By Dr. Mercola
Optimal health is one of my passions and nutrition is one of the best tools I know of on how to achieve it. But the key to getting healthy organic vegetables, of course, is the health of the soil in which it’s grown.
Research scientist Dr. Elaine Ingham1 is internationally recognized as an expert on the benefits of sustainable soil science.
She was formerly an associate professor at Oregon State University and well on her way to full-tenure professorship when her research on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) led to her being forced to resign.
The biotech industry, led by Monsanto, funds a large part of the budget for Oregon State University, and her findings were not welcome as it threatened the University’s funding.
Dr. Ingham went on to develop a company called Soil Foodweb Inc., which helps farmers and gardeners understand the health of their soil. The company analyzes soil samples and also helps develop a composting plan that is specifically targeted for the plants you’re seeking to grow.
She’s also the chief research scientist at Rodale Institute which I plan on personally visiting in the near future. I’ll provide you with some video of that visit afterwards.
One of my new passions is to understand, at the deepest levels, how to achieve high performance agriculture by grilling the leading experts in the world, then digesting the information and sharing it with you in easy to understand and apply bits.
Helping Farmers and Gardeners Take Back Control of Their Soil Health
Just how is plant growth affected by the health of the soil? The key lies in having the right helper organisms; beneficial species of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, beneficial nematodes (not the weedfeeders), microarthropods, and earthworms—all of which contribute to plant growth in a number of different ways.
“If we get a problem like around the root systems, around the surfaces, above ground – the seed, the leaves, or the branches of the plant – these organisms will prevent diseases from being able to even find the plant,” she explains. “The pests won’t locate the plant. So, disease suppression, pest suppression, and all of those things are part of what the life in the soil does for your plant.”
Nutrient cycling is another major issue. According to Dr. Ingham, there’s no soil on Earth that lacks the nutrients to grow a plant. She believes the concept that your soil is deficient and needs added phosphorous or nitrogen etc in order to grow plants is flawed, and largely orchestrated by the chemical companies, because it’s based on looking at the soluble, inorganic nutrients that are partly present in your soil.
But the real nutrition your plants require actually is derived from microorganisms in the soil. These organisms take the mineral material that’s in your soil and convert it into a plant-available form. Without these bioorganisms, your plants cannot get the nutrients they need. So what you need is not more chemical soil additives, what you need is the proper balance of beneficial soil organisms. According to Dr. Ingham:
“It’s very necessary to have these organisms. They will supply your plant with precisely the right balances of all the nutrients as the plant requires. When you start to realize that one of the major roles and functions of life in the soil is to provide nutrients to the plants in the proper forms, then we don’t need inorganic fertilizers. We certainly don’t have to have genetically engineered plants or to utilize inorganic fertilizers if we get this proper biology back in the soil.
If we balance the proper biology, we select against the growth of weeds, so the whole issue with herbicides is done away with. We don’t need the herbicides if we can get the proper life back into the soil and select for the growth of the plants that we want to grow and against the growth of the weedy species.”
The Science of Ideal Microbial Balance for Plants
The science of establishing the ideal microbes for a specific plant is already well-established. Reference material on how to identify what those ideal bacterial, fungal, protozoan, nematode, and microarthropod communities are can be found in Dr. Inham’s books, which include:
- 10 Steps to Gardening with Nature
- Soil Biology Primer (co-authored with Andrew R. Moldenke and Clive A. Edwards)
- The Field Guide for Actively Aerated Compost Tea (AACT)
- Compost Tea Quality: Light Microscope Methods
- The Compost Tea Brewing Manual
The first book, 10 Steps to Gardening with Nature, reviews many of these soil communities and explains the mechanisms behind how these life forms in the soil benefit your plants. You can also find valuable information and resources on the Rodale Institute’s website.2 Once you’ve identified the optimal communities of soil organism, you can then modify your compost to correct any imbalances. For example:
“Woody materials – saw dust, paper, cardboard, wood chips, and dry ground leaves that fell from the trees at the end of the growing season – are going to grow fungi. You choose whether you need more fungal or more bacterial. And then design your recipe for your compost according to what is missing in your soil, so you can put back in what is not there,” she explains.
Most people don’t realize that trees, shrubs and perennials require healthy levels of fungi rather than bacteria in the soil to optimize their health. The materials she described above can help create the environment to grow them. Also directly inoculating the soil with fungal cultures can accelerate the root colonization by the beneficial fungi.
Interestingly enough, you can use a starter culture to boost the fermentation and generation of beneficial bacteria, much in the same way you can boost the probiotics in your fermented vegetables. For compost, this strategy is used if you want to compost very rapidly. In that case, you can use a starter to inoculate the specific sets of organisms that you need to encourage in that compost. For optimal physical health, you need plant foods to contain the full set of nutrients that allows the plant to grow in a healthy fashion, because that’s the proper balance of nutrients for us human beings as well.
“When we look at a lot of the GMO plant material, and when we look at conventionally grown plant material, they may be extremely high one nutrient, but lacking in many, many others,” she says.
“We’ve done some studies of that in New Zealand, looking at facial eczema in dairy cows. We were able to cure all of the animals from that facial eczema, because it was a nutritional deficiency that was causing it. It wasn’t really a disease; it wasn’t an illness. It was a nutrient deficiency in the grass... If the food that you’re eating doesn’t contain the proper set of nutrients, you are not going to be healthy. You’ve got to get those nutrients in the proper balances back into the food you’re eating.”
Hybridization and Genetic Engineering are Two Very Different Animals
Many advocates for genetically engineered foods insist that “genetic engineering” has been done for centuries in the form of hybridization; so we’re really just using higher technology to achieve the same thing faster. This is a fatally flawed argument, as these two techniques are profoundly different and do not produce the same result. In normal breeding techniques, you never go outside of that species. You simply cannot breed one species with another species, such as a plant with an insect, for example.
“By definition, when we’re doing normal genetic manipulation using breeding methods, it’s all going to be done within the normal, natural restrictions of reproductive abilities of organisms. You can’t go outside of the species.”
Through modern genetic engineering techniques, they are mixing genetic material from entirely different kingdoms of organisms. There is absolutely nothing natural or normal about this process, and there’s nothing natural or normal about the end product that results from such cross-species manipulation. To even achieve this feat, genetic material must be blasted into the genetic material of the organism being altered with a high-powered gun.
Now, if you inject this unique genetic sequence into any random place on the DNA, most of the time the organism will not live. But on rare occasions, after the sequence has been blasted into countless cells, the organism may survive and begin to express the inserted trait. At that point, multiple different protein changes will occur, yet no one knows exactly which proteins were altered, how they were modified, or what metabolic processes are going to be disrupted because that new genetic material.
“When you look at GMOs, you have to understand each specific genetic engineering event. It’s hard to make a simple statement about the effect of all GMOs, because each one is a very specific mechanism,” Dr. Ingham says.
“When we’re really trying to understand each and every different kind of engineered organism, the effects are going to be mediated a little bit differently. But pretty much across the board, we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen with any engineered event, because we have not studied what happens when that GMO plant is subjected to extremes of weather or extremes of climate, for example. That, to me, is one area of major concern with every GMO that has been produced.”
How Bt and Roundup Ready Plants Threaten Plant, Animal and Human Health
Take the genetically engineered Bt plants, for example. In these plants, a specific genetic material for a single toxin protein has been separated from the bacteria (Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt) and placed into the genetic material of a plant, such as corn, soybean, and potatoes. Other Bt plants are also in the pipeline. According to Dr. Ingham, there’s very clear evidence of harm in animals that consume Bt plant material. They end up with severe ulceration, starting in the digestive system.
“We saw massive damage to the liver and to many of the internal organs in the body of those animals when we went to compare the Bt plant material fed to those animals versus non-Bt plant material fed to a herd that started out exactly the same. We’re seeing very clear effects,” she says.
Unfortunately, and tellingly, virtually none of this research is being done in the US because no one is willing to fund it, and patent laws effectively prevent independent safety research on patented seeds. However, research done overseas, in Australia and elsewhere, clearly show genetically engineered feed is causing severe health problems in animals. Yet there are no human studies to evaluate the health effects of eating foods that contain a protein toxin in every single cell...
