By Dr. Mercola
Cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) had been declining until the 1970s. However, a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)1 reveals that trend has reversed. Some of the diseases that fall un…
By Dr. Mercola
By Dr. Mercola
Many health and environmentally conscious individuals who enjoy ice cream as an occasional treat feel good about choosing Ben & Jerry’s brand. They’ve painted the idyllic image of a socially responsible company “with a continued com…
By Dr. Mercola
Members in the European Parliament (MEPs) announced that Monsanto officials would no longer be able to meet MEPs, attend committee meetings or even use “digital resources” in Brussels or Strasbourg parliament premises, essentially banni…
By Dr. Mercola
The pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine is included as a component in "combination" shots that include tetanus and diphtheria (DPT, DTaP, Tdap) and some pertussis-containing shots now also include polio, hepatitis B and/or H…
By Dr. Mercola
Polyphenols1,2 (also known as phenolics) are phytochemicals, natural plant chemicals with powerful antioxidant properties. There are over 8,000 identified polyphenols found in foods such as tea, wine, chocolates, fruits and vegetable…
By Dr. Mercola
Anyone interested in eating healthy foods for optimal nutrition may have read up on the subject, but still find certain terms to be a little ambiguous. The differences between macro and micro nutrients is a perfect example. You need …
By Dr. Mercola
New research points to the effectiveness following a ketogenic diet may have on bridling brain inflammation — the same type of inflammation implicated in epilepsy and other neurological disorders. Ketogenic diets are high in good fats a…
By Dr. Mercola
By now, you probably know that probiotics are beneficial for you, but you may not be aware of sporebiotics, and how they can benefit a wide variety of health problems, including autism and other neurological and immune-related …
By Dr. Mercola
Up until 1972, when the Heimlich maneuver was developed, the sixth leading cause of accidental death was choking, usually on a bite of food, or for young children, a small toy or other object. At that time, around 3,000 people in the U….
By Dr. Mercola
A rarely addressed environmental problem is radioactive pollution from nuclear waste disposal. For decades, the common method of nuclear disposal was to simply dump plutonium-filled steel barrels into the ocean.
Starting with an ov…
By Dr. Mercola
Mental health appears to be dwindling across the globe, with depression now being the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide.1,2 Over the past decade alone (2005-2015), rates of depression increased by 18 percent.3 In the …
By Dr. Mercola
The gene thought to be most strongly associated with Alzheimer’s disease is the apolipoprotein E4 (APoE4) gene. Everyone inherits a form of APOE from their parents (it may be type e2, e3 or e4). If you inherit one copy of APoE4, it incr…
What Is Sweet Basil Oil?
Sweet basil oil comes from basil (Ocimum basilicum), a plant with a thick foliage and small white flowers. Fresh basil leaves taste sweet and pungent and exudes a fresh and floral aroma, while the dried ones have a spicy and…
By Dr. Mercola
A staggering amount of plastic is entering the environment as the result of tons of disposable plastic bottles, bags and microfibers from your clothing. Although you likely do not experience the direct effect of garbage from your day to day life, it is quite literally choking our ecosystem. The amount of plastic that enters the environment grows each year as manufacturers continue to produce products in disposable containers and consumers continue to demand a disposable lifestyle.
It is estimated that unless practices change, the amount of plastic entering the ocean by 2025 could be as high as 26 million metric tons per year.1 According to environmental advocacy group Ocean Conservancy, some plastics resist degradation so long they may be in a recognizable shape for up to 400 years.
Heavily polluted areas of the ocean are referred to as garbage patches, and now cover nearly 40 percent of the world’s ocean surfaces.2 But the problems are not limited to larger pieces of debris that resist breakdown. Some plastics break down easily in the sea current into microparticles less than 5 millimeters (0.19 inch) long. These pieces can migrate farther and faster, now being found as far as the Arctic Ocean.
In each of the larger ocean bodies are gyres, systems of circular currents formed by global wind patterns, circulating water around the globe.3 Recent research has now demonstrated some plastics, microfibers and plastic beads from facial scrubs have broken down into microparticles. These microparticles are being transported around the globe in waters being harvested for salt.
Ocean Plastic Pollutes Sea Salt
An initial study published in Environmental Science and Technology found salt sold and consumed in China contained microsized particles of plastics from disposable bottles, as well as polyethylene, cellophane and a number of other types of plastics. The highest levels of plastics were found in salt harvested from seawater.4 In other words, as you purchase sea salt to be healthy, you may be polluting your body with plastic.
In this study, more than 250 particles of plastics were found in 1 pound of sea salt. Sherri Mason, Ph.D., professor of chemistry in the Department of Geology and Environmental Sciences at State University New York Fredonia, commented on the results of this research before leading the most recent study evaluating the amount of plastic consumed in salt from around the world. Following the study from China, she said:5
“Plastics have become such a ubiquitous contaminant, I doubt it matters whether you look for plastic in sea salt on Chinese or American supermarket shelves. I’d like to see some ‘me-too’ studies.”
Two years later she had published just such a study demonstrating Americans could be ingesting up to 660 microparticles of plastic each year if they consume no more than the recommended 2.3 grams of salt per day.6 However, nearly 90 percent of Americans eat more salt, which means they likely consume more plastic particles than estimated as well.
In collaboration with researchers from the University of Minnesota, Mason examined the number of plastics found in beer, tap water and salt. The study evaluated 12 different types of salt, 10 of them sea salt, from grocery stores around the world. Mason believes that sea salt is more vulnerable to plastic contamination since it’s made by harvesting saltwater and allowing the water to evaporate, leaving the salt behind. Mason commented:7
“It’s not that sea salt in China is worse than sea salt in America, it’s that all sea salt — because it’s coming from the same origins — is going to have a consistent problem. I think that’s what we’re seeing. I hope what comes from this is not that [consumers] just switch brands and try to find something that’s table salt or mined salt.
People want to disconnect and say, ‘It’s OK if I go to Starbucks every day and get that disposable coffee cup’ … We have to focus on the flow of plastic and the pervasiveness of plastics in our society and find other materials to be using instead.”
UN Declares War on Ocean Plastic
Researchers believe the majority of plastic pollution originates from single-use plastics and microfibers. Currently, nearly 13 tons of plastic enter the oceans each year. This is equivalent to dumping a garbage truck full of plastic into the ocean every minute.8 If change doesn’t occur, this may mean up to two garbage trucks full of plastic being dumped into the ocean every minute.
In response to the rising problem, the United Nations (U.N.) Environment announced a major global effort to end marine pollution tagged #CleanSeas.9 The campaign is urging governments around the world to pass plastic reduction policies, mandate redesign of products and call on consumers to change their habits — all before further irreversible damage is done to the seas.
Ten countries have already joined the campaign, including Indonesia, Costa Rica and Uruguay. The problems with plastic pollution are a combination of the physical plastic that is damaging the ecosystem and animal life, and the toxins that adhere to the plastics, making their way into animal bodies, destroying the health of the wildlife and the people who eat their meat.
England, Scotland and Germany are just three countries that have begun developing and instituting recycling programs to reduce plastic pollution emanating from their country.10 Erik Solheim, head of U.N. Environment, commented on the damage done to the environment from plastics:11
“It is past time that we tackle the plastic problem that blights our oceans. Plastic pollution is surfing onto Indonesian beaches, settling onto the ocean floor at the North Pole, and rising through the food chain onto our dinner tables. We’ve stood by too long as the problem has gotten worse. It must stop.”
Countries are slowly taking notice of the devastation to marine life and their beaches from the irresponsible disposal of plastic products. After a campaign launched by Daily Mail, Britain announced a ban on the use of plastic microbeads commonly used in facial scrubs.12
Plastic Particles Enter Multiple Nutrition Sources
Studies have demonstrated that plastics are so ingrained in the ocean food chain they have contaminated the bodies of living creatures from zooplankton to lobster, crab and fish13 — all creatures eaten by other animals further up the food chain. While the smaller microparticles of plastic threaten the lives of sea creatures and those that eat them, so does the larger pieces of plastic in the ocean, as demonstrated in this short news video.
