Month: February 2016

Wellness Chiropractic — Benefits Beyond Pain

February 28, 2016

By Dr. Mercola

Many are confused about the benefits and value of chiropractic treatment. According to Dr. Billy DeMoss, a chiropractor with a practice in Newport Beach, who believes chiropractic is vastly underutilized.

He’s also the founder Cal Jam, one of the largest chiropractic teaching events in the world. I will have the privilege of speaking there later this year. Many will only consider chiropractic when they have back or neck pain, but its scope actually goes far beyond that.

“I try to get people to understand that your nervous system and your brain control every function of your body,” he says.

“When we have a condition in chiropractic we call subluxation, which is misalignment or dysfunction in the spine as far as mobility is concerned, it can cause nerve interference, which will interfere with the expression of intelligence that flows over the spinal cord and nerves.

It can contribute not only causing pain that most people perceive as a chiropractic problem but also can cause organs not to function 100 percent.”

Chiropractic as Preventive Medicine

Research by Dr. Dean Harrison and others suggests chiropractic treatments can help prevent progressive spinal degeneration, i.e. osteoarthritis or disc disease. Just like regular dental care will prolong the useful life of your teeth, getting regular chiropractic treatments can do the same for your spine.

Your spinal column, the vertebrae, and the discs, also protect your most delicate and important system — your nervous system — and impingements can contribute to a number of health problems and ailments.

According to DeMoss, anything you do to protect and nurture our spine will promote “greater expression of nerve intelligence” and “a higher vibrancy in health.”

“Healthcare is really about doing everything you can to get the body back in alignment, not only chemically but also spiritually and mentally.

Where I think chiropractic shines is that we address the cause of the problem. Somebody might have high blood pressure. Their high blood pressure is not due to the fact that they [lack] high blood pressure medication.

Your child might have asthma, but it’s not because he’s got a shortage of albuterol; an ear infection is not a shortage of amoxicillin. Those things have their place in a crisis situation. But [chiropractors] don’t look at the symptoms; we look at what caused the symptoms.

Many times if there’s nerve interference lowering the expression and function of organs, it can contribute to the body not functioning at 100 percent, which leaves it more susceptible to, as we in chiropractic say, ‘Dis-Ease’ and then the body becomes sick or symptomatic.

What we like to do is look at the individual holistically and see what’s going on with their nervous system. “

A Brief History of Chiropractic

Osteopathic medicine was founded by Andrew Taylor about 140 years ago. As many of you know I’m a doctor of osteopathy (DO). DOs, like chiropractors, receive extensive additional training in spinal adjustments.

However, in my experience, only a small percentage of DOs are really skilled in this area as they have chosen a more conventional allopathic model, which includes more of an emphasis on drugs and surgery rather than diet and lifestyle changes.

Daniel David “D.D.” Palmer is considered the father of chiropractic. He opened the first chiropractic school in 1897. In 1910, the Flexner Report, which was funded by the Carnegie and the Rockefeller Foundations, set a new tone for medicine and led to the systematic undermining of natural medicine.

In the ‘60s, there was a persistent tendency to suppress physicians from referring patients to chiropractors — so much so that Dr. Chester Wilk ended up filing an antitrust suit against the American Medical Association (AMA) in 1976.

The lawsuit dragged on for more than a decade, but Wilk was ultimately successful. In 1987, the court ruled that the AMA had engaged in an unlawful conspiracy in restraint of trade to contain and eliminate the chiropractic profession.

How Children Can Benefit From Chiropractic

A large portion of DeMoss’ patients are children. They don’t come in for pain issues, but rather your typical childhood problems such as earaches, allergies, and asthma, for example.

“Children are healing machines. As long as you get things properly lined up, their metabolism and capacity to heal is in there,” he says.“Sometimes you need to do more than cleaning up the diet and adjusting it.

Sometimes they need to be detoxified, whether it was from some type of possible toxic vaccine or from eating toxic foods. You’ve got glyphosate from GMOs …. preservatives … food colorings and additives … bromines.

You’ve got all these different things that can contribute to lowering the vibration of that patient’s healing potential, i.e. children …

It’s sad because I’ll see kids that come to me and it’s the same story over and over. It’s like, ‘He’s on his 12th round of antibiotics,’ and I’m thinking to myself, ‘Why would you continue to do something if it didn’t work the first, second, third, or even fourth time? Why do you keep doing it?’

I’ve never taken an antibiotic. I’m fortunate. I wouldn’t take it unless I was on my death bed. The microbiome has become a hot topic lately. I’ve always known about that … When you just indiscriminately use an antibiotic … you’re destroying part of your … immune function.

The more antibiotics these kids take, the weaker their immune systems and the worse the symptoms get. That’s what I do as a chiropractor. I’m really good about adjusting. But I’m really an articulate teacher. I make it so that people can understand it.”

Not All Chiropractors Have the Same Philosophy

According to DeMoss, “chiropractic is like brushing your teeth;” it’s something you need to do on a regular basis to maintain the life of your spine, because regular activities, such as chronic sitting, can contribute to its functioning less than optimally. Granted, some chiropractors focus primarily on pain and injuries, and do not have the full skill set required to address issues like allergies or disease. So it’s important to make sure the chiropractor you choose has the appropriate vitalistic philosophy.

Most of DeMoss’ patients come to him via word of mouth, and this is perhaps one of the best ways to find a good wellness chiropractor. You may also want to find out if he or she is trained in any other treatment modalities, such as muscle testing, applied kinesiology, or neuroemotional technique (NET). There are literally dozens of different techniques that can have a profound impact on addressing the bioenergetic component of disease, not just the structural.

Tips for Choosing a Wellness Chiropractor

    • Ask your friends for a recommendation. A friend who knows both you and the chiropractor may be able to judge whether your health philosophies and personalities are compatible.
    • Meet the doctor. Many chiropractors will agree to a no-cost consultation to determine whether you are a good match. To make this visit as productive as possible, here are a few things to consider:
      1. Does the practice focus on vertebral subluxation and wellness? Physical, biochemical, and psychological stress may result in spinal subluxations that disrupt nerve function and compromise your health. If you’re looking for a wellness chiropractor, it’s essential that this be the focus.

Some chiropractors confine their practice to the mechanical treatment of back and neck pain, and this is something you need to be aware of beforehand.

      1. Does the doctor “walk the talk”? If he or she is overweight, looks unhealthy, or does not live a healthy lifestyle, this speaks volumes regarding their commitment to wellness.
      2. Do the two of you “click”? Do you like each other? Do you communicate well? Avoid a doctor who seems rushed, talks down to you, or seems disinterested in listening to your concerns.
      3. Does the doctor use objective assessments of nerve function? Since your care is not based just on addressing pain, your chiropractor should be using some form of objective assessment of your nerve function, as spinal subluxations can sometimes be asymptomatic.

Non-invasive instruments that measure the electrical activity in your muscles, and/or a thermal scanner that evaluates the function of your autonomic nervous system can be used, for example.

      1. What treatment techniques are used? Chiropractic techniques include low-force adjustments by hand, and more forceful adjustments using instruments. Ask which technique would be used on you, and if you have a preference, make sure the doctor is willing to use it.

As mentioned earlier, many chiropractors are also trained in other complementary techniques, so ask what else your doctor may have in his or her tool bag.

Cal Jam

To share and spread his philosophical principles of health, DeMoss brings together natural health practitioners and chiropractors from all across the country for an annual event called Cal Jam. I first learned about it through one of my best friends, a Dr. Patrick Gentempo, who is also a chiropractor and has spoken many times at this event.

This year, they’re expecting close to 3,000 attendees, so it’s one of the largest chiropractic conventions. As one of thespeakers at this year’s event, I’ll be sharing some information about my new passion, metabolic medicine, which focuses on the health of your mitochondria. This is also the topic of my next book.

The original vision for Cal Jam was inspired by the film “The Dead Poets Society,” where people would get together and read poetry in a cave, and California Jam, a 1970s music event.

