By Dr. Mercola
If you ever feel like it’s difficult to eat enough veggies, making a small investment in a high-quality juicer is one of the best steps you can take for your health. Raw juice can be likened to a "living broth," as it is teeming with micronutrients that many people are lacking.
When you drink fresh-made green juice, it is almost like receiving an intravenous infusion of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes because they go straight into your system without having to be broken down.
Drinking your juice first thing in the morning can give you a natural energy boost without resorting to stimulants like coffee. Since the juice is already in an easily digestible form, it can help revitalize your energy levels within as little as 20 minutes… and this is only the beginning of its benefits.
Three Reasons Why Juicing Is a Phenomenal Health Habit
There are three main reasons why you will want to consider incorporating vegetable juicing into your optimal health program:
- Juicing helps you absorb all the nutrients from the vegetables. This is important because most of us have impaired digestion as a result of making less-than-optimal food choices over many years. This limits your body's ability to absorb all the nutrients from the vegetables. Juicing will help to "pre-digest" them for you, so you will receive most of the nutrition, rather than having it go down the toilet.
- Juicing allows you to consume a healthier amount of vegetables in an efficient manner. Virtually every health authority recommends that we get six to eight servings of vegetables and fruits per day and very few of us actually get that. Juicing is an easy way to virtually guarantee that you will reach your daily target for vegetables.
- You can add a wider variety of vegetables in your diet. Many people eat the same vegetable salads or side dishes every day. This violates the principle of regular food rotation and increases your chance of developing an allergy to a certain food.
Plus, it limits the number of different phytochemicals in your diet, as each vegetable will offer unique benefits. With juicing, you can juice a wide variety of vegetables that you may not normally enjoy eating whole.
Additionally, juicing can help:
- Promote weight loss. In one study, adults who drank at least eight ounces of vegetable juice as part of a diet lost four pounds over 12 weeks, while those who followed the same diet but did not drink the juice lost only one pound. The vegetable juice drinkers also significantly increased their intake of vitamin C and potassium, while decreasing their overall carbohydrate intake.
- Boost your immune system by supercharging it with concentrated phytochemicals. Raw juice also contains biophotonic light energy, which can help revitalize your body.
- Increase your energy. When your body has an abundance of the nutrients it needs, and your pH is optimally balanced, you feel energized. Since it can be utilized by your body immediately, those who juice report feeling the "kick" of energy almost instantly.
- Support your brain health. People who drank juices (fruit and vegetable) more than three times per week, compared to less than once a week, were 76 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease, according to the Kame Project.1
Juice Cleanses: Even Kids Are Doing Them
Juice cleanses are the latest health fad, with juice bars and prepackaged juice cleanses now widely available. There is certainly a case to be made for short (or even lengthier) juice fasts, in which you drink only fresh vegetable juice for a period of one to several days.
This is typically done for cleansing purposes or to treat certain health conditions, and should only be done under the guidance of a natural health care practitioner if you intend to go on a longer juice fast. Some people also drink green juices as part of their intermittent fasting regimens.
Time Magazine recently reported that even children are jumping on the juice cleanse bandwagon, and at least one company markets a cleanse specifically for children for about $100.2 Those geared toward adults can be even costlier – upwards of $600 for a five-day cleanse.
I am not opposed to juice cleanses under the right circumstances, but children are generally not the best candidates, as their bodies require healthy fats and proteins that are missing from fresh juices. Further, you needn’t spend hundreds of dollars on a fancy juice cleanse – it’s easy to make your own juice at home for a fraction of that cost, and it’s going to be fresher, too.
My philosophy regarding juicing is to view it as a regular part of your diet, not just a fad that you engage in once or twice a year. Drinking green juice every day is going to give you far more benefits than a sporadic three-day cleanse will. Kids, too, can enjoy vegetable juice on a daily basis, either as a beverage with a meal or as a snack (ideally along with a source of healthful fat to ensure all those fat-soluble nutrients get absorbed).
Focus on Green Juice, Not Fruit Juice
This is an important distinction to make because, if your juice contains too many fruits, it will be both higher in calories and sugar (fructose). You can add in an apple, a kiwi, or a handful of berries to give your juice flavor, but the bulk of it should come from organic, green veggies – spinach, celery, kale, Swiss chard, etc. Unfortunately, green juice has a stigma for tasting bad and many people avoid it simply because of its color. A recent survey by Jamba Juice even revealed that 28 percent of US adults “fear the look” of green juice and 32 percent said green juice is their least favorite type of juice.3 This negative reputation persisted despite the fact that 32 percent said they believe green juice is the healthiest option.
It may take some getting used to, but green juice actually has a very pleasant flavor, and you can tweak it to fit your taste. If you’re new to juicing, you can start with more mild-tasting veggies, like celery and cucumbers. From there you can work your way up to red leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, spinach, and escarole, along with parsley and cilantro. Greens like kale, collard, dandelion, and mustard greens are quite bitter, so you’ll want to start slowly and add just a few leaves at a time. If you would like to make your juice taste a bit more palatable, especially in the beginning, you can also add these elements:
- Limes and lemons: You can add one half to a whole lime or lemon for every quart of juice. You can actually juice the skin if you want to avoid the hassle of peeling them. Limes work well to cut bitter flavors.
- Cranberries: You can also add some cranberries if you enjoy them. Limit the cranberries to about four ounces per pint of juice.
- Fresh ginger: This is an excellent addition if you enjoy the taste. It gives your juice a little "kick"!
