Link Between Sugar and Alzheimer’s Strengthens

By Dr. Mercola

Alzheimer’s disease — for which conventional medicine believes there is no effective treatment or cure — currently affects an estimated 5.4 million Americans1 and prevalence is projected to triple by 2050.2,3 Within the next two decades, this severe and lethal form of dementia may affect as much as one-quarter of the U.S. population. Already, more than half a million Americans die from the disease each year, making it the third leading cause of death in the U.S., right behind heart disease and cancer.4,5  

The good news is that lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise and sleep can have a significant impact on your risk. As previously noted by Dr. Richard Lipton6 of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine where they study healthy aging, lifestyle changes “look more promising than the drug studies so far.” As with health in general, your diet plays a crucial role. Processed foods tend to be nearly devoid of healthy fat while being excessive in refined sugars, and this combination appears to be at the heart of the problem.

High-Sugar Diet Significantly Raises Your Risk of Dementia

One of the most striking studies7 on carbohydrates and brain health revealed that high-carb diets increase your risk of dementia by a whopping 89 percent, while high-fat diets lower it by 44 percent. According to the authors, “A dietary pattern with relatively high caloric intake from carbohydrates and low caloric intake from fat and proteins may increase the risk of mild cognitive impairment or dementia in elderly persons.”

Studies also strongly suggest Alzheimer’s disease is intricately connected to insulin resistance;8 even mild elevation of blood sugar is associated with an elevated risk for dementia.9 Diabetes and heart disease10 are also known to elevate your risk, and both are rooted in insulin resistance.

This connection between high-sugar diets and Alzheimer’s was again highlighted in a longitudinal study published in the journal Diabetologia in January 2018.11 Nearly 5,190 individuals were followed over a decade, and the results showed that the higher an individual’s blood sugar, the faster their rate of cognitive decline.

Both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetics Have Higher Risk for Alzheimer’s

The connection between sugar and Alzheimer’s was first broached in 2005, when the disease was tentatively dubbed “Type 3 diabetes.” At that time researchers discovered that your brain produces insulin necessary for the survival of your brain cells.12 A toxic protein called ADDL removes insulin receptors from nerve cells, thereby rendering those neurons insulin resistant, and as ADDLs accumulate, your memory begins to deteriorate.

Curiously, while low insulin levels in your body are associated with improved health, the opposite appears to be true when it comes to the insulin produced in your brain. Reduced brain insulin actually contributes to the degeneration of brain cells, and studies have found that people with lower levels of insulin and insulin receptors in their brain often have Alzheimer’s disease.

According to researchers,13 “These abnormalities do not correspond to Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, but reflect a different and more complex disease process that originates in the central nervous system.”

In 2016, researchers at John’s Hopkins department of biology discovered that nerve growth factor, a protein found in your nervous system that is involved in the growth of neurons, also triggers insulin release in your pancreas.14 So there appears to be a rather complex relationship between body insulin, brain insulin and brain function, and we’ve probably only begun to tease out all of these connections.

Case in point, even Type 1 diabetics are at increased risk for Alzheimer’s, even though their bodies don’t produce insulin at all. Melissa Schilling, a professor at New York University, investigated this paradox in 2016. As reported by The Atlantic:15

“Schilling posits this happens because of the insulin-degrading enzyme, a product of insulin that breaks down both insulin and amyloid proteins in the brain — the same proteins that clump up and lead to Alzheimer’s disease. People who don’t have enough insulin, like those whose bodies’ ability to produce insulin has been tapped out by diabetes, aren’t going to make enough of this enzyme to break up those brain clumps.

Meanwhile, in people who use insulin to treat their diabetes and end up with a surplus of insulin, most of this enzyme gets used up breaking that insulin down, leaving not enough enzyme to address those amyloid brain clumps. According to Schilling, this can happen even in people who don’t have diabetes yet — who are in a state known as ‘prediabetes.’”

Sugar Damages Brain Structure and Function

Research16 published in 2013 showed that sugar and other carbohydrates can disrupt your brain function even if you’re not diabetic or have any signs of dementia. Here, short- and long-term glucose markers were evaluated in healthy, nondiabetic, nondemented seniors. Memory tests and brain imaging were also used to assess brain function and the actual structure of their hippocampus.

The findings revealed that the higher the two blood glucose measures, the smaller the hippocampus, the more compromised its structure, and the worse the individual’s memory was. According to the authors, the structural changes in the hippocampus alone can partially account for the statistical link we see between glucose and memory, as your hippocampus is involved with the formation, organization and storage of memories.

The results suggest glucose directly contributes to atrophy of the hippocampus, which means that even if you’re not insulin resistant or diabetic, excess sugar can still hamper your memory. The authors suggest that “strategies aimed at lowering glucose levels even in the normal range may beneficially influence cognition in the older population.”

A similar study17 published in 2014 found that Type 2 diabetics lose more gray matter with age than expected, and this brain atrophy also helps explain why diabetics have a higher risk for dementia, and have earlier onset of dementia than nondiabetics.

As noted by Dr. Sam Gandy, director of the Center for Cognitive Health at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, these findings “suggest that chronic high levels of insulin and sugar may be directly toxic to brain cells” adding that “This would definitely be a potential cause of dementia.”18

Even Mild Insulin Resistance Speeds Cognitive Decline

A study19 published just last year also confirmed the link between insulin resistance and dementia, particularly among those with existing heart disease. Nearly 490 seniors were followed for two decades, and as in other studies, those with the highest levels of insulin resistance scored the worst on cognitive tests, especially tests for memory and executive function.

A take-home message here is that you don’t have to be a diabetic to be at increased risk. As noted by senior study author Dr. David Tanne, a faculty member of Tel Aviv University in Israel, “Even people with mild or moderate insulin resistance … are at increased risk over time … Exercising, maintaining a balanced and healthy diet and watching your weight will help you prevent insulin resistance and, as a result, protect your brain as you get older.”

Progress Made in the Development of a Blood Test for Alzheimer’s

In related news, researchers have announced great strides being made in the development of a blood test to detect Alzheimer’s.20 The test is designed to detect amyloid beta, the toxic protein known to accumulate in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. In a recent trial,21 the test was 90 percent accurate in detecting the disease in a pool of 370 participants.

At present, the only way to measure amyloid beta is by brain scan or a spinal tap, both of which are invasive and expensive, and can only detect the disease once it has sufficiently progressed. While promising, further trials must be done to confirm the diagnostic accuracy of the blood test before it can be released and used in medical practice.

One of the most comprehensive assessments of Alzheimer’s risk is Dr. Dale Bredesen’s ReCODE protocol, which evaluates 150 factors known to contribute to the disease. This protocol also identifies your disease subtype or combination of subtypes so that an effective treatment protocol can be devised.

You can learn more about this in “ReCODE: The Reversal of Cognitive Decline,” which is my interview with him. In his book, you will also find a list of suggested screening tests and the recommended ranges for each test, along with some of Bredesen’s treatment suggestions. The full protocol is described in Bredesen’s book, “The End of Alzheimer’s: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline.”22

Turmeric May Lower Alzheimer’s Risk, Study Shows

Other recent developments include a study showing curcumin supplementation may lower the risk of Alzheimer’s by improving memory and focus.23 The double-blind, placebo-controlled study, published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry,24 included 40 adults between the ages of 50 and 90 who reported mild memory lapses. None had a diagnosis of dementia at the time of their enrollment. Participants randomly received either 90 milligrams of curcumin (Theracurmin supplement) twice a day for 18 months, or a placebo.

A standardized cognitive assessment was administered at the start of the study and at six-month intervals thereafter, and the level of curcumin in their blood was measured at the beginning and end of the study. Thirty of the participants also underwent positron emission tomography (PET) scans to assess their level of amyloid and tau deposits before and after treatment, both of which are strongly associated with Alzheimer’s risk.

Those who received curcumin saw significant improvements in memory and concentration, while the control group experienced no improvement. PET scans confirmed the treatment group had significantly less amyloid and tau buildup in areas of the brain that control memory, compared to controls. Overall, the curcumin group improved their memory by 28 percent over the year-and-a-half-long treatment period.

