Thursday, March 31, 2016
Nakedness Could Decode The Mystery of Human Origins
30th March 2016
By Sayer Ji
Contributing Writer for Wake Up World
The human obsession with nakedness constitutes a multi-billion dollar industry unto itself (pornography), but the fact that, among hundreds of different primates, we are the only one that is almost completely hairless, is rarely if ever considered. Indeed, understanding human nakedness may help to unlock the timeless enigma of how and where our species originated.
Nakedness and the Mystery of Human Origins
Have you ever considered the curious fact of human hairlessness? Except for facial hair in men, and scalp, underarm, and pubic hair in both men and women, we are alone among primates in having lost our protective and heat-conserving coat of hair. While I’m certain some may contend nakedness was a default human condition, beginning with original sin in the Garden of Eden, the evidence of biology is hard to ignore (after all, we all live in this highly enigmatic body). Take embryogenesis as an example…
It is simply amazing that the embryo undergoes developmental phases that recapitulate the morphological evolution of our species over millions of years. Known as ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, a fancy way of saying the development of the individual repeats the development of the species as a whole, the human embryo moves through the following developmental phases: single-celled, aquatic (with rudimentary, fish-like gill slits), reptilian, rodent-like phases, and then moving through a simian phase near the end of gestation sporting a layer of downy fur known as the lanugo, which the fetus sheds about a month before birth. On rare occasions the lanugo is retained briefly after birth, as depicted below.
Fetal whales and dolphins (rare examples of aquatic mammals) also develop lanugo, indicating that in a preceding terrestrial evolutionary phase they were, like humans, also covered in fur. Evolution builds off preceding stages of physiological accomplishment, and our bodily form, whether it conflicts with our religious or philosophical precepts or not, tells a very compelling story of billions of years of biological evolution, adaption, and survival. The extremely non-arbitrary physiological construction of the human body, wrought over the glacial scale of biological time, cries out for an explanation. And so, hairlessness provides a powerful clue to the perennial and largely unresolved question of human origins. The fact that humans have not yet answered basic questions of physiology, such as why we have ten fingers and toes, or, why we no longer have hair, speaks to the relatively infantile stage of self-understanding our species is still presently moving through.
What We Think We Know About Human Hairlessness
Since the time of Charles Darwin, and no doubt long before, the nakedness of our default bodily condition has been a matter of intense speculation. Darwin suggested that hairlessness may have been a factor in sexual selection: the less hair, the more attractiveness, noting also the curiosity that women have less hair then men.
A far more complex and I believe compelling explanation was provided by Elaine Morgan, the feminist biologist, with her Aquatic Ape theory. Namely, it was the sudden flooded state of the African savannah about 7 million years ago that lead our pre-human hairy ancestors (not unlike what happened to our mammalian relatives the dolphin and whale when they decided to go backto the ocean) to either die or adapt to an semi-aquatic environment, where the loss of body hair, control of breathing (for diving, and eventually speech), increased subcutaneous body fat (humans are the fattest primates), capacity for water birth, etc., provided a series of survival advantages.
Incidentally, modern genetic analyses indicate that the mutation for hairlessness appeared sometime around 6 million years ago in a pre-human lineage.
Several more recent hypotheses suggest that the hairless mutation was a driving force of humanization from a human-ape common ancestry, either by enforcing upright walking (bipedalism) while holding a baby with both hands, or through encouraging romantic attraction in our species in what has been called the “naked love theory,” summarized below:
“This theory locates the origin of human hairlessness in the ancestral mother–infant relationship. In this view, hairlessness is ultimately the adaptive consequence of bipedalism. Because of bipedalism, ancestral infants lost their prehensile feet and thus lost the ability to grasp the mother’s fur with their feet, as do other primate infants. Early bipedal mothers were thus under pressure to carry the infant. Therefore infants survived only if mothers had a strong desire to hold them. Because of the pleasure of skin-to-skin contact, the desire to hold the infant would have been stronger in mothers possessing a hairless mutation that enabled them to give birth to hairless infants. Survival of these infants would have then been greater than that of hair-covered infants. The hairlessness that began to appear in this context of maternal selection was then reinforced by sexual selection in the male–female sexual relationship. This is because a hairless sexual partner would have enabled the hairless individual to recreate the pleasure of skin-to-skin contact in the mother–infant relationship. This theory then helps to explain the evolutionary origins of romantic love.”
There are many more proposed explanations floating around. For instance, some have theorized that the loss of most of our body hair enabled us to evolve more sweat glands, which made possible greater self-regulation of our bodily temperature. Others contend that hairlessness enabled our nervous system, via our exposed and more sensitive skin, greater access to environmental cues, giving us a critical edge that would eventually lead us towards attaining our apical position on the food chain, as the world’s deadliest predator. But these latter two explanations are weak, since no other example of this kind of adaption exists among primates, and few among mammals. Also, creatures that must expend a great deal of energy to produce their own body heat, and who must face drastic fluctuations in ambient temperatures, pay a steep price for losing their insulating fur. Within this context, the mutation for hairlines would have had to have provided a significant, and near immediate set of benefits to have been positively selected for, enabling it to undergo a species-wide genetic sweep to become a dominant trait.
What could have been behind this? Perhaps the answer lies within dimension of human physiology known as cellular bioenergetics, i.e. the energy flows and requirements of the human body. While elements of the aforementioned evolutionary explanations for hairlessness may retain validity, and likely may have participated in the transition to nakedness, the primary biological motivation and justification for the development of human hairlessness may be in how nakedness made available a much larger quantity of energy to the body, and particularly, the energy-hungry brain.
A Compelling New Explanation for Human Hairlessness: Enabling Humans To Harvest Sunlight As Food?
A new paper published in Medical Hypothesis, titled, “Did human hairlessness allow natural photobiomodulation,”Did human hairlessness allow natural photobiomodulation 2 million years ago and enable photobiomodulation therapy today? This can explain the rapid expansion of our genus’s brain,” proposes a unique explanation to account for our status as the naked ape, along with another curious distinguishing trait of our species, namely, the relatively rapid development of our huge brains (encephalization), which is believed to have undergone rapid acceleration about 2 million years ago.
Ian Mathewson, a retired medical practitioner, writing from Brisbane Austraila, summarizes his hypothesis as follows:
“Present hypotheses to explain human hairlessness appear to be inadequate because hairlessness is not accompanied by any immediate benefit. A new, testable, hypothesis is advanced to explain our hairlessness based on photobiomodulation research, also known as low-level light therapy. This shows that red and near infrared radiation has a very beneficial effect on superficial tissues, including the brain. Random mutation/s resulting in complete hairlessness allowed early humans to receive daily doses of red and near infrared radiation at sunset. Photobiomodulation research shows this has a twofold effect: it results in increased mitochondrial respiratory chain activity with consequent ATP ‘extrasynthesis’ in all superficial tissues, including the brain. It also advantageously affects the expression of over 100 genes through the activation of transcription factor NFkB which results in cerebral metabolic and haemodynamic enhancement. It is also possible that melanin can supply electrons to the respiratory chain resulting in ATP extrasynthesis. These effects would start automatically as soon as hairlessness occurred resulting in a selective sweep of the mutation/s involved. This was followed by the very rapid brain evolution of the last 2my which, it is suggested, was due to intelligence-led evolution based initially on the increased energy and adeptness of the newly hairless individuals.”
