Archive for September, 2017

Moldy corn makes the news

A radio show reported today that corn farmers in the Panhandle of Texas have a big financial problem because of mold on corn. The reporters made it sound unlikely there would be any health problem for consumers, but I don’t agree.

Apparently, the weather this year has increased the amount of fumonisin on the corn crops. Fumonisin is a poison (mycotoxin) created by fungus. The corn in the photo above doesn’t look moldy, however, the only way to know is with testing. Most Panhandle corn is used for animal feed and a small percentage gets directly into consumer products. When the level of the toxin becomes so high that it could poison farm animals, the price of the commodity goes down. That is obviously bad for the corn farmer’s income. It is less obvious why it is also a problem for us.

  • According to the government database (Pubmed.com) fumonisin causes many diseases in humans—problems such as cancer, liver disease and birth defects. As we’ve discussed many times (with powerful reminders by Doug Kaufmann of Know the Cause), even the mycotoxins produced by yeast in our own intestinal tracts can cause a wide variety of health complaints. Since we now know that mycotoxins damage our all-important friendly bacteria, I expect that most every aspect of health is at risk from mold poisons.
  • They say “don’t worry”. Those with an economic interest say that fumonisin just passes through the animals and doesn’t affect the end food product or humans that eat them. That makes no sense at all. The mycotoxin cannot damage the liver and other organs of the animal unless it becomes incorporated into its tissues. Note: the government has no standard for how much fumonisin is allowed in the finished food and does not test for it.
  • Cattle ranchers or dairy, pig and poultry farmers surely wouldn’t knowingly buy grain that can sicken their animals. And yet, somehow, that contaminated grain still gets sold…just at a lower price.
  • Even in years with normal weather (is there such a thing in Texas?), mold contamination of grains is still a problem. Also, additional mold grows while grains spend endless months in silos.

Other concerns about corn as animal feed:

  • Corn is not the natural diet of any farm animal. It increases the levels of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats in their meat, milk and eggs. Meanwhile it reduces the amount of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. It isn’t smart anymore to brag about corn-fed beef. The corn does fatten them up (and us). Bragging rights go to pasture-fed beef. I also recommend milk from pasture-fed dairy cows. (Note, “grass fed” may mean a life of eating corn and a little time on grass at the very end. That bit helps, but it is not the same.)
  • In the US, 88% percent of corn grown is genetically modified (GMO). My recent article about GMO crops notes that the practice produces pesticide chemicals in the grain and encourages the use of Roundup type (glyphosate) weed killers. Glyphosate is now also commonly sprayed even on non-GMO crops to dry out the stalks making harvest easier.

Americans eat about 24 pounds of corn a year not counting what we get indirectly from animal foods. Organic corn at least protects us from GMO strains and residues of pesticides and weed killers. Unfortunately, even organic grain can still have mold residues. And, corn may still be fattening because of its effect on blood sugar and it can cause inflammation because of lectins it contains. Although we may love us some nachos, as hard as it is to believe, we have no nutritional requirement for grains. Until the advent of farming, our ancestors did not eat it.

How science news often leads us astray

The medical buzz word is “evidence-based”. Freely translated, that means science has supposedly verified whatever practice is being discussed. Sounds good, right? Unfortunately, “evidence” is not some unequivocal black and white fact etched in stone tablets. As it turns out, what constitutes “acceptable” evidence is in the eye of the beholder. The variables listed below apply not only to medications and surgical procedures, but also to dietary supplements. But do keep in mind that the health stakes are a lot higher when science misleads us into taking drugs or having surgeries that turn out to be problematic. Obviously, we are less likely to get in trouble with side effects if wobbly science pushes us to use olive oil, do Tai Chi or take resveratrol.

Lack of knowledge. Check out this shocking example of insufficient information used in research. A large randomized trial showed that selenium yeast (methylselenocysteine) cut the risk of dying of cancer in half. The supplement also dramatically reduced the incidence of some cancers (e.g. prostate down by 63%, colon by 58%, etc.). The National Cancer Institute then began what was billed as a study to “replicate” the results of that research. If they had really done that, it might have saved untold numbers of lives. Unfortunately, they used a different form of the mineral.  Other selenium pills (e.g. selenomethionine and sodium selenite) have not been shown to be comparable. What the poorly structured second study ended up accomplishing was to needlessly scare men worried about their prostates away from selenium and vitamin E. (We can hope it was just ignorance, not intent to impugn supplements. Listen to my interview with one of the original researchers and decide for yourself.)

