due to independent evolution via herbicide selection.
However, researchers writing in the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment believe herbicide-resistance gene flow may be primarily to blame, calling it an "underestimated and underappreciated" phenomenon.3
Concerns surrounding herbicide resistance increased after the 1990s' introduction of genetically engineered (GE) "Roundup Ready" crops designed to resist glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide.
As farmers used an abundance of Roundup on their fields, neglected other weed control measures and continued to grow the same crops on the same land repeatedly (i.e., monoculture), superweeds spread and flourished.4
"Interest in the magnitude and consequences of intra- and interspecific herbicide resistance gene flow, particularly that mediated by pollen, increased in the mid-1990s with the introduction of herbicide-resistant (HR) transgenic crops," the researchers explained. "During that time, less attention was paid to the movement of HR alleles via pollen or seed among weed populations."5
Simulation models predict, however, that frequent widespread applications of glyphosate and other herbicides facilitate an increase in the frequency and movement of herbicide resistance traits. How this is occurring could be due to the flow of GE herbicide resistance from one plant to another, possibly via the transfer of pollen.
"Once a new HR weed biotype has been confirmed in a jurisdiction, how often have we been surprised at its rapid areawide expansion?" the researchers asked. It turns out, however:6
"In genotypic studies of HR weed populations, the contribution of gene flow to incidence of resistance is frequently similar or greater than that of independent evolution."
It's possible, for instance, that pollen carrying genes for herbicide resistance can fertilize a nearby weed, leading to offspring that carry the herbicide resistant trait.7
"Is it a surprise?" the Guardian noted. "On one level no, gene flow and hybridization are as old as plants themselves. Short of creating sterile male plants, it's simply impossible to stop crops releasing pollen to fertilize related neighbors."8
Farmers are scrambling to find a solution for uncontrollable weeds that have outsmarted these man-made chemicals. The solution from agribusinesses entities is to introduce new GE crops designed to withstand not only glyphosate but also additional pesticides to kill off the weeds glyphosate leaves behind.
Enlist E3 soybeans, made by Corteva Agriscience, a division of DowDupont and seed company MS Technologies, is one of the latest, designed to tolerate glyphosate, glufosinate (another herbicide) and 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), one of the ingredients in Agent Orange, which was used to defoliate battlefields in the jungles of Vietnam, with horrendous consequences to the health of those exposed.
"The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that by 2020, the use of 2,4-D on America's farms could rise between 100 percent and 600 percent now that it has been approved as part of Enlist Duo," the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) stated.9
This is concerning because the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) ruled 2,4-D a possible human carcinogen in 2015, and there is concern it may increase the risk of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and soft-tissue cancer known as sarcoma.
Another example is Roundup Ready Xtend cotton and soybeans, which are GE plants designed to tolerate both glyphosate and dicamba, a highly volatile herbicide known for drifting and damaging off-target crops, including trees.
It's not only weeds that are developing resistance to herbicides, either. Bacteria that have been exposed to Roundup, dicamba and 2,4-D develop resistance to antibiotics 100,000 times faster than the same bacteria that have never been exposed to the herbicides, University of Canterbury has found.10
A study of annual ryegrass revealed just how easily pollen may be facilitating the flow of herbicide resistance genes from GE crops to their neighbors. "The transfer of herbicide resistance genes by pollen is a major concern in cross-pollinated species such as annual ryegrass," the researchers noted.11
In the greenhouse, using favorable conditions for pollination, there was a maximum cross-pollination rate of 56.1%. In a field trial, researchers looked at cross-pollination that could occur in real-world conditions, evaluating distance and orientation to an herbicide-resistant pollen source.
In this case, cross-pollination rates varied from 5.5% to 11.6% in plants adjacent to the pollen source, with rates decreasing in farther away plants. According to the study:12
"This model predicted an average gene flow of 7.1% when the pollen donor and recipient plants were at zero meter distance from each other. Pollen-mediated gene flow declined by 50% at 16.7 m from the pollen source, yet under downwind conditions gene flow of 5.2% was predicted at 25 meters, the farthest distance studied."
If gene flow is causing herbicide resistance to flourish, and the next herbicide-resistant weed is just a cross-pollination away, it could appear futile to stop the spread of superweeds. The featured study suggested, however, that the best mitigation strategy is minimizing weed population abundance and seed bank replenishment in fields and adjacent areas.13
The "weed seed bank" refers to the reserve of weed seeds present in the soil. One square foot of soil may contain thousands of weed seeds, and one of the most effective forms of weed management is eliminating "deposits" to the soil's bank of seeds.14 Some effective, nonchemical weed seed bank management practices, some of which you can use in your own backyard, include:15
The rise of herbicide resistance hasn't stopped farmers from applying the glyphosate on their fields, despite its dropping effectiveness. In 2016, Midwest farmers used an estimated 188.7 million pounds of glyphosate, a fortyfold increase from 1992, and the Midwest accounts for 65% of the total glyphosate usage in the U.S. Some states have seen an even greater increase.16
In Nebraska, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa, glyphosate usage was about 80 times greater in 2016 than in 1992, and 15 times higher than in 2000. According to a 2018 glyphosate market report, the glyphosate market is also predicted to continue growing, potentially doubling by 2021, from the current $5 billion per year to as much as $10 billion.17
The overreliance on glyphosate is already implicated in herbicide resistance, and with increasing applications the problem is slated to worsen. Writing for the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, Christopher Walljasper and Ramiro Ferrando point out:18
"Once thought of as a miracle product, overreliance on glyphosate has caused weeds to grow resistant to the chemical and led to diminished research and development for new weed management solutions, according to Bill Curran, president-elect of the Weed Science Society of America and emeritus professor of weed science at Penn State University.
'We're way overreliant on roundup,' Curran said. 'Nobody thought we were going to be dealing with the problems we are dealing with today' … James Benham has been farming in Southeast Indiana for nearly 50 years. Benham said, as resistance grew, Roundup went from a cure-all to a crutch. 'Sometimes if you timed it just right, you could get away with just one spraying. Now we're spraying as often as three or four times a year,' he said.
Benham said farmers continue to spend more on seed and chemicals but aren't seeing more profit. 'That puts the farmer in that much more of a crisis mode. Can't do without it, can't hardly live with it,' he said. As glyphosate became less effective, farmers also turned to even more pesticides to try and grow successful crops each year."
Adding more pesticides will only worsen the problem of herbicide resistance, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, which notes, "Rather than delaying resistance, the use of multiple herbicides would lead to the quicker evolution of weeds that have multiple resistances."
These weeds would be a "nightmare scenario for farmers."19 What's more, the development of more GE crops designed to resist more herbicides is only adding to the issue that triggered the superweed problem in the first place.
The long-term solution lies with adopting regenerative, biodynamic farming principles that don't rely on GMOs and their related pesticides. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists:
"Recent studies have shown that herbicide use could be reduced by more than 90 percent — while maintaining or increasing yields and net farmer profits — through practices based on the principles of ecological science that reduce weed numbers and growth.
These practices include crop rotation (alternating crops from year to year), the use of cover crops and mulches, judicious tillage, and taking advantage of the weed-suppressive chemicals produced by some crops and crop varieties.
Even the use of composted livestock manure and crop residues rather than synthetic fertilizers can help to control some weeds, as these methods generally release nutrients more slowly, which can favor the growth of larger-seeded crops over small-seeded weeds.
These agroecological methods have other important benefits, such as increased soil fertility and water-holding capacity, [and] reduced emissions of water pollutants."
To be part of the solution, seek out non-GMO, organic foods as much as possible, and support farmers who are using regenerative and biodynamic farming principles instead of chemical pesticides.
Every July 4 since our nation declared independence in 1776, Americans have celebrated this truth:
"… that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."1
The Declaration of Independence rejected unjust laws imposed by a privileged ruling class. The guiding principles of the Declaration of Independence were codified into the Bill of Rights to limit the power of government and protect our unalienable natural rights. The First Amendment of the Constitution states that:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."2
After World War II, natural rights were defined internationally as human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights published in 1948 states:3
"Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person;" and "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood;" and
"No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks;" and
"Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance;" and
"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."
These are among the globally recognized human rights that protect individuals and minorities from discrimination and the kind of government oppression that President Thomas Jefferson talked about when he warned:
"All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression."4
The legal right to dissent has been a hallmark of freedom in America. Unlike in authoritarian governments,5 in our country, citizens have the right and responsibility to participate in the law-making process.
We have — or should have — the freedom to openly debate government policy, law and ethics in public forums and dissent from the majority without fear of intimidation or punishment.6,7 But two and a half centuries after the Declaration of Independence, that is changing.
An unprecedented attack on civil liberties and the right to dissent is being led by a new privileged ruling class whose power is not derived from aristocratic titles, wealth and political influence linked to genetic heritage and ownership of land.
The power of the new ruling class in America is derived from academic titles, wealth and political influence linked to corporatized government8,9,10,11,12,13 that seeks ownership of our physical bodies.14,15,16,17,18
The right to autonomy and protection of bodily integrity is the first human right.19,20 If you cannot voluntarily decide when and for what reason you are willing to risk your life or the life of your child, your unalienable right to life and liberty has been taken from you.