Curcumin has also been shown to increase levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF),25 and reduced levels of BDNF have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Yet another way curcumin may benefit your brain and lower your risk of dementia is by affecting pathways that help reverse insulin resistance, hyperlipidemia and other symptoms associated with metabolic syndrome and obesity.26

Preventive Strategies

According to Dr. David Perlmutter, a neurologist and author of “Grain Brain” and “Brain Maker,” anything that promotes insulin resistance will ultimately also raise your risk of Alzheimer’s. To this I would add that any strategy that enhances your mitochondrial function will lower your risk. Considering the lack of effective treatments, prevention really cannot be stressed strongly enough.

In 2014, Bredesen published a paper that demonstrates the power of lifestyle choices for the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s. By leveraging 36 healthy lifestyle parameters, he was able to reverse Alzheimer’s in 9 out of 10 patients.

This included the use of exercise, ketogenic diet, optimizing vitamin D and other hormones, increasing sleep, meditation, detoxification and eliminating gluten and processed food. You can download Bredesen’s full-text case paper online, which details the full program.27 Following are some of the lifestyle strategies I believe to be the most helpful and important:  

Eat real food, ideally organic

Avoid processed foods of all kinds, as they contain a number of ingredients harmful to your brain, including refined sugar, processed fructose, grains (particularly gluten), vegetable oils, genetically engineered ingredients and pesticides. Ideally, keep your added sugar to a minimum and your total fructose below 25 grams per day, or as low as 15 grams per day if you already have insulin/leptin resistance or any related disorders.

Opting for organic produce will help you avoid synthetic pesticides and herbicides. Most will also benefit from a gluten-free diet, as gluten makes your gut more permeable, which allows proteins to get into your bloodstream where they sensitize your immune system and promote inflammation and autoimmunity, both of which play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s.

Replace refined carbs with healthy fats

Diet is paramount, and the beauty of following my optimized nutrition plan is that it helps prevent and treat virtually all chronic degenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s. It’s important to realize that your brain actually does not need carbs and sugars; healthy fats such as saturated animal fats and animal-based omega-3 are far more critical for optimal brain function.

A cyclical ketogenic diet has the double advantage of both improving your insulin sensitivity and lowering your Alzheimer’s risk. As noted by Perlmutter, lifestyle strategies such as a ketogenic diet can even offset the risk associated with genetic predisposition. (Estimates suggest genetics account for less than 5 percent of Alzheimer’s cases.

An estimated 75 million Americans have the single allele for ApoE4. Those who are ApoE4 positive have a 30 percent lifetime risk of developing the disease. Approximately 7 million have two copies of the gene, which puts them at a 50 percent lifetime risk. It’s unknown how many Americans have the TOMM40 gene or others that may affect your risk.)

When your body burns fat as its primary fuel, ketones are created, which not only burn very efficiently and are a superior fuel for your brain, but also generate fewer reactive oxygen species and less free radical damage. A ketone called beta hydroxybutyrate is also a major epigenetic player, stimulating beneficial changes in DNA expression, thereby reducing inflammation and increasing detoxification and antioxidant production.

I explain the ins and outs of implementing this kind of diet, and its many health benefits, in my new book “Fat for Fuel.” In it, I also explain why cycling through stages of feast and famine, opposed to continuously remaining in nutritional ketosis, is so important.

Pay close attention to the kinds of fats you eat — avoid all trans fats or hydrogenated fats that have been modified in such a way to extend their longevity on the grocery store shelf. This includes margarine, vegetable oils and various butter-like spreads.

Healthy fats to add to your diet include avocados, butter, organic pastured egg yolks, coconuts and coconut oil, grass fed meats and raw nuts such as pecans and macadamia. MCT oil is also a great source of ketone bodies.

Keep your fasting insulin levels below 3

Lowering your insulin will also help lower leptin levels which is another factor for Alzheimer’s. If your insulin is high, you’re likely consuming too much sugar and need to cut back.

Optimize your omega-3 level

Also make sure you’re getting enough animal-based omega-3 fats. High intake of the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA help by preventing cell damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease, thereby slowing down its progression and lowering your risk of developing the disorder. Ideally, get an omega-3 index test done once a year to make sure you’re in a healthy range. Your omega-3 index should be above 8 percent and your omega 6-to-3 ratio between 0.5 and 3.0.

Optimize your gut flora

To do this, avoid processed foods, antibiotics and antibacterial products, fluoridated and chlorinated water, and be sure to eat traditionally fermented and cultured foods, along with a high-quality probiotic if needed. Dr. Steven Gundry does an excellent job of expanding on this in his new book “The Plant Paradox.”

Intermittently fast

Intermittent fasting is a powerful tool to jump-start your body into remembering how to burn fat and repair the insulin/leptin resistance that is a primary contributing factor for Alzheimer’s. Once you have worked your way up to where you’ve been doing 20-hour daily intermittent fasting for a month, are metabolically flexible and can burn fat as your primary fuel, you can progress to the far more powerful five-day water fasts.

Move regularly and consistently throughout the day

It’s been suggested that exercise can trigger a change in the way the amyloid precursor protein is metabolized,28 thus, slowing down the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s. Exercise also increases levels of the protein PGC-1 alpha. Research has shown that people with Alzheimer’s have less PGC-1 alpha in their brains and cells that contain more of the protein produce less of the toxic amyloid protein associated with Alzheimer’s.

Optimize your magnesium levels

Preliminary research strongly suggests a decrease in Alzheimer symptoms with increased levels of magnesium in the brain. Keep in mind that the only magnesium supplement that appears to be able to cross the blood-brain barrier is magnesium threonate.  

Optimize your vitamin D, ideally through sensible sun exposure

Sufficient vitamin D is imperative for proper functioning of your immune system to combat inflammation associated with Alzheimer’s and, indeed, research shows people living in northern latitudes have higher rates of death from dementia and Alzheimer’s than those living in sunnier areas, suggesting vitamin D and/or sun exposure are important factors.29

If you are unable to get sufficient amounts of sun exposure, take daily supplemental vitamin D3 to reach and maintain a blood level of 60 to 80 ng/ml. That said, it’s important to recognize that sun exposure is important for reasons unrelated to vitamin D.

Your brain responds to the near-infrared light in sunlight in a process called photobiomodulation. Research shows near-infrared stimulation of the brain boosts cognition and reduces symptoms of Alzheimer’s, including more advanced stages of the disease.

Delivering near-infrared light to the compromised mitochondria synthesizes gene transcription factors that trigger cellular repair, and your brain is one of the most mitochondrial-dense organs in your body.

Avoid and eliminate mercury from your body

Dental amalgam fillings are one of the major sources of heavy metal toxicity, however you should be healthy prior to having them removed. Once you have adjusted to following the diet described in my optimized nutrition plan, you can follow the mercury detox protocol and then find a biological dentist to have your amalgams removed.

Avoid and eliminate aluminum from your body

Common sources of aluminum include antiperspirants, nonstick cookware and vaccine adjuvants. For tips on how to detox aluminum, please see my article, “First Case Study to Show Direct Link between Alzheimer’s and Aluminum Toxicity.” There is some suggestion that certain mineral waters high in silicic acid may help your body eliminate aluminum.

Avoid flu vaccinations

Most flu vaccines contain both mercury and aluminum.

Avoid statins and anticholinergic drugs

Drugs that block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter, have been shown to increase your risk of dementia. These drugs include certain nighttime pain relievers, antihistamines, sleep aids, certain antidepressants, medications to control incontinence and certain narcotic pain relievers.

Statin drugs are particularly problematic because they suppress the synthesis of cholesterol, deplete your brain of coenzyme Q10, vitamin K2 and neurotransmitter precursors, and prevent adequate delivery of essential fatty acids and fat-soluble antioxidants to your brain by inhibiting the production of the indispensable carrier biomolecule known as low-density lipoprotein.

Limit your exposure to non-native electromagnetic fields (cellphones, Wi-Fi routers and modems)

Radiation from cellphones and other wireless technologies trigger excessive production of peroxynitrites,30 a highly damaging reactive nitrogen species. Increased peroxynitrites from cellphone exposure will damage your mitochondria, 31,32 and your brain is the most mitochondrial-dense organ in your body.

Increased peroxynitrite generation has also been associated with increased levels of systemic inflammation by triggering cytokine storms and autonomic hormonal dysfunction.

