Businesses on the couch: the co-founders in couples’ therapy

20/09/2017 Helen Lock 0

Boardroom bust-ups can put friendships on the line. Business partners reveal why they get professional help to resolve their issues

There are plenty of good reasons to set up a business with a co-founder rather than go it alone. A co-founder is another committed financial partner and someone who is likely to bring a vitally different skillset and will be a source of support when the going gets tough. Research by the Kauffman Foundation in the US suggests that co-founder teams can attract 30% more investment and can increase their customer base more quickly, improving business survival rates.

But there is still a lot to consider before taking on a co-founder. Startup life is stressful and sometimes is it’s all too easy to take it out on the only other person in the same boat as you: your business partner.

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Barn owls don’t lose their hearing with age, scientists find

20/09/2017 Press Association 0

Findings leave researchers hopeful that understanding hearing preservation in birds could lead to new treatment possibilities for deaf humans

If ageing humans had ears like those of barn owls they would never need hearing aids, scientists have shown.

The birds, whose sensitivity to sound helps them locate prey, suffer no hearing loss as they get older. Like other birds – but unlike mammals, including humans – they are able to regenerate cells in their inner ears.

Related: Why birds have the edge over GPS navigation | Daniel Glaser

Continue reading…

Serum Ferritin and GGT — Two Potent Health Indicators You Need to Know

20/09/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

While many health screens and lab tests are overrated or unnecessary, there are a few that are vitally important, such as vitamin D. I recommend checking your vitamin D level at least twice a year.

Two other really important tests are serum ferritin (which measures stored iron) and gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase or sometimes called gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT; a liver enzyme correlated with iron toxicity, disease risk and all-cause mortality). By monitoring your serum ferritin and GGT levels and taking steps to lower them if they’re too high, you can avoid serious health problems.

For adults, I strongly recommend getting a serum ferritin test and GGT on an annual basis. When it comes to iron overload, I believe it can be every bit as dangerous to your health as vitamin D deficiency. In this interview, Gerry Koenig,1 former chairman of the Iron Disorders Institute and the Hemochromatosis Foundation, explains the value of these two tests.

Iron Overload Is More Common Than Iron Deficiency

Iron is one of the most common nutritional supplements. Not only can you get it as an isolated supplement, but it’s also added to most multivitamins. Many processed foods are also fortified with iron. While iron is necessary for biological function, when you get too much, it can do tremendous harm.

Unfortunately, the first thing people think about when they hear “iron” is anemia, or iron deficiency, not realizing that iron overload is actually a more common problem, and far more dangerous. Many doctors don’t understand or appreciate the importance of checking for iron overload.

Virtually all adult men and postmenopausal women are at risk for iron overload due to inefficient iron excretion, since they do not lose blood on a regular basis. Blood loss is the primary way to lower excess iron, as the body has no active excretion mechanisms. Another common cause of excess iron is the regular consumption of alcohol, which will increase the absorption of any iron in your diet.

For instance, if you drink wine with your steak, you will likely absorb more iron than you need. There’s also an inherited disease, hemochromatosis, which causes your body to accumulate excessive and dangerously damaging levels of iron.

If left untreated, high iron can contribute to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases and many other health problems, including gouty arthritis. In one small study,2 100 percent of the patients achieved marked reduction in attacks or complete remission after phlebotomy was used to remove iron and maintain an iron level at near-iron deficiency — “the lowest body iron store compatible with normal erythropoiesis and therefore absence of anemia.”

Iron causes all this harm by catalyzing a reaction within the inner mitochondrial membrane. When iron reacts with hydrogen peroxide, hydroxyl free radicals are formed. These are among the most damaging free radicals known, causing severe mitochondrial dysfunction, which in turn is at the heart of most chronic degenerative diseases.

GGT Is a Potent Predictor of Mortality

GGT is a liver enzyme involved in glutathione metabolism and the transport of amino acids and peptides. Not only will the GGT test tell you if you have liver damage, it can also be used as a screening marker for excess free iron and is a great indicator of your sudden cardiac death risk.

In recent years, scientists have discovered GGT is highly interactive with iron, and when both your serum ferritin and GGT are high, you are at significantly increased risk of chronic health problems, because then you have a combination of free iron, which is highly toxic, and iron storage to keep that toxicity going.3

“Recently, [GGT] was proven by the life insurance industry as the single measure that is most predictive of early mortality,”4,5 Koenig says. “In other epidemiological studies, it’s linked to pretty much every cause of death,6 because it provides those free radicals and hydroxyl radicals …

I believe that … people born after World War II are now at greater risk because of the environmental toxicants we face … Basically, reduction in glutathione levels — your body’s most important antioxidant — is indicated by an increase in GGT …

[G]lyphosate, excess iron, all of the substances in the environment — whether you take it in as food or it’s in the air — that utilize your body’s toxic waste disposal system in some way [will] reduce your antioxidants, whether it’s vitamin D, cholesterol, vitamin E or vitamin A. A reduction of those makes you more vulnerable to disease, particularly chronic disease and autoimmune diseases across the board.”

