By Dr. Mercola

Previous research shows that having a strong social network of good friends is a significant factor in longevity. If you're socially isolated, you may experience poor health and a shorter lifespan.

Friendships can also be a significant factor in successful recuperation from depression. According to recent research,1 good mood and a positive outlook can actually spread like a contagion through social groups.

Perhaps more importantly, this study refutes earlier claims that depression is "contagious," finding instead that only positive moods tend to spread among people in close association.

Certainly, being depressed can have a dampening effect on the mood of those around you, but according to the authors, there's little risk of a depressed person actually pulling others into a state of clinical depression.

Friends Can Help Protect You from Depression

Data from more than 2,000 high school students was reviewed in this study. Over a period of six to 12 months, the students answered questions about symptoms of depression and who their friends were.

As reported by The Atlantic:2

"Kids who initially scored as clinically depressed did not 'infect' their friends, but if they had enough friends who had what the study called a 'healthy mood'... that doubled their chances of recovering from their depression.

And for people who weren't depressed in the first place, having enough mentally healthy friends halved their chances of developing depression.

That's a pretty large effect, and supports previous research3 saying that high-quality social relationships lower people's risk of depression."

According to the authors, when you find clusters of friends who are depressed, which other studies have found, this probably isn't due to one depressed individual pulling the others into the dumps with them.

Instead, it may be due to a third factor. Perhaps they're all heavy drinkers for example, or engaging in other activities that promote a negative mindset.

Co-author Thomas House claims their study method "wasn't susceptible to that because we looked at direct changes of state. We were pretty much directly observing this process of your friend influencing you.

"And the nice conclusion that we got was that your friends can protect you from depression and help you recover from it."

The Inflammatory Roots of Depression

As important as friendships can be, they will probably not solve depression rooted in poor diet and lifestyle habits.

It's important to realize that, contrary to popular belief, depression is not likely caused by unbalanced brain chemicals; however there are a number of other biological factors that appear to be highly significant.

Chronic inflammation is one such factor.4

For example, researchers have found that melancholic depression, bipolar disorder, and postpartum depression are associated with elevated levels of inflammatory cytokines in combination with decreased cortisol sensitivity (cortisol is both a stress hormone and a buffer against inflammation).5

Scientists have also found that your mental health can be adversely impacted by factors such as vitamin D deficiency and/or unbalanced gut flora — both of which, incidentally, play a role in keeping inflammation in check, which is really what the remedy to depression is all about.

Sugar, found in ample supply in most processed foods, is among the most pro-inflammatory ingredients there are, so the first step would be to replace processed foods with real, whole foods (ideally organic to avoid harmful pesticides and other detrimental ingredients).

Besides promoting chronic inflammation, refined sugar can exert a toxic effect by contributing to insulin and leptin resistance and impaired signaling, which play a significant role in your mental health.

Sugar also suppresses activity of a key growth hormone called BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) which promotes healthy brain neurons. BDNF levels are critically low in both depression and schizophrenia, which animal models suggest might actually be causative.

Sugar also facilitates the growth of pathogenic microbes in your gut and causes an imbalance of your microbiome that will also contribute to depression through a wide variety of mechanisms.

What to Do if Someone You Know Is Depressed

Perhaps one of the most helpful things you can do if you have a friend or family member that struggles with depression is to help guide them toward healthier eating and lifestyle habits, as making changes can be particularly difficult when you're feeling blue — or worse, suicidal.

If you are feeling desperate or have any thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a toll-free number: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or call 911, or simply go to your nearest Hospital Emergency Department. You can't make long-term plans for lifestyle changes when you are in a crisis.

One Boy's Sadness Turns Into a Smile Campaign

On the topic of friendship, this CBS report features a young boy with remarkable emotional resilience and capacity to reach out in friendship to others despite his own pain. By the time he was 6 years old, Jaden Hayes had lost both parents. While heartbroken, he was still determined to live with joy, and one day he told his aunt and guardian he was "sick and tired of seeing everyone so sad all the time."

He wanted to turn people's frowns into smiles. And so began this young boy's "smile campaign." Since that day, he and his aunt have handed out about 500 toys — small rubber duckies, dinosaurs, etc. — just to make people smile, who weren't. His goal, he says, is to make 33,000 people smile; a goal he may well have reached already through this news report.

Jaden is proof positive that going through a rough time in life does not automatically doom you to depression and despair. You have a choice in how you deal with your situation. And while some seem to have a "hardier" emotional constitution than others, happiness is often a choice that we make.

That said, your lifestyle can wield great influence over your emotional and mental state, so it would be unreasonable to say a depressed person should simply "snap out of it" and "turn their frown upside-down." I believe most cases of depression are rooted in an unhealthy diet and subsequent gut dysfunction and/or nutritional deficiencies, with vitamin D and omega-3 being two very significant ones, in terms of their effect on mental health.

The Importance of Omega-3

Healthy fats play a particularly important role in depression. Without healthy fats, your brain function may be adversely affected, and one potential side effect is depression, as well as more serious psychiatric disorders. Healthy fats include saturated fats like avocados, butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk, raw dairy, organic pastured egg yolks, coconuts and coconut oil, unheated organic nut oils, raw nuts, and grass-fed meats.

You'll want to make sure you're getting plenty of these types of fat in your diet. Beyond that, animal-based omega-3 fat, found in fish and krill oil, may be the single most important nutrient to battle depression. It's particularly important when combating more serious problems such as psychosis and schizophrenia.

In one recent study,6,7,8,9 taking an omega-3 supplement for three months substantially reduced the risk of developing a psychotic disorder in the future. Eighty-one individuals considered at risk for developing schizophrenia or psychosis took part in the randomized, double blind trial.

Half of them got a daily course of fish oil for 12 weeks while the other half received a placebo. After the intervention period, all participants were monitored for one full year.

