By Dr. Mercola
On July 23, 2015, the US House of Representatives passed HR 1599,1 ironically misnamed "The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act"2,3,4 more commonly referred to as the "Deny Americans the Right to Know" or DARK Act.
Despite heavy opposition, the measure was approved 275-150.
The “DARK” Act (HR 1599) specifically preempts states’ rights to create their own GMO food labeling laws and, if passed by the Senate, will effectively block Vermont’s GMO labeling law, set to take effect in 2016.
This is a significant blow to Americans’ right to truthful and transparent information about the food we eat, and Republican dissention in the Senate is our last hope to put a stop to this latest and most monstrous incarnation of the “Monsanto Protection Act.”
Pro-GMO Forces Spent Nearly $64 MILLION on Lobbying This Bill to Pass the House
According to a report5 by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), food and biotechnology companies spent $63.6 million in 2014 to lobby specifically for this kind of anti-labeling legislation. That’s nearly three times the amount spent on anti-labeling lobbying efforts in 2013.
Of the $25.4 million spent by the Grocery Manufacturers Association for GMO related lobbying last year, nearly half ($13.3 million) came from Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. These numbers dwarf those of the pro-labeling lobby, which spent a mere $2.6 million in 2014.
The report also notes that between 2012 and 2014, labeling opponents spent $105.8 million to defeat GMO labeling ballot initiatives in California, Washington, Colorado, and Oregon, and that doesn’t even include funds used to lobby state legislatures.
HR 1599 Eliminates State Rights
In addition to barring states from creating their own food labeling requirements for genetically modified organisms (GMOs), HR 1599, introduced by Rep. Pompeo, also preempts any and all state and local regulation of GE crops, and further weakens federal oversight.6
Moreover, rather than simply labeling foods containing genetically engineered (GE) ingredients, the bill calls for the creation of a USDA non-GMO certification program similar to its National Organic Program — essentially shifting all of the costs over to those who want to declare that their foods are not GMO.
This system is as backwards as it gets. If GMOs were labeled, as they rightfully should be, there would be no need for GMO-free labeling, which was originally nothing more than a workaround to give consumers what they want — the right to make an informed purchasing decision.
The basic premise and purpose of general food labeling is to inform you of what’s in the food you’re buying; its basic ingredients and additives — not what’s NOT in the food (unless it relates to a known health risk, such as peanut allergy or gluten intolerance).
Due to industry manipulation aimed at hiding controversial and potentially hazardous ingredients and residues, we’ve seen this shift in burden, starting with non-RBGH labels for dairy products using milk from cows not given synthetic, genetically engineered recombinant bovine growth hormones, which have been linked to cancer.
Now any food that does not contain a man-made genetic experiment will be forced to declare that they’re “normal” on the label, or be assumed to contain GMOs. It’s completely nonsensical and the only beneficiaries of such a convoluted, backward system are the biotechnology and the processed food industries.
GMO Salmon Labeling OK’d
Interestingly, just days before HR 1599 was passed by the House of Representatives, a provision was added to a Senate spending bill for the Agriculture Department and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that requires genetically engineered salmon to be labeled.
As reported by AgriPulse:7
“The... biotech salmon labeling requirement are not in the House bill. The Senate committee approved both provisions without a roll-call vote. Differences between the two bills will have to be worked out later between Senate and House negotiators.
The salmon labeling requirement proposed by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, would add a wrinkle to the congressional debate over labeling for genetically engineered crops.
Murkowski told colleagues that farmers shouldn't be concerned that the salmon labeling would set a precedent for labeling biotech crops. ‘Corn doesn't swim from one field to another and propagate with other corn in another state. Fish move. Fish escape,’ she said.”
The labeling of GE salmon is a perfect example of everything that’s wrong with HR 1599, and why the Senate should not pass it when the time comes. Whose responsibility is it to label their fish? Should traditional salmon suppliers be forced to certify theirs as non-GMO, which HR 1599 would require, or should the transgenic fish (which has been engineered with eel genes to make it grow three times faster) be labeled as genetically engineered?
The cost and burden for proper identification really belongs with the transgenic species, which has never existed in nature before; not the traditional fish you would expect to purchase when buying a package labeled “salmon.”
Would GMO Labeling Really Raise Food Prices?
There’s little doubt that the House of Representatives was swayed by false and deceptive propaganda. The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which was one of the hidden architects of HR 1599, managed to convince many of the representatives that GMO labeling would increase food prices — on average by $500 for a family living in New York.8
However, what’s so contradictory is that food makers are so nervous about denying their customers transparency that they’re willing to print a QR code on the box instead of the four words: “Produced with Genetic Engineering.” QR stands for Quick Response, and the code can be scanned and read by smart phones and other QR readers. It provides details about the product and may be linked to a coupon or other marketing ploys.
In a July 16 article for PoliticoPro, Jenny Hopkinson discusses the implementation of company-supported QR apps for your smartphone, noting that the program is being coordinated by the GMA. Hershey’s will likely be the first company to try out the QR code, with a wider rollout by the middle of next year.
However, there are still issues to be resolved before the smart-label program can begin. Ingredient names need to be standardized, and adding the QR codes to packaging will take time. What’s not addressed is that it will also, most likely, cost money. As reported by Hopkinson:
“The bar code idea is a way of finding that balance, because it creates a process by which a great deal of info can be supplied to a consumer who is interested but it doesn’t indicate that there is anything wrong with a product like a label does, (Agriculture Secretary Tom) Vilsack said.
Rep. Collin Peterson, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, supports the idea too. Peterson told POLITICO in May that such a system would mean that: ‘[I]f someone wants to know what’s in these products they can read it on their smartphone and that solves the problem” without “cluttering up the label.’”
Changes to Food Labels Have Never Impacted Price of Food
How can printing a QR code on food packaging be cheaper than adding four words? Won’t adding a QR code also increase the cost of food? And why this focus on avoiding the suggestion that there might be something wrong with the food, or that four more words will “clutter up” the label? The only way to interpret this run-around is that they’re liars trying to hide the facts from their customers.
Their willingness to add QR codes defeats the argument that adding a few words to the label would raise food prices. There’s also no guarantee that companies will actually tell the truth about GMOs on these voluntary online labels, so promises of voluntary transparency through this system should probably be taken with a big grain of salt.
On the whole, it seems their chief aim is to keep the information about GMOs out of direct sight of the consumer. It really is not about the cost of a label. As noted in a Boston Globe Op-Ed by Rep. Jim McGovern (Massachusetts) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (Maine):9
“Supporters of the bill (HR 1599) claim that GMO labeling will increase food prices. While plenty of things impact the prices we pay at the grocery store — including transportation costs and ingredient costs — GMO labeling is not one of them. In study after study, we have seen that a simple GMO disclaimer on food packaging will not increase prices.
Food companies change their labels all the time to make new claims, and all food companies will soon have to change their labels to make important changes to the Nutrition Fact Panel. Adding a few words to the back of the food package about genetic engineering will not have any impact of the cost of making food.
Opponents of updating food labeling made the same bogus arguments when they fought nutrition labeling in the 1980s. Back then, they claimed that disclosing the presence of calories, salt, fat, and sugar would require costly reformulations. But those much more significant changes to foods labels — adding the Nutrition Facts Panel and including more information about ingredients — didn’t change the price of food at all.” [Emphasis mine]
GMOs — Another Too Big to Fail Enterprise?
In a recent article published in The New York Times,10 Mark Spitznagel, senior economic advisor to Senator and Presidential candidate Rand Paul11,12 (son of the well-known libertarian, Texas congressman, and former Presidential candidate Ron Paul) addresses the inherent risks of promoting GMOs without safeguards.
Before 2007, when the financial crisis began, Spitznagel and co-author Nicholas Taleb, a scientific advisor and professor of risk engineering, warned that the “financial system was fragile and unsustainable, contrary to the near ubiquitous analyses at the time.” Now the pair is issuing another warning, noting that:
“The GMO experiment, carried out in real time and with our entire food and ecological system as its laboratory, is perhaps the greatest case of human hubris ever. It creates yet another systemic, ‘too big to fail’ enterprise — but one for which no bailouts will be possible when it fails.”
Back then, Spitznagel and Taleb predicted a collapse of the financial system. Now they’re predicting a collapse of the global ecosystem. In both instances, the same set of false arguments is used to dismiss the call for more prudent action:
- Critics accuse those concerned about GMOs to be “anti-science,” and invoke “scientific consensus” claiming safety and being in favor of forging forward. But, as noted by Spitznagel and Taleb: “Had science operated solely by consensus, we would still be stuck in the Middle Ages. According to scientific practice, scientific consensus is used in telling us what theory is wrong; it cannot determine what is right. Nor can it apply to risk management, which requires much greater scrutiny.”
The oft-repeated mantra claiming there’s a scientific consensus that GMOs are safe is in fact a lie. Scientists have become so concerned about this fallacy having taken root that 300 scientists, researchers, physicians and scholars signed their name to a statement published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe,13 asserting that there is no scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs.
According to this paper, the claim of scientific consensus on GMO safety is in actuality “an artificial construct that has been falsely perpetuated.” It also states that such a claim “is misleading and misrepresents or outright ignores the currently available scientific evidence and the broad diversity of scientific opinions among scientists on this issue.”
- The salvation through technology argument. “In fact, only a small minority of technologies end up sticking; most fail because of some flaw identified over time,’ they note. ‘The technological salvation argument we faced in finance is also present with GMOs, which are intended to ‘save children by providing them with vitamin-enriched rice.’ The argument’s flaw is obvious: in a complex system, we do not know the causal chain, and it is better to solve a problem by the simplest method, and one that is unlikely to cause a bigger problem.”
- The no-reward-without-risk argument. According to Spitznagel and Taleb: “We were told that had ideas such as ours prevailed in the past, they would have hindered risk-taking. Yet, the first rule of risk-taking is to not cross the street blindfolded.”
- Relying on primitive risk models. “What is most worrisome, is that the risk of GMOs are more severe than those of finance. They can lead to complex chains of unpredictable changes in the ecosystem, while the methods of risk management with GMOs — unlike finance, where some effort was made — are not even primitive.”
- Relying on prediction models without taking into account or preparing for prediction errors
GMOs Are Less Safe Than Conventional Foods by Design
The claim that GE foods are materially comparable to conventional foods, and therefore inherently safe, falls flat when you consider that GE crops are designed to be different. Among crops, two primary GE modifications have taken place: so-called Roundup Ready crops are designed to withstand the herbicide Roundup, which would normally threaten the survival of the crop if sprayed too liberally.
Another example of these kinds of herbicide-resistant crops include Dow Chemical’s Enlist Duo 2,4-D and glyphosate resistant corn and soy. Other GE crops are designed to produce their own internal pesticide; these are the so-called Bt-crops.
With the advent of Roundup Ready crops, use of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, has significantly risen, with about one billion pounds being sprayed on crops each year. GE crops are far more contaminated with glyphosate than conventional crops, courtesy of their inherent design, and this fact alone blows a massive hole in the safety claim.
Glyphosate was recently classified as a Class 2A “probable human carcinogen” by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) research arm on cancer, and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) admits foods are not tested for glyphosate residues due to the high expense of doing so.14 So, GE corn, soy, cottonseed, and sugar beets are known to contain higher levels of a probable carcinogen, which the government does not test for, andthat in and of itself is cause for labeling GMOs — not hiding it on some website that you can only get to by scanning a QR code and hoping the company is completely transparent in its reporting.
Section: Articles -
File Under: Health |
By Dr. Mercola
There is simply no expert that would disagree with the observation that most people do not eat enough vegetables, let alone high-quality organic ones.
So it makes perfect sense that individuals who consume more vegetables are likely to be healthier.
Most Americans also eat far too much low-quality protein and non-vegetable carbohydrates (i.e. grains), which likely accounts for most of the difference seen when comparing vegetarian to non-vegetarian diets.
But that does not justify excluding all animal products for the sake of health.
Previous research1 has demonstrated that people who eat a strictly plant-based diet may suffer from subclinical protein malnutrition, which means you’re also likely not getting enough dietary sulfur.
By eliminating all animal foods you also run the very real risk of a number of other nutrient deficiencies, as some simply cannot be obtained from plant foods.
The featured article by Authority Nutrition2 lists seven such nutrients you need to make sure you’re taking in supplement form should you decide to adopt a strict plant-based diet.
In addition to those seven, I also address the issue of sulfur deficiency, which is one of the lesser-recognized hazards of a diet devoid of animal foods.
In terms of health risks from eating a vegetarian or vegan diet, most people think of vitamin B12 deficiency, as vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is present in natural form only in animal sources of food, such as meat, fish, dairy products, and eggs.