The assumption is that consumption of plastics, and the toxins that are absorbed by the plastics in the environment, is dangerous to your health. However, while I strongly believe this to be the case, media consistently points out that scientists are unable to prove the theory with a controlled study as nearly everyone on the planet has been exposed to plants, animals and water contaminated with microplastic particles.14
By themselves, plastic particles are dangerous when ingested. However, marine animals face a double danger, as those plastic particles attract and absorb chemical toxins. In a unique study from the University of California Davis,15 researchers evaluated the rates five of the more commonly used plastics absorbed chemicals from the ocean water.
By placing pellets of each different type of plastic in mesh bags tied off docks at the study sites, researchers were able to measure the amount of persistent organic pollutants the plastics absorbed.
They found the highest contamination was absorbed by the two types of plastic used in the greatest number of products. Led by doctoral student Chelsea Rochman, the researchers expected the plastic pellets to absorb increasing amounts of contaminants for several months until they reached saturation. However, they found that it took between 20 and 44 months for the plastic pellets to stop absorbing toxins. Rochman commented:16
“It surprised us that even after a year, some plastics would continue to take up contaminants. As the plastic continues to degrade, it’s potentially getting more and more hazardous to organisms as they absorb more and more contaminants.”
Plastic Microparticles Linked to Liver Toxicity
Another study demonstrated the accumulation of chemical pollutants absorbed into plastic microparticles increase liver toxicity and pathology in the marine animals that eat them.17
When fish were fed similar plastic particles that had not absorbed additional chemical toxins, they also showed signs of stress but significantly less severe than those fed chemically laden fragments. Bioaccumulation of plastics and toxins is common in marine animals as both the plastics and the contaminants are resistant to metabolic or mechanical breakdown.
In another study evaluating the presence of microfibers in tap water,18 researchers found 83 percent of the samples collected from a dozen different nations were contaminated with plastic fibers. The U.S. had the highest contamination rate; plastic fibers were found in 94 percent of the sites sampled, including Congress buildings, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s headquarters and Trump Tower in New York.
What’s Your Best Salt Option?
If you believe eating high amounts of salt would increase your thirst or your blood pressure, you are likely wrong. Studies have consistently failed to support these assertions.19,20 Instead, your body needs both the sodium and chloride ions that make up salt and is unable to produce either, so you must get it from your food.
However, not all salt is created equally. Refined table salt is nearly all sodium chloride with some additional man-made chemicals. Unprocessed salt, such as my particular favorite, pink Himalayan salt, has a different balance of sodium and chloride with added natural minerals your body also requires, such as phosphorus and vanadium.21 These other minerals are what color the salt pink.
Himalayan salt is mined from salt beds created long before plastic and other toxic chemicals were manufactured. When the ocean beds were lifted, as the Himalayan mountains were formed, these salt beds rose from the sea and were later protected by lava and covered in snow and ice for thousands of years. Compared to the salt mined from oceans laden with persistent organic pollutants and microparticles of plastic, Himalayan salt is by far your best option when you want to reduce your toxic load.
Reduce Your Toxic Load Making Simple Everyday Choices
You have an impact on your environment and your health with each choice you make each day. By making the commitment to reduce or eliminate your use of plastic containers and disposable products packaged in plastic, you make an impact on your health, reducing your exposure to bisphenol-A and other chemicals that leach into your food and water, and on your environment.
Glass is a healthy, reusable and recyclable option to use at home. If you are purchasing a product that isn’t whole food, seek out those packaged in glass and not plastic and commit to recycling that glass. You can discover more steps you may take at home to reduce your toxic load in my previous article, “7 Ways to Cancer-Proof Your Home.”
By Dr. Mercola
The lawsuits against chemical technology giant Monsanto are multiplying fast these days. Not only is there a class-action lawsuit1 claiming the company’s best-selling herbicide Roundup caused Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in hundreds of plaintiffs2,3 — the outcome of which might influence Bayer’s decision to acquire Monsanto or back out of the deal — farmers are also ganging together to sue Monsanto over crop damage caused by its latest dicamba-containing herbicide.
As feared by many critics, any crop that is not genetically engineered (GE) to be resistant to dicamba is severely damaged by even small amounts of the herbicide — be it food crops, gardens or trees; even other GE crops resistant to herbicides other than dicamba will shrivel and die in its presence. Monsanto promised the XtendiMax with VaporGrip formula is engineered to be less volatile and prone to drift, but real-life effects suggest otherwise.
Dicamba Is an Indiscriminate Plant Killer
In July, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture reported investigating two dozen complaints involving dicamba damage caused by drift.4 As of late September, 368 complaints had been filed in Illinois,5 and Iowa had received 258 reports — a “record number” — by early September.6
Farmers in Arkansas are reporting the same problem. In October 2016, a soybean farmer named Mike Wallace was shot to death in a dispute over dicamba damage caused by drift from a neighboring farm growing dicamba-resistant soy. The damage is so extensive, a number of states, including Arkansas, Missouri and Mississippi, imposed temporary bans on the use of dicamba-containing pesticides this past summer.7 As reported by Star Tribune:8
“Losses blamed on accidental chemical damage could climb into the tens of millions of dollars, if not higher, and may have a ripple effect on other products that rely on soybeans, including chicken. The number of complaints ‘far exceeds anything we’ve ever seen,’ Arkansas Plant Board Director Terry Walker recently told lawmakers.”
More Than 3 Million Acres Damaged by Next-Gen Herbicide
According to The New York Times, 25 million acres of dicamba-resistant soybeans and cotton were planted this year, and Monsanto has its sights set on expanding that to 40 million acres in 2018. Hailed as “the answer” to growing glyphosate resistance9 (thanks to its excessive use on Roundup Ready, i.e., glyphosate-resistant crops), dicamba-resistant plants have quickly turned into a nightmare for those who plant them, and their neighbors:10
“’I’m a fan of Monsanto. I’ve bought a lot of their products,’ said Brad Williams, a Missouri farmer. ‘I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that there would be some kind of evil nefarious plot to put a defective product out there intentionally.’
Yet he has been dismayed both by damage to his soybean crops, which were within a wide area of farmland harmed by dicamba, and by the impact even to trees on his property. Leaves, he said, were ‘so deformed you couldn’t even really identify the differences between them.’”
So far, more than 3 million acres have been damaged by dicamba.11 Speaking with Ohio Valley Resource,12 Kentucky soybean farmer Jacob Goodman compares dicamba drift to “chemical arson” — a reference to the fact that affected plants will curl and shrivel from the chemical burns. He also notes that drift from neighboring farms growing dicamba-resistant crops is making it exceptionally difficult for non-dicamba farms to plan their production.
“Not only can we not tell the amount of crop that we can get at the end of the year, but we can’t price the market ahead in advance and make contracts because we don’t want to over-book and not be able to deliver this fall, because we have to pay the difference.”
Arkansas farmer Kenneth Qualls told The New York Times, “’It’s really divided the farming community … Some of these people who got victimized by this product are probably going to go out of business because of it. They’ll have to put up their equipment for auction, and the people bidding on it will be the ones who put them out of business.”
Dicamba Makers May Face Largest Chemical Liability Lawsuit Ever
On September 10, 2017, Morgan & Morgan filed a class-action lawsuit13 against Monsanto, BASF and DuPont, the three largest manufacturers of dicamba-based herbicide formulations in the U.S.
The complaint alleges dicamba “is highly volatile and can travel considerable distances and cause injuries to plants several miles away,” and that dicamba makers “deceptively marketed their latest dicamba formulations as ‘low-volatility’ herbicides that would not be as prone to off-target movement.” In a statement, Morgan & Morgan attorney Rene Rocha said:
“This has been a major issue for American agriculture. Farmers across the country relied upon the defendants’ assurances that these new formulations of dicamba could be used safely and without harm to others. That simply isn’t true, and as a result thousands of farmers are staring down lean harvests and uncertain futures.”
The fact that dicamba is extremely potent and volatile (referring to its ability to turn into a gas) does not come as a surprise. The chemical has not been permitted to be used during growing season for this very reason. Older dicamba herbicides were only allowed to be used to kill weeds prior to planting — it could not be used on growing crops because it will kill everything.
Chemical Maker Forbid Independent Volatility Testing
Monsanto’s weed killer, XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology14,15 — which goes along with its Roundup Ready Xtend cotton and soybeans — is made with “chemical technology” said to make the dicamba less prone to vaporization and drift. However, the real-world effects clearly indicate there are serious flaws.
