Monday, October 10, 2016

If You Know What's Good For You ... (Part 24)

Dr. Mercola: A Bowl of Rice a Day?
Uploaded on Dec 7, 2011 Internationally renowned natural health physician and founder Dr. Joseph Mercola responds to this issue "Can one bowl of rice a day be the difference between a good and a great diet?"
‘Consumed’ — A Film Where Fiction Melds With GMO Facts
By Dr. Mercola
October 22, 2016
"Consumed" is a fictional action thriller about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and genetically engineered (GE) foods. The lead character is a single mother who is desperately trying to get to the bottom of her young son's mysterious health problems.
Her struggle to learn the truth intersects with other storylines, including that of an organic farmer, the CEO of a biotechnology company, two scientists and a former police officer caught in the middle of the unfolding drama.
Daryl Wein, who wrote, produced and directed the film, managed to enlist a long line of well-known actors for this film, including Danny Glover, Anthony Edwards, Victor Garber, Taylor Kinney and Kunal Nayyar. In the words of Erin Brockovich:1
"Entertaining, relatable, suspenseful and informative, and a real eye opener to what is going on. This film has re-inspired and educated me. BRAVO!"
Uncommon Ailments Becoming More Common — Do GMOs Have Something to Do With It?
The lead character reminds me a bit of Robyn O'Brien, a typical American mom with four kids and a limited food budget who, virtually overnight, became a real food activist when her youngest child suffered an acute allergic reaction following a typical breakfast of Eggo waffles, blue-colored yogurt and scrambled eggs.
O'Brien — featured in the TED Talk below — threw herself into researching food allergies, and was shocked by what she found. She'd assumed that if something was sold as food, it was obviously safe and probably, for the most part, healthy. The reality of the situation was a rude awakening.
The notion that something is wrong with our food becomes obvious when you look at disease statistics and consider the fact that food is foundational for health.
Allergies are a good place to start, as allergic reactions to food occur when your body reacts to a food protein as a foreign invader. This in turn triggers an inflammatory response.

Our Food Supply Has Been Radically Altered Since the Mid-'90s
Between 1997 and 2002 the number of peanut allergies doubled, and the number of hospitalizations related to allergic reactions to food increased by 265 percent.2
Between 1997 and 2011, food allergies (of all types) among children rose by 50 percent.3 Today, an estimated 15 million Americans and 17 million Europeans have some form of food allergy. Incidence of celiac disease and other forms of food intolerance have also become more common.
So is there something "foreign" in our food today that wasn't there before? Absolutely. There's a whole host of ingredients that could cause problems, including food dyes, artificial flavors, preservatives, various additives and, of course, GMOs.
Ever since the mid-1990s, new food proteins have been engineered and steadily introduced into our food supply, yet many are still unaware that a major shift has occurred. One of the first foods to undergo this change was milk, which incidentally is also the No. 1 food allergen in the U.S.
A Global Experiment Gone Awry
No long-term human trials have ever been done to evaluate the health effects of GE ingredients, and no one knows what the effects of a lifetime's worth of GMO consumption might be.
But food is foundational for health, so when people suddenly suffer ill health in great numbers, it makes sense to look at the basics, starting with food.
The problem with GMOs is not restricted to novel proteins. GE foods also introduce greater amounts of pesticides into your diet, and such chemicals have also been linked to a long list of health problems, including infertility, birth defects, endocrine disruption, neurological disorders and cancer. More generally:
•Insecticides primarily produce neurological symptoms
•Fungicides tend to produce skin-related symptoms
•Herbicides are associated with digestive and skin problems, including nutritional deficiencies, systemic toxicity and gut dysbiosis
What a Difference 20 Years Can Make
It's quite astounding how rapidly our food has changed. The first GE food, the Flavr Savr tomato, was approved for sale by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1994.4 The following year, the first pesticide-producing crop was approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — the Bt potato.
Modified canola, Bt maize, herbicide-resistant cotton, Bt cotton and glyphosate-resistant soybeans followed in rapid succession.5 In 1997, the European Union (EU) took action to protect the public from what was clearly a mass experiment by requiring mandatory labeling on all GE food products.
By 1999, GE food crops equipped with herbicide-resistant genes were already starting to dominate the global market, and today, the vast majority of all soy, corn and cotton grown in the U.S. are GE varieties.6,7
GMOs Were Fraudulently Presumed GRAS
Last year, I interviewed Steven Druker, author of the book "Altered Genes, Twisted Truth: How the Venture to Genetically Engineer Our Food Has Subverted Science, Corrupted Government, and Systematically Deceived the Public," in which he reveals how GMOs managed to infiltrate our food system without appropriate safety testing.
In the late 1990s, Druker, who is an attorney, filed a landmark lawsuit challenging the FDA's presumption that GMOs are Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS), which allows them to circumvent safety testing requirements. The evidence clearly reveals the GRAS presumption was fraudulent when first announced in 1992, and remains so to this day.
There's actually a 1958 law requiring that novel food additives must be demonstrated safe. They cannot be presumed safe ahead of time. Each and every one should, by law, undergo stringent safety testing. The FDA broke this law, pretending as if it did not even exist, when it claimed that GE foods are GRAS and don't need to be tested.
This dishonest and illegal maneuvering is what allowed inadequately tested GE foods to permeate the American market in the first place. Druker's book also details the irresponsible behavior of eminent scientists and scientific institutions in the earlier decades of the genetic engineering revolution, long before Monsanto's lackey Michael Taylor and the hordes of revolving door cronies came into the picture.
The Origins of the GMO Safety Myth
Genetic engineering first became a reality back in the early 1970s. At the time, molecular scientists were in charge of these advancements, and it was a breakthrough of truly epic proportions. Even the scientists who were doing it were mindful of how radical it was and how important it was to be careful. Initially, the scientists themselves said there may be dangers associated with this new technology, hence, they had to proceed with extreme prudence.