“What’s the effect on human beings? We can show you what the effect is on animals. And it makes you really wonder if all the digestive problems we have right now might not be due to the fact that so much of the American public is ingesting this toxic protein,” she says.
Another genetically engineered type of plant is Roundup Ready plants, in which the plant material has been engineered to be resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. With the advent of Roundup Ready plants, farmers have had to dramatically increase the amount of glyphosate used. The reason for this is because when you apply Roundup to the soil in massive quantities, it causes a significant reduction in all of the beneficial organisms in the soil.
According to Dr. Ingham, Roundup causes “a massive balloon” of bacteria in the soils, because glyphosate is a bacterial food. This bacterial overgrowth then takes up all the soluble inorganic nutrients that are present in the soil, leaving the plants stressed through lack of nutrition. To combat this, farmers apply more fertilizers to keep the plants alive, and before you know it, a truly vicious circle has been created.
“Every single genetically engineered plant has to be really examined very carefully for the effect that it has on the whole ecosystem – on the soil, animal health, and human health. We just don’t have the studies. They weren’t done. They weren’t required,” Dr. Ingham says.
Disasters in the Making, and One That was Averted...
The research that cut Dr. Ingham’s career with Oregon State University short related to a particular genetically engineered (GE) bacterium that grows in soil. The USDA and EPA had not yet tested it. Instead, all of the test organisms they were using were non-soil organisms. When Dr. Ingham and her colleague placed that GE bacterium into the root systems of plants, and compared it against the parent plant that had no GE bacteria in the soil, they found that the GE Klebsiella planticola caused total death to all plants that they put into the system. They were within just TWO WEEKS of that genetically engineered organism being released outside when Dr. Ingham presented her data at a United Nations meeting, which prevented outdoor plantings. Still, the USDA didn’t want to believe the results and questioned the methodology.
“The results from that testing clearly shows that the genetically engineered organisms can be of a great deal of risk, higher than the parent organism,” she says. “We need to do a much better job of testing these genetically engineered versions of plants, microorganisms, or whatever we’re talking about. They need to be better tested. And that the regulatory language 'genetically engineered organisms are of no greater risk than the parent' is clearly incorrect. It’s invalid. We need to go back and think better of a valid regulatory statement by the USDA.”
Unfortunately, as I’ve discussed so many times before, the USDA-APHIS, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, has a revolving door going straight to the industry.
“For those who really want to look at that history, go talk to the folks at the Edmonds Institute out of Washington State, because they very well documented how much turnaround there is,” Dr. Ingham says.
“You come from the industry. You’re on the USDA panel, promoting every company that you came from in, and then you go back to that company. The US public needs to wake up and pay attention to what’s really controlling the regulations on these genetically engineered organisms. The regulatory literature is not scientifically valid. We need to stop that rotating door into the regulatory agencies, so that people coming from the industry are not writing the regulatory language. “
According to Dr. Ingham, Roundup Ready crops are already a disaster in the making, as the chemical removes nutrients from the soil, effectively “starving” the plants of the nutrients they need to thrive. Eating such plants is bound to have a detrimental health effect. Worse than Roundup Ready crops are probably Bt crops, as the research clearly shows how the Bt toxin in these plants are harming the digestive systems of pigs, cows, horses, and other livestock.
“If it’s causing that kind of damage to their digestive system, what’s it doing to human beings?” Dr. Ingham says. “It’s got to be causing the same type of damage. But we know nothing about it, because we don’t know when we’re actually eating a genetically engineered material that has those toxins in it.”
A Three-Step Self-Help Plan to Avoid Genetically Engineered Foods
Unfortunately, Americans have been prevented from making their own choices in this matter. The biotech industry has successfully thwarted any and all attempts at labeling GE foods in the US, so what can you do to protect yourself and your family from them? Dr. Ingham offers the following three suggestions:
- Choose organic food. This is a must if you want to stop supporting the likes of Monsanto with your hard-earned dollars. Also, genetically engineered seeds and materials are not allowed in organic farming and food production, so at present it’s the only way to ensure you’re not accidentally buying something with GE ingredients.
Beware that the label “natural” or “all-natural” has absolutely NO meaning when it comes to GMO’s. There are no regulations preventing “natural” products from containing genetically engineered ingredients, so the natural label is not in any way interchangeable with the organic label.
- Support GMO labeling campaigns. “You really want to know whether you’re eating potatoes that have a protein toxin in every cell of that potato that you’re eating,” she says.
- Improve the soil in your garden and grow your own vegetables. This is my new passion so shortly I will be creating many helpful interviews with leading experts in the field on high performance agriculture to teach you simple strategies on how to easily do this in your home or local garden.
REMEMBER, 'There is No Such Thing as a Safe GMO'
According to Dr. Ingham, due to the way genetic plant engineering is currently done, there’s really is no such thing as a safe GMO. It appears plant geneticists have no understanding of what they’re doing to the system as a whole. They believe they can tinker with one small aspect of agriculture, the seed, and it won’t affect anything else. This is foolish in the extreme.
“We need to go back to a less environmentally damaging way of doing agriculture. We need to get off the chemical addiction and return to putting the proper biology back into the soil,” she says.
Optimizing the soil with high performance agriculture techniques is a simple inexpensive and practical alternative to reliance on bioengineering, GMO crops and reliance on dangerous herbicides. The key to global climate change, to better nutrition in our plants, to human nutrition, and to human health is recognizing that we have destroyed the life in our agricultural soils. As modern agricultural techniques flourished, we failed to address its overall impact, and we’ve not fully understood the damage these techniques cause—until now.
“In the last 30 years, we have started to recognize and to understand what the damage is and how to easily – very easily – fix this. It’s not going to take billions of dollars to remedy the problems that we have with our soils. Erosion, cementation and water quality could be brought back very rapidly if we could just put the proper biology back in the soil.”
A lot of the work Dr. Ingham has done on GMO’s is available from the Edmonds Institute in Washington State. You may contact Beth Burrows as the institute to get those materials. For more information on proper soil treatments, see the Rodale Institute’s web site, or pick up one of Dr. Ingham’s books that I listed earlier. The book 10 Steps to Gardening with Nature by Dr. Ingham and Carole Ann Rollins is a good place to start. Another book that I recently read and thoroughly enjoyed, especially the last part, is Jeff Lowenfels’ book, Teaming with Microbes. There are many more details you need to know that are not presented in the book but it is a good start for some foundational concepts.
Argentina—A Poster Child for the Health Hazards of GMO Crops
Viral Gene in Genetically Engineered Foods Could Promote Disease
By Dr. Mercola
In this fascinating video, taped at last year’s Restorative Medicine Conference in Portland, Oregon, Dr. Jorge Flechas, MD discusses the importance of total body iodine sufficiency, and how lack of iodine might severely affect your child’s brain and intellectual prowess. Iodine is an essential trace element required for the synthesis of hormones, and the lack of it can also cause or contribute to the development of:
- Mental retardation
- Cretinism (severely stunted physical and mental growth and deafness due to untreated congenital hypothyroidism)
- Certain forms of cancer
Iodine is used by your thyroid gland to help regulate metabolism and development of both your skeleton and brain, among other things. But how much iodine do you need, really? There’s quite a bit of contention on this issue.
Some, like Dr. Flechas insists severe iodine deficiency is rampant, while others claim this is not the case at all, and that taking higher doses of iodine can be harmful. I don’t proclaim to have the answer to this question... There’s no doubt you need iodine. But it’s difficult to say precisely how much.
I suspect the dosages recommended by Dr. Flechas, Dr. Brownstein, and others, may be too high, so I would encourage you to do your own research, and adopt a sensible, middle-of-the-road approach when it comes to iodine. It’s also important to realize that there are two types of iodine, and that you need them both:
The latter is the salt of iodine. One of the primary differences between them is that iodine will diffuse into the cell, whereas iodide must be transported into the cell. Different tissues in your body absorb either one or the other, hence you need BOTH for optimal health. One is not necessarily “better” than the other on its own.
