Month: October 2016

Top Environmental Risk Factors for Dementia Identified

October 27, 2016

By Dr. Mercola

“Dementia” is an umbrella term covering an array of neurological diseases and conditions that develop when neurons in your brain die or cease to function normally. The death or malfunction of neurons causes changes in memory, behavior and ability to think.

Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most serious form of dementia, eventually leads to the inability to carry out even the most basic of bodily functions, such as swallowing or walking. Alzheimer’s is ultimately fatal, as conventional treatment options are few and limited in effectiveness.

Disturbingly, Alzheimer’s has reached epidemic proportions, currently affecting an estimated 5.4 million Americans.1 In the next 20 years it is projected that Alzheimer’s will affect 1 in 4 Americans, rivaling the current prevalence of obesity and diabetes and by 2050, Alzheimer’s diagnoses are projected to triple.2,3

Already, more than half a million Americans die from the disease each year, making it the third leading cause of death in the U.S., right behind heart disease and cancer.4,5Considering there’s no known cure and so few treatments, prevention is key.

Top Environmental Risk Factors Identified

As with autism, it’s quite reasonable to suspect that a variety of factors are at play, collectively contributing to the rapid rise in Alzheimer’s prevalence.

Experts at the Edinburgh University’s Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre have now compiled a list of top environmental risk factors thought to be contributing to the epidemic.6,7,8 As reported by BBC News:9

“Dementia is known to be associated with lifestyle factors such as high blood pressure in mid-life, smoking, diabetes, obesity, depression and low educational attainment, as well as genetic factors.

But the Edinburgh researchers said a third of dementia risk was unexplained, and they want to determine whether other issues are at play, including the environment.”

Not surprisingly (if you’ve been paying attention to the research), vitamin D deficiency, air pollution and occupational pesticide exposure top this list. Living close to power lines also has “limited yet robust” evidence suggesting it may influence your susceptibility to dementia.

All Forms of Air Pollution Raise Your Dementia Risk

The risk factor with the most robust body of research behind it is air pollution. In fact, they couldn’t find a single study that didn’t show a link between exposure to air pollution and dementia. Particulate matter, nitric oxides, ozone and carbon monoxide have all been linked to an increased risk.

Aside from raising your risk for dementia, a recent World Health Organization (WHO) report10 on environmentally related deaths claim that 1 in 4 deaths worldwide are now related to living and working in a toxic environment — with air pollution being the greatest contributor to this risk. As noted by WHO Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan:

“A healthy environment underpins a healthy population. If countries do not take actions to make environments where people live and work healthy, millions will continue to become ill and die too young.”

During the World Health Assembly, held in May 2016, WHO vowed it “will propose a roadmap to increase the global response by the health sector to reduce the effects of air pollution.”

Pollution, Diabetes and Dementia

American researchers have also warned that exposure to air pollution for as little as one or two months may be enough to increase your risk of diabetes — especially if you’re obese.11

Diabetes, in turn, is a significant risk factor for Alzheimer’s, doubling your chances of contracting this devastating form of dementia. Alzheimer’s was even tentatively referred to as type 3 diabetes at one time.

Recent research has also confirmed that the greater an individual’s insulin resistance, the less sugar they have in key parts of their brain, and these areas typically correspond to the areas affected by Alzheimer’s.12,13

Needless to say, the most significant contributor to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes is not pollution but rather your diet. More specifically, eating a diet that is excessively high in net carbohydrates (total carbs minus fiber) and too low in healthy fats, which I will discuss further below, can contribute to insulin resistance.

Sensible Sun Exposure Is Important for Brain Health

The Scottish Dementia Research Centre also noted there’s a very clear link betweenvitamin D deficiency and dementia. Indeed, studies have shown vitamin D plays a critical role in brain health, immune function, gene expression and inflammation — all of which influence Alzheimer’s.

In a 2014 study,14 considered to be the most robust study of its kind at the time, those who were severely deficient in vitamin D had a 125 percent higher risk of developing some form of dementia compared to those with normal levels. According to the authors:

“Our results confirm that vitamin D deficiency is associated with a substantially increased risk of all-cause dementia and Alzheimer disease. This adds to the ongoing debate about the role of vitamin D in nonskeletal conditions.”

The findings also suggest there’s a threshold level of circulating vitamin D, below which your risk for dementia increases. This threshold was found to be right around 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) or 50 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L). Please recognize that higher levels are associated with better brain health.

Based on a broader view of the available science, 20 ng/ml is still far too low, as the bulk of the research suggests a healthy range is between 40 to 60 ng/ml, certainly no lower than 40 ng/ml. Sadly, a vast majority of people are severely deficient, in large part because they’ve been fooled into fearing sun exposure.

Researchers have previously estimated that half of the general population is at risk of vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency. Among seniors, that estimate reaches as high as 95 percent. This suggests vitamin D may be a very important factor for successful prevention among the general population.

A wide variety of brain tissue contains vitamin D receptors, and when they’re activated by vitamin D, it facilitates nerve growth in your brain.

Researchers also believe that optimal vitamin D levels boost levels of important brain chemicals, and protect brain cells by increasing the effectiveness of glial cells in nursing damaged neurons back to health.

Vitamin D may also exert some of its beneficial effects on your brain through its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties, which are well established.

Heart and Brain Health Are Closely Linked

It may be helpful to remember that Alzheimer’s shares many risk factors with heart disease.15 This includes smoking, alcohol use, diabetes, high fasting blood sugar levels, insulin resistance and obesity.16

Arterial stiffness (atherosclerosis) is associated with a hallmark process of Alzheimer’s, namely the buildup of beta-amyloid plaque in your brain.