What’s more, Monsanto appears to have willfully prevented key testing of the herbicide. Normally, when a new pesticide is developed, the company will commission tests that are then shared with regulators. Samples of the chemical are also shared with universities for analysis and testing. Together, regulators and researchers then assess the product’s safety and effectiveness.
In this case, Monsanto actually forbid university researchers to test XtendiMax with VaporGrip for its vaporization and drift potential (volatility testing),16,17 despite that being a crucial feature of the new herbicide. Monsanto has defended its decision to prevent testing calling it “unnecessary” because the company believes it to be “less volatile than a previous dicamba formula that researchers found could be used safely.”18
However, summary notes from an Arkansas legislature’s joint budget committee meeting suggest there might have been a different incentive to prevent testing. Notes from the meeting state that Monsanto employee Boyd Carey “is on record on August 8 stating that the University of Arkansas nor any other university was given the opportunity to test VaporGrip in fear that the results may jeopardize the federal label.”
Dicamba Formulation Is Nearly Impossible to Apply Safely
According to Monsanto’s chief technology officer Robert Fraley, XtendiMax with VaporGrip “will not move off target and damage anyone” as long as it’s applied according to label instructions. Mind you, those instructions are nine pages long, and include strict limitations on when and how you can apply it. For example, proper application requires the farmer to spray while wind speeds are between 3 and 10 miles per hour.
The reason for the bottom wind speed is that when air is very still, it can signal a temperature inversion,19 which acts much like a lid. Pollutants are easily trapped below the inversion, where they can build up. But since wind speeds vary from one hour to the next on any given day, proper application becomes nearly impossible. Some university scientists have also noted that even if you manage to comply with these stringent application rules, the volatility of dicamba may still be an issue.
According to Aaron Hager, associate professor of crop sciences at the University of Illinois,20 soy is so sensitive to dicamba, all you need to destroy 1 acre of soybeans is an amount equal to the spray when you open a can of Coke! In light of that, it’s hard to see how farmers growing dicamba-resistant crops could possibly avoid damaging other farms, not to mention other plant life and nearby trees.
Indeed, according to extension weed specialist Larry Steckel, many farmers complain they “can’t keep dicamba in the field” no matter how hard they try to follow the application rules.21 He also notes that temperature inversions “occur most days in Tennessee during June and July,” which makes it next to impossible to avoid off-target damage.
According to Ohio Valley Resource, there also appears to be a correlation between dicamba damage and areas located by rivers and in floodplains. Ohio farmer Jacob Goodman suspects “It’s something about the chemistry and the temperature inversions that happen in river bottoms that is causing this chemical to freely roam.”
Dicamba Maker Blames Farmer Ineptitude
Not surprisingly, Monsanto blames damage resulting from XtendiMax on farmer misapplication. Monsanto’s vice president for global strategy told The New York Times,22 “New technologies take some time to learn. Thus far, what we’ve seen in the field, the vast majority, more than three-quarters of them, has been due to not following the label.”
The question is, can the instructions actually be followed in real life? According to Bob Hartzler, an agronomy professor and weed specialist at Iowa State University, “The restriction on these labels is unlike anything that’s ever been seen before.”23 The class-action lawsuit filed by Morgan & Morgan claims the label instructions are “unrealistic,” and that the restrictions on wind speed disallow timely application of the weed killer.
As noted by a Missouri farmer, “You have to be a meteorologist to get it exactly right.”24 While some farmers admit to having difficulty following the label instructions, due to their complexity,25 other farmers rebuke Monsanto’s attempts to shift blame. As Arkansas farmer Qualls said, “We may be rural hicks, but we’re not stupid. We know how to apply chemicals. They are going to blame it on the farmer to reduce their liability.”
What’s more, because dicamba-resistant GE crops allow the chemical to be applied much later in the growing season, when temperatures and humidity levels are higher, it’s far more susceptible to volatility, meaning it turns into a gas. As a gas, it can no longer be controlled and spreads wherever the wind blows.
While Monsanto claims XtendiMax is 90 percent less volatile than old versions,26 without rigorous volatility testing, one has to question the accuracy of such claims. As noted by The New York Times, “While Monsanto and BASF modified the new versions of the herbicide they are selling, they have not entirely solved the problem. So much dicamba is being used that even a small percentage of drift can cause widespread damage.”
Bizarre Conflict of Interest Claims Emerge
A task force is now recommending the Arkansas State Plant Board ban use of all dicamba formulations on crops after April 15 in the 2018 growing season. Monsanto challenged the ban in September, claiming the decision was “tainted by the involvement” of University of Arkansas weed scientists Ford Baldwin and Jason Norsworthy.
According to Monsanto, the scientists’ ties to Bayer and its competing weed technology makes them less than objective in their critique of dicamba.27 The irony of the accusation has not gone unnoticed. As noted by The New York Times,28 “Considering that Bayer is acquiring Monsanto, it was an awkward step,” adding that “Bayer called the men ‘pre-eminent weed scientists.’” It remains to be seen if Monsanto’s accusations will backfire, rendering their position even more tenuous.
September 9, Mark Cochran, vice president of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, issued a statement defending the university’s scientists.29 According to Cochran, Monsanto’s petition to the Arkansas Plant Board is “an attack on the whole profession, scientists whose careful work is meant to be of benefit to everyone.” As a result of the allegations, Cochran vowed “to publish all data relevant to our dicamba work over the last few years.”
Farmers Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place
The problem many farmers now face is whether to hop on the bandwagon and start growing dicamba-resistant crops just to avoid having their harvest destroyed by other growers — thus rewarding Monsanto for its ill-conceived product and poor conduct. According to previous estimates, the approval of dicamba-resistant cotton and soy is expected to increase dicamba sales from less than 1 million pounds to more than 25 million pounds annually.30
If growers start switching to dicamba-resistant seed just to protect themselves from drift damage, that number might go even higher. As noted by Missouri farmer Michael Kemp,31 “If you don’t buy Xtend [seeds], you’re going to be hurt. You’re going to have to buy their product because their chemical is drifting around.”
This, truly, would be a worst-case scenario, possibly endangering our environment as a whole. It would also pose extreme financial risks to farmers. If dicamba-resistant soybeans start monopolizing the market, makers will be able to charge whatever price they see fit for the seeds and chemicals.
Naturally, such a monopoly would also pose serious health risks to consumers, whose food choices would become more limited. Dicamba has been linked to a number of health risks, including Non-Hodgkin lymphoma,32 developmental and reproductive problems.
How to Reduce Your Exposure to Toxic Pesticides
There’s no doubt the dicamba problem needs to be addressed, and fast. Farmers will not be able to survive several seasons’ worth of crop destruction. I also worry about its impact on our environment at large. What if it starts to destroy forests and protected lands? There’s also no doubt in my mind that dicamba-resistant GE crops might cause serious health problems when consumed, and since the U.S. does not label GE foods, this really raises the stakes for those who are unaware of these issues.
What we need is more regenerative agriculture, and the most effective way for you to support that is by buying locally grown organic or biodynamic foods. If you live in the U.S., the following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh foods:
The goal of the American Grassfed Association is to promote the grass fed industry through government relations, research, concept marketing and public education.
Their website also allows you to search for AGA approved producers certified according to strict standards that include being raised on a diet of 100 percent forage; raised on pasture and never confined to a feedlot; never treated with antibiotics or hormones; born and raised on American family farms.
EatWild.com provides lists of farmers known to produce raw dairy products as well as grass fed beef and other farm-fresh produce (although not all are certified organic). Here you can also find information about local farmers markets, as well as local stores and restaurants that sell grass fed products.
Weston A. Price has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass fed raw dairy products like milk and butter.
The Grassfed Exchange has a listing of producers selling organic and grass fed meats across the U.S.
This website will help you find farmers markets, family farms and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass fed meats and many other goodies.
A national listing of farmers markets.
The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, hotels and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
The FoodRoutes “Find Good Food” map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs and markets near you.
The Cornucopia Institute maintains web-based tools rating all certified organic brands of eggs, dairy products and other commodities, based on their ethical sourcing and authentic farming practices separating CAFO “organic” production from authentic organic practices.
If you’re still unsure of where to find raw milk, check out Raw-Milk-Facts.com and RealMilk.com. They can tell you what the status is for legality in your state, and provide a listing of raw dairy farms in your area. The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund33 also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws.34 California residents can also find raw milk retailers using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com.
