Earlier today I was helping a co-worker with a project as she wrestled with a roll of carton sealing tape. Upon locating the edge of the tape and freeing it from the rest of the roll, she yelled out excitedly “success”. Hmmm – she had accomplished what was her goal was at the moment and it made her happy.
This got me wondering what the real definition of success is.
What Is The Real Meaning of Success?
I think the default definition in many of our heads is that success equals fame, fortune, an executive job, expensive cars, a huge house (or several of them), and the ability to travel wherever we desire.
Where did this definition come from?
I think it is has been a societal definition for some time, and a belief that was most likely programmed into us when we were children. Parents wanted their kids to have a better education so they could make enough money to raise their family and pay the bills without struggling. And if you happened to have the title of doctor or lawyer, you would be viewed upon favorably in society.
I recall as a young adult making a vision board which included pictures of a big house; an SUV; a tall, dark, and handsome husband; two adorable, well-behaved, genius children; and a picture of a businesswoman with a closet full of fancy skirt suits and high heels climbing a ladder.
At that time in my life, these were the things that represented success in my mind. I spent the next three decades (and loads of energy and heartache) pursuing these things to the extent I could because I truly believed this was the path to success.
You can probably guess that I learned a few things along the way (as we all do). Any lodging, whether large, small, rented, borrowed (legally), or purchased can be a home as long as it shelters you from the rain and cold. Any reliable vehicle you can afford that gets you safely to where you need to go (and back home) is a godsend. Just because a man makes you drool, it doesn’t mean he will respect and appreciate you the way you desire and deserve.
Some children are born with struggles that challenge their ability to behave properly or excel in a school or work setting. And if you enjoy your work; it allows you to make ends meet; and it does not keep you in a chronic, unhealthy state of stress, then there is no need to continue dragging around a ladder.
Now that I am thirty (with twenty-one years experience), success looks much different to me. Success to me now is about being my best self; feeling contentment and peace of mind; helping others; slowing down and enjoying the present moment; being kind and compassionate and loving to everyone; being grateful; having a priceless network of close friends and family; working toward good health; having a roof over my head that is warm and comfortable; having a reliable vehicle with good gas mileage; earning enough money to comfortably pay my bills and help out my two young adult children; and having a job that allows me to work for a company with great values; an opportunity to make an impact, and the occasion to work with positive, energetic, and caring people.
I am the proud parent of a young adult daughter with mental health struggles. Multiple times during her childhood I grieved the life she would not be able to live, basing my vision of success at the time on my original view. One day I encountered a young man with mental health issues who was so happy and overjoyed with what he was doing at the time that he literally could not stop laughing. Suddenly, it dawned on me. My daughter’s life can look however it needs to as long as she is happy.
As you can see, the definition of success is not the same for all of us. Success comes to us as we put effort into creating a life we believe in, and in achieving the goals that are important to us and that bring us happiness. I think happiness is the key word here. I also believe that the meaning of success changes or evolves throughout the stages of our lives as it has for me.
Note that you and only you are the one who can define success for yourself. Even though you may receive influence from outside yourself, you cannot live out the expectations of others and be truly happy.
Success is a voyage. Some days we make great strides with the company of calm seas and abundant sunshine, other days our progress is slowed by rough seas, wind, and storm clouds. So set your sails in the direction that is most attractive to you, and you will be well on your way to Success Island.
Doctors in a Canadian intensive care unit stumbled on a very strange case last year – when life support was turned off for four terminal patients, one of them showed persistent brain activity even after they were declared clinically dead.
For more than 10 minutes after doctors confirmed death through a range of observations, including the absence of a pulse and unreactive pupils, the patient appeared to experience the same kind of brain waves (delta wave bursts) we get during deep sleep.
And it’s an entirely different phenomenon to the sudden ‘death wave’ that’s been observed in rats following decapitation.
“In one patient, single delta wave bursts persisted following the cessation of both the cardiac rhythm and arterial blood pressure (ABP),” the team from the University of Western Ontario in Canada reported in March 2017.
They also found that death could be a unique experience for each individual, noting that across the four patients, the frontal electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings of their brain activity displayed few similarities both before and after they were declared dead.
“There was a significant difference in EEG amplitude between the 30-minute period before and the 5-minute period following ABP cessation for the group,” the researchers explained.
Before we get into the actual findings, the researchers are being very cautious about the implications, saying it’s far too early to be talking about what this could mean for our post-death experience, especially considering their sample size is one.
In the absence of any biological explanation for how brain activity could possibly continue several minutes after the heart has stopped beating, the researchers said the scan could be the result of some kind of error at the time of recording.
But they were at a loss to explain what that error could be, as the medical equipment showed no signs of malfunction, meaning the source of the anomaly cannot be confirmed – biologically or otherwise.
“It is difficult to posit a physiological basis for this EEG activity given that it occurs after a prolonged loss of circulation,” the researchers wrote.
“These waveform bursts could, therefore, be artefactual [human error] in nature, although an artefactual source could not be identified.”
You can see the brain scans of the four terminal patients below, showing the moment of clinical death at Time 0, or when the heart had stopped a few minutes after life support had been turned off:
The yellow brain activity is what we’re looking for in these scans (view a larger version here), and you can see in three of the four patients, this activity faded away before the heart stopped beating – as much as 10 minutes before clinical death, in the case of patient #2.
But for some reason, patient #4 shows evidence of delta wave bursts for 10 minutes and 38 seconds after their heart had stopped.
The researchers also investigated if a phenomenon known as ‘death waves’ occurred in the patients – in 2011, a separate team observed a burst of brain activity in rat brains about 1 minute after decapitation, suggesting that the brain and the heart have different moments of expiration.
“It seems that the massive wave which can be recorded approximately 1 minute after decapitation reflects the ultimate border between life and death,” researchers from Radboud University in the Netherlands reported at the time.
When the Canadian team looked for this phenomenon in their human patients, they came up empty.
“We did not observe a delta wave within 1 minute following cardiac arrest in any of our four patients,” they reported.
If all of this feels frustratingly inconsequential, welcome to the strange and incredibly niche field of necroneuroscience, where no one really knows what’s actually going on.
But what we do know is that very strange things can happen at the moment of death – and afterwards – with a pair of studies from 2016 finding that more than 1,000 genes were still functioning several days after death in human cadavers.
And it wasn’t like they were taking longer than everything else to sputter out – they actually increased their activity following the moment of clinical death.
The big takeaway from studies like these isn’t that we understand more about the post-death experience now than we did before, because the observations remain inconclusive and without biological explanation.
But what they do show is that we’ve got so much to figure out when it comes to the process of death, and how we – and other animals – actually experience it, from our bodies to our brains.
About a third of US adults don’t get enough sleep.
And sleep deprivation has serious consequences for your brain and body.
Many people think they can get by on less than seven to nine hours a night – the amount of sleep doctors recommend for most adults – or say they need to sleep less because of work or family obligations.
That prompted Arianna Huffington to post an open letter to Musk about his sleep schedule, telling him that he was “demonstrating a wildly outdated, anti-scientific and horribly inefficient way of using human energy.”
Musk posted his response on Twitter at 2:30 a.m. ET. “I just got home from the factory,” he said. “You think this is an option. It is not.”
Musk seems to understand that working 120-hour weeks is harmful. As Matthew Walker, a neuroscientist who’s an expert on sleep, previously told Business Insider, “The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life.”
Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep, and kids have to get even more, though needs do vary from person to person. Some incredibly rare people can actually get by on a few hours of sleep per night, while others on the opposite end of the spectrum are sometimes called “long sleepers” because they need 11 hours nightly.
But regardless of your body’s clock, a lack of sleep will cause your physical and mental health to suffer.
Here are 30 health consequences of sleep deprivation.
Sleep deprivation is linked to a higher risk for certain cancers.
Skin doesn’t heal as well from damage when you are tired, leading to skin ageing.
