Mar
07
2020

Eat Right for a Long Life

Dr. Felice Gersh gave a talk at a conference in Las Vegas stressing the importance to eat right for a long life. This was at the 27th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas from Dec. 13 to 15th, 2019. The actual title of her presentation was “Nutrition for Longevity”.
Dr. Gersh has a fellowship in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona School of Medicine.

In the first place she pointed out that an anti-inflammatory diet consists of vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, healthy oils like olive oil and fish. This is a modified Mediterranean diet. On the other hand, with a pro-inflammatory diet or Western diet, you eat high fat, cholesterol, lots of protein from red beef, high sugar, excessive salt and a lot of processed and fast-food.

Prevention of diseases

It is important to realize that for prevention of cardiovascular disease, cancer and degenerative diseases you need to eat fruits and vegetables, which contain important phytochemicals. They contain a wide variety of molecules, like carotenoids, vitamins and polyphenols. Another key point is that cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale) contain glucosinolates, which are sulfur-containing compounds. They protect you from cancer.

Vitamins and magnesium

It must be remembered that in order to strengthen the immune system and prevent hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) we need the following: omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, the enzyme Co-Q10, vitamin A, B complex, C, D, E, carotenoids, phytosterols, stilbenes and flavonoids. Another key point is that magnesium is extremely important. Many of our dietary habits have reduced magnesium intake to a minimum. Our soils are depleted of magnesium, it is no longer in drinking water, and it is absent in processed foods. However, magnesium is involved as a co-factor in more than 700 enzymatic reactions in our bodies. Magnesium is involved in heart contractions, is important to maintain our blood pressure and is important for glycemic control. It is also important for bone development and for DNA and RNA synthesis. Magnesium binds serotonin and dopamine to their receptors and plays a role in many more body functions.

Brassica vegetables

This group of vegetables consists of broccoli, cauliflower, green cabbage and Brussels sprouts. Notably, they have long been recognized to lower the risk of many cancers. The first thing to remember is that the active ingredients in them are glucosinolates and isothiocyanates. Certainly, food preparation has a lot of influence on maintaining beneficial substances in the brassica vegetables. To emphasize, finely shredded vegetables had a marked decline of their glucosinolate levels by 75% within only 6 hours. On the negative side, microwave cooking destroys 74% of glucosinolates, but on the positive side, storage in room air preserves almost all of the glucosinolates for 1 week. In addition, stir frying brassica also preserves the glucosinolates. This reference points out how fruit and vegetables can contribute to cancer prevention.

The gut microbiome

The Western diet leads to a change in the gut flora with Gram-negative bacteria taking over the healthy gut flora and disrupting the intestinal barrier. To emphasize, this result is called endotoxemia. Part of this is increased serum endotoxin, which mainly consists of lipopolysaccharides. Indeed, it causes gut inflammation and a breakdown of the gut barrier. When this happens, autoimmune antibodies are produced. To put it another way, the Western diet undermines your health. In a word, high fat foods and added sugars (refined carbohydrates) lead to increased Gram-negative bacteria and the disruption of the intestinal barrier.

An unhealthy diet causes disease

In the long run this causes autoimmune diseases, leads to higher heart attack rates and to diabetes. Healthy gut bacteria in fact help to digest fibre, which leads to three short-chain fatty acids: butyrate, acetate and propionate. For the most part, they are important as energy source, affect cardiometabolic health and appetite. On balance, butyrate also helps to maintain the blood brain barrier.

Importance of fiber

Higher fiber content in food leads to less cardiovascular disease, has positive effects on obesity and the metabolic syndrome. Fiber changes the microbiome in the gut, leads to less gut permeability and more short-chain fatty acids production.

The best diet

  • 60% to 70% complex carbohydrates are the foundation of a healthy diet. It consists of vegetables, green leafy and root vegetables, beans, legumes, whole grains and fruit.
  • Eat healthy fats from nuts, olives, seeds, krill or fish oil. Limit fat intake to 18 to 28% of your daily calorie intake. Avoid hydrogenated fats. Limit your saturated fatty acid intake. 85% chocolate is OK. Otherwise consume olive oil and omega-3 fatty acid containing foods (from seafood and fish).
  • Add about 12% of the daily calorie consumption as protein per day. Choose fish, seafood, lean cuts of chicken, only the occasional red meat (organic or grass-fed meat)
  • Eat lots of fiber, eat organic and minimally processed food. Limit sugar, fat and salt. Avoid antibiotics from the agricultural industry, sweeteners, gluten and excessive alcohol intake. Take a daily probiotic and eat probiotic food. Eat three meals a day, a big breakfast, a moderately-sized lunch and a small dinner. A fasting mimicking diet once per month for 5 days activates your longevity genes.
Eat Right for a Long Life

Eat Right for a Long Life

Conclusion

Dr. Felice Gersh gave a talk at a conference in Las Vegas. This was at the 27th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas from Dec. 13 to 15th, 2019. She said that we need to eat right for a long life. She gave a thorough outline of what to eat and what not to eat. It is important to note that she suggested to cut out additional refined sugar and processed food. The bacteria in the gut must be normal, or the gut barrier breaks down. This failure can cause autoimmune diseases. Eating lots of vegetables and fruit as well as fiber will help to keep your gut bacteria normal.

What foods to eat

A Mediterranean type diet gives you the right foods that you need for your health. Avoid the Standard American diet as it is unhealthy and kills the good gut bacteria. Brassica vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, green cabbage and Brussels sprouts prevent the development of many cancers. Eat three meals a day, a big breakfast, a moderately-sized lunch and a small dinner. This fits best into the diurnal rhythm of your gut bacteria.

 

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Dec
14
2019

When Natural Substances Turn Into Poison

Although people increased the use of brain stimulating substances in the last 17 years, nobody paid attention to the situation, when natural substances turn into poison. The Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Ohio State University College of Medicine, both in Columbus, OH conducted a study. The researchers looked at the use of natural substances from 2000 to 2017. They noted that during this time marijuana had increased by 150% and there was a 64% increase of nutmeg use. Nutmeg contains the hallucinogenic substance myristicin, a potent mind-altering substance. There was a 4949% increase of kratom use, which comes from the leaves of a South American tree which have powerful mind-altering substances. The original study of the researchers was published here.

More hallucinogenic substances

Other natural substances came from Jimson weed, where the leaves and seeds contain natural substances that cause hallucinations and euphoria. It contains the chemicals atropine, hyoscyamine, and scopolamine. These interfere with the normal messenger molecule acetylcholine in the brain and in nerves. 21% of all toxic reactions between 2000 and 2107 were due to Jimson weed. Besides those, 16% of all toxic reactions came from magic mushrooms. There are other natural substances which are similar. They come from a shrub that grows in East Africa and southern Arabia. Khat contains the alkaloid cathinone, which is a stimulant. It causes excitement, loss of appetite, and euphoria.

More details about the different natural substances and their actions

Marijuana

Marijuana includes dried leaves, the stem, seeds and flowers of the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. The mind-altering THC compounds are what people are seeking out. When a person smokes marijuana, the THC enters the blood through the lungs. The THC reaches the brain and causes a “high”. This can be associated with seeing brighter colors, get an altered sense of time, have hallucinations, delusions and in severe cases a psychosis. Marijuana peaks at different times depending on whether it is smoked or taken in as an edible. When smoked, the effect of marijuana is felt by the user within a few minutes. Ingested as edibles will take 30 minutes to one hour to show an effect, but it lasts a lot longer (3 to 4 hours). This is important to know, particularly if other agents including alcohol are combined with marijuana.

Nutmeg

Nutmeg is used in small amounts as a spice, typically ¼ to ½ teaspoon in a family dinner. However, when a person consumes 2 teaspoons or more of nutmeg, such as more than 10 mg, toxic symptoms occur. Symptoms from myristicin, the active substance in nutmeg, can be hallucinations, dizziness, confusion and seizures.

Kratom

Kratom is a tropical tree (Mitragyna speciosa), which is native in Southeast Asia. The leaves contain mind-altering compounds. At this time kratom is freely available on the Internet. There is no restriction in the US. But there are health concerns. Kratom has both opioid and stimulant effects on the brain. It produces sensations of pleasure, sedation and decreased pain. In small amounts people experience increased energy, sociability and alertness. There are a number of side effects: nausea, sweating, itchiness, dry mouth, increased urination, constipation, loss of appetite, hallucination and seizures. Kratom caused 8 of the 42 deaths reported by the Ohio State University College of Medicine, Columbus, OH study.

