Month: July 2016

Elevated Blood Sugar Sets the Stage for Cancer Growth

July 27, 2016

By Dr. Mercola

The fact that sugar and obesity are linked to an increased risk of cancer is now becoming well-recognized. Obesity has also been linked to an increased risk of death from all causes.

According to research published in 2013, nearly 1 in 5 U.S. deaths is associated with obesity.1 More recently, researchers published findings from a meta analysis of 239 studies covering four continents, saying excess body weight is responsible for 1 in 5 of all premature deaths in the U.S. and 1 in 7 in Europe.2,3,4

On average, carrying excess weight may reduce your life expectancy by about one year, while being moderately obese may result in a three-year reduction in lifespan. Those of normal weight had the longest life expectancy and the lowest risk of dying before the age of 70.

Considering facts such as these, it’s no surprise that the financial burden of excessive sugar consumption is also great.

According to the Credit Suisse Research Institute’s 2013 study5 “Sugar: Consumption at a Crossroads,” as much as 40 percent of U.S. healthcare expenditures are for diseases directly related to the overconsumption of sugar, and this includes obesity, diabetes and cancer.

So, sugary processed foods may be cheap on the front end, but they exact a hefty price tag down the line.

Diet Can Influence Your Cancer Risk in More Ways Than One

Your diet plays a crucial role when it comes to obesity and related health problems such as elevated blood sugar, insulin resistance and cancer. Research suggests obesity can promote cancer via a number of different mechanisms.

One of the key mechanisms by which sugar promotes cancer and other chronic disease is by causing mitochondrial dysfunction. Sugar is not an ideal fuel for your body as it burns “dirty,” creating far more reactive oxygen species (ROS) than fat does when it’s metabolized.

As a result, excessive amounts of free radicals are generated when you eat excessive sugar, which in turn causes mitochondrial and nuclear DNA damage, along with cell membrane and protein impairment.

So, contrary to conventional teaching, nuclear genetic defects do not cause cancer. Rather, mitochondrial damage happens first, and this then triggers nuclear genetic mutations.

Research6 has shown that chronic overeating in general has a similar effect, as it places stress on the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), the membranous network found inside the mitochondria of your cells.

When the ER receives more nutrients than it can process, it signals the cell to dampen the sensitivity of the insulin receptors on the surface of the cell.

Thus continuously eating more than your body really needs promotes insulin resistance by the mere fact that your cells are stressed by the additional work placed on them by the excess nutrients. Insulin resistance in turn is at the heart of most chronic disease, including cancer.

Sugar Is a Key Contributor to Cancer

Most people who overeat also tend to eat many sugar-laden foods, which promotes elevated blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. So overeating sugary foods equates to a double-whammy in terms of cancer risk, compared to overeating whole, unprocessed fare.

In fact, recent research has identified sugar as the top contributor to the worldwide cancer surge. According to a report7 on the global cancer burden, published in 2014, obesity is responsible for an estimated 500,000 cancer cases worldwide each year.

The reason for this is because cancer cells are primarily fueled by the burning of sugar anaerobically. Without sugar, most cancer cells simply lack the metabolic flexibility to survive.

Normal, healthy cells have the metabolic flexibility to adapt from using glucose to using ketone bodies from dietary fats. Most cancer cells lack this ability so when you reduce net carbs (total carbs minus fiber), you effectively starve the cancer. This is why nutritional ketosis appears to be so effective against cancer.

According to recent research from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, refined sugar not only significantly increases your risk of breast cancer; it also raises your risk of tumors spreading to other organs.8

It was primarily the refined fructose in high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) found in most processed foods and beverages that was responsible for the breast tumors and the metastasis.

The Role of Genetics, Proteins and Hormones

While genetic defects are not a primary cause of cancer, genes can still play a role. Scientists have discovered that a number of genes known to promote cancer by influencing cell division — including a gene called AKT — also regulate cells’ consumption of nutrients.

So certain genes actually appear to play a role in cancer cells’ overconsumption of sugar. Whereas healthy cells have a feedback mechanism that makes it conserve resources when there’s a lack of food, cancer cells do not have this mechanism and feed continuously.

Recent research has also found that overweight women who lost weight reduced their risk of cancer by lowering their levels of certain proteins linked to cancer development.9

These proteins (VEGF, PAI-1 and PEDF) promote angiogenesis, a process your body uses to build blood vessels that tumors need to thrive. The greater the women’s weight loss, the greater their reduction in these proteins.

Previous research suggests losing weight can reduce your risk of breast, colon and prostate cancer by as much as 20 percent, and this effect is thought to be due to reductions in these proteins and other inflammatory compounds stored in fat cells.10

Obesity also triggers overproduction of certain hormones, such as estrogen, which is associated with an increased risk for breast cancer.

Links Between Diabetes and Cancer Are Getting Stronger

Overall, insulin resistance is one of the key contributors to a heightened cancer risk, and many studies have confirmed that type 2 diabetics are at greater risk.

One recent study, which included more than 1 million adult cancer patients, found that those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes were 23 percent more likely to have received a cancer diagnosis during the decade preceding their diabetes diagnosis compared to non-diabetics.11,12

Recent research has also noted that a growing number of obese Americans have poor blood sugar control, which in turn promotes rising rates of type 2 diabetes and associated health conditions. To combat this trend, the researchers urge overweight people to consider “serious weight loss efforts.” As reported by WebMD:13

“Between 1988 and 2014, rates of diabetes rose from 11 percent to 19 percent, which was due to increases in blood sugar, the researchers said.

The investigators found that the rate of obese adults without the three key risk factors for heart disease — diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure — held steady at just 15 percent.

But the rate of obese adults with all three risk factors rose 37 percent — to nearly [1] in [4] … Risk for all three factors increased progressively from age 40 on …

‘We have two choices: letting this population get sick and provide monies for treatment of complications and disability; or intervene early and prevent diabetes by encouraging weight loss, leading to a healthier and more productive life,’ [Dr. Joel] Zonszein, [director of the Clinical Diabetes Center at Montefiore Medical Center] said.”

Prediabetes Also Raises Your Cancer Risk

Both of these findings tend to strengthen previous research showing that even prediabetes is a risk factor for cancer. More than 1 in 3 Americans aged 20 and older has prediabetes,14 a condition in which your glucose (blood sugar) levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as full-blown diabetes.

Of those with prediabetes, 15 percent to 30 percent will develop type 2 diabetes within five years.

A meta-analysis15 published in 2014, which included data from nearly 900,000 people, found that those with prediabetes have a 15 percent higher risk of cancer, especially cancers of the liver, stomach, pancreas, breast and endometrium. Other research has shown that people with the highest insulin levels at the time of a cancer diagnosis have significantly increased risks of cancer recurrence, as well as a greater risk of being diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of cancer.16

From my perspective these findings aren’t the least surprising and precisely what you would predict if you understand the mechanism of most cancers, which are essentially being fueled by a metabolism that is driven by sugar (glucose), generating loads of unnecessary and damaging free radicals, as opposed to clean burning, high-quality fats that generate far less ROS.

Ketogenic Diet May Be Key to Cancer Recovery

Nutritional ketosis is part of the answer here. In this type of diet, you replace net carbs (total carbs minus fiber) with moderate amounts of high-quality protein and high amounts of beneficial fat. Since cancer cells need glucose to thrive, and carbohydrates devoid of fiber turn into glucose in your body, cutting out net carbs quite literally starves the cancer cells. Additionally, low protein intake tends to minimize the mTOR pathway, which also helps restrict cell proliferation.

The video above features Thomas Seyfried, Ph.D., who discusses how, as a metabolic disorder involving the dysregulation of respiration, malignant cancer (in this case brain cancer) can be managed by altering your metabolic environment.

