How Stress Can Affect Your Blood Sugar Levels

By Dr. Mercola

Stress does not act as a singular force on your body but rather acts like a snowball rolling down a mountain, gradually building in size and speed until it’s virtually impossible to control. As stress builds in your body, it influences everything from your mood and brain function to your heart health and risk of both acute illness and chronic disease, including cancer.

When you become stressed your body also secretes cortisol and glucagon, both of which affect your blood sugar levels as well.1 On a metabolic level, when you’re stressed and your body enters “fight or flight” mode, glucose is released in order to give your muscles the energy needed to run and escape whatever is threatening you. In the modern day, there’s a good chance that threat is more mental than physical, however, which means you won’t need that extra energy after all.

The end result is that your body must produce more insulin to keep your blood sugar levels in check, and when you’re stressed out, your blood sugar levels will probably stay elevated much longer than they would otherwise, ultimately promoting weight gain and Type 2 diabetes.

Blood Sugar Levels Take Six Times Longer to Return to Normal When You’re Stressed

In a segment produced for BBC’s “Trust Me, I’m a Doctor” television series, researchers from the U.K.’s Leeds University subjected Dr. Giles Yeo, one of the show’s presenters, to what’s known as the Maastricht Acute Stress Test. First, Yeo was asked to quickly compute math problems in his head, such as subtracting 17 from 2,043. Along with the mental strain, Yeo then put his hand into a tub of ice-cold water, further stressing his body on a physical level.

Meanwhile, the researchers had measured Yeo’s blood sugar levels following a meal, both on a nonstressful day and on the day of the stress tests. Although the meal was similar both days, Yeo’s blood sugar patterns were not. On the nonstressful day, Yeo’s blood sugar levels rose after the meal and then returned to normal within 30 minutes — a healthy response. But when he was stressed, his blood sugar levels took six times longer, or a total of three hours, to fall back within the normal range.2

It shows just how easily excess stress can throw your blood sugar out of whack, with detrimental effects on your overall health. The longer your blood sugar stays elevated, the more insulin your body will produce. When your cells become resistant to insulin, glucose (sugar) stays in your blood, raising your blood sugar levels and ultimately leading to the malfunction of leptin signaling.

Leptin is a hormone produced by your fat cells. The function of leptin is to tell your brain you have enough fat stored, have eaten enough and to burn calories at a normal rate. Leptin doesn’t function only with your metabolism and fat stores, however. It is also involved in your immune system, fertility and regulating how much energy you burn.

Further, elevated blood sugar levels are associated with diabetes and even prediabetes, not to mention that people with higher blood sugar levels scored lower on memory tests, even though their levels were technically still considered “normal.”3 The fact is, anything that causes your blood sugar levels to stay higher longer than necessary is something you should strive to avoid, and stress is high up on that list.

Stress, Mood and Diabetes Are Intricately Linked

When your body is under the stress response, your cortisol and insulin levels rise. These two hormones tend to track each other, and when your cortisol is consistently elevated under a chronic low-level stress response, you may experience difficulty losing weight or building muscle. Additionally, if your cortisol is chronically elevated, you’ll tend to gain weight around your midsection, which is a major contributing factor to developing diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Research published in the journal Stress also looked into whether stress responses are associated with abnormalities in glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity and risk of Type 2 diabetes, concluding that there does appear to be a strong link.

“The results of the present study indicate that NDDM [newly detected diabetes mellitus] subjects display significantly higher chronic stress and stress responses when compared to subjects with NGT [normal glucose tolerance]. Chronic stress and endocrine stress responses are significantly associated with glucose intolerance, insulin resistance and diabetes mellitus,” the researchers wrote.4

Not to mention, if you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes, stress hormones can make it more difficult to control blood sugar levels, as well as encourage less-than-healthy lifestyle choices that further add to your risk.

“[R]esearch has indicated that stressful experiences have an impact on diabetes. Stress may play a role in the onset of diabetes, it can have a deleterious effect on glycemic control and can affect lifestyle,” according to a review in Diabetes Spectrum,5 which is why it’s so important to tend to your emotional health in order to protect your physical condition.

There are a number of ways that mental health ties in to diabetes, not the least of which is that managing the condition, or worrying about complications, can lead to stress and anxiety — a condition known as “diabetes distress.” On a physical level, swings in blood sugar can also wreak havoc on your mood.

If you’re under stress and your blood sugar levels are high, for instance, it can make you feel nervous or tired or make it difficult to think clearly.6 Further, people with diabetes who have psychiatric disorders as well are more likely to have poor control of their blood sugar levels.7

Stress and Lack of Sleep Also Make You Fat

The stress-induced pattern of rising insulin levels and decreasing blood sugar can prompt you to feel hunger pains and crave high-carb comfort foods, leading to weight gain.8 In addition, stress can make it harder for you to sleep at night, another harbinger of weight gain. U.K. researchers looked into the connection between how long you sleep (sleep duration), diet and metabolic health among more than 1,600 adults.9

Past research has linked not enough sleep with an increased risk of metabolic diseases, including obesity, and this study found similar results. Sleep duration was negatively associated with body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference, which means the longer a person slept, the smaller their waist and lower their BMI were likely to be. Specifically, people who slept for an average of just six hours a night had a waist circumference more than 1 inch (3 centimeters) larger than those who slept for nine hours a night.10

Shorter sleep was also linked to lower levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol.11 In separate research, people who were sleep deprived ate about 385 more calories than those who got enough sleep,12 while preschoolers who missed their nap and stayed up two to three hours later than normal consumed 25 percent more sugar and 26 percent more carbohydrates than they did prior to the sleep restriction.13

Like stress, lack of sleep also disrupts important hormones — like ghrelin and leptin — and metabolic function. Losing as little as 30 minutes of sleep each night can disrupt your metabolism enough to cause weight gain.

In fact, each half-hour of sleep debt incurred during weeknights raised one study’s participants’ risk for obesity and insulin resistance by 17 percent and 39 percent respectively after one year.14 It’s clearly a vicious cycle, as stress makes it difficult to get the high-quality sleep you need — and the less you sleep, the worse stress can become.

Eating Your Way to a Calmer Mood and Better Blood Sugar Levels

A diet based on real, whole foods, including fermented foods to optimize your gut flora, supports positive mood and optimal mental health, while helping you to bounce back from stress. For example, dark chocolate, berries, organic black coffee, bananas, animal-based omega-3 fats and turmeric (curcumin) tend to boost your mood, whereas sugar, wheat (gluten) and processed foods have been linked to poor mood. At the same time, what you eat can also influence your blood sugar levels for better or worse.

One of the most important dietary recommendations toward this end is to limit net carbs (total carbohydrates minus fiber) and protein, replacing them with higher amounts of high-quality healthy fats, like seeds, nuts, raw grass fed butter, olives, avocado, coconut oil, organic pastured eggs and animal fats (including animal-based omega-3s).

If you’re insulin resistant or diabetic, I also strongly suggest you limit your total fructose intake to 15 grams per day until your insulin/leptin resistance has resolved (then it can be increased to 25 grams) and start intermittent fasting as soon as possible.

Top Methods to Lower Stress for Better Blood Sugar Control

Diet and getting proper sleep are crucial for controlling both stress and blood sugar levels, but beyond this exercise is another factor that cannot be ignored. In one study, unfit but otherwise healthy middle-aged adults were able to improve their insulin sensitivity and blood sugar regulation after just two weeks of interval training (three sessions per week).15 A follow-up study also found that interval training positively impacted insulin sensitivity.

The study involved people with full-blown Type 2 diabetes, and just one interval training session was able to improve blood sugar regulation for the next 24 hours.16 Exercise, while acting as a form of physical stress, is also beneficial for mental health and stress relief. A study by Princeton University researchers revealed that exercising creates new, excitable neurons along with new neurons designed to release the GABA neurotransmitter, which inhibits excessive neuronal firing, helping to induce a natural state of calm.17

In addition to the creation of new neurons, including those that release the calming neurotransmitter GABA, exercise boosts levels of potent brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. This may help buffer some of the effects of stress. Mind-body exercises, such as yoga, may be particularly beneficial in warding off stress, as may meditation.

People with anxiety disorder who learned mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques like mindfulness meditation did better under stress than those who used other stress reduction methods.18 Interestingly, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is also associated with improved blood sugar control in people with Type 2 diabetes, and a “decrease in measures of depression, anxiety and general psychological distress was observed.”19

Coming full circle, MBSR may also help to improve sleep,20 which in turn will improve your stress levels and metabolic health. It’s important to address stress daily; don’t let it fester unattended until it snowballs out of control. Regular exercise, sleep and healthy eating can go a long way toward this end, but also take timeout of each day for meditation, mindfulness and other activities you enjoy, be it a long soak in the tub or a chat with a friend.

Another simple option you can use to deal with daily stress is the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), which can help reprogram your body’s reactions to the unavoidable stressors of everyday life, thereby reducing your chances of experiencing adverse health effects like disrupted blood sugar levels. In the video below, EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman discusses EFT for stress relief, which you can use in combination with other stress-relief options to help your body bounce back from stress.

Avoid This Seafood From Thailand

By Dr. Mercola

In a perfect world, fish may be one of the healthiest food sources on the planet. Rich in omega-3 fats and one of the best dietary sources of vitamin D,1 eating fatty fish has been associated with lower rates of depression, asthma, cognitive decline, heart disease and improved quality of sleep.

However, as waterways are becoming increasingly polluted with pharmaceutical and toxic waste, fish are also contaminated. Wastewater treatment plants have not been designed to remove pollutants in the water from personal care products or pharmaceutical waste products. As a result, once flushed down the drain or toilet, these chemicals end up polluting the waterways2 and your tap water.3

Although Americans are finding new ways to consume seafood, from tacos to salmon pizza, consumption is still below recommended amounts.4 The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend a person eating 2,000 calories per day should eat approximately 8 ounces of seafood per week. Current data suggests Americans are eating well below this amount, averaging 2.7 ounces per week, or slightly more than one-third the recommended amount.5

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates the reduced consumption could be related to concerns with safety or mislabeling of seafood and fish products, lack of awareness of the health benefits of eating fish and higher retail prices.6 But the dangers of eating seafood are not limited only to pollutants and chemical toxicity; there’s also the fact that commercial fishing strengthens an industry built on the back of forced labor.7

Thailand’s Fishing Industry Fueled by Human Trafficking and Slave Labor

Migrant fishermen from Thailand’s neighboring Southeast Asian countries are made promises and then trafficked into fishing boats where the conditions are deplorable and the workers are unable to leave without being beaten and forced to return to work injured.8 Essentially slave workers for the fishing industry, these men from Cambodia and Burma (Myanmar) are prevented from changing employers, are often not paid on time, and usually are paid a minimum wage for long hours doing work no one else will.

According to Thailand’s law, migrant workers are not protected by labor laws and are not allowed to form any type of workers union. Following an exposé and international uproar, these practices landed Thailand on Tier 3, the lowest of the U.S. Department of State Trafficking of Persons Report, along with the Sudan, North Korea and Central African Republic.9

Additionally, the European Union issued a “yellow card,” warning Thailand it would face a ban on seafood exports to Europe due to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing practices.10

In response, the Thai government issued new ordinances and written regulations for the fishing industry and established some provisions that migrant workers needed legal documents and should be accounted for on crew lists. These changes were weak at best and the results have been even weaker. For instance, under the new system, Human Rights Watch interviews ship captains and owners as well as inspect documents but rarely speaks with the migrant workers.11

The government has also not instituted any effective inspection of boats. The improbable results of a 2015 report revealed not one case of forced labor. Another inspection more recently of nearly 50,000 fishermen did not find a single instance where laws regarding hours, wages, treatment on board ship or other issues had been violated.12 Brad Adams, director of Human Rights Watch in Asia, commented on the new changes, saying:13

“What the report found was that although this military government has taken more positive steps forward than the last, the reforms that have been put in place are still largely cosmetic. Forced labor is routine.