What Type of Juicer Works Best?
High-speed blenders like Vita Mix are great for green smoothies, but they are not the best juicers. You have a world of options when it comes to actual juicers, starting below $100 on the low end. You start getting into better quality juicers around $150. There are a number of different types of juicers, from fast-spinning centrifugal juicers to slow-moving masticating juicers. The slower the juice is extracted, the more nutrients are preserved. If you are new to juicing, I recommend a mid-priced juicer. The cheap centrifugal juicers (like the Juiceman) break easily, produce low-quality juice, and are very loud, which may contribute to hearing loss.
They also don't last very long. My favorite are the single gear juicers, which are relatively fast, less expensive and easier to clean than more expensive juicers like twin gears or even the $2,000 Norwalk juicers. Here is my current favorite juicer. When looking at your options, remember to evaluate the cleanup required, as this could influence your willingness to use it every day. As the “juice lady” Cherie Calbom says, "In the end, the best juicer is the one you'll actually use."
Juicing Tips to Get You Started
Once you get into the habit of juicing, you’ll find that you’ll look forward to your green juice and even miss it if you skip a day. You can find a detailed guide to juicing here, but to get started, you need a good recipe -- something that tastes great, or else you'll likely quit before you've really gotten started.
"Add in some dark greens because that's so wonderful for your health," Cherie suggests. "I use coloreds and Swiss chard, kale, parsley. I combine that with cucumber and celery. But if you've never juiced before, then you want to add in some flavorful things; a little bit of carrot. Some lemon is wonderful. It really improves the taste. I add lemon to almost everything I make."
I strongly recommend using organic vegetables as much as possible, and drinking it shortly after you make it. Vegetable juice is highly perishable so it's best to drink all of your juice immediately. However, if you're careful, you can store it for up to 24 hours with only moderate nutritional decline. This is really helpful if you are bringing your juice to work with you so you can consume it during the day. To properly store your juice:
- Put your juice in a glass jar with an airtight lid and fill it to the very top. There should be a minimum amount of air in the jar as the oxygen in air (air is about 20 percent oxygen) will "oxidize" and damage the juice.
- For even better storage, consider purchasing a food vacuum pump like Food Saver with a Ball jar attachment. You can pour your juice into a mason jar and put the lid on and use the Food Saver to suck out the air in the jar to vacuum pack it. This will remove most of the oxygen that will damage the juice.
- Immediately store it in the fridge and consume it when you are ready. It is best to drink it as soon as possible and in any case within 24 hours of juicing.
Most people juice in the morning, but if that does not work out well for your schedule, please feel free to choose whatever meal works best for your lifestyle.
Study Shows People Who Did This to Their Food Dropped Four Times the Pounds
Better Than Wheatgrass: Raw Veggie Juice and Sprouts
By Dr. Mercola
The American food system is nearing a state of crisis. Ingredients is a documentary that explores the failings of the industrial food model, and how the local food movement is gaining momentum as a far better alternative. The film presents a refreshing look at food from the standpoint of sustainability, safety, flavor, nutrition, culture, and community.
This documentary takes us across the US from the urban food deserts of Harlem to the biodynamic farms of the Hudson River and Willamette Valleys, and into the kitchens of several celebrated chefs—culinary game-changers who are teaching us all how to eat better.
The current system, focused on cheap convenience foods, is costing Americans dearly. Most Westerners have lost their primal connection to food. Mealtimes used to be savored and shared with others.
Food preparation is now typically viewed as a chore that interferes with other "more important" activities. This detachment from food represents a cultural "disconnect" between humans and the earth, to the detriment of both. It's time for radical changes to our modern food paradigm, which is the subject of this uplifting documentary.
The Exorbitant Cost of 'Cheap Food'
Americans have become dependent on cheap convenience foods that can be "prepared" in five minutes or less—or without taking both hands off the steering wheel. More than 17,000 new processed food products are introduced each year. Bright, catchy packaging conceals foods laden with chemicals, unhealthful fats, and high fructose corn syrup, all of which contribute to today's skyrocketing rates of obesity and illness, especially among our youth.
Americans spend less on food than any other industrialized nation—an average of $151 per week, which amounts to less than seven percent of their income. How can such a low value be placed on something so important for your health and longevity?
The US beef industry has managed to cut its prices in half since 1960. Unfortunately, cheap food contains cheap and toxic ingredients... and you get what you pay for. Food imports have increased four-fold over the past decade, overwhelming the FDA with inspections. Of the 200,000 shipments from China in 2006, less than two percent were sampled for quality and safety.
"Cheap food" isn't cheap when you consider all of the hidden costs associated with it. You make your first payment at the grocery store—just consider this your down payment, because you may be paying for it FIVE more times!
- Subsidies: At tax time, you pay for "cheap food" a second time with your contribution to agricultural subsidies. Processed food is mostly corn, canola, soy, rice, wheat, and sugar. These products (along with cotton) account for 98 percent of subsidies.
- Foodborne Illnesses: You may pay for cheap food a third time if you visit your doctor as a result of foodborne illnesses. CDC estimates that foodborne illnesses such as E. coli and salmonella cause 5,200 deaths each year in the US. Mass scale operations are riddled with quality control problems, leading to outbreaks of illness and food recalls.
- Chronic Disease: You pay for it a fourth time if you return to your doctor later for a chronic illness—heart disease, obesity, diabetes, stroke, and cancer—consider these "foodborne" illnesses that just take a little longer to manifest. According to CDC, one in three children born in the year 2000 will develop type 2 diabetes.
