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The Bonvie Blog: Vanishing Act

‘Disappearance’ of GMOs, Monsanto, Should Be No Cause for Complacency

By LINDA and BILL BONVIE

You might think of it as a kind of double disappearing act – a pair of closely related evil entities now on the verge of vanishing before our very eyes.

We’re talking about the man-made mutations commonly known as genetically modified organisms, or GMOs (often referred to in the vernacular as “Frankenfoods”), and the chief creator of these mini-monsters, the Monsanto Corp. of St. Louis.

Only they aren’t really going away. They’re rather resurfacing with altered identities in the hopes that these new incarnations will be less apt to arouse antagonism and stir up controversy.

But before we go into the details of this makeover in the making, a bit of background is in order.

Like the body snatchers of sci-fi fame, GMOs have been steadily transforming such major crops as soy, corn (even sweet corn), canola, cotton, and sugar beets into things that may look exactly like the real McCoy, but have had their DNA doctored.

That might have been bad enough, since these imitations, although grown from patented seeds, were declared to be the “substantial equivalent” of the commodities they replaced with no requirement for safety testing, despite evidence that they could trigger allergic reactions. But what makes them an even bigger health hazard is the main reason that their genes were rewired.

Monsanto has long claimed GMOs are intended to make crops better able to grow under various conditions, and “feed the world.” In reality, however, most of them were created to be “Roundup Ready” – that is, able to withstand the effects of the glyphosate-based weed killer Roundup, the world’s most widely used herbicide, which has been identified as a likely carcinogen (now the basis of thousands of consumer-injury lawsuits as well as complaints by consumer advocacy and environmental groups) and destroyer of beneficial gut bacteria.monsanto

In addition to profiting hugely from Roundup sales, the company has also succeeded in making farmers dependent on its genetically modified seeds, and contractually obligated to buy new ones from the company every year (under threat of being sued), rather than saving their seeds as is traditional in agriculture. That has created an epidemic of “superweeds” – and a market for even more pernicious herbicides.

This toxic takeover of much of our food supply may have made Monsanto a ton of money, but has also made it probably the most hated corporation on the planet. Its GMOs have likewise become widely shunned – and despite political resistance to labeling foods containing them as some five dozen other countries do, the non-GMO Project label now appears on thousands of products (which unfortunately is no guarantee that Roundup hasn’t been used on ingredients as a post-harvest drying agent, unless a product is also organic).

Just how much of a problem that’s become for biotechnology companies was reflected in a forum for venture capitalists back in 2015, where a market research firm representative observed that “a big struggle everyone here has is how do you talk about your product without calling it a genetically modified organism.”

Well, it appears that soon they’ll no longer have to.

The ultimate result of a protracted political battle over mandatory GMO labeling was passage of supposed “compromise” legislation in 2016 that overrode state labeling initiatives, including one actually signed into law in Vermont. But it only permits consumers with a smart-phone app to know that a product contains GMOs.

Now, some new “guidelines” created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and due to take effect after the requisite public-comment period ending July 3, would do away entirely with what The New York Times called the “stigmatized terms” GMO and genetically engineered, substituting “bioengineered” or “BE.” While such euphemisms may mean essentially the same thing, they would supposedly not be as readily recognizable – sort of like putting a Groucho Marx disguise on Public Enemy No. 1.

Meanwhile, an even more meaningful, if unrelated, transmogrification is also in the works – the pending purge of the much maligned Monsanto moniker.

And this is no small matter when your realize that the 117-year-old name was retained even when the company morphed from a manufacturer of such chemicals as dioxin (which resulted in a number of health- and pollution-related lawsuits against the company) and PCBs (the careless disposal of which culminated in a $550 million settlement with residents of Anniston, Ala.) into an “agricultural” enterprise back in 2002.

The notoriety that has accompanied the “new” Monsanto’s increasing stranglehold on agriculture, however, is something that even millions of dollars put into corporate consumer-oriented advertising and PR campaigns couldn’t dispel. And that little image problem is something its new owner – the German conglomerate Bayer (perhaps best known for its aspirin) – seems intent on shedding ASAP.

As a result, according to a statement given to media this month, “Monsanto will no longer be a company name. The acquired products will retain their brand names and become part of the Bayer portfolio.”

And while all this won’t quite happen overnight, Bayer’s apparent haste to dispense with the widely detested designation seems to have surprised both business experts and opponents. “The speed at which they’re looking to do away with the Monsanto brand speaks volumes,” was the way one brand-management consultant put it.

To hear Bayer CEO Werner Baumann describe it, what will emerge from this merger will be a kinder, gentler and less aggressive agricultural agenda.

“Of course, there needs to be a lot more engagement,” he declared. “We aim to deepen our dialogue with society. We will listen to our critics and work together where we find common ground. Agriculture is too important to allow ideological differences to bring progress to a standstill. We have to talk to each other. We need to listen to each other. It’s the only way to build bridges.”

Now, all that might be construed as a sign of progress – not only because of its conciliatory tone, but because the toppling of a mercenary monolith as mighty as Monsanto might be considered a testament to the power of informed consumers to effect major change in the marketplace, not unlike the deposing of a dictator.

