- Everyone is exposed to toxins to a greater or lesser extent, and these chemicals are stored in your body. There are also synergistic effects when exposed to multiple chemicals
- The dose of the toxin doesn’t really matter, because a low dose can be just as damaging as a high dose, especially when it comes to endocrine disrupting chemicals
- For a detoxification program to be effective, the following three principles must be in place: mobilization, detoxification and excretion
- Fasting is a powerful detoxification method as it promotes lipolysis and the mobilization of fat-soluble toxins. To avoid reabsorption, it’s important to take binding agents when fasting and sweat out the toxins, like using an infrared sauna
- Having urine pH of 7.5 or above greatly increases the excretion of acidic xenobiotics and other toxins. The pH of the urine dictates whether a xenobiotic on its way out gets reabsorbed or gets excreted
By Dr. Mercola
Dr. Bryan Walsh is a naturopathic physician extensively trained in molecular biological pathways. In this interview, we discuss detoxification and the food-based detox program he developed. I took his course and believe it’s probably one of the best out there.
In today’s world, where most of us are exposed to countless toxins on a nearly continuous basis, detoxification is an important issue that needs to be done on a regular basis if you are seeking optimal health. Research even shows that infants are now born with toxins in their cord blood and first bowel movements — toxins absorbed from their mother.
“You can decide that you, in your 20s, want to live this clean lifestyle and be free of toxins, but that doesn’t speak to all of the thing that may have been stored from your life even prior to you being born. They are ubiquitous. They are everywhere … everybody’s exposed to something,” Walsh says.
I had read the laypeople’s books on detoxification. I believed that we were toxic. I thought that detoxification was probably a good idea. But then I was talking to a colleague who told me about this detoxification guru and how he was describing phase 3 detoxification pathways … It didn’t jive with what my understanding of phase 3 was.”
Starting From Scratch
Walsh decided to investigate further, delving into the scientific literature and eventually coming to the realization that this “guru” was in fact describing that pathway inaccurately. “I have a problem with that, because in functional medicine we need to be accurate with what we’re talking about,” Walsh says. He also learned there’s yet another phase of detoxification that he’d never heard about called Phase Zero.
“The third thing that really bothered me was I read about what’s called a biphasic response for nutrients that are commonly used in detoxification programs or formulas. What the biphasic response basically says is that a low dose — choose your herb — stimulates certain detoxification enzymes or pathways, but then a high dose inhibits those very same enzymes.
In English, this means the amounts found in food generally stimulate detoxification enzymes, but the amounts likely found in an isolated form in a capsule or in a bottle of detoxification product might actually inhibit detoxification.
I looked at that and thought, ‘Here we go again. We think we’re doing all these great things, but in fact, we may be doing the exact opposite of what it is that we’re attempting to do, and nobody’s questioning this.’ Those three things happened, and I was like, ‘all right. I’ve got to start from scratch.’
Just wipe out everything I thought I ever knew or have been taught about detoxification and go to the scientific literature and say, ‘What really is being talked about and studied?’
Before even getting into detoxification, answering questions that I thought I knew. ‘Are we even toxic in the first place?’ Everybody says we are, but I haven’t actually looked at the literature. Another one was, ‘Is there a synergistic response?’ If there are multiple exposures simultaneously, we’re told there’s a synergistic response. But again, what does the science really say about this?
Another one we hear about is that the dose doesn’t matter … that our body has these built-in detoxification pathways to deal with these things, so therefore a low dose is inconsequential, say the detox naysayers. Another one is, ‘Are [toxins] stored in us?’ Supposedly we’re toxic, supposedly they’re stored, supposedly there’s a synergistic effect, but what does the science say?”
Is Detoxification Necessary?
What Walsh found was that, yes, virtually all of us are toxic and everyone is exposed to a greater or lesser extent and, yes, chemicals are stored in your body and, yes, there is a synergistic effect. What’s more, the dose doesn’t really matter, because a low dose can be just as damaging as a high dose, especially when it comes to endocrine disrupting chemicals. The next step was to determine the most effective way of eliminating all of these chemicals, which ultimately led to the creation of the Walsh Detox Program.
“In my opinion, if we truly want to detox, then this is the type of program I believe — and we have some evidence on — that will actually do the job,” he says. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve looked at many different programs, and this is the best I’ve encountered. One of the core components of this program is a modified fasting mimicking diet, originally developed by Valter Longo, Ph.D., professor of gerontology and biological sciences at the University of Southern California.
I’ve become convinced fasting is an exceptional health strategy, and one of the books I’m currently working on is “Keto Fast,” which I’m cowriting with Dr. Alan Goldhamer, director of the TrueNorth Health Center, the largest fasting clinic in North America. They’ve taken 16,000 people through the water fasting process, many up to 40 days.
While Walsh believes regular water fasting has many health benefits, for this program, he uses a fasting mimicking diet instead. “I just don’t think we’re healthy enough to [water] fast any longer,” he says.
“In every mammal study that I’ve ever looked at, when there’s significant calorie restriction or fasting, xenobiotic levels go up in the blood. Toxin levels go up in the blood every single time, no matter what mammal is being studied, which is to say that … we’re flooding our body with these xenobiotics.
If we are at all nutrient-deficient, if we have any deficiencies in the biochemical pathways, including the detoxification ones, now we’re flooding the body with all these toxins, and we may not be getting rid of them … If we don’t take active [steps] to metabolize or detoxify them and then excrete them, then they’re more likely to cause damage elsewhere in the body. I love fasting. I just don’t think that most of us are actually healthy enough to do it anymore.”
Fasting Releases Toxins
The reason toxin levels go up when fasting is because most toxins are fat-soluble and thus stored in fat. When you’re fasting or on a low-calorie diet, you’re primarily burning fat as fuel. When the fat is being burned for energy, it releases the fat-soluble toxins stored within the fat cells — water-soluble toxins you are hopefully excreting every day through sweat, urine and feces.
Lipolysis is the process of breaking down stored fat, and anything that induces lipolysis is going to mobilize stored fat-soluble toxins. The more lipolysis takes place, such as during fasting or time-restricted feeding (intermittent fasting) or exercise, the more toxins will be mobilized and released from your tissues.
Walsh’s fasting mimicking diet is a slight revision of Longo’s work, which is based on the idea that by consuming a certain macronutrient ratio in a relatively short period of time, your body is tricked into thinking it’s fasting.
“My concern [with Longo’s diet], based on studies showing that during caloric restriction or fasting [toxic] levels go up if you were not actively trying to support detoxification pathways, then where are those toxins going? Are they getting metabolized? Are they just going through Phase 1 and not Phase 2 or Phase 3? All these different things. That’s my only issue with it.”
To address that, Walsh’s diet focuses on foods shown to support and improve the detoxification pathways and detox enzymes like glucuronidation or glutathione conjugation. Brassica vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage are excellent for this, as are garlic, onions, leeks and chives.