Vitamin B12 is known as the energy vitamin, and your body requires it for a number of vital functions. Among them: energy production, blood formation, DNA synthesis, and reproductive health.
Studies3 suggest one in four American adults is deficient in this vitally important nutrient, and nearly two-fifths or more of the population has suboptimal blood levels. Also, the older you get the more likely you are to have a vitamin B12 deficiency.
The two ways you become deficient are through a lack of vitamin B12 in your diet, or through your inability to absorb it from the food you eat. As noted in the featured article,4 signs and symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include:
- Weakness and fatigue
- Impaired brain function
- Megaloblastic anemia
Health risks associated with this deficiency include neurological and psychiatric disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, and an increased risk of heart disease.
If you’re a strict vegan, you have a couple of options. Nori seaweed naturally contains small amounts of bioactive B12, as does tempeh, which is fermented soy. If you don’t eat these foods on a regular basis, you need to take a vitamin B12 supplement.
As noted in the featured article (which includes scientific references):
“Nori seaweed is considered the most suitable source of biologically available vitamin B12 for vegans. Keep in mind that raw or freeze-dried nori may be better than conventionally dried. It seems that some of the vitamin B12 is destroyed in the drying process.
Another plant food often claimed to contain vitamin B12 is spirulina. However, spirulina contains so-called pseudovitamin B12, which is not biologically available. For this reason, it is not suitable as a source of vitamin B12.”
Oral B12 is notoriously ineffective due to the fact it requires intrinsic factor in order to be absorbed. Intrinsic factor is a glycoprotein that mediates gastrointestinal absorption of vitamin B12 in your small intestine. It selectively absorbs only active vitamin B12 from naturally occurring vitamin B12 compounds.
As a result, the effectiveness of eating nori seaweed or taking an oral B12 supplement has been questioned. When it comes to supplementation, you want to look for a sublingual version rather than pill form. But just how bioavailable is nori seaweed?
Animal research published in the British Journal of Nutrition5 sought to clarify the bioavailability of vitamin B12 in nori, and found that it contains five different types of biologically active vitamin B12 compounds (cyano-, hydroxo-, sulfito-, adenosyl-, and methylcobalamin).
Vitamin B12 coenzymes (adenosyl- and methylcobalamin) comprise about 60 percent of the total vitamin B12 content. Results of the experiment showed that the B12 in nori seaweed was in fact bioavailable — at least in rats.
Research6 published last year also concluded that nori seaweed appears to be the most suitable vitamin B12 source available to vegetarians.
While a number of processed foods are enriched with B12, I don’t recommend adding more of these to your diet. Enriched breakfast cereal and bread, for example, have the potential to drive your health in the wrong direction by promoting insulin resistance, even though you might get some B12 from it.
Creatine is an amino acid found in animal foods that is important for muscle energy, proper function of your central nervous system, and brain health.
A trio consisting of creatine, animal-based omega-3 fats, and Coenzyme Q10 are also essential for proper mitochondrial function, and insufficiencies of these may play a role in multiple sclerosis (MS) and other nerve degenerative disorders.
As noted in the featured article:
“Creatine is not essential in the diet, since it can be produced by the liver. However, vegetarians have lower amounts of creatine in their muscles. Placing people on a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet for 26 days causes a significant decrease in muscle creatine.
Because creatine is not found in any plant foods, vegetarians and vegans can only get it from supplements.”
Carnosine is a dipeptide composed of two amino acids: beta-alanine and histidine. It’s a potent antioxidant, the highest concentrations of which are found in your muscles and brain.
If you’re a vegetarian, you will have lower levels of carnosine in your muscles. This is one reason why many strict vegans who do not properly compensate for this and other nutritional deficiencies tend to have trouble building muscle.
Carnosine itself is not very useful as a supplement as it is rapidly broken down into its constituent amino acids by certain enzymes. Your body then reformulates those amino acids back to carnosine in your muscles.
A more efficient alternative is to supplement with its primary precursor, beta-alanine, which appears to be the rate limiting amino acid in the formation of carnosine.
Foods containing beta-alanine, such as meat and fish, are also known to efficiently raise carnosine levels in your muscle, and studies7,8 looking at increasing athletic performance with carnosine have found beta-alanine to be far more effective of the two.
Vitamin D is a steroid hormone that you get primarily from sun exposure and certain foods. Vitamin D is involved in the biochemical cellular machinery of all cells and tissues in your body. It also influences your genetic expression, and in recent years, the importance of vitamin D sufficiency for optimal health and chronic disease prevention has become increasingly well recognized.
As revealed in a recent interview with vitamin D researcher Dr. Robert Heaney, while sun exposure is the primary and likely ideal way to get your vitamin D, researchers are also finding that a number of foods contain vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) in biologically meaningful quantities.
An educated guess is that the average adult living in the central part of the US gets about 1,500-2,000 international units (IUs) of vitamin D3 from food — primarily meats, fatty fish, and egg yolks. Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) is found in plants, but the D3 found in animal foods is more potent, and more efficiently raises blood levels of bioactive vitamin D.
However, even if you ate animal foods you would most likely be similar to about 90 percent of the population and also be deficient in vitamin D. It is the rare individual who can achieve optimal vitamin D3 levels without supplementation, especially during the winter. Supplementation in this instance could also include tanning with an appropriate bed.
Since most of your vitamin D is produced when your skin is exposed to sunlight, shunning animal foods does not equate to a direct threat of vitamin D deficiency. However, if you’re also shunning the sun then it would definitely be wise to consider a vitamin D3 supplement, as deficiency is virtually guaranteed. When supplementing, keep the following considerations in mind:
- Use supplemental vitamin D3, not D2. They are not interchangeable, and vitamin D2 may do more harm than good when taken as a supplement
- Increase your vitamin K2 concomitant with D3. They work in tandem to slow arterial calcification, and vitamin K2 deficiency is actually what produces the symptoms of vitamin D toxicity, which includes inappropriate calcification that can lead to hardening of your arteries
- It’s important to maintain balance between vitamin D, vitamin K2, calcium, and magnesium. Lack of balance between these nutrients is why calcium supplements have become associated with increased risk of heart attack and stroke
Animal-Based Omega-3 DHA
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an essential omega-3 fat found in marine animals such as fish and krill. It’s important for normal brain function and heart health, and pregnant women who are deficient in DHA also place their children at increased risk for developmental problems.
As noted in the featured article: “In the body, DHA can also be made from the omega-3 fatty acid ALA, which is found in high amounts in flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. However, the conversion of ALA to DHA is inefficient. For this reason, vegetarians and vegans are often lower in DHA than meat eaters.”
Most of the health benefits linked to omega-3 fats are linked to the animal-based EPA and DHA, not the plant-based ALA.
That said, plant-based omega-3 fats are NOT inherently harmful and should by no means be avoided. Ideally, you’d get a combination of both. For example, you could combine flax and hemp in your diet with an animal-based omega-3 in the form of krill oil, which has an antioxidant potency that is 48 times greater than fish oil. From an environmental perspective, krill harvesting is also a far more sustainable and eco-friendly choice compared to fish oil.
Iron is found in both plant and animal foods, but the type of iron differs. Heme-iron is found only in meat, primarily red meat. Non-heme iron is found in plants, but this type of iron is more poorly absorbed by your body. Moreover, heme-iron helps with the absorption of non-heme iron from plants, so vegans and strict vegetarians have an elevated risk of anemia, even though they’re getting plant-based iron.
Iron serves many functions in your body, but one of the most important is to bind to the hemoglobin molecule and serve as a carrier of oxygen to your tissues. Without proper oxygenation, your cells quickly start dying. So anemia is not to be taken lightly. If you have iron deficiency anemia, the best source of iron is high-quality red meat, preferably grass-fed and organic. The fact that a vegetarian diet is low in iron may be a phenomenal and good thing if you are an adult male or postmenopausal woman, as both of these groups need far less iron and a significant percentage actually have too much iron. So unless you are a premenopausal woman or child or have iron deficiency from a recent or chronic blood loss, then you likely don’t need to be at all concerned about iron supplementation.
If you do need supplementation, then a strong word of caution is in order. Ferrous sulfate, a form of iron found in many multivitamins, is a relatively toxic inorganic metal that can lead to significant problems. A safe form of supplement is carbonyl iron. To the best of our knowledge, there have been no reported overdoses from carbonyl iron. (However you should still keep any and all iron supplements away from children.)
Taurine is another dietary component that appears to play an important role in brain and heart health. It’s also important for muscle function, bile salt formation, and antioxidant defenses. Together with magnesium, it has a calming effect on your body and mind. Taurine is a byproduct of the sulphurous amino acids cysteine and methionine (technically a sulfonic acid), and is only found in animal foods.
Examples include seafood, red meat, poultry, and dairy products. It’s also available in supplement form. According to the featured article:
“It is not essential in the diet since small amounts are produced by the body. However, dietary taurine may play a major role in the maintenance of taurine levels in the body. Levels of taurine are significantly lower in vegans than in meat eaters.”
Which brings us to sulfur.. Sulfur is derived almost exclusively from dietary protein, such as fish and high-quality (organic and/or grass-fed and pastured) beef and poultry. Meat and fish are considered "complete" as they contain all the sulfur-containing amino acids you need to produce new protein. When you abstain from animal protein you significantly increase your risk of sulfur deficiency and related health problems.
Also keep in mind that if you’re a vegetarian who relies on grain-heavy processed foods in lieu of animal protein, you’re likely not getting the sulfur you need because sulfur is lost during the processing.
Sulfur plays a vital role in the structure and biological activity of both proteins and enzymes. If you don't have sufficient amounts of sulfur in your body, this deficiency can cascade into a number of health problems, as it can affect bones, joints, connective tissues, metabolic processes, and more. According to Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a senior scientist at MIT, areas where sulfur plays an important role include:
- Your body's electron transport system, as part of iron/sulfur proteins in mitochondria, the energy factories of your cells
- Vitamin-B thiamine (B1) and biotin conversion, which in turn are essential for converting carbohydrates into energy
- Synthesizing important metabolic intermediates, such as glutathione
- Proper insulin function. The insulin molecule consists of two amino acid chains connected to each other by sulfur bridges, without which the insulin cannot perform its biological activity
One 2012 study9 concluded that the low intake of sulfur amino acids by vegetarians and vegans explains the origin of hyperhomocysteinemia (high blood levels of homocysteine, which may lead to blood clots in your arteries -- i.e. heart attack and stroke) and the increased vulnerability of vegetarians to cardiovascular diseases. If you don’t eat meat you can get sulfur from coconut oil and olive oil.
Other plant-based sources that contain small amounts of sulfur — provided the food was grown in soil that contains adequate amounts of sulfur — include wheat germ, legumes, garlic, onions, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and kale. As for supplements, methylsulfonylmethane, commonly known by its acronym MSM, is an option. MSM is an organic form of sulfur and a potent antioxidant, naturally found in many plants.
Your Body Needs Animal-Based Foods
I know that a large number of individuals disagree with this statement but that is my belief after 30 years of practicing nutritional medicine. Interestingly, the average vegetarian is far healthier than the average American, most likely due to them eating far more vegetables and avoiding many processed foods. However, this is not a justification to avoid all animal foods. While I certainly would never argue with anyone for avoiding animal foods for ethical reasons, I would for health reasons. It is possible to avoid some of the deficiency syndromes that result from choosing to avoid animal foods by following the recommendations above.
Remember, “animal-based foods" are not restricted to just meats. While I do believe that grass-fed and finished organic meats can be quite healthy when they're cooked properly (avoiding charring is important), I don’t believe that everyone needs to eat meat to stay healthy. You also do not need large amounts of meat. In fact most Americans eat far more than they need for optimal health, which has its own set of health risks.
If you don’t want to eat meat, there are plenty of other animal-based foods you can include in your diet, such as mercury-free fish or seafood, free-range eggs, raw dairy products, and omega-3 fats from krill. Such products, when obtained from humane sources such as organic farms where the animals are free to roam and eat their natural diet, do not need to be avoided for animal-rights or other moral reasons, as the animals are not harmed by providing milk and eggs. Meanwhile, they provide many important nutrients also found in meat.
If you’re convinced a vegan diet is right for you, then at bare minimum consider a program of supplementation to get the nutrients you can’t get from your diet. Bear in mind that the ones included in this article are just some of the ones we’re aware of. Calcium and iodine deficiencies are also common among strict vegans, for example, and there may be other nutrients in animal foods that we’re still ignorant of that you’ll miss out on if you avoid all animal-based foods.