“I used to run a little group here in my office called the ‘Dead Chiropractics Society.’ We would read old chiropractic literature from D.D. and B.J. Palmer. We would discuss it, and then people really got into it. It grew to where we would have a hundred people in my office every month.

From that, I was doing some relicensure stuff with a gentleman named Dr. Brian Porteus, who’s a chiropractor, and he goes, ‘Why don’t we do a big philosophy event in California? We can do it for relicensure …’

In the ‘70s, there was an event called California Jam. It was a huge music event … these seas of people. I said to myself, ‘If we could get these big leaders in healthcare in front of masses of people, we could really change the consciousness of the planet,’” he says.

“As [the original] California Jam, we have live music to help raise the level [of energy]. The vibration at Cal Jam is higher than any other event you’ll ever go to because of the music. But the music also pushes the same theme. We pick songs that have messages to it.”

Mark Your Calendar, Cal Jam Starts March 18

His vision now is to start attracting the general public to the event, so if you’re interested in attending this live music and information-packed event, check out the Cal Jam website for more information. It’s being held March 18 through 20 at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, CA.

To buy tickets, see the “Store” tab. To appeal to the widest general audience, speakers will present a wide range of health-related topics, not just chiropractic. DeMoss’ dream is to grow this event from 3,000 to 25,000 or more.

“My vision is to attract bigger sponsors,” he says. “I would love to have Red Hot Chili Peppers play at it, to make it a fun festival where people can come and have a great time, but at the same time learn a lot of important concepts that they’re not going to hear on TV, and things that are going to improve and push the human population to greater health.”

Chiropractic Is Good for More Than Just Pain

According to DeMoss, if you’re not healthy, chiropractic can often address the epigenetic and bioenergetic underpinnings. Naturally, diet and lifestyle play major roles, and DeMoss addresses all of those areas with his patients as well. To give you an example of what he’s talking about, a patient DeMoss has treated for 20 years told him about his daughter-in-law’s infertility problem.

She’d been trying to get pregnant for two and a half years, and they’d spent about $75,000 on infertility treatments, without any success.

“I said, ‘Gary, why didn’t you refer them here?’ It doesn’t make sense to put the bun in the oven if the oven is not working. He didn’t think there was any correlation between her back and her capacity to become pregnant. I said, ‘I’m so confident, you don’t have to pay me until she becomes pregnant.’ So he sent her in.

She was in her 10th week of care here when she became pregnant. He came in the other day and said, ‘OK. I owe you now.’ He wrote me a nice check.

I want people to understand that when something’s not working in your body, there are things that we can do to make it work, other than drugs and surgery. It’s so sad that people have this limited belief set on what chiropractic is about. It’s more than just you coming in and seeing us as a Band-Aid to get rid of your pain.

In reality, I want people to come and utilize chiropractic to maximize their expression of life and maximize not only the quality but the quantity of the life that God have intended for them.”

More Information

To make an appointment with DeMoss, contact DeMoss Chiropractic. His website also has a newsletter and a blog, where you can learn more about his natural health philosophy. Aside from the Cal Jam event, which is being held March 18 through 20 at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, CA, DeMoss also holds workshops on nutrition, women’s health, immunizations, and more, throughout the year. For a schedu


Older Americans Need Protein to Keep Muscles Strong

February 19, 2016

By Dr. Mercola

Proteins are found in every cell in your body. These chains of amino acids are important for repair, maintenance and growth of cells, and are essential for healthy muscles, organs, glands, and skin.

As protein is broken down and used up in your body, you must replace it by consuming protein via your diet. There’s no question that eating enough high-quality protein is essential to good health, but in the US most people eat moreprotein than they need.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):1

“…most adults in the United States get more than enough protein to meet their needs. It’s rare for someone who is healthy and eating a varied diet to not get enough protein.”

As you get older, however, this isn’t necessarily true. As you age, your muscle mass and strength begins to decline at an accelerating rate, which means your body may need more protein than it did when you were younger.

Your ability to process protein also declines with age, further raising your protein requirements.

Eating Adequate Protein May Help You Maintain Muscle Mass and Strength as You Age

Age-related loss of muscle mass is known as sarcopenia, and if you don’t do anything to stop it you can expect to lose about 15 percent of your muscle mass between your 30s and your 80s.2

Muscle loss happens gradually, so you probably won’t notice it occurring at first. But by the time you’re in your 70s, when sarcopenia tends to accelerate, you might start to feel weaker and find you can’t do things, physically, that you used to do.

Eating enough high-quality protein may help you to counteract some of these declines.

According to research published in the Journal of Nutrition, men who ate at least three ounces of protein a day, and women who ate at least 2.6 ounces per day, had more lean muscle mass. Overall, those with the highest intake of total protein and animal protein had the highest levels of lean muscle mass.3

For comparison, 1 ounce of protein is equivalent to 28 grams. Current dietary guidelines suggest about 46 grams of protein a day for adult women and 56 grams for adult men, which amounts to about 0.8 grams of protein/kg of body weight per day.

Last year, a study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition also recommended higher protein intakes to help counteract the progressive loss of muscle mass and strength in older adults. They noted:4

“… good nutrition, especially adequate protein and energy intake, can help limit and treat age-related declines in muscle mass, strength, and functional abilities. Protein nutrition in combination with exercise is considered optimal for maintaining muscle function.”

The researchers called for increased protein requirements for several at-risk groups, including:

  • For healthy older people, the diet should provide at least 1.0–1.2 g protein/kg body weight/day
  • For older people who are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition because they have acute or chronic illness, the diet should provide 1.2–1.5 g protein/kg body weight/day
  • Even higher protein intake is advised for individuals with severe illness or injury

Increasing Your Intake of Animal Protein May Protect Against Functional Decline

In 2014, research from Japan found that men who consumed higher levels of meat and fish had a 39 percent lower risk of both mental and physical decline compared to those who ate the least animal protein.5

It’s likely, as the researchers suggested, that high-quality protein helps preserve lean muscle that is essential for daily functioning.

Considering that this study was done in Japan, it’s also possible that the participants were consuming higher levels of omega-3 fats from seafood, which may have offered some of the brain-boosting benefits.

In 2012, research also showed that among people aged 70 to 89, those with the highest protein intake reduced their risk of mild cognitive impairment by 21 percent.6

However, as the researchers pointed out, the Japanese study was observational, which means it simply shows a relationship between animal protein and decreased functional decline – it does not show a cause-and-effect relationship.

So it may very well be that the diets of those eating more animal protein were also lower in carbohydrates and, perhaps, higher in healthy fats, than those eating fewer animal proteins.

This is only speculation, of course, but typically when protein is reduced, carbohydrate intake tends to increase, which may be detrimental for your health, especially as you age.

One Study Even Recommended Seniors Nearly Double Their Protein Intake

Still more research, this time published in the American Journal of Physiology Endocrinology and Metabolism, assessed the effects of four eating plans on the muscle health of 20 healthy adults between the ages of 52 and 75.7

The participants were randomly divided into four groups, and assigned to a specific eating plan as follows:

  • Groups 1 and 2 ate 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day (current RDA), consumed either all at once during dinner, or divided up equally between three meals
  • Groups 3 and 4 ate 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (double the current RDA guideline), either for dinner, or divided up equally between three meals

Regardless of the timing or distribution of the protein, after four days those who ate more protein increased their rates of muscle protein synthesis, improving their body’s ability to build muscle. They also improved their net protein balance, which is the difference between protein synthesis and breakdown.

As explained in the featured article:8

“As we age, we naturally lose muscle mass and strength due to a trifecta of reduced muscle response to protein intake, changing hormones and for some, less physical activity. Called sarcopenia, this gradual loss of muscle mass has been credited with a litany of health problems, including insulin resistance, low bone mineral content and density, falls and fractures – even death, says lead author IL-Young Kim …

For maximal muscle, Kim says the majority of older adults need to consume about 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass per day. Kim recommends getting the bulk of your protein from animal sources such as beef, fish, milk and cheese.”