Jimson weed

The leaves and the seeds of Jimson weed are used by drug-seeking individuals. It causes hallucinations and euphoria, a heightened sense of well-being. It contains the chemicals atropine, hyoscyamine, and scopolamine. These interfere with acetylcholine, one of the major hormones in the brain and nerves. 15-100 grams of leaf and 15-25 grams of the seeds can be lethal. Children are more sensitive, so the lethal dose is much smaller for them. Jimson weed slows down the stomach emptying and also the activities of the large intestine leading to severe constipation. It can cause glaucoma and also rapid heartbeat. Urinary retention is also common.

Khat

Khat is a drug found in the wild East African shrub called Catha edulis. It contains a central nervous system stimulant, called cathinone. People living on the Arabian Peninsula are chewing the leaves of this plant. It is illegal in Canada and the US. In Ethiopia 30% of adolescent girls and 70% of the adolescent boys chew khat. The effect of khat is similar to the effect of a strong coffee. It has a stimulant effect like the coca plant that is used to make cocaine. It increases respirations, elevates blood pressure and leads to gum disease. This results in tooth decay. Ulcers and constipation occur more often. People on khat become more talkative, elated and euphoric. Some say that they have more imagination and are able to associate things better. From a medical point of view Khat causes constipation, hemorrhoids and impotence. Other symptoms are blurred vision, headaches and dizziness.

Kava kava

Piper methysticum, a plant native to the western Pacific Islands is from which kava kava is made. Kava kava relaxes you, but it has caused liver damage and is even responsible for a few deaths. It has been banned from many European countries and Canada. It is still available in the US. Some people take kava kava for sleeping problems, anxiety and restlessness. There are many more claims that kava kava would be effective for other diseases, but those claims have not been confirmed by research. Kava kava is detoxified in the liver, but in doing so there are profound interactions with other drugs that get detoxified in the liver. This liver toxicity has led to irreversible liver damage requiring a liver transplant. Several people have died because of liver failure.

Magic mushroom

Wild mushrooms, namely magic mushrooms that contain psilocybin are a popular way to get a high. Psilocybin is psychoactive and hallucinogenic. Psilocybin is classified as a Schedule I drug in the US, meaning that it is highly addictive, but has no currently accepted medical use for treating any medical condition. Magic mushrooms cause nausea, yawning, drowsiness, nervousness, panic, paranoia, hallucinations and psychosis.

Toxic side effects of natural substances reported to Poison Control

There were 67,369 calls to poison control centers in the United States between January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2017 regarding natural substances. This is when natural substances turn into poison. There were 41.4% from calls regarding older than 19-year-old individuals. 34.8% of calls to the poison control center was regarding the age group between 13- and 19-year olds. 46.9% of cases were due to marijuana, 21.1% of the calls to the poison control centers were due to anticholinergic plants, 15.6% were due to hallucinogenic mushrooms. In the age group of 3-19 years 47.8% called because of marihuana overdoses. Above the age of 19 it was 53.0% who overdosed on marijuana. In children less than 6 years of age 44.4% of toxic overdoses came from anticholinergic plants.

Deaths reported in the study

The study reported 42 deaths from 2000 to 2017. 8 deaths were due to kratom. 7 deaths among the 42 deaths occurred in people under the age of 18. 5 of the 42 deaths occurred in teenagers aged 13 to 19. Two of the deaths occurred in children under the age of 12. These were due to marijuana.   

Discussion

When reviewing the research of natural substances with the potential to cause addiction, it is important to see things in the right perspective.

Natural substances can be poisonous for you

Many people think that a natural substance, like a leaf from nature, should be trustworthy. But it is the chemicals that people swallow, inhale or chew that matter. Opium also comes from a “harmless” poppy seed. But opium is a powerful and addictive substance. All of the natural substances reviewed above contain potent mind-altering agents. This means that the natural substances are not safe.

Using SPECT scan to measure brain activity

None of the above-mentioned natural substances are harmless. They all attack the brain and interfere with the action of the natural brain hormones in the brain. This may be reversible for a few weeks, but eventually it leads to a chemical burn with permanent damage to the brain. This is when natural substances turn into poison. Dr. Daniel Amen, a psychiatrist has developed a scan that will depict changes in the brain in addicted persons. It is called the Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography or SPECT scan. This nuclear medicine scan measures blood circulation of the brain and brain activity. With prolonged use all of the natural substances show a decreased brain activity pattern on the SPECT scan.

Missing toxicity studies about natural substances

Armed with the SPECT scan as a tool and the knowledge that all of the reviewed “natural” substances have toxic effects on the brain makes one wonder how US citizens could willingly consume these substances for the past 17 years. It was probably a mix of curiosity, peer pressure and the fact that these natural substances were readily available, which made many people try them. There is very little research about toxicity in this field. This is only starting now. To my way of thinking this is another warning sign that people should stop their love-affair with mind-altering natural substances.

When Natural Substances Turn Into Poison

When Natural Substances Turn Into Poison

Conclusion

I have reviewed the thorny issue of natural substances and how they can turn into poisons. All of the substances reviewed affect brain function. This is why people experience hallucinations, elations and euphoria. But this is not real. It is due to the toxic effect of chemicals on the brain.Advertisements promote kava kava as a relaxing substance. But it can damage the liver and as a result several people have died. It is unknown to a large extent how these natural substances interact with other illicit drugs or with alcohol.

It is best to avoid consuming any of these natural substances. Anybody who consumes them is knowingly consuming a poison, and it means that the user will get into health problems…naturally!

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Sep
14
2019

Beware Of Arsenic In US Wines

A former wine industry employee warns to beware of arsenic in US wines. Recently wine testers detected that many California wines contain high amounts of arsenic. Here is a full list of wines where arsenic was found. Often it is the cheaper wines that have the highest arsenic content.

Trader Joe’s has a problem with three wines. The 2 dollar Zinfandel (“Two Buck Chuck)”, their “Menage a Trois Moscato” and “Franzia White Grenache” were too high in arsenic. They had 3-5 times the allowable amount of arsenic than the limit that is acceptable for drinking water.

The lawyers of a lawsuit against the wine industry think that the norm for arsenic content in wine should be the same as the one established for drinking water. However, the wine industry is defending itself saying that people drink more water than wine.

Arsenic in rice

In the past there were high arsenic levels in rice.  An investigation found the high levels of arsenic in rice linked to high levels of arsenic in soil. By and large high arsenic levels in rice come from inadvertent human poisoning. As explained in the Consumers Report high arsenic values were found in rice grown in these states: Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas. These are the same states, where farmers grew cotton in the past. The U.S. has been the world’s leading user of arsenic at that time. Since 1910 about 1.6 million tons of arsenic been in use for agricultural/industrial purposes. Half of this occurred since the mid-1960s. Although arsenic is banned as an insecticide since the 1980’s, residues from the decades of use still linger on in agricultural soil today. For decades arsenic compounds were used for decades in an attempt to combat the boll weevil beetle.

Arsenic in grape juice, apple juice and chicken meat

Arsenic containing insecticides are also in use in the fruit growing industry. This explains the presence of arsenic in grape juice and apple juice. Another source of contamination with arsenic compounds comes from chicken feed that the chicken farmer uses to promote growth. As a result arsenic will be in chicken meat. For this reason alone it is recommendable to eat organic chicken that is free of arsenic.

Keep in mind that brown rice has persistently tested higher in arsenic than white rice.

Beware of arsenic in US wines and in your food

We know for some time now that chicken raised in farms have arsenic in their meat because of the practice to feed arsenic compounds to promote growth. Arsenic is a carcinogen, and is causing many cancers. As the last link said, there is a great need to regulate the food industry and check for arsenic contamination of food in general as well.

How do wine growers introduce arsenic into wine?

There are several possibilities how wine could become contaminated with arsenic. The example of arsenic in rice taught us that old cotton fields where in the past arsenic containing pesticides were in use could be the source of arsenic in rice today. If wine is grown in similar soil that has contamination with arsenic , it likely could get into the grapes.

