By Dr. Mercola

By definition, a placebo is an inert, innocuous substance that has no effect on your body. Placebos, such as sugar pills, are therefore used as controls against which the effects of modern-day medical treatments are measured.

However, the placebo-effect, in which a patient believes he or she is getting an actual drug and subsequently feels better, despite receiving no “active” treatment at all, has become a well-recognized phenomenon.

A number of studies have revealed that placebos can work just as well as potent drugs. Sham surgery has even been shown to produce results that are equal to actual surgery!

Indeed, mounting research suggests this "power of the mind," or power of belief, can be a very healing force. Studies into the placebo effect also show that many conventional treatments "work" because of the placebo effect and little else.

The idea that "perception is everything" certainly appears to hold true when it comes to medical treatment, and this includes perceptions about quality and price. Oftentimes, the more expensive the drug is the more effective it is believed to be—even if there's no evidence to support such a belief.

Cost is simply associated with quality in general. One recent study highlights this intriguing connection between perception of quality based on cost, belief in relief, and measurable recovery.

Parkinson's Patients Improve from Belief in Expensive Drug Treatment

The randomized, double-blind study1,2 was small, comprised of only a dozen patients diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, but the findings suggest that simply believing that you're receiving an expensive drug can produce beneficial effects, including actual biological changes.

As reported by

"On average, patients had bigger short-term improvements in symptoms like tremor and muscle stiffness when they were told they were getting the costlier of two drugs. In reality, both 'drugs' were nothing more than saline, given by injection.

But the study patients were told that one drug was a new medication priced at $1,500 a dose, while the other cost just $100 -- though, the researchers assured them, the medications were expected to have similar effects."

Not only did patients exhibit greater improvements in movement after receiving the pricier of the two placebos, MRI scans also revealed differences in brain activity between the two placebo groups. In those who thought they were receiving a pricey new drug, the brain activity was more similar to people receiving an actual drug for Parkinson's.

Neurologist Dr. Peter LeWitt noted that:4,5 "Even a condition with objectively measured signs and symptoms can improve because of the placebo effect," adding that this phenomenon is not exclusive to Parkinson's patients.

The placebo effect has been noted in a variety of treatments, including treatments for depression, headaches, and degenerative meniscal tears, just to name a few.

Juxtaposed to these latest findings is previous research in which the placebo effect was found to produce marked effects even when no deception was involved at all.

In one trial, nearly 60 percent of patients given a placebo pill, who were told they were receiving a placebo, reported adequate relief from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms. Only 35 percent of those who received no treatment at all reported adequate relief.

What Makes the Placebo Effect Work?

The jury is still out on the exact mechanisms that make the placebo effect so effective. It does appear that simply going through the ritual of treatment is enough to cause a beneficial response...

Regardless of the mechanism, studies do show that if you think you're receiving a treatment, and you expect that treatment to work, it often will. A previous article in Scientific American6 noted that:

"Placebo effects can arise not only from a conscious belief in a drug but also from subconscious associations between recovery and the experience of being treated—from the pinch of a shot to a doctor's white coat.

Such subliminal conditioning can control bodily processes of which we are unaware, such as immune responses and the release of hormones."

In the case of Parkinson's, researchers have suggested that patients who believe they're receiving a drug may trigger their brains to release dopamine. As noted in the featured article:7

"Parkinson's disease arises when brain cells that produce dopamine become dysfunctional, leading to movement symptoms such as tremors, rigid muscles, and balance and coordination problems. And it so happens that the brain churns out more dopamine when a person is anticipating a reward -- like symptom relief from a drug.

To [lead author Dr. Alberto] Espay, the new findings are more evidence that 'expectations' play an important role in treatment results.'If you expect a lot, you're more likely to get a lot,' he said."

This was also demonstrated in another recent study,8 which found that people with back pain who believe that acupuncture might be helpful actually get more pain relief from it, compared to those who do not believe it will work.

According to study author Felicity Bishop, PhD: People who started out with very low expectations of acupuncture, who thought it probably would not help them, were more likely to report less benefit as treatment went on.”

Emotions Control Intensity of Pain

As reported by NPR,9 pain is in a sense “all in your head,” as your “perception of pain is shaped by brain circuits that are constantly filtering the information coming from our sensory nerves.” Research has also shown that your emotions and/or expectations can significantly influence the perceived intensity of pain. As noted by NPR:

The brain also determines the emotion we attach to each painful experience, [professor of neuroscience David] Linden says. That's possible, he explains, because the brain uses two different systems to process pain information coming from our nerve endings. One system determines the pain's location, intensity and characteristics: stabbing, aching, burning, etc.

"And then," Linden says, "there is a completely separate system for the emotional aspect of pain — the part that makes us go, 'Ow! This is terrible.' Linden says positive emotions — like feeling calm and safe and connected to others — can minimize pain. But negative emotions tend to have the opposite effect. Torturers have exploited that aspect for centuries.”

Mental focus also plays a role. By monitoring brain waves, and telling participants to place all of their focus on one specific body part, researchers have discovered that you can essentially “tell” your brain to ignore sensory input to parts of your body, thereby blocking information such as pain. This kind of focus also results in increased brain activity in a region that ignores distractions. As explained by Stephanie Jones, an assistant professor of neuroscience:10

"There's coordination between the front part of the brain, which is the executive control region of the brain, and the sensory part of the brain, which is filtering information from the environment. That suggests that at least some people can teach their brains how to filter out things like chronic pain, perhaps through meditation.”

Knee Surgery—The $4 Billion Medical Hoax

Many are quick to say that the placebo effect is responsible for the benefits of alternative treatments and natural supplements—the implication being that the treatment doesn't really work, and any benefit is "all in your head."But few stop to consider the fact that many of the benefits of conventional drugs and other interventions are also due to the placebo effect. Drugs have an added downside, however, in that they may also cause very real and adverse side effects.One of the most dramatic examples of this was a knee surgery study11 published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2002. 

Not only does this double-blind, placebo-controlled, multi-center trial definitively prove the power of your mind in healing, it also reveals that most knee surgery for osteoarthritis is an utter waste of money. The results of this study show that it's not actually the surgery itself that is responsible for the improvement, but rather it's due to the placebo effect. More precisely, it's the ability of your brain to produce healing when you believe it should be happening (such as after you receive knee surgery). According to the authors:

"In this controlled trial involving patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, the outcomes after arthroscopic lavage or arthroscopic débridement were no better than those after a placebo procedure."

This was followed by another study,12 published in 2013, which also found that arthroscopic knee surgery for degenerative meniscal tears had no more benefit than "sham surgery." Here, they even excluded people with knee arthritis, as they tend not to benefit as much from meniscus surgery anyway, and the researchers wanted to ascertain if the surgery helps under "ideal circumstances." Well, at the post-operative one-year mark, all patients, regardless of whether they had real or sham surgery, reported equal amounts of pain reduction, which led the researchers to conclude that real knee surgery offers no better outcome than sham surgery (placebo).

This is a significant concession, as arthroscopic surgery on the meniscus is the most common orthopedic procedure in the US. According to this study, it's performed about 700,000 times a year to the tune of $4 billion. But according to these findings, any surgeon who tells you this is "the best" or "only" option for your osteoarthritic knee pain will not have a leg to stand on when you show him or her the evidence to the contrary... It's also worth considering these kinds of findings when you're weighing your treatment options. Remembering that your mind is the real healer here may help you find a safer and less costly alternative.

Other Examples of the Medical Placebo Effect

Another excellent example of the placebo effect is that of antidepressants. Research13 published in 2010 suggests there is little evidence that antidepressants benefit people with mild to moderate depression, and they work no better than a placebo. An earlier meta-analysis14 published in PLoS Medicine concluded that the difference between antidepressants and placebo pills is very small – yet these drugs remain one of the most prescribed drugs in the United States.

Considering the long list of side effects associated with antidepressants, including worsening depression, it seems reasonable to conclude that a placebo would be a far preferable option to the real thing... A third example of research revealing the placebo effect at work in modern medicine is a study15 published just last year. Here, the researchers took advantage of the recurring nature of migraines to assess the effects of the migraine drug Maxalt (rizatriptan), compared to placebo. Among the results were the following findings:

  • Patients receiving Maxalt reported greater relief when told they were getting an effective drug for the treatment of acute migraine
  • When the pills were switched, patients reported similar pain reductions from placebo pills labeled as Maxalt as from Maxalt tablets labeled as placebo
  • Subjects reported pain relief even when they knew the pill theywere receiving was a placebo, compared with no treatment at all

According to the authors, the placebo effect accounted for more than 50 percent of the therapeutic value of this drug. As explained by co-author Ted Kaptchuk, Director of the Program in Placebo Studies and Therapeutic Encounter at Harvard Medical School:16

"This study untangled and reassembled the clinical effects of placebo and medication in a unique manner. Very few, if any, experiments have compared the effectiveness of medication under different degrees of information in a naturally recurring disease. Our discovery showing that subjects' reports of pain were nearly identical when they were told that an active drug was a placebo as when they were told that a placebo was an active drug demonstrates that the placebo effect is an unacknowledged partner for powerful medications." [Emphasis mine]

How to Harness the Placebo Effect in Your Own Life

There may be cases in your own life where you can use your mind to help heal your body or reduce your reliance on conventional medical care, including medications. And when I say that, I mean that if you strongly believe you will benefit from something, you radically increase the chances that you will. But there is one caveat: you may need to resolve any emotional blocks that are standing in your way first.

Such a block could be the belief that the pain or illness cannot go away. Maybe a parent or relative had the same problem and they never recovered, so you probably "can't" get rid of it either. Another block could be resentment that you have the disease or the pain, or even an unconscious desire to keep your ailment because of the extra attention you gain from it.

The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is an extremely powerful tool that you can use to get to the root of your emotional conflicts, and release them, to help open your mind to the power of the placebo effect. It's often possible to feel better just because your mind subconsciously believes it's time, or your subconscious alters body processes in response to the placebo treatment without you even being aware of it. As often as possible, try to use the placebo option first. This is a new way of thinking about healing for most people, but can be extremely potent, especially when combined with a healthy outlook and disease-preventive lifestyle.

EFT Offers Relief for a Number of Health Problems

This non-invasive technique can also provide more direct relief for certain problems. For example, EFT has been shown to cut the frequency of tension headaches down by half, as well as reducing the intensity of the headaches. If you look at it in terms of energy -- pain is energy and your mind is also energy -- you can see how one directly influences the other. EFT is actually a subject of intense research and has been studied in more than 10 countries, by more than 60 investigators, with results published in more than 20 different peer-reviewed journals.

In 2012, a critical review in the American Psychological Association's (APA) journal Review of General Psychology17 found that EFT "consistently demonstrated strong effect sizes and other positive statistical results that far exceed chance after relatively few treatment sessions." This brought EFT one step closer to meeting the criteria for evidence-based treatments proposed by the APA, an important step toward EFT's acceptance by the wider professional community, and one that will bring its benefits to a wider group of people. The review found statistically significant benefits in using EFT for the following conditions:

Anxiety Athletic Performance Depression Pain and Physical Symptoms
Phobias Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Weight Loss Food Cravings

The Placebo Effect Is Real, and Can Be a Powerful Ally for Your Healing

While the exact mechanisms behind the placebo effect are still being explored, there's no denying that the effect is real. And, most likely, the placebo effect takes on many different forms, impacting brain mechanisms and chemicals involved in expectation, anxiety, and reward. In short, a placebo really does change your brain, in a number of different ways. Writing in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology18 in 2011, the researchers noted the following observations:

  1. First, as the placebo effect is basically a psychosocial context effect, these data indicate that different social stimuli, such as words and rituals of the therapeutic act, may change the chemistry and circuitry of the patient's brain.
  2. Second, the mechanisms that are activated by placebos are the same as those activated by drugs, which suggests a cognitive/affective interference with drug action.
  3. Third, if prefrontal functioning is impaired, placebo responses are reduced or totally lacking, as occurs in dementia of the Alzheimer's type.
All of this is good news; it reveals that you hold a great deal of power of healing within yourself—a power that can be tapped through belief and positive expectations. The placebo effect also comes into play in epigenetics, which is another burgeoning field of study. This fascinating new field breaks you free from the misguided belief that your genes control you. In reality, your genes are merely storage facilities, and the all-important expression of your genes is actually ruled by environmental influences—including your thoughts and expectations.

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By Dr. Mercola

When it comes to food, there’s no comparison between slow food and fast food. Where slow food is the result of careful growing and harvesting, gentle and thoughtful preparation and cooking, and, finally, taking the time to savor each bite… fast food is the result of a cookie-cutter convenience approach.

As fast food has infiltrated society, levels of chronic disease have risen. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that half of Americans suffer from at least one chronic illness, while such diseases cause 70 percent of US deaths every year.

Even chronic diseases among children have quadrupled since the 1960s.1 Something is inherently broken or, more aptly, a series of factors are intertwining to sap the vigor and vitality from so many people, far too soon.

Faced with rising numbers of patients with chronic disease, and often multiple chronic diseases, that fail to respond to conventional medicine, many physicians don’t know where to turn.

The problem, as Dr. Michael Finkelstein, aka “the Slow Medicine Doctor,” realized, is that even the best medical schools aren’t preparing physicians to heal patients properly.

Instead, they’re trained in what is essentially fast medicine – a surgery here, a few prescriptions there, but nothing to address the fundamental root of the problem… the very crux of the disease.

According to Dr. Finkelstein, author of Slow Medicine: Hope and Healing for Chronic Illness, Slow Medicine is to the healthcare industry what Slow Food is to the restaurant industry…

And only by taking the time to truly understand our bodies and the complex factors that may be contributing to disease can we truly begin to heal and achieve optimal wellness.

The Slow Medicine Difference

Conventional medicine excels at treating life-threatening emergencies. If you have a heart attack or are injured in a car accident, for instance, modern medicine could very well save your life. But, as Dr. Finkelstein said, “for almost everything else, it falls flat.”

“We could say that this quick-fix mentality – the desire, the need, if you will, to go to somebody, to a scientist, a physician who will easily diagnose, pinpoint exactly what you have and give you a single remedy that will work almost immediately – is… what we think should be the standard of care. And, of course, we know that doesn’t always work that way.

…The response then to this fast medicine… is the concept of slow medicine. Gone are the days when you lived in a town where your physician was a family physician and had even visited your house, and where people lived in close-knit communities, where they spent evenings in the park or on the streets with their neighbors.

Our fast-paced life is consuming us here in America. In response, the idea is medicine as a way of living. That’s what I’m trying to encourage people to consider.”

Dr. Finkelstein was trained in both conventional and integrative medicine, and he has come to the same realization that I have, which is that it is rarely one factor that leads to a chronic condition… and it is just as rarely only one factor that needs to change to fix it.

In Slow Medicine, you “pan the lens back to look at the entire picture in the context of a person’s life.” Your health habits are important, for instance, but so too are your relationships, your career, your feelings about where you’re at in your life and so much more. According to Dr. Finkelstein’s website,

Against the backdrop of our assembly-line model of medical care, in which we receive cookie-cutter prescriptions for complex health matters, Slow Medicine provides the necessary time and asks the relevant questions for optimizing general wellness and healing chronic illness.

In the Slow Medicine paradigm, we are recognized as the supreme authorities on our own bodies, and doctors serve as our guides – helping us navigate the maze of conventional, complementary, and alternative medicine options.

In some cases, we may need to schedule a surgery. In other cases, we may need to cultivate loving relationships. In still other cases, we may need to engage in artistic self-expression – through dancing, painting, writing, or playing a musical instrument.”

The Surprising First Question You Should Ask Yourself

Dr. Finkelstein spends two to three hours when he first meets patients, going over minute details in their life. This might sound shocking if you’re used to the typical in-and-out office visit common to conventional medicine, but as Dr. Finkelstein says, “This is not something that can be done… quickly.”

It takes time to get to know a person, including what’s going on in your work and personal life, what you do with your free time, if you spend any time outdoors… All of these questions matter.

If you’re currently struggling with chronic disease and you’ve found yourself at a standstill in your healing process, there is one question that Dr. Finkelstein believes can pull some people out of the rut. In fact, it’s something you might want to ask yourself right now… and it’s probably not what you think.

“One of the first questions I ask people after they tell me the things that are going on in their life [is]… “If I were a magician and I could, with a wand, just wipe away all of these symptoms and you are restored back to health, what would you do with your life?”

I ask that question up front early because I want people to understand why they want to be healthy. I feel that that’s rather important to be able to amass the energy and organization that’s required. The persistence, the perseverance to actually do the things like lifestyle change that will be required to get to that goal.”

If you’re sick, you may have forgotten what life can be like when you’re well. But once you remember what drives you, what you live for… it can be all the motivation you need to make some lasting positive change. That is the beauty of slow medicine; it looks at you as a whole person, not just a statistic or a “patient” with a disease.

Uncovering Your Linchpin

The next important aspect that sets Slow Medicine squarely apart from conventional medicine is that it helps you discover your linchpin. Most people do, in fact, have a linchpin – the event or occurrence that triggered or contributed to your disease process or symptoms. Dr. Finkelstein refers to your linchpin as the central theme of what is going on.

When you take a thorough inventory of a person’s life, that central linchpin often becomes clear… but it’s something that is virtually never uncovered in conventional medicine. Your linchpin might be a bad relationship, for instance, or unresolved grief or anger that is interfering with your ability to really break through and heal. Dr. Finkelstein explains:

Even though they may be doing a lot of other things that are really effective and maybe good for them, they seem not to get to much mileage even though they may work very hard. The word ‘slow’ in slow medicine implies that this is something that takes time and takes a thorough review with people to really help them ascertain what that might be, so that they don’t overlook that central linchpin factor. And then once they identify what that might be, to see how the other things relate to it.”

It is oftentimes this combination – of remembering what it is you want to do with your life (and going after it) and addressing your linchpin – that leads to recovery. You can see how no ordinary physician’s visit, no pill, and no surgery would be able to accomplish this.

The Three ‘Tenets’ of Slow Medicine

Dr. Finkelstein used a good analogy in describing Slow Medicine. He refers to the advice or treatments offered by conventional medicine as seeds, and the rest (your life, lifestyle, linchpin, and experiences) as the soil and the way to condition that soil. The seeds cannot grow without soil, and the healthier the soil is, the more the plant will grow and thrive. In other words, Slow Medicine is very much about taking control of your health – and gaining (or re-gaining) the confidence needed to take an active part in your healthcare and wellness. When asked to explain just three key points from his book, the takeaways that might most benefit someone struggling with their health, Dr. Finkelstein recommended this:

1. Find Your Life’s Purpose (or Remind Yourself of It)

“The first thing… is to identify your life’s purpose. Why do you want to be healthy? I think there’s a real value in spending some time with each person, and asking and answering that question for themselves. Purpose is number one.”

2. Appreciate the Perspective: Your Physical Body Must Be Viewed in the Context of Your Whole Life

“The physical body is part of an array of interactive components that actually make up your whole life. To address the physical body by itself is not likely to lead you as far down the path as you would like. The perspective… is the embedding of the physical symptoms into the context of your greater life. And then from there, to understand how important it is to integrate what you do to recreate the whole.”

3. Have a Plan to Make Your Soil More Fertile

“[Number three is] to have a plan. It’s to understand that in addition to maybe the magic bullet, if there is something that’s really important, you still want to put that seed into soil that’s more fertile. That’s the foundational practices of daily living. Living in alignment and in sync with the rhythms and cycles of nature in harmony with the people you live with, doing something meaningful in your life, and working on all those things simultaneously, so that everything comes together and leads you where you want to be.”

The Manual to Slow Medicine Helps You Take Control of Your Health

Dr. Finkelstein’s book, Slow Medicine, is intended to be a manual, a tool to help you harness the healing potential in your own body and take control of your health. It is based on 77 questions that will help you identify where your life is in balance and where it’s not, as well as where your major opportunities for improvement lie.

It will help you to understand what to prioritize, how to gain the proper perspective and then initiate a plan to get well, mentally, physically, and spiritually. If you’re currently fed up with feeling sick and feel you’ve exhausted all that conventional medicine has to offer with no results, I strongly recommend reading Slow Medicine: Hope and Healing for Chronic Illness. It could quite literally change your life.


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By Dr. Mercola

Globally, $374 billion is spent on snacks each year. Nielsen’s 2014 Global Survey of Snacking revealed that many people are seeking out snacks with all-natural ingredients – 45 percent said natural snacks are very important and 32 percent said they’re moderately important.1

People are also looking for cleaner ingredients labels. Forty-four percent said they want snacks with no artificial colors, followed closely by no genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and artificial flavors.

Of course, the best snacks are whole foods… not those with ingredients labels at all. But major food companies are taking note of consumer demand, and at least one has plans to remove artificial ingredients…

Nestle Nixes Artificial Colors and Flavors in US Candy

Nestle USA has announced they will be removing all artificial colors and flavors from confections sold in the US. This includes replacing ingredients like Red 40 and Yellow 5 in its Butterfinger candy bar and replacing artificial vanillin in Crunch bars with natural vanilla flavor.

As is often the case, artificial colors and flavors are already absent in Nestle’s UK products – they were removed in 2012 in response to UK consumer demand. Starting mid-2015, you’ll see Nestle candy labels in the US touting “no artificial flavors and colors.” Nestle USA president Doreen Ida said:2

“We know that candy consumers are interested in broader food trends around fewer artificial ingredients. As we thought about what this means for our candy brands, our first step has been to remove artificial flavors and colors without affecting taste or increasing the price. We’re excited to be the first major U.S. candy manufacturer to make this commitment.”

Nine of Nestle’s chocolate candies still contain caramel coloring, however, which the company says they are “looking to remove.”3 Certain types of caramel color, which is widely used in brown soft drinks, may cause cancer due to 4-methylimidazole (4-MeI), a chemical byproduct formed when certain types of caramel coloring are manufactured.

Don’t Be Fooled by ‘Healthier’ Junk Foods

We’ve seen this many times before… a shrewd food manufacturer, looking to cash in on “healthy eat trends” in America, creates a “healthier” version of a beloved snack food. You can now easily find all-natural soda, potato chips, ice cream, and cake. Why not have healthier candy bars, too?

On the one hand, if you’re eating a candy bar as a very occasional treat, at least Nestle’s “healthier” version will no longer expose you to artificial ingredients. On the other hand, a wolf in sheep’s clothing is still… a wolf.

One Butterfinger bar, for instance, contains 29 grams of sugar.4 That’s the original size. If you opt for the king size bar, and you eat the whole thing, you’ll be eating 51 grams of sugar (the packaging is misleading, too, because a serving size is only one-third of the bar). Let’s put this into perspective…

The US government recommends consuming no more than 10 percent of your daily calories from sugar.5 This is about 12 teaspoons of sugar or 55 grams. So one king-size candy bar puts you toward the upper limit. Many believe this recommendation is far too liberal for health, however.

The American Heart Association and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend limiting your daily added sugar intake to nine teaspoons (38 grams) for men, and six teaspoons (25 grams) for women. The limits for children range from three to six teaspoons (12 - 25 grams) per day, depending on age. In that case, one regular size bar puts you nearly at the limit.

Too Much Sugar Can Easily Triple Your Risk of Heart Disease

The ramifications of snacking on candy bars might seem slight, but in reality they can put your health at serious risk, especially if you eat them regularly and/or combined with other sugary foods and drinks.

Research shows that people who consumed 21 percent or more of their daily calories in the form of sugar were TWICE as likely to die from heart disease compared to those who got 7 percent or less of their daily calories from added sugar.

The risk was nearly TRIPLED among those who consumed 25 percent or more of their daily calories from added sugar.6 The main problem with sugar, and processed fructose in particular, is the fact that your liver has a very limited capacity to metabolize it.

According to Dr. Robert Lustig, a professor of clinical pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at UC San Francisco, you can safely metabolize about six teaspoons of added sugar per day. All that excess sugar is metabolized into body fat, and leads to all of the chronic metabolic diseases we struggle with, including but not limited to:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Dementia
  • Cancer

Sugar is a major problem with most candy bars… but it’s not the only one. For example, other ingredients in Butterfinger candy include:

General Mills Plans to Reduce Sugar in Yoplait by 25 Percent

Even foods that are typically considered “healthy” can contain shocking amounts of added sugar, and most commercial yogurt is a prime example. Fruit-flavored yogurt may contain upwards of 19 grams of sugar, 12 grams of which is added sugar.

If you're eating yogurt to help optimize your gut flora, chances are you're currently eating yogurt that has more similarities with candy than anything else... General Mills has been slowly trying to give its Yoplait brand yogurt a healthier image.

In 2009, they stopped using milk from cows treated with rBGH growth hormones. Then they replaced high fructose corn syrup with sugar in 2013, and now they’ve announced that they’ll be cutting the sugar in Yoplait Original by 25 percent and adding more milk, which slightly increases the protein content.7

Still… even with a 25 percent sugar reduction, this yogurt can hardly be considered health food. As it stands, one six-ounce container may contain 26 grams of sugar (for the red raspberry flavor, for example).8 Even after it’s been reduced, it will still be close to 20 grams of sugar in one container.

The negative effects of the sugar far outweigh any marginal benefits of the minimal beneficial bacteria they have. Remember, the most important step in building healthy gut flora is avoiding sugar, as that will cause disease-causing microbes to crowd out your beneficial flora.

The Yogurt Report Can Help You Find a Healthier Yogurt

If you want to know which commercial yogurts are healthy and which are not, refer to The Cornucopia Institute’s Yogurt Report. Their investigation found that many products being sold as yogurt do not even meet the standards for real yogurt. The report also includes a comparative cost analysis of commercial yogurt brands. The good news is that many organic yogurts are actually less expensive, on a price-per-ounce basis, than conventional, heavily processed yogurts (although some of the organic brands of yogurt actually contained some of the highest amounts of sugar!). As noted in their press release announcing the release of the report:

"Based on its industry investigation, The Cornucopia Institute has filed a formal complaint with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asking the agency to investigate whether or not certain yogurts on the market, manufactured by such companies as Yoplait, Dannon, and many store brands including Walmart's Great Value, violate the legal standard of identity for products labeled as yogurt.

The Cornucopia Institute requests that the legal definition of 'yogurt' be enforced for product labeling, just as it is for products labeled 'cheese.' 'The reason that Kraft has to call Velveeta® 'processed cheese-food' is that some of the ingredients used, like vegetable oil, cannot legally be in a product marketed as 'cheese',' Kastel added. Cornucopia alleges that some of the ingredients that manufactures are using in yogurt, like milk protein concentrate (MPC), typically imported from countries like India, do not meet yogurt's current legal standard of identity."

Your absolute best bet, when it comes to yogurt, is to make your own using a starter culture and raw grass-fed milk. Raw organic milk from grass-fed cows not only contains beneficial bacteria that prime your immune system and can help reduce allergies, it's also an outstanding source of vitamins (especially vitamin A), zinc, enzymes, and healthy fats. Raw organic milk is not associated with many of the health problems of pasteurized milk such as rheumatoid arthritis, skin rashes, diarrhea, and cramps. If you want to sweeten up your homemade yogurt naturally, try adding in some whole berries.

Are You Hooked on Candy Bars and Dessert-Like Yogurt? There’s a Reason Why

When Yoplait yogurt was created in 1999, it contained 100 percent more sugar per serving than the company’s Lucky Charms cereal! Yet everyone recognized yogurt as a wholesome food, and sales of Yoplait soared. While food companies abhor the word “addictive” in reference to their products, scientists have discovered that sugar, in particular, is just that. In fact, sugar is more addictive than cocaine. Research published in 2007 showed that 94 percent of rats who were allowed to choose mutually-exclusively between sugar water and cocaine, chose sugar.9

Even rats who were addicted to cocaine quickly switched their preference to sugar, once it was offered as a choice. The rats were also more willing to work for sugar than for cocaine. The researchers speculate that the sweet receptors (two protein receptors located on the tongue), which evolved in ancestral times when the diet was very low in sugar, have not adapted to modern times’ high-sugar consumption. Therefore, the abnormally high stimulation of these receptors by sugar-rich diets generates excessive reward signals in your brain, which have the potential to override normal self-control mechanisms, and thus lead to addiction.

The truth is, processed foods contain carefully orchestrated flavors and other sensory factors designed to be as addictive as possible. This is in stark contrast to whole foods, the taste and consistency of which was created by nature and therefore work with your body to satiate hunger and nutritional cravings. One of the most effective ways I know of to eliminate sugar cravings (and shed unwanted weight) is intermittent fasting, as this will help reset your body to burning fat instead of sugar as its primary fuel. When sugar is not needed for your primary fuel and when your sugar stores run low, your body will crave it less.

There are many different variations of intermittent fasting. If you are like the majority of the population and have insulin resistance, my personal recommendation is to fast every day by simply scheduling my eating into a narrower window of approximately six to eight hours every day. I find this method to be easier than fasting for a full 24 hours or more, twice a week. Once you are at your ideal body weight, and do not have diabetes, high blood pressure, or abnormal cholesterol levels, you can be less rigid with your fasting. However, it is probably best to resume some type of scheduled eating regimen once in a while, to make sure you don't slip back into old habits.

The Healthiest Snacks Are Real Foods

In order to protect your health, I advise spending 90 percent of your food budget on whole foods, and only 10 percent on processed foods. Most Americans currently do the opposite, and this will undoubtedly have an effect on your health, especially in the long term. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever snack… just that your snacks, like the rest of your diet, should be based on this whole-food principle. Once you're eating non-adulterated foods—foods that are as close to their natural state as possible—your body and mind will thank you. Examples of healthy snack options that will put your ordinary candy bar or sugary yogurt to shame, nutritionally speaking, include:

Organic pastured hard- or soft-boiled eggsA serving of fermented vegetablesAvocado slices
Macadamia nuts and pecansA cup of homemade bone brothYogurt and kefir made from raw organic grass-fed milk (unsweetened or lightly sweetened)
Vegetables, cooked or rawFruits in moderationCheese made from raw, grass-fed milk

Finally, if it’s candy you’re after why not indulge in a type that’s actually good for you? High-quality dark chocolate, in moderation, is a perfectly healthy treat.


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By Dr. Mercola

The fact that waterways in the United States contain residues of a multitude of drugs —including diabetes drugs, birth control pills, antidepressants, painkillers, and many other chemical compounds has been known for years.

Unfortunately, little has been done to remedy the situation. As a result, we’re now faced not only with continued overtreatment of humans, but we’re also facing environmental destruction courtesy of what could be referred to as “drug pollution.”

Our agricultural system is also contributing to water pollution that, in some areas, has led to an increase in diabetes and other health problems, which are then treated with—you guessed it—drugs. Those drugs end up in water treatment plants, rivers, and lakes, and the vicious cycle just continues ad nauseum...

Metformin Threatens Aquatic Life

According to recent research,1 the type 2 diabetes drug metformin is the most prevalent drug in Lake Michigan, and it may be altering the hormonal systems of fish in the lake. As reported by the Detroit Free Press:2

“[F]athead minnows were exposed to metformin at the levels found in Lake Michigan for four weeks. Male minnows showed disruption of their endocrine systems, producing a chemical messenger usually associated with females' egg production...”

Basically, the drug has a feminizing effect on male fish. Other “gender-bending” chemicals released into the environment, such as BPA and phthalates, have similar effects, causing male animals and humans to take on feminine characteristics.

One of the ironies in this situation is that type 2 diabetes can easily be treated and reversed without drugs. In fact, drug treatment can do far more harm than good. And now we’re seeing that overtreatment of diabetes with drugs is also causing environmental harm...

The study in question was led by Rebecca Klaper,3 a professor and research scientist at the University of Wisconsin's School of Freshwater Sciences. In 2013, she participated in a study4 in which they discovered that a number of drugs and chemical compounds persist in the water of Lake Michigan.

Besides metformin, progesterone (birth control pills), androstenedione (hormone treatment to increase testosterone), triclosan, and antibiotics were also found in the lake. According to the featured article:

“The drugs are not completely broken down by people's bodies after ingestion, are excreted and then are not fully removed by wastewater treatment processes. The flushing of old pharmaceuticals down the toilet contributes to the problem.

‘It's enough to raise an alarm bell that this might be something that causes changes in reproduction of fish,’ [Klaper] said. It's something that definitely warrants further study.

...Of all the drugs researchers tested for in Lake Michigan, metformin is found at the highest concentrations, at up to 40 parts per billion. More than 60 million metformin prescriptions were dispensed in the U.S. in 2013, according to drug market research firm IMS Health...”

Lack of Clean Drinking Water in California Leads to Increase in Diabetes

In related news, severe water contamination has led residents in rural farming communities in California to increase their consumption of soda and sugary beverages.

This in turn has led to increased rates of obesity and diabetes among the poor, according to a report5 by the University of California Davis Center for Poverty Research. Vice News6 writes:

"The prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes in California is higher among low-income minority populations than white affluent populations. A combination of environmental factors, including a lack of access to healthy foods and nutrition education — and safe drinking water — likely contribute to these disparities...”

Data obtained from the Community Water Center shows that the San Joaquin Valley has the highest rate of drinking water contamination in California. The area also has the greatest number of water contamination violations. Studies have found that as many as one-quarter of all of all residents in the Central Valley have no access to safe drinking water!

When taking water from the tap, residents are being exposed to a number of hazardous contaminations—including nitrates, arsenic, coliform bacteria, pesticides, disinfectant byproducts, and uranium. Most of this contamination is caused by runoff from confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

Water is essential for life and good health, and to think that entire communities in America have no access to clean drinking water is really quite surprising. What’s worse, the answer for these people—most of whom are poor—is to buy the cheapest drinks available, namely sodas and other sweetened drinks, which further accelerates their disease likelihood.

As noted by the researchers, ensuring access to clean drinking water is really critical in order to address rising obesity and diabetes rates among the poor. The fact that water treatment plants are not set up to filter out drugs is also solid justification for investing in a high-quality water filtration system for your home, if you can afford it.

Drug Treatment Is Not the Answer for Type 2 Diabetes

Mounting research7,8,9 suggests that many diabetics, especially the elderly, are not receiving any real benefit from their diabetic drug treatments. As reported by

“Researchers found that nearly two-thirds of older diabetics who are in poor health have been placed on a diabetes management regimen that strictly controls their blood sugar...

But these patients are achieving that goal through the use of medications that place them at greater risk of hypoglycemia, a reaction to overly low blood sugar that can cause abnormal heart rhythms, and dizziness or loss of consciousness...

Further, tight diabetes control did not appear to benefit the patients... The percentage of seniors with diabetes in poor health did not change in more than a decade, even though many had undergone years of aggressive blood sugar treatment.”

It’s unfortunate, but as Dr. Ron Rosedale wrote 10 years ago, in 2005, doctors cause diabetics to D.I.E from their flawed prescriptions, which stem from a basic lack of insight into the root cause of this disease. D.I.E., here, is a clever acronym for “Doctor Induced Exacerbation,” which includes premature death.

This is no surprise as diabetic drugs (oral hypoglycemic) and insulin do nothing to address the cause of type 2 diabetes. Research11 published in 2013 revealed that treating type 2 diabetes with insulin more than doubled patients’ risk of all-cause mortality. It also leads to:

Twice as many myocardial infarctions 1.4 time more strokes2.1 time more neuropathy1.4 times more cancer
1.7 time more major adverse cardiac events3.5 times more renal complications1.2 times more eye complications2.2 times more deaths

Conventional medicine has type 2 diabetes pegged as a problem with blood sugar. This is incorrect, and it’s precisely why the medical community’s approach to its treatment is not getting anywhere. The reality is that diabetes is a disease rooted in insulin resistance12 and perhaps more importantly, a malfunction of leptin signaling, caused by chronically elevated insulin and leptin levels.

Treating type 2 diabetes with insulin is actually one of the worst things you can do, and recent research13 has come to the same conclusions that Dr. Rosedale warned us about nearly a decade ago, which is that treating type 2 diabetes with insulin can actually lead to the development of irreversible type 1 insulin-dependent diabetes. 

Root Causes of Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes involves loss of insulin and leptin sensitivity. This makes it easily preventable and nearly 100 percent reversible without drugs. One of the driving forces behind type 2 diabetes is excessive dietary fructose, which has adverse effects on all of metabolic hormones—including two key players: insulin and leptin

There is no question in my mind that, for most people, regularly consuming more than 25 grams of fructose per day will dramatically increase your risk of insulin/leptin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and chronic diseases—including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and more. It’s important to realize that even though fructose is relatively "low glycemic" on the front end, it actually reduces the receptor’s affinity for insulin, leading to chronic insulin resistance and elevated blood sugar on the back end.

Another major cause of type 2 diabetes is the consumption of the vast amount of glucose derived from the high-carbohydrate diet that has been recommended for the last half century by conventional medical and media recommendations. All carbohydrates that are not fiber will be quickly metabolized into sugar, and it makes little sense to eat large amounts of sugar to keep your blood sugar lower. It’s important to realize that type 2 diabetes is NOT the result of insufficient insulin production. It’s actually the result of too much insulin being produced on a chronic basis, primarily from eating the high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet.

This overwhelms and “deafens” your insulin receptors, hence the term “insulin resistance.” It’s the chronically elevated insulin levels that make your body “resistant” to understanding the signals sent by the insulin. This also occurs with leptin. This is why taking insulin will actually worsen your insulin and leptin resistance over time. You do not need more insulin. You need to restore the sensitivity of your insulin and leptin receptors by keeping their levels low.

Metformin, which is contaminating Lake Michigan and other waterways, is not insulin but is one of the oldest oral hypoglycemic pills. It’s typically used as a first-line treatment for diabetes, but it’s also frequently inappropriately used in conjunction with insulin. Metformin is a drug that is supposed to make your body's tissues more sensitive to insulin but the reality is that it does nothing to address the cause of insulin resistance. It certainly is not a metformin deficiency. Previous research suggests you may be able to mimic the effects of metformin simply by taking two tablespoons of vinegar prior to your meals, without any of the adverse side effects.

If you’re still having trouble understanding why taking insulin is a terrible choice in type 2 diabetes consider this: when your blood sugar becomes elevated, insulin is released to direct the extra energy (sugar) into storage. A small amount is stored as a starch called glycogen, but the majority is stored as fat. Therefore, insulin’s primary role is notto lower your blood sugar, but rather to store this extra energy as fat for future needs when food may not be available. The fact that insulin lowers your blood sugar is merely a "side effect" of this energy storage process. Taking more insulin merely makes you fatter!

Your body's cells become desensitized to insulin, leptin, and other hormones by being overexposed to these hormones—be it by eating food that causes excessive secretion, or by injection. Diabetes treatments that concentrate merely on lowering blood sugar by adding insulin therefore tend to worsen rather than improve the actual cause of metabolic miscommunication.

So what’s the answer? Diet, exercise, and other healthy lifestyle changes can virtually eliminate your risk of diabetes and reverse diabetes in nearly all cases. For detailed guidelines on how to do that, please see my in-depth report, How to Reverse Type 2 Diabetes.

Environmental Factors That Aggravate Diabetes

Besides a high-sugar, low-fat diet and lack of exercise, other environmental factors can also raise your risk of insulin resistance and, ultimately, type 2 diabetes. For example, recent research shows that chronic sitting, stress, and shift work14 can aggravate metabolic dysfunction and lead to overweight and diabetes.

In the case of nightshift workers, recent research15 found that those who had worked the night shift for one to two years had a 17 percent higher risk for diabetes, compared to those who never worked nights. After the three-year mark, that risk rose to 23 percent. After working the graveyard shift for 10 years, the risk for diabetes jumped to 42 percent.

Lack of sleep is, overall, a fairly significant factor, whether the cause is due to stress, shift work, or some other factor. In one 2012 study,16 participants who got only 4.5 hours of sleep per night, four nights in a row, reduced their insulin sensitivity by 16 percent. Moreover, their fat cells’ insulin sensitivity was 30 percent lower, rivaling levels seen in those with diabetes or obesity. Additionally, sleep deprivation tends to lead to food cravings, particularly for sweet and starchy foods that promote insulin resistance.  

Lack of sunlight is another overlooked component that can influence your weight, and hence, your risk of diabetes. As noted in a recent Time Magazine17 article:

“If you work in a windowless cubicle and you arrive at work before the sun comes up, you could be missing out on a powerful, all-natural weapon against obesity. A 2014 Northwestern University study18 found that exposure to the sun was associated with BMI, and that getting bright light in the morning hours seemed to have a slimming effect. Light helps to regulate circadian rhythms, which in turn regulate energy balance and expenditure, say the study authors. They suggest getting 20 to 30 minutes of sunlight between 8 a.m. and noon each day to avoid unwanted weight gain—yet another argument for walking to work or taking that mid-morning break!”

Cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins can also provoke diabetes through a few different mechanisms, including raising your insulin and blood sugar levels, and robbing your body of valuable nutrients that can impact your blood sugar levels. Two nutrients in particular, vitamin D and CoQ10, are both needed to maintain ideal blood glucose levels. Bringing us full-circle to where we started—with the discussion about water contamination—statins are also found in waterways and drinking water around the world.19

How Pure Is Your Drinking Water?

As noted earlier, water treatment facilities are not designed to filter out pharmaceutical compounds, so to prevent chronic low level exposure, you’d be wise to install a water filtration system in your home. According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report20 on pharmaceuticals in drinking water, published in 2011:

“Studies on conventional drinking-water treatment processes have shown that coagulation is largely ineffective in removing pharmaceuticals. Free chlorine is able to remove up to approximately 50 percent of the pharmaceuticals investigated, whereas chloramines have lower removal efficiency. Compounds that showed high removal by free chlorine but low removal by chloramines include antibiotics, such as sulfamethoxazole, trimethoprim, and erythromycin.

Advanced water treatment processes, such as ozonation, advanced oxidation, activated carbon, and membranes (e.g. nanofiltration, reverse osmosis), are able to achieve higher removal rates (above 99 percent) for targeted pharmaceutical compounds in various studies in the published literature.”

Besides purification, I also believe it’s critical to drink living water. Last year, I interviewed Dr. Gerald Pollack about his book, The Fourth Phase of Water: Beyond Solid, Liquid, and Vapor. This fourth phase of water is referred to as “structured water” and is the type of water found in all of your cells. This water has many health properties. Water from a deep spring is one excellent source of structured water. The deeper, the better; as structured water is created under pressure.

There's a great website called where you can find a natural spring in your area. But you can also promote structured water through vortexing. I personally drink vortexed water nearly exclusively as I became a big fan of Viktor Schauberger, who did much pioneering work on vortexing about a century ago. Dr. Pollack found that by creating a vortex in a glass of water, you’re putting more energy into it, thereby increasing the structure of the water. According to Dr. Pollack, virtually ANY energy put into the water seems to create or build structured water.

Help Pass ARTICLE 31: Clean Water Is a 'Fundamental Human Right'

Last but not least, there’s an ongoing petition proposing the addition of one more article to the 30-article Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Please consider signing the petition for this important measure that is only going to get more and more critical as time goes on.

In 1948, the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were ratified by all the nations of the world. These 30 articles guaranteed a broad sweep of human rights across many human endeavors, from life to liberty to freedom of thought. Now, 60 years later, recognizing that over a billion people across the planet lack access to clean and potable water and that millions die each year as a result, it is time to add one more article to this historic declaration. Article 31, the Right to Water, states:

“Everyone has the right to clean accessible water, adequate for the health and well-being of the individual and family, and no one shall be deprived of such access of quality of water due to individual economic circumstance.”

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By Dr. Mercola

For Americans, it’s that time of the year again—time to move your clocks an hour ahead; losing a precious hour of sleep in the process. For many, the time change associated with daylight savings time1 (DST) also means spending several days or even weeks feeling generally off-kilter.

As reported by Prevent Disease:2

“A study, published in 2007... combined surveys from 55,000 people in central Europe with data on 50 individuals' sleeping and wakefulness patterns for eight weeks around the shifts to and from daylight saving time.

The researchers found people never fully adjust their circadian rhythms to the hour shift associated with daylight saving time (or, as it is known in Europe, summer time).

Springing ahead by an hour, however, was most difficult for night owls -- people prone to wake up and go to sleep late, they found.” [Emphasis mine]

The issue of whether daylight savings time (DST) should be abolished comes up at regular intervals, and for good reason.

As explained in the featured video, daylight saving time is intended to give you more access to daylight hours, thereby reducing energy costs and promoting healthy outdoor activities, and for nearly a century countries around the world have moved their clocks forwards in the spring and backward in the fall.

But is it really worth it? There doesn’t appear to be any good reason for this time tinkering in today’s modern age, and a number of countries, and even regions within countries, have opted out of DST.

Areas that do not have DST include: the northern part of Brazil, Saskatchewan (Canada), large portions of Australia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and the state of Arizona.

Daylight Savings Time Is Rough on Your Health

The research is quite clear on the health effects of this meddling with time. In short, it’s not good for you, and spikes in both heart attacks3 and suicide4 in the days following daylight savings attest to the stark reality of such findings.

The adverse health effects of losing an hour of sleep when the clocks move forward—and the ripple-effect it causes for days and weeks afterward—are significant, and really highlight the importance of sleep for mental and physical functioning.

The “Monday cardiac phenomenon” has been recognized for some time.5 More cardiac events occur on Mondays than any other day of the week, and changes in sleep associated with the transition from weekend to work week may play a significant role.

When daylight savings gets added into the mix, this risk tends to become even more pronounced One 2012 study6 found that heart attacks increased by 10 percent on the Monday and Tuesday following the time change to DST. Heart attacks decreased by 10 percent on the first Monday and Tuesday after clocks are switched back in the fall.

According to the study’s author, Martin Young, Ph.D:

“Individuals who are sleep-deprived weigh more and are at an increased risk of developing diabetes or heart disease. Sleep deprivation also can alter other body processes, including inflammatory response, which can contribute to a heart attack.”

An earlier study7,8 found a five percent increase in heart attack in the first three weekdays after the switch to DST. The risk decreased again after clocks were reset back to standard time in the fall.

Kazakhstan abolished DST in 2005, citing health complications as the reason for its decision. In 2011, Russia’s president Dmitry Medvedev also cancelled DST due to the “stress and illness” it causes on human biological clocks.9

Productivity Goes Down and Accidents Go Up in Days Following DST Change

Studies also show DST causes the entire country to take an economic hit from lost productivity. When you consider that this happens once every year, the cumulative effect on productivity is likely to be very significant.

According to Till Roenneberg, a German chronobiologist, your circadian body clock (which is set by daylight and nighttime darkness) never adjusts to the gaining of an "extra" hour of sunlight at the end of the day during daylight saving time. So you may actually remain slightly “off” for the entirety of the DST season.

"The consequence of that is that the majority of the population has drastically decreased productivity, decreased quality of life, increasing susceptibility to illness, and is just plain tired," Roenneberg has said.10

Data11 from the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health also shows an increase in the number and severity of work-related accidents on the Monday following DST.

According to one 2009 study,12 workplace accidents and injuries increase by nearly six percent, and nearly 68 percent more workdays are lost as a result of injuries following the change to DST.

Ditto for traffic accidents, which rise by about eight percent on the Monday following the changeover to DST.13 Fatal alcohol-related traffic accidents increase for the first week after setting the clocks ahead.14

Daylight Savings, Does It Really Save Energy?

The origin for daylight savings time was rooted in the idea that it could save valuable resources. Ben Franklin appears to have been the first person to suggest the concept, after awaking at 6am one morning in Paris, realizing that the sun was already up well before him.

Getting up earlier and going to bed earlier, thereby using less oil to power lights, could save a lot of money, he reasoned. During World War II, the US mandated daylight saving time as a way to save wartime resources.

Alas, times have changed. At best, DST may save you a handful of dollars on your electric bill each year. At worst, you end up paying a lot more. According to Michael Downing,15 a teacher at Tufts University and the author of Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time:

“Daylight saving is... a boon to purveyors of barbecue grills, sports and recreation equipment, and the petroleum industry, as gasoline consumption increases every time we increase the length of the daylight saving period.”

Daylight Savings Might Be Jacking Up Your Energy Bill Each Year

According to the National Bureau of Standards, DST has virtually no effect on energy usage. A 2007 report by the California Energy Commission’s Demand Analysis Office16 also found that daylight saving time “had little or no effect on energy consumption in California.” But some studies suggest it actually wastes energy—and quite a lot of it at that. A story reported by the Wall Street Journal17 back in 2008 highlighted these findings. Up until 2006, only 15 of Indiana's 92 counties adhered to daylight savings time.

Following complaints from residents who struggled from being out of sync with businesses and friends in neighboring counties, the Indiana Legislature finally mandated daylight savings time be enacted state-wide. This presented economics researchers with an excellent opportunity to compare energy usage before and after adoption of DST, to see if and how much money was really being saved. As it turned out, the answer was none. In fact, DST cost Indiana residents millions of dollars in added energy costs each year! As reported by the Wall Street Journal:18

“Using more than seven million monthly meter readings from Duke Energy Corp.  covering nearly all the households in southern Indiana for three years, they were able to compare energy consumption before and after counties began observing daylight-saving time. Readings from counties that had already adopted daylight-saving time provided a control group that helped them to adjust for changes in weather from one year to the next.

Their finding: Having the entire state switch to daylight-saving time each year, rather than stay on standard time, costs Indiana households an additional $8.6 million in electricity bills. They conclude that the reduced cost of lighting in afternoons during daylight-saving time is more than offset by the higher air-conditioning costs on hot afternoons and increased heating costs on cool mornings. "I've never had a paper with such a clear and unambiguous finding as this," says Mr. Kotchen, who presented the paper at a National Bureau of Economic Research conference...”

So What Can You Do?

Let’s face it, as much as you and I may disagree with DST, there is little to no likelihood that our collective objections will do anything to stop it. So what can we do? My strategy, and the one that I strongly encourage you to adopt, is to seriously commit to getting the highest quality and longest sleep you can possibly get. For decades I prided myself on getting by on five hours of sleep or less. I gradually changed that to between six and seven hours, deluding myself into believing that because I was so healthy I could do it.

Finally by the time I hit 60, I began to realize that my perception of sleep was seriously distorted and that I need to carefully reevaluate it. Very similar to being unaware of the dangers of prolonged excessive sitting as being every bit as pernicious as not exercising at all. So in the past six months, largely as a result of feedback from my fitness tracker, I have been able to increase my sleep to 8.5 hours per night. I sincerely believe that using some type of sleep monitoring device, such as a fitness tracker, is the key to changing your behavior. For those concerned with the relatively insignificant amount of EMF they generate, there are monitors that sit on your nightstand that can monitor your sleep.

Since my regular sleep is about 8.5 hours, when I travel and am forced to cut back my sleep to five hours or so, I’m relatively insulated from the damage of intermittent lack of sleep. In some ways I suspect that our ancient ancestors never consistently slept 8-9 hours so, just like intermittent fasting, we likely do just fine with intermittent sleep disruptions. But I sincerely believe that it’s crucial to understand intermittent. I think sleep disruptions should be the rare exception when your personal circumstances limit you from sleeping the more ideal 8-9 hours. Many recent studies have s shown that one of the most potent improvements in professional athletes was merely increasing their sleep by one to two hours, which allowed their bodies to get more full recovery.

Sleeping Well Is Critical for Good Health

Sleep problems are epidemic in the US, both among kids and adults. A recent review of the research suggests most people, teens and older, need right around eight hours of sleep per night. Ideally, you should sleep enough hours that your energy is sustained throughout the day without artificial stimulation. Short-term sleep deprivation—such as what most experience when time “springs forward” is associated with:19

  • Memory and cognitive impairment
  • Impaired performance and alertness
  • Occupational injuries
  • Automobile injuries

Chronic sleep deprivation is associated with increased blood pressure, heart rate, blood clotting, and C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker associated with deadly heart attacks. Shift work is also known to dramatically increase all-cause mortality. According to Clinical Psychologist and sleep specialist Rubin Naiman, PhD, sleeping less than six hours per night may double your risk of angina, coronary artery disease, heart attack and stroke.

Sleeping less than six hours per night may also increase your risk for diabetes by impairing the way your body responds to insulin. Impaired insulin sensitivity, also known as insulin resistance, occurs when your body cannot use insulin properly, causing your blood sugar levels to rise to unhealthy levels. Insulin resistance is a precursor to type 2 diabetes, as well as a risk factor in many other chronic diseases.

How to Protect Yourself During the ‘Spring-Forward’

There is very little good to be said about switching to daylight savings time. Research points to a long list of adverse outcomes, including increased heart attack risk, increased automobile accidents, lost productivity at work, increased chances of getting sick, and even higher suicide rates. There is also little evidence to suggest that DST reduces energy usage, which was its original intent.

But in addition to the strong recommendation of increasing your sleep to 8-9 hours on a consistent basis, there are some other things you can do to mitigate the effects of the time change—at least until the powers that be decide to get rid of it altogether. University of Alabama Associate Professor Martin Young suggests the following natural strategies to help your body resync after the time change:

  • Wake up 30 minutes earlier on Saturday and Sunday, to minimize the impact of getting up earlier on Monday morning
  • Go outside in the sunlight in the early morning
  • Exercise in the mornings over the weekend, in accordance with your overall level of health and fitness
  • Consider setting your clock ahead on Friday evening, allowing an extra day to adjust over the weekend

I generally agree with his suggestions, to which I would add the following:

  • Be particularly mindful of using electronic devices in the days prior to the switch-over. Research20 on teens shows that using electronics for four hours during the day can increase your risk of needing more than an hour to fall asleep by nearly 50 percent. Using any device for more than two hours per day increases the likelihood of needing more than an hour to fall asleep by 20 percent. So, if you’ve ever considered “unplugging” for a day or two, the weekend of the DST switch-over is a perfect time to turn everything off, or cut down your use of electronics to a bare minimum so that you can optimize your sleep.
  • Pay attention to your diet, making sure you are consuming plenty of fresh, whole foods, preferably organic, and minimal amounts of processed foods and fast foods; keep your sugar consumption very low, especially fructose. I invite you to review our total nutrition plan here.
  • Practice good sleep hygiene, including sleeping in complete darkness, checking your bedroom for EMFs, and keeping your bedroom temperature no higher than 70 degrees; for a full report about how to maximize the quality of your sleep, refer to our previous article on sleep.
  • Optimize your vitamin D levels.
  • Manage your stress with whatever stress-busting techniques work for you.
  • Consider supplementing with melatonin if you have trouble sleeping.
  • If you have a fitness tracker that tracks sleep, start using it. If you don’t have one, you may want to consider getting one. During daylight savings time, making sure you’re getting enough sleep may be more important than ever. One of the keys to optimizing your sleep is going to bed early enough, because if you have to get up at 6:30am, you’re just not going to get enough sleep if you go to bed after midnight. Chances are you’re getting at least 30 minutes less sleep than you think, as most people do not fall asleep as soon as their head hits the pillow.
  • Many fitness trackers can now track both daytime body movement and sleep, allowing you to get a better picture of how much sleep you’re actually getting. Newer devices, like Jawbone’s UP3 that should be released sometime this year, can even tell you which activities led to your best sleep and what factors resulted in poor sleep.

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