Isabelle Z. Archives - Dr. Leonard : Dr. Leonard

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Detrimental to gut health, metabolism, blood sugar: Research reveals the toxic effects of Sucralose

sucraloseWhen it comes to good health, there aren’t really any shortcuts. Sugar is bad, and if you think you’re doing your body or your weight any favors by using sugar substitutes, you could be in for a very unpleasant surprise once all of their negative health effects catch up to you. Even one of the substitutes that many people consider superior to controversial aspartame, sucralose, causes a host of toxic effects.

Sucralose, familiar to many as Splenda, is used not just by those who want to avoid sugar but also those who don’t want the negative effects of aspartame. Unfortunately, they’re just trading one bad habit for another by taking this route.

In fact, the chemical’s initial approval came about under very dubious circumstances. Although the FDA says its approval was based on more than 110 studies into animal and human safety, only two human trials had been published at that time – and they only involved 23 people taking sucralose over the course of just four days. Moreover, one study examined tooth decay rather than human tolerance. The human body’s absorption of sucralose was only studied on six men, yet somehow the findings were allowed to be extended to groups that were never even examined, like children, women and those with chronic illnesses.

That might be somewhat forgivable now if the substance had proven itself to be harmless over the years, but that’s simply not the case. It’s especially dangerous for your gut, reducing gut bacteria by as much as half and targeting beneficial bacteria in particular. It also raises the pH levels within your intestines, and it accumulates in fat tissue. It also shows up in breast milk, threatening the gut bacteria of babies.

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A 2018 study published in the journal Morphologie found that sucralose causes liver damage, and prior studies had linked it to enlargement of the kidneys and liver as well as kidney calcification. It can also shrink the thymus and increase immune system cells known as leukocytes in the lymph nodes and thymus. It could also exacerbate the symptoms and inflammation of Crohn’s disease. How can this be considered harmless?

Raising your risk of diabetes

Diabetics often turn to artificial sweeteners because they need to limit their sugar intake, but going with sucralose could prove to be a huge mistake. Sucralose has been shown in studies to alter the body’s levels of insulin and glucose, placing people at a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes and negatively impacting those who already have the disease. Obese people who use sucralose have noted increases in peak plasma glucose concentrations, insulin, and peak insulin secretion rates as well as reductions in insulin clearance.

Tricking your body into storing more fat

A lot of people make the switch to artificial sweeteners out of weight concerns, but doing so can actually have the opposite effect as artificially sweetened foods have been shown to stimulate appetite, increase carb cravings, and trick your body into storing more fat. In fact, some studies show that they are more likely than regular sugar to cause unwanted weight gain.

What about those studies that claim to support its safety? Not surprisingly, the vast majority of these have been funded by the industry or even carried out by them. For example, the lead author of a 2017 study concluding sucralose doesn’t impact glycemic control works for the company that owns Splenda. A 2017 review in Food and Chemical Toxicology that claimed sucralose is safe as a sugar alternative was commissioned by a trade association representing companies that make food with sucralose.

The bottom line is that sugar is bad for you in all its iterations. Don’t try to trick your body; you’re going to have to limit all sugar and sweeteners if you want to be healthy. If you do want to splurge every now and then, just stick to real sugar as long as you’re not diabetic and do your best to eat healthy overall and get plenty of exercise to make up for the occasional lapse.

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Pepsi admits its soda contains cancer-causing ingredients

Coke-Pepsi-Soda-DrinkWhen the Center for Environmental Health released test results showing that Pepsi intentionally covered up the presence of high levels of 4-Mel in its popular soft drinks in 2013, the company denied both the presence of this chemical in its beverages and the fact that it was dangerous. 4-Mel, which is short for 4-Methylimidazole, is a compound that is formed in the manufacturing of caramel coloring and is a known carcinogen.

Since then, the drinks maker has fought against complying with California state requirements to place a cancer warning label on the beverages that contain the ingredient, which includes not only Pepsi but also Diet Pepsi and Pepsi One.

