In 2014, the Ice Bucket Challenge went viral in social media. Many people, including celebrities and known personalities like Oprah Winfrey, LeBron James and Steven Spielberg1 dumped buckets of ice and water over their heads with a goal to promote awareness of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, and encourage donations for research.2
The challenge garnered $115 million in donations in a span of two months, tripling the ALS Association's budget for research.3 But in spite of the outpour of financial support, not everyone may have understood what the initiative implied or what ALS is. Learn more about Lou Gehrig's disease — its causes, symptoms, treatments and how you can reduce your risk of this disease by reading this article.
Lou Gehrig's disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder that affects the lower and upper motor neurons.4 These nerve cells, which are connected from the brain and spinal cord to different parts of the body, control voluntary muscle movements that allow you to walk, breathe, talk and chew. When you have Lou Gehrig's disease, these neurons deteriorate, leading to the weakening of muscles and loss of movement control.5
This disease's clinical and pathological features were first described by Jean-Martin Charcot,6 the father of neurology,7 in a series of lectures in the 1860s and 1870s. His essential contribution is the reason why this disease is sometimes referred to as Charcot's disease.8
The name Lou Gehrig's disease, on the other hand, was derived from Lou Gehrig, a New York Yankee player in the 1920s and '30s. He experienced loss in motor control, a symptom of ALS, and was forced to retire in 1939 because of his condition.9
Studies have found that people between the ages of 40 and 70 are the ones most at risk of developing Lou Gehrig's disease. In the U.S., around 5,000 people are diagnosed with ALS each year.10 A 2016 study projected that there may be a 69% increase in the number of Lou Gehrig's disease cases over the next 25 years due to aging. This is about 376,674 cases in 2040, as compared to 222,801 cases in 2015.11
Lou Gehrig's disease is not contagious12 but it may lead to death because of respiratory failure.13 The life expectancy of a person with this disease is about two to five years from the time of diagnosis, but in some cases, they live beyond this range. There is no universal guide on Lou Gehrig's disease stages, but two approaches are being widely used to help determine, assess and manage a person's condition with Lou Gehrig's disease. These are:
• King's clinical staging — Similar to cancer staging, this approach considers the clinical spread of disease to ascertain its progression. Here are the stages:14
◦ Stage 1 — Involvement of one clinical region
◦ Stage 2 — Involvement of second clinical region
◦ Stage 3 — Involvement of third clinical region
◦ Stage 4 — Nutritional or respiratory failure
◦ Stage 5 — Death
• Milano-Torino staging — This approach considers the differences in a person's functional capabilities as the disease spreads, and is broken down into these stages:15
◦ Stage 0 — Functional involvement
◦ Stage 1 — Loss of independence in one domain
◦ Stage 2 — Loss of independence in two domains
◦ Stage 3 — Loss of independence in three domains
◦ Stage 4 — Loss of independence in four domains
◦ Stage 5 — Death
Lou Gehrig's disease may be considered sporadic if it occurs in people with no family history of this disease.16 On the other hand, 5% to 10% of ALS cases,17 are considered familial, in which two or more people in a family have this disease.18
Although both forms are clinically similar, sporadic ALS' mean age onset is 56 years,19 while familial ALS' mean age onset is 45.5 years.20 More studies are needed to confirm its main cause, but some studies found that it may be hereditary, leading to familial ALS. The causes of sporadic ALS are also unknown, but numerous factors are considered, including:21
• Mitochondrial dysfunction
• Oxidative stress
• Glutamate excitotoxicity, a process that damages neurons22
• Apoptosis or programmed cell death23
Here are other factors that may increase your risk for Lou Gehrig's disease:
• Smoking — A 2010 study suggested that women may have a higher risk of Lou Gehrig's disease if they are smokers.24 Formaldehyde, which is a component in tobacco smoke,25 may also be associated with this risk.26
• Military service — An ALS Association meta-analysis found that veterans who served in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have a higher risk of acquiring this disease.27 These service persons are usually exposed to burning agents,28 but not all military personnel have this risk, because it may be specific only for certain service periods.29
• Lead exposure — A 2002 study found that lead exposure may increase your risk of Lou Gehrig's disease.30 A separate study suggests that its onset may be triggered by the transfer of lead from the bones to the blood.31
• Genetics — In 1993, mutations in the SOD1 gene were linked to familial ALS.32 Studies involving genetic mutations suggest that the decline in motor neuron functions in ALS may be due to the changes in the processing of RNA molecules, which are responsible for gene regulation and activity.33
The onset of Lou Gehrig disease symptoms usually occurs between the ages of 50 and 65.34 Symptoms that emerge from the arms are referred to as limb-onset ALS, while those that affect speech and swallowing functions are called bulbar onset ALS.35 Lou Gehrig's disease's early symptoms are:36,37
- Muscle cramps
- Arm or leg spasms
- Loss of balance
- Hands and feet weakness
- Speech difficulties or dysarthria
- Impaired chewing or swallowing
- Drooling or sialorrhea
- Frequent sighs
In rare cases, mental functions deteriorate as well, leading to dementia. Affected people may exhibit unusual silence, changes in their personalities, paranoid ideas and childish behavior.43 However, they are aware of these symptoms because they retain their ability to remember, understand and solve problems.44 As a result, they may develop depression.45 These symptoms may worsen over time because Lou Gehrig's is a progressive disease.46
There is no cure for Lou Gehrig's disease yet, but rehabilitation is essential to help maximize a person's functions and their quality of life. This process may help them manage their symptoms and do things independently.47 A rehabilitation team may consist of a combination of different health care specialists and medical professionals:48
- Physiatrist (specializing in neurological and physical rehabilitation)
- Physical therapist
- Occupational therapist
- Speech therapist
- Respiratory therapist
- Social worker
- Family members and caregiver
Here are things to consider for the rehabilitation of a person with Lou Gehrig's disease:
• Use of adaptive equipment — A person with this disease may experience difficulty in turning knobs, handling food, opening cans and writing. It may be minimized by improving common equipment or replacing problematic objects with more appropriate tools such as Velcro fasteners instead of zippers, long-handled sponges and combs, lightweight electric shavers and kitchen utensils, long straws and button hooks.
Remember to consult an occupational therapist to know the most effective devices that are helpful for people with ALS and to avoid unnecessary expenses for impractical devices.49
• Physical therapy — Doing appropriate exercises and motion techniques may help boost comfort and improve ability to move.50 Swimming, walking, stationary cycling and other low-impact aerobic exercises may help strengthen muscles and boost cardiovascular health.51 It is recommended to consult a physical therapist for proper advice and assistance.
• Speech therapy — A person with ALS may experience difficulty in speaking and swallowing, so speech therapy is essential to help develop communication techniques, especially if oral communication may not be possible anymore.52 Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices may be used as well to help with daily functions and decision-making tasks.53
• Use of respirators — An impaired respiratory function is the most common cause of death of people with Lou Gehrig's disease.54 Using noninvasive positive pressure ventilation (NPPV) may help prolong survival55 and improve their quality of life.56 This type of breathing support may help maintain oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the body, especially when respiratory functions have declined.57
• Rest — If a person with ALS experiences fatigue, they must conserve their energy by taking frequent rests and avoiding strenuous activities.
• Use of walking aids — Walking properly may become a chore because of weakened limbs. A therapist may recommend canes, crutches and walkers to promote safety and independence when walking or moving around. Canes are usually used during the early stages of this disease. Walkers have base supports that may help with stability, but they also may become tiring to lift when walking.58
Lou Gehrig's disease may not be prevented, but a 2013 study59 found that alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E) may be associated with a lower risk of Lou Gehrig's disease. This study involved men with low levels of this nutrient, who took supplements for five to eight years. Natural sources of tocopherols60 or vitamin E are avocados, olives, leafy greens like spinach, high-fat foods like nuts, seeds, fatty fish and seafood.
A 2012 Annals of Neurology study found that consuming carotenoid-rich foods may help reduce your risk of this disease as well.61 Here are some foods that contain this nutrient:
When buying these foods, make sure that they are organic or produced from organic sources to reduce your risk of toxic chemicals and pesticide ingestion.
At least 15% to 55% of people with Lou Gehrig's disease lose weight62 because of their difficulty in swallowing, which lowers their calorie and protein intake.63 A 2013 study found that they may also lose their appetite, leading to malnutrition,64 which is usually present in up to 50% of people with Lou Gehrig's disease.65 Thus, nutrition must be given importance. Here are foods that may provide beneficial effects against Lou Gehrig's disease:
• Green tea — A 2006 animal study found that epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), an antioxidant found in green tea, may help slow down the onset of this disease and may help prolong affected people's life span.66
• Ginseng — A Journal of the Neurological Sciences animal study67 found that ginseng root may help minimize the symptoms of ALS. It helps stimulate nerve growth factor and its high affinity receptor in the brain, which trigger and control nerve growth,68 resulting in improved learning and memory and lower risk of neuronal death.
Chewing or swallowing food may be difficult for most people with this disease, so remember to avoid the following foods:69
- Spicy foods
- Soft and dry pastries
- Fibrous and bony meat and fish
- Nuts and seeds
- Stringy vegetables like lettuce and celery
- Coconut and pineapple
- Sticky food like peanut butter
- Fried noodles and rice
- Pizza, especially those with melted cheese
In addition, a Biomed Research International study found that following a ketogenic diet may help boost and restore the mitochondrial function of a person with Lou Gehrig's disease, as with other neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.70
The ketogenic diet focuses on the consumption of low amounts of carbohydrates, moderate amounts of protein and high amounts of fat. This helps the body use healthy fats as fuel instead of carbs to produce energy, which may help regenerate your mitochondria as well. You may read the article "A Beginner's Guide to the Ketogenic Diet: An Effective Way of Optimizing Your Health" to learn how to apply this diet to your lifestyle.
Using a suction device may help remove excess fluid or saliva as they eat, but if a person with this disease can no longer swallow or chew, it may be advised to use a feeding tube, which is inserted into the stomach. This may help reduce the risk of choking and pneumonia, which is caused by inhaling liquid into the lungs.71
Q: How do you get Lou Gehrig's disease?
A: The main cause of Lou Gehrig's disease is unknown, but some studies found that it may be hereditary, leading to familial ALS. Sporadic ALS, on the other hand, may be caused by several factors, including mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress, neuron damage, inflammation, apoptosis or programmed cell death, smoking, lead exposure and genetics.
Q: Is Lou Gehrig's disease hereditary?
A: It is said that 5% to 10% of Lou Gehrig's disease cases are hereditary, in which two or more family members have this disease.
Q: Is Lou Gehrig's disease genetic?
A: A 1993 study found that familial ALS may be linked to genetics, particularly to the SOD1 gene.72 Some studies suggest that the decline in motor neuron functions in ALS may be caused by the changes in RNA molecule processing, which is responsible for gene regulation and activity.73
Q: What does Lou Gehrig's disease do to your body?
A: If you have Lou Gehrig's disease, your neurons will deteriorate, resulting in the weakening of muscles and loss of movement control. It may affect your respiratory function as well, leading to death.
Q: Do ALS symptoms go away?
A: No. ALS is a progressive disease, meaning, your symptoms may worsen over time.
Q: Is Lou Gehrig's disease fatal?
A: Yes. Its symptoms progress over time and lead to death.
Cream of mushroom soup, with its rich and earthy flavor, is considered a comfort food that could keep you warm and satisfied using only a few but healthy ingredients. It is a classic dish that is easy to cook, perfect for a light but filling dinner. This full-flavored starter is best consumed with a side of baked vegetables or gluten-free garlic bread, and it is also used as a base ingredient in casseroles.
But because of their busy lifestyles, some people opt for the convenience of ready-to-eat, processed canned soups. The problem with canned soup — and most canned foods — is that it may be tainted with the endocrine-disrupting chemical bisphenol A (BPA) that leaches from the can’s linings. Also, convenience foods often have additives, artificial flavorings or preservatives in them to maintain shelf life.
Instead of settling for processed varieties, why not try this simple cream of mushroom soup recipe by Felicia Lim of Paleohacks? It makes use of fresh mushrooms, herbs and other wholesome ingredients to give you a hearty and delicious soup that will warm you up during cold days.
How to Make Cream of Mushroom Soup
Paleohacks by Felicia Lim
Makes: 2 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
1-pound baby bella mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 large diced yellow onion
3 large minced garlic cloves
2 cups water
2 tablespoons coconut cream
1 teaspoon Himalayan salt
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, for garnish
Fresh chopped parsley, for garnish
4 tablespoons coconut oil, plus more for garnish
- Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and then place the sliced mushrooms in a single layer. Let the mushrooms cook without moving for five minutes, or until the bottoms are golden brown. Flip them and continue cooking for another five minutes. Once the mushrooms are ready, set them aside.
- In the same skillet, sauté the diced onions and minced garlic together. Cook the onions for seven minutes, or until tender. Add most of the mushrooms and reserve a few slices for garnish. Pour in the water and mix well, and then simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes.
- Remove the skillet from the stove. Transfer the ingredients in a blender and pulse on high-speed until you get a thick homogeneous mixture.
- Return the mixture back to the skillet, and then add in the coconut cream and salt. Mix well to combine and let the soup cook for 5 minutes over low heat.
- Divide the soup evenly between 2 bowls and top with sautéed mushroom slices. Garnish with chopped parsley, ground black pepper and a drizzle of coconut oil.
What Makes Baby Bella Mushrooms Beneficial for You?
Baby bella, also known as crimini or cremini, is a mushroom variety with a deeper and earthier flavor than white button mushrooms. It has a light-tan to rich-brown cap and a firm texture, and like other mushroom varieties, could be cooked in many ways. Criminis are best combined with grass fed beef or vegetables.
Though they are considered fungi and not plants, mushrooms provide a number of nutrients such as B vitamins, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, selenium, ergothioneine, copper, potassium, fiber and beta-glucans. Selenium is responsible for boosting the immune system and suppressing DNA damage due to free radicals. Niacin helps lessen the risk of diseases associated with heart disease. Copper helps counter anemia, osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, while pantothenic acid or vitamin B5 is a vital nutrient for the digestive system that reduces the risk of rheumatoid arthritis and high blood cholesterol.
According to a 2011 study, mushrooms such as cremini have chemoprotective properties that may help suppress the spread of breast cancer cells. Another study found that mushrooms may help mitigate cardiovascular diseases, as they may alter inflammatory environments. Additionally, mushrooms make a great alternative for meat because of their flavor-enhancing umami properties — but be sure not to cut back on your meat intake because it is an important part of your diet.
When buying mushrooms, check if their cap tightly covers the gills — that’s how you would know they’re fresh. Also, choose those that are organically grown. This is to ensure that they contain more nutrients, as they are usually cultivated in healthier conditions. You may also grow your own mushrooms to guarantee their freshness and safety.
Coconut Oil Makes This Soup Healthier
Coconut oil is your best choice when cooking mushrooms, to give them a golden brown color. In spite of the misconception that this oil’s fat content may be bad for your health, many published studies oppose this, including one study that found that Polynesians who consume coconut as their main source of energy are not prone to vascular diseases, even with a high saturated fat intake.
Coconut oil is known for its many benefits, including heart health. According to a 2016 Nutrition Foundation study, using coconut oil instead of cis unsaturated fats such as olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil and corn oil may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. It was also found to help reverse the development of the symptoms of hepatosteatosis, a nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Note: Though coconut oil remains to be a healthy choice, remember to use it sparingly because its lauric acid content may have drawbacks, especially if you have a leaky gut. Also, choose organic unrefined virgin coconut oil instead of partially hydrogenated coconut oil because the hydrogenated version undergoes more processes that may convert some of its good fats into bad ones.
This Recipe Suits Your Ketogenic Diet
Considering mushrooms and coconut oil as two of its main ingredients, this cream of mushroom soup makes a great addition to your regular ketogenic diet plan . One cup of whole cremini mushrooms contains only 3.74 grams of carbohydrates. Consuming a low amount of carbohydrates may help suppress your appetite, as well as allow your body to burn more ketones to lessen your risk of inflammation.
On the other hand, coconut oil is known for its significant amounts of healthy fats, which may be beneficial for a ketogenic diet’s fat-burning activity. This recipe may help you maintain a low-carb, high-fat diet to achieve optimal health.
PaleoHacks is a top source for amazing Paleo recipes, fitness tips and wellness advice to help you live life to the fullest. If you have questions regarding the Paleo diet in general, PaleoHacks may provide you with the answers that you need.
Since 1945, it's been claimed that adding fluoride to drinking water is a safe and effective way to improve the public's dental health. Since then, many have bought into this fallacy hook, line and sinker, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
One of the reasons why it's so important to eliminate water fluoridation is because this chemical is very difficult to filter out. You can remove some or a significant amount using distillation, reverse osmosis and special filtration media, but the vast majority of water filters that people have access to will not remove fluoride.
As a result, you might filter your water, thinking you've purified it, but you haven't eliminated fluoride. This is particularly problematic for low-income parents of small children, who need to use fluoride-free water for mixing baby formula. Fluoridated water contains 200 to 250 times more fluoride than mother's milk,1 significantly raising the child's risk of fluorosis and other health problems.
Fluoride Can Wreak Havoc on Health
Scientific investigations have revealed fluoride is an endocrine-disrupting chemical,2 and have linked it to the rising prevalence of thyroid disease,3 which in turn can contribute to obesity, heart disease, depression and other health problems.
Even more importantly, fluoride has been identified as a developmental neurotoxin that impacts short-term and working memory, and contributes to rising rates of attention-deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD)4 and lowered IQ in children.5
Many of these studies have found harm at, or precariously close to, the levels millions of American pregnant women and children receive. In all, there are more than 300 animal and human studies demonstrating fluoride can cause:6
- Brain damage, especially when coupled with iodine deficiency
- Reduced IQ
- Impaired ability to learn and remember
- Neurobehavioral deficits such as impaired visual-spatial organization
- Impaired fetal brain development
Help Eliminate Water Fluoridation in the US
In the featured video, Paul Connett, Ph.D., a toxicologist, environmental chemist and the founder and current director of the Fluoride Action Network (FAN), provides an update on FAN's lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stop water fluoridation nationwide, along with the history behind and the science underpinning it.
Over the past 19 years, FAN has facilitated the removal of fluoride from the water supplies of hundreds of communities across North America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Europe. This week, we're helping FAN raise funds to make sure that FAN wins this lawsuit, and I encourage you to make a donation to this important cause.
The lawsuit has been led by attorney Michael Connett, a former executive director of FAN who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the science of fluoride. He is also the son of Paul and Ellen Connett. He is a practicing attorney in a firm that specializes in toxic injury cases.
Over the past year Michael has traveled across the USA and the world, working with leading experts to develop the case that EPA must regulate fluoridation chemicals to prevent known or expected harms. In essence, that means the end of fluoridation.
The gathered scientific evidence for the case is unprecedented in scope and the authority of the people behind it. Legally, the case breaks new ground by using a section of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that allows anyone to file suit to compel EPA to regulate any toxic chemical so as to prevent harm from that chemical.
EPA has tried legal maneuverings to stop or constrain the lawsuit, but the court has sided with FAN every time. So, the case is scheduled for trial that will last two weeks or longer in the federal district court of San Francisco. Thousands of pages of testimony have already been gathered in preparation for the trial.
The science and law are on our side. Please consider donating to this history-making lawsuit. If you have already donated, please consider an additional donation. Your donation can help end fluoridation once and for all. Donations are tax deductible.