Translating Ideal Protein Requirements Into Foods

If you were to follow the proposed recommendation in this study, it would suggest an older 170-pound person needs 139 grams of protein a day (1.8 grams of protein per kilo of total body weight). Personally, I believe this is an excessive amount of protein and would recommend against consuming this much, unless you are clearly losing muscle mass. Then I would gradually increase your intake along with strength training until you notice an improvement.

Substantial amounts of protein can be found in meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Some vegetables also contain generous amounts of protein—for example, broccoli. Forty grams of protein is not a large amount of food—it’s the equivalent of just two small hamburger patties, or one six-ounce chicken breast.

To determine whether or not you’re getting too much protein, simply calculate your body’s requirement based on your lean body mass, as described above, and write down everything you eat for a few days. Then, calculate the amount of daily protein you’ve consumed from all sources.

Again, you’re aiming for one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. If you’re currently averaging a lot more than what is optimal, adjust downward accordingly. You could use the chart below or simply Google the food you want to know and you will quickly find the grams of protein in that food.

Red meat, pork, poultry, and seafood average 6-9 grams of protein per ounce.

An ideal amount for most people would be a 3-ounce serving of meat or seafood (not 9- or 12-ounce steaks!), which will provide about 18-27 grams of protein

Eggs contain about 6-8 grams of protein per egg. So an omelet made from two eggs would give you about 12-16 grams of protein

If you add cheese, you need to calculate that protein in as well (check the label of your cheese)

Seeds and nuts contain on average 4-8 grams of protein per quarter cup Cooked beans average about 7-8 grams per half cup
Cooked grains average 5-7 grams per cup Most vegetables contain about 1-2 grams of protein per ounce

Too Much Protein Can Be Detrimental to Your Health

As you age, your protein requirement will tend to increase, so there is some validity to the argument that boosting protein intake may improve your health— especially ifyou’re currently eating far below the recommended amounts. That said, there are drawbacks to eating too much protein that you need to consider as well.

There is an upper limit to how much protein your body can actually use. And, on the average, Americans typically consume anywhere from three to five times more protein than they need for optimal health, along with far too many carbohydrates and insufficient amounts of healthy fats.

While your body certainly needs protein, eating too much of it—especially if you’re eating CAFO-raised protein—can actually be detrimental to your health for a number of reasons, including the following:

  • If you eat more protein than your body requires, it will simply convert most of those calories to sugar and then fat. Increased blood sugar levels can also feed pathogenic bacteria and yeast, such as Candida albicans (candidiasis), as well as fueling cancer cell growth
  • Excessive protein can have a stimulating effect on an important biochemical pathway called the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). This pathway has an important and significant role in many cancers. When you reduce protein tojust what your body needs, mTOR remains inhibited, which helps minimize your chances of cancer growth.
  • When you consume more protein than your body needs, your body must remove more nitrogen waste products from your blood, which stresses your kidneys.9 Chronic dehydration can result, as was found in a study involving endurance athletes.10

So while it’s important to consume enough protein to maintain muscle mass, protein in and of itself is not a magic solution against age-related muscle loss. You still need strength training to actually build muscle, and if you have cancer, you need to be particularly cautious about stimulating the mTOR pathway with excessive protein.

How Much Protein Do Most Adults Really Need?

How do you know exactly how much protein you actually need? Fortunately, there is a simple rule, and all you need to know is your lean body mass. You likely need about one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. For most people, this amounts to 40 to 70 grams of protein a day.

Rarely does a person need more protein than this—the exception would be those who are aggressively exercising (or competing) and pregnant women, who should have about 25 percent more. Also, if you are older and notice your muscle strength declining, you can gradually increase your protein intake and strength-training until you notice an improvement.

To estimate your protein requirements, first determine your lean body mass. Subtract your percent body fat from 100. For example, if you have 20 percent body fat, then you have 80 percent lean body mass. Just multiply that percentage (in this case, 0.8) by your current weight to get your lean body mass in pounds or kilos.

So, in the above example, if you weighed 160 pounds, 0.8 multiplied by 160 equals 128 pounds of lean body mass. Using the “one-half gram of protein” rule, you would need about 64 grams of protein per day.

Strength Training Is Essential for Preventing Age-Related Muscle Loss

Weight training is important throughout your life, but in many ways it becomes even more important as you age. Even if you’re in your 90s, it’s not too late. One study found a group of nursing home residents with an average age of 90 improved their strength between 167 and 180 percent after just eight weeks of weight training.11 According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM):12

Given an adequate training stimulus, older adults can make significant gains in strength. A two- to threefold increase in strength can be accomplished in three to four months in fibers recruited during training in older adults. With more prolonged resistance training, even a modest increase in muscle size is possible.

…With increasing muscle strength come increased levels of spontaneous activity in both healthy, independent older adults and very old and frail men and women. Strength training, in addition to its possible effects on insulin action, bone density, energy metabolism, and functional status, is also an important way to increase levels of physical activity in the older adult.”

Strength training also increases your body’s production of growth factors, which are responsible for cellular growth, proliferation, and differentiation. Some of these growth factors also promote the growth, differentiation, and survival ofneurons, which helps explain why working your muscles also benefits your brain and helps prevent dementia.

A Strength Training Program That’s Ideal as You Get Older

People of all ages can benefit from super-slow weight training, but this is definitely a method to consider if you’re middle-aged or older. By slowing your movements down, it turns your weight-training session into high-intensity exercise. The super-slow movement allows your muscle, at the microscopic level, to access the maximum number of cross-bridges between the protein filaments that produce movement in the muscle.

This is a beneficial and safe way to incorporate high-intensity exercise into your workouts even if you’re older and have trouble getting around. You only need about 12 to 15 minutes of super-slow strength training once a week to achieve the same human growth hormone (HGH) production as you would from 20 minutes of Peak Fitness sprints, which is why fitness experts like Dr. Doug McGuff are such avid proponents of this technique.

The fact that super-slow weight training gives you an excellent boost in human growth hormone (HGH), otherwise known as the “fitness hormone,” is another reason why it’s so beneficial if you’re older.

I recommend using four or five basic compound movements for your super-slow (high intensity) exercise set. Compound movements are movements that require the coordination of several muscle groups—for example, squats, chest presses, and compound rows. Here is my version of the technique. I also demonstrate a number of exercises in the video above, starting around the 15-minute mark:

  • Begin by lifting the weight as slowly and gradually as you can. In the video above, I demonstrate doing this with a four-second positive and a four-second negative, meaning it takes four seconds, or a slow count to four, to bring the weight up, and another four seconds to lower it. (When pushing, stop about 10 to 15 degrees before your limb is fully straightened; smoothly reverse direction)
  • Slowly lower the weight back down to the slow count of four
  • Repeat until exhaustion, which should be around four to eight reps. Once you reach exhaustion, don’t try to heave or jerk the weight to get one last repetition in. Instead, just keep trying to produce the movement, even if it’s not “going” anywhere, for another five seconds or so. If you’re using the appropriate amount of weight or resistance, you’ll be able to perform eight to 10 reps
  • Immediately switch to the next exercise for the next target muscle group, and repeat the first three steps

What Types of Protein Are Best?

The type of protein you eat matters just as much as the amount. Substantial amounts of protein can be found in meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Some vegetables also contain generous amounts of protein—for example, broccoli. Whey protein is a particularly good source of protein to consume after exercise because it contains not only high-quality protein, but also extremely high amounts of leucine, which is particularly important for muscle growth and repair.

One of the reasons whey protein is so effective for exercise recovery is that it assimilates very quickly—it gets into your muscles within 10-15 minutes of swallowing it, just when they need it most.

Whey is also excellent for your immune system, as it is rich in immunoglobulins, lactoferrin, and other precursors forglutathione. Overall, I recommend consuming a wide variety of high-quality proteins from both animal and plant whole food sources. Research consistently shows that nutritional deficits are extremely hard to avoid if you limit yourself to a strictly plant-based diet.

