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How Depression Affects Brain Structure & What You Can Do To Change It Back

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 400 million people, of all ages, suffer from depression, making it the leading cause of disability worldwide.

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This is a massive target market for pharmaceutical companies, and that’s no secret. There are huge profits to be made, and drug companies are taking every opportunity to make the most of this seemingly limitless source of income — at the expense of the consumer. It is not difficult to find evidence to support this notion, and a recent study published in the British Medical Journal is just one of many compelling examples. The study showed that pharmaceutical companies were not disclosing all information regarding the results of their drug trials. Researchers looked at documents from 70 different double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI) and found that the full extent of serious harm in clinical study reports went unreported.

And it’s not the first time this has happened. To read more about that and to find the study, click here.

Not feeling well can take a toll on your physical health in a number of ways; when it comes to the brain, episodes of constant depression can actually can actually reduce the size of your hippocampus — an area of the brain involved in forming and regulating emotions and memory. This is especially concerning for teenagers, given their brains are still developing in significant ways.

There is good news, however: the damage can be reversed, and you can change your brain in a number of different ways, but to do so requires you to make the decision to help yourself and then act on it.

Depression & Your Brain

Several studies have stated that depressed people tend to have a smaller hippocampus. According to Professor Ian Hickie of The University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Research Institute:

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[The] more episodes of depression a person had, the greater the reduction in hippocampus size. So recurrent or persistent depression does more harm to the hippocampus the more you leave it untreated.

This largely settles the question of what comes first: the smaller hippocampus or the depression? The damage to the brain comes from recurrent illness…

Other studies have demonstrated reversibility, and the hippocampus is one of the unique areas of the brain that rapidly generates new connections between cells, and what are lost here are connections between cells rather than the cells themselves.

Treating depression effectively does not just mean medicines. If you are unemployed, for example, and then sit in a room doing nothing as a result, this can shrink the hippocampus. So social interventions are just as important, and treatments such as fish oils are also thought to be neuro-protective.  (source)(source)

It’s also noteworthy to mention here that feelings of sadness and negativity can code different information into the heart’s electromagnetic field, and that the heart will actually send signals to the brain which can create chaos in the nervous system. These findings come from the scientists at the Institute of HeartMath, who investigate heart and brain interaction. You can read more about that here.

Scientists have also used brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data to examine the hypothesis that depression changes the brain. For example, an international team of researchers found that those who suffered from recurring depression do indeed have a smaller hippocampus. (source)(source)

Chemical Imbalance Or Not? 

Joseph Coyle, a neuroscientist from Harvard Medical School, perhaps sums it up best when he explained that this idea of a “chemical imbalance is sort of last-century thinking. It’s much more complicated than that.” And it’s true; depression cannot truly be reduced to the commonly accepted notion of  a chemical imbalance in the brain. Posed in the late 1950s, this theory essentially posits that depression is a deficiency of select neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) at critical points, like synapses. One of these neurotransmitters, for example, is serotonin; others include norepinephrine and dopamine.

As Scientific American reports, “much of the general public seems to have accepted the chemical imbalance hypothesis uncritically,” but “it is very likely that depression stems from influences other than neurotransmitter abnormalities.” (source)

Harvard Medical School also put out a press release a few years ago stating that it’s “often said that depression results from a chemical imbalance, but that figure of speech doesn’t capture how complex the disease is.” Dr. Joanna Moncrieff, a prominent author and British psychiatrist, explains further:

Of course, there are brain events and biochemical reactions occurring when someone feels depressed, as there are all the time, but no research has ever established that a particular brain state causes, or even correlates with, depression. . . . In all cases studies yield inconsistent results, and none have been shown to be specific to depression, let alone causal. . . . The fact that more than 50 years of intense research efforts have failed to identify depression in the brain may indicate that we simply lack the right technology, or it may suggest we have been barking up the wrong tree! (source)

The most commonly cited evidence to support the chemical imbalance theory is the ability of some drugs to increase and decrease mood in human and animal models. While many antidepressants increase the amounts of serotonin and other neurotransmitters at synapses, they do not address the underlying issues or help the brain heal itself. And what we fail to realize today is that just because mood can be artificially manipulated with drugs does not mean that depression cannot be treated in other ways, or that the chemical imbalance theory is true.

We are simply incapable of saying with certainty that a human being has a chemical imbalance (to whatever extent) or identifying what neurotransmitters are involved. This is why the chemical imbalance theory of depression remains a theory. Chemical levels in the brain cannot accurately be measured or ‘looked at,’ either.

Yet much of the general public still accepts the chemical imbalance theory. A survey conducted in 2007 of 262 undergraduates at Cleveland State University found that more than 80 percent of the participants found it “likely” that chemical imbalances cause depression. According to Jonathan Leo, an Associate Professor of Neuroanatomy at Lincoln Memorial University, this really has yet to be proven:

At best, drug-induced affective disturbances can only be considered models for natural disorders, while it remains to be demonstrated that the behavioral changes produced by these drugs have any relation to naturally occurring biochemical abnormalities which might be associated with the illness. (source)

It’s important to keep in mind that there are probably many chemicals involved, working both inside and outside of our nerve cells. As Harvard Medical School points out, there are millions, even billions, of chemical reactions that make up the dynamic system that is responsible for your mood, perceptions, and how you experience life.