Who is behind the study? Most often a pharmaceutical company directly or indirectly decides what gets studied. That is because there is a tremendous amount of money to be made using the results. Sure, supplement companies make money, but usually not enough to pay for the very high cost of clinical research. Even if they had the funding, most natural substances cannot be patented. Therefore, all the competitors could sell it without spending a dime. And, alas, the more impressive the results from tests on supplements, the more likely it is that the FDA will not allow them to ever speak about the results. If they do, they risk being prosecuted for imitating a drug. (Basically, “How dare you cure people without drugs?”)

Not asking the right questions. Most studies look at a tiny factor such as a change in a cholesterol number…assuming it makes a difference in the long run. To seldom do they look at what we really care about—e.g. does it help us live longer and better? If the prevailing idea is for instance, that fibromyalgia is all in all in someone’s head (and there is no drug for it), no study is done. Also, reviews show that a high percentage of everyday practices in doctor’s offices have never been proven to work. It is just assumed that they do until when they are finally studied and are proven ineffective or even dangerous.

Failure to control all the factors. Perhaps the most common flat out error is not controlling all the factors. An example would be comparing weight loss drugs without making sure one group wasn’t exercising more than the other. If the scientists haven’t heard of something or have been biased against it, they don’t even bother to ask the subjects about it. For example, if they have been taught that fluoride in the drinking water is safe and are unaware of the power of gut bacteria, they might not consider those factors while researching something like autism.  

Study subject issues. If middle-aged men were studied it is a mistake to assume the results necessarily apply to women, kids or seniors.

PREJUDICE IN PUBLICIZING STUDIES. This is the biggie. Pharmaceutical companies are permitted to hide negative studies and publish only the ones that make their drug look good. The news media, medical journals, agencies and organizations can pick and choose which studies to ignore and which to publicize. Human nature being what it is, they tend to reject results that conflict with their pre-existing world view. Also, with cutbacks in media, not much real reporting gets done, i.e. the kind where they dig into past studies looking for trends vs parroting dogma from “experts”. For example, recently it was not on the evening news where it should have been when a study showed over 7 times more miscarriages among women who got the flu shot two years in a row! (The information was known long before the study came out. Meanwhile, how many babies died?) The whole vaccine issue is one where contrarian views are not even allowed because of media prejudice. When the news is forced to publicize findings that run counter to their prejudices, they usually follow up with a rebuttal from the industry involved or at least say that “more study is needed”.

I have a much longer list, but you can now see why what the “experts” tell us today may be the opposite of what they said 10 years ago. To protect ourselves, I think it makes sense to review science news with (1) some common sense and (2) a historical / worldwide context. For example, if there are populations around the world that are healthier than we are and they do the opposite of what we are being told…maybe don’t jump on that bandwagon just yet.

Avoid serious health risks from GMO foods & Roundup

On last week’s radio show, my guest was Stephanie Seneff, PhD, a Senior Research Scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She gave us a wakeup call about the health risks from genetically modified foods and the Roundup-type weed killers that are now widely used even on non-GMO crops. There are many resources on her website. Her message was so important I thought I’d better review some key points.

GMO’s

What are we talking about? GMO is short forGenetically Modified Organism”. These are also known as “Frankenfoods” because genes from animals, bacteria and viruses are inserted into plants. The goal is usually of commercial interest like making the plant produce its own insecticides or making the plant resistant to weed killers.

What is the problem? Even though 88 percent of the corn and 94 percent of the soy grown in the US is GMO, there has been little if any approval-related research done to prove there will not be allergic reactions, damage to our probiotic bacteria or other long-term health effects. For example, genes from bacteria are spliced into the DNA of certain food crops to release a certain insecticide. Animal studies show it damages the kidney, liver, heart, adrenal glands, spleen, and blood system. Since the toxin becomes part of the plant, our only escape is to avoid GMO corn, soy, and sugar beets. See Roundup below for what may be the most obvious risk.

Doesn’t the government protect us? In a word, No. Even though most countries do not consider GMO foods safe, in the US food labels are not even required to say if the product contains GMO ingredients. The big money players in the battle (think Monsanto, Dow and the cereal companies) spend a lot of money keeping the public in the dark about GMO’s.

ROUNDUP® / GLYPHOSATE HERBICIDES

The purpose? Roundup is the most well-known in this class of potent weed killers. They kill ALL plants. That would obviously be bad for business if they killed the crops as well. That’s where the GMO’s come in. Varieties of plants were developed to resist the herbicide. The productivity benefit may be short-lived because, similar to the problem with disease-causing bacteria becoming antibiotic-resistant, weeds have developed resistance to Roundup. Money-motivated manufacturers have taught farmers to spray non-GMO crops to dry them out for a faster harvest.

Health effects. The World Health Organization says glyphosates is a probable cause of cancer in humans. Glyphosate has been responsible for thousands of deaths among farmers in India and El Salvador. It has been linked to breast cancer, leukemia, fatal kidney disease, liver damage, autism, reduced fertility, birth defects, Parkinson’s, digestive issues and so on. Steven Gundry, MD in his well-documented book The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in “Healthy” Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain says glyphosate disrupts metabolism, paralyzes some crucial liver enzymes, raises cholesterol, increases food sensitivities and causes chronic disease. There may be many more issues because the chemical damages our gut bacteria, resulting in thyroid trouble, weight gain and so on. Since these herbicides damage soil organisms, they create nutritional deficiencies in the food crops. That means we are less well nourished. (But who cares? No one in the food chain is responsible for nutrition—certainly not Monsanto.)

Our exposure. 93% of children tested had detectable metabolites of glyphosates in their bodies. How did they get there? Not only due residues of those toxic chemicals stay on the food we eat and find their way into the water, they remain on the grains fed to agricultural animals. Therefore, we get them secondhand just like we do antibiotics fed to farm animals. Glyphosate is even finding its way into drugs and vaccines.

What about regulation? Well, there isn’t much. Our US Department of Agriculture does not test for residues. Glyphosate is tested only short term, not in small doses over years. Worse yet, it isn’t tested with the “inactive” ingredients used in the actual products that increase its potency hundreds of times. So, glyphosate is conveniently considered “relatively safe”. It is supposedly at least better than the herbicides it replaced. (Should we be comforted if they are not killing quite as many of us as they used to?)

What can we do? Learn more and find sources of non-GMO foods at NonGMOproject.org. Buy organic foods. (Remember “natural” does not mean organic.) Look for a Certified Organic seal or a seal with a butterfly that states “Non-GMO Project Verified.” Note that conventional (not organic) whole grains may have greater herbicide residues on them because their outside hull is still attached. Buy pasture-raised meat and dairy products to avoid secondhand glyphosate. Dr. Seneff recommended this book as a source of information about what is most contaminated: Poison Foods of North America: Guide to navigating the glyphosate mine field in our food web (Kindle Edition)

Support non-profit groups like JustLabelIt.org that lobby for clear labeling of GMO foods and The Environmental Working Group that work to protect us from toxic chemicals. Don’t use RoundUp® or the like at your home. Check out several natural alternatives offered by the Dirt Doctor on this page of his site.

Are the effects of some sleep aids worse than the sleeplessness?

On the show last Saturday, we spent the last half talking about the importance of sleep and natural ideas for getting restorative rest. I briefly mentioned the side effects of medications for sleep and said that I’d put more information in the newsletter this week.

Over the counter. There are side effects listed for all medications, even ones that do not require a prescription. I am especially concerned about sleep medications found on drug store shelves that contain diphenhydramine. That chemical is in a class of pharmaceuticals known as “anticholinergic”. They interfere with an important neurotransmitter (brain chemical) and for that reason their continued use has been strongly associated with increased risk of dementia!

Here is a partial list of brand names that contain that diphenhydramine chemical. I copied it from RXList.com. Benadryl, Benadryl Allergy Dye-Free LiquiGels, Children’s Benadryl Allergy, Children’s Triaminic Thin Strips Allergy, Alka-Seltzer Plus Allergy, Nytol, PediaCare Children’s Allergy, Simply Sleep, Sominex, QlearQuil Nighttime Allergy Relief, Tranquil Nighttime Sleep Aid, Unisom SleepGels, Unisom SleepMelts and ZzzQuil. There are many more drugs with that chemical in them. Tylenol PM is an example and we need to assume that any with “PM” in the name do as well. You may have noticed allergy meds on that list…and, yikes, products for children!

By prescription too. The People’s Pharmacy radio show has led the way in educating consumers about the variety of anticholinergic drugs including prescriptions that they may be unaware they are taking. In this article on their website they mention other kinds of anticholinergic drugs such as those for “irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, diarrhea…overactive bladder, and incontinence, motion sickness, dizziness, symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and breathing problems like asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)…for anxiety, depression, allergies, pain, high blood pressure, mental illness, heart failure and heartburn.” Like diphenhydramine above, these interfere with brain function.

Obviously, the risk of dementia will be greater the more of these medications a person takes and the longer he or she takes them. The natural combination of herbs and amino acids contained in Jarrow’s Sleep Optimizer sounds better and better, right?

Photo is from Medical News Today


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