Why Is Hypothyroidism More Prevalent in Women than Men?
There is simply no question that optimizing your iodine levels is essential for thyroid health. Hypothyroidism disproportionately affects women at a rate of about 9 to 1 in the US. The reason for this is that the female hormone estrogen inhibits the absorption of iodine.
According to Dr. Flechas, hypothyroidism is associated with up to 80-90 percent free estrogen levels, compared to the normal value of 40-60 percent free estrogen. Hyperthyroidism is associated with only 20 percent free estrogen levels, and low iodine intake can lead to a hyperestrogenic state. In his lecture, Dr. Flechas explains the interplaying dynamics of estrogen, thyroid hormones, and iodine at greater depth, so for more information, please set aside 40 minutes to watch the video above.
Your Body Needs Iodine for More than Just Your Thyroid
Dr. Flechas presents a number of interesting facts about iodine that is not widely known. For example, did you know that thyroid hormones are created not just in your thyroid, but also in a woman’s ovaries (thyroid T2), and in the white blood cells of your bone marrow? Furthermore, iodine is not only required for proper function of your thyroid. Other tissues that absorb and use large amounts of iodine include:
Breasts Salivary glands Pancreas Cerebral spinal fluid Skin Stomach Brain Thymus
Iodine deficiency, or insufficiency, in any of these tissues will lead to dysfunction of that tissue. Hence the following symptoms could provide clues that you’re not getting enough iodine in your diet. For example, iodine deficiency in:
- Salivary glands = inability to produce saliva, producing dry mouth
- Skin = dry skin, and lack of sweating. Three to four weeks of iodine supplementation will typically reverse this symptom, allowing your body to sweat normally again
- Brain = reduced alertness, and lowered IQ
- Muscles = nodules, scar tissue, pain, fibrosis, fibromyalgia
How Much Iodine Does Your Body Need?
According to Dr. Flechas, researchers have determined that the average dietary intake of iodine for Japanese women is 13.8 milligrams (mg) per day. He recommends 12.5 mg/day, especially for his pregnant patients to optimize their child’s intelligence. He shares a couple of success stories in his lecture, where iodine supplementation at higher doses resulted in children with remarkably advanced intelligence.
Hypothyroidism, which is one of the first ailments to develop in response to iodine deficiency, is indeed particularly troublesome during pregnancy. One 1999 study found that thyroid deficiency during pregnancy can lower your child’s IQ by about seven points. The researchers noted that for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, before the unborn child's thyroid becomes active, the mother is the sole source of thyroid hormones. Studies suggest that these hormones play an important role in brain development. Overall, compared with other children, the offspring of thyroid-deficient mothers had impaired school performance and lower scores on tests of attention, language, and visual-motor performance.
But pregnant women aren’t the only ones who need to be concerned with the iodine content of their diet. According to Dr. Flechas, your thyroid alone needs about 6 mg of iodine per day; the breasts of a 110-pound woman will need about 5 mg/day (larger women or women with larger breasts need more); and other body tissues, such as your adrenals, thymus, ovaries, hypothalamus, and pituitary gland, need about 2 mg/day.
Here are a few more interesting facts:
- In total, the human body can hold 1,500 mg of iodine
- Your thyroid can hold a maximum of 50 mg of iodine
- 20 percent of the iodine in your body is held in your skin (if your skin is depleted of iodine, you will not be able to sweat)
- 32 percent of your body’s iodine stores are in your muscles (if muscles are depleted, pain and other fibromyalgia symptoms can develop)
Although he makes a compelling argument, I am not yet convinced that such large amounts may be necessary. Dr. Brownstein and others would label this as iodinophobia, but I believe caution may be appropriate here before swallowing mg amounts of iodine on a regular basis. Personally, I am not yet convinced and do not take such high doses in supplemental form.
The US RDA May Be Insufficient for Many
It is important to realize that the current US daily recommended allowance (RDA) for iodine are not in milligram doses but in micrograms:
- 150 micrograms (mcg) per day for adult men and women
- 220 mcg for pregnant women
- 290 mcg for lactating/breastfeeding women
However, this RDA was set with the intention to prevent goiter only. Dr. Flechas makes a compelling argument for it being completely insufficient for overall physical health and prevention of diseases such as thyroid disease, fibromyalgia, and cancer. Iodine actually induces apoptosis, meaning it causes cancer cells to self destruct. Dr. Flechas is adamant that absence of iodine in a cell is what causes cancer, and statistics tend to support this view. In his lecture, he shows the results of a number of NHANES surveys.
For example, between 1971 and 2000, the average iodine levels declined by 50 percent in the US. During that same time, cancers specifically associated with iodine deficiency—such as cancer of the breast, prostate, endometrium, and ovaries—increased. He also points out that the RDA completely ignores the presence of increasing amounts of goitrogens in the environment. The following halides compete for the same receptors used in your thyroid gland and elsewhere to capture iodine, so if you’re exposed to too many of these, your thyroid hormone production can be severely disrupted, resulting in a low thyroid state:
- Bromide / bromine (Bromide can be found in several forms. Methyl bromide is a pesticide used mainly on strawberries, found predominantly in the California areas. Brominated vegetable oil (BVO) is added to citrus drinks to help suspend the flavoring in the liquid. Potassium bromate is a dough conditioner found in commercial bakery products and some flours)
Could High-Dose Iodine Be Dangerous?
As I mentioned at the beginning, while Dr. Flechas provides very compelling arguments for using doses as high as 12.5 milligrams (mg) per day, which is a far cry from the RDA of 150 micrograms (mcg), I’m hesitant to make such a recommendation. I think the jury is still out, and we need more research to determine the health effects of too much iodine.
As reported by Reuters at the beginning of this year1, a recently published study has cast some doubts on high-dose iodine supplementation. The study, published December 28, 2011 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition2, randomly assigned one of 12 different dosages of iodine (ranging from 0 to 2,000 mcg/day) to healthy adults for four weeks.
When diet was factored in, those taking 400 mcg/day were receiving a total of about 800 mcg of iodine per day.
At doses at and above 400 mcg of supplemented iodine per day, some of the study participants developed subclinical hypothyroidism, which appeared to be dose dependent. At 400 mcg/day, five percent developed subclinical hypothyroidism; at the highest dose—2,000 mcg/day—47 percent of participants were thus affected. Subclinical hypothyroidism refers to a reduction in thyroid hormone levels that is not sufficient to produce obvious symptoms of hypothyroidism (such as fatigue, dry skin, depression or weight gain, just to mention a few common tell-tale signs).
So, these findings suggest it might not be wise to get more than about 800 mcg of iodine per day, and supplementing with as much as 12-13 mg (12,000-13,000 mcg’s) could potentially have some adverse health effects.
Four Other Essentials that Promote Higher IQ
While iodine is clearly needed for health brain development and function, it’s by no means the only factor that determines your child’s mental capacity. The list could get exceedingly long were I to include everything currently known to contribute to decreased or increased IQ, but there are four additional factors that I believe are of particular importance that affects a majority of people:
- Vitamin D
- Avoiding fluoride
- Optimizing gut flora
DHA—An Essential Fat for Brain Function and IQ
Docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, is an essential structural component of both your brain and retina. Approximately 60 percent of your brain is composed of fats—25 percent of which is DHA. DHA is also an essential structural ingredient of breast milk, which is believed to be a major reason why breastfed babies consistently score higher on IQ tests than formula-fed babies.
Omega-3 fats such as DHA are considered essential because your body cannot produce it, and must get it from your daily diet. DHA-rich foods include fish, liver, and brain—all of which are no longer consumed in great amounts by most Americans. To compensate for our inherently low omega-3 diet, a high quality animal-based omega-3 supplement is something that I recommend for virtually everyone, especially if you’re pregnant. I prefer krill oil to fish oil, as there’s compelling evidence demonstrating its superiority.
