By Dr. Mercola
Apples are rich in phenolic compounds called polyphenols, which play a role in the color, flavor and nutritional quality of the fruit. They’re also the reason why apples turn brown soon after you cut them.
Phenolic compounds are located in the vacuoles of plant cells, while an enzyme known as polyphenol oxidase (PPO) is located in cell structures called plastids. When you cut the apple, the damage from the cut allows contact between PPO and phenolic compounds, which triggers a reaction known as enzymatic browning.1
Cutting an apple exposes the cells to oxygen, which allows the PPO enzymes to rapidly oxidize the phenolic compounds in the apple tissues into ortho-quinones (o-quinones). O-quinones form a natural antiseptic that helps protect the apple from bacteria and fungi.
While o-quinones have no color, they react with oxygen and amino acids to produce melanin, which turns the apple brown. Put another way by a study published in the journal HortScience:2
“The enzymatic browning is a consequence of the oxidation of polyphenols to their corresponding quinones by PPO. These quinones are then polymerized with other quinones or phenolics, originating brown pigments.”
Many Factors Affect How Fast an Apple Browns
An apple’s PPO level and phenolic compound concentration, and thus its propensity for browning, varies between varieties (such as Fuji and Granny Smith) and is also influenced by growing conditions.
Apples with higher levels of phenolic compounds are best for your health, but also tend to brown faster than apples with lower levels. One study suggested that among the apple varieties studied, Fuji is the best for fresh consumption because of its higher phenolic content at harvest time.
However, they suggested a variety known as “Aori27” is best for processing, as it had the lowest PPO activity and the lowest polyphenol content, and therefore the lowest potential for enzymatic browning.3
You’re certainly better off choosing polyphenol-rich apples for your health and using simple methods to stave off browning (if you’re not planning to eat the whole apple at once, that is). Among them:
- Put cut apples in the refrigerator. This will slow down the chemical reactions and oxidation process that leads to browning.
- Spray exposed areas of cut apples with pineapple juice or lemon juice, which will slow enzymatic browning.
- Blanch apples in boiling water for four to five minutes (this should only be used for apples you plan on cooking, as it will affect the texture).
FDA Approved Genetically Engineered (GE) Arctic Apples in 2015
In 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved so-called Arctic Apples, which are genetically engineered to resist browning when sliced or bruised. Developed by Okanagan Specialty Fruits, the apples are engineered to suppress the production of the enzyme that causes browning.
Although the GE apples have been approved for commercial planting, it will be a few years before they’re widely available because the trees first have to be planted and then mature enough to grow fruit.
They will eventually be available in two varieties — Granny Smith and Golden Delicious. To avoid these “Frankenfruits,” choose organic apples. As Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said in a statement:4
“This GMO apple is simply unnecessary … Apple browning is a small cosmetic issue that consumers and the industry have dealt with successfully for generations.”
Apples Are Antioxidant Powerhouses
Berries, pomegranates and other flashier fruits often make headlines for their antioxidant levels, but apples are also a phenomenal source.
Compared to other commonly consumed fruits in the U.S., apples ranked second for highest antioxidant activity. However, they ranked highest for the proportion of free phenolic compounds, which means they are not bound to other compounds in the fruit and therefore may be more easily absorbed into your bloodstream.5
Notably, much of apples’ antioxidant power is contained in the peel, where you’ll find antioxidants like catechin, procyanidins, chlorogenic acid, ploridizin and more. According to the New York Fruit Quarterly:6
“Since apples are so high in antioxidants, it is no surprise that apples, specifically, are associated with a decreased risk of chronic disease.
Three studies have specifically linked apple consumption with a decreased risk for cancer … [and] a study has shown that apple and pear consumption has been associated with a decreased risk of asthma.
Apple consumption has also been associated with a decreased risk of coronary heart disease … [and] a reduced risk of Type II diabetes was associated with apple and berry consumption in another major Finnish study.
Five Major Health Benefits of Apples
It’s said that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, and here are some reasons why:
1. Brain Health: Apples have been found to protect neuron cells against oxidative stress-induced neurotoxicity and may play an important role in reducing the risk of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.7
2. Stroke: Eating apples is linked to a decreased risk of stroke.8
3. Diabetes: Three servings of apples (and other fruits such as blueberries and grapes) are linked to a 7 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes.9 This may be due to their beneficial role in blood sugar regulation, as apples contain compounds that may:10
- Lessen absorption of glucose from your digestive tract
- Stimulate beta cells in your pancreas to secrete insulin
- Increase uptake of glucose from your blood by stimulating insulin receptors
4. Cancer: Apples have a number of properties that may help reduce the risk of cancer, including antimutagenic activity, antioxidant activity, anti-inflammatory mechanisms, antiproliferative and apoptosis-inducing activity, as well as “novel mechanisms on epigenetic events and innate immunity. According to the journal Planta Medica:11
“Apple products have been shown to prevent skin, mammary and colon carcinogenesis in animal models. Epidemiological observations indicate that regular consumption of one or more apples a day may reduce the risk for lung and colon cancer.”
5. Heart Disease: Eating apples is associated with a lower risk of death from heart disease, an association that may be related to their content of antioxidant flavonoids.12
Apples Are Heavily Contaminated With Pesticides: Choose Organic
Apple earned the second highest spot on the Environmental Working Group’s 2016 “Dirty Dozen” list for most pesticide-contaminated fruits and vegetables (only strawberries were more contaminated).13
Further, much of the antioxidant content of an apple is found in its skin, so you’ll want to leave the peel on when you eat it. For this reason, look for organic apples whenever possible to minimize your exposure to pesticides.