Seventy-six of the 81 participants completed the study, and only two of the 41 people who took fish oil went on to develop a psychotic disorder during the follow-up period. In the placebo group, 11 of the 40 participants developed psychosis. Interestingly, seven years later, only four from the original treatment group had developed a psychotic disorder compared to a total of 16 in the placebo group, suggesting even short-term omega-3 supplementation can have long lasting effects.

Eating Real Food May Be Key for Successful Treatment of Depression

The evidence clearly indicates that your diet plays a key role in your mental health, for better or worse. So if you're struggling with depression, mood swings, or feel yourself sliding into "the blues," I strongly advise you to look at what you're eating. The key is to eat real food, ideally organic (to avoid chemical exposures) and locally grown (for maximum freshness).

Also make sure to eat plenty of traditionally cultured and fermented foods, which will help nourish beneficial bacteria in your gut. Good examples include fermented vegetables of all kinds, including sauerkraut and kimchi, kombucha (a fermented drink), as well as fiber-rich prebiotic foods like jicama (Mexican yam).

Optimizing your gut flora appears to be absolutely crucial for good mental health, which is understandable when you consider that gut bacteria actually manufacture neurochemicals such as dopamine and serotonin, along with vitamins that are important for brain health. In fact, you have a greater concentration of serotonin in your gut than in your brain.

I recommend eating REAL food and avoiding all types of processed foods, including certified organic ones, as processed foods are no longer "alive." What you're looking for is whole, unadulterated foods, with which to cook from scratch (or eat raw). Processed foods are simply loaded with ingredients known to alter your gut flora and promote inflammation, thereby inviting depression. This includes:

  • Added sugar and high fructose corn syrup
  • Genetically engineered (GE) ingredients (primarily corn, soy, and sugar beets) which, besides their own unknown health risks, also tend to be heavily contaminated with glyphosate — a Class 2A carcinogen that can also damage your gut microbiome and has been linked to antibiotic-resistance. Most conventional (non-GE) wheat is also treated with toxic glyphosate prior to harvesting.
  • By altering the balance of your gut flora, pesticides and herbicides also disrupt the production of essential amino acids like tryptophan, a serotonin precursor, and promote production of p-cresol, a compound that interferes with metabolism of other environmental chemicals, thereby increasing your vulnerability to their toxic effects.
  • Artificial sweeteners, along with thousands of food additives, most of which have never been tested for safety
  • Chemicals in the food packaging, such as bisphenol-A (BPA), bisphenol-S (BPS), and phthalates, which can migrate into the food
  • Trans fats, which can harm your memory among other things

It is possible to fight depression with a good, can-do mindset coupled with positive changes to your diet, all of which can help you start on the path to effortless healing and taking control of your health.





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By Dr. Mercola

Omega-3 fats found in fish oil, krill oil, and oily fish like sardines and anchovies play an integral role in brain health. Sixty percent of your brain is made up of fat.

The omega-3 fat DHA alone makes up about 15 percent to 34 percent of your brain's cerebral cortex, depending on your age (the older you are, the more DHA). It's found in relatively high levels in your neurons – the cells of your central nervous system – where it provides structural support.

Because your brain is literally built from omega-3 fats, it makes sense that it would play an integral role in brain function. But in addition, omega-3s also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and these are thought to be responsible for some of their therapeutic effects on mental health.

In 1999, Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Andrew Stoll published a study showing that omega-3 fats improved the course of illness in people with bipolar disorder.1

In 2001, he published the book The Omega-3 Connection, which was among the first works to bring attention to and support the use of omega-3 fats for depression.

Then, in 2010, researchers from the Orygen Youth Health Research Center in Australia found that supplementing with animal-based omega-3s for 12 weeks reduced the risk of psychosis development in those at high risk for over one year.

The beneficial effects remained even after the supplements were no longer being taken – a benefit that has not been seen with antipsychotic medications.2

Last month, a follow-up to the 2010 research was published, and it showed even more promising results for the role of these beneficial fats in mental health.

Omega-3s May Protect Against Psychosis

The new research, published in the journal Nature Communications, revealed that omega-3s may delay progression to psychosis among patients at high risk for much longer – a period of at least seven years.3

Among the patients taking omega-3s for 12 weeks, only 10 percent transitioned to psychosis during the study period. The rate of transition among the non-omega-3 group was 40 percent.

Further, those in the placebo group had a more rapid progression time to psychosis compared to those in the omega-3 group. Those taking omega-3s also had significantly improved overall symptoms and psychosocial functioning. According to the study:4

“Long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are essential for neural development and function.

As key components of brain tissue, omega-3 PUFAs play critical roles in brain development and function, and a lack of these fatty acids has been implicated in a number of mental health conditions over the lifespan, including schizophrenia.

We have previously shown that a 12-week intervention with omega-3 PUFAs reduced the risk of progression to psychotic disorder in young people with subthreshold psychotic states for a 12-month period compared with placebo.

We have now completed a longer-term follow-up of this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, at a median of 6.7 years. Here we show that brief intervention with omega-3 PUFAs reduced both the risk of progression to psychotic disorder and psychiatric morbidity in general in this study.

The majority of the individuals from the omega-3 group did not show severe functional impairment and no longer experienced attenuated psychotic symptoms at follow-up.”

Why Omega-3s Are a Welcome Alternative to Antipsychotic Drugs

Antipsychotic medications are among the most powerful and side effect prone drugs in medicine, which is why finding a natural alternative is all the more important.

The side effects caused by these drugs include, ironically, psychotic symptoms (like hearing voices or paranoia), aggressive behavior, hostility, seizures, heart attack, delayed puberty, and more. Oftentimes the side effects are far worse than the symptoms for which they're prescribed, and rival illegal street drugs in terms of their dangerous risks to health.

In children, the long-term effects are often largely unknown, while in the short term, we've seen shocking increases in violent and aggressive acts committed by teens taking one or more antipsychotic drugs.

While it’s known that early intervention may help those at risk of developing psychosis, starting on a course of antipsychotic drugs if you’re still healthy poses serious risks.

This is not so for omega-3 fats, which are so good for you that I recommend virtually everyone increase their intake, even if you don’t have mental health challenges.