Most of the DHA needed for brain and nervous system development is transferred from the mother to the fetus during the last trimester. The DHA content in the mother's diet reflects in the amount of DHA passed on to the baby. DHA levels of premature infants are especially low since they miss much of that last trimester. Preemies are also more likely to be bottle-fed, hence missing out on valuable DHA from their mother’s breast milk. While you can now find infant formula that contains added DHA, I don’t believe it’s anywhere near comparable to the DHA found in breast milk.
Studies show that low DHA intake in infancy can lead or contribute to Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Low DHA levels have also been linked to increased risk of suicide and dementia.
Why Animal-Based Omega-3?
While there are both plant and animal sources for omega-3 fats, there are differences between them, and when it comes to protecting brain function, you need the animal-based version. There are three important omega-3 fatty acids—ALA, EPA and DHA. DHA is the most important for your brain. EPA is also required by your brain, but in smaller amounts.
Plant-based omega-3 sources like flax, hemp and chia seeds are high in ALA, but low in EPA and DHA. Although ALA is an essential nutrient, the key point to remember is that the conversion of ALA to the far more essential EPA and DHA is typically quite inhibited by impaired delta 6 desaturase, an enzyme necessary for you to convert the ALA into the longer chain EPA and DHA. Because of this, it is important to include animal-based sources of omega-3 fats, such as krill oil, in your diet.
Vitamin D Deficiency May Be a Primary Culprit in Skyrocketing Autism Rates
In more recent years, rampant vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a proportionate jump in autism. While the connection may not be obvious, it’s important to realize that vitamin D receptors appears in a wide variety of brain tissue during early fetal development, and activated vitamin D receptors increase nerve growth in your brain. Researchers have also located metabolic pathways for vitamin D in the hippocampus and cerebellum of the brain, areas that are involved in planning, processing of information, and the formation of new memories.
The National Institutes of Mental Health recently concluded that it is vital that the mother get enough vitamin D while pregnant in order for the baby’s brain to develop properly. The child must also get enough vitamin D after birth for “normal” brain functioning. Appropriate sun exposure would take care of these issues, as the sun is irreplaceable when it comes to the body’s ability to produce adequate amounts of vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency is also associated with depression. In 2006, scientists evaluated the effects of vitamin D on the mental health of 80 elderly patients and found those with the lowest levels of vitamin D were 11 times more prone to be depressed than those who received healthy doses. More recently, researchers found that intake of more than 400 IU of vitamin D from food sources was associated with a 20 percent lower risk of depressive symptoms compared with intake of less than 100 IU. This was a significant benefit from a very small amount of vitamin D -- as 400 IU is far too low to benefit most people.
It now appears as though most adults need about 8,000 IU's of vitamin D a day in order to get their serum levels above 40 ng/ml, which is the lowest they should be. Ideally your serum levels should be between 50-70 ng/ml, and up to 100 ng/ml to treat cancer and heart disease. However, it’s important to realize that there’s no magic dosage when it comes to vitamin D. What’s important is your serum level, so you need to get your vitamin D levels tested to make sure you’re staying within the optimal and therapeutic ranges as indicated below.
Fluoride Found to Harm Brain Function and Lower IQ in Children
Fluoride is known to interfere with basic functions of nerve cells in your brain3, and numerous animal and human studies demonstrate the damage fluoride inflicts on your brain, including your pineal gland. Shockingly—considering the fact that 70 percent of the US is still fluoridating their water supplies—there are more than 25 human studies and 100 animal studies4 linking fluoride to brain damage and reduced IQ in children. This includes such effects as:
Reduction in nicotinic acetylcholine receptors Damage to the hippocampus Formation of beta-amyloid plaques (the classic brain abnormality in Alzheimer's disease) Reduction in lipid content Damage to the purkinje cells Exacerbation of lesions induced by iodine deficiency Impaired antioxidant defense systems Increased uptake of aluminum Accumulation of fluoride in the pineal gland
Fluoride can also increase manganese absorption, compounding problems since manganese in drinking water has also been linked to lower IQ in children.
One of the most recent studies into the effects of water fluoridation on intellectual performance, published in December 20105, found that about 28 percent of children in the low-fluoride study area scored as “bright, normal or higher intelligence” compared to only 8 percent in the high-fluoride area. Further, 15 percent of children in the high-fluoride city had signs of mental retardation, compared with only 6 percent in the low-fluoride city. Most alarmingly, some of these brain-damaging effects have been observed even at low levels of exposure, such as 1 part per million (ppm) of fluoride in water, which is right around the levels used in US water fluoridation programs, which range from 0.7-1.2 ppm.
Optimizing Gut Flora Strengthens Natural Detoxification Pathways
The presence of, and continual exposure to, toxins is another important factor that can have profound influence on your child’s IQ—both in utero and after birth. According to Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, neurological problems such as autism and learning disorders are caused by toxic overload, stemming from abnormal gut flora.
Children use all of their sensory organs to collect information from their environment, which is then passed to the brain for processing. This is a fundamental part of learning. However, in children with Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS), the toxicity flowing from their gut throughout their bodies and into their brains, clogs the brain with toxicity, preventing it from performing its normal function and process sensory information. GAPS may manifest as a conglomerate of symptoms that can fit the diagnosis of autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), attention deficit disorder (ADD) without hyperactivity, dyslexia, dyspraxia, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, just to name a few possibilities.
The treatment she developed is called the GAPS Nutritional Program, which covers both diet and detoxification. Fermented foods are a staple of the GAPS diet. The beneficial bacteria in these foods are very potent detoxifiers, capable of drawing a wide range of toxins and heavy metals out of your body. According to Dr. McBride, the GAPS Nutritional Protocol restores the natural detoxification system in about 90 percent of people, and the fermented/cultured foods are instrumental in this self-healing process.
"The cell wall [of the bacteria] have chelators; molecules that grab hold of mercury, lead, aluminum, arsenate, and anything else toxic," Dr. McBride explains. "They hold them until they're removed through stool."
You don't need to consume huge amounts. About a quarter to a half a cup of fermented vegetables, or cultured food such as raw yoghurt, per day, is sufficient. The key is variety. The greater the variety of fermented and cultured foods you include in your diet, the better, as each food will inoculate your gut with a variety of different microorganisms.
Planning for a Bright and Healthy Baby...
As you can see, there are many factors contributing to making a healthy, happy, and bright baby—and there are many more that I did not expound on in this article, such as:
- Phosphatidylserine (PS), a phospholipid that is an essential part of the membranes that surround all your body's cells. PS enables cells to move nutrients into and cellular waste out of each living cell in your body. Abundant in your brain and in the membranes of your brain cells, PS is important for brain functions such as memory, judgment, and reasoning. Cow brain, mackerel, herring, and organ meats are some of the foods that contain higher levels of PS
- GPC (Glycerophosphocholine), the bioactive form of choline. Unlike the other forms of choline, GPC is the form that has substantial clinical evidence behind it for its direct effect on healthy brain functions. It occurs naturally in limited quantities in eggs, milk, nuts, fish, certain vegetables, organ meats, and human breast milk
- Magnesium is another important element needed for optimal brain function and IQ. Stress has been shown to have a detrimental impact on magnesium levels, which in turn can result in lower IQ levels in school-age children, according to some research6.
This Simple Strategy May Radically Reduce Risk of Birth Defects
Avoid This if You Want to Keep Your Thyroid Healthy
By Dr. Mercola
The connections between stress and physical health are undeniable. Studies have found links between acute and/or chronic stress and a wide variety of health issues, including:
- Lowered immune system function
- Heightened inflammatory response
- Increased blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Altered brain chemistry, blood sugar levels and hormonal balance
- Increased risk of cancer and increased tumor growth1
The video above brings up another biological reaction associated with stress: crying.2 Interestingly, tears that are shed due to an emotional response, such as sadness or extreme happiness, contain a high concentration of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) — a chemical linked to stress.
One theory of why you cry when you’re sad is that it helps your body release some of these excess stress chemicals, thereby helping you feel more calm and relaxed.