Whether you do or do not agree that every liability free vaccine product sold by pharmaceutical companies is safe and effective, or that federal vaccine policy is anchored with sound science, or that mandatory vaccination laws without informed consent protections are moral, you should take a hard look at recent actions by government officials and corporations to censor and repeal civil liberties that safeguard your human right to autonomy and protection of bodily integrity.
The extraordinary efforts by industry, medical trade and government to delegitimize free speech about vaccination unless it conforms with government policy has given a green light to corporate-owned mainline media outlets to use name calling and other yellow journalism techniques to legitimize the stripping of civil liberties from public health laws.
Today, any parent,21,22,23 doctor,24,25 research scientist,26,27 journalist,28,29 celebrity,30,31,32 politician,33 philanthropist34,35 or nongovernmental organization36,37,38 asking questions about the quality of vaccine science or the ethics of laws requiring use of a liability-free pharmaceutical product that can harm or fail to work, is immediately labeled as an "anti-vaxxer"39,40,41,42 and publicly defamed,43 humiliated,44 discredited45 and relentlessly targeted for personal and professional ruin.46,47,48
When the risks of vaccination turn out to be 100% for a child and parents describe what happened, their suffering is magnified when journalists gaslight them for witnessing in the public square.
It is a shameful display of ignorance and prejudice against biologically vulnerable children and their parents who have been compelled to unequally bear the risks of vaccination for society, and are being demonized for advocating for safer vaccines and more scientifically informed and humane public health policies.49,50,51,52
Most of all, it is a dangerous assault on freedom of speech by a profession that should be pushing back on discrimination and the erosion of civil liberties, not actively condoning it.
Despite Congress officially acknowledging the fact that vaccines can injure and kill in the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986,53 and even though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that government licensed vaccines are "unavoidably unsafe" so that the multibillion-dollar vaccine industry cannot be held accountable in a court of law for failing to improve the safety of vaccine products,54 today anyone who publicly questions vaccine safety or advocates for voluntary vaccination is treated like a criminal.
Well-referenced, factual information about vaccine risks and failures is being automatically slapped with the label "misinformation" so it can be censored.55 Those who advocate for informed consent protections in vaccine laws are called "anti-vaccine" so they can be silenced. Benjamin Franklin, co-author of the Declaration of Independence,56 warned:
"Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins."57
When people are oppressed by unjust laws and speak up, those in control of lawmaking often resort to censorship to silence calls for reform and force compliance. Your freedom to think, speak and dissent has been put in jeopardy this year at precisely the same time that growing numbers of people in the U.S., Europe and other nations are expressing increased, legitimate concern about the safety of vaccines.58,59
A recent poll found that nearly half of American adults doubt vaccine safety and of the 45% who do, 16% were influenced by online information, 16% were influenced by knowledge of past secrets and wrongdoing by the pharmaceutical industry and 12% were influenced by information from medical experts.60
So, this year, powerful federal legislators have sent a series of letters telling the CEOs of Google, Facebook and Amazon61,62 that, "there is no evidence to suggest that vaccines cause life-threatening or disabling diseases," and that, "the dissemination of unfounded and debunked theories about the dangers of vaccination pose a great risk to public health."63 The social media platforms were directed to remove vaccine "misinformation" and replace it with "medically accurate information."
This year Americans have watched government health officials making false statements in congressional hearings denying that vaccines like MMR cause brain inflammation and claiming that doctors can predict which children will be harmed.64,65 And even though thousands of parents traveled to those hearings stacked with witnesses blaming "anti-vaccine misinformation" for disease outbreaks, not one individual was allowed to testify offering a different perspective.66,67
The FDA Commissioner even threatened state legislators that if they did not restrict or remove vaccine exemptions, the federal government would step in and "mandate certain rules about what is and isn't permissible when it comes to allowing people to have vaccine exemptions."68,69,70
After thousands of Americans showed up at public hearings in multiple states to testify against proposed laws to remove vaccine exemptions,71,72,73 by June only the state of Washington had eliminated the conscientious belief exemption for MMR vaccine,74 and Maine had eliminated both the religious and conscientious belief exemption for all vaccines.75
Then, on June 13, 2019, the New York legislature suddenly rammed a bill to repeal the religious exemption to vaccination through both the Assembly and Senate in one day with no public hearings.76,77,78 This legislative coup completely cut the citizens of New York out of participating in the law-making process.79,80
Within hours, the governor of New York signed the bill into law and issued a press release quoting one of the bill's sponsors declaring, "I am incredibly proud that science has won with the passage of this bill. We should be taking medical advice from medical professionals, not strangers on the internet spreading pseudo-science misinformation."81
In the weeks leading up to the vote, major newspapers published editorials.82,83,84 The Partnership for New York City, which represents more than 350 major city employers, including Pfizer, Google, Microsoft and other corporations, also sent a letter to legislators calling for an end to the religious vaccine exemption.85,86
Many of the lobbyists argued that no major religion has a tenet opposing vaccination, even though vaccine products were not being mandated by governments until long after the world's major religions were founded.87 In addition, the U.S. Constitution prohibits our government from requiring citizens holding sincere personal spiritual or religious beliefs to identify with an organized religion or be a member of a certain church in order to receive equal protection under the law.88
The justification for violating the religious freedom of New York residents89 was primarily based on more than 1,000 cases of measles reported in 28 states this year, with 800 cases identified in several New York City neighborhoods, although there have been no reported measles deaths or injuries.90
About 75% of the New York measles cases have been confirmed in unvaccinated persons with the majority living in orthodox Jewish communities holding sincere religious beliefs opposing the use of vaccines.91,92
About 97% of children attending kindergarten in New York have received two doses of MMR vaccine compared to more than 94% of school children nationally.93
Government health officials and the media blame unvaccinated school children for measles outbreaks. However, May 25, NVIC published a special report on the history of measles and MMR vaccine providing documented evidence that MMR vaccine failures and waning immunity in vaccinated adults are equally responsible for reported measles outbreaks in highly vaccinated populations like ours.94
The illusion of durable MMR vaccine herd immunity is rapidly dissolving. Measles is being transmitted by vaccinated persons, who are subclinically infected but are not being identified or reported because they show few or no symptoms, while unvaccinated persons fully expressing measles symptoms are being identified, reported and very well publicized.
This information is not part of the public conversation when government officials and the media talk about measles outbreaks because it calls into question the accuracy of the narrative simplistically scapegoating unvaccinated children and their parents.95
Since January, America has been operating under a perceived state of emergency.96,97,98 That happened after the World Health Organization announced that "the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate" — termed "vaccine hesitancy" — is one of the top 10 "threats" to global health.99,100,101,102
The word "threat" is defined as one "regarded as a possible source of harm or danger."103 It is often used during wartime to elicit fear and hatred of an enemy that a government considers to be a danger to national security. In any war, real or perceived, rational thinking is the first casualty of fear, which makes it easier for people to agree to a loss of freedom in exchange for a promise of protection from harm.
Just like in 2015 when cases of measles were reported at Disneyland,104,105,106,107 this year there have been calls for public identification, criminal prosecution and imprisonment of unvaccinated people and parents who don't vaccinate their children.108,109,110
Anyone who defends the informed consent ethic and criticizes the use of coercion to force compliance with one-size-fits all vaccine policies is called an "anti-vaxxer" and subjected to personal attacks on his or her intelligence, integrity, motives and patriotism in the name of protecting the public health.
The litmus test question is: "Are you or have you ever been anti-vaccine?" If you hesitate, qualify your answer, express doubt or admit to being currently or previously associated with a person or organization labeled as "anti-vaccine," it is over.
You are publicly condemned as an "anti-vaxxer" and a danger to society for infecting others with your opinions, values and beliefs. You are blacklisted and turned into a horrible warning for any person like you who is even thinking about speaking up. Often people recant or throw their friends and colleagues under the bus when threatened with excommunication from society for being labeled "anti-vaccine."
There was another dark era in American history during the mid-20th century, known as the "blacklist" or "McCarthy" era, when government officials operated in a climate of fear under a perceived state of emergency that was used to justify taking extreme measures in the name of protecting national security. Beginning in 1947 through 1954, federal legislators suspected there were "communist sympathizers" in government agencies and working in the fields of journalism and entertainment.
Congress held a series of hearings in the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee followed by U.S. Senate hearings chaired by Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wis.111,112,113 Americans suspected of being a threat to national security were summoned to publicly testify about their personal philosophical, religious and political beliefs and association with persons or organizations believed to be communist sympathizers, a term that became synonymous with being "anti-American."
The litmus test question was: "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?" If the person answered "yes" or refused to answer, he or she risked being blacklisted as a political subversive who infected others with opinions, values and beliefs that posed a danger to national security.
Hundreds of Americans, including authors, artists, filmmakers and high profile Hollywood celebrities, were persecuted for their beliefs, sent to prison, denied employment or left the country in self-exile in order to find work. Often people recanted or threw their friends and colleagues under the bus when threatened with excommunication from society for being labeled "anti-American."
Broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow,114 who helped unmask the smear tactics used by Sen. McCarthy that ended government inquisitions of the "blacklist era," observed that:
"The right of dissent, or, if you prefer, the right to be wrong, is surely fundamental to the existence of a democratic society. That's the right that went first in every nation that stumbled down the trail toward totalitarianism."
June 20, despite thousands of parents testifying against a bill that essentially eliminates the medical vaccine exemption in a state that has no personal belief exemption,115 the California legislature's health committee voted to give absolute power to state health officials to reject any exemption granted by a doctor that does not conform with federal vaccine policy.116
In other states, legislators are moving to pass laws allowing doctors to vaccinate minor children without the knowledge or consent of their parents.117,118 Americans are being coerced and denied not only an education, but medical care, insurance and employment for refusing one or more government recommended vaccines.119,120,121
If you or your child has already suffered vaccine reactions or struggle with chronic brain and immune system problems that doctors deny can be made worse by getting re-vaccinated, you know what it feels like to live in perpetual fear that you will be hunted down and forced to get vaccines that could cause further damage to health.122
If your life has not been touched by a vaccine reaction, there is no guarantee it won't happen tomorrow.123 Government electronic medical records tracking systems are monitoring every vaccine you do and do not take,124,125 and many new vaccines are being developed by industry and government that will be mandated for children and adults alike.126
Do you want to be forced to use every new vaccine Big Pharma produces127 and public health officials mandate without your voluntary informed consent?128,129 And what will be done to you if you refuse to comply? Will you be able to get a driver's license or passport, shop in a store, go to a football game, enter a hospital emergency room, get on a bus or plane, or simply leave your home if you cannot show proof that you have complied with government vaccine policies?
Will your unvaccinated children be taken from you? Will you be criminally prosecuted and imprisoned? What has happened this year are signs that America may well be stumbling down the trail toward totalitarianism by allowing our unalienable rights to be taken away.
But we, the people, have the power in our constitutional republic to secure our civil liberties if we refuse to live in fear and, instead, choose to defend freedom of speech and conscience and the right to dissent, and if we elect lawmakers who cherish freedom as much as we do.
Unjust laws enacted today can be repealed tomorrow, but only if we wake up, stand up and never, ever give up. Be the one who never has to say you did not do today what you could have done to change tomorrow. It's your health, your family, your choice. And our mission continues: No forced vaccination. Not in America.
Collagen is the most common and abundant of your body’s proteins, which makes sense when you consider one of its primary purposes is to provide structural scaffolding for your various tissues to allow them to stretch while still maintaining tissue integrity.1
Collagen makes up anywhere from 25%2 to 30%3 of the total proteins in your body, and as much as 70% to 80% of the protein in your skin,4 in terms of dry weight.
It’s found specifically in the connective tissues throughout your body,5 from your muscles, bones and tendons to your blood vessels and digestive system. As a compound of essential amino acids, there’s only one way to get collagen: Your body can’t produce it, so you must obtain it through your diet.
Historically, traditional diets provided ample collagen in the form of broth made from boiled chicken feet or beef bones. Today, few remember and value homemade bone broth as a key staple, which has led to an entire industry of collagen supplements.
While they certainly can be helpful, not all supplements are made alike. If you’re looking to buy a collagen supplement it’s important to know what to look for on the label before you bring that product home. In other words, it’s a case of “buyer beware,” as laboratory testing6 has revealed many popular collagen and bone broth products contain contaminants, from antibiotics and prescription drug metabolites to parabens and insecticides.
Besides highlighting the hazards of nonorganic products, doubts have been raised as to whether collagen could really even benefit skin and connective tissue at all, as it was believed it likely would not be able to survive digestion. However, more recent research7 has provided a biological mechanism for how collagen works, showing certain peptides do in fact make it intact into the bloodstream. But before we get into that, let’s review some of the basics.
While many different types of collagen have been scientifically identified, 80% to 90% of the collagen in your body fall into the following three categories:8
Collagen supplements can be either unhydrolyzed (undenatured) or hydrolyzed (denatured). Hydrolyzation refers to a processing technique that breaks the molecules down into smaller fragments, thereby enhancing intestinal absorption.12 Since unhydrolyzed, natural collagen molecules are poorly absorbed due to their large size, most collagen products, whether topical or ingestible, are hydrolyzed.
However, as I’ll discuss further below, the processing that most collagen supplements go through to become hydrolyzed may mean the end product has some byproducts in it you’d really rather not consume. This raises questions about which way to go: Should you buy the unhydrolyzed product and possibly not get the full benefits of the collagen, or opt for the hydrolyzed one, which may come with unwanted byproducts?
An argument can be made for unhydrolyzed products, as they will typically contain a wider spectrum of preserved amino acids, or peptides. On the other hand, hydrolyzed collagen is described as having greater bioavailability mainly because it has isolated, or broken-down, peptides. But unhydrolyzed collagen has these isolated peptides too — which can make it even more confusing if you’re new to these terms.
To make it simpler, think of it this way: You need a good balance of amino acids like methionine and glycine — and when you isolate peptides, this balance is disrupted. Since your body breaks down the different collagen types through its own enzymatic hydrolysis, it’s helpful to know that unhydrolyzed collagen contains a wider range of amino acids. This means you’ll also get a more balanced ratio of complementary amino acids, and not just the isolated peptides you get with the hydrolyzed product.
The argument here is nearly identical to the argument of whey protein concentrate versus isolate. Concentrates have a more natural profile, yet isolates are marketed as more bioavailable.
The thing is, with collagen, to isolate the peptides, the product must undergo harsh processing, which may negate some of its advertised benefits. This underscores why it’s so important to learn everything you can about the product you’re buying before you make the actual purchase. First, though, here is some information about how a collagen supplement might help you.
As mentioned, there’s been some debate as to whether collagen is able to survive digestion. Like collagen, many other foods contain amino acids, and if collagen is simply broken down into separate amino acids as it goes through the digestive process, why would it be specifically beneficial for ligaments, joints and skin, more so than any other amino acid-rich food?
As it turns out, hydrolyzed collagen does allow certain peptides to enter your bloodstream intact, before they’re broken down into their component parts. Specifically, a peptide known as prolyl-hydroxyproline (Pro-Hyp), which plays a role in skin health and repair,13,14 has been shown to remain intact. As noted in a 2017 study15 published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry:
“Previous studies have shown that the oral ingestion of collagen hydrolysate leads to elevated levels of collagen-derived peptides in the blood, but whether these peptides reach the skin remains unclear.
Here, we analyzed the plasma concentration of collagen-derived peptides after ingestion of high tripeptide containing collagen hydrolysate in humans.
We identified 17 types of collagen-derived peptides transiently, with a particular enrichment in Gly-Pro-Hyp … Therefore, we propose that functional peptides can be transferred to the skin by dietary supplements of collagen.”
Similarly, Caroline Brochard-Garnier, communication manager for Rousselot, a producer of gelatin and collagen products for the drug, food and nutritional markets, explained the mechanism of action to Nutraingredients.com in a March 2015 article:16
“When a collagen peptide preparation with optimized molecular weight and proven bioavailability is ingested, small collagen peptides are absorbed quickly into the blood stream.
The presence of these peptides in skin tissue, stimulate skin cells (fibroblasts) and activate multiple biochemical pathways which in turn leads to a response which is widely accepted:
Small collagen peptides are believed to act as a false signal of the destruction of collagen in the body, triggering the synthesis of new collagen fibers, which in turn increases skin suppleness and reduces the formation of wrinkles. In addition, the synthesis of hyaluronic acid is stimulated which leads to an increase in skin hydration.”
A number of studies have demonstrated collagen has beneficial effects on skin, helping mitigate age-related wrinkles, for example. Among them:
• A 2014 study17 in the journal Skin Pharmacology and Physiology found older women who took Type I collagen experienced “a statistically significant increase in skin elasticity,” after eight weeks. They also observed improved skin hydration in elderly women, although those results “did not reach a level of statistical significance.”
• A 2015 study18 in the Journal of Medical Nutrition & Nutraceuticals found post-menopausal women given a collagen beverage experienced improvements in the look and feel of their skin.
According to the authors, “This study shows that the oral nutritional supplement consisting of hydrolyzed collagen, hyaluronic acid and essential vitamins and minerals, leads to a significant improvement in wrinkle depth. It is also able to induce noticeable improvement in elasticity and hydration of the skin.” They also highlighted the results of previous research:
“Three studies from Japan in particular have demonstrated a clear effect. The benefits of daily ingestion of hydrolyzed collagen (10 g) on skin hydration of 20 healthy Japanese women compared to the placebo group (19 volunteers) were evaluated by Sumida et al.
In comparison with the placebo group, gradual improvement of water absorption capacity was observed through 60 days in volunteers who ingested collagen peptides. Matsumoto et al. presented results of a trial also suggesting that a daily ingestion of collagen peptides improve skin hydration.
The authors reported subjective improvement of the skin condition of woman's volunteers after ingestion of fish collagen peptides for 6 weeks. The percentage of positive response between the subjects was very high.