However, among people with schizophrenia, supplementation with omega-3 fats appears to be particularly important. According to Current Psychiatry:5

“Essential fatty acid deficiency and resulting lipid membrane abnormalities have been hypothesized to play a role in schizophrenia onset. Moreover, epidemiologic data suggest an association between high fish consumption and positive outcomes in patients with schizophrenia.”

Multiple clinical trials have been conducted that show supplementing with omega-3s among people with schizophrenia leads to significant improvement in symptoms and quality of life – and the improvements remained even after the supplements were discontinued.

Even among patients already taking antipsychotic drugs, adding an omega-3 supplement led to greater improvements.6

How Fish Oil Helps Your Brain

As mentioned, the omega-3 DHA molecule has unique structural properties that provide optimal conditions for a wide range of cell membrane functions, and grey matter in your brain is a particularly membrane-rich tissue.

One study revealed that people who consumed baked (or broiled) fish at least once a week had more gray matter in their brain. Specifically, compared to those who didn’t consume fish on a regular basis, regular fish eaters had 14 percent greater gray-matter volume in the area responsible for cognition and more than 4 percent greater volume in the area responsible for memory.7

In fact, the introduction of high-quality, easily digested nutrients from seafood into the human diet coincided with the rapid expansion of grey matter in the cerebral cortex – a defining characteristic of the modern human brain.

Research is showing that degenerative conditions can not only be prevented but also potentially reversed with omega-3 fats. For example, in one study 485 elderly volunteers suffering from memory deficits saw significant improvement after taking 900 milligrams (mg) of DHA per day for 24 weeks, compared with controls.8

Another study found significant improvement in verbal fluency scores after taking 800 mg of DHA per day for four months compared with placebo.9 Furthermore, memory and rate of learning were significantly improved when DHA was combined with 12 mg of lutein per day.

Interestingly, research suggests that the unsaturated fatty acid composition of normal brain tissue is age-specific, which could imply that the older you get, the greater your need for animal-based omega-3 fat to prevent mental decline and brain degeneration.

A study in the journal Neurology reported that "older women with the highest levels of omega-3 fats, found in fish oil, had better preservation of their brain as they aged than those with the lowest levels, which might mean they would maintain better brain function for an extra year or two."10,11

Still, omega-3s are also incredibly important for brain health during development -- in utero and during childhood and adolescence. One study of 8- to 10-year-old boys looked at how DHA supplementation might affect functional cortical activity, and the results were quite impressive.

The data indicated there were significant increases in the activation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex part of the brain in the groups receiving supplemental DHA. This is an area of your brain that is associated with working memory. They also noticed changes in other parts of the brain, including the occipital cortex (the visual processing center) and the cerebellar cortex (which plays a role in motor control).12

What Are the Best Sources of Omega-3 Fats?

Making sure you’re getting enough omega-3 in your diet, either from wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, and anchovies or a high-quality omega-3 supplement like krill oil, is absolutely crucial for your optimal health, including your mental health.

While a helpful form of omega-3 can be found in flaxseed, chia, hemp, and a few other foods, the most beneficial form of omega-3 – containing two fatty acids, DHA and EPA, which are essential to fighting and preventing both physical and mental disease – can only be found in fish and krill. Because, nearly all fish, from most all sources, are severely contaminated with environmental pollutants like toxic mercury, you have to be very careful about the types of seafood you consume when trying to increase your omega-3 fats. A general guideline is that the closer to the bottom of the food chain the fish is, the less contamination it will have accumulated.

Sardines, in particular, are one of the most concentrated sources of omega-3 fats, with one serving containing more than 50 percent of your recommended daily value.13 Other good options include anchovies, herring, and wild-caught Alaskan salmon. You’re probably aware that if you don’t eat a lot of fish, you can supplement your diet with omega-3 fats by taking fish oil. Less widely known is that you can also get your omega-3s from krill oil, and it may, in fact, be preferable to do so.

Why might you be better off with krill? The omega-3 in krill is attached to phospholipids that increase its absorption, which means you need less of it, and it won't cause belching or burping like many other fish oil products. Additionally, it contains almost 50 times more astaxanthin, a potent antioxidant, than fish oil. This prevents the highly perishable omega-3 fats from oxidizing before you are able to integrate them into your cellular tissue.

In laboratory tests, krill oil remained undamaged after being exposed to a steady flow of oxygen for 190 hours. Compare that to fish oil, which went rancid after just one hour. That makes krill oil nearly 200 times more resistant to oxidative damage compared to fish oil! When purchasing krill oil, you'll want to read the label and check the amount of astaxanthin it contains. The more the better, but anything above 0.2 mg per gram of krill oil will protect it from rancidity. To learn more about the benefits of krill oil versus fish oil, please see my interview with Dr. Rudi Moerck, a drug industry insider and an expert on omega-3 fats.

5 Tips to Support Your Mental Health

My heart goes out to you if you or someone you love is struggling with mental illness. The solutions offered below will often help you to overcome your battle in the long run, but in no way are they meant to minimize the complicated puzzle of mental illness, or the extreme toll it can take on family units and in some cases extended circles of friends.

Whether you’re facing schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, or another mental condition, these strategies have nothing but positive effects and are generally very inexpensive to implement. Plus, they can be used for both children and adults alike, and work great when implemented with your entire family involved.

  1. Exercise – If you suffer from depression, or even if you just feel down from time to time, exercise is a MUST. The research is overwhelmingly positive in this area, with studies confirming that physical exercise is at least as good as antidepressants for helping people who are depressed. One of the primary ways it does this is by increasing the level of endorphins, the "feel good" hormones, in your brain.
  2. Address your stress – Stress can worsen symptoms of mental illness as well as trigger relapses. Meditation or yoga can help. Sometimes all you need to do is get outside for a walk. But in addition to that, I also recommend using a solid support system composed of friends, family, and, if necessary, professional counselors, who can help you work through your emotional stress. The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is also often effective.
  3. Eat a healthy diet – Foods have an immense impact on your mood and ability to cope and be happy, and eating whole foods as described in my nutrition plan will best support your mental health. Avoiding fructose, sugar, and grains will help normalize your insulin and leptin levels, which is another powerful tool in addressing positive mental health. In addition, scientific evidence increasingly shows that nourishing your gut flora with the beneficial bacteria found in traditionally fermented foods (or a probiotic supplement) is extremely important for proper brain function, and that includes psychological well-being and mood control.
  4. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride has successfully demonstrated the power and effectiveness of this theory. In her England clinic, she successfully treats children and adults with a wide range of conditions, including autism, ADD/ADHD, neurological disorders, psychiatric disorders, immune disorders, and digestive problems using the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) Nutritional Program, which she developed.

