Shoshana Zuboff Meets Margrethe Vestager

In the video above, you can watch the first public conversation between social psychologist and Harvard professor Shoshana Zuboff and Margrethe Vestager, executive vice president of the European Union (EU) regarding the European way to shape the digital age.

In February 2020, the EU announced a new digital strategy — “Europe Fit for the Digital Age” — that’s intended to ensure technology serves the people and adds value to their lives.1

Privacy is a major concern in a digital era and, according to the EU, their “strategies for artificial intelligence (AI) and data aim to encourage businesses to work with, and develop, these new technologies, while at the same time making sure that they earn citizens’ trust.”2

With Vestager in charge of setting the strategic direction for this new initiative, a conversation with Zuboff is exciting. Her book, “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism,” is one of the best books I have read in the last few years. It’s an absolute must-read if you have any interest in this topic and want to understand how Google and Facebook have obtained such massive control of your life.

Her book reveals how the biggest tech companies in the world have hijacked our personal data — so-called “behavioral surplus data streams” — without our knowledge or consent and are using it against us to generate profits for themselves. She’s uniquely poised to help guide the EU and any nation looking out for personal privacy.

Why Privacy Matters Even if You ‘Have Nothing to Hide’

Mikkel Flyverbom, professor at Copenhagen Business School, who’s the moderator in the video above, asks an important question in that, when speaking about privacy, some people respond that certain forms of surveillance aren’t a big deal because they have nothing to hide.

It’s a mistake to give over your privacy to this thought process, though, and, as Zuboff explains, it is a sign that you’ve succumbed to a kind of authoritarian propaganda.

The propaganda is the notion that “if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear” from their sensors, their devices and their surveillance. But at the very foundation, losing your privacy means giving up your right to an inner life — a fundamental change to the society we live in. Zuboff says:

“If everything is transparent and there is no privacy we have fundamentally changed the kind of society that we live in — a society that cherishes privacy is a society that cherishes freedom and autonomy and democracy. What we see is that when we succumb to this idea of total transparency they take our faces, they take our bodies, they take our bloodstreams, they take whatever they want.

These are used for data sets. As we’ve seen in facial recognition, they take our faces; they put them into data sets. Ultimately, we’ve seen as in the case with Microsoft, their facial recognition training data set sold to military divisions, including military divisions in China.

… We need an inner life. We need sanctuary to be a democracy and we need societies that are structured by that respect for the individual if we are to have a free democratic society and a free world.”

Digital Strategy Differences Between the EU, US and China

China, led by the Chinese Communist Party, has been intentionally crafting their vision of a digital future since at least 2010 — something the U.S. and the EU have failed to do.

In China’s case, Zuboff notes, “Their vision is one specifically that is to advance their form of government, which is an authoritarian state. They advanced their form of government domestically and they create the technologies and the training systems and value systems to support those technologies, which they export.”

At least 36 countries are now using these authoritarian training systems and surveillance technologies. The U.S. and the EU will now have to work to advance a digital age that will also advance democratic government. If they don’t, Zuboff says, “Our century will not remain democratic.”

At present, we’re “walking naked” into the digital future, and when asked how much progress the EU has made, Vestager says, “Well, I’m afraid we only have a thong on. We still have so far to go.” The EU enacted the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018, which is designed to increase the protection of personal data and acts as a sort of digital citizen’s rights.

However, even with these rights in place, Vestager says, “we still need to go further to enforce them.” The COVID-19 pandemic offered a crash course of sorts in doing everything digital, which has shown the urgency in the need to ensure a safe digital future.

9/11 Terrorist Attacks Eroded Privacy Conversations

When asked whether European initiatives will be able to address privacy concerns, Zuboff states that steps are being made, even in the U.S., which has lagged behind but has recently had 29 key bills come out that are trying to tackle these important issues.

There are no laws in place to curtail this brand-new type of surveillance capitalism, and the only reason it has been able to flourish over the past 20 years is because there’s been an absence of laws against it, primarily because it has never previously existed. Surveillance has become the biggest for-profit industry on the planet, and your entire existence is now being targeted for profit.

But in order to really come to grips with the facts surrounding surveillance capitalism, Zuboff says, it’s necessary to understand how we got into this place to begin with:

“This goes back to a specific moment in history. This goes back to the day that the twin towers fell because in the United States on September 11th the conversation about the internet and the digital future changed dramatically. People were poised to be considering comprehensive federal privacy legislation on that day.

We see terrorist attacks and that conversation changed very, very quickly to one called Total Information Awareness, and this new obsession altered the way that Washington looked at these fledgling internet companies in Silicon Valley.

Google, right at the forefront, was already on record with the Federal Trade Commission as violating privacy rights with the cookies and the web bugs and the various early tracking procedures that they were implementing.

As a result of the so-called war on terror, Washington developed an unwritten doctrine that I’ve called surveillance exceptionalism — the idea that these budding tech companies would be allowed to develop their surveillance capabilities outside of democratic oversight, outside of constitutional constraints, and that ultimately these massive oceans of human-generated information that the tech companies would provide would be available to the state when they needed to avail themselves …

[This] allowed the state to pursue surveillance and allow the companies to develop and amplify, root and elaborate a complex economic logic called surveillance capitalism, which has now become the dominant economic logic.

So, what we have is for these last two decades our democracies chose to be surveillance societies instead of choosing to be democratic societies with the digital underneath that umbrella of democracy … and constrained by democratic constitutional constraints.”

Now, we’re at a point where the once fledgling startups have morphed into immense information empires, and control of our information and our privacy is in their hands.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear how valuable digital technologies are acting as a safety net to allow many activities to continue, but because governments haven’t dealt with fundamental issues to protect privacy and digital rights, these information empires continue to own and operate the internet and global means of communication.

These monopolies lead to uncontrolled power that, in turn, leads the people to be even more constrained and living in a society based increasingly on surveillance. “When a human is seen as a resource and not as a citizen,” Vestager said, “well then democracy is undermined.”

COVID-19 Triggered a Rapid Digital Transformation

It’s likely that, in 20 years, we’ll look back at the pandemic as another pivotal point in the digital age, as it triggered one of the most rapid digital transformations in history. One thing it’s made clear is the many nuances that are lost during digital communication, leading Vestager to point out that the point of technology is not to become full-scale but to be used only when it’s useful.

“Humans, in order to stay human, we need to come together, because we educate each other, we develop together and we need each other in order to do that,” she said. “So, my hope over the next 20 years is that we will keep technology in its place as a tool and that we will stay proud and vigilant.”

What we’re seeing now, however, is a society with no escape from surveillance capitalism. From getting medical test results to making dinner plans with friends or relaxing at home with your smart TV, you’re encountering various surveillance capitalism supply chains. Google has also infiltrated education with its Google classrooms, usage of which has skyrocketed during the pandemic.

About 80% of students globally are now doing some type of remote learning, and many of them are using Google classroom or other platforms that also have surveillance capabilities. The Attorney General of New Mexico filed a suit against Google for its educational tools in its classroom suite, helping to “break through the fog,” Zuboff says, but many aren’t aware that even their children are being tracked:

“[The suit is bringing to light how they’re] identifying the huge amounts of data that they’re taking about kids, how they track them across the internet and integrate it with all the other Google streams of information and have it as a foundation for tracking those children all the way through their adulthood.”

The Digital Silver Lining

The silver lining is that many are beginning to realize that this is intolerable and something that citizens of democratic societies shouldn’t have to face. As a result, Zuboff says she believes the pandemic will mark the time of democratic resurgence.

“This is going to operate like the Great Depression. The Great Depression was a terrible crisis but it brought forth a sense that, no more, we must create the institutions, the laws and the rights that will protect us from this ever happening again.”

As it stands, there’s an unacceptable concentration of power in a handful of companies that are controlling the information empire, and the global data they’ve amassed is not being used for the public good but, rather, to advance the financial interests of surveillance capitalists and their clients.

By interrupting this “rogue economic logic,” Zuboff explains, the data can be freed for public uses, for those who want to use it to solve problems for the public good, while at the same time building trust and confidence toward a different, better kind of digital future. To get to this point, we need epistemic rights. Zuboff says:

“Part of the big picture is we need to be working on the charters of rights that are necessary in this historical moment — rights that never came under fire before but are now under attack. I call these to begin with epistemic rights.

[They are] the rights to know who gets to know about my life, who decides who gets to know, who decides who decides who gets to know. These issues of knowledge, authority and power need to be translated into rights as we begin to identify these rights.

We have the tools to truly interrupt and outlaw surveillance capitalism, because taking my face is an act of theft and it should be a criminal act. If I’m going to give my face for an enterprise that’s collecting data maybe for this treatment, maybe for improving some other aspect of public health, then this is my choice …

I do it transparently, and I do it understanding what my data will be used for, how it will be used, how it will be shared and so on and so forth. So, from these rights we can develop the tools the laws and the institutions that we need to fundamentally change.”

Who Is Getting Rich Off Coronavirus Pandemic?

In May 2020, the U.S. unemployment rate was 13.3%,1 which means 21 million Americans were unemployed. Not surprisingly, financial stress is a major concern, with 88% of Americans surveyed by the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) saying that the COVID-19 pandemic is creating stress for their personal financial situation.2

Fifty-four percent were particularly worried about having enough money saved for emergency savings or retirement, while another 48% were worried about paying bills.

A report by the Well Being Trust (WBT) and the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care that up to 75,000 people may die during the COVID-19 pandemic from drug or alcohol misuse and suicide, which they deemed “deaths of despair” caused, in part, by unprecedented economic failure paired with massive unemployment.3

This experience of scarcity and financial uncertainty is not being felt by all, however. In stark contrast, many of the richest among us — particularly health care and biotech billionaires — have gotten even richer due to COVID-19, profiting handsomely off the pandemic that’s left the general public financially reeling.

Pandemic Propels Moderna CEO to the Billionaire’s Club

Forbes compiled a list of 10 health care billionaires who collectively raked in more than $7 billion since March 11, 2020 — the day the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.4 Topping the list is Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna, the biotech firm that’s seen as the frontrunner for developing a COVID-19 vaccine. According to Forbes:5

“When the WHO declared a pandemic, Bancel’s estimated net worth was some $720 million. Since then, Moderna’s stock has rallied more than 103%, lifting his fortune to an estimated $1.5 billion. A French citizen, Bancel first joined the billionaire ranks on April 2, when Moderna’s stock rose on the news that the firm was planning to begin phase two trials of its vaccine.”

Moderna partnered with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) headed by Dr. Anthony Fauci to create the vaccine. In February 2020, its stock price increased 78.1% when it announced that its messenger RNA vaccine was ready for clinical trials.6 “The company’s CEO has become a new billionaire overnight,” wrote Barbara Loe Fisher, co-founder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC).7

Moderna began human trials of its experimental mRNA vaccine in March 2020, and its stock soared again in May, hitting $29 billion, even though the company currently doesn’t sell any products,8 when it released early results from its Phase 1 study of 45 healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 55 — the first released from a study involving human volunteers.