Optimize your sleep

Sleep is necessary for maintaining metabolic homeostasis in your brain. Without sufficient sleep, neuron degeneration sets in, and catching up on sleep during weekends will not prevent this damage.33,34,35 Sleep deprivation causes disruption of certain synaptic connections that can impair your brain’s ability for learning, memory formation and other cognitive functions. Poor sleep also accelerates the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.36

Most adults need seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Deep sleep is the most important, as this is when your brain’s glymphatic system performs its cleanout functions, eliminating toxic waste from your brain, including amyloid beta. For a comprehensive sleep guide, see “33 Secret’s to a Good Night’s Sleep.”

Challenge your mind daily

Mental stimulation, especially learning something new, such as learning to play an instrument or a new language, is associated with a decreased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Researchers suspect that mental challenge helps to build up your brain, making it less susceptible to the lesions associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Try This Essential Oil to Ease Muscle Aches and Sprains

With its narrow frame and sparse appearance, botanists consider spruce lagging behind its other conifer counterparts from the Pinacea plant family in terms of splendor. However, what spruce lacks in appearance, it makes up for with its wide array of impressive healing properties. Discover more about this essential oil.

What Is Spruce Oil?

Spruce oil is derived from the bristly, needlelike, and blue-green leaves and twigs of spruce trees, which are cousins to other ornamental conifers like cedars, firs, and pine. Spruce have reddish brown trunks that initially grow anywhere from 12 to 18 inches until they reach their maximum peak of 35 feet.

There are different species of spruce aside from the most common black spruce (Picea mariana), but not all of them produce healthy essential oils. Some other oil-bearing spruce species include:

  • Hemlock or Eastern spruce (Tsuga canadensis)
  • Norway or common spruce (Picea abies)
  • White Spruce (Picea glauca)

Spruce thrives in the cold, wet climate of North America. It is commonly found in Canada from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific coast, in some of the northern states of the continental U.S., and in Alaska, Labrador, and Newfoundland.

Uses of Spruce Oil

Native Americans used to concoct their own ointment, salves and lotion with spruce, honey and alum to treat skin problems such as boils, burns, skin inflammation, sores and wounds. They also used the balsam of spruce as a chewing gum and spread it as caulking or glue. They even ate the inner bark and shoots of the tree.

Spruce oil is frequently added in soap, air fresheners and household cleaner formulations to lend its fresh scent and act as a disinfecting agent. Because of its pleasant earthy scent, its calming effects and its ability to ease anxiety and stress, spruce oil is also a favorite in meditation rituals like grounding.1

For pet care, combine spruce oil with cedarwood oil. Apply it on your pet’s coat, use in bath preparations, or use as a spray to get rid of fleas and ticks.2

Composition of Spruce Oil

Spruce oil smells sweet, soft, warm and inviting, similar to fir or pine, yet much smoother and milder. It is viscously thin and has a crystal clear to pale yellow color. In terms of its chemical constituents, spruce oil contains 55 percent monoterpenes — including camphene, ?-Pinene and y-3-Carene — y-Bornyl acetate, and sesquiterpenes. Spruce oil has hormone-and cortisone-like properties that stimulate the thymus gland and the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis (HPA).3

Benefits of Spruce Oil

Spruce oil has potent antibacterial, anti-infectious, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antiviral, antiseptic, disinfectant, expectorant and stimulant properties. It works wonders for respiratory ailments, wound healing, viral infections, arthritis, rheumatism and other forms of muscle aches and pains.

Since spruce oil positively affects many systems in the body, particularly the endocrine system, it’s no surprise that it can deliver a wide range of well-documented health benefits, which include helping in:4

Stimulating and fortifying the immune system

Controlling some cases of hyperthyroidism

Regulating the adrenal hormone to help the body deal with stress and “fight-or-flight” situations

Relieving respiratory tract infections like asthma or bronchitis

Working as an expectorant to relieve mucus

Fighting off fatigue, including nervous exhaustion and chronic fatigue

Soothing skin conditions, such as dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis and seborrhea dermatitis

Calming skin outbreaks triggered by hormonal imbalance or stress

How to Make Spruce Oil

Spruce oil is extracted through steam distillation from its leaves, which are usually harvested between the months of January and April when essential oil levels are at their highest. Branches that are exposed in the sun yield more spruce oil compared to the ones hidden in thick, dense forests. The 25-year-old spruce trees are known to produce twice as much essential oil than those 45 years and older.

During the steam distillation process, the botanical material is placed in a still and is subjected to extremely high temperatures in order to extract the essential oil.5

How Does Spruce Oil Work?

Because of its soothing components, spruce oil is frequently used in massages, saunas, and steam baths. Spruce oil may be used topically, inhaled directly through aromatherapy or as a tonic. Some oils that complement spruce oil well include cedarwood, clary sage, galbanum, lavender, oakmoss, pine and rosemary.6

In cases when you or someone in your family is suffering from muscle aches, painful joints, poor circulation, strains and sprains, I highly recommend that you use spruce oil topically with a milder carrier oil. Combining spruce oil with helichrysum oil, which is known for its toning properties, is suggested to help soothe injuries to the muscles, ligaments and tendons while speeding up healing and preventing the formation of unsightly scars. 7

Is Spruce Oil Safe?

Spruce oil is generally regarded as safe. However, any application without prior dilution to a gentler carrier oil may cause skin irritation in some individuals.8

To prevent this from occurring, one practical precautionary measure I advise when using essential oils for the first time is performing a skin patch test. Simply apply a tiny drop of spruce oil on a small portion of your skin and wait for at least 24 hours. If any reaction comes up, discontinue use.

On the other hand, if you’re pregnant or a nursing mother, I advise you not to use spruce oil — or any other essential oil for that matter — without your physician’s recommendation, to avoid any complications. This caveat is the same if you have any medical condition and are currently taking prescription medication.

Side Effects of Spruce Oil

Apart from the possibility of skin irritation or skin sensitizing, spruce oil currently has no known side effects. Nevertheless, always err on the side of caution. Consult a natural holistic practitioner or an aromatherapy specialist before incorporating any herbal oil into your supplement or treatment regimen.


Grape-Derived Compounds to Help Beat Depression

By Dr. Mercola

A polyphenol preparation made from Concord grape juice, grape seed extract and trans-resveratrol has shown promise for treating depression, according to an animal study from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.1 Two phytochemicals in particular — dihydrocaffeic acid (DHCA) and malvidin-3′-O-glucoside (Mal-gluc) — appeared to be responsible for the beneficial effects, which included modulating inflammation and synaptic plasticity, essentially increasing resilience against stress-induced depression in mice.2

Previous research has found that a single dose of resveratrol can improve blood flow to your brain and may enhance several aspects of brain function, including lowered inflammation that may extend to protection again depression.3 The featured study revealed that the grape-derived compounds target cellular and molecular pathways associated with inflammation while modulating synaptic plasticity, disruptions of which have been linked to depression.

DHCA was found to reduce a pro-inflammatory compound called interleukin 6 (IL-6) while Mal-gluc modulates synaptic plasticity, a fundamental brain function that controls your ability to sense and store complex information and respond to external stimuli.

With chronic stress (or acute traumatic stress) acting as the most significant factor in a person’s susceptibility to depression,4 the fact that the specialized grape preparation promoted resilience against stress in mice was also highly notable. Study author Giulio Maria Pasinetti, Ph.D., professor of neurology, said in a news release:5

“Our approach to use a combination treatment of DHCA and Mal-gluc to simultaneously inhibit peripheral inflammation and modulate synaptic plasticity in the brain works synergistically to optimize resilience against chronic stress-induced depression-like phenotypes …

The discovery of these new, natural grape-derived polyphenol compounds targeting cellular and molecular pathways associated with inflammation may provide an effective way to treat a subset of people with depression and anxiety, a condition that affects so many people.”

Why Conventional Treatments for Depression Often Fail

Nearly 7 percent of U.S adults suffered from a depressive episode in the past year6 while, worldwide, 350 million people suffer from depression, making it a leading cause of disability.7 Despite this, only about one-third of Americans with depression get treated,8 which puts the remaining two-thirds left untreated at increased risk of suicide and with a lower quality of life.

Yet, major problems exist with conventional depression treatments, which typically center on antidepressants. For starters, the side effects can be serious. Antidepressant users have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes,9 even after adjusting for other risk factors, like body mass index (BMI).10 Antidepressant use has also been linked to thicker arteries, which could contribute to the risk of heart disease and stroke,11 along with increased risk of heart attack12 and, ironically, suicidal thoughts.