  5. Support optimal brain functioning with essential fats – I also strongly recommend supplementing your diet with a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat, like krill oil, or eating sardines, anchovies, or wild-caught Alaskan salmon regularly to ensure you have an adequate intake of omega-3 fats.
  6. Get plenty of sunshine – Making sure you're getting enough sunlight exposure to have healthy vitamin D levels is also a crucial factor in treating depression or keeping it at bay. Vitamin D deficiency is actually more the norm than the exception, and has previously been implicated in numerous psychiatric and neurological disorders.


Sources:


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By Dr. Mercola

While it’s long been said that “you are what you eat,” a more accurate description might be “you are what your microbes eat.” There are more bacteria and other microorganisms in your body than there are human cells, and your unique microbial community is constantly changing in response to your environment.

In fact, a new diet can rapidly reshape the microbes in your gut, which has implications not only for your digestive health but far beyond this to your weight, risk of chronic diseases, and more. According to research published in the journal Nature, such changes may occur in as little as one day:1

“… [S]hort-term consumption of diets composed entirely of animal or plant products alters microbial community structure and overwhelms inter-individual differences in microbial gene expression.

The animal-based diet increased the abundance of bile-tolerant microorganisms (Alistipes, Bilophila, and Bacteroides) and decreased the levels of Firmicutes that metabolize dietary plant polysaccharides.”

Gut microbes known as Firmicutes have been detected in higher numbers in obese individuals, who also may have 90 percent less of a bacteria called bacteroidetes than lean people.2

It’s been suggested that altering gut bacteria could therefore play a role in obesity, although a computer analysis led by Katherine Pollard, a biostatistics professor at the University of California, San Francisco suggests it’s much more complex than that.

What Your Microbes Produce Matters…

While it’s becoming increasingly clear that microbes play an integral role in your health, it’s not only the phylum or species of bacteria that matter.

Research by Pollard and colleagues suggests the same species of bacteria may act differently in different people, but most studies don’t get into that fine level of detail.

Pollard’s research suggests it’s not only the species of bacteria that is important but also what each microbe produces that matters.

For instance, some microbes produce anti-inflammatory molecules or vitamins while others speed the conversion of calories you eat into body fat.3 Further, the same species of bacteria may have vast genetic differences. NPRreported:4

“‘Individual microbial species can have widely variable genomes,’ says William Anton Walters, a researcher in molecular biology and genetics at Cornell University. Any given bacterium may share less than half of its genes with another member of the same species.

These genetic differences, rather than phylum or even species designations, Walters says, ‘could explain the differences between the obese and lean gut microbiota.’”

So while there’s clearly a connection between gut bacteria and obesity, researchers are still trying to pin down exactly what that connection is. In the meantime, intriguing studies continue to be published.

Preliminary research from the Netherlands, for instance, has even revealed that transplanting fecal matter from healthy thin people into obese people with metabolic syndrome led to an improvement in insulin sensitivity.5

What is known is that obesity rates have been increasing steadily over the last several decades, and it appears to be a much more complex issue than the simple “calories in, calories out” explanation promoted by the USDA.

Metrocosm’s Max Galka put together a clear example of how obesity rates in the US keep rising, and its pervasiveness suggests a variety of factors, from gut bacteria to environmental chemicals, are likely to blame. Check out the revealing graphic below.6

Liver Disease Linked to Gut Bacteria

While the role of your gut bacteria on your weight continues to be explored, so, too, does its role in other chronic diseases, including liver disease – specifically non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Differences in gut microbiota between people with NAFLD and lean individuals have been detected. Those with NAFLD are also more likely to have bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine along with increased intestinal permeability.

In one study by researchers from the National University of Ireland, NAFLD patients were found to have over double the frequency of small intestine bacterial overgrowth compared to the healthy patients.7

Bacterial overgrowth refers to the growth of an excessive amount of pathogenic microbes, which release waste products known as endotoxins (which travel through your intestinal walls and eventually must be filtered by your liver). This becomes an even greater issue if you have increased intestinal permeability, or leaky gut, as it allows more of the waste products to enter your bloodstream.

It makes sense, then, that restoring the health of your gut with probiotics to balance out the bacterial overgrowth would be beneficial to NAFLD patients, and this is what the research suggests. According to the World Journal of Hepatology:8

“… [S]ome data indicate that the immunoregulatory effects of probiotics may be beneficial in NAFLD treatment as they modulate the intestinal microbiota; improve epithelial barrier function and strengthen the intestinal wall decreasing its permeability; reduce bacterial translocation and endotoxemia; improve intestinal inflammation; and reduce oxidative and inflammatory liver damage.”

Further, one of the most severe effects of eating too much sugar is its potential to wreak havoc on your liver, including causing NAFLD. Excess sugar will also upset the balance of bacteria in your gut, making it easier for pathogenic strains to flourish…

Scientists Are Increasingly Studying Microbes to Understand Human Health and Disease

Researchers from MIT are undertaking the so-called “Underworlds” project beginning this year. They intend to test Boston-area sewage for the presence of viruses, bacterial pathogens, and pharmaceutical and illegal drugs. As the Boston Globe reported:9

Data on such substances could predict epidemics or tell when they’re waning. They could also demonstrate the impact of shifts in regulations, such as bans on using trans fat in restaurants.”