Now, a settlement in a class action lawsuit against Pepsi has gained preliminary approval from a federal judge in California. As part of the proposed settlement, Pepsi has agreed to ensure its caramel coloring’s 4-Mel levels do not exceed 100 parts per billion in products that are being shipped for sale within the U.S. They will also be required to test the soda using specific protocols.

The soft drink giant also agreed to these measures in a different lawsuit that was settled in a California state court last year. The new settlement, however, expands the reach of these measures from California to the entire country.

Pepsi failed to warn consumers that its drinks contain known carcinogens

The lawsuit accused Pepsi of failing to warn people that its beverages contain 4-Mel, which California has officially recognized as a cancer-causing chemical.

2014 Consumer Reports test showed that the 4-Mel in Pepsi exceeded the permitted level of 29 micrograms per bottle or can, which would mean that they were in violation of common law and consumer protection statutes in the state of California.

In particular, this violates California’s Proposition 65, which has been in place since 1985, and requires manufacturers to provide consumers with clear warnings when their products will expose them to toxic or cancer-causing chemicals.

The state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment set the cutoff at 29 micrograms because that level creates a risk of cancer of one in 100,000.

Citing a 2013 Mintel and Leatherhead Food Research report, Consumer Reports said that caramel coloring is the world’s most widely used food coloring. At the time, Pepsi tried to say that because Prop 65 refers to exposure per day rather than exposure per can, and that the average amount of diet soda that its drinkers consume daily is less than a can, there was no need to place a warning on it. Consumer Reports disagreed, however.

“No matter how much consumers drink they don’t expect their beverages to have a potential carcinogen in them. And we don’t think 4-MeI should be in foods at all. Our tests of Coke samples show that it is possible to get to much lower levels,” toxicologist Dr. Urvashi Rangan said.

Is drinking soda really worth risking cancer and obesity?

It simply does not make sense for people to expose themselves unnecessarily to an ingredient that merely serves to color their food, and consumers have the right to be aware of what they are putting in their bodies. The popularity of books like Food Forensics serves to illustrate the growing desire by Americans to know what ingredients their food products contain.

The cancer-causing caramel coloring in Pepsi is not the only reason consumers should steer clear of it. Soft drinks are also believed to be behind the nation’s obesity epidemic. A UCLA study found that adults who consumed one sugary drink such as a soda every day had a 27 percent higher likelihood of being classified as overweight than those who did not drink such beverages. Moreover, drinking just one soda each day adds up to a total of 39 pounds of sugar each year! That means that regular soda drinkers can cut their risk of obesity and cancer in one fell swoop simply by giving up the habit for good.

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Author: Isabelle Z.

IF YOU ONLY READ ONE THING TODAY: Tech giants working to roll out online “gulag” for Americans that’s worse than prison in communist China

tech giants google apple facebookWelcome to America, the land of the free… unless you happen to voice an opinion the tech giants don’t agree with, in which case you’re as good as dead. They might not physically place your body in the firing line, but their censorship and de-platforming is effectively killing those who dare to share an opposing point of view – and it’s a problem that is poised to get even worse.

In a recent opinion piece for The Hill, Donald Trump Jr. drew attention to the growing problem of Big Tech’s censorship of conservatives. Listing problems like shadow bans on Twitter and Facebook, pulled ads for Republican candidates and the demonetization of videos on YouTube, he wrote: “Our right to freely engage in public discourse through speech is under sustained attack, necessitating a vigorous defense against the major social media and internet platforms.”

He points to how Facebook has tailored its algorithm to single out the style and syntax often used by conservatives – looking out for terms like “SJW” (social justice worker) and “mainstream media” – and using that to de-boost those users’ content.

Social media and financial blacklisting on the rise

Consider what happened to controversial talk show host Alex Jones, who was booted off all social media platforms last August at once after the various platforms ganged up against him. Conservative activist Laura Loomer had already been banned from Twitter and PayPal when she discovered that Chase Bank had also banned her and she was blocked from accessing her bank account using their app.