From the standpoint of ancestral nutrition, the hunting and foraging of our predecessors resulted in their consuming a much wider selection of foods than we do today, which means they received a much broader complement of nutrients, including proteins.

Examples of high-quality protein include whey protein concentrate from grass-fed cows, organic grass-fed beef, pastured organic eggs and chicken, and wild-caught salmon. For a comprehensive guide, please refer to my Optimized Nutrition Plan, starting with Beginner Plan: Protein, and then progressing into Intermediate Plan: Protein. In addition, the foods that follow also have an exceptional protein value and make a good regular addition to your diet:

  • Hemp seeds (hemp hearts): About 33 percent protein, providing 11 grams per three tablespoons; also contain all 20 amino acids in an easily digestible form and are loaded with plant-based omega-3 fats13
  • Chia seeds: About 14 percent protein, providing about four grams per three tablespoons;14 also high in plant-based omega-3 fats
  • Spirulina: Seventy percent protein by weight, six grams of protein per 10 gram serving, contains 18 of the amino acids and all of the essentials, and is easily assimilated (avoid spirulina if you’re allergic to iodine or seafood)
  • Sprouts: The quality of the protein and the fiber content of beans, nuts, seeds, and grains improve when sprouted; sunflower sprouts provide some of the highest quality protein you can eat, along with abundant iron and chlorophyll; kamut, hemp, quinoa, and bean sprouts are also good sources
  • Bee pollen: Forty percent protein and one of nature’s most complete foods; you generally wouldn’t eat a large amount of bee pollen at any one time, but it’s an excellent addition for variety

[+] Sources and References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: protecting the private good?

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 15 May 2015)Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h2362

  1. Jeanne Lenzer, associate editor, The BMJ, USA

After revelations that the CDC is receiving some funding from industry, Jeanne Lenzerinvestigates how it might have affected the organisation’s decisions

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) includes the following disclaimer with its recommendations: “CDC, our planners, and our content experts wish to disclose they have no financial interests or other relationships with the manufacturers of commercial products . . . CDC does not accept commercial support.”1

The CDC’s image as an independent watchdog over the public health has given it enormous prestige, and its recommendations are occasionally enforced by law.

Despite the agency’s disclaimer, the CDC does receive millions of dollars in industry gifts and funding, both directly and indirectly, and several recent CDC actions and recommendations have raised questions about the science it cites, the clinical guidelines it promotes, and the money it is taking.

Marcia Angell, former editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, told The BMJ, “The CDC has enormous credibility among physicians, in no small part because the agency is generally thought to be free of industry bias. Financial dealings with biopharmaceutical companies threaten that reputation.”2

Industry funding of the CDC has taken many doctors, even some who worked for CDC, by surprise. Philip Lederer, an infectious diseases fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, and a former CDC epidemic intelligence service officer, told The BMJ he was “saddened” to learn of industry funding.

The CDC’s director, Tom Frieden, did not respond to a question about the disclaimer. He told The BMJ by email, “Public-private partnerships allow CDC to do more, faster. The agency’s core values of accountability, respect, and integrity guide the way CDC spends the funds entrusted to it. When possible conflicts of interests arise, we take a hard, close look to ensure that proper policies and guidelines are followed before accepting outside donations.”

Since its inception in 1946, the CDC has had a pivotal role not only in the prevention of infectious diseases but in reducing workplace hazards, motor vehicle injuries, and tobacco related deaths and in ensuring food safety.

One of the CDC’s most important contributions, with an estimated eight million lives saved to date,3 has been its work to educate the public about the dangers of tobacco. CDC spokesperson Thomas Skinner says the surgeon general’s first report on smoking in 1964 was a “tipping point,” when tobacco was first clearly identified as a health hazard by the US government. Skinner said the CDC’s anti-tobacco campaign “serves as an important counter to the more than $950 000 [£630 000; €860 00] that the tobacco industry spends each hour—more than $23m a day—on cigarette advertising and promotion.”

Opening up to private money

Funding of CDC took a turn in 1983, when the CDC was authorised to accept external “gifts” from industry and other private parties. In 1992, Congress passed legislation to encourage relationships between industry and the CDC by creating the non-profit CDC Foundation, which began operations in 1995.

The CDC Foundation raised $52m in fiscal year 2014, of which $12m was from corporations. The CDC itself in fiscal year 2014 received $16m in conditional funding from sources such as corporations, individuals, and philanthropy, including the CDC Foundation. Conditional donations are earmarked for specific projects. For example, in 2012, Genentech earmarked $600 000 in donations to the CDC Foundation for CDC’s efforts to promote expanded testing and treatment of viral hepatitis. Genentech and its parent company, Roche, manufacture test kits and treatments for hepatitis C.

Numerous manufacturers give donations to the CDC Foundation. Janssen also contributed $1.5m in 2012-13,1 and in 2011-12 contributors included Merck ($915 149), Genzyme ($762 000), Sanofi-Aventis ($600 000), and Abbott Laboratories ($550 000).

The CDC has recently issued controversial recommendations for screening tests and drugs,2 4 and is currently overseeing several equally controversial studies.5 Some of these are associated with “conditional” industry funding, as the three examples below show.

Cohort screening for hepatitis C

The CDC issued guidelines in August 2012 recommending expanded (cohort) screening of everyone born from 1945 to 1965 for hepatitis C virus.1 The agency cited new direct acting antiviral drugs and protease inhibitors to treat hepatitis C as part of its rationale for cohort screening, saying the drugs “can halt disease progression and provide a virologic cure (ie, sustained viral clearance following completion of treatment) in most persons.”

The science behind cohort screening has been challenged4 and is said to be “the subject of major debate.”6 The scientific debate along with the price tags of the newer drugs (over $84 000 per treatment course for the new drug sofosbuvir), raise questions about CDC’s industry funding.

In 2010, the CDC, in conjunction with the CDC Foundation, formed the Viral Hepatitis Action Coalition, which supports research and promotes expanded testing and treatment of hepatitis C in the United States and globally. Industry has donated over $26m to the coalition through the CDC Foundation since 2010. Corporate members of the coalition include Abbott Laboratories, AbbVie, Gilead, Janssen, Merck, OraSure Technologies, Quest Diagnostics, and Siemens—each of which produces products to test for or treat hepatitis C infection.

Conflict of interest forms filed by the 34 members of the external working group that wrote and reviewed the new CDC recommendation in 2012 show that nine had financial ties to the manufacturers.1

A report by the Office of the Inspector General in December 2009 found that external advisors to the CDC “play an influential role in decision making for the federal government.” The inspector general evaluated conflicts of interest of advisors and concluded, “CDC has a systemic lack of oversight of the ethics program”: 97% of disclosure forms filed by advisors were incomplete, and 13% of advisors participated in meetings without filing any disclosure at all.7

Although the CDC states it has addressed all of the deficiencies cited in the report, the agency did not restrict participation of the nine conflicted external advisors in the recommendation to broaden hepatitis C screening.1However, the CDC told The BMJ that external advisors acted in an “individual capacity” and are not designated as “special government employees.” It said that their financial ties to industry didn’t comprise a conflict of interest as the participants “had no relationships directly related to the task-reviewing evidence as a basis for an HCV testing guideline. The reported financial activities represent activities not directly related to this work but involving commercial and non-commercial entities that could be perceived to influence involvement in the task.”