Section: Articles -
File Under: Health |
By Dr. Mercola
More than 70 percent of survey respondents from a National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) survey revealed that the loss of their eyesight would have the greatest impact on their day-to-day activities.1
Further, as rates of chronic diseases like diabetes rise, along with an aging population, rates of blindness and low vision are expected to double to affect 6.6 million Americans by 2030.2
Despite their prevalence and significant impact on quality of life, few are taking the necessary steps to prevent eye diseases and protect vision health at all life stages… namely, by eating a healthy diet.
Newly released data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that 87 percent of Americans are not meeting vegetable intake recommendations and 76 percent are not eating the recommended amount of fruits.3
If you want to protect your vision health, however, the time to act is now – by eating more of the healthy vision foods that follow.
The 7 Best Foods for Eye Health
1. Dark Leafy Greens
The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin are primarily found in green leafy vegetables, with kale and spinach topping the list of lutein-rich foods. Other healthy options include Swiss chard, collard greens, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are both important nutrients for eye health,4 as both of them are found in high concentrations in your macula — the small central part of your retina responsible for detailed central vision.
More specifically, lutein is also found in your macular pigment – known for helping to protect your central vision and aid in blue light absorption — and zeaxanthin is found in your retina.
Both have been linked to a lower risk of cataracts and advanced macular degeneration. Julie Mares, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, told Nutrition Action:5
“They’re the predominant carotenoids in both the lens and the retina, and specifically in the cone-rich area of the macula… That’s the part of the retina that’s used to see fine detail, like reading a pill bottle or newspaper…
By age 75, half of us will either have a visually significant cataract or have already had one extracted… It’s the number-one cause of poor vision among people aged 65 to 74.
There’s strong, compelling evidence for a potential protective effect of these carotenoids… They’re nutritional powerhouses… They’ve got gobs of antioxidants.”
2. Orange Pepper
According to one 1998 study in the British Journal of Ophthalmology orange pepper had the highest amount of zeaxanthin of the 33 fruits and vegetables tested.6 Zeaxanthin cannot be made by your body, so you must get it from your diet.
3. Organic Pastured Egg Yolks
Egg yolk is a source of both lutein and zeaxanthin along with healthy fat and protein, and while the total amount of carotenoids is lower than in many vegetables, they’re in a highly absorbable, nearly ideal form.
According to recent research,7 adding a couple of eggs to your salad can also increase the carotenoid absorption from the whole meal as much as nine-fold.
Keep in mind that once you heat egg yolks (or spinach) the lutein and zeaxanthin become damaged, and will not perform as well in protecting your vision; so cook your eggs as little as possible, such as poached, soft-boiled, or raw.
4. Wild-Caught Alaskan Salmon
Rich in omega-3s, the omega-3 fat DHA is concentrated in your eye's retina. It provides structural support to cell membranes that boost eye health and protect retinal function, and research suggests eating more foods rich in these fats may slow macular degeneration.
In fact, those with the highest intake of animal-based omega-3 fats have a 60 percent lower risk of advanced macular degeneration compared to those who consume the least.8
A 2009 study also found that those with the highest consumption of omega-3 fats were 30 percent less likely to progress to the advanced form of the disease over a 12-year period.9
A second study published in 2009 found those with diets high in omega-3 fats, along with vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, lutein, and zeaxanthin, had a lower risk of macular degeneration.10 In addition to wild-caught Alaskan salmons, sardines, and anchovies are other good sources of animal-based omega-3s.
Wild-caught Alaskan salmon is a good source of astaxanthin, but you may not be able to eat enough of it to reap optimal clinical results. Astaxanthin is produced only by the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis when its water supply dries up, forcing it to protect itself from ultraviolet radiation.
Compelling evidence suggests this potent antioxidant may be among the most important nutrients for the prevention of blindness. It's a much more powerful antioxidant than both lutein and zeaxanthin and has been found to have protective benefits against a number of eye-related problems, including:
|Cataracts ||Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) ||Cystoid macular edema
|Diabetic retinopathy ||Glaucoma ||Inflammatory eye diseases (i.e., retinitis, iritis, keratitis, and scleritis)
|Retinal arterial occlusion ||Venous occlusion ||
Astaxanthin crosses the blood-brain barrier AND the blood-retinal barrier (beta carotene and lycopene do not), which brings antioxidant and anti-inflammatory protection right to your eyes.
Dr. Mark Tso,11 now of the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University, and who was my boss when I worked at the University of Illinois Eyebank in the1970s, has demonstrated that astaxanthin easily crosses into the tissues of your eye and exerts its effects safely and with more potency than any of the other carotenoids, without adverse reactions.
Depending on your individual situation, you may want to take an astaxanthin supplement. I recommend starting with 4 milligrams (mg) per day. Krill oil also contains high-quality animal-based omega-3 fat in combination with naturally occurring astaxanthin, albeit at lower levels than what you’ll get from an astaxanthin supplement.
6. Black Currants
Black currants contain some of the highest levels of anthocyanins found in nature — approximately 190-270 milligrams per 100 grams — which is far more than that found in even bilberries. They're also rich in essential fatty acids, lending added support to their anti-inflammatory properties.
Anthocyanins are flavonoids, and the health benefits of these antioxidants are extensive. As discussed in one 2004 scientific paper:12
"Anthocyanin isolates and anthocyanin-rich mixtures of bioflavonoids may provide protection from DNA cleavage, estrogenic activity (altering development of hormone-dependent disease symptoms), enzyme inhibition, boosting production of cytokines (thus regulating immune responses), anti-inflammatory activity, lipid peroxidation, decreasing capillary permeability and fragility, and membrane strengthening."
For medicinal purposes, many opt for using black currant seed oil, which is available in capsule form. But eating the whole food is always an option, especially when they're in season.
Bilberry, a close relative of the blueberry, is another nutritional powerhouse for your eyes. Its nearly black berries also contain high amounts of anthocyanins, just like the black currant (but contrary to black currant, bilberries tend to be difficult to grow and cultivate). Anthocyanin-rich bilberry extract has a protective effect on visual function during retinal inflammation.13
Further, a study in the journal Advances in Gerontology found that rats with early senile cataract and macular degeneration who received 20 mg of bilberry extract per kilo of body weight suffered no impairment of their lens and retina, while 70 percent of the control group suffered degeneration over the three month-long study.14 According to the authors:
"The results suggest that... long-term supplementation with bilberry extract is effective in prevention of macular degeneration and cataract."
Avoiding Eating This for Healthy Eyes…
Healthy vision is just as much a result of what you don’t eat as what you do. For starters, high insulin levels from excess carbohydrates can disturb the delicate choreography that normally coordinates eyeball lengthening and lens growth. And if the eyeball grows too long, the lens can no longer flatten itself enough to focus a sharp image on the retina. This theory is also consistent with observations that you’re more likely to develop myopia if you are overweight or have adult-onset diabetes, both of which involve elevated insulin levels. You’ll want to avoid sugars, especially fructose, as much as possible.
Research by Dr. Richard Johnson, Chief of the Division of Kidney Disease and Hypertension at the University of Colorado, shows that consuming 74 grams or more per day of fructose (equal to 2.5 sugary drinks) increases your risk of having blood pressure levels of 160/100 mmHg by 77 percent.
High blood pressure can cause damage to the miniscule blood vessels on your retina, obstructing free blood flow. A diet high in trans fat also appears to contribute to macular degeneration by interfering with omega-3 fats in your body. Trans fat is found in many processed foods and baked goods, including margarine, shortening, fried foods like French fries, fried chicken, doughnuts, cookies, pastries, and crackers.
Following my nutrition plan will automatically reduce, or eliminate, excess sugar and grain intake, as well as trans fats, from your diet while helping you optimize your insulin levels. As it stands, about half of Americans are eating vegetables less than 1.7 times per day and fruit less than once per day.15 Changing this dietary habit around so that you’re eating plenty of vegetables with every meal could make a major difference in your future vision health.
Outdoor Light Benefits Your Eye Health Too
Spending time outdoors offers exposure to multiple types of light, including ultraviolet B rays (UVB, which leads to the production of vitamin D) and visible bright light – two additional “nutrients” to feed your vision health. Research shows that people with nearsightedness have lower blood levels of vitamin D,16 which supports the function of muscle tissue around the lens in your eye. When exposed to outdoor light, for instance, cells in your retina trigger the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that slows down growth of the eye and perhaps stops the elongation of the eye during development. Nature reported:17
“Retinal dopamine is normally produced on a diurnal cycle — ramping up during the day — and it tells the eye to switch from rod-based, nighttime vision to cone-based, daytime vision. Researchers now suspect that under dim (typically indoor) lighting, the cycle is disrupted, with consequences for eye growth. ‘If our system does not get a strong enough diurnal rhythm, things go out of control,’ says [researcher Regan] Ashby, who is now at the University of Canberra. ‘The system starts to get a bit noisy and noisy means that it just grows in its own irregular fashion.’”
A study by researcher Ian Morgan of the Australian National University suggests three hours per day with light levels of at least 10,000 lux may protect children from nearsightedness.18 This is the amount of light you would be exposed to on a bright summer day. An indoor classroom or office, by comparison, would only provide about 500 lux. Like many facets of health, maintaining healthy eyes takes a comprehensive approach, one that involves eating right and paying attention to other healthy lifestyle factors like spending time outside in natural light.
In addition, if you already suffer from poor eyesight, The Bates Method, which teaches you how to retrain your eyes to relax thereby allowing you to see more clearly, may help you to improve your vision without glasses.
Section: Articles -
File Under: Health |
By Dr. Mercola
Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits is widely known to lower your risk of chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease while cutting your risk of dying prematurely nearly in half.1
People who eat seven or more servings of vegetables daily, for instance, enjoy a 31 percent lower risk of heart disease and a 25 percent lower risk of cancer. And each additional daily portion of fresh veggies lowered participants’ risk of death by 16 percent (compared to 4 percent for fresh fruit).
It’s not any one compound in veggies that makes them so healthy; rather, it’s the synergistic effect of all of their vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and likely, yet-to-be-discovered elements that add up to make vegetables superfoods.
However, researchers recently teased out one such benefit from the crowd, revealing that a primary reason why people who eat lots of fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of heart disease and early death is because of their high vitamin C levels.
Higher Vitamin C Levels Linked to Lower Risk of Heart Disease and Early Death
A Danish study that followed more than 100,000 people found those with the highest intake of fruits and vegetables had a 15 percent lower risk of developing heart disease and a 20 percent lower risk of early death compared with those with the lowest intakes.2
The study also revealed that those with the highest plasma vitamin C levels had significantly reduced rates of heart disease and all-cause mortality. The researchers explained:3
“… [W]e can see that the reduced risk is related to high vitamin C concentrations in the blood from the fruit and vegetables… our data cannot exclude that a favorable effect of high intake of fruit and vegetables could in part be driven by high vitamin C concentrations.”
Past research has also revealed vitamin C’s role in heart health. For instance, a study published in the American Heart Journal revealed that each 20 micromole/liter (µmol/L) increase in plasma vitamin C was associated with a nine percent reduction in heart failure mortality.4
According to Dr. Andrew Saul, editor of the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, if everyone were to take 500 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C per day — the dose required to reach a healthy level of 80 µmol/L — an estimated 216,000 lives could be spared each year.
How Does Vitamin C Protect Your Heart?
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant known to block some of the damage caused by DNA-damaging free radicals. Over time, free radical damage may accelerate aging and contribute to the development of heart disease and other health conditions. It’s through this antioxidant effect that it’s thought vitamin C may play a role in protecting heart health.
For instance, people who eat a diet rich in antioxidants like vitamin C may have a lower risk of high blood pressure. Vitamin C is also known to slow down the progression of hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).
It may help keep your arteries flexible and prevents damage to LDL cholesterol. People with low levels of vitamin C are at increased risk of heart attack, peripheral artery disease, and stroke, all of which can stem from atherosclerosis.5
A preliminary French study is among those that showed people with vitamin C deficiency are at an increased risk for a lethal hemorrhagic stroke (when an artery that feeds your brain with blood actually ruptures). According to Daily News:6
“Our results show that vitamin C deficiency should be considered a risk factor for this severe type of stroke, as were high blood pressure, drinking alcohol and being overweight in our study,' study researcher Dr. Stéphane Vannier, M.D., of Pontchaillou University Hospital in France, said in a statement.
'More research is needed to explore specifically how vitamin C may help to reduce stroke risk. For example, the vitamin may regulate blood pressure.'... [P]ast studies have also linked vitamin C with reduced stroke risk.
A 2008 University of Cambridge study found people with high blood levels of vitamin C reduced their stroke risk by 42 percent, and a similar 1995 study in the British Medical Journal indicated elderly people with low levels of the vitamin had a greater risk of stroke."