While crying is a healthy response to a stressful situation, settling in for “a good cry” every day is unlikely to quell the ill effects of stress on your body.
Energy psychology techniques such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) can be very effective by helping you to actually reprogram your body’s reactions to the unavoidable stressors of everyday life. Exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and meditation are also important “release valves” that can help you manage your stress.
Higher Heart Rate Tied to Earlier Death
Stress can also jack up your heart rate, making you feel like you’re running in a hamster wheel even when you’re sitting down. This too can have a very detrimental effect on your health. According to recent research,3 higher heart rate is tied to earlier death, even in those who exercise regularly. According to MedicineNet.com:4
"Should you be worried if your heart rate is high? Maybe, said study author Dr. Magnus Thorsten Jensen, a cardiologist at Copenhagen University Hospital Gentofte. 'A high heart rate does not necessarily mean disease,' he said. 'But we know that there is a very strong and significant association between high heart rate and life expectancy.'"
Dr. Jensen’s previous research had shown that those with a resting pulse of 80 beats per minute die as much as four to five years earlier than those with pulses of 65 beats per minute. This is actually a remarkable finding, as this difference in life expectancy is similar to that of having a cancer diagnosis.
Normally, if you exercise regularly you’re likely to have a much lower resting heart rate than if you do not exercise. As reported by the featured article:
“That raises the issue of whether higher heart rates simply reflect the heart-unfriendly lifestyles of couch potatoes. The new study aimed to answer this question: Does a higher resting heart rate translate to an earlier death even among those who are healthy and exercise regularly? The researchers found that the answer is yes, suggesting that 'resting heart rate is not just a marker of fitness level, but an independent risk factor,' Jensen said.”
The study included nearly 2,800 men who were followed for 16 years, from middle-age onward. For each 10-beat per minute increase in the men’s resting heart rate, the risk of death increased by 16 percent. Compared with those who had a resting heart rate of 50 beats a minute or less, men with resting heart rates of 71 to 80 beats per minute increased their risk of early death by just over 50 percent. Those with heart rates between 81 to 90 beats doubled their risk, and a heart rate over 90 was equated with triple the risk. Dr. Jensen told The New York Times:5
“If you have two healthy people exactly the same in physical fitness, age, blood pressure and so on, the person with the highest resting heart rate is more likely to have a shorter life span.”
Based on these results, Dr. Jensen suggests rethinking the “normal” range of resting heart rate, which is currently set between 60-100 beats per minute, as the higher range appears to be a potent indicator of poor health, independent of physical fitness. So what can you do to improve (i.e. lower) your resting heart rate?
Two of the most obvious strategies include quitting smoking and exercising regularly. Even the mere act of reducing the amount of time you spend sitting down could help. Too much sitting actually takes a heavier toll on your health than you might think. According to research6 published last year, reducing the average time you spend sitting down to less than three hours a day could increase your life expectancy by as much as two years. Reducing your stress and being able to go through your day in a relaxed state would also certainly have a beneficial impact on your heart rate.
EFT — Your Best Defense Against Anxiety and Stress
Even the conservative Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 85 percent of all disease has an emotional element. Many, if not most people carry emotional scars -- traumas that can adversely affect your health. Chronic stress is akin to emotional scarring, and causes ongoing damage to your cells.
According to cellular biologist Dr. Bruce Lipton, the true secret to life does not lie within your DNA, but rather within the mechanisms of your cell membrane. Each cell membrane has receptors that pick up various environmental signals — which includes your thoughts and emotional state — and this mechanism controls the "reading" of the genes inside your cells. Your cells can choose to read or not read the genetic blueprint depending on the signals being received from the environment. This is what is now known as epigenetic control, i.e. the environment within your body — including your emotional terrain — controls your genetic expression, not the other way around.
Using techniques like energy psychology, you can correct the emotional short circuiting that contributes to your chronic stress. My favorite technique for this is the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which is the largest and most popular version of energy psychology. There are many derivatives of EFT and some likely work even better but EFT is the one that I have the most experience with and is the most established.
EFT was developed in the 1990s by Gary Craig, a Stanford engineer specializing in healing and self-improvement. It’s akin to acupuncture, which is based on the concept that a vital energy flows through your body along invisible pathways known as meridians. EFT stimulates different energy meridian points in your body by tapping them with your fingertips, while simultaneously using custom-made verbal affirmations. This can be done alone or under the supervision of a qualified therapist.7 By doing so, you help your body eliminate emotional “scarring” and reprogram the way your body responds to emotional stressors. Since these stressors are usually connected to physical problems, many people’s diseases and other symptoms can improve or disappear as well.
In the following video, EFT therapist Julie Schiffman discusses EFT for stress relief.
While the video above will easily teach you how to do EFT, it is VERY important to realize that self-treatment for serious issues is dangerous and NOT recommended. It is dangerous because it will allow you to falsely conclude that EFT does not work when nothing could be further from the truth. For serious or complex issue you need someone to guide you through the process as there is an incredible art to this process and it typically takes years of training to develop the skill to tap on deep-seated, significant issues.
Cry if You Need to, But Address Your Stress for Longer-Term Benefits
As much as you may try to ignore it, you cannot separate your wellness from your emotions. Every feeling you have affects some part of your body, and stress can wreak havoc on your physical health even if you’re doing everything else “right.”
The classic definition of stress is “any real or imagined threat, and your body’s response to it.” Celebrations and tragedies alike can cause a stress response in your body. All of your feelings, positive or negative, create physiological changes. Your skin, heart rate, digestion, joints, muscle energy levels, the hair on your head, and countless cells and systems you don't even know about change with every emotion.
Fortunately, there are effective tools available to help your body compensate for the bioelectrical short-circuiting caused by stress that is the root of so much illness and poor health. Exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and meditation are also important “release valves” that can help you manage your stress.
The beauty about energy psychology techniques such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is that it can reprogram your body’s reactions to the unavoidable stressors of everyday life, thereby providing a more lasting effect. While it’s easy to do on your own, it’s advisable to seek the help of a licensed therapist8 if you’re dealing with trauma-based stress such as PTSD or grief following the loss of a loved one.
By Dr. Mercola
Only about one-quarter of American adults eat three or more servings of vegetables a day. If you are in the majority who does not, you are missing out on major benefits, as consuming fresh vegetables is one of the key cornerstones to optimal health.
Although I am convinced virtually everyone would benefit from some animal protein in their diet, I firmly believe we all need to eat large amounts of fresh, high-quality vegetables every day to achieve high-level health. Some of us need far more than others.
Most vegetables are not very calorie dense and as a result they probably should constitute the bulk of your diet by volume. Even though my diet is 70 percent fat by calories, if you were to spread out all the food I eat in a day, the largest volume of food would be vegetables.
There is little that compares to the nutritional value of organic, raw vegetables, and according to new research, eating your greens may be even more important than previously imagined.
The Importance of Eating Your Greens
Researchers at Walter and Eliza Hall Institute’s Molecular Immunology division have discovered1 that a gene, called T-bet, which is essential for producing critical immune cells in your gut, responds to the food you eat—specifically leafy green vegetables. According to the press release:2
“The immune cells, named innate lymphoid cells (ILCs), are found in the lining of the digestive system and protect the body from ‘bad’ bacteria in the intestine.
They are also believed to play an important role in controlling food allergies, inflammatory diseases and obesity, and may even prevent the development of bowel cancers.
... [T]he research team revealed T-bet was essential for generating a subset of ILCs which is a newly discovered cell type that protects the body against infections entering through the digestive system.
'In this study, we discovered that T-bet is the key gene that instructs precursor cells to develop into ILCs, which it does in response to signals in the food we eat and to bacteria in the gut,' Dr Belz said. 'ILCs are essential for immune surveillance of the digestive system and this is the first time that we have identified a gene responsible for the production of ILCs.'”