Alas, once they realized that negative feedback from the public could jeopardize the entire field of genetic engineering, potentially blocking its emergence altogether, they quickly changed their tune. Presenting a united front, the molecular biology establishment in favor of pushing genetic engineering forward lobbied for as few regulations as possible.
To that end, they also launched a campaign to convince everyone that this technology, while novel, was inherently safe and within their full control, hence stringent regulations were an unnecessary burden. Lax regulations on genetic engineering ultimately set up the framework for the FDA's 1992 GRAS ruling. Had safety regulations for the industry been stricter from the start, it's unlikely the FDA would have been able to pull that off. As noted by Druker:
"The biotechnology industry — as irresponsible as they have been by and large — the main guilt lays at the feet of the mainstream molecular biology establishment; the scientists who were doing the research, getting the grants, and wanting to develop this technology. Most of them had altruistic goals. They thought this was going to be used to cure so many ills in the field of medicine ... I think they eventually developed an 'end justifies the means' psychology...
[T]he burden of proof that was placed on new technologies and new products, which ordinarily requires the developer to substantiate the safety of the new technology and its products, got shifted. It got shifted because of the subterfuge and the fraud … There were many good scientists who had concerns, but they were all of a sudden put into the position of, 'You've got to prove they're dangerous,' and the burden of proving safety was removed." 
With GMOs, We Also Got More Pesticides
Another book well worth reading is Claire Robinson's "GMO Myths and Truths." It's concise and to-the-point, and provides solid counter arguments to the most commonly reiterated GMO propaganda. The fact of the matter is; genetic engineering is inherently unsafe for a number of reasons.
For starters, it has been and still is quite imprecise. This lack of precision carries the risk of producing countless unpredictable side effects, such as the creation of novel and allergenic proteins in a normally non-allergenic food.
Secondly, the human understanding of the complexity of life, be it the life of a plant, animal or the human body, is still very limited. We're discovering things we never knew before all the time. Hence the scientists tinkering with plants are incapable of predicting exactly how a modification will affect the plant, let alone those who eat it. And the fact that "they don't know what they don't know" will remain, even if the precision of the technology itself were to be perfected.
What we do know is that the creation of foreign proteins is commonplace in genetic engineering of plants — proteins that have toxic or allergenic potential, since they've never been present in the human food supply before. Moreover, most GE plants are engineered to either be herbicide-resistant or to express an internal insecticide. Both scenarios result in more pesticides being present in the food, and many of today's disease epidemics can be traced back to excessive pesticide exposure as well.
'Consumed' — Where Fact and Fiction Merge
I hope you enjoy this special limited-time viewing of "Consumed." Also remember to share it with your friends and family on your social networks. Education is key, and while the film may be fictional, the underlying story is all too real. Our food has changed, and dramatically so. The ramifications of these changes can be severe.
One take-home message is to really consider whether your, or your children's, ailments may be rooted in the food you eat. Don't just assume or accept that your health problems are inherited, or "in your head" (as suggested by one pediatrician in the film), or caused by some "inevitable" natural factor in your environment. Your problems may well be caused by unnatural foods, in which case there's light at the end of the tunnel. Change your diet; change your health.
If you live in the U.S., the following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh, real foods. If cost makes you hesitant to seek out organic foods, consider the fact that what little you save on conventional and processed foods today, you'll ultimately have to spend on healthcare. And then some. Non-toxic, healthy nutritious food is really the best health insurance you can buy. provides lists of farmers known to produce wholesome raw dairy products as well as grass-fed beef and other farm-fresh produce (although not all are certified organic). Here you can also find information about local farmers markets, as well as local stores and restaurants that sell grass-fed products.
Weston A Price has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass fed raw dairy products like milk and butter.
The Grassfed Exchange has a listing of producers selling organic and grass-fed meats across the U.S.
This website will help you find farmers markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
A national listing of farmers markets.
The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs, and markets near you.
The Cornucopia Institute maintains web-based tools rating all certified organic brands of eggs, dairy products, and other commodities, based on their ethical sourcing and authentic farming practices separating CAFO "organic" production from authentic organic practices.
If you're still unsure of where to find raw milk, check out and They can tell you what the status is for legality in your state, and provide a listing of raw dairy farms in your area.
The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund8 also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws.9 California residents can also find raw milk retailers using the store locator available at
About the Director
I believe in bringing quality to my readers, which is why I wanted to share some information about the director, Daryl Wein, from "Consumed." We sat down with Daryl to know a little more about what goes in to making these films. Thank you to Mr. Wein for sharing with us.
What was your inspiration for making this film?
Seven years ago, my writing partner and I stumbled onto a subject we knew nothing about: genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It was an engrossing topic, vast in scope, yet undeniably personal. We began the process of trying to understand the true nature of GMOs ourselves; their ramifications on our agriculture, our environment, and potentially our health.
From farmers battling BioTech Corporations, to everyday Americans eating new and novel foods unknowingly, we realized there was a deeply interesting and complex web of intriguing subject matter just waiting to be explored in a narrative film. The elements felt part noir, part thriller, and had us on the edge of our seats.
Harkening back to some of the great political thrillers of the 1970s, I wanted to revisit a time when filmmakers weren't afraid to blend real world politics with story structure and character development.
As a filmmaker, my biggest objective was to make an entertaining film; a film that created a world of characters who were both relatable and emotionally complex, against the iconic backdrop of the American heartland. Whether or not you know anything about the issues, my intention is for the film to stand alone, and to take its audience on a thrilling ride.
I saw an opportunity to raise questions around a subject that was impacting us all, but that too few were discussing. I realized only a few documentaries had explored the topic, but there hadn't yet been a narrative film to truly tackle the subject in all its complexities.
Rather than the often faceless debate that surrounds the topic of GMOs, we wanted to create a story that explored how real people confront these issues. What it means for the average mother, who doesn't necessarily have access to information, let alone healthy food.
We wanted to explore the difficulty of raising a child in this confounding era. In so doing, we honed in on one woman's struggle as the anchor of our story to comprehend this extremely complex subject, in the face of her son's devastating illness.
What was your favorite part of making this film?