Moderna’s press release9 stated that 25 participants who received two doses of its low or medium dose vaccine had levels of binding antibodies — the type that are used by the immune system to fight the virus but do not prevent viral infections — at levels approximating or exceeding those found in the blood of patients who recovered from COVID-19.10

Data for the more significant neutralizing antibodies, which stop viruses from entering cells, was reported for only eight people, with Moderna stating that levels in each of these initial participants met or exceeded antibody levels seen in recovered COVID-19 patients.

Four study subjects experienced a “Grade 3” adverse event, which is described by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as “severe or medically significant but not immediately life-threatening; hospitalization or prolongation of hospitalization indicated; limiting self-care” such as “bathing, dressing and undressing, feeding self, using the toilet, taking medications.”11

During Phase 2 trials, 600 people will receive the vaccine, while a Phase 3 trial is expected to start in July 2020 — an unprecedented move in terms of typical vaccine development timelines. Bancel owns a 9% stake in the company, which received a grant of up to $483 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to accelerate its COVID-19 vaccine development.12

Nine More COVID-19 Billionaires

Making up the rest of Forbes’ list is a mix of entrepreneurs, biotech executives and diagnostic test makers, which come from seven different countries:13

1. Gustavo Denegri — With a net worth of $4.5 billion, which is up 32% since the beginning of the pandemic, Denegri has a 45% stake in DiaSorin, a biotech company based in Italy. DiaSorin makes swab-based diagnostic tests for COVID-19 as well as antibody blood testing kits for the virus.

2. Seo Jung-Jin — Jung-Jin co-founded Celltrion, a biopharma company in Seoul. Jung-Jin’s net worth is $8.4 billion, up 22% thanks to the company’s experimental antiviral treatment for COVID-19, along with a self-administered diagnostic test that gives results in 15 minutes, which is expected to come to the market this summer.

3. Alain Mérieux — Mérieux’s $7.6 billion net worth is tied to BioMérieux, the diagnostic testing company he founded in 1963. It’s a branch of Institut Mérieux, a medical company founded by his grandfather in 1897. BioMérieux developed a faster version of a COVID-19 diagnostic test kit that was released in March 2020.

4. Maja Oeri — Oeri is a descendent of Fritz Hoffmann-La Roche, the founder of pharmaceutical giant Roche. She owns about 5% of Roche’s shares, with a net worth of $3.2 billion; Roche has clinical trials ongoing for its arthritis drug tocilizumab, which it is hoping to transition to a COVID-19 treatment, as well as a serology test to detect antibodies in people who have had COVID-19.

5. Leonard Schleifer — His net worth is $2.2 billion, a rise of 11% due to the pandemic. He founded Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, which is conducting clinical trials of its rheumatoid arthritis drug sarilumab on COVID-19 patients.

6. George Yancopoulos — Yancopoulos is Regeneron’s chief scientific officer; his net worth is $1.2 billion (up 14% since the beginning of the pandemic).

7. and 8. Thomas and Andreas Struengmann — The Struengmann twins have a net worth of $6.9 billion. They first made their fortune by selling generic drug company Hexal to Novartis in 2005, and they invest in biotech and health care companies. One of their investments is BioNTech, which partnered with Pfizer and Fosun Pharmaceuticals on a COVID-19 vaccine that’s currently in human trials.

9. Li Xiting — Xiting cofounded Mindray Medical International, China’s largest medical equipment producer. It tripled its production capacity of ventilators since the start of the pandemic. Xiting’s net worth is $12.6 billion, which is up 1% due to COVID-19.

US Billionaires $584 Billion Richer Thanks to COVID-19

The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), in partnership with Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF), published a report highlighting what they call America’s “pre-existing condition”: extreme wealth inequality.14 IPS is regularly updating U.S. unemployment and billionaire wealth during the pandemic, which shows the great divide among the wealthy and the majority of Americans.

As of June 18, 2020, U.S. billionaire wealth increased $584 billion, or 20%, since the start of the pandemic.15 Meanwhile, since March 18, the number of U.S. billionaires increased from 614 to 643; during the same period, more than 45.5 million Americans filed for unemployment. Other striking inequalities revealed by the report include:16

  • Jeff Bezos’s fortune increased by $25 billion from January 1, 2020, to April 15, 2020; the wealth surge alone is greater than Honduras’ Gross Domestic Product, which was $23.9 billion in 2018
  • From January 1, 2020 to April 10, 2020, the wealth of 34 of the richest U.S. billionaires increased tens of millions of dollars; eight of them had their net worth rise by more than $1 billion
  • From March 18 to April 10, 2020, U.S. billionaire wealth surged by nearly 10%, rising $282 billion; during the same period, more than 22 million Americans lost their jobs
  • U.S. billionaire wealth increased 1,130% from 1990 to 2020; U.S. median wealth grew by 5.37% during the same period
  • The tax obligations of U.S. billionaires decreased 79% between 1980 and 2018, when measured as a percentage of wealth

As noted by, IPS’ sister site:

“The top five billionaires — Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett and Larry Ellison — saw their wealth grow by a total of $101.7 billion, or 26%. They captured 17.4% of the total wealth growth of all 600-plus billionaires in the last three months. The fortunes of Bezos and Zuckerberg together grew by nearly $76 billion, or 13% of the $584 billion total.

‘This orgy of wealth shows how fundamentally flawed our economic system is,’ said Frank Clemente, ATF’s executive director. ‘In three months about 600 billionaires increased their wealth by far more than the nation’s governors say their states need in fiscal assistance to keep delivering services to 330 million residents.

Their wealth increased twice as much as the federal government paid out in one-time checks to more than 150 million Americans. If this pandemic reveals anything, it’s how unequal our society has become and how drastically it must change.”17

‘One of the Greatest Wealth Transfers of History’

CNBC’s Jim Cramer, host of CNBC’s Mad Money and a former hedge fund manager, said the pandemic and resulting lockdown paved the way for “one of the greatest wealth transfers in history.”18 While many experts are predicting a V-shaped recovery for the stock market, which has been quickly rebounding, “that has almost nothing to do with a V-shaped recovery in the economy,” Cramer said.

While most big businesses are coming out of the state-ordered lockdowns largely unscathed, many small businesses have closed their doors. Already, Chapter 11 bankruptcies are up 48% compared to 2019, and the worst may be yet to come. Even as businesses are increasingly allowed to open for business, lower occupancy limits will continue financial hardships, despite relief funds provided by the government.

“… [I]n the end, the stimulus package probably won’t be enough, for one simple reason,” Cramer said. “It’s not going to work because of social distancing.”19 Meanwhile, big business will continue to thrive. “The bigger the business, the more it moves the major averages, and that matters because this is the first recession where big business … is coming through virtually unscathed, if not going for the gold.”20

The transfer of wealth from average people to the richest through a planned economic collapse is ongoing, and something that’s slated to get even more severe if a COVID-19 vaccine is released. In an article positing the question, “Is It Too Late to Buy Moderna Stock?” The Motley Fool suggested:21

“Let’s assume that Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine proves to be successful and wins regulatory approvals in the U.S. and other major markets. If the company was able to price its coronavirus vaccine similarly to flu vaccines currently on the market, its list price would probably be in the ballpark of at least $40.

If we also assume at least 2 billion doses of the vaccine would be given per year, Moderna could be looking at annual revenue of $80 billion.”

The End of Fluoridation Is in Sight

Water fluoridation is one of the biggest public health failures of the 20th century. Despite solid scientific evidence of harm, politics and public relations have kept the practice alive.

Proponents, including the American Dental Association (ADA) and the Oral Health Division of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), have spent millions of dollars on promotion and public relations to sell fluoridation using half-truths, convincing talking points, and diversions. 

But fluoridation is also one of the most widely rejected health interventions on Earth, with 95% of the world’s population consuming water from systems that are not fluoridated. 

For the past decade, the trend has moved in the direction of communities ending the practice, not starting it. And now, due to an abundance of new research, a landmark lawsuit and the sustained advocacy and education efforts of the Fluoride Action Network and its supporters like you, the practice could be on the brink of extinction.

The Evidence of Harm Is Too Great To Be Ignored

All tissues are important, but the most important organ to protect during fetal and infant development is the brain. Damage occurring to this organ during these early stages of life is permanent and cannot be undone later in life. 

The evidence of neurotoxic harm from water fluoridation has been mounting at an unprecedented rate in recent years, and has quickly become the most urgent reason to end the practice as soon as possible. A cavity can easily be filled, but damage to a child’s brain is permanent.

A large body of government-funded research now indicates that fluoride is neurotoxic and is associated with lowered IQ in children and a significant increase in ADHD diagnosis and related behaviors in children at doses experienced in fluoridated communities. Experts in the field have likened the size of the effect to that from lead.

This includes over 200 animal studies showing that prolonged exposure to varying levels of fluoride can damage the brain, 65 human studies linking moderately high fluoride exposures with reduced intelligence, three human studies linking fluoride exposure with impaired fetal brain development, and seven Mother-Offspring studies linking fluoride exposure during pregnancy to reduced IQ in offspring. 

Over the past year, we’ve also seen unprecedented new science from Canada and the USA showing fluoride harms the developing brain from exposures due primarily to artificial water fluoridation at the “optimal level.” Several of these high-quality studies were funded by the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (formerly the National Institutes of Health).

Strongest Studies Published Over the Past Year

Seven studies published in 2019 and 2020 are among the strongest yet, and are obviously relevant to water fluoridation as they were conducted in communities with what the ADA considers the “optimal level” of fluoride in drinking water. These include:

  1. Green 2019 published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s journal on Pediatrics. It reported substantial IQ loss in Canadian children from prenatal exposure to fluoride from water fluoridation.
  2. Riddell 2019 published in Environment International. It found a shocking 284% increase in the prevalence of ADHD among children in fluoridated communities in Canada compared to nonfluoridated ones.
  3. Till 2020 published in Environment International. It reported that children who were bottle-fed in Canadian fluoridated communities lost up to 9 IQ points compared to those in nonfluoridated communities.
  4. Uyghurturk 2020 published in Environmental Health. It found that pregnant women in fluoridated communities in California had significantly higher levels of fluoride in their urine than those in nonfluoridated communities. The levels found in their urine were the same as those found to lower the IQ of the fetus in Green et al, 2019 and Bashash et al, 2017.
  5. Malin 2019 published in Environmental Health. It linked a doubling of symptoms indicative of sleep apnea in adolescents in the U.S. to levels of fluoride in the drinking water. The link between fluoride and sleep disturbances may be through fluoride’s effect on the pineal gland.
  6. Malin 2019 published in Environment International. It reported that exposure to fluoridated water led to a reduction in kidney and liver function among adolescents in the U.S., and suggested those with poorer kidney or liver function may absorb more fluoride bodies. The CDC funded this study.