If you purchase conventional apples, briefly soaking them in a solution of 10 percent vinegar to 90 percent water may help to remove some pesticides (and bacteria). When it comes to choosing an apple, the Washington State Apple Commission recommends:14
- Choosing an apple with shiny, not dull, skin (dull apples will not be crisp)
- Firm apples free from bruises and punctures
- Refrigerating apples at 32 degrees F to maintain crispness
- Protecting cut apples from browning by dipping them into a solution of one part citrus juice to three parts water
If you’re looking for even more apple facts and nutrition information, be sure to check out our apple food facts page.
The Rise and Fall of the (Once) Red Delicious Apples
What Are the Amazing Health Benefits of Apples?
By Dr. Mercola
Nicolas Daniel’s documentary “Fillet-Oh-Fish” takes a critical look at the fish industry, featuring exclusive footage from fish farms and factories across the globe. Many still have a rather romanticized view of fishing, but when it comes to large-scale food production, the picture is actually rather grim.
Today’s fisheries are faced with a range of severe problems, from overfishing to chemical pollution and genetic mutation from toxic exposures. As noted by the producers of the film, “through intensive farming and global pollution, the flesh of the fish we eat has turned into a deadly chemical cocktail.”1
Despite that, the fish business is booming, in part due to efforts to keep the dirty underbelly of modern fisheries from public sight.
Aquaculture promotes itself as a sustainable solution to overfishing. But in reality, fish farms actually cause more problems than they solve. There’s really little difference, in terms of environmental pollution, between land-based feedlots and water-based ones.
Farmed Salmon — One of the Most Toxic Foods in the World?
The film starts off in Norway, looking at the chemicals used in fish farms. Kurt Oddekalv is a respected Norwegian environmental activist, and he believes salmon farming is a disaster both for the environment and for human health.
Below the salmon farms dotted across the Norwegian fjords, there’s a layer of waste some 15 meters high, teeming with bacteria, drugs, and pesticides. In short, the entire sea floor has been destroyed, and since the farms are located in open water, the pollution from these farms is in no way contained.
A salmon farm can hold upwards of 2 million salmon in a relatively small amount of space. These crowded conditions result in disease, which spreads rapidly among the stressed salmon.
According to Oddekalv, sea lice, Pancreas Disease(PD)2 and Infectious Salmon Anemia Virus (ISA) have spread all across Norway, yet consumers are not informed of these fish pandemics, and sale of these diseased fish continue unabated.
A number of dangerous pesticides are used in an effort to stave off disease-causing pests, one of which is known to have neurotoxic effects. Fish has always been considered a health food, but according to Oddekalv, today’s farmed salmon is one of the most toxic foods in the world!
Toxicology researcher Jerome Ruzzin has confirmed Oddekalv’s claims. He’s tested a number of different food groups sold in Norway for toxins, and indeed, farmed salmon contains the greatest amount of toxins of them all, and by an incredibly large margin.
Overall, farmed salmon is five times more toxic than any other food product tested. In animal feeding studies, mice fed farmed salmon grew obese, with thick layers of fat around their internal organs. They also developed diabetes.
Ruzzin notes that a theory gaining traction is that rising rates of obesity is related to the increasing number of toxins and pollutants we’re exposed to through our environment and food. In light of his own studies, Ruzzin has stopped eating farmed salmon.
Genetic Mutations and Other Crazy Facts
Besides keeping pests like sea lice in check, the pesticides used also affect the fish’s DNA, causing genetic mutations. Disturbing examples of deformed cod are shown in the film.
What’s even more disturbing is that, according to Oddekalv, about 50 percent of farmed cod are deformed in this fashion, and female cod that escape from farms are known to mate with wild cod, spreading the genetic mutations and deformities into the wild population.
Farmed salmon suffer less visible but equally disturbing mutations. The flesh of the farmed salmon is “brittle,” and breaks apart when bent — a highly abnormal feature.
The nutritional content is also wildly abnormal. Wild salmon contains about 5 to 7 percent fat, whereas the farmed variety can contain anywhere from 14.5 to 34 percent.
Many toxins accumulate most readily in fat, which means even when raised in similarly contaminated conditions, farmed salmon will contain far more toxins than wild.
Shockingly, research reveals that the most significant source of toxic exposure is not actually the pesticides or the antibiotics, but the dry pellet feed! Pollutants found in the fish feed include dioxins, PCBs, and a number of different drugs and chemicals.
What Makes the Fish Feed so Toxic?
So what’s wrong with the fish feed? Why is it so toxic? In one Norwegian fish pellet plant, the main ingredient turns out to be eel, used for their high protein and fat content, and other fatty fish from the Baltic Sea.
That’s where the problem begins, as the Baltic is highly polluted. Some of the fish used have toxic levels of pollutants, which then simply get incorporated into the feed pellets.
In Sweden, fish mongers are now required to warn patrons about the potential toxicity of Baltic fish. According to government recommendations, you should not eat fatty fish like herring more than once a week, and if you’re pregnant, fish from the Baltic should be avoided altogether.
Swedish Greenpeace activist Jan Isakson reveals some of the sources of all this pollution. Just outside of Stockholm, there’s a massive paper mill on the bank of the Baltic that generates toxic dioxins.
Nine other industrialized countries surrounding the Baltic Sea also dump their toxic waste into this closed body of water. Dioxins bind to fat, which is why herring, eel, and salmon are particularly vulnerable, and end up accumulating higher amounts than other fish.
As a result of being deemed unfit for human consumption, some of these fatty fish are now primarily used as fish food. In this way, toxicity in the farmed salmon is allowed to build up even higher than in the wild.
One of the Best Kept and Most Dangerous Secrets of the Fish Industry
But there’s yet another problem, and it stems from the manufacturing process of the pellets. The fatty fish are first cooked, resulting in two separate products: protein meal and oil. While the oil has high levels of dioxins and PCBs, the protein powder further adds to the toxicity of the end product.