For those who are not yet aware of the the extensive body of research on the benefits of red and near infrared radiation on biological systems, including chronic and acute disease states, it may come as a surprise to learn that these monochromatic or quasi monochromatic wavelengths of light energy are capable of stimulating so-called ATP extra synthesis, basically helping to supplement the cells’ energy requirements by ‘supercharging’ photo accepting complexes within the electron transport chain and related elements of oxphos, as well as activating and/or positively modulating over 100 genes, some of which are antioxidant and longevity promoting. Known as photobiomodulation, or low level laser therapy, these light-based interventions enact both energy and information based changes in affected tissues through non-thermal processes. This discovery that light energy can be harvested and transduced into metabolically and genetically significant energy and information truly represents a quantum leap in medicine.
In Mathewson’s hypothesis above, a random mutation for hairlessness occurring in one of our African forebearers some 2 million years ago, conferred an immediate survival advantage over his hairy relatives by enabling her body, especially her brain, to access the red and near infrared wavelengths generated by ancient African sunsets.
Mathewson elaborates further:
“As PBM [photobiomodulation] research shows, it allowed the extrasynthesis of ATP energy and also allowed R&NIRR to penetrate the then hairless skull to favourably alter the expression of numerous genes and enable cerebral metabolic and haemodynamic enhancement; it is suggested that this was the starting point for the rapid intelligence-led evolutionary brain expansion which occurred after the appearance of our genus Homo. Regarding the biphasic nature of PBM, it is suggested that exposure to a physiologically correct low dose of R&NIRR at dusk every evening would constitute the original natural PBM. This radiation is followed by 12 h of darkness during which the genetic actions of the radiation can be set in place; the same radiation delivered at dawn may be of questionable efficacy since it is immediately followed by an excessive dose of all visible wavelengths. None of the effects described above could have occurred had our ancestors not become hairless. The immediate uptake, in a rapid genetic sweep, of the mutation/s causing hair- lessness occurred because hairlessness and its benefits happened concurrently.”
There are additional natural consequence of hairlessness addressed by Mathewson, firstly, the increased degradation of folate through ultraviolet light exposure. This can have deleterious if not deadly effects, as folate is essential for the neural tube in embyrogenesis, among many other biological processes. For instance, MTHFR SNPs are notorious for conferring increased risk for various health problems due to their interference with folate production and/or utilization. Secondly, hairlessness would have increased our ability to produce vitamin D3, an essential component for neurological development and the neuroplasticity and interconnectivity essential for intelligence (not to mention for the stability of our entire genome). This could have further increased brain development both in sheer size as well as the complexity of neural circuits. A third factor — perhaps the most provocative idea of all — is melanin-mediated energy production.
The sudden shift to hairlessness would have necessitated the increased production of melanin, first as a sun protectant, but secondarily, as a means to harvest sunlight energy and convert it into metabolically/chemically useful energy. As we have focused on in previous writings, melanin’s manifold functionality in the body includes its role as a biological “solar panel”, enabling our species to transcend the conventional heterotroph (eats others for food)/autotroph (produces food from sunlight) dichotomy, entering into the third, though seldom mentioned photohetertrophic hybrid category.
Mathewson expands on the topic of the relevance to hairlessness of melanin-mediated energy transduction in greater depth, starting with the fascinating example of the extraordinary bioenegetic capabilities of highly melanized radiographic fungi (which we also reported on recently):
“Now to the strange story of a fungus growing on the walls of the burnt-out nuclear reactor at Chernobyl. This fungus, Cryptococcus neoformans normally synthesises melanin, and when exposed to gamma radiation 500 times greater than background was found to grow significantly faster than either non-irradiated cells or irra- diated albino mutants  – a phenomenon referred to as ‘radiosynthesis’ . Melanin is a biopolymer containing quinone moieties (similar to molecules in complex II of oxphos) which are thought to be responsible for melanin’s redox behaviour and consequent electric current generation after exposure to gamma radiation . This current was increased by adding a reductant. Exposure to visible light increases the proportion of quinone molecules in the melanin biopolymer while UV light is said to dra- matically increase the ability of melanin to oxidise NADH . Dadachova et al.  ‘cautiously suggested’ that melanin may endow melanotic organisms with the ability to harness electro- magnetic radiation for metabolic energy. Bryan et al.  investigated the oxphos potential of melanised and non-melanised C. neoformans to generate ATP after gamma, UV and visible radiation. The interesting results, perhaps involving the ATP paradox , caused the authors to raise the possibility that melanins may have energy harvesting powers similar to chlorophyll. Work on solid pellets of eumelanin has shown it to be an electronic-ionic hybrid conductor which can dope itself with water to produce free radicals, electrons and protons .
Extrapolating from fungi to mammals is a big leap, but the type of melanin in C. neoformans, eumelanin, is the same as that produced in the skin of living Africans; the absorption spectrum of phaeomelanin in Caucasians is similar although it does decrease more rapidly in the R&NIR range (Fig. 2). The basic form of oxphos is similar in aerobic fungi and humans . It seems possible that an indirect form of ATP extrasynthesis could operate in humans due to the interaction of solar radiation with melanin. The quinone moieties of melanin would donate electrons, activated by light photons, to the quinone pool of oxphos and thence down the ETC [electron transport chain] in a similar way to methylene blue . The quinone pool contains quinone molecules only loosely associated with their enzymes; quinones facilitate the redox reactions of the ETC by accepting electrons from dehydrogenases and donating them to oxidases. Since the melanosomes in human melanocytes and keratinocytes are separate organelles from the mitochondria, it is suggested that cytoplasmic NAD+ can pick up two electrons and a proton from the melanosomes to become reduced NADH. Then, because NADH cannot cross the inner mitochondrial membrane, it is carried to the membrane by one of several mitochondrial shuttles; its electrons are delivered to FAD producing FADH2, and they can then enter the ETC  and result in ATP extrasynthesis.
The above scenario is supported by an experiment carried out by Dadachova’s group . They measured the ability of melanin to act as an electron transfer agent in a reaction involving the oxidation of NADH and reduction of ferricyanide with and without either gamma, UV, visible or infrared radiation. All four types of radiation caused a marked increase in electron transfer and sur- prisingly the increase was not dependent on the energy of the incident photons.”
And so, if human hairlessness enabled us to transition from a species entirely dependent upon the consumption of other living things in order to survive and/or thrive, into a species that could supplement with the Sun’s virtually limitless supply of “free energy,” it would make sense why we would have undergone such a rapid divergence from all other primates who did not possess this ability, or at least not to the same degree. Also, if one of the primary side effects of this transformation into photoheterotrophs was the rapid increase in the sizes of our brains (encephalization), this would have had a profound affect on the mother-infant dyad. A larger brain and head would have precluded the full maturation of the human infant within the womb. Instead, in order to survive passage through the birth canal, the infant would have had to be born earlier and therefore much needier state. Obviously, this theory might help to explain why humans are uniquely co-dependent, and why bipedalism would have freed up the mother’s arms to take care of an infant incapable of survival for months on end without extreme care. Whereas previously fur may have been sufficient for a pre-human ancestor’s far more developed offspring could attach to, this would no longer be the case following encephalization, rendering hair much less important for the survival of the species.
There are many implications of this new theory worth discussing, but for now, we only wish to introduce the concept to stimulate further discussion and increase awareness of alternative ways of understanding human evolution.