Back History of Lawsuit Against EPA
November 22, 2016, a coalition including FAN, Food & Water Watch, Organic Consumers Association, American Academy of Environmental Medicine, International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology, Moms Against Fluoridation and several individuals, filed a petition7,8 calling on the EPA to ban the deliberate addition of fluoridating chemicals to U.S. drinking water under Section 21 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
As explained by Connett, the TSCA allows citizens and nongovernmental organizations to petition the EPA to remove toxic substances found to pose a threat either to the general population or a subset of that population.
The petition was made on the grounds that a large body of research demonstrates fluoride is neurotoxic at doses within the range now seen in fluoridated communities, and included over 2,500 pages of scientific documentation detailing these health risks.
The EPA denied the petition9 February 27, 2017, on the grounds that it had failed to present "a scientifically defensible basis" to conclude that anyone had in fact suffered neurotoxic harm as a result of fluoride exposure. In response, FAN and its coalition partners filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, legally challenging the EPA's denial of their petition.
Victories Along the Way
As one might expect, the EPA filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Fortunately, United States District Judge Edward M. Chen denied the EPA's motion10 on December 21, 2017, thereby allowing the case to move forward.
Next, the EPA sought to limit the coalition's scope of discovery. Not only did they try to prevent coalition attorneys from obtaining internal EPA documents, but they also wanted to prohibit coalition experts from referring to studies published after the November 2016 petition was submitted.
This included a landmark U.S. government-funded study11,12 published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives in September 2017. This study is critical in demonstrating that fluoride is neurotoxic and has no place in the public water supply. Fortunately, on February 7, 2018, Chen denied13 this motion as well.
"By and large, we've succeeded in getting all the interviews and depositions that we needed," Connett says, adding, "Our lawsuit is much stronger than the original petition because of science which has taken place since September 2017."
The History of Fluoridation Science
In the featured video, Paul Connett provides a summary of the history of the science underpinning the lawsuit:
"In 1996, when I first got involved, it coincided with the first two intelligence quotient (IQ14) studies from China, which found that children in high-fluoride communities had lower IQ than children in low-fluoride communities," he says.
"By 2006, when the National Research Council looked at all the health issues from toxicology of fluoride,15 they found six IQ studies. They concluded, based only on those six studies, that fluoride did in fact pose a threat to the brain. Of course, these human studies were backed up with many dozens of animal studies …
By 2008, we were up to 18 studies. The reason it jumped from six to 18 was that my son, Michael, who spearheaded much of this … research into neurotoxicity, had translated many of the Chinese studies …
By 2010, when we published our book 'The Case Against Fluoride: How Hazardous Waste Ended Up in Our Drinking Water and the Bad Science and Powerful Politics That Keep It There,' which I published with Dr. James Beck from Canada and Dr. Spedding Micklem from Scotland, the number [of studies] had risen to 23 …
Then in 2012, a distinguished team, partly from Harvard University, did a review16 of 27 of the IQ studies; 25 of those were from China and two were from Iran. Now, they pointed out many weaknesses in the study designs. They didn't feel they had enough information in many of those studies.
But they also concluded that the consistency of these 27 studies was overwhelming … These 27 studies were done over a period of 21 years. They were done in two countries, China and Iran. They were done in different geographical areas of China. They were done by different research teams.
Despite all that variety of research, 26 of the studies showed that the children with the higher fluoride exposure … had lower IQ than the children with the lower fluoride exposure … Very striking indeed. The proponents of fluoridation have done their best to dismiss these and other studies …
Over 60 studies have been done. At least 57 now show this difference of lowered IQ with higher fluoride exposure. But the proponents have said, 'Oh well, these studies are from China and these other countries. You can't trust those. They didn't do them in fluoridated communities. This is natural fluoride' …
They also said that the concentrations were ridiculously high, much higher than in fluoridated communities … The promoters of fluoridation have always confused concentration with dose."
As explained by Connett, it's not the concentration of fluoride in the water (measured in mg per liter) that is significant for health. What matters is the dose you get in mg/day and the dosage (mg/day divided by the individual's body weight) and these depend on a variety of fluctuating factors, such as:
- The concentration of fluoride in the water
- How much water you drink
- How much fluoride you get from other sources
- Your body weight
The body weight issue is of critical importance, for a given dose in mg/day it is worse for a child than an adult; worse for an infant than a child and much worse for a fetus than an infant, a fact that was made very clear in a landmark U.S.-government funded study published in 2017.
Landmark Study Published in 2017
An international study effort led by professor Howard Hu, who at the time of the study's publication was at the University of Toronto. The study is known as the "Bashash study" after the lead author, Morteza Bashash, Ph.D. The team also includes researchers from McGill, Harvard, Mount Sinai, Michigan, Indiana and the National Institute of Public Health of Mexico.
Funding for this research came from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the EPA. The finalized study17,18 was published in the September, 2017 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.
"It was a 12-year study. It was funded by the U.S. government. We had top researchers and topnotch methodology. They controlled for every conceivable factor," Connett says.
"They found a strong relationship between the level of fluoride in pregnant women's urine and the subsequent IQ of their offspring. Individual measurements of exposure … is important because it's independent of the source of fluoride.
It doesn't matter if the fluoride came from water, from salt, from pollution or [any other source]. [They measured] the total dose … Sure enough, they found lowered IQ in the offspring at 4 years of age, and then again between 6 and 12. The higher the fluoride levels of the urine of the women, the lower the IQ of the children."
2017 Study Predicts Significant IQ Loss at Current Exposure Levels in US
The 2017 Environmental Health Perspectives study19 is important for FAN's legal case because it demonstrates the anticipated IQ loss from fluoride exposure at current levels in the U.S. is significant.
It revealed that a child of a mother who drinks water with 1 part per million (ppm) of fluoride can be predicted to have an IQ that is 5 to 6 points lower than a child born to a mother who drinks fluoride-free water. Equally important was the finding that there was no threshold below which fluoride did not affect IQ.
In a nutshell, as the level of fluoride in urine increased, IQ decreased, and this remained true across the entire range of exposures, from lowest to highest. So, the extent of the damage is really just a matter of degree.
As noted by Connett, an important feature of the 2017 Environmental Health Perspectives study was that they measured fluoride in urine, as this is a far more accurate indicator of total fluoride intake than simply measuring the concentration of fluoride in drinking water and then calculating how much water is being consumed.
The researchers also controlled for a wide range of factors — including lead, mercury, socioeconomic status, smoking, alcohol use and pregnancy-related problems — that could potentially skew the results or produce a false effect. Importantly, they were able to largely rule out the influence of these confounding factors. Connett notes:
"Again, the proponents of fluoridation say, 'This is not relevant to water fluoridation. They don't have water fluoridation in Mexico.' [This is a] completely useless argument, because [the level of fluoride in the urine is a measure of the women's total exposure of fluoride regardless of the source of fluoride].
Subsequent to this study, in 2018 a study20 [was] done in Canada. They found the same levels of fluoride in the urine of pregnant women in Canada as in Mexico City. To be precise, the average in pregnant women in Canada is 0.87 ppm. The average in Mexico City was 0.91 ppm, so about the same. Also … they found twice the level [of fluoride] in the urine in fluoridated communities compared to non-fluoridated communities.
There have been more studies since then … [In 2018], Bashash, et al., also looked at attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). They found more symptoms of ADHD amongst the children with the highest fluoride exposure in their mothers than the lower ones.21 That was important.
There's been another very important study22,23by Ashley Malin … She found that for women who were already low-iodine or borderline iodine-deficient, exposure to fluoride made their hypothyroidism worse, as measured by TSH … Millions of people in Canada and the United States are borderline or outright deficient in iodine. This is a very important finding.
It's also important to relate the two issues. When a fetus comes into existence, it has no thyroid gland. It is totally dependent on the mother's production of thyroid hormones as to its development. Critical in that development is mental development.
It's well-known that if a woman is hypothyroid, there's an increased risk for the child to have a lower IQ. You can see the possible explanation for what's happening with pregnant women. It may well be this increased risk of hypothyroidism."
Fetal Exposure Is Extremely Worrying
As noted by Connett, the sum of the research suggests American children are indeed being harmed by current levels of fluoride in drinking water. In the featured video he cites one Chinese study in which they found 1.4 milligrams (mg) of fluoride per day was associated with a lowering of 5 IQ points in children.
The recommended fluoride level in the U.S. is 0.7 ppm. To reach 1.4 mg of fluoride a day, a child would need to drink just 2 liters of water at 0.7 ppm, Connett says, adding "And that's before you've even introduced the notion of fluoride from swallowing toothpaste, from food, from pesticides and so on. It's clear that many, many children are being overexposed to fluoride as far as their mental development is concerned."
Importantly, the 2017 Environmental Health Perspectives study24 shifts the focus of concern from childhood exposure to fetal exposure in utero. For a fetus, the toxicity of any given dose is far more significant than for an infant, young child or an adult. The developing brain of a fetus is very vulnerable to toxic influences, which fluoride has clearly been demonstrated to be.
"It really makes no sense of putting this known neurotoxic substance into the drinking water for every pregnant woman and every child," Connett says. "That's what we're trying to end with this lawsuit."
Why is this lawsuit so important? Why are we raising money for this lawsuit? Well, the lawsuit is important because as important as we believe these studies are … the major media in this country have not covered it. The New York Times has not said a word about the neurotoxicity of fluoride. They, like many other mainstream media, are still promoting fluoridation and treating us as idiots, as crazy people. It's sad, but that's the truth.
Unfortunately, professional bodies and health departments are still trapped by the paradigm that fluoridation is safe and effective. They go crazy whenever a study shows that tooth decay is going up if you stop fluoridation. Many of these are fallacious studies, but they get excited about that as if the whole concern about the body is the tooth …
It's a very myopic view of the human being, and certainly the development of the fetus and the child. But that's the establishment's attitude. They either ignore these studies or they find a way of attacking them. The beauty of our lawsuit is the lawsuit under TSCA, it's in the hands of a federal law judge.
In this particular [legal] case, [because it is being tried de novo25] the EPA cannot trump the science with authority. They can't say, 'Well, we are the agency that the U.S. government has set up to review these issues like this. We have determined that fluoride is safe' … They can't get away with using authority. This lawsuit will be a battle between the sciences: Our science … and their science, which I assume will attempt to destroy each study.
But they're going to have hard job because there are over 300 studies. Over 60 human studies now show that fluoride damages the brain at levels at which the fetus is exposed in fluoridated communities. I believe this lawsuit … is our best chance of ending fluoridation in the United States. If we end it in the United States, we end it worldwide. It is incredibly important."
Call to Action — Donate Today!
You can learn more and find the details on the hundreds of published studies26 on fluoridealert.org. And, if you're concerned about the health effects of fluoride, please support FAN with your tax-deductible donation today. Funds raised will be used to continue fighting this lawsuit to the end.
"Why do we need so much money? Well, lawsuits are expensive," Connett says. "As we've made progress in this federal lawsuit … we've gotten more excited about the real possibility that we could win and end fluoridation. As we got more excited, we got more experts, some of them world-famous; some of them leading authorities in their areas of specialty. That's why we need to top-up our funds to win this lawsuit."
Taking a daily shower is a fairly recent development for Americans. Just 100 years ago, many thought getting their whole body wet at once (instead of taking the sponge baths that were common then) would invite diseases like pneumonia and someone would "catch their death."
Nowadays, a long, hot shower is a daily ritual for Many Americans. Most soaps and personal care products have surfactants that, when combined with water, bind to oil and remove the beneficial fats called sebum that naturally protect your skin.1
Generally speaking, the more a product bubbles or lathers, the more surfactants it contains. Many people spend money to buy expensive lotions to restore or replenish the natural skin oils they remove when they shower.
The irony is that most of the skin lotions people buy to use after they shower are far inferior to your skin's own "lotion" — sebum. Worse, most are loaded with toxic ingredients that pose risks to your health.
Taking showers that are too long or too hot can also dry your skin — as will not drying yourself with a towel as soon as you emerge from the shower. (There is one exception to the rule: If you live in a very hot or damp environment, letting your body "air dry" and the water drops evaporate without a toweling off will cool you off.)
Cold water may also dry out your skin and there is no evidence that it has any therapeutic benefits for your skin barrier,2 although there may be benefits on a deeper level from exposure to cold temperatures.
Beware of These Chemicals
There are toxins you want to avoid in your soaps, shampoos and other personal care products — antibiotics. When antibacterial dish, body and laundry soaps emerged in the 2000s, they were sold as "new and improved" products to get you "better than clean."
However the products, still widely sold, do not get you cleaner than soap and water but do expose you to the endocrine-disrupting effects of antibiotics like triclosan, found in popular dish detergents and toothpastes.
Antibiotic resistance and the creation of "superbugs" is also driven by the wide use of these antibacterial products.
In 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave industry a year to remove antibiotics from personal care products unless manufacturers can prove they are "both safe for long-term daily use and more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of certain infections."3
All Body Parts Should Not Be Washed Equally
Soaping your skin can be counterproductive, as we have seen, since it removes the balance of beneficial bacteria and dries your skin. However, you certainly want to wash areas that have a high density of sweat glands and can produce odors — notably your groin area, buttocks and armpits.
But even when it comes to washing your genitalia, experts warn about excess soap. Here is what writer and Harvard-educated anthropologist Leslie Turnbull of The Week says:4
"The external genitalia of both men and women need to be cleaned … However, given the sensitivities of these areas, this is best done with the hand, not a cloth ... and, believe it or not, the water of the shower is probably all you need.
If you feel you really need to use your surfactant-free soap on your groin and (for guys) testicles and (ladies) external labia, then whatever you do ... keep that soap away from the areas where your outside turns into your inside.
Both urologists and gynecologists agree; soap in these places is as unnecessary and potentially harmful as soap in the eye. Both genders should clean their external genitals front to back, finishing with the perianal area. As with every other part of the body, rinse well both front and back."
Does Shower 'Runoff' Clean Your Feet?
There is another irony. While people generally overly soap their skin, they may actually neglect their feet. Many Americans are guilty of “mistakenly thinking the runoff from cleaning the rest of them will somehow remove the dirt, bacteria and dead skin from this critical part of the body,” says Turnbull, which is not always true.5 The top and bottom of your feet and between your toes may need to be washed separately.
Though it may not clean your feet, there is a benefit to the shower runoff for people who are prone to developing ingrown toenails.
After the shower when your skin and nail are soft, the toenail that tends to "ingrow" can be lifted up by gently going underneath its edge with your fingernail — discouraging it from growing into your skin. Certainly, preventing an ingrown toenail is preferable to treating it.
Sometimes, people who are otherwise thorough washers can also neglect their ears, says Turnbull. Use your index finger to lightly clean the external folds of your ears and the oft-forgotten area behind your ears with gentle shampoo or plain water.
Shampoo in the Shower? Don't Make These Mistakes
Many people wash their hair in the shower daily or every other day. As with showering, there's growing recognition that perhaps we've become too clean with these practices.
Like overcleansed skin, hair can be dried out by shampoo and move people to use conditioners to try to replenish the natural oils that are lost, which, like skin’s natural oils, are immensely preferable to external lotions that are applied.
Ironically, the less you wash your hair, the less it needs washing: Frequently shampooing actually makes hair more oily — and when you shampoo less, you “train” your hair to become less oily.
In addition to drying out hair, most commercial hair products contain toxic chemicals that operate as endocrine disruptors including sodium lauryl sulfate, phthalates used for fragrance, and methylisothiazolinone (MIT) and parabens, used as preservatives.
Neither bath soap nor shampoo should be synthetically scented because a pleasant aroma is not worth exposure to these chemicals. A slight hint of lavender or citrus derived from essential oils is safe but, if you’re unsure, look for hair products whose labels say "fragrance free."
Have You Heard of the 'No-'Poo' Movement?
In reaction to excessive harsh shampooing, a "no-'poo" movement has developed that advocates abstaining from shampoo altogether in favor of baking soda, vinegar or even applying conditioner to use as a "shampoo."
If you're thinking of switching over to baking soda and vinegar, be aware, though, that many people say their hair initially felt grimy and unclean before it ultimately got better.
Though we have all heard the instructions "lather, rinse, repeat" for decades, almost no experts actually recommend a second shampooing. Sometimes "lather, rinse, repeat" is necessary in a salon after chemical treatments, say experts, but is seldom necessary in the everyday world.6
Applying conditioner after you shampoo is more important on your hair's ends than your scalp because the ends are much farther away from your scalp's oil and will be drier.
Dr. Karyn Grossman, a dermatologist in Beverly Hills, California, recommends slapping "conditioner on the ends of your hair — generally, more for thick hair and less for thinner strands — to let it sink in."7 She told Greatist:8
"The warm, wet environment works magic: Follicles open up, letting the conditioner sink in extra deep and making it more effective than if you had rinsed off immediately … Wait until the end of your shower, and then use a comb to detangle hair."
Like shampooing, both men and women often like to shave in the shower because it is convenient and skin is softened. Turnbull suggests:9
"If you shave in the shower, always keep a clean razor on hand. Dry it out between uses. Consider investing in a good shaving mirror if you shave your face and/or a shower bench if you shave your legs. These can make the process of shaving in the shower infinitely easier and even safer."
Water Is a Precious Resource To Be Conserved
With droughts occurring in many parts of the U.S. and world, we can’t act like water is an unlimited resource. A 10-minute shower can use up to 50 gallons of water — about 5 gallons are used a minute. For this reason, experts suggest turning the water off while you are shaving — especially since most people want to take their time and be careful with a blade, which could expend a lot of unnecessary water.
A lot of water is also misused in waiting for the shower to reach its desired warm temperature. That is why some conscientious people place 5-gallon buckets under their shower head while the water is warming to use later for watering plants, rinsing clothing or even flushing the toilet.10
Speaking of the toilet, some people urinate in the shower, which is not as unsanitary as it sounds since urine is sterile unless there is infection present.11 While some may find the idea of relieving themselves in the shower unpleasant, it is a habit that does conserve water because 27 percent of the water used in American homes comes from toilet flushing.12
Even the humidity and warmth in the bathroom after taking a shower can be conserved by keeping the door and windows closed. This will soften your skin and let moisture sink in while you are dressing and grooming, say experts.
But there is one caution when it comes to humidity: It can degrade the potency and composition of any medicines you have stored there (and, if left overly humid, the moisture could contribute to mold growth). Increasingly, pharmacists tell people to keep their medicines anywhere but in the bathroom!
- What Is Berberine?
- Natural Sources of Berberine
- Berberine Provides a Wide Range of Health Benefits
- Studies Support the Benefits of Berberine for Metabolic Syndrome, Inflammation and Cancer
- Possible Side Effects That You May Experience When Taking Berberine
- Other Ways to Optimize Your Metabolism and Mitochondrial Health
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Berberine
Berberine has long been used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines to help fight off bacteria, viruses and other harmful microorganisms. Its extracts and decoctions were even consumed to help relieve gastrointestinal problems, such as bacterial diarrhea, intestinal parasites and ocular trachoma infections.1
However, recent studies show that there's actually more to berberine than its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, its potential health benefits make it one of the most powerful supplements today.
Berberine is a bitter-tasting, yellow-colored alkaloid compound that can be extracted from several medicinal herbs and plants.2
Initially known for its potent antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, berberine also plays an essential role in numerous physiological processes in the body, since it's one of the few chemicals that can activate adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK).3,4
To give you a background, AMPK, which is also known as the "metabolic master switch,"5 is an enzyme that controls how energy is produced in your body and how it's used by the cells. By activating this enzyme, berberine helps regulate the biological activities that normalize lipid, glucose and energy imbalances.6,7
The positive effects of berberine to your overall health are relatively similar to the effects of proper diet, exercise and weight loss. While I don't recommend replacing healthy lifestyle and dietary habits with this supplement, its potential health benefits can make it a worthy addition to your routine.