Just as in the aftermath of many a revolution, however, what follows may merely be a continuation of the same type of tyranny under another regime. Perhaps Monsanto’s often ruthless methods of doing business may be softened somewhat, and U.S. politicians (like former Kansas Representative and now Secretary of State Mike Pompeo) who once did the company’s bidding may not be as inclined to do likewise for a German conglomerate. But make no mistake – its products and practices aren’t likely to disappear along with the Monsanto name.

Realistically speaking, Bayer didn’t sink $63 billion into this acquisition as an exercise in altruism. Upon its completion, in fact, the company will reportedly control an estimated 29 percent of the world’s seed supply and nearly a quarter of all pesticide production. 

In other words, this is no time to let our guard down, as both the USDA and Bayer seem to hope we’ll do. The threat to the integrity and safety of our food supply posed by GMOs is not about to go away, and could very well continue to expand under the new management, just as it has been doing over the past two decades.

Perhaps when we see Roundup heading for the last roundup – and not being replaced with an even more pernicious chemical concoction – we’ll have real reason to believe we’re finally winning this battle.


Linda and Bill Bonvie are regular bloggers for Citizens for Health and the co-authors of Badditives: The 13 Most Harmful Food Additives in Your Diet – and How to Avoid Them.

 

The Gormley Files – Escape from the Emergency Room

Escape from the Emergency Room

By James J. Gormley

A few years back, I realized that I had a medical “situation,” a male concern I had wondered about for a couple of months, yet had dealt with by the time-honored male tradition of “avoidance” — if I pretend everything’s okay, the problem will go away — not the best approach.

I sat down with my wife. We resolved to speak with a physician-friend the next day, which I did. l was told: “Get thee to an emergency room” in no uncertain terms.gormley emergency

Wracked with fear, I stepped into an emergency room in the Bronx, and I was shocked. Before me were hundreds of people waiting to be called — victims of a world without a family doctor, statistics at the periphery of an HMO universe.

There was no hope in this room. Only desperation. Only sickness. Only pain. The room was dark and filthy, the staff looked shell-shocked and the triage “window” was a 1-inch-thick bulletproof barrier.

My heart sank. I felt a ball of worry in the pit of my stomach. I telephoned my car-service friend, Marvin, and asked him to pick me up and drive me to a hospital in Manhattan, one regarded as one of the finest medical institutions in the world.

When the cab drove in along the graceful, flower-­lined driveway, I thought that I was pulling up to a Hamptons dinner party, not to a place of X-rays and blood. There were only a couple of people waiting in the immaculate, “elegant” waiting room. I thought “Now I’ll be safe. Now I’m in good hands.”

Or not? The triage nurse ignored most of my questions, and I wound up in a room within the bowels of the E.R. Freezing in a hospital gown, I was examined by a surgeon who was truly compassionate yet overworked. He informed me that I would need ultrasound testing, and that a urologist would have to see me.

After he left, a nurse ordered me to vacate the room, since they needed it for an “eye injury.” I painfully climbed down (without a step-stool) and found myself, ignominiously, having to climb up onto a stretcher in the hallway.

About two hours went by before transporters came to bring me to ultrasound. When I was brought back to the E.R., I was deposited in a wheelchair and forgotten. When my meal arrived (which I had to beg for), the urologist intern showed up — seven hours after I arrived, four hours after the ultrasound. He was very vague, and just didn’t seem to care. He promised to give me the names of three urological surgeons and sent me back to the nurses station, where I waited another hour for my discharge instructions, which I could barely decipher.

When asked by one of the night-shift nurses, “Who was your nurse?,” l told her that I had no idea — that no one (except for the surgeon) had bothered to give me a name, or ask me if I was okay, or if I needed a sip of water — or anything at all.

When I sit back, and try to process what this experience taught me, I’m left with this thought: It represents the very worst and the very best of what’s horribly wrong and terribly right about mainstream medicine today.

It’s high-tech but “low-heart,” the apex of empirical skill yet the nadir of compassionate medicine. In 1975, Ashley Montagu said, “One goes through […] medical school and one’s internship learning little, or nothing, about goodness, but a good deal about success.”

Pity that goodness needs to be taught, and sad that this is a definition of success.

Is it any wonder that holistic medicine holds the key?


James J. Gormley is Vice President and Senior Policy advisor for Citizens for Health. He is an award-winning blogger and author, including Health at Gunpoint: The FDA’s Silent War Against Health Freedom (Square One, 2013).

The Bonvie Blog: A Toxic Topic’s Return

A Lesson from the Past Reminds Us How the Facts Are What Really Matter

By LINDA and BILL BONVIE

It was a bit like a case of déjà vu, only with a new dimension.

That was our reaction upon hearing the news that a Terminix employee had been indicted for illegally applying the highly toxic fumigation gas methyl bromide inside various residences in the U.S. Virgin Islands, including the St. John condominium resort complex where a Delaware family of four nearly died as a result back in March 2015.

As it happens, the use of methyl bromide in residential, structural and agricultural pest control, and its often deadly consequences, was the topic on which we began our writing collaboration (culminating last year in the publication of our book, Badditives!).methyl bromide molecule

Only back when we first broached this particular subject in print, all those uses were still quite legal – and there being no Internet at the time, much of our information came from trade publications and old-fashioned journalistic leg-work.