The American Heart Association (AHA) also warns there’s a strong association between hypertension and brain diseases such as vascular cognitive impairment (loss of brain function caused by impaired blood flow to your brain) and dementia.17

In one clinical trial, test subjects who consumed high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) developed higher risk factors for cardiovascular disease in just two weeks, demonstrating just how influential your diet can be on your heart and brain health in the long term.

Such findings dovetail nicely with the conclusions reached by neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter, author of “Grain Brain,” and “Brain Maker,” who has concluded that anything that promotes insulin resistance will ultimately also raise your risk of Alzheimer’s.

Exercise Is Important for Alzheimer’s Prevention

The good news is that lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise and sleep can have a significant impact on your risk. As previously noted by Dr. Richard Lipton of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine — where they study healthy aging — lifestyle changes “look more promising than the drug studies so far” when it comes to addressing neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s.18

Exercise, for example, has been shown to protect your brain from Alzheimer’s and other dementias, and also improves quality of life if you’ve already been diagnosed.19 In one study,20 patients diagnosed with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s who participated in a four-month-long supervised exercise program had significantly fewer neuropsychiatric symptoms associated with the disease (especially mental speed and attention) than the non-exercising control group.

Other studies21 have shown that aerobic exercise helps reduce tau levels in the brain. (Brain lesions known as tau tangles form when the protein tau collapses into twisted strands that ends up killing your brain cells.) According to co-author Laura Baker:

“These findings are important because they strongly suggest a potent lifestyle intervention such as aerobic exercise can impact Alzheimer’s-related changes in the brain. No currently approved medication can rival these effects.”

Cognitive function and memory22 can also be improved through regular exercise, and this effect is in part related to the effect exercise has on neurogenesis and the regrowth of brain cells. By targeting a gene pathway called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), exercise actually promotes brain cell growth and connectivity.

In one year-long study, elderly individuals who exercised grew and expanded their brain’s memory center by as much as 2 percent per year, where typically that center shrinks with age. It’s also been suggested that exercise can trigger a change in the way the amyloid precursor protein is metabolized,23 thus slowing the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s.

Exercise also increases levels of the protein PGC-1alpha. Research24 has shown that people with Alzheimer’s have less of this protein in their brains, and that cells that contain more of the protein produce less of the toxic amyloid protein associated with Alzheimer’s.

Eating for Brain Health

Reducing your net carbs and increasing healthy fat consumption are another important part of the equation, and my optimized nutrition plan can set you on the right path in that regard.

Research25 from the Mayo Clinic reveals that diets rich in carbohydrates are associated with an 89 percent increased risk for dementia while high-fat diets are associated with a 44 percent reduced risk. Perlmutter places most of his patients on a ketogenic, high-fat and low-net-carb diet that is gluten-free, along with prescribed exercise.

One of the easiest ways to optimize your diet is to make sure you’re only eating real food. Avoid processed foods of all kinds, as they contain a number of ingredients harmful to your brain, including refined sugar, processed fructose, grains (particularly gluten), genetically engineered (GE) ingredients and pesticides like glyphosate (an herbicide thought to be worse than DDT, which has already been linked to Alzheimer’s). Opting for organic produce will help you avoid toxic pesticides.

Also choose organic grass-fed meats and animal products, as animals raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are routinely fed GE grains contaminated with pesticides, along with a variety of drugs. Some researchers have even suggested Alzheimer’s may be a slow-acting form of mad cow disease, acquired by eating contaminated meats. It’s a rather compelling theory, considering mad cow disease originated in the CAFO system, where herbivores are forced to eat animal parts.

To Protect Your Heart and Brain, Trade Sugar for Healthy Fats, and Other Helpful Tips

Ideally, keep your added sugar levels to a minimum and your total fructose below 25 grams per day, or as low as 15 grams per day if you already have insulin/leptin resistance or any related disorders.

Healthy fats to add to your diet include avocados, butter made from raw, grass-fed organic milk, organic pastured egg yolks, MCT oil, coconuts and coconut oil (coconut oil, and to an even greater degree MCT oil, show particular promise against Alzheimer’s) and raw nuts such as pecans and macadamia, both of which have a near-ideal ratio of protein and healthy fats.

Avoid all trans fats or hydrogenated fats that have been modified in such a way to extend their longevity on the grocery store shelf. This includes margarine, vegetable oils and various butter-like spreads. It’s also advisable to:

  • Avoid gluten. Research shows that your blood-brain barrier is negatively affected by gluten. Gluten also makes your gut more permeable, which allows proteins to get into your bloodstream where they sensitize your immune system and promote inflammation and autoimmunity, both of which play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s.
  • Optimize your gut health by avoiding processed foods, antibiotics and antibacterial products, fluoridated and chlorinated water and by regularly eating traditionally fermented and cultured foods, along with a high-quality probiotic if needed.
  • Optimize your vitamin D. This is ideally done through sensible sun exposure, but as a last resort, vitamin D3 supplements are better than nothing. Just make sure you also increase your intake of vitamin K2 if you take an oral vitamin D supplement. As for dosage, the “right” dose is one that will keep your blood level between 40 and 60 ng/ml.
  • Improve your magnesium levels. Not only does magnesium work in tandem with vitamin D and K2, preliminary research also suggests higher levels of magnesium in the brain help decrease Alzheimer symptoms. Magnesium threonate is one of the few magnesium supplements that appears to be able to actually cross the blood brain barrier, making it my first choice.
  • Increase your intake of animal-based omega-3. I prefer krill oil to fish oil here, as krill oil also contains astaxanthin, which appears to be particularly beneficial for brain health.

