Monday, February 16, 2009

Pandora's GMO Box

Pandora's GMO box has been opened and is already unleashing a torrent of unnatural and unknown consequences on a largely unsuspecting public and world. The earth has plenty of natural diversity. We don't need to be haphazardly creating new organisms simply because a company can copyright it and claim ownership to force the rest of us to pay for it. Most GMOs are now approved with inadequate testing that does not fully cover potential impacts to the environment and human health. Many approved GMOs have already been shown to cause serious health problems in animal models on further testing. Not very reassuring. Also, most GMOs have been developed to promote business interests and not human health. Why should we be risking human health and the world's environment so that privileged businesses can increase their profits?

Even if we manage to close Pandora's GMO box, GMO pollen has already infected many non-GMO crops. Consequently, much irreparable damage has already been done. But unfortunately, the box is only opening wider. Many more GMO plants and animals are planned for release in the near future. It's time to act and put and end to this travesty.

So what can we do?

Buy Organic

In the United States of Big Business ... err America ... about all we can do immediately is to vote against GMO by buying organic foods. By definition, organic foods are not allowed to have GMO, at least not more than 5% at worst. If enough people switch to organic, businesses will follow the money. The rapidly growing organic market is a good sign, but this approach is not likely to stop the GMO epidemic.


Push government for required labeling of all products that include GMO. Such labeling would allow more consumers to make their economic voice heard.

Change the Law

The best way to end this plague would be to take away the right to patent genetically modified genes, which should have never been allowed in the first place. This action would take away the financial incentives for GMO. Unfortunately, this would probably take an act of Congress.

Learn More About Genetically Modified Organisms

What are genes?

Are GMOs safe?

Scrambling and gambling with the genome

Scientists speak

Corporate Ties

Farmer's Woes

Biohazards: The Next Generation?

Say no to GMO!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Vaccine Overload

The companies that develop and manufacture vaccines for profit and the clinics that provide the vaccines also for profit, would have us believe that vaccines will save us from disease while causing negligible harm. They point to the dramatic drop in disease as evidence of the effectiveness of vaccines and claim that risks in taking vaccines are minimal and well worth the benefit.

But a closer and independent look at the data paints a different picture. While some vaccines may confer a reduced likelihood of infection, all vaccines have significant side effects, with substanitial numbers of severe adverse reactions, sometimes resulting in death. Not surprisingly, there have been no long-term safety studies for vaccines where the health of vaccinated children is compared with an unvaccinated control group! We need to take a very careful and unbiased look at the benefits and risks of any vaccine before accepting it.

Most infectious diseases were already declining rapidly before vaccines were introduced, with little evidence that vaccines have made an improvement. Some vaccines are notoriously ineffective, such as the influenza vaccine. Many people who take the vaccine get the flu anyway. Even the most effective vaccines offer no more than about 40 to 60 percent effectiveness and some vaccines are actually suspected of causing cases of the disease they are supposed to prevent.

Against this backdrop of uncertainty about the effectiveness of the vaccines, we have the problem of side effects caused by vaccines. In order to make a vaccine work, it must strongly stimulate the immune system into responding to the target agent given in the vaccine, usually a disabled version of the target infectious agent. But strongly stimulating the immune system has its own hazards, one of which is possible triggering of allergies to other non-infectious agents that just happen to be present when the vaccine is given or shortly thereafter. The rapid rise in asthma and allergies in recent years could be one of the consequences. Another hazard is the possible triggering of auto-immune problems like lupus and type I diabetes, and neurological problems, like autism. The pertussis vaccine has actually been used to induce auto-immune disease in laboratory animals. Another problem is that vaccines are often given several at a time to young children. This practice is likely to compound the effect on the immune system, which is not fully developed in young children. Yet another problem is that some of the adjuvants used to stimulate the immune system are poisons in their own right and can cause harmful side effects, such as aluminum hydroxide and aluminum phosphate. Finally, the production and preservation of vaccines introduces even more potentially harmful compounds directly into the blood, such as foreign animal proteins used to incubate the infectious agent, poisonous formaldehyde used to deactivate live infectious agents, and thimerosal with poisonous mercury which is still used to preserve some vaccines.

An excellent resource for vaccine information is the National Vaccine Information Center. They have information about individual vaccines as well as state laws and exceptions regarding vaccines.
Further Reading

An Introduction to the Vaccination Controversy

Vaccines and Autism

Why Vaccines Aren't Safe

Do Vaccines Work and Are They Safe?

Vaccines: A Second Opinion

Avoid Flu Shots, Take Vitamin D Instead

Significant Harm from Just ONE Mercury-Containing Vaccine

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Cholesterol Confusion

Everyone knows what cholesterol is now - that stuff that clogs arteries and causes heart attacks, right?


When you get a blood test for "cholesterol", what they are measuring is not the chemical cholesterol directly, but instead is the total amount of certain lipoproteins that just happen to contain some cholesterol. It's a bit of a misnomer - sort of like calling a car an engine. Let's measure the weight of all those engines on the road by totaling the weight of all the cars on the road. What's worse, there are many other vehicles on the road that have engines but are not cars, like trucks and buses. Does it make sense to total the weight of just cars as an indication of the weight of engines on the road?

