Category : Bonvie Blog

Home/Archive by Category" Bonvie Blog"

The Bonvie Blog: Lectin

Have a happy lectin-, gluten-, additive-free Thanksgiving!

By LINDA BONVIE

Let me start by saying that consuming unadulterated food has become increasingly challenging. And as we enter the “eating season” that begins with Thanksgiving, complications can heat up at a rapid pace.

If you’re not careful, a “traditional” Thanksgiving meal can easily become a “chemical feast,” to borrow the title of CFH Chairman Jim Turner’s classic book.chemical feast

Starting with the canned cranberry sauce, which typically contains high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), to the stuffing – loaded with bad oils, MSG and more HFCS – right down to the pumpkin pie, with even more HFCS, genetically-modified ingredients and partially hydrogenated oil in the crust, most Thanksgiving spreads contain more laboratory concoctions than they contain real food.

Even the main event – the turkey – can be a chemically pickled piece of poultry.

Any “self-basting” or “deep basted” bird typically comes loaded with enough added ingredients to preserve it until next Thanksgiving!

But I’m here to make things even more complex for you. That’s right, there are other food matters you may want to consider as you do your shopping for this big day of eating – specifically the hazards of lectin.

‘Plant Predators’

In his top-selling 2017 book, The Plant Paradox, cardiologist Dr. Steven Gundry puts more food restrictions on the table with his theory that lectin, a “common and highly toxic” plant-based protein (which includes gluten), when ingested causes “warfare in our bodies.”

You know all those “healthy” fruits, veggies and grains you’ve been instructed to heap on your plate? Well, according to Dr. Gundry, they’re not “just sitting there accepting their fate as part of your dinner.” These seemingly innocent produce products are taking revenge on us, defending themselves with the use of “toxic chemicals.”

Now, Dr. Gundry isn’t against all of nature’s bounty, saying that eating certain plants is “essential for good health,” and supplies most of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants needed to stay well. He also provides tips on how to make many fruits and veggies less “toxic” (some of which I’ll share with you in a minute), as well as selling a supplement called “Lectin Shield,” designed to block dietary lectins.

The entire idea of being lectin leery, does, of course, have its detractors. The Washington Post called it the “latest pseudoscience diet fad.”

But as a writer and researcher who has focused mainly on the man-made hazards added to foods and beverages, I know that just because something is labeled as natural and untainted by human hands, it doesn’t automatically mean it’s good for you.

And his concept that these noxious proteins are “designed by nature to protect” plants does make sense. I’m sure you’ve had the experience of eating a totally “healthy,” carefully prepared meal only to feel really crappy afterwards. Could the reason be it contained high concentrations of lectin? Maybe.

Dr. Gundry even calls humans “plant predators” – in the same category as the deer who graze in my backyard or the caterpillars who consumed every bit of my garden parsley.

To be sure, there’s a lot more to The Plant Paradox than simply crossing certain high-lectin foods off your shopping list. But if you want to give his basic theory a try, here are some tips from his book to lower lectin levels in your food:

  • Try to eliminate as many fruits and veggies as possible that contain lots of seeds, such as cucumbers, tomatoes and squash, from your diet.lectin
  • Peel your vegetables, as lectins are concentrated in the peels, and seeds of plants.
  • Only buy produce in season, at the “peak of ripeness.”
  • Ditch the whole grains and seeds with hard outer coatings, which “are designed by nature to cause digestive distress.” That includes swapping brown rice with white.

For Thanksgiving, these lectin restrictions would mean nixing the pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, your treasured family recipes for rolls, corn muffins, the green-bean casserole, and even wild rice.

Turkey and all other poultry, according to Dr. Gundry, must be pasture-raised, which is considerably different from just being “free-range.” Grass-fed beef, bison, boar, elk and venison, can also make the grade for your feast, along with plenty of wild-caught seafood and shellfish.

If it sounds like there’s not much left to serve on the side, there’s actually quite a bit, including lots of lettuces, turnips, sea vegetables, parsnips, millet and sweet potatoes – the only potato that makes his “yes please” list.

Actually, I could see this low-lectin feast idea going viral, perhaps with Martha Stewart coming out with a recipe guide on how to prepare some of the more obscure “approved” foods – such as nopales cactus, taro root, sorghum, grouse and pheasant.

And that sounds a whole lot better than some other Thanksgiving ideas from Martha’s collection, most especially the roast capon (with fig-and-pancetta stuffing, no less) – which, put more bluntly, is a castrated rooster!

Of course there’s still a big Thanksgiving dilemma left to solve. And that’s to try and keep the dinner table conversation equally easy to digest!

The Bonvie Blog: The Labeling Trick Only the FDA Could Pull Off

The Labeling Trick Only the FDA Could Pull Off

By LINDA and BILL BONVIE

Ready or not, Halloween is coming around again.