This study was followed by a double-blind placebo-controlled study by the same research group on healthy women volunteers aged 25-45. In this study 2.5, 5 and 10 g of fish collagen peptide were administered and compared to the placebo.
The hydration of the stratum corneum was measured at baseline and after 4 weeks. A significant difference was observed in subjects older than 30 years between the treated group (5 g and 10 g) and placebo.”
• Most recently, a systematic review19 published in January 2019 — which analyzed 11 studies using either collagen hydrolysate or a collagen tripeptide supplement at dosages ranging between 2.5 grams and 10 grams per day for eight to 24 weeks — concluded, “Preliminary results are promising for the short and long-term use of oral collagen supplements for wound healing and skin aging.”
Specifically, oral collagen was found to “increase skin elasticity, hydration and dermal collagen density.”
Collagen has also been shown to impart other valuable health benefits, including but not limited to the following:
Some of the benefits of collagen may also be attributable to the glycine it contains. While collagen contains 20 amino acids, glycine is one of the three predominant ones.28 Glycine (and collagen, being a source of glycine) inhibits the consumption of NADPH, thereby lowering inflammation and oxidative damage in your body.
NADPH, or reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate, is used as a reductive reservoir of electrons to recharge antioxidants once they become oxidized. NADPH is also necessary to make your steroid hormones and fats.
As discussed in this previous article about NADPH, glycine supplementation may be beneficial for the prevention and/or treatment of metabolic syndrome, complications from diabetes, cardiac hypertrophy, and alcoholic and nonalcoholic liver disorders.
Gelatin29 is a staple in paleo-based diets. The difference between collagen and gelatin is that collagen is the raw material, and gelatin is what you get when you cook the collagen.30
If you’ve ever made homemade bone broth, you’ll find it forms a layer of gelatin at the top when it cools. That’s the collagen from the bones and cartilage that has turned into gelatin, a formidable superfood.
In fact, making your own bone broth from the bones of organic grass fed or pastured animals is one of the best (and most inexpensive) ways to get healthy collagen into your diet.
On the other hand, hydrolyzed collagen (also called collagen hydrolysate) requires more intensive processing and cannot be produced at home. This processing is also one of its most significant drawbacks.
You likely will never find an organic hydrolyzed collagen on the market, because it is often a byproduct from the leather industry. When you see a product is made from hides, it is best to ask questions about how that collagen is removed from the hides. Many tanneries use sulfuric acid and chromium salts during processing.
Hydrolyzed collagen and gelatin are similar but not identical. While both products contain the same amino acids, they have different chemical properties and therefore differ in how you can use them. For example:
Both gelatin and hydrolyzed collagen have gut-healing properties (which is why they’re a staple in the GAPS diet), aiding digestion, reducing inflammation and restoring your gut lining,31 although hydrolyzed collagen tends to be more easily digested.
Since hydrolyzed collagen has been broken down into smaller components, it can dissolve in both cold and hot liquids, whereas gelatin will only dissolve in hot liquid. And, since hydrolyzed collagen will not gel, it cannot be used as a substitute for gelatin in dishes like puddings and sauces.
As mentioned, food testing32 by the Consumer Wellness Center (CWC) in 2017 revealed many nonorganic poultry-based collagen products contain potentially hazardous contaminants typically associated with concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).
The results suggest CAFO animal byproducts are routinely used to make nonorganic collagen products, so to avoid contaminants, you’d be wise to make sure it’s 100% organic. The testing in question looked at eight bone broth and bone broth protein products, selected based on their popularity on Amazon.com. Contaminants claimed to be found in some of these products included:33
As noted by the CWC: 37
“To clarify, these tests were conducted on non-organic products derived from animals, and in that category almost every product on the shelf will likely show trace amounts of antibiotics, insecticides and certain pharmacological drugs. These are widely used throughout the animal-based food supply, and many of those chemicals remain intact through processing and packaging.”
While the CWC stressed that none of the products tested were “acutely dangerous or running afoul of FDA regulations,” the take-home message, in my view, is that if you’re going to use a poultry-based collagen supplement, make sure it’s certified “100% Organic” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture,38 the only organic label that relates to food.
Factory farmed animal products are problematic for many reasons, such as accelerating antibiotic resistance, poor conditions for the animals, and because the farms contribute to severe environmental pollution. If you do not consume CAFO meats, you probably would not want to consume CAFO collagen and bone broth products either.
All things considered, my personal preference is to use a less denatured (unhydrolyzed) organic collagen supplement, as it has a more balanced amino acid profile or, better yet, simply make homemade bone broth using bones and connective tissue from grass fed, organically raised animals. It’s the most natural approach of all and is, in my view, the best way to get the full range of benefits without the potential drawbacks.
You may not even need a collagen supplement if you provide your body with the needed precursors. In fact, some experts recommend increasing consumption of collagen building blocks rather than collagen protein itself.39 Here are a number of ways to boost your collagen level without having to resort to a supplement:
Making and consuming homemade bone broth, made from organic, pasture-raised poultry or grass fed and finished bovine bones and cartilage. Chicken feet are excellent for this, as chicken claws are particularly rich in collagen40
Red light therapy, aka low-level laser light therapy or photobiomodulation, has been shown to increase collagen growth to reduce wrinkles and improve skin elasticity41
Ginseng, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, has been found to increase collagen in the bloodstream and may have antiaging benefits42
Aloe vera, taken orally as an aloe vera gel powder, nearly doubled collagen production and increased hyaluronic acid levels by 1.5 times in one study,43 significantly reducing wrinkles in women aged 40 and over
Hyaluronic acid, an important compound for collagen in the skin, can be found in bone broth, organ meats and root vegetables,44 or taken as a supplement. Hyaluronic acid has been shown to improve skin moisture and suppleness and reduce wrinkles when added to the diet.45,46
Vitamin C, for example, plays an important role in collagen synthesis,47 so, without vitamin C, your body’s natural collagen production will be impacted. Fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C include kiwi, oranges and other citrus fruits, tomatoes, bell peppers and broccoli
Antioxidants, which protect against damaging free radicals, enhance the effectiveness of existing collagen. Berries such as blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are good sources
Garlic contains sulfur, a necessary component for collagen production,48 as well as lipoic acid, which helps rebuild damaged collagen fibers49
Several branches of the U.S. military are looking closely at a whole new approach in regard to nutrition, at least as far as it concerns U.S. troops.1 In short, government agencies are exploring the possibility of changing its nutritional guidelines so service members will be required to follow a ketogenic or "keto" diet.
The keto diet is a tactical strategy that puts the body into a metabolic fat-burning state called ketosis. For the military, it would mean adopting a low-carb/high fat approach to food — burning fat instead of glucose for energy — instead of the other way around.
Dr. David Ludwig, a nutrition professor at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, maintains that a keto diet helps reduce the "respiratory quotient," which is the amount of carbon dioxide the body produces relative to the amount of oxygen it consumes.
He notes that it's not oxygen in your blood that makes you want to breathe; it's triggered by the buildup of carbon dioxide, and the keto diet is the best way to lower its production to reduce the respiratory quotient.
In theory, the body needs to breathe as much as 30% less; however, in reality, it would be more like 15% less, which is "still significant in extreme situations, like living in a submarine or diving to retrieve an explosive ordnance."
Lisa Sanders, director of science and technology at U.S. Special Operations Command, spelled out the potential benefits of the keto diet in terms officials at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference could understand and support wholeheartedly: Improved performance.
Its potential for Navy SEALs and other "elite operators" on raids and combat dives, who may be the first to go keto, have proven to be dramatic. Going keto may even prevent seizures for divers who need to remain hidden underwater for long periods. According to Business Insider:
"One of the effects of truly being in ketosis is that it changes the way your body handles oxygen deprivation, so you can actually stay underwater at depths for longer periods of time and not go into oxygen seizures.
That kind of technology is available today … We can tell whether you are or are not in ketosis. We have really good indications of how to put you in ketosis. And we know statistically what that does to your ability to sustain oxygen."2
If new keto diet strategies are adopted by the military, menu options at bases everywhere would be replaced. Zero hedge notes that produce choices and meat quality at military dining facilities may be switched out, and the high carb/high sugar content of MREs (meals ready to eat) would also be "a thing of the past."3 Additionally:
"In the future, this could result in dining facilities serving Ezekiel bread, zucchini 'pasta spirals' to replace pasta, mashed cauliflower as a substitute for potatoes and rice, and avocado-heavy salads."4
Some military officials contend that doing so may stretch military budgets. But Jeff Volek, a kinesiologist in the department of human sciences at The Ohio State University, who composed a study recommending the benefits of a keto diet, disagrees.
Volek says that because healthy fat from such options as fish, chicken and other meats, eggs, cheese, butter, nuts, seeds and nonstarchy vegetables would be the primary nutrients, it would likely be less expensive.
The only hitch to the proposal is whether the military has the legal and even "ethical" authority to dictate and enforce such dietary restrictions. Due to the possibility some may "cheat," daily ketosis testing via urine and blood tests may be in store to ensure soldiers stay in a constant state of ketosis. There's also the fact that only strict compliance would make the program successful.
