Archive for January, 2015

Eggs, Label confusion & the cholesterol question

egg question

I seem to have a knee-jerk aversion to white foods (flour, sugar and Crisco®) and so, even though I know the color of the shell is just a reflection of the breed of chicken, I instinctively gravitate to brown eggs (except for Easter eggs). That’s just my silly prejudice. However, I’ve recently become aware of more relevant misleading flim-flam in the marketing of eggs. In fact, I think that egg cartons are one of the most confusing choices in the grocery store.

Let’s start with the assumption that we all probably want the most nutritious eggs and that none of us wants to eat unnecessary drugs and chemicals or to encourage cruelty to animals. So, we are drawn to humble paper cartons labeled with “natural” and “farm fresh”. I know that legally those mean nothing, but what about “cage-free” and some of the other descriptors? I appreciated TIME Magazine for writing an article on the subject in the February 2nd edition (2015). Unfortunately, since the online version is only available to subscribers, I will have to write my own:

  • Cage-free. That sounds good, but the chickens can still be smushed together (think elevator at quitting time on Friday) on the floor of a huge factory building, never seeing the light of day. I suspect that the big agribusiness chicken farmers weren’t being kind when they eliminated cages. It is likely they simply found it to be more profitable and then claimed the change as a sales point. There are no restrictions in this definition regarding feed, antibiotics or hormones.
  • Free-range. Are we getting somewhere now? At least these animals have a door to the outside world if they choose to use it. We can hope that these breeders might be a little more enlightened and inclined to go natural, but there is no requirement regarding feed or drugs. In California there is a special classification (SEFS) which assures that hens can at least turn around and spread their wings.
  • Pasture-raised. Similar to free-range, the definition is not legally binding. But, (if certified by voluntary associations) that can mean that hens may visit a roughly 10′ x 11′ patch of pasture part of the day.
  • Vegetarian. This usually means only that no animal products are put into the feed. Unfortunately, it likely also guarantees that the birds don’t get to go outside and eat what they naturally would…including bugs (which are obviously animal).
  • Omega-3 enriched. I’m all for giving chickens flax seeds or other sources of anti-inflammatory omega-3’s to counteract the inflammatory omega-6 which predominates in grain feed. Chickens scratching around in nature eating their instinctive diet get omega-3 without even trying. However, enhanced eggs can still come from penned up drugged birds eating feed containing pesticides.
  • USDA Certified Organic. Other than buying eggs straight from a farm where you can see how the chickens are raised, this seems to me to be the most reliable choice. Government inspectors assure that hens are not caged; have outdoor access; and are given vegetarian feed free of antibiotics and pesticides. There could be questions about animal welfare as raised by the Humane Society, but this is a good start. I believe organic is the best choice available to most consumers.

Wow. Is it any wonder that so many people are now raising their own chickens…even in the city? They also find that their home grown eggs taste better.

Eggs are a great source of complete protein and, in fact, they contain all the nutrients needed to build a whole animal! Very few people need to worry about the cholesterol in eggs because approximately 75% of the cholesterol in our arteries is made in the liver. When we eat more cholesterol, the liver makes less…that is unless we confuse it with too much sugar.

What is a quack? Blood pressure tips

 Rubber Duck Against The Flow

For many decades whenever a doctor has dared to prescribe vitamins and other natural approaches, he or she risks being called a “quack” by the establishment…never mind that the doctor may have been recommending the very best approach. In fact, that doctor may well have been practicing what I consider the highest quality medicine which is now known as functional medicine. According to the Institute for Functional Medicine (functionalmedicine.org), “Functional Medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease, using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership.” 

Although there is training specific to functional medicine, I use the term as a shorthand to cover a broader scope of disciplines. These methods have much in common and contrast with the typical mainstream medical approach of just prescribing drugs to suppress symptoms. Integrative medicine, naturopathic medicine, nutrition-based preventive medicine, clinical nutrition and chiropractic are all alternatives that share the goal of finding and fixing the root cause of problems…or better yet, preventing them in the first place. These systems have gained valuable insight from ancient gentle arts such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda (from India) and Native American Shaman healing. Practices that have worked for thousands of years shouldn’t be discounted simply because they didn’t come out of a white coat Western laboratory. The functional approach is gaining traction in mainstream medicine as evidenced by the fact that the prestigious Cleveland Clinic has opened a Center for Functional Medicine.