That said, this kind of diet (low in net carbs, moderate in high-quality protein and high in healthy fats) will also help normalize your weight and boost your general health for the simple reason that it helps you convert from carb burning mode to fat burning, which helps optimize your mitochondrial function.

How Fasting May Benefit Cancer Patients

Fasting is another strategy that helps reverse obesity and optimize mitochondrial function, and it too can offer hope in the fight against cancer. In fact, one research group is reportedly looking into the possibility of getting intermittent fasting approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as an adjunct therapy for cancer patients.17,18,19

Valter Longo, Ph.D., has published a number of studies on fasting and its impact on cancer. His most recent research, published in the journal Cancer Cell,20 found that fasting during chemotherapy boosts cancer-killing T cell activity, thereby improving the effectiveness of the chemotherapy. As reported by Science Daily:21

“[R]odents that received caloric restriction mimetics alone or chemotherapy combined with a fasting-mimicking diet had smaller tumor masses over time than those that received only chemotherapy …

Mice with breast or skin cancers were given a low-sugar, low-protein, high-fat, low-calorie diet and were observed for [six] weeks while receiving doxorubicin, cyclophosphamide or no chemotherapeutic drugs. All of the mice receiving the diet-drug combination saw their tumors shrink to half the volume of the tumors in mice that received chemotherapy alone.”

According to Longo:22 “The biggest factor exposing cancer cells to the T cells is the effect on the enzyme heme oxygenase-1, which is normally at high levels in cancer cells. Fasting reduces oxygenase levels and gives rise to a number of changes that included the increase of tumor-killing cytotoxic T cells.”

What to Eat for Optimal Health and Cancer Prevention

From my perspective, ignoring diet as a cancer prevention tool is foolhardy at best. I’m convinced most cancers are preventable through proper nutrition. Avoiding toxic exposures (such as pesticides) is another important factor, and this is one reason why I recommend eating organic foods, especially grass-fed or pastured meats and animal products, whenever possible.

Make no mistake about it, the FIRST thing you want to do if you want to avoid or treat cancer if you have insulin or leptin resistance is to cut out all forms of sugar/fructose and grain carbs from your diet. This step will optimize the signaling pathways that otherwise might contribute to malignant transformation.

Remember, the foundational aspect that must be addressed is the metabolic mitochondrial defect discussed earlier, and this involves radically reducing the net (non-fiber) carbohydrates in your diet and replacing them with high-quality fats. Moderating your consumption of protein, and being mindful of the quality of the protein, is also important, as excessive protein can also trigger cancer growth. To learn more about this, please see my previous article, “The Very Real Risks of Consuming Too Much Protein“.

So, in summary, for optimal health you need sufficient amounts of carbohydrates, fats and protein. However, there are healthy carbs and unhealthy ones. Ditto for fat and protein. From my review of the molecular biology required to optimize mitochondrial function, it may be wise to aim for a diet with the following nutrient ratios:

Healthy fats, 75 to 85 percent of your total calories. Beneficial monosaturated and saturated fats include olives and olive oil, coconuts and coconut oil, butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk, raw nuts such as macadamia and pecans, seeds like black sesame, black cumin, pumpkin and hemp seeds, avocados, grass-fed meats, lard and tallow, ghee (clarified butter), raw cacao butter, organic pastured egg yolks, animal-based omega-3 fats and small fatty fish like sardines and anchovies.

Harmful fats that contribute to disease are primarily trans fats and highly refined polyunsaturated omega-6 vegetable oils (PUFAs). Remember, glucose is an inherently “dirty” fuel as it generates far more ROS than fat burning does. But to burn fat, your cells must be healthy and normal. Cancer cells lack the metabolic flexibility to burn fat and this why a diet high in healthy fats appears to be such an effective anti-cancer strategy.

When you switch from burning glucose as your primary fuel to burning fat for fuel, cancer cells must struggle to stay alive, as most of their mitochondria are dysfunctional and can’t use oxygen to burn fuel. At the same time, healthy cells are given an ideal and preferred fuel, which lowers oxidative damage and optimizes mitochondrial function. The sum effect is that healthy cells begin to thrive while cancer cells are “starved” to death.

Carbohydrates, 8 to 15 percent of your daily calories. Aim for twice as many fiber carbs as non-fiber (net) carbs. This means if your total carbs is 10 percent of your daily calories, at least half of that should be fiber. Fiber has a number of other health benefits, including weight management and a lower risk for certain cancers.23

I personally believe that most would benefit from reducing net carbs (not just fructose) to less than 100 grams (g) per day, and keeping your total fructose intake to a maximum of 25 g per day from all sources. If you are insulin resistant, you’d do well to make your upper fructose limit 15 g per day.

Cancer patients would likely be best served by even stricter limits. By reducing the amount of net carbs you eat, you will accomplish four things that will result in lowered inflammation and reduced stimulation of cancer growth. You will:

Lower your serum glucose level

Reduce your mTOR level

Reduce your insulin level

Lower insulin growth factor-1 (IGF-1, a potent hormone that acts on your pituitary gland to induce metabolic and endocrine effects, including cell growth and replication. Elevated IGF-1 levels are associated with breast and other cancers).

I typically keep my net carbs around 50 to 60 g per day While this may sound awfully complicated, the easiest way to dramatically cut down on your sugar and fructose consumption is to switch to real foods, as the vast majority of added sugar and fructose you end up with comes from processed fare.

Excellent sources of high-fiber carbs that you can eat plenty of include chia seeds, berries, raw nuts, cauliflower, root vegetables and tubers such as onions and sweet potatoes, green beans, peas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and psyllium seed husk.

Protein, 7 to 10 percent of your total calories. Quality is important, so look for high-quality grass-fed or pastured meats and animal products. As a general rule, I recommend limiting your protein to 0.5 g of protein per pound of lean body mass, which for most people amounts to 40 to 70 g of protein a day.

(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 by your current weight to get your lean body mass in pounds or kilos.)

Again, the reason for limiting protein is because excessive amounts have a stimulating effect on the mTOR pathway, which plays an important role in many diseases, including cancer. When you reduce protein to what your body needs for cell repair and maintenance, mTOR remains inhibited, which helps minimize your chances of cancer growth.

[+] Sources and References

How Much Money Do Pediatricians Really Make From Vaccines?

 

From https://wellnessandequality.com/2016/06/20/how-much-money-do-pediatricians-really-make-from-vaccines/

If you want to be sure your pediatrician has your child’s best interest, this is mandatory reading. Pediatricians around the country have begun refusing to accept families who opt out of some or all vaccines. Thanks to a tip sent to Wellness & Equality by a reader, now we know why.

When my friend’s child suffered a life-threatening reaction to a vaccine a week before her first birthday, my friend assumed her pediatrician would write her a medical exemption from future vaccines. Shortly after receiving a routine set of vaccines, the happy, vibrant one-year-old spiked a 106 degree fever, began having seizures, and was hospitalized. When the unexplained “illness” passed after a week in the hospital, the little girl had lost her ability to walk. My friend describes how her daughter, who had learned to walk several months earlier at 9 months, suddenly “stumbled around like a drunk person” for weeks following the vaccines. My friend met with a team of pediatricians, neurologists, and naturopathic doctors, and they agreed: Her daughter had suffered a brain injury caused by a reaction to one of the vaccines. Hoping the injury would be temporary and that she might recover and ease her brain inflammation if they could help her small body quickly eliminate the vaccine additives that caused the reaction, my friend’s daughter underwent an intensive detoxification program overseen by a nutritionalist. Slowly, her daughter relearned to walk.

