As a lover of technology, it pains me to see what technological advancements are doing to our youth. In a previous article for The Atlantic,1 Jean Twenge takes a deep dive into how smartphones, with 24/7 access to internet and social media, are affecting post-millennials’ mental health.
The article, which is well worth reading in its entirety, is adapted from Twenge’s book “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood — and What That Means for the Rest of Us.”
Children today cannot even fathom a life pre-internet — a life where school work involved visits to libraries and phone calls required you to stay in one spot, since the telephone was attached to the wall. Kids spend an inordinate amount of time on their smartphones, communicating with friends (and possibly strangers) via text, Twitter and Facebook, and work to keep up their Snapstreaks on Snapchat.
Even toddlers are proficient in navigating their way around a wireless tablet these days. Twenge discusses the online habits of Athena, a 13-year-old Texan, saying:
“She told me she’d spent most of the summer hanging out alone in her room with her phone. That’s just the way her generation is, she said. ‘We didn’t have a choice to know any life without iPads or iPhones. I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.’”
Rise of the iGeneration
Twenge, who has studied generational differences for two and a half decades, notes that a generation typically becomes defined by changes in beliefs and behaviors that gradually and naturally arise along a more or less natural continuum. The post-millennial generation, however, is radically different. Twenge notes “abrupt shifts in teen behavior and emotional states” emerged suddenly around 2012.
Millennials, distinguished by a pronounced individualistic streak, stand in sharp contrast to those following, in whom the drive for independence and individualism has virtually vanished.
“At first I presumed these might be blips, but the trends persisted, across several years and a series of national surveys,” Twenge writes. “The changes weren’t just in degree, but in kind. The biggest difference between the millennials and their predecessors was in how they viewed the world; teens today differ from the millennials not just in their views but in how they spend their time.
The experiences they have every day are radically different from those of the generation that came of age just a few years before them. What happened in 2012 to cause such dramatic shifts in behavior? … [I]t was exactly the moment when the proportion of Americans who owned a smartphone surpassed 50 percent.
The more I pored over yearly surveys of teen attitudes and behaviors, and the more I talked with young people like Athena, the clearer it became that theirs is a generation shaped by the smartphone and by the concomitant rise of social media.
I call them iGen. Born between 1995 and 2012, members of this generation are growing up with smartphones, have an Instagram account before they start high school, and do not remember a time before the internet.”
Today’s Teens — Physically Safer but Psychologically Vulnerable
According to Twenge, the social impact of smartphones and tablets “has not been fully appreciated, and goes far beyond the usual concerns about curtailed attention spans.” Perhaps most importantly, smartphones have changed the way teens interact socially, and this has significant ramifications for their psychological health.
Teens today are far less likely to want to get a driver’s license than previous generations, and a majority of their social life is carried out in the solitude of their bedroom, via their smartphones. As of 2015, 12th-graders spent less time “hanging out” and socializing with friends than eighth-graders did in 2009.
While this makes them physically safer than any previous generation, this kind of isolation does not bode well for mental health and the building of social skills required for work and personal relationships.
In fact, today’s teens are also far less prone to date than previous generations. In 2015, 56 percent of high school seniors dated, nearly 30 percent less than boomers and Gen Xers. Not surprisingly, sexual activity has also declined — down by about 40 percent since 1991, resulting in a 67 percent drop in teen pregnancy rates. Avoiding the drama and heartbreak of those early love experiences has not had a positive effect on emotional health, however.
Rates of teen depression and suicide have dramatically risen since 2011, and data suggest spending three hours or more each day on electronic devices raises a teen’s suicide risk by 35 percent. Between 2007 and 2015, the suicide rate for 12- to 14-year-old girls rose threefold — a gender trend that can in part be blamed on a rise in cyberbullying, which is more common among girls. The suicide rate among boys doubled in that same time frame.
“It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental health crisis in decades,” Twenge writes, adding that “Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones … There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives — and making them seriously unhappy.”
Depression Risk Rises in Tandem With Increased Screen Time
Data from the annual Monitoring the Future survey reveals the more time teens spend online, the unhappier they are, and those who spend more time than average on in-person relations and activities that do not involve their smartphone are far more likely to report being “happy.” Results such as these really should come as no surprise. Spending time outdoors has been scientifically shown to dramatically improve people’s mood and significantly reduce symptoms of depression.2
Interestingly, it doesn’t matter what type of screen activity is involved. They’re all equally likely to cause psychological distress. Between 2012 and 2015, depressive symptoms among boys rose by 21 percent. Among girls, the rise during that same time was a whopping 50 percent — a truly remarkable increase in just three years’ time.
“If you were going to give advice for a happy adolescence based on this survey, it would be straightforward: Put down the phone, turn off the laptop and do something — anything — that does not involve a screen,” Twenge writes.
Many Teens Exhibit Compulsive Obsession With Their Smartphone
Many, both children and adults, are also exhibiting signs of addiction to their electronic devices. Remarkably, many even sleep with their smartphones right next to them in bed, or directly under their pillow — a trend that is bound to cause severe harm to both their mental and physical health.
The radiation alone is a significant hazard and is known to disrupt sleep, but the blue light from the screen, plus the beeping and pinging when messages and other notifications come in are bound to interrupt sleep as well.
This does not even factor in the influence of cellphone microwaves influencing melatonin, which regulates your sleep-wake cycle. When your melatonin production is disrupted, it can have long-term health effects, as shown in a 2013 study3 in which the U.S. government collaborated with the Egyptian Foreign Ministry to assess the effects of cellphone radiation on the central nervous system.
They found that exposure to cellphone radiation for just one hour a day for one month caused rats to experience a period of delay period before entering rapid eye movement deep sleep — a phase necessary for restful sleep.
Another study4 published in 2015 found that 1.8 GHz frequencies affected rats’ circadian rhythm and decreased their daily production of melatonin. Superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase (which help prevent cellular damage) were also decreased. Low melatonin is actually used as a marker for disturbed sleep.5 Until I personally addressed the ELF (electrical fields) in my bedroom, I could not get my deep sleep levels into healthy ranges.
It comes as no great surprise then that sleep deprivation among teenagers rose by 57 percent between 1991 and 2015. Many do not even get seven hours of sleep on a regular basis, while science reveals they need a minimum of eight and as much as 10 hours to maintain their health. Twenge writes about the habits of those she interviewed:
“Their phone was the last thing they saw before they went to sleep and the first thing they saw when they woke up … Some used the language of addiction. ‘I know I shouldn’t, but I just can’t help it,’ one said about looking at her phone while in bed. Others saw their phone as an extension of their body — or even like a lover: ‘Having my phone closer to me while I’m sleeping is a comfort.’”
Internet Addiction — A Growing Epidemic
Dependence or addiction to a digital device hooked to the internet affected 6 percent of the world population in 2014.6 This number may not appear to be significant on the surface, but consider that 6 percent of the world population was over 420 million people and that estimate has likely sharply risen in the last three years.7
Comparatively speaking, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 3.5 to 7 percent of the world population between 15 and 64 years had used an illicit drug in the past year.8
The percentage of those addicted to the internet may actually be higher as only 39 percent of the world in 2014 had access to the internet,9 driving the real percentage of those addicted to 15 percent. Symptoms of addiction are similar to other types of addiction, but are more socially acceptable. The authors of the study found an internet addiction (IA) is:10
“… [G]enerally regarded as a disorder of concern because the neural abnormalities (e.g., atrophies in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) and cognitive dysfunctions (e.g., impaired working memory) associated with IA mimic those related to substance and behavioral addiction. Moreover, IA is often comorbid with mental disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and depression.”
Reach Out Recovery identifies conditions that may trigger internet addiction or compulsions, including anxiety, depression, other addictions, social isolation and stress.11 Internet activity may stimulate your brain’s reward system, much like drugs and alcohol, providing a constant source of information and entertainment. While each person’s internet use is different, the results may be the same. Long-term effects may include:
Irritation when someone interrupts your interaction online
Difficulty completing tasks
Experiencing euphoria while online
Inability to stop despite the consequences
Google Would Like You to Keep On Using
It should come as no surprise that companies that make money when more people spend more time and money on the internet are consciously trying to manipulate your behavior. Former Google product manager Tristan Harris revealed how digital giants are engineering smartphone apps and social media feedback to get you checking and double-checking online.12
However, while internet use is more socially acceptable, digital companies aren’t the only businesses using neurological and psychological strategies to increase their profit margins.13 Behavior patterns are often etched into neural pathways,14 and when those behaviors are also linked to hormone secretion and physiological responses, they become even more powerful.
In fact, Harris describes the reward process of using a smartphone as “playing the slot machine.”15 And, Google has discovered a way to embed that reward system as you use the apps on your phone. This process is so important to digital corporations that Apple turned down a new smartphone app for their store that would help people to reduce their use of the internet and their smartphones.
In the video above, Harris describes a process known in programing circles as “brain hacking,” as they incorporate knowledge of neuropsychology into the development of digital interfaces that boost interaction. For instance, getting likes on Facebook and Instagram, the “streaks” on Snapchat or cute emojis on texts are all designed to increase your engagement and desire to return.
Harris describes it as a race to the bottom of the brainstem where fear and anxiety live, two of the most powerful motivators known to advertisers. Both advertisers and computer software developers are using these techniques to write code that will engage your attention.16
Wireless Technologies Wreak Havoc With Your Child’s Health and Well-Being
In 2011, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer declared cellphones a Group 2B “possible human carcinogen”17 related to the microwave radiation emitted from the phone. Even cellphone manufacturers place warnings on their products to keep them at least 1 inch from your body.18
A systematic review and meta-analysis19 published in PLOS One in 2017 also warns that there’s a “significant positive association between long-term mobile phone use (minimum, 10 years) and glioma.” Overall, cellphone use for at least one decade was associated with a 2.22 greater odds of developing brain cancer. Such findings have gained strength with the publication of two lifetime exposure studies20,21 on animals, both of which confirmed an increased risk of brain tumors.
While cancer is certainly a long-term concern, there are more pressing health effects associated with chronic, round-the-clock electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure.
Research22,23 by professor Martin Pall, Ph.D., reveals a previously unknown mechanism of biological harm from microwaves emitted by cellphones and other wireless technologies, which helps explain why these technologies can have such a potent impact on mental health specifically. Embedded in your cell membranes are voltage gated calcium channels (VGCCs), which are activated by microwaves.
When that happens, a flood of calcium ions is released, which stimulates the release of nitric oxide (NO) inside your cells and mitochondria.
The NO then combines with superoxide to form peroxynitrite, which in turn creates hydroxyl free radicals — some of the most destructive free radicals known to man — which in turn decimate mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, their membranes and proteins. The result is mitochondrial dysfunction, which we now know is at the heart of most chronic disease.
Excessive EMF Exposure Can Trigger Anxiety, Depression and Memory Problems
The reason excessive EMF exposure is associated with depression and neurological dysfunction, including dementia, is because your brain has the highest density of VGCCs in your body. The pacemaker in your heart and male testes are also high-density areas, and EMF exposure has been linked to cardiac arrhythmias and infertility as well. I simply do not believe bathing a fetus in EMFs in utero is a good idea.
Without fully understanding the mechanisms involved, studies have linked excessive exposure to EMFs to an increased risk of both depression and suicide.24 Addiction to or “high engagement” with mobile devices can also trigger depression and anxiety, according to recent research from the University of Illinois.25
According to Nicholas Carr, author of the book, “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains,” millennials are experiencing greater problems with forgetfulness than seniors.26 This is the “dark side” of neurological plasticity that allows your brain to adapt to changes in your environment. This type of plasticity is one way your brain recovers after a stroke has permanently damaged one area.
A loss of white matter,27,28 reduced cortical thickness29,30 and impaired cognitive functioning31 are other brain structure and functional changes that have been demonstrated from long-term internet use. It is impossible to ignore that these devices are changing your brain structure, and the experience is also increasing exposure to microwave radiation and large amounts of blue light at night, thereby impacting your child’s body’s ability to produce melatonin.
So, if your child or teen is showing signs of anxiety or depression, please, do what you must to limit their exposure to wireless technology. Teach them more responsible usage.
At bare minimum, insist on their turning off phones and tablets at night, and to not sleep with their phone beneath their pillow or directly near their head. Really try to minimize the presence of electronic devices in their bedroom and, to protect everyone in your household and instill the concept of “off times,” shut down your Wi-Fi at night.
Firefighting foam liberally used by the South Dakota Air National Guard and Sioux Falls Fire Department decades ago is the source of significant pollution to the drinking water of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, residents. Nineteen municipal wells representing 28 percent of the city’s water coming from the Big Sioux aquifer have been shut down.1
Fifteen of them contain polyfluoroalkyl or perfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFASs) from the firefighting foam, which include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), one of the highly toxic chemicals used in the production of Teflon, and a similar chemical, perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). The toxic legacy persists because once PFAS enters the environment, it doesn’t break down but rather persists indefinitely.
The extent of the contamination remains unclear, as do the potential health risks to longtime residents of the area. As reported by the Rapid City Journal, “As city officials grapple with the well shutdowns ... it may soon face an even larger challenge when citizens begin to learn how long their drinking water was contaminated before it was detected and the wells taken offline.”2
Residents Weren’t Notified of the Pollution for Three Years After the First Detection
It was 2011 when water leaving the Sioux Falls water purification plant was first tested for PFAS. It was tested again in 2012, but the city didn’t receive the results until 2013. PFAS was detected but at levels below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) health advisory level. The city then tested all of their wells for PFAS and eventually shut down all that contained PFAS.
The city then tested for PFAS again in 2014 and 2016, when the EPA lowered its health advisory level for PFAS to 70 parts per trillion (ppt). The 2016 tests found PFOS, which led to more wells being shut down. It was that year that the city finally released an announcement to tell residents about the contamination that had been found.
The culprits, as detected by a consultant hired by the Department of Defense (DoD) and reported by the Rapid City Journal, was firefighting foam used for decades, beginning in 1970. First the Sioux Falls Fire Department sprayed the PFAS-laden foam at the city’s airport weekly during tests and training.
In 1991, the South Dakota Air National Guard took over the firefighting duty and continued to release firefighting foam into the city’s sewer system.
At least a dozen wells have been found to contain PFOA/PFOS at levels above the EPA’s advisory level, one with concentrations 3,500 times over and another at 200 times the limit. Ten of the wells, which produced an average of 440 million gallons of water per year, may be shut down indefinitely. According to the Rapid City Journal:3
“Further investigation by the Air Guard is scheduled for 2019, including the possibility of off-base testing. Another report will follow, though it’s unlikely to be published until late 2019 or in 2020.
It’s been nearly five decades since the Air Force first used firefighting foam, one decade since the EPA set its first advisory level for PFOA/PFOS and a half-decade since the base learned of the city’s municipal well contamination. The Air Guard, however, shows no sense of urgency in completing its inspections.”
PFAS Contamination in Drinking Water Common Near Military Bases
DoD has reported that at least 126 drinking water systems near military bases are contaminated with PFASs, due to their use in firefighting foam.4 However, although other countries are now using firefighting foam that does not contain these toxic chemicals, the U.S. military is not.
As reported by Sharon Lerner, a reporting fellow at The Investigative Fund and an investigative journalist for The Intercept and other major media outlets:5
“[E]ven as the Army, Navy and Air Force have begun the slow process of addressing the contamination, which is expected to cost upwards of $2 billion, the Department of Defense isn’t abandoning this line of chemicals.
While some of the precise formulations that caused the contamination are off the table, the U.S. military is in the midst of an expensive effort to replace older foam with a newer formulation that contains only slightly tweaked versions of the same problematic compounds ...
Some of the studies showing the dangers of these persistent chemicals came from the manufacturers themselves ... The new foam contains no PFOS and ‘little or no PFOA,’ according to an Air Force press release.6 Instead, it uses the closely related molecules that pose many of the same dangers ... ”
This includes shorter-chained replacement PFAS chemicals such as PFHxS, which have very similar concerns as other PFASs, according to a report prepared by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) HHS' Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).7
The fact remains that much is unknown about the extent of contamination and the resulting human health and environmental damage that may have occurred. “Important questions about today’s PFAS contamination remain unanswered,” the Rapid City Journal reported, adding:8
“From the date PFAS entered a private well or municipal water system to the date it was detected and mitigated, what was the effect and on whom? How many airmen and women handled and used the foam for decades without proper protection? What was the effect and where are they now?”
16.5 Million Americans Could Be Drinking PFAS-Contaminated Water
According to a 2016 Harvard study, 16.5 million Americans have detectable levels of at least one kind of PFAS in their drinking water, and about 6 million Americans are drinking water that contains PFAS at or above the EPA safety level.9
While toxic water supplies were found in 33 states, 75 percent of the samples with elevated PFAS came from 13 states: California, New Jersey, North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Georgia, Minnesota, Arizona, Massachusetts and Illinois.