There are different types of berberine supplements on the market today, with the most common one being berberine hydrochloride (HCL). Its other formulations include berberine sulfate, berberine citrate and berberine phosphate.8 Your body can absorb and use berberine faster than it can be measured by a blood test. It can also form complexes with other compounds.9
As mentioned above, berberine is a naturally occurring compound found in several medicinal plants and herbs. It's usually extracted from the roots, barks, leaves and rhizomes of any of the following plants:10,11,12
- Oregon grape
- European barberry
- Chinese goldthread
- Phellodendron (also known as cork tree)
- Tree turmeric
- Tinospora cordifolia (also known as Guduchi)
- Prickly poppy
- Californian poppy
- Yerba mansa
The ability to activate the AMPK is, perhaps, the most valuable benefit of berberine, since this leads to better metabolism and mitochondrial health, which in turn helps support other physiological processes in the body.13 Along with its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, berberine may provide the following health benefits:
- Helps control Type 2 diabetes — Berberine may be useful for the management Type 2 diabetes, as it helps improve insulin sensitivity, reduce the production of glucose in the liver, promote healthy lipid metabolism and stimulate the absorption of glucose in the cells.14
- Aids in weight loss — Studies show that berberine may help reduce body weight by improving the function of fat-regulating hormones like insulin and leptin.15 It also helps inhibit the growth of fat cells and improve the activity of brown fat, which converts fats into energy.16
- Helps improve heart health — Berberine may help improve heart health by reducing your risk for diabetes and obesity, which are some of the biggest risk factors for heart disease.17
- Helps ease depression and anxiety — Studies have shown that berberine may help alleviate depression and anxiety, since it increases the levels of serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain.18,19 Read more about this topic in this article, "Berberine May Ease Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression — And Much More."
- Aids in the management of cancer — Studies show that berberine may help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer from worsening by inhibiting tumor growth and cell proliferation.20,21
- Helps strengthen the immune system — Berberine may help improve immune function by maintaining healthy gut flora, providing antioxidant properties and activating white blood cells, which are responsible for inhibiting infections.22
- Helps control non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) — Research suggests that berberine may be a useful supplement for people with NAFLD, as it helps decrease fat buildup in the liver and regulate hepatic lipid metabolism.23
Some of the other uses for berberine include burns, glaucoma, hepatitis, menopausal symptoms, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and osteoporosis, among others. However, further studies are still needed to confirm its benefits for these conditions.24
According to the Natural Medicine Journal, berberine may be considered for three general conditions: metabolic syndrome, inflammation and cancer. The positive effects of berberine for these conditions are also backed by a number of scientific studies, most of which were conducted in recent years.25
For instance, a pilot study done in 2008 compared the efficiency and safety of berberine for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes to that of metformin, a common diabetes drug. Results show that berberine works just as well as metformin when it comes to controlling blood sugar levels. What makes it even better is that it does not cause any life-threatening side effects unlike most diabetic medications.26
Another study published in the Journal of Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders also confirms the positive effects of berberine on metabolic syndrome and insulin sensitivity. According to this study, taking 500 milligrams of berberine daily for a span of three months helped lower systolic blood pressure levels, decrease waistline in females and increase insulin sensitivity.27
Meanwhile, the anti-inflammatory properties of berberine have also been evaluated in several studies. A study published in the Journal of Rhinology states that berberine may help reduce inflammation caused by allergic rhinitis.28 It may also help treat gastrointestinal inflammatory diseases, according to another research published in the American Journal of Physiology.29
The cancer-fighting properties of berberine are also supported by scientific evidence. For example, a study conducted in 2009 found that berberine may help control cancer, as it helps stop the growth of tumor and the spread of cancer cells.30
Berberine has a remarkable safety profile, and according to a study published in the American Journal of Physiology, it does not exhibit toxicity in the cells. Keep in mind, though, that it may still cause a few side effects if taken incorrectly. Some of the side effects that are commonly associated with this supplement include:31
Berberine is possibly unsafe for pregnant and breastfeeding women, since it can be transferred to the infant through breastmilk or by crossing the placenta. Newborn infants who were exposed to berberine are reported to develop kernicterus, a rare type of brain damage.
Berberine may also interact with other medications. For instance, it inhibits the CYP3A enzymes, which are necessary for metabolizing many drugs. This lowers your body's ability to break down certain types of medications, enhancing their effects and putting you at risk of an overdose.
It also hinders the absorption of tetracycline and other antibiotics, and augments the effect of oral hypoglycemic drugs. That said, make sure that you consult your doctor before taking this supplement along with other medications.32,33 It's also worth noting that berberine is a potent alkaloid, so I suggest that you cycle its intake.
Taking berberine is not enough to improve your overall health — you need to put in some effort too. In order to maximize the positive effects of this supplement, it's best to pair it with these healthy lifestyle and dietary habits:
• Follow a ketogenic diet — The ketogenic diet is centered on eating high-fat, low-carb and moderate-protein meals to reach the state of nutritional ketosis, wherein your body burns fat for fuel instead of glucose.
One of the many health benefits of this dietary approach is improved metabolic and mitochondrial function, since it decreases the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and secondary free radicals in your body, which are the primary causes of damaged cells and mitochondrial DNA.
• Exercise regularly — Regular exercise not only promotes the production of new mitochondria, but it also stimulates mitophagy, which is the process of removing damaged mitochondria from the cells to maintain proper cellular function.
• Boost your nutrient levels — Aside from berberine, there are other nutrients that may help support proper mitochondrial function, including ubiquinol, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins. You can increase the levels of these nutrients in your body by eating nutritious foods or taking supplements.
• Avoid eating before bedtime — Eating less than 3-4 hours before bedtime causes your body to produce higher amounts of free radicals, which may damage your mitochondrial DNA, accelerate aging and cause chronic diseases.
• Avoid environmental toxins — The best way to reduce your exposure to toxins is by avoiding artificial products and nonorganic foods, as they contain chemicals that may harm your health. As much as possible, eat only organic produce and free-range animals. You should also use natural cleaning products in your house and avoid materials that are made from plastic.
Q: What does berberine do?
A: Berberine is one of the few compounds that can activate AMPK, therefore improving your metabolic and mitochondrial function.34,35 This leads to a cascade of health benefits, such as improved insulin sensitivity, better lipid metabolism and lower cholesterol levels. Because of these, studies suggest that berberine may be used for managing diabetes,36 lowering the risk for heart disease37 and reducing body weight.38
Berberine is also good for alleviating gastrointestinal issues, as it helps fight off bacteria, protozoa and fungi, with its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. You can even use it topically on wounds to help inhibit infections.39
Q: Where can I buy berberine?
A: You can buy berberine from drugstores or health shops. However, research shows that some berberine supplements on the market are not as effective as they claim, so make sure that you get one from a trusted organic brand to guarantee its efficiency.40
Q: What is berberine HCL?
A: Berberine HCL is the most common formulation of berberine supplement. Some of the other forms include berberine citrate, berberine sulfate and berberine phosphate.41
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has hailed water fluoridation as one of the top 10 public health achievements of the 20th century. Beginning in 1945, it was claimed that adding fluoride to drinking water was a safe and effective way to improve people's dental health. Over the decades, many bought into this hook, line and sinker, despite all the evidence to the contrary. The featured film, "Our Daily Dose," reviews some of this evidence. As noted in the film's synopsis:
"Filmmaker Jeremy Seifert lays out the dangers of water fluoridation informatively and creatively, highlighting the most current research and interviewing top-tier doctors, activists, and attorneys close to the issue. Through thoughtful examination of old beliefs and new science, the film alerts us to the health threat present in the water and beverages we rely on every day."
Share This Film With Those Still Sitting On the Fence on Fluoride!
The film may not offer many brand new revelations to those of you who are already well-informed about the history and documented hazards of fluoride.
It was primarily created as an educational vehicle aimed at those who may not be aware of these issues, or who might not yet be entirely convinced that drinking fluoride isn't a good thing. So PLEASE, share this video with all of your friends and family who are on the fence on this issue, and ask them to watch it. It's only 20 minutes long, but it packs a lot of compelling details into those 20 minutes.
Understanding how fluoride affects your body and brain is particularly important for parents with young children, and pregnant women. It's really crucial to know that you should NEVER mix infant formula with fluoridated tap water for example, as this may overexpose your child to 100 times the proposed "safe" level of fluoride exposure for infants!
If your child suffers with ADD/ADHD, drinking fluoridated water may also worsen his or her condition. Ditto for those with underfunctioning thyroid. So please, do share this video with your social networks, as it could make a big difference in people's health.
Fluoride Is Both an Endocrine Disruptor and a Neurotoxin
Scientific investigations have revealed that fluoride is an endocrine-disrupting chemical,1 and a developmental neurotoxin that impacts short-term and working memory, and lowers IQ in children.2 It has been implicated as a contributing factor in the rising rates of both attention-deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD)3,4 and thyroid disease.
Indeed, fluoride was used in Europe to reduce thyroid activity in hyperthyroid patients as late as the 1970s, and reduced thyroid function is associated with fluoride intakes as low as 0.05 to 0.1 mg fluoride per kilogram body weight per day (mg/kg/day).5
For Over 50 Years, Fluoride Levels Were Too High, Government Admits
Children are particularly at risk for adverse effects of overexposure, and in April 2015, the US government admitted that the "optimal" level of fluoride recommended since 1962 had in fact been too high. As a result, over 40 percent of American teens show signs of fluoride overexposure6 — a condition known as dental fluorosis. In some areas, dental fluorosis rates are as high as 70 to 80 percent, with some children suffering from advanced forms.
So, for the first time, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) lowered its recommended level of fluoride in drinking water7,8,9 by 40 percent, from an upper limit of 1.2 milligrams per liter (mg/L) to 0.7 mg/L. The HHS said it will evaluate dental fluorosis rates among children in 10 years to assess whether they were correct about this new level being protective against dental fluorosis. But just what is the acceptable level of harm in the name of cavity prevention?
A number of studies10,11,12,13 have shown that children with moderate to severe dental fluorosis score worse on tests measuring cognitive skills and IQ than peers without fluorosis — a clear revelation highlighted in the film, as some still insist that dental fluorosis is nothing more than a cosmetic issue.
The Price We Pay for Cavity Prevention
According to the film, the CDC estimates water fluoridation decreases dental decay by, at most, 25 percent. Recent research14,15 however, suggests the real effect may be far lower. Based on the findings of three papers assessing the effectiveness of fluoridation on tooth decay, the researchers concluded that water fluoridation does not reduce cavities to a statistically significant degree in permanent teeth.
If that's the case, then why are we still jeopardizing our children's long-term thyroid and brain health by adding fluoride to drinking water?
Fluoride — like many other poisons — was originally declared safe based on dosage, but we now know that timing of exposure can play a big role in its effects as well. Children who are fed infant formula mixed with fluoridated water receive very high doses, and may be affected for life as a result of this early exposure.
Fluoride can also cross the placenta, causing developing fetuses to be exposed to fluoride. Considering the fact that fluoride has endocrine-disrupting activity, this is hardly a situation amenable to the good health of that child. It's important to realize that fluoride is not a nutrient. It's a drug, and it's the ONLY drug that is purposely added directly into drinking water.
This route of delivery completely bypasses standard rules relating to informed consent, which is foundational for ethical medical practice. What's worse, there's no way to keep track of the dosage. And no one is keeping track of side effects.
Infants Are Severely and Routinely Overdosed on Fluoride
According to the recent Iowa Study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the CDC, infants and young children are being massively overdosed on fluoride. This study, which is the largest U.S. study conducted measuring the amount of fluoride children ingest, concluded that:
- 100 percent of infants receiving infant formula mixed with fluoridated tap water get more than the allegedly safe dose of fluoride. Some formula-fed infants receive 100 times the safe level on a daily basis
- 30 percent of 1-year-olds exceed the recommended safe dose
- 47 percent of 2- to 3-year-olds exceed the safe dose
Most Water Authorities Use Toxic Waste Product, Not Pharmaceutical Grade Fluoride
As stated, fluoride is a drug, and research into the health effects of fluoride are based on pharmaceutical grade fluoride. However, a majority of water authorities do not even use pharmaceutical grade fluoride; they use hydrofluosilicic acid, or hexafluorosilicic acid — toxic waste products of the phosphate fertilizer industry, which are frequently contaminated with heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury, cadmium, lead and other toxins.
This is a key point that many fluoride proponents fail to address when arguing for its use. Indeed, holding elected officials accountable for procuring proof that the specific fluoridation chemical used actually fulfills fluoride's health and safety claims and complies with all regulations, laws and risk assessments required for safe drinking water, has been a successful strategy for halting water fluoridation in a number of areas around the U.S.
While the idea of hiding toxic industrial waste in drinking water would sound like a questionable idea at best to most people, it was welcomed by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In a 1983 letter, Rebecca Hanmer, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Water, wrote:
"... In regard to the use of fluosilicic acid as a source of fluoride for fluoridation, this Agency regards such use as an ideal environmental solution to a long-standing problem. By recovering by-product fluosilicic acid from fertilizer manufacturing, water and air pollution are minimized, and water utilities have a low-cost source of fluoride available to them..."
Data and Science Do Not Support Water Fluoridation
Ninety-seven percent of Western European countries do not fluoridate their water, and data collected by the World Health Organization (WHO) show that non-fluoridating countries have seen the exact same reduction in dental cavities as the U.S.,16 where a majority of water is still fluoridated. If fluoride were in fact the cause of this decline, non-fluoridating countries should not show the same trend.
Clearly, declining rates of dental decay are not in and of themselves proof that water fluoridation actually works. It's also worth noting that well over 99 percent of the fluoride added to drinking water never even touches a tooth; it simply runs down the drain, contaminating and polluting the environment.
Ending Fluoridation Will Be the Greatest Public Health Achievement of the 21st Century
Despite the fact that the scientific evidence does not support fluoridation, those who question or openly oppose it are typically demonized and written off as crazy conspiracy theorists. Many fluoride supporters claim the science of fluoridation was "settled" some 50 years ago — effectively dismissing all the revelations produced by modern science!
To defend their position, they rely on outdated science, because that's all they have. You'd be extremely hard-pressed to find modern research supporting water fluoridation.
Indeed, as noted in the film, ending water fluoridation will be one of the greatest public health achievements of the 21st Century, and I for one will not stop until that happens. To learn more about why water fluoridation runs counter to good science, common sense and the public good, please see the following video, which recounts 10 important fluoride facts.
The Best Cavity Prevention Is Your Diet
The best way to prevent cavities is not through fluoride, but by addressing your diet. One of the keys to oral health is eating a traditional diet or real foods, rich in fresh, unprocessed vegetables, nuts and grass fed meats. By avoiding sugars and processed foods, you prevent the proliferation of the bacteria that cause decay in the first place.
According to Dr. Francesco Branca, Director of WHO's Department of Nutrition for Health and Development:18 "We have solid evidence that keeping intake of free sugars to less than 10 percent of total energy intake reduces the risk of overweight, obesity and tooth decay."
Other natural strategies that can significantly improve your dental health are eating plenty of fermented vegetables, and doing oil pulling with coconut oil. Also make sure you're getting plenty of high-quality animal-based omega-3 fats, as research suggests even moderate amounts of omega-3 fats may help ward off gum disease. My favorite source is krill oil.
- Prepare Before Planting a Garden or Container of Green Beans
- Growing Green Beans Indoors
- The Determinacy of Green Bean Seeds Predicts Your Harvest
- Types of Green Beans that Grows in Garden
- Naturally Take Care of Pests and Disease
- Harvesting, Cleaning and Storing Green Beans
- Green Beans Health Benefits
- How to Cook Green Beans
Enjoy the health benefits of green beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) all year-round when you discover how to grow green beans in your garden, containers and even indoors. Green beans were originally grown in Central and South America.1 The vegetable was introduced to the Mediterranean region and cultivated around Italy, Greece and Turkey by the 17th century.
Today, backyard farmers grow green beans around the world as they are easy to grow and you may enjoy a large harvest from a limited space. Green beans come in varieties that may need support (pole beans), or may grow on their own without support (bush beans).
Although growing green beans in your own vegetable garden may seem challenging, as long as you provide some of the basic requirements, you'll be reaping a bountiful reward whether your beans are planted indoors or out.
Those rewards also extend to the health benefits of green beans, which include being high in fiber, low in calories and having repeatedly demonstrated the ability to lower your risk of chronic illness.2
Green beans are annual plants so you'll be planting new green beans each year. The plants enjoy a slightly acidic pH, near 6.0 to 6.2, and moderately rich soil. Prepare your soil before planting green beans seeds by adding organic compost. The seeds may be sown directly outside after the danger of frost is gone.3
Plant the seeds about an inch deep and water immediately. Keep the soil moist by watering regularly. The most important factor for a good harvest is ensuring the soil is warm, as cool, damp soil will rot the plants.4
Sow the seeds for pole beans close together and then thin to about 6 to 10 inches apart after germination. Bush beans may be thinned to 3 to 6 inches apart after germination. Both may be started indoors before the last frost; transplant 3-inch seedlings to your garden or container after the threat of frost has passed.5
If you choose container gardening, the green beans will need at least an 8-inch pot. However, for best results, the container should be 12 inches or larger. The larger the container, the less they will need to be watered. However, the container should have good drainage soil and about an inch of gravel at the bottom to encourage drainage and reduce the potential for root rot.6
Green beans enjoy full sun, so whether in the garden or in a container, they should be placed where they'll receive at least eight hours of direct sunlight each day. Bush beans planted in containers need more space around them than pole varieties for airflow and to reduce the potential for fungal growth.
On the other hand, pole beans require more vertical space and a stake or trellis to support their growth.7 Once the seedlings are 3 inches or taller, add mulch around the plants to retain moisture and discourage weeds.
Green beans are not heavy feeders. When grown in garden soil an initial addition of compost and a side dressing of organic fertilizer midway through the growing season is usually enough to produce a hearty harvest of beans. In containers, the vegetables may benefit from monthly organic fertilizer.8
You may also consider growing green beans indoors, especially if you enjoy the flavorful addition to your recipes all year long. As it is a relatively quick growing plant and quite pretty, it can make a visually appealing addition to your windows.
When growing indoors, the seeds may be planted any time of the year. However, it is helpful to remember the plants continue to have certain environmental requirements, such as plenty of sunlight. Alternatively, consider using grow lights if you don't have a window receiving at least six hours of direct sunlight each day.9
The plants are warm weather plants and enjoy a spot where the temperature will be at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit (F) and up to 85 degrees F. However, excessive heat and humidity may trigger a variety of problems.10 Since they are an annual plant, you'll get the same number of harvests grown indoors as you would outside.
Fill your containers with the same type of soil as you would have used outdoors — enriched with compost, well-draining, with a pH of 6 to 6.2. Avoid using soil rich in nitrogen. When the seedlings begin to appear and are 3 inches tall, add mulch to retain moisture.
As with outdoor containers, a light feeding of organic fertilizer once a month may help your harvest. Whether grown indoors or out, most varieties will be fully grown and ready to begin harvesting within 50 to 60 days.11
As you begin to choose your green bean varieties, it's helpful to remember your harvest will be determined on whether your plant is determinate or indeterminate. These are botanical terms identifying basic growth patterns. In general terms, bush beans tend to be determinant, while pole beans tend to be indeterminate.12
Indeterminate plants grow and produce until the first frost hits and kills the plant. Indeterminate growth also refers to sequential flowering on a plant, on which the production of beans relies. In your vegetable garden, the most common plants having determinate or indeterminate seeds are tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, beans and strawberries.