Oseltamivir for flu

Following criticism of the CDC and its foundation for accepting a directed donation from Roche for the agency’s Take 3 flu campaign (Step 3 tells the public to “take antiviral medicine if your doctor prescribes it”),2 the CDC posted an article on its website entitled, “Why CDC Recommends Influenza Antiviral Drugs.”8 The agency cited multiple observational and industry funded studies, including the recent meta-analysis by Dobson and colleagues,9 which it described as an “independent” study. However, the study was sponsored by Roche, and all four authors had financial ties to Roche, Genentech, or Gilead (the first two sell oseltamivir and Gilead holds the patent).10

Despite its extensive list of studies, the CDC did not cite the systematic review and meta-analysis by the Cochrane Collaboration.11

The CDC told The BMJ that it didn’t include the Cochrane review because Cochrane “did not consider any data from uncontrolled observational studies of oseltamivir treatment. While such studies have inherent design limitations, they can inform clinical practice and public health, especially when data from RCTs [randomized controlled trials] are unavailable or have not been conducted among high-risk groups or hospitalized influenza patients, or because having a placebo group would be unethical since antiviral treatment is recommended for these groups.”

The US Food and Drug Administration issued a warning to Roche that it could not claim that oseltamivir reduces pneumonia or deaths since it has never provided evidence to the FDA to support that claim.2 Manufacturers are prohibited by law from making off-label claims about their drugs. However, doctors can legally recommend drugs for off-label uses. By funding the CDC’s Take 3 campaign, Roche and other companies are not claiming their antivirals will reduce pneumonia or death. CDC director, Frieden, however, did make the off-label claim, telling the public that it could “save your life.”2

Shannon Brownlee, senior vice president of the Lown Institute and former journalist covering the CDC, told The BMJ, “This looks like classic stealth marketing, in which industry puts their message in the mouths of a trusted third party, such as an academic or a professional organization.”

CDC and the sugar industry

The CDC has also been criticised for its role in a series of studies into an epidemic of chronic kidney disease among men working in the sugar fields of central America.5 The sugar industry is paying $1.7m to fund the studies, and critics say the fact the research is being funded by the men’s employers raises concerns about how far it will probe industry’s role in the disease outbreak. The CDC states it will provide “technical assistance and subject matter expertise,” for the studies, with the foundation serving as the “grant administrator overseeing the donor funding and facilitating the research activities.”

Researchers think that the epidemic, which has killed over 20 000 mostly young men,12 is most likely to be caused by “two interdependent factors: the misuse of agrochemicals and the working conditions of the labor force.”13 The men are exposed to banned and dangerous pesticides, some of which are known to be nephrotoxic, and the working conditions cited include “regular exposure to very hot temperatures and extreme physical effort, lead[ing] to heat stress and dehydration.”13

Daniel Brooks, associate professor of epidemiology at the Boston University School of Public Health, will lead the CDC research, which includes several observational studies examining genetics and biomarkers in children and a longitudinal study of the sugarcane workers and their families for an as yet undetermined time period. He defends the CDC’s involvement, saying it provides two main benefits, creating a “firewall between donors and researchers” and enlisting the expertise of the CDC.

The sugar industry has trumpeted Brooks’ earlier research into the epidemic as proof that conditions in the fields are not the cause of the men’s deaths; Mario Amador, general manager of Nicaragua’s National Committee of Sugar Producers, dismissed the idea that the disease has an occupational origin, telling a reporter with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, “We are fully convinced that there is no direct relationship between [chronic kidney disease] and the activities conducted in the sugarcane industry.”5

The Pan American Health Organization has called the outbreak, “a serious public health problem that requires urgent, effective, and concerted multisectoral action.”

Jerome R Hoffman, a methodologist and emeritus professor of medicine at UCLA, told The BMJ, the study was asking the wrong questions. “Epidemiologic studies can of course be tremendously useful in cases like this, but given the human suffering involved, we need to devise and test interventions that have a chance to prevent or ameliorate this substantial harm, as quickly as possible. It’s inappropriate to focus on things that cannot protect these workers, such as identifying an unusual genetic predisposition to kidney failure, or evaluating a biomarker to follow the disease, while ignoring modifiable factors.”

Not just the carrot—but the stick

Corporations have not only been offering gifts to the CDC; they have also used a heavy stick—with consequences that continue to hobble critical research. In 1996, the National Rifle Association, which is underwritten in large part by gun manufacturers, mounted an offensive against CDC’s research into gun violence. The association lobbied Congress, and pro-gun representatives slashed $2.6m from the CDC budget—the exact amount the agency had spent in the previous year on firearm injury research. The funding was later restored, but the bill prohibited any of the restored funds from being used to “advocate or promote gun control.”

Frederick Rivara, one of the team members who conducted gun research for the CDC before the cuts, told The BMJthat firearms research has “plummeted dramatically,” and that gun violence remains a major public health concern in the US, where nearly half a million people have died from gunshot wounds since the funding cuts.

After multiple mass murders, including the shooting of 20 first grade children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut in 2012, President Obama asked Congress for $10m to fund research into preventing gun violence; however, Congress has not approved the funds to date. The president renewed this request for the 2016 budget.

Professional reaction

Neil Calman, president and chief executive of the Institute for Family Health in New York, a large community health center network in 31 locations with over half a million patient visits a year, says the institute has relied on CDC guidance largely because of its prestige as an independent agency, free of industry relationships. Calman told The BMJ, “Industry funding undermines trust and introduces a bias in the presentation of results and treatment recommendations that is deplorable for a government agency. If the allegations of industry funding and influence are true, we will have to look very carefully at recommendations we are following now and those made in the future by the CDC.”

Calman said, “Industry claims their scientific methodology ensures their studies are unbiased—just as the CDC claims money doesn’t affect their recommendations. Yet multiple studies clearly—and repeatedly—show that who sponsors a study, or issues a guideline, makes a difference.”

Hoffman said, “Most of us were shocked to learn the CDC takes funding from industry. Of course it is outrageous that industry apparently is allowed to punish the CDC if the agency conducts research that has the potential to cut into profits. But it was our government that made this very bad arrangement, so the way to fix it is not to ask the CDC to ‘pretty please be more ethical, and avoid conflicts of interest’; rather, as a society, we have to get the government to reject this devil’s bargain, by changing the rules so this can no longer happen.”

John Mandrola, a cardiologist in Louisville, Kentucky, reacted to the news of industry funding, saying that the CDC “must have the highest of moral ground. For if we are to believe them about public health matters, there can be no conflicts of interest. The public good, pure evidence, that is all.”14


Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h2362


  • I thank the CDC and CDC Foundation for sharing documents and financial information.

  • Competing interests: I have read and understood BMJ policy on declaration of interests and have no relevant interests to declare.

  • Provenance and peer review: Commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.


Reducing Salt Intake Might Harm Heart Failure Patients, Study Claims

February 08, 2016

By Dr. Mercola

Close to 6 million Americans have heart failure while more than 870,000 cases are diagnosed each year. If you have heart failure, it means your heart isn’t pumping as well as it should be and, as a result, your body is probably not getting enough oxygen. In other words, you have a weak heart.

Once-simple activities, like walking or carrying groceries, may become difficult, and you may also experience fatigue, shortness of breath, fluid build-up and coughing.1

Because heart failure is associated with fluid build-up, a low-salt diet is typically recommended. Excess sodium may cause your body to retain water and, so the conventional thinking goes, may worsen the fluid build-up associated with heart failure.

This dietary dogma is touted as fact, but in reality you may want to think twice about slashing your salt intake if you have heart failure, as new research has linked it with an increased risk of death.

Cutting Down Salt Intake Might Worsen Health of Heart Failure Patients

Researchers from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago followed more than 800 heart failure patients for an average of three years. Both their health status and salt intake were analyzed.2

It turned out that those following a low-sodium diet were 85 percent more likely to die or require hospitalization for heart disease compared to those who didn’t restrict their salt intake.3

Among those restricting their sodium intake, 42 percent died or were hospitalized for heart problems during the study, compared to 26 percent of those with no salt restrictions.

The researchers concluded, “In symptomatic patients with chronic HF [heart failure], sodium restriction may have a detrimental impact on outcome.”4 It’s possible that restricting salt could backfire by altering a person’s fluid volumes. Lead researcher Dr. Rami Doukky told Medical Xpress:5

“The idea is sodium restriction leads to a contraction of the fluid volume in the body, and that turns on certain hormones which try to retain fluids in the body and may potentially accelerate the heart failure process.”