Mathewson summarizes the findings of his paper thusly:
“As a result of research into PBM [photobiomodulation] and the effects of R&NIRR [red and near infrared radiation] it is proposed that the primary spark for the last 2my of human brain evolution was hairlessness, which allowed ATP extrasynthesis and cerebral metabolic and haemodynamic enhancement. This drove the very rapid brain expansion in an evolution that started around 1.8mya. While the Pleistocene climate was still equable 2mya, there was an immediate advantage in becoming hairless in Africa – it allowed ATP extrasynthesis and natural PBM at dusk every evening. But recently as it became colder and with the redevelopment of scalp hair and the necessity to wear clothes, advantage turned to liability in Europe and northern Asia. Although vitamin D synthesis has benefited from hairlessness, this was fortuitous. Vitamin D continues to play an important role in brain evolution, although clothes restrict its synthesis and deficiency is common, especially in the elderly. It is hoped that this hypothesis will encourage further research into PBM as a non-invasive effective treatment for neurological conditions in particular, using repeated treatments as in .”
Recommended articles by Sayer Ji:
- Noni Leaf Extract Superior to Chemotherapy for Lung Cancer (Preclinical Study)
- Better Than Chemo: Turmeric Kills Cancer Not Patients
- Mammography Is Harmful and Should Be Abandoned, Scientific Review Concludes
- Cinnamon May Be Superior to Ibuprofen for Menstrual Pain, Study Reveals
- “Killer Germs” Obliterated by Medicinal Smoke Smudging, Study Reveals
- Coconut Water: A New Alzheimer’s Disease Treatment?
- Turmeric’s ‘Smart Kill’ Properties Put Chemo & Radiation To Shame
- 6 Evidence-Based Ways Drumming Heals Body, Mind and Soul
- Tylenol Kills Emotions As Well As Pain, Study Reveals
- Research: Plants Cure Cancer, Not Chemicals
- Beet Juice Boosts Cognitive Function In One Dose
- 13 Evidence-Based Medicinal Properties of Coconut Oil
- 25 Cancer Stem-Cell Killing Foods That Are Smarter Than Chemo and Radiation
About the author:
Sayer Ji is on the Board of Governors for the National Health Federation and Fearless Parent, Steering Committee Member of the Global GMO Free Coalition (GGFC), a reviewer at the International Journal of Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine, and founder of GreenMedInfo.com – an open access, evidence-based resource supporting natural and integrative modalities.
In 1995 Sayer received a BA degree in Philosophy from Rutgers University, where he studied under the American philosopher Dr. Bruce W. Wilshire, with a focus on the philosophy of science. In 1996, following residency at the Zen Mountain Monastery in upstate New York, he embarked on a 5 year journey of service as a counsellor-teacher and wilderness therapy specialist for various organizations that serve underprivileged and/or adjudicated populations. Since 2003, Sayer has served as a patient advocate and an educator and consultant for the natural health and wellness field.
40 mins ·
Ashwagandha, also known as winter cherry, is a powerful medicinal herb that has incredible adaptogenic properties that can significantly reduce stress related conditions such as adrenal fatigue, adrenal exhaustion, and heart and kidney problems. Ashwagandha is a rich source of minerals including zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium, vanadium, copper, and cobalt.
It is an effective immune boosting herb that has the ability to increase white blood cell count and prepare the body to produce antigens to fight against different infections and allergies. Ashwagandha is also excellent for improving the function of the brain and neurotransmitters which can aid neurological conditions such as brain fog, migraines, tremors, tics & spasms, restless leg syndrome, chronic nerve pain, and shingles .
Ashwagandha also is beneficial for the thyroid as it helps the body produce thyroid hormones which can increase energy, metabolism, and promote a balanced sleep cycle. Ashwagandha has been shown to improve oxygen flow and usage on a cellular level which is very beneficial for those suffering with breathing problems such as COPD and asthma as well as for athletes looking to increase there endurance and strength while training.
It is also highly beneficial for depression, anxiety, insomnia, anemia, candida, type 2 diabetes, and autoimmune disorders such as fibromyalgia, lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, and Guillain-barre syndrome. Historically, ashwagandha has also been used as a natural infertility treatment
Learn more about which herbs can heal and restore your body in my new book, click here http://bit.ly/MM-book
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Celebrating Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez, A Legend In His Time
Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez’s passing is an unthinkable loss for so many who were inspired, transformed, and saved by his work. He was a clinical genius, an activist, and a visionary that changed the course of medicine for all those willing to let go of the old paradigm.
Being tuned to the truth is like having supersonic hearing. In this way, one hears things that others don’t and perceives that which is dismissed by the masses. We truth-seekers know each other when we meet. We share a vibration. We know that we can go it alone, but sharing the space with others feels like a balm to a weary soul. It feels like instant familial recognition.Since I departed from conventional medicine eight years ago, I’ve never had a true mentor. I’ve operated from a place of hunger, learning everything I could from anywhere available. I consumed enormous amounts of material, connected dots, and shared my findings.I never had a go-to resource for the inconsistencies and complexities that continued to challenge my understanding. I knew that those I would ask were also feeling their way in the dark in the same way I was. I devoted much of my time and effort to undermining assumptions about the conventional paradigm. If I could just be a gatekeeper protecting patients from the hook and sinker of a Pharma-driven disease model, I thought, then I have served my purpose.
Throughout this fight, however, I have marveled at the power of nutrition. I put down my prescription pad and fine-tuned dietary recommendations that seemed to be the magic bullet my patients had sought when they first filled that antidepressant prescription. I didn’t fully know why my nutritional program worked the way it did. Was it decreasing inflammation? Balancing blood sugar? Eliminating food antigens? Maybe it was just the placebo effect of my passion for this work?
I didn’t understand the truth about healing, about the body’s synergy with its own environment until I met Dr. Nick Gonzalez in January 2015.
A soft-spoken, well put together gentlemanly type, Nick’s energetic presence is so intense that I imagine few can tolerate it. When he would speak, his encyclopedic knowledge poured out like a golden river. I knew, almost instantly, that this man represented the single most powerful threat to the pillars of belief upholding the rotting temple of cancer treatment and chronic disease management. His integrity, his honesty, his compassion, his lighting-rod-like intuition, his passion all packaged in a man who could deliver a 4 hour lecture without a single note, a man with an impeccable pedigree, and one who fought, quietly, daily to uphold the truth.
Hearing a single case report of his – a woman presenting with biopsy-confirmed metastatic breast cancer, progressed on chemo, alive and thriving in his practice 34 years later – should have been grounds for international press conferences. And there wasn’t just one such patient. There were hundreds. He is responsible for not just prolonging lives of the condemned, but shepherding them to a state of vitality that would have otherwise never been even a consideration. He did this work, every day.
He did it because there was no one else who could.
The Making of the Healer
His path to greatness was so unusual, that one can only assume he was called to this mission of healing. Of being the first stop for those who know that the conventional system overpromises and under delivers, and the last stop for those who could not be helped by all of the great “experts” out there.
