By Dr. Mercola
America is as obese as it possibly can be, yet the government and media refuse to take responsibility for this tragic problem. Although obesity rates among American preschoolers declined by 43 percent in the past decade, teenage and adult obesity are deplorable and show no signs of improvement.1
These findings were broadcast on all of the nation's major news stations and in most major newspapers2, 3, 4 with many claiming "victory" in the fight against childhood obesity. While this all sounds like good news, I disagree with such proclamations.
The study, published in JAMA,5 found that obesity rates among two- to five-year olds dropped from 14 percent in 2003 to eight percent in 2012. The researchers suggest that decreased consumption of high-calorie drinks and higher rates of breast feeding might account for the decline.
No reduction in obesity rates was found among any other age group, however. And obesity rates for women over the age of 60 actually rose by about 21 percent. Eventually, nearly all Americans end up obese which contributes to a lifetime of chronic disease.
One-third of American children and teens (aged two to 19), and more than two-thirds of adults are still either overweight or obese. One in eight preschoolers is still in the obese category, along with 18 percent of kids aged six to 11?up from seven percent in 1980.6
From my perspective, we're still FAR from being in a position to jump for joy or pat ourselves on the back. The study authors themselves concluded:
"Overall, there have been no significant changes in obesity prevalence in youth or adults between 2003-2004 and 2011-2012. Obesity prevalence remains high and thus it is important to continue surveillance."
While it may sound promising that overall obesity rates have "stabilized," what that REALLY means is that we have maxed out, we are as fat as we can possibly be as a nation, and show no signs of improvement.
Other statistics clearly show that Americans, including children, are sicker than ever, and it's absolutely obvious that this is a direct result of corrupted federal policies and the junk food industry marketing to kids, getting them addicted to sugar as soon as possible with famous cartoon characters and flashy images. Don't be fooled by this latest PR stunt to make you think they're finally getting something right.
The anti-obesity campaign is NOT working. And while some reporters have stated that the drop in obesity among toddlers is due to successful physical fitness programs, such as First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! Campaign (which launched in 2010),
I fail to see this connection. Improved breastfeeding rates are the most likely primary factor contributing to the decline seen in this age group (two- to five-year olds). This is the one area I can appreciate, after decades of disastrous infant formula marketing to new moms, it appears we are finally acknowledging the critical value of breastfeeding.
According to the CDC,7 the percent of babies breastfeeding at six months increased from 35 percent in 2000 to 49 percent in 2010, and infants still breastfeeding at 12 months increased from 16 percent to 27 percent during that same time period. While most infant formulas are about 50% carbohydrates, breast milk is naturally around 18%, which is the obvious problem that contributes to infant obesity.
Federal policies have not budged when it comes to issues that matter the most, or could have the greatest impact. Subsidizing the growing of genetically engineered (GE) corn, soy, and sugar beets continues to fuel the production of cheap, processed junk food that fatten us up and cause cascading health problems, courtesy of the insulin resistance such a diet brings.
Subsidizing the growing of GE soy and corn for hydrogenated vegetable oils is the primary source of clogged arteries leading to countless unnecessary heart attacks.
The combination of junk food manufacturers, pesticide producers' agriculture lobbying, and the willingness of our federal politicians to be lobbied because of their greed for money and power has not changed one bit in the past decade. If anything, it's only gotten more insidious.
As a general rule, the beverage industry also still denies or strongly downplays its role in the childhood obesity epidemic, despite the fact that beverage companies spend over $1 billion annually on youth-targeted marketing?especially in school settings?and sodas have been repeatedly shown to massively promote obesity in study after study.
Hopefully, we'll soon see a reduction in junk food advertising in schools at least. First Lady Michelle Obama recently announced a new US Department of Agriculture (USDA) rule that would phase out advertising of sugary drinks and junk food on school grounds. Historically, the junk food industry always finds a way to buy their way back into schools as a desperately needed source of revenues. As reported by NBC News:8
"US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the new rules would eliminate marketing for products that cannot be sold in schools. 'If you can't sell it, you ought not to be able to market it,' Vilsack said. He said companies spend $149 million a year on marketing food and drinks to kids in school...
The Federal Trade Commission says the heaviest marketers are candy and snack food manufacturers, beverage companies, and fast food restaurants, which make use of posters and scoreboards. They also give students coupons, for instance offering pizza as a prize for students who read a certain number of books, and they place advertisements in school television programs and other educational materials. California banned sodas and junk food from public schools in 2005 and Connecticut did in 2006, but most states don't have policies."
I was in the Philippines last month and over there fresh fruits and vegetables are inexpensive and processed junk food is costly. So there are strong economic incentives for them to eat healthy. However, the converse is present in the US. For some families, access to fruits and vegetables is very limited, forcing them to rely on the heavily subsidized processed foods at their local markets. Others realize they can get a value meal at numerous fast-food restaurants for far less money than it takes to purchase foods to cook from scratch. But all this cheap food comes with a hidden price tag.
The featured video discusses a number of principles associated with food, such as the principle of true cost accounting,9 which helps you understand the real cost of the food you buy. When you make purchasing decisions based solely on price, without asking why the food is so inexpensive, you're actually supporting a long list of social and environmental ills that, ultimately, you still end up paying for in one way or another.
While Americans pay less for their weekly grocery bill than people in most other nations, the true cost of all this cheap food is staggering. Declining health and rising health care costs are two of the most obvious considerations. Parents need to wake up and face the reality that processed foods have dramatically changed over the years. The level of processing and chemical additives has increased exponentially, and today's pre-packaged convenience foods have been processed and altered to the point of being virtually unrecognizable, nutritionally, from real food.
Processed food is typically NOT interchangeable with fresh whole food, no matter what it says on the bag. Unfortunately, many still do not know that the "natural" label is completely worthless, as foods bearing the "natural" label can still, legally, be chockfull of chemicals, additives, and genetically engineered ingredients.