To the protein powder, they add an “antioxidant” called ethoxyquin. According to the filmmaker, this is one of the best kept secrets of the fish food industry. Ethoxyquin was developed by Monsanto in the 1950s — as a pesticide. Its use is strictly regulated, so why is it being added to fish pellets?
A couple of years ago, a Swiss anti-fraud laboratory was surprised to find extremely high levels of ethoxyquin in farmed fish — some 10 to 20 times higher than the 50 mcg per kilo allowed in food in the European Union — and that discovery began to unravel the secret. Ethoxyquin was designed for use on fruits and vegetables, but the fish feed industry discovered another novel use for it — they add it to the feed to prevent the fats from oxidizing and going rancid.
However, the fish feed manufacturers never informed health authorities of their use of the chemical. As a result, the EU strictly regulates ethoxyquin levels in fruits, vegetables, and meat — there are even standards for kangaroos and reptiles — but not for the fish people consume. What’s more, the effects of this chemical on human health have never been established.
The one and only study ever done on ethoxyquin and human health was a thesis by Victoria Bohne, Ph.D. a former researcher in Norway who made a number of disturbing discoveries, including the fact that ethoxyquin can cross the blood brain barrier, and may have carcinogenic effects. Bohne, as many other researchers who have made unpopular findings, was pressured to leave her research job after attempts were made to falsify and downplay her findings.
Others have linked the secret use of ethoxyquin in Norwegian fish farming, and the lack of scientific investigation into its effects, to the Norwegian Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs, Lisbeth Berg-Hansen, who also happens to be a major shareholder in a commercial salmon farm, and has held many high-ranking positions within the fishing industry.
The Rise of Panga Exploited Fish Consumption
In France, fish consumption has more than doubled in the past five decades, now surpassing consumption of both beef and chicken. To meet demand, fish is being imported from around the globe. Rarely will you find a fish caught off the coast of France. Nearly half of all fish sold in France is raised in fish farms. Lesser known and less expensive species have also been brought to market.
Panga, which is now one of the 10 most consumed fish in France, was relatively unknown a decade ago. Its low price has also made panga a top seller in the school system. The questions asked in the film are, how can this farmed fish be sold at such low prices, and what’s actually in these fish that children are now eating on a regular basis?
The investigation begins in southern Vietnam, where panga is part of the culinary tradition. However, behind this cultural image, there’s a more disturbing reality. Over the past 15 years, panga exports have become a major source of income for the region. In fact, 95 percent of the global production of panga comes from southern Vietnam, and this success has resulted in both environmental and human exploitation.
Farmed panga grow twice to four times as fast compared to those in the wild, allowing them to reach adult size in about six months. The fish are then harvested and processed, which includes washing the fillets in big vats filled with water and polyphosphates — chemical additives that facilitate freezing.
The chemical also allows the fish to soak up water, which artificially increases their weight. After this process, the fish lack both taste and odor, and will take on the flavor of whatever spices you add to it during cooking.
Environmental Pollution Poses Risks
Many panga farms are plagued with disease, courtesy of the polluted waters in which they’re raised. Mekong River, where many panga farms are located, is one of the most heavily polluted rivers in the world. In 2009, the World Wide Fund for Nature placed panga on their “red” list of products that pose a danger to environmental and human health.
Millions of Vietnamese households dump their waste directly into the Mekong River each day. Pesticides used in rice cultivation also migrate into this waterway. Green algae and bacteria release toxins into the water and reduce oxygen levels in the water, which adds further stress on the fish’s immune systems, making them more prone to disease.
To address disease, farmers add industrial quantities of drugs into their fish ponds, including a wide array of antibiotics. The side effect is drug resistance, which forces the farmers to keep increasing the dosages. The panga are not the only thing affected by this strategy, of course. Antibiotics spread through the river systems, are absorbed into the fish’s tissues and excreted through feces, which redistributes the drugs into the environment — and to those who eat the fish.
Are You Eating Fish, or Fish Waste?
Fish can be one of the healthiest foods you can eat, but in the industrial age you have to be ultra careful about choosing the right type of fish. If you needed another reason to avoid processed foods, watch this film to the end, where it describes how fish waste has become a “highly valued commodity” used in processed foods. At less than 15 cents per kilo, these fish heads and tails, and what little meat is left over after filleting, is a real profit maker.
Virtually nothing actually goes to waste anymore. Fish skins are recycled for use in the cosmetics industry. The remainder of the fish waste is washed and ground into a pulp, which is then used in prepared meals and pet food.
Since food manufacturers are not required to tell you their products contain fish pulp rather than actual fish fillet meat, this product offers a high profit margin for food manufacturers. One tipoff: if the product’s list of ingredients includes a fish without specifying that it’s made with fillet of fish, it’s usually made with fish waste pulp.
Fish fraud is also commonplace. Investigations have shown that 1 in 3 fish labels are false or misleading. Typically, an inexpensive fish is mislabeled as a more expensive one. Some farmed fish are also passed off as wild. Since traceability is more complex in the processed food industry, due to the mixing of ingredients, that’s where most of the fish fraud occurs. It’s somewhat more difficult to pass off fillets of fish as another species, although that also occurs.
Best Seafood Options: Wild Alaskan Salmon, Sardines and Anchovies
It’s become quite clear that fish farms are not a viable solution to overfishing. If anything, they’re making matters worse, destroying the marine ecosystem at a far more rapid clip to boot ... So what’s the answer? Unfortunately, the vast majority of fish — even when wild caught — is too contaminated to eat on a frequent basis. Most major waterways in the world are contaminated with mercury, heavy metals, and chemicals like dioxins, PCBs, and other agricultural chemicals that wind up in the environment.
