By Dr. Mercola

Antidepressants are among the most prescribed types of drugs in the US,1 despite the fact that many of them have also been linked to violence against self and others.

In 2004, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revised2 the labeling requirements for antidepressant medications (SSRIs and others), warning that:

“Antidepressants increased the risk compared to placebo of suicidal thinking and behavior (suicidality) in children, adolescents, and young adults in short-term studies of major depressive disorder (MDD) and other psychiatric disorders.

Anyone considering the use of [Insert established name] or any other antidepressant in a child, adolescent, or young adult must balance this risk with the clinical need.”

These labeling revisions were in large part driven by lawsuits in which pharmaceutical companies were forced to reveal previously undisclosed drug data.

The following year, the FDA issued yet another advisory; this time warning women that taking Paxil during pregnancy could result in a number of debilitating birth defects,3 including congenital heart defects.

GlaxoSmithKline Has Paid $4 Billion in Settlements Related to Paxil

A civil lawsuit filed in 20044 charged GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) with fraud, claiming the drugmaker hid results from studies on Paxil showing the drug did not work in adolescents and in some cases led to suicidal ideation.

Rather than warning doctors of such potential side effects, GSK encouraged them to prescribe the drug to teens and children, which led to a significant increase in prescriptions — and violence, including suicides and homicides.

A study5 by the Institute of Safe Medication Practices published in 2010 identified 31 commonly-prescribed drugs disproportionately associated with violent acts. Paxil ranks third on this list.

A study by the Drug Safety Research Unit in Southampton showed that one in every 250 subjects taking Paxil or Prozac were involved in a violent episode.

In 2011, a whopping 14 million prescriptions for Paxil were written in the US,6 potentially equating to some 56,000 drug-induced incidents of violence annually from this drug alone.

GSK has paid out more than $1 billion to settle more than 800 different lawsuits related to Paxil,7 in addition to a $3 billion settlement with the US Department of Justice for the illegal marketing of Paxil and other drugs.

Yet Paxil has remained a “staple” in the psychiatrist’s arsenal. Perhaps this will finally change once the most recent research into Paxil becomes more widely known...

GlaxoSmithKline’s Paxil Research Refuted By New Study

In 2001, GSK published a study8,9 known as “Study 329,” showing Paxil was both safe and effective for teenagers but now, a reanalysis10,11,12 of the original data has concluded neither is true.

As reported by The New York Times:13

“Antidepressant trials are an extremely tricky enterprise, in part because anywhere from a third to more than half of subjects typically improve on placebo.

Choices about how to measure improvement — and how to label side effects — can make all the difference in how good a drug looks. And so it was in the Paxil study.

The original research... tracked depression scores over eight weeks in three groups of about 90 adolescents each, one taking Paxil, one on placebo pills, and one taking imipramine, an older generic drug for depression.

The Paxil group did no better than the other two groups on the study’s main measure — a standard depression questionnaire — but did rate higher on other, ‘secondary’ measures, like another scale of mood problems, the authors reported.

Researchers consider secondary measures like these as akin to circumstantial evidence, potentially meaningful but not as strong as the primary ones...”

The reanalysis of all of the original raw data provided by GSK found no evidence that Paxil was effective for the treatment of major depression in teens. In fact, its effectiveness, both clinically and statistically, was right on par with placebo.

It also found that serious side effects such as suicidal tendencies were mislabeled and misrepresented. As it turns out, the elevated risk for suicidal ideation was only gleaned by digging into the actual patient files, where the exact nature of the behavior was recorded.

In terms of harms, the difference between Paxil and placebo was “striking,” according to the researchers.

Severe adverse events were 260 percent more frequent on Paxil compared to placebo, psychiatric adverse events were 400 percent more frequent, and suicide was 10,300 percent more frequent — during the eight-week long study, 11 individuals in the Paxil group engaged in suicidal behavior, compared to just one in the placebo group.

Reanalysis Reignites Call for Retraction of GSK’s Study 329

When Study 329 was originally published it received a lot of criticism, and calls for retraction have been made a number of times, citing both research flaws and ghostwriting, as well as undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

In an accompanying article14 to this new research, Peter Doshi, associate editor for The BMJ notes that the original manuscript for Study 329 was written by a writer on GSK’s payroll — not any of the 22 named authors.

“It is often said that science self corrects. But for those who have been calling for a retraction of the Keller paper for many years, the system has failed,” Doshi writes.

“None of the paper’s 22 mostly academic university authors, nor the journal’s editors, nor the academic and professional institutions they belong to, have intervened to correct the record.

The paper remains without so much as an erratum, and none of its authors — many of whom are educators and prominent members of their respective professional societies — have been disciplined.”

Still, while the reanalysis has reignited calls for a retraction of Study 329, the authors have downplayed any wrongdoings of the original researchers, focusing instead on marshalling for greater transparency and data sharing to raise the scientific integrity of drug research.

Co-author Jon Jureidini told Time Magazine:15 It’s not the point of this paper to humiliate GSK or to accuse anyone of fraud. It’s an attempt to honestly present the data. This is what the original paper should have looked like. If the original paper had reported things this way, there never would have been a problem.”

Barriers to Accurate Reporting of Harms in Drug Studies

The reanalysis has done more than simply reverse the original findings however. It also highlights the importance of making raw study data openly available for review and assessment by the scientific community.

Had this “double-check” analysis been done a decade ago, a lot of lives could have been spared. It might also have prevented the “contamination” of other studies. Study 329 has been cited in 334 other studies16 — all noting of course that Paxil is effective and well tolerated.

It can be mindboggling to consider the snowball effect any given flawed study can have... Had Study 329 reported Paxil ineffective and unsafe, how might it have affected the conclusions of those other 334 studies?

The analysis was also able to identify a number of barriers that make it difficult to accurately report adverse side effects associated with drugs, and hopefully this will be able to help researchers improve the way these kinds of studies are done and analyzed in the future. The 10 potential barriers to accurate reporting of side effects include:

Using an idiosyncratic coding system Failing to transcribe all adverse events (AE) from clinical record to AE database
Filtering data on AE’s through statistical techniquesRestricting reporting to events that occurred above a given frequency in one group
Coding events under different headings for different patientsGrouping events together
Insufficient consideration of severityCoding of relatedness to study medication
Masking effects of concomitant drugs Ignoring effects of drug withdrawal

When Crime Pays — the Case of Risperdal

Writing for The New York Times,17 Nicholas Kristof recently addressed a similar situation in which a drug company made big bucks from a drug approved and marketed based on false information. The drug in this case is Risperdal, a billion-dollar antipsychotic that has been promoted to both young boys with autism and elderly dementia patients with devastating effects.

In the elderly, the drug is associated with stroke and subsequent death, and in boys it can promote the development of breasts. One young man was recently awarded $2.5 million in damages after the drug caused him to develop a 46DD bust.18

“Yet Johnson & Johnson marketed Risperdal aggressively to the elderly and to boys while allegedly manipulating and hiding the data about breast development. J&J got caught, pleaded guilty to a crime and has paid more than $2 billion in penalties and settlements. But that pales next to some $30 billion in sales of Risperdal around the world. In short, crime pays, if you’re a major corporation,” Kristof writes.