In the US, parents also have to contend with the fact that a vast majority of this cheap food is genetically engineered and heavily contaminated with the toxic herbicides like glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup. Experts like Dr. Don Huber strongly believe that glyphosate is actually more toxic than DDT.
Compelling evidence now suggests that glyphosate residues, found in most commonly consumed foods in the Western diet courtesy of GE sugar, corn, soy, and wheat, enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment to disrupt normal body functions and induce disease. Glyphosate also severely disrupts your gut flora, thereby further exacerbating metabolic havoc and poor health. Children are clearly at greatest risk here. The sooner their gut flora becomes severely compromised, the sooner their health will begin to fail. If they're fed GE foods from infancy, they may be facing serious health issues by the time they're in their teens!
This is a valid concern, as genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can even be found in infant formulas, and no one really knows what the health risks of such ingredients might be, especially long-term. It's important to remember that pound for pound, infants experience greater exposure to chemicals than adults, and have immature and porous blood-brain barriers, which allow greater chemical exposures to reach their developing brains. Hence, an all-organic diet is really crucial for infants and young children.
Breastfeeding is clearly the best option. Besides lacking the full arsenal of critical nutrients obtained from breast milk, many infant formulas also contain far too much sugar (your baby doesn't need any). But it's not just a matter of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fats that makes breast milk far superior to formula. Breast milk also contains substances that may significantly enhance your baby's gut and support the healthy development of her entire nervous system.
Do not make the mistake of underestimating the power of your influence as a parent when it comes to laying down potentially lifelong habits. Leading by example is one of the most effective teaching tools there is. Children will simply not know which foods are healthy unless you, as a parent, teach it to them.
Remember, wholesome food is "live" and typically raw food, and the hallmark of live food is the fact that it will wilt and decompose. The fact that fast food burgers, buns, and fries show no signs of decomposing, even after a decade, is a clear indication that it's not real food and serves no beneficial purpose as part of your child's diet.
If you're unsure about how to get your family on the right track, my optimized nutrition plan offers a step-by-step guide to feeding your family right. You can find even more help in the book I wrote on the subject, called Generation XL: Raising Healthy, Intelligent Kids in a High-Tech, Junk-Food World. As a quick overview, here are some of the most important lifestyle strategies you can teach your child that will serve him or her well for the rest of their life:
- Proper food choices: For a comprehensive guide, see my free optimized nutrition plan. Generally speaking though, you'll want to focus your diet on whole, ideally organic, unprocessed or minimally processed foods. For the best nutrition and health benefits, you will want to eat a good portion of your food raw.
Avoid processed sugar, and refined fructose in particular. All forms of sugar have toxic effects when consumed in excess, and drive multiple disease processes in your body, not the least of which is insulin resistance, a major cause of chronic disease and accelerated aging. I believe the two primary keys for successful weight management are severely restricting carbohydrates (sugars, fructose, and grains) in your diet, and increasing healthy fat consumption. This will optimize insulin and leptin levels, which is key for maintaining a healthy weight and optimal health. Sources of healthy fats include:
Olives and olive oil Coconuts and coconut oil Butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk Raw nuts, particularly macadamia Organic pastured egg yolks Avocados Grass-fed meats Palm oil Unheated organic nut oils
- Regular exercise: Even if you're eating the healthiest diet in the world, you still need to exercise to reach the highest levels of health, and you need to be exercising effectively, which means including high-intensity activities into your rotation. High-intensity interval-type training boosts human growth hormone (HGH) production, which is essential for optimal health, strength and vigor. HGH also helps boost weight loss.
So along with core-strengthening exercises, strength training, and stretching, I highly recommend that two to three times a week you do Peak Fitness exercises, which raise your heart rate up to your anaerobic threshold for 20 to 30 seconds, followed by a 90-second recovery period.
- Stress reduction: Your emotional state plays a role in nearly every physical disease -- from heart disease and depression, to arthritis and cancer. Meditation, prayer, social support, and exercise are all viable options that can help you maintain emotional and mental equilibrium. I also strongly believe in using simple tools such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to address deeper, oftentimes hidden, emotional problems.
- Drink plenty of clean pure water.
- Maintain a healthy gut: About 80 percent of your immune system resides in your gut, and research is stacking up showing that probiotics?beneficial bacteria?affect your health in a myriad of ways; it can even influence your ability to lose weight. A healthy diet is the ideal way to maintain a healthy gut, and regularly consuming traditionally fermented foods is the easiest, most cost effective way to ensure optimal gut flora.
- Optimize your vitamin D levels: Research has shown that increasing your vitamin D levels can reduce your risk of death from ALL causes. Sun exposure is the best way to optimize your vitamin D levels as your body has built-in "fail-safe" mechanisms that prevent detrimental side effects from occurring. For more information on how to safely and effectively optimize your vitamin D levels, please see my previous article, "How Vitamin D Performance Testing Can Help You Optimize Your Health."
If you opt for oral vitamin D supplements, make sure you use D3, not prescription D2, as the latter may do more harm than good. Also, if you take supplemental vitamin D, you're creating an increased demand for K2?not K1 that is typically in vegetables as it will not work synergize with vitamin D. Vitamin K2 deficiency is actually what produces the symptoms of vitamin D toxicity, which includes inappropriate calcification that can lead to hardening of your arteries. Together, vitamin D and K2 help strengthen your bones and improve your heart health.
- Avoid as many chemicals, toxins, and pollutants as possible: This includes tossing out your toxic household cleaners, soaps, personal hygiene products, air fresheners, bug sprays, lawn pesticides, and insecticides, just to name a few, and replacing them with non-toxic alternatives.
- Get plenty of high-quality sleep: Regularly catching only a few hours of sleep can hinder metabolism and hormone production in a way that is similar to the effects of aging and the early stages of diabetes. Chronic sleep loss may speed the onset or increase the severity of age-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and memory loss.
Ultimately, teaching your child the importance of healthy foods and exercise is the key to maintaining health. With that in mind, here are a few more tips to foster a healthy view of food and self-esteem in your child:
- Lead by example and seek to maintain optimal body weight for yourself and your spouse
- Refrain from making jokes about your child's weight, even if no harm is intended
- Explain the health risks of being overweight to your child, but avoid comparing your overweight child to other children, including thinner siblings
- Cook healthy meals for your family, and let your child be involved in making dinner, but avoid making your child eat different food than the rest of the family
- Encourage your child to make healthy food choices and praise them when they do instead of putting your child down about weight or eating habits
- Instead of using food as a reward or punishment, have healthy snacks available at all times, and explain to your child the benefits they'll get from eating these fresh, whole foods; use non-food items, such as stickers or special outings/activities as rewards instead
By Dr. Mercola
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are similar in structure to natural sex hormones such as estrogen. By mimicking natural hormones, they have a number of adverse effects on both humans and wildlife, including developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune system damage.
One of the most talked about endocrine disrupters is bisphenol-A (BPA), a pervasive chemical used in plastics and the lining of canned goods. These are thought to be the two primary routes of exposure, but research is uncovering another route that has received little attention: thermal receipt paper.
You probably don't think twice about handling a cash-register receipt on your way out of the grocery store (or replacing that paper in the register if you work there). But you should.
Thermal paper has a coating that turns black when heat is applied (the printer in a cash register applies heat to the paper, allowing it to print numbers and letters). It also contains BPA, and research shows that handling this type of paper is enough to increase your bodily levels.
Though the amount of BPA transferred from a receipt may be small, think about how many times you handle receipts in any given week. It's these frequent, small exposures that add up over time, significantly contributing to your body's toxic load.
And for those who are most vulnerable to BPA's toxic effects ? pregnant women, infants, and children ? handling receipts may pose an unnecessary risk that few are aware of.
Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health recruited 24 students and staff members to take part in the study. Considering the toxic nature of BPA on development, it was required that the participants were not pregnant.
They were then asked to handle receipts for two hours with their bare hands. Before this, 20 of the 24 participants had measurable levels of BPA in their urine. Afterward, BPA was found in all of the participants' urine. The concentration of BPA in the urine samples increased as well.1
One week later, for the second part of the study, the participants handled receipts with gloves on, which led to no significant increase in BPA levels. The findings were clear enough that the researchers suggested cashiers and bank tellers may want to wear gloves if they handle receipts frequently.
This is especially important if they're pregnant or of child-bearing age (nitrile gloves were used in the study; it's not yet known if latex or other gloves will prevent BPA exposure).
Past research also suggests caution is warranted when handling receipts, even if you only hold them long enough to put in your wallet. A study in Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry found that of 13 thermal printing papers analyzed, 11 contained BPA.2
Holding the paper for just five seconds was enough to transfer BPA your person's skin, and the amount of BPA transferred increased by about 10 times if fingers were wet or greasy (such as if you've just applied lotion or eaten greasy food).
Finally, because receipts are often stored next to paper currency in people's wallets, paper currency may also be contaminated with BPA. In a study published in Environmental Science and Technology, researchers analyzed paper currencies from 21 countries for the presence of BPA, and the chemical was detected in every sample.3
They also measured the transfer of BPA from thermal receipt paper to currency by placing the two together in a wallet for 24 hours. This dramatically increased the concentrations of BPA on the money, which again suggests that handling receipts, and potentially paper currency, may increase your BPA levels.
While handling receipts was a definite source of BPA exposure, it "only" increased levels by about one-quarter of what would be expected from eating canned soup.4 BPA is commonly thought of as a plastics chemical, but it's becoming clear that canned goods may be an even greater route of exposure than plastics.
According to one study, eating canned soup for five days increased study participants' urinary concentrations of BPA by more than 1,000% compared to eating freshly made soup.5 For this reason, avoiding canned goods as much as possible is one of my topmost recommendations for avoiding exposure to this ubiquitous chemical toxin.
This is not to downplay the importance of avoiding BPA-containing plastics, of course, but ideally you should seek to avoid as many sources of BPA (and other endocrine disrupters) as possible. In terms of BPA, this includes avoiding:
- Canned foods and soda cans
- All BPA-containing plastics and food packaging
- Certain tooth sealants
- Certain BPA-free plastics (which can contain similar endocrine-disrupting chemicals)
- Receipts and currency (seek to limit or avoid carrying receipts in your wallet or purse, as it appears the chemical is transferring onto other surfaces it touches. It would also be wise to wash your hands after handling receipts and currency, and avoid handling them particularly if you've just put on lotion or have any other greasy substance on your hands, as this may increase your exposure)
The reason why it's so important to minimize your exposure to even low levels of environmental chemicals is because there are so many of them out there. BPA is just one. Another is azodicarbonamide (ADA), a chemical that recently made headlines after Subway announced it would remove ADA from its bread.
Azodicarbonamide is used as a dough conditioner and flour bleaching agent in commercial baking; it's also used to improve elasticity in yoga mats, shoe rubber, and other materials, like synthetic leather. There is concern that azodicarbonamide might cause chronic diseases including cancer and, possibly, asthma and allergies, and some US consumer groups have called for it to be removed from foods.
While ADA is banned as a food additive in Australia and some European countries, a report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that it is used in close to 500 US foods, including breads, bagels, tortillas, hamburger and hot dog buns, pizza, pastries, and more made by name brands such as Pillsbury, Sara Lee, Shoprite, Safeway, Smucker's, Fleischman's, Jimmy Dean, Kroger, Little Debbie, Tyson, and Wonder.6
The World Health Organization has reported that ADA may increase the risk of respiratory problems and skin irritation in workers that handle the chemical and EWG points out that this is yet one more additive that has not been extensively tested to determine its health effects in humans. As EWG reported:7
"One thing is clear: ADA is not food, as food has been defined for most of human history. It is an industrial chemical added to bread for the convenience of industrial bakers. In centuries past, flour fresh from the mill had to age several months before it could be kneaded into dough and popped into the oven. But in 1956, a New Jersey chemical, pharmaceuticals and engineering firm called Wallace & Tiernan, best known for inventing a mass water chlorination process, discovered that ADA caused flour to 'achiev[e] maturing action without long storage.'"
As further reported by EWG senior scientist David Andrews, Ph.D:8"ADA is just one example of an American food supply awash in chemical additives that can be mixed into foods with little oversight or safety review? Americans have regularly eaten this chemical along with hundreds of other questionable food additives for years."
Many of you have heard of BPA, and some of you may now be familiar with ADA in bread. However, many common household goods, personal care products, and food and water are major sources of chemical exposure that can lead to an accumulation of toxicants in your body and cause hormone disruption. I certainly don't expect you to memorize them all, however being aware of the most pervasive endocrine disrupters is the first step to minimizing your exposures. The EWG's "dirty dozen" list for the 12 worst endocrine disruptors are the following.9 I've written about many of these in prior articles, so for more information about any particular one, please follow the links provided.
Bisphenol-A (BPA) Dioxin Atrazine Phthalates Perchlorate Fire retardants Lead Mercury Arsenic Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) Organophosphate pesticides Glycol ethers
Implementing the following measures will help you avoid the worst endocrine-disrupting culprits as well as other chemicals from a wide variety of sources. To sum it up, try to stick with whole foods and natural products around your home. The fewer ingredients a product contains, the better, and try to make sure anything you put on or in your body ? or use around your home ? contains only substances you're familiar with. If you can't pronounce it, you probably don't want it anywhere near your family.
- As much as possible, buy and eat organic produce and free-range, organic meats to reduce your exposure to added hormones, pesticides, and fertilizers. Also avoid milk and other dairy products that contain the genetically engineered recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST).
- Rather than eating conventional or farm-raised fish, which are often heavily contaminated with PCBs and mercury, supplement with a high-quality purified krill oil, or eat fish that is wild-caught and lab tested for purity. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon is about the only fish I eat for these reasons.
- Buy products that come in glass containers rather than plastic or canned, since chemicals can leach out of plastics and into the contents.
- Store your food and beverages in glass rather than plastic, and avoid using plastic wrap.
- Use glass baby bottles and BPA-free sippy cups for your little ones. Some manufacturers have even moved to glass, since BPA-free products may contain other toxic bisphenols.
- Eat mostly raw, fresh foods. Processed, prepackaged foods (of all kinds) are a common source of chemicals such as bisphenols (e.g. BPA and BPS) and phthalates.
- Replace your non-stick pots and pans with ceramic or glass cookware.
- Filter your tap water?both for drinking and bathing. If you can only afford to do one, filtering your bathing water may be more important, as your skin absorbs contaminants. To remove the endocrine-disrupting herbicide Atrazine, make sure the filter is certified to remove it. According to the EWG, perchlorate can be filtered out using a reverse osmosis filter.
- Look for products that are made by companies that are earth-friendly, animal-friendly, green, non-toxic, and/or 100% organic. This applies to everything from food and personal care products to building materials, carpeting, paint, baby items, upholstery, and more.
- Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to remove house dust, which is often contaminated with traces of chemicals.
- When buying new products such as furniture, mattresses, or carpet padding, ask what type of fire retardant it contains. Be mindful of and/or avoid items containing PBDEs, antimony, formaldehyde, boric acid, and other brominated chemicals. As you replace these toxic items around your home, select those that contain naturally less flammable materials, such as leather, wool, and cotton.
- Avoid stain- and water-resistant clothing, furniture, and carpets to avoid perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs).
- Make sure your baby's toys are BPA-free, such as pacifiers, teething rings, and anything your child may be prone to suck on.
- Only use natural cleaning products in your home or make your own. Avoid products that contain 2-butoxyethanol (EGBE) and methoxydiglycol (DEGME)?two toxic glycol ethers that can damage fertility and cause fetal harm.10
- Switch over to organic brands of toiletries such as shampoo, toothpaste, antiperspirants, and cosmetics. Remember, you can replace many different products with coconut oil and baking soda, for example. The Environmental Working Group has a great database11 to help you find personal care products that are free of phthalates and other potentially dangerous chemicals. I also offer one of the highest quality organic skin care lines, shampoo and conditioner, and body butter that are completely natural and safe.
- Replace feminine hygiene products like tampons and sanitary pads with safer alternatives.
- Avoid artificial air fresheners, dryer sheets, fabric softeners, or other synthetic fragrances.
- Look for products that are fragrance-free. One artificial fragrance can contain hundreds -- even thousands -- of potentially toxic chemicals.
- Replace your vinyl shower curtain with one made of fabric.
By Dr. Mercola
An outbreak of the foodborne illness listeriosis has been reported by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)? you get this potentially serious infection by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes.
This is the disease the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) often uses as its ?poster child? in its warnings against drinking raw milk, but this actually deflects from the fact that people are dying from listeria found in other commonly eaten foods.
Perhaps the FDA and the CDC should start letting people know that raw milk is not the only source of listeria? nor is it the most common one! In the latest outbreak, reported in February 2014, people were sickened by eating cheese? that was pasteurized.
According to the CDC, a total of eight people have been infected with listeria in two states (Maryland and California). One person has died. The illnesses have been traced back to soft or semi-soft Hispanic-style cheese made by Roos Foods of Kenton, Delaware.
The cheeses have been recalled and the CDC is warning consumers not to eat any of the following brands of cheese manufactured or repackaged by Roos Foods:
- Santa Rosa De Lima
Past listeria outbreaks have been linked to soft ripened cheeses made from unpasteurized milk, particularly queso fresco, a fresh Mexican cheese. But in this case it appears the cheeses that caused the listeria outbreak were pasteurized. According to Food Safety News:1 ?The cheeses were pasteurized and not sold as raw milk products.?
Listeriosis is generally a mild illness in healthy people, causing few or no symptoms. But people with compromised immune systems and pregnant women are at more serious risk.
In pregnant women, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, premature delivery, infection, or death to the newborn. In the current outbreak, for instance, five of the illnesses were related to pregnancy (two mother-newborn pairs and one newborn).
It is therefore very important that people at high risk receive reliable information about how to best lower their risk of contracting this infection. US health officials are doing a disservice by highlighting raw milk as though it is the largest risk factor for this disease.
According to the CDC, 1,600 illnesses and 260 deaths due to listeriosis occur every year in the US. What foods are responsible for the most recent listeria outbreaks? According to CDC data:2
- 2011: Whole cantaloupes were responsible for 147 illnesses, 33 deaths, and one miscarriage. This was the largest listeriosis outbreak in US history.
- 2012: Pasteurized Frescolina Marte brand ricotta salata cheese sickened 22 people, and four deaths occurred.
- 2013: Three types of pasteurized cheese made by Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese Company of Waterloo, Wisconsin sickened six people, with one death reported.
- 2014: Pasteurized cheese products made by Roos Foods have sickened eight people with one death reported so far.
The fact of the matter is, due to health officials fear-mongering regarding raw milk, many people immediately equate listeria with raw milk. But as you can see, all recent outbreaks have involved produce or pasteurized milk products. A 2011 study also revealed deli meats to be the most risky choice, as ready-to-eat foods like these can become contaminated after cooking during the packaging process.3
According to the 2011 report, the risks associated with deli meats from the supermarket deli are five times higher than for prepackaged deli meats. Raw vegetables are also a potential source of contamination, as are other meats.
Can raw milk and raw-milk cheese cause listeriosis? If it?s contaminated, yes. But so can fresh produce, meats and pasteurized dairy products? yet these latter foods ? responsible for the last four listeriosis outbreaks in the US -- receive only a fraction of the mention that raw milk does in regards to ?high-risk? foods for listeria contamination. The US FDA tells pregnant women that pasteurized cheeses and milk are safe to eat without warning that they, too, have caused listeriosis.
An estimated one in six Americans gets sick every year from contaminated food. Sometimes this results in a 24-hour bout of diarrhea and vomiting that clears on its own, but in other cases food-borne pathogens can lead to organ failure, paralysis, neurological impairment, blindness, stillbirths, and even death. Health officials have been waging a war against raw milk, but it?s not an inherently ?risky? food.
It?s important to keep in mind that the potential for foodborne illness applies to ANY food, and where it comes from is probably the greatest indicator of whether it?s likely to be safe or contaminated.
For instance, in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), large groups of animals are kept in a small space, oftentimes without natural light or access to the outdoors. The conditions are filthy, with animals standing in one another's waste. Needless to say, harmful bacteria naturally thrive in these conditions.
To combat disease (and promote unnatural growth), the animals are fed antibiotics, the result of which is they become living and breathing ?bioreactors? for the generation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. They may also receive hormones, which increase milk production, and they're fed a diet of grains and soy (most of which is now the genetically engineered variety) rather than grass, which alters their gut flora and makes them even more prone to disease.
I wouldn?t touch milk that came from a CAFO unless it had been pasteurized, as it?s virtually guaranteed to be contaminated. This isn?t the case, however, for milk that comes from a small, well-run organic farm. But this isn?t only true for milk ? it goes for meat and eggs, too. It should come as absolutely no surprise that, after reviewing data on the 14 pathogens that cause 95 percent of total cases of food-borne illness, the top-ranked pathogen-food combinations most likely to make you sick came from CAFO meats, including:4
- Chickens and turkey (contaminated with campylobacter or salmonella)
- Pork (contaminated with toxoplasma)
- Deli meats (contaminated with listeria)
- Eggs (contaminated with salmonella)
Contaminated produce, especially tomatoes, sprouts and cantaloupe, were also major food poisoning risks as were so-called "complex foods" ? foods that contain a number of ingredients so that the specific culprit could not be pinpointed. Often these foods came from restaurants, which suggests contamination may have occurred during preparation or cooking. The report found: "?Consumption of FDA-regulated foods is estimated to cause about half of the overall national burden of foodborne disease.? So the real solution to creating healthier, safer foods lies in cleaning up the growing conditions and processing plants, and most certainly in returning farming to a small-scale basis ? not in vilifying one beneficial food like raw milk.
Sometimes, food-borne illness may be inevitable, but there are steps you can take to lower your risk. This includes commonsense measures like washing your hands and sanitizing counters/cutting boards after handling potentially contaminated foods, rinsing fruits and vegetables before eating, and storing foods at the proper temperature. One important factor impacting whether your food is ?safe? isn?t total storage time, but rather how much time it spends in the temperature ?danger zone? (between 40-120 degrees F).5 You?ll want to avoid leaving your groceries in a hot car for too long, for instance, as this will generally promote food-borne illness.
Ultimately, though, the key to making sure that any food you eat is safe is to get it from a high-quality source. I can't stress the importance of this enough. When you get your produce from small farmers that raise their food in natural settings using clean water, as opposed to massive agribusiness conglomerations that use sewage sludge as fertilizer, there is very little risk in eating these foods raw. The same goes for meat, eggs, and raw dairy products, as well. If you?re interested in raw milk, here are tips for finding high-quality raw milk sources.
I also suggest browsing through my Sustainable Agriculture resource page to find farmer's markets, family farms, and other sources of safe, high-quality food. Not only are these sources likely to raise food in more sanitary conditions than a conventional agribusiness farm, but there's a better chance that it will also be locally grown. The closer you are to the source of your food, the fewer hands it has to pass through and the less time it will sit in storage -- so the better, and likely safer, it will be for you and your family.
Finally, along with the practical precautions mentioned above, lowering your chances of becoming ill from food poisoning also involves keeping your immune system healthy by following these five steps to boost your immune system health.
By Dr. Mercola
The pesticide producers are one of the most powerful industries on the planet, the influence they possess is enormous. You have probably heard that an Elsevier journal has retracted the Seralini study which showed evidence of harm to rats fed a GMO diet, despite admitting they found no fraud or errors in the study.
This journal had also just recently appointed an ex-Monsanto employee as an editor - one could only guess the value of this strategy for the pesticide industry. Expect Seralini to sue as this story develops, as it appears he has a very strong case.
Alas, the scientific ground on which the genetic engineering of plants is built may now be shakier than ever, thanks to GMO promoting scientists like Dr. Pamela Ronald. A recent article in Independent Science News1 questions whether she'll be able to salvage her career, as two of her scientific papers (published in 2009 and 2011 respectively) were recently retracted.
With the loss of her credibility, and the domino effect these retractions are likely to cause within the scientific field, the entire chemical technology industry stands to suffer a great blow to its scientific integrity.
"Her media persona... is to take no prisoners," Jonathan Latham, PhD writes.2 "After New York Times chief food writer Mark Bittman advocated GMO labeling, she called him 'a scourge on science' who 'couches his nutty views in reasonable-sounding verbiage.' His opinions were "almost fact- and science-free" continued Ronald.
In 2011 she claimed in an interview with the US Ambassador to New Zealand: 'After 14 years of cultivation and a cumulative total of two billion acres planted, GE crops have not caused a single instance of harm to human health or the environment.'"
She may have to turn down her criticism a notch, considering the fact that not one but two of her own studies were found to contain sizeable scientific errors, rendering her findings null and void. Questions have also been raised about a third study published in 2011, according to the featured article.
Ronald's research group claimed to have identified a molecule used by rice plants to detect pathogenic rice blight, as well as a quorum sensing molecule (meaning a molecule that can coordinate gene expression according to the density of the local population).
These two studies, both of which are now retracted,3, 4 formed the basis of her research program at the University of California in Davis, which is investigating how rice plants detect certain pathogenic bacteria.
Ronald blamed the erroneous work by long gone lab members from Korea and Thailand, referring to the errors as a "mix-up." She didn't name her bungling colleagues, however. And while media coverage applauded Ronald for "doing the right thing" by retracting the studies, the featured article5 questions whether she really deserves such accolades:
"[S]cientific doubts had been raised about Ronald-authored publications at least as far back as August 2012... German researchers had been unable to repeat Ronald's discoveries... and they suggested as a likely reason that her samples were contaminated.
Furthermore, the German paper also asserted that, for a theoretical reason, her group's claims were inherently unlikely. In conclusion, the German group wrote: 'While inadvertent contamination is a possible explanation, we cannot finally explain the obvious discrepancies to the results...'
Pamela Ronald, however, did not concede any of the points raised by the German researchers and did not retract the Danna et al 2011 paper. Instead, she published a rebuttal.
The subsequent retractions, beginning in January 2013, however, confirm that in fact very sizable scientific errors were being made in the Ronald laboratory. But more importantly for the 'Kudos to Pam' story, it was not Pamela Ronald who initiated public discussion of the credibility of her research.
... Ronald's footnotes [in the explanation that accompanied the retraction of her second article6 admit two mislabelings, along with failures to establish and use replicable experimental conditions, and also minimally two failed complementation tests. Each mistake appears to have been compounded by a systemic failure to use basic experimental controls.
Thus, leading up to the retractions were an assortment of practical errors, specific departures from standard scientific best practice, and lapses of judgment in failing to adequately question her labs' unusual (and therefore newsworthy) results."
According to data from Thomson Reuters,7 the numbers of scientific retractions have climbed more than 15-fold since 2001. What many don't realize is that even a small number of retracted studies can wreak absolute havoc with the science-based paradigm. Other scientists who have based their research on the results from studies that, for whatever reason, end up being retracted, are now perpetuating flawed science as well. In one example, two retracted medical studies led to the retraction of another 17.
In this case, the first of Dr. Ronald's retracted studies has been cited eight times.8 The second? 113 times.9 That sounds like an awfully large cleanup job in a field that's already heavily criticized for its preponderance of "lousy science," to use the words of award-winning geneticist Dr. David Suzuki.
It's important to realize that genetically engineered plants and animals are created using horizontal gene transfer (also called horizontal inheritance). This is in stark contrast to vertical gene transfer, which is the mechanism in natural reproduction. Vertical gene transfer, or vertical inheritance, is the transmission of genes from the parent generation to offspring via sexual or asexual reproduction, i.e., breeding a male and female from one species.
Horizontal gene transfer, on the other hand, involves injecting a gene from one species into a completely different species, which yields unexpected and often unpredictable results. Proponents of genetically engineered crops assume they can apply the principles of vertical inheritance to horizontal inheritance, but according to Dr. David Suzuki, this assumption is flawed in just about every possible way and is "just lousy science."
Genes don't function in a vacuum ? they act in the context of the entire genome. Whole sets of genes are turned on and off in order to arrive at a particular organism, and the entire orchestration is an activated genome. It's a dangerous mistake to assume a gene's traits are expressed properly, regardless of where they're inserted. The safety of genetically modified food is based only on a hypothesis, and this hypothesis is already being proven wrong.
The kind of horizontal gene transfer that is currently used to create new crop seeds tends to produce highly inflammatory foreign proteins. As one would expect, were there a connection, inflammation-based chronic diseases have indeed increased right alongside with the proliferation of GMO foods in the US. Clearly, Dr. Ronald never bothered to look at such data, and her declaration that "GE crops have not caused a single instance of harm to human health or the environment"10 is as lacking in scientific support as her retracted research.
According to Jeffrey Smith, who is one of the leaders in educating people about the concerns and dangers of GMOs, there are definitive correlations between the results from animal-feeding studies and the patterns of human disease we're now seeing. For example, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine has done a number of animal-feeding studies on GMOs and specifically enumerated the particular categories of diseases and disorders found in these controlled environments. These include:
Gastrointestinal problems Immune problems Reproductive problems Organ damage Dysfunction and dysregulation of cholesterol Dysfunction and dysregulation of insulin
"You look at the three different corresponding factors: (1) what humans are getting better from, (2) what livestock is getting better from, (3) what afflictions are afflicting the lab animals fed with GMOs, and then you look at what diseases are really taking off in the United States ? they're the same categories," Smith says.
For example, kidney problems have been demonstrated in 19 different animal-feeding studies, and kidney diseases are on the rise in the US. Could there be a connection? Smith and I both believe this to be the case. According to Smith:
"We heard from two people at a meeting in Arizona, someone whose husband was nearly on dialysis and someone else who had three kidney transplants ? both situations reversed when they changed their diet. You see things like the animal-feeding study out of Russia where the babies were a lot smaller after being fed GE soy, and you see the incidence of low-birth-weight babies is going up in the United States... Deaths from senile dementia moved along at a certain pace, and then when GMOs or Roundup were introduced, it shot up... So, you see these correlations between these four things now: (1) the animal-feeding studies, (2) people getting better [when removing GMO], (3) livestock getting better [when removing GMO], and (4) changes in the disease rates."
In 2009, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine called for a moratorium on genetically modified foods, and said that long-term independent studies must be conducted, stating: "Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food, including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. ?There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation?"
Despite this sound warning, genetically engineered foods continue to be added to the US food supply with no warning to the Americans buying and eating this food. Genetic manipulation of crops, and more recently food animals, is a dangerous game that has repeatedly revealed that assumptions about how genetic alterations work and the effects they have on animals and humans who consume such foods are deeply flawed and incomplete. Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant claims genetically engineered crops are "the most-tested food product that the world has ever seen." What he doesn't tell you is that:
- Industry-funded research predictably affects the outcome of the trial. This has been verified by dozens of scientific reviews comparing funding with the findings of the study. When industry funds the research, it's virtually guaranteed to be positive. Therefore, independent studies must be done to replicate and thus verify results.
- The longest industry-funded animal feeding study was 90 days, which recent research has confirmed is FAR too short. In the world's first independently funded lifetime feeding study, massive health problems set in during and after the 13th month, including organ damage and cancer.
- Companies like Monsanto and Syngenta rarely if ever allow independent researchers access to their patented seeds, citing the legal protection these seeds have under patent laws. Hence, independent research is extremely difficult to conduct.
- There is no safety monitoring. Meaning, once the genetically engineered item in question has been approved, not a single country on Earth is actively monitoring and tracking reports of potential health effects.
By Dr. Mercola
It's easy to take a bodily function like your bowel movements for granted? that is, until a problem arises. Whether your bowel movements come too frequently or not often enough, it can make you uncomfortable, bloated, or even interfere with your body's ability to absorb enough nutrients from your food.
Staying regular is crucial for staying healthy. It plays a major role in how you feel (physically and emotionally) while removing waste from your body. For such a common bodily function, surprisingly little has been known about how a bowel movement actually occurs, so new research from Canada, which claims to have uncovered the "secret," is well worth sharing.
When you eat a meal, the food moves through your intestine by peristalsis. During this movement, your muscles contract and relax, allowing food and liquids to be mixed together and move through your digestive tract. Peristalsis acts much like ocean waves, and helps move fecal matter through your digestive tract for elimination.
Another type of movement, segmentation, occurs mostly in your large and small intestines and is thought to facilitate absorption of nutrients. How segmentation works has remained a mystery, but it had been theorized that alternate excitation and inhibition from the enteric nervous system was responsible. The new study revealed this is not the case and segmentation may occur "after total nerve blockade."
Instead, researchers found segmentation patterns emerge when two sets of "pacemakers" work together to create a rhythm. The process involves both nerves and muscles working together to generate a rhythmic movement that allows for nutrient absorption.1 The study's lead researcher compared it to the movements generated when you drop a stone in water:2
"It's like when a stone is dropped in water, it creates waves or motion that pushes things along, but when a second stone is dropped in the water, the movement changes to up and down, appearing to stay in the same place."
The finding could help open doors to treat conditions in which people have trouble absorbing nutrients from their food. It also sheds light on how irregular bowel movements occur. Specifically, with diarrhea segmentation activity is too low while with constipation it is too high. Abnormal segmentation activity may also be related to pain while eating.
If you have a tendency to flush in a rush, you can get clues about your overall health by noting characteristics such as shape, color, consistency, frequency, and smell of your bowel movements.
First, you'll need to know what's normal in a stool, which can actually vary quite dramatically. One of the most common questions relates to frequency, although there is no one right answer for this; normal bowel habits vary. When we talk about regularity, what we're really talking about is what's regular for you. Three bowel movements per day to three per week is considered the normal range.
What's more important than frequency is the ease with which you move your bowels. If you need to push or strain, something is off ? moving your bowels should take no more effort than urinating or passing gas.
You should keep an eye out for any sudden changes in your bowel habits, which might signal a problem. Many factors can affect regularity from day to day, such as diet, travel, medications, hormonal fluctuations, sleep patterns, exercise, illness, surgery, pregnancy and childbirth, stress, and more.
As for appearance, the Bristol Stool Chart is a handy tool to help you learn what healthy stool looks like. Ideally, your stool should approximate Types 3, 4, and 5, "like a sausage or a snake, smooth and soft" to "soft blobs that pass easily." Type 4 is the Holy Grail.3
What you see in the toilet can give you clues about how your gastrointestinal tract is functioning and even signal serious disease processes that could be occurring, like infections, digestive problems, and even cancer. This is true of both your urine and your stool. As for the latter, the following table will help you narrow down what to look for, so that you aren't needlessly alarmed. Of course, there are a few signs that are cause for concern, and those are listed, too. If you have a change in stools accompanied by abdominal pain, please report this to your physician.
Healthy Stool Unhealthy Stool Medium to light brown Stool that is hard to pass, painful, or requires straining Smooth and soft, formed into one long shape and not a bunch of pieces Hard lumps and pieces, or mushy and watery, or even pasty and difficult to clean off About one to two inches in diameter and up to 18 inches long Narrow, pencil-like or ribbon-like stools: can indicate a bowel obstruction or tumor ? or worst case, colon cancer; narrow stools on an infrequent basis are not so concerning, but if they persist, definitely warrant a call to your physician S-shaped, which comes from the shape of your lower intestine Black, tarry stools or bright red stools may indicate bleeding in the GI tract; black stools can also come from certain medications, supplements, or consuming black licorice; if you have black, tarry stools, it's best to be evaluated by your healthcare provider Quiet and gentle dive into the water... it should fall into the bowl with the slightest little "whoosh" sound ? not a loud, wet cannonball splash that leaves your toosh in need of a shower White, pale, or gray stools may indicate a lack of bile, which may suggest a serious problem (hepatitis, cirrhosis, pancreatic disorders, or possibly a blocked bile duct), so this warrants a call to your physician; antacids may also produce white stool Natural smell, not repulsive (I'm not saying it will smell good) Yellow stools may indicate giardia infection, a gallbladder problem, or a condition known as Gilbert's syndrome ? if you see this, call your doctor Uniform texture Presence of undigested food (more of a concern if accompanied by diarrhea, weight loss, or other changes in bowel habits) Sinks slowly Floaters or splashers Increased mucus in stool: This can be associated with inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn's disease, or ulcerative colitis, or even colon cancer, especially if accompanied by blood or abdominal pain Very bad odor: If your stool has an extraordinarily bad odor, it should not be ignored. I am referring to an odor above and beyond the normally objectionable stool odor. Stinky stool can be associated with a number of health problems, such as a malabsorptive disorder, Celiac disease, Crohn's disease, and chronic pancreatitis
A conversation about bowel movements wouldn't be complete without a mention of position, as this can impact the ease with which you eliminate and even increase your risk of bowel and pelvic problems, including constipation, hemorrhoids, and more. Most of you reading this probably sit to evacuate your bowel, but this requires you to apply additional force (straining), which has some unwanted biological effects, including a temporary disruption in cardiac flow.
Sitting on a modern toilet is designed to place your knees at a 90-degree angle to your abdomen. However, the time-honored natural squat position (which is still used by the majority of the world's population) places your knees much closer to your torso, and this position actually changes the spatial relationships of your intestinal organs and musculature, optimizing the forces involved in defecation.
Squatting straightens your rectum, relaxes your puborectalis muscle, and allows for complete emptying of your cecum and appendix without straining, which prevents fecal stagnation and the accumulation of toxins in your intestinal tract. It is instructive that non-westernized societies, in which people squat, do not have the high prevalence of bowel disease seen in developed nations; in some cultures with traditional lifestyles, these diseases are uncommon or almost unknown.
If you have trouble with bowel movements, especially constipation, I urge you to give the squat position a try. Squatting does involve strength and flexibility that adults tend to lose over time (but children have naturally). Special toilets and stools that get your body into a more "squatty" position can help you get closer to the ideal even if you've been sitting for decades.
Constipation is one of the most common bowel problems. It's defined as passing hard, dry stools that you have to strain to move, and it's typically accompanied by decreased frequency of defecation. Straining is not normal, nor is experiencing feelings of incomplete elimination, bloating, crampiness, or sluggishness after going number two. If you're over the age of 65, your risk of becoming constipated increases significantly.
If you're constipated, tweak your diet so that it includes plenty of whole foods, particularly fresh, organic vegetables and fruits that provide good nutrients and fiber. However, most of your fiber should come from vegetables, not grains. Grains actually contain anti-nutrients that may damage your health, as well as sticky proteins like gluten (literally, Latin for "glue") in the prolamine class, which are highly constipating to some individuals. Ironically, since we're often told that whole grains are one of the best sources of fiber for our health, the net effect of eating them will likely be constipating versus eliminative, and if it does have the latter effect, it may be due to its irritant properties ? hardly a "wholesome" food.
Assuming your gut is generally healthy, I believe most people need upwards of 32 grams of fiber a day. Most Americans get nowhere near this amount. If your diet could use more fiber, resist the urge to fortify it with whole grains. Instead, focus on eating more vegetables, nuts, and seeds. In addition to modifying your diet as described above, other effective constipation relief and prevention strategies include:
Use a squatting position for elimination instead of sitting Remove all sources of glutinous, prolamine-containing grains from your diet (the most common sources are wheat, barley, rye, and spelt) Avoid artificial sweeteners, excess sugar (especially fructose), chemical additives, MSG, excessive amounts of caffeine, and processed foods as they are all detrimental to your gastrointestinal (and immune) function Make sure you stay well hydrated with fresh, pure water Get plenty of exercise daily Avoid antidepressants, antacids (like calcium), blood pressure medications, and iron supplements, as they may also contribute to constipation Address emotional challenges, such as avoidance of public restrooms, with tools like EFT