Heart Benefits of Salt Restriction Increasingly Questioned

The heart benefits of restricting salt intake have been questioned for some time. In 2011, a systematic review of data involving 6,500 people also found evidence was lacking to recommend salt restriction.6

Among people with high blood pressure or normal blood pressure, salt restriction was not significantly associated with overall mortality or cardiovascular mortality. Among those with congestive heart failure, meanwhile, salt restriction was associated with increased mortality risk.

An update to the review, published in 2014, also found “there is insufficient power to confirm clinically important effects of dietary advice and salt substitution on cardiovascular mortality” among people with high blood pressure or normal blood pressure.7

Yet another meta-analysis found that people with heart failure who limited their sodium intake had a 160 percent higher risk of death than those who did not.8

Some studies have shown a modest benefit to salt restriction among somepeople with high blood pressure, but the evidence does not extend to the rest of the population. So what’s really going on?

For starters, there’s a huge difference between natural salt and the processed salt added to processed foods and salt shakers in most homes and restaurants. The former is essential for good health, whereas the latter is best avoided altogether.

Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, stated:9

“A study from 1991 indicates that people need about one and one-half teaspoons of salt per day.

Anything less triggers a cascade of hormones to recuperate sodium from the waste stream, hormones that make people vulnerable to heart disease and kidney problems. This is proven biochemistry.”

Too Little Salt May be Dangerous

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) recommend limiting your daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg).

They advise a further reduction to 1,500 mg (just over one-half teaspoon) for people who are age 51 and older, African-American, or who have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease (this encompasses about half of the U.S. population).

However, there are very real risks from eating too little salt, and population-wide recommendations to restrict salt intake to very low levels could in fact increaserates of a wide range of diseases.

For instance, in one study a low-salt diet led to an increase in insulin resistance, which is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes — and the change occurred in just seven days.10

Research published in JAMA also found that consuming less than 3,000 mg of sodium per day may increase your risk of dying from heart disease.11

A low-sodium diet is even linked to increases in LDL cholesterol and triglycerides,12 and an increased risk of death for diabetics (another population that’s often advised to restrict their sodium intake).13

There’s also hyponatremia, in which your body has too little sodium, causing fluid levels to rise and your cells to swell. Hyponatremia is most common in older adults and athletes (whose sodium levels may become depleted by excessive sweating and drinking too much water).

This swelling can cause a number of health problems, from mild to severe. At its worst, hyponatremia can be life threatening, leading to brain swelling, coma and death.

But mild to moderate hyponatremia has more subtle effects that you or your health care provider may not even connect with a sodium-deficiency problem, including:

Nausea, vomiting, and changes in appetite Headache Confusion Hallucinations
Loss of energy Fatigue Urinary incontinence Nervousness, restlessness and irritability, and other mood changes
Muscle weakness, spasms or cramps Seizures Unconsciousness Coma

Your Sodium:Potassium Ratio

Another factor that can have a significant impact on whether salt will harm or help your health is the ratio between the salt and potassium in your diet.

Your body needs potassium to maintain proper pH levels in your body fluids, and it also plays an integral role in regulating your blood pressure. It’s possible that potassium deficiency may be more responsible for hypertension (which is a risk factor for heart disease) than excess sodium.

Imbalance in your sodium:potassium ratio can lead to hypertension, and the easiest way to achieve this imbalance is by consuming a diet of processed foods, which are notoriously low in potassium while high in sodium.

Processed foods are also loaded with fructose, which is clearly associated with increased hypertension risk, as well as virtually all chronic diseases. This may also explain why high-sodium diets appear to affect some people but not others.

According to a 2011 federal study into sodium and potassium intake, those at greatest risk of cardiovascular disease were those who got a combination of too much sodium along with too little potassium.14

According to Dr. Elena Kuklina, one of the lead authors of the study, potassium may neutralize the heart-damaging effects of salt. Tellingly, those who ate a lot of salt and very little potassium were more than twice as likely to die from a heart attack as those who ate about equal amounts of both nutrients.

While potassium is found in many foods commonly consumed in the U.S. – including fruits, vegetables, dairy products, salmon, sardines, and nuts – only 2 percent of U.S. adults get the recommended daily amount of 4,700 mg.15 The easiest way to achieve an imbalance in your sodium-to-potassium ratio is by consuming a diet of processed foods, which are notoriously low in potassium while high in processed salt.

According to the FDA, 77 percent of Americans sodium intake comes from processed and restaurant foods; when you reduce processed foods in your diet, you’ll automatically reduce your intake of processed salt as well.

How to Improve Your Sodium-Potassium Ratio

If you eat a lot of processed foods and not many vegetables, there’s a good chance your sodium-to-potassium ratio is unbalanced. If you’re not sure, try a free app like My Fitness Pal, which allows you to enter the foods you eat and then calculates the ratio automatically.

It’s generally recommended that you consume five times more potassium than sodium, but most Americans get two times more sodium than potassium. If your ratio is out of balance:

  • Ditch all processed foods, which are very high in processed salt and low in potassium and other essential nutrients
  • Eat a diet of whole, unprocessed foods, ideally organically and locally grown to ensure optimal nutrient content. This type of diet will naturally provide much larger amounts of potassium in relation to sodium
  • When using added salt, use a natural salt. I believe Himalayan salt may be ideal, as it contains lower sodium and higher potassium levels compared to other salts16

It can be difficult to get enough potassium from diet, but the best way to do so is to increase the amount of vegetables you consume. Green vegetable juicing is an excellent way to ensure you’re getting enough nutrients for optimal health, including about 300 to 400 mg of potassium per cup. Some additional rich sources of potassium are:

  • Lima beans (955 mg/cup)
  • Winter squash (896 mg/cup)
  • Cooked spinach (839 mg/cup)
  • Avocado (500 mg per medium)

Other potassium-rich fruits and vegetables include:

  • Fruits: papayas, prunes, cantaloupe, and bananas. (But be careful of bananas as they are high in sugar and have half the potassium of an equivalent amount of green vegetables. It is a myth that you are getting loads of potassium from bananas; the potassium is twice as high in green vegetables)
  • Vegetables: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, avocados, asparagus, pumpkin, Swiss chard, and beet greens

Top Tips to Prevent Heart Failure and Other Heart Problems

There are many strategies that can protect your heart no matter what your age. Please don’t wait until you experience heart attack symptoms or heart failure to take action because by then it may be too late. Do so now in order to prevent any long-lasting damage:

  • Eat unprocessed saturated animal fats, and ignore the media, as you will benefit from these fats. Many may also benefit from increasing the healthy fat in their diet to 50 to 85 percent of daily calories.
  • Avoid sugars, including processed fructose and grains if you are insulin and leptin resistant. It doesn’t matter if they are conventional or organic, as a high-sugar, high-grain diet promotes insulin and leptin resistance, which is a primary driver of heart disease.
  • Minimize your intake of salt from processed foods and instead use natural Himalayan salt to flavor your real food.
  • Exercise regularly. People who engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week, had a 33 percent lower risk of heart failure than inactive people.17 Use a combination of high-intensity interval training, strength training, stretching, and core work.
  • Avoid excess sitting; aim for three hours a day or less of sitting and try to take 10,000 steps a day (in addition to your exercise program).
  • Regularly walk barefoot to ground with the earth. When you do, free electrons are transferred from the earth into your body; this grounding effect is one of the most potent antioxidants we know of and helps alleviate inflammation throughout your body.
  • Manage your stress daily. One of my favorite tools for stress management is the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).

Pregnant? For Your Baby’s Health, Eat Fish, But Make Sure It’s High in Omega-3 and Low in Mercury

February 04, 2016

By Dr. Mercola

Omega-3 fat is important for proper energy storage, oxygen transport, cell membrane function, and regulation of inflammation. It’s also critical for healthy development in utero, especially for eye and brain development, and plays a role in the length of gestation.