The US National Institute of Health’s Human Microbiome Project (HMP) is also underway to “characterize microbial communities found at multiple human body sites and to look for correlations between changes in the microbiome and human health.”

So far, this data gathering has resulted in nearly 200 scientific papers, along with a repository of resources that scientists can access to explore the relationships between human gut bacteria and disease.

The American Gut Project decided to take it a step further by allowing the American public to participate. (I published an invitation to join the project in 2012. Hopefully, some of you decided to join, as I did. If you didn’t, you can still sign up to participate on the Human Food Project’s website.10)

All the gathered information from this project will be made public. It’s an extremely ambitious project seeking to identify the parameters for the ideal gut flora and how diet affects it. According to the American Gut Project:11

“One of the big questions the American Gut scientists hope to figure out is what characterizes healthy and sick guts (or even just healthier and sicker guts) and how one might move from the latter to the former…

Even just beginning to know how many and which species live in our guts will be exciting, particularly since most of these species have never been studied, which is to say there are almost certainly new species inside you, though until you sample yourself… we won't know which ones.”

Optimizing Your Gut Flora for Optimal Health

All of this information should really drive home the point that optimizing your gut flora – living in harmony with your microbiome instead of assaulting it – is of critical importance for disease prevention and optimal health. Reseeding your gut with beneficial bacteria is essential for maintaining proper balance here. In light of this, here are my recommendations for optimizing your gut bacteria.

  • Fermented foods are the best route to optimal digestive health, as long as you eat the traditionally made, unpasteurized versions. Healthy choices include lassi (an Indian yoghurt drink, traditionally enjoyed before dinner), fermented grass-fed organic milk such as kefir, various pickled fermentations of cabbage, turnips, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, squash, and carrots, and natto (fermented soy). 
  • Fermented vegetables are an excellent way to supply beneficial bacteria back into our gut. As an added bonus, they can also a great source of vitamin K2 if you ferment your own using the proper starter culture.

    We had samples of high-quality, fermented organic vegetables made with our specific starter culture tested, and a typical serving (about two to three ounces) contained not only 10 trillion beneficial bacteria, but it also had 500 mcg of vitamin K2, which we now know is a vital co-nutrient to both vitamin D and calcium.

    Most high-quality probiotic supplements will only supply you with a fraction of the beneficial bacteria found in such homemade fermented veggies, so it's your most economical route to optimal gut health as well.

  • Probiotic supplement. Although I'm not a major proponent of taking many supplements (as I believe the majority of your nutrients need to come from food), probiotics is an exception if you don't eat fermented foods on a regular basis.

In addition to knowing what to add to your diet and lifestyle, it's equally important to know what to avoid and these include:

Antibiotics, unless absolutely necessary (and when you do, make sure to reseed your gut with fermented foods and/or a probiotic supplement) Conventionally-raised meats and other animal products, as CAFO animals are routinely fed low-dose antibiotics, plus genetically engineered grains, which have also been implicated in the destruction of gut flora Processed foods (as the excessive sugars, along with otherwise "dead" nutrients, feed pathogenic bacteria)
Chlorinated and/or fluoridated water Antibacterial soap Agricultural chemicals, glyphosate (Roundup) in particular


Sources:


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 Comments (27)

By Dr. Mercola

Only one thing sends more shivers down the spines of school-aged children’s parents than head lice… and that is mutant head lice. Research from 2014 of lice samples from the US and Canada showed almost all of the insects (99.6 percent) had developed gene mutations making them resistant to common over-the-counter lice shampoos.1

Such shampoos often contain the toxic pesticide permethrin… which should not be placed anywhere near a child’s scalp due to the health risks alone. But now it appears the chemicals will no longer be very effective either.

Pesticide-Resistant Lice Widespread in the US

The researchers from the above-mentioned study conducted another study this year that was presented at the American Chemical Society meeting in August. They sampled lice from 30 states and found lice from 25 of them carried the resistance genes.

In California, Florida, Maine, and Minnesota, every insect sampled was resistant. The problem with resistance was first detected in the 1990s and has been growing since. As CNN reported:2

The insecticides in these products are supposed to work by getting into the nerve cells of lice and changing the cells' chemistry in a way that leads to muscle paralysis and eventually death.

However, there are lice that randomly have mutations in genes that make them less susceptible to these insecticides, said Richard Pollack, a public health entomologist at Harvard University.

It is not clear how, but it could be that these genetic changes cause insect nerve cells to take up less insecticide or to pump more of it out of the cells. When these insecticides are used a lot, the naturally resistant, probably rare, lice have a survival advantage.

Just like how bacterial populations can become resistant to antibiotics, these lice take over the population, Pollack said.”

The study was funded by pharmaceutical company Sanofi, which owns Sklice lotion, a newer generation lice-fighting product that contains the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin (and may cost up to $200, plus the doctor’s visit for a prescription).

But although these newer products will be touted as the solution to the mutant head lice, it’s likely only a matter of time before they develop resistance to the newer chemicals too. CNN noted:3

There may be lice that harbor some level of resistance to these newer products and they would eventually take over the population if the other products became widely used, Pollack said. ‘I do expect that we will see resistance to any product with the exception perhaps of combing and heat and smothering the lice,’ Pollack said.”

Why Pyrethroid Insecticides Should Be Avoided…

Pyrethroid insecticides such as permethrin are the active ingredients in most over-the-counter lice shampoos. Pyrethroids — synthetic chemicals derived from natural chemicals found in chrysanthemums — have risen in popularity over the past decade. There are currently more than 3,500 commercial products containing this insecticide.

This includes items like roach sprays, flea bombs, and dog flea or tick collars and medicated shampoos. Lice shampoos may also contain pyrethrins, which are botanical insecticides derived from chrysanthemums.

Both pyrethroids and pyrethrins have similar chemical structures and act in a similar manner. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):4

“Most pyrethrins and some pyrethroid products are formulated with synergists, such as piperonyl butoxide and MGK-264, to enhance the pesticidal properties of the product. These synergists have no pesticidal effects of their own but enhance the effectiveness of other chemicals.”