At this point there has not been an investigation into arsenic in wine. The fact that the majority of wines had high arsenic values makes me believe that the wine growers spray arsenic compounds onto the leaves and grapes of wine plants to treat for various pests.

Organic wine

Organic wine must have a certification by an independent third-party organization. This organization does annual audits on vineyards. The grapes they grow and the soil on which the vine plants grow have to all be examined. Strict standards apply and the organic winegrower has to comply with them to receive the organic certification. Not only is there supervision by the organic certification body, but also by the department of agriculture. The wine grower cannot sell wine as “organic”, if it is not certified.

If you want arsenic free wine, buy organic wine. Here is a brief description of what certified organic wine is.

What arsenic does to your body

Long-term exposure to low doses of arsenic can interrupt the way cells communicate and function. It can contribute to developing diabetes, cancer, vascular disease and lung disease. In addition, high levels of arsenic can cause skin cancer, bladder cancer, lung cancer and heart attacks. It is the inorganic arsenic compounds that are more toxic. This is what researchers found in water and unfortunately also in wine. Organic arsenic compounds as found in seafood are less toxic.

Beware Of Arsenic In US Wines

Beware Of Arsenic In US Wines

Conclusion

There are a lot of unanswered questions regarding arsenic in regular wines. In the US the limit for arsenic in drinking water is 10 parts per billion (ppb). Wines on average have 24 ppb of arsenic in it. A legal case is presently awaiting a trial. The issue is whether the arsenic limits in drinking water also apply arsenic limits in wine. The wine industry is adamant that people drink more water than wine, so one could not compare the two. But the wine industry also wants to sell more wine.

You can switch to an organic wine, which by definition should have less arsenic in it. Arsenic can cause lung disease and various cancers (lung and kidneys). If you drink very little or moderately, you are fairly safe from toxic effects of arsenic. But this topic needs further evaluation, and caution is in order.

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Aug
26
2017

Decreased Sperm Counts In Men

What do decreased sperm counts in men tell us about our world? A recent study has shown that over the past 40 years males in many centers that tested for sperm counts have lost 50% of the sperm count that was normal in the 1970’s. The question is, what could have caused this? Nobody has definite answers. But here are the factors that the Mayo Clinic lists for low sperm counts.

Medical causes of decreased sperm counts in men

  • A varicocele: A varicocele is dilatation of veins close to the testicles. It is presumed that this leads to a higher temperature inside the testicles and this causes a lowered sperm count and poor sperm quality.
  • Antisperm antibodies can cause infertility. Due to low sperm counts.
  • Infections in the testicles reduce sperm production. Gonorrhea and HIV infection are some of the common infections.
  • Some men develop retrograde ejaculation. With this the sperm enter the bladder on ejaculation instead of coming out from the tip of the penis. Alpha-blockers, a type of blood pressure medication can do this as a side effect. But there are also various health problems that can cause retrograde ejaculation like diabetes, surgery to the prostate, urethra and bladder. Spinal injuries can be also a cause of retrograde ejaculations. In many cases the sperm production in the testicles is still present and sperm could be sampled from there for artificial insemination.
  • Tumors of the pituitary gland can interfere with hormone production of testosterone and sperm counts will fall or stop. But other pituitary hormones, thyroid hormone and adrenal gland hormones are needed for fertility.
  • Chromosome defects like Klinefelter syndrome and others can be a cause of abnormal development of the male genitals with low or missing sperm production.
  • Celiac disease is a bowel disease that is due to gluten sensitivity. It causes low sperm counts and infertility, which responds to a gluten free diet. Sperm counts normalize with this diet.
  • There are medications that can decrease sperm production like chemotherapy, anabolic steroid use, antifungals and certain antibiotic medications and some ulcer medications.

Lifestyle causes leading to decreased sperm counts in men

Certain lifestyles and occupations can cause a man to have a decreased sperm count.

  • Drinking alcohol excessively can reduce testosterone production, which decreases sperm count.
  • Recreational drug use: steroids to increase muscle mass cause testicular atrophy and decreased sperm count. Cocaine and marihuana also decreases the sperm count.
  • Certain occupations like welding from exposure to heat and truck driving from prolonged sitting have been associated in some studies with infertility. But there are other studies that could not confirm this correlation.
  • Smoking: Men who smoke have lower sperm counts than men who don’t smoke.
  • Excessive weight: Obese men transform some of their testosterone into estrogen through the action of the enzyme aromatase, which is amply present in fat cells. This leads to low testosterone levels and low sperm counts.

Environmental causes of decreased sperm counts in men

The environment in terms of heat production around the scrotum or exposure to chemicals or ionizing radiation can lower sperm counts in men.

  • Heat around the testicles: studies do not all agree, but there is a tendency for low sperm counts when using saunas and hot tubs frequently. Sitting for longer times or using a laptop computer for longer periods can also increase the temperature of a man’s scrotum and lead to a low sperm count.
  • Exposure to heavy metals like lead, mercury and others can be the cause of infertility.
  • Exposure to radiation can reduce sperm production. With high doses of radiation sperm production may cease entirely. With lower radiation exposures sperm counts may be down for several years before they recover to normal.
  • Industrial chemicals: exposure to fumes from certain chemicals can lead to low sperm counts; benzenes, herbicides, pesticides, xylene, toluene, painting materials and organic solvents are on this list.

Recent study about decreased sperm counts in men as an indicator

We have now reviewed the major causes of low sperm counts in men. I like to revisit the recent sperm study I mentioned in the beginning of this blog. It is unlikely that men in North America, Europe and Australia would spontaneously produce less than 50% of the sperm than men 40 years earlier had produced. The next puzzling fact is that the study found normal sperm production in men in Africa, South America and Asia.

This points to epidemiological differences that reduce the sperm count in men in North America, Europe and Australia. In view of the multitude of possible causes it will require a task force that does a comparative study worldwide looking at exposure history, diets, social habits and other factors.

Fertility clinics are thriving because couples want children. With low sperm counts of males there is more infertility than there was in the past. Density gradient centrifugation is a reliable method of enriching sperm counts.

In the past a couple had no problem getting a successful pregnancy when they wanted it. Now couples often have to be assessed in a fertility clinic because of problems with regard to decreased sperm counts in men, which can cause infertility.

Decreased Sperm Counts In Men

Decreased Sperm Counts In Men

Conclusion

A new study has noticed that over the past 40 years many men have developed low sperm counts. This has caused significant problems with fertility among couples. Fertility clinics are busy trying to help these couples. Density gradient centrifugation has become a common technique to enrich sperm samples prior to artificial insemination. It is a puzzle why the recent study has found normal sperm counts in samples of men living in Africa, South America and Asia. In contrast men living in Europe, North America and Australia have 50% lower sperm counts. The reason may be multifactorial. It will require a team of experts to sort out this discrepancy and hopefully find an answer for men in Europe, North America and Australia to bring their sperm counts back to normal.

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Aug
19
2017

No More Macaroni And Cheese

Two years ago Kraft’s was in the news and I said then “no more macaroni and cheese”.  At that time they promised to make macaroni and cheese more nutritious by removing artificial coloring and artificial flavors. Now they are in the news because industrial chemical phthalates have been found in almost every sample of cheese powder that is used to make macaroni and cheese.

Phthalates are powerful hormone-disrupting chemicals that are toxic to children and pregnant women. Most noteworthy, abnormal brain development and abnormalities of the reproductive system have a connection to prenatal exposure to phthalates. Potentially 725,000 American women of childbearing age are at risk. Should they get pregnant, their babies would be at the receiving end of toxic phthalates. In Europe new regulations about phthalates were introduced in 2011. In contrast, in North America the FDA has been negligent in enforcing legislation to keep the US population free of phthalates in their food.

Background information about phthalates

Phthalates are industrial chemicals that are widely used in cleaning agents like soaps, plastics, rubbers, inks, adhesives and fragrances. Phthalates in plastic materials increases the durability and longevity, but also the flexibility and transparency of plastic.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention describes on its website how a large percentage of the population has phthalates in their urine. This proves that unsuspecting customers are ingesting phthalates, which potentially poses a tremendous challenge.

In Europe vigorous legislation is in place regarding phthalates. Should they more vigorously legislated in the US?