However, research shows a keto diet can help with much more than lowering obesity rates. According to researchers at The Ohio State University, whose work was published in the Journal Military Medicine,5 it also helps boost both mental and physical performance in the field. The authors also noted the participants exhibited "remarkable weight loss and improvements in body composition."
The study, involving 15 study subjects on the keto diet and another 14 individuals eating a regular diet, was the first ever to be designed specifically for military personnel. While in the program, those doing the keto diet had their capillary blood ketones tested on a daily basis. According to New York Post:6
"Those who stayed on their regular diet did not see any changes to their weight, but the keto group saw both weight loss and an almost 50% improvement in insulin sensitivity. However, both groups scored similarly in aerobic capacity, maximal strength, power and a military obstacle course, which means although the keto diet may be good for weight loss, it may not have any specific effect on athletic performance."
According to Sanders, the military has kicked in funding for a "small business research effort" to develop and assess alternative (nondietary) means for soldiers to achieve ketosis, as well as to assess the effect ketosis has on those who've undergone altitude-induced hypoxia. In addition, officials are tracking the results of studies on other extreme environments relevant to special operations forces (SOF) warfighters.
Just as the people in charge of U.S. schools and medical facilities have observed, obesity is a growing problem, and that includes every branch of the armed forces. Steps have already been taken to combat the problem, however. In 2014, for instance, the U.S. Navy pulled soda and fried foods from its ships' menus.7
In addition, the Army launched its own Go For Green program, designed to engage "nudging strategies" so troops would be more inclined to select healthy foods and drinks, says Laura Mitvalsky, director of health promotion and wellness at the Army Public Health Center. She also maintains that small changes like these are solutions that can improve the nutritional status of military personnel.
For soldiers who aren't yet savvy on what foods are most nutritionally sound, the program provides marketing materials geared toward nutrition education. Additionally, color coded food labels in in green, yellow and red are being implemented. In September, the Marine Corps reportedly plans to pull its own trigger on a food coding system to encourage healthy eating, with incentives:
"If the food is labeled green when you go through the chow line, go as much as you want … If it's yellow, go with caution. If it's red, go minimal," says Stephen Armes, director of the Marine Corps' Force Fitness Division.
In fact, a menu rivaling that of U.S. Division I NCAA athletic programs is already in the works. Sharlene Holladay, a certified specialist in sports dietetics for the Marine Corps, says menus will soon feature "Cleaner proteins and better convenience-line grab-go options," as well as such cold-bar options as "traditional vegetables, chopped eggs, yogurt, cheese, salsa, legumes and trail mixes at all meals."8
Senior sports dietician Nikki Jupe at the University of Oregon says choosing certain foods can help improve athletes' mental endurance, while at the same time reducing injury risk and recovery time. Because performance is influenced by nutrition, the benefits are available to soldiers who are intentional in their eating habits.9 Further:
"Incorporating the basic nutrition principles will build a foundation for mission readiness, cognitive performance as well as endurance performance … Using different nutritional strategies (may even help) prepare for deployment …
Having a combat-registered dietitian be a part of the process allows for insight and initial/extended education to aid in better habits and body composition change."
Numerous studies show that adhering to the keto diet offers health benefits; for instance, one supports its use as an adjunct cancer therapy.10 It can improve your metabolic health, as limiting your carb intake can address several aspects of your endocrine system. For one thing, it drives your insulin level down, which increases your metabolic rate.11
Insulin resistance promotes both fatty liver and high blood sugar, and both can lead to atherosclerosis. In essence, it's at the heart of most serious degenerative diseases, including high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer's — and that's just the short list.
On the other hand, the keto diet improves insulin sensitivity, which alleviates the damaging aspects of insulin resistance. How? Rather than focusing on calories taken in, it focuses on the energy the food you eat generates, and the energy your body stores as a result.
When you severely limit your carb intake while focusing on consuming moderate amounts of protein and high amounts of healthy fat, it helps you reach and maintain a healthy weight, for obese people in particular.12 Following a ketogenic diet can reduce inflammation, especially after stroke and brain trauma.13 One study even concluded:
"A major research focus should be on how metabolic interventions such as a ketogenic diet can ameliorate common, comorbid, and difficult-to-treat conditions such as pain and inflammation."14
For individuals wanting to lose weight, an article on ketotic.org shows that newborn babies are naturally in a state of ketosis — a "normal and desirable" state to be in — and remain so as long as they're breastfeeding.15 One randomized controlled study shows a ketogenic diet has in many instances proved to be a successful "treatment," if not a cure for epilepsy.16
The USDA's current 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, including those used in education, are called the "cornerstone" of federal nutrition policy. Updated every five years, they're "designed for nutrition and health professionals to help all individuals ages 2 years and older and their families consume a healthy, nutritionally adequate diet."17
But one interesting aspect of the military's new endeavor is that the keto diet is completely opposite of the nutritional standards set forth for the general population. According to the guidelines' key recommendations, a healthy diet should include:
A variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups — dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other
Fruits, especially whole fruits
Grains, at least half of which are whole grains
Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese and/or fortified soy beverages
A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), and nuts, seeds and soy products
The reality is that while the U.S. dietary guidelines advise you to limit the saturated fats you consume, your body needs them. All fats are not created equal. Still, many health authorities continue to warn anything but low-fat and zero-fat will raise LDL cholesterol, clog your arteries and increase your heart disease risk.
Numerous studies now indicate that not only is that 40-year-old advice completely wrong, the correct research was suppressed. The New York Times18 and The Atlantic19 were just two publications refuting the so-called heart-healthy diet. Time20 reported the all-encompassing re-evaluation and research, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ),21 which states:
"Available evidence from randomized controlled trials shows that replacement of saturated fat in the diet with linoleic acid effectively lowers serum cholesterol but does not support the hypothesis that this translates to a lower risk of death from coronary heart disease or all causes."22
Even in a world where genetically engineered foods are touted as perfectly fine for health, grains, including whole grains, are not what they're cracked up to be. It's been well established that genetically engineered (GE) crops and other "significantly altered foods," aka processed, are linked to obesity, disease and early death.
There's also evidence that, rather than basing the dietary guidelines on the latest science, a large portion was gathered from organizations that support food and drug companies.23 For instance, the American Beverage Association (ABA), which includes members such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Dr Pepper Snapple Group, announced a partnership with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, funded by the AMA and the Clinton Foundation.24
Another approach to the keto diet is KetoFasting, which includes both a cyclical ketogenic diet and partial fasting, as fasting has also become evident. The keto approach, besides those already mentioned, properly combined, increases autophagy and triggers the regeneration of your stem cells, which are crucial for maintaining good health and preventing disease.
Eating to optimize the way your brain and body function is a wise course of action. Viewing food as a fuel and "eating to live as opposed to living to eat" will help you gain the energy and vitality you need. Hopefully, the conversation will help you, as well as soldiers in the military, make informed decisions about what type of diet will help you maintain health and enhance your performance best.
Diabetes is a disease of insulin resistance resulting in high blood sugar.1 Your pancreas secretes the hormone insulin, which is used to move blood sugar across cell walls for energy.2 The number of those experiencing diabetes has risen sharply since 1958, when the CDC3 estimated 0.93% of the population had been diagnosed with it.
By 2015 the number had risen to 7.4%. As the population numbers had also increased, the absolute numbers diagnosed were 1.6 million in 1958, rising to 23.4 million in 2015.4 The percentage of the population diagnosed with diabetes rose slowly from 1958 to 1995, at which point it began increasing more quickly from 3.3% of the population to 7.4% in 2015.5
Another report from the CDC6 encompasses the total number of existing cases, including newly diagnosed diabetes. According to this report it is estimated that in 2015, 9.4% of the U.S. population or 30.3 million people were diabetic. When they factored in those who may not be aware of their diagnosis, the percentage rose to 12.2% of all U.S. adults.
One future model7 predicts that without change, the prevalence will increase 54% to more than 54.9 million Americans by 2030. According to the World Health Organization,8 422 million people around the world, or 8.5%, were diagnosed with diabetes in 2014; this represents a 3.8% increase from 1980. The disease is a principal reason for blindness, heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure and lower limb amputation.9
Diabetes is one of the most expensive chronic diseases10 and is estimated to cost more than $245 billion per year in the U.S. The future model published in the Population of Health Management estimates this will rise to $622 billion by 2030.11
Whatever metric is being used to measure, the numbers are rising. Current treatment philosophy12 holds that you can manage the disease with making healthy eating choices, being active and using prescription medications, such as insulin, to control blood sugar levels.
A recent study13 published in the journal Metabolism demonstrates how intermittent fasting, known to improve sensitivity to insulin14 and to protect against fatty liver disease,15,16 may also reduce pancreatic fat deposits and help prevent development of Type 2 diabetes.
When your body is insulin resistant,17 the cells in your body do not respond well to insulin, which lowers their ability to use glucose from the blood for energy. The pancreas secretes more insulin, trying to overcome the cells’ weak response and keep blood glucose levels in a healthy range.