My friend is a practicing attorney who graduated from a Top 10 college. The evidence was overwhelming that her daughter’s reaction had been caused by vaccines, she told me.

But a few months later, when she took her daughter back into the pediatrician for a visit, he wanted to vaccinate her daughter again. She was baffled. Why?

After a reader sent us a link to a PDF file of Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Physician Incentive Program available online, Wellness & Equality learned that insurance companies pay pediatricians massive bonuses based on the percentage of children who are fully vaccinated by age 2. 

BCBS_ProviderIncentiveProgram.png

So how much money do doctors really make from vaccines? The average American pediatrician has 1546 patients, though some pediatricians see many more. The vast majority of those patients are very young, perhaps because children transition to a family physician or stop visiting the doctor at all as they grow up. As they table above explains, Blue Cross Blue Shield pays pediatricians $400 per fully vaccinated child. If your pediatrician has just 100 fully-vaccinated patients turning 2 this year, that’s $40,000. Yes, Blue Cross Blue Shield pays your doctor a $40,000 bonus for fully vaccinating 100 patients under the age of 2. If your doctor manages to fully vaccinate 200 patients, that bonus jumps to $80,000. 

But here’s the catch: Under Blue Cross Blue Shield’s rules, pediatricians lose the whole bonus unless at least 63% of patients are fully vaccinated, and that includes the flu vaccine. So it’s not just $400 on your child’s head–it could be the whole bonus. To your doctor, your decision to vaccinate your child might be worth $40,000, or much more, depending on the size of his or her practice.

If your pediatrician recommends that your child under the age of 2 receive the flu vaccine–even though the flu vaccine has never been studied in very young children and evidence suggests that the flu vaccine actually weakens a person’s immune system over the long term–ask yourself:  Is my doctor more concerned with selling me vaccines to keep my child healthy or to send his child to private school?

Sources:

The Physician Alliance Blue Cross Blue Shield Incentive Program

Getting A Flu Shot Every Year? More May Not Be Better

Distribution of Pediatric Practice: Size, Age, Sex 

 

HLA-B27 and autoimmune disease: Is a low-starch diet the solution?

 

Do you have an autoimmune disease? Do starchy foods tend to make your symptoms worse? Mounting evidence suggests that individuals who have autoimmunity related to a particular set of genes called HLA-B27 may benefit from reducing their starch intake. Read on to learn why this is and if a low-starch diet is right for you.

DNA HLA-B27Numerous environmental factors have been implicated in the development of autoimmune disease, including antibiotic use, birth by cesarean section, chemical exposure, poor diet, and sleep deprivation, among others (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). While it is widely believed that disease onset requires an environmental trigger, most autoimmune conditions have a genetic component as well (6).

Genetic information can be a powerful tool in aiding both diagnosis and treatment. One particular group of genes that has been strongly associated with various autoimmune diseases is HLA-B27. In this article, I’ll discuss HLA-B27, the role of a gut microbe called Klebsiella, and why a low-starch diet may be effective for those who have an HLA-B27-associated autoimmune disease.

What’s this about HLA?

HLA is short for human leukocyte antigen. “Leukocytes” are the white blood cells responsible for protecting your body from infection and foreign substances.  “Antigen” in this case refers to cell-surface proteins. Putting it together, HLA is essentially a group of genes that determine which proteins are present on the surface of your immune cells.

Humans have a total of 23 pairs of chromosomes, with one of each pair coming from each parent. You therefore inherit one set of HLA genes from your mother and one from your father, on the maternal and paternal versions of chromosome 6. HLA is a highly polymorphic gene, meaning there are many different possible gene set variants, or “haplotypes,” that you can have.

The astounding number of haplotypes for HLA likely evolved to allow for the fine-tuning of the human adaptive immune system, but certain haplotypes can also predispose an individual to a particular disease of the immune system. You may have read my previous article in which I mentioned the role of HLA haplotypes in susceptibility to mold illness. HLA-DQ haplotypes have also been associated with celiac disease (7), while HLA-DRB1 has been associated with rheumatoid arthritis (8). For the remainder of this article, I’ll focus on HLA-B27 and its connection to autoimmune disease.

HLA-B27 is associated with various autoimmune diseases

The prevalence of HLA-B27 varies between ethnic groups and populations worldwide but is generally not a very common haplotype. Only 8 percent of Caucasians, 4 percent of North Africans, 2 to 9 percent of Chinese, and 0.1 to 0.5 percent of Japanese people possess HLA-B27 (9).

The most closely associated autoimmune disease with HLA-B27 is ankylosing spondylitis (AS), an inflammatory disease in which some of the vertebrae of the spine fuse together, inhibiting mobility. An estimated 88 percent of people with AS are HLA-B27 positive, yet only a fraction of HLA-B27-positive people will develop AS (10). Other autoimmune diseases that are associated with an HLA-B27 haplotype include Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis, reactive arthritis, and uveitis (11).

Making things a bit more complicated, HLA-B27 is itself polymorphic, with more than 100 different subtypes (12, 13). These are distinguished by a two-digit number added to the “parent” haplotype. Many of the most common subtypes of HLA-B27 (such as B2704 and B2705) are associated with increased risk of AS, while other subtypes (like HLA B2706 and B2709) actually appear to be protective against the disease (14, 15). This is likely due to the structure of the protein encoded by the HLA gene, as we’ll explore more in the next section.

The Klebsiella connection

As early as 1980, AS patients were identified as having elevated levels of serum IgA, suggesting the abnormal movement of microbes from the gut into the bloodstream (16). More recently, microbiome analyses identified greater abundance of a gram-negative bacterium called Klebsiella in stool samples of patients with AS (17). Fitting with their hypothesis of bacterial influx into the bloodstream, researchers found that these patients also had elevated levels of anti-Klebsiella antibodies in the blood (18).

Biochemical studies have found that Klebsiella have two molecules that carry sequences that closely resemble HLA-B27 (19, 20). Scientists have hypothesized that this “molecular mimicry” allows for cross-reactivity. In other words, the immune system produces antibodies against Klebsiella in an effort to remove it from the bloodstream, but these antibodies can also “accidentally” bind to HLA-B27. This idea of antibodies binding to “self” is characteristic of autoimmunity.

Although Klebsiella is one of the most widely studied microorganisms in relation to HLA-B27 and autoimmune disease, the concept of cross-reactivity applies to a number of different microbial (and dietary) antigens. For example, Proteus bacteria have been suggested to be involved in the development of rheumatoid arthritis via the same molecular mimicry mechanism as Klebsiella (21). As we’ll see next, knowledge of these mechanisms and the bacteria involved can really help shape our approach to treatment.

Why a low-starch diet might help

The composition of the gut microbiota is constantly shaped by the influx of dietary substrates (22), including proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Within carbohydrates, substrates can be further categorized as simple sugars and polysaccharides like starch or cellulose.

Biochemical studies of Klebsiella have shown that this bacterium does not grow on cellulose derived from plants but can grow readily on more simple sugars (23). Most simple sugars like glucose are absorbed in the proximal small intestine and therefore do not travel as far as the large intestine, where the majority of microbes are located. Simple sugars from the diet are therefore unavailable to Klebsiella.

Starch, however, is not as easily digested or absorbed, and some of it remains intact when foodstuffs finally reach the colon. Klebsiella have been shown to manufacture pullulanase, a starch-debranching enzyme, that enables them to break down starch into simple sugars for energy and growth (24).

Several studies have applied this information in humans. One randomized control trial split people into two groups: a high-carbohydrate, low-protein diet or a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet. They then compared the abundance of Klebsiella in fecal samples. The average number of Klebsiella was 30,000/gram in the high-carb group compared to 700/gram in the low-carb group (25). Another study found that a low-starch diet reduced total serum IgA in AS patients (26). The majority of these patients also reported a decline in symptom severity and, in some cases, complete remission.