Working with such a great cast of actors, from Danny Glover to Anthony Edwards to Beth Grant, they were such a lovely bunch!
Where do the proceeds to your film go?
If you buy the film through our website, the proceeds go directly to the film and supporting it.
Ancient Wisdom Teachings for Greater Happiness
By Dr. Mercola
October 13, 2016
There's no shortage of evidence that happy people live longer, healthier lives.1,2  For example, one study3 found that the tendency to always expect the worst was linked to a 25 percent higher risk of dying before the age of 65. This means a pessimistic attitude can shave more than 14 years off the average lifespan.4
But just HOW to "be happy" is an elusive mystery for many. We all seek it, yet many feel they're missing the mark on any given day. Part of the problem may be rooted in your concept of happiness. If you rate your level of happiness as being low, consider reevaluating your notion of happiness.
Perhaps you're subconsciously equating happiness with a certain lifestyle or level of materialism. Perhaps you've fallen into the trap of thinking that "when xyz happens, then I'll be happy."
A recent article in Time magazine5 delves into the concept of how to become happier, noting that the clues to a happy life are more apt to be found in classic writings than modern self-help books.
Perception Is Everything
Case in point: Wisdom of the ancients dictate that events are neither good nor bad in and of themselves. What matters when something happens is your PERCEPTION of the event in question.
As such, it is your belief about the event that upsets you, not the fact that it happened. Eric Barker offers the following scenarios to illustrate this point:
"You get dumped by someone you're totally in love with. Feel sad? God, yes. The world is going to end. Okay, same scenario, but afterwards you find out that person was actually a psychopath who killed their last three partners. Feel sad you got dumped? No, you're thrilled.
So clearly 'getting dumped' isn't the important factor here … If you lose your job and believe it was a lousy position and believe it won't be hard for you to get a better job, you're unfazed.
If you believe it was the greatest job ever and believe you'll never get another one that good — you're devastated. Emotions aren't random. They follow from beliefs."
Ryan Holiday, author of several books, including "The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living," offers the following clarification:6
"Shakespeare and the Stoics are saying that the world around us is indifferent, it is objective. The Stoics are saying, 'This happened to me,' is not the same as, 'This happened to me and that's bad.'
They're saying if you stop at the first part, you will be much more resilient and much more able to make some good out of anything that happens."
Boost Your Happiness by Changing Your Beliefs
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is an adaptation of this philosophy and teaches you that the negative feelings you experience in response to life events are in fact rooted in your beliefs, most of which are either irrational or flawed.
While seeking the aid of a qualified mental health professional is certainly recommended if you suffer from depression or other mental health issues, for the run-of-the-mill upsets of daily life, you can raise your happiness level by shifting your focus from ruminations about what caused the situation to what your beliefs about it are.
Next, ask yourself whether you're actually thinking rationally about the issue. Is it true that you can never find another partner after a breakup? Is your life really over because you lost your job? As described by Barker:
"Revise your beliefs and you can change your feelings: 'Even if they dump me, I can meet someone else. It's happened before and I got over it.'"
You Cannot Control Everything, so Quit Trying
Control freaks will struggle with this next piece of advice, but recognizing that you cannot control everything and everyone around you can free you up to experience greater levels of happiness.
"Control what you can and ignore the rest" is excellent advice, as the act of worrying about that over which you have no control is no more effective than carrying a fishnet in anticipation of a rainstorm. To quote Holiday:7
"The Stoics are saying, 'Not only are you going to be happier if you can make the distinction between what you can change and can't change but if you focus your energy exclusively on what you can change, you're going to be a lot more productive and effective as well.'"
Barker offers the following visual of the process:
Perception Process
Source: Eric Barker, Time Magazine
Accept Reality as It Is
The next tip gleaned from the wisdom of the ancients is to "accept everything." Holiday explains:
"Acceptance to us means resignation but to the Stoics it meant accepting the facts as they are and then deciding what you're going to do about them.
The problem is that because we have expectations about how we want things to be, we feel like acceptance is settling, when in reality we have no idea what could have happened instead.
This awful thing might have saved us from something much worse. Or maybe this is going to open us up to some new amazing opportunity …"
So when things don't go as planned:
1.Accept the situation as it is
2.Ask yourself whether you have control over the situation
3.If you do, then do what needs to be done; if you don't, and you're still feeling upset, ask yourself what your beliefs about the situation are. Chances are you'll find your belief is irrational, in which case you can reformulate your belief into something more positive
Disappointment, especially if you're constantly struggling with things "not going your way," can be a major source of stress, and centenarians — those who have crossed the threshold of 100 years of age — overwhelmingly cite stress as the most important thing to avoid.
This does not mean they were blessed with carefree lives. "Avoidance" here really refers to the ability to manage your stress so that it doesn't end up wearing you down over time. Rather than dwelling on negative events, most centenarians figured out how to let things go.
Prepare for and Reflect on Each Day
The ancient philosophers also prescribed morning and evening rituals, aimed at guiding and improving your mental and emotional state. A beneficial morning ritual will help set the tone for your day, while the evening ritual allows you time to reflect on the day's events.
"The Stoics thought you should start the day with a ritual of reminding yourself of what you're going to face,' Holiday writes. 'Marcus Aurelius said, 'Today, the people that you face will be…' and then he proceeds to list basically every negative trait you could possibly encounter in the course of a day.
That's not pessimistic, he's saying, 'Now that you know this, don't take any of it personally and try to understand why people might act this way and forgive and love them for that.'"
The Importance of Gratitude

Besides unbridled acceptance of reality, the philosophers of old also espoused gratitude. Today, thousands of years later, the benefits of a thankful attitude have been firmly established through scientific study. According to Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy,8 an expert in brain and mind health:9
"If [thankfulness] were a drug, it would be the world's best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system."