3 More Reasons Why Your Heart Needs Vitamin C
According to Dr. Stephen Sinatra, vitamin C is a superstar for your heart health, improving it in the following ways:7
1. Enhance Glutathione
Vitamin C enhances your body’s level of glutathione. Known as your body's most powerful antioxidant, glutathione is a tripeptide found in every single cell in your body.
It is called "master antioxidant" because it is intracellular and has the unique ability of maximizing the performance of all the other antioxidants, including vitamins E, CoQ10, and alpha-lipoic acid, as well as the fresh vegetables and fruits that you eat every day.
Glutathione's primary function is to protect your cells and mitochondria from oxidative and peroxidative damage. It is also essential for detoxification, energy utilization, and preventing the diseases we associate with aging.
Glutathione also eliminates toxins from your cells and gives protection from the damaging effects of radiation, chemicals, and environmental pollutants. Your body's ability to produce glutathione decreases with aging, which is one reason why vitamin C may be even more important as you get older.
2. Strengthen Your Blood Vessel Walls
Vitamin C is essential for the biosynthesis of collagen, which in turn is beneficial for your arterial walls. According to Dr. Sinatra:8
“Weakened collagen can permit noxious oxidized LDL, homocysteine, Lp(a), cigarette smoke, and heavy metals to cause inflammatory reactions in the vascular lining — which starts the atherosclerotic plaque formation process.”
3. Improve Vasodilation
Your blood vessels' ability to expand is known as vasodilation. If vasodilation is poor, it can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. Vitamin C increases the availability of nitric oxide (NO), which promotes vasodilation.
What Else Is Vitamin C Good For?
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, which means it doesn’t get stored in your body and you must consume what you need from the foods you eat each day. Vitamin C is utilized throughout your body to heal wounds, repair and maintain bones and teeth, and produce collagen, a protein found in your skin, cartilage, blood vessels, and more.
In addition to heart disease, vitamin C is considered an anti-aging vitamin and actually reversed age-related abnormalities in mice with a premature aging disorder, restoring healthy aging.9 It has also been found to play a role in preventing the common cold, cancer, osteoarthritis, age-related macular degeneration, asthma, and more. Vitamin C may also be useful for:10
|Boosting immune system function
||Improving vision in people with uveitis (inflammation of the middle part of the eye)
||Allergy-related conditions, such as eczema and hay fever
||Alleviating dry mouth
||Healing burns and wounds
|Decreasing blood sugar in diabetics
||Fighting viral illnesses, such as mononucleosis
||Maintaining healthy gums
In the video above, you can also hear from Dr. Ronald Hunninghake, an internationally recognized expert on vitamin C who has personally supervised more than 60,000 intravenous (IV) vitamin C administrations. Dr. Hunninghake explained:
“The way to really understand vitamin C is to go back to the writings of Irwin Stone who wrote The Healing Factor, which was a fantastic book written in the ‘70s about vitamin C. He points out that every creature, when they are sick, greatly increase their liver's or their kidney's production of vitamin C. But humans, primates, and guinea pigs have lost that ability.
We still have the gene that makes the L-gulonolactone oxidase enzyme that converts glucose to vitamin C but it's non-functional. We have to get our vitamin C from the outside: from food. When we give vitamin C intravenously, what we're doing is recreating your liver's ability to synthesize tremendous amounts of vitamin C… So I always look upon high dose vitamin C as nature's way of dealing with crisis in terms of your health.”
IV vitamin C is used for a variety of illnesses, notably as an adjunct to cancer treatment and for chronic infections, such as cold or flu or even chronic fatigue.
Eating Plenty of Vegetables Is the Best Way to Get Vitamin C
The ideal way to optimize your vitamin C stores is by eating a wide variety of fresh whole foods. A number of people, primarily with the naturopathic perspective, believe that in order to be truly effective, synthetic vitamin C (ascorbic acid) alone is not enough. They believe the combination of the ascorbic acid with its associated micronutrients, such as bioflavonoids and other components. Eating a colorful diet (i.e. plenty of vegetables) helps ensure you're naturally getting the phytonutrient synergism needed. Hunninghake agrees.
"There is no question that would be a better way to go. Any time you can [get vitamin C from] food, you're going to be better off… [F]ood is still the essential thing your body needs in order to get optimal cellular functioning. But when you're sick, you can use trace nutrients in orthomolecular doses to achieve effects that you can't get from just food alone. But in general, for people who are healthy and want to stay healthy, I would recommend using vitamin C that has bioflavonoids and other co-factors associated with it."
One of the easiest ways to ensure you're getting enough vegetables in your diet is by juicing them. For more information, please see my juicing page. You can also squeeze some fresh lemon or lime juice into some water for a vitamin C rich beverage. You can also increase your vegetable and fruit intake. While many contain vitamin C, particularly rich sources include:
When taking an oral vitamin C, you also want to be mindful of your dosing frequency. Dr. Steve Hickey, who wrote the book Ascorbate, has shown that if you take vitamin C frequently throughout the day, you can achieve much higher plasma levels. So even though your kidneys will tend to rapidly excrete the vitamin C, by taking it every hour or two, you can maintain a much higher plasma level than if you just dose it once a day (unless you're taking an extended release form of vitamin C). As mentioned, the elderly may have higher requirements for vitamin C, as aging may inhibit absorption. Smokers may also require more vitamin C due to the increased oxidative stress from cigarette smoke.
When You Get Your Vitamin C from Vegetables, the Benefits Are Endless
Vitamin C is an example of a vitamin that’s ideal to get by eating plenty of fresh produce. Vegetables have an impressive way of offering widespread benefits to your health. When you eat them, you're getting dozens, maybe even hundreds or thousands, of super-nutrients that support optimal, body-wide health. Vegetables contain an array of antioxidants and other disease-fighting compounds that are very difficult to get anywhere else.
Plant chemicals called phytochemicals can reduce inflammation and eliminate carcinogens, while others regulate the rate at which your cells reproduce, get rid of old cells, and maintain DNA. Studies have repeatedly shown that people with higher vegetable intake have:
|Lower risks of stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, Alzheimer's disease, and heart disease
||Lower risks of certain types of cancer, eye diseases, and digestive problems
||Reduced risk of kidney stones and bone loss
|Higher scores on cognitive tests
||Higher antioxidant levels
||Lower biomarkers for oxidative stress
And as far as your heart health goes, vegetables are one of the best forms of dietary fiber. An inverse association has been found between fiber intake and heart attack, and research shows that those eating a high-fiber diet have a 40 percent lower risk of heart disease.11 When you combine this with the vitamin C, it’s no wonder vegetables are such a superstar for heart health. Keeping veggies on hand is the first step to eating more of them.
Fresh, non-genetically-modified and organic is best, but even frozen will work in a pinch. Make it a point to include vegetables with every meal – a salad, a side dish, a pre-meal snack, a glass of fresh vegetable juice – or make veggies the main focus of your meals. You’ll easily work your way up to seven or more servings a day. For something different, try making fermented vegetables at home. The vitamin C in sauerkraut(fermented cabbage) is about six times higher than in the same helping of unfermented cabbage approximately one week after fermentation begins, so it’s an excellent way to boost your vitamin C intake.
Section: Articles -
File Under: Health |
A signature Italian antipasto, or appetizer, bruschetta is traditionally made using grilled slices of bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil and salt. There are countless variations of bruschetta involving different combinations of tomatoes, cured meats, vegetables, cheeses, and herbs and spices.
If you’re on the lookout for a new bruschetta recipe that’s both healthy and easy to prepare, I suggest you try my Summertime Avocado Bruschetta. I guarantee that it’ll not only satisfy your bruschetta cravings but deliver a bunch of beneficial nutrients in every bite as well:
2 avocados, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
2 scallions, chopped
2 small tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons hot sauce
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon Himalayan salt
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
For the baguette:
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
½ teaspoon Himalayan salt
36 slices of gluten-free baguette
Note: If you’re on a no-grain diet, serve as a filling in a romaine lettuce leaf.
Buy only locally grown, organic produce. Begin with the best ingredients. Organic vegetables are not only many times more nutritious than regular vegetables, but they also have less pesticide residues.
- Gently toss to combine all ingredients, except cilantro, in a bowl. Cover and chill for two hours.
- Preheat oven at 375°Farenheit. Combine three tablespoons of coconut oil, garlic, and salt.
- Spread bread slices in a single layer on a baking pan, and brush evenly with the coconut oil and garlic mixture.
- Bake for 10 minutes or until toasted. Let it cool.
- Top each toast evenly with avocado mixture. Sprinkle with cilantro before serving and drizzle tops with olive oil.
This recipe makes six servings.
(From Healthy Recipes for Your Nutritional Type)
Summertime Avocado Bruschetta Preparation Tips
Maximize this avocado bruschetta recipe’s flavor and nutritional potential with these helpful tips:
Wash your vegetables before cutting. Cutting breaks the cell walls of the vegetable, and the nutrients in it may leach into the water when you wash them.
Keep the peel on if at all possible. Many of the important nutrients in vegetables are at their highest concentration right under the skin.
Peel your avocado close to the skin to preserve the area with the greatest concentration of antioxidants. First, cut the avocado lengthwise, around the seed. Holding each half, twist them in the opposite directions to separate them from the seed. Remove the seed. Cut each half, lengthwise. Next, using your thumb and index finger, peel the skin off each piece.
Look for scallions with white sections that are firm and bright. Make sure it’s not wet, moist, or slimy. Avoid those with wilted tops.
Buy tomatoes fresh and consume them as soon as possible. But if you’re planning to eat or use them in a dish sometime later, go for the slightly unripe ones and let them ripen naturally on your kitchen counter. Refrain from refrigerating your tomatoes as it halts their natural ripening process and reduces their flavor. Chop your garlic finely for stronger flavor. Chopping finely and/or pressing a clove exposes more surfaces to the air, causing a chemical reaction to produce that strong aroma and potent flavor. [i] Season your dishes with Himalayan salt. Aside from tasting better, Himalayan salt is far more nutritious compared to regular table salt, containing up to 86 different beneficial minerals. Nevertheless, I suggest you keep your sodium intake to a minimum – natural or not.
Why Is Summertime Avocado Bruschetta Good for You?
Aside from its stress- and hassle-free preparation, what I like best about this avocado bruschetta recipe is that it doesn’t fall short when it comes to taste and nutritional value.
First, it has avocado, one of my favorites and one of the healthiest fruits you can eat, as a main ingredient. It’s an excellent source of monounsaturated fat, which your body can easily burn for energy and which will helps you absorb fat-soluble nutrients from other foods. Avocado also contains close to 20 essential health-promoting nutrients, including:
PotassiumVitamins E and BFolate
This avocado bruschetta recipe also has tomatoes, which other than being loaded with the flavonoid lycopene, a natural antioxidant that’s known to reduce the risk of oxidative stress and osteoporosis, also provide generous amounts of:
Promoting heart health and optimal brain functionSupporting proper thyroid functionStrengthening your immune systemMaintaining healthy and youthful looking skinProviding an excellent "fuel" for your body and supporting a strong metabolismDelivering potent antimicrobial protection
Coconut oil is ideal for all sorts of cooking and baking, as it can withstand higher temperatures without being damaged like many other oils.
Section: Articles -
File Under: Health |
By Dr. Mercola
One in four Americans over the age of 40 is currently taking a statin drug under the illusion that it will decrease their risk for heart disease.
Dr. David Diamond is a neuroscientist with a PhD in biology. He's also a Professor of Psychology, Molecular Pharmacology, and Physiology at the University of South Florida and a Research Career Scientist at the Tampa VA Hospital.
He ended up investigating both diet and statins as a result of having to address issues with his own health, and his conclusions are very different from the current status quo in medicine.
Why Low-Fat Diets Are Ill Advised for Those at High Risk for Heart Disease
Fifteen years ago, when applying for life insurance, Dr. Diamond discovered he was at high risk for heart disease. It surprised him, as he'd been in good health, even though he'd gained about 20 pounds over the course of 15 years, and he had no family history of heart disease.
"When I looked at the blood test results, I saw why [I was placed in the high risk category],' he says. 'Triglycerides are recommended to be below 150 and even preferably below 100. My triglycerides were stratospheric at 750.
My high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is called the 'good cholesterol' and which you'd like to be above 40 or 50, was about 20 to 25.
That combination of extremely high triglycerides and very low HDL put me at about a 15 times greater risk for heart attack compared to someone with optimal lipids.
I really believed this was an anomalous blood test. I figured I would exercise more – and I've exercised all my life – and follow the recommended American Heart Association (AHA) diet, so I cut back on my fat.
In six months, I figured, everything would be back to normal. But after six months, the numbers were the same."
He admits being completely ignorant of nutrition. The only thing he "knew" was that saturated fat is bad for you, that it causes heart diseases, and that cholesterol clogs your arteries — both of which he now knows are wrong...