Take steps toward remission

Now that you better understand the science behind HLA-B27-associated autoimmune disease, here are three things you can do to take action.

  • Find out your haplotype
    Currently, there is no readily available, user-friendly means of determining HLA haplotype from full genomic sequencing data (from companies like 23andme). While there are a few HLA-related SNPs that can be identified in the raw genetic data, at best these are only correlated with HLA haplotype and do not provide information about subtype. The best and most accurate way to determine your haplotype is to request a blood test from your healthcare practitioner that uses a more targeted DNA sequencing approach to identify which alleles you carry (27).
  • Experiment with your starch/carb intake
    Even if you don’t have access to genetic testing, or if you’re HLA-B27 negative, you can still do a self-experiment to see how you personally tolerate starch. I am a big proponent of n=1 experimentation and finding the diet that is right for you. Eileen Laird of Phoenix Helix has written an excellent post in which she shares the results of her own and several other Paleo autoimmune bloggers’ starch experiments. Many found that they can tolerate some forms of starch but not others. This is really valuable, since we know that a diet devoid of fermentable fiber like starch can be detrimental to the long-term health of the gut microbiota (28).
  • Heal your gut
    At the risk of sounding like a broken record, healing the gut is absolutely critical to achieving and maintaining optimal health. A leaky gut allows bacteria and dietary proteins into the bloodstream, which provokes an immune response. Regardless of your HLA haplotype, strengthening the integrity of the intestinal barrier is an important step towards achieving remission. Supporting a diverse, healthy microbiota can also help to keep Klebsiella and other potentially problematic microbes at bay.

Most Common Anxiety and Depression Drugs for Adolescents Are Ineffective

 

July 21, 2016

By Dr. Mercola

Mental health conditions like anxiety and depression can be devastating to adolescents, who are already going through one of the most emotionally turbulent life stages.

It’s understandable why well-meaning parents would turn to prescription medicationsin an attempt to give their child some relief, especially since such drugs are heavily promoted and often used as a first-line treatment by psychiatrists and other doctors.

However, many are not aware, nor do their doctors tell them, that such drugs often do not work, particularly in children and teens. Worse yet, youth who take antidepressant medications may be at increased risk of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.

13 of 14 Antidepressants Tested Did Not Relieve Depressive Symptoms

Oxford University researchers analyzed results of 34 clinical trials that involved more than 5,000 children with depression (aged from 9 to 18 years).1 The children took 1 of 14 antidepressants for an average period of eight weeks.

The majority of them (13) did not work to relieve the symptoms of depression, and the one that did — fluoxetine (Prozac) — has previously been linked to severehomicidal akathisia.

And for the record, previous research has found the benefit of antidepressants including Prozac “may be minimal or nonexistent, on average, in patients with mild or moderate symptoms.”2

Akathisia is a condition of motor restlessness, marked by anxiety, agitation, jitteriness (or the sensation of “jumping out of one’s skin”) and the inability to sit quietly or sleep.

The akathisia issue first came into public view shortly after Prozac entered the marketplace in the mid-1980s, when reports of murder and suicide among patients taking Prozac were publicized by the media.

Since then, there have been thousands of reports of violent behavior by individualstaking antidepressant drugs.

In addition, the featured study found the antidepressant venlafaxine (brand name Effexor) increased the risk of suicidal thoughts and attempts in the youth compared to placebo and five other antidepressants. The researchers concluded:3

“When considering the risk-benefit profile of antidepressants in the acute treatment of major depressive disorder, these drugs do not seem to offer a clear advantage for children and adolescents.”

‘Disturbing Implications for Clinical Practice’

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Jon Jureidini, an Australian child psychiatrist at the University of Adelaide in South Australia, noted that the study has “disturbing implications for clinical practice.”4

Such medications should be prescribed only “if the discounted benefit outweighs the boosted harm,” he stated, continuing, “For antidepressants in adolescents, this equation will rarely favor prescribing; in younger children, almost never.”5

Antidepressants’ link to suicidal tendencies is not new. In 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a black-box warning on antidepressants indicating they were associated with an increased risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in young people.

In 2007, the FDA directed manufacturers to update the warning to include increased risks of suicidal thinking and behavior, known as suicidality, in young adults ages 18 to 24 during initial treatment (generally the first one to two months).6

Research published in Pharmacogenomics and Personalized Medicine even revealed that a genetic mutation in the CYP450 gene family may cause a metabolic disturbance resulting in uncontrollable violent impulses and behaviors, including suicide, in some individuals taking these drugs.7

For about two years following the FDA’s initial 2004 warning, substantial reductions in antidepressant use were observed among youth, but it was unknown whether those reductions had continued.

Antidepressant Prescriptions Among Youth Surged in Recent Years

Unfortunately, research published in European Neuropsychopharmacology showed that not only did antidepressant use continue after the FDA warnings, but it also markedly increased.8

The study revealed significant increases in antidepressant prescriptions to youth in five Western countries included in the study. In Denmark, for instance, there was a 60 percent increase in youth antidepressant prescriptions from 2005 to 2012.

The rate increased 54 percent in the U.K., 49 percent in Germany, 26 percent in the U.S. and 17 percent in the Netherlands during the same period.9

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) clinical guidelines state antidepressants should not be offered as a first-line treatment for symptoms of mild depression in children.

And even when they’re prescribed for more serious cases, it’s supposed to be along with psychological therapy. Unfortunately, this doesn’t appear to be what’s happening in clinical practice.

Disturbing Stories of Anxiety Drug Side Effects

Use of benzodiazepines, or “benzos,” which are often prescribed for anxiety and insomnia, is also on the rise.10 Prescriptions for such drugs, which include brand names Valium, Ativan and Xanax, tripled from 1996 to 2013.

Benzodiazepines exert a calming effect by boosting the action of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the same way that opioids (heroin) and cannabinoids (cannabis) do. This in turn activates the gratification hormone, dopamine, in your brain.

This makes anxiety drugs highly addictive, and symptoms that may occur with benzodiazepine withdrawal include:11

Perceptual distortions, sense of movement Depersonalization, derealization Hallucinations (visual, auditory)
Distortion of body image Tingling, numbness and altered sensation Formication (skin crawling)
Sensory hypersensitivity (light, sound, taste and smell) Muscle twitches, jerks Tinnitus
Psychotic symptoms Confusion, delirium Convulsions

In the video above, people across the globe shared their stories about how benzodiazepine drugs, taken as prescribed, led to serious side effects and harm.

If you’re wondering about people’s experiences with antidepressants, at SSRIStories.org you can browse through a collection of more than 6,000 stories in which prescription drugs, primarily SSRIs, were potentially linked to serious side effects including violent behavior.

Categories include murder-suicide, postpartum reactions, road rage, school and other mass shootings, workplace violence and more, echoing the reasons why use of such drugs must not be taken lightly.

Diagnosis of Mental Illness in Youth Is Not an Exact Science

If your child is struggling emotionally or mentally, it can be difficult to determine whether it is due to a true illness, environmental factors or a combination. Even diagnosis by psychiatrists is far from an exact science. Behavioral problems in children (and also many mental challenges in adults) — including what might appear to be serious mental disorders — are frequently related to improper diet, emotional upset and exposure to toxins.

If possible, these underlying issues should be resolved before resorting to suppressing symptoms with potentially dangerous medications. Remember, research suggests drugs such as antidepressants do little, if anything, to help and may increase your child’s risk of suicide.