Researchers have found that people who are thankful for what they have are better able to cope with stress, have more positive emotions and less anxiety, sleep better10 and have better heart health.11 Studies have also shown that gratitude can produce measurable effects on a number of systems in your body, including:
Mood neurotransmitters (serotonin and norepinephrine)
Inflammatory and immune systems (cytokines)
Reproductive hormones (testosterone)
Stress hormones (cortisol)
Social bonding hormones (oxytocin)
Blood pressure and cardiac and EEG rhythms
Cognitive and pleasure related neurotransmitters (dopamine)
Blood sugar
A team of researchers at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) showed that people with a deep sense of happiness and well-being had lower levels of inflammatory gene expression and stronger antiviral and antibody responses.12 This falls into the realm of epigenetics — changing the way your genes function by turning them off and on.
Part of your longevity may depend on the DNA you were born with, but an even larger part depends on epigenetics, over which you have more control. Indeed, research suggests your thoughts, feeling, emotions, diet and other lifestyle factors exert epigenetic influences every minute of every day, playing a central role in aging and disease.13 
How to Cultivate Gratitude
Like a muscle, your sense of gratitude can be strengthened with practice. One way to harness the positive power of gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal where you write down what you're grateful for each day. This can be done in a paper journal, or you can download a Gratitude Journal app from iTunes.14
In one study, people who kept a gratitude journal reported exercising more, and had fewer visits to the doctor compared to those who focused on sources of aggravation.15,16 Avoiding getting sucked into bad news is the other side of this equation. You may have to limit your media exposure from time to time if you find it difficult to maintain a positive outlook in the face of worldly horrors. Other ways to cultivate gratitude include:
•Write thank you notes
•Nonverbal actions such as smiles and hugs
•Remember to say "please" and "thank you"  
•Express thanks through prayer or mindfulness meditation
The Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) is another helpful tool. EFT is a form of psychological acupressure based on the energy meridians used in acupuncture. It's an effective way to quickly restore your inner balance and healing and helps rid your mind of negative thoughts and emotions. In the video below, EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman demonstrates how to tap for gratitude.

Other Habits That Promote Happiness
In many ways happiness is a choice, and you can create it by following a certain routine. In fact, happy people tend to have habits that set them apart from their sad and stressed-out peers, such as letting go of grudges, treating people with kindness, dreaming big, not sweating the small stuff and much more. The following list includes "prescriptions" from psychologists that are known to boost your level of happiness.17 
Make happiness your goal
The first step toward greater happiness is to choose it. You need to believe that happiness is possible, and that you deserve it. (Hint: You do. Everyone does!)  Research shows that the mere INTENTION to become happier actually makes a big difference.18
Identify that which makes you happy
If it's been awhile since you've felt truly happy (that carefree joyous state you probably had as a child), you may have forgotten what it is that gets you there. Take time to reflect on what gives you joy (and not just the obvious, like your family, but also little things, hobbies and interests).
Make happiness a priority
If you have a free hour, do you spend it doing something fun? Or do you spend it catching up on housework, tackling an extra work project or otherwise working? The latter is a "minor form of insanity," according to happiness researcher Robert Biswas-Diener, Ph.D.19
It certainly will not help you get happier. To break free of this trap, make a point to schedule your weeks around events (or ordinary activities) that make you feel happy and alive.
Savor pleasant moments
People who take the time to savor pleasant moments report higher levels of happiness, regardless of where the day takes them.20 If you don't already do this, keeping a daily diary of pleasant moments and whether or not you truly savored them, might help.
You might be surprised at how much happiness is to be had in your everyday life. Try appreciating the scent of your coffee, relishing in the feeling of your soft bed or enjoying the sunrise before you start your day.
Ditch unnecessary and joyless distractions 
There's only so much time in a day, so be sure to protect your attention and time from unnecessary and unproductive distractions. This includes texts, tweets and emails, which take you away from the true pleasures in life. If necessary, turn off social media completely.
Think keeping tabs on your Facebook friends equates to happiness? Think again. Research suggests the more time people spend on Facebook, the more their moment-to-moment happiness declines and the less satisfied with life they become.21
Let every thought be a positive thought
Simply thinking about something positive, and smiling as a result, can make you happier and more upbeat. (Simply fake smiling is actually linked to worsened mood.) A genuine smile includes the facial muscles around your eyes, and can actually prompt brain changes linked to improved mood.
Prioritize experiences over things
Research suggests experiences make us happier than possessions; the "newness" of possessions wears off, as does the joy they bring you, but experiences improve your sense of vitality and "being alive," both during the experience and when you reflect back on it.
Have a back-up plan for bad days
When you're having a bad day and your mood is sinking, have a plan in place to lift it back up. This could be calling a close friend, watching a comedy or going out for a jog — whatever works best for you
Identify your sense of purpose
Happiness isn't about pleasure alone; it's also about having a sense of purpose. The term "eudaimonic well-being" originated with Aristotle, and describes the form of happiness that comes from activities that bring you a greater sense of purpose, life meaning or self-actualization. This could be your career, or it could be gleaned from volunteering or even taking a cooking class.
Socialize — Even with strangers 
Having meaningful social relationships is important for happiness, but even people who engage in "social snacking" report greater happiness. Social snacking describes the little ways you connect with others, including strangers, on a daily basis.
In general, the more you mingle and chat with the people around you, the more cheerful and brighter your mood is likely to be. To learn more about the benefits of striking up casual conversations wherever you happen to be, see my previous article, "How to Talk to Strangers."
Get away
Taking time away from the daily grind is important for helping you recharge. And while even a weekend getaway can give you a boost, a longer trip is better to help you create meaningful memories. These memories can be tapped into later to help boost your happiness. Experts recommend a two-week vacation, ideally, even if it's to a locale close to home.
Spend more time outdoors
Exposure to bright outdoor light is crucial for a positive mood, in part because regular exposure to sunlight will helps to enhance your mood and energy through the release of endorphins.22 Getting sun exposure outdoors will also help you optimize your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D deficiency has long been associated with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), as well as more chronic depression.
Practice kindness
When people make a point to conduct three to five acts of kindness a week, something magical happens. They become happier. Simple kind acts — a compliment, letting someone ahead of you in line, paying for someone's coffee — are contagious and tend to make all of those involved feel good.