Poor sleep quality is strongly correlated with chronic skin problems, according to research from the University of Wisconsin. Studies have also found that when skin is damaged by the sun or other factors, it doesn’t heal as well in poor sleepers, so those people wind up showing more signs of skin ageing.
Tired people have a harder time controlling their impulses, potentially leading to unhealthy behaviour and weight gain.
People who don’t get enough sleep have a harder time resisting high-calorie foods, more cravings for unhealthy meals, and difficulty controlling their impulses. Researchers think hormonal imbalances that result from sleep deprivation are responsible for this, since those imbalances are linked to a high body mass index and obesity.
People feel lonelier after sleepless nights — and being lonely makes it harder to sleep well.
Researchers have found that sleep-deprived young adults are less likely to connect socially with other people, and that people who report poor sleep also tend to say they’re lonelier. To make things worse, people who feel lonely don’t tend to sleep as well, which can lead to a sort of vicious cycle.
Being sleepy makes it harder to learn and disrupts short-term memory.
Sleepiness has long been a problem for students. Delaying school start times an hour for middle-school kids has been found to significantly increase standardised test scores, and it may have an even bigger effect on teens, who naturally tend to be night owls.
But it’s not just kids – sleep deprivation also wrecks adults’ short-term memory. Several studies have found that sleep-deprived adults have more difficulty remembering words they have learned and have a harder time improving newly learned skills.
Long-term sleep deprivation also seems to damage long-term memory.
Sleep disruptions for elderly people can lead to structural changes in the brain associated with impaired long-term memory. Sleep-related memory deficits have been observed in the general adult population as well – as early as 1924, researchers noticed that people who slept more forgot less.
A growing body of evidence links bad sleep with signs of Alzheimer’s in the brain.
Several studies have found that sleep helps cleanse the brain of the beta-amyloid protein that can build up while you are awake. That protein is strongly associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers say that a lack of sleep can lead to a vicious cycle, since the more beta-amyloid protein there is in the brain, the harder it is to get to a cleansing deep-sleep state. People with more disrupted sleep schedules tend to have more beta-amyloid protein built up.
Heart disease risk rises with sleep deprivation.
There’s plenty of evidence that sleep deprivation has a negative effect on the heart. When researchers kept people awake for 88 hours, their blood pressure went up (no big surprise there). Even participants who were allowed to sleep for four hours a night showed an elevated heart rate when compared with those who got eight hours. Concentrations of C-reactive protein, a marker of heart disease risk, also increase in people who are fully or partially deprived of sleep.
Sleepiness leads to irritability.
People feel irritable after sleepless nights (as we’ve all experienced at some point), and research has also found that people get more distressed by common circumstances like interruptions at work when they are tired.
The longer people go without sleep, the harder it is for them to see clearly. People sometimes experience hallucinations when they’re sleep-deprived.
Sleep deprivation is associated with tunnel vision, double vision, and perceived dimness. The longer you are awake, the more visual errors you’ll encounter, and the more likely you are to experience outright hallucinations.
Sleep-deprived people have slower reactions.
Your reaction time is severely impeded when you don’t get enough sleep. Studies have found that college athletes and West Point cadets all did worse on decision-making tests and had slower reactions while tired.
So it’s no surprise that sleepiness makes people clumsier.
Most people notice that when they’re sleepy, they’re not at the top of their game. One study found that one sleepless night contributed to a 20-32% increase in the number of errors made by surgeons. People playing sports that require precision – like shooting, sailing, or cycling – also make more mistakes when they have been awake for extended periods.
The immune system doesn’t work as well when you’re tired.
You know those great things your immune system does when you get a wound but don’t immediately get an infection, or you come near a sick person but don’t get ill yourself? Prolonged sleep deprivation and even one night of sleeplessness can impede your body’s natural defences against infection. Sleep deprivation also seems to make newly received vaccines less effective.
Similarly, over-tired people are more susceptible to colds.
If you’re wondering why you’re sick all the time and seem to pick up every bug that travels around the office, it’s probably because you’re not getting enough sleep. Sleep-deprived people are almost three times as likely as well-rested people to catch a cold, according to one study.
Being tired drains your sex drive and makes it harder to perform.
Testosterone is an important component of sexual drive and desire in both women and men. Sleeping increases testosterone levels, while being awake decreases them.
Sleepy people express more unhappiness and signs of depression.
In a classic study led by the Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman, a group of 909 working women kept detailed logs of their moods and day-to-day activities. While differences in income up to $US60,000 had little effect on happiness, the results found, a poor night’s sleep was one of two factors that could ruin the following day’s mood. (The other was tight deadlines at work.)
Another study reported higher marital happiness among women with more peaceful sleep, though it’s hard to say whether happy people sleep better or good sleep makes people happier. Most likely, it’s some combination of the two.
Risk of Type 2 diabetes rises when people are over-tired, even for people who aren’t overweight.
Being awake when your body wants you to be asleep messes with your metabolism, which in turn increases your risk for insulin resistance (often called “pre-diabetes”) and Type 2 diabetes.
Several studies in adults have found a strong association – though not a cause-effect relationship – between regular sleep loss and the risk of developing diabetes. More sleep may also help reduce diabetes risk for adolescents, according to researchers.
Tiredness is associated with bad decision-making that can put lives and finances in danger.
Planning to make some changes to your portfolio? You might want to make sure you’re well rested.
“A single night of sleep deprivation evoked a strategy shift during risky decision making such that healthy human volunteers moved from defending against losses to seeking increased gains,”researchers said.
Other researchers have found that severe sleep deprivation impairs people’s ability to follow pre-established procedures for making a “go” or “no go” decision, something that researchers say contributed to the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, the Chernobyl meltdown, and the Exxon Valdez disaster.
Sleepy people are more easily distracted.
“Attention tasks appear to be particularly sensitive to sleep loss,” researchers noted.
If you want to stay alert and attentive, sleep is a requirement. Otherwise, you enter “an unstable state that fluctuates within seconds and that cannot be characterised as either fully awake or asleep,” researchers said. In that state, your ability to pay attention is variable at best.
Tiredness makes it hard to speak normally.
Severe sleep deprivation seems to affect your ability to carry on a conversation – much like having too much to drink.
“Volunteers kept awake for 36 hours showed a tendency to use word repetitions and clichés; they spoke monotonously, slowly, and indistinctly,” one study noted. “They were not able to properly express and verbalize their thoughts.”
Like driving drunk, driving tired can lead to more car accidents.
Drowsy driving is often compared to drunk driving: You really shouldn’t do either.
“Motor vehicle accidents related to fatigue, drowsy driving, and falling asleep at the wheel are particularly common, but often underestimated,” one review concluded.
Pilots, truck drivers, medical residents, and others required to stay awake for long periods “show an increased risk of crashes or near misses due to sleep deprivation,” it said.
Tiredness is connected to urine overproduction.
When people sleep, the body slows down its normal urine production. But when someone is sleep-deprived, that doesn’t happen, leading to what researchers call “excess nocturnal urine production.”
This condition may be linked to bed-wetting in children. In adults, it’s tied to what’s called nocturia, the need to use the bathroom many times during the night.
You need sleep for muscles to get stronger. Without it, muscle atrophy occurs.
Lack of sleep causes hormonal changes that make it harder for your body to build muscleand heal. This makes it more difficult to recover from muscle damage caused by exercise, and it worsens conditions related to muscle atrophy.
Other research has found that the reverse is also true – that during sleep, your body releases growth hormone and heals damage. That’s why fitness advocates will always point out that sleep is an essential part of getting in shape.
Sleepiness makes pain harder to cope with.
People in pain – especially those who have chronic pain – tend to not get enough sleep. This makes sense, since pain can wake you up in the night and make it hard to fall asleep in the first place. But recently, researchers have begun to suspect that sleep deprivation may actually cause pain or at least increase people’s sensitivity to pain.
Tiredness leads to gastrointestinal issues.
Regular sleep loss makes you more likely to develop both inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome, which affects an estimated 10-15% of people in North America. Patients with Crohn’s disease have been found to be twice as likely to experience a relapse when they don’t get enough sleep.