He was an accomplished journalist in the 70s before attending my alma mater – Cornell – for medical school. Through his investigative journalism, he had developed an interest in the creative geniuses in the nutrition realm at the time, like two-timeNobel Laureate Linus Pauling, and he went to Cornell (yes, he just decided to go and went, unlike the rest of us who had to toil, beg, and pray to be considered for admission) so that he could work with the then president of Memorial Sloan Kettering, Dr. Robert Good, a transplant pioneer with an expressed interest in nutrition. It was under Good’s wing that Nick was able to pursue the work of William Donald Kelley, dentist and clinical genius. He lived in his house and told me about being woken up at 4 in the morning to discuss science with this most unusual specimen of humanity. He writes:
“As part of my project, I eventually interviewed and evaluated more than 1000 of Kelley’s patients, concentrating on a group of some 455 patients diagnosed with cancer who had done well under his care. From this population, I wrote up in detail 50 cases, representing 26 different types of cancer. Even today, nearly 30 years later, I am still impressed by Kelley’s achievement.”
Kelley synthesized the works of neurophysiologists like Francis Pottenger and Ernst Gellhorn MD PhD who both elucidated the relevance of the autonomic nervous system to disease, with nutritional anthropologists like Weston A Price. He expanded and explored the relationship between ecological niches, ancestral nervous system dominance, the vulnerability to disease, and the role of specific diets for healing. Through Kelley’s own cancer recovery and self-experimentation, he intuited the work of Dr .John Beard around the relevance of pancreatic enzymes to cancer treatment and also developed an appreciation for the role of detox and the infamous coffee enema.
He treated and saved thousands of lives before he closed his practice, potentially withering into obscurity.
Nick’s analysis of Kelley’s cases allowed for a better understanding of the optimal manufacturing of pancreatic enzymes for anti-cancer effect. He describes this journey in his article, The History of the Enzyme Treatment of Cancer, complete with two poignantly moving cases of successful long-term treatment of stage IV lung cancer and Burkitt’s lymphoma. He greatly admired the work of Dr. Beard (and was known to give 3 hour lectures on the subject) who first claimed that pancreatic enzymes (trypsin) have anticancer activity based on the trophoblast theory of cancer. This theory has been substantiated by others such as Dr. Wicha whose work has confirmed that cancer does not arise from rogue mature cells, but from stem cells that lose regulatory control in a hostile, toxic environment.
In 1987, Nick started out on his own, despite being asked to work with Dr. Bob Atkins, the famed weight loss doctor. He knew he had his own work to do.
Metabolic Type Diet
We have, as people, evolved in different ecological niches, with different relationships to the environment. The late microbiologist, Rene Dubos was also an intellectual hero of Nick’s, who among many brilliant quotes, stated:
“man himself has emerged from a line descent that began with microbial life, a line common to all plant and animal species…[he] is dependent not only on other human beings and on the physical world but also on other creatures—animals, plants, microbes—that have evolved together with him. Man will ultimately destroy himself if he thoughtlessly eliminates the organisms that constitute essential links in the complex and delicate web of life of which he is a part.”
In these different niches, our nervous systems adapted to survive. Our ancestors interacted with the available food, the climate, and the microbes, and their bodies met and yielded to these forces like stone erodes from the waves. Those that survived, over time, had to be designed to complement the environment. From the Eskimos to the Amazonians, the alkaline vs acidic nature of available foods selectively stimulated arms of the autonomic nervous system to perfectly balance a system’s native dominance.
What an elegant truth.
There are those who thrive on a low meat, high leafy green and citrus diet, and those who thrive on a high-fat, meat three times a day regimen. And it turns out that your temperament and bodily habits can tell us a lot about where you fit in this spectrum. Kelley elucidated 10 dietary types on a map and also personally and clinically tested hundreds of nutrients for their properties in stimulating the para and sympathetic arms.
The reason that my dietary template has worked for so many years is because the patients who come to see me, are almost without exception, of a certain autonomic dominance in the parasympathetic arm. These patients require a broad diet, but one specifically inclusive of red meat and natural fats. My patients get well without eating boatloads of kale – in fact, I’ve been criticized for promoting a smoothie recipe without a single green in it!
All alternative practitioners know that food matters. But we are subject to the latest guru, some poorly designed study, or the lens of our own personal experience. Nick’s approach offers patients a personalization of diet for top-down regulation of all systems from immune to gut to endocrine.
My native inspiration from Price and Pottenger was given the most beautiful scaffolding in Nick’s work. Everything began to make perfect sense.
A New Paradigm
When I began working with Nick, I had to let go of what I understood about nutrients. About folic acid and calcium. I had to let it all go, all of the alternative medicine dogma (yes, there’s lots of it). I had to learn that certain nutrients, even synthetic, in low dose synergy have nervous system balancing effects that render more targeted use of herbs, fancy fatty acids, and antioxidants, unnecessary. As he said, whole books have been written about single nutrients, but for whatever each nutrient did, it stimulated the nervous system in a very specific and precise way. This nervous system is what controlled digestion, cardiovascular health, respiration, and immunity. It was the master controller – only second to the mind.
I asked him once, where does inflammation – a subject to which I have devoted about 8 years of research – fit into your worldview? He said, the five most important health-determining parameters were: autonomic nervous system, autonomic nervous system, autonomic nervous system, autonomic nervous system, autonomic nervous system. He was always crisp and clear in his messaging!
No, Nick didn’t use curcumin in his practice. No he didn’t treat the effects of chronic stress on adrenal function with adaptogens.
He didn’t need to. He divined a methodology that worked, and he stuck to it for 30 years. Not subject to the latest fad, the hottest new study, or a conference that he was so relieved to have gone to. He used a three-tiered approach of a personalized diet, detox, and supplementation, much of which was glandulars tailored for growth factor stimulation of deficient areas in a given patient.
And no, Nick didn’t just treat cancer. He wasn’t just responsible for keeping stage 4 patients alive – thriving – under his care for years and even decades beyond their death sentence. He also resolved Lyme, chronic fatigue, and even a case I plan to publish for him, of end-stage diabetes treated to vitalism with a high-carbohydrate whole foods diet.
I would sit in awe, my jaw literally agape, in his office reviewing his charts of cure after cure after cure.
I spent 7 months mentored by Nick and I count it as the most formative window of intellectual growth in my life. To be in his presence, to hear him speak was to tap into a wisdom that I can only attempt to transmit in my time as a clinician. Suffice it to say that his clinical outcomes are unmatched the world over, that his knowledge base spanned the esoteric arts, to biochemistry, to conventional cancer practice, and there has not been a clinican yet who is as able to synthesize this material with the level of meticulous, journalistic study he brought to each and every patient’s journey. He had the gift of inhabiting the role of the healer, of materializing a path to lasting wellness for his patients, while also being a true intellectual and a visionary. Most of us never merit one of these designations.
Nick was an activist and a deep supporter of health freedom. He had amassed an important and powerfully undermining knowledge of the flaws in conventional research designed to support the use of cancer diagnostics and associated chemical treatments. Of course, a trial of his own work was systematically sabotaged, about which he has written a book and articles, his detailed vindication recently published by a colleague, Colin Ross, MD.
A quick study, my intensive apprenticeship under Nick has inspired me anew. I dare say that my entire life has taken on a new meaning since knowing this man. His untimely and inexplicable death have forced me and his loved ones to bow down in surrender to the greater wisdom of our shared journeys.
For this moment, I am so deeply grateful to have stood in his light. To have heard the truth he channeled – it’s a sound so sweet, I hope to continue to share it with the world.
Shared with me by my dear partner, Louise Kuo Habakus:
When your eyes are tired the world is tired also.
When your vision has gone no part of the world can find you.
Time to go into the dark where the night has eyes to recognize its own.
There you can be sure you are not beyond love.
The dark will be your womb tonight.
The night will give you a horizon further than you can see.
You must learn one thing. The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn
anything or anyone that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
— David Whyte from The House of Belonging
8 Proven Health Benefits of Saffron
Posted on: Sunday, March 20th 2016 at 1:00 pm
Written By: Margie King, Health Coach
This article is copyrighted by GreenMedInfo LLC, 2016
This exotic spice has been used to treat more than 90 illnesses over 4,000 years. Here are just 8 healthy reasons to use more saffron.
When the Greek gods Zeus and Hera made love, the land burst open with blooming crocuses. Or so the legend goes.
While the crocus (Crocus sativus) is loved and appreciated as a colorful harbinger of spring, its mythic fame and power come from its vibrant saffron fronds or threads.
Prehistoric caves in Iraq are adorned with 50,000-year-old paintings made with saffron-based pigments.
Alexander the Great soaked in warm saffron baths to heal his battle wounds. In 1374 this spice even ignited a 14-week “Saffron War” over a hijacked 800-pound shipment.
Documents going back to Hippocrates reveal the use of saffron as a treatment in more than 90 illnesses over 4,000 years. During the Black Death demand for medicinal saffron skyrocketed. This exotic spice has been used for coughs, colds, stomach ailments, insomnia, uterine bleeding, scarlet fever, heart trouble, and flatulence.
Is it all just myth?
No. Modern research backs up the wisdom of the ancients. Saffron has been shown to modulate at least 22 biological pathways. Here are just a few of the proven curative benefits of saffron.
Saffron relieves many psychiatric conditions. Practitioners of Persian traditional medicine use it to treat depression. Studies validate the practice.
One six-week double-blind randomized trial compared saffron to the drug fluoxetine (Prozac). Researchers randomly assigned 40 patients diagnosed with depression to receive either 30 mg per day of saffron or 20 mg of Prozac. Results showed saffron was as effective as Prozac for mild to moderate depression.
In another double-blind study published in the journal Progress in Neuropsychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry saffron was just as effective as Prozac in treating depression. In this eight-week trial 40 patients randomly received 15 mg of saffron or 10 mg of Prozac twice a day. The treatments yielded similar results and both resulted in a 25% remission rate.
Saffron was also shown to be as effective as the depression drug imipramine (Trafanil) for mild to moderate depression with fewer side effects.
And a meta-analysis of five randomized trials found that saffron is effective in treating major depressive disorders compared to a placebo.
2. Sexual Dysfunction
In ancient Egypt, Cleopatra used a quarter-cup of saffron in her warm baths before her encounters with men. She was said to believe that the saffron would make lovemaking more pleasurable. She may have been right.
Studies show that saffron is effective in treating erectile dysfunction. In one study 20 patients with ED took a 200 mg capsule of saffron every morning. After just 10 days, scores of rigidity and tumescence were significantly higher, and erections increased in frequency and duration.
In another study of 50 diabetic men, one group was treated with topical saffron and the other group with a topical placebo. Results showed saffron gel significantly improved erectile dysfunction and the authors suggested that saffron be considered a treatment option for ED.
And saffron can relieve sexual dysfunction caused by Prozac. In a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study 36 men on Prozac received either 15 mg of saffron or a placebo twice a day. After four weeks the saffron group had significantly greater improvement in erectile dysfunction and intercourse satisfaction. And 60 percent of the saffron group achieved normal erectile function scores.
Saffron improves sexual problems induced by Prozac in women too. In a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study 38 women on Prozac complained of sexual dysfunction. They were treated with either a placebo or 30 mg per day of saffron. After four weeks the saffron group scored significantly higher in sexual functions including arousal, lubrication, and pain.
3. Pancreatic Cancer Stem Cells
Saffron contains a carotenoid compound called crocetin. In a study published in the journal Oncotarget, researchers found that crocetinic acid, a purified compound from crocetin, inhibited the growth of human pancreatic cancer cells grown either in a dish or as tumors under the skin of mice.[i]
Crocetinic acid significantly reduced tumor growth by 75 percent compared to a control group of mice which saw a 250 percent increase in tumor growth. According to researchers, crocetinic acid was so effective because it targeted pancreatic cancer stem cells that usually resist conventional treatments like chemotherapy.
The authors noted that the dose of crocetinic acid needed to achieve their results was not at all toxic to normal human cells. They suggested that carotenoids are well tolerated at high doses and numerous studies have supported their use in cancer chemoprevention and chemotherapy.
4. Macular Degeneration
A study from Australian and Italian researchers shows saffron helps slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and improves vision.
The researchers conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of people with early stage AMD. One group in the study supplemented with 20 mg per day of saffron. After just 90 days the researchers saw significant improvement in the saffron group.[ii]
Then the researchers tested a group of 29 patients aged 55 to 85 with early-stage AMD. The patients received 20 mg per day of saffron as a supplement for about 14 months.[iii] The researchers observed improvements in their clinical measurements of the disease after saffron supplementation.
In addition, all of the patients reported an improvement in their quality of vision. They experienced improvements in contrast and color perception, reading ability, and vision in low lighting. All of that added up to a substantial improvement in the patients' quality of life.
The researchers noted that saffron contains crocin and crocetin, two antioxidant derivatives of carotenoids. Crocin protects photoreceptors from light-induced death. Crocetin increases the availability of oxygen to the cells.
5. Alzheimer’s Disease
Saffron is safe and effective in treating mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. In a randomized placebo-controlled trial 46 patients with probable Alzheimer’s were given either a placebo or 15 mg of saffron twice per day. After 16 weeks, the saffron group had significantly better cognitive function than the placebo group.
In fact, saffron is as effective as the Alzheimer drug donepezil (Aricept). In a multicenter, randomized, double-blind controlled trial 54 AD patients received either 30 mg of saffron a day or 10 mg of Aricept. After 22 weeks the saffron group did just as well as the Aricept group with fewer side effects.
6. Metabolic Syndrome
Saffron may significantly reduce the symptoms of metabolic syndrome. Researchers from the Middle East measured “heat shock proteins” (HSP) in 105 patients with metabolic syndrome. High levels of HSPs are linked to greater inflammation and higher risk of metabolic syndrome that can lead to diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
Patients received either 100 mg per day of saffron or a placebo. After three months, certain HSPs were significantly reduced by the saffron.
7. Weight Loss
Saffron may even help you lose weight. In a French study researchers tested an extract of saffron in 60 mildly overweight women. The women received either a placebo or 176.5 mg of the saffron extract twice a day. Over an 8-week period caloric intake was left unrestricted. At the end of the study the saffron group had a significantly greater body weight reduction than the placebo group. Women taking the saffron also reduced their snacking and had a greater sense of satiety.
8. Menstrual Pain
A double-blind and placebo-controlled trial found saffron relieves symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Women with PMS received either a placebo or 30 mg per day of saffron for two months. The authors concluded that saffron was effective for relieving PMS symptoms.
Use Saffron at Home
Saffron is known as the most precious spice in the world. Price estimates range from $1,000 to $5,000 per pound.
The cost is high because it takes about 15,000 crocus flowers to make just 3.5 ounces of dried saffron threads. And the harvesting is painstaking. It must be done entirely by hand during just one week a year.