For many, it’s a fun holiday that opens the magic portal to the holiday season. But for others, not so much!

In the UK a recent poll found that 45 percent of Brits consider trick-or-treating an “unwelcome American cultural import.”

No matter how you feel about it, however, like everything else these days Halloween comes with a wide variety of rules and restrictions. That’s right – it’s not the happy-go-lucky boo-fest of years gone by anymore.

For example:

  • In the LA suburb of Walnut, Calif., wearing a “mask or disguise on a public street” is an unlawful activity.
  • If you live in Alabama, dressing up like a minister, nun, priest or any “other member of the clergy” can land you in the county jail forking over up to $500. (So much for that flying nun costume.)
  • Trick-or-treating over the age of 12 is forbidden in Newport News, Va. And even if you’re young enough to walk the streets as a ghost or goblin, you better get home before 8 p.m. or you could be charged with a Class 4 misdemeanor.

But here’s where some rules could really make a difference, and help in your search to find treats to give out to your visiting ghouls and ghosts.

The labeling lingo that’s worse than nothinglabeling

As you probably know by now the FDA’s big makeover of the Nutrition Facts Label (or NFL) – something that had been in the works for ages – was finally rolled out a little over two years ago.

Basically, this “new and improved” method to help consumers more easily select healthy processed foods is a slap in the face to science. But the top travesty of all can be found in the section that tallies up the “sugars” content – most especially the part called “added sugars.”

In that category, every type of caloric sweetener, healthy or otherwise, is considered to be nutritionally the same. Sucrose (a.k.a. sugar of all varieties), fructose, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, maple syrup, honey, and more, are all lumped together and measured in grams on the same line.

In fact, Citizens for Health filed a petition with the FDA over four years ago asking the agency to include not only the name of the added “sugar,” but the amount of processed fructose contained in HFCS, which can range from 42 to a whopping 90 percent.

And recently, the name “glucose-fructose syrup” has been popping up on ingredient labels. What is it? Nothing more than another way to say high fructose corn syrup.

The Corn Refiners have been trying to get away with spiking the fructose content of their laboratory sweetener and changing its name for years. And it looks like they may be succeeding on both counts.

So what does this mean when it comes to picking out Halloween treats?

Well, if you go by the FDA’s fancy new labeling, it could result in not knowing the difference between what’s a good choice and an absolutely frightening one.  

So, here’s what you need to do: Skip the nutrition facts label altogether and go directly to the actual ingredients listing instead. Candy certainly isn’t a health food by any means, but there are plenty of treats on the market that won’t break the bank and contain ingredients that you can feel good about handing out to the neighborhood witches and wizards.

And remember, avoiding HFCS isn’t just something you want to do on Halloween. Time and time again research has found this laboratory sweetener is linked to high cholesterol and triglycerides, obesity, and an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

And that’s about as scary as it gets.


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 Bonvie Blog: Partially Hydrogenated Oils

Partially Hydrogenated Oils Are Now Banned, Right?

Well, Yes — Only Not Quite

By LINDA and BILL BONVIE

They’re supposed to be history by now. We’re talking about the particularly dangerous class of food additives known as partially hydrogenated oils, or PHOs, which are the result of solidifying a vegetable oil by infusing it with hydrogen gas.

Long used to extend the shelf-life of various processed foods, such as baked goods, PHOs were also cutting short the lives of many of those who regularly consumed them, being the primary source of artery-clogging trans fats in our diet (as chronicled in our 2017 book Badditives!).

That’s why the FDA took the most unusual step of ordering them phased out of the food supply by this past June 18, after acknowledging that they were causing an estimated 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths in this country every year. (And that’s just a fraction of the number claimed by the late Dr. Fred Kummerow, the professor of comparative biosciences wHydrogenatedho spent years petitioning the FDA to ban PHOs and lived long enough – to the age of 102 – to see his efforts rewarded.)

The removal of these ingredients from the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list was quite an achievement in itself – one the FDA noted was a response to both “citizen petitions” and “available scientific evidence and the findings of expert scientific panels establishing the health risks associated with the consumption” of trans fats.

And it came only after considerable resistance from the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which submitted a petition to the agency in 2015, and an amended version last year, requesting that the food additive regulations be amended to provide for the safe use of PHOs in certain food applications.

The FDA subsequently denied that petition because it “determined that the petitioner did not provide sufficient information for us to conclude that the requested uses of PHOs are safe.”

But that’s not to say that PHOs are now automatically gone from all the products that line supermarket shelves. Because while turning down that last-ditch attempt to keep PHOs from being consigned to the adulterated ingredient graveyard, the agency did see fit to “allow the food industry sufficient time to identify suitable replacement substances.”

