Archive for August 2012

What Does It Mean to Be Fat Adapted?   Leave a comment

By Mark Sisson

When describing someone that has successfully made the transition to the Primal way of eating I often refer to them as “fat-adapted” or as “fat-burning beasts”. But what exactly does it mean to be “fat-adapted”? How can you tell if you’re fat-adapted or still a “sugar-burner”?

I get these and related questions fairly often, so I thought I’d take the time today to attempt to provide some definitions and bring some clarification to all of this. I’ll try to keep today’s post short and sweet, and not too complicated. Hopefully, med students and well-meaning but inquisitive lay family members alike will be able to take something from it.

As I’ve mentioned before, fat-adaptation is the normal, preferred metabolic state of the human animal. It’s nothing special; it’s just how we’re meant to be. That’s actually why we have all this fat on our bodies – turns out it’s a pretty reliable source of energy! To understand what it means to be normal, it’s useful examine what it means to be abnormal. And by that I mean, to understand what being a sugar-dependent person feels like.

Are You a Sugar-Burner?

    1. A sugar-burner can’t effectively access stored fat for energy. What that means is an inability for skeletal muscle to oxidize fat. Ha, not so bad, right? I mean, you could always just burn glucose for energy. Yeah, as long as you’re walking around with an IV-glucose drip hooked up to your veins.

What happens when a sugar-burner goes two, three, four hours without food, or – dare I say it – skips a whole entire meal (without that mythical IV sugar drip)? They get ravenously hungry. Heck, a sugar-burner’s adipose tissue even releases a bunch of fatty acids 4-6 hours after eating and during fasting, because as far as it’s concerned, your muscles should be able to oxidize them[1]. After all, we evolved to rely on beta oxidation of fat for the bulk of our energy needs. But they can’t, so they don’t, and once the blood sugar is all used up (which happens really quickly), hunger sets in, and the hand reaches for yet another bag of chips.

  1. A sugar-burner can’t even effectively access dietary fat for energy. As a result, more dietary fat is stored than burned. Unfortunately for them, they’re likely to end up gaining lots of body fat. As we know, a low ratio of fat to carbohydrate oxidation is a strong predictor of future weight gain.
  2. A sugar-burner depends on a perpetually-fleeting source of energy. Glucose is nice to burn when you need it, but you can’t really store very much of it on your person (unless you count snacks in pockets, or chipmunkesque cheek-stuffing). Even a 160 pound person who’s visibly lean at 12% body fat still has 19.2 pounds of animal fat on hand for oxidation, while our ability to store glucose as muscle and liver glycogen are limited to about 500 grams (depending on the size of the liver and amount of muscle you’re sporting). You require an exogenous source, and, if you’re unable to effectively beta oxidize fat (as sugar-burners often are), you’d better have some candy on hand.
  3. A sugar-burner will burn through glycogen fairly quickly during exercise. Depending on the nature of the physical activity, glycogen burning could be perfectly desirable and expected, but it’s precious, valuable stuff. If you’re able to power your efforts with fat for as long as possible, that gives you more glycogen – more rocket fuel for later, intenser efforts (like climbing a hill or grabbing that fourth quarter offensive rebound or running from a predator). Sugar-burners waste their glycogen on efforts that fat should be able to power.

The Benefits of Being Fat Adapted

Being fat-adapted, then, looks and feels a little bit like the opposite of all that. A fat-burning beast:

  1. Can effectively burn stored fat for energy throughout the day. If you can handle missing meals and are able to go hours without getting ravenous and cranky (or craving carbs), you’re likely fat-adapted.
  2. Is able to effectively oxidize dietary fat for energy. If you’re adapted, your post-prandial fat oxidation will be increased, and less dietary fat will be stored in adipose tissue.
  3. Has plenty of accessible energy on hand, even if he or she is lean. If you’re adapted, the genes associated with lipid metabolism will be upregulated in your skeletal muscles. You will essentially reprogram your body.
  4. Can rely more on fat for energy during exercise, sparing glycogen for when he or she really needs it. As I’ve discussed before, being able to mobilize and oxidize stored fat during exercise can reduce an athlete’s reliance on glycogen. This is the classic “train low, race high” phenomenon, and it can improve performance, save the glycogen for the truly intense segments of a session, and burn more body fat. If you can handle exercising without having to carb-load, you’re probably fat-adapted. If you can workout effectively in a fasted state, you’re definitely fat-adapted.

Furthermore, a fat-burning beast will be able to burn glucose when necessary and/or available, whereas the opposite cannot be said for a sugar-burner. Ultimately, fat-adaption means metabolic flexibility. It means that a fat-burning beast will be able to handle some carbs along with some fat. A fat-burning beast will be able to empty glycogen stores through intense exercise, refill those stores, burn whatever dietary fat isn’t stored, and then easily access and oxidize the fat that is stored when it’s needed. It’s not that the fat-burning beast can’t burn glucose – because glucose is toxic in the blood, we’ll always preferentially burn it, store it, or otherwise “handle” it – it’s that he doesn’t depend on it.

I’d even suggest that true fat-adaptation will allow someone to eat a higher carb meal or day without derailing the train. Once the fat-burning machinery has been established and programmed, you should be able to effortlessly switch between fuel sources as needed.

How Can You Tell if You’re Fat Adapted?

There’s really no “fat-adaptation home test kit.” I suppose you could test your respiratory quotient (RQ), which is the ratio of carbon dioxide you produce to oxygen you consume. An RQ of 1+ indicates full glucose-burning; an RQ of 0.7 indicates full fat-burning. Somewhere around 0.8 would probably mean you’re fairly well fat-adapted, while something closer to 1 probably means you’re closer to a sugar-burner.