This is the case with RID lice shampoo, which contains 4 percent piperonyl butoxide along with pyrethrum extract equivalent to 0.33 percent pyrethrins.5 Animal studies suggest pyrethroids cause neurological, immune, and reproductive damage. Canadian research also suggests pyrethroids may be associated with behavior problems in children.

The study tested urine samples from 779 Canadian children, aged 6 to 11, and the parents answered questions relating to their child's behavior. Almost all (97 percent) of the children had pyrethroid breakdown products in their urine.6

A 10-fold increase in urinary levels of one specific pyrethroid breakdown product doubled the child’s risk of scoring high for parent-reported behavioral problems, such as inattention and hyperactivity.

A previous study also found that toddlers who had been exposed to pyrethroids while in utero had lower development scores compared to unexposed children. According to a 2006 EPA review, animal research has also shown that even low levels of some of these compounds have an adverse effect on:7

Immune function Nervous system development Behavioral development
Thyroid Liver Reproductive hormones

Some pyrethroids act as endocrine disruptors by mimicking estrogen. Such hormone-disrupting chemicals can raise your levels of estrogen, thereby promoting the growth of estrogen-sensitive cancers such as breast cancer.

And remember, when you apply these chemicals for lice treatment, they go right through your child’s scalp and into his or her bloodstream. Worse still, multiple treatments are often recommended to be effective (and now even that is highly questionable).

You Don’t Need Drugs to Get Rid of Head Lice

While medicated shampoos are touted as the best way to get rid of head lice, you have to decide whether you really want to slather your child’s hair up with pesticides… especially when they may not kill the lice and there are other effective alternatives.

For starters, coat your child’s hair in olive oil or coconut oil. This is often said to work by asphyxiating the lice, although this is controversial. Some research even suggests that depriving lice of oxygen by putting them underwater for eight hours is not enough to kill them, and one study found applying olive oil did not result in significant lice mortality.8

Coconut oil, on the other hand, appears to be a useful option, as it’s been found to lead to 80 percent mortality in head lice after four hours.9 A spray made of coconut and anise was also found to work better at killing head lice than a permethrin lotion.10

Coconut oil (as well as olive oil) is also useful because it lubricates the hair, making it easier to remove lice and eggs. And this is key. Using an extra-fine-toothed lice comb to manually remove lice and eggs is one of the most effective tools available.11 You can also remove the insects with your fingers.

In fact, a growing number of “nitpicker” companies have popped up in recent years, which will manually remove lice from your child’s hair for a cost of $90 to $250 an hour. Many combine the combing/brushing with an oil application to make removal easier, and again this is something you can do yourself at home. You may need to repeat the treatment two or three times to be sure you’ve removed all newly hatched lice.

3 More Natural Lice Treatments to Try

There’s really no reason to apply neurotoxic pesticides to your child’s head. Many will find a combination of coconut oil and manual removal to be quite effective, but you can also try:

1. Diatomaceous Earth (DE)

Diatomaceous earth is made form tiny fossilized water plants called diatoms. The diatoms are ground up to make a fine, chalky powder that’s rich in minerals and toxic to insects. DE works because it absorbs fats from the insects’ protective outer coating, drying them out, and killing them.

DE is non-toxic to humans, although you should be careful to avoid breathing in the dust, especially for a prolonged period. For lice treatment, first place a t-shirt upside down over your child’s head so the collar forms a seal around the scalp.

Apply diatomaceous earth to your child’s hair, being careful to keep the dust inside of the t-shirt “bag.” Tie off the open end of the t-shirt and massage the DE into your child’s scalp. Allow it to sit overnight, then shampoo it out the next day. This should be followed by a thorough combing with an extra-fine comb. You may need to repeat the treatment once a week for three weeks.12

2. Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil has been long valued for its antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties, however it’s also very effective at killing head lice. An application of 1 percent tea tree oil killed 100 percent of head lice after 30 minutes in one study.13 One option is to mix several drops of tea tree oil with the coconut oil you apply to your child’s scalp. You can also find tea tree oil shampoos that may be effective (especially when combined with the DE treatment described above).

3. Hot Air

Various devices are available that kill head lice using hot air. Once such device, the LouseBuster, killed nearly 100 percent of lice eggs and 80 percent of hatched lice, even when operated at a comfortable temperature, it’s slightly cooler than a standard blow dryer.14 The LouseBuster is sold to nurses, schools, and hospitals, as well as so-called “lice salons” that specialize in non-toxic lice removal.15 According to the journal Pediatrics:16

“Our findings demonstrate that one 30-minute application of hot air has the potential to eradicate head lice infestations. In summary, hot air is an effective, safe treatment and one to which lice are unlikely to evolve resistance.”

Head lice is, unfortunately, quite common, affecting 6 million to 12 million US kids every year.17 But if your child gets sent home from school with a case, don’t panic – and don’t rush to the drug store for toxic lice removal shampoos. By using one or more of the natural methods described above, you should be able to quickly rid your child’s hair of lice without the use of dangerous chemicals. And if you’re not up for tackling the job yourself, there are many professional lice removal salons that will do it for you (just be sure to choose one that uses only chemical-free methods).



Sources:


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By Dr. Mercola

The food, chemical, and biotechnology industries have all built up intricate and powerful systems designed to manipulate public and scientific opinion using false front organizations and industry shills posing as independent experts.

The mission is to mislead people — including lazy reporters — about issues that threaten the corporate bottom line.

So-called astroturfing techniques are frequently used to discredit the opposition and create the false appearance of scientific consensus on a particular issue.

Astroturfing refers to the effort on the part of special interests to surreptitiously sway public opinion by making it appear as though there's a grassroots effort for or against a particular agenda, when in reality such a groundswell of public opinion might not exist.

One hallmark of astroturfing is attacking those who question the status quo, and using derogatory terms such as "crank," "crack," "nutty," "pseudo-science," and "conspiracy theorist" to describe them and their argument.