“J&J may in the end have to pay a total of $6 billion in settlements for its misconduct. But... the company made $18 billion in profits on Risperdal, just within the United States... That’s why we need tougher enforcement of safety regulations, and why white-collar criminals need to be prosecuted (as Attorney General Loretta Lynch has promised will happen). Risperdal is a cautionary tale: When we allow businesses to profit from crimes, we all lose.”

Key Factors to Overcoming Depression Without Drugs

While there are instances where drugs may be warranted, antidepressants are rarely the most appropriate answer for depression. It’s important to realize that your diet and general lifestyle are foundational factors that must be optimized if you want to resolve your mental health issues, because your body and mind are so closely interrelated. Depression is indeed a very serious condition; however it is not a “disease.” Rather, it’s a sign that your body and your life are out of balance.

Mounting and compelling research demonstrates just how interconnected your mental health is with your gastrointestinal health for example. While many think of their brain as the organ in charge of their mental health, your gut may actually play a far more significant role. Research tells us that the composition of your gut flora not only affects your physical health, but also has a significant impact on your brain function and mental state. Previous research has also shown that certain probiotics can even help alleviate anxiety.19, 20

So the place to start is to return balance — to your body and your life. Fortunately, research confirms that there are safe and effective ways to address depression that do not involve unsafe (and ineffective) drugs. This includes but is not limited to the following. For additional suggestions, please review the links listed under Related Articles:

Eat real food Dramatically decrease your consumption of processed foods, sugar (particularly fructose), and grains. There's a great book on this subject, The Sugar Blues, written by William Dufty more than 30 years ago, that delves into the topic of sugar and mental health in great detail. In addition to being high in sugar and grains, processed foods also contain a variety of additives that can affect your brain function and mental state, especially MSG, and artificial sweeteners such as aspartame.
Optimize your gut floraIncrease consumption of probiotic foods, such as fermented vegetables and kefir, to promote healthy gut flora. Mounting evidence tells us that having a healthy gut is profoundly important for both physical and mental health, and the latter can be severely impacted by an imbalance of intestinal bacteria. Remember your gut is your second brain and produces more neurotransmitters than your brain.
Get adequate vitamin B12Vitamin B12 deficiency can contribute to depression and affects one in four people.
Optimize your vitamin D levelsVitamin D is very important for your mood. In one study, people with the lowest levels of vitamin D were found to be 11 times more prone to be depressed than those who had normal levels.21

The best way to get vitamin D is through sensible sun exposure. SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a type of depression that we know is related to sunshine deficiency, so it would make sense that the perfect way to optimize your vitamin D is through sun exposure.
Optimize your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio To normalize your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, take high quality omega 3 oils such as krill oil and radically reduce if not completely eliminate industrial processed omega 6 oils.

DHA, an animal based omega-3 fat, is crucial for good brain function and mental health.22 Dr. Stoll, a Harvard psychiatrist, was one of the early leaders in compiling the evidence supporting the use of animal based omega-3 fats for the treatment of depression. He wrote an excellent book that details his experience in this area called The Omega-3 Connection.
Evaluate your salt intakeSodium deficiency creates symptoms closely resembling those of depression. Make sure you do NOT use processed salt (regular table salt), however. You'll want to use an all natural, unprocessed salt like Himalayan salt, which contains more than 80 different micronutrients.
Exercise dailyExercise is one of the most effective strategies for preventing and overcoming depression. Studies have shown there is a strong correlation between improved mood and aerobic capacity. There’s a growing acceptance that the mind-body connection is very real, and that maintaining good physical health can significantly lower your risk of developing depression in the first place.
Get adequate amounts of sleepYou can have the best diet and exercise program possible but if you aren't sleeping well you can easily become depressed. Sleep and depression are so intimately linked that a sleep disorder is actually part of the definition of the symptom complex that gives the label depression.

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By Dr. Mercola

In this modern-day digital age, there’s a case to be made for communicating via video conferences, phone calls, and emails. Traveling to attend in-person meetings can be stressful, not to mention time consuming and expensive.

A white paper by Verizon Conferencing found a five-person meeting conducted in-person (involving plane travel for four of the attendees) is over seven times more expensive than a meeting conducted by audio conference and three times as expensive as a video conference.1

The average attendee also spent 53 hours and 24 minutes preparing for and travelling to the in-person event, which is about three times the time involved in either the audio or video meeting. Verizon noted:2

The price of traveling to meeting after meeting is also paid in the currencies of lost productivity, wasted time, unattended-to work at the office, and time away from home and family – not to mention the stress and frustration involved in travel itself.”

Yet, despite their clear advantages in terms of efficiency, monetary savings, and convenience, audio and video conferences may not provide the same impact that a face-to-face meeting can provide.

Perhaps that’s why 87 percent of those surveyed by Verizon said they most prefer to meet in-person, and in-person meetings were ranked as more productive than their virtual counterparts.3

In-Person Meetings Allow Your Brain to Synchronize with Others

Researchers from Beijing Normal University pointed out that face-to-face communication differs from other forms of communication in two key ways:4

  • Face-to-face communication involves the integration of “multimodal sensory information,” such as nonverbal cues (facial expressions, gestures, etc.)
  • Face-to-face communication involves more continuous turn-taking behaviors between partners, which has been shown to play a pivotal role in social interactions and reflects the level of involvement of a person in the communication

These factors are critical to effective communication and may even play a role in helping to synchronize your brain with others in your conversation. In fact, research has shown a significant increase in the neural synchronization between the brains of two partners during face-to-face, but not during other types of, conversation.5

According to the study, which was published in The Journal of Neuroscience:6

“These results suggest that face-to-face communication, particularly dialog, has special neural features that other types of communication do not have and that the neural synchronization between partners may underlie successful face-to-face communication.”

Interestingly, this neural synchronization is also thought to play a key role in leader emergence, with those emerging as leaders synchronizing their brain activity with followers to a greater degree than occurs between followers and other followers.7

The quality of the communication was found to be a more important contributor to neural synchronization than the quantity of communication. This suggests that perhaps even infrequent in-person meetings may have more of an impact than frequent digital meetings.

The Unconscious Elements of Face-to-Face Meetings May Trump Even Language

Researchers from MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory, including Alex Pentland and colleagues, have further revealed that face-to-face meetings allow members to come up with more ideas and become more capable as a group compared to virtual meetings. As Newsweek reported:8

“The deep, often unconscious elements of in-person interaction are more important than language. Pentland and his team have studied hundreds of groups in face-to-face meetings where participants wear sociometric badges, unobtrusive devices that record unspoken social signals ,

Who’s talking, how much, in what tone, interrupting or not, facing toward whom and away from whom, and gesturing how — but don’t record what people say.