Ideal GGT and Iron Levels

As with many other lab tests, the “normal” ranges for GGT and serum ferritin are far from ideal.7 If you’re in the “normal” range, you’re virtually guaranteed to develop some sort of health problem. Based on Gerry’s recommendation I had my GGT tested last month and it was 17, which is healthy especially since my ferritin level is 37. You really need both tests to confirm lack of iron toxicity as he explains in the full interview.

Ideal GGT Level, units per liter (U/L) Average level, above which your risk for chronic disease increases significantly “Normal” GGT Level8

Men: Men

Ideal GGT Level, units per liter (U/L): Less than 16 U/L

Average level, above which your risk for chronic disease increases significantly: 25 U/L

“Normal” GGT Level: Up to 70 U/L

Women: Women

Ideal GGT Level, units per liter (U/L): Less than 9 U/L

Average level, above which your risk for chronic disease increases significantly: 18 U/L

“Normal” GGT Level: Up to 45 U/L

According to Koenig, women with a GGT above 30 U/L have a higher risk of cancer and autoimmune disease. Interestingly, while for most other tests the range between what’s healthy and what’s risky tends to be quite broad, in the case of GGT, the range between health and disease is in the single digits.

“Part of it is dependent on body weight,” Koenig says. “Strangely enough, the most recent indications are that people who are too thin (whatever their level of GGT is), it could be harmful if [their GGT is] relatively high.9 For instance, for a thin woman with a GGT … in the range of the second quartile, which is going to be generally 14 to 18 today it can be dangerous if she’s expecting to have children and has a very low BMI.”10

When it comes to serum ferritin, a level of 200 to 300 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) falls within the normal range for women and men respectively, which is FAR too high for optimal health. An ideal level for adult men and non-menstruating women is somewhere between 30 and 60 ng/mL.

You do not want to be below 20 ng/mL or above 80 ng/mL. The most commonly used threshold for iron deficiency in clinical studies is 12 to 15 ng/mL.11 Maintaining a healthy iron level is also important during pregnancy. Having a level of 60 or 70 ng/mL is associated with greater odds of poor pregnancy outcomes.12 That said, iron deficiency during pregnancy is equally problematic, so make sure you get tested.

Last but not least, since the ferritin and GGT are interactive, low GGT tends to be protective against higher ferritin. So, if your GGT is low, you’re largely protected even if your ferritin is a bit higher than ideal. Still, it would be wise to take steps to lower your ferritin to a more ideal level nonetheless. On the other hand, even if your ferritin is low, having an elevated GGT levels is cause for concern, and needs to be addressed.

When Might a Transferrin Saturation Test Be Useful?

If you are thin, with a body mass index (BMI) below 22 or 23, Koenig suggests getting a transferrin test as well, which gives you a percentage saturation level. A level of 25 to 35 percent is typically considered healthy. In the 1970s, the transferrin saturation test was used as a marker for early death. Having a transferrin saturation percentage of over 55 indicated a 60 percent increased risk for premature death.

At that time, an estimated 2.6 percent of the U.S. population had transferrin saturation percentages that high. Today, it’s down to half of that, in large part because of the increase in obesity, which “dilutes” your saturation percentage, and the transferrin test is no longer used as a marker for early death. However, if you are very thin, it can still be a useful test.

“Anything between 25 and 35 is safe. If you’re unusually thin, I would get that test because there you could have unsuspectingly high transferrin saturation, particularly if you’re malnourished … Anorexia nervosa has severe effects on the brain when you’re that thin and your BMI is at 14 or 15,” Koenig says.

Why Excess Iron Is so Dangerous

Your body creates energy by passing the electrons from carbs and fats you eat as fuel to oxygen through the electron transport chain in your mitochondria to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Ninety-five percent of the time, the oxygen is converted to water. But 0.5 to 5 percent of the time, reactive oxygen species (ROS) are created. ROS are not all bad as they are important biological signaling molecules, but excessive ROS leads to mitochondrial damage and dysfunction.

Iron can react with hydrogen peroxide in the inner mitochondrial membrane. This is a normal part of cellular aerobic respiration. But when you have excessive iron, it catalyzes the formation of excessive hydroxyl free radicals from the peroxide, which decimate your mitochondrial DNA, mitochondrial electron transport proteins and cellular membranes. This is how iron overload accelerates chronic disease.

If you eat excessive net carbs (total carbs minus fiber) the situation is further exacerbated, as burning carbs as your primary fuel can add another 30 to 40 percent more ROS on top of the hydroxyl free radicals generated by the presence of high iron.

Unfortunately, most people reading this are burning carbs as their primary fuel. If you struggle with any kind of chronic health problem and have high iron and eat a standard American diet that is high in net carbs, normalizing your iron level (explained below) and implementing a ketogenic diet as described in my book, “Fat for Fuel,” can go a long way toward improving your health.

Taking extra antioxidants to suppress ROS generated by high iron alone or in combination with a high-sugar diet is inadvisable, as ROS also act as important signaling molecules. They’re not all bad. They cause harm only when produced in excess.