Further, psychotropic agents can influence a child’s brain development, and chronic drug exposure during sensitive periods can produce alterations to a child’s nervous system that have unpredictable and potentially harmful effects.

What happens to children when they are medicated at a very young age during key formative years? Do they grow up never knowing who they really are? What passions might they have developed were it not for the drug’s influence? These are questions that remain unanswered.

Try This Before Mind-Altering Drugs for Depression or Anxiety

If you or your child are experiencing severe depression or anxiety please seek help from a professional. For milder cases, and in addition to professional treatment for severe cases, the place to start is to return balance — to your body and your life. If you’re currently taking antidepressants or anxiety medications and wish to stop, you should wean off them gradually under the care of a knowledgeable health care provider.

Abrupt withdrawal from these drugs can lead to severe psychiatric or physical problems. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, by applying lifestyle modifications before trying medication, especially in children with mild symptoms. You may be surprised by how much such changes lessen symptoms naturally.

Exercise

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, which may help buffer some of the effects ofstress.

Many avid exercisers also feel a sense of euphoria after a workout, sometimes known as the “runner’s high.” It can be quite addictive, in a good way, once you experience just how good it feels to get your heart rate up and your body moving.

The Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT)

EFT can be very effective by helping you to actually reprogram your body’s reactions to the unavoidable stressors of everyday life. This includes both real and imagined stressors, which can be significant sources of anxiety.

EFT is particularly powerful for treating stress and anxiety because it specifically targets your amygdala and hippocampus, which are the parts of your brain that help you decide whether or not something is a threat.12 EFT has also been shown to lower cortisol levels, which are elevated when you’re stressed or anxious.13

In the following video, EFT therapist Julie Schiffman discusses EFT for depression relief. Please keep in mind that while anyone can learn to do EFT at home, self-treatment for serious issues like persistent anxiety or depression is dangerous and NOT recommended, and you should consult with an EFT professional to get the relief you need.

Optimize Your Gut Flora

Your gut and brain work in tandem, each influencing the other. This is why your intestinal health can have such a profound influence on your mental health and vice versa. It’s also the reason why your diet is so closely linked to your mental health.

Prior research has shown that the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus had a marked effect on GABA levels in certain brain regions and lowered the stress-induced hormone corticosterone, resulting in reduced anxiety- and depression-related behavior.14 The probiotic known as Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 has also been shown to normalize anxiety-like behavior in mice with infectious colitis.15

So optimizing your gut flora with beneficial bacteria is a highly useful strategy. This is done by eliminating sugars and processed foods and eating plenty of non-starchy vegetables, avoiding processed vegetable oils and eating healthy fats. Additionally, eating plenty of fermented vegetables or taking a high-potency probiotic would be useful to reestablish a healthy gut flora.

Omega-3 Fats

Your diet should include a high-quality source of animal-based omega-3 fats like krill oil. The omega-3 fats EPA and DHA play an important role in your emotional well-being, and research has shown a dramatic 20 percent reduction in anxiety among med students taking omega-3s.16

Dr. Andrew L. Stoll, a psychiatrist and director of the Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory at Harvard University, was one of the early leaders in compiling the evidence supporting the use of animal based omega-3 fats for the treatment of depression. He wrote an excellent book that details his experience in this area called “The Omega-3 Connection.”

Vitamin D

Optimize your vitamin D levels, ideally through regular sun exposure. Vitamin D is very important for your mood. In one study, people with the lowest levels of vitamin D were found to be 11 times more prone to depression than those who had normal levels.17

The best way to get vitamin D is through sun exposure and, to a lesser degree, foods such as salmon and tuna, fish liver oils and eggs. A vitamin D3 supplement can also be used, but you’ll need to monitor your levels regularly. To reap maximum benefit, you need a vitamin D level of at least 40 to 60 ng/ml.

Lower Your Intake of Sugar and Processed Foods

In addition to being high in sugar and grains, processed foods also contain a variety of additives that can affect your brain function and mental state, such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) and artificial sweeteners. There’s a great book on this subject, “Sugar Blues,” written by the late American activist, writer and musician, William Dufty, that delves into the topic of sugar and mental health in great detail.

Sleep

Get adequate amounts of sleep. You can have the best diet and exercise program possible, but if you aren’t sleeping well you can easily become depressed. Sleep and depression are so intimately linked that a sleep disorder is actually part of the definition of the symptom complex that gives the label depression.

Anxiety drugs are also often prescribed for sleep troubles. I suggest first reading my Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep for 33 simple tips on improving your sleep. Small adjustments to your daily routine and sleeping area can go a long way to ensure uninterrupted, restful sleep (which may further help with anxiety symptoms, as well).

[+] Sources and References

Vitamin K2 Deficiency Is a Significant Cause of Cardiovascular Disease

July 13, 2016

By Dr. Mercola

Your body is a complex organism, dependent upon the interactions and interrelationships of organs, enzymes, vitamins and hormones. Anytime you take a nutritional supplement, especially at high doses, you affect the balance of others.

For instance, if you take a zinc supplement, you must be wary of a copper imbalance in your body. These two nutrients balance each other, meaning you may suffer from either zinc or copper toxicity if they get out of balance.

The same is true for vitamins K and D. When the ratio between these two is not balanced, it can increase your risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD), stroke andheart attacks.

But vitamin supplements are not the only thing that can cause an imbalance. In a recent review, researchers found a link between medications used to lower cholesterol levels and treat type 2 diabetes and an inhibition of absorption of vitamin K from food.1

The 2 Forms of Vitamin K

In this video, Dr. Kate Rhéaume-Bleue discusses the differences between vitamins K1 and K2 and how they interact with vitamin D, calcium and other nutrients.

Vitamin K was discovered in 1929 as part of an experiment and was associated with blood coagulation, or how your blood clots.2 There are two main forms of the vitamin. Phylloquinone (K1) is found in leafy green plants and menaquinone (K2) is found in animal meat and fermented foods. Your body can also synthesize K2 in your gut.

Vitamin K2 can be divided into subtypes. The two we understand to be important today are MK-4 (short-chain) and MK-7 (long-chain bacterial derived).

Both vitamins K1 and K2 have important functions in your body. K1 is an integral factor in blood clotting and K2 activates proteins that regulate where calcium ends up in your body.3

The importance of vitamin K2 relates to the interaction it has with calcium. How and where calcium is deposited and used by your body has an impact on your dental health, bone health, cardiovascular system and renal (kidney) health. Each of these bodily systems depend upon the correct balance of calcium.4

Your body has limited storage capacity for vitamin K2, but can recycle the vitamin so it can be used multiple times.5 The functions of the vitamin are unique and necessary throughout all your life stages.

Many Drugs Reduce Vitamin K2 Absorption

The review paper associated medications used to treat cardiovascular disease (CVD) and type 2 diabetes with an inhibition of vitamin K2 processes. These negative effects may increase your risk for CVD, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, bone loss and even mental disorders, as a result of poor K2 absorption.6

The research found a shared mechanism between the blood thinner warfarin, statin medications and vegetable oils in the inhibition of vitamin K dependent processes.7The blood thinner warfarin works to reduce coagulation through an antagonistic effect on vitamin K.

This was the design of the drug. Even eating foods with vitamin K can reduce the effectiveness of warfarin. Research has also found that:

  • Anti-tuberculosis medications or anticonvulsant medications, taken when you are pregnant, may place your newborn at increased risk of vitamin K deficiency8
  • Use of broad-spectrum antibiotics may alter your gut microbiome and thus reduce the effectiveness of your gut to synthesize vitamin K2. Drug classes associated with this alteration include cephalosporins and salicylates9
  • Statin medications, developed to reduce cholesterol levels, also have a negative impact on your vitamin K2 absorption and inhibit CoQ10,10 both necessary for a healthy cardiovascular system.