For the most part, your seed packets will be identified as determinate or indeterminate. In either case, by consistently harvesting your beans as they mature, you'll increase production. Usually, the first crop will be the largest and the subsequent crops will come in at a reduced number.13
Gardeners who like to harvest green beans all summer long may prefer to use indeterminate plants. On the other hand, by stagger planting your green beans you'll get similar results with larger harvests.14
Some crops may also be semi-determinate, which means they'll stop producing but may be coaxed into a second round of production by regularly harvesting the beans as they're produced.
Pay close attention to the type of seeds you plant as it affects the type of pruning you may consider. As shared by the Daily Garden,15 indeterminate plants may be pruned of unwanted shoots, which then directs nutrients to the area of the plant you'd like it to go. On the other hand, determinate plants will perform better if they're not pruned excessively.
There are slight variations in the shape and size of green bean varieties and they are called different names depending upon the geographical region, such as fine beans, snap beans, string beans or French beans. However, despite the varying names they are all green beans.
Throughout the world there are approximately 150 varieties in all shapes and colors, but despite the differences in appearance, the health benefits are similar. As such, most green beans are more or less interchangeable in any recipe you find. The variations may come in the time it takes to cook or the texture. According to The Spruce, some of the more common varieties include:16
Green beans, string beans or snap beans — These are long, rounded and green. Heirloom varieties may have a fibrous string running down their sides, but since this has proved inconvenient for most cooks, it has been bred out of varieties sold in the grocery store. Kentucky Wonder is an old pole variety with good taste and Bountiful produces stringless heirloom bush beans.17
Wax beans — These are identical to green beans except they're yellow. Since this is the only difference, use wax beans in your recipes in much the same way you would use green beans. The Golden Wax Bean is a soft textured, yellow bush bean.18
Haricot vert — Also known as French green beans or filet beans. Although these look nearly identical to green beans, they're usually very thin, slightly more tender and higher priced at the grocery store. Many consider them to have a better flavor than regular green beans. Triomphe de Farcy is an heirloom haricot vert bush bean.19
Long beans — These are sometimes called yard-long beans and are from a different family than green beans. They're similar in flavor and look, but are extraordinarily long. They may grow over 24 inches, but for those with the best flavor and texture, look for long beans less than 18 inches.
Purple string beans — These are simply a purple variety of a classic green bean or wax bean. However, while they have a unique color, it's lost during cooking. Consider lightly steaming them with an immediate ice bath to preserve as much color as possible. Royal Burgundy is an early producing bush bean.20
Romano beans — Also called Italian green beans or flat beans, these are wide and need a little more cooking than other pole beans. The smaller ones are tender, while larger ones have more beans.
Insects and four-footed animals enjoy beans as much as you do. Deer and groundhogs may eat the entire plant so it is necessary to use fencing to deter them.
By giving the plants plenty of air circulation and keeping the ground moist but not soggy, you may help prevent fungal diseases thriving in damp conditions. Some of the more common pests described by Clemson Cooperative Extension, include:21
• Aphids — These soft-bodied insects are usually green but may appear to be yellow, brown or black. Although aphids are most prevalent during cool dry weather, they may appear at any time during the summer. Heavy populations may stunt your plant growth and treatment should be started anytime you find them on your plant.
You may control aphid populations by taking advantage of their weakness.22 Beneficial bugs, such as lacewings and ladybugs, may be attracted to the garden by planting fennel, mint and dill nearby. A strong spray of water may dislodge a light infestation, or spraying the plants with a solution of several drops of dish soap and water.23
• Thrips — These small insects measure one-eighth inch or shorter. They commonly feed on beans and peas and may negatively affect your harvest when they're present on early bloom flowers. As thrips affect pollination, if you have three or more thrips for every flower it may result in defectively shaped pods.
Prune your plants to get rid of any injured area of the plant.24 Garlic is a powerful way to remove these insects. Blend two cloves in 2 cups of water. Cover and let it rest for 24 hours and then filter with cheesecloth. Put two drops of the liquid in 12 cups of water and spray your plants.
• Mexican bean beetle — This beetle is up to one-third inch long and yellow to brown in color. The wings have eight small black spots. After feeding for one to two weeks the female deposits yellow eggs on the underside of the leaves, which hatch up to two weeks later. Both adults and larvae feed on the undersides of the leaves.
Natural predators include several species of tiny parasitic wasps. Hand pick the adults and larvae, and squash egg clusters off with your fingers. Interplant companion plants between beans using petunias or potatoes to deter the beetle.25
• Spider mites — These are tiny eight-legged creatures more closely related to spiders than insects. They appear on the underside of the leaves and a light infestation shows up as whitish stippling. A heavy infestation turns the leaves yellow or bronze. You'll find the underside of the leaves covered with silk and webs.
A strong spray from your garden hose may be enough to knock off a light infestation. The plants may be sprayed with a mixture of 3 tablespoons of dish soap to a gallon of water.26
• Slugs — Slugs eat any part of your plant touching the damp ground, which means they may cause more damage to your bush beans than your pole variety.27 Fortunately, there are a number of organic home remedies you may use to get rid of slugs.
One of the more popular is a beer trap. Bury half a cup in the soil near your plants and fill it halfway with beer. The slugs will be tempted by the smell and drown in the beer.
Harvesting is an ongoing adventure in your garden and the more you pick, the more beans the plant will likely set. Most varieties are ready for harvest between 50 and 60 days.28 Your green bean pods may be ready to harvest once they reach a length of 4 to 7 inches in diameter and are a little fatter than a pencil.
Some gardeners prefer determining the time of harvest based on the texture of the green bean and not the size. They should be firm, crisp and show no visible signs of bulging in the bean.29
However, since the plants continue to produce beans, it's important you take care not to damage the plant as you're harvesting. Use two hands to pick them and keep from ripping the vine as you use a twist and snap motion to remove the bean.
Once harvested, your green beans may be stored on the kitchen counter with the stems on. Once you remove the stems, they must be moved to the refrigerator. The stems usually snap easily and you may also be able to remove any fibrous strip running along the length of the pod at the same time.30
Your green beans may also be stored in the freezer for up to a year. Prior to freezing, add them to boiling water for two minutes and then directly into an ice bath. This blanching process helps the beans retain their bright green color. Place them in an airtight container prior to freezing.
Green beans may also be canned to preserve them over the winter. Only can fresh beans to ensure a better tasting bean later. Green beans need to be pressure canned since they are a low acidic food and pressure canning reduces the risk of botulism. Take care while using a pressure canner as they may be dangerous if not handled properly.31 Fermenting your green beans is another excellent and tasty choice that will make them last longer.
Green beans are a rich source of vitamins A, C, K and manganese, fiber and folate. The combination of these nutrients make green beans helpful in the reduction of heart disease and colon cancer.32 The boost to your immune system helps reduce your risk of colds, and the nutrients contribute to helping you control diabetes.33
Fiber helps to regulate your digestive process and the nutrients also provide benefits to your eyes and bones. Folate present in green beans is important during pregnancy as it helps to prevent birth defects and is needed for the healthy growth and development of the infant. Read more about green bean food facts in my previous article "What Are Green Beans Good For?"
Green beans have graced tables around the world for decades. Especially popular during the holiday seasons, green beans are available year-round and are a wonderful fresh treat straight from your garden. Green beans contain natural toxins produced by the plant to defend against predators or threats, such as bacteria or fungi.34
However, the type of toxin is different from other beans and not as dangerous, especially in small amounts in your salad or as a quick snack.35 Most green bean recipes start out with cleaning and preparing the beans for cooking. What's Cooking America offers these ideas on washing and preparing your beans:
First, wash them thoroughly with clear, cool water to rid them of any dirt or garden debris. And then rinse again. Break off both ends as you wash them and then either leave them whole or cut them into your desired length.36 They can be cut crosswise, diagonally or French cut.
You'll get the sweetest-tasting crisp beans when you cut them as little as possible. Beans can be boiled, steamed or sautéed. Cooking as little as possible in the smallest amount of water is the best way to preserve nutrients.
Some green bean recipes call for blanching the beans, where they are first added to boiling water for a few seconds to one minute and then immediately removed and placed in an ice bath. This sets the color and keeps the texture. Green beans can also be steamed using a steamer basket that keeps your green beans over boiling water, but not in it.37
Green beans may also be sautéed by first boiling or steaming for one to two minutes, tossed with coconut oil or avocado oil and garlic powder and then added to a skillet over medium heat for several minutes. Salt and pepper the beans to taste and enjoy!
Something about figs feels rich and decadent. The fruit has deep colors, a distinctive shape and a gentle scent. Throughout history the fig tree has become a symbol of peace and prosperity. The fig is from the genus Ficus and the mulberry family (Moraceae).1
The common fig (Ficus carica) is believed to be indigenous to an area from Turkey to Northern India. It grows from 3 feet to 39 feet high with broad deciduous leaves that are deeply lobed.2 The tree bears fruit in singles or pairs. There are four horticultural types of fig: Smyrna, Caprifig, San Pedro and common.
The tree has a shallow but spreading root system that can penetrate up to 20 feet in permeable soil. The spreading branches and large leaves offer ample shade. Figs have been used to sweeten desserts and appear in popular holiday dishes.3 The fruit has multiple seeds, soft skin and may be eaten ripe or dried.4
Figs have been called nature's candy as they have a high amount of natural fructose, but they are also a source of fiber and full of vitamins and minerals.5,6,7
The fig is one of the world's oldest trees and may be traced back to early historical documents. It's native to the Middle East and Mediterranean areas. The Greeks valued them so highly they had laws preventing their export from the country.8
Remnants of figs have been found in Neolithic sites traced to 5000 B.C..9 The fig was a principal food in the Greek culture, and the Spartans used it in their public tables.
Pliny the Elder wrote about the many varieties and in Latin mythology the fig was held sacred and employed in religious ceremonies.10 In Mediterranean countries, the fig was used so frequently it was called “the poor man's food.”11
Figs were introduced in England in 1525 and first planted in Mexico in 1560. They were introduced to the U.S. in 1769 during the establishment of the San Diego Mission. Although the Smyrna fig was brought to California in the late 1800s, commercial agriculture was not possible until wasps were introduced in 1900 to pollinate the plants.12
Currently, California produces 98% of the figs consumed in the U.S, while Turkey tops global production.13 In Venezuela, the fig is in great demand by fruit processors. An inadequate supply triggered the launch of a program in 1962 encouraging commercial planting, which had a favorable response. Fresh figs were regarded as a highly desirable luxury.14
Although they have an exotic appearance and sweet rich flavor, they are easy to grow. In colder climate zones below hardiness zone 6,15 they may be successfully grown in containers and sheltered during the winter months. In hardiness zones 6 and above, the trees may be planted directly in the ground and grown as large trees.16
Figs will appreciate a sheltered area on the south or southwest side of your house. If they're grown in containers, you may shelter them on a covered porch or in the garage during the winter. Figs purchased from a nursery should be planted 1 or 2 inches lower than they were growing in the original pot.17
This helps protect their shallow root system and reduces the risk of harming the plant. Fig trees are also easily propagated by taking an 8- to 10-inch wood cutting in the early spring. Place this in a pot of good soil several inches below the surface, with one or two buds above the dirt line.18
Keep the soil moist but well-drained. The tree will root in the pot and should remain in the container for at least one season before transplanting into the ground. Fig trees are dormant in the springtime, which is when they should be transplanted into the ground.
The trees are fairly drought tolerant, but you'll want to water them if the ground gets too dry. Most of the time, the trees do not require fertilization,19 but a side dressing of well-balanced organic fertilizer or compost in the spring may help jump-start leaf development. However, too much fertilizer encourages more leaves and less fruit.20
When grown in the ground, you may wish to train it against the wall or fence. This makes it easier to harvest the fruit and when grown against the home, will protect the branches from the elements. If grown in a container, the plant should not be pruned during the first year.
During the second year, cut each branch by about half to keep the plant manageable in the pot. Ensure any cuts made are above a node in order to encourage the plant’s lateral growth and greater fruit production.21 You may also want to remove an ill-placed branch, and any dead wood.
Fig plants are naturally healthy but there are a few insects and pests that may threaten the health of your plant. The first is the root-knot nematode, more commonly found in parts of the southern U.S.22
The larvae of these pests infect the plant roots and reduce their ability to absorb nutrients from the soil. While an infected plant may be pruned to balance the weak system, it will eventually die as there is no treatment.
Rust is a fungus, showing up on the underside of leaves and is usually not fatal.23 There are more than 5,000 known species of rust. The fungal disease favors four to eight hours of low-intensity light, warm temperatures and moisture.
By planting in full sun and allowing the leaves to dry, you'll go a long way toward reducing the potential your plant will get infected. Pick off and destroy any infected leaves falling from the plant and never use them in compost.24
The biggest challenge to a successful harvest will be picking the fruit before the squirrels and the birds get to them. Some gardeners find covering smaller trees with netting may dissuade wildlife.25 While this might be practical with container plants and smaller trees, it is impractical with large trees. You'll have the most success being diligent watching for ripe fruit and harvesting immediately.
Under the right conditions, some species produce two crops in one year.26 The first ripens in late May or early June and the second is ready in late September to early November. The first crop is often a smaller harvest and the second season of fruit has thicker skins but a greater concentration of sweetness.27
The fruit will be ready to harvest when the narrow area where the fruit connects to the plant begins to shrivel and the fruit begins to droop.28 The fruit will be soft to the touch and the skin may begin to split. Most varieties of fig will darken just before it's time to harvest.29
If you pick the fruit and find a milky liquid substance draining from the stem, the fruit has not quite ripened. Wait a couple of days before trying to harvest again. Be aware, this milky substance may irritate your skin, so it is helpful to wear gloves while harvesting.30
Once off the plant, figs do not continue to ripen. They also have a short shelf life and will last in the refrigerator for only two to three days. Many find drying figs helps extend their life and makes them tasty. Before drying, the figs should be washed thoroughly and dried with a towel.
You may cut them in half or leave them whole on a wire rack across a baking sheet in a 140 degrees Fahrenheit oven for eight to 24 hours. You know they're done when the outside becomes leathery and you don't see any juices on the inside.31 However, they should still be slightly pliable. Dried fruit will last in the refrigerator or freezer in an airtight container for 18 to 24 months.
There are over 700 varieties of named fig trees, but some are synonyms. Those in the Caprifigs, Smyrna and San Pedro types are not usually grown by home gardeners as they have complex pollination requirements to bear fruit.
However, the common fig (Ficus carica) is parthenocarpic, meaning it bears fruit without fertilization. Fig varieties requiring pollination have an opening to allow pollinating wasps to enter the flowers. Since common figs don't have an opening, they are also less susceptible to insect and water damage. Some of the common figs performing well at home include:
• Celeste — This is a small to medium-sized fig growing on a large tree.32 The fruit ripens earlier than most and is more commonly used as a dessert fig as it is sweeter. The pulp of the fruit is white pink and the fruit is almost seedless. While it produces a heavy crop, it happens over a short period of time,33 and it will only produce one crop per season.34
• Alma — This variety was developed by the Agricultural Experiment Service of Texas A&M University.35 It's a cross between two Caprifigs and was introduced in 1975. The fruit has excellent flavor and ripens late in the season.
It is highly productive and starts bearing fruit early but is less cold-hardy than some. It does well in Texas coastal areas, and while most figs do not require pruning, this variety requires some to produce a good crop.
• Brown turkey — This tree produces a large crop of figs over a long season. The fruit is smaller and not quite as rich as Celeste, but it often produces a second crop.36 The fruit has few seeds and the main crop begins in mid-July while the earlier crop is smaller. It's adapted to warmer climates and is often found on the islands of Hawaii.37
• Purple Genca — This tree is also known as Black Genoa or Black Spanish and produces large deep purple colored fruit with red flesh. The fruit is oblong, broader at the apex and narrower at the base, with a juicy, sweet, rich flavor.38
While dried figs are nearly always available, the unique taste and texture of fresh figs is an experience you won't soon forget. One medium sized fig is approximately 37 calories and provides 1.5 grams of fiber, in addition to vitamin B6, copper, pantothenic acid and folate.39
Figs are a good source of potassium, which your body uses to control blood pressure and balance the sodium potassium ratio. As you might expect, the nutritional value increases by weight as the fruit is dried. For instance, 100 grams provide 35 mg of calcium when fresh40 but 162 mg of calcium when dry.41
Since the food is high in fiber, it may act as a natural laxative.42 High fiber foods provide a feeling of fullness and the fiber in figs acts as a natural prebiotic to support pre-existing beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Fig leaves may be as important nutritionally as the fruit itself as they have unique health benefits, including an ability to regulate blood sugar. In one study,43 patients given a decoction of fig leaves for one month were able to lower their average insulin dose by 12%.
An animal study evaluating hypertriglyceridemia in rats used an administration of fig leaf decoction. While total cholesterol levels were unaffected, the fig decoction had a clear positive effect on lipid molecule breakdown.44
Another animal study45 evaluated the effects of figs, dates and pomegranates on neuroinflammation. They found daily administration of a supplement containing these three fruits decreased inflammatory cytokines and delayed formation of senile plaques. The researchers concluded the fruit mediated the reduction of cytokines and may be one mechanism that can help protect against neurodegenerative diseases.