Other Alzheimer’s Prevention Strategies

Besides exercise and the key dietary instructions just mentioned, the following suggestions may also be helpful for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease:


Ketones are mobilized when you replace nonfiber carbs with healthy fats. Intermittent fasting is a powerful tool to jumpstart your body into remembering how to burn fat and repair the insulin/leptin resistance that is a primary contributing factor for Alzheimer’s.

A folate-rich diet

Vegetables are your best form of folate, and you’d be wise to eat plenty of fresh raw veggies every day. Avoid supplements like folic acid, which is the inferior synthetic version of folate.

If you enjoy black coffee, keep the habit

While I would not encourage you to drink coffee if you’re not already a coffee drinker, if you enjoy it, there’s good news. Caffeine triggers the release of BDNF that activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons, thereby improving your brain health.

In one study, people with mild cognitive impairment whose blood levels of caffeine were higher (due to coffee consumption) were less likely to progress to full-blown dementia compared to those who did not drink coffee.26 In another study, older women whose coffee consumption was above average had a lower risk of dementia.27

Just make sure your coffee is organic, as coffee tends to be heavily sprayed with pesticides. For more details on making your coffee habit as healthy as possible, please see my previous article, “Black Coffee in the Morning May Provide Valuable Health Benefits.”

Avoid and eliminate mercury from your body

Dental amalgam fillings, which are 50 percent mercury by weight, are one of the major sources of heavy metal toxicity. However, you really should be healthy prior to having them removed. Once you have adjusted to following the diet described in my optimized nutrition plan, you can follow themercury detox protocol and then find a biological dentist to have your amalgams removed.

Avoid and eliminate aluminum from your body

Sources of aluminum include antiperspirants, non-stick cookware and vaccine adjuvants, just to mention some of the most common ones. For tips on how to detox aluminum, please see my article, “First Case Study to Show Direct Link between Alzheimer’s and Aluminum Toxicity.”

Avoid flu vaccinations

Most flu vaccines contain both mercury and aluminum.

Avoid statins and anticholinergic drugs

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

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

Get plenty of restorative sleep

Sleep is necessary for maintaining metabolic homeostasis in your brain. Wakefulness is associated with mitochondrial stress; without sufficient sleep, neuron degeneration sets in. While sleep problems are common in Alzheimer’s patients, poor sleep may also be contributing to the disease by driving the buildup of amyloid plaques in your brain.

While you sleep, your brain flushes out waste materials, and if you don’t sleep well, this natural detoxification and clean-out process will be severely hampered.

Challenge your mind daily

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


Research Updates in Psychiatry: Depression and Suicide

Depression and Suicide Research UpdatesDEPRESSION

Physicians May Overprescribe Antidepressants Based on Brief Depression Questionnaires

Brief depression screening questionnaires are popular, especially with primary care providers (PCPs). However, a new study suggests that PCPs who use these questionnaires might be prescribing antidepressants to patients who don’t need them.

This was a prospective study of patients at six primary care office locations in California. Each patient was administered the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) by the researchers immediately prior to a primary-care office visit. The PHQ-9 assesses how often respondents have experienced various symptoms (such as feeling down, sleep problems, thoughts of harming oneself) in the previous two weeks. Scores can range from 0 to 27. PHQ-9 results were not shared with the physicians.

For this study, the researchers focused on a specific population of 595 patients, those with a PHQ-9 score less than 10, since this group is considered to be at low risk for depression and poor candidates for taking antidepressants. In this group, most (545) did not complete a separate measure of depressive symptoms during their office visit. Very few of these patients were diagnosed with depression (10.5%), were recommended an antidepressant (1.6%), or were prescribed an antidepressant (3.8%). However, for those patients who were administered a brief depression symptom measure by their primary care provider, 20% were given a diagnosis of depression, 12% were recommended an antidepressant, and another 12% were prescribed an antidepressant.

Use of the screening measures, which was more common during office visits in HMO and Veterans Affairs settings, increased the likelihood that patients who were not likely to be depressed would receive depression treatment (odds ratio 3.2; 95% confidence interval 1.1-9.2). The study highlights the need for more research to determine the best way to use brief depression questionnaires in primary care practices, and to balance benefits and risks of treatment, including overdiagnosis of depression and the use of antidepressants (Jerant A et al, J Am Board FamMed 20l4;27(5);6ll-620).

TCPR’s Take: Most psychiatrists are aware that brief symptom measures are meant to be screening tools, not diagnostic instruments. Nevertheless, this study shows that in the primary care setting these questionnaires may provide the justification for a diagnosis of depression and the prescription of antidepressants to patients who are not clinically depressed. Without more evidence to support the use of screening instruments in primary care settings, this practice should be reconsidered.


Sunshine Linked to Suicide Rates

This article originally appeared in The Carlat Psychiatry Report — an unbiased monthly covering all things psychiatry.
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Sunshine and other forms of bright light are considered to be helpful for depressed patients. Patients with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) feel better as the days lengthen, and bright light therapy is effective for the depression in patients with and without SAD. However, seasonal studies of suicide have found that the prevalence is highest in the spring, which is counterintuitive if we consider light to be an antidepressant. A new study out of Austria clarifies this seasonal finding by separating out the effects of sunshine per se versus seasonality. The results are a bit perplexing.