These shills also inject themselves into social media discussions, pretending to be "regular people," when in fact they have a very clearly defined agenda to steer the conversation.

Above is the full video produced by the Global Energy Balance Network that was funded with previously non-disclosed millions of dollars by Coca-Cola. A shocking lack of non-disclosure. 

Coca-Cola Funds Front Group to Peddle 'Nonsense' as Science

While the tobacco and chemical technology industries are notorious for these kinds of tactics, the food industry is using the same playbook.

For example, Coca-Cola Company was recently "outed" by the New York Times1,2,3,4 for funding a front group by the name of The Global Energy Balance Network.

The aim of this group appears to be to confuse consumers about soda science, and divert attention away from the mounting evidence showing that sweet beverages are a major contributor to obesity and diseases associated with insulin resistance, such as diabetes.

As reported in the featured article:5

"Coca-Cola, the world's largest producer of sugary beverages, is backing a new 'science-based' solution to the obesity crisis: to maintain a healthy weight, get more exercise, and worry less about cutting calories.

The beverage giant has teamed up with influential scientists who are advancing this message in medical journals, at conferences and through social media...

'Most of the focus in the popular media and in the scientific press is, 'Oh they're eating too much, eating too much, eating too much' — blaming fast food, blaming sugary drinks, and so on,' the group's vice president, Steven N. Blair, an exercise scientist, says in a recent video announcing the new organization.

'And there's really virtually no compelling evidence that that, in fact, is the cause.'"

In response to, and in support of, this exposé, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) wrote a Letter to the Editor of the New York Times,6 signed by 36 leading researchers, scientists, and public health officials, noting that Coca-Cola is blatantly ignoring the "well-documented evidence that sugary drinks are a major contributor to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes."

Protecting Profits Through Misdirection

Last year, Coca-Cola made a $1.5 million donation to two universities where the leaders of the new front group are employed. Since 2008, the company has also funded projects led by two of the group's founding members, to the tune of $4 million.

Coca-Cola is also the registered owner and administrator of the Global Energy Balance Network's website and, according to an editorial7 announcing the creation of the Global Energy Balance Network, the group has received an "unrestricted education gift" from Coca-Cola.

"Critics say Coke has long cast the obesity epidemic as primarily an exercise problem... Now, public health advocates say, Coca-Cola is going a step further, recruiting reputable scientists to make the case for them," the New York Times writes.

"Barry M. Popkin, a professor of global nutrition... said Coke's support of prominent health researchers was reminiscent of tactics used by the tobacco industry, which enlisted experts to become 'merchants of doubt' about the health hazards of smoking...

The group says there is 'strong evidence' that the key to preventing weight gain is not reducing food intake... 'but maintaining an active lifestyle and eating more calories.' To back up this contention, the group provides links to two research papers, each of which contains this footnote: 'The publication of this article was supported by The Coca-Cola Company...'

[T]he Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana announced the findings of a large new study on exercise in children that determined that lack of physical activity 'is the biggest predictor of childhood obesity around the world.' The news release contained a disclosure: 'This research was funded by The Coca-Cola Company.'"

I will have more to say on this topic in early October as I am interviewing Dr. Marion Nestle for her new book Soda Politics that is released on October 3.

Also, you might want to view the comment section and look to see when the American Beverage Association, (the trade front group for Coke and Pepsi) post some of their absurd propaganda in response to this article, as they have done in the past.

You CANNOT Exercise Your Way Out of an Unhealthy Diet

Arguing for more exercise is not a bad thing in and of itself, but by placing the sole focus on exercise and making you think you can exercise your way out of a high-sugar diet, Coca-Cola is doing a lot of harm. The fact is, your diet can make or break your exercise efforts. Not the other way around. The finest destruction of the calorie and exercise myth can be viewed in this lecture featuring Dr. Zoe Harcombe, who wrote the best book I ever read on the subject, The Obesity Epidemic. I recently interviewed her and will publish that interview shortly.

 

Research8 shows exercise is largely ineffective for producing any significant amount of weight loss on its own. If you want any chance of weight reduction, you have to cut calories as well.9

Part of this is because while you certainly burn more calories when you exercise, you cannot burn off thousands of excess calories each day. For example, to burn off the calories of a single Snickers bar you'd have to walk about five miles, and to offset a one soda per day habit, you have to walk one hour per day!

Now, if you normally eat a candy bar or drink a soda each day, and you decide to skip the candy or soda AND walk a few miles each day, THEN you'd be looking at potential weight loss. Otherwise you're just fighting for maintenance. And if you're overweight as it is, without changing your diet your exercise routine will simply help you maintain your current weight at best...

In addition to cutting calories, you also need to consider their source. Calories from processed fructose will affect your body differently than calories from healthy fat, for example. Research also shows that fructose promotes metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease to a greater extent than glucose, so not even all sugars are the same. Refined fructose is actually broken down very much like alcohol, damaging your liver and causing mitochondrial and metabolic dysfunction in the same way as ethanol and other toxins.

A recent meta-review10 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. 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.

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.11 Yet the reality just doesn't match up with the industry's well-crafted fantasies.

Nearly 30 percent of American children and teens are now either obese or overweight, and blacks and Hispanic kids are not only disproportionally more overweight than their Caucasian peers, they're also disproportionally exposed to soda ads, according to a 2014 report12 from the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut, the African-American Collaborative Obesity Research Network, and the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

 

Big Food Astroturfing

As noted in a recent Campaign US article,13 Coca-Cola isn't the only company engaging in astroturfing efforts to save their bottom-line as people are getting savvier about nutrition and health:

"Coke is far from alone in quietly pushing junk science to reframe health issues and help win over consumers and regulators. Under pressure from the organic and clean-eating movement, Big Food is upping its game in this newest form of astroturfing: backing groups that look and sound like educational resources while supporting the goals of the corporations that help the bills. Unlike astroturf groups of the past, these organizations don't go to great lengths to hide their corporate connections.