The obese have higher RQs. Diabetics have higher RQs. Nighttime eaters have higher RQs (and lower lipid oxidation). What do these groups all have in common? Lower satiety, insistent hunger, impaired beta-oxidation of fat, increased carb cravings and intake – all hallmarks of the sugar-burner.

It’d be great if you could monitor the efficiency of your mitochondria, including the waste products produced by their ATP manufacturing, perhaps with a really, really powerful microscope, but you’d have to know what you were looking for. And besides, although I like to think our “cellular power plants” resemble the power plant from the Simpsons, I’m pretty sure I’d be disappointed by reality.

Yes?Then you’re probably fat-adapted. Welcome to normal human metabolism! No, there’s no test to take, no simple thing to measure, no one number to track, no lab to order from your doctor. To find out if you’re fat-adapted, the most effective way is to ask yourself a few basic questions:

  • Can you go three hours without eating? Is skipping a meal an exercise in futility and misery?
  • Do you enjoy steady, even energy throughout the day? Are midday naps pleasurable indulgences, rather than necessary staples?
  • Can you exercise without carb-loading?
  • Have the headaches and brain fuzziness passed?

Fat Adaption versus Ketosis

A quick note about ketosis: Fat-adaption does not necessarily mean ketosis. Ketosis is ketosis. Fat-adaption describes the ability to burn both fat directly via beta-oxidation and glucose via glycolysis, while ketosis describes the use of fat-derived ketone bodies by tissues (like parts of the brain) that normally use glucose.

A ketogenic diet “tells” your body that no or very little glucose is available in the environment. The result? “Impaired” glucose tolerance and “physiological” insulin resistance, which sound like negatives but are actually necessary to spare what little glucose exists for use in the brain. On the other hand, a well-constructed, lower-carb (but not full-blown ketogenic) Primal way of eating that leads to weight loss generally improves insulin sensitivity.

About the Author:

Mark Sisson is the author of a #1 bestselling health book on, The Primal Blueprint, as well as The Primal Blueprint Cookbook and the top-rated health and fitness blog He is also the founder of Primal Nutrition, Inc., a company devoted to health education and designing state-of-the-art supplements that address the challenges of living in the modern world. You can visit Mark’s website by visiting

Anemia Drug Made Billions but at What Cost?   Leave a comment

By Dr. Mercola

Three anemia drugs — Epogen, Procrit and Aranesp — have been among the best-selling prescription drugs in the United States for years, generating more than $8 billion a year for their makers, Amgen and Johnson & Johnson.

They were blockbuster drugs that stimulate your body to produce new red blood cells, which supposedly helped boost kidney and cancer patients’ energy and, ultimately, enhanced their lives.

But now, after millions of people have taken these drugs, it’s come out that the benefits were “wildly overstated, and potentially lethal side effects, such as cancer and strokes, were overlooked.”1

Worse still, the Washington Post has uncovered a series of unsettling events that show just how far drug makers were willing to go to get rich …

Doctors Earned Profits of Up to 30 Percent Just for Prescribing the Drugs

And this was one of the first problems. Drug makers lobbied Congress in order to put a system into place so that doctors and hospitals would be reimbursed more for the drugs they prescribed to Medicare patients than what they actually paid for them. The markup could be as high as 30 percent, and the higher the dose prescribed, the more money they made.

According to Charles Bennett, endowed chair at the Medication Safety and Efficacy Center of Economic Excellence at the University of South Carolina, in the Washington Post:

“It was just so easy to do — you put this stuff in the patient’s arm, and you made thousands of dollars … An oncologist could make anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000 a year from this alone. And all the while they were told that it was good for the patient.”

Higher Doses Pushed to a Growing Number of Patients

Initially, patients with kidney disease, who often suffer from anemia, were the key target market for the drugs. If anemia is severe enough, blood transfusions are required to boost red blood cell counts. Epogen, Procrit, and, later, Aranesp, were able to accomplish the same boost in blood cells without the need for transfusions.

The Washington Post reported:

“The trouble would arise as the drugmakers won FDA approval for vastly expanded uses, pushing it in larger doses, for milder anemia and for patients with a wider array of illnesses. Very quickly, the market included nearly all dialysis patients, not just the roughly 16 percent who required blood transfusions. The size of average doses would more than triple. And over the next five years, the FDA would approve it to treat anemia in patients with cancer and AIDS, as well as those getting hip and knee surgery.

The key to their marketing was the claim that the drugs at higher doses could make patients feel better. By 1994, the drug’s label, approved by the FDA, advertised a range of benefits: “statistically significant improvements for . . . health, sex life, well-being, psychological effect, life satisfaction, and happiness.””

These claims, however, were based on a series of incomplete and never-published research, some of which were drawn out over a decade or more only to show inconclusive results. One safety study on cancer patients that was supposed to be finished in 2008 is still not complete, and won’t be until 2017, according to Amgen, which will be nearly 25 years after the drugs were approved for cancer patients.

And as it turns out, the claims that the drugs lead to improved quality of life have since been withdrawn because they don’t meet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) standards of proof.

Higher Doses Increased Patients’ Risk of Dying – Study Results Missing Key Data

In 1998, the Normal Hematocrit Trial was published, which explored giving higher doses of drugs to dialysis patients in order to boost their red blood cell count above those generally achieved with transfusion.2 The study did, in fact, find that patients receiving the higher drug dose were dying or having heart attacks at a higher rate than those receiving the lower dose; the trial was actually halted because of this.