The workers we interviewed described being trafficked on to ships, trapped in jobs they couldn’t leave, physical abuse, lack of food, long hours and awful working conditions. The worst thing for many of them was not being paid — the psychological harm and final indignity was the hardest to bear.”

Change Has Been Mostly Cosmetic

Determination of the level a country is ranked on the Trafficking of Persons Report is based on several factors, including:14

“First, the extent to which the country is a country of origin, transit, or destination for severe forms of trafficking. Second, the extent to which the country’s government does not meet the TVPA’s [Trafficking Victims Protection Act] minimum standards and, in particular, the extent to which officials or government employees have been complicit in severe forms of trafficking.

And third, reasonable measures that the government would need to undertake to be in compliance with the minimum standards.”

Following nearly no change to practices in Thailand, the U.S. Department of State upgraded the country from Tier 3 to Tier 2 Watchlist.15 This upgrade was a move to smooth relations with a military-run government that had all but died after the military seized power in a coup the U.S. openly condemned.16 Politicians hoped Thailand would improve conditions if they removed the country from the lowest ranking in the report, effectively placing the cart before the horse.

Working within the industry, Steve Trent, executive of the Environmental Justice Foundation, wants the focus of those selling seafood to the consumer to take responsibility for their supply chain, ensuring the products were sourced from chains free from human rights abuses.17

The Sustainable Seafood Taskforce, set up in 2015, consisting of supermarkets, buyers and retailers sourcing seafood from Thailand, was created to make the process transparent and bring accountability to the supply chain. Trent believes the Sustainable Seafood Taskforce has essentially failed in their mission, saying:18

“There is no shadow of a doubt that widespread and very serious labor violations are continuing throughout the industry. Buyers and retailers have failed comprehensively to play their part in finding a real solution. Never in my career have I seen a process more focused on talking in hotel rooms in Bangkok rather than actually committing to using their influence to create real change.

I challenge any of the retailers selling Thai seafood to consumers to guarantee that products from Thailand are free from human rights abuses and illegal fishing. They have arguably more power than anyone else and they are failing to use it.”

Are Your Fish on Drugs and Filled With Plastic?

A study from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found 81 of 151 contaminants tested for in Puget Sound off the coast of Washington.19 Although the toxins, including pharmaceutical drugs and chemicals from personal care products, were in the Sound and in the fish, they were not found in the surrounding waters, suggesting the toxins were bio-accumulating in the fish.

Salmon are one fish considered to be indicators of the condition of their environment. In a study of those living in Puget Sound, researchers discovered 40 contaminants in the flesh of the fish. Some of the drugs were found at levels known to interfere with growth, reproduction and behavior. No one knows exactly how this chemical cocktail affects the fish, especially as they are exposed in combination.

The most common way you are exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) is by eating contaminated fish, where the chemicals accumulate in the fat tissue.20 The International Agency for Research on Cancer and the Environmental Protection Agency classify PCBs as probably carcinogenic.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, commercial PCBs elicit a significant number of health conditions in animal studies, including cancer, immunosuppression, neurotoxicity and reproductive and developmental toxicity.21

A long line of pesticides, including the long-banned DDT, are also found at concerning levels in fish off the coast of California.22 Additionally, the fish you eat may also be coming with a side order of microplastic,23 as 13 metric tons of plastic enter the waterways every year. Scientists are unsure of the effect this may have on those who eat the fish.

Despite the Clean Water Act, which was enacted nearly 40 years ago, there are areas of the U.S. where the water is so contaminated with mercury that residents are warned to refrain from eating any locally caught fish.24 Furthermore, the fish you’re purchasing at the store may not be what’s on the label.

Labels May Not Reflect the Truth

Oceana was founded by a group of foundations, including the Pew Charitable Trust, Oak Foundation and Rockefeller Brothers Fund, when the founding organizations discovered no group worked exclusively to protect and restore the oceans.25

Oceana has conducted one of the largest seafood fraud investigations, collecting more than 1,200 samples from 674 retailers in 21 states to determine if the label on the fish was really what the consumer was purchasing.26 Using DNA testing, they found one-third of the samples were mislabeled.

Fish sold as tuna and snapper had the highest rate of mislabeling; only seven of the 120 samples of red snapper was actually red snapper. The data also revealed 59 percent of tuna was not tuna and 84 percent of fish sold as “white tuna” at sushi venues was actually escolar. Also known as oilfish, consuming escolar is associated with acute and serious digestive disturbances.27

The researchers tested fish across the U.S. from Washington State to southern Florida. Pennsylvania had the highest rate of mislabeling at 56 percent, while Seattle, Washington, had the lowest rate at 18 percent.28 Mislabeling is not limited to switching types of fish, but also includes mislabeling the source of the seafood. In a subsequent report from Oceana,29 researchers revealed up to 30 percent of the fish you purchase may be misrepresented.30

Shrimp raised in farming operations were labeled “Gulf Shrimp,” different species were found in one bag of shrimp, and in one sample of frozen shrimp salad the researchers found aquarium shrimp not meant for human consumption. Today, over 90 percent of shrimp sold are coming from industrial shrimp farming operations off the coast of India, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam where regulations are not as strict as the U.S.

Antibiotics are not allowed in shrimp farming, but testing has revealed antibiotics in some imported raw, farmed shrimp and bacteria, suggesting poor hygienic conditions in processing the shrimp.31

Shrimp and tuna are two of the most popular types of fish sold in the U.S.32 and potentially three of the more dangerous to your health. In 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had a record number of import refusals for shrimp. This is when shrimp is tested and found to contain unacceptable contaminants, such as banned antibiotics or elevated levels of toxins.

Farmed Fish Is Not a Healthy Option

At first glance, farming fish may appear to solve the issue of sustainability and over fishing. However, much like other industrial farming operations, fish farms actually increase your health risk and produce fish with inferior nutritional quality. Pollution, disease, toxicity and wastewater runoffs also plague fish farms.

In the effort to grow larger, meatier fish faster and more efficiently, fish are being fed genetically modified corn and soy. However, carnivorous fish require a fish-based diet. To meet these nutritional needs, tiny prey fish, such as anchovies and herring, are being dangerously overfished. The stated goal of these farming operations, to produce a sustainable source of fish, is actually reducing the number of prey fish necessary to support whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions, penguins and many other species.

Oceana blames the decline in the population of these species on the overfishing of prey fish to support a growing number of financially-based fish farming operations.33 These revenues won’t offset the heavy cost to the environment as it is both ecologically and economically unstable.

Kept in cages, solid and nitrogen waste products fall to the sea floor in large concentrations, creating a rich environment for algae blooms and cutting off oxygen supply to the surrounding area. Disease and parasitic outbreaks spread rapidly, and farmed fish escape into nonnative waters to compete with wild fish for food or breed within their species to reduce the strength of the wild population.34

You likely choose to eat fish to gain the health benefits of animal-based omega-3 fats. It is important to note that factory farmed fish may have up to 50 percent less of these healthy fats than wild-caught fish due to their grain-based diet. Farmed salmon are fattier than wild-caught, but higher in omega-6 fats, which Americans already eat 10 to 20 times more of than they need each day.

Fish and mammals are also capable of feeling pain and stress. Living in close quarters and being slaughtered by evisceration, starvation or asphyxiation not only is inhumane, but affects the quality of the meat harvested that ends up on your table. Aquaculture, or fish farming, is ultimately damaging waterways, fish populations and your health.

What Are Your Best Fish and Seafood Choices?


Salmon labeled “Alaskan” cannot be farmed. Alaska does an incredible job at protecting their brand integrity when it comes to seafood, in addition to ensuring quality and sustainability. If you don’t see the “Alaska” label or a logo from the Marine Stewardship Council, the salmon is likely farmed.

In the video above, I interview Randy Hartnell, founder-president of Vital Choice Wild Seafood and Organics. He shares some valuable tips on how to discern sustainably caught wild salmon from farmed varieties. According to Hartnell, studies have discovered that as much as 70 to 80 percent of the fish marked “wild” were actually farmed.

While seafood may be contaminated with a number of different chemicals, one that causes significant harm to your health is mercury, and these levels can vary more than a hundredfold from one species of fish to another. In one study,35 researchers quantified contributions to the total amount of mercury from 51 different varieties and found tuna was responsible for more than one-third of Americans’ total exposure to methylmercury.

The Mercury Policy Project’s Guide36 is a handy, printable reference of mercury levels in different varieties of fish and seafood. Tuna, snapper and halibut sampled in Washington State markets and Puget Sound top the list of fish containing the most mercury and PCBs. Among the safest fish in terms of contamination and healthy omega-3 fat are those closest to the bottom of the food chain and wild-caught Alaskan and sockeye salmon.

Neither species of salmon are allowed to be farmed and are therefore always wild-caught. The risk of bioaccumulation of toxins and mercury in sockeye salmon is lower than other fish as they have a short life cycle of only three years. Bioaccumulation is also reduced since it doesn’t feed on other contaminated fish. The two designations you want to look for on the label are: “Alaskan salmon” (or wild Alaskan salmon) and “Sockeye salmon.” Canned salmon labeled “Alaskan salmon” is a less expensive alternative to salmon fillets.

Other choices of fish close to the bottom of the food chain include sardines, anchovies and herring. Canned tuna, mackerel, swordfish, grouper, marlin and orange roughy have some of the highest levels of mercury. For more information about mercury in fish, I recommend reviewing the Mercury Policy Project’s website, Mercury and Fish: The Facts.

Can Obesity Be Contagious?

By Dr. Mercola

Obesity is deadly. Today it is growing at epidemic proportions and researchers find it may spread through communities. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 30 percent of adult Americans are obese.1 By comparison, in 1989 when the CDC began collecting data, no state reported obesity rates over 14 percent.2 By 2010 only one state reported obesity rates below 19 percent.

The rising rates of obesity and challenges with weight management have been topics of discussion for at least 30 years. A multibillion-dollar industry emerged to address the topic and offer options to reduce your weight. Pills, surgeries, books, exercise programs and spas are just a few of the choices furnished by an industry primarily interested in financial gain.

A number of identified factors have contributed to rising rates of obesity, including a sedentary lifestyle, poor dietary choices and limited access to health care.3 A combination of poor choices and poor information has created circumstances where 1 in every 5 deaths in the U.S. is associated with the consequences of obesity.4

Researchers have documented evidence that social networks in your immediate geographical neighborhood may also play a part in your struggle with weight management.5

Study Demonstrates the Power of Social Networks

The question that inspired the study was based on observations of physicians from Yale University and University of California San Diego who found a variety of behaviors appeared to spread through social networks. They first mapped relationships between friends and family in the Framingham Heart Study, not unexpectedly finding that smoking, happiness and divorce appeared to spread through communities of individuals as if contagious.6

Obesity was one of the first health factors the team identified as consistent across a group of socially connected individuals. In 2007, the team reported that if a person’s spouse, sibling or friend became obese, the individual’s chance of also becoming obese increased between 37 and 57 percent.

To understand if this data represented the concept of “birds of a feather flock together,” or if individuals truly had a greater propensity of gaining weight when inserted into a population of overweight individuals, it was necessary to find a population of people who were not obese and assign them social networks with varying degrees of obesity. By assigning servicemen and women to bases across the country, the military had effectively met this criteria.