That turns out not to matter. Pentland’s remarkable finding is that ‘usually we can completely ignore the content of discussions and use only the visible social signals to predict the outcome of a negotiation or a sales pitch, the quality of group decision making, and the roles people assume within the group.’

What matters are the many ways we connect only when we’re physically together.”

You might argue that you can still “read” a person’s facial expressions over video chat, but research suggests something is still lost in translation. For instance, in a study of brainstorming sessions done face-to-face, over the phone, or via video chat, the face-to-face sessions produced significantly more creative ideas.9 Face-to-face pairs generated about 30 percent more ideas than virtual pairs.

Face-to-Face Meetings Are Best for Creativity

Meeting in person allows for increased eye contact, which builds increased trust and encourages group members to confide in and co-create with their group. Research published in the International Journal of Organizational Design and Engineering found:10

“ … [T]he more team members directly interact with each other face-to-face, and the more they trust other team members, the more creative and of higher quality the result of their teamwork is.”

The power of face-to-face meetings has not been lost on some of the most successful corporations in the world. The late Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, is said to have designed workspaces in order to force people to have more in-person interactions.

Google also serves its employees free food in cafeterias, in part to encourage them to stay on campus and mingle with their co-workers over lunch.11 Yahoo even made headlines in 2013 for, controversially, banning telecommuting for its employees. At that time, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said in a memo:12

“Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”

Harvard Cites Benefits of ‘The Water Cooler Effect’ on Scientific Research

Colleagues who spend more time in close proximity, able to chat around the water cooler, so to speak, may even produce better research, according to Harvard Medical School researchers.13

After examining data from 35,000 biomedical science papers, they found more personal contact, particularly between the article’s first and last authors, led to more citations generated (the number of citations generated per scientific paper is used as a gauge of article quality).14 They concluded:

“Despite the positive impact of emerging communication technologies on scientific research, our results provide striking evidence for the role of physical proximity as a predictor of the impact of collaborations.”

Is There a ‘Goldilocks Zone’ for Telecommuting?

Telecommuting is becoming increasingly popular among employers and employees a like. While 50 percent of companies allowed telecommuting in 2008, this had risen to 67 percent in 2014.15

While increased telecommuting offers greater flexibility to workers and may save companies money in overhead costs, it also takes away valuable time for face-to-face interactions among employees. Is there a “happy medium” that might provide benefits all around?

A poll conducted by Gallup suggests there may be. It found people who work remotely report being more engaged, enthusiastic, and committed to their work, provided they work remotely 20 percent of their working hours or less.16,17 It seems one key to telecommuting successfully may be to spend more time working in the office than out of it. As Money reported:18

“On one hand, it [Gallup’s poll] found evidence of added productivity from those working outside the office: People actually work more hours at home, in part because they weren’t commuting or running errands at lunch. Some of the productivity increase also comes from being away from office distractions, says Gallup CEO Jim Clifton.

But there is a point of diminishing returns, adds Clifton. People who spend 50 percent or more of their time working off site are less engaged than in-office counterparts and people who spend all of their time working remotely are twice as likely to feel disconnected from their work, Gallup found.”

In-Person Interactions Are Important in Your Personal Life, Too

Much of the research on the benefits of face-to-face interactions surrounds their role in the business world, but don’t forget these benefits apply to your personal life too. Loneliness, a feeling of being disconnected from those around you and wishing you had that connection, is on the rise and can put your health – both physical and emotional – at risk.

While people are increasingly turning to social media as a way to connect with friends and family, be sure you are also taking time to have those irreplaceable face-to-face visits with those you care about. Psych Central explained:19

It is often difficult, if not impossible, on social media to reveal the qualities that define deep, intimate relationships. While our social media friends offer us a great deal, it is not a true substitute or even supplement for real-life interactions with others. Social support can be a strong predictor of positive mental health. Emotional support has been shown to protect us from a wide array of both psychiatric and physical ailments.

But unlike online friendships, real-life relationships take time and effort. They help us learn about others and ultimately ourselves. Online friendships, while certainly valuable in many ways, lack the ability to provide us with opportunities for deep and lasting emotional closeness. So accept and seek out your online friends, rekindle lost connections, and revisit childhood friendships, as long as it is not at the expense of nurturing and deepening your real-life relationships.”


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By Dr. Mercola

Many Americans are aware that the processed foods lining grocery store shelves contain a variety of food additives. But most probably assume those additives have been tested for safety and approved for use in food by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

This isn't actually the case, however. While food manufacturers can submit new additives to the FDA for review, the process takes an average of two years… and some ingredients aren't approved for decades.

Food manufacturers are in the business of bringing new foods to the market, and fast, so rather than wait for a review process that's described as a "highway that is constantly gridlocked," many turn to the much less obstructed "GRAS pathway."1

The GRAS Loophole That Allows Food Manufacturers to Add Practically Anything to Your Food

GRAS, or generally recognized as safe, is a loophole created in 1958. At the time, the first law regulating food additives had just been put into place, which required food companies to submit new ingredients to the FDA for review.

Congress didn't want the FDA to waste time reviewing common staple ingredients like table salt and vinegar, so they added the loophole that companies could prove certain ingredients to be GRAS, with no FDA review required.

However, since the 1950s the number of food additives has grown from about 800 to more than 10,000. We're not talking only about simple natural ingredients like vinegar and table salt anymore, but countless chemical concoctions that are putting Americans' health at risk.

There's lupin (sometimes spelled "lupine"), for example, which was rejected by the FDA when an Australia company wanted to add it to bread, pasta, and cereal. The ingredient is made from a peanut-related legume, and therefore could cause life-threatening allergic reactions in people with peanut allergies.

While lupin must be labeled as a major food allergen in Europe, some companies are using it in US foods with no warning for people with peanut allergies. Another example are meatless "Quorn" products, which contain a GRAS fungus-based ingredient called mycoprotein.

One young boy with a mold allergy died after eating a Quorn "burger," as the product has no label warning of the fungus-based ingredient on the package. Even synthetic trans fats, which are strongly linked to heart disease and other chronic diseases, were long considered GRAS and became a mainstay of processed foods for decades.

It was only in June 2015 that the FDA finally revoked trans fats' GRAS status. Laura MacCleery, an attorney with the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer advocacy group, told the Center for Public Integrity:2

"It's really clear that we have no basis to make almost any conclusions about the safety of the current food supply… We don't know what people are eating."

Food Companies Use the Same 'Handful' of Scientists to Deem Ingredients GRAS

One of the most alarming problems with the GRAS loophole is that food companies are tasked with determining such status for their own ingredients.

So a company can simply hire an industry insider to evaluate the chemical, and if that individual determines the chemical meets federal safety standards, it can be deemed GRAS.

A Center for Public Integrity analysis of publicly available data found that food companies rely on a limited number of scientists again and again to make such determinations. Several of the "regulars" even have ties to the tobacco industry. According to the Center for Public Integrity:3

"Food companies repeatedly turn to a handful of scientists to determine whether new food additives can be deemed 'generally recognized as safe,' and avoid a rigorous pre-market government safety review."