However, rather than sounding an alarm bell, when the study was published the authors downplayed the danger, calling the increased death and heart attack rate “not significant.” And while no difference was found in quality of life between patients receiving the higher or lower dose, this was not noted in the published study. (Four of the study’s eight authors were employed by Amgen, and two have served as consultants.)

As the years went by, health care providers and the drug companies continued to profit from the ever-rising doses of these drugs being prescribed – despite continued studies coming out questioning their safety. It wasn’t until years later, in 2011, that the FDA put out a safety announcement calling for more conservative dosing of the drugs “because of data showing increased risks of cardiovascular events.”3

The Washington Posted reported:

“For years, a small Bethesda-based nonprofit think tank, the Medical Technology and Practice Patterns Institute, had been publishing studies that challenged the conventional enthusiasm for the drug and the government policies that it said promoted their overuse.

Then in November 2006, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that kidney patients targeted for higher doses were linked to higher risks of hospitalization, strokes and death. In December, a group of Danish researchers said that it had stopped a trial of Aranesp in cancer patients because of an increase in deaths and tumor growths. And that was just the beginning of the bad news …”

The FDA Finally Cracks Down

The Danish research seemed to be the breaking point for the anemia drug trio.

“Then the FDA cracked down,” The Washington Post reported. “The drugs’ use was ruled out in cancer patients considered curable, it was ruled out in patients considered just slightly anemic, maximum recommended doses were lowered, and the agency told doctors in many cases to use the smallest amount possible to avoid a blood transfusion.

The agency also began to look askance at the alleged benefits, for which the evidence, in retrospect, seemed flimsy. There was no solid proof, under revised FDA guidelines for such measures, that use of the drugs leads to “statistically significant” improvements in happiness and other benefits, the agency said. Those quality-of-life claims, once so critical to the drug’s adoption, were removed from the label.

… Last year, nearly two decades after the Office of the Inspector General first suggested it, the economic incentives to use more of the drugs on patients in dialysis disappeared.”

No major class-action suits have so far been filed against the drugs’ makers; it is often difficult to prove the drugs were the cause of death, particularly because patients who received them were typically already facing chronic health problems. Still, Amgen has put aside a reported $780 million to settle various claims, including some for alleged illegal sales tactics – a paltry compensation to those who have lost loved ones. This is, unfortunately, just the latest drug scandal to be brought to the public’s attention … and it surely won’t be the last.

Pharma Giant Pfizer Fined for Bribing Officials in Eastern Europe and China

Earlier this month, it was revealed that U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its subsidiary Wyeth have been charged with paying off officials, doctors and healthcare professionals in Eastern Europe and China to secure approval and registration of the companies’ products.

The company allegedly paid millions of dollars in bribes from 2001 to 2007. The bribery was so blatant and entwined in the sales practices that they even offered points and bonus programs to improperly reward foreign officials who proved to be the best customers, according to the head of the SEC’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Unit. Obviously, such corrupt pay-offs puts honest companies at a disadvantage, James McJunkin, assistant director of the Washington field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation pointed out.4

And that is the over-riding theme we see again and again – these companies are typically NOT honest, yet we trust them with the most sacred possession we have, our health. For punishment, Pfizer will be paying various fines ranging from $15 million to $26 million – barely a slap on the wrist for a company that makes billions of dollars a year.

Big Pharma’s Lack of Ethics, Regard for Patient Safety Seemingly Knows No Bounds

If it seems like the number of lawsuits that Big Pharma is settling―many of them out of court without going to trial―are rising, they are. From Merck’s $950-million Vioxx deal to the latest announcement that Pfizer has made an $896-million settlement with Prempro victims, the deals show no signs of stopping.  Most of the lawsuits are being filed in conjunction with, or aided by, the U.S. Department of Justice, many of them originating from former employees-turned-whistleblowers who divulged marketing misdoings by their employers.

The litigation and settlements are starting to rattle the drug industry, which is becoming no stranger to billion-dollarsettlements. Most likely near the end of 2012, Johnson & Johnson reportedly will settle for as much $2.2 billion for its fraudulent marketing of the antipsychotic drug Risperdal.

That amount rivals what was the largest health care fraud settlement to date — $2.3 billion paid by Pfizer in 2009, also for illegally promoting uses of four of its drugs. However, now it’s come out that GlaxoSmithKline has agreed to a whopping $3-billion settlement – the largest in U.S. history for health care fraud — with the U.S. government, again for advertising drugs for unapproved uses, along with using gifts to persuade doctors to prescribe the drugs.5

Unfortunately, Americans are disproportionally supporting this behemoth of an industry. Americans, including children, are the most drugged people in the entire world, with the average adult taking 11 prescription drugs—each of which comes with an average of 70 different potential side effects that are then typically addressed with even more drugs…

The situation has gotten out of hand, especially since there’s a mountain of evidence supporting the use of alternatives, and there’s very strong evidence that some “alternative” treatments, such as diet and exercise, are FAR more effective, not to mention safer, than any of the drugs currently in use. My site is chock full of free comprehensive recommendations that can serve as an excellent starting point to break free from this fatally flawed paradigm. The tools I provide on this site will help you to reduce your reliance on the broken health care system, including its overuse of drugs, and provide you with the tools and resources to Take Control of Your Health.