Dr. Hogne Vik, chief medical officer with NattoPharma, a leader in vitamin K2 research and development, says:11

“We are not only finally seeing recognition that vitamin K2 is woefully insufficient in the diet, but there is a growing body of evidence that pharmaceuticals further exacerbate the problem of our limited vitamin K2 status, delivering potentially dangerous consequences for human health.”

Interaction Between K2 and Your Cardiovascular System

A significant risk factor in the development of CVD is calcium buildup in your arterial system.12,13 Plaque formation on the walls of your arteries may lead to small pieces breaking off, causing clot formation. This is one of the more common reasons for a heart attack or stroke.14

Calcification of these plaque formations occurs as atherosclerotic disease progresses, which may predict your risk for future cardiovascular events.

A meta-analysis of 30 studies, including over 218,000 participants, found calcification in the arteries was associated with a 300 to 400 percent increased risk of a cardiovascular event (such as a heart attack) or death.15

Vitamin K2 regulates arterial calcification through protein modulation. In one study, those who had the highest amount of vitamin K2 were 52 percent less likely to experience calcification in their arteries and 57 percent less likely to die from heart disease over a seven to 10 year period.16

Insufficient vitamin K2 in your diet may also lead to suboptimal carboxylation and biologically inactive matrix carboxylated glutamate protein (MGP), both leading to lower protection of your cardiovascular system from calcification of the arterial system.17

Vitamin D and Vitamin K2 Need Balance

Vitamin D influences or plays a significant role in dozens of conditions, including:

Eye health Preventing macular degeneration Preventing dry eye
Immune system health Preventing bowel disease Reducing effects of rheumatic diseases
Reducing effects of multiple sclerosis Reducing effects of lupus Fighting HIV/AIDS
Reducing depression Reducing potential for childhood asthma Reducing the risk of certain cancers
Reducing the signs of aging Prevention of dementia Prevention of heart disease

Deficiency in vitamin D may also contribute to a number of different health conditions, all of which increase your risk of heart disease. These conditions include high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis and increased inflammation in your body.18

However, like most other vitamins and nutrients, no one nutrient operates independently of others. For instance, most pasteurized milk is fortified with vitamin D. Manufacturers recognize they have effectively eradicated the natural vitamin D in the milk, necessary for absorption of calcium, and so they add it.

While vitamin D helps you absorb calcium, vitamin K2 directs your body to deposit the calcium in the appropriate places. In other words, it’s the vitamin K2 that tells your body to deposit calcium in your bones and teeth, and not in your organs, arteries, muscles or soft tissue.

An effective analogy is that vitamin D is your gatekeeper, allowing the admission of calcium, and vitamin K2 is the traffic cop, telling the calcium where to go. With vitamin D and calcium you’ll have the traffic, but without vitamin K2 you’ll have a traffic jam and calcium being deposited exactly where you don’t want it — in your arteries.

With the push for vitamin D and calcium to “grow strong bones,” you may be at risk for CVD if your diet isn’t rich in sources of vitamin K2. As an added risk, you may be taking medication or have an altered gut microbiome, reducing the absorption of vitamin K2.

Role of K2 in Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis causes more than 8.9 million fractures worldwide. This means a fracture due to osteoporosis happens every three seconds.19 Worldwide, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men over the age of 50 will experience a fracture related to osteoporosis.

The strength of your bones is related to several factors. Both the density of the bone and formation of the bone are related to the strength of the bone. When you have density without proper formation, your risk of fracture may actually increase. Your body needs several nutrients to build strong bones.20

Vitamin K2, working together with vitamin D, magnesium, phosphorus and calcium, helps your body develop strong bones and may reduce your risk of osteoporosis. This is because nutrients in your body are interconnected in the way they function.

Vitamin K is essential to the proper development of several bone-related proteins, including osteocalcin, MGP and periostin. Vitamin K is also a cofactor in the production of gamma-glutamyl carboxylase (GGCX). Recent research links low levels of GGCX and/or vitamin K2 to bone mineralization defects.21

This means that without vitamin K2 your body produces bone with defects, reducing the strength of the bone and increasing your risk of bone mineralization fractures.22,23

Vitamin K2 Is Also Important for Your Teeth and Cancer Prevention

Vitamin K2 also plays a significant role in the health of your teeth and in preventing cancer. You teeth, like your bones, are storehouses of calcium, which supports the structure and hardness of the teeth.24 The way calcium is deposited in your teeth will either increase the hardness of your tooth or make it more brittle.

Vitamin K2 once again acts like the traffic cop, telling calcium where and how to be used in your teeth. Working together with vitamin D, it also promotes a reduction in tooth decay or cavities.25 The process of depositing calcium in areas of the body where it is not normally found may act like sand in the gears of a machine. In fact, inappropriate calcium distribution may contribute to the development of:

Gallstones Colon cancer
Liver cancer Ovarian cysts
Bone cancer Breast cancer
Prostate cancer Lung cancer
Dementia Leukemia
Varicose veins Macular degeneration

German doctors evaluating the effect of vitamins K1 and K2 on the development and treatment of prostate cancer found that those who consumed the greatest amount of K2 had a 63 percent reduced incidence of advanced prostate cancer.26,27

Vitamin K2 has demonstrated the ability to induce cell destruction in leukemia cells outside the body.28 The vitamin also demonstrated inhibitory effects on myeloma and lymphoma. Following treatment for liver cancer, those who took K2 supplements experienced a 13 percent relapse of the cancer while those who did not experienced a 55 percent relapse rate.29,30

Enjoy the Benefits of K2

How do you know if you’re deficient in vitamin K2? According to Rhéaume-Bleue, there are several questions you can ask yourself, and depending upon the answers, you’ll have a good idea if you are deficient. Estimates suggest up to 85 percent of Americans are vitamin K2 deficient.

Do you suffer from health conditions associated with vitamin K2 deficiency? Some of these conditions are listed above.

Do you eat meats, dairy or cheeses from grass-fed sources? Grass-fed beef and the dairy products from these animals are higher in vitamin K2 and healthier for you.

Do you eat fermented foods? The bacteria in the fermentation process produce vitamin K2 in the food. Natto (fermented soybeans), is one of the best sources of vitamin K2. I ate it for a while, but the flavor is a bit of a challenge and probably isn’t well accepted by the Western palate.

Other fermented foods like kimchi also contain vitamin K2. My favorite way of getting K2 is to ferment my own vegetables using a special starter culture designed with bacteria that produce K2.

Do you eat Brie or Gouda cheeses or consistently eat liver pate? Fermentation in the cheese produces vitamin K2. Fermented dairy products will provide about one-third the amount per serving of natto. Ideally, I recommend fermented cheeses from raw milk. It is important to note that raw milk in and of itself does not contain K2. The vitamin is produced during the fermentation process.

If these foods aren’t a regular part of your diet, then you are likely deficient in vitamin K2 and you may benefit from using a supplement. At this time, there are no reliable tests to determine your level of vitamin K2. However, while it is a fat-soluble vitamin, there is no known toxicity at any dose.

It is important to take your supplement with foods containing healthy fat to increase absorption. Of the two forms of vitamin K2, MK-4 and MK-7, the latter is the more effective supplement to use.

MK-4 is a synthetic product, having a very short biological half-life of about one hour, making it a poor candidate as a dietary supplement. After reaching your intestines, it remains mostly in your liver, where it is useful in synthesizing blood-clotting factors. MK-7 is a newer agent with more practical applications because it stays in your body longer. Its half-life is three days, meaning you have a better chance of building up a consistent blood level. MK-7 is extracted from the Japanese fermented soy product, natto.