After exercising and following the recommended low-fat diet for five years, his triglycerides were still in the 700-800 range and his HDL remained at about 20-25. Making matters worse, he'd gained another five pounds.
"Perhaps the worst moment for me was when my doctor sat me down and said, 'Okay the time has come. You've done your best, but diet and exercise just haven't worked for you. It's time for you to go on medication.' He recommended fish oil, niacin, and a statin."
What Causes Elevated Triglycerides?
Before acquiescing to medication, Dr. Diamond decided to do some research on triglycerides. His doctor had diagnosed him with familial hypertriglyceridemia, a genetic disorder, but Dr. Diamond still wanted to read through some of the medical literature just to be sure he'd done everything he could before taking a drug.
"Well, the very first paper I looked at indicated that triglycerides are primarily produced from excess carbohydrates, particularly glucose and fructose,' he says. 'And as far as HDL levels, you see an association of low HDL levels in people who have high blood sugar.
There was an obvious connection of carbohydrates in the diet to triglycerides and HDL. I was astounded by this. This was the first of many epiphanies I've had while studying cholesterol, diet, and heart disease.
I figured that what I needed to do is not to avoid the fat; I should avoid the carbohydrates! I actually talked to my doctor about this.
And of course he said to me, 'Well, you're going to take a bad situation and make it worse, because by going on an Atkins-type diet, you're increasing the likelihood that you'll have heart disease.'
Nevertheless, from a few studies that I read at first – and it has now become a few thousand studies – I've learned of the linkage between carbohydrate consumption, elevated blood sugar, and triglycerides."
Reducing Carbohydrates Is KEY for Reducing Triglycerides
Counter to his doctor's advice, Dr. Diamond dramatically reduced non-vegetable carbohydrates and ate as much saturated fat as he wanted. And what happened?
After stubbornly remaining at nearly 800 for five years, his triglycerides plunged to 150 — without any drugs whatsoever — and his HDL increased dramatically, from 30 to 50.
Indeed, I've treated many patients with high triglycerides, including people with levels upwards of 1,500-2,000, and I've seen patients' triglyceride levels plunge in as little as five days when cutting out carbs and increasing healthy fat.
So the really good news about high triglycerides is that you can achieve rapid reversal by changing your diet.
"This had a profound effect on me,' Dr. Diamond says. 'I was indignant, really, and this sense of indignation grew on me. I really felt I had been deceived; that it's the carbohydrates that we need to worry about, not the fat in particular.
The demonization of saturated fat and cholesterol — I realized it actually led me astray... To clarify, the good fats are the natural fats. When you're talking about natural saturated fats, you're looking at high-quality fats.
Partially hydrogenated fats – especially the unnatural oils like corn oil and soybean oil, which becomes heavily oxidized [when heated] — are very unhealthy.
It's not that I eat fat with reckless abandon. I avoid those artificial vegetable fats and stay with the fats that are really high quality, such as avocado and olive oil. I cook with coconut oil.'"
This experience prompted him to develop a course at the University of South Florida called "Medical Ethics," which teaches students how to evaluate flawed methodology in the science on nutrition and heart disease. In 2011, Dr. Diamond also gave a lecture on his experience and on the flawed advice we've been given on diet, cholesterol and statins titled: "How Bad Science and Big Business Created the Obesity Epidemic", which has gone viral with about 150,000 views. I've included it here for your convenience.
Deciphering the Truth About Dietary Cholesterol
Before his self-chosen re-education, Dr. Diamond firmly believed that dietary cholesterol clogs arteries and causes heart attacks. It was part of his medical education, but that too, he discovered, was all wrong. Your liver, to a great extent, actually controls the level of cholesterol in your blood. And while people with heart disease have cholesterol clogging their arteries, it's not the consumption of cholesterol that causes it to accumulate there.
Clogged arteries are caused by inflammation in the arterial wall, and your body attempts to protect itself by packing cholesterol there. The question is, what causes the inflammation in the arterial wall? Key dietary factors promoting chronic inflammation are: sugar, trans fats, and oxidized cholesterol, which again is what you get when you heat partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
Coconut oil, on the other hand, is a healthy saturated fat that is excellent for cooking, as it oxidizes much less than other oils when exposed to high heat. It tends to not promote inflammation; on the contrary, coconut oil has potent anti-inflammatory activity.
On a side note, a novel point about coconut oil that many are unaware of is that for those of us, including myself, who suffer from a genetic condition called beta thalassemia — or chronic low cholesterol, which can be quite harmful — coconut oil can be used instead of drugs to raise your cholesterol. Conventional medicine insists that high cholesterol is bad for your heart, but excessively low cholesterol can have very serious consequences, including an elevated risk of dementia, depression, and aggression. Low cholesterol can also cut your life short.
"For elderly people, someone over 60 years of age, high cholesterol is associated with better health and greater longevity. This completely surprises people. But people 65 years of age with a total cholesterol of about 300 will live longer than someone whose cholesterol is below 200," Dr. Diamond says.
Interestingly, research has shown that vegetable oil consumption actually lowers cholesterol levels. Hence if you give corn oil to people who have heart disease, you would expect them to have a greater longevity and better health. Alas, that's not what happens. A trial1 published in 1965 tested that hypothesis by giving men diagnosed with heart disease a couple of tablespoons of corn oil each day. Their health outcomes were then compared to men with heart disease who did not receive corn oil.
"After about three years, the results were absolutely crystal clear. The men who consumed the corn oil had lower cholesterol and twice as many heart attacks and deaths from heart disease compared to the group that basically ate what they wanted.
To me, this should have stopped any kind of belief that lowering cholesterol is good for you, and the paper explicitly stated that people with heart disease should not consume corn oil; it is unhealthy. And yet, the American Heart Association still recommends corn oil to people. Why? Two reasons: 1) it lowers your cholesterol and 2) the corn oil industry is a sponsor to the American Heart Association."
Doctors Are Misinformed About Nutrition for a Reason
When Dr. Diamond lectures about cholesterol to physicians, they're often astounded by what they learn. Unfortunately, their "educated ignorance" is not by accident. If studied carefully, you'll find that the medical profession's ignorance about cholesterol was crafted by careful design, starting over a century ago with the Flexner Report, funded by the Carnegie and Rockefeller foundations, who wanted nutritional science to be excised from the medical school curriculum.
They were successful in this endeavor, and for the past hundred years, most physicians have been, and still are, nutritionally ignorant. The reason for this, if you haven't yet deduced it, is because if you know how to heal with food, why would you prescribe drugs? What doctors are taught about nutrition in medical school is wrong. And it's wrong by design to generate disease that increases profits for the drug companies, which are outgrowths of the chemical industry that the Carnegie and the Rockefeller foundations supported in the 1900s.
The Difference Between Absolute Risk and Relative Risk in Medical Research
Dr. Diamond recently published a paper2,3 together with Dr. Uffe Ravnskov. In it, they highlight the deceptive use of absolute risk versus relative risk in medical research. There's a massive difference between the two, and it's easy to confuse people with relative risks. Specifically, Drs. Diamond and Ravnskov emphasize that the way statin researchers have been presenting their data has been deceptive.
"This absolute risk versus relative risk goes back to a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 1984. Before the statin era, the drug cholestyramine, which is a bile [acid] sequestrant, can lower your cholesterol dramatically. The men with the highest cholesterol levels averaging about 290 were put on cholestyramine versus placebo.
After seven years and over $100 million spent, you had almost no incidence of heart disease and 95 percent of the men had absolutely no adverse effects. The first issue was: is high cholesterol unhealthy? The answer from this study is it's not... But something funny goes on now when you have drug companies supporting this [cholesterol view] or people who have a goal that is not purely scientific."
A typical heart disease study might last two or three years, and in that time, perhaps two percent of the people in the placebo group will have a heart attack. The actual incidence of heart attack is then two percent. In the group receiving the actual drug being studied, perhaps one percent of the people have a heart attack. The difference between the placebo and the treatment group is one percent — this is the absolute risk reduction. An absolute risk reduction of one percent means you need to treat 100 people to prevent the incidence of heart attack in just one person.
"Where people start playing games is in what's called relative risk. When people publish these studies and they talk to the media, they don't want to say that they have a one percent reduction of heart attacks. That doesn't sell drugs very well... The difference, they say, is going from two heart attacks [in the placebo group] to one heart attack [in the treatment group], and that difference is 50 percent.
By reducing one heart attack in one person out of 100, using relative risk reduction you now can say that you have reduced heart attacks by 50 percent. That was the primary point of our paper: that this is deceptive and this is misleading people because when you talk to the doctors and you talk to the public, they have no idea that this has been a manipulation of the data to basically amplify the very small effects of statins,' Dr. Diamond says.
It's a statistical aberration. The reason it's misleading is because people don't know that you're talking about the incidence of an adverse event across two groups expressed as a ratio. People assume that 50 percent means half of the whole population that's treated.
People have told me that when they take a statin and when they see numbers like 30, 40, or 50 percent reduction, they almost feel immune from getting a heart attack. When I explain to them that basically, 'you feel lucky that you're going to be that one out of 100 that'll have one less heart attack,' then they don't feel so emboldened. When I started talking about the adverse effects of statins, I've had many people stop taking their statins."
Other Ways Studies Are Skewed and Biased
At the end of the day, what really matters is what your risk of death is: the absolute risk. According to Dr. Diamond, it's quite common to see NO effect on actual all-cause mortality from the lowering of cholesterol. Now, some may say that even if statins only save one person out of 100, it's still worth taking the drug. But this must also be balanced with the side effects, which include muscle pain, muscle damage (including damage to your heart muscle), and inhibition of the production of the coenzyme Q10.
This is massively important, as it not only raises your risk of heart problems, but also dementia. Statins also raise your risk for diabetes, which is a risk factor for heart disease and all cause of death. It's also worth noting that "known" side effects can be minimized by the way you design the study.
This too is covered in Drs. Diamond and Ravnskov's paper. One way side effects are hidden is by allowing participants to drop out of the study. Obviously, if people have side effects, they want to quit and remove themselves from the trial. But by excluding those who withdraw due to side effects, and looking only at the subjects that remain in the study to the end, you effectively only look at people who fared reasonably well on the drug.
"The other thing I find amazing is now that we're looking at the next generation of the proprotein convertase subtilisin kexin 9 (PCSK9) inhibitors, suddenly these statin researchers are talking about people who are statin-intolerant. They say as many as 20 percent of people who take statins are intolerant because of all the side effects. They're coming out of the woodwork talking about side effects, because now, there's another drug that potentially exceeds the statins."
Another aspect of side effects that Dr. Diamond addresses in his paper is that low cholesterol is associated with an increased risk for cancer. People with a cholesterol level of 180 or below have a much higher risk for cancer than people whose level is 280. Statin trials typically do not run past four years, which is generally not long enough to detect increases in cancer.
Yet despite the short duration of the statin trials, you still find studies showing significant increases in cancer. For example, one recently published decade-long study showed that women who had been on statins had more than twice the rate of breast cancer compared to women who were not on statins. "I think there's little doubt that low cholesterol in general and particularly statin-reduced cholesterol increases the likelihood of developing cancer," Dr. Diamond says.
Beware of the Next-Gen Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs
The next-generation drugs designed to lower cholesterol are the PCSK9 inhibitors, and according to Dr. Diamond, these drugs are virtually guaranteed to cause harm. At present, they're not yet available on the market, but FDA approval is being sought. These drugs do not work in the same way statins do. An enzyme called PCSK9 causes a degradation of the LDL receptor that rebinds to low density lipids (LDL).
If you don't have that receptor, the cholesterol stays in your blood. By blocking this enzyme, you end up with more LDL receptors on the surface of the cell. The LDL can unbind to the cholesterol and bring it inside the cell. As it brings more cholesterol inside the cell, you're extracting the cholesterol from the blood, hence it's very effective at lowering the serum cholesterol. Since the mechanism of action is completely different from statins, they won't have the same side effects, but that doesn't mean it'll be ultimately beneficial for your health.
"Basically, you got a drug that's relatively a 'cure' at this stage as far as mechanism is concerned. But what you're going to end up with are these cells that are going to be chockfull of cholesterol, and that's really unnatural,' Dr. Diamond says. 'The PCSK9 is this beautiful system in which you have balance. You bring the LDL into the cell, the LDL receptor disintegrates, and everything is in balance. This drug is going to take it out of balance.
You're going to interfere with the functioning of the cells, because they are loaded with cholesterol that shouldn't be there. Ultimately, it's very likely that this will contribute to all kinds of dysfunctions... Brain cells are not supposed to be filled with cholesterol. They need the cholesterol, but they need it to be able to build new brain cells and build new connections, not to have those cells chockfull of cholesterol.'"
