Could autism spectrum disorder be related to the hunter-gatherer type of personality? Could natural evolution have purposely selected autistic characteristics to be part of the human gene pool as a necessary part of our society?
By Dr. Mercola
Sulfur is the third most abundant mineral in your body, based on percentage of total body weight.1 While close to half of it can be found in your muscles, skin and bones, sulfur plays important roles in hundreds of physiological processes.2
Sulfur bonds are required for proteins to maintain their shape, and these bonds determine the biological activity of the proteins.
For example, hair and nails consist of a tough protein called keratin, which is high in sulfur, whereas connective tissue and cartilage contain proteins with flexible sulfur bonds, giving the structure its flexibility.
With age, the flexible tissues in your body tend to lose their elasticity, leading to sagging and wrinkling of skin, stiff muscles and painful joints. A shortage of sulfur likely contributes to these age-related problems.
The Many Biological Roles of Sulfur
In addition to bonding proteins, sulfur is also required for the proper structure and biological activity of enzymes. If you don’t have sufficient amounts of sulfur in your body, enzymes cannot function properly.
A cascade of health problems may thus ensue, since your metabolic processes rely on biologically active enzymes. Sulfur also plays an important role in:3
|Your body’s electron transport system, as part of iron/sulfur proteins in mitochondria, the energy factories of your cells||Thiamine (vitamin B1) and biotin (B7) conversion, which in turn are essential for converting carbohydrates into energy|
|Synthesizing important metabolic intermediates, such as glutathione — one of the most important antioxidants that your body produces — S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), taurine and N-acetylcysteine (NAC)4||Proper insulin function. The insulin molecule consists of two amino acid chains connected to each other by sulfur bridges, without which the insulin cannot perform its biological activity|
|Detoxification||Glucose metabolism. One hypothesis5 is that if sufficient amounts of sulfur is available, it will act as a decoy to glucose, effectively diverting it to reduce the sulfur rather than glycating and causing damage.
This would have the beneficial effect of reducing chronic inflammation, as sugar (glucose) is highly inflammatory and wreaks havoc in your body
Sulfur, Cholesterol and Vitamin D Work in Tandem
In 2011, I interviewed Stephanie Seneff, Ph.D., a senior research scientist at MIT, about the influence of sulfur on health and disease. I’ve included that interview above for your convenience.
Sulfur deficiency is quite common — in part due to demineralization of soils — and may be a contributing factor in health problems such as obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and chronic fatigue, just to name a few.
Studies have also noted that sulfur is helpful for conditions such as skin disorders, arthritis and shingles, for example, suggesting sulfur plays an important role in these conditions as well.6 Importantly, Seneff discusses the connections between cholesterol, sulfur and vitamin D.
She points out that heart disease may actually be related to cholesterol sulfate deficiency, and explains how elevated LDL cholesterol is a sign of this deficiency. In short, high LDL (incorrectly referred to as “bad” cholesterol) is your body’s way of compensating for cholesterol sulfate deficiency.
When LDL is turned into plaque, blood platelets inside the plaque produce cholesterol sulfate, which your heart and brain needs for optimal function. Seneff also explains why lowering LDL with statins can lead to heart failure.
Essentially, by elevating LDL, your body is protecting itself from the harmful effects of cholesterol sulfate deficiency. When you simply remove the LDL, you remove this “backup” mechanism aimed at keeping your heart going strong. As a result, heart failure becomes a distinct possibility.
How Sun Exposure Helps Optimize Cardiovascular Health
That said, high LDL IS correlated with cardiovascular disease, so the question then becomes: How can your body produce cholesterol sulfate without having to create harmful LDL?
Under normal, healthy conditions, your skin synthesizes vitamin D3 sulfate when exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D3 sulfate is water soluble and can travel freely in your blood stream. If you have sufficient amounts of vitamin D3 sulfate in circulation, your body does not need to produce more LDL to create sulfate-producing plaque.
In essence, sensible sun exposure may be an important part of heart and cardiovascular health. Vitamin D3 supplements, on the other hand, are unsulfated. This is a significant drawback, as the unsulfated form needs LDL as a vehicle of transport.
Seneff’s suspicion is that the oral non-sulfated form of vitamin D likely will not provide the same benefits as the vitamin D created in your skin from sun exposure, because it cannot be converted to vitamin D sulfate.
Fibrous, non-leafy vegetables are rich in sulfur. Examples include:
- Cruciferous veggies7 such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, mustard greens and bok choy
- Alliums such as onions, shallots, garlic and leeks
- Edible stalks and stems such as celery, fennel and asparagus
Cruciferous vegetables have become well known for their anti-cancer properties, and the organosulfur compound sulforaphane is one of the primary compounds responsible for this effect. As noted by The World’s Healthiest Foods:8
“… [S]ulforaphane increases the activity of the liver’s Phase 2 detoxification enzymes. These enzymes … are well known for their ability to clear a wide variety of toxic compounds from the body including not only many carcinogens, but also many reactive oxygen species, a particularly nasty type of free radical.
By jump starting these important detoxification enzymes, compounds in crucifers provide protection against cell mutations, cancer and numerous other harmful effects that would otherwise be caused by these toxins.”
Prepare Your Broccoli Correctly to Optimize Sulfur Content
As described in a previous article, to maximize the cancer-fighting potential of broccoli it’s important to not overcook it. You also don’t want to eat it raw. When you eat raw mature broccoli, you only get about 12 percent of the total sulforaphane content theoretically available based on the parent compound.
Steaming your broccoli spears for three to four minutes will optimize the sulforaphane content by eliminating epithiospecifier protein — a heat-sensitive sulfur-grabbing protein that inactivates sulforaphane — while still retaining the enzyme myrosinase, which converts glucoraphanin to sulforaphane. Without it, you cannot get any sulforaphane. Avoid boiling or microwaving your broccoli past the one-minute mark, as this will destroy a majority of the myrosinase.
If you want to boil your broccoli, blanch it in boiling water for no more than 20 to 30 seconds, then immerse it in cold water to stop the cooking process. Adding myrosinase-containing food, such as mustard seed, daikon radishes, wasabi or cole slaw to the broccoli can maximize sulforaphane content even further.
Other Sulfur-Rich Foods
Other foods that are high in sulfur include:
- Protein-rich animal products such as organic pastured egg yolks, grass-fed beef, organic pastured chicken and wild-caught fish
- Nuts such as walnuts, almonds and cashews
- Seeds such as sesame seeds and sunflower seeds
- Dairy products such as milk, cheese and sour cream (ideally from organic grass-fed cows)
- Certain fruits: coconut, bananas, pineapple and watermelon
Despite the fact that sulfur is found in many foods, it can still be a challenge to get sufficient amounts from your diet. Again, this is largely a problem stemming from the demineralization of soils in which the food is grown. Perhaps the best way to ensure sufficient amounts of sulfur from your diet is to cook down bones from organically raised animals into bone broth.
Either drink the broth regularly, or use for soups and stews. The connective tissues are sulfur-rich, and when you slow-cook the bones, you dissolve these nutrients out of the bone and into the water.
Sulfur can also be obtained through supplementation with dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) or methylsulfonylmethane (MSM). DMSO is primarily used in veterinary medicine. In animals, DMSO has been found to support soft tissue health and helps heal soft-tissue injury.
In humans, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved DMSO for intravesical use in the treatment of interstitial cystitis.9 DMSO can also be found in creams and oral supplements but are best avoided. Industrial DMSO is a byproduct of paper making, and may contain impurities.
Great care is required to make sure you’re getting a quality, pharmaceutical grade product, so do not use DMSO without medical supervision. DMSO may also interact with a number of medications. All in all, you’re far better off using MSM, as it’s far safer and doesn’t appear to have any adverse drug interactions.
MSM for Osteoarthritic Knee Pain
MSM’s primary benefits are related to its ability to reduce inflammation. In your body, about 15 percent of DMSO breaks down into MSM, and MSM is 34 percent sulfur by weight. MSM is more than just a simple sulfur donor, however. It also affects sulfur metabolism, but it’s still not entirely clear how.
As a supplement, MSM (which is a metabolite of DMSO) is widely used in the treatment of pain, especially pain associated with arthritic conditions. One clinical trial found that people with osteoarthritis of the knee who took 3 grams for MSM twice a day for 12 weeks experienced significantly decreased pain and improved physical function, compared to a placebo.10
Another study found that patients with mild to moderate osteoarthritis benefited from oral glucosamine and MSM, both individually and in combination. Here, the treatment groups received 500 milligrams (mg) of glucosamine and/or 500 mg of MSM three times a day for 12 weeks. According to the authors:11
“Glucosamine, MSM and their combination produced an analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect in osteoarthritis. Combination therapy showed better efficacy in reducing pain and swelling and in improving the functional ability of joints than the individual agents.
All the treatments were well tolerated. The onset of analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity was found to be more rapid with the combination than with glucosamine. It can be concluded that the combination of MSM with glucosamine provides better and more rapid improvement in patients with osteoarthritis.”
Toxicity studies have shown that MSM is extremely safe and can be taken at very high doses. Even if you eat plenty of MSM-rich foods, you can still supplement and not hit that toxicity level. Clinical research studies have found the effective amounts range from about 1.5 grams to 6 grams.
That said, potential side effects at higher doses include intestinal discomfort, ankle swelling and skin rashes. These are likely detoxifying effects that can typically be mitigated or minimized by cutting back on the initial dosage and slowly working your way up. To learn more about MSM and its uses, please see my previous article, “MSM Health Benefits May Be Related to Its Sulfur Content.”
The Benefits of Epsom Salts
Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) is made up of magnesium, sulfur and oxygen. While most of the benefits associated with Epsom salt baths relates to magnesium12 — such as improved sleep, stress reduction and reduced pain and muscle cramping — its sulfur content is also important for health.
As mentioned earlier, sulfur plays an important role in detoxification, and people who struggle with toxicity will often have a deficiency in the sulfation pathway. As explained in Enzyme Stuff:13
“… [M]ost people with autism conditions have a deficiency in a key detoxification pathway. The pathway involves using sulfur in the form of sulfate (known as sulfation). The enzyme involved is phenol sulfur-transferase (PST), but the problem is thought to hinge on an inadequate supply of usable sulfate ions, not the metabolic enzyme itself.
Dr. [Rosemary] Waring found that most children on the autism spectrum are very low in sulfate and may be as low as 15 percent of the amount in neurologically typical people. People with low or no ability to convert compounds to sulfate have problems handling environmental chemicals, some medications, and even some chemicals produced within the body.
They include people with other conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis and chemical sensitivities.
The PST sulfation pathway is necessary for the breakdown and removal of certain toxins in the body. This includes the processing of a type of chemical called a phenol … All foods contain some phenolic compounds. However, some foods have a much higher content than others do. If the sulfation pathway is not functioning well, a person may not be able to process out the phenolic compounds as fast as they consume them.
There is a cumulative effect. When the phenols start backing up in the system, it can cause a myriad of negative reactions. Symptoms of phenol intolerance include night waking, night sweats, irritability, eczema and other skin conditions. The symptoms of phenol intolerance and yeast may be very similar because they both involve the body trying to deal with toxins.”
Toxicity May Cause Sulfur Food Intolerance
It’s quite common for people with mercury toxicity to have poor tolerance for foods high in sulfur. The sulfur mobilizes mercury (and other toxins), thereby causing adverse effects.14,15 Other food ingredients, such as food dyes, can exacerbate PST sulfation pathway problems by further suppressing PST enzyme activity. To address this situation, it’s recommended you:
- Go on a low-sulfur diet to reduce the amount of phenols you consume
- Reduce the amount of toxins entering your body by eating organic and avoiding household toxins of all kinds
As your toxicity is reduced, you can start adding sulfur-rich foods back into your diet, one at a time. Next, it’s important to enhance your body’s detoxification process by supplying more sulfate. MSM, or the sulfur-containing amino acids cysteine and taurine can be used, but Epsom salt baths are often preferable here as the sulfur in Epsom salt is readily available to your body without having to be converted.
As a general recommendation, use 1 to 2 cups of Epsom salt to a tub of water. The warmer the water, the more of the salt will be dissolved, and the more your body will be able to absorb, as the heat opens your pores. If you experience a negative reaction, such as irritability or hyperactivity, decrease the amount used and incrementally increase the amount based on your tolerance. Alternatively, use one part Epsom salt to two parts water for a foot bath. Soak your feet for about 30 minutes.
Sulfur Is Important for Optimal Health
In summary, your body needs sulfur to detoxify, but if you’re excessively toxic, you’ll have to go slow. If your detox pathways are not working properly, adding a lot of sulfur can overload your system with mobilized toxins, making you extremely ill. You have to first stop the toxic input, and then support your body’s natural detoxification processes. Sulfur is an important part of that. Without it, your body simply cannot mobilize and release toxins.
Sulfur is also important for heart and cardiovascular health, mitochondrial health, insulin function and vitamin conversion. In all, sulfur deficiency may be a hidden factor contributing to the ill health of many. So, if you or someone you love struggles with any of the conditions mentioned here, including but not limited to high LDL, attention deficit syndromes, autism, obesity, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and chronic fatigue, you may want to take steps to improve your sulfur status, and see if your condition improves.
By Dr. Mercola
A debatable precaution from the conventional medical community about how to eat eggs was initiated some years ago by scientists who thought they knew nature better than, well, nature.
Beginning in 1961, you may have heard the word of warning that if you were going to eat eggs, it should be the whites only, because the yolks were considered unhealthily high in cholesterol. Dangerous. Bad for you. Risky.
The risky part came with warnings like “spikes your heart disease risk” and “high blood cholesterol raises your risk of diabetes.” Like quipster Mark Twain once said, “It isn’t ignorance that causes trouble; it’s knowing so much that just ain’t so.” As The Epoch Times explained:
“At one time, eating eggs was considered bad for the heart and circulation. This was all based on an assumption that saturated fat was bad …
Any associations between total saturated fat intake, heart disease and blood pressure come down to what people weren’t eating (for example, fruit, vegetables [and] fish) rather than their high saturated-fat diet per se.
The total fat content of even a large hen’s egg (weighing 1.76 ounces) isn’t high at around 5 grams.”1
About 30 percent of the total fat content of that large egg is beneficial saturated fat, while the remainder is monounsaturated fats (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fats (PUFA), which are solidly heart healthy.
Reasons Why Eggs Are so Good for You
The fact is, eggs are considered to be an almost perfect food. Sure, you need to eat other foods as well, but eggs contain an impressive number of nutrients. The yolk is arguably the healthiest part of the whole, as it contains vitamins A, D, E, K and B12, omega-3 fats, antioxidants, folate and much more choline than the white.
There’s also a good amount of carotenoid content, which is where the yellow color comes from, the most important being the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which lower inflammation and protect your eye health.
Biotin, a water-soluble B vitamin, aka vitamin B7, aids in your body’s glucose and fatty acid metabolism and is particularly important during pregnancy. However, raw egg whites contain a protein called avidin, which may block absorption of biotin.2
Carotenoids need to be eaten with fat for your body to extract optimal nutritional value from them, which makes consuming carotenoids in eggs ideal. You also absorb more fat-soluble nutrients from other foods eaten at the same time. It’s a win-win.3
The white is largely protein, one of the most important nutrients, oftentimes filling in for the meats that vegetarians don’t eat. Eggs also help reduce your appetite, so you might eat less later, which helps if you’re watching your weight.
Disease remediation from eating eggs is actually the opposite of what they’ve been accused of. As The Epoch Times reported:
“Eggs are a nutrient-dense source of antioxidants, lecithin, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins (vitamins A, D, B2, B6, B12 and folate) and minerals (calcium, potassium, iron, phosphorus and zinc), which together have beneficial effects on the circulation — including cholesterol balance and blood pressure regulation.
Although eggs contain a small amount of sodium (70 milligrams per egg), this is counterbalanced by an equal amount of potassium to help flush this through the kidneys to prevent fluid retention.”
How Eggs May Help Your Health
Type 2 Diabetes
For people with type 2 diabetes, the DIABEGG study4 determined that you can consume two eggs a day, six days a week, and only be healthier for it.
The aim of the three-month-long, randomized controlled study was to determine if a high-egg diet (two eggs a day for six weeks) was any different nutritionally from a low-egg (two eggs per week) diet in affecting circulating lipid profiles, including high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, among obese or overweight people with type 2 diabetes.
The high-egg group reported more satiety and less hunger after breakfast and, far from having an adverse effect on the participants, there was no adverse effect on the lipid profile.
Another study concluded that egg consumption is beneficial for people suffering from high blood pressure.5 The dietary intake of 1,152 participants aged 20 to 84 years was assessed along with their blood pressure, then a follow-up study was conducted three years later.
Of the total number of volunteers, 12.5 percent developed hypertension, aka high blood pressure. Of those, researchers were mildly surprised to discover that the ones who ate the most eggs tended to stay within the normal blood pressure range.
Additionally, the top one-third of those who ate the most eggs were 46 percent less likely to develop hypertension than the ones who ate very few eggs, if any at all.
The Healthiest Ways to Eat Eggs
One of the great things about eggs is how versatile they are. You may have already discovered that, in addition to breakfast, eggs make a great lunch or informal dinner, and kids (generally) love them.
However, how you cook them lowers the antioxidant availability, one study concluded:
“Six weeks of storage at refrigerated temperature did not change the ORAC values, as well as the contents of free amino acid, carotenoid and malondialdehyde (MDA) in egg yolk.
Boiling and frying however, significantly reduced the ORAC value, and the contents of free amino acid, lutein and zeaxanthin, and increased the MDA content in eggs. Our results showed that the antioxidant activity is stable during six weeks of simulated retail storage.”6
Cooking reduced the vitamin A content of eggs by between 17 percent and 20 percent in another review.7
Overall, the shorter the time spent cooking, whatever method you use, the more nutrients eggs retain. Soft boiling eggs or poaching them until just firm are good ways to make your eggs.
You can also cook them gently over easy, leaving the yolk runny. However, the healthiest way to consume eggs, assuming they’re from a high-quality source (pastured organic hens) is raw.
Researchers reported that when eggs are baked for 40 minutes, they can lose as much as 61 percent of their vitamin D content, compared to up to 18 percent when they’re boiled or fried for a shorter period.8
“The retention of vitamin D compounds in eggs and margarine during heat treatment in an oven for 40 min at normal cooking temperature showed retention at 39 [to] 45 [percent], while frying resulted in retention at 82 to 84 percent. Boiled eggs were found to have a similar level of retention (86 to 88 percent).”9
Another study reported:
“Intake of antioxidants through diet is known to be important in reducing oxidative damage in cells and improving human health. In summary, in addition to its well-known nutritional contribution to our diet, this review emphasizes the role of eggs as an important antioxidant food.”10
Raw Eggs Versus Cooked: What Clinical Trials Say
It’s always best to ensure the source of your eggs, particularly if you plan on eating them raw.
According to the George Mateljan Foundation, which develops and shares scientifically proven information about the benefits of healthy eating,11 when you compare a large, raw egg to one that’s hard-boiled, per the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) nutritional database, this is what you get with the raw version:
|36 percent more vitamin D||33 percent more omega-3s||33 percent more DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)|
|30 percent more lutein plus zeaxanthin||23 percent more choline||20 percent more biotin|
|19 percent more zinc|
A woman would get about 35 percent of the daily choline she needs from a single raw egg, as compared to 26 percent from one that’s hard-boiled.
Choline is a nutrient that many people in the U.S. are deficient in, which is particularly troublesome in terms of pregnant women. Deficiency is associated with an increased number of birth defects. Low choline may also be culpable in fatty liver and muscle damage, but when restored, those levels return to normal. Food Navigator stated:
“Given that 50 percent of the population has genetic variations that make it necessary to consume choline at levels even greater than the AI [adequate intake], there is an immediate need to increase awareness of the critical role it plays throughout life, [choline researcher Dr. Steven H. Zeisel] said, noting that only a fraction of doctors are likely to recommend foods containing choline for healthy pregnant women.”12
When eggs are raised in a healthy way and come from a high-quality source, the risk of contamination is very low. One study found that only 1 in every 30,000 eggs produced in the U.S. is contaminated with salmonella.13
Where Your Eggs Come From Matters
If you want the best there is in quality eggs, “pastured” eggs from an organically raised hen is what you want to find. Otherwise, your options are the grocery store, where the eggs come from conventionally raised chickens, which ups the odds that some kind of harmful bacteria, such as salmonella, is present.
Organic eggs come from chickens fed only organic food, sans the pesticides and GMOs they most likely eat when they’re fed grains and corn. The best situation is for the chickens to have free access to the pasture, which is where they get the nutrients they need, naturally.
A local organic farm is a great thing to find, especially when the organic eggs are laid by hens raised in a pasture with optimal vegetation. Another good solution would be to belong to a co-op in your area, so other like-minded people can work together to maintain a sustainable “clean” egg supply. For help in locating a small organic and sustainable egg producer in your area, try visiting both of the following websites.
From soft drinks to yogurt, artificial sweeteners have become commonplace in the food and beverage industry and are recognized as safe by the FDA. Yet a 2014 study found that artificial sweeteners are able to alter your gut microbes, and your health as a result. Read on to learn exactly what the researchers found and how artificial sweeteners might be contributing to the modern epidemic of metabolic disease.
A little over two years ago, I wrote a post titled “The Unbiased Truth about Artificial Sweeteners.” At the time of writing, the scientific literature did not really suggest any significant negative effects of artificial sweeteners. A few studies had found negative effects, but many others showed no correlation at all. While I urged caution in the consumption of these sugar substitutes, there was really no solid evidence at the time to recommend their strict avoidance.
Fast forward to today, and enter the gut microbiota. The trillions of bacteria that inhabit your gastrointestinal tract have received a tremendous amount of attention in recent years. A comprehensive research study has now shown (almost unequivocally) that artificial sweeteners can in fact impact health via altering gut microbes. (1).
Non-caloric artificial sweeteners
A sugar substitute is any food additive that provides a sugary taste but has significantly less associated calories, or food energy. Some sugar substitutes are natural, like stevia, while others are synthetic, termed “artificial sweeteners.” In the United States, six artificial sweeteners have been approved for use: aspartame, sucralose, neotame, acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), saccharin, and advantame. All have been deemed Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the FDA (2).
As high-fructose corn syrup continues to receive opposition from consumers and health organizations alike, the food and beverage industry is increasingly turning to artificial sweeteners instead. According to BCC Research, the global market for high-intensity sweeteners is expected to reach almost $1.9 billion in 2017, with the non-nutritive category growing particularly rapidly (3). The most commonly used non-caloric artificial sweeteners (NASs) are saccharin (Sweet’n Low), aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet and Canderel), and sucralose (Splenda).
Did you know artificial sweeteners can cause glucose intolerance?
Most NASs pass through the human GI tract without being digested by the human host. They therefore come in direct contact with microbes in the colon. As we’ll see from the results of this study, this has dramatic implications for the health of the host.
Prolonged consumption of non-caloric artificial sweeteners makes mice glucose intolerant
In the first part of the study, described in Nature, researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel added saccharin, sucralose, or aspartame to the drinking water of three different groups of lean 10-week-old mice. They also had several control groups, including mice drinking only water or mice drinking water supplemented with glucose or sucrose, to see how the artificial sweeteners compared to normal sugars.
The researchers then performed a glucose tolerance test. As this is a crucial aspect of the study, I’m going to briefly describe how this is done. All of the mice are given only water for six hours prior to the test so that they are in a fasted state (and the NAS, glucose, and sucrose mice do not continue to eat sweeteners). They are then given 40 mg of glucose orally. Blood from the tail vein is used to measure glucose immediately before and at 15, 30, 60, 90, and 120 minutes after the glucose is given. From these data, the researchers can create a glucose tolerance curve to determine (a) fasting glucose levels, (b) how high the blood glucose spikes, and (c) how quickly glucose is cleared from the bloodstream.
So what did they find? At week 11 of feeding, the three control groups (water, water+glucose, water+sucrose) had comparable glucose tolerance curves, whereas all three NAS groups (water+saccharin, water+sucralose, water+aspartame) had developed significant glucose intolerance. Saccharin had the largest effect. They duplicated the experiment, this time in mice with diet-induced obesity, and observed the same result: NAS made the obese mice more glucose intolerant.
Treating mice with antibiotics abolished glucose intolerance
The researchers next wanted to see if the microbiota was responsible for the glucose intolerance. One of the simplest methods for determining if the microbiota plays a role in a particular trait or condition is to administer antibiotics and observe any changes. They did exactly this: the researchers treated mice with a combination of ciprofloxacin and metronidazole or vancomycin alone for four weeks and found that antibiotic treatment abolished glucose intolerance in both the lean and obese models.
This suggests that NAS induction of glucose intolerance is very likely mediated by the gut microbiota. However, there is always the slight possibility that off-target effects of the antibiotics on the host abolished the glucose intolerance, rather than the changes in microbiota composition. To rule this out and confirm the causality of the relationship, the researchers turned to germ-free mice.
Transferring NAS microbiota to germ-free mice transfers the glucose-intolerant phenotype
I’ve written about germ-free (GF) mice before in several of my blog articles on the microbiota (4, 5, 6, 7). Raised in sterile conditions, GF mice lack any microbes at all but can be selectively recolonized for experiments. Researchers can therefore perform an intervention in normal mice, take their fecal material, and transplant it into GF mice to determine if a particular effect of the intervention is mediated by the microbiota. If it is, the simple act of transferring the fecal material will elicit the effect in the recipient mice.
In this case, the researchers had two groups of mice that would serve as their fecal donors for the experiment, both of which were kept in normal (non-sterile) housing. One group was fed normal mouse chow + saccharin, and the other was fed normal mouse chow + glucose as a control. The amount of saccharin given was the mouse equivalent of the acceptable daily intake (ADI) of saccharin in humans (5 mg/kg, suggested by the FDA).
Fecal pellets from these two groups of mice were then transplanted into two groups of naïve GF mice. The GF recipient mice were therefore colonized by microbes from saccharin-fed or glucose-fed donors but were maintained on normal chow themselves. Six days after the transfer, the researchers performed a glucose tolerance test on the recipients. They found that those mice that received the saccharin-fed microbiota had developed significant glucose intolerance compared to those that received the glucose-fed (control) microbiota. This confirmed the findings in the antibiotic model, suggesting that alterations in the microbiota were in fact responsible for the differential glucose tolerance.
NAS alters microbiota composition and function
The most pressing research question then was, how had the microbiota been altered? Using 16S sequencing technology, they characterized the microbiota of each group. They found that mice consuming saccharin had a distinct microbiota composition from all three control groups. The authors reported over 40 operational taxonomic units (groups of bacteria) that were significantly altered in abundance, an indication of considerable dysbiosis.
Which bacteria changed? In the saccharin group, the Bacteroides genus increased, while Lactobacillus reuteri and Akkermansia muciniphila (two microbes generally considered to be beneficial) decreased. Several members of the Clostridiales order increased, while other Clostridiales decreased.
They next wanted to look at microbial function, and this is where the technology gets really cool. The researchers performed shotgun metagenomic sequencing, which allows for mass sequencing the genome of virtually every microbe in the gut. They did this sequencing on fecal samples collected before and after the 11 weeks for all of the groups of mice. The results showed that saccharin-fed mice had a strong increase in genes associated with glycan degradation pathways, which have been linked to enhanced energy harvest and metabolic disease (8, 9).
As if their prior findings in mice weren’t robust already, the researchers also cultured naïve mouse fecal material with NAS. They then transferred the NAS-exposed fecal material, or control fecal material, into GF mice. Recipients of the NAS-exposed fecal material showed increased glucose intolerance compared to GF mice given the control culture and similar alterations in microbial composition to the previous experiment.
What about humans? NAS consumption in humans is associated with impaired glucose intolerance
I discussed many of the human studies looking at NAS consumption in my previous article. When that was published, most human studies had shown mixed results with NAS. After finding such robust effects on the microbiota and glucose intolerance in mice, Suez and colleagues decided to see if the findings would translate to humans in their hands. They first performed a cross-sectional study, using a food frequency questionnaire to determine approximate NAS consumption, and also looked at several measures of metabolic disease.
Contrary to previous studies, they found significant positive correlation between NAS consumption and a number of clinical parameters related to metabolic syndrome: weight, waist-to-hip ratio, fasting blood glucose, hemoglobin A1c, glucose tolerance test, and ALT. You might be thinking: well, sure, it’s correlated because people with excess weight and metabolic syndrome are the most likely to use NAS in place of sugar as a means of losing weight. Luckily, the researchers took this into account and the effect still remained after correcting for BMI.
More human evidence
Correlations are great and all, but that’s all they are: correlations. We can’t infer causation from simple associations between consumption of a substance and outcomes. Fortunately, Suez et al. took it to the next level and performed a longitudinal study. Seven healthy volunteers who do not normally consume NAS or NAS-containing foods were followed for one week. On days two through seven, participants consumed the FDA’s maximal acceptable daily intake of saccharin (5 mg/kg body weight) as three divided daily doses. They were monitored by continuous glucose measurements and daily glucose tolerance tests.
Astoundingly, in just this short week-long period, four out of seven individuals had already developed significantly poorer glycemic responses (NAS responders) and pronounced changes in microbiota composition. The remaining three individuals had no change (NAS non-responders). Transfer of NAS-responders’ day seven stool into GF mice resulted in glucose intolerance (compared to day 1 stool transfer), while transfer of NAS-non-responder day 7 stool did not.
Takeaways from this study
Phew. Hopefully you stayed with me through all that! This was an extremely robust study with lots of different components, but it provides an incredible wealth of evidence against the use of NAS. If you glazed over some of the details, here are the main takeaways:
- NAS consumption in both mice and humans increases the risk of developing glucose intolerance and metabolic disease.
- The adverse metabolic effects are mediated by alterations in the composition and function of the microbiota.
- This study calls for a serious need to reassess the ubiquitous and ever-increasing use of NAS in the food and beverage industry.
By Dr. Mercola
A 16-year-old boy with autism and his family are suing a medical clinic for administering vaccines they believe caused the boy’s autism. The Tennessee-based case is unique for a number of reasons, the first being that it’s the first time in 30 years that a vaccine case such as this has been heard in a U.S. court.
This is because in the U.S. there is a federally operated vaccine injury compensation program (VICP) that Congress created under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act.
The U.S. Court of Federal Claims in the District of Columbia (Washington D.C.) handles contested vaccine injury and death cases in what has become known as “vaccine court.”
The VICP is a “no-fault” alternative to the traditional civil court lawsuit and was established in 1986 after a string of high-profile lawsuits slammed vaccine manufacturers.
The federal VICP compensates vaccine victims not from a fund paid into by vaccine manufacturers, but through a federal trust fund that collects a 75-cent surcharge on every vaccine given.
The 16-year-old Tennessee boy, Yates Hazlehurst, was denied compensation from the VICP, so the current lawsuit is giving him a second chance at justice.
CDC Blocks Key Whistleblower Testimony From Autism-Vaccine Case
A key part of the case hinges on testimony from Dr. William Thompson, a research scientist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases (NCIR).
He was a co-author of four key studies the CDC has used to refute a link between the MMR (mumps, measles, rubella) vaccine and autism, as well as thimerosal-containing vaccines (thimerosal is a mercury-based preservative) and autism.
“Dr. Thompson has publically stated to Congressman William Posey and others that he and his colleagues in the CDC Vaccine Safety Branch were ordered to commit scientific fraud, destroy evidence and manipulate data to conceal the link between autism and vaccines.”
According to Thompson, one of the studies in question found that African-American boys who received the MMR vaccine before the age of 36 months had an increased risk for autism.2 He also maintains that CDC studies have found a relationship between thimerosal and tics, which are associated with autism.3
CDC: Thompson’s Testimony Would Not Promote CDC Objectives
Thompson’s testimony could be critical to the lawsuit in order to set the record straight about the flawed data used to deny other autism vaccine-injury claims.
According to Ecowatch, Morgan & Morgan law firm attorney Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. argued to Tennessee Senior Circuit Court Judge William Acree that Thompson’s testimony was necessary:4
“Yates, and almost 5,000 other vaccine injured autistic children, lost their cases in vaccine court because CDC and the Justice Department submitted fraudulent science wrongly denying the vaccine-autism link.”
CDC director Thomas Frieden blocked the request to have Thompson testify, stating, “Dr. William Thompson’s deposition testimony would not substantially promote the objectives of CDC or HHS [Health and Human Services].”5
Thompson received federal whistleblower protection in August 2014 and is still employed by the CDC. The attorneys for the case, Kennedy and Bryan Smith, also with Morgan & Morgan, plan to appeal the CDC’s denial. According to Smith:6
“Frieden’s denial was a disappointment but not a surprise, since the inescapable implication of Dr. Thompson’s allegation is that the agency altered the science to undermine autism cases worth potentially $1 trillion in compensation ordered by Congress.”
CDC Called a ‘Cesspool of Corruption’
If you want to know more about the underhanded dealings allegedly going on at the CDC, read the book “Vaccine Whistleblower.” It contains the unedited transcripts of four legally recorded phone conversations between Thompson and Dr. Brian Hooker, a scientist investigating autism and vaccine research.
The transcripts reveal the confession of the alteration of data that showed a significant link between vaccines and autism. Thompson has previously stated that a meeting was scheduled “to destroy documents related to the study.”
He said the remaining four co-authors all met and brought a big garbage can into the meeting room, “and reviewed and went through all the hardcopy documents that we had thought we should discard, and put them into a huge garbage can.”7 Thompson has said he retained hard copies of all of the data, however.
The transcripts are also featured in the film Vaxxed, which was originally scheduled to be shown at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year but was allegedly pulled due to threats from other filmmakers to cancel their participation.
Unethical Practices Are the Norm at the CDC
A group of senior CDC scientists sent a letter to the CDC raising concerns about the conflicts of interest and industry ties that appear to be so common among CDC leaders.
The group goes by the name CDC Scientists Preserving Integrity, Diligence and Ethics in Research (CDC SPIDER), leaving their names out for fear of retaliation. The letter begins:8
“It appears that our mission is being influenced and shaped by outside parties and rogue interests. It seems that our mission and Congressional intent for our agency is being circumvented by some of our leaders.
What concerns us most, is that it is becoming the norm and not the rare exception. Some senior management officials at CDC are clearly aware and even condone these behaviors.
… Some staff are intimidated and pressed to do things they know are not right. We have representatives from across the agency that witness this unacceptable behavior. It occurs at all levels and in all of our respective units.
These questionable and unethical practices threaten to undermine our credibility and reputation as a trusted leader in public health.”
Conflict of Interest, ‘Climate of Disregard’ at the CDC Highlighted
The letter specifically addresses several areas of “particular concern,” including:
•A cover-up of accurate screening data for the CDC’s Wise Woman Program. Despite, a multi-million-dollar investment, the number of women screened during the program fell short of expectations.
Officials misrepresented actual screening numbers, “cooked” the data to make results “look better than they were,” and manipulated data in “irregular ways.”
•Resources allocated to domestic programs for Americans being directed toward global health and research issues.
•A questionable relationship between Barbara Bowman, Ph.D., former director of the CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention (DHDSP), and Coca-Cola; she left the agency unexpectedly, two days after her close ties with Coca-Cola were revealed.
•Michael Pratt, senior adviser for Global Health in the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the CDC, has also allegedly promoted and led research for the soda giant.9
“Neither of these relationships were necessary (or appropriate) to uphold our mission … In fact, these ties have now called into question and undermined CDC’s work,” CDC Spider wrote of Bowman and Pratt.10
Their letter continued, ” … this ‘climate of disregard’ puts many of us in difficult positions. We are often directed to do things we know are not right.”
Can You Trust Health Information From a Corrupt Agency?
Knowing that the CDC has allegedly intentionally withheld data showing a link between vaccines and autism, it calls into question where their loyalties lie. Are their continued and urgent calls for vaccination truly in the name of public health, or are they the result of corporate influence?
The CDC, by the way, claims that it does not accept commercial support, but it receives millions of dollars in gifts and funding from industry.11 The CDC, a supposed independent public watchdog, is therefore neither independent nor a watchdog. Jeanne Lenzer, associate editor of the British Medical Journal, even stated, ” … Several recent CDC actions and recommendations have raised questions about the science it cites, the clinical guidelines it promotes, and the money it is taking.”12
When it comes to making health decisions for your family, it’s crucial to do your research from legitimate independent sources to get the truth. Many are not aware, for instance, that in 2008 the U.S. government conceded that childhood vaccines contributed to symptoms of autism in 9-year-old Hannah Poling.
If you or your child is injured by a vaccine, meanwhile, and find yourself in vaccine court, the government will fight your claim — even if it’s more than legitimate — or they may try to quietly settle it with a lowball offer (which preys on families in urgent need of money).
If the government settles outside of court, they don’t have to admit that the vaccine caused harm, which keeps them in good light with the public.
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
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.
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
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.