ILCs are thought to be essential for:
- Maintaining balance between tolerance, immunity and inflammation in your body
- Producing interleukin-22 (IL-22), a hormone that can protect your body from pathogenic bacteria
- Maintaining healthy intestinal balance by promoting growth of beneficial bacteria and healing small wounds and abrasions in the gut
- Helping resolve cancerous lesions
More Reasons to Eat Your Veggies
Vegetables contain an array of antioxidants and other disease-fighting compounds that are very difficult to get anywhere else. Plant chemicals called phytochemicals can reduce inflammation and eliminate carcinogens, while others regulate the rate at which your cells reproduce, get rid of old cells and maintain DNA. Studies have repeatedly shown that people with higher vegetable intake have:
Lower risks of stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease Lower risks of certain types of cancer, eye diseases and digestive problems Reduced risk of kidney stones and bone loss Higher scores on cognitive tests Higher antioxidant levels Lower biomarkers for oxidative stress
Further, if you eat your veggies raw, you’ll also be receiving biophotons, the smallest physical units of light, which are stored in, and used by all biological organisms -- including your body. Vital sun energy finds its way into your cells via the food you eat, in the form of these biophotons. They contain important bio-information, which controls complex vital processes in your body. The biophotons have the power to order and regulate, and, in doing so, to elevate the organism -- in this case, your physical body -- to a higher oscillation or order. Generally, the more sunlight a food is able to store, the more nutritious it is.
Naturally-grown fresh vegetables, raw sprouts, and sun-ripened fruits are rich in light energy. Ideally, look for fresh, non-GMO produce that is organically grown on a local farm in your area. Choose the vegetables that appear freshest first, and consume them raw shortly after purchase for optimal benefits.
If you can't obtain organic, conventionally-grown vegetables are better than none! Just take extra care with non-organic vegetables by washing them thoroughly and removing peels and cores when possible to minimize your exposure to pesticides. Certain fruits and vegetables also tend to be far more contaminated than others simply because they're more susceptible to various infestations and therefore sprayed more heavily. Some foods are also more "absorbent," with thin, tender skins. Such foods would be high on your list for buying organic.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) produces an annual shopper's guide to pesticides in produce3 that you can download. It lists the produce with the highest and lowest levels of pesticide residue, which can help save you money if you can't afford to buy everything organic.
Reasons to Eat Sprouts, a Living Food with Amazing Health Benefits
Sprouts are a “super” food that many overlook. In addition to their nutritional profile, sprouts are also easy to grow on your own. I started sprouting seeds in ball jars 10 to 15 years ago. A Care2 article published last year4 listed 10 reasons for eating sprouts, including the following. For the rest, please see the original article:
- Sprouts can contain up to 100 times more enzymes than raw fruits and vegetables, allowing your body to extract more vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fats from the foods you eat
- Both the quality of the protein and the fiber content of beans, nuts, seeds and grains improves when sprouted
- The content of vitamins and essential fatty acids also increase dramatically during the sprouting process. For example, depending on the sprout, the nutrient content can increase as much as 30 times the original value within just a few days of sprouting. Sunflower seed and pea sprouts tend to top the list of all the seeds that you can sprout and are typically each about 30 times more nutritious than organic vegetables you can even harvest in your backyard garden
- During sprouting, minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, bind to protein, making them more bioavailable
- Sprouts are the ultimate locally-grown food, and can easily be grown in your own kitchen, so you know exactly what you’re eating. And since they’re very inexpensive, cost is no excuse for avoiding them
Planting and Harvesting Sprouts at Home
I used to grow sprouts in Ball jars over ten years ago but stopped doing that. I am strongly convinced that actually growing them in soil is far easier and produces far more nutritious and abundant food. It is also less time consuming. With Ball jars you need to rinse them several times a day to prevent mold growth. Also takes up less space. I am now consuming one whole tray you see below every 2-3 days and to produce that much food with Ball jars I would need dozens of jars. I simply don't have the time or patience for that. I am in the process of compiling more specific detailed videos for future articles but I thought I would whet your appetite and give you a preview with the photos below.
About to plant Wheat grass and Sunflower seeds - 2 days after soaking
Wheat grass and Sunflower seeds – 3 ½ days post germination.
Sunflower seeds and Pea sprouts – 3 days until ready for harvest.
Sunflower seed sprouts and Wheat Grass - ready to harvest.
Sprouts as Medicine
Sprouts-as-medicine.com5 is a good source for things relating to sprouts: their health benefits, recipes, and how to grow your own. The British verticalveg.org6 is another. The latter gives helpful growing tips for each month of the year. One of the benefits of sprouts is that you can grow them year-round, even when it’s cold and dark. The article 6 Easy Steps to Sprout Heaven7 teaches you how to grow your own sprouts, from start to finish. While you can sprout a variety of different beans, nuts, seeds and grains, sprouts in general have the following beneficial attributes:
- Support for cell regeneration
- Powerful sources of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and enzymes that protect against free radical damage
- Alkalinizing effect on your body, which is thought to protect against disease, including cancer (as many tumors are acidic)
- Abundantly rich in oxygen, which can also help protect against abnormal cell growth, viruses and bacteria that cannot survive in an oxygen-rich environment
Common Sprouts and Their Superior Nutritional Profiles
Some of the most commonly sprouted beans, nuts, seeds and grains include:
Broccoli: known to have anti-cancer properties, courtesy of the enzyme "sulforaphane" Alfalfa: a significant dietary source of phytoestrogens. Also a good source of vitamins A, B, C, D, E, F, and K Wheat grass: high in vitamins B, C, E and many minerals Mung bean: good source of protein, fiber, vitamin C and A Clover : significant source of isoflavones Lentil sprouts: contain 26 percent protein, and can be eaten without cooking Sunflower: contains, minerals, healthy fats, essential fatty acids, fiber, and phytosterols. It’s also one of the highest in protein Pea shoots: good source of vitamins A, C and folic acid and one of the highest in protein
My two favorites are pea and sunflower sprouts. They provide some of the highest quality protein you can eat. They have radically improved the nutrition of my primary meal, which is a salad at lunch. They are a perfect complement to fermented vegetables. It is hard to imagine a healthier combination that provides the essentials of nutrition very inexpensively.
Vegetarians in Paradise9 offers an in-depth write-up on the history and health benefits associated with sunflower seeds. Of the seeds, sunflower seeds are among the best in terms of nutritional value, and sprouting them will augment their nutrient content by as much as 300 to 1,200 percent! Similarly, sprouting peas will improve the bioavailability of zinc and magnesium. Sprouted sunflower seeds also contain plenty of iron and chlorophyll, the latter of which will help detoxify your blood and liver. The phytosterols in sprouted sunflower seeds can help enhance your immune system. According to Vegetarians in Paradise:
“One of the richest sources of protein, 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) of sprouted sunflower seeds contains 22.78 grams. The mineral content soars in the sprouted state. That 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) offers a notable 116 mg of calcium, 5.06 mg of zinc, 689 mg of potassium, 1.75 mg copper, and 354 mg of magnesium.
Vitamins increase during sprouting when the seeds are producing a new life. Vitamin A increases to 50,000 IU, and Vitamin E offers 52.18 mg, while vitamin D provides 92.0 IU for 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams). The vitamin B family offers niacin at 4.50 mg, riboflavin at 0.25 mg, and thiamin at 2.29 mg. Sprouted sunflower seeds are also a rich source of iron, providing 6.77 mg for 31/2 ounces (100 grams) that can be a benefit to people with anemia.”
Simple Ways to Increase Your Veggies
Two of the easiest and most efficient ways to optimize your vegetable intake is to juice your vegetables and add sprouted seeds. Not only will juicing help your body absorb all the nutrients from the vegetables by making them easily digestible, but you’re also avoiding the risk of damaging any of their sensitive micronutrients through cooking. Cooking and processing food destroys many micronutrients by altering their shape and chemical composition. And the sprouting process tends to increase nutrient content and bioavailability of nutrients. Sprouts also contain valuable enzymes that allow your body to absorb and use the nutrients of all other foods you eat.
Another benefit of juicing is that it allows you to add a wider variety of vegetables to your diet that you might not normally enjoy eating whole. This way, you’re working with the principle of regular food rotation, which will lessen your chances of developing food allergies. For more in-depth guidelines and information about juicing, I recommend you review the juicing section of my nutrition plan.