Effects of phthalates on body

It seems that males are more sensitive to the toxic effects of phthalates than females. Males experience testicular atrophy and shrinking of the prostate gland. The sperm count goes down, which can lead to infertility. Pregnant women are at risk of having babies with genetic defects due to exposure to phthalates. Many cosmetic products contain phthalates.  Due to lax FDA supervision there is no labeling on many cosmetics, yet they contain phthalates (lipsticks, make-up).

Apart from infertility issues phthalates are also responsible for allergies, some cases of obesity, asthma and breast cancer.

There are other clinical conditions that have been linked to phthalate exposure. Behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorder, type 2 diabetes, low IQ and neurodevelopmental issues. A lot of these problems could disappear with more awareness of the public, stricter labeling rules of the regulatory agencies and more responsibility shown by manufacturers.

Why nutritionists don’t like macaroni and cheese

Macaroni and cheese belongs into the group of junk foods. In the past it was artificial coloring and artificial flavors that were the concern. Now it came to light that phthalates have contaminated the fat-containing cheese from the packaging. The soft plastic cheese packages contain phthalates and they easily blend with fatty cheese, because phthalates are fat-soluble. This is the reason why I say: no more macaroni and cheese!

From a nutritional point of view macaronis are simply empty starch. The digestive process quickly turns it into sugar and causes a sugar peak in the blood. High blood sugar causes an insulin peak. Repeated insulin peaks show a connection to premature aging, obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Cheese in macaroni and cheese is the cheapest processed cheese. Here is a summary of what macaroni and cheese contains. In this recipe the cheese portion comes from processed cheddar cheese. But in many macaroni and cheese packages the cheese portion comes from of a mix of protein, fat and milk powder and this mix has nothing to do with cheese. It just tastes like cheese. But all of the cheese powder packages have in common that in 29 out of 30 of the packages tested phthalates were contained in the cheese powder.

The package included a plastic coating containing the phthalates. This leeched into the cheese powder, because phthalates are fat-soluble.

No More Macaroni And Cheese: Toxic “food” is non-food

The problem with macaroni and cheese in today’s society is that it is a form of processed food. The more food is processed, the higher the risk that there is a loss of valuable nutrients. Unfortunately with food processing there is the need to use a food container where the food is stored. But up to now nobody thought that the ubiquitous phthalates that keep the plastic material of the food container flexible and longer lasting could pose any threat to our health by leaking into fatty foods.

However, we did have problems with PBA’s not long ago; they were leaking from baby bottles into baby food. The solution was to abandon BPA bottles.

We have to rethink the whole scenario. As this link shows there are many other chemicals in plastic that can also be toxic.

We can work on the food side and avoid as much processed food as possible. Buy fresh ingredients that you bring home and store in your fridge. Avoid plastic bags. Use glass containers as they are safe (not leaking chemicals into food).

What can you do, if you want no more macaroni and cheese?

Stop buying macaroni and cheese as processed food. Buy ingredients to make them yourself at home. Here is a recipe of how to make macaroni and cheese: You may in the past have thought that it is much easier to just buy macaroni and cheese in the store. But this is where the phthalates come in. It is our laziness that allows food processors to slip chemicals into our food that could damage us; and some of these potentially harmful chemicals are phthalates. Phthalates probably slipped into our food unintentionally because they are so extremely fat-soluble that they get into the cheese part of macaroni and cheese.

If you want to eat macaroni and cheese, make it yourself as per the recipe provided with the link above.

But I went one step further. I have abandoned macaroni and cheese altogether. We don’t need the extra insulin response from the macaroni as we digest them. Next I also do not need the extra processed cheese, as the fats are not the healthiest. If I want some cheese, I can cut a few slices from an honest organic cheese that originates from organic milk from cows that were grazing on grass.

I like eating diversified food from many healthy sources.

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Conclusion

Sometimes we need to rethink the food that we eat. Do we want to eat macaroni and cheese, because it reminds us of how we grew up? When you hear that processed foods contain toxic phthalates, you may also say as I do: “No more macaroni and cheese!” As I mentioned, if you really want to eat it, cook it yourself from the basic, healthy ingredients. But I decided no more macaroni and cheese for me, because it is not that healthy. There are healthier foods that I’d rather eat instead.

If more of us would shun processed foods, then the food industry would have to adapt to the population’s healthier food habits and come up with healthier products. We also would significantly reduce our exposure to phthalates that find their way into the food chain from food containers. Rethink your food habits and perhaps one day you can agree with me: “I don’t want non-nutritious processed food! No more macaroni and cheese!”

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Apr
08
2017

Breast Cancer Risks

Dr. David Zava, PhD gave a talk on breast cancer risks. His presentation took place at the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9-11, 2016) in Las Vegas that I attended. The detailed title was: “The Role of Hormones, Essential Nutrients, Environmental Toxins, and Lifestyle Choices on Breast Cancer Risk”.

He pointed out that both estrogens and progesterone are safe hormones, as long as the doctor does not overdose them and keeps a hormone balance. Unfortunately many women in menopause have too much estrogen on board as the ovaries are still producing them, but there is a lack of progesterone, the moderating hormone that makes estrogen safe.

In the following I am summarizing Dr. Zava’s talk with regard to the essential messages, but leave away much of the highly technical detail of the presentation. This would dilute the message of this blog. I will include a few links for those who wish to read more details about the topic.

Balance between estrogen and progesterone

Most of her life a woman is used to cyclical hormone changes between estrogen and progesterone. When a woman no longer ovulates in premenopause and menopause there is a surplus of estrogen and a lack of progesterone. Having no ovulation means that there is no corpus luteum developing, which is where in the past progesterone production took place. This creates a disbalance where estrogen is dominating; it is called “estrogen dominance”.

This is a dangerous hormone disbalance, because the breast ducts experience a growth stimulus, but the modifying, calming effect of progesterone is missing. Mixed into this is that the stress hormone, cortisol also can make the effect of estrogen worse. On the other hand Dr. Zava showed slides from studies documenting replacement of missing progesterone with a skin progesterone cream (percutaneous bioidentical progesterone cream).

Progesterone concentration in breast lumps after progesterone cream applications

Plasma and breast tissue concentration of progesterone were measured in 40 premenstrual women. The diagnoses were breast lumps and the physicians arranged surgery for them. One group received progesterone cream treatment for 10 to 13 days; the other group was the placebo group. At the time of surgery the plasma (blood) values of progesterone were the same, but progesterone levels in breast tissue were more than 100-fold higher than the values from the placebo group who had received a neutral skin cream. The same experiment also showed that progesterone reduced the number of proliferating epithelial cells (experimental progesterone group). Estrogen on the other hand led to an increase of the number of proliferating epithelial cells (placebo group).

Progesterone cream applied to breasts of premenopausal women

Another example that Dr. Zava gave was a study where 25 mg of bioidentical progesterone cream applied directly to breasts of premenopausal women increased breast tissue progesterone 100-fold, while blood concentrations of progesterone remained the same. Again progesterone decreased the breast stimulation by estrogen of normal epithelium cells.

How to measure progesterone levels

Dr. Zava who runs the ZRT laboratory spent some time to explain how to measure progesterone in a physiological way. He said that these experiments and others that he also projected tell a clear story. Blood (serum) progesterone levels do not adequately reflect what tissue levels in a woman’s breasts are. On the other hand saliva hormone levels do give an accurate account of what breast tissue levels are like. A woman received 30 mg of topical progesterone application. She then had hourly progesterone levels in the serum and in the saliva done. The serum progesterone levels remained at around 2 ng/ml, while the saliva progesterone levels peaked 3 to 5 hours after the application. It reached 16 ng/ml in saliva, which also represents the breast tissue progesterone level.

Blood progesterone levels are unreliable

As a result, Dr. Zava said that the important lesson to learn from this is not to trust blood progesterone levels. Too many physicians fall into this trap and order too much progesterone cream, which leads to overdosing progesterone. In contrast, with salivary progesterone levels you see the physiological tissue levels, with blood tests you don’t. Dr. Zava said: avoid using venipuncture blood or urine in an attempt to interpret hormone test levels, as you will underestimate bio-potency and overdose the patient.

Historical failure of estrogen replacement therapy (ERT)

A review of breast cancer would not be complete without mentioning the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI). The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) initiated this trial in 1991.