Is Dentistry Finally Entering the 21st Century?   Leave a comment

By Dr. Mercola

Dentists who use mercury fillings claim that amalgam is safe because it’s been used for 150 years. More accurately, dental amalgam is a Civil War relic, hardly a point in its favor. It is no better, nor safer,  than other discarded  medical practices like bleeding patients, administering calomel, and performing surgery with unwashed hands.

In fact, amalgam poses a whole swarm of problems at every stage of its lifecycle, including…

  • Releasing mercury during production: Mercury is released into the environment when amalgam is manufactured.
  • Endangering dental professionals: Dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants, and dental office staff are exposed to mercury during and after amalgam preparation.
  • Deceiving dental patients: Most dental patients are not informed that amalgam is 50 percent mercury – many are told that amalgams are “silver fillings.”
  • Damaging healthy tooth structure: To place an amalgam, a significant amount of healthy tooth matter must be removed – permanently damaging the tooth structure.
  • Exposing patients to mercury: Amalgam continues to release mercury after it is implanted in your body, and can even cross the placenta to reach unborn babies.
  • Fracturing teeth: Amalgam expands and contracts over time, leading to cracked teeth and hefty dental bills.
  • Polluting the environment: Sooner or later, most of the mercury from amalgam ends up in air, soil, and water via numerous unsound pathways.
  • Contaminating fish: Once in the environment, amalgam can convert to methylmercury, contaminate fish, and wind up on your dinner plate.

The Shameful Past of the State Dental Boards

Amalgam simply has no place in 21st century dentistry.

Yet, a decade ago, as our century dawned, amalgam was riding high. Three powerful institutional forces combined, if not conspired, to keep primacy for amalgam in American dentistry.

One was in state government (the state dental boards), another in the federal government (the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA), and the third, a private monopoly (the American Dental Association, or ADA).

The dental boards actually enforced a gag rule that prohibited American dentists from discussing mercury with their patients; in turn, FDA adamantly refused to do its legal duty to issue a rule on amalgam that would have undone the mercury secret; while the role of the ADA — with its gigantic PAC funds — was to keep much of Congress and many state legislatures in its hip pocket. Charlie Brown called these three forces — state dental boards, FDA, ADA — the “Iron Triangle.”

Consumers for Dental Choice Turns the Tide

Led by Consumers for Dental Choice, our cause unwound amalgam’s primacy a step at a time. First to go was the notorious gag rule: ordering dentists to stop telling the truth ran afoul of their Constitutional right of free speech. Once dentists and lawyers like Charlie stood up to the state dental boards, the gag rule wilted. Next Consumers for Dental Choice started working to inform consumers that amalgam is mercury. Their efforts led to some states adopting “fact sheet” laws mandating that dentists provide consumers information about amalgam.

Then came the challenge to the FDA: Charlie’s lawsuit, naming the great grassroots group Moms Against Mercury as lead plaintiff, insisted that FDA must issue a rule on amalgam – a duty it had been dodging for 30 years. The federal judge ordered the FDA to comply with the law by releasing an amalgam rule by the July 2009 deadline. Contrary to the media hype, the FDA’s 2009 rule did warn about amalgam use in children and pregnant women:

“The developing neurological systems in fetuses and young children may be more sensitive to the neurotoxic effects of mercury vapor. Very limited to no clinical information is available regarding long-term health outcomes in pregnant women and their developing fetuses, and children under the age of six, including infants who are breastfed.”

Unfortunately – and intentionally – the FDA buried this information deep in the rule where it knows consumers and parents won’t find it. After multiple petitions for reconsideration, a scientific advisory panel review in 2010 concluded amalgam should not be used in children. After a grassroots uprising, the FDA promised to make an announcement on the amalgam rule by the end of 2011 – but did not. As it has done so adroitly for years, the agency has returned to inaction on amalgam.

Unprecedented Momentum Toward Mercury-Free Dentistry

Two years ago, as the mercury treaty negotiations loomed, Consumers for Dental Choice started highlighting the environmental harms caused by amalgam. This powerful approach is not only paying off at the mercury treaty sessions – it is shifting the ground under the feet of the pro-mercury dentists in the U.S.

The bastion for amalgam had long been America’s dental schools…until now. Citing the upcoming mercury treaty specifically, as well as amalgam’s devastating environmental impact, the New York University College of Dentistry announced a new amalgam policy to its students in July: NYU College of Dentistry has decided it will no longer recommend dental amalgam as the primary posterior tooth restorative…it will no longer require students to perform competency examinations for amalgam restorations…and it will no longer allow amalgam use in its own clinics unless students obtain faculty permission for specific cases. NYU and its faculty should be saluted for taking this visionary step to protect our environment from mercury.

Like NYU, communities around the U.S. are speaking out against dental mercury pollution. For example:

  • When Ohio cities demanded variances to allow them to dump wastewater with unsafe levels of mercury into Lake Erie, no one was talking about holding the pro-mercury dentists who released the mercury responsible…until Consumers for Dental Choice entered the picture. Its Ohio chapter organized comments and testimony for public hearings that called attention to the source of over half of mercury in wastewater: dental amalgam.
  • Citizens for a Better Spring Hill is a group of residents fighting to stop the construction of a mercury-emitting crematory in their Tennessee community. Consumers are increasingly aware that crematories emit significant amounts of mercury from amalgam fillings – atmospheric emissions from amalgam burden us with 50-70 tons of mercury pollution every year. And they are fighting hard to protect their children from this unnecessary mercury exposure.

Is Dentistry Finally Entering the 21st Century?

Thanks to the work of Consumers for Dental Choice and its allies, mercury-free dentistry is now starting to flourish in the United States. Probably half of America’s dentists have stopped using amalgam altogether.

