Robert Epstein, who received his Ph.D. in psychology from Harvard in 1981 and served as the former editor in chief at Psychology Today, is now a senior research psychologist for the American Institute of Behavioral Research and Technology, where for the last decade he has helped expose Google's manipulative and deceptive practices. He explains what got him interested in investigating the internet search monopoly in the first place:
"In 2012, January 1st, I received some emails from Google saying my website contained malware and that they were somehow blocking access. This means I had gotten onto one of Google's blacklists.
My website did contain some malware. It was pretty easy to get rid of, but it turns out it's hard to get off of a Google blacklist. That's a big problem. I started looking at Google just a little bit differently.
I wondered, first of all, why they were notifying me about this rather than some government agency or some nonprofit organization? Why was a private company notifying me?
In other words, who made Google sheriff of the internet? Second, I learned they had no customer service department, which seemed very strange, so if you have a problem with Google, then you have a problem because they don't help you solve the problem.
I learned also that although you can get onto a blacklist in a split second, it can take weeks to get off a blacklist. There have been businesses that have gotten onto their blacklists and have gone out of business while they're trying to straighten out the problem.
The thing that really caught my eye — because I've been a programmer my whole life — was I couldn't figure out how they were blocking access to my website, not just through their own products … Google.com, the search engine, or through Chrome, which is their browser, but through Safari, which is an Apple product, through Firefox, which is a browser run by Mozilla, a nonprofit organization.
How was Google blocking access through so many different means? The point is I just started to get more curious about the company, and later in 2012, I happened to be looking at a growing literature, which was about the power of search rankings to impact sales.
This was in the marketing field and it just was astonishing. In other words, if you could push yourself up one more notch in their search results, that could make the difference between success or failure for your company; it could mean a lot more income.
It turns out that this initial research was saying that people really trust those higher ranked search results. I simply asked a question. I wondered whether, if people trust those higher rank search results, I could use search results to influence people's opinions, maybe even their votes."
What Epstein discovered through his subsequent research, which began in 2013, is that yes, biased search results can indeed be used to influence public opinion and sway undecided voters. What's more, the strength of that influence was shocking.
He also eventually discovered how Google is able to block website access on browsers other than their own. His findings were published in 2016 in U.S. News & World Report.1
Google's Powers Pose Serious Threats to Society
Google's powers pose three specific threats to society:
1. They're a surveillance agency with significant yet hidden surveillance powers. As noted by Epstein:
"The search engine … Google Wallet, Google Docs, Google Drive, YouTube, these are surveillance platforms. In other words, from their perspective, the value these tools have is they give them more information about you. Surveillance is what they do."
2. They're a censoring agency with the ability to restrict or block access to websites across the internet, thus deciding what people can and cannot see. They even have the ability to block access to entire countries and the internet as a whole.
The most crushing problem with this kind of internet censorship is that you don't know what you don't know. If a certain type of information is removed from search, and you don't know it should exist somewhere, you'll never go looking for it. And, when searching for information online, how would you know that certain websites or pages have been removed from the search results in the first place? The answer is, you don't.
For example, Google has been investing in DNA repositories for quite a long time, and are adding DNA information to our profiles. According to Epstein, Google has taken over the national DNA repository, but articles about that — which he has cited in his own writings — have all vanished.
3. They have the power to manipulate public opinion through search rankings and other means.
"To me, that's the scariest area," Epstein says, "because Google is shaping the opinions, thinking, beliefs, attitudes, purchases and votes of billions of people around the world without anyone knowing that they're doing so … and perhaps even more shocking, without leaving a paper trail for authorities to trace.
They're using new techniques of manipulation that have never existed before in human history and they are for the most part, subliminal … but they don't produce tiny shifts.
They produce enormous shifts in people's thinking, very rapidly. Some of the techniques I've discovered are among the largest behavioral effects ever discovered in the behavioral sciences."
While surveillance is Google's primary business, their revenue — which exceeds $130 billion a year — comes almost exclusively from advertising. All that personal information you've provided them through their various products is sold to advertisers looking for a specific target audience.
How Google Can Shift Your Perception Without Your Knowledge
Epstein's controlled, randomized, double-blind and counterbalanced experiments have revealed a number of different ways in which Google can shift public perception. The first effect he discovered is called SEME, which stands for search engine manipulation effect. For a full description of the basic experiment used to identify this effect, please listen to the interview.
In summary, the aim of his experiment was to see whether search results biased toward a particular political candidate would be capable of shifting users' political opinion and leanings.
"I had predicted, when we first did this, that we would get a shift," Epstein says, "because … people do trust higher ranked search results, and of course we had biased the search results so that, if in that first group, someone was clicking on a high-ranking search result, that would connect them to a webpage which made one candidate look much better than the other …
I predicted we could get a shift in voting preferences of 2% to 3%. I was way off. We got … a shift of 48%, which I thought must be an error because that's crazy …
I should note that in almost all of our experiments, especially those early ones, we deliberately used undecided voters. That's the key. You can't easily push the opinions or voting preferences of people who are partisan, who are strongly committed to one party or another, but people who are undecided, those are the people who are very vulnerable. In our experiments, we always find a way to use undecided voters.
In these early experiments, the way we guaranteed that our voters were undecided was by using people from the U.S. as our participants, but the election we chose was the 2010 election for the prime minister of Australia.
They're real candidates, a real election, real search results, real webpages, and of course, because our participants were from the U.S. they were not familiar with the candidates.
In fact, that's why, before they do the search, we get this almost perfect 50/50 split regarding who they're going to vote for, because they don't know these candidates. The information they're getting from the search, that, presumably, is why we get a shift."
Simple Trick Effectively Masks Search Bias
Another thing Epstein noticed was that very few seemed to realize they were seeing biased search results. In other words, the manipulation went virtually undetected.
In a second experiment, they were able to achieve a 63% shift in voter preference, and by masking the bias — simply by inserting a pro-opponent result here and there — they were able to hide the bias from almost everyone.
"In other words, we could get enormous shifts in opinions and voting preferences with no one being able to detect the bias in the search results we were showing them," Epstein says. "This is where, again, it starts to get scary. Scarier still is when we moved on to do a national study of more than 2,000 people in all 50 states."
What this large-scale investigation revealed is that the few who actually notice the bias are not protected from its effects. Curiously, they actually shift even further toward the bias, rather than away from it.
As evidenced by other studies, the pattern of clicks is a key factor that makes search bias so powerful: 50% of all search selections go to the top two items and 95% of all clicks go to the first page of search results.
"In other words, people spend most of their time clicking on and reading content that comes from high-ranking search results. If those high-ranking search results favor one candidate, that's pretty much all they see and that impacts their opinions and their voting preferences," Epstein says.
Subsequent experiments revealed that this click pattern is the result of conditioning. Most of the things people search for are simple matters such as local weather or the capital of a country. The most appropriate and correct answer is always at the very top. This conditions them to assume that the best and truest answer is always the most high-ranked listing.
Google May Have Shifted Millions of Votes in 2016 Elections
The ramifications of the search engine manipulation effect can be immense. Of course, having power to shift public opinion is one thing; actually using that power is another. So, Epstein's next target was to determine whether Google is using its power of influence or not.
"Early 2016, I set up the first-ever monitoring system, which allowed me to look over the shoulders of people as they were conducting election-related searches on Google, Bing and Yahoo in the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election. I had 95 field agents (as we call them), in 24 states.
We kept their identities secret, which took a lot of work. And this is exactly, by the way, what the Nielsen company does to generate ratings for television shows. They have several thousand families. Their identities are secret. They equip the families with special boxes, which allow Nielsen to tabulate what programs they're watching …
Inspired by the Nielsen model, we recruited our field agents, we equipped them with custom passive software. In other words, no one could detect the fact that they have the software in their computers. But that software allowed us to look over their shoulders as they conducted election related searches …
We ended up preserving 13,207 election-related searches and the nearly 100,000 webpages to which the search results linked … After the election, we rated the webpages for bias, either pro-Clinton or pro-Trump … and then we did an analysis to see whether there was any bias in the search results people were seeing.
The results we got were crystal clear, highly significant statistically … at the 0.001 level. What that says is we can be confident the bias we were seeing was real, and it didn't occur because of some random factors. We found a pro-Clinton bias in all 10 search positions on the first page of Google search results, but not on Bing or Yahoo.
That's very important. So, there was a significant pro-Clinton bias on Google. Because of the experiments I had been doing since 2013, I was also able to calculate how many votes could have been shifted with that level of bias… At bare minimum, about 2.6 million [undecided] votes would have shifted to Hillary Clinton."
On the high end, Google's biased search results may have shifted as many as 10.4 million undecided voters toward Clinton, which is no small feat — all without anyone realizing they'd been influenced, and without leaving a trace for the authorities to follow.
According to Epstein's calculations, tech companies, Google being the main one, can shift 15 million votes leading up to the 2020 election, which means they have the potential to select the next president of United States.
Google Has the Power to Determine 25% of Global Elections
Many who look at Epstein's work end up focusing on Google's ability to influence U.S. politics, but the problem is much bigger than that.
"As I explained when I testified before Congress, the reason why I'm speaking out about these issues is because, first of all, I … think it's important that we preserve democracy and preserve the free and fair election. To me, it's pretty straight forward.
But the problem is much bigger than elections or democracy or the United States. Because I calculated back in 2015 that … Google's search engine — because more than 90% of searches worldwide are conducted on Google — was determining the outcomes of upwards of 25% of the national elections in the world.
How can that be? Well, it's because a lot of elections are very close. And that's the key to understanding this. In other words, we actually looked at the win margins in national elections around the world, which tend to be very close. In that 2010 Australian election, for example, the win margin was something like 0.2% …
If the results they're getting on Google are biased toward one candidate, that shifts a lot of votes among undecided people. And it's very, very simple for them to flip an election or … rig an election … It's very, very simple for Google to do that.
They can do it deliberately, which is kind of scary. In other words, some top executives at Google could decide who they want to win an election in South Africa or the U.K. or anywhere. It could be just a rogue employee at Google who does it. You may think that's impossible … [but] it's incredibly simple …
[A] senior software engineer at Google, Shumeet Baluja, who's been at Google almost since the very beginning, published a novel that no one's ever heard of called 'The Silicon Jungle' … It's fictional, but it's about Google, and the power that individual employees at Google have to make or break any company or any individual.
It's a fantastic novel. I asked Baluja how Google let him get away with publishing it and he said, 'Well, they made me promise I would never promote it.' That's why no one's ever heard of this book."
A Dictator Unlike Anything the World Has Ever Known
Another, and even more frightening possibility, is that Google could allow its biased algorithm to favor one candidate over another without caring about which candidate is being favored.
"That's the scariest possibility," Epstein says, "because now you've got an algorithm, a computer program, which is an idiot … deciding who rules us. It's crazy."
While this sounds like it should be illegal, it's not, because there are no laws or regulations that restrict or dictate how Google must rank its search results. Courts have actually concluded that Google is simply exercising its right to free speech, even if that means destroying the businesses they demote in their search listings or black listings.
The only way to protect ourselves from this kind of hidden influence is by setting up monitoring programs such as Epstein's all over the world. "As a species, it's the only way we can protect ourselves from new types of online technologies that can be used to influence us," he says. "No dictator anywhere has ever had even a tiny fraction of the power that this company has."
Epstein is also pushing for government to make the Google search index a public commons, which would allow other companies to create competing search platforms using Google's database. While Google's search engine cannot be broken up, its monopoly would be thwarted by forcing it to hand over its index to other search platform developers.
The Influence of Search Suggestions
In 2016, Epstein also discovered the remarkable influence of search suggestions — the suggested searches shown in a drop-down menu when you begin to type a search term. This effect is now known as the search suggestion effect or SSE. Epstein explains:
"Initially the idea was they were going to save you time. That's the way they presented this new feature. They were going to anticipate, based on your history, or based on what other people are searching for, what it is you're looking for so you don't have to type the whole thing. Just click on one of the suggestions. But then it changed into something else. It changed into a tool for manipulation.
In June 2016, a small news organization … discovered that it was virtually impossible to get negative search suggestions related to Hillary Clinton, but easy to get them for other people including Donald Trump. They were very concerned about this because maybe that could influence people somehow.
So, I tried this myself, and I have a wonderful image that I preserved showing this. I typed in 'Hillary Clinton is' on Bing and on Yahoo, and I got those long lists, eight and 10 items, saying, 'Hillary Clinton is the devil. Hillary Clinton is sick' … all negative things that people were actually searching for.
How do I know that? Because we checked Google trends. Google trends shows you what people are actually searching for. Sure enough, people were actually searching for all these negative things related to Hillary Clinton. Those [were] the most popular search terms.
So, we tried it on Google and we got, 'Hillary Clinton is winning, Hillary Clinton is awesome.' Now you check those phrases on Google trends and you find no one is searching for 'Hillary Clinton is awesome.' Nobody. Not one. But that's what they're showing you in their search suggestions.
That again got my research gears running. I started doing experiments because I said, 'Wait a minute, why would they do this? What is the point?'
Here's what I found in a series of experiments: Just by manipulating search suggestions, I could turn a 50/50 split among undecided voters into a 90/10 split — with no one having the slightest idea that they've been manipulated."
YouTube's Up Next Algorithm
YouTube, which is owned by Google, also has enormous influence on public opinion. According to Epstein, 70% of the videos people view on YouTube are suggested by Google's top secret Up Next algorithm, which recommends videos for you to view whenever you're watching a video.
Just like the search suggestions, this is a phenomenally effective ephemeral manipulation tool. There's no record of the videos recommended by the algorithm, yet it can take you down the proverbial rabbit hole by feeding you one video after another.
"There are documented cases now in which people have been converted to extreme Islam or to white supremacy, literally because they'd been pulled down a rabbit hole by a sequence of videos on YouTube," Epstein says.
"Think of that power. Again, it's not powerful for people who already have strong opinions. It's powerful for the people who don't, the people who are vulnerable, the people who are undecided or uncommitted. And that's a lot of people."
The Creepy Line
Most people now have Amazon Prime. If you are one of those who do, you can watch the following documentary for free on Prime. It is well worth your time to do so. Epstein and many other experts provide a very compelling overview of the dangers that we discuss in our interview. In my view, this is a must-watch and one to recommend to your friends and family.
A question Epstein raises is, "Who gave this private company, which is not accountable to any of us, the ability to determine what billions of people around the world will see or will not see?"
That is perhaps one of the biggest issues. Epstein and others attempt to answer this question in this documentary, "The Creepy Line," which is a direct quote from Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt.
"Traditional media have very serious constraints placed on them, but Google, which is far more penetrating and far more effective at influencing people, has none of these constraints," Epstein says.
"There are lots of good people in ['The Creepy Line'], lots of good data, and it explains my research very clearly, which is wonderful. It explains my research better than I explain my research. 'The Creepy Line' is available on iTunes and on Amazon. I think it costs $3 or $4 to watch … If you're an Amazon Prime Member it's free. It's an excellent film."
Google Runs a Total Surveillance State
In his article2 "Seven Simple Steps Toward Online Privacy," Epstein outlines his recommendations for protecting your privacy while surfing the web, most of which don't cost anything. You can access the article at: MySevenSimpleSteps.com
"My first sentence is 'I have not received a targeted ad on my computer or mobile phone since 2014.' Most people are shocked by that because they're bombarded with targeted ads constantly.
More and more people are telling me that they're just having a conversation with someone, so they're not even doing anything online per se, but their phone is nearby — or they're having a conversation in their home and they have Amazon Alexa or Google Home, these personal assistants — and the next thing they know they start getting targeted ads related to what they were talking about.
This is the surveillance problem … The point is that there are ways to use the internet, tablets and mobile phones, to preserve or protect your privacy, but almost no one does that. So, the fact is that we're now being surveilled 24/7, generally speaking, with no awareness that we're even being surveilled.
Maybe some people are aware that when they do searches on Google the search history is preserved forever … But it goes so far beyond that because now we're being surveilled through personal assistants, so that when we speak, we're being [surveilled].
It goes even beyond that, because a few years ago Google bought the Nest company, which makes a smart thermostat. After they bought the company, they put microphones into the smart thermostats, and the latest versions of the smart thermostats have microphones and cameras.
Google has been issued patents in recent years, which give them, basically, ownership rights over ways of analyzing sounds that are picked up by microphones in people's homes.
They can hook you up with dentists, they can hook you up with sex therapists, with mental health services, relationship coaches, et cetera. So, there's that. Location tracking has also gotten completely out of hand. We've learned in recent months that even when you disable location tracking … on your mobile phone, you're still being tracked."
This is one of the reasons I strongly recommend that you use a VPN on your cellphone and computer, as this will prevent virtually anyone from tracking and targeting you. There are many out there but I am using the one Epstein recommends, Nord VPN, which is only about $3 per month and you can use it on up to six devices. In my view, this is a must if you seek to preserve your privacy.
How Google Tracks You Even When You're Offline
You can learn a lot about a person by tracking their movements and whereabouts. Most of us are very naïve about these things. As explained by Epstein, location tracking technology has become incredibly sophisticated and aggressive.
Android cellphones, for example, which are a Google-owned operating system, can track you even when you're not connected to the internet, whether you have geo tracking enabled or not.
"It just gets creepier and creepier," Epstein says. "Let's say you pull out your SIM card. Let's say you disconnect from your mobile service provider, so you're absolutely isolated. You're not connected to the internet. Guess what? Your phone is still tracking everything you do on that phone and it's still tracking your location."
As soon as you reconnect to the internet, all that information stored in your phone is sent to Google. So, even though you may think you've just spent the day incognito, the moment you reconnect, every step you've made is shared (provided you had your phone with you).
In terms of online tracking, it's also important to realize that Google is tracking your movements online even if you're not using their products, because most websites use Google Analytics, which tracks everything you do on that website. And, you have no way of knowing whether a website uses Google Analytics or not.
Steps to Protect Your Online Privacy
To protect your privacy, Epstein recommends taking the following steps, seven of which are outlined in "Seven Simple Steps Toward Online Privacy." The last one, Fitbit, is a more recent concern.