The claims made by proponents of fluoridation that there is only “one or two studies” finding harm, or that they are only from areas with naturally high fluoride levels, are no longer relevant. The scientific evidence can now be considered overwhelming and undeniable. In fact, the level of evidence that fluoride is neurotoxic now far exceeds the evidence that was in place when lead was banned from gasoline.

A recent review by Danish scientist, Harvard professor and neurotoxicity expert Philippe Grandjean, MD, DMSc, also concluded that:

“… there is little doubt that developmental neurotoxicity is a serious risk associated with elevated fluoride exposure, whether due to community water fluoridation, natural fluoride release from soil minerals, or tea consumption, especially when the exposure occurs during early development.”

It should come as no surprise then, that a draft systematic review published in 2020 by the National Toxicology Program of human studies of fluoride’s neurotoxicity concluded that fluoride was a “presumed” neurotoxin based on the large number, quality and consistency of brain studies. 

The review identified 149 human studies and 339 animal studies, but did not include the three most recent neurotoxicity-related studies from the York University group (Till 2019; Riddell 2019), or the study showing that women in the U.S. had levels of fluoride in urine high enough to cause damage to the brain of the fetus (Uyghurturk 2020).

While the draft NTP review is equivocal about effects at low exposures, these newest high-quality mother-child studies support a conclusion that artificially fluoridated water causes substantial IQ reductions. This fact was recently echoed in a letter published in Pediatric Research by the co-authors of the JAMA Pediatrics fluoride/IQ study, which said:

“Over the past 75 years, health authorities have declared that community water fluoridation-a practice that reaches over 400 million worldwide-is safe. Yet, studies conducted in North America examining the safety of fluoride exposure in pregnancy were nonexistent.

When a Canadian study reported that higher fluoride exposure in pregnant women was associated with lower IQ scores in young children, critics attacked the methodology of the study and discounted the significance of the results.

Health authorities continued to conclude that fluoride is unequivocally safe, despite four well-conducted studies over the last 3 years consistently linking fluoride exposure in pregnancy with adverse neurodevelopmental effects in offspring …

The tendency to ignore new evidence that does not conform to widespread beliefs impedes the response to early warnings about fluoride as a potential developmental neurotoxin. Evolving evidence should inspire scientists and health authorities to re-evaluate claims about the safety of fluoride, especially for the fetus and infant for whom there is no benefit.”

FAN Leads the Fight Against Neurotoxins

Since 2000, the Fluoride Action Network (FAN) has been committed to reducing exposure to fluoride, and even with all of the science firmly on our side, we couldn’t wait for legislators and public health officials to cast aside their entrenched dogma in favor of fluoridation and catch up on the science. Instead, we initiated the legal process to end the practice that today affects more than 200 million Americans.

A little-known provision of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) gave us our opportunity. It offers citizens a way to circumvent the corruption and force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to prohibit or limit the use of toxic substances. 

Watchdog groups no longer have to convince the EPA of unreasonable risk; they can now have an objective judge decide based on an independent review of the evidence.

We are also laying the foundation for future TSCA challenges by citizens and environmental groups. For example, because of Judge Edward Chen’s ruling to deny the EPA’s motion to dismiss our case, TSCA law will now be interpreted to allow the EPA to be petitioned to regulate single uses of substances, rather all uses, which was the EPA’s position. This change will make it easier for activists to force the EPA to review the risks of specific chemicals used commercially.

While it has been four years since this effort began in November of 2016 — when the Fluoride Action Network, together with a coalition of nonprofits and individual citizens, presented a petition to the EPA to end the deliberate addition of fluoridation chemicals to the public’s drinking water — it has actually taken 20 years of effort by FAN to bring us to this point.

It took the development of our extensive website in the early days. It took the creation of our comprehensive health database (larger than any government had put together on fluoride’s toxicity).

It took countless submissions to government agencies and the translation of many Chinese neurotoxicity studies and much more. And, after much delay due to government shut downs and Covid-19, our day in court finally arrived.

Trial of the Century

The trial began with an opening statement from the attorney for the plaintiffs, Michael Connett. He made the succinct but powerful case that fluoride presents a hazard (threat to the brain); that this hazard is a risk at the doses experienced in fluoridated communities; and that it is an unreasonable risk.

The EPA, represented by lawyers from the Department of Defense, argued that establishing fluoride as a neurotoxic hazard requires a systematic review, which they claimed FAN’s experts didn’t perform.

They also argued that the evidence showing harm from fluoride at the levels found in communities that practice fluoridation wasn’t strong enough to yield action from the EPA. Both of these claims would be disproven by FAN’s experts and attorney during the trial.

This was followed by three days of testimony from FAN’s expert witnesses, all independent and leading scientists whose world-class expertise includes fluoride, neurotoxicity and risk assessments, and whose expertise the EPA has relied on in the past on other toxicants like lead and mercury. The witnesses included (click on links to see their declarations and resumes):

Their testimony was followed by the EPA’s witnesses, two of which were experts-for-hire from the corporate consulting firm Exponent, and one was a risk assessment expert from the EPA.

It was revealed that the EPA paid Exponent approximately $350,000 for their testimony, which was focused primarily on claiming that there was insufficient evidence of harm — something they’re known for doing in every trial, no matter who they’re representing or how strong the science is.

One of their witnesses, Dr. Ellen Chang, has a long history of defending and producing systematic reviews for corporate polluters, including for DOW Chemical’s Agent Orange, Monsanto’s glyphosate, 3M’s PFOAs, and pesticides from Syngenta and Croplife. She also worked for the American Chemistry Council, American Petroleum Institute, and the Manganese Interest Group.

Several paragraphs here couldn’t possibly do the in-depth proceedings of the trial justice, or highlight all of the shocking and incredible statements that were made. I would urge you to read our detailed summaries for each of the trial days. 

I would also urge you to visit our TSCA trial overview page, where you can find the basic facts, a timeline of all actions and rulings, links to all of the submissions made by FAN, links to all of the media coverage, and links to the studies we relied upon to make our case. You can also visit our Twitter page, where we provided live tweet coverage of days 3 through 7.

The Judge’s Reaction

After seven days of trial and closing statements from both parties, the judge held off on making a final ruling, but he did make it fairly obvious that he was convinced that FAN fluoride was a neurotoxin and likely posed an unreasonable risk. He said that the EPA had failed to properly assess that risk, and illegitimately turned down FAN’s 2016 petition for TSCA action.

The judge urged the parties to spend the next few weeks discussing the possibility of an amended TSCA petition and assessment by the EPA, or start a new petition and have the EPA conduct a proper review, and leave his final ruling until that is complete. Both parties expressed doubt that such an arrangement would be fruitful, but ultimately agreed to move forward with it and update the court on their progress in the beginning of August. 

We Expect the EPA Could Continue to Delay

We don’t expect the overzealous proponents of the fluoridation, including the EPA, CDC and ADA, to roll over without using every avenue possible to save their credibility by protecting fluoridation. They’ve already proven time and again, they have deep pockets and no shame.

Proponents don’t seem to realize that continued promotion will cause an ever-increasing loss of the public’s trust in the agencies that are meant to protect them. Continuing this practice in the absence of sound science — and investing millions of dollars in PR to cover up that fact — will further erode the public’s trust in public health programs.

Right now, the only thing being protected is a failed policy and the reputation of those who refuse to accept that this program has been a massive failure both ethically and scientifically.

Before the trial the EPA had already intimated that they could appeal a ruling in our favor, and that even if we win the appeal the rulemaking process to end fluoridation’s neurotoxic harm could take up to three years. This would mean tens of thousands more children permanently harmed by fluoridation.

This is why, regardless of the ultimate verdict, FAN will continue to need your support. We have forged this precedent-setting path together. Your support, contributions and sharing of our cause and legal case have played a critical role in making this happen, and we thank you. Whether we win or lose this trial, our important education efforts will have to continue.

Please consider investing in an end to fluoridation by making a tax-deductible donation to our work.

Also, please consider signing-up to receive FAN’s email bulletins and following us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. We will keep you informed about the latest fluoride research and news, plus give you opportunities help influence fluoride policy in your area and throughout the world.

New Tools and Resources to Educate Leaders About Neurotoxicity

While FAN is taking the lead in court at the federal and state level, and helping campaigners at the local level to educate decision-makers and public health officials, we need your help to spread this educational campaign to every community, including yours. To make the task easier, we have created a number of new educational materials.

First, is our handout on neurotoxicity. We have both a color version along with a black and white version for cheaper bulk printing, as well as a list of the references for this handout that you can combine to make a nice double-sided handout if you so choose. You can also check out our other handouts here.

Second, FAN’s Research Director, Chris Neurath, filmed a Zoom webinar in which he presented detailed evidence that fluoride is a developmental neurotoxin.

He described the rapidly accumulating peer-reviewed science showing that fluoride lowers the IQ of children and increases their risk of neurobehavioral problems like ADHD. He put those studies into perspective in ways we can all understand.

This video a powerful tool for campaigners and parents looking to learn the science and to share it with decision-makers. Neurath’s presentation is about 50 minutes and includes a 30-minute question and answer session that took place at the end. Click here to access the PowerPoint slides used in this presentation.

Help educate your state-level decision makers about the neurotoxic harm caused by water fluoridation. Use our simple automated email system to send Neurath’s presentation to your state legislators and urge them to introduce a bill next session to end the practice throughout your state: Educate Your Legislators NOW.

FAN has also produced a new video series entitled, “Four Game-Changing Studies,” explaining the science behind fluoridation’s neurotoxicity in four short videos featuring Paul Connett, Ph.D. The shorter format makes the content easier to share on social media and easier for local authorities to digest incrementally.

Weekly Health Quiz: Viral Shedding and Exercise

1 Which of the following is a major risk factor for vitamin D deficiency and severe COVID-19?

  • High melanin density (darker skin)

    Darker skin requires far more sun exposure to produce adequate vitamin D, so much so that dark-skinned individuals living north of the equator are virtually guaranteed to be chronically deficient, which also increases their risk of severe COVID-19 illness and death. Learn more.

  • Low melanin density (lighter skin)
  • Low body weight
  • Being under the age of 20

2 What percentage of the general population that has not been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 is still believed to be immune to the virus?

  • 70-90%
  • 40-60%

    Between 40% and 60% of people who have not been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 still have resistance to the virus on the T-cell level. Learn more.

  • 20-30%
  • 0-10%

3 Which of the following nasal irrigation mixtures can help reduce the duration of the common cold and reduce transmission within the household by reducing viral shedding?

