By Dr. Mercola
Another nail has been driven into the coffin of the low-fat diet. Three articles have recently appeared in prominent medical journals elucidating the fallacy of the saturated fat myth.
For nearly four decades, you've been urged to replace your dietary saturated fats with carbohydrates and omega-6 polyunsaturated fats in order to improve your metabolic profile and lower your cardiovascular risk.
Yet scientific evidence clearly shows that this advice has raised your heart attack risk, as well as your chance of developing a number of other life-threatening chronic diseases.
Studies have consistently failed to support any significant association between saturated fat intake and cardiovascular risk. In fact, saturated fat has been found to be cardioprotective if you are consuming the right kind.
Still, the government continues its mission to vilify cholesterol, largely fueled by the pharmaceutical industry for which statins have been among the most profitable drugs ever made.
Never mind what the research actually says about what's beneficial for your health. The real culprit behind cardiovascular disease is not saturated fat, but rather excess dietary sugar, and omega-6 fats, mostly from vegetable oils.
British Cardiologists Do Some Saturated Fat Myth-Busting
Interventional Cardiology Specialist Registrar in London Aseem Malhotra wrote an excellent scientific review in the British Medical Journal about what is known to date about saturated fat intake and heart disease, explaining how recent studies have not supported any significant association between saturated fat and cardiovascular risk.1
Malhotra reports that two-thirds of people admitted to hospitals with acute myocardial infarction have completely normal cholesterol levels. He also mentions a recently published randomly controlled trial that was stopped early after it showed that, in high risk people, the Mediterranean diet achieved a 30 percent improvement over a low-fat diet in terms of cardiovascular events. He concludes:
"The greatest improvements in morbidity and mortality have been due not to personal responsibility but rather to public health. It is time to bust the myth of the role of saturated fat in heart disease and wind back the harms of dietary advice that have contributed to obesity."
These findings were further crystallized by an international research team headed by University of Cambridge, which analyzed data from 72 separate studies about heart risk and fatty acid intake. This massive meta-analysis included data from 600,000 participants in 18 different countries.
The team concluded that saturated fat is NOT linked to coronary disease risk.2 They pointedly state that the science does not support the common nutritional guidelines for heart health, the mantra heard far and wide—a diet rich in polyunsaturated fats but low in saturated fats will reduce your risk for heart disease. This is a myth—and a deadly one.
Replacing Your Saturated Fats with Carbohydrates and Vegetable Oils May Be a Death Sentence
In an excellent editorial in the journal Open Heart, research scientist and doctor of pharmacy James J. DiNicolantonio reviews the cardiometabolic consequences of replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates and omega-6 polyunsaturated fats.3 His points are summarized in the table below.
Potential Harms of Replacing Saturated Fat with Carbohydrates Shift to overall atherogenic lipid profile (lower HDL, increased triglycerides and increased ApoB/ApoA-1 ratio) Increased small, high-density LDL particles Increased oxidized LDL Reduced HDL Impaired glucose tolerance, higher body fat, weight gain, obesity, and diabetes The potential harms associated with replacing saturated fat with omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, which include increased risk of coronary disease and death4 Increased inflammation Increased thrombogenic markers Increased risk of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular events, and death from heart disease and increased overall mortality (all causes) Increased risk for cancer
Two Essential Fats That Must Be in Balance: Omega-3 and Omega-6
In January 2009, the American Heart Association (AHA) published a "scientific advisory" recommending that you consume more omega-6 fats (mostly refined vegetable oils) and fewer saturated fats, as part of the "heart healthy" low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. In spite of ALL scientific data to the contrary, this is the rubbish still being recommended.
The AHA and other health authorities continue to ignore the fact that the standard American diet is overloaded with omega-6 fats (and poor-quality ones at that), while being severely deficient in critical omega-3s.
One of the primary problems with all oils derived from vegetable seeds is that they are major sources of omega-6 fats. Omega-6 fats are pro-inflammatory and contribute to insulin, leptin, and resistance, altering your mood and impairing learning and cell repair.
The science is loud and clear: the correct balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fats is essential if you want to be the healthiest you can be. There are actually two problems related to how these fats are being consumed by most Westerners today.
Omega-3 fats are the ones that are present in fish and krill oil and some seeds like flax, chia, and hemp. These are the essential fats that have EPA, DHA, and ALA fats that are present in your brain and cell membranes. Omega-6s are oils are high in other plants like corn, soy, safflower, and sunflower oils. All of these oils are required to be healthy, but largely due to processed foods and the use of industrialized oils most of us are consuming far too many omega-6 fats compared to omega-3 fats. The ideal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats likely ranges from 1:1 to 1:5, but the typical Western diet is between 1:20 and 1:50.
Most of us consume far too many omega-6 fats — AND the wrong ratio of these fats. Both omega-3 and omega-6 fats are PUFAs and they are essential to your health, but when omega-6 is consumed in excess, it becomes problematic — and even more so if it's damaged through processing. One of the problems with PUFAs is that they are very chemically unstable, and highly susceptible to being altered and denatured by what's around them. When you eat too many PUFAs, they are increasingly incorporated into your cell membranes.
Because these fats are unstable, your cells become fragile and prone to oxidation, which leads to all sorts of health problems, such as atherosclerosis. I believe a lack of omega-3 combined with an excess of industrialized omega-6 oils is a profoundly important and simple shift in diet that you need to address. High omega-6:3 ratios have also been associated with an increase in cancers, like melanoma. Bear in mind that you need both plant-derived and animal-derived fats for optimal health. For a complete discussion of the differences between types of dietary fat, omega-3 versus omega-6, DHA, EPA, etc., please refer to our comprehensive fatty acids overview.
The Magic of the Omega-3s
The benefits of omega-3 fats are truly far-reaching. If you go to the omega-3 fat page on GreenMedInfo.com,5 you will see a long list of scientific studies supporting the benefits of omega-3 fats for hundreds of diseases, including drug-resistant cancer, bipolar disorder, autism, cystic fibrosis, hypertension, and atrial fibrillation—and those are just the tip of the iceberg. Omega-3 fats have powerful anti-inflammatory effects, proving extremely beneficial for inflammation-based disorders such as arthritis and bronchial asthma. Chronic inflammation is a major driver of so many of the diseases we see today, and omega-3 deficiency is a significant factor. Omega-3 deficiencies are associated with the following (which is far from an all-inclusive list):
- Inflammatory conditions: arthritis, stiff or painful joints, asthma, etc.
- Cognitive and emotional problems: depression, psychosis, learning disabilities, memory loss, poor concentration, etc.
- Metabolic dysfunction: weight gain, obesity, diabetes, food cravings
- Skin problems: allergies, acne, eczema, psoriasis, hives; dry, bumpy or flaky skin
- Heart or kidney problems, high blood pressure, or immune dysregulation
The Worst of the Worst: Canola Oil
Of all the processed oils, canola has probably done the most damage to America's health. Canola consumption has skyrocketed over the past few decades, representing an enormous source of excess omega-6 fat. Unlike olive oil, which comes from olives, and avocado oil, which comes from avocados, canola doesn't come from the "canola plant"—there is no such thing. The word "canola" comes from "Canadian oil low acid," and is a genetically altered product of the rapeseed plant, part of the mustard family.
As discussed in a previous article by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, PhD, a genetic manipulation technique involving seed splitting was used to create this variety of rapeseed, which is low in erucic acid and high in oleic acid. This invention initially became known as LEAR oil, which stands for Low Erucic Acid Rapeseed.