Sleepiness is associated with headaches.
Scientists don’t yet know exactly why sleep deprivation leads to headaches, but it’s a connection doctors have noticed for more than a century. Migraines can be triggered by sleepless nights, and one study found that 36-58% of people with sleep apnea reported waking up with“nondescript morning headaches.”
Disrupted sleep cycles lead to more inflammation, which could worsen asthma, arthritis, and cardiovascular disease.
Our sleep cycle or body clock doesn’t just determine when we’re tired or awake – it also affects the function of every cell in our body. Researchers have started to figure out how disruptions in sleep schedules prevent cells from fighting inflammation, which could explain why tired people often have many problems from inflammatory conditions, including asthma, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and cardiovascular disease.
If snoring or sleep apnea is causing sleep disruption, it could lead to serious health problems.
Snoring can be an indication that you are dealing with sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that can cause other medical problems over time. It’s caused by decreased airflow, which can strain the heart and cause cardiovascular problems. The condition is also linked to weight gain.
Poor sleep disrupts genetic activity, which may explain some of the health risks of getting too little rest.
A 2013 study shed some light on why sleep is tied to so many different aspects of our health and wellness: Poor sleep actually disrupts normal genetic activity.
Researchers found that among study participants who slept less than six hours a night for a week, more than 700 of their genes were not behaving normally, including some that help govern immune and stress responses.
Some genes that typically cycle according to a daily (circadian) pattern stopped doing so, while others that don’t normally follow a daily pattern began to do that.
What does this mean? Just one week of less-than-ideal sleep is enough to make some of your genetic activity go haywire.
At any given time, people who haven’t gotten the right amount of sleep are more likely to die.
Many health problems are associated with sleep deprivation and poor sleep, but here’s the big one: People who consistently do not get seven or eight hours of sleep a night are more likely to die during a given period.
Help! We all need some good news.
We don’t need to tell you world news is pretty grim right now – if you use social media, it’s nigh on impossible to avoid articles about bubbling permafrost, drug-resistant gonorrhoea, and deadly obesity treatments. And that’s just the science headlines.
But despite all the doom and gloom, in reality there are a whole bunch of incredible people doing really good things around the world right now. Sometimes they just don’t get as much press as they deserve.
So as a much-needed reminder that not everything is ruined, here are some of the awesome things happening in the world right now that you can talk about over dinner tonight (instead of global tension and nuclear weapons). You’re welcome.
1. Young gorillas have learned to dismantle poachers traps
Days after a poacher’s trap killed a young mountain gorilla in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park in 2012, researchers spotted something remarkable: two four-year old gorillas working together to dismantle similar snares in the area. It’s the ultimate feel-good story.
“This is absolutely the first time that we’ve seen juveniles doing that … I don’t know of any other reports in the world of juveniles destroying snares,” Veronica Vecellio from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund’s Karisoke Research Centre in Rwanda told National Geographic at the time.
2. We’re finally getting close to achieving sustainable nuclear fusion
Nuclear fusion could be the key to producing almost-unlimited energy with few byproducts other than saltwater, but researchers have long struggled to create a machine that could sustainably control such a powerful reaction.
They’re not the only ones, either, with South Korea and China both achieving record-breaking reactions in their own fusion machines. The UK has also switched on a revolutionary type of reactor that is now sustainably generating plasma within its core.
In fact, MIT scientists predict that thanks to all these new advances, we should be able to get fusion energy on the grid by 2030.
3. We can now ‘listen in’ to the Universe
By now you’re probably very familiar with the huge gravitational wave breakthrough that happened in 2015. But what you might not know is that we’ve continued to detect at least two more gravitational waves since then.
And with a new space-based series of detectors known as LISA coming online by 2034, we’re going to soon be able to use them to test all kinds of crazy hypotheses – including the idea of multiple dimensions within our Universe.
4. We’re getting really close to eradicating the second disease from the planet
At the start of 2015 there were just 126 cases of Guinea Worm left on Earth, mostly thanks to an ingenious and cheap drinking straw filter that stops people from being contaminated via water. As of May this year, there were only five recorded cases.
5. And Australia is on track to become the first country to wipe out one type of cancer
According to a new study, Australia will become the first country in the world to eliminate cervical cancer by 2028, with a predicted rate of just four new cases per 100,000 people.
And in just two years it will be considered a rare cancer.
This is thanks to a comprehensive prevention strategy that started back in 1991, involving regular pap smears and since 2007, free HPV vaccines for girls (and boys since 2013). Last year Australia also replaced pap smears with HPV cervical screening tests, which are predicted to reduce cancer rates by up to 30 percent in combination with the vaccine.
6. We’re closer than ever before to having a drug that can treat autism symptoms
A small, but promising clinical trial in the US showed this year that a 100-year-old drug called suramin can measurably improve the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children.
There’s a lot more work to be done, but it’s the first time we’ve been so close to having a drug that can potentially treat ASD symptoms.
7. Scientists are working on a graphene-based sieve that turns seawater into drinking water
As if graphene wasn’t awesome enough, back in April researchers achieved a major turning point in the quest for efficient desalination by announcing the invention of a graphene-oxide membrane that sieves salt right out of seawater.
At this stage, the technique is still limited to the lab, but it’s a demonstration of how we could one day quickly and easily turn one of our most abundant resources, seawater, into one of our most scarce – clean drinking water.
8. You no longer need to pay ridiculous amounts to access peer-reviewed science research
9. We just discovered a vitamin that could reduce the incidence of birth defects and miscarriages worldwide
In what scientists are calling “the most important discovery for pregnant women since folate“, a 12-year study has revealed that women could avoid miscarriages and birth defects by simply taking vitamin B3 during pregnancy.
10. Researchers are finally beginning to understand how we can repair spinal cord injuries
There’s nothing simple about repairing spinal cord injuries. But new research has pinned down how one of the most cutting edge techniques works, and in particular how the body can repair itself with a little prompting from surgeons.
By finally understanding how spinal cord injuries can heal, researchers will eventually be able to develop even more effective treatments that could potentially go as far as reversing paralysis and other nervous system damage.
11. Hyperloops are coming!!
The hyperloop transport system is a brain child of Elon Musk that promises to shuttle people in tube-contained pods between cities at crazy speeds of roughly 1,126 km/h (700 mph). That’s New York to Washington DC in around 29 minutes.
There’s even a (slightly crazy) proposal to turn the US/Mexico border wall into a giant hyperloop.
12. African wild dogs communicate with each other in the most adorable way ever: sneezes
Scientists have observed African wild dogs in Botswana sneezing at each other in order to cast their vote on whether it’s time to get up and go hunting. And, yes, we have video footage:
13. Scientists are fighting back against antibiotic resistance
The United Nations has declared antibiotic resistance a ‘fundamental threat‘ to global health, which some scientists predict could kill 10 million people annually by 2050. But we haven’t lost the battle yet.
At the start of this year, scientists announced the development of a molecule that reverses antibiotic resistance in multiple strains of bacteria at once, making it one of the most promising advances we’ve had to date in the fight against superbugs.
And Australian PhD student Shu Lam has the research community freaking out over a way to actually kill bacteria in the first place… without antibiotics. She’s developed a star-shaped polymer that can kill six different superbug strains without antibiotics, simply by ripping apart their cell walls.
14. NASA has released all its research to the public for free
The free online archive comes in response to a new NASA policy, which requires that any NASA-funded research articles in peer-reviewed journals be publicly accessible within one year of publication.
And last but definitely not least…
15. Scientists have classified a brand new type of celestial phenomenon… and they named it Steve.
Steve the ‘aurora’ was the feel-good story of 2017.
But this year, scientists found out that Steve isn’t actually an aurora at all – even cooler, it’s an entirely new type of celestial phenomenon we hadn’t seen before and are still learning more about.
The new astronomical phenomenon looks like a ribbon of flickering light, and has been spotted in the high latitudes of the northern hemisphere.