Researchers analyzed retrospective data on all officially confirmed suicides in Austria for a 40-year period (nearly 70,000 deaths from 1970 to 2010). They then looked at data derived from meteorological stations on the average duration of sunshine per day in hours. Finally, they used mathematical techniques to separate the effect of sunshine exposure from the season.

On each day studied, independent of season, researchers found that the hours of sunshine and the number of suicides were highly correlated. They found a positive correlation between sunshine and suicide that held not only on the day of the suicide but also 10 days prior to the event. Conversely, they found a negative correlation between the number of suicides and the daily hours of sunshine for the 14 to 60 days prior to the suicide, suggesting more daily sunshine over a prolonged period may protect against suicide. This protective effect was more pronounced in men than women.

The implications are that brief exposure to sunshine may increase the risk of suicide, especially in female patients. Why this might happen is unclear. The authors hypothesize that brief sunlight might energize depressed patients before significantly improving mood, and that this could increase their motivation to do something about their condition, no matter how drastic.

Researchers said more study is needed to determine which patients with depression are most susceptible to the effects of sunshine (Vyssoki B et al, JAMA Psychiatry 2014; Epub ahead of print).

TCPR’s Take: There were some limitations to this study—for example, it did not account for other climatic factors (such as temperature, humidity, and air pressure) that vary along with the amount of sunshine to a certain degree. While the findings may represent a statistical anomaly and need to be replicated, you might consider more closely monitoring your suicidal patients, especially women, when the weather takes a sudden turn toward sunny days.

This article originally appeared in:

The Carlat Psychiatry Report
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This article was published in print 10/2014 in Volume:Issue 12:10.

This Year’s Mammogram Month Launched With Devastating Report on Harms and Lack of Effectiveness

I’ve written many articles on the hazards and drawbacks of mammograms, which include:

The risk of false positives. Besides leading to unnecessary mental anguish and medical treatment, a false cancer diagnosis may also interfere with your eligibility for medical insurance, which can have serious financial ramifications

The risk of false negatives, which is of particular concern for dense-breasted women

The fact that ionizing radiation actually causes cancer and may contribute to breast cancer when done over a lifetime.

Results published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) show that women carrying the BRCA1/2 gene mutation are particularlyvulnerable to radiation-induced cancer1

The fact that studies repeatedly find that mammograms have no impact on mortality rates

As so expertly demonstrated in the video above, created by Dr. Andrew Lazris and environmental scientist, Erik Rifkin, it’s easy misunderstand the benefits of mammograms.

Mammograms are said to reduce your risk of dying from breast cancer by 20 percent, but unless you understand where this number comes from, you’ll be vastly overestimating the potential benefit of regular mammogram screening.

Most doctors also fail to inform patients about the other side of the equation, which is that far more women are actually harmed by the procedure than benefit from it.

1 in 1,000 Women Is Saved by Regular Mammogram Screening While 10 Undergo Cancer Treatment for No Reason

Incredible as it may sound, the 20 percent mortality risk reduction touted by conventional medicine actually amounts to just 1 woman per 1,000 who get regular mammograms. How can that be?

As explained in the video, for every 1,000 women who do not get mammograms, five of them will die of breast cancer. For every 1,000 women who do get mammograms, four will die anyway.

The difference between the two groups is 20 percent (the difference of that one person in the mammogram group whose life is saved). On the other side of the equation, out of every 1,000 women who get regular mammograms over a lifetime:

  • HALF will receive a false positive. So while they do NOT have cancer, about 500 out of every 1,000 women getting mammograms will face the terror associated with a breast cancer diagnosis
  • 64 will get biopsies, which can be painful and carry risks of adverse effects
  • 10 will go on to receive cancer treatment for what is in actuality NOT cancer, including disfiguring surgery and toxic drugs or radiation. Surgery, chemo and radiation are all risky, and dying from the treatment for a cancer you do not have is doubly tragic

All things considered, the evidence seems quite clear; most women should probably avoid mammograms, as they cause far more harm than good.

Many studies have now come to that conclusion, and the most recent research,2published just in time for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, again hammers home that point.

Harms of Mammography Eclipse Benefits

For this study, the researchers analyzed U.S. cancer statistics collected by the government in order to estimate the effectiveness of mammography.

By comparing records of breast cancers diagnosed in women over the age of 40 between 1975 and 1979 — a time before mammograms came into routine use — and between 2000 and 2002, three key findings emerged.3,4,5,6,7,8

  • The incidence of large tumors (2 centimeters or larger) has declined, from 68 percent to 32 percent
  • The number of women diagnosed with small tumors has increased, from 36 to 64 percent
  • The incidence of metastatic cancer, which is the most lethal, has remained stable

This may initially sound like good news for mammograms, but in absolute numbers, the decrease in large tumors was actually rather small — a mere 30 tumors less per 100,000 women.

Meanwhile, the dramatic increase in small tumors was mostly attributed to overdiagnosis — an estimated 81 percent of these small tumors did not actually need treatment.

The fact that metastatic cancer rates remained even suggests we’re not catching more of them, earlier. Instead, we’re catching and treating mostly harmless tumors.

The researchers also found that two-thirds of the reduction in breast cancer mortality was attributable to improved treatment, such as the use of tamoxifen. Breast cancer screening only accounted for one-third of the reduction in mortality.

