Magnesium — An Essential Mineral for Heart Health

Source

By Dr. Mercola

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body. Researchers have detected more than 3,750 magnesium-binding sites on human proteins1 giving an indication of its wide-ranging health effects. More than 300 different enzymes also rely on magnesium for proper function.

A common estimate is that 50 to 80 percent of Americans are deficient in magnesium, and the health consequences are significant. Magnesium plays an important role in your body’s biochemical processes, many of which are crucial for proper metabolic function. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Creation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy currency of your body2,3
  • Relaxation of blood vessels
  • Muscle and nerve function, including the action of your heart muscle
  • Proper formation of bones and teeth
  • Regulation of blood sugar and insulin sensitivity, which is important for the prevention of type 2 diabetes.4,5,6,7,8 For example, magnesium is essential for insulin release by pancreatic ?-cells, and acts as a messenger for insulin action9

Magnesium and Heart Health

If you’re lacking in cellular magnesium, it can lead to the deterioration of your cellular metabolic function and mitochondrial function, which in turn can lead to more serious health problems. The scientific evidence suggests magnesium is particularly important for your heart health.

Moreover, it’s very important to have a proper balance between magnesium and calcium, but few people get enough magnesium in their diet these days, while calcium tends to be overused and taken in high quantities.

Insufficient magnesium tends to trigger muscle spasms, and this has consequences for your heart in particular. This is especially true if you also have excessive calcium, as calcium causes muscle contractions.

Magnesium also functions as an electrolyte, which is crucial for all electrical activity in your body.10 Without electrolytes such as magnesium, potassium and sodium, electrical signals cannot be sent or received, and without these signals, your heart cannot pump blood and your brain cannot function properly.

As explained by Dr. Carolyn Dean, author of the seminal paper “Death by Medicine” in 2003 (identifying modern medicine as a leading cause of death in the U.S.) and the book, “The Magnesium Miracle,” your heart has the highest magnesium requirement of any organ, specifically your left ventricle.

With insufficient amounts of magnesium, your heart simply cannot function properly. Hypertension (high blood pressure), cardiac arrhythmia,11 cardiovascular disease (CVD) and sudden cardiac death are all potential effects of magnesium deficiency and/or a lopsided magnesium to calcium ratio.

Magnesium Associated With Lower Cardiovascular Disease Risk

According to a systematic review and meta-analysis12 published in 2013, “circulating and dietary magnesium are inversely associated with CVD risk.” This means the lower your magnesium intake (and the lower the circulating magnesium in your body), the higher your risk for CVD.

Each 0.2 millimole per liter (mmol/L) of circulating magnesium was associated with a 30 percent lower risk of CVD

A 200 milligram per day (mg/d) increase in dietary magnesium was associated with a 22 percent lower risk of fatal ischemic heart disease (IHD), but had no significant impact on CVD risk.

The inverse association between dietary magnesium intake and IHD also leveled out above 250 mg/d

The authors noted their finding “supports the need for clinical trials to evaluate the potential role of magnesium in the prevention of CVD and IHD.” The Weston A. Price Foundation has also noted that:13

“[M]agnesium shines brightest in cardiovascular health. It alone can fulfill the role of many common cardiac medications: magnesium inhibits blood clots (like aspirin), thins the blood (like Coumadin), blocks calcium uptake (like calcium channel-blocking drugs such as Procardia) and relaxes blood vessels (like ACE inhibitors such as Vasotec)”

Magnesium May Be Key for Blood Pressure Control

Recent research14,15 also suggests magnesium may be a key component of blood pressure management. Addressing your high blood pressure is important, as it is a risk factor for both heart disease and stroke. As mentioned, magnesium helps relax and dilate your blood vessels, thereby reducing your blood pressure.

In this review, data from 34 clinical trials involving more than 2,000 participants was evaluated. The studies used dosages of magnesium supplements ranging from 240 mg/d to 960 mg/d.

Although the association was mild, they did find that higher magnesium intake was associated with “healthy reductions” in blood pressure. Key findings include:

A daily dose of 368 mg of magnesium, taken for three months, lowered systolic blood pressure (the upper number in the blood pressure reading) by 2 millimeters of mercury (mm/Hg) and diastolic blood pressure (the lower number) by 1.78 mm/Hg

Those who took 300 mg of magnesium per day were able to elevate their circulating magnesium levels and lower their blood pressure in as little as four weeks

Higher magnesium intake was associated with improved blood flow

Benefits of magnesium appeared to be restricted to those who had insufficiency or deficiency in magnesium to begin with, meaning those whose blood pressure might have been caused by lack of magnesium.

According to lead author Dr. Yiqing Song, “Such suggestive evidence indicates that maintenance of optimal magnesium status in the human body may help prevent or treat hypertension.”16

To Optimize Your Magnesium, Eat Magnesium-Rich Foods

According to the authors, 368 mg of magnesium can be obtained from a healthy diet, so you do not necessarily need to take a supplement. Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a New York City cardiologist, told Medicinenet.com:17

“As clinicians, we need to stress the importance of a well-balanced meal, not only for all the cholesterol lowering and sugar-modulating benefits, but for ensuring an adequate amount of magnesium in the blood,” adding that“checking magnesium levels as part of a screening for heart health may become an essential part of prevention and for treatment of blood pressure.”

Indeed, a useful way to maintain healthy magnesium levels is to make sure you eat plenty of dark-green leafy vegetables. Juicing your greens is an excellent way to increase your magnesium, along with many other important plant-based nutrients.

That said, if the mineral is lacking in the soil, it’s also going to be low in the food, and mineral depleted soils are commonplace these days unless the farmer is using regenerative methods. If you eat organic whole foods and show no signs of deficiency, you’re probablygetting sufficient amounts from your food.

If you eat well but still exhibit deficiency signs (discussed below), you may want to consider taking a supplement as well. When it comes to leafy greens, those highest in magnesium include:

Spinach Swiss chard Turnip greens Beet greens Collard greens
Broccoli Brussels sprouts Kale Bok Choy Romaine lettuce

Other foods that are particularly rich in magnesium include:18,19,20,21

Raw cacao nibs and/or unsweetened cocoa powder

One ounce or 28 grams (g) or raw cacao nibs contain about 64 mg of magnesium, plus many other valuable antioxidants, iron and prebiotic fiber that help feed healthy bacteria in your gut.

Avocados

One medium avocado contains about 58 mg of magnesium, plus healthy fats and fiber and other vitamins. They’re also a good source of potassium, which helps offset the hypertensive effects of sodium.

Seeds and nuts

Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds score among the highest, with one-quarter cup providing an estimated 48 percent, 32 percent and 28 percent of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of magnesium respectively. Cashews, almonds and Brazil nuts are also good sources; 1 ounce (28 g) of cashews contains 82 mg of magnesium, which equates to about 20 percent of the RDA.

Fatty fish

Interestingly, fatty fish such as wild caught Alaskan salmon and mackerel are also high in magnesium. A half fillet or 178 g (about 6.3 ounces) of salmon can provide about 53 mg of magnesium, equal to about 13 percent of the RDA.

Squash

One cup of winter squash provides close to 27 g of magnesium; about 7 percent of your RDA.

Herbs and spices

Herbs and spices pack lots of nutrients in small packages, and this includes magnesium. Some of the most magnesium-rich varieties are coriander, chives, cumin seed, parsley, mustard seeds, fennel, basil and cloves.

Fruits and berries

Ranking high for magnesium are papaya, raspberries, tomato, cantaloupe, strawberries and watermelon. For example, one medium sized papaya can provide nearly 58 g of magnesium.

Magnesium Level Inversely Associated With Arterial Calcification

In related news, your blood level of magnesium has also been shown to be inversely associated with coronary artery calcification (CAC).22 Previous studies have noted this association among patients with chronic kidney disease, but this study found the same correlation exists among general, otherwise healthy populations.

Among people who did not have any signs of symptomatic cardiovascular disease, and compared to those with the lowest serum levels, those who had the highest serum level of magnesium had a:

  • 48 percent lower risk of high blood pressure
  • 69 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes
  • 42 percent lower risk of an elevated CAC score

A 0.17 milligram per deciliter (mg/dL) increase in serum magnesium was associated with a 16 percent reduction in CAC score. The authors concluded that:

“[L]ow serum magnesium was independently associated to higher prevalence not only of hypertension and DM2 [diabetes mellitus 2], but also to coronary artery calcification, which is a marker of atherosclerosis and a predictor of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.”

Magnesium Intake Is Also Inversely Associated With Inflammation Marker

Research published in 2014 also found that higher magnesium intake is inversely associated with serum C-reactive protein (CRP) levels.23 CRP is a marker for inflammation and rises when you have inflammation brewing in your body. Here, data collected from seven cross-sectional studies of more than 32,900 people showed that people who had higher magnesium intake had lower CRP levels. According to the authors:

“This meta-analysis and systematic review indicates that dietary Mg [magnesium] intake is significantly and inversely associated with serum CRP levels. The potential beneficial effect of Mg intake on chronic diseases may be, at least in part, explained by inhibiting inflammation.”

Risk Factors, Signs and Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency

A primary risk factor for magnesium deficiency is eating a processed food diet, and the reason for this is because magnesium resides at the center of the chlorophyll molecule. If you rarely eat leafy greens and other magnesium-rich whole foods (listed above), you may not get enough magnesium from your diet alone.

Magnesium is also lost through stress, sweating from heavy exertion, lack of sleep, alcohol consumption and use of certain prescription drugs (especially diuretics, statins, fluoride and fluoride-containing drugs such as fluoroquinolone antibiotics), and tend to decline in the presence of elevated insulin levels.24 These are all factors that affect a large majority of people in the Western world.

Unfortunately, unlike sodium or potassium, there is no easily available commercial lab test that will give you a truly accurate reading of your magnesium status. The reason for this is because the vast majority of the magnesium in your body is found in bones and soft tissues.

Only 1 percent of it shows up in your blood. That said, some specialty labs do provide an RBC magnesium test that can give you a reasonable estimate. Perhaps the best way to ascertain your status is to carefully evaluate and track your symptoms.

Early signs of magnesium deficiency include “Charlie horses” (the muscle spasm that occurs when you stretch your legs), headaches/migraines, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, fatigue or weakness. These are all warning signs indicating you probably need to boost your magnesium intake.

More chronic magnesium deficiency can lead to far more serious symptoms such as abnormal heart rhythms and coronary spasms, seizures, numbness and tingling, as well as changes in personality and behavior.

Dean’s book, “The Magnesium Miracle,” contains an extensive list of signs and symptoms, which can be helpful for evaluating your magnesium status. You can also follow the instructions in her blog post, “Gauging Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms,”25 which will give you a check list to go through every few weeks. This will also help you gauge how much magnesium you need to resolve your deficiency symptoms.

Tips and Suggestions on Dosage

The RDA for magnesium26 ranges from 310 to 420 mg per day, depending on your age and sex. However, as noted by Dean, some researchers believe as much as 600 to 900 mg/d may be required for optimal health. Fortunately, there’s room for error. Magnesium is quite safe, so you don’t have to worry about taking too much. That said, if you have renal failure, you’ll want to avoid taking too much, as it could have adverse effects.

Dean suggests using your intestinal reaction as a marker for your ideal dose. Start out at 200 mg of oral magnesium citrate per day, and gradually increase your dose until you develop slightly loose stools. This is your personal cutoff point. When your body has too much magnesium it simply flushes it out the other end. Magnesium citrate is known for having a laxative effect, which is why it’s recommended in this case.

When Supplementing, Balance Magnesium with Calcium, Vitamin K2 and D

One of the major benefits of getting your nutrients from a varied whole food diet is that you’re less likely to end up with lopsided nutrient ratios. Foods in general contain all the cofactors and needed co-nutrients in the proper ratios for optimal health. Essentially, the wisdom of Mother Nature eliminates the guesswork. When you rely on supplements, you need to become savvier about how nutrients influence and interact with each other in order to avoid getting yourself into trouble.

For example, it’s important to maintain the proper balance between magnesium, calcium, vitamin K2 and vitamin D. Unfortunately, we don’t yet know the precise ideal ratios between all of these nutrients, but some general guidelines and considerations include the following:

Magnesium will help keep calcium in your cells so they can do their job better. The ideal ratio between magnesium and calcium is currently thought to be 1:1. Keep in mind that since you’re likely getting far more calcium from your diet than you are magnesium, your need for supplemental magnesium may be two to three times greater than calcium.

Vitamin K2 has two crucial functions, one is in cardiovascular health and the other is in bone restoration. By removing calcium from the lining of the blood vessels and shuttling it into your bone matrix, vitamin K2 helps prevent occlusions from atherosclerosis. Meanwhile, vitamin D helps optimize calcium absorption.

Vitamins D and K2 also work together to produce and activate Matrix GLA Protein (MGP), which congregates around the elastic fibers of your arterial lining, thereby guarding your arteries against calcium crystal formation. Magnesium and vitamin K2 also complement each other, as magnesium helps lower blood pressure, which is an important component of heart disease.

While the ideal or optimal ratios between vitamin D and vitamin K2 have yet to be determined, Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue (whom I’ve interviewed on this topic) suggests taking 100 micrograms (mcg) of K2 for every 1-2,000 international units (IUs) of vitamin D you take.

As for how much vitamin D you need, I strongly recommend getting your vitamin D level tested twice a year (summer and winter) to help determine your personal dosage. Sensible sun exposure is the ideal way to optimize your levels, but if you opt for a supplement, your “ideal dosage” is one that will put you into the therapeutic range of 40 to 60 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml).

Sources and References

How Your Tax Dollars Are Used Against You by Promoting Obesity and Disease

Source

By Dr. Mercola

Poor health is typically the result of a metabolically inappropriate diet. Many studies have confirmed that processed foods and sugary beverages are significant contributors to obesity and chronic disease, including cancer.

Unfortunately, while the U.S. government appears to be concerned about rising obesity and disease statistics, it has done virtually nothing to address its own role.

Subsidizing corn and soy is about as smart as subsidizing tobacco when it comes to public health, but when our federal government is run by dominate corporations – what else would you expect?