Despite its GRAS status, no long term human safety studies have been done on canola oil. Meanwhile, animal studies on LEAR oil, "challenge not only the health claims made for canola oil, but also the theoretical underpinnings of the diet-heart hypothesis." In 1997, Canadian research showed that piglets fed milk replacement containing canola oil had signs of vitamin E deficiency, even though the milk replacement contained adequate amounts of vitamin E. Vitamin E protects cell membranes against free radical damage and is important for cardiovascular health.
A year later, the same research team found that piglets fed canola oil had decreased platelet count and an increase in platelet size. These results were reconfirmed in another study a year after that. Rats bred to have high blood pressure and being prone to stroke also had shortened life-spans when fed canola oil as the sole source of fat. Later research suggested the cause for this effect is the sterol compounds in the oil, which "make the cell membrane more rigid" and contribute to the shortened life-span of the animals. According to Fallon and Enig in "The Great Con-ola:"
"These studies all point in the same direction -- that canola oil is definitely not healthy for the cardiovascular system. Like rapeseed oil, its predecessor, canola oil is associated with fibrotic lesions of the heart. It also causes vitamin E deficiency, undesirable changes in the blood platelets and shortened life-span in stroke-prone rats when it was the only oil in the animals' diet. Furthermore, it seems to retard growth, which is why the FDA does not allow the use of canola oil in infant formula... Most interesting of all is the fact that many studies show that the problems with canola oil are not related to the content of erucic acid, but more with the high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and low levels of saturated fats...
There are indications that monounsaturated fats in excess and as the major type of fat can be a problem. Overabundance of oleic acid (the type of monounsaturated fatty acid in olive and canola oil) creates imbalances on the cellular level that can inhibit prostaglandin production. In one study, higher monounsaturated fat consumption was associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.
Even the dogma that monounsaturated fatty acids are good for the heart is at risk. According to a 1998 report, mice fed a diet containing monounsaturated fats were more likely to develop atherosclerosis than mice fed a diet containing saturated fat. In fact, the mice fed monounsaturated fats were even more prone to heart disease than those fed polyunsaturated fatty acids.
This means that the type of diet recommended in books like The Omega Diet -- low in protective saturates, bolstered with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and relying on monounsaturated fatty acids, whether from olive or canola oil, for the majority of fat calories -- may actually contribute to heart disease. Such diets have been presented with great marketing finesse, but we need to recognize them for what they are -- payola for the food companies and con-ola for the public."
The important point to remember about this is that the timing of the above events occurred BEFORE the widespread adoption of GMO canola oil. Now virtually all of the canola oil produced is glyphosate resistant and sprayed with one of the most toxic herbicides known to man. So now, not only do you have the concerns addressed above, but you have the additional health challenge of glyphosate residues to content with.
Best Food Sources of Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fats
The best way to improve your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio and improve your heart health is to eat the following types of high-quality foods:
- Unprocessed organic oils such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocados and avocado oil, and organic butter—or better yet, raw butter from grass-pastured cows.
- Raw nuts and seeds, such as fresh organic flax seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and English walnuts, which are also high in omega-3s (ALA). Spirulina is an excellent source of GLA (gamma linolenic acid, a beneficial omega-6).6
- Meat from animals that are free-ranging and/or grass-fed, which are higher in beneficial omega-6s, such as natural CLA. If you have access to them, game meats such as venison are also high in beneficial fats. The article "Better Beef," written by California rancher Dave Evans, gives a great in-depth view of the many benefits of grass-fed beef.
- My favorite omega-3 fat supplement is krill oil. Egg yolks from pastured hens are also rich in beneficial omega-3s.
- Coconut oil, while not an omega-3 or omega-6 fat, is an extremely beneficial dietary fat with an "embarrassment of riches" for your heart, metabolism, immune system, skin and thyroid. Coconut oil's health benefits derive from its special medium-chain fatty acids.
New Cholesterol Treatment Guidelines Could Double the Number of People on Dangerous Statins—Including Perfectly Healthy People
Will Eating Meat Really Increase Your Risk of Heart Disease?
By Dr. Mercola
For the last 17 years, I've warned that artificial sweeteners can wreck your health. Aspartame is among the worst of the bunch, and in general, people who consume aspartame tend to be in poorer health. They also tend to develop more of a sweet tooth.
I found the evidence against artificial sweeteners to be so compelling, and the hazards so disconcerting, I wrote an entire book on the subject called Sweet Deception, published in 2006. Now, years later, the research I presented in that book has been confirmed many times over, and the tide is finally beginning to turn against this toxic food additive.
Soda consumption is now in "freefall," having dropped to its lowest point since 1995, according to Time Magazine,1 with diet sodas taking the greatest hit.
Sales of carbonated beverages in general fell three percent in 2013, while diet Coke and diet Pepsi both dropped by nearly seven percent. Sales of Diet Mountain Dew also fell more sharply than regular Mountain Dew.2 As reported by Time Magazine:3
"One reason for the decline could be a growing awareness of the obesity epidemic in the US and growing health concerns surrounding sugar-sweetened beverages. According to Reuters, industry experts say the beverage industry is shrinking under the scrutiny. Even diet-branded drinks have suffered a loss of sales with concerns over artificial sweeteners."
It is very gratifying to see this turn of events, knowing we're making a difference. Also, quite frankly, I'm tired of writing about something this obviously harmful. I'll be happy to move on to other challenges that threaten your health.
Drinking Two Diet Sodas Per Week Are 50 Percent More Likely to Die from Heart Disease
Most recently, one of the largest studies of its kind, which included nearly 60,000 post-menopausal women who were followed for about 10 years, found that drinking just two diet drinks a day can dramatically increase your risk of an early death from heart disease.4, 5 The findings were presented at the American College of Cardiology's 63rd Annual Scientific Session in Washington, DC.6 As reported by the University of Iowa:7
"...[C]ompared to women who never or only rarely consume diet drinks, those who consume two or more a day are 30 percent more likely to have a cardiovascular event [heart attack or stroke] and 50 percent more likely to die from related disease.
'This is one of the largest studies on this topic, and our findings are consistent with some previous data, especially those linking diet drinks to the metabolic syndrome,' says Dr. Ankur Vyas... the lead investigator of the study.
...The association persisted even after researchers adjusted the data to account for demographic characteristics and other cardiovascular risk factors, including body mass index, smoking, hormone therapy use, physical activity, energy intake, salt intake, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and sugar-sweetened beverage intake.
On average, women who consumed two or more diet drinks a day were younger, more likely to be smokers, and had a higher prevalence of diabetes, high blood pressure, and higher body mass index."
Granted, there are limitations to this study. The nutritional data was gathered using questionnaires, and people are notorious for not remembering exactly what they eat and drink each week. So while there's an association, the study cannot prove causation.
Still, other studies have come to the same conclusion, so these findings simply add to an already voluminous pile of evidence showing an association between artificial sweeteners and poor health outcomes.
According to Susie Swithers, a professor of psychological sciences at Purdue University who studies the effects of artificial sweeteners in animals, the featured findings are not at all surprising. Her animal research also shows that diet drinks promote heart problems, and that animals fed artificial sweeteners develop a disrupted metabolic response to real sugar. She recently told MedicineNet.com:8
"[Like diabetics], they become hyperglycemic. Their blood sugars go up higher than they should. They also make less of a heart-protective protein. If drinking diet soda interferes with this system, then over the long term you're taking something away that protects your cardiovascular health, and that could be what's contributing to these effects."
Regular soda drinking is also strongly associated with obesity and poor health. This link is easier to grasp however, since more people understand the health hazards of excessive sugar consumption nowadays.
The fact that low- or no-calorie sweeteners do as much harm (or more!) than sugar, on the other hand, has seemed, and still seems, counterintuitive to many. Fortunately, this confusion is beginning to lessen. In fact, we may finally have reached the tipping point where enough people understand the hazards, which means the end of aspartame and other artificial sweeteners is near.