Your best bet is to lower the production of ROS. One of the easiest and most effective ways to do that is to eat a diet high in healthy fats, adequate in protein and low in net carbs. Eating healthy fats can make a bigger difference than you might think, especially if you have high iron.

How to Lower Your Iron

The good news is it’s easy to lower your iron level if it’s too high. One of the easiest ways is simply to donate blood two or three times a year. If you have severe overload you may need to do more regular phlebotomies. Two years ago, my ferritin was 150 ng/mL. I implemented self-phlebotomy where I would take out anywhere from 2 to 6 ounces of blood every few weeks, which brought me below 100 ng/mL.

I stopped the phlebotomy when I started a comprehensive detoxification strategy involving near and far infrared sauna, and interestingly, despite the fact I was no longer removing blood, my ferritin continued to drop over the next nine months. Now, it’s down to 37 — far lower than I was ever able to get down to with therapeutic phlebotomies, and as I mentioned earlier I have a healthy GGT level of 17.

As it turns out, an effective detoxification program can lower iron as well. While this was a surprise to me, Koenig confirms that this has indeed been documented by Dr. F.S. Facchini in some of his research on iron. While I’ve long recommended donating blood as the solution to iron overload, I now believe a balanced approach using phlebotomy, detoxification and reducing dietary iron, especially meat, is the best way to go about it.

Keep in mind that trying to control high iron through your diet alone can be risky, as you will also forgo many valuable nutrients. That said, to avoid maximizing iron absorption, avoid eating iron-rich foods in combination with vitamin C-rich foods or beverages, as the vitamin C will increase iron absorption. If needed, you could also take a curcumin supplement. Curcumin acts as a potent chelator of iron and can be a useful supplement if your iron is elevated.

How to Lower Your GGT

GGT is inversely related to glutathione, a potent antioxidant produced in your body. As your GGT level rises, your glutathione goes down. This is part of the equation explaining how elevated GGT harms your health. By elevating your glutathione level, you will therefore lower your GGT. The amino acid cysteine, found in whey protein, poultry and eggs, plays an important role in your body’s production of glutathione.

Red meat, which does not contain cysteine, will tend to raise GGT, as will alcohol, so both should be avoided.13 Research also suggests eating at least 10 servings of fruits and vegetables rich in in vitamin C, fiber, beta-carotene, anthocyanins and folate per week can help reduce GGT.14,15 Examples include carrots, romaine lettuce, spinach, sweet potatoes, apricots and tomatoes.

Also, be aware that certain medications can raise your GGT. If this is the case, please confer with your doctor to determine whether you might be able to stop the medication or switch to something else, and avoid over-the-counter medicines, including ibuprofen and aspirin, both of which can damage your liver.

General detoxification is another important component if your GGT is high, as your liver’s job is to remove toxins from your body. The fact that your GGT is elevated means your liver is under stress.

The Protein-Iron-GGT Connection

I personally typically eat only 2 to 4 ounces of meat per week Americans tend to overeat meat in general, and most of it is dangerous CAFO meat loaded with toxins. Additionally, while the meat supplies you with more iron than you likely need, excess protein can also cause problems. Another little-known fact is that giving iron to a person who is malnourished and cannot process protein properly can be extremely dangerous. Koenig explains:

“I’ve been studying malnutrition for several years now, mainly kwashiorkor (also known as protein-calorie malnutrition), which is a typical malnutrition disease, along with marasmus in developing countries. There you have a situation where the children, particularly in kwashiorkor, cannot synthesize important proteins because of essential amino acid deficiencies … 

[When] giving iron too early in a recovering child with kwashiorkor, or an adult for that matter, the measure that skyrockets early on, in that particular case, happens to be GGT.

High amounts of free iron [are dangerous] because they don’t have the proteins to safely contain that iron into either transferrin, which is the protein that protects the body from the iron in the bloodstream, or ceruloplasmin, which is necessary for copper transport. To get iron safely into the brain, it needs to be complexed with ceruloplasmin. Those can’t be synthesized in a malnourished person. [So, giving] iron to a malnourished person is highly toxic.”

African and Chinese Research Confirm GGT’s Relation to Chronic Disease

Koenig recently found a few African studies showing the importance of GGT. In the 1990s, when GGT was tested broadly in the U.S. as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III (NHANES III, 1988 to 1994), results revealed that African-Americans had higher levels of both serum ferritin and GGT than Caucasians and Hispanics.

“Back then, those measurements were compared to measurements in Zimbabwe. In [Zimbabweans] who were not exposed to spraying for mosquitoes … the [ferritin and GGT measurements] were roughly half.

They had obviously been on a native diet … But I found, through several papers recently submitted in South Africa, that those measurements now are very high. They’re catching up and probably surpassing the American Blacks’ measurements, and they’re suffering the [same] chronic diseases …”

More recent studies from South Africa depict increasing GGT levels are associated with insulin resistance and cardiometabolic disease risk.16 Moreover, a recent Chinese study showed that while having a GGT level above the midpoint raised the risk of chronic kidney disease, when combined with high serum ferritin, that risk increased nearly fivefold.17 Other common diseases associated with high iron and GGT include diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Blood Donations Lead to Radical Reduction in Disease

A number of epidemiological studies have also documented a significant reduction in chronic diseases among those who donate blood two or three times a year — findings that support the notion that iron overload is prevalent, and contributes to chronic disease. In some, heart disease and cancer were reduced by as much as 50 percent, Koenig notes.