Once an additive is granted GRAS status by the hired panel, the company doesn't even need to inform the FDA that the ingredient is used, and no independent third-party objective evaluation is ever required.

According to CSPI, at least 1,000 ingredients are added to US foods that the FDA has no knowledge of.4

As if that's not bad enough, if a company does choose to notify the FDA, and the FDA disagrees with the company's determination that the item is GRAS, the company can simply withdraw its GRAS notification and go ahead and use it anyway, as if no questions were ever raised.

This legal loophole allows food manufacturers to market novel chemicals in their products based on nothing but their own safety studies and their own safety assessments — the results of which can be kept a secret.

Food Additive Safety Process Is 'Illegal'

In 2011, the FDA re-opened the public comment period for proposed rules governing the GRAS system. Earlier this year, CSPI filed an 80-page comment that calls the FDA's process for overseeing food additives "illegal."

The comment, which was co-signed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Consumers Union, and the Environmental Working Group, notes the process is secretive and "undermines FDA's ability to conduct meaningful scientific assessments of the safety of food additives."5 According to the CSPI:6

"That law acknowledged that the FDA need not require pre-market testing of substances that had long been used in foods or that were well-recognized as safe by scientists…

But in a rulemaking opened by the agency in 1997 — but never finalized — FDA weakened the standards for what could be considered GRAS and proposed making permanent what the groups say is an illegal program of GRAS determinations by the food industry, often done in secret...

'The FDA must provide better oversight over all of the substances that are put in our food, especially those whose safety is in question,' said EWG Research Director Renee Sharp.

'Any safety determination should be based on publicly available scientific data, not the opinions of 'expert panels' that likely have conflicts of interest with food additive regulation.'"

In the comment, CSPI proposed the FDA limit which ingredients can bypass agency review, minimize conflicts of interest for scientists, and improve the quality and quantity of scientific data to back up safety decisions.7

Phosphates: Another Potentially Dangerous GRAS Additive

Phosphorus-based food additives known as phosphates are used to enhance flavor and moistness in a variety of processed foods, including deli meats, frozen food, cereal, cheese, baked goods, soda, and more.

It's estimated that up to 45 percent of grocery store items may contain phosphates, which have been granted GRAS status. In people with kidney disease, however, phosphates can be dangerous as they build up in your body and may lead to hormonal changes, bone problems, heart disease, and an increased risk of death.

There's also concern the additives may pose a risk to healthy adults, in part because there are so many phosphates in processed foods that many Americans are eating too much.

Alex Chang, MD, a clinical investigator and nephrologist with the Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania, told Medicine Net that one-third of Americans eat twice as much phosphorus as is recommended (700 milligrams is the recommended daily allowance).8

A study he co-authored further revealed that higher levels of phosphates are linked to more premature deaths among healthy adults. In 2014, the National Kidney Foundation asked the FDA to require food manufacturers to list the amount of phosphorus on nutrition labels.

The European Food Safety Authority is also currently reevaluating adding phosphates to food, but the results of their study aren't expected until the end of 2018. If you'd like to avoid phosphates in your diet, keep in mind that it may be listed as simply "phosphate" or as part of a longer ingredient, such as "sodium tripolyphosphate." Mona Calvo, an expert at the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, further noted:9

"There is accumulating evidence that both the high intakes [of phosphates] and the poor balance of intake with other nutrients may place individuals at risk of kidney disease, bone loss, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic health conditions."

Your Favorite Processed Foods Broken Down into Additives…

Have you ever wondered what you're really eating when you bite into a Twinkie or a Cool Ranch Dorito? Photographer Dwight Eschliman and writer Steve Ettlinger show you in their book Ingredients: A Visual Exploration of 75 Additives & 25 Food Products.

Leafing through the book, you'll get the feeling you're looking at a collection of science experiments, what with the displays of white and colored powders, clear liquids, and an occasional smattering of diced chicken, carrots, or corn. What you're really seeing are photographs of processed foods, deconstructed into their various food additive components. Ettlinger explained:10

"When you bake a cake or make some commercial food product by the millions in a large factory with industrial machinery and ship it around the country, where it sits on store shelves for weeks, you might add something to a batter to make it easier to pump through hoses. You might add something to keep the bubbles in a batter from getting crushed at the bottom of an enormous kettle.

You might add something to keep the final product from losing moisture or flavor in storage or so it doesn't collapse during transit. You might add something or use special ingredients so it doesn't spoil quickly. In short, you use food additives to achieve the scaled-up goals that the home cook addresses quite differently."

The book is not meant to expose the health risks of food additives. Although they're organized into categories of neutral, negative, and positive, they appear generous in some of their categories (monosodium glutamate, or MSG, for instance, was initially placed in the negative category but was later moved). However, what it does provide is a glimpse into what you're really putting into your body when you choose processed foods. If you look at the photos (Mother Jones compiled a few of them here), you'll see it can hardly be recognized as "food" at all…

Why Risk Your Health with Processed Foods?

Most questionable food additives won't poison you on the spot. But research shows even small amounts of chemicals found in the food supply can amplify each other's adverse effects when combined, and some processed foods can contain a cocktail of hundreds of chemicals.11 No one knows what these exposures do over a lifetime, although some food additives (like propylparaben) are known endocrine disrupters.

When exposure occurs during critical times of development, both before and after birth for children, for instance, it can affect development of your child's reproductive, neurological, and immune systems, and this may have far-reaching effects over the course of their life.

Even aside from the additives, a processed food diet sets the stage for obesity and any number of chronic health issues. In fact, many of the top diseases plaguing the United States are diet-related, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. The answer to these health problems lies not in a pill, but in what you eat every day.

When it comes to staying healthy, avoiding processed foods and replacing them with fresh, whole foods is the "secret" you've been looking for. This might sound daunting, but if you take it step-by-step as described in my nutrition plan it's quite possible, and manageable, to painlessly remove processed foods from your diet.

Remember, people have thrived on vegetables, meats, eggs, fruits, and other whole foods for centuries, while processed foods were only recently invented. Many of the top executives and scientists at leading processed-food companies actually avoid their own foods for a variety of health reasons!

I believe you, too, should spend 90 percent of your food budget on whole foods, and only 10 percent on processed foods (unfortunately most Americans currently do the opposite). This requires that you plan your meals in advance. Ideally, this will involve scouting out your local farmer's markets for in-season produce that is priced to sell and planning your meals accordingly, but you can also use this same premise with supermarket sales.

You can generally plan a week of meals at a time, make sure you have all ingredients necessary on hand, and then do any prep work you can ahead of time so that dinner is easy to prepare if you're short on time in the evenings (and you can use leftovers for lunches the next day).

Processed foods are addictive, so if cravings are a problem for you please see my article on "How to Eliminate Junk Food Cravings." One of the most effective strategies to eliminate sugar cravings is intermittent fasting, along with diet modifications that effectively help reset your body's metabolism to burn fat instead of sugar as its primary fuel.