Not surprisingly, the highest concentration levels of PFAS were found in watersheds near industrial sites, military fire training areas and wastewater treatment plants, but private wells were also found to be contaminated. According to the study:10
“Among samples with detectable PFAS levels, each additional military site within a watershed’s eight-digit hydrologic unit is associated with a 20 percent increase in PFHxS, a 10 percent increase in both PFHpA and PFOA, and a 35 percent increase in PFOS.
The number of civilian airports with personnel trained in the use of aqueous film-forming foams is significantly associated with the detection of PFASs above the minimal reporting level.”
It’s known, also, that people with such chemicals in their drinking water have higher levels in their bodies as well. For instance, one study compared detection of perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) in public drinking water with PFAA concentrations for 1,566 California women.
The researchers found serum concentrations of two PFAAs, PFOS and PFOA, were 29 percent and 38 percent higher, respectively, among women with detectable levels in their drinking water compared to those without detectable levels.11
What’s more, the ATSDR report suggests that in order to protect public health, the EPA’s safety threshold levels should be much lower than 70 ppt, down to 7 ppt for PFOS and 11 ppt for PFOA.12 If the EPA safety level were lowered according to ATSDR’s recommendation, it means far more Americans are actually at risk.
Already, certain states, including Vermont and Minnesota, have proposed or set lower drinking water standards for PFOA, including 14 ppt in New Jersey. Michigan even proposed setting a standard of 5 ppt for PFAS in December 2017.
There are other questionable chemicals in firefighting foam as well, but the EPA has only set standards for PFOS and PFOA — and these are the only two chemicals the military is looking to remediate.
“The exclusive focus on PFOA and PFOS means that some people who have the broader category of chemicals at considerable levels in their drinking water do not receive clean water from the military,” The Intercept reported.13
What Are the Health Risks of Drinking PFAS-Contaminated Water?
In May 2015, more than 200 scientists from 40 countries signed the Madrid Statement, which warns about the harms of PFAS chemicals and documents the following potential health effects of exposure:14
Disruption of lipid metabolism, and the immune and endocrine systems
Adverse neurobehavioral effects
Neonatal toxicity and death
Tumors in multiple organ systems
Testicular and kidney cancers
Reduced birth weight and size
Decreased immune response to vaccines
Reduced hormone levels and delayed puberty
Environmental concerns regarding firefighting foam first surfaced in the 1970s, and in 2000 its maker, 3M, finally said it would stop making the chemical. The decision came in response to an animal study that found PFOS led to weight loss, enlarged livers and premature death in monkeys, even at the lowest dose of exposure.
The EPA acknowledged such risks to the Pentagon at the time, but although 3M stopped making the toxic foam, other companies did not. Further, they (DuPont and other chemical companies) also created the Fire Fighting Foam Coalition to present to the EPA on the firefighting foam’s supposed safety and usefulness for protecting military personnel from fires. The Intercept continued:15
“One of the coalition’s biggest tests came at an October 2003 meeting that was part of the EPA’s investigation of perfluorinated chemicals. The agency was considering whether telomers used in AFFF [firefighting foam], as well as the foam itself, should be part of that regulatory investigation.
Had the agency concluded that the other surfactants in AFFF posed a significant threat, that step could have led fairly quickly to restrictions — or at least to a voluntary phase-out of the chemicals — as it eventually did with PFOA and PFOS.
But at the meeting, the Fire Fighting Foam Coalition asked the EPA to exempt it from the regulatory process [which they did] ... It was a major victory. Since then, the Army, Navy and Air Force have continued to use AFFF across the country and abroad with little involvement from the EPA or pressure to replace its products.”
The foam remains in use even as PFASs have been linked to negative liver, cardiovascular, endocrine, immune, reproductive and developmental effects, while other studies have revealed subtle effects such as an increased risk of obesity in children when exposed in utero and lowered immune response.16
Can PFAS Be Removed From Your Drinking Water?
PFAS has no taste or smell, so the only way to know if it’s in your drinking water is to have your water tested. Because drinking water contaminants are so widespread, it’s wise to filter your water, but be aware that most water filters, such as those commonly sold at supermarkets, will not remove PFASs.
The New Jersey Drinking Water Quality Institute recommends using granulated activated carbon "or an equally efficient technology" to remove chemicals such as PFOA and PFOS from your drinking water.17 Activated carbon has been shown to remove up to 90 percent of these chemicals. If you suspect you’ve already been exposed, implementing a detox program is highly recommended.
In addition, it’s wise to avoid other sources of PFAS. Aside from firefighting foam, these chemicals are also widely used in nonstick cookware, water- and stain-repellant clothing, furniture and carpets, fast food wrappers and microwave popcorn bags.
At the very least, if you live anywhere near a military installation or fire department fire-training area, consider getting your tap water tested for PFAS and other toxic contaminants, and in the meantime, assume it’s contaminated and start filtering it as soon as possible.
Worldwide, someone develops dementia every three seconds, and by 2030 it’s estimated that 75 million will be living with the condition.1 In the U.S. alone, 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, and someone develops the disease every 65 seconds.2
Meanwhile, the use of statin cholesterol-lowering drugs doubled among U.S. adults from 2000 to 2011,3 and U.S. doctors write more than 200 million prescriptions for such drugs every year.4 In the fervor to lower cholesterol levels — a misguided strategy still being mistakenly promoted to reduce heart disease risk — might health care professionals be increasing dementia risk?
So suggest the results of a new study published in the journal Frontiers in Neurology, which looked into the relationship between cholesterol and cognitive function.5 While cholesterol is still largely vilified, and statin use still heavily promoted, the study found that having lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is linked to a higher risk of dementia.
High LDL Cholesterol a Protective Factor Against Cognitive Decline
The study involved data from nearly 4,000 residents aged 50 years or over in an urban community in China. A high level of LDL cholesterol was found to be inversely associated with dementia in the study participants, even after controlling for other factors that might increase risk, including demographic characteristics, health behavior, mood assessment and medical history.
What’s more, the researchers noted, “There was a significantly higher proportion of participants with low levels of total cholesterol (TC) and … [LDL] cholesterol in the dementia group than in groups without dementia.”6 The association was so strong that they concluded a high level of LDL cholesterol may be considered as a “potential protective factor against cognition decline.”
This may come as a surprise for those who have been told that cholesterol is more of a liability than an asset, but other studies have also found cholesterol to be protective to the brain. For instance, cholesterol levels in the high-normal range were associated with better cognitive performance in people aged 65 years and over.7
Those researchers concluded, “[L]ow cholesterol may serve as a clinical indicator of risk for cognitive impairment in the elderly.” Lower cholesterol levels were also associated with worse cognitive function among South Korean study participants aged 65 and over, and were considered to be a “state marker for AD [Alzheimer’s disease].”8
A U.S. study of more than 4,300 Medicare recipients aged 65 and over also revealed that higher levels of total cholesterol were associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, even after adjusting for cardiovascular risk factors and other related variables.9
Other studies have found higher HDL cholesterol to be associated with better cognitive function,10 with researchers suggesting, “Further exploration of the protective effect of HDL-C [HDL cholesterol] on cognitive function in aging is warranted through follow-up, longitudinal studies.”11
Why Higher Cholesterol Levels May Be Good for Your Brain
Your brain contains up to 30 percent cholesterol, which is an essential component of neurons and, as stated by the researchers of the featured study, “of great importance to develop and maintain neuronal plasticity and function.”12 In fact, cholesterol is critical for synapse formation, i.e., the connections between your neurons, which allow you to think, learn new things and form memories.
Beyond this, it’s been suggested that high cholesterol could be an indicator of overall good nutritional status and health, whereas low cholesterol has been linked to a higher risk of mortality and is often seen alongside malnutrition and chronic diseases, including cancer.13 In one study, women with high cholesterol actually had a 28 percent lower mortality risk than women with low cholesterol.14
The Frontiers in Neurology study authors also suggested that, as a major component of the brain, decreasing cholesterol levels could be associated with cerebral atrophy, “a typical anatomic syndrome of dementia,” and other factors more directly related to your brain health. They continued:15
“Another speculation is that high LDL-C could reduce neurons' impairments or facilitate compensatory repair of injured neurons. The inhibitions of dendrite outgrowth and synaptogenesis, and the acceleration of neurodegeneration have been observed when neurons was a short of cellular cholesterol or cholesterol supply.
Besides, cholesterol plays an important role in the synthesis, transportation and metabolism of steroid hormones as well as lipid-soluble vitamins, both of which have an impact on synaptic integrity and neurotransmission.”
Statins Linked to Neuromuscular Disease
While the featured study didn’t look specifically at statin use, it stands to reason that using such drugs to lower your cholesterol to artificially low levels could backfire in the form of degenerating your brain health. Previously, statins have been linked to the neuromuscular degenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation Collaborating Centre for International Drug Monitoring receives safety reports associated with statin medications and has noted a disproportionately high number of patients with upper motor neuron lesions among those taking statin medications.16
The lead researcher, Ivor Ralph Edwards, is an expert in toxicology, acute and chronic poisoning and adverse drug reactions. He stated, "We do advocate that trial discontinuation of a statin should be considered in patients with serious neuromuscular disease such as the ALS-like syndrome, given the poor prognosis and a possibility that progression of the disease may be halted or even reversed."17
Should You Think Twice Before Taking Statins?
If you’ve been told you need a statin drug to lower your cholesterol levels, you may want to think carefully before filling the prescription — for a few key reasons. Side effects are one of them. Aside from an increased risk of dementia, statins deplete your body of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), which accounts for many of their devastating results.
CoQ10 is used for energy production by every cell in your body. Its reduced form, ubiquinol, is a critical component of cellular respiration and production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is a coenzyme used as an energy carrier in every cell of your body. The depletion of CoQ10 caused by statins can actually increase your risk of acute heart failure.
While this can be somewhat offset by taking a Coenzyme Q10 supplement (if you're over 40, I would recommend taking ubiquinol instead of CoQ10), statins still come with a risk of other serious side effects, including:
- Musculoskeletal disorders, including myalgia, muscle weakness, muscle cramps, rhabdomyolysis and autoimmune muscle disease21
Statins also inhibit the synthesis of vitamin K2, which can make your heart health worse instead of better, and reduce ketone production. Ketones are crucial nutrients to feed your mitochondria and are important regulators of metabolic health and longevity.
The other major issue is that the payoff for taking on this heightened risk of side effects is very small, as there is far more that goes into your risk of heart disease than your cholesterol levels.
If you look at absolute risk, statin drugs benefit just 1 percent of the population. This means that out of 100 people treated with the drugs, one person will have one less heart attack.23 Keep in mind also that statins reduce your total cholesterol number, without addressing your HDL, LDL, very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) or triglyceride levels.
While your total cholesterol number gives you a general overview, it isn't the information needed to evaluate your risk of cardiovascular disease. Instead, you'll need to compare your HDL, LDL, VLDL and triglyceride numbers against your total cholesterol.
A recent review of three large industry-funded studies even found LDL cholesterol does not cause cardiovascular disease,24 raising serious concerns about the continued push for statin drugs to lower cholesterol.
What Are the Early Signs of Dementia?
Whether you’re taking a statin drug or not, being on the lookout for early signals of dementia is important. Dementia is not a disease in itself but, rather, is a term used to describe a number of different brain illnesses that may affect your memory, thinking, behavior and ability to perform everyday activities.
Many people associate dementia with memory loss — and this is a red flag — however, not all memory problems are due to Alzheimer’s (and some causes of dementia-like symptoms, including memory loss, can be reversed, such as those related to thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies).25
Before memory and thinking problems become obvious, people with dementia may display changes in mood and behavior. A person may, for instance, stop doing something they’ve always loved to do, be it cooking a certain dish for your birthday or watching the evening news.
Apathy is another common sign, although some people may display more blatant changes like suddenly becoming sexually promiscuous or developing the habit of snatching food off other people’s plates.26 Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) may follow the earliest changes in mood and behavior.
MCI is a slight decline in cognitive abilities that increases your risk of developing more serious dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.
Forgetting important information that you would have normally recalled, such as appointments, conversations or recent events, may be a sign, and you may have a harder time making sound decisions, figuring out the sequence of steps needed to complete a task, or judging the time needed to do so.
The Alzheimer's Association also compiled differences between symptoms of dementia and typical age-related changes:27
|Signs of Alzheimer's/dementia||Typical age-related changes|
Poor judgment and decision-making
Making a bad decision once in a while
Inability to manage a budget
Missing a monthly payment
Losing track of the date or the season
Forgetting which day it is and remembering it later
Difficulty having a conversation
Sometimes forgetting which word to use
Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them
Losing things from time to time
A Cyclical Ketogenic Diet May Be the Solution
If you’re looking to protect both your brain and heart health, avoiding statin drugs and following a ketogenic diet may be the answer. A high-fat, moderate-protein and low net-carb ketogenic diet is crucial for protecting your brain health and is recommended for virtually everyone.
This type of diet involves restricting all but non-starchy vegetable carbs and replacing them with low to moderate amounts of high-quality protein and high amounts of beneficial fat.
It's a diet that will help optimize your weight and reduce your risk of chronic degenerative disease while protecting your brain. Eating this way will help you convert from carb-burning mode to fat-burning mode, which in turn triggers your body to produce ketones (also known as ketone bodies or ketoacids).
Ketones can feed your brain and prevent brain atrophy. They may even restore and renew neuron and nerve function in your brain after damage has set in. A ketogenic diet will also reduce inflammation while lowering your insulin levels, both key for protecting your heart health and reducing your risk of dementia.
However, the “metabolic magic” actually occurs during the refeeding phase, not during the starvation phase. If you’re constantly in ketosis, you’re missing out on one of the most valuable benefits of the ketogenic diet, which is why, once you have established ketosis, I recommend you then cycle healthy carbs back in.
In my last book, “Fat for Fuel,” I detail a cyclical or targeted ketogenic diet, which has been scientifically shown to optimize metabolic and mitochondrial health. My latest book, “Superfuel: Ketogenic Keys to Unlock the Secrets of Good Fats, Bad Fats, and Great Health,” delves deeper into the science behind the good fats and how to tell the difference between the good and the bad.
Before resorting to statin drugs to lower your cholesterol, give this diet a try — your cholesterol levels will likely become optimized naturally and, with them, so too will your overall health.
If you’ve ever been strolling through a supermarket produce section and noticed a rather large (or even gigantic) green fruit with a hobnail surface, it was probably a jackfruit. Native to southern India, but now spread to other warm areas of the world, such as Asia, South America, Africa and, in recent years, Florida, the Artocarpus heterophyllus is finding its way into the mainstream for several reasons.
The oblong jackfruit is the largest tree fruit and grows directly from the trunk and lower branches, making them cauliflorous, a botanical term that translates to “stem flower.”1 Jackfruits can weigh as much as 100 pounds and reach nearly 3 feet in length. Noticeably fragrant when ripe, they turn from green to light brown in the process and resemble breadfruit, aka Artocarpus altilis, which originated in New Guinea.
People often wonder about the difference between jackfruit and a similar-looking fruit, durian. While these two tree-grown fruits appear quite similar, they’re completely different, although both exotic to the Western eye.
Durian is much smaller, and rather than the pebbly appearance of jackfruit, durian has a spiky (read: thorn-like) exterior. Inside, durian fruit is soft, creamy and pungent, while jackfruit is crisp, firm and sweet.2 Horticultural educator Fred Prescod describes jackfruit very well:
“The outer skin of the ripe fruit consists of numerous hard, cone-like points. The inside has 100 to 500 light-brown seeds ... The seeds are enclosed in masses of yellow, banana-flavored flesh. The unopened ripe fruit emits an odor resembling that of rotting onions, but the pulp of the opened fruit smells of pineapple and banana.”3
With that in mind, it must have been a very brave or desperate individual to consider jackfruit as potential food the very first time, considering the fragrance of the whole product, but like many other things, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
The Nutritional Benefits of Jackfruit
A study from 20164 indicates that jackfruit contains lignans, isoflavones and other phytonutrients with wide-ranging health benefits, including anticancer, antihypertensive, antiulcer and antiaging properties.
That means eating jackfruit can help your body prevent the formation of cancer, lower blood pressure, slow down the degeneration of cells that causes visible aging and combat stomach ulcers. As a unique-tasting food, you’ll find jackfruit to be very versatile. According to Health.com:
“Like all fruits, jackfruit supplies plenty of nutritional perks: It’s low in calories, naturally fat- and sodium-free, provides ample vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene) and vitamin C, and packs in a surprising blood pressure-lowering potassium.