Detox Pathways 101
Phase Zero, which most people have not heard of, is the entrance of the toxin into the cell. The liver typically gets all the credit for detoxing, as it’s part of Phase 1, where the liver makes the toxins available to be water excreted. However, your intestines have the exact same detox enzymes, as do your kidneys and the male testes. So, detoxification actually occurs in a number of organs. Walsh offers the following analogy of the functions of the four pathways:
“Imagine you’re in a room that has two doors. The first door is Phase Zero. Somebody walks in through that door. That’s the toxin. They come into your room. The room is the cell. And then you start berating them. You say bad, negative things about them. You expose things about them that they didn’t want anybody to know about. That’s Phase 1. Phase 1 exposes or adds a hydroxyl group [which] makes [the toxin] water-soluble.
But now, you just tore that [toxin] apart. They start wrecking the inside of the cell. Phase 2 is you hand them $1,000 … That’s conjugation … [meaning something] is added to it, and now they’re not angry anymore.
Phase 2 pathways include methylation, which adds a methyl group to it; sulfation adds a sulfur group; acetylation adds an acetyl group; amino acid conjugation usually will add glycine. Glutathione conjugation is a glutathione molecule; glucuronidation is a glucuronide molecule.
After Phase 2, [the toxin] is still water-soluble, but now it’s not angry. It’s not going to cause any damage anymore. But it’s still inside the cell. This is what’s incredibly important. It needs to leave the second door. That second door is Phase 3. If you block Phase 3, which things like curcumin does, and milk thistle, that [toxin] cannot leave, and there are enzymes inside of the cell that can undo that conjugation. So, now they’re angry again. Now, they cause damage inside of the cell.”
Three Principles of Detoxification
So, for a detoxification program to be effective, the following three principles must be in place:
- Mobilization, which includes calorie restriction or fasting and exercise to engage lipolysis
- Detoxification, which involves stimulating and optimizing all of the detoxification pathways
- Excretion. Fiber is an important binder that enhances excretion from the bowels. You also need to stay well-hydrated to flush toxins out through your urine. A route of excretion that cannot be overstated is sweating. Using a near-infrared sauna, or a far-infrared sauna equipped with near-infrared bulbs is ideal
The Importance of Binders
So, to effectively detox, you first need to mobilize the toxins, then optimize your detox pathways, and finally bind the toxins flowing through your system so that they can be eliminated through your urine, feces or sweat. To do this, you need some kind of binding agent.
“I have specific binders that I’ve included in the program, some with meals, and some away from meals,” Walsh says. “Also, along with the fasting mimicking diet, I also utilize time-restrictive feeding. Try to eat in the smallest window of time to maximize lipolysis, not maximize mobilization …
Now, if you are in the time-restricted feeding period where you’re not eating for 16 hours, you’re undergoing lipolysis and you’re getting this flood, depending on how toxic you are, of toxins, [which] are getting into your gastrointestinal tract on an empty stomach. How are you going to excrete those if you’re not eating as much bulk or food as you were prior?
There are some binders that work better on an empty stomach, and then some, like five of them, that work better with food … I use things like chitosan and charcoal, and different types of fibers. There’s evidence modified citrus pectin increases excretion of xenobiotics.
It’s vital that you not only [get] fiber when eating, but also, when in a fasted state, [you need to] consume these binders, because if your levels of xenobiotics go up in the blood, some of that is leaking into your gastrointestinal tract. If you don’t have the bulk that you normally eat in terms of just total calorie content, you’re not going to be moving that stuff along as well. That, to me, is a vital piece. It’s not just sweating. It’s not just drinking enough fluids. You have to bind those things up for excretion.”
Beware of Detox Fads
Walsh brings up an important point with regard to detox research. Rodent studies, for example, can be unreliable when it comes to human detoxification, because rodents have more robust detoxification pathways than humans do, are nocturnal, live far shorter lives and have a faster metabolism.
So, if something works well in a mouse or rat, it doesn’t mean it will work as well in us. How they measure detoxification also makes a difference. Typically, researchers will look at enzyme activity or messenger RNA (mRNA), which tells you how the cell is making a detoxification protein.
Walsh cites an in-vitro study that looked at what happened when quercetin was applied to cells. The mRNA went down for certain detoxification enzymes, which suggests quercetin inhibited detox. But when they added a toxin to the mix, quercetin actually increased the toxin excretion. So, even though quercetin appeared to inhibit detox, it still aided excretion of this particular chemical.
One potential reason for this paradoxical finding could be because quercetin inhibits cluster of differentiation 38 (CD38), which is a major consumer of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), a compound involved in mitochondrial health, cellular redox and energy metabolism. Essentially, quercetin indirectly increases NAD+. There’s also the issue of acute versus chronic dosing.
“In most studies, they look at acute dose. They take a cell, they apply green tea (or some other compound), and then they look to see what those enzymes do. Pomegranate acutely inhibited certain detox pathways, but given over a period of two weeks increased those same pathways.
Saying all those things together — choose your nutrient of the month and say, ‘Does it help with detox?’ Well, was it done in a cell, a rodent or in a human clinical trial? Did they look at mRNA or enzyme activity? What cell tissue were they looking at and does it have different effects? What dose was it, meaning biphasic effects? [and] was it an acute or chronic dose?
Because of all that, you have to be an expert in looking up the research and interpreting the research to say irrefutably that milk thistle is a detoxification nutrient.
I can’t say that. Because of that, because of what I’ve read, I don’t have curcumin, green tea, pomegranate or any of those things [in my program], because if you really want to detox, you have to mobilize. You have to open up Phase Zero, 1, 2 and 3, and you have to excrete. Anything that can inhibit any one of those things, I think doesn’t have a place in the detoxification program.”
For these reasons, Walsh’s program includes very few supplements. It’s mostly food-based, as you’re not likely to harm or create adverse effects on any of the detox pathways with food. As such, it’s one of the most pragmatic, safe and relatively inexpensive ways to detox.
How Often Do You Need to Detox?
Considering you’re continuously exposed to chemicals and pollutants of all kinds through food, air, water and most household products, how often do you need to detox? Walsh offers the following recommendations:
“The program, as it’s outlined, is 10 days. My recommendation is to do the 10-day program. The first six days are calorie restriction, but high-protein. The last four are that modified fasting mimicking diet. What I recommend to people is to do the full 10-day program one month, and then depending on how they do, the next month, do the full 10-day program or just do the four- to five-day modified fasting mimicking diet.
That, for people who are relatively healthy, I think is a good way to go. That’s four to five days a month of the fasting mimicking diet portion of it only — all the supplements, all the sauna and all the exercise … For a period of six months or so, doing that once a month is probably not a bad idea for most people, because of the accumulation [of toxins] that we have.
If people want to be somewhat aggressive with this, I would say do two of the four-day fasting mimicking diets a month. Put one in Week 1 of the month, and then do another in Week 3, and then the following month. You can do two of those a month if you really wanted. You mobilize a lot during that.”
There are very few absolutes, especially in health. It is likely a six-day, high protein diet would help many, but I think it may not be ideal. My strategy would be to use time-restricted eating to at least eight hours and preferably six. Do this for at least a month and then start the four- to five-day portion of the Walsh protocol.