If your carb cravings are linked to an emotional challenge, a psychological acupressure technique called the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) can rapidly help you control your emotional food cravings. If you're currently sustaining yourself on fast food and processed foods, cutting them from your diet is one of the most positive life changes you could ever make.


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By Dr. Mercola

Conflicts of interest are nothing new, but these days they have become more or less routine — an integral part of how entire industries operate.

The industries making the heaviest use of the "third-party approach," in which front groups, academics, and "independent" researchers are used to promote an agenda, tend to be industries that are more inherently harmful to the public.

Notorious examples include the tobacco, chemical, food additives, and biotechnology industries.

A previous article1 in Take Part lists nine industry-funded groups that promote an industry's selfish agenda, even though you'd be hard-pressed to realize it based on names like Center for Food Integrity, and the US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance.

Monsanto, lobbies for and shapes public opinion through an entire network of front groups, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the American Council on Science and Health, and the Center for Consumer Freedom, just to name a few.

Kevin Folta — Poster Boy for Industry-Funded Third-Party Experts

One of the most recent conflict-of-interest scandals involving Monsanto and University of Florida professor Kevin Folta, a vocal advocate of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), was recently highlighted by Nature2 and The New York Times.3,4

Folta, who has vehemently denied ever receiving any money from Monsanto, was caught having been less than forthright about his connections to the company when his email correspondence was released in response to a freedom of information (FOIA) request by US Right to Know.5

In August of last year, Folta did in fact receive a $25,000 unrestricted grant from Monsanto, and Folta wrote back to a Monsanto executive saying: "I am grateful for this opportunity and promise a solid return on the investment."

However, despite a rare flurry of media attention, none of the mainstream media outlets have addressed the most flagrant piece of evidence against Folta, showing that not only did he solicit these funds from Monsanto, he appeared to do so with intent to hide the financial connection between them.

Keith Kloor, who initially broke the story about Folta’s connections to Monsanto in Nature,6 may in fact have been trying to soften the scandal.

As revealed by US Right to Know,7 Kloor is looked upon as an ally of Monsanto’s propaganda machine, and it appears Folta or the University of Florida were the ones who released the emails to Kloor in the first place, likely as a form of media preemption.

They probably did so because they knew it would soften the blow to have an industry advocate break the story.

The New York Times8 posted a long list of emails between Folta and Monsanto, obtained through the FOIA request. I encourage you to read these emails to see for yourself how Monsanto's PR firms use "independent" scientists to further the industry's version of science.

Folta's Emails Show Intent to Hide Financial Ties to Monsanto

In a July 15, 2014 email9 to Keith Reding,10 the Biotech Regulatory Policy Lead at Monsanto, Folta writes:

"Keith, this is a real winner. It will take a huge amount of time, but I think it will have a lot of impact... Thank you for this opportunity. It was a good time to think about how to solve the problem and devise a clever solution."

To solve the "biotech communications problem," Folta lays out a three-tiered program that includes training the trainers, engaging the public, and on-campus training at the University of Florida.

The total budget proposed by Folta for the implementation of this pro-industry agenda was $25,000 — a budget that was indeed approved.

However, while his public defense for his lack of transparency has been spun in a number of ways, no one has pinned him down on the following point: Why did he propose the funds be given in such a way as to remain UNDISCLOSED?

The very last paragraph in his proposal for this program (page 104 in the emails published by The New York Times), Folta writes:

"The total budget is $25,000. If funded directly to the program as a SHARE contribution (essentially unrestricted funds) it is not subject to IDC and is not in a 'conflict-of-interest' account.

In other words, SHARE contributions are not publicly noted. This eliminates the potential concern of the funding organization influencing the message."

Financial Ties Are Hidden to Hide Message Source

That last paragraph clearly shows that Folta is the one offering the suggestion to hide the funds. He had no intention of disclosing his financial ties to Monsanto. It would appear he purposely solicited the funds with intent to hide the source.

While it may not legally qualify as money laundering, the effect is essentially the same. This email shows how the shell game works, and it reveals a disturbing reality: simply by moving money around via certain channels, it allows the "third-party" to appear as independent and not funded by industry.

It reminds me a bit of the situation with the Grocery Manufacturers Association,11 which in 2013 was sued by Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson for money laundering after it illegally collected and spent more than $7 million in donations from its members to fight GMO labeling in Washington, all while hiding the identity of its big business contributors.

Folta's incriminating email needs to be addressed and answered, because it shows a premeditated attempt to hide a financial contribution from the industry.

Why hide it at all? Because everyone knows that with the money comes influence. Folta himself promised a "return on investment" in writing.

The influence of the funding source is not an assumption — it's been scientifically investigated, and studies show that "gifts" from drug companies indeed influence the prescribing behavior of physicians, for example. And this influence was generated on amounts far smaller than Folta's grant.  The benefits of industry relationships in science are quite similar to those in politics.

Studies have also shown that the funding source has a significant influence on the outcome of research.

Not only did Folta tell Monsanto12 he would "write whatever you like," he also apparently used the answers written by Monsanto's PR firm Ketchum to answer questions posed on the GMO Answers website, in which he was featured as a non-biased independent scientist.

Nature,13 which broke the Folta story, made it seem as though he'd ignored the canned answers provided for him by Ketchum. However, according to The New York Times,14 Folta often did use the Ketchum's answers, nearly verbatim, noting he now says that doing so was "a mistake," and "absolutely not the right thing."

As noted by The New York Times, "... the emails show how academics have shifted from researchers to actors in lobbying and corporate public relations campaigns."

Indeed, Folta's emails show that industry moguls like Monsanto can (and do) dump money into public universities without ever having to disclose it. And scientists are in on the game, allowing and even recommending the money be "laundered" in such a way as to keep the fake veil of "independence" needed to maintain public trust.

Mainstream Media Finally Taking Notice of the Problem

The undisclosed recruitment of academics and scientists from universities such as Harvard, Cornell, the University of Florida, Penn State, and others is finally starting to gain some serious attention by the media, with critical articles being published not just by the New York Times, but also by Bloomberg,15 Chicago Tribune,16 The StarPhoenix,17 and The Boston Globe.18

"The company's role isn't noted in the series of articles published in December by the Genetic Literacy Project, a nonprofit group that says its mission is 'to disentangle science from ideology.' The group said that such a disclosure isn't necessary because the the company didn't pay the authors and wasn't involved in writing or editing the articles," Bloomberg writes.

As reported by both Bloomberg and Mother Jones19 — the latter of which includes an informative summary of the released emails so far — two years ago Monsanto's head of strategic engagement, Eric Sachs, asked a number of scientists to write a series of "policy briefs" relating to biotechnology. The topics were chosen based on "their influence on public policy, GM crop regulation, and consumer acceptance." According to one of Monsanto's emails:

"The key to success is participation by all of you - recognized leaders with the knowledge, reputation, and communication experience needed to communicate authoritatively with the target groups."