The drugs are also linked to dementia, with researchers noting “treatment with SSRIs, MAOIs, heterocyclic antidepressants, and other antidepressants was associated with an increased risk of dementia,” and as the dose increased, so too did the risk.13 Importantly, the drugs are also known to deplete various nutrients from your body, including coenzyme Q10 and vitamin B12 — in the case of tricyclic antidepressants — which are needed for proper mitochondrial function. SSRIs may deplete iodine and folate.14

Importantly, studies have repeatedly shown antidepressants work no better than placebo for mild to moderate depression.15 In fact, Irving Kirsch, associate director of the Program in Placebo Studies at Harvard Medical School, has conducted meta-analyses of antidepressants in comparison to placebo and has concluded that there’s virtually no difference in their effectiveness, noting, “The difference is so small, it’s not of any clinical importance.”16

What is different, however, is the potential for side effects, which is far greater among antidepressants than placebos. Not to mention, the widely-held belief that depression is due to low levels of serotonin or other chemicals in your brain is only a theory — one that’s been largely disproven. Antidepressants targeting the chemical imbalance theory remain the go-to treatment for this condition nonetheless. As the grape compound researchers wrote in Nature Communications:17

“Currently available treatments for major depressive disorder (MDD) mainly target neurochemical or neurobiological mechanisms. Conventional pharmacological treatments produce temporary remission in <50 percent of patients. Thus, there is an urgent need for a wider spectrum of novel therapeutics to target newly discovered underlying disease mechanisms.”

Nature May Be Home to a Number of Depression Busters

As mentioned, the grape compound resveratrol, also found in raspberries, mulberries and other dark berries, pomegranates, red wine and dark chocolate, has previously been shown to have antidepressant effects in mice and rats. In one study, resveratrol showed “antidepressant-like effect[s],” possibly due to activation of hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).18 BDNF promotes healthy brain neurons and levels tend to be low in people with depression.

Yet, grapes are just one natural source of compounds that may give your mental health a boost. The psychedelic drug psilocybin, also known as magic mushrooms, is another that continues to show promise for treating depression. In a small study of 19 patients with treatment-resistant depression, all of them experienced improvements in symptoms one week after receiving a single dose of psilocybin, and half of them were no longer depressed five weeks post-treatment.19

Brain scans showed actual brain changes occurred in areas involved in depression, including less activity in the amygdala, which is involved in processing emotions, and more stable activity in the default-mode network (links between activity in the network and depression have been found).20 The researchers suggested the participants’ brains may have been “reset” in a sense, helping them to overcome depression.

Unfortunately, psilocybin is a Schedule 1 drug, like marijuana, so trials cost about 10 times that for other legal drugs, and in order to take the research to the level where it could potentially be turned into a psychiatric treatment, phase 3 clinical trials are needed with thousands of participants. For that to occur, psilocybin would need to be rescheduled. Light exposure is another way nature provides for your mental health.

Exposure to sunlight will help optimize your vitamin D levels (another factor linked to depression21) as well as influence your mental state via other mechanisms, like regulating your circadian rhythm and production of serotonin, which is released in response to sunlight exposure. If you don’t have access to regular sunlight, full-spectrum light therapy can be a useful alternative. Light therapy alone and placebo were both more effective than Prozac for the treatment of moderate to severe depression in an eight-week-long study.22

Supplements Useful for Depression

Other proven mood boosters are readily available via the food you eat or, alternatively, in the supplement aisle. These include:

  • Magnesium: Magnesium supplements led to improvements in mild-to-moderate depression in adults, with beneficial effects occurring within two weeks of treatment.23
  • Omega-3 fats, which have been shown to lead to improvements in major depressive disorder.24 Make sure you’re getting enough omega-3s in your diet, either from wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel and anchovies, or a high-quality animal-based omega-3 supplement.
  • B vitamins. Low levels of B vitamins are common in patients with depression, while vitamin B supplements have been shown to improve symptoms.25
  • Folate. Folate helps your body produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine. One 2012 study found people who consumed the most folate had a lower risk of depression than those who ate the least.26
  • Probiotics. A small study involving adults diagnosed with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and depression found the probiotic Bifidobacterium longum provided depression relief. At six weeks, 64 percent of the treatment group had reduced depression scores compared to 32 percent of the control group that received a placebo.27 Eating fermented foods regularly is an excellent way to supply your body with an ongoing source of probiotics.

Other options include SAMe, an amino acid derivative that occurs naturally in all cells. It plays a role in many biological reactions by transferring its methyl group to DNA, proteins, phospholipids and biogenic amines. Several scientific studies indicate that SAMe may be useful in the treatment of depression.28

5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), a serotonin precursor, is another natural alternative that outperforms a placebo when it comes to alleviating depression29 — more than can be said about antidepressants. St. John’s Wort has also been shown to provide similar relief to mild or moderate depression as antidepressants but with fewer side effects.30

Treating Depression Requires a Holistic Approach

Depression is a complex condition with varied causes that requires a similarly varied approach in treatment. What works to cure your depression may be different from what works for your neighbor’s. However, in addition to the supplements above, one strategy that will benefit most everyone is regular exercise.

Even a minimal amount of exercise may be enough to combat depression in some people — as minimal as one hour a week, according to an 11-year study in which people who engaged in regular leisure-time exercise for one hour a week were less likely to become depressed. On the flipside, those who didn’t exercise were 44 percent more likely to become depressed compared to those who did so for at least one to two hours a week.31

Please keep in mind that physical activity should include not just “exercise” but also plenty of nonexercise daily movements, such that you’re in motion more so than not (except while you’re sleeping). Spending time in nature — gardening, hiking or visiting a park — may also help to relieve anxiety and depressive symptoms, as can practicing mindfulness meditation32 and the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT).33 Attention to your diet is also crucial, particularly in limiting the amount of processed foods and sugars you’re eating.

On the other hand, foods that are good for your mood include dark chocolate, bananas, turmeric and even organic black coffee. Taking care of yourself by leading a healthy lifestyle (eating right, getting high-quality sleep, exercising and relieving stress regularly) is a crucial element to fighting and recovering from depression. However, if you’re in the throes of a depressive episode, it’s difficult to focus on making long-term plans or lifestyle changes.

In this case, reach out for help from a health care provider, close friend or family member, and if you are feeling desperate or having thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a toll-free number: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), call 911 or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.

86 Percent of Teens Are Loaded With Gender-Bending Chemicals

By Dr. Mercola

Bisphenol-A (BPA) was first created by a Russian chemist in 1891, but wasn’t used in the manufacture of products until the 1950s when it was used to produce resilient and often transparent plastics. Today, BPA is found in countless personal care products, water bottles, cashier receipts and the lining of canned goods.

Although research shows BPA is detrimental to human health, the market was valued at over $13 billion in 2013 and expected to reach $20 billion in 2020.1 Unfortunately, as the demand for BPA-free products is rising, substitute chemicals that are nearly identical to BPA are being substituted and thought to produce the same negative human health effects.

Recently, a study from the University of Exeter determined the extent to which BPA is found in the human population.2 The study was a collaborative research project between community-based resources (high school students) and the University of Exeter researchers.

BPA Found in Nearly 90 Percent of Teens

The study tested the urine and blood of 94 students in Great Britain and found 86 percent of the teenagers had hormone-disrupting contaminants in their system. Although currently legal in Europe, the European Chemicals Agency3 reclassified BPA in 2017 as a substance of “very high concern” as it has probable serious effects on human health.4

The research project was carried out in a real-world setting to provide students with the experience of scientific research. The students designed, participated in and published the study, including how changes in their lifestyle or diet may have an impact on the amount of BPA in their bodies.5

The results support several previous studies, including one by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) that found detectable levels of BPA in 93 percent of over 2,500 individual urine samples.6 This data is representative of exposure throughout the U.S., whereas the current study is a small sample of adolescent students from Great Britain.

The ubiquitous nature of BPA in the environment and marketplace makes it difficult to prevent exposure. Following the first round of testing, students were asked to avoid products that may contain BPA for one week.7 Follow-up testing revealed very little change in the students’ urine and blood samples despite the short time BPA stays in the body. Tamara Galloway, Ph.D., ecotoxicologist from the University of Exeter, commented on the results of the study, saying:8

“Our students who followed the BPA-free diet reported that it would be difficult to follow it long term, because labeling of BPA products was inconsistent. They found it difficult to source and identify BPA-free foods.”