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She’s not the only one; half a dozen other conservatives say that Chase Bank’s online banking platform has given them the boot, including Trump-supporting Army combat veteran Joe Biggs. Mastercard and Discover, meanwhile, blacklisted the conservative Islam critic Robert Spencer while Mastercard and Visa cut off service to David Horowitz. Financial blacklisting is on the rise, with the Electronic Frontier Foundation warning via Breitbart News last summer that payment processors and banks were turning into “de facto internet censors.”

It’s easy to see where this is headed. Deplatforming and censorship is almost like being executed – perhaps not in a literal sense but in terms of being essentially “de-personed.” This isn’t just a problem that the Alex Joneses of the world, whose livelihoods arguably depend on reaching a wide enough audience, have to worry about  – every single one of us stands to lose — and lose big — if we find ourselves on the wrong side of Big Tech.

Facebook and Apple’s social credit scores not unlike communist China

Facebook has already admitted that it ranks users on a trustworthiness scale. While we don’t know everything this reputation score is used for, we do know that the scores are used to decide whether the posts a user flags as false should be reviewed by fact checkers or ignored. Facebook has access to a significant amount of very personal data about more than 2 billion people, and it’s just a matter of time before this ranking system is eyed by other companies and perhaps even the government.

Apple, meanwhile, is quietly monitoring your calls and emails to create a “trust score” if you use an iPhone, although you’d only know that if you were able to read between the lines in the fine print of a recent iOS update. The ratings are supposed to help prevent fraud, they say, although it’s unclear how monitoring people’s communications is going to do that.

What these U.S. tech giants are doing isn’t that different from the social credit scoring system that is used in China. The Chinese state monitors its population’s behavior and then rates them in a mandatory scheme that they can’t opt out of, with those who get low scores being punished in demeaning ways and essentially prevented from living their daily lives. Some of the acts that could earn you a low score include posting ‘fake news’ online, posting on social media, spending money on frivolous purchases, buying too many books or video games, and driving badly.

What are those with low social credit scores banned from doing in China? They’re not allowed to buy tickets for domestic flights or take the faster trains in the country. Their kids can’t get into good schools, and they can’t buy property. Some telecommunications companies even assign them a special ring tone so those around them will know they are in the company of a “discredited” individual.

Donald Trump Jr. is right: All of this is headed in a very scary direction. China’s system might seem outrageous to us, but the truth is that we’re already on our way there. It’s time for something to be done about the power over free speech these tech monopolies have before they take away everything from those they don’t agree with.

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Johnson & Johnson exposed as the mastermind corporation behind the opioid epidemic that kills 60,000 Americans a year

johnson & JohnsonWho is to blame for the opioid epidemic that is currently gripping the nation and taking the lives of 60,000 Americans each year? Most people tend to blame the makers of these drugs, the doctors who prescribe them, and some even fault those who take these medications. However, now a very familiar name has been exposed as being the mastermind behind the opioid epidemic: Johnson & Johnson.

While you might associate Johnson & Johnson with pure images like the squeaky-clean, soft skin of a baby thanks to years of effective marketing, it appears that something far dirtier is going on at the New Jersey-based multinational personal care brand. The accusation that it was the “kingpin” fueling the opioid crisis in the U.S. and acting as a major seller, provider and lobbyist carries a lot of weight as it comes from Oklahoma’s Attorney General, Mike Hunter.

In May, his state will see the first major opioid epidemic trial take place, and it is expected to set the stage for litigation of a similar nature across the country, not to mention a nationwide lawsuit. Hunter requested that a state court release millions of pages of confidential documents to the public that were submitted by Johnson & Johnson during the case’s discovery phase, writing that the public interest contained therein is “urgent, enduring and overwhelming.”

J&J targeted vulnerable groups while downplaying dangers

The state of Oklahoma is alleging that Johnson & Johnson targeted vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and children, for painkiller prescriptions. The company also funded groups that advocated to facilitate access to the drugs, such as the Pain Care Forum. In addition, they downplayed the drug’s dangers; for example, a brochure made by a subsidiary of J&J geared toward senior citizens outrageously states that “opioids are rarely addictive.”