(At one point, one of us had occasion to meet the late farmworkers-rights crusader Cesar Chavez asking him what he could tell us about methyl bromide, which was being used to fumigate soil. He replied, “What can you tell us about methyl bromide?”)

We subsequently wrote a number of magazine articles on the widespread application of this invisible and odorless killer, which in the early ‘90s had begun to gain notoriety not so much for its lethality but as an ozone depleter. And, yes, they included horror stories, some even worse than the one in the Virgin Islands, such as the case of the little girl who died following a “tent fumigation” of her Savannah, Georgia home, after some of the gas got trapped in her mattress.

But the piece we wrote 25 years ago was the one that proved most memorable — and all on account of its post-script, which can be taken as a kind of object lesson in today’s fractured political climate.

It was done for a slick, glossy, 440-page monthly publication called The World & I, which described itself as “A chronicle of our changing era” — one that was quite comprehensive in its range of subject matter, as well as highly informative. It was also put out by The Washington Times, a paper with a distinctly conservative political slant owned by the Unification Church and founded by its head, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

That’s right — a magazine published by the “Moonies.”

That fact, however, had no bearing whatsoever on the content of our article, “Fallout from a Pending Phaseout,” which was based on some rather time-consuming and scrupulous research.

And one aspect of it had to do with the way methyl bromide was being used in certain large food-storage facilities, including (at the time) the Hershey chocolate plant, which in 1990 alone vented more than 40,000 pounds into the immediate environment, much of it on weekends during the summer when crowds of visitors were enjoying the attractions at nearby Hershey Park.

So were we sure that these were accurate claims, and did we have any proof? Yes, and yes. The figures and dates we cited came directly from the Environmental Protection Agency’s own “toxic release inventory,” and had been provided to the EPA by the industries themselves — statistics that could easily be obtained by a reporter or anyone else who knew of their existence.

But after the article appeared in The World & I (along with a photo of the Hershey plant), it struck us that this was the sort of information that should be of considerable interest to print and broadcast media in the Harrisburg, PA vicinity, where the Hershey Corporation and its famous amusement park are situated. And we got to wondering whether they might pick up on our “scoop.”

That was when Linda got the idea of calling them while posing as a concerned parent about to take her family to Hershey Park and inquiring if they planned to do anything with the story.

And the reactions were somewhat surprising in their skepticism. One of the editors we contacted, for example, asked, “If this is such a big issue, why don’t we already know about it?”

But the really mind-blowing response came from the head of a TV news operation, who asked, “And just where did you read this, ma’am?”

“In a magazine called The World & I.”

“I see. And can you tell me who puts out this magazine?”

“It says it’s a publication of The Washington Times.”

“Oh, really? And do you know who it is that owns The Washington Times?”

When asked who that was, he responded, “Never mind. Just take your kids to Hershey Park and have a good time, and don’t worry about it.”

So, our extra-curricular discovery — that the veracity of a totally accurate article could be automatically dismissed, even by people in the news business who should have known better, due to distrust of the motives of the proprietor of the publication where it appeared — is one that continues to resonate a quarter-century later, perhaps more so than ever.

What our little experiment revealed was an apparent assumption back then that any disclosure contained in a journal whose owner had conservative leanings (and was the founder of a foreign religious cult, no less) was highly suspect, and probably deliberate disinformation. Today, what we keep hearing from a resurgent right, with encouragement from the current occupant of the Oval Office, is a mirror-image message: that the reporting you might read in papers like The Washington Post and The New York Times is not only biased, but actual “fake news” reflecting the supposed political agendas of their owners.

But the truth is that professional journalists, with few exceptions, are simply trying to do their jobs — which means doing their best to uncover facts, not twist them or engage in misleading fabrications in order to further an employer’s perspective.

By that, of course, we mean the kinds of skilled hunter-gatherers of genuine information that reputable news operations usually depend on to stay in business, no matter who owns them.

In our current internet era, however, many people have a regrettable tendency assume that legitimate media whose political leanings they don’t like are trafficking in trickery and deliberate deception, even while they give credibility to websites that make outlandish claims and promote preposterous conspiracy theories for example, school massacres were staged by people trying to turn the public against gun ownership.

And that’s where the business of being able to discern between real and fake news becomes especially tricky. Because often, the ones that are engaging in such unfounded and ridiculous rumor-mongering — an example being Alex Jones’s lunatic-fringe Infowars — will make assertions that are perfectly valid; e.g., mandatory vaccinations and fluoridation may be hazardous to your health.  And when they do so, they tend to actually give ammunition to people whose aim is to shoot down any legitimate doubts about the safety or advisability of such policies.

The point is that, no matter what your political persuasion, when you automatically assume that anything that appears to come from the opposing camp — even if it’s based on totally independent and nonpartisan research — is simply intended to fool you, you could well end up depriving yourself of essential information.

You could even be missing out on a revelation that might potentially spare you from exposure to a life-threatening poison gas on your next vacation.


Linda and Bill Bonvie, freelance writers based in Little Egg Harbor, NJ, are regular bloggers for Citizens for Health and the co-authors of Badditives: The 13 Most Harmful Food Additives in Your Diet – and How to Avoid Them.