Jonathan Leo further points out that “the cause of mental disorders such as depression remains unknown. However, the idea that neurotransmitter imbalances cause depression is vigorously promoted by pharmaceutical companies and the psychiatric profession at large.” (source)

As I hope I have made clear, the theory that depression is caused by low levels of serotonin, along with similar such theories, came into existence because scientists were able to observe what drugs do to the brain. It is a hypothesis that attempted to explain how drugs were able to fix the problem, but whether or not depressed people actually have lower serotonin levels remains to be proven. You can read more about the science here.

“The serotonin theory is simply not a scientific statement. It’s a botched theory – a hypothesis that was proven incorrect.” – Dr. Joseph Mercola (source)

Not only is there no solid scientific proof to back up the chemical imbalance theory, many depressed people are not even helped by taking antidepressants like SSRIs. For example, a review done by the University of California in 2009 found that one third of people treated with antidepressants do not improve, and a significant portion of these people remain depressed. Scientific American too points out that “if antidepressants correct a chemical imbalance that underlies depression, all or most depressed people should get better after taking them.” (source)

That being said, there are many who do report positive benefits, but there is no way to tell if the drugs are working or if they are just working like a placebo.

Think about this for a moment: so many of us are made to believe that depression is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain, when there is actually little scientific evidence to support that statement. Association between various brain changes and depression is large, and no studies have established a solid, cause-and-effect correlation between the brain and the disorder.

Depression has one focus — brain chemistry — despite it being a multi-faceted problem. Focusing on this one theory and then dishing out drugs that actually alter brain chemistry is, as Scientific American puts it, simply “shortsighted.”

“In spite of the enormous amounts of money and time that has been spent on the quest to confirm the chemical imbalance theory, direct proof has never materialized.” (source)

I am astounded that people fail to see the irony in the situation. The only chemical imbalances we can prove exist in people’s brains are the ones being inflicted upon them by psychiatric drugs.

There Are Other Biological Factors Implicated In Depression

As Dr. Mercola points out:

Contrary to popular belief, depression is not likely caused by unbalanced brain chemicals; however there are a number of other biological factors that appear to be highly significant. Chronic inflammation is one such factor.5

Scientists have also found that your mental health can be adversely impacted by factors such as vitamin D deficiency and/or unbalanced gut flora — both of which, incidentally, play a role in keeping inflammation in check, which is really what the remedy to depression is all about.

He also talks about sugar, which is extremely toxic to the body and a catalyst for multiple diseases. You can read his article on depression and these other biological factors here.

Some Great Ways To Combat Depression

1. Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity is the idea that the brain is adaptable and changeable. It’s now being used to treat learning disabilities, brain damage, chronic pain, and more. A great person to learn more about this from is Dr. Norman Doidge, among others. He is the author of The Brain That Changes Itself. He writes:

The idea that the brain is plastic in the sense of changeable, adaptable and malleable is the single most important change in our understanding of the human brain in four hundred years. Neuroplasticity is that property of the brain that allows it to change its structure and its function, it’s a response to sensing and perceiving the world, even to thinking and imagining. Human thoughts and learning actually turn on certain genes in our nerve cells which allow those cells to make new connections between them.

It’s the idea that the way you think can actually change your brain. This is not a new idea, and it has been demonstrated by a number of experiments ranging from quantum physics, where factors associated with conscious can change the behaviour of an atom, to placebo studies, which demonstrate the power of the mind.

For example, a Baylor School of Medicine study, published in 2002 in the New England Journal of Medicine, looked at surgery for patients with severe and debilitating knee pain. Many surgeons know there is no placebo effect in surgery, or so most of them believe. The patients were divided into three groups. The surgeons shaved the damaged cartilage in the knee of one group. For the second group they flushed out the knee joint, removing all of the material believed to be causing inflammation. Both of these processes are the standard surgeries people go through who have severe arthritic knees. The third group received a “fake” surgery; the patients were only sedated and tricked into thinking they actually had the knee surgery. Doctors made the incisions and splashed salt water on the knee as they would in normal surgery, then sewed up the incisions like the real thing and the process was complete. All three groups went through the same rehab process, and the results were astonishing. The placebo group improved just as much as the other two groups who had surgery.

“My skill as a surgeon had no benefit on these patients. The entire benefit of surgery for osteoarthritis of the knee was the placebo effect.” – Dr. Moseley (surgeon involved in the study) (Lipton, Bruce. The Biology of Belief. Hay House, Inc, 2005)

The power of the placebo effect was also clearly demonstrated in a report published by the United States Department of Health and Human Services in 1999. It discovered that half of severely depressed patients taking drugs improve compared to the thirty-two percent taking a placebo. Considering all of the side effects and dangers associated with anti-depressant use, this marginal difference hardly seems worthwhile. And let’s not forget that the anti-depressant industry is a multi billion dollar one.