  • Cold water only
  • Warm sugar water
  • Lukewarm water with table salt

    Nasal irrigation with hypertonic saline has been shown to reduce the duration of the common cold by 1.9 days and reduce transmission within the household by 35% by reducing viral shedding when done within 48 hours of symptom onset. Learn more.

  • Hot water with rubbing alcohol

4 Low levels of these two compounds may increase the risk of depression among children and adolescents:

  • Sugar and fructose
  • Fluoride and aluminum
  • Vegetable oil and trans fats
  • Vitamin B12 and vitamin D

    Further, among the depression group vitamin B12 and vitamin D levels were “clearly low.” Learn more.

5 An exercise session lasting just eight to 12 minutes leads to changes in biological processes related to:

  • Energy metabolism, oxidative stress and inflammation

    In other words, in what is the most comprehensive study to date of the molecular changes that occur in your body due to exercise, providing an unprecedented glimpse into the details of the body’s physiological response, it’s demonstrated that “an orchestrated choreography of biological processes” occur, including those relating to energy metabolism, oxidative stress and inflammation. Learn more.

  • Heavy metal detoxification
  • Vitamin D production
  • Nutrient intake

6 Which of the following supplements are given to National Health Service workers in the U.K. to help boost and regulate their immune function, thus lowering their risk of COVID-19?

  • Vitamin K, calcium and magnesium
  • Vitamins C, D and zinc

    The British Frontline Immune Support Team is providing U.K. National Health Service workers with free liposomal vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc to bolster their immune function and lower their risk of COVID-19. Learn more.

  • Curcumin, vitamin K2 and zinc
  • Resveratrol and glutathione

7 Which of the following is the primary driver of macular degeneration and many other chronic diseases?

  • Fluoridated water
  • EMFs
  • Industrially processed omega-6 vegetable oils

    There’s compelling evidence that macular degeneration is not caused by aging or genetics but by processed foods. The four toxic ingredients in processed foods that cause mitochondrial dysfunction and chronic disease are refined wheat flour, refined added sugars, polyunsaturated vegetable oils and trans fats. Learn more.

  • Glyphosate

Eucalyptus Oil May Reduce Inflammatory Reactions in Lungs

Eucalyptus is a genus of plants that contains more than 900 species.1 The plants are native to Australia and come in a number of sizes, from shrubs to tall trees. They’re known for growing rapidly: One of the largest is the giant gum tree that can grow to up to 300 feet.

A distinctive feature of eucalyptus is its bark, which the tree sheds as it grows. Some will shed much of their bark while others are completely covered with it. Although they grow tall, some thrive in containers. They can also be planted annually.2 Each part of the eucalyptus plant can produce essential oils, but it’s the leaves that are the richest source.

Better Homes and Gardens writes that on extremely hot days, a stand of trees may appear as if a fog is hanging over them. This is caused by the oil vaporizing in the heat. The eucalyptus offers diverse medical benefits, almost as wide and divergent as the varieties.

Eucalyptus Oil Reduces Inflammation in Lung Tissue

Your mom knew best when she rubbed eucalyptus oil on your chest when you had a cold or cough. This is because researchers have found that the essential oils have antiviral activity and may reduce inflammation in the lungs.3 Eucalyptus contains 1,8-cineol, also known as eucalyptol, which is the major monoterpene responsible for suppressing cytokine production in human monocytes.4

The authors of one study looked at the anti-inflammatory effect of 1,8-cineol in comparison to prednisolone that was equal in potency. They tested it on 32 patients who had severe asthma, using a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. The researchers found that 75% of those receiving cineol from eucalyptus versus 25% who got a placebo were able to reduce their oral steroids.

When measured against pulmonary inflammation in an animal model, other researchers found that eucalyptol could reduce the number of inflammatory cells and decrease protein content in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid, providing “evidence … [for] its potential for the treatment of acute lung injury.”5

Still other investigators found that eucalyptus oil could attenuate induced lung injury and inhibit pro-inflammatory cytokine production, offering evidence that it may have potential as a drug treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.6

Clinical evidence supports these theories; however, the mechanism of action and the bioactive compounds that are responsible have not been well studied. This prompted one team to look into the primary component of the oil, 1,8-cineol, in a lab study.7

They found that the anti-inflammatory activity is due to down-regulating pattern recognition receptors, which play an important role in systemic infections.8

Each of these actions are important in supporting the body’s efforts in fighting viral infections. A second benefit may be the plant’s ability to suppress inflammatory cytokine production in an infection where hyperactive immune responses and cytokine storms trigger lung and organ damage that may lead to death.

Eucalyptus Reduces Inflammation and Pain

The effects of eucalyptus oil on inflammation and pain have also been of interest to the medical community. One group analyzed the physiological and psychological parameters of 32 individuals. They found that a combination of peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil and ethanol could induce muscle and mental relaxation, but it did not influence pain sensitivity.9

Researchers have had different results depending on the genus of eucalyptus used. In Brazilian folk medicine, a variety are included in treatment for conditions such as bronchial infections, colds, flu and fever. In one study, a team of researchers used an animal model to look at the anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of three species.10

Eucalyptus induced both effects, suggesting that the essential oil exerted central and peripheral reductions in pain. This supports further investigation for the possible development of pain medications derived from eucalyptus essential oils.

Eucalyptus oil has also been evaluated in the treatment of pain after a total knee replacement.11 A group of individuals were given either eucalyptus inhalation treatments or almond oil inhalation treatments. Researchers measured blood pressure, heart rate and pain ratings before and after the inhalation therapy. On all three days the ones who inhaled eucalyptus reported less pain.

Additionally, on the second day, the intervention group — the ones receiving eucalyptus — had significantly lower blood pressure. Researchers noted that this suggested that aromatherapy involving eucalyptus may be an effective intervention for pain relief after a total knee replacement.

More Benefits to Eucalyptus Essential Oil

The essential oil from the eucalyptus tree is produced from dry leaves. In past decades, diluted oil has been used for a number of reasons, including addressing inflammatory conditions such as bronchitis and respiratory infections.12 Traditional Aboriginal medicine involved the use of eucalyptus to heal wounds and fungal infections.

In one study, researchers evaluated the effects of eight eucalyptus species found in Tunisia. They were interested in its antimicrobial properties for treating bacterial isolates such as, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Staphylococcus aureus, Hemophilus influenza and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.13

Eucalyptus odorata had the strongest activity against Staphylococcus aureus, Hemophilus influenzae and streptococcus pneumoniae. It also had the most cytotoxic effect. However, the eucalyptus variety with the best antiviral activity was eucalyptus bicostata.

It’s important to know that eucalyptus essential oil may be used topically or in a vaporizer, but it should not be ingested. Some mouthwashes contain eucalyptus with other essential oil to help reduce the buildup of plaque and to treat gingivitis. Its antiseptic properties help kill oral bacteria that lead to the buildup of plaque.

The oils have also demonstrated positive effects against headaches and neuralgia, as well as in the treatment of skin conditions such as herpes, lice and insect bites.14 In general, eucalyptus essential oil is safe to use, but you must follow specific precautions.

Do a patch test to be sure you don’t have an allergic reaction. The oil should never be given to children under age 2 or used as a chest rub or on the nose of a baby.15 Women who are pregnant and breastfeeding should avoid eucalyptus because there’s not enough evidence regarding its safety in that population.

Weakened Immune System Raises Your Risk of Viral Infections

When you spend more time indoors, being inactive and munching on foods that don’t support your immune system, you may experience an increase in your risk of infections and chronic disease. This can happen even if you don’t have a primary immune deficiency.

Primary immune deficiency disorders allow infection to happen more frequently and more easily.16 Some forms are mild and may be undiagnosed for years. People who have a weaker immune system, whether from a primary condition or as a result of lifestyle choices, will have more difficulty clearing infections.

Those who have chronic diseases such as diabetes, liver or kidney disease, as well as those who’ve undergone organ transplants and those receiving chemotherapy or radiation treatments, also have weakened immune systems that can lead to longer illnesses and hospitalizations.17 Your food choices and eating patterns have a significant impact on your ability to withstand infection, however.18

There are a few things you might unknowingly be doing that impact your body’s defenses. These include sitting for long periods of time, which has been linked to diabetes, heart disease and early death.19

However, just as inactivity is a problem, overtraining or getting too much exercise without enough recovery, can also impact your immune system. A lack of stress management, excessive alcohol use and sleep deprivation are additional factors that impact your body’s ability to fight infections.

Take Care to Support Optimal Health

I’ve been writing for many years about the strategies you can use to help support your immune system. You’ll find a list of specific ways to do so on my Coronavirus Resource Page.

Simple things like frequently washing your hands using the proper technique help reduce the spread of any infection and reduce your exposure to bacteria, viruses and fungi. Researchers have found that individuals with high blood pressure and diabetes have a higher risk of severe disease, so it is essential to look into these and take steps to gain control over them in your overall health management.

Many comorbidities are the result of metabolic dysfunction. This means that when you address insulin resistance, you will likely have a positive impact over many other chronic conditions.

During all times of the year, it’s necessary to get plenty of sleep to support your gut microbiota and brain health. You also need to get enough daily exercise because it has a positive effect on the immune system, helps promote better sleep and improves mood.

Another vital strategy in protecting yourself from COVID-19 and other infectious diseases is to raise your vitamin D levels to between 60 ng/mL and 80 ng/mL. On May 11, 2020, released a video featuring Dr. JoAnn E. Manson from Harvard Medical School, in which she discussed the protective role that vitamin D has against COVID-19.20

She is not alone in her recommendations for attaining and maintaining adequate levels of the vitamin, as researchers suggest it plays an important role in the risk of getting the infection as well as the severity of an illness.

In my article, “Are Stay-at-Home Orders Decimating Vitamin D Levels?” you’ll find further evidence relating to the higher mortality rates researchers are finding in those who have a vitamin D deficiency. For an in-depth discussion of the impact that vitamin D levels have on risk and how to optimize those levels, see “Your Vitamin D Level Must Reach 60ng/mL Before the Second Wave.”

Flavorful Fermented Foods Have Healing Properties

Scientists have learned that the variety of microbes that live in your gut are as unique to you as your fingerprint. This population of microbial flora can be rapidly altered after exposure to foods, toxins, antibiotics and even lifestyle choices. Each microbe performs a function and must be balanced for you to maintain optimal health.

Potentially harmful microbes are only dangerous when they overwhelm beneficial ones. Essentially, this means living in a sterile environment is not ideal since the loss of your gut microbiome and the microbes living on your skin will adversely affect your health; this happens when we use antibacterial soaps and antibiotics.