Figs are tasty and versatile. Use them within two to three days after picking from the tree or move on to drying them in the oven or dehydrator. The Kitchn46 offers several ways enjoying your figs, including:
Cooked with oatmeal
Roasted with honey
Chopped into a salad
Made into fig chutney
Sliced into a spoonful of creme fraiche
Added to muffins, scones and cookies
Stuffed with cheese and baked, goat and mascarpone
Added to a roast to add a sweet note to the savory sauce
St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) is named after St. John the Baptist, since it's usually in full bloom by June 24, the saint's feast day.1 The plant bears yellow flowers2 with oblong petals3 that have black dots on their edges. It can stand 1 to 3 feet tall, and has multiple reddish stems4 and yellow-green leaves.5 Although primarily found in Europe, St. John's wort can now be found growing in the U.S.,6 China, northern Africa, western7 and eastern Asia, Australia and New Zealand.8
The plant typically blooms during summertime, and can be seen growing in woods, hedges, roadsides, pastures and meadows.9 St. John's wort also bears sticky fruits with three-chambered capsules10 that hold multiple small, black and pepper-like seeds11 with a resinous smell.12
Under certain conditions, St. John's wort may be helpful for your mental health if you're feeling depressed — provided you aren't currently taking prescription antidepressants, as the combination of the two could cause serious increases in your serotonin levels.13
Used alone and under the supervision of your health care provider, the herb contains compounds such as hypericin, hyperforin, flavonoids and flavonoid derivatives, xanthone derivatives, amentoflavone, biapigenin and volatile oils that may help combat depression.14,15
An analysis of 35 studies published in Systematic Reviews in 2016 revealed that St. John's wort assisted in alleviating depression symptoms better than a placebo, and similarly to typical conventional drugs.16
Authors of a 1997 Pharmacopsychiatry animal study discovered that St. John's wort extract may work like antidepressants by helping prevent reuptake of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, and promoting positive effects in mice who were given the substance.17
This herb may also help address mental health problems such as anxiety or seasonal affective disorder (SAD),18 which normally occurs during the winter months because of a lack of sunlight.19 Aside from impacts toward your mental health, St. John's wort may also help:
- Deliver antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capabilities — This herb's flavonoid and phenolic acid content may promote antioxidant abilities.20 It also has anti-inflammatory properties that may be useful in combating depressive disorders21 or joint-related problems.22
- Ease premenstrual syndrome (PMS) — Women experiencing typical PMS symptoms like cramps, irritability, food cravings, breast tenderness and other physical and emotional indicators may benefit from using this herb.23
- Alleviate multiple problems prevalent during menopause24 — In this 1999 Advances in Therapy article, menopausal women who took a St. John's wort tablet three times a day for 12 weeks had substantial improvements in psychological and psychosomatic indicators.25 Another study, which was published in the journal Menopause in 2010, revealed that St. John's wort helped reduce frequency of hot flashes among perimenopausal or postmenopausal women.26
- Provide relief against hemorrhoids — According to the book "Herbal Healing for Women," enlarged and painful hemorrhoids can be targeted by applying a comfrey and St. John's wort poultice, a paste made from fresh or dried herbs wrapped in a cheesecloth, on the area.27
- Lower risk of breast cancer — Study authors of this 2018 International Journal of Molecular Sciences article claimed that St. John's wort extract helped prevent cancer cell growth and promoted cell death or apoptosis.28
- Inhibit alcoholism — In an animal study, rats that were bred specifically to prefer alcohol were given St. John's wort extract orally. The researchers found that the rats given the extract ingested 50% less alcohol than the rats that were not given St. John's wort.29,30
- Address chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) — Results of a 2002 Indian Journal of Experimental Biology animal study noted that St. John's wort herbal products may be beneficial in combating this health problem by restoring the lipid peroxidation and glutathione levels of the test subjects.31
St. John's wort was used to treat wounded soldiers during the Crusades,32 and drive out the "inner devil" in people during Medieval times. However, St. John's wort's history of medicinal use dates back to ancient Greece, where it was believed to possess "magical powers."33 It was also recommended to be used against hallucinations34 by Paracelsus, a Swiss man considered "the father of chemistry and the reformer of material medica" (among many other nicknames).35
The use of St. John's wort is prevalent in some European countries, such as Germany, against mental health issues like depression.36 St. John's wort can be found in other forms such as tinctures, oils or balms that may help promote healing of burns, wounds, insect bites and bruises.37,38 You may also encounter St. John's wort products such as supplements,39 liquids, powders40 and teas.41,42
St. John's wort leaves and flowers can be used to make tea43 that may assist in:44
- Boosting your mood, relieve tension45 and alleviating depression and anxiety
- Providing relief against neuralgia
- Alleviating insomnia
- Lessening physical pain caused by localized nerve pains
- Combating inflammation linked to strains and sprains, such as tennis elbow
- Tackling urinary problems like incontinence and bedwetting in children46
- Alleviating gallbladder issues47
- Addressing menstrual cramps48
- Removing mucus from the lungs, stomach, kidneys and bladder49
Remember that if you have high blood pressure levels, are taking antihypertensive50 or antidepressant medications, or would need to undergo surgery, drinking St. John's wort tea may lead to adverse effects.51 Also, do not take St. John's wort without consulting a health care practitioner if you are on prescription medications of any sort including birth control pills.52
Are you interested in trying St. John's wort oil? Initial research has revealed that it possesses anti-inflammatory capabilities,53 and may help:
- Alleviate wounds and burns — Authors of a 2014 Planta Medica article noted that when used topically, St. John's wort oil or tinctures may help relieve minor wounds and burns, sunburn, abrasions, bruises, contusions, ulcers and myalgia.54 It's also possible to use this oil to help relieve cold sores and viral skin lesions.
- Combat inflammatory skin conditions — If you're diagnosed with either eczema, psoriasis or lupus, carefully and neatly applying St. John's wort oil on the affected area may promote a soothing sensation.55
- Control oily skin — Using infused St. John's wort oil may help you combat naturally oily skin.56
- Relieve muscle and joint pain and inflammation — Rubbing a few drops of St. John's wort oil onto sore muscles may help alleviate discomfort caused by conditions like sciatica, low back pain, neuralgia, arthritis, rheumatic pains,57 tendonitis or nerve pain.58
If you plan on using this oil, consult a physician and take an allergen patch test to check for potential side effects. Dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil like sweet almond, olive, jojoba or coconut, or add it to other oil blends, since it can deliver a warm, balsamic, herbaceous and sweet scent. St. John's wort oil blends well with clary sage, cedar,59 lavender and lemon balm oils.60
No matter what form of St. John's wort you use, remember that it may lead to photosensitivity61 or sun sensitivity.62 If you're using St. John's wort, try to avoid the sun as much as possible, or use sunscreen or wear protective clothing.63 Some of the other side effects linked to St. John's wort include:64,65
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Sexual dysfunction
- Skin reactions
- Stomach upset
- Dry mouth
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels)
As mentioned, St. John's wort has the tendency to interact with multiple drugs, as highlighted by PennState's Milton S. Hershey Medical Center:
- HIV/AIDS drugs such as protease inhibitors and non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors
- Antifungal drugs
- Statins or cholesterol-lowering drugs such as atorvastatin (Lipitor), lovastatin (Mevacor) and simvastatin (Zocor)
- Certain calcium channel blockers
- Any medicine broken down by the liver
If you're taking these drugs, refrain from using St. John's wort with them since it may lead to other health issues. This herb can also reduce the drugs' effectiveness.66
Before using St. John's wort, talk to a physician67 or mental health professional (if you're struggling with a mental health problem) to determine if this will be beneficial for your condition and find out the ideal dosage you may need to take. If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, avoid using any form of St. John's wort,68 since it may cause your baby to develop drowsiness, fussiness or colic.69
Science has proven time after time that food is potent medicine. Broccoli, for example, has a solid scientific foundation showing it’s one of the most valuable health-promoting foods around. While it contains several health-promoting compounds, one of the most widely studied is sulforaphane.
The cancer-fighting properties of sulforaphane are perhaps the most well-known, but it has also been shown to benefit your heart and brain, boosting detoxification1 and helping prevent and/or treat high blood pressure,2 heart disease, Alzheimer’s3 and even autism.4,5,6 Now, researchers report sulforaphane may also be helpful in the treatment of schizophrenia.7,8,9
Sulforaphane May Improve Cognition in Patients With Schizophrenia
An initial study,10 published in Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience in 2015, involved just 10 outpatients with schizophrenia. Patients were given 30 milligrams (mg) of sulforaphane glucosinolate per day for eight weeks. As reported by the authors:
“Clinical symptoms using the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS) and cognitive function using the Japanese version of CogState battery were evaluated at the beginning of the study and at week 8.
A total of 7 patients completed the trial. The mean score in the Accuracy component of the One Card Learning Task increased significantly after the trial … This result suggests that SFN [sulforaphane] has the potential to improve cognitive function in patients with schizophrenia.”
Schizophrenia Linked to Chemical Imbalances in the Brain
More recently, a series of three animal and human studies11 by researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine suggest sulforaphane may also benefit patients with schizophrenia by helping to rebalance the glutamate levels in their brain. As reported by Neuroscience News:12
“Schizophrenia is marked by hallucinations, delusions and disordered thinking, feeling, behavior, perception and speaking. Drugs used to treat schizophrenia don’t work completely for everyone, and they can cause a variety of undesirable side effects, including metabolic problems increasing cardiovascular risk, involuntary movements, restlessness, stiffness and ‘the shakes.’”
According to Dr. Akira Sawa, director of the Johns Hopkins The Schizophrenia Center, “It’s possible that future studies could show sulforaphane to be a safe supplement to give people at risk of developing schizophrenia as a way to prevent, delay or blunt the onset of symptoms.”13
One of the studies14 in this series, published January 9, 2019, in JAMA Psychiatry, assessed differences in brain metabolism between 81 schizophrenic patients and 91 healthy controls, finding schizophrenics had lower levels of key brain chemicals associated with the disease — glutamate, N-acetylaspartate,15 GABA and glutathione — in their anterior cingulate cortex, a brain region involved in executive function, emotional affect and cognition.16
According to the paper17 “Cognitive and Emotional Influences in Anterior Cingulate Cortex,” this brain region appears to be “the brain’s error detection and correction device,” and “is part of a circuit involved in a form of attention that serves to regulate both cognitive and emotional processing.”
In the brain, glutamate — an excitatory neurotransmitter18 — plays an important role in brain cell communication, and lower levels have been linked to both schizophrenia and depression.
Schizophrenics also had lower levels of N-acetylaspartate in the orbitofrontal region, an area involved in cognitive processing and decision-making, as well as the thalamus, an area involved in the relaying of sensory signals and the regulation of consciousness.
They also had lower levels of glutathione in the thalamus. Glutathione, a master antioxidant produced by your body, is made up of glutamate, cysteine and glycine, and is a physiologic reservoir of neuronal glutamate.19
Modulating Glutamate Levels May Improve Schizophrenia
For the second study in the series, the researchers focused on the management of glutamate in the brain. As reported by Neuroscience News,20 they wondered whether faulty glutamate management might be a key problem in the disease, and whether drugs could be used to “shift this balance to either release glutamate from storage when there isn’t enough, or send it into storage if there is too much.”
So, in this study,21 published February 12, 2019, in PNAS, they blocked an enzyme that turns glutamate into glutathione in the brain cells of rats, using a drug called L-Buthionine sulfoximine, thereby allowing glutamine to be used up.
“The researchers found that these nerves were more excited and fired faster, which means they were sending more messages to other brain cells. The researchers say shifting the balance this way is akin to shifting the brain cells to a pattern similar to one found in the brains of people with schizophrenia,” Neuroscience News 22 explains.
Next, to increase the level of glutamine stored as glutathione, they used sulforaphane, as it activates a gene that makes an enzyme required for the synthesis of glutathione from glutamate. As expected, this slowed the speed with which neurons fired.
In other words, it helped normalize the brain cells, allowing them to behave in a manner more like healthy controls. Dr. Thomas Sedlak, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences told Neuroscience News:23
“We are thinking of glutathione as glutamate stored in a gas tank. If you have a bigger gas tank, you have more leeway on how far you can drive, but as soon as you take the gas out of the tank it’s burned up quickly. We can think of those with schizophrenia as having a smaller gas tank.”
Sulforaphane Boosts Glutathione Levels in the Brain
In an earlier pilot study24 (counted as the third in this series) by the same team, published in the May 2018 issue of Molecular Neuropsychiatry, they used mice and healthy human subjects to assess the effect of sulforaphane on glutathione levels in the brain. Here, patients with a history of psychiatric illness were specifically excluded. As explained by the authors:
“The participants completed two visits, scheduled 7 days (1 week) apart. The participants were given 100 µmol sulforaphane as standardized broccoli sprout extract in the form of 2 gel capsules, and instructed to ingest the extract each morning for 1 week …
Urine and blood specimens were collected prior to the first dose of broccoli sprout extract and within 4 h of the final dose. MRS [magnetic resonance spectroscopy] scans were performed prior to the first dose and within 4 h of ingesting the final dose …
Following 1-week administration of sulforaphane, the study participants demonstrated a significant augmentation of GSH in non-monocytes that include a mixture of T cells, B cells, and NK cells. The GSH level was 9.22 nmol/mL before sulforaphane administration and 12.2 nmol/mL following sulforaphane administration, a 32% increase …
We report that a short-term administration of sulforaphane was sufficient to significantly increase peripheral GSH levels in human subjects. We found an increase in GSH in the HP [hippocampus], but not elsewhere in the brain regions assessed. The peripheral GSH ratio had a strong and significantly positive correlation with brain GSH levels in the THAL [thalamus] upon sulforaphane treatment …
[I]n a submitted study, we will report that peripheral GSH levels may be correlated with cognitive functions. We thus posit the significance of exploring the possible correlations between peripheral GSH and clinical/neuropsychological measures and the influence of sulforaphane on such functional measures that are altered in neuropsychiatric disorders. The present study is a key first step toward such future studies.”
In summary, these findings suggest sulforaphane might be a safe alternative to help reduce psychosis and hallucinations in schizophrenic patients, although the researchers warn more studies are required to identify optimal dosing and assess long-term effects.
Study Series Suggests Sulforaphane May Improve Symptoms of Autism
Another series of studies suggests cruciferous vegetables high in sulforaphane might benefit those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), primarily by upregulating genes that protect against oxidative stress, inflammation and DNA damage, “all of which are prominent and possibly mechanistic characteristics of ASD,” the authors say.25
Sulforaphane also boosts antioxidant capacity, glutathione synthesis, mitochondrial function, oxidative phosphorylation and lipid peroxidation, while lowering neuroinflammmation. According to the researchers, these characteristics also make it suitable for the treatment of ASD.26
The first study,27 published in 2014, found daily treatment with dietary sulforaphane significantly reduced the severity of “socially impaired behavior” in children with ASD after 18 weeks. Improvements became obvious (compared to those in the placebo group) at four weeks of treatment.
At 18 weeks, the sulforaphane treatment group had a 34% reduction in Abberant Behavior Checklist (ABC) scores and a 17% reduction in Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) scores. According to the authors:28
“[A] significantly greater number of participants receiving sulforaphane had improvement in social interaction, abnormal behavior, and verbal communication. Upon discontinuation of sulforaphane, total scores on all scales rose toward pretreatment levels.”
Case Series Highlights Success Stories With Sulforaphane Treatment
The second study,29 published in 2017, presented a case series follow-up of patients who continued the sulforaphane treatment after the first study ended. Here’s a limited outtake from the narrative provided by one of the families whose son is referred to as “R”:
“R’s parents wanted to help him: ‘He would make constant noises and did all these abnormal motor tics; [we] felt like he really had no control [over his behavior and body] and it was just noise, not functional words. He didn’t have any expressive language.’
R’s parents saw several medical specialists who prescribed a total of 18 different medications, all of which had either minimal or negative effects on R. ‘Nothing changed the constant noises or the terrible rage attacks,’ until R took SF [sulforaphane] …
R’s family took him to the Lurie Center at Massachusetts General Hospital where we were conducting the study on the effects of SF on males with ASD. The study was a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. However, within days, R’s mother believed that he was taking SF:
‘I knew that he was on the study drug because I saw such a change so quickly. I want to scream from the rooftops and tell people to give the kids broccoli sprouts [extract] because literally, it changed my life,’ reported R’s mother.
‘Now we can go to the movies, restaurants, plays, we went on vacation with another family, we go to church, we just went to a concert, things we could never do before are now possible. [I am] able to have confidence and he [R] is more confident as well.’
N.B. Such a rapid response was unusual in the context of what was observed by the study physicians with other subjects. When responses to supplementation were observed, they generally took 3 or 4 weeks to become manifest. In this case, the study team actually wondered whether the mother might be exhibiting a placebo response; however, the ABC subscales and both ABC and SRS overall scores for R did also change.”
New Mechanism of Action Revealed
The third paper30 in this series, a trial progress report published in 2018, assessed the safety, clinical effects and mechanisms of action of sulforaphane in ASD. Interestingly, this paper describes how sulforaphane mimics “the fever effect” in ASD. This is where high fever temporarily improves behavior in autistic children. The researchers explain:
“Fever stimulates heat shock proteins (HSP) and cellular stress responses, leading to improved synaptic function and long-range connectivity. Expression of gene transcription by NFE2L2 (Nrf2), which is reduced in ASD, also increases during fever.
Sulforaphane (SF), an isothiocyanate obtained from broccoli sprouts, induces HSP and Nrf2 as well as ‘cell-protective’ responses that may benefit ASD through common cellular mechanisms underlying heterogeneous phenotypes.”
While this trial was still incomplete at publication, as only 46 participants out of a planned 50 had been enrolled, preliminary analysis showed “26% participants were much/very much improved at seven weeks, 38% at 15 weeks, 64% at 22 weeks, and 64% at 30 weeks,” the researchers said, adding that “preliminary results show that sulforaphane appears to be safe and effective in children with ASD.”
Sulforaphane Stands Out as Potential Alzheimer's Treatment
Sulforaphane may also be useful in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. In a 2018 study,31 mice with Alzheimer's were treated with sulforaphane for four months, which significantly inhibited both the generation and accumulation of amyloid-beta, and alleviated several pathological changes associated with Alzheimer's, including oxidative stress and neuroinflammation.
The mice also demonstrated cognitive benefits, remaining normal, cognitively speaking, compared to wild-type mice at 10 months of age, which is when dementia typically begins in Alzheimer's mice. In tests of neurons themselves, pretreating cortical neurons with sulforaphane protected them against injury caused by amyloid beta.
An earlier study32 published in 2009 revealed that antioxidants — including sulforaphane — protect cells from oxidative damage, facilitate removal of the amyloid-beta peptide and reduce abnormal protein-related causes of disease.
In studying how sulforaphane interacts with amyloid-beta to prevent various neurodegenerative processes, researchers of a 2014 study33 used liquid chromatography/electrospray ionization mass spectrometry to reveal that amyloid-beta is less likely to aggregate in the presence of sulforaphane.
Another 2014 study34 showed that, in mice with Alzheimer's-like lesions (induced in part by administration of aluminum), sulforaphane reduced neurobehavioral deficits by promoting the growth of new neurons (neurogenesis) as well as reducing the aluminum load.
Broccoli Provides Many Health Benefits
While this article focuses on the neurological benefits of broccoli, research has revealed a long list of health benefits associated with this cruciferous vegetable, including a reduced risk for:35
Cancer — Studies have shown sulforaphane supports normal cell function and division while causing apoptosis (programmed cell death) in colon,37 prostate,38 breast39 and tobacco-induced lung cancer40 cells, and reducing the number of cancerous liver tumors in mice41
Insulin resistance45 and Type 2 diabetes46
Broccoli and other water- and nutrient-rich veggies also support healthy liver function, which in turn promotes optimal functioning of your natural detoxification systems. Broccoli sprouts, in particular, have been shown to help detox environmental pollutants such as benzene.50,51
This is important for virtually everyone these days, but especially women of childbearing age. Autistic children are known to have higher levels of environmental toxins in their system, and this underlying toxic burden plays a significant role.
Healthy liver function also helps promote healthy, beautiful skin, making broccoli a good antiaging food. What’s more, the sulforaphane in broccoli also helps repair skin damage.
How to Boost Sulforaphane Benefits of Broccoli
To boost the benefits of sulforaphane in broccoli and other cruciferous veggies, pair them with a myrosinase-containing food.52 Myrosinase is an enzyme that converts the precursor gluocosinalate, glucoraphanin, to sulforaphane. Examples include mustard seed,53 daikon radishes, wasabi, arugula or coleslaw, with mustard seed being the most potent.
Adding a myrosinase-rich food is particularly important if you eat the broccoli raw, or use frozen broccoli. Ideally, broccoli should be steamed for three to four minutes to increase the available sulforaphane content. This light steaming eliminates epithiospecifier protein — a heat-sensitive sulfur-grabbing protein that inactivates sulforaphane — while retaining the myrosinase in the broccoli.54
Steaming is important, because without myrosinase, your body cannot absorb sulforaphane. If you opt for boiling, blanch the broccoli in boiling water for no more than 20 to 30 seconds, then immerse it in cold water to stop the cooking process.
If you prefer raw food, you’d be better off eating raw broccoli sprouts instead of mature broccoli. According to Dr. Paul Talalay, professor of pharmacology and co-author of the 1997 study55 “Broccoli Sprouts: An Exceptionally Rich Source of Inducers of Enzymes That Protect Against Chemical Carcinogens,” "Three-day-old broccoli sprouts consistently contain 20 to 50 times the amount of chemoprotective compounds found in mature broccoli heads.”56 As a result, you can eat far less of them while still maximizing your benefits.
More than 70% of U.S. water supplies have industrial-grade fluoride chemicals added under the guise of preventing tooth decay.1 The problem is that fluoride, a toxin, is linked to an increasing list of health damages, while the usefulness of ingesting it to prevent cavities is highly questionable.