This is why, as a general rule, I no longer recommend getting your omega-3 requirements from fish. However, I do make two exceptions. One is authentic, wild-caught Alaskan sockeye salmon; the nutritional benefits of which I believe still outweigh any potential contamination.
The risk of sockeye accumulating high amounts of mercury and other toxins is reduced because of its short life cycle, which is only about three years. Additionally, bioaccumulation of toxins is also reduced by the fact that it doesn't feed on other, already contaminated, fish.
Alaskan salmon is not allowed to be farmed, and is therefore always wild-caught. My favorite brand is Vital Choice Wild Seafood and Organics, which offers a nice variety of high-quality salmon products that test high for omega-3 fats and low for contaminants. Canned salmon labeled "Alaskan salmon" is a less expensive alternative to salmon fillets.
The second exception is smaller fish with short life cycles, which also tend to be better alternatives in terms of fat content, such as sardines and anchovies, so it's a win-win situation — lower contamination risk and higher nutritional value. A general guideline is that the closer to the bottom of the food chain the fish is, the less contamination it will have accumulated. Just make sure they’re not from the Baltic Sea.
Other good choices include herring and fish roe (caviar), which is full of important phospholipids that nourish mitochondrial membranes.
Are You Trading Your Omega-3s for PCBs with Your Choice of Salmon?
Norway Issues Warnings About Health Dangers of Farmed Salmon
By Dr. Mercola
It's often suggested — in media, movies, and the like — that the more sex you have the happier you'll be. But is this really true? Researchers from Dalhousie University in Canada conducted a series of experiments to find out.
The first study revealed the association between sexual frequency and well-being is only significant for people in relationships. The next two studies involved only those in committed relationships and found the "magic number" to be once per week.1
While having sex more often — four times a week or more — wasn't a bad thing, it didn't lead to additional happiness compared to having sex once a week. For couples who may feel obligated to have sex more often just because they think they should, this study takes off some of the pressure.
Sex Makes People More Satisfied in Their Relationship
The researchers revealed that sex leads to increased happiness among couples because it boosts feelings of satisfaction with the relationship. Postdoctoral researcher and lead author Amy Muise told CNN:2
"For people in relationships, their romantic relationship quality is one of the biggest predictors of their overall happiness … Having sex more than once a week might not be enhancing that (relationship connection), although it is not bad."
That being said, it could also be that couples who have sex once a week or more were happier in their relationships to begin with — the study couldn't distinguish which came first, the sex or the happiness (and maybe it doesn't matter).
Further, there's certainly no rule that states once a week works for everyone. Some couples may thrive on more and some on less. Most often, sex therapist Vanessa Marin suggested that couples would like to have more sex, simply because their busy schedules make it difficult to find the time.
For this, you can try scheduling it into your calendar, although this is also a personal matter. Some people like to plan their intimate time while others prefer spontaneity. Again, there's no right answer — do what works for you and your partner.
If You're Happy With Your Sex Life, There's No Need to Rock the Boat
If you and your partner are both satisfied with sexual frequency, there's no need to change things up. In fact, one study found that when couples were "assigned" to double their frequency of intercourse, it decreased happiness and sexual enjoyment.3 It's likely that doing the deed became more of a "chore" in this case.
As lead study author George Loewenstein, a professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, told CNN, "Being told you should do something always makes it less fun."4
If, however, you're not sure where your "Goldilocks zone" is for sex, why not try an experiment? Try having sex three times a week for a month, then try once a week for a month, and keep adjusting until you find the magic number for you and your partner. It's likely that the number will change from month to month too.
Sex Is Good for You — Really Good
Like letting the sun warm your skin on an early spring day or sinking your teeth into a healthy food you also happen to love, it's always a bonus when something that feels good is good for you — and that's certainly the case with sex.
Beyond the emotional benefits, you can also expect to gain the following benefits from a healthy sex life.
1. Improved Immunity
People who have sex frequently (one or two times a week) have significantly higher levels of immunoglobulin A (IgA).5 Your IgA immune system is your body's first line of defense.
Its job is to fight off invading organisms at their entry points, reducing or even eliminating the need for activation of your body's immune system. This may explain why people who have sex frequently also take fewer sick days.6
2. Heart Health
Men who made love regularly (at least twice a week) were 45 percent less likely to develop heart disease than those who did so once a month or less, according to research published in the American Journal of Cardiology.7
3. Lower Blood Pressure
Sexual activity, and specifically intercourse, is linked to better stress response and lower blood pressure.8
4. It's a Form of Exercise
Sex helps to boost your heart rate, burn calories and strengthen muscles, just like exercise. Research revealed that sex burns about 4 calories a minute for men and 3 for women, making it (at times) a 'significant' form of exercise.9 It can even help you to maintain your flexibility and balance.
5. Pain Relief
Sexual activity releases pain-reducing hormones and has been found to help reduce or block back and leg pain, as well as pain from menstrual cramps, arthritis and headaches.
One study even found that sexual activity can lead to partial or complete relief of headache in some migraine and cluster-headache patients.10
6. May Help Reduce Risk of Prostate Cancer
Research has shown that men who ejaculate at least 21 times a month (during sex or masturbation) have a lower risk of prostate cancer.11 This link needs to be explored further, however, as there may have been additional factors involved in the association.
7. Improve Sleep
After sex, the relaxation-inducing hormone prolactin is released, which may help you to nod off more quickly. The "love hormone" oxytocin, released during orgasm, also promotes sleep, which may be especially beneficial if you prefer to be intimate right before bedtime.
8. Stress Relief
Sex triggers your body to release natural feel-good chemicals, helping to ease stress and boost pleasure, calm and self-esteem. Sexual intercourse also helped people respond better when subjected to stressful situations like speaking in public.12
9. Boost Your Libido
The more often you have sex, the more likely you are to want to keep doing it. There's a mental connection there but also a physical one, particularly for women.