- Environment: As soon as the factory farmer files for bankruptcy and leaves, you pay for your food a fifth time. This is what often happens when they are asked to clean up their land—a monumental expense that often results in bankruptcy, sticking the rest of us with the tab.
- Energy: The sixth time is when you pay your fuel bill. Processed foods and imported foods have an extremely large energy footprint. One-fifth of US fossil fuel consumption goes to the growing, packaging, and transporting of food.
CAFOs: Breeding Grounds for Disease
Central to the modern industrial food system are CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) and monoculture. These massive food operations benefit no one and are devastating to land and animals.
Today, livestock and poultry are typically reared in cages in tightly cramped quarters, with their feed consisting of grains, primarily genetically engineered corn and soy, instead of biologically appropriate grasses.
These animals are literally imprisoned and often tortured by unhealthy, unsanitary, and unconscionably cruel conditions. To prevent the inevitable spread of disease from stress, overcrowding, and poor nutrition, animals are fed antibiotics and other veterinary drugs. CAFOs contribute more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than the entire global transportation industry.
Meat products from CAFOs raise your risk for getting sick. Think about it—if you buy a pound of standard grocery store ground beef, you're buying a composite of thousands of cows. So, if any of those cows had an E. coli infection, then it's spread throughout an enormous batch of meat widely distributed across the country—or world. This is a problem of scale and density.
By contrast, many smaller scale farms naturally keep parasite levels minimal by having lower livestock density and increased diversity. Animals are much less likely to get sick as they rotate through grazing pastures.
Monoculture Destroys Soil and Invites GE Crops
Monoculture (or monocropping) refers to the agricultural practice of growing a single crop year after year on large expanses of land, without crop rotation. Corn, soybeans, wheat, and to some degree rice, are the most common crops grown with monocropping techniques.
Monocropping encourages the use of GE seeds, requires heavy pesticide and herbicide use, and is extremely destructive to the soil, as well as to biological diversity. GE crops and food products pose a threat to your health and ability to resist disease, soil strength, and the global food supply. The earth's soil is now depleting at more than 13 percent the rate it can be replaced due to our chemical-based agriculture system.
Today, 92.5 percent of US acreage is devoted to food animals or their feed, with only 7.5 percent devoted to food that goes directly to feeding human beings. Massive monoculture operations have led to the extinction of 75 percent of the world's crop varieties over the last century.
It is important to note that, just because a farm is "organic" does not mean it is necessarily environmentally friendly and sustainable. Some larger organic farms still employ monoculture, much like a conventional field. Many do not rotate crops and use insect sprays on a massive scale. Similarly, just because a farm is small and local does not imply that it necessarily uses sustainable agricultural practices. These are important distinctions, making it that much more important for you to get to know your farmers personally.
Farmers Markets and Produce Stands Are Sprouting Up Everywhere
Total Video Length: 48:03
Download Interview Transcript
Given the above, you can certainly see how our existing food system is not only unhealthy, but unsustainable. But there IS a better way. We must shift our food sourcing away from multinational corporations and back to smaller local farms, which really amounts to returning to a pre-industrial food system. This does not mean our food system must be "low-tech."
Local farms employing sustainable and high-performance farming techniques, such as biological farming, offer a far superior option, bringing together the best of science and nature. High-tech (but still natural) farming increases soil's health and water-holding capacity, as well as improving the flavor and nutrient value of our food.
According to the Biodynamics Association, biodynamics1 is "a spiritual-ethical-ecological approach to agriculture, food production, and nutrition." Biodynamic farming works in balance with the cycles of nature. For example, crops are planted and harvested in accordance with phases of the moon that actually enhance crop quality and balance within the ecosystem.
The recent surge of farmer's markets and food co-ops is evidence of the growing movement in this overall direction—also known as the "local food movement." People are reestablishing their passion for food and connection with nature. Heirloom vegetables, normally missing from supermarkets, are being reintroduced. Seeds are being saved and cataloged. A new generation of young farmers is being supported, which reinvigorates local economies. According to Grist, the number of farmers' markets has steadily increased over the past 18 years, with the growth curve steepening since about 2008.2
Local Farmers Are Not Without Their Challenges
In order for local farms to grow in number, land must be available near cities. But land is disappearing at an alarming rate—about one million acres per year. Local farmers, and the people fighting on their behalf, find themselves butting up against laws governing urban growth boundaries, which desperately need revision. And these arguments between farmers and land developers will only intensify as our food crisis worsens.
One way you can help is to support CSAs in your area (Community Supported Agriculture programs). CSAs operate through the commitment of individuals who buy annual shares in advance of the growing season in exchange for regularly scheduled deliveries of fresh local produce. These pre-paid shares help cover farmers' operational costs and relieve some of the pressure on these smaller farms to market their produce during the busy growing season.
Real Food Is Slow Food
Slow Food USA3 has a few tips to help you slow down and build your relationship with real food, which I have summarized below. This is not much different from what I have been advocating for years—returning to a whole food diet and eliminating processed foods.
- Buy, cook, and eat real food with whole ingredients. Avoid processed food with long ingredient lists and GE ingredients.
- When selecting meat, dairy, and poultry, choose grass-fed and free-range.
- Reconnect with your food. Whenever possible, learn the story behind it and meet the people who grow it. Familiarize yourself with your local or regional food history, cultural dishes, and seasonal specialties. Shop at a farmers' market, visit a farm, or buy into a CSA program.