Two economists continued the investigation into whether social networks had a unique but powerful impact on the probability an individual would become obese when their immediate social network was also obese. Ashlesha Datar, Ph.D., from the University of Southern California (USC) and Nancy Nicosia, Ph.D., from Rand Corporation, a nonprofit research organization,7 gathered data from over 1,100 teens and 1,300 parents.

Of these, nearly 25 percent of the teens and 75 percent of the adults were overweight or obese. Indeed, their probability of experiencing weight challenges rose if they had been sent to a county base where obesity was the norm. For every 1 percentage point rise in the obesity rate of the county, the odds a teen would be overweight rose to nearly 6 percent; the odds for parents rose to nearly 5 percent.8

Degree of Contact Also a Contributing Factor

The economists also found weight status was tied strongly to those who had a greater degree of exposure to the surrounding community. In other words, the relationship between body mass index and the county obesity rate was stronger in teens who lived on or near an Army base for more than two years as compared to those teens who were new arrivals. The researchers also found the link was stronger for families who lived off-base than for those who lived on the military base. Datar explained:9

“Living in a community where obesity is more of the norm than not can influence what is socially acceptable in terms of eating and exercise behaviors and body size. If more people around you are obese then that may increase your own chances of becoming obese.”

The study evaluated military-based families in counties where the obesity rate ranged from 21 percent (El Paso County, Colorado) to 38 percent (Vernon County, Louisiana).10 While moving to a county with a high obesity rate increased the risk of becoming obese, the researchers also found the opposite was true. When families moved to El Paso County, the risk of becoming obese declined by 29 percent for adults and 23 percent for children.

Health Habits May Spread Through Your Community

The results of the feature study support information and research from other psychological and medical studies that offer data demonstrating your behavior is highly influenced by your environment and the individuals with whom you associate.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School and the University of California found that if a person becomes obese, those who are close to them, no matter the geographical distance, have a greater chance of also becoming overweight or obese.11 Between same sex friends, the increased risk was as high as 77 percent. The researchers commented:12

“Network phenomena appear to be relevant to the biologic and behavioral trait of obesity, and obesity appears to spread through social ties. These findings have implications for clinical and public health interventions.”

Another study evaluating the social norms on eating behaviors and patterns also concluded that social influences were pervasive and powerful, playing a role in the development of obesity.13 Research has demonstrated it isn’t only what is eaten that is influenced by peer relationships, but also how much.14 People tend to eat less when their dining companion eats smaller portions and feel free to eat as much as they like when dining with a generous eater.

Lenny Vartanian?, Ph.D., professor of health, clinical and counseling psychology from the University of New South Wales, Australia, led a meta-analysis review of 38 studies and found modeling had a significant effect on the amount of food an individual ate.15 Vartanian explained the results, saying:16

“I’m not downplaying the importance of portion size, but the magnitude of the effect found that [social modelling] is about twice the size of the effect you get from portion size.”

Social networks also have an influence on exercise habits, as researchers demonstrate that the habits of close friends have an impact on your own habits.17 Further data demonstrates a relationship between habits and relationships in a Gallup Poll that found smokers were twice as likely as nonsmokers to have friends and family who smoked.18

Social Contact May Influence Behavior But Nutrition Continues to Drive Obesity

According to science journalist and author Gary Taubes, writing in the BMJ, sugar contributes far more than excess calories in the epidemic rise of diabetes and obesity.19 In his editorial he calls for science to take a strong look at the way in which sugars are metabolized differently from other carbohydrates, increasing your risk for inflammation and changing you risk profile for diabetes and obesity to a greater degree than excess calories alone would indicate.

Until recently, fats and energy balance have been the focus of weight management experts and scientists as the explanation for increasing waistlines around the world. However, despite the best efforts of doctors, these twin health disasters have continued to grow unchecked. Taubes suggests this is likely since our understanding of how sugar affects health is fundamentally flawed and the effect of sugar may be independent of calories. He says:20

“If it is true, though, it changes how we must communicate the dangers of sugar consumption … but we don’t know if the level recommended is safe for everyone. It could be that for people who have obesity or diabetes, or both, even a little is too much. And the ubiquity of sugar rich products may make it difficult for many people to maintain a healthy level of sugar consumption.”

Taubes’ comments are supported by numerous studies linking refined sugar and fructose to cancer, immune dysfunction, weight gain and heart disease. The sugar industry was well aware of the health conditions triggered by the product but, taking the same path as the tobacco industry, hid the information in an effort to protect sales.21

Historical documents show the industry spent decades manipulating documentation to lay the blame for obesity and disease on the doorstep of fats while sidestepping their own responsibility. Researchers found:22

“The sugar industry did not disclose evidence of harm from animal studies that would have (1) strengthened the case that the CHD risk of sucrose is greater than starch and (2) caused sucrose to be scrutinized as a potential carcinogen. The influence of the gut microbiota in the differential effects of sucrose and starch on blood lipids, as well as the influence of carbohydrate quality on beta-glucuronidase and cancer activity, deserve further scrutiny.”

In response, the Sugar Association claimed23 “We know that sugar consumed in moderation is part of a balanced lifestyle …” But how balanced is a lifestyle where the majority of foods produced by manufacturers contains at least one type of sweetener and research has demonstrated that for many sugar is as addictive as cocaine,24 and your body’s response to sugar advances the growth of cancer and triggers cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease?25

Lifestyle Choices Affecting Your Risk of Obesity

Eating sugar-laden products is just one nutritional choice that may increase your risk. Aside from nutritional and social network risk factors, the following lifestyle choices may also influence your weight management efforts.

Fuel source Eating fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates is one of the smartest choices you can make to not only manage your weight, but also take control of your health. There are significant benefits to this strategy, from reducing overall inflammation to reducing your risk of cancer and managing your weight. Find more about the advantages of a ketogenic diet when your body burns healthy fats for fuel in my previous article, “Ketogenic Diet for Optimal Health.”

Hydration Your body requires adequate hydration to rid waste products through your kidneys, maintain blood circulation and keep your brain functioning optimally. Before feeling thirsty, you will first experience hunger. According to Alissa Rumsey, registered dietitian from the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics,26 “Mild dehydration is often masked as feelings of hunger, when really your body just needs fluids.”

Discover the effects of dehydration on your brain and thinking and how to assess your hydration levels in my previous article, “How Dehydration Affects Your Brain Function.”

Quality sleep Sleep deprivation takes a terrible toll on many who live a fast-paced, never-stop lifestyle. Unfortunately, the cost may be an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, reduced brain function and an increased risk of obesity. Discover more in my previous article, “The Steep Cost of Sleep Deprivation.”

Exercise and movement These are two distinct factors. Exercise occurs when your heart and breathing rate increase and your body may begin sweating, such as when swimming, running, biking or rowing. Movement is a function of getting up out of your chair and walking or stretching. Both are necessary factors and have profoundly powerful benefits to your health and longevity.

To get the most benefit consider using high-intensity interval training, the Nitric Oxide Dump a couple of times each day, and getting out of your chair and avoiding sitting for more than three hours per day.

Synthetic Opioids Flooding Into US Via Postal Service

By Dr. Mercola

According to U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under the age of 50.1 Preliminary data for 2016 reveals the death toll from drug overdoses may be as high as 65,000,2 a 19 percent increase since the year before, and the largest annual increase of drug overdose deaths in U.S. history. Data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests over 202,600 Americans died from opioids between 2002 and 2015.3

Opioid abuse has also been identified as a significant factor in rising unemployment among men. A 2016 paper4 found nearly half of all unemployed men between the ages of 25 and 54 are using opioids on a daily basis. Two-thirds of them, about 2 million, are on prescription opioids. A follow-up study5 looking at the opioid epidemic’s impact on the American labor force suggests chronic opioid use accounted for 20 percent of the increase in male unemployment between 1999 and 2015.

Synthetic Opioid Use Is on the Rise

The most common drugs involved in prescription opioid overdose deaths include6 methadone, oxycodone (such as OxyContin®) and hydrocodone (such as Vicodin®). Tragically, synthetic opioids like fentanyl are also being abused by a rising number of people. Deadly overdoses involving fentanyl rose by 50 percent between 2013 and 2014, and another 72 percent between 2014 and 2015. Over 20,000 of the drug overdose deaths in 2016 were attributed to fentanyl and/or other synthetic opioids.7

With a potency nearly 1,000 percent greater than morphine, synthetic opioids like fentanyl are very easy to distribute via mail. A single standard envelope can hold enough fentanyl to get 50,000 people high. Last summer, The New York Times8 reported the deaths of two 13-year-old boys who died after taking the synthetic opioid U-47700, also known as “pinky.” They got the drug from a friend who bought it on the dark web using bitcoin.

Fentanyl Flooding Into US Via Regular Mail 

As recently reported by STAT News9 and ABC News,10 Chinese drug sellers are exploiting the federal government’s inability to track and identify shipments of illicit drugs sent via international mail.

They’re simply shipping fentanyl to the U.S. via the U.S. Postal Service, as this is a “virtually guaranteed route to not get caught” — this despite a 375 percent increase in international mail seizures between 2016 and 2017. (Interception and seizure of domestic packages containing opioids increased by 880 percent.) As explained by STAT News:11

“Part of the reason for this confidence has to do with differences in how well Customs and Border Protection [CBP] can track packages from the various carriers … Much of CBP’s tracking is done using advanced electronic data — basic shipping information required on FedEx and other delivery services packages, but not required for USPS shipments. Only about 36 percent of USPS shipments have the advanced data, a fact which complicates CBP’s tracking efforts.

CBP flags potentially problematic shipments to the carriers, which find and turn over the packages for inspection. CBP can also ask USPS to monitor all packages from a specific country, but has struggled to address the large volume of shipments from China. Some sellers also routed their packages through other countries to avoid that detection.”

Federal Report Calls for Improvements to Identify and Track Illicit Drug Shipments

The potency of fentanyl makes exposure to even minuscule amounts an extreme hazard. As reported by CBS News in May 2017,12 a police officer nearly died after being exposed to fentanyl dust during a routine traffic stop. Fortunately, he survived, but needed no less than four doses of naloxone. Drug-sniffing dogs are also at risk, as inhaling just a few flakes of the drug can be lethal. It stands to reason the drug may also pose a risk to mail and customs workers, should the package rupture during transit or handling.

Disturbingly, a report by the Senate subcommittee on investigations suggests hundreds of millions of dollars of fentanyl are entering the U.S. via the Postal Service, as the federal government is simply not equipped to track or prevent it. A majority of these drugs are coming from China. Of six online sellers offering fentanyl, five are located in China while the location of the sixth is as yet unknown.

According to the report, more than 300 individuals based in the U.S. have received shipments from these vendors, and more than 500 Western Union transactions totaling $230,000 have been identified. While buyers were found in 43 states, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania received the greatest number of shipments.

The street value of these orders is estimated to be around $766 million. The investigation also concluded that at least seven individuals have died from overdosing after receiving a shipment of fentanyl from these vendors.

The bipartisan report is now calling for a number of improvements within the federal government, including advanced electronic data for all international mail. It also urges CBP to increase inspections of packages to identify shipments of illicit drugs, and to automate processing of packages from targeted locations.

Doctors Receive Kickbacks for Prescribing Opioids, Including Fentanyl

Another factor that contributes to rising opioid addiction is kickbacks to doctors for prescribing them. According to a study13 published in August 2017, between August 2013 and December 2015, more than 375,000 non-research opioid-related payments were made to more than 68,000 physicians, totaling more than $46 million. This means 1 in 12 U.S. physicians is collecting kickbacks from drug companies producing prescription opioids.

The top 1 percent of physicians received nearly 83 percent of the payments, and fentanyl prescriptions was associated with the highest payments. Many of the states struggling with the highest rates of overdose deaths, such as Indiana, Ohio and New Jersey, were also those showing the most opioid-related payments to physicians. In other words, there’s a direct link between doctors’ kickbacks and patient addiction rates and deaths.