Check out below how awesome Steve looks in all his glory. See? Life isn’t all bad.
We’re witnessing evolution happen in front of our eyes, and it’s incredible.
Within a decade of a massive die off due to a fungus commonly known as chytrid, the frog species left in El Copé, Panama developed the ability to coexist with the deadly fungus.
In a later field study, the researchers found that frogs infected with the fungus survived at a nearly identical rate compared with uninfected frogs.
In 2004, the frogs of El Copé, Panama, began dying by the thousands. The culprit: Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. Within months, roughly half of the frog species native to the area went locally extinct.
New research, which appears in Ecological Applications, suggests that the frogs underwent ecological and/or evolutionary changes that enabled the community as a whole to persist, despite severe species losses.
The results could mean good news for other hotspots of amphibian biodiversity hit hard by the chytrid fungus, such as South America and Australia, researchers say.
“Our results are really promising because they lead us to conclude that the El Copé frog community is stabilizing and not drifting to extinction,” says lead author Graziella DiRenzo, a postdoctoral researcher at Michigan State University.
“That’s a big concern with chytrid worldwide. Before this study, we didn’t know a lot about the communities that remain after an outbreak,” DiRenzo says.
DiRenzo and her colleagues returned to the same small, two-square-kilometer field site in El Copé every year from 2010 to 2014.
They broke the field site down into smaller, 20-meter subsites, repeatedly sampling the subsites several days in a row within a season. Each time, the researchers tested individual frogs for the presence of the fungus while assessing the severity of any disease symptoms.
The researchers then developed a novel model to assess disease dynamics in communities beset by an outbreak. The frequent, repeated sampling of frogs in the field allowed the team to minimize biases in the model and enabled the researchers to conclude that infected frogs were surviving at the same rate as uninfected frogs.
This surprising result strongly suggested that the frog species remaining in El Copé developed the ability to tolerate the fungus and survive its deadly effects.
“Our statistical model allowed us to estimate amphibian survival and disease dynamics in a case where the small size of the remaining amphibian community prohibits the use of more traditional analysis methods,” says coauthor Elise Zipkin, an assistant professor in the integrative biology department.
“This new modeling framework offers unprecedented opportunities to examine the factors impacting small and declining populations decimated by disease.”
The researchers suggest that the El Copé frog community stabilized through an effect known as “eco-evolutionary rescue.”
In this scenario, some species may have evolved tolerance to the fungus while other highly infectious species died off and stopped contributing to the spread of the pathogen.
The fungus itself may have also become less virulent and the frog community as a whole may have undergone other types of restructuring.
The researchers note that, because researchers had studied the frog community in El Copé for years before the 2004 outbreak, the research site provides a rare window to assess changes to a frog community as a result of widespread chytrid infection.
If the community has stabilized here, the researchers say, it is likely that other hard-hit frog communities elsewhere in the world may have undergone similar adaptations—even where disease has reduced the overall number of species and/or individuals.
“The frogs of El Copé are not doing great, but they’re hanging on. The fact that some species survived is the most important thing,” says coauthor Karen Lips, a biology professor at the University of Maryland.
“If enough frog species in a given place can survive and persist, then hopefully someday a vibrant new frog community will replace what was lost.”
- Well-developed, well-nourished female in a moderate-to-significant degree of discomfort
- Found sitting in wheelchair
- Right lower extremity strength 5/5 throughout; reflex patella and Achilles 2/4
- Left lower extremity plantar flexion and dorsiflexion 5/5; quadriceps and hip flexors are markedly weaker on left 3+/5; Achilles reflex 2/4; patella reflex 1/4
- Marked paresthesia over the left anterior thigh to knee.
- Bilateral total knee arthroplasty scars noted; no warmth; full range of motion bilateral knee 0-110 flexion
- No pain with range of motion of the hip
- The patient had a CT of the lumbar spine disk space ordered by her primary care physician
- The CT revealed the patient has degenerative disk disease at L5-S1, but this does not explain her dermatomal complaint or, more importantly, her physical exam as above
- The patient believed that her knee replacement was a contraindication for MRI, which in this scenario it is not. Total joint replacement is generally completed with Titanium or Cobalt Chrome, neither of which is contraindicated for MRI imaging. Testing of these materials to 3 tesla magnets have been found to be safe.
- She was sent for an MRI of the lumbar spine
The green arrow represents a normal finding.
The blue arrow demonstrates a large foraminal herniated disk impaling the left exiting L3 nerve root (which correlates with her subjective and objective findings).
By Dr. Mercola
Many foods have been heavily promoted as being healthy when they are nothing more than pernicious junk foods. In the featured article, Clean Plates1 founder Jared Koch shared his list of nine staple foods that are far less “good for you” than you’ve been led to believe.
Here, I expand on the selections that are mentioned in the featured article.
1. Canned Tomatoes
Many leading brands of canned foods contain BPA — a toxic chemical linked to reproductive abnormalities, neurological effects, heightened risk of breast and prostate cancers, diabetes, heart disease and other serious health problems. According to Consumer Reports‘ testing, just a couple of servings of canned food can exceed the safety limits for daily BPA exposure for children.
High acidity — a prominent characteristic of tomatoes – causes BPA to leach into your food. To avoid this hazardous chemical, avoid canned foods entirely and stick to fresh fruits and vegetables, or switch over to brands that use glass containers instead—especially for acidic foods like tomatoes.
2. Processed Meats
As Koch warns, processed deli meats like salami, ham, and roast beef are typically made with meats from animals raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs).
This means they’re given growth hormones, antibiotics and other veterinary drugs, and raised in deplorable conditions that promote disease, these meats are also filled with sodium nitrite (a commonly used preservative and antimicrobial agent that also adds color and flavor) and other chemical flavorings and dyes.
Nitrites can be converted into nitrosamines in your body, which are potent cancer-causing chemicals. Research has linked nitrites to higher rates of colorectal, stomach and pancreatic cancer. But that’s not all. Most processed deli meats also contain other cancer-promoting chemicals that are created during cooking. These include:
- Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs) which are hazardous compounds created in meats and other foods that have been cooked at high temperatures. According to research, processed meats are clearly associated with an increased risk of stomach, colon and breast cancers.
- Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs): Many processed meats are smoked as part of the curing process, which causes PAHs to form. PAHs can also form when grilling. When fat drips onto the heat source, causing excess smoke, and the smoke surrounds your food, it can transfer cancer-causing PAHs to the meat.
- Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs): When food is cooked at high temperatures—including when it is pasteurized or sterilized—it increases the formation of AGEs in your food. AGEs build up in your body over time leading to oxidative stress, inflammation and an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease.
The truth is, processed meats are not a healthful choice for anyone and should be avoided entirely, according to a 2011 review of more than 7,000 clinical studies examining the connection between diet and cancer. The report was commissioned by The World Cancer Research Fund2 (WCRF) using money raised from the general public. Therefore the findings were not influenced by any vested interests, which makes it all the more reliable.
It’s the biggest review of the evidence ever undertaken, and it confirms previous findings: Processed meats increase your risk of cancer, especially bowel cancer, and NO amount of processed meat is “safe.” You’re far better off ditching the deli meats and opting instead for fresh organically-raised grass-fed meats, or wild caught salmon.
The unfortunate result of the low-fat diet craze has been the shunning of healthful fats such as butter, and public health has declined as a result of this folly. There are a myriad of unhealthy components to margarine and other butter impostors, including:
- Trans fats: These unnatural fats in margarine, shortenings and spreads are formed during the process of hydrogenation, which turns liquid vegetable oils into a solid fat. Trans fats contribute to heart disease, cancer, bone problems, hormonal imbalance and skin disease; infertility, difficulties in pregnancy and problems with lactation; and low birth weight, growth problems and learning disabilities in children. A US government panel of scientists determined that man-made trans fats are unsafe at any level.
- Free radicals: Free radicals and other toxic breakdown products are the result of high temperature industrial processing of vegetable oils. They contribute to numerous health problems, including cancer and heart disease.