Why Artificial Sweeteners Are NOT a Dieter's (or Diabetic's) Best Friend
Despite being promoted for weight loss, foods and beverages with artificial sweeteners have never actually been proven to help weight loss. On the contrary, studies that look at this actually find artificial sweeteners promote weight gain. Part of the reason why artificial sweeteners don't work as advertised (such as help you lose weight and manage your insulin) relates to the fact that your body is not fooled by sweet taste without accompanying calories.9
Scientific American10 previously ran an article explaining the science behind this phenomenon. In a nutshell, when you eat something sweet, your brain releases dopamine, which supplies you with a jolt of pleasure. Your brain's reward center is activated.
The appetite-regulating hormone leptin is also released, which eventually informs your brain that you are "full" once a certain amount of calories have been ingested. In contrast, when you consume something sweet but non-caloric (i.e. an artificial sweetener), your brain's pleasure pathway is still activated by the sweet taste, but there's nothing to deactivate it, since your body is still waiting for the calories. As a result, you may end up overeating.
Another recent report published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism11 found that diet soda drinkers suffer the same exact health problems as those who opt for regular soda, including excessive weight gain, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.12, 13 The sad fact is, Americans in particular are addicted to sweet flavors, which appears to trigger a complex set of biological systems, pathways, and mechanisms that in the end leads to excess weight gain—whether that flavor comes loaded with calories or not.
Artificial Sweeteners Actually INCREASE Weight Gain
The connection between sweet taste alone and increased hunger can be found in the medical literature going back at least two decades. These two studies, for example, dating back to the late 80s and early 90s, both showed this link between artificial sweeteners and increased hunger:
- Physiology & Behavior, 198814 – In this study, they determined that intense (no- or low-calorie) sweeteners can produce significant changes in appetite. Of the three sweeteners tested, aspartame produced the most pronounced effects.
- Physiology & Behavior, 199015 – Here, they again evaluated whether or not the mere taste of "sweet" increases hunger, by having human subjects chew gum for 15 minutes containing various levels of aspartame (0.05%, 0.3%, 0.5%, or 1.0%).
Interestingly, although those who chewed artificially sweetened gum reported increased hunger compared to the control group who were given nothing or unsweetened gum base to chew, the increase did not directly correlate with the aspartame concentration in the gum.
Women experienced the greatest increase in hunger after chewing gum containing 0.3 percent aspartame (the second lowest concentration amount), while men were the hungriest after chewing on gum containing 0.5 percent aspartame. The authors stated:
"The highest aspartame concentrations had a time-dependent, biphasic effect on appetite, producing a transient decrease followed by a sustained increase in hunger ratings. Thus, the concentration of the sweetener, the sex of the subject, and the time after chewing, were all important determinants of whether 'sweetness' increased hunger."
How Aspartame Can Wreak Havoc with Your Health
Aspartame is primarily made up of aspartic acid and phenylalanine. The phenylalanine has been synthetically modified to carry a methyl group, which provides the majority of the sweetness. That phenylalanine methyl bond, called a methyl ester, is very weak, which allows the methyl group on the phenylalanine to easily break off and form methanol.
You may have heard the claim that aspartame is harmless because methanol is also found in fruits and vegetables. However, in fruits and vegetables, the methanol is firmly bonded to pectin, allowing it to be safely passed through your digestive tract. Not so with the methanol created by aspartame; there it's not bonded to anything that can help eliminate it from your body. That's problem number one.
Problem number two relates to the fact that humans are the only mammals who are NOT equipped with a protective biological mechanism that breaks down methanol into harmless formic acid. This is why animal testing of aspartame does not fully apply to humans. According to Dr. Woody Monte, a toxicology expert and professor emeritus at Arizona State University in food and chemistry:
"There is a major biochemical problem here. Methyl alcohol is known now, and has been known since 1940, to be metabolized differently by humans from every other animal."
As explained by Dr. Monte, in humans, the methanol ends up acting as a Trojan horse, and here's how. Both animals and humans have small structures called peroxisomes in each cell. There are a couple of hundred in every cell of your body, which are designed to detoxify a variety of chemicals. Peroxisome contains catalase, which help detoxify methanol. Other chemicals in the peroxisome convert the formaldehyde to formic acid, which is harmless, but, again, this last step occurs only in animals. Human peroxisomes cannot convert the toxic formaldehyde into harmless formic acid.
So to recap: in humans, the methyl alcohol travels through your blood vessels into sensitive areas, such as your brain, that are loaded with ADH, which converts methanol to formaldehyde. And since there's no catalase present, the formaldehyde is free to cause enormous damage in your tissues. Symptoms from methanol poisoning are many, and include headaches, ear buzzing, dizziness, nausea, gastrointestinal disturbances, weakness, vertigo, chills, memory lapses, numbness and shooting pains in the extremities, behavioral disturbances, and neuritis.
The most well known problems from methanol poisoning are vision problems including misty vision, progressive contraction of visual fields, blurring of vision, obscuration of vision, retinal damage, and blindness. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen that causes retinal damage, interferes with DNA replication and may cause birth defects. Not surprisingly, the most comprehensive and longest human study looking at aspartame toxicity found a clear association between aspartame consumption and non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and leukemia.
Beware of New Generation of Artificial Sweeteners
As consumers increasingly avoid artificial sweeteners like aspartame, Splenda, and others, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are trying to save their sinking business by developing the next generation of artificial sweeteners. In my opinion, it's doubtful that these newer sweeteners will be any safer than previous versions, but it may fool many, because these newer additives won't be listed on the label.
As reported by The Motley Fool,16 PepsiCo now has worldwide exclusive rights to use Sweetmyx (S617) in non-alcoholic beverages. The sweetener, developed by Senomyx—a biotech company that specializes in novel flavor modifiers and flavor enhancing food additives—was recently granted Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status,17, 18 which opens the door for commercial use. (Firmenich has lifetime rights to commercialize Sweetmyx for alcoholic beverages and food products.)
The crux here is that Sweetmyx is considered a flavor additive, which allows it to slip beneath the radar. It will simply be lumped together under the "artificial flavors" listing on the label, and doesn't have to go through the FDA approval process.
The reason for this is because it's not actually a sweetener per say. Rather, it is a flavor modifier; a chemical substance (protected as a trade secret) that tricks the taste receptors on your tongue to send the message to your brain that what you're tasting is sweeter than it really is. Hence, less fructose or sugar can be used in the product, while still providing the same sweet taste. But as discussed earlier, such tricks tend to backfire, and could create unsuspected metabolic havoc. At present, no one knows exactly what the ramifications might be.
Choose Your Beverages Wisely
Sweetened beverages, whether it's sweetened with sugar, HFCS, naturally-occurring fructose, or artificial sweeteners, are among the worst culprits causing obesity and related health problems, including diabetes and heart and liver disease, just to name a few. Remember that sweetened beverages also include flavored milk products, bottled teas, and "enhanced" water products. I'd be leery of anything listing "artificial flavors" as well—especially if the products boasts being low in sugar.
Ditching ALL of these types of beverages can go a long way toward reducing your risk for chronic health problems and weight gain. Your best, most cost effective choice of beverage is filtered tap water. I strongly recommend using a high-quality water filtration system unless you can verify the purity of your water. You can read more about water filtration in this previous article to help you make a decision about what type of water filtration system will suit you best. Since most water sources are now severely polluted, the issue of water filtration and purification couldn't be more important.
Besides purification, I also believe it's critical to drink living water. Last year, I interviewed Dr. Gerald Pollack about his book, The Fourth Phase of Water: Beyond Solid, Liquid, and Vapor. This fourth phase of water is referred to as "structured water" and is the type of water found in all of your cells. This water has healing properties, and is naturally created in a variety of ways.