Why Checking the pH of Your Urine Is a Good Idea
Interestingly, research suggests having urine pH of 7.5 or above greatly increases the excretion of acidic xenobiotics and other toxins. “The pH of the urine dictates whether a xenobiotic on its way out gets reabsorbed or gets excreted,” Walsh explains. “It’s an incredibly important piece.
If your urine is too acidic, you tend to reabsorb the acidic xenobiotics that have been conjugated and are on their way out. Conversely, the more alkaline it is, you’ll tend to reabsorb alkaline xenobiotics, which there are less of. Many xenobiotics are acidic.”
To increase excretion of these toxins, all you’d need to do is use a urine analysis strip to measure your pH, and if below 7.5, take some sodium bicarbonate or potassium bicarbonate during the fasting mimicking diet portion of the program, to raise your pH above 7.5. Adding some N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) may also be helpful, as NAC supports glutathione production and calcium D-glucarate to augment glucuronidation.
To purchase Walsh’s detox program, go to MetabolicFitnessPro.com. There are two versions of the program, one for practitioners, which includes nine hours of video delving deep into the science of the detoxification pathways. The other is for patients and nonpractitioners, which includes a less rigorous introduction to the science, along with detailed program instructions.
The practitioner version includes the nonpractitioner version free of charge. You can also find more information about Walsh on DrWalsh.com. If you’ve been searching for a good detox program, this program is well worth the money. Practitioners can also benefit their patients by understanding the detox process better.
- Thousands of studies spanning many decades show excess sugar damages your health, yet the sugar industry successfully buried the evidence and misdirected the public with manipulated science
- “Sugar Coated” investigates the sugar industry’s once secret PR campaign, showing it normalized excessive consumption by deflecting evidence implicating sugar as a cause of ill health
- The manufactured uncertainty and lack of scientific consensus is what has allowed the sugar industry to thrive while health statistics have tanked
- A 2016 paper examined the links between funding and study outcomes. Of the 60 studies, the 26 that found no link between sugary drinks and obesity or diabetes were all funded by the beverage industry; of the 34 that did find a relationship, only one had received industry funding
- Seventy-four percent of packaged foods contain added sugars, which hide under 61 different names, many of which are unfamiliar
By Dr. Mercola – July 16, 2018
Thousands of studies spanning many decades show excess sugar damages your health,1 yet the sugar industry successfully buried the evidence and misdirected the public with manipulated science. According to the sugar industry, sugar is a harmless source of energy and may even be an important part of a healthy “balanced” diet.
Dr. Cristin Kearns, a dentist and fellow at the University of California, made headlines when she published a paper2 detailing the sugar industry’s historical influence on dietary recommendations. Evidence also shows how the sugar industry influenced the scientific agenda of the National Institute of Dental Research (now the National Institute of Dental and Cranial Research), which back in 1971 created a national caries program, downplaying any links between sugar consumption and dental caries.3
The documentary, “Sugar Coated” — which features Kearns, investigative journalist Gary Taubes, author of “The Case Against Sugar,” and Dr. Robert Lustig, a leading expert on sugar metabolism and obesity — investigates the sugar industry’s once secret PR campaign, showing how it normalized excessive consumption by deflecting evidence implicating sugar as a cause of ill health. As noted in the film’s summary:4
“In order to continue sweetening the world’s food supply, thus securing continued profits, the sugar industry turned to the very same deceptions and tactics lifted from the tobacco industry. Using big sugar’s own internal documents on this strategy, ‘Sugar Coated’ reveals the well-oiled tricks of the trade to confuse the public about what is really driving the global pandemic of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.”
Processed Food Is the Primary Source of Added Sugars
In the past three decades, obesity rates have doubled and Type 2 diabetes has tripled. How did this happen? Evidence implicating sugar has steadily mounted, but as noted by Taubes, definitive proof has remained elusive. The lack of indisputable proof — and the manufactured lack of consensus — is what has kept the sugar industry motoring forward, at each turn deflecting suspicions by pointing out conflicting evidence.
Fueling uncertainty has been the primary defense strategy that has allowed the sugar industry to thrive while health statistics plummet. “If the evidence gets definitive, they’re done,” Taubes says. Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist, teaches that sugar — when consumed in the excess amounts we’re consuming today — acts as a metabolic poison.
Lustig doesn’t really see himself as the “anti-sugar guy,” stressing he’s really anti-processed food. The thing about processed foods is they contain massive amounts of added sugar. Seventy-four percent of packaged foods contain added sugars, which hide under 61 different names, many of which are unfamiliar. Examples include barley malt, dextrose, maltose and rice syrup, just to name a few.
Metabolically, however, there’s no difference between these sugars, Lustig says. Even health foods and baby foods can contain shockingly high amounts of processed sugars.5 Take Krave Jerky, for example. A modest size bag (3.5 ounces) of Krave Chili Lime Jerky contains a whopping 39 grams of sugar.6
What Is Moderation?
Lustig stresses it’s the excessive consumption of sugar that is dangerous, not the sugar in and of itself. But how much is too much? At which point does it become a “poison”? Sugar in “moderation,” he says, would be 6 to 9 teaspoons (25 to 38 grams) of added sugar a day.
This is about the max that your body can safely and effectively process. Europeans consume, on average, 17 teaspoons of added sugar a day. The American average is 19.5 teaspoons a day. For historical perspective, in 1812, people ate approximately 9 grams or just over 2 teaspoons of sugar per day.7
According to a 2014 study,8 10 percent of Americans consume 25 percent or more of their daily calories in the form of added sugars, and those who consume 21 percent or more of their daily calories in the form of sugar are twice as likely to die from heart disease compared to those who get 7 percent or less of their daily calories from added sugar.
The risk was nearly tripled among those who consumed 25 percent or more of their calories from sugar. That means at least 10 percent of the adult population in the U.S. are in this tripled-risk category.
Type 2 diabetes9 and heart disease are not the only ramifications of a high-sugar diet. By triggering insulin resistance, excessive sugar consumption drives virtually all chronic diseases, including nonalcoholic fatty liver disease,10 cancer and dementia.11,12 Research13 shows even mild elevation of blood sugar — a level of around 105 or 110 — is associated with an elevated risk for Alzheimer’s.
Moderating your sugar intake is extremely difficult, if not impossible, if you’re eating processed foods and snacks. The film shines much needed light on the fraud that passes for “healthy snacks,” such as fruit gummies, which contain sugar derived from concentrated fruit juice, water and a few added vitamins. While the sugar is derived from fruit, there’s nothing left of the nutrients in the whole fruit. You might as well just give your child a few sugar cubes. There’s really no difference.
How and Why Sugar Replaced Fat
The records unearthed by Kearns reveal that as far back as 1964 — a time when researchers had begun suspecting a relationship between high-sugar diets and heart disease — John Hickson, a sugar industry executive, introduced a plan for how to influence public opinion. Using the same tactics employed by the tobacco industry, Hickson’s plan was to counter adverse findings with industry-funded research, along with directed “information and legislative programs.” “Then we can publish the data and refute our detractors,” he wrote.