- Emulsifiers and preservatives: Numerous additives of questionable safety are added to margarines and spreads. Most vegetable shortening is stabilized with preservatives like BHT.
- Hexane and other solvents: Used in the extraction process, these industrial chemicals can have toxic effects.
Good-old-fashioned butter, when made from grass-fed cows, is rich in a substance called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Much of the reason why butter is vilified is because it contains saturated fat. If you’re still in the mindset that saturated fat is harmful for your health, then please read the Healthy Fats section of my Optimized Nutrition Plan to learn why saturated fat is actually good for you.
4. Vegetable Oils
Of all the destructive foods available to us, those made with heated vegetable oils are some of the worst. Make no mistake about it–vegetable oils are not the health food that you were lead to believe they were. This is largely due to the fact that they are highly processed, and when consumed in massive amounts, as they are by most Americans, they seriously distort the important omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. Ideally, this ratio is 1:1.
Anytime you cook a food, you run the risk of creating heat-induced damage. The oils you choose to cook with must be stable enough to resist chemical changes when heated to high temperatures, or you run the risk of damaging your health. One of the ways vegetable oils can inflict damage is by converting your good cholesterol into bad cholesterol—by oxidizing it. When you cook with polyunsaturated vegetable oils (such as canola, corn, and soy oils), oxidized cholesterol is introduced into your system.
As the oil is heated and mixed with oxygen, it goes rancid. Rancid oil is oxidized oil and should NOT be consumed—it leads directly to vascular disease. Trans-fats are introduced when these oils are hydrogenated, which increases your risk of chronic diseases like breast cancer and heart disease.
So what’s the best oil to cook with?
Of all the available oils, coconut oil is the oil of choice for cooking because it is nearly a completely saturated fat, which means it is much less susceptible to heat damage. And coconut oil is one of the most unique and beneficial fats for your body. For more in-depth information about the many benefits of coconut oil, please see this special report. Olive oil, while certainly a healthful oil, is easily damaged by heat and is best reserved for drizzling cold over salad.
5. Microwave Popcorn
Perfluoroalkyls, which include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), are chemicals used to keep grease from leaking through fast food wrappers, are being ingested by people through their food and showing up as contaminants in blood. Microwave popcorn bags are lined with PFOA, and when they are heated the compound leaches onto the popcorn.
These chemicals are part of an expanding group of chemicals commonly referred to as “gender-bending” chemicals, because they can disrupt your endocrine system and affect your sex hormones. The EPA has ruled PFCs as “likely carcinogens,” and has stated that PFOA “poses developmental and reproductive risks to humans.” Researchers have also linked various PFCs to a range of other health dangers, such as:
- Infertility — A study published in the journal Human Reproduction3 found that both PFOA and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate), dramatically increased the odds of infertility. PFOA was linked to a 60 to 154 percent increase in the chance of infertility.
- Thyroid disease — A 2010 study4 found that PFOA can damage your thyroid function. Individuals with the highest PFOA concentrations were more than twice as likely to report current thyroid disease, compared to those with the lowest PFOA concentrations. Your thyroid contains thyroglobulin protein, which binds to iodine to form hormones, which in turn influence essentially every organ, tissue and cell in your body. Thyroid hormones are also required for growth and development in children. Thyroid disease, if left untreated, can lead to heart disease, infertility, muscle weakness, and osteoporosis.
- Cancer — PFOA has been associated with tumors in at least four different organs in animal tests (liver, pancreas, testicles and mammary glands in rats), and has been associated with increases in prostate cancer in PFOA plant workers.
- Immune system problems — Several studies by scientists in Sweden indicate that PFCs have an adverse effect on your immune system. As described in a report on PFCs by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), PFOA was found to decrease all immune cell subpopulations studied, in the thymus and spleen, and caused immunosupression.
- Increased LDL cholesterol levels – A 2010 study in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine5 found that children and teens with higher PFOA levels had higher levels of total cholesterol and LDL or “bad” cholesterol, while PFOS was associated with increased total cholesterol, including both LDL cholesterol and HDL or “good” cholesterol.
I strongly recommend avoiding any product you know containing these toxic compounds, particularly non-stick cookware, but also foods sold in grease-proof food packaging, such as fast food and microwave popcorn. Clearly, if you’re eating fast food or junk food, PFCs from the wrapper may be the least of your problems, but I think it’s still important to realize that not only are you not getting proper nutrition from the food itself, the wrappers may also add to your toxic burden.
6. Non-Organic Potatoes and Other Fresh Produce Known for High Pesticide Contamination
Your best bet is to buy only organic fruits and vegetables, as synthetic agricultural chemicals are not permissible under the USDA organic rules. That said, not all conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are subjected to the same amount of pesticide load. While Koch focuses on potatoes, as they tend to take up a lot of pesticides and other agricultural chemicals present in the soil, I would recommend reviewing the “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce”6 by the Environmental Working Group.
Of the 48 different fruit and vegetable categories tested by the EWG for the 2013 guide, the following 15 fruits and vegetables had the highest pesticide load, making them the most important to buy or grow organically:
|Spinach||Strawberries||Sweet bell peppers|
|Kale||Collard greens||Summer squash|
In contrast, the following foods were found to have the lowest residual pesticide load, making them the safest bet among conventionally grown vegetables. Note that a small amount of sweet corn and most Hawaiian papaya, although low in pesticides, are genetically engineered (GE). If you’re unsure of whether the sweet corn or papaya is GE, I’d recommend opting for organic varieties:
|Cantaloupe||Sweet corn (non-GMO)||Eggplant|
|Mushrooms||Onions||Papayas (non-GMO. Most Hawaiian papaya is GMO)|
|Pineapple||Sweet peas (frozen)||Sweet potatoes|
7. Table Salt
Salt is essential for life—you cannot live without it. However, regular ‘table salt’ and the salt found in processed foods are NOT identical to the salt your body really needs. In fact, table salt has practically nothing in common with natural salt. One is health damaging, and the other is healing.
- Processed salt is 98 percent sodium chloride, and the remaining two percent comprises man-made chemicals, such as moisture absorbents, and a little added iodine. These are dangerous chemicals like ferrocyanide and aluminosilicate. Some European countries, where water fluoridation is not practiced, also add fluoride to table salt
- Natural salt is about 84 percent sodium chloride. The remaining 16 percent of natural salt consists of other naturally occurring minerals, including trace minerals like silicon, phosphorous and vanadium
Given that salt is absolutely essential to good health, I recommend switching to a pure, unrefined salt. My favorite is an ancient, all-natural sea salt from the Himalayas. Himalayan salt is completely pure, having spent many thousands of years maturing under extreme tectonic pressure, far away from impurities, so it isn’t polluted with the heavy metals and industrial toxins of today. And it’s hand-mined, hand-washed, and minimally processed. Himalayan salt is only 85 percent sodium chloride, the remaining 15 percent contains 84 trace minerals from our prehistoric seas. Unrefined natural salt is important to many biological processes, including:
- Being a major component of your blood plasma, lymphatic fluid, extracellular fluid, and even amniotic fluid
- Carrying nutrients into and out of your cells
- Maintain and regulate blood pressure
- Increasing the glial cells in your brain, which are responsible for creative thinking and long-term planning
- Helping your brain communicate with your muscles, so that you can move on demand via sodium-potassium ion exchange
While natural unprocessed salt has many health benefits, that does not mean you should use it with impunity. Another important factor is the potassium to sodium ratio of your diet. Imbalance in this ratio can not only lead to hypertension (high blood pressure) and other health problems, including heart disease, memory decline, erectile dysfunction and more. The easiest way to avoid this imbalance is by avoiding processed foods, which are notoriously low in potassium while high in sodium. Instead, eat a diet of whole, ideally organically-grown foods to ensure optimal nutrient content. This type of diet will naturally provide much larger amounts of potassium in relation to sodium.