Agricultural policies in the U.S. contribute to the poor health of Americans and play an important role in the ever-worsening obesity epidemic by promoting consumption of cheap junk food that wreak metabolic havoc.

A number of papers published in peer-reviewed journals have pointed out these facts, so policy makers should be well aware of them.

More Than Half of All Calories Consumed Are From Subsidized Commodities

According to an investigation published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine on July 5,1,2,3 56 percent of all calories consumed in the U.S. between 2001 and 2006 came from government-subsidized commodities such as corn, soy, wheat, rice, dairy and meat.

And, according to the authors, “higher consumption of calories from subsidized food commodities was associated with a greater probability of some cardiometabolic risks.” As noted by Time Magazine:4

“While those may sound healthy, they’re typically not eaten in their whole-food form; rather, they’re turned into cattle feed or refined and converted into sweeteners … and processed fatty foods …

 ‘[A]n excess of subsidies in these areas ends up leading to a conversion into foods like refined grains and high calorie juices, soft drinks with corn sweeteners and high-fat meats,’ says Ed Gregg, Ph.D., chief of the CDC’s epidemiology and statistics branch in the diabetes division. ‘It’s basically the way that they’re used that ends up being detrimental.’”

Another study5 published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (AJPM) in 2013 came to the exact same conclusion, stating that:

Government-issued payments have skewed agricultural markets toward the overproduction of commodities that are the basic ingredients of processed, energy-dense foods,” and that this is “worsening obesity trends in America.”

The authors of this 2013 study also noted that “federal farm subsidies promote unsustainable agriculture while also failing to reward good stewardship.”

Subsidized Diets Raise Risk of Health Problems

Indeed, the Western processed food diet is chockfull of refined added sugars and unhealthy vegetable oils, which are cheap as a result of farm subsidies. The study also found that the young, the poor and less educated people eat the highest quantities of subsidized foods.

Compared to those who consumed the least amount of subsidized foods, these high intake groups had a:

  • 37 percent higher risk of obesity
  • 41 percent higher risk of dangerous visceral fat (belly fat associated with an increased risk for heart disease)
  • 34 percent higher risk for symptoms associated with chronic inflammation

Corn, Soy and Wheat — 3 Major Junk Food Ingredients

You’d be hard-pressed to find a processed food product that doesn’t contain corn syrup, soybean oil and/or wheat, and there’s compelling evidence showing that all of these ingredients cause significant harm to health when consumed in excess:

High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS): has been shown to cause more metabolic harm than other sugars.6

Research also shows that while HFCS accounts for about 8 percent of added sugar consumption worldwide, 42 percent of added sugar in the U.S. diet comes from corn syrup.7

So Americans are consuming far more HFCS than many other nationalities, and our disease statistics tend to mirror that as well.

For an excellent scientific analysis on fructose, I suggest reading the report titled “Fructose, Weight Gain, and the Insulin Resistance Syndrome,”8 published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN). It will open your eyes to some of the major problems associated with this sweetener.

Soybean oil: is the most common oil used in the U.S., but this is a relatively new phenomenon. The consumption of soy oil has increased 1,000-fold over the last century,9 and now consists of 10 to 20 percent of all calories consumed in the American diet.

Diets high in soybean oil have been shown to upregulate genes involved in obesity, diabetes, inflammation, mitochondrial function and cancer.10 In fact, soybean oil was found to be more obesogenic and diabetogenic than fructose in mice.11

The excessive consumption of soybean oil is also troubling for a couple of other reasons. First, over 95 percent of soybeans grown in the U.S. are genetically engineered (GE), and therefore more prone to heavy contamination with Roundup or other toxic pesticides.

Second, this extreme increase has also contributed to widespread omega-3 to omega-6 imbalance. Soybean oil is primarily omega-6 fat, and a significant source of dangerous trans fat.12

According to researchers,13 “the apparent increased consumption of linoleic acid (LA), which was primarily from soybean oil, has likely decreased tissue concentrations of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) during the 20th century.”

Wheat: has been identified as a potential trigger of poor health via a number of mechanisms. While no GE wheat is grown in the U.S., desiccating conventional wheat with Roundup is a common practice.

By applying the pesticide right before harvest, farmers can dry out the grain faster for the harvesting schedule. As a result, most non-organic wheat tends to be contaminated with this toxic pesticide, which in addition to the heightened level of gluten in modern wheat helps explain the rapid rise in gut disorders, such as leaky gut and celiac disease, and associated health problems.

By Subsidizing Processed Food Diet, U.S. Government Promotes Ill Health

None of these findings are secret. The research has been published in peer-reviewed medical journals and publicized in the mainstream media and various books.

A paper14 published in Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) in 2004 argued that U.S. agricultural subsidies foster poor health, as did a paper15 published in the Annual Review of Nutrition that same year, so this is certainly not a new observation.

This means the U.S. government is more or less intentionally promoting obesity and ill health, since no steps have ever been taken to address the inappropriate distribution of farm subsidies toward obesity and disease-promoting food commodities.

A 2012 report by the non-profit organization United States Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) titled “Apples to Twinkies, Comparing Federal Subsidies of Fresh Produce and Junk Food”16,17 revealed that if you were to receive an annual federal agricultural subsidy directly, you would receive $7.36 to spend on junk food and just 11 cents to buy apples.

In other words, every year, your tax dollars pay for enough corn syrup and other junk food additives to buy 19 Twinkies, but only enough fresh fruit to buy less than one-quarter of one apple.

As noted in a recent Mother Jones report,18 94.1 million acres of corn was grown in the U.S. this year, along with 83 million acres of soybean. Yet prices for both of these commodities are currently at five-year lows, “perilously close to the cost of production.”

The sole reason why so much corn and soy is grown even though prices are so low is because these crops are subsidized.   Monsanto owns patents on a majority of the corn and soy planted and they lobby hard to ensure our taxes are lining Monsanto’s own pockets.

The floor would come out from under’s Monsanto’s feet if the government wasn’t sending our money to create false value for these GMOs.

About 30 to 40 percent of all corn grown is used for livestock feed and 5 percent is used to make HFCS. The remainder, as much as 65 percent, goes toward the making of ethanol fuel, not food. About half of the soybean crop also goes toward livestock feed.

Subsidizing Factory Farms Over Regenerative Farms Also Promotes Poor Health

The same can be said for meat and dairy production. The U.S. government subsidizes concentrated animal feeding operations(CAFOs), which not only have a destructive effect on the environment but also promote animal and human disease, including the scourge of antibiotic resistance.

According to the authors of the featured study,19 “better alignment of agricultural and nutritional policies may potentially improve population health,” and this, I believe, includes a shift toward subsidizing grass-fed and pastured meats rather than CAFO livestock.

The problem, of course, lies in the fact that the CAFO and monocrop factory farm models are backed by incredibly wealthy and powerful interests that have tremendous influence on government policies. For example, you’d think the U.S. Department of Agriculture(USDA) exists to protect you against the vagaries of industry, but many of its actions and decisions speak to the contrary.

The chemical and agricultural industries spend millions of dollars to lobby for regulations that are favorable to them, and there’s a constantly revolving door between the agency and private corporations. Revolving doors also exist between private companies and just about every other government agency. And then there’s the political lobby, which through its wealth manages to influence career politicians to do their bidding at every turn.

Most Americans Raised on a Fattening Corn-Based Diet

The United States is the No. 1 per capita consumer of corn in the world. As expounded in books like “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan, HFCS and other corn-derivatives work their way into nearly every kind of processed food on the market.

Unfortunately, since corn is a grain, it rapidly breaks down to sugar in your body and raises your risk for insulin resistance if regularly consumed. Elevated insulin levels in turn are linked to most chronic degenerative diseases, including everything from obesity and diabetes to premature aging.

Making matters worse, the vast majority of American-grown corn is also genetically engineered to produce Bt toxin (a pesticide that kills bugs by making their stomachs explode), which is then consumed by you.

Studies suggest that, contrary to industry assurances, this built-in Bt toxin survives the journey through your digestive system and can make you allergic to a wide range of substances. (This is in stark contrast to naturally produced Bt toxin which is rapidly broken down in the environment and never makes it to your stomach.)

A CNN article20 from 2007 puts Americans’ consumption of subsidized corn into even greater perspective. Todd Dawson, a plant biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, performed carbon tests on human hair to evaluate the dietary sources of the building blocks making up the human body.

When testing a strand of hair from CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, he found that 69 percent of the carbon in Gupta’s hair originated from corn. And according to Dawson, that’s typical for Americans.

“We are what we eat with respect to carbon, for sure,” Dawson told CNN. “So if we eat a particular kind of food, and it has a particular kind of carbon in it, that’s recorded in us, in our tissues, in our hair, in our fingernails, in the muscles … We’re like corn chips walking because we really have a very, very large fraction of corn in our diets, and we actually can’t help it because it’s an additive in so many of the foods we find on the market shelves …

 I think where the danger comes in with corn is that much of the corn grown now in North America is going into making high-fructose corn syrup. So it’s not that corn per se is bad, but it’s the sweetener made from corn that gets into many of the foods that Americans are probably consuming too much of, and we now see that showing up as obesity and heart disease and potential for type 2 diabetes.”

Europeans, on the other hand, eat far less processed foods, and as already noted, they consume far less corn-based sweeteners too. After spending three months in Italy, Dawson tested his own hair, and found it contained only 5 percent corn-based carbon.

Agricultural Policies Need an Overhaul

Far from providing us with critical nutrition, U.S. agricultural policies contribute to the declining health of Americans and worsen the out-of-control obesity epidemic. Current farm subsidies bring you HFCS, processed oils high in trans fats and damaged omega-6 fats, fast food, junk food, corn-fed CAFO beef, environmentally-unfriendly monoculture and a host of other contributors to our unhealthy contemporary diet.

The subsidy program is severely broken, subsidizing junk food in one federal office while funding anti-obesity objectives in another. Besides being hypocritical, it’s an incredibly wasteful system. Worst of all, the farm bill creates a negative feedback loop that perpetuates the highly profitable standard American diet (SAD). In this way, the U.S. government is knowingly promoting and subsidizing obesity and chronic disease.

The time is ripe for change, and redesigning the system could help move us toward economic and nutritional recovery. If we’re going to subsidize farmers, let’s subsidize in a way that helps restore the health of American citizens and our land — programs that might just pay for themselves by the reduction in healthcare costs they bring about.

In 2011, Mark Bittman of The New York Times21 argued that subsidy money could easily be redirected toward helping smaller farmers to compete in the marketplace in a number of ways. For example, funds could be redirected toward:

  • Funding research and innovation in sustainable agriculture
  • Providing incentives to attract new farmers
  • Saving farmland from development
  • Assisting farmers who grow currently unsubsidized fruits and vegetables, while providing incentives for monoculture commodity farmers (corn, soy, wheat and rice) to convert some of their operations to more desirable foods
  • Leveling the playing field so that medium-sized farms can more favorably compete with agribusiness as suppliers for local supermarkets

How You Can Affect Positive Change

Remember though that one of the most effective ways you, as an individual, can promote positive change is by redirecting your food dollars toward locally grown foods, and foods grown in a sustainable and organic manner. By supporting your local family farms, you’re promoting a healthier, more sustainable and safer food system for everyone in your community.

“Just Say No” to junk food producers by not buying their wares and return to a diet of real, whole foods — fresh organic produce, meats from animals raised sustainably on pasture and raw organic milk and eggs. Eating this way will increase your chances of living a long, healthy life, whereas the typical American diet may set you on the path toward obesity and chronic disease.

Neuroscience journal confirms adverse effects of fluoride on brain development

Source

by: Sarah Landers

Fluoride

(NaturalNews) Fluoride is commonly found in tap water thanks to a process called fluoridation – which the U.S. government has been repeatedly telling us is a safe and effective way to protect teeth from decay, according to Global Research.

But a recent study published in The Lancet, the world’s most renowned medical journal, has actually classified fluoride as a neurotoxin – something which has a negative impact on brain development – alongside other extremely toxic compounds such as arsenic, lead and mercury.

A large number of cities within the U.S. are pumping their drinking water systems full of fluoride, and the government is claiming that there are no health risks to this unnecessary practice.

Why is fluoride added to water?

Fluoride is added to water because of an outdated notion that it prevents dental decay, according to Scientific American. If applied frequently in low concentrations, the U.S. is being led to believe that it increases the rate of growth and size of tooth enamel – which helps to reverse the formation of small cavities.

But, modern studies show that dental decay rates are so low in the U.S. that the effects of water fluoridation cannot actually be measured. This means that the benefit of water fluoridation is not clinically relevant, according to Fluoride Alert.

There are many safer ways to provide fluoride for your teeth if they are deficient. In fact, there is a very easy one time gel treatment that takes only 15 minutes and lasts a lifetime, according to Ye Olde Journalist. Teenagers and young adults that have dental fluoride deficiency can easily be tested – although it is likely that their dentist will have noticed the problem and already suggested ways to improve the condition.

What little benefit fluoridated water might actually provide comes entirely through its topical application – meaning that fluoride does not need to be swallowed to benefit teeth, as reported by Fluoride Alert.

So what are the dangers of drinking fluoride?

Fluoride is an industrial-grade chemical that is commonly contaminated with trace amounts of toxic heavy metals – such as lead, arsenic and radium. These trace elements accumulate in our bodies over time, and are associated with causing cancer, among other health complications, according to Fluoride Alert.

Toothpaste labels commonly contain warnings regarding the dangers of swallowing too much toothpaste at one time; this is due to its fluoride content. Meanwhile, fluoridation isn’t actually a common practice in Europe, with countries such as Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and The Netherlands opting out of adding fluoride to drinking water, according to Alt Health Works.

As noted in the latest study, published in The Lancet, and reported on by Ye Olde Journalist, “A systematic review identified five different similar industrial chemicals as developmental neurotoxicants: lead, methylmercury … arsenic and toluene … Six additional developmental neurotoxicants have also now been identified: manganese, fluoride …” The study notes that neurodevelopmental disabilities, including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia and other cognitive impairments, are now affecting millions of children worldwide – a “pandemic of developmental neurotoxicity.”