[+] Sources and References

How Good Fats Prevent Heart Disease

 

July 11, 2016

By Dr. Mercola

Omega-3 fats — specifically EPA and DHA — are essential to your overall health, including your heart health.

A recent analysis of 19 studies confirms that regular consumption of fish and other omega-3 rich foods, including certain plant-based sources, may lower your risk of a fatal heart attack (myocardial infarction) by about 10 percent.1,2,3

This effect held true even after accounting for confounding factors like age, sex, ethnicity, diabetes and use of aspirin or cholesterol-lowering drugs.

According to senior study author Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, “Our results lend support to the importance of fish and omega-3 consumption as part of a healthy diet.” Other studies have found even more significant effects.

One large Italian trial found that heart attack survivors who took 1 gram of omega-3 fat each day for three years had a 50 percent reduced chance of sudden cardiac death.4

Health Benefits of Omega-3 Fat

Omega-3 fats benefit your cardiovascular health in several ways. In addition to lowering your blood pressure and triglyceride concentrations and improving endothelial function (a major factor in promoting the growth of new blood vessels), research has demonstrated omega-3s are:

  • Antiarrhythmic: counteracting or preventing cardiac arrhythmia
  • Antithrombotic: tending to prevent thrombosis (a blood clot within a blood vessel)
  • Antiatherosclerotic: preventing fatty deposits and fibrosis of the inner layer of your arteries from forming
  • Anti-inflammatory: counteracting inflammation (heat, pain, swelling, etc.)

Researchers are also attributing a number of other health benefits to omega-3 fat, including:

Healthier, stronger bones Improved mood regulation Reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease
Reduced risk of death from ALL causes Protecting your tissues and organs from inflammation Brain and eye development in babies, and preventing premature delivery
Reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease Delayed progression to psychosis among patients at high risk forschizophrenia Protection againstosteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis(RA)5,6, 7
Protection against metabolic syndrome,8including obesity, fatty liver9 and type 2 diabetes (by reducing inflammation and blood sugar) Improvements in premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and dysmenorrhea10 Lowered risk for other neurological/cognitive dysfunction, including: memory loss, brain aging, learning disorders and ADHD,11 autism and dyslexia12
Reduced risk of Crohn’s disease Reduced risk of colon cancer13 Reduced risk of kidney disease14
Reduced risk of autoimmune disorders, such as lupus and nephropathy

Not All Omega-3s Are Made the Same

It’s crucial to understand that not all omega-3 fats are created equal. There are two areas of confusion about omega-3s that I will attempt to clarify here:

  • Marine animal- versus plant-based omega-3 (docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) versus alpha-linolenic acid (ALA))
  • The difference between fish- and krill-based omega-3 (triglyceride-bound omega-3s versus phospholipid-bound omega-3s)

For starters, omega-3 fats can be obtained from both marine animal and plant sources, but contrary to popular belief, they are simply NOT interchangeable.

In recent years, a “myth” of sorts has sprung up, where people who avoid animal foods believe they can simply consume plant-based omega-3 ALA to meet their needs. But this isn’t true and the science doesn’t support this assertion.

Omega-3s EPA/DHA are essential polyunsaturated fats your body needs for a variety of functions, including digestion, muscle activity, blood clotting, visual acuity, memory and learning, and basic cell division and function of cell receptors.

Omega-3s EPA/DHA are considered “essential” fats as your body cannot make them and, hence, you must get them from your diet. Omega-3 ALA on the other hand is quite ubiquitous in the diet and therefore there is no real need to supplement.

Plant-based omega-3 has 18 carbons whereas marine-based omega-3s have between 20 and 22. They all have their first double-bond in the third position — hence the name “omega-3.” However, as you will see below, the difference in the length of the carbon chain makes a significant difference.

This is where the distinction between long-chain and short-chain omega-3s comes from. EPA and DHA are long-chain fatty acids and ALA is a short-chain fatty acid.

Although your body can convert some of the ALA found in plants to the DHA found in marine oils, it is very rare for it to be more than 5 percent and typically found to be 1 to 3 percent, or even less. This is an insufficient amount to have any significant benefit.

Animal- Versus Plant-Based Omega-3

Here’s a rundown of the core differences between marine-animal and plant-based omega-3s:15,16,17,18,19

Marine animal-based omega-3

Sources: Fatty fish (such as salmon, anchovies, sardines and herring), fish and krill oils.

Primary omega-3 content: DHA: a long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) consisting of 22 carbons, and EPA: a long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid consisting of 20 carbons.

Long-chain fatty acids EPA and DHA are more readily available to your body.

Your body also seems to have a significant capacity to synthesize another omega-3 fat, docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), most likely by elongating  EPA.

Biological effects: DHA and EPA are structural elements with many biological effects, most notably anti-inflammatory activity and communication within the cell and between cells.

More than 90 percent of the omega-3 fat found in brain tissue is DHA; as much as 30 percent of the fatty mass of the prefrontal cortex is DHA and the development of a normal brain in a fetus is absolutely dependent on the availability of DHA.

All other omega-3 fats are found only in trace amounts, including ALA, regardless of how much ALA you consume.20

Plant-based omega-3

Sources: Certain plants, such as flaxseed, flaxseed oil, chia seeds, nuts (especially walnuts) and leafy greens.

Primary omega-3 content: ALA is a short-chain fatty acid consisting of 18 carbons; it’s conversion to long-chain fatty acids is very poor, around 1 to 3 percent.

ALA is a precursor to EPA and DHA. However, enzymes are required to elongate and de-saturate the shorter 18 carbon ALA into long-chained omega-3. In most people,  this doesn’t work very well and hence the conversion rate is very small.

Typically, less than 1 percent of ALA is converted to EPA/DHA. Some studies have found the conversion rate to be as low as 0.1 to 0.5 percent.21 Your conversion is also dependent on having adequate levels of other vitamins and minerals.

So, while a tiny amount of the ALA you consume can be converted by your body into long-chain omega-3, it’s a highly inefficient strategy and nowhere near as helpful as supplying EPA/DHA directly from marine sources.

Biological effects: Source of energy (fat).

Key Difference: ALA Is a Source of Energy Whereas EPA and DHA Are Structural Elements

According to Nils Hoem, Ph.D., a leading scientist in omega-3 phospholipids whom I recently interviewed, when you look at the uptake and distribution of EPA and DHA you see something rather strange.

After eating a meal of salmon or taking a krill or fish oil, the fatty acid level in your plasma (blood) will remain elevated for more than three days afterward. “Your body works on its distribution, redistribution and re-redistribution for three days. That’s hardly consistent with being “just food,” he says.

On the other hand, the short-chain omega-3s (ALA) are rapidly absorbed, peaking a couple of hours after ingestion. Within 10 hours, they’re gone. This suggests your body is using them very differently.

According to Hoem, the short-chain fatty acids are simply food — they’re a source of energy — while the long-chain fatty acids, those with 20 and more carbons, especially EPA and DHA, are structural elements. So EPA and DHA are not just “food;” they’re elements that actually make up your cells, and those are two completely different functions. To learn more about this, please keep your eye out for Hoem’s interview, which is scheduled to run shortly.

EPA and DHA are extensively distributed throughout your body, including your heart and brain. In fact, research shows there are specific transporters in your blood-brain barrier, the placenta (in pregnant women), and likely also in your liver, which transport these molecules in a very precise way into the cell membranes where they belong.

The Difference Between Fish- and Krill-Based Omega-

The next area of confusion relates to the different types of marine-based omega-3. Fish and krill are two sources that provide both EPA and DHA. However, there are important differences between these two marine sources of omega-3s. One of the most important differences between fish and krill oil is the fact that krill oil is bound to phospholipids.