Researchers prematurely terminated Women’s Health initiative

The WHI ended suddenly in July 2002. The authors stated: “The overall health risks exceeded benefits from use of combined estrogen plus progestin for an average 5.2 year follow-up among healthy postmenopausal US women.” The study found a 41% increase in strokes, 29% increase in heart attacks, 26% increase in breast cancer, 22% increase in total cardiovascular disease, a doubling of blood clots. The recommendation made by this study was to discontinue PremPro.

Breast cancer in the Million Women Study from synthetic hormones

Another study that was mentioned was “Breast cancer and hormone-replacement therapy in the Million Women Study”.  In this study postmenopausal women received HRT with synthetic hormones, either estrogen alone or estrogen mixed with a progestin (in British English “progestagen”). After 5 years estrogen alone had a 30% increased risk of developing breast cancer. HRT with an estrogen-progestagen mix had a 100% increased risk of developing breast cancer.

Huge difference between bioidentical hormones and synthetic hormones

Unfortunately in both of these human experiments the researchers used the wrong hormone substances, namely synthetic estrogens and synthetic progestins. They are NOT identical with natural estrogens and progesterone that a woman’s body makes. As long as the hormones used for hormone replacement therapy are chemically identical to the natural hormones, the body will accept them as they fit the natural hormone receptors in the body. It is the misfit of synthetic hormones that blocks the estrogen receptors or the progesterone receptors. You can readily see from the illustrations of this link that there is a fine balance between the workings of these receptors and there is absolutely no room for patented side chains that Big Pharma introduced into synthetic HRT hormones.

Individualizing bioidentical hormone prescriptions based on blood tests

The other problem of both these studies was that every woman was getting the same dose of hormones and that nobody measured their estrogen blood or estrogen saliva hormone levels. In retrospect the regulatory agencies should never have allowed these “hormones” to hit the market.

Breast cancer develops in three stages

Dr. Zava explained that it common knowledge for some time that breast cancer develops by going through 3 stages.

  1. Initiation

First of all, damage to the DNA of one of the cells types in the breast is what starts the process in the development of breast cancer. This can be done by catechol estrogen-3,4-quinones as was shown by these researchers.

Aromatase inhibitors is useful to reduce estrogen in overweight or obese women where aromatase is present in fatty tissue. The reason obese women have more breast cancer is likely from the extra estrogen production from androgens. Aromatase converts these male hormones from the adrenal glands into estrogen.

Iodine/iodide alters gene expression, which reduces breast cancer development, but also slows down cell division in existing breast cancer. The authors suggested to use iodine/iodide supplements as adjuvant therapy in breast cancer treatment.

  1. Promotion

Furthermore, the next step is that something has to promote the DNA mutation into becoming part of a cancer cell. Estrogen quinones are dangerous estrogen metabolites. They can form from catechol estrogens (other metabolites of estrogen) by reactive oxygen species. But selenium, a trace mineral can interrupt the formation of estrogen quinones, which stops the breasts cancer promotion process. A study from the Klang Valley, Malaysia showed that selenium showed a dose-response effect with respect to prevention of breast cancer; the more selenium in the food, the less breast cancer occurred.

  1. Progression (includes invasion and metastases)

Finally, several factors can help the breast cancer cells to progress, grow bigger locally and eventually move into other areas of the body as metastases. Dr. Zava showed several slides where details of metabolic processes were shown and how changes in some of these would lead to progression of breast cancer. Estrogen excess is a common pathway to breast cancer. The key is to balance it with progesterone, supplements, remove anything that causes estrogen overproduction like obesity (via the aromatase pathway).

The fallacy of overdosing or underdosing

When estrogen is overdosed, it becomes aggressive as indicated before; it can initiate DNA mutations that can cause breast cancer. If it is under dosed, the lack of estrogen can cause heart attacks, strokes and osteoporosis. When estrogen is balanced with progesterone a postmenopausal woman feels best and she is protected from the negative effects of estrogen.

Measures that help prevent breast cancer

Supplement only with bioidentical hormones

When supplementing with bioidentical hormones, keep estrogen within physiological limits and don’t overdose. This can be measured through blood tests or saliva hormone tests. Your most important natural opponent of estrogen is progesterone, which is usually missing in menopause. Measure hormones using tests (progesterone only with saliva tests, estrogen either by blood tests or saliva tests). Don’t rely going by symptoms.

Progesterone to estrogen ratio

Keep the progesterone to estrogen ratio (Pg/E2) at an optimal range, which is in the 100- to 500-fold range. Measure the saliva hormone level of both progesterone and estrogen and calculate. Remember that progesterone serum levels are meaningless. The much higher progesterone level protects the postmenopausal woman from estrogen side effects. Here is a statement worth noting: “Until evidence is found to the contrary, bioidentical hormones remain the preferred method of HRT.” This was the conclusion of a study using bioidentical hormones, where the protection from breast cancer and heart attacks and strokes was also noted.

Eat more fiber containing foods and less beef

Increase fiber intake and reduce red meat consumption. This will eliminate conjugated steroid hormones in the stool. It also increases the sex hormone binding globulin in the blood, which limits the bioavailability of estrogens. Fiber absorbs bile toxins and removes them from the body.

Calcium supplement

Calcium-D-glucarate is a supplement that will decrease beta-glucuronidase. The estrogens were conjugated with the purpose to be eliminated, but beta-glucuronidase causes the conjugated estrogens to be reabsorbed.

Reduce breast cancer risk with probiotics

Probiotics likely stimulate the immune system and help reduce the risk of breast cancer.

No pollutants and toxic chemicals

Avoid toxins like petrochemical pollutants and toxic chemicals. Avoid trans fats. If toxic, heavy metals are present (arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury) remove these. Some naturopaths use EDTA chelation to do this.

Other useful supplements

Supplements: sulforaphane (broccoli), EGCG (green tea), alpha-lipoic acid (antioxidant), cruciferous vegetables, resveratrol, selenium and iodide/iodine, N-acetyl cysteine-glutathione. All these supplements/nutrients will prevent estrogen to go to the “dark side”. The dark side is the formation of toxic 4-OH estrogen that could further be converted into catechol estrogen-3,4-quinones that can damage DNA and cause mutations.

Methylation of catechol estrogens

Increase methylation of catechol estrogens: vitamin B1, B6, B12 and folic acid. Methyl donors also are useful for this purpose: MSM (methylsulfonylmethane), SAMe, and Betaine.

Healthy lifestyle (diet , exercise) helps your immune system

Improve your diet (Mediterranean type), exercise moderately, reduce stress, and replace hormones in physiological doses as discussed under point 1 and 2.

Breast Cancer Risks

Breast Cancer Risks

Conclusion

Dr. David Zava, PhD gave an interesting talk at the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9-11, 2016) in Las Vegas. Estrogens, when unopposed by enough progesterone, can cause mutations in breast tissue of women and cause breast cancer. He also reviewed two major clinical trials that utilized hormone replacement therapy (HRT). The problems with these were the synthetic estrogen hormones that caused breast cancer and the synthetic progestins that also behaved like estrogens (not like progesterone) and caused even more breast cancer. The lesson from this is that only bioidentical estrogens and progesterone work in hormone replacement for menopause. Also, the hormones balance each other as discussed under measures that help to prevent breast cancer. In addition there was a list of other useful supplements given that can be taken to reduce the danger of breast cancer.

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Sep
17
2016

Seven Steps To Live Over 100 Years

Forbes invited me to publish a blog I wrote for Quora, “Seven steps to live over 100 years”.

The topic of habits by people who live more than a hundred years has been reviewed many times in the media. It continues to be popular. Here are seven things you can do to stay healthy followed by an explanation why.

Seven steps to live over 100 years – step1: Stay active

You want to stay active every day, even if you retire. You want to move and keep your mind busy. Part of that is to do a daily formal exercise routine to keep those muscles toned, which will prevent falls in the future.

Explanation: when you keep your muscles toned and you move about, your balance organ and coordination remains sharp, you are less likely to fall and break a hip. 50% of those who sustain a hip fracture die.

Seven steps to live over 100 years – step 2: Eat a healthy diet

Eat a Mediterranean type diet or follow the Okinawan diet. These diets contain less meat (or no meat as in the Seventh Day Adventist diet), but lots of vegetables and fiber. This keeps your cholesterol down, your arteries open and your metabolism controlled, preventing diabetes. If you are not obese and you have no diabetes, you are going to be OK with your cardiovascular system for decades to come.

Explanation: Heart attacks are still on top of the mortality list. Avoid them and you got it made, if you want to make it to 100 and beyond. But we need to stay away from the poor fats and the obsession about eating beef. Red meat, if eaten too often gives you a higher risk of getting cancer and heart disease. So eat it only once a week at the most, the rest would be chicken, turkey meat or fish. Nothing wrong with a vegetarian meal, let’s say kidney beans or lentils on a day in between. This still gives you protein for your muscles, but spares you a heart attack.

Seven steps to live over 100 years – step 3: Take care of your teeth

Brush your teeth and floss every day. This will control the bacteria in your mouth and prevent leakage into your blood affecting your heart valves. Studies have shown that this prevents heart attacks.

Explanation: When I heard this first about 20 years ago, I found it strange. But the literature is clear: chronic gingivitis is associated with bacteria that grow on the gums and spread into your blood. They can then colonize your heart valves and even the lining of the arteries, particularly where there is already hardening of the arteries (arterial plaque). This can lead to heart valve disease like mitral valve disease or heart attacks.

Seven steps to live over 100 years – step 4: prevention of disease

See your physician right away if there is a new skin lesion or anything that is different on your body. Removal of early cancer and treatment of any early medical condition is always easier to treat than waiting until it is out of control. Particularly with cancer treatment at an early stage, which usually involves only a small surgical procedure, this will reward you with a ripe old age.

Explanation: I learnt this point in general practice. Patients who waited until small problems become big problems were always much worse off than patients who saw me for small problems that we could remedy at an early stage. As mentioned above this is particularly important in cancer cases, as usually stage 1 and 2 of a cancer is curable with surgery. Once you get lymph node metastases and distant metastases, the cancer is much more difficult to treat, if at all. This is a principle that is pretty much true for any disease. The prevention factor is huge. Make use of it!

Seven steps to live over 100 years – step 5: Lifestyle matters

Watch excesses like smoking (cut it out!), alcohol intake, and recreational drugs. Smoking causes heart attacks, strokes, and cancers, which shorten your life. Recreational drugs just interfere with your body chemistry and have side effects. Cut them out, if you cherish growing older than 100. Alcohol needs to be kept at a very low consumption, if you want to preserve your liver, which is your central metabolic organ. If you can’t handle moderation with alcohol consumption, cut it out. No one has died from not consuming alcohol.

Explanation: I have already explained why lifestyle choices matter. The alcohol question is one that will be discussed back and forth for centuries. There are cardiologists who tell you that men should drink 1 to 2 drinks per day and women 1 drink per day and we all live longer, because of prevention of heart disease. The wine industry makes sure that you will hear this cardiology rule. It is true that centenarians often drink one glass of red wine per day. But there are plenty of centenarians who never drank in their life. It is a matter of personal choice.

Seven steps to live over 100 years – step 6: Avoid obesity and diabetes

I did mention to avoid obesity under point 2 above, which is associated with metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Your ideal body mass index should be in the 21 to 22 range. You can achieve this by following the diets I mentioned above. You should cut out sugar and starchy foods.

Explanation: I have followed such a diet since 2001 and my body mass index is between 21 and 22. I grew up in Germany where an emphasis was put on sweets and starchy foods. Needless to say my modified Mediterranean diet deviates from the good old German diet significantly. I find healthy food very tasty.

Seven steps to live over 100 years – step 7: Sleep and hormones

Getting sleep regularly, having an optimistic outlook on life, and having good relationships help to keep the immune system strong and keep your hormones balanced. This in turn will keep you healthy emotionally and physically.

Explanation:

There are two comments I like to make. One is that when you have calm nerves, and your emotions are in balance, your stress hormones are under control. We know that people who are content and easy going live longer. The type A personality is the one who gets a heart attack.

The other point is that hormones have running times. When they start missing, we get menopause or andropause. When we are in our 50’s it is time to have your hormones checked by a knowledgeable health practitioner (naturopath, anti-aging physician). At this point regular physicians are mostly lack education about bioidentical hormone replacement. I mention this as in European studies it has been shown that replacement of missing hormones with bioidentical hormones resulted in more youthful lives. You can extend your life expectancy by 15 years using bioidentical hormones according to Dr. Hertoghe, an endocrinologist in Belgium.

Seven Steps To Live Over 100 Years

Seven Steps To Live Over 100 Years

Conclusion

People have had a long time fascination about the factors that lead to a healthy age above 100 years. I am suggesting that you concentrate on enjoying your life and keeping toxins out. Engage in some form of exercise or stay active all the time. Adopt a healthy diet. This is where perhaps most people go wrong. They think they can go on pouring junk foods and alcohol down their throats and never get heart disease or cancer. The truth is not quite like that. We do need to adopt a healthy diet like the Mediterranean diet. We also need to limit drinking to a healthy level. Replacing missing hormones with bioidentical ones will prolong your life as well. Given these recommendations, happy journey to 100 and beyond!

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Aug
13
2016

Avoid BPA

After a lot of bad press as a hormone disruptor we know we should avoid BPA. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a synthetic compound that has been used since 1957 in plastic bottles and as lining inside cans, so they don’t rust.

Study showing why we should avoid BPA

Recently BPA has again hit the media as a new study has shown that there are things we can do to avoid high concentrations of BPA by changing our lifestyle.

This media report is based on a scientific study that Jennifer Hartl and coworkers have done. They followed patients who had consumed various items known to be contaminated with BPA and measured their urine BPA concentration 24 hours later. 9% of their study participants had consumed one can of food or more, while 2% had consumed 2 cans of food or more on the previous day. Researchers compared one can of food consumed to none. They found 24% of higher BPA concentration in the urine. With two cans of food consumed versus none they found that 54% of higher BPA concentration was found in the urine.

Researchers compared one or more specific types of canned foods to none consumed. Some interesting differences emerged. Canned vegetables and fruit showed 41% higher BPA in the urine test. Canned pasta measured 70%, but canned soup 229%. The researchers also tested canned beverages. None of them caused BPA elevation in urine tests.

What BPA does

93% of Americans 6 years and older have BPA in their urine indicating that it is in our bodies, and the body is attempting to get rid of it. It is known as an endocrine disruptor, but how effective BPA is as an endocrine disruptor remains to be seen. This link describes that BPA is 800-times weaker as an estrogen blocking substance in comparison to soy products.

There are two mechanisms of action where BPA interferes with normal body function.

  1. BPA functions as a weak estrogen and binds to the nuclear estrogen receptor. This partially blocks the action of the body’s own estrogen function.
  2. There is also a membrane based estrogen receptor on body cells that is involved in cell signaling and gene expression. BPA can add methyl groups to DNA, which silences gene expression. This latter mechanism is much more sensitive to BPA (probably by a factor of 1000-times) than the traditional effect on the nuclear estrogen receptor.

It is these newer findings that are of concern with regard to fertility in males. It is important that babies are not fed using regular plastic bottles, but rather that BPA-free bottles or glass bottles are used to avoid BPA exposure. Babies and children are particularly vulnerable to the hormone blocking effects of BPA as well as the interference of brain development and maturation by BPA.

Manufacturing of BPA free plastic

In an attempt to avoid BPA in manufacturing of plastic bottles and food containers industry has used other chemicals, among other materials something called BPS. This stands for “Bisphenol S”. A research paper found that BPS is an endocrine disruptor as much as BPA is and causes fat cells to grow rapidly. According to the author of this publication it may be partially responsible for the obesity wave. The author of this study recommends using glass containers as much as possible to avoid transfer of either BPA or BPS to food that comes in contact with plastic materials.

Avoid BPA from receipts

Have you ever thought that you may be able to absorb BPA through your skin from receipts when you buy items at a store? Yes, the machine of the checker prints receipts on heat sensitive paper. It contains BPA on it, which the body absorbs through the skin. If you scratch the printed part of the paper and it leaves a dark mark, it is thermal paper.

In this study workers were handling thermal receipts for four hours and their urine was monitored for BPA the following day. Another group was handling thermal receipts for 8 hours. In the first group that had exposure for 4 hours the BPA concentration in the urine rose to three times higher than the base rate. The second group exposed for 8 hours had BPA levels that were five times higher than the base rate. For comparison researchers measured another group that was wearing surgical gloves and their BPA concentration in the urine showed no change from the baseline.

I have changed my way of shopping. I think about whether I would ever want to exchange the item I just bought. If not, I tell the clerk that I do not want a receipt and he throw it out.

How you can avoid BPA exposure

  1. Do not use plastic containers to heat food in a microwave, use glass containers instead.
  2. Avoid all plastic food containers that have a “7” printed in a triangle on the bottom. Among these is a significant number that will release BPA over time.
  3. Avoid canned soups, such as tomato soup or canned mushroom soup. The paper reviewed at the beginning of this review showed these led to the highest BPA readings in urine tests the following day.
  4. Keep in mind that 2 out of 3 cans in supermarkets are positive for BPA. Eat as much fresh or frozen food as you can, but avoid canned food.
  5. Many canned beverages (such as beer, soda, juice) are acidic; this means that their thermal processing requirement is much different requiring lower temperature where BPA does not leach from the bottle into the stored fluid. These drinks when tested were BPA free.
  6. Among drinking water containers the following have been tested: Aquafina, Dasani, Arrowhead, Fiji and Kirkland Signature bottled water from Costco. They were all BPA free. Most water companies have now switched to BPA free containers, but avoid the containers with the “7” in a triangle as already stated, as some of them may leach BPA into the bottle content.
  7. Use fresh, unpackaged foods as much as possible. For instance, fruit and vegetables can often be had unpackaged. Check the packaging, check the type of plastic and if not sure, don’t buy it.
  8. Whenever possible, avoid handling thermal receipts; if possible, get an email receipt instead to avoid BPA exposure through the skin.
Avoid BPA

Avoid BPA

Conclusion

There has been a silent revolution where more and more plastic and resins have entered our lives. With it came the exposure to BPA, which is an endocrine disruptor. This may have consequences regarding male fertility. There is a change of fat metabolism in both sexes with weight gain as the end result. It also interferes with brain development in the fetus and in young children. BPA behaves like a cell poison.

In this blog I have shown ways to reduce exposure to BPA. We need to eat more fresh vegetables and fruit that merchants sell not in plastic. If merchants sell food in plastic or plastic containers, the wrapping material must be BPA and BPS free. The FDA and/or EPA must make labeling of containers mandatory. Whenever possible return to glass containers that are BPA free. Also bear in mind that heating plastics can release toxins. If you are heating food in a microwave, do not use plastic containers. Instead use glass or ceramics. It is common knowledge that they are safe!

Additional reference (Questions about BPA answered):

http://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/assets/docs_a_e/bisphenol_a_bpa_508.pdf

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May
21
2016

Arsenic In Rice

Recently news stories reported that there is arsenic in rice. This is important to know because in large parts of the world rice is one of the main food staples. But rice has also become an important side step from wheat for those who are gluten sensitive. Rice is one of the main ingredients in gluten free diets.

Source of arsenic in rice

Naturally high levels of arsenic in soil can be a source of high levels of arsenic in rice, although these cases are the minority. By and large high arsenic in rice comes from inadvertent, but deliberate human poisoning. As explained in the Consumers Report high arsenic values were found in rice grown in these states: Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas. These are the same states, where cotton was grown in the past. The U.S. has been the world’s leading user of arsenic.

Arsenic in soil cotton was grown

Since 1910 about 1.6 million tons have been in use for agricultural/industrial purposes. Half of this occurred since the mid-1960s. Although arsenic is banned as an insecticide since the 1980’s, residues from the decades of use still linger on in agricultural soil today. Cotton production occurred in the south-central region of the US for a long time. This is a crop where heavy treatment with arsenical pesticides was used for decades in an attempt to combat the boll weevil beetle.

Arsenic in grape juice, apple juice and chicken meat

Arsenic containing insecticides are also used in the fruit growing industry. This explains the presence of arsenic in grape juice and apple juice.

Another source are arsenic compounds in chicken feed that is used to promote growth. As a result arsenic can then be found in chicken meat. For this reason alone it is recommendable to eat organic chicken that is free of arsenic.

Keep in mind that brown rice has persistently tested higher in arsenic than white rice.

Alternatives to rice

As drastic as it may sound, your safest approach is to avoid all cereals. This keeps you away from the various forms of gluten proteins that are present in all cereals, even in corn and oats. You can fill your plate safely with organic vegetables like broccoli, bell peppers, asparagus, cauliflower and many others. You also can eat all lettuce varieties including spinach, arugula, Romaine lettuce, head lettuce, super greens and more.

Wheat has the highest gluten concentration

Many people have an addiction to grains and grain products, but they can do more harm than good. Wheat has the highest concentration of gliadin, but rye has its own gliadin protein, so does barley. It is much safer on the long term to stay away from them all. Not everybody will agree with me on that, but as far as I am concerned I can live this way quite well. High endurance athletes who seem to need more carbs for fuel, could have sweet potatoes for example instead of grains and do well on that.

Eliminating exposure from arsenic in rice

Now that we know that brown rice has more arsenic in it than white rice, and that Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas have high arsenic because of residual arsenic in their soils, it is relatively easy to choose the right rice, if you decide to consume it. This report explains what are safe rice alternatives and what rice is the safest.

Basmati rice from California is the lowest in arsenic. Quinoa and millet are rice alternatives that are low in arsenic. Low-arsenic buckwheat is not related to wheat and is gluten free.

Watch the origin of organic rice

In this context it is interesting to note that you cannot trust even organic rice with regard to arsenic toxicity. The last link notes that the rice grains accumulate arsenic from the soil. All of the other organic culturing methods are not enough to protect the crop from arsenic accumulation, if there is contamination of the soil or the water.

If you are serious about eliminating arsenic from your food, you may want to consider avoiding grains altogether.

What are signs of toxicity from arsenic in rice?

Arsenic toxicity can be acute or chronic. Most of today’s arsenic toxicity is chronic. Arsenic accumulates slowly from foods we consume. Arsenic contaminated occurs in regular chicken that was fed arsenic compounds for growth. Another source for arsenic are rice, non-organic grape juice and apple juice. Chronic exposure to arsenic can cause lung and bladder cancer. This is what studies in Argentina and Chile found where in some areas drinking water has naturally high arsenic levels.

A fast heart beat, low blood pressure and shock can be symptoms of arsenic poisoning. The person with arsenic poisoning may have a changed mental status and seizures can occur. A person may present with delirium with irrational thoughts and behaviors. The patient may present with a cholera-like clinical picture with vomiting and severe diarrhea leading to marked dehydration. Liver and kidney damage can occur. The finger nails show white lines across, called Mees lines.

Treating toxicity from arsenic in rice

A study of 3633 individuals showed that those who ate 1 helping of rice per day had a urinary arsenic level that was 44 percent greater than those who did not consume rice. People eating two or more rice products had 70% higher arsenic urine levels that those who ate no rice. It is clear from that study that avoidance of rice is a powerful tool treating chronic arsenic poisoning. With respect to drinking apple or grape juice the total urinary arsenic levels were nearly 20 percent higher than those who did not consume apple or grape juice.

There are natural substances that are good chelators. Researchers tested them found them and found them good to eliminate arsenic from the body.

Here are natural chelators: milk thistle seed extract, dandelion leaf extract, garlic bulb (allium sativum), cilantro leaf extract, L-glutathione, N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine.

Intravenous chelation using EDTA

Intravenous chelation using EDTA is the gold standard that is in use to get rid of heavy metals including arsenic and lead. Dr. Cranton noted in his book on chelation therapy that arsenic occurs in the urine within 5 hours of intravenous EDTA chelation (Ref. 1).

Other supportive steps are to check your drinking water for high arsenic and lead levels, particularly if you are on a well. Change the way you cook rice, if you want to continue to eat rice. Rinse the rice with 6 times the amount of water and discard the water. This will lower the arsenic content of the rice by about 30% while you deplete the rice only marginally of vitamin and mineral contents.

Eliminate arsenic from food and drinks

Avoid drinking non-organic grape juice and apple juice. This eliminates a significant amount of arsenic from your diet.