But whatever method you choose, juiced, whole, sprouted or cooked, please make it a point to eat your veggies. This is one food group that is incredibly diverse, so there’s a wide variety to choose from and plenty to suit virtually everyone’s tastes. And mounting evidence shows that eating vegetables every day is a cornerstone of good health, and a habit that can go a very long way toward preventing disease of all kinds, including cancer.
Scientists Show How Certain Vegetables Combat Cancer
Organic Tomatoes, While Smaller, are More Nutritious than Conventional Counterpart, Study Shows
By Dr. Mercola
There's no shortage of health myths out there, but I believe the truth is slowly but surely starting to seep out there and get a larger audience. For example, two recent articles actually hit the nail right on the head in terms of good nutrition advice.
These health topics are all essential to get "right" if you want to protect your health, and the health of your loved ones, which is why I was delighted to see both of these sources disseminating spot-on advice. I highly recommend reading through both of them.
Here, I will review my own top 10 lies and misconceptions of mainstream nutrition—some of which are included in the two featured sources, plus a few additional ones I believe are important.
Lie # 1: 'Saturated Fat Causes Heart Disease'
As recently as 2002, the "expert" Food & Nutrition Board issued the following misguided statement, which epitomizes this myth:
"Saturated fats and dietary cholesterol have no known beneficial role in preventing chronic disease and are not required at any level in the diet."
Similarly, the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine recommends adults to get 45–65 percent of their calories from carbohydrates, 20-35 percent from fat, and 10-35 percent from protein. This is an inverse ideal fat to carb ratio that is virtually guaranteed to lead you astray, and result in a heightened risk of chronic disease.
Most people benefit from 50-70 percent healthful fats in their diet for optimal health, whereas you need very few, if any, carbohydrates to maintain good health... Although that may seem like a lot, fat is much denser and consumes a much smaller portion of your meal plate.
This dangerous recommendation, which arose from an unproven hypothesis from the mid-1950s, has been harming your health and that of your loved ones for about 40 years now.
The truth is, saturated fats from animal and vegetable sources provide the building blocks for cell membranes and a variety of hormones and hormone-like substances, without which your body cannot function optimally. They also act as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Dietary fats are also needed for the conversion of carotene to vitamin A, for mineral absorption, and for a host of other biological processes.
In fact, saturated is the preferred fuel for your heart! For more information about saturated fats and the essential role they play in maintaining your health, please read my previous article The Truth About Saturated Fat.
Lie # 2: 'Eating Fat Makes You Gain Weight'
The low-fat myth may have done more harm to the health of millions than any other dietary recommendation as the resulting low-fat craze led to increased consumption of trans-fats, which we now know increases your risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease—the very health problems wrongfully attributed to saturated fats...
To end the confusion, it's very important to realize that eating fat will not make you fat!
The primary cause of excess weight and all the chronic diseases associated with it, is actually the consumption of too much sugar -- especially fructose, but also all sorts of grains, which rapidly convert to sugar in your body. If only the low-fat craze had been a low-sugar craze... then we wouldn't have nearly as much chronic disease as we have today. For an explanation of why and how a low-fat diet can create the very health problems it's claimed to prevent, please see this previous article.
Lie # 3: 'Artificial Sweeteners are Safe Sugar-Replacements for Diabetics, and Help Promote Weight Loss'
Most people use artificial sweeteners to lose weight and/or because they’re diabetic and need to avoid sugar. The amazing irony is that nearly all the studies that have carefully analyzed their effectiveness show that those who use artificial sweeteners actually gain more weight than those who consume caloric sweeteners. Studies have also revealed that artificial sweeteners can be worse than sugar for diabetics.
In 2005, data gathered from the 25-year long San Antonio Heart Study showed that drinking dietsoft drinks increased the likelihood of serious weight gain, far more so than regular soda.3 On average, each diet soft drink the participants consumed per day increased their risk of becoming overweight by 65 percent within the next seven to eight years, and made them 41 percent more likely to become obese. There are several potential causes for this, including:
- Sweet taste alone appears to increase hunger, regardless of caloric content.
- Artificial sweeteners appear to simply perpetuate a craving for sweets, and overall sugar consumption is therefore not reduced—leading to further problems controlling your weight.4
- Artificial sweeteners may disrupt your body's natural ability to "count calories," as evidenced in studies such as this 2004 study at Purdue University,5 which found that rats fed artificially sweetened liquids ate more high-calorie food than rats fed high-caloric sweetened liquids.
There is also a large number of health dangers associated with artificial sweeteners and aspartame in particular. I've compiled an ever-growing list of studies pertaining to health problems associated with aspartame, which you can find here. If you're still on the fence, I highly recommend reviewing these studies for yourself so that you can make an educated decision. For more information on aspartame, the worst artificial sweetener, please see my aspartame video.
Lie # 4: 'Your Body Cannot Tell the Difference Between Sugar and Fructose'
Of the many health-harming ingredients listed in the featured article by Shape Magazine—all of which you're bound to get in excess if you consume processed foods—fructose is perhaps the greatest threat to your health. Mounting evidence testifies to the fact that excess fructose, primarily in the form of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), is a primary factor causing not just obesity, but also chronic and lethal disease. In fact, I am convinced that fructose is one of the leading causes of a great deal of needless suffering from poor health and premature death.
Many conventional health "experts," contend that sugar and fructose in moderation is perfectly okay and part of a normal "healthy" diet, and the corn industry vehemently denies any evidence showing that fructose is metabolically more harmful than regular sugar (sucrose). This widespread denial and sweeping the evidence under the carpet poses a massive threat to your health, unless you do your own research.
As a standard recommendation, I advise keeping your total fructose consumption below 25 grams per day. For most people it would also be wise to limit your fructose from fruit to 15 grams or less. Unfortunately, while this is theoretically possible, precious few people are actually doing that.
Cutting out a few desserts will not make a big difference if you're still eating a "standard American diet"—in fact, I've previously written about how various foods and beverages contain far more sugar than a glazed doughnut. Because of the prevalence of HFCS in foods and beverages, the average person now consumes 1/3 of a pound of sugar EVERY DAY, which is five ounces or 150 grams, half of which is fructose.
That's 300 percent more than the amount that will trigger biochemical havoc. Remember that is the AVERAGE; many actually consume more than twice that amount. For more details about the health dangers of fructose and my recommendations, please see my recent article Confirmed—Fructose Can Increase Your Hunger and Lead to Overeating.
Lie # 5: 'Soy is a Health Food'
The meteoric rise of soy as a "health food" is a perfect example of how a brilliant marketing strategy can fool millions. But make no mistake about it, unfermented soy products are NOT healthful additions to your diet, and can be equally troublesome for men and women of all ages. If you find this recommendation startling then I would encourage you to review some of the many articles listed on my Soy Index Page.
Contrary to popular belief, thousands of studies have actually linked unfermented soy to malnutrition, digestive distress, immune-system breakdown, thyroid dysfunction, cognitive decline, reproductive disorders and infertility—even cancer and heart disease.
Not only that, but more than 90 percent of American soy crops are genetically modified, which carries its own set of health risks.6 I am not opposed to all soy, however. Organic and, most importantly, properly fermented soy does have great health benefits. Examples of such healthful fermented soy products include tempeh, miso and natto. Here is a small sampling of the detrimental health effects linked to unfermented soy consumption:
Breast cancer Brain damage Infant abnormalities Thyroid disorders Kidney stones Immune system impairment Severe, potentially fatal food allergies Impaired fertility Danger during pregnancy and breastfeeding
Lie # 6: 'Eggs are a Source of Unhealthy Cholesterol'
Eggs are probably one of the most demonized foods in the United States, mainly because of the misguided idea implied by the lipid hypothesis that eating egg yolk increases the cholesterol levels in your body. You can forget about such concerns, because contrary to popular belief, eggs are one of the healthiest foods you can eat and they do not have a detrimental impact on cholesterol levels. Numerous nutritional studies have dispelled the myth that you should avoid eating eggs, so this recommendation is really hanging on by a very bare thread...