Lead researcher Dr. H.Gilbert Welch explains the findings of the study in the video above. As reported by WebMD:9

“The upshot, according to Welch, is that mammography is more likely to “overdiagnose” breast cancer than to catch more-aggressive tumors early. What’s more, the researchers said that while breast cancer deaths have fallen since the 1970s, that is mainly due to better treatment — not screening.

Welch noted the current study’s findings have nothing to do with women who feel a lump in the breast. ‘They need to get a mammogram,’ he stressed. But, Welch suggested, when it comes to routine screening, women can decide based on their personal values.”

Screening as Personal Choice

When speaking to NBC news, Welch went on to say that “screening is a choice. It’s not a public health imperative.”10 At present, most conventional cancer specialists do view mammograms as an imperative, although recommendations vary depending on who you listen to.

As of last year, the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends women of average risk should have their first mammogram at age 45, followed by an annual mammogram up until age 55. Women 55 and older should have them every other year.112

Meanwhile, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends waiting until the age of 50, and only getting a mammogram every other year thereafter.12 In response to heated debate over the varying guidelines, the U.S. Congress passed legislation requiring insurance companies to cover mammograms regardless of age.

Not surprisingly, the ACS has sharply criticized the latest study. In a statement, chief cancer control officer of ACS, Dr. Richard Wender, said: “These conclusions are bold, attention-grabbing and should be taken with a grain of salt — actually, an entire spoonful.”

The problem with Wender’s attitude is that this is by no means the first or only study suggesting that mammography has been vastly oversold. In fact, a number of studies have now refuted the validity of mammography as a primary tool against breast cancer.

The Evidence Overwhelmingly Refutes Routine Use of Mammography

Other studies that support the findings of the featured study include the following:

Archives of Internal Medicine, 2007: A meta-analysis of 117 randomized, controlled mammogram trials. Among its findings: Rates of false-positive results are as high as 56 percent after 10 mammograms.13

Cochrane Database Review, 2009: This review found that breast cancer screening led to a 30 percent rate of overdiagnosis and overtreatment, which actually INCREASED the absolute risk of developing cancer by 0.5 percent.  The review concluded that for every 2,000 women invited for screening throughout a 10-year period, the life of just one woman was prolonged, while 10 healthy women were treated unnecessarily.14

New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), 2010: This study concluded that the reduction in mortality as a result of mammographic screening was so small as to be nonexistent — a mere 2.4 deaths per 100,000 person-years were spared as a result of the screening.15

The Lancet Oncology, 2011: This study described the natural history of breast cancers detected in the Swedish mammography screening program between 1986 to 1990, involving 650,000 women. Since breast lesions and tumors are aggressively treated and/or removed before they can be determined with any certainty to be a clear and present threat to health, there has been little to no research on what happens when they are left alone.

This study however, demonstrated for the first time that women who received the most breast screenings had a HIGHER cumulative incidence of invasive breast cancer over the following six years than the control group who received far less screenings.16

The Lancet, 2012, showed that for every life saved by mammography screening, threewomen are overdiagnosed and treated with surgery, radiation or chemotherapy for a cancer that might never have given them trouble in their lifetimes.17

Cochrane Database Review, 2013: A review of 10 trials involving more than 600,000 women found mammography screening had no effect on overall mortality.18

NEJM, 2014: Drs. Nikola Biller-Andorno and Peter Jüni published a paper in which they describe the findings of an independent health technology assessment initiative to assess the effectiveness of mammography, of which they were a part:19

“First, we noticed that the ongoing debate was based on a series of reanalyses of the same, predominantly outdated trials … Could the modest benefit of mammography screening in terms of breast-cancer mortality that was shown in trials initiated between 1963 and 1991 still be detected in a trial conducted today?

Second, we were struck by how nonobvious it was that the benefits of mammography screening outweighed the harms.The relative risk reduction of approximately 20 percent in breast-cancer mortality associated with mammography that is currently described by most expert panels came at the price of a considerable diagnostic cascade, with repeat mammography, subsequent biopsies and overdiagnosis of breast cancers — cancers that would never have become clinically apparent …

Third, we were disconcerted by the pronounced discrepancy between women’s perceptions of the benefits of mammography screening and the benefits to be expected in reality. The figure shows the numbers of 50-year-old women in the United States expected to be alive, to die from breast cancer, or to die from other causes if they are invited to undergo regular mammography every 2 years over a 10-year period, as compared with women who do not undergo mammography …

mammography effects

The Swiss Medical Board’s report was made public on February 2, 2014.20 It acknowledged that systematic mammography screening might prevent about one death attributed to breast cancer for every 1,000 women screened, even though there was no evidence to suggest that overall mortality was affected. At the same time, it emphasized the harm — in particular, false positive test results and the risk of overdiagnosis …

The board therefore recommended that no new systematic mammography screening programs be introduced and that a time limit be placed on existing programs. In addition, it stipulated that the quality of all forms of mammography screening should be evaluated and that clear and balanced information should be provided to women regarding the benefits and harms of screening.”

British Medical Journal (BMJ), 2014: A Canadian study put the rate of overdiagnosis and overtreatment from mammography at nearly 22 percent. 21

JAMA Internal Medicine, July 2015: Here, researchers concluded mammography screenings lead to unnecessary treatments while having virtually no impact on the number of deaths from breast cancer. A positive correlation between breast cancer screening and breast cancer incidence was indeed found, but there was no positive correlation with mortality.22,23

Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, September 2015: The conclusion of this study is stated right in the title, which reads: “Mammography screening is harmful and should be abandoned.”24,25

In short, the authors concluded that decades of routine breast cancer screening using mammograms has done nothing to decrease deaths from breast cancer, while causing more than half (52 percent) of all women undergoing the test to be overdiagnosed and overtreated. According to lead author Peter C. Gøtzsche, had mammograms been a drug, “it would have been withdrawn from the market long ago.”

It’s Time to Revise the ‘When in Doubt, Cut it Out’ Mentality

Going back to where we started, even when using the cancer industry’s own statistics mammography comes up short, provided you understand what the 20 percent actually means. To reiterate, the difference between getting routine mammograms and not getting them is that the life of 1 in 1,000 women is saved.

Four die even with mammograms, compared to five deaths among those who do not get screened. And again, 10 of those 1,000 screened women will be treated for cancer even though they do not actually have it. Clearly the choice is yours. If you find comfort in thinking you may be that one person who is saved, then by all means follow your heart or gut instinct.

Just be clear about the risks, because the chances are far greater you could be one of the 10 who ends up undergoing chemo or a mastectomy for a tumor that would not have caused you harm. As noted by Dr. Joann Elmore of the University of Washington School of Medicine:26

“We get credit for curing disease that never would have harmed the patient. We receive positive feedback from patients thanking us for ‘saving my life,’ alarming feedback from patients with ‘missed diagnoses’, and no feedback at all from patients whose cancer was overdiagnosed. The mantras, ‘All cancers are life-threatening’ and ‘When in doubt, cut it out’, require revision.”

Solid Evidence for Vitamin D as a Cancer Prevention Tool

Mammograms are portrayed as the best form of “prevention” a woman can get. But early diagnosis is not the same as prevention. And when the cancer screening does more harm than good, how can it possibly qualify as your best hope? I believe the evidence really speaks for itself when it comes to mammography.

The same can be said for research into vitamin D, which repeatedly shows that optimizing your vitamin D level within a range of 40 to 60 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) provides impressive cancer protection. I believe testing your vitamin D level is one of the most important cancer prevention tests available. Ideally get tested twice a year.

There are exceptions, of course. If you feel a lump in your breast, a mammogram may be warranted, although even then there are other non-ionizing alternatives, such as ultrasound, which has been shown to be considerably superior to mammography, especially for dense-breasted women who are at much higher risk of a false negative when using mammography.

One of the most recent studies27 looking at vitamin D for breast cancer found that vitamin D deficiency is associated with cancer progression and metastasis. As noted by Stanford University researcher, Dr. Brian Feldman: 28

“A number of large studies have looked for an association between vitamin D levels and cancer outcomes, and the findings have been mixed. Our study identifies how low levels of vitamin D circulating in the blood may play a mechanistic role in promoting breast cancer growth and metastasis.”

Having higher levels of vitamin D has also been linked to increased likelihood of survival after being diagnosed with breast cancer.29 In one study, breast cancer patients who had an average of 30 ng/ml of vitamin D in their blood had a 50 percent lower mortality rate compared to those who had an average of 17 ng/ml of vitamin D.

I am really grateful that the medical community has embraced vitamin D and started using it. However, it’s important to understand that the best way to get vitamin D is from sensible sun exposure, and if you’re really interested in optimal health and healing you will do everything in your power to get it. This is one of the reasons I moved to Florida. I have not swallowed vitamin D in over 8 years and still have levels over 60 ng/ml.

There are many other benefits of sunlight exposure other than vitamin D. Over 40 percent of sunlight is near-infrared rays that your body requires to structure the water in your body and stimulate mitochondrial repair and regeneration. If you merely swallow vitamin D and avoid the sun, you are missing a primary benefit of sensible sun exposure.

If you are stuck in the winter and have low vitamin D, it is probably best to swallow oral vitamin D like a drug, but please recognize that this is a FAR inferior way to optimize vitamin D levels and you are missing many important biological benefits when you avoid sun exposure.

You can learn more about vitamin D’s influence on cancer and other health problems in my previous article, “The Who, Why and When of Vitamin D Screening.” The fact of the matter is there are many strategies that are far more beneficial in terms of breast cancer prevention than mammography. So if you’re hitching your fate on mammograms, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice.

For key dietary guidelines and lifestyle strategies that can help reduce your cancer risk, please see my previous article, “Top Tips to Decrease Your Breast Cancer Risk.” Another excellent resource is Dr. Christine Horner’s book, “Waking the Warrior Goddess:Dr. Christine Horner’s Program to Protect Against and Fight Breast Cancer,” which contains scientifically validated all-natural approaches that can protect against and treat breast cancer.

[+] Sources and References

Chronic stress leads to brain inflammation and memory loss

Published: Wednesday 2 March 2016

People who experience chronic stress due to bullying or a tough job also run a higher risk of memory loss, according to a new study published in The Journal of Neuroscience.
People who are constantly stressed by bullying or a difficult job may be prone to short-term memory loss, too.

Previous studies have connected chronic stress with long-termanxiety.

Researchers led by Jonathan Godbout, associate professor ofneuroscience at Ohio State University, investigated the relationship between prolonged stress and short-term memory loss in mice.

Ultimately, the researchers hope the findings will help people who live with ongoing stress.

The team had mice get used to a maze with an escape hole. They then exposed the mice to repeat visits from a larger, aggressive intruder mouse.

Mice that repeatedly had to confront the intruder found it harder to remember the location of the escape hole, whereas the mice that were not stressed were able to find it.

Memory loss matched by immune response

The problems resolved within 28 days, but until then, the mice showed evidence of social avoidance, a measure of depressive behavior.

The inability to remember coincided with measurable changes in the mice’s brains. Immune cells, or macrophages, appeared in the brains of the stressed mice, indicating that inflammation had resulted from the immune system’s response to the stress.

Moreover, focus on the hippocampus, a hub of memory and emotional response, revealed shortfalls in the development of new neurons at 10 and 28 days after the stressful period ended.

The team concludes that the short-term memory loss is linked to brain inflammation and the immune system.

John Sheridan, associate director of Ohio State’s Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research, explains: “Stress releases immune cells from the bone marrow, and those cells can traffic to brain areas associated with neuronal activation in response to stress. They’re being called to the brain, to the center of memory.”

This experience of repeated dominance by an alpha mouse and persistent social defeat will be familiar to many people who live with chronic psychosocial stress.

The scientists hope that a better understanding of stress and cognitive and mood problems could help create strategies for those whose daily lives involve anxiety, depression and ongoing problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder. One solution could be to find a way to interrupt the inflammation.

Godbout says:

“The impact on memory and confirmation that the brain inflammation is caused by the immune system are important new discoveries. It’s possible we could identify targets that we can treat pharmacologically or behaviorally.”

Medical News Today reported recently that being overweight or obese can affect the memory.

Maternal and Infant Mortality Rates in the US Are a Tragic Embarrassment


October 5, 2016 Email to a friend

By Dr. Mercola

Global rates for maternal mortality have fallen by close to one-half, except in the U.S., where the number of women who die related to their pregnancy has significantly increased.1

In a similar fashion, infant mortality rates are higher than any of the other 27 wealthy countries reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).2

Cost for medical care in the U.S. is the highest in the world. Unfortunately, high medical expenditures do not translate into better outcomes for mothers and infants. In fact, the number of infant deaths in the U.S. for every 1,000 live births is higher than in Bosnia, Slovenia, Cuba and Belarus.3

According to data released from the Institute of Health Metrics, there are 28 maternal deaths for every 100,000 births in the U.S.4 This number is a drastic 22 percent increase, up from 23 deaths in 2003.5,6 Compared to 1990, the maternal death rate in the U.S. has more than DOUBLED.7

Why Are so Many New Mothers Dying?

In this short interview at the Women in the World summit in New York City, Dr. Priya Agrawal discusses the growing problem of maternal mortality in the U.S.

The increase in the number of new mothers dying puts the U.S. above a number of other poorer countries, whose numbers had declined, including Russia, Romania, Iran and Vietnam.8

While the overall U.S. rate was up by more than 50 percent since 1990, it is important to note the estimated rate increase for 48 states was up by 27 percent, and in Texas the rate doubled.9

In analyzing the data, it appears the death rate from hemorrhaging during birth, andeclampsia, a maternal condition involving dangerously high blood pressure, has remained stable over the years.10 Instead, the number of deaths related to chronic disease, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity, has risen.11

Dr. William Callaghan, acting chief of the Maternal and Infant Health Branch, Division of Reproductive Health Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,12 told The New York Times:13

“The really scary thing to us is all the deaths from cardiovascular disease and heart failure. It’s a quarter of all deaths. There were almost none in the remote past.”

Maternal deaths are counted even if the new mother dies six months after she’s given birth and the death is related to the pregnancy. Some argue the increase in number is related to better tracking. However, Callaghan, who is intimately familiar with the statistics, believes the rise is real.

Prevention and Treatment of Chronic Conditions Vital to Reducing the Number of Maternal Deaths

The director of maternal and child health research at the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, Dr. Nicholas Kassebaum, originally believed the statistics were an error in the data processing, but now believes the U.S. may be experiencing the fallout of obesity ahead of other countries.14

U.S. hospitals and healthcare systems have become quite adept at handling life-threatening situations, but fall short in adequately dealing with chronic health conditions. The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) reports a rising number of freestanding emergency centers.15

The growing number of independent freestanding emergency departments and off-site hospital-based emergency care speaks volumes about the direction medicine takes toward treating the emergencies chronic health conditions create.

The rising epidemic of obesity fuels cardiovascular disease, diabetes and stroke in new mothers and the general population. To make a significant impact on the number of maternal deaths, it is essential that evaluation and prevention of chronic health conditions be put at the forefront of public health policy.

Statistics for maternal mortality include women from age 15 to 49 years. Kassebaum reported an increase in the number of women over 40 who were achieving pregnancy, but found this new trend was not the driving force behind the increasing maternal mortality rate.

Follow-Up Care Impacts Infant Mortality Rates

Infant mortality rates have so significantly risen that the U.S. now ranks dead last on a list of 27 countries created by the CDC.16 Despite the cost of healthcare being higher in the U.S. than most other countries, a child in America is less likely to see his first birthday than a child from Korea, Israel or Hungary.

However, while the overall U.S. rate of infant mortality is 5.96 per 1,000 live births in 2013, the individual state rates vary. For instance, the infant mortality rate in Alaska is 3.57 deaths per 1,000 live births, while the rate in Mississippi is 9.62.17

In a collaborative paper between the University of Chicago, University of Southern California and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), lead author Alice Chen, Ph.D., notes the infant mortality gap between the U.S. and other nations has been consistent.18

According to their analysis, factors that are important in the rate of infant mortality in the U.S. include reporting differences in extreme preterm births and a striking disadvantage in the U.S. in post-neonatal mortality, or those deaths that occur after the child has been discharged from the hospital.

The mortality gap between infants in the U.S. and those in Austria and Finland appeared to grow steadily the first week after birth.19 Both countries enjoy overall infant mortality rates approximately half of the U.S. rate.20

The paper also pointed out a disparity in mortality between babies born to poor mothers and those born to wealthier mothers.

While the mortality rate of babies born to wealthier moms in the U.S. approximated the total number of deaths in Finland and Austria, poor babies in those countries had the same likelihood of survival as those born to wealthy families in those countries.21

The differences between the U.S. and these two countries appear to be access to healthcare after discharge from the hospital.

While the U.S. healthcare system ranks a lowly 37th in terms of overall quality,22America’s neo-natal intensive care ranks high, which may help explain why the U.S. infant mortality rate is similar to that of Finland and Austria during the first few weeks of life.

However, after discharge, infants born to poor families have a more difficult time accessing care that may prevent or treat illnesses. This may become one measurement of the success rate of the Affordable Healthcare Act — whether the infant mortality rate declines in response to better healthcare access.

Preterm Infants and Birth Defects Increase Infant Mortality

Chen and her colleagues commented on the different reporting requirements between countries.

They noted countries that don’t report a preterm birth prior to 30 weeks gestation as a live birth, even when the baby is born alive, may account for a small portion of the increased rate in the U.S., as those births are reported on U.S. statistics.23

Birth defects, low birth weight and preterm babies were the biggest reasons found for the infant mortality rate in the U.S.24 The research team wrote:25

“In 2013, infants born at 37 to 38 weeks of gestation (early term) had mortality rates that were 63 percent higher than for full-term (39 to 40 week) infants. In 2013, 36 percent of infant deaths were due to preterm-related causes of death and an additional 15 percent were due to causes grouped into the sudden unexpected infant death category.”

Dr. Edward McCabe, chief medical officer for the March of Dimes Foundation, says there are three reasons why babies are born preterm, including unplanned pregnancies, unavailable healthcare and doctors who ignore guidelines and induce labor before 39 weeks.26

According to McCabe, many obstetricians feel 37 weeks is safe, although a full-term baby is born between 39 and 40 weeks’ gestation. Taking away those two extra weeks can be significant and place the baby at an unnecessary risk.

Mothers who live in underserved communities may experience daily stressors that research demonstrates increases your risk of preterm birth.27 High levels of stress also trigger high blood pressure and heart disease, which are risk factors for delivering a preterm baby.28 Obesity, teen birth rates and poor access to healthcare also contribute to preterm births.

Stimulating Maternal Immune System Found to Increase Risk to Growing Babies

The mother’s immune system plays a critical role in the development of her unborn baby, including the baby’s neurological and immunological systems. Prenatal infections activate the maternal immune system and trigger an inflammatory response. While researchers have identified specific infections that trigger damage to an unborn baby, ANY immune activation can trigger a response.

Brain function and behavior of your child are impacted by prenatal insults to your immune system.29 Activation of the maternal immune system upregulates inflammatory cytokines in the brain of the baby, and infection and activation of the maternal immune system have been linked to schizophrenia, cerebral palsy and autism in the child.30,31

This is a unique health risk attributed to even the virus that causes the common cold.32 Interestingly, active replication of the virus in the mother’s body is not necessary for the inflammatory response that triggers the damage. It is the mother’s immune system, not the pathogen, that is responsible for the changes in the baby’s brain.33

The inflammatory response in the maternal body is also associated with preterm birth and low birth weight babies. Multiple studies have associated both inflammation34,35 and specific infections36,37,38 with these outcomes. Both of these factors contribute to the infant mortality rates in any country.

This leads directly to the doorstep of vaccinations. A vaccine works by triggering your immune system. According to the National Vaccine Program Office in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:39 “Vaccines teach the immune system by mimicking a natural infection.”

Vaccines Negatively Affect Infant Mortality Rates

This 15-minute video explains what’s in the vaccines being given to our children, why some vaccines are given simultaneously and how you can report an adverse side effect.

Natural infections trigger an inflammatory response in the mother’s body, which in turn trigger potential neurological and immunological deficits in the unborn child and increase the risk for low birth weight or preterm birth. Low birth weight not only increases your child’s risk of mortality in the first year, but has also been associated with a number of different health conditions in later life.

According to the March of Dimes, babies born weighing less than 5 pounds 8 ounces are at higher risk for metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity.40 Unfortunately, the March of Dimes also reports that 1 of every 12 babies born in the U.S. have low birth weight.

Before routinely accepting the CDC recommendations for vaccination during pregnancy,41,42  it is important to understand the risks to yourself and your unborn child. Researchers found the number of childhood immunizations given in the first year of life had predictive value on infant mortality rates. A higher number of childhood immunizations given resulted in higher rates of infant mortality.43

The U.S. vaccination schedule specifies 26 doses of vaccination before age 1, the most of any other country. Using linear regression, scientists compared results from 34 countries and found those countries with the lower number of vaccines given also had the lowest rates of infant mortality.44 Of the 34 countries, 33 had lower infant mortality rates than the U.S.

There are steps you can take before you become pregnant, during your pregnancy and after your child is born to optimize your health and the health of your baby. Steps are outlined in my previous two articles, “No-Nonsense Guide to a Naturally Healthy Pregnancy” and “Top Foods to Eat When You’re Pregnant.”

Vitamin D is particularly important for infant and maternal health. Having a vitamin D level of at least 40 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) has been shown to reduce the risk of premature birth by 50 percent. For a refresher, please see my previous article, “New Campaign Aims to Resolve Vitamin D Deficiency Among Pregnant Women and Children.”