- Cook and eat with others—not just family and friends. Bring new people and perspectives to the table. Help your children build a relationship with and an appreciation for real food.
- Grow some of your own food! Start in your backyard, community garden or windowsill. Or, join a community garden and grow food with others. Practice composting.
NOW: Find and Support Your Local Farmers!
I believe the movement toward local, sustainable food is vitally important, both in terms of human health and the environment, and for the success of future generations. By purchasing your food from smaller local farms practicing sustainable farming, you are pushing the system toward change—and as others join you, a tipping point will eventually be reached that will send big industrial food producers heading for the hills.
Joining the local food movement doesn't mean that every single food you eat must come from within a 100-mile radius—but the majority should. Remember, you vote with your pocketbook each and every day. The following is a partial list of resources to help you locate farms in your area. Please also see my sustainable agriculture resource list.
- Slow Food – Founded to counter the rise of fast food and to "unite the pleasure of food with responsibility, sustainability, and harmony with nature"
- Local Harvest -- This Web site will help you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area
- Farmers' Markets -- A national listing of farmers' markets on the USDA Web site
- Eat Well Guide -- A free online directory of local, sustainable organic food
- Food Routes Network -- "Buy Fresh Buy Local" (BFBL) chapters help you find locally produced foods
Overconsumption—A Look at How Unsustainable Our Eating Habits Have Become
Scientists Discover That Plants Communicate via Symbiotic Root Fungi
By Dr. Kelly Brogan
Psychoneuroimmunology. This is what I aim to practice. Medical terms of this length command our respect for the interconnectedness of different subspecialties, for the futile segmentation and compartmentalization of the body into different organ systems.
As discussed in this previous article I wrote for Dr. Mercola, deconstructing the serotonin model of depression, psychiatry is in a crisis. It can no longer stand on its own, throwing more and more medications at its perceived target.
It seems, therefore, fitting that psychiatry would follow the investigative path of other lifestyle-triggered chronic diseases such as cancer, autoimmunity, and heart disease. There already exists a bidirectional relationship between all of the major chronic diseases and psychiatric diagnoses (patients who struggle with chronic diseases are more likely to be depressed and vice versa).
The role of inflammation, across these disease states, is better elucidated each day. Let's deconstruct what is known as it applies to mental health.
Inflammation and Depression
In this model, depression is a non-specific fever that tells us little about what is actually causing the body to react and protect itself in this way. The body is "hot" and we need to understand why. Depressive symptoms are the manifestation of many downstream effects on hormones and neurotransmitters, but if we swim up to the source, we will find a river of inflammatory markers coursing by.
The source itself may be singularly or multiply-focused as stress, dietary, and toxic exposures, and infection, as we will discuss here. As explored in the medical literature,1 inflammation appears to be a highly relevant determinant of depressive symptoms such as flat mood, slowed thinking, avoidance, alterations in perception, and metabolic changes. We understand this relationship based on:
Psychiatrists have longed to be legitimized in their role as science-based physicians. Despite this, there are no diagnostic tests that are validated for the assessment of psychiatric pathology. In the practice of functional medicine, however, the diagnosis becomes secondary to the individual's personalized interplay of factors and the "biomarkers" that can light the way toward healing.
Cytokines in the blood, or inflammatory messengers, such as CRP, IL-1, IL-6, and TNF-alpha have taken the stage as predictive2 and linearly3 correlative with depression.
Researchers have validated4 that, in melancholic depression, bipolar disorder, and postpartum depression, white blood cells called monocytes express pro-inflammatory genes leading to secretion of cytokines, while simultaneously leading to decreased cortisol sensitivity, the body's stress hormone and inflammatory buffer – a feedforward cycle.
Once triggered in the body, these inflammatory agents transfer information to the nervous system, typically through stimulation of major nerves such as the vagus, which connects5 the gut and brain. Specialized cells called microglia in the brain represent the brain's immune hubs and are activated in inflammatory states.
In activated microglia, an enzyme called IDO (indoleamine 2 3-dioxygenase) has been shown6 to direct tryptophan away from the production of serotonin and melatonin and towards the production of an NMDA agonist called quinolinic acid that may be responsible for symptoms of anxiety and agitation.
These are just some of the changes that may conspire to let your brain in on what your body may know is wrong.
While an animal model of depression may seem like an absurd idea, currently, lipopolysaccharide (LPS), an endotoxin produced by gram-negative bacteria, is used to induce these clinical models in rodents.
Mice that lack IL1-B7 (a cytokine that mediates inflammatory response), however, are protected against these LPS-mediated "depressive symptoms" (i.e., as demonstrated by loss of interest in sugar water), supporting the critical role of inflammatory messengers in the depressogenic cascade.
One of the most predictable side effects of interferon therapy for Hepatitis C is depression. In fact, 45 percent of patients develop depression8 with interferon treatment, which appears to be related to elevated levels of inflammatory cytokines IL-6 and TNF.
A number of trials have examined the role of anti-inflammatory agents in the treatment of depression. In one recent trial,9 a subset of patients resistant to antidepressant treatment and identified by serum markers of inflammation, most notably C-reactive protein >3mg/L, were responsive to treatment with the TNF-alpha antagonist (anti-inflammatory) infliximab (Remicade).
The pain-killer celecoxib (Celebrex) has been found in randomized, placebo-controlled trials10 to be superior to placebo in antidepressant augmentation. In the setting of psoriasis treatment with etanercept (Enbrel), mood was improved11 independent of psoriatic relief.