One of the strategies used to deflect accusations that sugar caused disease was to shift the blame to saturated fat. In the early 1970s, the sugar industry faced proposed sugar legislation that would impose limits on the sweet stuff.
They also worried about the potential impact of “Pure White and Deadly: How Sugar Is Killing Us and What We Can Do to Stop It,” a book published in 1972 by British nutritionist John Yudkin, in which he presented decades of research pointing at dietary sugar, not fat, as the underlying factor in obesity and diabetes.
As proposed by Hickson, the sugar industry countered Yudkin’s work with a secretly funded white paper called “Sugar in the Diet of Man,” which claimed sugar was not only safe but actually important for health. Again, the key to success laid in preventing a consensus from taking root. As long as there was confusion and uncertainty about sugar’s role in health, regulators were forced to give sugar a free pass.
Sugar Apologists and Defenders Bought and Paid for by Industry
Dr. Fredrick J. Stare, who chaired the department of nutrition at Harvard, played a key role in defending the sugar industry and disseminating its propaganda, all while hiding his close ties to the industry. Stare spoke out against critics on radio and television, claiming breakfast cereal with milk was a healthier breakfast choice than bacon and eggs, for example.
Another major sugar apologist was Ancel Keyes who, with industry funding, helped destroy Yudkin’s reputation by labeling him a quack. The smear campaign was a huge success, bringing sugar research to a screeching halt.
Another Harvard-based nutrition scientist identified in Kearns’ historical analysis as someone paid to produce research for the sugar industry was Mark Hegsted, Ph.D. In 1977, while heading up the nutrition department at the United States Department of Agriculture, Hegsted helped draft an early document that eventually became the U.S. dietary guidelines.
In the decades since, U.S. health officials have urged Americans to adopt a low-fat diet to prevent heart disease; as a result, people switched to processed low-fat, high-sugar foods instead. This, it turns out, is the real recipe for heart disease, yet by taking control of and shaping the scientific discussion, the sugar and processed food industries managed to keep these facts under wraps all these years. The end result is clearly visible in the health statistics of today.
Sugar’s Law of Attraction: The Bliss Point
With saturated fat enlisted as the dietary villain, the processed food industry had to figure out how to remove the fat while maintaining taste. The solution was to add sugar. The ill-advised low-fat craze is a major reason why processed foods are loaded with so much added sugar. Another reason has to do with the creation of food addiction.
The food industry goes to great lengths to scientifically calculate the exact combination of ingredients that will make you crave a product, known as the Bliss Point. Howard Moskowitz, Ph.D., a longtime food industry consultant, is known as “Dr. Bliss.” A Harvard-trained mathematician, Moskowitz tests people’s reactions and finds the optimal amount of sugar for a product.14
Moskowitz’s path to mastery began when he was hired by the U.S. Army to research how to get soldiers to consume more rations in the field. Over time, soldiers were not consuming adequate rations, finding their ready-to-eat meals so boring that they’d toss them half-eaten, and not get all the calories they needed. Through this research, Moskowitz discovered “sensory-specific satiety.” What this means is, big flavors tend to overwhelm your brain, which responds by suppressing your desire to eat more.
However, this sensory-specific satiety is overridden by complex flavor profiles that pique your taste buds enough to be alluring, but don’t have a distinct, overriding single flavor that tells your brain to stop eating. The magic formula gives you “the bliss point,” enabling the processed food industry to make very deliberate efforts to get you to overeat.
Sugar Limits Finally Included in US Dietary Guidelines
While we still have a long way to go, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans include the recommendation to limit sugar to 10 percent of your total daily calories.15 For a 2,000 calorie diet this amounts to 10 to 12 teaspoons, or just over the amount found in one 12-ounce can of regular Coke. Based on the evidence from some studies, even this amount can trigger health problems, but it’s certainly better than no limit at all. Other health organizations have gone even further.
The National Institutes of Health now recommends kids between the ages of 4 and 8 limit their added sugar to a maximum of 3 teaspoons a day (12 grams). Children aged 9 and older should stay below 8 teaspoons. The American Heart Association recommends limiting daily added sugar intake to:16,17
- 9 teaspoons (38 grams) for men
- 6 teaspoons (25 grams) for women
- 6 teaspoons (25 grams) for toddlers and teens between the ages of 2 and 18
- Zero added sugars for kids under the age of 2
Twenty-five grams of sugar per day is my recommended limit for men and women alike, with the added caveat that if you have insulin or leptin resistance (overweight, diabetic, high blood pressure or taking a statin drug), you’d be wise to restrict your total fructose consumption to as little as 15 grams per day until you’ve normalized your insulin and leptin levels.
Sugar Industry’s Response to Sugar Limits
Not surprisingly, the sugar industry’s answer to all of these sugar limits was to create yet another study18 to refute the validity of the recommendations and keep the uncertainty going.19,20,21,22 As reported by CBS,23 “The study from McMaster University claims that the evidence for prior knowledge in how sugar intake is proportionate with weight gain, across nine public health guidelines, is ‘low quality.’”
The review was funded by the North American branch of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), a trade group representing the Coca-Cola Co., Dr Pepper Snapple Group, the Hershey Company, Mars, Nestlé, PepsiCo and many others. In conclusion, these industry-funded science reviewers found that:
“Guidelines on dietary sugar do not meet criteria for trustworthy recommendations and are based on low-quality evidence. Public health officials (when promulgating these recommendations) and their public audience (when considering dietary behavior) should be aware of these limitations …
At present, there seems to be no reliable evidence indicating that any of the recommended daily caloric thresholds for sugar intake are strongly associated with negative health effects. The results from this review should be used to promote improvement in the development of trustworthy guidelines on sugar intake.”
Ironically, the only “limitation” listed for this study24 was that “The authors conducted the study independent of the funding source, which is primarily supported by the food and agriculture industry.” Essentially, what they were saying is that, yes, the study was funded by the food industry, but trust us, we were completely impartial.
A corrected version of the disclosure statement revealed ILSI actually both reviewed and approved the scope of the protocol for the study.25 AP News also discovered that one of the authors, Joanne Slavin, a professor at University of Minnesota, failed to disclose funding in the amount of $25,000 from Coca-Cola in 2014.
Slavin also did not disclose a grant received from Quaker Oats, owned by PepsiCo, nor did she include her work on a 2012 ILSI-funded paper on sugar guidelines. Meanwhile, she did disclose a grant from the Mushroom Council.
Review Shows Massive Research Bias Based on Funding
If you’re at all inclined to take Slavin and her coauthors on their word, consider the following study published in November 2016: The paper, “Do Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Cause Obesity and Diabetes? Industry and the Manufacture of Scientific Controversy,”26 reviewed 60 studies published between 2001 and 2016 to examine the links between funding and study outcomes.
