Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM): These Polio-Like Illnesses Are Spreading Quickly

A rare condition known as acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) has been spreading across the U.S. Although it’s still very rare, affecting less than 1 in 1 million Americans each year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is monitoring what appears to be an increasing trend in this polio-like disease.1

AFM targets the nervous system, including the spinal cord, leading to weakness in the arms and/or legs and loss of muscle tone and reflexes. In some cases, the condition may also cause difficulty swallowing, slurred speech and an inability to urinate. In the most severe cases, respiratory failure can occur if the muscles involved in breathing become weakened, requiring a ventilator for the person to breathe.

“In very rare cases, it is possible that the process in the body that triggers AFM may also trigger other serious neurologic complications that could lead to death,” the CDC noted. Currently, there is no cure for AFM so treatment involves supportive care. Most cases involve children and while some have recovered completely, others are faced with long-term disabilities including ongoing paralysis that requires continued care.

Cases of AFM Polio-Like Illness on the Rise

AFM has been making media headlines in recent weeks, but the condition has actually been quietly rising for years. From August 2014 to September 2018, the CDC received reports of 386 confirmed cases of AFM in the U.S. Broken down, this amounts to:2

  • 62 confirmed cases so far in 2018 (as of October 16), spread across 22 states
  • 33 confirmed cases in 2017, across 16 states
  • 149 confirmed cases in 2016, across 39 states
  • 22 confirmed cases in 2015, across 17 states
  • 120 confirmed cases from August to December 2014, across 34 states

It should be noted that the CDC is currently investigating nearly 130 possible AFM cases with onset of symptoms in August and September 2018. The 62 confirmed cases for 2018 are among these reports, but it’s possible the number may rise considerably in the coming months. At this point, there are more questions than answers surrounding AFM and its causes.

The CDC admits they don’t know what’s causing the increase, who may be at a higher risk or what the long-term effects may be. What they have found so far is that most cases seem to mimic symptoms found in various viral illnesses, including polio virus, nonpolio enteroviruses, adenoviruses and West Nile virus.

That being said, specimens (stool, blood and cerebrospinal fluid) tested from AFM patients have so far been negative for polio virus and no pathogens have been consistently detected in spinal fluid.

When the illness first spiked in 2014, it was around the time of an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by enterovirus (EV) D68, another “polio-like virus” that was associated with paralysis. However, according to the CDC, “Among the people confirmed with AFM, CDC did not consistently detect EV-D68 in every patient.”3

Could Vaccines Be Involved in ‘Provoking’ AFM?

In 2015, Dr. Allan Cunningham, a retired pediatrician from New York, wrote an intriguing analysis to the BMJ, asking “Do we need a new approach to making vaccine recommendations?”4 He was specifically referring to the “U.S. mystery of acute flaccid myelitis,” which at the time was just over 100 cases in 34 states, alongside a spate of more than 1,100 cases of EV D68, the latter of which did not seem to be the overriding cause.

He brings up an important phenomenon, however, known as provocation poliomyelitis, which describes the increased risk of neurological complications known to occur if a person with a polio virus infection receives an injury to a skeletal muscle, which could include an injection from a vaccine. As noted in the Journal of Virology:5

“Skeletal muscle injury is known to predispose its sufferers to neurological complications of concurrent poliovirus infections. This phenomenon, labeled ‘provocation poliomyelitis,’ continues to cause numerous cases of childhood paralysis due to the administration of unnecessary injections to children in areas where poliovirus is endemic.

Recently, it has been reported that intramuscular injections may also increase the likelihood of vaccine-associated paralytic poliomyelitis in recipients of live attenuated poliovirus vaccines.”

What’s more, in most cases polio is a mild illness, causing sore throat, low-grade fever, fatigue, nausea and other flu-like symptoms that disappear in two to 10 days. Often, polio can occur and show no symptoms at all.

It’s only in 1 to 2 percent of cases that polio virus invades the central nervous system, resulting in paralysis.6 This means some people receiving vaccinations could have an underlying polio infection and not even know it.

Risk of Paralytic Polio Increased Twentyfold Among Children Who Received DPT Vaccine

Of note, polio is only one type of enterovirus. There are more than 100 nonpolio enteroviruses, most of which are mild but some of which can infect the central nervous system and cause serious illness, including paralysis.

“Enteroviruses are the most prevalent viruses in the world,” according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control,7 which means it’s likely that some children receiving vaccinations are probably infected with an enterovirus at the time of the injection, perhaps displaying no symptoms or only mild fever or flu-like symptoms (and many physicians see no problem with vaccinating a child who is mildly ill).

Is it possible that provocation poliomyelitis could occur in children vaccinated while infected with a nonpolio enterovirus? It’s a question that deserves a closer look. As Cunningham explained:8

“It is taboo to suggest a role for vaccines, but some old-timers remember ‘provocation poliomyelitis’ or ‘provocation paralysis.’ This is paralytic polio following intramuscular injections, typically with vaccines.

PP was most convincingly documented by Austin Bradford Hill and J. Knowelden during the 1949 British polio epidemic when the risk of paralytic polio was increased twentyfold among children who had received the DPT injection … Similar observations were made by Greenberg and colleagues in New York City; their literature review cited suspected cases as far back as 1921.”

As it stands, the CDC only states, “AFM or neurologic conditions like it have a variety of causes such as viruses, environmental toxins and genetic disorders.”9 However, according to Cunningham, “AFM may result from a direct virus attack on the spinal cord, or by an immune attack triggered by a virus, or by something else. If a polio-like virus is circulating in the U.S., the possibility of its provocation by one or more vaccines has to be considered.”10

Vaccine-Strain Polio Is Circulating the Globe

The spread of vaccine-derived disease, including polio, is often absent in talks about vaccine safety, but it’s another topic worthy of discussion — and research. Wild type polio was declared eradicated in the U.S. in 1979 and in the Western Hemisphere in 1994.11 But despite widespread annual polio vaccine campaigns targeting Asia, Africa and the Middle East, the wild type poliovirus is still circulating.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative slated 2018 as the year polio would be eradicated from the Earth, but the virus is proving to be harder to outwit than officials would have you believe. Not only are strains of wild poliovirus still circulating in the world, but mutated vaccine-strain polio viruses also circulate. A large part of the problem is the polio vaccine itself, specifically the live oral polio vaccine (OPV).

As of October 9, 2018, there have been 61 reported cases of circulating vaccine-derived polio, compared to 19 cases of wild polio worldwide.12 Last year, 2017 marked the first year more cases of polio have been caused by vaccine-derived strains than wild or naturally occurring strains.

In Syria alone, 15 children were paralyzed by vaccine-derived polio, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).13 Research published in the journal Cell also revealed that the live virus used in the oral polio vaccine can easily mutate and spread through a community.14 NPR reported:15

“After a child is vaccinated with live polio virus, the virus replicates inside the child’s intestine and eventually is excreted. In places with poor sanitation, fecal matter can enter the drinking water supply and the virus is able to start spreading from person to person.

‘We discovered there’s only a few [mutations] that have to happen and they happen rather quickly in the first month or two post-vaccination,” [lead study author Raul] Andino says. ‘As the virus starts circulating in the community, it acquires further mutations that make it basically indistinguishable from the wild-type virus. It’s polio in terms of virulence and in terms of how the virus spreads.'”

While news that the oral polio vaccine may be causing polio cases may be surprising to you, it was not at all so to WHO, whose director of polio eradication Michel Zaffran called the vaccine-derived virus outbreaks an expected “hiccup.” He told NPR:16

“We knew that we were going to have such outbreaks. We’ve had them in the past. We continue to have them now. We know how to find them, and we know how to interrupt them … So it’s a hiccup … a very regrettable hiccup for the poor children that have been paralyzed, of course. But with regards to the whole initiative, you know it’s not something that is unexpected.”

It’s Possible to Shed Polio Virus for Decades

WHO also noted, “When a child is immunized with OPV, the weakened vaccine-virus replicates in the intestine for a limited period … During this time, the vaccine-virus is also excreted.”17 In some people, however, the period of replication may not be so “limited.”

One British man received three doses of attenuated (weakened) live virus polio vaccine at 5, 7 and 12 months of age. He also received a booster at age 7, as was recommended. The man has a health condition that suppresses his immune system, making it more difficult for him to clear vaccine-strain poliovirus from the body.

Although he had no symptoms of the disease, when researchers tested his stool (more than 100 samples were taken over a period of 28 years), they confirmed high levels of the poliovirus even decades later.

According to researchers, “The study has implications for the ecology of poliovirus in the human gut and highlights the risks that such vaccine-derived isolates pose for polio reemergence in the post-eradication era.”18 Indeed, at the very least it once again highlights the many complexities surrounding vaccination, infectious disease and the little-understood consequences that can occur as a result.

How to Spot Symptoms of Acute Flaccid Myelitis

It’s unknown whether the increase in cases of AFM is in any way related to provocation poliomyelitis, vaccine-associated polio or another cause entirely, but the CDC, rather than exploring all potential possibilities, is still recommending practicing ” … disease prevention steps, such as staying up-to-date on vaccines, washing your hands and protecting yourself from mosquito bites,” as the current solution.