Steven Gilbert, Ph.D., founder and director of the Institute of Neurotoxicology and Neurological Disorders (INND), works to bring awareness about the health effects of toxic substances, water fluoridation included.
In his "Connecting the Dots for Health" paper, he summarizes how connecting the dots between the science, history and ethics of water fluoridation clearly supports the action to discontinue water fluoridation in order to significantly reduce fluoride ingestion.2
The History of Water Fluoridation
If you've ever wondered how a neurotoxic chemical came to be added to U.S. water supplies, Gilbert states:3
"The history of community water fluoridation is a reflection of the post WWII era of the 1950's when many thought chemicals in one form or another could solve almost any problem. Our gaze was focused on the beneficial properties of the chemicals, not on the potential hazards. A classic example is DDT, that in addition to being a potent pesticide, almost killed off predatory birds and more recently was found to be harmful to humans."
In 1945, fluoride was given the green light by the U.S. government following the release of a large amount of hydrogen fluoride from DuPont's Deepwater, New Jersey, plant. A massive quantity of toxic hydrogen fluoride was produced as a byproduct of industry, and its disposal was an inconvenient and costly problem.
To avert lawsuits, industry came up with the clever idea of revamping fluoride's image — they told people fluoride was good for their teeth and began adding it to public water supplies. Initially, fluoride waste from the aluminum industry is what went into drinking water.
But by the late 1940s, they'd found a cheaper source — the phosphate industry, a byproduct of making fertilizer. According to a paper in Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective, a production of The Ohio State University and Miami University departments of history:4
"Many are surprised to learn that unlike the pharmaceutical grade fluoride in their toothpaste, the fluoride in their water is an untreated industrial waste product, one that contains trace elements of arsenic and lead.
Without the phosphate industry's effluent, water fluoridation would be prohibitively expensive. And without fluoridation, the phosphate industry would be stuck with an expensive waste disposal problem."
Gilbert also explains that the decision to fluoridate U.S. drinking water was based on two studies comparing cavity rates in a city with fluoridated water (Grand Rapids/Muskegon, Michigan) with those in one without (Newburgh/Kingston, New York).
They were supposed to run for 10 years, but when some cavity reduction was seen in early reports, the U.S. Public Health Service approved water fluoridation after only five years — with no data on long-term toxicity.5
Science Shows Fluoride Is Harmful to the Brain
More than 300 studies have shown fluoride's toxic effects on the brain,6 including a 2006 National Research Council review that suggested fluoride exposure may be associated with brain damage, endocrine system disruption and bone cancer.7
In 2012, Harvard researchers also revealed that children living in high-fluoride areas had significantly lower IQ scores than those who lived in low-fluoride areas8 and suggested high fluoride exposure may have an adverse effect on children's neurodevelopment.
A study of Mexican women and children also raised concern, showing that higher exposure to fluoride while in utero is associated with lower scores on tests of cognitive function in childhood, both at the age of 4 and 6 to 12 years.9
Each 0.5 milligram per liter increase in pregnant women's fluoride levels was associated with a reduction of 3.15 and 2.5 points on the children's scores on the General Cognitive Index (GCI) of the McCarthy Scales of Children's Abilities and the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI), respectively.
Fluorosilicic acid, which is the fluoride chemical added to drinking water, may also be contaminated with additional harmful compounds, including lead and arsenic. Children, in particular, are at risk from ingesting fluoride, but they are exposed to the same levels in drinking water as adults. According to Gilbert:10
"From the 1950s the PHS [Public Health Service] recommendation for the concentration of fluoridated water has been 1.0 mg/L (milligrams per liter or ppm) for most of the U.S., with a range of 0.7 to 1.2 mg/L. In 2015, this recommendation was lowered to 0.7 mg/L to reduce the toxic side effects of fluoride ingestion while attempting to maintain its beneficial effects.
For toxicological assessment, ingested doses are typically adjusted by body weight. Kids eat more, breathe more, and drink more than adults on a body weight basis so they will have higher fluoride doses than adults. Moreover, child organ systems such as the brain and bones are still developing, making them more vulnerable to the toxic effects of fluoride."
More Ways Fluoride Harms Human Health
In terms of overall toxicity, the Fluoride Action Network (FAN) describes acute fluoride exposure as more toxic than lead but slightly less toxic than arsenic.11 In fact, fluoride is a common ingredient in pesticides used to kill rodents and insects. Chronically, exposure to low levels of fluoride is also harmful, not only to your brain but to your body as a whole.
Fluoride is an endocrine-disrupting chemical, and studies have linked it to the rising prevalence of thyroid disease,12 which in turn can contribute to obesity, heart disease, depression and other health problems. Fluoride was once used to reduce thyroid function in people with hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), and even low doses of 2 to 5 mg may be enough to affect thyroid function.13
"This dose is well within the range (1.6 to 6.6 mg/day) of what individuals living in fluoridated communities are now estimated to receive on a regular basis," FAN notes.14 A 2012 study also found a link between fluoride exposure and osteosarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer.15 A 2006 study also found a link between fluoride exposure in drinking water during childhood and the incidence of osteosarcoma among men.16
Such a link is biologically plausible, according to FAN, because bones are a principle site of fluoride accumulation, fluoride can be mutagenic at high enough concentrations and fluoride stimulates the proliferation of osteoblasts (bone-forming cells), which could increase the risk of malignancy.17
Increasing Dental Fluorosis Points to Harm
The majority of U.S. kids suffer from dental fluorosis, a discoloration and mottling of teeth caused by overexposure to fluoride in drinking water. While often brushed off as a cosmetic concern, this mottling is a sign of increased porosity of the enamel, and it's permanent. If the tooth-forming cells are being harmed by fluoride, it's likely that other cells in the body are too.
Research has found impairment in cognitive abilities among children with fluorosis (even mild fluorosis) compared to children with no fluorosis, for example.18 Studies have also found that children with higher levels of fluorosis have increased rates of cavities19 — a finding that suggests more is definitely not better, even when it comes to protecting against cavities.
According to Gilbert, "At a very mild or mild level, it causes white splotches or stripes on teeth. At moderate or severe levels, the mottling is more pronounced and can cause yellow or brown stains and pitting of the enamel, which can increase cavities."20
According to the most recent data, the dental fluorosis rate in the U.S. is now a staggering 65 percent, with researchers stating, "The results of this study greatly increase the evidence base indicating that objectionable dental fluorosis has increased in the United States. Dental fluorosis is an undesirable side effect of too much fluoride ingestion during the early years of life."21
Another study also revealed a more than 31% increase in the prevalence of dental fluorosis among 16- and 17-year-olds from 2011-2012 to 2001-2002. "The continued increase in fluorosis rates in the U.S. indicates that additional measures need to be implemented to reduce its prevalence," those researchers concluded.22
Ethical Concerns: Fluoride Is a Drug
The third piece of Gilbert's puzzle is ethics, and from this perspective adding fluoride to U.S. drinking water is akin to drugging the majority of a population without its consent. Gilbert notes:23
"Physicians prescribe drugs on an individual's needs, ensuring that it's pharmaceutical grade (not contaminated) and requiring a specific dose for a specific length of time. They also must inform their patients of potential harmful side effects. However, the final decision on whether to take the drugs rests with the patient. With fluoridation, all these safety protocols are violated, taking away the individual's right of informed consent."
People who are more vulnerable to fluoride's effects, such as infants, pregnant women or those with kidney disease and diabetes, have no way of avoiding this drug in their drinking water if they live in an area with fluoridated water.
While it's possible to install a water filter, such as reverse osmosis, to remove fluoride from your drinking water, or obtain a separate source of drinking water, this puts low-income families, who may not be able to obtain these alternatives, at a disadvantage.
Considering there are many studies showing fluoride's toxicity, the Precautionary Principle, which states that preventive measures should also be put in place to avoid exposure if there's evidence of a substance causing harm, should be put into place.
"For these and other reasons, a growing number of public health professionals are recommending that fluoridation of drinking water be discontinued," Gilbert says, supporting his recommended action to "discontinue water fluoridation so that ingestion of fluoride is greatly reduced." This is the norm in most of the world, as about 95 percent of the world's population drinks unfluoridated water.24
Finally, fluoride is not the answer to healthy teeth. A comprehensive oral care plan should include addressing your diet, reducing your net carb (total grams of carbohydrates minus your grams of fiber) intake and, if needed, taking nutritional supplements that support your oral health, such as vitamins C and K2, and coenzyme Q10.
Regular brushing with fluoride-free toothpaste and flossing are also important, as are regular professional cleanings with a mercury-free biological dentist.
The degree to which a food has been altered during preparation lies on a continuum. Anything not directly harvested from the vine, ground, bush or tree has undergone some degree of processing. Processing may be as basic as freezing, canning or drying, or it may involve ultra-processing where food is significantly altered — foods you may typically purchase at a gas station.
Unfortunately, Americans not only eat a preponderance of processed foods, but 57.9% is ultra-processed.1 A study in 2013 found health care costs associated with Type 2 diabetes were $140 billion as compared to $90 billion for tobacco products,2 and diabetes is directly linked to a processed food diet.
The difference in the amount of sugar between foods that are ultra-processed and minimally processed is dramatic. Data demonstrate 21.1% of calories in ultra-processed foods come from sugar,3 while unprocessed foods contain no refined or added sugars. As food choices have changed over the past decades, so have the rising numbers of health challenges.
For instance, Type 2 diabetes is rooted in insulin resistance4 and a faulty leptin signaling system. In other words, it is triggered by a sugar-rich diet and the cure is free and readily available to anyone willing to change their eating habits.
An inundation of glyphosate in the food supply,5,6 exposure to organochlorine pesticides7 and heavy metal exposure8 may also be contributing factors to the rising numbers of children diagnosed with autism.
Rising Rates of Autism and Diabetes Are a Public Health Concern
The most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention9 indicate more than 100 million U.S. adults are living with diabetes or prediabetes. The report is based on 2015 data, which found 30.3 million have diabetes and another 84.1 million have prediabetes.
Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death10 and may contribute to three other causes of death found in the top 10, including heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. According to the American Diabetes Association,11 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year and 193,000 under the age of 20 have been diagnosed with diabetes.
The most recent data regarding the financial burden associated with diabetes indicates $327 billion were spent in 2017; direct medical costs were $237 billion, and business lost $90 billion in productivity.12 After adjusting for the age and sex differences of the population, statistics show the average medical cost in those with diabetes was 2.3 times higher than in those without diabetes.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by repetitive behaviors and ongoing social challenges that vary in degree depending on where you are on the spectrum, including difficulty communicating and socializing.13 Often the symptoms are recognized within the first two years of life.
The CDC began releasing biennial updates of estimated prevalence among 8-year-old children from 11 states in the U.S. based on medical records in 2004. The first estimate recorded 1 in 166 children diagnosed with autism.14 By 2016 this number had risen to 1 in 68, and in 2018 it was 1 in 59, a 15% increase from 2016.
Prevalence of Autism May Be Higher Than Suspected
However, two independent research teams analyzed data from parent questionnaires and independently found different results, including 29.5% of children who were not being treated for the condition at the time of the study.15
The first survey, published in the journal Pediatrics,16 concluded parent reported autism diagnosis was 1 in 40.
The second study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association,17 found the prevalence of autism varied substantially across states. Of those who were treated, 43.3% receive behavioral treatment only, 6.9% receive medication only and 20.3% received both.
In an evaluation of resources used from the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, it's been determined there was an 8.08% use due to autistic disorder in 2004, which rose to 20.53% in 2014.18
Additionally, the category of autistic disorders has the second highest allowance rate, with little to no indication of a decline in growth of the number of children applying for and receiving SSI benefits for autism.
Calcium Propionate Associated With Exacerbation of Autism Symptoms
While no one factor has been linked to the development of autism, the food additive calcium propionate (E282)19 has been linked to an aggravation of symptoms, and may play a role in the development of the condition.
Calcium propionate is a widely used additive in the food industry as a preservative and antifungal agent routinely sprayed on fruit, packed meat, cheese and bread.
Although the chemical is highly effective as an antifungal, it has a negative effect on the gut microbiome, which can exacerbate autism symptoms.20 Calcium propionate is the calcium salt of propionic acid, which is currently classified as generally recognized as safe (GRAS).21
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it may be used as an additive in food with no limitation other than “current good manufacturing process” as determined by the manufacturer.22 The European Food Safety Authority23 recognizes calcium propionate as an authorized antimicrobial preservative used in animal feed effective against several strains of bacteria.
In the U.S.,24 it is also used as an additive in cattle feed, as an extra calcium source for cattle and as a treatment for a variety of infections. The ability of the chemical to affect microbial growth does not end once it reaches your gut.
Acetate, propionate and butyrate are short chain fatty acids generated by microbial fermentation in your gut.25 These have been shown to have multiple beneficial effects on energy metabolism, playing a complex role between diet, gut microbiome and energy.26 However, an excess of propionate may induce behavioral effects remarkably consistent with autism.
Propionic Acid Affects Gut-Brain Axis
In one study, researchers noted propionic acid is produced by autism-associated gastrointestinal bacteria27 (clostridia and bacteroides) and may produce reversible behavioral, electrographic and neuroinflammatory changes resembling autism when administered to rodents.28
Propionic acid is naturally produced by gut microbiota as it breaks down digestive fiber. Calcium propionate was designated GRAS as it was assumed to be compatible with human physiology. The rate of propionic metabolism is affected by a variety of genetic, microbiotic and environmental factors.
However, an overabundance is found to have a neurobehavioral effect, especially in those with autism, who are already prone to an excess of propionic acid due to the microbial gut abnormalities, making them vulnerable to further damage.29 While these symptoms are not as easily detected in healthy people, exposure to high levels may trigger reversible autistic-like symptoms in healthy people as well.30
Ideally, your gut microbiome has a balance of harmful and beneficial bacteria (although many so-called harmful bacteria only cause problems when allowed to overgrow). Once a disproportionate number of one species grows,31,32 it may lead to the starvation of others and an excess production of certain chemicals.
When harmful bacteria are allowed to outgrow beneficial bacteria, the resulting inflammation contributes to gastrointestinal challenges associated with autism.33 This may also stimulate the gut-brain axis, triggering behavioral and psychological issues, such as anxiety.34 Propionic acid also has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier.35
While there have been no human studies demonstrating its potential to affect the development of autism, researchers hypothesize the sensitivity of neurological development during the fetal stage may contribute to the development of autism if the brain is exposed to excess propionic acid.36 There are animal studies suggesting perinatal exposure changes neurobehavior.37
Food Additive Used to Reduce Mold Growth Increases Insulin Resistance
A second study looked at propionate as a dietary disrupter, finding it could trigger a cascade of events leading to insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia. The study38 was led by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in collaboration with Brigham and Women's Hospital and Sheba Medical Center in Israel.
Propionate administered to mice was found to rapidly activate the animals’ sympathetic nervous system. This in turn led to a rise in glucagon and norepinephrine. The mice produced more glucose from their liver cells, leading to hyperglycemia.39 When the mice were chronically treated with propionate, equivalent to the amounts typically eaten by humans, it led to obesity and insulin resistance.40
The researchers went on to enroll 14 healthy human participants who were randomly placed in two groups. One received a meal with 1 gram of propionate as an additive and the other were given a meal with a placebo. Blood samples were drawn within 15 minutes of eating, and every 30 minutes for four hours.
The participants who ate the experimental meal had a significant increase in norepinephrine and glucagon. Lead author Amir Tirosh, Ph.D., who holds positions at the three collaborating universities, commented:41
“The dramatic increase in the incidence of obesity and diabetes over the past 50 years suggests the involvement of contributing environmental and dietary factors. One such factor that warrants attention is the ingredients in common foods. We are exposed to hundreds of these chemicals on a daily basis, and most have not been tested in detail for their potential long-term metabolic effects.”
Food Additives Increase Your Risk of Health Concerns
The FDA maintains a database of 4,000 ingredients, which by the FDA’s own admission42 “is only a partial list of food ingredients. Inclusion in this inventory of information from non-FDA entities does not indicate an FDA approval or evaluation of this use.”
The World Health Organization43 says there are “several thousand food additives used, all of which are designed to do a specific job in making food safer or more appealing.” Many additives have been linked to health concerns and were granted GRAS status without review or approval. As reported by the Washington Post:44
“The FDA said that although the law allows for food manufacturers to make their own safety determinations, the agency ‘encourages companies to consult with the agency when developing new ingredients.’ Ultimately, the FDA said, manufacturers ‘are responsible for ensuring that their food products are safe and lawful.’”
Unfortunately, while there is little assessment done on individual chemicals in isolation, mounting research suggests when consumed in combination, the health effects may be even more serious. An assessment45 done by the National Food Institute at the Technical University of Denmark found chemicals may amplify each other's adverse effects when combined, even in small amounts.46
Additionally, food manufacturers are permitted to label chemical compounds as “artificial flavors” without listing them individually. In late 2018,47 the FDA announced a list of seven synthetic compounds no longer allowed to be used as food additives in response to a petition brought by Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
These additives had been linked to cancer in animals and were most commonly used in baked goods, ice cream, candy and chewing gum. Dawn Undurraga, EWG’s nutritionist, said:48
“Consumers will never know which foods were made with these chemicals, since manufacturers have been allowed to hide these ingredients behind the vague term 'flavor.’ This is a positive step forward, but the FDA should empower consumers to make their own fully informed decisions by requiring full ingredient disclosure.”
The EWG has published a dirty dozen guide to food additives, works to ban other endocrine disrupting chemicals used as preservatives, and has developed a Food Scores49 database — an extensive list of ratings for more than 120,000 food and personal care products, providing information on ingredients and processing.
Strong Gut Microbiome May Reduce Health Risk
Taking care of your gut microbiome may be one of the most important things you can do to optimize your health. Your gut flora influences the function of a variety of internal organs, including your skin, lungs, breasts and liver.50 When your gut microbiome is disrupted, it may automatically disrupt your immune function and have far-reaching consequences.
For instance, the use of checkpoint inhibitors in the treatment of cancer, a class of immunotherapy drugs working by triggering your immune system, appears to be dependent on the gut microbiome.
As reported in Nature,51 a 2015 study found microbe-free mice failed to respond to treatment with checkpoint inhibitors, but those given Bacteroides fragilis responded better. Others have suggested the connection between your gut and mental health appears to be so strong, probiotics may one day take the place of antidepressants.
In an article published in Biological Psychiatry,52 the authors suggested severe and chronic mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, may be eliminated through the use of specific probiotics by dampening stress hormones. To learn more about how to balance your gut microbiome and develop a strong microbiota, see my previous article, “Go With Your Gut.”
It may be difficult to imagine, but a single family may have had a direct effect on the massive epidemic of opioid-related addiction and deaths the U.S. is now experiencing.
The U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War between 1954 and 19751 led to the death of 58,200 military personnel.2 By comparison, in 2017 alone, 70,200 people died from drug overdoses, 68% of which involved an opioid.3
The number of overdose deaths involving opioids was six times higher in 2017 than in 1999. In the 18 years from 1999 to 2017, almost 400,000 people died from overdosing on an opioid drug, including illicit opioids such as fentanyl and prescription drugs.4
These monumental mortality statistics are a recent phenomenon, as are the skyrocketing prescriptions for pain medications, since the understanding of pain pathophysiology is still in its infancy. In 1986, the World Health Organization published its Cancer Pain Monograph,5 which addressed the perceived undertreatment of post-operative and cancer pain.
This prompted several publications questioning the undertreatment of pain,6 including an article in 1990 in Scientific American,7,8 which questioned why opioids were reserved solely for cancer patients and avoided by those suffering chronic pain.