Researchers understand that diseases are likely influenced by what happens in the gut microbiome. Some of the conditions identified thus far are cancer, autoimmune disorders, autism, cardiovascular disease and obesity.1,2,3 Your gut microbiome can also influence the effectiveness of certain drugs, including those prescribed for mental health.

Since your gut can undergo rapid change based on your actions, you have the ability to positively or negatively affect its health and diversity by making simple alterations to the food you eat.

Fermentation Creates Health-Promoting Components

Historically, the primary reason for fermenting was to preserve food. Over time, many cultures incorporated fermented foods into their daily diets and some were credited with a selection of foods they shared with the world. For example, Japanese natto, Korean kimchi and German sauerkraut are popular in many areas outside their respective places of origin.4

The process of fermenting food is controlled by the microorganisms involved and the type of food. Yeast produces alcohol and carbon dioxide, while lactic acid bacterium produces more lactic acid. Most fermented foods from the grocery don’t contain live cultures, which are a primary benefit of the food. Instead, before packaging, they may be smoked, baked, pasteurized or filtered.

There is a growing consensus that the fermentation process adds nutritional benefits by transforming the food and forming bioavailable end products, including an increasing density of vitamins. Some of the plant toxins may also be removed.

During the process, biologically active peptides are formed. In one paper published in Clinical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, the authors listed some of those peptides and their multiple health benefits:5

“Among these peptides, conjugated linoleic acids (CLA) have a blood pressure lowering effect, exopolysaccharides exhibit prebiotic properties, bacteriocins show anti-microbial effects, sphingolipids have anti-carcinogenic and anti-microbial properties, and bioactive peptides exhibit anti-oxidant, anti-microbial, opioid antagonist, anti-allergenic, and blood pressure lowering effects.

As a result, fermented foods provide many health benefits such as anti-oxidant, anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic and anti-atherosclerotic activity.”

During fermentation, different foods are found to increase certain activities, thus conferring a number of benefits. In a paper published in Nutrients, the writers explained:6

“Fermentation was found to increase antioxidant activity of milks, cereals, fruit and vegetables, meat and fish. Anti-hypertensive peptides are detected in fermented milk and cereals. Changes in vitamin content are mainly observed in fermented milk and fruits.

Fermented milk and fruit juice were found to have probiotic activity. Other effects such as anti-diabetic properties, FODMAP reduction, and changes in fatty acid profile are peculiar of specific food categories.”

Fermented Foods Are High in Beneficial Bacteria

The transformation of the end product is not the only benefit associated with fermentation. The microorganisms responsible for fermenting are a focus of attention, as many are beneficial to your gut microbiome. In one study, researchers analyzed the microbial growth in “organically fermented vegetables, using a salt brine, which is a common ‘at-home’ method of food fermentation.”7

The researchers studied the microbial fermentation of beets, carrots, peppers and radishes. After collecting the data, they found the highest change in diversity of microbes was after two to three days. At the beginning of the process the microbiome of the food was similar to what would be found in the soil.

However, by the end of the first day, the microbes that dominated the fermented food were Enterobacteriaceae. As the process continued, the population of Lactobacillales grew. The microbes were compared to a sample that were first autoclaved and sterilized before the fermentation process. These samples showed little change. The authors wrote:8

“Spontaneous fermentations are known to be more challenging to control and many industrialized fermented food producers use starter cultures to directly manipulate fermentation outcomes … Our results indicate that the presumed nutritive and probiotic value of this process is highly dependent on the vegetable and microbiome that comes to dominate the process.”

The microbes living in your gut microbiome, both beneficial and pathogenic, are important to the stimulation of your immune system. Your gut has a strong impact on its stability. Researchers have found that dysbiosis can increase your “susceptibility to infections, hypersensitivity reactions, autoimmunity, chronic inflammation and cancer.”9

Your diet and the medications you take play a significant role in the development of dysbiosis. At the same time, probiotics have the potential to restore stability. I believe one of the best ways to get probiotic bacteria is through eating properly fermented foods.

Health Benefits of Fermented Foods

The health benefits associated with fermented foods are many. In fact, the yogurt industry has advertised that eating a container a day may be helpful in maintaining digestive health. However, while the product may have probiotics, it also contains an abundance of sugar that feeds the harmful bacteria in your gut. This is just one reason why store-bought yogurt is typically not beneficial.

Fermented foods promote bowel regularity and may be easier to digest. For instance, researchers have found that sourdough-fermented breads digest more easily than yeast breads. The authors of one study found that for those who ate the sour dough form, gastric emptying was faster, as was the transit time through the intestinal tract.10

Others discovered that bakery products made with sourdough promoted better gastrointestinal function then those that were prepared with brewer’s yeast.11 Fermented foods may help by reducing inflammation in the body and the gut. They also increase the bioaccessibility of polyphenols,12 which has a significant impact on mental health.13

Researchers have found fermented milk products to be helpful with certain conditions related to disease. In a study published in the BMJ, scientists evaluated two large groups of individuals from Sweden.14 There were 61,433 women and 45,339 men who responded to questionnaires. The researchers noted that a high intake of milk was associated with higher rates of mortality in men and women. However:

“Consumption of fermented milk products (soured milk and yogurt) indicated a negative relation with both the oxidative stress and the inflammatory markers …”15

Fermented foods may additionally play a role in the prevention of cancer.16 In lab studies, kombucha has shown the ability to preserve normal epithelial cells while selectively working against colon cancer. The researchers concluded:17

“Therefore, kombucha tea could be considered as a potential source of the antioxidation, inhibition of pathogenic enteric bacteria, and toxicity on colorectal cancer cells.”

As Chris Kresser, licensed integrative medicine clinician and co-director of the California Center for Functional Medicine writes, there are several more benefits to fermented foods. These include supporting skin health, protecting against food toxins and helping with weight management.18

Soy: Fermented or Unfermented?

Fermenting soybeans helps reduce their phytic acid levels. Phytic acid is a type of antinutrient that reduces your body’s ability to absorb minerals from your food. It binds to metal ions, preventing the absorption of certain minerals, including calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc19 — all of which are cofactors for optimal biochemistry in your body.

Zinc is especially important during flu season, as it helps suppress the replication of influenza. While unfermented soy products contain phytic acid, fermented soybeans have the ability to reduce mild cognitive impairment and raise brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).20

Fermented soy may also help lower the rate of death from cardiovascular disease in men and women. In one study using data conducted over the course of 14.8 years, researchers engaged 92,915 participants.21 They found those who had a lower risk of mortality consumed more fermented soy.

But the data did not reveal a statistically significant association between the total amount of soy products the participants ate and all-cause mortality. The researchers cautioned that the association may be reduced by factors that were not accounted for in the study. They hypothesize fermented soy is higher in fiber and potassium than non-fermented soy, which may help explain the difference in rates of heart disease.22

Tips for Making Fermented Foods at Home

In the U.S., it’s becoming more popular to eat fermented foods at home. Yet, preparing them is largely a lost art. One of the quickest and easiest ways to raise the level of your gut health is through your diet. For example, sugar is the preferred source of food for fungi and harmful bacteria.

On the other hand, probiotic-rich foods, such as fermented vegetables, will boost the population of beneficial bacteria, which then reduce the potentially pathogenic colonies. Making your own yogurt at home is an easy way to start with fermented foods.

Many of the yogurts sold on grocery store shelves are fruit flavored and sweetened with sugar. You’ll want to steer clear of commercial brands as they likely will not help promote an overall healthy gut flora. To make yogurt at home you only need a high-quality starter culture and raw, grass fed milk. You’ll find simple step-by-step instructions in “Benefits of Homemade Yogurt Versus Commercial.”

You can also experiment with fermenting almost any vegetable. Cucumbers (pickles) and cabbage (sauerkraut) are among the most popular. Although it might seem intimidating at first, once you have the basic method down, it’s not difficult. In the video below, Julie and I review how to do this.

As I discuss in “Tips for Fermenting at Home,” there are several steps you can take to make the process a little easier. Begin with fresh, organic ingredients and be sure to wash them properly under cold running water. The idea is to remove bacteria, enzymes and other debris as this can affect the outcome. Never use plastic because it can leach chemicals into the food.

Don’t use metal, since the salt that’s used in the fermentation process can corrode the container. Instead, choose glass Mason jars with self-sealing lids. Most fermented vegetables will need to be covered with brine.

The process of wild fermentation is not consistent so you may want to use a starter culture on its own or in addition to salt. I recommend using a vitamin K2-rich starter culture dissolved in celery juice.

Allow the jars to sit in a relatively warm area for several days. The temperature should ideally be around 72 degrees Fahrenheit. During the summer months, vegetables are typically finished in three to four days. In the winter, they may need up to seven days. The only way to tell when the fermentation process is complete is to open the jar and have a taste.

When you’re happy with the flavor and consistency, move the jars into the refrigerator. Refrigeration will slow fermentation and the vegetables can keep for many months. Remember not to eat out of the jar because you’ll contaminate the rest of the batch with the bacteria from your mouth. Make sure the vegetables are covered with brine before replacing the lid.

Curcumin Inhibits Virus-Induced Cytokine Storm

Curcumin, the active ingredient in the spice turmeric, has a solid foundation in science with numerous studies vouching for its anti-inflammatory effects.1 As noted in a 2017 review in the journal Foods:2

“[Curcumin] aids in the management of oxidative and inflammatory conditions, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety, and hyperlipidemia … Most of these benefits can be attributed to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.”

Along with several other supplements, curcumin has also been identified as having particular benefit against COVID-19.

According to the paper,3 “Potential Inhibitor of COVID-19 Main Protease (Mpro) From Several Medicinal Plant Compounds by Molecular Docking Study,” posted March 13, 2020, on, curcumin and demethoxycurcumin were two compounds among several that were found to inhibit COVID-19 Mpro.

As noted in “Designing of Improved Drugs for COVID-19,”4 COVID-19 Mpro is a potential drug target because “the crystal structure of Mpro provides a basis for designing of a potent inhibitor to the protease with a marked tropism to the lung.”

Studies have also shown curcumin has an inhibitory effect on virus-induced cytokine storms, which occur as a result of an overproduction of immune cells and pro-inflammatory cytokines. This too suggests it may be of particular use against COVID-19, considering the cytokine storm triggered in severe and critical COVID-19 infection is what ends up killing these patients.

Curcumin Is a Potential Therapeutic Against COVID-19

Most recently, a scientific review5 in Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology, published June 12, 2020, reports curcumin might be useful in cases of severe viral pneumonia such as COVID-19. According to the authors:

“Coronavirus infection, including SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, and SARS-CoV2, causes daunting diseases that can be fatal because of lung failure and systemic cytokine storm.