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The defendants in the case include Johnson & Johnson as well as Teva Pharmaceuticals, Purdue Pharma, and Allergan. Hunter says the firms deceived the public into thinking the drugs were safe to use over long periods. District Court Judge Thad Balkman recently denied a request made by the pharmaceutical companies involved to delay the trial, saying that it’s in the public’s interest for this trial to begin as scheduled.

Johnson & Johnson is being accused of using a web of domestic and foreign subsidiaries to provide the raw materials needed to manufacture opioids. While companies like Purdue Pharma, who produce OxyContin, certainly need to be held accountable for their extreme irresponsibility, J&J’s culpability is also clear. They played a big role in producing the raw narcotics from poppy fields that are turned into active ingredients in top-selling opioids, boasting that their poppy’s morphine content was some of the “highest in the world,” according to an Axios report.

The two subsidiaries that handled the opium poppy business, Tasmanian Alkaloids and Noramco, were sold by J&J for $650 million in 2016 to a private equity firm. A year earlier, they sold an opioid pill that they had previously marketed known as Nucynta, while they continued to sell the fentanyl patch Duragesic. According to a state court document, the company was a “kingpin behind the public-health emergency, profiting at every stage.” (Related: Johnson & Johnson to pay $2.2 billion for making false marketing claims and engaging in kickbacks.)

Johnson & Johnson is also facing legal action for covering up the connection between asbestos-containing baby powder and cancer.

More than 1,600 American cities and 36 states are currently suing the makers and distributors of opioids in hopes of collecting funds needed to deal with the opioid public health crisis.

Everyone who has played a role in this devastating crisis deserves to be exposed and brought to justice, from those who put opioids in people’s hands to those who help pharmaceutical companies obtain the ingredients they need to make these deadly drugs.

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Woman awarded $29 million in Johnson & Johnson baby powder cancer case

cancerJohnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay $29 million after a California jury determined that its baby powder contributed substantially to a woman’s mesothelioma.

The immensely popular product, which has been widely used on babies and adults alike for decades, is the target of more than 13,000 similar lawsuits that have been filed against the company. Last year, a Los Angeles woman was awarded $25.7 million after a jury agreed the baby powder caused her cancer, while 22 Missouri women were awarded $4.69 billion in a similar suit after claiming using the powder in their genital area caused ovarian cancer.

In the latest case, Teresa Leavitt was awarded $24.4 million after developing mesothelioma, a cancer affecting the tissue lining the lungs and other organs, while her husband was awarded $5 million. The award covered pain and suffering, medical costs, and lost wages. The award is only compensatory; the jury decided not to award punitive damages even though they found Johnson & Johnson responsible for 98 percent of the woman’s damages.

Leavitt was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2017, and she had used the product for more than 30 years. Her complaint said that the company has known about the asbestos concerns in talcum powder since the early 1900s and has possessed scientific and medical data illustrating its health hazards.

In a regulatory filing last month, J&J said it received subpoenas for more details about the dangerous products from the SEC and the Justice Department. This week, an epidemiologist testified before the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy that talc powder causes a significant increase in the risk of cancer.

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Many of the people suing the company argue that the talc in the baby powder is contaminated with asbestos – something they’ve shown Johnson & Johnson has known about for decades and covered up.

Internal documents obtained by Reuters showed that three tests carried out at separate labs in the 1970s showed Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder contained asbestos, but they failed to report it to the FDA and continued to sell the powder. According to the Reuters report, the company’s executives, along with scientists, lawyers, doctors and mine managers, have known for decades that the powder is toxic, yet they did nothing – and they even fought against regulators’ efforts to limit the levels of asbestos in talc products.

Nevertheless, the company insists its products don’t contain asbestos. The chemical was banned from all consumer talc products in the 1970s, although it’s important to keep in mind that asbestos has a long latency period, with mesothelioma diagnosis coming 20 years or longer after initial exposure. Even if today’s products are safe – and there’s no guarantee that they are – the talc has been sold and used for many years.

The company said in a statement that it was disappointed by the verdict and planned to appeal it. Past appeals have had mixed success, and the company claims its legal losses stem from juror confusion, overzealous lawyers, and what it deems “junk” science.