Here is an example of the difference I’m talking about: High blood pressure is obviously a risk factor for stroke and kidney disease. The conventional approach is to simply prescribe a drug such as Lisinopril. That may well bring down the blood pressure, but in the process, the patient might well suffer any one of a number of drug side effects which might generate more prescriptions. A functional medicine practitioner might first try any one or all of the following natural approaches to lowering blood pressure: exercise, smoking cessation, weight loss, salt intake reduction, increase in vegetable intake and supplementation with magnesium (this is a new study), vitamin D, probiotics, fish oil, Kyolic Aged Garlic complex #109 and others. All of the above will likely lower blood pressure and each will provide extra benefits in other parts of the body. Because they all work in different ways, they can be combined and thereby provide a natural synergy. (Read my article on 6 ways to lower blood pressure.)

Symptoms send people to the doctor where they most likely will receive a prescription for a medication–and not just because the doctor suggests it. We patients might demand it because we’ve been well trained to have a knee-jerk reaction: if we have symptom, we need drug! However, besides the fact that drugs don’t usually fix the root cause of the problem, drug side effects are often soft peddled by drug company reps and therefore by doctors. Television drug advertising purposely distracts our attention from the long list of side effects (some lethal) by showing us how much better life is when we are medicated.

It makes sense to me that when a symptom appears, instead of asking which drug we should take for it, we should ask which drug might be the cause. That brings me back to the question of what should define a doctor a quack. Click here to read my short article on the subject.  

Fluoride dangers

Hand drawing the symbol for the chemical element fluorine

Our website page on Toxins is now up. Yay! (Each of these is a labor of love.) It has some information and links regarding mercury, pesticides, BPA, smoking, water, radiation and fluoride–the one I must discuss today.

If fluoridation of drinking water was a brand new idea seeking FDA approval, I contend that for the following reasons the agency would never allow it :

  • They already require a warning on fluoride toothpaste instructing users to call the poison control center if swallowed.
  • Too little is known about health effects of the constant exposure to fluoride over decades. For example, more study is needed on indications that fluoridation may accelerate certain cancers as shown in this study. 
  • The evidence in this study that fluoride in water interferes with brain function would have to be investigated. 
  • Fluoride blocks the mineral iodine that our thyroid glands need. Therefore, the agency would be concerned that fluoridation might cause trouble with thyroid function. (Here is one study. Others are needed.) 
  • FDA demands precise dosing of medicines. That is not possible in this case because quantities of fluoride that naturally occur in water before treatment varies so widely. Also, obviously, people don’t all consume the same amount of water. 
  • Excess fluoride causes pitting and staining of teeth.

In light of the seriousness of these issues and the fact that fluoride acts mainly topically anyway, the agency would be right to suggest tooth decay be addressed directly with topical application. That would target those individuals who are actually at risk rather than force medication on an entire population including toothless infants, denture-wearing adults, vulnerable elderly persons, cancer patients, dogs, cats and pet turtles.

Notes and Resources:

  • Most home water filters do not remove fluoride and often bottled water is made from local tap water only lightly filtered for flavor. 

Newspapers don’t help

Back in May I objected to a Dallas Morning News columnist labeling citizens as “cranks” because they expressed their concerns to the city council over fluoride being added to public drinking water. Then another columnist in the same paper called a hero and friend of mine a “clod” for daring to speak out about the issue. Howard Garrett, the Dirt Doctor, is all about saving us from a toxic planet. (It was an opinion piece, but still, I really don’t like the idea of my newspaper calling intelligent well-intentioned citizens ugly names just because they disagree with them.)

The newspaper (like many others) has obviously decided to side with the establishment. Hmm…didn’t the establishment tell us in the 1950’s and 60’s that it was a good idea to put radioactive radium up noses for chronic sinus infections? (Not surprisingly cancer, thyroid trouble, brittle teeth and other problems appeared years later.) And, they said that Vioxx was a fine drug for arthritis. (It was later withdrawn because it killed more people than it was expected to.) I could go on. While we still have some freedom of the press in this country, I want to remind our readers that there is another side to this fluoride story.

FluorideAlert.org is a useful website that lists facts that we should be aware of in order to make an informed decision. That site notes: “…comprehensive data from the World Health Organization reveals that there is no discernible difference in tooth decay between the minority of western nations that fluoridate water, and the majority that do not. In fact, the tooth decay rates in many non-fluoridated countries are now lower than the tooth decay rates in fluoridated ones.”

So, apparently we don’t have a better record on tooth decay, but we do have more people suffering with degenerative disease than other countries. Could there be a connection? One of our radio guests, renowned nutritionist, pharmacist and clinician, Jim LaValle, seemed to be choking back outright laughter when I asked him if there was a nutritional need for fluoride that I had overlooked. His answer was an emphatic “No”. He explained that fluoride competes in the body with iodine which we desperately need to make thyroid hormone. Click here for more on that topic.

Excess fluoride can kill. Studies of toxicity for virtually all chemicals are done by testing what happens when an animal gets too much all at once. But, in murder mysteries the villains escape detection by poisoning their victims slowly, a little bit at a time. We have to remember that we also get fluoride naturally in some foods, tea and wine. Worse yet, we are also getting loads of other toxins from multiple sources and those have an additive effect. Again, I suggest visiting our website page on Toxins.

Added Sugar – More than empty calories!

lots of various brown sugar - food and drink

Yes, it is unkind of me to write about this topic just after the annual Oct-Jan sugarfest, but in light of news, I must. Added sugar is apparently much more than non-nourishing calories…and not in a good way. Researchers at the University of California in San Francisco reviewed 8,000 scientific papers regarding the link between added sugar and chronic disease. These scientists are on pretty solid ground when they declare that this pervasive food ingredient is a major contributor to the escalating trends in fatty liver disease, type 2 diabetes, “syndrome X”, heart disease and of course, obesity. (There is a growing belief that cancer and Alzheimer’s disease should be included on that list.)

Understand that we are just talking here about added sugars, not those that occur naturally for example in an apple. The obvious sources of added sugar are the likes of candy, cookies, cake, pies, toaster pastries and donuts. But, the worst offenders are sweet drinks such as sodas, sports and energy beverages. Although they aren’t usually mentioned, we shouldn’t overlook coffee drinks–a Starbucks® Venti Caramel Macchiato is loaded with 10 teaspoons of sugar! Does it matter if the sweetener is cane sugar, beet sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, etc.? No, not really…and get this: added sugars go by another 57 names!

In a Chicago Tribune article, Barbara Sadick said that the lead researcher in that massive scientific review, Laura A. Schmidt, PhD, explained that sugars are added to almost 75% of all packaged food products.

Here are some other shocking tidbits from the article:

•    “[Dr. Dean Schillinger] pointed out that during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, 1,500 American soldiers lost a limb in combat. In that same period, 1.5 million people in the U.S. lost limbs to amputations from Type 2 diabetes, a preventable disease.”

•    “[Pediatric endocrinologist Robert Lustig, author of Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease] said that more than half of the U.S. population is sick with metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors for chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and liver disease that are directly related to the excessive consumption of added sugars in the Western diet.”

Learn more in my article on sugars and at SugarScience.org.

Don’t count on the FDA to offer real guidance on food labels any time soon. Although the total grams of sugar are listed in the Nutrition Facts Panel, we are not informed about which are naturally-occurring or added sugars. Most importantly, we aren’t told what constitutes a safe daily intake of sugar. Given that even a relatively small amount can be harmful, the lobbyists for Nabisco, Kellogg’s, Generals Mills, Nestle, etc. will likely stall any effort to put warnings on labels for decades.

While we are waiting for food policies, economics and market factors to become more health-supportive, we had better take matters into our own hands. Perhaps instead of worrying about whether to eat a diet that is strictly defined as low carb, low fat, paleo, etc., we should just work at eliminating added sugar—added sugar is not a significant part of any type of diet that has been touted as healthful. It may be most practical to aim for zero added sugar because we will probably still get a lot accidentally. Read more in my article on how sugar spikes our blood sugar and ways to avoid those problems. 


Healthy By Nature Show
Saturdays 8-9am Central/Standard Time See all time zones
Toll free : 1.877.262.7843
LIVE show ONLY: 1.800.281.8255