8. Soy Protein Isolate and Other Unfermented Soy Products
Sadly, most of what you have been led to believe by the media about soy is simply untrue. One of the worst problems with soy comes from the fact that 90 to 95 percent of soybeans grown in the US are genetically engineered (GE), and these are used to create soy protein isolate. Genetically engineered soybeans are designed to be “Roundup ready,” which means they’re engineered to withstand otherwise lethal doses of herbicide.
The active ingredient in Roundup herbicide is called glyphosate, which is responsible for the disruption of the delicate hormonal balance of the female reproductive cycle. What’s more, glyphosate is toxic to the placenta, which is responsible for delivering vital nutrients from mother to child, and eliminating waste products. Once the placenta has been damaged or destroyed, the result can be miscarriage. In those children born to mothers who have been exposed to even a small amount of glyphosate, serious birth defects can result.
Glyphosate’s mechanism of harm was only recently identified, and demonstrates how this chemical disrupts cellular function and induce many of our modern diseases, including autism. Soy protein isolate can be found in protein bars, meal replacement shakes, bottled fruit drinks, soups and sauces, meat analogs, baked goods, breakfast cereals and some dietary supplements.
Even if you are not a vegetarian and do not use soymilk or tofu, it is important to be a serious label reader. There are so many different names for soy additives, you could be bringing home a genetically modified soy-based product without even realizing it. Soy expert Dr. Kaayla Daniel offers a free Special Report7, “Where the Soys Are,” on her Web site. It lists the many “aliases” that soy might be hiding under in ingredient lists — words like “bouillon,” “natural flavor” and “textured plant protein.”
Besides soy protein isolate, ALL unfermented soy products are best avoided if you value your health. Thousands of studies have linked unfermented soy to malnutrition, digestive distress, immune-system breakdown, thyroid dysfunction, cognitive decline, reproductive disorders and infertility—even cancer and heart disease.
The only soy with health benefits is organic soy that has been properly fermented, and these are the only soy products I ever recommend consuming. After a long fermentation process, the phytate and “anti-nutrient” levels of soybeans are reduced, and their beneficial properties become available to your digestive system. To learn more, please see this previous article detailing the dangers of unfermented soy.
9. Artificial Sweeteners
Contrary to popular belief, studies have found that artificial sweeteners such as aspartame can stimulate your appetite, increase carbohydrate cravings, and stimulate fat storage and weight gain. In one of the most recent of such studies8, saccharin and aspartame were found to cause greater weight gain than sugar.
Aspartame is perhaps one of the most problematic. It is primarily made up of aspartic acid and phenylalanine. The phenylalanine has been synthetically modified to carry a methyl group, which provides the majority of the sweetness. That phenylalanine methyl bond, called a methyl ester, is very weak, which allows the methyl group on the phenylalanine to easily break off and form methanol.
You may have heard the claim that aspartame is harmless because methanol is also found in fruits and vegetables. However, in fruits and vegetables, the methanol is firmly bonded to pectin, allowing it to be safely passed through your digestive tract. Not so with the methanol created by aspartame; there it’s not bonded to anything that can help eliminate it from your body.
Methanol acts as a Trojan horse; it’s carried into susceptible tissues in your body, like your brain and bone marrow, where the alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) enzyme converts it into formaldehyde, which wreaks havoc with sensitive proteins and DNA. All animals EXCEPT HUMANS have a protective mechanism that allows methanol to be broken down into harmless formic acid. This is why toxicology testing on animals is a flawed model. It doesn’t fully apply to people.
Guidelines for Healthy Food
Whatever food you’re looking to eat, whether organic or locally grown, from either your local supermarket or a farmer’s market, the following are signs of a high-quality, healthy food. Most often, the best place to find these foods is from a sustainable agricultural group in your area. You can also review my free nutrition plan to get started on a healthy eating program today:
- It’s grown without pesticides and chemical fertilizers (organic foods fit this description, but so do some non-organic foods)
- It’s not genetically engineered
- It contains no added growth hormones, antibiotics, or other drugs
- It does not contain artificial anything, nor any preservatives
- It is fresh (if you have to choose between wilted organic produce or fresh conventional produce, the latter may still be the better option as freshness is important for optimal nutrient content)
- It was not grown in a factory farm
- It is grown with the laws of nature in mind (meaning animals are fed their native diets, not a mix of grains and animal byproducts, and have free-range access to the outdoors)
- It is grown in a sustainable way (using minimal amounts of water, protecting the soil from burnout, and turning animal wastes into natural fertilizers instead of environmental pollutants)
Each year during the anniversary week of Mercola.com, they recognize a Game Changer; someone whose work stands as a great service to humanity by making a significant contribution to improving people’s health.
This year, they present the Game Changer Award to Thomas Seyfried, Ph.D.,1 a professor of biology at Boston College and a leading expert and researcher in the field of cancer metabolism and nutritional ketosis.
His book, “Cancer as a Metabolic Disease” is an important contribution to the field of how cancer starts and can be treated. Seyfried’s work is also heavily featured in Travis Christofferson’s excellent book, “Tripping Over the Truth: The Metabolic Theory of Cancer.”
Each day, some 1,600 people die from cancer in the United States alone. Worldwide, we’re looking at a death toll of about 21,000 people daily. So many of these deaths are unnecessary — they’re preventable and treatable.
Seyfried is one of the pioneers in the application of nutritional ketosis for cancer; a therapy that stems from the work of Dr. Otto Warburg, who was undoubtedly one of the most brilliant biochemists of the 20th century. He received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1931 for the discovery of metabolism of malignant cells.
Warburg also held a doctorate in chemistry and was personal friends with Albert Einstein and many of the most prominent scientists of his time. His life’s mission was to find a cure for cancer, and he actually did. Unfortunately, few were able to appreciate the importance of his findings.
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Seyfried has followed in Warburg’s scientific footsteps, and is conducting important research to advance this science. He has in fact exceeded Warburg’s initial supposition, shedding important light on the metabolic underpinnings of cancer.
Cancer as a Metabolic Disease
The traditionally held view or dogma is that cancer is a genetic disease, but what Warburg discovered is that cancer is really caused by a defect in the cellular energy metabolism of the cell, primarily related to the function of the mitochondria, which are the little power stations within each cell.
The mitochondria were not well understood in Warburg’s time but, today, we have a much better understanding of how they work.
In my view, this information is the game changer that not only treats cancer but virtually every single disease known to man, because at the core of most serious ailments you find mitochondrial dysfunction. As noted by Seyfried:
“A dogma is considered irrefutable truth, and that cancer is a genetic disease is, no question, a dogma. The problem with dogma is that sometimes it blinds you to alternative views and sets up ideologies that are extremely difficult to change.
All of the major college textbooks talk about cancer as a genetic disease. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) website, the first thing they say is cancer is a genetic disease caused by mutations … [and] if cancer is a genetic disease, everything flows from that concept.
It permeates the pharmaceutical industry, academic industry and textbook industry, the entire knowledge base. There’s very little discussion of alternative views to the genetic view. The argument now is that, yes, metabolic problems occur in cancer cells. No one denies that.
But these are all due to the genetic mutations. Therefore we must maintain ourselves on the established track that all of this metabolic stuff could be resolved if we just understood more about the genetic underpinning of the disease.
Now that would be well and good if it were true. But evidence is accumulating that the mutations we see that are the prime focus and the basis for the genetic theory are actually epiphenomenal.
They’re downstream effects of this disturbance in the metabolism that Warburg originally defined back in the 1920s and ’30s.”
How the Metabolic View Alters Cancer Treatment
As Seyfried notes, the problem today is not that scientists and doctors cannot understand the science; it’s that they cannot accept that this could be the truth behind the nature of the disease, because it changes how you approach treatment.
If defective mitochondria are responsible for the origin of cancer, and defective energy metabolism is responsible for the majority of the phenotypes, i.e., the observable characteristics of the disease that you see, then how do you treat the disease?
In my view, one of Seyfried’s most magnificent contributions to this science was his compilation of research from independent and well-respected scientists within various disciplines, who conducted valuable experiments but had no clue how to interpret the results.