Stay away from talc products

It’s best to avoid talc products entirely given the questions about their safety. It’s important to read labels carefully as it’s used in more than 2,000 personal care and beauty products. Last year, youth-oriented retailer Claire’s stopped selling products with talc and destroyed its existing stock after the FDA warned it had found asbestos in some of its products.

Using these products simply isn’t worth the risk. Scrutinize ingredient labels, and stick to natural products wherever possible – especially when it comes to products you use daily and/or on babies. Depending on your intended purpose, some safer alternatives include organic oat powder, organic cornstarch, and baking soda.

While it’s good to see companies being held accountable for deceiving and poisoning the public, it’s far too late for the many people who have already developed cancer and died from using these products.

See for more breaking news stories about consumer products and their health risks.

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Can choline be used as an alternative treatment for Alzheimer’s disease?

cholineModern medicine is capable of many great things, but even with all of today’s advancements, there are still some very vexing illnesses that researchers and doctors struggle to keep under control. Alzheimer’s disease is one such condition, leaving patients, their devastated families and experts alike with more questions than answers. Right now, we don’t know exactly what causes it and there aren’t any cures, but new research indicates that the answer to everyone’s prayers could be on your plate.

Researchers from Arizona State University have been investigating the effects of choline, a nutrient found in food that is showing promise in preserving memory.

Their study used mice who were bred to display symptoms of Alzheimer’s. When they were given high amounts of choline in their diet, what they found was groundbreaking: Their offspring showed improvements in spatial memory compared to those who were given a normal regimen of choline in the womb. Choline supplementation not only protected the mice who received it during gestation and lactation, but it also protected their offspring even though they were not given any direct supplementation. The researchers believe they inherited changes in their genes that offered this benefit.

In other words, choline could help protect against this illness across several generations. It was the first time researchers have been able to show the transgenerational benefits of choline supplementation.

How can choline protect against Alzheimer’s?

There are two ways that choline can protect the brain from Alzheimer’s. First, it lowers the amino acid homocysteine, which acts as a strong neurotoxin and contributes to some Alzheimer’s disease hallmarks, like amyloid plaque formation and neurodegeneration. Homocysteine doubles a person’s risk of developing the disease and is found in high levels in people suffering from it. Choline transforms homocysteine into a helpful chemical known as methionine instead.

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The other way it protects the brain is by lowering the activation of cells known as microglia that clear debris away from the brain. Microglia aren’t all bad; their functions are a useful part of keeping the brain healthy. However, they can sometimes get out of control, which is what happens in Alzheimer’s disease, spurring brain inflammation and neuron death. Supplementing with choline reins this activity in to provide protection from Alzheimer’s.

Many people falling short on choline intake

Unfortunately, researchers say that nine out of every 10 women fail to maintain the recommended levels of 550 milligrams of choline per day for optimal brain development in their developing children. This study’s lead author, Dr. Ramon Velazquez, said: “Choline deficits are associated with failure in developing fetuses to fully meet expected milestones like walking and babbling. But we show that even if you have the recommended amount, supplementing with more in a mouse model gives even greater benefit.”

The mice showed their spatial memory benefits via testing in a water maze. The researchers confirmed the effects by examining tissue from their hippocampus, the part of the brain that serves a vital role in forming memories. They discovered the choline supplementation had induced epigenetic alterations.

It’s an exciting finding given the high safety of choline, particularly when compared to pharmaceutical medication. According to the study’s authors, you’d need to take around nine times the recommended daily amount to see negative side effects. Controlled clinical trials in humans will be used to fully determine how effective choline could be against Alzheimer’s.

Studies on choline that have already been carried out in humans show that those who consume plenty of the nutrient perform better on memory tests and are less likely to have changes in their brains associated with dementia.

According to the National Institutes of Health, some of the best sources of choline include beef liver, hard-boiled eggs, beef top round, chicken breast, cod, mushrooms and potatoes. With 13.5 million Americans expected to have Alzheimer’s disease by the middle of this century, the idea that an essential nutrient could help stave off the illness has the potential to transform many lives.