Water from a deep spring is one excellent source of structured water, and there's a great website called FindaSpring.com19 where you can find a natural spring in your area. You can also promote structured water through vortexing, i.e. stirring your water, creating a vortex in the glass or pitcher.
Addicted to Sweets? There's Help!
If you're having a hard time giving up artificial sweeteners (they can be just as addictive as other sugars), I suggest trying the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). More than any traditional or alternative method I have used or researched, EFT works to overcome food cravings. If diet soda is the culprit for you, be sure to check out Turbo Tapping, which is an extremely effective and simple tool to get rid of your soda addiction in a short amount of time. If you still have cravings after trying EFT or Turbo Tapping, you may need to make additional changes to your diet. My free nutrition plan can help you do this in a step-by-step fashion.
As for a safer sweetener option, you could use stevia or Luo Han, both of which are safe natural sweeteners. Remember, if you struggle with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or extra weight, then you have insulin sensitivity issues and would likely benefit from avoiding ALL sweeteners, including stevia and Luo Han.
Last but not least, if you experience side effects from aspartame or any other artificial sweetener, please report it to the FDA (if you live in the United States) without delay. It's easy to make a report — just go to the FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator page, find the phone number for your state, and make a call reporting your reaction. As Terri LaPoint writes in her Inquisitr article:20
"Ironically, the manufacturer of aspartame, Searle, started working on finding a drug to combat memory loss shortly after FDA approval for aspartame to be used in carbonated drinks.
Aspartame is a neurotoxin. Even ants have sense enough to avoid it. Yet, diet drinks add this neurotoxic chemical as its sweetener, and they promote it as a heath food to a public that naively puts its trust in the experts. Then the manufacturers stand ready to offer you drugs to help you with your symptoms that they don't tell you are directly related to your diet sodas. It's a win-win situation for them, with the consumer as the loser. You don't lose weight. You lose health. Drink water. Drink tea. Drink regular soda – anything but the diet sodas. You just might live longer."
I couldn't agree more.
Toxicology Expert Explains Why Aspartame is so Dangerous to Your Health
By Dr. Mercola
Fish has always been the best source for the animal-based omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.
However, as the understanding of mercury's toxic effects has grown, it has become even more critical to ensure you are choosing the right fish so you can receive the benefits of the healthful fats that many low mercury fish provide, as explained recently by a leading expert from Harvard Medical School.1
The question of which fish you should eat and avoid is receiving renewed attention, as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stand poised to update the national advisory for fish consumption for pregnant women, nursing mothers, women of childbearing age, and young children.2
While the Agencies have yet to announce what the new advice will say, or when the updated advisory might be made public, the prospect of new recommendations have already unleashed a public relations fight.
40 Tons of Mercury Are Released Into the Air in the US Every Year
Let's first understand how mercury winds up in our fish and seafood. It all circles back primarily to how most energy in the world is generated. Sadly, even in the 21st century the majority of U.S. man-made emissions are released from burning coal laced with mercury.
Combustion in power plants of coal containing mercury is a major source of environmental pollution. Mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants and other sources moves through the air and is deposited in water and finds its way into fish, accumulating especially in fish that are higher up the food chain.
The good news is that about 70 percent of tested wild caught fish consumed in the US contain relatively low levels of mercury.3 However, fish like tuna, marlin, shark, barracuda, and swordfish have some of the highest levels of contamination.
This is due to the fact that the oceans and thousands of water bodies have been seriously polluted. As a result, pregnant women who should be especially careful to consume the right types of fish. It is quite certain that consuming fish is a crucial part of your diet, but you should be sure to optimize with the right kinds of fish - to receive maximum benefits with minimal mercury exposure.
That's because the toxic heavy metal can cross the placenta to harm the rapidly developing nervous system, including the brain. Studies have associated prenatal methylmercury exposure with impaired development of sensory, motor, and cognitive functions, resulting in learning difficulties, poor coordination, and inability to concentrate.
About 10 percent of the US population—including many children, pregnant women, and women of childbearing age, in particular—have mercury levels above the levels currently recommended for fetal and child health.
Seafood Industry Pressures FDA
The seafood industry is suggesting that the updated advisory will relax warnings against consuming certain fish containing high mercury levels. Industry executives, speaking last month at a trade show in Boston, said they expected the FDA to change the advisory in a way to get people to eat more tuna and other seafood. For example, John Connelly, president of the trade organization National Fisheries Institute has said:4
"Whether it be pregnant women, nursing moms, or guys [in their 50s], you're better off eating seafood, your risk is not eating enough seafood. I think the government is understanding that now."
Christopher Lischewski, chief executive of Bumble Bee Foods LLC, one of the largest canned tuna companies in North America, recently made a similar statement:5
"Based on the accurate science they've looked at since , FDA recognizes they made an error in 2004 in putting out a mercury advisory that had no scientific merit."
No scientific merit? That may be a stretch, as the industry appears to have overlooked more than a dozen epidemiology studies over the past decade that have reported adverse effects of mercury on brain development at levels as low as one-tenth of what was thought to be harmful ten years ago when the advisory was written.6 These studies found no threshold level below which prenatal methylmercury exposure has no adverse effects
The new Minamata Convention on Mercury,7 named after the fishing village in Japan where a severe poisoning incident occurred, has as its symbol a fish. That's because the treaty's main objective is to reduce human exposure to mercury through a range of provisions designed to reduce uses and emissions of mercury from major sources, like coal-fired power plants.
Time is of the essence when it comes to reducing mercury emissions. That's because mercury can circulate in the global environment for decades, making it "...likely to be several years or decades before reductions in mercury emissions have a demonstrable effect on mercury levels in nature and the food chain," according to the United Nations Environment Program.
In the meantime, sufficiently health protective mercury advisories are necessary to inform women of child bearing age about fish consumption both before and during pregnancy. Such advisories should try to balance two objectives:
- Promoting fish consumption for its nutritional benefits (including important benefits to the developing fetus)
- Protecting the exquisitely sensitive fetal nervous system from the toxic effects of methylmercury exposure
Caught Up in 'Wishful Thinking'
The 2004 EPA/FDA guidance instructs women of childbearing age, pregnant women, young children, and nursing mothers to limit their consumption of albacore tuna to a maximum of six ounces per week and abstain completely from swordfish, tilefish, shark, and king mackerel.
This is due to high mercury levels in these larger fish. According to the EPA/FDA advisory, some fish and shellfish "contain higher levels of mercury that may harm an unborn baby or young child's developing nervous system."
Unfortunately, while most consumers understand that (a) fish have significant health benefits, and (b) that fish contain mercury, most do not know which fish are high and low in mercury.
Rather than encouraging pregnant women to eat, say less tuna and more salmon, the industry insists (against the weight of scientific evidence) that all fish are beneficial, regardless of the mercury content, even though only a relatively small percentage of fish species have higher mercury levels.8
Which is why some of the fishing industry is now trying to "psych out" the FDA by predicting that the agency's new fish advisory will lean in their favor. This, however, may be little more than wishful thinking, as suggested in the Wall Street Journal:9, 10
"'It's 'wishful thinking' on the part of the seafood industry to think the updated advisory will tell those in the at-risk groups to eat more tuna,' said Carl Safina, president and founder of the environmental group Blue Ocean Institute. 'The FDA is considering changes to its advice,' he said. 'No one apparently knows what they are considering… so it's fantasy for fishermen to think the advice on tuna will be relaxed.'"
I've previously addressed the issue of what fish to safely eat during and before pregnancy, noting that while eating fish certainly has important health benefits, it's really critical to use discernment.