Most of them name their major backers right on their site. Instead, they trust that carefully crafted visuals and scientifically accredited spokespeople will dissuade the average consumer — or journalist — from looking too closely. Take a look at the Food Dialogue website, the online face of the US Farmers and Rancher Alliance...

The site says it's devoted to giving agriculture a voice in enhancing consumers' trust in food production... Ketchum PR helps the organization get its message out to city folks. But dig deeper into the site and you find that USFRA's backers include giant corporations tied to industrialized farming, including biotech company Monsanto, known for its GMOs, pesticide maker Dow AgroSciences, ag pharmaceutical provider Merck Animal Health, and food processor Cargill... No organic farm groups are included among its membership."

According to a recent report14 by the environmental organization Friends of the Earth, titled "Spinning Food," the US Farmers and Rancher Alliance and other such front groups "craft a narrative about food that is intended to defuse public concern about the real risks of chemical-intensive industrial agriculture and undermine the public's perceptions of the benefits of organic food and diversified, ecological agriculture systems." And, while most of industry front groups claim to offer "balanced discussions" about the issues at hand, they shrewdly promote a single-sided and single-minded agenda.

As noted by Kari Hamerschlag, senior program manager at Friends of the Earth:

"Coca-Cola's effort to establish a well-funded front group and buy the credentials of scientists is a cookie-cutter example of how a food company spins the story of food and science to benefit its bottom line."

Another perfect example of an industry front group is the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food (CFSAF), which is currently advertising its support for HR 1599, a bill that would strip states of their right to enact GMO labeling laws. One of the ads15,16 regurgitates the lie that food prices would rise if genetically engineered foods were to be labeled, saying:

"Across the country misguided politicians have threatened polices that could hurt our environment, close family farms, and increase food prices by $500 per family. But Congressman Mike Pompeo is fighting for a solution that would keep food costs down, help farmers, and protect our environment. Call Congressman Pompeo and tell him to keep fighting for the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act. It's the right thing for Kansas and our country."

Transparency Is Crucial to Protect Public Health

As detailed in a recent article17 by Paul D. Thacker and Charles Seife, published in PLOS Biology Community Blog, transparency is critical for public health. Unfortunately, while efforts have focused on increasing transparency in science over the past several years, even former supporters of transparency are now starting to backpedal.

This includes the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) which, to quote Thacker and Seife, "has begun a campaign to blunt the tools with which the public can investigate claims of scientific malfeasance." More specifically, the UCS is questioning the use of open-access requests with which journalists and researchers can request access to correspondence between scientists and corporations for example. As noted in the article:

"In February, a tiny nonprofit, the U.S. Right to Know, sent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to several universities. FOIA requests are legal inquiries that allow citizens and other professionals to obtain certain information in the possession of various government entities. These particular requests sought communications between scientists and several companies, trade groups, and PR firms, in order to see if the academics were coordinating their messaging with companies.

A journalist reporting on this FOIA request in Science noted that the Organic Consumers Association funds the U.S Right to Know and that many of the scientists targeted are involved with a website called GMO Answers. He did not mention that GMO Answers is run by the PR firm Ketchum, on behalf of GMO companies.

Upon hearing of these inquiries, a lead analyst at UCS stated, 'These requests to the genetic engineering researchers, just like other overly broad open records requests that seek excessive access to scientists' inboxes, are inappropriate.' [But requests] under FOIA for personal correspondence are not just appropriate, but crucial to ensuring transparency."

The authors go on to provide specific examples of instances where access to scientists' personal correspondence led to the discovery of industry-orchestrated disinformation campaigns, scientific fraud, medical ghostwriting, and other corrupt practices.

"Scientists' emails have also revealed other mechanisms by which industry exerts control over the scientific literature. A recent Senate investigation released scientists' emails to show that the device maker Medtronic edited the scientific manuscripts — written by supposedly independent researchers — to support one of their products," the authors write.

Take Notice of Who's Behind the Messages You Hear

In short, without transparency laws, there's no way to monitor scientific misbehavior, and as noted by Thacker and Seife, scientists should expect to be subjected to a high level of outside scrutiny. When scientists are working on issues that affect public health, watchdog groups and journalists would be remiss were they not to look for potential misconduct that might put the public's health in jeopardy.

And as universities become increasingly enmeshed with corporations funding their research, and corporations keep building networks of front groups, the need for transparency and laws that provide access to "behind-the-scenes" information will only increase as time goes on. As Thacker and Seife states:

"In short, those working to improve public welfare should oppose attempts to embolden government entities to withhold public information, thus threatening public health and the public trust in science."

It's high time to pull back the curtain and see who's really pulling the strings and levers. In the case of the Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN), that entity is Coca-Cola, and whenever you hear the talking points from GEBN, you know exactly who is talking, and why. To stop you from ditching soda from your diet, they simply redirect the blame for your weight and health problems to a lack of exercise. Coca-Cola doesn't necessarily want you to die; they just don't want you to stop drinking their beverages because then they'll go out of business. It's that simple. So believe what they tell you at your own risk...

The Union of Concerned Scientists requested this additional information be provided as well, with a longer excerpt from the lead analyst's discussion of conflicts of interest and disclosure:. 

"To be clear, disclosure of funding sources and other conflicts of interest is important. We've said it before.. and I'm sure we will say it again: any real or perceived conflicts of interest for scientists should be publicly disclosed. And as history has shown, scientists are not always proactive on this. Many cases have surfaced where undisclosed financial ties were found by those who took the time to scrutinize(e.g here, here, and here). Such investigations are important and necessary."

"But the push and pull of the scientific process and research deliberations should be exempt from disclosure. Science is an iterative process and researchers should be free to discuss, challenge, and develop ideas with a certain level of privacy. As a result, these requests to the genetic engineering researchers, just like other overly broad open records requests that seek excessive access to scientists' inboxes are inappropriate."

Tell Coke They're a Joke!

Obesity is a serious public health problem in the United States, 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 the Coca-Cola Company 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 Company 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,18 acknowledging that the company’s approach was “poorly planned.”  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”19 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!





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  New Studies Confirm Soda-Diabetes Link

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