Read more about brain nutrition at

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Lead and cadmium can contaminate your beverages from microwave-heated ceramic cups, reveals study

ceramic cupsYou’ve gone out of your way to seek organic green tea from a trustworthy source, and the honey you stir into it has an impeccable pedigree. Now you can sit back, take a sip, and relax knowing that you’re not putting anything toxic into your body – or are you? An alarming new study shows that some heavy metals can leach into your hot beverages when you microwave your cup.

According to the report, which was published in Environmental Science and Pollution Research, those colorful, glazed ceramic mugs and cups that make your morning coffee and tea a little more cheerful could also be subjecting your body to lead and cadmium.

The researchers from Assam University discovered that microwaving double distilled water in such vessels at 140 degrees Celsius for 2.5 minutes – an average amount of time when you’re heating water for tea, for example – caused levels of the heavy metals to greatly exceed the U.S. FDA’s permissible limits of 0.5 milligrams per liter.

Specifically, the study found that the average concentration of lead was six times higher (at 3.15 mg/L) in older cups and 15 times higher (at 7.69 mg/L) in newer cps. Cadmium concentrations, meanwhile, were three and four times the allowable levels at 1.57 mg/l for newer cups and 1.97 mg/l for older ones, respectively.

If this news has you vowing to start boiling your water on the stove, beware: The researchers also discovered the problem exists when water is boiled on a gas stove as the temperature water reaches to boil is high enough to leach the metal from the walls of the cups. A previous study found that a far lower temperature – 85 degrees Celsius – saw 1.14 mg/L of lead leached from ceramics. Some Tunisian ceramic mugs were found in past studies to contain lead in concentrations of as much as 51 mg/L.

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The current study added that regularly drinking beverages from low-quality cups, particularly those with labels stating “Made in China,” can be very harmful, and children, pregnant women and those of child-bearing age are particularly vulnerable. Improper firing can make the glaze less adherent, which can make it even more prone to leaching.

The study’s lead researcher, Assam University Assistant Professor of Life Science and Bioinformatics Suchismita Das, said: “The problem arises when the surfaces of cups are not manufactured under strict quality control. The acidic pH of food as well as temperature at which the food is served also influences the migration of metals from ceramics.”

What happens if you don’t heat the water at all? You’re still not out of the woods, as some studies have demonstrated that lead and cadmium can leach from ceramics at room temperature. A 1997 study found that as much as 0.349 mg/L of cadmium leached into room-temperature orange juice from a variety of glazed mugs that were made in India.

What are your mugs made from?

Unfortunately, many people have a favorite cup that they use habitually, which means they are being repeatedly exposed to the toxins. Prolonged exposure to lead is particularly dangerous as no safe levels of it exist and it builds up in the blood over time. Risks of lead exposure include lower IQ, reduced comprehension, slower reaction times, and memory loss. It has also been linked to concentration and learning problems in children, as well as behavioral problems.

Cadmium, meanwhile, can reduce children’s cognitive development, and it has also been linked to kidney and reproductive damage.

It’s time to take a closer look at your mugs. Cadmium is used to give pottery bright colors, while lead is used to make glazes appear shiny. However, whether they’re painted in bright shades or they’re plain white, they could still be leaching lead or cadmium. Glass – but not leaded crystal – is the best choice if you want to avoid toxins, as long as it’s not painted or decorated in some way.

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Insecticide exposure can increase the likelihood of children getting cancer by 50%

Insecticide exposureScientists are constantly learning more about what causes cancer, and most of us were exposed as children to some of these toxins before anyone knew they were dangerous. We can do better for the next generation, however, by spreading the word about what can cause cancer in children and limit their exposure from the beginning of their lives. One area that deserves close attention in this regard is insecticide exposure.

Studies have shown that children who are exposed to insecticides and pesticides have as much as a 50 percent greater risk of cancer than children who aren’t, and it is exposure indoors that is particularly risky.