A 2002 article published in the American Psychological Association’s Prevention & Treatment by University of Connecticut Psychology Professor Irving Kirsch titled, “The Emperor’s New Drugs,” made some more shocking discoveries. He found that 80 perecent of the effect of antidepressants, as measured in clinical trials, could be attributed to the placebo effect. This professor even had to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to get information on the clinical trials of the top antidepressants. (source)(source) Kirsch found that the difference between the response of the drugs and the response of the placebo was less than two points on average on this clinical scale that goes from fifty to sixty points. That difference, as Kirsch points out, is clinically meaningless.

Researchers all over the world have found that placebo treatments can stimulate real biological and physiological responses — everything from changes in heart rate to blood pressure and even chemical activity in the brain. It’s been effective with a number of different ailments, from arthritis, to depression, fatigue, anxiety, Parkinson’s, and more.  (source) Why are we not utilizing our brain’s own remarkable ability to heal itself more often?

2. Food

Take a look at these factors.

  • Added sugar and high fructose corn syrup
  • Genetically engineered (GE) ingredients (primarily corn, soy, and sugar beets) which, besides their own unknown health risks, also tend to be heavily contaminated with glyphosate—a Class 2A carcinogen that can also damage your gut microbiome and has been linked to antibiotic-resistance. Most conventional (non-GE) wheat is also treated with toxic glyphosate prior to harvesting.
  • By altering the balance of your gut flora, pesticides and herbicides also disrupt the production of essential amino acids like tryptophan, a serotonin precursor, and promote production of p-cresol, a compound that interferes with metabolism of other environmental chemicals, thereby increasing your vulnerability to their toxic effects.
  • Artificial sweeteners, along with thousands of food additives, most of which have never been tested for safety
    Chemicals in the food packaging, such as bisphenol-A (BPA), bisphenol-S (BPS), and phthalates, which can migrate into the food
  • Trans fats

3. Exercise 

Exercise has been shown to  effectively combat depression and help rebuild the hippocampus. Studies have shown very clear links between inactivity and depression. As Dr. Mercola tells us, women who sat for more than seven hours a day were found to have a 47 percent higher risk of depression than women who sat for four hours or less per day. Furthermore, those who participated in zero physical activity actually had a 99 percent higher risk of developing depression than women who exercised.  Studies have shown its efficiency typically surpasses that of antidepressant drugs, and it also helps rid your body of stress chemicals that can lead to depression.

4. Meditation

As Forbes points out,

The practice appears to have an amazing variety of neurological benefits – from changes in grey matter volume to reduced activity in the ‘me’ centers of the brain to enhanced connectivity between brain regions. . . .

Skeptics, of course, may ask what good are a few brain changes if the psychological effects aren’t simultaneously being illustrated? Luckily, there’s good evidence for those as well, with studies reporting that meditation helps relieve our subjective levels of anxiety and depression, and improve attention, concentration, and overall psychological well-being.

Related CE article: Harvard Study Unveils What Meditation Literally Does To The Brain

For more helpful ways to overcome depression, you can check out THIS article.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

A Quick Important Notice:

The demand for Collective Evolution's content is bigger than ever, except ad agencies and social media keep cutting our revenues. This is making it hard for us to continue.

In order to stay truly independent, we need your help. We are not going to put up paywalls on this website, as we want to get our info out far and wide. For as little as $3 a month, you can help keep CE alive!

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22 Out Of 25 Popular Burger Chains Just Failed Their Antibiotic Use Report

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A recent study was done examining how well top fast food chains actually implemented their antibiotic use policies in their beef. 22 of 25 failed including McDonald's, Sonic, Burger King and In-N-Out.

  • Reflect On:

    Do you still eat fast food? If so, why do you find yourself doing so? What healthier choices can be made instead? If we want to see a healthier world, population and animal kingdom, we have to choose what we support more wisely.

The modern-day food industry seems to pay no attention to health. Thankfully, global consciousness is shifting in several ways including how we live as humans, view our health, our economy, education, politics, and the environment. You could say that humanity is going through one MASSIVE change.

Today, billions of animals in the United States alone are raised, tortured, and slaughtered for human consumption. This reckless production and consumption, in turn, has created enormous environmental and health problems that continue to accelerate. That being said, awareness on this issue (food) in particular, has come along way. We are seeing changes in the food guide, a shift towards plant-based diets, and more corporations catering to new choices people are making around food and health. This is a good thing!

One common trend helping to create change is the continues ‘bad press’ unhealthy players in the food industry are getting.

The latest news to come out regarding food quality within fast food comes from a report recently released by six major consumer and environmental groups. They graded America’s 25 largest burger chains and their use of antibiotics in their beef supply.

22 popular fast food restaurants completely failed, including giants like McDonald’s, Burger King, Sonic and In-N-Out.  The evaluation looked at each chain’s antibiotic use policies and whether these policies were truly implemented in their product. They also examined how transparent the chains were with their antibiotic use.

The Problem With Antibiotic Use

Antibiotics given to farm animals can lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, among other things. This is actually one of the top threats to global public health, which is exemplified by the fact that each year, more than 2 million Americans alone suffer from these infections.

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In September 1999, Albrecht and Schutte published “Homeopathy Versus Antibiotics in Metaphylaxis of Infectious Diseases: A Clinical Study in Pig Fattening and Its Significance to Consumers” in Alternative Therapies. The study compared outcomes for four randomly assigned groups of pigs that were given placebo, homeopathic treatment, a standard blend of antibiotics and other conventional drugs in a routine low prophylactic dose, or conventional drugs in a high therapeutic dose.