The Gormley Files – YOU Are the Truth Champions

YOU Are the Truth Championsgormley

By James J. Gormley

Facts. Truth. What is it about versions of these words that have had shifting uses and meanings throughout the millennia? They have been morphed into tools of propaganda, instruments of oppression and even edicts from kings or despots—who say what they decide is the truth.

Many of us who are believers in natural health and champions of health freedom are intimately familiar with facts (some of them disturbing) and truth (some of it not accepted).

We’ve seen these facts and truths taken out of context or twisted to mischaracterize and discredit the science and the proven health practices behind what we believe in, and know to be true, about our health and about what works to enhance it.

Dietary supplements are a favorite whipping boy of the nutrition naysayers and health hold-outs.

Mass media coverage and the anti-supplements grandstanding of some U.S. legislators from Illinois and New York aside, the Wild West pretty much ended about 1890 and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are actually the rightful heirs of the Traveling Medicine Show patent medicines of old.

For every critic or skeptic with blinders on, there are many more true champions of natural health out there. They might wear a lab coat, or give lectures, or answer customer calls about dietary supplements.

They might be a neighbor who is working as a health coach or a nutritionist. It could be a knowledgeable friend or family member.

It could be you.

With all of the talk this past year about fake news, we are proud to stand with you, a Citizen for Health. As always, we work hard to shine a light on credible and actionable information on many areas that impact our health, food and water.

And we count on you to steer us in the right direction so that this health advocacy collective called Citizens for Health can always be a force for positive change and a powerful platform for informed action.

And that’s the truth.


James J. Gormley is Vice President and Senior Policy advisor for Citizens for Health. He is an award-winning blogger and author, including Health at Gunpoint: The FDA’s Silent War Against Health Freedom (Square One, 2013).

The Bonvie Blog: Read Your Labels Day 2018

‘Read Your Labels Day’ – Now More Important Than Ever!

By LINDA BONVIE and BILL BONVIE

What makes this April 11, Citizens for Health’s sixth annual Read Your Labels Day, perhaps the most important one yet?

Two developments, actually. One is a USDA decision to override the National Organics Standards Board’s (NOSB) vote (taken well over a year ago) to stop allowing the seaweed-based thickening agent carrageenan to be used in organic processed foods.

Carrageenan, as it happens, is one of the 13 most harmful food additives we targeted in our book Badditives!  

It’s an ingredient that has a terrible effect on many people’s digestive systems, with even small amounts of the “food grade” variety having been found to cause inflammation in the colon (and samples of that food-grade variety have all been found to be contaminated with a “degraded” type that’s considered a possible carcinogen).

This isn’t just theoretical, however. The Cornucopia Institute, a consumer-safety watchdog organization, has collected a sizeable number of descriptions of the gut-wrenching symptoms people have suffered until eliminating carrageenan from their diet. The Institute likens it to “putting poison ivy in skin lotion.”

But despite such research and reports, the recommendation of the NOSB, and the fact that harmless alternatives, such as guar gum, are readily available, the USDA saw fit to cave in to industry groups that claimed carrageenan was better in terms of “taste and texture,” would make organic products more competitive, and as one lobbyist put it, would allow consumers “to continue to enjoy the foods they know and love.”

This decision, which is the sort of thing we’ve come to expect of the “deregulating” Trump administration, makes reading labels for the presence of this “thickener that’s a sickener” (as we called it in Badditives!) an absolute must — even if you purchase exclusively organic processed foods.

The Icon that Tells You Everything You Need to Know

But this egregious edict on carrageenan isn’t the only reason why we need to be more vigilant than ever about what’s in the food products we buy.

There’s also the fact that the FDA, now under the command of the Trump administration’s Dr. Scott Gottlieb, has just announced plans to launch its own “consumer friendly” campaign to tell Americans what is and isn’t good for them when it comes to food – complete with a simplistic icon that will supposedly tell us at a glance what foods are “healthy” (a device even less meaningful than the existing “nutrition facts” label).

Consider for a moment the implications of such a scheme.

Who will be deciding what’s healthy and what isn’t? Will all it takes to land a big “H” for your processed food product be that it’s low in sodium (and likely high in MSG)? Will low-fat fake creamers make the grade, but organic coconut milk fail?

And could this end up being a big money-raiser for the agency, similar to its Prescription Drug User Fee Act — the payment by drug makers of a substantial sum to submit a new drug application (and which has funded the agency to the tune of $7.67 billion since it went into effect in 1992)?

Whatever this healthy icon idea morphs into, it’s a safe bet that such new guidelines will have the guiding hand of industry behind them – especially given Gottlieb’s statement that the FDA wants to “maintain the basic nature and nutritional integrity of products while allowing industry flexibility for innovation.

If we read between the lines of that statement, what he really seems to be saying is that the agency has no real plans for reforming the “basic nature” of processed-food industry practices and the products that result from them (whose “nutritional integrity” still leaves an awful lot to be desired).