BPA can be found in plastics used to protect foods, in the lining of cans, on-the-go drink bottles, plastic shower curtains and store receipts, just to name a few. Printed thermal cashier receipts use BPA in the manufacture of paper designed to react to heat. Disturbingly, research has demonstrated using hand sanitizer may increase your risk of absorbing BPA from your environment by a factor of 100 or more by changing the permeability of your skin.9

Following the study, the researchers from Exeter University called for better labeling on packaging in order to allow consumers to make healthier choices. Lorna Harries, Ph.D., co-author of the study from the University of Exeter Medical School, commented:10

“Most people are exposed to BPA on a daily basis. In this study, our student researchers have discovered that at the present time, given current labelling laws, it is difficult to avoid exposure by altering our diet. In an ideal world, we would have a choice over what we put into our bodies. At the present time, since it is difficult to identify which foods and packaging contain BPA, it is not possible to make that choice.”

Children Are at Increased Risk

BPA is an estrogenic endocrine disruptor. In other words, it represents a complex risk to human health by mimicking, or partially mimicking, hormones that naturally occur in your body. This can produce overstimulation, or interfere or block the way in which hormones are made or controlled. The interruption in the endocrine system may produce negative results in reproductive, neurological and immune systems of both children and adults.

According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, research demonstrates endocrine disruptors have the greatest risk when exposure occurs during prenatal and early childhood development,11 as this is when organ and neurological systems are being formed and completed. Other studies have demonstrated that BPA also places young children at risk for future heart disease, independent of heart conditions related to obesity.12

Researchers have also uncovered a relationship between BPA and heart problems in adults. A research team from the University of Cincinnati studied how BPA affected male and female mice and found there is greater threat to a woman’s heart health from exposure to BPA than to a man.13 The aim of the study was to determine the effects on heart function.

Male and female mice exhibited changes to blood pressure and heart rate, however the female mice could not handle the BPA exposure as well. Researchers have also identified an association between BPA and egg maturation in humans, interference with the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland and a suggestion that these actions may affect puberty, ovulation and lead to infertility.14 

Effect on Health Care Cost Is Substantial

The impact on health care costs has been considerable. In a study evaluating the cost impact in Europe, researchers found chemical exposures add at least $175 billion to annual health care costs.15 The study included only those chemicals with the highest probability of causation for disease. A broader analysis would likely have resulted in a greater burden of disease and even higher health care costs.

The researchers detailed costs that were related to obesity, neurological disorders and male reproductive disorders believed to be the result of exposure to BPA. But the data included only 5 percent of all known endocrine disruptors, making this the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., microbiologist and director of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, commented:16

“The point is that there is a wide variety of effects being seen in the general population related to endocrine-disrupting chemicals. We have increasing amount of data raising concerns about their use. We are seeing effects from [chemical] levels that are present in the general population.”

Male impotence may also be affected. In one study, high levels of BPA increased the risk of problems with sexual desire, ejaculation and erectile dysfunction.17 Studies have associated even low-dose levels of BPA with heart disease, blood pressure changes, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, breast and prostate cancers.

Endocrine Disruption Dangers Start in the Womb

Dangers begin when infants are exposed before birth.18 Exposure to BPA has the potential to affect the developing brain as demonstrated in a study where researchers found an association between infant girls exposed to BPA before birth and behavioral problems, including anxiety and over activity. There did not appear to be a link between BPA measured in a pregnant woman’s urine and male behavioral problems.

A study commissioned by the Environmental Working Group (EWG)19 engaged the services of five laboratories to examine the umbilical cord blood of 10 African-American, Hispanic and Asian children. The researchers found more than 200 chemicals in each of the newborns, demonstrating the vulnerability of the developing infant to environmental exposure. Dr. Anila Jacob, senior scientist at EWG, commented on the results, saying:20

“We know the developing fetus is one of the most vulnerable populations, if not the most vulnerable, to environmental exposure. Their organ systems aren’t mature and their detox methods are not in place, so cord blood gives us a good picture of exposure during this most vulnerable time of life.”

Prenatal exposure may also increase your child’s risk of wheezing as they become toddlers.21 This places children at greater risk for short- and long-term problems associated with asthma,22 including shortness of breath, difficulty with weight maintenance, obesity and poor quality sleep. For some people, this may also lead to remodeling of their airway, causing a loss of lung function and alteration in mucus production.23

Science Supports Claims BPA Is a Danger to Your Health

The number of independent, evidence-based scientific data continues to mount against the effects of BPA on human health. The United Nations Environmental Program in association with the World Health Organization produced a report24 outlining the negative health effects of BPA. However, the plastics industry has cast a doubt over this data. Both the sheer magnitude of distribution and convenience of the products produced make it difficult to determine how to reduce or eliminate this toxic chemical from human use.

It wasn’t until 2002 that one of the first international reports on endocrine disrupting chemicals was written and presented to the international community.25 Evidence continues to grow supporting scientific statements that synthetic chemicals disrupt the endocrine system and contribute to disease across an individual’s life span. But, as these chemicals are lucrative for manufacturers, the industry fuels the debate with industry-biased information, called “manufactured doubt,” to cover their investment.

The term “manufactured doubt” originated as the information communicated is more sleight of hand than evidence-based, driving policy actions affected by personal values and financial gain rather than concern for health. In an effort to further muddy the waters, industry groups such as the American Chemistry Council has called for “sound science” in the evaluation of endocrine-disrupting chemical data.

The origin of the term “sound science” can be traced back to use during original studies on the safety of tobacco. Author and epidemiologist David Michaels, Ph.D., notes:26

“The vilification of any research that might threaten corporate interests as ‘junk science’ and the sanctification of its own bought-and-paid-for research as ‘sound science’ is indeed Orwellian — and nothing less than standard operating procedure today. But to give credit where credit is due, the sound science/junk science dichotomy has worked wonders as a public relations gimmick and has gained widespread acceptance in the current debate over the use of scientific evidence as policy.”

Despite a large body of scientific evidence that BPA poses a significant threat to the health of children and adults, the industry continues to assure their consumers that BPA is safe for children. The U.S. Toy Association states:27 “No federal or state jurisdiction has restricted the use of BPA and toys.” And the British Plastics Federation asserts28 “that at current exposure levels, plastics containing BPA pose no consumer health risks for any age group.”

Another Industry Assures You’re Safe While Covering Up Health Risks

“The Devil We Know,” a documentary released at the Sundance Film Festival, chronicles how former DuPont employees, residents and attorneys went up against the chemical company to expose the dangers of a toxin found in Teflon products.29 The chemical, C8, is found in stain and water-resistant apparel, dental floss and microwave popcorn bags, to name just a few.

However, C8 has been linked to six diseases, including testicular and kidney cancers, cardiovascular disease, thyroid disease, autoimmune diseases and reproductive problems.30 DuPont was aware that C8 was highly toxic yet continued to discharge it into the waterways around the manufacturing plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia, and sell it to the American public.

At first the company believed it was only those working in the factory who were affected by the chemical, but it wasn’t long before it became clear that those who lived outside the factory were actually exposed to higher amounts of the toxin. At this point the company sent a team to collect water samples downstream and found the chemical had indeed been transported far from the plant.

When residents began experiencing symptoms, including tumors in themselves and their pets, they initiated research that eventually led to evidence C8 was responsible for the illness in their community and that DuPont was fully aware of how they were poisoning their factory workers, residents and consumers.31

Regulators Do Not Protect Your Health

These are but two examples of how regulators and governmental officials are either unable or unwilling to protect your health. In a commentary in Environmental Health News,32 epidemiologist, pediatrician and leading advocate of children’s health, Dr. Philip Landrigan, discusses the sad state of affairs that has befallen the environment and, by extension, human health. Exposure to toxins in your tap water, food, air and home increases your exposure to chemicals that have a history of triggering disease, illness and disability.

Children today are exposed to a far greater number of toxins than children just 20 years ago. Many of these chemicals have become widespread throughout the environment and found even in the deep trenches of the Pacific Ocean and the Arctic Ocean. Biomonitoring by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have routinely found toxins in umbilical cords as well as in the blood and urine of Americans of all ages.