Less than a year later, the Genetic Literacy Project's website ran a series of articles that, according to Mother Jones "look remarkably like the ones proposed by Sachs, though no involvement with Monsanto is disclosed in any of them." The articles in question were written by Kevin Folta, Anthony Shelton, an entomologist and professor at Cornell; Calestous Juma, a professor at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government; Peter W.B. Phillips, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan; and David Shaw, chief research officer at Mississippi State University.

Undisclosed Recruitment of Scientists Suggests Monsanto Cannot Defend Its Own Science

As in Folta's case, email exchanges suggest that the papers ultimately penned by these academics were less than independently conceived... As noted by The Boston Globe:20

"A Harvard Kennedy School professor wrote a widely disseminated policy paper last year in support of genetically modified organisms at the behest of seed giant Monsanto, without disclosing his connection, e-mails show. Monsanto not only suggested the topic to professor Calestous Juma. It went so far as to provide a summary of what the paper could say and a suggested headline. The company then connected the professor with a marketing company to pump it out over the Internet as part of Monsanto's strategy to win over the public and lawmakers..."

Like Folta, Juma defends his actions saying he was not paid by Monsanto, and that he used material from a book he wrote on the topic of his article. Yet one has to ask, if these scientists are indeed independent experts, why are they being spoon-fed by Monsanto and their PR machines? It just doesn't look good, and it's really difficult to defend your independence when you've been given exact parameters to follow by a company's public relations outfit...

In response to these findings, Bloomberg quotes Scott Faber, executive director of Just Label It as saying:

"It says something that Monsanto can't defend the safety of their own products, that they have to resort to hiring a PR consultant and get academics to spin the science."

And, as noted by The StarPhoenix:21

"[Gary] Ruskin, whose group [US Right to Know] accessed thousands of pages of emails and other documents linking the scientists and Monsanto, said North Americans should be able to trust their top university scientists, and that's not possible when significant connections to corporations such as Monsanto are not disclosed."

The Questionable History of Monsanto's PR Firm Ketchum

In one email,22 Folta refers to Monsanto's PR firm Ketchum as his "friends." But Ketchum is a PR group with a questionable history; they're not exactly the people you want partnered with university academics teaching your kids. According to Ketchum, it was hired by the Council for Biotechnology Information (a biotech front group) to improve GMOs' public image and "balance" the online conversation.

US Right to Know previously called attention to a video ad in which the firm spoke about doubling positive GMO coverage using online social media monitoring — a tactic that smacks of internet "sockpuppets" — fake internet personas who interject themselves into social media conversations to steer the debate.

Ketchum also created the GMO Answers website, in which professors at public universities (including Folta) answer GMO questions from the public — supposedly without remuneration from the industry, although the email exchanges between Ketchum and Folta reveal the firm supplies prewritten answers to the questions they ask these "independent experts" to address.

In 2008, Mother Jones23 implicated Ketchum in an espionage effort against nonprofit organizations, including the Center for Food Safety and Friends of the Earth, and in 2010 Greenpeace sued the firm "for hiring former executives at a private security firm to spy on the environmental group from 1998 to 2000, and to perform a range of 'clandestine and unlawful' actions, including trespassing and stealing documents, in order to undermine the group's anti-pollution efforts against the chemical industry," Telesur TV reports.24

Ketchum is also a "disaster PR expert" that does work for a number of politicians and world leaders with image problems, including Russian President Vladimir Putin,25 as well as corrupt governments around the world. As recently reported by Telesur TV:26

"The Honduran government will pay controversial U.S.-based public relations firm Ketchum close to US$500,000 over the next year to give its embattled government a makeover after a multimillion-dollar corruption scandal sparked months of popular protests calling for the president's resignation. Ketchum will provide crisis management and reputation improvement services and report to President Juan Hernandez's sister Hilda Hernandez, who currently serves as Honduras' minister of strategy communications..."

FP1 Strategies — Monsanto PR Firm Lobbying to Put an End to GMO Labeling Efforts

FP1 Strategies — another Monsanto PR firm — was co-founded by Danny Diaz, who was recently brought on to manage Jeb Bush's presidential bid. One of Diaz's previous victories include a successful campaign to prevent the restriction of over-the-counter sale of cough medicine used in meth labs.27

The firm has also been accused of using sneaky tactics against farm workers pushing for wage increases. FP1 is involved in the Grocery Manufacturers Association's (GMA) lobbying efforts for the Pompeo bill, HR 1599, which preempts states' rights to create their own GMO food labeling laws.

Efforts to Educate Senators About the DARK Act Appears to Be Working

With regards to HR 1599, congratulations are in order, although we're certainly not out of the woods yet. In previous articles, I've urged you to speak to your Senators about HR 1599, and your donations have also allowed the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) to travel across the country to meet with Senators about the contents of this horrendous bill.

Not only does Pompeo's bill bar states from introducing their own GMO labeling, it also preempts the FDA or any other federal agency from requiring labels on GMO foods. It even goes so far as to preventing the FDA from allowing voluntary GMO labeling!  This bill has all the bases covered to make sure you will not know if and when a food is genetically engineered.

All of this outreach has been effective, as a Senate bill has not yet been introduced. However, as OCA pointed out in a recent newsletter, the absence of a Senate bill is not going to stop Monsanto, and this is not the time to sit back and take a breather. You can bet the industry, spearheaded by the GMA, will come out swinging.   A hearing will take place in the Agriculture Committee on October 21 - please make an effort to contact your senator.

Folta's Irresponsible Defense of Roundup

In addition to being pro-GMO in general, Kevin Folta is also a staunch defender of Monsanto's flagship product Roundup. The active ingredient in Roundup is glyphosate, which in late March was reclassified as a "probable human carcinogen" by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a division of the World Health Organization (WHO).

For a review of the published studies28 questioning the safety of glyphosate in terms of its effects on human and animal health, check out this compilation by Dr. Alex Vasquez, containing 220-pages' worth of research. Recent follow-up research29,30 by Gilles-Éric Séralini — whose initial lifetime feeding study revealed massive tumor growth and early death — shows that long-term exposure to even ultra-low amounts of Roundup may cause tumors, along with liver and kidney damage in rats. Another heavily referenced 80-page report31 is "Banishing Glyphosate," authored by Drs. Eva Sirinathsinghji and Mae-Wan Ho.

Despite such well-documented concerns, Folta claims to have demonstrated glyphosate's harmlessness by drinking it, apparently more than once, judging by his Twitter posts.32 There are no photos or videos of these stunts however, so there's no telling if he actually did so, or how much of this registered poison he may have imbibed.

But regardless of the purity of his intentions, there's no scientific basis for drinking Roundup, and it's hard to imagine that a university professor charged with teaching students about safe handling of pesticides would actually do something that irresponsible. Glyphosate alone has been scientifically demonstrated to be toxic and Roundup even more so, courtesy of the synergistic chemical interactions with surfactants and other additives. Drinking a registered poison to "prove" harmlessness is a stunt — it's clearly NOT a scientific way to prove safety in an educational setting.

Should You Be Concerned About Corporate Influence Over University Research?