Scientists looked at data from 16 studies carried out in places like Europe, North America, Australia and Africa to uncover the disturbing connection. They found, for example, that children who were exposed to pesticides or insecticides indoors had a 43 percent greater likelihood of developing lymphoma and a 47 percent greater likelihood of leukemia. Because they are smaller and their systems are still developing, the impact of these chemicals is greater than it is in adults. They are not always able to break down or excrete certain chemicals the way adult bodies can.

While we normally associate these chemicals with agricultural workers, some of the most damaging exposure is coming from the insecticides that are sprayed around people’s homes for pest control. Children can breathe them in or ingest them if they happen to get them on their hands before eating or place their hands in their mouths. The fact that there isn’t much air circulation indoors means these chemicals aren’t diluted by air, so children are getting a stronger dose than when they are used outdoors.

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That is why the Environmental Protection Agency warns people not to overuse insecticides and pesticides around their home and to keep children, toys and pets away from the areas that have been sprayed for as long as possible.

Another method of exposure is when children live with adults who carry out farming work and bring the pesticides or herbicides they are exposed to on the job into their homes. Children younger than 12 are at particular risk, experts say. In addition to lymphoma and leukemia, researchers believe exposure to these chemicals earlier in life could be behind the rise in cancers like prostate and bladder cancer that we’re seeing now.

Natural pest control

You might not enjoy the prospect of finding a cockroach scurrying around your kitchen or a late-night encounter with a rat in your bedroom, but the idea of putting your children at a significantly higher risk of cancer is far worse. It only makes sense that a spray designed to kill insects can’t be good for humans. That’s why finding natural pest control solutions is essential.

There are lots of effective remedies depending on which type of pest you’re trying to address. The National Resources Defense Council recommends that you seal your home to prevent pests from entering, repairing any tears in window and door screens and sealing cracks in bathrooms and kitchens using silicone caulk. Plug any openings that are bigger than ¼ inch wide. Make sure you don’t have any places that invite insect infestations, like rotting wood or stacks of old newspapers.

Essential oils can work well for some insects, with a mixture of citrus oil and cayenne pepper being effective on ants and eucalyptus oil working well to keep bees, wasps, and flies away. Citronella and lemon eucalyptus are effective against mosquitoes, while peppermint deters spiders. A mix of vinegar and water sprayed near entry points can also be used to keep spiders at bay.

We might not be able to escape all the toxins in our environment, but avoiding insecticides and pesticides within your home is something that is easily under your control and could help reduce your family’s cancer risk.

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Vitamin D can increase your cancer survival rate by 52%, research concludes

Everyone is looking for ways to prevent cancer, making little changes here and there according to what the latest studies say. Simple acts like cutting out processed meat, getting more exercise, and switching to organic could well add up to provide significant protection over time, but what if you already have cancer and you’d like to increase your chances of surviving it? There is one step you can take that can single-handedly raise your survival odds by 52 percent: increasing your intake of vitamin D.

An analysis published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism highlights the life-saving potential of this nutrient. After looking at 25 past studies that involved more than 17,000 cancer patients, the researchers determined that people with cancers like breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and lymphoma had significantly lower mortality rates when they had optimal serum levels of vitamin D when compared to those whose levels were lower.

When they compared the people who were in the lowest 25 percent of vitamin D levels against those of people in the highest quartile, they found incredible decreases in the risk of dying from different types of cancer. Specifically, those in the highest quartile had a 52 percent lower risk of dying from lymphoma, a 45 percent lower risk of dying from colorectal cancer, and a 37 percent lower risk of succumbing to breast cancer. It’s entirely possible that vitamin D could help boost survival rates of other types of cancer, too, but more studies are needed to look into them.

In the meta-analysis, researchers found that every 4 ng/mL increase in a person’s levels of vitamin D equated to a 4 percent decrease in death rate.

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More recent research supports the meta-analysis’s finding. A study involving thousands of Irish women found that breast cancer patients who take vitamin D supplements after their diagnosis have better survival rates. After looking at data from nearly 5,500 women with the disease between the ages of 50 and 80, they found that those who took vitamin D supplements had a 20 percent higher survival rate than those who did not. Their findings were published in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment. Larger trials are currently under way to further explore the effects.