More frequent sex helps to increase vaginal lubrication, blood flow and elasticity,13 which in turn make sexual activity more enjoyable.
10. Improved Bladder Control in Women
Intercourse helps to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, which contract during orgasm. This can help women to improve their bladder control and avoid incontinence.
You can boost this benefit even more by practicing Kegel exercises during sex (a Kegel squeeze is performed by drawing your lower pelvic muscles up and holding them up high and tight, as if you're trying to stop a flow of urine).
11. Increase Intimacy and Improve Your Relationship
Sex and orgasms result in increased levels of the hormone oxytocin - the "love" hormone — that helps you feel bonded to your partner.
Hugging Is Good for You Too
If you don't have sex regularly, you can still reap many similar benefits from other forms of intimate contact — like hugging and kissing. Like sex, hugging increases levels of the 'love hormone' oxytocin. This, in turn, may have beneficial effects on your heart health and more.
One study found, for instance, that women had lower blood pressure following a brief episode of warm contact with their partner.14 A 20-second hug, along with 10 minutes of hand holding, also reduced the harmful physical effects of stress, including its impact on your blood pressure and heart rate.15
This makes sense, since hugging is known to lower levels of stress hormones like cortisol. Hugging also activates the orbitofrontal cortex in your brain, which is linked to feelings of reward and compassion.16,17 A 10-second hug a day can lead to biochemical and physiological reactions in your body that can significantly improve your health. According to one study, this includes:18
✓ Lower risk of heart disease
✓ Stress reduction
✓ Fight fatigue
✓ Boost your immune system
✓ Fight infections
✓ Ease depression
If one time a week is ideal for sex, how many times a week is ideal for hugs? It could be the more the better. According to research published in the British Journal of Theatre Nursing:19
" … four hugs per day was an antidote for depression, eight hugs per day would achieve mental stability and twelve hugs per day would achieve real psychological growth."
What's in a Kiss?
Like hugging and sex, kissing prompts your brain to release a happy elixir of feel-good chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin. This isn't only important for your happiness, it also may also help to strengthen your relationship. Kissing has also been shown to boost your immune system and reduce allergic responses in people with skin or nasal allergies.20
Separate research also revealed that people who spent six weeks making kissing a priority with their partners reported significant decreases in their levels of stress. In addition to improvements in stress, the kissing participants also reported greater relationship satisfaction and improvements in total cholesterol.21
Another study even found that men who received a passionate kiss before they left for work earned more money.22 This suggests the kiss (and perhaps the happy home-life that goes along with it) makes people happier, boosts self-esteem and, ultimately, makes for a more productive workday.
Could Your Sex Drive Use a Boost?
If you've ruled out physical issues and/or relationship problems, to boost your libido naturally and help restore harmony to your intimate life a change to your lifestyle may be in order. The strategies that follow may help to enhance your sex life by boosting your sex drive.
1. Reduce, with the plan of eliminating, grains and sugars in your diet. It is vitally important to eliminate sugars, especially fructose. High levels of sugar in your bloodstream can actually turn off the gene that controls your sex hormones.23
2. Eat a healthy diet, like the one described in my nutrition plan, which will help to normalize your insulin levels. This simple measure has a profound influence on every area of your health, including your sex life.
3. Optimize your vitamin D levels, ideally through appropriate sun exposure as vitamin D levels increase testosterone levels, which may boost libido.
4. Exercise regularly. Make sure you incorporate high-intensity interval training exercises, which also optimize your human growth hormone (HGH) production.
6. Be sure to get plenty of high-quality, restorative sleep.
7. Consider choline and vitamin B5 supplements.The neurotransmitter that triggers the sexual message, in both men and women, is acetylcholine (ACH). With too little ACH, sexual activity goes down. One way to safely and effectively enhance ACH levels in your body is to take choline supplements (1,000-3,000 mg) and vitamin B5 (500-1,500 mg).
8. Stress can dampen your libido and make sex the last thing on your mind. Taking control of your emotions by learning the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) can really help in this area to re-ignite your sex life.
EFT is a psychological acupressure technique that can help you effectively address your stress-related thoughts and leave you feeling calmer and more able to face your challenges, whatever they may be, so you're able to focus on more enjoyable pursuits.
9. Try maca root. Maca, a rainforest herb, has been used for centuries as a libido booster, and it's also used to relieve menopausal symptoms in women. Research shows maca root may alleviate antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women, and the herb was well tolerated with few side effects.24
Pelvic Exercises Can Address Premature Ejaculation
What's In a Kiss? More Than You Realize
By Dr. Mercola
Physical pain and the distress that comes with social rejection have been traced to the same area of the brain. This intriguing connection may shed some light on how acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol) may also affect the brain.
Accumulating research suggests that, along with inhibiting physical pain, acetaminophen may also act on emotions and have other neurological effects.
One of the latest studies, conducted by researchers from the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia, suggests the popular painkiller may even inhibit the brain response associated with making errors.
Acetaminophen May Make It Harder to Recognize Errors
Sixty study participants were asked to complete a fast-moving target-detection task while hooked up to an electroencephalogram (EEG), which measures electrical activity in the brain.
When the letter F flashed on a screen, they were asked to press a Go button. When the letter E flashed on the screen, they were told to refrain from hitting the button.
Half of the participants took 1,000 milligrams (mg) of acetaminophen (a typical maximum dose) prior to completing the task, and notable changes were displayed on the EEG.
The researchers analyzed brain waves called Error Related Negativity (ERN) and Error Related Positivity (Pe). Both ERN and Pe increased when the participants made errors, but Pe was smaller among those who took acetaminophen.