Use a virtual private network (VPN) such as Nord, which is only about $3 per month and can be used on up to six devices. In my view, this is a must if you seek to preserve your privacy. Epstein explains:
Nord, when used on your cellphone, will also mask your identity when using apps like Google Maps.
Do not use Gmail, as every email you write is permanently stored. It becomes part of your profile and is used to build digital models of you, which allows them to make predictions about your line of thinking and every want and desire.
Many other older email systems such as AOL and Yahoo are also being used as surveillance platforms in the same way as Gmail. ProtonMail.com, which uses end-to-end encryption, is a great alternative and the basic account is free.
Don't use Google's Chrome browser, as everything you do on there is surveilled, including keystrokes and every web page you've ever visited. Brave is a great alternative that takes privacy seriously.
Brave is also faster than Chrome, and suppresses ads. It's based on Chromium, the same software infrastructure that Chrome is based on, so you can easily transfer your extensions, favorites and bookmarks.
Don't use Google as your search engine, or any extension of Google, such as Bing or Yahoo, both of which draw search results from Google. The same goes for the iPhone's personal assistant Siri, which draws all of its answers from Google.
Alternative search engines suggested by Epstein include SwissCows and Qwant. He recommends avoiding StartPage, as it was recently bought by an aggressive online marketing company, which, like Google, depends on surveillance.
Don't use an Android cellphone, for all the reasons discussed earlier. Epstein uses a Blackberry, which is more secure than Android phones or the iPhone. Blackberry's upcoming model, the Key3, will be one of the most secure cellphones in the world, he says.
Don't use Google Home devices in your house or apartment. These devices record everything that occurs in your home, both speech and sounds such as brushing your teeth and boiling water, even when they appear to be inactive, and send that information back to Google. Android phones are also always listening and recording, as are Google's home thermostat Nest, and Amazon's Alexa.
Clear your cache and cookies. As Epstein explains in his article:3
Don't use Fitbit, as it was recently purchased by Google and will provide them with all your physiological information and activity levels, in addition to everything else that Google already has on you.
Dr. Mercola Interviews the Experts
This article is part of a weekly series in which Dr. Mercola interviews various experts on a variety of health issues. To see more expert interviews, click here.
Dr. Dean Ornish, clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), is perhaps best known for his pioneering work in how to use food and simple lifestyle strategies to improve health. This is also the topic of his new book, "Undo It! How Simple Lifestyle Changes Can Reverse Most Chronic Diseases."
Ornish is well-known for arguing that high-protein and high-fat diets contribute to America's ever-growing waistline and incidence of chronic disease. We obviously share different positions on this issue.
Since critiques of Ornish's diet can be found in various places on the internet,1 I decided to focus on what, in my view, is his major contribution to health, which is facilitating an aggressive lifestyle modification program to lower the risk of disease and have it paid for by insurance companies.
It is virtually impossible for most to have the foundational cause of their disease process reverse in the typical 10- to 15-minutes' doctor visit. So, he took 16 years to get his lifestyle program approved by Medicare and many insurance companies, which allows access to the tools necessary to change the causes of most disease.
Once a person has the foundation in place, it will be easy for them to research the high versus low-fat debate and try it for themselves and let their body tell them which position is correct. But the important point is that most of their destructive health habits will be changed at that point.
For the past four decades, Ornish has directed clinical research showing you can reverse not only Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure but also coronary heart disease — even severe cases — through lifestyle changes that can be boiled down to "Eat well, move more, stress less and love more."
Simple Lifestyle Changes Can Reverse Most Chronic Disease
"We found that these same lifestyle changes actually change your genes, turning on the good genes and turning off the bad genes, specifically the genes that promote heart disease, diabetes, prostate cancer, breast cancer and colon cancer," he says.
"We did a study with Elizabeth Blackburn, Ph.D., who received the Nobel Prize for her pioneering work with telomeres. We found that these lifestyle changes could actually increase the enzyme telomerase in just three months that repairs and lengthens telomeres. Over a five-year period, we found that these lifestyle changes could actually lengthen telomeres.
When The Lancet sent out a press release announcing this study, they called it 'reversing aging at a cellular level.' We have just begun the first randomized trial to see if this program can reverse the progression of men and women who have early-stage Alzheimer's disease.
The more diseases we study and the more mechanisms we look at, the more reasons we have to explain why these changes are so powerful and how quickly people can often get better in ways we can measure."
Since the early 90s, Ornish, through the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, a nonprofit organization, has been training hospitals, clinics and physician groups around the U.S. Despite the program's early success, many sites ended up closing down due to lack of insurance reimbursement. As noted by Ornish, "If it's not reimbursable, it's not sustainable."
Changing the Reimbursement Paradigm
To address this problem, they started reaching out to insurance companies. A few, including Mutual of Omaha and Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield agreed to cover the program but, by and large, it was difficult to get the insurance industry onboard.
"I thought, 'Well, if Medicare would pay for it, then that would really change the whole paradigm. Because doctors do what we get paid to do, and we get trained to do what we get paid to do.' If you change reimbursement, you change not only medical practice but also medical education."
It took 16 years, but Medicare approved and started covering the program in 2010 — officially referred to as "Dr. Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease" under its intensive cardiac rehabilitation (ICR) program2 — which allows for 72 hours of training on how to address the foundational causes of heart disease. According to Ornish, it was one of the most difficult things he's ever done.
"At one point, halfway through this whole process, they said, 'Well, we'll do a demonstration project, but you have to get a letter from the head of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, that your program is safe for older Americans.'
I said, 'Safe compared to having your chest cut open?' They said, 'No. Just [that it's] safe for older people to walk, meditate, eat vegetables, quit smoking and love more.' I said, 'You must be kidding.' They said, 'No. We're not.' So, the Director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute actually did a literature review, and concluded, 'Guess what? These are not high-risk behaviors' …
Anyway, after 16 years, we finally did receive Medicare approval … Now that Medicare is paying for it, most of the major insurance companies are covering it as well … I didn't want this to be concierge medicine. I wanted this to be available to everybody. Now, it is."
The program, currently offered in 18 states by Sharecare, is divided into 18 four-hour sessions, which include supervised exercise, meditation and stress management, a support group (which Ornish says is part of why they're getting unprecedented levels of adherence to the program) and more.
Data show 85 to 90 percent of patients going through the program are still adhering to it after one year, and have better clinical outcomes, which results in significant cost savings. According to Ornish, in the first year of the program, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield's costs were 50 percent lower than that of a matched control group, and Mutual Omaha cut their cost by nearly $30,000 per patient in the first year.
What really motivates people to make sustainable changes is not fear of dying; it's the joy of living, Ornish says, and his program acknowledges and in fact leverages this knowledge.
"When they change their lifestyle, most people feel so much better so quickly in ways that really matter to them. For example, people with heart disease often have angina or chest pain … [W]ithin, usually, a few days or a few weeks, they're essentially pain-free. They … say things like, 'Well, I like eating junk food, but not that much. Because what I gain is so much more than what I give up.'
That's really the key. It's that we're always making choices … These are choices worth making. You feel so much better so quickly that it really reframes the reason for making these changes — from fear of dying or fear of a bad thing happening, to joy, pleasure, love and feeling good. The bigger changes in lifestyle are a big part of that.
The support groups we have are not really the classical support group of exchanging recipes and shopping tips and types of running shoes, but rather creating a safe environment where people can connect in a deep and authentic love for each other.
You know, 50 years ago, people had an extended family they saw regularly. They had a job that felt secure. They had a church or synagogue they went to regularly, a club they belonged to, a neighborhood with two or three generations of people. Today most people don't have any of those."
Twenty years ago, Ornish wrote the book "Love and Survival: 8 Pathways to Intimacy and Health," which reviewed evidence from what are now tens of thousands of studies showing that people who are lonely, depressed and isolated are three to 10 times more likely to get sick and die prematurely than those who have a sense of love and connection in community. "I don't know anything in medicine that has that big an impact," Ornish says.
Through his studies, Ornish has also learned that most harmful behaviors and habits are adaptive ways to deal with emotional pain. "I've had patients say things like, 'I've got 20 friends in this pack of cigarettes. They're always there for me, and nobody else is. You want to take away my 20 friends. What are you going to give me?'" Ornish says. So, while information is important, it's not usually enough to motivate people to make permanent changes.
Love — An Oft-Avoided Four-Letter Word in Medicine
As noted by Ornish, "Love is one of those four-letter words that you're not really supposed to talk about as a scientist or as a doctor." Instead, terms like psychosocial support or bonding are used, but regardless of the terms, Ornish's program is a love-based one.
"Forty years ago, when I was a freshman in college at Rice University in Houston, I got suicidally depressed," he says. "That was my doorway into learning about this. Creating an environment that feels nurturing and loving, like the support group, is the part of our work that some people make the most fun of …
That's why in this book, "love more" is the fourth component of, 'Eat well, move more, stress less, love more,' because love is really what enables people to make these other changes. It has healing benefits in its own right. Even the word 'healing' comes from the root 'to make whole.' Yoga comes from the Sanskrit meaning 'to yoke, unite,' 'union.' These are really old ideas that have been rediscovered …
More money is spent on antidepressants, as well as cholesterol-lowering drugs, than pretty much anything else. We need to address this. Because what I learned when I was so depressed when I was in college is that if you tell someone who's lonely and depressed that they're going to live longer if they just change their diet, or move more, or eat well or stress less … it doesn't work for them.
They say, 'I'm just trying to survive. I'm just trying to get through the day. I don't know if I want to live longer' … I think just the act of knowing that we're mortal, and understanding what really brings happiness … choosing not to do something that you otherwise could do imbues those choices with meaning. And if they're meaningful, then they're sustainable."
The Importance of Meditation
Ornish also discusses the benefits of meditation, which is part of the program. Among those benefits is finding your center so that you can empower yourself without adding stress. "My whole approach is really about addressing the underlying cause of why people get sick," he says, and a major part of the problem is that we're doing something to disturb our innate peace and well-being.
The answer then is simply to stop doing that which causes the disturbance. Meditation can give you the direct experience of this part of you that is undisturbed and not stressed, and provide the mental clarity to actually notice what it is that you're doing that's causing you to feel uneasy or "dis-eased."
"I would encourage anyone watching this, when you meditate, at the end of a meditation, when you're feeling more peaceful, just ask yourself a simple question: 'What am I not paying attention to that would be helpful? … Then just listen. You'll be amazed at what comes up," Ornish says.
"If you want to learn how to meditate, we can do it right now. It takes all of 30 seconds. Close your eyes, assuming you're not in a car or some place that you need to be looking, and take a deep breath. Bring your awareness to one of these mantra sounds. Let's use the word 'one,' because it's secular and it wouldn't offend anyone.
[Just intone] 'One' … When you run out of air, do it again. Over and over again. What invariably will happen is your mind will start to wander. You'll start to think about 1,000 things you should be doing or forgot to do or whatever. That's normal. Everybody's mind wanders. If you become aware that you're thinking about something else, just bring it back to the sound. Then your mind really begins to quiet down in a very deep way …
What I find is that the consistency is more important than the duration … Just a few minutes at the beginning of the day or the end of the day can really make a huge difference. If you can do more, even better."
In his book, Ornish also suggests making breakfast and lunch the main meals of your day, and then eating a much smaller dinner or nothing at all, so that you're intermittently fasting for at least 12 to 14 hours every day. This is similar to the kind of meal timing schedule as my peak fasting regimen.
I personally believe a six- to eight-hour eating window is better, and I typically maintain a daily five- to six-hour eating window. The primary reason, from my review of the literature, is the shortened eating window is a more effective activator of autophagy and removal of cellular debris that will contribute to deadly chronic inflammation.
"First of all, you sleep better because your body's not trying to work, process and digest your food while you're trying to rest and sleep. Also, there's a lot of evidence that [intermittent fasting] gives your body a chance to detoxify and clean itself out.
It's one of the reasons why when you eat a healthier diet, not just what you eat but how you eat and when you eat, will make a difference as well. The challenge with that is … that most of us in our culture tend to connect with our family or loved ones over dinner.
When you're pushing back that window to three hours before bed time, that could be a challenge. But, it's just an opportunity for exploring some novel approaches, I guess."
Removing the Distinctions Between Diseases
In his book, Ornish presents what is essentially a unifying theory of chronic disease. He explains:
"We tend to think of heart disease, diabetes, prostate cancer and Alzheimer's as being fundamentally different diseases. I'm putting forth a radically new unifying theory, which is that they're really not different diseases.
They're different manifestations of the same underlying biological mechanisms that are disordered, such as chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, changes in the microbiome, immune function, gene expression, telomeres, chronic stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system, autophagy and angiogenesis.
Each one of these, in turn, is directly influenced by what we eat, how we respond to stress, how much exercise we get and how much love and support we have. Because these underlying mechanisms are so dynamic, most people feel so much better …"
Indeed, Ornish's work reveals these diseases do not require different sets of diets and lifestyle programs. It's the same for all. According to Ornish, this is also one of the reasons why so many of these diseases are comorbidities. People who have heart disease often also have high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and/or other chronic inflammation, for example.
This makes sense if they're all different manifestations of the same underlying cause. What this means too is that by implementing these healthy lifestyle strategies, you're not just preventing or reversing one particular disease, you protect yourself against all of them simultaneously.
For example, Ornish completed a randomized trial with Dr. Peter Carroll, chair of urology at the University of California, San Francisco and a leading urologist, and the late Dr. Bill Fair, then-chair of urology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, showing that the same lifestyle changes that reverse heart disease also can often stop and even reverse the progression of early stage prostate cancer.
And contrary to conventional therapies, there are no serious side effects of these lifestyle strategies. As mentioned earlier, Ornish is now also studying the impact of these lifestyle modifications on Alzheimer's disease.
Where to Find Ornish's Program
If you're interested in Dr. Ornish's program, you can get all the information you need from his book, "Undo It! How Simple Lifestyle Changes Can Reverse Most Chronic Diseases."
If you would like further guidance, you can find a listing of all the sites that have been trained and certified to teach the program on Ornish.com, along with support groups you can attend free of charge.
At present, there are facilities offering the program in 18 states. Ornish.com also lists about 100 video testimonials, including one by Dr. Robert Treuherz, an internist whose heart disease was so severe he was on the waiting list for a heart transplant. While waiting for a donor to appear, he went through Ornish's program at UCLA.
"After nine weeks, he improved so much he didn't need a heart transplant anymore," Ornish says. "What's the more radical intervention here? A heart transplant, which costs $1.5 million and a lifetime of immunosuppressive drugs, or 'Eat Well, Move More, Stress Less, Love More?' We have over a dozen cases like that."
Become a Certified Ornish Program Provider
If you're a health care provider — be it a doctor, nurse, nurse practitioner, meditation/yoga teacher, exercise physiologist, registered dietitian or psychologist — his site also provides information on how to become a certified provider of the Ornish program.
"Medicare and many insurance companies will pay the same reimbursement, whether it's offered in a physician's office or in a hospital or in a large academic institution," he says.
"We're creating a new paradigm of health care rather than sick care … Medicare currently only pays for reversing heart disease. Some of the other insurance companies cover it not only for heart disease but also for Type 2 diabetes, or even two or more risk factors like obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and so on. Most people with heart disease will be covered if they can go to one of our programs."
The training, given in the Bay Area, is a combination of didactic and experiential learning where you go through the program from start to finish, just as if you were a patient. In addition to that, you attend lectures by Ornish and others to learn the scientific basis for all of the modalities, and how to incorporate the knowledge into your day-to-day life.
Further ongoing training is provided both on-site and through video technologies. To maintain the quality of the program, providers are required to go through reaccreditation on an annual basis.
"Most people who do it say, 'This is what I've been waiting for. This is why I went into health care.' If we're just a collection of algorithms, we're going to get replaced by artificial intelligence and probably an iPhone app before long … For me, at least, it's part of our conspiracy of love. When you go through this program, you can really experience the difference it can make.
We so often think that advances in medicine have to be something really high-tech or expensive … I think our unique contribution has been to use these very high-tech, expensive state-of-the-art scientific measures to prove how powerful this very simple and low-tech and low-cost program can be …
Even in three and a half days, people often find that they have life-transforming experiences, which make them that much more passionate and committed and effective in training their patients who they ultimately will be working with."
Not only do your teeth fill out your face and enable you to eat, they also help maintain the bone structure of your jaw. Your teeth are made of four types of tissue, but only the center, or pulp, is not hard. Inside the pulp are blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue that provide nutrients to the tooth.1
The outside of the tooth is called the enamel, which has no way to reverse damage from wear and tear (decay) since it contains no living cells. Your gums are responsible for protecting your roots as well as teeth that have not yet come in. Consistent brushing helps reduce the risk of getting cavities, which permanently damage tooth enamel.
Symptoms of cavities will depend on the depth and location of the decay.2 You might experience spontaneous pain without any apparent cause or find you have sensitivity to hot and cold drinks and foods. Although the enamel is hard it may develop small, diffuse cracks that disperse the stress on the tooth and help prevent it from breaking.
Taking care of your teeth is important since periodontitis — gum disease — can lead to significant health problems and difficulty eating.
The Importance of Proper Teeth Brushing Technique
Tooth decay is almost as pervasive3 as the common cold, in terms of how many people are affected by it. As the bacteria in your mouth dissolve food, a sticky substance called plaque is formed on your teeth. This happens more often on the back molars just above the gum line.
When it's allowed to stay, plaque forms tartar that ultimately results in gingivitis and leads to periodontitis. Plaque begins forming on the teeth in as little as 20 minutes after you've taken your last bite of a meal. Using proper brushing techniques and caring for your teeth reduces your risk of painful cavities and the need for dental procedures.
Brushing removes the plaque and only takes a couple of minutes each day. The American Dental Association (ADA)4 warns against these common mistakes:
Brushing hard — Using too much pressure on your teeth doesn’t clean off more plaque, but instead may damage your enamel.
Not brushing long enough — The average person spends 45 seconds brushing their teeth, but to do a good job you should brush for two minutes. This may feel like a long time when you’re in a rush, but for healthy teeth and gums, slow down to achieve the best results.
Using a hard bristle brush — Look for a brush with soft bristles to avoid damage to your teeth and gums that may cause sensitivity to hot and cold food and drinks.
