Lead, Crime, and Kids

Another set of articles linking lead exposure to societal violence are making the rounds—it’s odd how they tend to go in cycles—and the comments of online discussions are, predictably, peppered with refusal to consider the connection.

To sum up the research: The neurotoxicity of lead is well-established.  It causes poor impulse control, lowers IQ, and increases aggression.  But lead was widely present in the U.S.—in paints, in toys, in fuel, and even in foods—until the 1970s.  At that time, the country enacted widespread lead reduction policies and practices.  Comparing timelines of crime rates and lead exposure produces interesting data: high lead exposure correlates to high crime rates about twenty years later.  Falling lead exposure correlates to falling crime rates about twenty years later.

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Choose Well Now Available!

Exclusively through Amazon.com, Choose Well is now available for purchase!  If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can borrow it for FREE until November 27, 2013.

Seven out of ten supplement manufacturers violate FDA regulations.

Are their products in your home?

If you don’t know the answer, it’s time to find out.

International research confirms the wellness benefits of many vitamins, minerals, and herbs.  But those benefits won’t come from low-quality and contaminated ingredients that are processed in unsanitary facilities.

Move beyond the drug-versus-supplement debate.  Understand the market.  Learn about testing and inspections.  Know the standards you should demand of any company claiming to support health and wellness.

Quality matters.  Learn to Choose Well.

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Pesticides In Your Supplements — Perfectly Legal

Pesticides and herbicides are some of the last things you’d expect to be in a “natural” capsule or tablet intended to support good health and healing. But that’s what can be found in many supplements.

And it’s perfectly legal.

In fact, it can get you a seal of quality!

The research that went into Choose Well was rather extensive. I even read the regulatory standards from the Food and Drug Administration, and the certification standards from NSF International, a third-party quality certification provider. The certification standards are the requirements supplement manufacturers must meet in order to earn what NSF calls, “the leading mark in public health and safety certification around the world.”

One phrase from the NSF standards stuck out for me.  Section 5.3.2 of the standards states the following: A broad pesticide screen shall be performed to confirm the absence of banned pesticides in botanical products. NOTE – A pesticide is considered banned if it appears in Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention.

It set me wondering: If testing for banned pesticides is required, are there pesticides that are permitted?

As it turns out, the answer is yes. A representative of NSF confirmed to me that residue from non-banned pesticides is permitted under their standards because theirs is not an organic certification.

Think about that for a moment.

Pesticide residue is permitted, by the company providing “health and safety” certifications, in dietary supplements.

This is why consumers are frustrated with the supplement market.  Really–did it occur to anyone that pesticides would be acceptable ingredients in dietary supplements?

At least with fruits and vegetables, one can wash or peel away much of the residue clinging to the product. How would you go about washing capsules of Echinacea? How do you peel psyllium hulls? Who would have thought you’d even need to ask that question?

This is one of the many reasons I wrote Choose Well, the book set to be released in two weeks.  People need to know what all those touted standards and regulations actually mean, and they need to know how to find quality supplements made with truly high standards and ethics.

It’s also one of the reasons I’m very, very picky about my dietary supplements.


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Choose Well – In Production!

The final editing and fact-checking process for Choose Well: Your Guide To Finding Quality Supplements has begun!  I am so excited to be one step closer to placing this guide in your hands.

Becoming your own “Quality Assurance Department” is necessary if you’re going to use dietary supplements.  The FDA has authority to regulate the industry, but lacks the resources to perform basic and consistent inspections.  Even so, the FDA recently disclosed to Natural Products Insider that 70% of the supplement manufacturers inspected in 2010 and 2011 were citied for violating basic Good Manufacturing Practices such as equipment sanitation and materials testing.

Additionally, ConsumerLab.com reports 40% of multivitamins, 30% of vitamin B supplements, and a whopping 63% of milk thistle supplements they tested failed to pass the basic “label matches ingredients” test!

Quality matters.

When I teach a wellness workshop or seminar, participants ask me to explain how they can know which brands of supplements they can trust.  I know which brands I trust (and you’ll find that link on the right sidebar), but I’d much rather people learn to make their own assessments rather than depend upon someone else.  That’s why Choose Well came into being.

The ebook will be released on Thursday, August 29.  The print version will follow by mid-September.

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The Power of Artificial Sweeteners

For decades, health professionals have debated whether the possible side effects of artificial sweeteners are worth the intended benefit of reducing obesity.*  Supporters of the sweetener Splenda–a compound comprised of sugar bound with molecules of chlorine–have stated their product does nothing more than provide the taste of sweet.

But current research from the Washington University School of Medicine points in another direction:

“Our results indicate that this artificial sweetener is not inert — it does have an effect,” said first author M. Yanina Pepino, PhD, research assistant professor of medicine. “And we need to do more studies to determine whether this observation means long-term use could be harmful.”

The study is small, but it has been reviewed by health professionals and found to sound.  It recently appeared in Diabetes Care, the publication for the American Diabetes Association.

Previous research from numerous institutions have found that artificial sweeteners increase insulin responses and decrease the efficiency with which the body processes glucose.  This research, undertaken with human subjects, produced the same results.  Researchers concluded that artificial sweeteners do indeed influence metabolic functions by impacting receptors in the gut that are similar to taste buds.  In other words, the very taste of sweet is enough to alter how the body processes energy and information.

Research participants first drank either a glass of water, or water containing sucralose (Splenda).  Then they were given an amount of glucose commonly used to test an individual’s glucose tolerance.   In those participants who drank the artificial sweetener, blood sugar peaked at a higher level than those who drank water.  Even more troubling was the fact insulin levels were higher as well–up to 20% higher.