Depression’s Link to Inflammation Gains Strength
By Dr. Mercola
October 09, 2016

Published on Mar 2, 2015
Depression is increasingly recognized as a problem rooted in chronic inflammation. While other factors may also be involved, inflammation can have a profound impact on your mental health.
The study of these connections is known as psychoneuroimmunology, i.e., the impact of inflammation on behavior. As noted in one 2012 study in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology:1
“Elevated biomarkers of inflammation, including inflammatory cytokines and acute-phase proteins, have been found in depressed patients, and administration of inflammatory stimuli has been associated with the development of depressive symptoms.
Data also have demonstrated that inflammatory cytokines can interact with multiple pathways known to be involved in the development of depression, including monoamine metabolism, neuroendocrine function, synaptic plasticity, and neurocircuits relevant to mood regulation …
Psychosocial stress, diet, obesity, a leaky gut, and an imbalance between regulatory and pro-inflammatory T cells also contribute to inflammation and may serve as a focus for preventative strategies relevant to both the development of depression and its recurrence.”
Inflammation and Depression
In this model, depression is the result of your body’s attempts to protect itself from an inflammatory response, and involves hormones and neurotransmitters. Depressive symptoms most strongly associated with chronic inflammation include flat mood, slowed thinking, avoidance, alterations in perception and metabolic changes.2
Cytokines in your blood, or inflammatory messengers such as CRP, interleukin-1 (IL-1), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and TNF-alpha are all predictive of3 and correlate4 to depression.
For example, in melancholic depression, bipolar disorder and postpartum depression, white blood cells called monocytes express pro-inflammatory genes that provoke secretion of cytokines.5 At the same time, cortisol sensitivity goes down, and cortisol is a stress hormone that buffers against inflammation.
Together, these inflammatory agents transfer information to your nervous system, typically by stimulating your vagus nerve, which connects your gut and brain.6
During inflammatory states, brain cells called microglia are activated. When this happens, an enzyme called indoleamine 2 3-dioxygenase (IDO) directs tryptophan away from the production of serotonin and melatonin, instructing it instead to produce an NMDA (an amino acid derivative) agonist called quinolinic acid, which can trigger anxiety and agitation.7
Errant Immune System May Alter Your Mood
Recent research again highlights the inflammatory underpinnings of depression. As reported by BBC:8
“The focus is on an errant immune system causing inflammation in the body and altering mood … [Professor Ed Bullmore, head of psychiatry at the University of Cambridge and an employee of GlaxoSmithKline] said: ‘Depression and inflammation often go hand in hand …
[I]f you have flu, the immune system reacts to that, you become inflamed and very often people find that their mood changes too. Their [behavior] changes, they may become less sociable, more sleepy, more withdrawn.
They may begin to have some of the negative ways of thinking that are characteristic of depression and all of that follows an infection’ …
Inflammation is part of the immune system's response to danger … If it is too high, it causes damage. And for some reason, about one-third of depressed patients have consistently high levels of inflammation.”
When patients diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis were treated with anti-inflammatory drugs targeting specific parts of the immune system, they also reported an improvement in mood. This was what raised the curiosity of professor Iain McInnes, a consultant rheumatologist. He told the BBC:
"When we give these therapies we see a fairly rapid increase in a sense of well-being, mood state improving quite remarkably often disproportionately given the amount of inflammation we can see in their joints and their skin."
Anti-Inflammatories Boost Mood
McInnes’ team performed brain scans on patients with rheumatoid arthritis, before and after giving them an immune targeted drug. The brain scans seemed to confirm and validate the patients’ feedback.
After taking an anti-inflammatory drug, there were significant changes in their brains’ neuro-chemical circuitry. Importantly, pathways known to be involved in alleviating depression were favorably altered.
Interestingly, work by
Carmine Pariante, a professor of biological psychiatry, shows that people who have overactive immune systems are less likely to respond to anti-depressants.
He also found that emotional trauma may alter your immune system and “prime” it in such a way that it predisposes you to depression. BBC quotes Pariante, saying:
"We think the immune system is the key mechanism by which early life events produce this long-term effect.
We have some data showing adult individuals who have a history of early life trauma, even if they have never been depressed, have an activated immune system so they are in a state of risk."
Arthritis Drug Being Tested on Depressed Patients
The arthritis drug sirukumab is currently being tested on depressed patients. GlaxoSmithKline and others are also working on developing anti-inflammatory drugs targeting depression.
The problem with this approach is that you’d simply be switching from one form of drug to another, and virtually all drugs have side effects. Sometimes terminal, as the 60,000 who died from the anti-inflammatory Vioxx.
Fortunately, you don’t need drugs to combat inflammation. One of the most effective ways to quell inflammation is to eat a ketogenic diet, high in healthy fats and low in net carbs (total carbs minus fiber).
In fact, one of the most remarkable effects of nutritional ketosis is that your C-reactive protein (CRP) level (an inflammatory marker) virtually disappears. It can really drive your inflammation levels about as low as they can go.
Snacking on Nuts Decreases Inflammation
Raw nuts are a great source of healthy fat, and eating 1 ounce (about a handful) of nuts five times per week can reduce inflammation according to recent research.9,10,11 As reported by Reuters:12
“Past research has linked eating nuts to lower rates of heart disease and diabetes, but the exact reason was unknown, senior study author Dr. Ying Bao, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, told Reuters Health.
‘We hypothesized that nuts may exert these health benefits by reducing inflammation,’ Bao said …”
By looking at data from two long-term studies — the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS) — in which participants documented what they ate and provided blood samples that were analyzed for inflammatory biomarkers, the researchers found that people who ate nuts at least five times a week had 20 percent lower CRP levels and 16 percent lower IL-6 than those who rarely or never ate nuts.
This remained true even when other anti-inflammatory dietary and lifestyle strategies such as exercise, body weight and smoking were taken into account. I use macadamia nuts and pecans nearly every day as part of my diet plan, about 2 ounces of each, as they really help safely keep my calorie level high.
Other Health Benefits Linked to Regular Nut Consumption
Other research has linked regular nut consumption to:
•Weight loss13
•Lower systolic blood pressure
•Fewer risk factors for metabolic syndrome14 and a lower risk for diabetes
•Improved cardiovascular health
•Reduced mortality risk and increased longevity. In one study, people who ate a small handful (1 ounce or 28 grams) of nuts seven times per week or more were 20 percent less likely to die for any reason, compared to those who avoided nuts. Eating nuts at least 5 times per week was associated with a 29 percent drop in mortality risk from heart disease and an 11 percent drop in mortality risk from cancer specifically15,16,17,18
Anti-inflammatory ingredients in nuts include fiber, magnesium, antioxidants, the amino acid L-arginine and unsaturated fatty acids such as α-linolenic acid. Organic, raw and unpeeled nuts are best, as processing can destroy many nutrients, and most of the antioxidants are actually in the skin. When roasted and/or peeled, those valuable antioxidants are lost.
Top Picks: Macadamias and Pecans 
Most nuts’ nutritional makeup closely resembles what I consider to be an ideal ratio of the basic building blocks, with fat making up the greatest amount of your daily calories, followed by a moderate amount of high quality protein and a low amount of non-vegetable carbs (see my Food Pyramid for Optimal Health). That said, some nuts have more ideal ratios than others.
My favorite nuts, macadamia and pecans,  provide the highest amount of healthy fat while being on the lower end in terms of carbs and protein. Raw macadamia nuts also contain high amounts of vitamin B1, magnesium and manganese. Moreover, about 60 percent of the fatty acid in macadamia is the monounsaturated fat oleic acid. This is about the level found in olives, which are well known for their health benefits. This little tidbit is a fact few people make note of when discussing the benefits of macadamias.
Pecans also boast more than 19 different vitamins and minerals that studies suggest can help you lower LDL cholesterol and promote healthy arteries, and are in the top 15 foods known for their antioxidant activity, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
One of those antioxidants is vitamin E, which may convey neurological protection and keeps blood lipids from oxidizing in your body. Beta-carotenes, lutein and zeaxanthin in pecans also help rid your body of harmful free radicals, protecting it from inflammation. One ounce of macadamia nuts has only 4 grams of carbs, but over half of those are non-digestible fiber so it provides an ultra-low 2 grams of sugar per ounce of nuts.
The Importance of Animal-Based Omega-3 DHA
Animal-based omega-319 is a potent, all-natural anti-inflammatory. While many nuts contain plant-based omega-3 (with the exception of pecans, which are very low in omega-3 and omega-6), your body cannot efficiently convert the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) found in plants to the docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) found in marine animals such as fatty fish and krill. DHA is particularly important for brain health, as more than 90 percent of the omega-3 fat found in your brain tissue is DHA.20 
Furthermore, the marine-based DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are actually structural elements needed by every cell in your body; part of their biological effects include anti-inflammatory activity and communication within the cell and between cells. With this in mind, it’s important to avoid making the mistake of thinking you can get all the omega-3 you need from plant sources.
You simply cannot afford to get this wrong, especially if you’re struggling with depression or other inflammation-based conditions. To learn more about the differences between plant- and animal-based omega-3 fats, please see my previous article, “How Good Fats Prevent Heart Disease.” Good sources of animal-based DHA and EPA include fatty, cold-water fish like wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, herring, fish roe and krill oil.
Vitamin D — Another Important Anti-Inflammatory
Vitamin D, which is best obtained from regular, sensible sun exposure, also inhibits inflammation. It produces over 200 anti-microbial peptides and up-regulates a large number of genes, including one that boosts your ability to fight infections and chronic inflammation. In one placebo-controlled study, high-dose vitamin D supplementation boosted anti-inflammatory molecules, showing promise as an anti-inflammatory “medicine” for people with heart failure.21
Daily supplementation with 50 micrograms (mcg) — equivalent to 2,000 International Units (IUs) — of vitamin D for nine months increased blood concentrations of anti-inflammatory interleukin-10 (IL-10) by 43 percent, while simultaneously preventing an increase in the pro-inflammatory cytokine TNF-alpha in patients diagnosed with congestive heart failure (CHF).
Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to depression specifically. In one previous study, seniors with the lowest levels of vitamin D were found to be 11 times more prone to be depressed than those who had normal levels.
In addition to its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties, vitamin D receptors appear in a wide variety of brain tissue, and researchers believe optimal vitamin D levels may enhance important chemicals in your brain and protect brain cells by increasing the effectiveness of glial cells that help nurse damaged neurons back to health.
To learn more about how to optimize your vitamin D level through sensible sun exposure, please see my interview with Dr. Michael F. Holick, who is a well-recognized expert on vitamin D. A vitamin D3 supplement can also be used, but you'll need to monitor your levels regularly. To reap maximum benefit, you need a vitamin D level of at least 40 to 60 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml).
Optimal Sun Exposure
Please remember that there are inherent dangers in using vitamin D3 as an oral supplement. It is a hormone, not a vitamin, and has profoundly important physiologic actions. Ultimately, we were designed to get nearly all of our vitamin D from appropriate solar exposure and, as such, vitamin D is a marker for UV light exposure, which also has a wide ranging host of metabolic benefits.
If you give your body a false signal with oral vitamin D, there is potential that you will disrupt some important physiological cycles. I personally have not swallowed vitamin D in seven years, but moved to Florida to get high quality sun exposure.
Also, UVB is not the only wavelength in sunlight. You really need all the frequencies to effectively treat depression. For example, daily exposure to sunlight outdoors without glasses or contacts (ideally grounded to the earth) for several minutes within an hour of sunrise is a powerful stimulus to normalize your circadian rhythm. Avoiding all blue light from artificial sources is another factor.  When these are done you typically sleep better, which is a profoundly important factor for depression.
Regain Your Mental Health by Quelling Inflammation
If you suffer from depression, it may be well worth your effort to take steps to reduce the level of inflammation in your body. No drugs are necessary for this. In fact, your best strategy is to address your diet, and make sure to get enough animal-based omega-3 and vitamin D.