All of this, according to the commissioner, will be on a scale comparable to the agency’s initiative, announced last summer, to make cigarettes less addictive by lowering levels of nicotine. “Improving the nutrition and diet of Americans would be another transformative effort toward reducing the burden of many chronic diseases, ranging from diabetes to cancer to heart disease,” he proclaimed, whose benefits would “almost certainly dwarf any single medical innovation or intervention.”

Indeed it might – if the FDA were really intent on finding genuine ways to promote a healthy diet. But this is an agency that admittedly isn’t even sure what the words “healthy” and “natural” mean, as part of its new effort includes asking for input from the public on those definitions.

And if any more proof of that were needed, it can be found in Gottlieb’s stated aim to “make labeling nutrients more consumer friendly” and “explore updating standards of identity, which are essentially requirements for what can or can’t be in certain products in order for them to be labeled accordingly.”

How would this work, exactly? Well, the two examples he offers are allowing “alternative names” to be used for potassium chloride “to make clear it’s salt” and changing that standard of identity, say, for cheeses that now “aren’t allowed to use salt alternatives that would lower the sodium content and still call themselves cheese.”

Could another possible plan be to allow a labeling request that the FDA rejected a couple of years ago – a proposal made by the Corn Refiners Association to dispense with the name high fructose corn syrup and call it “corn sugar” instead?High Fructose Corn Syrup Labels

So while promoting greater consumer awareness of what makes for a healthy diet is certainly something that would benefit us all, what the FDA is now proposing sounds more like rearranging the rhetorical deck chairs on the Titanic. If the agency were really serious about initiating reforms, it would be talking about imposing stricter standards on the industries it regulates rather than distracting us with cute little icons.

All of which is why we can’t afford to let our guard down when it comes to reading (and reading up on) those lists of ingredients on processed foods.

And it’s why “we’re from the government and we’re here to help” has never been a less credible claim than it is right now.


Linda and Bill Bonvie are former writers of the CFH Food Identity Theft blog and co-authors of Badditives! The 13 Most Harmful Food Additives in Your Diet – and How to Avoid Them

 

 

 

The Bonvie Blog: Read Your Labels Day Is Coming

Read Your Labels Day

Six years ago, Citizens for Health designated April 11 as “Read Your Labels Day,” #RYLD, an event to shine a spotlight on the importance of reading the most vital part of a food package – not the “Nutrition Facts” label, not the advertising copy on the front, not the pretty pictures of fruits or veggies — but rather the actual ingredients.

That’s where you may find one – or more – of the ten worst food additives to avoid, a list that still stands as an excellent starting point for anyone who wants to boot some really bad ingredients out of their diet.

This year, Read Your Labels Day is especially timely, as the FDA’s new administrator, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, has announced plans to update labeling guidelines — supposedly in order to make it easier for consumers to know what’s good for them and what isn’t.

There’s also a decision by the USDA that affects organic foods – and actually overrides a vote by the National Organic Standards Board – in way that could directly impact your health, and makes reading organic-food labels equally important.

That’s why it’s now more urgent than ever for us to scrutinize those ingredients labels, and not rely on the advice of our federal watchdogs who are actually Big Food’s lapdogs.

Stay tuned for the “4-1-1” about what’s in the FDA’s pipeline coming up on 4/11!

Linda and Bill Bonvie

Asbestos: Legal Toxin Causes Cancer

Courtesy of Rachel Lynch and the Mesothelioma Cancer Allianceasbestos

Maintaining proper health can sometimes seem like a full-time job. There are so many things being heralded as the “easiest way to beat” this disease or that ailment, but what about taking small actionable steps to ensure one disease doesn’t have to be in your future? For example, we can prevent the development of several awful diseases later in life by limiting the amount of asbestos we’re exposed to today. April 1-7 is Global Asbestos Awareness Week, and it’s important to understand where the mineral might be hiding in our homes and how to best handle those situations.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring and microscopic fibrous mineral that has been used in both industrial and commercial settings. It was thought to be a miracle substance due to its ability to resist fire, electricity, and most chemical reactions, and was used in many building materials. Asbestos can be found in products like wallpaper, piping, cement, insulation, floor/ceiling tiles, and heating ducts. Many homes built in the United States between 1930 and 1980 have some kind of asbestos-containing materials in them. Exposure to asbestos can lead to illnesses such as asbestosis, and both lung and mesothelioma cancers. Historically, those impacted were laborers and blue collar workers mining the mineral, but more recently there have been instances of asbestos exposure through DIY remodeling projects that disturb asbestos-containing materials in homes.

Health Risks

There are some 15,000 asbestos-related deaths in the United States each year, and mesothelioma cancer fatalities account for 2,500 of those. The rare and aggressive cancer develops following inhalation of airborne asbestos fibers. Between 1999 and 2010, more than 31,000 people in the U.S. died from mesothelioma. The cancer can develop in the lining of the heart, lungs or abdomen. Pleural mesothelioma, the most common form of the disease, occurs in the lungs and is often fatal within two years of diagnosis. Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma and there is currently no cure and very few treatment options. The limited number of viable treatments available are rarely utilized, as the disease is typically not accurately diagnosed until it has progressed into the third or fourth stages. In these later stages, the cancer has often metastasized into other areas of the body. Late stage diagnosis is also common due to the latency of symptoms. Mesothelioma symptoms may take decades to present themselves, typically manifesting 20 to 50 years after asbestos exposure; once symptomatic an accurate diagnosis can still take months. Symptoms vary for each form of the cancer and there are few physicians who are familiar with the disease and can properly treat those suffering. Because the cancer is so rare, it’s imperative for those who believe they may have been exposed to asbestos to provide their doctor with a detailed medical and occupational history to enable proper diagnosis.