There were 1440 pigs involved in the study, which took place at an intensive livestock farm in Germany. The primary outcome measured was the incidence of respiratory disease, a common problem for pigs on such farms.

The results were astounding.

Homeopathic treatment was far superior to prophylactic doses of antibiotics in preventing respiratory disease. The prophylactic antibiotic treatment made it only 11 percent less likely (than placebo) that the pigs would become sick. But homeopathic remedies made it 40 percent less likely. When the antibiotics were raised to therapeutic levels, meaning a level that is only given when people or an animal was sick, it became 70 percent less likely that the pigs would become diseased.

The significance of this is that homeopathic treatment on animals would already be better than routine antibiotic treatment. When an animal is actually sick, the farmer would then have the choice to increase homeopathic or use a legitimately high-level dose of antibiotics. This, significantly less cost and significantly fewer antibiotics in meat.

The List

The Takeaway

Simple, avoid fast food. There are many out there who seem to believe that people will always consume this food, but we fail to recognize that it’s not just our choice. The “food” these corporations offer is highly addictive to people, and that’s done on purpose.

If we can connect with caring about our health, quality of life and well-being of animals and the planet, these are places you must steer away from. In general, eating meat does not support the health and wellbeing of us nor animals, but this is a choice we each make.

Recommended Articles

A Native American Perspective On Veganism

Plant-Based Protein VS. Protein From Meat: Which One Is Better For You? 

Doctor Explains How Humans Have A “Strict” Vegan Physiology

Vegan Activist James Aspey Beautifully Shows How To Consciously Inform People

9 Things That Happen When You Stop Eating Meat

Internal Medicine Physician Shares What Happens To Your Body When You Stop Eating Meat

Animals – Why Do We Love One But Eat The Other? 

The Heart Disease Rates of Meat-Eaters Versus Vegetarians & Vegans

Were Those Who Roamed The Earth Before US Nearly All Vegetarian?

A Quick Important Notice:

The demand for Collective Evolution's content is bigger than ever, except ad agencies and social media keep cutting our revenues. This is making it hard for us to continue.

In order to stay truly independent, we need your help. We are not going to put up paywalls on this website, as we want to get our info out far and wide. For as little as $3 a month, you can help keep CE alive!

SUPPORT CE HERE!

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Epigenetic Memories Are Passed Down 14 Successive Generations, Game-Changing Research Reveals

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    It's amazing how much information can be passed on to our offspring. Scientist have discovered that our DNA has memories, and these can also be passed down. We are talking about thoughts, feelings, emotions and perceptions.

  • Reflect On:

    Biological changes are shaped by our environment, as well as our thoughts, feelings, emotions and reaction to that environment. Our DNA can be changed with belief, the placebo is a great example. Thoughts feelings and emotions are huge in biology.

This article was written by the Greenmedinfo research group, from Greenmedinfo.com. Posted here with permission.

Until recently, it was believed that our genes dictate our destiny. That we are slated for the diseases that will ultimately beset us based upon the pre-wired indecipherable code written in stone in our genetic material. The burgeoning field of epigenetics, however, is overturning these tenets, and ushering in a school of thought where nurture, not nature, is seen to be the predominant influence when it comes to genetic expression and our freedom from or affliction by chronic disease.

Epigenetics: The Demise of Biological Determinism

Epigenetics, or the study of the physiological mechanisms that silence or activate genes, encompasses processes which alter gene function without changing the sequence of nucleotide base pairs in our DNA. Translated literally to mean “in addition to changes in genetic sequence,” epigenetics includes processes such as methylation, acetylation, phosphorylation, sumolyation, and ubiquitylation which can be transmitted to daughter cells upon cell division (1). Methylation, for example, is the attachment of simple methyl group tags to DNA molecules, which can repress transcription of a gene when it occurs in the region of a gene promoter. This simple methyl group, or a carbon bound to three hydrogen molecules, effectively turns the gene off.

Post-translational modifications of histone proteins is another epigenetic process. Histones help to package and condense the DNA double helix into the cell nucleus in a complex called chromatin, which can be modified by enzymes, acetyl groups, and forms of RNA called small interfering RNAs and microRNAs (1). These chemical modifications of chromatin influence its three-dimensional structure, which in turn governs its accessibility for DNA transcription and dictates whether genes are expressed or not.

We inherit one allele, or variant, of each gene from our mother and the other from our father. If the result of epigenetic processes is imprinting, a phenomenon where one of the two alleles of a gene pair is turned off, this can generate a deleterious health outcome if the expressed allele is defective or increases our susceptibility to infections or toxicants (1). Studies link cancers of nearly all types, neurobehavioral and cognitive dysfunction, respiratory illnessesautoimmune disorders, reproductive anomalies, and cardiovascular disease to epigenetic mechanisms (1). For example, the cardiac antiarrhythmic drug procainamide and the antihypertensive agent hydralazine can cause lupus in some people by causing aberrant patterns of DNA methylation and disrupting signalling pathways (1).