Fortunately, saffron is powerful and you don’t need much. Just a pinch – about 20 threads - is all you need for most dishes. In fact, if you use too much you may find the taste bitter.
Avoid the powdered form of this spice. Instead, look for the actual threads or whole stigmas. The powders are often diluted with poor quality or less-expensive spices like turmeric.
Steep the threads in hot water or broth for 5 to 20 minutes. This releases the saffron's essence and aroma. But the threads will continue to release color and flavor for 24 hours. After soaking you can add them to your recipe.
Add saffron to risotto or other rice dishes. It also goes well in seafood dishes like bouillabaisse or paella. Or use it in beef stews or tomato sauces.
Store your saffron threads in an airtight container away from sunlight. It should last for years.
For more information on the health benefits of this amazing spice, visit Green Med Info's page on saffron.
[i] Parthasarathy Rangarajan, Dharmalingam Subramaniam, Santanu Paul, Deep Kwatra, Kanagaraj Palaniyandi, Shamima Islam, Sitaram Harihar, Satish Ramalinagam, William Gutheil, Sandeep Putty, Rohan Pradhan, Subhash Padhye, Danny R. Welch, Shrikant Anant, Animesh Dhar. Crocetinic acid inhibits hedgehog signaling to inhibit pancreatic cancer stem cells. Oncotarget, 2015; 6 (29): 27661 DOI: 10.18632/oncotarget.4871
[ii] Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group, "A randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial of high-dose supplementation with vitamins C and E, beta carotene, and zinc for age-related macular degeneration and vision loss: AREDS report no. 8," Archives of Ophthalmology, vol. 119, pp. 1417–1436, 2001.
[iii] Benedetto Falsini et al, "Influence of saffron supplementation on retinal flicker sensitivity in early age-related macular degeneration." Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2010;51(12):6118-24. Epub 2010 Aug 4. PMID: 20688744
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Margie King is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition®. A Wharton M.B.A. and corporate attorney for 20 years, she left the world of business to pursue her passion for all things nutritious. Margie is the author of Nourishing Menopause: The Whole Food Guide to Balancing Your Hormones Naturally. She is also a professional copywriter and natural health, beauty and nutrition writer. To contact Margie, visit www.NourishingMenopause.com.
B12 Deficiency Caused by This Popular Drug
March 30, 2016 | 23,810 views
By Dr. Mercola
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that your body does not make, which means you must get it via your diet or supplements. Vitamin B12, along with other B vitamins, is used by your body to convert the carbohydrates you eat into glucose that your body uses for energy.
Vitamin B12 also plays a role in the production of DNA and RNA and works closely with folate to make red blood cells and produce S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), which is involved in immune-system function and mood.1
Vitamin B12 is also important for the maintenance of your central nervous system, including the conduction of nerve impulses and producing the myelin sheath, which protects and "insulates" your nerves.2
A deficiency in vitamin B12 can be difficult to detect and may lead to numerous, sometimes-irreversible issues with your health, including nerve damage. If you take the diabetes drug metformin, it's important to be aware that you're at an increased risk of this potentially serious vitamin deficiency.
Diabetes Drug Metformin Linked to Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Researchers from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City used data from the Diabetes Prevention Program and the Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study to look into the effects of metformin use on vitamin B12 levels.
Data from participants taking metformin twice daily or those taking a placebo were included, and the participants had their vitamin B12 levels measured after five and 13 years.
Significant differences in vitamin B12 levels were found. Among those taking metformin, average vitamin B12 levels were lower and 4 percent were deficient compared to 2 percent in the placebo group.3
Further, nearly 20 percent of those taking metformin had borderline low vitamin B12 levels compared to 10 percent of those taking a placebo. More people in the metformin group were also anemic, which is associated with vitamin B12 deficiency.
Neither the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nor the American Diabetes Association formally recommends monitoring vitamin B12 levels in people taking metformin, but the researchers suggested patients ask their doctors to do so.4
How Common Is Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
Studies from the U.S. Framingham trial show nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population may have suboptimal blood levels of vitamin B12, which is a level low enough to experience neurological symptoms.5 Another 9 percent were considered deficient in the vitamin, while 16 percent were near deficient.
It's often said that vitamin B12 deficiency is more common in the elderly. This is because stomach acid decreases as you get older, and stomach acid is essential for your body to absorb vitamin B12.
However, the Framingham trial found low levels of the vitamin across the board; low levels were common in young people and the elderly alike.6
It should be noted, however, that many symptoms often attributed to aging may actually be due to vitamin B12 deficiency. This includes memory loss, cognitive decline, muscle weakness and more.
Why Low Levels of Vitamin B12 Are Often Missed
Most physicians do not routinely test their patients' vitamin B12 levels. Even if you have yours tested, the levels considered "normal" in the U.S. may still be too low.
Normal ranges of vitamin B12 in the U.S. are 200 pg/mL to 1100 pg/mL, even though people at the lower end of this spectrum (between 200 pg/mL and 350 pg/mL) often have symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency.7
In fact, if your levels are below 600 pg/mL, you might be suffering from B12 deficiency. Integrative medicine practitioner Chris Kresser explains:8
"In Japan and Europe, the lower limit for B12 is between 500 to 550 pg/mL, the level associated with psychological and behavioral manifestations such as cognitive decline, dementia and memory loss.
Some experts have speculated that the acceptance of higher levels as normal in Japan and the willingness to treat levels considered 'normal' in the U.S. explain the low rates of Alzheimer's and dementia in that country.
Experts who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of B12 deficiency, like Sally Pacholok, R.N. and Jeffery Stuart, D.O., suggest treating all patients that are symptomatic and have B12 levels less than 450 pg/mL.
They also recommend treating patients with normal B12, but elevated urinary methylmalonic acid (MMA), homocysteine and/or holotranscobalamin (other markers of B12 deficiency)."
The Signs and Four Stages of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
There are four stages of vitamin B12 deficiency:
- Stage 1: Declining B-12 blood levels due to absorption problems
- Stage 2: B12 stores are depleted at the cellular level
- Stage 3: Ability to synthesize new red blood cells is decreased
- Stage 4: Macrocytic anemia is considered a late indicator of B12 deficiency
The symptoms also progress in stages. Some of the initial signs of B12 deficiency include unexplained anemia and neuropsychiatric disorders, and gastrointestinal disorders such as Crohn's disease or infection with Helicobacter pylori.
If you are also elderly or a vegetarian and have some of these symptoms, a B12 deficiency may also be suspect for causing these problems.
Low levels can also lead to mental fogginess, memory troubles, muscle weakness, and — one of the hallmark signs — fatigue. Vitamin B12 also plays a role in:
Proper digestion, food absorption, iron use, carbohydrate and fat metabolism
Healthy nervous system function
Promotion of normal nerve growth and development
Help with regulation of the formation of red blood cells
Cell formation and longevity
Adrenal hormone production
Healthy immune system function
Support of female reproductive health and pregnancy
Feelings of well-being and mood regulation
Mental clarity, concentration, memory function
Physical, emotional, and mental energy
Vitamin B12 for Bone Health
Accumulating research also suggests low levels of vitamin B12 may wreak havoc on your bone health.
Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), for instance, revealed that mice deficient in vitamin B12 have growth retardation and fewer osteoblasts (cells responsible for bone formation).9
The researchers suggested that lack of vitamin B12 may interfere with growth signaling in the liver and its "downstream effect" on the osteoblasts. Meanwhile, low vitamin B12 status may increase the risk for bone fractures in older men.10
Older women with low levels of vitamin B12 (below 208 pg/ml) also experienced significantly more rapid bone loss in the hips — a sign of osteoporosis — than women with higher levels of B12 in a separate study11 A meta-analysis even found that raising vitamin B12 levels in older individuals lead to a reduction in fracture risk.12
Vitamin B12 Is Crucial for Mental and Cognitive Health
Vitamin B12's role in brain health and mental health is particularly significant and can cause a range of neurological disturbances that mimic depression, dementia and confusion, as well as serious mental illness .
According to a small Finnish study published in the journal Neurology, people who consume foods rich in vitamin B12 may reduce their risk of Alzheimer's disease in their later years.13 For each unit increase in the marker of vitamin B12 (holotranscobalamin), the risk of developing Alzheimer's was reduced by 2 percent.
Meanwhile, B-group vitamins may slow brain shrinkage by as much as seven-fold in brain regions specifically known to be most impacted by Alzheimer's disease.14 Among participants taking high doses of folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12, blood levels of homocysteine were lowered, as was the associated brain shrinkage — by up to 90 percent.
Who Is Most at Risk of Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
If you're a vegan who does not eat animal products, you are at high risk of deficiency, as vitamin B12 is available in its natural form only in animal food sources. This doesn't necessarily have to be meat — eggs and dairy are options also. Top foods to include are:
- Wild-caught Alaskan salmon
- Raw grass-fed dairy products
- Organic free-range eggs
- Grass-fed beef and beef liver
- Organic, free-range chicken
Children fed a vegan diet may continue to be deficient in the vitamin for years even after animal foods are added to their diet. It's extremely important for kids to receive adequate levels of vitamin B12 during these formative years. One study found children fed a vegan diet up until the age of 6 who had marginal vitamin B12 status may have impaired cognitive performance as adolescents.15
As mentioned, when you get older the lining of your stomach gradually loses its ability to produce hydrochloric acid (the stomach acid suppressed by proton pump inhibitors), which releases vitamin B12 from your food. If you're over 50, it's safe to assume you are not absorbing vitamin B12 at an optimal level. Other factors may also influence your body's ability to absorb vitamin B12 properly, including:
Leaky gut or gut inflammation
Low stomach acid
Medications including acid-suppressing drugs (antacids) and metformin
Exposure to nitrous oxide
In general, those most at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency include:
Vegetarians and vegans
People who regularly use proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)
People taking metformin
People with Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Women with a history of infertility or miscarriage
Oral Vitamin B12 Supplements Are Difficult to Absorb
Many people, including the elderly, those with gut disorders and vegetarians and vegans, could benefit from adding extra vitamin B12 to their bodies. There is one problem with supplementation however, which is the poor absorbability of oral vitamin B12 supplements.
Vitamin B12 is the largest vitamin molecule known. Because of its large size, it is not easily absorbed passively like most supplements, making many, if not most, oral B12 supplements are grossly ineffective. This is why vitamin B12 is often given via injection, especially for people with absorption issues. Sublingual (under your tongue) sprays are also effective, as they allow the large B12 molecule to be absorbed directly into your bloodstream.
Are You Taking Metformin for Diabetes or Diabetes Prevention?
During the three-year Diabetes Prevention Program study, lifestyle interventions were found to be more effective than metformin at preventing or delaying the development of diabetes. A follow-up study monitored the group for 15 years — and lifestyle interventions were still more effective than metformin at preventing diabetes.16
After the initial three-year study, those who made dietary changes and exercised at moderate intensity for 15 minutes daily were 58 percent less likely to develop diabetes compared to a placebo group. Those taking metformin were 31 percent less likely to develop the disease.
Such lifestyle interventions also work for treating and reversing diabetes, which should be welcome news for those looking to avoid the increased risks of B12 deficiency that may come with taking metformin long-term. You can find my recommended diet and exercise changes to prevent or treat type 2 diabetes here.
Artificial Sweeteners Cause Cancer
March 30, 2016 | 19,704 views
By Dr. Mercola
If you've added the artificial sweetener sucralose (brand name Splenda) to your diet because you think it's a healthy alternative to sugar, you're being dangerously misled. Research from the Ramazzini Institute has linked the popular sugar alternative to cancer, specifically leukemia.
The findings were first presented at a London cancer conference in 2012 and prompted The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) to downgrade Splenda from its "safe" category to one of "caution."
Now that the study has been published in a peer-reviewed journal, CSPI has again downgraded Splenda, this time from "caution" to "avoid."
Splenda May Increase Risk of Cancer in Mice
The researchers fed mice Splenda beginning prenatally and continuing for their entire lifespan. The mice were fed varying concentrations of the artificial sweetener: 0 ppm (parts per million), 500 ppm, 2,000 ppm, 8,000 ppm or 16,000 ppm.
A significant increase in cancerous tumors was seen among male mice, and the risk increased along with the dose. The risk of leukemia in male mice also significantly increased, especially at Splenda doses of 2,000 to 16,000 ppm.1 According to the study:
"These findings do not support previous data that sucralose is biologically inert. More studies are necessary to show the safety of sucralose, including new and more adequate carcinogenic bioassay on rats.
Considering that millions of people are likely exposed, follow-up studies are urgent."
CSPI explained that the only other long-term feeding studies conducted on Splenda were conducted by its manufacturer. The new study, they said:2
" … [I]s more powerful than the industry-funded studies, which tested fewer animals, started exposing the animals beginning at adolescence as opposed to in utero, and ended earlier in the animals' lives."
After more than a decade, CSPI has finally gotten it right about Splenda in recommending that consumers avoid it. For the record, however, CSPI is generally an organization whose guidelines need to be taken with a grain of salt.
For instance, while recommending that people avoid artificial sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame and saccharin, they still consider drinking diet soda to be safer than drinking regular soda.
Splenda Is Found in 4,500 Products
If you'd like to heed the warnings and cut Splenda from your diet, be aware that it's found in more than 4,500 products. Splenda has been smartly marketed, and it's most known for its tag line "made from sugar so it tastes like sugar."
It's earned a reputation for being somehow safer than other artificial sweeteners like aspartame, which is why PepsiCo ditched aspartame in its Diet Pepsi in 2015 and replaced it with none other than Splenda.
Splenda became one of the top-selling artificial sweeteners in the U.S. in a very short period of time. Between 2000 and 2004, the percentage of U.S. households using Splenda products jumped from 3 percent to 20 percent. By 2012, Splenda generated sales of nearly $288 million.3
But make no mistake; Splenda is far from natural, even though it technically does start off as a sugar molecule. In the five-step patented process of making sucralose, three chlorine molecules are added to a sucrose or sugar molecule.
A sucrose molecule is a disaccharide that contains two single sugars bound together: glucose and fructose. The chemical process to make sucralose alters the chemical composition of the sugar so much that it is somehow converted to a fructose-galactose molecule.
This type of sugar molecule does not occur in nature, and therefore your body does not possess the ability to properly metabolize it. As a result of this "unique" biochemical make-up, the manufacturers claim that Splenda is not digested or metabolized by your body, making it have zero calories.
Splenda is supposed to pass right through you. However, the research (which is primarily extrapolated from animal studies) indicates that about 15 percent of sucralose is, in fact, absorbed into your digestive system and ultimately stored in your body.
Splenda May Decimate Your Gut Bacteria
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If the potential cancer finding isn't enough to sway you away from this toxic artificial sweetener, be aware that Splenda may wreak havoc on your gut bacteria, which could have an untold number of consequences on your health.
An animal study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, for instance, found that Splenda reduces the amount of beneficial bacteria in rat intestines by 50 percent while also increasing the pH level.
It also affected a glycoprotein that may affect the way certain drugs are metabolized by the body.4 The researchers explained:
"At the end of the 12-wk treatment period, the numbers of total anaerobes, bifidobacteria, lactobacilli, Bacteroides, clostridia, and total aerobic bacteria were significantly decreased … Splenda also increased fecal pH
These changes occurred at Splenda dosages that contained sucralose at 1.1 to 11 mg/kg (the U.S. FDA Acceptable Daily Intake for sucralose is 5 mg/kg).
Evidence indicates that a 12-wk administration of Splenda exerted numerous adverse effects, including (1) reduction in beneficial fecal microflora, (2) increased fecal pH, and (3) enhanced expression levels of P-gp, CYP3A4, and CYP2D1, which are known to limit the bioavailability of orally administered drugs."
Splenda May Have Neurotoxic Effects and Is Found in Water
Research published in 2014 detailed Splenda's oxidative effects and suggested the sweetener may have neurotoxic properties.
The researchers, who assessed the effects of sucralose on water fleas, concluded that: "exposure to sucralose may induce neurological and oxidative mechanisms with potentially important consequences for animal behavior and physiology."5
The enzyme acetylcholinesterase is found in all animals, and for researchers looking for possible effects that artificial sweeteners like Splenda might have on animals and humans, this new information was disturbing.
If for no other reason, that’s why it’s so important to find out the consequences of Splenda exposure sooner rather than later, as the chemicals have already been detected in municipal effluents and surface waters in both the U.S. and Europe.6
Splenda Raises Your Insulin Levels
Far from being an inert substance, research also shows that Splenda affects your body's insulin response. When study participants drank a Splenda-sweetened beverage, their insulin levels rose about 20 percent higher than when they consumed only water prior to taking a glucose-challenge test.7
Blood sugar levels also peaked at a higher level, "So the artificial sweetener was related to an enhanced blood insulin and glucose response," researchers noted, adding:8
"Although we found that sucralose affects the glucose and insulin response to glucose ingestion, we don't know the mechanism responsible. We have shown that sucralose is having an effect. In obese people without diabetes, we have shown sucralose is more than just something sweet that you put into your mouth with no other consequences.
What these all mean for daily life scenarios is still unknown, but our findings are stressing the need for more studies. Whether these acute effects of sucralose will influence how our bodies handle sugar in the long term is something we need to know."
Artificial Sweeteners Confuse Your Metabolism
When you eat something sweet, your brain releases dopamine, which activates your brain's reward center. The appetite-regulating hormone leptin is also released, which eventually informs your brain that you are "full" once a certain amount of calories have been ingested.
However, when you consume something that tastes sweet but doesn't contain any calories, like an artificial sweetener, your brain's pleasure pathway still gets activated by the sweet taste. However, there's nothing to deactivate it since the calories never arrive.
Artificial sweeteners basically trick your body into thinking that it's going to receive sugar (calories), but when the sugar doesn't come your body continues to signal that it needs more, which results in carb cravings.
Contrary to industry claims, research over the last 30 years — including several large-scale prospective cohort studies — has shown that artificial sweeteners stimulate appetite, increase cravings for carbs, and produce a variety of metabolic dysfunctions that promote fat storage and weight gain — often to the researchers' great surprise.
For instance, a 2010 review published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine revealed the correlation between increased usage of artificial sweeteners in food and drinks and the corresponding rise in obesity. More than 11,650 children aged 9 to 14 were included in this study. Each daily serving of diet beverage was associated with a body mass index (BMI) increase of 0.16 kg/m2.
You can see the trends for yourself in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine graphic below, which clearly refutes the beverage industry's claims that artificially sweetened diet soda aids weight loss.
Are There Safer Artificial Sweeteners?
I recommend avoiding artificial sweeteners of any kind, as each is linked with its own risks. Aspartame is perhaps the most dangerous of the bunch. At least it's one of the most widely used and has the most reports of adverse effects. There are also hundreds of scientific studies demonstrating its harmful effects.
Sugar alcohols are another option on the market. They can be identified by the commonality of "ol" at the end of their name, such as xylitol glucitol, sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol, glycerol, and lactitol. They're not as sweet as sugar, and they do contain fewer calories, but they're not calorie-free. So don't get confused by the "sugar-free" label on foods containing these sweeteners.
One reason that sugar alcohols provide fewer calories than sugar is because they're not completely absorbed into your body. Because of this, eating too many foods containing sugar alcohols can lead to abdominal gas and diarrhea. It's also worth noting that maltitol, a commonly used sugar alcohol, spikes blood sugar almost as much as a starchy new potato.
Xylitol, in comparison, does not have a great effect on your blood sugar, so from that perspective it may be a better choice. In moderation, some sugar alcohols can be a better choice than artificial sweeteners like Splenda and aspartame. Of the various sugar alcohols, xylitol is one of the best. When it is pure, the potential side effects are minimal, and it actually comes with some benefits such as fighting tooth decay.
All in all, I would say that xylitol is reasonably safe, and potentially even a mildly beneficial sweetener. As a side note, xylitol is toxic to dogs and some other animals, so be sure to keep it out of reach of your family pets.)
That being said, two of the best natural sugar substitutes are from the plant kingdom: Stevia and Luo Han Guo (also spelled Luo Han Kuo). Stevia, a highly sweet herb derived from the leaf of the South American stevia plant, is sold as a supplement. It's completely safe in its natural form and can be used to sweeten most dishes and drinks.
Luo Han Kuo is similar to Stevia, but it's a bit more expensive and harder to find. In China, the Luo Han fruit has been used as a sweetener for centuries, and it's about 200 times sweeter than sugar.
How to Break Free From Artificial Sweeteners
The best option of all is to break free from the grip of artificial sweeteners, which starts by eliminating your sugar cravings. If you aren't craving something sweet, you probably won't have a desire to reach for an artificial sweetener.
First, I highly recommend trying an energy psychology technique called Turbo Tapping, which has helped many "soda addicts" kick their habit, and it should work for any type of sweet craving (or diet soda craving) you may have. A few other tricks to try to kick your sugar cravings:
- Exercise: Anyone who exercises intensely on a regular basis will know that significant amounts of cardiovascular exercise is one of the best "cures" for food cravings. It always amazes me how my appetite, especially for sweets, dramatically decreases after a good workout.
- I believe the mechanism is related to the dramatic reduction in insulin levels that occurs after exercise. Additionally, if you do eat sugars or fruits around the time of the exercise, your sugar levels will not rise as it will metabolized for fuel
- Organic, black coffee: Coffee is a potent opioid receptor antagonist, and contains compounds such as cafestrol — found plentifully in both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee — which can bind to your opioid receptors, occupy them and essentially block your addiction to other opioid-releasing food.9,10 This may profoundly reduce the addictive power of other substances, such as sugar.
- Sour taste, such as that from cultured vegetables, helps to reduce sweet cravings, too. This is doubly beneficial, as fermented vegetables also promote gut health. You can also try adding lemon or lime juice to your water.