Asbestos exposure can also lead to asbestosis. A patient with asbestosis has inhaled the toxic fibers and now has scar tissue inside their lungs. Asbestosis is not fatal but can negatively impact day-to-day life, and those who have the disease are at an increased risk of also developing lung cancer. A physical exam from a mesothelioma specialist using diagnostic tests like x-rays and breathing tests are required to accurately diagnose the disease.

Preventative Measures

If your home, office, or school was constructed between 1930 and 1980 do not be shy about asking if asbestos is potentially in the structure. Asking some rudimentary questions now can stave off a difficult diagnosis later in life. In honor of Global Asbestos Awareness Week, empower yourself and your family with the facts.

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Integrative Health and Wellness Caucus Report

integrative

Integrative Health & Wellness Caucus Focuses on Putting Health Back in Healthcare

Bipartisan Effort Cites Prevention and Integrative Health Solutions to Combat Opioid Crisis

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 21, 2018 – Reps. Mike Coffman, R-CO and Jared Polis, D-CO, welcomed members of Congress, their staff and healthcare stakeholders to an inaugural meeting of the new Integrative Health and Wellness Caucus to a standing room only crowd on March 15, 2018. The collective efforts of the bipartisan team of Coffman and Polis, supported by the Integrative Healthcare Policy Consortium (IHPC), attracted a wide array of staff members representing the House of Representatives and Senate elected officials from states of Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas and Utah. “I think it’s important for patients to have all the facts and latest research when it comes to therapies and treatments available to them when making medical decisions,” Coffman said. “This is why it was my honor to welcome the Integrative Health and Wellness Caucus members to Capitol Hill last week.”

Rep. Polis addressed that, “Through this Caucus we are having conversations about how Congress can solve the major healthcare issues of this country and better meet the healthcare needs of everybody, including integrative health and wellness options.” He emphasized the importance of the timing of this Caucus to bring attention to successful non-pharmacological and other whole-person care options to the nation’s pain management crisis and opioid epidemic – which the Council on Foreign Relations cites as beyond the risks it poses to public health, it is becoming a drag on the economy and a threat to national security.

Other caucus attendees included representatives from the US Department of Defense, the US Department of Veterans Affairs and the US Air Force Medical Service. Registrants were also representatives from as many as thirty medical groups, insurers, hospitals, service providers, learning institutions, health care lobbying firms and patient groups that support integrative healthcare. “This caucus is the start of an important conversation to shift our healthcare paradigm from a reactive model to whole-person preventive outcomes,” said Len Wisneski, M.D., Chair Integrative Health Policy Consortium. “American’s have spent billions of dollars out-of-pocket on complementary and integrative care. It is time that Congress and healthcare payers and systems respond by including all credentialed and licensed providers and evidence-based care approaches into the choices available to all Americans.”

The educational forum included an impressive panel of experts, including Margaret Chesney, PhD, Past Chair, Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine and Health and Former Deputy Director of NCCIH; Eric Schoomaker, M.D., PhD, LTG U.S. Army (RET), former U.S. Army Surgeon General and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Medical Command; and Benjamin Kligler, M.D., National Director of the Integrative Health Coordinating Center Office of Patient-Centered Care & Cultural Transformation at the Veterans Health Administration (VA). Speakers discussed effective solutions and innovative protocols in public health and among military personnel and veterans for addiction and pain management that emphasize nonpharmacological approaches.

“I was excited to be part of the inaugural congressional caucus proceedings,” said Peter F. Demitry, M.D., MPH, Executive Director, National Foundation for Integrative Medicine (NFIM) and former Assistant Air Force Surgeon General for Modernization. “The various organizations and stakeholders that attended and presented to Congress were very well informed with articulate, rational arguments that were well received by the United States legislators. I think there was clear consensus that the time to fix US health care policy is now and NFIM is happy to be both meeting and joining these various dedicated stakeholders.”

This kick-off to the newly formed Integrative Health and Wellness Caucus is the start of informing and educating Congress, policy-makers and agencies about the improved outcomes and cost-saving possible when healthcare is oriented to prevention, wellness and well-being.

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Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., launched the Integrative Health and Wellness Congressional Caucus in the House of Representatives Oct. 25, 2017. The Caucus serves as a non-partisan educational forum for legislators to receive up-to-date information from experts related to best practices and new research, and to discuss legislative and administrative opportunities for integrative health. Media requests for Rep. Polis, contact jessica.bralish@mail.house.gov; for Rep. Coffman, contact Daniel.Bucheli@mail.house.gov.