The challenge is to find and choose the 25 varieties of fish and shellfish that qualify as low or very low in mercury.11 Several of them are quite high in omega-3s. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon, for example, is one very low mercury fish. Tuna is by far the largest source of mercury exposure in our diet, and anyone who wants to reduce their mercury intake needs to eat less tuna. The tuna population has also been decimated due to over-fishing, I believe it is best to avoid tuna and make better choices when consuming seafood.
Advocacy Groups Sue FDA for Failure to Warn About Mercury Levels
Last month, on behalf of the Mercury Policy Project (MPP) and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Earth Justice filed a lawsuit12, 13 against the FDA. The groups are suing FDA for failing to respond to a July 2011 petition in which the groups asked the Agency to give consumers clear, accurate and accessible information about toxic mercury in the seafood they eat.
According to Michael Bender, MPP's director, the FDA's recommendations are both out-of-date, and do not reach the people who need them most—pregnant women, parents of young children, and heavy fish eaters. A package label would rectify that problem. As reported by Bloomberg Business Week:14
"The Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Mercury Policy Project filed a lawsuit... against the Food and Drug Administration requesting regulations to label fish containing high levels of mercury and include information on what levels of consumption are safe. They also want the government to require supermarkets to display this information on signs at the fish counter...
According to the complaint, hundreds of thousands of children in the US. are born every year with elevated blood mercury levels caused by their mothers' consumption of fish and shellfish contaminated with methylmercury, a neurotoxin that has been linked to learning disabilities, lowered IQ, and impaired cognitive and nervous system functioning."
Despite the fact that the FDA is charged with consumer safety and protecting the public from harmful contaminants, it repeatedly falls short of this task. Thirteen years ago, the CSPI filed a petition with the FDA requesting warning labels on high-mercury fish,15 but the agency never responded. It was legally required to do so within 180 days. The current lawsuit seeks a court ordered deadline for the FDA to make a final decision on the issue.
Mercury Levels in Fish
Your total mercury exposure depends on two factors: which fish you eat and the amount of fish you eat. As noted by Bender, "this critical fact is often obscured by industry exhortations to 'eat more fish,' without regard to mercury content."
Mercury content can vary 100-fold from one species to another, so it certainly makes sense to pay close attention to which fish are on the high side and which are on the low end. For example, research16 published in 2010, which quantified the contributions to total mercury in the US seafood supply by 51 different varieties of fish and shellfish, found that tuna was responsible for more than one-third of Americans' total exposure to methylmercury.17 According to the author:
"The analysis performed here identifies the relative importance of different fish and shellfish as sources of mercury in the US seafood supply and proposes improved consumer advice, so that the public can benefit from fish consumption while minimizing mercury exposure. Except for swordfish, most fish with the highest mercury levels are relatively minor contributors to total inputs.
Tuna (canned light, canned albacore and fresh/frozen varieties) accounts for 37.4 percent of total mercury inputs, while two-thirds of the seafood supply and nine of the 11 most heavily consumed fish and shellfish are low or very low in mercury. Substantial improvement in risk communication about mercury in fish and seafood is needed; in particular, several population subsets need better guidance to base their seafood choices more explicitly on mercury content."
For a handy list that you can print out for reference, please see the Mercury Policy Project's guide to mercury levels in different varieties of fish and shellfish.18 Among the safest are shrimp and salmon. Canned tuna, mackerel, swordfish, grouper, marlin, and orange roughy have some of the highest levels of mercury levels. For even more information about mercury in fish, I recommend reviewing MPP's website, Mercury and Fish: The Facts.
Parents: Beware of Feeding Your Child Too Much Canned Tuna
A 2012 report19 by the Mercury Policy Project offers risk management advice for schools and parents, and warns that canned tuna is a major source of mercury exposure in children. Based on average contamination levels in tested samples, small children should eat light tuna no more than twice a month, and albacore tuna should be avoided entirely. The report also recommends that if your child eats tuna once per week or more, you should have their blood tested for mercury. If the result is over 5 micrograms per liter (ug/L), his or her consumption should be restricted.
Keep in mind that methylmercury harms a person's nervous system to differing degrees, depending on how much mercury you've accumulated. At above average doses, brain functions such as reaction time, judgment, and language can be impaired. At very high exposures, mercury can affect your ability to walk, speak, think, and see clearly. Another 2012 study20 that evaluated the effects of mercury on cognition in otherwise healthy adults found that those with blood mercury levels below 5 µg/L had the best cognitive functions. Mild impairment was evident at blood mercury levels of 5 to 15 µg/L and above 15 µg/L, cognition was significantly impaired.
Tell the FDA Where You Stand on Mercury Warnings
Given the above facts, let the FDA know where you stand! To make your voice heard, email or call FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, either via email or a telephone call.
To contact FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg directly, you can call her at (301) 796-5000, or send her an email: Margaret.Hamburg@fda.hhs.gov.
You can also contact your representatives by visiting the US Congress Members page.
Please Eat Fish, Just Make Sure It's Low in Mercury
Remember, you don't need to quit eating fish altogether. But you DO need to be aware of which fish are safer to eat, and which you'll want to eat only rarely, if at all. As stated by Edward Groth,21 an independent food safety consultant and author of the report titled: "An Overview of Epidemiological Evidence on the Effects of Methylmercury on Brain Development, and a Rationale for a Lower Definition of Tolerable Exposure:"22
"If women are eating less fish because they're confused, and there's some evidence that's the case, then we're not getting the result we want. The secret is to get women to eat more low-mercury fish."
To take advantage of the health benefits of fish, avoid eating large predatory fish that are high on the food chain. An excellent choice is wild-caught Alaskan salmon. The reason for this is that it contains some of the highest amounts of beneficial omega-3 fats, in combination with being among the least contaminated. Yet there are many other good choices as well, that you can find on the FDA23 and MPP24 websites.
What You Need to Know Before You Ever Order Fish at a Restaurant
Revised Protocol for Detoxifying Your Body from Mercury Exposure
By Dr. Mercola
Increasing exposure to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, may be at least partially to blame for rising rates of numerous chronic diseases in Westernized societies, according to recent research.
The finding, published in Entropy,1 has ramifications for virtually every man, woman and child in developed nations, as this pesticide is widely used on both conventional and, especially, genetically modified (GM) crops (to the tune of more than one billion pounds sprayed in the US alone).
If you eat processed foods, most of which are made with GM corn and soy ingredients, you’re consuming glyphosate residues, probably in each and every bite. Knowing this, and the fact that tests show people in 18 countries across Europe already have glyphosate in their bodies,2 the following news should leave you very, very concerned… if not compelled to take action against this health-endangering chemical.
Glyphosate May Be a Key Factor in the Development of Chronic Disease
While Monsanto insists that Roundup is safe, a peer-reviewed report authored by Anthony Samsel, a retired science consultant, and a long time contributor to the Mercola.com Vital Votes Forum, and Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), reveals how glyphosate wrecks human health.
They argue that glyphosate residues, found in most commonly consumed foods in the Western diet courtesy of GM sugar, corn, soy, and wheat, “enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment to disrupt normal body functions and induce disease.” Interestingly, your gut bacteria are a key component of glyphosate’s primary mechanism of harm.
Monsanto has steadfastly claimed that Roundup is harmless to animals and humans because the mechanism of action it uses (which allows it to kill weeds), called the shikimate pathway, is absent in all animals. However, the shikimate pathway IS present in bacteria, and that’s the key to understanding how it causes such widespread systemic harm in both humans and animals.
The bacteria in your body outnumber your cells by 10 to one. For every cell in your body, you have 10 microbes of various kinds, and all of them have the shikimate pathway, so they will all respond to the presence of glyphosate!