In the U.S., chemicals are presumed safe until proven otherwise. In other words, manufacturers are given a free pass to use chemicals without evaluation for toxicity. Even after they’ve been proven to cause harm, action may not be taken. For example, scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed an insecticide, chlorpyrifos, poses a significant threat to unborn babies, but EPA administrator Scott Pruitt refuses to take action.33

It has become incumbent on you to take responsibility for reducing exposure by controlling your personal environment and reducing the number of chemicals and toxins used. Within your own home, you decide what products to purchase and what to leave at the store.

Voting with your pocketbook has a significant effect on manufacturers. Look for products that are organic and choose to eat a mainly whole food diet that does not come prepackaged in plastic. Reducing the number of pesticides in your body also reduces your personal risk to illness.

Consider the same process in your own yard and garden at home, using pesticides as the ultimate last resort rather than your first choice. Consider using a whole house water filter and filtering the air you breathe at home. Take precautions while driving in heavy traffic and use your influence with other parents and your school administration to change your child’s school environment.

Finally, you can take action on a larger scale in your own city or town, state or even nationally. Elected officials have an enormous influence on the health of your child. Landrigan points out that it’s important to remember democracy is not a spectator sport.34 For the health of your children and your grandchildren, everyone must become involved, even to the minimal extent of learning about government officials before you vote for them.

New Study Links Cellphone Radiation to Heart and Brain Tumors

By Dr. Mercola

Mounting evidence suggests electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation from cellphones can trigger abnormal cell growth and cancer.1,2 As early as 2011, the evidence was strong enough for the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization, to declare cellphones a Group 2B “possible carcinogen.”3 Two government-funded studies4 bring renewed attention to this link.5,6,7,8

The $25 million research conducted by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) — an interagency research program started by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in 1978 and now housed at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) — includes two separate studies: one on mice and one on rats. The studies, in which 3,000 animals were exposed to the type of radiation emitted by 2G and 3G cellphones, are said to be the most extensive to date.

Cellphone Radiation Linked to Brain and Heart Tumors in Male Rats

The researchers found male rats were more likely to develop heart tumors, while female rats and newborns exposed to high levels of radiation during pregnancy and lactation were more likely to have low body weight. DNA damage and damage to heart tissue was also observed in both male and female rats, but not mice.

Other types of tumors did occur in both types of animals, though, including brain, prostate, liver and pancreatic tumors. According to the researchers, if these results can be confirmed, then cellphone radiation may indeed be a “weak” carcinogen.

The animals in these studies were exposed to cellphone radiation for nine hours a day for two years (basically the full life span of a rat). According to the researchers, this level of exposure is far greater than what humans are exposed to, making it difficult to extrapolate the impact cellphone radiation might have on humans.

Personally, I disagree with this view, as many people, especially the younger generation, have their cellphones turned on and near their body 24/7. Many are literally sleeping with their phone beneath their pillow. Unless your phone is in a faraday bag, airplane mode or turned off completely, it is still emitting radiation, so you’re still exposing yourself to microwave radiation even when you’re not talking on the phone. I believe the fact that this reality is completely ignored is a serious oversight.

As noted by The New York Times,9 the heart tumors (malignant schwannomas) found in male rats are “similar to acoustic neuromas, a benign tumor in people involving the nerve that connects the ear to the brain, which some studies have linked to cellphone use.” The scientists also expressed surprise at the finding of DNA damage, as the conventional belief is that nonionizing radiofrequency radiation cannot harm DNA.

“We don’t feel like we understand enough about the results to be able to place a huge degree of confidence in the findings,” John Bucher, Ph.D.,10 senior scientist at the National Toxicology Program told reporters. Bucher also noted that “The patterns of damage to brain tissues in these animals are not particularly consistent with tumor outcomes.” To me, this statement offers no comfort whatsoever. Brain damage is brain damage, even if it doesn’t specifically lead to cancer!

Brain Tumors Are Not the Most Pressing Concern

In fact, the primary hazard of cellphone radiation is not brain cancer per se but rather systemic cellular and mitochondrial damage, which is harmful to health in general and can contribute to any number of health problems and chronic diseases. An estimated 80,000 U.S. men, women and children are diagnosed with a brain tumor each year.11 Meanwhile, 787,000 people die each year from heart disease.12 The relative rarity of brain cancer may lead you to believe that your cellphone is safe.

After all, when 91 percent of the adult population of the U.S. carries a cellphone13 and less than 0.02 percent14 develop a brain tumor, it may appear that using a cellphone is benign. The evidence shows it’s not. Even these NIH studies reveal DNA and cellular damage, even though the researchers insist there’s no explanation as to why. This, despite the fact that a number of other scientists and EMF specialists have presented evidence for a number of different mechanisms of harm.

For example, research15 by Allan Frey, Office of Naval Research, reveals cellphone radiation weakens cell membranes and your blood-brain barrier. Some of his experiments showed that dye injected into animals was able to penetrate into the brain when exposed to pulsed digital signals from microwaves. This research was done in the 1960s, before the introduction of cellphones. At the time, radar and microwaves were the main focus.

Today, these findings are particularly notable since cellphones are held close to the brain. The take-home message is that radiation from your cellphone weakens your blood-brain barrier, allowing toxins in your blood to enter your brain, and into the cells of your entire body. But that’s not all. Following I will summarize evidence produced by a number of other experts in the field, who claim to have identified one or more mechanisms of harm.

Same Data, Different Interpretations

Before I get into the mechanisms, it’s worth noting that when partial results from the (National Toxicology Program’s NTP) animal studies were initially released two years ago, the findings were followed by a public health warning. In fact, the preliminary findings were released early because the researchers deemed it too important to wait.

Christopher Portier, Ph.D., retired head of the NTP who was involved in the launch of the study, insisted the findings showed clear causation. “I would call it a causative study, absolutely,” he told Scientific American.16 “They controlled everything in the study. It’s [the cancer] because of the exposure.”

In November 2016, David McCormick, Ph.D., director of the Illinois Institute of Technology Research Institute where the study was conducted, was equally clear, telling reporters,17 “What we are saying here is that based on the animal studies, there is a possible risk cellphone RF [radio frequency] is potentially carcinogenic in humans. These are uncommon lesions in rodents, so it is our conclusion that they are exposure related.”

As noted by Microwave News,18 while some of the pathology data was updated since the initial release in 2016, the changes are minor. The interpretation, however, has changed rather dramatically. Now, even though the findings haven’t changed, the NTP insists it’s “not a high-risk situation” and that the risk to human health is negligible.

Microwave News lists a number of possible political reasons for the sudden turnaround, including new NTP leadership, the current White House administration’s disdain for science that threatens big business, and the fact that the major telecommunications players today are Apple, Google and Microsoft — all major Wall Street darlings. Whatever the reason, it’s clear the NTP is now downplaying findings that, just two years ago, were considered of significant importance for public health.

EMFs Produce Potent Oxidant Stressors

Martin Pall, Ph.D., has identified and published research describing the likely molecular mechanisms of how EMFs from cellphones and wireless technologies damage plants, animals and humans.19,20,21,22 The process begins when low?frequency microwave radiation activates voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCCs)23 — channels in the outer membrane of your cells. Once activated, the VGCCs open up, allowing an abnormal influx of calcium ions into the cell.

This increased intracellular calcium and the accompanying increase in calcium signaling appears to be responsible for a majority of the damage that occurs.

The excess calcium activates nitric oxide, and while nitric oxide has many health benefits, massively excessive nitric oxide reacts with superoxide, producing peroxynitrites, extremely potent oxidant stressors believed to be a root cause for many of today’s chronic diseases.24 Nitric oxide is the only molecule in your body produced at high enough concentrations to outcompete other molecules for superoxide and is a precursor for peroxynitrite.25

Inside your body, peroxynitrites modify tyrosine molecules in proteins to create a new substance, nitrotyrosine and nitration of structural protein.26 Changes from nitration are visible in human biopsy of atherosclerosis, myocardial ischemia, inflammatory bowel disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and septic lung disease.27

Significant oxidative stress from peroxynitrites may also result in single-strand breaks of DNA.28 This pathway of oxidative destruction — triggered by low?frequency radiation emitted from mobile devices — may partially explain the unprecedented growth rate of chronic disease since 1990,29 and is a far greater concern than brain tumors.