There has even been suggestion that the mechanism of action of antidepressants is through an anti-inflammatory effect, particularly on IL6. However, these observational studies have been largely inconclusive.12
The Gut-Brain Dance
What is driving this inflammation? How does it get kicked off? And how does it induce depression? With the limited clinical applications and revelations that came with the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2002, we have begun to focus on where we have outsourced our physiologic functions.
The microbiome has become an important consideration, and particularly, the gut, which houses at least 10 times as many human cells as there are in our bodies, and 150 times as many genes as are in our genome. These microbes control many vital operations and are responsible for synthesis of neuroactive and nutritional compounds, for immune modulation, and for inflammatory signaling.
Our greatest interface with the environment is the 70+ percent of your immune system housed in your gut wall. Disturbances in gut microbiota, autoimmunity, head injury, childbirth, and infection can all trigger systemic inflammation. This immune activity takes the form of a TH1 dominant cellular response in which macrophages produce ILI, IL6, and TNFalpha, all of which have been shown to be elevated in the setting of depression.
The communication between our guts and brains appears to rely, in part, on the vagus nerve, and is bidirectional in nature as reported in this 12-year prospective study13 that looked at relationships between gut problems like irritable bowel disease, anxiety, and depression.
The stage is set for the microbiome when we descend the vaginal canal and are breastfed. Unfortunately, the rate of cesarean sections doubled from 1990-2008, comprising one-third of US births. Maternal inflammatory states and diseases such as type 1 diabetes can increase risk of surgical birth, as can interventions such as ultrasound, 14 monitoring, and the epidural.15 Without vaginal transfer of mom's flora, the baby misses out on the most important inoculation.
A study16 of 24 Canadian babies at four months demonstrated that elective section resulted in the most diminished bacterial diversity. Surgically born babies had significantly less Bacteroides and Escherichia-Shigella species. In this cohort, formula-fed babies had overrepresentation of Clostridium difficile, Peptostreptococcaceae, and Verrucomicrobiaceae. Excitingly, research is being done on "vaginal swabs" for inoculation in the setting of C-section.17
The Importance of Breast Milk
In our nationwide departure from physiologic birth and breastfeeding, less than one-quarter of women can be expected to be nursing by 12 months postpartum. Breast milk18 contains unique nutrients for beneficial bacteria called oligosaccharides, but importantly, it is the vital follow up to the mother's vaginal flora, designed to support the baby's immune system during its infancy marked by an "anti-inflammatory" phenotype. During these first few months, the baby relies on the mother's breast milk to help inform its immune system of what is dangerous.
Over the course of lactation beginning with colostrum, the makeup of these bacteria and growth factors changes.19 A recent study20 confirms that mom's gut bacteria are vertically transferred through breast milk and that this "entero-mammary" connection is what helps to develop the baby's immune system. This is the beginning of natural immunity, which is so much more complex than vaccinologists would have you believe.
One of the many problems with formula is the glaring omission of these microbes leaving the baby susceptible to colonization by inappropriate strains, suboptimal diversity, and stimulation of the immune system by many of the toxic compounds in this synthetic food. In fact, infants fed breast milk had an anti-inflammatory cytokine milieu throughout infancy.21 Here22 is a stunning analysis of formula shortcomings.
Interestingly, this rat study23 demonstrated that the types of bacteria in the guts of these rat pups determined their response to stress on a physiologic level, and that it was more difficult to correct later in their rat-infancy. The gut bacteria influenced behavior and brain growth in these animals. I speak about some of the impediments to adequate milk supply here,24 but formula feeding25 in the hospital and "supplementation" is a major offender.
Gluten Promotes Depression
Often processed with genetically modified oils in high glycemic foods, gluten is a brain and body poison. Its havoc begins in the gut, where it promotes intestinal permeability by upregulating a compound called zonulin. Local gut inflammation (often lectin-induced) precedes more systemic inflammatory responses accompanied by antibodies to the different components of gluten (gliadin and glutenin), complexes with enzymes called transglutaminase, and to tissue in the brain, gut, and thyroid through a process called molecular mimicry.
The neurologic effects of gluten intolerance include depression, seizures, headaches, multiple sclerosis/demyelination, anxiety, ADHD, ataxia, neuropathy as discussed here and here. Independent of the brain effects already discussed, gliadin peptides may travel through the blood stream and can stimulate opiate receptors in the brain, resulting in their being termed gliadorphins, accounting for temporary withdrawal symptoms! Get the full scoop in my anti-gluten missive.
The Impact of Unnatural Foods: GMOs
In the past year, there has been an explosion of terrifying information on the impact of herbicides like Monsanto's Roundup (glyphosate) on our gut microbiome. As it turns out, this chemical is very active in slaughtering beneficial bugs in your intestines via its impact on the "shikimate pathway" previously assumed not to exist in humans.
By imbalancing this flora, pesticides/herbicides also disrupt the production of essential amino acids like tryptophan, a serotonin precursor, and promote production of p-cresol, a compound that interferes with metabolism of other "xenobiotics" or environmental chemicals, making the individual more vulnerable to their toxic effects. Even vitamin D3 activation in the liver may be negatively impacted by glyphosate's effect on liver enzymes, potentially explaining epidemic levels of deficiency.
We also have evidence26 that insecticidal toxins such as “Bt” are transferred into the blood of pregnant women and their fetuses, and that glyphosate herbicide transfers to breast milk. Delve27 into this fascinating analysis of what we are learning about these chemicals in our food supply. Genetic modification of foods, in addition to guaranteeing exposure to pest and herbicides, confer risks of gene transference to human gut bacteria, even after a singular exposure.