ABOUT IHPC

The Integrative Health Policy Consortium is the national policy and advocacy voice of integrative health and wellness healthcare professional organizations, representing the voice of more than 600,000 healthcare providers. IHPC functions as a critical watchdog and monitor of federal agencies charged with overseeing America’s health and health research needs, working towards eliminating barriers to health. IHPC Chair Dr. Len Wisneski is a Clinical Professor of Medicine at George Washington University Medical Center, Adjunct Faculty at Georgetown University, and is on faculty at The University of Colorado. He has published over 30 scientific articles and a landmark textbook, “The Scientific Basis of Integrative Health.” Website: http://www.ihpc.org.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theIHPC/

Twitter: @theIHPC

Media Contact:

Susan Haeger

Executive Director

(202) 505-IHPC (4472)

shaeger@IHPC.org

The Bonvie Blog: Alzheimer’s

Is a New Drug Strategy Really What We Need to Prevent Alzheimer’s?

 By LINDA BONVIE and BILL BONVIE

So what’s up with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)? An agency that has been derelict in its duties of protecting the public for quite some time now appears to have gone completely off the rails (as have other regulatory entities) since the Trump administration began systematically removing any of the remaining constraints on industry’s most reckless impulses.

A prime example is the way the FDA has given Big Pharma carte blanche to proceed with the marketing of untested preventives for Alzheimer’s following the abject failure of a couple hundred meds to treat it (Merck being the latest to acknowledge that by halting a trial of its latest drug, joining other unsuccessful attempts by the likes of Pfizer and Eli Lilly).

The agency, under its new commissioner, Dr. Mark Gottleib (the same guy who’s been cracking down on the use of kratom, the one promising natural alternative for getting people off opioids, as we reported a couple months ago), has just proposed opening a new road into some rather thorny territory where none have gone before.

What the agency is now offering drug makers is the prospect of fast-track approval for an Alzheimer’s-averting drug sans the type of “widespread evidence-based agreement in the research community” that has been previously required.

In other words, our supposed governmental watchdogs are now inviting companies to experiment with drugs on untold numbers of people who not only don’t yet have Alzheimer’s, but may never even develop it. And all based on the idea that certain biological markers might provide an early indication of a person’s likelihood of getting the disease.

Of course, the fact that such meds will inevitably produce all sorts of side effects (some of which might even mimic the symptoms of dementia) in otherwise healthy people doesn’t even appear to be a consideration.

But while all the pharmaceutical industry’s researchers and resources might not yet have come up with patentable remedies for Alzheimer’s, or even identified its root cause (for example, the fact that some people whose brains contain the key suspect, beta-amyloid plaques, have no apparent signs of dementia), there are things we do know about its prevention that don’t involve prescribing risky drug regimens with as-yet undetermined consequences.

Perhaps nowhere has that been more evident than in the results of a study done at UCLA that were published two years ago in the journal Aging, and involved a series of lifestyle modifications known as the metabolic enhancement for neurodegeneration, or MEND. It involved just 10 patients ranging in age from 49 to 69 – but the cognitive improvements they showed over periods ranging from five months to two years were remarkable.

The UCLA program used in this study was a personalized one that included a focus on healthier eating, improved exercise and sleep patterns, and dietary supplements, as well as fasting and stress reduction techniques.

And an astounding nine out of the ten participants were found to have reversed memory loss and sustained those improvements using such therapies, according to the paper’s author, neurology Professor Dale Bredesen, Director of the Easton Center at UCLA.

Now skeptics, of course, might try to dismiss this study as being too small to matter much. But the very fact it was so small made individual outcomes much easier to gauge than had it been one involving hundreds or thousands of subjects. For example:

  • The symptoms and neuropsychological testing of a 69-year-old patient with well-documented Alzheimer’s disease ‘improved markedly” after 22 months on the program.
  • A woman in her late 50s who had shown symptoms of progressive cognitive decline, like returning home from shopping without the items she had purchased, forgetting familiar faces and not knowing which side of the road to drive on, not only showed “marked improvement,” but sustained it for three-and-a-half years.
  • A 49-year-old patient whose memory had begun to decline, not only forgetting things like faces and scheduled events but losing the ability to speak two foreign languages, got it back and had a “normal neuropsychological examination” nine months after starting the MEND protocol.
  • A 50-year-old woman who had developed memory problems that made it difficult for her to drive, find words and follow recipes, after only three months on the program, was able to babysit her grandchildren, follow written and verbal instructions without any problems, and read and discuss her reading with her husband – which she had not been able to do prior to treatment.

So what’s the magic formula that brought such changes about?

It varied with each individual, but included such components as eliminating simple carbohydrates, gluten and processed food, and replacing them with vegetables, fruit and non-farmed fish; supplementing daily with vitamin D3, CoQ10 and fish oil, and melatonin at night; reducing stress through yoga and 20-minute, twice-daily meditation, 30 minutes of exercise four to six times a week, and getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night.

Oh – and one other thing. While the combining of these various elements seemed to be a key to those improvements, it’s not necessary to do them all to get results. And the only other effect, according to Prof. Bredesen, is “improved health and an optimal body mass index, a stark contrast to the side effects of many drugs.”

In other words, Alzheimer’s – or the dementia that many people experience with age – may be both preventable and treatable without the help of Big Pharma, and whatever new and untested drugs with which it may yet be planning to experiment on us. And without the FDA trying to run interference with such efforts on behalf of the Trump administration’s friends in industry.