Using your toothbrush too long — If you’re keeping your toothbrush longer than three or four months, then you’re keeping it too long. Put a reminder on your calendar and watch for worn down bristles that tell you it’s time to replace it.
Brushing immediately after a meal — While you might be tempted to brush right after you eat, it’s wise to wait 30 minutes.
Storing your toothbrush improperly — Your toothbrush should be stored upright and open to air so it can dry completely. When a toothbrush is kept in a closed container it offers the opportunity for bacterial growth.
Focus on your brushing technique to get the most positive effect. The ADA recommends holding your brush at a 45-degree angle to the tooth and gum line. Move it in short strokes, using a gentle back and forth motion across one tooth at a time. To clean the backside of your upper teeth, hold the brush vertically and gently move it up and down.
Choose the Right Instruments
You have several options to help keep your teeth and gums clean. Many dentists recommend that their patients use electric toothbrushes for several reasons, including that many will brush longer with an electric toothbrush, which is small enough to get into hard-to-reach areas.
Researchers from the Cochrane Oral Health Group5 performed a review of the literature published in the years 1964 through 2011, including 56 studies with 5,068 participants. Most studies included adults who were offered the use of a power brush or manual toothbrush.
In more than half the studies, scientists found that the power brushes used a rotational action in which the brush rotated in one direction and then reversed. Their data supported the use of a power brush over a manual toothbrush as there was an 11% reduction in plaque in those using it over one to three months. After three months plaque reduced by 21%.
The participants also enjoyed a reduction in gingivitis, with a 6% reduction over one to three months and an 11% reduction at the end of three months. Any reported side effects were temporary and localized.
After a choice of brushing, you may also consider the addition of a water flosser, a device used to spray a powerful jet of water into your mouth. While many choose a water flosser over floss, your best option may be to learn how to use both.
Researchers enrolled 70 adults in a study designed to compare the effectiveness of using a water flosser to that of using floss in combination with a manual brush.6 Both groups were trained and watched while using the water flosser with a manual toothbrush, or floss and a manual brush. Those using the water flosser showed a 74.4% reduction in plaque throughout the mouth compared to 57.5% reduction in those who used floss.
They concluded that using “The Waterpik Water Flosser and manual toothbrush is significantly more effective than a manual brush and string floss in removing plaque from tooth surfaces.” However, while traveling it may not be practical to bring an electric water flosser, so being adept at using string floss is important.
Steer Clear of Fluoride Toothpaste
Fluoride has been added to water supplies in most cities and to many store-bought toothpaste brands. Your dentist may offer a fluoride treatment as an option to help stop cavities and tooth decay. However, scientific evidence demonstrates this is likely not effective and may be dangerous.
Data from 2017 indicate that unfortunately, cavity rates in children have continued to rise even though more than half are getting so much fluoride that their teeth are permanently discolored from the exposure.7
Swallowing fluoride, including that which comes from fluoridated tap water, is detrimental to health as it is a toxin that accumulates in tissue, changing your enzymes and producing serious neurological and endocrine dysfunction. Children are especially vulnerable.8
If you have young children at home, it’s recommended that you use non-fluoride toothpaste or teach children to use homemade toothpaste made with coconut oil. Since fluoride builds up over time, it’s a good idea to also use a non-fluoride toothpaste or coconut oil to clean your teeth and gums.
Research presented at the 2017 National Oral Health Conference showed that from 2011 to 2012, 57% of U.S. youth had dental fluorosis;9 this is a 37% increase over that reported from 1999 to 2004. Dental fluorosis is a condition in which the enamel becomes progressively discolored and mottled, usually caused by excessive fluoride in the water.
Analysis of the same data by the Fluoride Action Network (FAN) showed that 58.3% of adolescents had fluorosis: 21.2% were moderately affected and 2% had a severe form of the condition.10
Researchers have linked fluorosis in children with cognitive impairment; those with higher levels of fluorosis have more cavities. Results from some studies11 show that lower IQ scores may result from fluoride exposure and may co-occur with fluorosis.
Periodontal Disease May Increase Your Risk of Heart Disease
Research from the CDC shows that nearly half of all American adults ages 30 and older have periodontal disease.12 They estimate 47.2% have mild, moderate or severe forms of the disease. In those who are 65 or older, the rate increases to 70.1%.
The authors of several studies have produced data that links periodontal disease with heart disease. The studies have not demonstrated a cause-and-effect relationship but an association between gum disease and an increased risk of heart disease that may be related to an increase in inflammation.13
Those who have heart valve disease may be at higher risk when they also have periodontal disease because bacteria in the mouth can make its way through the body and infect the heart valves.14
Oil Pulling Is a Simple Strategy for a Healthy Mouth
One simple strategy for improving your oral health is incorporating oil pulling into your daily routine. The history of pulling dates back nearly 3,000 years, used in traditional Indian folk medicine to strengthen teeth and gums and prevent tooth decay, bad breath and bleeding gums.15
I have used pulling consistently since 2011 and find it is an effective method for mechanical cleaning among the small crevices where the bristles of the brush cannot reach. Cold-pressed virgin coconut oil is my choice for a couple of reasons. Researchers have demonstrated that pulling oil improves the saponification, or breakdown of bacterial membranes.16
Coconut oil is a medium chain fatty acid found to inhibit Streptococcus mutans, the primary bacteria responsible for cavities.17 It also offers a level of protection against yeast infections in the mouth, which occur more commonly if the immune system is compromised.
The process is easy to start. Coconut oil is solid below 76 degrees Fahrenheit (24.4 degrees Celsius) but quickly liquifies once it's in your mouth. Take between a teaspoon and tablespoon to start. Swish it around using your tongue and cheeks to pull it through your teeth. Try to relax your jaw muscles to avoid fatigue.
You do not want to gargle or swallow the oil that you've been pulling as it breaks down bacteria. Instead, if you feel the urge to swallow, spit it out in the garbage and begin again.
After about 20 minutes it begins to get thick and milky white. Spit this into the garbage can so it does not cause a blockage in the plumbing. This strategy increases the pH in your mouth, which can potentially reduce bacterial growth.
Avocados are one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Rich in monounsaturated fat, fiber, magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, vitamin K, vitamin E and carotenoids, they not only reduce hunger and fight obesity but also contain avocatin B, a molecule with cancer-fighting properties. Studies have found avocatin B fights acute myeloid leukemia by targeting leukemia stem cells.1
But a 2018 documentary, "Avocado — A Positive Superfood Trend?,"2 from the German public broadcast company DW, reveals a side to avocados that is underreported: environmental destruction. The super fruit that has become so popular in the last decades is a water hog.
Each avocado requires 70 liters (18.49 gallons) of water to produce compared to an average of 22 liters (5.8 gallons) to grow an orange and only 5 (1.32 gallons) to grow a tomato.3
In drought-prone areas like Chile’s Petorca province in the Valparaíso region, a three-hour drive north of the capital Santiago, such water requirements from large-scale avocado operations have caused environmental destruction and impoverished local farmers.
While many countries in the world have a love affair with the avocado, "Avocado — A Positive Superfood Trend?"4 shows an unethical and environmentally destructive side to the crop that may make you think long and hard about where your avocados come from.
Scarce Water From Chile Shipped to Europe as Avocados
Chile’s Petorca province in the Valparaíso region has always been a dry area. In fact, in the summer drought is so severe that a state of emergency is often declared.5 Still, until the mass growing of hundreds of hectares of avocados by rich exporters, poor farmers could still make a living raising their crops and keeping livestock. (One hectare is 2.47 acres.)
Only since huge avocado plantations invaded the Chilean region have the streams that poor farmers and rural people relied on for water dried up, forcing them to rely on trucked in water to survive, says the film.
How have rich avocado exporters diverted and sometimes unabashedly stolen the water from the poor people? They have done it in two ways, the film explains. First, Carlos Estevez, director of the Chilean Water Authority, admits that state-issued water licenses are essentially auctioned and "can be resold to whoever is offering the most money."
He adds that they are lifelong rights. Secondly, in addition to the state authorized auctioning of water rights, avocado tycoons divert water from illegal underground channels. At least 65 such underground channels were found by the Water Authority’s own report to siphon water from rivers to avocado plantations.6 But, when water thieves are caught, the penalties they receive are trifling, says the film.
To demonstrate the illegal practice, Rodrigo Mundaca, a water conservation activist who appears in the film, surreptitiously enters an area where one such illegal underground channel is located. A pipe can be seen directly flowing toward the avocado growers' lands. Mundaca throws a rock into the well it pulls from and it splashed as it hits the stolen water.
A Mayor and Activists Resist the Water Theft
Gustavo Valdenegro Rubillo, the mayor of Petorca, says the avocado industry settling in the area initially looked fortuitous but not for long:7
"When the big avocado firms appeared, starting around 2006, the 'green gold' they cultivated initially was seen as a potential boom for Petorca, the three-time mayor said. 'It was going to be the panacea. We were going to have a better life and better jobs,' he said ...
But residents in the region’s hard-scrabble towns said it is mainly the avocado producers who have grown richer, and that many of the jobs they have created are short-term employment, not the steady work locals had hoped for."
The mayor supports local water conservation activists but says his hands are tied when it comes to mediating with the massive avocado growers. In a meeting, he tells local Petorca citizens that he approached them and asked if they would be willing to share water in times of drought. They unequivocally said no; profits were their only interest.
Meanwhile, water conservation activists receive threats and, says Mundaca, they are called "ecoterrorists" and "revolutionaries." Veronica Vilches, president of the nonprofit San Jose Water Cooperative, which provides water to 1,000 people from a well close to the avocado growers, says her group has experienced government reprisals.
"It's because we resisted when they tried to force us to give our water to a private company," she says, adding, "Our water is for the people, the community."
Blight Exists Next to Booming Agriculture
The images of barren, drought-blighted land coexisting next to lush avocado farms in "Avocado — A Positive Superfood Trend?" is striking: An area where one stream once flowed is now desiccated land with a garbage dump.
In 2019, the agriculture ministry reported that 106,000 animals have died from lack of water and food and about 37,000 farmers are at risk from the drought.8 While the avocado farms bloom, surrounding areas are desolate, reports KCET:9
"As residents’ demands have not been met, many have been forced to rely on water brought to them in cistern trucks twice a week. Each individual has the right to 13 gallons per day, and according to Mundaca more than 60% of the population of Petorca relies on such deliveries – which are often dirty or heavily chlorinated.
Carolina Vilches, who manages the water resources division of Petorca’s municipal government, believes the answer lies in addressing the root of the issue rather than allaying it further with short-term measures: 'It is important to monitor water levels, democratize resource management and prioritize its uses.'"
Before the mega avocado farms, Zoila Quiroz, a farmer in the film, had 300 avocado trees, apple and apricot trees and enough water to raise cows and goats for milk and cheese. Now, her land is barren. With water trucked in twice a week, showering is a luxury in the summer and laundry can only be done once a month, she says.
Vilches agrees about the hardships. "People get sick because of the drought — we find ourselves having to choose between cooking and washing, going to the bathroom in holes in the ground or in plastic bags, while big agri-businesses earn more and more.”
In addition to the water abrogation, there are two other negative environmental effects of the avocado boom. Avocados are shipped in special air-conditioned containers, which take a further environmental toll. And, since consumers want ready-to-eat avocados, they are ripened in "huge temperature controlled warehouses that simulate the humidity and heat of their natural environment."
Images of row upon row of warehoused, ripening avocados show one of the pitfalls of the Chilean avocado industry — along with the fact that there’s nothing natural about growing hundreds of hectares of only one crop, a practice called monoculture.
Gourmet Heaven for the Instagram Generation
Avocados have gone from a very popular food that is also good for you to almost a cult. Sales have soared in Europe, the U.S. and China.10 Here is how Vice's Munchies describe the near obsession, especially among the young:11
"Is it possible to remember a time before full avocado saturation? From the piles of guac that crown our nachos to the toasts that crowd our Instagram feeds, the beguiling green fruit has become as ubiquitous on our grocery lists as eggs and milk.
Hell, people are even using avocados to hide engagement rings and propose to their partners — people we don’t know and wouldn’t willingly fraternize with, just to clarify."
There are now avocado-themed restaurants where all dishes include the popular fruit. One of the first, run by Dutch marketing experts, is found in Amsterdam, according to the film. "We didn't want to open another burger place or another pizza place," says Ron Simpson, owner of the new restaurant chain The Avocado Show.
"We are ready to develop the entire franchise formula" and many more restaurants are in the pipeline, he says. But one news outlet, the Independent, cautions against blaming a particular, in vogue, food or young people's eating habits for the environmental destruction seen with avocados:12
"The tone is reminiscent of a 2013 debate about quinoa, when reports surfaced that demand for quinoa was driving up prices in its native Andean region, raising concerns about whether poor Peruvians and Bolivians could afford to eat it.
‘Can vegans stomach the unpalatable truth about quinoa?' demanded one indignant op-ed ... but the criticisms don’t always stand up to scrutiny. Studies later found the suggestion that rising quinoa prices were starving poor farmers was wrong."
Clearly, most of the fault lies with unethical agricultural practices.
Avocado Growers and Marketers Defend Their Business
When asked by filmmakers if his Petorca operations are causing water shortages among the poor, Matias Schmidt, one of Chile's biggest avocado exporters, says he doesn't know "to what extent" there really exists a water shortage. He also admits he has to drill down 120 meters (393.7 feet) into the ground to get water for his avocados.
Francisco Contardo-Sfeir, an avocado marketing manager, takes the denials a step further. The producers always strive to make sure there is plenty of water "left over," he says.
"For one, they save money if they use the least possible water per plantation and per tree." The myth that ethical practices are in food producers' interests so they will self-police is used with many egregious industries including animal-abusing concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).
The film ends at a produce trade show in Germany. Ethical avocado buyers and traders like Jan Willem Verloop of Nature's Pride tell filmmakers that they avoid the fruits when they are sourced from Petorca because of the water issues.
But Chilean exporter Diego Torres from ProChile Germany, after claiming that all exports are sustainable and ethical, fumbles when asked by filmmakers about the sustainability of exporting avocados from Petorca. "I don't know about that," he says dismissively.
Avocado Problems in Another Country
Chile is not the only country where the growing of avocados has produced social upheaval and suffering. Episode 1, "The Avocado War," in season 2 of the Netflix series Rotten,13 shows how the success of avocado plantations in Mexico — the world's top grower — led to its infiltration by organized crime. Here is some history from a Canadian journalist:14
"For a long time, high tariffs kept Mexican avocados out of the United States. But with the passage of the free trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico in the early 1990s, avocados by the ton began pouring into American marketplace ...
... When a local drug cartel tried to muscle in on the trade, the Mexican government intervened, but ineffectively. Criminals forced farmers to establish protective self-defence forces, but the struggle continues and Michoacan is still considered a dangerous area. As a result, the U.S. State Department advises travelers to avoid it."
In the state of Michoacan, where 80% of Mexico’s avocados are produced, as many as four truckloads of avocados are stolen every day because cartels consider the fruit as lucrative as drugs, and invade into the trade.15 "The Avocado War" shows how avocado farmers have been forced to establish their own protective "police" forces to defend themselves against the cartels and reveals the efforts have not always been successful.
Locals often cannot tell who the "good” or “bad” guys are, as the difference between police and criminals blurs.16 It is sad to think such a healthful and delicious food can bring such suffering and environmental destruction. On a personal note, it’s important to keep your habits in line with what these informative documentaries are trying to tell you.
Further, when purchasing avocados, seek sources that are producing the fruit responsibly, and encourage your friends, family and local restaurants to do the same. You can even learn how to grow avocados in your own backyard.
The media is using a variety of tactics to restrict your access to the truth from websites like mine, including NewsGuard, a self-appointed internet watchdog that sells a browser plugin to rate websites on nine criteria of credibility and transparency. Before I delve further into NewsGuard and its underlying agenda, it's important to look at who funds it.
NewsGuard received much of its startup funds from Publicis Groupe, a giant global communications group with divisions that brand imaging, design of digital business platforms, media relations and health care.
Publicis Groupe's health subsidiary, Publicis Health, names Lilly, Abbot, Roche, Amgen, Genentech, Celgene, Gilead, Biogen, Astra Zeneca, Sanofi, Bayer and other Big Pharma giants as clients, which gives you an idea of where its loyalties lie.
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has also awarded Publicis Media a healthy piece of business, and the communications group responded by creating a custom "platformGSK" to run the drug giant's media business.
GSK Adds $400 Million to $1.5 Billion Publicis Collaboration
In October 2018, following a five-month review, GSK sent its $1.5 billion media account to Publicis, which beat out other media agencies vying for the account, including Omnicom's PHD and WPP's Group M.1
According to FiercePharma, with the creation of the "platformGSK" model, the partnership gave "Publicis Media responsibility for all offline and digital paid media strategy and planning in the Americas, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific. In the U.S., that includes DTC [direct to consumer] pharma work."2 Further, the news outlet reported:
"Publicis Groupe client lead Laurent Ezekiel said the agency is 'excited to partner with them to establish a transformative client-agency relationship that will enable GSK to deliver on its ambition to become the best data-driven marketer in the industry.'"3
In January 2020, GSK awarded Publicis Media with even more business, handing over the former Pfizer Consumer Healthcare brands to Publicis. The move was decided without a review and will add Advil, Centrum, Caltrate and other Pfizer brands to platformGSK, worth an estimated $400 million. GSK holds a 68% stake in the joint venture.
"GSK has already announced its plans to spin off the joint venture within three years and list it as standalone company on the U.K. exchange as GSK Consumer Healthcare, leaving the pharma giant to focus on medicines and vaccines," FiercePharma reported.4
Meanwhile, Publicis also handles other Big Pharma media accounts, including Novartis. In August 2019, Publicis created NovartisONE2 to manage the pharma giant's global media account worth $600 million.5
Publicis Funds NewsGuard
While Publicis has been busy solidifying its strong ties with Big Pharma, it was also the lead investor among a group of 18 that helped make NewsGuard a reality.