It's Never Too Late to Take Control of Your Health
Twenty-five percent — or one in four — of Americans over the age of 40 are currently taking a statin. If you are watching this and you're not taking a statin, congratulations. But it's almost guaranteed that someone you know is on this drug. My slogan is "take control of your health," and Dr. Diamond's story demonstrates just how important this concept is. Even PhDs need to do their own research when it comes to their health. No one is immune to well-meaning but misguided advice from their doctors.
"I don't give people any medical advice; I'm not a physician,' Dr. Diamond notes. 'I give people information. I make it very clear that people need to take their own health into their own hands... The problem we have is that if your doctor says you need to take a statin, it's almost as if that's been etched in stone. People are very resistant to changing their minds.
Now, when they actually hear me lecture — and I give full-day lectures; I cover about the brain, nutrition, and heart disease — once they've heard my lecture then they stopped taking their statin, because I go over all the data. I give the historical perspective as well as the mechanistic perspective.
But I'm very reluctant to talk to people, because it causes such conflict. Because after they talk to me, they go back to their doctor and the doctor says, 'Well, what medical school did he go to?' It's the typical response. 'Who are you going to trust? I'm your doctor.' It's a serious problem for people to know who to trust."
Indeed, many people face real dilemmas when it comes to their health, because they're unsure of who's actually giving them the correct information. I would encourage you to look at your situation and ask yourself, "is what I'm doing working?" If like Dr. Diamond you've been on a low-fat diet and exercising for ages and see no improvement, chances are you got it all wrong. The question then becomes, are you willing to try a different route?
From my perspective, there's simply no doubt that conventional dietary recommendations are largely responsible for many of our current health epidemics, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. In essence, the recommendations are converse to the truth. Most doctors recommend a low-fat, high-carb diet and artificially sweetened "diet" foods and beverages to lose weight and protect your heart.
In reality, this is a sure-fire recipe for insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity, and related diseases. Many would lose weight and improve their health by turning the traditional food pyramid upside down as shown in my Food Pyramid for Optimized Health below, getting the majority of your calories from healthy fats, along with a moderate amount of high quality protein, and very little non-vegetable carbohydrates. Vegetables can be consumed without limits.
Section: Articles -
File Under: Health |
By Dr. Mercola
Dulse, a type of red seaweed with a chewy texture that’s often used in dried, flaked form, has been harvested for centuries in Europe. But this sea vegetable, which typically grows along the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines, has remained in relative obscurity in the US – until now.
Researchers from Oregon State University (OSU) were on a mission to develop a new food source for abalone – sea snails that are popular cuisine in Asia. Dulse, rich in proteins, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, turned out to be perfect for this – but while growing the red plant, the researchers had an idea – why not feed dulse to people too?
It might have been a hard sell in the US, where seaweed is typically consumed only with sushi or miso soup… and, to a greater extent, by some of those in the vegan and vegetarian communities.
The strain of dulse being grown in Oregon, however, is unique. It’s so unique that the research team is working on a marketing plan to develop a new line of seaweed-based specialty foods. Oregon State researcher Chris Langdon explained:1
"This stuff is pretty amazing… When you fry it, which I have done, it tastes like bacon, not seaweed. And it's a pretty strong bacon flavor."
Seaweed Can Take on a Meaty Flavor Due to Umami
Seaweed that tastes naturally like bacon could draw in a whole new crowd of people looking to add nutrition and flavor to their diets. While it may seem surprising that a sea vegetable could take on a meaty flavor, seaweed imparts a strong umami flavor into virtually any dish it touches.
It was more than 100 years ago when a Japanese chemist named Kikunae Ikeda discovered the secret that made dashi, a classic seaweed soup, so delicious. It was glutamic acid, which, in your body is often found as glutamate.
Ikeda called this new flavor “umami,” which means “delicious” in Japanese, but it wasn’t until 2002 that modern-day scientists confirmed umami to be a fifth taste, along with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty.
Most foods contain glutamate, although some more than others. Foods naturally high in glutamate include protein-rich meat, eggs, poultry, milk, cheese, and fish, along with sea vegetables, ripe tomatoes, and mushrooms.
Umami is valued for making foods taste better. When an umami-rich food like seaweed is added to soup stock, for instance, it makes the broth heartier, more “meaty,” and more satisfying.
Is Bacon-Flavored Seaweed the Next Superfood?
Seaweed is an excellent source of iodine, vitamins, and minerals, provided it comes from clean, non-polluted waters. Various types of seaweed and brown algae also support detoxification and may also help prevent your body from absorbing heavy metals and other environmental toxins.
Research also suggests that brown seaweed may help boost fat-burning in your body while dulse is said to have twice the nutritional value of kale and can contain up to 16 percent protein by dry weight.2 Needless to say, this patented bacon-flavored variety could easily take the superfood market by storm.
Adding to its allure, Chris Langdon, an aquaculture researcher at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center, and colleagues have created a way to farm the seaweed, growing it in huge vats of cold seawater.
This cultured dulse grows faster than wild dulse, and the water could potentially be filtered to minimize the uptake of contaminants. Wild-grown dulse is expensive, selling for up to $90 a pound, but the farmed version is more affordable (not to mention could theoretically be made much more widely available).3
Bacon-Flavored Seaweed Salad Dressing and More May Soon Be on the Market…
Langdon currently grows about 30 pounds of the bacon-flavored dulse strain a week, although he has plans to more than triple production. The researchers have also teamed up with OSU's Food Innovations Center in Portland, Oregon to explore ways to use dulse in cooking. As OSU reported:4
“[Jason Ball, a research chef at the Food Innovation Center in Portland]… is pushing the envelope, testing dulse veggie burgers, trail mix, and even dulse beer. Working directly with Langdon, Ball can experiment with different strains that have different flavors and attributes.
With fresh dulse, he’s looking for a tender chewiness and slightly salty finish. ‘Pan-fried,’ he says, ‘dulse can be light and crispy with a savory saltiness, like bacon.’”
About 14 prototype recipes have already been created using the unique dulse, including salad dressing, sesame seed chips, and smoked dulse popcorn peanut brittle.
Seaweed’s Claim to Fame? Iodine!
Worldwide, it's thought that up to 40 percent of the population is at risk of iodine deficiency. In the US, however, agencies tend to say most people are iodine "sufficient," meaning they get enough of the nutrient from their diet.
This is controversial, though, as according to other sources, such as Dr. David Brownstein, who has been working with iodine for the last two decades, over 95 percent of the patients in his clinic are iodine deficient.
Dr. Jorge Flechas, MD also believes severe iodine deficiency is rampant and believes the current US daily recommended allowance (RDA) for iodine may be completely insufficient for overall physical health and prevention of diseases such as thyroid disease, fibromyalgia, and cancer.
Iodine is a vitally important nutrient that is detected in every organ and tissue. Along with being essential for healthy thyroid function and efficient metabolism, there is increasing evidence that low iodine is related to numerous diseases, including cancer. Other tissues also absorb and use large amounts of iodine, including:
||Cerebral spinal fluid
Iodine deficiency, or insufficiency, in any of these tissues will lead to dysfunction of that tissue. Hence the following symptoms could provide clues that you’re not getting enough iodine in your diet. For example, iodine deficiency in:
- Salivary glands: inability to produce saliva, producing dry mouth
- Skin: dry skin, and lack of sweating. Three to four weeks of iodine supplementation will typically reverse this symptom, allowing your body to sweat normally again
- Brain: reduced alertness and lowered IQ
- Muscles: nodules, scar tissue, pain, fibrosis, and fibromyalgia
Iodine actually induces apoptosis as well, meaning it causes cancer cells to self-destruct. Dr. Flechas is adamant that absence of iodine in a cell is what causes cancer.
The jury is still out on whether iodine in supplemental form is safe (especially at higher doses). As an alternative, toxin-free sea vegetables (and spirulina), which are naturally iodine rich, are likely the ideal natural sources from which to obtain your iodine — as long as you make sure that these are harvested from uncontaminated waters.
Why Else Is Seaweed Good for You?
Natural iodine aside, there are many other reasons to include sea vegetables in your diet as well. It’s a rich source of potassium, calcium, and iron, for instance. Seaweed also contains alginic acid, which protects the plants from bacteria but has the action of binding to heavy metals when you eat them. This means sea vegetables are natural detoxifiers.
There’s even research showing a kelp-containing diet helped lower levels of the sex hormone estradiol in rates, which suggests it may help lower the risk of estrogen-related cancers, such as breast cancer, in humans.5 In addition to the familiar nutrients like iron and vitamin C, seaweed also contains a number of unique vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that many Americans don’t eat much of. As noted by the George Mateljan Foundation:6
“As part of their natural defense mechanisms, sea vegetables contain a variety of enzymes called haloperoxidases. These enzymes all require vanadium in order to function. Although this mineral is not as well known as some of the other mineral nutrients, it appears to play a multi-faceted role in regulation of carbohydrate metabolism and blood sugar.
… [V]anadium may help to increase our body's sensitivity to insulin by inhibiting a group of enzymes called protein tyrosine phosphatases. It may also help us decrease our body's production of glucose and help us increase our body's ability to store starch in the form of glycogen… Recent research from India makes it clear that a variety of non-flavonoid and non-carotenoid antioxidant compounds are present in sea vegetables, including several different types of antioxidant alkaloids.
An increasing number of health benefits from sea vegetables are being explained by their fucoidan concent. Fucoidans are starch-like (polysaccharide) molecules, but they are unique in their complicated structure (which involves a high degree of branching) and their sulfur content. Numerous studies have documented the anti-inflammatory benefits of fucoidans (sometimes referred to as sulfated polysaccharides)… The sulfated polysaccharides in sea vegetables also have anti-viral activity and… anticoagulant and antithrombotic properties that bring valuable cardiovascular benefits.”
Creative Ways to Add More Sea Vegetables to Your Diet
OSU’s bacon-flavored dulse is not yet widely available, but there are many other seaweed varieties to try. Among them:7
- Hijiki: A stronger-flavored seaweed that grows in thick branches, which expand considerably when cooked.
- Nori: Often used to make sushi rolls, nori is deep purple or red but turns bright green when toasted. (Untoasted nori is best, nutritionally speaking.)
- Arame: Arame has feathery leaves and a sweeter flavor than some other varieties.
- Wakame: Found in miso soup, wakame is brown with delicate leaves and a mild, non-fishy flavor.
- Dulse: As mentioned, dulse has a chewy texture and is often used in dried or flaked form.
Try fresh sea vegetables as a salad or added to eggs, stir fries, and soup. The flaked form can be used as a seasoning in place of salt or added to smoothies. You can also add sea vegetables to your fermented vegetable recipe to increase the mineral, vitamin, and fiber content. You can add pieces of whole dulse or use flakes.
Wakame needs to be presoaked and diced into the desired size prior to using. As a reminder, choosing seaweed from non-polluted waters is crucial, as these plants absorb the contents of the water in which they’re grown. While this is part of what makes them so nutritious, it can also be their downfall if sourced from contaminated waters.
Further, seaweed that comes from large, industrial seaweed “farms” (often in Asia) may be machine harvested in ways that harm the environment. Look for seaweed sourced from non-polluted waters that is harvested in a sustainable, environmentally friendly manner (such as hand harvested). Also check that your sea vegetables are processed using only sun drying or low-temperature air drying, not high heat that may damage nutrients.
Many suppliers also have their products routinely tested for chemicals, heavy metals and, after the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, Japan, radioactivity. By seeking out a supplier with high standards and ethics, you’ll receive a true superfood without any risks of contamination or environmental harms.
Section: Articles -
File Under: Health |
By Dr. Mercola
On July 1, 2015, Oregon became the fourth state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. In Colorado, recreational pot has been legal since 2012 and medical marijuana since 2001. About half the states in the country now permit the use of medical marijuana.
With state laws changing almost monthly, America's appetite for marijuana is growing — leaving the weed business booming. An estimated 33 million Americans used pot in 2013, up nearly one-third from a decade ago.
In the midst of this "marijuana gold rush," growers eagerly struggle to meet demand, while facing the challenges of operating a legal drug business in a world where overriding laws still regard pot as illegal, and the changes haven't trickled up.
The CNBC special "Marijuana Country: The Cannabis Boom" takes a look at the challenges the new pot industry has caused in Colorado, as well as the legal quagmire related to marijuana crossing state lines.
What happens in Colorado won't stay in Colorado — they are paving the way for the rest of us in this brave new world of legal weed. It's just a matter of time before other states run into the same legal, ethical, and public health concerns.
Marijuana Bud May Be Colorado's Unofficial State Flower
Colorado is now home to more than 500 marijuana stores. One of the largest, Medicine Man, turns out more than 120 pounds per week and has dubbed itself "The Costco of the Grow." Their grow houses cultivate more than 70 different varieties of cannabis.