By Dr. Mercola
Headaches are a common complaint, suffered by 45 million Americans each year, or nearly 17 percent of the population. They also are the most common medical complaints accounting for 8 million doctor visits each year.1 Less severe, but n…
By Dr. Mercola
In 2015, Earthjustice and Consumer Federation of America, on behalf of a group of more than 20 firefighter, health, science and consumer groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Hispanic Medical Association and the International Association of Fire Fighters, asked the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to ban organohalogen flame retardants (OFRs), which have been linked to reduced IQ, cancer, hormone disruption and reproductive system damage.1
The petition called for sales of four categories of consumer products — children’s products, furniture, mattresses and electronic casings — to be prohibited if they contain the chemicals, and in a major victory for environmental and public health, in September 2017 CPSC voted to grant the petition to remove the toxic chemicals from the product categories mentioned.
Organohalogen Flame Retardants May Leave a Toxic Legacy Similar to PCBs
At a public hearing held prior to the vote, Genna Reed, science and policy analyst at the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, testified that OFRs should be urgently banned, comparing their use to the “earliest form of flame retardants, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs),” which are also organohalogens, along with DDT.
PCBs, which have been linked to cancer, reproductive problems and impaired fetal brain development, accumulate in the environment, leaving a lasting toxic legacy that, unfortunately, may be very similar to that left by flame retardants, even after they’re banned. Reed testified:2
“Despite being banned in 1977, these chemicals [PCBs] are still found in dangerously high amounts all over industrial hotspots of the country, and continue to bioaccumulate in a range of species. The ban of PCBs happened decades ago and we are still managing the damaging impacts of the chemical’s prevalence across the country.
The next generation of these chemicals, organohalogen flame retardants, are inside of our own homes in a range of products, thanks largely in part to the disinformation campaign sowed by special interests. The fact remains that the science does not support their continued use.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is also evaluating OFRs, but it could be 10 years or more before they make a decision to ban or restrict their use.3 Part of what makes OFRs so toxic is their semivolatile nature, which allows them to migrate from consumer products into household dust, where every household member, from children to pets, is easily exposed.
In a U.S. study conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), flame retardants were detected in every sample of household dust they tested, at concerning levels.
“The average level of brominated fire retardants measured in dust from nine homes was more than 4,600 parts per billion (ppb) … [while] a tenth sample contained more than 41,000 ppb of the chemicals — twice as high as the maximum level previously reported by any dust study worldwide,” EWG reported.4 As Reed noted, OFRs easily meet the definition of “toxic” under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA) because ample evidence shows they have the “capacity to cause personal illness.”
“[E]xposure has been associated with a range of health impacts including reproductive impairment, neurological impacts, endocrine disruption, genotoxicity, cancer and immune disorders,” she said at the public hearing, adding that, “perhaps most egregiously, biomonitoring data have revealed that communities of color and low-income communities are disproportionately exposed to and bear high levels of flame retardant chemicals, adding to the cumulative chemical burden that these communities are already experiencing.”5
American Chemistry Council Deceived the Public About Flame Retardants’ Toxicity, Effectiveness
In 2012, the Chicago Tribune published a revealing investigation, “Playing With Fire,” showing how the chemical industry used tobacco-industry tactics to deceive Americans into accepting flame-retardant chemicals into their homes. In fact, Big Tobacco was involved in their pervasive spread because when the chemicals were developed in the 1970s, nearly half of Americans smoked and cigarettes were a common cause of fires.
As revealed in Toxic Hot Seat, a documentary based on the Tribune’s investigation, rather than create self-extinguishing cigarettes to cut down on fire hazards, the tobacco industry created a front group called the National Association of State Fire Marshals, which pushed for federal standards for fire-retardant furniture.
It worked, and in 1975 California Technical Bulletin 117 (TB117) was passed, which required furniture sold in California to withstand a 12-second exposure to a small flame without igniting — and it basically became a national standard.
The chemical industry then engaged in a deceitful battle to ensure the chemicals stayed front-and-center in Americans’ homes, from establishing phony front groups to funding biased research to meet their agenda, despite evidence showing the chemicals limited effectiveness and health risks. Reed testified in September 2017:6
“The companies that manufacture OFRs have put significant time and money into distorting the scientific truth about these chemicals. As a 2012 Chicago Tribune investigative series noted, the chemical industry ‘has twisted research results, ignored findings that run counter to its aims and passed off biased, industry-funded reports as rigorous science.’
In one case, manufacturers of flame retardants repeatedly pointed to a decades-old government study, arguing the results showed a 15-fold increase in time to escape fires when flame retardants were present.
The lead author of the study, however, said industry officials ‘grossly distorted’ the results and that ‘industry has used this study in ways that are improper and untruthful,’ as the amount of flame retardant used in the tests was much greater than would be found in most consumer items.
The American Chemistry Council has further misrepresented the science behind flame retardants by creating an entire website to spread misleading ideas about flame retardants as safe and effective, even though research has consistently shown their limited effectiveness. In doing so, the American Chemistry Council and its member companies have promoted the prevalent use of OFRs at the expense of public health.”
The chemical industry also engaged in a tactic known as “regrettable substitution,” in which they removed certain flame retardants from products only to replace them with similar, less regulated chemicals that pose many of the same health risks.7
On a positive note, California revised TB117 so that an open flame test is no longer required. As of January 1, 2015, compliance with the updated TB117-2013 became mandatory, which requires upholstered furniture sold in the state to no longer smolder 45 minutes after a lit cigarette is placed on it. This requirement can be met without the use of flame-retardant chemicals (although the law does not ban their use).
Maine Passes Law to Phase Out Flame Retardants in Furniture
It seems the die may have been cast when it comes to the future of flame retardants in the U.S., with both the CPSC’s recent stance against them as well as an August 2017 vote in Maine, in which lawmakers passed a law to phase out all flame retardant chemicals in home furniture—overriding a veto from the governor to do so. While existing inventories of furniture will be allowed to be sold, this ends after January 1, 2019 — the date which furniture containing flame retardants may no longer be sold in the state of Maine.
As for the CPSC vote, it’s encouraging that the agency finally took a stand against toxic flame retardants. As EWG said, “The CPSC’s decision is the most sweeping action to date by the federal government to reduce Americans’ exposure to these chemicals,” although “[r]emoving these chemicals from products will not happen overnight, as the commission will appoint an expert panel of toxicologists to guide the agency on rulemaking.”8
In Washington, meanwhile, the Toxic-Free Kids and Families Act, which bans five flame retardants and gives the state Department of Health the ability to ban additional flame retardants in children’s products and residential furniture, took effect in July 2017. It includes the first ban on tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA), which is a flame retardant often found in children’s car seats.9
New TVs Loaded With Flame Retardants
While CPSC has begun the conversation to ultimately ban the use of OFRs in children’s products, mattresses, furniture and electronic casings, research released by Toxic-Free Future revealed that high levels of the chemicals are still being added to new products, namely televisions. Eleven of the 12 TVs tested contained flame retardant chemicals at levels up to 33 percent by weight in the plastic.10 Eight of them also contained flame retardants of “high concern.”
Toxic-Free Future reported, “Two of the TVs — one made by Element and one made by Samsung — contained the PBDE flame retardant deca-BDE, despite its being banned in five states. Those states are Washington, Maine, Oregon, Vermont, and Maryland. The TVs in the study were purchased in Washington. Only one TV, made by Insignia, did not contain any of the flame retardants tested for.”11
It’s a concerning finding, because it means the chemicals will continue to contaminate household dust and bioaccumulate in the environment and people’s bodies for many years to come. While CPSC has urged manufacturers to stop using the chemicals, they’re likely not going to give in without a fight.
Protect Yourself and Your Children From Flame Retardant Chemicals
If you have older furniture in your home but aren’t ready to replace it, consider replacing the foam cushions with flame-retardant-free foam. If you’re not sure whether your furniture’s foam contains these chemicals, Duke University scientists will test it for you. All you need to remove is a sample the size of a marble and it will be tested for the presence of seven common flame retardants.