As of March 2018, Steven Brill and Gordon Crovitz, the "media entrepreneurs" behind NewsGuard, had raised $6 million to launch the company, which was slated to "address the fake news crisis by hiring dozens of trained journalists as analysts to review the 7,500 news and information websites most accessed and shared in the United States … These sites account for 98% of the news articles read and shared in the English language online in the United States."6
Once installed on your browser, NewsGuard assigns a color coded "Nutrition Label" to sites, rating them green or red in a process they said would be "completely transparent and accountable."7 While first launching in the U.S., NewsGuard expanded internationally, launching in the U.K. in 2019 and rating more than 200 websites.
The startup created controversy in January 2019 after giving Mail Online — the most read news website in the U.K. — a failing grade, stating it failed to uphold even basic standards of accuracy or accountability.
Following backlash and apparent "discussions" with a Daily Mail executive, NewsGuard changed the rating to green, stating the site "generally maintains basic standards of accuracy and accountability" and said they were wrong.8
It was an early indication of what can go wrong when you trust a conflicted startup company to dictate what's truth and what's not. In January 2020, NewsGuard announced it would adopt a subscription service in the U.K. and will start charging for the service.9
At the same time, NewsGuard issued a notice to subscribers in the U.S. with an offer to sign up early for $1.95 a month to "help keep NewsGuard free for the hundreds of libraries and schools that use NewsGuard."10
NewsGuard Is the Latest 'Truth Arbiter' to Deceive You
In other words, NewsGuard is setting itself up as the self-appointed global arbiter of what information is "trustworthy" — based on nine, self-described "credibility and transparency" factors — not only for information viewed for pay on private electronic devices, but also for information accessible for free in public libraries and schools.
Librarians will even provide instructions to patrons on how to install the NewsGuard extension on their personal computers, tablets and cell phones. If you install the plugin on your computer or cellphone, it will display its rating next to Google, Bing and other web searches as well as on articles displayed on social media. What are the nine criteria NewsGuard is using to "protect" you from fake news?11
Does not repeatedly publish false content (22 points)
Gathers and presents information responsibly (18 points)
Regularly corrects or clarifies errors (12.5 points)
Handles the difference between news and opinion responsibly (12.5 points)
Avoids deceptive headlines (10 points)
Website discloses ownership and financing (7.5 points)
Clearly labels advertising (7.5 points)
Reveals who's in charge, including possible conflicts of interest (5 points)
The site provides the names of content creators, along with either contact or biographical information (5 points)
A score lower than 60 points gets a red rating, while higher scores get more favorable results, which is intended to provide readers with a "signal if a website is trying to get it right or instead has a hidden agenda or knowingly publishes falsehoods or propaganda."12
These icons are meant to influence readers, instructing them to disregard content with cautionary colors and cautions. While the warnings may be enough to prevent someone from clicking these links, I believe the true intent is to bury this content entirely from search results and social media feeds.
NewsGuard Lacks Transparency
It's ironic, too, that NewsGuard is citing the importance of transparency in verifying independent online news outlets and vetting online media for conflicts of interest. But who is going to verify the credibility and transparency of the verifiers, i.e., NewsGuard?
On NewsGuard's United States Securities and Exchange Commission Form D filed March 5, 2018, there is an option for disclosing the size of its revenue, but that box was checked, "Decline to disclose."13 That's far from the 100% transparency they're expecting from others.
NewsGuard also claims a Rule 506(b) exemption, which among its benefits allows for an unlimited amount of money to be raised from an unlimited number of accredited investors.14 In doing some digging of our own, it appears NewsGuard is backed by companies that are presently involved in, or have been in the past, advertising and marketing of pharmaceutical products, cigarettes and unhealthy junk food to kids.
As noted, Publicis, NewsGuard's lead investor, made a name for itself by promoting and strengthening big industries, including tobacco. For instance, Leo Burnett, the ad company famous for creating the Marlboro man ad campaigns that made Marlboro the best-selling cigarette in the world and led to the nicotine addiction of millions, many of whom died from smoking, is also part of Publicis.15,16
Are we to believe that the profit preferences of such entities will have no influence on NewsGuard's ratings of individuals, organizations and companies that criticize the safety or effectiveness of those products? If this conflict of interest and lack of transparency concerns you I urge you to contact NewsGuard now and let your voice be heard. Click on the button below to send NewsGuard a message today.
Overall, it appears NewsGuard is just another big business aimed at keeping the chemical, drug and food industries, as well as mainstream media, intact by discrediting and eliminating unwanted competition, which likely includes yours truly and many others who empower you with information that helps you take control of your health.
Indebted to Big Industry through its funding, it appears that NewsGuard is being positioned as a "competition eradicator" that will allow Publicis and Big Industry to maintain their undisputed reign as shapers of public opinion about health-related issues, including the safety of food, air and water, medical devices and products, prescription drugs and vaccines, as well as public health policies that endorse the use of those products. You can read more on this full-circle plan to censor media truth here.
Watching the 'Watchdogs'
Some people also use Snopes as their go-to source for online fact-checking, believing it to give the unbiased and credible final word on all those widely circulated stories.
Yet, Snopes engages in massive censorship of natural health and general promotion of industry talking points. What started as a tool to investigate urban legends, hoaxes and folklore has manifested into a self-proclaimed "definitive fact-checking resource" that's taking on topics like whether or not vaccines can cause autism.
Case in point: In their purported fact-checking of a "Full Measure" report17 by award-winning investigative reporter and former CBS correspondent Sharyl Attkisson,18 Snopes simply spewed propaganda, not real facts, in an attempt to discredit the report and the potential vaccines-autism link.
In the end, though, they actually ended up confirming the main point of Attkisson's report. For this, Attkisson wrote, "Snopes gets an 'F' for predictable propaganda in [the] vaccine-autism debate."
It's dangerous to rely on any one source or group of individuals as authorities on truth, as it sets up the path for inevitable censorship. Even under the best circumstances, everyone is subject to their own biases, but in the case of Snopes, it was founded on fabrications from the start.
Snopes was created in 1995 by Barbara and David Mikkelson, who posed as "The San Fernardo Valley Folklore Society" in the beginning in order to gain credibility. Such a society does not exist as a legal entity, according to an investigation by the Daily Mail19 — the same Daily Mail that NewsGuard originally gave a failing ranking, only to later reverse it.
Seventy-three percent believe the proliferation of "fake news" on the internet is a major problem, and only half feel confident that readers can get to the facts by sorting through bias.20 And the fact is, fake news is a real problem.
But it's important to do your own research before believing even "fact checked" sources like Snopes or "Internet Trust Tools" like NewsGuard, which are in fact backed and supported by industry giants.
Many people enjoy eating berries and they are certainly good for you. Berries are low in calories, high in fiber and contain vitamins C and E, folic acid, calcium, selenium, alpha and beta carotene and lutein. Better yet, their phytochemicals contain valuable polyphenols and flavonoids including anthocyanins and ellagitannins.1
Anthocyanin is a natural pigment in fruits and vegetables that has been shown in studies to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and contain anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.2 It also has been found to aid in the treatment of certain types of cancer and diabetes.
Still, when it comes to eating fruit, Americans often choose apples, pears, bananas, melons, citrus fruits and grapes over anthocyanin-rich berries. When they do consume berries, they often limit themselves to blackberries, black raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, red raspberries and strawberries.3
In Scandinavia, it is a different story. There, people often enjoy lingonberries (Vaccinium vitis-idaea L.), an evergreen shrub also called cowberry, foxberry and mountain/rock cranberry.
Lingonberries offer the same health benefits as other anthocyanin-rich berries and more. For example, due to their reported antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, lingonberries traditionally have been used in the treatment of gonorrhea, dysuria, diarrhea and periodontitis.4 Research also found lingonberries may reduce cardiovascular disease risks.5
Lingonberries Improved Blood Pressure and Vascular Function
In a doctoral dissertation study presented at the University of Helsinki,6 lingonberry juice was found to have positive effects on blood pressure, vascular function and inflammatory markers in rats with high blood pressure. Lingonberry juice significantly lowered high blood pressure and prevented the "expression of genes associated with low- grade inflammation in the aorta," Sci News reported.7
Lingonberry juice with a greater concentration of polyphenols also improved the function of blood vessels that were impaired and restored them to the level seen with healthy blood vessels. What were the actions that caused the apparent improvements? This is what study author Anne Kivimäki hypothesized:
“Underlying the effect is probably the reduction of low-grade inflammation as well as mechanisms related to the renin-angiotensin system, a central regulator of blood pressure, and the availability of nitric oxide, a local endothelial vasodilating factor.”8
"After lingonberry juice treatment, serum levels of both angiotensin II and alkaline phosphatase were lower than in the control groups. Possible anti-inflammatory and anti-thrombotic effects were present due to the reduced gene expression of cyclooxygenase 2 (COX2), monocyte chemoattractant protein 1, p-selectin and vascular cell adhesion molecule 1.
… The lingonberry treatment lowered gene expression of COX2 in the aorta, and increased COX2 protein expression in the kidney cortex macula densa, possibly indicating that inducible COX2 had been inhibited whereas the important constitutive COX2 was maintained by lingonberry treatment.
Molecular docking studies conducted with flavonoid structures indicated that kaempferol may exert inhibitory effects on COX2 … Furthermore, lingonberry possesses anti-inflammatory properties, which may well contribute to its ability to reduce blood pressure and improve vascular function."
Lingonberries May Reduce Cardiovascular Risks
Anthocyanins have been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart disease thanks to their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and lipid-lowering effects.10
Studies with humans have shown that polyphenol-rich food like berries reduce oxidative stress, lipid peroxidation, low density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation and high plasma glucose while helping to optimize total cholesterol.11 Still, the effects of anthocyanins on blood pressure have been less clear, and the lingonberry study, with positive results that appeared to surface quickly, is encouraging:12
"The established high blood pressure of spontaneously hypertensive rats became lowered during an eight-week treatment with lingonberry juice …
(T)he endothelium-dependent relaxation of mesenteric arteries was enhanced after eight weeks’ treatment. Positive effects of lingonberry juice on inflammatory markers were observed …
In summary, in an experimental model of hypertension, long- term treatment with lingonberry juice was able to lower blood pressure and improve vascular function."
The Lingonberry Study Could Help Millions
Many people develop high blood pressure and vasculitis as they age, and nutrition can be an important key to the management of these conditions. Millions could benefit from the improved blood pressure, vascular function and inflammatory markers seen in Kivimäki's research beyond those with high blood pressure.
Other conditions that may benefit from lingonberry consumption include diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, metabolic syndrome, functional disturbances in blood vessels related to low-grade inflammation13 and conditions caused by smoking.14
In addition to reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, anthocyanins such as those found in lingonberries have been reported to "reduce TNF-α induced upregulation of inflammatory mediators in human microvascular endothelial cells," according to a study in Nutrition Reviews.15
TNF, or tumor necrosis factor, is a protein in the human body that causes inflammation and is suppressed in treating some autoimmune conditions and cancers.16
As Kivimäki mentioned earlier, the reduction of nitric oxide seen in her study likely exerts some of the anti-inflammatory effects, since nitric oxide can lead to increased vascular permeability, the formation of a strong oxidizing agent called peroxynitrite and inflammatory cytokines.17
Lingonberries Can Prevent Diet-Induced Obesity
Lingonberries have other impressive properties. It has been known for a while that they can prevent diet-induced obesity, but the reason for the weight effects has been unclear. In a 2016 study published in the journal Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, researchers sought to understand the effect of lingonberries on weight, inflammation and gut microbiota using mice fed high fat (HF) diets.18
"Our results show that supplementation with lingonberries to an HF diet prevents low-grade inflammation and is associated with significant changes of the microbiota composition. Notably, the anti-inflammatory properties of lingonberries seem to be independent of effects on body weight gain."
After supplementation with lingonberries, the mice lost weight and the size of their livers diminished.19
"After 11 weeks, the mice receiving HF diet supplemented with Lingon1 weighed 39±3.9 g, which was significantly lower (p=0.0003) compared to the control group receiving HF diet without berries (46±2.2 g) … The average mass of the livers in group Lingon1 was significantly reduced compared to the control."
Lingonberries Also Altered Gut Microbiota Positively
Gut micrbiota was altered by the lingonberries, report the researchers.20
"At genus level, 14 bacterial taxa differed significantly between the control and lingonberry groups … The increase of Bacteroidetes in the lingonberry groups was to a large extent caused by increased relative abundance of bacteria belonging to an unclassified genus in the S24-7 family.
The genus Parabacteriodes was also significantly increased in the Lingon1 and Lingon2 (13%) groups compared to the control group (3%). Furthermore, the genus Akkermansia, belonging to the Verrucomicrobia phylum, was significantly increased in both lingonberry groups compared to the control … and Akkermansia was also significantly higher in the Lingon2 group (20%) compared to the Lingon1 group (16%) …
The comparison of functional pathways … revealed an enrichment of genes belonging to pathways related to metabolism in the Lingon-groups, and an enrichment of genes involved in transport and motility in the control group …
In agreement with a previous study, we show that supplementation with lingonberries prevents HF diet– induced weight gain, increased liver weight, body fat accumulation and elevated plasma levels of glucose and cholesterol …
Both batches of lingonberries altered the gut microbiota composition and were effective in preventing HF- induced low-grade inflammation and endotoxemia, demonstrating that the effects of lingonberries on these parameters are independent of effects on body weight."
More Lingonberry Benefits
Boosting Antioxidant Profile — Researchers have identified certain antioxidants in lingonberries that may benefit your health. Chief among them include proanthocyanidins (63% to 71%), as well as hydroxycinnamic acid, hydroxybenzoic acids, various flavonols and the before cited anthocyanins.21 One study reports that antioxidants in lingonberry extract may induce apoptosis of human leukemia HL-60 cells in a dose-dependent manner.22
Managing Inflammation — Studies indicate that lingonberries are rich in proanthocyanidins (PAC), compounds that may help fight inflammation. In particular, wild Alaskan lowbush cranberry (a type of lingonberry found in the U.S.) has been found to have twice the PAC content as commercial cranberry.23
Reducing Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) — Lingonberry is related to cranberry, which may give it the same UTI-fighting properties. In a study published in the British Medical Journal, researchers noted that those who drank a combination of lingonberry and cranberry juice had reduced recurrences of urinary tract infections.24
However, note that more extensive trials will be needed to help establish the ability of lingonberry to solely fight UTI without the need for cranberry.25
Managing Weight, Blood Sugar and Insulin — As noted above, lingonberries can help weight control. In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, researchers surmised that lingonberry may help reduce weight gain as well as prevent adiposity, hepatic lipid accumulation, alleviated hyperglycemia and hyperinsulinemia, as evidenced by mice test subjects.26
Eliminating Bacteria — The tannins of lingonberry have antimicrobial properties. In one clinical experiment, the tannins helped fight bacterial strains related to oral health.27
Helping Reduce Risk of Cancer — Research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry indicate that procyanidins found in lingonberry may help fight human cervical cancer and colon cancer cells.28
Lingonberries Are Remarkable, but One Warning
Once again, a compound found naturally in food is able to accomplish what harsh drugs are supposed to do — but with much less risk and expense. The many benefits of lingonberries are truly remarkable. However, as with many foods, processing can pose a risk to the natural benefits found in lingonberries. This is what researchers writing in Nutrition Reviews warn:29
"Post-harvest processing, such as pressing, pasteurization, and conventional and vacuum drying, can significantly affect the polyphenol (including anthocyanin) and vitamin content of berries, and therefore their bioactivities and effects on CVD risk factors."
Similar to cranberries, lingonberries are very sour and are often sweetened and eaten as sauce or jam. To enjoy the health benefits of lingonberries without the health risks of added sugar, look for lingonberries without added sugar, such as frozen raw berries that can be added to smoothies or fruit salad.
In the U.S., 5.8 million Americans aged 65 years and older have Alzheimer’s disease, and this number is expected to jump to about 14 million by 2050.1 Every 65 seconds, someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with the disease, which has no known cure and limited treatments to help manage symptoms.
While conventional medicine has focused on drugs to treat symptoms, most have only limited effectiveness. Alzheimer’s has steadily ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., but some estimates suggest Alzheimer’s deaths may be underreported, possibly making it the third leading cause of death for older people.2
Effective treatments are urgently needed, and one such therapy known as photobiomodulation is offering hope in helping patients to regain their memory by shining light into the brain.
Light Therapy May Reverse Alzheimer’s Symptoms
A trial is underway using a headset with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to shine light into the brain via the nose and skull in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Early results showed patients regained memory and reading and writing skills after three months of treatment, leading to the launch of a 12-week trial.
The headset, known as Neuro RX Gamma, uses near infrared waves pulsed at gamma frequencies into the brain region known as the hippocampus, which controls memory. It’s believed to work by boosting mitochondria, the powerhouse of your cells, which produce about 90% of the energy being generated in your body.
This, in turn, stimulates microglia, or immune cells, in the brain, helping to ward off the disease. Microglia sometimes become inactive in people with Alzheimer’s disease, allowing amyloid plaques to accumulate and interfering with brain function. The light treatment may help to combat this.3
The trial, which is being conducted by researchers from the University of Toronto, involves 228 people, half of whom will receive light therapy via the Neuro RX Gamma headset six days a week for 20 minutes a day over a period of 24 weeks. The headset sends light through the skull as well as through the nostril via a nasal clip.
Neuro RX Gamma “delivers low-energy near-infrared light, through five diodes, to the brain transcranially and intranasally,”4 and was invented by Lew Lim, Ph.D., whom I interviewed in the video above. He told The Telegraph:5
“Photobiomodulation introduces the therapeutic effect of light into our brain. It triggers the body to restore its natural balance or homeostasis. When we do that, we call upon the body's innate ability to heal. Based on early data, we are confident of seeing some measure of recovery in the symptoms not just a slowdown in the rate of decline, even in moderate to severe cases.”
In the early trial, which involved five people with mild to moderate dementia to test safety of the device, symptoms improved significantly.6 Along with improvements in memory, participants had improved cognitive function and sleep as well as reduced anxiety, wandering and angry outbursts, with no negative side effects. Brain scans further revealed improved blood flow and connectivity in the brain.7
How Photobiomodulation Improves Brain Activity
A photostimulation device invented by Lim, which emits near-infrared light (810 nanometers), helps to explain how photostimulation affects the brain.