In its first year, Colorado's legal pot sales topped half a billion dollars and generated $50 million in taxes for the state.
Colorado has become a major pot exporter, supplying states in which pot remains illegal. Only 40 percent of sales are to Colorado residents — the other 60 percent are to tourists.
"Marijuana tourism"1 is creating significant discord between Colorado and its neighboring states. In fact, Nebraska and Oklahoma are suing Colorado in the US Supreme Court, arguing they've suffered "direct and significant harm" from pot's crossing the borders.
The Marijuana Underground Is Alive and Well
You might think legalization would have put an end to underground pot sales in Colorado, but actually the opposite is true — the black market is booming. In Colorado, 40 percent is still grown and sold illegally, and recent signs suggest the same may be true for Washington State.2
But why? In the eyes of many seasoned weed users, the marijuana underground offers several advantages, not the least of which is economics.
In licensed Colorado dispensaries, taxes on marijuana are as high as 36 percent, and there are limits on how much you can purchase. In the featured documentary, buyers report they can buy weed illegally for one-third of the price charged in dispensaries with one phone call, day or night... no tax, no limit.
How do sellers get away with it? They claim to offer their products for a "donation," "gift," or "exchange." Some are selling through the mail via sites like Craigslist. A few illegal wholesalers and brokers even manage to sell their goods to licensed dispensaries.
Marijuana Businesses Struggling All the Way to the Bank
Selling marijuana may be legal in your state, but as far as the banks are concerned, any money exchanged is illegal drug money and they won't touch it.
American marijuana businesses are forced to deal only in cash because banks refuse to bankroll them, in fear of the repercussions from federal drug trafficking laws. According to the National Cannabis Industry Association, this is the most significant problem the industry faces at present.3
The proliferation of cash from marijuana sales makes the 2,000 retail shops and medical dispensaries irresistible targets for criminals, as well as being risky for employees and vendors, who must be paid in cash.
These problems will likely grow unless Congress steps in and changes federal drug and drug-trafficking laws. The flip side is that some companies are actually benefitting from this cash-and-carry system — security services and safe manufacturers are doing just fine.
Pot Legalization Ignites Even More Controversy
Marijuana legalization has come with other complications. One is that many workplaces still maintain a zero tolerance for positive drug tests, including cannabis. You can be fired for testing positive for cannabis, even if medical marijuana is legal in your state.
Part of the problem is, unlike alcohol or cocaine, there is no test to determine your current level of impairment from cannabis — your test result will be the same whether you use pot on a daily basis, or used only once 40 days ago.
The development of a "pot breathalyzer" is underway, but in the meantime, the standard drug test is what companies use. On June 15, 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Dish Network was perfectly within its right to fire a call center employee for using medical marijuana (and testing positive on a drug test), because pot remains illegal under federal law.4
Safety guidelines also need to be determined, such as safe levels for driving under the influence of marijuana. This ties back the issue already discussed about the difficulty with assessing a person's current level of impairment. Cannabis edibles are posing another type of challenge, as adults have been "overdosing," and children can't resist the temptation to eat them, if carelessly left in reach.
Marijuana can be added to all sorts of treats, from lollipops to muffins to candy bars — even sodas. Adults tend to overdose on edibles due to the delay in their effect, which has made some individuals fairly ill. Symptoms of THC overdose typically include anxiety, sweating, rapid heart rate, nausea, and dilated pupils. If you purchase marijuana edibles, please make sure to keep them out of the reach of children and pets, as well as adhering to the recommended dose.
Why the National Marijuana Frenzy?
Irrespective of your views on the pros and cons of recreational marijuana, the body of scientific evidence about its medicinal value is strong, and growing, due to its cannabidiol (CBD) content. Much of the herb's popularity stems from its medicinal potential. In 2014, a survey found that the majority of physicians — 56 percent — favor nationwide legalization of medical cannabis.5
A growing segment of the population is becoming aware of marijuana's promise in treating a wide variety of health problems, and none are more excited than the parents of children with severe seizure disorders, such as Dravet syndrome. Dravet syndrome,6 also known as Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy (SMEI), is a form of intractable, life-threatening epilepsy in which a child can suffer upwards of 100 seizures a day.
Certain varieties of cannabis offer the only real hope for children with this type of disorder, as Dravet syndrome does not respond well to standard epilepsy drugs. Twenty to 30 percent of children with Dravet experience a significant reduction in seizures within days or weeks of using high-CBD, low-THC cannabis, with virtually no adverse effects. So for some, legalized marijuana is just one more option for entertainment, but others feel like it's the difference between life and death.
The Growing List of Illnesses Cannabis Can Treat
Your body makes its own cannabinoids, similar to those found in marijuana, but in much smaller amounts. These endocannabinoids appear to perform signaling operations similar to your body's neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin. Cannabinoid receptors can be found on cell membranes throughout your body — in fact, scientists now believe they may represent the most widespread receptor system.7
The fact that your body is replete with cannabinoid receptors, key to so many biological functions, is why there's such enormous medical potential for cannabis. CBD may be the most potent and beneficial of the cannabinoids, particularly for tamping down an overactive immune system, as is the case with autoimmune disease. CBD also has antipsychotic properties but does not get you high.
The response of cancer patients to cannabis treatment is very encouraging. Not only does cannabis help with the unpleasant side effects of traditional chemotherapy (including pain, nausea, and insomnia), but the cannabis itself appears to be a natural chemotherapy agent. Over the past several years, dozens of studies point to marijuana's effectiveness against many different types of cancer, including brain cancer, breast and prostate, lung, thyroid, colon, pituitary, melanoma, and leukemia. It fights cancer via at least two mechanisms, making it difficult for a cancer to grow and spread:
- Cannabis is pro-apoptotic, meaning it triggers apoptosis (cellular suicide) of cancer cells, while leaving healthy cells untouched
- Cannabis is anti-angiogenic, meaning it cuts off a tumor's blood supply
This may explain why chronic pot smokers have such surprisingly low rates of lung and other cancers, especially when compared to cancer rates among tobacco smokers.8,9 In addition to cancer, cannabis has been found effective against an ever-growing list of illnesses. Research has been limited, but we may be turning the corner. It's likely we'll soon be expanding this list as the evolving political climate becomes more favorable to cannabis research.
|Mental disorders, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), mood disorders, and Tourette's syndrome ||Seizure disorders
|Pain and insomnia||Rheumatoid arthritis
|Degenerative neurological disorders, dystonia, and tremor||Heart disease
|Multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune issues||Autism
|Cancer, numerous types||Nausea, vomiting, and lack of appetite
Science Shows Marijuana Is MUCH Safer Than Prescription Drugs
Download Interview Transcript
Many prescription drugs are known to be dangerous. Pharmaceuticals in general are among the leading causes of death in the US, and some drugs have killed tens of thousands of individuals. The painkiller Vioxx is one classic example that killed over 60,000 before being pulled off the market. According to Dr. Margaret Gedde, MD, PhD, owner and founder of Gedde Whole Health and the Clinicians' Institute of Cannabis Medicine, you don't have to look far to find research confirming that cannabis is safer and less toxic than many prescription drugs.
This includes liver and kidney toxicity, gastrointestinal damage, nerve damage, and of course death. Moreover, cannabinoids often work when pharmaceutical drugs fail, so not only is cannabis safer but it's typically more effective. Besides treating intractable seizures, one of the strongest areas of research regarding marijuana's health benefits is pain control.
In 2010, the Center for Medical Cannabis Research (CMCR) released a report10 on 14 clinical studies about the use of marijuana for pain, most of which were FDA-approved, double-blind, and placebo-controlled. The report revealed that marijuana not only controls pain, but in many cases it does so better than pharmaceutical alternatives.
If you compare prescription painkillers (opiates) to marijuana, marijuana is much safer. Opioid painkillers can lead to slowed respiration and death if an excess is taken — and the risks are compounded if you add alcohol to the equation. By contrast, cannabis overdose cannot kill you because there are no cannabinoid receptors in your brain stem, the region of your brain that controls your heartbeat and respiration.
The statistics speak for themselves. In 2010, prescription painkillers were responsible for 16,600 deaths, and painkiller overdoses claimed more women's lives than cocaine and heroine combined. In the CDC's Public Health Reports study,11 prescription drugs were involved in fatal car crashes at three times the rate of marijuana. In states where medical marijuana is legal, overdose deaths from opioids like morphine, oxycodone, and heroin decreased by an average of 20 percent after one year, 25 percent after two years and up to 33 percent by years five and six.
As noted by Dr. Gedde:
"There's an ongoing death rate from use of pain medications as prescribed. So, even as prescribed, they're highly dangerous and they are open to abuse. As far as medications used in the pediatric population to control seizures, there are also severe toxicities to organs. Many of them are very sedating. The children become unable to function or really to interact because of the sedating effects. Other medications have a side effect of rage and behavioral problems.
Unprovoked rage is actually a known side effect of some of the anti-seizure medications. Cannabis and in particular cannabidiol has none of these issues. No toxicities. The main side effect of cannabidiol is sleepiness. As a child gets accustomed to it, that does wear off and the child can be very alert and functional on the cannabis oil once they have worked into the dosing. Once you put them against each other, there really is no comparison in terms of safety."
Education Is Key
It can sometimes be challenging finding accurate, science-based information about cannabis. Dr. Gedde offers the following suggestions for obtaining reliable information:
"The reason why it's difficult is that the preponderance of research funds have been to show harm related to cannabis, as a drug of abuse... [L]ook for the real research that's there on the endocannabinoid system and the ways that marijuana cannabis has been helping people for centuries. And look into the history of medical practice; that's where the information starts to come out."
She also recommends looking to current clinical practice, which is possible in states where cannabis is now safely and legally accessible. This is where you can learn more about optimal dosing and protocols found effective for various conditions. Other resources that may be helpful include the following:
- Cancer.gov,12 the US government's cancer website, contains research relating to the use of cannabis
- PubMed13 is a searchable public resource containing a vast amount of medical literature, including studies involving cannabis
- The Journal of Pain14 is a publication by the American Pain Society with a long list of studies on the pain-relieving effects of cannabis
- National Institute on Drug Abuse15 is an excellent resource, including information about preclinical and clinical trials that are underway to test marijuana and various extracts for the treatment of a number of diseases, including autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease, inflammation, pain, and mental disorders.
I also recommend listening to my previous interview with Dr. Frankel, in which he discusses many of the medical benefits of cannabis.
Section: Articles -
File Under: Health |
By Dr. Mercola
Americans are taking fewer vacation days than they did 15 years ago, often not taking all of their earned vacation days, according to a survey by the US Travel Association.1 But the decision to put work over family and friends can lead to burnt bridges among personal relationships that can make your life richer for decades to come.
The survey revealed that seven out of 10 respondents skip kids’ activities, birthdays, and vacations in favor of work, while, paradoxically, 73 percent said spending time with family makes their lives richer and more meaningful.
Another survey found Americans use only 10 of their average 14 days of vacation a year, and while about one-third of Americans report feeling stressed out at work, most won’t take a vacation day because of it.2
In short, many Americans find it hard to find a suitable work-life balance that allows them to pay the bills and earn financial security while still spending time with family and having ample free time for their own sanity.
If it’s been awhile since your last vacation, you may be starting to feel it. Lack of adequate time off can manifest in many mysterious (and not so mysterious) ways, as the list below, compiled by TIME, explains.3
10 Signs You Need a Vacation
1. Little Problems Seem Huge
When you’re in a good place mentally and emotionally, you can handle those daily curveballs that come your way – with ease and even your fair share of finesse. But if you’re overly stressed, forget about it. Even small nuisances will seem overwhelming and may cause you to snap at co-workers or clients unnecessarily.
2. Coworkers Ask if You’re Alright
You probably spend a lot of time around your colleagues, and they may be among the first to notice that you’re not acting like yourself. Maybe you’re unusually cranky, quiet, or tired instead of your chipper self.
This is a sign that a long weekend is calling your name (if you can’t take a longer vacation, at least try to fit microbreaks into your day by walking outside for five or 10 minutes).
3. You’re Making Mistakes
Workplace errors are often the result of chronic stress. This can be problematic for your reputation and job security or, depending on your line of work, potentially deadly to those around you (such as if you work in the medical field). If you notice you’re making an unusual number of mistakes, arrange for some time off to regroup.
4. You’re Overly Cynical
Those who are most successful at work have about six positive experiences for each negative one. A ratio of three to one (in favor of positive) is about the bare minimum you need to stay happy at work. If that ratio gets flipped and you’re finding your work unfulfilling and frustrating without any positive merits, it could be due to impending burnout.