Unfortunately, many doctors are still unaware of the importance of checking for iron overload (based on ideal levels and not what’s considered normal), and may overlook the GGT test as well.

“One of the reasons it’s difficult to get doctors to order GGT tests is they’re discouraged because they know some prescription drugs increase [GGT]. Although the overall effect may be protective, it’s not a happy situation to see a measure of disease increase just by taking a drug. There’s resistance in that area of getting tested. But it’s a pretty simple test. It would be recommended. And blood donation basically keeps one healthy,” Koenig says.

In summary, if you’re concerned about maintaining your health and preventing chronic disease, I would strongly encourage you to get a ferritin and a GGT test regularly, and if needed, implement the strategies discussed above to get them into their optimal ranges.

Serum ferritin and GGT are markers for iron toxicity, which is a major mostly unrecognized contributor to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and many other chronic diseases. High iron even increases your risk of infections. As noted by Koenig, you really don’t want to check into a hospital with high iron, as your risk of contracting a hospital-acquired infection will be that much greater. The good news is, it’s so easy to turn around, thereby dramatically reducing your risk.

More Information

To learn more, I recommend visiting HealtheIron.com, where you can also order your serum ferritin and GGT tests or either of their special FeGGT-LifePRO™ test panels. If either serum ferritin or GGT is elevated, you need to take action. The treatment couldn’t be simpler. Unless you’re a menstruating woman, simply donate blood two to three times a year. If you do not qualify to donate blood, ask your doctor to write you a prescription for therapeutic phlebotomy.

Is Your Shampoo Making You Sick?

20/09/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

You may be mistakenly comforted by the perceived oversight by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over chemicals used in the manufacture of everyday products. For instance, the FDA prohibits the use of mercury, chloroform and nine other substances in your personal care products. However, once you know the European Union (EU) prohibits the use of more than 1,300 chemicals in their personal care products, you may not feel as protected — and you would be right.

The number of chemicals restricted by the FDA is even more ridiculous when you consider there are over 84,000 different chemicals in use in your personal care products and only 1 percent of those have been evaluated for safety in humans.1

The difference between chemical use in the EU and the U.S. is that in the EU manufacturers must prove chemicals are not a health hazard before they are allowed in products, whereas in the U.S. they can be added without mandatory safety testing and only removed after enough people have suffered to get the attention of watch groups or the FDA.

Women are at greater risk than men from exposure as they routinely use nearly double the number of products per day. Under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, products do not require FDA approval before being sold on the market.2 According to the FDA, the agency monitors safety reports on the products, although often the available information is limited and many consumers never report problems they experience.

If there is enough information to support a claim that the product causes harm, the FDA may ask for a court injunction, request the products are seized, initiate criminal action or request the company recall the product. However, they do not have the ability to force a recall.3 The very last thing you may expect to find in your shampoos, conditioners, facial washes or cosmetics is known carcinogens. But, if you live in the U.S., this is likely the case.

In 2009 the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition of nearly 175 nonprofit groups, began pressuring Johnson & Johnson to remove two dangerous chemicals — 1,4 dioxane and the preservative formaldehyde, both of which are probable human carcinogens — from their merchandise, including their baby products.4 Three years later the company finally agreed to phase them out and by 2014 the chemicals were removed from their baby shampoo.5

Chemicals in Personal Care Products May Poison Water Supplies

One of every eight of the more than 84,000 ingredients in personal care products are pesticides, reproductive toxins, hormone disruptors or industrial chemicals.6 Many of these are degreasers, surfactants or plasticizers that are not biodegradable and may not be removed from wastewater prior to being released into the environment. Some of the more hazardous chemical compounds include 1,4-dioxane, parabens, phthalates and toluene.

Once used in your personal care products, whether shampoo, facial wash, lotion or cosmetics, a large percentage is washed away down the drain. 1,4-dioxane is one of those chemicals commonly used in shampoos and soaps that are highly sudsy.7 This chemical is also commonly found in paint stripper, dyes and varnishes. The chemical is not readily biodegradable, so it sticks around in your water supply.

In fact, it was just one year ago that a significant amount was detected in the water supply on Long Island, raising alarms with public health officials.8 But, this isn’t just a problem along the East Coast as the chemical has been detected in drinking water across the U.S., having been found at over 31 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sites9 on their National Priorities List.10 According to the EPA, 1,4-dioxane migrates easily into groundwater and is resistant to biodegradation in water and soil.11

According to the World Health Organization, the problem exists worldwide.12 1,4-dioxane is a potent environmental poison, listed as possibly carcinogenic and having organ toxicity, especially on the respiratory system, liver and kidneys.13 It is also a skin and eye irritant and a common ingredient in shampoos.

As the FDA does not require manufacturers to list all chemicals in their ingredients, it can be difficult to tell if the product you’re using contains this solvent, or any other chemical of concern. You may search your products on the EWG’s Skin Deep database to see what chemicals are used.14

Another chemical commonly found in your personal care products that leaches into groundwater, poisoning your drinking supply, is parabens. These chemicals are widely used in cosmetics and other personal care products to preserve the product and prevent the growth of bacteria, yeast and mold.15 They are also endocrine disruptors as they mimic estrogen in the body and disrupt your own hormonal system.

Parabens easily react with free chlorine resulting in halogenated by-products not easily filtered from your drinking water and more persistent in the environment than the original paraben species.16 Parabens have been found in groundwater in multiple areas around the U.S. as they are commonly used and disposed of in wastewater and garbage.17

1,4 Dioxane May Be Absorbed and Consumed

1,4-Dioxane is a common ingredient in shampoos or body baths that suds well. In 2013 the EPA conducted their own risk assessment and found it was “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”18 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determined you may be exposed to the chemical in the air, on your skin or consumed in the water you drink.19 The chemical is readily absorbed through your lungs and gastrointestinal tract but less noticeably through your skin.

At lower doses, such as exposure on your skin or at low concentrations through your gastrointestinal tract, your body readily absorbs the chemical. At higher doses your body excretes the excess through your lungs and kidneys and it is eliminated without accumulating.20 As far back as the 1970s the CDC measured 1,4-dioxane in municipal water supplies at levels of 1 parts per billion (ppb).

In 1988 California placed 1,4-dioxane on their official list of cancer-causing chemicals as they recognized the dangers it posed for their citizens. Every year the EPA does an evaluation of chemicals currently in use, following the mandate of the Toxic Substances Control Act law passed in 1976.

In coming months the EPA will be evaluating 10 toxic chemicals, including 1,4-dioxane.21 However, the agency has not yet made the decision to regulate the chemical under the Safe Drinking Water Act that controls levels of chemicals found in your drinking water. EWG senior scientist David Andrew commented on the planned evaluation by the EPA of 1,4-dioxane, saying:22

“For a chemical to rise to the top of this [TSCA] list really raises alarm bells about the potential environmental contamination, as well as the residual health effects,”

The EPA has currently set a limit of 0.35 parts per billion (ppb) in public water supplies to mitigate cancer risk, but this is not a legal limit. An EPA database shows that 27 states now have levels of 1,4-dioxane at levels higher than this, increasing your risk of absorption through your skin when bathing and showering — a route your body readily accepts.

Parabens in Your Beauty Products Raise the Price Tag on Health Care

Parabens are commonly used preservatives found in deodorants, cosmetics and shampoo.23 They were introduced as a preservative in the 1930s and are odorless, tasteless and colorless,24 making them a perfect addition to a cosmetic product as they do not change the experience for the consumer. Scientists have also found parabens in nearly 90 percent of products on your grocery store shelves, making it very difficult to avoid exposure.25

Their chemical structure mimic estrogen, which means they’re endocrine disruptors. The debate over whether parabens are responsible for the development of breast cancer in women has not been settled. However, in one study from England researchers found parabens in 99 percent of breast cancer biopsies taken in 160 tissue samples.26 In 60 percent of those samples all five paraben esters were detected.

The study also revealed higher concentrations of paraben esters in the upper quadrant of the breast tissue and axillary area where antiperspirants are usually applied. There is also research evidence that exposure to parabens reduces testosterone levels27 in males and may be a contributing factor to the nearly 60 percent of men who suffer from gynecomastia, or enlarged breast tissue.28

Men experience another considerable medical condition from exposure to parabens that may have a long-term effect on the population. Low testosterone levels after exposure to parabens lead to poor sperm quality and lower fertility rates.29 Researchers found concentrations of paraben esters in the participants’ urine were strongly associated with an increase in the percentage of sperm presenting abnormal morphology and in sperm with DNA damage.

Samples were taken from 315 men who presented at a fertility clinic with reproductive challenges. Lead author Joanna Jurewicz, Ph.D., of the Nofer Institute of Occupational Medicine in Poland, recommended:30

“We have observed an impact of parabens on semen quality. To avoid parabens is very difficult because they are widespread, but we can try to minimize the exposure by only using personal care products with label information saying that there are no parabens in the particular product.”

The current study found an association between butyl paraben and an abnormal shape, size and motility of sperm and an association between ethyl paraben and an association only with atypical size and shape of sperm.

Chemicals in Cosmetics Associated With Significant Health Hazards

During the 114th U.S. Congress (2015-2016), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced bill 1014 called the Personal Care Products Safety Act31 as a means of legally addressing loopholes and regulating the structure for the release of personal care products. Many consumer groups supported the bill,32 which was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, where it remains to this day.

This bill was designed to give federal agencies more power to remove damaging chemicals from products you purchase at the store. Health dangers from chemicals found in your personal care products are not limited to your reproductive system as many are not inert substances but have biological activity. Scientists speculate that 1 in 5 cancers may develop after exposure to environmental chemicals, including those chemicals that have been deemed “safe” on their own.33

One analysis, however, found that the cumulative effect of noncarcinogenic chemicals may act in concert to produce carcinogenic activity on organ systems, cells and tissues. This essentially makes testing for carcinogenic chemicals more difficult as they are almost exclusively found in combination in products. Endocrine disrupting chemicals are associated with a number of different health conditions as your endocrine system controls nearly all of your cells. These conditions include:34

Undescended testicles in young males

Breast cancer in women

Thyroid cancer

Prostate cancer

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Developmental effects on the nervous system in children

Protect Your Health Using Safe Products on Your Skin

Following measurements of 1,4-dioxane in the municipal water supply on Long Island, New York Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirstin Gillibrand introduced Senate Bill 519 to amend the Safe Water Drinking Act to set maximum levels for a list of contaminants, including 1,4-dioxane.35 In a statement to the press, Schumer said:36

“This likely cancer-causing toxin serves no purpose in these products and is not even identified on packaging, so it’s time we drain it from everyday products to make Long Island’s water safer.”

Other states have already set limits below 1 ppb, including California, Colorado, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.37 Consider contacting your senator to express concern over the chemicals found in your drinking water, using the U.S. Senate website.38 As the wheels of politics turn slowly, consider taking steps in your own home to reduce your exposure to toxic chemicals and protect your health.

You may use the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep database to check the ingredients in your personal care products.39 There’s also an app for that. When out shopping for personal care products, the app Think Dirty builds on the EWG’s database and recognizes nearly 70,000 different products, giving you a rating on their “dirty meter” to help you make healthier purchasing decisions.40

Your skin is an exceedingly large and permeable organ. Almost everything you put on your skin ends up in your bloodstream and distributed through your body. This is why I’m so fond of saying “don’t put anything on your body that you wouldn’t eat if you had to.”

Be aware that products boasting “all-natural” labels can still contain harmful chemicals, so be sure to check the full list of ingredients. Look for simple ingredients that you recognize and know to be safe. Read more about endocrine disruptors and how to reduce your exposure in my previous article, “10 Sources of Endocrine Disruptors and How to Avoid Them.”

You may also simplify your routine by making your own products. A slew of lotions, potions and hair treatments can be eliminated with a jar of coconut oil and high-quality essential oil, if you like, for scent. For starters, try Tree Hugger’s natural deodorant recipe41 below and for more information, check out the infographic below.

Homemade Natural Deodorant With Coconut Oil

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons virgin coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons shea butter
  • 3 tablespoons baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 5 drops essential oil of your choice

Directions

  1. Make a double boiler by placing a half-pint glass jar in the middle of a small pot of water. Bring water to a simmer. Add coconut oil and shea butter to the jar and let melt. Turn off the heat, add baking soda and cornstarch, and stir until completely smooth. Mix in the essential oil of your choice. Let cool.
  2. At room temperature the deodorant is hard. You can scrape out a small ball and apply it directly to your armpits, or transfer it to an old deodorant tube for easier application. In warmer months, you’ll need to keep this deodorant in your refrigerator to prevent the coconut oil from liquefying.

personal care products infographic

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Physicians Find Americans Taking Too Much Medication

20/09/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

Every age group, from children to seniors, is at risk for being diagnosed with a condition they may not actually have, and being prescribed medications they do not need. In an increasingly litigious environment, where attorneys advertise for clients who may have had a missed diagnosis or experienced a side effect from a prescribed medication, physicians are increasingly caught between their desire to individualize care for their patients and the need to follow published standards of care to protect their licenses.

In other words, the fear of medical malpractice lawsuits is a very real issue faced by many who practice medicine. To avoid public criticism by colleagues or potential rebuke from their professional organization (and sometimes loss of their ability to practice), physicians may feel forced to follow published standards of care. These treatments often include prescribing medications designed to relieve symptoms, but do not usually address the foundational cause of the medical condition.

If you watch any television at all in the U.S., you have seen the advertisements for medications along with a long laundry list of potential side effects from the drugs. Oftentimes these side effects are more dangerous than the original condition being treated.

For instance, Vioxx, an anti-inflammatory medication used to treat musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis, was eventually pulled from the market after studies demonstrated those taking it experienced a much higher risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack and death. Unfortunately, by the time Vioxx was withdrawn, an estimated 60,000 Americans had already died from the drug.

This is only one of many instances where a drug has been pulled from the market. Some patients are required to undergo monthly blood tests to monitor organ function in order to stop medication if damage is detected. In some cases, the use of medications is warranted and may help improve your situation, but they must be used cautiously and judiciously. It is far better to address the underlying physical cause of the condition to alleviate the issue than it is to mask the problem by subduing the symptoms.

Most US Physicians Believe Overtreatment Is Harmful, Wasteful and Common

A recent survey of over 2,100 physicians from a variety of specialties across the U.S. asked about their beliefs concerning overtreatment and unnecessary medical care.1 By their own admission, the participating physicians describe overtreatment of their patients as “common.” The survey found 22 percent of prescription medications, 24 percent of tests and 11 percent of procedures were unnecessarily prescribed, despite years of emphasis from the health care industry to control costs and procedures.