While back pain has been cited as one of the most common reasons for opioid use, a significant number of people get their first opioid prescription from their dentist.14 This is particularly true for teenagers and young adults.15 Half of all opioids are also prescribed to people with mental health problems such as anxiety.16

What these statistics are telling us is that doctors really need to take greater responsibility for their prescribing habits, and be far more prudent when it comes to handing out prescriptions for opioids. In many cases, an over-the-counter pain reliever may be just as effective, and far safer.

Opioids, Not Cannabis, Are a Priority, Federal Prosecutor Says

While many U.S. states have legalized marijuana either for medicinal and/or recreational use, on January 4, the White House administration rescinded the federal government’s policy to limit enforcement against marijuana sale in states where it is legal under state law.

This creates a convoluted and complex situation for vendors, as they may still face federal prosecution. U.S. federal prosecutor for Massachusetts, Andrew Lelling, recently clarified his stance on marijuana prosecutions in the state, saying “The No. 1 enforcement priority for my office is the opioid crisis … 2,100 people in Massachusetts were killed by opioid overdoses last year, not marijuana overdoses.” As noted by Reuters:17

“The new policy gave U.S. attorney’s offices discretion in how they enforced the law. Lelling, a Trump nominee who took office in December, said on Jan. 8 he would not promise to refrain from prosecuting state-sanctioned marijuana businesses.

Those remarks worried advocates for Massachusetts’ nascent marijuana industry. Lelling said on Wednesday people ‘have lost sight a little bit of the prior statements of the office.’ He said the 14 prosecutors he oversees devoted to drug cases were focused on fentanyl and heroin traffickers. ‘That is where my resources are going right now,’ Lelling said. He also said he was open to pursuing cases over corporations’ roles in the opioid epidemic.”

Indeed, it is virtually impossible to die from an overdose of marijuana, and the idea that legal vendors of medical marijuana (meaning those operating in states where the sale of marijuana has been legalized) can still be prosecuted under federal law seems like an incredible overreach of power. Medical marijuana, if anything, may actually be part of the answer to the opioid crisis, as it can effectively treat many different kinds of pain, but without the lethal side effects associated with opioids.

Feds Cracking Down on Supplements Claiming to Treat Opioid Addiction

Federal regulators are also cracking down on “illegal and unapproved” products claiming to treat or cure opioid addiction and withdrawal, The Washington Post reports.18 So far, about a dozen products, mostly dietary supplements, along with two homeopathic remedies, have been targeted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Eleven companies19 have received warning letters stating that claiming to ease or cure a disease (in this case drug addiction) makes the product subject to FDA authority, and failing to obtain FDA approval means they’re marketing an unapproved drug.

While FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has called for increased availability and use of medication designed to treat drug addiction,20 he warns that “phony remedies could divert people from getting the right treatment.” In a statement, the FTC echoed Gottlieb’s sentiments, saying “Health fraud scams like these can pose serious health risks. These products have not been demonstrated to be safe or effective and may keep some patients from seeking appropriate, FDA-approved therapies.”

Opioids Have Never Been Proven Safe or Effective Beyond Six Weeks of Treatment

It’s rather ironic, but not unexpected, that the opioid crisis has led to the proliferation of costly drugs to treat opioid addiction. NPR recently reported how Alkermes, a company that makes the anti-addiction medication Vivitrol — a monthly injection that costs about $1,000 per shot — is trying to weasel its drug into state laws, making it the sole treatment recommended for opioid addiction.21

What really needs to happen is for the drug industry to be held responsible for creating this situation in the first place, rather than allowing it to profit handsomely a second time. As discussed in several previous articles, the opioid addiction epidemic was no fluke.

Evidence suggests opioid makers such as Purdue Pharma, owned by the Sackler family, knew exactly what they were doing when they claimed opioids — which are chemically very similar to heroin — have an exceptionally low addiction rate when taken by people with pain. In fact, the massive increase in opioid sales has been traced back to an orchestrated marketing plan aimed at misinforming doctors about the drug’s addictive potential.

The drugs’ general effectiveness against pain has also been vastly exaggerated. In April 2016, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a paper in which it noted that:22

“Most placebo-controlled, randomized trials of opioids have lasted six weeks or less, and we are aware of no study that has compared opioid therapy with other treatments in terms of long-term (more than 1 year) outcomes related to pain, function, or quality of life.

The few randomized trials to evaluate opioid efficacy for longer than six weeks had consistently poor results. In fact, several studies have showed that use of opioids for chronic pain may actually worsen pain and functioning, possibly by potentiating pain perception …”

Addicted? Seek Help!

Some marketing materials for opioids still claim the drug will not cause addiction “except in very rare cases,” describing the adverse effects patients experience when quitting the drug as a “benign state” and not a sign of addiction. This simply isn’t true. Panic is one psychological side effect commonly experienced when quitting these drugs, and this can easily fuel a psychological as well as physical dependence on the drug.

It’s important to recognize the signs of addiction, and to seek help. If you’ve been on an opioid for more than two months, or if you find yourself taking higher dosages, or taking the drug more often, you’re likely already addicted and are advised to seek help from someone other than your prescribing doctor. Resources where you can find help include:

Treating Your Pain Without Drugs

With all the health risks associated with opioid painkillers, I strongly urge you to exhaust other options before resorting to these drugs. The good news is there are many natural alternatives to treating pain. Following is information about nondrug remedies, dietary changes and bodywork interventions that can help you safely manage your pain.

Medical cannabis

Medical marijuana has a long history as a natural analgesic and is now legal in 28 states. You can learn more about the laws in your state on medicalmarijuana.procon.org.24

Kratom

Kratom (Mitragyna speciose) is a plant remedy that has become a popular opioid substitute.25 In August 2016, the DEA issued a notice saying it was planning to ban kratom, listing it as Schedule 1 controlled substance. However, following massive outrage from kratom users who say opioids are their only alternative, the agency reversed its decision.26

Kratom is safer than an opioid for someone in serious and chronic pain. However, it’s important to recognize that it is a psychoactive substance and should be used with great care. There’s very little research showing how to use it safely and effectively, and it may have a very different effect from one person to the next. The other issue to address is that there are a number of different strains available with different effects.

Also, while it may be useful for weaning people off opioids, kratom is in itself addictive. So, while it appears to be a far safer alternative to opioids, it’s still a powerful and potentially addictive substance. So please, do your own research before trying it.

Low-Dose Naltrexone (LDN)

Naltrexone is an opiate antagonist, originally developed in the early 1960s for the treatment of opioid addiction. When taken at very low doses (LDN, available only by prescription), it triggers endorphin production, which can boost your immune function and ease pain.

Curcumin

A primary therapeutic compound identified in the spice turmeric, curcumin has been shown in more than 50 clinical studies to have potent anti-inflammatory activity. Curcumin is hard to absorb, so best results are achieved with preparations designed to improve absorption. It is very safe and you can take two to three every hour if you need to.

Astaxanthin

One of the most effective oil-soluble antioxidants known, astaxanthin has very potent anti-inflammatory properties. Higher doses are typically required for pain relief, and you may need 8 milligrams or more per day to achieve results.

Boswellia

Also known as boswellin or “Indian frankincense,” this herb contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which have been prized for thousands of years. This is one of my personal favorites, as it worked well for many of my former rheumatoid arthritis patients.

Bromelain

This protein-digesting enzyme, found in pineapples, is a natural anti-inflammatory. It can be taken in supplement form, but eating fresh pineapple may also be helpful. Keep in mind most of the bromelain is found within the core of the pineapple, so consider eating some of the pulpy core when you consume the fruit.

Cayenne cream

Also called capsaicin cream, this spice comes from dried hot peppers. It alleviates pain by depleting your body’s supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that transmit pain signals to your brain.

Cetyl myristoleate (CMO)

This oil, found in dairy butter and fish, acts as a joint lubricant and anti-inflammatory. I have used a topical preparation of CMO to relieve ganglion cysts and a mild case of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Evening primrose, black currant and borage oils

These oils contain the fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid, which is useful for treating arthritic pain.

Ginger

This herb is anti-inflammatory and offers pain relief and stomach-settling properties. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea, or incorporated into fresh vegetable juice.

Dietary Changes to Fight Inflammation and Manage Your Pain

Unfortunately, physicians often fall short when attempting to effectively treat chronic pain, resorting to the only treatment they know: prescription drugs. While these drugs may bring some temporary relief, they will do nothing to resolve the underlying causes of your pain. If you suffer from chronic pain, making the following changes to your diet may bring you some relief.

Consume more animal-based omega-3 fats. Similar to the effects of anti-inflammatory pharmaceutical drugs, omega-3 fats from fish and fish oils work to directly or indirectly modulate a number of cellular activities associated with inflammation. While drugs have a powerful ability to inhibit your body’s pain signals, omega-3s cause a gentle shift in cell signaling to bring about a lessened reactivity to pain.

Eating healthy seafood like anchovies or sardines, which are low in environmental toxins, or taking a high-quality supplement such as krill oil are your best options for obtaining omega-3s. DHA and EPA, the omega-3 oils contained in krill oil, have been found in many animal and clinical studies to have anti-inflammatory properties, which are beneficial for pain relief.

Radically reduce your intake of processed foods. Processed foods not only contain chemical additives and excessive amounts of sugar, but also are loaded with damaging omega-6 fats. By eating these foods, especially fried foods, you upset your body’s ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty-acids, which triggers inflammation. Inflammation is a key factor in most pain.

Eliminate or radically reduce your consumption of grains and sugars. Avoiding grains and sugars, especially fructose, will lower your insulin and leptin levels. Elevated insulin and leptin levels are one of the most profound stimulators of inflammatory prostaglandin production, which contributes to pain.

While healthy individuals are advised to keep their daily fructose consumption below 25 grams from all sources, you’ll want to limit your intake to 15 grams per day until your pain is reduced. Eating sugar increases your uric acid levels, which leads to chronic, low-level inflammation.

Optimize your production of vitamin D. As much as possible, regulate your vitamin D levels by regularly exposing large amounts of your skin to sunshine. If you cannot get sufficient sun exposure, taking an oral vitamin D3 supplement, along with vitamin K2 and magnesium, is highly advisable. Get your blood level tested to be sure you’re within the therapeutic range of 60 to 80 ng/mL year-round.

Bodywork Methods That Reduce Pain

The following bodywork methods have also demonstrated effectiveness for pain relief and pain management.

Acupuncture: According to The New York Times,27 an estimated 3 million American adults receive acupuncture annually, most often for the treatment of chronic pain. A study28 published in the Archives of Internal Medicine concluded acupuncture has a definite effect in reducing back and neck pain, chronic headache, osteoarthritis and shoulder pain — more so than standard pain treatment.

Chiropractic adjustments: While previously used most often to treat back pain, chiropractic treatment addresses many other problems — including asthma, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, headaches, migraines, musculoskeletal pain, neck pain and whiplash. According to a study29 published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, patients with neck pain who used a chiropractor and/or exercise were more than twice as likely to be pain-free in 12 weeks compared to those who took medication.

Massage therapy: Massage releases endorphins, which help induce relaxation, relieve pain and reduce levels of stress chemicals such as cortisol and noradrenaline. A systematic review and meta-analysis30 published in the journal Pain Medicine, included 60 high-quality and seven low-quality studies that looked into the use of massage for various types of pain, including bone and muscle, fibromyalgia, headache and spinal-cord pain.

The study revealed massage therapy relieves pain better than getting no treatment at all. When compared to other pain treatments like acupuncture and physical therapy, massage therapy still proved beneficial and had few side effects. In addition to relieving pain, massage therapy also improved anxiety and health-related quality of life.

Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT): EFT continues to be one of the easiest and most effective ways to deal with acute and chronic pain. The technique is simple and can be applied in mere minutes. A study31 published in Energy Psychology examined the levels of pain in a group of 50 people attending a three-day EFT workshop, and found their pain dropped by 43 percent during the workshop.

Six weeks later, their pain levels were reported to be 42 percent lower than before the workshop. As a result of applying EFT, participants felt they had an improved sense of control and ability to cope with their chronic pain. In the video below, EFT expert Julie Schiffman, teaches you how to use EFT to address chronic pain.

Can the Conventional Medical Profession Be Trusted?

By Dr. Mercola

According to a recent article in The New York Times, growing distrust in the medical profession poses a threat to public health and safety.1 “Trust is crucial in the relationship between patients and health care providers, but it’s been on the decline in recent decades,” Dr. Dhruv Khullar, a physician at New York Presbyterian Hospital and a researcher at Weill Cornell Department of Healthcare Policy and Research writes, noting that:

“Mistrust in the medical profession — particularly during emergencies like epidemics — can have deadly consequences. In 1966, more than three-fourths of Americans had great confidence in medical leaders; today, only 34 percent do.

Compared with people in other developed countries, Americans are considerably less likely to trust doctors, and only a quarter express confidence in the health system. During some recent disease outbreaks, less than one-third of Americans said they trusted public health officials to share complete and accurate information. Only 14 percent trust the federal government to do what’s right most of the time.”

Trust Requires Trustworthiness

Trust in the conventional medical paradigm has declined for a good reason. As noted by Khullar, “Waning trust in the health system is partly a result of the sometimes well-founded public perception that its key players pursue profits at the expense of patients.” Indeed, how is anyone expected to trust a system as riddled with corporate profit bias as what we currently have?

Doctors, while well-intentioned, have by and large become untrustworthy for the simple fact that they stopped thinking for themselves and fell into a corporate for-profit scheme that depends on chronic illness. Few are those who buck the system, do their own research rather than getting their information from pharmaceutical reps, and focus on patient education about preventive strategies that don’t involve costly drugs or surgical interventions.

A healthy whole food diet, exercise, proper breathing and movement, sensible sun exposure and grounding — these are all simple foundational aspects of good health that cost very little or nothing. Yet they’re rarely if ever considered when it comes time to address illness. The article also rightfully notes that transparency is a key feature that inspires trust, and honest transparency has become increasingly difficult to come by.

As just one example, the list of medical professionals, nutritional professionals and academics who pose as independent experts sharing their well-educated stances with the public — when in fact they are paid shills for one corporation or another — has grown longer with each passing year. Hiding conflicts of interest has become the norm, it seems, and honest disclosure of possible conflicts of interest is a cornerstone of the kind of transparency needed to build trust.

Following are a few blaring examples showcasing why distrust in the medical system is actually warranted, and could be viewed as a sign of sanity prevailing over orchestrated attempts to undermine public health and well-being.

CDC and Coca-Cola — Still ‘Partners in Health’

In 2015, it was revealed that a Coca-Cola front group called the Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN) was founded to cast doubts on claims that soda consumption is a major if not primary cause of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and related health problems. The network, funded with millions from Coca-Cola that were never publicly disclosed, pushed the already debunked theory that to maintain a healthy weight, all you need is more exercise.  

After that public relations nightmare, Coca-Cola vowed to be more transparent about its funding of scientists and health partnerships, but as noted in a recent report by Russ Greene,2 the company has not changed its ways.

While Coca-Cola claims to publish “all relevant funding of well-being related research, partnerships and health professionals and scientific experts” every six months, when comparing the company’s data with annual reports from the U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention (CDC) and the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH), Greene discovered major discrepancies.

As it turns out, Coca-Cola failed to report some of its largest payments to the CDC. “Coca-Cola donated to the [CDC’s] Foundation in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017, according to the Foundation’s annual fiscal reports. And yet a search for ‘Centers for Disease Control’ in Coca-Cola’s website yields no results since 2012,” Greene writes.

He also notes that these payments seem to be at odds with statements made by former CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden, who last year stated he’d been “winding down Coke-funded programs” during his tenure, and had “basically canceled” the CDC’s Coca-Cola run anti-obesity campaign, saying he couldn’t justify having “Coca-Cola run an obesity campaign that had an exclusive focus on physical activity.”

Conflict of Interest Policy Forbids CDC Foundation From Partnering With Soda Giant

Frieden also claimed he’d encouraged the company to provide nonexercise-related donations, but that nothing had come of it, with the exception of a $20,000 donation for a program linked to fighting the Ebola virus. “Frieden’s claims … are not consistent with the fact that Coca-Cola donated to the CDC Foundation during every single year of his tenure except 2014,” Greene writes, “And Coca-Cola’s ‘transparency’ archive is hiding at least four separate payments to the CDC Foundation. So, both parties are acting as if they’re ashamed of their partnership. And yet it persists.”

Perhaps most importantly, the CDC Foundation’s acceptance of funding from Coca-Cola is at odds with its own conflict of interest policy, which does not permit “Partnership with an organization that represents any product that exacerbates morbidity or mortality when used as directed (mission compatibility).” Anyone who has read even a fraction of the research on sugar and sweetened beverages in recent years would agree that Coca-Cola does not qualify as a CDC “mission compatible” health partner.

Coca-Cola Still Hides NIH Payments

Coca-Cola has also neglected to report payments to the FNIH, Greene found. Since the FNIH is a nongovernmental entity, it is not subject to the same policies and regulations as the NIH itself. This, as noted on the FNIH’s website, allows the foundation “to have a unique role” in public and private partnerships. As noted by Greene:3

The NIH Foundation is essentially a money launderer. It provides corporations that are banned by NIH’s conflict of interest policy from donating directly to NIH with a convenient loophole. For example, Coca-Cola can’t pay the NIH directly, but it can pay the NIH Foundation, which then transfers the money to the NIH … Coca-Cola is listed twice as a donor to the NIH Foundation in 2015. But Coca-Cola’s archives do not list an NIH Foundation payment that year …

[A]t this point, is there any reason to believe that we’ve been allowed to see the full extent of the Coca-Cola partnerships with CDC and NIH? Consider that we have corrected Coca-Cola’s archives multiple times in the past, and they updated their records shortly thereafter.” 

Hospitals Serve Sugar-Laden Processed Foods

Another glaring example of how little attention our medical system affords health is the fact that U.S. hospitals and senior care institutions still insist on serving highly processed, sugary foods and “nutritional shakes” like Ensure and Boost.4,5 Fruit juices are another unhealthy staple. Even diabetics are served ample amounts of bread and other refined carbs that will ensure they’ll never be able to keep their blood sugar under control.6

Sugar, especially high fructose corn syrup, is the very last thing a sick person needs while trying to recuperate and recover, and if there ever was a place where healthy eating should be the norm, it would be in our hospitals. Yet hospital meals are chockful of sugars, chemicals and genetically engineered ingredients that do your body no good.

Take Ensure, for example. Of its 36 itemized ingredients, the first six are corn syrup, corn maltodextrin, sugar (sucrose), corn oil, sodium and calcium caseinates, soy protein isolate and artificial flavor.

This horrendous concoction is typically given as complete meal replacements to people who cannot chew or swallow and need to use a feeding tube. At present, there appears to be just one organic, whole food-based feeding tube formula on the market. It’s called Liquid Hope,7 and was created by Robin Gentry McGee, a health and lifestyle coach and chef, whose father suffered a brain injury that left him in a coma in 2005. Refusing to feed him what she calls “garbage,” she eventually created her own formula.

“I basically created it because I had to. I was trying to save my dad’s life, and to me giving him the high fructose corn syrup sugar water was not an option,” she explained back in 2013.8 Her formula contains over 20 organic whole food ingredients. “Within six weeks the healing was [so] profound that his M.D. called me up and told me it was a miracle,” McGee told a reporter. “But it wasn’t a miracle, it was nutrition.” 

Science-Based Medicine Requires Patients to Take Control of Their Health

John Ioannidis is one of the world’s foremost experts on the credibility of medical research. He and his team have repeatedly shown that many of the conclusions biomedical researchers arrive at in their published studies are exaggerated or flat-out wrong. Yet this is the “science-based evidence” doctors use to prescribe drugs or recommend surgery. According to Ioannidis’ findings, as much as 90 percent of the published medical information relied on by doctors is flawed or incorrect.9

He’s not the only one who has reached this conclusion. In fact, the idea that conventional medical treatments are “scientifically proven” and based on solid science is quite the misnomer. According to 2007 data from the British Medical Journal’s “Clinical Evidence” website, of the 2,500 treatments evaluated, only 15 percent were rated as beneficial. A whopping 46 percent had an efficacy rating of “unknown.”10,11

In other words, nearly half of accepted medical treatments used in general practice were not scientifically proven to work or provide benefit for the patient. Granted, that’s a significant improvement over statistics compiled in 1978, when the Office of Technology Assessment concluded only 10 to 20 percent of medical treatments had evidence to support their use.12 Research also shows that many novel medical treatments gain popularity over older standards of care due mostly to clever marketing, not solid science.

An investigation13 by the Mayo Clinic published in 2013 proved this point. To determine the overall effectiveness of medical care, researchers tracked the frequency of medical reversals over the past decade. Not only did they find that reversals are common across all classes of medical practice, but they too confirmed that a significant proportion of medical treatments offer no patient benefit.

The most telling data in the report confirm that many common medical treatments actually do more harm than good. Of the studies that tested an existing standard of care, 40 percent reversed the practice as it was found to be either ineffective or harmful. Only 38 percent of the studies reaffirmed existing standards.

The remaining 22 percent were inconclusive. This means that anywhere between 40 and 78 percent of the medical testing, treatments and procedures you receive are of no benefit to you — or are actually harmful — according to clinical studies.

Scientific Bias and Fraud Are a Growing Problem

In more recent years, the shocking prevalence of scientific bias and outright fraud14 has also garnered attention, as this trend undermines the credibility of the field of science altogether.15 A major weakness is the fact that many studies that fail to find a benefit never see the light of day, and when only positive findings are published, it presents an incredibly skewed view of the facts.

Then there’s the influence of funding, which has repeatedly and consistently been shown to have a dramatic impact on study results. As previously reported in Live Science:16

“One of the most well-known examples of bias involves the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) paroxetine (Paxil), an anti-anxiety medicine. The pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline suppressed results from four trials that not only failed to show treatment effectiveness for off-label use of its SSRI among children and teens, but also showed possible increased risk of suicidal tendencies in this age group.”

Modern Medicine Is the Third Leading Cause of Death

Doctors (not to mention drug companies) may bemoan the lack of trust and faith in their offerings, but you certainly cannot claim that it’s an undeserved trend. In 2000, Dr. Barbara Starfield published a study revealing that doctors are in fact the third leading cause of death in the U.S., killing an estimated 225,000 patients annually.17 Her statistics showed that each year:

  • 12,000 die from unnecessary surgery
  • 7,000 die from medication errors in hospitals
  • 20,000 die from other errors in hospitals
  • 80,000 die from hospital-acquired infections
  • 106,000 die from the negative side effects of drugs taken as prescribed

Unfortunately, few believed it, and no affirmative action was ever taken to address and correct the situation. So, when new data was published in 2016, showing the situation has only gotten worse, I for one was not surprised. The study,18 published in the BMJ, concluded that medical errors now kill an estimated 250,000 Americans each year — an increase of about 25,000 people annually from Starfield’s estimates — and these numbers may still be vastly underestimated as deaths occurring at home or in nursing homes were not included.