Genes Load the Gun, Environment Pulls the Trigger

Pharmaceuticals, however, are not the only agents that can induce epigenetic disturbances. Whether you were born via vaginal birth or Cesarean section, breastfed or bottle-fed, raised with a pet in the house, or infected with certain childhood illnesses all influence your epigenetic expression. Whether you are sedentary, pray, smoke, mediate, do yoga, have an extensive network of social support or are alienated from your community—all of your lifestyle choices play into your risk for disease operating through mechanisms of epigenetics.

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In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that genetics account for only 10% of disease, with the remaining 90% owing to environmental variables (2). An article published in the Public Library of Science One (PLoS One) entitled “Genetic factors are not the major causes of chronic diseases” echoes these claims, citing that chronic disease is only 16.4% genetic, and 84.6% environmental (3). These concepts make sense in light of research on the exposome, the cumulative measure of all the environmental insults an individual incurs during their life course that determines susceptibility to disease (4)

In delineating the totality of exposures to which an individual is subjected over their lifetime, the exposome can be subdivided into three overlapping and intertwined domains. One segment of the exposome called the internal environment is comprised of processes innate to the body which impinge on the cellular milieu. This encompasses hormones and other cellular messengers, oxidative stress, inflammation, lipid peroxidation, bodily morphology, the gut microbiotaaging and biochemical stress (5).

Another portion of the exposome, the specific external environment, consists of exposures including pathogens, radiation, chemical contaminants and pollutants, and medical interventions, as well as dietary, lifestyle, and occupational elements (5). At an even broader sociocultural and ecological level is the segment of the exposome called the general external environment, which may circumscribe factors such as psychological stress, socioeconomic status, geopolitical variables, educational attainment, urban or rural residence, and climate (5).

Transgenerational Inheritance of Epigenetic Change: Endocrine Disruptors Trigger Infertility in Future Generations

Scientists formerly speculated that epigenetic changes disappear with each new generation during gametogenesis, the formation of sperm and ovum, and after fertilization. However, this theory was first challenged by research published in the journal Science which demonstrated that transient exposure of pregnant rats to the insecticide methoxychlor, an estrogenic compound, or the fungicide vinclozolin, an antiandrogenic compound, resulted in increased incidence of male infertility and decreased sperm production and viability in 90% of the males of four subsequent generations that were tracked (1).

Most notably, these reproductive effects were associated with derangements in DNA methylation patterns in the germ line, suggesting that epigenetic changes are passed on to future generations. The authors concluded, “The ability of an environmental factor (for example, endocrine disruptor) to reprogram the germ line and to promote a transgenerational disease state has significant implications for evolutionary biology and disease etiology” (6, p. 1466). This may suggest that the endocrine-disrupting, fragrance-laden personal care products and commercial cleaning supplies to which we are all exposed may trigger fertility problems in multiple future generations.

Transgenerational Inheritance of Traumatic Episodes: Parental Experience Shapes Traits of Offspring

In addition, traumatic experiences may be transmitted to future generations via epigenetics as a way to inform progeny about salient information needed for their survival (7). In one study, researchers wafted the cherry-like chemical acetophenone into the chambers of mice while administering electric shocks, conditioning the mice to fear the scent (7). This reaction was passed onto two successive generations, which shuddered significantly more in the presence of acetophenone despite never having encountered it compared to descendants of mice that had not received this conditioning (7).

The study suggests that certain characteristics of the parental sensory environment experienced before conception can remodel the sensory nervous system and neuroanatomy in subsequently conceived generations (7). Alterations in brain structures that process olfactory stimuli were observed, as well as enhanced representation of the receptor that perceives the odor compared to control mice and their progeny (7). These changes were conveyed by epigenetic mechanisms, as illustrated by evidence that the acetophenone-sensing genes in fearful mice were hypomethylated, which may have enhanced expression of odorant-receptor genes during development leading to acetophenone sensitivity (7).

The Human Experience of Famine and Tragedy Spans Generations

The mouse study, which illustrates how germ cells (egg and sperm) exhibit dynamic plasticity and adaptability in response to environmental signals, is mirrored by human studies. For instance, exposures to certain stressors such as starvation during the gestational period are associated with poor health outcomes for offspring. Women who undergo famine before conception of her offspring have been demonstrated to give birth to children with lower self-reported mental health and quality of life, for example (8).

Studies similarly highlight that, “Maternal famine exposure around the time of conception has been related to prevalence of major affective disorders, antisocial personality disorders, schizophrenia, decreased intracranial volume, and congenital abnormalities of the central nervous system” (8). Gestational exposure to the Dutch Famine of the mid-twentieth century is also associated with lower perceived health (9), as well as enhanced incidence of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and obesity in offspring (8). Maternal undernourishment during pregnancy leads to neonatal adiposity, which is a predictor of future obesity (10), in the grandchildren (11).

The impact of epigenetics is also exemplified by research on the intergenerational effects of trauma, which illuminates that descendants of people who survived the Holocaust exhibit abnormal stresshormone profiles, and low cortisol production in particular (12). Because of their impaired cortisol response and altered stress reactivity, children of Holocaust survivors are often at enhanced risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression (13).