Getting the right amount of vitamin D

Just how much vitamin D do you need to enhance your cancer survival odds? Optimal vitamin D serum levels are somewhere in the range of 50 to 80 ng/mL. Contrast this with the levels typically seen in people who don’t take supplements, which are often below 13 n/mL.

If you want to increase your vitamin D levels, the best course of action is to head outdoors without sunscreen as this tells your body to start creating more of it. There is no hard and fast rule for how much time you’ll need to spend, but a rough guideline is about 15 to 20 minutes three times a week. Of course, this needs to be adjusted up or down depending on your skin tone, geographical location, and the cloud cover where you are, among other factors.

You can also get vitamin D from foods like oily fish, mushrooms, and eggs, but it’s hard to get enough to make a difference from your diet alone. Supplements that total between 5,000 and 8,000 IU per day are generally a good amount to help you reach optimal levels.

A cancer diagnosis can be a life-shattering moment, and it’s easy to feel like you have no control over the situation. However, these studies show that it may be possible to raise your survival odds with the help of vitamin D.

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Diet soda definitively linked to increased stroke, heart attack risk

diet sodaMany people choose to drink diet soda because they believe it can help them keep their weight under control. Although science has shown this isn’t really the case, there’s an even better reason to shun these artificially sweetened drinks as a new study has linked drinking two diet sodas or more per day to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.

The study tracked almost 82,000 postmenopausal women in the Women’s Health Initiative trial who were between the ages of 50 and 79 when they first enrolled. Three years into the study, the women were asked to indicate how often they drank diet soda and diet fruit drinks during a three-month period. They were followed for nearly 12 years on average overall.

The researchers found that those who drank two or more diet drinks each day saw their overall risk of stroke climb by 23 percent compared to to the women who drank diet drinks less than once per week.

For many of these women, the main culprit was blocked arteries, with drinking lots of diet sodas linked to a 31 percent rise in ischemic stroke risk – the type of stroke that is triggered by a blood clot. These findings persisted even after accounting for the nutritional value of each woman’s overall diet and stroke risk factors like smoking history, age and blood pressure status.

According to the researchers, diet drinks can be linked to cardiovascular risks in several ways. For example, women who drank two diet drinks per day or more saw their risk of developing heart disease rise by 29 percent, while their overall risk of premature death from any cause rose 16 percent.

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There were certain groups whose outcomes were even worse. For example, obese women with no history of diabetes or heart disease noted a twofold increase in their risk of clot-driven stroke; the rise was fourfold for black women in this category.

Everyone should avoid all types of soda

It’s important to note, however, that the researchers did not keep track of which brands of diet drinks the women in the study consumed, so it’s hard to say with certainty which artificial sweeteners are behind the problem. However, what we already know about commonly used artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose should be enough to give anyone pause.

While the study only looked at post-menopausal women, these results should be enough to cause men and women of all ages to think twice before drinking diet sodas. In fact, soda is always a bad choice, regardless of how it’s sweetened. Part of the risk could be related to women missing out on the nutrition they might have gotten from other drinks, like pure fruit or vegetable juice or milk, but the chemicals in these drinks are also dangerous.

Sadly, many women are taking on these additional risks for no good reason. Research has also linked drinking diet soda to an expanding waistline. In a study that followed people over the age of 65 for nine years on average, it was determined that those who never drank diet soda gained an average of 0.8 inches in waist circumference, while those who drank diet soda occasionally gained 1.83 inches and those who drank it daily put on more than three inches in waist circumference, even after accounting for other factors like physical activity, smoking and diabetes.

The lead author of that study, Dr. Sharon P.G. Fowler of the University of Texas at San Antonio, summed it up nicely when she said: “Calorie-free does not equal consequence-free.”

These studies remind us that tricking your body is always going to backfire. Any time you are consuming something unnatural like artificial sweeteners, you’re taking on tremendous risk that could be easily avoided by sticking to the many great options nature has provided us.

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