In the end, the case of Kevin Folta has brought to the fore the problems inherent with allowing corporations to influence public land-grant universities. These concerns are laid out in some detail in a Food and Water Watch report33 titled, "Public Research, Private Gain." Land-grant universities first came about in 1862, at which time they revolutionized agriculture by devising improved seeds, hybrid plant varieties, and scientific breakthroughs that bolstered productivity. They initially partnered with farmers, and the research generally improved both food safety and availability.

Back then, the innovations coming out of these research facilities were primarily funded by public investments. That changed when, in the 1980s, federal policies began to encourage land-grant universities to partner with private corporations to further agricultural research. The patented seed business is an outgrowth of the research performed at these institutions in partnership with the private sector. As noted in this report:

"By 2010, private donations provided nearly a quarter of the funding for agricultural research at land-grant universities. This funding steers land-grant research toward the goals of industry. It also discourages independent research that might be critical of the industrial model of agriculture, and diverts public research capacity away from important issues such as rural economies, environmental quality, and the public health implications of agriculture.

Private-sector funding not only corrupts the public research mission of land-grant universities, but also distorts the science that is supposed to help farmers improve their practices and livelihoods. Industry funded academic research routinely produces favorable results for industry sponsors...

Congress should restore the public agricultural research mission at land-grant schools... Reprioritizing research at land-grant universities... could play a vital role in developing the science and solutions needed to create a viable alternative to our industrialized, consolidated food system."

Labeling GMOs Is Necessary to Protect Public Health

The food industry has spent $51.6 million on a series of efforts to defeat GMO labeling laws,34 including lobbing for HR 1599, which would bar states from implementing their own GMO labeling laws. As of July 21, Monsanto alone had spent $2.5 million lobbying Congress.35 International trade agreements also threaten to restrict transparency about food — how it's produced, and where it comes from.

Why are these industries spending so much money and going to such great lengths to eliminate transparency about toxic exposures and potentially harmful substances in our food supply? Could it be because they realize how bad the situation really is, and that if public knowledge continues to grow, they won't be able to continue running business as usual?

Anyone who has taken the time to look at the available information on GMOs, Roundup, and other pesticides, and the damaging effects of modern industrialized agriculture as a whole will recognize that the situation is unsustainable and nearing a breaking point — both in terms of environmental harm and public health. We need to turn this situation around, and at the present moment, the most urgent action item is still to make sure our US Senators reject HR 1599, so that efforts to label GE foods can move forward.

Related Articles:

  Decade-Long Feeding Study Reveals Significant Health Hazards of Genetically Engineered Foods

  Toxic Industrial Standards Are No Longer Invincible

  Toxicology Expert Speaks Out About Roundup and GMOs

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By Dr. Mercola

In 2015, most people would raise an eyebrow, and maybe even protest, if a cigarette company like Philip Morris (which created brands like Marlboro) was funding research by a public health organization like, say, the American Lung Association.

The potential conflict is obvious, as organizations receiving large sums of money from a corporation could have their opinions, and, yes, even their research swayed to suit the needs of their corporate funders.

Yet, this type of blatant, you might say, pay off, occurs all the time in 2015, only it’s no longer the tobacco industry that’s doing all the funding. Nowadays, that title goes to many different players in the pesticide, pharmaceutical, food, and beverage industries, including what is considered by many to be an American icon – Coca-Cola.

Coca-Cola Wants to Blame Obesity on Virtually Anything Other Than Soda

As the world’s largest producer of sugary beverages, Coca-Cola has quite strong motivation to keep soda in Americans’ good graces. Yet the research is becoming too abundant to ignore.

UCLA researchers found, for instance, that adults who drank at least one sugar-sweetened beverage a day are 27 percent more likely to be overweight or obese.1 Even those who only drank soda occasionally had a 15 percent greater risk, and a growing number of studies have linked rising childhood obesity rates to increased consumption of sugary beverages as well.

But the link goes far beyond even obesity. A recent meta-review published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that once you reach 18 percent of your daily calories from added sugar, there's a two-fold increase in metabolic harm that promotes pre-diabetes and diabetes.2

Moreover, research suggests sugary beverages are to blame for about 183,000 deaths worldwide each year, including 133,000 diabetes deaths, 44,000 heart disease deaths, and 6,000 cancer deaths.

Americans are catching on, with nearly two-thirds (63 percent) now saying they actively try to avoid soda in their diet.3 Rates of soda consumption have actually been dropping for decades, and Americans now consume about the same amount they did back in 1986.

Coca-Cola had to do something, but they couldn’t very well tell increasingly health-conscious Americans to drink more soda. So they went at it in a roundabout way instead, funding a front group by the name of The Global Energy Balance Network.

The New York Times broke this story in August 2015, and it turns out Coca-Cola donated $1.5 million in 2014 to start the organization.4 Their message? It’s not what you’re eating and drinking that’s making you fat, it’s a lack of exercise that’s the problem. The Times reported:5

Health experts say this message is misleading and part of an effort by Coke to deflect criticism about the role sugary drinks have played in the spread of obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

They contend that the company is using the new group to convince the public that physical activity can offset a bad diet despite evidence that exercise has only minimal impact on weight compared with what people consume.”

What is perhaps most alarming is that this front group represents only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Coca-Cola trying to infiltrate public health opinions…

Coca-Cola Has Given $120 Million to Academic Health Researchers, Major Medical Groups, and More

In September 2015, Coca-Cola published a detailed list of grants given to organizations since 2010. The move came after Coca-Cola Chief Executive Muhtar Kent made a promise to disclose its partnerships and support for obesity-related research.

Over the past five years alone, Coca-Cola spent nearly $120 million for such grants, bestowing them on health organizations both big and small – “physician groups, university researchers, cancer and diabetes organizations, and public parks, and even a foundation for the National Institutes of Health,” The New York Times reported.6 They continued:7

The detailed list of grants shows the company’s remarkable reach across the United States and beyond. Beneficiaries included a number of medical and health groups.

This includes $3.1 million to the American College of Cardiology, more than $3.5 million to the American Academy of Family Physicians, nearly $3 million to the American Academy of Pediatrics, $2 million to the American Cancer Society, and roughly $1.7 million to the country’s largest organization of dietitians, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Marion Nestle, professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, said she was pleased that Coca-Cola had lived up to its promise to provide greater transparency, but she did not know of another food company so ‘deeply and widely entrenched in so many public organizations.’

‘What I find most remarkable about this list is its length and comprehensiveness,’ said Dr. Nestle, author of the book Soda Politics. ‘No organization, no matter how small, goes unfunded. Any scientist or dietitian who is willing to take Coca-Cola funding gets it.’”

What Happens When a Soda Company Funds Health Research?

Not surprisingly, compared to studies with no financial conflicts of interest, research funded by the beverage and sugar industries are five times more likely to conclude there's "no link" between sugary beverages and weight gain.8 Researchers noted:

“… Our results confirm the hypothesis that authors of systematic reviews may draw their conclusions in ways consistent with their sponsors' interests."