Over recent years, more and more people have joined the movement to remove industrial fluoride from the world’s water supply, thanks to an increased awareness of the dangers to human health caused by drinking this toxin for a prolonged period of time. If you are concerned about the amount of fluoride you are putting into your body, you can switch to fluoride-free toothpastes and help spread awareness about the dangers of fluoridation.

Sources include:

TheLancet.com

YeOldeJournalist.com

AltHealthWorks.com

GlobalResearch.ca

FluorideAlert.org

ScientificAmerican.com

Science.NaturalNews.com

TruthWiki.org

 

 

Environmental Exposures, Autism and Developmental Delays — An Approach From an Integrative Psychiatrist

Source

By Dr. Mercola

According to a 2013 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 50 children between the ages of 6 and 17 has some form of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).1,2

A government survey issued in 2015 claims the ASD rate may be as high as 1 in 45 children between the ages of 3 and 17.3,4 There has been a dramatic and concerning increase in the rates of ASD over the last 20 years and experts’ believe that the rates will continue to increase.

What is responsible for this epidemic? Dr. Suruchi Chandra, a Harvard-trained, board-certified psychiatrist, has focused her career on using a holistic and integrative approach to help children and adults with challenging emotional and behavioral issues, including autism and other developmental delays.

I met her at a training event with Dr. Lee Cowden, who is my physician-mentor, and Chandra uses many of Cowden’s principles and healing tools on these autistic kids.

Chandra was prompted to look into integrative approaches after she completed her medical training at Harvard and Yale because she was confronted by many devastating psychiatric conditions for which there was often little hope.

“This is true for developmental delays as well as psychiatric disorders. As you know, these disorders can be truly devastating, whether it’s bipolar, treatment-resistant depression, or autism. I wasn’t satisfied. I thought, ‘Perhaps we’re missing something as a field.’

This really led me to start looking at integrative medicine. I came in highly skeptical, assuming perhaps that if these things weren’t known by some of the better, more established institutions, they weren’t likely to help.

But I saw children improving and I saw also adults improving in a way that I hadn’t seen before. I thought, ‘I have the responsibility and even a moral obligation to understand this field better.’

Now I’ve been in this field for about 12 years. Again, what keeps me in this field, what motivates me, is the type of improvements that I see on a day to day basis in children, and also this sense that there’s more that we can learn to help these children and adults.”

 

Autism Is Just the Tip of the Iceberg

While autism numbers are radically increasing, Chandra believes it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Aside from children with some form of ASD, a growing number of children also struggle with developmental and speech delays, as well as motor disorders.

According to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), developmental delays affect 1 out of 6 or 7 children, Chandra notes.

It’s important to realize that most disease, be it autism, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, neurodegenerative diseases or anything else, are rooted in some form of imbalance; imbalance in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, the immune system and/or mitochondrial dysfunction.

If you expertly address those, and do it early enough, it’s quite possible to see vast improvement in virtually any disease. Sadly, many simply don’t believe it’s possible, and this goes for trained physicians and patients alike. The reason they don’t believe it is because they’ve never been trained to think like that.

Most also have never or rarely seen radical recoveries in their clinical practice, whichare possible when you treat the root cause of the disease rather than simply treating the symptoms with drugs.

Since there are no pharmaceutical medications that treat the core symptoms of autism, Chandra recommends using gentle and holistic approaches that are aimed at addressing possible underlying biomedical imbalances before psychiatric medications.

She also stresses that we should think about how the commonly used medications may affect these biomedical imbalances.

“For example, some of the psychiatric medications approved for autism actually affect the mitochondria in an adverse way. We should look for other resources before jumping to them because you don’t want to affect the mitochondria in a negative way,” Chandra says.

 

Factors Contributing to Autism

There are many theories about the origins of autism. Many still assume autism is a genetic disorder. Most psychiatrists have been taught that autism was 90 percent inherited and genetic, and that little can be done to address it other than psychiatric medications and behavioral therapies.

However, more recent research has supported that environmental exposures play a significant role in the development of ASD and scientists have started turning their attention to environmental factors.

Studies on twins suggest genetic factors may account for as much as 38 percent of autism, but the remaining majority is due to early environmental exposures. This makes common sense as well. As noted by Chandra, “there is no such thing as a genetic epidemic. Genes don’t change that fast.”

“Again, we have to look at the environment. By environment, we’re not talking just about environmental toxins, although I think those are things we need to pay attention to. We need to look at everything surrounding a child during development.

This includes the microbial world, the microbiome, the bacteria that are around us; some pathogenic, some friendly. We also need to look at food. Food can either be a stressor or something that’s healing.

[I also think] we need to question the increasing exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF). We need to take a really broad view. It’s unlikely that autism is going to be caused by one or two factors.

It’s likely to be caused by this combination of many factors, and it’s going to be unique for each child.

It’s really challenging when you have this very individualized complex system, as studies aren’t going to figure this out easily. If we just wait for studies, we may be waiting a long, long time to act.”

 

Environmental Exposures and Developmental Delays

In the lecture5 featured above, Chandra discusses research findings showing how environmental toxins can influence ASD and other developmental delays, and reviews a number of safe, gentle natural treatment options that can be quite helpful. Overall, the approach Chandra uses is precautionary, beginning with identifying and reducing toxic exposures in your home. She has a handout she gives to parents, which you can download from her website, chandramd.com.

It’s four pages long, covering aspects like air and water quality, pesticides, flame retardants and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in a range of products, including furniture.

“I think we have to look at all of these things because it’s going to be really hard to know what is affecting a particular child. Rather than pinpointing one thing, I think we need to take a really comprehensive approach. I’m happy to share this handoutwith any parents that are interested, because it’s a good place to start,” she says.

Diet Is Key

Your diet can literally make or break your health. It can introduce toxins to your system or help remove them. Foods can change your gut microbiome in a very short amount of time, for better or worse.

Stephanie Seneff, Ph.D. is convinced part of the autism problem is related to the fact that virtually everyone is eating processed foods and/or foods contaminated with glyphosate-based pesticides like Roundup, both of which are extremely detrimental to your microbiome. Glyphosate also negatively impacts the mitochondria, so it really delivers a double whammy.

While genetically engineered (GE) crops like corn, soy and sugar are primary culprits, as they’re heavily sprayed with glyphosate and used in most processed foods, conventional wheat can also be heavily contaminated, as glyphosate is used to desiccate wheat right before harvest.

Another factor Chandra sees in many autistic children is the overuse of antibiotics early in life, as well as the overuse of antibiotics in the mother’s life. “Mothers who use a lot of antibiotics preconception at any point seem to have children that have serious gut issues, which often are correlated with behaviors,” she says.

Chandra also believes that the microbiome is likely key in understanding ASD, similar to the views of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, whom I’ve interviewed in the past about her Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) Diet. Campbell-McBride’s basic thesis is that the autistic child’s microbiome was disrupted by the mother’s poor diet and use of antibiotics or birth control pills. The mother then transfers that poor microbiome to the child.

This early disruption in the microflora, combined with other environmental variables, ends up wreaking both physical and neurological havoc. Chandra, like Campbell-McBride, finds the greatest improvements are typically seen once strategies that help heal the microbiome are implemented.

“There’s a saying that all disease begins in the gut,” Chandra says. “When I first heard that, I thought, ‘That’s way too simplistic.’ While it is a little reductionistic, I am finding myself thinking in that way. That’s really where I start with each child: figuring out ‘where is their GI tract?’ We do tests to assess that.

Then as we heal the gut, that’s where I often see the greatest gains for that subset of children. Again, that’s not all the children. But for that subset of children where all the GI issues are predominant, that’s where I see the greatest gains. I agree with her [Campbell-McBride]. The approach I use is a little different, but I agree with her basic principles.”

 

Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Diet Benefits Many With Autism

One of the strategies many families with autistic children end up trying is the gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diet. And for good reason. Gluten and casein have opioid-like activity, thanks to gluteomorphin and caseomorphin, and you really do not want to stimulate the opioid receptors in your child’s brain. I think it’s a good strategy for everyone, but particularly for those with developmental delays or autism.

When I was treating autistic patients, I typically saw enormous improvements when we restricted sugars, grains, fruit juices and fruits — all sources of net carbs (total carbohydrates minus fiber) that disturb the gut microbiome, increase pathogenic yeast, fungi and viruses, and wreak havoc with the mitochondrial fuel structure.

“That’s good advice,” Chandra says. “Especially lowering added sugars, fructose and fruit juices. Fruit juices are immediate source of sugar for part of the microbiome that shouldn’t be there. That’s some of the advice that I give the kids early on. That certainly makes change. In terms of reducing grains, some of the children benefit.

There’s some evidence that some of the children with autism don’t have the enzymes to break down the disaccharides. Again, it’s a subset of children that benefit from that. We need to take a more individualized approach. But again, looking at carbs and sugars can make a big difference.”

 

The Case for a High-Fat, Low-Carb Diet

My current working theory for most diseases, certainly any neurodegenerative disease, and even brain traumatic injuries (BTI), is to provide optimized fuel for the body, specifically the brain, which is really more optimized for burning fat than glucose. Most people eat far too many net carbs. As a result of that, we burn fuel inefficiently and create a lot of unnecessary free radicals. So a high-fat, low-carb diet seems a reasonable strategy to try. Chandra agrees, saying:

“Many of the kids I see are not getting enough good-quality fats. I tell the parents the brain is predominantly fat and you need to get the right material for the brain development. Even things like cholesterol. There are quite a few children at my practice that have low cholesterol.

You need cholesterol for the brain to develop. The strongest genetic link to any mutation and autism is actually the inability to make adequate amounts of cholesterol …

Some children do well on the higher-fat diets, but again it’s individualized. But I agree with the basic principle of dramatically reducing free sugars, added sugars, simple carbs, processed carbs, and then looking at grains. Every child with autism that has any GI issues should have a trial, I think, of the gluten-free and casein-free diet to begin with, to see if they respond.”

 

The Cell Danger Response

Chandra uses a model relating to the cell danger response, discovered by Dr. Robert Naviaux. He’s created a “unifying theory” for autism that takes many disparate symptoms into account by explaining what happens at the cellular level.

By looking at the cellular level, he discovered the signaling mechanism that cells do when they’re in danger. This cell response is instigated by the mitochondria. In many chronic illnesses — including autism — the cells are responding to each other as if they’re in danger.

The question is: what’s causing them to signal distress? It could be a response to an environmental toxin, a microbial exposure, or even something as simple as heat or cold. Naviaux is now investigating ways of stopping this signaling. However, “before we stop the signaling, we need to remove all the things that could be seen as a danger for the cells,” Chandra says.

“What this model tells me is that the children who are developing now don’t have an environment that allows them to feel safe. We’ve gotten so far from where we should be in terms of all the environmental exposures … that the cells don’t feel they’re safe.

What Dr. Naviaux says is, if the cells don’t feel like they’re safe, they’re going to take all their resources and put it towards survival rather than developing language, social skills, humor and all those higher-order functions.

So the first thing we do is remove all the things that could be seen as a danger … We have to take a precautionary approach; we can’t wait for those studies. We have to think: ‘Is this safe?’ That’s my first question rather than, ‘Has this been proven to be harmful?’ We also look at infections.

These infections can be part of the microbiome or a systemic infection. Once the cells are in a safe place, we can look at mechanisms by which the cells can feel safe again. That’s what Dr. Naviaux is looking at. I think many of the things we use, like supplements and herbs, actually are telling the cells, ‘It’s safe now. You can go back to a healing, growing mode.’”

 

Diagnostic Tools

So, to summarize Chandra’s strategy, she looks beyond imbalances in neurotransmitters, with an emphasis on the gut, the immune system and the mitochondria. She, and others who work with this model, does not view autism primarily as a brain-based disease. Instead, she views it as a whole body disease, involving multiple systems that affect the brain. To assess these various systems, Chandra relies on a wide variety of diagnostic tools that most conventional psychiatrists would never think to use.

GI function: to assess the child’s GI tract, she begins by taking a family history and doing a physical examination. She also performs tests to assess the child’s gut bacteria, level of inflammation and digestive function. If it’s determined that the child cannot digest carbs, for example, she will recommend reducing or avoiding grains and using a digestive enzyme.

Immune function and chronic infections: many autistic children have evidence of immune dysfunction, such as autoimmune problems and/or excess inflammation, so she will also assess and prescribe support for the child’s immune function. Diagnosing and treating chronic infections is a related component.

For example, the spirochete Borrelia can affect your brain and cause psychiatric symptoms. Unfortunately, few doctors or psychiatrists take the time to rule out Lyme disease when presented with a psychiatric case. Since Lyme disease can be exceptionally difficult to diagnose, when the history, exam and laboratory testing suggest a possible diagnosis of Lyme, Chandra will do a diagnostic trial with Banderol and Samento.

Eva Sapi, Ph.D. demonstrated in an in vitro study that these two herbs, Banderol and Samento, were effective against Borrelia burgdoferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. NutraMedix sells very high-quality Banderol and Samento that Chandra uses in her practice and I personally use and recommend.

“Based on how the child responds, we know if it’s a possibility or likelihood they have this infection. If it’s likely they have it, because of what we call Herxheimer response, where they get dramatically worse, or in some cases, dramatically better, we just continue treating as it seems fit,” Chandra says.

“If the disorder is caused by one of these infections, it can make all the difference to treat the infection. This is where you can take a child who may have chronic developmental delays and autism and you put him on a different life course if you treat in an appropriate way. That’s why we were taught so emphatically in training: rule out reversible causes, treat infections.”

Mitochondrial health: mitochondria are organelles inside nearly every one of your cells. “They are, we now know, kind of the canaries in the coal mine. When there’s some danger or stress, they’re the first things that respond to the damage,” Chandra says. Studies suggest 60 percent of children with autism have mitochondrial dysfunction, so this is a significant factor.

There are tests that can indicate whether your child’s mitochondria are affected. For example, low carnitine, coenzyme Q10 and certain amino acid ratios can signify mitochondrial dysfunction. If mitochondrial dysfunction is found to be part of the problem, there are holistic approaches to help heal them. This includes adding more healthy fats to the diet, “healing and sealing” the gut and addressing any infections.

Offering Hope for Autistic Children

Some believe it’s impossible for autistic children to improve, but one study actually showed that up to 20 percent of children with autism do recover. “What keeps me in this field is that I see improvements every day,” Chandra says. “I believe strongly that if you use an approach that uses behavioral therapies and this approach, you’re more likely to see improvements.”

Early intervention is important though. Children who get help by or before the age of 3 tend to make the most dramatic improvements, sometimes with relatively few interventions.

“Sometimes improvements are enough that they have what we call recovered,” Chandra says. “For example, I saw a child at 4 and a half, which many people think is too late, because there’s this idea that you have to do the interventions before age 5. The parents came to me not entirely hopeful.

We started with simple interventions. He had a lot of abdominal pain, constipation. We did a gluten-free diet. We removed sugars, excess sugars from the diet. We healed his constipation. We gave him lots of herbs and supported the mitochondria. This is ongoing work. It’s not overnight. We continue doing this. We did therapies that are often not recommended by typical psychiatrists, including movement therapies that help regenerate the brain, we believe.

This child is now 10, in a mainstream small school that’s academically challenging, getting all As and A+s, having no behavioral problems, needing no support. He still has a little bit of fine motor issues, but he’s really motivated to play sports. He’s out there doing lots of physical training and occupational therapy (OT) so he can handle that last obstacle. This is the type of healing that’s possible. I wish it was for every child. It’s not available I think for every child, but it is possible.”

 

Early Signs and Symptoms

Chandra stresses that there’s no need to wait until your child is 3 or older to start the biomedical approach. While most children with ASD and other developmental delays do not receive a diagnosis until age 2 or later, there are often earlier signs of a dysregulated system. Early signs that warrant further work up and treatment include GI disturbances (e.g. chronic spitting up), hypotonia (poor muscle tone) including weak control of head and neck at 6 months, and poor of eye contact.

“We have really safe, gentle interventions like probiotics and dietary changes that we can use as a precautionary approach when there’s a likelihood of these children being affected,” Chandra says.

“Here’s a story I think about a lot because this is something a mother taught me. A child came to see me at 11 months, which I’d never had before. This mother brought him at 11 months because she was an applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapist. She knew what to look for and she also knew what would happen if she didn’t take action …

At 9 months, this child lost eye contact, stopped babbling and he developed something we call head lag, which a child at 9 months should not have. She did her research and she knew he was at a high likelihood for a developmental delay and possibly autism.

What did she do that was different from most moms? One, she had this knowledge and she said, ‘I’m not going to wait’ … The second thing she did was she said, ‘What’s going on underneath? These are the behaviors, but what’s going on at a metabolic level, physiological level?’

She, based on her research, decided he likely had mitochondrial dysfunction and gave him some carnitine and CoQ10 and other mitochondrial supports, and he developed language and good eye contact. But he was still kind of floppy and had some motor delays. She did some more research and brought him to see me.

I’ve now worked with him for two years. He likely has one of these chronic infections, which we treated. He now, at 3 years, speaks in seven-word sentences. He’s developing not only on target but ahead in many areas, and there’s no concern about a developmental delay.

Every time I see him — he comes in at about every three months — it’s very bittersweet, because on one hand, I’m so happy for this child and his family, but every time I see him, I think about all the other children out there and what’s not being done.”

 

More Information

Stories like that demonstrate that there’s plenty of hope. The key is to not sit around and hope for the best. If you notice warning signs, be proactive. In terms of resources, Chandra recommends:

Dr. Martha Herbert’s book “The Autism Revolution.” Herbert is a pediatric neurologist at Harvard. “It’s a great book because it’s based on sound science, but it also has practical advice and offers hope,” Chandra says.

The Autism Research Institute offers free educational webinars for parents, covering strategies such as dietary and behavioral-based interventions.

Talk About Curing Autism (TACA). This group was founded by a mother in Los Angeles whose child has autism. It now hosts an annual conference, and you can find local chapters in 30 different states.

“If you’re fortunate enough to have one of these groups in your city, I encourage you to contact them, because they offer one-on-one mentoring by mothers who have been doing this type of approach for a while. There’s nothing, I think, that can replace that,” Chandra says. TACA also offers a lot of information online that you can peruse.

Documenting Hope. This is group of women who are making a documentary to show that recovery is possible for a number of childhood illnesses, including autism. They’re also in the process of creating a grassroots effort. Chandra recommends contacting them to see whether they have any local meetings in your area as well.

You can learn more about integrative psychiatry, developmental delays and other complex chronic illnesses on Chandra’s website, chandramd.com. There you can also sign up for her newsletter, and find her contact information, should you be interested in making an appointment.

Come See Me Speak With Dr. Cowden

Lastly, if you are a health care professional and interested in learning from Dr. Lee Cowden about many of the strategies Dr. Chandra is using, I am speaking at the annual Academy of Comprehensive Integrative Medicine in Orlando on September 22 and 23rd. We will be exploring how to apply these strategies in the treatment of cancer. So if you know someone with cancer it would be highly beneficial to attend this conference.

It promises to be one of the best events of the year and I am very excited to be sharing my latest insights on the metabolic treatment of cancer. Many of the leading experts in the field will also be there. If you have an interest in cancer, this is the go-to event of the year to get the latest insights on how to conquer cancer with diet. You can find out details at this link.

Sources and References

Documentary Investigates Family Farming Practices Around the World

Source

By Dr. Mercola

While large-scale monocrop farms and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) have overtaken family farms in the U.S., 80 percent of the world’s food supply still comes from small family-operated farms.

These farms also employ about 40 percent of the global workforce. As noted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations:1

“Family farms are also the custodians of about 75 percent of all agricultural resources in the world, and are therefore key to improved ecological and resource sustainability.”

The same sentiment is echoed in the featured documentary “Those Who Sow,” written by members of the agronomy association Agro et Sac à Dos, which notes that our current food supply could actually feed nearly 12 billion people, almost double the current population.

To investigate the diversity, challenges and benefits of family farming around the world, a group of agronomists visited farmers in India, France, Ecuador, Cameroon and Canada.

Farming Is a Means Out of Poverty in India

In India, diversity helps keep a family of 35 well-fed and well-nourished without ever having to buy food from the local market. Showing the agronomist around his farm, the farmer notes the many different foods being grown, including rice, fruits and vegetables.

In addition to allowing the extended family to enjoy a life of self-sufficiency, some of the produce is also sold, providing the family with income. Not all family farms are as diversified. Some, even those in developing nations like India, focus on one main product, such as milk production.

By providing infrastructure, training and financing, Amul, which is the largest dairy cooperative in India, has provided previously poverty-stricken people with a lucrative business option. For many, cow ownership has become a way to rise out of poverty.

Dairy farmer Bhagha Thakor, who owns four cows, makes as much money off their milk each day as he would working as a laborer for five days on someone else’s farm.

Thanks to Amul, more than 3 million farmers now make a decent living selling milk, and the majority of them have less than five cows. Through this cooperative, these millions of small-scale farmers are also able to satisfy India’s demand for dairy products.

Poverty and hunger are still prevalent in India though, and projects that promote access to various means of food production are in high demand. This includes loans, access to land and water, as well as agricultural training.

Family Farming in Developed Countries

Family farms are not relegated to developing nations like India. In France, before World War II, the majority of the country’s food supply came from small family farms. Today, a much smaller yet thriving farmers’ community still exists.

To remain competitive and profitable, farmers have had to expand and specialize. Visiting a family farm in Troume, the team gets an inside view of one of these French food producers.

Specializing in pork production, the Levesque farm quadrupled production between 1978 and 2000. At the same time, three-quarters of the family farms in the area disappeared, unable to stay competitive.

These kinds of expansions and consolidations have allowed French farmers to not only provide food security for the nation, but have also turned France into a major food exporter.

However, expansion, consolidation and specialization have their drawbacks. The Levesque family can only produce one-third of the grains needed to feed their pigs. The rest must be bought. Some staples must even be imported from other countries.

Family farming can also take a toll on the environment. As noted in the film, minerals in soybeans, which are fed to the pigs, eventually end up in soil and water as the pigs’ waste is used as fertilizer. Problems can ensue when these minerals build up, such as the development of green algae.

It bears noting that just because a farm is family run does not mean it adheres to safe, regenerative agricultural methods, although more and more farmers are starting to recognize the need for more sustainable practices.

Farms using regenerative methods are far less likely to have a negative impact on the environment, as they work with nature and ecology rather than against it.

Farmers Can and Will Adapt to Changing Demands, but Need Consumer Support

The Levesque family is working toward producing more antibiotic-free pork, which they recognize is better for consumer health.

But it can be difficult, as efficiency and low cost tend to be two opposing forces that farmers need to weigh. Ultimately, consumers’ behavior plays an important role, as they either will or will not pay a particular price for a given product.

“What we need to remember is that family farmers are quite capable of adapting to the changing demands of society, so long as we support them and pay them properly,” the film notes.

When it comes to dairy production, French farmers need a minimum of 25 to 30 cows to remain viable. The cost of land, equipment and livestock prevents most people from taking up farming in the first place.

You need an estimated €1 million just to get started — a hefty investment for most. However, here too there are farm incubator programs that aid young people to get into the field, both literally and figuratively.

Farming Export Products Is Risky Business

In Cameroon, many farmers specialize in the production of coffee and cocoa, which are exported to other countries. However, while national cooperatives like Amul in India help stabilize prices, the export producers in Cameroon and elsewhere face much higher risks due to the fluctuation of global prices.

In the 1990s, when global coffee production increased, income from this commodity dropped sharply. As a result, coffee farmers in Africa faced grave difficulties.

Still to this day, many cannot afford to produce coffee, focusing instead on diversifying their crops and growing foods that can be sold locally. As noted by one former coffee farmer, by focusing on food crops, he can at least feed himself even if no one wants to buy it.

This shift toward diversification and local distribution and sale has helped protect farmers from the risks associated with exports to the global market. Produce from Cameroon has also entered the African regional market, being bought locally by middlemen who then transport and resell it in neighboring countries.

In Cameroon, men traditionally support their families by growing cash crops that are sold, while the women grow food for personal consumption. A group of women visited by the team has developed significant insight and knowledge about gardening, creating complex and diverse crop associations that help defend against pests and limit the risk of crop failure.

A significant problem facing farmers in Cameroon is the conflict between crop farmers and traditional transhumance herders. Broken fences and livestock grazing on cash crops and vegetables cause much strife. To adapt to these changing environmental and human conditions, traditional nomadic herders have been encouraged and in some cases more or less forced to settle in one location.

Some have developed entirely new livestock practices to rear livestock on a small amount of land, while others have abandoned tradition and converted to growing vegetables.

The Rise of Agroecology

Around the world, farmers are waking up to the adverse effects of agriculture. While chemicals and machines have allowed farms to expand and increase production, there’s growing awareness about how these strategies harm the soil, ecology and ultimately, human health.

As a result, a growing number of farmers are transitioning over to more sustainable and regenerative methods that do not rely so heavily on chemical and technological means. While regenerative strategies may appear “novel” to many, especially younger generations, it’s really more of a revival of ancestral knowledge.

This includes strategies such as crop rotation, diversification, cover crops, no-till, agroforestry and integrated herd management. For example, on John Mbah’s cocoa plantation native trees grow interspersed with the cocoa trees, providing much needed shade. Other fruit-bearing trees also grow on his farm. The Frescaline family in France also discusses the benefits of having food crops and livestock together, noting “there are only benefits” to this strategy.

According to the film, “production diversification seems to be an important lever to promote agroecological processes.” However, agroecological processes also tend to be more labor intensive, and in order for farmers to make the transition, they must be properly compensated for the extra work. As noted by American rancher Harry Stoddart, “a sustainable farm must sustain the farmer first before it can sustain society and the environment.”

“If this condition is respected, this type of family agroecological agriculture could generate income in rural areas. By generating more jobs per acre, it has real potential to reduce unemployment in the north and the south. It would also help decrease the rural exodus, and prevent the swelling slums in developing countries where the population continues to grow rapidly,” the film says.

 

The Importance of Community Supported Agriculture

Community supported agriculture (CSA) programs can make a big difference in how well a family farm can survive and thrive, as discussed by the Canadian farmer featured in this film. While the rules differ from one CSA to another, participating farms typically sign up new members during the winter months for the upcoming growing season.

As a CSA member, you basically buy a “share” of the vegetables the farm produces, and each week during growing season (usually May through October) you receive a weekly delivery of fresh food.

Joining a CSA is a powerful investment not only in your own health, but in that of your local community and economy as well. Thriving CSAs can help revitalize a community and allow residents to form strong bonds with the farmers who grow their food. This helps build a stronger, safer and more sustainable food system. It’s also really helpful for the farmer, who is able to collect money needed to seed, sow and harvest up-front.

Another way to change your diet for the better and promote a more stable and sustainable food system is to grow some of your own food, even if it’s just a few pots on your balcony. During World War II, 40 percent of the produce in the U.S. was grown in people’s backyards in so-called “Victory Gardens,” and this trend has started taking root once again.

If you’re unsure of where to start, I recommend starting out by growing sprouts. Broccoli, watercress and sunflower sprouts are foods that virtually everyone can and would benefit from growing. It’s inexpensive, easy, and can radically improve your overall nutrition.

Supporting Your Local Farmers Is an Investment in Your Health and Helps Build Stable, Sustainable Food Systems

As noted by Stoddart:

“The piece I think consumers have to understand is that the agricultural food system is a co-creation of consumers’ choices driving farmers’ choices. The way the system is set up today, there’s a huge wall between consumers and farmers, in the processing, distribution and retailing, where the only real thing that passes through is price. Values really don’t pass back.

So if consumers want … a different farming system, agricultural food system, then they have to make different choices. And the only real way to do that is through direct connections, whether that’s farmers’ markets, CSA programs, working with a food coop in the city, purchasing from farmers and working with consumers.”

Your best bet for finding healthy food that is fresh and in season is to connect with a local farmer that raises crops and animals according to organic standards, even if they’re not certified organic. If you live in the U.S., the following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh foods:

EatWild.com

EatWild.com provides lists of certified organic farmers known to produce safe, wholesome raw dairy products as well as grass-fed beef and other organic produce. Here you can also find information about local farmers markets, as well as local stores and restaurants that sell grass-fed products.

Weston A. Price Foundation

The Weston A. Price Foundation has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass fed raw dairy products like milk and butter.

Grassfed Exchange

The Grassfed Exchange has a listing of producers selling organic and grass-fed meats across the U.S.

Local Harvest

This website will help you find farmers markets, family farms and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats and many other goodies.

Farmers Markets

A national listing of farmers markets.

Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals

The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.

Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA)

CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.

FoodRoutes

The FoodRoutes “Find Good Food” map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs and markets near you.

The Cornucopia Institute

The Cornucopia Institute maintains web-based tools rating all certified organic brands of eggs, dairy products and other commodities, based on their ethical sourcing and authentic farming practices separating CAFO “organic” production from authentic organic practices.

RealMilk.com

If you’re still unsure of where to find raw milk, check out Raw-Milk-Facts.com and RealMilk.com. They can tell you what the status is for legality in your state, and provide a listing of raw dairy farms in your area. The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund2 also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws.3 California residents can also find raw milk retailers using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com.

Do You Have a Victory Garden?

The idea of planting Victory Gardens goes back to World War I and II, and was advertised as a way for patriots to make a difference on the home front. Planting these gardens helped the citizens combat food shortages by supplying themselves and their neighbors with fresh produce.

Planting your own Victory Garden can go a long way toward healthier eating, and in the long run, it can provide incentive for industry-wide change, and a return to a diet of real food, for everyone, everywhere. A great way to get started on your own is by sprouting. They may be small, but sprouts are packed with nutrition and best of all, they’re easy and inexpensive to grow.

Share Pictures of Your Garden or Sprout Setup With Me!

Do you have pictures of your garden or sprout setup you’d like to share? I’d definitely love to see your pictures and hear your experience! Send in your pictures to gardening@mercola.com and I’ll publish my favorites.

Click Here to Submit

Sources and References

Can Standing Promote Weight Loss, and How Much Movement Does It Take to Burn Off Your Favorite Junk Food?

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By Dr. Mercola

Being slim is not necessarily proof of being in optimal health. Metabolic dysfunction can strike anyone not following an optimized diet. However, carrying excess weight significantly raises your likelihood of suffering health problems.

This is why childhood obesity is such a grave concern, as obese children are likely to suffer the consequences much earlier in their adult life.

The metabolic dysfunction, such as insulin and leptin resistance, that comes with obesity also triggers inflammation; a factor linked to a range of health problems, including but not limited to:

Why Diets Fail and Exercise Alone Cannot Counteract Weight Gain

Most overweight people have tried dieting. Most have failed to lose any significant weight. Or they lost weight and then gained it all back, plus an additional few pounds. Why is that?

The short answer is that this failure is due to using an ineffective and/or unsustainable approach. One of the keys to long-term weight management is healthy metabolism and mitochondrial function, and many diets actually create more dysfunction rather than correcting it.

Calorie counting is one of the many ineffective weight loss strategies out there. It doesn’t work in the long term and the reason for this is because calories have different metabolic influence, depending on their source.

Starvation diets don’t work either. Zoe Harcombe’s book, “The Obesity Epidemic: What caused it? How can we stop it?” is an excellent primer exposing why simply eating less and moving more is not the answer to the obesity problem. Exercise alone is also ineffective. You simply cannot out-exercise your mouth.

The Impact of Movement on Calorie Burning

That said, movement is surely part of the long-term answer. Physical movement requires more energy to be used up than sitting or lying down. The question is, how much movement do you need?

A recent study4,5 evaluated the number of calories burned by different office activities. Seventy-four normal weight volunteers in their mid-20s were recruited and randomly assigned to one of four activity groups:

  1. Sitting down, typing on a computer for 15 minutes, followed by 15 minutes of standing still, making an effort to move and fidget as little as possible
  2. Sitting down, watching a television screen for 15 minutes, followed by a 15-minute stroll on a treadmill
  3. Standing up for 15 minutes, followed by 15 minutes of sitting
  4. Walking on a treadmill for 15 minutes, followed by 15 minutes of sitting

The volunteers all wore equipment that measured how many calories they were burning. The results showed that:

  • Sitting burns about 20 calories per 15 minutes, regardless of whether you’re actively typing or not
  • Standing up burns about 22 calories per 15 minutes, or an additional eight to nine calories more per hour compared to sitting down
  • Walking burns nearly three times more calories than sitting or standing, with an hour of walking resulting in an additional 130 calories being burned each day

These results suggest that if you’re trying to lose weight, standing up may not be enough. Walking more, on the other hand, could have a slight impact, provided you don’t sabotage it with poor dietary choices.

Standing Has Other Important Health Benefits

While standing still may have a negligible impact on the number of calories you burn, standing does increase the likelihood you’ll move more in general. Standing also provides biological benefits besides calorie burning that make it well worth your consideration.

As explained by Dr. James A. Levine, co-director of the Arizona State University Obesity Solutions and author of the book “Get Up!: Why Your Chair Is Killing You and What You Can Do About It,” standing up triggers a number of beneficial molecular cascades.

For example, within 90 seconds of standing up, the muscular and cellular systems that process blood sugar, triglycerides, and cholesterol — which are mediated by insulin — are activated. All of these molecular effects are triggered by carrying your own bodyweight.

These cellular mechanisms are also responsible for pushing fuel into your cells and, if done regularly, will radically decrease your risk of diabetes.

Standing up May Radically Improve Your Productivity

Experiments done on call center workers have also shown that standing up during work can significantly improve productivity. After one month, call center representatives who stood up during their shift generated 23 percent more “successful” calls compared to their sitting counterparts. After six months, the standing employees had a 50 percent higher success rate compared to those who sat all day!

The results were so astonishing, one of the authors initially thought a mistake must have been made. As reported by The Washington Post:6

“More significant than the statistical evidence in productivity was the change in outlook … Researchers noticed a difference in the workers’ ‘comfort, attitude about work and how they felt about themselves.’

But are the study’s findings transferable to other lines of work, say an office worker at a busy law firm or a front desk clerk at a hotel? ‘The simple answer is yes,’ [study author Mark] Benden, Ph.D., said. ‘I think that folks, like you and me, can improve our productivity.'”

 

What Does It Take to Burn Off That Junk Food?

Getting back to calorie burning, just how much physical activity does it take to burn off some of your favorite meals and snacks? As mentioned, you cannot out-exercise your mouth, and one of the reasons for this is due to the sheer amount of activity required to burn excess calories.

Another factor that plays into this equation has to do with the metabolic effects of calories from different sources, which I’ll address in the next section. But first, take a look at the infographic7 below, which shows how much exercise you have to engage in to burn off eight popular junk foods, or check out their video above.

To “work off” a single McDonald’s Big Mac, men would have to do more than 40 minutes of cardio; women would have to go a bit longer, just over 50 minutes. If you had a large French fries with that, tack on another 40 minutes of cardio for men and 48 minutes for women.

If you had a can of soda, add yet another 12 to 14 minutes of cardio for men and women respectively. So to “neutralize” the calories in this one meal, which is a common combo, would require at least 1 1/2 hours of moderate to intense exercise.

Meanwhile, previous research suggests more than half of Americans over the age of 18 never engage in any vigorous physical activity lasting 10 minutes or more per week. If you do the math, it becomes easy to see how the extra pounds can stack up on your frame if you’re sedentary and eat lots of junk food.

Calories Are Not Created Equal

Weight gain can be further aggravated by eating lots of metabolically harmful calories. What falls under this category? Primarily net carbs, which is the total carbohydrates minus fiber. For optimal health and disease prevention, I recommend keeping your net carbs below 40 or 50 grams per day. Primary culprits include all forms of sugar, as well as most grains, which turn into sugar in your body.

The dogmatic belief that “a calorie is a calorie” has done much to contribute to the ever-worsening health of the Western world. It’s one of the first things dieticians learn in school, and it’s completely false. Calories are not created equal. The source of the calories makes all the difference in the world. Groundbreaking research by Dr. Robert Lustig shows that calories from processed fructose are of particular concern.

According to Lustig, fructose is “isocaloric but not isometabolic.” What this means is that identical calorie counts from fructose and glucose, fructose and protein, or fructose and fat, will cause entirely different metabolic effects. One of the reasons for this is due to the fact that different nutrients provoke different hormonal responses, and those hormonal responses determine how much fat your body will accumulate and hold on to.

Research8 shows that calories gleaned from bread, refined sugars and processed foods promote overeating, whereas calories from whole vegetables, protein and fiber decrease hunger. According to a 2015 meta-review9 published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings,once you reach 18 percent of your daily calories from added sugar, there’s a two-fold increase in metabolic harm that promotes pre-diabetes and diabetes.

Thermic Effects of Nutrients Impact Their Caloric Value

Another factor that impacts the effect of calories is the thermic effects of nutrients, meaning the amount of energy your body uses in order to break down the nutrient in question. For example, the energy used up in making protein available to your body is somewhere around 25 to 30 percent whereas the thermic effect of carbohydrates is 6 to 8 percent.

So even though the “calorie in” count may be identical, your body will burn off more of the protein calories than the carb calories. In addition to that, your body self-regulates its energy expenditure based on available energy. The other consideration is that your body is not a closed thermodynamic system like calories measured in the lab. Food will have other metabolic effects that can slow down metabolic rate, as through the thyroid.

Calories from fiber-rich carbs such as vegetables barely count when it comes to calorie consumption as they’re very low in net carbs and provide valuable vitamins, minerals and fiber that nourish your gut microbiome. This is because your body can’t burn fiber so fiber adds no calories.

Ideally, you want twice as many fiber carbs as non-fiber carbs (net carbs). So if your total carbs is 10 percent of your daily calories, at least half of that should be fiber. Fiber is not digested and broken down into sugar, which means it will not adversely impact your insulin, leptin and mTOR signaling.

Another key is to eat more healthy fat and moderate your protein intake. Many would likely benefit from getting as much as 75 to 85 percent of your daily calories from healthy fats like grass-fed butter, olives and olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, raw nuts, and pastured eggs.10

Your Fat-Burning Ability Also Impacts Your Calorie Requirements

Many still believe and insist that weight gain is impossible unless you consume more calories than you expend. Alas, the metabolic influence of different calories pokes too many holes in this theory. Another wild card that is frequently overlooked is your body’s ability to burn fat as its primary fuel. Due to insulin and leptin resistance, most people have impaired enzymes to burn fat, which lends credence to Lustig’s assertions.

Once your body is well-adapted to burning fat as its primary fuel, it becomes very efficient at burning calories derived from fat — far more so than when you’re primarily burning sugar for fuel. My diet is 75 to 80 percent fat and I eat approximately 3,500 calories a day. That’s well over the conventional recommendation of 2,400 to 2,800 for an active man of my age.11 However, I burn fat so efficiently, if I go below 3,500 calories a day, I lose weight.

If you currently burn sugar as your primary fuel, then rapidly and significantly increasing your healthy fat intake may not be beneficial and could result in weight gain. Your body simply isn’t adapted to burning all that fat yet, and fat is very high in calories.

So go slow, and remember that one of the keys to making this metabolic switchover is to dramatically cut your sugar consumption. As long as you’re giving your body sugar, it will use that first. Intermittent fasting can also speed up your body’s transition from burning sugar to burning fat as your primary fuel.

To Rein in Your Weight, Eat Real Food and Stay Active

In a nutshell, if you’re concerned about your weight and health, you need to address the quality of your food, the ratio of carbs, fats and protein, and increase your physical activity level. Don’t make the mistake of trying to figure out which processed foods are “good” for you and which ones aren’t. A far more effective rule is to simply eat real food, as close to its natural state as possible. These simple and easy-to-remember guidelines will set you off on the right track:

Eat REAL FOOD: buy whole, ideally organic, foods and cook from scratch. First of all, this will automatically reduce your added sugar consumption, which is the root cause of insulin resistance and weight gain.

If you buy organic produce, you’ll also cut your exposure to pesticides and genetically engineered (GE) ingredients, and in ditching processed foods, you’ll automatically avoid artificial sweeteners and harmful processed fats. Opting for organic grass-finished meats will help you avoid GE ingredients, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and other growth promoting drugs.

Reduce net carbs: to 50 grams a day or less and restrict protein to 1 gram per kilogram of lean body mass. The remaining calories would come from high-quality fat sources like avocados, butter, coconut oil, macadamia and pecans. For more detailed dietary advice, please see my free Optimized Nutrition Plan.

Consider intermittent fasting: if you’re still struggling with excess weight after you’ve cleaned up your diet, you may want to reconsider the timing of your meals. Intermittent fasting can be very effective for helping your body shift from sugar- to fat-burning mode.

Increase physical activity: this includes standing up more during your work day and walking more. Ideally, aim for 7,000 to 10,000 steps a day. Later you can add on a more regimented workout routine, which will really help maximize all the other healthy lifestyle changes you’ve implemented. But for general health and longevity, staying active throughout each day and avoiding sitting takes precedence.

Sources and References

21st Century Cures or Corruption?

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By Dr. Mercola

Last year, a shocking piece of legislation was introduced in the U.S. Congress called the 21st Century Cures Act.1

Proponents of the bill claimed it would deliver faster, easier drug and medical product approvals from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which would translate into improved medical care and access to valuable treatments for sick and dying Americans.

Industry and political backers of the bill didn’t talk publicly about the fact that the sweeping legislation also covered “biological products,” which means vaccines that are government licensed, recommended and mandated for all Americans to use.

There are many reasons to be wary of this kind of federal legislation and, according to a public opinion poll2,3 by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and STAT, most Americans distrust it.

Fifty-eight percent of Americans oppose changing safety and effectiveness standards to allow for fast-tracking of drugs; half of respondents object to regulatory changes to accelerate approvals of new medical devices.

Yet despite a lot of criticism from concerned citizens, the bill sailed through the House of Representatives last summer.

In July 2015, the bill was referred to the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, where it stalled amid arguments about funding and after consumer groups, including the National Vaccine Information Center, voiced strong opposition to the gutting of already low FDA licensing standards.4,5

This year, Senators supporting passage of the 21st Century Cures Act cut the legislation up into seven smaller bills with hopes it will be easier to quietly move those smaller bills through Congress without publicity and accomplish the original goals of the 21st Century Cures Act:

Summary of the 21st Century Cures Act

The entire 21st Century Cures House bill came in at a hefty 400 pages, but if you want to get an overview of the long term goals of pharmaceutical and medical trade lobbyists partnering with federal health agencies, you can read through a 102-page Congressional Research Service summary of it.6,7

Once you’re done, you’ll probably agree that the only real beneficiaries here are the drug companies and federal health agencies, as this legislation intends to fast-track drug and vaccine approvals, cut corners on pre-licensure testing, severely restrict informed consent protections in scientific research on humans, and give billions of dollars to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop more drugs and vaccines in partnership with pharmaceutical companies.

In short, the legislation would continue to push the one-size-fits-all type of medical care focused on expensive (and now poorly tested) drugs and vaccines that has contributed to the U.S.’ abysmal health ratings.

It will give large amounts of money to NIH to fund experimental drug and vaccine research, while simultaneously relaxing FDA oversight — a move that will hardly result in safer medicine. It’s also a clear danger to natural health, and as noted by Barbara Loe Fisher last year, the bill poses a particular threat to vaccine safety.8

As passed by the House last July, this federal legislation9 intends to establish a new fund within the U.S. Treasury in the amount of $1.86 billion per year through 2020, for a total of $9.3 billion. The monies will go to the NIH to develop new drugs and vaccines.

This is in addition to funding from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Of the $1.86 billion per annum, $1.75 billion would go to NIH Biomedical Research and $110 million for Cures Development.

Focus areas are: precision medicine (treatments based on genetic makeup of the patient and/or disease), infectious diseases, antibiotics and biomarkers (markers that gauge the biological response to a drug, supposedly eliminating the need to wait for the results from a full-fledged patient trial). No mention is made of research relating to natural health or prevention.

Patient Safety Seemingly Abandoned Altogether

Harm to patients is at an all-time high in our country, with preventable medical errors and drug side effects being the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

Yet, the legislative goals of the 21st Century Cures Act that Senators this year cut up into smaller bills apparently for the purpose of sliding them through Congress before the public knows what has happened, contains numerous provisions that can only worsen the situation.

As noted by Fisher, “there are so many breathtaking ways the 21st Century Cures Act will endanger the public health that it is hard to know where to begin.” For starters, the bill increases “regulatory flexibility” by the FDA in reviewing and approving drugs, biologics and medical devices. Specifically, it:

Increases the ability of pharmaceutical companies and device makers to have a greater voice in the regulatory process and to streamline ways for FDA to approve their products.

Lowers FDA licensing standards for drugs, medical devices and biological products, the latter of which includes vaccines, which means companies will be able to forgo large case-controlled clinical trials to evaluate safety and effectiveness.

In lieu of large-scale clinical trials, drug companies would be allowed to use biomarkers and other endpoint measures to prove the vaccine’s effectiveness. But what about safety?

Public Trust in FDA at Historic Low

It’s interesting to note that all of this is happening at a time when public trust in the FDA is already at a historic low. According to a 2014 paper10 in JAMA Internal Medicine, 37 percent of respondents in an online poll agreed the FDA is “intentionally suppressing natural cures for cancer because of drug company pressure.”

Some have even suggested the 21st Century Cures Act is the beginning of the end for the FDA, and that the agency will eventually be eliminated altogether. As noted by ProPublica:11

“The legislation has its roots in a longstanding push by conservative groups to liberate drug and device development from red tape. ‘Now, I don’t want to get your hopes up, but Phase Three, maybe we’ll take out FDA,’ said Newt Gingrich during the Republican Revolution of 1994, when he also called the agency the nation’s ‘leading job killer.’

More recently, the deregulatory crusade against the FDA has been led by conservative think tanks such as the Goldwater Institute and Manhattan Institute, which launched its ‘Project FDA’ to reform the agency so that it provides a ‘more predictable, transparent, and efficient pathway’ for new medications and devices.”

 

Enter ‘Good Enough Science’

When assessing the safety and effectiveness of a drug or vaccine, the FDA would even be allowed to accept such flimsy evidence as Bayesian statistical analyses — a novel data analysis method based on probabilities and “best guesses” — and clinical experience, including anecdotal evidence!12

“It’s interesting that clinical experience and anecdotal evidence will constitute ‘good science’ for the purpose of demonstrating a vaccine is safe before its licensed, while clinical experience and anecdotal evidence have never been enough to demonstrate that a vaccine is unsafe after its licensed,” Fisher says.

Political scientist Daniel Carpenter, Ph.D. who specializes in the FDA, calls the legislation “the 19th Century Fraud Act,” saying, “This is a part of the bill that threatens to take us back more than a century.”13 Even the FDA commissioner Dr. Robert Califf has stated that unless the legislation is “carefully crafted, [it] could pose significant risks for FDA and American patients. Innovative therapies are not helpful to patients if they don’t work, or worse, cause harm.”14

Disturbingly, the legislation would also allow clinical testing of experimental drugs on people without first obtaining their informed consent, provided “the proposed clinical testing poses no more than minimal risk.” It’s unclear what constitutes “minimal risk,” and who would have the right to make such a determination. This seems like a monumental step backwards, considering the legal protections put in place across the world to prevent covert medical experimentation on humans.

The legislation also outlines provisions related to the delivery of health care, including interoperability of electronic health information technology, and includes a number of proposed Medicare and Medicaid changes to offset costs. Oddly, it also calls for a drawdown in the nation’s strategic petroleum reserve, presumably to help pay for it all.

Lowering Licensing Standards Is a Really Bad Idea

The 21st Century Cures Act legislation now embodied in seven separate Senate bills seeks to bring more medicines to people with rare disorders for which few treatments are available. But by tying together funds for increased research and loosened regulatory controls across the board, the risks will be carried by ALL people.

If you have a debilitating and lethal disease, you may be willing to take risks you’d never take under normal circumstances. If this law takes effect, medicine will be increasingly risky for everyone. As noted by STAT:

“There is no question that more research funding is necessary and that finding legitimate ways to get medicines to patients faster is crucial. But Congress ought to separate the debate over research funding from the rest of the legislation. Loosening regulatory standards would only create problems for which real cures will be needed.”

This is particularly true for vaccines, which are given to healthy infants, young children and adults. Moreover, once a vaccine is licensed by the FDA and recommended for all children by the CDC, it often is mandated by state health officials for school attendance, and that’s true whether the vaccine is fast-tracked or not.

The risks to public health, however, are FAR greater with a fast-tracked vaccine and there are literally hundreds of experimental vaccines in the pipeline, including vaccines for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, genital herpes, syphilis, norovirus and tuberculosis, just to name a few.

“The 21st Century Cures Act is being sold as a way for the FDA to quickly license experimental pharmaceutical products for people suffering with rare or life threatening diseases, whether or not those products have been adequately tested.

However, greasing the FDA’s licensure skids to make experimental drugs available for the sick and dying who voluntarily choose to use them is one thing, while greasing the skids to bum rush experimental vaccines to licensure that government will legally require healthy children and adults to buy and use is quite another,” Fisher says.

 

Ignoring the Basics Can Have Serious Consequences

While precision medicine with its focus on genetic makeup is a goal worthy of research, the Cures Act legislation completely ignores far more basic differences between individuals, such as age and sex. As noted by The Washington Post:15

“Throughout the 20th century, most medical research was conducted on relatively young, healthy men. In recent years, researchers have realized that treatments often affect women and older patients differently than men or younger patients.

These differences can affect safety and effectiveness … [T]he 21st Century Cures Act is based on the assumption that there will be more cures if drugs and devices are studied more quickly by testing them on fewer patients — in some cases, on just a handful.

Unfortunately, such studies would be too small to allow safety and effectiveness findings to be broken down for subgroups such as men, women, young adults and seniors. This embrace of smaller, more preliminary studies could drastically lower scientific standards. When fewer people are studied, it is more likely that a drug will seem safe and effective even if it has dangerous side effects for many patients — who may not have been included in those small studies.

Worse, the bill specifies that after studying only small groups of patients, drug manufacturers could sell a new treatment to anyone, even if the patient was not among the types studied. In fact, hospitals would be paid extra to make it financially feasible to prescribe more expensive new drugs to Medicare patients, even if the drugs were never studied on patients older than 65 …”

The 21st Century Cures Act legislation actually undermines other recent laws calling for more stringent research into drug effects based on age and sex differences. Three years ago, a law was passed directing the FDA to make sure all age groups and both sexes are included in testing to ascertain safety and efficacy. Just last year, the General Accountability Office also concluded the NIH needs to make analysis of sex differences a priority.16

Fast-tracking, which requires only minimal testing, has other pitfalls as well. Like vaccines, the bill would allow antibiotics to be fast-tracked based on limited data from test tubes and animal studies.17 This makes no sense at all, as research shows these kinds of tests don’t always translate into safety and effectiveness in humans.

Considering the fact we’re facing a proverbial avalanche of antibiotic-resistant disease, issuing ineffective antibiotics is foolhardy in the extreme. It may simply add fuel to the fire of drug resistance, while simultaneously failing to help patients.

Members of Congress Spend Most of Their Time Raising Funds for Reelection

Americans have not only lost trust in the FDA. A mere 14 percent of Americans think Congress is doing a good job. CBS’ 60 Minutes recently aired a segment discussing the inordinate amount of time Congress spends raising money for their own elections and the party — about 30 hours a week! — and Florida Republican David Jolly’s call to quit “dialing for dollars” and get down to real business. According to 60 Minutes:

“Nearly every day, they spend hours on the phone asking supporters and even total strangers for campaign donations — hours spent away from the jobs they were elected to do. The pressure on candidates to raise money has ratcheted up since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010. That allowed unlimited spending by corporations, unions and individuals in elections.

So our attention was caught by a proposal from a Republican congressman that would stop members of Congress from dialing for dollars … Rep. David Jolly: ‘You have six months until the election. Break that down to having to raise $2 million in the next six months. And your job, new member of Congress, is to raise $18,000 a day. Your first responsibility is to make sure you hit $18,000 a day.'”

Jolly has quit making fundraising calls — a move that might cost him his position, but it’s a risk he’s willing to take. He’s also introduced a bill called the “Stop Act,” which would ban all federal elected officials from soliciting donations directly. It’s a good start, but truly, we need comprehensive reform.

Corporate donations play a huge role in the kinds of legislation brought forth, and it’s hard to look at the 21st Century Cures Act legislation as anything but another gift to the big political spenders — the pharmaceutical industry that has developed a public-private business partnership with federal health agencies — at the direction of Congress!

And it was Congress that bailed out the vaccine manufacturers in 1986 by shielding them from product liability for injuries and deaths caused by government licensed, recommended and mandated vaccines.18 Congressman Rick Nolan (D-Minnesota), who is co-sponsoring the Stop Act, agrees that the influx of corporate money has had a dramatically negative influence on Congress.

Anonymous Congressman Writes Tell-All Book

The 86 percent of Americans who have lost faith in Congress will likely not be shocked by “The Confessions of Congressman X,” a brand new tell-all book written by an anonymous Democrat. He too reveals that his main job as Congressman is to raise money for reelection, leaving no time to actually read any of the bills he votes on. (Apparently, it also leaves precious little time to write, as the book is a mere 84 pages.) According to The Daily Mail:19

“The anonymous spleen-venter has had a lot to say about his constituents, however. Robert Atkinson, a former chief of staff and press secretary for two congressional Democrats, took notes on a series of informal talks with him — whoever he is — and is now publishing them with his permission.

‘Voters claim they want substance and detailed position papers, but what they really crave are cutesy cat videos, celebrity gossip, top 10 lists, reality TV shows, tabloid tripe, and the next f***ing Twitter message,’ the congressman gripes in the book …

‘Fundraising is so time-consuming I seldom read any bills I vote on,’ the anonymous legislator admits. ‘I don’t even know how they’ll be implemented or what they’ll cost. My staff gives me a last-minute briefing before I go to the floor and tells me whether to vote yea or nay. How bad is that?’

And on controversial bills, he says, ‘I sometimes vote ‘yes’ on a motion and ‘no’ on an amendment so I can claim I’m on either side of an issue. It’s the old shell game: if you can’t convince ’em, confuse ’em’ … ‘Our party used to be a strong advocate for the working class,’ he says. ‘We still pretend to be, but we aren’t. Large corporations and public unions grease the palms of those who have the power to determine legislative winners and losers’ …

‘Most of my colleagues are dishonest career politicians who revel in the power and special-interest money that’s lavished upon them,’ Atkinson recorded his mystery collaborator saying. ‘My main job is to keep my job, to get reelected. It takes precedence over everything.'”

 

Long-Term Public Health Sacrificed for Short-Term Goals

Our political process is in shambles, and the fact that corporations are running the show has become increasingly self-evident. The 21st Century Cures Act legislation is just one of the latest clues. For an excellent summary of the many shortfalls of this bill, see this previous Health Affairs’ article.20

If made into law, it will make newly approved drugs and medical devices LESS safe and likely LESS effective, while further increasing costs in a country that already has the highest medical expenditures on the planet while lagging far behind other industrialized nations when it comes to health statistics.

Modern medicine is the third leading killer of Americans, and we need increased patient safety, not more fast-tracked drugs and vaccines with limited safety and effectiveness testing. Recent research shows many of the drugs approved by the FDA are already tainted by massive corruption, allowing worthless and/or dangerous drugs on the market.

We need stronger drug licensing requirements, not more lax ones. As noted by Health Affairs, “many of the provisions appear to be favorable to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries, while not providing benefits to patients.” This just isn’t right.

If you agree, I urge you to contact your senators and share your views on this bill. You can also find your senators’ contact information by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

Sources and References

How Good Fats Prevent Heart Disease

Source

By Dr. Mercola

Omega-3 fats — specifically EPA and DHA — are essential to your overall health, including your heart health.

A recent analysis of 19 studies confirms that regular consumption of fish and other omega-3 rich foods, including certain plant-based sources, may lower your risk of a fatal heart attack (myocardial infarction) by about 10 percent.1,2,3

This effect held true even after accounting for confounding factors like age, sex, ethnicity, diabetes and use of aspirin or cholesterol-lowering drugs.

According to senior study author Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, “Our results lend support to the importance of fish and omega-3 consumption as part of a healthy diet.” Other studies have found even more significant effects.

One large Italian trial found that heart attack survivors who took 1 gram of omega-3 fat each day for three years had a 50 percent reduced chance of sudden cardiac death.4

Health Benefits of Omega-3 Fat

Omega-3 fats benefit your cardiovascular health in several ways. In addition to lowering your blood pressure and triglyceride concentrations and improving endothelial function (a major factor in promoting the growth of new blood vessels), research has demonstrated omega-3s are:

  • Antiarrhythmic: counteracting or preventing cardiac arrhythmia
  • Antithrombotic: tending to prevent thrombosis (a blood clot within a blood vessel)
  • Antiatherosclerotic: preventing fatty deposits and fibrosis of the inner layer of your arteries from forming
  • Anti-inflammatory: counteracting inflammation (heat, pain, swelling, etc.)

Researchers are also attributing a number of other health benefits to omega-3 fat, including:

 

Healthier, stronger bones Improved mood regulation Reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease
Reduced risk of death from ALL causes Protecting your tissues and organs from inflammation Brain and eye development in babies, and preventing premature delivery
Reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease Delayed progression to psychosis among patients at high risk for schizophrenia Protection against osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis(RA)5,6, 7
Protection against metabolic syndrome,8including obesity, fatty liver9 and type 2 diabetes (by reducing inflammation and blood sugar) Improvements in premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and dysmenorrhea10 Lowered risk for other neurological/cognitive dysfunction, including: memory loss, brain aging, learning disorders and ADHD,11 autism and dyslexia12
Reduced risk of Crohn’s disease Reduced risk of colon cancer13 Reduced risk of kidney disease14
Reduced risk of autoimmune disorders, such as lupus and nephropathy

Not All Omega-3s Are Made the Same

It’s crucial to understand that not all omega-3 fats are created equal. There are two areas of confusion about omega-3s that I will attempt to clarify here:

  • Marine animal- versus plant-based omega-3 (docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) versus alpha-linolenic acid (ALA))
  • The difference between fish- and krill-based omega-3 (triglyceride-bound omega-3s versus phospholipid-bound omega-3s)

For starters, omega-3 fats can be obtained from both marine animal and plant sources, but contrary to popular belief, they are simply NOT interchangeable.

In recent years, a “myth” of sorts has sprung up, where people who avoid animal foods believe they can simply consume plant-based omega-3 ALA to meet their needs. But this isn’t true and the science doesn’t support this assertion.

Omega-3s EPA/DHA are essential polyunsaturated fats your body needs for a variety of functions, including digestion, muscle activity, blood clotting, visual acuity, memory and learning, and basic cell division and function of cell receptors.

Omega-3s EPA/DHA are considered “essential” fats as your body cannot make them and, hence, you must get them from your diet. Omega-3 ALA on the other hand is quite ubiquitous in the diet and therefore there is no real need to supplement.

Plant-based omega-3 has 18 carbons whereas marine-based omega-3s have between 20 and 22. They all have their first double-bond in the third position — hence the name “omega-3.” However, as you will see below, the difference in the length of the carbon chain makes a significant difference.

This is where the distinction between long-chain and short-chain omega-3s comes from. EPA and DHA are long-chain fatty acids and ALA is a short-chain fatty acid.

Although your body can convert some of the ALA found in plants to the DHA found in marine oils, it is very rare for it to be more than 5 percent and typically found to be 1 to 3 percent, or even less. This is an insufficient amount to have any significant benefit.

Animal- Versus Plant-Based Omega-3

Here’s a rundown of the core differences between marine-animal and plant-based omega-3s:15,16,17,18,19

Marine animal-based omega-3

Sources: Fatty fish (such as salmon, anchovies, sardines and herring), fish and krill oils.

Primary omega-3 content: DHA: a long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) consisting of 22 carbons, and EPA: a long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid consisting of 20 carbons.

Long-chain fatty acids EPA and DHA are more readily available to your body.

Your body also seems to have a significant capacity to synthesize another omega-3 fat, docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), most likely by elongating  EPA.

Biological effects: DHA and EPA are structural elements with many biological effects, most notably anti-inflammatory activity and communication within the cell and between cells.

More than 90 percent of the omega-3 fat found in brain tissue is DHA; as much as 30 percent of the fatty mass of the prefrontal cortex is DHA and the development of a normal brain in a fetus is absolutely dependent on the availability of DHA.

All other omega-3 fats are found only in trace amounts, including ALA, regardless of how much ALA you consume.20

Plant-based omega-3

Sources: Certain plants, such as flaxseed, flaxseed oil, chia seeds, nuts (especially walnuts) and leafy greens.

Primary omega-3 content: ALA is a short-chain fatty acid consisting of 18 carbons; it’s conversion to long-chain fatty acids is very poor, around 1 to 3 percent.

ALA is a precursor to EPA and DHA. However, enzymes are required to elongate and de-saturate the shorter 18 carbon ALA into long-chained omega-3. In most people,  this doesn’t work very well and hence the conversion rate is very small.

Typically, less than 1 percent of ALA is converted to EPA/DHA. Some studies have found the conversion rate to be as low as 0.1 to 0.5 percent.21Your conversion is also dependent on having adequate levels of other vitamins and minerals.

So, while a tiny amount of the ALA you consume can be converted by your body into long-chain omega-3, it’s a highly inefficient strategy and nowhere near as helpful as supplying EPA/DHA directly from marine sources.

Biological effects: Source of energy (fat).

Key Difference: ALA Is a Source of Energy Whereas EPA and DHA Are Structural Elements

According to Nils Hoem, Ph.D., a leading scientist in omega-3 phospholipids whom I recently interviewed, when you look at the uptake and distribution of EPA and DHA you see something rather strange.

After eating a meal of salmon or taking a krill or fish oil, the fatty acid level in your plasma (blood) will remain elevated for more than three days afterward. “Your body works on its distribution, redistribution and re-redistribution for three days. That’s hardly consistent with being “just food,” he says.

On the other hand, the short-chain omega-3s (ALA) are rapidly absorbed, peaking a couple of hours after ingestion. Within 10 hours, they’re gone. This suggests your body is using them very differently.

According to Hoem, the short-chain fatty acids are simply food — they’re a source of energy — while the long-chain fatty acids, those with 20 and more carbons, especially EPA and DHA, are structural elements. So EPA and DHA are not just “food;” they’re elements that actually make up your cells, and those are two completely different functions. To learn more about this, please keep your eye out for Hoem’s interview, which is scheduled to run shortly.

EPA and DHA are extensively distributed throughout your body, including your heart and brain. In fact, research shows there are specific transporters in your blood-brain barrier, the placenta (in pregnant women), and likely also in your liver, which transport these molecules in a very precise way into the cell membranes where they belong.

The Difference Between Fish- and Krill-Based Omega-3

Total Video Length: 05:40

The next area of confusion relates to the different types of marine-based omega-3. Fish and krill are two sources that provide both EPA and DHA. However, there are important differences between these two marine sources of omega-3s. One of the most important differences between fish and krill oil is the fact that krill oil is bound to phospholipids.

Fatty acids are water insoluble, so they cannot be transported directly in their free form in your blood — they require “packaging” into lipoprotein vehicles. Most fatty acids are typically bound to esters, which do not travel efficiently in your bloodstream. The phospholipids in krill oil seem to be partially different in this regard.

  • Fish oil is bound to triglycerides and methyl esters
  • Krill oil is bound to triglycerides and phospholipids

Phospholipids are also one of the principal compounds in high-density lipoproteins (HDL), which you want more of, and by allowing your cells to maintain structural integrity, phospholipids help your cells function properly. (You can learn more about this in the video above.)

There’s also a synthetic form of marine omega-3, which is bound to ethyl esters. This is simply a fatty acid that has been sliced off from its triglyceride source and then ethylated with ethanol. Pharmaceutical omega-3 supplements are typically made this way, and research shows ethyl esters, unless taken in conjunction with a meal, may simply pass through your body without being absorbed whatsoever.

Other Advantages of Krill Oil Over Fish Oil

Research also shows krill oil has a number of other advantages over fish oil, including the following:

Higher potency

Studies have shown that krill oil is more potent than fish oil. This means you need far less of it than fish oil, as confirmed by a 2011 study published in the journal Lipids.22 Researchers gave subjects less than 63 percent as much krill-based EPA/DHA as the fish oil group, yet both groups showed equivalent blood levels — meaning the krill was more potent.

Contains phosphatidylcholine

When you consume fish oil, your liver has to attach it to phosphatidylcholine in order for it to be utilized by your body. Krill oil already contains phosphatidylcholine, which is another reason for its more efficient cellular uptake. Phosphatidylcholine is composed partly of choline, the precursor for the vital neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which sends nerve signals to your brain, and for trimethylglycine, which protects your liver.

Choline is important to brain development, learning and memory. In fact, choline plays a vital role in fetal and infant brain development, so it is particularly important if you are pregnant or nursing.

Resists oxidation

Fish oil is quite prone to oxidation, and oxidation leads to the formation of free radicals. Consuming free radicals further increases your need for antioxidants. Fish oil is very low in antioxidants whereas krill oil contains astaxanthin — probably the most potent antioxidant in nature — which is why krill oil is so stable and resistant to oxidation.

Contaminant-free

Fish are very prone to mercury and other heavy metal contamination, courtesy of widespread water pollution. Antarctic krill is not prone to this contamination. Not only are they fished from cleaner waters, but since krill is at the bottom of the food chain, it feeds on phytoplankton and not other contaminated fish.

Although processed fish oil can be purified, it requires extensive additional damaging processing to do so, unlike krill, which is not contaminated from the start and requires no additional processing to achieve high purity levels.

Environmentally sustainable

Krill is far more sustainable than fish because it’s the largest marine biomass in the world, making krill fishing one of the most sustainable practices on the planet. Krill fishing is also carefully regulated, and only less than 1 percent of the total krill biomass in the areas where the fishery is allowed (designated as “Area 48” in the Southern Ocean) is caught each year.

The krill population is monitored by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certifies that krill fishing is carried out in compliance with strict sustainability criteria to avoid overfishing. For more information, please read my 2009 article that goes into the sustainability aspects of krill harvesting in greater depth.

Superior metabolic influence

Researchers have found that krill oil is vastly superior to fish oil when it comes to having a beneficial influence on your genetic expression and metabolism. Genes have “switches” that can be flipped on and off, which control virtually every biochemical process in your body, and nutrients like omega-3 fats control those switches.

Fatty acids help to direct metabolic processes such as glucose production, lipid synthesis, cellular energy, oxidation and dozens of others. We now know that various types and sources of omega-3 fat affect liver tissue differently, which is what a 2011 study23  in Frontiers in Genetics was designed to examine.

It compared the livers of mice fed krill oil to those fed fish oil by looking at the gene expression triggered by each. Although both fish oil and krill oil contain omega-3s, they differ greatly in how they affect the genes controlling your metabolism. Krill oil:

  • Enhances glucose metabolism in your liver, whereas fish oil does not
  • Promotes lipid metabolism; fish oil does not
  • Helps regulate the mitochondrial respiratory chain; fish oil does not
  • Decreases cholesterol synthesis, whereas fish oil increases it

So krill will help lower your triglyceride and cholesterol levels and increase your energy production, whereas fish oil does neither. Last year, an Italian study24,25 confirmed that krill oil helps improve lipid and glucose metabolism and mitochondrial function, which may help protect against hepatic steatosis (fatty liver disease) caused by an unhealthy diet (such as diets high in unhealthy fats).

By stimulating certain mitochondrial metabolic pathways, including fatty acid oxidation, respiratory chain complexes and the Krebs cycle, krill oil helps restore healthy mitochondrial energy metabolism.

 

Butter Is Not Linked to Heart Disease

Besides omega-3 fats, you might have heard some of the good news about saturated animal fats like butter and lard being far healthier than previously believed. Recent research has again acquitted butter, finding it does NOT increase your risk for heart disease.26 As reported by STAT:27

“Researchers combined the data from nine studies looking at the relationship of butter consumption with various health outcomes. They found that eating butter didn’t significantly change people’s incidence of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease or stroke.

The study did find a small link between butter and overall mortality — each daily tablespoon of butter was linked to a 1 percent increase in mortality risk. On the other hand, the same amount of butter was associated with a 4 percent lower risk of diabetes.”

Butter, as you probably know, has long been demonized for being high in saturated fat. But as butter consumption declined, being replaced instead by processed vegetable oils that were thought to be healthier for the heart, heart disease rates actually increased.

Today, we recognize that trans fats are far more harmful to your heart than saturated animal fats ever were, and butter is again gaining favor. An interesting article in The Atlantic28 dating back to 2012 describes the history behind the misguided advice to avoid saturated fats, and “how Procter & Gamble convinced people to forgo butter and lard for cheap, factory-made oils loaded with trans fat.”

Citizen Petition to Lift Interstate Ban on Raw Butter

In related news, the Farm-to-Consumer Defense Fund and Organic Pastures Dairy Company have organized a citizen’s petition to lift the interstate ban on raw butter. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it has the authority to ban sale of raw butter under its power to regulate communicable disease — a claim Pete Kennedy, attorney for Farm-to-Consumer Defense Fund, says is “not only ridiculous but illegal as well.” As noted in a recent article announcing the petition:29

“FDA’s assertion of this power in banning raw butter is dubious for two reasons: first, the ban violates the Federal Food and Drug Cosmetic Act (FFDCA); and second, FDA is trying to prohibit a food in interstate commerce that has little or no record of making anyone sick.

FDA’s butter ban is illegal according to a statute in the FFDCA that governs standards of identity for food. Standards of identity are requirements prescribing what a food product must contain to be marketed under a certain name in interstate commerce.

For instance, the standard of identity for milk in final package form requires that it be pasteurized or ultrapasteurized and that it contain not less than 8 ¼ percent non-fat milk solids and not less than 3 ¼ percent milkfat. FDA’s long-held position is that the pasteurization requirement can be part of the standard of identity. Standards of identity are intended to promote honesty and fair dealing for the benefit of consumers.

Congress has given FDA power to issue regulations establishing standard of identity requirements for most foods, but there are exceptions and one of those is butter.

The FFDCA specifically prohibits FDA from establishing a standard of identity for butter; Congress has passed a law defining butter that serves as a standard of identity for the product. That definition does not require butter to be pasteurized. The petition asks FDA to obey the law and abide by the statutory standard of identity for butter.”

To help, I encourage you to make a donation to the Farm-to-Consumer Defense Fund. If you’re not already a member, you may also consider becoming one.

Donate Today!
Sources and References

How Animals Impact Regenerative Agriculture Efforts

Source

By Dr. Mercola

I recently visited Will Harris’ farm White Oak Pastures in Bluffton, Georgia. Harris is a pioneer of grass-fed products and what he calls “a kinder, gentler agriculture.”

His farm is a great demonstration of how you can convert conventionally farmed land to a healthy, thriving farm based on regenerative methods. Conventional chemical agriculture typically involves the growing of a single crop, such as corn — a strategy that decimates the soil.

Harris recently purchased the land I visited, where he’s in the process of implementing regenerative principles to rebuild the soil and make it productive again.

These 220 acres he recently purchased for his expansion are adjacent to his old farm, which has been in his family for 150 years. He expects to be able to bring the current organic matter in the soil from its current baseline of about 0.5 percent to about 5 percent over the next two decades.

“This land has been farmed in what I call the trifecta — cotton, corn and peanuts; cotton, corn and peanuts, over and over again. All three crops are really hard on land for different reasons,” he says.

“This soil is, in my mind, completely dead. The biological life just doesn’t exist here anymore, because of intense tillage and the tremendous amount of chemical fertilizers being used on it, as well as pesticides …

What we’ve done is fenced the property. We put about 1,000 cows on the land. There’s nothing for them to eat out here [right now] so we feed them hay and haylage during the period that we’re asking them to transition this land for us. They will be out here for about a month.”

 

Animals Are an Important Aspect of Regenerative Agriculture

Indeed, animals are an important aspect when it comes to achieving healthy soil in which to grow crops. By urinating and defecating on the land, the animals provide important nourishment for soil microbes.

Harris also spreads perennial grass seed on the bare land, which the cows will help trod into the ground. Besides adding manure, the hoof activity helps break down the hard cap on the land.

“We call this using animals or animal impact to bring about the desired result, which is ultimately to turn this into a pasture, and then later to turn it into a savannah, which we feel best utilizes the rain ration, the energy cycle, the water cycle, and the mineral cycle,” Harris explains.

To get the animals to cover and “treat” the entire 220 acres, Harris entices the cows to move across the land by placing the hay at one end and the water at the other. This helps maximize the impact of their hooves on the land, and helps distribute the waste (manure and urine) more evenly across the property.

Now and then, they also move the feed in order to encourage the cows to take a different path. In short, the idea is to imitate nature as much as possible, which includes the migration of wild herds across the land.

“Nature abhors a monoculture. Nature won’t allow it … Nature wants a smorgasbord of many different microbes and plants and animals living in symbiotic relationships with each other,” Harris says.

“The only way we can maintain a monoculture is through the use of the tools the reductionist science has given us — chemical fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, hormones. The monoculture falls apart if you don’t use those things …

Industrial farming has horrible unintended consequences and it is absolutely in conflict with nature. What we do here is an effort to emulate nature. Our best emulation is not good and our worst emulation is horrible. But we get better and better at it.”

 

Redefining Animal Welfare

As noted by Harris, no farmer sets out to destroy the land on purpose. Everyone believes they’re doing the right thing; that they’re growing the best crops they can and manage their livestock well.

But what does animal welfare really encompass? According to Harris, this term really needs to cover more than the most obvious bare essentials.

“[G]ood animal welfare used to mean you don’t intentionally inflict pain and discomfort on the animal. You keep them fed. You keep them safe. You don’t hurt them. All of us believed that was good animal welfare, and most people still believe that.

To us, now, that is no longer sufficient. For me and my family and my employees, good animal welfare means it is incumbent upon us as herdsmen to create an environment in which the animals can express instinctive behavior.

Cows were born to roam and graze. Chickens were born to scratch and peck. Hogs were born to root and wallow. Those are instinctive behaviors. If they’re deprived of that aptitude, that is poor animal welfare.

If you have a cow on a feedlot, a hog in a gestation crate, a chicken in a battery cage, they’re safe, they’re reasonably comfortable, but they can’t express instinctive behavior.

It’s like putting your child in a closet and saying, ‘This is great. I keep the temperature at 72 degrees. I leave the light on. He’ll never break his leg playing football. He’ll never be abducted. He’ll never be run over by a bus … That may seem like great child rearing — except it’s not.”

 

Factory-Farmed Versus Pasture-Raised Animals

Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) have also changed what people know and expect from a healthy animal. A cow fed on pasture, which is its natural diet, has a lifespan of about 24 years — all without added drugs or vitamins.

Feedlot animals, on the other hand, are typically slaughtered at the age of 17 months, at which point they may weigh in around 1,275 pounds instead of the typical 1,000 pounds of a mature cow.

As noted by Harris, that’s really an unnatural and obscenely obese creature that would not only fail to survive in nature, it wouldn’t even occur.

“If they were left beyond their 17 months in that feedlot environment where they’re gaining 4 to 5 pounds a day, they wouldn’t live very long. I’ve never done that experiment, but I’m sure they wouldn’t live to be 4 years old. That’s the difference,” he says.

“When you eat one of these (grass-fed, pastured) animals, you’re eating a healthy animal in the prime of their life. When you eat that feedlot animal, you’re eating an obese creature that is dying of all the diseases of sedentary lifestyle and obesity that kill people.”

The situation is even worse for pigs and chickens, as the smaller the animal, the more intensive the factory farming methods.

“A cow in a factory farm does not have a great life. A hog in a factory farm has a worse life. And I don’t think there’s a factory farm animal that has as bad a life as a chicken in a factory farm,” Harris says.

In the video below, you’ll find two segments showing how Harris raises his chickens and pigs — a far cry from the sad “prison cells” in which CAFO chickens and pigs spend their lives. Will has 14,000 birds that lay about 10,000 eggs a day, which makes it the largest pastured egg operation in the U.S. The damaged eggs are recycled and fed to the pastured hogs who relish the treat; plus it enhances their diet.


Total Video length: 14:21

Animals Can Rapidly Regenerate Land

Another part of the property (see video at top) has already undergone the animal impact phase and you can clearly see the difference between the two areas. Here the animals’ hooves have broken up the hard soil cover, and feces and urine have been well-trodden into the soil.

Perennial grass seed (about 15 pounds per acre) was spread out, and after being trodden into the ground by the animals for a few short weeks, the animals were removed to allow the grass to grow and mature. These perennial grasses are what will turn this area into a productive pasture and later savannah, as it grows taproots that are nearly 8 feet long — much deeper than annuals.

These mixed grasses will help nourish the soil microbiome, which need the plant interaction. Shallow-rooted annuals are also mixed in to increase diversity, but it’s really the perennials that are the long-term solution. As the annuals become more invasive, Harris will move the cows into the area to “flash graze” on the annuals so they don’t choke out the perennials.

They’ll do that a number of times each year until the perennials have grown deep roots and taken firm hold. At that point, the perennial grasses will outcompete the annuals naturally. It’s really magnificent to see this whole process in transition, and how they’re transforming the landscape.

You have to understand how the cycles work in order to manage the process properly, but once you do, you can rebuild soil quality at a very efficient rate by using regenerative agriculture principles. He is literally creating healthy topsoil hundreds if not thousands of times quicker than it would occur in nature.

Percentage of organic matter in the soil is a good indicator of quality, and Harris has been able to increase organic matter in other areas from less than 0.5 percent to as much as 5 percent in a 20-year period. The cycles are complex however, and there are cycles within cycles that work in a symbiotic fashion. For example, there’s the:

  • Energy cycle: with the sun, where photosynthesis is used to produce grass that feeds the cows. When sunlight hits bare earth, it’s of no use.
  • Carbon cycle: the grass covering can be likened to photosynthesizing tissue that breathes in carbon dioxide, sequestering it in the ground and breathes out oxygen, which is critical for animal and human life. By sequestering it in the soil, where it’s needed, the plants help remove excess carbon dioxide from the air where it does harm.
  • Water cycle: when the soil is hard and degraded, any rain that falls simply runs off and takes topsoil with it. When the soil quality is good, with high amounts of organic matter, it soaks up the water like a sponge. That not only helps retain water, but also the topsoil.

Economic Challenges of Regenerative Agriculture

Economic challenges are often what prevent farmers from taking the course Harris has taken. It requires an investment of time, effort, energy and resources to regenerate an environment, and for a time it may be difficult to sustain a profit. Part of the solution is to incorporate animals on the land. According to Harris, having healthy, grazing animals is profitable. But it takes a while to get here. You don’t get here in a year or two.

“Unfortunately, here in my part of the world, and I think it’s probably true throughout the world, industrial agricultural practices have degraded the land dramatically,” he says. “The land beneath this grass is an organic medium that’s teeming with life.

It’s just full of living things; some of which you can see; some of which you cannot see. But it’s teeming with life. If you go right across that forest to another field and got a handful of that soil, it is a dead mineral medium. It’s like a handful of tiny glass beads and nothing is living there … The transition from that to this is very expensive, very slow. It requires knowing what you’re doing.”

 

That said, farmers like Harris not only demonstrate that it’s possible, but that it’s possible to farm using regenerative methods on a large scale. You don’t have to follow a monocrop system just because you’re dealing with large land areas. He also demonstrates the ultimate payoff, not all of which can be calculated in mere dollars and cents.

How does one put a dollar value on healthy, happy animals, a thriving environment and the subsequent increase in food quality produced from both? As noted by Harris:

“I’m a land steward and livestock man. I focus on the health and well-being of the land and animals. The good food that comes from that is almost like a byproduct, but it’s the byproduct we need because consumers buy it and provide the money that allows us to continue to operate and expand in this way.”

 

Many Objections to Meat Consumption Are Quelled by Pasture Farming

Harris’ practice also addresses some of the primary objections many have to eating meat: that animals are raised inhumanely and that they’re loaded with chemicals, hormones, antibiotics and pesticides, which you then ingest when you eat the meat. It’s important to realize that those objections really only apply to CAFO animals.

Livestock raised within a regenerative agriculture setting are raised as nature intended, live a “full” life in which they’re allowed to express their instinctive behavior, and will actually contribute to your health in profoundly important ways when you eat them. I believe we were designed to eat some form of animal protein. I recommend avoiding CAFO meats, eggs and dairy for the same reasons listed above, but pasture-raised animal protein is, I believe, an important part of a healthy diet.

That said, I also believe you don’t need very much meat. Most Americans eat several times more meat than required for health, and most eat poor-quality CAFO meats. I believe the average person needs 40 to 60 grams of protein a day. That’s a 4-ounce steak at most. And if you eat less meat and other animal products, the cost differences between CAFO and pasture-raised disappear.

“The third thing I think causes people to refrain from eating meat is the concern over animal impact to the environment,”Harris says. “I agree if you’re talking about the confinement animal factory farm model. But I would suggest to you that animal impact is essential for turning this dead land back into productive farming.”

 

Grazing Is the Most Sensible Way to Manage Productive Land

To give another example of the important role animals serve within the regenerative model, take goats for example. One of the primary purposes of keeping goats is to strategically manage vegetation in lieu of toxic herbicides, as they gnaw weeds down to an extremely low level. There are even companies from which you can rent a herd of goats and sheep to clear a large lot of land of vegetation, or to keep vegetation under control.

“The plant species that goats and sheep prefer are different from the ones cattle prefer. We have virtually no weeds in our part of the world — maybe one — that even goats, sheep or cows won’t eat. Using the three in combination allows us to avoid using herbicides and pesticides on the pastures,” Harris says.

“In my part of the world, land will go back to forest unless you do one of five things: spray it with pesticide (which has many problems), till it (which leaves it open for erosion and requires fossil fuel), burn it (which puts organic matter open to the atmosphere), mow it (which requires fossil fuel and has other problems with organic matter) or grazing.

Of those five possibilities, the one that makes the most sense is grazing. It’s the most environmentally regenerative of the five as well.

I’m 61 years old. My generation never learned how to use animal impact to shape land. My father’s generation was exposed to it, but they fell so deeply in love with internal combustion engines and the tools reductionist science gave us, like chemical fertilizers and pesticides, they forgot about animal impact.

Now that we, my generation, are learning of the unintended consequences of industrial farming, we have to relearn how to use animal impact.”

Do You Have a Victory Garden?

The idea of planting Victory Gardens goes back to World War I and II, and was advertised as a way for patriots to make a difference on the home front. Planting these gardens helped the citizens combat food shortages by supplying themselves and their neighbors with fresh produce.

Planting your own Victory Garden can go a long way toward healthier eating, and in the long run, it can provide incentive for industry-wide change, and a return to a diet of real food, for everyone, everywhere. A great way to get started on your own is by sprouting. They may be small, but sprouts are packed with nutrition and best of all, they’re easy and inexpensive to grow.

Share Pictures of Your Garden or Sprout Setup With Me!

Do you have pictures of your garden or sprout setup you’d like to share? I’d definitely love to see your pictures and hear your experience! Send in your pictures to gardening@mercola.com and I’ll publish my favorites.

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