There is a chemical called cholesterol and it's an essential part of every cell membrane. It's a precursor to several important hormones and to vitamin D. It's considered both a sterol and a lipid, but not a fat. All fats are lipids, but not all lipids are fats. Cholesterol and fats are not soluble in water, but are needed by our cells. In order to transport cholesterol and fats through our blood, which is largely water, our body bundles them into packages of protein, fat,and cholesterol that can be carried in the blood. These packages are lipoproteins.

There are several kinds of lipoproteins the body uses for different purposes. They are classified by their density, which also roughly corresponds to their size. The largest and least dense are chylomicrons, followed by very low density lipoprotein (VLDL). Both of these contain cholesterol but are not included in total "cholesterol" blood tests. Next are low density lipoproteins (LDL), intermediate density lipoproteins (IDL), and high density lipoproteins (HDL).

In blood tests, the VLDL is called "triglycerides", even though all lipoproteins contain triglycerides (more confusion?) and "total cholesterol" is the total of LDL, some IDL, and HDL.

So how do cholesterol and lipoproteins relate to heart disease?

True cholesterol does not really appear to be a player in heart disease. It is actually very important for good health. However, glycated proteins and fats as well as oxidized fats, all of which can be incorporated into lipoproteins, do appear to play a role. Glycation occurs when a sugar molecule, such as fructose or glucose, binds to a protein or fat and oxidized fats are generally polyunsaturated fats that have been oxidized into peroxides. Some types of glycated proteins and all fat peroxides can cause a variety of problems and are implicated in both heart disease and cancer.

For optimal health, and thus avoidance of heart disease and cancer, we should be striving to reduce our load of glycated proteins and oxidized fats. Elevated blood sugar and triglyceride levels are correlated with elevated blood levels of glycated protein. So, obviously, keeping blood sugar and triglyceride levels normalized is ideal. Eat starches with fat and protein to minimize blood sugar spikes after meals or snacks. Don't eat foods with added refined sugar and don't eat too much fruit. Low-carb diets and/or excercise tend to normalize blood sugar and triglycerides.
The fats most prone to oxidation are polyunsaturated fats. Large amounts of dietary polyunsaturated fat are new to the human diet. Up until the last couple hundred years, the typical amount of dietary polyunsaturated fat was around five percent of dietary calories or less. Only recently has the amount of polyunsaturated fat been increasing dramatically in the human diet as cheap vegetable oils have displaced healthier animal fats in commercial food products. Keeping dietary polyunsaturated fats under four percent of total calories is ideal. That means avoiding most processed foods like sauces, dressings, baked goods, and most cooking oils, and eating only small amounts of nuts. Most commercial sauces and dressings are loaded with soybean oil or other oils high in polyunsaturated fat. Most commercial cooking oils are also high in polyunsaturated fat and sometimes trans-fat (made from hydrogenated polyunsaturated fat). That means avoid most commercial fried and baked foods.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Fluoride - Friend or Foe ?

Most of us were taught that fluoride is our friend and helps to prevent cavities and strengthen bones. But toxicologists rate fluoride as more poisonous than lead and almost as poisonous as arsenic. So how can it be our friend?

The supporting argument is that fluoride in small amounts is beneficial and only in large amounts is it harmful. Well, this is true of many beneficial minerals, but what does science show us about the benefits and toxicity of fluoride? The evidence suggests that fluoride has little if any beneficial effects and even at relatively low concentrations has a variety of serious harmful effects. Yes, topical application of fluoride at high concentration will kill bacteria in your mouth and that may possibly confer some benefit against tooth decay. But at what cost to your health?

Because of it's poisonous effects, fluoride is a common ingredient in many pesticides. That should tell us something. Too much fluoride can cause obvious bad symptoms, the most common of which is dental fluorosis. The rates of dental fluorosis have increased dramatically in the U.S. over the last several decades. According to the Centers for Disease Control, dental fluorosis now impacts 32% of American children, whereas in the 1940s, dental fluorosis rates in fluoridated areas averaged 10%. But that's not the only potential problem caused by too much fluoride. Fluoride apparently interferes with proper thyroid function and iodine metabolism in the body. It may be a factor in the recent epidemic of hypothyroidism, since low thyroid function is related to problems with iodine metabolism. Also, studies of fluoride levels in drinking water show a clear inverse relationship with intelligence in children. Apparently, higher levels of fluoride reduce the intelligence of children by negatively affecting brain development.

So many people were sold on the idea that fluoride is beneficial in preventing tooth decay that it has been added to public water supplies in much of the U.S.A. for many years, typically at concentrations of around one part per million (ppm). But is this really beneficial? In Europe, fluoride has been banned from water supplies in most areas, and yet levels of tooth decay are not higher as a result. There is little evidence to show that adding fluoride to drinking water prevents tooth decay. Unfortunately, adding fluoride to drinking water increases our exposure not only directly by drinking the water, but indirectly by consuming food and beverages that were processed with fluoridated water. Considering that we also get fluoride from pesticides in our food, from toothpaste, from non-stick cookware, household pesticide sprays, and from some pharmaceutical drugs, that can add up to quite a bit of fluoride intake. This increased fluoride exposure may be enough to explain the large increase in dental fluorosis and to raise suspicion in the large increase in hypothyroidism.

We were also taught that fluoride helps to strengthen our bones. This may possibly be true in very small amounts, but even this possibility is controversial. Animal studies show either no effect or a negative effect of fluoride on bone strength. But at the typical exposures today, fluoride may contribute significantly to bone brittleness and easier bone breakage.