A research team from the German Institute of Human Nutrition undertook a study to determine how weight-induced fat buildup in the pancreas has an effect on the onset of Type 2 diabetes.18 Using an animal model, the study team found that overweight mice prone to diabetes also had a high amount of fat in the pancreas.
If mice were genetically resistant to diabetes, despite having excess body weight, their pancreas did not carry fat deposits. However, researchers did find additional fat deposits in the liver of these mice. The team used New Zealand obese mice who were split into two groups.19
One group was fed a high-fat diet and allowed to eat as much as they wanted, and the second group fasted every other day. The researchers measured fat in the pancreas, glucose homeostasis, insulin sensitivity and islet of Langerhans function (cells in the pancreas where insulin is produced20).
They found the mice in the experimental group, undergoing intermittent fasting every other day, had better glucose control and less fat in the pancreas and liver than the control group who were allowed to eat as much as they wished each day.
When a variety of cell types from the mice were cultured together, researchers found fat cells in the pancreas developed a hypersecretion of insulin and released more fatty acids than white fat cells harvested from the lower stomach and groin area.
Based on these results, the researchers suggested21 that pancreatic fat plays a role in the development of Type 2 diabetes, but intermittent fasting may prevent pancreatic fat deposits.
There are several different ways of integrating intermittent fasting into your daily routine. The process involves entirely or partially foregoing eating for a specific amount of time. The methods will vary on the number of days, the number of hours and how many calories you’re allowing.22
Some find it challenging to stick to a program, but remaining hydrated, avoiding obsessing over food and finding the time to engage in relaxing activities such as yoga may help.23 While there are different ways of incorporating intermittent fasting into your routine, there is no one single plan that works for everyone.
You'll experience the best results by trying several to see what fits with your lifestyle and preferences. The goal behind intermittent fasting is to improve your metabolic flexibility,24 or your body’s ability to respond to changes in metabolic demand.
As you try intermittent fasting, it's important to remember that the meals you do eat should be well-balanced, high in healthy fats and low in carbohydrates. Here are several different methods to consider:25
• 12-hours-a-day fast — This is often used as a jumping-off point for those who are interested in starting intermittent fasting. You need only adhere to a 12-hour fasting window every day, including the hours you sleep. This is easily done when your last food is eaten at 7 p.m. and you don’t eat again until breakfast the next morning.
• 16-hours-a-day fast — During a 16-hour fast you have an eight-hour window to eat. It's sometimes referred to as the 16/8 method and is a graduation from the 12-hour fast. In this case, many people finish eating by 7 p.m. or 8 p.m., skip breakfast and do not eat again until noon.
In an animal study26 researchers found that limiting feeding to 8 hours could protect the mice from obesity, inflammation, liver disease and diabetes, even when they ate the same number of calories during the restricted eight hours as the control group did in 24 hours.
• Two days a week — For some it may be easier to restrict intake for an entire 24 hours twice-weekly as opposed to each day. Men may eat up to 600 calories on the fasting days and women up to 500 calories. Typically, the fasting days are separated during the week and you eat normally on the other days.
To use this type of intermittent fasting successfully, there should be at least one nonfasting day between your fasting days. One study27 engaged the participation of 107 overweight or obese women and found this type of fasting reduced insulin levels and improved insulin sensitivity.
• Every other day — There are several variations of an every-other-day plan. Some completely avoid solid food and others allow up to 500 calories on fasting days. The authors of one study28 found this type of intermittent fasting was effective for weight loss and heart health for both normal and overweight adults.
• Meal skipping — This is a more flexible approach that works well for those who respond to hunger signals and normally eat when they're hungry and skip meals when they're not.
The goal of metabolic flexibility is to train your body to use carbohydrates and fat as fuel. The term was first used to describe the capacity of a parasitic worm to generate energy either aerobically or anaerobically, giving it greater versatility to respond and adapt to environmental changes.29
The more current use has been in the context of carbohydrate and fat metabolism in an effort to reduce insulin resistance, a key to metabolic inflexibility that may develop in tissues and organs. Skeletal muscle burns 60% to 80% of glucose in response to insulin, which is thought to be related to the interaction of skeletal muscle and insulin resistance in Type 2 diabetes.30
Insulin resistance is likely part of an overall metabolic inflexibility, which fasting may override. This enhances metabolic flexibility and higher mitochondrial capacity.31 One scientist32 found that insulin resistance comes before metabolic nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), but not in those who experience genetically driven NAFLD.
Another team outlined the factors affecting metabolic flexibility, including diet, eating frequency, exercise and the use of pharmaceuticals.33 Presenters at the American College of Sports Medicine34 conference on Integrative Physiology and Exercise agreed the body's ability to use carbohydrates and fat is vital for optimal health.
In other words, your body's ability to flexibly use fat and carbohydrates for fuel is necessary to reduce insulin resistance, maintain your weight and achieve optimal health.35
If you've never tried intermittent fasting, you may be surprised how easily you may integrate it into your life. I recommend beginning with a 12-hour fast from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. Once you have achieved this for one week, add one hour every week for a month.
This helps you easily move from a daily 12-hour fast to a 16-hour fast. As you achieve this goal, you may want to consider incorporating alternate strategies described above, depending upon your lifestyle.
There is no one perfect way of practicing intermittent fasting, so experiment until you find one that works for you. The method of starting with 12 hours and moving to a 16-hour fast is one of the best ways I’ve found to reduce your challenges as you integrate intermittent fasting into your nutritional program.
Although intermittent fasting is beneficial for many people, there are some points to consider before you begin.
If you are interested in using additional, simple strategies to boost your overall health and reduce your dependence on many medications for chronic disease, consider using a KetoFast program. This is a complete system starting with intermittent fasting and a cyclical ketogenic diet, and then moving into a partial fast instead of a water fast.
For more information about the program I discuss in my book, “KetoFast: A Step-by-Step Guide to Timing Your Ketogenic Meals,” see my past article, “Avoid the Dark Side of Fasting and Ketosis With KetoFasting.” There you may hear a podcast with fitness expert Ben Greenfield and discover more about the benefits of fasting.
Whether you choose to practice intermittent fasting or not, it's important to remember to avoid eating at least three hours before you go to bed. Eliminating this single habit may have positive health repercussions since eating late night meals (when your body does not need the energy) may detrimentally affect your mitochondria.36,37
When your mitochondria receive inappropriate amounts of fuel, even proper fuel, at the wrong time of the day, they may begin to deteriorate and malfunction. Mitochondrial dysfunction lays the groundwork for subsequent breakdowns in a variety of bodily systems leading to chronic illness.38
1 Which of the following is a real project being run on Wikipedia; its editors altering certain pages to control the narrative?
2 Which of the following entities does not rely on Wikipedia as a primary tool for establishing credibility of online material and authors?
3 Which of the following foods is statistically the safest and least likely to make you sick from foodborne pathogens?
4 Which of the following drug classes has been found to significantly raise your risk of dementia?
5 Which of the following fruits is known as "the jewel of autumn," and is praised in both the Talmud and Bible?
6 Forest bathing refers to
7 According to an in-depth investigation of the medical literature by Dr. Chris Knobbe, an ophthalmologist, macular degeneration is not a disease of aging but rather a disease of:
Recipe by Paleohacks
Beets are a popular salad ingredient not just because they make the dish more colorful, but they also pack flavor that can elevate it too. If you want to make a meal that’s oozing with that “wow” factor, try this beet noodle arugula salad recipe from Paleohacks. This eye-catching salad is good for sharing with family and friends, although you may decide to save some (or a lot) for yourself.
Prep time: 10 minutes
While most beet dishes usually involve the red variety, this vegetable comes in other colors too, such as yellow or yellow-orange. No matter what type of beet you choose, you can be sure that it will offer a variety of nutrients, such as folate, potassium and vitamin A. Beets can provide multiple health benefits, according to studies:
If using beets for any recipe, always buy organic. To know if your beets are high-quality, The Spruce Eats recommends buying beetroots with their greens still attached to them. Separate the beets from the greens before keeping them in your refrigerator, where they can be stored for one week.
Because some beets can be dirty, shake them first to get rid of excess soil, then store them loosely wrapped inside a bag to prevent dirt from scattering all over the refrigerator. Don’t wash beets right away, and only peel them when you’re ready to use them for cooking. Note: Beets tend to have rather foul-tasting skin, so make sure to peel them.
You can also grow your own beets using heirloom seeds to ensure you have a steady supply of them. Although red table beets aren’t usually genetically engineered, there’s a risk that they may be contaminated with some substances or chemicals via cross-pollination, because they’re typically grown near sugar beets — most of which happen to be GE.
While eating beets raw and simply seasoned can be a tasty snack, consuming fermented foods made with this vegetable is far more preferable. Allowing beets to ferment enables the nutrients in them to be more bioavailable, raising your chances of receiving important enzymes and beneficial bacteria.
There are many leafy greens you can use in salads, such as arugula, known for its peppery flavor. It’s healthy, too — a 100-gram serving is high in antioxidants like vitamin A, lutein and zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene.