Intrauterine exposure to maternal stress in the form of intimate partner violence during pregnancy can also lead to changes in the methylation status of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) of their adolescent offspring (14). These studies suggest that an individual’s experience of trauma can predispose their descendants to mental illness, behavioral problems, and psychological abnormalities due to “transgenerational epigenetic programming of genes operating in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis,” a complex set of interactions among endocrine glands which determine stress response and resilience (14).

Body Cells Pass Genetic Information Directly Into Sperm Cells

Not only that, but studies are illuminating that genetic information can be transferred through the germ line cells of a species in real time. These paradigm-shifting findings overturn conventional logic which postulates that genetic change occurs over the protracted time scale of hundreds of thousands or even millions of years. In a relatively recent study, exosomes were found to be the medium through which information was transferred from somatic cells to gametes.

This experiment entailed xenotransplantation, a process where living cells from one species are grafted into a recipient of another species. Specifically, human melanoma tumor cells genetically engineered to express genes for a fluorescent tracer enzyme called EGFP-encoding plasmid were transplanted into mice. The experimenters found that information-containing molecules containing the EGFP tracer were released into the animals’ blood (15). Exosomes, or “specialized membranous nano-sized vesicles derived from endocytic compartments that are released by many cell types” were found among the EGFP trackable molecules (16, p. 447).

Exosomes, which are synthesized by all plant and animal cells, contain distinct protein repertoires and are created when inward budding occurs from the membrane of multivesicular bodies (MVBs), a type of organelle that serves as a membrane-bound sorting compartment within eukaryotic cells (16). Exosomes contain microRNA (miRNA) and small RNA, types of non-coding RNA involved in regulating gene expression (16). In this study, exosomes delivered RNAs to mature sperm cells (spermatozoa) and remained stored there (15).

The researchers highlight that this kind of RNA can behave as a “transgenerational determinant of inheritable epigenetic variations and that spermatozoal RNA can carry and deliver information that cause phenotypic variations in the progeny” (15). In other words, the RNA carried to sperm cells by exosomes can preside over gene expression in a way that changes the observable traits and disease risk of the offspring as well as its morphology, development, and physiology.

This study was the first to elucidate RNA-mediated transfer of information from somatic to germ cells, which fundamentally overturns what is known as the Weisman barrier, a principle which states that the movement of hereditary information from genes to body cells is unidirectional, and that the information transmitted by egg and sperm to future generations remains independent of somatic cells and parental experience (15).

Further, this may bear implications for cancer risk, as exosomes contain vast amounts of genetic information which can be source of lateral gene transfer (17) and are abundantly liberated from tumor cells (18). This can be reconciled with the fact that exosome-resembling vesicles have been observed in various mammals (15), including humans, in close proximity to sperm in anatomical structures such as the epididymis as well as in seminal fluid (19). These exosomes may thereafter be propagated to future generations with fertilization and augment cancer risk in the offspring (20).

The researchers concluded that sperm cells can act as the final repositories of somatic cell-derived information, which suggests that epigenetic insults to our body cells can be relayed to future generations. This notion is confirmatory of the evolutionary theory of “soft inheritance” proposed by French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, whereby characteristics acquired over the life of an organism are transmitted to offspring, a concept which modern genetics previously rejected before the epigenetics arrived on the scene. In this way, the sperm are able to spontaneously assimilate exogenous DNA and RNA molecules, behaving both as vector of their native genome and of extrachromosomal foreign genetic material which is “then delivered to oocytes at fertilization with the ensuing generation of phenotypically modified animals” (15).

Epigenetic Changes Endure Longer Than Ever Predicted

In a recent study, nematode worms were manipulated to harbor a transgene for a fluorescent protein, which made the worms glow under ultraviolet light when the gene was activated (21). When the worms were incubated under the ambient temperature of 20° Celsius (68° Fahrenheit), negligible glowing was observed, indicating low activity of the transgene (21). However, transferring the worms to a warmer climate of 25°C (77° F) stimulated expression of the gene, as the worms glowed brightly (21).

In addition, this temperature-induced alteration in gene expression was found to persist for at least 14 generations, representing the preservation of epigenetic memories of environmental change across an unprecedented number of generations (21). In other words, the worms transmitted memories of past environmental conditions to their descendants, through the vehicle of epigenetic change, as a way to prepare their offspring for prevailing environmental conditions and ensure their survivability.

Future Directions: Where Do We Go From Here?

Taken cumulatively, the aforementioned research challenges traditional Mendelian laws of genetics, which postulate that genetic inheritance occurs exclusively through sexual reproduction and that traits are passed to offspring through the chromosomes contained in germ line cells, and never through somatic (bodily) cells. Effectively, this proves the existence of non-Mendelian transgenerational inheritance, where traits separate from chromosomal genes are transmitted to progeny, resulting in persistent phenotypes that endure across generations (22).

This research imparts new meaning to the principle of seven generation stewardship taught by Native Americans, which mandates that we consider the welfare of seven generations to come in each of our decisions. Not only should we embody this approach in practices of environmental sustainability, but we would be wise to consider how the conditions to which we subject our bodies—the pollution and toxicants which permeate the landscape and pervade our bodies, the nutrient-devoid soil that engenders micronutrient-poor food, the disruptions to our circadian rhythm due to the ubiquity of electronic devices, our divorce from nature and the demise of our tribal affiliations—may translate into ill health effects and diminished quality of life for a previously unfathomed number of subsequent generations.