EMFs More Likely to Cause Neurological Dysfunction, Heart Problems and Infertility Than Brain Cancer

According to Pall’s theory, the physical locations where VGCCs are the densest are indicative of the diseases you might expect from chronic excessive exposure to EMFs. As it turns out, the highest density of VGCCs are found in your nervous system, the pacemaker in your heart and in male testes. As a result, EMFs are likely to contribute to neurological and neuropsychiatric problems, heart and reproductive problems.

Indeed, studies dating back to the 1950s and ‘60s show the nervous system is the organ most sensitive to EMFs. Some of these studies show massive changes in the structure of neurons, including cell death and synaptic dysfunction. When the VGCCs are activated in the brain they release neurotransmitters and neuroendocrine hormones.

In animals exposed to EMFs there are massive, cumulative effects in the brain. Genetic polymorphism studies also show that elevated VGCC activity in certain parts of the brain produces a variety of neuropsychiatric effects.

Hence, consequences of chronic EMF exposure to the brain include anxiety, depression, autism and Alzheimer’s disease, which Pall details in a 2016 paper.30 Research also suggests excessive EMF exposure is contributing to reproductive problems in both sexes.

Most recently, researchers showed prenatal exposure to power-frequency fields can nearly triple a pregnant woman’s risk of miscarriage.31 According to lead author and senior research scientist at Kaiser Permanente’s research division, Dr. De-Kun Li,32 “This study provides fresh evidence, directly from a human population, that magnetic field exposure in daily life could have adverse health impacts,” adding his findings “should bring attention to this potentially important environmental hazard to pregnant women.”

According to Li, there are at least six other studies, in addition to two of his own, showing this link.33,34,35,36,37 EMF exposure may also play a significant role in testicular cancer and male infertility. Studies have linked low-level electromagnetic radiation exposure from cellphones to an 8 percent reduction in sperm motility and a 9 percent reduction in sperm viability.38,39 Wi-Fi equipped laptop computers have also been linked to decreased sperm motility and an increase in sperm DNA fragmentation after just four hours of use.40

Excessive Charges Alter Cellular Function

Alasdair Philips, founder of the Power Watch41 — a British organization committed to uncovering EMFs’ effects on health — believes there’s even more to it than what Pall has discovered. He references Gerald Pollack’s work on the fourth phase of water, so-called exclusion zone (EZ) water, which is the kind of water you have in your body.

It’s a completely different model of how the cell functions,” Philips says. “The cell functions as a gel, if you like, held together by electric charge. The calcium-gated channel is part of that, but actually, it isn’t a membrane with a few things sticking through it.

It’s actually … electric charges on molecules. Yes, Pall’s [hypothesis] is very important and it’s probably one of the key mechanisms, but there’s a whole lot of things … [T]he cell is just malfunctioning because it’s got so much charge… [I]t’s an enormous incoming stream of electrons, and that changes completely what the cells are doing.”

EMFs Impair Proton Flow and ATP Production

Paul Héroux, Ph.D., professor of toxicology and health effects of electromagnetism at the faculty of medicine at McGill University in Montreal, also stresses the impact EMFs have on the water in your body. The mechanism of action proposed by Héroux involves the enzyme ATP synthase, which passes currents of protons through a water channel (similar to current passing through a wire).

The protons have to go through about 20 molecules of water to get through this channel. ATP synthase is extremely ancient and common to all living systems. It basically generates energy in the form ATP from ADP, using this flow of protons.

Magnetic fields can change the transparency of the water channel to protons, thereby reducing the current. As a result, you get less ATP, which can have system wide consequences, from promoting chronic disease and infertility to lowering intelligence.
Héroux explains:

“When you impair the flow of protons to ATP synthase, you increase mitochondrial membrane polarization … If you increase the polarization of the mitochondria by 14 percent, you will have a 70 percent increase in the reactive oxygen species coming out of complex one, which is the leading edge of the oxidative phosphorylation chain.

Essentially, my explanation is that by physical action on water, you can change the transparency of the most critical enzyme in the human body, modulate the amount of ATP, increase the escape of electrons from complex one; thereby explaining practically all of the observations related to EMF. Of course, the moment ATP is perturbed in a cell, there are calcium signals being emitted all over the place, because calcium is possibly the most critical intracellular messenger.”

While Pall’s work focuses on EMFs’ effects on calcium ions, Héroux focuses on its impact on electrons and protons, which are far more sensitive to magnetic fields. But although the mechanisms of action are slightly different, the end result is more or less identical and hinges on the fact that EMFs increase oxidative stress and decrease ATP.

In a nutshell, what we’re talking about here is the creation of excess oxidative stress, which in turn can damage cell membranes and proteins, and break DNA bonds. Interviews with Philips and Héroux should be released shortly, so keep your eyes open for them to learn more.

Protecting Yourself From Excessive EMF Is Important for Optimal Health

As you can see, a number of different mechanisms of harm have already been proposed, so the claim that there’s “no evidence” of harm, and that scientists have “no idea” of how harmful effects such as those found by the NIH might occur, simply isn’t true. There’s even evidence suggesting that radiation affects your microbiome, turning what might otherwise be beneficial microbes pathogenic. This too can have far-ranging health effects, since we now know your microbiome plays an important role in health.

France is imposing a complete ban on cellphone use by students during school hours.42 The ban, which takes effect in September 2018, will affect primary and secondary schools. Students will not be permitted to use their phones even at breaks, lunch or between classes. California also recently issued consumer guidance on how to lower cellphone radiation exposure (after initially trying to cover up the hazards).43

There’s no doubt in my mind that EMF exposure is a significant health hazard that needs to be addressed if you’re concerned about your health. Here are several suggestions that will help reduce your EMF exposure:

Connect your desktop computer to the internet via a wired Ethernet connection and be sure to put your desktop in airplane mode. Also avoid wireless keyboards, trackballs, mice, game systems, printers and portable house phones. Opt for the wired versions.

If you must use Wi-Fi, shut it off when not in use, especially at night when you are sleeping. Ideally, work toward hardwiring your house so you can eliminate Wi-Fi altogether. If you have a notebook without any Ethernet ports, a USB Ethernet adapter will allow you to connect to the internet with a wired connection.

Shut off the electricity to your bedroom at night. This typically works to reduce electrical fields from the wires in your wall unless there is an adjoining room next to your bedroom. If that is the case you will need to use a meter to determine if you also need to turn off power in the adjacent room.

Use a battery-powered alarm clock, ideally one without any light. I use a talking clock for the visually impaired.44

If you still use a microwave oven, consider replacing it with a steam convection oven, which will heat your food as quickly and far more safely.

Avoid using “smart” appliances and thermostats that depend on wireless signaling. This would include all new “smart” TVs. They are called smart because they emit a Wi-Fi signal, and unlike your computer, you cannot shut the Wi-Fi signal off. Consider using a large computer monitor as your TV instead, as they don’t emit Wi-Fi.

Refuse smart meters as long as you can, or add a shield to an existing smart meter, some of which have been shown to reduce radiation by 98 to 99 percent.45

Consider moving your baby’s bed into your room instead of using a wireless baby monitor. Alternatively, use a hard-wired monitor.

Replace CFL bulbs with incandescent bulbs. Ideally remove all fluorescent lights from your house. Not only do they emit unhealthy light, but more importantly, they will actually transfer current to your body just being close to the bulbs.

Avoid carrying your cellphone on your body unless in airplane mode and never sleep with it in your bedroom unless it is in airplane mode. Even in airplane mode it can emit signals, which is why I put my phone in a Faraday bag.46

When using your cellphone, use the speaker phone and hold the phone at least 3 feet away from you. Seek to radically decrease your time on the cellphone. I typically use my cellphone less than 30 minutes a month, and mostly when traveling. Instead, use VoIP software phones that you can use while connected to the internet via a wired connection.

Overmedicating Our Elders

By Dr. Mercola

According to a survey conducted by Consumer Reports,1 you may be in the minority if you don’t regularly take a prescription drug. In a sample of nearly 2,000 American adults, more than half regularly took prescription medications and the average adult took four. The total number of prescriptions filled by Americans increased by 85 percent from 1997 to 2016. However, the total population increased by only 21 percent during that same period.