In 2000, The Joint Commission published standards for pain management,9,10 while the Federation of State Medical Boards and Drug Enforcement Agency promised less regulatory scrutiny.11
These events provided the foundation for pharmaceutical companies to introduce new extended-release opioid formulations, such as OxyContin, which were presumed to have a lower likelihood of abuse but were in fact extremely addictive. From 1997 to 2002, prescriptions for OxyContin rose from 670,000 in 1997 to 6.2 million in 200212 as physicians were urged to prescribe opioids for the treatment of chronic noncancer pain.
Opioid Epidemic Driven by Aggressive Sales Strategies
A recent Massachusetts lawsuit13 alleges that even though Purdue Pharmaceuticals, maker of Oxycontin, was aware of the drug's addictive potential, the company reassured physicians that the risk of addiction was low.14 By 1999, the National Capital Poison Center15 found 86% of patients who were prescribed opioids were using it for noncancer pain.
Early efforts to reduce opioid prescriptions created a demand for heroin, which was cheap and widely available. Deaths related to heroin overdose increased by 286% from 2002 to 2013.16 Synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, became available in 2013. By 2016, 20,000 deaths could be attributed to fentanyl and other synthetic opioid overdoses, in addition to overdoses from heroin and prescription opioids.17
The Massachusetts lawsuit alleges that in February 2015,18 Purdue Pharmaceutical's Project Tango was presented to the board as a plan for a joint venture to sell the addiction medication suboxone (Naloxone). The team mapped out how patients could first get addicted to opioids through prescription drugs or heroin, and then become consumers of the company's new drug.
They noted that even after patients were finished with the first round of suboxone, up to 60% would relapse and need it again, nullifying the company's original assurances the drugs were not addictive.19 The Sackler family are the owners of Purdue Pharma and in 2016 were said to have a combined fortune estimated at $13 billion.20
The family received nearly $4 billion in profits over the past decade, in large part due to sales of Oxycontin.21 Kathe Sackler is accused of devising Project Tango to increase the company's profits from a growing epidemic that is killing tens of thousands each year.22
Despite warning signs OxyContin was addictive, sales reps were promoting opioids to specific prescribers to increase prescription rates. Purdue Pharma hired global consulting firm McKinsey & Company to raise sales and control their image.
The effort is said to have been initiated to counterbalance emotional messages from mothers whose children had died from an opioid overdose.23 McKinsey & Company allegedly urged Purdue to direct its sales reps to the most prolific prescribers, classified as "Super Core" prescribers.24
Harvard Announces They Will Keep Sackler Name on Museum
The Sackler family play a strong role in Purdue Pharma and have historically been known for their philanthropic efforts. The family donated a wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a wing at the Louvre, a courtyard at Victoria and Albert Museum, a Center for Feminist art at the Brooklyn Museum and an arts education center at the Guggenheim Museum.25
Their profits have funded educational programs, medical research and professorships at Cornell, Stanford and Columbia universities.26 However, litigation against the Sacklers stemming from their role in the opioid crisis has placed pressure on these same institutions to return the gifts and remove the family name.
On this list of prestigious academic and art institutions is the Arthur M. Sackler Museum27 on the campus of Harvard University.28 As other institutions contemplate whether removing the Sackler name from their buildings and returning money might be appropriate, The Harvard Crimson29 reported university president Lawrence Bacow found this "inappropriate."
He stated Harvard would not remove the Sackler family name from campus buildings and would not return past monetary donations,30 as it was Dr. Arthur Sackler who donated funds to Harvard to name the school's museum after him.
Arthur Sackler — who The New York Times described as a research psychiatrist "who made his fortune in medical advertising, medical trade publications and the manufacture of over-the-counter drugs," passed away in May 1987,31 nine years before Oxycontin was launched in the U.S.32 Bacow believes there are "legal and contractual considerations," commenting:33
"Dr. Arthur Sackler died before the drug was developed. His family sold their interest in the company before the drug was developed. And I think it would be inappropriate for the university to either return the gift or take Dr. Sackler's name off the building that his gift supported given that he had absolutely no relationship to it."
New York Metropolitan Museum of Art Ends Relationship With Sackler Family
In a move the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art said is "in consideration of the ongoing litigation," they suspended any donations from the Sackler family and decided to end their relationship with the family. In a statement the museum attributed the move to the34 "production of opioids and the ensuing health crisis surrounding the abuse of these medications."
While they will no longer accept donations, they announced no plans to rename the Sackler Wing of the museum. The family quickly denied any allegations they are linked to the crisis in a statement to the New York Times,35 saying they believe the allegations are "false and unfair," but understand accepting gifts would place the museum in a difficult position at this time.
This ends a period of multiple gifts over generations that have been given by the Sackler family to the museum. Daniel Weiss, president and CEO of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, made a statement on the importance of private philanthropy to the museum as it has literally been the foundation and reason for growth of the buildings and collections. Weiss said:36
"What distinguishes our Museum from its global peers, such as the Prado, the Hermitage, and the Louvre, is the fact that we did not begin with a royal or imperial collection. Every object and much of the building itself came from individuals driven by a love for art and the spirit of philanthropy.
For this reason, it is our responsibility to ensure that the public is aware of the diligence that we take to generate philanthropic support. Our donors deserve this, and the public should expect it."
Similar announcements were made earlier this year from the National Portrait Gallery, Tate Modern and the Guggenheim Museum.37 In March, an arts organization — the Sackler Foundation — made a statement it would "pause" donations to institutions across the U.K.38
Arthur Sackler Designed Aggressive Tactics Responsible for Profits
Brooklyn-born brothers Arthur, Mortimer and Raymond Sackler were all physicians, and together founded Purdue Pharmaceuticals in 1952 after taking over a small struggling drug manufacturer. The company remained below the radar until the mid-1990s when Oxycontin came on the market.39
Over the years, the family was known for donating lavishly to a large range of institutions, many of which bear the family name. The loophole through which Harvard University40 and Arthur's wife Jillian41 would like to step begins when Arthur's brothers, Raymond and Mortimer, bought out his shares of Purdue Pharma from the estate before the introduction of Oxycontin.42
However, this overlooks Arthur's contribution to the sales of Oxycontin, as the drug's success is largely based on the aggressive advertising tactics he pioneered before his death. Arthur's daughter Elizabeth has since divested herself from any work with Purdue Pharma.
Raymond's sons Richard and Jonathan, and Mortimer's daughters Marissa and Kathe continue to work with the company.43 Kathe Sackler was at the heart of the marketing campaign dubbed Project Tango.44
She may have been sitting at the knee of Arthur Sackler, who was posthumously inducted into the Medical Advertising Hall of Fame in 1997. Sackler thought of doctors as unimpeachable stewards of public health, and devised his advertising campaigns to appeal to medical professionals.
Understanding doctors were greatly influenced by their own peers, he enlisted prominent physicians to endorse his products and cited scientific studies underwritten by pharmaceutical companies. John Kallir, who worked under Sackler for 10 years, was quoted in The New Yorker45 saying, "Sackler's ads had a very serious, clinical look — a physician talking to a physician. But it was advertising."
Allen Frances, former chair of psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine, put it differently:46 "Most of the questionable practices that propelled the pharmaceutical industry into the scourge it is today can be attributed to Arthur Sackler."
'The Sackler Family Lied and Our Kids Died'
The parents of children who fatally overdosed on opioids are unconcerned by claims that returning Sackler donations and taking his name off buildings are unrelated to the intricate relationship between Arthur Sackler and the opioid crisis. They are demanding Harvard University remove the family name from buildings that house one of its art museums.47
Tony LaGreca, age 71, told AP News48 the story of how his son Matthew became addicted after a football injury in college. He was prescribed 100 Oxycodone pills and told to take three or four a day.
According to LaGreca, his son rapidly became addicted and lived through hell for the next 15 years until he died. "The Sackler family lied and our kids died," LaGreca said.49 Andrew Kolodny, co-director of the Opioid Policy Research Collaborative at Brandeis University, commented:50
"If you look at the prescribing trends for all the different opioids, it's in 1996 that prescribing really takes off. It's not a coincidence. That was the year Purdue launched a multifaceted campaign that misinformed the medical community about the risks."
Tufts University is another institution struggling with the decision of what to do with its Sackler donations. The scrutiny at Tufts was triggered by the Massachusetts lawsuit raised by the attorney general against Purdue Pharma.
Although a Tufts spokesman issued a statement saying the university remains deeply committed to the highest ethical and scientific standards, the allegations go deep into practices at the university.
According to the redacted lawsuit,51 in 1999 the family made a targeted gift, establishing Tufts' masters of science in pain research, education and policy, essentially purchasing goodwill, name recognition and access to physicians. To get ahead of the game, Tufts has ordered its own investigation and tapped former U.S. Attorney General Donald Stern to review the program.52,53
However, while Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to misleading regulators in 2007, this action did not compel universities and museums to return or refuse cash. A scathing editorial in the Tufts Daily explained:54
"The opioid crisis was engineered in our own backyard… Purdue staff lectured Sackler students at courses on opioid policy, hosted events to encourage their widespread use, and developed research protocols and publications on pain management for the school.
Tufts even promoted a Purdue employee to be an adjunct professor in 2011, four years after Purdue pleaded guilty to intentionally misleading doctors and patients about OxyContin."
Number of Opioid Lawsuits Growing as Purdue Publicly Discusses Bankruptcy
The mounting number of lawsuits promises to be expensive for Purdue Pharma. One court filing in Connecticut revealed a 20-year-old internal company email saying "abusers aren't victims." The emails, which came from Richard Sackler, were revealed in a public complaint brought by the Connecticut attorney general as one of 2,000 lawsuits filed across the country.
In a statement, Attorney General William Tong said,55 "Purdue and defendant members of the Sackler family knew people were dying, but they continued to push their opioids in blind pursuit of profit."
At the party to launch Oxycontin, Richard Sackler, senior vice president of sales, announced,56 "[T]he launch of OxyContin Tablets will be followed by a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition. The prescription blizzard will be so deep, dense and white …"
About 1,500 of the 2,000 lawsuits filed in the U.S. are being overseen by a federal judge in Cleveland who is pushing the parties to settle. However, the Connecticut lawsuit is filed with the state government in a state court.
Purdue Pharma's CEO has said the company is considering bankruptcy in the face of lawsuits alleging their role in the opioid epidemic. While they have not yet decided whether to file bankruptcy, the CEO told The Washington Post57 it is something they are considering.
Jails Were Not Designed as Detoxification Centers
The number of overdoses from heroin use has led to an overpopulation in county jails now struggling with a new role as a center for opioid detoxification. More county jails are adding a form of medicated assisted treatment to help inmates detoxify safely in the hope they will stay clean behind bars and after their release.58
However, jail programs were not designed or built for effective detoxification treatments. This has led to a critical situation in which jails are scrambling to catch up. The National Sheriffs Association estimates up to two-thirds of the jail population has a dependence or drug abuse problem.59
One of the states hardest hit has been Middlesex County, Massachusetts, where the sheriff believes they are in a critical situation as they must physically and medically detoxify up to 40% of their population. Jails that have been hardest hit by the opioid epidemic include those in Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
Carlos Morales, the director of Correctional Health Services for California, San Mateo County, is optimistic about their potential to impact the community. He states60 statistics in their area show that, as an opiate user, once you detoxify in the jail system you have a 40% chance of overdosing. He believes they have the potential to reduce those odds.
The offering of treatment programs is new for many correctional systems across the country. Morales believes the jail needs to build a momentum of treatment. But treatment inside the jail is only half the problem, as once the inmates leave the facility they need access to health insurance, medications, counseling and treatment services to help them get through and stay drug-free.
Struggling With Opioid Addiction? Please Seek Help
Regardless of the brand of opioid, it's vitally important to realize they are extremely addictive drugs and not meant for long-term use for nonfatal conditions. Chemically, opioids are similar to heroin. If you wouldn't consider shooting up heroin for a toothache or backache, seriously reconsider taking an opioid to relieve this type of pain.
The misconception that opioids are harmless pain relievers has killed hundreds of thousands and destroyed the lives of countless more. In many cases you'll be able to control pain without the use of medications. In my previous article, "Treating Pain Without Drugs," I discuss several approaches to consider that may be used separately or in combination.
If you've been on an opioid for more than two months, or if you find yourself taking a higher dosage, or taking the drug more often, you may already be addicted. Resources where you can find help include:
- Your workplace employee assistance program
- Contact the Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration61 24 hours a day at 1-800-622-HELP
While there are instances where sunscreen may be prudent, these products are widely overused and contribute to widespread vitamin D deficiency. In my view, sunscreen is rarely needed, provided you’re following sensible sun exposure guidelines to prevent burning. Simply get out of the sun or wear clothing the moment your skin starts to turn light pink.
That said, conventional guidance by the American Academy of Dermatology1 stresses the use of sunscreen, not only when lying on the beach but every single day, regardless of weather or skin pigmentation. Aside from promoting vitamin D deficiency, which has a long list of health consequences, sunscreen use may also be a source of toxic exposure.
Pilot Study Confirms Your Body Absorbs Toxins From Sunscreens
A pilot study2,3,4,5 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shows four commonly used active ingredients in sunscreen are absorbed into your blood at levels that could potentially pose health risks. The four active ingredients looked in this study were avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene and ecamsule.
Twenty-four participants were asked to apply 2 milligrams (mg) of sunscreen per square centimeter over 75% of their body, using either one of two sprays, a lotion or a cream. This amount equates to the maximum recommended dose recommended by most makers of sunscreen.
A total of 30 blood samples were collected from each participant over seven days of application. The geometric mean maximum plasma concentrations were as follows for each of the chemicals:6
- Avobenzone — 4 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) for spray No.1; 3.4 ng/mL for spray No. 2; 4.3 ng/mL for lotion and 1.8 ng/mL for the cream
- Oxybenzone — 209.6 ng/mL for spray No. 1; 194.9 ng/mL for spray No. 2, and 169.3 ng/mL for lotion
- Octocrylene, — 2.9 ng/mL for spray No. 1; 7.8 ng/mL for spray No. 2; 5.7 ng/mL for lotion, and 5.7 ng/mL for cream
- Ecamsule — 1.5 ng/mL for cream
According to the authors:7
“Systemic concentrations greater than 0.5 ng/mL were reached for all 4 products after 4 applications on day 1. The most common adverse event was rash, which developed in 1 participant with each sunscreen.
In this preliminary study involving healthy volunteers, application of 4 commercially available sunscreens under maximal use conditions resulted in plasma concentrations that exceeded the threshold established by the FDA for potentially waiving some nonclinical toxicology studies for sunscreens …
FDA has provided guidance that sunscreen active ingredients with systemic absorption greater than 0.5 ng/mL or with safety concerns should undergo nonclinical toxicology assessment including systemic carcinogenicity and additional developmental and reproductive studies.”
Continue Using Sunscreen, FDA Says, Ignoring Potential Health Risks of Oxybenzone
While it comes as no surprise that toxic chemicals are being absorbed into your blood when applied to your skin, what’s shocking is the FDA’s guidance in light of the results — continue using sunscreen!8
This, despite the fact that all four chemicals were found to enter the bloodstream at levels above the presumed “safe” level after a single day of application, and remained in the system for at least 24 hours after last use. Just what might the ramifications be if you’re using them every single day, year-round?
Research9 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published in 2008 found 96.8% of the 2,517 urine samples collected as part of the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey had detectable levels of oxybenzone, which is a testament to just how much sunscreen people are using. And this data is 15 years old. It is likely far worse now.
Dr. David Strauss, director of the division of applied regulatory science at the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation Research and co-author of the FDA pilot study, told Time,10 “This supports the need for further studies to understand the clinical significance of this. We really have a paucity of data on whether there are adverse health effects of these ingredients or not.”
Dermatologist and spokesman for the American Academy of Dermatology, Dr. David Leffell, echoed the FDA’s recommendation, telling CNN Health,11 “Studies need to be performed to evaluate this finding and determine whether there are true medical implications to absorption of certain ingredients. [In the meantime, people should] continue to be aggressive about sun protection."
The Hazards of Oxybenzone
According to the Environmental Working Group,12 oxybenzone “has been linked to allergies, hormone disruption, and cell damage. A companion study published just one day earlier revealed that this chemical is linked to low birth weight in baby girls whose mothers are exposed during pregnancy. Oxybenzone is also a penetration enhancer, a chemical that helps other chemicals penetrate the skin.”
Research has also linked oxybenzone to “significantly lower” testosterone levels in adolescent boys,13 and reduced sperm count14 and altered hormone levels in men (specifically testosterone, estradiol and inhibin B).15 In women, the chemical has been linked to endometriosis,16 shorter pregnancies and lower male birth weights.17
Oxybenzone is also lethal to certain sea creatures, including horseshoe crab eggs, and researchers warn the widespread use of oxybenzone-containing sunscreens pose a serious threat to coral reefs and sea life.18
This effect is what prompted Hawaiian lawmakers to ban the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, both of which have been linked to severe coral damage.19,20
How FDA Established Safety Threshold for Sunscreen Chemicals
As mentioned, 0.5 ng/mL is the threshold for systemic concentration via absorption set by the FDA, below which companies do not need to perform certain toxicology studies. Here’s how the FDA set that threshold:21
“The 0.5-ng/mL threshold is based on the principle that the level would approximate the highest plasma level below which the carcinogenic risk of any unknown compound would be less than 1 in 100 000 after a single dose. This Threshold of Toxicological Concern (TTC) concept was first adopted by FDA in the regulation of food packaging substances that can migrate into food.
The threshold value is also consistent with the TTC applied to pharmaceutical drug substance impurities in the International Council for Harmonisation ‘Guidance for Industry: M7 (R1) Assessment and Control of DNA Reactive (Mutagenic) Impurities in Pharmaceuticals to Limit Potential Carcinogenic Risk.’
That document recommends a TTC of 1.5 μg/d, when appropriate, which was translated to 0.5 ng/mL for sunscreen active ingredients, assuming a circulating plasma volume of approximately 3 L.
Application of this concept was considered acceptable during the determination of the ‘generally recognized as safe and effective’ status of sunscreen active ingredients because such ingredients will be supported by extensive human use and absence of other pharmacologic or toxicologic signals from the nonclinical assessment recommended in the FDA sunscreen guidance.”
It’s worth noting that the 0.5 ng/mL threshold originates from regulation of chemicals that can migrate from food packaging into food, which means they would be consumed. Chemicals applied to your skin frequently go straight into your bloodstream, bypassing your gastrointestinal system, and hence may pose a different and potentially greater threat to health than ingested chemicals.
In short, there’s no telling whether the 0.5 ng/mL threshold is really appropriate for these four (and other) sunscreen chemicals. Only further study can shed light on that.
But rather than taking a precautionary approach and instructing individuals to use sunscreens known to be safe (non-nano-sized zinc oxide and titanium dioxide), the FDA simply says, “These results do not indicate that individuals should refrain from the use of sunscreen.”22 From my perspective, the results are a warning flag indicating you indeed should refrain from using these products as they have well documented health hazards!