“We comprehensively surveyed the literature to determine whether experimental studies that found no association between sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity- and diabetes-related outcomes (negative studies) are more likely than positive studies to have received financial support from this industry,” they write.
The results? Of the 60 studies, the 26 that found no link between sugary drinks and obesity or diabetes were all funded by the beverage industry; of the 34 that did find a relationship, only one had received industry funding. In conclusion, they noted that: “This industry seems to be manipulating contemporary scientific processes to create controversy and advance their business interests at the expense of the public’s health.”
Some of the studies giving sugar a free pass have industry fingerprints clearly visible all over them. For example, one paper27 came to the highly unlikely conclusion that eating candy may help prevent weight gain. The source of the funding reveals the basis for such a bizarre conclusion: The National Confectioners Association, which represents candy makers like Butterfingers, Hershey and Skittles.
Coca-Cola and Pepsi-backed research has also come to the highly improbable and irresponsible conclusion that drinking diet soda is more helpful for weight loss than pure water.28
When you consider that following the proposed sugar guidelines (restricting sugar to 5 or 10 percent of daily calories) would cut junk food companies’ profits by half,29 it’s easy to see why they’re willing to go to such obnoxious lengths to try to mislead you about the science. Greed is no excuse, however, and it’s high time everyone stopped buying into the sugar industry’s carefully plotted misdirection campaigns.
Crush Your Sugar Addiction
Sugar causes very real damage to your body and cells, and the addiction to the substance is also very real. There are several strategies you can use to reduce or eliminate your intake of added sugars, while still enjoying your meals and feeling satisfied after eating.
Educate yourself on the health impacts of sugar
Making permanent changes to your lifestyle and nutritional choices is easier when you know the why behind the change. You can see a quick list of the 76 different ways sugar negatively impacts your health in my previous article, “The Truth About Sugar Addiction.”
Reduce net carbs
Your net carbs are calculated by taking the total grams of carbs and subtracting the total grams of fiber. By keeping your net carbs below 100 grams per day, and for a healthier diet as low as 50 grams per day, you will reduce your cravings for sweets. To learn more, including the importance of cycling in higher amounts of net carbs once you’ve become an efficient fat burner, see “Burn Fat for Fuel.”
Eat real food
If a food is boxed, canned or bottled, it’s likely also been processed and may include added sugar. Whole, organic, non-GMO foods provide your body with the nutrition you need to function optimally and natural sugars bound to fiber that reduces your net carbs.
On processed foods you do purchase, scour the label for ingredients that represent sugar to evaluate the total amount. The less sugar you eat, the less you’ll crave.
Use safer sweeteners
Not all sugar substitutes are created equally. Avoid using artificial sweeteners such as aspartame. Safer alternatives include Stevia, Lo Han Guo (also spelled Luo Han Kuo), and pure glucose (dextrose). Contrary to fructose, glucose can be used directly by every cell in your body and as such is a far safer sugar alternative. It will, however, raise your net carb intake.
Reduce the sugar you add gradually
If going cold turkey hasn’t worked for you in the past, try slowly reducing the amount of sugar you add to your drinks. This helps give your taste buds time to adjust to drinking your favorite tea or coffee without the added sweetener.
Increase healthy fat intake
Fat increases satiety, reducing cravings for something sweet afterward. Avocados, coconut oil, nuts and seeds increase your healthy fat content, fill you up and reduce your sweet cravings.
Include fermented foods
Fermented foods support your digestive health and improve your gut microbiome, and the sour taste naturally helps reduce your sweet cravings.
Try Turbo Tapping
Emotional and stress eating is not uncommon. Using Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), you can address your stress levels and the discomfort you may feel from giving up junk foods in your diet. Turbo tapping is a form of EFT designed specifically for sugar addiction and is well worth a try if you’re struggling to give up soda and other sweets.
- The opioid crisis has become a social issue that transcends all geographic and socioeconomic boundaries — affecting people of every age, gender and ethnicity at alarming rates
- Prescription opioids cost the U.S. at least $75 billion annually and more than 11 million Americans are believed to have abused these medications during 2016
- According to the CDC, on average 115 Americans die of an opioid overdose every day
- While you may not think opioid addiction can happen to you, these potent painkillers are routinely prescribed for the treatment of bodily pain related to accidents, car crashes, sports injuries and surgeries — experiences that are common to people everywhere
By Dr. Mercola – July 14, 2018
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 115 Americans, on average, die of an opioid overdose every day.1 The increasing use of opioid painkillers and the rampant rates of addiction to them have become a social issue that transcends all geographic and socioeconomic boundaries.
Drug overdoses now affect people of every age, gender and ethnicity. “Understanding the Opioid Epidemic” is a one-hour PBS documentary designed to highlight some of the issues surrounding the disturbing rates of use and abuse of prescription opioid medications in the U.S.
These potent painkillers are routinely prescribed for the treatment of bodily pain, most often relating to accidents, car crashes, sports injuries or surgery. If you or someone you love is taking opioids or is already addicted, you may find solace and validation by hearing from recovering addicts and their family members. Also featured are patient advocates, doctors and other experts who deal with this issue on a daily basis.
Painkillers Prescribed for Common Medical Conditions Can Be a Gateway to Opioid Addiction
Far from being an epidemic of nameless, faceless people from faraway lands, the U.S. opioid crisismakes front-page news week after week. The headlines include heartbreaking stories from people like Avi and Julie Israel of North Buffalo, New York, whose son Michael’s story is featured prominently in the documentary. Michael was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of 12. Problems with drug addiction began when Michael transitioned from his pediatrician to a gastroenterologist when he was 18.
To address Michael’s pain, the new doctor prescribed hydrocodone (sold under the brand names Norco and Vicodin), a semisynthetic opioid derived from codeine. That one choice changed Michael forever.
After obtaining a court order to review Michael’s pharmacy records after his death, the Israels discovered their son had been prescribed 185 pain pills in little more than a 30-day period just a few months before he died.2 “I couldn’t believe the doctors did this to him,” declared Julie. “It’s indefensible. … It changed him chemically forever.”
Sadly, after his addiction to prescription opioids and other medications overtook his life, Michael committed suicide in June 2011. He was 20. In the film, Avi and Julie expressed their sadness over the reality that many who become addicted to opioids are treated like outcasts, especially by people whose lives have not been directly impacted by this crisis.
Said Julie, “The people who are not affected do not think it will happen to them, but that’s a naïve perspective. You are one car accident, one surgery, one wisdom tooth or one sports injury away from the disease of addiction. That’s how fast it can happen to your family.”
Sports Injuries Are Another Launching Point for Opioid Addiction
As mentioned, opioid addiction can easily begin with an injury or surgery. While you may not realize it, taking prescription opioids puts you just a few steps away from becoming a heroin addict or falling victim to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. Dr. Andrew Kolodny, director, opioid policy research, Brandeis University, says “The effects of these drugs are indistinguishable from the effects produced by heroin.