This suggests the drug inhibits the brain's ability to detect the error or, more specifically, may reduce the distress associated with errors so you're less likely to pay attention to them. Lead author Dan Randles, a postdoctoral fellow in the Psychology department at University of Toronto, said in an interview with Forbes:1
"Very recent work in the last few years has suggested that acetaminophen not only affects physical pain, but also feelings of social rejection, uncertainty and evaluative processing.
… This study is the first to provide compelling evidence that acetaminophen is affecting all of these symptoms by reducing the distress associated with any kind of cognitive conflict; whether the source is physical, social or more abstract."
The study also revealed a surprise finding — that those taking acetaminophen also made more errors. The researchers are planning to look further into whether the drug may increase distraction or mind wandering, thereby leading to increased errors.
Tylenol May Dull Feelings of Personal Distress and Social Rejection
Past research has also unveiled subtle cognitive effects associated with acetaminophen. In 2010, for instance, research found that acetaminophen reduces the pain of social rejection.2
Compared to those taking a placebo, those who took acetaminophen daily for three weeks had reduced neural responses to social rejection in brain regions associated with distress caused by social pain and physical pain (dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, anterior insula).
Then, in 2013, a prior study by Randles and his colleagues found acetaminophen led to changes in the way people made moral judgments, which was used as a measure for personal distress.3
In addition to social rejection, acetaminophen may blunt distress associated with more abstract concepts. The researchers told Live Science:4
"When people feel overwhelmed with uncertainty in life or distressed by a lack of purpose, what they're feeling may actually be painful distress ...
We think that Tylenol is blocking existential unease in the same way it prevents pain, because a similar neurological process is responsible for both types of distress."
Acetaminophen Might Dull Your Happiness, Too
Acetaminophen's apparent dulling effect on your emotional responses might work for better or for worse, watering down not only negative emotions but also positive ones. Researchers showed emotional photos to college students who had either taken a 1,000-mg dose of acetaminophen or a placebo.
Those who took the painkiller had more muted emotional responses to both negative and positive images.5 According to the researchers:
"Participants who took acetaminophen evaluated unpleasant stimuli less negatively and pleasant stimuli less positively, compared with participants who took a placebo.
Participants in the acetaminophen condition also rated both negative and positive stimuli as less emotionally arousing than did participants in the placebo condition …
These findings suggest that acetaminophen has a general blunting effect on individuals' evaluative and emotional processing, irrespective of negative or positive valence."
As for why the drug might dull your emotions, the researchers suggested it might alter brain activity, such as the activity of serotonin, reduce inflammatory signaling or decrease activation in brain areas linked to emotional processing.6
Although they weren't tested, the researchers believe other pain relievers, including aspirin or ibuprofen, might have similar emotion-blunting effects.
Acetaminophen Poses a Risk to Your Liver Health
Acetaminophen's brain effects are only beginning to be understood, but this medication's risks to other areas of your body are well known.
Acetaminophen overdose is the leading cause for calls to Poison Control Centers across the U.S. — more than 100,000 instances per year — and acetaminophen poisoning is responsible for nearly half of all acute liver failure cases in the U.S.7
Acetaminophen overdoses are also responsible for more than 150 deaths each year in the U.S.8 A major problem is that while acetaminophen is considered safe when taken as recommended, the margin between a safe dose and a potentially lethal one is very small.
Taking just 25 percent more than the daily recommended dose — the equivalent of just two extra strength pills per day — can cause liver damage after just a couple of weeks of daily use.9
Previous research has also shown that taking just a little more than the recommended dose over the course of several days or weeks (referred to as "staggered overdosing") can be more risky than taking one large overdose.10
This happens more often than you might think. Your risk of severe liver injury and/or death related to acetaminophen increases if you:
- Take more than one regular strength (325 mg) acetaminophen when combined with a narcotic analgesic like codeine or hydrocodone
- Take more than the prescribed dose of an acetaminophen-containing product in a 24-hour period
- Take more than one acetaminophen-containing product at the same time. Make sure to read the list of ingredients on any other over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription drug you take in combination.
Acetaminophen Should Not Be Taken With Alcohol
You should not drink alcohol while taking an acetaminophen product. Research suggests this drug significantly increases your risk of kidney dysfunction if taken with alcohol — even if the amount of alcohol is small.11
Combining alcohol with acetaminophen was found to raise the risk of kidney damage by 123 percent compared to taking either of them individually. Besides alcoholics, young adults are particularly at risk as they're more likely to consume both.12
This means you should avoid using acetaminophen to treat a hangover as well, a common yet potentially dangerous practice.
Serious Skin Reactions Linked to Acetaminophen
Unbeknownst to many, acetaminophen may also cause three serious skin reactions, two of which typically require hospitalization and can be fatal. What is particularly alarming is that it can occur at any time, even if you've taken the medication in the past without issue. The skin reactions linked to acetaminophen include:
- Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS): This reaction begins with flu-like symptoms that progress into a painful purple or red rash that blisters and causes the top layer of your skin to slough off. This can lead to serious infections, blindness, damage to internal organs, permanent skin damage and even death.
- Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TENS): TENS also typically begins with flu-like symptoms (cough, headache, aches, and fever) and progresses into a blistering rash. Layers of the skin may peel away in sheets, and hair and nails may fall out. TENS is often fatal, typically as a result of infection.
- Acute Generalized Exanthematous Pustulosis (AGEP): This skin eruption causes numerous pustules to appear on the skin, often accompanied by fever. This condition typically resolves within two weeks once the acetaminophen is stopped.
NAC Is an Antidote to Acetaminophen Overdose
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is an antidote for acetaminophen toxicity and is well worth knowing about if you ever use acetaminophen or keep it in your house. NAC is administered as part of standard care in cases of acetaminophen overdose.