The near-infrared device consists of four modules of LEDs, held together with light metal frames that are placed on top of your head, with the LEDs pointed at specific regions on your scalp. It also has an intranasal LED that targets the hippocampal area. In alpha mode, these LEDs emit pulsed light at 10 hertz or 10 pulses per second.
Ten hertz was the frequency selected based on animal studies showing it helps accelerate neuron recovery in brain injured animals. The mechanism of the effect created by this photostimulation device appears to be related to the interaction between the light and mitochondria to produce cellular energy, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and other activating factors.
However, with Neuro RX Gamma, Lim introduced gamma frequency, which is 40 hertz (40 cycles per second) into the brain. Gamma is present while your brain is consolidating memory, helping it to minimize or prevent overactivity. Animal research has shown the gamma frequency even significantly reduces amyloid plaques (associated with Alzheimer's) in the brain.8
Benefits of Brain Photobiomodulation
The Canadian biotech firm Vielight, which developed the Neuro RX Gamma, explains that brain photobiomodulation works by delivering photons to a light-sensitive enzyme known as cytochrome c oxidase (COO) within mitochondria.9
Ultimately, Alzheimer's is a disease caused by dysfunctional mitochondria. That's the reason why near-infrared works. It recharges your mitochondria, and the COO specifically. According to Vielight, brain photobiomodulation may enhance cognition, provide neuroprotective effects and enhance self-repair mechanisms.10
Brain photobiomodulation has been found to increase cerebral blood flow11 as well as modulate brain oscillations. As noted in the journal Scientific Reports:12
“The effect of PBM [photobiomodulation] on mitochondrial function is the most well investigated mechanism of its potential therapeutic effects. PBM has been demonstrated to increase the activity of complexes in the electron transport chain of mitochondria, including complexes I, II, III, IV and succinate dehydrogenase.
In particular, increased activity of the transmembrane protein complex IV, also known as the enzyme cytochrome c oxidase, during PBM results in increased ATP production.
Furthermore, PBM results in activation of signaling pathways and transcription factors resulting in increased expression of genes related to protein synthesis, cell migration and proliferation, anti-inflammatory signaling, anti-apoptotic protein and antioxidant enzymes.”
An At-Home Alzheimer’s Treatment?
Brain photobiomodulation represents a potential at-home treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, while similar devices that may support brain health are already available over-the-counter. The early study into Lim’s device found that when the therapy was stopped, the patients began to decline, which is why, as Lim explained, the idea is to make the treatment as simple and accessible as possible.
If the device proves to work for Alzheimer’s, it represents a simple tool that can be used daily for a lifetime if necessary, with no visits to a health care clinic required. Lim said in our interview:
“That's the idea behind my invention. It's to make it as simple as possible. You'll just press the button and that's it. The treatment is 20 minutes. You can do it the rest of your life because you just put it on your head and your hands are free. You can go to bed with it. That's really the principle behind it.
Until the planned clinical trials are complete, we cannot tell how well the devices work for Alzheimer's. In the meantime, they are available as low-risk, general wellness devices."
The Sunlight Connection
Sunlight is a beneficial electromagnetic frequency that is essential and vital for your health in its own right. One of the reasons why is because about 40% of the rays in sunlight is infrared, and the red and near-infrared frequencies increase CCO.13
When you eat, the nutrients nourish your cells and provide fuel for biological functions. You may know that the food you eat is converted to generate ATP. But the mechanism of ATP production can also be stimulated in response to near-infrared exposure, which triggers the mitochondria to produce additional ATP. So, it could be said that your body is fueled by both food and sunlight.
Unfortunately, few clinicians have any idea that light is a powerful fuel for your body. In my view, this ignorance is one of the reasons why Alzheimer's disease is skyrocketing in prevalence, as so many are routinely avoiding sensible sun exposure.
In fact, people living in northern latitudes have higher rates of death from dementia and Alzheimer's than those living in sunnier areas suggest that vitamin D and/or sun exposure are important factors.14
When asked for feedback on using sunlight or a near-infrared lamp as a preventive strategy for Alzheimer’s, Lim says:
"I think the sun is great. Probably the best … as long as you don't get overexposed to ultraviolet (UV) … I think that's really the most natural … The lamp, I tend to put safety first so I try to keep it as low power as possible, as long as it activates what it does.
When you have near-infrared (as it penetrates quite deeply), you don't need a lot of power … [E]xperiments have found that 810 nanometers go the deepest in the live tissues. Why is that? It's because as you go beyond 810 nm, it gets absorbed by water more and more."
Eye Test May Detect Alzheimer’s Disease
Another study is in the works that’s looking at using an inexpensive eye test called a retinal screening test to detect Alzheimer’s years before symptoms develop. The $5-million study will help reveal whether a simple eye exam that could be administered by optometrists and ophthalmologists could screen for retinal biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease.
Currently, Alzheimer’s may be detected via expensive PET scans to reveal buildup of amyloid plaque in the brain, but this test is often not covered by insurance. Researchers have found that beta-amyloid plaques also accumulate in the retina, and this buildup closely matches the buildup found in the brain. As noted in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience:15
“As a projection of the central nervous system (CNS), the retina has been described as a ‘window to the brain’ and a novel marker for AD [Alzheimer’s disease]. Low cost, easy accessibility and non-invasive features make retina tests suitable for large-scale population screening and investigations of preclinical AD.”
A retinal screening test for Alzheimer’s could help identify people at the earliest stages of the disease to help slow disease progression and improve treatment.16
Alzheimer’s Risk Factors You Can Control
Brain photobiomodulation is an exciting field that may soon prove to be a useful tool for Alzheimer’s prevention and treatment. A novel treatment developed at MIT using flickering lights and low frequency sound to stimulate gamma frequencies in the brain also appears to reduce plaque formation.17
In the meantime, there are many other strategies that get to the root of the disease as well, like exercise to increase brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), stress reduction, optimizing your sleep, which is critical for cognitive function, and nutritional support.
Getting your body to burn fat as its primary fuel will very effectively fuel and nourish your mitochondria in addition to radically improving insulin resistance. I recommend a cyclical or targeted ketogenic diet for this purpose, and the details are spelled out in my book, "Fat for Fuel."
There is hope that one day there will be a cure for Alzheimer’s, but until that day comes there’s a lot you can do to minimize your risk using diet and other lifestyle factors. In addition to light therapy, cleaning up your diet is among the best strategies to preserve your brain function as you age.
While water fluoridation was never adopted or has been eliminated in many areas around the world, including most of western Europe,1 many U.S. water systems2 still add fluoride chemicals such as fluorosilicic acid3 (also known as hydrofluorosilicic acid) to their municipal water supplies.
As detailed in Christopher Bryson’s book, “The Fluoride Deception,”4 water fluoridation as a public health measure (ostensibly to improve dental health) was invented by brilliant schemers who needed a way to get rid of toxic industrial waste.
They duped politicians with fraudulent science and endorsements, and sold them on a “public health” idea in which humans are essentially used to filter this poison through their bodies, while the vast majority simply goes down the drain.
Since the inception of water fluoridation in 1945, fluorosilicic acid suppliers have been making hundreds of millions of dollars each year5 selling a hazardous industrial waste for use as a water additive rather than having to pay for toxic waste disposal.
“Toxic Treatment: Fluoride’s Transformation from Industrial Waste to Public Health Miracle” in the March 2018 issue of Origins,6 a joint publication by the history departments at The Ohio State University and Miami University, notes:
“Without the phosphate industry’s effluent, water fluoridation would be prohibitively expensive. And without fluoridation, the phosphate industry would be stuck with an expensive waste disposal problem.”
Fluoride Is a Neurotoxic Endocrine Disruptor
We now know fluoride — which serves no essential biological function7 — actually acts as an endocrine disruptor.8 Exposure has been linked to thyroid disease,9 which in turn can contribute to obesity, heart disease, depression and other health problems.
More disturbingly, fluoride has been identified as a developmental neurotoxin that impacts short-term and working memory, and contributes to rising rates of attention-deficit hyperactive disorder10 and lowered IQ in children.11
In all, there are more than 400 animal and human studies showing fluoride is a neurotoxic substance.12 Many of these studies have found harm at, or precariously close to, the levels millions of American pregnant women and children receive.
Government-Funded Research Confirms Fluoride Lowers IQ
One of the most recent studies highlighting these dangers was a U.S. and Canadian government-funded observational study published in the August 19, 2019, issue of JAMA Pediatrics,13 which found that drinking fluoridated water during pregnancy lowers children’s IQ.
The research, led by a Canadian team of researchers at York University in Ontario, looked at 512 mother-child pairs living in six Canadian cities. Fluoride levels were measured through urine samples collected during pregnancy.
They also estimated the women’s fluoride consumption based on the level of fluoride in the local water supply and how much water and tea each woman drank. The children’s IQ scores were then assessed between the ages of 3 and 4. As reported by Fluoride Action Network (FAN):14
“They found that a 1 mg per liter increase in concentration of fluoride in mothers’ urine was associated with a 4.5-point decrease in IQ among boys, though not girls.
When the researchers measured fluoride exposure by examining the women’s fluid intake, they found lower IQ’s in both boys and girls: A 1 mg increase per day was associated with a 3.7 point IQ deficit in both genders.”
The findings were deemed so controversial, the study had to undergo additional peer-review and scrutiny before publication, making it one of the more important fluoride studies to date.
Its import is also demonstrated by the fact that it’s accompanied by an editor’s note15 explaining the journal’s decision to publish the study, and a podcast16 featuring the chief editors of JAMA Pediatrics and JAMA Network Open, in which they discuss the study.
An additional editorial17 by David Bellinger, Ph.D., a world-renowned neurotoxicity expert, also points out that “The hypothesis that fluoride is a neurodevelopmental toxicant must now be given serious consideration.” Few studies ever receive all of this added treatment.
Fluoride Exposure From Infant Formula Lowers IQ
In October 2019, a Canadian study18 concluded that infants fed baby formula made with fluoridated water have lower IQs than those fed formula made with unfluoridated water. As explained by the authors:
“Consumption of infant formula reconstituted with fluoridated water can lead to excessive intake of fluoride in infants. We examined the association between water fluoride concentration and intellectual ability (IQ) among preschool children who lived in fluoridated or non-fluoridated cities in Canada and were either formula-fed or breastfed during the first six months after birth.”
Results revealed an increase of 0.5 milligrams of fluoride per liter (mg/L), which was the difference between the fluoridated and non-fluoridated regions, corresponded with a 4.4 point lower IQ score at age 3 to 4.
Not surprisingly, the researchers urge parents to avoid fluoridated water when reconstituting infant formula.
Fluoride Exposure Affects Sleep Patterns
Other recent fluoride research has discovered it can have an adverse impact on sleep. The study,19,20 published in the Environmental Health journal in 2019, found that chronic low-level fluoride exposure altered the sleep patterns of adolescents aged 16 to 19.
The hypothesis used to explain this effect is that fluoride is known to preferentially accumulate in the pineal gland, which might inhibit or alter the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness.
The study used data from the 2015-2016 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) that included plasma fluoride and water fluoride measurements. None of the included individuals were prescribed medication for sleep disorders.
Each 0.52 mg/L increase in water fluoride was associated with a 197% higher odds21 of symptoms suggestive of sleep apnea, as well as a 24-minute later bedtime and 26-minute later waking time. According to the authors:22
“Fluoride exposure may contribute to changes in sleep cycle regulation and sleep behaviors among older adolescents in the U.S. …
The high accumulation of fluoride in pineal gland hydroxyapatite (among those chronically exposed) points to a plausible mechanism by which fluoride may influence sleep patterns. In adults, pineal gland fluoride concentrations have been shown to strongly correlate with degree of pineal gland calcification.
Interestingly, greater degree of pineal calcification among older adolescents and/or adults is associated with decreased melatonin production, lower REM sleep percentage, decreased total sleep time, poorer sleep efficiency, greater sleep disturbances and greater daytime tiredness.
While there are no existing human studies on fluoride exposure and melatonin production or sleep behaviors, findings from a doctoral dissertation demonstrated that gerbils fed a high fluoride diet had lower nighttime melatonin production than those fed a low fluoride diet. Moreover, their melatonin production was lower than normal for their developmental stage …
It is possible that excess fluoride exposure may contribute to increased pineal gland calcification and subsequent decreases in nighttime melatonin production that contribute to sleep disturbances. Additional animal and prospective human studies are needed to explore this hypothesis.”
Purify Your Water and Avoid Fluoride
Water is the only beverage you cannot live without. Unfortunately, pure water is hard to come by these days, as water pollution, inadequate water treatment and the addition of fluoride render most municipal water supplies untrustworthy.
To ensure purity, you really need to filter your own tap water. For guidance on selecting a suitable water filtration system for your home or apartment, see “How to Properly Filter Your Water.”
Water filtration is particularly important if your water is fluoridated and you are combating chronic disease (especially thyroid disease), have young children or are using your tap water to reconstitute infant formula.
Keep in mind that fluoride is very difficult to get out of the water once added. When shopping for a filtration system, make sure it’s specifically rated to filter out fluoride.
According to the Water Quality Association23 and others,24 filters capable of removing fluoride include reverse osmosis, deionizers and activated alumina adsorption media such as Berkey filters. Distillation, while not a form of filtration, will also remove fluoride. Carbon filters such as PUR and Brita will not filter out fluoride, and neither will water softeners.
BPA was created in 1891; by the 1930s scientists had discovered that the chemical mimics the hormone estrogen in the body. In the 1950s BPA was being used by industry as a chemical to produce strong and often transparent plastic; it’s now known as an endocrine disruptor.1
It took until 2011, however, for the European Union to ban BPA in baby bottles and 2012 before the FDA followed suit.2 According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the chemical is widely used in polycarbonate plastics that are integrated into nearly every industry, including the food industry.
Citizen watchdog groups have petitioned the FDA to remove BPA from packaging that comes in contact with food, but their efforts have been thwarted.3 On its website the FDA states that it believes4 “the available information continues to support the safety of BPA for the currently approved uses in food containers and packaging.”
Contrary to the FDA’s approach, the EPA5 believes BPA is a “reproductive, developmental and systemic toxicant in animal studies and is weakly estrogenic, there are questions about its potential impact particularly on children's health and the environment.”
Researchers noted in a study published in Environmental Health Sciences that, previously, it was believed that exposure to BPA not only occurs mostly through food, but is quickly cleared from the body. But, when they studied BPA in urine from fasting subjects, they discovered the half-life of BPA, or the time it takes for half the amount ingested to be metabolized, is much longer than they’ve thought.6
Since the levels of BPA did not drop as quickly as expected, they theorized that either BPA builds up in body tissue or there is significant nonfood exposure — or both.
Independent Tests Show Higher BPA Levels Than Published
New information also shows that traditional testing used by governmental agencies may have underestimated your exposure to BPA. One group of researchers7 developed a new test to measure BPA metabolites present after the body begins breaking down the chemical.
Following analysis of the data, the authors argued traditional tests used to measure BPA in the body are inaccurate.8 The tests in current use by the FDA indirectly measure the presence of BPA by converting metabolites back to BPA through an enzyme pathway. In their background research, the scientists found:
“Experimental and epidemiological studies provide compelling evidence of a causal link between increasing exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (environmental contaminants with the potential to perturb the development and function of the endocrine system) and increases in non-communicable diseases, including most aspects of metabolic syndrome.”
An expert at Washington State University told Gizmodo the assumption had always been that the original method would be accurate. However, the research team consistently found higher levels of BPA using their testing method. Some levels were measured 44 times higher than estimated by government tests of the same samples.
One of the researchers spoke with Gizmodo and said the implications are especially troubling in those with potentially high exposure, as it’s possible current screening programs are completely missing those at high risk.
This could make it even more difficult to uncover the extensive health impacts of BPA. While the impact of higher levels is still under investigation, the FDA’s assurances that there is little to worry about is questionable since the scale of exposure may be drastically underestimated.
Implications of New Test Method Go Far Beyond BPA
BPA may be the poster child for toxic chemicals in mainstream media, but the new testing method reveals there could be further implications for other chemicals. After a one-year investigation, Environmental Health News (EHN) found a “willful blindness”9 on the part of the FDA in handling the science behind BPA.
They concluded10 regulators could be “operating at the fringes of scientific integrity, possibly with the intent to keep the current testing and regulatory regime intact and to avoid scrutiny.” EHN read hundreds of emails under the Freedom of Information Act. After analyzing the data, they wrote:
- “FDA and industry scientists continue to use decades-old study methods that fail to detect effects known to be associated with BPA exposure;
- Emails between federal employees suggest an effort to ignore evidence of harm;
- Biased data interpretation methods by the FDA;
- Sharp disagreement between the FDA regulators and health officials at the National Institutes of Health on the safety of BPA and what messages are relayed to the public.”
The investigative journalists at EHN believe the analysis in the feature study uphold their arguments the FDA testing is woefully inadequate. Laura Vandenberg is a health researcher at the School of Public Health at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She was not involved in the study, but discussed the results with EHN.
As she describes, chemical evaluation may include an assessment of how much of the chemical could be found in consumer products or food that drives exposure. A laboratory assessment is then done based on measurements of human exposure.
Vandenberg points out that when exposure assessments are not accurate, it can throw off the entire result. This study highlights the need to standardize the direct measurement of metabolites and may have a significant impact on measurement of other toxic chemicals in the environment.
BPA Once Considered for Pharmaceutical Hormone
In the 1930s after it was discovered that BPA mimics the activity of estrogen, it was in the running to be developed into a pharmacological hormone by Big Pharma.11 Instead they chose another synthetic estrogen, diethylstilbestrol (DES), that was prescribed to millions of pregnant women over the next 30 years before its health risks were discovered.
BPA was then used in the chemical industry. In 1963 it was approved for food and beverage containers and classified is “generally regarded as safe” (GRAS). The argument was the chemical had been used in consumer products for years without obviously causing damage.