When we talk about opioid prescription drugs, we are essentially talking about ‘heroin pills.’” Jennifer Weiss-Burke, executive director of Serenity Mesa Youth Recovery Center in Albuquerque and mother of student-athlete Cameron Weiss, who died of a heroin overdose in August 2011, knows that full well. Around age 16, Weiss had the misfortune of breaking his collarbone — twice — the first time while wrestling, which required surgery, and several months later while playing football.
On both occasions, Weiss was prescribed opioids to help him cope with the intense pain. Unfortunately, the prescribed medications served as gateway drugs for him, and he later moved on to heroin, which is regarded as a cheaper substitute for prescription opioids. About the effects of drugs on his life, Weiss-Burke writes:3
“Cameron became dependent and then addicted to opioids. He quickly progressed to a heroin addiction when he no longer had easy access to pills. Heroin was cheaper and easier to get. He smoked heroin for about a year before he began injecting the drug. He had always said he would never put a needle in his arm, but the drug beckoned, and he listened.
Drugs changed Cameron almost overnight. He went from being a compassionate young man who loved spending time with his family, to a young man who made heroin his primary focus. School, sports and family — everything took a backseat to his addiction. The drug became his world and it controlled him like a puppet on a string.
He was no longer using to get high, he was using to feel “well” and to not be sick. Becoming addicted to drugs and dying as a result of his addiction was the last thing Cameron (or our family) ever thought would happen to him. Cameron would want everyone to know that if it can happen to him, it can happen to anyone. No one is exempt from this terrible disease.”
What Are Opioids and How Are They Used?
If you’ve ever received a prescription for painkillers, you’ve likely taken an opioid. These powerful pharmaceutical medications are commonly used to treat moderate-to-severe pain despite the many serious risks and lack of evidence about their long-term effectiveness. They are often prescribed after an injury or surgery, or to relieve pain associated with chronic health conditions such as cancer, fibromyalgia and inflammatory bowel disease, among others.
A few of the most popularly prescribed drugs are oxycodone (sold under the brand name OxyContin), hydrocodone, morphine and methadone. Regardless of whether you have a history of legal or illegal drug use, anyone who takes prescription opioids for any length of time runs the risk of becoming addicted to them.
Once addicted, it can be hard to stop using these medications. “Patients and prescribers really need to understand that opioids are highly addictive,” states Dr. Richard Blondell, vice chair for addiction medicine at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo and first director of the National Center for Physicians Training in Addiction Medicine.
“It doesn’t mean they should never prescribe them or that a patient should never take them. It means we have to be very careful with these drugs.” On the other hand, when used properly, opioids can provide much-needed pain relief to get you through the early hours and days of an intense healing and recovery process.
Whenever the subject of pain medication is brought up, it’s important for you to ask questions about your pain-management options and also the potential risks of opioid addiction. Both you and your doctor should carefully consider risk factors such as your family history, genetics, history of substance abuse or addictions, mental health, psychological or social stressors and history of trauma. These factors may increase your risk of addiction.
Facts About the Opioid Epidemic
David Thomas, Ph.D., health scientist administrator with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), was a pain and opioid researcher for 12 years before joining the NIDA. Regarding the opioid epidemic, Thomas said, “The rate of death from prescription opiates has been exponentially growing. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg in terms of how many lives are wrecked because of prescription opiates. It’s a huge problem.” About the opioid epidemic that has taken the U.S. by storm since the mid-1990s, the CDC says:4,5
- More than 11 million Americans abused prescription opioid medications during 2016
- From 1999 to 2016, more than 630,000 people died as a result of a drug overdose
- About two-thirds of the more than 64,000 drug overdose deaths in 2016 involved an opioid
- The number of overdose deaths involving opioids was five times higher in 2016 than it was in 1999
- Drug overdoses have become the leading cause of death among Americans under age 506
About the issues related to opioids, Kolodny asserts, “The reason the U.S. is in the midst of a severe epidemic of opioid addiction is because the medical community began to prescribe opioids very aggressively. And as the prescriptions went up, rates of addiction and overdose deaths went up right along with the increase in prescribing.”
Prior to the release of the documentary, Kolodny told The New York Times, “We have roughly two groups of Americans that are getting addicted … an older group that is overdosing on pain medicine, and … a younger group that is overdosing on black market opioids.”7
The Opioid Crisis Is Damaging Society and Costing Us Millions
While the issue is multifaceted, Kolodny suggests drug makers and physicians play a big role in the opioid crisis. After all, without pharmaceutical companies, the painkilling medications in question would not exist, and doctors are the ones responsible for putting prescriptions into the hands of their patients.
“The only way you can do well financially and have a blockbuster drug is to get the medical community to prescribe your medication for common conditions and long-term conditions,” says Kolodny. “And if it’s a drug that is very difficult for people to discontinue using, then you’ve got a pretty good recipe for a blockbuster.”
Over the years, several states have filed lawsuits against drug manufacturers related to misleading marketing campaigns and failure to disclose addiction risks for drugs such as OxyContin. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates the economic cost of opioid abuse to average about $75 billion annually — with $55 billion attributed to health and social costs and $20 billion to emergency department and inpatient treatment associated with opioid poisonings.
The majority of these costs are borne by Medicare, Medicaid, the Veteran’s Administration and private insurance companies. In most cases, these organizations pay twice — once for the opioid medications themselves and a second time when the patient seeks treatment for an addiction or overdose. Notably, alternative pain-relieving treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, physical therapy and others are not well understood and are even less often covered by insurance.
Better Solutions Exist Beyond the Prescription Pad
For some doctors, writing a prescription is simply a faster way to address a patient’s concern. For some patients, taking a pill or two a day seems more convenient than scheduling alternative therapy appointments or participating in weeks of physical rehab. Regardless, painkillers are not a long-term solution. Dr. Daniel Alfred, director of the Safe and Competent Opioid Prescribing Education (SCOPE of Pain) program at Boston University School of Medicine, claims he has a solution to make the opioid crisis go away. He states:
“… If the insurance industry would pay for comprehensive pain-management services under one roof where you can get massage therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, acupuncture, medication management and — you name it — things would change.
I want patients to start demanding multimodal, comprehensive pain-management treatment. I want them to say to their doctors, ‘I need something better.’ They should be calling their insurance companies asking, ‘Why do I not have access to these therapies?’”
Kolodny suggests the best approach to dealing with the opioid crisis is prevention. Similar to Alfred, as a secondary measure, Kolodny notes we need new and better treatment approaches to support those who have become addicted, especially with respect to preventing overdoses. In addition, and most assuredly, education is an important factor to stem the tide of opioid addiction.
Students, parents, doctors, educators, policy makers, public health officials and others need to better understand the risks associated with taking (and prescribing) opioid medications. Education was one of the premises for making the documentary. Concludes Blondell, “It doesn’t have to be like this. Our society doesn’t have to be riddled with addiction. We don’t have to read about all these people who overdosed. We can do better. We know what to do. It’s just getting the will to do it that is the hard part.”
What Can You Do to Avoid Painkillers and Overcome Opioid Addiction?