It’s also rich in fiber, which means it can help you feel satisfied on fewer calories ... While jackfruit is often marketed as a meat substitute, it’s nutritionally more similar to a starchy vegetable than lean protein. A typical serving of a jackfruit product will have 2 grams of protein, compared to 6 to 7 grams of protein in an ounce of meat, poultry or fish.”5
In jackfruit, you’ll also find plenty of B vitamins, including niacin, folic acid, pyridoxine and riboflavin, plus calcium and thiamine; minerals like potassium, iron, manganese and magnesium. Powerful antioxidants help protect you from free radicals and can even help repair DNA damage, according to a 2010 study published in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition.6 As mentioned above, the 2016 study reports:
“The phytonutrients found in jackfruit, therefore, can prevent the formation of cancer cells in the body, can lower blood pressure, can fight against stomach ulcers, and can slow down the degeneration of cells that make the skin look young and vital. Jackfruit also contains niacin, known as vitamin B3 and necessary for energy metabolism, nerve function, and the synthesis of certain hormones.”7
Cancer-fighting properties from the lignans are shown to help block the effects of the hormone estrogen and in turn decrease such hormone-related cancers as prostate, breast, uterine and ovarian, while saponins help slash your heart disease risk and optimize your immune system function.8
Jackfruit also contains healthy amounts of fiber — 2 grams in every 3.5-ounce serving9 — which helps move the foods you eat through your system for faster elimination, among other benefits.
What Jackfruit Can Be Used For
Jackfruit is considered a “sustainable” fruit because the trees they grow on are both drought- and pest-resistant. A single tree can produce as many as 200 fruits every year. While it’s now increasingly easy to access the whole fruit, the time it takes to harvest the edible parts may encourage you to opt for canned or packaged “heat-and-eat” alternatives, but choosing the fresh whole food is usually best.
Besides its imposing size, one of the most amazing things about jackfruit is that it’s a meat substitute in some circles, making it a popular option for both vegans and vegetarians. It has a meat-like texture and absorbs other flavors it’s cooked with, such as herbs, spices and vegetables, so it’s excellent for everything from sushi bowls to chili to sandwiches.
Where it’s grown, jackfruit has had a long tradition of uses, including as a raw fruit, said to taste like a combination of mango, pineapple and banana, or in salads. It can be cooked like a vegetable and used as a stir-fry ingredient, which demonstrates that whether you’re wanting something sweet or savory, this massive fruit can fit the bill.
Because of its starchy consistency, it’s been cooked with coconut milk as a dessert, made into “edible leather” and pureed into baby food, juice, jam, jelly, marmalade and ice cream. It’s been vacuum‐fried and freeze-dried, and as one study notes, it’s undergone cryogenic processing as a preservation method.10
As an alternative meat, it’s worth mentioning that, according to Independent,11 a U.K. publication, the jackfruit’s stringy consistency is becoming the new base for several dishes that assume the main ingredient is meat, from shredded chicken or pulled-pork sandwiches to tacos and burritos. It’s even showing up as an ingredient on restaurant menus for such favorites as veggie burgers and vegan pizza.
Besides the food they provide, jackfruit trees have a diverse set of uses, from fuel, timber and medicinal extracts, and as shade for important plants such as coffee, cardamom and pepper, one study notes. Oil from the seeds also has nutritional benefits, but according to another study:
“About 50 percent of the fruit protein consists of lectins named jacalin that has an adverse effect in the digestive tract. The seed therefore needs to be cooked or processed for consumption. Interest in jackfruit seed has increased as a result of a search for alternative sources of starch.”12
This is similar to the way beans are soaked to neutralize the lectins, which have been linked to autoimmune reactions and inflammation, and have been identified as possible toxins to your cells and nerves. However, other studies note benefits to eating jackfruit seeds, such as proteins, but most conclude that the science has not yet revealed all the potential benefits or detriments.
How to Get the Nutritional Benefits of Jackfruit
If you love the taste and texture of recipes that call for meat but are looking for alternatives, the secret’s out: Jackfruit is an excellent alternative to meat and can even be added to meat dishes to cut down overconsumption.
One thing to consider, however, is how to separate the fruit from its bumpy exterior. The featured video gives you step-by-step pointers for getting to the good parts while discarding the parts you don’t need. It’s important to know it contains a sticky sap known as “latex” that wearing rubber gloves will help you avoid, as does oiling your work surface and cutting knife.
Once you’ve mastered the skill of getting the jackfruit out of its coat, you could use the following recipe, adapted from a recipe by registered dietitian Katie Francisco of Spectrum Health's Concierge Medicine, from WZZM 13,13 to make jackfruit gyros:
- Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat until sizzling. Add the onion and sauté for three to four minutes, stirring until softened. Add the jackfruit and cook 20 minutes or until lightly browned and caramelized.
- Add the broth, half of the lemon juice, oregano, coriander, salt and pepper. Simmer 15 minutes or until liquid has completely evaporated. Stir in remaining lemon juice.
- Serve with the lettuce, tomato and sauce.
You Want to Get Healthy, but Where Do You Start?
With the arrival of the internet, anyone — not just researchers and physicians — can quickly and easily access clinical studies that explain (although not always in layman’s terms) the newest observations and discoveries in plant-based foods, including jackfruit. However, conventional medicine as an establishment isn’t always concerned with helping people find the information they need to optimize their health
Whatever question you have or term you’re interested in learning more about, you can click on Mercola.com to get the latest information and up-to-the-minute research. Find out about the health benefits of foods, how to incorporate healthier foods into your diet, ways to prepare them and, as always, the basics on how to transform your health, naturally.
Authors of a literature review involving data collected from more than 602,000 individuals across Australia, Europe and the U.S. assert anthocyanins, a flavonoid pigment found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, may lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as help in the treatment of certain types of cancer and diabetes.
Researchers suggest about 400 individual anthocyanins have been identified, most of which are concentrated in the skins of fruits, particularly berries such as blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. Let's take a closer look at this important class of health-boosting flavonoids.
High Intake of Anthocyanins May Lower Your Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
A literature review and meta-analysis published in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition1 suggests anthocyanins, the water-soluble pigments known to give certain fruits and vegetables their distinctive blue, purple and red hues, may also help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and aid in the treatment of other illnesses.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, an estimated 84 million Americans suffer from some type of cardiovascular disease, which is attributed to one out of every three deaths in the U.S.2 The study authors analyzed data collected from 19 prospective cohort studies, with a focus on evaluating the effect of anthocyanins on circulatory and heart health.
The research involved more than 602,000 individuals from across Australia, Europe and the U.S., who were monitored for periods ranging from four to 41 years.3 Compared to those with the lowest intake, the researchers noted participants with the highest anthocyanin intake were:4
- 9 percent less likely to suffer from coronary heart disease
- 8 percent less likely to die from causes associated with heart disease
That said, the study authors noted the absence of any relationship between the intake of anthocyanins and a reduced risk of heart attack or stroke.5 About the research, professor Glyn Howatson, Ph.D, director of research and innovation for the department of sport, exercise and rehabilitation at the U.K.'s Northumbria University, said:6
"Our analysis is the largest, most comprehensive evaluation of the association between dietary anthocyanin intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease. Evidence has been growing in recent years to suggest these natural plant compounds might be especially valuable for promoting cardiovascular health."
What Are Anthocyanins and Where Are They Found?
Anthocyanins are a class of flavonoids — natural antioxidants known to protect your body from cellular degeneration.
Authors of a 2010 study commented, "Approximately 400 individual anthocyanins have been determined. They are generally more concentrated in the skins of fruits, especially berry fruits. However, red berry fruits, such as strawberries and cherries, also have anthocyanins in their flesh."7 Fruits noted for their high anthocyanin content include:8
Red or purple grapes
Vegetables containing anthocyanins include:9
- Red cabbage
- Red onion
- Certain types of potatoes
A body of 2010 research published in the journal Nutrition Reviews suggests anthocyanin content is usually proportional to the color intensity of the fruit or vegetable in which it is found, ranging from 2 to 4 grams (g)/kilogram per item and increasing as the produce ripens.10
The study authors note the levels of polyphenols, including anthocyanins, found in berries (and therefore the potential impact of berry consumption on your heart health) are affected by post-harvest processing methods such as drying, pasteurization and pressing.11
As you may expect, the highest levels of anthocyanins will be found in the whole fruit. The researchers further claim Americans consume an average of 12.5 to 215 milligrams of anthocyanins per day, while asserting, "Berry anthocyanins are poorly bioavailable, are extensively conjugated in the intestines and liver and are excreted in urine within two to eight hours post consumption."12
Given the poor bioavailability, it does not make sense to overconsume berries or any other potential food source of anthocyanins. Due to the ongoing nature of research on anthocyanins and other flavonoids, it seems best to wait until more definitive conclusions are drawn about the many benefits associated with them.
Other Studies Demonstrate the Value of Anthocyanins for Heart Health
The author of an earlier study on anthocyanins suggested they are prized for their many biological functions, including their well-known anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antioxidant activities.13 He asserted they "display a variety of effects on blood vessels, platelets and lipoproteins," as well, making them useful to reduce your risk of coronary heart disease.14
The authors of the 2010 research mentioned above claim studies using blueberries, cranberries and strawberries have demonstrated "significant improvements in [low-density lipoprotein (LDL)] oxidation, lipid peroxidation, total plasma antioxidant capacity, dyslipidemia and glucose metabolism" in both healthy subjects and participants dealing with metabolic risk factors.15
As to the manner in which berries, as a source of anthocyanins, influence your health, the study authors said, "Underlying mechanisms for these beneficial effects are believed to include upregulation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase, decreased activities of carbohydrate digestive enzymes, decreased oxidative stress and inhibition of inflammatory gene expression and foam cell formation."16 Based on the evidence, they concluded berries are an essential addition to a heart-healthy diet.
Anthocyanins in Blueberries and Strawberries Is Shown to Lower Your Blood Pressure
Blueberries and strawberries, both of which are rich in anthocyanins, have been highlighted for their role in helping protect your heart and lower your blood pressure. Past research revealed women ages 25 to 42 who ate more than three servings per week of blueberries and strawberries had a 32 percent lower risk of having a heart attack.17
That is likely so because anthocyanins are known to benefit the endothelial lining of your circulatory system, possibly preventing plaque buildup in your arteries, as well as promoting healthy blood pressure.
Other research has shown these antioxidants protect against heart disease by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, while enhancing capillary strength and inhibiting platelet formation.18 Eating blueberries has also been shown to lower your blood pressure.
A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics19 involving postmenopausal women suggests blueberry consumption positively affects blood pressure. The women, who had either prehypertension or hypertension, received a placebo powder or freeze-dried blueberry powder (an amount equivalent to about 1 cup of fresh blueberries) daily for eight weeks.
While the placebo group saw no significant changes, the women supplementing with blueberries realized a 5 to 6 percent drop in both their systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure readings. Measurements of nitric oxide were also significantly increased in the blueberry group.
Nitric oxide helps your blood vessels maintain their elasticity and also dilates your blood vessels, thereby reducing your blood pressure. The study authors stated: "Daily blueberry consumption may reduce blood pressure and arterial stiffness, which may be due, in part, to increased nitric oxide production."20
Anthocyanins May Aid in Treatment of Colon Cancer
In a study published in Scientific Reports, 21 researchers from the University of Eastern Finland, working in conjunction with the U.S. National Institute on Aging, noted the promising role anthocyanins may play in cancer treatment.
The study focused on the effect of berry pigment on sirtuins — a type of protein involved in regulating your body's cellular processes with respect to DNA repair, inflammation response reduction, longevity and metabolism.
Specifically, the study highlighted the effects of anthocyanins on a lesser-known sirtuin referred to as SIRT6, which has been linked to glucose metabolism.22 Given the study outcomes, it's possible the regulation of this enzyme could open up new avenues for cancer treatment.
"The most interesting results of our study relate to cyanidin, which is an anthocyanin found abundantly in wild bilberry, blackcurrant and lingonberry," said lead study author Minna Rahnasto-Rilla, who holds a doctorate in pharmacy at the University of Eastern Finland.23 Specifically, the researchers noted cyanidin:24
- Increased SIRT6 levels in human colorectal cancer cells
- Decreased the expression of the twist-related protein (Twist1) and glucose transporters (GLUT1) cancer genes
- Increased the expression of the tumor-suppressor forkhead box O3 (FoXO3) gene in cells
These findings show anthocyanins like cyanidin can increase the activation of SIRT6, and thereby reduce the expression of cancer genes and cancer cell growth.
Prostate Cancer Also Impacted Positively by Anthocyanins
Researchers have long thought differences in diet — particularly the consumption of wine, which contains anthocyanins and other beneficial polyphenols — may explain the high rates of prostate cancer in the U.S. as compared to other regions.
Given the fact about 164,000 new cases of the disease were expected to be diagnosed in 2018 and more than 29,000 American men die of prostate cancer annually, this disease is a real concern. 25
The Mediterranean diet, on the other hand, which is rich in fish and olive oil, as well as healthy amounts of fruits, nuts and vegetables, is thought to act as a natural cancer inhibitor. About the impact of flavonoids like cyanidin and kaempferol, authors of a study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry said: 26
"Epidemiological evidence indicates that polyphenolic compounds in diets are protective against cancer, and cyanidin and kaempferol are abundant in wine and plants.
Therefore, the objective of the investigation was to determine the effects of cyanidin and kaempferol on prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) protein levels, and if peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARgamma) and nuclear factor kappaB (NFkappaB) are involved in the expression of COX-2 in prostate cancer cells."
What they found was that the anthocyanin cyanidin lessens PGE2 production and COX-2 expression in human prostate cancer cells.
The study authors stated, "Cyanidin and kaempferol … reduced the level of PGE2 in … cell cultures and also attenuated the effect of arachidonic acid on increasing the amount of PGE2. Cyanidin reduced the levels of COX-2 protein in a dose- and time-dependent fashion." 27
Beyond that, a 2015 study published in the International Journal of Oncology 28 found cyanidin induced cell death and differentiation in prostate cancer cells. About the results, the researchers said: 29
"[C]ompounds like polyphenols, capable of inducing differentiation may represent potential chemotherapeutic agents.
We show for the first time that C3G, the most abundant anthocyanin in the human diet, inhibits cell growth and cell viability, resulting in the reversion of both androgen-sensitive (LnCap) and of the androgen-independent (DU145) [prostate cancer] cells from a proliferating to a differentiated state."
Can Anthocyanins Help Prevent and Control Diabetes?
The significance of anthocyanins in the prevention and treatment of Type 2 diabetes was highlighted in a 2018 literature review conducted at the Wroclaw Medical University in Poland.30
The study authors reviewed previous research related to the importance of anthocyanins in regulating carbohydrate metabolism and reducing insulin resistance as major factors in lowering the risk of Type 2 diabetes. According to the team, to date, a number of studies involving humans and animals have demonstrated anthocyanins:31
Enhance the secretion of adiponectin and leptin
Fuel the activation of adenosine monophosphate (AMP)-activated protein kinase
Increase the activation of PPARγ in adipose tissue and skeletal muscles
Inhibit intestinal alpha-glucosidase and pancreatic alpha-amylase
Reduce retinol binding protein 4 (RBP4) expression
Regulate glucose transporter type 4 (GLUT4) gene expression and translocation
Additionally, anthocyanins were found to improve insulin secretion by rodent pancreatic beta cells. Because individual anthocyanins and their glycosides have different activity, the researchers recommended eating a variety of plant products as part of your daily diet to ensure you are getting a wide range of anthocyanins.
Get the Benefits of Anthocyanins but Watch Your Daily Fructose Intake
While berries and other colorful fruits are both tasty and nutrient-rich, I continue to recommend you eat them in moderation. Even though whole fruit contains natural sugars, for optimal health, you must limit your fructose consumption. As such, I advise you keep your total fructose intake below 25 g daily, including fructose from whole fruit.
If you have diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure or insulin resistance, you'd be wise to limit your daily intake of fructose to 15 g until your condition improves. As noted in the Environmental Working Group (EWG) video above, because most berries and thin-skinned fruits (and vegetables) are sprayed with pesticides, it's always best to buy organic or grow your own.
For more information on the importance of buying organic, check out the EWG's Dirty Dozen list. Below is a table showing the amount of fructose present in some anthocyanin-rich fruits:32
|Fruit||Serving Size||Vitamin E (mg)|
As mentioned earlier, it would be unwise to overindulge in berries and other food sources of anthocyanins until more conclusive studies are completed.
As one researcher stated, "[U]ntil the absorption and metabolic fate of anthocyanins in vivo is unraveled, it would be unwise to conclude a high consumption of them will reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Long-term intervention trials must be properly designed and carried out to provide definite proof."33
For now, to achieve optimal health, it's best to eat a balanced diet from whole food sources. Be sure to include a variety of anthocyanin-rich foods in moderation. Because diet is just one factor known to contribute to your well-being, I also advise you to lower your stress level and get plenty of exercise and sleep, too.
1 Molecular hydrogen has been scientifically shown to:
2 In any given flu season, influenza viruses are responsible for how great a percentage of all respiratory infections?
3 Research by the National Toxicology Program in the U.S. has found:
4 Recent research suggests you can slow down the rate of cognitive decline by 50 and 75 percent respectively, by:
5 Besides diaphragmatic breathing, exercise and maintaining good posture, which other measure has been implicated as helpful to increase your lung capacity?
6 Facebook's data collection and sale of your personal information can negatively affect you by:
7 Statin drugs raise your risk of Alzheimer's disease by:
Choline, found in ample amounts in egg yolks, was first discovered in 1862.1 Since then, we've learned that this is a truly essential nutrient for a healthy brain, nervous system and cardiovascular function. It's particularly crucial during fetal development,2 so choline requirements rise exponentially in pregnant women.3
Importantly, choline is used in the synthesis of phospholipids in your body, the most common of which is phosphatidylcholine, better known as lecithin, which is required for the composition of your cell membranes.4 As noted in a 2013 paper:5
"Humans must eat diets containing choline because its metabolite phosphatidylcholine constitutes 40 to 50 percent of cellular membranes and 70 to 95 percent of phospholipids in lipoproteins, bile and surfactants …
[It] is needed to form acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter; its metabolite betaine is needed for normal kidney glomerular function, and perhaps for mitochondrial function; and it provides one-carbon units, via oxidation to betaine, to the methionine cycle for methylation reactions.
There is a recommended adequate intake for choline (about 550 mg/day), but choline intake in the diet has been estimated to vary by as much as threefold — the lowest quartile and the highest quartile of intake were approximately 150 mg and 500 mg/day choline equivalents, respectively…"
Studies also stress its importance for liver health, and it may actually be a crucial key for the prevention of fatty liver disease — including nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is largely driven by high-sugar diets as opposed to excess alcohol consumption.
Nine in 10 Americans Are Deficient in Choline
Although a small amount of choline is produced by your liver,6 the rest must be supplied through your diet. Unfortunately, an estimated 90 percent of the U.S. population are deficient in choline.7 People who are at particularly high risk for deficiency include:
- Pregnant mothers — Choline is required for proper neural tube closure,8 brain development and healthy vision.9 Research shows mothers who get sufficient choline impart lifelong memory enhancement to their child due to changes in the development of the hippocampus (memory center) of the child's brain.10 Choline deficiency also raises your risk of premature birth, low birth weight and preeclampsia.
- Athletes — During endurance exercise, such as a marathon, choline levels deplete. Choline supplementation before severe physical stress has demonstrated a number of advantageous effects in studies.11,12 Choline supplementation may also reduce body mass without side effects.13
- High alcohol consumers — Excess alcohol consumption can increase your need for choline and raise your risk of deficiency.14
- Postmenopausal women — Lower estrogen concentrations in postmenopausal women increases their risk of organ dysfunction in response to a low-choline diet, so their requirements are higher than those of premenopausal women.15
- Vegans — Choline supplementation may also be important for this demographic, as they have an elevated risk for deficiency if they avoid choline-rich foods such as eggs and meats.16
Choline Is Required for Optimal Health
Choline was officially recognized as an essential nutrient for human health by the Institute of Medicine in 1998.17 It's required for:
- Cell messaging, by producing cell-messaging compounds18
- Cell structure; making fats to support the composition of your cell membranes
- Fat transport and metabolism, as choline is needed to carry cholesterol from your liver, and a choline deficiency could result in excess fat and cholesterol buildup19
- DNA synthesis
- Nervous system health (choline is necessary for making acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in healthy muscle, heart and memory performance)
Studies have linked higher choline intake to a range of benefits, including a decreased risk for heart disease,20 a 24 percent decreased risk for breast cancer,21 and the prevention of NAFLD. In fact, choline appears to be a key controlling factor in the development of fatty liver, likely by enhancing secretion of very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) particles in your liver.22
Choline Plays Crucial Role in NAFLD
In a 2010 article, Chris Masterjohn, who has a Ph.D. in nutrition, writes:23
"After studying the relevant literature and tracing it much further back in time than anyone else ever bothers to, I've come to the conclusion that neither fat nor sugar nor booze are the master criminals here.
Rather, these mischievous dudes are just the lackeys of the head honcho, choline deficiency. That's right, folks, it's the disappearance of liver and egg yolks from the American diet that takes most of the blame [for rising rates of fatty liver disease].
More specifically, I currently believe that dietary fat, whether saturated or unsaturated, and anything that the liver likes to turn into fat, like fructose and ethanol, will promote the accumulation of fat as long as we don't get enough choline."
The curious link between choline and fatty liver emerged from research into Type 1 diabetes. Studies in the 1930s demonstrated that lecithin in egg yolk (which contains high amounts of choline) could cure fatty liver disease in Type 1 diabetic dogs. They later found choline alone provided the same benefit. Masterjohn goes on to explain:24
"We now know that choline is necessary to produce a phospholipid called phosphatidylcholine (PC) … a critical component of the very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) particle, which we need to make in order to export fats from our livers.
The amino acid methionine can act as a precursor to choline and can also be used to convert a different phospholipid called phosphatidylethanolamine directly into PC. Thus, the combined deficiency of choline and methionine will severely impair our abilities to package up the fats in our livers and to send them out into the bloodstream."
Diets High in Saturated Fat Increase Your Choline Requirement
According to Masterjohn, while saturated fats are beneficial to health, they increase your choline requirement — and to a greater degree than unhealthy fats such as corn oil (about 30 percent greater) — so in the absence of sufficient choline, even these healthy fats can contribute to fatty liver. In a nutshell, choline is a necessary ingredient that helps minimize liver fat, no matter what the cause.
While dietary fats can contribute to fatty liver if and when choline levels are low, the greatest culprit in NAFLD is excessive sugar, especially fructose, as all of it must be metabolized by your liver and is primarily converted into body fat opposed to being used for energy like glucose. According to Masterjohn:
"In 1949 … researchers showed that sucrose and ethanol had equal potential to cause fatty liver and the resulting inflammatory damage, and that increases in dietary protein, extra methionine, and extra choline could all completely protect against this effect.25
Conversely, much more recent research has shown that sucrose is a requirement for the development of fatty liver disease in a methionine- and choline-deficient (MCD) model …
The MCD model produces not only the accumulation of liver fat, but massive inflammation similar to the worst forms of fatty liver disease seen in humans. What no one ever mentions about this diet is that it is primarily composed of sucrose and its fat is composed entirely of corn oil! …
The picture that is clearly emerging from all of these studies is that fat, or anything from which fat is made in the liver, such as fructose and ethanol, are required for the development of fatty liver. But in addition to this some factor — overwhelmingly, it appears to be choline deficiency — must deprive the liver of its ability to export that fat."
More recent research26 has also discovered evidence of epigenetic mechanisms of choline, which also helps explain how choline helps maintain healthy liver function.
Healthy Choline Sources
In the '70s, many doctors told their patients not to eat eggs, or at least egg yolks, in order to minimize their cholesterol and saturated fat intake. In reality, both of those are good for you, and eggs are one of the most important health foods available.
A single hard-boiled egg can contain anywhere from 113 milligrams27 (mg) to 147 mg28 of choline, or about 25 percent of your daily requirement, making it one of the best choline sources in the American diet.29 Only grass fed beef liver beats it, with 430 mg of choline per 100-gram serving.30 As noted in the Fatty Liver Diet Guide:31
"Eggs rank very high on the list of foods that are high in either lecithin, which converts to choline, or in choline itself. Note that this is the egg yolks only, not egg whites, which only have traces of this micronutrient.
Choline is essential in the production of phosphatidylcholine, a fat molecule called a phospholipid. But wait! Isn't all fat bad? No — especially if it is essential to overall health and in particular, liver health. Simply put — if you don't have enough choline, your liver can't move out fat. It instead begins to collect within your liver, creating fatty liver."
Other healthy choline sources include wild-caught Alaskan salmon,32 organic pastured chicken, vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and asparagus (one-half cup contains about 31 mg, 24 mg and 23.5 mg of choline respectively), shiitake mushrooms and krill oil. One 2011 study33,34 found 69 choline-containing phospholipids in krill oil, including 60 phosphatidylcholine substances.
Phophatidyl choline (PC) is one of the best sources of choline and although eggs have a fair amount, krill oil per volume is higher as about 40% of krill oil is PC. Only about 13% of PC is choline so two krill oil capsules will provide about 400 mg of PC but around 50 mg of choline. This is one of the reasons why I personally take about 10 krill oil capsules a day which provide about 500 mg of choline.
Are You Getting Enough Choline to Protect Your Health?
While a dietary reference intake value has not yet been established for choline, the Institute of Medicine set an "adequate daily intake" value of 425 mg per day for women, 550 mg for men35 and 250 mg for children36 to help prevent a deficiency and potential organ and muscle damage.
Keep in mind, however, that requirements can vary widely, depending on your overall diet, age, ethnicity37 and genetic makeup. As noted in one paper,38 "People with one of several very common genetic polymorphisms in the genes of choline metabolism are more likely to develop hepatic dysfunction when deprived of choline."
Also, as discussed above, eating a diet high in (otherwise healthy) saturated fats may actually increase your choline requirement. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, athletes and postmenopausal women also need higher amounts.
If you already have NAFLD, you'd be wise to pay careful attention to choline as well. A study on the severity of 664 people with NAFLD found that decreased choline intake significantly increased their symptoms, including fibrosis (the thickening and scarring of connective tissue).39
The tolerable upper intake level for choline is 3.5 grams per day. Side effects of excessive choline include low blood pressure, sweating, diarrhea and a fishy body odor.40 As mentioned, eggs are a primary source of choline in the diet; with more than 100 mg of choline per egg yolk, they're an easy way to ensure sufficiency. That said, supplementation is an option if you're concerned about getting enough choline from your diet.
Dr. David Perlmutter, a neurologist and fellow of the American College of Nutrition, recently released the fully revised edition of his incredibly successful book, "Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar — Your Brain's Silent Killers."
Having sold over 1 million copies, it has achieved a landmark rarely reached by books about natural medicine. Two fundamental points made in his book are that, a) sugar is toxic to the brain; and b) nonceliac gluten sensitivity is real. And, with this fifth edition, Perlmutter has been able to update the book with even more supporting scientific evidence.
Newer Evidence Fully Supports Lifestyle-Based Alzheimer's Prevention
As noted by Perlmutter, even though there's no conventional treatment for Alzheimer's, research shows this devastating degenerative neurological disease can be effectively prevented by lowering sugar exposure, increasing exercise and improving the quality of your sleep.
"The science is now completely lined up behind us, showing that our dietary choices are having a huge influence on the decay of the human brain … We're really hammering away at this profound relationship between even mild elevations of blood sugar and risk for dementia.
And certainly, the ideas that we put forward about becoming Type 2 diabetic and quadrupling your risk for Alzheimer's have been validated. The data that we did not have [five years ago] that we have now, with reference to what's causing diabetes, I think is really very intriguing, and is cause for us to take a step back and take a breath.
Because what we're now looking at is powerful data that connects statin use in both males and females with development of diabetes. In males, it's about a 41 percent increased risk of diabetes in statin users [and] … a 71 percent increased risk of developing diabetes in women who are put on a statin medication.
They become diabetic and their risk for Alzheimer's goes up dramatically — as much as three- or fourfold. Do I wish I would have had that information five years ago? Well, it wasn't published, so I didn't have it. But it's really hugely important that we, as physicians, try to practice under the notion of 'Above all, do no harm.'
We are making men and women diabetic and magnifying their risk for Alzheimer's and cardiovascular disease. I mean women have a three to four times increased risk of coronary artery disease if they become diabetic. For men, it's a two- to threefold increase, which is huge … That's new information.
The dietary information … now lines up [with] the idea that fat is actually good for us and that the real relationship that's damaging to us is our relationship with sugar and carbs.
That was our original message that was accepted by most, but certainly experienced a bit of pushback from mainstream medicine that wanted us to believe that we should all be low-fat and no-fat. We now know with great confirmation that [low-fat] is absolutely the wrong approach."
Ketogenic Diet and Intermittent Fasting Reverse Type 2 Diabetes
Among the studies published in more recent years that support diet-based disease prevention is Dr. Jason Fung's case series paper1,2 published in BMJ Case Reports, which details how fasting can be used as a therapeutic alternative for Type 2 diabetes. This exciting report actually made the front page of CNN online.3
Of the three patients, two did alternating-day 24-hour fasts, while one fasted for 24 hours three times a week over a period of several months. On fasting days, they were allowed to drink unlimited amounts of low-calorie fluids such as water, coffee, tea and bone broth, and to eat a low-calorie, low-carb dinner.
On nonfasting days, they were allowed both lunch and dinner, but all meals were low in sugar and refined carbohydrates throughout. (The complete manual of the fasting regimen used is described in Fung's book, "The Complete Guide to Fasting."4)
Two of the patients were able to discontinue all of their diabetes medications while the third was able to discontinue three of his four drugs. All three also lost between 10 and 18 percent of their body weight. All of these patients had been taking insulin for up to 20 years, yet were able to completely reverse their diabetes through this dietary change alone. Fung is not the only one who has demonstrated this.
"Dr. Sarah Hallberg of Virta Health published a report last year in a study of 100 individuals with Type 2 diabetes … Just putting them on a ketogenic diet reversed diabetes in many, and across the board, dramatically reduced their [need for] medications.
One class of drugs that's commonly used in Type 2 diabetics are sulfonylureas. In [Hallberg's] study, she was able to get 100 percent of the people taking sulfonylureas off of that class of medication. Who knew? Well, we suspected it. Many of us knew. I use that sort of rhetorically. But diet is key.
A ketogenic diet has also been implemented in individuals with early-stage cognitive decline and has been demonstrated to reverse their cognitive decline. Dr. Dale Bredesen certainly uses a higher fat ketogenic diet in his protocol for Alzheimer's disease. I think it really gets to the notion of why a diet that's higher in sugar, higher in carbs, is so detrimental for the brain.
I mean that was our contention with the original 'Grain Brain' five years ago. Mechanistically, when you have elevated blood sugar, you're doing a lot of things, one of which is to compromise the insulin receptor. [Your insulin receptors] become resistant to the effects of insulin. We now know that insulin is far more important than simply helping your body deal with blood sugar.
The insulin receptor has dramatic effects in terms of its activity in the brain … to keep our brain cells healthy. As we start to compromise the ability of our brain to be receptive to insulin, by virtue of our elevated blood sugar, we see the powerful relationship that that has now with developing dementia," Perlmutter says.
Direct Relationship Between Elevated Blood Sugar and Dementia Has Been Proven
Other research7 published that same year also showed that sugar and other carbohydrates disrupt your brain function even if you have no symptoms of diabetes, primarily by shrinking your hippocampus, a brain region involved with the formation, organization and storage of memories.
A number of other studies support these findings, including a study8 published in the journal Diabetologia in January 2018, which found that the higher an individual's blood sugar, the faster their rate of cognitive decline. Perlmutter also cites a study in The Lancet, published in 2017, which found that an elevated A1C in average blood sugar is dramatically associated with shrinkage of the brain and risk for cognitive decline.
"We now get the fact that having elevated blood sugar increases inflammation," Perlmutter says. "As I'm sure your viewers well know, chronic inflammation is the cornerstone of about every degenerative condition you don't want to get, whether it's coronary artery disease, cancer or Alzheimer's. These are inflammatory conditions.
One study we have in the new book is from 2017, in the journal Neurology. It's a study that I think is profound. It took a group of individuals who were around their mid-50s, 1,600 of them, and measured the inflammation markers in their blood.
It followed these individuals for an incredible 24 years. What they found was there was a perfect linear relationship between those who had higher levels of inflammation 24 years ago and risk for developing dementia …
The implication is that people in their 40s and 50s who are overweight and have elevated blood sugar, both of which cause inflammation, are putting themselves at risk for an untreatable condition called Alzheimer's or dementia later in their lives …
Once that happens, there's very little that can be done, at least from a pharmaceutical perspective. So, the lifestyle choices that people make earlier in life are very, very relevant in terms of charting their brain's density as they get older."
Finding the Sweet Spot for Your Insulin Level
While the recommendation to keep your blood sugar and insulin levels low is a sound one, if you're doing this through nutritional ketosis, it's important not to go overboard. Many believe the best course of action is to stay in ketosis indefinitely and continuously.
However, this can actually lead to unnecessary complications, which is why my metabolic mitochondrial therapy program, detailed in "Fat for Fuel," focuses on cyclical ketosis. Perlmutter agrees, pointing out there's a "sweet spot" for insulin.
"There is a tendency amongst some of us to say, 'If something's good, more is better.' I am personally guilty of overdoing things," he says. "But with respect to insulin, a study was recently published looking at 1,200 women followed for 34 years in Sweden, demonstrating that when you stratify these women in terms of their insulin level, there was a sweet spot, no pun intended.
Women at the high range of insulin had an increased risk for dementia, and women at the very, very low range of insulin as well had about a 2.68fold increased risk of developing dementia.
It's about the important role of insulin in the brain. It is a U-shaped curve. There are ideal levels for everything, whether it's alcohol consumption, exercise, sleep, et cetera. We know that too low blood sugar isn't good for you. With respect to the ketogenic diet, I think most people who are doing it are in and out of ketosis. I think that's reasonable."
Ketones and Your Brain
Nutritional ketosis benefits your brain in several different ways, but one of them is directly associated with the production of a ketone called beta-hydroxybutyrate. Not only is it a "superfuel" for your brain cells, beta-hydroxybutyrate also:
- Directly improves insulin sensitivity
- Changes gene expression for the better
- Reduces chronic inflammation
- Increases autophagy, the process by which your body rids itself of damaged cells
- Enhances mitophagy, the process by which your body rids itself of defective mitochondria
A lot of this is newer data that was unavailable when "Grain Brain" first came out. The latest update does contain more details on this important ketone, including findings showing you can mildly increase beta-hydroxybutyrate simply by taking medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, even if you're not restricting calories or cutting carbs.
"[MCT oil] paves the way for your liver to make beta-hydroxybutyrate," Perlmutter says, "so, you don't necessarily have to stress your body with calorie restriction or going deep in terms of lowering your blood sugar.
That said, [through a ketogenic diet] you'll gain the benefits of the beta-hydroxybutyrate, [and] … a little stress for your body, whether it's calorie restriction, fasting, lowering your blood sugar, diving into cold water [or] hot water … these are low levels of stress that turn out to activate gene pathways that are really good for you."
Exercise — The Only 'Drug' Worth Taking
Exercise is another really important factor that appears to play an enormous role in the development or prevention of Alzheimer's disease. One recent study9 demonstrated that aerobic exercise can actually offset the genetic risk associated with having the genetic markers for Alzheimer's.10
Other studies have shown exercise triggers a change in the way the amyloid precursor protein is metabolized,11 thus, slowing down the onset and progression of Alzheimer's, and increases levels of the protein PGC-1 alpha, thereby inhibiting production of toxic amyloid protein associated with Alzheimer's.
In one recent study,12 women with the highest cardiovascular fitness had a whopping 88 percent lower risk of dementia than those with moderate fitness. Even maintaining average fitness is worthwhile, as women with the lowest fitness had a 41 percent greater risk of dementia than those of average fitness.
Another fascinating study13,14 cited by Perlmutter was published December 2017 in the journal Neurology:
"The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) puts up practice guidelines for us neurologists. … The question that was raised, 'What should a neurologist do when dealing with a patient who has mild cognitive impairment (MCI)? [MCI] is really the first step toward developing Alzheimer's disease. They don't have Alzheimer's yet, but they're on their way.
It went through a list of 14 different drugs and all of the studies … and the quality of that research … What drug should we use? The conclusion from AAN, in their practice guidelines, was that the only thing we should recommend to patients is a drug called physical exercise.
This is breathtaking to me for a number of reasons: a) we've been saying that for a long time, and b) that a journal supported by [drug] advertising … would have the courage to publish that … under the level of scientific scrutiny, the only thing that can help slow the brain from declining is telling your patient to exercise — not writing them a prescription for aricept, memantine or other medications —is bold and heroic … and very positive."
Why Even Nongluten Grains Are Problematic
As implied by the name of Perlmutter's book, "Grain Brain," grains are problematic, courtesy of their ability to raise your insulin level, and this includes both gluten-containing and nongluten grains. Perlmutter explains:
"As it turns out, even the nongluten-containing grains are worrisome because of their carbohydrate load. Foods based upon corn, whatever it may be — processed corn, tortillas, you name it — are dramatic insults to your ability to regulate your blood sugar, and as such, pose a threat to your brain, immune system, risk for diabetes and, certainly, weight gain.
Beyond that, we have rice, which is also a seed grass, which defines it as a grain. Does it mean you shouldn't eat rice? No. Could you have a serving of rice? Absolutely. It should be wild, organic rice. There's some concern about rice in general being higher in arsenic — I'm aware of that.
Corn, by and large, is genetically modified. We need to avoid that. But if you have access to organic rice or corn and can limit the amount that you consume, based upon being concerned about the carbohydrate event, then you could have some on your plate."
Consider the Timing of Your Meals
The timing of your food intake is another factor that can have a significant impact on your health. As noted by Perlmutter, "This takes us to the area of what we call chronobiology. That is, [we need to try] to reconnect with the cycles of nature daily, seasonally and yearly, in terms of what we do to our bodies."
One important strategy is to eat dinner on the early side; definitely at least three hours before bedtime. "We don't want to be eating just before we go to sleep because of the blood sugar and insulin issue, and how that affects quality of sleep," Perlmutter says. Then, consider fasting for the remainder of the evening and night, until noon or 2 p.m. the following day.
"As you get more and more facile from a physiologic perspective, with respect to mobilizing fatty acids and using them as fuel, then protracting your breakfast to noon or 1 or 2 in the afternoon will get easier and easier," he says, adding:
"I think there's a lot said about doing that and also eating within an eight-hour window … and during the other 16 hours … you're not eating. That seems to have some really salubrious qualities about it as well …
I think the notion of getting into ketosis is important, done the right way. It doesn't mean abandoning all carbohydrates. One of the biggest issues I see is that individuals jump on this no-carb approach, eat more fat and protein, and they feel crappy. They feel constipated.
The reason is because they've abandoned a very important carbohydrate called dietary fiber. We don't want to do that. We want to make sure that this is a diet that's rich in dietary fiber and that we're getting adequate amounts of minerals, like magnesium, potassium and sodium …
We still want to emphasize that a variety of different-colored vegetables are good for you. Some people think that a ketogenic diet is basically Atkins redox. We're eating pork rinds, cheese and eggs all day. That's not what this is about.
You can be fully vegetarian and engage in a ketogenic diet easily by paying attention to fiber, minerals [and] adequate resources for B12, vitamin D and other B vitamins, just to make sure that you've covered the bases."
In the interview, Perlmutter also addresses some of the genetic factors and the influence of both exercise and nutrition on genetic expression, so for additional information, listen to the interview in its entirety, or read through the transcript. For the most in-depth coverage, be sure to pick up the revised and updated copy of "Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar — Your Brain's Silent Killers."
"I had the opportunity a few months ago to deliver a lecture at the World Bank, an international monetary fund, about the global impacts of Alzheimer's and other chronic degenerative conditions being based upon the Westernization of the global diet and why we need to really pay attention to this," Perlmutter says.
"I'm also looking forward to visiting the largest purveyor of food on planet Earth to give a lecture, and hope we can be influential in making some changes. What I'm saying is, the work continues. I think that it's work that has to be done even if it's a small percentage change in the destiny of global health. Because, boy, it sure is worth it."
You've probably come across a few brown, black or blue moles around your body. In fact, you probably have between 10 and 40 moles in random areas of your skin. This number varies from person to person and is influenced by race and age. People with fairer skin normally have more moles than people with darker skin.1 If you think you have more moles than the average person, there's nothing to worry about, as long as they're not growing or changing in any way.
What Is a Mole?
Moles, or nevi, are common growths on the skin caused by the concentration of pigment cells or melanocytes in a specific spot. There are different kinds of moles that can be found on the body, depending on the period when they appeared, their distinct characteristics and their location. Some of the types are:2
- Common — Common moles are typically 5 to 6 millimeters in diameter, and have distinct edges and a solid color. They are commonly found in areas exposed to sunlight.
- Atypical — Atypical moles have blurry edges and a varying color distribution. These moles have the same appearance as precancerous and cancerous moles, but most atypical moles are benign. However, having more atypical moles may heighten your risk of developing skin cancer in later life.
- Congenital — This refers to moles that were present during birth and are usually called birthmarks. These are at high risk of becoming malignant when someone enters adolescence or adulthood.
- Acquired — Acquired moles appear during childhood or adulthood and develop due to sun exposure.
People usually develop moles in the first years of their life up until the age of 20.3 However, in older individuals, the risk of moles being indicative of melanoma, or cancer of the skin, becomes significantly higher. This is one of the reasons why you should always be aware if they're changing in any way or if new ones are starting to emerge.
Surgical Interventions for Mole Removal
While moles are normal and sometimes are actually seen as beauty marks, some people choose to have them removed. There are numerous products that claim to remove unwanted moles effectively; however, there may be some doubts about their safety and effectiveness.
Some of the creams that people may buy require you to scrape off the upper layer of the mole to be effective. This will then target the pigmentation underneath the skin, allowing a scab to form. They claim that the mole will fall off together with the scab as it heals.4
If there is any chance that the mole is cancerous, dermatologists or skin experts may require a mole removal to contain the condition. Some of the procedures that you may undergo include the following:5
- Excision surgery — An excision surgery entails cutting out the mole and the surrounding skin. The skin is then stitched together to close the wound.
- Shave removal — Some moles may be shaved off using a scalpel, which usually leaves only a distinct pink area.
- Freezing — Noncancerous moles may be surgically removed using liquid nitrogen. After the procedure, you'll be left with a small blister that will heal after a few days or weeks.
- Laser removal — Flat moles may be removed from the skin using bursts of light, destroying the pigmentation and letting it be reabsorbed by the skin.
Before you undergo any of these procedures, understand that they expose you to various possible complications. Together with the usual possible side effects of surgery — infection, suture reactions and delayed healing — you may also be at high risk of scarring.6
Here Are Natural Ways to Remove Moles
There are numerous ways to help you lighten and eventually make your moles less noticeable. Some of the natural options you can try include:7
Apple cider vinegar — Apple cider vinegar contains both malic and tartaric acid, which may help dissolve the mole. Dip a clean cotton ball in apple cider vinegar and place it on the mole, securing it with a bandage. Leave it on for five to six hours. Do this every day until the mole starts to scab over.8
Garlic — Garlic contains sulfuric components that may help get rid of your unwanted moles. Mince a garlic clove. Apply it on the mole and secure with a bandage. Leave the garlic on for 12 hours if possible. Repeat the process until your mole starts to disappear.
Grapefruit juice — The high acid levels in grapefruit juice may help lighten the mole. Squeeze the juice of a fresh grapefruit and apply it directly on the mole. You can dab the juice on your mole up to three times a day, as long as your skin does not get irritated.
Lemon juice — Lemon juice is famous for its skin-lightening properties as it contains the same acidic properties of both grapefruit juice and apple cider vinegar. Dip a cotton ball in lemon juice and place it on the mole. Keep it in place using a bandage and leave it on for 20 minutes. You can do this once or twice a day until the mole lightens.9
Pineapples — Fresh pineapples contain high amounts of citric acid, which may function as a bleaching agent on the mole.
Cut out a small piece of pineapple, approximately the size of the mole you'd want to remove. Put the pineapple piece on the mole and secure with a bandage. Be careful not to apply pineapple juice on the surrounding skin. Replace the pineapple piece every time it dries up. Repeat these steps until your mole lightens enough to be unnoticeable.10
Iodine — Applying an iodine solution on a mole may help lighten and completely remove a mole. This is especially useful for people who have sensitive skin. Dab iodine solution on the mole with a cotton swab three times a day. Repeat every day until you see positive results.
The ABCDEs of Moles
The risk of developing melanoma is dependent on numerous factors, including race, family history and exposure to extreme sunlight. In addition, the abundance of moles on someone's skin may be one of the clear indications of a person's risk as well, with people who have 50 or more moles being two to four times more at risk. To determine whether a mole may be cancerous, you can use the ABCDEs of moles. This stands for:11
- Asymmetry — A noncancerous mole's appearance has to be consistent.
- Border — The border of a benign mole should be clear, not ragged, blurred or irregular.
- Color — In normal instances, noncancerous moles should have a consistent shade without any hint of other colors.
- Diameter — A mole's risk of being cancerous is directly proportional to its size. Moles that are larger than a pencil eraser are more susceptible to becoming cancerous.
- Elevation/evolution — If a mole appears elevated, raised or starts changing over time, it may be cancerous.
Is Your Mole a Melanoma? Mobile Apps May Help
Melanoma is one of the most aggressive types of cancer, and the sudden appearance of moles around your body may be the first indication of this disease. This type of cancer is usually caused by frequent and intense exposure to UV, causing damage to the DNA in the skin cells and thus triggering the rapid production of your melanocytes.
While rare, melanomas may develop from preexisting moles or appear on their own. In fact, melanomas may appear identical to moles, making it hard for patients to pinpoint, especially if they don’t pay close attention to the changes in their skin. Unfortunately, while melanoma is not the most common type of skin cancer, it causes the most deaths. The high-risk of cancer spread that accompanies this condition makes early diagnosis absolutely necessary.12
The good news is that mobile applications are now available to the public, which may help make detection easier for patients. One example of this is SkinVision, an app that assesses the risk of melanomas through a machine-learning technology. It categorizes skin spots as low-, medium- or high-risk in just 30 seconds, which may significantly minimize the cost and time spent on diagnosis.13
However, note that the mobile diagnosis of melanoma is an emerging science, with the accuracy and quality of the diagnoses still in development. If you suspect that a skin spot may be cancerous, it would still be best to consult a dermatologist for a much more accurate assessment.
Don't Worry About Your Moles Too Much
While the melanoma risk is grounded on some solid statistics, the increasing fear of moles may be due to conventional doctors' recommendation of surgical mole removal. Before considering getting your moles surgically removed, make sure that your doctor uses a dermatoscope to inspect your moles, because examinations with the naked eye may not be as clear.14
However, if you're planning on removing moles for aesthetic purposes, consider going for more natural and safer options to minimize your risk of complications, including scarring and the other side effects of surgery. Remember that having moles is normal, and there is no reason for you to be embarrassed about their presence.
Recipe by Jennafer Ashley from PaleoHacks
Roast turkey has been a major focal point of holiday celebrations, most especially in the U.S. According to the University of Illinois Extension, Americans consume roughly 46 million turkeys annually during Thanksgiving, 22 million during Christmas and 19 million during Easter.
While there are many tried-and-tested ways of preparing turkey, why not try something new and healthy the next time you plan to roast it? Created by Jennafer Ashley of PaleoHacks, this turmeric and roast honey turkey recipe will be the star of your dining table, whether during holiday gatherings or relaxed get-togethers. The honey and turmeric combination may be new for some people, but it’s sure to satisfy the taste buds of anyone who tries it.
Turmeric and Roast Honey Turkey
For the turkey:
1 whole organic cage free turkey (ideal weight is 11 pounds)
4 cups organic turkey broth
4 tablespoons grass fed butter, cut into slices
4 rosemary sprigs
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
For the Honey Turmeric Glaze:
4 tablespoons grass fed butter
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons raw honey
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
- Begin by thawing the turkey according to package directions.
- Heat oven to 325 degrees F and move oven rack to the bottom. Remove giblets and rinse entire turkey with cool water. Pat dry with paper towel. Place turkey into roasting pan on rack. Neatly position wings behind turkey.
- Place sprigs of rosemary in cavity of turkey. Mix together sage, thyme, onion powder, sea salt and black pepper in a small bowl.
- Use fingers to lift the skin of the turkey near the thighs and rub grass fed butter underneath as well as on top. Next, rub dry seasoning under the skin and all over the top of turkey. Pour turkey broth into pan.
- Insert an oven-safe meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh without touching bone. Place turkey in oven and roast for one hour, uncovered.
- Carefully remove turkey from oven. Baste turkey with broth. If you find that the broth has evaporated, add 2 cups of broth to the pan, allow it to mix with the drippings, and then baste as normal.
- Place the lid on the roasting pan and return to the oven.
- Continue to cook the turkey, basting every 45 minutes until the thermometer reaches 165 degrees F. Cooking time will vary with the size of turkey (the rule of thumb is 13 minutes per pound).
- Melt grass fed butter for glaze over medium/low heat, stir in honey, turmeric, garlic and sea salt until smooth. Use a basting brush to cover turkey with glaze. Return turkey to oven for 20 minutes, uncovered.
- Allow turkey to rest 20 minutes before carving.
This recipe makes 1 pound of meat
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 2 hours and 30 minutes
Total time: 2 hours and 50 minutes
Health Benefits of Top-Notch Turkey
While cooking a whole turkey takes a lot of time, seeing your finished product being enjoyed by family and friends is definitely worth the effort. However, not all roast turkey is created equal, since some birds may be marinated or cooked with potentially harmful trans fats, or the bird itself may harbor unwanted substances or pathogens.
If you’re looking for more reasons to eat turkey outside the holidays, look at its nutrition content. Turkey is a very high-protein food that’s rich in B vitamins (particularly B3, B6 and B12) and selenium, which may serve as a potent antioxidant and help reduce your risk for chronic diseases. It also has been shown to possess other nutrients like:
One compound in turkey that stands out is an amino acid called tryptophan. Although it’s present in low quantities in turkey, you can still benefit from it since tryptophan is needed to produce niacin that’s essential for serotonin production. Serotonin is important because it can assist with boosting mood and alertness, and may work with melatonin to regulate sleeping patterns.
However, to reap tryptophan’s benefits, you need to regularly consume turkey and other foods containing this amino acid such as pumpkin seeds, nuts and free-range organic eggs. The body doesn’t produce essential amino acids like tryptophan, so you must replenish your body’s stores of them through your diet.