Raw organic nuts are a great source of healthy fats, but I wouldn’t recommend hitching your hopes on nuts alone. You also need to ditch the processed foods (which are chockfull of inflammatory ingredients) and switch to real foods, as that’s where you’ll find important antioxidants and nutrients that help combat inflammation. I would strongly encourage you to consider a ketogenic diet — the anti-inflammatory capacity of which is truly profound.
Also be sure to address your gut health, as impaired gut flora is also frequently involved in depression. One of the easiest ways to help reseed your gut with beneficial bacteria is to eat traditionally fermented and cultured foods such as kefir, natto, kimchi and fermented vegetables, most of which are also easy and inexpensive to make from scratch at home.
California Considers Adding Cancer Warning to Aspartame
By Dr. Mercola
September 27, 2016
While the sale of soda, and notably diet soda, has continued to plummet over the past 30 years,1 artificial sweeteners are also found in over 6,000 different processed food products.2 It appears sales of soda products have reached an all-time low in response to consumers’ demand for healthier alternatives.
Sales figures demonstrate bottled water is poised to overtake soda as the largest beverage category.3 The switch from soda, packed with more chemicals than just aspartame, to bottled water as a drink of choice, is heartening.
However, it’s important to remember that other products on your grocery store shelves also contain zero- or low-calorie high-intensity sweeteners to tempt your palate.
According to the Drug Information and Side Effects Database, aspartame can be found in a variety of different products from chewing gum and frozen desserts to condiments, ice tea and vegetable drinks.4 A wide range of over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs also contain aspartame.5
So, as you are reducing the number of carbonated drinks for you and your family, also remember to read the labels on your chewing gum, yogurts, cold and frozen desserts, children’s vitamins and other pharmaceutical products for aspartame or brand names like NutraSweet or Equal.
Why Manufacturers Turned to Artificial Sweeteners
Sugar has become an inseparable part of the manufacture of processed foods. Manufacturers spend hours on research and development to find just the right combination of sugar, fat and salt in their products to increase the taste value and potential addiction to their foods. This is called the bliss point.6
Following research that identified the role sugar plays in neurodegenerative disorders, metabolic dysfunction and increasing challenges with weight management, manufacturers turned to sugar substitutes to reduce calories and meet public demand.
More than one-third of U.S. adults are obese and slightly more than 70 percent are either overweight or obese.7
Obesity is related to some of the leading causes of preventable death in America including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.8 The rising epidemic of obesity fueled an increasing use of artificial sweeteners.
Even after years of research demonstrating poor health outcomes, the use of aspartame continues to gather supporters who rely on industry-funded research. The Calorie Control Council uses a well-funded platform to persuade you to use aspartame for weight loss and weight management.9
As I’ve discussed in a previous article, the Calorie Control Council is an association that represents manufacturers and suppliers of low-calorie, sugar-free and reduced sugar foods and beverages, and has strong ties to the Kellen Company, which is instrumental in creating and managing industry front groups specifically created to mislead you about the product in question, protect industry profits and influence regulatory agencies.
This makes virtually any position of the Calorie Control Council questionable at best when it comes to public safety.
California Taking Action Against Aspartame
Proposition 65 became law in California in 1986,10 requiring manufacturers to add labeled warnings on products “known by the state of California to cause cancer.”11 
Originally approved for use in 1981 under specific conditions, the scope of use widened in 1983 and by 1996 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had approved aspartame as a “general purpose sweetener.”
California’s Carcinogenic Identification Committee (CIC), charged with advising the state Office of Environment Health Hazard Assessment with identification of hazardous materials to be covered under Proposition 65, is now reviewing aspartame.
Despite the FDA’s denial of two Citizen Petitions to ban aspartame,12,13 CIC is reviewing the safety of aspartame at its upcoming November meeting.14 Most of the research allegedly demonstrating safety of the chemical is industry-funded, while those demonstrating side effects are from independent sources.
Research not linked to the manufacturer or to regulatory agencies will provide the backbone of information presented to support the listing of aspartame as a substance known to cause cancer, which means there’s at least a chance CIC may require a warning.
Animal Studies May Not Accurately Represent Human Reaction to Aspartame
The major chemical components of aspartame are methanol, phenylalanine and aspartic acid. While the latter two components are amino acids your body uses to function optimally, the amount consumed in the number of aspartame-containing foods you eat each day may be excessive.
On the other hand, methanol, or wood alcohol,15 is not a substance your body needs or uses. Methanol found in whole foods is bound firmly to pectin and is excreted from your body without affecting your cells.
The methanol in aspartame, on the other hand, is bound weakly to the phenylalanine and breaks easily during digestion. Once released, your body converts the methanol to formaldehyde, one of the ingredients in embalming fluid, a known carcinogen16 and deadly neurotoxin.17
Both animals and humans have small structures called peroxisomes in each cell. There are a couple of hundred in every cell of your body, which are designed to detoxify a variety of chemicals.
Peroxisome contains catalase, which helps detoxify methanol once it is turned into formaldehyde. Other chemicals in the peroxisome then convert the formaldehyde to formic acid, which is harmless, but this last step occurs ONLY in non-human animals.
When methanol enters the peroxisome of every animal except humans, it gets into that mechanism. Humans do have the same number of peroxisomes in comparable cells as animals, but human peroxisomes cannot convert the toxic formaldehyde into harmless formic acid.
Researchers have found that mice, dogs and other research animals efficiently breakdown methanol or formaldehyde without the neurotoxic effects it has on humans.18
Thus animal studies cannot physiologically give an accurate representation of what happens in your body as you ingest methanol laced aspartame.