Glyphosate causes extreme disruption of the microbe’s function and lifecycle. What’s worse, glyphosate preferentially affects beneficial bacteria, allowing pathogens to overgrow and take over, including the highly toxic Clostridium botulinum.
It has been estimated that only 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs) would be enough to kill the entire human population.3 At that point, your body also has to contend with the toxins produced by the pathogens. Once the chronic inflammation sets in, you’re well on your way toward chronic and potentially debilitating disease.
In the interview above, Dr. Seneff reviews a variety of chronic diseases, explaining how glyphosate contributes to each condition. So to learn more, I urge you to listen to it in its entirety. It’s quite eye opening. According to Dr. Seneff, glyphosate is possibly "the most important factor in the development of multiple chronic diseases and conditions that have become prevalent in Westernized societies,” including but not limited to:
Autism Gastrointestinal diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, chronic diarrhea, colitis, and Crohn's disease Obesity Allergies Cardiovascular disease Depression Cancer Infertility Alzheimer’s disease Parkinson’s disease Multiple sclerosis ALS and more
Glyphosate May Cause Cancer at Extremely Low Doses
To get a bit more in depth on just one of the chronic diseases highlighted by Dr. Seneff, consider the reports showing that glyphosate may stimulate hormone-dependent cancers even at extremely low “environmentally relevant” amounts.
In a study published last year, researchers concluded that glyphosate is a xenoestrogen that is functionally similar to estradiol, the most potent human estrogen, and concentrations in the parts-per-trillion range had carcinogenic effects.4
Adding insult to injury—in light of the fact that more than 90 percent of soybeans grown in the US are genetically modified—they also found that the phytoestrogen genistein, naturally found in soybeans, heightened the estrogenic effects when combined with glyphosate. According to the authors:
“This study implied that the additive effect of glyphosate and genistein in postmenopausal women may induce cancer cell growth.In this present in vitro study, we showed an estrogenicity of pure glyphosate...
Furthermore, this study demonstrated the additive estrogenic effects of glyphosate and genistein which implied that the use of glyphosate-contaminated soybean products as dietary supplements may pose a risk of breast cancer because of their potential additive estrogenicity."
Shocking GM Food Feeding Study Retracted -- for Small Sample Size!
This wasn’t the first time this pesticide has been linked to cancer. In 2012, the first-ever lifetime feeding study evaluating the health risks of GM foods was published. It found that rats fed a type of GM corn that is prevalent in the US food supply for two years developed massive mammary tumors, kidney, and liver damage, and other serious health problems.5 According to the authors:
"The health effects of a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize (from 11% in the diet), cultivated with or without Roundup, and Roundup alone (from 0.1ppb in water), were studied 2 years in rats. [Editors note: this level of Roundup is permitted in drinking water and GE crops in the US]
In females, all treated groups died 2-3 times more than controls, and more rapidly. This difference was visible in 3 male groups fed GMOs. All results were hormone and sex dependent, and the pathological profiles were comparable. Females developed large mammary tumors almost always more often than and before controls, the pituitary was the second most disabled organ; the sex hormonal balance was modified by GMO and Roundup treatments.
In treated males, liver congestions and necrosis were 2.5-5.5 times higher... Marked and severe kidney nephropathies were also generally 1.3-2.3 greater. Males presented 4 times more large palpable tumors than controls, which occurred up to 600 days earlier.
Biochemistry data confirmed very significant kidney chronic deficiencies; for all treatments and both sexes, 76% of the altered parameters were kidney related. These results can be explained by the non linear endocrine-disrupting effects of Roundup, but also by the overexpression of the transgene in the GMO and its metabolic consequences."
They really are not exaggerating when they say it caused massive tumors… some of the tumors weighed in at 25 percent of the rat's total body weight. In fact, the researchers had to euthanize some of them due to the profound pain and suffering these tumorous animals were observed to be experiencing. You can see the pictures for yourself here.
The research was considered so "hot" that the work was done under strict secrecy. According to a French article in Le Nouvel Observateur,6 the researchers used encrypted emails, phone conversations were banned, and they even launched a decoy study to prevent sabotage. The findings were a nail in the coffin for the pesticide/biotech industry, but then the journal began to receive Letters to the Editor alleging fraud and calling upon the editors to retract the paper.
After what the journal described as a “thorough and time-consuming analysis” of the study, they said they found “no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data.”7 All they could find “wrong” with the research was that it used a low number of animals for the study, even though it was the same number of animals Monsanto used in their study… so they, quite outrageously, retracted this important paper. Even the retraction statement admits that the results presented are “not incorrect” but rather may be “inconclusive”! If every paper that could be considered inconclusive were retracted, there would scarcely be a published paper left!
As reported by the Institute of Science in Society (ISIS): “…the unsettling results of the Séralini study… almost certainly lie behind its notorious retraction by the journal editor a year after it was published.” The most damning revelation of this debacle was that a former Monsanto employee, Richard E. Goodman, early in 2013, was appointed “Associate Editor for biotechnology” for the journal that retracted the study.8 The obvious question is: was Monsanto behind the retraction?
Warning: Eat Glyphosate-Laced GM Foods at Your Own Risk
You may be wondering why, if GM foods are so potentially toxic, Americans aren’t dropping like flies. Well, this is a debatable statement, as with rates of chronic diseases climbing exponentially, many Americans are dying before their time. Furthermore, rats only live a few years, which is why you’re able to see tumors develop rapidly in response to dietary changes. Humans live around 80 years, so we will notice these effects in animals long before we see them in humans. The gigantic human lab experiment of eating GM foods is only about 10 years old, so we are likely decades away from tabulating the human casualties.
As discussed above, glyphosate contamination is but one route by which GM foods are poisonous. It has a number of devastating biological effects. So much so that it may very well be one of the most important factors in the development of a wide variety of modern diseases and conditions. In summary, these detrimental effects include:
Nutritional deficiencies, as glyphosate immobilizes certain nutrients and alters the nutritional composition of the treated crop Disruption of the biosynthesis of aromatic amino acids (these are essential amino acids not produced in your body that must be supplied via your diet) Increased toxin exposure (this includes high levels of glyphosate and formaldehyde in the food itself) Impairment of sulfate transport and sulfur metabolism; sulfate deficiency Systemic toxicity—a side effect of extreme disruption of microbial function throughout your body; beneficial microbes in particular, allowing for overgrowth of pathogens Gut dysbiosis (imbalances in gut bacteria, inflammation, leaky gut, and food allergies such as gluten intolerance) Enhancement of damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and environmental toxins as a result of glyphosate shutting down the function of detoxifying enzymes Creation of ammonia (a byproduct created when certain microbes break down glyphosate), which can lead to brain inflammation associated with autism and Alzheimer’s disease
Vote with Your Pocketbook, Every Day
The food companies on the left of this graphic spent tens of millions of dollars in the last two labeling campaigns—in California and Washington State—to prevent you from knowing what's in your food. You can even the score by switching to the brands on the right, all of whom stood behind the I-522 Right to Know campaign. Voting with your pocketbook, at every meal, matters. It makes a huge difference.
As always, I encourage you to continue educating yourself about genetically modified foods, and to share what you've learned with family and friends. Remember, unless a food is certified organic, you can assume it contains GMO ingredients if it contains sugar from sugar beet, soy, or corn, or any of their derivatives.
If you buy processed food, opt for products bearing the USDA 100% Organic label, as organics do not permit GMOs. You can also print out and use the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, created by the Institute for Responsible Technology. Share it with your friends and family, and post it to your social networks. Alternatively, download their free iPhone application, available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications. For more in-depth information, I highly recommend reading the following two books, authored by Jeffrey Smith, the executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology:
- Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies about the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You're Eating
- Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods.