I am honored to be invited to speak to the International Academy of Biological Dentistry & Medicine (IABDM) about mercury at its annual meeting on October 20, 2012, in the Washington D.C. suburb of Tyson’s Corner, Virginia. This entire conference will be a great opportunity for health professionals to learn how to get their patients healthy – and keep them healthy. I look forward to this speaking opportunity.

Uniting to Defeat Mercury Fillings on the International Front

Mercury-free dentistry was once dismissed as mere dreaming, but now the goal of ending dental mercury on our planet is within sight worldwide.

Two years ago, Consumers for Dental Choice – led by Charlie Brown – faced the most amazing opportunity: the nations of the world would be drafting an environmental treaty to address all forms of mercury – mercury mining, mercury storage, mercury waste, mercury air emissions, mercury processes, as well as mercury products. Every nation would send representatives to five sessions, spread over three years. There, the world would wrestle with designing solutions to the global mercury pollution crisis.

The challenge was awesome. How to organize on a worldwide level so that all nations agree to address amalgam in the treaty? How to frame amalgam as an environmental issue that needs to be addressed in an environmental treaty (other environmental laws exempt amalgam because it is classified as health issue)? How to gain needed support from the world’s leading environmental organizations?

Consumers for Dental Choice met that challenge.

With the treaty’s first round of talks fast approaching, early in 2010 –and  at the suggestion of Michael Bender of the Mercury Policy Project — , leaders of environmental,  social justice, and dentalgroups assembled under a unified umbrella coalition, the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry. At its first meeting, the leaders elected Charlie Brown  president of the coalition. Charlie  recruited a talented team of regional vice presidents and country chapter leaders – dentists, environmentalists, professors, physicians, international policy specialists, and non-profit leaders – from every region of the world from Africa to Europe to Asia to Australia to the Americas. From the first session through the fourth session, 2010-2012, the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry has gone  toe-to-toe with the pro-mercury World Dental Federation at the mercury treaty sessions.

Making Progress at the Mercury Treaty Negotiations

The treaty process moved forward, and with it,  the cause of mercury-free dentistry. Those fighting for mercury-free dentistrystood alone at the first session,  in Stockholm in June 2010.  But the coalition reached out and build alliances, with environmental groups, with medical societies, and consumer groups. At the second treaty session in Japan, the third in Kenya, and the fourth in Uruguay, our side  outflanked, outworked, and outpointed the opposition.

Consumers for Dental Choice’s team just got back from the fourth treaty session. While their opponent was trying to turn the treaty session into a never-ending debate on health, Consumers for Dental Choice and its World Alliance allies succeeded in keeping amalgam in the draft treaty by emphasizing the known environmental harms caused by amalgam and offering practical solutions. They distributed the landmark economics report The Real Cost of Dental Mercury1 to delegates. This report shows that an amalgam filling can cost up to $87 more than a composite filling once the environmental cost of each material is taken into account.

As a result of this environmental strategy, support from government officials and influential organizations from around the world continues to grow.

Consumers for Dental Choice and its World Alliance colleagues have laid the groundwork for future success at the final mercury treaty session in Geneva in January 2013. There, the decision about amalgam (and virtually all other major treaty decisions), will be made. The challenge is great, but I believe we have found the right organization to lead us.

Bringing Change to the World Health Organization

In addition to their work at the treaty sessions, Consumers for Dental Choice, the World Alliance team, and their allies achieved a major breakthrough with the World Health Organization (WHO). It appeared that WHO’s traditional opposition to mercury-free dentistry would prevail when WHO staff released a paper in 2010 promoting amalgam as the “material of choice.” But Michael Bender  and Charlie Brown organized a worldwide protest that highlighted the glaring errors in the paper and called for an investigation.

Their efforts succeeded; WHO withdrew the paper.

In the wake of this worldwide protest, WHO released its final report on amalgam2. In a turn-around, WHO commits itself to “facilitate the work for a switch in use of dental materials” away from amalgam. The new WHO report concludes that “for many reasons restorative materials alternative to dental amalgam are desirable.” The report describes three of these reasons in detail, determining that amalgam:

  • Raises “general health concerns”
  • Releases a “significant amount of mercury” into the environment
  • “Materials alternative to dental amalgam are available” – citing many studies indicating that such alternatives  are superior to amalgam

Perhaps most importantly, WHO now acknowledges that “Alternative restorative materials of sufficient quality are available for use in the deciduous [baby] dentition of children,” the population whose developing neurological systems are most susceptible to the neurotoxic effects of dental mercury. There is no longer any excuse for subjecting this most vulnerable population to dental mercury exposure.

Organizing the Regions

While Consumers for Dental Choice is making a significant impact on the international scene, their work is also turning the tide toward mercury-free dentistry in individual regions and nations all around the world:

Africa: In 2011, Consumers for Dental Choice partnered with a non-profit group from the Ivory Coast, Jeunes Volontaires pour l’Environnement (Young Volunteers for the Environment), to launch the Amalgam-Free Africa Campaign.

In a series of well-received workshops and other, press events in different African countries, the team was able to educate governments and the public about the dangers of dental mercury and the range of mercury-free alternatives. In response to opponents’ claims that mercury-free dentistry cannot be done in developing countries, they produced an excellent documentary on the feasibility – and the necessity – of mercury-free dentistry in Africa.

Thanks to the efforts of the Amalgam-Free Africa Campaign, the African region now vocally supports the phase-out of amalgam.