Hazards of modern agriculture, the industrial revolution, and contemporary living are the “known or suspected drivers behind epigenetic processes…including heavy metals, pesticides, diesel exhaust, tobacco smoke, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, hormones, radioactivity, viruses, bacteria, and basic nutrients” (1, p. A160). Serendipitously, however, many inputs such as exercise, mindfulness, and bioactive components in fruits and vegetables such as sulforaphane in cruciferous vegetables, resveratrol from red grapes, genistein from soy, diallyl sulphide from garlic, curcumin from turmeric, betaine from beets, and green tea catechin can favorably modify epigenetic phenomena “either by directly inhibiting enzymes that catalyze DNA methylation or histone modifications, or by altering the availability of substrates necessary for those enzymatic reactions” (23, p. 8).

This quintessentially underscores that the air we breathe, the food we eat, the thoughts we allow, the toxins to which we are exposed, and the experiences we undergo may persevere in our descendants and remain in our progeny long after we are gone. We must be cognizant of the effects of our actions, as they elicit a ripple effect through the proverbial sands of time.

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References

1. Weinhold, B. (2006). Epigenetics: The Science of Change. Environmental Health Perspectives, 114(3), A160-A167.

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Exposome and Exposomics. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/exposome/

3. Rappaport, S.M. (2016). Genetic factors are not the major causes of chronic diseases. PLoS One, 11(4), e0154387.

4. Vrijheid, M. (2014). The exposome: a new paradigm to study the impact of environment on health. Thorax, 69(9), 876-878. doi: 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2013-204949.

5. Wild, C.P. (2012). The exposome: from concept to utility. International Journal of Epidemiology, 41, 24–32. doi:10.1093/ije/dyr236

6. Anway, M.D. et al. (2005). Epigenetic transgenerational actions of endocrine disruptors and male fertility. Science, 308(5727), 1466-1469.

7. Dias, B.G., & Ressler, K.J. (2014). Parental olfactory experience influences behavior and neural structure in subsequent generations. Nature Neuroscience, 17(1), 89-98.

8. Stein, A.D. et al. (2009). Maternal exposure to the Dutch Famine before conception and during pregnancy: quality of life and depressive symptoms in adult offspring. Epidemiology, 20(6), doi:  10.1097/EDE.0b013e3181b5f227.

9. Roseboom, T.J. et al. (2003). Perceived health of adults after prenatal exposure to the Dutch famine. Paediatrics Perinatal Epidemiology, 17, 391–397.

10. Badon, S.E. et al. (2014). Gestational Weight Gain and Neonatal Adiposity in the Hyperglycemia and Adverse Pregnancy Outcome Study-North American Region. Obesity (Silver Spring), 22(7), 1731–1738.

11. Veenendaal, M.V. et al. (2013). Transgenerational effects of prenatal exposure to the 1944-45 Dutch famine. BJOG, 120(5), 548-53. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.

12. Yehuda, R., & Bierer, L.M. (2008). Transgenerational transmission of cortisol and PTSD risk. Progress in Brain Research, 167, 121-135.

13. Aviad-Wilcheck, Y. et al. (2013). The effects of the survival characteristics of parent Holocaust survivors on offsprings’ anxiety and depression symptoms. The Israel Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences, 50(3), 210-216.

14. Radke, K.M. et al. (2011). Transgenerational impact of intimate partner violence on methylation in the promoter of the glucocorticoid receptor. Translational Psychiatry, 1, e21. doi: 10.1038/tp.2011.21.

15. Cossetti, C. et al. (2014). Soma-to-Germline Transmission of RNA in Mice Xenografted with Human Tumour Cells: Possible Transport by Exosomes. PLoS One, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0101629.

16. Zomer, A. et al. (2010). Exosomes: Fit to deliver small RNA. Communicative and Integrative Biology, 3(5), 447–450.

17. Balaj, L. et al. (2011) Tumour microvesicles contain retrotransposon elements and amplified oncogene sequences. Natural Communications, 2, 180.

18. Azmi, A.S., Bao, B., & Sarkar, F.H. (2013). Exosomes in cancer development, metastasis, and drug resistance: a comprehensive review. Cancer Metastasis Review, 32, 623-643

19. Poliakov, A. et al. (2009). Structural heterogeneity and protein composition of exosomes-like vesicles (prostasomes) in human semen. Prostate, 69, 159-167.

20. Cheng, R.Y. et al. (2004) Epigenetic and gene expression changes related to transgenerational carcinogenesis. Molecular Carcinogenesis, 40, 1–11.

21. Klosin, A. et al. (2017). Transgenerational transmission of environmental information in C. elegans. Science, 356(6335).

22. Lim, J.P., & Brunet, A. (2013). Bridging the transgenerational gap with epigenetic memory. Trends in Genetics, 29(3), 176-186. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2012.12.008

23. Choi, S.-W., & Friso, S. (2010). Epigenetics: A New Bridge between Nutrition and Health Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal, 1(1), 8-16. doi:10.3945/an.110.1004.