Many media outlets, including The Washington Post,19 bore headlines saying medical errors are “now” the leading cause of death, but the truth is, modern medicine has been the third leading cause of death for at least two decades, that we know of. Research20 published in 2013 estimated that preventable hospital errors kill 210,000 Americans each year — a figure that is very close to the latest statistics.

However, when deaths related to diagnostic errors, errors of omission and failure to follow guidelines were included, the number skyrocketed to 440,000 preventable hospital deaths each year. That’s inching ever closer to the death toll from cancer — the second leading cause of death in the U.S. — which is projected to claim just over 609,000 Americans this year.21

Overtesting, Overtreatment and Hospital-Acquired Infections Also Take a Toll

Overtesting and overtreatment are also part of the problem. Instead of dissuading patients from unnecessary or questionable interventions, the system rewards waste and incentivizes disease over health. According to a 2012 report by the Institute of Medicine, an estimated 30 percent of all medical procedures, tests and medications may in fact be unnecessary,22 at a cost of at least $750 billion a year. To learn which tests and interventions may do more harm than good, browse through the Choosing Wisely website.23

Other grim statistics revealing the hazards of modern medicine include rates of hospital-acquired infections. According to CDC statistics,24,25 1 in 25 patients end up with a hospital-acquired infection, and about 75,000 people die from these infections each year.26 Medicare patients may be at even greater risk. According to the 2011 Health Grades Hospital Quality in America Study,27 1 in 9 Medicare patients developed a hospital-acquired infection.

Take Control of Your Health

Considering everything mentioned so far, is it any wonder that trust in the medical profession has dwindled to about one-third, or that only 1 in 4 Americans trust the health care system as a whole? Bear in mind, the examples included above are just a sampling. I haven’t even touched on the corruption and conflicts of interest involving the food industry at large, or the fact that junk food purveyors fund and provide much of the educational material for our nutrition professionals.

The take-home message is that you cannot be too careful when it comes to medical and nutritional advice. On the whole, our medical establishment has a long way to go before they will regain their old aura as the ultimate authority on health. In the meantime, remember you are ultimately responsible for your own health, and while it’s certainly wise to listen to health professionals you trust, it cannot hurt to get a second or third opinion.

Seeking input and feedback from alternative health professionals can also provide you with alternatives you may never get from a conventional doctor. More often than not, successfully addressing chronic illness will require a holistic approach that may include both conventional and complementary approaches.

Surprising Reason for Toxic Water Crisis

By Dr. Mercola

If you live near a lake in the U.S., you may have noticed signs warning of toxic blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria. Such warnings, advising swimmers and boaters to stay out of the water, and keep pets away as well, are becoming increasingly common as the thick, green muck appears on once-pristine waterways. Blue-green algae make up a portion of the phytoplankton in many bodies of water,1 and they’re not inherently dangerous or even altogether unusual.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), fossil evidence suggests blue-green algae have been around for millions of years, with algal blooms dating back to the 12th century. However, the agency notes, “[I]t is possible that the frequency and duration of blooms are increasing in some Wisconsin waters as a result of increased nutrient concentrations.”2

The problem of increasing algal blooms is not unique to Wisconsin — it’s happening all over the U.S., particularly in agricultural areas where the use of phosphorus-based fertilizers is prolific.

Phosphorus is a known driver of blue-green algae, as they use it readily for fuel. Researchers have uncovered another, relatively surprising, source of phosphorus that also appears to be driving the toxic algae growth to unprecedented levels — glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide.

Glyphosate May Be Driving Up Rates of Toxic Algae

Glyphosate is a synthetic phosphonate herbicide and is the most heavily used agricultural chemical of all time. In the U.S., over 1.6 billion kilograms of the chemical have been applied since 1974.3 It was long believed that plankton could not access phosphonates like glyphosate as a fuel source, but in 2009 R. Michael McKay and George Bullerjahn of Bowling Green State University in Ohio showed that this is not the case.

Instead, they found that cyanobacteria can utilize the phosphonate portion of the glyphosate molecule.4 In a report released by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — the Ohio Lake Erie Phosphorus Task Force Final Report — it’s stated, “The researchers estimate that as much as 1,000 metric tons [about 2.2 million pounds] of Roundup is applied to Lake Erie’s watershed per year, and it is being detected in adjacent waterways particularly in the spring.”5 Bullerjahn further stated in an Ohio State University news release:6

“It turns out that many cyanobacteria present in Lake Erie have the genes allowing the uptake of phosphonates, and these cyanobacteria can grow using glyphosate and other phosphonates as a sole source of phosphorus.”

Lake Erie has been struggling with algae blooms due to manure, sewage and fertilizer runoff, as well as runoffs from glyphosate applications, leading to contaminated drinking water and fish die-offs for decades. Algae-triggered “dead zones” in the lake are now larger than they’ve been since the ’80s and cover 25 percent of the entire lake.7 Further, in 2017 the lake’s algal blooms were recorded as the third-largest on record.8

Spikes in Phosphorus in Lake Erie Watershed Linked to Planting of GE Crops

Adding to the evidence that glyphosate could be playing a role is research by Ohio Northern University chemist Christopher Spiese and colleagues, who suggested that spikes in dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP) runoff that have increased since the mid-1990s coincided with an increased use of glyphosate.

At the 2016 Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference, Spiese shared the results of his study, which found a significant correlation between DRP loads and the number of acres planted with herbicide-tolerant genetically engineered (GE) crops (which are heavily sprayed with Roundup). “For every acre of Roundup Ready soybeans and corn that you plant, it works out to be about one-third of a pound of P coming down the Maumee [watershed and into Lake Erie],” Spiese told Sustainable Pulse.9

Spiese also found that glyphosate is capable of releasing phosphorus from the soil and conducted studies to see what happens when soil samples were applied with phosphorus and then sprayed with glyphosate. Some of the samples showed significant phosphorus release, with “hot spots” likely contributing a significant amount of DRP. Sustainable Pulse reported:10

“Based on the average two glyphosate applications growers make every year, Spiese estimates that overall, 20-25% of the DRP runoff is caused by glyphosate. But depending on the location within the watershed, that percentage could be much lower or much greater.”

In February 2016, the U.S. and Canada announced plans to reduce the amount of phosphorus entering Lake Erie by 40 percent by 2025,11 but it’s seeming increasingly clear that reaching this goal must take into account not only fertilizer runoff but also glyphosate applications. The problem has gotten so bad in the area that even drinking water has been affected.

In 2014, citizens in Toledo, Ohio, were warned not to drink their tap water as it was found to contain significantly elevated levels of microcystins, caused by algae blooms in Lake Erie.12 Microsystins are nerve toxins produced by some blue-green algae that can cause fever, headaches, vomiting and seizures.

The city and surrounding areas became the first to report drinking water-associated outbreaks caused by harmful algal blooms, as highlighted in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) November 2017 surveillance for waterborne disease outbreaks report.13

“The cyanobacterial toxin microcystin caused the largest reported toxin contamination of community drinking water in August 2013 and September 2014 and was responsible for extensive community and water disruptions,” the CDC noted.14 The agency is now tracking harmful algal blooms (HABs) via its One Health Harmful Algal Bloom System (OHHABS), calling them an “emerging public health issue.”15

Toxic Algae Using Toxic Roundup for Food

In short, it appears that toxic algae are thriving, in part, due to increasing usage of glyphosate. In another report by Bullerjahn and colleagues, it’s noted that, “Glyphosate is a phosphonate that can be used by cyanobacteria as a source of phosphorus” and is ‘likely to stimulate algal blooms.”16

Interestingly, separate research published in 2016 also revealed that glyphosate has an effect on phytoplankton — in some cases leading to its growth and in other cases proving to be toxic or having no effect. Writing in PLOS One, the researchers explained:17

“[G]lyphosate could be used as P-source by some species while is toxic to some other species and yet has no effects on others. The observed differential effects suggest that the continued use of glyphosate and increasing concentration of this herbicide in the coastal waters will likely exert significant impact on coastal marine phytoplankton community structure.”

Unfortunately, glyphosate is but one agricultural chemical that is wreaking havoc on lakes, streams and other bodies of water. Runoff from synthetic chemical fertilizers as well as the excessive amounts of manure from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) that’s often sprayed onto farm fields are also highly problematic. In fact, an AP investigation revealed alarming trends, including that levels of nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer runoff are getting higher in lakes and streams.

Further, despite government agencies spending billions of dollars to help farmers prevent fertilizer runoff and circumvent the problem, algae blooms are getting worse instead of better.18 Overall, the EPA states that about 15,000 water bodies have been identified that have “nutrient-related problems,”19 and many more probably have yet to be identified.

Outside the U.S., meanwhile, algal blooms spanning thousands of miles have been recorded in China and Australia, while microcystin has been detected in more than 240 bodies of water in Canada. In Greece, Italy and Spain, algal blooms are also a problem and estimated to cost the economy $355 million annually.20

The Problem With Toxic Algae

Blue-green algae is smelly and can lead to discolored, foul-tasting water, but that’s just the start. One way blue-green algae become toxic is by virtue of its thick density, which blocks light and can deplete oxygen in the water, leading to dead zones. Wisconsin DNR explained:21

“[W]hen blue-green algae reach bloom densities, they can actually reduce light penetration, which can adversely affect other aquatic organisms both directly (e.g., other phytoplankton and aquatic plants) and indirectly (e.g., zooplankton and fish that depend on phytoplankton and plants) … When a blue-green algae bloom dies off, the blue-green algae cells sink and are broken down by microbes.

This breakdown process requires oxygen and can create a biological oxygen demand. Increases in biological oxygen demand result in decreases in oxygen concentration in the water, and this can adversely affect fish and other aquatic life, and can even result in fish kills.”

The other major problem stems from toxic chemical compounds that are naturally produced by some types of blue-green algae. Harmful to humans, pets and marine life, the toxins may lead to skin rashes and respiratory issues, and, should they get into an open wound, may even lead to a staph infection.22 A type of cyanobacteria called microcystis are nerve toxins that may lead to nausea, vomiting, headaches, seizures and long-term liver disease if ingested in drinking water.23

Researchers are also looking into whether another toxin, BMAA (Beta-N-Methylamino-L-alanine), in blue-green algae may be linked to neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease).24

You can be exposed to algae toxins via direct contact with the water or algae, breathing in the toxins in the air or even by eating fish or shellfish that have eaten toxic algae.25 What makes toxic algae even more troubling is that you can’t tell which types are toxic by looking at them. Wisconsin DNR continued:26

“These [toxic] chemicals are not produced all of the time and there is no easy way to tell when blue-green algae are producing them and when they are not. When the cells are broken open, the toxins may be released. Sometimes this occurs when the cells die off naturally and they break open as they sink and decay in a lake or pond.

Cells may also be broken open when the water is treated with chemicals meant to kill algae, and when cells are swallowed and mixed with digestive acids in the stomachs of people or animals. The only way to be sure if the toxins are present is to have water samples analyzed in a laboratory using sophisticated equipment.”

Changes in Agriculture Are Necessary to Stop the ‘Green Plague’

Many of the world’s lakes are at risk due to agricultural chemicals feeding harmful blue-green algae. The answer, according to the researchers, is better land-use management that addresses fertilizer runoff. Dramatic reductions in synthetic fertilizer use are also recommended, and hopefully it won’t be long until a similar recommendation is made for glyphosate as well.

The effects of agricultural runoff on water quality are finally starting to be addressed in some areas, where farmers are trying new conservation methods to ward off toxic runoff and protect water quality. This includes strategies such as building “artificial wetlands and underground ‘bioreactors’ to capture nutrients in drainage systems,” according to The Christian Science Monitor.27 Others have started using cover crops and no-till methods to slow fertilizer and pesticide runoff.