Australia: When the Australian government appeared to pose the most serious obstacle at treaty sessions, Consumers for Dental Choice launched an intense Australian campaign.

The volunteer force of dentists, dental patients, and a dental assistant that they organized held meetings with their government and started a major letter-writing campaign that was joined by 27 Australian health and environmental organizations. The new Australians for Mercury Free Dentistry  continues to monitor and reach out to the Australian government. Thanks to these efforts, Australia now supports addressing amalgam in the treaty.

Asia: Consumers for Dental Choice continues to work closely with a number of Asian non-profit allies like the Environment and Social Development Organization on a range of projects: from providing financial and media support for a national conference on mercury-free dentistry… to sponsoring scientists to attend meetings with government officials… to working with a major Asian environmental organization to approach national dental associations…to university campus programs…to petitioning governments.

Europe: In Europe, Consumers for Dental Choice has equally exciting news. The European Union hired a consultant to advise it on what to do about amalgam. The World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry teamed with the well-regarded European Environmental Bureau (an environmental coalition of NGOs) and  and the excellent French group, Non Au Mercure Dentaire, to submit information and to testify.

The consultant  now recommends a total phase-out of amalgam in the 27 nations of the E.U. – for the same environmental reasons our team has been explaining. Much work remains to be done here (a consultant’s report can be adopted or discarded), but the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry is already mobilizing forces for that battle.

The Americas: The existence of that treaty is creating momentum to end amalgam at home in the Americas as well, but more on that to come in the coming week…

Did You Know?

How You Can Help Put an End to Mercury Fillings

I wish to urge health professionals and consumers alike to support Consumers for Dental Choice during Mercury-Free Dentistry Week. They have changed the paradigm in the amalgam battle, but the old amalgam habit is hard to break. The landmark economics The Real Cost of Dental Mercury study tells us why: dentists who use amalgam are not paying the price of the environmental havoc they are wreaking. Instead, they are passing on that cost to taxpayers who foot the clean-up bill.

It’s time for change…and Consumers for Dental Choice can make it happen.

We’ve shown you the track record of Consumers for Dental Choice, and how their strategy is working, in the U.S. and worldwide. Now is the time for you to consider contributing what you can to this great cause – by aiding an organization that will use your gift wisely for the good of us all.

Will you please consider a tax-deductible donation to Consumers for Dental Choice, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to advocating mercury-free dentistry?

Italian and U.S. Researchers Differentiate Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity   Leave a comment

‘‘It has become apparent that classic celiac disease represents the tip of the iceberg of an overall disease burden’’

The March 2011 issue of BMC Medicine published a collaborative effort between Italian and U.S. researchers to differentiate between celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. This paper provided a beginning understanding of key differences between the two conditions.

The study included 42 patients with celiac disease, 26 patients with gluten sensitivity, and 39 control patients. The researchers tested each participant’s intestinal permeability and gene expression.

The research team found that gluten sensitivity is not associated with increased intestinal permeability, which is a distinct difference from celiac disease. In addition, markers for adaptive immunity (IL-6 and IL-21) were expressed at higher levels in celiac disease than in the control patients; however, no increase was seen in the gluten-sensitive patients, Conversely, a marker for innate immunity (Toll-like receptor 2) was increased in the gluten-sensitive patients, but not in the celiac patients.

According to the researchers, “these findings support the idea that the prevalent involvement of innate versus adaptive immune pathways may help explain the clinical and serological differences in gluten-sensitive versus celiac disease patients.” They add that the study results suggest “that celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are distinct clinical entities caused by different intestinal mucosal responses to gluten.”

Given there appears to be a 6-fold increase in Gluten Sensitivity vs. Celiac Disease, these findings will help Physicians to determine the appropriate tests and treatment recommendations to deliver to their patients.

Sapone A, Lammers KM, Casolaro V, Cammarota M, Giuliano MT, De Rosa M, et al. Divergence of gut permeability and mucosal immune gene expression in two gluten-associated conditions: celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. BMC Med. 2011 Mar 9;9:23.

Duration of gluten exposure is key factor in developing other autoimmune diseases   Leave a comment

The longer sensitive individuals eat gluten, the more likely they are to develop other autoimmune diseases

A 1999 landmark study published in Gastroenterology found that the duration of exposure to gluten in celiac disease patients affects the risk of developing other autoimmune diseases. The finding made age at diagnosis an important factor in the overall health of patients with celiac disease.

For the study, an Italian research team screened 909 patients with celiac disease for other autoimmune diseases, including IDDM (Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus), DH (Dermatitis herpetiformis), Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or Graves’ disease, autoimmune hepatitis, alopecia, atrophic autoimmune gastritis, connective tissue disease (rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, dermatomyositis, scleroderma, or Sjogren’s disease), psoriasis, Addison’s disease, unexplained cerebellar ataxia, epilepsy with cerebral calcification, or immune anemia, neutropenia, or thrombocytopenia. They then compared the prevalence of these conditions in three different subgroups, which were separated based on when the patient was diagnosed with celiac disease (before age 2, between ages 2 and 10, and after age 10).

The team found that the prevalence of the other conditions was highest in the subgroup of patients diagnosed after age 10. Similarly, patients diagnosed between ages 2 and 10 had a higher rate of other conditions than those diagnosed before age 2. This suggests that the prevalence of autoimmune conditions increases with increasing age at diagnosis of celiac disease (ie, increasing duration of exposure to gluten).

The researchers’ chart below demonstrates the frequency of developing other autoimmune diseases.

The authors concluded: “Indeed, the age at diagnosis of celiac disease is the single best predictor of the prevalence of autoimmune disease.”