If you eat more than two or three helpings of rice per week, consider replacing some rice portions by arsenic-free grains. For those on a gluten-free diet quinoa, millet, and amaranth are good replacement options.

Arsenic In Rice

Arsenic In Rice

Conclusion regarding arsenic in rice

It is sad to notice that the food industry is inadvertently trying to poison us with arsenic. I am sure this is not happen deliberately. But it is necessary for us to defend ourselves and think about the food we are eating. Is it safe? Are we taking the right steps to minimize exposure to arsenic? I have covered this from various angles, avoidance of high arsenic food items, chelating out accumulated arsenic, and preventing further exposure to arsenic. I hope this has been helpful and has shown you what you can do in your particular case.

References:

Ref.1: Special Issue of Advancement in Medicine “A Textbook on EDTA Chelation Therapy”, edited by Elmer M. Cranton, Spring/Summer 1989. Human Sciences Press Inc. NY, USA.

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Apr
29
2016

The Hazards Of Formaldehyde

Toxic levels of formaldehyde in laminate wood flooring were underestimated, concealing the hazards of formaldehyde. Specifically, laminate wood flooring produced in China and sold by Lumber Liquidators, based in Toano, Virginia were identified as a problem.

News about the hazards of formaldehyde in Chinese laminate flooring

Last year CBS ran a story with Anderson Cooper regarding Chinese imported laminate flooring that emitted more than the stated amount of toxic formaldehyde. This was based on independent testing by CBS. Examiners found that laminate packages released between 6 and 7 times the amount of allowable formaldehyde. Moreover, some packages of the cheap Chinese made laminate flooring even released 20 times the allowable amount.

Certainly, formaldehyde is part of the glue in use to bind the wood particles together to make the laminate flooring. The laminate top seals the wooden core and keeps most of the formaldehyde inside.

Formaldehyde leaks into the home slowly

But over time it gradually leaks into the home. It is a matter of how much formaldehyde was in the glue and how good the ventilation of the home is, which determines the concentration of formaldehyde in the air.

CBS bought 31 boxes of the Chinese-made laminate flooring that Lumber Liquidators was selling in Virginia, Florida, Texas, Illinois and New York. The examiners sent samples to two reference labs. Most noteworthy, only one package was compliant with formaldehyde emissions standards. Some were more than 13 times over the California limit. Both labs were surprised how high the readings were, as they had not encountered this when they tested regular laminate flooring before.

Effects of the hazards of formaldehyde

Dr. Philip Landrigan at N.Y.’s Mt. Sinai Hospital specializes in environmental pediatrics and exposure to toxic chemicals. He stated that what matters is the concentration of formaldehyde in the typical home where such a floor is installed. Nevertheless, it needs to be stated that these toxic levels were only found in the cheap flooring of the above named company and this product has since been removed from the market. Above all, formaldehyde is a known carcinogen (cancer producing substance). As a matter of fact, it irritates the airways, particularly in individuals who are sensitive like asthmatics.

Toxic effects on immune system of formaldehyde exposed workers

A 2014 occupational medicine study from China compared factory workers exposed to formaldehyde with controls. Notably, they found higher formic acid levels in the urine of exposed workers. Formic acid is the end metabolic product of formaldehyde. In addition, they also had higher B cell lymphocyte counts (in the high dose exposure group) and higher natural killer lymphocyte counts (in the low dose exposure group). As a result, this would explain the toxic effects on the immune system and the higher incidence of cancer in formaldehyde exposed individuals.

DNA changes in mouth cavity cells and nasal cells of anatomy workers

A 2015 study from Portugal examined DNA abnormalities in cells from anatomy workers. Furthermore, anatomy workers who prepare corpses with formaldehyde for anatomy courses are under the exposure of formaldehyde fumes. Another exposure can happen when fixating histology slides with formaldehyde to get them ready for microscopic examination. The researchers measured the the formaldehyde concentration in the air of the anatomy lab as 0.38 parts per million. Likewise, genetic analysis of cells from the mouth cavity and nasal cells showed significant DNA abnormalities, while controls without formaldehyde exposure did not have such DNA changes.

Formaldehyde poisons p53 cancer suppressor gene

In this study there was insufficient data to link formaldehyde exposure to causation of leukemia.  It is peculiar that on a molecular level it is clear what formaldehyde does to the p53 suppressor gene. But it is more difficult to show the link of formaldehyde exposure to the causation of a multitude of cancers.

WHO recommendation about formaldehyde

The WHO recommends keeping formaldehyde below 0.08 ppm in the air of factories where formaldehyde is used. WHO says that this will prevent nasal cancer and leukemia. Levels of 1 ppm can cause nasal cancer and leukemia in humans. The level for hardwood plywood is 0.05 ppm in the US since 2012

The CDC involvement in safe formaldehyde levels in the air of a home

The CDC faced with the problem of the Chinese laminate imports of Lumber Liquidators and did its own investigation. The conclusion was that these high concentrations of formaldehyde were not only affecting sensitive people, but in fact everybody. The CDC stated: “The lifetime cancer risk increased from the previous estimate of 2 to 9 extra cases for every 100,000 people to between 6 and 30 extra cases per 100,000 people. To put these numbers into perspective, the American Cancer Society estimates that up to 50,000 of every 100,000 people may develop cancer from all causes over their lifetimes.”

New guidelines for the limit of formaldehyde in residences

New guidelines for the limit of formaldehyde in residences were defined as 135 µg/m³ by the National Center for Environmental Health. This is a different nomenclature for formaldehyde concentration in the air and I will show the conversion to parts per million particles in a moment. This reference explains that 1 ppm = 1.23 mg/m³. 135 µg/m³ is the same as 0.135 mg/m³. When you divide 0.135 mg/m³ by 1.23 mg/m³, you have converted this into 0.11 ppm, the upper acceptable formaldehyde limit. Had the company followed proper procedure, it is clear from the recommendation above that the formaldehyde level of 0.05 ppm was in the safe zone. It was much smaller than 0.11 ppm. The cheap batch of plywood discussed above with the high formaldehyde glue gave measurements much higher than any of these guidelines.

Company response to bad publicity regarding “the hazards of formaldehyde”

As the stock of Lumber Liquidators plunged, the company decided to do something about this. In May of 2015 they stopped the sale of the cheap laminate products. It turned out that they had been poor quality, cheaper laminate boards; the producer had used glue with too much formaldehyde in it. The company had knowingly bought these for a 10% discount and hoped to make a huge profit through its over 360 stores in 46 states. Before this fiasco revenue was more than a billion dollars a year. Now the company tries to rescue its brand name through an ongoing painstaking public relations effort.

What to do, if you own cheap laminate flooring with the hazards of formaldehyde?

The CDC says you should ventilate the home, use additional vents to remove bad air, keep the temperature at the lowest comfortable setting and make your home a smoke-free home.

Many homeowners have ripped out the cheap laminate flooring and replaced it with better quality products and joined a class action suit against the company that sold them the product. Others leave it in place, open the windows and doors more frequently to keep the air concentration of formaldehyde lower; and they follow the other suggestions from the CDC.

According to this update formaldehyde levels are decreased significantly 6 to 10 months after initial installation.

The Hazards Of Formaldehyde

The Hazards Of Formaldehyde

Conclusion

Had Lumber Liquidators not been greedy for profit, we may never have known the story of formaldehyde overdosing of glue in one bad batch of laminate flooring. The unsuspecting consumer got a special deal, but nobody informed the consumer about the hazards of formaldehyde release! Keep in mind that not everything that is cheap is good quality.

Only a few years back urea formaldehyde was very popular as a means to insulate your home. Homeowners soon found out that this could lead to toxic formaldehyde fumes and they had to replace urea formaldehyde with glass fiber insulation.

Never sit back and think you are safe

You may not have to panic. Frequent ventilation, as described, can lower the formaldehyde concentration in the air. And eventually in the case of laminate flooring the concentration is low enough from the passage of time that there is no longer a danger from leaking formaldehyde gases.

What I have learnt from this is the following: never sit back and think you are safe. Watch what you are eating. Watch what you are drinking. Women, watch what cosmetics you put on your skin. Be aware of the potential hazards of fire retardant in textiles and noxious substances in building products. All of this can impact the quality of the air you are breathing!

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