Linda and Bill Bonvie are the authors of Badditives! The 13 Most Harmful Food Additives in Your Diet –and How to Avoid Them.

 

 

 

 

The Bonvie Blog: Is Vitamin D the Panacea that has Eluded Big Pharma?

Is Vitamin D the Panacea that has Eluded Big Pharma?

 By LINDA BONVIE and BILL BONVIE

“We don’t need to develop a new drug. We already have it.”

That’s how the lead author of a new study of one of our most essential nutrients has summed up his team’s surprising new findings about what it can do for people suffering from what continues to be one of our biggest causes of illness and mortality.

The substance involved is none other than vitamin D3 – and the condition he was referring to was heart disease. Or, to be more specific, damage to the cardiovascular system caused by hypertension, diabetes and other ailments, which this latest research has found can actually be repaired with sufficient amounts of the “sunshine vitamin.”

The research was conducted by Dr. Tadeusz Malinski, an Ohio University professor of advanced chemistry, and two graduate students, and is chronicled in a recent issue of the International Journal of Nanomedicine. If the results sound somewhat hard to believe, perhaps it’s because Big Pharma has been trying for so long to downplay the benefits of natural remedies that it can’t patent.

However, dismissing the results of this study, or the credentials of its lead author, could pose some difficulty for those drug-industry naysayers and their media shills.

That’s because Malinski is no run-of-the-mill college professor. He is the recipient of more than 35 international awards and honors, including the prestigious Maria Curie Medal for biomedical research, the Grand Gold Medal in medicine from the French Society of Arts-Science-Letters, and the 2016 Albrecht J. Fleckenstein Memorial Award by the International Academy of Cardiology for his contributions to fundamental research in that field.

And as Malinski explained in a press release from the university, when observed in clinical settings, many heart-attack victims have been found to be deficient in D3. And while that doesn’t necessarily mean such a deficiency is the direct cause of a heart attack, it increases the risk of having one.

In seeking to identify the medical mechanism responsible, what his team discovered is that D3 has a key role in stimulating production of nitric oxide, which is essential to regulating blood flow and preventing clots from forming, as well as significantly reducing oxidative stress to the cardiovascular system.

And finding that out took some real “in-depth” research, involving the use of nanosensors, about 1,000 times smaller in diameter than human hairs, to determine how vitamin D3 affects key cardiovascular components known as endothelial cells, which line the surface of blood vessels.

“There are not many, if any, known systems which can be used to restore cardiovascular endothelial cells which are already damaged,” noted Malinski. But what his team discovered is that “vitamin D3 can do it.” And that was found to be consistent whether the cells being examined came from Caucasians or African-Americans, who are considered more likely to suffer from vitamin D deficiency, which is now estimated to affect two out of five U.S. adults.

“This is a very inexpensive solution to repair the cardiovascular system,” he added – in other words, one that might not only offer patients a highly effective way to bounce back from a heart attack, but do so without incurring humongous medical bills.

And that perhaps is the crux of why these results aren’t being trumpeted as the lead medical story on all the drug-company-sponsored networks. Because as it turns out, what this first-of-its-kind study has revealed are potentials well beyond the treatment of heart disease, which could negatively impact drug company bottom lines were they to be seriously pursued.

According to Malinski, besides restoring the function of cardiac endothelium following a heart attack, vitamin D therapy could also help to rebuild systems damaged by conditions such as diabetes and atherosclerosis, as well as blood-vessel and capillary malfunctions, hypovolemia, a decrease in the volume of blood plasma, and brain ischemia, an inadequate flow of blood to the brain that can result in stroke or the death of brain tissue.

Such possibilities, as noted in the OU press release, are supported by clinical studies showing that doses of D3 exceeding those currently used for osteoporosis “may be highly beneficial for the treatment of the dysfunctional cardiovascular system.”

Imagine that! Heart disease finally being consigned to the ash heap of medical history, thanks to finding new applications for a natural nutrient that comes to us both in the form of “free” sun exposure (as an old song puts it, “the sunbeams that shine, they’re yours, they’re mine”) and from such foods as egg yolks, oysters and fatty fish like wild-caught salmon and sardines.

And then, of course, there are Vitamin D supplements, which may cost a few bucks, but not anywhere near as much as the drugs you’re likely to be prescribed if you suffer from heart disease or any other health problems due to D deficiencies.

And don’t forget – those heart-healing benefits discovered by Dr. Malinski and his research associates are on top of others that we already knew about, including the strengthening of bones by increasing calcium uptake, as well as warding off a host of diseases and infections, ranging from cancer to the flu by enhancing your immune system.

And that’s not to mention what it does to uplift your spirits and keep depression at bay (yes, John Denver was right about the relationship between sunshine and happiness).

That doesn’t mean you should take vitamin D in unlimited quantities. Supplementation of 2,000 IU a day is considered to be a standard dose, and should be taken during months when you’re getting minimal sun exposure. (4,000 IU is generally regarded as a safe maximum, although the Vitamin D Council recommends you draw the line at 10,000 IU per day for three months and that actual toxicity can result from taking 40,000 or more IU for the same period.)

But from all indications, Vitamin D (or a supplement in the form of D3) could be the real wonder drug researchers have been looking for all these years.