If you drink fluoridated water, it typically has about one ppm or one milligram per liter (mg/l) of fluoride. That means if you drink two liters per day (about two quarts per day) you get two milligrams (mg) of fluoride per day just from your water alone.

The U.S. Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board, has set the Adequate Intake (AI) per day for fluoride at 4 mg for men and 3 mg for women (ages 14 and over). They list the "Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL)" at 10 mg per day. Unfortunately, it appears that this recommendation was heavily influenced by pro-fluoridation proponents and is much too high. The UL should probably be more like 2 to 4 mg per day and ideally we should try to keep total fluoride intake to less than one mg per day to minimize risk of harmful effects.

There are a few foods that have higher amounts of fluoride and should be consumed in modest amounts, including tea, wine, and raisins. Natural ground water can also be high in fluoride in some areas and may need to be tested before use as a drinking water supply.

Here's what the USDA reports for the concentration of fluoride (ppm):
1.15 Tea, green, brewed (23 samples)
2.72 Tea, green, decaffeinated, brewed (10 samples)
3.73 Tea, black, brewed, regular, all (63 samples)
1.05 Wine, red (14 samples)
2.02 Wine, white (17 samples)
2.13 Grape juice, white (12 samples)
2.34 Raisins (1 sample)

Note that 1 ppm = 1 mg/l = 0.24 mg per 8 ounce cup

The Linus Pauling Institute reports the following measurements of fluoride in brewed tea (ppm):
0.6-1.0 Oolong
1.2-1.7 Green
1.0-1.9 Black
2.2-7.3 Brick tea

The amount of fluoride varies by the age of the tea leaf. The newest buds have the least and the oldest leaves have the most. That means white teas made from the buds have the lowest fluoride and high quality teas made from younger leaves will have less than low quality teas and brick teas made from older leaves.

Organic teas may also tend to have less fluoride. The Weston A Price Foundation reported the following concentrations of fluoride (ppm):
0.86 Tap water
0.62 Filtered water
0.94 Organic black tea (made with filtered water)
0.90 Kombucha (made with organic black tea)

Regarding prevention of tooth decay, Weston Price found that people eating healthy native diets had little tooth decay. But when these same people began eating refined flour and sugar, tooth decay became rampant. The moral is that proper diet and hygiene will prevent tooth decay. Added fluoride is just another poison that we don't need in our water and diet.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Cancer Concerns

Alternative Cancer Net

Cancer is one of the more feared diseases that unfortunately strikes many more people now than in the past. There are many kinds of cancer, but they all share a common theme - human cells gone awry and proliferating out of control such that they eventually disrupt normal bodily functions and eventually cause death. There are several factors that appear to play significant roles in causing cancer: diet, exposure to carcinogens, exposure to ionizing radiation, and genetics.

Cells may become damaged by poor nutrition or exposure to harmful chemicals or by ionizing radiation such as cosmic rays or x-rays. Most damaged cells die and cause no problems. But with trillions of cells constantly reproducing to sustain our bodies, sooner or later there will be cells that are damaged in such a way that they survive, but function abnormally. When these abnormal cells lose their normal propensity to die (apoptosis) they can proliferate out of control and then you have cancer.

Cancer and the Immune System

Research indicates that our immune system normally attacks and destroys cells that are no longer functioning properly, as is the case with cancer cells. Cancer is only able to proliferate when it can manage to avoid the body's defenses, which may happen if the immune system is weak or if the cancer is able to deceive the immune system into accepting it as normal. Excess dietary sugar and polyunsaturated fat both weaken the immune system. Some toxins and poisons can also weaken the immune system. Ironically, conventional chemotherapy for cancer also weakens the immune system.

Alternative Cancer Net

Cancer and Glucose

Another characteristic of cancer is that cancer cells are only able to burn glucose for energy, unlike normal cells, which can also burn fat for energy. They also consume much more glucose than normal cells. Because of this peculiarity, it is possible that high blood glucose levels may add fuel to the fire once it has started. A study in Korea showed that people with elevated fasting blood glucose levels had about a 20 to 30 percent higher risk of all types of cancer and about double the risk of pancreatic cancer. Another study found that people with elevated fasting insulin and glucose levels were about 50% more likely to have recurring colon polyps and about 2.4 times more likely to have advanced colon tumor recurrence. Low carbohydrate diets may help to slow down the run-away proliferation of cancer cells by helping to normalize blood insulin and glucose levels and to keep them from spiking after meals.

Alternative Cancer Net

Cancer and Genetics

Studies of identical twins suggest that most cancers have a genetic component to susceptibility, some cancers more than others. Thyroid, testicular, and laryngeal cancers and lymphocytic leukemia and multiple myeloma appear to have a stronger genetic component. Also, cancers with early age diagnosis generally have a higher familial risk. However, the overall heritability has been estimated at only about 18% for all types of cancer on average, leaving environment as the major factor in causing cancer.

Dealing with Cancer

Once cancer begins to proliferate enough to cause symptoms, it is very often at an advanced stage and difficult to control. Billions of dollars have been spent over decades to find ways to cure cancer, but so far, no consistent cures have been found. Consequently, avoiding cancer is all the more important.

If cancer does strike, be sure to evaluate all of the options available before deciding on a strategy to try and overcome cancer. The Annie Appleseed Project is a good resource for finding information about complimentary and alternative methods of cancer treatment.

In reality, we all may be dealing with cancer. Our choices in life may affect whether cancer can take root and grow.

Make your choices carefully!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Causes of Death 2005 versus 1900

It's interesting to compare the causes of death in 1900 to those in more recent years. The causes of death have changed significantly since then. The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) has statistics on life expectancy and cause of death for the United States going back to 1900. These statistics show that a lot more people died before the age of 40 back then than now. Life expectancy at birth has risen by 29 years from 49 in 1900 to 78 in 2005. But life expectancy at age 60 has increased by only about 8 years since 1900 as shown in the table below. Most of the large improvement in life expectancy at birth is because of much lower mortality in children in recent years.

CDC source:
Table 6. Expectation of life by age, race, and sex: United States, final 2004 and preliminary 2005

Based on CDC statistics in the two tables below, the death rate per 100,000 population has decreased almost in half from about 1,548 in 1900 to 799 in 2005. But in 1900, about a third of the deaths were from pneumonia, tuberculosis, and diarrhea, the top three causes. By comparison, in 2005, almost half of the deaths were from heart disease and cancer, the top two causes. In 1900, heart disease and cancer accounted for only 13 percent of the deaths. The rate of death from cancer has nearly tripled and the rate for heart disease has nearly doubled from 1900 to 2005. The rate of death from accidents was almost twice as high in 1900 as in 2005.

It is likely that hygiene and medicine have helped to greatly reduce deaths from infectious diseases, more than offsetting the large rise in heart disease and cancer. It is also likely that diet and lifestyle changes account for much of the increase in heart disease and cancer. Since 1900, Americans have greatly increased the comsumption of sugar, vegetable oils, food additives, pesticides, soy, and highly processed foods and these dietary changes may very well be largely responsible for increasing the rates of heart disease and cancer.

The accuracy of these statistics is probably somewhat crude at best. Many people have multiple problems when they die and assigning a cause may be just a best guess. The same problem exists in classifying disease in the first place. But nonetheless, these statistics are the best estimates we have.

CDC source for 2005 data:
Table B. Deaths and death rates for 2005 and age-adjusted death rates and percent changes in age-adjusted rates from 2004 to 2005 for the 15 leading causes of death: United States, final 2004 and preliminary 2005

CDC source for 1900 data:
Leading Causes of Death, 1900-1998

Update 2009 May 14
Be sure to read this great analysis:
The Coronary Heart Disease Epidemic

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Health Check List

The typical modern diet is missing important foods that kept our ancestors healthy and instead is loaded with highly processed fake foods that are low in nutrients and high in additives that are not good for health. Also, modern lifestyles are often stressful and sedentary. Together, poor diet and lifestyle choices are largely responsible for declining health and quality of life in the modern world.

What can we do to improve our health?

1) Include animal seafoods and/or organ meats and/or raw dairy
(from Weston A Price study of most healthful native diets)

2) Eliminate refined sugar and minimize sweets
(keep total sugars to less than 5-10% of calories)
and if overweight, minimize starchy foods as well
(keep total carbohydrates to less than 10-20% of calories)

3) Eliminate artificial trans-fats (hydrogenated oils and fats)

4) Restrict polyunsaturated fats to less than 4% of total calories
and minimize omega-6 polyunsaturated fats

5) Get at least 30 minutes of active exercise daily
(appropriate for your level of conditioning)

6) Learn to avoid and properly handle stress
(relaxation, meditation, EFT, diet, exercise)

7) Get plenty of sleep (ideally 6 to 8 hours)

8) Get plenty of sun if possible
(avoid sunscreen but be careful not to get sunburned)

9) Take good quality high vitamin cod liver oil daily
(if you don't get adequate sun, seafood, and liver)

10) Include cultured and fermented foods and beverages
(if tolerated)

11) Avoid exposure to harmful chemicals
(artificial food additives, pesticides, natural food toxins,
unfermented soy, drugs, poisons, health care products)

12) Avoid foods that cause noticeable adverse effects
(identify possible food intolerances)

13) Choose fully pastured or wild animal foods
(from a clean environment and include bone broth)

14) Use coconut oil, tallow, and/or butter for cooking

15) Include a variety of plant foods to taste and tolerance
(prepared to optimize nutrient availability,
preferably high brix organic and locally grown)

16) If dairy is consumed, use raw and cultured dairy

17) If grains and nuts are consumed, soak or sprout them

18) Eat at least half of your food uncooked

19) Minimize or eliminate factory processed/packaged fake foods
(supports 2, 3, 4, 10)

20) When eating out, avoid fried foods, dressings, and sweet foods
(supports 2, 3, 4, 10)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Antibiotics - Probiotics

Modern medicine has conjured a deep fear of microbes that has led to gross over-use of antibiotics, most commonly for sinus and ear infections. Antibiotic literally means "against life", but is largely used to refer to medications that kill bacteria. Many of these medications are derived from mycotoxins produced by fungi for the purpose of killing competing bacteria. What most doctor's don't tell you is that many of the antibiotics they prescribe kill not only harmful bacteria, but also health promoting bacteria. Not only that, but when bacteria are suppressed, fungi can go into a feeding frenzy and multiply like crazy. And most fungi are not beneficial. What's worse, antibiotics also depress our immune system, allowing unaffected microbes to flourish. And furthermore, over-use of antibiotics creates antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria that can take advantage of any depressed immune system. Consequently, antibiotics should be reserved for only the most severe bacterial infections.

Most people don't realize there are many more microbes in our bodies than human cells, by at least a factor of two or three. We are really symbiotic cultures of human cells and microbes. Most of these microbes are in our digestive system and can weigh as much as three or four pounds. When we are healthy, most of the microbes are beneficial bacteria that help us digest our food and even add nutrients to our system and help support our immune health. This is "symbiosis". Taking powerful antibiotics greatly damages this symbiotic system by killing the beneficial bacteria and allowing harmful microbes, mainly fungi and resistant bacteria, to multiply, causing "dysbiosis". These unfriendly microbes can damage the mucosal lining of the intestines allowing undigested harmful proteins and chemicals to enter the body and the bad microbes can also generate toxins that are absorbed into our body. Dysbiosis often leads to food allergies and may trigger auto-immune diseases, which are malfunctions of our immune system. Dysbiosis may also cause or contribute to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

We are born without beneficial microbes in our digestive system, but mother's milk provides a host of beneficial microbes that quickly colonize our infant digestive systems. The microbes change in composition over time, influenced largely by the foods we eat. These beneficial microbes serve as our first line of defense in combating harmful microbes. When they are healthy, they can out-compete undesirable microbes and may even kill them directly. So, it is imperative to eat foods that promote the beneficial microbes. These can be foods that feed the microbes or foods that actually have live beneficial microbes to re-enforce the supply in our system. Foods with live beneficial microbes are called probiotic, which literally means "for life". Some of the best probiotic foods are raw dairy, fermented dairy such as kefir and yogurt, fermented beverages such as kombucha and beet kvass, and lacto-fermented vegetables such as traditional sauerkraut and pickles (unpasteurized). Foods that benefit the good microbes are called "prebiotic" and include vegetable foods with oligosaccharides. Foods high in refined sugar and refined carbohydrates may in quantity promote microbes that are not beneficial. Maintaining proper digestion is critical to our health.

So what can we do to avoid antibiotics? Ideally keep our immune system as healthy as possible to avoid infections in the first place. That means eating plenty of nutrient dense foods and minimizing dietary sugar, refined carbohydrates, and omega-6 fats that can hamper immune function. Also, eating foods with good saturated fats, such as pastured animal and dairy fats and coconut oil, helps to boost immune function. And consuming probiotic foods helps to maintain beneficial bacteria in the digestive system, which in turn helps to boost immune function. Choosing fresh organic foods and staying away from factory processed/packaged foods loaded with harmful food additives, preservatives, and pesticides also helps to reduce the burden on our immune system.

When infections do manage to bring illness, we need to boost the functioning of our immune system - preferably by diet as much as possible. Taking additional probiotic foods and/or supplements may help against many infections, especially gastro-intestinal infections. Herbal medicines may also provide help against many infections. Consult a naturopathic physician or herbal medicine practitioner for diagnosis and prescription. Bone broth is a traditional remedy that can also help our immune system fight many infections, Broth is Beautiful.

For an in depth and well-referenced discussion of dysbiosis read:
"The causes of intestinal dysbiosis: a review"

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Sugar - a Toxin?

YES! And it's also a very addicting DRUG!

Take a look at the definitions. A toxin is a chemical produced by living organisms that causes harmful effects on the body at high enough concentration. Sugar easily meets that definition. It is plant derived and there are numerous studies that show a variety of harmful health effects from excess dietary sugar. Below are the definitions from Wikipedia.

A poisonous substance produced by living cells or organisms.

In the context of biology, poisons are substances that can cause damage, illness, or death to organisms, usually by chemical reaction or other activity on the molecular scale, when a sufficient quantity is absorbed by an organism.

A drug, broadly speaking, is any substance that alters normal bodily function. Recreational drugs are chemical substances that affect the central nervous system, such as narcotics or hallucinogens. They may be used for perceived beneficial effects on perception, consciousness, personality, and behavior. Some recreational drugs can cause addiction and habituation.

OK, is sugar a drug? If you've ever had a feel-good high immediately after eating sweet "comfort" foods, it's a psycho-active drug. If you've ever had a "craving" for something sweet, it's an addicting psycho-active drug.

So, my point is that we need to start thinking of refined sugar as a toxin and drug. That makes sugar by far the most common and abundant toxin and drug in the modern food world!

The body needs small amounts of sugar to function properly. But the body can make all the sugar it needs. There is no minimum daily intake requirement for sugar or even for carbohydrates. There are many nutrients that in small amounts are necessary for good health, but in excess are detrimental. Zinc,copper, iron, iodine, and vitamins A and D are examples. Likewise, sugar in small amounts is necessary for health, but in excess causes problems.

When natural sugars are ingested unrefined, as in fruits or dairy, the amounts are generally low enough not to cause problems. However, when the sugar is refined and concentrated as a food additive, it is easy to get too much. Because of it's addicting and feel-good qualities, sugar is often added in large quantities to processed/manufactured foods to make them sell better. So, if you eat a lot of processed/manufactured or restaurant foods, it is very easy to get too much sugar. People eating a lot of these foods commonly get as much as 20 to 30 percent or more of their calories from sugars. What's worse is that most of that sugar is now in the form of high fructose corn syrup, which is even more harmful than table sugar. Most healthy primitive diets had only small amounts of sugar, mainly from raw dairy or from fruit when in season.

Too much dietary sugar certainly won't kill you right away, but it does have short-term harmful effects, like suppression of the immune system, even with relatively small doses. That leaves you more vulnerable to infectious diseases and cancer. One study showed that ingestion of 100 grams of sugar caused about a 40% reduction in white blood cell activity against pathogens and found that it took about five hours for immune function to return to normal.

Over many years, too much sugar can lead to metabolic syndrome diseases, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. These are the diseases of aging and that's exactly what too much sugar does - speeds up the aging process.

So, how much sugar should we allow in our diet? Probably no more than about 5% to 10% of total daily calories and the less, the better. That means if your normal dietary intake is 2,000 calories per day, you should not get more than 200 calories from sugar. Since sugar has 4 calories per gram, that means no more than about 50 grams (2 ounces) of sugar per day on a 2,000 calorie diet. And that's total sugar from all sources. Here's the amount of sugar you get from single servings of some common "comfort" foods, listed in grams, to the left of the food name (from NutritionData).

Grams of sugar:
96 cake (1/8 slice 9 inch white with coconut icing)
57 candy (4 oz Snickers)
56 milk shake (11 oz vanilla)
39 soft drink (12 oz cola)
39 yogurt (8 oz low fat strawberry Breyers)
37 coffee (12 oz caramel mocha Starbucks)
34 apple juice (12 oz Starbucks)
32 pie (1/8 slice 8 inch pecan)
30 ice cream (1 cup chocolate)
29 orange juice (12 oz McDonald's)
28 muffin (101 g blueberry Starbucks)
24 donut (5 inch)
21 brownie (56 g large chocolate)
18 granola (2/3 cup low fat fruit Nature Valley)
15 cereal (1 cup frosted flakes Kellogg)
07 hamburger (105 g McDonald's)

For comparison - grams of sugar:
19 apple (3 inch with skin)
15 peach (2 3/4 inch)
12 orange (2 7/8 inch navel)
12 grapes (15 red or green seedless)
07 strawberries (1 cup whole)

Breaking the Sugar Addiction
To break your sugar addiction, eliminate foods with added refined sugar and reduce intake of other refined carbohydrates. Increase intake of foods with good quality animal or dairy fat, preferably from pastured animals, and add probiotic foods. Also, try coconut oil. And be sure to eat a variety of foods to get good nutrition. If you have Excel or Open Office, try out my dietary nutrition calculator. Dropping sugar may seem difficult the first few weeks, but after a few months of abstinence from refined sugar and with intake of more good fat, probiotics, and nutrients, you should lose any cravings for sweets. If you still have difficulty, another tool to try is the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), a type of accupressure that employs tapping instead of the needles used in accupuncture. Once you have broken your addiction, you can still allow occasional sugary foods, but not very often or you run the risk of becoming addicted once again. You may also find that sugary foods that used to be "treats" no longer taste as good - they're too sweet!

If a food does not taste good without adding sugar to it, then either learn to like it without the sugar, or find other foods that you like that don't have added sugar. You may find as you lose your sugar addiction that many foods that formerly did not taste sweet enough now taste good. Sour and tart foods may become more appealing. You may even develop a new appreciation for all of the wonderful flavors in nature!

Update 2008 December 20

Fructose appears to be the worst dietary sugar for causing long-term health problems from excess consumption. Fructose is 50% of table sugar (sucrose) and typically 55% of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Read this interesting editorial from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: How safe is fructose for persons with or without diabetes?

Update 2014 January 5

A more recent discussion of health problems caused by too much dietary fructose:
Clinical Scientist Sets the Record Straight on Hazards of Sugar

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Avoiding Harmful Chemicals in Food and Environment

We are constantly exposed to a bewildering horde of artificial and natural poisons and toxins in our food and environment. The human body can properly handle small amounts of most natural poisons and toxins, but there are many new artificial chemicals for which the human body has not had time to evolve effective means of detoxification. All of these harmful chemicals can cause a wide variety of unpleasant symptoms and if exposure levels are high enough, serious complications like cancer or even death can result. The harm level of these chemicals can vary widely among individuals, influenced by health status, genes, and cumulative exposure effects. Most of these chemicals will cause serious harm in everyone at high enough concentrations. Some of these chemicals are actually nutrients that the body needs at low concentrations but become harmful if the intake is too high. The biggest problem, however, is the pervasiveness of these chemicals, such that individually they might not be a problem, but collectively, they can be overwhelming to our body.

So what can we do? It's nearly impossible to eliminate exposure to all potentially harmful chemicals. The best we can do is to learn where significant sources lie in our food and environment and try to avoid them. Also, if you can detect cause and effect relationships between symptoms and sources, you can avoid things that bother you.

There are a variety of actions you can take to lessen the toxic burden. Eat organic vegetables and fruits and fully pastured or wild animal foods for starters. Minimize sweets and foods high in omega-6 fats. Minimize highly processed commercial foods that are often full of artificial additives such as artificial preservatives, artificial colors, artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, and artificial trans-fats. Don't eat spoiled food or any food that does not taste good. Minimize consumption of large fish, like albacore tuna or swordfish, which often have high levels of mercury. Avoid processed meats preserved with nitrites (including those with added "celery juice" that have hidden nitrites). If your water supply has added chlorine or fluoride, get water filters that remove these and other contaminants. Use only plastics with recycle numbers 2 HDPE, 4 LDPE, or 5 PP. Don't use teflon or aluminum cookware. Be very careful in choosing skin, hair, and mouth care products (EWG has excellent helpful information). Don't get "silver" amalgam dental fillings and properly remove any that you may already have. Avoid vaccines and long-term use of medications. Don't use commercial pesticides or herbicides.

For those of you who may do all these things and still have sensitivity issues, an elimination diet may be helpful for determining problematic foods. Some seemingly healthful foods can have salicylates, amines, or other natural food chemicals that cause unpleasant symptoms in sensitive individuals.

Below is a partial list of some of the more common poisons and toxins with links to more information.

Antibiotics - a double edged sword
Pesticides - in produce


Food Additives
Artificial Colors
. annatto - yellow food color
Artificial flavors
. MSG (free glutamate) - flavor enhancer
. ribonucleotides - flavor enhancers
Artificial Trans-Fats
Dough Conditioners (mono and diglycerides)
High Omega-6 Vegetable Oils
Sugar-free sweeteners
. aspartame (nutrasweet)
. sucralose (splenda)
. saccharin
. cyclamate
Sugar alcohols
. mannitol
. sorbitol
Sugars - how sugars can ruin your health
. sucrose (table sugar)
. dextrose
. HFCS - health hazard
. proprionates
. nitrites
. sulfites

. botulinum
. aflatoxin
. alcohol

Natural Plant Chemicals

Biogenic Amines


aluminum - vaccines, anti-clumping agents
arsenic - pesticides, antibiotics
copper - also a nutrient
lead - glazed pottery, old paint
mercury - hazards, dental fillings, vaccines, large fish
nickel - some stainless steel cookware
selenium - also a nutrient
zinc - also a nutrient

bromine - flour, antacids
chlorine - water
fluorine - water, toothpaste, pesticides, tea
iodine - kelp, also a nutrient

propylene glycol
. bisphenol A (BPA)
. polycarbonate (#7 PC)
. polystyrene (#6 PS)
. polyvinyl chloride (#3 PVC)
. pthalates

Other Chemicals
acrylamide - baked and fried starchy/sugary foods
asbestos - insulation and flooring in some older homes
carageenan - thickening agent in foods and skin care products
dioxins - a case for vegetarianism?
formaldehyde - vaccines, plywood, carpets
perchlorates - rocket fuel, fireworks, chlorinated water
polybrominated biphenyls (PBB) - fire retardant
polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) - fire retardant
polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB)
polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) - combustion product
teflon - cookware

Comprehensive Harmful Chemical Listing from EWG

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Selecting Fats and Oils for Health

One very important influence on our health is our choice of fats and oils in our diet. In general, we should look for oils and fat that are close to what is found in our bodies - mostly saturated and monounsaturated, with only a small amount of polyunsaturated fat. Below is a table showing the percentage of these types of fat in various fats and oils that we eat. The omega-6 and omega-3 fats are also included in the polyunsaturated total in this table. We need small amounts of omega-6 fat, but most people eating a Standard American Diet (SAD) get way too much of this type of fat and that depresses your immune system and increases your chances of getting cancer and heart disease. It's best to avoid fats/oils that have more than about 20 percent as omega-6 and use sparingly fats/oils that are more than about 10 percent omega-6. Oils high in omega-6 are commonly used in processed/packaged foods and in restaurants because they are inexpensive and because of misguided advice to avoid saturated fats. Because of the polyunsaturated bonds, the high omega-6 oils easily go rancid and are easily damaged in processing and cooking. Also be sure to read "Some Typical Questions and Misconceptions on Fats and Oils" by Mary Enig, PhD nutritionist and "The Great Con-ola".

Percentage of Classified Fats for Different Fats and Oils
Cod liver oil1.020.524.550.924.6
Palm kernel oil1.70.01.712.186.2
Macadamia oil1.
Coconut oil1.
Butter oil (ghee)
Beef fat (tallow)
Sunflower high oleic oil3.70.23.986.110.0
Mutton fat (tallow)
Palm oil9.50.29.738.751.6
Olive oil10.00.810.875.014.2
Goose fat10.30.511.559.429.0
Pork fat (lard)
Duck fat12.61.013.551.734.8
Avocado oil13.
Flax oil13.355.869.021.19.8
Safflower high oleic oil15.
Almond oil18.
Canola (rape seed) oil19.29.228.564.17.5
Chicken fat20.41.021.946.931.2
Peanut oil33.60.033.648.617.8
Rice bran oil35.51.737.241.821.0
Sesame oil43.20.343.641.514.9
Soybean oil53.
Cottonseed oil53.90.254.318.627.1
Corn oil56.21.257.429.013.6
Sunflower oil68.80.068.820.410.8
Grapeseed oil72.
Safflower oil78.40.078.415.16.5
Compiled from USDA Nutrient Database
Note: about 4 to 6 percent of total fats were unclassified

Table Abbreviations
Omg-6: Omega-6
Omg-3: Omega-3
Poly: Polyunsaturated (including both omega-6 and omega-3)
Mono: Monounsaturated
Sat: Saturated

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Food Nutrient Information

Here are some resources for information about nutrients in food.

Search the USDA National Nutrient Database
The USDA has nutrient data for a large number of foods. You can even download their entire data base if you want. They also have convenient Nutrient Lists sorted alphabetically or by nutrient content.

Danish National Food Institute
A much smaller but complimentary nutrient data base with measurements for European foods.

Linus Pauling Institute
Excellent detailed information about nutrients.

Worlds Healthiest Foods
More good information about nutrients in food and a few anti-nutrients. Just ignore their fat phobia and love of soy :)

They offer nutrient data from the USDA data base in a convenient form. Be sure to ignore their misguided conventional dietary advice. They require registration to get full access to their most useful features, but it's free and so far I have not had any spam from giving them my e-mail address. To get summaries of the nutrients in the food you eat, first search for each food item and add it to your "Pantry" by clicking on the "Add to Pantry" button at the top of the food nutrient information. Then go to the "Pantry" (menu selection) and enter the food amounts for a meal or a day's worth of food and click on the "Total +" button at the bottom. All the nutrients are quickly tallied for the foods and amounts you have selected. If you enter or change amounts, it keeps accumulating the results until you click the "Total 0" button at the bottom of the "Pantry" to reset to zero. You can also save "Recipes" for foods or meals you make with multiple items. Overall it's a very powerful, fast, and relatively easy to use system. Too bad they don't have better dietary advice.

Offers free online tools to help you monitor your daily nutrition and exercise to meet health goals. I haven't tried it yet but it looks useful. I did look at the tutorial and it looks like FitDay is geared towards weight loss.

Dietary Nutrition Calculator
This is my Excel workbook that allows you to estimate your daily intake of nutrients from the foods you eat. Click the link above for more information.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Dietary Nutrition Calculator

In the quest for good health, getting a nutritious diet is the best foundation. To that end, I have developed an Excel workbook that calculates the approximate amount of nutrients in the food that you choose to eat and compares it to estimated dietary intake references. The nutrient data is primarily from the USDA food nutrient data base, supplemented with some additional data from other sources that are noted. The food nutrient data are very approximate, so this only provides a rough estimate of what is in the food that you eat. Also, nutrient absorption and utilization by the body will vary, depending on the food, combination of foods eaten, and your digestive health status. So, even though the nutrients are in the food, that doesn't necessarily mean that your body will be able to fully utilize them. But at least you have given it the opportunity :)

The Excel workbook has nine worksheets. It opens with the Result sheet, showing the results for a sample day of food. The Detail sheet shows even more detail, including individual fatty acids and amino acids. The Input sheet allows you to input the amounts of food that you have eaten or plan to eat. Be sure to delete all the sample entries before adding your own entries. You can use formulas to prorate amounts over a longer time period to a daily basis for comparison to the dietary references. The Calc sheet performs the calculations using the input amounts and the nutrient data in the Data sheet. The Calc sheet can be reviewed to see which foods are contributing what portion of the nutrients in the foods you are eating. The Data sheet has nutrient data per 100 grams of each food. It can be used to compare the nutrient density on a per weight basis between different foods. The Data by Calories sheet has nutrient data per 100 calories of food and can be used to compare nutrients for different foods on a calorie basis. The Load sheet provides assistance for adding additional nutrient data obtained from the USDA food nutrient data base. Follow the instructions on the sheet to load new data. More data loading tips and information are in the Notes sheet. And finally, the BMR sheet will calculate the target number of calories for your ideal weight, based on your height, age, and activity levels. It uses the Harris Benedict Basic Metabolic Rate (BMR) formulas.

Download the Dietary Nutrition Calculator

Click on the link above to download the latest version of the Excel workbook. This link will take you to the MediaFire file hosting site where you can download the Excel file free. Wait for the "Click here to download.." box to appear and then click on that link to download the file to your computer. To return here, use the "back" button on your browser.

If you don't have Microsoft Excel, you can also open and use the Excel workbook with the free Open Office spreadsheet program that can be downloaded here:  Open Office

Good luck in your quest for health!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Principles for good health

Some basic guidelines for health and happiness


Get good nutrition by eating healthy foods
Choose a variety of traditional nutrient-dense foods
Preferably organic, fully pastured, and wild foods
Boost immune system and digestive function with probiotic foods
Avoid sweets, refined carbs, vegetable oils, margarine, trans-fats
Avoid highly processed foods, artificial food additives
Listen to your body

Nurture a positive attitude
Focus on the good things
Relax and enjoy life
No worries mate :)

Get at least 30 minutes of vigorous exercise on most days
Include 10 to 15 minutes of intense exercise several days per week
Interval exercise is best

Avoid exposure to toxins and anti-nutrients
(in food, water, air, and skin contact)
Drive carefully!

Natural food-based supplements
Use to boost nutrition if diet is inadequate
May be less effective than a good diet

Herbal remedies
Use to treat causes more than symptoms
Reserve for acute illness

Refined supplements
Use to boost nutrition if diet is inadequate
Can be a doubled edged sword if not carefully used
May be less effective than food-based supplements

Refined medicinal remedies
A last resort for acute health problems if all else fails
Will likely have adverse side-effects over time

Count your blessings
Good health is not something to take for granted