For timely updates, join the Non-GMO Project on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter. Please, do your homework. Together, we have the power to stop the chemical technology industry from destroying our food supply, the future of our children, and the earth as a whole. All we need is about five percent of American shoppers to simply stop buying genetically engineered foods, and the food industry would have to reconsider their source of ingredients—regardless of whether the products bear an actual GMO label or not.
Glyphosate May Be Worse Than DDT, Which Has Now Been Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease, Decades After Exposure
Roundup and Glyphosate Toxicity Have Been Grossly Underestimated
By Dr. Mercola
The video above is a nice confirmation from the traditional media of the importance of vitamin D. However, they still get it wrong by stating that you can get the vitamin D you need from foods. Appropriate sun exposure can easily provide over 20,000 units per day, while food rarely provides over 400 units.
Back in 2011, I published a series of interviews with Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a senior MIT research scientist who, more recently, rocked the world with her discovery of glyphosate's mechanism of harm.
Three years ago, however, she was one of the first to point out the links between cholesterol and vitamin D, presenting a hypothesis that made me even more convinced that raising your vitamin D levels through sun exposure may be far more critical than previously thought.
Now, research published in the journal Menopause1, 2 appears to offer support for Dr. Seneff's theories on the cholesterol-vitamin D link. But first, a quick review of cholesterol, and why your body actually needs it.
What Is Cholesterol, and Why Do You Need It?
That's right, you do need cholesterol. This soft, waxy substance is found not only in your bloodstream but also in every cell in your body, where it helps to produce cell membranes, hormones, vitamin D, and bile acids that help you digest fat.
Cholesterol also helps in the formation of your memories and is vital for neurological function. Your liver makes about three-quarters or more of your body's cholesterol, and according to conventional medicine, there are two types:
- High-density lipoprotein or HDL: This is the "good" cholesterol that helps keep cholesterol away from your arteries and remove any excess from arterial plaque, which may help to prevent heart disease.
- Low-density lipoprotein or LDL: This "bad" cholesterol circulates in your blood and, according to conventional thinking, may build up in your arteries, forming plaque that makes your arteries narrow and less flexible (a condition called atherosclerosis). If a clot forms in one of these narrowed arteries leading to your heart or brain, a heart attack or stroke may result.
Also making up your total cholesterol count are:
- Triglycerides: Elevated levels of this dangerous fat have been linked to heart disease and diabetes. Triglyceride levels are known to rise from eating too many grains and sugars, being physically inactive, smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol excessively, and being overweight or obese.
- Lipoprotein (a) or Lp(a): Lp(a) is a substance that is made up of an LDL "bad cholesterol" part plus a protein (apoprotein a). Elevated Lp(a) levels are a very strong risk factor for heart disease. This has been well established, yet very few physicians check for it in their patients. (Lp(a) also was not assessed in the featured study.)
Study Finds Vitamin D + Calcium Supplementation Improves Lipid Profiles
The featured study sought to evaluate whether increased serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 (25OHD3) concentrations are associated with improved lipid profiles in postmenopausal women.
The study had over one million people so it was a big deal. The test group received a daily dose of 1,000 mg of elemental calcium along with 400 IUs of vitamin D3. Please note that this dose of vitamin D is ridiculously low and will not provide help for most people. The control group received a placebo.
Blood levels of vitamin D, fasting plasma triglycerides, HDL, and LDL cholesterol levels were assessed at the beginning and end of the trial. After two years, women who received the vitamin D and calcium supplements had a 38 percent increased mean vitamin D level compared to the placebo group.
They also had a 4.46-mg/dL mean decrease in LDL. Furthermore, higher vitamin D concentrations were associated with higher HDL combined with lower LDL and triglyceride levels. According to the authors:
"These results support the hypothesis that higher concentrations of 25OHD3, in response to [calcium/vitamin D3] supplementation, are associated with improved LDL cholesterol."
After discussing the link between vitamin D and cholesterol with Dr. Seneff, I became convinced that raising your vitamin D levels through sun exposure may have far greater benefits than taking a supplement. I've even warned that vitamin D supplementation might not achieve optimal health results, the reason for which I'll discuss in just a moment.
Remember that this study used a virtually insignificant dose of vitamin D that will not increase levels to optimum in anyone. Yet despite this nearly homeopathic dose, it still led to small, yet noticeable, improvements in lipid profile (i.e. increased HDL, in combination with reduced LDL and triglycerides).
Imagine what they would have found had they given doses 10 to 20 times higher that we know will put people into optimum ranges? In my view, this strengthens the hypothesis that naturally-acquired vitamin D, created by your skin in response to UV exposure, would likely have an even greater effect, and here's why.
Cardiovascular Disease—A Compensatory Mechanism for Cholesterol Sulfate Deficiency?
Through her research, Dr. Seneff has developed a theory in which the mechanism we call "cardiovascular disease" (of which arterial plaque is a hallmark) is actually your body's way to compensate for not having enough cholesterol sulfate. To understand how this works, you have to understand the interrelated workings of cholesterol, sulfur, and vitamin D from sun exposure.
Cholesterol sulfate is produced in large amounts in your skin when it is exposed to sunshine. When you are deficient in cholesterol sulfate from lack of sun exposure, your body employs another mechanism to increase it, as it is essential for optimal heart and brain function. It does this by taking damaged LDL and turning it into plaque.
Within the plaque, your blood platelets separate out the beneficial HDL cholesterol, and through a process involving homocysteine as a source of sulfate, the platelets go on to produce the cholesterol sulfate your heart and brain needs. However, this plaque also causes the unfortunate side effect of increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease. So how do you get out of this detrimental cycle?
Dr. Seneff believes that high serum cholesterol and low serum cholesterol sulfate go hand-in-hand, and that the ideal way to bring down your LDL (so-called "bad" cholesterol, which is associated with cardiovascular disease) is to get appropriate amounts of sunlight exposure on your skin. She explains:
"In this way, your skin will produce cholesterol sulfate, which will then flow freely through the blood—not packaged up inside LDL—and therefore your liver doesn't have to make so much LDL. So the LDL goes down. In fact... there is a complete inverse relationship between sunlight and cardiovascular disease – the more sunlight, the less cardiovascular disease."
What this also means is that when you artificially lower your cholesterol with a statin drug, which effectively reduces the bioavailability of cholesterol to that plaque but doesn't address the root problem, your body is not able to create the cholesterol sulfate your heart needs anymore, and as a result you end up with acute heart failure.
Total Video Length: 1:29:57
Download Interview Transcript
Heart Disease Is the Number One Killer Worldwide
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), heart disease was the leading cause of death, globally, in 2011 and 2012. Even children are becoming increasingly at risk.3, 4 Recent research suggests as many as one-third of children have or are at risk for high cholesterol, which conventional medicine views as a risk factor for heart disease.
Bear in mind that, contrary to the conventional ideology, your total cholesterol level—which includes HDL, LDL, triglycerides, and Lp(a)—is just about worthless in determining your risk for heart disease, unless it is above 300. Still, high total cholesterol can in some instances indicate a problem, provided it's your LDL and triglycerides that are elevated and you have a low HDL. I have seen a number of people with total cholesterol levels over 250 who actually were at low heart disease risk due to their high HDL levels. Conversely, I have seen even more who had cholesterol levels under 200 that were at a very high risk of heart disease based on the following additional tests:
- HDL/Cholesterol ratio. This is a very potent heart disease risk factor. Just divide your HDL level by your cholesterol. That ratio should ideally be above 24 percent
- Triglyceride/HDL ratio. Here, you divide your triglyceride level by your HDL. This ratio should ideally be below 2
That said, these are still simply guidelines, and there's a lot more that goes into your risk of heart disease than any one of these numbers. In fact, it was only after word got out that total cholesterol is a poor predictor of heart disease that HDL and LDL cholesterol were brought into the picture. They give you a closer idea of what's going on, but they still do not show you everything. Additional risk factors for heart disease include:
- Your fasting insulin level: Any meal or snack high in carbohydrates like fructose and refined grains generates a rapid rise in blood glucose and then insulin to compensate for the rise in blood sugar. The insulin released from eating too many carbs promotes fat accumulation and makes it more difficult for your body to shed excess weight. Excess fat, particularly around your belly, is one of the major contributors to heart disease
- Your fasting blood sugar level: Studies have shown that people with a fasting blood sugar level of 100-125 mg/dl had a nearly 300 percent increase higher risk of having coronary heart disease than people with a level below 79 mg/dl
- Your iron level: Iron can be a very potent cause of oxidative stress, so if you have excess iron levels you can damage your blood vessels and increase your risk of heart disease. Ideally, you should monitor your ferritin levels and make sure they are not much above 80 ng/ml. The simplest way to lower them if they are elevated is to donate your blood. If that is not possible, you can have a therapeutic phlebotomy and that will effectively eliminate the excess iron from your body
Beware of Treating Elevated Cholesterol in Childhood with Drugs
Getting back to the study in question,5 a research team at Texas Children's Hospital examined the medical records of more than 12,000 children between the ages of nine and 11, and found that 30 percent of them were at risk of elevated cholesterol levels. Elevated LDL and triglyceride levels were found to be more common among boys. Not surprisingly, obesity and lifestyle were deemed to be significant factors.
Universal cholesterol screening guidelines6 were issued in 2011, which strongly recommend all children be screened between the ages of nine and 11, and again between 17 and 21. The authors of the featured study say they hope their findings will give added weight to these guidelines. However, there are serious concerns that universal screening will simply place children on cholesterol-lowering medications, which do absolutely nothing to address the underlying problem... As reported by Eurekalert:7
"'There is concern by some in the medical community that children will be started on medication unnecessarily,' [lead investigator, Dr. Thomas] Seery said, emphasizing that adopting a healthy diet and engaging in routine physical activity are first-line therapies for children with abnormal cholesterol levels.
He adds that cholesterol-lowering medications are typically needed in one to two percent of children with dyslipidemia, primarily in those with very high cholesterol resulting from a genetic lipoprotein disorder. Genetic lipoprotein disorders, such as familial hypercholesterolemia, result in very high cholesterol levels that can be detected in childhood but are felt to be underdiagnosed, he said. 'Kids need to have their cholesterol panel checked at some point during this timeframe [9 to 11 years old],' Seery said. 'In doing so, it presents the perfect opportunity for clinicians and parents to discuss the importance of healthy lifestyle choices on cardiovascular health.'"
To Save Our Kids, We Must Address Their Lifestyle
It is indisputable that childhood obesity is placing an increasing number of people at risk of an early death. I address this topic in my book Generation XL. If the childhood obesity epidemic is not reversed, we will, for the first time in history, see children living shorter lives than their parents! Clearly, something must be done about escalating childhood obesity and "adult" diseases showing up in our children. But placing kids on statins8 is certainly NOT the answer. The cause of the problem is unhealthy lifestyle choices—and drugs do nothing to address this. On the contrary, statins have been linked to a wide range of devastating side effects, including but not limited to:
Muscle problems and muscle damage (including the heart muscle) Neurological problems, including memory loss and Lou Gehrig's disease Nerve damage Liver enzyme derangement Kidney failure Elevated blood glucose Tendon problems Anemia Sexual dysfunction
Recent research,9, 10 which followed subjects for 25 years, suggests there's a very important relationship between your heart health and your brain function, and that this relationship starts much earlier in life than previously thought. The study links late-teen to early adulthood blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels with mental acuity in your mid-life years:
- People with higher blood pressure and/or higher blood glucose early in life scored lower on all tests devised to assess memory and learning, brain aging, and decision processing speed
- People with higher cholesterol early in life scored lower on the learning and memory tests
Now, when you consider the negative effects statins have on your heart muscle, combined with their detrimental neurological impact and their tendency to elevate blood glucose, it would seem like these drugs might actually significantly speed up the onset of dementia when given to young children, thereby doing more damage than simply living with health risk factors such as high blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol.
Vitamin D Also Plays a Role in Alzheimer's Prevention
Your brain function, as your heart health, is also dependent on both appropriate amounts of cholesterol and healthy vitamin D levels — a fact that again ties heart and brain health together. A recent article in the Daily Herald,11 written by Dr. Patrick B. Massey, MD, Ph.D., medical director for complementary and alternative medicine at Alexian Brothers Hospital Network, discusses the importance of vitamin D for the prevention of Alzheimer's disease.
"'Not by coincidence, vitamin D deficiency exists in 70-90 percent of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease,' he writes. 'Medical studies have demonstrated that increased vitamin D levels either through sun exposure or supplementation improves cognitive function in the elderly. These positive results have been seen in those diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease as well as those who do not have this illness.
The benefits of vitamin D supplementation may appear in four weeks resulting in enhanced processing speed as well as cognitive abilities. Indeed, one recent medical trial demonstrated that taking vitamin D and the Alzheimer's medication memantine resulted in better outcomes than either memantine or vitamin D alone. Vitamin D supplementation is a simple and effective way of treating and preventing Alzheimer's disease and may be the best option at this time.'"
As you can see, vitamin D and cholesterol are integral players in both heart disease and Alzheimer's disease, and that while statins can dramatically reduce your cholesterol, these drugs tend to have a detrimental effect on both your heart and brain. According to Dr. Seneff, insufficient fat and cholesterol in your brain play a critical role in the disease process, and she makes a compelling case for how statin drugs promote the disease. For more in-depth information about this, please refer to Dr. Seneff's MIT paper, "APOE-4: The Clue to Why Low Fat Diet and Statins May Cause Alzheimer's."12
Tying It All Together
All in all, Dr. Seneff's research makes a very compelling case for getting appropriate sun exposure in order to normalize your cholesterol levels, thereby promoting both heart and brain health. While you can take oral vitamin D pills, there is virtually no doubt in my mind that future research (likely 20-30 years from now) will show that increasing your vitamin D levels through sensible sun exposure or a safe tanning bed is far superior to swallowing vitamin D. To summarize Dr. Seneff's research into layman's terms the two inter-related disease processes described earlier would look something like this:
Lack of sun exposure → cholesterol sulfate deficiency → plaque formation (to produce cholesterol sulfate that protects your heart) → cardiovascular disease (which places you at greater risk for decreased brain function)
Furthermore, Dr. Seneff and many others also stress the importance of reducing your refined sugar and processed fructose consumption to prevent heart disease. While not specifically addressed in this article, as I chose to focus on cholesterol and vitamin D, fructose consumption also significantly contributes to cardiovascular disease in the following manner:
High fructose consumption → over-taxed liver → impaired cholesterol formation → cholesterol deficiency → plaque formation to compensate for cholesterol sulfate deficiency → cardiovascular disease
The reversal of these disease processes would then look like this:
Appropriate sun exposure + low-sugar diet = optimal cholesterol production in your liver + optimal cholesterol sulfate production in your skin → healthy cholesterol levels and absence of arterial plaque
Naturally, while sun exposure and a low-sugar diet are important, if not critical, for optimizing your heart health, there are many other lifestyle factors that can make or break your cardiovascular health. For more suggestions on how to optimize your cholesterol levels without drugs, please see my previous article, "Statin Nation: The Great Cholesterol Cover-Up."
The Cholesterol Myth that is Harming Your Health
Tips to Lower Cholesterol Naturally