On an individual level, you can help by buying food from organic farmers who are not using glyphosate and instead rely on natural methods and soil-regenerative techniques, such as no till, cover crops, composting and livestock integration. This will naturally help you to eat better too, since typically only real whole foods are grown this way (while most processed foods are the product of destructive industrial nitrogen fertilizer-laden and glyphosate-heavy agriculture).

It’s important to note that if you see signs warning of harmful algae blooms, stay out of the water and keep your pets out too. Even if there are no signs present, avoid entering water that smells bad, looks discolored or has foam, scum or algae mats on the surface.28 If you suspect there could be a problem, you’re better off safe than sorry, and be aware that algae toxins can be present in the water even if there’s no visible algae on the surface.

In addition, avoid consuming any water that could be contaminated with algae toxins, even if the water has been boiled. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Boiling water does not remove algal toxins and can increase the amount of toxin in the water by concentrating it,”29 so you’ll need to find an alternative source of water if an advisory is issued in your area.

Eggs Cannot Be Defined by Law

By Dr. Mercola

Eggs, organic and pastured, are among the healthiest foods you can eat, and discussing the definition of an egg seems, on the surface, to be a rather moot point. That is, until you learn a curious fact about the legal definition of an egg, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While the FDA wasn’t shy about legally defining egg whites, frozen egg yolks and liquid eggs, regular eggs — the kind in the shell (as though there were any other kind — have no such definition.

Stranger still, the FDA has a rule on the books that forbids it, stating “no regulation shall be promulgated fixing and establishing a reasonable definition and standard of identity for the food commonly known as eggs.”1 One can only speculate why the FDA would go to such a length to avoid pinning down a definition for eggs, but one thing the lack thereof allows is for restaurants to pass off “eggish” products as real eggs, with no obvious distinctions to consumers.

So it’s not surprising that food chain Panera, which is launching a breakfast sandwich made from “100% real eggs,” submitted a petition to the FDA to eliminate the “no definition rule” and asking for eggs to be defined to “reflect a food made from a cracked shell egg without addition of additives or further processing” — the exception being pasteurization or other treatment to destroy salmonella.2

As the saying goes, truth really is stranger than fiction, and although Panera is clearly seeking to legally define eggs in order to bolster profits, it seems to be a worthwhile endeavor nonetheless. As Modern Farmer noted, “[I]t seems that Panera has actually stumbled on something bizarre and worth digging into. What possible reason could the FDA have for not only declining to define an egg, but for going a step further and actually passing a rule that specifically forbids anyone from defining one?”3

Egg Sandwiches Often Made From ‘Egg Products’ Instead

Eggs play a starring role in most fast-food breakfast sandwiches, with many taking for granted the notion that an “egg sandwich” contains real egg. This is where the FDA’s strange egg loophole rears its ugly head, as an egg sandwich may actually be made with a heavily processed “egg product.” Ironically, fast-food giant McDonald’s — hardly known for wholesome food — is among those that touts the use of a whole cracked egg in its breakfast menu, but only on its McMuffin (which still does not make it a health food).

Most of their other egg sandwiches contain “folded egg,” which is a mix of eggs, nonfat milk, modified food starch, salt and citric acid.4 Other food chains are similarly guilty of passing of unappetizing egg concoctions as simply “eggs” on its sandwiches. Dunkin’ Donuts’ bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, for instance, is made with an “egg patty” that includes soybean oil, cornstarch, xanthan gum and natural flavor, among other ingredients.5

Even Starbucks, many people may be surprised to learn, uses a “puffed scrambled egg patty” on its sausage, cheddar and egg breakfast sandwich, made with soybean oil, modified food starch, butter flavor and guar gum, to name just some of its ingredients.6 The moral of the story is that if you choose a fast-food breakfast, there’s a good chance the egg it contains is a far cry from the kind you could, just as quickly, whip up at home — although Panera is trying to change that. The company wrote in a press release:7

In developing its newest breakfast sandwiches, Panera discovered that current FDA regulations do not establish a definition or a standard of identity for eggs. Without this, companies can sell and advertise items that contain multiple additives, such as butter-type flavors, gums and added color, under the generic term ‘egg.’ Panera’s goal in petitioning the FDA is to better support and inform guests in the absence of a true definition for the term ‘egg.’”

Further, Panera’s director of wellness and food policy Sara Burnett, explained, “After discovering the FDA’s lack of definition for the simple term ‘egg,’ Panera began exploring menus from other companies in the food industry to better understand what’s in their ‘egg’ sandwiches. Panera found that 50 percent of the top 10 fast casual restaurants that sell breakfast have an ‘egg’ made of at least five ingredients, often more.”8

Fake Eggs an Actual Problem in Asia

In Asia, fake eggs are taken to another level entirely, with whole egg lookalikes appearing on store shelves since about the mid-1990s. Circa 2005, it was said that fake eggs cost about half as much to make as real eggs, whereas other reports suggest 10 fake eggs cost just 2 cents to produce,9 hence the attempts to pass them off to unsuspecting consumers.

Made with strange combinations like calcium carbonate and paraffin wax for the shells, resin, coagulant, pigment and sodium alginate for the whites and yolks, the fake eggs appear eerily similar to the actual thing, although with ingredients linked to liver, brain and nerve damage.10 An investigation by the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) in Malaysia revealed slight differences between real and fake eggs to watch out for.

The fake eggs, CAP said, were rougher on the surface and larger than real eggs, with yellower yolks and no chalazae, the ropy strand of egg white that holds the yolk in place. Further, fake eggs smell different from real eggs, with some having no scent at all, and, if shaken in the shell, you’ll hear liquid sloshing around, as opposed to a more solidified sound from a real egg.11

Reports on social media suggest the eggs become rubbery when cooked, with yolks that may even bounce on the floor. In speaking with a reported 10-year veteran in the fake-egg industry, on investigation with the Qilu Evening News, reported by the Epoch Times, explained more unsettling details about how the fake eggs are created:12

The eggshell is created in a mold; stirring the calcium mixture and applying it evenly is crucial in creating a convincing fake. In 10 minutes, the egg is complete. To reduce the strong chemical smell given off by the compounds that comprise the whites and yolk, the eggs are treated with aquarium water to recreate an authentic odor. For added effect, traces of chicken droppings can be placed on the eggs.”

Beyond Eggs for US — Ultra-Processed Isolates Backed by Gates

A different type of fake egg has already hit store shelves in the U.S. Dubbed “Beyond Eggs,” the pea-based egg replacement was created by Hampton Creek, a food startup backed by Bill Gates, aiming to replace animal foods with plant products.13

The Beyond Eggs product was intended to be used only in baking, but the company is hoping to soon release another plant-based artificial egg product made from mung beans, called Just Scramble, and intended to replace other egg replacement products used by schools and universities.

Along with the fake eggs, the company also makes a plant-based mayonnaise and is working on plant-based ice cream and butter, along with a lab-grown meat product. It’s the latest lineup of ultra-processed food created from isolates and cultures that is being passed off as healthier than the real thing. The “Beyond Meat” Beyond Burger is another example that’s already sitting on U.S. grocery store shelves.

Made from a heavily processed concoction of ingredients like pea protein isolate, canola oil, gum Arabic, modified food starch and cellulose from bamboo, it’s far from health and a far cry from real food.

The Impossible Burger, a meat substitute made from soy, wheat, coconut oil, potatoes and plant-based “heme,” the latter of which is derived from genetically engineered (GE) yeast, is another example of the fake food fad that seems to be rising in the U.S., as is the meat substitute known as Quorn, a fungus-based ferment that hit the U.S. market in 2002.

It’s important to remember that a key feature of healthy food is being as natural and unprocessed as possible, and meat alternatives such as the Beyond Burger, Impossible Burger and Quorn involve the highest level of processing imaginable. These products are manufactured from start to finish and involve the use of man-made ingredients.

Even more importantly, real, whole food such as meat and eggs contain a complex mix of nutrients and cofactors that you cannot recreate by an assembly of individual components. As a general rule, man-made foods are vastly inferior to natural, whole foods and always will be.

Real Nutrition Comes From Real Eggs

Getting back to eggs, if you’re interested in real nutrition, forget the fake egg patties, powders and replacements and opt for the real thing instead. Eggs became largely vilified over recent decades, in part because of misconceptions regarding their cholesterol content. In reality, eggs, particularly the yolks, provide valuable vitamins (A, D, E and K), omega-3 fats and antioxidants. They’re also one of the best sources of choline available.

Choline helps keep your cell membranes functioning properly, plays a role in nerve communications, prevents the buildup of homocysteine in your blood (elevated levels are linked to heart disease) and reduces chronic inflammation. Choline is also needed for your body to make the brain chemical acetylcholine, which is involved in storing memories.

In pregnant women, choline plays an equally, if not more, important role, helping to prevent certain birth defects, such as spina bifida, and playing a role in brain development.

According to a study published in the journal Nutrients, only 8 percent of U.S. adults are getting enough choline (including only 8.5 percent of pregnant women).14 Among egg consumers, however, more than 57 percent met the adequate intake (AI) levels for choline, compared to just 2.4 percent of people who consumed no eggs. In fact, the researchers concluded that it’s “extremely difficult” to get enough choline unless you eat eggs or take a dietary supplement. One egg yolk contains nearly 215 mg of choline.

Why else are egg yolks good for you? They’re rich in the antioxidant carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which are beneficial for vision health. Egg yolks are also an excellent source of healthy fat and protein, while providing you with vitamins that many Americans are lacking. Eating egg yolks may even be an ideal way to resolve other common nutrient deficiencies beyond choline, including vitamins A, E and B6, copper, calcium and folate.15

Free-range or “pastured” organic eggs are far superior when it comes to nutrient content, while conventionally raised eggs are far more likely to be contaminated with disease-causing bacteria such as Salmonella. You can usually tell your eggs are pastured by the color of the egg yolk. Foraged hens produce eggs with bright orange yolks, and this is what most people who raise backyard chickens are after. Dull, pale yellow yolks are a sure sign you’re getting eggs from caged hens that are not allowed to forage for their natural diet.

Where You Get Your Eggs Matters

Since the FDA currently does not allow eggs to be defined, be aware that “egg” dishes may take on a variety of processed forms in restaurants. You can easily avoid falling for this fake egg loophole by being choosy about where your eggs come from and preparing them yourself at home. Unfortunately, loopholes also abound in terms of eggs sold in U.S. grocery stores, allowing CAFO-raised chickens and eggs to masquerade as “free-range” and “organic.”

The Cornucopia Institute addressed some of these issues in their egg report and scorecard, which ranks egg producers according to 28 organic criteria. It can help you to make a more educated choice if you’re buying your eggs at the supermarket. Ultimately, however, the best choice is to get to know a local farmer and get your eggs there directly.

Alternatively, you might consider raising your own backyard chickens or picking up organic, pastured eggs from a local farmers market or food co-op. This way, there’s no confusion over what’s a real egg and what’s not — regardless of what the FDA definition ultimately turns out to be.

Vitamin D Insufficiency Linked to Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Sports Injuries

By Dr. Mercola

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the most common gastrointestinal disorder in the U.S. An estimated $1.6 billion is spent on treatments each year.1,2 Depending on the source, data suggests anywhere from 10 to 25 percent of Americans struggle with this condition.3,4

IBS is completely different from another condition with a similar name: inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which is an autoimmune disease that can have very serious consequences. While it can cause debilitating pain, IBS is a functional bowel disorder, meaning there are no significant physical conditions that contribute to the problem. Common signs and symptoms of IBS include frequent: 

  • Abdominal discomfort and/or pain
  • Spastic colon (spastic contractions of the colon)
  • Gas and/or bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation

IBS is frequently treated with drugs such as antispasmodics and even antidepressants. While these drugs may help control symptoms, they do not address the underlying problem, which is primarily diet related. Typically, simply avoiding gluten will result in significant improvement. Recent research has also highlighted the importance of vitamin D optimization in this condition.

IBS Strongly Associated With Vitamin D Insufficiency

A recent review5,6,7 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition notes that of the seven published studies looking at vitamin D status and IBS prevalence, four observational studies concluded vitamin D deficiency is prominent among those with IBS — with about 75 percent having insufficient levels — and two intervention studies reported “improvement in IBS symptom severity scores and quality of life” among those given vitamin D supplements. In one, 70 percent of IBS patients improved on the vitamin D regimen. According to the authors:

“The available evidence suggests that low vitamin D status is common among the IBS population and merits assessment and rectification for general health reasons alone. An inverse correlation between serum vitamin D and IBS symptom severity is suggested and vitamin D interventions may benefit symptoms.”

Lead author Bernard Corfe, Ph.D.,8 a senior lecturer in oncology at the University of Sheffield in the U.K., told reporters, “It is evident from the findings that all people with IBS should have their vitamin D levels tested and a large majority of them would benefit from supplements.”9

Another recent study10 looking at gene expression and variations in patients’ serotonin pathways also concluded that IBS patients tend to have lower vitamin D levels, and that expression of genetic biomarkers for IBS are modulated by vitamin D. According to the authors:

“Strikingly, the direction of gene regulation elicited by vitamin D in colonic cells is ‘opposite’ to the gene expression profile observed in IBS patients, suggesting that vitamin D may help ‘reverse’ the pathological direction of biomarker gene expression in IBS. Thus, our results intimate that IBS pathogenesis and pathophysiology may involve dysregulated serotonin production and/or vitamin D insufficiency.”

Football Players Sidelined by Low Vitamin D

In related news, other recent research11 found nearly 60 percent of National Football League players have low vitamin D levels, placing them at increased risk for injury. Fifty-six percent of those with insufficient levels of vitamin D (a serum level of 20 to 31 ng/mL) suffered some form of lower extremity muscle strain or muscle injury while playing, and 73 percent of those with severe deficiency (a vitamin D level of 20 ng/mL or lower) ended up with muscle injuries.

For comparison, only 40 percent of those with “normal” vitamin D levels reported injuries, defined here as a vitamin D level of 32 ng/mL or greater. Analysis revealed inadequate vitamin D levels nearly doubled a player’s odds of suffering lower extremity strain or core muscle injury, and raised their odds of hamstring injury nearly fourfold.

Considering the research showing 40 ng/mL is really the cutoff point for general health, and that 60 ng/mL is likely a more ideal level, one wonders if sports injuries might not be reduced even more were the players to maintain levels of 40 to 60 ng/mL. In a hospital news release, Dr. Brian Rebolledo, orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine at the Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, California, and the lead author of the study said:12

“We were interested in vitamin D in this population because it’s been shown to play an important role in muscle function and strength, which is critical to the high-performance athlete. Most of the past research into the harmful effects of low vitamin D has focused on the elderly, but relatively few studies have examined this association in the elite athlete. This study suggests that monitoring and treating low vitamin D may potentially be a simple way to help prevent certain muscle injuries.”

Have Gastrointestinal Issues? Avoid GMOs

Getting back to IBS, aside from optimizing your vitamin D level, it would be wise to evaluate your diet a bit further. As mentioned, avoiding gluten is an important first step in treating this condition, but avoiding GMO foods loaded with glyphosate and other pesticides may be equally important. As previously noted by Naked Food Magazine:13

“If you … suffer from a chronic digestive issue, then you should know that the food you choose to consume could be carrying a gene that is designed to intentionally cause intestinal rupture. [GMO] foods that contain Bt toxin, a built-in insecticide that inherently works by imploding the stomach of the creature that is feasting on it, could very well be contributing to your intestinal angst.”

Bt plants have been genetically engineered (GE) to be equipped with a gene from the soil bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis(Bt), allowing the plants to produce Bt toxin internally. Plant-incorporated pesticides such as Bt (both the protein and its genetic material) are actually registered with the EPA as a pesticide,14 but the Bt plant itself is not regulated as such, which has resulted in the false claim that Bt plants have reduced pesticide usage.

Importantly, the Bt toxin in Bt plants does not degrade, nor can it be removed or cleaned off the food because it’s integrated into each cell of the plant. The plant-produced version of the poison is also thousands of times more concentrated than the topical spray, making these GE foods a potential cause of significant health problems. 

Bt Toxin Is Exempt From Toxicity Requirements

Plant-incorporated Bt toxin in Bt soybeans is also exempt from the requirement of a tolerance level for residues,15 both in the commodity and in the final food product. The final rule on this was issued in February 2014. This is truly incomprehensible in light of the potential for harm. Originally, Monsanto and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency claimed the Bt toxin produced inside the plant would be destroyed in the human digestive system, therefore posing no health risk.

This was proven false in 2011, when doctors at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec found Bt-toxin in the blood of 93 percent of pregnant women tested, 80 percent of umbilical blood in their babies, and 67 percent of nonpregnant women.16 This study revealed that Bt toxin actually does bioaccumulate in your body, and you can bet it’s not going to do your health any favors.

Research17 suggests it may produce a wide variety of immune responses, including elevated IgE and IgG antibodies, typically associated with allergies and infections, and an increase in cytokines, associated with allergic and inflammatory responses.

For a Healthier Gut, Clean Up Your Diet and Optimize Your Vitamin D

If you struggle with IBS or any other gut-related issues, avoiding GE foods of all kinds may be a significant part of your answer. Aside from Bt plants, GE plants designed to be herbicide-resistant pose near-identical problems, as they tend to be loaded with toxic herbicides such as glyphosate, which have been shown to take a significant toll on your gut and overall health by destroying your microbiome.

Since GE foods are not required to be clearly labeled in the U.S., your best bet is to eat fresh, organic foods whenever possible and avoid processed foods.

As for vitamin D, the evidence suggests 60 ng/mL may be a more ideal low-end target rather than 40 ng/mL. Hitting 60 ng/mL significantly lowers your risk of all cancers, and for women concerned with breast cancer, having a level of 60 ng/mL can lower your risk by as much as 83 percent compared to having a level below 20 ng/mL.18

For general health, 40 ng/mL appears to be the absolute lowest cutoff point, but most cancers still appear to occur in those with a vitamin D blood level between 10 and 40 ng/mL,19 so shooting a bit higher appears prudent.

Regular, sensible sun exposure is the best way to optimize your vitamin D status, but many will need to take an oral vitamin D3 supplement, especially during winter months. The only way to gauge whether you might need to supplement is to get your level tested, ideally twice a year, in the summer and winter when your level is at its peak and low point.

Grassroots Health offers vitamin D testing at a great value through its D*Action study. Also consider eating more vitamin D containing foods, such as beef liver, mushrooms, organic free-range egg yolks, cod liver oil, caviar (fish roe) and fatty fish such as wild Alaskan salmon, mackerel and sardines.20

Other Strategies That Can Improve IBS Symptoms

Aside from cleaning up your diet and optimizing your vitamin D, the following strategies may also help improve your IBS symptoms:

Get checked for parasites. To make sure you’re not struggling with a physical condition that could be simulating IBS, have your stool checked for parasites. Some parasites, such as giardia, can sometimes be a contributing factor that needs to be treated.

Boost healthy bacteria in your gut. Lowering the amounts of sugar and processed foods in your diet will automatically create a milieu that will support the growth of good bacteria, but you can further enhance that process by eating fermented foods and/or taking a high quality probiotic supplement.

Boost your fiber intake. Taking additional fiber can also be very helpful to control IBS symptoms such as constipation and diarrhea. Fiber such as organic psyllium tends to be particularly helpful, and is my personal favorite. Psyllium is adaptogenic, meaning if you’re constipated it will soften your stool and help increase your bowel frequency, and if you have loose stools and frequent bowel movements, it will help with stool formation and decrease the frequency of bowel movements. 

If you decide to use psyllium, make sure it is organic as the risks of pesticide residue in nonorganic products far outweigh the benefit you would receive from the fiber itself. Another good fiber source is whole, organic flaxseed. You can take few tablespoons of freshly ground flaxseed per day, or better yet, soak the organic flax seeds overnight and put them in your smoothie.

Address emotional challenges. Last but certainly not least, many IBS sufferers tend to have an unresolved emotional component that contributes to their physical problem. This is one of the reasons antidepressants are frequently prescribed. Meditation, prayer and psychological techniques and tools like the Emotional Freedom Techniques or EFT are all strategies you can use to effectively address emotional challenges.

Weekly Health Quiz: Exercise, Blueberries and Magnesium

1 What is the most effective way to determine whether you might have a magnesium deficiency?

  • Evaluate and track your signs of symptoms of magnesium deficiency
  • Check your serum level of magnesium
  • Take magnesium citrate to tolerance (until you get slightly loose bowels). If your dosage is above the RDA, you have an insufficient level of magnesium
  • Check your RBC magnesium level

    Magnesium deficiency is extremely common, and even subclinical deficiency can jeopardize your cardiovascular health. Your best bet is to have an RBC magnesium test done, which measures the amount of magnesium in your red blood cells. Learn more.

2 To ensure a piece of clothing meets the highest organic, sustainable standards, look for:

  • The word “organic” on the label
  • WUSDA 100% organic label
  • GOTS certification

    GOTS certification is the platinum standard for organic, sustainable textiles. A GOTS certified textile is tracked through every single step of the process, from farm to packaging. Learn more.

  • 100% cotton

3 Air pollution can take a significant toll on your health. Which of the following may be the most hazardous in terms of regularly exposing you to poor air quality?

  • Spending more than 30 hours a month in airports and planes
  • Walking regularly for more than an hour in a major urban area
  • Spending more than 90 percent of your time indoors

    The level of air pollution in your home can be two to five times higher than outside, and some of the pollutants you breathe can be as much as 100 times more concentrated indoors. One of the easiest ways to improve your indoor air quality is to open your windows every day. Learn more.

  • Jogging through a city park next to a highway

4 Which of the following has been shown to be the most effective preventive strategy against respiratory infections such as seasonal influenza?

  • Tamiflu
  • Flu vaccine that is appropriately targeted for season’s flu strain
  • Vitamin D

    Optimizing your vitamin D level is more potent a preventive strategy than getting a seasonal flu vaccine. People with significant vitamin D deficiency may reduce their risk of respiratory infections such as influenza by 50 percent. Learn more.

  • High dose vitamin C

5 The name of the antioxidant responsible for giving blueberries their colorful hue that has also been shown to protect your heart against heart attacks is:

  • Beta carotene
  • Anthocyanins

    Because blueberries cross-pollinate, planting multiple varieties with varying maturity dates will ensure a continuous harvest during growing season. Learn more.

  • Lutein
  • Resveratrol

6 Due to the loss of precious hours of this biological necessity, more than 83 million Americans are thought to suffer from:

  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Sleep deprivation

    The reality is about 1 in 3 Americans gets less than seven hours of sleep a night and more than 83 million adults in the U.S. are sleep-deprived. Learn more.

  • Heart disease

7 For adults, especially those over 45, which type of exercise will provide the greatest health and fitness benefits?

  • Aerobic exercise such as jogging or long-distance running
  • Strength exercises such as weight lifting or bodyweight exercises

    Adults over 45 will accomplish greater health and fitness gains by building muscle than by taking up running, as the greatest health hazard of aging is not loss of aerobic capacity but loss of metabolic capacity and the metabolic flexibility that comes with lean muscle mass. Learn more.

  • Whole body vibration
  • Peak 8 fitness exercises