The Hazards of NSAIDs
Most people think of ibuprofen as an innocuous, over–the-counter comfort for aches and pains. Some are so lulled into a sense of safety and efficacy, that they keep these pills in their purses and nightstands for even daily use. In addition to other known risks, its effects on the small and large intestine may be best summarized by this statement:28
"The initial biochemical local sub-cellular damage is due to the entrance of the usually acidic NSAID into the cell via damage of the brush border cell membrane and disruption of the mitochondrial process of oxidative phosphorylation, with consequent ATP deficiency"
For anyone who recognizes the role of brush border integrity and energy production in health, this is quite a damning assertion. We need the gut lining to keep the gut contents away from the blood stream. Resulting increases in permeability allow for luminal factors (intestinal contents) to access the immune system and to set off autoimmune and inflammatory processes. More recent evidence29 suggests that unbalanced gut bacteria set the stage for NSAID-induced permeability through neutrophil stimulation. These changes occur within three to six months. There are no ways to mitigate these negative effects, which argues for getting to the root of why one is experiencing pain and resolving it through lifestyle change rather than suppressing it with medications that will whack-a-mole their way to new, chronic, and potentially more debilitating symptoms.
The Role of Stress
The monoamine hypothesis of depression has very little to say about brain/hormone interplay. The majority of studies30suggest that depression is associated with high cortisol states, and potentially from responses of this stress-system that were ingrained at birth or before. In the context of inflammation, however, cortisol, prolactin, and sex hormones are often dysregulated; in this model, depression is thought to represent a hypercortisolemic state which may result from elevated levels of inflammatory cytokines.
Peripheral glucocorticoid resistance may exacerbate this elevation in cortisol (by interfering with feedback mechanisms) and immune response, simultaneously, which would also drive changes in sex hormones progesterone, insulin, and androgens31 ultimately affecting mood states. Sleep is often compromised in states of stress, and sleep difficulties can also beget stress. The inflammatory effects of insufficient sleep were quantified in a study32 that deprived participants of sleep (just under six hours) for one week resulting in expression of genes associated with oxidative stress and inflammation.
How to Resolve It—You Feel What You Eat
Restoring optimal gut flora requires a variety of interventions, but beginning with a grain- and dairy-free diet, eliminating sugar, and genetically modified foods is a good place to start. Remember the role of LPS in depression? How depressive patients are more likely to have intestinal permeability allowing for toxic intestinal agents to circulate in their bodies? A traditional/ancestral diet may be an important modulator, according to Selhub et al. who state:33
"Traditional dietary practices have completely divergent effects of blood LPS levels; significant reductions (38%) have been noted after a one-month adherence to a prudent (traditional) diet, while the Western diet provokes LPS elevations."
For some, a FODMAPs diet may be indicated, and for others, a GAPs or Specific Carbohydrate Diet. This dietary approach will also confer the insulin stabilizing benefits of a high-fat, slower burning metabolic shift which protects cortisol, thyroid, and sex hormones. Increasing natural fats may also serve to protect the 60 percent lipid content of the central nervous system, precursors to hormones, and cell membrane composition while stabilizing blood sugar. I discuss three changes to make here.34
Herbs and spices may also play a palliative role in depression through their anti-inflammatory effects. Curcumin, a polyphenol in the Indian spice turmeric with elaborate anti-inflammatory mechanisms was recently found to be as effective as Prozac in small a randomized study I discuss here.35 Fermented foods, a part of traditional cultural diets, would also play a beneficial role, in this paradigm of microbiome-oriented, diet-supported mental health in ways stated here:36
"'This could manifest, behaviorally, via magnified antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, reduction of intestinal permeability and the detrimental effects of LPS, improved glycemic control, positive influence on nutritional status (and therefore neurotransmission and neuropeptide production), direct production of GABA, and other bioactive chemicals, as well as a direct role in gut-to-brain communication via a beneficial shift in the intestinal microbiota itself.' In this way, we use bacteria to modify our own bacteria and subsequently dampen inflammatory signals."
In a brilliant review entitled "Psychobiotics: A Novel Class of Psychotropic," Dinan et al tour us through the role of probiotics (therapeutic live organisms ingested as a supplement or as part of a fermented food) in mental health. Acknowledging the data for inflammatory cytokines influencing mood states, and the role of gut bacteria in triggering these cytokines, they review the available literature supporting antidepressant effects of probiotics. There is speculation that anti-inflammatory signaling through IL-10 may underpin probiotic efficacy.
For example, "germ-free" mice exposed to stress experienced normalization of their cortisol response after inoculation with Bifidus infantis. In a related experiment testing the stress of maternal separation, adult rodent behavior was normalized with this inoculation despite persistent cortisol changes. Lactobacilli, on the other hand, improved both parameters. In human adults with irritable bowel syndrome, depression and anxiety symptoms improved with administration of Bifidus, and in the setting of chronic fatigue, subjects experienced improvement in anxiety with Lactobacillus casei, relative to placebo.
In a recent double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized study, subjects receiving B. longum and L. helveticus for 30 days experienced improvement on the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, with decrease in urinary free cortisol. A probiotic-containing yogurt was also found to improve mood within 20 days in elderly volunteers. Intriguingly, a three-arm study39 looked at women consuming a fermented milk beverage three times a day vs milk vs nothing, found that those in the probiotic group had MRI-based changes related to midbrain emotional processing.