So how much time are we talking about? Well, it seems that some of the uses of these altered oils will be permitted until next June 18. Those are the “petitioned uses” for which the FDA acknowledges “that the food industry needs additional time to identify suitable replacement substances” and for which it “has indicated that 12 months could be a reasonable timeframe for reformulation.”

Others, however, the “non-petitioned” ones, will have even longer – until the first of January, 2020. That’s because “FDA understands additional time is needed for products manufactured (domestically and internationally) before June 18, 2018, to work their way through distribution.”

And since during that period, you might still very well end up consuming them and further endangering your heart health, it remains imperative that you check those ingredient lists before buying any processed food products.

And we would hope that’s something you’ll continue to do, even after the last vestiges of PHOs are gone – because there are a whole lot of other “badditives’ remaining in our food supply. We can also only hope that the pro-industry Trump administration doesn’t find a way to modify or reverse this lifesaving regulation while it has us distracted with other issues.

For more on the denial of the GMA’s petition, see https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/05/21/2018-10715/grocery-manufacturers-association-denial-of-food-additive-petition

For more on the FDA’s extension of the compliance period, see https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2018-05-21/pdf/2018-10714.pdf (Please note, this prompts download of  PDF.)


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 Bonvie Blog: HFCS

New Study Finds that Fructose Fuels Cancer Cells

By LINDA and BILL BONVIE

Canadian Sol Orwell may not be any relation to the late British author George Orwell, but some of the statements made on the website he co-founded seven years ago, Examine.com – an endeavor which he says is intended to rebut “outlandish claims” on topics like health, nutrition and supplements with “evidence-based analysis” – can only be described as, well, Orwellian.

Take the site’s claim, updated in December, that “there are no studies that indicate any long-term health risks from drinking diet soda,” which “is not harmful to health, well-being or body composition.”

Or the latest one that “there is currently no evidence to suggest that HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) is any worse than sugar,” that both are “essentially the same,” and that “the difference between them is too small to matter in moderate consumption” (an assertion virtually identical to that made by the Corn Refiners Association, the lobbying group representing the makers of high fructose corn syrup).

So why bother mentioning this kind of processed-food propaganda? Because all too often you’ll find that it winds up as the basis for health and nutrition stories in mainstream media, especially since Examine.com is touted as one of the top 10 innovative companies in fitness.

But unfortunately, anyone who relies on this site (or others like it) to “come to a consensus you can trust” may be putting their health and well-being in real jeopardy, because they’re quite likely to remain blissfully ignorant of the fast-growing volume of research that has come to the opposite conclusion.

One glaring example is a Duke University study published in late April in the journal Cell Metabolism – just a day after Examine.com last updated its assurance that HFCS is essentially the same as sugar.

In essence, what the Duke researchers found that is that fructose can fuel the metastasis of colorectal cancer.

“When cancer cells get to the liver, they’re like a kid in a candy store,” was how it was explained by one of the biomedical engineers involved in the study. “They use this ample new energy supply to create building blocks for growing more cancer cells.”

According to a press release from the university’s Pratt School of Engineering, being inside the liver enables cancer cells to learn how to produce more of an enzyme that breaks down fructose. Once having done that, they proceed to “gorge on the fructose,” allowing them “to proliferate out of control and become unstoppable.”

The thing that the researchers were particularly struck by, the release noted, was that “many Western diets are rich in fructose, which is found in corn syrup and all types of processed foods.” (By “corn syrup,” they were obviously referring to HFCS, since ordinary corn syrup is 100 percent glucose and contains no fructose whatsoever.)

Notice that what did not concern the scientists doing this study was sugar consumption.

Sugar, or sucrose, is made up of equal parts glucose and fructose which are bound together (just as fructose is with the fiber in fruit).

With HFCS, however, as is even acknowledged by the Examine.com website, “both molecules float in solution (as monosaccharides or lone sugar molecules) rather than being bound to each other.”

And that, far from being a difference that’s “too small to matter” is, in reality, huge. Nor is the fact that HFCS is typically 55 percent fructose “practically insignificant,” as the site also claims, since the amount of fructose involved is actually10 percent greater than that in sugar (and can go as high as 90 percent, which the site also acknowledges).

But the findings from this study are yet another of the ways HFCS “does a body bad,” which we detailed in our book Badditives! Beside those we discussed:

  • How it’s clearly linked to obesity and diabetes (both of which have skyrocketed in the decades since this artificial sweetener became a substitute for sugar and began appearing in all manner of processed foods and beverages)
  • Its link to pancreatic cancer and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (“overwhelming your liver’s processing capacity,” in the words of one expert)
  • Its effect on the brain and learning ability, and the ways it has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease and asthma…

It now appears to play a significant role in speeding up the spread of cancer.

Actually, it seems that the more we actually “examine” the effects of ingredients like HFCS, the more reasons we find to steer clear of anything that contains them.


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 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 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

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.