It’s tempting to call that higher insulin response a potential positive.  However, it’s well-known and established that repeatedly high insulin responses lead to insulin resistance, and resistance leads to Type II diabetes.   Moreover, high levels of insulin have an established connection with high cholesterol.

I do not expect this news to filter down to healthcare and wellness professionals for some time, and recommendations given to patients and clients will take even longer.  But you can take action now by removing all artificial sweeteners from your diet.  As much as we may want something to taste sweet (a survival instinct based on scarcity that’s out-of-sync with modern availability), we don’t need something as artificially sweet as sucralose and other chemical additives give us.

About two weeks without sweeteners resets your taste buds to their more natural, non-crave-inducing state.  If two weeks sounds like a long time, consider how quickly the last two weeks of your life flew past.  Since time truly does pass in an eyeblink, why not invest those two weeks in order to gain possible years of active living?

*Since the widespread use of artificial sweeteners in the food supply of the United States, the percentage of the population facing diabetes and obesity has increased exponentially.

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The Gatorade Game: What’s the BVO Deal?

So you’ve heard about brominated vegetable oil (BVO) being pulled from Gatorade, right?

If you want to know what’s behind the headlines, take a look at this Scientific American article from 2011.  There you’ll find the names of other popular drinks containing the substance (Mountain Dew, Powerade, etc.), as well as a decent explanation of why BVO isn’t something you want to ingest.

As always, companies that use chemical additives that are considered unhealthy at best, dangerous at worst, will fall back on the “But it’s FDA approved!” whine.  Frankly, such claims are more an indication of the FDA’s broken system than the substance’s safety.  Since the 1970s, BVO has been listed as an “interim food additive,” meaning it was once approved but is now questionable and should be subjected to additional testing.

Forty years later… nothing.  The FDA has shown no interest in researching a chemical implicated in cognitive decline, thyroid disruption, early puberty and other conditions currently on the rise–a rise mainstream medicine seems to be at a loss to explain.

Like many artificial colors, BVO is banned from the food supply in the European Union and Asia.  Yet it is still considered so “safe” under U.S. regulations that it’s in beverages routinely used in hospitals, athletic programs, and dietician-created food plans.  After all, it’s FDA-approved!

(Is Pedialyte any better? Well, it doesn’t contain BVO, but it does contain artificial colors that are banned in other countries.)

It’ll be months before the Gatorade on the shelves is BVO-free.  I haven’t yet heard if other brands are going to remove it from their beverages.  Your solution?  It’s the same solution you’ll find to most of these issues: eat and drink things as close to their natural form as possible.  Even if all those other countries are wrong and BVO has no adverse affects (a claim not even the FDA can make with a straight face), it has no value to the human body.

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More Doctors Diagnosing ADHD

From NPR comes yet another update on the ADHD diagnosis debate.  Note that there is a single reference to the impact of environmental toxins (pesticides, lead, etc.) and not a single reference to nutrient intake.  After all, neither of those topics provide well-funded research opportunities that would uncover insurance-funded solutions.

Besides, we already know about the pesticide link.  Even the American Academy of Pediatrics knows about it.

And we already know about the lead link, as is here outlined in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

And we already know about the nutrition link.  There are things in the food supply that shouldn’t be there, like aritificial colors (already banned in parts of Europe and Asia), and things that should be in the food supply but aren’t, such as Omega-3, critical minerals like magnesium, and healthy proteins.

Do such basic and inexpensive interventions always work to solve all the problems for all the kids?  Of course not.  (The complex and expensive interventions don’t fit that bill either!)  But nutrition-based interventions are less intrusive, less expensive, and have fewer side effects than the alternatives.  There is no reason not to start with them!

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The Importance of Health Advocates

I’ve said this before, but I’m going to say it again: The time to designate your personal Health Advocate is while you are healthy. If you wait until you are hospitalized, in pain, and under the influence of narcotics, you might not even realize you need an advocate. Or, if you do realize it, may be unable to articulate it. Worse, if you are unable to communicate at all, a health advocate will be determined by fate alone (it’ll be your closest kin).

Your Health Advocate must possess three things:

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How “Press Release Reporting” Skews Information

So here’s the deal: researchers in Germany asked nearly 25,000 people to regularly fill out a form on how frequently they had consumed 148 different foods over the previous twleve months. Then they were asked if they had taken supplements “regularly”–with regularly defined as daily use for at least a week, or five doses over four weeks. (Participants were not asked how much calcium or what form of calcium). Eleven years later, supplement versus non-supplement death rates and causes were compared.

So… An unknown amount of an unknown form of calcium supplements were associated with a higher risk of death from cardiac events…AND (from the study) older age, longer smoking duration, and lower education levels.

For more than a decade, it’s been well-known and well-documented that calcium carbonate–the cheapest and most common form of calcium used in supplements–isn’t all that great.  Some research shows its results are equal only to a placebo.  Calcium carbonate has in fact been linked to kidney stones and other health challenges.  However, mainstream supplements, like those found on standard drug store shelves, almost all use calcium carbonate.

But other forms of calcium–like calcium citrate–can do the opposite.  Without causing kidney stones. While strengthening bones, reducing muscle cramps, and so forth. I have never had a client come see me whose physician had explained the difference. I’ve had many clients improve bone density by switching their form of calcium.

And I’m really, really tired of folks relating the contents of researchers’ press releases.  And if the medical professional cannot–or sees no need to–distinguish between healthy and unhealthy form of a mineral, I know she or he isn’t going to give complete and accurate information.

Is it best to get your calcium from foods?  Absolutely. The body will get more usable calcium from greens than from dairy, though.  Supplementation can be a healthy alternative, as long as the right supplements are chosen.

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