The development of coronavirus-evoked pneumonia is associated with excessive inflammatory responses in the lung, known as ‘cytokine storms,’ which results in pulmonary edema, atelectasis, and acute lung injury (ALI) or fatal acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

No drugs are available to suppress overly immune response-mediated lung injury effectively. In light of the low toxicity and its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral activity, it is plausible to speculate that curcumin could be used as a therapeutic drug for viral pneumonia and ALI/ARDS.

Therefore, in this review, we summarize the mounting evidence obtained from preclinical studies using animal models of lethal pneumonia where curcumin exerts protective effects by regulating the expression of both pro- and anti-inflammatory factors … promoting the apoptosis of PMN cells, and scavenging the reactive oxygen species (ROS), which exacerbates the inflammatory response.

These studies provide a rationale that curcumin can be used as a therapeutic agent against pneumonia and ALI/ARDS in humans resulting from coronaviral infection.”

Curcumin Inhibits Cytokine Storm

As discussed in that Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology review,6 curcumin has a long history of medicinal use, without overt side effects. Studies have demonstrated it has potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer and antidiabetic activity, and clinical trials have shown efficacy in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome, Type 2 diabetes and infectious diseases — especially viral infections.

One important mechanism behind curcumin’s beneficial effects is its ability to modulate immune responses, meaning it can both upregulate and downregulate immune responses as needed. According to the authors, at least four studies, published between 2018 and 2020, suggest curcumin inhibits virus-induced cytokine storms. These include:

  • A 2018 study7 in the International Immunopharmacology journal, which showed curcumin inhibits influenza A virus replication and influenza-induced pneumonia. It also activates the Nrf2 signaling pathway, inhibits oxidative stress and improves influenza-induced ALI in vivo.
  • A 2018 study8 in the Journal of Food and Drug Analysis, which found curcumin effectively inhibits influenza A infection.
  • A 2019 study9 in Frontiers in Microbiology, which highlighted curcumin’s antiviral activity against the influenza virus, hepatitis C virus and HIV.
  • A 2020 study10 in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences that reported curcumin has the ability to block herpes simplex virus Type 2 (HSV-2) infection and inhibit production of inflammatory cytokines and chemokines in vitro.

Curcumin’s Mechanisms of Action

As for how curcumin inhibits the cytokine storm and modulates immune function, the Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology review explains:11

“There is clear evidence from coronavirus infected patients with both high cytokine levels and pathological changes in the lung. For example, in plasma of COVID-19 patients, high concentrations of IL-2, IL-6, and IL-7 have been observed.

In particular, IL-6 was significantly elevated in critically ill patients with ARDS compared to patients without ARDS and was statistically significantly correlated with death …

Numerous in vivo and in vitro studies have been shown that curcumin and its analogs markedly inhibit the production and release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as IL-1, IL-6, IL-8, TNF-? …

Curcumin also decreases expression of many other inflammatory mediators … which regulate the activity of immune cells and inflammatory responses and promote fibrosis in the lung after infection.

The mechanism underlying curcumin modulation of inflammation has been extensively investigated and engages diverse signaling pathways, among which NF-?B plays an essential role. It was reported that curcumin effectively regulates NF-?B signaling through multiple mechanisms (Figure 2):

First, curcumin inhibits activation of IKK? … Second, curcumin enhances the expression or stability of I?B? … Third, curcumin activates AMPK. It has been documented that curcumin blocks NF-?B signaling upon infection with Influenza A virus (IAV) as a consequence of AMPK activation. Fourth, curcumin acts on p65 to disturb the NF-?B pathway.

Infection with IAV led to a decrease of p65 in the cytosol of macrophages and a corresponding increase in the nucleus, where it forms a functional complex with NF-?B, ultimately upregulating transcription of pro-inflammatory cytokines. In contrast, the use of curcumin blocks the nuclear translocation of NF-?B and p65, downregulating transcription of the cytokine genes …

In contrast to its negative effect on pro-inflammatory molecules, curcumin has been shown to regulate anti-inflammatory cytokines positively, in particular IL-10. The latter is an essential negative regulator for inflammatory responses …

IL-10 acts on inflammatory monocytes to reduce the release of TNF-?, IL-6, and ROS, thereby alleviating tissue damage caused by the continuous inflammatory response … Curcumin noticeably attenuates lung injury by inducing the differentiation of regulatory T cells (Tregs) and upregulating IL-10 production.”

Figure 2.

curcumin multiple mechanisms

Curcumin Has Antiviral Activity

Curcumin also has direct antiviral activity — including against SARS-CoV (the coronavirus responsible for SARS), as demonstrated in a 2007 study.12 Several studies have elaborated on its antiviral mechanisms, which Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology lists as:13

  • Directly targeting viral proteins
  • Inhibiting particle production and gene expression
  • Blocking viral attachment to cells (possibly by disrupting the fluidity of the viral envelope)
  • Blocking viral entry into the cell
  • Blocking viral replication

Curcumin binds strongly to hemagglutinin (HA), a glycoprotein that allows the influenza virus to attach to the cell. Research has shown curcumin interacts with HA, thus disturbing the integrity of the viral membrane. This is what blocks viral binding to the host cell and prevents the virus from entering the cell. Curcumin has also been shown to directly inactivate certain strains of influenza virus.

Other Pulmonary Benefits of Curcumin

Other beneficial effects that suggest curcumin may be suitable in the treatment of COVID-19 include:14

Alleviating exudation of proteins to alveoli spaces

Alleviating lung edema triggered by inflammation

Attenuating lung injury

Reducing the degree of airway inflammation

Disrupting airway remodeling by inhibiting the proliferation of bronchial epithelial cells

Improving pneumonia and preventing development of severe pneumonia

Alleviating ALI-induced pulmonary fibrosis

Improving lung index

According to the Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology review,15 the available research “suggest that curcumin administration could have both prophylactic and therapeutic effects on virus-induced pneumonia and mortality.” Furthermore, while human trials on curcumin for coronaviruses are still lacking:

“… in light of and its preventative and therapeutic role in viral infection and cytokine storms common to all viral infections, curcumin could conceivably be considered as an attractive agent for the management of coronavirus infections.”

Research published in 2015 further supports the conclusions in the Cell and Developmental Biology review. That study,16 “Curcumin Suppression of Cytokine Release and Cytokine Storm,” found curcumin could be a potential therapy for patients infected with Ebola and other dangerous viruses. According to the authors:17

“The activity of curcumin in suppressing multiple cytokines, and its activity in experimental models of diseases and conditions associated with cytokine storm, suggest it may be useful in the treatment of patients with Ebola and cytokine storm.

Curcumin is poorly absorbed from the intestinal tract; however, intravenous formulations may allow therapeutic blood levels of curcumin to be achieved in patients diagnosed with cytokine storm.”

How to Get the Most Out of Your Curcumin Supplement

If you want to use curcumin, be aware that its poor absorption rate is one of its greatest drawbacks. While IV formulations may solve the problem in clinical settings, that would be rather impractical for home use.

Researchers have investigated a variety of different delivery methods, including oral, intravenous, subcutaneous and intraperitoneal delivery, as well as a variety of formulations, to optimize bioavailability. The following methods were all found to improve the absorption rate of curcumin:18

  • When delivered as a nanoparticle
  • Combined with polylactic-co-glycolic acid
  • Liposomal encapsulation

Since curcumin is fat-soluble, you might be able to further increase absorption by making a microemulsion. To do that, combine 1 tablespoon of curcumin powder with one or two egg yolks and 1 to 2 teaspoons of melted coconut oil, then use a hand blender on high speed to emulsify the powder.

Timing is another important variable. One of the ways curcumin works is to activate AMPK and autophagy. Both of these occur during the fasted state. So, it would best to take curcumin at least three hours after a meal and/or right before you go to bed. This would be similar for another powerful anti-COVID supplement, quercetin, which should also be taken while fasting and preferably with zinc.

This Fat Impairs Immune System and Increases Risk of COVID

In this interview, Dr. Chris Knobbe, an ophthalmologist, discusses some of the eye-opening information found in his book, “Ancestral Dietary Strategy to Prevent and Treat Macular Degeneration.”1

Knobbe is the founder and president of the Cure AMD Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to the prevention of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is the No. 1 cause of blindness among the elderly. His book is a comprehensive treatise on the historical progression of AMD and provides compelling evidence that this is a disease caused by processed foods.

“It is manmade, processed, nutrient-deficient and toxic foods that are driving all the chronic diseases,” he says. “They’re driving heart disease, stroke, hypertension, cancer, metabolic syndrome, obesity [and] macular degeneration …

When I say processed, manmade, nutrient-deficient, toxic, or processed foods, that is really just four things. It’s really fairly simple. It’s the nutrient-deficient foods which are refined: Wheat flour, refined added sugars, polyunsaturated vegetable oils and trans fats.”

Although we did not discuss these dietary issues and its connection to COVID-19 risk because the interview was done before March, it is still very relevant. We now know that eating processed foods, especially vegetable oils, will increase insulin resistance and metabolic inflexibility, which is one of the two largest risk factors for COVID-19, the other being vitamin D insufficiency.

Vegetable Oils Responsible for Emergence of Heart Disease

Refined flour, sugar, trans fats and vegetable oils are relatively recent additions to our food supply. Refined sugar has been around for a few hundred years, but it was consumed in really low amounts until the late 19th century. Vegetable oils emerged after the American Civil War. Refined white wheat flour came about in 1880 and trans fats in 1911.

“Those foods are what is driving almost all of our chronic metabolic and degenerative diseases,” Knobbe says. “Over the past year or two, I really dug into the history of most of these chronic diseases. For example, heart disease was an extreme medical rarity in the 19th century.

We have data from a paper by Jones and colleagues [published] in 2011. What they showed was that in the town of Boston in 1811, there were no known heart attacks.

Only 2.6% of that population in Boston died of sudden death. So even if we thought every single one of those was heart disease, which they weren’t, but even if you wanted to say that they were, it’s only 2.6% …

Sir William Osler, a famed physician, was one of the founding members of Johns Hopkins Medical Center. In 1897, he published a paper in which he reviewed his previous 21 years of hospital experience, and he noted maybe around a half a dozen cases of angina — chest pain that might be related to heart disease — but not a single myocardial infarction, not a single heart attack.

Some 13 years later, in 1910, he recounted 208 additional cases of angina, which he attributed to the stress of modern day life. In 1900, from the Jones paper, heart disease accounted for 12.5% of deaths, but that was known not to be coronary artery disease … That was cardiac valvular disease, which is driven by infectious diseases like rheumatic fever, syphilis and endocarditis. It wasn’t heart attacks.