The research lab only has the capacity to analyze 50 samples per month, and they close submissions once the quota is reached. Before sending in your sample, check with the Duke University Superfund Submit a Sample website to see if they’re still accepting submissions (for best results, check in on the first of the month). In addition, there are steps you can take to reduce your exposure, including these tips from the Green Science Policy Institute:12
- Avoid upholstered furniture with the TB117 label. If the label states, “This article meets the flammability requirements of California Bureau of Home Furnishings Technical Bulletin 117 … ” it most likely contains flame retardants. However, even upholstered furniture that’s unlabeled may contain flame retardants.
- Furniture products filled with cotton, wool or polyester tend to be safer than chemical-treated foam; some products also state that they are “flame-retardant free.” Organic wool (100 percent) is naturally flame-resistant.
- Avoid baby products with foam. Nursing pillows, high chairs, strollers and other products containing polyurethane foam most likely contain flame retardants.
- Avoid foam carpet padding. If possible, minimize the use of foam carpet padding, which often contains flame retardants. If removing carpeting, take precautions to avoid exposures. You’ll want to isolate your work area from the rest of your house to avoid spreading it around, and use a HEPA filter vacuum to clean up.
- PBDEs are often found in household dust, so clean up with a HEPA-filter vacuum and/or a wet mop often. Washing your hands regularly can also help.
As far as mattresses go, if you want to avoid flame retardants and other chemicals in your mattress, you can have a licensed health care provider write you a prescription for a chemical-free mattress, which can then be ordered without flame retardants from certain retailers. You can also find certain natural mattresses on the market that don’t contain them. For instance, most wool mattresses do not have flame retardant chemicals added because wool is a natural flame retardant.
Another option is to look for an organic mattress that meets the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), which means at least 95 percent of the mattress materials must be certified organic and certain substances, including flame retardants and polyurethane (common in memory foam products), are prohibited.
Since you spend from six to nine-plus hours every night with your face in close proximity to your mattress, breathing in these chemicals, choosing a flame-retardant-free mattress is an excellent first step toward reducing your exposure.
By Dr. Mercola
Many still do not realize the proven health risks inherent with fluoridated water, but the information is spreading. Beginning in 1945, it was claimed that adding fluoride to drinking water was a safe and effective way to improve people’s dental health. Over the decades, many bought into this hook, line and sinker, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
Scientific investigations have revealed that fluoride is an endocrine-disrupting chemical,1 and have linked it to the rising prevalence of thyroid disease.2 Importantly, fluoride has been identified as a developmental neurotoxin that impacts short-term and working memory, contributes to rising rates of attention-deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD)3 and lowered IQ in children.4
Now, a new, long-term multimillion-dollar study sponsored by the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and conducted by a research team that has produced over 50 papers on the effects of environmental exposures on children’s cognitive health, sheds light on the price children pay when mothers are exposed to fluoride during pregnancy.
As noted by Paul Connett, Ph.D., toxicologist, environmental chemist and former director of the Fluoride Action Network (FAN) in the video commentary above (while retiring and handing over the director’s position to his son Michael, Connett remains very active in the organization):
“This should spell the end of water fluoridation worldwide. How can you possibly continue to expose millions of pregnant women and children to a known neurotoxic substance, now that you know there’s a relationship between how much fluoride a woman is exposed to in pregnancy and the IQ of the children born to them?”
Lowered Fluoridation Level Still Too High
In April 2015, the U.S. government admitted the “optimal” level of fluoride recommended since 1962 had in fact been too high, resulting in over 40 percent of American teens having dental fluorosis — a sign of fluoride overexposure. In some areas, dental fluorosis rates are as high as 70 to 80 percent, with some children suffering from advanced forms.
As a result of these findings, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) lowered its recommended level of fluoride in drinking water by 40 percent, from an upper limit of 1.2 milligrams per liter (mg/L) to 0.7 mg/L.5
The HHS will re-evaluate dental fluorosis rates among children again around 2025, to assess whether they were correct about this new level being protective against dental fluorosis. However, even if 0.7 mg/L lowers incidence of dental fluorosis, the current study clearly shows this does NOT mean it’s a safe level overall.
Prenatal Fluoride Exposure Lowers IQ in Children
In a complaint filed against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in response to its denial of a petition to ban water fluoridation, FAN, along with a coalition of environmental and public health groups, presented the agency with more than 180 studies showing fluoride causes neurotoxic harm and reduced IQ in children.6
Many of these studies found harm at levels within the range, or precariously close to, the levels millions of American children receive on a regular basis. All in all, there are more than 300 animal and human studies demonstrating fluoride can cause:7
- Brain damage, especially when coupled with iodine deficiency or excessive levels of aluminum
- Reduced IQ
- Impaired ability to learn and remember
- Neurobehavioral deficits such as impaired visual-spatial organization
- Impaired fetal brain development
Now we can add yet another study to this ever-growing list. This study,8,9,10,11 published in Environmental Health Perspectives last month, found a correlation between fluoride exposure in utero and subsequent reductions in cognitive function at the ages of 4 and 6 through 12. Each 0.5 mg/L increase in fluoride over 0.8 mg/L in the mother’s urine was associated with a 2.5-point reduction in IQ and a 3.15-point reduction in general cognitive index (GCI) scores in the child, leading the authors to conclude that:
“… higher prenatal fluoride exposure, in the general range of exposures reported for other general population samples of pregnant women and nonpregnant adults, was associated with lower scores on tests of cognitive function in the offspring at age 4 and 6-12 y[ears].”
Prenatal Exposure More Hazardous Than Childhood Exposure
According to lead author Howard Hu, founding dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, this is one of the largest, longest and most rigorously executed studies on fluoride and neurodevelopment ever conducted. The data was collected from nearly 300 Mexican mothers and their children.
While Mexico does not fluoridate drinking water, Mexicans are still exposed to many other sources of fluoride, including naturally-occurring fluoride in water, fluoridated salt, dental products, supplements, pesticides and tea.
Importantly, the researchers found that prenatal exposure was far more influential with respect to cognitive function than subsequent fluoride exposure during childhood. As noted by Hu, “the fetal system tends to be more sensitive to environmental toxicants than once the child is born,” and this study supports that view. According to Connett:
“This is the biggest moment for us since the Fluoride Action Network was formed in 2000. It vindicates the concerns we have had on fluoride’s neurotoxicity since Mullenix’s study on animal behavior in 1995 and the first two Chinese studies on IQ published in 1996.”
The mean level of fluoride in the urine of the mothers included in the study was 0.9 mg/L. In the U.S. 75 percent of the population’s drinking water is fluoridated, and according to Hu, the levels of fluoride found in Mexican mothers is unlikely to be significantly different from those found in American women.
Despite that, the American Dental Association (ADA) is still refusing to see the light and commented on the study saying its findings “are not applicable to the U.S.,” and that the ADA “continues to endorse fluoridation of public water as the most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay.”12 How the ADA can prioritize the prevention of tooth decay over IQ loss is simply incomprehensible.
This is especially outrageous in light of research13 showing fluoride only works — and inefficiently at that — when used topically. It has no beneficial effects on teeth when ingested. Besides, there are far more effective and safer options for decreasing tooth decay than using a topical poison or ingesting a harmful industrial pollutant!
IQ Loss From Fluoride Exposure Is Significant
According to Connett, the featured study is very important, as it reveals the loss of IQ is quite large. Essentially, a child of a mother drinking water with 1 part per million (ppm) of fluoride would be predicted to have an IQ that is 5 to 6 points lower than a child born to a mother who drank fluoride-free water.
Another important point to be made with regard to this study is that they measured fluoride in urine, which is a far more accurate indicator of total fluoride intake than simply measuring the concentration of fluoride in drinking water, and then calculating how much water is being consumed.
When drinking water is the dominant source of fluoride, then fluoride concentrations in urine and water are typically about the same. Hence, a mean urine fluoride level of 0.9 mg/L implies these women were ingesting the same amount of fluoride as women drinking water with a fluoride level of 0.9 mg/L — just 0.2 mg/L above the currently recommended level for drinking water in the U.S.
When you factor in the range of fluoride exposures in the study, the exposure is likely very close to the range found in many fluoridated areas of the U.S. In a personal email to me, Connett writes:
“The doses in this study are directly applicable to areas with artificial fluoridation. There is no need to extrapolate downward from effects at higher doses. The claims by fluoridation defenders that only studies using much higher doses than occur in areas with artificial fluoridation have shown a loss of IQ are squarely refuted by this study.