If you’re struggling with opioid addiction, please seek professional help immediately. At the same time, a major step toward health when dealing with chronic disease of any kind, including opioid addiction, is to make dramatic changes to your diet and lifestyle. Below are four areas to address as a primary strategy:
- Eliminate or radically reduce your consumption of grains and sugars
- Increase your intake of animal-based omega-3 fats
- Optimize your production of vitamin D
- Radically reduce your intake of processed foods
Beyond that, if you suffer from chronic pain of any kind, you need to know there are many natural, safe and effective alternatives to over-the-counter and prescription painkillers, including the following:
|Astaxanthin: As an oil-soluble antioxidant, astaxanthin has very potent anti-inflammatory properties; you may need 8 milligrams or more per day for pain relief|
|Boswellia: Also known as “Indian frankincense,” this herb contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which worked well for many of my former rheumatoid arthritis patients|
|Bromelain: This protein-digesting enzyme, found mainly in the core of pineapples, is a natural anti-inflammatory; it can be obtained from the fruit or taken in supplement form|
|Cayenne cream: This spice comes from dried hot peppers and alleviates pain by depleting your body’s supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells known to transmit pain signals to your brain|
|Cetyl myristoleate (CMO): This oil, found in dairy butter and fish, acts as a joint lubricant and anti-inflammatory; it has been useful to relieve ganglion cysts and mild cases of carpal tunnel syndrome|
|Curcumin: A therapeutic compound found in the spice turmeric, curcumin has been shown in more than 50 clinical studies to have potent anti-inflammatory activity; it is best taken in capsules and you can take two to three every hour as needed|
|Evening primrose, black currant and borage oils: These oils contain the fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid, which is useful for treating arthritic pain|
|Ginger: This herb is anti-inflammatory and offers pain relief and stomach-settling properties|
|Kratom: Mitragyna speciose, also known as kratom, is a plant remedy and psychoactive substance that has become a popular opioid substitute,8 but only when used carefully; it can also be addictive so use it only under the guidance of qualified medical personnel|
|Low-Dose Naltrexone (LDN): An opiate antagonist originally developed in the early 1960s to treat opioid addiction, today’s prescription LDN triggers endorphin production, which can boost your immune function and ease pain|
- In 2013, Whole Foods issued a statement saying all products in its U.S. and Canadian stores must be labeled to indicate if they contain GMOs; the labeling policy was scheduled to take effect September 1, 2018
- May 18, Whole Foods announced the GMO labeling requirement is being “paused” in response to concerns from suppliers about having to comply with both Whole Foods’ rules and those proposed by the USDA. No new deadline has been issued
- If Whole Foods ends up adopting USDA rules, many GMO-containing foods will remain unlabeled, as USDA rules only require products created through transgenesis to be labeled as GMO
- USDA proposed rules for GMO labeling are unsatisfactory at best. It’s not even clear whether “highly refined foods” will be included in the standard, yet a majority of foods sold in grocery stores are highly refined, and are also the most likely to contain GMO ingredients
- USDA is also not using any of the already familiar phrases such as “genetically modified,” “genetically engineered” or GMO on the label. Instead, USDA is using the word “bioengineered” (BE) — a misleading phrase as it sounds far more natural than it is
By Dr. Mercola – July 11, 2018
While Whole Foods Market, founded in 1980, has been a leading retailer of organic produce in the U.S. for decades, the company has faced its share of criticism; in later years being accused of operating more like an industrial organic company rather than a local distributor of high-quality organic food.
In 2007, it bought its chief rival Wild Oats — an acquisition initially challenged by the Federal Trade Commission, which said the merger violated federal antitrust laws and provided Whole Foods unilateral market power that could raise prices and lower quality. The issue was eventually settled by selling off the Wild Oats brand and more than 30 physical store locations.1,2
Amazon Now Owns Whole Foods
Last year, Amazon announced its intention to acquire Whole Foods Market and its 465 stores, a $13.7 billion deal that had food manufacturers quaking in their boots, while organic producers worried the deal might compromise and dilute organic food standards even further.3 The acquisition went through on August 28, 2017.4 Within two days of the merger, Whole Foods’ store traffic rose by 25 percent. Within the first month, Amazon made $1.6 million off its online sales of Whole Foods private label products.
But while the success story of Whole Foods continues, questions about whether it’s really socially commendable to shop at Whole Foods have festered well over a decade.5 The company has faced well-deserved criticism for its effects on employees by refusing unionization, the environment due to its limited supply of local produce, and its selling of questionable products such as items containing MSG and rBGH, making label scrutiny a necessity even here.
Like most large corporations, it has shareholders to contend with, and the company has been accused of cutting corners to make a profit on more than one occasion. This trend is unlikely to change with Amazon at the rudder. As a matter of fact, while Whole Foods has spent the last five years promoting its promise to implement a comprehensive labeling policy6 for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) — a promise that has been a major selling point to entice customer support — that plan has now been laid aside.
Whole Foods Reneges Its Promise to Implement GMO Labeling
As reported by New Food Economy,7 Whole Foods’ GMO labeling policy was scheduled to take effect September 1, 2018. However, in a May 18 email, Whole Foods president and CEO A.C. Gallo announced the company’s labeling requirement is being “paused” in response to concerns from suppliers about having to comply with both Whole Foods’ rules and those proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The public comment8 period ended July 3 and the final rule is expected to be delivered July 29.
“As the USDA finalizes the federal regulation in the coming months and the food industry assesses the impact, we do not want our Policy to pose further challenges for you and your business,” Gallo writes. As reported by New Food Economy:
“As currently proposed, the USDA policy would make several substantive changes to the way GMOs have traditionally been defined by the food industry — starting with the terminology itself. The government’s preferred nomenclature is “bioengineered” (BE), which only refers to a food that has had another organism’s genes spliced into it by a process called transgenesis.
Other types of genetic modification, including some produced by gene-editing tools like CRISPR, would not need to be labeled. As currently written, Whole Foods’ requirements would be more stringent than the proposed USDA rules in at least two significant ways.
First, USDA has suggested letting companies label BE ingredients by QR code, meaning that customers would need to be directed to a website via smartphone to find out what’s in their food … Whole Foods has never planned to allow QR codes to count as GMO disclosures …
Second, USDA rules contain perplexing carveouts for meat products, which are regulated under a different system9,10 … Whole Foods now faces a choice: It can move forward with its original plan, or defer to the government’s less comprehensive new rules.”
Is Whole Foods Committing Fraud?
As noted by New Food Economy, “All this begs a question: Is Whole Foods softening its commitment to GMO-labeling transparency?” The company promised its customers it would lead the way by labeling food sold in its stores in a clear and transparent manner. In fact, it was the first national grocery chain to make such a commitment, and many have patiently waited for the implementation of this promise, as it would set a new, higher standard for others to follow.