Recent research has again confirmed the importance of omega-3 fats during pregnancy, and the danger of too much omega-6. The former you get primarily from fish, whereas processed vegetable and seed oils — staples in the standard American diet — are the primary sources of the latter.

The ideal ratio between these two essential fats (“essential” meaning your body cannot produce them, so you have to get them from your diet) is 1:1, but a processed food diet provides FAR more omega-6 than omega-3.

Unless you avoid vegetable oils and either eat plenty of fish or take a high quality omega-3 supplement, you may be getting around 16 times more omega-6 than omega-3 from your diet.

As one recent animal study1 shows, such a lopsided ratio during pregnancy can have severe health consequences for your baby.

Another Major Concern With Your Oils

Another major factor that has contributed to a large percentage of the amount of chronic disease present in Western nations is the introduction of refined vegetable oils.

Prior to 1900, the average intake of vegetable oils was less than a pound a year and in 2000, that had increased to 75 pounds per year. We simply never had the ability to consume this much vegetable oil prior to food processing.

Refined oil contributed to the massive distortions in the omega 3:6 ratios. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with omega-6 oils if they are consumed in their native form, which is typically in unrefined seeds and nuts.

The key take-home point is to avoid virtually all refined vegetable oils. Not only do they allow you to overconsume them but they are also highly susceptible to oxidation and are typically damaged by the time you use them.

I personally consume about 10 to 15 grams of omega 6 oils a day but not one microgram is refined. They are all in the form of seeds and nuts that I eat raw, or freshly grind them immediately prior to eating.

I also eat about 4 ounces of clean fish a day in the form of wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, or anchovies. That and my seeds give me nearly 10 grams of omega-3 fat a day so my omega 6:3 ratio is about 1.5:1.

Lopsided Omega-3 to Omega-6 Ratio Harms Brain Development

In the featured study,2 animals fed a diet in which the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio matched the standard American diet produced offspring whose brains were much smaller than those fed equal amounts of omega-3 and omega-6.

Once the offspring reached adulthood, they also developed emotional problems, exhibiting greater levels of anxiety. This despite eating a healthy diet from birth, onward. As reported by Medical News Today:3

“The team performed the first comprehensive measurement of lipid metabolites in the developing brain; they identified that metabolites of omega oils are vital regulators of neural stem cells — the cells that go on to develop into fully fledged brain cells.

In the rats with diets heavier on the omega-6 than 3, the neural stem cells developed more rapidly, to their detriment. The results … show that increased levels of omega-6 produce an increase in omega-6 oxides. These omega offshoots cause premature aging of fetal neural stem cells.

The study’s authors conclude: ‘These findings provide compelling evidence that excess maternal consumption of omega-6 combined with insufficient intake of omega-3 causes abnormal brain development that can have long-lasting effects on the offspring’s mental state.’ [Emphasis mine]

Fish Consumption in Pregnancy Linked to Better Brain Health

A second study4,5,6 strengthens the argument by showing that the brain benefits of omega-3 appear to outweigh many of the hazards associated with mercury exposure.

Here, the researchers looked at 2,000 pregnant women, who reported their seafood intake — including the specific species of fish — via food questionnaires, starting in their first trimester. On average, the women ate about three servings (500 grams) of fish per week during pregnancy.

At birth, the umbilical blood was assessed for omega-3 DHA, mercury, and PCBs. The children underwent cognitive tests and autistic spectrum disorder evaluation at the age of 14 months and again at age 5.

The results showed that:

  • Higher fish consumption during pregnancy was associated with increased cognitive scores, and decreased risk of autistic symptoms in the children
  • For every additional 10 grams of fish per week over 500 grams, there was a corresponding improvement in test scores
  • Eating 600 grams (21 ounces, or about four servings) of fish per week was linked to a 2.8 point increase in IQ score. This link was particularly strong for large fatty fish, including tuna, even though tuna also has some of the highest levels of mercury
  • Fish intake during the first trimester also had the strongest associations, compared to higher fish intake during the second through fourth trimester
  • Above 600 grams of fish per week the cognitive benefits tapered off, suggesting this may be an ideal level, above which the risks of mercury exposure could begin to outweigh the benefits

I was not aware of these intriguing results but find it interesting in light of my transition to 4 ounces most days of either anchovies, sardines or Vital Choice Alaskan salmon. This is around 700 grams a week.

Additionally, many are concerned about Fukushima radiation contaminating fish. While I don’t doubt it is an issue for some fish, I personally test the fish I consume from Vital Choice with a $1,000 Inspector Geiger counter and it has never measured anything higher than background radiation.

Recommendations for Pregnant Women

While fish have always been an ideal, rich source of omega-3 fat, the presence of pollutants such as PCBs and mercury does make caution advisable. It’s not a reason to ditch ALL fish from your diet though.

As detailed in a presentation by a leading expert from Harvard Medical School,7it’s important to understand both the risks of consuming high-mercury fish and the benefits that low-mercury fish provide.

Your total mercury exposure depends on two factors: which fish you eat and the amount of fish you eat. The challenge is to select fish that qualify as low or very low in mercury.

Fortunately, the U.S. government has finally seen the light and is now specifying that pregnant women should be careful to select low-mercuryseafood.

The joint recommendation8 by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding fish consumption for pregnant women, those who may become pregnant, breastfeeding mothers, and young children is 8 to 12 ounces of fish per week from choices that are lower in mercury.

In their estimation, this maximizes the benefits of omega-3 while minimizing the risk of mercury exposure. According to the study above, this may even be a conservative estimate.

Resources for Identifying Fish Low in Mercury

So where can you find information about the mercury content of any given fish species? Here are three resources:

  • The FDA has a Webpage9 listing and ranking seafood based on their mercury content
  • For a list that you can print out for reference, please see the Mercury Policy Project’s guide to mercury levels in fish and shellfish10
  • The National Resources Defense Council has a mercury calculator you can use to give you an idea of how much mercury you’re getting from any given fish species

Best and Worst Fish Choices

On the up-side, several fish species that are low in mercury are also high in omega-3s. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon11 is one example. Just one 3.5-ounce serving provides around 2 grams of omega-3s,12 which is more than most Americans ingest in a week. Only walnuts and flaxseeds provide more.13 Another benefit is that it has a nicely balanced omega-3 to omega-6 ratio.

Other species with lower mercury content include pollock, tilapia, catfish, and cod, along with smaller fish like sardines and anchovies. There are some questions as to the sustainability of anchovies though.

According to Wild Planet,14 anchovies are an abundant and prolific fish stock, and a fine sustainable choice, but the Safina Center’s Sustainable Seafood Program15 and The Environmental Defense Fund16 give Mediterranean and Black Sea anchovies a poor eco rating.

Avoid tilefish, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel, as these four have the highest mercury levels of any fish tested. The FDA/EPA also wisely recommends limiting white albacore tuna to 6 ounces per week due to its elevated mercury content. Tuna is by far the largest source of mercury exposure in our diet —especially for children — and anyone who wants to reduce their mercury intake should eat less tuna.

According to a 2012 report17 by the Mercury Policy Project, young children should eat light tuna no more than twice a month, and albacore tuna should be avoided entirely. The report also recommends that if your child eats tuna once per week or more, you should have their blood tested for mercury. If the result is over 5 micrograms per liter (ug/L), his or her consumption should be restricted.

At What Level Does Mercury Become a Health Hazard?

Mercury is extremely toxic, so ideally, you don’t want to be exposed to any. However, given the level of mercury pollution in the world today, this probably isn’t feasible. You’re bound to ingest or be exposed to some here and there, be it via air, water, of fish. Keep in mind that methylmercury harms a person’s nervous system to differing degrees depending on how much mercury you’ve accumulated.

At above average doses, brain functions such as reaction time, judgment, and language can be impaired. At very high exposures, mercury can affect your ability to walk, speak, think, and see clearly.