When buying turkey, the World’s Healthiest Foods suggests looking for organic, pasture-raised birds that were sourced from a local farmer. This way, you ensure that the turkeys are more nutrient-rich since they were allowed to forage and look for food, and not fed contaminated or unhealthy substances.
Avoid processed turkey products because these may contain excessive amounts of sodium that may cause adverse effects. MedicalNewsToday notes that processed turkey meats are often smoked or made using sodium nitrites. These may combine with amines (another compound naturally present in the meat) to create N-nitroso compounds that are known carcinogens.
Why Is Raw Honey Good for You?
In this recipe, raw honey provides just the right amount of sweetness to complement the turkey’s savory meat. It has much more to offer, though, compared to the ultra-processed and excessively sweet varieties found in most commercial stores. Royal jelly, propolis and bee pollen, all of which are found in raw honey, contain good amounts of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Raw honey has also been linked to benefits such as:
- Enhancing gut bacteria — A 2006 BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine animal study revealed that when honey was used in place of sugars in processed food, harmful and genotoxic effects of mycotoxins were prevented and gut microflora was improved.
- Possessing antibacterial capabilities — A 2011 Biotechnology Research International article noted that raw and processed honey was found to have antibacterial properties against gram-positive and gram-negative strains.
- Increasing your body’s ability to ward off allergies — According to WebMD, raising the body’s immunity against pesky allergies may be achieved by consuming more locally produced raw honey.
If you’re interested in purchasing raw honey, contact a trustworthy source like a local organic beekeeper who may be residing in your area. Ensure that the final product is unfiltered, local and 100 percent pure.
Terrific Turmeric: Why You Should Keep This Spice at Hand
Although this recipe calls for a very small amount of turmeric, this bright-colored spice can make a big impact. Turmeric, which has a warm and bitter taste, is mainly added to curries and other Asian dishes. It may not be a common ingredient in typical roast turkey, but once you realize what its health-boosting capabilities are, you may just find yourself using it for your dishes more often.
Curcumin, a polyphenol in turmeric, is mainly responsible for some of the spice’s health benefits. Some studies have suggested that curcumin may play a role in combating:
- Neurologic and psychiatric disorders
- Chronic illnesses targeting your eyes, lung, liver, kidneys and gastrointestinal and cardiovascular systems
Other research conducted on curcumin has highlighted its potential to reduce your risk for various cancers. , , , A 2012 Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews article also showed that curcumin may help in the remission of ulcerative colitis (UC). Curcumin’s other digestive system-related benefits don’t stop here, as this compound’s ability to promote bile production in your gallbladder may be useful for targeting digestive disorders, enhancing digestion and alleviating bloating and gas.
PaleoHacks is a top source for amazing Paleo recipes, fitness tips and wellness advice to help you live life to the fullest. If you have questions regarding the Paleo diet in general, PaleoHacks may provide you with the answers that you may need.
As of the third quarter of 2018, 2.27 billion people actively used Facebook,1 the world's largest social media site, up from 1 billion in 2012. On average, each user spends about 41 minutes using the site daily,2 down from 50 minutes average in 2016.
Some, of course, spend far more. Teens, for instance, may spend up to nine hours perusing the site, the consequences of which are only beginning to be understood.
As noted by The Motley Fool,3 Facebook is unique in its ability to monetize the time people spend on its platform. During the third quarter of 2018, the site generated more than $6 per user. For the fourth quarter of 2017, Facebook raked in a total of $12.97 billion, $4.3 billion of which was net profit.4
Most of this revenue — $11.4 billion for the fourth quarter alone — came from mobile ads,5 which are customized to users' preferences and habits. According to CNN Money,6 98 percent of Facebook's revenue comes from advertising, totaling $39.9 billion in 2017.
Facebook's Primary Business Is Collecting and Selling Your Personal Data
Facebook has repeatedly been caught mishandling users' data and/or lying about its collection practices. The fact is, its entire profit model is based on the selling of personal information that facilitates everything from targeted advertising to targeted fraud.
Like Google, Facebook records,7 tracks and stores every single thing you do on Facebook: every post, comment, "like," private message and file ever sent and received, contacts, friends lists, login locations, stickers and more. Even the recurrent use of certain words is noted and can become valuable currency for advertisers.
For individuals who start using Facebook at a young age, the lifetime data harvest could be inconceivably large, giving those who buy or otherwise access that information a very comprehensive picture of the individual in question.
Facebook also has the ability to access your computer or smartphone's microphone without your knowledge.8 If you suddenly find yourself on the receiving end of ads for products or services you just spoke about out loud, chances are one or more apps are linked into your microphone and are eavesdropping.
In the featured video, "The Facebook Dilemma," Frontline PBS correspondent James Jacoby investigates Facebook's influence over the democracy of nations, and the lax privacy parameters that allowed for tens of millions of users' data to be siphoned off and used in an effort to influence the U.S. elections.
The Early Days of Facebook
The Frontline report starts out showing early video footage of Zuckerberg in his first office, complete with a beer keg and graffiti on the walls, talking about the success of his social media platform. At the time, in 2005, Facebook had just hit 3 million users.
In an early Harvard lecture, Zuckerberg talks about how he believes it's "more useful to make things happen and apologize later than it is to make sure you dot all your i's now, and not get stuff done." As noted by Roger McNamee, an early Facebook investor, it was Zuckerberg's "renegade philosophy and disrespect for authority that led to the Facebook motto, 'Move fast and break things.'"
While that motto speaks volumes today, "It wasn't that they intended to do harm, as much as they were unconcerned about the possibility that harm would result," McNamee says. As for the sharing of information, Zuckerberg assured a journalist in an early interview that no user information would be sold or shared with anyone the user had not specifically given permission to.
In the end, Zuckerberg’s quest to “Give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected,” has had far-reaching consequences, affecting global politics and technology, and raising serious privacy issues that have yet to be resolved.
For years, however, employees firmly believed Facebook had the power to make the world a better place. As noted by Tim Sparapani, Facebook director of public policy from 2009 to 2011, Facebook "was the greatest experiment in free speech in human history," and a "digital nation state."
However, the company — with its largely homogenous workforce of 20-something tech geeks — has proven to be more than a little naïve about its mission to improve the world through information sharing. Naomi Gleit, vice president of social good, the company's growth team, says they were slow to understand "the ways in which Facebook might be used for bad things."
The Facebook News Feed
One of the key features of Facebook that keeps users engaged is the news feed, described by former product manager on Facebook's advertising team, Antonio Garcia Martinez, as "Your personalized newspaper; your 'The New York Times' of you, channel you. It is your customized, optimized vision of the world."
However, the information that appears in your newsfeed isn't random. From the very beginning, it was driven by a secret algorithm, a mathematical formula that ranked stories in terms of importance based on your individual preferences. This personalization is "the secret sauce," to quote Martinez, that keeps users scrolling and sharing.
The addition of the "Like" button in 2009 revolutionized the company's ability to gather personal data — information about your preferences that can then be sold for cold hard cash. It also "acted as a social lubricant" and a "flywheel of engagement," Soleio Cuervo, a former product manager for the company, says.
The ability to get feedback through "likes" made people feel like they were being heard, and this ultimately became "the driving force of the product," Cuervo says. However, the "Like" button also suddenly allowed Facebook to determine who you care about most among your friends and family, what kind of content makes you react or take action, and which businesses and interests are truly important to you — information that helps build your personality profile and can be sold.
The Legal Provision That Allowed Facebook to Exist and Flourish
The Facebook news feed was made possible by laws that do not hold internet companies liable for the content posted on their website. As explained by Sparapani, "Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is the provision which allows the internet economy to grow and thrive. And Facebook is one of the principal beneficiaries of this provision."
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act basically says an internet provider cannot be held responsible if someone posts something violent, offensive or even unlawful on their site. According to Sparapani, Facebook “took a very libertarian perspective” with regard to what it would allow on its site.
Aside from a few basic common decency rules, the company was “reluctant to interpose our value system on this worldwide community,” Sparapani says. Were they concerned about truth becoming obfuscated amid a flood of lies? Jacoby wonders. “No,” Sparapani says. “We relied on what we thought were the public’s common sense and common decency to police the site."
Real-World Impacts of Social Media
The tremendous impact of social media, the ability to share information with like-minded individuals, became apparent during the so-called “Arab Spring” in 2011, when a Facebook page created by Wael Ghonim, a Google employee in the Middle East, literally sparked a revolution that led to the resignation of Egyptian President Muhammad Hosni El Sayed Mubarak, just 18 days after a Facebook call-out for protest resulted in hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets.
Around the world, it became clear that Facebook could be used to create democratic change; that it has the power to change society as we know it. Alas, with the good comes the bad. After the revolution, conflict in the Middle East spiraled out of control as the polarization between opposing sides grew — and the social media environment both bred and encouraged that polarization.
What's worse, Facebook's news feed algorithm was actually designed to reward polarizing material with greater distribution. The end result played out in the streets, where sectarian violence led to bloodshed.
"The hardest thing for me was seeing the tool that brought us together tearing us apart,” Ghonim says, adding, “These tools are just enablers for whomever; they don’t separate between what’s good and bad. They just look at engagement metrics.” Since the Arab Spring, the rise of fake news has been relentless.
"Everything that happened after the Arab Spring should have been a warning sign to Facebook,” says Zeynep Tufekci, a researcher and former computer programmer. One major problem, she believes, is that Facebook was unprepared to monitor all of the content coming from every corner of the globe.
She urged the company to hire more staff, and to hire people who know the language and understand the local culture in each region Facebook is available. Still, it's unlikely that any company, at any size, would be able to police the content of a social network with more than 2 billion users.
Privacy — What Privacy?
In order for Facebook to go public, it had to be profitable, which is where the selling of user data comes in. By selling the information the platform has collected about you as you move through content and even web pages outside of Facebook, "liking" and commenting on posts along the way, marketers are able to target their chosen market.
While this seems innocuous enough at first glance, this data harvesting and selling has tremendous ramifications, opening people up to be purposely deceived and misled.
Zuckerberg, whose experience with advertising was limited, hired former Google vice president of global online sales and operations, Sheryl Sandberg, as chief operating officer. In one interview, Sandberg stresses that Facebook is "focused on privacy," and that their business model "is by far the most privacy-friendly to consumers."
"That's our mission," Zuckerberg chimes in, adding "We have to do that because if people feel like they don't have control over how they're sharing things, then we're failing them." "It really is the point that the only things Facebook knows about you are things you've done and told us," Sandberg says.
Internally, however, Sandberg demanded revenue growth, which meant selling more ads, which led to data harvesting that today exceeds people’s wildest imagination.
How to Build an Orwellian Surveillance Machine
By partnering with data brokering companies, Facebook has access to an incredible amount of data that has nothing to do with what you post online — information on your credit card transactions, where you live, where you shop, how your family is spending its time, where you work, what you eat, read, listen to and much more.
Information is also being collected about all other websites you’re perusing, outside of Facebook’s platform. All of this information, obtained by companies without your knowledge, is shared with Facebook, so that Facebook can sell ads that target specific groups of users. As noted by Tufekci, in order for Facebook’s business model to work, “it has to remain a surveillance machine."
In short, it’s the ultimate advertising tool ever created. The price? Your privacy. Sparapani was so uncomfortable with this new direction of Facebook, he resigned before the company’s partnering with data brokers took effect.
The extent of Facebook's data collection remained largely unknown until Max Schrems, an Austrian privacy advocate, filed 22 complaints with the Irish Data Protection Commission, where Facebook's international headquarters are located.
Schrems claimed that Facebook’s personal data collection violated European privacy law, as Facebook was not telling users how that data was being used. In the end, nothing happened. As noted by Schrems, it was obvious that “even if you violate the law, the reality is it’s very likely not going to be enforced.” In the U.S., the situation is even worse, as there are no laws governing emerging technologies which utilize9 the kinds of data collection done by Facebook.
Federal Trade Commission Investigates Privacy Concerns
A 2010 investigation of Facebook's data collection by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) revealed the company was sharing user data with third party software developers without the users' consent — conduct the FTC deemed deceptive.
The FTC also grew concerned about the potential misuse of personal information, as Facebook was not tracking how third parties were using the information. They just handed over access, and these third parties could have been absolutely anyone capable of developing a third-party app for the site. Facebook settled the FTC's case against them without admitting guilt, but agreed by consent order to "identify risk to personal privacy" and eliminate those risks.
Internally, however, privacy issues were clearly not a priority, according to testimony by Sandy Parakilas, Facebook's platform operations manager between 2011 and 2012 who, during his time with the company, ended up in charge of solving the company's privacy conundrum — a responsibility he felt significantly underqualified for, considering its scope.
The Cambridge Analytica Scandal
Facebook, with founder Mark Zuckerberg at its helm, faced a firestorm after The New York Times and British media outlets reported Cambridge Analytica used "improperly gleaned" data from 87 million Facebook users to influence American voters during the 2016 presidential election.10,11
Cambridge Analytica data scientist Christopher Wylie, who blew the whistle on his employer, revealed the company built "a system that could profile individual U.S. voters in order to target them with personalized political advertisements" during the presidential campaign.
Parakilas insisted Facebook could have prevented the whole thing had they actually paid attention to and beefed up their internal security practices.12 Indeed, Cambridge Analytica used the very weakness the FTC had identified years before — a third-party personality quiz app called "This Is Your Digital Life."13
The Dark Side of Social Media Rears Its Ugly Head Again
Indeed, the U.S. Department of Defense has also expressed its concerns about Facebook, noting the ease with which it can spread disinformation. As noted by former Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program manager, Rand Waltzman, the significant danger with giving out personal data is that you’re opening yourself up to be a target of manipulation — whether you’re being manipulated to buy something you don’t need or believe something that isn’t true.
Between 2012 and 2015, Waltzman and colleagues published 200 scientific papers on the potential threats posed by social media, detailing how Facebook and other platforms could be used for nefarious purposes. According to Waltzman, disinformation can be turned "into a serious weapon" on Facebook, as you have the ability to mislead enormous amounts of people with very little effort.
Essentially, Facebook allows for the propagation of propaganda at an enormous scale. "It's the scale that makes it a weapon," Waltzman says. Jacoby interviews a young Russian who claims to have worked as a paid social media propagandist for the Russian government, using fake Facebook profiles to spread false information and sow distrust of the Ukranian government.
The reach of this disinformation was made all the greater by the fact that you can pay to promote certain posts. In the end, all of the tools created by Facebook to benefit advertisers work equally well as government propaganda tools. The end result is tragic, as fake news has mushroomed to incomprehensible levels. Taking anything at face value these days is risky business, no matter how legitimate it may appear.
Understand the Risks of Social Media Use
Social media has many wonderful benefits. But there’s a dark side, and it’s important to be aware of this. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) has actually drafted legislation to protect consumer information by enforcing strict punishments, including jail time for up to 20 years, for senior company executives who fail to follow the guidelines to protect user data. As reported by Endgadget:14
"The FTC would add 175 new members to its staff to carry out enforcement and would be given the ability to penalize a company up to four percent of its revenue for its first violation. Companies would also be required to submit regular reports to the FTC to disclose any privacy lapses that have occurred.
Companies making more than $1 billion in revenue and handling information from more than 1 million people and smaller companies handling the data of more than 50 million people would be subject to the regular check-ins. Failure to comply would care a punishment of potential jail time for executives.
The legislation would also institute a Do Not Track list. When a consumer joins the list, companies would be barred from sharing their data with third parties or using it to serve up targeted advertisements … Even if consumers don't choose to join the list, they would be granted the ability to review information collected about them, see who it has been shared with or sold to and challenge any inaccuracies."
Aside from privacy concerns and fake news, Facebook lurking has also been linked to decreased emotional well-being, and online bullying, social isolation and depression have all become serious problems among our youth.
The obvious answer to all of these issues is to minimize your use of Facebook, and be mindful of what you post, click on and comment on while there. Information is still being gathered on your personal life by other data brokers, but at least it won’t be as effectively “weaponized” against you if it’s not tied to your Facebook profile.
Tea is the second most popular beverage in the world, overtaken only by water. What’s even more impressive is that the rate at which people are drinking tea is continually increasing. In 2016 in the United States alone, imports had increased by 400 percent since 1990,1 which means that more people are enjoying tea and the benefits it brings.
To keep up with global demand, some countries are highly focused on growing tea leaves as a large part of their overall economy. China, for example, is the world’s largest producer of green tea, producing 1.5 million tons from 2015 to 2017. Kenya, on the other hand, is the largest exporter of black tea in the world.2
Interestingly, Sri Lanka, an island nation off the coast of India, is another of the world’s top tea-producing countries. The country is well-known for their Ceylon tea, which is a unique tea grown only in their country, helping set themselves apart from bigger producers.3
What Is Ceylon Tea and What Makes It Unique?
Ceylon tea takes its name from Ceylon, which is the name of Sri Lanka before it was given independence from British rule in 1972.4 Seeds from the original tea plant were brought into the island in 1824. At first, they were planted with no commercial purposes in mind because cinnamon was the crop supported by the government. After an economic crisis that dwindled demand for the spice, farmers turned to coffee, but this venture was not successful either. As a result, the country opted to try growing tea.