Industry Interests Impact Research Results
In an interesting meta-analysis of 31 studies performed between 1978 and 2014, researchers from Sydney University in Australia found those studies funded by the artificial sweetener industry were 17 times more likely to find a favorable result than those funded by independent sources.19,20
This is not surprising. Similar findings have been found in other industries, most recently the role sugar lobbyists played influencing research on heart disease.21 The review, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), found scientists were paid to overlook the role sugar plays in heart disease.22
These results were released in the same week that lead author and pharmacologist Lisa Bero, Ph.D., published her finding that financial interests biased artificial sweetener research. Bero claimed the apparent bias was not prevented by a peer review process.23 In her analysis of the results, she concluded:24
“Review sponsorship and authors’ financial conflicts of interest introduced bias affecting the outcomes of reviews of artificially sweetened beverage effects on weight that could not be explained by other sources of bias.”
Putting this into a different perspective, her meta-analysis found:25
"[One-hundred] percent of the industry-sponsored studies concluded that aspartame was safe and 92 percent of the independently funded studies identified adverse effects of aspartame consumption."
Quoted in The Age, Bero went on to say:26
"It is not industry research, per se, that is the problem. It is the type of funding. What is needed are safeguards and also having industry contributing to a common pot to fund food safety research."
Aspartame and Cancer
Taking into account the fact that animal studies may not reveal the entire carcinogenic picture, it is interesting to note that even while animals have the ability to efficiently excrete methanol and thus are not exposed to formaldehyde in cumulative amounts as humans are, research shows that even in low doses, animals are getting cancer.
A study led by Dr. Morando Soffritti, a cancer researcher from Italy, found that even in doses much lower than accepted in the U.S. and Europe, animals were developing several different forms of cancer when fed aspartame.27 Sofritti is the head of the European Ramazzini Foundation of Oncology and Environmental Sciences, a well-respected, independent and non-profit institution that has been dedicated to cancer prevention for more than 35 years.
In his study, researchers exposed rats to aspartame from before birth until their natural death. Most other studies sacrifice animals at 110 weeks, earlier than Soffritti and his team believe long-term effects of the aspartame may be triggered.28
Lifetime exposure to the chemical during research more closely represents the results you may experience. The same study demonstrated that when first exposed before birth, the risk of developing cancer was significantly higher.29 The researchers determined aspartame's carcinogenic effect was observed at levels as low as 400 parts per million (ppm), concluding the following:
"The results of this mega-experiment indicate that APM [aspartame] is a multipotential carcinogenic agent, even at a daily dose of 20 mg/kg body weight, much less than the current acceptable daily intake. On the basis of these results, a reevaluation of the present guidelines on the use and consumption of APM is urgent and cannot be delayed."
Another link was made in the Nurse’s Health Study, which spanned  22 years and nearly 120,000 people.30,31 Before references to aspartame were deleted from the study, data demonstrated one can of soda a day raised the risk of leukemia by 42 percent, multiple myeloma in men by 102 percent and non-Hodgkin lymphoma in men by 31 percent.32
High-intensity artificial sweeteners also increase your risk for obesity, another factor in the development of several cancers.33 The study drew such intense criticism, Harvard quickly retracted the study, saying the science was “weak.”34,35
Another potential cause for concern is the fact that Monsanto, which manufactured and sold aspartame between 1985 and 2000,36 used genetically altered E. coli to produce an aspartic acid-phenylalanine segment of the aspartame. A patent application was made in 1981,37 and although reported as early as 1999, it never received much attention.38 While still manufacturing the product, Monsanto insisted it was safe and that no modified DNA was in the finished product.39  
This Is Your Brain on Aspartame
If the prospect of cancer is not enough to deter you from drinking diet soda or consuming processed foods sweetened with artificial sweeteners, consider the effect that aspartame has on your neurons and your cognitive function. In a study published in Redox Biology, researchers found aspartame may essentially program your brain cells to die.40
These biochemical and mitochondrial changes alter the functional activity in your brain, resulting in altered neuron function and neurodegeneration. The researchers theorized the results were from the effects of methanol molecule or the metabolite, formaldehyde or formate. This study also demonstrated that long-term use of FDA approved levels of aspartame distort your brain function.41
Another compound found in aspartame, phenylalanine, is delivered in excessive amounts and depletes your brain of serotonin, possibly one of the factors responsible for the increased number of people suffering from depression who regularly eat foods sweetened with aspartame.
A study planned by Case Western researchers was designed to evaluate the effects of aspartame on the mental health of their participants.42
However, this study was halted early by the Institutional Review Board citing safety reasons and severity of reaction to individuals who suffered from depression when exposed to aspartame. Reports of neurological and behavioral disturbances after ingestion of aspartame include an increase in headaches, migraine headaches,43,44,45,46 insomnia and seizures.47
Another study demonstrated that a high-aspartame diet resulted in more headaches, irritable mood, depression and poor performance on spatial orientation tests.48 A large concern is that the “high-aspartame diet” consisted of half the amount of aspartame the FDA considers safe for daily ingestion.
Despite the Evidence, FDA Considers Aspartame Safe
Although the FDA considers aspartame safe for consumption, other research not influenced by the industry has reached a different conclusion. This short video demonstrates the links between the chemical components of aspartame and the negative health conditions you may have experienced.
The list of aspartame side effects is long and involved. Dr. H.J. Roberts, a board-certified internist and author of the book, “Aspartame Disease: An Ignored Epidemic,” coined the phrase “aspartame disease” to describe the negative health conditions associated with it. These include changes in mood, seizures, memory loss, fibromyalgia-type symptoms and fatigue.49
The FDA received 3,000 reported adverse reactions by June 1987.50 However, this number may be a gross underestimate, as many people do not associate their symptoms with the consumption of products containing aspartame, or they may notice their symptoms resolve after they stop using the product but don’t report it to the FDA.
The approval of aspartame was one of the most contested in FDA history, having been denied four times for safety reasons, only to be approved after political maneuvers were made to put an FDA director in place who looked favorably upon the approval. You can read more about the political and financial pressure needed to gain approval in my previous article titled, “Documentary: Sweet Misery.”
If you experience side effects from aspartame or any other artificial sweetener, please report it to the FDA (if you live in the United States) without delay. It's easy to make a report — just go to the FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator page, find the phone number for your state, and make a call reporting your reaction.
Also See:
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