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Awareness

Brain Imaging Shows Autistic Brains Contain HIGH Amounts of Aluminum

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A study published early in 2018 identified very high amounts of aluminum lodged in the brains of multiple people with autism.

  • Reflect On:

    We know little about where the heavy metals used as adjuvants in vaccines end up in the body. We now know that injected aluminum doesn't exit the body like aluminum intake from other sources. When injected, it ends up in the brain.

A study published earlier in 2018 should have made headlines everywhere, as it discovered historically high amounts of aluminum in autistic brains. The study was conducted by some of the worlds leading scientists in the field.

Five people were used in the study, four males and one female, all between the ages of 14-50. Each of their brains contained unsafe and high amounts of aluminum compared to patients with other diseases where high brain aluminum content is common, like Alzheimer’s disease, for example.

Of course, this caused people to downplay the study, citing a low sample group, but that’s not entirely a valid argument given the reason why this study was conducted. As cited in the study above, recent studies on animals, published within the past few years, have supported a strong connection between aluminum, and aluminum adjuvants used in human vaccinations, and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD.)

Studies have also shown that injected aluminum does not exit the body, and can be detected inside the brain even a year after injection. That being said, when we take aluminum in from sources such as food, the body does a great job of getting it out, but there is a threshold. It’s important to acknowledge that the aluminum found in the brain, could be due to the presence of aluminum adjuvants in vaccines. This latest study also identified the location of aluminum in these tissues, and where they end up. This particular study was done on humans, which builds upon, and still supports, the findings of the animal studies.

This is also important because the majority of studies that previously examined human exposure to aluminum have only used hair, blood and urine samples. The study also makes a clear statement regarding vaccines, stating that “Paediatric vaccines that include an aluminum adjuvant are an indirect measure of infant exposure to aluminum and their burgeoning use has been directly correlated with increasing prevalence of ASD.”

 Aluminum, in this case, was found in all four lobes of the brain.

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The aluminum content of brain tissues from donors with a diagnosis of ASD was extremely high (Table 1). While there was significant inter-tissue, inter-lobe and inter-subject variability the mean aluminium content for each lobe across all 5 individuals was towards the higher end of all previous (historical) measurements of brain aluminium content, including iatrogenic disorders such as dialysisencephalopathy[13][15][16][17][18][19]. All 4 male donors had significantly higher concentrations of brain aluminum than the single female donor. We recorded some of the highest values for brain aluminum content ever measured in healthy or diseased tissues in these male ASD donors

We Know, And Have Known, Aluminum Is Not Safe, Yet We Ignore It

When we talk about the ‘safe’ amount of aluminum here, there is no such thing. Aluminum is extremely toxic to any biological process, it’s not meant for us which is why it stayed deep within the Earth until we took it out. It has no place within us, and that’s simply due to the fact that it causes nothing but havoc. This makes it odd that we would put them in vaccinations despite the fact that for 100 years there has been no appropriate safety testing.

Aluminum is an experimentally demonstrated neurotoxin and the most commonly used vaccine adjuvant. Despite almost 90 years of widespread use of aluminum adjuvants, medical science’s understanding about their mechanisms of action is still remarkably poor. There is also a concerning scarcity of data on toxicology and pharmacokinetics of these compounds. In spite of this, the notion that aluminum in vaccines is safe appears to be widely accepted. Experimental research, however, clearly shows that aluminum adjuvants have a potential to induce serious immunological disorders in humans.

The quote above comes from a study published in 2011, it’s 2018 now and we’ve come along way in our understanding. We are starting to see even more research confirming the statement above.

Almost every study you read regarding previous studies on aluminum adjuvants within vaccines emphasized how the nature of its bioaccumulation is unknown, and a serious matter. We now know that it goes throughout the body, into distant organs eventually ends up in the brain.

Another fairly recent study from 2015 points out:

Evidence that aluminum-coated particles phagocytozed in the injected muscle and its draining lymph notes can disseminate within phagocytes throughout the body and slowly accumulate in the brain further suggests that alum safety should be evaluated in the long term.(source)

The pictures below come from the recent 2018 study and show ‘bright spots’ that indicate heavy metals in the brain.

 

The more recent study discussed in this article is adding to that evidence. Below you can watch one of the most recent interviews with Dr. Eric Exly, one of the world’s foremost leading authors on the subject, and one of the authors of this most recent study. He is a Biologist (University of Stirling) with a Ph.D. in the ecotoxicology of aluminum. You can read more about his background here.

Take Away

People need to understand that despite media bullying, it’s ok to question vaccine safety, and there is plenty of reason to. There are many concerns, and heavy metals are one of them. In fact, the persistence and abundant presence of heavy metals in our environment, foods and medications is a concern, one that has been the clear cause for a variety of health ailments, yet it’s one that’s hardly addressed by the medical industry.

You can detox from this with items such as Spirulina, and waters that contain a high Silica content. There are studies that show various methods of detoxing can be used to get this lodged aluminum, or some of it, out of your body, organs and brain. This is where educating yourself regarding the medicinal value of food and nutrition is a key Perhaps this can be a motivation to better your diet, especially if you have, are someone, or know someone with an ASD diagnosis.

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