Irrational Sunscreen Recommendations Issued by Consumer Reports
Consumer Reports has issued equally irrational recommendations. Less than a week before publishing the results of the FDA’s pilot study,23 in which they noted that the “results strengthen FDA’s call for more information on sunscreen safety,” Consumer Reports issued its annual Best Sunscreens report.24 Remarkably, all of Consumer Reports’ recommended sunscreens contain oxybenzone. Topping their lotion and spray lists:
- Best lotion — La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-in Sunscreen Milk (which the EWG Guide to Sunscreens,25 incidentally, rates among the worst, noting its active ingredient, oxybenzone, poses a moderate health concern)
- Best spray — Trader Joe’s SPF 50+ Sunscreen, which contains both oxybenzone and avobenzone
Don Huber, director of product safety at Consumer Reports, commented on the potential concerns people might have about oxybenzone saying, “While we recognize there are concerns with oxybenzone, we know that sunscreen is a critical part of an overall sun protection plan. It’s proven to prevent sunburn, and can lower your risk of skin cancer and reduce skin aging, and our testing is based on a product’s ability to filter UV rays.”
The oxybenzone-free sunscreens recommended by Consumer Reports are Walgreens Hydrating SPF 50 lotion26 and Hawaiian Tropic Sheer Touch Lotion SPF 50,27 both of which contain avobenzone instead.
However, no studies have been done to confirm whether avobenzone is actually a safer choice. According to a recent Danish study,28 13 of 29 sunscreen chemicals allowed in the U.S. and/or European Union have the ability to reduce male fertility, and avobenzone is one of them.
If you’re concerned about toxic ingredients, the EWG’s Skin Deep Database is a better site for evaluating your sunscreen choices. In 2017, my Dr. Mercola Sunscreen SPF 30 received its highest safety rating.29
New Sunscreen Regulations Proposed by FDA
The FDA recently proposed new regulations30 to “make sure sunscreens are safe and effective” in light of daily use. The public comment period ends May 28, 2019.31 If enacted, this could have a transformative effect on the sunscreen industry as a whole.
Importantly, as I’ve noted on a number of occasions, of all the active sunscreen ingredients used in products on the U.S. market, only two — non-nano-sized zinc oxide and titanium dioxide — have actually been deemed safe for human use by the FDA.
In its proposed rule, the FDA admits it does not have enough scientific data to draw any conclusions about the safety of 12 of the 16 active sunscreen ingredients on its list, and asks industry to help in providing more data to perform a “rigorous assessment” of all active ingredients on the market. Its pilot study was part of this current push to learn more about these ingredients.
Two of the 16 ingredients, PABA and trolamine salicylate, have been deemed unsafe, or not generally recognized as safe (GRAS), and are not currently in use, according to the FDA.
The proposal also includes broad updates to labeling requirements, as well as SPF-related changes. For the changes, FDA wants sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher to provide broad spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays, not just UVB as is currently the case.
Many Sunscreen Ingredients Have Endocrine Disrupting Effects
In addition to oxybenzone, at least eight other active sunscreen ingredients are suspected of having endocrine disrupting effects.32,33 As mentioned above, recent Danish research34 has highlighted the risk to male fertility by 13 of 29 sunscreen chemicals allowed in the U.S. and/or European Union.
The researchers found these chemicals have the ability to reduce male fertility by affecting calcium signaling in sperm, in part by exerting a progesterone-like effect. Of those 13 chemicals, the following eight are approved for use in the U.S.:
Octisalate (also known as octyl salicylate)
Octinoxate (octyl methoxycinnamate)
Oxybenzone (also called benzophenone-3)
"These results are of concern and might explain in part why unexplained infertility is so prevalent," senior investigator, Niels Skakkebaek, professor at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and a researcher at the Copenhagen University Hospital, said.35
Many sunscreens also contain vitamin A and/or its derivatives, retinol and retinyl palmitate, which have been linked to an increased risk of skin cancer by increasing the speed at which malignant cells develop and spread.
Oxybenzone and Other Sunscreen Ingredients Are Also Neurotoxic
Research36 published in Toxicology Reports in 2017 also warn that some sunscreen ingredients — including oxybenzone — are neurotoxic (toxic to your brain). The authors noted that:
- Since sunscreens need to be applied in significant amounts all over the body, calculations — assuming a maximum skin penetration of up to 5% — suggest the total amount of a given compound being absorbed from a single application could be as high as 200 milligrams (mg) or 2.56 mg per kilo of bodyweight
- Simultaneous application of insect repellents such as DEET enhances the penetration of the compounds, thereby multiplying their potential toxicity
- Sunscreen chemicals are found in blood, urine and breast milk following application, in some cases within as little as two hours
Sunscreen ingredients found to have neurotoxic effects in this study included:37
Octyl methoxycinnamate — Found to decrease motor activity in female rats and alter the release of a number of different neurotransmitters
Benzophenone-3 (oxybenzone) — Decreases cell viability of neurons, and upregulates estrogenic-related genes in male animals
4-methylbenzylidene camphor — Decreased cell viability and impaired neuronal development in lab animals
Octocrylene — Impaired expression of genes related to brain development and brain metabolism
According to the researchers:38
“The endocrine disruptive and developmental toxicity of many organic UV filters in experimental models is well established; these filters seem to be associated with altered estrogen, androgen and progesterone activity, reproductive and developmental toxicity and impaired functioning of the thyroid, liver or kidneys …
Since many of UV filters were shown to cross the blood-brain barrier, the risk for neurotoxicity also occurs … [S]ince it is known that other chemicals classified as endocrine disruptors can impair neuronal transmission, synaptic plasticity and produce neurotoxic effects, chemical filters might potentially produce similar effect.”
Considering the endocrine disrupting and neurotoxic effects of oxybenzone, its high absorbability, and the availability of safe sunscreens (those containing non-nano-sized zinc oxide and titanium dioxide), it seems rather irrational and downright irresponsible of FDA, the American Academy of Dermatology and Consumer Reports to urge people to continue slathering themselves and their children with oxybenzone-containing sunscreen on a daily basis.
How to Choose a Safer Sunscreen
When selecting a sunscreen, remember there really are only two known safe sunscreen ingredients — zinc oxide and titanium dioxide39 — and they must not be nano-sized.
Your safest choice is a lotion or cream with zinc oxide, as it is stable in sunlight and provides the best protection from UVA rays.40 Your next best option is titanium dioxide. Just make sure the product does not contain nano-sized particles and protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
Also keep in mind that SPF protects only from UVB rays (although if the FDA’s proposed rules are implemented, any SPF at or above 15 must protect against both UVA and UVB), which are the rays within the ultraviolet spectrum that allow your skin to produce vitamin D.
The most dangerous rays, in terms of causing skin damage and cancer, are the UVA rays. Avoid sunscreens with an SPF above 50. While not intrinsically harmful, the higher SPF tends to provide a false sense of security, encouraging you to stay in the sun longer than you should.
Moreover, higher SPF typically does not provide much greater protection. In fact, research suggests people using high-SPF sunscreens get the same or similar exposure to UV rays as those using lower-SPF products.
What’s more, a recent analysis41 by Consumer Reports found many sunscreens are far less effective than claimed on the label; 32 of the 82 products evaluated for 2019 offered less than half the protection promised by their stated SPF. Consumer Reports said they’d seen “a similar pattern in previous years’ sunscreen tests.”
Sensible Sun Exposure Is Good for Your Health and Longevity
I recommend spending time in the sun regularly — ideally daily. Sunshine offers substantial health benefits, provided you take a few simple precautions to protect yourself from overexposure. Here are my top five sensible sunning tips:
• Give your body a chance to produce vitamin D before you apply sunscreen. Expose large amounts of your skin (at least 40 percent of your body) to sunlight for short periods daily.
Vitamin D is involved in the biochemical function of nearly every cell and tissue in your body, including your immune system. When you're deficient in vitamin D, your health can deteriorate in a variety of important ways, because your cells require the active form of vitamin D to gain access to the genetic blueprints stored inside the cell.
Research42 published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in December 2018 called for an immediate revision of public health recommendations, noting that “nonburning UV exposure is a health benefit and — in moderation — should be recommended as such.”
The authors warn that the public has been misled and misinformed about the health ramifications of sun avoidance, as there are significant hazards associated with vitamin D deficiency, including a heightened risk of heart disease and several cancers, especially internal cancers but also skin cancer.43
This paper also points out that an estimated 12% of all U.S. deaths may be linked to inadequate sun exposure, and that sun avoidance is as potent a risk factor for death as smoking.
• Stay out just long enough for your skin to turn the very lightest shade of pink. Shield your face from the sun using a safe sunscreen or hat, as your facial skin is thin and more prone to sun damage, such as premature wrinkling.
When you'll be in the sun for longer periods, cover up with clothing, a hat or shade (either natural or shade you create using an umbrella). A safe sunscreen can be applied after you've optimized your skin’s daily vitamin D production, although clothing is your safest option to prevent burning and skin damage.
• Keep in mind that in order for sunscreen to be effective, you must apply large amounts over all exposed areas of your skin. This means the product should not trigger skin allergies and must provide good protection against UVA and UVB radiation. It also should not be absorbed into your skin, as the most effective sunscreen acts as a topical barrier.
• Consider the use of an "internal sunscreen" like astaxanthin to gain additional sun protection.44,45,46,47 In one study,48 subjects who took 4 milligrams of astaxanthin per day for two weeks showed a significant increase in the amount of time necessary for UV radiation to redden their skin.
On average, approximately 20% more energy was needed for skin reddening to occur. Astaxanthin can also be applied topically, which is why it’s now being incorporated into a number of topical sunscreen products.
Consuming a healthy diet full of natural antioxidants is another highly useful strategy to help avoid sun damage. Fresh, raw, unprocessed foods deliver the nutrients that your body needs to maintain a healthy balance of omega-6 and animal-based DHA omega-3 oils in your skin, which are your first lines of defense against sunburn.
Vegetables also provide your body with an abundance of powerful antioxidants that will help you fight the free radicals caused by sun damage that can lead to burns and cancer.
I’ve written about the collusion between industry and the U.S. federal regulatory agencies on many occasions throughout the years, and how industry-funded research simply tends to promote and support the industry agenda rather than shed truthful light on the benefits or risks of any given product.
In recent years, the hidden influence of The Coca-Cola Company over health and sugar science has been highlighted several times and, according to recent findings, it appears the company has not changed its secretive and deceptive ways, despite public assurances of transparency.
Documents obtained via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests reveal Coca-Cola’s research agreements with certain universities give the company questionable rights over the research process, while other FOIA documents show Coca-Cola has an unreasonable amount of influence over the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Truly, having a public health organization that protects and supports industry rather than looking out for public health is worse than having no public health protection agency at all, and making health decisions on Coca-Cola funded research is bound to lead public health in the wrong direction — which is exactly what’s been happening.
Coke’s Research Agreements Allow It to Bury Unfavorable Findings
Big Soda’s core message has been that the obesity epidemic is driven by a lack of activity, as opposed to indulging in sugar-based foods and beverages, despite overwhelming scientific evidence you will never be able to out-exercise your diet.
Recent FOIA documents obtained by the nonprofit consumer and public health watchdog organization U.S. Right to Know (USRTK) offer an explanation as to how the company can influence research to support and promulgate this false idea.1,2,3,4 As noted in a commentary in The British Medical Journal:5
“The research team, from the University of Cambridge, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the University of Bocconi, and non-profit group US Right to Know, looked at five research agreements made with four universities: Louisiana State University, University of South Carolina, University of Toronto, and the University of Washington.
They found that, although the contracts show that Coca-Cola does not have day-to-day control of the research, it has various rights throughout the process … This is despite Coca-Cola’s website stating that ‘in no event does The Coca-Cola Company have the right to prevent the publication of research results’ …
The authors are now calling on corporate funders to publish lists of terminated studies and on scientists to publish industry agreements to show that their findings are free from influence.”
Just how much influence do the agreements grant Coca-Cola? According to the featured paper,6 published in the Journal of Public Health Policy, the research contract provisions give Coke:7
- The right to review and comment on studies before publication
- Intellectual property rights connected to the research8,9
- Control over study data
- Control over disclosure of results
- Control over acknowledgment of Coca-Cola funding, meaning the company could prevent the researchers from disclosing that their funding came from Coke
- Power to terminate studies early for any reason, including no reason
Coke-Funded Science Cannot Be Trusted
In a USRTK press release, Gary Ruskin, co-director of USRTK and co-author of the paper, commented: 10
“These contracts suggest that Coke wanted the power to bury research it funded that might detract from its image or profits. With the power to trumpet positive findings and bury negative ones, Coke-funded ‘science’ seems somewhat less than science and more like an exercise in public relations.”
Marion Nestle, Ph.D.,11 professor of nutrition and public health at New York University and author of “Soda Politics,” in which she dissects the many ways in which funding from the food and beverage industry influences scientific results, calls the USRTK findings “jaw-dropping.” She told Inverse:12
“It demonstrates what we have all long suspected. Companies that sponsor research make sure that they get what they pay for. The study documents the involvement of Coca-Cola in many aspects of developing research projects.
It is no surprise that its funded research typically comes out with results that are useful for Coca-Cola marketing purposes. Industry funded research is marketing research, not scientific research.”
High Time for All Branches of Science to Mandate Preregistration of Studies
Since September 27, 2007, Section 801 of the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act requires any clinical trial being undertaken to be registered, and summary results must be submitted to ClinicalTrials.gov13 regardless of the outcome of the study. The reason for this is to help prevent publication bias where only positive findings see the light of day.
Unfortunately, this law only applies to certain clinical trials of drugs, biological products and medical devices,14 and while researchers in many other fields have taken to preregistering their studies,15,16 which means they must also publish their results, it’s not a blanket requirement across the board.
As of yet, preregistration of trials is not a requirement for nutritional research, although there’s a movement toward it. As noted in the 2015 editorial “Goals in Nutrition Science 2015-2020,” published in Frontiers of Nutrition:17
“[T]here is a general movement in science for ‘Transparency and Openness Promotion,’ formalized in ‘The TOP Guidelines.’18 The guidelines recognize eight standards: citation, data transparency, analytic methods (code) transparency, research materials transparency, design and analysis transparency, preregistration of studies, preregistration of analysis plans, and replication.
These standards aim to improve the communication of science, allowing improved understanding and replicability of results. Because the TOP Guidelines are being adopted across fields of science, the field of nutrition will not have to act in isolation to improve its scientific practices. Instead, we can build on and work with the minds and resources coming from a spectrum of scientific inquiry.”
Another paper, 19 “Best Practices in Nutrition Science to Earn and Keep the Public’s Trust,” published in January 2019, also highlights the TOP (transparency and openness promotion) guidelines that call for preregistration of studies.
On a quick side note, the first analysis20 of preregistered studies reveals there’s been a sharp increase in null findings, suggesting the practice is working as intended.
As reported by Nature, “Studies that preregister their protocols publish more negative findings that don’t support their hypothesis, than those that don’t.”21 This is important, because when mainly positive studies are published, it can easily create the false appearance that the evidence for a particular treatment is far stronger than it actually is.
CDC Colludes With Coca-Cola to Deceive You
Earlier this year, another batch of emails obtained via FOIA requests (after USRTK sued the CDC to get a response) revealed Coca-Cola was actively lobbying the CDC “to advance corporate objectives rather than health, including to influence the World Health Organization,” USRTK said in a post on its website,22 adding that the documentation demonstrates “a need for clearer policies on avoiding partnerships with manufacturers of harmful products.”
These documents, featuring correspondence between Coca-Cola executives and the CDC, can be found in the USCF Food Industry Documents online archive.23,24 A paper25,26,27,28 detailing the connections between Coke and the CDC based on the email cache was published in The Milbank Quarterly in January 2019.
In a press release announcing the publication of the paper, USRTK said:29
“Coca-Cola’s contact with the CDC shows the company’s interest in gaining access to CDC employees, to lobby policymakers, and to frame the obesity debate by shifting attention and blame away from sugar-sweetened beverages …
‘It is not the proper role of the CDC to abet companies that manufacture harmful products,’ said Gary Ruskin, co-director of U.S. Right to Know. ‘Congress should investigate whether Coca-Cola and other companies that harm public health are unethically influencing the CDC, and subverting its efforts to protect the health of all Americans.’
‘Once again we see the grave risks that arise when public health organisations [sic] partner with manufacturers of products that pose a threat to health,’ said Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
‘Sadly, as this example, and more recent ones in the United Kingdom show, these risks are not always appreciated by those who should know better.’”
CDC Official Helped Coke Influence World Health Organization
In March 2015, WHO published a new sugar guideline that specifically targeted sugary beverages, calling them out as a primary cause for childhood obesity around the world, especially in developing nations, where the soda industry is now aggressively expanding its reach.
WHOs recommendation to limit soda consumption was a huge blow to an already beleaguered soda industry, struggling to maintain a declining market share amid mounting evidence identifying sweetened drinks as a primary contributor to the obesity and diabetes epidemics.
Email correspondence between Alex Malaspina, a former Coca-Cola scientific and regulatory affairs leader and the founder of the food industry-funded group International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), and Barbara Bowman, Ph.D., then-director of the CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, revealed Bowman repeatedly tried to help Malaspina get an audience with WHO officials, with the aim to talk them into relaxing the sugar limits.30,31
As noted by the USRTK,32 while Bowman’s job was to prevent obesity and related health problems, she “appeared happy to help the beverage industry cultivate political sway with the World Health Organization.”
Bowman left the agency at the end of June 2016, just two days after the initial reports about her cozy relationship with Coke were made public,33 which suggests she understood full well how inappropriate her behavior was.
This case also highlights the reality of corporate loyalty. As reported by the Huffington Post,34 early in her career, Bowman worked as a senior nutritionist for Coca-Cola. She also co-wrote one of the editions of a nutritional book published by ILSI.35
It’s human nature to remain loyal to former employers and colleagues, which is why the revolving door between industry and the agencies that regulate them is so problematic. People don’t shed their corporate mindset just because they get a government title and a new set of responsibilities.
Latest Coca-Cola Funded Study Again Blames Inactivity for Childhood Obesity
Coca-Cola and other soda makers have invested a lot of money in research and PR efforts aimed at protecting sales through misdirection. Coca-Cola in particular has worked hard to make it seem as though they’re concerned about public health while secretly undermining real efforts to improve it.
For example, a historical analysis36 published in 2016 found the sugar industry funded research that identified dietary fat as the culprit in heart disease, not sugar, and didn’t disclose that funding.
A 2017 study37 revealed that while sponsoring 95 U.S. health organizations, Coke was lobbying against public health bills aimed at reducing soda consumption through taxing, sugar limits and other strategies.
Coca-Cola and many other junk food manufacturers are also notorious for funding — and thus influencing — food and nutrition conferences and education.38
Most recently, a Coke-funded study39 published in the International Journal of Obesity January 31, 2019, evaluated “the single and joint associations of objectively measured moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and sedentary time on week and weekend days with obesity in children from 12 countries …”
They concluded the odds of obesity were highest among those who got the least amount of physical activity on both weekdays and weekends. Children with the lowest odds of obesity were the most active throughout the whole week. As noted by Nestle in her Food Politics blog:40
“This is another paper from the ISCOLE study funded by Coca-Cola, that seems to be aimed at casting doubt on the idea that sugary beverages might promote weight gain. Instead, these results suggest that physical activity is a more important factor.
Of course physical activity is important for health, but doesn’t expend nearly as many calories as is usually needed to compensate for soft drink intake. I learned about this study from a Weighty Matters blog post41 by Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, who runs a weight management center in Ottawa.
In his view, the ISCOLE study ignores evidence42 that childhood obesity is a determinant of physical activity, ‘not the other way around.’ He also questions the ‘no influence’ statement in the funding disclosure, on the basis of emails43 between ISCOLE investigators and Coca-Cola that not surprisingly suggests that these relationships have the very real potential to influence the framing of results even if funders [are] not involved in study design.
As I discuss in ‘Unsavory Truth,’ the influence of food-industry funders appears to occur at an unconscious level; investigators do not recognize the influence and typically deny it.”