5. You’re Engaging in Counterproductive Work Behaviors
Arguing with co-workers, taking extra time at lunch or breaks, or “borrowing” office supplies are examples of “counterproductive work behaviors” or CWBs.
These behaviors are linked to high levels of workplace stress, and they may manifest weeks or months after the most stressful periods (such as a busy season).4 Time off may be a welcome cure (and might even give you time to seek out other opportunities).
6. You’re in Physical Pain
Workplace stress, particularly heavy workloads, negative work environments, and obstacles that prevent you from completing your work, are linked to pain levels in employees.5 Stress also promotes inflammation and pain sensitivity, which is why recurring backaches, headaches, eye strain, and other aches and pains are signs a vacation is long overdue.
7. Your Stomach’s Upset
An upset stomach and other digestive issues can also be manifestations of overwork and stress.6 The latter can even lead to changes in the bacteria in your gut that can make you prone to stomach issues.
8. You Have Trouble Sleeping
Excessive work stress and burnout can increase the chances of sleep problems, including difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. People who are overworked have more trouble unwinding at the end of the day and also are more likely to report daytime sleepiness.7
9. You End Your Day with a Glass of Wine
Regularly using alcohol as a coping mechanism may be a result of too much stress at work. Those experiencing chronic stress and burnout may be more vulnerable to using alcohol and food as ways to ease stress in favor of healthier options like exercise.
10. You Lost the Sense of Purpose of Your Work
A more serious sign of burnout is losing perspective of why you’re working in the first place. You may not see any benefits, when in fact your job benefits your community, your country, or your family. If you can’t remember why you wanted your job in the first place, schedule a break from your daily grind soon.
What Do You Stand to Gain from Taking a Vacation?
You’ve seen what might happen if you don’t take a vacation, but what might happen if you do? According to research from the University of Calgary, taking a vacation (or even participating in leisure activities) can actually reduce depression.8
A separate study found sharing vacation experiences with your loved ones is a valuable contributor to family cohesion,9 whereas immersing yourself in a different culture may also foster creative thinking10 and improve well-being.11 Still other research by British research Scott McCabe has shown the following vacation benefits:12
|Rest and recuperation from work
||Provision of new experiences leading to a broadening of horizons and the opportunity for learning and intercultural communication
||Promotion of peace and understanding
|Personal and social development
||Visiting friends and relatives
||Religious pilgrimage and health
As the Examiner reported:13
“McCabe believes these positive benefits [of vacation] to be so strong that he recommends that families be given some form of financial assistance if they are unable to afford vacations on their own.”
Keep in mind that not every vacation will leave you feeling refreshed and relaxed. Generally speaking there are some universal factors that tend to contribute to a restful time off, and if you’re chronically stressed you’ll want to be sure you plan your vacation with at least some of these in mind:14
- Free time for yourself
- Warmer, sunnier location
- Good sleep
- Making new acquaintances
- Exercising during vacation
Even Planning a Vacation Can Benefit Your Mental Health…
It can certainly be exciting to travel the world and see new cities, states, or countries… but a vacation doesn’t have to be elaborate to be beneficial and enjoyable. Simply planning a vacation may help boost your mood, even if you don’t actually go on one.
Research showed people were happiest during the planning stage of their vacation, when their sense of anticipation was peaked.15 After the vacation was over, levels of happiness quickly returned to baseline.
“Staycations” have also become popular among those looking for a respite without breaking the bank. You might stay at a nearby hotel or bed-and-breakfast for a night or two to break up your daily grind. Or you can plan a week of day trips – visiting museums, zoos, national parks, theme parks, or other local points of interest – and returning home to sleep each night.
The key isn’t so much where you go as simply taking time off to just be with those you love, explore your surroundings, and nurture your inner self. Take the time to do the things you don’t get to do each day – like lingering over a cup of coffee and having the freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want.
Whether your vacation is down the street or across the globe, you’ll enjoy numerous mental and physical health benefits both during your trip and upon your return. Surprisingly enough, even though many Americans forgo their annual vacations, 24 percent believe a vacation is a birthright… if you claim yours, here are even more benefits you’ll enjoy, according to the US Travel Association:16
- Increased health: Travelers rate their health a full point higher (on a scale of one to five) while on vacation.
- Deep sleep: Travelers say they get three times more deep sleep while on vacation, as well as an additional 20 minutes of sleep a night after their vacation.
- Life satisfaction: Feelings of life satisfaction increase during vacation and continue to stay elevated after returning home.
- Improved work life: Vacations can enhance your productivity and business accomplishments at work, so you’ll return to work refreshed and ready to take on new challenges.
Section: Articles -
File Under: Health |
By Dr. Mercola
You catch a whiff of pumpkin pie, school glue, newspaper, or fresh-cut grass and suddenly you’re immersed in a flurry of vivid memories, often from your childhood. What is it about smells that can trigger memories so strong and real it feels like you’ve been transported back in time?
It’s known as “odor-evoked autobiographical memory” or the Proust phenomenon, after French writer Marcel Proust. In his famous novel In Search of Lost Time, the narrator dips a madeleine cookie into a cup of tea and is transported back into time as long-forgotten memories of his childhood come flooding back.
Indeed, research shows that odors are especially effective as reminders of past experience, much more so than cues from other senses, such as sights or sounds.1
One reason this might be has to do with the way your brain processes odors and memories. Smells get routed through your olfactory bulb, which the smell-analyzing region in your brain. It’s closely connected to your amygdala and hippocampus, brain regions that handle memory and emotion.
The close connection may explain why a scent might get tied to vivid memories in your brain, and then come flooding back when you’re exposed to that particular odor trigger. As noted by Psychology Today:2
“Interestingly, visual, auditory (sound), and tactile (touch) information do not pass through these brain areas. This may be why olfaction, more than any other sense, is so successful at triggering emotions and memories.”
Odor-Cued Memories Tend to Be Stronger, More Emotional, and from Earlier in Life
Before reaching your thalamus, smells first wind their way through other regions of your brain, including areas controlling memory and emotion. So with scents, you have all this extra processing even before you have conscious awareness of the scent.
Your body also contains far more receptors for smells (at least 1,000) than it does for other senses, like sight (four) and touch (at least four).3 What this means is you can discern between many different types of smells, even those you may not have the words to describe.
Taken together, this makes odor-cued memories particularly poignant and different than other memories. In one study of older adults, for instance, the participants were given three cue types (word, picture, or odor) and asked to recall memories triggered by the cue.4
It turned out the odor-cued memories tended to be older memories from the first decade of life, whereas those associated with verbal and visual information were from early adulthood.
The odor-evoked memories were also associated with “stronger feelings of being brought back in time” and had been “thought of less often” than memories evoked by the other cues.
Separate research also revealed that both young and old adults were able to recall more than twice as many memories when they were associated with an odor, which according to researchers provides “evidence for substantial olfactory cuing that is remarkably intact in old age.”5
Smells Can Trigger Traumatic Memories, Fears
It’s not only positive associations and memories that are brought back by different odors. For instance, odors are known to induce physiological arousal and trigger trauma-related flashbacks.
They’re also thought to play a role in triggering disturbing memories in people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).6
Intriguingly, a mother’s fears may even be passed on to her children via scent. In one study, female rats were conditioned to fear the smell of peppermint before they were pregnant. Later, the rats’ pups were exposed to the peppermint scent along with a scent of their mother’s reacting to the peppermint odor.
The newborn pups learned to fear the smell even when their mothers weren’t there, after just a single exposure.7 However, when activity was blocked in the pups’ amygdala, a region of the brain that processes emotions, including fear responses, the pups did not learn to fear the peppermint scent.
So it seems that, via scent, “infants can learn from their mothers about potential environmental threats before their sensory and motor development allows them a comprehensive exploration of the surrounding environment.”8
The impact of scent on fear was so strong that some of the rats tried to plug the tubing to stop the scent from coming in, a habit that the researchers plan to study further.
The Power of Scents Reveals Why Aromatherapy Is so Effective
Odor-evoked autobiographical memories typically occur by happenstance, when an unsolicited odor passes by your nose and you happen to catch a whiff. You can, however, harness the power of scents to trigger real physical and emotional responses through the use of aromatherapy. For instance, research shows:
- A systematic review of 16 randomized controlled trials examining the anxiolytic (anxiety-inhibiting) effects of aromatherapy among people with anxiety symptoms showed that most of the studies indicated positive effects to quell anxiety (and no adverse events were reported)9
- People exposed to bergamot essential oil aromatherapy prior to surgery had a greater reduction in pre-operative anxiety than those in control groups10
- Sweet orange oil has been found to have anxiety-inhibiting effects in humans, supporting its common use as a tranquilizer by aromatherapists11
- Ambient odors of orange and lavender reduced anxiety and improved mood in patients waiting for dental treatment12
- Compared to the controls, women who were exposed to orange odor in a dental office had a lower level of anxiety, a more positive mood, and a higher level of calmness. Researchers concluded, “exposure to ambient odor of orange has a relaxant effect”13
Anxiety, of course, is only one use for aromatherapy. Other potential uses are varied and include the following:
- Green apple scent for migraines: One study found that the scent significantly relieved migraine pain. This may also work with other scents that you enjoy so consulting with an aromatherapist might be beneficial
- Peppermint for memory: The aroma of peppermint has been shown to enhance memory and increase alertness
- Nausea and vomiting: A blend of peppermint, ginger, spearmint, and lavender essential oils has been found to help relieve post-operative nausea14
- Lavender for pain relief: Lavender aromatherapy has been shown to lessen pain following needle insertion15
Your Sense of Smell Is Even an Indicator of Your Health
If you still have a keen sense of smell, count yourself lucky, as olfaction (sense of smell) is strongly linked to many diverse physiological processes. Using data from a nationally representative sample of more than 3,000 older US adults, researchers form the University of Chicago found those with an inability to perceive odor (known as anosmia) were more than four times as likely to die in five years compared to those with a healthy sense of smell.16
Specifically, 39 percent of the participants who failed the first smell test (which consisted of identifying five common scents) died in the next five years, compared to 19 percent of those who had moderate smell loss and 10 percent of those with a healthy sense of smell.
A loss of the sense of smell was a remarkably strong indicator of approaching death, even more so than known leading causes of death, and independent of known risk factors like nutrition, cognitive function, mental health, smoking, alcohol abuse, or frailty. Loss of sense of smell was a stronger predictor of death than even a diagnosis of cancer, heart failure, or lung disease.17
Loss of olfactory function is probably not a cause of death, but rather may “serve as a bellwether for slowed cellular regeneration or as a marker of cumulative toxic environmental exposure,” the researchers said. As The Guardian reported:18
“The tip of the olfactory nerve, which contains the smell receptors, is the only part of the human nervous system that is continuously regenerated by stem cells.
The production of new smell cells declines with age, and this is associated with a gradual reduction in our ability to detect and discriminate odors. Loss of smell may indicate that the body is entering a state of disrepair, and is no longer capable of repairing itself. The olfactory nerve is also the only part of the nervous system that is exposed to the open air. As such, it offers poisons and pathogens a quick route into the brain, and so losing smell could be an early warning of something that will ultimately cause death.”
Could Your Sense of Smell Use a Boost?
If you’re missing out on old childhood memories because your sense of smell isn’t what it used to be, there are steps you can take to improve it. For starters, check for zinc deficiency. Zinc, an essential trace mineral, is required to produce an enzyme called carbonic anhydrase (CA) VI, critical to taste and smell, which is why loss of sense of smell is one of the classic signs of chronic zinc deficiency.
Mild zinc deficiency is relatively common, especially in infants and children, pregnant or breast-feeding women, elderly, people with poor gastrointestinal absorption or bowel disease like Crohn's disease, and for those eating vegetarian or vegan diets. Good source of dietary zinc include meats, oysters and wild-caught fish, raw milk, raw cheese, beans, and yogurt or kefir made from raw milk.
If you are healthy and you eat a well-balanced diet, you will rarely need supplements to complete your body's zinc needs, and you should strive to get zinc from dietary sources. If you know you’re not zinc deficient, I’d suggest reading through my nutrition plan for a comprehensive dietary plan that will support your health on multiple levels. Next, try these tips that are known to boost your sense of smell:19
- Exercise: Research shows that the more you exercise, the less likely you are to develop problems with smelling as you age. Exercising even one time a week was found to reduce the risk of losing your sense of smell20
- Become scent conscious: Make a point to smell your food before you eat it, and notice the scent of flowers, cut grass or even rain. Doing this regularly will help increase your sense of smell.
- Try “sniff therapy”: Choose three or four different scents, such as floral, fruity, and coffee. Sniff them four to six times a day, which will help the different receptors in your nose to work better
Section: Articles -
File Under: Health |