One 2012 study18 that evaluated the effects of mercury on cognition in otherwise healthy adults found that those with blood mercury levels below 5 µg/L had the best cognitive functions. Mild impairment was evident at blood mercury levels of 5 to 15 µg/L and above 15 µg/L, cognition was significantly impaired.

When it comes to infants, studies have associated prenatal methylmercury exposure with impaired development of sensory, motor, and cognitive functions, resulting in learning difficulties, poor coordination, and inability to concentrate.

But bear in mind that the benefits of the omega-3 you get from fish can, and most likely does, outweigh the risk of methylmercury provided you don’t overdo it, and stay away from fish known to be high in mercury. Again, the featured study found NO additional cognitive benefits for eating more than 600 grams/21 ounces of fish per week, which is about 4 servings.

A more cautious recommendation would be to limit your fish consumption to a maximum of 12 ounces of high omega-3/low-mercury varieties and take a high quality omega-3 supplement, such as krill.

If you believe your health problems may be related to mercury toxicity, get tested for heavy metals, and if need be, take appropriate action to detoxify. For more information, see my Revised Mercury Detox Protocol. That said, it’s undoubtedly easier to avoid mercury exposure than it is to detoxify once it has built up. This is why it’s so important to use discernment when selecting seafood.

Beware of Farmed Fish

While the FDA/EPA recommends salmon, they do not specify the type of salmon. I strongly discourage consumption offarmed salmon due to their inferior nutritional profile, their environmental drawbacks, and potential health hazards, detailed in my previous article, “Norway Issues Warnings About Health Dangers of Farmed Salmon.”

Unfortunately, recent investigations19 have shown that as much as 80 percent of the fish marked as “wild” may actually be farmed, and that includes salmon. In restaurants, 90 to 95 percent of salmon is farmed, yet often listed on the menu as “wild.”

Given these inaccuracies, how can you tell whether a salmon really is wild or farmed? The flesh of the salmon will give you a clue. Wild sockeye salmon is bright red, courtesy of its natural astaxanthin content. Sockeye salmon actually has one of the highest concentrations of natural astaxanthin of any food.

Wild salmon is also very lean, so the fat marks — those white stripes you see in the meat — are quite thin. If a fish is pale pink with wide fat marks, the salmon is likely farmed. Avoid Atlantic salmon, as salmon bearing this label are almost always farmed.

The two designations you want to look for are: “Alaskan salmon” (or wild Alaskan salmon) and “sockeye salmon,” as neither is allowed to be farmed. Canned salmon labeled “Alaskan salmon” is a good bet, and if you find sockeye, it too is assured to be wild (provided it’s not mislabeled; again be sure to visibly inspect the fish and look for the telltale signs).

My favorite brand of wild Alaskan salmon is Vital Choice Wild Seafood and Organics, which offers a nice variety of high-quality salmon products that test high for omega-3 fats and low for contaminants.

In addition to PCBs and mercury, radiation from the leaking Fukushima power plant in Japan is another concern, and many have simply given up on eating fish for fear of radioactive contamination, or they opt for farmed fish, thinking it’s a safer option. I disagree on the latter point. Instead, I would suggest contacting the distributor of whatever wild fish you may be interested in, and ask them whether or not they test for radiation.

If You Choose Wisely, the Benefits of Fish May Still Outweigh Its Risks

As you can see, the situation is complex. You absolutely need omega-3 fats, as your body cannot make it, but it’s not as easy as saying “eat more fish.” You also need to take pollutants into account (including potentially radioactive contaminants).

This is particularly important for pregnant women and young children. Sustainability is yet another factor that is worthy of consideration. The good news is that even when all of these factors are taken into account, you have still have a number of good, viable options available.

To reiterate, wild-caught Alaskan (not Atlantic) salmon is very high in omega-3 and among the lowest in mercury. It’s also still a sustainable choice, plus it’s not allowed to be farmed — another benefit — and it has not been genetically engineered, so the likelihood of accidentally getting the now approved GMO salmon when buying wild Alaskan is limited. For other good options, see the three resources listed earlier.

Last but not least, even if you eat fish, you may benefit from taking a high-quality omega-3 supplement such as krill oil, which is a far more sustainable choice than fish oil. The best certification for sustainability my team has found is The Marine Stewardship Council.20 We spent quite a bit of time and expense working with them; it took over 5 years of observation, but they have certified our krill supply as one of the best managed resources in the world.21

If you avoid fish, an omega-3 supplement like krill oil becomes an absolute necessity. If you’re pregnant, I would highly recommend taking the “better safe than sorry” route, and limit fish to about 12 ounces per week, and supplement with krill oil, as there’s very little risk of krill being contaminated with heavy metals and other pollutants.

[+] Sources and References
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The Neurobiology of Panic Attacks

The Neurobiology of Panic AttacksPanic attacks are extreme manifestations of anxiety, which are intermittent and discreet episodes where you experience increased heartbeat, chest pounding, chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, numbness and tingling in your arms and legs, excessive sweating, tunnel vision, muscle tension and trembling.

Panic attacks can occur in different situations. If you have social anxiety, then exposure to social situations can induce a panic attack. If you have a fear of an object (i.e. spiders) or situation (i.e. flying), then exposure to your feared object/situation can also lead to a panic attack.

Finally, if you experience uncued, random and spontaneous panic attacks, then this reaction may be a manifestation of panic disorder.

So what’s the neurobiology behind panic attacks? Well, a panic attack is a manifestation of your fight or flight response being triggered intensely, for a brief period of time.

So when you sense fear, this triggers the amygdala, which is located in the temporal lobes of the brain. The activated amygdala then activates both the sympathetic nervous system (neuron-based) and the HPA axis (hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis) (hormone-based).

In activating the sympathetic nervous system, the amygdala activates the locus coeruleus, which is located in the brain stem. The activated locus coeruleus in turn sets off the sympathetic nervous system, where the sympathetic neural impulse sets off various organs directly, such as the heart (increased heart rate and contraction), blood vessels (dilates in skeletal muscles, constricts in gastrointestinal organs), sweat glands (increased perspiration), and eyes (dilates pupils).

In addition to the above organs, the sympathetic neurons directly innervates the inner part of the adrenal glands, called the adrenal medulla. The adrenal glands are located on top of each kidney. When the sympathetic neurons activate the adrenal medulla, adrenaline (epinephrine) and noradrenaline (norepinephrine) are released into the bloodstream.

The circulating hormones of adrenaline and noradrenaline then act on various organs such as the heart (increased heart rate and contraction) and the lungs (dilates the bronchioles, or air sacs) to further perpetuate the panic attacks symptoms.

In activating the HPA axis, the amygdala activates the hypothalamus (located just above the brain stem), which in turn secretes corticotropin releasing factor (CRF). CRF travels to the pituitary (located at the base of the brain), and activates it to secrete adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).

ACTH then travels to the adrenal cortex, which is the outer part of the adrenal glands. ACTH activates the adrenal cortex to secrete cortisol, another stress hormone, into the bloodstream. Cortisol is involved with increasing the supply of blood glucose to fuel the panic attack and also suppresses the immune system.

Another manifestation of a panic attack is hyperventilation, where you are breathing fast and can’t seem to catch your breath. As a panic attack starts, you will breathe faster and become short of breath, as the fear-activated amygdala in turn activates the parabrachial nucleus, which is located in the brain stem.

As your rate of breathing accelerates, you will resort to chest breathing, instead of belly breathing, or breathing from your diaphragm muscles. As you increase your rate of breathing, you start to hyperventilate, where you are blowing off too much carbon dioxide (CO2) from your chest breathing.

This situation leads to respiratory alkalosis, which is a rise in blood pH, and can cause numerous symptoms adding to the panic attack, such as dizziness, weakness, fainting, headache, tingling in the hands and feet, and seizures.

The remedy for hyperventilation with a panic attack is to breathe into a paper bag, so that you can recycle the CO2 back into your bloodstream, normalizing your blood pH, and hence reducing your panic attack symptoms and normalizing your breathing.

For more information and help on panic attacks and other anxiety symptoms, please visit