While I generally do not recommend using acetaminophen-containing drugs for minor aches and pains, they are sometimes necessary to temporarily suppress severe pain, such as post-surgical pain. For those instances, I recommend taking it along with NAC.
It is believed the liver damage acetaminophen causes is largely due to the fact that it can deplete glutathione, an antioxidant compound secreted by your liver in response to toxic exposure. Glutathione also helps protect your cells from free radical damage. If you keep your glutathione levels up, the damage from the acetaminophen may be largely preventable.
NAC is the rate-limiting nutrient for the formation of the intracellular antioxidant glutathione, which is why it's such an effective antidote. Mortality due to acetaminophen toxicity has been shown to be virtually eliminated when NAC is promptly administered in cases of acetaminophen overdose. So whether you are taking Tylenol in prescription or over-the-counter form, I strongly suggest taking NAC along with it.
And, if you have children and keep acetaminophen in your home, I strongly recommend keeping a bottle of NAC as well in case of accidental overdose. NAC therapy should be initiated within eight hours of an acute overdose for best results. If you suspect an overdose has occurred, seek medical help right away. If this isn't an option, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the following protocol:13
"Oral administration is the preferred route for NAC therapy unless contraindications exist (e.g. aspiration, persistent vomiting). The usual recommended loading dose is 140 mg/kg followed in four hours by a maintenance dose of 70 mg/kg orally given every four hours.
This dosing is commonly recommended to be continued for 72 hours; however more recent clinical experience supports tailoring the duration of therapy to the patient's clinical condition."
Does Acetaminophen Even Work to Relieve Pain?
Acetaminophen is one of the most commonly used pain relievers in the world, but research has shown it may only be mildly effective compared to placebo. It's been suggested that regular doses of up to 4,000 mg a day of the drug might be needed for optimal therapeutic benefits, but this could pose a risk of serious side effects.14
Meanwhile, in 2015 a systematic review of randomized trials found acetaminophen works no better than a placebo.15 The review of 13 studies found "high-quality evidence" that acetaminophen is ineffective for treating low back pain and had only a small effect in patients with osteoarthritis.
That small effect was "not likely to be meaningful for clinicians or patients," the researchers wrote. In addition, acetaminophen use increased the risk of having an abnormal result on liver function tests by nearly four-fold.16 Considering the risks, both those that are known and the brain effects that are currently being unraveled, and the lack of clear effectiveness, you may be better off seeking alternative forms of pain relief.
Top Natural Acetaminophen Alternatives
Acetaminophen and related products are familiar household items for many, but they are not the only option when you need relief from pain. For instance, the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) works very effectively for relieving pain and can be used for children as well.
The Advanced Muscle Integration Technique (AMIT) helps treat muscle injuries and pain as well, while these simple exercises may work wonders for treating back pain. No matter what your reason for taking Tylenol, type it into the search box above and you'll likely find a natural alternative. If chronic pain is your problem, the following options provide excellent pain relief without any of the health hazards that acetaminophen and other pain relievers carry.
- Astaxanthin: One of the most effective oil-soluble antioxidants known. It has very potent anti-inflammatory properties and in many cases works far more effectively than many NSAIDs. Higher doses are typically required and one may need 8 mg or more per day to achieve this benefit.
- Ginger: This herb is anti-inflammatory and offers pain relief and stomach-settling properties. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea or grated into vegetable juice.
- Curcumin: Curcumin is the primary therapeutic compound identified in the spice turmeric. In a study of osteoarthritis patients, those who added 200 mg of curcumin a day to their treatment plan had reduced pain and increased mobility.17 In fact, curcumin has been shown to have potent anti-inflammatory activity, as well as demonstrating the ability in four studies to reduce Tylenol-associated adverse health effects.18
- Boswellia: Also known as boswellin or "Indian frankincense," this herb contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which have been prized for thousands of years. This is one of my personal favorites, as I have seen it work well with many rheumatoid arthritis patients.
- Bromelain: This protein-digesting enzyme, found in pineapples, is a natural anti-inflammatory. It can be taken in supplement form, but eating fresh pineapple may also be helpful.
- Cetyl Myristoleate (CMO): This oil, found in fish and dairy butter, acts as a "joint lubricant" and an anti-inflammatory. I have used this for myself to relieve ganglion cysts and a mild annoying carpal tunnel syndrome that pops up when I type too much on non-ergonomic keyboards. I used a topical preparation for this.
- Evening Primrose, Black Currant and Borage Oils: These contain the fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which is useful for treating arthritic pain.
- Cayenne Cream: Also called capsaicin cream, this spice comes from dried hot peppers. It alleviates pain by depleting the body's supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that transmits pain signals to your brain.
- Therapeutic modalities such as yoga, acupuncture, meditation, hot and cold packs, and even holding hands can also result in astonishing pain relief without any drugs.
Acetaminophen Linked to Increased Risk of Kidney Dysfunction When Combined with Alcohol
The Limits of Tylenol for Pain Relief
By Dr. Mercola
If you eat strawberries in your morning smoothie or as a quick snack, make sure they're organic. In an Environmental Working Group (EWG) analysis of 48 fruits and vegetables, strawberries earned the dubious moniker of most contaminated with pesticide residues.1
They beat out apples (last year's top offender) and were found to be almost universally contaminated — 98 percent of samples contained at least one detectable pesticide residue.
It probably comes as no surprise that conventionally grown produce may be contaminated with pesticides, but there are wide variances in the levels of different crops.
Since most people tend to pick and choose which fruits and vegetables to buy organic, knowing which items are most contaminated helps you to prioritize which foods to buy organic and which are safe to purchase conventionally grown.