One such study7, conducted by the Yale Prevention Research Center and published in 2010, showed that egg consumption did not have a negative effect on endothelial function – a measure of cardiac risk – and did not cause a spike on cholesterol levels. The participants of the Yale study ate two eggs per day for a period of six weeks. There are many benefits associated with eggs, including:
One egg contains 6 grams of high quality protein and all 9 essential amino acids Eggs are good for your eyes because they contain lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants found in your lens and retina. These two compounds help protect your eyes from damage caused by free radicals and avoid eye diseases like macular degeneration and cataracts Eggs are a good source of choline (one egg contains about 300 micrograms), a member of the vitamin B family essential for the normal function of human cells and helps regulate the nervous and cardiovascular systems. Choline is especially beneficial for pregnant mothers as it is influences normal brain development of the unborn child Eggs are one of the few foods that contain naturally occurring vitamin D (24.5 grams) Eggs may help promote healthy hair and nails due to their high sulphur content Eggs also contain biotin, calcium, copper, folate, iodine, iron, manganese, magnesium, niacin, potassium, selenium, sodium, thiamine, vitamin A, vitamin B2, vitamin B12, vitamin E and zinc
Choose free-range organic eggs, and avoid “omega-3 eggs” as this is not the proper way to optimize your omega-3 levels. To produce these omega-3 eggs, the hens are usually fed poor-quality sources of omega-3 fats that are already oxidized. Omega-3 eggs are more perishable than non-omega-3 eggs.
Lie # 7: 'Whole Grains are Good for Everyone'
The use of whole-grains is an easy subject to get confused on especially for those who have a passion for nutrition, as for the longest time we were told the fiber in whole grains is highly beneficial. Unfortunately ALL grains, including whole-grain and organic varieties, can elevate your insulin levels, which can increase your risk of disease. They also contain gluten, which many are sensitive to, if not outright allergic. It has been my experience that more than 85 percent of Americans have trouble controlling their insulin levels -- especially those who have the following conditions:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Protein metabolic types
In addition, sub-clinical gluten intolerance is far more common than you might think, which can also wreak havoc with your health. As a general rule, I strongly recommend eliminating or at least restricting grains as well as sugars/fructose from your diet, especially if you have any of the above conditions that are related to insulin resistance. The higher your insulin levels and the more prominent your signs of insulin overload are, the more ambitious your grain elimination needs to be.
If you are one of the fortunate ones without insulin resistance and of normal body weight, then grains are fine, especially whole grains—as long as you don’t have any issues with gluten and select organic and unrefined forms. It is wise to continue to monitor your grain consumption and your health as life is dynamic and constantly changing. What might be fine when you are 25 or 30 could become a major problem at 40 when your growth hormone and level of exercise is different.
Lie # 8: 'Milk Does Your Body Good'
Unfortunately, the myth that conventional pasteurized milk has health benefits is a persistent one, even though it’s far from true. Conventional health agencies also refuse to address the real dangers of the growth hormones and antibiotics found in conventional milk. I do not recommend drinking pasteurized milk of any kind, including organic, because once milk has been pasteurized its physical structure is changed in a way that can actually cause allergies and immune problems.
Important enzymes like lactase are destroyed during the pasteurization process, which causes many people to not be able to digest milk. Additionally, vitamins (such as A, C, B6 and B12) are diminished and fragile milk proteins are radically transformed from health nurturing to unnatural amino acid configurations that can actually worsen your health. The eradication of beneficial bacteria through the pasteurization process also ends up promoting pathogens rather than protecting you from them.
The healthy alternative to pasteurized milk is raw milk, which is an outstanding source of nutrients including beneficial bacteria such as lactobacillus acidophilus, vitamins and enzymes, and it is, in my estimation, one of the finest sources of calcium available. For more details please watch the interview I did with Mark McAfee, who is the owner of Organic Pastures, the largest organic dairy in the US.
However, again, if you have insulin issues and are struggling with weight issues, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer or high cholesterol it would be best to restrict your dairy to organic butter as the carbohydrate content, lactose, could be contribute to insulin and leptin resistance. Fermented organic raw dairy would eliminate the lactose issue and would be better tolerated. But if you are sensitive to dairy it might be best to avoid these too.
Lie # 9: 'Genetically Engineered Foods are Safe and Comparable to Conventional Foods'
Make no mistake about it; genetically engineered (GE) foods may be one of the absolute most dangerous aspects of our food supply today. I strongly recommend avoiding ALL GE foods. Since over 90 percent of all corn grown in the US is GE corn, and over 95 percent all soy is GE soy, this means that virtually every processed food you encounter at your local supermarket that does not bear the "USDA Organic" label likely contains one or more GE components. To avoid GE foods, first memorize the following list of well-known and oft-used GE crops:
Corn Canola Alfalfa (New GM crop as of 2011) Soy Cottonseed Sugar derived from sugar beets
Fresh zucchini, crookneck squash and Hawaiian papaya are also commonly GE. It’s important to realize that unless you're buying all organic food, or grow your own veggies and raise your own livestock, or at the very least buy all whole foods (even if conventionally grown) and cook everything from scratch, chances are you're consuming GE foods every single day... What ultimate impact these foods will have on your health is still unknown, but increased disease, infertility and birth defects appear to be on the top of the list of most likely side effects. The first-ever lifetime feeding study also showed a dramatic increase in organ damage, cancer, and reduced lifespan.
Lie # 10: 'Lunch Meats Make for a Healthy Nutritious Meal'
Lastly, processed meats, which includes everything from hot dogs, deli meats, bacon, and pepperoni are rarely thought of as strict no-no’s, but they really should be, if you’re concerned about your health. Virtually all processed meat products contain dangerous compounds that put them squarely on the list of foods to avoid or eliminate entirely. These compounds include:
- Heterocyclic amines (HCAs): a potent carcinogen, which is created when meat or fish is cooked at high temperatures.
- Sodium nitrite: a commonly used preservative and antimicrobial agent that also adds color and flavor to processed and cured meats.
- Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs): Many processed meats are smoked as part of the curing process, which causes PAHs to form.
- Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs): When food is cooked at high temperatures—including when it is pasteurized or sterilized—it increases the formation of AGEs in your food. AGEs build up in your body over time leading to oxidative stress, inflammation and an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease.
This recommendation is backed up by a report commissioned by The World Cancer Research Fund8 (WCRF). The review, which evaluated the findings of more than 7,000 clinical studies, was funded by money raised from the general public, so the findings were not influenced by vested interests. It's also the biggest review of the evidence ever undertaken, and it confirms previous findings: Processed meats increase your risk of cancer, especially bowel cancer, and NO amount of processed meat is "safe." A previous analysis by the WCRF found that eating just one sausage a day raises your risk of developing bowel cancer by 20 percent, and other studies have found that processed meats increase your risk of:
- Colon cancer by 50 percent
- Bladder cancer by 59 percent
- Stomach cancer by 38 percent
- Pancreatic cancer by 67 percent
Processed meats may also increase your risk of diabetes by 50 percent, and lower your lung function and increase your risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). If you absolutely want or need a hot dog or other processed meats once in awhile, you can reduce your risk by:
- Looking for "uncured" varieties that contain NO nitrates
- Choosing varieties that say 100% beef, 100% chicken, etc. This is the only way to know that the meat is from a single species and does not include byproducts (like chicken skin or chicken fat or other parts)
- Avoiding any meat that contains MSG, high-fructose corn syrup, preservatives, artificial flavor or artificial color
Ideally, purchase sausages and other processed meats from a small, local farmer who can tell you exactly what's in their products. These are just some of the health myths and misconceptions out there. There are certainly many more. The ones listed above are some of the most important ones, in my view, simply because they’re so widely misunderstood. They’re also critical to get "right" if you want to protect your health, and the health of your loved ones. For more great advise, please review the two featured sources.
12 Food Additives to Remove From Your Diet
What's In That? How Food Affects Your Behavior