Thirty years later in 1993 — the length of time it took the damaging effects of DES to be documented — scientists at Stanford discovered BPA was seeping from lab flasks. It took until 1997, though, for the first studies documenting health damage to be published, after scientists conducted an animal study that demonstrated exposure to tiny amounts of BPA changed the reproductive system and prostate in mice.
By 2008 Canada decided enough evidence had been presented to demonstrate that BPA is toxic; it wasn’t long before manufacturers removed it from baby bottles and sippy cups. However, many of the BPA substitutes currently used in products have a similar chemistry to BPA and present similar risks.12
In one comprehensive review of the literature,13 a Colorado researcher found that 75 of 91 studies pointed to a link between BPA and human health. These had to do with negative effects on perinatal and childhood health as well as that of adults.
CLARITY May Be Clouding the Issue
The FDA co-led a multimillion-dollar project called Consortium Linking Academic and Regulatory Insights on BPA Toxicity, or CLARITY. Launched in 2012, the project ostensibly was to link data from independent researchers with toxicological information held by the government.
It took aim at settling the dispute between independent scientists and the government over how BPA affects human health. EHN describes the argument between the two camps as:14
“Academics with modern methods and a sophisticated understanding of human physiology versus government and industry scientists who lean on decades-old established science in their evaluation of industrial chemicals.”
Despite all the evidence and a long list of manufacturing chemicals that are known endocrine disruptors, the FDA still appears reluctant to change its testing methodology, clinging to the idea that BPA poses no health risk, and ignoring the mounting peer-reviewed studies showing the opposite.
The truth is FDA’s stance on BPA ignores the results of their own scientific committee established in 1982, which warned of the potential that low concentrations of endocrine-disrupting chemicals were binding to hormone receptors, and that future technology could reveal interference in the endocrine system would have a significant effect on human health.
The CLARITY project was a collaborative effort among the FDA and 14 participating academic scientists. It’s a document that was to be used to decide on any changes that might occur to U.S. regulations on BPA.
But when a draft report from the results was issued in February 2018, the FDA jumped the gun with a public statement saying BPA is still safe to use — a claim that didn’t go down well with the other collaborators, who were busy putting together an independent review of the data.
Cheryl Rosenfeld, University of Missouri biologist and a CLARITY investigator told EHN, “Many of us are not happy with the FDA.”
Reduce Your Exposure to Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals
BPA is just one toxic endocrine-disrupting chemical found in food packaging and leaching from plastics into your food. As I’ve mentioned in earlier articles, you may reduce your BPA exposure and potentially the health risks by considering these suggestions:
Eat mostly fresh whole foods. Processed and packaged foods are a common source of BPA and phthalates — particularly cans, but also foods packaged in plastic wrap. Store your food and beverages in glass rather than plastic and avoid using plastic wrap.
Never use plastic in a microwave as it increases the release of chemicals in the plastic.
Be aware that even "BPA-free" plastics typically leach other endocrine-disrupting chemicals that are just as bad as BPA.
Look for products made by companies that are Earth-friendly, animal-friendly, sustainable, certified organic and GMO-free.
Buy products in glass bottles rather than plastic or cans.
Check your home's tap water for contaminants and filter the water if necessary.
Teach your children not to drink water from the garden hose to avoid plastic chemicals.
Be careful with cash register receipts. In stores you visit regularly, encourage the management to switch to BPA-free receipts.
Breastfeed your baby exclusively if possible, for at least the first year (to avoid endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure from infant formula packaging and plastic bottles/nipples). If bottle-feeding, use glass baby bottles rather than plastic ones.
Choose toys made from natural materials to avoid plastic chemicals, particularly items your child may be prone to suck or chew on.
Over the past decade, I've written many articles discussing the evidence of biological harm from nonionizing electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation.
While the wireless industry is built on the premise that the only type of radiation capable of causing harm is ionizing — X-rays being one example — researchers have for a long time warned that even nonionizing and non-heating radiation can jeopardize your health. This includes not only human health, but also that of plants and animals.
Over time, I became so convinced of the deleterious effects of EMF, I took three years to write "EMF*D," which is slated to be released in February 2020. In it, I review the now overwhelming evidence showing EMFs are a hidden health hazard that simply cannot be ignored any longer, especially seeing how the rollout of 5G will exponentially increase exposures.
Scientists Now Understand How EMFs Impact Your Health
Over the years, I've interviewed several experts who have shared their in-depth knowledge about the poorly understood mechanisms behind EMF harm. Among them:
• Martin Pall, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of biochemistry and basic medical sciences at Washington State University, has published research1,2,3,4 showing that the primary danger of EMFs — and what drives the processes of chronic disease — is the mitochondrial damage triggered by peroxynitrites, one of the most damaging types of reactive nitrogen species.
Low-frequency microwave radiation activates the voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCCs) in the outer membrane of your cells, causing them to open, thus allowing an abnormal influx of calcium ions. This activates nitric oxide, which is a precursor for peroxynitrite.5
These potent reactive nitrogen species are associated with an increased level of systemic inflammation and mitochondrial dysfunction, and are thought to be a root cause for many of today's chronic diseases.
For an in-depth understanding of peroxynitrites and the harm they inflict, see "Nitric Oxide and Peroxynitrite in Health and Disease"6 by Dr. Pal Pacher, Joseph Beckman and Dr. Lucas Liaudet. It's one of the best reviews I've ever read and free to download.
One of its most significant downsides of peroxynitrite is that it damages DNA. While your body has the capacity to repair that damage through a family of enzymes collectively known as poly ADP ribose polymerases (PARP), PARP require NAD+ for fuel, and when they run out of NAD+ they stop repairing your DNA, which can lead to premature cell death.
• Dr. Sam Milham, a physician and epidemiologist, wrote the book, "Dirty Electricity: Electrification and the Diseases of Civilization." In his interview, he explains the biological mechanisms of high-frequency electric transients (electromagnetic interference patterns), and details some of the lesser-known household sources of this "dirty electricity."
• Magda Havas, Ph.D., associate professor at Trent University in Canada, has written research including the effects dirty electricity can have on children's behavior, and helpful remediation techniques.
EMF Pollution Is Likely Taking a Hidden Toll on Your Health
The problem with EMF radiation is that you cannot see it, hear it or smell it, and most do not feel it. Still, researchers assure us that biological effects are taking place whether you're able to sense it or not. For most, it's simply a matter of time and overall exposure load.
Here, it's important to realize that we're not just talking about radiation from your cellphone. The electromagnetic frequencies emitted from your Wi-Fi router, computer, home appliances, all manner of wireless "smart" technology, and even the wiring inside your walls are all capable of inflicting serious biological harm to your body and mind. And with 5G, it's bound to get far worse.
Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Syndrome Is on the Rise
For some, the effects of EMFs are unmistakable and undeniable, and the number of people reporting pathological hypersensitivity to EMFs is rising. In 2008, an Austrian study7 noted that actual prevalence of electromagnetic hypersensitivity syndrome in Austria had risen by 1.5% since 1994, from 2% to 3.5%.
In 2006, Germany had an electrosensitivity incidence rate of 9%, and Taiwan reported an incidence rate of 13.3% in 2011.8 The RT documentary "Wi-Fi Refugees," featured in "Documentary Explore Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Syndrome," investigates the struggles reported by these "canaries in the coal mine."
While symptoms may vary from one individual to another, commonly reported symptoms of electromagnetic hypersensitivity syndrome include:
- Skin itch/rash/flushing/burning and/or tingling — Many describe a "burning pins and needles" kind of pain, especially in the head and chest area
- Confusion/poor concentration and/or memory loss
- Fatigue and muscle weakness
- Chest pain and heart problems
Other reported symptoms include:
Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
Feeling a vibration in the body
One 2015 study9 pointed out that electromagnetic hypersensitivity is becoming an increasing challenge to the medical profession, which has yet to fully understand its implications, let alone its remedies.
Still, the complaints of modern-day hypersensitivities match those reported in the 1970s and '80s by those working with radio and radar equipment and cathode ray tube monitors, which tells us that this is not a brand-new phenomenon. According to the authors:10
"In population-based surveys, the prevalence of EHS has ranged from 1.5% in Sweden to 13.3% in Taiwan. Provocation studies on EMF have yielded different results, ranging from where people with EHS cannot discriminate between an active RF signal and placebo, to objectively observed changes following exposure in reactions of the pupil, changes in heart rhythm, damage to erythrocytes, and disturbed glucose metabolism in the brain."
As early as 2005, the World Health Organization warned that people have "for some time" reported health problems attributed to EMF exposure, and that some are "so severely affected that they cease work and change their entire lifestyle."11
The possibility of large portions of the population being unable to work or live as free individuals due to incessant, elevated exposure to EMF is a very real threat to society as we know it. The reality is that there are very few EMF-free zones left on the planet, and such zones will further shrink with the global implementation of 5G.
I believe EMF exposure is one of the greatest challenges to public health facing us today. If we go back in time to the end of World War I, around 1918 or so, and use that timeframe as a baseline of EMF exposure among the general public, you come to the astonishing conclusion that EMF exposure has increased about 1 quintillion times over the past 100 years.
Knowing the impact EMFs can have, it's completely irrational to assume that this radical increase won't have adverse effects. My new book, "EMF*D," is an attempt to inform you about the hidden harms of EMF and what you need to do to protect yourself and those you love. In it, you'll learn:
- How EMFs are impacting your body and mind
- Where you can find them in your daily life
- How they can cause disease and speed up aging
- How to repair the damage done by EMFs at the cellular level
- Practical strategies to protect yourself and your loved ones from EMFs
In my book, I also reveal the reasons why you've been left in the dark about this serious health threat. "EMF*D" comes out February 18, 2020, but you don't need to wait. Preorder your copy today and receive these five bonus gifts immediately:
- Early access to a chapter from the book
- $10 discount on a Mercola order
- 30-page Sneak Peak PDF Book
- 7 strategies to help reduce EMF exposure
- 5 tips to minimize your cellphone risk (SMS exclusive bonus)
Brain Cancer Is Not the Only, Nor the Major, Concern
While a number of studies have shown that cellphone radiation can trigger brain cancer this is not the greatest cause for concern. Your brain does have a far greater density of VGCCs than other organs, but so does your nervous system and heart, as well as male testes.
As a result of the elevated density of VGCCs in these areas, EMFs are likely to contribute to neurological and neuropsychiatric problems,12 as well as heart and reproductive problems, including but not limited to cardiac arrhythmias, anxiety, depression, autism, Alzheimer's and infertility13,14 and miscarriage15,16,17,18 — and these conditions are far more prevalent than brain cancer.
That said, studies have also linked radiofrequency radiation equivalent to that emitted by 2G and 3G cellphones to other forms of cancer, including heart tumors. This includes U.S. government-funded animal studies19 published in 2018 that were further corroborated by the Ramazzini Institute that same year.20
As early as 2011, the evidence was strong enough for the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the cancer research arm of the WHO, to declare cellphones a Group 2B "possible carcinogen."21
I've already mentioned one of the primary mechanisms by which EMFs harm your biology — i.e., the creation of peroxynitrites, which are potent oxidant stressors — but EMFs also damage your health in other ways.
For example, the enzyme ATP synthase — which passes currents of protons into the mitochondrial intermembrane space, similar to current passing through a wire — powers the generation energy of the creation of ATP from ADP, using this flow of protons.
Magnetic fields can change the transparency of the flow of protons to the mitochondrial intermembrane space, thereby reducing the current. As a result, you get less ATP, which can have system wide consequences, from promoting chronic disease and infertility to lowering intelligence.
EMFs may also alter your microbiome, turning what might otherwise be beneficial microbes pathogenic or toxic. This too can have far-ranging health effects, since we now know your microbiome plays an important role in health.
5G Rollout Will Significantly Magnify Health Risks
Any and all health ramifications attributed to previous generations of wireless technologies will be exponentially magnified with the rollout of 5G, which is simply being added on top of the already existing wireless infrastructure. This 5th generation technology may also present additional health risks.
A main concern with 5G is that it relies primarily on the bandwidth of the millimeter wave (MMW), which is known to penetrate 1 to 2 millimeters of human skin tissue.22 There's also evidence suggesting sweat ducts in human skin act as antennae when they come in contact with MMWs.23
Many can feel the impact of MMWs as a burning sensation and/or pain, which is precisely why it's used in nonlethal crowd control weapons.24 MMW has also been linked to eye problems, suppressed immune function and altered heart rate variability (an indicator of stress) and arrhythmias.25
In 2015, more than 230 scientists engaged in the study of biological and health effects of nonionizing EMFs in 41 nations signed an international appeal to the United Nations, calling for protection from nonionizing EMF exposure due to evidence of health effects even at low levels.26
Two years later, more than 180 doctors and scientists from 35 countries signed a petition27 to enact a moratorium on the rollout of 5G due to the potential risks to wildlife and human health.
Dr. Mercola Answers Your EMF Questions
I believe that the risk of EMFs is so important that I’ve decided to answer your questions on this topic in an upcoming video. Please submit any EMF questions you may have by clicking on the button below.
The earlier I get the questions, the greater the likelihood I will have a chance to include them in my response. Looking forward to answering your questions!
Protect Yourself From Excessive EMF
There's no doubt in my mind that EMF exposure is an important lifestyle component that needs to be addressed if you're concerned about your health, which is why I spent three years writing "EMF*D."
My aim was to create a comprehensive and informative guide, detailing not only the risks, but also what you can do to mitigate unavoidable exposures. To get you started, see the tips listed in my previous article, "Top 19 Tips to Reduce Your EMF Exposure."
If you know or suspect you might already be developing a sensitivity to EMFs (full-blown hypersensitivity can often strike seemingly overnight), mitigating your exposures will be particularly paramount. Many sufferers become obsessed with finding solutions, as the effects can be severely crippling. My book can be a valuable resource in your quest for relief.
The EMF Experts website28 also lists EMF groups worldwide, to which you can turn with questions, concerns and support, and EMFsafehome.com29 lists a number of publications where you can learn more about the dangers of EMFs.
Should you need help remediating your home, consider hiring a trained building biologist to get it done right. A listing can be found on the International Institute for Building-Biology & Ecology's website.30
When you think about environmental pollution, your clothing is likely not the first thing to come to mind. However, the clothing industry nears the top of the list of toxic industries that pollute water and expose you to dangerous chemicals used to dye and treat the textiles.
According to Rita Kant of the University Institute of Fashion Technology, color is one of the main reasons people choose specific pieces of clothing.1 While there are safe ways to dye clothing, the toxic nature of what is currently used has caused concern.
Other chemicals used for a variety of reasons pollute the environment, too, with heavy metals like arsenic, lead and mercury as well as sulfur, nitrates and naphthol. In 2018, Delta Airlines released new uniforms to their employees. Not long afterward the company began receiving reports of allergic and toxic reactions that the employees believed were due to chemicals in the uniforms.
The uniforms are “ultra-stretchy, brightly colored, designed for flying, and dizzyingly high-tech,” according to Quartz, which reported on the attendants’ complaints.2 In addition, the material used for the uniforms was designed to resist water stains, wrinkles and static. In what sounds like a science fiction movie, it is also self-deodorizing. But these features apparently come at a high cost, if it turns out that the attendants’ illnesses can be definitively linked to them.
Lawsuits Allege Toxic Uniforms Making Attendants Sick
The uniforms were first unveiled in May 2018, having been designed by Zac Posen and manufactured by Lands’ End. They were issued to 64,000 Delta Airline employees3 who began reporting a number of health concerns, including skin rashes, headaches and fatigue soon after they started using them.
The problems were first made public in a report by The Guardian4 in which several flight attendants spoke with the promise of anonymity, as they feared retaliation by the company. The Guardian published some pictures of the complainants’ skin conditions. One attendant reported:
“I noticed right away after I put the uniforms on that I had shortness of breath and I have been a runner my whole life. I don’t smoke or anything like that, so when I couldn’t get up the stairs without being extremely winded, I know there was some sort of problem.”
Another found it impossible to sleep, commenting:
“I don’t even want to call them rashes because it’s worse than that. Some of them look like chemical burns, some of them look like chemical bites, but they don’t go away for weeks at an end. I had a huge patch that got infected and I had to take an antibiotic, even, to get rid of it.”
One of the first class-action lawsuits was filed in May 2019 against Lands’ End by two Delta flight attendants seeking $5 million in damages. As 2019 progressed, the number of employees filing complaints rose to 943.5 Delta Airlines engaged an independent laboratory to test the garments, which found they are not linked “to any attributable health risk.”
Company Response Has Been Inconsistent; Union Steps In
The newest suit was filed in the Western District of Wisconsin court against Lands’ End, whose operations are based in Dodgeville, Wisconsin. Of the 525 Delta employees listed in the current lawsuit, 90% are flight attendants.6
The lead attorney for the suit was allowed access to a closed Facebook page devoted to discussions of the uniform issue at Delta Airlines. He remarked there were 6,000 registered users. Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA), commented on the clothing concerns:
“This issue is real. It affects different people in different ways, and the reactions can vary in severity with symptoms such as rashes, headaches, hair loss and breathing problems when wearing the uniform to becoming so sensitized to the chemicals that it's impossible to even be in the same space without getting extremely sick.”
It wasn’t until November 2019 that the airlines began allowing some employees to wear non-uniform clothing they purchased independently.7 Many of the complaints have centered on inconsistent and unfair treatment. After 18 months of mystery illnesses and symptoms, Delta employees are no closer to an answer or resolution.
Many have fears for their health and job security, resulting in a heavy financial burden. One attendant was seen by a dermatologist in Atlanta, who told her she had been exposed to a toxin causing her reactions. Most of the employees agree the company’s response has been disjointed.
Several spoke anonymously to Business Insider, who reported attendants were not logically granted permission to wear an alternative uniform. Some were threatened with job loss if they refused and others were given permission only after telling the company they wouldn't return to work unless they were allowed to wear a different uniform.
Judith Anderson, a 20-year industrial hygienist for AFA, explained that the dye is a suspicious target as it has rubbed off on airplane seats and flight attendants' skin. Anderson believes a lack of oversight in the supply chain, combined with poor testing before distribution, resulted in inconsistent chemical application.
