Archive for June, 2017

Connecting the Dots…High Fructose Corn Syrup to Mercury

Mercury is a poison that accumulate in our bodies and, according to the World Health Organization, can damage nerve tissue, the digestive and immune systems, as well as lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes. A small amount occurs naturally in the environment, but more is added to the air, water and food from industrial smoke stacks. We’ve long worried about additional exposures from certain fish and amalgam dental fillings. But, who knew mercury is also added on purpose to some of our foods? We learned that shocker from my guest on last Saturday’s show, Renee Joy Dufault, PhD, the author of Unsafe at Any Meal: What the FDA Does Not Want You to Know About the Foods You Eat. She was an FDA researcher who was unfairly forbidden to continue documenting these threats in processed foods.

Traces of toxicants such as mercury and other heavy metals become problems for several reasons. 1. They accumulate over time. 2. Their harm is multiplied when other chemicals are also present. 3. They can block nutrients, including those needed for detoxification. 4. Not everyone’s chemistry is good at detoxifying anyway. 5. For obvious reasons, children and pregnant woman are potentially harmed the most. For example, mercury can cause calcium loss. Isn’t it scary that corn syrup or other potential sources of mercury contamination are found in most brands of infant formula?

You won’t see mercury listed on the nutrition facts panel because it slips into our foods through a back door hiding in artificial colors and production chemicals. Mercury is used to kill bacteria that might create enzymes that degrade certain ingredients. (If mercury kills bacteria, it certainly is not helping our intestinal probiotics!) Traces are left behind in ingredients like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), other corn sweeteners and vegetable oils to name a few. If we assume that HFCS and the other corn sweeteners have been clinically tested to prove they are safe to use…we’d be wrong!

This chart from Dr. Dufault’s book shows the types of corn sweeteners at risk of mercury contamination.

It is easy to see how Americans were eating almost 40 pounds of HFCS per year by 2004. It is used in a huge variety of grocery store products. Consumption had increased 8333% since 1970. Well, I was absolutely sure that I had none of that stuff in my house. Oops. I blushed when I found it in my husband’s pickle relish, most of his salad dressings, grape jelly, ketchup and in a bottle of root beer he’d been given for Father’s Day. There is also some maltodextrin in a couple of his favorite soups. (Dang…found one of my own mistakes—Hershey syrup that I use once in a blue moon over organic strawberries.)

Sigh, there is just no substitute for reading labels (and making hubby do that too).

Perhaps in a future blog I can cover some of the many other toxicants Dr. Dufault’s book covers such as other heavy metals, pesticides, fluoride and chlorine.

The frustrating food fat follies–coconut oil episode

For decades, the diet dictocrats said that eating fat in any form was bad. We should have been suspicious about that advice because those were the same geniuses who told us that formula was better than breast milk and that margarine was better than butter. To their credit, they did finally recognize those ideas were wrong and discovered the danger of trans fats in “foods” like shortening and margarine. (Hmmm…I never heard any apologies).

Even after rightfully shifting focus to sugar and refined starch as the primary concern regarding heart disease, most still stick to their guns that saturated fat is evil and that vegetable oils are to be preferred. I don’t take this faddish science too seriously. One reason is that it doesn’t make a lot of sense in the context of human history or compared to what is eaten by folks in “primitive” cultures that are healthier than we are.

Coconut Oil. The American Heart Association (AHA) recently attacked coconut oil and implied that anyone who thinks it is good is kind of stupid. USA Today covered that story with little questioning of the validity of the position. (Maybe there is no connection, but the pharmaceutical and chemical companies provide major support for the AHA.) wrote in defense of coconut oil. Toward the bottom of that article is a listing of some of the studies showing health benefits from coconut oil. I don’t recommend getting carried away with coconut oil. Not everyone will have a good response and there are other perhaps better choices below. Yes, coconut oil is mostly saturated fat, but… Here is more information on coconut oil and MCT’s (medium chain triglycerides).

Saturated fat. There is a virtual war going on in cardiology about even the most basic assumptions—that cholesterol is the cause of heart disease and that saturated fats cause cholesterol. The old guard at AHA is still recommending vegetable oils. (See below) They must have needed a change of underwear when they read the April 25th British Journal of Sports Medicine. An editorial written by 3 cardiologists declared: Saturated fat does not clog the arteries.

Vegetable Oils. Vegetables are great. Vegetable oils, not so much. Oils like those from corn, soybeans, cottonseed and safflower are high in the pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats. (Heart disease is at its core an inflammatory condition.) Worse yet, in her June 24, 2017 interview, Dr. Renee Dufault will tell us that they are a source of mercury. Canola oil is a special case. I have other complaints about it which I discuss in my book noted below.

Macadamia Nut Oil. Nut oils are generally good. Macadamia is far and away my favorite. Not only does it have a beneficial fatty acid profile like olive oil, it also has a higher smoke point and is absolutely buttery-delicious. I use it for sautéing veggies, salad dressings and in my occasional fancy birthday cakes. It is not sold everywhere. This links to my source for MacNut Oil. The MNO brand is unrefined golden Australian oil and is vastly superior to the pale Hawaiian.

Olive and Avocado Oils. Olive oil has a well-deserved reputation for being healthful. Two cautions though: (1) The healthful version is legitimate “extra virgin”, but there are a lot of fraudulent products on the market. (2) Olive oil has a low smoke point and is not stable in the cupboard for long. Avocado does not share the olive oil problems. I just haven’t yet been able to research the processing methods.

In my easy to read skinny book, Fat Free Folly, I cover a lot of detail on the above topics. Now that HBN no longer has an online store, my son Andy Hopkins’ is the only place that book is available. (My other books are on Amazon.) I asked Andy to lower the price on the fat book from $6.95 to $5 to help me spread some sanity. I figured while I was at it I should also twist his arm to give another discount. So, until the end of June, use the code MW10 to save 10% off your whole purchase of his already discounted products (including for example, my books, Dr. Ohhira’s probiotics and MacNut Oil).

Is worldwide obesity our fault?

The U.S. is rightfully worried about foreign hackers disrupting our life styles by messing with elections and potentially airlines, the power grid, and so on. However, perhaps the rest of the world should be even more worried about how we’ve hacked into their lives. As a leader and role model for the world, it seems to me we’ve inadvertently undermined their lives and health in so many ways. The national news this week declared: “over 10% of the population of the world is obese.” Why? Because we:

  • sell them soft drinks. That alone would do it!
  • sell them yummy, addictive refined packaged foods.
  • open fast food restaurants in every corner of the globe.
  • distribute guidelines for what to eat that sound authoritative but over the years have turned out to be wrong.
  • convince them their natural healing methods are not good enough and sell them drugs that, among other things, kill the good bacteria that would help keep them slim.
  • turn tens of thousands of chemicals loose in the environment which can then poison metabolism.
  • export labor-saving devices so that people are not as physically active.

So, although our country is having a health crisis, it looks like we are inadvertently keeping the playing field level by taking everyone else down with us!

Thank goodness for people like you who know better than to fall into these traps. If we can build on that, there is hope for starting a worldwide fitness trend.


Glutathione is a superhero nutrient that packs a powerful punch

During last week’s radio show, Dr. Johnson said that he uses glutathione (GSH) in fighting the effects of mold on the body. Then Howard Garrett and I talked about how many health problems are caused by pesticides. That made me think of glutathione again because it helps with pesticide problems too. GSH is the master antioxidant and detoxifier, helping even rid us of a variety of threats to our cells.

GSH (a tripeptide) is also involved in maintaining the immune system. Interestingly, low glutathione levels are linked with diseases such as cardiovascular, cancer, AIDS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Besides its own role in protecting cells from free radical damage, GSH also makes other antioxidants (like CoQ10 and vitamins C and E) stay active longer. It is no wonder that glutathione is considered important for cardiovascular health as well.

Our bodies make some glutathione. However, it is quite inconvenient that, as we get older and have accumulated more free radicals and toxic substances, our levels of GSH get dramatically lower instead of higher. Doctors who practice integrative or anti-aging type medicine often administer glutathione intravenously. That is extremely beneficial, but it must be done routinely and the expense can mount up.

I decided to give this amazing nutrient a plug because it is not well known. For one thing, nutrition isn’t really taught in school. Folks who understand the importance of nutrition may listen to radio shows like ours or read up on nutrients and hear about it. However, the average person only knows what the manufacturers invest marketing money in. Supplement makers certainly know how powerful glutathione is. But, unfortunately, oral glutathione supplements do not work well to raise blood levels. Even some high-tech, expensive GSH supplements only help a little. So…bottom line…there has not been an incentive for suppliers to spend money educating consumers about glutathione.

Having long been aware of all this, I was very excited to learn about a different approach to raising glutathione blood levels. There is a special microorganism that will happily live in our intestinal tracts and make it for us! That probiotic strain is Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3. For obvious reasons, I just call it ME-3. Essential Formulas is the company of friends that found Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotic and brought it to the US. They also discovered ME-3. Wisely, they formulated it with other appropriate nutrients into three products depending on what a person wants to focus on. There is one for Detox and Liver Health, one for Immune and Vitality and another that targets Cardio Wellness. Learn more.

Please keep in mind that I invite companies like Essential Formulas to be sponsors of our radio show only when I believe in what they are doing and I want to help spread the word. Personally, I take ½ dose of the Immune / Vitality and ½ of the Detox / Liver. Both contain ME-3, but I use two products to get the other nutrients they contain.

Flim-flam and flip flops on saturated fat, statins, diet sodas and fish oil

The average citizen does not spend their days studying health research. They rely on experts to provide guidelines about diet and treatments. Sadly, the “experts” can have good intentions, but offer bad advice. Just in 2017 my blogs discussed misleading pronouncements about doctor’s orders in general, sleep / gluten / vaccines, salt / low fat / chocolate, coffee / blood pressure, and macular degeneration. Here is a fresh batch for your amusement:

  • Saturated fat. The research on saturated fats is shaky and some populations like the Maasai in Africa thrive on a diet very high in saturated fats. And yet, saturated fats have been roundly demonized for years. As more careful research has been done, the tide is turning. Maybe saturated fat is not a cause of heart disease. STUDY. And then there is all that blathering about how we should seek out low fat dairy products. Here is a review of a growing number of studies that counters that advice. STUDY.
  • Statin drugs for cholesterol. These drugs may have a role for those who have had a heart attack or who have frank cardiovascular disease. But, the controversy on statins for most people and the potential side effects could fill several blogs. For now, I’ll settle for these three tidbits. These drugs do not seem to save lives when used as primary prevention for seniors who have mild elevations in cholesterol and blood pressure. Also, although the trend did not rise to the level of statistical significance, deaths from all causes increased among statin users over age 75. STUDY. In another study, people taking statins for 4 months or more were more likely (27%) to be diagnosed with a back problem. According to one study you are also more likely to need cataract surgery if taking a statin.
  • Diet sodas. In a past blog, I discussed that one diet sweetener, may cause (among other troubles) thyroid problems and weight gain. According to a study in the American Heart Association medical journal Stroke, a diet drink per day increases the risk for stroke and dementia.
  • Blood-thinning drugs. Folks who have been put on anti-coagulant drugs like warfarin (Coumadin) are often told to stop eating broccoli and other vegetables. It makes more sense to me that integrative physicians say you should consume a routine amount of healthy greens and adjust your drug around that. Patients on these “blood thinners” are also warned to avoid fish oil because it helps keep platelets from clumping. One of my favorite sources, People’s Pharmacy discussed new thinking in that area. Article.

So, if you can’t trust the so-called experts, who can you believe? Well, let’s start with your own good judgement. Just consider whether the advice makes sense compared to what our healthy ancestors did or to how populations without industrial food and high technology stay healthy. Also, if hundreds of studies show one thing, e.g. that garlic is good for you, don’t get too excited about a single paper that bucks the trend. Carefully review the side effects of a drug and remember that it was proven “safe” and “effective” by the manufacturer. They can pick which studies to reveal and which to hide. Flim-flam obviously comes from suppliers of products like diet soft drinks and so their pronouncements should be suspect. Also, keep in mind that hospitals and clinics (by and large) are paid for quantity of services provided rather than quality of outcomes. Their advice may reflect a habit of over-testing and over-treating.

Of course you can listen to the authorities that we have on the Healthy by Nature show. They usually have good conventional training, but have also worked to learn about natural and traditional methods. They also maintain a healthy skepticism about popular protocols.

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