James Taylor, a Scotsman with experience in tea cultivation, created the process for growing tea in Sri Lanka and, by 1872, successfully sent his first shipment to London.5 The industry has grown throughout the island. There are seven regional Ceylon teas, all based on the altitude of the region where they’re grown:6
Nuwara Eliya — Located on the center of the island, west of Uva and north of the town of Dambulla, Nuwara Eliya is a mountainous region with the highest elevation among all tea producers in the country, producing tea filled with floral fragrance and a light, brisk flavor.
Dimbula — Situated between Nuwara Eliya and Horton Plains, Dimbula is grown at an altitude of about 4,000, although it has great changes in elevation and climate, depending on elevation. Most teas produced here have a mellow flavor with a golden-orange hue.
Uva — This is a windy region that weathers both the northeast and southwest monsoons, and which produces a tea that has an exotic, aromatic flavor.
Kandy — The tea produced in this region is described as “mid-grown” because the cultivation altitude does not exceed 4,265 feet, and its harvests’ flavors vary depending on whether they are exposed to monsoon winds. Mostly described as flavorsome, this tea has a bright infusion with a coppery tone, as well as a full-bodied flavor.
Ruhuna — The lower-elevation Ruhuna district is classified as “low-grown,” with a diverse geology ranging from coastal plains to the edge of the Sinharaja Rain Forest. Its specialty is black tea with a full flavor.
Uda Pussellawa — Close to Nuwara Eliya, this district has heavy rainfall that produces a tea often compared to its neighbor, but is darker with a pinkish tinge and a stronger, tangier taste.
Sabaragamuwa — The biggest tea-producing district in Sri Lanka, Sabaragamuwa is known for its aromatic tea that has a hint of caramel.
Potential Benefits of Ceylon Tea
Ceylon tea comes in two forms — black tea or green tea. Black tea is made by fermenting the leaves, and is more popular. Green tea, on the other hand, is unfermented and is known for its high antioxidant levels.7,8 Either way, published research has shown that tea may help:
Promote healthy weight — Ceylon tea is low in calories, making it a beneficial drink for those who are monitoring their caloric consumption.9
Boost your immune system — Ceylon tea contains various antioxidants that may help fight free radicals throughout your body. This allows your immune system to focus on doing its job, which is to ward off pathogenic microbes.10
Protect your heart — A study published in Nutrition Reviews indicates that consumption of either black or green tea may help reduce blood pressure, especially for those who are prehypertensive and hypertensive.11
Reduce your risk of cancer — Polyphenols are a special type of antioxidant found in tea.12 Research has shown that drinking green tea may reduce your risk of cancer related to the digestive system.13
Maintain healthy skin — A 2017 study notes that green tea possesses protective effects ultraviolet irradiation-induced skin aging.14
Manage diabetes — Drinking Ceylon tea may help regulate blood sugar levels, which may benefit diabetics,15 especially when consumed before performing moderate-intensity exercises.16
Nutrition Facts and Caffeine Content of Ceylon Tea
Ceylon tea is widely praised for its high polyphenol content.17 Polyphenols are essentially compounds found in natural plant food sources known for their antioxidant properties. Tea is commonly cited as a primary source, but they are also found in organic chocolate, certain fruits and vegetables, as well as extra virgin olive oil. It is these polyphenols that make tea so highly regarded.
Aside from antioxidants, Ceylon tea is also known for containing caffeine, much like tea made in other countries. A 7-ounce cup of Ceylon black tea contains 58 milligrams of caffeine,18 while green tea usually has only half that amount.19 White tea, on the other hand, can contain caffeine anywhere from 6 to 75 milligrams depending on where it was made.20
These amounts are generally safe for most adults, since the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) found that 400 milligrams of caffeine21 per day is not linked to an increase of long-term health risks.
How to Prepare and Store Ceylon Tea Properly
Making Ceylon tea starts with high-quality ingredients grown, manufactured and packed entirely in Sri Lanka using the best practices available. Whichever type you choose, the preparation procedure is similar. Just boil filtered water and let the tea leaves steep in a teacup for two to six minutes.22
Storing your Ceylon tea properly can help you enjoy it until your stocks run out before the expiry date. Remember to place it in a clean, airtight container so your tea’s quality is not affected. Also, do not mix it with pungent items as it may affect the taste.23
Common Side Effects of Ceylon Tea
The side effects of drinking Ceylon tea are generally similar to most teas. For example, drinking too much black tea can cause a range of problems from mild to severe, such as:24
If you develop any of the issues listed above, visit a doctor immediately to receive treatment. Furthermore, stop taking the drink to prevent endangering your health.
Since there is conflicting data on the safety of drinking caffeinated beverages,25,26 pregnant women should drink only moderate amounts of Ceylon tea. For that matter, they should limit consumption of any caffeinated drinks to quantities of less than 300 milligrams per day, as the caffeine may impact the health of their unborn child. Research has shown that caffeine easily passes through the placenta27 and directly into the fetus, and does not provide any health benefits at all to the fetus.
There is a concern, however, that some studies have shown consuming high quantities of caffeine may pose hazards, such as:
- Possible increased risk of miscarriage28
- Low birth weight and smaller head circumference29
- Caffeine withdrawal in the infant30
- Increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)31
Whichever Ceylon Tea You Prefer, You Will Most Likely Enjoy It
Most people will certainly enjoy Ceylon tea for its flavor, aroma and health benefits. Take your time in exploring which variety you like, but make sure that it comes from high-quality ingredients grown using certified organic standards, so that you can be sure to reap its potential health effects.
Frequently Asked Questions About Ceylon Tea
Q: Where does Ceylon tea come from?
A: Ceylon tea is essentially a type of tea made from Sri Lanka. The name comes from “Ceylon,” which is the official name of the country before its change to the current one in 1972.32
Q: What does Ceylon tea taste like?
A: The taste of Ceylon tea depends on where the leaves were grown. Products made in Nuwara Eliya, for example, are known for their fragrant flavor, while tea made in the Kandy district is known for its full-bodied, strong flavor.33
Q: What is Ceylon tea good for?
A: Various studies show that drinking Ceylon tea may promote healthy weight, as well as lower your risk of cancer, boost skin health and promote healthy blood sugar levels.
Note: When buying tea of any kind, make sure that it’s organic and grown in a pristine environment. The Camellia sinensis plant in particular is very efficient in absorbing lead, fluoride and other heavy metals and pesticides from the soil, which can then be taken up into the leaves. To avoid ingesting these dangerous toxins, a clean growing environment is essential, so that you can be sure you’re ingesting only pure, high-quality tea.
Castor oil — a yellow-tinted, translucent vegetable oil — is derived from the seeds of the castor bean plant. It is an unsaturated omega-9 fat with a reputation for having a distinctively unpleasant taste. You may be old enough to remember being forced to drink castor oil, perhaps to relieve constipation, which some thought was reflected in a child's unpleasant mood.
Strong taste aside, castor oil has been used for millennia to treat medical conditions — most notably digestive issues, including constipation and dysentery. In modern times, castor oil continues to be used as an ingredient in laxatives, as well as in a wide variety of everyday items — from cleaning products, coatings and cosmetics to paints, plastics and perfumes.
Although some users of castor oil complain of negative reactions, such as itching, rashes and swelling, others prize it for its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and moisturizing effects. If you have not yet tried castor oil, you may want to consider using it as a cleanser and moisturizer for your face and skin.
Castor Oil Was Historically Used as a Laxative and Fuel
Castor oil, which is made by pressing the seeds of the castor bean plant (Ricinus communis), is native to India and has since appeared in tropical areas within Africa and Asia. It has a long history of use, as a laxative and fuel for lamps, including:1,2
- In India, where it is also used as a cleanser and purifier in the Ayurvedic tradition, which further promotes it as a cure for arthritic diseases
- By the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, in whose tombs castor seeds were found
- In Europe during the early Middle Ages after which time it fell into disuse
Today, castor oil is a primary ingredient in hundreds of cosmetic products. It continues to be regarded for its laxative effects and is sometimes used to induce labor. Industrially, it is used in the production of nylon and other synthetic fibers, as well as resins. Castor oil is found in food containers, insulation, motor oil, paint, plastics, soap and varnish.3
Using Castor Oil as a Laxative
Castor oil is a triglyceride composed of fatty acids, 90 percent of which is ricinoleic acid. It is broken down into ricinoleic acid in your small intestine, which speeds up your processes for digestion and elimination.
If you have occasional bouts of constipation, you may consider using castor oil because it is a proven, natural and relatively inexpensive remedy. That said, keep in mind it is a stimulant laxative, which means it causes your bowel to move, squeeze and contract more intensely than it normally would as it passes waste through your intestine and out your rectum.4
Because long-term use of stimulant laxatives can weaken your bowel muscles, I advise you use castor oil for constipation relief infrequently. Also, keep in mind some people react negatively to castor oil, especially at higher doses. Medical News Today shares the following additional information about using castor oil for constipation:5
- A typical dose is equal to about 3 teaspoons for adults
- It can cause a bowel movement to occur in about two to three hours, or as long as six hours in some instances
- Take only the recommended dose and remain in an area near a toilet while you wait for castor oil to take effect
- For best results, avoid taking castor oil before going to bed
Castor Oil Is Great for Your Skin
Beyond its laxative effects, castor oil is also known for possessing the following characteristics as it relates to your face and skin:6
• Antimicrobial — Research published in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine and Advance Sciences affirmed castor oil's antimicrobial properties, finding it to be an effective agent against bacterial infections resisting invading pathogens. The study authors said:7
"The seed extract of the castor oil plant inhibited the growth of Bacillus subtilis, Staphylococcus aureus (ATCC15156), Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Salmonella typhi and Escherichia coli. Also, growth of Candida albicans was inhibited by a crude extract of Ricinus communis (castor oil) seeds."
• Cleansing — Castor oil is naturally astringent and helps pull impurities from your skin. It has even been shown to be effective in cleansing both oily and acne-prone skin.
• Moisturizing — Due to its oily nature, castor oil adds a protective layer that prevents water from leaving your skin. The presence of triglycerides also help maintain moisture.
The experts at Skincare Ox highly recommend castor oil as an acne treatment, saying:8
"Organic castor oil has been called a 'must have' by skin care and oil cleansing method experts. Cold pressed from the seeds of the castor plant, castor oil is a thick, sticky liquid known for its powerful purging and detoxing properties.
The oil contains two unique compounds, ricinoleic acid and undecylenic acid, which make castor oil an ideal skin care choice for those who suffer from mild to severe acne."
For Best Results With Castor Oil, Do a Skin Test and Use a Carrier Oil
Before applying castor oil to your face or skin, it's important to do a skin test to see if any adverse reactions occur. In people with sensitivities, castor oil has been known to cause unpleasant side effects such as itching, rashes and swelling. If you have an allergic reaction, stop using castor oil immediately and, if necessary, seek medical attention.
Due to its strength, as well as to aid in its absorption, it's best to dilute castor oil in an organic carrier oil prior to applying it to your body. Although you may need to experiment to find the right one, some have recommended choosing a carrier oil based on your skin type:9,10
- Dry skin — Use coconut oil or sesame oil as your carrier oil
- Normal skin— Use grapeseed oil or olive oil
- Oily skin — Use jojoba oil
Castor Oil Nourishes Dry, Aging Skin
Castor oil has a remarkable effect on all skin types, including dry skin, oily skin, combination skin and even aging skin.11 Due to the presence of vitamin E, castor oil offers antioxidants that help moisturize your skin while reducing the signs of aging.
Since castor oil has a low comedogenic score, it is unlikely to clog your pores. Assuming you do not have a sensitivity to castor oil, you can use it regardless of your skin type because it does not promote acne or blackheads.
Applying castor oil daily (or nightly) during the winter months can be especially helpful because that is when your skin is driest and in the most need of nourishment. While there is very little scientific research to support its skin-enhancing benefits, plenty of anecdotal evidence suggests castor oil:12,13
Heals chapped lips — Due to its high viscosity, castor oil provides a thick layer of moisture and nourishment to chapped, cracked or dry lips. You can apply castor oil to your lips proactively to prevent chapping. For this reason, castor oil is found in many commercial lip care products.
Nourishes dry skin — Castor oil soothes dry, flaky or scaly skin, adding moisture and soothing relief. The presence of fatty acids may help your skin stay healthy and glowing.
Prevents stretch marks — Because it works as a humectant, castor oil can help your skin retain moisture and elasticity, thereby preventing stretch marks. With prolonged use, it may diminish existing stretch marks, too.
Reduces wrinkles and other signs of aging — Castor oil is an effective remedy for crow's feet, fine lines and wrinkles because it helps stimulate the production of collagen and elastin, which promote younger looking, radiant skin.
Castor oil also treats hyperpigmentation, clearing your skin of age spots and other unsightly marks. In addition, it has been shown to diminish the signs of blemishes and scars. Some have had success using it on skin tags and warts.
Softens calluses — Because it is a thick oil, castor oil has beneficial effects on calluses, corns and cracked heels. It adds moisture and softens tough, dry skin anywhere on your body.
Treats sunburn — Due to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, castor oil reduces swelling and soothes blisters resulting from sunburn.
Castor Oil Promotes Hair Growth
Similar to its purported benefits for your skin, scientific evidence for castor oil's positive effects on your hair are mainly anecdotal. That said, this versatile oil has been shown to deeply condition your hair and thicken hair strands. If you have fine hair, castor oil may help build up individual hair strands, giving them a fuller and more vibrant appearance.
Similar to a deep-conditioning treatment, you can use castor oil to control and reduce split ends. Due to its follicle-stimulating and nourishing properties, castor oil is believed to thicken your eyebrows and eyelashes. It is believed to provide the fatty acids, protein, vitamins and other nutrients your hair follicles need to stimulate hair growth and promote a richer hair color.14
Applying a combination of coconut oil and castor oil may also benefit your hair. Beyond its positive effects on your skin and hair, some suggest castor oil can strengthen weak and cracked nails.
Applying castor oil regularly to your nails is also believed to reduce your risk of fungal infection. Although nail problems such as thin or brittle nails may be a sign of illnesses like hypothyroidism, there is little harm in trying castor oil on your nails.
Particularly if your nails chip, crack, peel or split as a result of long-term nail polish use or repeated exposure to moist conditions, including frequent dishwashing or swimming, castor oil may be just what they need to become rejuvenated.
Other Beneficial Uses for Castor Oil
The featured video suggests the following additional beneficial uses for castor oil, which may:15
- Calm colicky infants — Rub a small amount of castor oil on the baby's stomach to calm colic.
- Help you sleep better — Dabbing a small amount of castor oil on your eyelids before bed may help you fall asleep more quickly, while facilitating a deeper and longer sleep.
- Relieve joint pain — A 2009 study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research proved that castor oil was an effective treatment for primary knee osteoarthritis.16
- Soothe achy muscles — You can rub castor oil on your muscles after an intense workout to relieve soreness and promote blood circulation. Obtain an additional soothing effect by mixing castor oil with a drop of peppermint essential oil or Roman chamomile essential oil.
Have You Tried the Oil Cleansing Method?
While it may sound counterintuitive, cleansing your face with oil is just what your skin needs. If you've never heard about or tried the oil cleansing method, now is the time to become informed. While castor oil is the perfect oil to use with this method, you'll need a secondary oil and the patience to do some experimenting.
For starters, you might try a blend containing 25 percent castor oil to 75 percent carrier oil and adjust from there. Create very small batches, such as 1 teaspoon castor oil and 3 teaspoons carrier oil, until you figure out the right blend for you. There is no need to wet your face or remove your makeup before performing the cleanse, which is detailed below.17
Applying the oil blend to your face:
- Place a teaspoon of your oil blend in your hand and rub your hands together to warm it
- Massage the oil gently onto your face using circular strokes for about two minutes
- Leave the oil on your skin for up to 10 minutes if you want a deeper cleansing of your pores; simply relax while you wait
Removing the oil from your face:
- Soak a clean washcloth with very hot tap water, wring it out and drape it across your face (no scrubbing is required)
- Leave the washcloth on until it cools; the heat will gently open your pores
- Rinse and reapply the hot washcloth once or twice more, as desired
Beware of the Castor Plant and Its Seeds
While castor oil is regarded for its many healing properties, you should know the castor plant contains a potent poison called ricin. Ricin is found in raw castor beans and the "mash" left behind after castor oil has been processed. Intaking ricin orally, nasally or via intravenous transfusion can kill you. According to Popular Science:18
"It's a highly unpleasant way to be poisoned: Within six hours, according to the [U.S.] Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention], victims who have ingested ricin will feel gastrointestinal effects like severe vomiting and diarrhea, which can lead to serious dehydration.
Then the ricin infects the cells of the vital gastrointestinal organs as they pass through the body, leading to the failure of the kidneys, liver and pancreas."
Ricin is so potent that ingesting or inhaling it may be deadly.19,20 Given there is no antidote for ricin, it is feared that it could be used as a chemical warfare agent, and in fact some government officials suspect it may have been used in the 1980s in Iraq, and possibly more recently by terrorist organizations.21
As noted in the Fox News video above, in October 2018, two envelopes thought to contain ricin had been found in the Pentagon's Central Processing Center. Another envelope addressed to President Donald Trump was intercepted before arriving at the White House.22
While ricin is highly toxic, you need not worry about the risk of ricin poisoning from castor oil. Ricin is extracted from castor seeds during the manufacturing process, which explains how it can be added to cosmetic products without any toxic effects.
Castor Oil Contraindications
Do not use castor oil if you are pregnant because it has been shown to induce labor. If you are using it as a laxative, do so only under the direction of your health care practitioner.
Finally, make sure you purchase organic, cold pressed castor oil from a reputable source. Avoid commercial castor oil sold in stores because much of it comes from castor seeds heavily sprayed with pesticides or processed with solvents such as hexane.
In a survey of 20,000 U.S. adults, 46 percent said they sometimes or always feel alone.1 While on the surface this may seem to be a mental health issue, it's one that's intricately tied to physical health as well. Increasingly, research is showing that loneliness exacts a significant toll on your health, one that's equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day2 and increases your risk of premature death.3
Your brain health may also suffer as a result of feeling lonely, with a recent study — including the largest sample to date — showing loneliness is associated with increased risk of dementia.4 While this association has been revealed previously, the latest study is unique in that it included a diverse sample of more than 12,000 individuals with a long 10-year follow-up time.
The results showed that feeling lonely is a strong predictor of dementia, and one modifiable risk factor that can potentially be improved to reduce dementia risk.
Loneliness Is Associated With a 40 Percent Increased Dementia Risk
For the study, researchers from Florida State University (FSU) in Tallahassee used data from a sample of people aged 50 and older. Telephone interviews had been conducted measuring loneliness and social isolation and participants had also conducted assessments of cognitive ability every two years during the 10-year study.
Loneliness was associated with a 40 percent increased risk of dementia over the study period, and the link was independent of other risk factors including gender, education, race, ethnicity and even social isolation. Social isolation is an important distinction, as it is an objective measure that refers to the number of contacts a person has socially.
A person can have a large quantity of social contacts yet still feel lonely, or have a low number of social contacts and feel fulfilled, so social isolation is not always the best measure of how a person is feeling internally. This is where loneliness comes in, as it refers to the subjective experience of social isolation.
Only people who felt lonely had an increased dementia risk. They were also more likely to have other dementia risk factors, including depression, high blood pressure, diabetes and a history of smoking and less physical activity. However, the loneliness/dementia link remained even when these factors were accounted for.5
Study author Angelina Sutin, an associate professor at FSU in the college's department of behavioral sciences and social medicine, explained the difference between loneliness and social isolation, and how it's not always readily apparent who's lonely and who's not:6
"It's a feeling that you do not fit in or do not belong with the people around you … You can have somebody who lives alone, who doesn't have very much contact with people, but has enough — and that fills their internal need for socializing. So even though objectively you might think that person is socially isolated, they don't feel lonely.
The flip side is that you can be around a lot of people and be socially engaged and interactive and still feel like you don't belong. From the outside it looks like you have great social engagement, but the subjective feeling is that you're not part of the group."
Past Research Links Loneliness to Double the Risk of Alzheimer's
In 2007, research published in the Archives of General Psychiatry also revealed that people who felt lonely had double the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease compared to those who did not.7 Study author Robert S. Wilson, Ph. D., explained in a news release:8
"Humans are very social creatures. We need healthy interactions with others to maintain our health … The results of our study suggest that people who are persistently lonely may be more vulnerable to the deleterious effects of age-related neuropathology …
If loneliness is causing changes in the brain, it is quite possible that … changes in behavior could lessen the effects of these negative emotions and reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease."
Indeed, yet another study looking into the link between loneliness and dementia revealed that feeling lonely, but not necessarily being alone, is associated with an increased risk of dementia in later life.
The association was so strong that researchers concluded feelings of loneliness may be a prodromal stage of dementia and noted, "A better understanding of the background of feeling lonely may help us to identify vulnerable persons and develop interventions to improve outcome in older persons at risk of dementia."9
Loneliness may affect dementia risk in multiple ways, including by increasing inflammation in the body along with blood pressure, both of which may affect dementia risk.
Feeling lonely may also encourage you to engage in unhealthy behaviors linked to dementia, including excessive drinking or not exercising. Further, if you're lonely, you may not be engaging in social activities or challenging your mind, which can further affect your cognitive function.10
Strong Social Networks With Friends Are Important for Health and Memory
While social isolation hasn't been linked to dementia the way loneliness has in the featured study, strong social networks are still an important factor for your overall health. Further, different types of social networks, such as those involving friends, children or other relatives, may have different effects on your health.
In one study, it was revealed that having a large network of good friends may have significant benefits for your memory later in life, much more so than social networks with children, relatives or confidants.11 The researchers suggested that friends may encourage healthy behaviors, such as physical activity, and that health advice from friends may be better received than that coming from family.
Further, strong friendships may be beneficial for other factors that influence brain health, including depression, self-efficacy, self-esteem, coping and morale and a sense of personal control.
"It is possible that these effects are due to the reinforcement of social roles, or because interactions with friends can become increasingly discretionary with age. The friendship networks that are retained in late life may offer high levels of socioemotional support, and thus confer benefit to individuals," the researchers explained.12 As for why social networks benefit memory, specifically, the researchers noted:13
"Social networks are the basis for social engagement, which is cognitively stimulating and may enhance neural plasticity in aging, thereby maintaining cognitive reserve. Thus better social networks might lead to continued psychological stimulation, delaying cognitive decline, or impairment.
An alternative possible mechanism is that the stronger social networks may serve to buffer against stress, through modifying its effects on the activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis of the central nervous system.
This affects neuronal functioning, and in this way individuals with better social networks are protected from some of these neuroendocrine processes. Another possibility is that social networks facilitate access to health care, indirectly forestalling brain pathology and other disease processes that affect cognition."
Dr. Kristen Fuller, a clinical mental health writer for Center for Discovery, added several other reasons why healthy friendships are so good for you:14
Friends encourage you and are there for you in good times and bad
Friends may push you outside your comfort zone, helping you develop social skills and grow as a person
Friends can give you a healthy reality check by being truthful
Friends help you learn how to communicate and compromise, which helps you develop healthy romantic relationships
Being friends with other couples can provide support during life transitions like engagement, marriage and having children
Loneliness and Social Isolation May Be Worse Than Smoking and Obesity
Loneliness affects your health in myriad ways. Two meta-analyses presented at the 2017 Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association even concluded loneliness and social isolation pose greater threats to public health than obesity, raising your risk for premature death by as much as 50 percent.15
The first analysis, which looked at 148 studies involving more than 300,000 adults, found social isolation increased the risk of premature death by 50 percent. The second, which evaluated 70 studies that included more than 3.4 million individuals, found social isolation, loneliness and living alone correlated with a 29 percent, 26 percent and 32 percent increased risk of mortality respectively.16
This is comparable to the risk of premature death associated with obesity and other risk factors for mortality, including smoking. In fact, loneliness has been linked to a host of mental and physical health problems, including an increased risk of:17
High blood pressure
Coronary heart disease
Feeling Lonely? Make Sure You're Sleeping Well
Lack of sleep has been identified as a public health crisis much like loneliness, and it turns out the two may be related. Research suggests loneliness may be tied to lack of sleep, as the more sleep deprived you are, the less social you become, and others pick up on the cue that you want to be left alone.18
It's a vicious cycle, as people who struggle with loneliness also tend to have trouble sleeping. For example, a 2011 study found that for each 1-point increase on the UCLA loneliness scale, an individual is 8 percent more likely to experience some sort of sleep disruption.19
Researchers have suggested that sleep loss actually causes loneliness by instigating "a propagating, self-reinforcing cycle of social separation and withdrawal."20 There are many causes of loneliness, however, above and beyond lack of sleep. Common reasons include:
- Long work hours
- Use of social media surpassing face-to-face interaction
- Frequent travel for work
- Living far from family
- Delaying and/or forgoing marriage
With that in mind, if you're feeling lonely, be sure to tend to your sleep hygiene habits for a better night's rest. In addition, tend to the other underlying factors that may be contributing to your emotional state. The following strategies can help you to make meaningful connections with others in your community to help address feelings of loneliness and social isolation:
Join a club that interests you
Volunteer for a cause you believe in
Enroll in a class to learn a new skill or hobby
Create rituals of connection, such as calling a certain friend every Monday
Join a gym or sign up for a fitness class so you can exercise with others
Frequent local shops and markets, where you can build relationships with shop owners and other regular customers
Talk to strangers during your daily commute, at the grocery store and while walking your dog
Consider adopting a pet, such as a dog, which can provide companionship and a source of unconditional love
Move to be closer to your friends and family
Attend religious services or support groups
Simple Trick to Reduce Your Dementia Risk by 90 Percent
Addressing loneliness is an important strategy for reducing your dementia risk, but it's not the only one. In addition to improving this facet of your emotional and physical health, you'll also want to be sure you're paying attention to your cardiovascular fitness.
In fact, researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden revealed that women with the highest cardiovascular fitness had an 88 percent lower risk of dementia than those with moderate fitness.21 Further, even maintaining average fitness is worthwhile, as women with the lowest fitness had a 41 percent greater risk of dementia than those of average fitness.
Fitness, in this case, is not the same as exercise, and the study did not measure how often the women exercised. Instead, it focused on cardiovascular fitness, as measured by a stepwise-increased maximal ergometer cycling test. Cardiovascular fitness can be a measure of how well blood is circulating to your heart and brain.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is an important component of reaching high levels of fitness, and it requires only a fraction of the time compared to typical moderate or low-intensity gym workouts. Restoring mitochondrial function is another cornerstone of successful dementia prevention and treatment. In addition to exercise, one of the most powerful ways to optimize mitochondrial function is cyclical ketosis.
The upside of using exercise as a tool to reduce your dementia risk is that it may also improve your sleep and mood, which in turn may make it easier to get motivated to build new connections and relationships, alleviating loneliness and slashing your dementia risk even more.
Lavender is a perennial flowering shrub native to North Africa and the Mediterranean region, with a history dating back to more than 2,500 years ago. It has been used by ancient civilizations, such as the Phoenicians, Arabians and Egyptians, for perfumes and mummification. The Greeks, Romans and Persians added it to their bathwater to wash and help purify their skin.1
Today, lavender is sold in different forms, and is a common fixture among households and professionals. It can be used in different ways, such as for cooking, home decorations and aromatherapy. Lavender has a sweet, floral, herbaceous and slightly woody scent.
The Various Benefits of Lavender
Due to the rich, long history of lavender, it's no surprise that many cultures have used it in various ways to help treat different conditions. Below are some of lavender's research-backed health benefits:
Promoting hair health — According to a study published in Archives of Dermatology, lavender oil, along with a mixture of other essential oils, may help treat alopecia areata (hair loss), and that it was able to show improvement in 43 percent of the total test participants.2 In another study that used mice as test subjects, lavender oil exhibited hair growth-promoting effects.3
Eliminating microbes — Research shows that lavender oil possesses antibacterial properties that are effective against 65 different strains, such as E. coli and S. aureus. In addition, it may also help fight fungi.4
Improving blood circulation — Lavender may help boost proper blood circulation throughout your body.5
Relieving respiratory disorders — If diffused via an inhaler or a vaporizer, lavender essential oil can help treat inflammatory respiratory conditions like asthma.6
Providing pain relief — Applying lavender essential oil to your muscles may help relieve soreness, joint pain and rheumatism.7
Boosting skin healing — A 2016 study notes that topical application of lavender oil can help promote acceleration of collagen synthesis and differentiation of fibroblasts, thereby promoting wound healing.8
Other Great Uses of Lavender
Aside from the therapeutic and topical benefits of lavender, it has other useful applications for:
- Cooking — Dried lavender buds or petals can help enhance the aroma of dishes, most notably desserts and salads. Make sure to grind them finely first before cooking so that when you eat the finished product, you don't have leaves or petals stuck in your mouth. Use them sparingly as well, as they have a powerful flavor and aroma that can overpower the other ingredients in your dish.9
- Keeping air fresh and clothes fragrant — Lavender sachets can enrich the atmosphere in your house, making you feel like you live right beside a lavender field in rural France. To liven up your home, you can leave lavender sachets inside your drawer to make your clothes fragrant. They're also a safe insect repellent that may help preserve your prized clothing.10
- Home decorating — Lavender flowers are very pleasing to the eye, making them popular choices for home decorations. You can plant them in patterns to create natural borders in your garden, construct a path or grow a hedge.11 The possibilities are endless when it comes to decorating with lavender, and there are many home decoration tips you can find online to help you.
How to Grow Lavender in Your Home
Growing lavender can be easily done in the comfort of your own home. Not only does it provide you easy access to its amazing health benefits, but it also makes your garden look better. To grow lavender, there are three aspects you need to focus on:12
• Planting and soil conditions — Plant lavender seeds in an open area that has lots of circulation and full sunlight exposure, spacing them 12 to 18 inches apart. The soil must have a pH between 6.7 and 7.3, and should be well-drained. This is important because lavender flowers should not have excess water in the soil, or the quality of the plants will suffer.
As the plants bloom, clip any wilted flowers to maintain the quality and prune them lightly to promote branching. Expect the flowers to fully mature when summer arrives.
• Maintenance — It's important to remember that in growing lavender, you should have an area with a good water circulation system and good air exposure. When watering, always add moderate amounts to prevent excess water from building up. If you're watering during the hot season, add sand to the soil to increase evaporation speed, because humid surroundings can cause fungi growth, causing the plants to deteriorate.
• Harvesting and storage — Once fully mature, you can harvest the flowers at your own leisure. To dry the flowers, gather a group of stems and hang them upside down in a dark, well-ventilated place to prevent molds from growing. In terms of storage, the flowers can maintain their fragrance for months if you harvest them before they entirely open.
Cooking With Lavender: Peach and Feta Salad With Lavender Dressing
If you want to try incorporating lavender into a meal, a salad is a great way to experience it. This recipe, which comes from Honest Cooking, contains a mixture of lettuce, onions, feta and peaches to provide various essential nutrients for optimal health. It’s easy to prepare, tastes great and best of all, smells amazing thanks to the lavender.13
- 3 cups romaine lettuce, torn
- 1 red onion, cut into rings
- 2 to 3 tablespoons feta cheese, crumbled
- 2 peaches, cut into segments
- Mix the lemon juice, salt, lavender, mustard, garlic and balsamic vinegar in a bowl, then whisk. Slowly drizzle the olive oil while whisking until you’ve added enough.
- Add the onion rings to the dressing. This helps remove some of the sharp flavor of the onions.
- Lightly cook the peaches on a grill or in a pan on the stovetop.
- Arrange the torn lettuce in a plate, then top with the grilled peach segments.
- Remove the onions from the dressing then arrange on top of the lettuce.
- Top with the crumbled feta cheese, and decorate with a few lavender twigs.
- Drizzle the dressing on the salad and serve.
Lavender Essential Oil — The Best Way to Use Lavender
Out of all the various uses lavender is known for, its essential oil form is probably the most popular. Lavender oil is prized for its anti-inflammatory, antifungal and therapeutic benefits. It's rich in esters, which are aromatic molecules that contain antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and adaptogenic properties.14
Making Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender essential oil is manufactured through steam distillation. In this process, lavender flowers are placed over a still and are slowly steamed. Eventually, the steam forces the essential compounds of the flowers to be released in oil form, which is then gathered and packaged.15
Using Lavender Essential Oil
There are many ways to apply lavender essential oil. Some of the most commonly used methods include:
- Bath — Adding a few drops of lavender oil to your bathwater may help you experience the therapeutic benefits throughout your body almost instantly.16
- Massage — You can apply diluted lavender essential oil directly to your skin and massage it to help feel relaxed.17 You can use it on athlete’s foot and other fungal infections as well to help speed up the healing process.18 Diluting it with a carrier oil is important because it has a very strong aroma, and an undiluted application can possibly sting your skin.
- Diffuser — You can use a diffuser to help ease any respiratory conditions you might have. This method can help you feel relaxed and may help you breathe easier.19
- Compress — Adding lavender oil to a cold towel compress may help ease plant stings caused by poison ivy or stinging nettles.20
Things to Remember Before Using Lavender Essential Oil
Before using lavender essential oil, or any essential oil for that matter, it's always important to do a skin test to check for any allergic reaction. To perform the test, apply one drop of diluted lavender oil to your arm to see if your skin becomes irritated. If nothing happens, then you can proceed with using the oil (make sure it's diluted with a carrier oil when you do so). Should any irritation occur, stop using the oil immediately and contact your doctor if the irritation doesn't subside.