In fact, 1912, James Herrick published a paper on the first known heart attack in the United States with documented autopsy evidence. What’s staggering is that 30 years later, in the 1930s, heart disease became the leading cause of death. It was virtually unknown in 1900. Nobody knew what a heart attack was in 1900. Nobody had seen one …

By 2010, 32.3% of people in the United States are dying of heart disease. But if you go back, what we’re going to notice is that vegetable oils and trans fats, margarines, those things were replacing animal fats. That is the major driver of this, I believe.”

Diet Has Increased Cancer and Diabetes

Knobbe also reviews the historical data on cancer. Of the 942 people who died during 1811 in Boston, only five died of cancer. That’s 1 in 188 deaths. By 1900, cancer killed 1 in 17 people. Today, cancer accounts for 31.2% of deaths in the U.S., or nearly 1 in 3.

The same exponential growth can be seen in Type 2 diabetes. In the 19th century, any form of diabetes was extremely rare. One of the first studies on diabetes was published in 1935. In 1935-1936, 0.37% of Americans had diabetes. By 2015, that rate had risen to 9.4%. That’s a 25-fold increase in 80 years.

The situation may actually be even worse than that, though, as the 9.4% rate refers to documented full-blown clinical diabetes. If you add in prediabetes and insulin resistance, then nearly 9 in 10 Americans are affected. According to recent NHANES data,2 87.8% of Americans are unhealthy based on five parameters of metabolic health, so virtually the entire population is at risk for and headed toward Type 2 diabetes.

Shocking Rise in AMD Prevalence

Macular degeneration became discoverable following the invention of the ophthalmoscope in 1851. The ophthalmoscope was in broad use by 1880. By 1900, there was 140 versions available. By 1914, there was over 200 versions of ophthalmoscope in use around the world.

Yet, between 1851 and 1930, there were no more than 50 cases of AMD reported in all the world’s medical literature. It was virtually unknown. Prevalence began to increase in the 1930s, and by 1975, an estimated 4.5 million Americans suddenly had macular degeneration. By 1994, 15 million had it, and as of 2020, estimates put worldwide prevalence at 196 million. In 20 more years, it’s expected to hit 288 million.

“I’ve done the same thing with metabolic syndrome and with myopia, nearsightedness. They all track essentially the same. We see all of these go from rarity in the 19th century and early 20th century to staggering numbers today, and the prevalence continues to increase,” Knobbe says.

Metabolic Dysfunction Is Common Denominator

The common denominator that all of these diseases share is mitochondrial dysfunction caused by processed foods. Hopefully, knowing this will inspire and motivate you to change your eating habits. Once you realize what these foods are doing to you at the molecular level, you’ll be more excited about healthy choices.

“As I mentioned, what’s happened is we have replaced nutrient-dense, healthy, safe, organic foods with nutrient-deficient, toxic, dangerous ultra-processed foods. As of 2009, 63% of the American diet was made up of those four foods — added sugars, refined white wheat flour, vegetable oils and trans fats …

In the year 1900, when everybody was healthy, 99% of added fats in the diet were animal fat — lard, butter and beef tallow. But by 2005, 105 years later, 86% of the added fats in the diet of Americans are vegetable oil-derived. They include vegetable oils, margarine [and] butter substitutes. Ultimately, all of those come from these dangerous vegetable oils that don’t provide healthy fat-soluble vitamins, and are extraordinarily toxic.

What we now understand is that it is mitochondrial dysfunction that ties together all of these chronic diseases — heart disease, cancer, stroke, hypertension, obesity, metabolic syndrome, macular degeneration …

When you consume a whole lot of these edible seed oils, vegetable oils or omega-6 — that’s all the same thing — then those oils, those omega-6s, oxidize and break down into toxic aldehydes. So, when we try to metabolize these, when we try to burn these for fuel, or we store them, what happens is they create a catastrophic peroxidation cascade.

They cause oxidation in fats, proteins [and] carbohydrates in your cells and cellular membranes everywhere. Ultimately, what this does is it damages a molecule called cardiolipin … a phospholipid in your mitochondria. It’s a scaffold upon which the electron transport chain of your mitochondria depends. When cardiolipin is altered … it damages it.

What happens is that the mitochondria are no longer able to hold a proton gradient. They lose that proton gradient, and this causes loss of energy. The mitochondria then become sick; they’re not producing energy properly. Well, without energy, everything begins to fail. One of the first things that happen is that you can’t properly burn fats for fuel, and you become more carbohydrate-dependent.”

The cardiolipin is only found in the inner mitochondrial membrane. In the lecture above, Knobbe illustrates the chain of events that result in mitochondrial dysfunction.

High-PUFA Diet Triggers Catastrophic Peroxidation Cascade

Paradoxically, the cardiolipin molecule depends on linoleic acid, and linoleic acid is the primary omega-6 in our diets. However, in a high-linoleic acid diet, the linoleic acid in the cardiolipin molecule ends up being destroyed. So, what gives? Knobbe explains:

“When you’re consuming a high-PUFA diet, it’s like having a house full of little tiny papers, and when you’re welding or something, sparks are flying. You’re going to catch the house on fire when you consume all these vegetable oils because you’re going to be filling up your fat cells, tissues and membranes with linoleic acid, these omega-6s, and they’re very fragile.

You’re going to start this catastrophic peroxidation cascade, and you’re also going to destroy the linoleic acid in the cardiolipin molecules where it is critical. Subsequently, you lose energy in your mitochondria, make your mitochondria sick, and then you become sick. This is how we become tired, fatigued, and we’re gaining weight all at the same time.

I think most people are interested in how to lose weight. But by far, a million times more important is to be healthy, and this is how we get healthy. The same things that make you healthy also make you leaner.”

Another important variable here is the influence of carnosine, a dipeptide — two amino acids put together — made up of beta-alanine and histidine. Carnosine is only found animal products. It serves as a scavenger or sink for reactive carbonyl groups, intermediaries that go on to form advanced lipoxidation end-products and emulsification end-products.

If you can grab these carbonyls before they attack proteins and fats, you can essentially stop the vicious cycle resulting in catastrophic peroxidation. This is yet another reason why I do not recommend diets that exclude animal products and meat, as they will lower your carnosine level, and carnosine is a really important nutrient to limit the damage from oxidation products. It’s also important for mitochondrial function.

Toxic Aldehydes

Knobbe has been studying the toxic aldehydes that result from these omega-6 fats. When you consume an omega-6 fat, it first reacts with a hydroxyl radical or peroxide radical, producing a lipid hydroperoxide. This lipid hydroperoxide then rapidly degenerates into toxic aldehydes, of which there are many.

Examples include 4-hydroxynonenal (4-HNE) and malondialdehyde (MDA), as well as oxidized linoleic acid metabolites such as 9-HODE, 13-HODE, carboxyethylpyrrole and acrolein.

“Most of my research in terms of what these do is focused on what’s going on in the eye,” Knobbe says, “but these are extraordinarily dangerous molecules. For example, HNE has been tied to virtually every single chronic disease there is, including heart disease, atherosclerotic disease, Alzheimer’s, macular degeneration, obesity, Type 2 diabetes.

All of those have been connected to HNE, and it’s been called a causal factor. It is that powerful. These are extraordinarily dangerous molecules at very low concentrations. MDA is an extreme toxin. It’s cytotoxic. It is mutagenic. It’s carcinogenic.

The oxidized linoleic acid metabolites, like the 9- and 13-HODE, they are driving oxidized LDL, for example, which is a huge player in atherosclerosis. Carboxyethylpyrrole, in the eye, induces autoantibodies … They attack the retina directly. We see these more than double the numbers in people with macular degeneration. So, we have a major driver there.

Acrolein is the toxic aldehyde that is in cigarette smoke and vegetable oils. To give you an idea, an average cigarette produces 18 to 98 micrograms of acrolein when you smoke it. A large french fries, roughly, 154 grams of french fries from a fast food restaurant … produce 1 to 1.5 milligrams of acrolein.

So, let me put this in perspective. Eating a large french fries can give you the same amount of acrolein as smoking 17 to 26 average cigarettes or up to 83 cigarettes lowest in acrolein. Now, they both can cause lung cancer, for example.

Here we can see that you’re getting a much larger dose of acrolein from eating french fries than you’re ever going to get from even being near smoke.”

Knobbe also points out what you lose out on when eating vegetable oils, namely fat-soluble vitamins. Animal fats such as lard, butter and beef tallow provide not only healthy fats but also essential vitamins such as vitamins A, D and K2. “Let’s face it, meat is the most densely nutritious food that most anybody in the United States ever gets,” Knobbe says.

One of the benefits of eating meat is that it is loaded with carnosine, which is a dipeptide consisting of beta-alanine and histidine. This is a terrific scavenging agent for advanced lipoxidation endproducts (ALEs) like the fats discussed above.

If you’re excluding meat from your diet and consume large amounts of industrial processed oils, you’re setting yourself up for metabolic disaster. Without a doubt, low carnosine and high aldehydes is a prescription for premature death from chronic disease. At the very least it would be wise to take a carnosine or beta-alanine supplement.

Your Body Can Recover

While the good news is that you can recover your health by eliminating these unhealthy omega-6-rich oils from your diet — essentially ditching processed foods — the bad news is they have a rather long half-life.

According to Knobbe, polyunsaturated fats from vegetable oils, seed oils and trans fats are mostly stored (opposed to being used for fuel), and have a half-life of 600 to 680 days. That means it will take quite a few years to empty your body stores of these damaging omega-6 fats.

“I quit consuming these fats in 2011,” Knobbe says, “and I think it was 2015 or 2016 before I started hitting a lot better health. But now, at age 59, I can weightlift, sprint, run stairs.

I do so many of the things I could do when I was in my 20s. I wasn’t headed that way back in 2011. I was headed for absolute disaster. I mean, I may have not even been alive today if it weren’t for beginning to understand all this and changing my diet.”

In the interview, Knobbe also discusses how his arthritis was traced back to oxalates, which are found exclusively in plants. Ironically, many of the plant foods that are praised for their healthiness have the highest amounts of oxalates and can wreak havoc on those with arthritis or other autoimmune conditions.

“Oxalates can precipitate out in your joints, tendons, muscles, perhaps arteries and drive all sorts of chronic inflammation, so arthritis, myalgias, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, all of these disorders may be driven by oxalates,” he says.

“In 2011, when I was 50 years old, my arthritis was so severe. I was in a devastated condition … [Dr. Mercola] referred me to Sally K. Norton, who is perhaps the world’s expert in this area. I’m now … changing my diet to get lower in oxalates, and I’m doing better and better all the time. I really believe that it may not be long before I am arthritis-free …

I think I would eat 1 or 2 cups of spinach in salads three or four times a week. That’s massive doses [of oxalates]. Most people shouldn’t get more than 150 milligrams of oxalates in a day. Many days, I would be getting 1 to 1.5 grams, so maybe about 10 times as much as what’s recommended.