Arugula is a good plant-based source of nitrates that can be converted into nitric oxide (NO). This biological signaling molecule may target some of your metabolic regulatory pathway, and eventually help promote improved cardiometabolic abilities, lower oxidative stress, protect mitochondria and maintain proper endothelial function. NO may also assist in promoting better blood flow, thanks to its vasodilator capabilities that aid in relaxing and widening blood vessels.
Just like with beets, buy GMO-free and organically grown arugula, which can be sold in a bunch or as loose leaves. Good arugula tends to have dark green leaves, so if you notice leaves that are damaged, wilted, yellowing or moist-looking, don’t buy them. You can also try growing your own arugula if you have enough space in your home.
This recipe calls for peas, a type of legume that contains lectins, which are antinutrients that may cause adverse effects if consumed excessively. To mitigate the effects of lectins, eat legumes sparingly or avoid them altogether. However, if you are making a dish with peas or other types of legumes, ensure that they’re prepared and cooked properly. For more information about what lectins are and how you can ultimately limit them in your diet, read this article.
PaleoHacks is a top source for amazing Paleo recipes, fitness tips and wellness advice to help you live life to the fullest. If you have questions regarding the Paleo diet in general, PaleoHacks may provide you with the answers that you need.
Dr. Chris Knobbe, an ophthalmologist, has written an excellent book — “Ancestral Dietary Strategy to Prevent and Treat Macular Degeneration” — which, like the title suggests, tells you how to address the most common cause of legal blindness in the United States.
One of his heroes is Weston A. Price, the dentist who wrote the classic book “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.” I did not know this when I read Knobbe’s book, but it is very clear to me that Knobbe is the 21st century equivalent of Dr. Price.
The difference is that Price focused on the teeth and general physical degenerative diseases, like arthritis and cancer, whereas Knobbe is concentrated on his specialty, the eyes. But their findings are nearly identical: Industrially processed food is the root of most chronic disease. The first chapter is available free of charge on cureamd.org, where you can also order the book. Knobbe says,
“Ultimately … the next step I want to do is to … physically go out into the world and evaluate … the few niches around the world that are still consuming ancestral diets and analyze their macular degeneration,” he says.
Still, without venturing into foreign lands, Knobbe has amassed a wealth of knowledge by sifting through the published research, and what he’s found is shocking. Physicians are taught that macular degeneration is an inevitable consequence of aging and genetics, primarily, and has always existed. This, it turns out, is an absolute untruth.
As for so many others, Knobbe’s interest in diet and nutrition grew out of a personal experience. He’d suffered with arthritis for 15 years when he heard of the paleo diet, and within 10 days of switching saw significant improvement in his symptoms.
“In a nutshell, in about eight or 10 days, my arthritis was 80% better. This was so incredibly shocking to me after suffering for 15 years that I really wanted to know all I could know about nutrition. It just changed my life. I started investigating then.
This was in 2011. For the next couple of years, I investigated nutrition as much as I could. I learned so much but I was lost, until I came across the research of Weston Price …
Price was a highly-accomplished scientist, researcher and dentist who, in the 1930s, spent the better part of that decade evaluating people all around the world … as they transitioned from native, traditional diets to westernized diets …
He defined [the western diet] as refined white flour, sugars, canned goods, sweets, confectionery and vegetable oils. What Price found was that as people transitioned to those foods, they began to develop all of these diseases of civilization …
The take-home point here is that native, traditional foods contained 10 times as many fat-soluble vitamins, which are vitamins A, D and K2, four times as many water-soluble vitamins, which are all the B vitamins and C … and one and a half to 60 times more minerals than did the American diets of his day …
I’ve simplified it down to refined white flour, sugars, polyunsaturated vegetable oils and trans fats. When we consume these foods, we develop … chronic non-communicable disease. This includes heart disease, cancers, stroke, [high blood pressure], Type 2 diabetes, obesity, all the autoimmune disorders and so forth.
I understood this in 2013. Later that year, it finally hit me. I asked myself, ‘Could macular degeneration be another one of these diseases?’ Might it be a disease that follows processed food consumption? That question changed the course of my life …
I left ophthalmology practice and pursued this full-time, because I felt like it was the only way that I could … do all the research, write a book and publish papers … to try to get the word out … that our research supports the hypothesis with every last detail.”
The amount of work Knobbe has put into his book is truly extraordinary. For starters, he did a complete historical analysis of macular degeneration, reviewing ophthalmology textbooks from more than 100 years ago. As mentioned, the orthodox, conventional view taught in medical school is that macular degeneration is a disease driven by aging and genetics.
According to Knobbe, 52 gene variants — single-nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs — have been linked to macular degeneration. Smoking, obesity and lack of exercise are also thought to play a modest role. “Of course, with the hypothesis that was in my mind, I questioned that,” Knobbe says.
“I knew that if I was going to be able to draw connections between Westernized diet and macular degeneration, the first thing I needed to do is to go back and explore all the history of macular degeneration.
Honestly, I thought that I would be able to go onto PubMed or Google Scholar and I would find some excellent reviews and some papers that had covered this.
There was nothing of the sort. In early 2015, I spent three or four months doing nothing but trying to research the history of this, because I couldn’t find any kind of review that had ever been done of this.”
Here’s a quick summary of some of the history he discovered:
• Ophthalmologists were first able to view the macula, the central retina, beginning in 1851, thanks to the ophthalmoscope, invented by German physician and physicist, Hermann von Helmholtz. Within 10 years, ophthalmoscope use had spread to every continent of the world.
• In 1855, ophthalmologists started producing atlases of the retina and began taking pictures of it.
• Macular degeneration was described for the first time in 1874 by British ophthalmologist Jonathan Hutchinson.
• In 1895, German ophthalmologist Otto Haab reviewed 50,000 ophthalmic patient records, coming to the determination that macular degeneration was as rare as traumatic maculopathy and myopic maculopathy (a nearsighted kind of macular degeneration) — two exceptionally rare conditions to this day.
• 1889, Austrian ophthalmologist Ernst Fuchs — who went on to become one of the most prominent ophthalmologists in the world over the next several decades — published his first textbook.
It’s an 800-page book, and it contains but a single sentence about macular degeneration. “It was basically like a footnote, [that] this condition does exist in the elderly,” Knobbe says. The second edition, published in 1919, stated the main cause of macular degeneration was myopia.
Medical books published over the following decades, all the way up to 1940, contained little or no mention of macular degeneration. Sir Stewart Duke-Elder was the world’s most esteemed and published ophthalmologist from approximately the 1920s to 1970.
In Duke-Elder’s 1927 textbook, there was no mention of macular degeneration at all. But in his 1940 second edition textbook, macular degeneration was given 13 pages. Here, Duke-Elder referred to it as “a common cause of failure in central vision in old people.”
“In 1927, I don’t think he even knew what macular degeneration was, which was typical. By 1940, it was becoming common,” Knobbe says. “By 1975, in the U.S., we had the Framingham study. At that point, 8.8% of Americans over the age of 52 had macular degeneration and 27.9% of those over the age of 75 had macular degeneration.
If you do the math, that translates to about 4.5 million Americans affected with macular degeneration. If you look back 50 years previous to 1925, there was no more than about 50 cases of macular degeneration in all of the world’s literature.”
Now, let me just say that ophthalmologists, their first kneejerk reaction to this is, ‘Well, they weren’t looking.’ I’m telling you, they say that because they haven’t read these textbooks. If you look at these textbooks from the 19th century, these clinicians were extraordinary.
Their attention to detail makes ours look pathetic because they didn’t have magnetic resonance imaging. They didn’t have optical coherence tomography scans like we use, fundus cameras and fluorescein angiography. They didn’t have any of that. They had an ophthalmoscope and they had their eyes. They did extraordinary exams … It [was] just an extraordinarily rare disease.”
According to Knobbe, in 2020 there will be 196 million people with macular degeneration, and it’s expected to increase to 288 million by 2040. As of 2006, 3.15 million people worldwide were legally blind in both eyes due to it. “I did the math and it turns out that in this world, at least 270 people will go blind every single day due to macular degeneration,” he says.
Knobbe’s research also shows macular degeneration is strongly associated with heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome. “If we look at what’s happened with those diseases historically, they all run parallel,” he says.
Take heart disease for example. Knobbe cites a 2012 study that looked at the history of all these chronic diseases over the last 200 years. In Boston, 942 people died in 1811, and not a single death was attributed to the heart, although there were 25 sudden deaths. Even if they were heart related, that’s still only 2.65%.
“There was, to the best of my ability to tell — and I’ve read a number of reviews — about eight cases of heart attack, myocardial infarction [and] coronary thrombosis in the entire 19th century,” Knobbe says.
In 1897, the famous physician Sir William Osler, one of the founding partners of Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, published a paper in which he reviewed his previous 21 years of hospital experience.
He noted six cases of angina, chest pain that might be cardiac, but not a single MI [myocardial infarction or “heart attack”] in that 21 years. In 1910, he gave a lecture in London in which he reviewed the next 13 years of his career. Between 1897 and 1910, he’d seen 208 cases of angina, but still no heart attacks. The first confirmed case of heart attack in the U.S. was described in a 1912 paper by Dr. James Herrick.