She believes this may partially explain why a higher percentage of employees have not had health complaints since the uniforms may not have had equal chemical treatments applied.
Flight Attendants May Be Unwitting Test Subjects
Delta Airlines is not the first airline that flight attendants have had trouble with, due to health issues resulting from their uniforms. Historically, only legal actions have triggered policy changes by affected airlines.8 In 2010 new uniforms were issued to Alaska Airlines attendants. Not long afterward the company received reports of rashes and eye irritation, as well as scaly skin patches, hives and blisters.
The uniforms were manufactured by Twin Hill, which subsequently won a lawsuit filed by the attendants, with the court ruling “there was no reliable evidence that the injuries were caused by the uniforms.” Shortly afterward, the airline received more new uniforms manufactured by Twin Hill and flight attendants again began to report symptoms.
In 2018, a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health report noted that there were no complaints in 2015 before the new uniforms were issued. However, by 2016, the airline’s OSHA logs showed 87 skin disorders, 83 of which employees claimed were related to the new uniforms.
Skin symptoms were most common, but employees also reported migraines, shortness of breath, vomiting and hair loss. Employees filed a lawsuit against Twin Hill in 2017 following more than 3,500 complaints.
The case against Alaska Airlines interested researchers from Harvard University9 who were studying the health effects of working in an airplane cabin environment.
Using survey data from 684 flight attendants working for Alaska Airlines before and after the uniforms were issued, they found that respiratory, allergic and dermatological symptoms began to rise after flight attendants started wearing the new uniforms.
Eileen McNeely is a lead researcher in the study from Harvard University, and she believes flight attendants may be inadvertently testing the toxic chemicals that are in their clothing. She describes an ideal laboratory environment for researchers in which the attendants are wearing the same articles of clothing in the same environmental conditions on a consistent basis.
Fast Fashion Major Source of Pollution
The textile industry is also a major source of environmental pollution. During the dying process, 80% of the dye remains on the fabric while the rest is flushed down the drain. In the case of the uniforms from Delta Airlines, flight attendants said the dye was rubbing off on their skin and airline jump seats.
The dyes cause problems, but so do the chemicals used to fix the color into the fabric. According to Kant,10 the industry uses more than 1,000 chemicals that are directly or indirectly poisonous and damaging to human health.
In addition to using a massive amount of water, producing clothing also pollutes it. A textile mill that produces 8,000 kg (17,637 pounds) of fabric each day can use 1.6 million liters (422,675 gallons) of water to do so. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the fast fashion industry encourages consumers to continually buy the latest fashions, which are sold cheaply.11
Americans buy more and more clothing every year, with the average consumer purchasing more than 65 articles in 2016. At the same time, 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles are thrown out each year.
As Green America wrote in their 2019 Toxic Textiles report, even when recycled, “less than 1% of the resources required to make clothing is recaptured and reused to create new clothing.”
Much of donated clothing ends up being sold to textile recyclers and exported to other countries, all contributing to a growing global waste problem. While speaking to The Guardian, one flight attendant voiced a concern regarding the airline industry, which may potentially identify a challenge in the general population:12
“Image is one of the five metrics that we are rated on by customers that contribute towards our overall profile as employees. As a largely female workforce, it feels as though our general appearance takes priority over our health.”
Change May Happen Only When Consumers Speak
Irina Mordukhovich, an epidemiologist from Harvard University, said Delta Airlines did not allow the research team access to study the concern. In discussing the issue with The Guardian, she said she saw parallels in how other airline companies historically responded to uniform health concerns:
“The airlines always deny there is a problem. The airlines are very risk averse when it comes to any health research studies. They don’t tend to cooperate.”
On attendant wrote in an email:
“I flew a two-day trip and have been coughing and clearing fluid from my throat all day today. And my voice went last night. But the only way this will change is when the traveling public demands it.”
Realistically, the only way most industries change is when you vote with your pocketbook. Moving forward, consider giving serious thought to cleaning up and “greening” your wardrobe.
Remember, being a conscious consumer does not stop at food and household products. Your clothing can be a source of hazardous chemicals, and cheaply made fast fashion items take a tremendous toll on the environment and the people working in the industry.
As discussed in my November 5, 2019, article, “Trojan Horse of Measles — More Vaccines With the Mandate,” while most state legislation targeting vaccination mandates have focused on measles, what tends to get lost in the debate is that these mandatory vaccination laws are likely to be extended to all vaccines, including the influenza vaccine, the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine and any number of vaccines licensed and recommended by the federal government in the future.
In other words, measles outbreaks and the fear-mongering by exaggerating disease risks and minimizing vaccine risks are being cleverly used to create propaganda to eliminate the legal right to make vaccine choices across the board. As just one example, in “Trojan Horse of Measles,” I discuss how a bill has been introduced in New York that requires children to be vaccinated against HPV in order to attend day care and public school.
This, despite the incredible health risks associated with the HPV vaccine and its low benefit-to-risk ratio,1 not to mention the fact that it has never been proven to lower cancer rates. On the contrary, emerging data suggest the incidence of cervical cancer increased in Sweden after HPV vaccine was recommended for all girls and women aged 9 to 26 years.
Scientific evidence of an increase in the incidence of HPV-related cervical cancer in Sweden between 2006 and 20152 was published in the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics in 2018. The study raised questions about whether women are at increased risk for cervical cancer if they are vaccinated after they have been infected with HPV, which is an asymptomatic viral infection that is cleared from the body within two years by more than 90 percent of women and men.3
The study was retracted a few weeks after it was published. The retraction was not due to falsification of data, but because the scientist who wrote the study used a pseudonym and false affiliation due to fear he would be harmed for publishing his findings. As explained in the retraction statement by the publisher:4
“On inquiry, the author informed us that he had used a pseudonym besides a false affiliation. He later made his identity known to IJME’s editor on the promise of strict confidentiality.
On verification of his identity, the editor confirmed that (a) the author had the necessary qualifications, expertise and research experience on the subject of the article; and (b) the author did face a credible threat of harm, making it necessary not to be named publicly.
Further we reconfirmed the reviewers’ conclusions: that the article used publicly available data with a simple statistical method; made a fair attempt to report a possible association of the increased incidence of carcinoma cervix with HPV vaccination …
We felt that the data and analysis could be scientifically appreciated and critiqued without reference to the author … Following our decision, we received valuable advice from our editorial board and other well-wishers, emphasizing that there should be zero tolerance to the author’s deception, irrespective of the content of the paper.
While our assessment of the science of the article may be correct, we have concluded that tolerating the author’s deception and retaining the article was an error of judgment. … We hope that the hypothesis of possible harm of vaccinating women previously exposed to HPV is carefully explored in future studies.”
Chairman and chief legal counsel for Children's Health Defense Robert F. Kennedy Jr. stated in “The Plaintiff’s Science Day Presentation on Gardasil,” that Merck’s HPV vaccine Gardasil “has distinguished itself as the most dangerous vaccine ever invented."
In his presentation, Kennedy reveals Merck data showing Gardasil increases the overall risk of death by 370%, risk of autoimmune disease by 2.3% and risk of a serious medical condition by 50%.
A 2018 study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health5 found that women who received HPV vaccinations suffered higher rates of infertility. According to this study, “if 100% of females in this study had received the HPV vaccine, data suggest the number of women having ever conceived would have fallen by 2 million."
After “skeptic” critics of scientific evidence that vaccines have significant health risks publicly attacked the study, the paper was withdrawn by the publisher.6
A 2014 case report paper7 described cases of three adolescent girls who suffered premature ovarian insufficiency after their HPV vaccinations — a condition that can render them incapable of bearing children in the future. Conveniently, Merck, maker of Gardasil, is also “the world market leader in fertility treatments,” according to the European Pharmaceutical Review.8
Media and Public Health Agencies Are Letting Us Down
Unfortunately, our media no longer fulfill their public duty. Rather than presenting both sides of an argument, most mainstream media now act as mouthpieces for pharmaceutical industry propaganda, and this is particularly true where vaccines are concerned.
Public health agencies are also falling short of their duty, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention included, which for years has lied about accepting funds from corporations making and selling drugs and vaccines.
Several watchdog groups are now petitioning the CDC to cease making false disclaimers about not accepting commercial support, and to retroactively acknowledge conflicts of interest.
Another lawsuit, filed by the Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN) in 2018 against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, revealed the HHS — in violation of federal law — has not provided a single required biannual vaccine safety report to Congress since 1988.9 As noted by ICAN founder Del Bigtree:10
"It is apparent that HHS doesn't have a clue as to the actual safety profile of the now 39 doses, and growing, of vaccines given by one year of age, including in utero. In 1986, a one-year old child received 11 doses.
HHS spends billions annually promoting vaccines and generates a steady stream of reports promoting vaccines. Yet, when, despite federal law, HHS cannot bother to complete the simple task of preparing a biennial report on vaccine safety, there is little hope HHS is tackling the much harder job of improving vaccine safety."
Vaccine Science Is Not Being Reported Honestly
A 2018 article11 in The BMJ highlights the media’s influence over vaccine policy and how journalists are misleading the public about vaccine safety and effectiveness. The article, “Reporting Flu Vaccine Science,” written by freelance journalist Rob Wipond, notes:
“When reporting on medical studies, the popular press has a habit of sensationalizing. So the muted response to a recent research paper12 reporting increased risk of miscarriage with influenza vaccines was at first sight surprising.
The study, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that women who had received an influenza vaccine containing the 2009 pandemic strain pH1N1 and who were also vaccinated in the next flu season had a statistically significant, 7.7-fold higher odds of spontaneous abortion within 28 days of the second vaccination …
The concerning odds ratio fostered extensive discussion in the paper. But the news media projected an air of calm, highlighting the observational study’s many limitations.”
Among the “muted” press coverage cited by Wipond is The Washington Post’s report13 on the study, written by Lena Sun, which significantly downplayed the findings and urged pregnant women to continue getting their annual flu shot.
This isn’t surprising considering Sun was one of three journalists hand-selected by the CDC to get exclusive early access to the findings, knowing she could be trusted to report on the study in a way that would minimize influenza vaccine risks so pregnant women would be persuaded to get a flu shot during every pregnancy.14,15
Hypocrisy and Double Standards
In a reply to Wipond’s article, retired pediatrician Allan S. Cunningham seconds many of Wipond’s concerns, stating:16
“After weeks of brooding about the Donahue article linking flu shots to miscarriages … it was with a sense of relief that I read Rob Wipond’s narrative of media attempts to sweep a serious vaccine safety issue under the rug.
He points out the hypocrisy (his words were ‘double standard’) of authorities who dismissed the Donahue paper because it was an ‘observational study.’ Year after year they have quoted observational studies to announce, ‘ … 80% vaccine effectiveness … 60% effectiveness … 40% effectiveness …’
They do not mention that these studies make no effort to look for adverse vaccine effects (e.g. narcolepsy, seizures, high fever, oculorespiratory syndrome). They do not mention ‘negative vaccine effectiveness,’ the increase in risk of illness from influenza and non-influenza viruses associated with (or caused by) the vaccines …
They do not mention that a vaccine ‘effective’ in one season may increase influenza risk in a subsequent season … They do not mention that the observational studies they refer to are likely to exaggerate vaccine effectiveness in the first place because of the ‘healthy user effect’ well known to epidemiologists …
Wipond does not mention another technique used to dismiss legitimate vaccine safety concerns, having to do with ‘statistical significance.’ Recently, a large cohort study17 found that flu shots given during the first trimester of pregnancy were associated with a 20% increase in autism spectrum disorder in the offspring.
P for the association was 0.01, and the authors acknowledged that, if it was causal, would mean four (4) additional autism cases for every 1,000 mothers vaccinated.
However, they incorrectly used a statistical manipulation to adjust the finding into ‘non-significance’ … One typical media headline about the study was, ‘Flu vaccine during pregnancy not linked to autism’ … This kind of thing goes on all the time with news releases for vaccine research.”
Why You Cannot Trust The Washington Post
Washington Post reporter Lena Sun has published a number of patently false claims about vaccines,18 and has attacked me personally for making fully referenced and scientifically provable statements about vaccine risks and the fact that maintaining adequate vitamin D levels has been shown to be effective in preventing respiratory infections, even more effective than the flu vaccine.
In a November 21, 2019, article,19 journalist Jeremy Hammond details four instances that exemplify how Sun has lied about vaccine safety. To repeat but one, Sun has stated that:20
“The effectiveness of the vaccine schedule is tested extensively to ensure that the vaccines in the combination don’t interfere with one another and can be easily handled by the infant and the child’s immune system. No new immunization is added to the schedule until it has been evaluated both alone and when given with the other current immunizations.”
As noted by Hammond, this is “a brazen lie,” as published papers21 and even committees at the Institute of Medicine22 (which the CDC considers an authoritative source) have warned about the complete lack of such testing, and the fact that there not only is inadequate scientific evidence to prove safety of the CDC’s birth to age 6 childhood vaccination schedule, but that the synergistic effects of giving multiple vaccines to infants and children has not been adequately studied.
Flu Vaccination Increases Risk of Pandemic Flu
New York, New Jersey and other states have introduced bills to mandate Influenza vaccines for children and adults,23 while the mainstream media continues to ignore evidence that routine flu vaccination increases risks for influenza infections during pandemic outbreaks. A study24 published in the Journal of Virology in 2011 pointed out that:
“Infection with seasonal influenza A viruses induces immunity to potentially pandemic influenza A viruses of other subtypes (heterosubtypic immunity).”
And that “long-term annual vaccination using inactivated vaccines may hamper the induction of cross-reactive CD8+ T cell responses by natural infections and thus may affect the induction of heterosubtypic immunity.”
The study’s authors note that long-term annual vaccination, in turn, “may render young children who have not previously been infected with an influenza virus more susceptible to infection with a pandemic influenza virus of a novel subtype.”
In simpler terms, while naturally experiencing and recovering from type A influenza can provide immunity against other subtypes of the influenza virus, it appears that vaccination does not do that, making previously vaccinated children more susceptible to pandemic flu strains. (Pandemic influenza is when a new influenza A virus appears that spreads easily among individuals and spreads globally.25)
Other studies linking annual flu vaccination with increased risk of illness are listed in my March 2019 article “Is the Flu Vaccine Really ‘Working Well’ This Year?”
Influenza Vaccine Is Vastly Oversold
Mainstream media outlets also will not admit that Pharma bias compromises the results of most vaccine studies. Yet the presence of such bias was clearly highlighted in a 2010 study26 by the Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews, in which they assessed the effectiveness of flu vaccines in preventing influenza and complications in healthy adults and included a clear warning:
“Influenza vaccines have a modest effect in reducing influenza symptoms and working days lost. There is no evidence that they affect complications, such as pneumonia, or transmission.
WARNING: This review includes 15 out of 36 trials funded by industry (four had no funding declaration). An earlier systematic review of 274 influenza vaccine studies published up to 2007 found industry funded studies were published in more prestigious journals and cited more than other studies independently from methodological quality and size.
Studies funded from public sources were significantly less likely to report conclusions favorable to the vaccines. The review showed that reliable evidence on influenza vaccines is thin but there is evidence of widespread manipulation of conclusions and spurious notoriety of the studies. The content and conclusions of this review should be interpreted in light of this finding.”
Does Vitamin D Outperform Flu Vaccine?
According to reporter Sun of The Washington Post, I lie when I say that maintaining adequate vitamin D levels outperforms the flu vaccine, yet published studies have come to this exact conclusion and the results have been published by other mainstream reporters.
For example, in 2017, BBC News reported27 the findings of a systematic review28 published in The BMJ, which concluded that vitamin D supplementation protected against acute respiratory tract infection.
The number needed to treat (NNT) was 33, meaning 33 people had to take the supplement in order to prevent a single case of infection. Among those with severe vitamin D deficiency at baseline, the NNT was 4.
As reported by BBC News,29 “That is more effective than flu vaccination, which needs to treat 40 to prevent one case,30 although flu is far more serious than the common cold.”
The BBC actually downplays the findings when it says “flu is far more serious than the common cold,” because the NNT of 40 that BBC News cites refers to the overall effectiveness of inactivated vaccine against influenza-like illness (ILI), which the World Health Organization defines31 as “an acute respiratory infection.” (About 80 percent of all lab tested ILI cases do not test positive for A or B influenza but are caused by other types of viral and bacterial infections.)32
In other words, comparing the NNT of 33 for vitamin D with 40 for the flu vaccine is entirely accurate and appropriate as far as ILI or acute respiratory infection is concerned.
According to the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews cited by the BBC, to prevent one case of confirmed influenza, the NNT for inactivated vaccines was 71.33 The Harvard Gazette also published the findings of that BMJ study under the headline, “Study Confirms Vitamin D Protects Against Colds and Flu.”34
The Link Between Influenza and Vitamin D
The association between low vitamin D levels and influenza has been recognized for some time (although low vitamin D levels may not be the sole factor responsible for the seasonality increases of influenza and ILI35). As noted in “Epidemic Influenza and Vitamin D,” published in the journal Epidemiology and Infection in 2006:36
“An interventional study showed that vitamin D reduces the incidence of respiratory infections in children. We conclude that vitamin D, or lack of it, may be Hope-Simpson's ‘seasonal stimulus.’”
Similarly, a 2010 study37 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that “vitamin D3 supplementation during the winter may reduce the incidence of influenza A” in schoolchildren, especially those “who had not been taking other vitamin D supplements and who started nursery school after age 3.”
A 2009 systematic review38 of randomized controlled trials in which supplemental vitamin D was assessed for its ability to prevent or treat various infectious diseases found that the strongest evidence supporting the use of vitamin D existed for tuberculosis, influenza and viral upper respiratory tract illnesses.
In 2018, a randomized, controlled clinical trial39 published in The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal found that infants receiving high doses of vitamin D who went on to develop influenza had significantly shorter duration of illness compared to those who received a lower dosage.
According to the authors, “High-dose vitamin D (1200 IU) is suitable for the prevention of seasonal influenza as evidenced by rapid relief from symptoms, rapid decrease in viral loads and disease recovery.”