Ventura A, Magazzú G, Greco L; SIGEP Study Group for Autoimmune Disorders in Celiac Disease. Duration of exposure to gluten and risk for autoimmune disorders in patients with celiac disease. Gastroenterology. 1999;117:297–303.


Chairs, Posture and the Alexander Technique   Leave a comment

by Robert Rickover

As a teacher of the Alexander Technique(1), I am frequently asked about chairs by my students, and about which designs are best. Some have been given very expensive, ergonomically-designed chairs at work and wonder if they are actually any better than ordinary ones. Others complain about their car seats, or about the curved plastic chairs often found in waiting rooms and in many airport lounges.

It is certainly true that some chairs are a lot more comfortable than others, and that some chairs make it easier to have a healthier upright posture. But even if you could find the “perfect chair”, you could hardly carry it around with you all day long. Sooner or later, you would be confronted with a choice between standing or sitting in a less than desirable chair.

From an Alexander Technique perspective, looking for the “perfect chair” is an exercise in futility. It is our body that sits in a chair, and if we want to improve our comfort and health, our primary attention must be directed at improving our own functioning – that is, what we do with our own body when we sit.

It’s a sort of “bad news, good news” situation: The bad news is that we can’t blame our aches and pains on our furniture. As the cartoon character Pogo once remarked, “We have met the enemy and they is us!” The good news is that we have it within our power to change the way we sit and, in fact, we can learn how to sit well in virtually any situation that presents itself to us.

But what about those expensive ergonomically-designed chairs? Won’t they insure good seating posture at least during the time you’re using them?

I’m afraid the answer is “no”. It’s entirely possible to slouch, or distort your body in other ways while using these chairs. An ergonomist colleague of mine tells me that offices around the country are littered with unused very expensive chairs (and other furniture items) because they haven’t been heplpful.

In fact, some ergonomic designs are positively harmful. When I lived in England, training to become an Alexander Technique teacher, I often had occasion to use the British Rail system. I soon noticed three distinct types of seats: older, very basic, seats with padded flat bottoms and backs; somewhat newer seats (from the 1950’s and 60’s) that had a forward bend in the seat backs; and some quite new seats that combined an exaggerated bend with a forward-protruding head rest.

I noticed that the newer chairs made it very difficult for the average rider to sit without having his or her head pushed so far forward that a slouch was almost inevitable. These new seats were among the most challenging I’ve ever encountered. The older chairs were far better because their neutral design didn’t force unnatural body contortions.

I learned that the new seats were designed by ergonomists and that the way they went about their design was to match the chair to posture of the average rider. But the average rider has pretty poor sitting posture to begin with, so these chairs were simply reinforcing that prevailing pattern.

So, what advice can I give regarding chairs? First, don’t look to a chair as the primary solution to poor posture – remember it’s your posture and so it’s you that has to learn how to change it. But if you have a choice, I recommend very simple, basic designs – fairly flat, reasonably firm bottoms and backs that do not force your torso into any particular shape.

In addition, there’s a lot to be said for having your knees at a lower height that your hips. This tends to encourage the natural “double C” curvature of your spine that provides easy upright support for your body. The simplest way to do this is to use a stool whose base is higher than the typical chair when you can. My students are often skeptical when I recommend this (“There’s no backrest!) but most of those who try it for a few days report feeling far more comfortable once they get used to the added height.

1. The Alexander Technique is a century-old method of learning how to release harmful tension from your body. It can teach you ways to direct your body so that you can have an easy upright posture in virtually any sitting situation you find yourself in. The Complete Guide to the Alexander Technique is a comprehensive information source.


Nowhere is the interplay of ergonomic and Alexander Technique concepts better illustrated than in the design of the chair, and the ways in which we use them. The Chair: Rethinking Culture, Body and Design provides a wonderfully fresh look at an object so common in our society that most of us pay little or no attention to it. Galen Cranz, a professor of architecture at the University of California Berkeley and a teacher of the Alexander Technique, has written what is probably the definitive work on this topic. Everybody who sits on chairs can learn a great deal from this very readable book. You can order this book at the Alexander Technique Bookstore (USA) in Association with AMAZON.COM or The Alexander Techndique Bookshop (UK) is Association with AMAZON.CO.UK

You can read an excellent article by Ms Cranz on the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies Website (The article must be downloaded – click on “sample article” under the Alexander Technique heading.)The website explores the relationship between the science of ergonomics and the benefits of Alexander Technique training.


Small Farmers of Heritage-Breed Pigs Under Attack in Michigan   Leave a comment

By Dr. Mercola

The vast majority of the nearly 66 million pigs raised for food in the United States are born and raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs),1 where they are subject to extreme mental and physical anguish, not to mention subject to incredibly unhealthy practices, like the administration of unnecessary low-dose antibiotics and living in their own waste.

Swine CAFOs are notorious not only for their ammonia emissions into the air, which have been called a public health threat linked to decreased lung function, cardiovascular ailments and premature death, but also for drinking water contamination from the massive amounts of animal waste generated.

It could be argued that swine CAFOs are one of the biggest public health nuisances around …

Ironically, the state of Michigan appears to be ambivalent to the damages being caused by giant swine CAFOs, and instead is choosing to target small farmers raising heritage-breed hogs, in humane, sanitary, outdoor conditions that nature intended.

These small farmers, they say, are raising “invasive species” of feral hogs – and they must be stopped at all costs …

Farmers Raising Pigs Outside of CAFOs Could Face Felony Charges, Jail Time, Large Fines

On April 1, 2012, the Invasive Species Order (ISO),2 issued by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), went into effect.