Over decades, you accumulate these [oxalates]. They’re stored in your tissues. The good news is that they’re water soluble, and they can leach back out, but it too can take years. So, I’m apparently on a slow recovery, kind of like getting rid of polyunsaturated oils in your body. It’ll happen, but it’s not going to happen overnight.”

Macular Degeneration Strongly Linked to Processed Food Diet

Aside from improving your overall health and avoiding chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, avoiding sugars, refined wheat flour, vegetable oils and trans fats is also crucial for the prevention of AMD. Knobbe reviews research showing the connections between a processed food diet and AMD.

In Southwestern rural Nigeria, 0.1% of the adult population over the age of 50 have macular degeneration. A mere 240 miles away in Onitsha, Nigeria, the prevalence is 3.2%. The difference between these two populations is their food supply.

The people in Southwestern rural Nigeria do not have access to processed foods. They live off native traditional foods. The people in Onitsha, Nigeria, do have access to processed foods, but at far lower amounts than what we get in the U.S.

Barbados, meanwhile, has a macular degeneration rate of 24.3% — 243 times higher than the Africans of Southwestern rural Nigeria. What stands out about Barbados is the fact that it’s known by nutrition researchers all around the world as a Mecca for processed food. They import almost all of their food.

“You and I know what that means. It means it’s all sugar, refined flour and vegetable oils. That’s what you can package up and send across continents, people can eat it months later, and it’s still called food,” Knobbe says.

“That’s what these people are eating, and they have a ‘world profile’ of metabolic disease in Barbados, metabolic syndrome, obesity, heart disease, cancer, Type 2 diabetes and 24.3% macular degeneration prevalence — 243 times greater than the Africans of Southwestern rural Nigeria who can’t get processed foods.

All three [populations have] the same West African heritage. How could we in any possible way conclude that that’s about aging and genetics, which is the primary belief system about macular degeneration today?

… Similarly, in 1969, New Zealand’s macular degeneration prevalence for people over 50 was 1.3%. In 2014, macular degeneration prevalence in people over the age of 45 was 10.3%. That’s an eight-fold increase …

Their vegetable oil [intake] in 1960 was less than 1 gram a day. By 1991 onward, it was around 20 grams a day. So again, we see a huge increase in vegetable oils, and we see a massive increase in macular degeneration prevalence.”

More Information

To learn more about how your diet influences your risk of AMD and other chronic diseases, be sure to pick up a copy of Knobbe’s book, “Ancestral Dietary Strategy to Prevent and Treat Macular Degeneration.” More information can also be found on

“If you want to reach out to me, you can go to the contact link for that and send me a message. I answer every single message,” Knobbe says. “I’m in this to help people, and I love it.”

Can UV Light Inactivate Airborne Human Coronavirus?

December 31, 2019, China reported a case of pneumonia from an unknown cause to the World Health Organization.1 It wasn’t long afterward that it became apparent that the “unknown cause” would create global havoc.

Immediately, scientists began scrambling to find ways to kill the SARS-CoV-2 virus, treat the infection and develop public health policies to contain the spread. Historically, scientists identified coronaviruses responsible for human infection in the mid-1960s.2 By 2003 when SARS first appeared, researchers had only identified four subgroups of coronavirus that could infect humans.

But then, also in 2003, SARS-CoV appeared and joined the list. In 2012, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) was identified in Saudi Arabia. And, finally, the most recent addition to this list is SARS-CoV-2.

When it comes to fighting them, one method of disinfecting bacteria and viruses, including coronaviruses, in hospitals has been ultraviolet light. This is one wavelength in the light spectrum that’s found in light from the sun, which provides the primary means of killing pathogens in the environment through UV radiation.

In 2005, a team of researchers reviewed the estimated amount of time it took to inactivate viruses using exposure to UVA and UVB radiation from the sun.3 They developed a predictive model that they concluded “should be a useful step to understanding and eventually predicting the survival of viruses after their release in the environment.”

Company Claims New Lightbulb Can Kill Coronavirus

In a recent development, one of the largest lighting companies in the world, Signify, says they have developed a new light bulb they believe can kill 96% of coronavirus in just three seconds.4 The organization partnered with Boston University to test the effectiveness of the lightbulb to inactivate the virus.

Eric Rondolat, CEO, spoke to CNBC, telling the reporter that after six seconds of exposure, the rate of pathogen death goes up to 99%.5 In a press release on Signify’s website, Anthony Griffiths, Ph.D., from Boston University School of Medicine is cited:6

“Our test results show that above a specific dose of UV-C radiation, viruses were completely inactivated: in a matter of seconds we could no longer detect any virus. We’re very excited about these findings and hope that this will accelerate the development of products that can help limit the spread of COVID-19.”

Rondolat believes the light bulbs are a preventive measure that may be useful in all types of public places. The notice from Signify follows research from Columbia University, where researchers found low doses of far-UVC light “inactivated 99.9% of aerosolized alpha coronavirus 229E and beta coronavirus OC43.”7

These scientists found that viral inactivation took approximately 25 minutes. They believe that by doubling the intensity, they may be able to cut the disinfection time in half and still maintain safety.

Researchers Using Far-UVC to Reduce Potential Damage

There are three major types of ultraviolet light: UVA, UVB and UVC. UVA and UVB penetrate the atmosphere and reach the Earth. UVA can penetrate the skin while high levels of exposure to UVB can damage the skin’s DNA.8

UVC, however, is the most damaging. The wavelengths are between 100 and 290 nanometers, which are almost completely absorbed in the atmosphere.9 The wavelength is highly energized and effective as a decontaminant since it destroys the molecular bonds in bacterial and viral DNA.

In one study using UVC to decontaminate hospital rooms and surgical tools, Duke University researchers found that sanitizing a room with UVC light in addition to traditional cleaning reduced the transmission of drug-resistant bacteria by 30%.10

The danger in working with UVC light is that it not only kills bacteria and viruses, but also damages human DNA. Dan Arnold works for UV Light Technology providing UV disinfecting equipment in the U.K. He spoke with BBC about the potential for using UVC light to disinfect skin and clothing, saying, “You would literally be frying people.”11

A study from Columbia University, however, published in Scientific Reports in 2018, generated excitement about the potential for reducing the spread of influenza by using far-UVC.12 Researchers used continuous low dose far-UVC light and found results which suggested that using this technique in public places may reduce the number impacted by flu, without penetrating human skin or eyes.13

Doorway Portal Douses Patrons in UVC Light

Before the results of the light tests from Boston University were published, one bakery announced plans to install far-UVC light bulbs in the stores and at a portal above the doorway. The New York Post reported that Magnolia Bakery “is installing futuristic-looking portals and purple-hued ceiling lights that will drench patrons and workers in potentially disease-destroying far-ultraviolet light.”14 

The chief baking officer called their store “experiential,” saying their customers enjoy spending time in their shop in the Upper West Side. In an attempt to accommodate the needs of their customers and possibly reduce airborne SARS-CoV-2, they are also replacing the indoor lighting with far-UVC light bulbs.

This move has caught some experts by surprise. In March 2020, the Food and Drug Administration released guidelines on the use of disinfectant devices, sterilizers and air purifiers during the pandemic.15 Karl Linden, environmental engineer, spoke to a reporter at Discover Magazine, saying:16

“I was quite shocked to see this portal come out … my excitement [is] tempered with the concern that it could be an application that could have some dangerous side effects or direct effects.”

It appears that far-UVC lights do not have the immediate and direct effects that regular UVC light has on mammal skin. David Brenner, Ph.D., from Columbia University is one of the scientists in the study showing that low dose far-UVC light inactivates human coronavirus. He spoke with a reporter from the New York Post about the safety of the lights.

Thus far they have tested far-UVC lights on hairless mice for eight months and have not seen any evidence of damage, he said.17 However, while concentrated forms of UVC are being used to clean city buses in China, hospital floors and even money,18 the long-term effects of far-UVC light on human skin may require a lengthier test period than just eight months. 

What About Sunlight?

Sunlight is used in developing countries to help sterilize water. The World Health Organization recommends using a process pioneered in the 1980s that involves the sun, a bottle and a black surface. A transparent bottle is placed horizontally for five hours.19

Field studies in China, Columbia, Bolivia and elsewhere show it helps kill pathogens and reduce the incidence of diarrhea. How long sunlight may take to disinfect surfaces or viruses suspended in the air is still under investigation, though.

During a press conference, William Bryan from the Department of Homeland Security presented results from a study evaluating how long sunlight might take to kill SARS-CoV-2, or if it could. It was found that under ordinary circumstances, when humidity was low at 20% and the temperature was 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, it took about an hour for the virus to be inactivated.20

When sunlight was added to the experiment, it took about 1.5 minutes. The final results of this study have not been made public as yet, nor have they been peer reviewed. However, a report of the results was leaked and picked up by Yahoo! News.21 The briefing on the results was marked for “official use only.” Yahoo! News reported:

“The study found that the risk of ‘transmission from surfaces outdoors is lower during daylight’ and under higher temperature and humidity conditions. ‘Sunlight destroys the virus quickly,’ reads the briefing.”

The Department of Homeland Security did not answer a reporter’s questions from Yahoo! News and cautioned the public against making a conclusion based on the data from the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center, which is a lab that was developed to address bioterrorism after the 9/11 attack. A statement from the Department of Homeland Security read:22

“The department is dedicated to the fight against COVID-19, and the health and safety of the American people is its top priority. As policy, the department does not comment on allegedly leaked documents. It would be irresponsible to speculate, draw conclusions, or to inadvertently try to influence the public based upon a document that has not yet been peer-reviewed or subjected to the rigorous scientific validation approach.”

Vitamin D Level Must Reach 60ng/mL Before Fall

Sunlight is necessary to support optimal health. Scientists have now found those who are deficient in vitamin D, which your body makes with exposure to the sun, have a far higher risk of severe disease from SARS-CoV-2. There is also evidence that SARS-CoV-2 responds to humidity and temperature, causing different scientists to expect another wave of illness in the fall.23

This means there is a “deadline” before which it is important to optimize your vitamin D levels. To improve your immune function and lower your risk of viral infections, I suggest raising your vitamin D to a level between 60 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) and 80 ng/mL by fall. In Europe, the measurements you’re looking for are 150 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L) and 200 nmol/L.

To determine if you need to use a supplement, it’s important to test your vitamin D levels first. This easy-to-use, at-home vitamin D test kit from GrassrootsHealth can help identify if you need a supplement. I provide this kit as a convenience for my readers; I don’t make any money from the sale of this kit.

As I’ve written before, low levels of vitamin D are commonly found in those with comorbid health conditions or dark skin. This raises the potential risk from COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. To learn more and develop a plan to raise your vitamin D levels by fall, see “Your Vitamin D Level Must Reach 60ng/mL Before the Second Wave.”