Every age group is at risk for being diagnosed with a condition they may not actually have, and subsequently being prescribed medications they do not need. Many choose an over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medication to feel better. You might assume that OTC drugs are safe, but availability does not equate to being risk-free. Some current OTC medications were once available by prescription only.

In an increasingly litigiousness environment, and under a very real fear of medical malpractice lawsuits, physicians often feel pressured to prescribe medications designed to relieve symptoms, but not seek the foundational cause of your condition. When physicians do not follow published standards of care and instead seek to provide individualized care to their patients, they may be publicly criticized by colleagues and potentially rebuked by their professional organization.

One group of individuals who are at high risk of receiving prescription medications for diseases or illnesses they do not actually have are nursing home residents who suffer from dementia.2

Alzheimer’s disease Changes Cognition and Behavior

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive and irreversible neurological disorder that slowly destroys memory and cognitive functioning. Eventually, the individual is unable to carry out even some of the simplest tasks and cannot remember people in their lives who were once very important. Although estimates vary, many experts suggest that more than 5 million Americans may have Alzheimer’s disease3 and it is currently ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

Some of the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are memory problems.4 Early symptoms do not often interfere with everyday life, but as the disease progresses, symptoms continue with a decline in cognition and impaired reasoning or judgment. Ultimately, changes occur throughout the brain leading to difficulty communicating and a complete dependence on others.

In a study published in Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology,5 researchers concluded patients with Alzheimer’s disease experience emotions that persist well beyond their memory of what happened to cause the emotion. This has important implications in management and care, and may offer an explanation for behavioral changes that occur as the disease progresses.

Alzheimer’s disease can trigger sudden changes in mood or behavior6 for no apparent reason, and changes in personality, including extremely confused, suspicious or fearful behavior. These emotions lead to significant changes in behavior, during which individuals may become violent or attempt to flee their environment.

Chemical Restraints Increase Risk of Death

In an effort to control difficult behaviors common with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, it has not been uncommon for physicians to prescribe antipsychotic drugs to individuals in nursing home facilities, even when there is no diagnosis of schizophrenia or other serious mental illness for which these drugs are intended. In essence, the medications are being used as a chemical restraint.

In a 2018 study published by the Human Rights Watch,7 researchers found approximately 179,000 nursing home residents were being given antipsychotic drugs with the intent to control their behavior. Although the use of antipsychotic drugs has dropped by approximately 30 percent since 2012 when the government began a national partnership with nursing homes8 to reduce the use, a significant number of residents continue to receive prescription medications for which there is no medical cause.

Medicare and Medicaid Services have requested an additional 15 percent reduction by 2019, but Human Rights Watch contends this is not nearly enough.9 The study also strongly suggests informed consent procedures should be strengthened and nursing homes should have established minimum staffing levels in order to reduce the use of sedation to make it easier for the staff.

While the need to reduce risk of harm to an individual with dementia is real, the use of antipsychotic medications comes with a black box warning from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), stating:10 “Elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis treated with antipsychotic drugs are at an increased risk of death.”

The Alzheimer’s Association11 suggests drugs to control behavior needs to be minimized, and only be used when the patient is at risk of harming themselves or others. The dosage should also be tailored to the individual’s symptoms and circumstances, and the physician must account for the underlying medical cause of dementia, as this may influence the selection of any medications chosen.

For instance, it is inadvisable for individuals with dementia with Lewy bodies (abnormal proteins inside nerve cells of Parkinson’s patients) to take antipsychotic drugs.12

Older Americans Take Too Many Drugs

The study from the Human Rights Watch underscores the necessity for greater control over prescription medications in the elderly population. Nearly 25 percent of people ages 65 to 69 are taking at least five prescription medications each day to treat chronic health conditions.13 That figure increases to nearly 46 percent among those aged 70 to 79. While the overuse of painkillers has received national attention, the problem with multiple specialists and pharmacy use, and over prescription in the elderly, has not.

Adverse drug events occur in at least 15 percent of seniors, and in nearly half of those cases the problem may have been prevented with greater communication between physicians and pharmacies treating the same patient.14 Taking multiple prescriptions often result in side effects that may be misinterpreted as a new problem and thus trigger the prescription of yet another medication. This can be a gradual journey, occurring over several years.

Additional medications are often prescribed following hospitalization and many times are not communicated to the individuals’ primary care physician. The elderly are at risk of overmedication and suffering side effects that can be life-threatening. A study published in 2015 showed Americans of all ages who took at least five prescription drugs had nearly doubled between 2000 and 2012.15

Another study from the University of Michigan reported those older than 65 taking at least three psychiatric medications had doubled between 1995 and 2004.16

University of Michigan geriatric psychiatrist Dr. Donovan Maust commented on a phenomenon he calls “clinical inertia,” which he describes as a reluctance to change the status quo on patient medications or treatments that originated with another practitioner.17 For instance, when a physician inherits a new patient, the doctor often assumes drugs were prescribed for a good reason, even if that reason is not documented in the medical record.

Another study18 documented the overprescription of antidepressants in older adults, even in the absence of a major depressive disorder. In comparing emotional distress between two groups of older adults prescribed with antidepressants, the researchers found those who had better emotional health were prescribed antidepressants in the absence of major depressive disorder, suggesting further research is needed into the effectiveness of antidepressant medications in the elderly.

Opioid Epidemic Is a Powerful Example of Overprescription

The heroin and opioid epidemic is killing an ever-increasing number of Americans at an astonishing rate. In 2014, nearly 30,000 people died from opioids, known as narcotic prescription painkillers, and heroin.19 This number exceeded those who died from car accidents in the same year. Prescriptions for these medications has risen by 300 percent over the last 10 years, feeding a heroin epidemic when addicts are no longer allowed to refill prescriptions or surpass their tolerance for their prescription dosage.

In 2009, the American Geriatrics Society changed guidelines to recommend “that over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, be used rarely and that doctors instead consider prescribing opioids for all patients with moderate-to-severe pain.”20 Recommendations such as this are driving the rise in prescription medications, especially narcotic painkillers.

The focus of these recommendations is not reduction of pain in the elderly, but rather the experts’ financial ties to drug companies as paid speakers, consultants and advisers.21 According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), spending on opioids within the Medicare system has grown at a rate faster than spending on all drugs.22

The report clearly demonstrates Medicare recipients receive multiple prescriptions for opioids that are prescribed for reasons other than cancer pain or terminal illness (the traditional use of these strong medicines).23 Some states report prescription rates of over 40 percent in Medicare patients.24 Despite the number of opioids prescribed, there is no scientific evidence of long-term benefits from the use of these drugs.25

However, research does confirm the risk of addiction is high, and opioids have been identified as a gateway to heroin addiction when prescriptions are no longer available.26,27

Deprescribing Movement Slowly Gaining Momentum

Cardiologist Dr. Rita Redberg, professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, is working with other physicians trying to reverse the trend of overprescription using a grassroots movement they call “deprescribing.”28

This is a process of systematically discontinuing medications that either are duplicates of other medications the patient is already taking, or are unnecessary for care. The idea originally began in Canada and Australia, but is growing in the U.S., with the hope of reducing the number of drugs unnecessarily prescribed to seniors.

Dr. Ranit Mishori, professor of family medicine at Georgetown University, describes the challenges, saying:29 “That’s what we’re taught as physicians: to prescribe drugs. We are definitely not taught how to take people off meds.” While support is growing for reducing the number of medications seniors are taking, the difficulty lies in understanding how best to do this safely.

Supporters are also facing advertising campaigns that encourage consumers to request medications and a strong inclination for physicians to continue treatment protocols established by their colleagues.

Talk Openly With Your Family and Physician About Prescription Medications

It is vital to the protection of your health and the health of your family that you speak openly with your physician and health care providers. Make sure you understand the side effects of medications, the necessity of the medication and whether there is potential for addiction. Also, inform your physician of other medications you use, and use one pharmacy to fill your prescriptions so the pharmacist is able to track potential drug interactions and adverse effects you may experience.

Before accepting a prescribed medication, speak with your physician about potential changes to lifestyle choices that may reduce your need for medication and improve your health. Consider alternative pain treatments that don’t require medication and seek out a diet filled with organically grown, nongenetically modified whole foods. To help reduce your pain naturally and discover more about what you can do to prevent health problems, see my previous articles: