Anti-vaxxers on both right and left are endangering Americans with ignorance

3 months, 22 days ago

It’s been a banner week for anti-vax, anti-science, anti-sense information that is anti-American in the most fundamental sense: because it directly threatens the health and lives of Americans. And unfortunately, one of the most prominent voices for anti-vax on the left is contributing to this threat in a way that could raise the body count as much as those on the right could.

On Thursday, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin let it be known that he had intentionally exposed his nine children to chickenpox rather than give any of them the chickenpox vaccine. Bevins was smugly proud of this, explaining that “it all turned out fine.” Except that it didn’t, because this exposure set his children up to develop shingles later in life, a condition that can be not only extremely painful, but potentially disabling or blinding. And that’s far from the limit of what might have happened, or what might still happen. 

Chickenpox may strike children, but it’s not kid’s stuff. Previous to the development of the vaccine, nearly 13,000 Americans ended up hospitalized each year for complications related to chickenpox. Between 100 and 150 of them died. The availability of the vaccine dropped the number of deaths by 87 percent, but in encouraging people to not get vaccinated, Bevin in setting up a situation that could easily—easily—lead to increased deaths, disability, and disfigurement. 

Unfortunately, he’s not alone. And his companions in attempting to murder Americans via ignorance aren’t limited to parents who refuse vaccines for measles or whooping cough because they’ve been falsely convinced of a nonexistent link between vaccines and autism. On Thursday, Robert Kennedy Jr. used the prominence of his family name—again—to suggest that there’s a connection between increased rates of anxiety and depression among American teens and the Gardasil vaccine. This vaccine protects Americans, both men and women, from developing life-threatening cancers caused by human papillomavirus. In particular, these viruses are a leading cause of cervical cancer in women. In the United States, there are an estimated 24 million active cases of papillomavirus infection, leading to between 100,000 and 200,000 cases of cervical cancer each year, and around 12,000 deaths.

Anti-vaxxers made the Gardasil vaccine a target shortly after it became available, using claims of toxicity and playing off parents’ fears that the vaccine would somehow license young people to be “more sexually active.” Those claims have already resulted in decreased use of the vaccine in some areas, and have made the effort to deploy the medication more difficult. Even the most casual Google search for information on papillomavirus or cervical cancer is likely to turn up false information on “the dangers of vaccines.”

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What is Glutathione and Why Do You Need it?

4 months, 7 days ago

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in August 2016. It has been updated and republished in February 2019.

What is glutathione? It may be the most important molecule you need to stay healthy and prevent disease. It’s known for its anti-aging power as well as its benefit in fighting cancer, heart disease, dementia, and other chronic diseases. It’s also important for treating everything from autism and Alzheimer’s disease and more.

What is Glutathione and What Does it Do?

Glutathione is a combination of three simple building blocks of protein or amino acids − cysteine, glycine, and glutamine − and is produced naturally in the body. It is called the master antioxidant because it can regenerate itself in the liver after each “fill-up” of free radicals and go back to work. Free radicals are often the byproduct of normal cellular metabolic oxidation and toxic overload. They can lead to autoimmune diseases, several types of cancer, and even heart attacks.

Keeping yourself healthy, boosting your performance, preventing disease, and aging well all depend on keeping glutathione levels high. It is critical for immune function and controlling inflammation. It is the master detoxifier and the body’s main antioxidant, protecting our cells and making our energy metabolism run well.

Research has shown that raised glutathione levels decrease muscle damage, reduce recovery time, increase strength and endurance, and shift metabolism from fat production to muscle development.

Glutathione is critical in helping the body’s first line of defense against disease and illness – the immune system − do its job of fighting infections. It further supports the immune system in preventing cancer and other illnesses. Studies have also shown that glutathione can help in the treatment of AIDS.

Studies have also shown that glutathione can be effective in treating fatty liver disease, both alcoholic and nonalcoholic. It’s especially effective for people who make healthy lifestyle changes.

Glutathione is essential for maintaining healthy cellular mitochondria. Damaged or malfunctioning cellular mitochondria are part of the cancer process. This occurs when exposure to toxins and unhealthy cellular terrain combine to trigger a cellular defensive response. During this process healthy cells become cancer cells by reverting to a primitive form of respiration that uses glucose (sugar) instead of oxygen for respiration. They then refuse to die and keep multiplying.

The secret of the power of glutathione may be the sulfur chemical groups it contains. Sulfur is a sticky, smelly molecule which helps eliminate all the bad things in the body. Its stickiness allows it to capture damaging free radicals and toxins like mercury and other heavy metals.

As natural health author Paul Fassa wrote:

Glutathione is critical for one simple reason: It recycles antioxidants. You see, dealing with free radicals is like handing off a hot potato. They get passed around from vitamin C to vitamin E to lipoic acid and then finally to glutathione which cools off the free radicals and recycles other antioxidants. After this happens, the body can “reduce” or regenerate another protective glutathione molecule and we are back in business.”

Dr. Mark Hyman calls glutathione the “mother of all antioxidants” and says that he has found glutathione deficiency to be common in virtually all seriously ill patients he has treated. This includes people with chronic fatigue syndrome, heart disease, cancer, chronic infections, autoimmune disease, diabetes, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, asthma, kidney problems, liver disease, and more.

benefits of glutathione

Glutathione Deficiency

The body forms glutathione naturally, but production decreases as we age. Toxins also decrease healthy glutathione levels. If you are sick, feeling old, or just not in peak shape, you likely have a glutathione deficiency. The esteemed British medical journal, The Lancet, found the highest glutathione levels in healthy young people, lower levels in healthy elderly, lower still in sick elderly, and the lowest of all in the hospitalized elderly.

Normally, glutathione is recycled in the body − except when the toxic load becomes too great. When glutathione becomes depleted it can no longer protect against free radicals, infections, or cancer, and we can’t get rid of toxins. This leads to further sickness and soon we are in the downward spiral of chronic illness.

Active Glutathione is Known as GSH

Glutathione becomes inactive when it becomes saturated from doing its work of collecting free radicals, but it tends to regenerate itself in a healthy liver. Under ideal conditions, 10% of the glutathione remains inactive (or oxidized), while the other 90% is active. As the active glutathione (also known as GSH), drops below 90% and allows the inactive to increase beyond 10%, the struggle for optimum health begins to become a losing battle. When toxins build up, the GSH diminishes even more. When GSH falls below 70%, the immune system becomes critically compromised.

Foods & Supplements that Increase Glutathione Levels in Your Body

Certain foods contain precursors to help the liver produce more glutathione. These include sulfur-rich foods such as garlic, onions, and cruciferous vegetables (i.e. broccoli, kale, collards, cabbage, cauliflower, watercress), premium bioactive whey products, and colostrum.

You can also increase glutathione by increasing your vitamin C intake or adding milk thistle or turmeric to your diet.

The reason for using precursors to boost your liver’s ability to create healthy glutathione levels is that supplemental glutathione has issues with getting through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract intact without being degraded.

Exercise boosts glutathione levels and helps boost your immune system, improve detoxification, and enhance your body’s own antioxidant defenses. Start slow and build up to 30 minutes a day of vigorous aerobic exercise like walking or jogging, or play various sports. Strength training for 20 minutes, three times a week is also helpful.

Other supplements which can help increase healthy glutathione levels include:

A good all-around organic, whole-food derived nutritional supplement.

N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) has been used for many years to help boost glutathione. Time release NAC is the best option for keeping levels high throughout the day.

Methylation nutrients, including folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 are critical to keep the body producing and recycling glutathione.

Selenium helps the body recycle and produce more glutathione.

The family of antioxidants which includes vitamins C and E (in the form of mixed tocopherols) work together to recycle glutathione

Milk thistle (silymarin) helps increase glutathione levels and is famed for its ability to cleanse, protect, and regenerate the liver.

It is also worth noting that alpha-lipoic acid is a close second to glutathione in terms of importance for our cells. It is involved in energy production, blood sugar control, brain health, and detoxification.

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The post What is Glutathione and Why Do You Need it? appeared first on The Truth About Cancer.

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Top 11 Reasons to Start Using Frankincense Oil

6 months, 5 days ago

30 Tips in 30 Days Designed to Help You Take Control of Your

This article is included in Dr. Mercola’s All-Time Top 30 Health Tips series. Every day during the month of January, a new tip will be added that will help you take control of your health. Want to see the full list? Click here.

Scents can have a powerful influence on your well-being. Aromatherapy, which uses concentrated essences of various botanicals, allows you to harness the olfactory power of plants for healing on many levels. Essential oils carry biologically active volatile compounds in a highly-concentrated form that can provide therapeutic benefits in very small amounts.

There are hundreds and many thousands of essential oils available if you factor in combinations, each with its own potential benefits. That said, one essential oil that stands out above the crowd is frankincense essential oil — commonly referred to as the King of Oils — made from the resin of either the Boswellia sacra or Boswellia carterii tree.

Boswellia trees grow in African and Arabian regions, including Yemen, Oman, Somalia and Ethiopia. The oil is pale yellow-green with a woody, earthy and spicy aroma. Frankincense oil is traditionally used in many religious holy rites, and as an ingredient in perfumes and skin care products.

Composition of Frankincense Oil

Its main chemical constituents are alpha-pinene, octanol, linalool, octyl acetate, bornyl acetate, incensole and incensyl acetate. Monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes are thought to be the most valuable elements of frankincense oil.

According to the “Studies in Natural Products Chemistry: Bioactive Natural Products, Part H,”1 monoterpenes work in the liver and kidneys, and lower cholesterol activity in the liver. Some monoterpenes have antiseptic, antibacterial, antiviral, antitumor2 and expectorant3 properties.

Sesquiterpenes may cross the blood-brain barrier, as seen in this 2013 animal study,4 and help stimulate the limbic system, aka the emotional center, of your brain. This stimulates secretions of antibodies, serotonin, endorphins and neurotransmitters which can influence your mood and emotions.5

Quality frankincense oil is nontoxic and generally nonirritating.6 That said, it’s always best to perform a skin test before using it undiluted on your body. Should any irritation occur, be sure to dilute it with a carrier oil.

Health Benefits of Frankincense Oil

Anecdotally, many swear by its healing powers, and substances found in frankincense essential oil — such as alpha-pinene and boswellic acid — have been scientifically shown to impart a number of health benefits, including:7

1. Speeding up wound healing8

2. Fight the appearance of stretch marks, age spots and wrinkles9

3. Reducing inflammation and inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis10 and bronchial asthma11,12

4. Reducing stress hormones13,14

5. Boosting immune function15,16

6. Improving oral health by preventing bad breath, cavities, toothaches, mouth sores and other infections17,18

7. Supporting uterine health in women by regulating estrogen production. It also helps regulate the menstrual cycle in premenopausal women19

8. Treating respiratory issues such as colds, allergies, asthma and bronchitis by reducing phlegm buildup and congestion20

9. Promoting sleep21

10. Improving digestion and treating digestive disorders such as chronic colitis, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease22

11. Fighting cancer23,24,25,26,27,28

Frankincense is also one of the best oils to use for the removal of skin tags. One recent study29 confirmed that frankincense essential oil is bioactive and affects human gene expression, upregulating at least 42 and downregulating 41 genes, stating that “Many of these signaling pathways are closely related to the biological processes of inflammation, immune response, and tissue remodeling in human cells.” The researchers also noted that:

“Alpha-pinene, the top constituent of FREO [frankincense essential oil], is widely recognized as the major anti-inflammatory component of FREO. Alpha-pinene showed anti-inflammatory properties in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells and mouse macrophages through inhibition of tumor necrosis factor-α, interleukin-1β, nitric oxide, and mitogen activated protein kinases.

An in vitro study showed that isolated alpha-pinene had the ability to reduce the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Another study found that alpha-pinene inhibited the nuclear translocation of NF-kB induced by lipopolysaccharide in THP-1 cells, explaining its benefits in the treatment of upper and lower airway diseases.

Recent research has also provided evidence that alpha-pinene has some immune-enhancing properties, particularly regarding enhanced T-cell activity.

In two related studies, the effects on human immune function of essential oils from trees were investigated. In both studies,30,31 it was found that exposure to alpha-pinene increased T-cell activity and decreased stress hormone levels.”

Frankincense Exhibits Cancer Cell-Specific Cytotoxicity

While research is still scarce, a small number of studies have looked at frankincense oil’s anticancer potential, finding positive results. For example:

• A 2011 study32 looking at alpha-pinene’s effect on malignant melanoma, the most aggressive and dangerous form of skin cancer, found alpha-pinene induced apoptosis in melanoma cells. According to the authors:

“Our results demonstrated that α-pinene was able to induce apoptosis evidenced by early disruption of the mitochondrial potential, production of reactive oxygen species, increase in caspase-3 activity, heterochromatin aggregation, DNA fragmentation and exposure of phosphatidyl serine on the cell surface.

Most importantly, this molecule was very effective in the treatment of experimental metastatic melanoma reducing the number of lung tumor nodules. This is the first report on the apoptotic and antimetastatic activity of isolated α-pinene.”

• That same year, another study33 found Boswellia sacra essential oil induces tumor cell-specific apoptosis in human breast cancer cells and suppresses tumor aggressiveness. Here, the authors noted that:

“More abundant high molecular weight compounds, including boswellic acids, were present in Boswellia sacra essential oil prepared at 100oC hydrodistillation. All three human breast cancer cell lines were sensitive to essential oil treatment with reduced cell viability and elevated cell death, whereas the immortalized normal human breast cell line was more resistant to essential oil treatment.

Boswellia sacra essential oil hydrodistilled at 100oC was more potent than the essential oil prepared at 78oC in inducing cancer cell death, preventing the cellular network formation … causing the breakdown of multicellular tumor spheroids … and regulating molecules involved in apoptosis, signal transduction and cell cycle progression.

Similar to our previous observations in human bladder cancer cells, Boswellia sacra essential oil induces breast cancer cell-specific cytotoxicity.

Suppression of cellular network formation and disruption of spheroid development of breast cancer cells by Boswellia sacra essential oil suggest that the essential oil may be effective for advanced breast cancer. Consistently, the essential oil represses signaling pathways and cell cycle regulators that have been proposed as therapeutic targets for breast cancer … “

• In 2012, researchers found34 frankincense essential oil made from Boswellia sacra induces cell death in human pancreatic cancer cells as well.

• A study35 published in 2014 reported that frankincense essential oil selectively induced apoptosis in cancer cells via NRF-2-mediated oxidative stress.

How to Use Frankincense and Other Essential Oils

Essential oils can be used in a number of different ways. For example, you can:

Add a drop or two to a teaspoonful of your favorite carrier oil; moringa oil and coconut oil are just two examples of many
Add a few drops of the essential oil to your bath to create an aromatic soak. Your body may also absorb some of the oil. To prevent the oil from separating and floating on the surface of the water, first mix the oil with a small amount of full-fat milk
Apply a drop or two of frankincense on your pulse points during meditation or yoga. Keep in mind that while frankincense can be used neat (undiluted), other oils must be diluted with a carrier oil before applying to your skin
Apply a few drops of oil to a hot compress
Diffuse the oil in a diffuser or vaporizer made specifically for essential oils (do not add to standard humidifiers)

Quality Is of the Essence

When it comes to essential oils, quality is paramount. First of all, what we’re talking about here is pure, therapeutic grade essential oils from plants, not synthetic fragrance oils or perfumes, which can be toxic and typically contain allergenic compounds.

But even among essential oils the quality can vary widely, and assessing the quality of any given brand can be difficult, as factors such as growing conditions and methods of harvesting, distillation, manufacture and storage can all affect the final product.

Boswellia trees can produce different colored resins. Brown-yellow and muddy frankincense are touted as the cheapest and most readily accessible, while silver and clear frankincense are considered high-quality. The University of Minnesota36 offers helpful guidance regarding international standard-setting agencies and considerations to take into account when looking for an essential oil.

One of the most important considerations is to look for a statement of purity. What you’re looking for is 100 percent essential oil (meaning it has not been diluted, altered or mixed with anything else). Price can be a tipoff. If it’s really cheap, it’s probably a reflection of poor quality.

Improve Your Health With Frankincense Essential Oil

Frankincense oil is probably one of the safest and most beneficial essential oils you can use to support your health. It may also be a good choice if you want to improve your prayer or meditation sessions, as it helps promote feelings of peace, comfort and relaxation, as well as combating stress.

Despite its safety, it may not be suitable for everyone. If you experience any kind of adverse reaction, stop using it. Always do a small skin patch test before using on larger areas of your body, and dilute if needed.

According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, frankincense essential oil diluted with a carrier oil is safe to use during pregnancy, and Autism Parenting magazine recommends it for children on the autism spectrum and/or for those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.37 Using Essential Oils Safely38 also lists frankincense as an essential oil safe to use for children.

That said, according to RxList,39 frankincense oil may cause diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain and rash. There are also indications that boswellia may have blood-thinning effects, and also can interfere with prescription anticoagulants such as warfarin,40 so people with blood clotting issues should use it with caution.

Tip #9Check Your Iron Level, Not Your Cholesterol

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Top 10 Health Searches for 2018

6 months, 21 days ago

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! I want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for subscribers like you, who help, support and share our vision for a naturally healthier, happier world, every day of the year.

Google recently announced the top health searches for 2018.1,2,3 Ketogenic diet and keto dishes were popular, although top billing still went to junk food items, with unicorn cake coming in at No. 1. Below, I’ll review the Top 10 internal searches for 2018 — the articles and information people have turned to again and again.

Below each search term heading, the most popular article of the year is hyperlinked; just click on it to read the full article.

No. 1 — High Blood Pressure

A blood pressure reading of 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) is considered healthy. High blood pressure (hypertension) is typically considered anything over 140/90 mmHg, although the latest guidelines4 from the American Heart Association now have 130/80 mmHg as the cutoff for a diagnosis of hypertension. In the U.S., an estimated 1 in 3 have high blood pressure, and another 1 in 3 have prehypertension.5

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, stroke and dementia,6 adding further weight to recommendations to get your blood pressure under control in order to protect not only your heart but also your long-term cognitive health.

High Blood Pressure Linked to Increased Risk of Dementia” reviews the latest research linking hypertension with a higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease; factors that can affect your blood pressure reading; common causes for high blood pressure; and, natural ways to normalize your blood pressure without drugs.

Beet juice, for example, has been found to have a beneficial effect on blood pressure.7 The beneficial effects are related to the nitrate found in beetroot juice. Your body converts the nitrate into bioactive nitrite followed by nitric oxide (NO), the latter of which helps relax and dilate your blood vessels. High-intensity exercise such as the Nitric Oxide Dump will also trigger NO production in your body.

A number of essential oils can also be helpful, including lavender, ylang-ylang, marjoram, bergamot, rose, frankincense, rosemary, lemon balm and clary sage.8 More information can be found in the popular article “Essential Oils Lower Blood Pressure.”

Salt-related hypertension is also a concern for many. In “Why a Low-Sodium Diet Might Wreck Your Health,” I interview James DiNicolantonio, Pharm.D., about his book, “The Salt Fix: Why the Experts Got It All Wrong — and How Eating More Might Save Your Life.”

A key take-home message here is that processed foods and sugars may have a far greater impact on your blood pressure than salt, and that your sodium-to-potassium ratio is far more important a factor than the amount of salt you eat.

No. 2 — Ketogenic Diet

Many of the disease epidemics facing us today — including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and dementia — could be turned around by educating people about the benefits of a cyclical ketogenic diet, i.e., a diet high in healthy fats, moderate in protein and low in net carbohydrates (total carbs minus fiber).

Burn Fat for Fuel” details how burning fat for fuel improves mitochondrial function, and why cycling in and out of nutritional ketosis is recommended once your body is able to efficiently burn fat. In this article, I also review the benefits of intermittent fasting and longer water fasts, as well as the fats to eat more of and which ones to avoid.

No. 3 — Beets

Beets have gotten loads of beneficial press in the past year, as research demonstrates the beneficial impact of plant-based nitrates on your heart health. In “Why Some Nitrates Are Healthy While Others Are Harmful,” I review the ins and outs of healthy versus unhealthy nitrates.

Your microbiome converts the nitrates found naturally in plant foods into beneficial nitric oxide, while the nitrates in cured and processed meats raise your risk of cancer by being converted into carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds due to the presence of proteins and heme in the meat.

No. 4 — Vitamin D

We’re continually learning more and more about the benefits of vitamin D — and how vitamin D works with other nutrients to optimize health. “Without Magnesium, Vitamin D Supplementation May Backfire” explains why optimizing your magnesium level is so important for effectively raising your vitamin D level.

Like vitamin K2 and calcium, magnesium is a crucial cofactor when trying to raise your vitamin D, as it’s required for the activation of vitamin D. Without sufficient amounts of magnesium, your body cannot properly utilize the vitamin D3 you’re taking, and research shows improving your magnesium status can actually allow you to raise your vitamin D level while taking lower doses.

To assess your magnesium level, check your RBC magnesium level and track signs and symptoms of magnesium insufficiency to determine how much magnesium you need. Low potassium and calcium are also common laboratory signs indicating magnesium deficiency.

Remember that the only way to determine how much sun exposure is enough and/or how much vitamin D3 you need to take is to measure your vitamin D level, ideally twice a year. According to the latest research, a level between 60 and 80 ng/mL appears to be ideal for optimal health and disease prevention.

No. 5 — Intermittent Fasting

Fasting upregulates autophagy and mitophagy — natural cleansing processes necessary for optimal cellular renewal and function — and triggers the generation of stem cells. The cyclical abstinence from food followed by refeeding also massively stimulates mitochondrial biosynthesis. All of this is needed for optimal health and disease prevention, which is why fasting has such a powerful regenerative effect.

Research shows fasting is a powerful lifestyle tool for combating obesity, insulin resistance and related health problems, including cancer. There’s even evidence to suggest fasting can help prevent or even reverse dementia, as it helps your body clean out toxic debris.

While water-only fasting is the most effective, it can also be the most problematic, as it forces fat-soluble toxins out of your fat cells. If you’re highly toxic and your detoxification pathways aren’t working well, this could actually be dangerous.

Fortunately, research has confirmed that similar results (albeit not as profound) can be achieved through intermittent fasting, i.e., following a meal-timing schedule where you’re fasting for at least 16 hours every day and eating all of your meals within eight consecutive hours.

While some intermittent fasting plans place no restrictions on the foods you eat (only when and/or the number of calories), recent evidence suggests intermittent fasting is far more effective when combined with a ketogenic diet.

This makes sense considering both strategies improve your fat burning ability and have similar rejuvenating and regenerating effects. All of this is reviewed in the popular article “Why Intermittent Fasting Is More Effective Combined With Ketogenic Diet.”

No. 6 — Flu Shot Facts

Flu protection is a common yearly concern, online search data reveal. Two of the most-read articles for 2018 were “The Big Bad Flu Data — What You Need to Know About Vaccine Effectiveness and Alternatives,” and “New York City to Require Flu Shots for Preschoolers and California Moves to Eliminate Vaccine Exemptions for the Poor.”

As noted in “The Big Bad Flu Data,” the vaccine effectiveness against influenza for the 2017/2018 seasonal flu vaccines was just 36 percent, meaning for a vast majority of people, it offered no protection at all. What’s more, research shows the flu vaccine does not result in significantly fewer or lessened symptoms should you contract the flu.

In fact, there’s plenty of evidence suggesting flu vaccinations render you more susceptible to illness, both in that season and the following one. The article also provides the details of research showing vitamin D optimization would protect far more people than flu vaccinations.

The second article discusses the ongoing concern of mandatory flu vaccinations for school-aged children, and the elimination of vaccine exemptions. It also reviews a number of studies questioning the validity of annual flu vaccination as a public health measure.

No. 7 — Sucralose (Splenda)

Sucralose (sold under the brand name Splenda) is one of the main competitors to aspartame, and both of these artificial sweeteners can have serious health consequences, raising your risk of obesity, diabetes and other chronic health problems. One of sucralose’s mechanisms of harm is the destruction of beneficial gut bacteria.

New Splenda Studies Confirm Its Dangers” reviews research showing sucralose is not a biologically inert compound; it is in fact metabolized, and accumulates in fat cells — something that the industry has long denied — and has toxic effects in your liver. The article also lists commonly reported side effects, and other scientific findings that question its overall safety in the long term.

I also review how to determine whether you might be having a reaction to artificial sweeteners, and how to file an adverse reaction report with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

No. 8 — Probiotics

More attention than ever is being put on your gut health, and understandably so because 70 to 80 percent of your immune function resides within your gastrointestinal tract. Your gut bacteria can also influence your behavior and gene expression, and have been shown to play a role in a variety of diseases, including obesity, diabetes, autism and Parkinson’s disease.

While fermented foods and a healthy low-sugar, high-fiber diet are foundational for gut health, probiotic supplements can also be beneficial. In “Go With Your Gut,” I review the influence of your gut microbiome on your health, and how to identify a high-quality probiotic supplement.

I also discuss the benefits of sporebiotics, which in some ways are superior to conventional probiotic supplements, especially if you’re taking them concurrently with an antibiotic, or to reseed your gut following a course of antibiotics. Sporebiotics do not contain any live bacillus strains, only its spores — the protective shell around the DNA and the working mechanism of that DNA — which means they are not affected by antibiotics.

No. 9 — Berberine

A number of new supplements have gained recognition in the past year, with berberine, a powerful AMPK activator, being among the most popular and most-searched-for.

AMPK is an enzyme that plays an important role in body fat composition, inflammation, blood lipids, mitophagy (mitochondrial autophagy) and mitochondrial biogenesis. It also stimulates five other critically important pathways: insulin, leptin, mTOR, IGF-1 and PGC-1α.

In “PQQ, Berberine and Other Mitochondrial Enhancers,” I interview Dr. Michael Murray, a naturopathic physician and author of several books, about the benefits and action of berberine. For example, berberine has been shown to protect against oxidative stress associated with Parkinson’s disease, and has many of the same benefits as the diabetic drug metformin, but without the side effects.

No. 10 — Cancer

As you’d expect, cancer is also on the list of most-searched-for health concerns. Clearly, prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to cancer, and while diet is paramount (with cyclical keto and fasting topping the list of all-natural cancer prevention strategies), specific nutrients and supplements show great promise as well, curcumin being one of the most potent and most well-studied.

When it comes to cancer treatment, more people than ever before are forgoing conventional chemotherapy and are starting to take control of their own cancer treatment and care. Overall, years of research supports the sanity of this trend, as studies have repeatedly shown chemo is nowhere near as effective as most people think, and actually hastens death when given to severely ill patients.

Two of the most popular cancer-related articles for the year were “How Curcumin Targets Cancer” and “Chemotherapy Is Losing Its Luster,” which address prevention and treatment respectively.

The remarkable benefits of nutritional ketosis and fasting as adjuncts to conventional cancer treatment are also detailed in “Metabolically Supported Therapies for the Improvement of Cancer Treatment,” which features an interview with Dr. Abdul Slocum and Travis Christofferson, author of “Tripping Over the Truth: How the Metabolic Theory of Cancer is Overturning One of Medicine’s Most Entrenched Paradigms.”

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Weekly Health Quiz: Metabolism, Influenza and Fake News

7 months, 2 days ago

1 According to recent research, to boost metabolism and increase energy expenditure you need to:

Decrease protein intake
Increase protein intake
Decrease net carb intake

Recent research shows that as your carbohydrate ratio diminishes, energy expenditure increases. On average, those eating just 20 grams of carbs a day burned 250 calories a day more than those eating 60 grams. Learn more.

Increase net carb intake

2 The latest strategy the media and industry is using to restrict your access to the truth under the guise of “fake news” is:

Blacklisting sites based on popularity
Expanding Snopes
Whitelisting sites
NewsGuard site ratings for trustworthiness

NewsGuard will rate online news brands based on nine criteria of credibility and transparency, ostensibly to help readers avoid fake news. Learn more.

3 Of the 40 retailers evaluated by the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families’ Mind the Store campaign, how many have made meaningful progress at improving the chemical safety of the products, food and packaging they sell?

About half

About half the 40 retailers evaluated by the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families’ Mind the Store campaign have made meaningful progress at improving the chemical safety of the products, food and packaging they sell during 2018. Learn more.


4 Which of the following remedies may have played a significant role in the deaths of 50 million people during the influenza epidemic of 1918?

Homeopathic remedies

Leading medical journals of the day actually recommended using 25 aspirin a day to suppress the fever in patients suffering from influenza. Many of the people who died from influenza were found to have bleeding in the lungs, a strange symptom of the flu and a known side effect from aspirin overdose. Learn more.

Flu vaccine

5 Which of the following plants produce red berries that are toxic to humans and should not be used?

Nanking cherry

Climbing honeysuckle varieties can produce red berries that are toxic to humans. If ingested, you may experience side effects such as stomach upset, vomiting,diarrheaand nausea. Learn more.

Red currant

6 What is the approximate death toll from cervical cancer each year in the U.S.?

Zero, thanks to the HPV vaccine
Approximately 40,000
Nearly 4 million
About 4,000

As of 2018, about 13,240 new cases of cervical cancer will be diagnosed, and about 4,170 will die from it. If you get regular pap smears, your chances of dying from cervical cancer is 0.00002 percent. Learn more.

7 A controversial hypothesis suggests the central immune dysfunction in Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is associated with:

Retrovirus infection

A retrovirus family known asxenotropic murine leukemia virus-related viruses(XMRVa) may play a causal role in chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic myalgic encephalopathy and other diseases, including autism. Learn more.

Bacterial infection
Fungal infection
Protozoa infection

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Game Changer of the Year: Carole Baggerly

11 months, 8 days ago

Congratulations to yesterday’s winners:

Georgene from Sandia & Kathy from Dunedin!

Click here to enter our giveaway for your chance to win!

By Dr. Mercola

Each year during the anniversary week of, we recognize a Game Changer, someone whose work stands as a great service to humanity by making a significant contribution to improving people’s health.

Previous recipients include Dr. Fred A. Kummerow for his life’s work on trans fats, Thomas Seyfried, Ph.D., for his advancement of cancer as a metabolic disease, and Dr. Lee Cowden for his advancement of integrative medicine through the creation of the Academy of Comprehensive Integrative Medicine.

This year, we present the Game Changer Award to Carole Baggerly, director and founder of GrassrootsHealth, a nonprofit public health research organization dedicated to moving public health messages regarding vitamin D from research into practice.

“Our tag line, ‘Moving Research into Practice,’ [came about] because the more I got into it, the more I realized that the clinical research is there for many health conditions, yet the implementation process wasn’t happening.

You cannot expect a new success story to be implemented for somewhere between 15 and 25 years. So, we work not only on the science but on the methodology. That’s really important,” Baggerly says.

“The biggest problem with the implementation of vitamin D right now is the methodology used to analyze the data. Almost every time you see a report that comes out that says there was no effect, they analyzed the data by dosage.

Analyzing by dosage is really targeted to give you no result. If you analyze it properly, by serum level, not by intake, you get interesting results. Our first paper, published in 2011, showed the dose response relationship. You can easily see that two people taking the same dose (e.g., 4,000 IU/day) could have very different results. That’s why testing and reporting by achieved level is so important.”

serum level vs intake

Baggerly’s work and personal dedication to developing and substantiating research supporting the use of vitamin D as a disease prevention strategy, and its importance during pregnancy and early development, is an incredibly important contribution to the field of preventive medicine.

GrassrootsHealth and one of its research partners, the Organic & Natural Health Association, also recently won the Nutrition Business Journal’s education award1 for its Nutrient Power Campaign.2

The aim of this campaign is to educate the public about “nutrient deficiencies that can be reversed through dietary supplements” — specifically vitamin D and omega-3 — and provides inexpensive and easy to use at-home testing kits to measure your levels twice a year.

Test results are entered into GrassrootsHealth’s nutrient field trial, which tracks the health effects of supplementation on a wide variety of health problems over time.

Vitamin D and Your Health

Vitamin D, a steroid hormone, is vital for the prevention of many chronic diseases, including but not limited to Type 2 diabetes and age-related macular degeneration (the leading cause of blindness).

Other diseases are Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and well over a dozen different types of cancer, including skin cancer — the very cause of concern that has led so many to avoid the sun exposure necessary for vitamin D production.

In the case of heart disease, vitamin D plays a vital role in protecting and repairing damage to your endothelium.3 It also helps trigger production of nitric oxide — which improves blood flow and prevents blood clot formation — and significantly reduces oxidative stress in your vascular system, all of which are important to help prevent the development and/or progression of cardiovascular disease.

Most recently, a Norwegian study4 published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found “a normal intake of vitamin D” significantly reduces your risk of death if you have cardiovascular disease.5

According to vitamin D researcher Dr. Michael Holick, vitamin D deficiency — defined as a level below 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) or 50 nanomoles per liter (nm/L) — can also raise your risk of heart attack by 50 percent, and if you have a heart attack while vitamin D deficient, your risk of dying is nearly guaranteed.

Vitamin D also has powerful infection-fighting abilities, making it a useful aid in the treatment of tuberculosis, pneumonia, colds and flu, while maintaining a healthy vitamin D level will typically prevent such infections from taking root in the first place. Studies have also linked higher vitamin D levels with lowered mortality from all causes.6,7,8

80 percent of Breast Cancer Incidences Could Possibly Be Avoided by Raising Vitamin D Level to 60 ng/mL From 20 ng/mL

Importantly, the ongoing research by GrassrootsHealth has firmly established that 20 ng/mL, which is typically considered the cutoff for sufficiency, is nowhere near sufficient for optimal health and disease prevention. In reality, 40 ng/mL (100 nm/L) appears to be at the low end of optimal, with an ideal range being between 60 and 80 ng/mL (150 to 200 nm/L), according to some scientists.

For example, having a serum vitamin D level of 40 ng/mL has been shown to reduce your risk for cancer by 67 percent compared to having a level of 20 ng/ml or less. (Most cancers were found to occur in people with a vitamin D blood level between 10 and 40 ng/mL9,10). In another study, women with vitamin D levels above 60 ng/mL had an 83 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those with levels below 20 ng/mL.11

As noted by Baggerly in this interview, they have now published data showing that 80 percent of breast cancer incidences could be prevented simply by optimizing vitamin D and nothing else. And, she says, there is other research that indicates the recurrence of breast cancer could be prevented by at least 50 percent.

This is brand-new information that could save so, so many lives, and we now have this data because so many of you are participating in the GrassrootsHealth D*Action study. Here’s a revealing chart from the publication. The results were statistically significant at the p = 0.006 level as well.

breast cancer rates by vitamin d level
Sweet Spot Found for Cancer Prevention

How is it this was never discovered before? A major reason is because researchers simply have not used high enough doses to get people’s vitamin D levels above 60 ng/mL, which is where you really start seeing these dramatic reductions in disease. As noted by Baggerly:

“There are a number of websites that talk about breast cancer prevention. They talk about diet, which is good, they talk about exercise, which is very good, and a whole bunch of other factors, all of which are good and wholeheartedly recommended.

But if I can cut 80 percent of [cancer incidence] with one thing, by golly, that ought to be first! Keep doing the diet, that’s good for you, and the exercise, but don’t forget the vitamin D, that’s major.”

Overall, research supports the idea that higher levels offer greater cancer protection, and even levels as high as 100 ng/mL appear safe and beneficial. As noted by Baggerly, having a serum vitamin D level of 60 ng/mL positively impacts anyone with breast cancer, Type 1 diabetics, pregnant women and lactating mothers. A level of 60 ng/mL has also been shown to offer powerful protection against preterm birth if you’re pregnant.

Women with a vitamin D level of at least 40 ng/mL may lower their risk of preterm birth by as much as 62 percent, compared to having a level of just 20 ng/mL. Women with a history of preterm birth gain even greater protection — an 80 percent reduction — when raising their vitamin D level above 40 ng/mL.

Why Some Vitamin D Studies Find Negative Results

So, what’s with the recent meta-analysis12 suggesting vitamin D offers no protection against cancer after all? This analysis, published online July 19, 2018, concluded that once-a-month high-dose vitamin D supplementation had no impact on cancer risk.

Here, participants received an initial bolus dose of 200,000 IUs of vitamin D, followed by a monthly dose of 100,000 IUs (so-called pulsed or pulsatile dosing) for a median of about three years.

As noted by Baggerly, while the media played this up as a finding contradicting recommendations to optimize your vitamin D to lower your cancer risk, it really only makes a case against once-a-month mega-dosing. For optimal results, you need to supplement far more frequently and to focus on the achieved serum level, not the dosage.

“We always recommend daily dosing,” she says. This is particularly important for pregnant and nursing women, as the vitamin D may not be available in your breast milk otherwise. She also points out that 100,000 IUs per month actually only comes out to about 3,000 IUs per day, which is far below what most adults need to raise their vitamin D serum level into the protective range.

Indeed, the study notes the mean baseline vitamin D concentration was just over 26 ng/mL, and the mean follow-up level was just 20 ng/mL higher in the supplement group than the placebo group that received no vitamin D.

What’s more, participants’ vitamin D levels were not measured regularly throughout the study, and the association with cancer was NOT analyzed by serum level, “which we know is the measure that must be attended to,” Baggerly says.

The key factor is not how much vitamin D you take but whether or not your blood level of vitamin D is within the “Goldilocks’ zone” of 60 to 80 ng/mL, and the only way to ascertain that is through blood testing.

Reinhold Vieth, Ph.D., with the University of Toronto, and a regular contributor to GrassrootsHealth, commented on the findings, “I have long contended that pulsatile dosing with vitamin D is adverse because it throws into disarray the normal equilibrium-oriented system for clearing vitamin D and its metabolites from the body.”

How to Assess Study Quality

GrassrootsHealth scientists have also argued that pulsatile dosing at intervals greater than two weeks may actually cause a form of vitamin D deficiency at the cellular level.

According to GrassrootsHealth, to accurately ascertain the benefit of vitamin D in any given trial, researchers must track not only the baseline and final vitamin D serum level plus the dose given, but also the form (vitamin D2 versus D3) and the dosing interval.

All of these factors can influence the results, and it’s important to get them all right. Identifying the ideal parameters are all part of what GrassrootsHealth is doing. Baggerly also recently blogged13 about a 2017 study which news media claimed found “no case” for vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy.14

In reality, the study in question found seven positive outcomes, including increased birth weight, a 40 percent reduction in gestational diabetes, an 18 percent reduction in preeclampsia and a 17 percent reduction in gestational hypertension.

What this study did not find was a reduction in preterm birth, and this was ultimately translated into headlines that made it appear as though pregnant women have no need for vitamin D supplementation. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. As noted by Baggerly in her blog:

“The researchers found that preterm birth levels were the same with or without vitamin D. But, they did not include a pre-eminent paper15 on preterm birth in their analysis. It was a randomized trial with 257 women.

But since this trial did not use a control group receiving vitamin D supplementation of 600 IU/day or less, it was not allowed in the meta-analysis. In this paper … the authors reported that preterm birth was inversely associated with vitamin D levels just before delivery.”

The Importance of Animal-Based Omega-3

Like vitamin D, your omega-3 level is also a powerful predictor of your all-cause mortality risk and plays a vital role in overall health, especially your heart and brain health. Recent research16 funded by the National Institutes of Health found having a higher omega-3 index was associated with a lower risk for cardiovascular events, coronary heart disease events and strokes.

As mentioned, omega-3 is the other nutrient GrassrootsHealth is focusing on in its Nutrient Power campaign. The omega-3 index is a blood test that measures the amount of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids in your red blood cell (RBC) membranes. Your index is expressed as a percent of your total RBC fatty acids.

The omega-3 index reflects your tissue levels of EPA and DHA and has been validated as a stable, long-term marker of your omega-3 status. An omega-3 index over 8 percent is associated with the lowest risk of death from heart disease. An index below 4 percent, which is common in much of Europe and the U.S., puts you at the highest risk of heart disease-related mortality.

Baggerly also notes that one of the first benefits to emerge from the data gathered so far is that omega-3 reduces pain levels. There appears to be a correlation with vitamin D here; in essence, higher omega-3 and vitamin D levels together result in less pain.

This is one of the great things about GrassrootsHealth’s consumer sponsored research — many nutrients work together, and they’re now able to track vitamin D and omega-3 concurrently by offering at-home tests for both. Omega-3 is also already showing benefit for Type 1 diabetics, even though the omega-3 study has only been gathering data for a little over six months.

“At a Children with Diabetes Meeting that I recently attended, Dr. Michael Clare-Salzler, a diabetes researcher at the University of Florida, said that what we have done with our protocol — basically this field trial idea where people share their information, we record it, we analyze it, so forth — in his mind has changed the face of clinical trials.

He actually said, ‘We need to do our clinical trial after you’ve done yours and/or at the same time and, to establish safety if that has not already been done, but not five clinical trials before we implement it, especially if something is as safe as vitamin D and omega 3.

There’s no excuse for not proceeding, because when we do these randomized clinical trials, we have certain outcomes that we look for, but we’ve got 300 people, not 3,000, not 30,000,’ [like GrassrootsHealth has gathered] … So, he sees an enormous opportunity to change the way that research is done for all nutrients.”

Are You Getting Enough Magnesium to Activate Your Vitamin D?

An important finding brought up in the featured interview is the necessity to optimize your magnesium level when taking supplemental vitamin D. I’ve previously written about the importance of taking vitamin K2 when you’re taking high-dose supplemental vitamin D to avoid complications associated with excessive calcification in your arteries. Equally, if not more, important is magnesium, without which vitamin D supplementation may backfire.

Recent research17,18 confirms that if you’re taking high doses of vitamin D while having an insufficient magnesium level, your body cannot properly utilize the vitamin D you’re taking.19,20,21,22 The reason for this is because magnesium is required for the actual activation of vitamin D. If your magnesium level is too low, the vitamin D will simply get stored in its inactive form, doing you absolutely no good.

This may actually help explain why many need rather high doses of vitamin D to optimize their levels. According to this scientific review, as many as 50 percent of Americans taking vitamin D supplements may not get significant benefit due to insufficient magnesium levels.

On the other hand, when you have an optimal magnesium level, your vitamin D level will rise even if you’re taking a much lower dose.23 In fact, previous research has indicated that higher magnesium intake helps reduce your risk of vitamin D deficiency — likely by activating more of it. As noted in one 2013 study:24

“High intake of total, dietary or supplemental magnesium was independently associated with significantly reduced risks of vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency respectively. Intake of magnesium significantly interacted with intake of vitamin D in relation to risk of both vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency …

Furthermore, the associations of serum 25(OH)D with mortality, particularly due to cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer, were modified by magnesium intake, and the inverse associations were primarily present among those with magnesium intake above the median.

Our preliminary findings indicate it is possible that magnesium intake alone or its interaction with vitamin D intake may contribute to vitamin D status.”

Vitamin D Significantly Lowers Risk of Preterm Birth

The Protect Our Children NOW! campaign was launched by GrassrootsHealth in 2015, with the aim of combating vitamin D deficiency among pregnant women worldwide. Research conducted through this project reveals up to 59 percent of preterm births could be prevented simply by raising pregnant women’s vitamin D to a level of 40 ng/mL (100 nmol/L).

Among non-Caucasian women (among whom vitamin D deficiency is more common and prominent) the benefit was even more significant. In this group, the preterm rate prior to the start of the study was 18 percent. Those who achieved a vitamin D level of 40 ng/mL by their second test had a 78 percent lower preterm birth rate, reducing the preterm birth rate to just 4 percent!

preterm birth rate for women

preterm birth rate non-white women

As of 2015, the U.S. had a preterm birth rate of 9.6 percent, meaning nearly 1 in 10 babies was born prematurely, and preterm births are responsible for 28 percent of newborn deaths during the first month of life.

Preterm babies are also more likely to suffer health problems later on, including a higher risk of ADHD, cerebral palsy, autism, asthma,25,26 intestinal problems, pneumonia, vision problems, hearing loss and dental problems.27,28,29

The data obtained from Protect Our Children NOW! ultimately led to the Medical University of South Carolina changing its standard of care for all pregnant patients, so that now all are tested and receive vitamin D3 supplements to ensure they’re at or above 40 ng/mL.

“But it really took their knowing enough about it to do it,” Baggerly says. “And after close to two years of doing that change in care, we have again demonstrated in a field trial that it works.

The 60 percent [reduction] held up. And some of the phenomenal data we have on that is that the so-called ethnic disparity issue between the dark-skinned women and the light-skinned women for preterm births essentially went away.”

Aside from halving the risk for preterm birth, vitamin D optimization also protects the mother by reducing her risk of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and prenatal infections by approximately 50 percent.30

Have You Checked Your Vitamin D Level Yet?

Regular, sensible sun exposure is the best way to optimize your vitamin D status, but many will need to take an oral vitamin D3 supplement, especially during winter months.

The only way to gauge whether you might need to supplement is to get your level tested, ideally twice a year, in the summer and winter when your level is at its peak and low point. This is particularly important if you’re pregnant or planning a pregnancy, or if you have cancer.

That means right about now is a good time to get your level checked, to identify your high-point. Again, the level you’re aiming for is between 60 and 80 ng/mL, with 40 ng/mL being the low cutoff point for sufficiency to prevent a wide range of diseases, including cancer.

As for dosage, you need to take whatever dosage required to get you into the optimal range. Research31 suggests it would require 9,600 IUs of vitamin D per day to get 97 percent of the population to reach 40 ng/mL, but individual requirements can vary widely.

As mentioned, your magnesium status is a very important factor that can play a role in your required dosage, but there are many other individual factors as well. If you’ve been taking a certain amount of vitamin D3 for a number of months and retesting reveals you’re still not within the recommended range, then you know you need to increase your dosage.

Over time, with continued testing, you’ll find your individual sweet spot and have a good idea of how much you need to take to maintain a year-round level of 60 to 80 ng/mL. GrassrootsHealth also has an online vitamin D calculator you can use to estimate your vitamin D3 dosage once you know your current serum level.

The Omega-3 Index

As for omega-3, your best sources are small, cold-water fatty fish such as anchovies and sardines. Wild Alaskan salmon is another good source that is low in mercury and other environmental toxins. These fish are also a decent source of vitamin D, making them doubly beneficial. (Other vitamin D containing foods include beef liver, mushrooms and organic free-range egg yolks.32)

If you’re not eating these foods on a regular basis, your alternatives for an omega-3 supplement include fish oil and krill oil. The latter is my preferred choice, as it contains DHA and EPA in a form that’s less prone to oxidation. The fatty acids in krill oil are also bound to phospholipids, which allow the DHA and EPA to travel efficiently into your hepatic system; hence, they’re more bioavailable.

Studies33 have shown that krill oil may be 48 times more potent than fish oil. As with vitamin D, the best way to determine your required dose of omega-3 is to measure your level using the omega-3 index. If you’re below 8 percent, you’ll want to increase your omega-3 intake and retest about three to six months later.

Join GrassrootsHealth and Get These Two Tests Done Now

GrassrootsHealth makes it easy by offering inexpensive testing kits for both vitamin D and omega-3 as part of its consumer-sponsored research. By signing up, you are helping further truly vital health research that can help millions in coming years.

“I appeal to all of you out there — those who have had breast cancer especially — please enroll in this next phase of the project if you haven’t already because [cancer recurrence as well as cancer occurrence are] what we will be tracking,” Baggerly says.

“There is already research showing a minimum of a 50 percent reduction in cancer recurrence [with vitamin D] and right now the statistics show that there is somewhere between a 6 and 25 percent recurrence rate once you’ve had breast cancer, which is grotesque.

It’s possible you could prevent at least 50 to 80 percent of recurrence, and the fear every woman lives with who has had breast cancer is ‘Am I going to get it again?'”

Clearly, there’s a lot of room for improvement when it comes to reducing cancer and premature birth rates. Raising your vitamin D level to 60 ng/mL and 40ng/mL respectively is an incredibly inexpensive way to make a dramatic impact on both — reducing breast cancer recurrence by 80 percent and premature birth by 60 percent.

There’s really nothing else out there that can boast such phenomenal results. Were it a drug, it would be an instant blockbuster. Fortunately for you, you can get vitamin D free, by spending time in the sun, or inexpensively as a supplement.

Baggerly also urges ALL women to enroll in the Breast Cancer Prevention project, to track your vitamin D level and help prevent an initial cancer occurrence, or, if you’ve already had it, to help prevent a recurrence.

vitamin d and omega-3 testing kit

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Liver Damage Is a Growing Epidemic

11 months, 12 days ago

By Dr. Mercola

According to the American Cancer Society,1 liver cancer affects an estimated 41,000 Americans each year, and prevalence is rising.2 Between 2000 and 2016, the annual death toll from liver cancer rose by 43 percent for men and 40 percent for women,3 killing more than 11,000 people in 2016.4 The five-year survival rate for localized liver cancer is 31 percent, while regional cancer that has spread to other organs and distant liver cancer have survival rates of just 11 percent and 3 percent respectively.

Globally, the liver cancer hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the second leading cause of cancer death due to the high prevalence and difficulty of treatment. Researchers warn that by 2030, the global rate of liver cancer will double, affecting upward of 1.2 million.5

Other liver-related diseases such as cirrhosis and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) are also becoming more prevalent. Between 2001 and 2013, the number of diagnosed cirrhosis cases nearly doubled,6 and deaths from cirrhosis increased by 65 percent between 1999 and 2016.7 The greatest increase (10.5 percent) was among those between the ages of 25 and 34, where alcoholic cirrhosis has become rampant.8,9

Excess Alcohol Consumption Is Driving Rising Rates of Liver Damage

According to researchers, the rise in cirrhosis mortality is entirely driven by excess alcohol consumption by young adults. While, historically, alcohol-related liver cirrhosis has been regarded as a condition that develops after two or three decades of heavy drinking, these newer statistics reveal it doesn’t have to take that long at all, as it’s now occurring in (and killing) 20- and 30-year-olds.

In the 25 to 34 age group, death from alcohol-related liver disease nearly tripled between 1999 and 2016. This increase parallels statistics10 showing a rise in binge drinking between 2002 and 2012. It also correlates with the global financial crisis in 2008, after which more people began dying from cirrhosis. Researchers believe financial worries and unemployment may have been significant contributing factors, causing more people to drink more heavily.

Cirrhosis (irreversible scarring of your liver) can also be caused by obesity, NAFLD and hepatitis, and can in turn lead to fatal liver failure and/or liver cancer. Men are particularly at risk, in large part because they’re five times more likely to develop NAFLD than women.

Lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, weight, smoking and alcohol consumption also play important roles in exacerbating (as well as reducing) your chances of developing some form of liver disease. People at increased risk also include those who have an autoimmune disease, chronic liver inflammation, and those whose livers have been damaged due to bouts of hepatitis B or C. The good news is that alcohol-related liver cirrhosis can be reversed if caught early enough — and provided you quit drinking.

Excess Sugar Consumption Drives Rising NAFLD Rates

While alcohol-related cirrhosis is driving up mortality rates, rising prevalence of NAFLD is contributing to the overall burden of liver-related diseases. In the case of NAFLD, the fatty liver occurs in the absence of significant alcohol consumption, and is driven instead by excess sugar, which is why this condition is now found even in young children.

NAFLD often has no symptoms, although it may cause fatigue, jaundice, swelling in the legs and abdomen, mental confusion and more. If left untreated, it can cause your liver to swell, called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), and can lead to liver cancer or liver failure. As with alcohol-related cirrhosis, however, NAFLD can be reversed in its early stages by eating right and exercising.

Most importantly, you need to eliminate processed fructose and other added sugars from your diet. Fructose actually affects your liver in ways that are very similar to alcohol. Unlike glucose, which can be used by virtually every cell in your body, fructose can only be metabolized by your liver, as your liver is the only organ that has the transporter for it.

Since all fructose gets shuttled to your liver, if you consume high amounts of it, fructose ends up taxing and damaging your liver in the same way alcohol and other toxins do. The way your liver metabolizes fructose is also very similar to that of alcohol,11 as both serve as substrates for converting carbohydrates into fat, which promotes insulin resistance, dyslipidemia (abnormal fat levels in the bloodstream) and fatty liver.

Fructose also undergoes the Maillard reaction with proteins, leading to the formation of superoxide free radicals that can result in liver inflammation similar to acetaldehyde, an intermediary metabolite of ethanol. According to Dr. Robert Lustig, a neuroendocrinologist in the division of endocrinology at the University of California, fructose is a “chronic, dose-dependent liver toxin.”

Excess Glucose is Converted to Fructose and Decimates Your NAD+

I recently read an excellent review12 on NAD that helped me understand the basic biochemistry far better, and it makes perfect sense. It is not only eating excess fructose in processed foods that is the problem, but excess glucose is ultimately converted to fructose by your body in an effort to metabolize glucose for energy. Let me explain it to you.

When your body is exposed to chronic glucose excess, the first enzyme in breaking down glucose is hexokinase, and this enzyme becomes saturated and can’t break down any more glucose. Once this occurs, glucose will then be metabolized through the polyol pathway, in which glucose is metabolized to sorbitol by aldose reductase, and sorbitol is subsequently metabolized to fructose by sorbitol dehydrogenase (see figure below).

It is estimated when you are healthy, only about 3 percent of glucose goes through the pathway below, but at least 30 percent of glucose flows through this pathway in chronic hyperglycemia,13 creating a vicious cycle of excess fructose.

This metabolic catastrophe is the net redox result of the trading of one molecule of NADPH for one molecule of NADH. This is precisely what you don’t want to happen, as NADPH is used as a reductive reservoir for your antioxidants and is necessary to make your steroid hormones and fats. When you have low levels you are in deep trouble. 

Complicating it further, you increase NADH and worsen your NAD+/NADH ratio. As fuel supply outstrips metabolic demand, mitochondrial and cytoplasmic NAD/NADH ratios fall. The ensuing mitochondrial membrane hyperpolarization perpetuates electron leakage and excessive oxidative stress.

nad nadh ratio

Fortunately, the good news is that there is a simple inexpensive solution that should radically improve this metabolic catastrophe. The first, of course, is to clean up your diet as we have previously discussed many times, so your body can burn fat for fuel. But you can also take NAD precursors like simple nontimed-release niacin.

That should help increase the NAD+/NADH ratio and NADPH levels. As noted in one recent paper,14 “Oral administration of nicotinamide riboside, a natural NAD+ precursor, completely corrected these NAFLD phenotypes induced by NAD+ deficiency.”

I would start at 25 to 50 milligrams a few times a day, as any dose higher will likely cause a harmless but relatively annoying flushing sensation. It would also be helpful to reduce your exposure to electromagnetic fields, as that also consumes NAD+ through PARP hyperactivation and will worsen the metabolic condition.

Low-Level Chemical Exposures Linked to Liver Damage

While there’s no data on this, it’s possible that alcohol-induced cirrhosis is now occurring sooner as a result of liver damage caused by chemical exposures. Researchers have shown that even small amounts of chemicals from food, pharmaceuticals and personal care products can in fact cause liver damage. One such experiment15 was designed to evaluate the effects of chemical combinations at low doses from environmental sources such as food, pharmaceuticals and personal care products.16

Using four groups of Sprague-Dawley rats, the researchers administered a mix of chemicals found in everyday products in their drinking water at varying doses for a period of six months. The control group received chemical-free water.

Of the three treatment groups, the low-dose group received 25 percent of the European Union (EU) acceptable daily intake for the chemicals in question, the medium dose group received exactly the acceptable daily intake defined by the EU, while the high-dose group received five times the acceptable daily intake.17

After six months, body weight and biochemistry markers were evaluated, revealing the animal’s weight increased more than 10 percent in all male groups, compared to controls.18 Modest increases were found in females given medium and high doses of the chemicals.

They also discovered adverse liver effects — especially at the low-dose level and primarily in the males. Overall, the results suggest exposure to low doses may induce liver damage as a result of the combination of different toxic mechanisms, and supports previous research showing that chemical cocktails, even at low levels,19 can damage liver function20 and trigger cancer.21

Roundup Damages Liver at Ultra-Low Doses

Roundup, the most heavily-used weed killer in the world, has also been linked to liver damage. Disturbingly, urine levels of glyphosate have skyrocketed in the past couple of decades, suggesting widespread, chronic exposure, most likely from food. Between 1993 and 2016, levels of the chemical in human urine increased 1,200 percent.22 Recent food testing also reveals that most foods sold in the U.S. are contaminated with glyphosate.

This is of significant concern, as research suggests Roundup can cause significant liver damage even at ultralow doses. The study,23 published in the journal Scientific Reports, looked at the effects of glyphosate exposures of 4 nanograms per kilogram of body weight per day, which is 75,000 and 437,500 times below EU and U.S. permitted levels, respectively.

After a two-year period, female rats showed signs of liver damage, specifically NAFLD and progression to nonalcoholic steatohepatosis (NASH). Study author Michael Antoniou, Ph.D., told Sustainable Pulse:24

“The findings of our study are very worrying as they demonstrate for the first time a causative link between an environmentally relevant level of Roundup consumption over the long-term and a serious disease — namely nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Our results also suggest that regulators should reconsider the safety evaluation of glyphosate-based herbicides.”

Milk Thistle Helps Prevent Liver Damage

Milk thistle is an herb that has been used for thousands of years to support liver, kidney and gallbladder health. In modern times, silymarin has been used to treat alcoholic liver disease, acute and chronic viral hepatitis and toxin-induced liver diseases.

The active ingredient, a flavonoid called silymarin, is thought to be responsible for the beneficial effects attributed to milk thistle, including liver protection, antioxidant, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. In your liver, silymarin works as an antifibrotic, thereby preventing tissue scarring, and blocks toxins by inhibiting the binding of toxins to liver cell membrane receptors. Silymarin also protects your liver and promotes healthy liver function by:

Suppressing cellular inflammation25
Inhibiting the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), a pathway that, when overactivated, increases your risk of cancer26
Activating AMPK (activated AMP-activated protein kinase),27 an enzyme inside your cells. AMPK is sometimes referred to as a “metabolic master switch,” as it plays an important role in regulating metabolism and energy homeostasis.28 AMPK produces many of the same benefits as you would get from exercise and weight loss, both of which benefit your liver health
Reducing liver injury caused by a number of drugs and environmental toxins, including acetaminophen, chemotherapy, psychotropic drugs and alcohol
Increasing glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that plays a role in the detoxification of heavy metals and other harmful substances

N-acetylcysteine Supplement Supports Your Liver Health

Another powerful liver protectant is N-acetylcysteine (NAC), a precursor needed for glutathione biosynthesis. In fact, research suggests NAC may be a better alternative for supporting liver health in those with hepatitis C and other chronic liver diseases than the antioxidant resveratrol.29

Alcohol and acetaminophen are two common compounds metabolized through the liver that are associated with liver damage. NAC supplementation has been effective in minimizing damage associated with alcohol consumption when taken prior to alcohol ingestion.30 NAC is also used as an antidote for acetaminophen toxicity, which causes liver damage by depleting glutathione.31 Research published in Hepatitis Monthly32 has also shown NAC supplementation helps improve liver function in patients with NASH.

Folate Deficiency Worsens Severity of NASH

Increasing your intake of folate can also help protect your liver function. In a study33 involving 83 patients with NASH, researchers found levels of folate and vitamin B12 were inversely related to the development of fibrosis or the formation of scar tissue. Past research has identified an association between low levels of vitamins and chronic liver disease, but this is the first to find an association between folate and vitamin B12 level to NASH severity.

Studies have also shown folate deficiency can increase your risk for liver cancer.34,35 In one, which involved hepatitis B-positive patients (who are at higher risk for liver damage), higher folate levels were associated with a 67 percent lower risk of liver cancer.36

According to the authors, increased folate in humans appear to be inversely associated with the development of liver damage and hepatocarcinoma, and that folate can offer the liver some degree of protection against damage. Folate may also mitigate against pesticide-related damage, including autism.

Your body stores approximately 10 to 30 milligrams of folate at a time, nearly 50 percent of which is in your liver. Folate is the natural form of vitamin B9 found in foods and once referred to as folacin. The word was derived from the Latin “folium,” meaning leaf. Green leafy vegetables such as spinach are abundant sources of folate, as are asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and avocados.37 Broccoli is perhaps ideal, as research38 has confirmed it helps protect against NAFLD.

Avoid folic acid supplements however. While readily absorbed, this synthetic form is not converted in the intestines like folate is. Instead, it is converted in your liver. This means folic acid can reach saturation quicker, which may result in overexposure if you’re taking supplements.

Coffee May Cut Risk of Liver Cancer

Last but not least, if you’re a coffee drinker, you may be relieved to find out that coffee appears to have a protective effect against HCC, a serious form of liver cancer and the second-most prevalent cause of death from cancer in the world. Drinking a single cup of coffee every day cuts your risk of HCC by one-fifth.39,40

If you drink more than that in a day, your risk for liver cancer is even lower. Two cups of coffee a day cut the risk by 35 percent, and five cups cut the risk in half. That said, excessive coffee consumption can have other adverse effects. As noted by lead author Dr. Oliver Kennedy from the U.K.’s University of Southampton:41

“We’re not suggesting that everyone should start drinking five cups of coffee a day though. There needs to be more investigation into the potential harms of high coffee-caffeine intake, and there is evidence it should be avoided in certain groups, such as pregnant women.”

To optimize your health benefits from coffee, make sure it’s organic, and drink it black, without milk or sugar. A far better alternative would be “bulletproof coffee,” where you add butter or MCT oil to the coffee instead of sweeteners. To learn more about how you can make coffee a healthy part of your day, see “Coffee Leads to Longer Life.”

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