The ISO prohibits anyone in the state from possessing what they define as “invasive species of swine,” which the state says are carriers of many parasites and disease, and a major source of damage to forests, agricultural lands and water resources. MDNR states that by the end of 2011, more than 340 feral swine had been spotted3 … but the ISO does not simply apply to these so-called rogue feral pigs running wild through the forests.

While the dictionary definition of “feral” refers to an animal running wild, Michigan authorities have taken it a step further and extended the definition to include enclosed private hunting preserves and small farms that are raising heritage breed pigs.

There is no genetic test to determine whether the species on these farms are truly invasive, so authorities are basing their cases against these farmers solely on visual observations. MDNR uses this vague description to describe the prohibited hogs, and makes it clear that this does not apply to the domestic hogs raised on CAFOs:4

“Wild boar, wild hog, wild swine, feral pig, feral hog, feral swine, Old world swine, razorback, eurasian wild boar, Russian wild boar (Sus scrofa Linnaeus). This subsection does not and is not intended to affect sus domestica involved in domestic hog production.”

Other descriptions supplied by the MDNR include such a wide variety of characteristics that virtually any pig other than the familiar pink domestic breed raised on CAFOs could potentially be deemed “feral”:

  • Erect or folded/floppy ear structure
  • Straight or curly tail
  • Solid black, wild/grizzled, solid red/brown, black and white spotted, or black and red/brown spotted coat colorations
  • “Other characteristics” not currently known to the MDNR

Any farmer or other individual found to be in possession of such a hog could be charged with a felony and subjected to up to two years in jail and a $20,000 fine. But the real rub is that virtually any hog could be technically defined as feral under the MDNR’s outrageous ISO. The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) explained:5

“ … under the [M]DNR’s declaratory ruling, the department can determine that a hog is prohibited under the ISO if it possesses physical characteristics common to any pig even if the animal was raised under the husbandry of humans. In other words, all pigs not raised in confinement cannot possess even one illegal DNR characteristic listed in the declaratory ruling; this is impossible since all swine will have at least one DNR characteristic and would therefore be an invasive species and illegal to own.”

The Way Hogs Were Designed to be Raised

In the video above, Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm shows the way hogs should be raised. Unfortunately, this is a far cry from what occurs on hog CAFOs.

Pastured Pork, Illegal?

What does all of this mean for residents of Michigan? Soon they will be unable to purchase sustainably and humanely grown meat from non-CAFO pigs, like the Mangalitsa “wooly” hogs raised on Baker’s Green Acres farm. This particular breed is being raised by only a handful of small farms across the country; whereas more than 2 million pigs are slaughtered each week in the United States, only about 50 of them are Mangalitsas (which have been called the “it” pig by the New York Times, as several high-end restaurants and specialty markets have featured the rich, naturally raised meat6).

But, of course, this issue is about much more than pasture-raised pork from a heritage breed … it’s about your ability, your right, to purchase and consume pure, unadulterated food from small farmers, not CAFOs – a right that continues to be threated for those living in the United States. FTCLDF continued:

The ISO is a significant threat to private property rights, freedom of food choice, the ability of small farmers to make a living, and genetic diversity.”

Interestingly, the Big Pork industry has been planning this anti-feral pig campaign for years, and even bragged about it in a 2010 newsletter.7 It was the same newsletter where they declared a win against the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in Ohio, where HSUS was seeking legislation to end the practice of sow gestation stalls (cages so small the sow can’t turn around or move).

The Agricultural Leaders of Michigan (ALM), a coalition of agri-business groups including Michigan Pork Producers Association, the Michigan Corn Growers Association, Michigan Allied Poultry Industries, and others, has been instrumental in backing the ISO, and killed an effort in March to have the order delayed. As FTCLDF stated:

“If the ALM had their way, all farm animals in Michigan would be raised in confinement facilities and there would be no opportunity to purchase animal products from those raising them differently. ALM has been a consistent source of misinformation claiming that swine raised outside are diseased, are a threat to become feral, and are a threat to spread disease to animals raised in confinement.

… ALM, like the rest of agri-business, wants only the white pork produced and they want it produced inside of buildings in confinement. If the public stays quiet concerning the ISO, and it’s allowed to stand, the right for farmers to raise food animals the way many people want them raised (outdoors and not in confinement) is on the path to becoming illegal.”

The ISO is Not a Law, and It Can Still be Rescinded …

This means we need your help now. MDNR has already begun filing claims against heritage breed hog farmers, a game ranch operator, and a swine pet owner in the state.

But the ISO is not a law; rather, it’s an “action” or “order” that’s been taken by a state agency. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has the authority to tell MDNR to rescind the ISO, but so far has refused to do so.

Thousands of people have already contacted Governor Snyder’s office to protest the ISO. In March, sixteen Senators and Representatives sent a letter asking Governor Snyder to either rescind the ISO or amend it so it only applies to feral swine (pigs running at large outside fences), “not those under the husbandry of humans and inside a fence,”8 FTCLDF reported. MDNR Director Rodney Stokes even had to step down, presumably because the ISO has generated such public backlash.

There are a few ways you, too, can get involved to express your opinion and help get this ISO rescinded. Remember this impacts not only the state of Michigan, but could also set a worrisome precedent that affects the rest of the United States as well. FTCLDF explained:

There are reports that a number of other states are looking to see whether Michigan DNR gets away with enforcing this ISO because, if they do, other states will be trying to implement the exact same thing.”