A shortcoming of many (if not most) studies looking at vitamin D’s effects on preventing ILI and/or influenza is that they focus on dosage rather than blood levels, and we now know that it’s achieving a certain blood level that matters, not how much vitamin D it takes to get there. Most studies also use dosages around 1,000 or 2,000 IU’s a day, which are unlikely to raise blood levels of vitamin D to any significant degree.
If you've never heard of sewage sludge — a term often used interchangeably with biosolids — you're in for a surprise, as this waste product, which is every bit as unappealing as it sounds, is applied to farmland, gardens, schoolyards, lawns and more across the U.S. The food you eat may very well have come from land treated with sewage sludge, which could have implications for human health and the environment.
What exactly is sewage sludge? When wastewater and stormwater enter wastewater treatment facilities, the solid and liquid waste are separated. The solids are "digested" using bacteria, treated, dried and then sent to landfills or used for agricultural purposes as "fertilizer."
It may sound shocking, but this practice is allowed and endorsed by the U.S. EPA. It's not only legal but routine to grow food on sewage sludge-treated land, even though the sludge, by definition, can contain any number of toxic chemicals that may not be removed via treatment. The Center for Food Safety explained:1
"These separated processed solids — sewage sludge — contain numerous known and unknown hazardous materials.
This includes everything that is flushed into the sewer system, including: household, medical, chemical, and industrial waste; chemicals and metals that leach from the sewer pipes themselves; and novel materials that are created in the wastewater treatment plant as a result of the combination of chemicals and organic compounds present."
Applying Sewage Waste to Soil 'Defies Common Sense'
In the U.S., 54% of sewage sludge biosolids are used for so-called "beneficial" purposes. Most often this means they're applied to agricultural sites, although small amounts are also applied to forestry sites and reclamation sites, including Superfund and Brownfield lands and urban areas, including park land.
Broken down, it's estimated that 36% of biosolids are used for agricultural purposes while 28% end up in landfills and 15% are incinerated.2
The fact is, humans produce a healthy amount of waste — an estimated 300 million pounds of feces are produced daily by Americans alone, for instance. How to dispose of this biosolid sludge is a vexing problem worldwide, so theoretically, turning the waste product into a beneficial product like fertilizer makes sense, assuming it could be thoroughly purified.
Therein lies the problem, however. The Guardian quoted former EPA scientist David Lewis, who opposed the use of sewage sludge on cropland. Lewis noted, "Spending billions of dollars to remove hazardous chemicals and biological wastes from water, only to spread them on soil everywhere we live, work and play defies common sense."3
While it's true that sewage sludge contains similar ingredients to synthetic fertilizer, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, it also contains countless other pollutants that are byproducts of modern-day life. As noted by The Guardian:4
" … [T]he excrement from which sludge derives has mixed with any number of 80,000 manmade chemicals that are discharged from industry's pipes or otherwise pumped into the sewer system.
By the time the mix lands in treatment plants, it can teem with pharmaceuticals, hormones, pathogens, bacteria, viruses, protozoa and parasitic worms, as well as heavy metals like lead, cadmium, arsenic or mercury. It often includes PCBs, PFAS, dioxins, BPAs and dozens of other harmful substances ranging from flame retardants to hospital waste."
It's worth noting that while sewage sludge used to be disposed of primarily by burning it or releasing it into the ocean, this practice was banned over concerns that it would pollute the air and water. But spreading it onto soil has somehow received a safety approval from regulatory agencies,5 including the EPA, which describes them as purely beneficial:6
"They [biosolids] are nutrient-rich organic materials resulting from the treatment of domestic sewage in a treatment facility. When treated and processed, these residuals can be recycled and applied as fertilizer to improve and maintain productive soils and stimulate plant growth."
EPA Identified 352 Pollutants in Sewage Sludge
As part of the Clean Water Act, the EPA must review biosolids standards every two years. Technically speaking, the EPA refers to sewage sludge that has gone through treatment and meets EPA standards for land application as "biosolids."
Part of the review includes identifying pollutants that are present. Based on these biennial reviews and three national sewage sludge surveys, the EPA identified 352 pollutants in biosolids,7 including the following:8
Dioxins and dioxin-like compounds
Certain organics (i.e., polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, semivolatiles)
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (flame retardants)
Steroids and hormones
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances
In a report from the U.S. Office of Inspector General (OIG) released November 2018, it's concluded that the EPA is unable to assess the impact of the hundreds of unregulated pollutants applied to land via biosolids on human health and the environment.9
The report was the result of an audit conducted by OIG to determine whether the EPA has controls over the application of biosolids to land in order to protect human and environmental health.
OIG concluded that the EPA "lacked the data or risk assessment tools needed to make a determination on the safety of 352 pollutants found in biosolids" and noted that 61 of the identified pollutants are "acutely hazardous, hazardous or priority pollutants in other programs."10
EPA Biosolids Program Not Protecting Public Health
Further, while the EPA could conduct full risk assessments to gauge biosolids risks, it is not required to do so. Overall, OIG found that the EPA biosolids program was likely not protecting public health and the environment:11
"The EPA has reduced staff and resources in the biosolids program over time, creating barriers to addressing control weaknesses identified in the program.
Past reviews showed that the EPA needed more information to fully examine the health effects and ecological impacts of land-applied biosolids. Although the EPA could obtain additional data to complete biosolids risk assessments, it is not required to do so.
Without such data, the agency cannot determine whether biosolids pollutants with incomplete risk assessments are safe. The EPA's website, public documents and biosolids labels do not explain the full spectrum of pollutants in biosolids and the uncertainty regarding their safety.
Consequently, the biosolids program is at risk of not achieving its goal to protect public health and the environment."
Research from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has also shown household chemicals and drugs are found in biosolids originating from wastewater treatment plants.12 The researchers purchased or obtained nine different biosolids and analyzed them for 87 organic chemicals, finding 55 were detected in measurable amounts and as many as 45 were found in a single sample.
Plastics in Sewage Sludge
Researchers have also looked into how polyester microfibers may be affecting microorganisms in the soil, especially since sewage sludge is loaded with microfibers.13 They found that the microplastics did, indeed, lead to changes in the soil, including altering the bulk density, water-holding capacity and microbial activity.
Writing in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, researchers noted that wastewater treatment plants act as receptors for the "cumulative loading of microplastics." The solids and liquids are separated using a settlement process, which results in the majority of microplastics (MP ending up in sewage sludge.
Different methods of treatment affected the end number of particles found in the sludge, but the study found microplastic amounts ranging from 4,196 to 15,385 particles kg–1 (dry weight) in sludge samples.14
The researchers noted, "This study highlights the potential for sewage sludge treatment processes to affect the risk of MP pollution prior to land spreading and may have implications for legislation governing the application of biosolids to agricultural land."
Microplastics may act like sponges for contaminants including heavy metals, persistent organic pollutants, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) or pathogens, for instance, and may cause harm on a cellular or subcellular level,15 raising serious questions about the risks of exposing soil to them.
Indeed, wastewater treatment plants are efficient at removing microplastics from sewage, but they become trapped in the sludge. This helps keep them out of waterways, unless they're applied to agricultural soils (which may run off into waterways).
When researchers evaluated 31 fields that had applications of sewage sludge, microplastics were found in the samples at levels ranging from 18 to 41 particles g−1, with a median of 34 particles g−1.16 What's more, the microplastic levels increased on fields with higher rates of sludge applications.
"Our results indicate that microplastic counts increase over time where successive sludge applications are performed," the researchers noted, adding, "Sludge is proposed as a primal driver of soil microplastic pollution."17
Sewage Sludge Contaminating Farms
Sewage sludge is passed off as a cost-effective fertilizer for farmers, but some have lost their livelihoods after the toxic waste contaminated their farms. One such farmer is Fred Stone in Maine, who applied biosolids to his hayfields intended to feed his dairy cattle for decades, not knowing it could be contaminated with PFAS, chemicals associated with cancer, liver damage, low birth weight and hypothyroidism.
Milk from Stone's cows later tested positive for PFAS, forcing him to dump hundreds of gallons of milk a day.18 In March 2019, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection added a requirement to test sewage sludge for PFAS before it's applied to land.19
This is just the tip of the iceberg, as long-term application of sewage sludge also increases the abundance and diversity of antibiotic resistance genes in soil.20 In a study from the University of York in the United Kingdom, data even revealed plants suffer when biosolids are applied to the soil.21
Even with low-level exposure, the drugs studied interfered with plant hormones that support defense against predators and diseases. The drugs also damaged the plants' ability to make energy from sunlight, and at higher concentrations the research team saw a drop in the leaves' levels of chlorophyll. At high concentrations, the plants experienced stunted roots and burnt edges on the leaves.
How to Avoid Biosolids
Foods grown on biosolid-treated soil are not labeled as such, so your best bet for avoiding them is to support sustainable agriculture movements in your area. Make it a point to only buy food from a source you know and trust — one using safe, nontoxic organic or biodynamic farming methods.
If you grow your own food, also be aware that companies do not have to disclose when biosolids are used, so there's really no way of knowing what's in your bag of potting soil or compost. Composted products can have the USDA organic label on them and still be loaded with toxic biosolids.
If you see "milogranite" on the label, it contains biosolids from the City of Milwaukee — a national distributor. Your best bet is to buy organic potting soil and/or compost from a local nursery you know and trust, that can guarantee no biosolids have been added.
Just as important for your health as what you eat is what you drink. Hopefully, everyone who reads my newsletters is drinking plenty of pure water a day and completely abstaining from soda.
Around the world, coffee and tea are, after water, the most common beverages people consume and that is a good thing. Unlike soda, which has many negative health effects, both organic coffee and tea are leading sources of antioxidant polyphenols, which are beneficial substances.
Scientific research has linked coffee to a lower risk of heart failure and stroke,1 as well as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, cirrhosis, diabetes and some types of cancer.2 Another study showed that it may be associated with a lower risk of cognitive disorders.3 Tea is also a healthy beverage linked to impressive benefits.
Writing in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology,4 researchers found that drinking tea at least three times a week is linked with lower risks of cardiovascular disease and all-cause death.
"The favorable health effects are the most robust for green tea and for long-term habitual tea drinkers," added Xinyan Wang of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Beijing, China, the study's first author, about the research.5
More Reasons to Drink a Much-Loved Beverage
Cardiovascular disease is the world's leading cause of premature death, write the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology researchers, and tea is one of the world's most widely consumed beverages, especially in Asia. The aim of the study was to examine the association between atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) and all-cause mortality and tea drinking.6
Results from observing 100,902 participants in the study over a period of years found that habitual tea drinkers lived 1.26 years longer than their counterparts. They were also free from ASCVD for 1.41 years longer than their non-tea drinking counterparts.7
To ensure scientific validity, 1,896 study participants were excluded because they had a history of ASCVD or cancer and 2,465 were excluded because information about their tea drinking habits was lacking. While there have been medical studies about tea drinking and cardiovascular disease (CVD) and coronary heart disease (CHD), this study added new information to what is known, say the scientists:8
"Several previous studies assessed the association between tea consumption and CVD and all-cause mortality, but the results remained inconsistent. Studies among Welsh men and US adults did not observe significant inverse associations of tea consumption (mainly as black tea) with CHD or CVD risks.
In the Japanese population, green tea consumption could reduce the risk of CVD while there was no unanimous conclusion on all-cause mortality. Previous Chinese studies found inverse association between tea consumption and CHD incidence but the reports for stroke and cause-specific mortality were only based on men.
According to our study, habitual tea consumption is associated with a lower risk of ASCVD incidence (including CHD and stroke), ASCVD mortality (especially for stroke), and all-cause mortality and these inverse associations were persistent across subgroups.
… The observed inverse associations were strengthened among participants who stuck to their habit all along. Similarly, previous studies in the USA and in China also reported more evident health effects with longer years of tea consumption."
Green Tea Led Benefits in the Study
In the study, not all participants drank the same kind of tea. Forty-nine percent of habitual tea drinkers who participated consumed green tea, while only 8% drank black tea and the remainder, 43%, drank scented or other types of tea.9 Green tea, it turns out, was the most healthful of the tested teas.
"Habitual green tea consumption was inversely associated with the risks of all study outcomes except CHD mortality, as compared with those never or non-habitual tea drinkers. No significant association was observed for black tea …
Tea, especially green tea, is a rich source of flavonoids including mainly epicatechin, catechin, and epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), etc. Mechanism studies have revealed that these bioactive compounds could attenuate oxidative stress, relieve inflammation, enhance endothelial and cardiomyocyte function …
Tea polyphenols might be oxidized into pigments and inactivated during fermentation, which might be partly the reason why black tea was prone to be less associated with health benefits in many studies."10
There are other reasons black tea may not be as beneficial, speculates SciTech Today:11
"Black tea is fully fermented and during this process polyphenols are oxidized into pigments and may lose their antioxidant effects. Second, black tea is often served with milk, which previous research has shown may counteract the favorable health effects of tea on vascular function."
Black tea also has almost five times the caffeine content of green tea, which is important for those seeking to reduce their caffeine consumption to realize (although in some cases, caffeine may be beneficial). It is also known to stain the teeth.12
Previous Tea Studies Have Shown Other Benefits
Tea, particularly green tea, has been linked with other health benefits. In one study of prostate cancer (PCa), the second most frequently diagnosed cancer, the journal Medicine, Baltimore, wrote that "there was a trend of reduced incidence of PCa with each 1 cup/day increase of green tea."13
"Our dose-response meta-analysis further demonstrated that higher green tea consumption was linearly associated with a reduced risk of PCa with more than 7 cups/day. In addition, green tea catechins were effective for preventing PCa.
In conclusion, our dose-response meta-analysis evaluated the association of green tea intake with PCa risk systematically and quantitatively. And this is the first meta-analysis of green tea catechins consumption and PCa incidence.
Our novel data demonstrated that higher green tea consumption was linearly reduced PCa risk with more than 7cups/day and green tea catechins were effective for preventing PCa."
A 2017 study in the journal Nutrition and Cancer14 found a significant inverse dose-response association between green tea drinking and liver cancer risk. That inverse association increased with years of green tea drinking and when four cups a day of green tea were consumed.
Studies have also associated green tea with reduced risk of depression,15 obesity,16 stroke17 and bone thinning,18 and improvements to vision.19 A central reason for green tea's benefits is its catechin epigallocatechin-3-gallate, which helps your arteries relax and improves blood fIow.20
To receive more benefits from the catechins found in teas, which are natural phenol and antioxidant compounds, you can add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, which will help absorption.21 However, beware of nonorganic teas that are grown in polluted environments — they can contain heavy metals or fluoride, which could lead to skeletal fluorosis. Instant tea may also contain excessive fluoride.22
Teas May Also Increase Longevity
An epidemiological project called Blue Zones seeks to document and analyze the lifestyle particulars found in communities that have the highest number of people who live past 100. Here is what National Public Radio reported:23
"The people in these five regions in Europe, Latin America, Asia and the U.S. that live to be 100 have a lot going for them. Genes probably play a small role, but these folks also have strong social ties, tightly-knit families and lots of opportunity to exercise.
As we were parsing through the dietary secrets of the Blue Zones, as described in author Dan Buettner's latest book, The Blues Zones Solution, we were struck by how essential tea drinking is in these regions.
In fact, Buettner's Blue Zones Beverage Rule — a kind of guideline distilled from his 15 or so years of studying these places — is: 'Drink coffee for breakfast, tea in the afternoon, wine at 5 p.m.'
In Okinawa, Japan, for example, Buettner watched one 104-year-old 'make jasmine tea, squatting in the corner and pouring hot water over tea leaves as the room filled with a delicate, floral aroma.' Indeed, Okinawans call their tea shan-pien, or 'tea with a bit of scent,' which combines green tea leaves, jasmine flowers and a bit of turmeric."
More Teas With Health Benefits
Black and green tea are probably the teas that are studied the most frequently, but oolong, dark and white teas also have benefits. Like black and green tea, they come from the plant known as Camellia sinensis, although hibiscus tea, described below, does not.
• Oolong tea — This tea is great for weight management and heart health: The polyphenols in oolong tea help control fat metabolism in your body by activating certain enzymes. A 2001 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that participants who ingested either full-strength or diluted oolong tea burned 2.9% to 3.4% more total calories daily.24
• Hibiscus tea — High in vitamin C, minerals and antioxidants, tea made from hibiscus sabdariffa (also called Sudan tea, sour tea and roselle) has benefits for overall health. Studies suggest it may improve blood pressure, help prevent metabolic syndrome, protect your liver and even provide anticancer effects.25
In a study in the journal ARYA Atherosclerosis, consumption of tea made from hibiscus sabdariffa led to a decrease in systolic blood pressure in healthy men compared with the placebo.26
• Matcha — Matcha is a type of green tea, but unlike regular green tea, in which you steep and discard the leaves, when you drink matcha you consume the entire leaves, which are ground micron fine. Studies indicate that 1 cup of matcha may provide the antioxidant equivalent of 3 cups of regular green tea and as much as 137 times more antioxidants than low-grade green tea.27
• Darjeeling — Made from the Chinese variety of Camellia sinensis, darjeeling tea contains two complex antioxidants called theaflavins and thearubigins that help neutralize harmful free radicals, and potentially reduce free radical damage that can target cell membranes and DNA, and raise your risk for chronic illness.
There are more coffee drinkers than tea drinkers in the U.S., yet the varieties and benefits of tea are worth exploring and making part of your diet. People who drink tea are enjoying many health benefits as they also partake of an enjoyable and comforting beverage.
1 Which of the following spices is a gum resin with an offensive rotten smell that gives a lovely umami taste to many Indian and other savory dishes?
2 Which of the following U.S. agencies is responsible for regulating cannabidiol (CBD) and dictates its legal status on the federal level?
3 Just as nutritional deficiencies can cause severe problems, so can certain excesses. Which of the following has been shown to encourage cancer, heart disease, diabetes, neurodegeneration and more, when your levels are too high?
4 Which of the following has been identified as contributing to the opioid crisis in the U.S.?
5 Which of the following exercise strategies has been shown to effectively lower stress and anxiety, improve cognition and reduce body image dissatisfaction?
6 Which of the following health benefits have been linked to regular sauna use?
7 Lactic acid tolerance refers to your body's ability to: