GMO Problems and Solutions

Do you remember the days when your mother or grandmother made big family meals from scratch? Everything tasted pure and delicious, and the food was all naturally prepared and from the earth. You knew it was safe to eat and everyone felt abundantly satisfied from every bite.

In today’s society we aren’t that lucky. The use of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and especially genetically modified crops has turned the simple habit of eating healthy foods into a confusing maze. We have to be careful what direction we take or we may be unintentionally eating unhealthy foods.

When food has been altered at the gene level, it is often referred to as genetically modified organisms or the acronym “GMO.” You have probably also heard genetically altered, genetically engineered, or genetically manipulated as terms to describe the food you think is food.

GMO foods are everywhere—from produce sections to most aisles in your average grocery store, with approximately 70% of all products estimated to contain components of genetically modified materials. The intention should be to consume the healthiest foods to nourish your body, and knowledge can be a very powerful tool in the world. The question is, who do you believe? Some argue that GMO foods are the answer to solving third world hunger by creating more yields for farmers and foods with a longer shelf life.

The biotech conglomerate Monsanto is known as the pioneer of genetically engineered crops and the agrichemicals used on farms worldwide today. Monsanto and many junk food companies such as Coca-Cola, Nestle, and PepsiCo Inc. spent millions of dollars to fight against the GMO-labeling efforts of 2012’s California’s Proposition 37—a GMO-labeling initiative. The money used to prevent GMO-labeling could have gone a long way to provide food for the hungry around the world. Monsanto spent $7.1 million toward the GMO fight, while PepsiCo Inc. provided $2.5 million, Coca-Cola gave $1.7 million, and Nestle U.S.A contributed about $1.3 million. Every GMO-labeling initiative in the U.S. has not had success.

Statistics indicate that 94% of Americans and 88% of Canadians want GMO products labeled, and currently there are no labeling laws required. Do other countries support GMO crops like the U.S. and Canada? No. There are approximately 26 countries with total or partial bans on the production and sale of GMO products. About 60 other countries around the world also have significant GMO restrictions as well. The countries around the world that don’t consider GMO foods safe include New Zealand, Switzerland, Japan, Australia, and the countries within the European Union.

Why is it so important for us to have GMO awareness, labels, and to avoid genetically modified foods at all cost?

GMO Health Risks

A 2004 U.S. National Academies of Sciences report states, “To date, no adverse health effects attributed to genetic engineering have been documented in the human population.”

However, there have been very few actual studies on the effects of GMO foods on human health. Large agribusiness companies produce substandard studies, and they won’t investigate how GMO foods affect the immune system, liver function, endocrine system, cancer potential, the influence of gut bacteria, and many more possible GMO concerns.

Several independent studies report adverse effects from GMO foods and products. There are many scientists that speculate that genetically altered foods can trigger allergic, asthmatic, or inflammatory reactions in some people. There is a fear that GMO foods may create new toxins that lead to diseases and antibiotic resistance. There are animal lab tests and observations by farmers who feed livestock genetically modified feed that indicate vital organ damage and extensive reproductive problems.

GMO Environmental Impact

Whether GMO foods impact human health or not, there is much environmental concern as well, including organic farms being exposed to genetically engineered pollution. It is possible that genetically engineered crops are transferred to neighbouring organic farms by the wind and pollen from bees. Such may have been the case in 1998 when Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser’s canola was found to contain 95-98% of Monsanto’s patented Roundup Ready gene in 10-kilometers of land. Schmeiser hadn’t even purchased any Monsanto seed. Organic crops are in jeopardy; however, in some cases GMO crops may not necessarily feed the world after all.

GMO crops had a reduction of pesticide application and soil erosion from tilling, according a U.S. National Academy of Sciences report in 2010. The report also claimed that genetically engineered crops have created glyphosate-herbicide resistant weeds, which would cause the GM crops to lose effectiveness without another weed management strategy from farmers.

Herbicide Roundup Overuse

There is an environmental concern with farmers using five to 10 times more herbicide Roundup on Roundup Ready crops than with conventional crops such as soy and canola. The heavier herbicide use may also pollute the groundwater, lakes, and rivers. The development of herbicide-resistant superweeds could threaten many of the county’s crops and could cause a dreadful outcome from heavy use of herbicide.

Modified Gene Populations

Once a genetically engineered gene has changed, it can’t return to its original form. A 2010 University of Arkansas study indicated that approximately 83% of wild or weedy canola that was tested had contained genetically modified herbicide-resistance genes. Some of the canola also contained a combination of transgenic traits and herbicide resistance genes that hadn’t previously been developed within canola. This suggests that the modified genes are creating populations.

Endangered Species at Stake

Monarch butterflies, an endangered species, is also at stake according to a 1999 Cornell study. Monarch caterpillars have been consuming milkweed leaves dusted with pollen from GMO corn: about half of the caterpillars died within four days.

Foods Impacted by GMOs

In the U.S., there are more than 50 genetically modified crops approved for sale. There were zero acres of genetically modified seed in 1994, and today there are over 200 million acres. There are over 1,000 patents issued for genetically modified foods today.

The Big Three: Soybeans, Canola, and Corn

With no laws mandating the labeling of genetically modified crops, a complete list of genetically modified food would be difficult to provide. There are, however, an estimated 30,000 different products that are considered modified sitting on grocery store shelves. Unless a product is certified organic, then it may contain genetically modified foods.

Modified soybeans, corn, and canola are all considered major components on those shelves. Also, consider corn or soybean derivatives such as corn oil, cornstarch, corn flour, high-fructose corn syrup, soy oil, soy flour, soy lecithin, and soy protein isolates. They count as well. More than half of North America’s soy crops are genetically modified. In the U.S. 35% of all corn and about 50% of all cotton are grown from genetically modified crops. Also, the majority of the canola oil from Canada is derived from genetically modified rapeseed. It is a good idea to also avoid generic vegetable oils, restaurant margarines, and processed foods because they are mostly made from modified ingredients such as soy, corn, canola, or cottonseed unless they are labeled otherwise.

Other Known GM Crops

There are many other genetically modified foods throughout grocery stores. Some more common genetically modified crops to avoid include sugar beets, sugar cane, peas, papaya, squash, tobacco, sweet corn, corn, tomatoes, cotton, zucchini, and rice. Some Canadian honey is known to come from nectar that bees have collected from genetically modified canola plants. Grocery stores will also contain genetically modified seedless and seeded grapes.

You must also be careful of your supplemental vitamins. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is often made from GMO corn, and GMO soy makes vitamin E. Vitamin D and K may also be linked to GMO corm sources like glucose, starch, and maltodextrin. Vitamins A, B2, B6, and B12 may also come from genetically modified ingredients.

Avoid Modified Animal Products

The conventional meat and dairy products that you would purchase in your local grocery store typically come from animals that consume genetically modified feed. The cow’s milk isn’t safe either. In the U.S., there are nearly 22% of cows injected with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), which means they are genetically modified.

Invisible GM Ingredients

In cookies, cereals, and other processed products, you may not know for sure whether they contain genetically modified ingredients. These are among the included ingredients that may be made from genetically modified crops: aspartame, baking powder, caramel colour, cellulose, citric acid, cobalamin, whey, whey powder, xanthan gum, sorbitol, inositol, inverse syrup, leucine, lysine, stearic acid, fructose, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, glycerol, glycerol monoleate, malitol, malt, and malt syrup.

For a complete list visit

How To Be a Conscientious Consumer

What does the conscientious shopper buy with so many GMO-infected foods on the market today? There are definitely steps you can take to avoid GMO consumption.

Purchase Organic

Organic crops don’t contain genetically modified organisms, or pesticides and fertilizers. Organic and grass-fed animals are also free of antibiotics and growth hormones. Local holistic markets, farmer’s markets, natural health food stores, and organic farms are good places where can find organic food. When purchasing organic products look for the labels “organic,” “100% organic,” and “made with organic ingredients.”

Look for the Non-GMO Project Seal

The Non-GMO Project is North America’s only third-party verification for products that avoid genetically modified ingredients. They are a non-profit organization with a commitment to educating consumers about non-GMO choices. Just like GMOs themselves, the list of non-GMO products is growing and growing.

For a complete list visit

To help make the right choices at the health food store, download the free iPhone application ShopNoGMO at the iTunes store.

Avoid Suspect Ingredients

When buying organic products or foods is not an option, what do you do? Be sure to avoid products with ingredients that may have been derived from GMOs. Remember, the main genetically modified food crops include soybeans, canola, corn, cottonseed, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, papaya (from China), and also yellow squash and zucchini. A non-organic product must indicate pure cane sugar, or the sugar from the product may have come from sugar cane and genetically modified sugar beets. Dairy products may also be derived from cows that were infused with genetically engineered bovine growth hormone.

To solve the problems of GMOs in today’s society, it is important to have access to the proper education to make informed choices. Your non-GMO choices will allow you to eat real food—as natural as your mother and grandmother used to make for you.


The Institute of Holistic Nutrition, Nutrition and the Environment — Course Notes. Toronto, 2014, p. 32, 76, 130-140.

George Mateljan, The World’s Healthiest Foods: Essential Guide for the healthiest way of eating (Seattle: George Mateljan Foundation), 2007, p. 374, 401, 447.

Elson M. Haas, M.D., and Buck Levin, PhD, R.D., Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine (New York: Random House, Inc.), 2006, p. 376, 482-483.

‘GMO Facts,” Non-GMO Project web site;, last accessed March 12, 2014.

Stephen Lendman, “Potential Health Hazards of Genetically Engineered Foods,” Global Research web site, February 22, 2008;, last updated Feb. 15, 2014.

“Companies Against GMO Labeling,” Inspiration Green web site;, last accessed March 12, 2014.

“Non-GMO Shopping Tips,” Non-GMO Shopping Guide web site;, last accessed March 12, 2014.

“Non-GMO Shopping Guide,” Non-GMO Shopping Guide web site;, last accessed March 12, 2014.

Put a Spring in your Step with a 5-Day Foods-Based Spring Cleanse

As spring comes to a close and we move closer to the warmer summer weather, it is appropriate to re-think our health following yet another harsh winter. Spring and summer are the ideal time to let in light and let go of old diet and self-defeating habits!

Instead of a crazy fast or expensive ‘packaged’ cleanse, why not try detoxifying with real, living, nutrient dense foods? A real food cleanse can last anywhere from three to twenty-one days and uses juices, smoothies and pureed vegetable soups. All of these foods are easy on the digestive system and nourish the body with antioxidants and phytonutrients (nutrients from colourful plant-based sources). Even if you do not wish to puree your food, going on a clean diet has many benefits. Fresh plants are rooted in nature, literally, and they have natural energy which is passed on to you.

By making the switch from eating a Standard American Diet (SAD) to eating high fibre and nutrient-dense foods, you will give your body the opportunity to ‘Rest and Digest’. This sounds like a modest goal but it really is the key to good health. It is also the very basis of holistic nutrition which places strong emphasis on digestive health.

For your cleanse, try a five-day period from Monday to Friday. Weekends are not always conducive to undertaking dietary changes. If following the recommendations properly, you should not feel hungry or deprived while ‘eating clean’, especially if you are choosing low glycemic-load and high-fibre foods, which fill you up and keep your blood sugars stable. But first…

What is Detoxification?

Detoxification is about ‘opening all the doors’ of elimination.  All of the channels of elimination (kidneys, skin, intestines, blood, lymph, and perspiration) must be opened before you start detoxifying the liver. Otherwise, your liver will feel overburdened and you will start to experience headaches and malaise (signs of a healing crisis). Your skin is your largest detoxification organ, thus remember to rub your skin with a dry brush or a stiff towel before getting in the shower to stimulate your circulation and help you to detox further.

Detoxification does not mean fasting. Most people do not have the proper blood sugar control to fast and end up feeling dizzy, hungry and may even find it difficult to participate in everyday activities.

Five Day Real Food Cleanse

Undertaking a real food cleanse carries less chance of triggering a ‘healing crisis’.  This basically means that your body has reached its ability to safely detoxify toxins. When that happens, the body tries to ‘help’ detoxification along by bringing on diarrhea, headaches, and inflammation. As your body let’s go of toxic waste, and your cells become cleaner, it becomes easier to recognize a hidden reaction to gluten, dairy, soy or any of the other common food allergies. When you are feeling sick and tired all the time, it is harder to ‘listen’ to what your body is trying to telling you.

People who consume large amounts of caffeine, alcohol, and sugar, (or who have multiple food allergies), may experience some malaise when they first make the switch from a Standard American Diet (SAD) to a whole-foods cleanse. Symptoms of withdrawal (headaches, cravings, fatigue) usually disappear after three to four days. It is best to slowly reduce your intake of caffeine, alcohol, sugar, white flour, and over-the-counter medications (as directed by your physician) a week or two before you start your program.

How to prepare for a Cleanse?

When embarking on any new path, it’s always good to have a plan. Your first step is to put in place optimal conditions for detoxification. Therefore, find a time when your stress-load is not as high, and make sure that you have stocked the refrigerator and pantry with fresh, alkaline-forming foods. Of course, get rid of any prepared and processed foods in the house before you attempt a cleanse. There is no sense in having a protein bar (yes, that constitutes a prepared food!) in your pantry as you attempt a cleanse.

These ideas are adapted from Dr. Mark Hyman, MD, from an article, “Detox made safe and Simple:[1]

1. Do a Kitchen Detox!  Toss out any junk or prepared foods, draft weekly menus, and make shopping lists for healthy foods you will be eating. This will ensure your success.

**A 3-day shopping list for a whole-foods Cleanse can be found here: go on a 5-day Cleanse you will need to double the amount of items purchased. **

2. Take your measurements and weigh yourself before you begin. If weight loss is your goal, measure your waist, hips, and record your weight so that you can track progress as you complete the whole-foods cleanse.

3. Using a 5-day Diet and Mood Diary will keep you aware of what you are putting in your mouth and how you feel afterwards. If you are prone to mood changes or migraines, make a note of what you are feeling and track duration, intensity and frequency. Later you can make note of any improvement when do your next 5-day cleanse.

4. Journaling is a great way to ‘cleanse’ your soul and relieve yourself of mental and emotional stress.

5. Have ready any supplements you need to take that have been advised for you by your certified nutritional practitioner.

6. Exercise, but ‘easy does it’. Aim for yoga, stretching, or 20 minute walks in fresh air.

7. Be prepared – have ready snacks in your fridge and book bag. Since life is ever changing, make sure that you keep healthy foods and snacks prepared ahead of time so that you can be ready for any changes in your schedule. Keep a wrapped organic apple, a small container of soaked almonds or cut-up vegetables in your book bag for those times. Healthy dips such as zucchini hummus, salsa or mashed avocado with cilantro, lemon juice and olive oil can also be kept in the fridge.

8. Move those bowels! If you experience constipation, consider taking 300 milligrams of magnesium citrate a couple of hours before bed. First thing in the morning, have a cup of warm water with lemon juice.

9. Salts key component and magnesium supports hundreds of enzymes in the body. You could try soaking in a warm Epsom salt bath the night before (2 cups of Epsom salt dissolved in the water with a few drops of lavender oil). An even better solution, (although a more expensive option) would be to soak in pH 8 ‘Alka Bath’ crystals, which draw acidity and toxins from the body. The product is available through Dr. P Jentschura alkaline living products.What Should I Eat?
EAT A whole-foods diet.Digestion takes work and slows down other functions in the body, such as detoxification. As digestion work eases, there is a point at which the body receives a signal to enter intense detox mode and releases trapped toxins and mucus. DON’T EAT Anything out of a package, box or tin or which contains chemicals.
Whole vegetables, leafy greens Dairy – no dairy for 5 days.  If you can, cut it out entirely. Almond, hemp or coconut milk can be substituted.
Naturally detoxifying vegetables – cauliflower, broccoli and leafy greens, these help eliminate toxins and normalize hormones. Frozen, canned or dehydrated vegetables and fruits. Aim for fresh and ‘living’ produce of every colour.Avoid any foods which your system might be sensitive to, or cause stiff joints. Some people are sensitive to ‘night-shades’ such as tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, potatoes, yams and sweet potatoes.
Low glycemic grasses, grains and seeds, brown basmati rice, black or mahogany rice, and/or quinoa (a seed which cooks like a grain). Some gluten free grains are fine but be mindful that grains raise insulin levels as they have a high glycemic index.Instead of wheat, try almond or coconut flour Gluten grains and wheat.
Stevia as a sweetener (or do without – fresh, natural food is sweet enough) Sugar – even ‘natural sugars’ should be removed from the diet as they also spike insulin and blood sugar levels get converted in the liver into glucagon and triglycerides, that can make you fat and create inflammation in the body.
Bean/legumes, and lentils (avoid soy beans) provide fibre to help regulate blood sugar, as well as help move toxins out. If you have sensitivities to legumes, avoid. Soy (even non-GMO tends to be contaminated). If eating soy, make sure that it is fermented soy (i.e., Tempeh, miso)
Green and white tea (unroasted green tea), with lemon slices can help bridge you over the hump of coffee withdrawal headaches. They will also help to detoxify you. Otherwise, herbal teas without caffeine, such as dandelion root tea, or ‘AlkaTea’ which contains 49 alkalinizing wild-crafted herbs, are great choices. Coffee, soda and alcohol.  Coffee is acidic, a diuretic and can make you feel less calm during a cleanse. Soda contains carbon dioxide as well as ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, which creates enormous stress on your liver and body tissues.
Wild fish, organic chicken and turkey Corn (corn is a processed grain made from maize and usually this is genetically modified).
Good saturated fats – avocado and coconut, their oils and butters. Avoid commercially raised red meat and farmed fish for 5 days. During a cleanse the goal is to put less stress on your liver and kidneys. If eating protein, make sure that it is grass-fed, hormone-free lean protein such as egg whites, chicken, turkey, or sustainably caught cold-water fish. Proteins secrete the hormone glucagon which helps in fat loss.
Nut and seed butters, extra-virgin olive oil Avoid peanuts. They are a legume, grown under-ground and can harbour mold. They are also acidic.
Whole fruits and berries Fruits that are highly sprayed with pesticides or prematurely ripened – eat organic. Otherwise, take caution around strawberries, oranges, grapes and bananas.

To watch a video of Dr. Oz on a 3-day liquid, vegan version of this cleanse, (and also get recipes), see this link:

As you embark on your whole-foods cleanse, keep in mind:

1)  Try not to cheat as you eliminate all refined sugars, flours, caffeine, alcohol, dairy, gluten, or addictive substances. By allowing certain triggers to stay in your diet, the body stays on the vicious cycle of cravings and addictive behavior. Reset your biology to eliminate all triggers. After a few days without sugar or refined flours, you will not miss them.

2) Eat in Season – Visit the farmer’s market, learn what is in season, and eat whole foods when they’re fresh and abundant.

3) Drink lots of water. Drink at least six to eight glasses of filtered water daily. Stay away from plastic bottles. Add a squeezed wedge of lemon – it is great for cleansing, as lemon is nature’s magic cleaner. In the spring, the ice melts and the rivers run strong. Imitate spring in your body with fresh water flowing through it constantly. Be careful not to over-hydrate or you will wash out your body’s natural minerals. Urine should be the colour of pale straw and slightly acidic. If it is very light, you are probably drinking too much water or herbal tea.

4) Eat every 3 or 4 hours – Don’t wait until you are starving to eat! Balance your blood sugar by eating protein-based meals and snacks every three to four hours. Excellent sources of protein are baked or broiled fish, lean poultry or black beans.

5) Supplement your diet with a high quality multi-vitamin, fish oil supplement and a wide-spectrum probiotic. Acidophilus is ‘friendly’ bacteria that helps to maintain a healthy digestive micro-flora, but it is only one of the many beneficial strains available to you. Each probiotic bacteria has a specific job. Some turn on minerals such as zinc, some activate vitamin D, others turn on serotonin receptors, or protect you from pathogenic bacteria.  Others work with fatty acids in your intestines. Make sure you don’t limit yourself to one strain.

To help you prevent detoxification headaches, ensure that your bowels and body tissues are clean.  For your tissues, supplement with 500 grams vitamin C with bioflavonoids with breakfast and dinner.  If needed, take 300 milligrams magnesium citrate a couple of hours before bed to aid with elimination in the morning.

6) Add essential fats and oils – EFAs such as fish oil, borage oil, and flaxseed oil, are wonderful for putting out the fire of any inflammation that may be in your body. ‘Essential’ meaning that you need them – your body cannot manufacture them on your own. You must include these oils (or their food equivalents) in your diet. If not, you absolutely must supplement them.

7)  Detox digitally – turn off your cell phone, television, computer, and stop tweeting! Turn off your ‘technology”  for a day. Spend the day writing a handwritten letter to a friend, reading a book, cooking a meal from scratch or reconnecting with nature.

8) Get moving – Increasing body temperature and blood flow with exercise and stretching aids the body’s ability to cleanse. Start each day by touching your toes in the shower for 10 seconds and end the day by touching your toes in bed for 10 seconds. Practicing this simple movement twice a day. Not only will this improve your flexibility but will also bring heat to the digestive tract, which naturally assists the body in the disposing of toxins. If you cannot touch your toes at first, do not worry. If you try for 10 seconds every morning and night, you will be able to do it in no time. As always, do not forget to breathe!

To boost your energy, exercise for 30 minutes a day. Walking outside in fresh air is best. Roll up those sleeves and let the sun hit you with some vitamin D!

9) Take an infrared sauna… or a lavender-scented bath – heat is a great resource while cleansing as it helps draw out toxins from within. If you don’t have access to a sauna, try a Epsom salts bath for 20 minutes a few times per week.

10) Chill-out – activating your ‘Rest and Digest’ parasympathetic nervous system helps restore your energy, stops production of the stress hormone cortisol, and helps your body to heal and replenish itself.  Meditation, deep breathing, or any calming activity is good.  Fatigue is normal during a cleanse so allow more time for rest.

 12) Get deep sleep – nature has its own cycles and rhythms. Going to sleep at sundown and waking up at sunrise is one sure way to sync with nature. Eight hours of sleep is ideal.

13) Do all those nice things that you like to do – make sure you fit time for deep relaxation into your schedule and plan things that make you happy, whether that means reading a good book undisturbed, or visiting friends who put the wind back in your sails.

14) Don’t smoke (or spend time around smokers, gasoline or exhaust fumes) – that would defeat the purpose of any health initiative. It goes without saying that you should not be taking any recreational drugs or alcohol during a cleanse.

In closing, a 5-day whole-foods cleanse is safe and allows the body to heal itself naturally.  You will start to make it up the stairs with less creaking of the knees, your skin will glow with vitality and you will feel more energetic. In making these changes, always work with a Certified Nutritional Practitioner to help determine what cleanse (and length of cleanse) will work best for you.

After completing your 5-day whole-foods cleanse, and following the advice listed above, you will be amazed at the amount of mucus that leaves your body.  Mucus is the body’s way of defending itself from the irritation caused by toxin accumulation. Keep a journal and track your symptoms. You should feel more energetic in three to seven days after eating a clean whole-foods diet. If you do not feel well at this point, please exercise caution and check in with your doctor.


[1] Hyman, M. MD, Detox made safe and simple, ,November 12, 2012. For further information see:

Additional References:

Lipski, E, Ph.D., CCN, Digestive Wellness. 3rd Edition, McGraw-Hill, 2005.

MindBodyGreen, Q&A with Dr Alejandro Junger, MD, Cardiologist

YouTube, How to Detox Your Diet with Dr. Alejandro Junger, Martha Stewart,

Can You Eat to Reverse Multiple Sclerosis?

If you have a loved one with multiple sclerosis[1], (as I do), you’ll love what this next post is about. It features the inspiring story of Dr. Terry Wahls[2], who reversed her multiple sclerosis after seven years of deterioration — simply by changing her diet. That she did it within 8 months and went on to complete an 18 mile bicycle tour is nothing short of miraculous. No drug has ever been able to claim the same results. Coming across her story late last year was the best Christmas present ever.

Dr. Wahls is a professor of internal medicine at the University of Iowa, where she teaches, and does rounds in a traumatic brain injury clinic. This conventional medical doctor had the courage to step outside the medical paradigm.  Initially diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS in 2000, she went the conventional route and was taking chemotherapy drugs and other immune suppressants in an attempt to slow the disease.

By 2003, Dr Wahls transitioned to ‘Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis’ (the more advanced form), and had to begin using a tilt-recline wheelchair because of weakness in her back muscles. In MS, the immune system becomes sensitized to and attacks proteins in the myelin sheath which protects the axons of the central nervous system.[3]

Like anyone with a degenerative condition, she wanted to forestall further deterioration as long as possible. Because of her medical training, Dr. Wahls knew that research in animal models of disease is often 20 or 30 years ahead of clinical practice. She stayed up late each night to scour through peer-reviewed research and analyze the latest articles on multiple sclerosis research.

She knew that most of the studies were testing drugs which would take years for FDA approval so she turned instead to the research on vitamins and supplements important to mitochondrial and brain health. As she continued to research late into the nights, she came across studies showing that over time, brains of people with MS tended to shrink. This spiked her curiosity and led her to research other diseases that share similar brain shrinkage, namely Huntington’s, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

One thing common to all these degenerative conditions is poorly functioning mitochondria. Mitochondria are like little ‘batteries’ in your cells that manage the energy supply to the cell.   If you forget to feed them, your cells wither and die. Muscles shrink, brain volume drops. Other cells in the body are also compromised.

Getting Better but not Quite There

In doing her research, Dr, Wahls discovered that three nutrients in particular were essential for proper mitochondrial function: 1) omega-3 fats – i.e., from fish or krill oil; 2) Creatine (a compound that is involved in the production of energy in the body); and 3) Coenzyme Q10 – preferably in the ‘reduced’, best-absorbed version known as Ubiquinol which has 3 times the antioxidant potential of standard Co-Q10. After taking these supplements, her decline slowed somewhat but she was still in a state of declining health.

The Big Change – Getting Nutrients from food

By the fall of 2007, Wahls had an important ‘aha’ moment. She wondered what would happen if she changed her diet so that she was getting these important brain nutrients not from supplements, but from the foods she was eating. For her mitochondria to thrive at their peak efficiency she needed B vitamins, sulphur and antioxidants. Dr. Wahls also wanted to eat all the foods that helped to make myelin – notably B1 (Thiamine), B9 (Folate) and B12 (Cobalamin), fish oil and iodine.

To accomplish all of this, she adapted a standard Hunter-Gatherer diet (basically eating what a caveman would eat) which included roots, seeds, nuts, oily fish, grass-fed meats, organ meats and natural iodine from sea vegetables.   She also ate 9 cups of non-starchy vegetables and berries each day.  (To make this easy to remember it`s 3 cups of greens, 3 cups of sulphur-containing vegetables, and 3 cups of colourful vegetables and berries.

Sulphurous vegetables include kale, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, garlic, onions, chives, leeks, mushrooms, asparagus, etc. Starchy vegetables such as potatoes or grains such as rice were not eaten unless her 9 cups of other vegetables were eaten first. Tips on eating ‘the Wahls way’ can be found on her website: You can also purchase Wahl’s book, Minding my Mitochondria, to read up more on her research, recipe and menu suggestions.

She called this way of eating ‘Intensive Directed Nutrition’ and it is easy to see why. She soon found she had more energy and felt better. Within 3 months she was able to get out of her wheelchair and walk down the halls at work using one cane. Later, by adding exercise and other therapies Dr Wahls progressively got better.

Why Cruciferous Vegetables and Sulphur?

Sulphur is responsible for hundreds of biochemical reactions in the human body. Together with antioxidants, sulphur helps the mitochondria to survive. By weight, sulphur is one of the most abundant minerals in the body – the average person contains about 140 grams of it at any one time. Sulphurous vegetables also help with creation of a potent antioxidant – glutathione – which may help prevent further damage to neurotransmitters. Additionally, you need sulphur for the synthesis of Taurine, an amino acid needed for proper functioning of the muscles and central nervous system. Sulphur also aids detoxification processes in the kidneys and liver.

Foods to Avoid

The diet of the typical North American is so poor in nutrients that they do not have the building blocks to feed the mitochondria or to make/repair myelin. It is very important to remove from the diet all refined or pre-packaged foods and Omega 6 oils and fats. You find Omega 6 fatty acids in corn fed meat, corn oil, safflower and vegetable oils, soybean oil, margarines and fried foods. That does not mean that one must remove all fats and oils from the diet however. ‘Healthy fats’ such as fish oils, flax seed oils and extra-virgin coconut and olive oils are encouraged.

Anything inflammatory and processed must be removed – so no sugar, high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, allergens, dairy, grains, or legumes. Peanuts and soy beans are legumes and raw dairy or fermented dairy still contains casein, so they must be removed from the diet.  Dairy, grains and legumes are implicated in auto-immune reactions for people with MS, so they must be avoided even in small amounts.[4] Small amounts of high-antioxidant raw cacao beans, and raw honey are allowed occasionally. Those who cannot manage going grain-free are encouraged to try going gluten-free first, but faster results are expected when the guidelines are strictly followed.

MS and Eggs

Organic, free-range, antibiotic-free eggs (if tolerated), are recommended because they contain choline – which together with inositol – is critical for myelin sheath repair. Synergistically they work to create natural lecithin in the body. Making it this way means that one does not have to rely on soy-derived lecithin.

Generally, people with autoimmune diseases should not have egg whites due to a problematic protein in the egg white called ‘lysozyme’. Usually it is harmless, but it can bind to some proteins and inhibit trypsin, preventing it from doing its job to digest protein. Some of lysozyme`s compounds can pass through the gut wall and aggravate damaged guts. Avidin, another substance found in egg whites, binds to a B vitamin called Biotin, which is responsible for fatty acid synthesis and blood sugar regulation. Even when well-cooked, Avidin continued to inhibit Biotin absorption by about 30 percent.

So how do you know if you are sensitive to egg whites? One way to find out is to eliminate eggs at first and add them back after a few weeks. They may be eaten if there is no reaction to them. The same thing can be tried with nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes) which can sometimes cause joint pain in some people.

If you find you cannot get your choline from egg yolks, alternate sources of choline include beef liver (highest source), chicken and turkey, scallops and shrimp, salmon, collard greens, Swiss chard and cauliflower.[5]

You will also find choline in sesame and flax seeds. Inositol is found in high amounts in legumes (not allowed in this diet), however you can get inositol in high amounts from grapefruits, oranges, mandarin oranges, cantaloupe, rutabaga, blackberries, artichokes, okra, kiwi fruit, and nectarines.

How else can you Rebuild Myelin and prevent its Destruction?

The term ‘balanced diet’ is the key. The myelin sheath is composed of about 75 percent fat and cholesterol and the rest is protein[6].

The first building block is Omega 3 fatty acid, which you get from pure fish oils, wild fish and grass fed meats.  Organ meats – which traditional societies have always eaten – are recommended once a week to get natural cobalamin or B12 into the body. Organic liver is especially good for B12. Natural iodine from sea vegetables not only helps with myelin repair but would also aids the liver and brain to clear out mercury and other heavy metals from the body.

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) helps to get energy into the muscles but it also helps with myelin repair. Eating 3 cups of greens a day helps provide B vitamins and folate – vitamins which keep your brain to keep it from shrinking. (Indeed, many people who have tried this diet report marked clear-thinking and removal of the ‘brain fog’ they had earlier).

Lecithin is made up of phosphoric acid, choline, linoleic acid, inositol and several B vitamins.  To get it from food, aim for grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, sesame and sunflower seeds. Add some grated ginger for antioxidant punch and you have a delicious fruit salad.

Daily broths made from grass-fed meats and bones, are also recommended.  Long-simmered bones and meats release minerals, collagen and glycine (gelatin), which your body uses to carry out heavy metals, repair damaged collagen, and help form protective barrier in the mucosal lining of the gut. Haivng daily broths is a great way to avoid `leaky gut`  – a term to describe, loose `tight junctions’ in the gut, which might be contributing to auto-immune reactions generally.

Antioxidants from spices such as turmeric are part of the diet because of the wealth of animal and human studies showing that its curcumin component helps to prevent oxidative damage.[8] Just how curcumin might work to prevent demyelinization remains unclear, but researchers at Vanderbilt University believe it may be interrupting the production of IL-12, a protein that plays a key role in the destruction of the myelin by signaling for the development of neural antigen-specific Th1 cells, immune cells that then launch an attack on the myelin sheath.[9]

Another way to rebuild lost myelin is to submit the muscles to the ‘stress’ of daily exercise – more on this later.

The Use of Fats and Oils with Multiple Sclerosis

Unlike other MS diets which suggest drastically reducing saturated fats, Wahls is saying that healthy fats – from cod liver and salmon fish and oils, walnuts, chia seeds, ghee from a grass-fed, pastured animal, extra virgin olive and coconut oils … and even lard… are fine.

Ghee, or clarified butter, by the way, has had the milk proteins poured off, so essentially it is classified as a`fat` and not a dairy food. Keep in mind that you need trace amounts of copper to activate these healthy fats so that they can go to work repairing the myelin. Food sources of copper include dried oregano and thyme, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.

Cod liver oil is high in vitamin D, an oil-based vitamin that plays a critical role not only in prevention but treatment of demyelination in MS patients. A study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association in 2006 found that Vitamin D significantly reduced the risk of demyelination.

How much vitamin D3? Wahls believes that Vitamin D should be over 50 ng/ml but under 100 ng/ml to obtain the best benefits – lowered risk for autoimmune disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. How do you know how much you need to get there? Take a test every 1- 3 months and take 4,000 IU vitamin D3 daily, or more if needed. At levels over 150 there is an increased risk of excessive calcium in the blood, hallucinations, psychosis, and kidney damage.

Interestingly, the concentration of omega 9 oleic acid (a type of healthy saturated oil found in olive oil and avocados), is lower in the myelin of people with MS.   Oleic acid promotes the production of antioxidants in the body and slows the development of heart disease. Oleic acid is also used to formulate `Lorenzo`s oil` which helps patients with adrenoleukodystrophy – another demyelinating disease.

Creation of New Neurons and Synapses and more Energy

With properly functioning mitochondria, Dr. Wahls hoped that her body would get maximum energy from glucose, a key factor in reducing or eliminating the fatigue so common with MS. With more energy you can exercise and do more.  Wahl`s high-antioxidant diet would not only increase protection of the neurons but increase production of neurotrophic factors – a family of proteins responsible for the growth and maturation of new neurons and synapses.[7]

A Synergistic Approach: Hitting MS with many things at Once

With her intensive daily nutrition foundation in place, Dr Wahls continued to research supplements which might help to feed the mitochondria. Supplements, she points out, can be helpful, but a nutrient-intense diet must always come first. There is wisdom in this — brightly coloured vegetables and berries may contain beneficial cofactors and compounds not included in supplements which scientists may not discover or name for years, even though they work.

Today Dr. Wahls uses 200 mg B complex, 200 mg of Coenzyme Q 10, 1 g of Alpha Lipoic Acid, 600 mg of Acetyl L Carnitine, 120 mg of Gingko, 2 g of N Acetyl Cysteine, 2 g of Taurine, 2 g of Glutathione, 200 mg of Resveratrol, and enough Lithium Orotate to yield 13 mg of elemental lithium, on a daily basis.

Putting it all together

By December 2007 she had combined intensive directed nutrition with a program of progressive exercise, electro-stimulation of muscles[10], and daily exercise. Daily exercise, even for those who cannot walk, is excellent because any ‘stress’ to the muscle causes the body to produce new myelin and development of new neurological pathways. Exercise also leads to decreased production of inflammatory proteins. Various animal experiments have shown that exercise increases ‘neurotrophins’, a family of proteins induce the survival, development and function of neurons.

The results stunned her physician, her family, and even herself. Within a year, she was able to walk through the hospital without a cane and even complete an 18-mile bicycle tour. Instead of becoming dependent on others, Wahls regained the ability to commute to work on her bicycle, and to do her rounds on foot without the need for canes or a wheelchair.

Up from the Chair and Helping Others

Grateful to have her energy back, Dr. Wahls has spent the last three years researching, lecturing and speaking about her journey to wellness and shares how others may help themselves with intensive directed nutrition. Dr Wahls now has enough energy left over to start writing up research grants again. She has brought together an interdisciplinary team to conduct clinical trials using intensive, directed nutrition and neuromuscular electrical stimulation to combat advanced Parkinson’s disease and both secondary and primary progressive multiple sclerosis.

This time she is conducting a randomized intervention clinical trial on Nutrition and Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation and Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. You can read about it here:

To help raise awareness and funds for her research and her non-profit foundation, Dr Wahls has recorded many of her public lectures. Fifty percent of the profits from the sales of the lecture DVDs and audio CDs are used to support clinical nutrition in the area of nutrition, massage, exercise, and neuromuscular stimulation. These resources are available on Dr. Wahl’s website:

In the meantime, here are a few words from Dr. Wahls:

“There is a lot we can do to restore our health without needing a physician. Here are ten suggestions for how you can help spread the word.

1. Talk about Minding My Mitochondria on Facebook and Twitter.

2. Tell your friends that you have read this fabulous book that is changing your life.

3. Tell your co-workers the reason you have so much more energy is due to Minding My Mitochondria.

4. Tell your family that Minding My Mitochondria is changing your life and could change theirs too.

5. Write a review for Amazon. It is easy. Just a paragraph, written from the heart, will be fine.

6. Write a review for your local paper. Or a letter to the editor.

7. Buy the book for a friend or a member of your family whose health you’d like to see improve.

8. Interview Dr. Wahls for your local newsletter, club, or paper.

9. Follow the suggestions Dr. Wahls makes in Minding My Mitochondria. As you become a healthier, more vibrant you, others will ask what your secret is.

10. When others ask what led to your looking 6 months younger than the last time they saw you, tell them why. That your mitochondria are healthy again, thanks to Minding My Mitochondria. Be healthier, more vibrant, more energetic.”

[1] Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, degenerative disease of the nerves in your brain and spinal column, caused through a demyelization process. Myelin is the insulating, waxy substance around the nerves in your central nervous system. When the myelin is damaged by an autoimmune disease or self-destructive process in your body, the function of those nerves deteriorate over time, resulting in a number of symptoms, including: muscle weakness, imbalance, or loss of coordination, astigmatism and vision loss, and muscle tremors.

[2] Dr Wahls is a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Carver’s College of Medicine, where she teaches Internal Medicine. She has published over 60 peer-reviewed scientific abstracts, posters and papers and is currently conducting clinical trials on how a nutrient-intensive diet can help to reverse MS symptoms.

[3] Research has shown that fragments from foreign proteins (i.e., from infectious agents and foods) can activate myelin-sensitive immune cells through cross-reactions. Many new foreign proteins were introduced into the human environment by the agricultural revolution, 10,000 to 5000 years ago. Some new proteins have crossed over to humans from domesticated animals (e.g. Epstein Barr virus) and from completely new food types such as dairy, grains and legumes. Humans have been around a lot longer than 5,000 years, and our gut flora has not evolved enough or become sophisticated enough to know what to do with some of these grains and legumes.

[4] The role of lectins and legumes in MS is interesting. According to Dr Loren Cordain PhD, a top nutrition researcher, lectins from grains, legumes and tomatoes may be involved in activation of the myelin-sensitive T cells. It has been long known that protein fragments derived from various foods such as milk and from gut bacteria can activate myelin-sensitive T cells through molecular mimicry. For this to happen, however, the foreign protein fragments must get across the intestinal barrier. One possible way for this to happen is by way of disrupted cell junctures or a “leaky gut”. Even if one does not have a ‘leaky gut’, various lectins will still attach themselves to various protein fragments in the gut from foods and gut bacteria and then transport themselves across the intestinal barrier by means of the Epidermal Growth Factor receptor. In this way they act like a “Trojan Horse” by bringing the “enemy” past the protection of the gut wall. Epidermal Growth Factor was discovered by Stanley Cohen of Vanderbilt University along with Rita Levi-Montalcini. Both received the Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1986.

[5] See: World’s Healthiest Foods: choline.

[6] Schmidt, Michael A, PhD., Brain Building Nutrition: How dietary fats and oils affect mental, physical, and emotional Intelligence. Frog Books, Colorado, December 2006.

[7] In the brain these factors are important for learning, long-term memory as well as regeneration and growth of nerves. Studies suggest these brain-derived factors play a protective role against amyloid beta toxicity – a type of plaque that seems to build up in the brain as we get older.

[8] Natarajan C, Bright JJ. Curcumin inhibits experimental allergic encephalomyelitis by blocking IL-12 signaling through Janus kinase-STAT pathway in T lymphocytes. J Immunol 2002;168;6506-6513. Available at: Researchers gave injections of 50- and 100-microgram doses of curcumin, three times per week over a period of 30 days, to a group of mice bred to develop the experimental form of MS known as EAE, and then watched the mice for signs of developing MS-like neurological impairment. By day 15, the mice that did not received curcumin developed EAE to such an extent that they developed complete paralysis of both hind limbs. By contrast, the mice given the 50-microgram dose of the curcumin showed only minor symptoms, such as a temporarily stiff tail. Mice given the 100-microgram dose fared best of all; they appeared completely unimpaired throughout the 30 days of the study.

[9] Natarajan C, Bright JJ. Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma agonists inhibit experimental allergic encephalomyelitis by blocking IL-12 production, IL-12 signaling and Th1 differentiation. Genes Immun2002;3(2):59-70. 2003. Available at: Natarajan C, Bright JJ. Genes Immun. 2002 Apr; 3(2):59-70J Immunol. 2002 Jun 15; 168(12):6506-13. J Immunol. 2002 Jun 15; 168(12):6506-13.

[10]Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation involves the application of electrodes and electrical input to various muscle groups over the body with goal of strengthening the muscles. The technique was pioneered in the Soviet Union to improve athletic performance and is still commonly used by athletes, especially for healing muscle damage. Today portable NEMS machines are available and it is a do-it-yourself therapy.


Recently, there was an article published in a journal for nuclear imaging and diagnostics research that discussed a study showing an apparent link between fluoride and coronary artery disease.[i] The study results were: “The coronary fluoride uptake value in patients with cardiovascular events was significantly higher than in patients without cardiovascular events.” The conclusion was: “An increased fluoride uptake in coronary arteries may be associated with an increased cardiovascular risk.”

The results and conclusion statements caused a flurry of excitement on social media and discussion lists engaged in activism to end fluoridation of public drinking water.[ii] The abstract was circulated and cited as strong evidence that fluoride causes arterial calcification and water fluoridation is now scientifically fingered by mainstream medicine as causing heart disease.

However, the article was about something else entirely. Fluoride was not discussed as a cause of calcifications in the arteries, but as a means of finding them.

“Fluoride uptake” had been mistaken as “fluoride intake”. The false assumption was made that “sodium fluoride” accumulation in the arteries came from drinking artificially fluoridated water. But the study had used radioactive sodium fluoride – a nuclear imaging drug, not a drinking water chemical.

Also, the type of fluoride most often added to drinking water for fluoridation in Canada is not sodium fluoride, but an industrial waste chemical, hydrofluorosilicic acid.[iii]

The article actually described the results of “whole-body sodium [¹⁸F]fluoride PET/CT studies” which are diagnostic procedures using injected radioactive fluoride tracers and scans that pinpoint where the tracer accumulates. They were not studies measuring accumulated fluoride damage from drinking water or any other source to diseased coronary vessels. The tracer [¹⁸F] is a short-lived radioactive fluoride isotope that is strongly attracted to calcium in arterial plaque. It is injected to a vein and flies through the blood until it finds the calcium cluster. The radioactive emissions from those plaque locations with clusters of [¹⁸F] stuck to clusters of calcifications can be counted by the scanner, and correlated to the degree of severity of each patient’s heart disease. The dose of radiation received by the patient is minimal.

The patients’ fluoride intakes from food, water, and medications were not assessed; their blood and urine fluoride levels were not measured. The article did not correlate current or past accumulated fluoride intake with heart disease at all.

But the fact that people working to end fluoridation thought they had found solid, ethical science on health harm from water fluoridation begs another question. Does fluoride harden our arteries the way it is claimed to harden teeth?

Is there scientific evidence that increased fluoride intake from artificial water fluoridation contributes to heart disease?

The scientific evidence both past and current is quite convincing that any chronically increased fluoride intake, whether from natural source or public health policy, is not beneficial to the heart. Increased fluoride accumulation in bones corresponds to increased calcification of arteries and accompanying heart disease.[iv]

The 2006 U.S. National Research Council science panel report, a scientific review on the toxicology of fluoride in drinking water produced for the U.S. EPA, found that heart disease with elevated cholesterol was a secondary effect of suppressed thyroid function due to as little as 2 milligrams of fluoride per day if dietary intake of iodine and other nutrients is deficient. At water fluoridation levels of 0.7 mg. per liter of water, recommended by Health Canada, this amount of fluoride is easily exceeded daily with normal consumption and use of tap water for cooking and beverages.[v]

Selenium and iodine deficiencies, when accompanied by increased fluoride intake from water, result in fatal heart disease in adults under age 40. The syndrome is known as Keshan Disease and affects over thirty million Chinese people.[vi]

Recently published studies[vii] on residents of a Turkish mountain village whose well water had high levels of naturally occurring fluoride (above 1.5 milligram per liter) did show that those with higher fluoride blood and urine levels and who had been diagnosed with systemic chronic fluoride poisoning suffered severe heart disease and calcifications of the aorta at a young age (under 35 years). “The elastic properties of ascending aorta are impaired, and left ventricular diastolic and global dysfunctions are evident, in patients with endemic fluorosis.”

If high intake of naturally occurring fluoride from calcium fluoride in the bedrock of the aquifer causes crippling heart disease by age 30 in residents drinking well water in a poor Turkish village, and causes Keshan Disease in selenium-deficient Chinese people by age 40, can increased fluoride intake from artificial fluoridation cause heart disease by age 60 in residents of Canada’s fluoridated cities who are eating a poor diet low in iodine and selenium?

Case reports from the early years of fluoridation would seem to indicate so.[viii]

If we really want to “make death wait” as the television ads ominously advise, should we be taking a strong stance against added fluoride in our drinking water as we do against the addition of other heart-harming substances in our food supply such as partially hydrogenated oils, trans fats and high fructose corn sweeteners?

Fluoride: nutrient or pollutant?

Public Health authorities often defend water fluoridation as a beneficial policy by stating that fluoride is a nutrient mineral, that it occurs naturally, and fluoridation of water is no different than iodine added to salt, B vitamins to flour or fortification of dairy foods with vitamin D.

However, iodine is naturally present in traditionally harvested sea salt. Mined salt lacks it. Synthetic B vitamins replace what is lost in removing the bran but whole grain flour contains the natural B vitamins and needs no fortification. The milk of pastured cows has plenty of natural vitamin D because the cows get sunshine. Dairy cows that are confined inside barns eating dry feed produce milk deficient in vitamin D. Surface fresh water does not naturally contain the high level of fluoride recommended for fluoridation, and certainly not from added industrial waste hydrofluorosilicic acid.

To qualify as a nutrient, fluoride would have to contribute calories for energy, contribute to optimal tissue growth, organ functions, structures and the maintenance of life and health; be required as a co-factor for enzymes or vitamins; provide anti-oxidation protection; or be essential for body metabolism, growth, reproduction, and normal development of the fetus and child. To qualify as a secondary nutrient (e.g. dietary fibre), fluoride would have to be necessary for intestinal microflora to synthesize other nutrients.

Fluoride does none of these.

A single nutrient should not be overtly antagonistic to other nutrients or cause other nutrient deficiency symptoms if increased. However, increased fluoride intake can rob calcium from bones, deplete antioxidants, and cause relative deficiencies in iodine, minerals and vitamins that are important for heart health.[ix]

Fluoride is found in foods, usually in trace amounts – along with other naturally occurring but unavoidable non-nutrients such as aluminum.  But neither aluminum nor fluoride is needed for maintaining good health or feeding intestinal microflora.  Fluoride (like aluminum) is inescapable from grocery foods in quantities ranging from nuisance to toxic due to processing, industrial pollution and agricultural fertilizer and chemicals.

Animal studies do not show evidence that fluoride is a nutrient. Fluoride, whether in its naturally occurring calcium salt or whether as a fluoride-releasing chemical added to feed or water, does not qualify as any type of nutrient or mineral or beneficial substance at all.[x]

But Canadian Environmental Protection Agency (CEPA) regulates fluoride as an environmental pollutant and source water contaminant. In particular, CEPA designates the chemical that is used in water fluoridation as a Class 1 pollutant substance, “persistent”, “toxic”, “bio-accumulative” and “hazardous”.

Are public health authorities unaware that fluoride is regulated as an environmental pollutant?

The natural occurrence of fluoride in high concentration as gas and particles in ash from volcanic eruptions can be harmful and even lethal to crops and livestock, as recent eruptions in Iceland have shown. Farmers who were interviewed said, “The risk is of fluoride poisoning if they breathe or eat too much. The fluoride in the [Iceland volcanic] ash creates acid in the animals’ stomachs, corroding the intestines and causing hemorrhages. It also binds with calcium in the blood stream, and after heavy exposure over a period of days makes bones frail, even causing teeth to crumble.”[xi]

Smog from coal-fired power plants is estimated to cause thousands of premature deaths in North America from heart disease every year. What few people know is that fluoride gas and particles are emitted into air pollution by the burning of coal, making up a significant part of smog. Breathing smog can raise the fluoride concentration in blood, urine and saliva to the same level as consuming a high intake of fluoridated water, triggering calcium depletion and oxidative stress that can bring on a heart attack weeks or months later.[xii]

If science shows that breathing air polluted with industrial source fluoride can harden the arteries, it is logical to conclude that drinking water polluted with industrial source fluoride will do the same.

[i] Association of vascular fluoride uptake with vascular calcification and coronary artery disease. Yuxin Li, Gholam R Berenji, Wisam F Shaba, Bashir Tafti, Ella Yevdayev, Simin Dadparvar. Nucl Med Commun. 2012 Jan; 33(1):14-20. PMID: 21946616.



[iv] Fluoridation, The Great Dilemma. George L. Waldbott, M.D., Albert Burgstahler, Ph.D., H. Lewis McKinney, Ph.D. Coronado Press, Lawrence, Kansas (1978). P. 160: “Therefore, fluoride in arteries appears to attract calcium  and thus can contribute directly to their hardening.”

[v] Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards. National Academies of Science, National Research Council. National Academies Press, Washington D.C. USA (2006). Chapter 8. Effects on the Endocrine System.


[vii] Varol E, Akcay S, Ersoy IH, Ozaydin M, Koroglu BK, Varol S. Aortic Elasticity is Impaired in Patients with Endemic Fluorosis. Biological Trace Element Research 2010;133(2):122-7.

Varol E, Akcay S, Ersoy IH, Koroglu BK, Varol S. Impact of chronic fluorosis on left ventricular diastolic and global functions. Science of the Total Environment 2010;408(11):2295-8.

[viii] A Struggle with Titans, A Scientist’s Look at Fluoridation. George L. Waldbott M.D. Carlton Press, NY (1965). Pp.161, 272,303, 333.

[ix] A Treatise on Fluorosis. Prof. (Dr.) A.K. Susheela Ph.D.Fluorosis Research and Rural Development Foundation, Delhi, India (2007).



[xii] When Smoke Ran Like Water, Tales of Environmental Deception and the Battle Against Pollution. Devra Davis Ph.D. Basic Books, Cambridge MA (2004).


What can you do to Avoid getting Alzheimer’s and is there a way to reverse Symptoms?

Following our previous discussion, if nitrates and high glycemic foods are being linked to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Type 2 diabetes, then, armed with this news, you can make changes today that will change the assumption that these diseases are a natural consequence of aging. Some tips:

1. Read all food labels carefully. Avoid foods containing sodium nitrate – or any nitrate or
2. Eat organically and locally;
3. Eat in the right amounts. Obesity is linked to insulin resistance;
4. Exercise daily. Walking 6-9 hours a week helps to build new brain stem cells.
5. Never smoke or expose yourself to second hand smoke;
6. Remain mentally stimulated, (socializing, reading writing, learning new things, standing on one foot (this helps you create new neuro-pathways), writing or combing your hair with other hand).

Also, learn about all the risk factors so that you lower your risk of getting Alzheimer’s.
The following suggestions have been adapted from Patrick Holford’s book, The Alzheimer’s Prevention Plan :

• Genetic disposition – Investigate with your doctor what your genetic risks are. Those that inherit a gene called ApoE4 have more than double the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, however your risk increases only if the gene is activated and/or if there are other risk factors present. What protects ApoE4 and other genes from damage by diet or infection is methylation – the job of the B vitamins.
• Inflammation –A review carried out at New York University’s neurology department found that at least a third of Alzheimer’s patients have some degree of vascular damage from inflammation. Cardiovascular disease leads to blockages in the arteries and this, in turn, may lead to a poor supply of key nutrients in the brain. To get rid of inflammation, again, get rid of nitrate and nitrates, sugar, stress, avoid diets low in antioxidant nutrients, and keep your homocystein levels normal. Homocystein is an inflammatory marker for developing cardiovascular disease.
• Lack of antioxidant nutrients – vitamins A, C, E not only help to mop up brain pollutants, but helps brain cells to become less vulnerable to damage from free-radicals from fried foods, smoke.
• Lack of omega 3 fatty acids – ‘Good’ fats (such as those from cold water fish), actually put out the fire of inflammation.
• Hydrogenated fats – if you are using any type of oil or margarine that is even partially hydrogenated, get rid of it, even if so-called ‘heartsmart’ oils are added to it. Hydrogenated oils do not melt at blood temperature, they harden your cell walls, interfering with osmosis and contains nickel, a heavy metal, to act as a catalyst in its manufacture.
• Excessive stress and elevated cortisol hormone – natural minerals in the body act like a tranquilizer. Find a multivitamin that gives you at lead 25 mgs of all the B vitamins, 10 mcg of B12, 200 mcg of folate, 200 mg of magnesium 3 mg of manganese and 10 mg of zinc.
• Low of B vitamins (primarily B2, B6, B12 and folate) – Cerebrovascular disease is strongly linked to high homocystein levels and these vitamins help to lower it. The older you are, the less likely you are to absorb B12 due to diminished stomach acid. Be smart and supplement where needed with digestive enzymes, and the correct foods and nutrients through consultation with a certified holistic nutrition practitioner.
• Poor circulation – roughly 50 to 70 per cent of people diagnosed with dementia will end up diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Twenty per cent will be given a diagnosis of vascular dementia, caused by constricted blood flow to the brain due to blocked arteries.
• Low vitamin D3 status – A very recent (July 2011) animal study from Japan suggests that vitamin D may help clear the brain of amyloid beta, a toxic protein-like compound that accumulates in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. This animal study validates the results of a previous 2008 study done in human Alzheimer’s patients. In the human study, vitamin D together with curcumin (an active compound found in the yellow spice ‘turmeric’), appeared to stimulate the immune system in a way that helped clear the brain of toxic amyloid beta. What was really interesting about the newer, animal study was that suggested that vitamin D alone may be able to do that task. Further to this, lab animals receiving vitamin D were able to remove a significant amount of amyloid beta buildup in their brains, literally overnight. It seems vitamin D3, a hormone-like substance – may somehow be involved in regulating production of transporter proteins that ferry amyloid beta across the blood-brain barrier and out of the brain

Is Alzheimer’s Disease Reversible Through Diet?
Dr. Mary T. Newport. MD, is author of a July 2008 article, What if there was a Cure for Alzheimer’s Disease and No One Knew? In the article she shares her experiences in reversing the disease in her husband Steve who had been diagnosed with progressive Alzheimer’s at least 5 years earlier. In doing her research, she came across a ‘cross-over’ study published in the March 2004 Journal of Neurobiology, which showed that a single dose of medium-chain trigylcerides (MCTs) led to significant improvement on the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment-Scale and other tests. Her husband was not admitted to the study but she wondered whether unrefined coconut oil – which is about 60 per cent MCT – could help. She writes:

In Alzheimer’s disease, the neurons in certain areas of the brain are unable to take in glucose4, 5 due to insulin resistance and slowly die off, a process that appears to happen one or more decades before the symptoms become apparent. If these cells had access to ketone bodies, they could potentially stay alive and continue to function. MCT oil is digested differently by the body than other fats. Instead of storing all MCTs as fat, the liver converts them directly to ketone bodies, which are then available for use as energy.

Dr. Newport found that a dose of 20 grams (about 20 ml or 4 teaspoons) of MCT was the amount used to produce results. To duplicate the dose of MCTs used in the Ketasyn study, about 7 level teaspoonfuls (slightly over 2 Tablespoons) of unrefined, non-hydrogenated coconut oil should be taken daily – more if tolerated. Start with one or teaspoonful and build up gradually to prevent diarrhoea or a sense of feeling full. A recipe for chocolate coconut-oil truffles can be found at the end of this article. The nice thing about coconut oil is that it can be used for cooking with, baking, stirred into scrambled eggs, soups, and used in an instance where you would normally use butter. Make sure that you continue to take Omega 3 oils at the same time, however. Omega 3 fatty acids are still needed.

Why do Coconut Oils and Ketone Bodies work to help Neurodegeneration?
Ketones are an alternate fuel source for your body when it cannot uptake glucose – such as while you are fasting, or if you have any degenerative neurodegenerative disease that that has faulty glucose uptake in the brain or tissues. Taking in ketone bodies could help the brain cells to potentially stay alive.

In animal studies it has been shown that MCTs are also able to liberate Omega 3-fatty acids from the body and shunt them to the parietal area of the brain. Human studies have shown that those with Multiple Sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease), Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases have a similar defect in using glucose but in different areas of the brain or spinal cord. There are implications that MCTs could help treat and prevent other types of insulin-resistance related diseases such as drug-resistant epilepsy, brittle (uncontrolled) type I diabetes, and diabetes type II.

In 2001, a team, headed by Richard Veech, senior scientist in the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH), found that ketones protect neurons from both MPP+, (which induces Parkinsons disease), and the protein fragment Ab1-42,(which accumulates in the brain of Alzheimers patients). Addition of ketones alone actually increased the number of surviving neurons from the hippocampus, suggesting that ketones may even act as growth factors for neurons in culture.

Are ‘Prescription Food’ Ketone Bodies better than Coconut oil?
Purified Ketone bodies – such as those created by Dr. Richard Veeth’s team, are at least ten times higher than those of MCT or coconut oil, but at the present time, purified ketones would are extremely costly – more than USD 20,000 a year, for a child-sized dose. At present no pharmaceutical company wishes to fund research that would allow mass production of ketone bodies, aimed at creating an affordable price.

Having said that, the ketones from natural coconut oil, last 8 hours in the body, versus 3 hours with the prescription food version which has only one of the medium-chain trigylercides (C:8). Unrefined coconut oil has C:6, C:8, C:10, C:12, five other fatty acids (including some monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids), and omega-6. It also contains some phytosterol, one of the natural substances that lowers cholesterol.

In closing, while everyone is waiting for the pharmaceutical food version of ketone bodies, below please find a tasty recipe that will both increase your HDL (happy cholesterol) profile and also protect your neuronal cells.


Melt ½ cup unrefined coconut oil in a small sauce pan over low heat. Add enough gluten-free organic cocoa powder to make a paste. Add liquid stevia to taste, or unsulfured dried sour cherries for sweetness.

Line a mini muffin pan with paper bon-bon liners. Place a walnut half in each cup (chop finely if person has problems chewing or swallowing). Spoon a tablespoon of the warm chocolate mixture over the walnuts. Garnish with more walnuts if liked. Store in freezer.

Note: You can make a simplified version of the recipe above by adding omitting the cocoa and substituting a half bag of vegan, soy-free and gluten-free chocolate chips to the melted coconut oil. Never use carob (a legume) sugar, or soy products when making these bon-bons for people with multiple sclerosis. Legumes (soy and carob are legumes) and dairy are contraindicated and may cause auto-immune reactions. Makes about 20. Once out of the freezer or fridge these will melt.

[1] Dr. Suzanne De la Monte, Alzheimer’s: Diabetes of the Brain?, May 4, 2011. Available at:

[1] De la Monte, Suzanne M., Alexander Neisner, Jennifer Chu and Margit Lawton. Epidemiological Trends Suggest Exposures as Etiologic Agents in the Pathogenesis of Sporadic Alzheimer’s Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, and Non-Alcoholic Steatophepatis. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 17:3 (July 2009) pp 519-529. Retrieved April 9, 2011.

[1] Dr. De la Monte sees Alzheimer’s disease as ‘Type 3 Diabetes’ – a type of diabetes that destroys brain cells and leads to dementia. As far back as 2003, researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle discovered the relationship between the development of Alzheimer’s disease and disturbances in insulin and glucose metabolism, explaining why people with diabetes have a much increased chance of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. See: Watson G.S. et al, ‘The role of insulin resistance in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease: implications for treatment’, CNS Drugs, 17:27-45 (2003).

[1] Steen, E, Terry, BM, Rivera EJ, Neely, TR, Xu, XJ, Wands, JR, de la Monte, SM, Impaired insulin and insulin-like growth factor expression and signalling mechanisms in Alzheimer’s disease – is this type 3 diabetes? J  Alzheimers Dis. 2005 Feb; 7(1):63-80. Available at:

[1] Ibid.

[1] De la Monte SM, Wands JR. Review of insulin and insulin-like growth factor expression, signaling, and malfunction in the central nervous system: relevance to Alzheimer’s disease. J Alzheimer’s Dis 2005;7:45-61.

[1] Kash, Peter Morgan, and Jay Lombard D.O. with Tom Monte, Freedom from Disease – The Breakthrough Approach to preventions cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s. And Depression by Controlling Insulin. St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2008, p. 127.

[1]Lifespan (2009, July 6). Nitrates May Be Environmental Trigger for Alzheimer’s, Diabetes And Parkinson’s Disease. Science Daily. Retrieved April 10, 2011, from

[1] Water Encyclopedia, Science Issues: Pollution of Groundwater,

[1] Please visit Neonatal Paediatrician Mary T Newport’s blog for ideas on how to reverse Alzheimer’s Disease. She also discusses the insulin-resistance link to many other diseases:

[1] Holford, Patrick, Shane Heaton & Deborah Colson. The Alzheimer’s Prevention Plan: 10 proven ways to stop memory decline and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. Piatkus Books, London, 2011.

[1] A Universities of Oxford and Oslo team found that volunteers taking these B vitamins for 2 years had 0.76% brain shrinkage, versus 1.08% shrinkage in the control group. The study was published in the September 9, 2008 issue of the journal Neurology. The research team reported an association between decreased levels of vitamin B12 and a decline in brain volume. Reduced brain volume or brain atrophy, has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease and is used as a marker for the disease’s progression.

[1]Ito, S. et al., 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 enhances cerebral clearance of human amyloid-β peptide(1-40) from mouse brain across the blood-brain barrier. Fluids and Barriers of the CNS 2011 Jul 8;8:20. Also available at:

[1] Masoumi, A. et al.1alpha,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 interacts with curcuminoids to stimulate amyloid-beta clearance by macrophages of Alzheimer’s disease patients.., Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 2009;17(3):703-717.

[1] Newport, M. MD, ‘What if there was a cure for Alzheimer’s and no one knew? A Case Study by Dr. Mary Newport’, July 22, 2008. Available at:

[1] Erickson KI, Raji CA, Lopez OL et al. Physical activity predicts gray matter volume in late adulthood. The Cardiovascular Health Study. Neurology, October 13 2010. Available from:

[1] Newport, M.M.D., Op. Cit.

[1] Taha, AY, Henderson, ST, Burnhan, WM. Dietary enrichment with medium chain triglycerides (AC-1203) elevates polyunsaturated fatty acids in the parietal cortex of aged dogs: implications for treating age-related cognitive decline. Neurochem Res. 2009 Sep;34(9):1619-25. Epub 2009 Mar 20. Available from:

[1] Wan-Ho, Mae, ISIS Report: Where Genes Fail – Dietary Interventions for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s? The Institute of Science in Society,


In case you missed it, there was an episode on Dr. Oz on April 7, 2011 highlighting the work of Suzanne de la Monte, MD. Dr. de la Monte is a professor of Neuropathology and lab medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and one of the world’s leading Alzheimer’s researchers.

Alzheimer’s is not just about our genes. It can’t be. Since the 1970s the rates of Alzheimer’s, Diabetes and Parkinson’s diseases have increased in all age groups. Something else is going on.

What Dr. de la Monte and a team of researchers at Rhode Island Hospital found was that Alzheimer’s symptoms are sparked by ‘nitrates’ – food preservative chemicals that your body uses to make nitrosamines.

The nitrate and nitrite link is still in the hypothesis stage, experts say, and there is unlikely to be just one explanation for a number of diseases. Just the same, Dr de la Monte’s hypothesis is stirring great debate.

“The theory is intriguing and worth pursuing, says neurotoxicologist Deborah Cory-Slechta, but it’s far too soon to blame nitrosamines alone for Alzheimer’s and other age-related diseases. Scientists haven’t yet documented rising rates of nitrosamines in our bodies, for one thing. And the theory may be too simplistic…Lots of other things changed in that time frame that aren’t being taken into account,” said Cory-Slechta, of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in New York. “I don’t think most of these kinds of complicated diseases are caused by a single factor of any kind.”

Why nitrites and nitrates? “We have reasonable evidence that human exposure to nitrosamines is at the root cause of not only Alzheimer’s, but several other insulin-resistance diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, also known as NASH, and visceral obesity” says de la Monte. Nitrates irritate the liver and cause production of a toxic lipid (fat) compound that is able to cross the blood-brain barrier and destroy neuronal cells. The brain then develops insulin deficiency and insulin resistance. With no glucose (brain food), parts of the brain start to die. A scan of a brain with Alzheimer’s will show that tissue is literally missing. (More on this later). The study was published in the June 2009 Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

What are Nitrites and Nitrates?
Nitrites and nitrates belong to a class of chemical compounds found to be harmful to humans and animals. Over 90 percent of these tested compounds were found to be carcinogenic in various organs. They are found in many food products, including fried bacon, cured meats, cheese products, and even beer and water. Exposure also occurs through manufacturing and processing of rubber and latex products, as well as fertilizers, pesticides and cosmetics.

Sodium Nitrite (saltpeter) is commonly added to meat and fish to prevent toxin production, and to colour and flavour processed cheeses and foods such as hot dogs, bacon and cold cuts. It is responsible for the pink colour in bologna. Nitrates are often found in fertilizers which end up on produce, particularly root vegetables such as potatoes and beets. Nitrates are often added to dry-rub salting spice prior to smoking meat. Like sodium nitrate, it can also be added to brining solution to make corned beef.

How are Nitrates and Nitrites Different?
There is actually very little difference between the chemical formula for nitrates and nitrites – only an extra oxygen atom in the nitrate molecule. Think of Nitrate as ‘the mother’ and nitrite as ‘the child’. Both nitrates and nitrites form ‘Nitrosamines’. The problem occurs when nitrites and amino acids (building blocks of protein) react in the presence of heat and an acidic environment (i.e., your stomach or gut) to form carcinogenic N-nitrosamines. You can also create nitrosamines at the high temperatures needed for frying and flame-broiling.

Reducing sodium nitrite content in your food will help to reduce nitrosamine formation in your body. Avoiding cigarette smoke helps, as one of the main toxins in tobacco is a nitrosamine. Nitrates convert into nitrites. Ground beef, cured meats and bacon in particular contain abundant amounts of amines due to their high protein content.

Dr De la Monte’s research suggests that even low chronic doses of these chemicals can also have serious cumulative effects on the brain. Her study also found that the probability of dying from Alzheimer’s is far higher today than it was in 1965 for every age group. The rise in death risk was steeper with increasing age, suggesting that a longer period of exposure to the implicated chemicals made the problem worse.

Gene mutations alone cannot explain sharp rise in degenerative diseases
The authors state that the increased prevalence rates for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and diabetes during the 1970 to 2005 period, cannot be explained on the basis of gene mutations. Instead they mirror the classical trends of exposure-related disease. Because nitrosamines produce biochemical changes within cells and tissues, it is conceivable that chronic exposure to low levels of nitrites and nitrosamines via processed foods, water and fertilizers, is responsible for the current epidemics of these disease, and the increasing mortality rates associated with them.

In order to arrive at this conclusion, the researchers carefully graphed and analyzed mortality rates, and compared them with increasing age for each disease. They then studied United States population growth, annual use and consumption of nitrite-containing fertilizers, annual sales at popular fast food chains, annual sales for a major meat processing company, as well as consumption of grain.

Consumption of watermelon and cantaloupe were used as a control since they are not typically associated with nitrate or nitrite exposure. After everything else was factored out, it was evident that Alzheimer’s was being sparked by something that we are eating and drinking.

De la Monte states, “If this hypothesis is correct, potential solutions include eliminating the use of nitrites and nitrates in food processing, preservation and agriculture; taking steps to prevent the formation of nitrosamines and employing safe and effective measures to detoxify food and water before human consumption.”

Alzheimer’s as a Type 3 Diabetes of the Brain:
De la Monte was the first scientist to coin Alzheimer’s as ‘Type 3 diabetes of the brain’. The neurodegeneration that occurs in this type of Alzheimer’s disease suggests that impaired insulin (IGF-1 and IGF-II signaling is involved. This ‘brain diabetes’ only applies to what is termed ‘sporadic Alzheimer’s’ (representing the vast majority of cases), but not to Alzheimer’s associated with a family history of the disease or the presence of a particular gene that is implicated in some cases.

If you have insulin resistance in your brain, glucose cannot get in to nourish neuronal cells and they die. In addition to brain cell death, you will also have increased levels of certain damaging enzymes, increased oxidative stress (from free radicals), advanced glycation of proteins (cooking of proteins).

Advanced levels of insulin resistance injure arterioles and capillaries, resulting in impaired blood flow and compromised function of the blood-brain barrier. This, in turn, contributes to the accumulation, of amyloid-beta, a harmful protein commonly known as senile plaque, in certain parts of the brain.

One criticism of the study is that it is not clear whether the brain changes were due to Streptozotocin, (the compound they used to inhibit local insulin production), lack of insulin, or streptozotocin causing an insult to the brain. “To date, the construct that Alzheimer’s is type 3 diabetes remains largely unsupported,” said Dr. Sam Gandy, chairman of the Medical and Scientific Advisory Council at the Alzheimer’s Association and director of the Farber Institute for Neurosciences at Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia.

According to Gandy, “Streptozotocin, which causes oxidative stress, would be predicted to cause such stress in many tissues, including the brain”. Gandy also noted that the changes the researchers observed in the brains of the mice were only modest, with no clear structural pathology evident.

Can the Brain make Insulin?
During their review of the literature, Dr. de la Monte and her researchers also sought to settle the long-standing question of whether or not insulin is produced in the brain as well as in the pancreas (Previous studies had shown that insulin-like growth factors are produced in the brain).

Based on indirect evidence, it has long been believed that the brain produced insulin, however proof was lacking until now. In series of experiments with post- mortem human brains (both normal and Alzheimer’s-afflicted), and with cell cultures from rat brains, Dr. de la Monte and her colleagues in Rhode Island showed that the brain does, in fact, synthesize insulin, as well as the insulin-like growth factors and the insulin receptors in the neuronal (brain-cell) membranes.

The experiments showed that insulin is produced in various regions of the brain (although not in the frontal cortex). The highest production is found in the hippocampus, a brain region strongly associated with memory, learning, and other cognitive functions, and in the hypothalamus, which regulates a variety of involuntary physical and emotional functions, such as sleep, mood, sex drive, and appetite.

While the brain is a prolific manufacturer of hormones, so too are other organs. For example, the pancreas and the gut produce a variety of neuroendocrine polypeptide hormones, (small-protein hormones) that act upon the nervous system. The actions of insulin in the brain therefore, do not necessarily depend on the availability of insulin from the pancreas. In fact, it is entirely possible that the insulin used by the brain for glucose metabolism is ‘home-grown.’

These observations, and many others of a highly technical nature, led Dr. de la Monte and her colleagues to suggest that Alzheimer’s disease is actually a neuroendocrine disorder that resembles Type 2 diabetes but is more complex. They view it as “brain diabetes” and propose that it be called type 3 diabetes. Whether it originates in the pancreas or the brain, insulin is important to our health because of its crucial role in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.

Fortunately, exercise and nutritional supplementation can help normalize blood sugar levels and help combat insulin resistance. Herbs and supplements that help include cinnamon (especially its MHCP component), green tea (especially its EGCG component), mulberry leaves, the antioxidants lipoic acid and quercetin, and the mineral chromium.

The ‘White-Food’ Connection:
Even if you are not consuming nitrates, Dr. de la Monte’s research shows you can still get Alzheimer’s by eating insulin-spiking ‘white foods’ such as sugar, white flour, pasta, cereals, cracker, pretzels and bread. Diabetes can take place in any part of the body – body, muscles, liver or brain. In fact, forty percent of people have diabetes that involves more than one organ.

High Risk Foods to Avoid:
The 4 food groups that Dr. de la Monte is most concerned about regarding increased risk of Alzheimer’s include:

1. Smoked meats (bacon, smoked turkey, ham, mussels, smoked eel, etc.),
2) Processed cheeses – these are often called ‘American cheeses’. They do not melt when heated.
3) Beer – believe it or not, nitrosamines and nitrates are still being used to process some beers. Unfortunately you cannot easily find out which brands use them because these products are never listed on the ingredient labels. Just know that any processed beer will contain these products.
4) ‘White’ foods (white rice, white bread, sugar, white pasta etc.) – White foods pack a double whammy – they boost blood sugar causing inflammation in your brain and body. This leads not only to diabetes and Alzheimer’s, but cardiovascular and other diseases.

Our Increasing Exposure to Inorganic Fertilizers
What was not discussed in the Dr. Oz episode were the strong parallels that Dr. de la Monte found between development of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Type II Diabetes, and increasing human exposure to inorganic nitrate fertilizers, the nitrites in our water supply, nitrates in the manufacture of rubber, latex products, and the cosmetics we put on our skin.

De de la Monte states, “Not only do we consume nitrates in processed foods, but they get into our food supply by leeching from the soil and contaminating water supplies used for crop irrigation, food processing and drinking.” Nitrates and nitrites are also used in the production of wines, whiskey and scotch, so you might want to avoid any type of beverage that contains these chemicals.

She and colleagues began collecting data about the use of nitrites and nitrates in fertilizers, fast food, meat and grains over the last few decades. Next they examined a national health database dating back to 1965 to find out how many people were dying from which diseases and at what ages, and how those numbers had changed.

De la Monte’s analysis showed that the use of nitrogen-containing fertilizer doubled between 1960 and 1980, right before outbreaks of insulin-resistant epidemics, including diabetes and Alzheimer’s, picked up. Additionally, sales at a fast food franchise and at a major meat processor jumped by a factor of eight since 1970. While it must be pointed out that this part of her investigation only proves ‘association’ and not direct cause, the findings are very interesting.

After factoring out everything else, de la Monte and her team had reasonable evidence to show that the spike in Alzheimer’s was not genetic – that it was caused by increased exposure to the nitrosamine compounds in not just convenience foods, but new farming practices. Her lab experiments showed that very low, limited exposures to nitrosamines (the type found in food) caused not only Alzheimer’s and Dementia, but fatty liver disease, diabetes, and obesity. Adding a high fat diet made the disease-causing effects of nitrosamines much higher, she wrote.

De la Monte had worked with a nitrosamine-like drug called streptozotocin (STZ), which scientists use in animal experiments to cause Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes mellitus and NASH (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis or ‘silent liver disease). All three of these illnesses involve resistance to insulin, a hormone that helps break down sugar. She wondered if nitrosamines in the environment might be doing the same thing to people that STZ was doing to lab animals.

Many scientific papers will say that nitrates are not harmful. They have been used in fertilizer and as a raw material for the manufacture of gun powder as far as in the late 19th century. Naturally occurring nitrites in, say green leafy vegetables, will act to help you detoxify when exposed to more harmful nitrosamines. The problem is that, over time, we have been watering our vegetables with synthetic chemical nitrates without questioning whether this is good or bad for us, and nitrates have now seeped into our water table and water supply.

Nitrates in the Global Water Supply
Nitrates, MTBE, benzene, etc. are constituents of gasoline. What are they doing in our water supply? According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, there have been over 400,000 reported cases of petroleum-based fuels leaking from underground storage tanks.

In 1984 amendments to the U.S. federal Resource and Conservation Recovery Act asked that all old gasoline underground storage tanks be pulled up because they were leaking. A gasoline detergent called Tetra-Ethyl-Lead, (now outlawed), changed the molecular structure of all the underground gasoline storage tanks causing them to literally split apart at the seams. Billions of gallons of gasoline have been released into the water table over many years. Today, the degrading constituents of gasoline may be found in practically all drinking water, world-wide.

Increase in Grain crops, Fast Food and Processed Meats precedes Insulin-Resistance Epidemic
Between 1970 and 2005, grain consumption increased 5-fold. Grain crops are especially dependent on inorganic nitrate fertilizers. Nitrogen-containing fertilizer consumption doubled between 1960 and 1980 and increased by 230 percent between 1955 and 2005.

This timeline for increased consumption of nitrogen-dependent grain crops just precedes the insulin-resistance epidemic, the researchers found. The researchers also found that U.S. sales from the fast food chains and meat processing companies increased more than 8-fold from 1970 to 2005. Again, this is only an association, and does not prove a causal link, but it is very interesting.

Nitrosamines cause DNA Damage: Always Read food Labels
Look for the word ‘sodium nitrite’ on food labels. It is used as a food preservative, mainly in cured meats.

Nitrate is used mainly in inorganic fertilizers but you might find these compounds listed on processed cheese products, beer and water. Any processed beer will contain nitrates, whether or not it is listed on the label. Again, exposure also occurs through manufacturing and processing of rubber and latex products, as well as fertilizers, pesticides and cosmetics.

The role of nitrosamines has been well-studied, and their role as a carcinogen has been fully documented. Nitrosamines become highly reactive at the cellular level. This in turn, alters gene expression and causes DNA damage. The investigators proposed that the cellular alterations that occur as a result of nitrosamine exposure are fundamentally similar to those that occur with aging, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Type 2 diabetes mellitus.

De la Monte states, “All of these diseases are associated with increased insulin resistance and DNA damage. Their prevalence rates have all increased radically over the past several decades and show no sign of plateau. Because there has been a relatively short time interval associated with the dramatic shift in disease incidence and prevalence rates, we believe this is due to exposure-related rather than genetic etiologies.”

There is a press release on the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease site which is actually entitled, “Call for reducing nitrate levels in fertilizer and water and detoxifying food and water”. In it Dr. De la Monte explains more about the dangers of nitrate and nitrite exposure to the general public more than she was able (perhaps allowed) to explain the Dr. Oz segment. If you can, please see:

This topic is interesting but scary and controversial all at once. Dr. De la Monte will no doubt be upsetting a lot of the ‘big players’ in the food industry by asking that we avoid processed foods, eat organically grown foods (there is less nitrate in organic produce), or ask politicians to push for small farming practices. That is sure to upset the status quo. I suspect that I will also receive correspondence from those upset about having to cut back on beer, sausages and latex products. “What is left, really for us to enjoy?” they ask.

Please stay tuned to Part II of this article. It will explain what you can do to 1) Avoid getting Alzheimer’s Disease, 2) reverse early signs, 3) and help reverse Alzheimer’s Disease through diet.

Dr. Suzanne De la Monte, Alzheimer’s: Diabetes of the Brain?, May 4, 2011. Available at:
De la Monte, Suzanne M., Alexander Neisner, Jennifer Chu and Margit Lawton. Epidemiological Trends Suggest Exposures as Etiologic Agents in the Pathogenesis of Sporadic Alzheimer’s Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, and Non-Alcoholic Steatophepatis. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 17:3 (July 2009) pp 519-529. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
Dr. De la Monte sees Alzheimer’s disease as ‘Type 3 Diabetes’ – a type of diabetes that destroys brain cells and leads to dementia. As far back as 2003, researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle discovered the relationship between the development of Alzheimer’s disease and disturbances in insulin and glucose metabolism, explaining why people with diabetes have a much increased chance of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. See: Watson G.S. et al, ‘The role of insulin resistance in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease: implications for treatment’, CNS Drugs, 17:27-45 (2003).
Steen, E, Terry, BM, Rivera EJ, Neely, TR, Xu, XJ, Wands, JR, de la Monte, SM, Impaired insulin and insulin-like growth factor expression and signalling mechanisms in Alzheimer’s disease – is this type 3 diabetes? J Alzheimers Dis. 2005 Feb; 7(1):63-80. Available at:
De la Monte SM, Wands JR. Review of insulin and insulin-like growth factor expression, signaling, and malfunction in the central nervous system: relevance to Alzheimer’s disease. J Alzheimer’s Dis 2005;7:45-61.
Kash, Peter Morgan, and Jay Lombard D.O. with Tom Monte, Freedom from Disease – The Breakthrough Approach to preventions cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s. And Depression by Controlling Insulin. St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2008, p. 127.
Lifespan (2009, July 6). Nitrates May Be Environmental Trigger for Alzheimer’s, Diabetes And Parkinson’s Disease. Science Daily. Retrieved April 10, 2011, from
Water Encyclopedia, Science Issues: Pollution of Groundwater,

The Rising Childhood Obesity Epidemic

Could Canada’s younger generations be expected to live shorter lives than their parents because of obesity? It is a chilling thought, but over the last 25 years, Statistics Canada reports have shown a considerable increase in the percentage of children and adolescents who are overweight and obese.

By 1981 these rates had tripled, however, within the last 15 years, they grew by more than 50 percent in children ages six to eleven, and by 40 percent in children between the ages twelve and seventeen.[i] If this already sounds horrendous, the rates of obesity rates among First Nations children are 2-3 times higher than the Canadian average.[ii] Other worrisome facts are emerging:

  • There is an alarming increase in the number of children and adolescents developing Type-2 diabetes (sometimes termed ‘adult-onset diabetes) due to being overweight.
  • Breathing problems and sleep apnea (interruption of breath while sleeping), are a concern. With poor sleep, children may experience difficulty with memory and learning.
  • High levels of cholesterol and high blood pressure (risk factors for development of cardiovascular disease), are being found in obese children.
  • The American Heart Association published a statement in the March 21, 2007 issue of the journal Circulation, saying that the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs should be part of updated guidelines for treating children and adolescents with high-risk lipid abnormalities, especially cholesterol.[iii]
  • Joint deterioration problems due to extra pressure and weight on developing bones.
  • These children are experiencing mental health problems such as low self-esteem and depression.

These diseases are not occurring in ‘traditional societies,’ considered poor by North American standards.[iv] What is going on?

The Root Cause of Obesity and Disease: Undernutrition

Although a number of socio-economic factors are associated with whether you will become obese – such as income level[v], level of education, [vi] genetics (whether the parents are themselves obese)[vii] and, smoking during pregnancy[viii] – the combination of these factors, together with the nature of human metabolism, is putting young individuals into a trap from which it is very difficult to escape.

At the root of the obesity problem is something called ‘undernutrition’[ix] – a type of silent starvation that occurs when one consistently avoids or does not have access to nutrient-dense food. Obesity does not discriminate between rich or poor nations, but being poor means that your parents are more likely to purchase cheap, sugary, starchy, fatty carbohydrates and in order to quell your hunger.

Your body’s storage capacity for carbohydrates is quite limited, so when you consume more than you need, they are converted, via insulin, into fat and stored, thus increasing your risk for nearly every chronic degenerative disease. Insulin is useful – it is essentially a storage hormone that helps you store the excess calories from carbohydrates in the form of fat in case of famine. Chronically high blood levels of insulin, however, prevent fat from exiting storage sites to burn as fuel in cellular metabolism. In effect, the obese person is starving on a cellular level and naturally wants to eat more.[x]

Further to this, obesity changes the type of refined carbohydrate you will prefer. One study published in the February 2005 Journal of Epidemiology, showed that people with a higher body mass tended to eat carbohydrates with a higher glycemic index – foods such as white bread and refined sugars and other foods which cause a quick surge in blood sugar. Interestingly, the amount of carbohydrate consumed in the study made little difference. It was all about the type of carbohydrate consumed. ‘Good’ carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables do not have high glycemic indexes, and, not surprisingly, did not lead to weight gain.

Feast or Famine:

Obesity in parents is one of the strongest predictors of obesity in children, but it is difficult to tell how much is related only to genetics because parents also contribute lifestyle habits to their children.[xi] A recent Canadian survey based on longitudinal data, found that more than 70% obese adolescents retain their overweight and obese condition through adulthood. Very few individuals return to normal weight range.

Being thin during childhood does not necessarily protect a child form developing into an overweight adult either. In fact, the thinnest children tend to have the highest risk for adult obesity.[xii] The biology of starvation is this: in poverty stricken families, there is often a hunger-binging cycle that follows economic conditions in the household. When money comes in, people purchase cheap, abundant processed foods which fill them up. This leads to rapid fat storages – common after a period of going without food. This is simply how human metabolism works. When calories are scarce, metabolism slows down and muscle is lost. As a result, blood sugar imbalances initiate the process of insulin resistance, and conditions of pre-diabetes worsen. The cycle continues when the next paycheck comes in. For this reason, whether a child is thin or obese, it is crucial to emphasize the importance of nutritional, behavioural and physical fitness interventions as quickly as possible for all groups.


Is more exercise the answer?

Mandatory physical education classes until high school might not be the ticket to reversing the childhood obesity trend. A study published in the March 31 2009 edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that while phys-ed does offer numerous health benefits, improving body mass index (BMI) in children was not one of them. “Although the physical activity interventions in the study were not successful in improving BMI, the reasons for failure were unclear,” wrote Dr. Kevin Harris of B.C. Children’s Hospital, one of the study’s authors.[xiii] While there were other health benefits –lowered blood pressure, increased lean muscle mass, bone mineral density and aerobic capacity, and improved flexibility – weight loss did not occur. Other studies have shown that increased exercise led to increased appetite. It must be stressed here that exercise is not useless, but it is not enough in addressing the obesity epidemic.

Multi-level Approaches to Obesity Needed:

In related commentary, in the same journal, Dr. Louise Baur argues from the University of Sydney, Australia points out that the obesity rates in France plateaued following a range of multi-level interventions such as:

  • Improved urban planning (i.e., adding more playground areas and play equipment)
  • Provision of healthy meals in schools
  • Subsidies on fruits and vegetables for schools and daycares.
  • Beginning in 1992 children in the towns of Fleurbaix and Laventie received significantly more nutritional education, with a focus on local, traditional French fare.
  • They were also encouraged to get involved in sports.

The outcome? The researchers found that as children’s knowledge of nutrition increased, the eating habits of the entire family changed, putting the rising rates of obesity on a plateau.[xiv]

The New Food Insecurity – Processed foods cost less than Whole Foods:

To arrive at a total systems approach to eradicating obesity, something must be done around educating people about the type of crops that contribute to the very condition they need fixed. In the United States, government subsidies continue to support an agriculture industry that focuses on producing cheap sugar and fats from corn and soy. Both crops fuel obesity. Functional Medicine physician Dr. Mark Hyman asks us to consider: “You can fill up on 1200 calories of cookies or potato chips for $1, but you’ll only get 250 calories from carrots for that same $1, so if you were hungry, what would you buy?”[xv]

Sadly, processed foods have become cheaper as real food has become more expensive. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that between 1985 and 2000 the retail price of carbonated soft drinks rose by 20 percent, fats and oils by 35 percent, and sugars and sweets by 46 percent. On the other hand, there was an118 percent increase in the retail price of fresh fruits and vegetables. In 15 years the price of vegetables ballooned six times as fast as the cost of sugary, calorie-rich, nutrient-poor sodas.[xvi]

If you are poor and have no car or bus fare, comparison shopping is a problem, and in many communities, the only place to buy food is a local convenience store where fruits, vegetables and ‘real foods’ never make it to the shelves. Says Lise Duboise, Epidemiology professor at the University of Ottawa, “…there is segregation in terms of access to healthy food.”

Another conundrum – cheap food is biologically addictive:

Foods made ‘in a plant’ (rather than grown on a plant), as Michael Pollan would say, are biologically addictive.[xvii] Sugar stimulates the brain’s reward centers through the neurotransmitter dopamine exactly like other addictive drugs.[xviii] Brain imagining (PET scans) show that high-sugar and high-fat foods work just like heroin, opium, or morphine in the brain.[xix] Both obese people and drug addicts have fewer dopamine receptors, making them more likely to crave things that boost dopamine and that feeling of reward. Foods high in fats will also raise opiate-like substances. And just like drugs, after an initial period of “enjoyment” the user starts regularly consuming them to feel normal.

Binge-eating then leads to profound physiological change, which steps up calorie consumption and weight gain. In a Harvard Study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, overweight adolescents consumed an extra 500 calories a day when allowed to eat junk food as compared to days when they weren’t allowed to eat junk food. [xx] They ate more because the food triggered cravings and addiction. Once they started eating processed food full of the sugar, fat, and salt that triggered their brain’s reward centers, they couldn’t stop.

Unfortunately, food manufacturers refuse to release any internal data on how they put ingredients together to maximize consumption of their food products despite requests from researchers. In his book, The End of Overeating, David Kessler, MD, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration, describes the science of how food is made into drugs by the creation of hyperpalatable foods that leads to neuro-chemical addiction. It is downright crazy that someone has thought of such things.

Ok, so what CAN be done? Healthy Eating Habits at Home:

The number one piece of advice is don’t get hungry, says weight loss and bariatric surgery specialist Dr. Yoni Freedhoff. Research studies show that low blood sugar levels are associated with lower overall blood flow to the brain. This means BAD decisions when you are hungry.

  • Make sure everyone in your household has had a healthy breakfast before going to school or work. Studies repeatedly show that eating a healthy breakfast helps people maintain weight loss. Studies repeatedly show that eating a healthy breakfast helps people maintain weight loss.
  • To keep blood sugar stable, eat a nutritious breakfast with some protein like eggs, protein shake or nut butters. Studies show that low-glycemic meals keep children full and satisified.[xxi]
  • Even 100% Fruit juice is like candy. Send your children to school with a bottle of pure water each day. It is far better to provide your family with the whole fruit so that they feel full, get all the fibre, and get the phytonutrients that juicing and heat-pasteurizing takes out. Just one of those ‘no added sugar’ juice boxes contains the equivalent of at least 5 teaspoons of sugar. Drinking more than 12 ounces a day of 100% fruit juice has been linked to an increased risk of obesity [xxii]
  • Eliminate sodas, all sugars and artificial sweeteners from your diet, as these can trigger cravings.
  • Avoid flavoured yoghurt. These products are loaded with sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup Homemade yoghurt costs 1/3 the price of commercial yoghurt. Make it yourself with this recipe This website will also teach you how to save money if you are on food assistance, by cooking from scratch.
  • Pack vegetables in that lunch bag and go easy on starches. According to data from the 2004 CCHS, 59% of Canadian children and adolescents were reported to consume fruits and vegetables less than five times a day. This group of individuals were significantly more likely to be overweight or obese than were those who ate fruit and vegetables more frequently (Statscan, p. 3)
  • Don’t fall into the ‘I’m running late, I’ll pack this’ trap.

Lifestyle changes:

  • · Get at least 8 hours of sleep. Research shows that lack of sleep increases cravings.
  • Get moving and play less video games. A 2000 study published in the Canadian Medical Association, reported that the average Canadian child spends 3-5 hours a day inactive or sitting in front of a computer screen. This increase was especially notable among teenagers aged 13-to-17, whose overweight/obesity rates more than doubled, and in many cases, tripled.
  • Educate your children to step around junk food landmines in school cafeterias, vending machines, and other such areas.
  • Determine if hidden food allergies are triggering cravings. We often crave the very foods that we have a hidden allergy to. If it is a non-food allergy, remove it from your environment.
  • Read food ingredient labels together with your children. Prepare them for real life – talk to them about good nutrition, the growing problem of obesity.

Optimize Your Nutrient Status:

  • Optimize your vitamin D levels: When Vitamin D levels are low, the hormone that helps turn off your appetite doesn’t work and people feel hungry all the time, no matter how much they eat.
  • Optimize omega 3s: Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids have also been associated with depression, Alzheimer’s disease and obesity. EPA especially helps with depression.
  • Consider natural supplements for cravings control if the problem is severe. Glutamine, tyrosine, 5-HTP are amino acids that help reduce cravings. Stress reducing herbs such as Rhodiola can also help. Chromium balances blood sugar and can help take the edge off cravings. Glucomannan fiber is very helpful to reduce the spikes in sugar and insulin that drive cravings and hunger. Otherwise, cutting out sugar cold-turkey and having a little protein at each meal can help to cut cravings. You will notice a difference in 3-4 days. Always work with a Certified Holistic Nutritionist in making these changes.

Things you can do at the Community and Political Level:

  • In Ontario, all junk food in schools must be removed by September 2011. Is this in progress? If not, speak to your child’s school principal or report the problem to your local school board.
    • PepsiCo has announced plans to voluntarily stop selling sugary drinks in primary and secondary schools around the world by 2012. The move, prompted in part by an initiative developed by The World Heart Federation, is aimed at fighting rising childhood obesity rates around the world. Unfortunately, while sugary drinks will be off the menu, Pepsi will still be selling diet sodas in secondary schools. If this concerns you, contact your school principle or school board members.[xxiii] Coca Cola also has announced it will stop selling its products in primary schools, unless parents or school authorities request them, but it also wants to offer a full-range of low-calorie beverages alongside regular soft drinks in secondary schools.
    • Work to end food marketing to children. 50 other countries worldwide have done this, why haven’t we? According to the Canadian Paediatric Society, most food advertising on children’s TV shows is centered on fast foods, soft drinks, candy and pre-sweetened cereals. Commercials for healthy food make up only 4 per cent of what is shown. Fast food chains spend more than 3 billion dollars a year on advertising, much of it aimed at children. To directly target children, the fast food industry uses incentives such as playgrounds, contests, clubs, games, and free toys and other merchandise related to movies, TV shows and even sports leagues. Check out: Media Awareness Network, ‘Special Issues for Children’ .

Above all, have the right structures in place. Parents are THE most important influences in children’s lives. They can set the pace for learning healthy food choices but they must be positive role models. Children, (just like adults) learn by example, so, eat together as a family, around a table and not in front of a television. Have your kids eat the same meals that you do and by eat 3 balanced meals daily yourself. Focus on your child, not the weight. Never, ever put children on a strict diet. They need their nutrients. Also, don’t single out kids when you serve an occasional treat. If you are giving out a treat to your other children, don’t deny one child because he is overweight. Just try to make it a healthy treat! Here’s something you can try today:

Blueberry Sorbet made without eggs

Blueberries are wonderful (and low glycemic). You can also try using cherries or any type of berry. Nut and hemp milks are not as high-glycemic as rice milk or soy milk. The blueberries contain mucilage, fibre, and proanthocyanidin antioxidants (13,427 Antioxidant Activity per serving); the almond milk contains plant proteins.



1 cup frozen organic blueberries

2 Tbs unpasteurized honey

3 cups of organic almond or hemp milk (unsweetened)

1/2 tsp goats milk whey powder to prevent ice crystals.*

*Do not use xantham gum – it is mixed with corn starch and derived from a type of mold. Also do not use guar gum as it can gum up the intestinal lining.


1. Pulse mixture in blender until smooth.

2. Turn on ice cream machine and pour into machine.

The ice cream will be ready in about 20 minutes. The mixture can be poured into paper cups and left to semi-harden in the freezer until a teaspoon ‘handle’ can be inserted. Voila, blueberry frozen treats without any additives! Serves 4

[i] As far back as 2004, we were made aware through Statistics Canada that 18 percent of Canadian children and adolescents were overweight and 8 percent were obese. Later, in March 2007, the House of Commons Standing Committee on health released a report on childhood obesity which noted that childhood and adolescent obesity rates had indeed spiked over the past three decades. Also see:

Lobstein T, Baur L, Uauy R. (2004). Obesity in children and young people: A crisis in public health. Obesity Reviews; 5(Suppl. 1): 4-85.

[ii] Public Health Agency of Canada (March 2007). Childhood Obesity and the Role of the Government of Canada, Retrieved 22 March, 2010 from:

[iii] American Heart Association Scientific Statement: Statement addresses use of cholesterol drugs in children, 21 March 2007 Available at:

[iv] Dr. Weston Price and his followers believe that processed vegetable oils, trans-fats, and refined carbohydrates are the real culprits in the modern world’s poor health.The Weston A Price Foundation argues that “human beings have been consuming saturated fats from animal products, milk products and the tropical oils for thousands of years without problems or degenerative diseases.” It is only in the last 100 years or so that diet-based diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer have reached epidemic proportions. For further reading see:

[v] Obesity is highest amongst poorer families, who may have difficulty providing healthy food choices and physical activity opportunities for their children. As income level drops, the prevalence of obesity in children aged 13 to 18 years old rises. See: Feldmen and Beagean, 1994; US Centre on an Aging Society, 2002.

[vi] In terms of education, young people in households where no members had more than a high school diploma were more likely to be overweight/obese than were those in households where the highest level of education was postsecondary graduation.

[vii] American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (May 2008). Obesity in Children and Teens. No.79. Retrieved 21February, from:

[viii] When a mother smokes during her pregnancy, her child has a 21.6 per cent change of being overweight by age seven, compared with 13.4 per cent for children born to non-smoking mothers. Exposure to cigarette smoke affects a fetus’s metabolism according to some research.

[ix] Undernutrition is usually thought of as a deficiency primarily of calories (that is, overall food consumption) or of protein. Undernutrition, a term often used interchangeably with malnutrition, is actually a type of malnutrition. Malnutrition is an imbalance between the nutrients the body needs and the nutrients it gets. Thus, malnutrition also includes overnutrition (consumption of too many calories or too much of any specific nutrient—protein, fat, vitamin, mineral, or other dietary supplement). Merck Online Medical Library: Undernutrition Last full review/revision August 2007 by David R. Thomas, MD

[x] Czapp, Katherine, Book Review: Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes, Knopf, 2007, 22 March, 2009, Weston A. Price Foundation,

[xi] In Britain, a 50 year study of 412 people, published in the British Medical Journal, found that obese teens tended to become obese adults. The most overweight 13 year-olds were twice as likely as the rest of the children in the study, to become adults with the highest percentage of body fat.

[xii] Wright, CM, Parker L, Lamont D, Craft AW (Dec. 1, 2001). Implications of childhood obesity for adult health: findings from thousand families cohort study. British Medical Journal 2001. 323(7324):1280-4)

[xiii] CBC News, ‘Fighting Childhood Obesity: Is phys-ed enough? Tuesday June 2, 1009, http://www.cbc/health/story/2009/03/31/f-phys-ed-obesity.html

[xiv] Ibid.

[xv] Hyman, Mark, ‘Not having enough food causes obesity and diabetes, , p. 3. Retrieved March 20, 2011.


[xvii] Food is addictive

[xviii] Colantuoni C, Schwenker J, McCarthy J, Rada P, Ladenheim B, Cadet JL, Schwart GJ, Moran TH, Hoebel BG Excessive sugar intake alters binding to dopamine and mu-opioid receptors in the brain.

[xix]Volkow ND, Wang GJ, Fowler JS, Logan J, Jayne M, Franceschi D, Wong C, Gatley SJ, Gifford AN, Ding YS, Pappas N. “Nonhedonic” food motivation in humans involves dopamine in the dorsal striatum and methylphenidate amplifies this effect. 2002 Jun 1;44(3):175-80. Synapse.


[xxi] Evidence Summary: Low Glycemic Load Diets and Satiety in Children: 3 randomized, controlled trials. See:

[xxii] Am Academy of Paediatrics, 2001; Mrdjenovic & Levitsky, 2003.JUICE

[xxiii] Pepsi to stop selling sugary drinks in schools worldwide’, 18 March, 2010,

Running Away From the Cure

The month of October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It is also the month when the annual ‘Run for the Cure’ takes place to raise funds for breast cancer research. Are we running anywhere close to the finish line?

While we walk, run, and shop for the cause, the cure remains a distant and imaginary dream, according to medical sociologist Gail A. Sulik, Ph.D.  In her new book, Pink Ribbon Blues, the month of ‘Pink October’, has become a distracting sideshow. Despite the $1 billion raised by pink-clad volunteers – and despite the billions that the U.S. administration puts into related research each year – science has failed to make any real progress in the fight against breast cancer.

Adding further worry, the American Cancer Society (ACS) states that, “Since women may not be able to alter their personal risk factors, the best opportunity for reducing morality is through early detection.” In other words, breast cancer is not preventable in spite of clear evidence that its incidence has escalated over recent decades. We keep hearing fundraisers say over and over again, “but these women did everything right – our only hope lies with raising billions for more cancer research” — this in spite of  overwhelming literature on avoidable causes of this cancer.[i] Interestingly, in the ACS text on “Nutrition and Diet,” no mention is made of the present heavy contamination of produce, animal and dairy fats with carcinogenic pesticide residues, or of the need to try safer organic foods.

Are we getting there?

Following the enthusiasm of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we are left with the impression that important work is being done. In truth, since the war on cancer was declared 40 years ago, things have become worse. Today in Canada, one woman in nine will get breast cancer. In 1975 it was one in 11.[ii] The risk of dying from the disease, upon diagnosis, decreased just 0.05 percent from 1995 to 2005.[iii] So,  although women with breast cancer today has access to medical and technological advances, she will still have about the same chance of dying from the disease as women did 50 years ago. The situation is worse for African-American women. Although they have a 10 percent lower incidence of breast cancer compared to white women, they are more likely to die of the disease than women of other ethnic races.[iv]

Breast cancer remains one of the leading causes of deaths from cancer for women (excluding melanoma skin cancer). The Canadian Cancer Society’s 2010 figures show that an estimated 23,200 women will be diagnosed with it yearly and 5,300 will die of it. Of the one in nine women who are expected to develop breast cancer during their lifetime, one in 28 will die of it.[v] Across the border, the figures are one in 8 women. Two thousand American men are also diagnosed with breast cancer every year.

“Survivors and supporters walk, run and purchase for a cure as incidence rates rise and the cancer industry thrives”, Sulik writes. Cancer drugs are the fastest growing and best selling class of drugs in the prescription drug market. Currently they total more than $200 billion and this figure continues to grow. Given the profits, can any amount of pink-ribbon volunteering alter the medical establishment’s investment in the current treatments? Who needs a cure when you can make so much money without one?

The National Breast Cancer Awareness Month itself had a rich, strange parent. It was established by the American Cancer Society with funding from the pharmaceutical giant Zeneca.[vi] This company continues to underwrite and direct publicity for breast cancer early detection campaigns whole at the same time manufacturing the pesticides and insecticides that cause breast cancer. According to health advocate Samuel Epstein M.D., the American Cancer Society is the wealthiest “non-profit” institution in the world with approximately $6.40 spent on compensation and overhead for every $1 that is spent on direct services to the patient. It is deeply invested in the drug industry, mammography, and National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. [vii]

Under the pink industry umbrella you will find diagnostic technology, pharmaceuticals, and large non-profit organizations. Many of these corporations participate in ‘cause marketing’ – selling a product to increase public visibility, and profit. It seems to be working. Revenues from the medical imaging equipment industry grew from about $3 billion in 1997 to over $9 billion 10 years later. Healthcare analysts predict that the market for medical imaging equipment (not including services) is expected to thrive at a 7.6 percent compound annual growth rate.[viii]

Known risk factors account for only 30 Percent of breast cancer cases: What is missing?

Although scientists have discovered some risk factors for breast cancer (age, reproduction factors, inherited genetic mutations, postmenopausal obesity, hormone-replacement therapy, alcohol consumption, and previous history of cancer of the endometrium, ovary, or colon), these known risk factors account for only 30 percent of breast cancer cases.[ix] What part of the puzzle is missing then?

Over thirty years ago the World Health Organization found that up to 90% of all cancers are caused by pesticides, radiation and other toxic chemicals in the environment.[x] Today the Obama administration’s ‘President’s Cancer Panel’ (a panel which includes the voice of breast cancer survivors), believes the “true burden of environmentally induced cancers has been grossly underestimated.”[xi] Dr. Samuel Epstein, (whose research was key to banning DDT), pointed out at the Second World Conference on Breast Cancer in Ottawa, 1999, that all of us now carry 500 different compounds in our cells, none of which existed before 1920, and that “there is no safe dose for any of them”.[xii] An increasing number of studies reveal that certain synthetic chemicals used in household products, cause health problems by interfering with normal hormonal pathways. These ‘endocrine disruptors’ have been linked in animal studies to a variety of problems which include reproductive failure, cancer and developmental abnormalities.[xiii]

Another problem: the lifetime risk of breast cancer of people with the ‘breast cancer gene (BRCA1 or 2) is presently 82 percent. Before 1940, the risk of getting cancer for carriers of these genes was 24 percent. What has changed?  “Our diet, lifestyle and environment – both physically and emotionally”, says Mark Hyman, MD. Conventional medicine has lost its battle with cancer, he says, but this doesn’t mean that the war is over.

“Instead of asking what disease you have and what drug should be used to treat it, we must ask WHY the disease has occurred and what are the underlying causes that led to illness…”[xiv] Disease is a systemic problem and we have to treat the system, not the symptom; the cause, not the disease. According to Hyman, this completely redefines the whole notion of disease – news that is heart-warming holistic practitioners who have accepted this for decades.

How do we do this? Hyman says that we can strengthen the immune system through dietary and lifestyle changes, nutrient and phytonutrient therapies. We can facilitate the body’s own detoxification system to promote the elimination of carcinogenic compounds. We can improve hormone metabolism and reduce carcinogenic effects of too much insulin from our high sugar and refined carbohydrate diet. We can help the detoxification of toxic estrogens though changes in diet, lifestyle, and elimination of hormone-disrupting xenobiotics or petrochemicals.[xv]

Respected Canadian breast health specialist, and Naturopathic Doctor, Sat Dharam Kaur, has been teaching ‘The Healthy Breast Program’, since 1996, and has embraced these truths all along. As she read more and more articles on breast cancer, Kaur was astounded by the connection between the deteriorating environment and cancer development. Lifestyle, thoughts, emotions and stress also play an important role – even though these factors are difficult to measure or predict. Kaur sees at least 8 categorical risk factors to breast disease and stresses that environment, plays a very important role. According to Kaur, the categorical factors include: 1) Hereditary[xvi],2) Reproductive[xvii]; 3) Lifestyle and healthcare, 4) Hormonal – Estrogenic factors[xviii], 5) Environmental; 6) Dietary; 7) Psychological, and 8) Spiritual factors.[xix] This is a very different view which asks ‘could changing thoughts, diet and reactions to stress, aid in detoxification of the garden in which cancer grows?’

What we Can do about breast cancer

The following list of dietary guidelines for breast health and cancer was adapted from Dharam Kaur’s  ‘The Healthy Breast Program’:

1)      Keep the body more alkaline- eat more fruits and vegetables, less protein and grains. Check pH of urine and keep it around 6.8-7.2. Cancer cells cannot survive at a pH of 8. Potassium, magnesium, calcium, sodium bicarbonate and cessium create alkalinity.

2)      Increase oxygenation in the tissues, Cancer cells die in an oxygen-rich environment. Regular, deep breathing, the yogic ‘breath of fire’, 35 minutes of aerobic exercise daily, rebounding, flaxseed oil, and Co-enzyme Q10 increase oxygenation.

3)      Test for and remove toxic metals from the body that may be interfering with hormones and enzymes.  These include mercury, arsenic, cadmium, lead, and aluminum. Consider replacing any mercury fillings with porcelain.

4)      Test for and remove pathological fungal growth, parasites, bacteria, viruses, yeast, or other chronic infection, particularly in the teeth. Consider using darkfield microscopy to assess whether fungus is present in a pathological phase.

5)      Avoid sugar and consume foods with a low-glycemic load value, to lower levels of insulin and IGF-1 hormones. These two hormones strongly stimulate tumour growth. Use chromium or r-Lipoic acid to lower insulin levels in the blood/drive it back into the tissues, where it belongs.

6)      Improve circulation and clean up the blood, decreasing viscosity and sticking of platelets. Burdock root, red clover, Echinacea, and digestive enzymes help to clean the blood. Flaxseed oil, vitamin B3, salvia mirtiorrhizae, frankincense and ligustrum help to move the blood. Regular exercise, rebounding, and alternating hot and cold showers will also improve blood circulation by causing muscles to contract and throw off toxins.[xx]

7)       Maintain a healthy body weight (Body Mass Index of less than 25) throughout your life[xxi], exercise regularly for the rest of your life, and minimize exposure to pharmacologic estrogens and xeno-estrogens.

8)      Vitamin D3 (Calcitriol) is protective. It increases the self-destruction of mutated cells, reduces cancer spread, and also reduces the growth of new blood vessels growing from pre-existing one. A promising Creighton University study shows that 1400-1500 mgs calcium citrate (the more absorbable form),  taken together with 1100 international units of vitamin D3, daily, reduced the risk of breast cancer and 25 other cancers by 60 to 70 percent.[xxii]

Try to eat from this list daily:

  • Eat organic (pesticide and hormone-free), whenever possible. Eat primarily vegetarian foods.
  • Aim for 50-80% raw food, to help cleanse and nourish your cells
    • Eat brassicas daily (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, turnip, sorrel, watercress, radishes, collard greens).Make coleslaw at least three times a week. Otherwise, aim for at least half a cup a day of any brassica. (CAUTION – if you have thyroid issues, speak with your healthcare professional first. Raw brassicas may interfere with thyroid function and cause a rise in thyroid-stimulating-hormone unless you use seaweed or iodine as well.
    • Iodine and sea vegetables such as kelp will protect your breasts and is actually used as a cancer treatment. They also help reduce lymphatic congestion and improve digestion.
    • Use sprouts in your salad and in sandwiches. You can even put them in your soup. Grow your own broccoli sprouts.   They contain sulphoraphane (a powerful anti-breast cancer extract that protects you from environmental toxins and detoxifies your liver. 5 grams of broccoli sprouts is equal to 50 grams of broccoli.
    • Sprouts and cereal grasses are high in vitamins, minerals and enzymes.  They make the body more alkaline (cancer loves acidic conditions). The sprouts of mung beans, clover, yellow pea, green lentil, chick pea, fenugreek, contain more nutrients than the grown beans.
    • Broccoli sprouts contain Indole-3-carbonol. Aim for 300 grams – the amount found in 1/3rd of a raw cabbage. It will double your good, protective estrogen (C2 hydroxyesterone),  and decrease your ‘bad’ estrogen (C16 hydroxyesterone).The ‘thioles’ in brassica vegetables help  the liver to detoxify. The isothiocyanates help prevent DNA damage.
    • Garlic, onions, leeks are very important. Garlic helps prevent the start, promotion and recurrence of many cancers, including breast cancer.  Garlic, leeks, and onions are high in trace minerals germanium and selenium (cancer fighters).  They protect your body from bacteria, yeast and fungi. They are better raw – try to eat 3 cloves of garlic daily.
    • Sea vegetables (seaweed) contain iodine, which helps with breast cancer.
    • Dandelion leaves are very good for cleaning the liver. Keeping y our liver clean will help keep your breast cells clean.
    • Fresh vegetable juices are good for cleansing your cells. Do not drink heat-treated juices. During processing they are altered and made high in glucose, even though the company may claim that there is no added sugar.
    • Carrot, beet, and cabbage juice is very good for breast cancer. You can add any combination of kale, parsley, watercress, asparagus, tomato, bok choy, apple, ginger, garlic sprouts, or seaweed.  Fresh vegetable juices improve detoxification of the intestines and the liver.
    • Lycopene protects you from cancers of the cervix, breast, mouth, esophagus, etc. You get lycopene mainly from cooked tomatoes, watermelon, grapefruit, and guava. Make sure you check your doctor and pharmacist to see if you can have grapefruit, as it interferes with the detoxification cycle of some medications. Adding olive oil to your tomato sauce helps you to absorb lycopene.
    • You will benefit from 2 glasses of HOMEMADE tomato juice daily. CAUTION – some people with arthritis or joint pain will be sensitive to tomatoes, potatoes or eggplant.  Listen to your body.
    • Citrus juice and peel (these contain flavonoids and limone – known breast cancer cell killers).  The most effective type of flavonoids are found in tangerines. Oranges and lemons are next.  Limonene can also be found in dill weed, caraway seeds and mint. Cherries contain a chemical similar to limonene and are also protective against breast tumours.
    • For women with estrogen-sensitive breast cancer, phytoestrogens help (mung bean sprouts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, soy, red clover sprouts) because they compete with the receptor for estrogen, thereby lowering estrogen levels.
    • Fibre (moves out stale estrogen from your intestines, helps to remove toxins, regulates your blood sugar, and keeps you feeling full and satisfied so that you don’t reach for sweets after meals).    Consume 30-35 grams of fibre a day. This is equivalent to one serving of high-fibre cereal, one cup of cooked beans, 2 pieces of whole grain bread, one serving of whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, or millet), and SIX servings of fruit and vegetables daily.
    • Drastically reduce flour products such as bread, pasta, baked goods, and focus on whole grains instead. You can still make pasta sauce – try serving it over brown rice from now on, or quinoa.
    • Protein – make sure, if eating meat, that you are eating grass-fed beef and free-range, organic chicken). Fish should be free of mercury and other contaminants.
    • Sulfur-bearing protein (put 4 TBS organic cottage cheese with 2 TBS flax seed oil in the blender for 4 minutes). Eat for breakfast or as a dip with vegetables. Stir in leeks or garlic, if wished.
    • For cancerous conditions, aim for low sodium (salt), and high potassium (eat baked sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, potatoes).
    • Shitake and maitake mushrooms are potent cancer cell killers.
    • Turmeric, rosemary, sage, thyme, ginger are all great. You can even make fresh ginger tea.
    • Rotate your foods and aim for variety – try to eat from above and below the ground, and to eat as many different brightly coloured foods as possible.
    • Eat foods with a low glycemic load rating – this means, please avoid those foods that will raise your blood sugar sharply. Avoid anything white (i.e. sugar, flour, rice) or processed.

In closing, can breast cancer be beaten? Yes, but the problem asks that we shift focus from Pink Culture and pharmaceutical profit, to finding the underlying cause of disease. A ‘one-size fits all’ approach must be replaced with orthomolecular (correct-fit) approach which looks at each person’s unique biochemistry. It also means that instead of looking at the diseased breast, we must look at the entire terrain of the body, internal and external. All of this is manageable but requires that we collaborate to think differently about cancer and to understand and treat it as a systemic problem. If we do all this, we will all be running towards the cure.

[i] See: American Cancer Society, ‘Cancer Facts and Figures -1998, Atlanta, pp.1-32. Other than information on incidence, mortality, signs and symptoms, and treatment, there is little or no mention of prevention.

[ii]The 1 in 8 women estimate is based on statistics for the years 2002 through 2007. See: American Cancer Society, ‘Probability of Breast Cancer in American Women’,,

[iii] Russell Rich, Katherine, ‘Sink Pink – A new book takes down Breast Cancer Awareness Month’, Slate Magazine,,  29 October, 2010.

[iv] W.E. Barlow, E. White, & Ballard-Barbash, “Prospective Breast Cancer Risk Prediction Model for Women Undergoing Screening Mammography,” Journal of the National Cancer Institute 98 (2006): 1204-14, cited in Sulik, Gayle, Pink Ribbon Blues: How breast cancer culture undermines women’s health. Oxford University Press, New York, 2011, p. 41.

[v] See: Canadian Cancer Society, ‘Breast Cancer Statistics’, Updated 19 May, 2010.

[vi] Zeneca Group plc of Imperial Chemical Industries later merged with pharmaceutical giant Astra AB to become one of the most prosperous members of breast cancer Industry via development and sales of oncology drugs. See: Sulik, G, ‘Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health. Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 19.

[vii] Epstein, Samuel, MD, ‘The American Cancer Society: The World’s Wealthiest ‘Non-Profit’ Institution’,  Also Published in: International Journal of Health Services Vol. 29, No. 3, 1999.

[viii] Sulik, Gayle, Blog: ‘Thinking the Unthinkable’, 24 July, 2010.

[ix] Sulik, Op. Cit. Pink Ribbon Blues, p. 59.

[x] Caroline Dean N.D., M.D., forward to book, ‘The complete natural medicine guide to Breast Cancer. Robert Rose Publ., Toronto, 2002. p4.

[xi] See: Cone, Marla, Ed. Environmental Health News, President’s Cancer Panel: Environmentally caused cancers are “grossly under-estimated’ and needlessly devastate American lives’, 6 May, 2010.

[xii] Ibid.

[xiii] A 2007 UC-Davis study studied the synthetic antibacterial chemical triclocarban (TCC), which for the past 45 year has been added to dish and bath soaps, detergents, cleansing wipes and lotions. See: University of California – Davis (2007, December 8). Antibacterial Chemical Disrupts Hormone Activities, Study Finds, ScienceDaily, , Dec. 8, 2007. P. 1.

[xiv] Hyman, Mark, MD, “Cancer Research: New Science on How to Prevent and Treat Cancer from TEDMED 2010, Huffington Post, 12 November, 2000. Available at:

[xv] Ibid, p. 12.

[xvi] Hereditary risk factors include mother or sister with breast cancer, female relatives with ovarian or endometrial cancer, brother or father with prostate cancer, being light-skinned, being born more than 8.8 pounds or longer than 51.5 cm at birth (this makes you 3.5 times more likely to develop breast cancer before menopause than girls weighing less than 6.7 pounds or less than 50 cm. See McCormack, VA. Et al. Fetal Growth and subsequent risk pf breast cancer: results from long term follow up of Swedish cohort. British Medical Journal, 2003; Feb 1: 326-248.

[xvii] Having a child is not a guarantee against breast cancer, but it helps. Breast cells complete their maturation process only with a full-term pregnancy. After that, they become less affected to menstrual cycle hormones. Partially matured breast cancer cells have unstable DNA that is more susceptible to the process of cancer.  See Sat Dharam Kaur, ND, ‘The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Breast Cancer. Robert Rose Publ. Toronto, 2003, p. 19.

[xviii] Hormonal-Estrogenic factors include early-onset of menstruation and late menstruation, shorter menstrual cycles, birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, fertility drugs, DES, Low progesterone, high prolactin, increased growth hormone, increased testosterone, imbalanced thyroid, high insulin levels, high insulin-like hormones.

[xix] Sat Dharam Kaur, ND, ‘The Healthy Breast Program’. Canadian Edition, 2010, p. 46.

[xx] (these include early-onset of menstruation and late menstruation, shorter menstrual cycles, birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, fertility drugs, DES, Low progesterone, high prolactin, increased growth hormone, increased testosterone, imbalanced thyroid, high insulin levels, high insulin-like hormones.

[xxi] A study in the August 2003 publication of JAMA, reveals that women who exercise regularly achieve a higher survival rate from breast cancer. The risk of cancer death was 50 percent lower for women with hormone responsive tumours. The optimal exertion seems to be 9-14.9 Metabolic Equivalent Task hours. The reasoning was that exercise resulted in lower levels of circulating estrogen hormones. See:

[xxii] Researcher and professor of medicine Joan Lappe is working on phase two of her research into the benefits of Vitamin D in reducing cancer risk. The first phase indicated that rural postmenopausal women who took optimum amounts of calcium and vitamin D3 supplements could reduce their risk of breast cancer and 25 other cancers by 60 percent to 77 percent. See: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 85, No. 6, 1586-1591, June 2007. Available at:

Caffeine Anyone?

So what’s the scoop on caffeine? One minute someone says caffeine is good for you, and the following week you’re reading that it causes exhaustion, fatigue and addiction.

It is estimated that approximately 80% of the world’s population uses caffeine on a daily basis, mainly in the form of coffee, tea, sodas and chocolate, but it is also found in some drugs, ‘decaffeinated’ coffee and tea, and energy drinks. According to Harvard School of Public Health researchers involved in a 22-year study, the overall balance of risks and benefits of coffee consumption, are on the side of benefits.” Another study from Finland shows that middle aged people who consumed moderate amounts of coffee or tea (3–5 cups per day), were 65% less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by the time they reached their mid-sixties to seventies, compared with those who drank little coffee or avoided it altogether. Other studies suggest that drinking coffee reduces the risk of being affected by Parkinson’s disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus type 2, cirrhosis of the liver, and gout.

But not everyone agrees that caffeine is beneficial, and questions remain about what exactly is the cause behind its reported benefits.

There are many new studies which appear to support caffeine but if you look closely, the scientists will not say that caffeine enhances your health and long-term well-being. They might say a particular type or part of chocolate, or caffeine is good for you. Most of coffee’s beneficial effects against Type 2 diabetes are not due to its caffeine content but something else, since the benefits are greatest in those drinking decaffeinated coffee. We know that the antioxidants in roast coffee – lipophic antioxidants and chlorogenic acid lactones – are playing protective roles when it comes to protecting nerve cells, but it is unclear by which mechanism this occurs in other organs of the body.

Menopausal women taking estrogen, for instance, will not enjoy reduced risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. In fact, their risks were increased. These finding was observed by the same Harvard researchers just mentioned – yet the dangers of drinking coffee to this group of women is rarely reported in popular media.
Some studies point out that coffee consumption does not raise the risk of cardiovascular disease, yet other research has shown that chronic consumption may increase aortic stiffness. Caffeine may contribute to the development of heart disease because it increases cholesterol levels, and a chemical in the blood called ‘homocystein’, a marker for predisposition to heart attack. Unfiltered coffee, especially, can raise blood fats. Even a small amount of caffeine can be detrimental for people who are sensitive to caffeine.

There is much conflicting research around, so above all, people must be their own health advocate and investigate further into whether you are reading industry-funded or independently-funded research.

Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel
Caffeine does not add energy to your system. Instead it burns up your reserves at a quickened pace. This forces your glands to secrete when they don’t have much left to give, leaving you feeling more tired. According to nutritional biochemist Stephen Cherniske in his book, Caffeine Blues, caffeine begins its effects by initiating uncontrolled neuron firing in your brain. Within 5 minutes of drinking your morning coffee, this excess neuron activity triggers your pituitary gland to secrete a hormone, ACTH (adrenocorticotrophic hormone) that tells your adrenal glands to produce adrenalin, a stress hormone that prepares you for ‘flight or fight’. Caffeine also stimulates the production of noradrenaline and reduces the calming neurotransmitter, serotonin.

How much buzz in that cup?
It depends on how the coffee bean or tea leaf or product has been processed, and/or brewed. A dosage of 50 to 100 mg caffeine – typically the amount in one cup of coffee – will make you brain feel more alert, but think again – caffeine has woken you up because it has triggered a stress response and your brain perceives as external threat or danger. Your muscles tense, your blood sugar elevates for extra energy, and your pulse and respiration rates speed up. So what sort of jolt can you expect?

• A 6 ounces cup of Percolated coffee has about 120 mg of caffeine
• Black tea has about 70 mg
• Green tea has about 35 mg
• Brewed decaf coffee has 5 mg of caffeine
• Starbucks brewed coffee has 250 mg per 8 ounces
• Starbucks Latte-Mocha has 75 mg per 16 ounces
• Starbucks Vanilla Grande Frappuchino with whipped cream – 18 ounces contains 430 calories, (130 from fat), 60g sugar and 115 mg caffeine. ***NOTE: 3500 CALORIES = 1 pound of FAT
• Red Bull ‘Monster Mixxd Energy + Juice’ has 80 mgs caffeine
• Tim Horton’s ‘large’ coffee has 140 mg caffeine.
• Popular colas have around 45 mg
• Mountain Dew has 54 mg
• Baking chocolate has 35 mg caffeine per ounce

Detrimental Effects of Caffeine:
What could possibly be wrong with something we have been exposed to from an early age in the form of chocolate bars, cough syrups and colas? To start with, caffeine lowers production of DHEA, a hormone critical to the optimum functioning of your immune, cardiovascular, reproductive, and nervous system health. DHEA is an anti-aging hormone and coffee consumption interferes with that process. Though milder in its effects, caffeine manipulates the same neurochemical channels that amphetamine drugs operate on. Overuse of caffeine can result in a number of symptoms including irregular heartbeat, sleeplessness, headaches, nervousness, tremors, irritability, and depression.

Vitamin and Mineral Depletion: Caffeine acts as a diuretic, dehydrating the tissues and blood vessels of your brain. This, in turn, affects short-term memory recall. Its diuretic and adrenal gland stimulating properties have been linked to iron deficiency anemia in infants. Coffee also interferes with the absorption of supplemental iron due to the polyphenols present. Caffeine depletes the body of B vitamins, as well – which you need for proper brain and nervous system functioning and to convert food into energy. B1 or Thiamine deficiency especially, can cause fatigue and nervousness. Caffeine also speeds gastric emptying, thus preventing food nutrients from being properly absorbed in your small intestine. Minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc, are all depleted by caffeine.

Caffeine’s Effect on Blood Sugar: What is happening is that as adrenaline is released, the liver begins to emit stored blood sugar, and you get a temporary ‘lift’ or mood boost. As insulin is released, blood sugar drops below normal. While initially, caffeine may lower your blood sugar, it can lead to increased hunger or cravings for sweets later. You get a short-term boost at the expense of long-term jitters and fatigue. If you continue to drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages throughout the day, you will find yourself in a chronic state of stress throughout the day. Indeed, many scientists have found it exacerbates mood disorders in adults and children, triggering anxiety, depression, and irritability.

Who is most at risk?
The metabolism of coffee depends on the state of the liver. In a healthy liver, caffeine is mostly broken down by the hepatic microsomal enzymatic system. It can take between 3 and 12 hours to detoxify a single cup of coffee. At-risk groups include children, teenagers, men, women, pregnant women, people with fast metabolisms, and the elderly. In short, it affects everyone, young and old.

Because caffeine causes your stomach to produce extra hydrochloric acid, it may aggravate pre-existing conditions such as ulcers and gastroesophageal reflux disease. Elderly individuals with a depleted enzymatic system are especially at risk – even decaffeinated coffee may cause heartburn. In men caffeine increases the risk for prostate and urinary problems. In women caffeine has been linked to fibrocystic breast disease, PMS, osteoporosis, infertility problems, miscarriage, low birth-weight infants, and menopausal problems such as ‘hot flashes’.

Caffeine, like theobromine (found in chocolate), has to be detoxified by the liver, burdening it over time. But caffeine is not the only toxic substance in your daily brew. Coffee contains a host of chemicals, not just caffeine. Among them is a group of extremely toxic compounds called ‘polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons’ (PAHs). You might remember this word as the cancer-causing agentisolated from barbecued meat.

Chemicals in your morning Cuppa:
Commercial coffees contain harmful chemicals. Over 1,000 chemicals have been reported in roasted coffee; more than half of those tested (19 out of 28) are carcinogenic. Instant coffee, for instance, has a much greater amount of acrylamide than brewed coffee. For over 20 years coffee growers have used deadly pesticides on their coffee plants – including chemicals such as Aldrin, Dieldrin, Chlordane and Heptachlor. Thus, coffee is a seemingly benign route for daily toxin consumption.
Finding out whether you are addicted to caffeine is easy. Just give up all of your caffeine sources – including soft drinks – for a couple of days and see if you feel tired, headachy, grumpy and depressed. Headaches and fatigue are the classic signs of caffeine deprivation

Strategies to wean yourself off the caffeine habit:
Upon arising, drink at least 2 glasses of pure water. Once your brain cells are refreshed, you may not even feel like drinking something to ‘wake you up’. Also:

Gradually reduce the amount you are consuming, i.e., 3 cups of coffee, tea or soda per day during week 1; 2 per day during week 2; 1during week 3; and none in week 4.

Gradually replace coffee with decaf. During week one, use half regular coffee and half decaf; week 2, use ¼ regular coffee and the rest decaf, week 3 start drinking only decaf (this is not the best strategy as even decaf contains caffeine).

Whatever strategy you use, stick with it. Taking magnesium glycinate or citrate will help with headaches.

Other Ideas for staying caffeine-free at home:
Instead of reaching out for your morning cup of coffee, you can do your body a big favour by eating a healthy breakfast instead. A good breakfast, followed by a healthy lunch, will keep you feeling energetic all day. There are many caffeine-free herbal teas available (i.e., camomile, mint, raspberry leaf), but when looking for a tasty coffee alternative, you can try:

Teeccino – herbal coffee made of roasted carob, barley, chicory root, figs, dates, orange peel and almonds.

Ayurved Roast – an organic blend made with ashwagandha, shatavari, and brahmi herbs.

Roasted carob- lightly roasted carob powder has a light mocha flavour.

Yerba maté – this grassy tasting tea contains caffeine, however preliminary evidence suggests its caffeine affects muscles tissues versus the central nervous system. Know that is has a stimulating effect on both myocardial (heart muscle), as well as smooth muscle tissue.

Grain coffees (these contain ingredients such as almond, asparagus, malted barley, okra seed, potato peel, sassafras, and dandelion root).

Here’s a recipe for a roasted carob smoothie that you can try today. In a blender place:

1 cup organic almond milk (hot or cold)
1 heaping tablespoon roasted carob powder
3 pitted dates or a few drops of maple syrup to taste (can also try ¼ teaspoon stevia)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
Optional: 5 or 6 soaked walnuts

Whizz for 30 seconds and enjoy.

Click here for the full bibliography for this article [PDF].

Glycemic Index (GI) vs. Gylcemic Load (GL)

For many years, food scientists have advocated the use of the Glycemic Index as a useful tool in avoiding certain foods which might cause blood sugar to rise. It is a ranking system that tells you how fast the sugar content of a food is released into your bloodstream.

The concept behind the GI was developed by Dr. David J. Jenkins and colleagues at the University of Toronto in 1980 while researching which foods were best for people with diabetes. Jenkins began testing how quickly 50 grams of specific foods like beets and oatmeal convert to glucose (blood sugar), and compared them to either white table sugar or to white bread. His team set a standard measure. Today when you follow a GI diet, you use a chart that scores food on a range from 1-100. A high GI score indicates food to avoid; a low GI score, the ones to eat.

There have been some problems with the GI rankings. If following the GI, you might be tempted to think that a cola, with a GI of 90 is better than cranberry juice, which carries a GI of 105. You might also think you should eliminate carrots from your diet due to their extremely high GI value. (A newly updated figure has Canadian carrots listed at 97 GI per serving). Another problematic example is ‘fructose’, which has a very low glycemic index, and yet has been established as a major reason why so many people are overweight.

Common sense, however, tells you that a cranberry juice should be better than a sugar-based soda, and that carrots are good for you.

GI and GL – Does it matter which one I use?
Gylcemic Index food scores, while useful, only provide half the picture. While the GI value tells you how rapidly the carbohydrate in a food turns into sugar, it does not tell you the quantity of carbohydrates in a serving. You need to know both sets of data in order to understand how that food will impact your blood sugar. The Glycemic Load measures both and combines this data into ‘one figure’.

Questions around juicing and blood glucose Levels
The newer Glycemic Load concept developed by Harvard School of Public Health Professor Walter Willet and his associates in 1997 , sheds light on whether ‘juicing’ of fruits and vegetables, is really the high-sugar culprit it has long been made out to be. Yes, an 8-ounce serving of carrot juice contains approximately 11 grams/3 teaspoons of sugar – but you need to keep in mind that is about half the amount found in a large apple. Carrots are an excellent food for your body’s cells. They are full of dietary fibre, and contain many important vitamins and minerals. In short, you need to look at the whole picture. You never want to cut a natural form of betacarotene from the diet, especially since you would be missing out its pro-vitamin A – important for immune system health, for skin repair, and for maintenance of the retinas of your eyes. For ideas on how to lower the glycemic load of any food, please see pages 3 and 4 of this article.

Calculating Glycemic Load easily:
An often-used example of watermelon is given here: Watermelon contains fast-releasing carbohydrate- for this reason it has a high GL score of 72. However, only 1/8 oz (6g) per 3 ½ oz (100g) of watermelon is carbohydrate. The rest of the fruit is mainly water. The impact of the fast-releasing sugar is very low, therefore, so ‘high glycemic index’ watermelon actually has a low GL score of only 4.

Here’s how to calculate the GL of any given food: take the GI value and multiply it by the actual number of carbohydrates in a serving. So…Quantity of Carbohydrate X Quality of Carbohydrate. Then simply divide by 100.

The GL score of watermelon is therefore calculated as:
72 X 6 = 4.32
(Rounded down you get = 4 GL)

GL food scores – What’s a safe range?
The glycemic load of a food varies according to portion size, and the range of measures runs from 0-35. Anything over 15 is to be avoided. Here is an easy guideline you can follow:

LOW GL – a score of 10 is good.
MEDIUM GL – 11-14 is OK in moderation
HIGH GL – 15 or more is ‘bad’ and to be avoided. (Contrast that with the GI, where a score of 55 is considered low).

If this sounds very complicated, do not worry. Many calculations have been done for you by trusted sources such as Harvard University,, and the University of Sydney For a free, ‘2008 International Table of Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load Values’, see and is a well-respected resource for people living with diabetes. (Normally this information is available only via a subscription to the Journal of Diabetes Care, or to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition).

Examples of low GL foods include:
• Oatcakes, wholemeal bread, baked beans, quinoa, all vegetables, (except for potatoes and parsnips), fish, white meat, eggs, fermented soy, dairy.

Medium GL foods are healthy in moderation:
They release glucose into the bloodstream at a slower rate than high GL foods, but still raise blood sugar to a level where it is likely to overproduce glucose, and some is turned into fat. If you want to lose weight, they should be limited and eaten alongside low GL foods. Examples include:
• Rye crispbread, rice noodles, parsnips, boiled potatoes, rice milk.

High GL foods are to be avoided:
High GL foods release glucose into the bloodstream fast and raise sugar levels too quickly for the body to cope. The body cannot use all the glucose produced and deposits a large proportion of glucose for storage as fat. Your blood sugar level then crashes – leaving you hungry again (and so the cycle continues). Examples include:

• White baguette, muffins, cornflakes, all rice (except for brown basmati), couscous, puffed rice cakes, all potatoes (except boiled new and fingerling potatoes), honey.

Why we need to limit high GL foods:
Blood sugar levels are linked to hunger and the way you eat. High-glycemic-load foods cause a sharp, rapid rise in blood glucose, especially if you do not ‘space’ them over the day. Once in the cell, any glucose that is not used for energy is converted into fat. Insulin then blocks the enzyme that breaks fat into free fatty acids that are used up as an energy source.

Low GL foods are preferable because glucose is released into the bloodstream slowly, helping blood sugar to remain more stable. Maintaining blood sugar at a stable level is the key to steady long-term weight loss as well as preventing diseases such as diabetes , and heart disease. Keeping blood sugar steady also prevents the energy slumps that trigger food cravings.

Several factors come into play when calculating the GL of a food:

  • Amount of cooking: Starches in food swell when cooked (whether it is boiled, broiled, baked or fried). The grains in a baked potato swell to the bursting point, whereas the starch grains in brown rice remain relatively unchanged.
  • Amount of processing: When grains are rolled, ground, or mashed, the protective (and harder to digest) outer coating is removed. Whole oats have a lower GI than oatmeal, which is made from steamed and rolled oat grains.
  • Amount of fibre: Some foods naturally have higher amounts of fibre than processed foods such as white rice.
  • Amount of fat: The higher the fat content in a food, the longer it takes to digest.

What you can do to stay healthy at home:
GL values are useful, however sometimes people make the mistake of avoiding high GL foods which contain valuable vitamins and minerals. To stay in optimal health:

  • Choose good carbs, not ‘zero carbs’. Your brain’s primary fuel is glucose. Carbohydrates provide the body with the fuel it needs for proper organ function. Instead, choose from a wide variety of non-starchy vegetables (every colour in the rainbow).
  • Replace refined foods with whole-grain products.
  • Eat several small meals a day (to prevent glucose surges).
  • Eat fruits and starchy vegetables together with high-protein or high-fibre foods to slow their blood-spiking potential (this is a new, somewhat controversial method which goes against the principles of food-combining for optimal digestion).
  • Buy foods as fresh and unprocessed as possible and eat them soon afterwards.
  • Eat more raw food. Be adventurous. Try raw zucchini pasta, for example. Cook foods in their whole state, slicing or blending before serving, in order to preserve nutrients.
  • If juicing fruits and vegetables regularly, consider adding dark green leafy vegetables to lower the glycemic load, or add a teaspoon of flax, borage or olive oil. Adding 0.5-1.0 gram of a ‘good’ fat per gram of carbohydrate will likely slow gastric emptying, and the rate of blood glucose increase.
  • Use as little water as possible, preferably steaming, poaching or steam-frying
  • Avoid frying food. Use less heat, whenever possible. Avoid over-heating or burning food.
  • Use slow-cooking methods whenever possible (braising, stewing, slow-roasting, crock pot).
  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Exercise regularly. The more conditioned you are, the less sensitive your body is to the effects of insulin, and the onset of Type II diabetes.
Boxed breakfast cereal Oatmeal or teff porridge
Fried egg and bacon Scrambled eggs on rye toast
Croissant and jam Egg pancake with chia seed fruit gel
Burger and French fries Turkey or chick pea burger and salad
Spaghetti carbonera Zucchini pasta with cauliflower or broccoli –parmesan sauce
Doner kebab Greek pita bread filled with aubergine
Chicken Biryani Brown rice pilaf with curried chicken
Smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwich Cottage cheese with smoked salmon and cucumber
Tea, coffee or cola Rooibos tea, herb teas, freshly made lemonade with stevia, fresh ginger tea

If you keep to the low GL guidelines:

  • You will stop producing more glucose than you can use
  • You won’t suffer from food cravings
  • Your body will be reprogrammed to burn fat rapidly.
  • You will also be able to sustain your weight loss over the long term.

Click here for the full bibliography for this article [PDF].

Artificial Sweeteners

As more and more health-conscious consumers are trying to reduce their refined sugar intake and lose weight, Canadians are turning to artificial sweeteners in hope of a quick fix. Consider this: a 355 ml can of soda pop (which contains 10 teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories), daily can add up to a whopping 55,000 calories yearly. When it comes to losing weight, and maintaining health, however, it is not clear that artificial sugars are helping.

Artificial sweeteners are a mix of laboratory chemicals, combined to create a ‘sweet’ taste. Since artificial sweeteners have been introduced, rather than reducing our sugar intake, they have increased it. In a study published in the summer of 2007, researchers from the University of Alberta found that young animals became desensitized to diet foods, and tended to over-eat during meals of regular-calorie food. The researchers contended that children who consume low-calorie versions of foods that are normally high in calories, may develop “distorted connections between taste and calorie content, leading them to overeat as they grow up”.

Why should this worry us? Artificial sweeteners were created to trick the body into thinking it is getting something sweet. The body, however, is never really tricked and is always looking for balance. Your body still produces insulin in response to artificial sweeteners. When your blood sugar does not increase upon ingesting artificial sweeteners, hypoglycemia may occur, resulting in cravings which lead to increased food intake and sugars at the next meal.

Links between Artificial Sweeteners and Disease
Independent researchers, particularly in Europe, have found popular sweeteners such as sucralose and aspartame to be harmful to human health. Other research studies have linked artificial sweeteners to weight gain, disruption of sleep patterns, fertility problems , development of multiple sclerosis-like symptoms, increase in metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes, and other pathological conditions. ,

The most widely-used artificial sweetener, ‘Aspartame’ is made up of three chemicals: the amino acids aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol. In this unbound or ‘free’ form, the body breaks aspartame down rapidly into the toxic by-products formic acid (an irritant found in red ant venom), and DKP (aspartylphenylalanine diketopiperine), an agent linked to gene mutations. It may also contain unknown toxins. Until 1999, people were unaware that Monsanto, the GM food giant, used genetically engineered bacteria to make aspartame for the US market.

At temperatures above 95 degrees (the human body is 98 degrees) aspartame converts to formaldehyde. Formaldehyde, an embalming preservative for laboratory specimens, is no longer used because it has been shown to be a powerful carcinogen. According to Neurosurgeon Dr. Russell L Blaylock, damages various cellular proteins, including enzymes, microtubules and other functional proteins. Even in small concentrations formaldehyde can weaken cells and impair DNA function.

To date, there have been no long-term studies done on humans to determine long-term effects for any sweetener. NutraSweet scientists have claimed for years that most commonly ingested fruit juices contain 140 mg of methanol per litre. This is a fallacy. The 140 mg/litre figure was obtained from a very old conference paper presented by Francot and Geoffroy, who state that they did not perform many of the tests and give no original sources for the work except for the grape juice and black current juice. No methodology was given in their 1956 research.

In nature, methanol never appears alone. In every case, ethanol is present, usually in higher amounts. Ethanol is, in fact, an antidote for methanol toxicity in humans. Aspartame on the other hand, has NO ethanol. Humans are seven times more sensitive to the toxic effects of aspartame or methanol than animals because they lack a couple of key digestive enzymes (such as pectin esterase) to release methanol. Animal testing for methanol or aspartame, therefore, does not adequately reflect the danger for humans.

Why do pop cans have quick expiry dates?
Ever notice how soft-drink companies quickly collect any unsold products from grocery shelves? Soft drinks do not suddenly lose their sweetness when they sit on the shelf — they increase creation of Diketopiperazine (DKP) after being stored more than 6 months. According to FDA toxicologist Dr. Jacqueline Verret, in her testimony before the US senate, DKP has been implicated as a cause of uterine polyps and changes in blood cholesterol, as well as brain tumour formation. Dr. John Olney, a neuropathologist who worked at the FDA, also noted that DKP, when ‘nitrosated’ in the gut, produced a compound which is similar to N-Nitrosourea, a powerful brain tumour-causing chemical.

How much is too much?
Studies on average daily consumption of artificial sweeteners vary widely. Health Canada guidelines advise that one can safely consume 40 milligrams of aspartame per kilogram of weight. This means a 68-kilogram person would have to drink about 20 cans a day to get into the aspartame danger zone (a 12-ounce can of diet Coca-Cola contains 120 mgs). One study funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute, estimated average daily intake to be quite low – the equivalent of just one 12-ounce can of diet soda per day. The researchers, however, made estimates based solely on consumption of beverages containing aspartame, used senior citizens as subjects, relying on their recall of amounts consumed. The Aspartame Information Centre, however, points out that dry goods contain far more aspartame than beverage products.

The bottom line is that people may be consuming more artificial sweetener than they think. Presently, many estimates are inaccurate because they fail to include common daily-use artificial sugar products like table sweeteners, candies, yoghurts, nutrition bars, and chewing gum. The European Ramazzini Foundation’s estimated daily level of 910 mg/day is said to more accurately reflect average daily use of artificial sweeteners. If that sounds excessive, consider that dieters may be consuming even higher amounts. The popular South Beach Diet heavily endorses the use of sugar substitutes despite reports showing that aspartame functions as an appetite stimulant. And when diet is not sufficiently monitored, many people use artificial sweeteners in addition to sugar products.

Independently funded verses industry-funded studies: Whom do we believe?
Questions have been raised about aspartame’s safety and the appropriateness of industry sponsorship of medical research. An analysis of peer reviewed medical literature using MEDLINE and other databases was conducted by Ralph G. Walton, MD, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine. Dr. Walton analyzed 164 studies felt to have relevance to human safety questions. Of the 90 non-industry-sponsored (independent) studies, 83 (92%) identified one or more problems with aspartame. Of the 74 aspartame industry-sponsored studies, all 74 (100%) claimed that no problems were found with aspartame.

Today, despite controversy and safety issues, artificial sweeteners are used in all types of products – from sports drinks (diet and “regular”), to snack foods, to flu remedies, toothpastes and lozenges. As holistic nutrition professionals, we believe that food should be in its natural, whole state. The best thing to do is avoid all artificial and chemically made sweeteners. They are not real food, trick the body into thinking it is eating something sweet, and carry concerns over safety. Below is a brief overview on a number of artificial sweeteners:

Acesulfame-k or Ace-k (Sunette) – The K is for potassium. Discovered in 1967 this derivative of acetoacetic acid was approved by the FDA in July 1988. Unfortunately, several potential problems associated with the use of this product include lung and other tumours, leukemia, and chronic respiratory disease – even when less than the maximum dose was given. Later it was petitioned for a stay of approval by the FDA due to doubts about its danger.

Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal, Neotame) – Aspartame has remained controversial since its acceptance as a ‘generally recognized as safe’ (GRAS-listed) additive in 1982. Neotame is Aspartame that has been hydrogenated and linked up with another chemical to make it 30 to 60 times sweeter than Aspartame. Although made from amino acids, aspartame is not a natural substance and many people have experienced nervous system and ‘irritant’ effects such as feelings of agitation, and changes in mood. It has effects similar to those MSG (monosodium glutamate), leading some experts to call it an ‘excitotoxin’. Despite its FDA approval, many members of the health-care profession continue to question its use.

Cyclamate (Sugar Twin, Sucryl) – this chemical sweetener was banned in 1969 in the US because of cancer-producing tendencies. It is still legal in countries that feel cancer study results on rats are not a cause of concern to humans (i.e., Latin America). This sweetener is approved as a drug but not a food additive. The Sugar Twin package now carries a label stating that it should only be used under your doctor’s advice, and that it is not safe to use during pregnancy.

Saccharine (Sweet ‘N Low) – In the 1970s there were concerns that saccharine could be cancer causing in laboratory rat studies. Saccharine was not permitted by Health Canada as a food additive however it allowed consumers access to it as a table-top sweetener. As of November 2009, Health Canada scientists are still considering re-listing this substance in the Canadian Food and Drug Regulations, following their own safety assessments. Saccharine may be present in drug formulations in substantial amounts.

Sugar Alcohols (Polyols and Polydextrose such as Sorbitol) – Alcohol sweeteners may be better tolerated than aspartame, however, problems such as diarrhoea, dehydration and weight loss may occur because they are not fully digested by the small intestine. Additionally, when undigested carbohydrates reach the colon, the normal bacteria present there, ferments with sugar alcohols to produce gas and bloating. Not surprisingly, sorbitol has been linked to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In diabetics, side effects may be more pronounced, because blood glucose is converted into sorbitol at an accelerated rate. Symptoms include damage of the nerves, blood vessels, eyes and kidneys, and formation of cataracts.

Sucralose (Splenda) – was discovered in 1976 by British scientists seeking to create a new pesticide. It is comprised of a sucrose molecule except that three of the hydroxyl groups in the molecule have been replaced by three chlorine atoms. Dr. James Bowden, a physician and chemist explains that once chlorinated, sucralose becomes a chlorocarbon (pesticide) in the family of Chlorodane, Lindane and DDT. He warns that chlorocarbons are wholly incompatible with normal human metabolic functioning, and that they damage the liver’s metabolic cells and destroy them” The manufacturer’s own short-term rodent studies showed that very high doses caused shrunken thymus glands, enlarged livers, and kidney disorders. Adverse reactions in humans collected by the Sucralose Toxicity Information Centre include skin rashes, migraine headaches, panic-agitation, dizziness, numbness, diarrhoea, swelling, muscle aches, intestinal cramping and bladder issues.

As holistic practitioners, we believe it is always preferable to eat ‘naturally sweet’ foods such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, rather than look for natural sugar substitutes. ‘Natural’ or not, too much sweetener, in any form, can have a negative effect on health. Fundamental holistic nutrition views fructose ingestion as being at the core of obesity, insulin resistance, vascular disease, fatty liver, diabetes and other diseases. Pasteurized fruit juices, agave and even raw honey should be limited since ‘natural sugars’ often contain a much higher percentage of fructose than high-fructose-corn-syrup (HFCS). Going sugar-free will also ensure you have a better chance at obtaining an adequate level of fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Fructose levels should be kept to below 25 grams a day. If you do insist on using a natural sugar substitute, however, consider:

Stevia – has been championed by holistic/natural foods advocates in Canada and the US, and is used in several countries – Japan, especially, where it has been safely used for over 30 years. This green-leaf herb is commonly known as ‘the sweet leaf of Paraguay’, contains no calories, no natural sugars, and can be used by people with diabetes, hypoglycaemia, or candidiasis issues. Stevia’s phytonutrient profile includes betacartotene, dulcosides, steviol, and stevioside.

Pure coconut palm sugar – is a natural product made from the nectar of the coconut palm tree. Pure coconut palm sugar has a naturally low glycemic index (35GI) –a measure of how fast the sugar contact of a food is released into your bloodstream. (Regular sugar is 68GI). This has led to claims that it is an ideal sugar substitute for people with diabetes, those looking to control blood sugar, or those on a low-carbohydrate diet). Coconut palm sugar contains minerals such as magnesium, potassium, zinc, and vitamins B and C, and has also been called the most environmentally sustainable sweetener by the Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

Yacon – this raw, low glucose sweetener made from the root of a tuberous vegetable related to the sunflower, and is grown in Columbia and northwest Argentina. It does not cause a rise in blood sugars due to its lower (34%) level of FOS (fructooligosaccharides) and low proportion of simple sugars (e.g., glucose, fructose and sucrose). The human body lacks enzymes to hydrolyze FOS, so it passes through the digestive tract without being metabolized. In this way, FOS acts as a prebiotic. Its marketers claim that the undigested portion of yacon serves as food for “friendly” bacteria, such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus species, in the colon. Yacon roots also contain potassium and antioxidants. Its taste is similar to caramel and molasses.

Raw Honey – Although it is higher on the glycemic index, raw honey contains many nutrients. Raw honeys such as manuka honey, have been demonstrated to have antimicrobrial properties and is rich in antioxidants, phytonutrients and enzymes. LifeMel honey is made by bees fed on Siberian ginseng, Echinacea and Uncaria tomentosa and other herbs. This is the only honey that has been subjected to clinical testing (it was found to prevent chemotherapy-induced pancytopenia – a lowering of red and white blood cells and platelets).

Agave nectar – Very recently, agave syrup has been maligned as having the highest fructose content of any commercial sweetener. This is not entirely accurate. Differences in the plant, and collection practices can mean that the fructose content can average from 70 to 97 percent, whereas high-fructose-corn-syrup (HFCS) averages 55 percent. One brand, Madhava, only uses sap from the Salmiana species of the agave plant, which does not require extensive processing. The juice is collected by hand, and no heat is involved in its removal. Low heat, (below 113F) is only used in processing/removal of water. Nonetheless, the majority of of agave manufacturers do not use Salmiana species and instead rely on chemical or thermal methods to process the starch from its root bub. The Weston A Price Foundation cautions that conventionally made agave is worse for you than HFCS, and should be avoided.

Because sugary, convenience foods satisfy hunger, they often replace more nutritious foods and weaken disease resistance.  When you feel like snacking or having something sweet, try some of these healthier options instead:

  • Because protein helps to stabilize blood sugar and keeps you feeling full longer,  aim for protein based snacks such as a soft boiled egg, or a protein smoothie  made with hemp seeds, fresh apples, carrots and ginger root;
  • Sweeten your organic tea with a cinnamon stick or a vanilla bean;
  • Add a splash of blueberry or pomegranate juice to your green tea instead of honey;
  • Skip maple syrup. It adds 50 calories and about 12 grams of sugar per teaspoon. Instead use ‘jam’ made of 2 tablespoons chia seed mixed into 1/2 cup organic pomegranate or cherry juice and leave to thicken;
  • Make some ginger syrup using stevia. Chop a 5 inch piece of peeled ginger and boil it with 4 cups of water and a half teaspoon of stevia powder. Simmer gently for 8 minutes. This syrup can be stored in the refrigerator for several days.
  • Try mock instant tapioca pudding: mix 2 TBS chia seeds into a half cup of     almond milk. Leave to gel in the fridge for 2 hours;
  • Instead of reaching for ice cream, try a semi-frozen mashed banana with a dusting of finely ground organic cocoa nibs or carob powder;
  • Snack on plain organic yoghurt. Vanilla, cinnamon or nutmeg may be added.
  • Eat more high-fibre foods such as brown rice, lentils, dried beans and peas. Foods high in fibre help you to feel full. They also stabilize your blood sugar levels.
  • Snack on Pumpkin seeds (Pepitas) sprinkled with curry powder;
  • Drain and rinse 4 cups of cooked organic chick peas. Toss in olive oil and spices of choice.  Place in slow oven (200 F) for 3 hours. They turn out like corn nuts.
  • Dried fruits can be high in natural sugars. If you are going to reach for dried fruit,   try un-sulphured gogi berries. They are high in antioxidant power and not sweet;
  • Most of all, avoid all soft drinks, energy drinks, and so-called vitamin   waters (high sugar water with low quality nutrients). Most soft drinks contain phosphoric acid which blocks absorption of calcium and magnesium in the intestines, leading to early osteoporosis, kidney stones, fatigue,  high blood pressure, lowered immunity and other health issues.

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