Those false claims range from 11 times to 30 times higher, but are based on the logical fallacy that it is the highest dose amongst several studies that is relevant, when it is the LOWEST dose amongst studies that is most relevant.”
NIEHS Study Confirms Earlier Results, Necessitating Action
The study also controlled for a wide range of factors — including lead, mercury, socioeconomic status, smoking, alcohol use and pregnancy-related problems — that could potentially skew the results or produce a false effect. Importantly, the researchers were able to largely rule out the influence of these confounding factors. It also confirms the results of earlier, less sophisticated studies done in Mexico and China, which have been criticized for their shortcomings. According to Connett:
“Some of those studies had higher fluoride exposures than commonly found in the U.S., but many did not. The sole study in a country with artificial water fluoridation (as opposed to artificial salt fluoridation, which was likely a main source of fluoride in this new study) was by Broadbent in New Zealand.
That study found no association between water fluoridation and IQ and was trumpeted by fluoridation defenders. But that study was shown to have almost no difference in TOTAL fluoride intake between the children with fluoridated water and those with unfluoridated water, since most of the children drinking unfluoridated water were given fluoride supplements.”
Hu and his co-authors are cautious in their conclusions, and this is to be expected. But that does not detract from the fact that the implications of this study are enormous. No singular study can prove fluoride lowers IQ when consumed in doses found in fluoridated areas, but when you add it to previous studies, it’s clearly raises a bright red flag.
Study Shows Linear Relationship Between In Utero Fluoride Exposure and IQ Loss
Another really important finding that is being downplayed or entirely ignored by mainstream media is the fact that there was no threshold below which fluoride did not affect IQ. The study explains this as follows:
“The smooth plot of the association between GCI [editor’s note: IQ test at age 4] and maternal prenatal urinary fluoride from an adjusted GAM model [editor’s note: a model that corrects for extraneous factors] suggested a linear relation over the exposure distribution (Figure 2).”
In a nutshell, this means that as the level of fluoride in urine increased, IQ decreased — across the entire range of exposures, from lowest to highest. This in turn means there’s no level at which there will not be some kind of detrimental effect on cognition — it’s just a matter of degree.
Remarkably, the ADA tries to brush off these results by saying it doesn’t apply to Americans drinking fluoridated water because the source of the fluoride was unidentified. As noted by Connett, “This makes no sense. It is irrelevant whether the Mexican women got their fluoride from fluoridated salt, fluoride in drinking water, or from fluoridated dental products.”
The Many Ways in Which Fluoride Harms Children’s Brain Function
As mentioned, there are now hundreds of studies showing fluoride damages brain function, in a variety of different ways. Among the proposed mechanisms of harm, studies have shown fluoride can:14
Interfere with basic functions of nerve cells in the brain
Reduce nicotinic acetylcholine receptors
Reduce lipid content in the brain
Damage the pineal gland through fluoride accumulation
Impair antioxidant defense systems
Damage the hippocampus
Damage purkinje cells
Increase uptake of aluminum, which has neurotoxic effects
Encourage formation of beta-amyloid plaques (the classic brain abnormality in Alzheimer’s disease)
Exacerbate lesions induced by iodine deficiency
Increase manganese absorption, which has also been linked lower IQ in children
Impair thyroid function, which can also affect brain development
Fluoride Is an Unapproved Drug
If everyone knew the dangers of fluoride and had a choice, most would likely opt for fluoride-free drinking water. Unfortunately, you don’t have that choice if you live in an area that adds fluoride to its municipal water supply. Whether you want it or not, you’re being medicated with a substance known to have toxic effects.
It’s important to remember that fluoride is in fact a drug, since it’s used to prevent a disease (tooth decay), and no other drug has ever been administered as a public health measure across the board without regard for age, sex, medical need and other factors that might place you at increased risk for side effects. Patients who are prescribed drugs must be medically monitored, yet in the case of fluoride, no one is tracking anything.
Once you put fluoride in the water, there is no way to control who gets it and how much, and if you suffer side effects, there’s no recourse. Most don’t even realize that their health problems might be connected to fluoride toxicity. Fluoride in water is not even regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), even though it regulates fluoride in toothpaste and other oral care products, which must bear warning labels about the danger of ingesting those products.
The FDA does not even recognize fluoride supplements (which, like water, are ingested) as safe and effective. In fact, to this day the FDA classifies them as “unapproved new drugs.” Last year, the FDA clamped down on pharmacies selling and misrepresenting unapproved fluoride supplements.
They also issued a warning letter to a fluoride supplement manufacturer, demanding it cease making the product because it’s an unapproved drug — hence it is illegal to manufacture and sell. So, how is it that fluoride can still be added to water supplies across the U.S. for the purpose of preventing tooth decay — a purpose that in the eyes of the FDA renders it a drug, and one which they’ve never approved as safe or effective? It’s a most curious situation that no one appears to have the answer to.
Water Fluoridation Is a Violation of Freedom of Choice
Water fluoridation is an absolute violation of your freedom of choice — to take a drug or not, and a toxic one at that. Fluoroquinolones (fluoride-containing antibiotic- and antimicrobial drugs) require FDA black-box warnings, and some of the newer ones have been withdrawn due to toxicity.15 Fluoride-containing drugs have the unique ability to penetrate your central nervous system, including your brain, which is often why fluoride is used in the formulation.
So, why should we think fluoride in water won’t affect the brain? In light of all the evidence, it’s high time we cease this careless and dangerous public health practice. It’s bad medicine that is doing far more harm than good.
Moreover, the types of fluoride typically added to water supplies are not even “clean” pharmaceutical grade fluoride — which is toxic enough — but rather the chemical byproducts of aluminum, steel, cement, phosphate fertilizer and nuclear weapons manufacturing. These fluoride chemicals have been shown to contain all sorts of toxic contaminants, including lead, arsenic, radionucleotides and aluminum.
To learn more about fluoride and how you can help end this harmful practice, I highly recommend getting a copy of Connett’s book, The Case Against Fluoride. You can also download my free report on water fluoridation for more information on the bad science and political agendas that got this toxic chemical in our drinking water.
By Dr. Mercola
The American Diabetes Association states foods and drinks that use artificial sweeteners are an option that “may help curb your cravings for something sweet” if you have diabetes. They’re among a number of public health organizations spreading the deceptive and incorrect message that artificial sweeteners make a sensible alternative to sugar for diabetics even as the research continues to accumulate to the contrary.
In a small, preliminary study presented at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes in Lisbon, Portugal, researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia revealed that artificial sweeteners impair the body’s response to glucose, reducing control of blood sugar levels.1,2 The study involved 27 healthy participants who were given either capsules of the artificial sweeteners sucralose (brand name Splenda) and acesulfame K in an amount equivalent to consuming 1.5 liters of diet drinks a day or a placebo.
It took just two weeks for the artificial sweetener group to show adverse effects to their blood sugar levels, including a reduction in numbers of the gut peptide GLP-1, which limits the rise in blood sugar after eating. Lead study author Richard Young, associate professor at the University of Adelaide, said in a news release, “This highlights the potential for exaggerated post-meal glucose levels in high habitual NAS [noncaloric artificial sweeteners] users, which could predispose them to developing Type 2 diabetes.”3
Science Increasingly Suggests Artificial Sweeteners Contribute to Glucose Intolerance, Diabetes
Critics of the University of Adelaide study suggested it was too small and “impossible from the data available” to conclude that the observed changes would lead to diabetes.4 However, it’s not the first study to suggest such a link. For instance, drinking aspartame-sweetened diet soda daily increased the risk of Type 2 diabetes by 67 percent (regardless of whether the participants gained weight or not) and the risk of metabolic syndrome 36 percent in one study.5
Artificial sweeteners may increase your risk of weight gain, obesity, metabolic syndrome and other related problems like Type 2 diabetes by inducing “metabolic derangements,” according to a report published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism.6 Research published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism also found aspartame intake is associated with greater glucose intolerance in people with obesity.7
Glucose intolerance is a condition in which your body loses its ability to cope with high amounts of sugar, and it’s a well-known precursor to Type 2 diabetes. It also plays a role in obesity, because the excess sugar in your blood ends up being stored in your fat cells. This means obese individuals who use aspartame may have higher blood sugar levels, which in turn will raise insulin levels, leading to related weight gain, inflammation and an increased risk of diabetes.