For now, however, it’s important to be aware of the potential symptoms and seek medical care immediately if you spot any of them in your child:

Difficulty moving the eyes

Drooping eyelids

Facial droop or weakness

Difficulty swallowing

Slurred speech

Sudden arm or leg weakness

Thyroid Deficiency Linked to Iodine Deficiency and Fluoridated Water

More than 66 percent of the U.S. population drinks water with added fluoride,1 despite the fact that studies continue to question its safety and usefulness for its stated purpose: preventing cavities. A number of countries — including Germany, Sweden, Japan, the Netherlands, Finland and Israel — have already stopped this hazardous practice, but many Americans are still at risk.

In Canada, nearly 39 percent of the population also receives fluoridated drinking water (compared with only about 3 percent of Europeans).2 It’s been known for years that fluoridated water consumption is linked to thyroid dysfunction and behavioral problems like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and two new studies have added to the already apparent associations.

Exposure to Fluoridated Water May Disrupt Thyroid Functioning

Your thyroid gland, located in the front of your neck, influences almost every cell in your body. Thyroid hormones regulate your metabolism and are required for growth and development in children and nearly every physiological process in your body.

When your thyroid levels are unbalanced, it can lead to a cascade of problems throughout your body. In hypothyroidism, the most common thyroid disorder, your thyroid gland activity is suppressed.

Also known as underactive thyroid, many with this condition are unaware they have it, and another 4 to 10 percent of the U.S. population may suffer from subclinical hypothyroidism that is missed by testing yet associated with miscarriage, preterm birth and altered growth and neurodevelopment in babies.

Even moderately imbalanced thyroid levels may be associated with increased risk of metabolic syndrome, researchers noted in the journal Environment International, which is why “studying factors that contribute to low thyroid function, even at the subclinical level, is of high public health importance.”3

Notably, subclinical hypothyroidism is diagnosed by high serum thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) concentrations, and “fluoride in drinking water, even at levels as low as 0.3–0.5?mg/L, have predicted elevated TSH concentrations,” the researchers added. “Higher water fluoride concentrations have also predicted an increased likelihood of a hypothyroidism diagnosis among adults.”4

The latest study, which involved data from nearly 7 million Canadian adults not taking any thyroid-related medication, found that higher fluoride levels were not associated with higher TSH levels in the general population; however, when iodine status was accounted for, the results shifted.

Iodine Deficiency May Heighten the Risks of Fluoridated Water

Your body uses iodine across several organ systems, but it is most commonly known to synthesize thyroid hormones. Clinically low levels of iodine are associated with visible symptoms, such as a goiter (swelling of the thyroid gland), hypothyroidism or pregnancy-related problems. However, subclinical iodine deficiency can also interfere with your thyroid function.

Meanwhile, the Canadian study revealed that adults in Canada who have moderate-to-severe iodine deficiencies and higher fluoride levels tend to have higher TSH levels, which indicates they may be at an increased risk for underactive thyroid gland activity.5

It’s a startling finding, considering nearly 2 billion people worldwide don’t get enough iodine in their diet.6 As the researchers of the featured study noted, this means that those with iodine deficiency may be at an even greater increased risk from drinking fluoridated water:7

“Iodine deficiency can contribute to decreased thyroid hormone production and exacerbate the thyroid-disrupting effects of certain chemicals, as well as fluoride …

Fluoride exposures of 0.05 to 0.13?mg/kg/day have been associated with adverse thyroid effects among iodine sufficient people, while lower fluoride exposures of 0.01 to 0.03?mg/kg/day have been associated with these effects among iodine deficient people.”

The effects were so worrying that lead study author Ashley Malin, a researcher at the department of environmental medicine and public health, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, told Environmental Health News:8

“I have grave concerns about the health effects of fluoride exposure … And not just from my study but the other studies that have come out in recent years … We’re talking about potentially [more than] a million people at risk of an underactive thyroid due to fluoride exposure.”

In 2015, for instance, British researchers warned that 15,000 people may be afflicted with hypothyroidism in the U.K. as a result of drinking fluoridated water.9 In areas where fluoride levels in the water registered above 0.3 mg/l, the risk of having a high rate of hypothyroidism was 37 percent greater compared to areas that do not fluoridate.

Pregnant Women Drinking Fluoridated Water Have Higher Fluoride Levels

Fluoride exposure can occur from multiple sources, ranging from tea and processed foods to dental products, pharmaceuticals and fluoride-containing pesticides. However, research continues to show that drinking water remains a primary route of exposure, including in pregnant women.

In a study of more than 1,500 pregnant women living in Canada, those living in communities with fluoridated drinking water have two times the amount of fluoride in their urine as women living in nonfluoridated communities.10

“Research is urgently needed to determine whether prenatal exposure to fluoride contributes to neurodevelopmental outcomes in the offspring of these women,” researchers explained.11 In fact, research has previously revealed that women with higher levels of fluoride in their urine during pregnancy were more likely to have children with lower intelligence.

Specifically, each 0.5 milligram per liter increase in pregnant women’s fluoride levels was associated with a reduction of 3.15 and 2.5 points on the children’s General Cognitive Index (GCI) of the McCarthy Scales of Children’s Abilities and Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI) scores, respectively.

Lead researcher Dr. Howard Hu, of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto in Canada, said in a news release:12

“Our study shows that the growing fetal nervous system may be adversely affected by higher levels of fluoride exposure. It also suggests that the prenatal nervous system may be more sensitive to fluoride compared to that of school-aged children.”

The findings were groundbreaking, as the study, which spanned 12 years and received funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), was one of the first and largest studies looking into this topic.

Prenatal Fluoride Exposure Is Linked to ADHD

The Canadian study on pregnant women living in fluoridated communities revealed levels of fluoride similar to those found in a study of pregnant women living in Mexico City, where the chemical is added to table salt. The same Mexican sample population has now been featured in another study, linking fluoride exposure to ADHD.13

The study, which involved more than 200 mother-children pairs, found that higher levels of fluoride exposure during pregnancy were associated with higher measures of ADHD, including more symptoms of inattention, in the children at ages 6 to 12 years. “[The f]indings are consistent with the growing body of evidence suggesting neurotoxicity of early-life exposure to fluoride,” researchers explained.14

It’s also possible that fluoride may contribute to or exacerbate behavioral problems such as ADHD by way of pineal gland calcification. Despite its diminutive size, your pineal gland tends to accumulate significant amounts of fluoride, which eventually causes it to calcify.

Besides ADHD-like symptoms, pineal calcification may also play a role in Alzheimer’s and bipolar disease. According to Frank Granett, director of clinical pharmacy operations at Behavioral Center of Michigan Psychiatric Hospital:15

“Located deep within the brain below the corpus callosum, which is the circuit connector for the right and left brain hemispheres, the pineal gland is responsible for the secretion of melatonin, the human body’s biological time-clock hormone regulating normal sleep patterns.

More importantly, the pineal gland plays a critical role in the enzyme pathway for the production of brain neurotransmitters including serotonin and norepinephrine. Additionally, the body’s antioxidant defense system is optimized by healthy pineal tissue, which helps eliminate free-radical toxin accumulation in the body.”

A review in Lancet Neurology also classified fluoride as one of only 11 chemicals “known to cause developmental neurotoxicity in human beings,”16 alongside other known neurotoxins such as lead, methylmercury, arsenic and toluene. Among the proposed mechanisms of harm, studies have shown fluoride can:17

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

Can Fluoride Be Removed From Drinking Water?

Effective 2015, the level of fluoride in U.S. drinking water was reduced to 0.7 mg/L from a previously recommended range of between 0.7 and 1.2 mg/L. If you live in the U.S. and want to know fluoride levels in your water, the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Tap Water Database can help.18 This is important for everyone, but pregnant women and households mixing formula for babies should take extra care to consume fluoride-free water. EWG notes:

“Even fluoride levels of 0.7 ppm, the amount of fluoride in drinking water recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service, can result in too much fluoride for bottle-fed babies.

EWG recommends that caregivers mix baby formula with fluoride-free water. The National Toxicology Program is investigating the potential for low doses of fluoride to alter thyroid function and childhood brain development.”19

Unfortunately, fluoride is a very small molecule, making it tremendously difficult to filter out once added to your water supply. Any simple countertop carbon filter, like Brita, will not remove it.

If you have a house water carbon filtration system that has a large volume of carbon, then it may reduce the fluoride as fluoride removal is in direct proportion to the amount of fluoride and the time it’s in contact with the media. It’s just not going to get it all. Among the more effective filtering systems for fluoride removal are:

  • Reverse osmosis (RO). The drawback is that it will remove many valuable minerals and trace elements as well. RO systems also need frequent cleaning to avoid bacterial growth. So, use a tankless RO system with a compressor
  • Water distillation, which, like RO, gets everything out, including beneficial minerals. You then need to restructure the water
  • Bone char filters and biochar with activated charcoal

The simplest, most effective, most cost-effective strategy is to not put fluoride in the water to begin with.

Help End the Practice of Fluoridation

There’s no doubt about it: Fluoride should not be ingested. Even scientists from the EPA’s National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory have classified fluoride as a “chemical having substantial evidence of developmental neurotoxicity.”

Furthermore, according to the CDC, 41 percent of American adolescents now have dental fluorosis — unattractive discoloration and mottling of the teeth that indicate overexposure to fluoride. Clearly, children are being overexposed, and their health and development put in jeopardy. Why? The only real solution is to stop the archaic practice of water fluoridation in the first place.

Fortunately, the Fluoride Action Network has a game plan to END water fluoridation worldwide. Clean pure water is a prerequisite to optimal health. Industrial chemicals, drugs, and other toxic additives really have no place in our water supplies. So, please, protect your drinking water and support the fluoride-free movement by making a tax-deductible donation to the Fluoride Action Network today.

Internet Resources Where You Can Learn More

I encourage you to visit the website of the Fluoride Action Network (FAN) and visit the links below:

Together, Let’s Help FAN Get the Funding They Deserve

In my opinion, there are very few NGOs that are as effective and efficient as FAN. Its small team has led the charge to end fluoridation and will continue to do so with our help! Please make a donation today to help FAN end the absurdity of fluoridation.

Scientists Warn: Insects With Capacity to Perform Genetic Engineering in the Environment Could Be Easily Weaponized

Genetic engineering (GE) is being used in myriad ways these days, despite the fact we know very little about the long-term ramifications of such meddling in the natural order.

For example, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an arm of the U.S. Department of Defense, is now planning to use insects to deliver GE viruses to crops, with the aim of altering the plant’s genetic traits in the field.

The $27 million DARPA project, called “Insect Allies,” is basically trying to take advantage of insects’ natural ability to spread crop diseases, but instead of carrying disease-causing genes, they would carry plant-protective traits. As explained by The Washington Post:1

“Recent advances in gene editing, including the relatively cheap and simple system known as CRISPR (for clustered regularly interspaced palindromic repeats), could potentially allow researchers to customize viruses to achieve a specific goal in the infected plant.

The engineered virus could switch on or off certain genes that, for example, control a plant’s growth rate, which could be useful during an unexpected, severe drought.”

Insect Allies Project Raises Concerns About Bioterror Use

However, scientists and legal scholars question the rationale for the use of insects to disperse infectious GE viruses engineered to edit the chromosomes in plants, warning that the technology could very easily be weaponized.2,3,4,5

The opinion paper6 “Agricultural Research, or a New Bioweapon System?” published October 4, 2018, in the journal Science questions DARPA’s Insect Allies project, saying it could be perceived as a threat by the international community, and that if plant modification were really the ultimate goal, a far simpler agricultural delivery system could be used.

Jason Delborne, associate professor at North Carolina State University, has expertise in genetic engineering and its consequences. He told Gizmodo:7

“The social, ethical, political and ecological implications of producing HEGAAs [horizontal environmental genetic alteration agents] are significant and worthy of the same level of attention as exploring the science underpinning the potential technology.

The authors argue persuasively that specifying insects as the preferred delivery mechanism for HEGAAs is poorly justified by visions of agricultural applications.

The infrastructure and expertise required for spraying agricultural fields — at least in the U.S. context — is well established, and this delivery mechanism would offer greater control over the potential spread of a HEGAA.”

The team has also created a website8 to accompany the paper, the stated aim of which is “to contribute toward fostering an informed and public debate about this type of technology.” On this site you can also find a link to download the 38-page DARPA work plan. DARPA, meanwhile, insists the project’s goal is strictly to protect the U.S. food supply. A DARPA spokesperson told The Independent:9

“[S]prayed treatments are impractical for introducing protective traits on a large scale and potentially infeasible if the spraying technology cannot access the necessary plant tissues with specificity, which is a known problem.

If Insect Allies succeeds, it will offer a highly specific, efficient, safe and readily deployed means of introducing transient protective traits into only the plants intended, with minimal infrastructure required.”

Scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture are also participating in the research, which is currently restricted to contained laboratories. Still, many are unconvinced by DARPA’s claims of peaceful aims.

The release of such insects could “play into longstanding fears among countries that enemies might try to harm their crops,” says Dr. David Relman, a former White House biodefense adviser and professor of medicine and microbiology at Stanford. According to The Associated Press (AP):10

“Guy Reeves, a coauthor of the Science paper and a biologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Germany, says the technology is more feasible as a weapon — to kill plants — than as an agricultural tool. As a result, he said DARPA could be sending an alarming message regardless of its intentions.”

Unforeseen Ramifications Abound

Others are concerned about environmental ramifications, regardless of whether the genetic traits being delivered to the plants are perceived as beneficial or harmful. According to DARPA, none of the insects would be able to survive for more than two weeks, but what if such guarantees fail? What if nature finds a way? If so, the insects’ spread could be near-unlimited.

Gregory Kaebnick, an ethicist at the Hastings Center bioethics research institute in Garrison, New York, told the AP he’s concerned the project may end up causing unforeseen environmental destruction, as insects will be virtually impossible to eradicate once released. If it turns out the genetic modification traits they carry are harmful, there will be no going back.

Yet others, such as Fred Gould, an entomologist at North Carolina State University who chaired a National Academy of Sciences panel on genetically modified food, believe the project’s stated goal of altering genetic traits of plants via insects is near-impossible in the first place.

However, while the research is still in its initial phase, they already have proof of concept. In one test, an aphid infected a mature corn plant with a GE virus carrying a gene for fluorescence, creating a fluorescent corn plant.11

Open Scientific Debate Is Needed

Reeves questions why there’s been virtually no open scientific debate about the technology. According to Reeves, who is an expert on GE insects, the Insect Allies project is “largely unknown even in expert circles,” which in and of itself raises a red flag about its true intent.

He told The Independent, “It is very much easier to kill or sterilize a plant using gene editing than it is to make it herbicide- or insect-resistant.”12 Felix Beck, a lawyer at the University of Freiburg, added:13

“The quite obvious question of whether the viruses selected for development should or should not be capable of plant-to-plant transmission — and plant-to-insect-to-plant transmission — was not addressed in the DARPA work plan at all.”

How Horizontal Environmental Genetic Alteration Agents Work

As explained in the featured paper, the technology DARPA is using is known as horizontal environmental genetic alteration agents or HEGAAs. Essentially, HEGAAs are GE viruses capable of editing the chromosomes of a target species, be it a plant of an animal. The specificity of HEGAAs are dependent on:

  • The range of species the GE virus can infect
  • The presence of a specific DNA sequence in the chromosome that can then become infected

The image below illustrates how an insect-dispersed viral HEGAA would disrupt a specific plant gene. As noted on the team’s website:

“Interest in genetically modified viruses, including HEGAAs, largely stems from their rapid speed of action, as infections can sweep quickly through target populations. This same property is also a serious safety concern, in that it makes it hard to predict where viruses geographically disperse to or what species they eventually infect.

Probably due to the complex regulatory, biological, economic and societal implications that need to be considered little progress has been made on how genetically modified viruses should be regulated when the intention is to disperse them in the environment. It is in this context that DARPA presented its Insect Allies work program in November 2016.”

insect allies
Image credit: Derek Caetano-Anollés

The team also notes the use of HEGAAs are ultimately not likely to be limited to agriculture, which is why it’s so important to have an open discussion about the technology, its potential uses, misuses and ramifications — including unintended ones.

In 2018, three scientific publications discussed the development of “transmissible vaccines,” i.e., vaccines that would be transmissible between humans and therefore would no longer require individual vaccinations. Such products would also remove any possibility of informed consent, which creates a really huge ethical dilemma. In the past decade, at least seven scientific papers have focused on transmissible vaccines.

The team also brings up the obvious point that insects will not be able to distinguish between conventional crops and certified organic crops, which do not permit genetic engineering. Just how are organic farmers to keep these insect vectors from altering their crops? They can’t, and this could effectively destroy the organic industry as we know it.

DARPA Technology May Violate Biological Weapons Convention

According to DARPA, the technology does not violate the United Nations (U.N.) Biological Weapons Convention. However, according to the Science paper, it could be in breach of the U.N.’s convention if the research is unjustifiable. Silja Voeneky, a specialist in international law at Freiburg University, told The Independent:14

“Because of the broad ban of the Biological Weapons Convention, any biological research of concern must be plausibly justified as serving peaceful purposes. The Insect Allies Program could be seen to violate the Biological Weapons Convention, if the motivations presented by DARPA are not plausible. This is particularly true considering this kind of technology could easily be used for biological warfare.”

The Science team also call for greater transparency from DARPA in order to discourage other countries from following suit and developing similar delivery technologies as a defensive measure.

Gene Drive Technology Needs International Governance

In related news, Simon Terry, executive director of the Sustainability Council of New Zealand, is calling for gene drive technology to be brought under international governance,15,16,17 as this kind of technology can make an entire species infertile in a relatively short amount of time, depending on the species life cycle.

Gene drive is yet another application for CRISPR. In short, it’s a genetic engineering technology that allows you to propagate a specific set of genes throughout an entire population, including its offspring, which allows you to genetically alter the future of an entire species. Gene drive has been proposed as a means to control pests, including mosquitoes and possum.

However, there’s no known way to control it. As an example, while New Zealand would like to use gene drive to eradicate possums, it would be virtually impossible to prevent the spread of the gene drive to other areas, and in Australia, the possum is a protected species.

Gene drive has also been considered as an answer for barnyard grass, a pesky weed among Australian farmers, but a prized commodity in India. Likewise, Palmer Amaranth is considered a weed in the U.S. but an important food source in Central America, Africa, India and China. As noted by Terry, “One man’s pest could be another’s desired plant or animal,” and creating national regulations for a technology that can wipe out an entire species globally simply isn’t enough.

Should We Use Technology That Can Eradicate Entire Species?

In a 2016 report,18 the Institute of Science in Society (ISIS) discussed the creation of transgenic mosquitoes, carrying genes against a malarial pathogen. Using CRISPR/Cas9, a gene drive was created that makes virtually all progeny of the male transgenic mosquitoes’ carriers of this antimalaria gene. However, the transgene was found to be unstable in female mosquitoes, and key safety issues were also raised, including:

  • To what extent might crossbreeding or horizontal gene transfer allow a drive to move beyond target populations?
  • For how long might horizontal gene transfer allow a drive to move beyond target populations?
  • Is it possible for a gene drive to evolve to regain drive capabilities in a nontarget population?

According to ISIS, answering these questions is “crucial in the light of the instability of the gene drive in transgenic female mosquitoes.” As noted in the report:

“When these females bite animals including humans, there is indeed the possibility of horizontal gene transfer of parts, or the entire gene-drive construct, with potentially serious effects on animal and human health.

Cas9 nuclease could insert randomly or otherwise into the host genome, causing insertion mutagenesis that could trigger cancer or activate dominant viruses …

Finally, the ecological risks of gene drives are enormous … As the gene drive can in principle lead to the extinction of a species, this could involve the species in its native habitat as well as where it is considered invasive. As distinct from conventional biological control, which can be applied locally, there is no way to control gene flow …

[B]ecause the CRISPR/Cas gene drive remains fully functional in the mutated strain after it is created, the chance of off-target mutations also remain and the likelihood increases with every generation.

‘If there is any risk of gene flow between the target species and other species, then there is also a risk that the modified sequence could be transferred and the adverse trait manifested in nontarget organisms.’ (This commentary has not even begun to consider horizontal gene flow, which would multiply the risks manyfold.)”

DARPA Brushes Off Concerns

James Stack, a plant pathologist at Kansas State University and a member on the advisory panel of DARPA’s Insect Allies project, believes the concerns raised in the Science paper are unfounded. He told The Washington Post:19

“I don’t understand the level of concern raised in this paper, and to jump ahead and accuse DARPA of using this as a screen to develop biological weapons is outrageous.

There’s risk inherent in life and you just have to manage it well. And I think as we move into a more crowded planet it’s going to put increasing demands on our food systems, our water systems. We’re going to need all the tools in the tool box that we possibly have.”

Unfortunately, recent history demonstrates we’ve not been very capable of managing these kinds of man-made risks very well at all. Just look at Roundup-resistant GMO food, for example, or electromagnetic field radiation from cellphones and wireless technologies, both of which have been shown to cause significant health and environmental problems since their inception.

There’s virtually no evidence to suggest mankind is very good at predicting the potential outcomes of our technological advancements, so unleashing gene-altering technologies that cannot be recalled or reversed seems foolish in the extreme. As mentioned, the Insect Allies project may be particularly detrimental for organic and biodynamic farming, as it would be completely impossible to prevent these gene-altering insect vectors from infecting organic crops.

Weekly Health Quiz: Herbicides, Sweeteners and Inflammation

1 Which of the following strategies has been shown to reduce a woman’s risk of breast cancer by more than 80 percent?

  • Getting an annual mammogram
  • Raising your vitamin D to a level between 60 and 80 ng/mL

    Research shows having a vitamin D blood level above 60 ng/mL lowers your risk of breast cancer by more than 80 percent, compared to having a level below 20 ng/mL. Most cancers occur in people with a vitamin D blood level between 10 and 40 ng/mL, and the optimal level for cancer protection has been identified as being between 60 and 80 ng/mL. Learn more.

  • Biannual mammogram with CAD (computer-assisted diagnosis)
  • Getting an annual thermography scan

2 Recent animal research shows all artificial sweeteners currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are:

  • Nourishing for beneficial gut bacteria
  • More effective for weight loss than glucose or fructose
  • Toxic to gut bacteria

    Animal research shows all artificial sweeteners currently approved and deemed safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are toxic to gut bacteria and interfere with their normal and healthy activity. Learn more.

  • A safe and effective sugar alternative for diabetics

3 Recent research shows your appendix serves the following function in your body:

  • None — the appendix has no known function
  • The appendix aids the gallbladder by dissolving hard-to-digest foods
  • The appendix aids digestion by secreting digestive enzymes
  • The appendix acts as a reservoir for beneficial bacteria, helping to repopulate your intestines with probiotics after an infection

    With the help of white blood cells known as innate lymphoid cells, the appendix acts as a reservoir for beneficial bacteria. Once your body has successfully fought and rid itself of a gut infection, the bacteria emerge from the biofilm of the appendix to recolonize your intestines. Learn more.

4 Which of the following compounds has been shown to play an important role in the regulation of inflammation in your brain?

  • Endocannabinoids

    The cannabinoid receptor that which produces the “high” in response to THC in marijuana, also helps regulate inflammatory reactions in your brain. With age, your natural production of endocannabinoids decreases, leading to impaired immune response regulation and chronic inflammation. Learn more.

  • Dopamine
  • Glutamate
  • Serotonin

5 After analyzing surveys involving 1.9 million participants representing 168 countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded more than 1.4 billion adults worldwide are at risk of:

  • Insect-borne illnesses transmitted by flies and mosquitoes
  • Developing or exacerbating diseases linked to inactivity

    Given the fact 1 in 4 adults does not perform the recommended amount of weekly exercise, the study authors suggest nonexercisers are putting themselves at increased risk of chronic diseases linked to inactivity. Learn more.

  • Antibiotic resistance
  • Substance abuse

6 Which herbicide is the most widely used in the world?

  • 2,4-D
  • Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)
  • Glyphosate

    Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world. Globally, nearly 5 billion pounds (over 2 billion kilograms) of glyphosate are applied to farm crops each year. Learn more.

  • Atrazine

7 Which of the following has recently been found to have powerful therapeutic benefits by improving redox status and activation of the Nrf2 pathway?

  • Oxygen
  • Carbon
  • Nitrogen
  • Hydrogen

    Molecular hydrogen (H2) is a gas with very unique and selective antioxidant effects that specifically target the most harmful free radicals. It works primarily by improving and optimizing the redox status of the cell when needed. Learn more.

Intermittent Fasting Instead of Insulin for Type 2 Diabetes

Conventional medicine still has Type 2 diabetes pegged as a blood sugar problem. In reality, it’s a disease rooted in insulin resistance1 and faulty leptin signaling, caused by chronically elevated insulin and leptin levels. In other words, it’s a diet-derived condition.

Unfortunately, as noted by Dr. Abhinav Diwan, associate professor of medicine, cell biology and physiology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis,2 “In general, the concept of reversing or curing diabetes … is not well-accepted in the medical field. It is not even a therapeutic goal when people start to treat diabetics.”

This is why the medical community’s approach to diabetes treatment, which typically involves the administration of insulin, is not getting anywhere. Treating Type 2 diabetes with insulin is actually one of the worst things you can do, and can even lead to the development of Type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes in some cases.

Conventionally trained doctors also continue to pass along seriously flawed nutritional information (such as recommending a high-carb diet and use of artificial sweeteners), which is yet another reason why Type 2 diabetes has ballooned to such epidemic proportions.

Most People Are on the Verge of Becoming Diabetic

An estimated 30.3 million Americans, nearly 1 in 10, have Type 2 diabetes.3 Another 84 million American adults — about 1 in 3 — are prediabetic. Prediabetes4 is defined as an elevation in blood glucose over 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) but lower than 125 mg/dl, at which point it formally becomes Type 2 diabetes.

However, any fasting blood sugar regularly over 90 mg/dl really suggests insulin resistance, and seminal work by the late Dr. Joseph Kraft suggests 80 percent — 8 in 10 — Americans are in fact insulin resistant,5 which means they’re already well on their way toward developing diabetes.

That’s the bad news. The good news is Type 2 diabetes is reversible, and the treatment doesn’t cost you anything. In fact, it actually saves you loads of time and money. I’m talking about fasting. Both intermittent fasting and longer water-only fasting have been shown to reverse Type 2 diabetes.

Fasting — A Therapeutic Alternative to Insulin

A recent case series paper6,7 published in BMJ Case Reports by a friend, Dr. Jason Fung, details how fasting can be used as a therapeutic alternative for Type 2 diabetes. This exciting report actually made the front page of CNN online.8 As noted by the authors, their paper:

“… [D]emonstrates the effectiveness of therapeutic fasting to reverse insulin resistance, resulting in cessation of insulin therapy while maintaining control of blood sugars. In addition, these patients were able to lose significant amounts of body weight, reduce their waist circumference and also reduce their glycated hemoglobin levels.”

A case series paper is not a controlled study; rather, it simply presents the case history of one or more patients and may propose a hypothesis for why a treatment did or did not work. In this case, three diabetic patients between the ages of 40 and 67 participated in a supervised fasting regimen to evaluate the effects on their insulin requirements. The patients had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes for 10, 20 and 25 years respectively, and were taking insulin daily.

Of the three patients, two did alternating-day 24-hour fasts, while one fasted for 24 hours three times a week over a period of several months. On fasting days, they were allowed to drink unlimited amounts of low-calorie fluids such as water, coffee, tea and bone broth, and to eat a low-calorie, low-carb dinner.

On nonfasting days, they were allowed both lunch and dinner, but all meals were low in sugar and refined carbohydrates throughout. The complete manual of the fasting regimen used is described in Fung’s book, “The Complete Guide to Fasting.”9

Two of the patients were able to discontinue all of their diabetes medications while the third was able to discontinue three of his four drugs. All three also lost between 10 and 18 percent of their body weight. As reported by the authors:

“In our study all three patients eliminated the need for insulin by initiating a therapeutic fasting regimen. All three patients succeeded within a month and one in as little as five days. Further, all patients improved in multiple other clinically significant health outcome measures, such as HbA1C, body mass index and waist circumference …

As such, patients with T2D can reverse their diseases without the worry of side effects and financial burden of many pharmaceuticals, as well as the unknown long-term risks and uncertainty of surgery, all by means of therapeutic fasting.”

In another similar trial,10 Type 2 diabetics were placed on a severely restricted calorie diet where they ate just 600 calories a day for eight weeks. By the end of their fast, all were disease-free, and three months later, having returned to their regular diet, seven of the 11 participants remained free of diabetes.

Why Fasting Is Such a Powerful Intervention for Diabetes

Fung is a nephrologist (kidney specialist) with a practice in Toronto. Two years ago, I interviewed him about fasting, which is one of the most powerful interventions for Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance I know of. Fung was also one of the experts who peer reviewed my book, “Fat for Fuel,” which integrates some of his work.

Ultimately, diabetes is just one symptom of insulin resistance, which is the underlying problem. Insulin resistance, which results in mitochondrial dysfunction, is also at the heart of cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases, and it all starts because your body is unable to burn fat as a primary fuel.

When your body relies primarily on sugar, more reactive oxygen species (ROS) are generated, which damage the mitochondria in your cells. Fasting massively upregulates autophagy and mitophagy, and stimulates mitochondrial biosynthesis during the refeeding phase, which allows your body to naturally regenerate.

In fact, research11 published just last year demonstrated that partial fasting actually helps your pancreas to regenerate, by promoting the generation of insulin-producing beta cells. These are cells that detect sugar in your blood and release insulin if blood sugar levels get too high.

Through this restorative effect on the pancreas, the fasting-mimicking diet also reversed diabetes symptoms in mice. Valter Longo, Ph.D., professor of gerontology and biological sciences and director of the USC Longevity Institute, led the study, and explained the results:12

“Our conclusion is by pushing the mice into an extreme state and then bringing them back — by starving them and then feeding them again —the cells in the pancreas are triggered to use some kind of developmental reprogramming that rebuilds the part of the organ that’s no longer functioning …

Medically, these findings have the potential to be very important because we’ve shown — at least in mouse models — that you can use diet to reverse the symptoms of diabetes. Scientifically, the findings are perhaps even more important because we’ve shown you can use diet to reprogram cells without having to make any genetic alterations.”

Type 2 Diabetes Is Predicated on Excess Sugar in Your Diet 

Once you understand what insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes actually are, then you’ll understand why something so simple as abstaining from food for a period of time can be such a powerful intervention. Contrary to infectious diseases, you cannot treat metabolic disease with a pill, because metabolic diseases such as diabetes are predicated on lifestyle, primarily diet. As previously explained by Fung:13

“You have to use metabolic treatments, which is why using fat for fuel is so important … Remember, the glucose goes into the cell, and insulin resistance is when the glucose doesn’t go out of the cell. So, for years we’ve used this paradigm of lock and key.

That is, the cell is sort of gated off. Outside the cell there’s blood, and when insulin comes around it turns the key, opens the gate and glucose goes in. So, if insulin is there, why is the glucose not going in? … You can measure the insulin and the insulin level is high. You can look at the insulin receptor, the gate is completely normal.

So, [conventional medicine] said something like, ‘Well, maybe there’s something gumming up the mechanism. It’s stuck in the lock so it doesn’t open properly, therefore the glucose can’t get into the cell. There’s a huge problem with this sort of paradigm, because if that is happening, the cell has no glucose and should be starving.

You should be losing lots of weight; you’d have a very thin liver. All your fat should just melt away, because if you think about untreated Type 1 diabetes, where you don’t have enough insulin, that’s exactly what happens. The cell literally starves and everything just wastes away … But that’s not what’s happening here.

In Type 2 diabetes you see that people are generally obese, they have large abdomens … What’s happening instead is that it’s actually an overflow syndrome. The cell can’t accept any more glucose because it’s jam packed full of glucose already.

That’s the reason you have insulin resistance. Insulin is trying to move glucose into the cell but the cell is full … So, it’s really an overflow mechanism …

That’s also why your liver is full — it’s a big fatty liver. The liver is busy trying to get rid of all this glucose by turning it into fat … Now, if Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance are the same sort of thing, it’s really about too much sugar. That’s the bottom line.

And if you understand that the whole problem is too much sugar, then the solution is not to use more insulin to jam more glucose into an already full cell. The key is to get rid of it all. So, what you want to do is: 1) Don’t put more sugar into your system, because you have too much sugar in already, and 2) burn it off.”

Why Insulin Therapy May Do More Harm than Good

Now, when you take insulin, the added insulin allows your body to use more of that excess glucose, but it turns it into fat. This is why most diabetics who take insulin end up gaining weight, which is the exact opposite of a healthy development, as the more weight you gain, the worse your diabetes gets and the more insulin you require. As noted by Fung, this treatment doesn’t make sense as diabetics already have high insulin.

“[Why give] more insulin in a situation where you have too much insulin already? If you have hyperthyroidism, you don’t give more thyroid hormone.

If you have an alcoholic, you don’t give more alcohol. It’s the exact wrong thing to do. In fact, if your levels of insulin are too high and that’s your disease, you need to lower insulin. By giving insulin, you’re actually making the fundamental problem much worse,” he says.

Research14 has also confirmed that insulin therapy fails to significantly add to your life expectancy and quality of life. As reported by Medical News Today:15

“[T]hey estimate that a person with Type 2 diabetes who begins insulin therapy at age 45 and lowers their hemoglobin A1c levels by 1 percent may experience an extra 10 months of healthy life.

But for a patient who starts treatment for Type 2 diabetes at age 75, they estimate the therapy may only gain them an additional three weeks of healthy life. The researchers say this prompts the question — Is 10 to 15 years of pills or injections with possible side effects worth it?”

In Some, Insulin Treatment Can Rapidly Induce Disease Progression

One really significant potential side effect of insulin therapy is disease progression from reversible to irreversible diabetes. This was demonstrated in a 2014 study16 published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

The study found that giving genetically engineered recombinant insulin — which is the type typically used — to Type 2 diabetics with certain genetic susceptibility can trigger their bodies to produce antibodies that destroy their insulin producing cells (pancreatic islet cells).

Basically, it triggers an autoimmune disease response, producing a condition in which you have both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes simultaneously. The average time of Type 1 diabetes onset was 7.7 months. One study participant developed Type 1 diabetes in just over one month.

According to the authors, acute deterioration of blood glucose control after administering insulin is a warning sign of this problematic side effect. According to this study, the genes predisposing you to this autoimmune-type response to insulin are:

  • Type 1 diabetes high risk HLA class II (IDDM1), thought to play a role in about half of all Type 1 diabetes cases, and
  • VNTR genotype (IDDM2), which is believed to predispose you to Type 2 diabetes

Insulin Treatment Raises Risk of Several Health Complications

What’s more, a 2013 study17 found that treating Type 2 diabetes with insulin more than doubled patients’ risk of all-cause mortality. It also leads to:

Twice as many myocardial infarctions

1.4 times more strokes

2.1 times more neuropathy

1.4 times more cancer

1.7 times more major adverse cardiac events

3.5 times more renal complications

1.2 times more eye complications

2.2 times more deaths

A study published in Diabetologia18 in 2014 also found that diabetic cancer patients have a significantly elevated risk of death. Diabetic patients using insulin at the time of their cancer diagnosis had a four times higher mortality rate one year after cancer diagnosis compared to nondiabetic patients, or those who did not use insulin to control their diabetes. While this was an observational study, which means it cannot establish causality, the results are still noteworthy.

Other diabetic medications also have their risks. Avandia, for example, has been linked to a 43 percent increased risk of heart attack and a 64 percent higher risk of cardiovascular death, compared with other treatments.

So, it’s really important to understand that Type 2 diabetes is best controlled by restoring your insulin and leptin sensitivities, and this is what fasting helps you do. You will also dramatically reduce your risk of diabetes by:

Limiting grains and sugars in your diet and getting plenty of healthy dietary fats, including animal-based omega-3

Exercising regularly19

Getting plenty of restorative sleep — In one 10-year-long study20 of 70,000 diabetes-free women, women who slept less than five hours or more than nine hours each night were 34 percent more likely to develop diabetes symptoms than those who slept seven to eight hours each night

Optimizing your vitamin D level to between 60 and 80 ng/mL

Optimizing your magnesium level — Magnesium plays an important role in glucose and insulin homeostasis21 and is required to activate tyrosine kinase, an enzyme required for the proper function of your insulin receptors.22

One 2013 study involving prediabetics found that most had inadequate magnesium intake, and those with the highest magnesium intake reduced their risk for blood sugar and metabolic problems by a whopping 71 percent23

Work With a Knowledgeable Physician if You’re on Any Medications

While fasting is a profoundly effective intervention for Type 2 diabetes, you do need to use caution if you’re diabetic. If you are taking medication, especially for your blood sugar, you have to make sure you talk to your doctor because there’s a risk your blood sugar may end up dipping too low.

If you’re taking insulin, and keep taking insulin while fasting, you could get into trouble. So, it’s important to closely monitor your blood sugar and adjust your medication accordingly. As previously noted by Fung:

“Remember, the fasting is going to drive your blood sugars down, and your insulin or your medications will drive your blood sugars down, so you’ve got kind of two things driving your blood sugars down.

All of a sudden you go low, you can have seizures, you can wind up in the emergency room and you could absolutely die. And that’s one of the things you have to be very careful of. So yes, you can do it, but you have to make sure you do it in a supervised setting with somebody who knows what they’re doing.”

Periodic Partial Fasting Is a Key to General Health and Wellness

By upregulating autophagy and mitophagy, stimulating mitochondrial biosynthesis and triggering the regeneration of stem cells, partial fasting (with days of 300 to 700 calories based on lean body mass) is not only beneficial for Type 2 diabetes and obesity, but also for health in general, and likely even longevity.

There’s even evidence to suggest fasting can help prevent or even reverse dementia, as it helps your body clean out toxic debris. By lowering insulin, you also increase other important hormones, including growth hormone (aka the fitness hormone), which is important for muscle development and general vitality.

As previously noted by Fung, fasting is “fundamentally one of the keys of wellness.” Other ailments that can benefit from fasting include polycystic ovaries, polycystic kidneys and fast growing cancer cells.

The reason for this is because when autophagy increases, your body starts breaking down old protein, including fast growing cells. Then, during the refeeding phase, growth hormone increases, boosting the rebuilding of new proteins and cells. In other words, it reactivates and speeds up your body’s natural renewal cycle.

Butter and Cheese Help Regulate Blood Sugar

Regulating blood sugar has become a high priority for an increasing number of people, not just in the U.S., but worldwide. In fact, medical experts say diabetes affects more than 30 million people in the U.S.,1 and in the U.K., where Type 2 diabetes alone impacts more than 3.3 million, such statistics constitute epidemic proportions, according to Daily Star.2

However, there’s hope for people with high blood sugar, but it requires simple lifestyle tweaking to reduce individual risk. Most predominant in the methods you can adopt to reduce your risk of developing diabetes or multiplying the health risks associated with this condition is changing your eating habits.

You can even alleviate the symptoms and regulate the high blood sugar levels linked to diabetes, and it’s often just as much about the foods you eat as the foods you stay away from.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine revealed that a few choice foods, which some “experts” have previously warned against, can be eaten or reintroduced into your diet to lower your Type 2 diabetes risk. This includes butter, yogurt and cheese. Lead author Fumiaki Imamura, from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit at Cambridge, asserts:

“Our results provide the most comprehensive global evidence to date about dairy fat biomarkers and their relationship with lower risk of Type 2 diabetes. We’re aware that our biomarker work has limitations and requires further research on underlying mechanisms, but at the very least, the available evidence about dairy fat does not indicate any increased risk for the development of Type 2 diabetes.”3

Senior study author Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, notes three interesting aspects of what constitutes “dairy fat;” first, that dairy foods are recommended as part of a healthy diet, both in the U.S. and internationally. More specifically, consumption of dairy products such as yogurt and cheese is linked with a lower incidence of Type 2 diabetes.

However, there’s been confusion, lost context and misinformation in regard to consumption of saturated fat, including that found in dairy products, not only in the general public but by the medical community, which is most likely why Mozaffarian was prompted to add, “Our findings, measuring biomarkers of fatty acids consumed in dairy fat, suggest a need to reexamine the potential metabolic benefits of dairy fat or foods rich in dairy fat, such as cheese.”4

Caveats on Butter, Yogurt and Cheese: Choose Wisely

Daily Mail explains that the crux of the new research means eating cheese may help lower your Type 2 diabetes risk, even while acknowledging that millions of consumers are following misguided dietary guidelines, concentrated on the errant associations linking dairy products with calories and “bad fat.” 

Current (and faulty) guidelines maintain that saturated fats found in dairy foods should be limited; the recommendation is no more than three servings per day, and it should be either fat-free or low-fat to avoid raising your LDL cholesterol and, subsequently (and again misguidedly), a heightened heart disease risk.

If followed, the recommended dairy consumption would equal 1 teaspoon of butter, one 15-gram (approximately a half-ounce) of cheese, 1 cup of yogurt or an 8-ounce glass of milk. But now, there’s a major shift:

“Indeed, research is mounting that saturated fat is better for you than processed carbohydrates like sugar and white bread, which have been linked to diabetes, obesity and heart disease many times over … Other studies have also shown that full-fat products like dairy can be useful in weight maintenance and other health factors.”5

Mozzafarian notes that different foods are made up of different nutrients, so that while we may be eating cheese, butter, yogurt, milk and meat, it’s not altogether correct to say we’re consuming calcium, fat and protein. In fact, there’s a huge difference between the fat in a pat of butter and what’s present in a pastrami sandwich. The reason, he explains, is that:

“Processed meats may have different effects on stroke and heart disease, not because of the saturated fat, but because of sodium and the preservatives. In the end, just making decisions about a food based on one thing like saturated fat is not useful.”6

However, it’s not a good idea to choose just any old dairy product from the dairy section of your local supermarket.

Conventionally produced dairy products are alarmingly out of balance in regard to omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which creates a greater risk for chronic disease, not to mention the problems that stem from CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), such as ingesting the antibiotics the cows have been given, as well as hormones and genetically engineered (GE) organisms.

Instead, choose raw, organic and grass fed (rather than grain-fed) options when you’re looking for milk, cheese, butter and yogurt. Look for real cheese made from unpasteurized milk for optimal flavor and nutritional benefits, as what often passes for real is anything but.

Whole, grass fed and unsweetened yogurt has been found to fight inflammation, it’s been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, and it’s great for gut health, and real butter, far from the killer it’s been made out to be, contains short-chain fatty acids including butyrate, which helps fight several of the leading causes of disease, including diabetes.

The Call for a ‘Reexamination of Dairy Fat’ by Nutritional Scientists

While there are advantages to taking another look at the way fatty acids in dairy foods are viewed, the researchers also note that you can’t differentiate between individual foods, such as cheese, yogurt and butter, in regard to the biomarkers measuring them.

According to the Cambridge news release, “Biomarkers are telltale molecules in the body that can be measured accurately and consistently, and act as indictors of dietary consumption.”

As Mozaffarian observes, biomarkers of dairy fat consumption can be, and have been, influenced by factors that may or may not have anything to do with dairy intake. Examples include limited data from nonwhite populations, as well as populations where not only the dairy products but the way they’re prepared might be different.7

The study, published in PLOS Medicine,8 was part of the Fatty Acids and Outcomes Research Consortium (FORCE),9 which describes its aim as “Understanding how fatty acid biomarkers relate to the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, cancers, chronic kidney disease, and other conditions.”

The scientists used data compiled from 16 studies to compare how nearly 64,000 adults were affected over 20 years. Their review found that the participants who didn’t consume dairy products were more likely to develop the condition and, in fact, 15,100 of them, free of diabetes from the outset, went on to develop Type 2 diabetes during the 20-year follow-up.

Conversely, “those with higher concentrations of dairy-fat biomarkers had less chance of contracting the condition.”10 Further:

“When all the results of the 16 studies were pooled the researchers found that higher concentrations of dairy-fat biomarkers were associated with lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. This lower risk was independent of other major risk factors for Type 2 diabetes including age, sex, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, physical activity and obesity.

For example, if people among the top fifth of the concentrations of dairy-fat markers were compared with people among the bottom fifth of the concentrations, the top-fifth people had an approximately 30 percent lower risk of Type 2 diabetes.”11

‘The Low-Fat Trend Was Misguided’

More and more people within the medical community are reading the tea leaves, so to speak, in regard to the erstwhile recommendation to opt for low-fat and no-fat dairy options. In early 2016, Time magazine examined the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, presented by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.12

At the time, while the government agencies that produced the guidelines said they were “grounded in the most current scientific evidence,” several experts in the field of nutrition alluded to the use of outdated and contradictory research.

Walter Willett, chair of the department of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, asserted that the way the guidelines were compiled was fraught with manipulation of data, lobbyists and undue leverage by food manufacturers, producers and special interest groups.

Six months later, Time referred to a “growing body of research showing that the low-fat-diet trend was misguided.” But sadly, a Gallup Poll reported in 2014 that roughly two times the number of people were still closely monitoring their fat intake as opposed to the number of those watching their carb consumption.13 Time added:

“The new study analyzed nine papers that included more than 600,000 people and concluded that consuming butter is not linked to a higher risk for heart disease and might be slightly protective against Type 2 diabetes. This goes against the longstanding advice to avoid butter because it contains saturated fat.”14

In a nutshell, word is finally spreading through the circles of nutritional scientists that avoiding dietary fat, including saturated fat, was doing more harm than good for consumers and patients trying to be conscientious about their eating habits. Interestingly, the featured study wasn’t Mozaffarian’s first foray into the topic. Another, separate study published in Circulation was covered in Time:

“Mozaffarian and his colleagues analyzed the blood of 3,333 adults enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study of Health Professionals Follow-up Study taken over about 15 years. They found that people who had higher levels of three different byproducts of full-fat dairy had, on average, a 46 percent lower risk of getting diabetes during the study period than those with lower levels …

Since full-fat dairy products contain more calories, many experts assumed avoiding it would lower diabetes risk. But studies have found that when people reduce how much fat they eat, they tend to replace it with sugar or carbohydrates, both of which can have worse effects on insulin and diabetes risk.”15

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes You Shouldn’t Ignore

Diabetes is a disease rooted in insulin resistance and perhaps more importantly, a malfunction of leptin signaling, caused by chronically elevated insulin and leptin levels.

Type 1 is the type many sufferers are born with, while Type 2 can come on at any time. With Type 2, the problem stems either from the pancreas’ failure to produce enough insulin or your cells fail to react to the insulin produced — insulin being a hormone responsible for regulating the amount of glucose in your blood.

There are a number of symptoms that people frequently experience with Type 2 diabetes, many of which are your body’s way of showing you there’s a problem. When glucose starts building in your blood instead of heading to your cells, it results in physical symptoms.

Many people head to their doctor and subsequently start on what is typically an unending cycle of medically-supervised “management” of the disease. Sadly, Type 2 diabetes is one of the main reasons why life expectancy in the U.S. has dropped in just the last few years for younger and younger people, and those with the condition often have other disorders as well, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and even cancer.16

Perhaps even more disturbing are studies that show that half the adults in the U.S. are either diabetic or prediabetic.17 An alarmingly low number of doctors address how possible it is and how crucial it is for people with diabetes to offset their disease and even prevent it by adopting simple strategies involving their food intake.

What you eat can literally make or break your health. If you find a gap in your knowledge base regarding what you should and should not eat, you could start with brushing up on how to restore insulin and leptin sensitivity, both of which are directly diet- and exercise-related.

It’s also helpful to know that the same metabolic defect responsible for mitochondria dysfunction, metabolic syndrome and most cancers is also responsible for Type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Addressing your diet is Job No. 1 in turning diabetes around, but so are strategies in getting more movement into your lifestyle, lowering your carb and sugar intake, increasing your fiber and incorporating healthy fats like organic, grass fed dairy products.

How do you know if you have a blood sugar problem? Daily Star18 lists a number of the most common symptoms to watch for, although you can also get a blood test.

Excessive thirst

Constant hunger

Weight loss

Frequent urination

Mood swings

Wounds that are slow to heal

Itchy, dry skin

Blurred vision

Fatigue

Foot numbness or pain

UTIs and yeast infections

Insomnia

If you haven’t already been diagnosed, or if your blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes, it’s never too early (or too late) to combat it before you begin experiencing damage to your heart, blood vessels, kidneys, eyes, gums, teeth and neurological system.

The research makes it clear that if you’ve bought into the notion that eating full-fat dairy is bad for you, be assured that the latest research is turning around an industry that’s been crying “wolf” for far too long. Now is the time to increase the amount of healthy, grass fed butter, cheese and other full-fat dairy foods in your diet every day, and fight diabetes from the inside out.

Resveratrol Causes Rogue Cells to Self-Destruct

A Swiss study1 involving lab mice suggests the grape constituent resveratrol may be effective in treating lung cancer, at least when administered nasally in high doses. The researchers observed a 45 percent decrease in tumor load in mice treated with resveratrol, noting they also developed fewer and smaller tumors than untreated mice.

Despite the favorable outcome showing resveratrol’s ability to cause rogue cells to self-destruct, more research is needed. This is so mainly because resveratrol, upon ingestion as an oral dose, is metabolized and eliminated within minutes — well before it has time to reach the lungs.

Pterostilbene is another potent plant compound similar to resveratrol that you may want to check out. It is the primary polyphenol antioxidant found in blueberries and although it possesses many similar properties, pterostilbene outperforms resveratrol with its superior bioavailability.

Lung Cancer: The World’s Deadliest Cancer

According to The Global Cancer Observatory, a branch of the World Health Organization (WHO), lung cancer, which is the deadliest form of cancer in the world, has claimed more than 1.7 million lives so far in 2018.2 Deaths from lung cancer outpace those from cancers of the breast, pancreas and prostate combined.

Notably, the American Lung Association suggests smoking contributes to 80 to 90 percent of all lung cancer deaths.3 The U.S. Surgeon General issued a report in 2004 stating men who smoke are 23 times more likely to develop this type of cancer than nonsmokers, whereas female smokers face a 13fold increased risk.4

Even if you have never smoked, you still may be at risk for lung cancer. A 2006 report issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services asserts nonsmokers have a 20 to 30 percent greater chance of developing lung cancer if exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work.5

Given the statistics, there is a clear need to continually emphasize the need to forgo the use of tobacco. If you smoke, this is yet another wake-up call emphasizing the need to quit smoking.

What Is Resveratrol and Why Is It Good for You?

Authors of the Swiss study on resveratrol and lung cancer suggest it is “one of the most studied natural products, notably for its cancer chemoprevention properties.”6 Indeed, more than 11,000 studies involving this compound can be found on the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) PubMed.gov website.7

Given the popularity of resveratrol in scientific research, you may wonder why it commands so much attention. The massive interest in resveratrol comes about mainly due to its ability to act as a potent antioxidant. Antioxidants are well-known for their antiaging and health-promoting properties, especially with respect to preventing free radical damage.

As mentioned in the featured video, resveratrol can neutralize and control free radicals, which are generated by your body in the course of normal activities like breathing, exercise and metabolism. An overabundance of free radicals can contribute to aging and a host of diseases.

Specifically, resveratrol is a polyphenol designed to increase the life span of plants through disease resistance and stressors such as disease, drastic climate changes and too much ultraviolet light. As you may imagine, humans face some of those same threats, making resveratrol a potential booster of human, as well as plant, health.

Resveratrol is found in food sources such as blueberries, grape skins, pomegranates, raspberries and red wine, as well as dark chocolate and raw cacao, among other plant-based foods. Lest you think, however, that a few extra glasses of wine would bring about the antiaging and neuroprotective benefits of resveratrol, be advised otherwise.

Gregorio Valdez, Ph.D., associate professor of biological sciences at Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and co-author of an earlier study investigating the antiaging potential of resveratrol, notes, “In wine, resveratrol is in such small amounts you could not drink enough of it in your life to have the benefits we found in mice given resveratrol.”8

Because alcohol is a neurotoxin known to damage your brain and organs, I advise you get resveratrol from other food sources or a supplement.

Researchers Cautiously Optimistic About the Effects of Resveratrol on Lung Cancer

As mentioned, research performed by a team of scientists from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) in Switzerland involving the administration of resveratrol to lab mice suggests it may be useful in treating lung cancer.

“We tried to prevent lung cancer induced by a carcinogen found in cigarette smoke by using resveratrol … in a mouse model,” said Muriel Cuendet, Ph.D., associate professor in the school of pharmaceutical sciences at UNIGE.9

The study featured four groups of mice treated three times a week for 25 weeks: an untreated control group, a second group receiving just the carcinogen, a third group getting both the carcinogen and resveratrol treatment and a fourth given resveratrol only.

Given the positive outcomes, Cuendet said, “Resveratrol could therefore play a preventive role against lung cancer.”11 The resveratrol solution given equated to about 1.2?milligrams (mg) per mouse or about 60?mg per kilogram. In terms of outcomes, the researchers observed:10

  • The resveratrol-treated mice showed a 27 percent decrease in tumor multiplicity and developed smaller tumors than the untreated mice
  • A 45 percent decrease in tumor load per mouse in the treated mice
  • When comparing the two groups that were not exposed to the carcinogen, 63 percent of the resveratrol-treated mice failed to develop cancer, compared to just 13 percent of the untreated mice
  • In vitro experiments suggest resveratrol’s chemoprevention mechanism is most likely related to apoptosis (programmed cell death), a process known to destroy rogue cells

Resveratrol’s Low Bioavailability Limits Its Effectiveness When Taken Orally

Despite the results with lab mice, it is unclear if resveratrol would have the same effects in humans afflicted with lung cancer, mainly because of how quickly it is metabolized and eliminated — well before it could reach the lungs. About resveratrol’s low bioavailability, the author of a 2011 study published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences stated:12

“The oral absorption of resveratrol in humans is about 75 percent and is thought to occur mainly by transepithelial diffusion. Extensive metabolism in the intestine and liver results in an oral bioavailability considerably less than 1 percent. Dose escalation and repeated dose administration of resveratrol does not appear to alter this significantly.

Metabolic studies, both in plasma and in urine, have revealed major metabolites to be glucuronides and sulfates of resveratrol. However, reduced dihydroresveratrol conjugates, in addition to highly polar unknown products, may account for as much as 50 percent of an oral resveratrol dose.

Although major sites of metabolism include the intestine and liver (as expected), colonic bacterial metabolism may be more important than previously thought.”

With that in mind, Aymeric Monteillier, a scientist in the UNIGE school of pharmaceutical sciences and lead study author of the current research, commented, “This is why our challenge was to find a formulation in which resveratrol could be solubilized in large quantities, even though it is poorly soluble in water, in order to allow nasal administration.”13

Monteillier went on to suggest this mouse-tested formulation could be applicable to humans and may possibly allow the compound to reach human lungs.

Underscoring the benefits of an alternative method of administration, the UNIGE researchers noted the resveratrol concentration obtained in the lungs of mice after nasal administration was 22 times higher than what would have been found if the treatment had been given orally.14

Health Benefits Associated With Resveratrol

Previous studies suggest resveratrol may benefit your health in the following ways:

Combats free radicals15

Improves brain blood flow and suppresses brain inflammation16

Contains antimicrobial and antioxidant properties17,18

May protect against depression19,20

Delivers antiaging effects21

Mimics the effects of calorie restriction22

Enhances learning and memory23

Provides neuroprotective benefits24,25

Best Sources of Resveratrol

While resveratrol can be sourced in small amounts from the foods mentioned previously, muscadine grapes contain the highest concentration — most especially in the skin and seeds. As noted, blueberries and raspberries are other sources.

Due to the fact whole fruit contains fructose, be sure to moderate your intake to ensure you consume less than 25 mg of fructose a day if you are healthy. If you are dealing with a chronic illness like cancer or diabetes, you’ll want to further restrict your daily fructose intake to 15 mg or less until your health improves.

Because it is unlikely you will be able to get therapeutic amounts of resveratrol from food, you might consider adding a whole food resveratrol supplement. I regularly take one that features both grape seed extract and grape skin extract from muscadine grapes.

One serving of that supplement, which contains 50 mg of resveratrol, contains the same amount of resveratrol you’d find in 39 eight-ounce glasses of wine. To prevent your body from developing a tolerance to resveratrol, I recommend you cycle it — consuming it on weekdays, for example, and taking a break from it on weekends.

What’s Next for Resveratrol Research and Lung Cancer?

Now that the intranasal method of administration has been established, the UNIGE team is moving on to identify a potential biomarker that will support them in selecting people eligible for preventive treatment with resveratrol.

As noted by the study authors, “This study presents an effective way to overcome [resveratrol’s] low oral bioavailability, encouraging a reevaluation of its use in future clinical trials.”26

Interestingly, the scientists suggest resveratrol could potentially benefit current and former smokers were it to be successfully developed for use in nebulizers and e-cigarettes. Given the health hazards associated with them, I cannot recommend e-cigarettes or vaping as safe alternatives to smoking. That said, the researchers commented:27

“For ex-smokers, one could easily imagine a nebulizer similar to those used for beta-2-sympathomimetic administration in asthma …

A [resveratrol] containing electronic cigarette could combine the advantage of pharmacological cancer chemopreventive activity with promotion of the transition from conventional tobacco products to electronic cigarettes.”

An Alternative to Resveratrol: Pterostilbene May Be Even Better

Besides resveratrol, a lesser-known inflammation fighter called pterostilbene also deserves attention. It is the predominant polyphenol antioxidant found in blueberries. Similar to resveratrol, pterostilbene is a stilbene but it has far superior bioavailability.

While resveratrol is considered to be about 20 to 25 percent bioavailable, pterostilbene is known for its 80 percent bioavailability, meaning your body can use it more effectively and efficiently.28 Some experts suggest the two compounds are better when consumed together, noting they will act synergistically to boost your health and help prevent disease. About pterostilbene, authors of a 2013 study designed to review its antioxidant properties stated:29,30

“The antioxidant activity of pterostilbene has been implicated in anticarcinogenesis, modulation of neurological disease, anti-inflammation, attenuation of vascular disease and amelioration of diabetes.

Substantial evidence suggests that pterostilbene may have numerous preventive and therapeutic properties in a vast range of human diseases that include neurological, cardiovascular, metabolic and hematologic disorders.

Further benefits of pterostilbene have been reported in preclinical trials, in which pterostilbene was shown to be a potent anticancer agent in several malignancies.”

In terms of pterostilbene’s value as an anticancer compound, the researchers said:31

“Studies suggest pterostilbene exhibits the hallmark characteristics of an effective anticancer agent based on its antineoplastic properties in several common malignancies. In vitro models have shown pterostilbene inhibits cancer growth through alteration of the cell cycle, induction of apoptosis and inhibition of metastasis.

In vivo, pterostilbene inhibits tumorigenesis and metastasis with negligible toxicity. Pterostilbene has also been shown to be effective as an inducer of antioxidant capacity in multiple cancer cell lines that may facilitate its function as an anticarcinogenic compound.

Additionally, preliminary studies show pterostilbene exhibits much greater bioavailability compared [to] other stilbene compounds.”

Before You Begin Taking Resveratrol and Pterostilbene, Talk to Your Health Care Provider

Beyond the benefits already mentioned, a study published in the journal Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine32 suggests when given in daily doses of 250 mg, pterostilbene also can be useful to lower your blood pressure. Additionally, it has been shown to reduce anxiety in experiments involving lab mice.33

While the news about resveratrol and pterostilbene seems promising, more research is needed to validate the true extent of their health-benefiting potential. Before you begin taking either or both of them in supplement form, I suggest you talk to your health care practitioner first.

As you may imagine, taking any supplement indiscriminately is unlikely to have beneficial effects. Why? Because your body does best when it receives the right nutrients at the right time, in the right amount. Keep that guiding principle in mind as you seek to take control of your health.

An Introduction to Acid Reflux

Approximately 60 million adults are affected by acid reflux, with about 25 million living with the symptoms on a daily basis.1 Unfortunately the prevalence of acid reflux in the population is still on the rise.

The gradual increase in people who suffer from acid reflux can be attributed to various factors. In a 2011 study, it was determined that acid reflux cases had doubled in the previous 10 years, with the researchers noting that this rise in acid reflux patients runs parallel to the number of people who are obese and overweight, especially since obesity is a known risk factor for acid reflux.2

The exact cause of this condition cannot be pinpointed on one particular cause, but it may be triggered by numerous external and internal factors. These articles will focus on the reasons why acid reflux happens, its causes and the treatment options and lifestyle changes you can employ to dampen or eliminate the symptoms completely.

Is Acid Reflux the Same as GERD?

The burning sensation people feel in their chest or the back of their throat is usually attributed to heartburn, acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). While they all share the similar symptoms, this may become a problem when it comes to treatment options.

When an individual mentions that they have heartburn, they are usually referring to a burning sensation felt in the chest.3 In some cases, this may be mistaken for heart attack pain, especially when the pain is severe.4 Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux, the condition brought on by a weakening of the lower esophageal sphincter, which allows stomach acid to travel up the esophagus. Aside from heartburn, patients who suffer from acid reflux may also get sore throats and a cough.

If acid reflux occurs more frequently than normal, you may be diagnosed with GERD, which is its chronic form. GERD is characterized by acid reflux symptoms occurring more than twice a week, together with the inflammation of the esophagus. Because of the rate of recurrence, patients also suffer from more symptoms than just acid reflux, including damaged tooth enamel, mucositis, asthma and bad breath.5

If you’re having trouble differentiating these terms, just remember that heartburn is a symptom of both acid reflux and GERD, and GERD is the chronic form of acid reflux.

Is Acid Reflux Dangerous?

Acid reflux may seem like a common condition since it doesn’t cause much debilitation aside from the heartburn and nausea, but it may still lead to serious diseases if left undiagnosed or untreated.

The constant barrage of stomach acid traveling up the esophagus may lead to serious damage in the esophagus, as its lining is thinner and more delicate than the lining of the stomach. Numerous esophageal complications may arise if adjustments are not done to control this condition.6

Acid reflux may also cause patients’ teeth to decay due to the stomach acid’s ability to break down the teeth enamel, weakening it and exposing patients to a higher risk of cavities.7

MORE ABOUT ACID REFLUX

Acid Reflux: Introduction

What Is Acid Reflux?

Acid Reflux Symptoms

Acid Reflux Causes

How to Get Rid of Acid Reflux

Acid Reflux Treatment

Acid Reflux Prevention

Acid Reflux Diet

Acid Reflux FAQ

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What Is Acid Reflux?