Seyfried put all of their work together, forming a strong scientific foundation for the theory that cancer is indeed a metabolic disease, not a genetic one, and that genetic mutations are a downstream effect of defective energy metabolism in the mitochondria.
“Those nuclear transfer experiments were always present in the literature. They were considered anomalies. They were not consistent with the view that cancer is a nuclear genetic disease … but the observation was not interpreted in light of [being] the origin of cancer.
I bundled all those observations together in a new light, looking at the conclusions of those experiments in light of whether the results would support a nuclear gene-based theory versus a mitochondrial metabolic theory …
It was just interpreting a series of experiments in light of the origin of the disease, and then asking what conclusion would these experiments support. Would it support the nuclear genetic theory of cancer, or would it support the mitochondrial metabolic theory of cancer?
In each of these cases, the results more strongly supported the metabolic theory of cancer than the nuclear genetic theory,” Seyfried says.
What the Nuclear Transfer Experiments Showed
The nuclear transfer experiments in question basically involved transplanting the nuclei of a tumor cell into a healthy and normal cytoplasm (the material within a cell, excluding the cell nucleus), which include the mitochondria, the energy-generating organelle of the cell.
The hypothesis is that if cancer is nuclear-gene driven and the phenotype of cancer is dysregulated cell growth, meaning if genetic mutations are responsible for the observable characteristics of the disease, then those abnormal genes should be expressed in the new cytoplasm. But that’s not what happened.
Again and again, what was observed was that when the nuclei of a cancer cell were transferred into a healthy cytoplasm, the new cytoplasm did NOT form cancer. It remained healthy and normal.
“What was interesting is that in many of these nuclear transfer experiments, the organisms aborted at certain periods of development. That abortion seems to be related to how many mutations were in the nucleus that was transferred,” Seyfried says.
“It was true that these cancer nuclei did contain mutations, but those mutations were not causing the hallmark feature of the disease, that is proliferation. Rather, they were causing abortion at some developmental point of the organism that had those nuclei … On the other hand, when the normal nucleus was transferred back into a cancer cytoplasm [which had defective mitochondria], either the cell died or it formed tumor cells.”
Additional evidence has recently been produced by Benny Kaipparettu, Ph.D., and colleagues at Baylor University. When they transplanted normal mitochondria (with its nuclei intact) into cancer cell cytoplasm, it caused the cells to stop growing abnormally. It downregulated the oncogenes that were alleged to be driving the tumor and made the cells grow normally again.
On the other hand, when they took the mitochondria from a tumor cell and moved it into a very slow-growing type of cancer cell, the cancer cells began growing very rapidly. As noted by Seyfried, “When you bundle all these experiments together, you come to the conclusion that nuclear mutations cannot be the drivers of the disease.”
What About BRCA1 and Other Inherited Cancer Genes?
A common argument for the genetic theory is that cancer can be inherited; therefore it must have genetic underpinnings. Li-Fraumeni syndrome,2 which raises your risk of developing cancer at a very young age, and BRCA1, which raises your breast cancer risk are two examples.
“The answer is, yes, on the surface, that would appear to be true,” Seyfried says. “But as Warburg said, there are many secondary causes of cancer but there is only one primary cause, and that’s damage to the respiration. So inherited mutations through the germ lines that cause cancer to affect the mitochondria, it is [still] the mitochondria that is the origin of cancer.
It just so happens that the defect is coming from an inherited gene rather than a chemical carcinogen, radiation, viral infection or an infection of some parasite or whatever, all of which damage respiration; all of which can cause cancer.
Clearly the origin of the disease is a disturbance of the respiratory capacity of that cell which then, if the cell is to survive, must upregulate genes necessary for fermentation. Many of those genes are the so-called oncogenes. The oncogenes are simply fulfilling a rescue event of that cell to function in a fermentation metabolism rather than an oxidative metabolism. We can downregulate oncogenes simply by putting in new respiration.”
If genetic mutations are not the primary cause of cancer but rather a secondary, downstream effect of dysfunctional cell respiration, why and how do mutations occur? As explained by Seyfried, once the cells’ respiration is damaged, that damage then leads to a compensatory fermentation, which requires the upregulation of oncogenes (cancer genes).
Damaged respiration also produces large amounts of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and secondary free radicals that damage DNA proteins and lipids (fats inside your cellular membranes). The ROS also cause mutations in the nuclear genome. So the mutations are the result of defective respiration and subsequent exaggerated ROS production.
Why the War on Cancer Has Not Yet Been Won
At present, the cancer industry is focusing on the downstream effects of the problem, which is why the “war on cancer” has been such a miserable failure.
“Personalized medicines, checkpoint inhibitors, all of these kinds of therapies are basically looking at downstream effects of the disease,” Seyfried says.
“Unfortunately, most of the cells in the tumor are all different from each other genetically. You’re not going to be able to target all of the different cells using these kinds of approaches. Even though you may get success for a few months, or even a year in some people, the majority of people will not respond effectively to these kinds of therapies for the most part.”
Why Being an Efficient Fat Burner Is so Important
The ROS also target the actual mitochondria themselves, where respiration occurs, which brings us to a very important point. ROS are mostly generated through the coenzyme Q couple in the electron transport chain. Both glucose and fatty acids produce FADH2, which can generate ROS.
In contrast, fat-derived ketone bodies produce only NADH, which increases the redox span of the coenzyme Q couple and reduces production of ROS. Hence, ketone bodies are considered a more “clean” fuel than is either glucose or fatty acids. Today, most people are burning glucose as their primary fuel, thanks to an overabundance of sugar and processed grains in the diet and a deficiency in healthy fats.
If you have less ROS being generated in the mitochondria, you end up with less mitochondrial damage and less DNA damage. So not only is switching the fuel you’re feeding your body the key component of cancer treatment, but in my view it’s the primary way that you prevent cancer from occurring in the first place.
“I think that’s an important point. One of the things that trigger cancer is inflammation. We have inflammation. Chronic high levels of blood sugar create inflammation. This you see in a lot of situations. Glucose itself is not carcinogenic, but elevated dysregulated glucose metabolism can lead to inflammation, and can cause a number of other disturbances in the overall metabolism of the body,” Seyfried says.
“If you fast, if you stop eating, your blood sugar goes down. Your insulin levels go down. The body starts to metabolize fat for energy. But the fatty acids themselves are only one component. The major components of course are the ketone bodies … They are water-soluble fat products. They readily enter cells and they’re metabolized to acetyl-CoA through a series of steps.
These steps generate nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH), which is a reducing equivalent. But they also keep the coenzyme Q couple in an oxidized state. This is very important because it’s that coenzyme Q couple where ROS are in fact generated in the first place …
Ketones are clean fuel only in the sense that they suppress the formation of ROS, especially when blood sugar levels are low. Because if you have very high ketones AND high blood sugar, you have ketoacidosis, which is a life-threatening event.”
Do Not Confuse Nutritional Ketosis With Ketoacidosis
Nutritional ketosis should NOT be confused with diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which is not a concern unless you have type 1 diabetes. It’s rare for a person with normal physiology to elevate their ketones above 7 or 8 millimole (mmol). If you have DKA, your ketones will be about 20 mmol. Additionally, your blood sugars will be very high, while in nutritional ketosis blood sugars are very low. These are clearly two entirely different states.
And whereas ketoacidosis can be life threatening, nutritional ketosis is a healthy state that helps you maintain maximum energy efficiency and reduces ROS production in your body. As noted by Seyfried, “Mitochondria actually get very healthy when ketones are metabolized as opposed to some of the other fuels, especially glucose.”
For the last few decades, most natural health enthusiasts would attempt to circumvent the ROS challenge by taking antioxidants, either through foods high in polyphenols and other natural antioxidants, or supplements. I now believe this is a fatally flawed strategy that has significant drawbacks.
Rather than trying to quell the ROS after they’re produced, it’s far more effective to address the ROS generation at its source, which is the fuel your body is primarily burning for energy. Change the fuel, from sugar to fat, and you will generate fewer ROS.