Fatty acids are water insoluble, so they cannot be transported directly in their free form in your blood — they require “packaging” into lipoprotein vehicles. Most fatty acids are typically bound to esters, which do not travel efficiently in your bloodstream. The phospholipids in krill oil seem to be partially different in this regard.

  • Fish oil is bound to triglycerides and methyl esters
  • Krill oil is bound to triglycerides and phospholipids

Phospholipids are also one of the principal compounds in high-density lipoproteins (HDL), which you want more of, and by allowing your cells to maintain structural integrity, phospholipids help your cells function properly. (You can learn more about this in the video above.)

There’s also a synthetic form of marine omega-3, which is bound to ethyl esters. This is simply a fatty acid that has been sliced off from its triglyceride source and then ethylated with ethanol. Pharmaceutical omega-3 supplements are typically made this way, and research shows ethyl esters, unless taken in conjunction with a meal, may simply pass through your body without being absorbed whatsoever.

Other Advantages of Krill Oil Over Fish Oil

Research also shows krill oil has a number of other advantages over fish oil, including the following:

Higher potency

Studies have shown that krill oil is more potent than fish oil. This means you need far less of it than fish oil, as confirmed by a 2011 study published in the journal Lipids.22 Researchers gave subjects less than 63 percent as much krill-based EPA/DHA as the fish oil group, yet both groups showed equivalent blood levels — meaning the krill was more potent.

Contains phosphatidylcholine

When you consume fish oil, your liver has to attach it to phosphatidylcholine in order for it to be utilized by your body. Krill oil already contains phosphatidylcholine, which is another reason for its more efficient cellular uptake. Phosphatidylcholine is composed partly of choline, the precursor for the vital neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which sends nerve signals to your brain, and for trimethylglycine, which protects your liver.

Choline is important to brain development, learning and memory. In fact, choline plays a vital role in fetal and infant brain development, so it is particularly important if you are pregnant or nursing.

Resists oxidation

Fish oil is quite prone to oxidation, and oxidation leads to the formation of free radicals. Consuming free radicals further increases your need for antioxidants. Fish oil is very low in antioxidants whereas krill oil contains astaxanthin — probably the most potent antioxidant in nature — which is why krill oil is so stable and resistant to oxidation.

Contaminant-free

Fish are very prone to mercury and other heavy metal contamination, courtesy of widespread water pollution. Antarctic krill is not prone to this contamination. Not only are they fished from cleaner waters, but since krill is at the bottom of the food chain, it feeds on phytoplankton and not other contaminated fish.

Although processed fish oil can be purified, it requires extensive additional damaging processing to do so, unlike krill, which is not contaminated from the start and requires no additional processing to achieve high purity levels.

Environmentally sustainable

Krill is far more sustainable than fish because it’s the largest marine biomass in the world, making krill fishing one of the most sustainable practices on the planet. Krill fishing is also carefully regulated, and only less than 1 percent of the total krill biomass in the areas where the fishery is allowed (designated as “Area 48” in the Southern Ocean) is caught each year.

The krill population is monitored by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certifies that krill fishing is carried out in compliance with strict sustainability criteria to avoid overfishing. For more information, please read my 2009 article that goes into the sustainability aspects of krill harvesting in greater depth.

Superior metabolic influence

Researchers have found that krill oil is vastly superior to fish oil when it comes to having a beneficial influence on your genetic expression and metabolism. Genes have “switches” that can be flipped on and off, which control virtually every biochemical process in your body, and nutrients like omega-3 fats control those switches.

Fatty acids help to direct metabolic processes such as glucose production, lipid synthesis, cellular energy, oxidation and dozens of others. We now know that various types and sources of omega-3 fat affect liver tissue differently, which is what a 2011 study23  in Frontiers in Genetics was designed to examine.

It compared the livers of mice fed krill oil to those fed fish oil by looking at the gene expression triggered by each. Although both fish oil and krill oil contain omega-3s, they differ greatly in how they affect the genes controlling your metabolism. Krill oil:

  • Enhances glucose metabolism in your liver, whereas fish oil does not
  • Promotes lipid metabolism; fish oil does not
  • Helps regulate the mitochondrial respiratory chain; fish oil does not
  • Decreases cholesterol synthesis, whereas fish oil increases it

So krill will help lower your triglyceride and cholesterol levels and increase your energy production, whereas fish oil does neither. Last year, an Italian study24,25 confirmed that krill oil helps improve lipid and glucose metabolism and mitochondrial function, which may help protect against hepatic steatosis (fatty liver disease) caused by an unhealthy diet (such as diets high in unhealthy fats).

By stimulating certain mitochondrial metabolic pathways, including fatty acid oxidation, respiratory chain complexes and the Krebs cycle, krill oil helps restore healthy mitochondrial energy metabolism.

Butter Is Not Linked to Heart Disease

Besides omega-3 fats, you might have heard some of the good news about saturated animal fats like butter and lard being far healthier than previously believed. Recent research has again acquitted butter, finding it does NOT increase your risk for heart disease.26 As reported by STAT:27

“Researchers combined the data from nine studies looking at the relationship of butter consumption with various health outcomes. They found that eating butter didn’t significantly change people’s incidence of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease or stroke.

The study did find a small link between butter and overall mortality — each daily tablespoon of butter was linked to a 1 percent increase in mortality risk. On the other hand, the same amount of butter was associated with a 4 percent lower risk of diabetes.”

Butter, as you probably know, has long been demonized for being high in saturated fat. But as butter consumption declined, being replaced instead by processed vegetable oils that were thought to be healthier for the heart, heart disease rates actuallyincreased.

Today, we recognize that trans fats are far more harmful to your heart than saturated animal fats ever were, and butter is again gaining favor. An interesting article in The Atlantic28 dating back to 2012 describes the history behind the misguided advice to avoid saturated fats, and “how Procter & Gamble convinced people to forgo butter and lard for cheap, factory-made oils loaded with trans fat.”

Citizen Petition to Lift Interstate Ban on Raw Butter

In related news, the Farm-to-Consumer Defense Fund and Organic Pastures Dairy Company have organized a citizen’s petition to lift the interstate ban on raw butter. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it has the authority to ban sale of raw butter under its power to regulate communicable disease — a claim Pete Kennedy, attorney for Farm-to-Consumer Defense Fund, says is “not only ridiculous but illegal as well.” As noted in a recent article announcing the petition:29

“FDA’s assertion of this power in banning raw butter is dubious for two reasons: first, the ban violates the Federal Food and Drug Cosmetic Act (FFDCA); and second, FDA is trying to prohibit a food in interstate commerce that has little or no record of making anyone sick.

FDA’s butter ban is illegal according to a statute in the FFDCA that governs standards of identity for food. Standards of identity are requirements prescribing what a food product must contain to be marketed under a certain name in interstate commerce.

For instance, the standard of identity for milk in final package form requires that it be pasteurized or ultrapasteurized and that it contain not less than 8 ¼ percent non-fat milk solids and not less than 3 ¼ percent milkfat. FDA’s long-held position is that the pasteurization requirement can be part of the standard of identity. Standards of identity are intended to promote honesty and fair dealing for the benefit of consumers.

Congress has given FDA power to issue regulations establishing standard of identity requirements for most foods, but there are exceptions and one of those is butter.

The FFDCA specifically prohibits FDA from establishing a standard of identity for butter; Congress has passed a law defining butter that serves as a standard of identity for the product. That definition does not require butter to be pasteurized. The petition asks FDA to obey the law and abide by the statutory standard of identity for butter.”

[+] Sources and References

Antibiotic Resistance – What Promotes It, and How Can We Beat It?