The most common reason physicians cited for prescribing tests, medications and procedures was a fear of malpractice (nearly 85 percent), and pressure exerted from patients (nearly 60 percent).2 Senior author, Dr. Martin Makary, professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins, commented on the results of the survey, saying:3

“This study is essentially the voice of physicians about the problem. We’re told that there are too many operations done for narrowed blood vessels in the legs. Spine surgeons say that a quarter of all spine surgery may not be necessary. Half of stents placed may be unnecessary. These are significant opportunities to improve quality and lower costs.”

The study identified some potential solutions, including better training for incoming residents on the appropriate criteria for treatment, easier access to prior health records that may reduce unnecessary testing and more practice guidelines.

Cost of Overtreatment Affects Every Individual

The cost of overtreatment is both physical and financial. As Dr. Ben Goldacre explains in this TEDMED talk, physicians are often misled about the benefits of the medications they prescribe, based on the research published in peer review journals. It’s common practice to publish positive results and withhold studies with negative results from publication.

Naturally, this presents a very lopsided view. Bias also taints the results of many studies. Physicians need to be able to make informed treatment decisions, but publication bias makes this exceedingly difficult.

Overdiagnosis and overtreatment are significant contributors to health care spending that is spiraling out of control. In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the annual per capita health expenditure was $9,990.4 The total national expenditure amounted to over 17 percent of the Gross National Product. Within one year that number jumped to $10,345 per person.5 This is a 4.8 percent increase per person in a population of 324 million people in the U.S. at the time of the increase.6

Health care expenditure is expected to grow 5.8 percent annually to 2025.7 Costs in the U.S. often exceed those for the same products or services in other countries. For instance, one day in the hospital in the U.S. costs an average $5,220 while one day in the hospital in Spain costs $424; bypass surgery in the U.S. is over $78,000, but $24,000 in the U.K.; and Harvoni, the drug used to treat hepatitis C, costs $10,000 more in the U.S. than in any other country.8

As Makary pointed out,9 “Unnecessary medical care is a leading driver of the higher health insurance premiums affecting every American.” The primary study authors also wrote:10 “Addressing overtreatment can have a major impact on rising health care costs in the U.S. … Using the IOM’s estimate of excess costs arising from overtreatment, a 50 percent reduction in ‘unnecessary services’ would result in $105 billion in savings each year, or about 4 percent of total national health care spending.”

In an interview with CNBC, Dr. Orly Avitzur, medical director at Consumer Reports, shared some signs you may have been overtreated:11

  • Leaving the doctor’s office with a list of prescriptions and you don’t know why you’re taking them
  • Getting a prescription for a symptom instead of your physician sitting with you to discuss what the symptoms may mean
  • Receiving prescriptions without a conversation of why you’re taking the medication, the side effects and a thorough discussion of what alternatives may be used

Seek and You Will Find

Improvements in digital imaging and technological testing have given physicians an edge in finding diseases earlier in development, potentially improving care and reducing risk of death and permanent disability. However, while it’s a good idea in theory, it hasn’t played out as well in practice.

The fundamental challenge is that the more doctors look for diseases in people who are apparently healthy, the more they find. Many of these conditions may in fact be easily managed with nutrition, exercise and quality sleep instead of potentially dangerous medications. For example, research12 suggests the number of diagnosed thyroid cancers has increased dramatically in the past two decades.

The report estimates that across 12 countries, there have been 500,000 cases of thyroid cancer diagnosed that were in fact benign small tumors. The problem is those small tumors are treated with dangerous drugs and the increase in diagnoses has not affected the number of people who die from the disease. Thyroid cancer isn’t the only disease affected by a growing problem of overdiagnosis, leading to overtreatment.

The debate over whether too many children are diagnosed and treated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was underscored by a survey of over 1 million Canadian children13 finding those born in December had a 30 to 70 percent higher rate of a diagnosis than those born in January.

Researchers concluded the children were penalized for immaturity as the Canadian birth cutoff date for entry into school is December 31. Drug treatment increases the risk of heart events, sleep disorders and adverse effects in appetite and growth.

Changes in the definition of a diagnosis have also affected the number of women labeled with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Researchers from the University of Sydney found the number of women of reproductive age who were diagnosed with PCOS jumped from 5 percent using the standard in 1990 to 21 percent using the standard developed in 2003. The authors concluded unnecessary labeling may increase a woman’s anxiety, saying:14

“A PCOS label might not be needed to effectively treat many symptoms of PCOS, as the label often does not change the type or intensity of the intervention. We recommend carefully weighing up the benefits and harms for each individual woman and taking a slower, stepped, or delayed approach to diagnosis to optimize benefits and reduce harm from disease labelling.”

These are just a few examples of many different diagnoses and populations of people affected by overtreatment.