So while Sandy Douglas, the president of Coca-Cola North America, told The New York Times that their financial support of “well-respected experts, institutions, and organizations” was made “with the best of intentions,” it’s clear they could be getting quite a return on their investment. Otherwise, why else would they do it?

And it’s not only research institutions that Coca-Cola has infiltrated. They also donated more than $6 million to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and hundreds of thousands of dollars to the N.A.A.C.P. and the Hispanic Federation.

The latter two “repaid” the company by supporting a beverage-industry lawsuit in 2013 that blocked former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempt to ban large sugary beverages from the city.9

It’s obvious how Coca-Cola stands to benefit from such relationships, but even with a scarcity of available funding for research and advocacy, it’s surprising that "credible" public health organizations would want to get tied up with this proverbial smoking gun. As Yoni Freedhoff, an obesity expert at the University of Ottawa, told The New York Times:10

“These organizations are forming partnerships with a company whose products are absolutely thought to be a major player in obesity and the spread of chronic, noncommunicable diseases…

Why in this day and age would a public health organization create even the possibility for there to be influence that might affect their ability to champion and promote public health?”

Diet Soda Drinkers More Likely to Eat Unhealthy Foods

Coca-Cola is no stranger to sugarcoating the truth. One of their ongoing strategies to appear like they care about your health is to promote their diet beverages as a healthy alternative. In 2013, they rolled out an ad campaign encouraging people to unite in the fight against obesity, and then swiftly launched another campaign touting aspartame in its diet sodas.

According to the ad, aspartame is a “safe, high-quality alternative to sugar." Clearly they’ve not reviewed the hundreds of studies on this artificial sweetener demonstrating its harmful effects... or the risks of consuming diet sodas in general, which include weight gain.

In one study, people who drank diet soda had a 70 percent greater increase in waist size in a 10-year period compared to non-diet soda drinkers. Those who drank two or more diet sodas a day had a 500 percent greater increase in waist size.

Research published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics also revealed that people who drink diet beverages may end up compensating for their “saved” calories by eating more foods high in sugar, sodium, and unhealthy fats.11 Obese adults had the highest incremental daily calorie intake from unhealthy foods associated with diet beverages. Researcher Ruopeng An, a Kinesiology and Community Health professor at the University of Illinois, noted:12

"It may be that people who consume diet beverages feel justified in eating more, so they reach for a muffin or a bag of chips… Or perhaps, in order to feel satisfied, they feel compelled to eat more of these high-calorie foods."

For more on the detrimental effects of diet sodas, including in relation to weight gain, check out our infographic below.

Residents of Which US States Drink the Most Soda?

While soda consumption in the US has seen an overall downward trend, many Americans are still drinking too much. In 18 states overall, more than 26 percent of US adults drink soda or other sweetened beverages at least once daily. Many of the states with the highest soda consumption are one in the same as those with the highest sugar consumption, and many also have higher rates of obesity and other unhealthy habits, such as eating fewer fruits and vegetables.

The top soda states also tended to have lower than average median household income and lower levels of higher education compared to the national average. To determine the five US states with the highest sugar and sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, 24/7 Wall St. used data from the CDC's "Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption Among Adults — 18 States, 2012" report published in August 2014.13 They include:14

1. Mississippi

  • Pct. consuming soda and/or fruit drinks daily: 41.4 percent
  • Obesity rate: 35.1 percent
  • Pct. consuming vegetables less than daily: 23.2 percent
  • Median household income: $37,963

2. Tennessee

  • Pct. consuming soda and/or fruit drinks daily: 39.2 percent
  • Obesity rate: 33.7 percent
  • Pct. consuming vegetables less than daily: 26.8 percent
  • Median household income: $44,297

3. Nevada

  • Pct. consuming soda and/or fruit drinks daily: 36.3 percent
  • Obesity rate: 26.2 percent
  • Pct. consuming vegetables less than daily: 24.4 percent
  • Median household income: $51,230

4. Oklahoma

  • Pct. consuming soda and/or fruit drinks daily: 34.5 percent
  • Obesity rate: 32.5 percent
  • Pct. consuming vegetables less than daily: 25.4 percent
  • Median household income: $45,690

5. Georgia

  • Pct. consuming soda and/or fruit drinks daily: 33.1 percent
  • Obesity rate: 30.3 percent
  • Pct. consuming vegetables less than daily: 32.3 v
  • Median household income: $47,829

Are You Trying to Cut Out Soda?

In order to break free of your soda habit, first be sure you address the emotional component of your food cravings using tools such as the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). More than any traditional or alternative method I have used or researched, EFT works to overcome food cravings and helps you reach dietary success. Be sure to check out Turbo Tapping in particular, which is an extremely effective and simple tool to get rid of your soda addiction in a short amount of time.

If you still have cravings after trying EFT or Turbo Tapping, you may need to make some changes to your diet. My free nutrition plan can help you do this in a step-by-step fashion. Remember, nothing beats pure water when it comes to serving your body's needs. If you feel the urge for a carbonated beverage, try sparkling mineral water with a squirt of lime or lemon juice, or sweetened with stevia or Luo Han, both of which are safe natural sweeteners. Remember, if you struggle with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or extra weight, then you have insulin sensitivity issues and would likely benefit from avoiding ALL sweeteners.

Tell Coke They're a Joke!

Obesity is a serious public health problem in the US, and you are being sorely misled by companies pretending to have a solution that, in reality, only worsen the problem. I strongly urge you to let the Coca-Cola Company know how you feel by telling them to stop their deceptive marketing of soda products. Join me in taking a stand against false advertising and let your voice be heard. If you’re on Twitter, send a tweet to #CokeCEO to let Coca-Cola know you disapprove of their deceptive advertising. If you’re on Facebook, please share your thoughts with them on their Facebook Page.

You can also e-mail Coca-Cola to let them know how you feel about their strategy for fighting obesity — which does not include giving up soda and other sugary beverages. Already, in response to growing criticism, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent has issued a public apology, acknowledging that the company’s approach was “poorly planned.”15 But Coca-Cola’s campaign was hardly the result of poor planning! It was about disseminating poor science and perpetuating misleading information in order to deceive you about the influence of soda on your weight — a Big JOKE!

Coca-Cola also says “the way we have engaged the public health and scientific communities… is not working.” But this is not about engaging public health and scientific communities. It’s about trying to defend the indefensible using plain old bad/misleading information — a Big JOKE! Coke even has a “work it out calculator”16 that supposedly tells you how much you have to exercise to burn off your favorite beverage, but look at the numbers for Diet Coke...

According to them, you don’t have to spend a single minute exercising if you drink diet soda, yet overwhelming amounts of research shows artificially sweetened beverages promote weight gain to the same degree or more as regularly sweetened beverages — a Big JOKE!

Coke Is A Big JokeCoke Is A Big Joke


Related Articles:

  Coca-Cola Front Group Aims to Confuse You About Soda’s Influence on Obesity

  Coca-Cola Rolling Out New Misinformation Campaign to 'Combat Obesity'

  Why Coke Is a Joke — New Ad Campaign Defends Aspartame

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