Artificial Sweetener in Four Cans of Diet Soda Daily May Increase Fat Production, Inflammation
As far as sucralose goes, in April 2017 research presented at ENDO 2017, the Endocrine Society’s 99th annual meeting in Orlando, Florida, also found that this artificial sweetener promotes metabolic dysfunction that may promote the accumulation of fat.8
Sucralose was tested on stem cells taken from human fat tissue, which revealed that a dose similar to what would be found in the blood of someone who drinks four cans of diet soda a day increased the expression of genes linked to fat production and inflammation, as well as increased fat droplets on cells.9
The study’s lead author, Dr. Sabyasachi Sen, associate professor of medicine and endocrinology at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., noted in a press release, “From our study, we believe low-calorie sweeteners promote additional fat formation by allowing more glucose to enter the cells, and promotes inflammation, which may be more detrimental in obese individuals.”10
The fact that the artificial sweetener was associated with increased glucose uptake in the cells was particularly concerning, as it could have detrimental effects for people with elevated blood sugar levels, like those with diabetes or prediabetes.11
Consuming Artificial Sweeteners Alters Gut Flora, Exacerbating Metabolic Disease
It’s a little-known fact that artificial sweeteners have been shown to induce glucose intolerance by altering gut microbiota.12 Research led by Eran Elinav of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, first showed that mice fed artificial sweeteners developed glucose intolerance after 11 weeks. They then revealed that altering the animals’ gut bacteria influenced their glucose response.
Specifically, when they transplanted feces from glucose-intolerant mice consuming saccharin to mice with sterile intestines, the latter group developed glucose intolerance, “indicating that saccharin was causing the microbiome to become unhealthy,” Scientific American reported.13 Perhaps the most revealing part of the experiments came when the researchers tested artificial sweeteners on people. Scientific American continued:14
“[Elinav’s] team recruited seven lean and healthy volunteers, who did not normally use artificial sweeteners, for a small prospective study. The recruits consumed the maximum acceptable daily dose of artificial sweeteners for a week. Four became glucose intolerant, and their gut microbiomes shifted towards a balance already known to be associated with susceptibility to metabolic diseases.”
Splenda has also been found to reduce the amount of beneficial bacteria in rat intestines by 50 percent15 and depending on which ones are affected it could certainly affect your diabetes risk. Studies have found that the microbial composition in diabetics differ from nondiabetics.16
In particular, diabetics tend to have fewer firmicutes and more plentiful amounts of bacteroidetes and proteobacteria compared to nondiabetics. A positive correlation for the ratios of bacteroidetes to firmicutes and reduced glucose tolerance has also been found.
A researcher in Amsterdam, Dr. Max Nieuwdorp, has published a number of studies looking at changes in the microbiome that are characteristic of Type 2 diabetes.17 In one trial, he was able to reverse Type 2 diabetes in all of the 250 study participants by doing fecal transplantations on them. Remarkable as it may sound, by changing the makeup of the gut bacteria, the diabetes was resolved, so it’s not a stretch to think that the opposite could also hold true.
Diet Drinks May Trigger a Greater Metabolic Response Than Sugary Drinks
Part of the problem with artificial sweeteners is that the sweet taste they provide (in many cases even hundreds of times sweeter-tasting than sugar) does not match up with the energy (or calories) the food provides.
Your body, however, is designed to relate the two, and a recent study by Yale University School of Medicine researchers revealed that the mismatch that occurs when consuming artificially sweetened foods and beverages leads to disruptions to metabolism.18,19 In a Yale University press release, senior author and psychiatry professor Dana Small said:20
“The assumption that more calories trigger greater metabolic and brain response is wrong. Calories are only half of the equation; sweet taste perception is the other half … Our bodies evolved to efficiently use the energy sources available in nature. Our modern food environment is characterized by energy sources our bodies have never seen before.”
The study found that an artificially sweetened, lower-calorie drink that tastes sweet can trigger a greater metabolic response than a drink with a higher number of calories.21 Your body uses the drink’s sweetness to help determine how it should be metabolized. When sweetness matches up with the calories, your brain’s reward circuits are duly satisfied. However, when the sweet taste is not followed by the expected calories, your brain doesn’t get the same satisfying message.22
This may explain why diet foods and drinks have been linked to increased appetite and cravings, as well as an increased risk of diabetes and other metabolic diseases.23,24 When you eat something sweet, your brain releases dopamine, which activates your brain’s reward center. The appetite-regulating hormone leptin is also released, which eventually informs your brain that you are “full” once a certain amount of calories have been ingested.
However, when you consume something that tastes sweet but doesn’t contain any calories, your brain’s pleasure pathway still gets activated by the sweet taste, but there’s nothing to deactivate it, since the calories never arrive. Artificial sweeteners basically trick your body into thinking that it’s going to receive sugar (calories), but when the sugar doesn’t come, your body continues to signal that it needs more, which results in carb cravings.
Yale Cardiologist — and Ex-Diet Soda Fiend — Speaks Out Against Them
Dr. Harlan Krumholz is a cardiologist at Yale University School of Medicine who openly states, “I used to pound down diet drinks.”25 Like so many Americans, he believed the low-calorie, sugar-free drinks to be a guilt-free source of caffeine that helped him keep his weight down. Now he feels betrayed, and he’s speaking out against them. Krumholz cited a recent systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) — the gold standard of research — which found:26
“Evidence from RCTs does not clearly support the intended benefits of nonnutritive sweeteners for weight management, and observational data suggest that routine intake of nonnutritive sweeteners may be associated with increased BMI [body mass index] and cardiometabolic risk.”
He also mentioned other concerning studies, like one that found artificial sweeteners activate different areas in the brain than regular sugar,27 which could ultimately influence feelings of hunger and reward pathways.
Another, conducted by his Yale University colleagues, found artificial sweeteners “are not physiologically inert compounds” and may “impact energy balance and metabolic function, including actions on oral and extra-oral sweet taste receptors, and effects on metabolic hormone secretion, cognitive processes (e.g., reward learning, memory, and taste perception), and gut microbiota.”28 Krumholz wrote in The Wall Street Journal that he’s stopped his daily diet drinks and is removing them from the rest of his diet as well.
“It is reasonable to ask why these substances were not evaluated as drugs in the first place,” he says. “Millions of people are exposed to them every day, and yet their long-term effect is uncertain. Could they be actually causing the health problems they were intended to prevent? I don’t know the answer at this point, but it seems to me that the burden of proof is on the manufacturers to show benefit and demonstrate safety through clinical trials …
If, in the end, we discover that large-scale consumption of diet drinks and foods helped fuel the obesity epidemic, it would be more than ironic. It would be tragic.”29
Are You Ready to Ditch ‘Diet’ Foods From Your Diet?
I would not recommend waiting for public health agencies to catch up to the science and change their stance on artificial sweeteners before making changes to your diet. If you’re currently an artificial sweetener fanatic, or even if you consume them in moderation, ditching them from your diet is a smart move for your health. Be aware that they’re found not only in diet sodas but also in many low-calorie and reduced-calorie foods, from yogurt and ice cream to bread and salad dressing.
Stevia is an acceptable replacement, but I also suggest curbing your sweet cravings by eating fermented vegetables or drinking water with lemon or lime juice added — the sour taste helps reduce cravings, as does organic black coffee.30,31 To learn more, my book “Sweet Deception” has the details about why artificial sweeteners are so hazardous for your health as well as common artificial sweetener-related side effects to watch out for.
By Dr. Mercola
If you’ve been trying to lose weight and making serious diet cuts in all the right places for weight loss, not just maintenance, but still not making progress, there may be something at play that is effectively blocking your success. According to new research, the problem might not be what’s already there, but what’s missing — specifically the right gut microbiota. Research at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, found that the ratio between two types of gut microbes, Prevotella and Bacteroides, evidenced this premise.
For 26 weeks, 62 individuals with increased waist circumference were randomly assigned to either the typical diet enjoyed by the average Dane, or a low-fat, high-fiber diet that included fruits, vegetables and grains. At the end of the study,1 feces samples revealed that the people on the high-fiber diet with a high Prevotella-to-Bacteroides ratio (P/B ratio) lost an average of 10.9 pounds of body fat, which was 3.5 more pounds than the others.