“Nobody took him seriously,” Knobbe says. “In fact, this was ignored for about a decade. It wasn’t until the 1920s they started taking this seriously, because by the 1920s and 1930s, we started getting heart attacks. It’s just like macular degeneration …
If we fast-forward to 2010, what we have is 32.3% of the population dying of heart disease in the U.S. We went from extraordinary rarity in the 1800s to the leading cause of death, taking 1 out of 3 lives with heart disease in that timeframe.”
Knobbe summarizes the key dietary changes starting in the 1880s up to today, a primary one being the introduction of processed oils. Another is the introduction of refined flour.
“Today, 20% of the world’s diet is wheat. In the U.S., 85% of that is refined, meaning, it’s nutrient-deficient, kind of like sugar in a lot of ways. If you advance to 2009, those four foods — sugar, refined white wheat flour, polyunsaturated vegetable oils and trans fats — make up 63% of the American diet. This is the recipe for disaster. This is what sits at the base of all of this metabolic disease, including macular degeneration.”
According to Knobbe, industrially processed vegetable oils and seed oils are probably the most pernicious, as they cause significant oxidative stress, and actually get embedded into your cellular membranes. “I believe polyunsaturated vegetable oils are sheer danger. [They] are the most dangerous things in our food supply,” he says. Now, it’s important to realize that macular degeneration has a long incubation period. It doesn’t happen overnight.
“If a child is born today, his parents are consuming processed foods and the first thing he gets is processed food, he consumes that for 40 or 50 years, it takes that long before he has a heart attack, right? It’s very similar for macular degeneration,” Knobbe says.
“It’s the exact reason that we don’t have randomized-controlled clinical trials for heart disease and Alzheimer’s and macular degeneration, and there are never going to be, because you can’t control people’s diets very well in the first place and you certainly can’t control them for decades …
We looked at the data in 25 nations as it related to processed food consumption … If you look at Japan, for example … from 1974 to 1979 … their prevalence of macular degeneration was about 0.2%. Then 30 years later, in 2007, their prevalence of macular degeneration went to 11.4%. That is the most conservative number.
That shows their macular degeneration elevated 57fold in a 30-year period. Now, this cannot possibly be explained by aging or genetics. But when you look at the data, here’s what happened: their sugar consumption approximately doubled, but that wasn’t the big issue.
Here was the big issue: In 1961, they were consuming 9 grams per person per day of polyunsaturated vegetable oils. By 2000, they were up to 40 grams a day. Their vegetable oil consumption increased four-and-a-halffold … They started getting fast food restaurants and so forth. They started getting all of our processed foods.”
The same pattern is found in New Zealand, where prevalence of macular degeneration was 1.3% in 1967, and 10.3% in 2014 — an eightfold increase. Again, this radical increase parallels a massive increase in vegetable oil consumption. According to Knobbe, since he published his book in 2016 and started talking about this publicly, people are reporting their macular degeneration has stabilized or is getting better after following his recommendations, which in a nutshell boil down to:
Classically, the two carotenoids recommended for retinal health are zeaxanthin and lutein. A more recent addition is astaxanthin, which is the most potent carotenoid antioxidant known.
The Age-Related Eye Disease Study1 (AREDS), which began in the 1990s, specifically looked at vitamins and mineral supplements for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The treatment group took vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and zinc for five years. As explained by Knobbe:
“In Stages 1 and 2 of macular degeneration, the earliest stages, there’s no benefit at all with the supplement. If you’re in Stage 3, which is moderate AMD in both eyes, or Stage 4, which is advanced AMD in one eye, 20% of that population went onto more advanced AMD over that five-year period …
In the control group that had moderate AMD or advanced AMD in one eye, 28% advanced to worse macular degeneration. The difference was 28% versus 20%. This means 8% of the subjects getting supplements were better off — 1 out of 13 people … [So] the number needed to treat is 13.
What people need to know is if they have moderately advanced AMD or advanced AMD in one eye and they take these supplements, there is a 1 in 13 chance they will benefit … All the studies show that you cannot prevent macular degeneration with supplements. There’s never been a study that showed that.
Then they did the AREDS 2 study.2 In that study … they gave them the AREDS formula. They also gave omega-3 fatty acids and/or the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. What they found in the primary analysis was that there was no benefit for the omega-3s and the carotenoids, the lutein and zeaxanthin. No benefit at all.
Then they went back and reanalyzed all the data again and determined that there was a slight benefit in favor of supplementing with lutein and zeaxanthin …
But … it’s really important to realize that there was other research done by Carl Awh and colleagues … They looked at genetics versus supplements. Without getting into the genetic component of it, what we realized is that potentially around 30% of patients taking the original AREDs formula will be worse off than if they didn’t take any supplements at all; 8% were better, but up to 30% could be worse.”
Now, much of this negative effect may be related to the specific vitamin formulations used. Synthetic vitamin E, for example, has been shown to cause potential problems, largely as a result of using high doses of a single isomer, the alphatocopherol and none of the tocotrienols. They may also have used synthetic carotenoids. Still, when you look at the evidence, your best bet is to address your daily food choices.
As noted by Knobbe:
“I tell people that, really, this ancestral diet is … just about the simplest diet you could ever follow. You can make any kind of food you want, any type of ethnic food, whatever you want to eat. I don’t care if it’s steak or donuts. You can make those ancestrally if you eliminate those processed foods.
When people come to me and say, ‘Can I have Mexican food?’ or ‘Can I have Chinese food?’ Yes, yes. You can have all of those, but the only way to have them safely, generally, is to make them yourself, or to verify that they’re being made without polyunsaturated vegetable oils, without trans fat. Essentially try to minimize refined white flour [and] sugar.
If you do those things, I think you’re 95% of the way there, in terms of correcting your diet. I will say, it is not easy. If you don’t cook, if you don’t prepare your own meals, then I think you take a very serious risk, unless you know that your meals are being properly prepared without those kinds of components.”
Additionally, the ancestral approach stresses eating animals “from nose to tail,” meaning you don’t just want to eat steak, but also organs and connective tissue (think bone broth and the like).
Naturally, you’ll want to avoid animal products raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), as CAFO animals are not fed a natural diet but, rather, genetically engineered grains laced with antibiotics and other drugs. Ideally, look for 100% grass fed beef and animal products, certified by the American Grassfed Association (AGA).
If you’re eating muscle meat exclusively, you’re going to get relatively high levels of methionine, which could be problematic. That risk can be virtually eliminated by getting sufficient glycine from connective tissue.
“I couldn’t agree more,” Knobbe says. “I personally like to eat a lot of meat, but I’ve been consuming bone broth with added collagen now for a couple of years and just seem to be doing fabulous with that …
There’s absolutely no question in my mind — all the data supports this — that macular degeneration patients are vitamin A-, D- and K2-deficient. We can get those from organ meats, especially beef liver and chicken liver. Cod liver, fish liver oils are fantastic sources of vitamins A and D. So are the fish eggs, the roe.
For people who eat sushi, those are great sources of vitamins A and D. But for people who don’t eat liver at all, I really strongly recommend they consider an extra virgin cod liver oil supplement. You can take that, like a tablespoon, twice a week, and get great doses of vitamins A and D. Those are critical nutrients.”
Knobbe also agrees that sun exposure is an important component. Not only is it the ideal way to optimize your vitamin D, but sun exposure will also increase nitric oxide and improve ATP generation, and as noted by Knobbe, AMD is ultimately a disease process rooted in mitochondrial dysfunction.
“One of the reasons I focus so strongly on macular degeneration is because it is heart-wrenching to see what happens to people who lose their vision … It is just tragic,” Knobbe says.
His book, “Ancestral Dietary Strategy to Prevent and Treat Macular Degeneration,” is a first-rate resource for anyone desiring to protect their vision into old age. Again, the book can be purchased (for the cost of printing) on cureamd.org, where you can also read the first chapter. The eBook can be downloaded for 50 cents.
I believe it would also be an invaluable reference for ophthalmologists everywhere, as the history of AMD — or more appropriately just macular degeneration, without the “age-related” designation — has never before been detailed as it is in this book. It’s a truly historic contribution to medicine. Sadly, it’s going to take personal initiative by doctors and patients to get this information out.
“Every single major ophthalmology organization, like the American Academy of Ophthalmology … the Retina World Conference, every single one of them turned us down,” Knobbe says. “They don’t want to hear it. Even after the published paper, they don’t want to hear this.
People become so invested in their own beliefs. It’s so hard for all these guys who have been believing, researching and telling their patients for three to four decades or more that this is a disease of aging and genetics. I think that’s a big part of it … The Christian Ophthalmology Society let me present to them this past summer. That’s the only big ophthalmology group I’ve presented to …
I think it’s very powerful evidence. One of the things that’s comforting to me is that this is what happened to so many people … Harold Ridley, who developed and put in the first intraocular lens in 1948 ... He was held in disregard and disdain for decades …”
Ultimately, an ancestral diet of real food not only can safeguard your vision, but also your heart, brain and general health. The same strategy will dramatically reduce your risk for cancer, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s, which are the biggest killers of our time.