Eating Strawberries Could Expose You to Dozens of Pesticides
Strawberries are one of the most popular fruits in the U.S. The average American eats close to 8 pounds a year, "and with them, dozens of pesticides, including chemicals that have been linked to cancer and reproductive damage or are banned in Europe," EWG's Bill Walker and Sonya Lunder said in a statement.2
EWG used data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which found strawberries tested in both 2009 and 2014 contained nearly six different pesticides per sample compared to under two per sample for all other produce.3
According to California data, nearly 300 pounds of pesticides were applied to each acre of strawberries grown in the state in 2014. Compare this to corn, which is doused with about 5 pounds of pesticides per acre — and is considered to be a pesticide-intensive crop.
Hormone-Disrupting, Potentially Cancer-Causing Pesticides Used on Strawberries
What types of pesticides are used on strawberries? According to EWG:4
- Carbendazim, a hormone-disrupting fungicide that's banned in the European Union
- Bifenthrin, an insecticide designated a possible human carcinogen by California regulators
- Malathion, a nervous system toxin that the International Agency for Cancer Research also classifies as a probable human carcinogen
The EWG analysis revealed that 40 percent of strawberries tested had residues of 10 or more pesticides (one sample even had 17 different pesticide residues).
It's also known that some strawberry growers use 60 different pesticides on their fields. Whenever possible, choose organic strawberries or, even better, grow your own.
Strawberries are easy to grow and, as a bonus, they're perennials and will come back each year in most climates. Plus, when you grow your own you get the satisfaction of harvesting your very own seasonal summer treat. As EWG noted, strawberries have only relatively recently become available year-round:5
"Fresh strawberries once were a seasonal treat, available in limited supply only for a few spring and summer months.
In recent decades the increased use of pesticides and other chemically-aided growing methods have made cheap strawberries available year round, and aggressive marketing campaigns have spurred consumption."
The Dirty Dozen and Clean 15: Most and Least Pesticide-Contaminated Fruits and Vegetables
With the exception of strawberries beating out apples for the top spot, EWG's 2016 "Dirty Dozen" list for most pesticide-contaminated fruits and vegetables looks very similar to last year's list. So, too, does their "Clean 15" list, which are those that tend to contain very little pesticide residue.
EWG's analysis combines six different measures of contamination to come up with a composite score for each type of produce. The results are as follows:6
EWG's 2016 Dirty Dozen (Buy These Organic)
- Sweet bell peppers
- Cherry tomatoes
EWG's 2015 Clean 15 (OK to Buy These Conventional)
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas (frozen)
- Honeydew melon
U.S. Pesticide Tolerance Limits Are Too Lenient
Most of the samples tested fell within allowable legal limits for pesticide residues. For instance, only five strawberry samples tested exceeded the tolerance level set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This is the upper allowable limit for individual pesticides on produce.
Unfortunately, just because pesticide levels fall below the tolerance level does not guarantee they're safe. As EWG noted:7
"Some liken pesticide tolerances to a 500 m.p.h. speed limit. If the rules of the road are so loose that it's impossible to violate them, then nobody can feel safe."
For instance, there is no legal limit on the number of different pesticides allowed on food. The effects of these chemical cocktails are unknown, but concern is warranted, especially since adults and children alike are exposed to low doses for a lifetime.
The tolerance levels also fail to take into account more recent research showing such chemicals may be toxic even at very low levels. The CHAMACOS Study is among those showing that very small amounts of pesticides may be harmful. Children born in Salinas Valley, California, an agricultural mecca, were followed through age 12 to assess what impact the pesticides had on their development.8 Mothers' exposure to organophosphates during pregnancy was associated with:9
- Shorter duration of pregnancy
- Poorer neonatal reflexes
- Lower IQ and poorer cognitive functioning in children
- Increased risk of attention problems in children
Glyphosate Residues Are Still a Mystery
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, is the most used agricultural chemical of all time. However, it's not known exactly how much glyphosate may be in your food because the USDA does not test for it. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just announced in February 2016 that it may begin testing foods for glyphosate.
However, for now an analysis commissioned by the organizations Moms Across America and Sustainable Pulse10 suggested that eating non-organic, genetically engineered (GE) foods (the prime candidates for Roundup spraying) is associated with higher glyphosate levels in your body. The Detox Project explained:11
"Glyphosate levels have been found to be significantly higher in urine of humans who ate non-organic food, compared with those who ate mostly organic food. Chronically ill people showed significantly higher glyphosate residues in their urine than healthy people.
In a separate detailed analysis, glyphosate was found in the urine of cows, humans, and rabbits. Cows kept in a GM-free area had significantly lower glyphosate concentrations in urine than cows in conventional livestock systems."
Eating Organic Lowers Pesticide Levels in Your Body
According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 75 percent of the U.S. population has detectable levels of organophosphate pesticides in their urine, and unless you're a farmer, your diet is one of the most likely routes of exposure.12
Eating organic is one of the best ways to lower your overall pesticide burden. The largest study of its kind found that people who "often or always" ate organic food had about 65 percent lower levels of pesticide residues compared to those who ate the least amount of organic produce.13
Research also found that organic produce had, on average, 180 times lower pesticide content than conventional produce.14 That being said, not everyone has access to a wide variety of organic produce, and it can sometimes be costlier than buying conventional.
Remember that eating vegetables, even if they're not organic, is better than not eating vegetables at all. However, when you need to prioritize, refer to the Dirty Dozen list and buy those organic as much as possible. If you shop at farmer's markets, which I strongly recommend, you can also ask the farmer directly about pesticide usage.
It's possible to find produce that is not certified organic that may still have a lower pesticide burden than typical conventional produce depending on the farmer. So if you can't find organic produce, look for a local farmer who has eliminated pesticide use (or uses such chemicals only minimally).
Low-Level Pesticide Exposure Linked to Parkinson's Disease
The Myth of Safe Pesticides