As The New York Times noted,2 those on the regular diet with a high Prevotella ratio lost 4 pounds, compared with 5.5 pounds for those with a low Prevotella ratio, which was statistically insignificant. In short, the researchers concluded, “subjects with high P/B–ratio appeared more susceptible to lose body fat on diets high in fiber … than subjects with a low P/B-ratio.”3
The key in weight loss success, as well as the difference, according to lead author, Mads F. Hjorth, an assistant professor at the University of Copenhagen, is that losing fat, rather than muscle mass, is what delivers a meaningful bottom line. Hjorth admitted that while studying the microbiome — the ecosystem of microorganisms in your gut — has, as yet, brought little in the way of practical results, their newest findings may end up being something they can use as a practical tool to aid in weight loss and overall health.
Beyond Weight Loss: Probiotics to Help Prevent and Treat Colon Cancer
Scientists in the U.K. took a hard look at how the introduction of probiotics might change gut microbiomes and found it not only may help prevent the formation of tumors but even treat existing ones.4 In fact, their research,5 published in The American Journal of Pathology, found that the gut bacteria Lactobacillus reuteri has the potential for treating colon cancer, the third most common cancer in the U.S. other than skin cancer.
Several studies, including one in Malaysia6 and at least one intensive review7 of many studies targeting the subject, had already determined there are several factors that increase incidence of colorectal cancer, such as having been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease, certain genetic factors, lack of exercise, red meat intake, low vegetable and fruit consumption, whether or not you smoke, and being overweight or obese.
The upshot of The American Journal of Pathology study, led by Dr. James Versalovic, a professor of pathology and immunology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, is that your gut microbiome is a huge player in your overall health, including playing a role in the development of colorectal cancer.
While many of the mechanisms involved weren’t immediately known, research indicates probiotics can play a starring role in its prevention, with Lactobacillus reuteri, a naturally occurring probiotic in mammals, observed as reducing intestinal inflammation.
For the study, researchers administered L. reuteri to HDC-deficient mice (as well as using other mice given a placebo for comparison) to regulate their immune responses for observation. DSS, a substance that stimulates inflammation, was used along with azoxymethane, a carcinogenic chemical, to induce tumor formation. The actual mice studies took place 15 weeks later.
Study Procedures and Proof Positive for Probiotics
Using positron emission tomography to scan for tumors, scientists observed that the probiotic-treated mice had fewer tumors, and the ones they had were smaller in comparison with the placebo mice, whose tumors were larger and greater in number.
Medical News Today explained:
“In adult mice, it has been noted that the lack of an enzyme called histidine decarboxylase (HDC) made the animals significantly more susceptible to developing colorectal cancer associated with inflammation of the bowels. HDC is produced by L. reuteri and helps to convert L-histidine, which is an amino acid with a role in protein synthesis, to histamine, which is an organic compound involved in the regulation of the immune response.”8
Two more items were deemed significant in the studies: inactive, HDC-deficient strains of L. reuteri exhibit zero protective effects, and the active strain of the probiotic even decreased inflammation caused by the DSS and azoxymethane chemicals given to the mice. Versalovic summed up the trials:
“Our results suggest a significant role for histamine in the suppression of chronic intestinal inflammation and colorectal tumorigenesis (tumor formation]). We have also shown that cells, both microbial and mammalian, can share metabolites or chemical compounds that together promote human health and prevent disease.”9
In this study, too, scientists are said to be unsure about the function of histamine in humans in relation to cancer, which is interesting since among 2,113 people with colorectal cancer, data “suggested” that those with higher levels of HDC have a better survival rate. The team asserted that probiotics help convert L-histidine into histamine, which could be used to both lower colorectal cancer rates and aid treatment, and Versalovic concluded:
“We are on the cusp of harnessing advances in microbiome science to facilitate diagnosis and treatment of human disease. By simply introducing microbes that provide missing life substances, we can reduce the risk of cancer and supplement diet-based cancer prevention strategies.”10
‘Borrow’ Younger Gut Microbes to Increase Longevity
Studies on fish introduced the novel idea that gut microbes injected into older individuals might also inject more vim and vigor, while also helping them live longer. Some of the world’s shortest-lived vertebrates, turquoise killifish that swim in short-lived ponds formed by rainy seasons in Zimbabwe and Mozambique, were the lucky recipients of gut microbes from slightly younger fish — lucky because they lived longer.
A research team from the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne, Germany, arranged for older killifish — middle-aged at 9.5 weeks — to ingest the gut microbes belonging to killifish only 6 weeks old. Nature reported:
“The transplanted microbes successfully recolonized the guts of the fish that ate them, and extended their lives. The median life span for these animals was 41% longer than that of fish exposed to microbes from middle-aged animals, and 37% longer than for fish that received no treatment.
At 16 weeks — old for killifish — the individuals that received gut microbes from young fish were more active than other elderly fish, with activity levels more like those of 6-week-old fish.”11
Bulletproof 360 equated the concept with cutting-edge science that wages war on aging using an “experimental technique” called parabiosis,12 an allegedly 150-year-old science that connects the vascular systems of old and young animals to see how the exchange of blood might impact their health, behavior and anything else that might change.
But rather than using blood, scientists used the contents of the guts — poop — in the killifish microbe exchange, aka fecal transplantation therapy, as they, just like humans, are full of a comparable set of good and not-so-good gut bacteria. It’s difficult to say how the fish were feeling, but they appeared to be livelier and more active upon receiving the younger microbes.
The Importance of Good and Bad Gut Bacteria
When your gut microbiome is balanced, your general function, like the fish, is one that reflects a boost in energy because all-around, you’re healthier. When your microbiome is lacking in healthy bacteria, as researchers report, you feel physically depleted and your performance suffers.
Not surprisingly, your microbiome profile can change as you age. Your body consists of around 100 trillion microbes that, when properly balanced, protect your gut, your immune system function and, consequently, your overall health. Here’s how it works:
“Gut microorganisms help you digest your food, and byproduct from the microbes eating your food (yes, it’s bizarre but it works) can be helpful to your system. Around 75 percent of your vitamin K supply is produced in the intestines by gut bacteria. Gut bacteria also help your body make its own B vitamins and absorb the B vitamins that come from food.”13
Many factors can change your gut health, for better or worse, including those listed in the table below:14
Exposure to germs
You’ll notice there’s one more factor that can affect the balance of your gut bacteria, and that’s age. You may also notice that other than age, all the rest of the above can be controlled. If you’ve ever marveled at the way a 5-year-old can tear up a playground for hours, and college students can stay up studying night after night without seeming to be adversely affected, gut microbiomes, to a large degree, can be thanked.
The fact is, the gut health of older individuals tends to be vastly different from those of people much younger, and it changes energy levels, cognitive function, muscle strength and immunity, studies say.15 The good news is that healthy gut bacteria can make all the difference in the way you age.16 Taking good care of yourself by paying attention to the items on the above table is not just wise for protecting your health now, but for your future health and even your chances of living longer.
Getting Your Own ‘New’ Gut
Your health is often a direct result of behaviors you engaged in last week, last year and even decades ago, depending on your age. Scientists have linked diseases like Parkinson’s and chronic fatigue to the microscopic organisms and bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract.17,18 Taking prescription medications is another way your body can be thrown out of whack, including combinations of drugs you might be taking that often cause serious and even deadly side effects and health issues.
In fact, it’s not your genes that determine your longevity, as some believe, as in “My grandfather and my father both died of heart disease, so I probably will, too.” Research strongly supports environmental factors as being responsible for the diseases that plague so many people.
It’s the expression of your genes that counts, and that is heavily influenced by your lifestyle choices. Even up to 90 percent of a person’s cancer risk is due to changeable factors such as the items listed above, while only 10 percent can be attributed to genetic defects, one study affirms.19
Nourishing your gut bacteria is one of the most crucial steps in maintaining health, and that can be done by eating traditionally fermented foods such as raw grass fed yogurt, kefir and fermented vegetables, which you can make at home, and foods containing fiber, such as nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables, and other foods to promote better digestive health.
Probiotic supplements can also be beneficial. Avoiding sugar, as well as processed, packaged foods, will go a long way toward balancing and optimizing your gut health. The more you take care to develop gut health. The more it will help increase your energy, improve your sleep, balance your stress levels, diminish your risk for cancer and other diseases and even help you lose weight. Making small changes now will pay big dividends in the way you think, feel and function.