Ketones Prevent Dysregulated ROS Production, Thereby Reducing Your Risk for Cancer
It’s not that ketones don’t generate any ROS, they do; just not as much. And this brings us to yet another crucial point. ROS are not merely agents of destruction; they’re also powerful signaling molecules. If you suppress them indiscriminately, you’ll create biological dysfunction.
So you do not want to eliminate them. You just want to control them to optimal levels so all the signaling can occur without damage. That’s what happens with ketones. When your body is burning ketones as its primary fuel, you more or less ensure that you’re in an ideal therapeutic window with regards to ROS generation, so you have neither too much nor too little ROS.
“There’s no question about that. It’s what we call a homeostatic state,” Seyfried notes.”Ketones prevent dysregulated ROS production … You’re allowing your body to remain healthier for a longer period of time. That’s basically what we’re doing here … Cancer is accelerated entropy. It’s a total disorganization of the homeostatic parameters within cells and outside the cells in the morphogenetic field and in the entire body itself.
Cancer patients have all kinds of disturbances in systemic homeostasis. It’s not just in the cells … When the body has cancer there are a number of ramifications that take place throughout the body. We’re producing more acidity. There are a lot of responses in the part of hormones and signaling cascades throughout the body as a result of this disease. One has to treat cancer as a systemic [disease]. The whole body has to be treated but in a non-toxic way.”
Indeed, toxicity is one of the biggest failures of current treatment protocols for cancer. The majority of treatments for cancer are extremely toxic, which further exacerbates the problem. Many cancer recurrences are likely due to the initial treatment. On the other hand, when you view cancer as a metabolic disease, you can target and manage the disease without creating systemic toxicity. As explained by Seyfried, you do this by targeting the fuels the cancer cells are using, primarily glucose and glutamine.
“What we have to recognize … is that if cancer is a mitochondrial metabolic disease and you get cancer because of mitochondrial failure in certain populations of cells and certain tissues, if you prevent your mitochondria from entering into this dysfunctional state … [then] the probability of getting cancer is going to be significantly reduced.
To what percent? I would say a minimum of 80 percent. Cancer is probably, as I said in my book, one of the most manageable diseases that we know of …
The problem is that many people don’t want [to take the preventive steps to avoid cancer]. They’re like, ‘I have to therapeutically fast for a week? Oh, I’m not going to. Give me a break’ … An effective prevention is to eat less and move more. A lot of people don’t want to do that … Once you realize what cancer is, that it’s a metabolic disease, you can take charge of those kinds of things. In other words, getting cancer is not God’s will. It’s not bad luck.”
Most Disease Is Rooted in Mitochondrial Dysfunction
Cancer is not the only outcome when mitochondrial respiration goes awry. This kind of dysfunction also plays a role in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). It’s also at play in seizure disorders, and in diabetes, obesity, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia. Most of the major diseases we’re currently treating with harsh and toxic drugs can potentially be solved with proper nutritional intervention that addresses your choice of cellular fuels.
How exactly do you do that? According to Seyfried, in order to achieve nutritional ketosis, you need to reduce net carbohydrates (total carbs minus fiber) to less than 100 grams, probably less than 50 grams. I have a slightly different view on this, which I’ll expound on in the next section.
You also need to reduce your amino acid content. Glutamine is the most common amino acid in proteins, and besides glucose, cancer cells can use glutamine for energy and growth as well. The combination of both glucose and glutamine creates a really “supercharged system,” Seyfried notes.
In order to lower glutamine, you have to eat less protein. Also, there’s a threshold for amino acids, above which you will simply stimulate the mTOR pathway, which in conjunction with insulin may wield a more powerful influence on mitochondrial dysfunction and mitochondrial biogenesis than insulin alone.
How to Assess the Health of Your Mitochondria
How can you assess the health of your mitochondria? There are a couple of ways of doing this. Seyfried has published a paper on the glucose ketone index calculator3 (GKIC) in an open access journal, which can be accessed by anyone. You can use that calculator to assess the health and vitality of your mitochondria.
The GKIC looks at your glucose to ketone ratio. Ketones must be measured by blood, not urine, and your glucose must be entered in mmol, not in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). “When you have a glucose ratio of 1.0 or below, you know your mitochondria are in a very healthy zone,” Seyfried says.
Now, getting down to a 1.0 is quite difficult. I’m typically between 2 and 3, and my diet is about 80 percent healthy fats with minimal net carbs. You may need to do a complete fast in order to get that low. However, you don’t need to remain in that ultra-low zone for very long. On the other hand, if you have cancer, you’ll want to hit that mark as much as possible.
“You do a water fast for about three to four days, then you can take some exogenous ketones, and you can get your blood sugars way down,” Seyfried says. “To prevent cancer, you don’t have to stay there [longer than] four or five days every six months or something like this. It’s just a guide,” Seyfried says.
“Some people can get into these zones very quickly and very easily. Other people really struggle. All of this is a biomarker gauge. We’ve done some interesting linear regression analysis on survivability of mice with cancer using the GKIs, the independent variable, the glucose-ketone index.
There definitely is statistical relationship on how long you can keep your GKI [and] how long you can survive with a very aggressive cancer. Clearly, it’s just one biomarker system that allows individuals to help battle their own cancer.”
Therapeutic Ketosis Made Simpler With a Nutrient Tracker
That strategy will likely be too extreme for most folks, unless you’re faced with death or otherwise highly motivated. Rather than doing lengthy water fasting, I believe a more user-friendly strategy would be to restrict your net carbs below 50 grams per day and your protein to below 1 gram per kilogram of lean body mass. Most people eat a lot more net carbs and protein than that.
To make sure you’re actually meeting these targets you need an analytical tool to do a detailed nutritional analysis of what you’re eating. Otherwise, you really don’t know how much fat, carbs and protein you’re getting. This was my motivation for working with the developer of http://www.Cronometer.com/mercola, an online nutrient tracker, to create a Mercola version of the software programmed specifically for nutritional ketosis.
You can sign up and use Cronometer.com/Mercola for free. This software will make all the calculations for you, based on the parameters you enter, such as your height, weight, body fat percentage and waist circumference. You can also enter and track various biomarkers, such as fasting glucose, which is an essential measurement.
You really must keep tabs on your fasting blood sugar. Ideally, you would measure it twice a day; first thing in the morning and right before you go to bed. You want to get your blood sugar below 70 mg/dL, ideally somewhere around 60.
If your fasting blood sugar is significantly higher in the morning than in the afternoon, it’s likely due to glucogenesis, which is a sign you’re not getting enough protein. You need a certain amount of amino acids or else your body will start to metabolize lean body tissue to generate them. In that process, the excess gets shuttled to your liver, which is what generates the extra glucose (hence the elevated reading in the absence of food).
If you really want to dig deep into the details of therapeutic ketosis, read Seyfried’s book, “Cancer as a Metabolic Disease.” If you want to start with a shorter treatise, you can read through his paper, “Cancer as a Metabolic Disease: Implications for Novel Therapeutics,” published in the journal Carcinogenesis in 2014, or his 2015 paper in the journal Frontiers, titled “Cancer as a Mitochondrial Metabolic Disease.”4
Hopefully, we’ve inspired you to consider the nutritional roots of cancer and other chronic diseases. I can promise you will hear a lot more about this in the months and years to come, as I am convinced addressing mitochondrial dysfunction is the real key to solving most of our current health problems. The good news is that optimizing mitochondrial function can be effectively accomplished through diet and lifestyle strategies like exercise. No costly drugs or invasive procedures required.
And, while we still have a long way to go, more doctors are starting to pay attention. “This is the tipping point,” Seyfried says. “Many physicians are coming on board. I think things are going to start changing for the best and for the success of people.”
Too many people have died and continue to die needlessly. It’s time to get back on the right track. It’s going to require a lot of education, but the effort is absolutely worth it. The information about how to prevent cancer and other chronic illness already exist. It’s just a matter of applying it.