Overprescription of Pain Medication Feeds the Opioid Epidemic

Over prescribing opioids in America has led to a growing epidemic that is driving up health care costs and claiming thousands of lives. In 1980 a letter to the editor in the New England Journal of Medicine noted:15 “We conclude that despite widespread use of narcotic drugs in hospitals, the development of addiction is rare in medical patients with no history of addiction.”

This short paragraph has been routinely cited as reason to prescribe opioid drugs and was even used by Purdue Pharma, makers of the painkiller OxyContin, to say less than 1 percent of patients treated with opioids would become addicted.16 Retired physician Dr. Hershel Jick, author of the letter, is quick to point out this statistic is misrepresented as the paper only included patients who were carefully monitored in the hospital and not taking the drug as an outpatient.17

Statistics from 2011 showed that 75 percent of opioid prescription drugs from around the world were being consumed in the U.S., a nation that makes up only 5 percent of the world’s population.18 Opioid addiction and accidental overdoses are now taking a tremendous toll.

According to U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under the age of 50.19 The annual financial cost of addiction alone due to illicit drugs and prescription opioids combined is $271.5 billion ($78.5 billion for opioids), according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.20

Drugs prescribed as aggressive treatment for pain have fueled an epidemic that has claimed more than 50,000 lives in 2016.21 Told that OxyContin was not addictive, physicians prescribe it for everything from lower back pain to teeth extraction. However, Purdue Pharma omitted the fact that when crushed, the pill loses its time release protection, creating an instant high for the user. It was this fact that led to a $24 million settlement in a lawsuit brought by the state of Kentucky.22

This settlement is similar to one agreed upon in 2007 with the state of West Virginia, when $634 million was paid for “fraudulent conduct [that] caused a greater amount of OxyContin to be available for illegal use than otherwise would have been available.”23 Overuse of opioid drugs to treat pain is the result of overprescription. The National Safety Council survey results showed 99 percent of doctors who prescribe opioids do so for longer than the three-day period recommended by the CDC.24

In fact, 23 percent of physicians who prescribe opioids write prescriptions for at least a month’s worth of pills and 74 percent of physicians incorrectly believe oxycodone and morphine are the best methods of treating pain. Dr. Donald Teater, medical adviser at the National Safety Council said:25

“Opioids do not kill pain; they kill people. Doctors are well-intentioned and want to help their patients, but these findings are further proof that we need more education and training if we want to treat pain most effectively.”

Break Free of the Prescription Drug Trap

There is a slow-growing movement among physicians across the world to develop programs that allow them to spend greater time with their patients in order to treat health conditions and not just throw a pill at symptoms.

However, your health is in your hands. With screening programs that detect conditions that may go without treatment, and some physicians overprescribing medications and opioid drugs, it’s time to take back control of your own health and break free from a trap created by pharmaceutical companies. Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Catherine Calderwood, states:26

“I think that doctors are fixers. They want to help. And I think that perhaps we have overestimated the benefits of some treatments and maybe underestimated the risks and perhaps underestimated the burden of health care. So, visits to hospital, visits to the GP [general practitioner], surgery, blood tests, monitoring … and now we’re having much more open and honest conversations.”

Many continue to believe that if a medication is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration it is safe for use. You only have to look at the record of medications suddenly pulled from the market after many thousands of people lost their lives or had their health damaged to know that nothing could be further from the truth. It helps to find a physician who will think beyond prescribing a pill to treat your symptoms and instead will work with you to recommend healthy lifestyle choices.

Seek out a physician who follows principles of conservative prescribing to reduce risks associated with any prescription medication — including what you may believe to be innocuous, common medications, such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs or blood pressure medications. Do not stop a medication you may already be taking without first discussing your plan with your physician. Physicians who are conservative in their prescribing practices will:27

Consider nondrug therapies to treat underlying causes of the symptoms and discuss preventive strategies with you

Strategically prescribe medications, such as deferring the use of non-urgent drugs and avoiding switching medications, and start treatment with only one drug at a time

Discuss side effects with you and watch for suspected drug reactions and drug withdrawal symptoms, and who will educate you about reactions and what should be done if one occurs

Exercise caution when considering new medications, waiting until the drug has had a sufficient time on the market to determine common side effects, and be skeptical about drug trial reporting

Work with you on shared goals to help you enjoy better health by avoiding restarting previous medications that were unsuccessful, listening to your concerns, discontinuing unneeded medications and respecting your reservations or concerns about prescribed medications

Consider the long-term effects of prescribing a medication and weigh the benefits against the risks of taking medications

HPV screening better at detecting cervical cancer than pap smear, trial shows

Results come less than three months before five-yearly HPV test replaces the two-yearly pap test in Australia

Australia’s new national cervical cancer screening program has received a boost, with a large clinical trial showing screening for the human papillomavirus is significantly better at detecting potential precancerous cells than the traditional pap smear.

“We found that the HPV test was substantially more effective at picking up high-grade abnormalities compared to the pap test,” said Prof Karen Canfell, director of research at Cancer Council New South Wales.

Related: Australian women not having regular pap tests and dying from cervical cancer

Related: Alcohol is a direct cause of seven ​​forms of cancer, finds study

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