Transparent GMO labeling is also what more than 8 in 10 Americans want.11 If Whole Foods ends up adopting USDA rules, many GMO-containing foods will remain unlabeled, which is nothing short of unacceptable, especially for a company that claims to be a leader among organics. As noted in the featured article, “It would mean that a company that’s long claimed the moral high ground would be no more transparent, as far as GMO labeling goes, than any other grocery store.”
Whole Foods assured New Food Economy that it remains “committed to providing our customers with the level of transparency they want and expect from us and will continue to require suppliers to obtain third-party verification for non-GMO claims.” But if that’s the case, why has no new deadline for its GMO labeling been announced?
March 8, 2013, Whole Foods issued a statement saying, “by 2018, all products in its U.S. and Canadian stores12 must be labeled to indicate if they contain GMOs. Whole Foods Market is the first national grocery chain to set a deadline for full GMO transparency. ‘We are putting a stake in the ground on GMO labeling to support the consumer’s right to know,’ said Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market.”
To me, it seems incredibly disingenuous to mislead and lie to customers for five years with a promise to be the first to really do the right thing, and then not follow through just because the government is working on rules that in no way, shape or form fulfill customers’ expectations of transparent labeling. It is my sincere hope that some of you will be angered enough to file a class-action lawsuit against them for this injustice.
USDA Bioengineered Labeling Is a Joke
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its proposal13 for the labeling of foods containing GMOs May 3 — a bizarre, or to use the word of Sierra Club, “Orwellian,” rule that appears to misdirect and create unnecessary confusion on purpose. Perhaps most problematic is the fact that it’s not clear whether “highly refined foods” will be included in the standard. Not only are a majority of foods sold in grocery stores highly refined, or contain highly refined ingredients, but these foods are also the most likely to contain GMOs.
If highly refined foods will not require GMO labeling, the labeling requirement will be essentially useless, as very few whole foods are genetically engineered. Another significant problem is the absence of the phrases “genetically modified” or “genetically engineered” on the label. Not even the now well-recognized household word “GMO” is to be found anywhere on the USDA’s GMO label. Instead of calling it what it is, and what people now are most likely to understand, the USDA is using the word “bioengineered” or BE for short.
This is a misleading phrase for the simple fact that it sounds far more natural than it is; closer to biodynamic than genetically modified. The proposal also does not address whether foods produced using newer forms of genetic engineering, such as gene editing, CRISPR technology and synthetic biology, will need to be labeled, and/or whether they would require another type of label to distinguish them from in-vitro DNA techniques.
Adding insult to injury, the logo itself is clearly designed to impart a false impression of GMOs as being natural and wholesome. The proposed logo (two versions of which are included here), is the word “be” inside a smiley-face sun. The whole thing smacks of biotech promotion and misdirection. As stated by George Kimbrell, legal director for the Center for Food Safety, “We would support a little circle that said ‘GE’ or ‘GMO’ — something neutral that’s not pro-biotech propaganda.”
Last but not least, the proposed rule does not even include the requirement to use a standardized icon. Rather than mandating an easily recognizable icon or logo, companies would have the option of using:
•The smiley sun logo (above)
•Two other “BE” logos (see the proposed rule document14
•Adding a sentence along the lines of “Contains a bioengineered food ingredient” without logo
•Simply including a QR code directing you to the company’s website for more information about the ingredients, which will require you to have a smartphone and reliable connection inside the store, something which one-third of Americans don’t have.
As a result, the use of QR codes has been criticized as being inherently discriminatory against rural, low-income and elderly populations.15 Internet and smartphone availability really should not be a criterion for getting information about what’s in the food you’re holding in your hand and contemplating buying
Why Rename What Everyone Already Knows?
A solid decade has been spent educating Americans about genetically engineered (GE) foods and foods containing GMO ingredients — what they are and that they exist in the first place. With this in mind, the USDA’s decision to ditch the terms GE and GMO and replace them with BE seems extremely suspect.
As noted by Sophia Kruszewski, senior policy specialist with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the timing is even more suspect “since many companies have responded to consumer desire for transparency and started voluntarily labeling their products. [GMO disclosure] doesn’t seem to pose an enormous challenge.”16
The only reason I can come up with for unnecessarily complicating matters is that the USDA is assisting the biotech industry by making the labeling as obscure as possible. And, if Whole Foods decides to just follow along with this opaque and nonsensical strategy, it stands to lose consumers’ respect, not to mention trust.
The Great GMO Escape
In related news, “missteps by agribusiness giants” have allowed invasive GE grass developed for golf courses to spread across Jefferson and Malheur counties in Oregon.17 The creeping bentgrass developed by Scotts Miracle-Gro and Monsanto a decade ago was engineered to withstand Roundupapplication, which would be a boon for keeping golf courses pristine and clear of weeds.
The grass was never approved by the USDA. Alas, it spread from old seed fields into areas it doesn’t belong — a perfect example of why GMO test plots should not be allowed outdoors, and why farmers really should have the right to sue companies for contaminating their fields with GE seeds, and not the other way around. (Historically, farmers found growing GE crops without having purchased seed are the ones who have been getting sued for patent infringement).
Some 80 acres of the GE bentgrass was planted in Canyon County, Idaho, and another 420 acres in Jefferson County, Oregon. In late summer 2013, two storms swept through Oregon, scattering the seeds “well beyond the designated control area.” Since then, the grass has become part of the natural environment, with virtually no possibility of getting rid of it. According to High Country News, the grass “thrives in canals and ditches, where it collects sediment and impedes water flow.”
The fact that it’s so hard to kill has become “a headache” for farmers who are already battling a number of other weed problems, and many fear the GE grass will eventually migrate into Willamette Valley, where many of the primary grass businesses in Oregon are located. Don Herb, a seed dealer in Linn County, told Oregon Live,18 “That would be a catastrophic event for Oregon’s grass seed industry. We don’t need Scotts and others to put our industry at risk.”
Scotts was fined $500,000 in 2007 for allowing the grass seeds from its test plots to escape, and the company has reportedly tried to rein in the spread of its unapproved grass but, now, the company will no longer be held liable. “[I]n a series of decisions over the last several years, the USDA has relieved Scotts of future responsibility in return for the company’s promise not to market the grass,” High Country News writes.
This hardly seems like a fair deal, considering estimates suggest it’s costing as much as $250,000 annually to keep up with its removal. Who will pay that bill? State, county government and local growers, most likely. What’s worse, the GE bentgrass also has the potential to impact national forests and grasslands, which would further add to the financial burden caused by Scotts and Monsanto’s carelessness.
Will You Remain Loyal to Whole Foods or Let Them Know How You Feel About Their Deception?
There are many problems associated with GMOs, from environmental problems to human health risks. As such, it’s really imperative for consumers to be fully informed about what they’re buying, especially when it comes to their food. Whether Whole Foods will fulfill its promise to lead the way by requiring GMO foods sold in its stores to be clearly labeled remains to be seen.
At present, it seems to have decided that making it easy for suppliers is more important than fulfilling its promise for labeling to its customers. If you’re a frequent shopper at Whole Foods, you may want to share your views with the company’s leadership. You can find company contact information on the Whole Foods Market customer service page.19