The Benefits of Meditation
Activating the relaxation nervous system – the one that allows us to "rest and digest" – is an effective means of easing symptoms and restoring an anti-inflammatory state. You can start with something as simple as listening to a guided meditation for several minutes a day and working up to 20 minutes twice a day for a therapeutic effect.
The interconnectedness of your gut, brain, immune, and hormonal systems is impossible to unwind. Until we begin to appreciate this complex relationship, we will not be able to prevent or intervene effectively in depression, slated to become the second-leading cause of disability in this country, within the decade. For true healing, and meaningful prevention, take steps every day toward sending your body the message that it is not being attacked, it is not in danger, and it is well nourished, well supported, and calm.
As a society, we can begin to think about protecting the microbiome by demedicalizing birth and infant nutrition, and as individuls, by avoiding antibiotics, NSAIDs, grains, genetically modified and non-organic food. Promising interventions for depression from a gut-brain perspective include probiotics, fermented foods as part of a high natural fat diet, and relaxation response for optimal digestion, anti-inflammatory and insulin sensitizing effects. No antidepressant medication required!
Are Probiotics the New Prozac?
If You Can't Beat Depression, This Could be Why
By Dr. Mercola
Daylight Saving Time (DST), the practice of moving clocks ahead one hour in the summer months and returning them back an hour in the winter, was first implemented by Germany during World War I, as a way to conserve electricity.
The idea, however, dates back to William Willett, an Englishman who campaigned for “summer time” in the early 1900s so that people would have more time to be out in the sunlight – though the British government was not interested.
It wasn’t until 1918 that Daylight Saving came to the US, although it was repealed a short time later, in 1919 (largely due to lobbying from the agricultural industry, whose schedules were unproductively disrupted). As reported by History:1
“Rather than rural interests, it has been urban entities such as retail outlets and recreational businesses that have championed daylight saving over the decades.”
After the 1919 repeal, there was chaos in the US, with some cities and states continuing to shift their clocks while others did not. In 1966, the Uniform Time Act was passed, which put into place the DST standard used in the US today (although certain states, namely Hawaii and Arizona, opt out).
Since the beginning, DST has been surrounded by controversy, with many arguing against it even to this day. There is reason to believe that not only does DST not conserve energy, but it may actually be putting the health of modern-day humans at risk.
Daylight Saving Time Linked to Increased Risk of Heart Attacks
The first Monday after Daylight Saving Time begins each March is met with grumbles across the US, as most lose one precious hour of sleep. This might seem inconsequential, but research is mounting showing that even slight changes to your circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle) can be detrimental to your health… yes, even tweaking it by just one hour.
Recent research presented at the annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology revealed that the risk of having a heart attack on the Monday following DST rose by 25 percent compared to other Mondays.
At the end of the summer, when clocks are turned back one hour so that people get an extra hour of sleep, the risk of heart attack fell by 21 percent.2 Past research has similarly shown that the disruption to sleep schedules triggered by DST may pose a risk to your heart:
- Research published in the March 2013 edition of the American Journal of Cardiology showed a small rise in heart attack rates the Sunday following the shift to DST, along with a small tick downward the Sunday following the change back to standard time.3
- A 2012 University of Alabama study found that heart attacks increased by 10 percent on the Monday and Tuesday following the time change to DST. Heart attacks again decreased by 10 percent on the first Monday and Tuesday after clocks are switched back in the fall.4
- A 2008 Swedish study found your chances of having a heart attack increase in the first three weekdays after the switch to DST, and decrease after you set your clock back to standard time in the fall. Heart attacks increase by five percent the first Monday after the time change, and 10 percent on Tuesday.5
Traffic Accidents, Suicides, and Workplace Injuries Also Rise After DST
DST actually leads to a host of issues for health and personal safety. One Washington University neuroscientist told CBS News that adjusting clocks forward one hour corresponds with a significant increase in traffic accidents and heart attacks6 over the next two to three days.7
One study also found that the spring transition, which causes a phase advance, is particularly hard on the average person’s sleep-wake cycle,8 and while it’s generally thought that the loss of one hour of sleep on the night of the change is inconsequential, research suggests otherwise. According to a report in Sleep Medicine Reviews:9
“…data suggests that increased sleep fragmentation and sleep latency present a cumulative effect of sleep loss [following the spring transition], at least across the following week, perhaps longer.
The autumn transition is often popularized as a gain of 1 h[our] of sleep but there is little evidence of extra sleep on that night. The cumulative effect of five consecutive days of earlier rise times following the autumn change again suggests a net loss of sleep across the week.
Indirect evidence of an increase in traffic accident rates, and change in health and regulatory behaviors which may be related to sleep disruption suggest that adjustment to daylight saving time is neither immediate nor without consequence.”
Case in point, research also shows that daylight saving time leads to increases in workplace injuries (frequency and severity)10 as well as delays in reaction time that affect performance.11 Additionally:
- Suicides: Suicide rates for males rise in the weeks following the start of DST.12
- Automobile Accidents: Traffic accidents increase by eight percent on the Monday following the changeover to DST.13 And fatal alcohol-related traffic accidents increase for the first week after setting the clocks ahead.14 Workplace accidents and injuries increase by 5.7 percent, and 67.6 percent more workdays are lost as a result of injuries following the change to DST.15
- Productivity and Quality of Life: People are less productive once DST is implemented. Till Roenneberg, a Russian chronobiologist, reports that most people show “drastically decreased productivity,” decreased quality of life, increased illness, and are “just plain tired” following the switch to DST.16
Is Tweaking Your Sleep-Wake Cycle by One Hour Really That Big of a Deal?
Disruptions to sleep tend to cascade outward throughout your entire body. There’s a lot we still don’t know, but increasingly more that we do – and one hour really does make a difference.
Research has shown, for instance, that when participants cut their sleep from 7.5 to 6.5 hours a night there were increases in the expression of genes associated with inflammation, immune excitability, diabetes, cancer risk, and stress.17 In other words, getting just one hour less sleep a night may raise your risk of multiple chronic diseases. Interrupted or impaired sleep can also:
- Increase your risk of heart disease and cancer
- Harm your brain by halting new neuron production. Sleep deprivation can increase levels of corticosterone (a stress hormone), resulting in fewer new brain cells being created in your hippocampus
- Contribute to a pre-diabetic, insulin-resistant state, making you feel hungry even if you've already eaten, which can lead to weight gain
- Contribute to premature aging by interfering with your growth hormone production, normally released by your pituitary gland during deep sleep (and during certain types of exercise, such as high-intensity interval training)
- Increase your risk of dying from any cause
Daylight Saving Time Isn’t Really ‘Saving’ Anything
The health risks might be worth it if you could prove that Daylight Saving Time was resulting in major gains elsewhere, such as energy conservation. But the truth is, the energy conservation touted when DST became a national standard likely no longer apply because, in the 21st century, most people are not spending that extra daylight hour outside in the sunshine – they’re spending it indoors where it’s cool.
The irony is that the air conditioner costs far more energy to run than do the lights…The fact is, Daylight Saving Time is not actually saving anything… more accurately, we are sacrificing our health and safety due to this outdated and impractical time change. As reported by History:18
“Dating back to Willett, daylight saving advocates have touted energy conservation as an economic benefit. A U.S. Department of Transportation study in the 1970s concluded that total electricity savings associated with daylight saving time amounted to about 1 percent in the spring and fall months.
As air conditioning has become more widespread, however, more recent studies have found that cost savings on lighting are more than offset by greater cooling expenses. University of California Santa Barbara economists calculated that Indiana’s move to statewide daylight saving time in 2006 led to a 1-percent rise in residential electricity use through additional demand for air conditioning on summer evenings and heating in early spring and late fall mornings. Some also argue that increased recreational activity during daylight saving results in greater gasoline consumption.”
How to Counteract the Effects of Daylight Saving Time (And Other Disruptions to Your Circadian Rhythm)
Small shifts in circadian timing occur all the time, not only due to Daylight Saving Time. In the 21st century, many people ignore their body's internal clocks, either by necessity (working the night shift or remotely with co-workers across the globe) or choice (staying up late surfing the Web or watching TV).
People are increasingly pushing the limits of their body clocks, getting up early and staying up late for a myriad of reasons. These reasons, it turns out, may not be worth it when it comes to your long-term health. Making small adjustments to your daily routine and sleeping area can go a long way to ensure uninterrupted, restful sleep and, thereby, better health. I suggest you read through my full set of 33 healthy sleep guidelines for all of the details, but to start, consider implementing the following changes:
- Avoid watching TV or using your computer in the evening, at least an hour or so before going to bed. These devices emit blue light, which tricks your brain into thinking it's still daytime. Normally, your brain starts secreting melatonin between 9 and 10 pm, and these devices emit light that may stifle that process. Even the American Medical Association now states:19
- Make sure you get BRIGHT sun exposure regularly. Your pineal gland produces melatonin roughly in approximation to the contrast of bright sun exposure in the day and complete darkness at night. If you are in darkness all day long, it can't appreciate the difference and will not optimize your melatonin production.
- Sleep in complete darkness, or as close to it as possible. Even the slightest bit of light in your bedroom can disrupt your body’s clock and your pineal gland's melatonin production. Even the tiniest glow from your clock radio could be interfering with your sleep, so cover your radio up at night or get rid of it altogether. Move all electrical devices at least three feet away from your bed. You may want to cover your windows with drapes or blackout shades.
- Install a low-wattage yellow, orange, or red light bulb if you need a source of light for navigation at night. Light in these bandwidths does not shut down melatonin production in the way that white and blue bandwidth light does. Salt lamps are handy for this purpose.
- Keep the temperature in your bedroom no higher than 70 degrees F. Many people keep their homes too warm (particularly their upstairs bedrooms). Studies show that the optimal room temperature for sleep is between 60 to 68 degrees.
- Take a hot bath 90 to 120 minutes before bedtime. This increases your core body temperature, and when you get out of the bath it abruptly drops, signaling your body that you are ready to sleep.
- Avoid using loud alarm clocks. Being jolted awake each morning can be very stressful. If you are regularly getting enough sleep, you might not even need an alarm.
- Get some sun in the morning, if possible. Your circadian system needs bright light to reset itself. Ten to 15 minutes of morning sunlight will send a strong message to your internal clock that day has arrived, making it less likely to be confused by weaker light signals during the night. More sunlight exposure is required as you age.
- Be mindful of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in your bedroom. EMFs can disrupt your pineal gland and its melatonin production, and may have other negative biological effects as well. A gauss meter is required if you want to measure EMF levels in various areas of your home.
Jet Lag, Late Nights, and Naps Disrupt Gene Function
How Dangerous Is Sleep Deprivation, Really?
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?